Archive for the ‘scepticism’ Category
My book gets a 5-star rating in this review by former Science and Technology Counsellor at the British Embassy in Beijing, Professor Robin S Porter:
This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about climate change and our need to urgently address its causes. Part of the reason for the delay in doing so has been the rise of a debate in recent years in which one side has denigrated the scientific evidence for man’s role in creating the problem. This `denial of science’ by politicians, journalists, economists, people representing vested interests, and even by some scientists, is the focus of this book. Martin Lack documents the personal statements and published arguments of these climate change sceptics, deconstructing them, and finding all too often very little of substance that would undermine the now broad scientific consensus that human industrial and economic activity has contributed very substantially to the process of climate change. While the book deals primarily with climate change scepticism in the UK, the conclusions Lack draws have implications for all of us, wherever we happen to live.
As well as being a tutor for one of the modules on my MA at Keele (looking at the Environmental Politics and Policy in India and China), Robin has also had a book of his own published (via conventional means) on the recent history of China, which is entitled From Mao to Market: China Reconfigured…
As far as my book is concerned, there is still no Kindle version for sale on Amazon but an eBook version is available via AuthorHouse.com for $3.99.
So said Lord (Julian) Hunt, Vice President of GLOBE and a former Director General of the UK’s Meteorological Office, in an article published in The Times newspaper on 2 April 2013 (behind paywall). Fortunately (for me and all those without a Times subscription), the text of what appears to be the same article has been released to the media by the British Embassy in Beijing. This is presumably because Lord Hunt refers to China.
However, without further comment from me, here is the article in full:
It was the chilliest Easter Day on record, and last month is the coldest March for at least 50 years. But we are not alone in shivering. Across much of Europe, temperatures have been unseasonably cold. In Germany, this has been called a once in a “100-year winter”.
We should not be surprised. It has long been expected that climate change would bring more weird or extreme weather — not just cold but rain, droughts and heat waves — to the UK. So longer spells of colder winter weather are consistent with this. As were drought conditions around this time last year, followed by many months of heavy rain which resulted in the UK experiencing in 2012, the second wettest year on record.
Extreme weather has become more frequent across the world. Australia started 2013 with a record breaking heat wave. Similarly, a heatwave in the US in 2012 (the warmest year on record for mainland America) contributed towards widespread drought which proved devastating for many crops. Russia also experienced its second warmest summer last year. This follows the country’s hottest summer on record in 2010 with states of emergency in seven Russian regions as a result of brush fires, while 28 other regions were put under states of emergency due to crop failures caused by drought.
And then there is the steady increase in peak rainfall rates. These have doubled in South East Asia,for instance over 30 years. It is such a problem that the Malaysians have built a huge SMART tunnel (or Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel) in Kuala Lumpur which doubles up as both a motorway and a six-mile long pipe to cope with flash floods. A similar less pronounced trend is occurring in the UK, which help explains the rise in localised, incredibly heavy showers which have brought flooding from Cumbria to Cornwall. This is caused by a change in the atmosphere called “vertical mixing” in which cumulus clouds become stronger and bigger.
In the UK, the trend is likely to be towards colder winters as a large part of Arctic ice melts permanently (as now happens every summer). The winds over the ice-free ocean could then push colder currents up to Iceland and the Arctic ocean. And as a result of colder waters from the North, the northern UK, in particular, may no longer enjoy the same level of warming from the Gulf Stream as it did when the sea ice boundary was further south.
It is these colder oceans which help to rebut one of the more common arguments used by sceptics to argue that “global warming has stopped”. They often point to graphs which purport to show that Earth’s temperature has not risen in 16 years. But that graph combines land and ocean temperature. Separate the two, and you see that on land temperature is still rising — 0.3℃ over the past decade. More dramatically, in China it has risen by 2℃ over the past 50 years, and 3℃ in the Antarctic over 30 years.
