Who turned down global warming?

Emperor penguins huddle against the coldThe Australian, a newspaper in, well, Oz, reports that global warming appears to have stopped in 1998, that 2007 saw a 0.7°C drop in temperature, and that sunspot activity suggests we may be entering a period of global cooling again. Despite the mass hysteria at Al Gore’s hot air concerts.

Sorry to ruin the fun, but the ice age cometh

[…] Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is falling precipitously. […]

Then a regular reader (hat tip: Hard Rain) sent me a post by Tim Blair, an Australian blogger, which saved me half the trouble. He covers the subject more than just well, and includes a reference to my favourite ((True, I don’t think I know more than one.)) Czech physicist, Luboš Motl. Lumo, as he signs his posts, noted that despite what the media believes sells well on climate change (panic! doom!), the Amazon.com bestseller list begs to differ.

Lumo also has an interesting titbit on Al Gore’s film. Remember those ice cliffs that he waxed so lyrical about? When he almost got tears in his eyes over their spectacular beauty, and the thought that one day, they might be gone? The producers of the alarmist blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow must be proud. After all, they made the computer-generated images.

I have often said (though I’m not sure whether I’ve written) that by 2030 or so we’ll all be worried about the next ice age. Warming appears to have reached a peak in 1998, and solar activity appears to be heading for a new low. As the Australian (article, not blogger) suggests, solar output is more closely correlated to temperatures measured on earth than atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which anyway seem to be an effect of global warming, not a cause. Solar activity also accounts for the strange up-down-up temperature trend (despite steadily rising carbon dioxide) of the 20th century, as well as for the 1000-year temperature maxima and minima that Michael Mann tried to erase for the benefit of the UN IPCC.

The hockey stick is broken

This point about the influence of the sun on climate (well duh!) is made in several books on the subject, and is summarised well in The Great Global Warming Swindle, an excellent polemic made for Channel 4 in Britain last year. (You can buy it on DVD, or if you’re lucky download it from Google Video. It’s well worth watching, if you haven’t yet seen it.)

The Cooling World, Newsweek 28 April 1975It would seem that the ice age alarmism is starting already, just as global warming alarmism started just about when Newsweek published its infamous cooling panic story in 1975. Pity Newsweek recanted in 2006. Upon publishing a story by Sharon Begley on the global warming “denial machine”, for “Newsweek Project Green”, the editor wrote:

Our story is not a piece of lefty cant. […] In 2040, will the editor of NEWSWEEK hold up this week’s issue as an alarmist and discredited report in the tradition of 1975’s “global cooling” story? One can hope, for that would mean America and the rest of the world had reversed the effects of warming so quickly that climate change will seem as rare and remote as polio. But I fear our successors will find that our concerns were the right ones, and that we were on the safest of scientific ground this week. Denying reality does not make it go away. Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things.

No, it didn’t take until 2040. It took just a couple of weeks, before this story itself was shredded by an editorial which described it as a “moral crusade”, “self-righteous indignation”, a “vast oversimplification” and “a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading”. And that was just Newsweek‘s self-criticism. Guess they should have stuck to their global cooling guns in the first place.

Good thing they call it “climate change” now, so the media can sensationalise, we can panic, and bureaucrats and activists can claim our money, no matter what happens.

Update: After all that, I forgot to add the link right at the top of the post, to The Australian. Fixed now.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    Argh… I can’t resist replying. So much for ‘ya basta-ing’.

    Sure, science doesn’t dictate policy, but it should certainly inform it. One of your central arguments for us not taking any action is that there is no evidence that (1) the globe is warming due to our activities, and (2) we can do anything to stop it. Despite the conspiracy theories you advance (see Phil Plait here and here), climate scientists have established beyond all reasonable doubt that (1) and (2) are false. Human forcing causes GW, reducing that forcing will limit future knowledge (as far as we can establish), so exploring the best ways of limiting emissions is a good idea.

