There They Go Again

The New York Times announced that according to NASA and NOAA 2016 was the warmest year on record as had been the two preceding years. Every year at this time, the media and environmental advocates make similar announcements about the prior year either being a record setter or one of the hottest on record.

By now, most people just yawn at such announcements because they have been told the same tale for so long that it has lost its meaning, as it rightfully should. Relying on their common sense, they also realize that with the exception of a few very cold or very hot days the temperature most days is what they expect. Common sense trumps the orthodoxy.

Claims of record setting temperatures and dangerous warming make good stories but don’t conform with reality. Satellite temperature measurements show no statistically significant warming since 1998. 2016, like 1998, was an El Nino year, which means it was warmer than non El Nino years. NOAA reports that the 20th century average temperature was 52 degrees F, while the average for the years between 2000 and 2015 have been 53.3 degrees F. Clearly, the 16 years prior to 2016 years were warmer than the century average but so were the 16 years starting in 1930 which was 53.2 degrees, with 1934 was 54.9 degrees, the same as last year. A difference of 0.1 degrees for comparable periods is hardly news worthy.

Differences between recent averages average and the century average is overstated for a couple of important reasons. Newer measuring devices—thermisters—that make continuous measurements measure warmer than older thermometers which took measurements twice a day. So, earlier warming was understated and those prior measurements required adjustments, which may or may not be accurate. In addition, urban and suburban development has created more heat islands than existed for most of the 20th century. While NOAA/NASA make adjustments for those two factors, those adjustments are estimates, not precise corrections.

MIT professor emeritus Richard Lindzen’s reaction to the latest report provides a clear perspective to the annual hand wringing about annual temperature changes: “To imply that a rise of temperature of a tenth of a degree is proof that the world is coming to an end — has to take one back to the dark ages.” …“As long as you can get people excited as to whether it’s a tenth of a degree warmer or cooler, then you don’t have to think, you can assume everyone who is listening to you is an idiot.”

Scientific American: Misleading And Not Informative

A January 13 article in Scientific American attempted to undermine a statement by Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing. In answer to a question, he said, “said “our ability to predict” the effect of increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere “is very limited.” Scientific American asserts, “That’s not entirely accurate. Beyond defining its own interpretation of the meaning of “is very limited”, the article conflates a scientific fact with professional judgment and computer model outputs to reach a conclusion that is not valid.

Scientific American makes the point that scientists “ability to make predictions based on a particular theory corresponds to the number of times they’ve verified that theory using different lines of evidence: The more verification, the more likely it is that their predictions will turn out to be accurate. To start, scientists have verified the theory of the greenhouse effect, which says that gases like CO2 trap the sun’s heat. It then states the obvious that the warming potential of CO2 “is no longer a matter of prediction.”

There is no disagreement that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and contributes to the planet’s warming. Without it, the average temperature would be below freezing. Beyond the fact that CO2 warms the planet, there is no evidence that the professional judgment of climate scientists and advocates is a good proxy for scientific facts concerning the climate system. And, the models that predict significant warming– that has not occurred over past 20 years– include assumptions that have not been validated. That helps to explain why the models do so poorly.

Physics has established that the warming potential of CO2 is non-linear which means that the warming associated with the next increment to the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is less than the one that preceded it. For CO2 emissions to be responsible for more than half of the warming that has occurred over the past 50 years, it would be necessary for climate sensitivity to be much greater than any empirical evidence suggests is likely.

The statements made by Scientific American concerning warming over the past 50 years are based on the subjective probabilities and professional judgment of scientists who participate in the IPCC process. Scientific American would do well to explore the research foundation of Group Think as well as the work of Daniel Kahnamen and Amos Tversky who demonstrated the biases that influence even the most capable. In short, we are not as rational as we think. Michael Lewis’ most recent book The Undoing Project is a good introduction to Kahnamen and Tversky research.