The drop in sea temperature is not just taking place in the Arctic, where the ice is melting, but equally strongly in the eastern Pacific, where winds off the South American coast bring deep, colder waters to the surface. Normally this La Niña phenomenon lasts for three to five years. However, it has been active for more than a decade, caused by easterly trade winds along the equator that have been strengthened by general warming of the atmosphere. When La Niña finally falls away, some time in the next few years, the surface cooling will end. This will increase temperatures over large areas of the globe, disrupting agriculture and fisheries in many countries, and pushing up food prices.
Fortunately, even some sceptics are won round when they experience the problems themselves. The scepticism of some Russian officials has disappeared as they have seen the permafrost melt in the north of the country, and watched the effects of prolonged heatwaves and droughts.
Responsible nations are preparing for the effects of climate change. However, all governments need constant encouragement, in the face of financial austerity and the claims of sceptics, to expand programmes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It is critical they do so, otherwise future generations will have more to worry about than a freezing cold Easter Sunday.
For all those people who have not been duped into believing in the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas, Lord Hunt is someone whose opinions should carry weight. Experts are real and so is anthropogenic climate disruption. So, then, I really do hope that climate change denial will founder on the rocks of reality (and the sooner the better it will be for everybody).
What we know is this: As a whole (including the oceans), on average, over the long term, the Earth is getting warmer; and that it is doing so at a rate equivalent to – or in excess of – that at which it emerged from the last Ice Age. Therefore, since we were already in the middle of a warm inter-glacial period, the question remains, which one of these are we now witnessing:
ACD = Anthropogenic climate disruption; or
AGW = Anthropogenic Global Warming?
One is consistent with the reality that Earth’s climate is complicated (whereas the other is not). One is consistent with the fact that it can be unusually cold in one place whilst unusually hot somewhere else (whereas the other is not). One is consistent with the bulk of atmospheric physics; thermodynamics; and the Laws of conservation of Energy, Mass and Water (whereas the other is not).
Have you worked out which is which yet? If not, any or all of the following may help:
This post has been prompted by an exchange of comments I have been having with Patrice Ayme – on my previous post (i.e. here) – that I feel deserves wider exposure and/or appreciation. However, if you have not the faintest idea what I might be on about, please be patient: This post is not too long and, if you read to the end, I believe all will become clear.
The image shown here is the cover of one of the two main course texts I had to buy in order to do my MA in Environmental Politics at Keele University in 2010-11. It is an excellent introduction to the subject of environmental politics and the concept of discourse analysis.
It is in this book that John Dryzek puts forward his own particular method of discourse analysis – analysing the things people say or have written – suggesting examination of: (a) the basic entities people recognise or appear to construct; (b) the assumptions they make about natural relationships; (c) the agents they recognise and motivations they assume; and (d) the key metaphors and rhetorical devices they use.
In the sphere of environmental politics, Dryzek suggests that it is possible to classify people on the basis of whether they appear to believe sustainability can be achieved by reformation of the status quo; and the extent to which they are thinking “outside the box”; as follows:
After Dryzek Box 1.1 on page 15 of The Politics of the Earth (2005).
In essence, economic rationalists assume market forces can be used to solve environmental problems; whereas ecological modernisers think it will take more than that.
This then was the starting point for my discourse analysis of climate change scepticism, which I have now published as The Denial of Science. However, in order to propose a similar classification of climate change scepticism, it was necessary to take Dryzek’s basic idea and combine it with what I have called the ‘Six Pillars of Climate Change Denial’ that I extracted from Robert Henson’s The Rough Guide to Climate Change:
The atmosphere may not be warming; but if it is, this is probably due to natural variation; but if it isn’t, the amount of warming is probably not significant; but if it is, the benefits should outweigh the disadvantages; but if they don’t, technology should be able to solve problems as they arise; but if it can’t, we shouldn’t wreck the economy to fix the problem (after Henson 2008: 257).
As I explain in my book, I simplified this summary of the positions adopted by those who are supposedly sceptical, in order to produce my Dryzek-style classification of climate change denial, as follows:
(1 – ACD is not happening)
(4 – ACD is not worth fixing)
(2 – ACD is not significant)
(3 – ACD is not problematic)
Contrarians are those refuse to acknowledge the nature of reality.
