A sea-change on climate sensitivity at The Economist

People send me stuff, today it was this “editors picks” from John Micklethwait, editor of The Economist. After years of being pro-warming, I was shocked to see this headline as a “pick”. It seems a change in editorial position may be afoot.


The article is quite blunt, and quite interesting for its details, here is the introduction:

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models (see chart 1). If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models’ range within a few years.

The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now. It does not mean global warming is a delusion. Flat though they are, temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century remain almost 1°C above their level in the first decade of the 20th. But the puzzle does need explaining.

The mismatch might mean that—for some unexplained reason—there has been a temporary lag between more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures in 2000-10. Or it might be that the 1990s, when temperatures were rising fast, was the anomalous period. Or, as an increasing body of research is suggesting, it may be that the climate is responding to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in ways that had not been properly understood before. This possibility, if true, could have profound significance both for climate science and for environmental and social policy.

Clouds of uncertainty

This also means the case for saying the climate is less sensitive to CO₂ emissions than previously believed cannot rest on models alone. There must be other explanations—and, as it happens, there are: individual climatic influences and feedback loops that amplify (and sometimes moderate) climate change.

That last paragraph meshes very well with recent publications about lower climate sensitivity, which they reference.

Read the entire article here: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

While we are on the subject of sensitivity, they mention the recent paper by Nic Lewis who writes:

It even cites a paper that I’ve recently had accepted for publication, and which I think will at least get a mention in AR5 WG1.

They also have an editorial which says:


All in all, I think this is tremendous progress. Kudos to The Economist for embracing this maxim:

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

John Maynard Keynes

h/t to Nic Lewis and Dr. Roger Pielke Sr.


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Tom J

I think what this means is: Quick, we’ve gotta get those carbon taxes enacted really really fast before people realize what’s up and we lose that juicy source of confiscatory revenue we can milk right out of them.


“Flat though they are, temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century remain almost 1°C above their level in the first decade of the 20th. But the puzzle does need explaining.”
Most of that 1 degree was built in by creative adjustments and corrections and homogenizations to the surface temperature data. The other half of the degree could very well be due to the trend of putting temperature probes nearer to buildings when they went with MMTS and electric sensors. That was a real trend, which was given short shrift by the data correctors.

Robert of Ottawa

Woho! I stopped buying The Economist because of their daft adherence to the Warmista dogma, indicating a lack of intellectual rigour, that possibly may afflict all their writings.
This is a good start to renewing my relationship with the Economist.
New Scientist has a much longer row to hoe though.


Oh, I say and I say it again, ya been had! Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!

John W. Garrett

It might have something to do with the fact that the lights are about to go out in Britain.

Mike (from the high desert of Western Nevada)

well yeah, cold is the new warm. The rats are jumping off the ship as she sinks lower and lower. Pass the popcorn.


From an old SAT test
Climate science is to Science as:
a) Commercial Plumbing is to hydrodynamics
b) Jumbo shrimp is to shrimp
c) Liberal is to open minded


It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. — Yogi Berra
Maybe they should start by trying to predict today correctly.

Rud Istvan

What is lacking is more clarity on the underlying reasons for IPCC AR4 oversensitivity. Those have been explained in the penultimate chapter of my second book, alternatively by Bob Tisdale, and again alternatively by Lindzen (and possible Spencer).
Following Lord Keynes, once you change your mind your need to rethink the basics.


And I had such dreams of owning ocean front property here in Alberta, Canada. Now, the Economist had wrecked my planned advertizing blitz. Kudos to them for stepping up to the plate. Perhaps more significant they forwarded their article your way, or some one did.

J Martin

The stitching in Hanson’s, Santer’s and Mann’s garments are beginning to unravel. Before long everyone except themselves will be able to see them for what they are.

Movement in the right direction, but they “chickened out” in the final two paragraphs. The Economist still cannot bring themselves into seriously considering a sensitivity below 2 as a possibility.

Glenn Haldane

Well, well. Most encouraging.

