The year the Earth stopped warming?

The year the Earth stopped warming? December 31, 2008

British columnist Christopher Booker of the London Daily Telegraph proclaims that 2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved:

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.

First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century. . . .

Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a “scientific consensus” in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world’s most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that “consensus” which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.

Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world. As we saw in this month’s Poznan conference, when 10,000 politicians, officials and “environmentalists” gathered to plan next year’s “son of Kyoto” treaty in Copenhagen, panicking politicians are waking up to the fact that the world can no longer afford all those quixotic schemes for “combating climate change” with which they were so happy to indulge themselves in more comfortable times.

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  • WebMonk

    I don’t think the AGW screaming is done, but I could indeed see this as a “tipping point” of public opinion against it.

    There are still a couple things that are being latched onto: arctic ice isn’t quite back up to average yet (though it’s rapidly getting there), claiming these two years are strictly La Nina anomalies, and general purposeful blinders to facts while still yelling the same old stuff.

    The massaging of several of the ground-based measurements are getting so heavy-handed that they are starting to be discounted (except by politicians) in favor of satellite records which are starting to have a sufficiently long record to use for trending.

    I don’t think this was the year AGW was “disproved” since it’s “proof” was always extremely suspect, but I think this was the year that the mindless acceptance in political and media reporting started to change. There will still be years of action by the “true believers”, but I think they’re on their way out. I think the focus will start to move to other things besides AGW.

  • rlewer

    Earth’s climate will continue to change as always. Weather will still set records. Climate will also continue to change on Mars.

  • Just a few points (I’ll try to avoid the extremism that is apparent on both sides of this debate):

    –2008 was the coldest year since 2000
    –2008 was still warmer than 99 out of 100 years in the 20th century (the exception was 1998)
    –CO2 is still a greenhouse gas produced primarily by short-sighted consumption of limited, nonrenewable natural resources
    –climate always varies up and down from year to year; one cool year doesn’t make a trend
    –The heavy snow received in some places this year doesn’t negate the fact that overall the earth is warming. Climate is about long-term trends, not individual weather events. New Orleans had snow in December 2008, but the frequency of snow in the city is less often now than it was 100-150 years ago.

  • ELB

    Acceptance of global warming by the power class has never been because of the science, but because of the collectivism and centralization that it justifies.
    If you read the babble of the power class, as at the recent UN meeting planning the post-Kyoto treaty, their faith hasn’t wavered.

  • Kirk


    Or maybe it’s just because people see a healthy environment as being a bigger quality of life issue than excess expendible wealth. Try assuming some good faith, even from people that you don’t necessarily agree with.

  • Don S

    Kevin N @ 3:

    Your points are well taken, as far as climate cycles go. I just wish the same wisdom applied when we have a warmer than average year or decade. Al Gore made hundreds of millions of dollars hyping short term warming patterns into a political panic. Cautious words about short term cyclical weather patterns only seem to appear when things cool.

    I’m not sure your data is accurate. Do we really have sufficiently reliable and comprehensive data from the first half of the 20th century to make substantive determinations about the relative warmth or coolness of particular years? Might most of the warming be due to increasing heat island effects, because of increased population and construction around the weather sensing sites? I think that is very likely. Moreover, even more recent data is not necessarily reliable. There was a big revision recently because NASA had shifted data — reported September temperatures as October temperatures, creating a panic that things had dramatically warmed. I don’t think it is extreme to question that we are really observing a long term climate change that is not natural in origin, and to be cautious about imposing dramatic societal changes based on dubious science.

    I will agree with you that it makes good sense for us to take reasonable, prudent measures to reduce non-renewable energy consumption, as long as this change is not imposed via a top-down bureaucratic regulatory scheme. Certainly, we as individuals have a responsibility to steward our resources. Shifting much of our electrical generation away from fossil fuels to nuclear power would also seem to be something that will need to be done to accomplish this goal.

  • Don S (#6):

    My understanding of temperature records from the first half of the 20th century is that they have been corrected for heat island effects over cities.

