To the editor:
The letter to The Gazette editor of July 7 — “A manufactured deception to control people, world economy” — is good in that the writers have discovered there is uncertainty in measurement, but their letter is full of misrepresentations and misunderstandings. This is not a new discovery (we teach about uncertainty in introductory college physics classes — my students know that every measuring instrument has an uncertainty that must be taken into account). The writers’ misstatements mimic those in articles I found on the Internet, whose writers also don’t understand the role of uncertainty in science.
There are two parts to the uncertainty of an ensemble of data — statistical uncertainty, which is the standard deviation divided by the square root of N, the number of observations, and systematic uncertainty, which is possible if measurements at stations are biased and the bias is not recognized. The letter writers’ focus on mean global temperature and claim the measurement uncertainty is 0.1 degree C. So other recent years could be the same temperature as 2014 (or even higher than 2014) within the ± 1 standard deviation uncertainties. This is a red herring.
The measured global temperature increase since 1880 is much greater than 0.1 degree C. Earth is warming. It is not wise to focus too much on one or a few years, but focus on the trend. A paper recently published in Science by Karl et al., “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus,” has actually found that considering land plus ocean temperatures correctly, there has been no “pause” in the rise in temperature. They find that “there is no discernible (statistical or otherwise) decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th century and the first 15 years of the 21st century.”
The “hockey stick,” as published and revisited, does present one standard deviation limits over a 2,000-year period. These uncertainties were fairly large before full global instrumentation, but fairly small now. Even including the uncertainties, the present era is warmer than at least the preceding 11,300 years (probably the last 130,000 years). To see why it’s warmer, visit http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/.
The Christy satellite data have been re-analyzed quite a long time ago and, as revised, do show that Earth is warming.
As evangelical Christian climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, of Texas Tech University, has said, “in reality, climate change is something that we all care about it if we’re humans, we live on the planet, if we’re parents, and we’re concerned about our children’s future, if we care about having a healthy economy, a secure environment, clean air to breathe, clean water to drink.”
Those who think all these scientists are conspiring to control people are simply delusional.
Editor’s note: The letter writer is an Ohio State University professor of physics.