Neocons on Mars

A resident of Chico for more than 30 years, John Callaway recently retired after working as a laboratory chemist at the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant.

Neoconservatives’ attack on science and reason continues unabated. They essentially claim that scientists are just witchdoctors because they do not understand the instruments that they create nor know how to interpret the data these machines provide. Let me describe several “red herrings” used in these attacks.

Neocons still insist that temperature data from ground-level weather stations is unreliable because of human-caused changes in their physical environment (urban-heat-island effect, or UHIE) and maintenance (painting) of some ground-based stations. However, scientists resolved the UHIE problem long ago by eliminating all data coming from UHIE-affected stations. These modified databases still indicated strong warming.

Even with the worst possible scenario, alterations in painting would introduce errors only a fraction the size of other phenomena such as UHIE. It must also be remembered that air- and space-borne instruments have independently confirmed climate warming.

Another neocon favorite is the “dimmer switch” theory, which “proves” that all climate warming is due to a measurable increase in the sun’s energy output. Accurate satellite observations over 30 years have deduced three parameters concerning solar energy striking the upper atmosphere of the Earth: 1) Average intensity (total solar radiance, or TSI) is about 1,368 watts per square-meter; 2) energy variation during the 11-year solar cycle is 0.1 percent of TSI; and, 3) energy variation during the sun’s 30-day rotation is about 0.2 percent of TSI. No other trends in solar output, within the limits of the instruments, were found.

This strongly implies that any longer-term variations are significantly less than 0.1 percent TSI. Such small trends in TSI are unlikely to cause the rapid increase of global temperatures.

Recent climate warming on Mars is a new pastime for the neocons. They claim that recent warming on both Mars and Earth proves that solar variation is the cause of all climate warming. However, in the February issue of Nature magazine, Mars scientists report that their orbital observatory and rovers indicate that this phenomenon is linked to fierce storms that expose huge patches of very dark Martian rock. These rocks act as natural heat islands that warm the very thin Martian atmosphere.

Neocons accuse American scientists of gross incompetence because of their failure to confirm these pet ideas. To undermine these scientists further, these conservatives tried (but failed) to remove CO2 ( important greenhouse gas) from federal lists as an industrial pollutant. They are now blocking the replacement of many aging American orbital climate observatories because of “cost overruns.” These neocons are determined to deprive scientists of space-based climate data, too.