    Yes, the September temperatures being reported for October caused panic among certain environmentalists, but the mistakes have been taken care of now, and shouldn’t be an issue.

    I would only grudgingly support a shift to nuclear as a substitute for coal and oil electrical generation. It is possible to use fission safely to generate electricity and it is possible to store the wastes, but can we do this really close to 100% of the time, which is what we would need to do? Additionally, uranium is a limited, non-renewable resource, just like oil and gas. I’d rather that we spend our money on unlimited, renewable energy resources such as wind and solar.

  • cattail

    “…uranium is a limited, non-renewable resource…”

    Not necessarily; other countries, such as France, are recycling nuclear waste (much of which is plutonium) and re-using it. The USA made a conscious decision under the Carter administration not to do this. As a result, there’s all this nuclear waste from uranium reactors sitting in pools of water and big controversies about storing it in Yucca Mountain in Nevada. If done carefully under strict controls, most of it could safely be recycled.

    While I’m in favor of at least a modest amount of wind and solar, we in the Pacific NW are already being threatened with massive numbers of windmills in the Columbia River Gorge, within sight of the National Scenic Area. And those giant wind turbines take out a lot of birds.

  • cattail

    How many of you know that carbon dioxide stimulates plant growth? If the world would just stop chopping down trees so fast, the carbon dioxide situation would correct itself.

    It’s interesting that many of the less extreme “solutions” to global warming are ones that many of us are in favor of: less air pollution, more trees.

  • Cattail (#8 & #9):

    Even with uranium fuel recycling and reprocessing, uranium is a limited, non-renewable resource. The reprocessing makes the fuel go further, but doesn’t extend it indefinitely. The decision by the Carter administration to not pursue reprocessing may have been a good one, in that having plutonium in hundreds of commercial reactors presents a greater possibility of theft or terrorist attacks.

    I do believe that nuclear waste can be safely stored long-term in certain geologic settings. But I still have a number of concerns along these lines: 1) short-term storage 2)transportation 3)sabotage (we do live in a world of sin).

    In regards to CO2 stimulating plant growth: Yes, but that benefit may be offset for plants due to higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, and changes in soil nitrogen content that would occur in a changing world. More research needs to be done, but the “CO2 helps plants” argument is turning out to be simplistic.

  • Cattail (#9):

    I agree that most of us want more trees and less air pollution. The present administration has pursued policies of fewer trees and weaker regulations on air pollution, as well as lower water quality standards. (I say this as one who votes Republican 99% of the time).

  • Carl Vehse

    A news story Algore or the clymer press will not be headlining:

    Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979

  • WebMonk

    Kevin N, you might want to check your sources on your comment 3. I know where you are getting your figures (GISS-based), but I also know what has been done to get those figures. They have been “adjusted” out the wazoo to get them to their current numbers.

    Check out this graphic which shows the adjustment that has been done to the GISS US temperatures. ( ) I have also worked the adjustments made to their global temperatures, but I didn’t make comparison graphs at the time. The data coming from Asia was particularly violently adjusted, IIRC. (GISS’s adjustments to factor in sensors that drop from the network have to be seen to be believed!) A big part of the GISS adjustment (as you can see in the graphic) is to adjust down past temperatures to make the current temps trend higher.

    A MUCH better source, as far as scientific honesty/accuracy is concerned, is UAH data, but RSS, NCDC or just about any other source will work well too. A Dr. Hansen is the lead of the GISS team and is (literally) violently pro-AGW. The data which comes from him has been becoming more and more divorced from the other temperature measuring organizations. A particularly “fun” thing to do is look at the variations that happen between GISS sensor data and satellite data since 1978 – the sensor data tracks so-so with the satellite data until the GISS “adjusts” it whereupon it diverges wildly to the warmer side of things.

    If you use the GISS data before “adjustment” or one of the other sources, then the global temperatures are easily within standard variation levels. There have been many years well before 2000 which had just as warm or warmer years than 2007, and 2008 is expected to be significantly below 2007.

