It's the science scandal of the year. A thousand e-mails and 2,000 other documents were swiped from the server of Britain's Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University and posted on the Web. Many were truly embarrassing to the writers, while others have been quoted out of context and falsely used as "proof" that global warming is "a hoax."
But in one e-mail, a top "warmist" researcher admits it's a "travesty" that "we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment." (Emphasis added.) Further, "any consideration of geoengineering [is] quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not!"
"Geoengineering," as in the Waxman-Markey "cap and trade" bill that passed the House and that the conservative Heritage Foundation estimates will lop $9.4 trillion off the economy? The one that President Barack Obama plans to support at next week's U.N. Climate Change Conference? Yes, that "geoengineering."
As it happens, the writer of that October 2009 e-mail--Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the warmist bible, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report--told Congress two years ago that evidence for manmade warming is "unequivocal." He claimed "the planet is running a 'fever' and the prognosis is that it is apt to get much worse."
But Trenberth's "lack of warming at the moment" has been going on at least a decade. "There has been no [surface-measured] warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995," observes MIT meteorologist Richard Lindzen. "According to satellite data, global warming stopped about 10 years ago and there's no way to know whether it's happening now," says Roy Spencer, former NASA senior scientist for climate studies.
Don't tell that to Al Gore. "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb," he warned a few years back. In a typically understated claim, he cautioned "we have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced." He forgot the frogs, the locusts and the boils, but point made.
And yet during the past decade, we've belched so-called "greenhouse gases" into the atmosphere at ever greater rates, from 6,510 million metric tons in 1996 to 8,230 in 2006--a 26% increase. Atmospheric concentrations have also reached the highest levels ever observed.
Still, there's no increase in warming. In fact, according to a study in Nature magazine last year, Trenberth's "moment" may last another decade, and we might even see some cooling.
"In the IPCC view, climate change is mostly under the control of humans," says Spencer. "I believe [temperature trends] are essentially natural."
Spencer is not alone in this belief. Recently, a major study in the American Geophysical Union's official publication, the Journal of Geophysical Research, supported earlier research in concluding that at least 80% and perhaps far more of the observed warming over the past half-century is natural. Factors well beyond our control, such as cloud cover, Spencer says, matter far more than we do.
None of this means mankind plays no role in climate. "We know there is a greenhouse effect and adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide, should cause more warming," Spencer says. "We just don't have a clue how much." But, he adds, "two or three times an extremely small number is still an extremely small number."
While Waxman-Markey and Obama's Copenhagen initiative would address global warming through costly carbon dioxide emissions reductions, we would get no return on such an investment. Waxman-Markey would have such a small effect on global climate that it's nothing more than a down payment, as even the most zealous global warming crusaders concede.
Just maybe, before we take out that mortgage with our struggling economy as collateral, we ought to see how the science develops. For those who say we can't afford to wait, the answer is we can't afford not to.