Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Global Warming and Uri Geller

Uri Geller is a psychic who became famous in the 1970's due to television appearances where he seemed able to read other people's thoughts, start stopped watches and -- most famously -- bend spoons using the power of his mind. He has always insisted that his powers are real, not simply tricks.

Various skeptics have debunked Geller's tricks, and he has consistently failed when placed under strictly controlled conditions. He has even been caught cheating on video. Despite all this, Geller continues to insist on his legitimacy.

Uri Geller may indeed have genuine psychic powers. However, the fact that he has cheated, and that he failed under strictly controlled conditions, make you doubt that conclusion.

Similarly, global warming* may turn out to be the catastrophe that alarmists insist it is. So far, though, much of the research that supposedly supports that conclusion has been either a) faulty; b) misrepresented; or c) manipulated. Like believing in Uri Geller's powers, believing the truthfulness and accuracy of the reports of global warming is hard when you know they cheated.

The Reasons
The first question that comes to mind about something this important is Why? Why would supposedly ethical scientists and politicians try to deceive the populace?

Money. Since 1993 more than $80 billion has been spent on global warming research. Scientists who use climate change to explain environmental changes improve their chances of getting part of the $6.5 billion in research grants that foundations, corporations, and US government programs have budgeted for global warming in 2007. Politicians cement relationships with activists who support reelection campaigns and can rename $14 billion in "alternative energy" pork into ethical "planetary protection." It gives new meaning to the label of being "green."

Status. Besides the social acceptance by their green colleagues, scientists who tout global warming doom ("Climate change to flood New York City") increase their likelihood of getting headlines and quotes in news stories. Politicians get better press and can assume a holier-than-thou attitude toward anyone who is not as green.

The Research
Flawed science. Henk Tennekes was the director of research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and later chairman of the august Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. A skeptic of the global warming research, he argued that there were inherent limits on climate models scientists were basing their conclusions on, that the world was far too complex to be replicated. The best legitimate predictability models can now only reach up to 36 hours. The predictions for the "next 100 years" are based on cumulative day-by-day projections -- which are impossible.

Flawed statistics. The so-called "hockey stick" graph, established by Michael Mann, supposedly shows that the temperature increases that we have been experiencing are "likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years" and that the "1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year" of the millennium. A congressional energy and commerce committee asked Dr. Edward Wegman to head a team to assess the validity of the research that resulted in this graph. Dr. Wegman is a professor at the Center for Computational Statistics at George Mason University, chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, and board member of the American Statistical Association.

Dr. Wegman's conclusion? "Our committee believes that the assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade in a millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year in a millennium cannot be supported," Wegman stated, adding that "The paucity of data in the more remote past makes the hottest-in-a-millennium claims essentially unverifiable." When Wegman corrected Mann's statistical mistakes, the hockey stick disappeared.


* "global warming" in these discussions is defined as "man-made catastrophic climate change."

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