The Religion of AGW
When I started this web site in the late 1990's my main concern was the threat of fanatical Christian evangelicals turning America into a Christian theocracy. While that threat remains, a new religion has arisen but this one is based on the manipulation of scientific data and it offers a different threat.
The theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) is simply: the increasing amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by human manufacturing, transportation and heating activities is causing increasing temperatures around the globe leading to a climatic catastrophe. This theory became popular at the end of the 20th century. In the 60's and 70's, the world saw lower temperatures than in earlier decades so there was widespread concern of a coming ice age. The subsequent decades saw the trend flip to higher temperatures than before, hence the fertile ground for the CAGW theory. By making the calculation based on extending the recent trends, over only the past couple of decades, over the next century, extreme high temperatures are predicted for the year 2100 (even though historically temperatures tend to alternate between highs and lows over a period of about 60 years).
The above simple description implies this could be just a scientific debate about global temperature trends. Weather and climate (where climate is simply weather trends over decades) are not well understood. There are theories about how the energy from the sun heats the oceans (covering 71% of the globe) which stores and releases that energy in periodic cycles. The sun also heats the atmosphere but there is substantially more energy stored in the oceanic water than in the less dense air. The atmosphere is somewhat an insulating blanket that slowly dissipates energy into space. As scientists add more data gathering instruments around the world and in satellites, the technology will assist in better understanding.
Unfortunately this situation degraded into a religion. The religion of CAGW consists of the keepers of the 'truth' which is the scientific data that supports this belief. Fortunately for the religion but unfortunately for humanity, the keepers hold power within the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC. This panel is supported by climate scientists at NASA, including the Goddard Institute for Space Studies or GISS and at Great Britain's University of East Anglia's Hadley Cimatic Research Unit. These scientific bodies manage the world's temperature records for the IPCC. Dr James Hansen heads the GISS facility in New York City and has been quite vocal about CAGW, including such statements like coal-fired power plants are factories of death and trains carrying coal are death trains. (His comment in The Observer.)
The durability of any religion is certainly related to the enthusiasm of its believers. The religion of CAGW certainly has that. Many people are quite aware of the dangers of pollution where it affects the health of everything in the ecosystem. Proponents of CAGW have taken advantage of that awareness by calling CO2 another measurable type of dangerous pollution, to imply CO2 is toxic like unsafe chemicals found in industrial waste. Unfortunately, CO2 is critical to all plant life in the ecosystem (where CO2 and H20 are chemically bound during photosynthesis to form carbohydrates, the basis of all earth's life forms) and is also a generated by the respiration cycle in all animal life (that inhale oxygen and exhale CO2). Declaring CO2 is pollution that must be tightly controlled implies all animal life is a threat to the earth!
This would appear to be a situation easily resolved by a rational scientific discussion. Unfortunately, the religion aspect took over with CAGW. Any religion is characterized by the 'us versus them' situation, where the believers are aware of the truth and the non-believers either have not learned of the truth or they consciously deny it. The religion of CAGW latched onto the 'denier' epithet, to intentionally imply that deniers of CAGW are just like those irrational people that deny there was ever a Holocaust (the deliberate attempt by the Nazis to murder all the Jews in the German controlled lands).
The believers also extended the concept of 'deniers' further by declaring that scientist arguing against CAGW must be under the pay of the energy industry companies, just like the infamous scientists under the pay of tobacco companies that denied smoking cigarettes had no health dangers. I find it so astounding to visit an CAGW blog and find so many commenters that will dismiss any submitted counterpoint as coming from someone paid by an oil company, without ever even considering the point being made! Who is the denier in this case?
The religion of CAGW has the keepers of its truth and its fervent believers. The declaration 'the science is settled' was possible because the keepers worked together as a cabal to keep opposing scientific articles out of major publications; they also used their positions of authority to even have some opponents dismissed from their positions. (This mafia-like behavior lead some opponents to wait until their retirement before voicing their opposition.) The infamous 'climategate' scandal in late 2009 revealed this to the world. Anyone that attempted to argue the science was dismissed out of hand, without ever having to address any of their scientific arguments.
The natural climate cycles are turning, a circumstance causing difficulty for CAGW. The Pacific Ocean (the largest ocean) appears to have a roughly 60 year cycle, with the 30 years in a cold phase during the 50s to 70s followed by the 30 years in a subsequent warm phase. The cycle has recently returned to its cold phase and now global temperatures appear to be in cooling trend. The theory of CAGW must contend with natural climatic cycles.
