Friday, May 1, 2009

Part 5 of Debunking the Silliness of Global Warming Skeptics

Just a quick break from my critique of to talk about the tactics of the Global Warming Skeptics.

Richard Lindzen is a well-known global warming skeptic who as far back as 1992 was arguing there was no "consensus" on global warming (Correction: the referenced article was written in 2002, not 1992 as stated). However, he is a climatologist and even contributed to the IPCC assessment in 2001, so he's very well versed on the science, unlike the "scientists" in Inhofe's list of deniers who were mostly not climatologists. He therefore commands credibility beyond the typical skeptic (unlike Mr. Transtronics).

Recently, Lindzen posted a "guest post" on Watts Up With That that discussed how satellite data shows a significant amount of radiation being emitted by the atmosphere, especially in the long wave spectrum. This indicates amounts of energy escaping the atmosphere that tends to undermine one of the key assumptions in the AGW theory - that there is a large positive feedback of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and therefore a great degree of sensitivity to increasing levels of CO2. Since Lindzen is a published climate scientist, these types of postings carry a ton of credibility and get echoed throughout the skeptic's blogosphere (see here, here and here as examples). But wattsupwiththat is not a peer-reviewed publication and none of what Lindzen posted was ever vetted by the scientific community (as is often the case with these blog-based skeptical arguments).

And it turns out that Lindzen was using outdated information - surprise, surprise. Lindzen was using a 2002 study by Wielicki, Wong that was later updated in 2006 by the same authors with corrections to these very graphs (see page 5, figure 5 of the report here). Turns out the understanding of the LW radiation emissions from the atmosphere has been updated and actually matches much more closely to the climate models. In typical skeptic fashion, Lindzen does not objectively challenge the updated study (that requires making a scientific argument), he instead says it is "implausible" that the corrections would "bring the data closer to the models". What he's missing is that the data itself did not change - rather the understanding of how the data is generated was updated and methods to interpret the data were improved based on that understanding. This was also the case with the "where's the atmospheric warming" argument (that first graph on Mr. Transtronics web site) that later studies indicated was there all along (and consistent with climate models), but was misinterpreted to be missing based on incorrect analysis of the raw satellite data.

It's one thing to be a skeptic, it's another to be a cynic. The reason why there is such a strong consensus among the scientific community around the theory of AGW is that the theory stands on very firm scientific principles, despite all the legitimate uncertainty that exists when studying something as complex as global climate. It is much more sensible to question things that challenge a theory based on sound scientific principles than it is to question the sound scientific principles themselves, but true science is objective and takes an appropriately objective look at both. I believe strongly that the theory of AGW is sound and has been studied objectively and with true science. I do not believe the same can be said for the skeptics.

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