Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Moving The Goalposts, IPCC Secretly Redefines ‘Climate’

New Study Reveals 90% Of Global Atolls Are Stable Or Growing

In this newsletter:

1) Moving The Goalposts, IPCC Secretly Redefines ‘Climate’
GWPF Observatory, 29 October 2018
2) New Study Reveals 90% Of Global Atolls Are Stable Or Growing
GWPF & WIREs Climate Change, 29 October 2018

3) Greenland Ice Sheet 150 Billion Tonnes Above Average
Science Nordic, 27 October 2018
4) Cold Weather Kills: Moderate Warming May Save Millions
GWPF & Daily Mail, 27 October 2018
5) How The High Priests Of Science Lost Their Status & Prestige
John Horgan, The Wall Street Journal, 19 October 2018

Full details:

1) Moving The Goalposts, IPCC Secretly Redefines ‘Climate’
GWPF Observatory, 29 October 2018

Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

The IPCC appears to have secretly changed the definition of what constitutes ‘climate’ by mixing existing and non-existing data

The definition of ‘climate’ adopted by the World Meteorological Organisation is the average of a particular weather parameter over 30 years. It was introduced at the 1934 Wiesbaden conference of the International Meteorological Organisation (WMO’s precursor) because data sets were only held to be reliable after 1900, so 1901 – 1930 was used as an initial basis for assessing climate. It has a certain arbitrariness, it could have been 25 years.

For its recent 1.5°C report the IPCC has changed the definition of climate to what has been loosely called “the climate we are in.” It still uses 30 years for its estimate of global warming and hence climate – but now it is the 30 years centred on the present.

There are some obvious problems with this hidden change of goalposts. We have observational temperature data for the past 15 years but, of course, none for the next 15 years. However, never let it be said that the absence of data is a problem for inventive climate scientists.

Global warming is now defined by the IPCC as a speculative 30-year global average temperature that is based, on one hand, on the observed global temperature data from the past 15 years and, on the other hand, on assumed global temperatures for the next 15 years. This proposition was put before the recent IPCC meeting at Incheon, in the Republic of Korea and agreed as a reasonable thing to do to better communicate climate trends. Astonishingly, this new IPCC definition mixes real and empirical data with non-exiting and speculative data and simply assumes that a short-term 15-year trend won’t change for another 15 years in the future.

However, this new definition of climate and global warming is not only philosophically unsound, it is also open to speculation and manipulation. It is one thing to speculate what the future climate might be; but for the IPCC to define climate based on data that doesn’t yet exist and is based on expectations of what might happen in the future is fraught with danger.

This strategy places a double emphasis on the temperature of the past 15 years which was not an extrapolation of the previous 15 years, and was not predicted to happen as it did. Since around the year 2000, nature has taught us a lesson the IPCC has still not learned.

With this new definition of climate all data prior to 15 years ago is irrelevant as they are part of the previous climate. Let’s look at the past 15 years using Hadcrut4. The first figure shows 2003-2017.

It’s a well-known graph that shows no warming trend – except when you add the El Nino at the end, which of course is a weather event and not climate. The effect of the El Nino on the trend is significant. With it the trend for the past 15 years is about 0.15° C per decade, close to the 0.2 per decade usually quoted as the recent decadal trend. Before the El Nino event, however, the warming trend is a negligible 0.02° C per decade and statistically insignificant.

The second graph shows the 15 years before the recent El Nino, i.e. 2000-2014. The trend over this period is influenced by the start point which is a deep La Nina year. Without it the trend is 0.03 °C per decade – statistically insignificant. Note that there are minor El Ninos and La Ninas during this period but they tend to have a small net effect.

So which does one choose? The El Nino version that leads to 0.6° C warming over the 30 years centred on the present, or the non-El Nino version that suggests no significant warming? The latter of course, because the trend should be as free from contamination of short-term weather evens — in the same way as they are free from decreases caused by aerosols from volcanoes blocking out the sun and causing global cooling for a while.

The same problem can be seen in the IPCC’s 1.5C report when it analyses the decade 2006-2015 which it does extensively. In this specific decade 2015 is significantly warmer than the other years, by about 0.2°C. NOAA said, “The global temperatures in 2015 were strongly influenced by strong El Nino conditions that developed during the year.” The temperature trend including the El Nino year of 2015 is 0.2°C, that future again. Without the El Nino the trend is statistically insignificant.

To see the future temperature and climate the IPCC envisage in their report consider their Summary for Policy Makers figure 1, (click on image to enlarge.)

The IPCC’s attempt to move the goalposts is highly questionable. Non-existing data extrapolated for assumed temperature trends over the next 15 years should not be part of a formal definition of what constitutes climate.