    One of the sad things is that the source of data is rarely considered as long as it comes from a reputable sounding authority. In this case, you and everyone else who hasn’t felt like looking into a somewhat boring, obscure, and difficult area, just assumes that an organization like GISS is accurate. That’s not the case, unfortunately.

  • WebMonk

    Global temperatures are perfectly normal within a non-GISS measure of “normal”. I found this graphic ( ) and verified its accuracy. I don’t particularly trust (they cherry-pick at times) as a prime source, but they are very good to point to their sources.

  • WebMonk

    Oh, and the comment “one cool year doesn’t make a trend” is true, but doesn’t really have any bearing on reality here. If you had made that statement back in 2000, it might make sense, but so far there have been 5 years of definite cooling with another 5 years of no warming. 10 years certainly does make a trend.

    Especially with the PDO changing to its cool phase (it had been in its warm phase for the last couple decades) there aren’t any signals that the cooling trend of the last decade might slow or stop.

    I promise this will be my last post here. I’m a science/math/theory buff. I doubt anyone still reads this post, so hopefully I haven’t killed anyone from terminal boredom.

  • WebMonk:

    I’m not sure what the point is of the junkscience graphic you linked to. It shows an overall slight warming trend over its range of 1978 to 2008, with a spike in 1998. Nothing new there.

    The GISS (part of NASA) is not the only organization that tracks global temperatures. Both GISS and the British equivalent (the Hadley Center) may actually underestimate warming, as neither puts much weight on Arctic temperatures, which has experienced more warming than temperate or tropical zones.

    I agree, it will be interesting to see how the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) affects global climate.

  • Don S

    Kevin N:

    We are measuring “global” mean temperatures and comparing current temperature data with data taken 50-100 years ago. We are then looking at relatively small variations (on an absolute scale), and making huge scary conclusions from them. As Webmonk says above, it seems to me that we are well within the margin of error of the instrumentation, especially given the bias of many of those who are interpreting the data. The point I was making above was that the data between 1900 and 1950 is nothing, in sophistication, compared to the data we have now, and so it is very unscientific to draw absolute conclusions from anything we are observing without more data points over more years.

    To rule out nuclear power as a solution, and to rely solely on wind and solar as a substitute for our current electrical generation capacity, which is probably at least 80-90% fossil fuel based, is crazy. The very same environmentalists who want us to practically immediately mothball the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of fossil fuel plants, and almost immediately substitute trillions of dollars of “green” plants (an economically ridiculous notion) will not permit us to build the transmission systems necessary to proceed. Wind farms need to be in rural areas, and efficient solar farms do as well. Rooftop solar is a very expensive and inefficient approach. To have these “green farms”, we have to convey the power hundreds of miles to our urban areas. Also, environmentalists do not want us to build wind farms because of aesthetics and bird strikes. So, what are we to do, Kevin? Candles?

  • Not candles.
    Not the status quo of “drill baby drill.” Fossil fuels are a limited resource, and are a pollution problem, even aside from CO2.
    Not nuclear, except as a fill-in the gap. Again, a limited resource, and we cannot ignore the hazards.

    There is no easy solution.

  • Don S


    We cannot dismantle the infrastructure we have until we have an equally economical and efficient alternative. That is the bottom line.

  • WebMonk

    Kevin N, I figured this comment was old enough that no one would see that stuff.

    GISS and Hadley both drastically overestimate global warming in two manners – they tend to adjust recent temperatures upwards and GISS has extensively retroactively adjusted down past temperature records. (I haven’t checked Hadley’s actions.)

    There certainly has been a recent past warming trend which has stopped for the last 10 years and dropped for the last 5 or 6 years, depending on how you smooth the line.

    The blinking graph showed how the recent warming trend was nothing out of the ordinary compared to past warming periods. There was warming, but until GISS adjusted down the past temperature records and adjusted up the recent warming measurements, the warming was easily within perfectly normal parameters. Even with the adjustments, warming is still well within normal variation, which is what the junkscience plot shows.

