False balance time at the Herald. Last week they gave Greenpeace climate campaigner Susannah Bailey a chance to look at how certain sectors of the business community (Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Business Roundtable etc) are lobbying against current plans for an emissions trading scheme, this week they give NZ Climate “Science” Coalition science advisor Chris de Freitas space to express a different point of view. Bailey’s language was a deal more measured than de Freitas, who indulges in some vibrant green-bashing:
The fanatical name calling and personal attacks expose the strong ideological elements that drive global warming alarmist thinking. It’s as if the depth of passion is overcompensation for doubt and uncertainty. Why else would environmentalists squander so much effort trying to discredit individuals and organisations who disagree?
Warning: I’m about to squander some time trying to discredit de Freitas – whose grasp of the underlying science seems a little – how shall I put this – shaky for an associate professor in the School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Auckland.
If we ignore the ritual name-calling, the branding of those warning of the dangers of climate change as “alarmists”, we find that de Freitas attempts to offer some “facts” in support of his argument. Let’s parse them in detail:
Pronouncements from Greenpeace or the IPCC do not and cannot change the facts. No one doubts humans affect climate. The debate is whether the effects are “dangerous”.
Nice attempt there to establish equivalence between a campaigning environmental organisation and a major international review of current climate science.
There is no hard evidence that increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere put there by human activities are causing or will cause dangerous change to global climate.
Is that so? What is “hard” evidence? The IPCC says that the evidence for global warming is now unequivocal, and that substantial change is already being observed. How do we define impacts as being dangerous? When agricultural production in some African countries is reduced by 50% (the 2020s), or when the Asian megadeltas are affected by sea level rise?
The Earth’s surface has warmed slightly over the last 150 years, but research shows that floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes have not increased in frequency.
They may not have increased in numbers, but there is evidence of increased intensity – it has been observed for heavy rain, drought, and tropical cyclones.
The climate facts are well established and well recorded, but often ignored when it comes to global warming catastrophism:
* There have been four periods of global warming in the past 1500 years.
Now this is a mystery. Where do you get this from, Chris? Fred Singer pretends that global warming happens every 1500 years. But four episodes in the last millenium and a half? Did you just make that up?
* Data clearly show the Earth cooled during a recent 35-year period despite the continuing rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Oh dear. The associate professor is now pretending that carbon dioxide is the only driver of climate change. Lots of other factors affect the climate system, and during the slight cooling from the 1940s to 1970s, industrial pollution was counteracting warming.
* In recent times, global temperature has been steady since 1998, despite the continuing rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The “no warming since 1998” lie. It’s getting tedious pointing out that the underlying trend continues to be upwards.
* Average global sea level rise has shown no acceleration over the past 300 years.
Plain wrong. The IPCC says: “Global average sea level has risen since 1961 at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3]mm/yr and since 1993 at 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8]mm/yr.” (SPM, AR4 synthesis report). 3.1mm per year is at keast 50% more than 1.8mm per year. An acceleration in anyone’s book.
* And it is an uncontroversial fact that all climate models are unreliable, so their output is not evidence of anything.
Uncontroversial? That’s like Lawson asserting that everyone agrees that global warming isn’t happening at the moment. So on CdF’s word we’ll just dismiss all that inconvenient science. What a relief not having to argue about that.
Recent climate change is within natural variation, and although this in no way confirms that it is due to natural variation, climate history clearly demonstrates that natural variation can explain the moderate climate change we have seen up until 1998.
The current rate of warming (0.2ÂºC per decade) is unprecedented in at least the last few million years, and is about 20 times faster than the warming out of the last ice age – which was rapid in paleoclimate terms.
One could argue that we should take the observed net 0.6C warming trend over the past 100 years seriously, but by itself it looks rather benign, and may even be beneficial.
Wrong again. The warming over the 100 years to 2003 is given by the the IPCC as 0.74ÂºC. But it’s a small number, so we’ll don our Lomborgian/Lawsonian rose-tinted spectacles, ignore the entire IPCC Working Group 2 report, and claim that warming will be good for us all.
de Freitas has been relatively quiet as the NZ CSC’s “science advisor” – not much up on their web site, and only occasional forays into the press. If this Herald op-ed is the best he can do, perhaps that’s no surprise. I do hope the science he teaches is somewhat more accurate.