TCS Daily

Coloring Climate Change

By Nick Schulz - June 28, 2002 12:00 AM

To get a sense of how compromised and politicized climate science has become, you don't have to look far. Just examine the lengths to which key documents were doctored to distort public perceptions.

The most recent example to come to light regards The National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, or NAS, for short.

The NAS, developed during the Clinton administration, attempted to forecast what will happen if global warming occurs. It has served as the basis for parts of a National Academy of Sciences' report to President Bush last year on the state of climate science and, most recently, for the highly controversial Climate Action Report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, environmental groups trumpeted CAR as new evidence of the damage global warming will cause the nation, and members of Congress are using it to pursue stringent new emissions standards, including controls on non-toxic carbon dioxide (CO2).

But the NAS, on which the action report was based, was doctored in ways that suggest bias in its findings. Those who crafted and published the critical study monkeyed around with some of their graphs in an effort to fudge the results of what they found.

Now, the whole climate change debate is bogged down in so many studies and reports and charts and graphs and claims and counter claims that it's enough to make anybody's eyes glaze over and just tune out completely. But we can boil the NAS's heart down to two key elements. The report says "The two primary
used to project changes in climate in this Assessment were developed at the Canadian Climate Centre and the Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom."

So, according to the report, what the Canadian and Hadley models predict is what will happen in the United States.

But then something happened that perhaps the report's draftsmen didn't anticipate. The Canadian and Hadley models predict very different trends around the United States for future warming. In the original draft of the NAS report, the graphics for future warming appeared like this:

Anyone sizing this up can see that the two reports make vastly different predictions. Indeed, the climate scientist Kevin Trenberth has pointed out that "the two models used are quite different and give different results." (TCS's Willie Soon discussed how both models don't accurately reflect past climate measurements, calling into doubt whether they will do a good job of predicting future climate trends).

During the public comment period after the original draft was developed, several scientists pointed out that the disparity between the two models' future forecasts cast doubt on the predictive capacity of the models.

So what happened? Well, the official final report maintained matter of factly that "(b)oth the Canadian and Hadley model scenarios project substantial warming during the 21st century" and then illustrated this warming with two new graphs.

Now, this is the sort of trick that would make a college sophomore blush. The report's publishers in essence acted like students with a 10-page paper due who found they only had seven pages, so decided to mess around with the margins and font sizes and line spacing in an effort to make seven pages become - magic! - 10. That's childish in college; it's reprehensible in official government reports. What could they possibly have been thinking, other than that by changing color scales on these graphs it diminishes the sense of disparity between the models? When you don't get your preferred predetermined outcome, that's no matter, just change the graphics ("We need more red. Red looks hot. Make both of the charts look really red so people know the country will get hot, hot, hot.").

This stunt throws into question the whole assessment process. Roger Pielke, a respected atmospheric scientist at Colorado State who was involved with the drafting process at the time, said, "I'm disappointed in the whole process. This has been the most closed, unhealthy scientific process I've ever been involved in."

And that "unhealthy scientific process" lives on in the form of the new CAR report to the United Nations, a report that is unscientific at its core - due to its reliance on the National Assessment - and is also hostile to economic growth and wealth generation.

Climate science has been hijacked by activists who are compromising the scientific method and using smoke and mirrors and juvenile term paper tricks in a cynical effort to fool the public. It is time for the Bush administration - in the form of its EPA chief Christie Whitman - to take back the research and reporting process from shamans and sophists and put it back in the hands of dispassionate scientists where it belongs.

URL Next Door -- The Census on Marine Life is one of those great big scientific efforts - like going to the moon or mapping the human genome - that will prove a major milestone for human understanding once it is finished and will go a long way to help making the world a better, healthier place. It is scientific inquiry at its most noble (no games with the data or graphics allowed). Take a look at what these folks are up to. This effort is partly the brainchild of Jesse Ausubel who is among a handful of the most important environmental scientists working today.

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