Global Warming Still Not-Happening, Time To Change Attitudes?

It appears that the Earth has now gone 15 years with no measurable warming.

I was always a fence-sitter on Global Warming, although I (mostly) got off the fence a few years ago when enough information came out to make me question whether there was any reliable information coming out of that sector at all. It became increasingly obvious that a tiny group of scientists controlled all the funding and access to the data and dominated all public dissemination of the information, and began dodging anyone who dared call them into question, while a group of their supporters began vilifying and outright bullying reasonably intelligent and qualified people who questioned their thinking.

The angry bloviating was a red flag, but the killer for me on their credibility came from the disturbingly closed nature of this group of researchers. That these Global Warming scientists all worked together now and then is not fishy–in fact it would be bizarre if they didn’t. But they had repeatedly proven to be a tiny and impenetrable elite, routinely fighting all demands for independent review, and strongly resisting efforts to have them reveal their data and their programming code so that it could be independently scrutinized by computer scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, or other qualified parties to see if their methodologies were sound and their results reproducible.

I mean, these guys were not just getting millions in taxpayer funding, but they were making public policy recommendations which could potentially cost trillions, and would affect the entire world population. Being as transparent as possible in those circumstances would certainly seem like a high priority, especially in nations with this annoying mentality that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and where the governed have this pesky habit of doing things like voting.

Here’s a thought: if you do not want taxpayer scrutiny, stop demanding taxpayer money. Furthermore, if you are going to make broad sweeping recommendations for public policy change, do not act outraged when those who are governed ask pointed questions as to whether or not your proposals are really the wisest use of public and private resources.

You don’t get to play with taxpayer money, jump into the political process of demanding political action, then put a shield on your chest and bellow, “I AM A SCIENTIST AND I AM NOT TO BE QUESTIONED YOU TINY-BRAINED FOOLS!” Well, honestly you can do that, but you tend to look foolish and should not be surprised when the reaction is not very positive.

Perhaps we should begin the task of honestly discussing whether attacking CO2 should be our #1 air quality issue? Having less CO2 in the atmosphere certainly seems like a reasonable idea–it’s probably not wise to keep increasing atmospheric CO2 at a rapid pace–but it would seem to me that things like safe drinking water, decent food, and overall air quality should be our primary concerns, not just this one gas. Is that such a radical thought?

  • Elizabeth Reid

    I freely admit that I’m undereducated on all of this, but what’s up with the Arctic sea ice then? Does anyone have an idea that’s not tied up with GW?

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    The question would be, is anything up with it at all? I freely admit to having at some point completely tuned out the “the ice caps are melting” people when I heard the tale of the drowning polar bears. At that point the credibility of the whole enterprise completely snapped for me, and neither the popular press nor the actual scientists had anything left I felt I could believe anymore.

    It is difficult for me to express how painful I find this. Scientists are my heroes. It’s like finding out that your favorite sports team is full of child molesters, steroid pumpers, and bribe-takers.

    My faith in this and a few other parts of the scientific establishment has been badly damaged, and it hurts. I grew up holding the ideals and the rigors of science to be among the highest of human callings. I still do, and seeing it stand in ridicule is just awful.

    To the specific questions then:

    1) Are the ice caps actually doing anything that is truly outside the normal variation and fluctuations we should expect to see over a period of years and decades and centuries? What is the objective evidence for that, precisely?

    2) If they really are doing something unusual, what is causing it? Localized warming perhaps, but if so, caused by what?

    Because right now, even the establishment that screamed that Global Warming was imminent and required drastic action on CO2 has been forced to admit that it isn’t happening even though Kyoto has never been followed and the increase in CO2 emissions have continued unabated. So if something strange really is going on in the arctic waters (is it? Is it really?), then we need to know what’s causing it. With Co2 having sucked all the other gases and just about everything else out of the room, the question looks wide open to me.

