Global Storming
July 15, 2001

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I went into a little store yesterday to buy some milk. The lady behind the counter was greatly enjoying the natural air conditioning, wearing a thick sweater, and commented about how beautiful the day had been. Yep. Wool sweaters on the 14th of July. Naturally that started me thinking...

There's not much evidence of Global Warming up here. I suppose that I don't have the right numbers, but I know how much it cost me to heat this big old house last winter. I know that the girls at the billing desk at the local oil company were wearing flak jackets, expecting some poor frozen soul to stagger in with a shotgun, sent over the edge by his last heating bill. I also know that people were scraping frost off their cars on the first of June this year.

Global Warming seems plausible, but so do the arguments to the contrary. The logic is basically sound in all directions. It's a nice theory. The models look good too. As detractors point out, however, the data is incomplete. According to Accu-Weather, there has been about a 0.45 degree Celsius rise in average global air temperatures over the past century. That sounds good too, carried out to .01 of a degree, but I have three thermometers around the outside of my house, and can't ever seem to get a reading from all three within 5.00 degrees of each other. So I'm a little skeptical.

The beautiful thing about Global Warming is that if you look closely you can find examples of everything that is wrong with science today.

First, it exposes the main flaw in the essential scientific method. It's the same methodology we all learned in school. First we develop a hypothesis, then a plan on how to collect the data. We collect the data, analyze it and prove our hypothesis. The whole process is centered on what we expect to occur. This has always been a bad thing. Human nature dictates that we are generally not objective enough to admit that our original hypothesis is flawed; so many scientists end up twisting the results to prove their conjecture. Most of the significant scientific discoveries end up happening when other scientists notice the flaws in the original data and come to a different, objective conclusion.

With Global Warming, there isn't really any data. "Scientists" create arbitrary computer models and keep modifying them with more sophisticated computers until the results make sense. They model predictions, measure data, and modify the models to match the measured data. I like computers, and marvel in simulations. They're a lot of fun, but I know that in simulations I can win the Monaco Grand Prix, make the Confederacy win the Civil War, and manage the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to win the World Series. So again, I'm a little skeptical.

The second dirty little secret that can be uncovered in examining Global Warming science is the fact that you can manipulate the results to satisfy whoever is paying for the research. Nearly every report on Global warming contains the caveat, "more money is needed for research." Reports from American researchers lament the fact that the Europeans have taken the lead in global climactic research. That sounds vaguely similar to the logic used to promote the Space Program and win the Cold War. The politics of science are mind-boggling. I'm sure that there's some objective research being done somewhere, but generally it seems that the work is either being done on behalf of self-promoting science groups or by corporate-sponsored groups seeking to avert further restrictions on "greenhouse emissions." There must be some truth in there somewhere, but it's damned hard to find.

The third, and possibly most frightening, manifestation of Global Warming is the fervor exhibited by the "believers." Some European groups are endorsing a boycott of U.S. products because of our unwillingness to adhere to the Kyoto accords. A century ago, science (correctly) challenged the dogmatic religious aspect of the world. Now, science is becoming similarly dogmatic and has filled the void in beliefs by becoming a religion unto itself. Kyoto and other similar "scientific" declarations are starting to bear frightening resemblance to 15th century papal decrees that banned the works of Galileo and Copernicus. Frankly, there is no more evidence of Global Warming than there was of the Ptolemaic Earth-centered universe. The notion that man can affect global climate through the emission of greenhouse gases may be equally anthropocentric.

Amidst all this, however, there is some common sense to be found. Regardless of whether Global Warming really is occurring it continues to make sense that we should do our very best to reverse the trend of deforestation and further reduce the amount of pollutants that are put into the environment. We have seen the tangible results of those efforts here, and should continue to strive toward that happy symbiosis between Man and the rest of nature. We shouldn't need dogma to support that.

In the meantime, I'm going to submit my heating bill to my local climatologist as evidence and continue to support common-sense environmental legislation.

As Calvin once said, "I propose that we leave math to the machines and go play outside."

Jim Bennett

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