Guest essay by Dave Burton
Josh Willis, of NASA JPL, has a new video out entitled, “Straw Men of the Apocalypse – How to deal with your climate change denying uncle.”
Notice that “catastrophic” is apparently not scary enough, these days. Global warming is now “the Apocalypse.”
The video starts out with two guys crawling along the parched ground under the blazing desert sun. One of them says to the other, “We’re gonna die out here, man. If only society had done more to fight climate change.” And it goes downhill from there.
There’s really nothing new in his video, nor in this article debunking it. So if you’re a “regular” at WUWT, and you’re hoping to learn something new, you needn’t bother reading the rest.
I counted eight claims in Josh Willis’s video. Let’s look at them, one by one:
Claim #1. “Record high global temperatures may have exacerbated our current situation.”
Wrong. “Global warming” mostly just warms higher latitudes. It makes harsh, cold climates milder. The warming effect at low latitudes is slight, and mostly increases nighttime lows, not daytime highs.
If those fellows are dying in the hot desert, they obviously are not at higher latitudes. Where they are, global warming is slight.
In fact, higher CO2 levels make plants more drought-resistant. So, thanks to anthropogenic CO2, deserts and near-deserts are shrinking and greening, most strikingly in the Sahel & Sahara. Even the severely politicized National Geographic admits that it is happening, though they don’t mention CO2:
Claim #2. “For the past 30 years the energy from the sun has decreased, but…”
Half true. Other than fluctuating up and down with the sunspot cycle, total solar irradiance has been very, very flat for the last 30 years. It has declined, but not noticeably until the last 15-20 years, and only slightly even then. A quick Google search finds many graphs; here’s one of them:
Claim #3. “…but the Earth has continued to warm up.”
Half true. Until the just-ended El Niño, global warming had paused for about two decades. But we just had a very strong El Niño, and that pushed up the right-end of the linear fit, so that climate campaigners can now say that “the Earth has continued to warm up.” But it didn’t exactly “continue” warming, it just “blipped up” in 2015-2016, due to the El Niño.
Here’s a graph from a 2014 paper by Ben Santer (with many co-authors, including Gavin Schmidt):
They sought to subtract out the effects of ENSO (El Niño / La Niña) and the Pinatubo (1991) & El Chichón (1982) volcanic aerosols, from measured (satellite) temperature data, to find the underlying temperature trends. The black line is averaged CMIP5 models, the blue & red are measured temperatures, with those adjustments:
Two things stand out:
A. The models run hot. The CMIP5 models (the black line) show a lot more warming than the satellites. The models show about 0.65°C warming over the 35-year period, and the satellites show only about half that. And,
B. The “pause” began around 1993. The measured warming is all in the first 14 years (1979-1993). Their graph (with corrections to compensate for both ENSO and volcanic forcings) shows no noticeable warming since then.
Note, too, that although the Santer graph still shows an average of almost 0.1°C/decade of warming, that’s partly because it starts in 1979. The late 1970s were the frigid end of an extended cooling period in the northern hemisphere. Here’s a graph of U.S. temperatures, from a 1999 Hansen/NASA paper:
The fact that when volcanic aerosols & ENSO are accounted for the models run hot by about a factor of two is evidence that the IPCC’s estimates of climate sensitivity are high by about a factor of two, and it suggests that about half the warming since the mid-1800s (used to tune the models) was natural, rather than anthropogenic.
Claim #4. “The warming in the past century has been faster than at any time in the last several million years.”
That’s nonsense. That fallacy is a product of statistical illiteracy. Paleoclimate information, inferred from indirect evidence like marine sediments, is naturally “smoothed,” by processes which blend the evidence from consecutive decades, centuries, and millennia. As every engineer knows, when you smooth a graph, sharp fluctuations disappear. But the climate campaigners apparently don’t know that. They see a paleoclimate graph and say, “look, it took ten thousand years to change by 3°, that’s much slower than the 20th century!” But, of course, they have no way of knowing how many times it went up or down by 2° in a decade during that ten thousand years.
The evidence is very strong that there’s nothing unusual about the modest warming which the Earth has experienced over the last century. The current Modern Climate Optimum is very similar to the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman Climate Optimum, and probably cooler than most of the Eemian interglacial.
Claim #5. “With climate change threatening our way of life, your strawman argument could have apocalyptic consequences.”
That’s complete rubbish. Unless you define “way of life” as starvation, and “threatening it” as feeding people, anthropogenic climate change is not threatening anyone’s way of life. At least 15% of current agricultural production is directly due to the benefits of higher CO2 levels — probably more, actually.)
There’s no excuse for the climate activists to be ignorant of this. It is not new information. Almost all commercial greenhouses use CO2 supplementation to improve plant growth and health. This photo is from an article in Scientific American nearly a century ago! The potatoes on the left were grown with the benefit of exposure to CO2-laden exhaust gases from a blast furnace. The potatoes on the right were grown under normal conditions:
The best evidence is that anthropogenic climate change is modest and benign, and anthropogenic CO2 is highly beneficial to both human agriculture and natural ecosystems. That’s why I and 31,486 other American scientists signed the Global Warming Petition, declaring that:
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
Claim #6. “The continent of Antarctica is actually losing ice, and it’s happening faster every year, driving sea-levels higher around the world.”
