The Torygraph just can’t get enough global warming denialism

The Telegraph, not content with embarrassing themselves by credulously printing an absurd denialist screed by Christopher “asbestos isn’t harmful” Booker, has decided to double down on its idiocy and close the year out by running a few more denialist “arguments”. I’m not entirely sure what the point here is, aside from hoping for a bump in traffic. It’s a sterling example of how utterly lazy and intellectually dishonest newspapers have become that this list is presented as factual, when a cursory examination shows how stunningly inaccurate when not outright mendacious it really is.

[1]Temperatures are falling, not rising

As Christopher Booker says in his review of 2008, temperatures have been dropping in a wholly unpredicted way over the past year.

This argument- that 2008 was ostensibly cold, ergo the planet isn’t warming- is actually presented three different times (1, 3, & 6) as though it were three separate refutations of anthropogenic warming. Although it is probably too much to expect denialists to examine such “facts” in terms climatological and/or statistical relevance, one would hope that they are at least capable of counting. In any event, this is a classic example of confusing weather for climate. Weather events such as the La Niña that occurred during the first half of 2008 can and do overwhelm the anthropogenic warming signal on such small timescales.

And there was nothing “unpredicted” about the La Niña cooling. James Hansen, writing on January 14th of 2008, noted, “[T]he surface temperature anomaly for July-December, shows that the La Nina equatorial cooling is strong in the second half of the year. The La Nina should thus continue to affect global temperatures into 2008.” He later predicted, “Based on these considerations [solar minimum and La Niña conditions], it is unlikely that 2008 will be a year with an unusual global temperature change, i.e., it is likely to remain close to the range of (high) values exhibited in 2002-2007.” As noted previously, initial analysis has 2008 as the ninth warmest on record for GISTEMP.

The Met Office was more explicit, writing on January 3rd, 2008:

2008 is set to be cooler globally than recent years… but is still forecast to be one of the top-ten warmest years… Global temperature for 2008 is expected to be 0.37 °C above the long-term (1961-1990) average of 14.0 °C, the coolest year since 2000, when the value was 0.24 °C… For 2008, the development of a strong La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean will limit the warming trend of the global climate.

By the Met Office’s initial analysis, 2008 was indeed the tenth warmest year on record, coming in at ~.31C above average.

[1 cont.]Last winter, the northern hemisphere saw its greatest snow cover since 1966, which in the northern US states and Canada was dubbed the “winter from hell”. This winter looks set to be even worse.

Climate, once again, is not weather. And the US and Canada are not the world.

[2]The earth was hotter 1,000 years ago

Evidence from all over the world indicates that the earth was hotter 1,000 years ago than it is today. Research shows that temperatures were higher in what is known as the Mediaeval Warming period than they were in the 1990s.

Sorry, no.

[3]The earth’s surface temperature is not at record levels

According to Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies analysis of surface air temperature measurements, the meteorological December 2007 to November 2008 was the coolest year since 2000.

Actually, the GISS statement continues, “It was the ninth warmest year in the period of instrumental measurements, which extends back to 1880. The nine warmest years all occur within the eleven-year period 1998-2008.” Being one of the ten warmest years on record is pretty much the definition of “at record levels”. Anthropogenic warming doesn’t increase monotonically- every year won’t be warmer than the one immediately preceding it.

[3 cont.]Their data has also shown that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s but the 1930s.

No, it does not. And humorously (though via the Met, not GISS), from the Telegraph itself: Last decade is the warmest on record, scientists say.

[4]Ice is not disappearing

Arctic website Crysophere Today reported that Arctic ice volume was 500,000 sq km greater than this time last year.

That isn’t surprising considering that massive melt that 2008 experienced (the sea ice season ends before the calendar year)- as WMO states, “Because ice was thinner in 2008, overall ice volume was less than that in any other year.” As we saw earlier in the year, record melts lead to record rebounds. The multi-year downward trend is clearly evident and statistically significant.

[4 cont.]Additionally, Antarctic sea-ice this year reached its highest level since satellite records began in 1979.

This recent “increase” is not statistically significant, nor does it contradict anthropogenic warming. Additionally, when the record is extended further back, Southern Hemisphere sea ice is probably decreasing overall. But quite simply, the relative dearth of information about Antarctic conditions makes any attempt to refute the broader scientific conclusions about anthropogenic warming a fool’s errand at best, and deliberate misdirection at worst.

[4 cont.]Polar bear numbers are also at record levels.

In the words of UCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group Chair, Dr. Andrew Derocher:

The various presentations of biased reporting ignore, or are ignorant of, the different reasons for changes in populations. If I thought that there were more bears now than 50 years ago and a reasonable basis to assume this would not change, then no worries. This is not the case.