  • http://texasag03.wordpress.com TexasAg03

    Elizabeth,

    The polar bears used it all making margaritas.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    Your thinking on this seems weirdly black and white to me. Of course the scientific establishment has liars, bribe takers and probably child molesters for that matter; it’s a human endeavor. If there is any definable group of human beings which doesn’t contain any substantial number of selfish, lazy, and actually evil members, I’ve never heard of them. I do think science is among the more noble human callings, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who’s a scientist is ennobled simply by being one. That doesn’t even work on priests , why should you expect it to work on scientists? And I have some awful news about your favorite sports team.

    Anyway. About the ice. I obviously am not educated enough about the issue to even mount an argument in either direction, but I’m asking about articles like this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/11/arctic-ice-melting-at-fastest-pace

  • http://gamepursuits.net/ipb/index.php?act=idx Sandi

    All about sea ice

    How about if nearly all the ice melts? I should stop, or vastly slow the ocean conveyor effect. Without that the ice would start to form again, but would be a process taking decades.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    *shrug*

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    You got me there Elizabeth. It is foolish of me to keep getting mad about it. I get over this sort of thing in every other field of human endeavor, yet I’ve been writing angrily about what I see as corruption in the sciences for years now. I have even hypocritically lectured people on calming down when they see corruption elsewhere. And lectured on why we need to see scientists as human and subject to all the human frailties including conflicts of interest. My holding onto anger about this therefore makes me look a little silly doesn’t it?

    At least at this point we can stop hearing that global warming skepticism is “conspiracy theory” or “denialism” eh? The very establishment that *said* there was Global Warming now says, clearly, it ain’t happening the way they thought it would. This after doing their best all throughout the 1990s to tell us this was very real, very big, very scary, and handing Al Gore an Oscar and a Nobel Prize for telling us we *must act now.*

    Well we never acted, in fact our CO2 emissions continued to spiral upward, and global temperatures have apparently flatlined.

    So what explains the glaciation pattern? Well let’s see. The first question *I* would ask is this: what do the patterns look like over a period of a few centuries? Is this really all that unusual? Is there some reason to believe that the current trend will continue unabated? Or are we looking at the equivalent of a rainstorm and calling it an impending monsoon?

    Call me a skeptic. Show me the numbers and make it transparent so I can verify for myself. Or so people who are smarter than me who are disinterested (i.e. have no dog in the hunt one way or the other) can look at it and say “yep, this looks pretty solid” or “we see a problem here.” It’s all I ever wanted on any of it anyway.

    Anyway we are now dealing with the question: the glaciers are shifting and appear to be receding somewhat. So why? Is that normal? How much if anything at all do the ever-increasing CO2 levels have to do with it? Looks like more research is needed, and maybe with Co2 no longer sucking all the oxygen out of the room we can try to find out.

  • Buddy

    Personally I’m more concerned about cooling than warming. I don’t think we’ve even come close to understanding the complexities of global climate, frankly, especially the interaction between solar activity and climate. I find it amusing, personally, that solar cycle 23 was a monster of a cycle, and we had some of the hottest years on record, and cycle 24 has been less active, and we’re seeing temps flatline. According to AGW ‘science’ on CO2 levels this shouldn’t be happening, but it is.

    Cycle 25 is predicted to be significantly lower than 24, but time will tell:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2093264/Forget-global-warming–Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html

    Sea ice also seems to be doing quite well this year, as it’s threatening to shut down the bering sea. This years Deadliest Catch is bound to be a good bunch of episodes with them dealing with ice, ice, and more ice.

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/01/26/1999708/bering-sea-ice-threatens-crab.html

    At least some of the arctic melt of the last few years can be attributed to odd summer wind patterns that persisted for a few summers: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/22/wind-sea-ice-loss-arctic

    While the arctic may be ‘below normal’ (what exactly is normal? We really do not know.) The antarctic is up several percent over the last 10 years or so.

