I have written some critical pieces about both the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, in connection with what they state about climate (see here, for example), and the latest State of the Climate 2014 (there have been two earlier ones, in 2010 and 2012) is no improvement, at least in my judgment. It is highly focussed on warming and future warming, confident where it ought to be cautious, and apparently ignorant, not even dismissive, of other data, other evidence and other argument.
‘The Report at a Glance’ says further warming is occurring in Australia, as is happening globally. This change is occurring against the background of high climate variability, but the signal is clear. What signal are we talking about? There is no signal of ‘further warming’ globally, other than in terms of minuscule variations. There has been no significant warming in 18 years. How can they distinguish the signal in the midst of the high climate variability? No one else can, to the best of my knowledge, and the authors give no indication of the skill they have.. This is not a persuasive beginning to what ought to be a dispassionate and careful account of the data
We go on: Air and ocean temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950. Yes, but it might be more helpful to say that the increase was not linear, that much of the warming occurred in the last quarter of the 20th century, and that it has not continued appreciably in the new century.
The same section offers ten dot-points, each of them hammering away (at least in my judgment, again) at the notion that all this is bad — different rainfall, more warming, more CO2 (the highest levels for at least 800,000 years), higher sea levels, more and less rainfall, more bush fires. A reader who is not aware of the problems with these data, and the lack of verification and validation of the models on which so much of this is based, would begin to worry. What is going to happen to us all? How can we stop it?
Ah, here we go: Multiple lines of evidence indicate that it is extremely likely that the dominant cause of recent warming is human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and not natural climate variability. Now, what recent warming are we talking about? There hasn’t been any since 2002. We must be talking about the warming from about 1975 to 1998. But if human-induced greenhouse gas emissions were responsible for that warming, why haven’t they been equally as powerful in the new century? There is no discussion of such an obvious rejoinder. Oh, and no one has yet been able to show that the hypothesised link between greenhouse gas emissions and increased temperature is certain, or that it is the dominant cause.
All of the warmest 20 years on record have occurred since 1990. Really? What about the hot years of the 1930s? Where do these data come from? How confident can we be about their accuracy? In any case, as I pointed out in a recent essay, no one doubts that the last twenty years have been warmer than those in the 1950s; the point at issue is that there has been no continuing increase of any significance, despite the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. The Report comes with an Appendix about references, but there is no link between the text and the references.
Now comes the really worrying bit: ‘Future climate scenarios for Australia’. There is no discussion of what a scenario is, or how these ones have been generated, or the problems with them. We pass quickly from ‘projections’ to ‘reality’: These projected changes in temperature will be felt through an increase in the number of hot days and warm nights and a decline in cool days and cold nights [emphasis added].
What’s going to happen? It’s all bad. Southern Australia will have less rain, but there’ll be more in the north. More heavy rain in most parts of the country. But more fires, just the same. Sea levels will rise, perhaps to nearly a metre higher, despite the fact that Sydney Harbour’s Fort Denison tide gauge show a rise of less than 1 mm a year over the last 130 years.
The take-home message: Reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions would increase the chance of constraining future global warming.
How do the wise people at the Bureau and CSIRO know all this? Projections are based on our assessment of changes simulated by many climate models from around the world, including Australia.
I have to restrain myself, so what follows is my attempt to be measured and cool. When government agencies provide reports on the state of affairs, I expect them to be dispassionate, based on publicly available data, and to at least indicate where there might be reasonable differences of opinion.
There is not a single reference in the Report to any difference of opinion, or to any data that would be at odds with the message — that warming is bad, and we have to curb it. There is not the slightest suggestion that more CO2 is good for plant life, and therefore for animal life, including our own. There is not the slightest suggestion either, that a warmer climate is, for virtually all living things, a better one, or that the the increase in CO2 has led to a measurable greening of the planet. There is not the slightest suggestion that simulation from models is not an accurate guide to anything in the future.
In short, this is not a rational or soundly based scientific report, but a quasi-religious one, pounding the lectern to warn us that we must change our ways. It is intellectually bankrupt, and a disgrace to both the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO. That the mainstream media faithfully reported it, without a single question about all the obvious flaws in it, is yet another sign of the lack of professionalism in today’s media.
And how on earth did the Coalition Government allow it to be published in this form? Did no one ask to see it before it was published?