Checks and Balances: Climate Deniers are the worst, Part 2

By September 17, 2019 No Comments

By David DeAngelo
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer

Two weeks ago on this column, I looked at the science of global warming, the mechanics ⁠— the “how” if you want to frame it that way. This week we look at the evidence ⁠— the “what,” if you will.

Initially, I thought researching this column was going to be easier than it turned out to be, as I’d done it more than a few times at the 2 Political Junkies blog. This time it’s proven to be a little more difficult ⁠— not because the evidence changed or the science shifted (nope, both as solid as ever), but because the websites where I first found the information that I now need are now gone.

In July 2010, I blogged about the then-recently released report from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) titled, “State of the Climate 2009.” From the “report at a glance” summary, we were able to read:

A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest on record. More than 300 scientists from 48 countries analyzed data on 37 climate indicators, including sea ice, glaciers and air temperatures. A more detailed review of 10 of these indicators, selected because they are clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: global warming is undeniable. 

That last phrase is the most important. The thing is, while the summary is still available the full report it summarizes is not.

In 2017, NBC news reported, “reports of climate science being scrubbed from U.S. government websites arrived early in President Donald Trump’s tenure.”  Elsewhere in the news, it was reported that teams of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania with an eye to what happened in Canada during Stephen Harper’s conservative government to climate research, were busy scouring government websites a few days before the Trump inauguration in 2017 looking for climate data to saved. What they saved, they sent to the Internet Archive, aka “the wayback machine.”

It’s completely possible that I could be wrong about this, that my not finding the climate data is just a coincidence, that absence of this evidence is just evidence of its absence. I could be wrong, but this report from 2009 seems to be one such report scrubbed by the Trump administration.

On the other hand, all hail the wayback machine. The full 2009 report is still there.

The report summary (still easily accessible at a government website) talks of 37 climate indicators, focusing on these 10; Air Temperature Near Surface (Troposphere), Humidity, Temperature Over Oceans, Sea Surface Temperatures, Sea Level, Ocean Heat Content, Temperature Over Land, Sea Ice, Glaciers, and Snow Cover. There’s a chart for each of the ten indicators and each chart graphs each of the multiple data sets for that indicator. 

All indicators point to the report’s undeniable conclusion – that global warming is happening.

Why so much varied data all in one place? The point is that if there’s some sort of issue with a particular data set for a particular indicator (a missed calculation, a misplaced decimal point, and so on), that issue wouldn’t affect any of the other sets either for that indicator or for any of the other data sets for any of the other indicators.

There’s just too much independent data for it all to be wrong.

Let’s take a look at a few of the indicators.

The troposphere is that part of the atmosphere closest to the ground, it’s about 8 miles thick, on average. Satellite data is used to calculate the heat in the troposphere and the data shows the planet’s warming.

As we learned in the last column, as the amount of greenhouse gasses increases, the atmosphere is able to hold a little more water vapor, which is another way of saying the humidity rises. And the specific humidity in the atmosphere has been rising for decades.

Ship and buoy data show that the air temperature over the oceans has been rising over the last few decades and the temperature of the oceans themselves have been rising. 

As the oceans’ temperatures rise, the water expands. And as the glaciers melt the resulting liquid water flows, inevitably, into the oceans. The sea-levels have been rising for decades. NASA is showing that the sea-levels are rising about 3.3 millimeters a year.

Currently, NOAA is showing that there’s been an average rise in global land and sea temperatures of about .07 degrees Celsius per decade in the last 130 years or so. 

And so on.

Climate science deniers have two separate but related problems when denying the science; the evidence and the science explaining the evidence.  In order to succeed, they’d have to explain how all the known evidence (and the above is only a thumbnail sketch of a thumbnail sketch) is wrong and wrong in a way that just happens to be the most agreeable to their position.  All the seawater measurements? Wrong. All the satellite data? Wrong. Humidity? Weather stations? Glaciers? Wrong. Wrong. And wrong. 

Just try to imagine the scope of the conspiracy necessary to fake all of that data over all those years.

Then there’s the science we looked at in the last column. The data only shows that the temperatures are rising, the oceans are growing and the glaciers and sea ice are shrinking. If the deniers can show that the scientific explanation itself is flawed, then perhaps another, more benign explanation can take its place one that finds less blame in our human behavior.

But, as we saw in the last column, that science has been around for more than a hundred years. If the science was flawed, then perhaps the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, and the National Academy of Science would’ve said so by now.

But they haven’t. Because it isn’t.

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