Crises of Climate

 

Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait forecasts impending doom now that the committees that oversee NASA and NOAA (The National Atmospheric Administration) will be chaired, respectively, by Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Plait’s primary cause for concern is that both men are climate change “deniers” (a “staunch denier” in Cruz’s case). More specifically, he cites both of them saying that global warming has paused for more than a decade. As Cruz puts it in an interview Plait embeds:

[T]he data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing. The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there has been should have been warming over the last fifteen years. It hasn’t happened. They don’t have an explanation for that.

So far as this un-credentialed writer is able to glean, this is factually incorrect: most data sets show that the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed since the mid-nineties. However — and it’s a big however — global temperatures have not risen anywhere near as much as the climate models predicted. How significant has the differences been? It’s complicated, but the models predicted warming between two and six times what has actually been observed over the past few decades, far less than what the doomsday scenarios peddled by popular media and certain former vice presidents promised (disclosure: some researchers have posited that the data is incomplete and that attempts to re-create it show that warming did happen much as expected).

This should not be terribly surprising. As Ricochet member Teunis Dorlas explained last year, it’s hard enough to model something as relatively simple as a parachute. Something as complicated and dynamic as the Earth’s atmosphere — with the dizzying number of variables that drive it and feed back upon each other — requires a herculean effort and, as the world does not actually have demigods, we have to get by with mere mortals using machines as best they can. Consider further that the research has political ramifications and requires the cooperation of thousands of people all over the globe, and it’s no wonder the whole thing’s contentious and messy.

So if there has been global warming — albeit, much less than predicted — does that make Cruz and Rubio worthy of the “denier” label? Not in my book, though both could use a sit-down by a sober-minded someone with familiarity beyond the basic talking points. In that same interview, Cruz goes on the cite the worries about global cooling that were in vogue in the 1970s as reason for skepticism, a point that seems well past its expiration date. If the senators are going to exert oversight on these matters, it would behoove them to do some better reading on them (I recommend Matt Ridley for starters) and to stop pretending that a nine-year-old documentary by a former vice president is the definitive work of climate science.

Simply put, being an informed skeptic requires you address the best the other side offers, not just its hysterical weak-men and straw-men. Phil Plait’s a decent and fair-minded enough person to write about the warming pause in another article and — while he disagrees in part — he makes concessions that would likely get him booed off a stage shared with Al Gore (“To be clear, warming over the past few years has slowed a bit compared with a few years before but…”) and that kind of back-and-forth is more likely to lead us to better discussions and smarter decisions.

But returning to his piece on Cruz and Rubio, Plait concludes that he “can’t imagine what disasters the GOP will wreak” now that it’s empowered by a bunch of anti-science whack-jobs. That’s not quite a prediction, but it’s close. It’ll take a few years to get a definitive answer, but I’ll wager Plait’s political prognostications on this aren’t a lot better than most climate models.

There are 41 comments.

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  1. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    Man-made Global Warming is a hoax.  Yes, the Earth’s climate changes.  It always has.  We don’t need more Laws and Regulations to deal with Mother Nature.  I am glad Rubio and Cruz are there to stop the Left from milking this scam any further.

    • #1
  2. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    “Is Earth’s overall climate warming?” is only one of many relevant questions. Taken together, it becomes clear that global warming concerns are laughable.

    What would be significantly abnormal change in the context of human and geological histories? Can a normal range, beyond which extraordinary influences become evident, even be identified? Geologic evidence suggests that Earth’s climate is always in flux and the timing of changes is no more predictable than volcanic activity. There is no regular cycle. And within each broad movement there are smaller oscillations from heat to cold and back again. We are only beginning to understand Earth’s climate history.

    How much must the global climate change to be significant? How much must it change to be disastrous? Human civilization has persisted through multiple global climate changes. As with economic changes, a shift in global temperature is not universally good or bad but affects different regions in different ways. I’m sure the English would like to have vineyards again. Climate fear mongers assume that current temperatures are ideal, but that is an unfounded assumption. Nor do we know what range of temperatures various nations of the world are capable of adapting to.

