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Global Warming by michael ,  Sep 17, 2013

Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released... and here is the chart to prove it

  • The figures reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012 there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures
  • This means that the ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996

By David Rose

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The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week. 

The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.

This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.

global temperature changes

global temperature changes

Research: The new figures mean that the ¿pause¿ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. This picture shows an iceberg melting in Eastern Greenland

Research: The new figures mean that the 'pause' in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. This picture shows an iceberg melting in Eastern Greenland

The new data, compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea, was issued  quietly on the internet, without any media fanfare, and, until today, it has not been reported.

This stands in sharp contrast  to the release of the previous  figures six months ago, which went only to the end of 2010 – a very warm year.

Ending the data then means it is possible to show a slight warming trend since 1997, but 2011 and the first eight months of 2012 were much cooler, and thus this trend is erased.

More...

Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions.

Others disagreed. Professor Judith Curry, who is the head of the climate science department at America’s prestigious Georgia Tech university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was clear that the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’.

Even Prof Jones admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun. However, he said he was still convinced that the current decade would end up significantly warmer than the previous two.

Professor Phil JonesDr Judith A Curry

Disagreement: Professor Phil Jones, left, from the University of East Anglia, dismissed the significance of the plateau. Professor Judith Curry, right, from Georgia Tech university in America, disagreed, saying the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’

Warmer: Since 1880 the world has warmed by 0.75 degrees Celsius. This image shows floating icebergs in Greenland

Warmer: Since 1880 the world has warmed by 0.75 degrees Celsius. This image shows floating icebergs in Greenland

The regular data collected on global temperature is called Hadcrut 4, as it is jointly issued by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre and Prof Jones’s Climatic Research Unit.

Since 1880, when worldwide industrialisation began to gather pace and reliable statistics were first collected on a global scale, the world has warmed by 0.75 degrees Celsius.

Some scientists have claimed that this rate of warming is set to increase hugely without drastic cuts to carbon-dioxide emissions, predicting a catastrophic increase of up to a further five degrees  Celsius by the end of the century.

The new figures were released as the Government made clear that it would ‘bend’ its own  carbon-dioxide rules and build new power stations to try to combat the threat of blackouts. 

At last week’s Conservative Party Conference, the new Energy Minister, John Hayes, promised that ‘the high-flown theories of bourgeois Left-wing academics will not override the interests of ordinary people who need fuel for heat, light and transport – energy policies, you might say, for the many, not the few’ – a pledge that has triggered fury from green activists, who fear reductions in the huge subsidies given to wind-turbine firms.

Flawed science costs us dearly

Here are three not-so trivial questions you probably won’t find in your next pub quiz. First, how much warmer has the world become since a) 1880 and  b) the beginning of 1997? And what has this got to do with your ever-increasing energy bill?

You may find the answers to the first two surprising. Since 1880, when reliable temperature records began to be kept across most of the globe, the world has warmed by about 0.75 degrees Celsius.

From the start of 1997 until August 2012, however, figures released last week show the answer is zero: the trend, derived from the aggregate data collected from more than 3,000 worldwide measuring points, has been flat.

Surprising: News that the world has got no warmer for the past 16 years will come as something of a shock. This picture shows drifting ice in Canada

Surprising: News that the world has got no warmer for the past 16 years will come as something of a shock. This picture shows drifting ice in Canada

Not that there has been any  coverage in the media, which usually reports climate issues assiduously, since the figures were quietly release online with no accompanying press release – unlike six months ago when they showed a slight warming trend.

The answer to the third question is perhaps the most familiar. Your bills are going up, at least in part, because of the array of ‘green’ subsidies being provided to the renewable energy industry, chiefly wind.

They will cost the average household about £100 this year. This is set to rise steadily higher – yet it  is being imposed for only one  reason: the widespread conviction, which is shared by politicians of all stripes and drilled into children at primary schools, that, without drastic action to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, global warming is certain soon to accelerate, with truly catastrophic consequences by the end of the century – when temperatures could be up to five degrees higher.

Hence the significance of those first two answers. Global industrialisation over the past 130 years has made relatively little difference.

And with the country committed by Act of Parliament to reducing CO2 by 80 per cent by 2050, a project that will cost hundreds of billions, the news that the world has got no warmer for the past 16 years comes as something of a shock.

It poses a fundamental challenge to the assumptions underlying every aspect of energy and climate change policy.

This ‘plateau’ in rising temperatures does not mean that global warming won’t at some point resume.

But according to increasing numbers of serious climate scientists, it does suggest that the computer models that have for years been predicting imminent doom, such as  those used by the Met Office and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are flawed, and that the climate is far more complex than the models assert.

‘The new data confirms the existence of a pause in global warming,’ Professor Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Science at America’s Georgia Tech university, told me yesterday.

‘Climate models are very complex, but they are imperfect and incomplete. Natural variability  [the impact of factors such as long-term temperature cycles in the oceans and the output of the sun] has been shown over the past two decades to have a magnitude that dominates the greenhouse warming effect.

‘It is becoming increasingly apparent that our attribution of warming since 1980 and future projections of climate change needs to consider natural internal variability as a factor of fundamental importance.’

Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, who found himself at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ scandal over leaked emails three years ago, would not normally be expected to agree with her. Yet on two important points, he did.

The data does suggest a plateau, he admitted, and without a major El Nino event – the sudden, dramatic warming of the southern Pacific which takes place unpredictably and always has a huge effect on global weather – ‘it could go on for a while’.

Like Prof Curry, Prof Jones also admitted that the climate models were imperfect: ‘We don’t fully understand how to input things like changes in the oceans, and because we don’t fully understand it you could say that natural variability is now working to suppress the warming. We don’t know what natural variability is doing.’

Headache: The evidence is beginning to suggest that global warming may be happening much slower than the catastrophists have claimed ¿ a conclusion with enormous policy implications for politicians at Westminster, pictured

Headache: The evidence is beginning to suggest that global warming may be happening much slower than the catastrophists have claimed - a conclusion with enormous policy implications for politicians at Westminster, pictured

Yet he insisted that 15 or 16 years is not a significant period: pauses of such length had always been expected, he said.

Yet in 2009, when the plateau was already becoming apparent and being discussed by scientists, he told a colleague in one of the Climategate emails: ‘Bottom  line: the “no upward trend” has to  continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.’

But although that point has now been passed, he said that he hadn’t changed his mind about the  models’ gloomy predictions:  ‘I still think that the current decade which began in 2010 will be warmer by about 0.17 degrees than the previous one, which was warmer than the Nineties.’

Only if that did not happen would he seriously begin to  wonder whether something more profound might be happening. In other words, though five years ago he seemed to be saying that 15 years without warming would make him ‘worried’, that period has now become 20 years.

Meanwhile, his Met Office  colleagues were sticking to their guns. A spokesman said: ‘Choosing a starting or end point on short-term scales can be very misleading. Climate change can only be detected from multi-decadal timescales due to the inherent variability in the climate system.’

