Wednesday, December 7, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: Despite Denial, Global Temperatures Dropping Fast

All Global Data Sets Show Temperatures Falling As El Nino Ends

In this newsletter:

1) Despite Denial, Global Temperatures Are Dropping Fast
GWPF Observatory, 5 December 2016
2) New Study: Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ May Last Until 2030
The Daily Caller, 1 December 2016
3) Roger Pielke Jr.: My Unhappy Life As A Climate Heretic
The Wall Street Journal, 3 December 2016
4) New Paper: Climate Scepticism Is A ‘Perverse’ Effect Of ‘Actively Open-Minded Thinking’
Climate Etc., 1 December 2016

Full details:

1) Despite Denial, Global Temperatures Are Dropping Fast
GWPF Observatory, 5 December 2016

All global temperature data sets confirm that global temperature has fallen rapidly in recent months as the recent El Nino ended.

Over the last couple of years there have been many articles about how they have been record-breakers in global temperature. It’s often sold as a simple ‘the planet is getting warmer only because of us’ story. As I have discussed before, the concurrent El Nino was dismissed by some climate scientists as having an insignificant contribution to that record. However, there is a great deal of confusion and diversity in the assessment of its contribution. Some scientists maintain that it was the recent very strong El Nino that elevated the temperature to record levels.

Nevertheless some maintain that warm records would have been broken without the El Nino (although the significant contribution made by the highly unusual warm “Pacific Blob” is usually ignored).

As the 2015/16 El Nino started to wane wiser heads said the records would fade along with it. “No El Nino, no record,” they said, showing that the El Nino was responsible for edging the years to be records.

It is obvious that the world is cooling after the El Nino and nobody knows how much it will as global temperatures bottom out. So the time is right, one would have thought, to monitor that cooling process and see what can be deduced to set the recent record warm years into their proper context.

In doing so it seems that you can write a straightforward article, clearly one that can be revisited in the coming months with new data, present some current data, discuss the caveats surrounding it, and still get criticised, especially about what the article did not say. Cut and past comments and quotes blossomed in many blogs, sloppy statistics are banded about, along with not a little hubris wrapped up in ignorance and gratuitous use of the ‘denier’ label.

David Rose’s article in the Mail on Sunday simply reported what had happened recently to the Lower Tropospheric temperature over land. This data set responds more quickly to temperature changes that other sets which follow suite later. Land temperatures heat up and cool down quicker. They show the El Nino spike very clearly and the possible return to pre El Nino temperatures.

Some have said the article is flawed because it has cherry-picked the particular data used, some have even said “extreme cherry-picking,” implying it is the only data set that shows the global temperature drop. This is nonsense.

Firstly the graph is not an outlier as critics could have seen if some had bothered to look. Other temperature data sets show something similar – that the global temperature has fallen a lot in recent months as a result of the ending of the El Nino. Here are a selection of them showing that the lower tropospheric temperature is not unusual but typical. The same story could have been written using any of these graphs.

NASA/GISS global land and ocean data

Hadcrut4 global land and ocean data

Hadcrut4 northern hemisphere data (mostly land)

As has been said, the temperature of the lower troposphere over land has the quickest response to such changes and should be looked at first to provide an indication of what might happen in the future. It has been done many times before without revolt. The graph used is an example of what is happening, and data that should not be ignored because some find it inconvenient.

Some have even dismissed the data because it’s land only, ignoring how useful land only data can be. After all, why would all the temperature data sets produce them? Obviously data should be used carefully and it is encouraging to see the other data sets in collaboration with the land-only tropospheric data.

Secondly, even if it had been unusual it would still have been worth talking about in a responsible manner. The thing we teach young scientists – because it is at the very heart of science – is to keep their eyes open for the unusual, the unexpected and the outlier. The most important words in science are, I contend, “that’s strange,” used when seeing something that attracts intention. Perhaps Alexander Fleming in 1928 should have ignored the single petri dish among many that showed a fungus growing on straphylococci as he would be cherry-picking his results!

Some argue that all the atmospheric land data should be displayed as it starts in 1979. This was one gist of one frequently quoted response to the Mail on Sunday article.

