This is Fred Ward's testimony at the Public Listening Session of the New Hampshire Governor's Climate Change Task Force. "Dr. Fred" was a favorite TV meteorologist of many channel 7 viewers in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s.
Dr. Ward has written a couple Op-Ed pieces in the Union Leader and has engaged Dr. Cameron Wake from UNH on those pages. Dr. Wake may be the only scientist on the task force and did not attend the Manchester Public Listening Session.
The Ward and Wake Op-Ed pages are:
NHDES Energy Task Force 18 September 2008
At the risk of stating the obvious, there are at least two major issues which the Task Force must recognize. These issues seem simple to any meteorologist who is current on the state of the weather observing network and on the skill of weather forecasting models, but seem to elude those with a political agenda.
The two questions: the extent to which there has been a general warming trend in the atmosphere and the extent to which we may expect a general warming in the future are not simple to answer. Most unfortunately, there are people, including some scientists, who have reasons for obfuscating the answers to both of these questions. There is a lot of research money available for supporting research, provided the research assumes there is a big problem, i.e., catastrophic warming is inevitable, and soon!
For better of for worse, neither the current temperature measurements, nor the predictive models which forecasts years into the future, provide useful information to definitively answer either question. Despite much hoopla, the weather data to date, while possibly suggestive, in no way prove a general warming trend. Similarly, the models, all of which for some reason show catastrophic weather changes in the future, have never been shown to have any greater skill than a coin toss. You might wonder how come they all talk of more rain in wet areas, more droughts in dry areas, more storms in stormy areas, more freezes in cold areas, etc.
A member of your Task Force, Professor Wake, has published papers and given talks on his “finding” that the wintertime temperature in New England, has warmed 1 ½ degrees per decade for 30 years, with similar warming to continue. However, the data for the decade following his original 30 years, show not an additional 1 ½ degree warming, but a substantial cooling. His published response, when I pointed this out, was to “move the goalposts” right out of the stadium. His response changed his definition of “winter”, the period of years covered and the area for his analysis. But he never responded to my original point, which was, that using his same definitions, the temperature has been cooling, not warming.
There is an important point to be made from the preceding, and it’s not that the atmosphere is beginning a general cooling trend. The point is that the data and models need to be treated with extreme caution, lest we charge off into the unknown, spend untold amounts of time, effort and money, and look foolish. New Hampshire has a well-founded reputation for caution; this is not the time to be scared into actions which will in all likelihood prove to be counterproductive.
Finally, turning to the question of what the Task Force should consider, it would seem advisable that it should concentrate on the main sources of CO2, cars and power plants. Wind and solar, while helpful, can’t make a serious dent in reducing the CO2 emissions from these two sources. Concentrating on better battery technology and nuclear power plants solves the major fraction of both our CO2 and imported oil problems. Spending some limited time and energy on other possible alternatives, while worthwhile, merely distracts from the main issues. Conservation is always useful, but getting our citizens to conserve is difficult.
In summary, there are no reliable data to support a crash program of alternative energy, but there is enough data to support an effort to gradually convert our power plants to nuclear fuel, and our automobiles, at least partially, to electricity.