Scientific American cites the high confidence of scientists that “global warming will lead to changes in the climate, including a rise in extreme weather events and sea levels. This is also no longer a matter of prediction”. Again, that statement is based on professional judgment, not established science. Carl Wunsch, one the world’s leading oceanographers, stated some years ago that sea level has been rising since the end of the last ice age, almost 20,000 years ago, and will continue to rise until the next one. The understanding of the human contribution is in its early stages because advances in measurement technology have been in place only a little over a decade.

The claims about extreme weather are pure advocacy rhetoric as has been shown by the work of Professor Roger Pielke In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives where he made the following summary points: “There exists exceedingly little scientific support for claims found in the media and political debate that hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and drought have increased in frequency or intensity on climate timescales [periods of the 30-50 years and longer] either in the United States or globally. These conclusions are supported by a broad scientific consensus, including that recently reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth assessment report”.

Since its series of attacks on Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2002, Scientific American has continued to demonstrate that Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto was probably correct in labeling it a “a liberal political magazine.” It’s treatment of Rex Tillerson’s comments on climate change was political journalism.






Who’s the Real Denier?

Climate advocates apply the pejorative term “denier” to anyone who does not genuflect at the altar of climate orthodoxy. This term is intended to discredit, not inform. But, is it a true that those who raise questions about the climate orthodoxy are really deniers?

It is not necessary to get wrapped up in a debate about climate sensitivity, solar impacts, cloud formation or other processes that influence our climate. All that is necessary is to compare predictions that have been made since the start of the climate catastrophe campaign with the empirical evidence we have today on how the climate system has actually performed.

In 1988, then senator Al Gore and NASA scientist James Hansen made a number of alarming predictions about an impending climate apocalypse. Hansen in Congressional hearings asserted, “the greenhouse warming should be clearly identifiable in the 1990s” and “the temperature changes are sufficiently large to have major impacts on people and other parts of the biosphere, as shown by computed changes in the frequency of extreme events …” Hansen, based on his climate model, predicted that by 1997 the global temperature would rise by 0.45 degrees C and by 2010 by 2 to 4 degrees. A scientist with the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia went so far as to predict that within “a few years,” snowfall would become “a very rare and exciting event” in Britain. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”

Senator Gore used Senate hearings to promote Hansen’s apocalyptic vision and then went on to write Earth in the Balance documenting his view that the world faced an environmental epidemic requiring that “We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.” He used Earth in the Balance to promote and fund the climate change agenda which lead to predictions about run away global warming. Those included predicting that over the next few decades up to 60 percent of Florida’s population would have to be relocated because of rising sea level. There were also predictions about increasing droughts and extreme weather events like hurricanes.

Now that almost three decades have passed since those predictions took on a life of their own, it is possible to see the extent of their accuracy.

The forecasts made by James Hansen and supported by Al Gore that global temperature would increase 0.45 degrees C by 1997 and 2 to 4 degrees by 2010 were off by a factor of 4 and 10. Indeed, since 1998 there has been no significant increase in temperature. And, while advocates proclaim that each year is one of the warmest on record, recent temperatures are not much different than those of the early decades of the 20th century.

Clearly, Al Gore exaggerated on the need to relocate 60% of Florida’s population. In fact, since 1992, according to the Congressional Research Service, global sea level rise has averaged 0.13 inches per year or about 3 inches in total. Estimates of sea level rise along the Florida coast are higher but not alarming—around 6 inches.

That leaves predictions about increasing droughts and extreme weather—hurricanes. The data tell a much different story. Hurricane frequency has declined slightly and intensity has not changed. As for droughts, Dr. Roger Pielke in Congressional testimony stated, that droughts have “for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century. Globally, “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.”

The comedian Groucho Marx once asked, “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” Climate advocates would have everyone believe them even though empirical data doesn’t support their claims. Climate skeptics deny the faux science that is the foundation of climate orthodoxy while climate advocates deny how the climate system has actually performed. So, who is the real denier? Groucho Marx provided the easiest way to answer that question.