The bottom line here is that it is an apples and oranges issue. The early estimates of polar bear abundance are a guess. There is no data at all for the 1950-60s. Nothing but guesses. We are sure the populations were being negatively affected by excess harvest (e.g., aircraft hunting, ship hunting,self-killing guns, traps, and no harvest limits). The harvest levels were huge and growing. The resulting low numbers of bears were due only to excess harvest but, again, it was simply a guess as to the number of bears….

Comparing declines caused by harvest followed by recovery from harvest controls to declines from loss of habitat and climate warming are apples and oranges. Ignorant people write ignorant things.

Indeed.

[5]Himalayan glaciers

A report by the UN Environment Program this year claimed that the cause of melting glaciers in the Himalayas was not global warming but the local warming effect of a vast “atmospheric brown cloud” over that region, made up of soot particles from Asia’s dramatically increased burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

False. While the Himalayas are believed to be melting faster than expected due to anthropogenic warming alone because of anomalous regional warmth created by soot pollution, the “warming by haze” is in addition to enhanced greenhouse warming, not instead of.

[6]Temperatures are still dropping

Nasa satellite readings on global temperatures from the University of Alabama show that August was the fourth month this year when temperatures fell below their 30-year average, ie since satellite records began.

And once again we’re back to confusing weather and climate, and once again pretending that 2008 was somehow “cold”. What do the UAH data say after August? I think you know what’s coming: September: +.16C, October: +.17C, November: +.25C, which by the tortured logic of denialists must mean that warming is accelerating at an astounding rate.

[6 cont.]November 2008 in the USA was only the 39th warmest since records began 113 years ago.

The USA is only a tiny fraction (~ 1.88%) of the planet. Global temperatures, again, were .25C above average for the month of November according to UAH. I would profess disbelief that denialists could be duped into mistaking a fraction of the planet for the whole, but we’ve seen it twice now (1 & 3) already.

I don’t expect any better from the likes of Chris Booker, but what about the Telegraph’s editors? Do they have no duty to their readers to fact-check this rubbish before printing it?

8 responses to “The Torygraph just can’t get enough global warming denialism

  1. Pingback: Environment and nature » Blog Archive » The Torygraph just can’t get enough global warming denialism

  2. One quibble: I think the phrase “it’s weather, not climate” miscommunicates:

    Most people think of weather as something:

    – that jiggles around over a period of a few days to a week, and is not very predictable very far in advance.

    – may even change quickly in a day.

    – is very noisy

    We think of climate as (say) ~10-year averages, and like to have 30-years for real trends.

    But oscillations like El Nino/La Nina are *not* like weather (to most people):

    – they are predictable much longer ahead

    – they last longer

    – they actually do change the “climate” in the sense that most people think of it.

    Of course, they are still *noise* relative to 30-year scales.

  3. The dangerous devotion of so many leaders to a “business as usual” status quo as well as to unbridled global economic growth and outrageous per capita overconsumption could prove to be lethal for our children also to worship because these forms of idolatry could soon become patently unsustainable on a relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planet like the planetary home which God has blessed us to inhabit……and not to ravage as the leading elders in my “Not So GREAT GREED GRAB Generation” have been advocating so religiously and doing so recklessly in these early years of Century XXI.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176

  4. Using the term ‘denier’ implies that the facts, science, or objective reality are obvious and the other person is just ‘denying’ their existence.

    [Response: That’s not a bad working definition. – TB]

    This is a disingenuous argument. Climate change is an objective fact. It’s like saying water is wet. What is not an objective fact is what causes it.

    [And you’re going to argue against the attribution of current climate change how exactly?]

    What is not an objective fact is whether a warmer climate is catastrophically bad for humanity. Past history has shown it was not.

    [Who is arguing the first word for word? What is your evidence for the second? There is good reason to believe that the first is untrue insofar as “catastrophic” can be a weasel word when “negative enough to mitigate against” would suffice, from the WGIII to Stern to recent work by Tol and Yohe.]

    Another objective fact is that we do not have a scientific understanding as to what causes our climate to change.

    [Argument from ignorance/personal incredulity.]

    That is observable by the fact we can’t even predict short-term weather very well

    [Wrong.]

    and are constantly failing to model or predict any sort of future short or long term climate trends.

    [Wrong again.]

    With any topic, a country, government, etc., would be negligent to spend trillions of its citizens tax dollars for a ‘solution’ that would quite possibly not even address the right factor for a problem that might not even exist. When we can reasonably prove a problem or issue with science, we should act. When we can’t, we should not.

    [How quickly you move away from the scientific issues of reality and attribution of current warming /climate change. Surprise, surprise.]

    What I see most in the environmental debate right now is people or organizations that seem to have political power or financial gain as their primary driver and the idea that the facts aren’t solid yet is a secondary concern.

