The WSJ Asks: Whatever Happened to Global Warming? It’s A Good Question

The WSJ has been one of the few mainstream publications that has given a bit of room to skeptical reporting on global warming, which has been rechristened “climate change” for by now painfully obvious reasons. So it is not a big surprise to find an article about the “long hiatus” in the WSJ. It is however worth quoting a few passages from it, not least because the author himself has been surprised by the “pause”:

 

“The U.N. no longer claims that there will be dangerous or rapid climate change in the next two decades. Last September, between the second and final draft of its fifth assessment report, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change quietly downgraded the warming it expected in the 30 years following 1995, to about 0.5 degrees Celsius from 0.7 (or, in Fahrenheit, to about 0.9 degrees, from 1.3).

Even that is likely to be too high. The climate-research establishment has finally admitted openly what skeptic scientists have been saying for nearly a decade: Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began.

First the climate-research establishment denied that a pause existed, noting that if there was a pause, it would invalidate their theories. Now they say there is a pause (or “hiatus”), but that it doesn’t after all invalidate their theories.

Alas, their explanations have made their predicament worse by implying that man-made climate change is so slow and tentative that it can be easily overwhelmed by natural variation in temperature—a possibility that they had previously all but ruled out.

[…]when David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London made the same point, the environmentalist and journalist Mark Lynas said in the New Statesman that Mr. Whitehouse was “wrong, completely wrong,” and was “deliberately, or otherwise, misleading the public.”

We know now that it was Mr. Lynas who was wrong. Two years before Mr. Whitehouse’s article, climate scientists were already admitting in emails among themselves that there had been no warming since the late 1990s. “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998,” wrote Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain in 2005. He went on: “Okay it has but it is only seven years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.”

If the pause lasted 15 years, they conceded, then it would be so significant that it would invalidate the climate-change models upon which policy was being built. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) written in 2008 made this clear: “The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more.”

Well, the pause has now lasted for 16, 19 or 26 years—depending on whether you choose the surface temperature record or one of two satellite records of the lower atmosphere. That’s according to a new statistical calculation by Ross McKitrick, a professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada.

It has been roughly two decades since there was a trend in temperature significantly different from zero. The burst of warming that preceded the millennium lasted about 20 years and was preceded by 30 years of slight cooling after 1940. This has taken me by surprise. I was among those who thought the pause was a blip.”

 

(emphasis added)

Given that several years ago, climate scientists admitted that their models would have to be thrown out if the “pause” lasted longer than 15 years, it may be a bit surprising to find that not only have they not been thrown out, but the scaremongering in the media generally continues to be as shrill as ever, if not more so.

In the meantime, about 40 different explanations for the pause have been proposed in scientific papers. Obviously, not all 40 can be correct, but a thread that is unifying most of them has emerged: the pause is the result of, well, nature. Taking a layman’s stab at this, we would propose that the same is true of the most recent warming period and the 30 years of cooling that preceded it. In other words, human influence on the climate is probably so small as to be negligible, and there is no cause for alarm.

 

So why the continued alarmism? Simple: it sells. Newspapers for instance aren’t sold with stories about there being no reason to be alarmed about something or other. Alarmist scientists face some risk to their reputation, but more importantly, a huge gravy train could be derailed if they admit that they have been wrong all along. As we have previously pointed out, before the current climate alarmism really got going in the 1980s, climate science was a rather small, sparsely funded scientific niche. Along with all the other government-subsidized activities that have sprung from climate alarmism (think e.g. “green, but economically non-viable energy”) it has in the meantime grown into a quite sizable tax-payer funded racket.

 

no warmingThe RSS temperature chart, via Wattsupwiththat. No warming for almost 18 years. Other data suggest a slightly shorter (16 years) and an even longer (26 years) pause.

 

 The Climate Change Pattern

But-now-you-know” recently reported that there exists indeed a climate change pattern, but “it is not what you think”. It turns out alarmist climate predictions are fairly routine. There has been a constant roller coaster between “the ice age is coming” and “it is getting too hot” panics for more than a century. It is fair to say that this has become a modern replacement for many other types of end times predictions, which have been with us since the dawn of human history.

