(Editor's note: Earlier this month, Economic Policy Journal reported that "(a) new study has found that adjustments made to global surface temperature readings by scientists in recent years 'are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data.'" In this San Francisco Review of Books original, contributor Graham H. Seibert shares his views about said temperature findings. These are complied by the American and British governments. The NOAA and NASA team with the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, as well as the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. Seibert also shares his perspective on the EPA's conclusion about danger resulting from carbon dioxide emissions.)
This paper addresses systematic adjustments that are made to the global average surface temperature (GAST) data sets produced by NOAA, NASA and Hadley. These temperatures are used as input to every global warming model throughout the world. It must be so. The databases include measurements going back a number of decades and from places all over the world. They include as many measurements as are available. Although each of these three entities has a separate database, they data they contain overlaps about 95%. Such a project demands global cooperation.
As Paul Edwards writes in "A Vast Machine", the data must be adjusted in order to be useful as input to a model. There are many reasons for the adjustments:
The models require a grid of evenly spaced observations made at the same elevation above earth. You cannot, however, simply put thermometers where you want them. Many observations were made by ships at sea, which did not stay put. Temperatures vary in a predictable fashion according to elevation, latitude and to some extent longitude. The data is adjusted for geography.
The thermometers are often placed in proximity to human activity, such as at airports and in cities. Human activity makes these places "thermal islands" with temperatures higher than they would be if people weren't there. Heat generated by human activity does not count as global warming; only additional heat generated by the greenhouse effect. Therefore the raw data has to be adjusted to discount human activity. Obviously the adjustments change over time.
The measurement instruments change over time. Some have systematic biases. Measurements may be taken in the sun or the shade. Measurements at different times a day will vary systematically.
This discussion concerns only temperature. Other measurements include relative humidity, wind velocity, carbon dioxide concentration, pollutant measurements and much else. Not all factors have been measured throughout time, certainly not for all reporting stations. Coming up with a consistent, uniform set of measurements is a major challenge.
The bottom line of all this is that the data input to climate models has to have been adjusted, standardized, to meet the assumptions of the model.
Adjustments to the raw data have been being made for as long as there have been climate models, four decades or so as of this writing. The integrity of the process depends on the integrity of the adjustments. This article argues that the adjustment process has been tinkered with over time in such a fashion that it exaggerates the historical global warming shown by the models.
It is as if a doctor used a handful of thermometers, none of them absolutely accurate, to measure the progress of a child with a fever. Depending on the order in which he used the thermometers, he could judge that the child was getting sicker or more healthy. There is a strong vested interest in the earth getting sicker. The charge here is that the doctors were playing games with the thermometers. Why would they do that?
Climate change is at least a $1 trillion industry. Elon Musk, Al Gore and the solar panel industry have all gotten rich off of the global warming scare. If global warming is not real, a lot of experts around the world would be out of work. The people who report on global warming are not unbiased altruists.
Humanity seems to be always in search for some new peril that will kill us all. In the 1960s it was pesticides, villainized in Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." In the 1970s it was "The Population Bomb." Global cooling, ironically enough, was considered a major threat in the 1970s. Philosopher Patrick Bruckner writes about mankind's need for something to fret about in his book "Save the Earth – Punish Human Beings." The fearmongers always find a ready audience.
Climate change is in the hands of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control. The United Nations has shown a systematic bias in favor of poor countries since its inception. Put most simply, poor countries have the most votes, rich countries have the most money and feel the most guilt. This results in a number of travesties, such as having the world's most egregious dictatorships dominate United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, adopted in 1948, sets forth an absolutely unattainable list of absolute rights of mankind.
To undo the legacy of slavery, colonialism, and exploitation of Third World (they defined the term themselves) countries the United Nations has since its inception devised excuses to funnel money from rich countries to poor countries. Climate change is an excellent vehicle to do just that.
There was a lot of reason to doubt the impartiality of the world climate bureaucracy. In addition to the vast financial incentives, the climate bureaucracy has taken advantage of the political liberalism that pervades the United Nations, the European Union and many other governments.
Not mentioned in this article, there have been many challenges on other grounds to the integrity of the IPCC process. Most climate change models throughout the world are seeded by modules distributed by the IPCC itself. Although different universities may tweak the models, they are so complex it would be impossible to build an entirely independent model. Many critics have faulted the models for overweighting the impact of greenhouse gases, and especially carbon dioxide, and playing down numerous other factors such as cosmic radiation, changes in the Earth's elliptic rotation around the sun, changes in the Earth's tilt, changes in the distance from the sun, volcanic action arising from tectonic activity and so on. Since the universities receive their funding from government sources, there is a strong incentive to preserve the biases that are built into the model rather than challenge them.
This article, then, follows one of many, many potential vectors along which the integrity of the global warming community can be challenged. The simple claim is that the raw data have been adjusted, as they must be, but in a way that systematically exaggerates historical global warming by ironing out natural, cyclical increases and decreases in measured temperature. It is important because of the breadth of the study and the credibility of the authors.
"I am in the middle of Act III of my American life," Graham H. Seibert explains in a biography published at the neo-masculinity blog Return of Kings. "Retiring from a career as an overseas adventurer, entrepreneur and computer book author in 1998, I spent a while pursuing a PhD in statistics and then divorced and moved to Ukraine to start a new family. I occupy my time as a top 500 reviewer on Amazon and the father of a five-year-old."