Get it Right: A Cold Dose of Reality, Courtesy of Professor Phil Jones

Opinion by Erica Morgan
Feb. 17, 2010, 12:30 a.m.

Get it Right: A Cold Dose of Reality, Courtesy of Professor Phil JonesJumping on the climate change bandwagon would be a convenient course to take. The temptation is sometimes overwhelming. After all, scientists have reached a “consensus,” Stanford professors speak with one mind and Stanford students are downright evangelical when it comes to the global warming gospel. I could join the sustainability community (hooray solidarity), receive research funding from the federal government (assuming my results supports the political platforms of the powers that be) and drive a Prius (the name is so similar to “pious”). I could nod knowingly as all weather phenomena are attributed to human evils and shake my head sadly at the ignorance of cynics. Climate change skeptics are an ostracized lot at the moment: they stand in the way of the greater good, naively question accepted paradigms and, more generally, hate the planet. I could distance myself from this motley crew and experience the self-righteous glory of the earnest makeshift climatologist out to make her mark in this troubled world.

Why then, do I not pursue the prescribed path? Because I am simply not convinced. I do not blindly deny the possibility of man-made climate change nor presume to claim expertise in climatology. I maintain a healthy dose of skepticism that seems prudent in light of the unprecedented changes being suggested and implemented in our lives. The “better safe than sorry” argument is a favorite of the uninformed climate change lemming, but it holds no water. How can educated, intelligent individuals possibly accept that line of reasoning? When our futures are to be impacted by potential legislation we should demand accuracy and honesty from scientists, politicians and the media. Not fifty years ago, dire warnings of global cooling filled the papers. More recently, proclamations that ethanol would save us all from foreign oil dependency ran rampant. Is it so impossible that the scientific “certainties” of today may undergo radical changes fifty years from now?

Maybe we should ask Professor Phil Jones, former Director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. In November, Phil Jones became the focal point of the so-called “Climategate” scandal when e-mails surfaced suggesting the modification of climate data, the withholding of information and the inaccuracy of testing equipment. At the time, Jones desperately attempted to rationalize the e-mails, which mention “tricks” to “hide the decline,” bemoan the “travesty” that “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment” and advise to “delete as appropriate.” Phil stood by the IPCC and his data and boldly declared: “the facts speak for themselves.”

However, it seems that the facts may not get a chance to voice their opinions. Jones refused Freedom of Information requests for crucial data behind the theory of man-made climate change. Colleagues speculate that Jones misplaced the data. The aforementioned e-mails indicate that it may have been intentionally eliminated. In any case, Jones conceded to BBC News on February 13 that “there is some truth” to the suggestion by his colleagues that he has not kept an accurate paper trail of the data behind the infamous hockey stick graph. He has also confirmed that there has been no statistically significant warming in the past 15 years, and that temperatures may well have been warmer in the medieval warming period than they are today.

BBC Interview:

Q:  “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically significant global warming?”

Jones: “Yes, but only just.”

Q: “Do you agree that natural influences could have contributed significantly to the global warming observed from 1975-1998?”

Jones: “This area is slightly outside my area of expertise.”

Q: “How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?”

Jones: “I’m 100 percent confident that the climate has warmed…there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.”

So…there is no statistically significant evidence that the climate has warmed in the past 15 years, Jones has admitted that he is no expert in natural sources of climate change and yet he claims with 100 percent conviction that man-made warming is scientifically defensible. I find this highly suspect.

Perhaps there is warming. Perhaps it is manmade. But when one of the figureheads of the movement is forced to eat his words and admit faulty record-keeping and research practices, I think the issue bears further scrutiny. Stifling the productive capacity of our nation with carbon caps and pouring federal money into clean energy research may not be the best policy in the current economic crisis. Food for thought.

The truth is inconvenient, isn’t it? [email protected]

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