Fact check: has global warming paused?

By Andrew Glikson, Australian National University

“The UN’s climate change chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises, confirmed recently by Britain’s Met Office, but said it would need to last ‘30 to 40 years at least’ to break the long-term global warming trend.” – The Australian, Feb 22 2013

Since the onset of the industrial age (from 1750 AD) Earth’s atmosphere, surface and ocean temperatures have warmed. This is mainly due to the rise in greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, O3, halocarbons, stratospheric water vapour from CH4) by a total of +3.06 Watt/m2. Other drivers include black carbon (+0.1 Watt/m2) and solar irradiance – the latter during the first half of the 20th century (+0.12 Watt/m2).

Warming was in part mitigated by emitted sulphur aerosols (direct effects -0.5 Watt/m2; cloud albedo effects -0.7 Watt/m2) and by land clearing (-0.2 Watt/m2).

Cyclic, regional and transient climate effects are related to the ENSO cycle, water vapour (whose concentration depends on air temperature) and volcanic events. The fastest warming occurs in the polar regions: this is where there is the biggest albedo (or reflectiveness) contrast between ice and water, and where little or no water vapour exists in the atmosphere.

The consequent warming trend, as measured by NASA, NOAA and Hadley-Met and analysed by Berkeley (see Figure 1), indicates a rise in average land temperature by about +1.5°C over the past 250 years, and about +0.9°C in the past 50 years. A sharp rise in temperatures from about 1975-1976 was related to both an accelerated rise in CO2 and a decrease in emission of SO2 from coal and oil due to clean air policies (see Figure 2). Cleaner air decreases the reflectiveness of the atmosphere, thus driving further warming.

Figure 1: Mean continent-ocean global warming since 1750 http://berkeleyearth.org/results-summary/

Following a sharp El Niño peak in 1998, since about 2000 a slowing down of the mean rate of global warming was related to a sharp increase in SO2 emission from coal mainly in China (see Figure 2), strong La Niña events and a low in the 11 years sun-spot cycle.

Figure 2: Anthropogenic sulphur dioxide emissions 1850-2005. http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/11/1101/2011/acp-11-1101-2011.pdf

As some 90% of the global heat rise is trapped in the oceans (since 1950, more than 20×1022 joules), the ocean heat level reflects global warming more accurately than land and atmosphere warming. The heat content of the ocean has risen since about 2000 by about 4×1022 joules.

Figure 3: Build-up in Earth’s total heat content. http://www.skepticalscience.com/docs/Comment_on_DK12.pdf

The rise in land and atmosphere temperatures since about 1996 reflects a combination of greenhouse radiative forcing from 360 to 395ppm CO2 at rates of up to 2.54ppm/year (unprecedented since 55 million years ago), the ENSO cycle and 11-years sunspot cycle. Peak temperatures at around 2006 exceed any measured in the instrumental record.

Figure 4: NASA Land-ocean temperatures http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

To summarise, claims that warming has paused over the last 16 years (1997-2012) take no account of ocean heating.

At the root of the issue is the non-acceptance by some of the reality of the greenhouse effect, known since the 19th century and consistent with the basic laws of greenhouse gas radiative forcing and black body radiation.

Andrew Glikson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Debate vs. Denniss, Part 2. By Dana

By Dana, a regular author at Skeptical Science, who kindly agreed for his review of the Monckton and Denniss debate to be reposted New Anthro (originally found here and here’s the New Anthro’s look at the fist 20mins of the debate).

Carbon Pricing Economics

Once Monckton has finished warping climate science in his opening remarks, he moves on to warping climate economics.

“in the London insurance market we have a saying, and that is that ‘if the cost of the premium exceeds the cost of the risk, don’t insure’.  And that brings me to the carbon tax and the mineral resources rent tax.  Now both of these taxes are going to cost more than the cost of letting global warming happen in the first place…andF how much will it cost?  Around AU$127 billion over the next 10 years”.