    [You seem to have no grasp of the science and a poor grasp of the economics of the subject. Would you care to posit how someone perpetuating a hoax about global warming would possibly compare financially to a creationist/climate denial site like Uncommon Origins? Which is to say, I sell no books here, and neither offer nor demand membership dues. The history of receiving substantial sums of money to spread climate science denialism is well-documented while the notion that there is a financial incentive to advance AGW without evidence is absurd when you look at the incomes involved. If you are aware of some way to miraculously profit from describing the current state of the science, by all means share it with the rest of us.]

  5. Why not lay blame for the current economic catastrophe where it belongs: at the feet of the economic powerbrokers who organize and manage a colossal pyramid scheme, a modern representation of the ancient Tower of Babel? Is the denial of anthropogenic global warming and the human-driven destabilization of Earth’s climate not primarily for the purpose of preserving the selfish material interests of a few wealthy and powerful people, and their minions?

    Let’s look a bit more closely at the scandulous ‘business’ of Bernie Madoff, confidence games, Ponzi schemes and other financial vehicles for funneling, accumulating and concentrating billions of dollars in unearned wealth into the hands of a tiny minority of people who comprise the top of the global economy.

    There are many minions of the wealthy and their bought-and-paid-for politicians who “spread the word” of these schemes. Con men operate pyramid schemes. They assure “plausible deniability” and “legal cover” for all that is said and done.

    Only a telling of the truth about what they are doing is forbidden. That is the one and only thing that is verboten. Do not break their vow of silence by telling what is true about the perpetration of the schemes {ie, the only games in town, so they say}, because the “houses of cards” out of which a modern Tower of Babel is constructed immediately is exposed as fraudulent and patently unsustainable. These pyramidal constructions can withstand any force except that which is presented by speaking out loudly and clearly about what is happening in these enterprises. As soon as light of what is true was shed on Bernie’s scheme, the house of cards he had constructed fell.

    Bernard Madoff may be the first of my “Not So GREAT GREED GRAB Generation’s” kingpins to find that his “house of cards” has collapsed; but I dare say, Bernie will not be the last. There are other kingpins and many too many minions ready, willing and able to play along in what looks like the greatest self-enrichment scam in human history.

    Why not say that greed is not good? Why not assign value to personal honesty, accountability and transparency?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176

  6. Resolution for 2009: SPEAK OUT loudly, clearly and often

    Dear Friends,

    In calling for change in our time, great scientists are speaking about what could somehow be true to wealthy and powerful people who prefer that the “business as usual” status quo be maintained. Industrial/big business powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians want to keep things going along just as they are going now, come what may for the children and coming generations, for life as we know it, for the integrity of Earth and its environs.

    Many voices are needed to support “voices in the wilderness” like those of Jim Hansen and John Holdren, exemplary scientists who have been willing to speak truth to those with the power to make the kinds of necessary change that make belief in a good enough future at least a possibility. Assuring a chance of a good future for the children and for life as we know it is an achievable goal that will lead us to overcome the arrogance and avarice of many too many leaders of my “Not So GREAT GREED GRAB Generation” of elders.

    If too many leaders of the family of humanity choose to keep doing precisely the things they are advocating and doing now, and if we in the human community keep getting what we are getting now, then it appears a sustainable world for our children cannot be achieved. By so doing, the limited resources of Earth will be permanently dissipated, its biodiversity massively extirpated, its environment irreversibly degraded and life as we know it recklessly endangered. The current gigantic scale and anticipated growth of per-capita overconsumption of limited resources, global production and distribution capabilities, and absolute human population numbers worldwide are simply, clearly and patently unsustainable, even to the year 2050. Given Earth’s limitations as a relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planet, the projected increases in these currently unbridled consumption, production and propagation activities of the human species could soon lead the human family to come face to face with some sort of colossal ecological wreckage.

    Now is the time to speak out loudly, clearly and often about what is true for you. Forget about political correctness and convenience. Let go of economic expediency and greediness. Embrace necessary change rather than waste another day preserving the selfish interests of the small group of rich and powerful people, and their many minions, all of whom are adamantly and relentlessly defending an unsustainable, same old “business as usual” status quo.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176

  7. Noted elsewhere– distinguish the weekly Telegraph from the Sunday Telegraph, apparently they have separate editorial groups and different positions on climate change.

    Noted everywhere–Steve Salmony’s post. Could you just put a pointer to it instead of repeating it full text? Anything seen everywhere gets ignored after a while.

  8. Arctic website Crysophere Today reported that Arctic ice volume was 500,000 sq km greater than this time last year.

    Since when has ice volume been measured in square kilometers?

    In addition to that: the number’s a blatant cherrypick. You could also state (truthfully) that in December CT reported a new record low ice extent.

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