The anonymous analyst ignores what the article says, builds a straw man case and deliberately misses the point. He says the article wants “you to think that the worldwide heating we’ve seen for decades now has somehow, magically, come to an end … that it has shown some kind of “pause.” He also maintains that one can draw a straight line through the 1979 -2016 lower tropospheric data that shows there is no pause or hiatus.

The blogger shows the lower tropospheric data back to the start of the data set in 1979 and says showing the post-1997 “hiatus” data on its own is misleading as there is a clear trend from 1979 upwards. Except that there isn’t.

There is no way to reproduce the trend observed either during the period 1979 – 1997 or 1979 – 2016 in the post 1997-data (ie half the data set) because a straight line does not represent the data over its entirety. It is obvious that a straight line doesn’t work when one examines the residuals (the difference between observed and predicted data) which are not randomly distributed.

Carbon Brief’s “Factcheck” commits all of the above sins. It gets itself into a muddle right from the start saying that without the El Nino we would have had recent record years when in fact they would probably have been what it was like before the El Nino in being all statistically identical to one another. Then it says that temperatures are dropping “modestly” to where they were before the El Nino started. To Carbon Brief the satellite data published by the Mail on Sunday is an “obscure” data set which disagrees with other data sets. See above.

The proof of the claim that the recent El Nino had a minimal effect on recent record temperatures will be found next year. If it is true 2017 would be another record warm year.

So let’s summarise. As the El Nino has faded global temperatures are dropping, not just in lower tropospheric land data (where it has been seen the strongest so far) but in the other data sets as well. Without the El Nino (probably the strongest on record) and the Pacific Warm Blob there will be no new record next year, or probably the year after if the la Nina sets in. Temperatures are more likely to return to pre-El Nino levels. If so, the 2015/16 El Nino would be shown to be a temporary blip in a continuous “hiatus” period which, nevhertheless remains the warmest period of the instrumental temperature era. For all we know, at the end of next year we could see the global warming “hiatus” approach its third decade.


2) New Study: Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ May Last Until 2030
The Daily Caller, 1 December 2016
Michael Bastasch

With 2016 on track to being the warmest year on record, some climate scientists and environmentalists declared the recent slowdown in global warming to be over. But that might not be the case, according to a new study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

They say there’s a 16 percent chance global warming could progress at a slower rate through 2020, and a 6 percent chance the slowdown could last until 2030.

“The spike in global temperatures from the 2015/2016 El Nino has caused some to declare the warming slowdown to be over,” Dr. Judith Curry, a Georgia Tech climate scientist who was not involved in the study, wrote in her blog.

“This is not necessarily the case; we will need at least another 5 years of observations to determine whether the slowdown is over and warming resumes at a pace of at least 0.2°C/decade, or whether the slowdown will continue for another decade or two,” she wrote.

Scientists have been struggling to explain why global temperature rise slowed down in the years after 1998, a period called the “slowdown” or “hiatus” in warming. It not only surprised scientists, but forced them to question the climate models used to predict future warming.

The climate warmed at about half the rate predicted by climate models since 2000, according to the NOAA study, which sought to answer the question of why the models were so far off. In the process, they suggest there’s a chance of no warming or even slight cooling in the future.

“Our analysis of model simulations suggest some conditions whereby an early 21st century global warming slowdown could potentially last much longer (to ∼2030) than is generally expected, as well as scenarios where a rapid temporary acceleration of warming might occur,” NOAA scientists wrote.

“The possibility of such behaviour in the climate system in coming decades, while not a prediction, should motivate more study of internal multidecadal climate variability and its mechanisms,” they wrote.

This isn’t the first study to look at the potential for a prolonged “slowdown” in global warming.

UK Met Office scientists released a study in 2015 claiming the probability of the slowdown lasting another five years was 25 percent. UK scientists found “the probability of a variability-driven 10-year hiatus is ~10%, but less than 1% for a 20-year hiatus.”

Full story

3) Roger Pielke Jr.: My Unhappy Life As A Climate Heretic
The Wall Street Journal, 3 December 2016

My research was attacked by thought police in journalism, activist groups funded by billionaires and even the White House.

Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election. In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer: “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”

WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument. Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research—which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.