    Add to that the quality of our measuring network at the surface (visit surfacestations.org for a few laughs, or google “how not to measure temperature” this is my personal favorite for demonstrating the ‘hmm’ factor — make sure and look at the ‘homogenization’ at the bottom of the link: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/02/14/how-not-to-measure-temperature-part-51/ ) I’m not convinced we can even measure global temperatures to any level of accuracy, much less some tenths of a degree.

  • http://www.polyscifi.blogspot.com jodyneel

    but what’s up with the Arctic sea ice then?

    Arctic sea ice is half the story. Its loss is mostly balanced by gains in Antarctic sea ice.

    Antarctic ice is above normal now (and has been for most of the time during the Arctic sea ice hysteria):
    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/S_timeseries.png

    We’re a smidge below normal now globally, but were a smidge above a couple weeks ago.
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg

    Why the variation? As I understand it, mostly shifts in wind patterns. In the North, there were several years where prevailing winds tended to push the ice out of the Arctic more than normal while in the Antarctic there’s been several years of an unusually strong and large Antarctic vortex cutting down on the mixing.

  • http://www.roaringshark.com zach
  • mikeca

    So one article published in a British news paper, written by a journalist with a history of writing articles critical of global warming settles the whole issue?

    Excuse me, but I would like to see something from multiple more reliable sources.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    [sigh] Kevin Drum wins. In 15 years no discernible trend but it still looks like a slow increase of less than 1 degree over a half-century, questions of data reliability and transparency and how that little could cause the supposedly massive de-glaciation and drowning polar bears and global catastrophe notwithstanding. If the data is unclear over the most recent 15 years but looks like a small trend over 50 years, someone who notices the last 15 years must be a liar, end of story.

    I’m tempted to make several points here but I’ll refrain and merely note that the story was very different 10 years ago. I’ll let my other comments stand as-is.

  • http://gamepursuits.net/ipb/index.php?act=idx Sandi

    So what explains the glaciation pattern? Well let’s see. The first question *I* would ask is this: what do the patterns look like over a period of a few centuries? Is this really all that unusual? Is there some reason to believe that the current trend will continue unabated? Or are we looking at the equivalent of a rainstorm and calling it an impending monsoon?

    If for no other reason that to get out of the noise ( graphically speaking ), I’m sure you would need at least a few millennium, not centuries.

    This chart shows CO2, methane and temperature. Note the peaks lasting for thousands of years, at about 100,000 year intervals. It just so happens that sun activity runs in 100,000 year cycles.

    There are other warming and cooling periods on the chart lasting for hundreds of years or less. What needs to be understood is that tying to make sense of data over the last few hundred years, is not unlike the story of the blind men and an elephant.

  • Dishman

    This isn’t entirely a new question. I’ve been aware of the questions regarding Solar Cycle 24 and 25 for a half dozen years. What is new is that it’s getting mainstream attention.

    One way or another, we’ll get some pretty solid data in the next 10 years. I suspect we really won’t like it.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    So, Kevin Drum “wins” but that doesn’t merit an update to the post?

    I detect moving goalposts: you’ve conceded that there IS warming, but have no concluded it’s no big deal?

    also, straw man alert:

    Here’s a thought: if you do not want taxpayer scrutiny, stop demanding taxpayer money.

    since when have climate scientists EVER refused taxpayer scrutiny?

    Here’s a thought: if climate deniers want to be taken seriously, stop cherry-picking data, stop attacking the messengers instead of the message, and stop moving the goalposts.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    Also, Eric Berger at the Houston Chron (whose SciGuy blog is one of the best science blogs out there, far better than most of the stuff at Discoverblogs or Scienceblogs) takes on the tabloid report in even more substantive fashion:

    http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2012/01/british-tabloid-says-forget-global-warming-and-worry-about-cooling-should-we/

    In typical understated fashion, he concludes:

    The bottom line is that the Daily Mail appears to really have overstated the case for Cycle 25 and its effect on our climate.

