Published by on 18 Apr 2010 at 10:51 am
Tom Pederson, director of British Columbia’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, got some cheap laughs at the expense of Rex Murphy and Murphy’s journalistic reputation at a University of Victoria panel on climate and the media in April.
The panel members were Pederson, Lucinda Chodan, editor of the Victoria Times Colonist, Peter Calamai, a science journalist, and James Hoggan, author Climate Cover-up, which claims that unscrupulous right-wing think tanks are trying to brainwash the public against belief in global warming. There was, thanks to Pederson (see why below), no one representing the skeptical side of the issue.
In his 15-minute segment, Pederson accused Murphy of breaching journalistic ethics in a July 24, 2009, Globe and Mail column entitled “So where’s that global cooling alert?” Murphy’s crime? He ignored what Pederson considers the global warming “facts.” Pederson’s point was that a newspaper columnist can have whatever opinions he/she wants, but these opinions must be based on facts, not just ideology. As a former columnist myself, for the Times Colonist, I also believe this is true.
Murphy’s column noted that temperatures in Ontario had been cool in July 2009 and he wondered why nobody had bothered to issue a global cooling alert; if the temperatures had been unusually warm, wouldn’t that have been blamed on global warming? Murphy wrote:
What we do not hear from them [the global warming believers], from any one of them, is the slightest indication of puzzlement over how or why so suddenly, in this age of the greatest emergency our planet has ever faced—global warming—things have gotten cool. Not a furrowed brow among the lot over the consideration that, contrary to the visions of Al Gore and David Suzuki or NASA’s own anti-global warming Nostradamus, James Hansen, the great trend line of an ever-warming world is being contradicted nightly in their own forecasts.
To show how wrong Murphy had been, Pederson presented a PowerPoint slide showing that, contrary to Murphy’s column, July 2009 was quite hot in most of the planet, and suggested—to audience laughter—that Murphy was foolishly guilty of assuming the weather in Toronto represented the world. Below is the map Pederson used, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.
Pederson also accused Murphy not just of being foolish, but of being unethical as well in spreading climate skeptic lies.
Murphy is anything but foolish—a Rhodes scholar, he’s probably got the finest mind in Canadian journalism. Nor is he wrong or naive about the planetary cooling trend. For example, Murphy is quite aware of the difference between weather and climate, writing in his column:
Not that these studio meteorologists were making the elementary mistake of confounding weather with climate, for this is a distinction familiar now even to kindergartners. [Much less, one might add, to Rhodes scholars.]
And he is quite aware that Ontario’s weather doesn’t represent the globe’s weather. He was making a broader point about the trend toward global cooling in the past decade—a point that Pederson, deliberately or unconsciously, sidestepped.
The U.S. is cooling, not warming
Let’s take a closer look at the average U.S. temperature in July, 2009, also from the NOAA website:
All that blue indicates that, yes, July was, as Murphy said, colder than normal in the northern and eastern parts of the United States, in some cases record cold. Granted, the planet won’t be uniformly warm (or cold), but record cold? In July? At a time when the planet is supposed to be not only warming, but experiencing (according to IPCC president Rajendra Pachauri) “accelerated” warming? (See Christopher Monckton’s article debunking this claim.)
Also on the NOAA website is a handy gadget that lets users calculate for themselves temperatures and trends over the past 115 years in the continental United States (my thanks to C3 Headlines for bringing this website to my attention). You just put in the date you want to begin, any time from 1895 on, the date you want to end, and a month or the annual average. The U.S. has the world’s best climate records, so the temperatures in the U.S. will mirror, reasonably well, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and almost certainly the planet as well.
Here’s what the graph shows if you input the years 1997-2010:
Good heavens! Since 1997 the planet (or at least the U.S. portion of it) has been cooling! Just like Murphy said in his column. And this cooling is not just a 2009 phenomenon.
If you input 1996-2010, the temperature is flat-lined, so the cooling started at least in 1997 in the U.S., and almost certainly everywhere else as well. And, the later you put the end date, the more pronounced is the downward, cooling slant of the temperature line.
Phil Jones: the planet isn’t warming
Murphy’s view fits very well with what Phil Jones, the former head of East Anglia University’s Climatic Research Unit, said in one of his “Climategate” emails (July 5, 2005):
The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only seven years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.
In other words, in 2009 Murphy was writing about a global cooling (not warming) trend that even climate alarmist Phil Jones admitted began in 1998.