    For each and every temperature measurement, there are now hundreds of adjustments made by Hadley, GISS, and others. Even as recently as 10 years ago, most of the adjustments were aimed at getting rid of noise, contamination, missing records, and averaging out areas. Now, there are hundreds of adjustments and multiple classifications for different sites that have special extra adjustments made. If you look at what those adjustments do, they almost always wind up with a significantly higher result than the original measurement.

    Ultimately the ‘scary’ level of warming has been manufactured by taking a normal period of warming and applying adjustments to it (and the baseline to which it is compared) so it shows a dramatic and “unnatural” level of warming.

    That’s what the blink graph (comment 13) shows. The one from 10 years ago shows a perfectly normal instance of a warming period which is well within historic standards caused by entirely human-less affects. The recent adjusted graph has cooled the past temperatures and raised the modern temperatures so it looks like the recent warming was dramatically higher than normal.

    Then there’s the claim that CO2 is raising temperatures (if the temperatures had been rising abnormally). Just briefly, CO2 has a very narrow range of wavelengths that it works on – it’s not an across-the-board insulator. Those narrow ranges of wavelengths (2.0-2.4, 4.1-4.5, and 12-18 microns) happens to also be largely absorbed by water vapor in the atmosphere. Not only that, but the sun inputs energy and the earth radiates energy in specific wavelengths, and CO2 misses virtually all those wavelengths.

    Physically it is impossible for CO2 to cause significant further warming beyond what it already does (which is miniscule to start with). If we were to replace all the oxygen in the atmosphere with CO2, there would be no change in the greenhouse effect.

    Furthermore, there is plenty of easily accessible research which tracks temperature variation with CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Universally they show the heating happening first, and then the atmospheric CO2 increasing. There only possible cause-effect is that heating causes more CO2, not the other way around.

    Apologies for a massive post. I like my science. Be thankful you weren’t here when I looked into what would happen IF the LHC were to create miniature black holes by the millions. (nothing) THAT was ugly.

  • WebMonk:

    You and I are probably the only ones still reading this.

    In the 4.1 to 4.5 micron range, CO2 is a strong absorber of light, and water is a very weak absorber. In the 12-18 micron range, CO2 is a strong absorber and water is a moderate absorber. Sure, the concentration of water is higher than that of CO2, but I think you go too far in saying that the impact of CO2 absorption is minimal.

    The range of Earth’s re-emission of infrared radiation is in a low absorption band for both water and CO2. It does catch the lower end of the 12-18 micron band of CO2 absorption, so again you are going too far in saying that CO2 is not an issue for Earth’s greenhouse effect, and that further addition of CO2 will not cause further warming.

    Yes, as the Earth in the past moved from glacial periods to interglacial periods, warming began before CO2 began to increase. This tells us that there is a two-way relationship between temperature and CO2 concentration. As the Earth warms, CO2 increases, and as CO2 increases, the Earth warms. But no paleoclimatologist I know of says that CO2 is the primary driver of the rhythmic pattern of glacial and interglacial episodes in the Quaternary Period. The driving mechanism seems to be orbital variations, not ups and downs in CO2. This is all natural. What is happening now with CO2 is outside of this natural range. During the Quaternary, CO2 varied between 180 and 270 ppm (we know this by studies of gas content of air bubbles trapped in polar ice caps). The current value of 385 ppm is well beyond the natural range.

    I’m not a AGW fanatic, but I do see more of the science pointing towards AGW than to merely natural fluctuations of climate. So, I’m not convinced that the Earth has stopped warming, or that AGW isn’t a potential problem.

  • Well, I’m still reading it, and it’s interesting, and yet odd. I understand most of what you’re talking about, and yet I have nothing to add, because you’re near the edge of my understanding.

    I am struck, though, by how this resembles nothing so much as a religious dispute. Of course, I’m rarely sitting ignorantly on the sidelines in an actual religious dispute, so it’s strange to me to see how that might feel.

