Opinion: Carolina Beat

Meteorologist: Put Global Warming in Context

Note: The following article by Accuweather.com meteorologist Joe Bastardi appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun on May 15, 2005. Bastardi’s forecasts are featured on WPTF radio in Raleigh and WSJS radio in Winston Salem and the Triad. The accompanying graphic did not appear in the Herald-Sun; it is from Arizona State University climatologist Dr. Robert C. Balling’s Spotlight paper, Breaking the ‘Hockey Stick’: Global Warming’s Latest Brawl.

Our knowledge of the past should serve as a foundation for actions in the present. While not dismissing those who are concerned about global warming, I am disturbed that they often base their conclusions on data that, in the context of time, are only a grain of sand on the beach. They cite temperature changes from the last 10, 50, or 100 years, ignoring the fact that climate history and cycles didn’t start 10 years or even 10 centuries ago.

Nothing that is happening today is new or different. I have yet to have a global warming “true believer” tell me why over the past hundreds and thousands of years, before any significant or even detectable human influence, there were periods where carbon dioxide and temperature levels were well above those of recent experience. There are also places in our northern plains that have been covered with glaciers at one time and tropical rain forest at others, all without man’s influence. There is no reason to think that this can’t happen again no matter what we do. Anyone with a true understanding of climate history knows that the relatively small changes experienced over the last 100 years could easily be “natural.”

After ignoring the past, some analysts then use computer projections to predict temperatures for the next 100 years or more. It is astounding to see people put so much faith in these man-made computer models, yet ignore the actual facts of the past. As someone who has made a living at pointing out the folly of worshipping the false idol of atmospheric models, I find these projections to be a classic case of being blinded by the lure of the latest technological fad. Perhaps this is the most telling difference between those who are accepting of the “global warming hypothesis” and those of us who are skeptical. The former tend to base their conclusions on the guesses of computer models. We skeptics focus on actual climate history and conclude that nothing out of the ordinary is occurring.

I consider myself an environmentalist. Steps should be taken to make sure we use God’s blessings with a sound sense of stewardship. This is the role of science, to provide us with the information necessary to make intelligent decisions. The advancement of science in all areas necessitates open dialogue.

Unfortunately, I fear that the policies being promoted in the name of global warming are not being driven by a search for scientific truth, but by a political agenda. Many great scientists, more gifted than I, have had their voices muffled when they dissent from what might be considered the “politically correct” version of the global warming story. For example, there are many climate scientists whose work uses actual climate data from satellite and weather balloons and shows little to no warming. Global-warming alarmists and most of the media, despite the fact that these are the most reliable data sets available, routinely ignore their work. This is just one of many examples that could be cited. As a scientist, I find it discomforting to see people trying to shut down debate on this matter by ignoring research that doesn’t fit preconceived conclusions.

Furthermore, I fear that this political agenda may be at odds with the ideas that have led to the establishment of our nation as a beacon of freedom and prosperity. A policy aimed at reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a gas that is essential for life as we know it, would necessarily restrict human freedom and economic growth. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, energy consumption must be reduced, with restrictions on the choices we can make about how we live, travel, and produce goods and services.

The state of North Carolina may soon consider implementing policies geared toward reducing CO2 emissions. People need to take the time to look at all sides of the issue. Unfortunately much of the rhetoric in this area is meant to appeal to a generation reared on “Fern Gully,” with no sense of sound science or history. I ask people of good will to at least consider the arguments here. I sincerely hope that the fight is for the betterment of the gift God gave us, Earth — not a hasty effort based on self-guilt that could derail America’s train of freedom.

And by the way, enjoy the weather; it’s the only weather you got.

The writer is an Accuweather.com meteorologist and chief long range and hurricane forecaster. The opinions are his own, and do not represent the views of Accuweather.com.