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Global Warming: Flip Flopping on the Trees, But What About the Forest?

by Bill Chameides | October 24th, 2011
posted by Wendy Graber (Researcher)

Permalink | Comments Off on Global Warming: Flip Flopping on the Trees, But What About the Forest?

When it comes to climate change, should we be focused on the forest or the trees? (Photo credit: Tom Harpel)

New study confirming warming trend is news… sort of.

Have you caught the latest news on global warming? A group of ‘non-climate’ scientists working on the Berkeley Earth Science Temperature (BEST) project carried out a new, “independent-of-IPCC-climate-scientist-bias” analysis of surface temperature measurements made since 1800 at some thirty-nine thousand monitoring stations.

The BEST Bottom Lines

  1. The BEST-derived global land temperature trend is essentially identical to that obtained by previous investigators, notably those from the NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and the UK Met Office Hadley Center and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (HadCRU) and reported by the IPCC – in other words the globe has been warming; and
  2. The contribution of the urban heat island effect on the inferred global temperature trend is negligible, as is the temperature data from poorer quality stations.

The prospect that these two factors have poisoned previous temperature trend analyses has been a major hobby horse of the climate deniers.

Scientifically That’s Significant.

Of course, multiple groups, working independently have already confirmed the global warming trend, but with smaller similar datasets.  What’s unique about BEST is that they built a much larger dataset from scratch and analyzed it with a different methodology. That this work also reaches the same conclusion of previous work is nothing to sneeze at.

Climate Deniers Denial

The other interesting aspect of the BEST project was the reaction of the skeptic-refudiator community. You see the project was being led by Richard Muller, an astrophysicist whose statements about climate “alarmists” and scientists defending their “exaggerating” have led some to label him a climate skeptic. And the project was funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation – Charles Koch and his brother David are known for their conservative politics and climate-denial agenda.

Way back in the fall of 2010 and the winter and early spring of 2011 when the BEST project was getting underway, the climate denier community was licking its collective chops – finally a study from the right people that could set the record straight, potentially putting the kibosh on the whole global warming hoax. (See here, here, and here.)

Alas it was not to be. Now that the initial portion of the study has apparently come to its conclusion – that global warming is real – it is clearly the ‘wrong’ conclusion as far as many of the climate deniers are concerned. Suffice it to say, the denial community’s support for the BEST project has waned considerably (here, here, here, and here) and even a little character assassination is no longer out of bounds.  (Although support has been eroding ever since March when Muller testified before Congress.) A major criticism is that the results have not yet been peer reviewed – the process so many in the denier community condemn as being corrupt. But fair enough, let’s see how the work fairs in the peer review process – per their website, the BEST team has submitted four papers for publication.

Scientifically That’s Not Significant But It Is Kinda Interesting.

Climate deniers flip-flopping, shifting the stakes, and refusing to admit when they were wrong. Interesting? Maybe. News? Not really.

Trees Versus Forests

As for myself, I can’t help finding this media focus on the BEST project a little like obsessing on the trees when the real concern is the forest. As important as it is for our scientific understanding to accurately measure the global temperature trend, we no longer need such analyses to tell us that global temperatures have been on the rise over the past 30 – 40 years. Just consider what’s happening:

Have global temperatures increased? Sometimes a little common sense will suffice.

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