Jones further admitted in a Feb. 13, 2010, interview with the BBC that there had been no “statistically significant” warming since 1995, and evidence of cooling (although not “statistically significant” for Jones) since 2002. Here’s what Jones said about the cooling:
BBC: Do you agree that from January 2002 to the present there has been statistically significant global cooling? Jones: No. This period is even shorter than 1995-2009. The trend this time is negative (-0.12C per decade), but this trend is not statistically significant.
But if the temperature “trend” might be toward cooling, that at least means that there was no statistically significant global warming during the years from 2002-2010, does it not? And the planet may well be cooling—NOAA’s U.S. data certainly points that way. Jones argues the timeline isn’t long enough to establish a cooling trend, but 12 years of no warming certainly looks like a trend. It’s also 12 years, or more, during which the public has been relentlessly—and, it appears, falsely—bombarded with the message that the planet is suffering from out-of-control warming.
So let’s summarize: Pederson accused Murphy of being an unethical columnist for claiming that the planet was cooling in 2009. Yet NOAA, which is a strong believer in anthropogenic global warming, says the United States has been cooling since 1997. Phil Jones suggests in his email that the planet—not just the U.S.—has not warmed since 1995 (with the addition that he doesn’t want this news to get out, hence “hide the decline”), and might even have cooled since 2002. So, who’s right? Pederson? Or Murphy, along with both NOAA and Jones?
At the very least, how can Pederson, with a straight face, accuse Murphy of lack of ethics, thereby slandering Murphy’s journalistic reputation, when Murphy is simply basing his opinion on scientific data? In other words, at least in my opinion, Pederson slandered Murphy and owes him an apology.
Ignoring the evidence
But, then, this is what AGW believers do. Evidence that the planet hasn’t warmed since the late 1990s is dismissed as “cherry-picking” because, for warmists, the overall trend is up. It has to be up, because that’s what the computer climate models say, and the models cannot be wrong.
Pederson set up the climate and media panel so there were no skeptics on board because he is a dedicated, one might even say fanatical, believer in human-caused global warming and its catastrophic outcome. How do I know? Because last December, I attended a video streaming, arranged by Pederson in a University of Victoria classroom, of an online debate pitting skeptics Bjorn Lomborg and Nigel Lawson against warmists Elizabeth May and George Monbiot.
Before the debate began, however, Pederson went to the front of the classroom and, for 15 minutes, told those attending that they shouldn’t believe a word of what Lomborg and Lawson said. The idea that a university audience might listen to a debate with an open mind is apparently beyond Pederson’s ability to comprehend because, of course, he believes he is totally right on global warming and any other viewpoint is totally wrong.
(As an aside, philosopher of science Karl Popper has written, in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (p. 281): “The wrong view of science reveals itself as the craving to be right.” Pederson, and global warming alarmists in general, seem to be strongly in the grip of this craving.)
Why warmists can’t admit cooling
During question period at the media and climate panel, I asked Pederson about Jones’s comment on the lack of “statistically significant” warming since 1995 and the possible cooling from 2002 on. Pederson replied that the 1995 non-warming was just that, a statistical artifact, and that the current decade had been the warmest on record. Which may be true, but that doesn’t mean the decade is warming.
However, Pederson refused to answer the second part of my question on Jones’s comment about possible cooling.
Pederson’s refusal to respond made it very clear that warmists don’t want to publicly acknowledge any cooling over the past 12 or 13 years (from 1997 in the U.S. and probably everywhere else, too). And so, they pour scorn on anyone, like Murphy or myself, who dares to mention it.
By why is it so important not to admit that the planet has cooled, at least to the public? I must confess that this question has puzzled me, or did until the media and climate panel.
One reason is, of course, because scientists like Pederson know the public will lose faith in the AGW theory if what it predicts—warming—isn’t occurring. How silly of the public to demand actual evidence of warming before making some very expensive decisions to cope with warming, but there it is.
The main reason, though, is that to acknowledge cooling over the past decade is to admit that the AGW hypothesis is wrong. Why? Jones provides a clue when he says that while the planet isn’t warming and is actually cooling, it hasn’t warmed or cooled for enough years to be “statistically significant.”
