Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Goalposts are not just for sports: Climate deniers use them too!

with 9 comments

The difference is that in sports the goalposts are stationary while climate deniers constantly move them to suit their motives. It appears that even the most ardent climate change deniers are accepting what virtually every publishing climate scientist knows and what every international academy of sciences knows: human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are causing the planet to warm. And of course, our eyes also tell us. Here in the US and also around the world, we are observing an increase in the frequency and severity of drought, heat waves, fires, and floods. We also see the increasing sea levels which played a significant role in Sandy’s devastation.

So what about those goalposts and climate deniers? Well, the climate deniers are moving their goalposts from their earlier position that humans were not responsible for global warming. Now they accept what experts and our eyes tell us. New goalpost: They will tell you that although the planet is warming, it will not warm very much. (Go ahead and slap your hand against your forehead.)

Why do these people take such a fringe position? Typically it is because they do not like the solutions. They see addressing climate change as somehow infringing on their rights (“hey, I can use whatever energy source I want to”) or that solutions will cost money or cause more government regulation. Doing nothing CERTAINLY costs more money than trying to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate. I have shown in several blog posts how I am saving big $$$ by being more energy-efficient. I work hard for my money so why throw it out the window? Yes, it is your right to NOT be energy-efficient but why would you exercise that costly right?

As far as government regulation: if a price is placed on carbon the markets will reward those companies that are smart and efficient and penalize those that are not. Free market in action! The longer we wait to take action the MORE likely it is that big government will have to step in and impose rules and regulations. Now is the time to be discussing solutions – not for agenda-driven stories designed to confuse the public into inaction.

Some climate deniers are actually paid to misinform you! I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not like to be lied to!

In the next few weeks, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be releasing their Fifth Assessment Reports. These reports contains the scientific consensus on how the climate is changing and why, what impacts have already occurred and what could be coming down the road, as well as ways to mitigate the carbon emissions and adapt to the climate change that is already locked in. These reports are typically quite conservative because thousands of studies are considered by hundreds of scientists and the final reports must be approved by 143 countries. Imagine getting 143 countries to agree on anything! Keep in mind that the US, China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries that either use fossil fuels for most of their energy or sell these fuels to make money have to approve the IPCC reports. Of course, these reports are going to end up being conservative. Alas, climate deniers want you to think that the IPCC is an alarmist organization. As usual, they want you to be gullible.

So it is no surprise that in the past week there have been several stories posted by climate deniers to try to trick you into thinking that the science is not settled, or that the planet is not warming much, or that climate model projections have not been accurate.

I could spend hours and hours blogging pages and pages about they these claims are false but instead, I will invoke “a picture is worth a thousand words”:


This graphic shows how deniers can “cherry-pick” certain time periods to claim that warming has stopped. One must look at all the evidence to determine the overall long-term trend.


Similar to the graphic above. Once again, deniers will cherry-pick to mislead you. Last year (2012) the Arctic sea ice extent (and thickness and volume) smashed the all-time record minimum. This year the ice extent is still very low but not a record low. You may have seen a few stories about a “sea ice recovery”. Nonsense! We cannot expect every single year to set a new record minimum just like we cannot expect a home run hitter to set a new record every single year.

You may also read about the IPCC lowering its “climate sensitivity” value. Climate sensitivity is how much warming is expected from a doubling of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (CO2 = 560 ppm) once the planetary temperature reaches equilibrium. I wrote about climate sensitivity in an earlier blog post. The IPCC is NOT likely to be changing its expected climate sensitivity value of 3C but merely including a slightly lower low-end estimate. All these values are bad news so we should not take joy in the unlikely lower end. In fact, it is accepted that a warming of even 2C would put people and ecosystems at extreme risk.  As climate expert Dr. John Harte wrote in an email:

Suppose you had been told for many years that drinking a small amount of a pesticide would result in a probability of consequent death that was somewhere in the interval 15% – 75%. If tomorrow you were told the actual range is 10% – 75% would you be any more likely to take a swig? 