Cornucopians are those (like Julian Simon) who do not believe action is yet required to address any anticipated effects of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD). They are named after Cornucopia, the horn of the goat Amalthea in Greek mythology, which Zeus endowed with a supernatural power to provide an unlimited supply of food etc.. As such, Cornucopians have unlimited confidence in the abundant supply of natural resources; the ability of natural systems to absorb pollutants; and their corrective capacity to mitigate human activities.
Economic Rationalists are defined and discussed by Dryzek (2005: 121-42) but, for the sake of argument, can here be taken to be synonymous with Karl Marx’s “money fetishism” as cited in Elster (1986); and/or Herman Daly’s “growthmania” (1974).
Prometheans are those (like Bjorn Lomborg) who propose radical technological solutions including environmental stabilisation of the atmosphere by means of geo-engineering. They are named after Prometheus, one of the Titans of Greek mythology, who stole fire from Zeus and so vastly increased the human capacity to manipulate the world. As such, Prometheans have unlimited confidence in the ability of technology to overcome environmental problems.
In a nutshell, my discourse analysis of climate change scepticism (i.e. the most prominent climate change sceptics in the UK) appears to suggest that the majority of these “sceptics” are either contrarians or economic rationalists. However, I suspect that as the outright denial of reality and the need to address the problem of ACD both become increasingly untenable, I think more and more people will try and find solace in either cornucopian or promethean beliefs.
In the discussion that I alluded to at the outset of this post, Patrice Ayme did not like the way in which I appeared to disparage the importance of human ingenuity (by suggesting that people who believe in both Cornucopianism and Prometheanism are deluded). I am pleased to say that we have now resolved any misunderstanding by agreeing that Prometheanism is the best option. However, crucially, we also agree that, in order to avert an ecological catastrophe, we will also need to modify our behaviour. That is to say, neither faith in Nature’s bounty (Cornucopianism) nor faith in human ingenuity (Prometheanism) should be used to deny our responsibility for causing the problem or to abdicate responsibility for doing everything we can to minimise its consequences.
Great stuff, hey? All we need to do now is get those with the power to make policy decisions to do the right thing.
(In conversation with a “technological optimist”)
I was so impressed by the ‘Growth Delusion’ article by Nick Reeves (published on this blog on Monday), that I decided to bring it to the attention of members of my extended family and to one person in particular (who has asked to remain anonymous). What follows is just over 2000 words in length but it made no sense to me to arbitrarily divide it up into pieces (you will either be interested or you won’t)…
I started by pointing out what I feel sets this article by Nick Reeves apart – the facts and figures that he has compiled in order to back-up his argument that human civilisation cannot survive in the long term unless it acknowledges that technology alone cannot solve our problems. Here are two examples:
– Agriculture: It is true that, globally, we waste an awful lot of food. Therefore, we could feed a lot more people if we eliminated this waste. However, as Nick Reeves points out, global agriculture today is an industry that converts oil into food. Therefore, what will it do when the Earth runs out of hydrocarbons (and phosphorus)?
– Industry: The era of cheap energy has come – or is coming – to an end. Meanwhile: how can China consuming 53% of the World’s cement production; 48% of the World’s iron ore; and/or 47% of the World’s coal… be described as anything other than unsustainable?
In response, my anonymous relative insisted that Nick Reeves facts were nothing of the sort; and implied that he/she thinks I am misanthropic and unduly pessimistic. My anonymous relative is very clearly a technological optimist, but I prefer to think of myself as an environmental realist.
What follows are 10 points made by my anonymous relative; with my refutation appended to each one in bold text:
1. He [Reeves] claims that the economic crisis was a consequence of dangerous speculation on the part of the banks. This is not a fact. The alternative hypothesis is that it was a consequence of rotten policy-making by government leaders who believed that they knew what was best for society at large. I hope this is not a statement of faith in some vague global conspiracy to install global socialist government (of which I too would disapprove). I hope also that you are not suggesting that the solution would have been weaker regulation.