He said that for the plateau to last any more than 15 years was ‘unlikely’. Asked about a prediction that the Met Office made in 2009 – that three of the ensuing five years would set a new world temperature record – he made no comment. With no sign of a strong El Nino next year, the prospects of this happening are remote.

Why all this matters should be obvious. Every quarter, statistics on the economy’s output and  models of future performance have a huge impact on our lives. They trigger a range of policy responses from the Bank of England and the Treasury, and myriad decisions by private businesses.

Yet it has steadily become apparent since the 2008 crash that both the statistics and the modelling are extremely unreliable. To plan the future around them makes about as much sense as choosing a wedding date three months’ hence on the basis of a long-term weather forecast.

Few people would be so foolish. But decisions of far deeper and more costly significance than those derived from output figures have been and are still being made on the basis of climate predictions, not of the next three months but of the coming century – and this despite the fact that Phil Jones and his colleagues now admit they do not understand the role of ‘natural variability’.

The most depressing feature  of this debate is that anyone who questions the alarmist, doomsday scenario will automatically be labelled a climate change ‘denier’, and accused of jeopardising the future of humanity.

So let’s be clear. Yes: global warming is real, and some of it at least has been caused by the CO2 emitted by fossil fuels. But the evidence is beginning to suggest that it may be happening much slower than the catastrophists have claimed – a conclusion with enormous policy implications.

Arctic sea ice up 60 percent in 2013

Published September 09, 2013FoxNews.com
  • arctic sea ice 2012 vs 2013.jpg

    NASA satelite images show the changing Artic sea ice coverage. from August 2012 (left) to August 2013 (right) -- a growth of about a million square miles. (NASA)

About a million more square miles of ocean are covered in ice in 2013 than in 2012, a whopping 60 percent increase -- and a dramatic deviation from predictions of an "ice-free Arctic in 2013," the Daily Mail noted.

Arctic sea ice averaged 2.35 million square miles in August 2013, as compared to the low point of 1.32 million square miles recorded on Sept. 16, 2012, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. A chart published Sept. 8 by NSIDC shows the dramatic rise this year, putting total ice cover within two standard deviations of the 30-year average.

Noting the year over year surge, one scientist even argued that "global cooling" was here.

"We are already in a cooling trend, which I think will continue for the next 15 years at least. There is no doubt the warming of the 1980s and 1990s has stopped,” Anastasios Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin told London’s Mail on Sunday.

The surge in Arctic ice is a dramatic change from last year’s record-setting lows, which fueled dire predictions of an imminent ice-free summer. A 2007 BBC report said the Arctic could be ice free in 2013 -- a theory NASA still echoes today. 

"[An ice-free Arctic is] definitely coming, and coming sooner than we previously expected,“ Walt Meier, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md, told LiveScience last month. “We're looking at when as opposed to if.”

Noting the growth in ice, the Snow and Ice Data Center said that coverage was still well below the 30-year average. And the year over year growth in ice is “largely irrelevant,” argued The Guardian, noting that more ice is to be expected after the record low a year ago.

“We should not often expect to observe records in consecutive years. 2012 shattered the previous record low sea ice extent; hence 'regression towards the mean' told us that 2013 would likely have a higher minimum extent,” wrote Dana Nuccitelli.

Meanwhile, global surface temperatures have been relatively flat over the past decade and a half, according to data from the U.K.’s weather-watching Met Office.

A leaked draft of the next major climate report from the U.N. cites numerous causes to explain the slowdown in warming: greater-than-expected ash from volcanoes, a decline in heat from the sun, more heat being absorbed by the deep oceans, and so on.

Climate skeptics have spent months debating the weather pattern, some citing it as evidence that global warming itself has decelerated or even stopped.

"The absence of any significant change in the global annual average temperature over the past 16 years has become one of the most discussed topics in climate science," wrote David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in June. "It has certainly focused the debate about the relative importance of greenhouse gas forcing of the climate versus natural variability."

No Need to Panic About Global Warming???

There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy.

Editor's Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:

A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about "global warming." Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: "I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: 'The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.' In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the "pollutant" carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific "heretics" is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts.

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 "Climategate" email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2.

The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle. Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth. This is no surprise since plants and animals evolved when CO2 concentrations were about 10 times larger than they are today. Better plant varieties, chemical fertilizers and agricultural management contributed to the great increase in agricultural yields of the past century, but part of the increase almost certainly came from additional CO2 in the atmosphere.

LindzenCorbis

Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse. They have good reason to worry. In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.

Why is there so much passion about global warming, and why has the issue become so vexing that the American Physical Society, from which Dr. Giaever resigned a few months ago, refused the seemingly reasonable request by many of its members to remove the word "incontrovertible" from its description of a scientific issue? There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question "cui bono?" Or the modern update, "Follow the money."

Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet. Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them.

Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to "decarbonize" the world's economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.


Princeton physics professor William Happer on why a large number of scientists don't believe that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls. This would be especially beneficial to the less-developed parts of the world that would like to share some of the same advantages of material well-being, health and life expectancy that the fully developed parts of the world enjoy now. Many other policy responses would have a negative return on investment. And it is likely that more CO2 and the modest warming that may come with it will be an overall benefit to the planet.

If elected officials feel compelled to "do something" about climate, we recommend supporting the excellent scientists who are increasing our understanding of climate with well-designed instruments on satellites, in the oceans and on land, and in the analysis of observational data. The better we understand climate, the better we can cope with its ever-changing nature, which has complicated human life throughout history. However, much of the huge private and government investment in climate is badly in need of critical review.

Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of "incontrovertible" evidence.

Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.

Look to Mars for the truth on global warming

Climate change is a much, much bigger issue than the public, politicians, and even the most alarmed environmentalists realize.

February 2, 2007

Climate change is a much, much bigger issue than the public, politicians, and even the most alarmed environmentalists realize. Global warming extends to Mars, where the polar ice cap is shrinking, where deep gullies in the landscape are now laid bare, and where the climate is the warmest it has been in decades or centuries.

"One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age," NASA scientist William Feldman speculated after the agency's Mars Odyssey completed its first Martian year of data collection. "In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated." With each passing year more and more evidence arises of the dramatic changes occurring on the only planet on the solar system, apart from Earth, to give up its climate secrets.

The series

Statistics needed -- The Deniers Part I
Warming is real -- and has benefits -- The Deniers Part II
The hurricane expert who stood up to UN junk science -- The Deniers Part III
Polar scientists on thin ice -- The Deniers Part IV

The original denier: into the cold -- The Deniers Part V
The sun moves climate change -- The Deniers Part VI
Will the sun cool us? -- The Deniers Part VII
The limits of predictability -- The Deniers Part VIII
Look to Mars for the truth on global warming -- The Deniers Part IX
Limited role for C02 -- the Deniers Part X

NASA's findings in space come as no surprise to Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov at Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory. Pulkovo -- at the pinnacle of Russia's space-oriented scientific establishment -- is one of the world's best equipped observatories and has been since its founding in 1839. Heading Pulkovo's space research laboratory is Dr. Abdussamatov, one of the world's chief critics of the theory that man-made carbon dioxide emissions create a greenhouse effect, leading to global warming.

"Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians," he told me. "These parallel global warmings -- observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth -- can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance."

The sun's increased irradiance over the last century, not C02 emissions, is responsible for the global warming we're seeing, says the celebrated scientist, and this solar irradiance also explains the great volume of C02 emissions.

"It is no secret that increased solar irradiance warms Earth's oceans, which then triggers the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. "Ascribing 'greenhouse' effect properties to the Earth's atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated," he maintains. "Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away."

The real news from Saint Petersburg -- demonstrated by cooling that is occurring on the upper layers of the world's oceans -- is that Earth has hit its temperature ceiling. Solar irradiance has begun to fall, ushering in a protracted cooling period beginning in 2012 to 2015. The depth of the decline in solar irradiance reaching Earth will occur around 2040, and "will inevitably lead to a deep freeze around 2055-60" lasting some 50 years, after which temperatures will go up again.

Because of the scientific significance of this period of global cooling that we're about to enter, the Russian and Ukrainian space agencies, under Dr. Abdussamatov's leadership, have launched a joint project to determine the time and extent of the global cooling at mid-century. The project, dubbed Astrometry and given priority space-experiment status on the Russian portion of the International Space Station, will marshal the resources of spacecraft manufacturer Energia, several Russian research and production centers, and the main observatory of Ukraine's Academy of Sciences. By late next year, scientific equipment will have been installed in a space-station module and by early 2009, Dr. Abdussamatov's space team will be conducting a regular survey of the sun.

With the data, the project will help mankind cope with a century of falling temperatures, during which we will enter a mini ice age.

"There is no need for the Kyoto Protocol now. It does not have to come into force until at least 100 years from no w," Dr. Abdussamatov concluded. "A global freeze will come about regardless of whether or not industrialized countries put a cap on their greenhouse- gas emissions."

Lawrence Solomon@nextcity.com

- - -

- Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and Consumer Policy Institute, divisions of Energy Probe Research Foundation. www.Urban-Renaissance.org

CV OF A DENIER:

Habibullo Abdussamatov, born in Samarkand in Uzbekistan in 1940, graduated from Samarkand University in 1962 as a physicist and a mathematician. He earned his doctorate at Pulkovo Observatory and the University of Leningrad.

He is the head of the space research laboratory of the Russian Academies of Sciences' Pulkovo Observatory and of the International Space Station's Astrometry project, a long-term joint scientific research project of the Russian and Ukranian space agencies.



© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

GW 101

Global Warming Theory in a Nutshell

Every scientific theory involves assumptions. Global warming theory starts with the assumption that the Earth naturally maintains a constant average temperature, which is the result of a balance between (1) the amount of sunlight the Earth absorbs, and (2) the amount of emitted infrared (“IR”) radiation that the Earth continuously emits to outer space. In other words, energy in equals energy out. Averaged over the whole planet for 1 year, those energy flows in and out of the climate system are estimated to be around 235 or 240 watts per square meter.

Greenhouse components in the atmosphere (mostly water vapor, clouds, carbon dioxide, and methane) exert strong controls over how fast the Earth loses IR energy to outer space. Mankind’s burning of fossil fuels creates more atmospheric carbon dioxide. As we add more CO2, more infrared energy is trapped, strengthing the Earth’s greenhouse effect. This causes a warming tendency in the lower atmosphere and at the surface. As of 2008, it is believed that we have enhanced the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect by about 1%.

Global warming theory says that the lower atmosphere must then respond to this energy imbalance (less IR radiation being lost than solar energy being absorbed) by causing an increase in temperature (which causes an increase in the IR escaping to space) until the emitted IR radiation once again equals the amount of absorbed sunlight. That is, the Earth must increase its temperature until global energy balance is once again restored. This is the basic explanation of global warming theory. (The same energy balance concept applies to a pot of water on a stove set on “low”. The water warms until the rate of energy loss through evaporation, convective air currents, and infrared radiation equals the rate of energy gain from the stove, at which point the water remains at a constant temperature. If you turn the heat up a tiny bit more, the temperature of the water will rise again until the extra amount of energy lost by the pot once again equals the energy gained from the stove, at which point a new, warmer equilibrium temperature is reached.)

Now, you might be surprised to learn that the amount of warming directly caused by the extra CO2 is, by itself, relatively weak. It has been calculated theoretically that, if there are no other changes in the climate system, a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would cause less than 1 deg C of surface warming (about 1 deg. F). This is NOT a controversial statement…it is well understood by climate scientists. (As of 2008, we were about 40% to 45% of the way toward a doubling of atmospheric CO2.)

BUT…everything this else in the climate system probably WON’T stay the same! For instance, clouds, water vapor, and precipitation systems can all be expected to respond to the warming tendency in some way, which could either amplify or reduce the manmade warming. These other changes are called “feedbacks,” and the sum of all the feedbacks in the climate system determines what is called ‘climate sensitivity’. Negative feedbacks (low climate sensitivity) would mean that manmade global warming might not even be measurable, lost in the noise of natural climate variability. But if feedbacks are sufficiently positive (high climate sensitivity), then manmade global warming could be catastrophic.

Obviously, knowing the strength of feedbacks in the climate system is critical; this is the subject of most of my research. Here you can read about my latest work on the subject, in which I show that feedbacks previously estimated from satellite observations of natural climate variability have potentially large errors. A confusion between forcing and feedback (loosely speaking, cause and effect) when observing cloud behavior has led to the illusion of a sensitive climate system, when in fact our best satellite observations (when carefully and properly interpreted) suggest an IN-sensitive climate system.

Finally, if the climate system is insensitive, this means that the extra carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere is not enough to cause the observed warming over the last 100 years — some natural mechanism must be involved. Here you can read about my favorite candidate: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

Global Warming as a Natural Response to Cloud Changes Associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D.

October 20, 2008 (updated December 29, 2008)

ABSTRACT

A simple climate model forced by satellite-observed changes in the Earth’s radiative budget associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is shown to mimic the major features of global average temperature change during the 20th Century – including three-quarters of the warming trend. A mostly-natural source of global warming is also consistent with mounting observational evidence that the climate system is much less sensitive to carbon dioxide emissions than the IPCC’s climate models simulate.

1. INTRODUCTION

The main arguments for global warming being manmade go something like this: “What else COULD it be? After all, we know that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations are sufficient to explain recent warming, so what’s the point of looking for any other cause?”

But for those who have followed my writings and publications in the last 18 months (e.g. Spencer et al., 2007; Spencer, 2008), you know that we are finding satellite evidence that the climate system is much less sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions than the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) climate models suggest that it is. And if that is true, then mankind’s CO2 emissions are not strong enough to have caused the global warming we’ve seen over the last 100 years.

To show that we are not the only researchers who have documented evidence contradicting the IPCC models on the subject of climate sensitivity, I made the following figure (Fig. 1) to contrast the IPCC-projected warming from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide with the warming that would result if the climate sensitivity is as low as implied by various kinds of observational evidence.

Fig. 1. Projected warming (assumed here to occur by 2100) from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from the IPCC climate models versus from various observational indicators.