Here Monckton employs the common “skeptic” trick of focusing on the costs of carbon pricing while completely ignoring the benefits.  Real world examples of carbon pricing have shown that the benefits exceed the costs several times over.  In order to argue that carbon pricing will be costly, tricksters like Monckton, the Heritage Foundation, and the Republican National Committee have to pretend that the funds from the carbon pricing system will disappear into a black hole.  That is not reality, and economic studies consistently predict that the benefits will outweigh the costs several times over.  However, Monckton claims otherwise:

“it is clearly cheaper to do nothing about global warming and to adapt in a focused way to any consequences that are adverse that may occur from any warming that may occur than to spend any money whatsoever now on it.  And that…is the overwhelming consensus in the peer-reviewed economic literature…a majority, in fact a near unanimity among economists show that it is greatly more expensive to try and intervene…than simply to sit back, enjoy the sunshine, and adapt in a focused way, as and if and only when necessary.”

This claim is completely backwards.  There is a consensus among economists with expertise in the climate that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because doing so would benefit the economy.

should US reduce emissions

2009 NYU IPI survey results of economists with climate expertise when asked under what circumstances the USA should reduce its emissions

Abrupt Warming

Monckton proceeds to claim that abrupt climate change simply does not happen:

“Ask the question how in science there could be any chance that the rate of just roughly 1 Celsius per century of warming that has been occurring could suddenly become roughly 5 Celsius per century as it were overnight.  There is no physical basis in science for any such sudden lurch in what has proven to be an immensely stable climate.”

First of all, the central estimates for warming over the next century – depending on the CO2 emissions scenario of course – are in the ballpark of 2 to 4°C.  5°C is possible, but only in the highest emission scenarios.  But more important is Monckton’s claim that the climate is inherently stable.  The paleoclimate record begs to differ.  A stable climate is the exception, not the norm, at least over long timeframes.

ice core data

Moreover, there has never before been a large human influence on the climate, so why should we expect it to behave exactly as it has in the past when only natural effects were at work?

Earth Has Warmed as Expected

Monckton also repeats one of Richard Lindzen’s favorite myths, that Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected based on the IPCC climate sensitivity:

“if we go back to 1750…using the Central England Temperature record as a proxy for global temperatures…we’ve had 0.9°C of warming in response to an addition of greenhouse gases to atmosphere by us which is almost equivalent to a doubling of CO2 concentration.  That’s going to give you around 1°C of warming per doubling of CO2 concentration. Over the last 60 years we again see 1°C of warming per century.  All of the evidence points to 1°C of warming for a doubling of CO2”

It should go without saying that the temperature record for a single geographic location cannot be an accurate proxy for average global temperature.  We know that over the past century, the average global temperature has warmed approximately 0.8°C, and over this period, the atmospheric CO2 equivalent concentration (including the added greenhouse effect from other greenhouse gases like methane) has almost doubled, as Monckton suggests.

However, human aerosol emissions, which have a cooling effect, have also increased over this period.  And while 3°C is the IPCC best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity, the climate system is not yet in equilibrium.  Neglecting these two factors (aerosols and thermal inertia of the global climate), as Monckton and Lindzen have done, will certainly give you an underestimate of equilibrium sensitivity, by a large margin.  This is how Monckton supports his lowball climate sensitivity claim – by neglecting two important climate factors.

As we have previously shown, the warming over the past 60 years is consistent with the IPCC climate sensitivity range, and inconsistent with Lindzen and Monckton’s lowball climate sensitivity claims.  Monckton claims the observational data supports his low sensitivity claims – reality is that observational data contradicts them.

International Action

Monckton proceeds to make false claims about why a few countries pulled out of a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol:

“there is no need to take any action about carbon dioxide at all.  That is why Canada has announced that she is not going to participate in a Kyoto 2, Japan has announced the same, even America has announced the same”

Suggesting that these countries pulled out of Kyoto because they believe no action on carbon emissions must be taken is completely false.  Japan, for example, is fighting for a broader deal to reduce emissions.  The vice minister for global environmental affairs at Japan’s environment ministry argued that extending Kyoto, which excludes two largest emitters (China and the USA), would be “meaningless and inappropriate”.  Japan is trying increase global emissions cuts by including the largest emitters – Monckton’s claim could not be further from the truth.  And although the USA and Canada have not taken serious action to reduce emissions, both governments do agree that action must be taken.  If Monckton were correct and these countries did not believe emissions reductions were necessary, they would not participate in international climate conferences at all.

Runaway Warming

Monckton argued that the IPCC climate sensitivity range is:

“a near impossibility physically speaking, because in any object on which feedbacks operate, if the feedback loop gain is great than somewhere in a range of 0.01 to 0.1, the object becomes terminally unstable, and under conditions which might quite easily occur, the loop gain would reach 1, and the system would blow itself apart.”