    Can human activity impact global temperatures? The sheer multitude of variables required to answer such a question make any conclusions thoroughly subjective at best.

    If human activity is having a significant impact, can we feasibly make changes which will significantly alter that effect? The answer is not obvious. In particular, how does any supposed effect of human activity compare to the significance of natural activity? A single pyroclastic eruption, like the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, can reduce global temperatures by more than a degree.

    In any case, what data should a layman, a politician, or a scientific researcher trust these days? Generations of studies have been poisoned by bias in the granting of research funds and media support. Want to study frogs in Papua New Guinea? Tell the government your research is related to “global warming” or “climate change” and you will get your money.

    In other words, not only do the opposing sides disagree on what data is necessary, what data is relevant, and what data might mean, but we can’t even agree on which data is genuine. Liberals are right about one thing: the debate is fruitless. And that’s alright. They don’t need to understand why when I vote against their silly hysterics.

    • #2
  3. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Let’s compare:

    During the Mesozoic era (dated about 245 to 66.4 million years ago), when dinosaurs lived, the Earth was supposed to have been much warmer than today. The Mesozoic era is made up of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. According to Lee R. Kump and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University (The Earth System, Lee R. Kump, James F. Kasting, and Robert G. Crane, 2010), fossil evidence indicates that

    [T]he Mid-Cretaceous climate was on the order of 2 to 6ºC (3.6-11º F) warmer at the equator and 20 to 60ºC (36-110ºF) warmer at the poles.

    The temperatures quoted above seem pretty OK to me.  But then I like wearing shorts, t-shirt and sandals. ;)

    • #3
  4. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: most data sets show that the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed since the mid-nineties.

    That’s an overstatement.  From the link you provide: “the trend during the last 15 years has amounted to an increase of just 0.05 degree Celsius per decade.”

    Which, given the uncertainties in the measurement process, is indistinguishable from zero.

    “Not in my book, though both could use a sit-down by a sober-minded someone with familiarity beyond the basic talking points.”

    They’re both far more scientific in their assessment of this fraud than the alarmists are.

    One has to understand what this is all about in order to understand why Cruz and Rubio are spot-on in their scorn: once you regulate CO2, you regulate the breath every living creature exhales.  Utter, unremitting Totalitarianism.

    • #4
  5. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Phil Plait’s a decent and fair-minded enough person to write about the warming pause in another article

    You’ve fallen for the propaganda.

    “In fact, most of that heat is going into deep ocean waters.”

    There’s no way to confirm that, conveniently.  It’s an untestable hypothesis, at the moment.  So his statement is not a “fact”, but a lie to fool those not familiar with the details.  “Decent and fair-minded”?

    Scientific American: “Mystery of Ocean Heat Deepens as Climate Changes

    • #5
  6. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    ‘In any case, what data should a layman, a politician, or a scientific researcher trust these days? Generations of studies have been poisoned by bias in the granting of research funds and media support. ‘

    Precisely, if this was all about science then the views of Rubio and Cruz should mean nothing but the ‘warmingistas’ have made it about politics, with Government grants, government shutdowns of industries, government cut offs of water, etc. They are demanding a shutdown of all progress and a rollback to the 17th century based on ‘models’ and predictions about things 20 – 30 years in the future by people whose previous predictions have not been proven out. If they had broad public support, government coercion would be unnecessary but the statist always believes he knows better than the people and must use coercion to force them to do what HE believes is best.

    • #6
  7. user_545015 Inactive
    user_545015
    @CharlesShunk

    most data sets show that the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed since the mid-nineties.

    It’s been more than 15 years since the mid-nineties.  You can get different answers here depending on what your starting point is, the biggest inflection point in results being ’98, where we had an unusual spike.  Also, different data sets give different results, and some do indeed show slight *drop* in temperature over just the past 15 years.  Any reasonable reconstruction taking all temperature sets in question would result in a very flat, almost zero change over the past 15 years.  So I would grade Cruz’s statement here as accurate enough for popular or political conversation.

    • #7
  8. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Climate Change is for the left, what the Armageddon is for the Abrahamic religions. Both are used enforce behaviors on believers and attract new believers with the promise of salvation.

    I am a scientist.

