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Thursday, January 12, 2006


Global Warming Idiocy

Unlike The Age publishing the occasional article on Intelligent Design Creationism by people clueless about biology, The Australian has seen fit to publish articles about global warming by people clueless on the science of climate. Wednesday's opinion piece in the Australian about global warming was appallingly ignorant, and virulent about it too.

An article that starts off citing Science Fiction writer Michael Crichton's, as this one does, does not inspire confidence. Mr Crichton has written a Science Fiction thriller about climate change. Despite numerous factual errors, many people see him as an authority rather than people who actually study climate. You should visit RealClimate to find out the real issues in global warming rather than Crichton inspired fantasies.

The Australian article in question trots out a wide range of "facts" about global warming that have been long debunked.

Hence, the famous "hockey stick" graph purporting to show climate over the past 1000 years, as a continuous, flat, millennium-long bungalow with a skyscraper tacked on for the 20th century. This graph was almost laughably fraudulent, not least because it used a formula that would generate a hockey stick shape no matter what data you input, even completely random, trendless, arbitrary computer-generated data.

No, the "Hockey Stick" is not fraudulent. This discussion of the "Hockey Stick" goes into much better detail about it (actually, it gets a bit technical), but the take home message is that the results are well validated, reproducible in other studies and most importantly, the statistical treatment (it wasn't a "mathematical formula as most lay people would understand) did not automatically generate "hockey sticks" (It was principle component analysis for crying out loud). See also this discussion of "Hockey Stick" myths.

Thirty years ago, Lowell Ponte had a huge bestseller called The Cooling: Has the new ice age already begun? Can we survive?

What climate change denial tract would be complete without the "coming ice age" prediction? This is an Urban Myth , but climate deniers keep on trotting it out.

Because from 1940 to 1970, temperatures fell. Now why would that be? Who knows? Maybe it was Hitler.

Yes, there is a slight cooling phase between 1940 and 1970 (closer to the mid sixties actually) that is superimposed on an otherwise relentless rise since 1900. While climate scientists cannot be certain of all the factors involved, the most likely culprits are aerosols from industrial pollution and volcanic eruptions , that are known to cause cooling.

As a research scientist and amateur astronomer I'm used to highly technical debate in contentious scientific areas. What I am not used to (pace creationism, which is a different kettle of fish) is the use of apparently deliberate mistruths in debate. Newspapers still play an important role in disseminating information, and journalists pride themselves on presenting both sides of a debate fairly. However, The Australian has given a prominent place to someone who is spouting absolute nonsense. Nonsense that could be checked with a few minutes on the internet (let alone perusing any of the technical papers or the IPCC summaries. As such, The Australian has done a grave disservice to the public of Australia.

My goodness, that's quite a worrying article. You never know, may be they'll let someone on the other side of the debate write next week's piece...
Why do you suppose that Greenland is named "green"land? Do you suppose that the Vikings were being ironic?

And lets add the hard data: O18 content in ice cores from deep glaciers in both Greenland and Antarctica, which agree that the earth has had numerous increases and decreases in global average temperature; just after the end of the last ice age the earth averaged 7 degrees Celcius warmer than it is today. 7 degrees. That's a damn sight warmer than the 0.5 degree warming over the last 150 years, and well over the 0.15 degree cooling projected by the drafters of Kyoto if the Kyoto plan was adopted worldwide.

Finally, there is ample evidence that the north polar icecap has been noticeably melting over the last 40 years; satellite pictures confirm this. Only problem: the north polar icecap I'm talking about is on Mars.

So, let's not talk about "apparently" deliberate mistruths. The global-warming-is-caused-by-man crowd has been engaging in deliberate mistruths since 1970.

Don't know why I should be too worried about more beach weather.

Detecting a significant (statistically) increase/decrease in the average temperature on Mars that correlates with the rising temperature on Earth could act as evidence towards an increase in the output of the Sun. However, there are no real long-term studies of the Martian climate so it is not really possible to do this yet. Also, is a direct comparison between two differently sized planets with very different atmospheres (in mass and composition) and different surfaces (70% water on Earth) just straightforward? It looks like a massive headache of data analysis to me full of assumptions.

We know that our climate is full of variations on all scales (time, space and temperature) but the bigger changes tend to be over longer time-scales - this is 1/f noise (pink noise) and is seen in many aspects of nature - whereas the small changes happen on short timescales. The main issue causing concern to meteorologists is the speed of the current increase in global temperatures - it appears to be over a considerably shorter time-scale than changes were in the past. At this point people may think of the "mini iceage" that occurred in Europe near the time of the Maunder minimum. But that seems to have been a local cooling in Europe rather than global. After all, you should remember that Europe is only kept as warm as it is because of the Gulf stream.

To say that the Sun doesn't have an effect on climate is silly - it helps drive our weather systems. To say that the climate doesn't have natural variations is wrong. The data, taken by people who study the climate for a living, shows that we have an affect too. Ignoring any of these contributions is driven by a political agenda.
Megan, The Australian is not known for "balance" in these sorts of articles. This article outright accuses climate researchers of fraud. The email I shot off to the australian point out the facts and demanding a retraction of the fraud chage has been met with silence. I do not expect to see it published ar see a retraction, let alone a balancing article.
Ed. No one, let alone climate scientists, claim that climate doesn't chage, or that there are more factors to climate change than just human activity. Again I warmly recomend IPCC summaries and RealClimate for discussion of these areas. The medieval warm period, when Greenland was Greenish (there was a fair bit of exageration in this name, but it was warmer then) was ceratinly real, and discussed at the above sites. However, the recent burst of climate change is bigger and faster than amost anything in the historical record, and mostly due to human activity. Stuart has give a good rundown on the problems with "Global Warming" on Mars. This issue is discussed on the RealClimate site. Basically people are misineterpreting the data ( athree year, not 40 year, trend due to changed dust storm regimes).
"journalists pride themselves on presenting both sides of a debate fairly"

Well, now. based on the above quotation, I'm guessing this post is 100% satire. Journalists pesenting both sides fairly?? You must be joking.
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