    There are political philosophy questions here, no doubt, but even libertarians agree collective action is required for certain projects – national defense, for example. Were an asteroid bound for earth, would you oppose intergovernment action? Even if it required more taxation for funding the mission? If AGW is real, would you still oppose action?

    To be clear, just because you’re a non-expert doesn’t make you stupid. Your seeming inability to understand and respond to criticisms appropriately suggests a lack of a meta-cognitive ability to recognize the limits of your ability. I’m yet to see any evidence of real knowledge of climate science, yet you claim to know ‘a fair amount about it’.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Yes, it is. My argument is that the entire theory has to be rebuilt from the ground up, in a transparent and honest manner. The technical details of the scientific issues you managed to raise (after you’d finished insulting my intelligence) are indeed peripheral to the honesty and reliability of the scientists involved.

    Furthermore, even if it is a catastrophic crisis, arguments about an appropriate policy response are based in economics and political philosophy, not science.

    And don’t act all hurt. Given sufficient time I could answer most of the barrage of issues you threw at me. However, I do not have the time, and more importantly, my arguments rely on none of those points and their validity or otherwise don’t change the validity of my position. Besides, I’m not very inclined to indulge you if you can’t write two paragraphs without insulting me.

    You’ll undoubtedly read my refusal to make you a full-time project as a concession on my part. Have fun. Brag on your blag. Maybe it’ll land you a real job, paid with real taxpayer money, to preach at the incompetent masses without opinions.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    The science of climate change is peripheral to making climate change policies? Interesting.

    Very well. I’ll take my annoying nitpicking – you know, all that silly “evidence” and “reason” stuff – to my blag.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    You’re a sanctimonious liar. Your “conscientious” effort consisted not in checking my claims, but in attacking me personally on your own blog, questioning my competence, and challenging my right to an opinion on climate change policy.

    I feel no obligation, moral or otherwise, to waste time responding to comments that exaggerate or misrepresent what I wrote, bury the real issues of public policy under contrived technical detail, or consist of mere name-calling. Why should I spend my Sunday, or indeed any day, indulging your endless nitpicking about matters that have only peripheral relevance (if any) to the arguments in my columns, which largely turn on matters of principle, procedure and policy?

    No, I do not concede I was wrong about GISS. Obstinate, I know, but that the data in question are available now does not change the fact that it was once actively removed from public availability, and it took legal action and public scandal to get it back. One set of files disclosed by the GISS was quietly published on New Year’s Eve last year, after two years of stalling. That’s “suspect”, in my book. That puts it in the same league as the CRU, where we now know the high priests of global warming would rather delete data than to obey the law concerning publicly-funded data.

    By the way, that last link of yours (three comments up) is also broken, though the irony is rich.

    And there’s an end to it. Basta.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    Reread fail… That should have been “seemed” and “preposterously”.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    Ah, that’s 4 more than I thought; I stand corrected. I do try to be conscientious, you see. I read a good chunk of what you’ve written about climate change. Since I check your claims, posting comments seem natural.

    The homework jibe was snide and condescending, yes. But you claim to know a lot about climate science. I’m yet to see any evidence of sustained engagement or analysis of a single scientific paper. (Point me in the right direction, if there is one). You see, journalists who read the literature they write about – Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, etc – show evidence of it, including by writing proper columns and blog posts on papers they’ve read. You don’t. That makes me more than a little suspicious.

    Arrogance is one of my (many) faults. I try to work on it. But I’m not nearly arrogant enough to dismiss an entire field which I lack the expertise to understand in the first place. That is preposterous arrogant. It’s the pot calling a grayish kettle black.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    I didn’t say you have a moral obligation to me. You obligation is to society, and, indeed, yourself. C.f. William Clifford.

    You don’t like lots of objections at once, fine. Let’s do one, shall we? The GISS’s list of stations in available online. As far as I can make out, it’s been available from 2005 onward. You claimed otherwise. Do you concede you were wrong?

