Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Whatever Happened to Global Warming?

It seems that there is a kink in the hockey stick. For the last eight years there has been no sign of global warming. In fact there may have been a small but not significant amount of global cooling. Bob Carter reports in the Daily Telegraph:

For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).
Bob goes on to talk about the dismal state of climate science that is more influenced by politics (here talking about England but the same is true in the USA - Hellooooo Al Gore) than facts:
The problem here is not that of climate change per se, but rather that of the sophisticated scientific brainwashing that has been inflicted on the public, bureaucrats and politicians alike. Governments generally choose not to receive policy advice on climate from independent scientists. Rather, they seek guidance from their own self-interested science bureaucracies and senior advisers, or from the IPCC itself. No matter how accurate it may be, cautious and politically non-correct science advice is not welcomed in Westminster, and nor is it widely reported.
Say. Is the Bush Administration listening? Is the listening only selective? Welcome to politics. Bob has some advice for politicians:
The British Government urgently needs to recast the sources from which it draws its climate advice. The shrill alarmism of its public advisers, and the often eco-fundamentalist policy initiatives that bubble up from the depths of the Civil Service, have all long since been detached from science reality. Intern-ationally, the IPCC is a deeply flawed organisation, as acknowledged in a recent House of Lords report, and the Kyoto Protocol has proved a costly flop. Clearly, the wrong horses have been backed.
Good advice for Britain. Good advice for America. Hello Washington - you guys listening?

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Anonymous said...

Tell that news to the polar bears up north, as well as to those Alaskans who are being relocated due to the melting glaciars.

M. Simon said...

Never over estimate the value of facts which are contrary to a person's beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Look at the actual graph of that Carter makes reference to and tell me if it looks like there has been a cooling trend over the past ~8 years:

Sure, if you cherry-pick the data and draw a straight line between 1998 and 2005, it has a downward slope. However, as you can see, 1998 was a huge outlier at the time (due to the so-called El Nino of the Century). And, 2002-2005 occupy the spots of 2nd through 5th hottest years in the temperature record. Any reasonable way of computing a filtered average over a few years (such as the shown by the black line in the figure) shows that the overall trend continue to be warming.

Carter's claim is equivalent of me telling you that I don't believe in seasonal cycles because it was colder here in Rochester last Saturday than it was during much (probably most) of January. And, it shows just how much a few desperate scientists like Carter have been willing to prostrate themselves for the cause.

[NASA's data, by the way, has 2005 actually (just barely) beating out 1998 for the record of hottest year: But whether the NASA or CRU data is more accurate is basically irrelevant to the issue of the overall trend...although the fact that a year featuring a record El Nino might have been less warm than a year only 7 years later in which the El Nino - La Nina index was pretty close to neutral is an indication of how rapid the general warming trend is.]

M. Simon said...

Thanks for the link.

And yeah. It sure looks like a cherry pick of the record.

Given the trend line (done least squares I assume) it sure looks like a flattening. Which is surprising given increased CO2 and what appears to be increased solar output.

So 2005 is 2nd hottest year on record. How long have we been keeping records? How does it compare to the era when the Vikings settled Greenland?

Have we recovered fully from the little ice age?

And may I ask - what is the solar "constant" these days?

I worry about the next ice age. Ice ages are harder to deal with than overly warm periods. Food is much harder to grow under ice. Plus it is hard to keep warm.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how much credence one can give to that bit of downward curvature at the end of the plot. They unfortunately don't say their method for producing a smoothed curve, but it is rather difficult to produce a reliable one right up to the endpoint of the data set (as they show) because it will be sensitively dependent on data that they don't have yet!

The NASA folks make it clearer what they do to produce a smooth curve...averaging over 5 years. Note that their curve shows no downward curvature up where it ends in 2003. (They wisely don't extend it beyond 2003 since that would require averaging values for 2006 and 2007!)

By the way, I am not sure why you think there is increased solar output. I don't know of any such recent trend and the sun is being very closely watched these days. (I assume from your RealClimate post that you might be making a reference to Mars...However, there is no evidence that what is seen on Mars has anything to do with the sun. See )

As for temperature records, reliable instrumental records go back to the mid-1800s. Before that what we have is evidence from temperature proxy reconstructions. That evidence suggests that the late 20th century Northern Hemispheric temperatures are warmer than they were in the so-called "Medieval warm period". (There is not enough data to draw a strong conclusion for the southern hemisphere.)

And, yes, any recovery from the Little Ice Age should have been complete by mid-century. There has been no way yet to successfully explain the last 30 years of rising temperatures without invoking anthropogenic causes.

As for an ice age, I think you can rest easy. The amount of CO2 we have put into the atmosphere is expected to be more than enough to prevent an ice age. (And, there is recent evidence that even in the absence of human intervention, the next ice age might not have occurred for another 50,000 years.) It seems that we have now become the dominant factor affecting the climate.

