I think we’re long overdue for a global warming checkup. The topic has pretty well fallen off the radar in the past couple of years, but climate change doesn’t take a powder just because no one’s paying attention.
When last we left the climate science saga in May, we were talking about a couple of routine studies into specific weather events, and how much of a role climate change played in both.
But let’s look at the bigger picture again.
Two years ago, the world was reeling over a stack of hacked emails from Britain’s University of East Anglia that seemed to show — at least in a couple of cases — that scientists were fuzzifying data to get the results they wanted.
Colleagues were shocked.
Pundits were appalled.
The media were on fire.
And skeptics were over the moon.
Climategate, as it came to be called, became the cause célèbre — the supposed death knell for the global warming “hoax” and the “skulduggery” behind it.
Not as advertised
Never mind that the overwhelming majority of hacked documents proved quite the opposite: hardworking scientists forthrightly gathering and analyzing data.
Climategate spurred three separate inquiries in the U.K., all of them absolving the scientists of any serious wrongdoings. But the narrative of mass deception — propagated primarily by right-wing media puppets — persisted.
In the wake of the East Anglia emails, U.S. climate change skeptic Richard Muller of Berkley University undertook a two-year study to examine two standard criticisms of mainstream climate science: that weather station data was unreliable, and that heat produced by cities was skewing results.
Muller’s research was a setup. He already believed the skeptics’ arguments. More importantly, much of his funding came from sources bent on disproving global warming. A quarter of it came from the Charles Koch Foundation, whose industrialist founder, according to The Associated Press, is a major funder of skeptic groups and the tea party.
The expected outcome, of course, was that the data would be found inaccurate and scientists found to be fudging their findings.
But that wasn’t the outcome.
Muller’s study found the opposite: the numbers do add up, and the findings are accurate.
This is the consummate man-bites-dog story. It defies the usual narrative and throws a whole new light on the subject. One would expect a sea of media coverage, including a lot of hard-nosed resistance from global warming deniers.
Apart from some discussion in reputable print journals, however, the research has gone largely unnoticed on major television networks.
It appears that confirming the mainstream consensus on climate change is not sexy enough. Only sabotage and scandal are worthy of headlines.
Sad. Very sad.
Meanwhile, the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change is set to highlight the increasing occurrence of weather extremes.
A draft summary of their upcoming report, obtained by The Associated Press, says the world is already heavily taxed with the cost of mitigating consecutive weather catastrophes. It says costs will rise and some locations may become “increasingly marginal as places to live.”
In other words, the focus has shifted for climate scientists. They’re no longer predicting abstract future events. They’re extrapolating from events that are already happening.
Welcome to the wild world of a warmed globe.
Let’s hope it’s not everything it was cracked up to be.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s