Global Warming: Science and Rhetoric – Part 1

Contoured sea surface temperature map of the S...

Post Author: Bill Pratt

The NOAA has released a new report on global temperatures which indicates that there is a warming trend.  Since few people will read the full report, NOAA prepared a synopsis of the findings that is only 10 pages long.

I want to do two things in this post.  First, I want to review the contents of the synopsis to see what researchers have found.  Second, I want to analyze some of the statements in the synopsis that are not objective statements of data, but political spin.

Here is an opening paragraph:

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.

Notice the last phrase: “global warming is undeniable.”  This kind of language is a tip-off that the authors are concerned to push an agenda forward.  A strictly scientific report would have no need for repeating that the evidence is undeniable; they would just let the facts speak for themselves.  It is also telling that many news outlets led with the “undeniable” phrase in their coverage of the report.

The synopsis goes on to highlight 10 indicators that best measure surface temperatures of the earth.  These indicators are: air temp near the surface, humidity, glaciers, snow cover, temp over oceans,  sea surface temp,  sea level, sea ice, ocean heat content, and temp over land.

Seven of the indicators are going up and three of them are going down (snow cover, glaciers, and sea ice).  Together, according to the report, they all point toward a warming trend.

One thing to note is that each of the 10 indicators contains data that covers different time periods.  For example, data on air temperature at the surface (troposphere) only goes back to about 1960, whereas data on air temperature over land goes back to 1850.  So, when the report says the past decade was the “warmest on record,” what they mean to say is that it is the warmest decade since 1960 (if you want to include all 10 indicators as part of the record).  Remember that human civilization has been around for many thousands of years; 50 years seems like a small sample size, doesn’t it?

I would ask the authors why they chose to say “warmest on record” when they could have been more precise.  Again, it seems that this language was clearly chosen for rhetorical impact.

More commentary on the NOAA synopsis in part 2….

  • How is global warming an issue of Christian apologetics?

  • Bill Pratt

    It’s not directly. The reason I wanted to write this post is because I am interested in how scientists, and those who think science is the only way to know about reality, communicate to the rest of the world. I hear frequently from skeptics about how objective and dispassionate science is, that it is only religious folks who are subjective. But clearly, even scientists and skeptics have agendas and see the scientific data through their agendas and worldviews. I thought this global warming report would be an interesting example to look at.

    Honestly, I thought the authors of the report were somewhat restrained and didn’t get way out ahead of the data, but there were still instances where they could not contain themselves, and I wanted to point that out.

  • Jeff

    This is another apparent effort on the part of the scientific community to use a poorly defined study and “THEORY” to prove whatever point they choose. Several decades ago it seems scientists would do as you say, and let the facts speak for themselves rather that make pointed statements to assert their supposed findings.

    John MacArthur has a great message that I give the link to below called “The End of the Universe” where he addresses the false science in the Global Warming community, not from him, as he admits not knowing, but due to his research involving “Other scientific reports”. The refuting of this falsehood by other scientists. He mentions “Consensus Science” which is irrelevant, because if it is consensus, it is not really science.

    All truth comes from God, and if true, the facts of Global warming would win out. Read MacArthur’s transcript and I assure you that truth is not in any of this so called “science”. And is anyone talking about “Sunspots”? Thanks Billy for bringing out the truth God wants us to know.

    http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/90-361_The-End-of-the-Universe-Part-2?q=the+end+of+the+universe

  • Harry

    This is really ironic Bill …. I wouldn’t expect you to be trying to make a point that “even scientists and skeptics have agendas and see the scientific data through their agendas and worldviews” when you so heavily relied on statistical science to prove your points about homosexuality. Are you admitting that your own statistical data could be affected by hidden agendas and worldviews? – or is your own science a special case – completely objective?

  • Bill Pratt

    Harry,
    Everyone is affected by their worldview; I have always said that. The problem that I’m trying to highlight in these global warming posts is that many skeptics who like to call themselves scientific seem unaware that science is not free of bias.

    I am looking for more humility from everyone involved in these kinds of discussions, but unfortunately the blog world seems to mostly attract people who are: 1) certain they are right and 2), certain that everyone opposed to them is an intellectual midget. The voices of moderation are few.

    With regard to the homosexual myths post, I told one of the commenters that I would be glad to hear about opposing interpretations of the scientific data. I really would.

  • Old Bill

    OK. I have to weigh in on this one. While I do not claim to be an expert in the field, I have read extensively on the subject, and believe that there a distinct lack of integrity in “Global Warming” science. This lack of integrity (and actual stupidity) is the basis for my skepticism. In the past, I would have called myself a skeptic, but in the context of the arcticle Billy attached, I guess I am a denier because I base my belief, not on science, but on the integrity of the proponents. Once I see a liar, I tend to disbelieve anything else that eminates from that source. To begin with, my understanding of science is a systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the world and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories. I don’t see any of that, but rather a “consensus opinion” based on reams of “adjusted” data which seems to be lost or unavailable to “unbelievers”. Also, the consensus seems to be weighted by political and financial considerations which are bereft of factual presentation but are conclusions based on the “obvious”. A few examples are in order: Consider the island of Tuvalu which Al says is being inundated with water from melting glaciers. It turn out that the sea has actually receded in recent years and the problem is a fabrication designed to extract money from the “polluters”. The island may be sinking, but the sea is not rising there (On average, the seas around the world have been rising about a cm a year for hundreds or years) With much more rapidly rising sea levels (a la GW), New York’s financial district is threatened with flooding. I did not notice any “stimulous money” used to build levees anywhere in the US (except NO). Another curious example of the disconnect is the Chevvy Volt which is “green”. Tons of money injected to GM to develop this non CO2 polluting car. There is even a $100M gift to a Korean company to build a battery factory in Michigan. Volt may be a fine automobile, but the electricity is not provided by the good fairy. It comes from power plants which are primarily coal burning plants. The level of CO2 emissions actually increases with every electric car sold because coal produces much more CO2 per unit of energy. So, you see, I am an idiot who uses superstitious religous ideas to decide on scientific truths which can only be understood by qualified climate scientists. Sorry to go so long, but there are so many more disconnects, I could on for a long time.

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