Monday, March 3, 2008

Climate Skeptics Summit

I am probably not the only one that took note of an article in the Sunday edition (Mar. 2, 2008) of the New York Times entitled "Skeptics on Human Climate Impact Seize on Cold Spell". Nothing against the author, but at first, I thought this was one of those ads veiled in the form of an article. I think it was the title that still gives me that feeling. The author (Mr. Revkin) does a fine job of keeping the discussion balanced.

The article covers a debate taking place at this moment regarding anomolies in the weather over this past winter (primarily), with notable events including snow in Baghdad in January and in Johannesburg last June, and the return of Artic sea ice as had not been seen in recent winters. The gist of the debate is that the skeptics are seizing on these events and the global average temperature which has been cooler this winter than in the past to knock the argument of global warming altogether. Perhaps the best example of this is provided in this New York Times article by Andrew Revkin where he quotes a blog post by Marc Morano, the communications director for the Republican minority of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The post read "Earth's Fever Breaks: Global COOLING Currently Under Way".

Mr. Revkin notes that the skeptics are going further, with the Heartland Institute, a public policy research group in Chicago opposed to regulatory approached to environmental problems, holding a conference in Times Square today and tomorrow aimed at "exploring questions about the cause and dangers of climate change." This should be a riveting afair, as the debate is not a straightoforward one. For example, Mr. Revkin quotes Michael E. Schlesinger of the University of Illinios, Urbana-Champagne, as saying: "Discerning a human influence on climate, he said, "involves finding a signal in a noisy background." He added, "The only way to do this within our noisy climate system is to average over a sufficient number of years that the noise is greatly diminished, thereby revealing the signal. This means that one cannot look at any single year and know whether what one is seeing is the signal or the noise or both the signal and the noise." OK, it's too tempting to not mention the metaphorical nature of that quote with regards to the disussions that will take place at the skeptics conference this week.

I took a look at the Heartland Institute's website and found the posting for the conference. It reads as follows: "...a very different kind of conference will take place at the Marriott Times Square Hotel in downtown New York. Hundreds of the world's leading scientists, economists, and policy analysts will come together to explore key issues overlooked by advocates of the theory of man-made global warming." I perused their website and the stated goals of the conference. A nagging question for me is how balanced this event will be. For example, "leading scientists" can mean a lot of different people with different backgrounds (and attitudes). It would be enlightening to be an attendee at this event.

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