Perhaps we can deal with the real world situation in the Economists home country, Britain, rather than what is happening to a hypothetical global temperature (how the notion of a ‘global’ temperature gained traction remains one of life’s mysteries)
Around 30% of the world is cooling according to BEST (but with caveats) This includes countries with some very good historic figures-Britain. This is as distinct to those countries whose figures should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
The GISS figures since 1880 can be seen as a staging post, not the starting post, of increasing temperatures which began around 1660 . Since then there have been various advances and retreats but temperatures have remained on an upwards trend for 350 years
Here are the Met office figures for Central England-the oldest such record in the world. Look at the right hand side of the graph. Either we are having another dramatic temperature retreat in the UK or it will be shown to be merely a blip in the centuries long upwards trend-who knows?
Statistics from the Met Office Central England Temperature Record from the year 2000 onwards show:
2000 – 2012 annual trend figures: -0.7°C
this is equivalent to almost all the agreed global warming since 1850
2000 – 2013 winter months December January February trend: -1.5°C
this is equivalent to twice the agreed global warming since 1850
Now 12 years is not an official trend but it sure is interesting, and the return of the cold has had an enormous impact on our heating bills and on our farming practices. Not 15 miles from the Met Office a farmer on Upland Dartmoor has replaced their traditional Dartmoor stock with hardier Welsh cattle as the native stock have not coped well the last five years.
Nor has the human stock. Temperatures have been plunging as rapidly as energy prices have been escalating as successive govts nonsensical energy policies come home to roost.
What is or isn’t happening with the assumed Co2/temperature correlation isn’t some academic exercise whereby climate scientists can advance alternative theories whilst the Economist observes from the sidelines.
Unless we believe that an extraordinary warming co2 bubble existed over the UK for a dozen or so years in the 1990’s which has now drifted away, surely the obvious must be faced. That is that the 1990’s were a manifestation of the long established rising temperature trend caused by natural variability. The sharp decline in the last decade is also natural variability.
We can’t predicate an insane energy policy on the notion that we must curtail co2 at any costs-including shutting down perfectly good power stations during a time of sharply declining temperatures and energy scarcity. We must predicate it on what is surely becomingly increasingly obvious-our climate is very variable naturally due to the weather extremes that constantly punctuate it.
(reblogged from The Bish)

Henry Galt

“… the climate is responding to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in ways that had not been properly understood before.”
“You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling C02′” – Reid Bryson, the ‘Father of climatology’

This shift towards admitting absence of global warming, or the slowing down of global warming, and bringing discussion to the general public must be driving those alarmists totally bonkers!
I can hear them now: “Why are they talking about it? No one was supposed to question our computer models, our findings, our funding, our fudging! NO ONE! We all got together and agreed it wouldn’t happen. We have a CONSENSUS.”

Peter in Ohio

They clearly missed the Marcott paper…/sarc.


Should the quotation be attributed to Keynes rather than Keyes!
Live well and prosper.
Mike Flynn
REPLY: yep missing n fixed – A

The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now. [paraphrased: it might mean this, it might mean that, it might mean… who knows what]
Or it might mean that the Fear Mongering Chicken Littles have been full of deception from the start, that CO2 is not connected with climate as the 3 minute video shows (as it calls out Al Gore for repeating the now retracted ipcc deception on CO2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK_WyvfcJyg&info=GGWarmingSwindle_CO2Lag
Let’s see. CO2 is rising sharply, temps are flat. And as per the video link above there is NO demonstrated causal correlation between CO2 & climate temperature. Maybe what it means is that CO2 is a dud, as is obvious from the video link above! And maybe the only reason that everyone seems all puzzled by the lack of warming is because of media hype and that 90%+ of the people haven’t got the message on CO2 that is presented in the video (so share it and spread the word about it).
The Economist. Now, that’s what is surprising. I think we have a “reputable” link now to use when we want to say that there’s been no warming for 15 years, or when we want to say that the climate models have ALL failed. That was what was said c. 10 years ago… “Do you know why we know man is causing global warming? Because the computer models prove it! And we know that there is a causal correlation between CO2 & temperatures.”

This is remarkably sober and well balance. Full credit to the Economist. Their editorial policy wins though when topic get highly emotive (e.g., the build-up to the invasion of Iraq).
Correction: I am a big fan of John Maynard Keynes.


…the sound of settled science
It’s a relief, if they hadn’t lost the algorithm…
…the 1900’s would have retroactively experienced an ice age

Endogenous global warming theory
(they’ll understand)


Well, well. While still rife with statements meant to placate the orthodoxy like,
“But that does not mean the problem is going away.”
and the final concluding non sequitur,
“Despite all the work on sensitivity, no one really knows how the climate would react if temperatures rose by as much as 4°C. Hardly reassuring.”‘
it at least is a good start in the right direction.
Like Robert of Ottowa I had binned my subscription to the Economist some years ago. I had become disgusted with their slavish adherence to warmist dogma.
This is promising if it is not an anomaly that will quickly be “corrected”.

Mark Bofill

‘All in all, I think this is tremendous progress.’
Indeed. It’s good to hear it, thanks.

