Published by on 26 Sep 2010

The past decade: warmer or cooler? Response to a reader II

This is the second of several posts responding to a reader, sTeve, who commented on my NOAA blog article (to read the first post, click here).  sTeve wrote, in part:

You offer the cherry-picked denier meme of the earth “cooling since 1998″, yet you already know that that argument has no merit, as it has been debunked countless times. You don’t mention the very strong El Nino of 1998, which had a major impact on global temps; perhaps you should read the papers written on that subject. Here’s a link to get you started: www . skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm

You already are aware that 1998 is no longer the warmest year on record, having been surpassed by both 2005 and, so far, 2010, yes?

When I first read this from sTeve, I was astonished, just as I was astonished by NOAA’s recent announcement that the planet had warmed .2° Celsius in the decade 2000-2009. Where had sTeve gotten this data? 2005 and 2010 warmer than 1998? Fortunately, a post by Steve Goddard on Anthony Watt’s Watt’s Up With That? site provided the answer.

Temperature estimates

Figure 1 is the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) estimate of temperatures from 1880 to 2010 and, sure enough, in the upper right corner, the temperatures for 2005 and 2010 are shown as higher than 1998—considerably higher, actually.

Figure 1: GISS temperature estimate 1880-2010

However, the temperature estimates from the other three major climate monitoring agencies—the Hadley Meteorological Centre (HadCrut), University of Huntsville at Alabama (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS)—all show temperatures for the last decade considerably lower than the GISS estimate. In fact, they even show some cooling. The latter two agencies, UAH and RSS, rely on satellite data, which many regard as more reliable than ground temperature estimates. The  UAH reading is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: UAH temperatures

Figure 3 shows the two satellite-based agencies combined:

Figure 3: UAH and RSS temperature estimates

Neither UAH nor RSS shows 2000-2010 temperatures as higher than 1998. In fact, the last decade’s temperatures are considerably lower. Continue Reading »

Published by on 26 Sep 2010

Is climate science “certain”? Response to a reader I

In the next few posts, I respond in detail to a comment from a reader, sTeve, of the NOAA article in my False Alarm blog. I am grateful when people take the time to comment and, yes, criticize, but I also think this writer oversells the certainty we should feel about alarmist climate science and its conclusions. Perhaps this response will allow readers to judge for themselves, and I will publish sTeve’s response, should he choose to do so.

sTeve writes:

I enjoy reading your writing; you post with eloquence and offer cogent and thoughtful argument. You are, however, dead wrong on all counts, and this greatly disappoints me. Your candidness and intellect would greatly serve our species, yet you have chosen a “closed-minded perspective”.

You offer the cherry-picked denier meme of the earth “cooling since 1998″, yet you already know that that argument has no merit, as it has been debunked countless times. You don’t mention the very strong El Nino of 1998, which had a major impact on global temps; perhaps you should read the papers written on that subject. Here’s a link to get you started: www . skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm

You already are aware that 1998 is no longer the warmest year on record, having been surpassed by both 2005 and, so far, 2010, yes?

You mention the alleged controversy of “Climategate”, yet four investigations have revealed no wrong doing, and in fact those investigations point to the strength of the science of the study of AGW.

You mention “The planet also cooled from 1945-75″. Did you not also find that the Clean Air Act of 1975 had a major impact on global temps by removing particulates from the atmosphere, thus removing a masking effect on global heating? Our industrial processes during the period 1945 – 1975 were overwhelming the warming of the planet due to the air pollution we were producing. The particulate matter in the pollution acted to reflect the suns warming of the planet. Once the Nixon Administration passed the Clean Air Act, the next 5 – 10 years saw a demonstrable decrease of air pollution, and we now know that global temps began to rise significantly. This is what has our scientists so very worried!

You write: “And, speaking of short periods of time on which to be drawing conclusions: the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, correlating carbon dioxide increases with temperature increases, is based on only about 23 years-1975-1998. This is hardly a long enough period of time to be drawing long-term conclusions that might well wreck industrial civilization with poorly thought-out carbon curbs. Correlation, as you well know, doesn’t equal causation.”

Sounds plausible…until we look at the facts. “The SCIENCE says that temperatures did not rise from the mid-30s to the mid-70s because of sulfate aerosols in fossil fuels. And what happened in the mid-70s? Clean-air legislation, and more importantly the phasing out of sulfur-rich fuels.”