2. He attributes short-term trends in commodity prices solely to demand considerations, but gives no corresponding analysis to what might happen on the supply side, simply taking it as a given that reserves will wither and making no reference to the possibility of finding new reserves at any point. Thankfully, Antarctica is protected from exploration (which I am sure will one day become viable). Sadly, the Arctic is not so protected. I hope your faith in technology and human ingenuity can keep pace with increasing demand.
3. His “facts” about the growth of China are also disingenuous. He refers to a historical growth rate of 10% pa and then projects that this will continue, even though the available evidence shows that this growth has not continued and may well soften further over the coming years. Thankfully, China’s growth rate has dropped from 10%pa to 7%pa, which means the doubling time for its economy has increased from 7 to 10 years. This is still nowhere near being environmentally sustainable.
4. Likewise, his estimates of Chinese cement, iron ore, and coal use are all based upon an enormously imbalanced economy in China, where government policies have long repressed consumption and incomes among ordinary Chinese workers in order to drive through massive infrastructure projects, many of dubious value – a model of uncertain merit, but which some experts have deemed to be economically unsustainable. Consumption of resources is the problem – it does not matter who is doing the consuming. Think of all the rare earth metals required to give everyone in China a new mobile phone.
5. The claim that lost-cost hydrocarbons will be a distant memory by 2050 may prove true, but until we get a little closer to that date, this is not a fact, but rather an assertion, and one with considerable uncertainty attached given the volume of known coal reserves in the world. Higher retail prices for hydrocarbons increases oil company turnover but a fivefold reduction in EROEI for unconventional fossil fuels does beg the question as to when you stop flogging a dead horse.
6. The idea likewise that a depleted supply of hydrocarbons risks global economic collapse is also open to debate. Even if one agreed with his view (unproven) that we are about to run out of hydrocarbons, I would still question the inevitability of economic collapse. Everything would depend upon the timeframe and upon the extent to which prices throughout the journey are left to reflect the realities of supply and demand, as opposed to the political priorities of people who think they know better. Your questioning of it does not make it any less likely to happen. The last financial meltdown was triggered by lending money to risky people. The next one will be a global debt crisis resulting from the end of the era of “cheap” energy (which has made the success of the last 200 years possible). If we do not plan – and put into place – a transition, collapse is almost inevitable. This is a lesson we should learn from population dynamics in biology.
7. Similarly, his point about the recycling of metals is hardly a statement of facts. If these commodities were so precious as he makes out the fact is we would be recycling more of them, and many of our consumer products would have much shorter replacement cycles. To make these claims with no consideration either of the estimated reserves of un-mined metals still under the ground or of the history of metals exploration is surely a significant oversight? Please remember that I am a geologist, [name redacted]. I find it deeply depressing to admit that much of what my fellow geologists do is, in effect, treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation. However, denial is not a river in Egypt; and a business that is selling its assets to generate turnover will eventually be bankrupted.
8. The risks to food supply, to a greater extent than is true of other resources, I am inclined to take seriously. However, many of the issues here are not about resource constraints, they are about political constraints – immoral European subsidies, an unwillingness to support the development or application of GM crops, the shameful subsidies to turn sugar and corn into ethanol, and the diversion of water resources away from agriculture for environmental purposes are all excellent examples from the developed world. As a hydrogeologist, I am already aware that groundwater mining is a reality in almost every arid country in the World. Food supply problems are a little more distant but, just as a spike in food prices contributed to the Arab Spring uprisings two years ago, increased extreme weather events of all kinds are going to make such spikes more frequent in the future.
9. And his solution to the food problem – organic farming – is just hilarious. Every serious scientific study I have ever seen on this subject tells me that global-scale organic farming would lead to mass starvation. What is wrong, I ask with just letting prices do their work? In a resource-starved world, I would expect a much greater proportion of the world simply to go vegetarian. Now I have no problem with organic practices, but you tell me that the facts here speak for themselves. So where is his evidence that organic farming can do the trick? His comment here is again just an assertion. I am not opposed to GMOs because they could damage the environment. I am opposed to them for the same reason I disapproved of Nestle selling powdered baby milk to mothers perfectly capable of breast-feeding their babies. Technology may be very useful but it is useless if you have no fuel to use it. On a global scale, therefore, low-tech solutions locally-sourced may well prove more resilient.
