Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dubious Data

Things keep going from bad to worse for the AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) enthusiasts. Now it turns out that the former head of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia in England, Dr. Phil Jones, not only can't produce the data that led so many scientists to conclude that we are presently in the midst of a sharp uptick in global temperatures, but the man himself says that there's no conclusive reason to believe that global temperatures have risen since the mid 90s:

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is 'not as good as it should be'.

The data is crucial to the famous 'hockey stick graph' used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Moreover, Dr. Jones is now conceding that global temperatures may well have been elevated at several periods in the past. If that's so, claims that the current alleged "warming" must be due to human activity seem to be unwarranted.

Here's the relevant excerpt from an article in the Daily Mail Online:

Even more strikingly, [Dr. Jones] also sounds much less ebullient about the basic theory, admitting that there is little difference between global warming rates in the Nineties and in two previous periods since 1860 and accepting that from 1995 to now there has been no statistically significant warming.

He also leaves open the possibility, long resisted by climate change activists, that the 'Medieval Warm Period' from 800 to 1300 AD, and thought by many experts to be warmer than the present period, could have encompassed the entire globe.

This is an amazing retreat, since if it was both global and warmer, the green movement's argument that our current position is 'unprecedented' would collapse.

Moreover, British researchers have now come to the conclusion that the data that was relied upon to show that global temperatures were trending upward was tainted by local alterations in the microclimate surrounding the measuring devices.

After almost every country in the world has spent millions of dollars to ameliorate carbon emissions, after near panic has gripped many of the governments in the West over the impending doom of climate catastrophe, it turns out that it was all based on dubious data. Now the whole AGW project seems to be coming undone. Maybe it's just time to take a deep breath and start over with a whole new team of scientists, and perhaps Al Gore should just make himself scarce for the next decade or so.


Partisan Sniping

The game of "special pleading politics," which both Democrats and Republicans are playing with considerable zest nowadays, is getting more than a little tedious. The game consists in giving one's own guy a pass for doing something which was as bad or worse than what they are prepared to howl like a cage full of monkeys over when the other side's guy does it. It's one reason why so many people are disgusted with American politics.

Democrats, for example, indulged in spasms of hilarity recently when Sarah Palin was discovered to have inscribed some notes on the palm of her hand. Even the President's press secretary publicly poked fun at her for this apparent faux pas at a press conference. Yet a few weeks ago President Obama actually required the aid of a teleprompter to address a class of sixth graders, but none of the Palin bashers seemed to think this even a teensy bit bizarre. Can you imagine the liberal media reaction had Palin or George Bush done such a thing?

As wearisome as such petty attacks, like the one on Palin, are many on the political right also seem unable to resist them. Talk radio personalities like Sean Hannity, for example, make themselves look foolish and trivial when they criticize President Obama's Justice Department for mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber even though they never complained about previous terrorists being mirandized during the Bush years.

To be sure, it was a mistake to mirandize Abdul Mutullab, but it would be a far more decent strategy for conservatives to acknowledge that it was also a mistake when previous administrations did it, and to urge the current administration to change the policy rather than trying to make Obama look soft on terrorism by exploiting his decision to essentially follow the Bush precedent.

Mirandizing terrorists is indeed a bad idea. Closing Gitmo is a bad idea. Trying Khalid Sheik Mohammad in federal court in New York City is a terrible idea, but if Republicans were silent when their guys proposed or did similar things they shouldn't now be using these bad ideas as a club with which to clobber Obama. They'd be better served by pointing out why it was a bad idea (or not) in the past and why it's a bad idea now without attempting to impugn and discredit the President's commitment to keep America safe. It's simply unfair to pretend that the current policies were ushered in by the Obama people and were never in place prior to their taking office.

If conservatives make the argument that we need to avoid the mistakes of the past - and the American people voice overwhelming opposition to continuing the practice of treating terrorism as crime rather than as acts of war - but the administration nevertheless continues on its present course, then it will be appropriate to castigate them for it.

Meanwhile, we can argue for a change in policy without making it sound like so much partisan sniping. After all, the President's prosecution of the war abroad has been the most heartening aspect of his tenure. He should be encouraged to do even better at the things he's doing well rather than being condemned by Republicans for doing pretty much what his GOP predecessor did.

Not only would this elevate our political discourse it would also have the side benefit of elevating in the public esteem the credibility of our political figures.