I find it difficult at best to comprehend your position on human-induced climate change, given the fact that every science academy across the globe, including the NAS, AAAS, AMA, AMS, AGU, and countless other scientific bodies, ALL agree that AGW is happening, it is already bad, it is going to get worse, and we should be doing everything in our power to cut down our emissions of greenhouse gases and pollution in general.

What would it take to convince you, Paul?

How ‘certain’ is alarmist climate science?

Starting at the beginning:

I enjoy reading your writing; you post with eloquence and offer cogent and thoughtful argument. You are, however, dead wrong on all counts, and this greatly disappoints me. Your candidness and intellect would greatly serve our species, yet you have chosen a “closed-minded perspective”.

To call “dead wrong on all counts” a reasonably held, scientifically based albeit skeptical position (as I hope to demonstrate below) betrays a black and white mentality that is not conducive to good science and implies a certainty that most scientific disciplines avoid. For example, physicist Richard Feynman has written: “A scientist is never certain.” And yet, many alarmist climatologists and lay followers are certain, completely certain, or say they are. Continue Reading »

Published by on 05 Aug 2010

NOAA’s magic wand waves away 2000-2009 cooling

By Paul MacRae, August 5, 2010

The recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims that surface temperatures have increased in the past decade. In fact, the NOAA report, “State of the Climate in 2009,” says 2000-2009 was 0.2° Celsius [1]  warmer than the decade previous. However, the report’s summary, as shown in Figure 1 below, shows a decadal increase of only .2° Fahrenheit (.11°C) based on 20th century temperatures.

The press release was so splashy it made the front page of Toronto’s Globe and Mail with the headline: “Signs of warming earth ‘unmistakable’.”

Of course, given that the planet is in an interglacial period, we would expect “unmistakable” signs of warming, including melting glaciers and Arctic ice, rising temperatures, and rising sea levels. That’s what the planet does during an interglacial.

Furthermore, we’re nowhere near the peak reached by the interglacial of 125,000 years ago, when temperatures were 1-3°C higher than today and sea levels up to 20 feet higher, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change itself. In other words, the Globe might as well have had a headline reading “Signs of changing weather ‘unmistakable’.”

Similarly, the NOAA report laments: “People have spent thousands of years building society for one climate and now a new one is being created – one that’s warmer and more extreme.” The implication is that we can somehow freeze-dry the climate we’ve got to last forever, which is absurd.

Sea levels have risen 400 feet in the past 15,000 years, causing all kinds of inconvenience for humanity in the process-and all quite naturally. As the interglacial continues, sea levels will rise and temperatures will increase-until the interglacial reaches its peak, at which point the planet will again move toward glacial conditions. To think that we can somehow stop this process is insane.

Even die-hard alarmists admitted 2000-2009 cooling

But what about the NOAA claim that the surface temperature increased .2°C during 2000-2009? Although they did everything possible to hide this information from the public, media, politicians, and even fellow scientists, by the late 2000s even die-hard alarmists were eventually forced to accept that the surface temperature record showed no warming as of the late 1990s, and some cooling as of about 2002. In other words, overall, for the first decade of the 21st century, there was no warming and even some cooling. Continue Reading »

Published by on 21 Jul 2010

Comment on Dr. Stephen Schneider

Climatologist Dr. Stephen Schneider died this week. Although he was one of the leading promoters of climate change fears (in the 1970s he warned against global cooling[1], more recently against global warming), Schneider could also be remarkably candid about what was going on behind the scenes of what is supposed to be a “settled” science.

He is famous for noting that climate scientists will exaggerate if the truth isn’t “scary” enough: 

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change.

To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.[2] [italics ad

Is climate science based on “overwhelming” empirical evidence, as the public is told? Not if you believe Schneider, who wrote: “Computer modeling is our only available tool to perform what-if experiments such as the human impact on the future.”[3] [italics added]  In other words, climate science is only as good as its models, models that weren’t accurate enough to predict the non-warming of the past 10 years.