    I do want to thank you both, Kevin and WebMonk, for making such keen, scientific arguments. If everyone who discussed AGW did so with such actual (or apparent — again, I have no ability or inclination to fact-check you guys) knowledge, I’d listen to a lot more people who talk about it.

    But you two are like the seminarians in the AGW religious discussion. Most of the talk (here and elsewhere) sounds like laypeople who have their minds made up without reference to many facts.

    Just my thoughts.

    Of course, AGW isn’t the end-all of environmental/sustainable arguments. When it comes to cars (the area where most of us seem to talk about AGW applications), I’d still think the same in terms of pollution and sustainability. I’m not quite sure how AGW came to be the core argument, honestly.

  • tODD: I’ll admit to being somewhat of an amateur in the AGW discussion. My background is in geology and geochemistry, so I can discuss climate issues intelligently (I hope), but not authoritatively. I am more likely to be wrong in a discussion about climate than I would be in my own areas of expertise.

  • WebMonk

    Absolutely CO2 is a strong absorber of light in the 4.1-4.5 range and that’s a range which H2O is relatively weak, but the sun puts out virtually no energy in those wavelengths. The vast, vast majority of energy from the sun comes in the 0.3 to 2 micron range. There is virtually nothing for the CO2 to absorb from the sun in the wavelengths that CO2 is good at absorbing.

    Again with Earth’s emitting radiation – it is primarily in the infrared range in the 8 to 13 micron range. CO2 just barely catches this by _starting_ to absorb at the 12 micron range. The absorption ranges for CO2 are just wrong for working for global warming.

    H2O has a much broader absorption range and it hits some of the wavelengths that the sun and earth strongly radiate. CO2 just doesn’t absorb the correct wavelengths to cause a greenhouse effect.

    For your third big paragraph, you might want to read that through again. I agree with every fact you stated, but where you get your conclusions is inscrutable to me. You clearly stated that ice core (and ocean sediment and other studies) indicate that warming seems to trigger increased CO2. Then you also said CO2 increases warming, but you never gave any sort of support for that. You’ll be very, very hard pressed to find any ice core, sediment or other ancient earth study which says that either. They just aren’t out there; there’s nothing in those studies to suggest CO2 increases warming.

    As you said, and I agree, orbital variations are a driver in past temperature swings. As studies have said, those warming trends tend to release CO2. Right now we have higher CO2 than in the recent past. (recent on geologic time-scales) Where I fail to see a connection is the link showing CO2 to drive the recently past warming trend, or any warming trend in the past.

    CO2 increase may indeed be caused by man, in fact I think that is probable, at least in part, but where I have never seen a link is where CO2 causes global warming. While CO2 has demonstrably increased, the warming which occurred wasn’t any more dramatic than normal, it fit almost perfectly with different ocean trends, and has shifted to a cooler phase in conjunction with several other major factors like ocean currents and solar output. None of which fits with CO2 causing warming.

  • WebMonk

    Wow. I took WAY too long to compose that. Work keeps interfering. I really need someone to start paying me to sit around and comment on blogs!

    For those interested, the numbers for the 2008 US temperatures are available from NCDC!!! Usually they get released a few days before the other organizations release global numbers, so hopefully the numbers for December 08 will be available for a full study of 2008. Right now, with numbers available through November, it is running considerably lower than 2007 which was an especially large drop in temperature from the existing cooling trend.

  • WebMonk

    RSS data is out too. Just came out today as far as I can tell.

  • Don S

    I’m with tODD. I’m still reading and I find it interesting. I appreciate the discussion.

    I think, also, that it proves my point. There are good arguments, well founded, on both sides. Why are we not allowed to hear them in our national discussion before we blow up society trying to address a problem that may or may not be real, and may or may not be resolvable if it is real? Why have our fearless national leaders declared the matter closed?