2) New Study Reveals 90% Of Global Atolls Are Stable Or Growing
GWPF & WIREs Climate Change, 29 October 2018

For the last 20 years climate scientists and campaigners have warned that atolls and low-lying islands are facing an imminent threat to their existence due to climate change and sea level rise which could soon cause the complete disappearance of entire islands. A new paper that reviews Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls including 709 islands reveals that no atoll lost land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while only 11.4% contracted.

A global assessment of atoll island planform changes over the past decades
Abstract: Over the past decades, atoll islands exhibited no widespread sign of physical destabilization in the face of sea-level rise. A reanalysis of available data, which cover 30 Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls including 709 islands, reveals that no atoll lost land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while only 11.4% contracted. Atoll islands affected by rapid sea-level rise did not show a distinct behavior compared to islands on other atolls.

Island behavior correlated with island size, and no island smaller than 10 ha decreased in size. This threshold could be used to define the minimum island size required for human occupancy and to assess atoll countries and territories’ vulnerability to climate change. Beyond emphasizing the major role of climate drivers in causing substantial changes in the configuration of islands, this reanalysis of available data indicates that these drivers explain subregional variations in atoll behavior and within-atoll variations in island and shoreline (lagoon vs. ocean) behavior, following atoll-specific patterns. Increasing human disturbances, especially land reclamation and human structure construction, operated on atoll-to-shoreline spatial scales, explaining marked within-atoll variations in island and shoreline behavior.

Collectively, these findings highlight the heterogeneity of atoll situations. Further research needs include addressing geographical gaps (Indian Ocean, Caribbean, north-western Pacific atolls), using standardized protocols to allow comparative analyses of island and shoreline behavior across ocean regions, investigating the role of ecological drivers, and promoting interdisciplinary approaches. Such efforts would assist in anticipating potential future changes in the contributions and interactions of key drivers.


This review first confirms that over the past decades to century, atoll islands exhibited no widespread sign of physical destabilization by sea-level rise. The global sample considered in this paper, which includes 30 atolls and 709 islands, reveals that atolls did not lose land area, and that 73.1% of islands were stable in land area, including most settled islands, while 15.5% of islands increased and 11.4% decreased in size. Atoll and island areal stability can therefore be considered as a global trend.

Importantly, islands located in ocean regions affected by rapid sea-level rise showed neither contraction nor marked shoreline retreat, which indicates that they may not be affected yet by the presumably negative, that is, erosive, impact of sea-level rise. Second, this review reaffirms that atoll island areal change was mainly influenced by island size. While the smallest islands (<5 ha, 52.90% of islands) exhibited contrasting areal changes (i.e., stability, increase, or decrease in size) and highly variable values of areal change (from −22.7 to +125.5%), the islands larger than 5 ha (47.10% of islands) generally experienced areal and positional stability.

Full paper

3) Greenland Ice Sheet 150 Billion Tonnes Above Average
Science Nordic, 27 October 2018

In 2018, Greenland’s ice sheet has gained almost 150 billion tonnes of snow and ice above the average for 1981-2010.

It’s time for the Greenland ice sheet’s annual health report, brought to you by scientists from the Danish Meteorological Institute and Polar Portal.

The end of August traditionally marks the end of the melt season for the Greenland ice sheet as it shifts from mostly melting to mostly gaining snow.

As usual, this is the time when the scientists at DMI and our partners in the Polar Portal assess the state of the ice sheet after a year of snowfall and ice melt. Using daily output from a weather forecasting model combined with a model that calculates melt of snow and ice, we calculate the “surface mass budget” (SMB) of the ice sheet.

This budget takes into account the balance between snow that is added to the ice sheet and melting snow and glacier ice that runs off into the ocean. The ice sheet also loses ice by the breaking off, or “calving”, of icebergs from its edge, but that is not included in this type of budget. As a result, the SMB will always be positive – that is, the ice sheet gains more snow than the ice it loses.

For this year, we calculated a total SMB of 517bn tonnes, which is almost 150bn tonnes above the average for 1981-2010, ranking just behind the 2016-17 season as sixth highest on record.

By contrast, the lowest SMB in the record was 2011-2012 with just 38bn tonnes, which shows how variable SMB can be from one year to another.

Maps show the difference between the annual SMB in 2017 (left) and 2018 (right) compared with the 1981-2010 period (in mm of ice melt). Blue shows more ice gain than average and red shows more ice loss than average. (Credit: DMI Polar Portal)

We must wait for data from the GRACE-Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellite mission before we know how the total mass budget has fared this year – which includes calving and melting at the base of the ice sheet. However, it is likely that the relatively high end of season SMB will mean a zero or close-to-zero total mass budget this year, as last year.