Here is the time line presented, which is really a hoot:

 

1895 – Geologists Think the World May Be Frozen Up Again –  New York Times, February 1895

  • 1902 – “Disappearing Glaciers…deteriorating slowly, with a persistency that means their final annihilation…scientific fact…surely disappearing.” – Los Angeles Times
  • 1912 –  Schmidt Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age–  New York Times, October 1912
  • 1923 – “Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada” – Professor Gregory of Yale University, American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress, – Chicago Tribune
  • 1923 – “The discoveries of changes in the sun’s heat and the southward advance of glaciers in recent years have given rise to conjectures of the possible advent of a new ice age” – Washington Post
  • 1924 – MacMillan Reports Signs of New Ice Age–  New York Times, Sept 18, 1924
  • 1929 – “Most geologists think the world is growing warmer, and that it will continue to get warmer” – Los Angeles Times, in Is another ice age coming?
  • 1932 – “If these things be true, it is evident, therefore that we must be just teetering on an ice age” – The Atlantic magazine, This Cold, Cold World
  • 1933 – America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776; Temperature Line Records a 25-Year Rise–  New York Times, March 27th, 1933
  • 1933 – “…wide-spread and persistent tendency toward warmer weather…Is our climate changing?” – Federal Weather Bureau“Monthly Weather Review.”
  • 1938 – Global warming, caused by man heating the planet with carbon dioxide, “is likely to prove beneficial to mankind in several ways, besides the provision of heat and power.”– Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
  • 1938 – “Experts puzzle over 20 year mercury rise…Chicago is in the front rank of thousands of cities thuout the world which have been affected by a mysterious trend toward warmer climate in the last two decades” – Chicago Tribune
  • 1939 – “Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right… weather men have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer” – Washington Post
  • 1952 – “…we have learned that the world has been getting warmer in the last half century” –  New York Times, August 10th, 1962
  • 1954 – “…winters are getting milder, summers drier. Glaciers are receding, deserts growing” – S. News and World Report
  • 1954 – Climate – the Heat May Be Off– Fortune Magazine
  • 1959 – “Arctic Findings in Particular Support Theory of Rising Global Temperatures” – New York Times
  • 1969 – “…the Arctic pack ice is thinning and that the ocean at the North Pole may become an open sea within a decade or two” –  New York Times, February 20th, 1969
  • 1969– “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000″ — Paul Ehrlich (while he now predicts doom from global warming, this quote only gets honorable mention, as he was talking about his crazy fear of overpopulation)
  • 1970 – “…get a good grip on your long johns, cold weather haters – the worst may be yet to come…there’s no relief in sight” – Washington Post
  • 1974 – Global cooling for the past forty years – Time Magazine
  • 1974 – “Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age” – Washington Post
  • 1974 – “As for the present cooling trend a number of leading climatologists have concluded that it is very bad news indeed” – Fortunemagazine, who won a Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics for its analysis of the danger
  • 1974 – “…the facts of the present climate change are such that the most optimistic experts would assign near certainty to major crop failure…mass deaths by starvation, and probably anarchy and violence” – New York Times

 

Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age

 

  • 1975 – Scientists Ponder Why World’s Climate is Changing; A Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be InevitableNew York Times, May 21st, 1975

  • 1975 – “The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind” Nigel Calder, editor, New Scientistmagazine, in an article in International Wildlife Magazine

  • 1976 – “Even U.S. farms may be hit by cooling trend” – S. News and World Report

  • 1981 – Global Warming – “of an almost unprecedented magnitude” – New York Times

  • 1988 – I would like to draw three main conclusions. Number one, the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements. Number two, the global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect. And number three, our computer climate simulations indicate that thegreenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves. – Jim HansenJune 1988 testimony before Congress, see  His later quote and  His superior’s objection  for context

  • 1989 -“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” – Stephen Schneider, lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Discovermagazine, October 1989

  • 1990 – “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing – in terms of economic policy and environmental policy” – Senator Timothy Wirth

  • 1993 – “Global climate change may alter temperature and rainfall patterns, many scientists fear, with uncertain consequences for agriculture.” – S. News and World Report

  • 1998 – No matter if the science [of global warming] is all phony . . . climate change [provides] the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” —Christine Stewart, Canadian Minister of the Environment, Calgary Herald, 1998

  • 2001 – “Scientists no longer doubt that global warming is happening, and almost nobody questions the fact that humans are at least partly responsible.” –  Time Magazine, Monday, Apr. 09, 2001

  • 2003 – Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue, and energy sources such as “synfuels,” shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration” – Jim Hansen, NASA Global Warming activist,  Can we defuse The Global Warming Time Bomb? , 2003

  • 2006 – “I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.” — Al Gore, Grist magazine, May 2006

  • 2006– “It is not a debate over whether the earth has been warming over the past century. The earth is always warming or cooling, at least a few tenths of a degree…” — Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorologyat MIT

  • 2006– “What we have fundamentally forgotten is simple primary school science. Climate always changes. It is always…warming or cooling, it’s never stable. And if it were stable, it would actually be interesting scientifically because it would be the first time for four and a half billion years.” —Philip Stott, emeritus professor of bio-geography at the University of London

  • 2006 – “Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods. From 1895 until the 1930’s the media peddled a coming ice age. From the late 1920’s until the 1960’s they warned of global warming. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s they warned us again of a coming ice age. This makes modern global warming the fourth estate’s fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years.” –  Senator James Inhofe , Monday, September 25, 2006