  • WebMonk

    For a really good set of very scientific looks at weather, climate and global warming, everyone should check out

    It is run by a couple climatologists, weather men and other experts in the field. It’s primarily a skeptic point of view, but it is hard-core science based and so there’s not much in the way of shrill claims one way or the other. It’s written up to be accessible (for the most part) to non-science/statistics people, and it’s an excellent compilation of all sorts of climate data pro and skeptic AGW.

    The comments sometimes devolve in spite of being monitored, but the articles are excellent. That’s where I got the blink graph. I can generate the graphs, but I haven’t learned enough Gimp to make animated images of the graphs.

  • Don (@27), I wonder if we are much on the same page. When you ask, “Why have our fearless national leaders declared the matter closed?”, are you only thinking of the Democrats? Or at least of those generally favoring AGW? Because to me, politicians on “both” sides are rather closed-minded.

    This isn’t too shocking, mind. They’re almost certainly less scientifically inclined than either WebMonk or Kevin here. They probably lack the time, ability, or inclination to assess the facts for themselves — they talk to their advisors. And their advisors probably use the same facts Kevin and WebMonk use to arrive at a conclusion, one that necessarily sounds rather, well, conclusive.

    Still, your comment seems a bit dramatic. Are you referring to an actual statement(s) when you say “our fearless national leaders declared the matter closed”? I don’t remember that declaration.

  • WebMonk

    tODD, there have been multiple statements that the science is “settled” or “unequivocal” in regard to global warming. However, those don’t come from US Reps or Sens, but from Al Gore and the UN. They have lots of media and political pull though, so plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle go along with it.

    Many/Most advisers typically have a specific background that agrees with the politician who appoints them, so I wouldn’t expect much in the way of “unbiased” (whatever that may be) reports to politicians. That’s not just with global warming, but across the board. (Margaret Spellings as Sec of Ed for an example – toes the political line to a T, but is also an expert adviser)

    There’s also the assumption that a topic as politically volatile as global warming actually pays attention to the science. Sort of like welfare, abortion, and immigration, global warming policies have relatively little basis on reality and much more reliance on how things will be reported by the press and digested by constituents.

  • Don S

    tODD @ 29:

    What Webmonk said 🙂

    My statement is my own. I guess I am just the dramatic type.

    As for your point about “both sides”, I’m sure there are those on the skeptical side who could never be convinced of the reality of global warming, or of man’s ability to effectively address it. But, they are not in power. It is the AGW proponents who wield power, so their close-mindedness is of much greater concern, as they are marching lockstep toward truly radical and dramatic societal changes, based on very preliminary scientific hypotheses. The worst part is that, IF the AGW proponents were truly correct about the magnitude of the problem, there would be virtually no chance that any measures we undertake in this quixotic quest to reduce CO2 levels will actually make a measurable difference. We would be much better advised to focus our efforts on measures which will help us cope with the warming to inevitably come.

  • Don (@31), yes, but “what WebMonk said” (@30) was that it hasn’t been “our fearless national leaders” (i.e. “US Reps or Sens”) that “declared the matter closed”. So if you agree with him, then you disagree with yourself, it would seem.

    I don’t really disagree with what WebMonk wrote, either, though it’s hardly instructional to point out that, in general, our politicians are ill-informed, regardless of their stance or thoughts on AGW. Find me an AGW-denying politician who really knows his science. Is there one? Are they, as a side, more scientifically informed politicians?

    And sorry, but are you really trying to say that, with regard to AGW-denying politicians, “they are not in power”? Really — none of them are? Did they all get kicked out in 2008? I suppose you mean that those in power are not in the current majority, though they once were — did you care about the skeptic’s close-mindedness when they were in power? Or were the skeptical politicians all very open-minded?

  • Don S

    tODD @ 32: All right, in my haste, I misread what Webmonk said. I disagree with him to the the extent that Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Henry Waxman, to name three right off the top of my head (I believe John McCain makes four), have all declared the matter closed and AGW a fact. As far as AGW – denying politicians, I didn’t opine as to whether there were any of them. I don’t think so. I was talking about people in general. There are AGW-skeptical politicians (as opposed to deniers), but they are clearly a minority right now, and thus out of power, from the point of view of being able to affect policy.