Paul Westhaver

People don’t change.
The agenda of these jerks was wealth redistribution. They don’t care about “Mother Earth”.
So expect a lot more of this hunt for credibility from degenerate editors trying to “be reasonable” They want to get back to the wealth redistribution scheme and they will toss “Climate Change” under the bus to do so.
This isn’t a sea change, This is the same ole, same ole.
They are just trying to peel away from Watts, Ball, Monckton, et al and the only way to do so is to “be reasonable” about observed climate data.
They will be back to empty our pockets.
This is at best a stall tactic, at worst a Machiavellian move.

Gail Combs

Seems like the first few cautious steps in the start of a climb down but that last step can be a doozy!

jonny old boy

stopped buying the Economist years ago after their alarmist garbage was printed as fact…. not going to buy again anytime soon…..

Alan S. Blue

Time for a polite note discussing the reality, the magnitude, and the scope of the Little Ice Age.
Anecdote is not the singular form of data, and things like the frozen Thames aren’t “scientific measurements of temperature”. But they do highlight that the actual problematic portion of The Hockey Stick is -not- the grafted-on instruments (which, at least, have the virtue of being instruments!), but instead the shaft of the stick rewriting history.

Fred from Canuckistan

Most journalism was and still is about fear mongering. That is what attracts eyeballs to the advertising, which is their business model.
When the AGW thingy was pushed by our media savvy Greenies, they tailor made it for journalists to have a new and easy fearmongering topic. . . . Just reprint the EcoGreenie Press releases and viola! Job done. Same logic for the politicians . . . The greenies lined up a parade of fearful citizens and politicians jumped on the AGW bandwagon and realized that leading this parade got them reelected.
And the of course we have the scientists who saw a Fame and Gravy train roll into the station and quickly realized they could keep their careers on the easy track as long as the fearmongering “science basis” of the scare was validated by their peer/pal reviewed papers.
But every Great Sky is Falling grift comes to and end and the players start looking around for the Next Great Thingy to Scare the Folks with.
That is what the Econmist is doing. Life goes on.

Graham W

I wish somebody would tell The Economist that the one-degree rise they quote is due to fiddling of the historic record. One example of across-the-board tweaking is at Iceland’s Teigarhorn station. The Jan 1900 temp was showing 0.7C two years ago, -0.2C last year, and is now showing -0.4C.
Those cheeky monkeys at GISS are cooling the past in order to create a spurious warming trend. http://data.giss.nasa.gov/tmp/gistemp/STATIONS/tmp_620040920000_12_0/station.txt
I wonder if Mr. Hanson is aware of the cooling past?

Steve from Rockwood

The Economist? 78% of its readers read it while sitting on the toilet.

Gail Combs

Paul Westhaver says:
March 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm
People don’t change.
The agenda of these jerks was wealth redistribution…..
Given the Cyprus financial mess. (The Russian oligarchy who were the target of the haircut managed to spirit away their deposits via branch banks including one in the UK. info from 2 days ago and today ) I imagine the economic types really want to use anything as a diversion.
S&P has put Deutsche Bank on Ratings Watch and the Bernanke was doing a real dance around the question of can a ‘Haircut’ happen to US depositors. It was hard to find anything that was not a video but I did find a transcript HERE The Bernanke mutters something about no haircuts for depositors unless there is a run on American banks. Oh and the The ‘big five’- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, hope to establish a new bank taking the place of the IMF and World Bank BRICS plan new 50bn bank to rival World Bank and IMF
So with all that happening in the financial world, I am sure those pulling the strings at the Economist are looking for any and all diversions. ‘Breaking News’ on climate of this sort is a good one since it hits the same group who are awake enough to question what is happening in the banking scene. So yea, the timing is rather ‘useful’


Two things about this article. The Economist does not give the author of it. Why ?? It would be interesting to know.
Secondly it is interesting to read the comments on it in the Economists. Hardly any religiously defending AGW. Most are similar, in tone at least, to those above.

Ben D.

I do have the feeling that the tide is turning, but you can be sure that a new global threat scam will eventually emerge to replace it. Global scamming schemes are hugely profitable for those behind them.

EW3 says:
March 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm
From an old SAT test
Climate science is to Science as:
a) Commercial Plumbing is to hydrodynamics
b) Jumbo shrimp is to shrimp
c) Liberal is to open minded

I’m really good at multiple choice questions, but this one leaves me stumped.

William Sears

Too bad that Keynes didn’t change more of his conclusions, since the facts were rarely on his side. This quotation of his has to be the most ironic of all time.


The Economist just went socialist with its part owner, The FT, along with their parent company Pearson (Which sells a lot to the Public Sector). Normal Self-interest at work.
Don’t forget the “Scientific” American. They had NO good reason to sell out to the AGW nonsense.
Somewhere lurking in the AGW undergrowth is the UK’s New “Scientist”.
My subscriptions to all these august journals lapsed as their content became less rational.