The dashed line in Fig. 1 comes from our recent apples-to-apples comparison between satellite-based feedback estimates and IPCC model-diagnosed feedbacks, all computed from 5-year periods (see Fig. 2). In that comparison, there were NO five year periods from ANY of the IPCC model simulations which produced a feedback parameter with as low a climate sensitivity as that found in the satellite data.

Fig. 2. Frequency histogram of total (reflected solar plus emitted infrared)feedback parameters computed from all possible 5 year periods in transient forcing experiments in 18 climate models tracked by the IPCC, versus the same calculation from Aqua CERES and NOAA-15 AMSU channel 5 satellite data.

The discrepancy between the models and observations seen in Figs. 1 and 2 is stark. If the sensitivity of the climate system is as low as some of these observational results suggest, then the IPCC models are grossly in error, and we have little to fear from manmade global warming. [I am told that the 1.1 deg. C sensitivity of Schwartz (2007) has more recently been revised upward to 1.9 deg. C.]

But it also means that the radiative forcing caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is not sufficient to cause PAST warming, either. So, this then leaves a critical unanswered question: What has caused the warming seen over the last 100 years or so?

Here I present new evidence that most of the warming could be the result of a natural cycle in cloud cover forced by a well-known mode of natural climate variability: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). While the PDO is primarily a geographic rearrangement in atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns in the North Pacific, it is well known that such regional changes can also influence weather patterns over much larger areas, for instance North America or the entire Northern Hemisphere (which is, by the way, the region over which the vast majority of global warming has occurred).

The IPCC has simply ASSUMED that these natural fluctuations in weather patterns do not cause climate change. But all it would take is a small change in global average (or Northern Hemispheric average) cloudiness to cause global warming. Unfortunately, our global observations of cloudiness have not been complete or accurate enough to document such a change…until recently.

2. A SIMPLE MODEL OF NATURAL GLOBAL WARMING

As Joe D’Aleo, Don Easterbrook, and others have pointed out for years, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has experienced phase shifts that have coincidently been associated with the major periods of warming and cooling in the 20th Century. As can be seen in the following figure, the pre-1940 warming coincided with the positive phase of the PDO; then, a slight cooling until the late 1970s coincided with a negative phase of the PDO; and finally, the warming since the 1970s has once again coincided with the positive phase of the PDO.

Fig. 3. Five-year running averages in (a) global-average surface temperature, and (b) the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index during 1900-2000.

Others have noted that the warming in the 1920s and 1930s led to media reports of decreasing sea ice cover, Arctic and Greenland temperatures just as warm as today, and the opening up of the Northwest Passage in 1939 and 1940.

Since this timing between the phase of the PDO and periods of warming and associated climate change seems like more than mere coincidence, I asked the rather obvious question: What if this known mode of natural climate variability (the PDO) caused a small fluctuation in global-average cloud cover?

Such a cloud change would cause the climate system to go through natural fluctuations in average temperature for extended periods of time. The IPCC simply assumes that this kind of natural cloud variability does not exist, and that the Earth stays in a perpetual state of radiative balance that has only been recently disrupted by mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This is an assumption that many of us meteorologists find simplistic and dubious, at best. Spencer and Braswell (2008) showed theoretically that daily random variations in cloudiness can actually cause substantial decadal time-scale variability on ocean temperatures. This is not a new finding, as it was also demonstrated over 30 years ago (Hasselman, 1976) and is related to the fact that the ocean, due to its large heat capacity, retains a ‘memory’ of past changes in the Earth’s radiative budget for a very long time.

So, what if those chaotic variations in cloud cover occurred on time scales longer than days… yearly, or 30 years (like with the PDO), or 100 years? Might such internally-generated climate change even explain events like the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age?

I used a very simple energy balance climate model, previously suggested to us by Isaac Held and Piers Forster, to investigate the possibility that the PDO could have caused some of the climate change over the last century. In this model I ran many thousands of combinations of assumed: (1) ocean depth (through which heat is mixed on multi-decadal to centennial time scales), (2) climate sensitivity, and (3) cloud cover variations directly proportional to the PDO index values.

In effect, I asked the model to show me what combinations of those model parameters yielded a temperature history approximately like that seen during 1900-2000. And here’s an average of all of the simulations that came close to the observed temperature record:

Fig. 4. A simple energy balance model driven by cloud changes associated with the PDO can explain most of the major features of global-average temperature fluctuations during the 20th Century. The best model fits had assumed ocean mixing depths around 800 meters, and feedback parameters of around 3 Watts per square meter per degree C.

The “PDO-only” (dashed) curve in Fig. 4 indeed mimics the main features of the behavior of global mean temperatures during the 20th Century — including three-quarters of the warming trend. If I include the CO2 and other forcings during the 20th Century complied by James Hansen with the PDO-forced cloud changes (solid line labeled PDO+CO2), then the fit to observed temperatures is even closer.

Now, the average PDO forcing that was required by the model for the two curves in Fig. 4 ranged from 1.7 to 2.0 Watts per square meter per PDO index value. In other words, for each unit of the PDO index, 1.7 to 2.0 Watts per square meter of extra heating was required during the positive phase of the PDO, and that much cooling during the negative phase of the PDO.

But what evidence do we have that any such cloud-induced changes in the Earth’s radiative budget are actually associated with the PDO? I address that question in the next section.

3. SATELLITE EVIDENCE OF RADIATIVE FORCING CAUSED BY THE PACIFIC DECADAL OSCILLATION

To see whether there is any observational evidence that the PDO has associated changes in global-average cloudiness, I used NASA Terra satellite measurements of reflected solar (shortwave, SW) and emitted infrared (longwave, LW) radiative fluxes over the global oceans from the CERES instrument during 2000-2005, and compared them to recent variations in the PDO index. The results can be seen in the following figure:

Fig. 5. Three-month running averages of (a) the PDO index during 2000-2005, and (b) corresponding CERES-measured anomalies in the global ocean average radiative budget, with and without the feedback component removed (see Fig. 6). The smooth curves are 2nd order polynomial fits to the data.

But before a comparison to the PDO can be made, one must recognize that the total radiative flux measured by CERES is a combination of forcing AND feedback (e.g. Gregory et al., 2002; Forster and Gregory, 2006). So, we first must estimate and remove the feedback component to better isolate any radiative forcing potentially associated with the PDO.

As Spencer and Braswell (2008b) have shown with a simple model, the radiative feedback signature in globally-averaged radiative flux-versus-temperature data is always highly correlated, while the time-varying radiative forcing signature of internal climate fluctuations is uncorrelated because the forcing and temperature response are always 90 degrees out of phase. This allows some measure of identification and separation of the two signals.

The following figure shows what I call “feedback stripes” associated with intraseasonal fluctuations in the climate system. The corresponding feedback estimate (line slope) of 8.3 Watts per square meter per degree C was then used together with three-month anomalies in tropospheric temperature from AMSU channel 5 remove the estimated feedback signal from the radiative flux data to get the “forcing-only” curve in Fig. 5b. (Check out this for a more complete treatment of the signature of feedback…including evidence that this behavior also exists in the IPCC climate models themselves.)