Anonymous said...

Yea, humans have had an effect on the climate and SO WHAT?

Cycles of heating and cooling have been going on for millions of years. We just happen to be living in a fairly stable period.

After all, Greenland
WAS much greener when it
named than it is now and that is because the AVERAGE world temp.
was HIGHER then than it is now.

There are thousands of years of temp. records in the ice cores they have drilled.

All this yelling about Global Warming is mostly BS!

Neil C. Reinhardt

Anonymous said...

(1) Yes, climate cycles have been going on for a long time. However, the current warming that we are causing is occurring at a very rapid rate compared to most of the ice age -- interglacial cycles. This, along with the fact that we are already putting other stresses on various species due, e.g., to habitat fragmentation (which makes it difficult for them to migrate with the change in climate), makes it less likely that lots of species will be able to survive this change. And, of course, for us humans major concerns are rising sea levels eventually inundating large areas that are close to sea level and destruction of coral reefs...which will come back on long enough timescales but not nearly quickly enough to avoid major detrimental effects on fisheries. It is also going warmer from what was already a warm (interglacial) period and will thus likely take temperatures warmer than they have been in a long time.

(2) The naming of Greenland seems to have been more of a marketing ploy by Erik the Red than anything else. The land ice that covers 95% of it has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. See for a little more discussion on this point.

M. Simon said...

re: Greenland. No matter how it got its name there are former Viking colonies under ice.

As to the plant and animalproblems caused by global warming: the biosphere will do what it always does: adapt to new conditions.

The Earth has managed to support life despite massive asteroid strikes. It will manage global warming just fine. Things will be different. Like before Wal-Mart moved to town. Or After.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to look and couldn't find any references to former Viking colonies now being buried under ice. It is true that it is believed that the Vikings succombed to a cooling climate ... although this change in climate was likely a stronger regional trend than it was a global one. (On the entire hemispheric scale, it seems there was a Little Ice Age but it was probably much more pronounced on some local levels than it was globally or in the entire northern hemisphere.)

As for the earth and the biosphere, I agree that it will survive in some form but I think that is hardly the relevant question. The question is whether the sort of changes that occur are something we want to bequeath on our ancestors. After all, the earth will also survive, for example, Osama Bin Laden getting hold of nuclear weapons and yet I doubt that this scenario is one that you want to just sit back and let happen!

M. Simon said...


It turns out from an easy search I found one Viking village under permafrost. i.e. it never melts. Or in other words under ice. Not an ice sheet. I guess I was subtly misinformed.

Fate of the Vikings in Greenland.

There is probably more out there. I'll let you continue the search.

And sure. Let us get Osama and prevent Iran from starting a nuclear war. Good idea. So far as we know it will not require destroying the economy of the world to accomplish this.

We currently know of no way to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 to 90% in ten years or less without starving 90% of the wold's population. If you have a plan to do it in 50 years or less that will not starve a majority of the world's population I'd like to see it. Then I'd like to see how you propose to get the plan adopted - by China and India.

The last time the US Senate voted on this it was 95 to 0 against.

So even in the USA you have a ways to go.

So my question to you is: Is global warming serious enough to starve out 90% of the world's population? And if so is such starvation a legacy you want to leave to your children?

M. Simon said...

I'm a big fan of hybrids as a transitional form.

Currently hybrids are about 1.5% of the US car market. Despite high gas prices their sales are declining.

The reports I have read is that the early adopters have adopted and the rest of the market is interested in economics. i.e. the easy sales have been made. Hybrids on the market do not make economic sense because the savings in gas will not pay for the higher price over the 5 years of an auto purchace contract.

Costs will come down over time. It may take a while because car production of new designs has a 2 to 3 year time lag from concept to vehicles you can buy. As of now the auto companies have not found the right concept.

Anonymous said...

Boy, I am surprised with the "can't do" attitude that you seem to bring to this problem. First of all, noone is claiming that we have to cut emissions by 80-90% in 10 years. Hansen and others are saying we have to get serious about starting to cut emissions in 10 years.

Second of all, every journey begins with a single step. In particular, the first step here is to start putting a cost on CO2 emissions so that the market develops and implements the technologies to reduce or sequester. It seems that those who claim to believe in the free market lose faith in markets once you actually attempt to correct externalities. It makes no sense to say, "Well, I don't think the technologies to do this will ever be developed so I think we should just continue to let the atmosphere be used as a free sewer"! (And, by the way, if we had spent the hundreds of billions that we have squandered in Iraq on reducing our emissions, we could have made a hell of a lot of progress in reducing emissions, reducing dependence on foreign oil, ...!)