So, how many years does it take for a climatologist to accept that climate change, as opposed to weather fluctuation, has occurred (is “statistically significant”)? The generally accepted time is 30 years. How long has the planet been warming? From the mid-1970s to no later than 1998. That’s 23 years of warming, followed by 12 years of non-warming (so far). In other words, this warming that we’re told is so “unequivocal” and “settled” and “certain” has not passed the crucial 30-year mark. The warming of 1975-1998 is therefore not “statistically significant.”
Hence, it is necessary for climatologists like Pederson to assert, at least to the public, that warming has occurred after 1998 and, more recently, that it is actually “accelerating.” Without warming in the 21st century, “global warming” hasn’t reached the crucial 30-year milestone. But if for Pederson there is no statistically significant cooling over the past decade, there was also no statistically significant warming in the late 20th century, either. Warmists like Pederson cannot admit this fact because it utterly destroys their case.
In other words, it’s not Rex Murphy who is misleading the public with ideology and false information. It’s the alarmist climatologists like Pederson who are misleading the public with their smokescreen of “certainty” and “consensus” and “global warming” that not only hasn’t occurred in more than a decade, but wasn’t “statistically significant” before that.
Postscript: Desperately seeking answers
Prior to the media and climate panel, the organizers put out a call for written questions. I sent in several questions. They were not answered by the panel, nor do I expect that the answers to any of them would have been anything more than obfuscation. But, for the record, here they are. If anyone has a sensible response to any of them, I’d love to hear it.
Question 1 (for Pederson): Karl Popper has written: “A theory that is not refutable by any conceivable event is not scientific.” What empirical evidence would it take for you to consider the anthropogenic warming hypothesis to be refuted?
Question 2 (for Times Colonist editor Lucinda Chodan): IPCC reports are subject to “review by governments.” This does not mean that government does what it wishes after the IPCC reports are published, as is proper; governments get to determine what the scientific results will be before they are published. In other words, the IPCC is subject to a political agenda. My question is: Would you agree to be the editor in chief of a newspaper that was subject to “review by governments”? Would you trust such a newspaper?
Question 3 (for Pederson): The 2007 IPCC report states that evidence of warming in the 21st century is “unequivocal.” On the other hand, Phil Jones, former head of the Climatic Research Unit and a strong supporter of the AGW hypothesis, admitted in a Feb. 13 interview with the BBC that there has been no “statistically significant” warming since 1995, and evidence of slight cooling since 2002. Clearly the planet can’t be both cooling and warming at the same time. Which position, Jones’s or the IPCC’s, is wrong?
Question 4 (for Pederson): You appear to be “certain” that the anthropogenic hypothesis has complete empirical support; for you the science is “settled” and beyond dispute, and there is no need to keep an open mind on the issue (I was present at your 15-minute talk before the online debate). Yet Mike Hulme, a leading IPCC contributor, has written:
Reaching consensus about climate change, recognizing that these statements emerge from processes of deliberation and discussion rather than from pure observation, experimentation and falsification, can therefore be an uncomfortable thing for scientists and public alike. Scientists need to be prepared to argue about their “considered opinions”, to embrace consensus but without closing down argument or suggesting that matters are settled.
How can a scientific conclusions that emerge from “processes of deliberation and discussion rather than from pure observation, experimentation and falsification” be considered “settled” and “certain”? And do you agree or disagree with Hulme that climate scientists should not suggest “that matters are settled”?
Question 5 (for Peter Calamai or Lucinda Chodan): There has never been, to my knowledge, a full-dress debate on any of the major Canadian television networks on the question of global warming, in part, I gather, because AGW supporters do not want to give the skeptics “credibility.” If the AGW hypothesis is as “certain” as its supporters believe, why not have such a debate, or a series of them, and crush the skeptics once and for all?
Question 6 (for Pederson): In his textbook Earth’s Climate: Past and Future, William Ruddiman writes: “Earth’s temperature reacts strongly to small changes in CO2 values at the lower end of the range (less than 200 ppm), but changes much less at the high end of the range (greater than 800 ppm)” (page 134). Some sources say that CO2 does most of its warming in the first 20 ppm.
Given that CO2 levels, at 400 ppm (388, actually), are now twice 200 ppm, and half 800 ppm, at what point would you expect “carbon saturation” to set in and warming based on additional carbon dioxide to more or less cease (I know warming doesn’t end entirely, but the additional warming per unit is miniscule). One gets the impression, reading the papers, that additional units of CO2 will create a lot more warming per unit, rather than a lot less.