The period 2003-2011 has seen ice sheet losses on Greenland averaging 234bn tonnes each year. The neutral mass change in the last two years does not – and cannot – begin to compensate for these losses. The comparison here does show that in any given year, the mass budget of the ice sheet is highly dependent on regional climate variability and specific weather patterns.

Full post

4) Cold Weather Kills: Moderate Warming May Save Millions
GWPF & Daily Mail, 27 October 2018

Deaths from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) exhibit a winter peak and summer trough, both in countries of the northern and southern hemisphere. In England and Wales, the winter peak accounts for an additional 20,000 deaths per year. Globally an estimated 18 million people die from CVDs annually. 

A new paper published in JAMA Cardiology confirms that cold weather triggers more heart attacks while sub-zero temperatures increase a person’s risk of suffering the most serious type of heart attack by nearly 10 per cent.

Cold weather can trigger a heart attack, research suggests.

The life-threatening condition is more likely to occur on chilly, windy days when there is little sunshine, a study found today. And sub-zero temperatures increase a person’s risk of suffering the most serious type of heart attack by nearly 10 per cent, the research adds.
Icy weather is thought to cause blood vessels to narrow, restricting the heart’s oxygen supply, lead author Professor David Erlinge, from Lund University, said.

Colds and flu are also more common during the winter months, which have been shown to increase vulnerable people’s risk of a heart attack, he added.

The researchers analysed 16 years of weather and heart attack date from Swedish national registries between 1998 and 2013.

This included information on more than 274,000 people aged between 50 and 89.

‘Days with low air temperature and atmospheric pressure, high wind velocity and shorter periods of sunshine were associated with risk of heart attack,’ Professor Erlinge said.

‘The strongest association appeared to be for air temperature – with a higher risk of heart attack on days when air temperatures were less than 0°C (32°F).
‘Consistent results were observed after adjustment for long-term trends in heart attack and day of week.
‘After adjustment for air pollutant levels, only air temperature remained significantly associated with risk of heart attack.’

Results further suggest that when temperatures rose from 0°C to 3°C or 4°C, the rate of heart attacks fell.

The link between the deadly condition and the weather was most pronounced in STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction).

This is considered the most deadly type of heart attack and occurs when part of the cardiac muscle dies due to a blocked blood supply.

‘This translated into a 9.5 per cent reduction in STEMI for each 3.1°C increase in air temperature,’ Professor Erlinge said.

The study was published in JAMA Cardiology.

Full story

5) How The High Priests Of Science Lost Their Status & Prestige
John Horgan, The Wall Street Journal, 19 October 2018

Stephen Hawking and Martin Rees recognize science’s declining status. But both authors fail to mention that science’s wounds are at least partially self-inflicted. I’m glad I witnessed science’s high priests at the height of their glory. But perhaps we are better off doubting all authorities, including scientific ones.

A high point of my career as a science journalist was a cosmology workshop I bulled my way into in 1990. Thirty luminaries of physics gathered in a rustic resort in northern Sweden to swap ideas about how our universe was born. Stephen Hawking, although almost entirely paralyzed, was the id of the meeting, a joker with a Mick Jagger smirk. Martin Rees, cool and elegant, was the superego, as was befitting for a future president of the Royal Society, one of science’s most venerable institutions.

Personalities aside, Hawking and Mr. Rees had much in common. Born in 1942, both became professors at the University of Cambridge, where Newton once taught. Both contributed to our modern understanding of the big bang, black holes, galaxies and other cosmic matters. Both were committed to telling the public about science’s astonishing revelations.

One afternoon everyone piled into a bus and drove to a local church to hear a concert. As the scientists proceeded down the center aisle of the packed church, led by Hawking in his wheelchair, parishioners stood and applauded. These churchgoers seemed to be acknowledging that science was displacing religion as the source of answers to the deepest mysteries, like why we exist.

That scene came to mind as I read two new books, “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” by Hawking and “On the Future: Prospects for Humanity” by Mr. Rees. The authors’ styles differ—Hawking cocky, Mr. Rees sober—but the substance of their books overlaps. They offer brisk, lucid peeks into the future of science and of humanity. They evince a profound faith in science’s power to demystify nature and bend it to our ends.

Yet reading these books was a bittersweet experience, and not only because Hawking died last March, at 76. (His book was completed by colleagues and family members.) The works resemble relics from a long-gone golden age: The high priests of science no longer enjoy the prestige they did just a few decades ago.