However, as we have previously discussed, Monckton’s argument doesn’t apply to the greenhouse gas situation, because the equation behind its feedback is different.  As usual, Monckton oversimplifies the situation, and as a result, arrives at the wrong conclusion.

Carbon Pollution

Speaking of oversimplifying, Monckton finishes out the debate by intertwining two more myths, arguing that CO2 isn’t a pollutant because it’s plant food.

“let us distinguish between pollution – which usually means particulate pollution such as soot – or the emission of carbon dioxide, which on any view, is not a pollutant.  It is plant and tree food.”

However, as Denniss pointed out, CO2 is by definition a pollutant because its emissions are an unintended byproduct of burning fossil fuels, which endanger public health and welfare through their impacts on climate change.  And the ‘CO2 is plant food‘ argument is, once again, a gross oversimplification of the issue.

Lesson Learned – Verbal Debates are a Mistake

For the most part, Monckton came out of this debate looking pretty good for one simple reason – you win a verbal debate not by being right, but by sounding right.  Monckton spent almost the entire debate misrepresenting the scientific (and economic) literature at best, lying at worst.

But in a debate, you don’t lose anything by being dishonest or wrong.  The most your opponent can do is say you’re lying, and then it’s a case of he-said, she-said.  And Monckton is certainly an eloquent and charming speaker who plays to a crowd very well.  Reality, facts, and science aren’t on his side, but in a public debate, that hardly matters.  Thus debating a  “skeptic” like Monckton is doing him a favor.  If Monckton wants to debate climate science, he should do so in the peer-reviewed literature like a real scientist (and no Monckton, the APS newsletter is not peer-reviewed).

Or alternatively, if Monckton challenges you to a debate, follow Barry Bickmore’s advice and offer a written debate where facts can be checked.  Not surprisingly, Monckton declined Dr. Bickmore’s offer.

Debate vs. Denniss, Part 1, By Dana

By Dana, a regular author at Skeptical Science, who kindly agreed for his review of the Monckton and Denniss debate to be reposted New Anthro (originally found here and here’s my look at the fist 20mins of the debate).

On 19 July 2011, Monckton debated Richard Denniss, a prominent Australian economist, author and public policy commentator.

Not being a climate scientist (and knowing Monckton isn’t either), Denniss wisely focused on deferring to the consensus of climate science experts, and the risk management perspective regarding climate change:

“In Australia we have just voted to spend $50 billion (billion with a “B”) to build 12 new submarines to replace the 6 older ones that we haven’t used yet. And no one is quite certain who we need these to protect us from, and no one is sure what day we will need them, and no one is quite certain where we should park them on that day, and if you listen to the Navy we aren’t certain if we’ll have enough crew to staff them. But whenever it comes to making decisions about national defense, whenever the decision comes up about our health, whenever the consequences are catastrophic, what sensible people do is take the conservative path.”

“We have to decide whether we bet the house on the hope that Chris Monckton is correct, or we choose to insure the house on the chance that the scientists are right.”

Nevertheless, Monckton delivered his usual Gish Gallop, repeating a number of long-debunked myths, which we will examine in this post.

Chaotic Climate

Monckton launched his Gish Gallop by arguing that climate cannot be predicted in the long-term because it’s too chaotic:

“because the climate is chaotic…it is not predictable in the long-term…they [the IPCC] say that the climate is a coupled, non-linear, chaotic object, and that therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

Considering that each IPCC report has developed projections as to how the climate will change in response to various human greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, it’s really quite self-evident that Monckton’s statement here is incorrect.  Climate scientists can predict how future climate will change based on the main climate drivers – primarily CO2.  We’re even running a series of posts examining some of those past climate change predictions, and the IPCC reports will be the next projections evaluated in the series.

“The Royal Society – in a complete re-write of its original disastrously unscientific statement about the climate – now says we do not know how much the planet will warm as a result of our activities.”

In September 2010, the Royal Society issued a Climate Change Guide.  The Guide discusses the various levels of certainty of important climate issues.  Regarding future warming projections, the Guide states (emphasis added):

“Current understanding of the physics (and increasingly the chemistry and biology) of the climate system is represented in a mathematical form in climate models, which are used to simulate past climate and provide projections of possible future climate change….The underlying uncertainties in climate science and the inability to predict precisely the size of future natural climate forcing mechanisms mean that projections must be made which take into account the range of uncertainties across these different areas.”

