Monday, February 15, 2010

Snowmageddon or Climategate?

If you watch major news networks, likely you will have heard about the recent Snowmageddon that's descended upon the Mid-Atlantic. The recent weather has caused the global warming debate to heat up once more. If you're like me, that leaves you wondering whom do you believe on this issue?

My recommendation would be to investigate on your own and look at the 1) raw data, 2) data collection methods and 3) validity of the conclusions drawn from the data. As a scientist, that's the way I've been trained to approach experimental problems and this approach is universally applicable. So, I decided to scratch the surface and actually track down some of the data that lies at the heart of this political storm.

At first glance, I found widely cited current and pre-industrial greenhouse gas CO2 levels. In fact the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has published a document online that covers global warming that can be found at:

Within this document, Table 3.1 cites that pre-industrial greenhouse gas CO2 levels were 280 parts per million (ppm) c1750, with current levels reported to be around 382ppm. Clearly man must be causing higher CO2 levels if time point A is lower than time point B, right?

Well, my first concern was to examine the accuracy of the low pre-industrial CO2 level measurements. Secondly, I wanted to examine the CO2 levels between 1750 and today. After scouring the internet, I found numerous sites describing what amounts to flawed and at times unethical science. Some of the claims are that scientists selectively averaged only the lower pre-industrial CO2 data points and corrected non-overlapping CO2 sampling data sets (from Siple ice core samples and Mauna Loa direct atmospheric sample) to create a smooth curve that showed the desired CO2 trends over time. However, without knowing the source of these data I couldn't possibly endorse the validity of them.

I did discover an interesting study published in Energy and Environment that was written by scientist Ernst-Georg Beck. In this published journal article titled "180 YEARS OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2 GAS ANALYSIS BY CHEMICAL METHODS" that can be found online at:

Beck reports on numerous, well-controlled CO2 data sets from mainly European sampling stations spanning the 19-20th centuries. When looking within these controlled data sets, Beck reports that there is considerable fluctuation in CO2 levels over this 180 year period, with several atmospheric CO2 spikes as high as the current CO2 levels. Strikingly, some of these data directly refute the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ice core data from which the IPCC bases it's claim for man-made increases in CO2 levels. Specifically, Beck shows that atmospheric CO2 levels were sometimes as high as ~350ppm when IPCC ice core data claim the levels at that time were as low as 290ppm. Beck's analysis of various large atmospheric CO2 data sets suggest considerable fluctuation that is cyclical and does not match commonly cited trends that CO2 has steadily increased since the pre-industrial era.

So, if data exist to discredit the great global warming hype, how come we never hear about them? The nonprofit organization called The Friends of Science ( offers an alternative analysis of the climate change data, but their perspective is not well publicized.

To fuel the skepticism, the recent "Climategate" scandal has rocked the world. As discussed on CNET News ( and FOX News (, leaked emails from a British university have revealed possible scientific misconduct. Allegedly, these emails suggest that prominent climatologists were cooking the books and hiding new data that would argue against global warming in order to keep funding and grant money flowing into their research projects. In addition, as described in a story covered by Times (, the United Nations climate chief has apologized publicly for allowing scientifically unsubstantiated predictions regarding the rate of melting for the Himalayan glaciers to be publicized as fact.

Because global warming has become political, with calls for government mandated emission caps and other future government imposed energy restrictions imminent, I think the citizens of America deserve to hear a Congressional review of the climate data before potentially unnecessary and intrusive legislation is imposed. I think scientists on both sides of the argument should present their cases and point out the validity or weakness of the data and interpretations of the data. Such a forum would finally allow the American public to decide for themselves what is fact or fiction.

I would urge you to contact your local representatives and call for a televised Congressional review. Regardless of your persepctive on this debate, getting to the truth is essential to moving forward with intelligent policies! If you agree, please share this blog.

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