    Frankly, the prospect of a weaker Cycle 25 is a tempting one from a scientific standpoint. A true “grand minimum” would not only improve climate models, but it would test the theory of skeptics that solar irradiance plays a far greater role in recent warming than other factors, notably greenhouse gases.

    If we do reach a grand minimum perhaps we can finally settle what has become an ugly, partisan debate outside of the scientific community. If the Earth does indeed cool during Cycle 25, great, we can set aside our worries about carbon dioxide.

    But if the planet continues to warm? We would rue, I fear, not acting earlier.

  • Buddy

    “since when have climate scientists EVER refused taxpayer scrutiny?”

    Oh, aziz, I dunno, like FOREVER. Every time someone scrutinizes or raises any sort of doubt, they are herded out of the corral like sick cattle.

    There data sets are not open, their sources are not open, their homogenization routines are not open, raw data that used to be available is no longer available, the list goes on…

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla
  • Dishman

    Aziz wrote:
    since when have climate scientists EVER refused taxpayer scrutiny?

    Here:

    Dear Mr McIntyre,

    In a recent thread on the blog that you host, Climate Audit, you quote text and a figure directly from the WGI AR5 First Order Draft. We would remind you that each page of this document is clearly marked “Do not cite, quote or distribute”. Therefore, we kindly request you to remove this text and figure from your blog and refrain from such actions, which do not respect the terms of the IPCC review process.

    That’s just one example.

    There’s also the efforts by UVa and UEA to prevent FOIA disclosure.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    dish, the IPCC letter also stated


    Scientific comments and criticisms on the WGI AR5 FOD are encouraged and welcomed from experts in the topics being assessed. In order for the authors of the chapters to take into account, and respond to, these comments in drafting the Second Order Draft, they must be made through the appropriate channel. This requires registration as an expert reviewer and uploading the review comments on the WGI AR5 FOD before 10 February 2012.”

    in other words, McIntyre wants special treatment and is making demands rather than comply with the existig procedure. Thats not refusal to comply, its an attempt to make compliance for discosure fair and the same for everyone. What is so onerous about the process? absolutely nothing, except it gives McIntyre another reason to cry a river.

    as the COPIOUS links I gave up above (and which seemed to be invisible) demonstrate, all aspects of the data, code and policy are accessibleby anyone (and in fact it is precisely because of that openness that McIntyre is able to run his own simulations and analyses on the same data sets!)

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    also, the IPCC is a giovernment organization, and as such does have a roght to control the DRAFT of their official statements prior to public release. everyhing teh IPCC says is intended to beofficial so they have avested interest in making sure that everyone participates properly and that daft statements arent leaked because then those may be misconstrued. What if they find an error in teh figure that McIntyre wanted to publish? what if McIntyre found an error? its the draft, they can fix it and it wont be in teh final version. this is why you have a draft process – it allows for expert review prior to ublication.

    Its a variant of the peer review system; I’mnot obligated to let you take my draft figures from my next manuscript and critique them publicly, unless you are a reviewer for the journal.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    In reality Kevin Drum lost in my eyes the moment he whipped out the word “lie.” I’m very close to implementing a rule that I’ll never link or credit anything which uses that word until it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused “liar” willfully and knowingly claimed something that they absolutely had to know was false.

    And no, I don’t see any reason to update the post, but your latest front page post stands as a fine rebuttal.

    I would note however that the GW establishment themselves admitted some 5 years ago or so to being frustrated and unable to explain that the warming had apparently leveled off, and 5 years later we still have that problem. It remains that CO2 emissions have continued to increase at an accelerating rate, and yet the temperatures appear to be flattening anyway, or, if they’re going up they aren’t going up any faster than they were before we began the debate and not as fast as predicted. So if there is goalpost-shifting going on, should we go back and re-examine it all.