    Gerald Warner’s column from the UK Telegraph this week:

    “‘There is very important climatic change going on right now, and it’s not merely something of academic interest. It is something that, if it continues, will affect the whole human occupation of the earth – like a billion people starving. The effects are already showing up in a rather drastic way.’

    That apocalyptic warning came from Fortune magazine – in 1974, when it was alerting readers to an imminent new Ice Age. By 2006 it had conformed to the latest fashion and had revised its doomsday scenario to: ‘The media agrees with the majority of scientists: global warming is here. Now, what to do about it?’ So much for the media as climatic arbiter.

    In the current climate, Fortune’s earlier scenario seems more plausible. A few months ago, Lewis Pugh set off on a much-hyped journey paddling a kayak to an ‘ice-free’ North Pole: he was stopped by ice 600 miles from his destination and 100 miles south of where a canoeist had reached a century earlier. As this egg-on-face setback for climate alarmists illustrated, there was 9 per cent more ice at the Arctic last autumn than the year before. After a record ice melting there was a record freeze.”

    Although Arctic sea ice last summer reached the lowest level recorded since satellite observation began (an important qualification), Antarctic ice reached the highest, but Al Gore was not shouting about that. Global average temperatures hit a peak in 1998, but have been declining since. Now, to the further embarrassment of alarmists, Kerry Emanuel, professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, who first advanced the thesis of a connection between global warming and hurricanes, has rejected his own theory after further research.”

    Food for thought?

  • Don, don’t you think there’s a difference between declaring something a “fact” and declaring a “matter closed”? Certainly we here on this blog discuss things we consider facts, and yet we obviously do not consider it not worth discussing. Your original accusation (@27) was that “our fearless national leaders declared the matter closed”. You’ve named some names (though not any actual quotes, so I’ll have to assume you’re right), but is it just that those politicians believe AGW is a “fact”, or do they not “allow [us] to hear [arguments] in our national discussion”? Is your apparent belief that AGW is not a fact an attempt to quash the discussion here? I doubt you’d say it was.

    You still haven’t answered if the AGW skeptics, who it would seem were once in power, were any better about being open-minded or scientific. I’m curious.

    As to Gerald “Epimenides” Warner, well, am I to believe the media when it tells me I cannot trust what the media says on a topic? Sadly, that column (as with nearly all such columns) is short on fact and long on anecdote.

    Fortune magazine is given a lengthy quote on the topic, and boy is egg on their face! But I’m much more inclined to think this tells me something about learning my science from Fortune magazine than it does about all discussion of climate change. Similarly, someone I’ve never heard of set off on some stunt of dubious value and failed. Look, if Thor Heyerdahl had failed in his voyage, I wouldn’t consider that to settle the whole Polynesian question. It’s just an anecdote, and ultimately, I think the Telegraph makes a good (if unintentional) case for why nearly all mass media (including itself) is thoroughly hopeless on this and most other science topics.

    That was my whole reason for praising Kevin’s and WebMonk’s discussion. It was free of such ridiculous anecdotes and gotcha moments.

  • Don S

    tODD, if you declare a theory factual, you are, essentially, declaring the matter of its truth closed. Our governmental leaders and our media have done precisely this, and refuse to even entertain opposing viewpoints or evidence at this point in time. I’m not sure that I am following the distinction you are making.

    It’s curious that anecdotes are, to you, “ridiculous”. The arguments of the global warming enthusiasts are, largely, anecdotal. Do you not find it interesting that barely 30 years ago, our science community believed the world was cooling because of man’s environmental intervention, and now believe, using entirely different theories and models, that the world is warming? This should at least give us pause before we bow and scrape at their feet and change our entire way of life. What will be the theory du jour 30 years from now, one wonders?

