Heat and cold — they’re everywhere

There has been a lot of talk recently about how the world is warming because we in eastern Australia have had a couple of months warmer than usual for the time of year. It fascinates me that when the weather is warmer it must be climate change, but when it is colder that is just weather, or natural variation, or of no real concern anyway.

There is no doubt that August and September were warmer than usual, but it is a useful corrective to see what was happening elsewhere. And you can do this by going to the website Climate4you, where you can check temperature around the world on a monthly basis (as well as much else). In August Australia was warmer than usual, as was Japan and eastern China, but most of the rest of the world was colder. In September, yes, Australia was warmer again, as was Canada and the midwest of the USA, but South America, Europe and eastern Canada were all colder than usual. What does it mean? Until someone comes up with  a compelling theory backed by excellent observations, I’m inclined to say it means there’s a lot of variation from time to time and from place to place.

A fellow inquirer into ‘climate change’, Madhav Khandekar, who lives and works in Canada, but was born in India and learned his profession as a statistician there, has sent me a copy of a paper he wrote about how India is an obvious example of the benefits of global warming, about which I wrote the other day. It was published in Energy & Environment in 2006 (Vol.17 No.5), and you can read it here. It is a simple story, but its point is that India has rocketed ahead in productivity, food production and standard of living at a time when the IPCC was warning of ‘the deleterious impact of Global Warming’.

The paper concludes: In summary, India today has done well by adapting to the warmer climate and associated climate change. Indians do not mind hot weather, in fact they thrive on it! The India Meteorological Department has increased its mandate and personnel substantially in recent years and has developed improved capabilities for foreshadowing of the summer Monsoon rainfall and associated variability. Extreme weather events like Bay of Bengal cyclones striking coastal regions of southern India are monitored at present with improved technology and this has resulted in reduced human and property losses in recent years. 

In his email to me Madhav has made some perceptive comments that are worth thinking about, for example, ‘IPCC science is, in my view, is very narrowly focused on Global Warming’s adverse impact, based again only on a few examples of “how heat waves in Europe could harm Europe and other nations!”‘

 And then an extended comment: I often felt that this whole business of ‘the adverse impact of Global Warming’ was conceived by scientists who lived primarily (most of their lives) in mid-latitude ‘cool/cold ‘ climates, and had very little idea how people in South Asia, in particular, lived in a perpetually HOT climate — and even prospered there. I grew up in central India and recall vividly maximum temperatures of 118F (~46C) during many afternoons of May (when all schools would be closed for the summer vacation). By the first monsoon rainfall, early in June, the temperature would drop by as much as 5-7C,  sometimes in just one hour!
With the IPCC’s first couple of reports expressing ‘concern’ regarding high temperatures of 40C and above as ‘dangerous’ for humanity, I almost laughed! Why did not the IPCC consider a low temperature of -50C, which occurs most winters in parts of Siberia where a large Russian population lives, as ‘dangerous to humanity’! This past winter (2013) a paper by two Russian scientists … claimed that extreme weather, heat waves, droughts etc occur as the long-waves get trapped due to blocking etc! One of them being interviewed (on You Tube, I think) mentioned that ‘A maximum temperature of 32C is unliveable for humanity!’
I hadn’t thought of that simple explanation for the IPCC’s insistent focus on the adverse effects of warming, but I think there is something to it. We all tend to compare whatever it is to what we know. If someone says that the world could get 2 degrees warmer, we add two degrees to what we experience, as though it would happen every day, although that wouldn’t in practice be the outcome. I can live with 40 degree C summer temperatures, because I’ve known them ever since I was a small boy. If a few of them were a little higher, would I even notice?
More crisply, where I live the temperature range over the years is 52 degrees Celsius, from a real minimum of minus 10 to a maximum of 42. There is quite a lot of adaptation there. Incidentally, Canberra’s highest temperatures were recorded in 1968.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Those with a whimsical bent could find it interesting to track the public pronouncements of organisations and significant individuals that promote the cause of AGW; (I emphasise the anthropogenic part of the equation, which is so often quietly ignored). As well as displaying graphs of mentions in the media, it would be interesting to see how quickly the smarter ones start to realise they’re flogging a dead horse.

    The quieter the notables become, the louder will be the strident cries of the faithful, until they too leave the field, muttering angrily to the baffled crowd in the stands, “Your grandchildren will pay for this!”

    But perhaps not in India, or those other places which to European pores, have always been unseemly hot.

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