In fact, the image below shows the various possible scenarios for this century:


Unfortunately, we are on the yellow business as usual path right now. Climate sensitivity can be very misleading because most experts believe the world will not reduce its carbon pollution to keep levels below 560 ppm. In fact, many think we will blow past 560 ppm before we come to our senses. That is why the image above shows a warming closer to 5C which would be catastrophic to humans and nature. Of course, climate deniers do not want you to see the above image when they talk about “low climate sensitivity”.


The above image comes from the previous IPCC report in 2007. The yellow lines are the model projections from various climate models. The red line is the average of these projections. The black line is the actual climate change observed. You will see that the black line and the red line are in pretty good agreement. Models are not perfect but they are pretty good and are useful to help us determine how much warmer the planet will get under various carbon emission scenarios. Climate deniers will use various tricks to try to convince you that models are unreliable. Do not be fooled. We must make decisions based on the best available data and data analysis tools. We cannot wait for models to be “perfect” because that will never happen. We know enough from well-understood physics and from millions of years- worth of climate data that increasing heat-trapping gases at levels we see today is going to cause the planet to dramatically warm. Models provide us the map to anticipate our future based on various emission scenarios. We must plan for all contingencies even if we do not have “perfect information”.

And I have said again and again, it is not just scientists who are concerned about climate disruption. Military and intelligence experts warn that climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions. Health officials warn us that climate change could be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Climate change was recently listed as the greatest strategic risk currently facing the property/casualty insurance industry.

We need to reduce our emissions of carbon for the sake of our public health, national security, and economic competitiveness. Surely it is foolish to base our economic energy needs on sources that are dwindling in supply and increasing in price when, instead, we could move toward energy efficiency and cheaper-by-the-year, infinite sources such as the sun and wind. If we stay addicted to fossil fuels and do not begin investing in those technologies now, we will be buying them from China in the future instead of selling it to them.

Also see:

The 5 stages of climate denial are on display ahead of the IPCC report , Dana Nuccitelli, Guardian

In WSJ, Ridley presents medley of long-debunked climate claims, Climate Science Watch

Correcting Ridley’s climate errors in the Wall Street Journal, Climate Science Watch

Lomborg’s threadbare techno-optimism resurfaces in Washington Post, Australian, Climate Science Watch

Scientists take the Mail on Sunday to task over claim that warming is half what IPCC said last time, Roz Pidcock, Carbon Brief

Double Standard, Tamino

IPCC model global warming projections have done much better than you think, Dana Nuccitelli, Guardian

Mike Mann: The Six Stages of Climate Denial

Written by Scott Mandia

September 16, 2013 at 5:45 am

9 Responses

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  1. If only the scientist could get some predictions right..

    Met Office (2007)

    The forecast for 2014…
    Climate scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre will unveil the first decadal climate prediction model in a paper published on 10 August 2007 in the journal Science. The paper includes the Met Office’s prediction for annual global temperature to 2014.

    Over the 10-year period as a whole, climate continues to warm and 2014 is likely to be 0.3 °C warmer than 2004. At least half of the years after 2009 are predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record

    These predictions are very relevant to businesses and policy-makers who will be able to respond to short-term climate change when making decisions today. The next decade is within many people’s understanding and brings home the reality of a changing climate.

    The new model incorporates the effects of sea surface temperatures as well as other factors such as man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, projected changes in the sun’s output and the effects of previous volcanic eruptions — the first time internal and external variability have both been predicted.

    Team leader, Dr Doug Smith said: “Occurrences of El Nino, for example, have a significant effect on shorter-term predictions. By including such internal variability, we have shown a substantial improvement in predictions of surface temperature.” Dr Smith continues: “Observed relative cooling in the Southern Ocean and tropical Pacific over the last couple of years was correctly predicted by the new system, giving us greater confidence in the model’s performance”.

    Barry Woods

    September 16, 2013 at 6:05 am

  2. […] Goalposts are not just for sports: Climate deniers use them too! ( […]

    • People who believe in the existence of a climate aren’t averse to using the old movem-goalpoast switcheroo either!

