The Great Climate Change Debate: Which Side is Funnier?

A few days ago the Wall Street Journal published a letter from 16 people saying what I say, that the case that humans are warming the planet is much weaker than you’d guess from mainstream media. An excerpt:

The number of scientific “heretics” is growing . . .  Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.

Here is a rebuttal by a biological anthropologist named Greg Laden:

Shameful. . . . . Out and out lie, easily falsified  . . . So bad that this is what we can say about the “16 scientists” who signed this letter: They are idiots. . . . . Their ability to make even the simplest of judgements is now in serious question. . . . Let Google forever know who these jokers are.

Peter Gleick, MacArthur “genius” Fellow, also wrote a rebuttal. What about the lack of warming for the last 10 years? Here’s Gleick:

The authors claim there has been a “lack of warming” for 10 years. The reality? 2011 was the 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above the historical average and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record.

I have not omitted quotation marks. Here’s how Peter Fromhoff at the Union of Concerned Scientists made the same point:

The authors claim there has been a “lack of warming” for 10 years. Here’s what we know: 2011 was the 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above the historical average and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record.

I went to the link given to support the “35th year in a row” claim. Here is the only global temperature graph at that link:

15 Replies to “The Great Climate Change Debate: Which Side is Funnier?”

  1. Yes, the rebuttals seem to have missed the point. If global warming has indeed stopped as the original letter claimed, and we have entered a period where global average temperatures will routinely be about 0.55 degrees above the historical average, then conceivably we would still see “record warm years” all the time.

    Personally I think that given the variance in the data, 10 years is not a lot of time to reach the conclusion that the warming has “stopped’. Looking at the data up to 1988 only, one might have concluded that the data from 1978-1988 showed no warming trend either. A rebuttal along these lines would have made more sense.

  2. From the Daily Mail

    “The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years. . .

    Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.”

    Oops! No warming for 15 years? Those folks at the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit better get busy and “hide the decline” with this data or they will find their grant money drying up.

  3. 11 cooling years 1950 to 1976 and none since then?. What does this reveal? Aren’t 2005 & 2010 the two hottest years on record? Does this mean that human activity is not creating global climate change? What if the the earth is naturally cooling while we humans are warming it up? Do we do nothing? While name-calling adds nothing except to signal strength of emotion and to perhaps–and only perhaps–to cover a weak logical argument, I still don’t understand the glee in the skeptics, nor for that matter, how they differ from say, Republican presidential candidates.

  4. An interesting sideline – in December, UK’s Natural World programme on British Butterflies noted that butterflies, which respond very sensitively to temperature, are coming out of their chrysalids earlier and earlier, and the warmth-loving ones are moving further and further north.

    These countryside butterflies are acting as if their world is still warming; they are also those that have a varied diet and are free to move following their food supply.

    Presumably, when the world starts to cool again, they will move back south.

  5. What is it that is supposed to be funny about that graph? It looks to me like it supports the assertion, and also that 9 of the last 11 highest temperatures ever recorded happened since Justin Bieber entered grammar school. You can talk about a “medieval warming period” all you like, but the tundras didn’t turn to mud then, nor at any time in many thousands of years, as they are now.

    Nile: The “heat islands” trope was debunked long ago. To trot it out again only suggests that you don’t have valid arguments to draw upon instead.

    The joshua trees’ range is also moving north. Sadly, unlike the butterflies, the joshua trees cannot move north with it. Land north of the Joshua Tree National Monument is not available for annexation, not even in exchange for the denuded southern reaches. In a few years it will be as devoid of joshua trees as the Glaciers National Park is of glaciers. It’s not just temperature; ocean acidification follows CO2 levels, too. How many years before Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is as devoid of coral, and is neither a barrier to storms in the Pacific, nor a reef?

    1. As Nathan Myers mentions above the graph does seem to point to a warming trend.

      The graph shows that during the most recent 10-15 years there is no warming trend (= a line fitted to the data of the last 10-15 years has a near-zero slope). As the WSJ letter said.

  6. It is disturbing that those who believe humans are overwhelmingly the cause of global warming will not explain why the temperature has stabilized for the last 10-15 years. It’s a very simple question. (Their response, to point to the 2 highest years on record being in the last decade is utterly unscientific and silly, and reminds me of the childhood joke about the contest between the US and USSR where the US won; the USSR put out propaganda saying the USSR came in second and the US came in next to the last.)

    They can only know the role that humans are playing in global warming if they know what other factors are at work, and it’s fairly obvious that our knowledge is limited. Does anyone know if there is a serious attempt by scientists to explain the recent stabilization? More greenhouse gases have entered the atmosphere in the last 15 years, so it should be getting hotter and it’s not. Why?

    On the other hand, my rough impression from eyeballing the graph is that one can pick other 10-year periods like ’84-’94 where it has been stable, and yet the longer term trend is towards higher temperatures. But if the stability continues for another 5-10 years, the mainstream climate scientists will have some serious explaining to do.

  7. The graph is calibrated in tenths of a degree Celsius, a tiny amount. The graph would be a horizontal line if it were calibrated in whole degrees, showing no warming.

  8. I see. By looking at few enough samples of any noisy sequence, you can assert no clear trend. But look! There’s a clear downward trend if you look at the last two years! Likewise, since this afternoon!

    Spare me.

  9. This post saddens me. I stumbled upon this blog and was quite impressed, at least until I saw this. The graph looks like a (somewhat noisy) step function to me. By looking at a small enough segment of data, you can prove anything you want. @mike, .6 C is not “no warming”. what in the hell do you think is happening all around us, with plant and animal ranges changing, permafrost melting? Honestly, the denialists astound me.

    1. George, I am sure the world is warmer now than during the Little Ice Age. The question is: why? I don’t believe the answer is as clear as AGW advocates say. World temperature went up and down by large amounts long before humans started burning lots of carbon.

  10. @mike, .6 C is not “no warming”.

    The WSJ article talks about the last 10 years, not the full extent
    of the graph.
    There has been no warming for 10 years. (and there will be no warming for
    the next 30 years)

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