This commentary originally appeared in Real Clear Energy on July 19, 2016
Understanding global temperatures is one of the key factors in the ongoing debate about climate change. Several of the lawmakers who took to the Senate floor recently to denounce the “web of deniers” quoted indisputable proof that global temperatures are rising and claimed there is a conspiracy to deceive the public about the truth surrounding climate change.
These same Congressional leaders accuse anyone who questions climate orthodoxy of not believing in science. As John Adams once said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
The climate is changing. It always has changed and it always will change. The earth’s temperature has been slowly rising since the end of the Little Ice Age. The debate among the scientific community is about the role CO2 plays in that warming, whether our use of fossil fuels contributes to this, and whether the amount is significant and/or catastrophic.
When we measure temperature in our backyard, we really aren’t that concerned if the thermometer we use is off by a degree or two. Since most people live where the temperature fluctuates by many degrees every day, and the seasonal swing in temperatures can be 80 deg. F or more, a couple of degrees doesn’t matter too much.
But in the case of ‘global warming,’ one or two degrees is the entire change scientists are trying to measure over a period of 50 to 100 years. Since none of our temperature monitoring systems were designed to measure such small changes over such long periods of time, there is wide disagreement over exactly how much warming has or will occur.
So it is not surprising when people ask: Are global temperatures really going up? If so, by how much? Do increasing CO2 levels mean there will be higher global temperatures? Can global temperatures go up naturally, even without rising CO2 levels? Is warming necessarily a bad thing? Could the warming be both natural and manmade? Why would climate models produce too much warming?
The answers to these and other basic questions about temperature are found in a new publication, “A Guide to Understanding Global Temperatures,” published by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Authored by renowned meteorologist, Dr. Roy Warren Spencer, the paper is designed to answer basic questions about global temperature data in particular, climate change in general, and what it all means for the debate over energy policy. Spencer is the principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and is the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He also served as senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and is known for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work, for which he was awarded the American Meteorological Society’s Special Award.
Understanding global temperatures is imperative for anyone in the public policy sphere, our elected officials, weather meteorologists, school teachers, and members of the media. Why would climate science be biased? Isn’t research on global warming immune from politics? These are serious questions that should be seriously considered rather than politicized on the Senate floor.
The Honorable Doug Domenech is the Director of the Fueling Freedom Project at TPPF.