Fox's Napolitano mischaracterized NASA report to deny humans cause global warming

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

Andrew Napolitano cited a DailyTech article headlined, "NASA Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming," to deny that humans are causing global warming. In fact, the article itself noted that NASA does not dispute that human activities are responsible for global warming.

On the June 5 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, guest host and Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano mischaracterized a year-old NASA report on solar variability to deny that humans are causing global warming. Claiming that NASA "made a remarkable discovery," Napolitano referred to a June 4 DailyTech article headlined, "NASA Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming," and said: "So, basically -- are you ready for this? -- the sun heats the Earth." However, as the DailyTech article itself acknowledged, in its May 7, 2008, report, NASA does not dispute that human activities are responsible for global warming. In fact, it said the opposite, noting that while "[t]he sun has powered almost everything on Earth since life began, including its climate," greenhouse gases now have a "significant influence on Earth's climate."

The NASA report also stated that "Earth's climate depends on the delicate balance between incoming solar radiation, outgoing thermal radiation and the composition of Earth's atmosphere. Even small changes in these parameters can affect climate." It then quoted Thomas Woods, a solar scientist at the University of Colorado-Boulder, saying that "[g]reenhouse gases block about 40 percent of outgoing thermal radiation that emanates from Earth." The report continued: "The resulting imbalance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation will likely cause Earth to heat up over the next century, accelerating the melting polar ice caps, causing sea levels to rise and increasing the probability of more violent global weather patterns."

The NASA report also quoted Robert Cahalan, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as saying that "[f]or the last 20 to 30 years, we believe greenhouse gases have been the dominant influence on recent climate change," and that "[t]he major change in Earth's climate is now really dominated by human activity, which has never happened before."

From NASA's May 7, 2008, report:

The sun has powered almost everything on Earth since life began, including its climate. The sun also delivers an annual and seasonal impact, changing the character of each hemisphere as Earth's orientation shifts through the year. Since the Industrial Revolution, however, new forces have begun to exert significant influence on Earth's climate.

"For the last 20 to 30 years, we believe greenhouse gases have been the dominant influence on recent climate change," said Robert Cahalan, climatologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

[...]

Over the past century, Earth's average temperature has increased by approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degrees Fahrenheit). Solar heating accounts for about 0.15 C, or 25 percent, of this change, according to computer modeling results published by NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies researcher David Rind in 2004. Earth's climate depends on the delicate balance between incoming solar radiation, outgoing thermal radiation and the composition of Earth's atmosphere. Even small changes in these parameters can affect climate. Around 30 percent of the solar energy that strikes Earth is reflected back into space. Clouds, atmospheric aerosols, snow, ice, sand, ocean surface and even rooftops play a role in deflecting the incoming rays. The remaining 70 percent of solar energy is absorbed by land, ocean, and atmosphere.

"Greenhouse gases block about 40 percent of outgoing thermal radiation that emanates from Earth," Woods said. The resulting imbalance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation will likely cause Earth to heat up over the next century, accelerating the melting polar ice caps, causing sea levels to rise and increasing the probability of more violent global weather patterns.

[...]

Before the Industrial Age, the sun and volcanic eruptions were the major influences on Earth's climate change. Earth warmed and cooled in cycles. Major cool periods were ice ages, with the most recent ending about 11,000 years ago.

"Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene," said Cahalan. "Over recent decades, however, we have moved into a human-dominated climate that some have termed the Anthropocene. The major change in Earth's climate is now really dominated by human activity, which has never happened before."

The sun is relatively calm compared to other stars. "We don't know what the sun is going to do a hundred years from now," said Doug Rabin, a solar physicist at Goddard. "It could be considerably more active and therefore have more influence on Earth's climate."

Or, it could be calmer, creating a cooler climate on Earth similar to what happened in the late 17th century. Almost no sunspots were observed on the sun's surface during the period from 1650 to 1715. This extended absence of solar activity may have been partly responsible for the Little Ice Age in Europe and may reflect cyclic or irregular changes in the sun's output over hundreds of years. During this period, winters in Europe were longer and colder by about 1 C than they are today.

Since then, there seems to have been on average a slow increase in solar activity. Unless we find a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning, the solar influence is not expected to dominate climate change. But the solar variations are expected to continue to modulate both warming and cooling trends at the level of 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.26 Fahrenheit) over many years.

The DailyTech article Napolitano cited reported that "[s]ome researchers believe that the solar cycle influences global climate changes. They attribute recent warming trends to cyclic variation. Skeptics, though, argue that there's little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes." The DailyTech article then asserted that "a new research report" from NASA "may help to lay this skepticism to rest," reporting: "A study from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth's climate. The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution." The article linked to a ScienceDaily.com May 12, 2008, article adapted from the NASA report. The DailyTech article concluded:

While the NASA study acknowledged the sun's influence on warming and cooling patterns, it then went badly off the tracks. Ignoring its own evidence, it returned to an argument that man had replaced the sun as the cause current warming patterns. Like many studies, this conclusion was based less on hard data and more on questionable correlations and inaccurate modeling techniques.

From the June 5 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

NAPOLITANO: Hello, America. This is tonight's hot list. These are the stories that the mainstream media is not covering but should be, or they're following, but they're not doing a good job. You know how that works.

The Washington Times reports that, so far, there aren't any states willing to house Gitmo detainees if the prison should close. President Obama intends to close the prison on January 2010. But even those who want to close Gitmo are basically saying not in my backyard.

NASA's Goddard Space Center made a remarkable discovery. The headline from the DailyTech is -- you're not going to believe this -- quote: "NASA acknowledges solar cycle, not man, responsible for global warming."

So, basically -- are you ready for this? -- the sun heats the Earth. The real question is whether Al Gore's NASA guy, Dr. James Hanson, will give up on trying to say "people heat the Earth" and "people cause global warming," or if the man who produced the report will get fired for going against the green -- I mean, against the grain.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Andrew Napolitano
Show/Publication
Glenn Beck show
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