What is Truth?--Climate Change
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November 27, 2007

It is recorded in John 18:38 that Pontius Pilate asked this rhetorical question of Jesus just before he acquiesced to the will of the Jewish mob that wanted the Christ crucified. Let’s consider why he would ask this.


It seems clear to me that Pilate was a man of the world, that he had been around the block a few times. His question implies that he thinks absolutes are hard to find and that people make up their own truths. Could he be more correct, then or now? Even though he concluded that he found no fault in Him, Pilate, the politician, was basically forced by the greedy mob to condemn Jesus to death and release Barabbas, a violent criminal, instead. All of this happened in Jerusalem at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover, and tradition was that the Roman governor would release one Jewish prisoner at that time. Pilate gave the Jews what they wanted.


I believe that truth actually does exist, and we should be able to demonstrate it and accept it, especially in things that we can actually measure. I am not talking about right versus wrong, which is a whole other matter; this is about true versus false.


So, is the global climate changing? This should not be that hard to figure out. I understand we have reasonably accurate temperature records for the past 150 years or so that we can use in addressing this question, at least for this brief moment in history. Surely everyone recognizes that this short span of time accounts for vast majority mankind’s destructive influence on the planet. We don’t need the United Nations (UN), or the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) or even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the big picture level. In fact, let’s make sure they are not involved so they don’t tamper with the data. Let’s use an independent source of temperature data, like the World Almanac and Book of Facts, which I think gives temperature data and has been in print since the 1880s.


If this simple analysis shows an upward or downward trend in temperatures, then let’s dig deeper to understand what this means. Maybe then we need to consult some UN, NAS, or NOAA weenies for more data or “expert” opinions. Whatever we do, we should not let these political organizations perform the evaluation, even if it gets more complicated. Would you hire the fox to count the chickens in the hen house?


I am quite confident that I could design and conduct a credible evaluation of temperatures over time[1]. It’s not rocket science. Was this ever done, or did these Chicken Little organizations of the world just launch into unnecessarily complicated, multi-million dollar analysis programs with results already determined? I don’t know the answer to this.


If temperatures are changing, is this being caused by human activity? We might want to contract one or two honest scientists here to help think through this. It is clear that we are wreaking havoc on the environment on local and regional scales, and this must translate into some world impact. As a race, we have reached a level of destructive capability that allows us to incinerate cities in milliseconds with nuclear weapons, but I still don’t know that our day-to-day activities are causing dire planetary consequences of the magnitude preached in the global warming religion. That is what I would like to find out.


After we have come to some reasonable, objective conclusion about temperature changes over the past 150 years, we need to look further back in time to put these changes into context. For this we would use the proxies of temperature records, like ice cores and tree rings. Of course, this will require more insightful analysis and our conjecture will be subject to greater uncertainty than for the past century and a half. One event we will need to explain is the little ice age that happened about 400 years ago. Still, this is not brain surgery.


Going back thousands and millions of years is a much bigger deal. Fortunately, we have already done this for different purposes. The generally-accepted results indicate regular climate changes from variations in our planet’s orbit and cataclysmic events like asteroid impacts that wiped out thousands of species of living things. I have no good reason to doubt these conclusions.


What is truth? That is not too hard to answer in a narrowly-defined project, like the study of temperature data. Are average temperatures changing or not, and can these changes be to attributed to human activities? We should be able to find the real truth. Unfortunately though, we are faced with the same problem as Pontius Pilate. There is a mob of fools that has already made up its mind about its truth. Hopefully we can find a leader with the common sense to test it and the courage to do something about it rather than just giving the mob what it wants.

[1] I started to do this before writing this article. I ran into significant problems right away. For example, NOAA charges for its temperature data. I would have thought I paid for the collection and documentation of this data already through my income taxes.