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Global Warming: never mind the models, just look out of the bloody window

March 28, 2014

Provincial myopia prevents us from seeing the bigger picture – and that’s what the contrarians depend on

It’s one of the staples (or perhaps clichés) of the contrarian canon; “it’s happened before”. You don’t need to look very hard to find this premise propping up arguments in the US, the UK, in Australia – pretty much anywhere there are contrarians. Bloggers use it with abandon in comments below any article about extreme weather, as if stating the bleedin’ obvious is going to change the laws of physics.

We’re on the eve of the release of Working Group 2 (WG2) – “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” – the next part of the IPCC’s AR5 report. While last year’s WG1 was about the science, this new report is the one that tells us what’s happened so far, and what’s likely to happen in the future. While WG1 alludes to risk, WG2 spells it out.

It’s not the only recent report to do so. Unusually, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has also released a report that, for them, is pretty blunt. Called ‘What we know’ (PDF), it spells out very clearly the range of risks we can now be very confident we’re going to face if we don’t do something about our greenhouse gases very soon.

Of course, the AAAS report, and that part of WG2 that address risks – threats yet to materialize – are based on models that predict what will happen. There is no other way to make such predictions, except if you think that chicken entrails or Tarot cards can do the trick. It’s very odd how certain the contrarians are we’re not going to face these problems, or that the net result of climate change will, in fact, be positive, when they have no science whatever to back up their egregiously vapid claims.

No doubt it is the utter lack of credibility that causes them to attempt to suppress science by issuing threats of legal action against journals that publish the research, as happened recently when the journal Frontiers retracted a paper by Stephan Lewandowsky, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol. You can read about the whole shabby episode here (Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper) if you want. Otherwise, take my advice; just bear in mind that when science is suppressed through frivolous lawsuits, the only people who can mount such attacks are those who can afford to do so – knowing that small journals like Frontiers cannot afford to take the matter to court, even though they freely admit they could find nothing whatsoever wrong with the paper, the method, or the ethics of the researchers.

And bear this is mind too: suppressing science won’t make a damn bit of difference now, because not only is the cat is out of the bag, it’s running for its life.


Back to the models. In the coming weeks, we’re going to see so many contrarians scraping the branches to find any low hanging fruit still left, it’s probably going to be very boring, and certainly utterly predictable.

Only yesterday, paid fossil fool shill Pat Michaels – a pseudo ‘climate scientist’ whose main claim to fame is lying to congress about how much money he takes from the fossil fool industry to lie about science, and alter other people’s work by deleting data to bolster his master’s interests – wrote a vacuous diatribe in Forbes, in which he turns out the usual turgid rubbish about the models.

What he added to this puerile attack is worth quoting, for a couple of reasons: “[the] high-end climate horror stories emanating from these lousy models are largely unsupported by observations”.

The first is that the ‘evidence’ he offers for this meretricious claim is another blog article – which he wrote! No science, just more guff; the whole premise is one scientist suggesting that the upper bounds of IPCC projections might be too high. Gosh; that’s global warming done for then. Has the ice come back yet? (Answer: No).

By way of not very light relief, let’s now turn our attentions to those ‘high-end horror stories’, because unlike the fiction the deniers keep publishing, these are coming true all too quickly, and by way of proof you can join millions of others across the globe who can see these changes for themselves by one simple expedient: looking out of the window.

As usual, it’s necessary to point out that global warming doesn’t cause extreme weather; it exacerbates it. And boy has it been doing a fair bit of exacerbation of late. Here’s a quick run down:

Britain near drowned after Christmas: (according to the UK’s Met Office, “regional statistics suggest that this is one of, if not the most, exceptional periods of [UK] winter rainfall in at least 248 years”

In the US, where the so-called ‘polar vortex’ reached its icy fingers down south to caress Texan sensibilities. In Arizona, the fire season started a month earlier than usual because it’s so dry, while Scandinavian bears woke up early from their annual hibernation because temperatures were unseasonably warm, and Norway experienced ‘freakish’ January wildfires.

Half a world away, Australian weather records were broken throughout the nation over their summer. Adelaide sweltered through 13 days with temperatures over 40C, and Queensland residents might have been considering relocating the barbequed prawns to the hoods of their cars as the mercury reached 45.4C. At the same time that Philippines residents continue to clear up after Typhoon Haiyan wreaked terrible havoc through parts of Asia, killing 6000 people, the UK’s Guardian reported that “Portugal, China, Hungary, Finland, and Britain, all recorded heatwaves, and the temperature in Death Valley, California hit 129.2F (54.0C), the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth during June. Meanwhile, Shanghai had 24 days with temperatures at or above 35C in July and recorded 40.6C, the highest ever temperature recorded in 140 years of records in the city”.

And while extreme weather is well-reported in the US, Europe and Australia, many regions are suffering badly, but without comparable coverage in the media. In just one example, Sudan’s August floods drove 250,000 people  out of their homes, destroying at least 15,000 homes in the region around Khartoum and damaging many more.  Last but not least, with hail falling in Cairo, and snow in Israel, Syria and Jordan, we can certainly agree that the weather was pretty capricious, to say the least.

This is by no means a complete list. Just the same, it doesn’t seem outrageous to suggest that more energy means wilder weather, but you wouldn’t think so to listen to the contrarian pundits, whose focus remains firmly fixed on whatever they can see out the window. Their ‘defence’ is as risible as it is parochial: we’ve always had (storms, rain, wind etc…). No shit Sherlock.