Chuck Nolan

From the article:
“Or, as an increasing body of research is suggesting, it may be that the climate is responding to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in ways that had not been properly understood before. This possibility, if true, could have profound significance both for climate science and for environmental and social policy.”
I wonder what social policy this increasing body of research is suggesting will be profoundly signified?

Fred from Canuckistan

Hey TomB
“Change is to climate as wet is to water”

lurker passing through, laughing

We need CG3 contents. Now, please.

Bill Illis

Technically, only 1 model from IPCC AR4 is below Hadcrut3 (as of January, 2013). When February’s lower number for Hadcrut3 comes out, the spread of ALL 23 models will be higher than Hadcrut3.
Zoom-in of the average of all 23 models versus Hadcrut3.

Steve from Rockwood says:
March 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm
The Economist? 78% of its readers read it while sitting on the toilet.
the rest burn it to try and stay warm

Lew Skannen

“RossP says:
March 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm
Two things about this article. The Economist does not give the author of it. Why ?? It would be interesting to know.”
That has been their policy for all articles forever.


let’s face it…the weather is having an effect:
27 March: Guardian: Cold weather to continue for a month, say forecasters
UK braces for freezing Easter weekend, with temperatures expected to stay below average until end of April
by Rebecca Smithers, Tamsin Rutter and Sarah Butler
The Met Office issued a cold weather alert for much of England, with a 100% probability of severe cold weather and ice until Friday. Its outlook for Sunday until Tuesday 9 April predicts cold, dry weather, with a few light snow flurries and widespread frost and icy patches overnight. And it warned that temperatures are unlikely to recover to closer to normal levels until the latter part of April.
Ladbrokes now has a white Easter as odds-on, offering 5/1 that it will be the coldest Easter weekend ever. It has also offered odds-on of Sunday’s Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race – last year sabotaged by a swimming protester – being disrupted by ice on the Thames…
In western Scotland, thousands endured a sixth day without power after being cut off last week, and across the UK many transport routes remained impassable because of deep snow drifts.
After embattled sheep farmers reported the deaths of thousands of lambs in snow-affected areas such as Shropshire, north Wales, west Cumbria and the Peak District, the supermarket Waitrose said that from Thursdayit would be delivering 30,000 “macs” (light plastic coats which are 100% biodegradable and recyclable) to protect lambs against harsh weather conditions to farmers it works with in Wales and the west country…
At Arthur’s Field, a 63-pitch campsite in Treloan, Cornwall, only 25 families had booked for the bank holiday weekend, but half of those had already cancelled…

cui bono

RossP says (March 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm) : The Economist does not give the author of it. Why ??
There is hardly ever any attribution in the Economist.
I hope the banksters who read the Economist will have second thoughts about their ‘global warming’ investments.
As I said in a comment (lost at the bottom but with most ‘likes’) the banks are the ultimate contrarian indicator. If they want to lose our money all over again by hurling money at CAGW, so be it. The rest of us can laugh all the way to, er, any country that doesn’t steal our money to fund bank bailouts.

You do seem to have missed one crucial element, the numerous papers which present a lag between temperature and CO2, showing it as an effect and not a cause. There have been three in the past few months alone and even Al Gore’s graph could be seen to do so when enlarged closely enough, which challenges the effect of CO2 on temperatures altogether.


The Economist was and is as bad informed about South Asia- where I live – as about Climate Change. Did they see the economic crisis coming a few years back?
Not much of a fact based publication, more of a policy pusher in disguise.


I don’t see much change here. From the text:
“But given the hiatus in warming and all the new evidence, a small reduction in estimates of climate sensitivity would seem to be justified: a downwards nudge on various best estimates from 3°C to 2.5°C, perhaps; a lower ceiling (around 4.5°C), certainly. If climate scientists were credit-rating agencies, climate sensitivity would be on negative watch. But it would not yet be downgraded”
so, this is typical damage control mode. Try to pose as ‘reasonable’ while actually not conceding anything. People, don’t delude yourselves, those jerks are never gonna change.

Bill Illis says:
March 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm
Technically, only 1 model from IPCC AR4 is below Hadcrut3 (as of January, 2013).
Ask enough monkeys the answer to 1+1 and occasionally you will get 2 as the answer. might as well predict climate with a dart board or pair of dice. just as accurate and a whole lot cheaper and quicker.
while it takes millions of dollars and years of programming to get the wrong answer with a super duper climate computer, a pair of dice can deliver the same accuracy in seconds.
take a look at any place on the earth where people live. 1/3 chance it will be warmer next year, 1/3 chance it will be cooler, and 1/3 chance it will remain the same. my dog can predict climate as well as the climate models by how fast he wags his tail.