It’s climate sceptic week at the Herald. On Monday they provided a platform for Bryan Leyland of the NZ C”S”C to repeat his tired old opposition to government energy strategy (nicely rebutted by I/S at No Right Turn), and this morning they give room to Garth George to offer his thoughts under the headline “Great global warming debate a bunch of hot air“. Garth’s views are not news – he’s been running this line for ages – but I am frankly astonished that the powers that be at the Herald allow him to repeat lies. Since fact-checking at the paper seems to have gone on holiday, it falls to me to provide the correction.
Garth begins by having a moan about the Herald‘s coverage of the Bali conference:
This newspaper devoted a page (generally tinted green) a day to the two-week talkfest, but nowhere was there mention of what could have been the most important document tabled. It was a letter written on behalf of more than 100 prominent scientists from around the world, including at least seven from New Zealand, to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
This was a letter published in Canada’s National Post on December 13th, and copied to heads of government at Bali. The “prominent” scientists overlap with Fran O’Sullivans “eminent” scientists. Yes, Owen McShane and Bryan Leyland are there. Again.
Here’s Garth’s paraphrase of some of the main points in the letter:
The letter said recent observations of phenomena such as glacial retreats, sea-level rise and migration of temperature-sensitive species were not evidence for abnormal climate change because none of those changes had been shown to be outside the bounds of natural variability.
The average rate of warming of 0.1 to 0.2C each decade recorded by satellites during the late 20th century fell within known natural rates of warming and cooling over the past 10,000 years.
The letter said leading scientists, including some senior IPCC representatives, acknowledged that today’s computer models could not predict climate. Consistent with that, and despite computer projections of temperature rises, there had been no net global warming since 1998. That today’s temperature plateau followed a late 20th-century period of warming was consistent with the continuation of natural millennial climate cycling.
Now I would have thought that these assertions, backed by scientific evidence, would have thrilled the Bali conferees to bits, and they would have quickly packed up and gone home to get on with more important things.
The problem, Garth, is that these assertions are not backed by scientific evidence. They amount to bare-faced lies.
The current rate of warming is roughly 20 times faster than the last period of rapid climate change, when the world warmed by 5C (on average) over 5,000 years as we emerged from the last ice-age. The current rate of warming is much faster than “natural variability” – in fact it’s one of the most worrying facets of the problem. Ecosystems will struggle to adapt. In other words, your letter writers are being more than economical with the truth, they’re distorting it beyond all recognition.
The next lie is the familiar “no net warming” since 1998 – something I debunked in Hot Topic, and several times in this blog (check Notes & Sources for more). But I don’t have to do it on my own. A mathematician and expert in the analysis of time series who blogs under the name Tamino at Open Mind, has just posted his latest analysis of the global average temperature data.
Itâ€™s abundantly evident that temperature since 2000 (following the regression interval) is perfectly consistent with the trend preceding it; in fact temperatures since 2000 have been a little warmer than expected from the preceding trend. We can see that even more clearly by computing the â€œresiduals,â€ i.e., the difference between actual annual global average temperature and the value if it exactly followed the 1975-2000 trend. This reveals, more clearly than any other way Iâ€™m aware of, just how wrong it is to claim that â€œglobal warming stopped in 1998.â€ Temperatures since then have been perfectly consistent with the preceding trend. In fact they really have been a little warmer, although the extra warmth post-2000 is not yet statistically significant.
So we have a letter that tells lies, signed by 100 prominent scientists who aren’t, and Garth expects the world to pay attention? Those of us who are not fact-challenged will beg the indulgence of being allowed to consign the letter to the waste bin. But I don’t expect Garth to change his mind, as he finishes the piece with:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: blaming CO2 emissions for climate change is an international rort.
He’ll say it again, no doubt. On current form he’ll say it again, in the Herald next week. And he’ll be just as wrong then as he is now.