    I am astonished to be challenged on the assertion that they won’t release all their source data in transparent fashion when just a year or two ago you were arguing with me that they shouldn’t have to do any such thing. In any case there are FOIA requests still pending and still being rebuffed, as Dishman notes, but, I am delighted to hear now (which I had not heard before) that so much data now is available for independent review.

    Your latest front page post can stand for itself, but, the so-called “little ice age” has been kicked around for some time, and I can’t help but notice that global warming defenders were casually, even contempuously, dismissive of it for years. But now it’s relevant? Hmm, OK, whatever. I can’t keep track of all this anymore because the goalposts do indeed keep shifting. But I don’t think I’m shifting them: I want clean, transparent data and independent review by disinterested parties, and a cease and desist on name-calling and venal accusations.

    For the record, I want the last to stop everywhere. The people who keep calling these GW researchers communists with a hidden agenda and all that make me sick to my stomach about as much as the people who keep whipping out words like “denier” and all that other associated crap. This isn’t merely a matter of scientific debate (although the denial that there is a scientific debate is disturbing; minority dissent is not evil or wrong), it is more importantly a question of public policy since the entire planet is involved. And if we’re going to talk about private funding of the “deniers,” it’s fair game to talk about who gets the millions in government funds and not act shocked that anyone would dare ask about the motivating factors THAT causes.

    There is evidence of a small warming trend over a decades-long period. There’s still a lack of transparency on some of the research, and still fundamental problems with knowing just how reliable the historical data is. There’s still the problem of research that’s been shown to be false even though it was at one time used to convince the general public of need for massive and immediate global action. And there’s still a terrible lack of discussion of what the proper response should be and what the most effective way to address it is, which should be more important than ever as it becomes evident how unlikely it is that “cap and trade” is going to happen or even that it’ll work if it does. There are alternative approaches, ones that would be much cheaper, but no one seems to want to talk much about them.

    In the meantime, the President himself has acknowledged that since the early 1990s at Kyoto, literally nothing has been done to significantly decrease CO2 emissions. Co2 levels continue to go up, and by models we were once shown temps should be higher today than they are. What we’re looking at now looks like a trend, but an awfully small one and quite plausibly within the margin of error for “negligible.” Or maybe not.

    Certainty looks rather perilous for anyone at this point.

    The public policy questions about what to do about all this continue to strike me as important. It is fairly clear that cap and trade is not going to happen in our lifetimes, and it’s not clear that it was a good idea in the first place. If CO2 is really our biggest enemy and everything else must take a back seat to it–it’s been an all-carbon all-the-time argument from where I’ve sat, so far at least–then there look to be cheaper ways to deal with it than a treaty that has stood largely un-ratified anywhere that matters for two decades. But we aren’t discussing those alternatives much.

    Should politics get in the way of all this? We’d like to think not, but when you’re accepting taxpayer money for your research, and when you’re making massive public policy recommendations, you’ve left the ivory tower and now are forced into political debate whether you like it or not. So maybe all the acrimony is impossible to avoid and I’m pissing in the wind to want it to stop. I’d like to be wrong and think the acrimony can end, but I’m close to losing hope on that.

    For my money, the most prudent and moderate voice on all this remains Lomborg’s, who says GW caused by CO2 is probably real and we should do something about it but proposes several cheaper and more reliable alternatives to cap-and-trade and massive curbs on carbon production, and that we could do more good for more people and for the environment spending most of the proposed money in other areas. For whatever it’s worth, that seems sensible to me. But Lomborg remains Public Enemy #1, or at least he was last I looked. I lose track sometimes in all the sound and fury.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    I am rather astonished to be challenged on the assertion that they won’t release all their source data in transparent fashion when just a year or two you were arguing with me that they shouldn’t have to do any such thing.

    no, a research group should not be obligated to release proprietary data because that would allow other groups to publish on that data before them. If you want to dig out that debate from eth archives be my guest, I think you’ll find that I tried to argue a midle ground rather than some kind of blanket statement as you (unintentionally) implied.

