A group of scientists has analyzed temperature data using a new method and confirmed that the surface of the Earth is getting warmer, and that the effect is not, as some have suggested, a result of an “urban heat island” effect.
As cities grow, they produce more heat, which helps raise overall surface temperatures, but not, according to the Berkeley Earth Project, nearly enough to account for the observed warming trend. Average land temperature has increased by one degree centigrade since the 1950s, according to the new results, which closely match earlier findings.
Perhaps more important (politically speaking) than the result itself is the process of verification the scientists are soliciting. The group, which consists mostly of physicists and includes a Nobel Prize winner, published its findings on its website before submitting them to a peer-reviewed journal. That, among other, more general reasons, is intended to avoid accusations made during the “Climategate” scandal that scientists deliberately peer-reviewed each others’ work in such a way as to overemphasize a consensus on warming. Peer review, as Ronald Bailey shrewdly notes on Reason.com, “is stacked in favor of the consensus view, locking skeptics out of publishing in major scientific journals.”
The Berkeley group’s research findings may be more convincing for another reason as well: They were partially funded by a foundation whose backers are inclined to challenge the idea that global warming is man-made. (Why does the name “Koch” keep popping up everywhere I look?) Although the new study addresses the fact of warming but not the cause, “skeptics” often seem just as anxious to deny one as the other, which has always suggested a sense of doubt (and perhaps guilt) caused by awareness that they are espousing a politically motivated point of view.