Last week Kyoto came into effect. Apparently that was the signal for columns by a whole bunch of pundits who have two features in common: 1. they are manifestly ill-equipped to understand the science and 2. they are utterly certain that there is no such thing as global warming.
Our first pundit is Michael Duffy in the Daily Telegraph informs us:
The truth is we have no control over global warming, and in any case it’s not a problem at all.
The myth holds that carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere is increasing, due mainly to industrial activities, and this traps heat lower down, with the result that temperatures on the earth’s surface rise.
The first problem with this is that the extra carbon dioxide we create is so minuscule in comparison with the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere it’s highly unlikely it could create this effect. Variations in the amount of heat the sun generates are a far more likely cause.
We have so far increased carbon dioxide by 30%, which is not minuscule. While there are other greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide is an important one. Furthermore, the greenhouse effect is very large, keeping us 30°C warmer than we would be without an atmosphere, so even a relatively small increase in its strength produces significant warming. Variations in the sun do not explain the warming we have seen. The latest study on this found:
Along with his Scripps colleague, David Pierce, Barnett used a combination of computer models and hard, observed evidence to reach their conclusions. They determined that warming measured in the world’s oceans closely matched the results predicted in computer models for warming caused by human activity.
When the models assessed whether the ocean warming could be caused by volcanic or solar activity, Barnett told reporters, the answer was stark: “Not a chance.”
The second problem is that temperatures have not risen along with industrialisation over the past 200 years.
The graph on the right shows that temperatures have actually risen. You really have to work hard to remain as ignorant of this as Duffy is.
Our second pundit is Andrew Bolt (last seen arguing that a cold day in Melbourne was good evidence against global warming) claims
The truth is that despite the hype, not much about global warming is known for sure, not even how much the Earth has heated, and whether our carbon dioxide (CO2) caused it. So say even lead authors of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose doctored “predictions” are most used to frighten us.
Doctored predictions? Odd, you would think that the hundreds of scientists whose work went into the IPCC would have noticed if their work had been doctored.
One of them, Professor John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, asks: “Will increases in CO2 affect the climate significantly? Are significant changes occurring now? Climate models suggest the answer is yes. Real data suggests otherwise.”
Now this sounds like he is saying that the real data shows no warming and only the climate models show warming, but if you look at the context of his statement you’ll find the real data shows warming at the surface (see graph above) and that Christy’s calculations from satellite measurements also show warming, but not as much. Christy says this contradicts the climate models, but other researchers’ calculations show more warming from the satellite data. And even if the climate models were wrong, it would not follow that we would expect no warming from increase CO2. All you would be able to say is that we don’t know what the effects would be. No scientist has an explanation for the observed warming that does not involve CO2.
Adds another, Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “The temperature is always changing for the earth, so it has only two choices—going up or going down. It has done both, and that doesn’t say it’s due to CO2; it doesn’t say it’s going to continue; it doesn’t say anything beyond that.”
In the preceding sentence Lindzen said:
For the last hundred years, I think there is a general agreement that there is something like a half-degree increase in temperature.
That’s strange, Bolt claimed that Lindzen said that it was unknown “how much the Earth has heated” when in fact, Lindzen explicitly stated how much it had warmed.
And while Lindzen might express doubts about whether CO2 is causing the observed warming, the hundreds of other IPCC lead authors disagree with him. Not only that, Lindzen was one of the authors of the National Academy of Sciences report that concluded:
Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century.
Next, we have Melanie Philips, who is sure that global warming is a scam because (quoting McIntyre and McKitrick):
[Mann et al's method], when tested on persistent red noise, nearly always produces a hockey stick shaped first principal component (PC1) and overstates the first eigenvalue.
According to her biography Philips is a journalist with a degree in English. Back when I was an undergraduate learning about stuff like eigenvalues and mathematical physics, my friends studying English didn’t learn about eigenvalues. Maybe it was different for Philips, or maybe she’s done some post grad course in advanced statistical analysis, so I emailed her, asking her if she knew what red noise, principal components, or eigenvalues were. No reply. My guess is that she doesn’t know what any of them are. (Oh, and M&M’s “always produces a hockey stick” argument is a red herring.)
And to think the Hadley Centre was initially created to fabricate the illusion of global warming during Baroness Thatcher’s premiership to diminish the power of the coal-miners union in the UK.
Curse you, Maggie Thatcher!