Global Warming and Junk Science Revisited

Control Report: Quick! Put Control Engineers in Charge of Global Warming Before it's Too Late

The new global warming movie, "The Day After Tomorrow," is a special-effects extravaganza: a tidal wave engulfs New York City, tornadoes destroy Los Angeles, and monster storm fronts tower into the sky. It is also a pretty good comedy, especially at the end, when the vice president sobs something like, "We were so bad. We burned hydrocarbons. We didn't listen to the warnings."

The movie is Hollywood’s attempt to scare the American people into accepting global warming as a serious problem, revive the Kyoto Protocol, and–most importantly–elect a democrat president. The vice president and villain (the entire global warming disaster is his fault, according to the movie) looks and acts just like Dick Cheney.

In "China Syndrome," the 1979 movie about a nuclear plant meltdown, the plot had a plausible scenario, a control engineer as the hero, and a real incident at Three Mile Island mere weeks after the movie opened to propel it to success. That movie may be the main reason we don’t build nuclear power plants any more.


  "The global warming discussion has gotten so politicized, it is impossible to tell the difference among true science, junk science and political agendas."


I’ll never forget the hero engineer, Jack Godell, tapping on the front of the cooling water chart recorder with a pencil eraser and seeing the needle jump. (Young engineers don’t realize that a pencil eraser was one of the tools of the trade for control engineers in the 1970s—but I digress.)


"The Day After Tomorrow" has none of this going for it. The plot is laughable, no control engineers star in it, and no disastrous climate changes are going to occur to boost ratings. Not for a few thousand years, anyway.


Environmentalists are delighted, of course. "In this terrifying and all too real scenario, global warming is the epic disaster to end all disasters," writes John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. "The vast majority of scientists–and Americans–believe we should take steps to avert global warming by reducing our dependence on petroleum and coal."


Hogwash. Steven Hayward, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, points out that the American public could not care less. "A year ago, a Gallup poll found that the issue is ‘a bit of a yawn’ to most Americans," he writes. "A follow-up poll taken last month found that ‘the public is practically dozing.’ "


Again from the Gallup report Hayward notes: "… there has been a slight increase since 2003 in the percentage of Americans reckoning that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated by the news media."


The press exaggerating? Of course they do. It’s well-established that a vast majority of the media are liberals and present only one side of the global warming story: that which is politically correct.


Fact is, there are many skeptics out there. We ran a series of news stories two years ago about global warming and the Kyoto protocol, and quoted scientists from around the world who disagree on the causes of global warming. For many of you, that was the first time you realized there are dissenting opinions about global warming.


My regular readers–all three of you–know how I feel about global warming: Yes, it is happening; but it is natural, not man-made. Oh, and don’t forget the Kyoto protocol is a political device designed to cripple the U.S. and nuclear power is an excellent alternative. Very politically incorrect, I know.


I can be convinced that I am wrong. Unfortunately, the global warming discussion has gotten so politicized, it is impossible to tell the differences among true science, junk science and political agendas.


So many people lie to us these days, it’s difficult to find the truth. Michael Moore wins an Oscar for the fictional documentary, "Bowling for Columbine;" reality cop shows on TV fake the car chases; and computers make it possible to fake photos, videos and data of all kinds.


We need to put control engineers in charge of global warming. CONTROL columnist Bela Liptak questioned current methods two years ago: "Do we understand what we are manipulating? Do we know what the controlled variables of this process are? Are we sure that these manipulations will not impact that which makes life worth living?" ("Lessons Learned: Controlling Global Processes." CONTROL, July ‘02). It is in everybody's interest to intelligently configure this life-stabilizing control loop and to use the accumulated knowledge of the control profession to do that."


If Bela told me that global warming could be stopped by taking certain specific actions, I’d believe him. But I suspect that Bela, a classic control engineer, would want much more accurate data than we have now, better modeling and simulation tools, and facts, not fiction.

Put control engineers in charge. We’ll straighten all this out.          

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