Is NASA playing with global temperature statistics?

Liars, damned liars, and statistics. Apparently, several of the most “reliable” temperature recording surveys in the world indicate that the Earth’s average temperatures are actually showing a downward trend during the last decade. But the single most quoted source, NASA, says exactly the opposite. From an article on The Register…

How can scientists who report measurements of the earth’s temperature within one one-hundredth of a degree be unable to concur if the temperature is going up or down over a ten year period? Something appears to be inconsistent with the NASA data – but what is it?

One clue we can see is that NASA has been reworking recent temperatures upwards and older temperatures downwards – which creates a greater slope and the appearance of warming.

[From Is the earth getting warmer, or cooler? | The Register]

The report suggests that NASA has been “correcting” historical temperature records using some method known only to them. These corrections don’t agree with anyone else’s historical records, and result in a more convincing upward slope in temperatures over the last century than anyone else’s data. Interestingly, the man in charge of the NASA data is Dr. James Hansen: science advisor to Al Gore, and a luminary in the global warming advocacy movement.

There are a ton of interesting links and data in the article. What is the truth? Well, as I’ve said before, I think humans have had a major negative impact on the world’s environment and climate, and it is critically important to start doing something about it. But I also think we barely understand how the climate actually works, and if we are being fed rejiggered data by various supposedly authoritative bodies then the job of trying to figure out the reality becomes increasingly impossible.

There is a lot of evidence of misdirection and outright lying on both sides of the global warming discussion: enough to make me doubt where the truth actually lies. There are obvious (to me, at least) political agendas here. Unfortunately, scientists are human just like the rest of us: subject to arrogance, hubris, political scheming, power hunger, greed, and all the rest. Usually, scientists are, as a whole, capable of self-regulating- the nature of their work demands that they question the common truth. But when funding, careers, and public opinion can be pulled, terminated, and manipulated, it makes it hard for scientists to remain honest and neutral.

According to Dr Hansen, the climate tipping point will arrive within my own lifetime. By 2016, we will be past the point of no return. Nothing we do after that will save us: if we haven’t already radically reduced our CO2 footprint, it will all be over. I hope Dr. Hansen is wrong, I fear he is right: regardless, we have to make major changes to the way we live, or pay the price. Just how radical do those changes have to be? Are we really the singular cause of the problem, or are there other factors at work? What worries me here is that the facts are being manipulated, possibly by both sides of the debate, and perhaps by people and organizations we should have absolute trust in.

9 thoughts on “Is NASA playing with global temperature statistics?”

  1. If Dr Hansen is right, we are already toast, since nothing short of major plague that kills 20% of the population is going to be enough to reduce emissions significantly in the next 8 years.

    We can probably slow the growth of emissions.

    With herculean effort we might be able to halt them at present levels.

    But there is no way in hell we can significantly reduce them in only 8 years. Modern civilization simply doesn’t work that way. Paradoxically it requires energy to manufacture energy saving devices…until we have those devices we can’t really stop using the ones we have now.

    None of which is to say that we can’t be vastly more efficient, and that we shouldn’t be making all due haste towards that goal … but 8 years is not enough.

    ( It *is* coincidentally the time in office of a two term president … mmmm. )

    So … either Dr Hansen is lying, and we should ignore him … or he is telling the truth, in which case we are already doomed … and we should ignore him, since there is no point worrying about something you can’t do anything about.

  2. You hit the nail on the head regarding why I have a problem with the “extreme” end of the Global Warming movement. Is it a movement? A belief? A theory? A fact? I don’t know what to call it, but when I hear what sounds like fear mongering, my hackles rise.

    It isn’t a matter of disbelieving anything: I believe the data. Humanity’s wasteful consumption and our polluting ways have contributed to a worrisome shift in the climate. I also believe we can do something about it, that it will take time, but that we have to start making a serious investment. I don’t believe it is the end of the world, that we have to shut down everything and call it quits. From my obviously limited vantage as an interested amateur, I think the climate is a whole lot more complex and much more “self healing” and resilient than the doomsayers would have us believe. I’m even somewhat doubtful that the entirety of the climate shift is humanity’s “fault”: some data seems to suggest there are some major cycles at work in sun activity and the like that could overshadow our role.

    But I guess there is another way to look at this. Assume for the moment that Dr. Hansen is “cooking the books” and adjusting stats to support his position. He may be absolutely right that there is a problem that we *must* act on quickly to correct. The 2016 date and the “adjusted” stats may be his way to scare the hesitant into making the necessary investment: inaccuracies, maybe even lies, but in the service of a greater truth.

    Would that really be wrong? Maybe it *is* the only way to get things started. Personally, it bugs the heck out of me: I like having real data, I hate people using FUD to “sell” something, even if it is the right something. But I know that people are weird critters: $400 billion a year on the military gets barely a second glance, yet $10 billion in that same year on the space program is a “colossal waste”. To make the changes we need to make, disconnecting ourselves from the petrochemical teat and reducing our impact on the environment, means spending hundreds of billions of dollars. It also probably means making some difficult sacrifices like possibly trading in our Hummers for Smart cars. Maybe we have to be lied to, scared shitless, and pushed around in order to get the necessary action.