10. The fact is, at every turn, he is looking for the angle, not the fact. Arctic ice levels are indeed very low – and lower than some (but not all) models predicted 15 years ago. But if he is going down this route, why just pick this piece of evidence? Why not also talk about the trends in temperature? Are they tracking ahead of schedule too? When one reads something like this, and detects zero scope for uncertainty, it is hard to take the presentation of his “facts” seriously. I am not sure what models predicted faster collapse of Arctic sea ice. The reasons for the hiatus in global surface temperature rise in the last 14 years (or so) are well understood. You are just parroting junk science peddled by merchants of doubt. I would like to see you dismiss all the other positive feedback mechanisms now starting to make their presence felt – such as thawing permafrost which last year released more CO2e that humans did in 2010.
I could go on, but I am not sure much would be served by it. Martin, you and I come at the world with very different world views, and also with different knowledge sets. When I read something like this piece, I am afraid I don’t see facts and logic. I see emotion and anger. I also see a lack of faith in humanity as a whole, a distaste for our species and for our civilisation that is frankly not only misguided but also profoundly depressing. I do not presume to understand your world view (apart from that imposed on you by your chosen career). However, for the record, I am neither a progressive nor a liberal, and I do not believe in ‘big government’. I just believe humans should take more responsibility for their actions. I am socially and politically conservative with the sole exception that I do not believe in the delusion of growthmania or that technology can and will invalidate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What I find depressing is that so many think we can win the fight modernity has picked with science. The history of human civilisation is replete with examples of those who – whether they understood it or not – lost just such a fight.
Despite having rebutted all the points made, my anonymous relative responded by ignoring the opinions of the vast majority of climate scientists; focussing on what he/she repeatedly referred to as significant uncertainty; and personalising all predictions of near-term problems as if they were merely my opinions.
And so it went on, with emails backwards and forwards. I tried very hard to point out that: I am merely reflecting the opinions of the vast majority of climate scientists; the uncertainty is now vanishingly small; the IPCC has spent decades under-reporting the scale of the problem we face; and there is an ongoing business-led campaign to discredit the science and the scientists. However, the harder I tried to do this, the more (it seems to me) my anonymous relative appeared to feel I was attacking him/her personally.
I was told my moral certainty (about the need to act) was a cause for concern: I responded each time by referring to the facts of history and the opinions of the World’s professional bodies. However, each time, it was as if I was accusing my anonymous relative of personally orchestrating the campaign of denial.
When I highlighted my concerns regarding Richard Lindzen’s misleading and hypocritical presentation in the Palace of Westminster over a year ago (of which I had first-hand experience), I was told I was being “preposterous”. My suspicion of Lindzen was countered with suspicion of some (un-named) mainstream scientists.
When I cited the Geological Society’s carefully-worded public statement regarding climate change, I was told that believing my “doomsday scenario” to be suspicious did not require the invocation of conspiracy theory. What I never got, however, was any valid reason to dispute the scientific consensus.
Finally, my anonymous relative suggested that it would be best to bring our exchanges to a close but only after once more insisting that climate science is uncertain and/or corrupted and that I am misanthropic (with my final observations added [in square brackets]):
Nonetheless, climate science has implications that are clearly political rather than scientific [I agree]. This is true really of any area of science where the stakes are high and the uncertainties are significant [repetition of a lie does not make it true]; and this, unfortunately, does tend to encourage people to talk about things that are really based upon personal value judgements [yes it sure does], as if they were scientific fact. I have seen this, not just within the public domain, but in scientific establishments and within professional scientific bodies [i.e. equating consensus with the corruption of science]. You do it too, by discounting uncertainties [what uncertainties?], by interpreting everything as a contest of two polar-opposite world views [because they very probably are], and in your distaste for modernity [my distaste is for the collateral damage modernity has caused].
