A Headline That Will Make Global-Warming Activists Apoplectic

The BBC is responsible. The article, by the climate correspondent Paul Hudson, is called “What Happened to Global Warming?” Highlights:

For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise. So what on Earth is going on?

And:

According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.

The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

For much of the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was in a positive cycle; that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too. But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down. These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years.

So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles. Professor Easterbrook says: “The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling.”

So what does it all mean? Climate change sceptics argue that this is evidence that they have been right all along. They say there are so many other natural causes for warming and cooling, that even if man is warming the planet, it is a small part compared with nature.

Let the shouting begin. Will Paul Hudson be drummed out of the circle of environmental journalists? Look what happened here, when Al Gore was challenged by a particularly feisty questioner at a conference of environmental journalists.

We have a chapter in SuperFreakonomics about global warming and it too will likely produce a lot of shouting, name-calling, and accusations ranging from idiocy to venality. It is curious that the global-warming arena is so rife with shrillness and ridicule. Where does this shrillness come from? Some say that left-leaning activists have merely borrowed their right-leaning competitors from years past. A reasonable conjecture?

In other climate-change news, here’s an interesting piece in today’s Times by Andrew Revkin and Clifford Krauss about the apparently large value in stemming even small leaks of methane at natural-gas facilities. That’s because methane is far more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.


Derick

Very interesting. Unfortunately, because it doesn't go along with the orthodox source-of-funding doctrine, this will never be considered by decision makers.

I think it's unfortunate that our culture is in a state where we can't have an intelligent debate on the various questions surrounding global warming and what can/should be done about it. Good evidence like this is brushed off by "the arguement from intimidation," generalities about "what science says and what's just a lie" and the whole issue is oversimplified into some binary war between true believers and deniers.

It's really a complex issue about which there are more than two possible positions. And I think industry and the environment are both suffering because we look at it in such a naive, polarizing way.

Steve

Why did you stop the the quotation there? Why not include the following?

"The UK Met Office's Hadley Centre, responsible for future climate predictions, says it incorporates solar variation and ocean cycles into its climate models, and that they are nothing new.
In fact, the centre says they are just two of the whole host of known factors that influence global temperatures - all of which are accounted for by its models.
In addition, say Met Office scientists, temperatures have never increased in a straight line, and there will always be periods of slower warming, or even temporary cooling.
What is crucial, they say, is the long-term trend in global temperatures. And that, according to the Met office data, is clearly up."

A.

The current issue of Science has a short reply to (I think) Hudson's article. I've only read the title of that reply, but I may be able to access the article again today.

DaveyNC

The shrillness comes because to challenge the notion of anthropogenic warming is to challenge the religion of many people.

The "believers" are utterly convinced that man is causing the warming, despite the presence of a giant, burning ball of fire in the sky.

I will make a prediction. When the oceans have risen, what is it---a foot, two feet---in one hundred years, then people will.....move inland a few yards to avoid getting their feet wet. There; catastrophe averted!

noah

The deniers and the activists are both dishonest. The deniers refuse to consider any evidence presented to them and often ignore fundamental science. The activists claim that climate change is a "scientific fact" even though it is not a fact in the same sense as most things we consider facts. All climate data has a sample size of 1. We have no other planets to compare to or run experiments on.

Gravity is a fact, verified by countless experiments. We have not come remotely close to verifying a hypothesis that would "prove" climate change in the same way. Concern about climate change is warranted, because fundamental scientific fact lends credence to the possibility and the potential consequences merit concern.

To say that global warming is a "fact" is just as dishonest as saying that it is a lie. It is real possibility with dangerous consequences that we should try to mitigate. Making it more than it is does more harm than good.

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Joel M

Davey- I don't know what this new data means. But your understanding of ocean levels is wrong. If an ocean rises by 2 feet, then all coastal land, that is only 2 feet above the ocean gets flooded. In many places, that would go far inland, far beyond a few feet. It wouldn't take much to cover large parts of Florida and other coastal areas.

James P

What about ocean acidification?

There's more to climate change than a few degrees on the thermometer or a few feet of seawater in your yard.

I will make another prediction: Even when the last fish floats belly up in Puget Sound, there will be people denying anything manmade is happening.

John

Deniers favorite claim to make is that we haven't seen an increase in temperatures since 1998 (as seen here as "in 11 years").

1998 was abnormally hot due to El Nino. It's what most people would call an outlier.

If you look at the rest of the years, it's extremely clear that the trend is rising and we'll soon be at levels similar to 1998

DaveyNC

Global warming isn't happening at the moment; the planet is cooling. Climate change is a constant, though, and to believe that warming is bad is to believe that the climate we had before Al Gore made his slideshow was the ideal climate for the planet.

If you think warming is bad, wait until cooling gets going full blast.

Izzy Stone

As someone concerned about climate change, I always thought it was a mistake for Al Gore to put himself front and center on climate change, since inevitably he's tagged as a partisan figure (at least in the U.S.) and reflexively ignored by half the country. This has heightened the idiotic partisanship and political correctness surrounding this issue. The Hollywood love-fest that accompanied "An Inconvenient Truth" was another episode of Gore's political tone-deafness, since it probably made conservatives that much more eager to write him off as a limousine liberal.