I understand why Mr. Podesta—most recently Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman—wanted to drive me out of the climate-change discussion. When substantively countering an academic’s research proves difficult, other techniques are needed to banish it. That is how politics sometimes works, and professors need to understand this if we want to participate in that arena.

More troubling is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests—even our own?

I believe climate change is real and that human emissions of greenhouse gases risk justifying action, including a carbon tax. But my research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally. In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I’ve studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I’ve earned the right to share this research without risk to my career.

Instead, my research was under constant attack for years by activists, journalists and politicians. In 2011 writers in the journal Foreign Policy signaled that some accused me of being a “climate-change denier.” I earned the title, the authors explained, by “questioning certain graphs presented in IPCC reports.” That an academic who raised questions about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in an area of his expertise was tarred as a denier reveals the groupthink at work.

Yet I was right to question the IPCC’s 2007 report, which included a graph purporting to show that disaster costs were rising due to global temperature increases. The graph was later revealed to have been based on invented and inaccurate information, as I documented in my book “The Climate Fix.” The insurance industry scientist Robert-Muir Wood of Risk Management Solutions had smuggled the graph into the IPCC report. He explained in a public debate with me in London in 2010 that he had included the graph and misreferenced it because he expected future research to show a relationship between increasing disaster costs and rising temperatures.

When his research was eventually published in 2008, well after the IPCC report, it concluded the opposite: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.” Whoops.

The IPCC never acknowledged the snafu, but subsequent reports got the science right: There is not a strong basis for connecting weather disasters with human-caused climate change.

Yes, storms and other extremes still occur, with devastating human consequences, but history shows they could be far worse. No Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, by far the longest such period on record. This means that cumulative economic damage from hurricanes over the past decade is some $70 billion less than the long-term average would lead us to expect, based on my research with colleagues. This is good news, and it should be OK to say so. Yet in today’s hyper-partisan climate debate, every instance of extreme weather becomes a political talking point.

For a time I called out politicians and reporters who went beyond what science can support, but some journalists won’t hear of this. In 2011 and 2012, I pointed out on my blog and social media that the lead climate reporter at the New York Times, Justin Gillis, had mischaracterized the relationship of climate change and food shortages, and the relationship of climate change and disasters. His reporting wasn’t consistent with most expert views, or the evidence. In response he promptly blocked me from his Twitter feed. Other reporters did the same.

In August this year on Twitter, I criticized poor reporting on the website Mashable about a supposed coming hurricane apocalypse—including a bad misquote of me in the cartoon role of climate skeptic. (The misquote was later removed.) The publication’s lead science editor, Andrew Freedman, helpfully explained via Twitter that this sort of behavior “is why you’re on many reporters’ ‘do not call’ lists despite your expertise.”

I didn’t know reporters had such lists. But I get it. No one likes being told that he misreported scientific research, especially on climate change. Some believe that connecting extreme weather with greenhouse gases helps to advance the cause of climate policy. Plus, bad news gets clicks.

Yet more is going on here than thin-skinned reporters responding petulantly to a vocal professor. In 2015 I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John, making the rather obvious point that politicians use the weather-of-the-moment to make the case for action on climate change, even if the scientific basis is thin or contested.

Ms. St. John was pilloried by her peers in the media. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me what she had learned: “You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London Guardian, Mother Jones, and Media Matters.”

Or look at the journalists who helped push me out of FiveThirtyEight. My first article there, in 2014, was based on the consensus of the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. I pointed out that the global cost of disasters was increasing at a rate slower than GDP growth, which is very good news. Disasters still occur, but their economic and human effect is smaller than in the past. It’s not terribly complicated.

That article prompted an intense media campaign to have me fired. Writers at Slate, Salon, the New Republic, the New York Times, the Guardian and others piled on.

In March of 2014, FiveThirtyEight editor Mike Wilson demoted me from staff writer to freelancer. A few months later I chose to leave the site after it became clear it wouldn’t publish me. The mob celebrated., founded by former Center for American Progress staffer Brad Johnson, and advised by Penn State’s Michael Mann,called my departure a “victory for climate truth.” The Center for American Progress promised its donor Mr. Steyer more of the same.