Third of all, you're a little out-of-date on Senate votes. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Bill garnered something like 42 votes the first time it was brought up in the Senate a few years ago (38 the second time when some more controversial amendments were attached)...and that was despite strong White House opposition. It uses the same sort of market-based cap-and-trade approach that Bush sings the praises of in his Clear Skies Initiative for reducing SO2, NOx, and mercury emissions. (The main dispute that environmentalists have with Bush's initiative, by the way, is not the approach but the fact that he set the caps so high that it amounts to a weakening of the Clean Air Act. There are also issues of "cap-and-trade" creating local pollution "hot-spots", which is not an issue for CO2 where only the total amount emitted matters, not where it is emitted.)

There was also a sense of the Senate resolution passed last year that states "mandatory steps will be required to slow or stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere." (See )

As for hybrids, I am the proud owner of a 2004 Prius, the car that Consumer Reports says has the highest level of customer satisfaction of any car in America (i.e., the percentage who say that they would buy the car again). Your claim that hybrid sales are declining is not correct; rather, they are growing more slowly (see ) and this may be partly attributable, according to that article, to the high price premium and low mileage gain of the newly introduced models (where the automakers made the decision to cash in the increased efficiency primarily for more power rather than increased mileage).

And, by the way, after correcting a stupid double-counting error that they made in the print version of their magazine, Consumer Reports admits that the Prius and Honda Civic hybrids will save consumers money over a 5-year period if one includes the tax breaks. Without the tax breaks they won't, but it would be interesting to see what would happen over a higher time horizon. Also, CR compared the Prius to a Corolla, which is a bit unfair because the Prius is really positioned between the Corolla and the Camry, having only a little less interior room than the latter.

Anonymous said...

I should just add that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels is something we are going to have to do eventually anyway. The only question is whether we will start to do it now and thus minimize the amount of change we wreak on the earth's climate system...or are we going to wait and just do it after we have already dramatically altered the climate.

Anonymous said...

There is a good article in Vanity Fair on climate change that puts some hard numbers on what is being advocated in terms of emissions cuts ( ): The IPCC is saying that emissions should be reduced by 60% (relative to 1990) levels by 2050. Hansens says we must stabilize emissions by 2015 and then start to reduce them. The "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change" conference held in Britain concluded that we might have until 2025 to reach peak and start to reduce. [All these numbers are presumably talking about worldwide emissions.]

With a combination of efficiency, alternative energy, and carbon sequestration, such goals seem to be likely achievable but we do have to get serious about given the marketplace the signals necessary (namely a non-zero price on greenhouse gas emissions) to develop and implement the technologies .

M. Simon said...


I don't even own a car. I do drive.

I have a can do attitude. What I do not have is enthusiasm for government mandated solutions. I like market oriented solutions.

What I want is bigger wind turbines until the cost is below that of coal electricity. Once that happens you will not need to put a gun to peole's heads (government) to get what you want. BTW wind electric prices are predicted to go below tthose of coal in 10 years or less.

So I advise doing nothing except perhaps offering to pay a little more for wind electricity to get us down the learning curve faster.

BTW did you note that 60 climate scientists suggested to Canada's Prime Minister that climate models are not very robust?

Here is a link:

Climate Scare is not science.

M. Simon said...

BTW the illegal drug market is proof positive that the government can't defeat market forces.

Work with them. They are more powerful than government.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we are in fundamental disagreement about markets being a good mechanism, which is why I noted that the McCain-Lieberman bill proposes exactly the sort of market mechanism that some people like Bush have touted when it is applied in other contexts. The disagreement is not between those who want to use market-based mechanisms and those who don't. [The final version of Kyoto also has a cap-and-trade system, although given the nature of the beast with international agreements, there are also more complicated issues such as which nations have what limits on emissions and so forth.]

However, believing that markets will solve problems where the costs are not internalized is simply wishful thinking (or appeal to external-to-market mechanisms like altruism or good PR). As long as the costs of throwing CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are not reflected directly in the price of the good or service, then there is absolutely no market incentive to cut these emissions. [Perhaps eventually some of the technologies like windpower will become competitive even without any attempt to correct market externalities...But, that will probably be long after they would otherwise become competitive.]

As for that link to the scientists, really that is nothing new. It is stretching things severely to call most of those folks climate scientists. Basically, it is a mishmash of whatever Canadian scientists they could round up and the well-known industry- and think-tank-funded denialists such as Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer, Frederick Seitz, etc. You can find similar lists, by the way, on creationist websites of PhD scientists who reject evolution and support creationism (see here) but I hope you don't believe this invalidates there being a consensus on evolution. (One of the 60 signers, by the way, has said that he was misled about the content of the letter and regrets signing on: see here.)

In response, 90 prominent Canadian climate scientists sent another letter to Canada's Prime Minister supporting the conclusions of the IPCC (see here). Note that they could have gotten many more signers if they had followed the other letter and included non-Canadians and people who were not prominent (e.g., had not published widely on the subject in peer-reviewed journals) in the field.