Tree Ring Study Heats Up Battle of Climate Change Skeptics Against Scientists

Tree rings record hints of climate change over their growthcodersquid/CC BY-SA 2.0

A recent study of tree rings estimates historical climate change using density rather than the traditional measure of ring width. The findings indicate it was even warmer than believed based on previous tree ring width records -- which was immediately seized upon in headlines like the following from Britain's Daily Mail:

Tree-rings prove climate was WARMER in Roman and Medieval times than it is now - and world has been cooling for 2,000 years

LiveScience attempts to clarify the issue in an article titled Does New Tree Ring Study Put the Chill on Global Warming? The article quotes one of the study's co-authors, Rob Wilson of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland:

Our study doesn't go against anthropogenic global warming in any way.

The LiveScience article goes on to paraphrase Wilson's stance: "The tree rings do help fill in a piece of Earth's complicated climate puzzle, he said. However, it is climate change deniers who seem to have misconstrued the bigger picture."

This led the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum to plaintively inquire:

Is Wilson calling us deniers?

No, it appears, he is not. Wilson responds by email to SCEF:

I have done a couple of phone interviews of the past few days and am 99% sure I would not have used the term "denier". I might have used "sceptics" however.

So while LiveScience considers whether to respect Wilson's request to paraphrase him as saying that it is climate change skeptics who seem to have misconstrued the bigger picture, we are reminded that popular belief in the urgency of climate change rests as much upon faith as on fact, and it is a well-known fact that the human brain is selective for the evidence that supports a pre-existing faith.

It is the nature of science to continually tests the models of climate change in an effort to achieve better predictions of this complex system that can help to support good decisions about how to react. New facts that contradict or supercede old facts do not disprove the existence of anthropogenic climate change, they merely tighten up the calculations about how much change has occurred and will come at us. Until the skeptics can accept this underlying trend, any charts showing temperature change will continue to succumb to the accusation that the models are not perfect, leaving those disinclined to action as firmly set in their stance as ever.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Global Warming Science | Scandinavia


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