(I believe the case for climate change is strong enough to take action. We should at least have been taking the relatively easy steps for ten years now, since strong ice core data has been available. What will really happen is very uncertain, but some effects are turning out to be worse than models predicted.)

C

The discussion of global warming is one that reminds me of the book by Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, in which he discusses the major discoveries in science through the history and stories of the scientists who made them. If I learned one thing from this book it's that we don't know as much as we think we do and only history will tell who was on the right side of this argument. Or is that two things?

Let us not forget there was a time when all of the world's most intelligent people thought the world was flat.

Michael F. Martin

Both sides have gotten too publicly committed to particular theories to learn anything from each other, or maybe even themselves. Landsberg has it about right categorizing environmentalism as religion. It is dogma (or creed, if you prefer) as much as argument.

Ryan Thiessen

Where does this shrillness come from?

The early deniers were made up from right wing partisans, often directly financed by companies with a bias in pretending that the science wasn't real. This of course is extremely antisocial and with a problem as severe and widespread as global warming the correct response is to react severely to this extremely antisocial behaviour.

The right wing deniers built up so much ill that now even legitimate criticism is met with the same ridicule, as nonscientists have little way of knowing if the criticism is valid or not.

You can make a direct parallel to any attempt to do scientific studies on race or gender. Sexism and Racism were of such societal impact, and were defended for so long, that people can't get used to the idea of legitimate science looking into those areas.

DaveyNC

@6 Joel: No, I understand that. I also understand that that two foot rise will, according to the commonly mentioned projections, occur over a 100 year time period. So let me amend my previous prediction:

Over the next 100 years, as oceans rise, people will...move inland a few yards, as necessary. There! Catastrophe averted! And their feet still won't get wet. We're very mobile, you know? Always have been.

Jim

The shrillness comes from years and years of being ignored, due to an economy driven by only a single value measure: monetary value. I would have expected a more even-handed treatment of this subject from a group that espouses looking at non-monetary factors and influences, but at the end of the day it seems it still comes down to the dollar.

William

"It is dogma (or creed, if you prefer) as much as argument."

Well, no. No one has an inherent desire to believe global warming is true and looks for post hoc justifications. People look at the data and think, "Hey, it's warming." They look at the purported causes and think, "Hey, that makes sense both logically and empirically." It is imperfect, incomplete, with a large margin of error. These are all admitted flaws. But it is a result of rational inquiry of the data and the science.

The denial, however, is generally the opposite. Because belief in global warming is seen as "liberal", as part of the "scientific elite", or as a tool for "big government", there is an immediate rejection, prior to any review of the science or data. This does not qualify as skepticism, because skepticism is rational and informed. Even the "Skeptical Environmentalist" agrees that warming is happening to some degree. And there is rational and informed skepticism about what, if anything, should be done about any global warming. But as time marches own, global warming denial is looking more and more like creationism, in both practice and intellectual rigor (or lack thereof.)

So what's qualifies as dogmatic? Seeing a clear trend in data and provisionally attributing reasonable and potential causes of the trend or, denying it outright and poorly rationalizing it post hoc because of its perceived ideological underpinnings?

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cirby

Steve:“The UK Met Office's Hadley Centre, responsible for future climate predictions, says it incorporates solar variation and ocean cycles into its climate models, and that they are nothing new."

Except that they never mentioned it before the lack of heating came up, and have a bad recent history of not being open with their data.

JamesP:"What about ocean acidification?"

That's the newest bugaboo, to replace global warming, er, climate change, er, whatever. The problem is that in the past, the oceans have been much more acidic than is even predicted by the doomsayers, and ocean life thrived (yes, even coral - it turns out that coral isn't that susceptible to acidification.).

The big problem with all of the global warming fans is that they keep making huge predictions, then when the predictions don't pan out, they just generate a new (flawed) computer model showing how the Big Heat will come up some time in the not-too-near future.

Up until the last couple of years, we were told - repeatedly - that the globe was heating EXACTLY as the models predicted. When we found out that the models were broken, they immediately went to the "there are ALWAYS variations" line. Funny - there weren't variations in their predictions until they became postdictions.

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charles

Denier? Deny what? Please take a page on thought from Dyson. The conclusions being drawn by climate change "experts" are intellectually dishonest. Worse, the models are terrible (don't include major players like soil microbes ad the new-found dampening feedback loop) In addition the domain is one which no "expert" can truly exist as one could in, say, dentistry. Now, that being said, it's only common sense that we limit, to the degree possible, what we toss into our back yard. I'm an environmentalist, just not a foolish one. Lastly, what do we really want? Climate "stay the same" isn't an option in a complex system. Do we want short cycles of cooling and warming, do we want to subvert long cycles - i.e. long-term climate management? Fighting "climate change" is about the worst label for a cause that I could think of. We don't even know what we want. I'll take a denier any day over an over enthusiastic former politician with a podium and a prescription for salvation.

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jblog

What? The globe isn't really warming?

*Sheesh* next you'll be telling me Pluto isn't a planet and childhood vaccinations don't cause autism.

DavidCOG

This shock! amazing! story can be condensed down to:

Regional weather presenter for the BBC writes a blog entry that demonstrates he is illiterate with regards climate change science. His blog entry is promoted to the main site by an equally scientifically illiterate editor.

That's it. That's all that has happened.

It's telling that the Deniers have so little to work with when they get hysterically excited by such a non-event.