This is unbelievably frustrating, it is as if I have just wasted a fortnight trying to explain something to someone who is physically incapable of listening.
There is an awful lot of rubbish spoken about climate change scepticism.
I have had a very busy week this week: preparing and delivering a Powerpoint presentation to students doing one of the options I did on my MA two years ago; preparing for and going to a job interview; and starting to proof-read the first draft sent back to me by the publisher of my forthcoming book, The Denial of Science: Analysing climate change scepticism in the UK (conceptual design for the book cover is shown here).
In between all this, I have somehow managed to read and respond to posts on a number of blogs by people who seem to want to insist that there is still some significant room for doubt about whether or not human activity is the primary cause of the climate disruption we are now witnessing.
Over on Learning from Dogs this week, Paul Handover has published an interesting series of posts culminating in an open letter to his “sceptical” friend Dan Gomez. My response to this was quite firm (and perhaps a little more polite than those I submitted to the previous posts). However, even this seems to pass some people by; leaving them still claiming that climate science is too abstract for most people to have a settled opinion regarding our current predicament.
Perhaps then, the problem is that they are focussing on the science – and feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of it all – when they should be focussing on the track-record that big business has for attempting to discredit science and scientists that threaten the viability and morality of the marketing of their products.
For any readers who are not familiar with any of the above, you may benefit from reading the comments submitted in response to all of the posts in Paul Handover’s mini-series (which may be accessed via the link above).
However, I am going to simply reproduce here my most recent comment on the unknowispeaksense blog:
That is an illuminating story, Michael. However, with regret, I am bound to point out, as I have done elsewhere, that there is nothing very“abstract” about the ‘The Organisation of Denial’ (Jacques et al., 2008).
On the contrary, climate change denial is a morally bankrupt, selfish, self-serving and ultimately self-defeating campaign being waged by the fossil fuel industry to preserve the profitability of its business interests; and delay inevitable changes in energy policy that need to be made ASAP by both individuals and governments.
For those who have not been subscribers to this blog for very long (and cannot wait for my book to be published), you may want to catch-up on the issues alluded to here by reading some or all of the posts below; and pursuing any links (within them) that spark your curiosity:
Update: 12 March 2013:
My book has now been published.
A kindle version will be available soon.
See the book’s Facebook page for more info..
Regular and longer-term subscribers to this blog may recall some of my exchanges with Doug Swallow (a.k.a. jdouglashuahin) who claims to be a US citizen resident in SE Asia somewhere. Whoever or wheresoever he may be, English is clearly not his mother tongue; and rationality is clearly not his strong suit.
Anyone who is not familiar with Doug Swallow, should take a quick trip to the Climate Asylum blog of Barry Bickmore, Professor of Geological Sciences at the Brigham Young University in Utah, where Doug’s entirely repetitious modus operandi is played out in one single (lengthy) exchange:
Those of you who need no such reminder may wish to cast a quick eye over the exchange of comments leading up to those appended below, over on Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week blog (search for “jdouglashuahin”). However, even if you cannot be bothered to do that, the following is pretty self-explanatory…
charleszeller: To revisit this site is like making a trip through the graveyard with the ghost of Martin Lack howling like a banshee and, as usual, saying nothing and that is about like the video that I wasted 11 minutes watching a guy trying to sell books and no where addressing my challenge about providing an experiment that shows that the amount of a trace gas, CO2, at .037-9% of the total atmosphere and that naturally decreases with altitude to where at 18,000′ there is only 50% of the atmosphere there is at sea-level present, nor have I seen any link or information coming from you about this experiment ever having been done let alone an answer to the point about the mathematical derivation of CO2 forcing.