    That said, there is LOADS of data already out there, most of it released after teh research groups published in journals, as it should be. Did you miss my linkfest above? Really the idea that the science is closed on this is ludicrous.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass Aziz Poonawalla

    I can’t help but notice that global warming defenders were casually, even contempuously, dismissive of it for years.

    Oh? show me links from RealCLimate or other pro-AGW sites where they dismissed it. Never happened.

  • Dishman

    no, a research group should not be obligated to release proprietary data because that would allow other groups to publish on that data before them. If you want to dig out that debate from eth archives be my guest, I think you’ll find that I tried to argue a midle ground rather than some kind of blanket statement as you (unintentionally) implied.

    That’s all fine and dandy until it’s funded by someone with a gun demanding I pay for it.

    If I’m paying for it, I want some say in how the results are published.

    If you want to keep your work private, then don’t expect me to pay for it. Real simple.

  • Dishman

    Oh? show me links from RealCLimate or other pro-AGW sites where they dismissed it. Never happened.

    Mann, Bradley and Hughes 98.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Aziz: I take you at your word. I must have misinterpreted your comment at the time. It is defensible to say you want to keep your data proprietary for some amount of time until publication. There comes a point, however, where that becomes a not-defensible position or all you’re asking the rest of us to do is take you on faith, and your results become impossible to reliably replicate. So I’m afraid I’m only partly with Dishman on that; even with publicly-funded research, a reasonable amount of time to hold onto your data until you’ve completed your work seems reasonable. Although when your work has massive implications for the public at large, the longer you hold on to your data the more suspect your motives become–all the more reason to be as transparent as possible, with as much of a “please, do look at it and tell me if I’ve missed something important, this matters to all of us” mentality as you can muster. And after all, if you collected the data you should get the credit for that anyway.

    Dodged FOIA requests are a serious breech if you ask me.

    As for the “deniers” pointing to the little ice age as one of their proofs of flaws on GW theory and the “truth-tellers” dismissing it: I lack the energy, so you can take it on faith that I remember it rightly or decide I’m wrong, your choice. Dishman is usually pretty careful with his references though, so I’d check him on that if I were you. I think it’d be fair to ask for a link or something on “Mann, Bradley and Hughes 98″ though because I don’t know what that means precisely. They published something in 98? Where? It resonates with me but I can’t make it out as a specific…?

  • Dishman

    So I’m afraid I’m only partly with Dishman on that; even with publicly-funded research, a reasonable amount of time to hold onto your data until you’ve completed your work seems reasonable.

    The timing of release of data is not so critical to me. Waiting until after publication is not a serious issue.

    What matters is that the work (including data) is treated as a contract deliverable.

    I’m not okay with someone saying, “I did the work and published a paper, but you can’t see the work you paid me for.” Right, and everything Jules Verne wrote was autobiographical.

    As for MBH98, it refers to The Hockey Stick.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Ah thank you, I knew my memory couldn’t be that bad. The source is Wikipedia but it looks well-referenced enough that I’ll accept it at face value. In fact that led to this, which looks as well-referenced and also matches my memory: Description of the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age in IPCC Reports.

    At one time, critics kept bringing up problems associated with the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age–with the fundamental argument of the “deniers” being that warming and cooling cycles are normal and we shouldn’t freak out if we see a little warming now–and they were dismissed as irrelevant. As I recall, the argument from the “Real Scientists” was essentially that the Medieval Warming and Little Ice Ages were localized phenomena and should be dismissed as irrelevant to the global situation.

    Then the story apparently became that those periods were relevant after all, but our current warming period was going to be much greater than that–and that by 2004, 2007, etc. things should have been a whole lot hotter. Which did not happen.

    Getting older has its benefits and its drawbacks. This whole Global Warming thing first hit my RADAR around 1988 or 1989 if I recall correctly. So that’s 20-25 years of watching this melodrama? Eeek! Anyway some of it tends to become a blur after a while.