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    I counted them. You wrote 10 comments in 6 days, sometimes on posts which are several years old.

    Most of those comments contains multiple points ranging from spurious references to thermohaline circulation to polar bears, all wrapped in a delightful confectionery of presumtion and personal insults. There is even a “homework assignment”. And you call me arrogant?

    I’m not prepared to spend time I don’t have to argue against such never-ending missionary zeal, sorry.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Oh, I’m a climate expert. I forgot I keep claiming that. Are you actively trying to make a fool of yourself?

    I have no moral obligation to you at all. I am not proposing a huge, all-encompassing theory about catastrophic human influence on the climate. I am not the one who proposes costly and oppressive regulation to be imposed by force upon others. I merely expect honesty and objectivity from scientists, rather than propaganda and policy advocacy.

    What I’ve done is cite, usually by quoting people more knowledgeable than I, a number of reasons to disbelieve the alarmist position. In principle, only one of the many essential premises of their theory need to be shown to be suspect for the entire edifice to come crashing down. I am not raising a contrary edifice, but merely say that we don’t know enough about climate to assert the truth of the AGW theory or impose draconian measures upon people. Therefore, I do not have the moral obligation that the AGW alarmists have to not only convince their victims of the necessity of action, but to be honest and diligent in their research. They have failed on both counts.

    Meanwhile, I have pointed to a number of reasons to oppose the grand social engineering project of the alarmists, even if their pet theory were in fact true. These include the speculative nature of any claimed benefit, the excessive time-frame over which such a benefit might accrue, the definite loss of liberty and increased poverty these measures will impose, and the existence of many projects upon which we might spend those scarce resources that have greater, more immediate, and more certain benefits.

    I have spent hours answering a long list of objections, and shown that you are consistently wrong in both your logic and your facts. I’m not prepared to spend more time digging up notes and research and references every time you raise a new issue of only remote relevance to the actual point I was making, namely that your heroes are snake-oil salesmen on a public-money gravy train.

    Besides, this is the last time you’ve insulted me. Your incessantly condescending ad hominem attacks trump my “overweening self-confidence”, my “incompetence”, my “narcissism” and my “intellectual arrogance”. It may not have occurred to you that by accusing someone of being subject to “the Dunning-Kruger effect” (unoriginal though it is), you’re not only being painfully pretentious, but are laying yourself open to exactly the same charge. Your style of debate is essentially puerile. It demonstrates that you haven’t really outgrown the schoolyard. Next you’ll be blowing raspberries at me.

    Have a lovely day.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    I find your complaints about a “barrage” of comments quite precious. A half dozen comments over the course of a week is hardly a ‘barrage’. And here I thought you’d welcome being challenged…

    Re my chocolate analogy. Do you make a habit of misreading and misrepresenting people’s statements? CO2 lagged warming at the end of the last ice age. It’s not lagging it now. So, either you deny CO2 is a greenhouse gas (which would be stupid) or you think there must be a negative feedback loop that would alter the net trend. If the latter, I’d appreciate a citation or two.

    Ah… the good old trick of taking quotations out of context. From this NYT piece:

    “”I’m involved in 102 of the e-mails,” Trenberth said. “I don’t see anything embarrassing to me particularly. There are a few things that can be taken out of context, and they have been.” That includes the line about a “lack of warming,” which Trenberth says was part of a longer message intended to highlight shortcomings in scientists’ understanding of recent temperature fluctuations. “We’ve always had some problems with the observing system,” he said. “It’s obviously not as good as we would like, and that’s true of the temperature record, as well. What this is saying is we need better observations. What it’s not saying is that global warming is not here.”

    Ah, but a forensic accountant would be able to assess Enron’s claims on their merits, no? A climate expert like yourself can surely evaluate RealClimate’s claims on their merits? The claims are wrong because…?