Fig. 6. Three-month running averages of global oceanic CERES radiative flux changes versus tropospheric temperature changes (from AMSU channel 5, see Christy et al., 2003) for the time period in Fig. 5. The average feedback estimate (see sloped lines) was then used together with the AMSU5 data to estimate and remove the feedback component from the CERES radiative fluxes, leaving the radiative forcing shown in Fig. 4b.

[NOTE: This feedback estimate does not necessarily represent long-term climate sensitivity (which in this case would be very low, 0.44 deg. C for a doubling of CO2); it is instead the feedback occurring on intraseasonal and interannual time scales which is merely being removed to isolate the forcing signal. This is the same technique employed by Forster and Taylor (2006) to isolate the signal of radiative forcing in 20 climate models tracked by the IPCC.]

When the feedback is removed, we see a good match in Fig. 5 between the low-frequency behavior of the PDO and the radiative forcing (which is presumably due to cloud fluctuations associated with the PDO). Second-order polynomials were fit to the time series in Fig. 5 and compared to each other to arrive at the PDO-scaling factor of 1.9 Watts per square meter per PDO index value.

Another way to show the data is shown in Fig. 7, where yearly averages of the PDO index and CERES-inferred radiative forcing are plotted against one another. The dashed line represents what the simple model ‘chose’ for a relationship, and the solid line is fitted to the actual satellite data.

Fig. 7. As in Fig. 5, but now yearly averages of the PDO index plotted against CERES- and AMSU5-inferred radiative forcing, and updated through August 2007.

Thus, these recent satellite measurements – even though they span only 7.5 years — support the Pacific Decadal Oscillation as a potential major player in global warming and climate change. It will also be interesting to see where the satellite data averages for 2008 lie in Fig. 7, as the average PDO value for 2008 was lower than any of the previous years.

It is important to point out that, in this exercise, the PDO itself is not an index of temperature; it is an index of radiative forcing which drives the time rate of change of temperature. This answers the question I frequently get, “Couldn’t the PDO be caused by the temperature changes, rather than the other way around?”. The answer is “no”, because the forcing occurs before the temperature change (by 90 degrees of phase for sinusoidal forcing, if you know what that means). This explains why the history of the PDO index in Fig. 2 does not ‘look like’ the temperature history. The PDO index is instead directly related to the change in temperature with time, not the temperature per se. (And, if you can understand this point, you are doing better than the single peer reviewer of my article on this subject who told Geophysical Research Letters to reject my paper submitted for publication.)

4. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

The evidence continues to mount that the IPCC models are too sensitive, and therefore produce too much global warming. If climate sensitivity is indeed considerably less than the IPCC claims it to be, then increasing CO2 alone can not explain recent global warming. The evidence presented here suggests that most of that warming might well have been caused by cloud changes associated with a natural mode of climate variability: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

The IPCC has simply assumed that mechanisms of climate change like that addressed here do not exist. But that assumption is quite arbitrary and, as shown here, very likely wrong. My use of only PDO-forced variations in the Earth’s radiative energy budget to explain three-quarters of the global warming trend is no less ‘biased’ than the IPCC’s use of carbon dioxide to explain global warming without accounting for natural climate variability. If any IPCC scientists would like to dispute that claim, please e-mail me at roy.spencer (at) nsstc.uah.edu. (two months later, as of late December, 2008, I’ve still not received a response.)

It should be noted that the entire modern satellite era started in 1979, just 2 years after the PDO switched to its positive phase during the ‘Great Climate Shift’ of 1977. Thus, our satellite data records are necessarily biased toward conditions existing during the positive phase of the PDO, and might not correspond to ‘normal’ climate conditions. Indeed there might not be any such thing as ‘normal’ climate conditions.

If the PDO has recently entered into a new, negative phase, then we can expect that global average temperatures, which haven’t risen for at least seven years now, could actually start to fall in the coming years. The recovery of Arctic sea ice now underway might be an early sign that this is indeed happening. The next few years of satellite data might provide some very interesting insights into whether the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is indeed a major force in climate change.

REFERENCES

Christy, J. R., R. W. Spencer, W. B. Norris, W. D. Braswell, and D. E. Parker (2003), Error estimates of version 5.0 of MSU/AMSU bulk atmospheric temperatures, J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 20, 613- 629.

Douglass, D.H., and R. S. Knox, 2005. Climate forcing by volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, doi:10.1029/2004GL022119.

Forster, P. M., and J. M. Gregory (2006), The climate sensitivity and its components diagnosed from Earth Radiation Budget data, J. Climate, 19, 39-52.

Forster, P.M., and K.E. Taylor (2006), Climate forcings and climate sensitivities diagnosed from coupled climate model integrations, J. Climate, 19, 6181-6194.

Gregory, J.M., R.J. Stouffer, S.C.B. Raper, P.A. Stott, and N.A. Rayner (2002), An observationally based estimate of the climate sensitivity, J. Climate, 15, 3117-3121.

Hasselman, K., 1976: Stochastic climate models. Part I: Theory. Tellus, 28, 289-305.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, report, 996 pp., Cambridge University Press, New York City.

Schwartz, S. E. (2007), Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of the Earth’s climate system. J. Geophys. Res., 112, doi:10.1029/2007JD008746.

Spencer, R.W., W. D. Braswell, J. R. Christy, and J. Hnilo (2007), Cloud and radiation budget changes associated with tropical intraseasonal oscillations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L15707, doi:10.1029/2007GL029698.

Spencer, R.W., and W.D. Braswell (2008a), Satellite measurements reveal a climate system less sensitive than in models, Geophys. Res. Lett., submitted. (This paper was rejected by GRL in late 2008. Some of the material contained therein will be submitted to Journal of Climate in January 2009 as part of a much more comprehensive paper.)

Spencer, R.W., and W.D. Braswell (2008), Potential biases in cloud feedback diagnosis: A simple model demonstration, J. Climate, November 1.

Sun Blamed for Warming of Earth and Other Worlds

Ker ThanDate: 12 March 2007 Time: 03:27 AM ET 

Earth is heating up lately, but so are Mars, Pluto and other worlds in our solar system, leading some scientists to speculate that a change in the sun’s activity is the common thread linking all these baking events.

Others argue that such claims are misleading and create the false impression that rapid global warming, as Earth is experiencing, is a natural phenomenon.

While evidence suggests fluctuations in solar activity can affect climate on Earth, and that it has done so in the past, the majority of climate scientists and astrophysicists agree that the sun is not to blame for the current and historically sudden uptick in global temperatures on Earth, which seems to be mostly a mess created by our own species. 

Wobbly Mars

Habibullo Abdussamatov, the head of space research at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, recently linked the attenuation of ice caps on Mars to fluctuations in the sun's output. Abdussamatov also blamed solar fluctuations for Earth’s current global warming trend. His initial comments were published online by National Geographic News.

“Man-made greenhouse warming has [made a] small contribution [to] the warming on Earth in recent years, but [it] cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov told LiveScience in an email interview last week. “The considerable heating and cooling on the Earth and on Mars always will be practically parallel."