Thus we find that what the IPCC report and Royal Society Guide actually say is very different than what Monckton claims they say.  But it’s really nothing new for Monckton to misrepresent scientific sources.  In fact, as John Abraham discovered, it’s the norm.

Consensus Confusion

Monckton proceeds to demonstrate his confusion about the causal relationship between science and consensus:

“the idea that you decide any scientific question by mere consensus…”

Let’s just stop Monckton right there.  He suggests that somehow climate science is done by first creating a consensus, when in reality, the consensus exists because the scientific evidence supporting the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory is so strong.  The scientific evidence was gathered and evaluated first, and the consensus formed as a result of that evidence overwhelmingly supporting the AGW theory.  Monckton has cause and effect completely backwards.

Now, many people will suggest deferring to that consensus of scientific experts, because individuals can’t be experts on every subject.  We defer to experts all the time – doctors, mechanics, engineers, etc.  Climate science is a highly technical field, and most people have neither the time nor the scientific background to evaluate the accuracy of the AGW theory by themselves.  For those people, the wise course of action is to defer to the experts, as Denniss suggests.  But the science itself is decided by the evidence, and the consensus follows.

Medieval Warm Period

Monckton proceeds to weave together a couple of myths regarding the Medieval Warm Period (MWP):

“Why does official climate science still pretend the Middle Ages were  not warmer than the present, when the fabricators of the 2001 UN report – preported abolition of the Medieval Warm Period – are now under criminal investigation for defrauding taxpayers by tampering with data and results?”

Monckton has managed to jam 3 myths into one sentence – an impressive Gish Gallop rate.

Mangling History

Monckton then decides to drag us 16 years back in time to a disagreement during the drafting of the IPCC Second Assessment Report.  How this debate is relevant to climate science today, I don’t know, but Monckton manages to mangle the truth once again.

“I wonder why the published version of the 1995 report – written by just one man – stated the exact oppostie of the scientists’ final draft, which had said five times that no human influence on global temperature was either discernible or immediately forseeable.”

The scientists who actually participated in the development of the IPCC report chapter in question tell a very different story than Monckton does here.  Citizen’s Challenge has documented the events, as did the late Stephen Schneider in his excellent book Science as a Contact Sport.

What actually happened is that the scientific literature at the time clearly demonstrated a number of ‘fingerprints’ of human-caused global warming, as Dr. Ben Santer (undoubtedly the “one man” Monckton refers to) showed during his work on the chapter in question.  The Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegations – for obvious reasons – claimed this was ‘bad science’, and were joined by a few delegates from other small countries like Kenya.  As a result of the disagreement, a Contact Group was held to negotiate the language that would eventually go into the report.

The Saudis and Kuwaitis did not even send representatives to the Contact Group – they were uninterested in discussing the science.  A Kenyan scientist joined the group, which discussed the scientific evidence, and eventually all parties agreed that a clear human signal could be found in the observational data.  When the Kenyan joined the group calling for this language to be included in the report, the Saudis and Kuwaitis finally dropped their opposition.

It was not a matter of one scientist re-writing the IPCC report.  That’s not how the organization functions; the IPCC report is a consensus document.  As the link above discusses, there are now many clear fingerprints of global warming, so why this argument 16 years ago is relevant to the science today is a mystery.  Regardless, Monckton  has grossly misrepresented reality yet again.

Bizarre Claims

Monckton proceeds to make another bizarre claim about the IPCC reports which we’ve never heard before – that they use “a fraudulent statistical technique” to inflate global warming.  This is the problem with public debates, and why “skeptics” like Monckton enjoy them so much – in a public debate, the participants can say anything they want without needing to provide any supporting evidence.  As long as the claim sounds like it could be true, the audience likely cannot determine the difference between a fact and a lie.  Monckton takes advantage of this advantage yet again when discussing climate sensitivity.

Climate Sensitivity

“Why do we think that we’re going to suddenly get 3.3 Celsius for a doubling of CO2 concentration this century – that’s the IPCC’s central estimate – or 5.1 – which is your [Australia’s] government’s central estimate – when all the science done by measurement and observation rather than by models, suggests just one Celsius degree?”

