Global cooling? Not so much

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Rising sea levels, melting arctic ice, the northwest passage open for shipping for the first time in recorded history, and violent storms and deadly inundations threatening low-lying littoral regions around the world. It all seems to be following a script well in keeping with the climate anomalies long prognosticated for by the thousands of scientists who accept the fact of global warming induced climate change. So why is the Drudge report, the BBC, Superfreakonomics (see Union of Concerned Scientists' rebuttal) and other news and culture outlets remarking on a purported contrary trend of global cooling, one now promoted in an apparent attempt to diminish the scientific authority of climate change worrywarts?

That's a good question, particularly since when the Associated Press asked a group of statisticians to review the same data that the global cooling acolytes were crunching, without telling them what the numbers referred to, they were unable to locate the trend among the numbers. "If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect," John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina told the AP. According to the AP, the case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather years which have been slightly cooler than previous years, particularly the super-hot years of 1998 and 2005.

To establish the cooling trend, the global warming skeptics have to begin their statistical analysis in 1998, one of the hottest years on record. If they begin in 1999 or 1997, the cooling trend unravels. Looking at long-term annual results the warming trend that is the foundation of the climate change thesis remains undisturbed. Of the ten hottest years recorded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, eight have occurred since 2000, and after this year it will be nine because 2009 is on track to be the sixth-warmest on record.

"To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous," Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford, told the AP. And Ben Santer, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Lab, called it "a concerted strategy to obfuscate and generate confusion in the minds of the public and policymakers" ahead of international climate talks in December in Copenhagen.

The other latest rhetorical charge of global warming coolers (sorry) is the suggestion that in the 1970s scientists predicted that a period of global cooling was about to begin. So clearly wrong then, why should we trust those scientists now about global warming? Good question, simple answer: turns out, outside a handful of climatologists and a bumrush of reporters looking for an easy news peg, there was no general belief in a new ice age among climatologists. So let's just chill on the rhetoric and try to stick to the science. There are few issues as important to the global common good than devising a rational mitigation regime to deal with the mayhem we can anticipate from climate change events in the coming years and decades.