My essay about the language of the warming scare drew an audience larger than usual, and coincided with other examples of the use of language by some of the AGW orthodox (in my opinion) to deceive and distract. Let me start by making something as clear as I can. The last ten years have been warmer than the ten years before. But significant warming has ceased. Are these statements contradictory? No. They would be if I had written for the second statement: ‘The last ten years have seen a global cooling’.
The simplest summary for the last two decades is that by and large nothing much has happened. It hasn’t got warmer and it hasn’t got cooler. Some years it goes up a bit and other years it goes down a bit. Some are waiting for the next el Nino, which should jack up the temperatures a bit, and some are expecting things to get colder still. I wait and see. Inasmuch as the global temperature anomaly means anything, it’s all we’ve got to go on.
It fascinates me that the orthodox will not concede what the data so obviously show. You can see it in a familiar graph (familiar anyway, to those who follow the story of warming) of global temperature change from 2001 to 2014, using the average of the five principal global temperature datasets:
I used an earlier version of this graph last year, when the trend showed a very small amount of warming; this more recent one now shows a tiny cooling trend. What did the Summary for Policy Makers of AR5 do about these incontestable data? It ignored them. Instead, the SPM says something else that is also true: that every decade since the 1950s has been warmer than the preceding one. If the current trend continues to 2020, no later SPM will be able to make that claim. In any case, the SPM claim is beside the point: CO2 has gone up and up, and temperature has not, over quite a long period.
Here’s another example. A fortnight or so the Obama Administration released the National Climate Assessment, and that hardly made it into our news media, because it is about the USA. You need to know that President Obama is committed to AGW, but has trouble getting his desired legislation through because he doesn’t control Congress. The Assessment is a mammoth document, and I haven’t read it all by any means. But it is enough to read some of the language in the early pages. On page 1, for example, we learn that Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. In fact, over the last ten years, and on the evidence, ‘climate change’ has become a less serious issue, and it is plain that we have some time to find out more about it.
What makes me grind my teeth is that this is supposed to be a scientific appraisal. The language is, however, that of the marketer, or the copywriter for television ads. Some of what is stated cannot be right, but it is boldly asserted, such as the claim that there are more tornadoes now. There aren’t, as Roger J. Pielke Jnr has pointed out. I hate this perversion of science. You can find out all about the NCA by going to its website, and go to Judith Curry or WUWT for the wide-ranging discussion of it. In fact, you can find a serious and pointed dissection of it by dissenting climate scientists on a recent WUWT post, here.
Example three: the great Antarctic disaster. Last week a paper was accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters warning of the ‘collapse’ of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which was ‘unstoppable’. The italicised words are there because they were used in the media discussion of the paper by the authors, and they have technical meanings. It is a ‘collapse’ in the sense of the collapse of the Roman Empire, and thought to be unstoppable because the sub-surface topography of the ice sheet points towards the sea. If it all happened, the authors said, it would take several centuries if not more, and that could raise sea levels by 4 feet. You can read all about it most usefully in a New York Times piece by Andrew Revkin, in his dot.earth blog.
What happened in the media? ‘Unstoppable collapse’ became the topic for the day, and a four-feet increase in sea levels, which might not ever happen, and would not happen in a dozen lifetimes even if it did, morphed into a four–metre increase. Indeed, I heard Margaret Throsby on Classic FM and her scientist guest going into the ghastlies about the threatened prospect, which would end Bangladesh and other seaside nations. Plainly neither had read anything other than media comment. The Governor of California thought that Los Angeles airport would have to be moved (it is 38 metres, or about 125 feet, above sea-level). Why would you say something that is so wrong — and so easily checked? (His office corrected the statement a day or so later.)
Example four: at the time of writing comes another scary story about the link between wildfires in the USA: more fires and worse fires in California and Arizona over the last year or so. What caused them: ‘this is what happens when the earth warms’, said one of the authors. And the actual evidence is clear:
Wildfires have been declining in number since 2006, and over the last 27 years the numbers rise and fall and then rise and fall again, as they do in Australia. Why? Rainfall and fuel load are the key factors. California and Arizona have been dry over the last few years because when we get rain from la Nina conditions they get drought. So in the US South West they’re looking forward to an el Nino later this year. ‘Bring it on!’ they cry.
How could a scientist state confidently that something is the case when it isn’t? The earth isn’t warming, either. And if it were to warm significantly again, there should be more rain, because more heat > more evaporation > more rain — somewhere, at least. Perhaps, as some sceptics say, the frenzy gets louder and more acerbic because the evidence is going the other way.
This stuff makes someone like me bad-tempered, in part because it is dishonest, in part because it leads to bad policy, and in part because it weakens science. An end to it! I say.