    Look. You’re taking a strong public stance on a very important issue. The consequences of GW are possibly severe or even catastrophic. You therefore have an acute moral obligation to make sure your position is in fact correct. I have pointed out several misconceptions, false statements and misrepresentations that you have committed. The mark of a good thinker is the willingness to keep an open mind and to stand corrected. I see very little evidence of either. Your overweening self-confidence smacks of being unskilled and unaware of it.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Yes, quite so. There are many ways to gain weight, and if eating chocolates lagged your weight gain, it clearly wasn’t the chocolates. Thanks for making my point.

    On the clouds point, permit me to quote an expert, Kevin Trenberth: “[We] are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!”

    They’re clueless, and they admit it amongst themselves, while presenting a brave face of confident consensus to the world.

    Besides for 404 error pages, you keep quoting RealClimate.org in support of your views. Yet you have the gall to call me biased. Do you know who runs RealClimate? Next you’ll be quoting Enron’s website to show that Enron wasn’t a fraud, because it claims to have an “objective assessment”. Your faith (or your gullible streak) clearly runs deep.

    For what it’s worth, I’ll be travelling a great deal during the next six weeks. I try to make a point of responding to comments on my columns. But while while I’m blubberingly grateful for the consideration you show in trying to be charitable, I cannot afford the time to respond in detail to a daily barrage of comments of such dubious provenance.

    We clearly disagree, and since you keep saying I have no right to an opinion because I’m no expert, I fail to see the point in continuing this charade.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    You’re misunderstanding Jones’ point. See: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Did-Phil-Jones-really-say-global-warming-ended-in-1995.html and http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/daily-mangle/. As you’ve pointed out yourself, the climate is chaotic and complicated. Detecting a signal amidst the noise is hard. The more data points we have, the easier this becomes. That there is a signal over the 20th century is established beyond reasonable doubt.

    Ummmm… Climate models *do* include clouds. While the net effect they exert is uncertain, they certainly don’t produce net forcing sufficient to undo global warming. See: http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/04/models-dont-have-clouds.php. I’m trying hard to be charitable. But recycling such a silly myth makes me rather suspicious of your claim to extensive knowledge about climate science.

    How reliable are climate models? Quite reliable, especially since such models successfully predicted recent increases in temperature. See: http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm

    Erm. GISS’s list of stations are freely available online, here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/. Also the CRU’s data is not unreliable, since it corresponds well to other proxy data. See: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/are-the-cru-data-suspect-an-objective-assessment/

    No climate scientist has ever said we would observe linear temperature increases due to increased CO2 concentrations. There are a massive number of factors that impact the climate, CO2 is only one of them. Saying there is such a linear relationship would be as absurd as saying a person’s weight is linearly correlated with chocolate consumption. Obviously, you can eat more chocolates, eat less other food, and do a lot of exercise and as a consequence lose weight. Observing this, however, would obviously not disprove the ‘calorie theory of weight gain’. Claiming CO2 is a greenhouse gas entails only that ceteris paribus increasing CO2 will increase temperature. (And within certain limits. Nobody thinks you can reach a billion degrees Celsius if you add enough CO2).

    CO2 has in some instances lagged global warming, yes. But, obviously, that doesn’t mean CO2 doesn’t cause global warming. Believing this is equivalent to saying since at one point you eating more chocolates lagged your weight gain, chocolates can’t cause weight gain. There are many ways to gain weight, and eating lots of chocolates is one of them. See also: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/co2-in-ice-cores/

    You might want to look at this introductory video: http://climate.nasa.gov/warmingworld/.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Yet just a couple of weeks ago, even Phil Jones, the former head of the East Anglia CRU, has admitted that there has not been statistically significant warming in the last 15 years.

    Besides, warming that is consistent with models that exclude cloud dynamics doesn’t say much about the reliability of the models. Clouds may well have the biggest impact in terms of both positive and negative feedback in the climate system, so it’s no surprise they need to add all sorts of speculative forcings supposedly from human activities to make the models work.