It comes as some relief then to read that when Christiana Figueres visited the Guardian’s UK offices this week, she discussed climate change in an appropriately global context: “The “very strange” weather experienced across the world over the last two years was a sign “we are [already] experiencing climate change,” insisted the executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat. “If you take them individually you can say maybe it’s a fluke. The problem is it’s not a fluke and you can’t take them individually. What it’s doing is giving us a pattern of abnormality that’s becoming the norm.” (My emphasis).

And it’s about time; of course we should be concerned for our own families, our own jobs, our own countries – it’s exactly the kind of local thinking we need, because there can be no one-size fits all solution so beloved of the extreme left, any more than there can be one ‘free market’ solution from the right that will magically make climate change go away.

The US, the UK or Australia can talk all they like about their own back yards, but the pretense that the magnitude of the problem can be assessed on a local basis is as daft as the idea that because we’ve had extreme weather in the past, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Next time you hear someone making such a claim, just ask them this: when was the last time that extreme weather happened everywhere at once?

It’s the simultaneous extremes that form the clear evidence that global warming is destabilising the climate. Climate change is a global problem; no amount of myopia can disguise the big picture. The only option left for the contrarians is refuse to look at it.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2014 12:55 pm

    Slight problem with the look out the window comment, is some idiot denier will look out the window and procliam that there is no AGW, drought, heatwave etc there and its all just a scammodels wrong/blah. And in their etch-a-sketch mind that’s science !

    Or am I being too cynical about the deniers ?

  2. Rosemary Jones permalink
    March 28, 2014 4:12 pm

    Why keep on with the analysis without coming up with a contributory solution ?

    One contributory solution is to restore reflectivity and shading to 1960 levels by spraying ice bereft rock with chalk based solar reflective paint – this, like ice and snow reflecting up to 90% of incoming sunlight.

    Hard work – yes.

    Non-hazardous – yes.

    Cheaper in the long term – much cheaper.

    And also paying the poorest people to be properly employed in reforestation – for shading, soil renewal and sequestration.

    A ten year old could work out that the huge reduction in albedo would cause a significant increase in global temperatures, yet the UNFCCC and UNEP CTCN stay with the inaccurate narrative that there’s enough time to cut carbon emissions before extreme weather inhibits our capacity to limit it.

    What to do ?

    Set up A UN CLIMATE TECHNOLOGY AND REFORESTATION PROGRAM to which all of us wealthy enough can contribute through donations to banks and post offices everywhere, forwarded to the Green Climate Fund.

    Such a Program will specifically timeline, unlike the present projects. It needs setting up now in order to stop Arctic ice meltdown, and further bad weather almost everywhere.

    Don’t look out of the window all the time.

    Write to the UN, to the head in the sand environmental groups who naively say solar radiation management will be an excuse to emit more carbon, to your MP requesting a government proposal to the Security Council. No delay.

  3. Graham Wayne permalink*
    March 28, 2014 6:20 pm

    hasturhasturhastur: “Or am I being too cynical about the deniers ?”

    Well, I’m not sure that it’s possible to be too cynical about climate change deniers, but I know what you mean, of course. Thing is, as the incidence of extreme weather increases, it will no longer be possible to resort to denial based on being dismissive about the models – and this is already happening, provided we also listen to other people who are also looking out the window.

  4. Apneaman permalink
    March 30, 2014 10:18 pm

    @Rosemary Jones

    I love the chalk idea. I have been contemplating a non toxic spray deal to increase albedo for a while. As a Canadian I do not have any hope that Harper would go for it. That would be admitting there is an actual problem. If and when any governments do decide to take action, I can’t imagine it being anything other that a big expensive “Market Solution”. They would probably go with a toxic chemical from DuPont and give Halliburton a billion dollar spraying contract. When world leaders a trained neo-liberal economists, all solutions are market solutions or none at all. The hour is very late. 1998 was the hottest and it’s no coincidence that was the last big El Nino year. Looks like it’s going to happen again in a few months, only there is way way more energy stored in the oceans than 1998. Take care.

  5. Rosemary Jones permalink
    April 1, 2014 4:46 pm

    Perhaps FOE might take this spray thing on, or perhaps, maybe AVAAZ, Shall I do something like that or do you think you would be more competent at it ? In the meantime I will continue to write to environmental people hoping some of the emails are read.

    From my experience, it looks like people’s brains take about a week to accept the relevance of increasing reflectivity. They are mostly tied to emission reduction and cannot so easily see the secondary causes in order to deal with them directly, or to approach solutions on a regional basis.

    Please also say if you know of any organization that might develop very large solar assisted shading frames intended to cover potential fracture lines in ice shelves buffering significant glaciers and glacial lakes. The high risk time in the Himalayas is in June – July, and the lake outbursts are devastating.

    A prototype has been tested under a friend’s authorization, and apparently it is okay, but the researchers are not responding to urgency, and would need funding. Climate -KIC are not for individual inventors as far as I can tell, and I would need to be part of a European Team to get funding from them, which I am not. I write to UNEP but they don’t reply, and I cannot access their technology portal.

    It could be that the spray idea (and any SRM) is being discounted because it might be an excuse to continue with carbon. This is what FOE tend to think. Naïve at this late stage.

    [email address removed]

    Rosemary: do not put your email address in public posts. I have removed it for your own safety.

  6. Stephen Brown permalink
    March 26, 2017 1:00 am

    What caused the earth to warm up and come out of the last ice age 11,000 years ago devoid of FF combustion and SUV’s?

  7. Graham Wayne permalink*
    March 26, 2017 8:42 am

    If you want to know why the ice age ended, a good place to start is to ask the other question: why did the ice age start? You’ll find the answer here: Milankovitch Cycles – changes in the distance from the Earth to the Sun, due to the fact our orbit around the sun is elliptical, not concentric. (Technically, the ice age hasn’t ended – we’re now in a period called an ‘interglacial’.)

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