It was Schneider who noted during a debate with Bjorn Lomborg that, in climate science, “We end up with a maddening degree of uncertainty. We end up with scenarios which, if we’re lucky, give us mild outcomes and we end up with scenarios that, if we’re unlucky, give us catastrophic outcomes.”[4] [italics added]

In a similar vein, Schneider wrote in Scientific American as part of an attack on Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist: “Uncertainties so infuse the issue of climate change that it is still impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic outcomes.”[5] [italics added]

A “maddening degree of uncertainty”? “Impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic outcomes”? “Infused with uncertainties”? But isn’t the public told the science on climate change is settled, certain, beyond question, and that we’re heading for catastrophe?

Or are we being bombarded by “scary scenarios” that exist only in computer models?

Based on Schneider’s own words, the answer is obvious.

Notes

[1] In his 1976 book The Genesis Strategy (p. 66), Schneider wrote: “Today there are few people much concerned by the approach of the next ice age. And since ice ages take thousands of years to develop, why should we worry? There are several reasons to worry.”

[2] Laboratory Earth, 1997, p. 67.

[3] Quoted in Jonathan Schell, “Our Fragile Earth.” Discover, October, 1989, pp. 45-48.

[4] Earthbeat, “Skeptical Environmentalist Debates Critics,” Australian Broadcasting Corp., Oct. 10, 2001.

[5]  Stephen Schneider, “Global Warming: Neglecting the Complexities.” Scientific American, January, 2002.

Published by on 06 Jul 2010

Media appearances promoting False Alarm

False Alarm is finally out, under a revised title: False Alarm: Global Warming—Facts Versus Fears. The previous subtitle was “Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Global Warming is Misleading, Exaggerated, or Just Plain Wrong,” but that was a bit unwieldy.

False Alarm will be in bookstores in Canada sometime in August. In Victoria, B.C., the books are available at Munro‘s books and Bolen books, both excellent independent bookstores.

False Alarm can also be purchased online at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and BarnesandNoble.com. The price is around $25 US and Canadian, £17.50 British. A epub (electronic edition) for Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader, etc., will also be available soon.

For background on the book, please go to “Book,” on this site.

I have started to make media appearances to promote the book.

  • I was on Dave Dickson’s show in Victoria’s CFAX (1070 AM) on Thursday, July 15.
  • There was also a short interview with Stephen Andrew of A-Channel (Channel 12) Sunday, July 18, as part of the 6 p.m. news. (I originally announced this as Saturday, July 17.)
  • I will be on Stephen Andrew’s show on CFAX on Monday, July 26, at 10:30 a.m.



Published by on 18 Apr 2010

Rex Murphy slandered for stating a fact: the planet is cooling

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. Continue Reading »

Published by on 17 Apr 2009

Consensus climate science: What would Thomas Huxley say?

.

The evidence … however properly reached, may always be more or less wrong, the best information being never complete, and the best reasoning being liable to fallacy.”

—Thomas Huxley, Science and Christian Tradition, p. 206

Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) was one of the first and most vigorous promoters of modern scientific thinking. He is perhaps best-known as “Darwin’s bulldog”—no one did more to fight for Darwin’s theory of natural selection in the face of theological opposition—but he also almost single-handedly introduced science into the British school curriculum at all levels.

Thomas H. Huxley
Thomas H. Huxley

Huxley was a formidable philosopher of science, anticipating many of the principles of scientific inquiry that Karl Popper would make a mainstay of scientific thinking in the 20th century, including the need for falsifiable hypotheses and non-dogmatic, continuous inquiry.

In short, in the history and philosophy of science, Huxley is someone to be reckoned with.

So what would T.H. Huxley have thought of today’s “consensus” climate scientists, with their claims that the issue of man-made climate change is “settled,” that there is no need for further debate, and that those who challenge the hypothesis of anthropogenic warming in any way are, in effect, heretics?

Three of Huxley’s books—Science and Hebrew Tradition (SHT), Science and Christian Tradition (SCT), and Hume, a biography of Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776)—present Huxley’s philosophy of science very clearly. How well does “consensus” climate science bear up in Huxley’s crucible? Continue Reading »

Published by on 16 Feb 2009

Glimmer of hope for consensus climate honesty is short-lived

Paul MacRae
February 13, 2009

Do not knowingly mislead, or allow others to be misled, about scientific matters. Present and review scientific evidence, theory or interpretation honestly and accurately.

–Proposed scientific code of ethics

For one giddy, almost magical moment, I thought the “consensus” climate science community, or at least a small portion of it, had come to its senses. I should have known better.