Ten years ago, CAGW believers were declaring that with global warming snow would become a memory. Now that there has been several consecutive cold winters (2009-10, 2010-11) we are told that global warming can still cause blizzards. Over the past few years, we have been told that global warming can actually cause just about everything, from warm to cold, from heavy rains to droughts.
I assume this religion of CAGW will be dismissed eventually in the next few years, just as the new ice age fears were eventually dismissed in the 1980's. However, since weather always has its ups and downs, the debate before that conclusion is achieved will probably be more emotional than rational.
I find the blog site Watts up with that very informative. Here is an excellent series (part 1) describing the effects the oceans have on the world’s climate.
For personal enlightenment, I wanted to learn more about climate so I downloaded the temperature data from GISS and did my own analysis of the data. I looked at temperature trends in the United States and around the world. I tried for a fair distribution in the US picking more locations in the larger states, so a regional average could be calculated (somewhat: so many square miles per location, affected by the states in each region since the Northeast is mostly small states while the West is mostly large states)
The following pages capture the summary of that analysis, done at different times. Several pages written earlier were moved under this new group (the Religion of CAGW) when this page content was created.
One immediate observation is the temperatures at locations around the world had notable warm and cool periods before 1980 when the CO2 level began increasing its annual change near the end of the 20th Century. The theory (and religion) of CAGW has two significant questions to answer:
1) Why is CO2 assumed to cause only the most recent warming trend but not any earlier warming trends? Of course the cooling trend in the 1960’s and 1970’s (the ice age scare before the warming dispelled that nonsense) is just ignored and the recent consecutive winters in the Northern Hemisphere indicate a cooling trend has returned but so far that trend has just been denied.
2) How much impact will a program of man-caused CO2 reductions have since man-caused CO2 is a very small portion?
Both questions are always avoided. Whatever debate there is only centers on events that are weather related and then there is a leap of faith that global warming was involved and so CO2 must be reduced to prevent the event from happening again.
The second question seems irrelevant to the debate, without reason. The political emphasis is on major governmental controls of the economy and for that CO2 just serves as the justification.
The graphical presentations should show that there is more to the world’s climate than just carbon dioxide, a gas that takes up less than 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. Water is universally recognized as the significant greenhouse gas with CO2 less important. There is never a debate on reducing water in the atmosphere. Successfully reducing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere could be catastrophic for plant life since at least 150 ppm is required to sustain that life - but that is just another piece of information missing from the fear mongering rhetoric about CO2 levels. In fact, increasing CO2 levels is beneficial to plant life (greenhouse managers sometimes increase the CO2 levels to enhance plant health and growth).
The web pages were done in two phases (early 2010, late 2010) so the later graphs look a little different but just for cosmetic reasons.
Temperature Trends do not conform with CAGW Analysis of local temperature data does not conform to an expectation of continuing increasing temperatures during increasing CO2 levels. (01/02/2010)
National Temperature Trends do not conform with CAGW Analysis results of national temperature data do not conform to an expectation of continuing increasing temperatures during increasing CO2 levels. (04/11/2010)
There are four subsequent web pages for the temperature trends in the four regions in the country.
World Temperature Trends do not conform with CAGW Analysis results of world temperature data do not conform to an expectation of increasing temperatures during increasing CO2 levels. (04/11/2010)
Temperature Analysis This analysis looked at anomalies (deviations from an average) rather than just the measured raw temperatures. There are five subsequent web pages for the US regions and for the world. (01/12/2011)
Solar Cycle Analysis This analysis looked at the relationship of a temperature trend and the previous solar sun spot cycle length. There are five subsequent web pages for the US regions and for the world. (01/12/2011)
Temperature Modifications This analysis looked at the modifications to the temperatures between the ‘raw’ and the ‘homogenized’ values in the respective GISS data sets. There are five subsequent web pages for the US regions and for the world. (01/15/2011)
The following essays, also about global warming, were written long after the above analysis.
Climate Change The alarms about global warming in the 1990s became alarms about climate change when temperatures stopped increasing. (06/15/2013)
World is Breathing The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have an annual cycle caused by the plant life on earth changing through the seasons. (11/17/2013)
Wrong Noble Cause Activists pursuing reductions in carbon dioxide to prevent supposed global warming in the distant future are neglecting the more immediate political problems. (11/09/2014)
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created - January 2011
last change - 11/09/2014 (only the bottom link)