Hawking in this book is less brash than he once was. In 1980 he proclaimed that, by the end of the 20th century, physicists would discover an “ultimate theory” that would solve the riddle of existence. It would tell us what reality is made of, where it came from and why it takes the form that it does. In “Brief Answers” Hawking concedes that “we are not there yet,” and he pushes back his prediction for a “theory of everything” to the end of thiscentury. But he continues to promote the same ideas that he has for decades. String theory remains his favorite “theory of everything.” Also called M-theory, it conjectures that reality is made of infinitesimal strings, loops or membranes wriggling in a hyperspace of 10 dimensions.

Noting that, according to quantum mechanics, empty space seethes with particles popping into and out of existence, Hawking suggests that the entire universe began as one of these virtual particles. The universe is “the ultimate free lunch,” he says. Our universe may also be just one of many. M-theory, quantum mechanics and inflation—a theory of cosmic creation—all suggest our cosmos is just a minuscule bubble in an infinite ocean, or “multiverse.”

To explain why we live in this universe rather than one with radically different laws, Hawking invokes the “anthropic principle”: If our universe were not as we observe it to be, we would not be here to observe it. Our scientific picture of the cosmos, Hawking proposes, is already so complete that it eliminates the need for God. “No one created the universe,” he declares, “and no one directs our fate.”

Science can save us, too, Hawking states. It gives us the means to establish colonies on Mars and elsewhere in case the Earth becomes unlivable—whether because of nuclear war, runaway warming, pandemics or an asteroid collision. “If humanity is to continue for another million years,” he states, “our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before.”

Mr. Rees’s worldview differs in a few respects from Hawking’s. He describes himself as a “practising but unbelieving Christian.” He respects believers, with whom he shares “a sense of wonder and mystery.” As for space-colonization, Mr. Rees asserts that it is “a dangerous delusion to think that space offers an escape from Earth’s problems.” He dwells more than Hawking on threats posed by climate change, nuclear weapons, bioterrorism, asteroid collisions and even economic inequality. He urges redistribution of the “enormous wealth” generated by the “digital revolution.”

Yet the Cambridge colleagues agree on major issues. That machines will inevitably become super-intelligent, capable of learning without human guidance and pursuing their own goals. That we can nonetheless harness these machines for our own ends, or even merge with them. That we need more science and technology to help us overcome challenges to our peace and prosperity. That science will eventually explain the origin of this universe and even confirm the existence of other universes.

“It’s highly speculative,” Mr. Rees says of multiverse theory. “But it’s exciting science. And it may be true.” Mr. Rees also shares Hawking’s vision of “post-human” cyborgs fanning out through the universe to colonize other star systems. Our bionic descendants might be smart enough to invent warp-drive spaceships and time machines, Mr. Rees suggests. They might even solve what many scientists and philosophers consider the greatest mystery of all, the mind-body problem. This puzzle asks, as Mr. Rees puts it, “how atoms can assemble into ‘grey matter’ that can become aware of itself and ponder its origins.”

Hawking and Mr. Rees recognize science’s declining status. They call for better science education to lure more young people into science and to counter public ignorance about vaccines, genetically modified foods, climate change, nuclear power, and evolution. “The low esteem in which science and scientists are held is having serious consequences,” Hawking complains.

Both authors fail to mention that science’s wounds are at least partially self-inflicted. In 2005 statistician John Ioannidis presented evidence that “most published research findings are wrong.” That is, the findings cannot be replicated by follow-up research. Many other scholars have now confirmed the work of Mr. Ioannidis. The so-called replication crisis is especially severe in fields with high financial stakes, such as oncology and psychopharmacology.

But physics, which should serve as the bedrock of science, is in some respects the most troubled field of all. Over the last few decades, physics in the grand mode practiced by Hawking and Mr. Rees has become increasingly disconnected from empirical evidence. Proponents of string and multiverse models tout their mathematical elegance, but strings are too small and multiverses too distant to be detected by any conceivable experiment.

In her new book “Lost in Math,” German physicist Sabine Hossenfelder offers a far more candid and compelling assessment of modern physics than her English elders. She fears that physicists working on strings and multiverses are not really practicing physics. “I’m not sure anymore that what we do here, in the foundations of physics, is science,” she confesses.

As I finished “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” and “On the Future,” a few questions of my own came to mind. Will science regain its luster? Will it earn back the public’s trust, or will its authority be permanently diminished? And what outcome should we prefer? I’m glad I witnessed science’s high priests at the height of their glory. But perhaps we are better off doubting all authorities, including scientific ones.

Full post & comments

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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