  3. If you really want to save the world from fossil fuels you head to the commodity market and you promote war in the middle east. Buy every drop of oil and every oil future you can, leverage everything and drive the prices through the roof.

    Make sure the middle east is enough of a mess that places like Chine and India will look at it as too much hassle to go in and get oil, and look for alternatives.

    People will give up oil when it gets to damn expensive. It doesn’t even have to be consistently expensive as long as you make sure the price hikes are big enough and frequent enough.

    Right now, brand new pickups like mine are selling for $10k *less* than what I paid 5 years ago and even then they are not selling very fast. Sure, a lot of that is exchange rate, but what has driven the change in exchange rate? Oil and gas prices.

    Thanks to Ralph’s Enron electricity policies Alberta has gone from having the lowest consumer electricity rates outside of Quebec to the highest. Not coincidently we also have one of the highest rates of non subsidized Compact Fluorescent retrofitting.

    None of which is to say Alberta is environmentally sensitive… in general quite the opposite. But that’s the point: otherwise wasteful people simply can’t afford not cut back.

    If you are a true believer that feels you have to save the world inspite of itself, and you think people will not listen to reason and have to be tricked into action… then fudging scientific data is the wrong way to do it. Manipulating the commodities market is

  4. Interesting stuff, Thank-you for finding that article Kelly.

    I had no idea that one of the heads of NASA was that dishonest and incometent.

    I only wish that I would have found that information out before I used NASA as a quote in my Climate change post a few weeks ago.

    It is ironic, because the main reason that I had quoted NASA in the first place, is because I was under the impression that you had nothing but the greatest of respect and trust for NASA.

    Whenever we talked about the space program, you spoke of it very highly, and seemed to think that it the space program should be a strong pursuit for mankind.

    So, my assumption was (I guess the lesson here, is never assume) that you thought that the people that were with NASA were smart, well respected, and leaders in their field etc.

    I guess some people are, and some people aren’t convinced of Climate change, and that is as simple as it is going to get for now.

    I suppose, time will eventually let us know.

  5. It still amazes me how I can re-read something twice, and still spell incompetent wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I have some words that I can misspell even with spell checks running. I have a special talent that way ๐Ÿ™‚

    Regarding how I feel about NASA: I think the *space program* deserves funding, and that people have some really bad misconceptions regarding how expensive it is. The annual U.S. military budget, for example, is something like 30 times as large as the space exploration budget. Two months in Iraq costs about as much as NASA’s entire budget.

    But just because I support the space program doesn’t mean I can’t see flaws in the NASA organization. I can see incompetence, mismanagement, and political manipulation there as easily as anywhere: I just happen to think that a dollar spent on the space program is a hell of a lot better spent than a dollar on the military.

    As for being ‘convinced’ or ‘not convinced’ regarding climate change- it isn’t that black and white for me. As I’ve said repeatedly: I believe that human activity, particularly the way we use hydrocarbons, has a negative impact on the climate. I also believe that we have to make some serious changes, adopting less wasteful and damaging sources of power sooner rather than later. What I don’t feel I can agree with is the view that the *only* conceivable cause of climate change is human activity. I likewise can not accept that we are all doomed within the next decade unless we cut our emissions by 50% (or some other arbitrarily large number).

  7. Not to stir anything up again, I just wanted to clarify something my previous statements.

    “What I donรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt feel I can agree with is the view that the *only* conceivable cause of climate change is human activity. I likewise can not accept that we are all doomed within the next decade unless we cut our emissions by 50% (or some other arbitrarily large number).”‘

    I just want to say, that I never said that we (man) are the only cause of climate change. What I do believe, is that we are the main cause (probably responsible for 75% of the problem) of Global warming/Climate Change.

    That is just my opinion.

    However, I do think that we are all in deep trouble if we don’t do something drastic with our emmissions. And soon. Curbing our emissions in 10 years, will be way too late.

    On a smaller scale, people who have planted seeds (me!) 2 weeks ago, because that is what we do in the spring :), are getting ready to dig up those seeds due to rot.

    A strange thing to happen in the middle of May here in Chilliwack :\.

  8. You and I are in agreement, in principle if not in detail.

    The fact that human activity is having any impact, whether it is the main impact or just one factor amongst several, is worrisome. And it is surprisingly easy and only moderately costly to actually change the way we do things so that we can reduce our impact in an appreciable way. Switching to florescent lights, driving more efficient cars, turning off the coal fired power plants: in our lifetime, if we did all these things on a massive scale we could probably reduce our impact by 30-50%.

    My thinking is that we know vanishingly little about the climate, despite all the brilliant people and advanced technology looking at it. There could be (and almost certainly are) other things going on with the climate that we barely understand- things like sun activity cycles. If we blind ourselves to the data, we might make a big mistake: for example, pumping billions of tons of carbon into the ocean floor (artificial carbon sequestration). A massive project to do something like that could have repercussions on a scale that would dwarf our pollution problems- unless we really understand what is going on, which I honestly think we do not.

    As for rain… I just got back from Vegas, the rain here is quite nice ๐Ÿ™‚ Mind you, I’ll be happy to see some sun again this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.