Where Monckton gets this claim that the Australian government’s central climate sensitivity estimate to doubled CO2 is 5.1°C is a complete mystery.  The Australian government would undoubtedly defer to the IPCC, which determined that equilibrium climate sensitivity is unlikely to be above 4.5°C.  5.1°C is outside the likely range, let alone being anywhere near its central estimate.

Monckton also repeats a myth similar to one that we previously examined in Christy Crock #6 – that most climate sensitivity estimates are based on models, and those few which are based on observations arrive at lower estimates.  The only study which matches Monckton’s description is the immensely-flawed Lindzen and Choi (2009).  [Note – Lindzen and Choi recently published an update to their 2009 study in an obscure journal after two prominent journals (of AGU and PNAS) rejected the paper in its submitted state because it failed to address the substantive criticisms of the 2009 version.]

It’s true that most climate sensitivity research involves some level of modeling, but one exception was Forster et al. (2006), which examined the climate response to recent large volcanic eruptions, and found a central climate sensitivity estimate of 2.3°C to doubled atmospheric CO2.  This study alone completely refutes Monckton’s claim that “all the science done by measurement and observation” suggests a climate sensitivity of 1°C.  Moreover, even the climate sensitivity studies which include modeling also include data obtained through measuement and observation.

Monckton – Specialist at Mangling Climate Sensitivity Calculations

It’s also worth noting that, as a prior Peter Hadfield video found, Monckton at various times has claimed that climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is anywhere between 0.2 and 1.6°C.  And as the Hadfield video shows, many of Monckton’s low climate sensitivity calculations were based on obvious blatant errors (such as arbitrarily and erroneously dividing the CO2 radiative forcing by three).  Yet twice during the debate, Monckton claimed to be “a specialist in the field of the determination of climate sensitivity”, on which he “lectures at faculty level”.  Of course, as the British House of Lords would tell you, Monckton has a habit of inflating and falsifying his credentials.

Monckton’s Gish Gallop Over Richard Dennis

I don’t want to waste much of my time and I shouldn’t need to; for most reasonable people now understand that Chris Monckton is perpetually wrong when attempting to reflect the science of climate.

That said, yesterday, Mike [WtD] forwarded to me the below debate between Chris and Dr Richard Dennis.

Firstly, it is good to see that this was addressed appropriately by both men. It was not a scientific debate at all. As Steven Lewandowsky rightly states,

“A demand to be taken seriously remains farcical unless accompanied by credible contributions to scientific debate.

“Climate deniers, such as Mr Monckton, have not made a credible contribution to scientific debate.”

In the presentation, both men obsess over consensus. Monckton again employed the “orthodoxy” angle. Yet, it’s nothing like the, “heavier than air flight is impossible” of yesteryears boffins as that idea was largely untested.

The Anthropogenic Climate Change [ACC] theory is the result of over a century of investigation, many thousands of research hours and countless data collection, validation and analysis. Every thought up question has been asked [ie. ‘is it the sun?’, ‘is it other gases?’, ‘is it cosmic rays?’ etc] and been rejected, except for ACC – leaving us with a treasure trove of independent sources of evidence all pointing to the very high likelihood of ACC.

Monckton even brings up that it only takes one study to undo this theory, yet he completely ignores the fact that the chances of this occurring today is exceedingly slim as so many avenues have been explored as discussed above. It’s unreasonable doubt in light of the wealth of evidence that supports the theory. Furthermore, as Dr Nurse puts it,

“Consensus can be used like a dirty word. Consensus is actually the position of the experts at the time and if it’s working well – it doesn’t always work well – but if it’s working well, they evaluate the evidence. You make your reputation in science by actually overturning that, so there’s a lot of pressure to do it. But if over the years the consensus doesn’t move you have to wonder is the argument, is the evidence against the consensus good enough.”

(Another point would be that Chris claims to be an expert on climate sensitivity, yet has on numerous occasions claimed climate sensitivity different values and confused forcing for sensitivity. Apparently Monckton doesn’t even have a consensus with Monckton – more here [h/t Rob H])

As was the case in the interview with Adam Spencer, Chris again alluded to a criminal case concerning a climate scientist corrupting their data-set. It seems, although he refuses to name the scientist involved, that he is referring to the endless pursuit on Mann. As with the investigations into the larger “Climategate” nonsense itself, it seems that it doesn’t matter how often nothing is found to be malicious or devious in the scientific activity, these people must be guilty, or as Tim Minchin puts it,

“Science adjust its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved.”