    Scientists need to sell their research skills to make a living.

    Scientists learned long ago that it is easier to sell your research to the government if you can claim your research will help thwart real threats — and the more dire the better. That is why it is important for the Atmospheric Science community to keep Climate Change as a threat.

    Trying to sell research as just a long term benefit to society gets you funding, but only so much as the costs of the research are well defined and the upside benefit is ill defined.  Humans are naturally disposed to loss aversion (i.e. a loss hurts more than a gain feels good).

    • #8
  9. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    I forget the writer who first wrote about this this process, but I thought it was especially useful in evaluating the issue. The way you play is for each “yes”, you move on to the next step.

    1. Global warming is happening.

    2. Global warming is happening and man is responsible.

    3. Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative.

    4. Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative and we can do something about it.

    5. Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative and we can do something about it and we know what that is.

    6.Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative and we can do something about it and we know what that is and doing something will not dramatically harm our current way of life.

    7.Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative and we can do something about it and we know what that is and doing something will not dramatically harm our current way of life and the people to implement those changes are the unelected government officials.

    8. Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative and we can do something about it and we know what that is and doing something will not dramatically harm our current way of life and the people to implement those changes are the unelected government officials how will be responsive and change prior laws as new data is collected.

    So, yeah, it all depends on where you start.

    • #9
  10. user_1075445 Inactive
    user_1075445
    @RandSimberg

    I’m actually working on a piece on the hair-on-fire reaction from the left to the Cruz chairmanship, both in terms of climate and space policy, probably at PJMedia, but if they don’t want it, I’ll post it here.

    • #10
  11. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Rand, I hope you post (re 10).  dt

    • #11
  12. user_1075445 Inactive
    user_1075445
    @RandSimberg

    Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative.

    Your formulation leaves out necessary quantification, both of the effects, and of the cost of preventing it. Here’s a piece I wrote a few years ago on the fallacy of the precautionary principle as applied to climate change. It still holds up pretty well, I think.

    • #12
  13. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    I’m going to bring this to the attention of the Ricochetti who don’t already read it:  http://climateaudit.org/

    Make the time to go back (years!) and read the analyses.

    • #13
  14. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    Rand Simberg:Global warming is happening and man is responsible and it will be a net negative.

    Your formulation leaves out necessary quantification, both of the effects, and of the cost of preventing it. Here’s a piece I wrote a few years ago on the fallacy of the precautionary principle as applied to climate change. It still holds up pretty well, I think.

    Well, gee, I thought the #6 “will not dramatically harm our way of life” got to that concept, but I look forward to your piece. :)

    • #14
  15. Ross C Member
    Ross C
    @RossC

    “Phil Plait forecasts impending doom now that the committees that oversee NASA and NOAA (The National Atmospheric Administration) will be chaired, respectively, by Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.”

    If I had my way this would come true.  I would immanitize the eschaton for one of those climate efforts, probably NASA.  Why does the US government need two different organizations tracking climate change (and that is not all BTW) in addtion to the various international organizations and universities that do the same thing.

    • #15
  16. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    As a resident of Minnesota, I sincerely hope that global warming is a reality.  The hotter the better, I say!

    In all seriousness, all of the conflicting studies, reports, charts, graphs, measurements, politics, motivations, etc. emanating from climate change science make it impossible for the expert to determine what is really going on, let alone the layman – even if mortal men could understand something as complicated as the earth’s atmosphere, which they clearly can’t.

    It’s all baby boomer hubris

    • #16
  17. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Ross C: I would immanitize the eschaton for one of those climate efforts, probably NASA. Why does the US government need two different organizations tracking climate change (and that is not all BTW) in addtion to the various international organizations and universities that do the same thing.

    NASA had James Hansen running their program.  He’s one of the bigger nutcases on the planet—which is not a CoC violation, just a statement of fact.  So they’re out…

    For your the answer to the question in your second sentence, see comment #8.

    • #17
  18. user_545015 Inactive
    user_545015
    @CharlesShunk

    TG:I’m going to bring this to the attention of the Ricochetti who don’t already read it: http://climateaudit.org/

    Make the time to go back (years!) and read the analyses.