  • 2007– “I gave a talk recently (on fallacies of global warming) and three members of the Canadian government, the environmental cabinet, came up afterward and said, ‘We agree with you, but it’s not worth our jobs to say anything.’ So what’s being created is a huge industry with billions of dollars of government money and people’s jobs dependent on it.” –  Tim Ball, Coast-to-Coast, Feb 6, 2007

  • 2008– “Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it). Hansen thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress” – John S. Theon, retired Chief of the Climate Processes Research Programat NASA, see above for Hansen quotes

 

Anthony Watts has completed the list by adding a number of dire predictions published in the media since 2009 and a little of the push-back that has occurred:

 

2009 – Climate change: melting ice will trigger wave of natural disasters. Scientists at a London conference next week will warn of earthquakes, avalanches and volcanic eruptions as the atmosphere heats up and geology is altered. Even Britain could face being struck by tsunamis – “Not only are the oceans and atmosphere conspiring against us, bringing baking temperatures, more powerful storms and floods, but the crust beneath our feet seems likely to join in too,” – Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, at University College London, –  The Guardian, Sep 2009 .

  • 2010– What Global Warming Looks Like.It was more than 5°C (about 10°F) warmer than climatology in the eastern European region including Moscow. There was an area in eastern Asia that was similarly unusually hot. The eastern part of the United States was unusually warm, although not to the degree of the hot spots in Eurasia. James Hansen –  NASA GISS, August 11, 2010 .

  • 2011– Where Did Global Warming Go?“In Washington, ‘climate change’ has become a lightning rod, it’s a four-letter word,” said Andrew J. Hoffman, director of the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Sustainable Development.   –  New York Times, Oct 15, 2011.

  • 2012– Global warming close to becoming irreversible-scientists.“This is the critical decade. If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines,” said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London. Reuters, Mar 26, 2012

  • 2013– Global-warming ‘proof’ is evaporating. The 2013 hurricane season just ended as one of the five quietest years since 1960. But don’t expect anyone who pointed to last year’s hurricanes as “proof” of the need to act against global warming to apologize; the warmists don’t work that way. New York Post, Dec 5, 2013

  • 2014 – Climate change: It’s even worse than we thought. Five years ago, the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a gloomy picture of our planet’s future. As climate scientists gather evidence for the next report, due in 2014, Michael Le Page gives seven reasons why things are looking even grimmer. –  New Scientist  (undated in 2014)

 

“But-now-you-know” shows the chart below, commenting: “The actual Global Warming Advocates’ chart, overlaid on the “climate change” hysterics of the past 120 years. Not only is it clear that they take any change and claim it’s going to go on forever and kill everyone, but notice that they even sometimes get the short-term trend wrong…”

 

climate-claimsWarming and ice age scares plotted over the past 120 years.

 

Our guess is that two effects are working hand in hand: on the one hand, there is a “social mood” derived trend – there seems to be a deep-seated need to worry about planetary, all-consuming catastrophes. Apocalyptic tales are indeed always quite fascinating, such as those about past mass extinction events like the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs (which implies that one day, we are likely to face a similar predicament…), the currently sleeping magma chamber below Yellowstone Park that could potentially break out and bury us under 6 feet of volcanic ash, the mega-tsunami that could be created by the Cumbre Vieja breaking apart, and lately even rather more improbable, but all the more exciting tales about “strangelets” and micro black holes produced in CERN’s large hadron collider that could bring about doomsday. Note here that all of these things are potentially genuine threats, but the probability that they will become acute is very low (in the last example so low as to be almost non-existent, but we like it because it is such a neat modernized update on the apocalypse and includes the “human sin” aspect that is such an integral part of climate change alarmism as well).

On the other hand, scaremongering is, and always has been, a great business. Whether it is the gullible faithful buying “absolution” from the Catholic Church in medieval times so as to be spared an eternity in the lake of fire, or the more modern version where various vested interests get to munch at the government trough – there is as a rule always a lot of money at stake.

Unfortunately, there are also always a plethora of “policy recommendations” involved, which are certain to gravely retard capital accumulation. However, the more capital and wealth mankind accumulates, the more likely genuine catastrophic threats can actually be countered if they ever do become an acute problem.

 

Conclusion:

There is nothing new under the sun.

 

CERNInterior of the large hadron collider, with eight toroid magnets. It sure looks scary …  :)

(Photo credit: CERN)

Addendum: More Fun

We’re not quite sure if one should laugh or cry seeing this (we prefer laughing), but here is John Kerry, assuring us that the Bible commands Americans to protect the benighted Muslim tribes in the Middle East from “climate change”. We are wondering how that is going to be accomplished. By occasionally bombing some of them? This is surely the inanity of the year:

 

 

 

 

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