Even if, in the very unlikely event Mann was found guilty, that does little to undermine the wealth of mutually supportive evidence which this one scientist had no involvement in collecting! It doesn’t undermine the science of ACC.

Climate is chaotic. Yeah, but so is weather and we’re not too bad at predicting the short term trends with that. Likewise, on a climate timescale and coarseness, we’re getting better and better at predicting climate. Of course this relies on many unknowns (including GHG concentrations, solar activity etc), so you need to work within ranges of confidence, which is done and clearly demonstrated in the literature.

If a methodology proved to be rubbish, either it would be improved upon or scrapped. You wouldn’t continue to use the same predictive methods if they are proving completely useless, would you? If anything, the prevailing models seem to be too conservative.

Chris; show me the evidence that models have been and continue to be utterly wrong. It’s simply not enough to be bombastic in your approach and to hurl Latin – you need hard evidence to back up your claims; something that time and time again, you’re proven to be wrong about (such as…)

He makes the claim that the observed warming is only around 1oC for a doubling of CO2 so far. Yet, over the industrial era, we’ve had only about a third increase of CO2, not a doubling and more than half of that has occurred within the last 30yrs (not linear, not doubling) [h/t Rob H for the heads up]! If we wanted to use such simplistic an approach, this would mean that we’re on par for the 3oC of warming – but of course, it’s not that simple, hence why this isn’t a scientifically peer-reviewed report and unlike Chris, I’m not trying to suggest that this flimsy methodology proves/disproves the available scientific literature on the subject; only that he doesn’t get the literature at all.

He mentions Idso’s list of a thousand scientists which Prof. Abraham has already shown to be nonsense.

He makes the argument that Australia is too small to make a difference, which I’ve discussed already and in my previous post, I’ve also stated, many countries have already begun the transition – we’re silly not to invest in what is going to be the future backbone to human activity.

He argues that economists are unanimous on doing nothing to tackle climate change, yet Stern’s books and reports beg to differ as does a recent survey.

He states that he has lectured at a faculty level and written in reviewed literature, yet he fails to mention on what topic (hell, he could have lectured on theology – I won’t listen to him on scientific matters) nor if as an academic or paid by industry in a rented university venue (as was the case in the University of Notre Dame to give the Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture).

It’s also well known that he has written nothing that has been peer-reviewed in a scientific journal (2mins into the following video) and what has been reviewed by scientists, such as his report to the US congress and his lectures (most notably the review by Prof. Abraham) has been shown to be riddled with errors.

Lastly, his plea to the reporters was incredible!

Of course many Australian’s are scared when you have hypocrites like Tony Abbott screaming that industry will collapse and we’re all about to be hit by a big fat tax (contrary to the evidence) and crackpots like Chris screaming cold-war propaganda about hidden green-communists and that mining jobs will be lost (over a $2 per ton of coal tax on an industry that has nearly doubled its per unit value in recent years) running around the country out to inspire such emotions.

On that, it’s also noteworthy that a man quick to apply Godwin’s law at any social gathering is also the same character who, hypocritically, uses like tactics to inspire fear, anger and hatred within his audience. Take a listen to this podcast (40mins in) where his audience turns on and begins to shove Wendy Carlisle, an ABC reporter. It is his own anger rallying which lead to such vile behaviour and I couldn’t think of a more fitting comparison to behaviour we should leave in the 20th century.

Why he continues to get airtime and be taken seriously by anyone is beyond me.

Monckton Gets it Wrong Yet Again

We all know by now just how paranoid (of hidden Nazis and communists), self-indulgent (“I’m a non-voting member of the house of Lords” [UPDATE: David Beamish, the Clerk of the Parliaments has recently published this open letter to Monckton to clarify that he is NOT a member of the house]; “I was only joking about the Nobel prize thing…” [UPDATE: it seems this is inaccurate also, or else Chris has no control over what is said about him on his own site, h/t John Cook]; climate change “expert”) and warped this character’s understanding of the available scientific evidence is, so I won’t waste a lot of time on this post.

Adam Spencer (apparently another pawn of the socialistic ABC) interviewed Monckton this morning in what turned out to be a very heated argument (the man, quick to fall back on Godwin’s Law or to accuse academics of looking like crustaceans, is quite hostile when questioned about his own credentials – also rich seeing as he indulges in taking superiority over working scientists who are not strictly working on the sciences of the topic at hand, as demonstrated with Ben McNeil). You can catch the recordings (two, as Spencer hung up on Christopher at one point) on the ABC website, here.

