Monday, September 16, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: David Rose believes in global warming

David Rose's latest spread in the Mail on Sunday (print edition) begins with a sub-heading revealing the UN IPCC's "astonishing new admission" that, as the inch-high type of the two-page-straddling main headline says, "global warming is HALF what we said."

You know when someone shouts so loudly that you can't hear them? For although his ongoing series on climate change features a provocative thematic label:

- it's not a confidence trick, simply overstatement by a committee who don't appear to understand that science is founded on the rock of uncertainty: the more it's willing to be doubted and tested, the more likely it is to be as nearly right as it can be.

The presentation of the Mail articles - for which sub-editors may have more responsibility than Rose himself - is similarly overdone, and asking to be tripped up by its own brashness. For example, crowing that global warming (of what part or element, exactly?) is only half what was predicted appears to admit an inconvenient truth, i.e. that the globe is indeed warming.

In a highly contentious area like this, there is a duty to consider style as well as content. Rose's piece, when the cross-header shrieking subsides, is more nuanced, showing that the whole issue is far more complex than just a series of forecasts about CO2 and temperature readings.

Mind you, he hasn't helped himself by jumping gleefully on the increase in Arctic ice cover as though to say, "Ha ha! Proved you wrong!" Firstly, there are also places where ice is melting, and secondly, anyone with the slightest knowledge of statistics knows that citing a single instance is no proof or disproof of anything. You have to try to find a trend.

There is a famous example in Bortkiewicz' book "Das Gesetz der kleinen Zahlen" (1898), where he studied the frequency with which Prussian cavalrymen were kicked to death by horses ("all of them", Allied soldiers would doubtless have wished 20 years later). On average it was 0.61 per year, which obviously didn't happen that way (unless the man's legs were left alive).

von Bortkiewicz's cavalry example (visually reordered)

One blizzard doth not an ice age make. There are many factors affecting world climate, and that's a vast subject. Even the Met Office's supercomputer can't get today's weather right every time, let alone next week's.

However, it is a scientific fact that CO2 lets through solar radiation but reflects back ground-emitted re-radiation; the way this works is clearly explicable. Similarly, water vapour from aircraft contrails - Brits may remember (coincidence or not?) the clear days we had in 2010 as air traffic was suspended when we had a dust cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced "Jones", I understand) volcano.

Okay, there's room for debate on whether humans are largely responsible for CO2 increases; and about how other systems (e.g. vegetation) respond to any such increase; and about all the other things that cool or warm the sea and air. But there's too much yelling on both sides of the debate, and sensational contrarian reporting is not a proper corrective to over-excited AGW campaigners.

There's money being made on both sides, by lobbyists and manufacturers of cars and windmills, solar panel-makers and supermarkets flying beans in from Kenya; and by global carbon trading that seems to favour Chinese industry and American capital. As ever in war, truth has been the first casualty, and we need a more balanced contribution from the Fourth Estate and news media owners.

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Sobers said...

Of course the globe is warming, we're a only few hundred years out of a little ice age! We all know that, the records show that temperatures have climbed considerably since the 17th and 18th centuries. And climbed rapidly in the first half of the 20th century too, from 1910 to 1940. The whole argument is whether the similar rise from 1980 to 2000 is the same natural process thats lifted us out of the Little Ice Age or down to the rise in CO2 from fossil fuel burning. And given that CO2 continues to rise rapidly but temperatures don't, the most likely scenario is that the rise from 1980 to 2000 was a natural one too, perhaps slightly exacerbated by the CO2, but only very slightly.

Logic tells us that if CO2 was the main driver of temperature rises (and falls) then natural processes couldn't over come that, and temperatures would rise in step with CO2. But they haven't. Which tells us natural processes are either more powerful than we thought, or the effect of CO2 is weaker than we thought. Either way, whatever temperatures do over the next few decades (my money is on falls, due to the Grand Solar Minimum we are entering), natural processes will far outweigh any effect man may have on the climate. And all the changes the Greens wish to force upon us all are pure ideology, and will achieve precisely zero.

Sackerson said...

Good, and I wish David Rose would (or would be allowed to) argue in this way.

As I indicate in the post, I suspect that the fuss over carbon credits may be a disguise for a convenient (to some) transfer of heavy industry overseas.

Sackerson said...

"jzf" comments on the Agriculture page:

This refers to the work of Dr. Fyfe.

Fyfe et al isn't a refutation of the IPCC. It is
just one paper that shows that the global surface air temperature has
recently been rising at the lower limit of expectations.

Climate scientists and the IPCC have
consistently said that you need to average over 30-year periods for the
global surface air temperature to reflect the climate (as opposed to the
weather). Fyfe et al are looking at 20 years of data, which isn't
enough for the short-term fluctuations to even out.

We expect to see periods of a decade or more when the rate of warming is
a bit low - we just happen to be in one of those periods now.

The easiest way to understand this is to look at this graph:

One expert commented:

"[Fyfe et al] hinges on the cherry picking of dates. 1998 was an
exceptional year. If one does the reverse and take 1975 to 1998 the
warming is larger than nearly every model predicts. From 1998 on it
is lower. From 1975 to present it is just right. So one major blip:
an exceptionally warm year can really distort messages if it is cherry