    Much like for this comment.  ClimateAudit is probably the most patiently reasonable blog on the internet, with the best quality of comments around (yes, even higher than at Ricochet).  If you want to understand the real issues, then be patient yourself and read through the posts methodically, and making sure you understand what the posts *and* all the comments are saying.  You may well need to teach yourself some math in order to completely appreciate everything that is discussed (one key concept: Principle Components Analysis).

    ClimateAudit is most thorough on the issue of temperature reconstructions of the past 1-2 thousand years using proxies–i.e., is the recent increase of temperature over the past century unprecedented?  It’s not the only important question, but it is quite important.

    • #18
  19. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    ‘I’m actually working on a piece on the hair-on-fire reaction from the left to the Cruz chairmanship, both in terms of climate and space policy..’

    The left has that outsized insane reaction to absolutely any cutback at all, for instance midnight basketball or cowboy poetry festivals, this has several results , it lets conservatives know that they will not concede a single dollar that’s already been taken, if they will go to war of these ridiculous expenditures then they will go thermonuclear over something larger like head start or food stamps. Conservatives are being warned ‘ we will fight to the death for every inch of ground, you will exhaust yourself and be destroyed’ thus conservatives are usually content to just hold the line for a little while and never even attempt cutbacks.

    • #19
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Frozen Chosen:As a resident of Minnesota, I sincerely hope that global warming is a reality. The hotter the better, I say!

    I know you mean this tongue-in-cheek, but think about it seriously for a moment.  The history of the population of the United States for the last 50-plus years has been one of voluntary migration from colder climates to warmer climates.

    People seem to have an explicit preference for warmer climates.  So why is “global warming” a problem?

    • #20
  21. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Climate alarmists are quite concerned about the physical world that will confront future generations, centuries hence. What they don’t seem to care about one whit is the standard of living at which those future peoples will be able to live.

    In other words, they would prefer a slightly cooler world where everyone lives in abject poverty to a world that is a bit warmer, with sea levels an inch or two higher, but most people are prosperous enough to lead a decent life by today’s standards.

    These people must be stopped even if they were right about the science, which they are not.

    • #21
  22. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    I disagree that bringing up the global cooling predictions m the 70s and the Al Gore movie are arguments that are past their prime.

    I especially think “An Inconvenient Truth” is still relevant because the hockey stick graph is still accepted as truth by most people.  Mark Steyn seems to me to be on the front lines here, since as I understand he is in some sort of lawsuit for saying the hockey stick graph was wrong.  That is really incredible to me, that there can be a lawsuit over challenging someone’s scientific evidence.  Please correct me if I am missing something here.

    To me this may be the most important issue in modern politics, in the sense that if you are able to see through the propaganda about climate change, you are essentially able to see through leftism.  If Republicans could convince people to change their positions on any one issue, I would choose climate change because if you can see how the left operates with regards to science, you can see how they operate with most issues.

    • #22
  23. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    I’m a little amazed at the hostility here, especially given that the gist of the piece is that climate models have not been reliable and that Plait’s hyperventilating about Cruz and Rubio is likely to be no more accurate.

    As I should have made more clear — and as FightingInPhili did — it does not logically follow that because the earth is warming due to human action that it is necessarily something bad, let alone something bad enough to warrant our worry, let alone doing anything about, let alone taking the economy (and human) -killing measures Progressives demand.

    • #23
  24. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Put another way, if Rubio or Cruz were to say “Look, the evidence for catastrosphic anthropomorphic global warming is too weak, inconsistent, and poltically compromised to warrant goverment action beyond monitoring,” that would make emminent sense. Instead, they’re saying that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about and then procede to make statements that — at the very least — come across as categorical about the evidence.

    • #24
  25. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’m a little amazed at the hostility here

    Nothing personal!

    I just think you make too many fundamental errors in your argument here for it to be compelling.  This is unfortunately an argument that’s all about detail, as the elements of the fraud are down at the most basic levels of this enterprise.

    Cruz’s statement which you quote:

    “[T]he data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing….”

    Is 100% correct.

