Sunday, November 16, 2008

An inconvenient truth for Dr Hansen

Cast your mind back a few months before the phenomenon that is the credit crunch and you may recall another major talking point: climate change. Back when the upwardly mobile could still afford a Prius, Al Gore was their main inspiration and his ideas principally came from one Dr James Hansen.

Recently Dr Hansen popped up again with the shocking revelation that last month had been the hottest October on record. Highs of up to 10 degrees more than normal had been recorded in parts of Russia and a new ‘hot spot’ had been discovered in the arctic. This seemed like unprecedented evidence of global warming, until that is, two well known meteorologists - Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre – discovered a flaw.

Anecdotal evidence appeared to show that last month had, in fact, been unseasonably cold. There had been the first October snowfall in London for 74 years, Tibet had suffered its ‘worst snow storm ever’ (according to the Chinese News Agency) and there had been heavy snowfalls across America. Upon further investigation it transpired that Hansen’s figures for October were, in fact, those for September. The correct set of recordings showed it to have been only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years. Not only that, but satellite imagery showed Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.

All very interesting, but what does this have to do with cars? Well, I like to consider myself a fairly open minded petrolhead when it comes to environmental issues, yet the message given out by champagne-environmentalists is usually far more black and white - superficial concessions to climate change are good; conventional cars (particularly fast ones) are bad.

These groups take the views of people such as Dr Hansen and Al Gore as absolute fact, with no question of error or misinterpretation. However, this latest blunder shows quite clearly that is not the case. Instead it appears that many apparently independent scientists will take their results, manipulate them to fit their own argument and then broadcast it to the world as an absolute truth, without pausing to consider the trivial matter of accuracy. Make no mistake, the study of climate change and any possible man-made influence is important, but the barrage of spin and dodgy statistics on both sides simply detracts from it. We can only be thankful that the Guardian readers out there were too busy worrying about their finances to take notice. That or they were out playing in the snow.

No comments:

Post a Comment