The reason I do not generally say much to you anymore, Doug, is that I have previously said it all (and so have you). Furthermore, as many others have said, the fact that you go from website to website endlessly repeating the same questions and cutting-and-pasting the same spurious information tends to suggest you are being paid to waste the time of people who are trying to clear the fog of misinformation peddled by the fossil fuel industry (i.e. as was the well-documented tactic of the tobacco industry before it). Either that, or you are not paying attention to the rebuttals you receive, or you are simply incapable of understanding their implications.
Whichever is the case, your repetitive request (reminiscent of [most-recently] Matt Ridley on the GWPF website) to be given the results of laboratory experiment that proves that CO2 is the primary cause of warming presupposes that the vast majority of relevantly-qualified scientists (who have concluded that it is) are either being stupid, illogical, or mendacious. Unfortunately, such a presupposition can only be made by people who believe in a scientific conspiracy or believe that they are cleverer than the climate scientists themselves. This is not only highly improbable; it is not consistent with all the available evidence (i.e. of both historical industry-led misinformation campaigns and of theoretically-deduced science validated by empirical observation and computer modelling).
However, I am already repeating myself so I will simply conclude by apologising for my earlier impolite remarks (which were prompted – but not justified – by your unfounded, illogical and disparaging remarks about my blog). Goodbye.
Dear Peter, Can you confirm whether this contribution from Doug is the longest-ever single sentence comment your site has received? Credit where credit is due it; it is a pretty impressive piece of syntax avoidance.
I hope he took a breath during that.
I admit that, in the above, some of my own sentences are quite long, but, they do at least make sense. However, if this were not so sad (and/or evidence of criminal insanity and/or intellectual incapacity), it would be funny.
A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and – as atmospheric physicists have been warning us for over 50 years now – this will result in more frequent and more extreme weather events of all kinds.
A recent opinion poll in the USA suggested that people who were skeptical of scientists are being convinced by the evidence of their own eyes. About time too, people; welcome to reality!
A big (possibly historic) winter storm just hit the Northeast of the United States — and climate change played a role in making it stronger.
Unusually warm ocean surface temperatures put more energy and more moisture in the storm, making a mess of roads and power grids.
This graph shows how climate change is making big storms more likely.
Still not convinced? How about this from James Hansen (et al) last July [PDF]:
The greatest barrier to public recognition of human-made climate change is probably the natural
variability of local climate. How can a person discern long-term climate change, given the
notorious variability of local weather and climate from day to day and year to year?…
We illustrate variability of seasonal temperature in units of standard deviation (σ), including
comparison with the normal distribution (“bell curve”) that the lay public may appreciate. The
probability distribution (frequency of occurrence) of local summer-mean temperature anomalies
was close to the normal distribution in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in both hemispheres (Fig. 2).
However, in each subsequent decade the distribution shifted toward more positive anomalies,
with the positive tail (hot outliers) of the distribution shifting the most.
Figure 2. Temperature anomaly distribution: The frequency of occurrence (vertical axis) of local
temperature anomalies (relative to 1951-1980 mean) in units of local standard deviation
(horizontal axis). Area under each curve is unity. Image credit: NASA/GISS…
Yet the distribution of seasonal temperature anomalies (Fig. 2) also reveals that a significant
portion (about 15 percent) of the anomalies are still negative, corresponding to summer-mean
temperatures cooler than the average 1951-1980 climate. Thus people should not be surprised by
the occasional season that is unusually cool. Cool anomalies as extreme as -2σ still occur,
because the anomaly distribution has broadened as well as moved to the right. In other words,
our climate now encompasses greater extremes.
What then should we learn from all this analysis of historical weather data?
We should not be surprised by the storm that has just hit the NE of the USA.
For this spoof of the Anglican version of the Nicene Creed I apologise to all those who lack a sense of humour:
We believe in some gods,
like Professor Ian Plimer,
writer of ‘Heaven and Earth’,
of all that is mean and not green.
We believe in some lords; John Christy
and in Richard Lindzen.
Endlessly they are proven wrong and yet still,
from their shite we recite,
true lies from sad guys,
opinions, not facts,
of one thing we are certain,
through them all truths were made.
For us and for our salvation
they came down from science:
by the power of our human folly,
they became embedded in ideology,
and made their plan.