    Quite frankly, I do not rate computer models. They’re incomplete and inaccurate representations of fantastically complex systems. They’ve had to spend years adding cheats to make them model the past anywhere near well, so why expect them to predict the future accurately?

    As for the GISS data, that’s also very suspect. They removed their list of stations from public servers the moment someone dared check their location, condition and the adjustments applied to the data they produce. Why would they wish to hide the source of their data? Their data is just as shoddy as the CRU data, as far as I can tell.

    Either way, the fact remains that temperature cycles do not follow the linear increase in CO2. In fact, temperature does not follow CO2 concentrations at all. Quite the contrary. CO2 historically follows global temperatures, suggesting that cause-and-effect is all confused in the minds of those who want to put regulatory brakes on man’s productive use of inexpensive energy.

  • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

    Can’t say this post as dated well, eh? As you’ve no doubt seen, 2009 is tied for the second hottest year on record, and the naughties is the hottest decade on record. (Specifically: the instrumental record).

    These increases are consistent with AGW. They are not consistent with models that exclude forcing from human activities.

  • keith

    You are so right. Changing the Chicken Licken slogan from Global Warming to Climate Change is brilliant. If temperatures rise it’s because of nasty capitalists. If they fall, you can blame the capitalists also. It’s worthy of Goebbels himself. The Rev Al Gore is a typical soapy evangelist in the Elmer Gantry tradition, his receipt of a Nobel Prize notwithstanding. Anyway, the Nobel Peace Prize commitee came within an ace of giving it to Adolph Hitler in 1933.

    More power to your elbow. How about a book?

  • James

    I too am a little skeptical of the whole global warming shindig, but I guess we should also be skeptical of a newspaper article from Oz claiming what a lot of scientists believe is not happening. Has this new research/data been published in a scientifically recognized journal? The skeptics should not fall into the same trap that the greenies do of accepting any old news titbit as fact.

    Great blog, man.

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  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    @ Mandy: Which is why it’s rather nice to know that global warming isn’t a problem, so we don’t all have to stop producing stuff and starve half the world to death. I’ll agree that Gore is talking is pocket-book, which is fine in a free market. I’ll agree that he went about as far as possible, which is plenty far enough. But describing him as some right-wing capitalist is a bit odd, unless you’re a little far to the left of your average anarcho-communist revolutionary.

    @ Hard Rain: The problem with fondue parties is they’re cutting into the profits of good old-fashioned industrial-scale meat farmers and MSG merchants.

  • http://hardrain.iblog.co.za Hard Rain

    Oh come now, Ivo! Everybody knows the present cooling trend is merely the effects of Global Dimming masking the Global Warming which is masking the Global Ice Age which is masking the Global Heating from increased fondue parties! 😉

  • http://mdw.typepad.com Mandy de Waal

    Oy! Ivo. Don’t be putting words in my mouth. The Ex-Next-President of the United States of America may be a naive capitalist and an egoist, but that doesn’t make him Goebbels. And for sure he attracted significant attention to (himself and) global warming. The big question for me is did he go far enough? As a rampant capitalist he stopped just short of showing what’s really causing global warming, and I tell you the paper recycling campaign he’s got going on at his home isn’t going to stop it. What its going to take is for the US to cut back on a manufacturing economies overly reliant on energy (fuel). But the effects of that are about as frightening as the next ice age. I guess its what you’d call your typical lose-lose situation.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Gore as Goebbels. Good idea, thanks. After all, we’ve established that Gore, with all the sacrifices he made to research his subject, has on a number of occasions, shall we say, engaged in creative circumlocution.

  • http://mdw.typepad.com Mandy de Waal

    Propaganda’s an interesting thing. Goebbels knew that if you told a lie often enough people would begin to believe it.

  • Mick

    Remember never give in. Keep calling it Global Warming and call them out on predictions and data.