In WSJ, du Pont misuses scientific data to mislead on climate change

››› ››› KATE CONWAY

In his January 5 Wall Street Journal column, Pete du Pont used data from the U.K.'s Met Office Hadley Centre, which he misidentified as the "Hadley Climatic Research Unit," to suggest that climate change is not human-caused. In fact, according to the Met Office, "human activities like burning coal, oil and gas, have led to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing an enhanced greenhouse effect and extra warming," and as a result, "over the past century there has been an underlying increase in average temperatures which is continuing" and "[g]lobally, the ten hottest years on record have all been since 1997."

Du Pont used Met Office Hadley Centre data to suggest climate change cannot be human-caused

Du Pont cited centre data on global temperatures between 1980 and 2009. After lauding Sarah Palin's conclusion that climate change cannot be human-caused, du Pont cited data from the Hadley Centre. From du Pont's January 5 Wall Street Journal column:

Al Gore said the other week that climate change is "a principle in physics. It's like gravity. It exists." Sarah Palin agreed that "climate change is like gravity," but added a better conclusion: Each is "a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before, and will exist long after, any governmental attempts to affect it."

Over time climates do change. As author Howard Bloom wrote in The Wall Street Journal last month, in the past two million years there have been 60 ice ages, and in the 120,000 years since the development of modern man, "we've lived through 20 sudden global warmings," and of course this was before -- long before -- "smokestacks and tail pipes."

In our earth's history there has been both global warming and global cooling. In Roman times, from 200 B.C. to A.D. 600, it was warm; from 600 to 900 came the cold Dark Ages; more warming from 900 to 1300; and another ice age from 1300 to 1850. Within the past century, the earth has warmed by 0.6 degree Celsius, but within this period we can see marked shifts: cooling (1900-10), warming (1910-40), cooling again (1940 to nearly 1980), and since then a little warming. The Hadley Climatic Research Unit [sic] global temperature record shows that from 1980 to 2009, the world warmed by 0.16 degree Celsius per decade.

But Met Office's position is that "human activities" cause climate change

Met Office: Global-average temperatures have increased due to "human activities." On its website, the Met Office explains that the three centers that calculate global-average temperature "all agree global-average temperature has increased over the past century and this warming has been particularly rapid since the 1970s." Under the question, "How are we causing climate change?" the Met Office provides the following explanation:

Human activities, like burning coal, oil and gas, have led to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing an enhanced greenhouse effect and extra warming.

As a result, over the past century there has been an underlying increase in average temperatures which is continuing. Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all been since 1997.

Met Office's position is consistent with other leaders in climate research

IPCC: There's a 90 percent chance that an increase in global temperature since the mid-20th century is human-caused. In its 2007 Synthesis Report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that "[m]ost of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [human-caused] GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations." The report defined "very likely" as ">90%."

NOAA: There is "no scientific debate" that human activity has been increasing greenhouse gases. On its website, the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration states: "Human activity has been increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide from combustion of coal, oil, and gas; plus a few other trace gases). There is no scientific debate on this point."

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Person
Pete du Pont
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