Primal Numbers – The Great Warming Debate

From melting glaciers to scorching droughts, there’s no doubt the earth’s climate is changing. And if you follow the headlines and study the scientific models, It’s clear that global warming is responsible. Or is it? A closer look at the numbers raises some serious doubts?and questions about just how far some scientists will go to prove a theory.

The doubts about global warming data aren’t anything new. And they aren’t just the invention of conspiracy theorists or flat-out climate deniers. For years, both amateur and professional climate trackers have followed the latest research with interest. As this Telegraph article reports, one of the first red flags was raised back in 2007 by a statistician named Steve McIntyre.

The problem that McIntyre uncovered was the deliberate manipulation of temperature records to show a warming trend instead of what the data really pointed to: a cooling trend. More recently, Paul Homewood did a blog post about the same issue. He first examined weather stations across South America then the Arctic. In almost every case, the Telegraph writes, “the same one-way adjustments have been made, to show warming up to 1 degree C or more higher than was indicated by the data that was actually recorded.”

No matter which point along the climate-change spectrum You’re on, all this may seem academic. Nothing but a bunch of pointless posturing when the planet is faced with a serious global problem. After all, there’s plenty of proof that the polar ice is, in fact, melting. Highly informed and engaged sources like David Suzuki and the World Health Organization are among those who believe, as the United Nations notes, that global warming “is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives.”

With the devastation of extreme weather events plain for anyone to see, what difference does it make if a few scientists are manipulating the data to prove their theory? It matters a lot, because spending time and energy trying to fix the wrong issues could end up endangering millions more lives.

Suppose, for instance, that the melting ice caps and abnormal drought conditions are the result of complex patterns leading to another ice age. That theory has plenty of supporters, including some members of Canada’s National Research Council. As this National Post article reports, at least one researcher believes that we’re “in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.”

If That’s true, and temperature fluctuations and extreme storms are actually leading us into another ice age, falsified data could have everyone running around preparing for a heat wave instead. Ten or twenty years later, when the period of instability shifts to a consistent drop in temperature, no one is prepared. They’ve all stocked up on sandbags and air conditioning when what they really needed was efficient heating systems and warm clothing. It’s not hard to see how misleading data could needlessly endanger millions of people.

That’s a simplified scenario, but the truth is that we can’t yet be absolutely certain why or how fast our climate is changing. Sorting current data against historical climate patterns is an incredibly complex undertaking. The causes are plentiful, from greenhouse gases to natural cycles, and involve influences as varied as human activity and solar flares. The fact that the climate is changing isn’t in doubt. The reasons still are.

And That’s why It’s absolutely critical that no one, especially scientists, should play fast and loose with the data. Because the last thing we need is someone pulling the wool over our eyes?no matter what the temperature is.

S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.

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