That’s a flat-out lie.
In Antarctica, ice accumulation and loss are very, very close to being in perfect balance. Whether Antarctica is actually gaining or losing ice mass is unknown.
This 2015 NASA study reported that Antarctica is gaining 82 ±25 Gt of ice per year:
Based on CryoSat, McMillan (2014) found Antarctica is losing 79 to 241 Gt/yr of ice, though that was based on only 3 years of data.
Based on GRACE, Shepherd (2012) concluded that Antarctica ice mass change since 1992 has averaged -71 +/- 83 Gt/yr, which means they couldn’t tell whether it’s actually gaining or losing ice mass.
Based on ICESat, Zwally (2012) found that Antarctica is gaining ice mass: +27 to +59 Gt/yr (averaged over five years), or +70 to +170 Gt/yr (averaged over 19 years).
The range from those various studies, with error bars, is from +170 Gt/yr to -241 Gt/yr, which is equivalent to just -0.47 to +0.67 mm/yr sea-level change.
That’s equivalent to less than 3 inches of sea-level change per century. In other words, although we don’t know whether Antarctica is gaining or losing ice, we do know the rate, either way, is so tiny that it’s currently having a negligible effect on sea-level and on Antarctica’s total ice sheet mass.
What’s more, sea-level is not rising “faster every year.” Sea-level rise is extremely linear. There’s been no significant, sustained, sea-level acceleration for over eight decades, anywhere in the world.
For example, Honolulu has an excellent long measurement record, with very little vertical land movement, and a typical trend:
Some places saw a slight sea-level rise acceleration in the late 1800s or early 1900s, but no acceleration since the 1920s. When CO2 rose above 310 ppmv, sea-level rise acceleration ceased.
Claim #7. “The bad impacts of global warming far outweigh the good ones.”
That’s the opposite of the truth. The “bad impacts” of anthropogenic CO2 emissions are all theoretical — I could say imaginary. None of them are actually detectable. The good impacts, such as gains in agricultural output, and greening of arid regions, are huge, and well-documented.
Claim #8. “There’s 97% scientific consensus.”
Most readers here know that’s nonsense. (Refs: http://tinyurl.com/clim97pct )
The “97% scientific consensus” meme comes originally from an article by Dr. Peter Doran, based on a survey which he had his graduate student, Maggie Zimmerman, send to over 10,000 geophysical scientists. They got 3,146 responses. (BTW, I bought Ms. Zimmerman’s thesis project report, so if anyone has any questions about it, do not hesitate to ask. My contact info is here: http://sealevel.info/contact.html )
It was a blatant scam. Doran didn’t just put his thumb on the scale, he drove his SUV up onto the scale, and parked it there.
First, Doran picked just two questions for their survey, both of which were “gimmies,” designed to elicit the answers he wanted, rather than to actually learn anything about scientists’ opinions. Both of those questions were so uncontroversial that even most climate change skeptics & “lukewarmers” would give the “right” answers.
Then Doran had his graduate student survey only people working in academia or government, known bastions of political liberalism. Geophysical scientists working in private industry, who tend to be more conservative, were not surveyed.
Then, after getting 3,146 responses back, for the purpose of calculating his “consensus” Doran excluded all but the most specialized specialists in climate science. (That’s like asking only homeopaths about the efficacy of homeopathy, rather than asking the broader medical community, or like asking only people working on “cold fusion” whether cold fusion works, rather than asking all physicists.)
That eliminated over 97% of the respondents.
But even that apparently didn’t get his “consensus” figure high enough. So to calculate his final “97.4%” result, Doran excluded respondents who gave a “skeptical” answer to the first of the two questions.
I’m not kidding, he really did.
The first question was:
“1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”
Those who answered “remained relatively constant” were not asked the 2nd question, and were not counted when calculating Doran’s “97.4%” consensus figure.
That’s one of the reasons that, of 3,146 responses, only 77 were used for the “97.4%” calculation.
The second question was:
“2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”
Well, of course it is! That encompasses both GHG-driven warming and particulate/aerosol-driven cooling. It could also be understood to include Urban Heat Island (UHI) effects.
Since just about everyone acknowledges at least one of those effects, I would have expected nearly everyone to answer “yes” to this question. Yet 2 of 77 apparently did not.
It is unfortunate that Doran didn’t have his graduate student ask an actual question about Anthropogenic Global Warming. They should have asked something like, “Do you believe that emissions of CO2 from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, are causing dangerous increases in global average temperatures?” or (paraphrasing President Obama) “Do you believe that climate change is real, man-made and dangerous?”
Of course, the reason he didn’t use “real” questions like that is that his purpose wasn’t to discover anything. It was to support a propaganda talking point.
That it was successful is demonstrated by the fact that people like Josh Willis continue to use that ridiculous talking point.
Dave Burton – www.sealevel.info