It’s only been six months since his previous wrong-headed column claiming that global warming has ended, but Michael Duffy has decided to write another one:
Last month I witnessed something shocking. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was giving a talk at the University of NSW. The talk was accompanied by a slide presentation, and the most important graph showed average global temperatures. For the past decade it represented temperatures climbing sharply.
As this was shown on the screen, Pachauri told his large audience: “We’re at a stage where warming is taking place at a much faster rate [than before]”.
Now, this is completely wrong.
To quote from the FAQ:
Note that for shorter recent periods, the slope is greater, indicating accelerated warming.
Pachauri’s statement is correct and it is Duffy who is completely wrong.
Duffy continues with:
For most of the past seven years, those temperatures have actually been on a plateau. For the past year, there’s been a sharp cooling. These are facts, not opinion: the major sources of these figures, such as the Hadley Centre in Britain, agree on what has happened, and you can check for yourself by going to their websites. Sure, interpretations of the significance of this halt in global warming vary greatly, but the facts are clear.
The facts are indeed clear. Let’s check what the Hadley Centre in Britain agrees with:
**Anyone who thinks global warming has stopped has their head in the sand.
The evidence is clear — the long-term trend is that global temperatures are rising, and humans are largely responsible for this rise. Global warming does not mean that each year will be warmer than the last. Natural phenomena will mean that some years will be much warmer and others cooler.
You only need to look at 1998 to see a record-breaking warm year caused by a very strong El NiÃ±o. In the last couple of years, the underlying warming is partially masked caused by a strong La NiÃ±a. Despite this, 11 of the last 13 years were the warmest ever recorded.
Average global temperatures are now some 0.75Â°C warmer than they were 100 years ago. Since the mid-1970s, the increase in temperature has averaged more than 0.15Â°C per decade.
This rate of change is very unusual in the context of past changes and much more rapid than the warming at the end of the last ice age.
The rise in global surface temperature has averaged more than 0.15Â°C per decade since the mid-1970s. Warming has been unprecedented in at least the last 50 years, and the 17 warmest years have all occurred in the last 20 years. This does not mean that next year will necessarily be warmer than last year, but the long-term trend is for rising temperatures. …
Over the last ten years, global temperatures have warmed more slowly than the long-term trend. But this does not mean that global warming has slowed down or even stopped. It is entirely consistent with our understanding of natural fluctuations of the climate within a trend of continued long-term warming.
And look at a graph of temperatures from the Hadley Centre for this year:
Far from being a “sharp cooling”, the trend is a warming rate of
19 3.5 degrees C per decade. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything, because changes in temperature on monthly or annual scales are weather and not climate.
Still, there’s no doubt a majority of climate scientists agree with the view of the IPCC.
Today I want to look at why this might be so: after all, such a state of affairs presents a challenge to sceptics such as me. If we’re right, then an awful lot of scientists are wrong. How could this be?
On the other hand, the explanation of why Duffy and other members of the pundit class such as Andrew Bolt get it wrong is quite simple: they don’t understand basic statistics and refuse to learn.
Anyway, Duffy’s explanation as to why he is right about the science and the scientists are wrong is given by this Richard Lindzen paper: climate scientists are conducting a scare campaign in order to get research funds and/or because they are environmental activists. Michael Tobis comments:
Which brings us back to Lindzen’s diatribe. I am hoping the bizarre snipe at Ray P[ierrehumbert] was ghostwritten. It’s inexcusable. I am confident that Ray has never publicly addressed scientific matters other than scientifically, and is in no reasonable sense fanatical. At best, Lindzen “approved the message”. As such he is very clearly participating in the degradation of scientific conversation he claims to be bemoaning. As far as I am concerned, this one gross misstatement colors the credibility of the entire article. Perhaps others will find other similarly grotesque mischaracterizations elsewhere.
Werner Aeschbach-Hertig also comments:
Another critique of Lindzen is that science has deteriorated by moving from theory to simulation and modeling. I completely disagree: Numerical solution of complex equations is simply the logical way forward once your basic theory is known (which is the case in atmospheric and ocean dynamics) but you want actual solutions of the equations. The reason that modeling has become so large is simply that ever better computers have made this possible, a tool that was not available to scientists in the good old times conjured by Lindzen. An example of the power of numerical modeling is weather prediction, where models using the same core physics as climate models have achieved tremendous progress.
Duffy credulously repeats Lindzen’s claims about “environmental activists”:
Lindzen believes another problem with climate science is that in America and Europe it is heavily colonised by environmental activists.
Here are just two examples that indicate the scale of the problem: the spokesman for the American Meteorological Society is a former staffer for Al Gore, and realclimate.org, probably the world’s most authoritative alarmist web site, was started by a public relations firm serving environmental causes.
If Duffy had bothered to fact check Lindzen, he would have discovered that:
We wish to stress that although our domain is being hosted by Environmental Media Services, and our initial press release was organised for us by Fenton Communications, neither organization was in any way involved in the initial planning for RealClimate, and have never had any editorial or other control over content. Neither Fenton nor EMS has ever paid any contributor to RealClimate.org any money for any purpose at any time. Neither do they pay us expenses, buy our lunch or contract us to do research.
And Anthony Socci who is a Senior Science and Communications Fellow with the American Meteorological Society, was Senior Science Advisor for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space from 1991 to 1993. For some of this time, Al Gore was the chair, but I don’t see how any reasonable person would think that this proves that Socci is an environmental activist.
Duffy offers one more argument for his thesis that he is right and the scientists are wrong:
Someone else who’s looked closely at scientific journals (although not specifically those dealing with climate science) is epidemiologist John Ioannidis of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He reached the surprising conclusion that most published research findings are proved false within five years of their publication. (Lest he be dismissed as some eccentric, I note that the Economist recently said Ioannidis has made his case “quite convincingly”.)
I think that Ioannidis makes a reasonable case for a kind of “winner’s curse” in publishing biomedical research, but it’s clear that Duffy doesn’t understand the argument since he thinks it applies to research that finds evidence for anthropogenic global warming. If we test many different treatments for disease, then, even if they are ineffective, by chance 2.5% will be beneficial at the 5% level. If, say, 2.5% really are effective, half of the treatments initially found to be effective will be found to ineffective in follow-up studies. But what Duffy fails to understand is that the evidence for AGW doesn’t rely on a single paper. Scientists have done follow-up studies and follow-up to the follow-up studies and confirmed rather than refuted the initial findings.
Why might this be so? Later work by Ioannidis and colleagues suggests that these days journal editors are more likely to publish research that will make a splash than that which will not. They do this to sell more copies of their publications and of reprints of papers in it. Ioannidis believes these publication practices might be distorting science.
Which means that journals will be more likely to publish research that overturns the scientific consensus, since that is what would make the biggest splash…