But Abdussamatov’s critics say the Red Planet’s recent thawing is more likely due to natural variations in the planet’s orbit and tilt. On Earth, these wobbles, known as Milankovitch cycles, are thought to contribute to the onset and disappearance ice ages.

“It’s believed that what drives climate change on Mars are orbital variations,” said Jeffrey Plaut, a project scientist for NASA’s Mars Odyssey mission. “The Earth also goes through orbital variations similar to that of Mars.”

As for Abdussamatov’s claim that solar fluctuations are causing Earth’s current global warming, Charles Long, a climate physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Washington, says the idea is nonsense.

“That’s nuts,” Long said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t make physical sense that that’s the case.”

In 2005, Long’s team published a study in the journal Science showing that Earth experienced a period of “solar global dimming” from 1960 to 1990, during which time solar radiation hitting our planet’s surface decreased. Then from the mid-1990’s onward, the trend reversed and Earth experienced a “solar brightening.”

These changes were not likely driven by fluctuations in the output of the Sun, Long explained, but rather increases in atmospheric clouds or aerosols that reflected solar radiation back into space.

Other warming worlds

Others have pointed out anomalous warming on other worlds in our solar system.

Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University who monitors studies and news reports of asteroids, global warming and other potentially apocalyptic topics, recently quoted in his daily electronic newsletter the following from a blog called Strata-Sphere:

“Global warming on Neptune's moon Triton as well as Jupiter and Pluto, and now Mars has some [scientists] scratching their heads over what could possibly be in common with the warming of all these planets … Could there be something in common with all the planets in our solar system that might cause them all to warm at the same time?”

Peiser included quotes from recent news articles that take up other aspects of the idea.

“I think it is an intriguing coincidence that warming trends have been observed on a number of very diverse planetary bodies in our solar system,” Peiser said in an email interview. “Perhaps this is just a fluke.”

In fact, scientists have alternative explanations for the anomalous warming on each of these other planetary bodies.

The warming on Triton, for example, could be the result of an extreme southern summer on the moon, a season that occurs every few hundred years, as well as possible changes in the makeup of surface ice that caused it to absorb more of the Sun’s heat.

Researchers credited Pluto’s warming to possible eruptive activity and a delayed thawing from its last close approach to the Sun in 1989.

And the recent storm activity on Jupiter is being blamed on a recurring climatic cycle that churns up material from the gas giant’s interior and lofts it to the surface, where it is heated by the Sun.

Sun does vary

The radiation output of the Sun does fluctuate over the course of its 11-year solar cycle. But the change is only about one-tenth of 1 percent—not substantial enough to affect Earth’s climate in dramatic ways, and certainly not enough to be the sole culprit of our planet’s current warming trend, scientists say.

“The small measured changes in solar output and variations from one decade to the next are only on the order of a fraction of a percent, and if you do the calculations not even large enough to really provide a detectable signal in the surface temperature record,” said Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann.

The link between solar activity and global warming is just another scapegoat for human-caused warming,  Mann told LiveScience.

“Solar activity continues to be one of the last bastions of contrarians,” Mann said. “People who don’t accept the existence of anthropogenic climate change still try to point to solar activity.”

The Maunder Minimum

This is not to say that solar fluctuations never influence Earth’s climate in substantial ways. During a 75-year period beginning in 1645, astronomers detected almost no sunspot activity on the Sun. Called the “Maunder Minimum,” this event coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, a 350-year cold spell that gripped much of Europe and North America.

Recent studies have cast doubt on this relationship, however. New estimates of the total change in the brightness of the Sun during the Maunder Minimum suggest it was only fractions of a percent, and perhaps not enough to create the global cooling commonly attributed to it.

“The situation is pretty ambiguous,” said David Rind, a senior climate researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has modeled the Maunder Minimum.

Based on current estimates, even if another Maunder Minimum were to occur, it might result in an average temperature decrease of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, Rind said.

This would still not be enough to counteract warming of between 2 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit from greenhouse gases by 2100, as predicted by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

LiveScience staff writer Andrea Thompson contributed to this article.

Global-warming skeptics cite being ‘treated like a pariah’

Scientists skeptical of climate-change theories say they are increasingly coming under attack — treatment that may make other analysts less likely to present contrarian views about global warming.

“In general, if you do not agree with the consensus that we are headed toward disaster, you are treated like a pariah,” said William O’Keefe, chief executive officer of the Marshall Institute, which assesses scientific issues that shape public policy.

“It’s ironic that a field based on challenging unproven theories attacks skeptics in a very unhealthy way.”

Two climatologists in Democrat-leaning states, David Legates in Delaware and George Taylor in Oregon, have come under fire for expressing skepticism about the origins of climate change. Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski is publicly seeking to strip Mr. Taylor, widely known as the state’s climatologist, of his position because of his stance.

“There has been a broad, concerted effort to intimidate and silence them,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global-warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “It’s the typical politics of the hard left at work. I think these are real threats.”

CEI, which previously listed Mr. Legates as an “adjunct scholar,” has published multiple reports questioning the science behind global-warming theories and has been criticized for accepting donations from companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp.

Mr. O’Keefe said his organization doesn’t deny the existence of global warming but questions the methods used by individuals and groups advocating for new government restrictions to combat the phenomenon.

“We have never said that global warming isn’t real,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “No self-respecting think tank would accept money to support preconceived notions. We make sure what we are saying is both scientifically and analytically defensible.”

In an interview with local NBC affiliate KGW-TV, Mr. Kulongoski, a Democrat, said he hopes to take away Mr. Taylor’s job title because his views do not mesh with the political opinions of most lawmakers in Oregon, including the governor.

“He is Oregon State University’s climatologist. He is not the state of Oregon’s climatologist,” Mr. Kulongoski said. “I just think there has to be somebody that says, ‘This is the state position on this.’ ”

Mr. Taylor was appointed to the position in 1991, when Oregon’s legislature created a state climate office at the college. Mr. Kulongoski wants to change the position to a governor-appointed one. State Sen. Brad Avakian, a Democrat, is sponsoring a bill supporting such a move.

Global-warming skeptics cite being ‘treated like a pariah’

The Washington Times

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The governors of New York and California want to enforce a tax hike on their state's wealthy residents. Will they succeed?

Scientists skeptical of climate-change theories say they are increasingly coming under attack — treatment that may make other analysts less likely to present contrarian views about global warming.

“In general, if you do not agree with the consensus that we are headed toward disaster, you are treated like a pariah,” said William O’Keefe, chief executive officer of the Marshall Institute, which assesses scientific issues that shape public policy.

“It’s ironic that a field based on challenging unproven theories attacks skeptics in a very unhealthy way.”

Two climatologists in Democrat-leaning states, David Legates in Delaware and George Taylor in Oregon, have come under fire for expressing skepticism about the origins of climate change. Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski is publicly seeking to strip Mr. Taylor, widely known as the state’s climatologist, of his position because of his stance.

“There has been a broad, concerted effort to intimidate and silence them,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global-warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “It’s the typical politics of the hard left at work. I think these are real threats.”

