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Recent climatological studies have undermined the claims of those who believe that the human use of fossil fuels is causing an unnatural and dramatic rise in Earth’s temperatures. In light of this new science, we need to review the basic assumptions that have driven our climate-change policy over the last five to 10 years.
Advocates of global warming often refer to temperature readings from Earth’s surface. According to these measurements, temperatures have risen about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century. But relatively accurate temperature records only go back about 100 years. In order to see long-term temperature changes, we must rely on other sources.
A group of scientists led by Dr. Henry N. Pollock from the University of Michigan, looked at data from 616 holes bored into the surface of the Earth on six continents. Because heat travels very slowly through the ground, they were able to use these bore holes to measure Earth’s temperature from centuries ago. What they found was that temperatures have been rising since the 1500s — long before humans began using fossil fuels in the form of fuel and energy. The scientists’ concluded that the Earth may simply be recovering from an earlier period of cooler temperatures.
However, surface temperature measurements have shown a more rapid increase in temperatures over the last 20 years, and computer models predict even more dramatic warming in the future. Is this cause for concern? Science has provided an answer to this question as well.
While surface measurements provide important data, they do not measure temperatures from all across the globe. In addition, these measurements are not all taken in the same way, meaning that it is difficult to compare data taken from one location with data taken from another. Far more accurate temperatures have been taken by satellites. These measurements, which are confirmed by weather balloons, have shown no net warming in Earth’s lower atmosphere.
Not only does this raise questions about just how much warming is really happening, it also shows that the computer models used to estimate future warming are unreliable. These models predict that as surface temperatures rise, there should be an equal increase in lower-atmospheric temperatures. As Dr. James Hansen of NASA indicated in 1998, computer models cannot simulate our complex climate because we still do not know enough about how it works.
In light of this new science, we must re-examine our approach to global warming. Policy makers should not rush into costly schemes to reduce energy use, whether they be international treaties like the Kyoto Protocol or domestic programs such as emissions caps. Instead, we should strive to find more answers about climate and our role within it.