08/12/2005 01:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Warmed-Over Data and Risky Business

Warmed-Over Data

It is most certainly a crying shame that one had to get to page A12 of today’s New York Times and then decide, based on the following bland headline, whether to bother to read the article below it: Errors Cited in Assessing Climate Data.

In fact, by almost any measure, this story should have been on the front page. If it had, it could have helped create a groundswell for federal action on global warming (in case you haven’t been following the matter, the Bush Administration has dragged its feet so hard there are indelible Bush-Cheney skid marks on the fast road to catastrophe.):

Some scientists who question whether human-caused global warming poses a threat have long pointed to records that showed the atmosphere's lowest layer, the troposphere, had not warmed over the last two decades and had cooled in the tropics.

Now two independent studies have found errors in the complicated calculations used to generate the old temperature records, which involved stitching together data from thousands of weather balloons lofted around the world and a series of short-lived weather satellites.

A third study shows that when the errors are taken into account, the troposphere actually got warmer. Moreover, that warming trend largely agrees with the warmer surface temperatures that have been recorded and conforms to predictions in recent computer models.

The three papers were published yesterday in the online edition of the journal Science.

In other words, those naysayers who are constantly touted by polluting industries for their scientific “evidence” that global warming is not a reality….are WRONG. An appropriate headline might have said: “Global Warming Real, Study Finds” or “Global Warming Doubters Wrong, Study Finds”.

I mean, c’mon. Could we possibly have a little urgency here?

Risky Business

Here’s a more apt headline from the Times today: “Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse.”

Senior Pentagon officials have opposed the release of photographs and videotapes of the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that they would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk, according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement put forth to support the Pentagon's case that he believed that "riots, violence and attacks by insurgents will result" if the images were released.

The papers were filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan in an ongoing lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act the release of 87 photos and four videotapes taken at Abu Ghraib. The photos were among those turned over to Army investigators last year by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, a reservist who was posted at Abu Ghraib.

….The A.C.L.U. said the government was seeking to withhold the photos only "to avert adverse reaction," undermining the information act.

Well, no kidding. Certainly, these photos might indeed incite adverse reaction abroad. But they might also incite adverse reaction in places like Topeka, Kansas, and Tupelo, Mississippi. In other words, the fundamentalist base that is so crucial to the administration’s faltering support might not much like these photos either.

Equally important: the administration’s attempt to block the Freedom of Information Act-mandated release of these images typifies the larger problem of which I’ve been speaking in many recent blogs – the government routinely tries to keep the public from seeing what is being done in its name. And it always, always, finds some excuse for it.

That’s not to say that inciting violence abroad is a good thing. But let’s be realistic – if soldiers hadn’t been encouraged to exhibit this kind of intolerable behavior, these images would not even exist. In the end, responsibility lies at the top.

Russ Baker’s website is