Engineering News

Global Warming Lawsuit May Raise Temperatures
September 04, 2009

In late-August the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a 21-page petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking it to approve an on-the-record proceeding with an independent trier of fact who would allow the EPA and environmental and business groups to engage in a “credible weighing” of the scientific evidence that global warming endangers human health.  This follows the two public hearings held by the EPA over its planned move to declare that emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride from new automobiles and their engines contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. 

A representative of the Chamber of Commerce characterized the hearing as being similar to the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” that pitted famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow against three-time presidential candidate Williams Jennings Bryan in a battle over the teaching of evolution versus creationism in Tennessee.  The chance of this happening, in our estimation, is pretty slim.  Why, because the “debate is over” but maybe also because a senior scientist in the EPA has reported that his study questioning the science used to justify the ruling was suppressed and the agency wouldn’t want to have that event questioned.  An additional problem might be the resurrection of the inquiry into many of the claims made by Al Gore in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, by a court in England.  We wrote about that when we covered the battle in the House Energy and Commerce Committee over allowing testimony from the leading critic of Al Gore’s movie in England, Lord Christopher Monckton, The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, to be heard after Mr. Gore addressed the committee. 

Our commentary on the situation in our May 26, 2009, Musings said the following.  “Mr. Gore’s antipathy toward Lord Monckton probably dates back to the High Court in London’s identification of nine “errors” in Mr. Gore’s award-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth.  Lord Monckton played a role in the case.  The judge stated that if the UK Government had not agreed to send to every secondary school in England a corrected guidance note making clear the mainstream scientific position on these nine “errors,” he would have made a finding that the Government’s distribution of the film and the first draft of the guidance note earlier in 2007 to all English secondary schools had been an unlawful contravention of an Act of Parliament prohibiting the political indoctrination of children.  Each of the nine “errors” identified by the judge has been admitted by the UK Government to be inconsistent with the mainstream of scientific opinion.”

This appeal comes at a time when a new study on hurricanes in the North Atlantic Ocean claims that there have been more hurricanes and tropical storms over the last decade than it has experienced since a similarly stormy period 1,000 years ago.  The study, published in the journal Nature, tries to trace the pattern of storms along North America’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts back to 500 A.D. by examining layers of sediment collected from coastal ponds and salt marshes that tend to flood when hurricanes make landfall nearby.  The researchers, led by Pennsylvania State University climate scientist, Michael Mann, one of the creators of the “hockey stick” chart of global temperatures used initially by global warming protagonists and that has been largely refuted, also used a computer model to simulate 1,500 years of Atlantic storms, feeding in data collected between 1851 and 2006 about weather and climate factors known to influence hurricane activity. 

The study’s authors report that the two models produced similar overall results.  They suggest that warmer temperatures produce more storm activity, meaning that the coming climate change that projects warmer temperatures could increase the frequency of hurricane activity.  The results of this study have created the usual reactions – supporters who claim that this paper raises the flag about the potential for global warming to increase the number and intensity of hurricanes, while other climate scientists say that the paper’s very large levels of uncertainty and critical assumptions raises as many questions as it attempts to answer. 

As this paper was being published, the National Climate Data Center said that the oceans’ waters worldwide averaged 62.6 degrees in July, 1.1 degree higher than the 20th century average and that it beat the previous high established in 1998 by a couple hundredths of a degree.  This data has further raised concern about the impact of warm waters on hurricane formation this year, although the development of an El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has generated more shear winds in the Atlantic basin that undercuts tropical storm formation. 

The primary concern about this data is that global warming is raising water temperatures, which is a more ominous sign of future problems because water takes longer to warm and is slower to cool.  Countering this trend is National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite data that has been measuring natural microwave thermal emissions from oxygen in the atmosphere.  The signals that these microwave radiometers measure at different microwave frequencies are directly proportional to the temperature of different, deep layers of the atmosphere.  This data shows that the world has been experiencing cooler temperatures in recent years.  This satellite data also shows that the 1998 spike, used by the global warming proponents to make their case, was the result of an El Niño warming, a natural phenomenon and not a man-made cause.  The data is collected and published by the University of Alabama at Huntsville in conjunction with the Marshall Space Center.

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Data for the past decade collected on land also supports the view that the earth’s temperatures have been cooling and not warming as proponents of global warming have been proclaiming.  Anecdotal evidence of hot and dry weather in parts of the United States has been used to argue the case for global warming.  Of course the cool summer months this year in the Midwest and Northeast were cited as due to the forces of climate change altering traditional weather patterns.

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The data from NOAA compares favorably with the chart presented by Lord Monckton in his letter to Representative Joe Barton (TX-Rep.), minority head of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, expanding upon his testimony and refuting claims of Dr. Karl, head of the Goddard Space Institute, about the manipulation of temperature data later acknowledged by officials there.

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We suggest that readers of the Musings prepare to be inundated by articles and studies from both proponents and opponents of global warming.  As the EPA legislation moves forward and we draw closer to the Copenhagen conference in December to design the global response to the Kyoto protocol for addressing global warming, the rhetoric will definitely escalate.  We doubt anyone’s opinions will be swayed by the studies and articles.  What may sway people is what China and India do about mandates to deal with their emissions.  We think the argument that they owe more to their citizens economic and welfare development than they do to the governments of highly developed economies over controlling carbon emissions is a signal that little substantial progress is likely to be made at the Copenhagen conference. 

Source: Parks, Paton, Hoepfl & Brown

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