Yet the climate thought police still weren’t done. In 2013 committees in the House and Senate invited me to a several hearings to summarize the science on disasters and climate change. As a professor at a public university, I was happy to do so. My testimony was strong, and it was well aligned with the conclusions of the IPCC and the U.S. government’s climate-science program. Those conclusions indicate no overall increasing trend in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or droughts—in the U.S. or globally.

In early 2014, not long after I appeared before Congress, President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren testified before the same Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He was asked about his public statements that appeared to contradict the scientific consensus on extreme weather events that I had earlier presented. Mr. Holdren responded with the all-too-common approach of attacking the messenger, telling the senators incorrectly that my views were “not representative of the mainstream scientific opinion.” Mr. Holdren followed up by posting a strange essay, of nearly 3,000 words, on the White House website under the heading, “An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr.,” where it remains today.

I suppose it is a distinction of a sort to be singled out in this manner by the president’s science adviser. Yet Mr. Holdren’s screed reads more like a dashed-off blog post from the nutty wings of the online climate debate, chock-full of errors and misstatements.

But when the White House puts a target on your back on its website, people notice. Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.

The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I—and six other academics with apparently heretical views—might be on the payroll of Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website. The University of Colorado complied with Rep. Grijalva’s request and responded that I have never received funding from fossil-fuel companies. My heretical views can be traced to research support from the U.S. government.

But the damage to my reputation had been done, and perhaps that was the point.

Full post

4) New Paper: Climate Scepticism Is A ‘Perverse’ Effect Of ‘Actively Open-Minded Thinking’
Climate Etc., 1 December 2016
Kip Hansen

Dan M. Kahan and Jonathan C. Corbin, of the Cultural Cognition Project, have a new study titled “A note on the perverse effects of actively open-minded thinking on climate-change polarization” appears in the journal Research and Politics(October-December 2016) [link to full manuscript].

The study is summed up by the first two sentences of its abstract:

“This research note presents evidence that political polarization over the reality of human-caused climate change increases in tandem with individuals’ scores on a standard measure of actively open-minded thinking. This finding is at odds with the position that attributes political conflict over facts to a personality trait of closed-mindedness associated with political conservatism.”

Kahan and Corbin call this a “perverse” effect of “actively open-minded thinking”.

One might wonder why.

Kahan has been a champion of the idea of Cultural Cognition which he defines as:
“Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities.”

In a long series of studies he has found that Liberal-Progressive-Democrats (the left) generally support the scientific consensus on climate change and the better these individuals score on Kahan’s survey/test of “Ordinary Science Intelligence” – how well the individual understands basic current science and math – the more they would agree with these two basic questions about climate change:

C. Acceptance of human-caused climate change
The outcome variable for acceptance of human-caused climate change was formed using these items, scoring “1” for the response sequence “Yes” and “a” and “0” otherwise:

WARMER. From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not? [YES/NO]

WHYWARMER [only if WARMER = YES]. Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer (a) mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels or (b) mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment?
[Note that the “correct” answers are “Yes” and “mostly because of human activity”. See the underlined answer in the image below –kh]

In Kahan’s system of left-vs-right/Democrat-vs-Republican cultural cognition, this first premise is upheld by surveys performed. But, contrary to expectations, the better Right-leaning/Republicans scored on ordinary science intelligence; the less they accepted the consensus-version of climate science.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, in this new study, comes this finding: “As subjects’ AOT [actively open-minded thinking] scores went up, their acceptance of human-caused climate change increased only if they held left-leaning political outlooks. Among right-leaning subjects, higher AOT scores were associated with slightly less acceptance (Table 1).” [my emphasis]

Translation, taking both results into account:  Right-leaning subjects (Conservatives-Republicans) who have a better understanding of current science and math and/or can be characterized as having the mental/personality trait of actively cultivating an open mind have less belief in the consensus version of climate change.

This is the result that Kahan and Corbin label “perverse”.  In order for their hypothesis of cultural cognition and open-mindedness to be supported in regards to climate change, at least, increasing open-mindedness should reduce the amount of polarization on the topic – if everyone was more open-minded, they would see each other’s viewpoints and agree more.

Full post

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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