For our sake they were crucified by climate scientists;
they suffered ‘death’ and were ‘buried’.
On the third day they rose again
in accordance with the sceptics;
they returned to their jobs,
and are seated in academic tenure.
They will come again in future to fudge the reason and the facts,
and their soapbox will have no end.
We believe in the wholly spurious, our god, the slither of doubt,
which precedes our judgement of evidence.
With the money and the vice it is worshiped and glorified.
It is supported through the profits…
We believe in one wholly cynical and irrational church.
We acknowledge one purpose; for the pursuance of greed.
We look for the perpetuation of growth,
and the life of the World to shun.
[Please be seated]
Copyright © Martin Lack 2013
To mark the occasion of James Delingpole making a complete ass of himself once again by publishing an article in the Daily Mail, which drew this response from the Met Office…
As regular readers of this blog will know, I submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission last October regarding David Rose’s similarly repetitious attempts to paint the Met Office (MO) as either incompetent or willfully deceptive. Sadly, the PCC were forced to deal with my complaint because the MO declined to get involved (even though the PCC asked them if they wanted to). I am afraid I got tired of the obfuscatory responses submitted by the Mail on Sunday and told the PCC to just go ahead and make a decision. However, the PCC have said I can publish their decision in the case, so here it is:
Commission’s decision in the case of
Lack v The Mail on Sunday
The complainant was concerned that an article, which reported on new global temperature data, contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. In particular, he considered that the article had misleadingly referred to the update of HadCRUT4 dataset as a report. The complainant emphasised that global warming has never been consistent, and was therefore concerned that the article had implied that the data showed that the Earth’s climate had stopped changing, and that carbon dioxide had not contributed to such changes as had occurred.
Under Clause 1, the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”.
The Commission first considered the complaint in relation to the description of the data update as a “report”. This appeared only in the headline, and was not used to describe the update elsewhere in the text of the article. The Commission noted that it considers headlines in the context of the article as a whole rather than as a standalone statement. This is due to their brevity – they can represent only a limited summary of a potentially complex set of circumstances. The Commission noted that in the body of the article it was made clear that this referred to the update of the HadCRUT4 dataset on the Met Office’s website. Given this, the Commission did not consider that the reference was significantly misleading, as readers were made aware of the precise way in which this new information had been released.
The Commission noted that the complainant did not dispute the fact that the new data did not show a significant increase in temperatures over the last fifteen years. Instead, his concern was that the article wrongly implied that climate change had stopped, and that carbon dioxide had not contributed to previous increases in temperature. The article had made clear that there was disagreement between climate scientists as to the significance of the data, and to the potential for drawing major conclusions from it. As such it was apparent from the article that there was a variety of expert opinion as to how the new data was to be interpreted. Furthermore, the Commission noted that in the accompanying commentary, the newspaper had made clear that the plateau in temperatures did not mean that “global warming won’t at some point resume”, had stated that global warming was real, and that carbon dioxide had contributed to it. As such, the Commission was not able to find that the article was in this way misleading. Although the headline referred to climate change having “stopped”, it was clear from the article that this was not necessarily permanent. The Commission was aware of the complainant’s view that the article had contained other inaccurate and misleading statements; however it noted that the complainant had repeatedly declined to specify these, and consequently the Commission was not in a position to comment further. As such, there was no breach of Clause 1.
Reference no. 124521
As I have said in comments on the Met Office blog, I really do think that the time has come for the Met Office to stop issuing rebuttals and take these idiots to Court.
UPDATE (15 January 2013): As I have said to Barry Woods in the comments appended to this post…
I repeatedly referred the PCC to other websites where all the factual inaccuracies had been explained in detail – such as The Carbon Brief – and made it clear to the PCC that I had much better things to do with my time. In other words, I made a conscious decision not to waste more time on my complaint because it was obvious the PCC was not going to find the Mail on Sunday guilty of any offence (under the Code). However, that does not make the Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, or James Delingpole any less guilty of repeatedly publishing very misleading articles…