Whilst Spencer struggled to come up with a decent reference (I’d have used Pinker et al. (2005) because the results were hilarious – see 13 mins of the video below) he eventually came up with Johannessen et al. (2007), when pressed for an example of misinterpretation.

The paper does show an accumulation of snow at high altitudes, which they state is likely to be largely the result of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). They go on to state;

“[T]he NAO can explain about three-quarters of the surface elevation changes, leaving us to speculate on other factors. A modeling study (30) of the Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance under greenhouse global warming has shown that temperature increases up to 2.7-C lead to positive mass-balance changes at high elevations (due to accumulation) and negative at low elevations (due to runoff exceeding accumulation), consistent with our findings, which implies that perhaps a quarter of the growth may be caused by global warming in Greenland (31) in our observation period. Furthermore, the observed elevation change implies that ice-sheet growth in the interior of Greenland may partly offset the freshwater flow of the retreating subpolar glaciers needed to explain the freshening rate of the world ocean, which can be explained almost
entirely by Arctic sea-ice melt (32)..”

In other words, the results of this interior high altitude accumulation of snow fits into the predictions of global warming – hardly a paper that at all supports Christopher’s hypothesis of hidden commies… (Potholer54 looks into this paper more towards the end of this presentation).

He goes on to discredit “Climate Scientists Respond” not because of the report’s content, but because it’s far larger than his initial report to which it responds, because Prof. Abraham co-authored it (whom he believes is inaccurate because of a reference to a later Jahannessen paper than the one discussed above – huge, I know…), other authors are part of the “climategate scandle” (“fiddling with data”) and one is under criminal investigation by the attorney general of West Virginia for defrauding tax payers.

It’s clear, now more than a year and a half later, that no number of investigations will ever be enough to such people as Christopher Monckton to dispel the myth of the climategate scandle until the scientists involved are found guilt – because people like Monckton know that they must be guilty. In short, none of this undermines the content of the report after all. (see this article from a year ago!)

The next error was a typical dishonest approach to pretend CO2 concentrations are too small to worry about. See the following video;

Changes in CO2 concentrations are known correlate with changes in species abundances and changes in concentration as being witnessed today are unparallelled in history (see chapter five of Climate Change, Ecology and Systematics).

Summing up, Zhuravlev and Wood (2009) state;

“The replacement of low-Mg calcite by aragonite was achieved in particular at the end-Permian mass extinction event, which occurred during an aragonite sea and both preferentially removed a substantial proportion of taxa bearing “unfavorable” low-Mg calcite mineralogies and allowed the selective radiation of clades with “favorable” aragonitic skeletons. This demonstrates the important of incumbency; that is, the persistence of organisms once established within ecosystems to override global oceanic changes in the evolution of skeletal mineralogy.”

The evolution and persistence of coral has not been as straight forward and as warm and fuzzy regardless of CO2 concentrations as Lord Monckton would like to pretend.

“It’s now quite clear, for instance,” Monckton goes on to claim, “that global warming is simply not happening at the rate which, um, it was predicted. Way, way below that… Even if there were as much warming going to happen as the IPCC and others have said, we can now, which is now very clear is not going to happen, even if it were, then it would still be six times cheaper to do nothing and to allow that global warming to occur and to pay for any damages that might arise than it would be to put in policies worldwide, eh, which are similar to those of the Australian government.”

It’s actually, his own “predictions” which are way higher than the IPCC’s predictions as is discussed in detail here, from this this graphic was pulled.

The rate of warming is still within the the IPCC’s predictions, but fall short of Monckton’s own graph – hence the possible source of this error.

As for it being cheaper to do nothing, I suggest reading Stern’s Blueprint for a Safer Planet, in which he suggests somewhere in the order of 1-2% of the global GDP is required to make headway on the challenges facing us with climate change. And then there are numerous insurance firms who don’t see doing nothing as the cheaper option: Association of British Insurers, Lloyds, and Munich Re. Also see this article in the Insurance Journal. [h/t ACN]

Update: Monckton states, “I was invited, first of all, by the University of Notre Dame to give the Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture…”

Another inaccuracy (does it ever end?). The invite had nothing to do with the university itself, but rather the venue was booked by Gina Rinehart’s mob who in turn offered a spot to Chris to pollute the air with his unique style of misinformation. In fact, the university has criticised his pseudo-science being given space on their grounds. More here.