      Why, just the other day I heard a climate believalist plead, “Surface temps? Did we say surface temps would go up? What we meant was the temperature at the bottom of the ocean!”

      Brad Keyes

      September 20, 2013 at 6:58 am

      • Well, well, it’s the Egregious Mr Keyes! Hello again!

        Brad, do try to remember climate basic #1: the troposphere ≠ the climate system.

        Certainly the slowdown in tropospheric warming over the last decade wasn’t expected – but nor was it entirely unexpected. Nobody – and I do mean nobody – has argued that natural variability would simply cease post-2000 and the much- (and unfairly) maligned models *do* produce decadal pauses in warming. We just happened to get ours early!

        No doubt you appreciate that this modulation of tropospheric warming by transient variability in ocean heat uptake does not affect ECS and may not even affect TCR. The centennial trend is the thing!

        Let’s stay objective, and above all, honest!


        September 20, 2013 at 8:39 am

      • BBD, I vaguely remember you—IIRC you were the (only) member of the Affirmative at deltoid who was willing to throw Mann, Jones et al under the bus for their ethical extravagations since after all, according to you, their work was just “a footnote”… am I thinking of the right deltoid? I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I’m wrong; I’m just trying to remember you.

        “The centennial trend is the thing!”

        As opposed to the traditional, 30-year chunk in which climate is measured, I take it. So is it your contention that the nature of AGW can only be determined by looking back to 1913 or farther? (I’m not disputing this, just trying to triangulate your position.)

        Brad Keyes

        September 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

      • I threw nobody under a bus, you disingenuous old rhetorician, you!

        You will be delighted to learn that the latest research supports MBH98/99 – but using entirely different methodology.

        As opposed to the traditional, 30-year chunk in which climate is measured, I take it.

        30 year climatologies? I’m happy to say that we have those in stock, sir!

        So is it your contention that the nature of AGW can only be determined by looking back to 1913 or farther? (I’m not disputing this, just trying to triangulate your position.)

        It’s a reasonable position. Let’s see.

        GAT (surface) annual means are shown at the top (green). The three lower curves are coherently-scaled forcings. Well-mixed GHGs (blue) and solar (yellow; bottom) bracket the total net forcing (red).


        September 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      • BK

        I didn’t want to trip automoderation by posting too many links in a singe comment. Here’s the reference for the first graph: “the latest research supports MBH99”:

        PAGES 2k Consortium (2013) Continental-scale temperature variability during the past two millennia

        Past global climate changes had strong regional expression. To elucidate their spatio-temporal pattern, we reconstructed past temperatures for seven continental-scale regions during the past one to two millennia. The most coherent feature in nearly all of the regional temperature reconstructions is a long-term cooling trend, which ended late in the nineteenth century. At multi-decadal to centennial scales, temperature variability shows distinctly different regional patterns, with more similarity within each hemisphere than between them. There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between ad 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century. The transition to these colder conditions occurred earlier in the Arctic, Europe and Asia than in North America or the Southern Hemisphere regions. Recent warming reversed the long-term cooling; during the period ad 1971–2000, the area-weighted average reconstructed temperature was higher than any other time in nearly 1,400 years.


        September 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      • BBD, I appreciate your civil rebuttal, which reminded me who you are. (Dominic, right?)

        It would be fun to to discuss such and other matters at deltoid, but Lambert no longer lets me comment, even on my “own” thread! (To speculate, perhaps he came across one too many allusions by me to Monckton’s debating skillz elsewhere on the net.)

        Our host here is to be commended for his comparatively thick skin.

        Brad Keyes

        September 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm

  3. […] One of the oft-repeated canards is that the Earth has stopped warming. This fallacy is based on the fact that yearly global average temperatures have not exceeded the record set in 1998, when there was an exceptional El Nino effect. As scientists explain, however, the long-term trend for temperature continues to go up. Climate scientist Scott Mandia refutes other skeptics’ arguments in this piece. […]

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