"Don't tell Al Gore, but global warming is taking a holiday in Sacramento this week."
That news came in "Summer chill is one for the ages," a front-page, above-the-fold story in the August 7 Sacramento Bee. California's capital, normally a furnace in summer, was experiencing the lowest "high" temperatures since they began keeping records in1877, a full 130 years ago. Such generous coverage did not extend to other cool news, including NASA's revision of the top-ten hottest years.
The hottest year on record is no longer 1998 but 1934, and the warmest 10 years include 1921, 1931, 1934, and 1938, all before World War II. Stephen McIntyre, a Canadian, noticed an error in the NASA calculations and notified the agency, which quietly made the changes. The media were slow to respond and the Washington Post story of August 15 was not about the temperature change in itself, but focused on charges by conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh that man-made global warming was occurring within NASA.
NASA scientist James Hansen, the prime mover of global warming prophecy, downplayed the changes. The past six years, he told reporters, were only 0.15 degrees centigrade cooler than previous claims. Hansen charged that critics were trying to muddy the debate and that the slight shift changed nothing about the long-term prospects for warming, which he views as a crisis situation. The .15-degree change is more significant when one considers that the level of global warming actually detected ranges between one and two degrees Fahrenheit or .07 and .08 degrees Celsius. Hansen did not get into that, but earlier this year he did squabble with someone else over global warming – his own boss.
"I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of the Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had, and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change."
The speaker was NASA administrator Michael Griffin, on National Public Radio's May 31 "Morning Edition." Griffin's statement so jarred NPR staff, unaccustomed to any doubts on this issue, that they turned immediately to James Hansen.
"I almost fell off my chair," he told NPR's Madeleine Brand. "It's remarkably uninformed. You know, civilization developed with the current climate. And we've got an infrastructure along coastlines that assumes that our climate is going to stay roughly what it is now. But if we are going to simply allow human emissions to greatly change climate, I think that's extremely arrogant of our species. It will be devastating to many other species on the planet, not to mention many of our own species."
On the same program, Mr. Hansen said, "I think it's very timely to get together and start to do something where time is really running out. . . We are at a tipping point. If we don't begin to make some changes in our emissions – reducing greenhouse gas emissions – we're going to get some really large climate changes." That is also the view of Al Gore, also in the news this summer when police arrested his son, Al Gore III, on suspicion of drug possession, and for driving a Toyota Prius 100 mph on the San Diego Freeway, 30 mph above the legal limit.
A few days later, on July 7, the former vice-president staged the massive multi-venue Live Earth concert to combat climate change, featuring such atmospheric scientists as Bon Jovi and Madonna. Two days later, on July 9, it snowed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the first time since 1918, nearly 90 years. That story was not widely covered in America but in Britain the Guardian observed, "The snow followed a bitter cold snap in late May that saw subfreezing temperatures, the coldest in 40 years in Buenos Aires. That cold wave contributed to an energy crisis and 23 deaths from exposure."
On August 4, a month after Al Gore III was arrested, the temperature in Sacramento was 104. In the next 24 hours, the temperature dropped a full 28 degrees to 74, the lowest "high" temperature for an August 5 since 1877, only a few years after Mark Twain was writing for the Sacramento Union. The next day, August 6, 2007, the mercury plunged still lower, to 74 F, another record and the lowest "high" temperature for that day since 1906, 101 years ago, when the reading was 77.
Coverage of the "chill for the ages" did not include statements from Al Gore or James Hansen. Proponents of warming tend to remain silent when weather conditions fail to conform with doomsday prophecy. The summer developments, particularly the temperature shift at NASA, confirm that this creed should refrain from any claims of inerrancy.
The coverage suggests that mainstream media remain worshipful of global warming orthodoxy, and still believe that NASA knows best. They could take a lesson from Mark Twain, who warned about "such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." The actual low temperatures, a matter of fact, not conjecture, suggest that to doubt global warming is both reasonable and cool.