A Weatherman Looks at Climate Change
The global warming debate is not about temperature. Climate always changes. Every 10 years, new statistics are generated for all U.S. cities based on the most recent 30 years of data. For example, my current home city of Bakersfield, Calif., used to average 5.72 inches of rain per year. A lot of people had that number memorized. Since 2001 the average is 6.49 inches. This .77-inch increase over 10 years does not mean, however, that there is global moistening and that at this rate our average will be 14.39 inches by the year 2100. Neither does it imply blame for the extra raindrops that now fall on Kern County.
The global warming debate is not about sober scientific understanding, either. In the really big picture (eons of time), we only have a few moments of reliable standardized temperature statistics from which to draw relationships and mark trends. Paleo-climatological temperature data is indirectly inferred, so modern comparisons do not conclusively prove anything.
Finally, the bulk of the global warming debate is not about finding solutions to problems. Anthropogenic, or human-caused, warming proponents have already decided what the solutions are and are working backward to identify the problems.
In fact, the great debate isn't a debate at all. It is a pronouncement, a declaration, and a one-sided assumption that the world will agree with their fact finding. Those who disagree with the fundamental theory of a looming manmade global warming catastrophe are subject to shame. They are called names, minimized and treated with disgust. Dr. Heidi Cullen of The Weather Channel would strip me of my CBM (Certified Broadcast Meteorologist) status because of my opinion.
How did we get to this point where civility in a scientific discourse was so rashly abandoned? It is like the bitter partisanship in government today. Where did this rabid activism come from? It came from the unshakable conviction that we must act now to avoid certain disaster. Extreme zeal in a cause can be good, but it also may blind a person to reason.
Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its well-publicized report accusing mankind of culpability in the warming of the world. I have taken issue with the report, as have many of my meteorological colleagues. A friend asked me, "So, 2,500 scientists are wrong?" I replied, "Yes."
This would not be the first instance of a large body of people being wrong in their belief. There was a time tornado safety included opening windows; mercury was used in topical ointments; smoking was ubiquitous, and global cooling was going to kill us all. Not to mention other hysterias such as Y2K, McCarthyism, Jim Crow and the Spanish Inquisition. But my biggest concern is the widespread notion that there is a monolithic consensus on the subject of global warming. A constant drumbeat of "the science is settled" from every corner of media, government and academia has saturated public opinion. The science is not settled.
There are serious questions regarding carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, which are directly related to temperature fluctuations. I contend they have gone up more than 20 percent in the past 50 years as a result of natural warming, rather than the other way around. Warmer oceans absorb less CO2, thus affecting the Carbon Cycle balance. Indeed, the greatest influence from a greenhouse gas comes from water vapor (comprising up to four percent of the atmosphere in the tropics). A warmer (or colder) climate is caused by macro stimuli, not by insignificant human input. Urban development represents less than one half of one percent (0.0044 percent) of the world's surface, which is 70.8 percent ocean. Although our influence may be formidable on a local scale, it comes nowhere close to a commanding interest of the Earth.
I believe volcanic eruptions pose a much larger threat than does anything else, bringing about immediate climate cooling. There are many well-documented episodes during the past 2,000 years in which crops have failed and people have starved due to volcanic-induced periods of worldwide extreme cold. When the climate does change, mankind must adapt. During a storm chase, the rule of thumb is to get out of the way of a tornado -- not to expect I can alter its path or strength. I don't possess that ability. To think I do would be foolishly deceiving.
What about the indisputable computer model predictions of doom? We have enough trouble forecasting tomorrow's weather. This idea that sophisticated models are going to predict with accuracy conditions 100 years from now is really half-baked. In the final analysis, I have found that people will believe what they want to believe. Those who subscribe to human-induced global warming want to believe the hysteria. However, when anyone compels you to agree with them about anything, without dissent or review, it is duress and a red flag should go up with all reasonable people.
The IPCC solution is too simple: Stop the CO2 and everything will return to normal. It is like the education system in America, which has been in a decline for decades now. Some say just throw more money at it, but that has not addressed the underlying societal problems that are taking a toll on student achievement. It isn't that simple for education, and neither is it that simple for climate change.
Air pollution is abysmal in the San Joaquin Valley, the worst part of living in my area. Certainly, measures should be taken to reduce it and thus remove a biohazard from our midst. But for my part I ask the question: Why would anyone think that mankind has the power to change the world's climate one way or the other? It seems narcissistic and self-congratulatory. Can we also change winter to spring or move the Earth into a new orbit? Can a living human be beamed from one place to another like in Star Trek? Where does science end and science fiction begin in the global warming debate? Asking the question does not mean I am unenlightened. Rather, it demands extraordinary proof to answer this extraordinary assertion.