Dr. Roy Spencer: Science Knows 'Almost Nothing' About Global Warming
At the Heartland Institute's 9th International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas, Nevada, this week, Dr. Roy Spencer wowed participants with his presentation titled "What Do We Really Know About Global Warming?" wherein he noted that claims of global warming have been greatly exaggerated.
In 2012, The Economist called the Heartland Institute "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change," and this conference certainly lived up to that reputation. You can see many of the speeches at the conference website and at Heartland's Youtube channel.
As to Dr. Spencer, buttressed by a series of graphs projected on the screen behind him, the Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville began his July 9 address by warning attendees that the "science" of global warming really isn't much by way of science and that bias is everywhere in the field.
"Too many people think that all areas of science are created equal," Spencer said, "and that scientists objectively look for the answers, but no, there's two kinds of scientists, male and female. Other than that they're the same as everybody else, and in many instances [in the climate sciences] more biased than your average person."
Spencer went on to criticize the temperature data of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) because it has never taken into account the phenomenon of urban heat island effect.
"A lot of us still think that a lot of the warming we are seeing in the thermometer record is just urban heat island effect. In fact Las Vegas, here, even though it's built in the desert basically... in the last forty years or so, nighttime temperatures here have risen by ten degrees Fahrenheit because of urbanization."
"This is an effect that they can't take out of the thermometer record," Spencer continued. "Their algorithms can't take it out because you can't separate it from global warming. If you've got a long-term warming trend because of urbanization there's no way NOAA can take out that effect because it's indistinguishable [from other temperature readings]."
Spencer then insisted that the longer the temperature record and other climate facts are looked into the less we know about the possible future effects of climate.
"After working on global warming for the last 20 plus years, what do we know about it now?" he rhetorically asked his audience. "The longer you go [into the research] you get more questions than you get answers. So, what do we really know about it? Almost nothing."
Spencer continued, saying that science really doesn't know certifiably "how strong global warming is, what it's caused by, whether it makes severe weather worse, when it started, when it will end, or whether it's good or bad."
He said that we do think global warming might be caused by some combination of human activity and Mother Nature.
"I have to admit," Spencer said, "adding Co2 to the atmosphere should cause some warming, but I think it's an entirely open question... how much warming we're going to get from adding Co2 to the atmosphere." And this factor "makes all the difference between Al Gore's Armageddon and 'who cares it's probably a beneficial thing.'"
Spencer then went on to illustrate how easy it is to make assumptions based on "data" by showing a graph on the screen that showed how the rise in UFO sightings coincided with the rise in ocean temperatures and joked that maybe aliens are causing global warming.
It was a joke that Heartland chief Joe Bast later thanked Spencer for because those that want to ridicule the conference will now say that climate deniers blame global warming on aliens from outer space.
The UFO joke graph was the first of a series of more serious graphs that Spencer presented to show that much of the alarmist rhetoric over global warming is not supported by facts.
For instance, after the humorous graph, Spencer showed one that revealed that nearly every century since Roman times has experienced either global warming or global cooling proving that the "norm" is wild change and not some grand mean leveling. The graph also shows that the Roman and Medieval warm periods were just as warm as today's temps.
His next graph was one that compared the actual global temperatures to those predicted by various scientific computer models. The graph shows that the real temperatures were much, much lower than all the computer models predicted they'd be.
Another graph detailed the temperatures in America's corn belt since the year 1900. This one showed that climate models came nowhere close to the real temperatures and that more recent models were far and away hotter than the real temperature ever was.
Spencer also noted that tornado and cyclone activity is lower than it has been in decades previously. Nor does snowfall show any major patterns that can predict disaster.
But it was his crop yields graph that was most interesting.
"Global warming is going to destroy agricultural productivity, right?" Spencer began when he flashed his crop yield graph on the screen. "This is what we keep hearing."
"These are plots since 1960 of the increase in crop yields... that's per acre productivity, not planting more acreage," Spencer said, "and there has been a steady increase in productivity by a factor of, since 1960, a 3 to 5 increase in grain productivity. I mean, could Paul Ehrlich have been more wrong?"
Ehrlich, you may recall, made himself famous with his 1968 book The Population Bomb in which he predicted that the whole world would be starving by now. Almost nothing in his celebrated book has come to fruition, but on the food front, the world is better fed now than any time in human history. In fact, a recent study found that the world is getting too fat because there is too much food available!
"There's no sign of global warming hurting productivity yet," Spencer added. "But the IPCC – which seems to be immune from facts – continues to insist that global warming is hurting our crops… when there's really no observational evidence for it. They are more and more in the realm of theory which is increasingly divorced from observation from the real world."
Spencer also showed attendees a graph showing how the world has turned greener over the last century. This growth in greenery, Spencer said, is likely due to the fact that we are putting more Co2 into the atmosphere, the gas that is "necessary for life on earth."
"The idea that everything humans do hurts nature is a religious view; it isn't necessarily true," Spencer concluded from this slide.
Spencer also insisted that we can't rely on renewable energy for the massive amount of energy the peoples on this planet need. Renewables just can't supply that much power. "You can't stop using fossil fuels without killing people" and destroying our economies, he said.
With his concluding statements, Spencer went back to his point that nature loves mankind's output of Co2. He said that at least half of the Co2 we produce is immediately gobbled up by the earth's vegetation, and this holds no matter how much we produce.
"So, given all of this evidence, why aren't scientists advocating producing more carbon dioxide?" he asked.
In answer to his own question and in summation, Spencer said that "the reason why more scientists don't advocate putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is because the driving force behind the global warming debate, I hate to say it, isn't science."
There are plenty more videos of those who addressed the Heartland Institute's 9th International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas, Nevada, on the conference website.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.