    Quoting it and pointing out that it is correct based largely on quotes from folks participating in the fraud (as demonstrated) is what’s causing people to reject your argument so forcefully.

    • #25
  26. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Tom, you are wrong, and we have no choice but to call you on it. An argument on an unsound foundation is worthless.

    The fact is that, using the only “pure” data we have (satellite), there has been NO net warming for 18 years, 3 months, while CO2 continues to increase.

    Scientists and Liberals are in a pickle because they are arguing against the data.  So they resort to the Big Lie.  Those of us who reject the falsehoods reject the Big Lie categorically, and the man you quote (Plait) is part of the Big Lie. Which is why a number of us are trying to slide past your gullet.

    • #26
  27. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Part of the problem is that the term “deniers” has been deliberately extended to everyone who does not buy completely into the bogus “consensus” that we face a runaway climatic situation with average global temperatures increasing by 5-8F which, if true, I think would be cause for concern, unlike some others on this thread.

    Whether average surface or atmospheric temperatures have not increased or slightly increased since 1998 (and there is support for both interpretations) it is clear that the modeled predictions of temperature increases by advocates of the consensus are dramatically deviating from reality on the ground and in the air.  Something is wrong with their understanding of the global climate and they need to reexamine their assumptions.  Their hypothesis may still be correct but the evidence of the past 20 years does not support it.

    The longer the pause goes on the more it becomes likely that while we may see the 1 degree increase predicted by a straightforward calculation of doubling of CO2 (a temperature increase that would be lost in the background noise of normal climate variation) it becomes more and more unlikely that the loops of positive feedback postulated in the models and needed to get the 5-8 degree increases will occur as predicted.

    I don’t think the theory is a Hoax but I do believe Big Lie techniques have been used to demonize any who are not fully onboard and to obscure the many and growing scientific criticisms of the current modeling paradigm.

    • #27
  28. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    And as for policy, which is what these politicians need to be concerned with . . .

    The EU ratified Kyoto and embarked on a full set of laws and regulations to implement it.  The US did not ratify.  The Kyoto commitments expired in 2012.  The EU and US greenhouse emissions reductions (by percentage) were the same for the period which tells us that no one knows what an effective policy would be even if we thought climate change was an issue requiring government action.

    And unlike other pollution issues on which I worked over my career CO2 emissions are a global not local, regional or national issue.  Because of the huge change in where CO2 emissions come from today (China which was half of US emissions in 2000, passed the US in 2006 and today has emissions equal to the US and the EU-15) voluntary reductions by the US would make no change in the temperatures predicted by the consensus climate models.  It’s simply a useless and stupid (and costly) gesture.

    My view is that while it is possible the current consensus is correct the evidence of that has grown weaker over the past two decades.  Given the failure and cost of past policies such as Kyoto (in addition to failure of emissions reductions talk to Germans about the total failure and increased costs of that country’s policies in this area) it is premature to embark on a set of costly measures, most of all costly to consumers, in order to remake our energy system as a precautionary measure.

    • #28
  29. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    iWc: Tom, you are wrong, and we have no choice but to call you on it. An argument on an unsound foundation is worthless.

    As I said repeatedly — and with a whole lot of qualifications — the evidence seems to weakly-but-consistently indicate a slight warming trend, well below those projected. My sources for this understanding are people like Ronald Bailey (whom I cited repeatedly in this piece), Matt Ridley, and Bjorn Lomborg, all of whom strike me as informed, trustworthy, and not drinking the kool-aid.

    • #29
  30. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Okay, this is interesting: either I’d forgotten or missed it, but Ridley seems to have changed his opinion in just the most recent months:

    [New finding regarding the “the Pause” have] taken me by surprise. I was among those who thought the pause was a blip. As a “lukewarmer,” I’ve long thought that man-made carbon-dioxide emissions will raise global temperatures, but that this effect will not be amplified much by feedbacks from extra water vapor and clouds, so the world will probably be only a bit more than one degree Celsius warmer in 2100 than today. By contrast, the assumption built into the average climate model is that water-vapor feedback will treble the effect of carbon dioxide.

    But now I worry that I am exaggerating, rather than underplaying, the likely warming.

    • #30

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