CEI, which previously listed Mr. Legates as an “adjunct scholar,” has published multiple reports questioning the science behind global-warming theories and has been criticized for accepting donations from companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp.

Mr. O’Keefe said his organization doesn’t deny the existence of global warming but questions the methods used by individuals and groups advocating for new government restrictions to combat the phenomenon.

“We have never said that global warming isn’t real,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “No self-respecting think tank would accept money to support preconceived notions. We make sure what we are saying is both scientifically and analytically defensible.”

In an interview with local NBC affiliate KGW-TV, Mr. Kulongoski, a Democrat, said he hopes to take away Mr. Taylor’s job title because his views do not mesh with the political opinions of most lawmakers in Oregon, including the governor.

“He is Oregon State University’s climatologist. He is not the state of Oregon’s climatologist,” Mr. Kulongoski said. “I just think there has to be somebody that says, ‘This is the state position on this.’ ”

Mr. Taylor was appointed to the position in 1991, when Oregon’s legislature created a state climate office at the college. Mr. Kulongoski wants to change the position to a governor-appointed one. State Sen. Brad Avakian, a Democrat, is sponsoring a bill supporting such a move.

“In general, if you do not agree with the consensus that we are headed toward disaster, you are treated like a pariah,” said William O’Keefe, chief executive officer of the Marshall Institute, which assesses scientific issues that shape public policy.

Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong

March 22, 2012

William D. Nordhaus

E-mailPrintSharenprdhaus_1-032212.jpg

Icebergs in Iceland’s Jökulsárlón lagoon, which is constantly growing as the Vatnajökull glacier—Europe’s largest—melts; photograph by Olaf Otto Becker from his book Under the Nordic Light: A Journey Through Time, Iceland, 1999–2011, which has just been published by Hatje Cantz

The threat of climate change is an increasingly important environmental issue for the globe. Because the economic questions involved have received relatively little attention, I have been writing a nontechnical book for people who would like to see how market-based approaches could be used to formulate policy on climate change. When I showed an early draft to colleagues, their response was that I had left out the arguments of skeptics about climate change, and I accordingly addressed this at length.

But one of the difficulties I found in examining the views of climate skeptics is that they are scattered widely in blogs, talks, and pamphlets. Then, I saw an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal of January 27, 2012, by a group of sixteen scientists, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” This is useful because it contains many of the standard criticisms in a succinct statement. The basic message of the article is that the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences.

My response is primarily designed to correct their misleading description of my own research; but it also is directed more broadly at their attempt to discredit scientists and scientific research on climate change.1 I have identified six key issues that are raised in the article, and I provide commentary about their substance and accuracy. They are:

• Is the planet in fact warming? • Are human influences an important contributor to warming? • Is carbon dioxide a pollutant? • Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists? • Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain? • Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

As I will indicate below, on each of these questions, the sixteen scientists provide incorrect or misleading answers. At a time when we need to clarify public confusions about the science and economics of climate change, they have muddied the waters. I will describe their mistakes and explain the findings of current climate science and economics.

1.

The first claim is that the planet is not warming. More precisely, “Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.”

It is easy to get lost in the tiniest details here. Most people will benefit from stepping back and looking at the record of actual temperature measurements. The figure below shows data from 1880 to 2011 on global mean temperature averaged from three different sources.2 We do not need any complicated statistical analysis to see that temperatures are rising, and furthermore that they are higher in the last decade than they were in earlier decades.3

Nordhaus-graph-032212

One of the reasons that drawing conclusions on temperature trends is tricky is that the historical temperature series is highly volatile, as can be seen in the figure. The presence of short-term volatility requires looking at long-term trends. A useful analogy is the stock market. Suppose an analyst says that because real stock prices have declined over the last decade (which is true), it follows that there is no upward trend. Here again, an examination of the long-term data would quickly show this to be incorrect. The last decade of temperature and stock market data is not representative of the longer-term trends.

The finding that global temperatures are rising over the last century-plus is one of the most robust findings of climate science and statistics.

2.

A second argument is that warming is smaller than predicted by the models:

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause.

What is the evidence on the performance of climate models? Do they predict the historical trend accurately? Statisticians routinely address this kind of question. The standard approach is to perform an experiment in which (case 1) modelers put the changes in CO2 concentrations and other climate influences in a climate model and estimate the resulting temperature path, and then (case 2) modelers calculate what would happen in the counterfactual situation where the only changes were due to natural sources, for example, the sun and volcanoes, with no human-induced changes. They then compare the actual temperature increases of the model predictions for all sources (case 1) with the predictions for natural sources alone (case 2).

This experiment has been performed many times using climate models. A good example is the analysis described in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (for the actual figure, see the accompanying online material4). Several modelers ran both cases 1 and 2 described above—one including human-induced changes and one with only natural sources. This experiment showed that the projections of climate models are consistent with recorded temperature trends over recent decades only if human impacts are included. The divergent trend is especially pronounced after 1980. By 2005, calculations using natural sources alone underpredict the actual temperature increases by about 0.7 degrees Centigrade, while the calculations including human sources track the actual temperature trend very closely.

In reviewing the results, the IPCC report concluded: “No climate model using natural forcings [i.e., natural warming factors] alone has reproduced the observed global warming trend in the second half of the twentieth century.”5

3.

The sixteen scientists next attack the idea of CO2 as a pollutant. They write: “The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant.” By this they presumably mean that CO2 is not by itself toxic to humans or other organisms within the range of concentrations that we are likely to encounter, and indeed higher CO2 concentrations may be beneficial.

However, this is not the meaning of pollution under US law or in standard economics. The US Clean Air Act defined an air pollutant as “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive…substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air.” In a 2007 decision on this question, the Supreme Court ruled clearly on the question: “Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons are without a doubt ‘physical [and] chemical…substance[s] which [are] emitted into…the ambient air.’ …Greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant.’”6

In economics, a pollutant is a form of negative externality—that is, a byproduct of economic activity that causes damages to innocent bystanders. The question here is whether emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will cause net damages, now and in the future. This question has been studied extensively. The most recent thorough survey by the leading scholar in this field, Richard Tol, finds a wide range of damages, particularly if warming is greater than 2 degrees Centigrade.7 Major areas of concern are sea-level rise, more intense hurricanes, losses of species and ecosystems, acidification of the oceans, as well as threats to the natural and cultural heritage of the planet.

In short, the contention that CO2 is not a pollutant is a rhetorical device and is not supported by US law or by economic theory or studies.

4.

The fourth contention by the sixteen scientists is that skeptical climate scientists are living under a reign of terror about their professional and personal livelihoods. They write:

Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse…. This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.

