John Coleman, meteorologist and founder of the The Weather Channel, recently wrote an editorial on his KUSI (San Diego, CA) blog that stated in part, (scroll down to find the essay,)
"[Global Warming] is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming... It is a SCAM.... Environmental extremists, notable politicians among them, then teamed up with movie, media and other liberal, environmentalist journalists to create this wild "scientific" scenario of the civilization threatening environmental consequences from Global Warming unless we adhere to their radical agenda."
And what does your humble Non-Majors Science Instructor say?
Well, he has a point. The data that backs up the whole global warming theory is sketchy, at best. We’ve all seen the scary graph where the average recorded temperature line bobs along for a couple of centuries and then suddenly spikes up in the seventies.
As a scientist, that graph impresses me, but any scientist would ask: Where does that data come from? The acquisition method determines the data.
Now, most of the data points taken on that scary graph are from thermometers that are stationary and have been hanging in the same place for decades, even for over a century.
On the surface, this ensures continuity of data. You don’t want to take the official temperature one day in the middle of a grassy park and the next day, five inches above the steaming asphalt, or five inches above a frozen-over pond. You've got to control the variables. The position of the thermometer is certainly a variable you must control.
The problem with this is not day-to-day comparisons, but decade-to-decade comparisons. Many of these thermometers are now in the centers of huge cities. Urban heat island effect is well-documented and quite intuitive. The temperature in the centers of cities can be as much as twenty (20) Fahrenheit degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas.
For example, the official thermometer in Phoenix, AZ is at Sky Harbor Airport.
Three decades ago, Sky Harbor was on the edge of Phoenix and surrounded by cotton fields and empty desert. At night, the desert and raw soil cooled quickly, and the summer temperatures even in the center of Phoenix dropped into the sixties and seventies, Fahrenheit.
Now, the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, etc., have grown together like merging cancer tumors into one huge, sprawling, asphalt-paved ubercity. In the summer, the blacktop absorbs the heat from the blazing sun all day long and reradiates it at night, so Phoenix does not cool below ninety degrees Fahrenheit for weeks, sometimes months. In 2007, the high temperature was over 110o Fahrenheit for 32 days. Sometimes, the low is above a hundred degrees.
The official thermometer hangs in almost the very center of that hellhole, and I mean that the hot-enough-to-melt-sulfur sense.
The urban heat island effect has certainly affected the average daily temperatures in the middle of Phoenix. That's a localized climate change, however. Not a global climate change.
EPA LINK -- WISC.EDU LINK -- GOV.UK LINK -- ABOUT.COM LINK
Now let us consider: if the whole planet is warming up, we would expect to see many new records for highest daily temperature being set and fewer records for lowest temperatures.
Chart Source: http://wmo.asu.edu/
That isn't the case. Indeed, you'll notice in the above chart that the opposite is true. The records for the lowest recorded temperatures are more recent than records for the highest temperatures.
Average Year Highest Temperature Record: 1940
Average Year Lowest Temperature Record: 1954
The above data is meant as an indication, but it's not, quite honestly, anything to base a PhD thesis on. The records data can only be considered anecdotal, or a "case study," but cannot be extrapolated to disprove the global warming theory.
However, that data sure as heck does not support global warming.
So, what do we do about it?
Here's my take: whether or not global warming is occurring, it behooves us to act as if it was for a variety of reasons.
First, in the arena of unenlightened self-interest, conservation will save you money. If you use less energy, that means you buy less energy. Gas is approaching $4 a gallon, and oil costs above $95 a barrel. These prices are unlikely to go down by any appreciable amount, in the absence of new technology. "Reduce, reuse, and recycle" could be the penny-pincher's mantra.
Second, we in the Western hemisphere buy a lot of oil from people who are committed to destroying democracy, liberty, and liberal ideals. No, I'm not talking about Canada (the number one exporter of oil to the U.S.,) but the Islamic theocracies and monarchies of the Middle East. Seriously, the governments over there have said that they want to destroy democracy and liberalism and replace it with Islamic theocracies in the whole world.
Third, many resources are probably finite. Assuming that the theory that hydrocarbons, especially petroleum, are dead dinosaurs ("fossil fuels") and thus they are running out is true (and there are theories that it isn't, such as the one expounded in The Deep Hot Biosphere, and Freeman Dyson, a genius, wrote the forward to this iconoclastic book, and Thomas Gold is a highly regarded professor at Cornell) then conserving finite resources only makes sense. Scarcity drives up prices. See the first reason above.
Fourth, whatever the effect on global climate change, extravagant use of petrochemicals and other contaminants increases the air, soil, and water contamination in the local environment. That's your backyard that you're poisoning.
TK Kenyon, Author of RABID: A Novel
"A genre-bending story, part thriller, part literary slap-down." --Booklist Starred Review