August 20, 2007
If NASA Mistake
Really Disproves Global Warming, Believers Would Rejoice
NASA stirred the
heated waters (no pun intended) of the global warming debate this week
when it made minor modifications to its record of average annual
temperatures in the U.S. since 2000. The revision accounted for a 0.15
degree (Celsius) difference between the reported data of average temps
for the past six years and the actual temperatures. This discrepancy
resulted from NASA scientists incorrectly assuming that the data since
2000 had been adjusted for factors that change over time when it had
not, as well as other errors Canadian blogger Stephen McIntyre brought
to NASA’s attention through an email earlier this month.
Because the original
numbers happened to be slightly higher than the revised numbers, global
warming skeptics seized on the edit as proof that climate change dangers
have been exaggerated and that the faulty data should cause mistrust of
any climate data released by NASA. Rush Limbaugh predictably
opined, “We have proof of man-made global warming. Man-made global
warming is inside NASA. The man-made global warming is in the scientific
community with false data.”
to Jim Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies,
the shift is insignificant in terms of its effect on global warming.
This, too, was offered as proof by conservative conspiracy theorists in
the blogosphere that Hansen was facilitating the liberal agenda of
global warming by downplaying the mistake and consequent edits.
climatologist I am not, I can see the holes in the argument that NASA’s
data adjustment should turn the whole global warming movement on its
head. For one, global climate – not weather, as these temperatures more
accurately reflect – is a vast, complicated sum of many factors, not
just the average temperature in one country occupying part of the planet
(the United States) over a span of just six years.
critics are proclaiming that these discoveries discount that 1998 was
the hottest year on record in the United States, as 1934 now becomes the
winner, thereby challenging the theory that our planet is hotter than
ever, specifically because of us. However, according to an article in
the Washington Post, 1998 was never officially proclaimed to be
the hottest, just that, statistically, its temperatures ranked as high
as notoriously hot 1934. Regardless, the data shift affected only the
temperature readings taken after the year 2000, anyway. So,
again, these findings do not reflect a major shift in the way we need to
think about global warming.
It’s almost as if
those on both sides of the debate are keeping a climate-change tally. Al
Gore won the Emmy – score one for the believers! NASA screwed up – score
one for the skeptics! As a believer myself, even I find it silly when
proponents of climate change theory smugly present scientific data that
confirms their belief, as if they want climate change to be real.
No one should really
want our planet to be on the verge of meltdown, even if it means
they can rub it the faces of skeptics. And those who believe global
warming exists, and therefore acutely understands the disaster that will
accompany it, should be more elated than those on the other side when
they find data that contradicts that global warming is in fact a
By the same token,
however, opponents of climate-crisis action should think before accusing
those who insist climate change is real of promoting a “liberal agenda.”
What agenda would that be exactly? That we want to undergo significant
overhauls to the way we live our lives – the fuels we use, the vehicles
we drive – just for the heck of it? No one believes that combating
global warming on a large scale will be easy or cheap, or that if we are
successful, the benefits will be reserved for liberals. So why would
liberals specifically want to tackle those challenges if not for the
greater good of humankind?
also understand that if presented with reliable, indisputable data that
confirms global warming has been hyped to mythic proportions,
respectable climatologists, scientists and environmentalists alike would
likely accept that data and rejoice, not find ways to twist the findings
to confirm their beliefs. Sure, pride is an issue, but in this case,
those who see beyond the ideological struggle behind the debate likely
want to be proven wrong.
© 2007 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column # JV018.
Request permission to publish here.