While we must always be attentive to a herd instinct, this lurid tale is misleading in the extreme. Some background on Lysenko will be useful. He was the leader of a group that rejected standard genetics and held that the acquired characteristics of an organism could be inherited by that organism’s descendants. He exploited the Soviet ideology about heredity, the need for agricultural production, and the favor of a powerful dictator—Stalin—to attract adherents to his theories. Under his influence, genetics was officially condemned as unscientific. Once he gained control of Russian biology, genetics research was prohibited, and thousands of geneticists were fired. Many leading geneticists were exiled to labor camps in Siberia, poisoned, or shot. His influence began to wane after Stalin’s death, but it took many years for Soviet biology to overcome the disastrous consequences of the Lysenko affair.8

The idea that skeptical climate scientists are being treated like Soviet geneticists in the Stalinist period has no basis in fact. There are no political or scientific dictators in the US. No climate scientist has been expelled from the US National Academy of Sciences. No skeptics have been arrested or banished to gulags or the modern equivalents of Siberia. Indeed, the dissenting authors are at the world’s greatest universities, including Princeton, MIT, Rockefeller, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Paris.

I can speak personally for the lively debate about climate change policy. There are controversies about many details of climate science and economics. While some claim that skeptics cannot get their papers published, working papers and the Internet are open to all. I believe the opposite of what the sixteen claim to be true: dissident voices and new theories are encouraged because they are critical to sharpening our analysis. The idea that climate science and economics are being suppressed by a modern Lysenkoism is pure fiction.

5.

A fifth argument is that mainstream climate scientists are benefiting from the clamor about climate change:

Why is there so much passion about global warming…? There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question “cui bono?” Or the modern update, “Follow the money.” Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.

This argument is inaccurate as scientific history and unsupported by any evidence. There is a suggestion that standard theories about global warming have been put together by the scientific equivalent of Madison Avenue to raise funds from government agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF). The fact is that the first precise calculations about the impact of increased CO2 concentrations on the earth’s surface temperature were made by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, more than five decades before the NSF was founded.

The skeptics’ account also misunderstands the incentives in academic research. IPCC authors are not paid. Scientists who serve on panels of the National Academy of Science do so without monetary compensation for their time and are subject to close scrutiny for conflicts of interest. Academic advancement occurs primarily from publication of original research and contributions to the advancement of knowledge, not from supporting “popular” views. Indeed, academics have often been subject to harsh political attacks when their views clashed with current political or religious teachings. This is the case in economics today, where Keynesian economists are attacked for their advocacy of “fiscal stimulus” to promote recovery from a deep recession; and in biology, where evolutionary biologists are attacked as atheists because they are steadfast in their findings that the earth is billions rather than thousands of years old.

In fact, the argument about the venality of the academy is largely a diversion. The big money in climate change involves firms, industries, and individuals who worry that their economic interests will be harmed by policies to slow climate change. The attacks on the science of global warming are reminiscent of the well-documented resistance by cigarette companies to scientific findings on the dangers of smoking. Beginning in 1953, the largest tobacco companies launched a public relations campaign to convince the public and the government that there was no sound scientific basis for the claim that cigarette smoking was dangerous. The most devious part of the campaign was the underwriting of researchers who would support the industry’s claim. The approach was aptly described by one tobacco company executive: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”9

One of the worrisome features of the distortion of climate science is that the stakes are huge here—even larger than the economic stakes for keeping the cigarette industry alive. Tobacco sales in the United States today are under $100 billion. By contrast, expenditures on all energy goods and services are close to $1,000 billion. Restrictions on CO2 emissions large enough to bend downward the temperature curve from its current trajectory to a maximum of 2 or 3 degrees Centigrade would have large economic effects on many businesses. Scientists, citizens, and our leaders will need to be extremely vigilant to prevent pollution of the scientific process by the merchants of doubt.

6.

A final point concerns economic analysis. The sixteen scientists argue, citing my research, that economics does not support policies to slow climate change in the next half-century:

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls. This would be especially beneficial to the less-developed parts of the world that would like to share some of the same advantages of material well-being, health and life expectancy that the fully developed parts of the world enjoy now. Many other policy responses would have a negative return on investment. And it is likely that more CO2 and the modest warming that may come with it will be an overall benefit to the planet.

On this point, I do not need to reconstruct how climate scientists made their projections, or review the persecution of Soviet geneticists. I did the research and wrote the book on which they base their statement. The skeptics’ summary is based on poor analysis and on an incorrect reading of the results.

The first problem is an elementary mistake in economic analysis. The authors cite the “benefit-to-cost ratio” to support their argument. Elementary cost-benefit and business economics teach that this is an incorrect criterion for selecting investments or policies. The appropriate criterion for decisions in this context is net benefits (that is, the difference between, and not the ratio of, benefits and costs).

This point can be seen in a simple example, which would apply in the case of investments to slow climate change. Suppose we were thinking about two policies. Policy A has a small investment in abatement of CO2 emissions. It costs relatively little (say $1 billion) but has substantial benefits (say $10 billion), for a net benefit of $9 billion. Now compare this with a very effective and larger investment, Policy B. This second investment costs more (say $10 billion) but has substantial benefits (say $50 billion), for a net benefit of $40 billion. B is preferable because it has higher net benefits ($40 billion for B as compared with $9 for A), but A has a higher benefit-cost ratio (a ratio of 10 for A as compared with 5 for B). This example shows why we should, in designing the most effective policies, look at benefits minus costs, not benefits divided by costs.

This leads to the second point, which is that the authors summarize my results incorrectly. My research shows that there are indeed substantial net benefits from acting now rather than waiting fifty years. A look at Table 5-1 in my study A Question of Balance (2008) shows that the cost of waiting fifty years to begin reducing CO2 emissions is $2.3 trillion in 2005 prices. If we bring that number to today’s economy and prices, the loss from waiting is $4.1 trillion. Wars have been started over smaller sums.10

My study is just one of many economic studies showing that economic efficiency would point to the need to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions right now, and not to wait for a half-century. Waiting is not only economically costly, but will also make the transition much more costly when it eventually takes place. Current economic studies also suggest that the most efficient policy is to raise the cost of CO2 emissions substantially, either through cap-and-trade or carbon taxes, to provide appropriate incentives for businesses and households to move to low-carbon activities.

One might argue that there are many uncertainties here, and we should wait until the uncertainties are resolved. Yes, there are many uncertainties. That does not imply that action should be delayed. Indeed, my experience in studying this subject for many years is that we have discovered more puzzles and greater uncertainties as researchers dig deeper into the field. There are continuing major questions about the future of the great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica; the thawing of vast deposits of frozen methane; changes in the circulation patterns of the North Atlantic; the potential for runaway warming; and the impacts of ocean carbonization and acidification. Moreover, our economic models have great difficulties incorporating these major geophysical changes and their impacts in a reliable manner. Policies implemented today serve as a hedge against unsuspected future dangers that suddenly emerge to threaten our economies or environment. So, if anything, the uncertainties would point to a more rather than less forceful policy—and one starting sooner rather than later—to slow climate change.

The group of sixteen scientists argues that we should avoid alarm about climate change. I am equally concerned by those who allege that we will incur economic catastrophes if we take steps to slow climate change. The claim that cap-and-trade legislation or carbon taxes would be ruinous or disastrous to our societies does not stand up to serious economic analysis. We need to approach the issues with a cool head and a warm heart. And with respect for sound logic and good science.

—February 22, 2012

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