I hesitate to suggest perhaps we have a case of fallacy turrets syndrome, but there it is.

Spencer deserves a round of applause for holding in there and even suggesting to continue to conversation after his broadcast.

For more on this infamous character, check out;

UPDATE: Deltoid has continued the look into the Spencer interview, here.

Monckton’s rap sheet

All five of Potholer54’s presentation [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

John Abraham’s presentation

Various Climate Crock presentations [1] [2] [3] [4]

Green-Media: Sensationalising Science for a Profit.

A few years ago, when I was beginning to establish my professional career, I mingled with a diverse group of people – from active ecological researchers to business leaders and policy designers. Back then, before the 4th IPCC report really made much waves, my main concern was “Greenwashing”.

With all that the data was telling us about habitat loss, overexploitation, climate change and pollution, I found myself in a mix of activity, innovation and a certain amount of spin. Everything was being retitled to start with “eco” and refaced in green. The posters on biodiversity, with strange but beautiful frogs or ancient forests were ripped down and replaced with green fields of long grass, with giant white wind turbines standing at attention against a rich blue sky. Somehow the market had re-envisioned itself, after years of appalling environmental management and now it entirely replaced what we saw as the natural world.

As much as this concerned me, I had my foot in the door and hoped, as time went by, I could help to channel some of this “good intention” into real world benefit. Alas, the door became redundant and others proved more viable and so I moved back into research and monitoring.

Over the last couple of years, a lot has changed. Much of the more ridiculous greenwashing seems to have disappeared and renewable and recyclable technology rely on more realistic expectations to sell rather than the previous sensationalism. It’s almost like greentech explosion never really occurred.

It seems that my fear that greenwashing technology would hijack genuine initiative to develop increasingly sustainable practices was unfounded. You would think I’d be relieved…

However, I suspect that the eco-fad undermined the evidence based reality, because it promised a wonder drug that would fix all our problems with little to no effort – just some investments. Of course, it would never have been so easy or we certainly  wouldn’t be where we are today and I wouldn’t be blogging.

More importantly, I’ve come to realise a more insidious side-effect of genuine scientific concern that profits greater (at a personal level) than greenwashing ever could have. This is the “Green-pop-media” market. Since the 4th IPCC report, so many books have been written on the “truth of climate change” and even more again since the non-event “Climategate”. I suspect every non-technical person whom I’ve talked with on various comment threads that refer to themselves as a “climate sceptic” has read at least one “climate sceptic” book – the most common in recent months seems to have been Air Con (Ken gives it a fitting review here). Some even inform me that they too plan to write a book on the subject and I’ve already spoken on Donna Laframboise’s soon to be released book, Decoding the Climate Bible: Almost nothing you’ve heard about the UN’s uber report is true. Without a doubt, the non-technical and heavily sensationalised climate subject is a positively booming industry, with would-be authors falling over themselves to sell the next trash read to anyone hungry for gossip.

What is worse, is when this nonsense is turned into a film.

What got me thinking about this was a recent post by MT, Cool It Your Own Self. Here, he discusses a new movie (sorry, at best it’s a Mockumentary), Cool It, featuring Bjorn Lomborg, which seems at best to be an act of self-praise.

The foreboding music; the angry establishment; the hints of conspiracy and secret plots; ‘one man against the machine’; it has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster thriller. My only hope is that they have time to uncover the reality of Area 51 and the Apollo moon landings while they’re at it.

The cast include the usual propagators of doubt, but most disturbingly, as others commented on in MT’s post, the late Schneider seemingly wanting to shut Lomborg up. It’s not the first time Schneider’s quotes have been used against him (out of context), but that it’s done on the man now that he is unable to defend himself is sickening.

Unfortunately scandals sell and there are those who crave attention and lust for money enough to spin reality on its head and this new movie simply panders to this market niche, much the same as the sensationalised climate literature discussed above. What makes it worse, however, is that this movie has far greater reaching ability than literature – it can reach a far less critical audience.

There’s no doubt Lomborg will make a healthy profit out of this venture, but he does it at greater cost to the rest of us than just the price of a movie ticket.