Matt Ridley’s first response to my post about his failed prediction was denial:

I did not write for the Globe and Mail in 1993 let alone about climate!

Then he moved onto stage 3, bargaining:

global av temp (ignoring pinatubo drop) is about 0.2C above 1991 level after 22 yrs – so I was spot on so far!


As you can see, the graph he cites shows 0.5 degrees of warming since he made his prediction, so it seems that he is applying a 0.3 degree correction for Pinatubo.   Which brings us to Ridley’s next column, published in The Sunday Telegraph on 30 Jan 1994 (one month after his column with the failed prediction):

The satellites, however, tell a very different story about the 1980s (their data do not go further back). Orbiting the planet from north to south as the Earth turns beneath them, they take the temperature of the lower atmosphere using microwave sensors. By the end of 1993 the temperature was trending downwards by 0.04 of a degree per decade.

The satellite’s masters explain away this awkward fact by subtracting two volcanic eruptions (Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and El Chichon in 1982) and four El Ninos (sudden changes in the circulation of the water in the Pacific).  Since they assume that all these would have cooled the atmosphere, they conclude that the 1980s did see a gradual warming of the air by 0.09 degrees: still less than a third of that recorded by the old method.

Even with this sleight of hand (and when I was a scientist I was trained not to correct my data according my preconceptions of the result), the startling truth remains that the best measure yet taken of the atmosphere has found virtually no evidence of global warming.

So according to Matt Ridley in 1994, Matt Ridley in 2013 used a “sleight of hand”, something that he was trained not to do.   If we hold Matt Ridley to the standard he declared at the time of his prediction there has been 0.5 degrees of warming since he predicted that there would be just one degree by 2100.

But if we do want to know what the long term warming trend is, it is not a “sleight of hand” to remove the short term effects of volcanoes and El Nino/La Nina. It is, however, a sleight of hand for Ridley to just correct for Pinatubo and not El Nino/La Nina.  Here is the graph from Foster and Rahmstorf (2011) that shows what temperature records look like if the short term effects are removed:


Using Ridley’s preferred UAH data set we see that there has been 0.4 degrees of warming since he made his prediction.

Any way you slice it, there has been much more warming that Ridley predicted.  I hope this information will help him reach stage 5, acceptance.


  1. #1 Lotharsson
    February 11, 2013

    Well, he certainly did appear early on quite Duff-chuffed with his attempted “gotcha” re:Monbiot and references.

  2. #2 Lotharsson
    February 11, 2013

    Ridley gets another mention at SkS in a post about lukewarmers. The background is Ridley’s Wired magazine article, the SkS-sourced debunk, and Ridley’s attempted debunk-debunk – including the GWPF “Ten Tests” piece that someone presented.

    Note that Ridley is called out – rather like Latimer – for simply ignoring inconvenient evidence.

    Ridley and Fuller get caned by Stoat as well over the same Ridley presentation.

  3. #3 Lionel A
    February 11, 2013


    After you have answered #73 then consider this again :

    What is more this says nothing about pelagic forms especially those which inhabit polar seas and which for the basis of the food chain there, a food chain which helps support life over a wider range of the globe.

    Grist to that mill being found here:

    Frequently Asked Questions About Ocean Acidification. You are in desperate need of a broader education it would seem.

  4. #4 Vince Whirlwind
    February 19, 2013

    This article gives an overview for precedents we are aware of in relation to acidification:

    organisms living deep down on the ocean floor are adapted to much more stable conditions. A rapid and severe geochemical change in their environment would make their survival precarious.

    “The widespread extinction of these ocean floor organisms during the Paleocene-Eocene greenhouse warming and acidification event tells us that similar extinctions in the future are possible.”

    During the Paleocene-Eocene event changes ocurred over several thousands of years allowing adaption to occurr through migration towards the poles and evolutionary adaption. The current rate of change ocurring over several decades is unprecedented in the past 65 million years, and one that challenges the potential for marine calcifiers such as coal, and plankton to adapt.

    The Nature Geoscience report abstract warns “In our simulation of future ocean conditions, we find an undersaturation with respect to carbonate in the deep ocean that exceeds that experienced during the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum and could endanger calcifying organisms. Furthermore, our simulations show higher rates of environmental change at the surface for the future than the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, which could potentially challenge the ability of plankton to adapt.”

    Carl Zimmer writing in An Ominous Warning on the Effects of Ocean Acidification in Yale environment 360 reports that Ridgwell estimated that current ocean acidification is taking place at ten times the rate that preceded the mass extinction 55 million years ago . This rate of change may spell doom for many marine species, particularly ones that live in the deep ocean.

    According to a Marine Climate Change reportcard released by Australian Marine Scientists in November 2009 “The level of atmospheric CO2 is now higher than at any time in at least the past 650,000 years, and probably has not been as high as present levels for 20 million years. The current rate of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is one hundred times greater than the most rapid increases during major climate changes over the last 650,000 years. Approximately half the fossil-fuel CO2 emitted by man has now dissolved into the ocean.”

    It would seem rather foolish to subscribe to Latimer’s ignorance-based “no worries” approach.

    I, for one, rather enjoy my baked snapper or grilled orange roughy.

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