The almost-magical moment came on reading a headline in the U.K. Guardian online. It read: “Scientists must rein in misleading climate change claims: Overplaying natural variations in the weather diverts attention from the real issues.” The article was by Dr. Vicky Pope of the British Meteorological (Hadley) Centre, one of the four major centres monitoring climate.

Finally! I thought. The consensus climate scientists who believe, passionately but with almost no scientific evidence beyond computer models, that the planet is warming, that it’s all humanity’s fault, and that we’re heading for oblivion, are willing to admit they’ve been wildly exaggerating the threat of warming to places like the Arctic.

Pope even seemed to agree, noting:

Figure 1: IPCC computer predictions of warming versus real-world temperature data (blue and green lines)
Figure 1: IPCC computer predictions of warming versus real-world temperature data (blue and green lines)
Recent headlines have proclaimed that Arctic summer sea ice has decreased so much in the past few years that it has reached a tipping point and will disappear very quickly. The truth is that there is little evidence to support this. Indeed, the record-breaking losses in the past couple of years could easily be due to natural fluctuations in the weather, with summer sea ice increasing again over the next few years.

But the giddiness quickly passed. The rest of Pope’s article is just another consensus attempt to explain away its deplorable track record in predicting a great deal of warming when there is either very little or no warming at all (see Figure 1 and Is the Planet Still Warming?).

At best, Pope will only admit that “in the past 10 years the temperature rise has slowed,” when in truth temperature rise hasn’t “slowed” (see How the Hadley Centre Spins the Data on Non-Warming), it’s stopped. The climate may even tip into cooling for the next decade or two or longer. But why quibble over facts?

Continue Reading »

Published by on 30 Jul 2008

What has ‘consensus’ climate science got right? (Hint: not much)

Paul MacRae, July 30, 2008

The determinants of complex processes are invariably plural and interrelated.

— David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, p. 517

Most of what “consensus” climate science tells the public about human-caused global warming is, I believe, misleading, exaggerated, or plain wrong. But what are the consensus climate scientists saying that isn’t misleading, exaggerated, or wrong? These are scientists, after all, men and women of high intelligence, years of academic study and, one can assume, high integrity. Surely they can’t be that wrong. What are they getting right?

First, let’s look at what orthodox climate science is arguing. Here’s as good a statement of the consensus hypothesis as any, from R.A. Warrick, E.M. Barrow and T.M.L. Wigley, all recognized climatologists and self-described climate “alarmists” (in Climate and Sea Level Change: Observations, Projections and Implications, from which the hypothesis is taken, they note “the alarming rate of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide”). They write:

The potential rates and magnitudes of the GHG-induced change … give rise to legitimate concerns about the future. These concerns include the following:

  • first, that humankind may now be a potent factor in causing unidirectional global changes which could dominate over natural changes on the decade-to-century time scale;
  • secondly, that, in terms of recent human experience, changes in climate and sea level could accelerate to unprecedented rates;
  • thirdly, that human tinkering with the global climate system could have unforeseen catastrophic consequences (e.g., ‘runaway’ warming or sea level rise from strong positive feedbacks); and
  • finally, that the quickened rates of change could exceed the capacity of natural and human systems to adapt without undue disruption or cost.(1)

In other words, it’s the classic consensus position that the build-up of human carbon emissions rather than natural factors is driving climate change and that we may be heading for disaster. What’s right about this hypothesis?

Continue Reading »

Published by on 11 Jul 2008

How the Hadley Centre spins the data on non-warming

Paul MacRae, July 11, 2008

Mystification is the process of explaining away what might otherwise be evident.

— John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research is in a spot of bother at the moment.

On the one hand, the Hadley Centre is a firm believer in the hypothesis that humans are the main cause of global warming and that we’re heading toward catastrophe. It even devotes several of its web pages to waving a nagging finger at those foolish enough or unprincipled enough to believe otherwise.

On the other hand, the Hadley Centre, as part of the British Meteorological Office and one of the world’s foremost climate-monitoring sites, is also churning out data showing that the planet isn’t warming at the moment, and hasn’t for the past 10 years or so. Clearly, increasing human carbon emissions aren’t causing the warming that was expected.

What to do? Continue Reading »

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