    The difference between the AGW proponents and skeptics, at this point, is that the proponents want to shut off debate, and the skeptics want to engage. At this point in time, I think engagement is better than suppression. We are a democracy, and it is undemocratic to shut down debate because it is inconvenient or less efficient. This is not a comment on the relative scientific merit of either side, but at the present time I think the AGW skeptics need to be heard, so the American people can make a truly informed policy decision.

  • Don S (#33):

    “Although Arctic sea ice last summer reached the lowest level recorded since satellite observation began (an important qualification), Antarctic ice reached the highest.”

    Increased snowfall would be expected over Antarctica in a warming world. Higher temperatures mean higher rates of seawater evaporation, which will lead to greater precipitation in many areas. In Antarctica this means greater snowfall, because the surface temperature is still below freezing.

    The real threat in Antarctica isn’t surface ice melting, but an increased basal ice area at the melting point. Throughout the Antarctic ice cap, the temperature increases in the ice as one goes deeper. Presently, much of the base of the ice cap is essentially frozen to the bedrock, even though the base of the ice cap is warmer than the frigid surface temperatures. A few degrees of warming would significantly increase the area of ice cap that is “warm-based,” i.e. at the melting point. This ice is no longer frozen to the bedrock, but is lubricated by liquid water and is able to slip much more easily (cold-based glaciers can still move at their bases, but not so readily). This is the concern for the West Antarctic ice cap. A larger area of warm-based ice could become unstable and start flowing seaward at a much higher rate than at present. One big uncertainty in all of this is what the lag time is between surface warming and expansion of the warm-based area.

    Glaciers are complicated things.

  • Don S


    You are a master at “selective response” :). I would be interested in hearing your thoughts regarding the other more significant items which have been discussed on this thread since your last post.

    I understand the theory that you are posing regarding increased precipation muting the reduction in Antarctic ice levels which would otherwise be caused by the warming of surrounding sea water. However, I think this is a relatively recent theory, meant to counter the evidence that ice in Antarctica wasn’t reducing as expected (see for a 2005 BBC article explaining the dramatic ice melt that was expected in this region). Also, as far as I know, the increased precipitation levels you are referencing have not yet occurred, so wouldn’t explain the ice increase currently observed. See which is an article explaining that the expected precipitation increase due to AGW will significantly lag expected atmospheric moisture increases due to accelerated evaporation.

  • Don S (#35):

    I agree that open dialog and debate is needed, and that this isn’t a solved scientific issue. Overall, I find the AGW arguments to be strong, but as a geologist with a good background in Quaternary geology (i.e. the past 2 million years), I know that climatic fluctuation is the norm, not the exception.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion, which has gone on much longer than I expected.

    Grace and Peace

  • Don S (#37):

    Perhaps my responses have been somewhat selective. This is because I can speak somewhat authoritatively on things like glaciers and Quaternary climatic fluctuations, but not authoritatively on the differences between various methods of estimating current overall Earth temperatures. I have the background to understand the arguments, but haven’t been able to squeeze it into my schedule.

    Some of this comes down to an issue of authority. I cannot be an expert in all fields, so I have to decide who’s data and interpretations I trust. My overall experience with AGW deniers is that when I look into their arguments, they don’t hold up. In other words, I have found enough “junk science” at to be skeptical of their overall approach. So my initial response is to trust the majority of climatologists who support AGW, rather than the minority of climatologists who either have a “we need more research” perspective or who deny AGW.

  • Don S


    I agree that there is much junk science out there, on both sides. I think that’s because politicians have grabbed onto AGW as an excuse for instituting societal reforms that they have wanted to impose anyway, and other historically libertarian and conservative politicians are opposing this power grab. As a result, they find it necessary to oppose AGW. So it has become a political issue, rather than a scientific one.

    I think Sen. Inhofe’s minority Senate report on the issue is a lot more credible than It is at this link: The website is also reasonably sound. Both sources identify climate scientists and identify their credentials by name, and link liberally to scholarly articles. Definitely refreshing.

    I am always wary of scientists who are closed to discussion or further consideration of their theories. This is the most significant reason why I am skeptical of AGW supporters, particularly those who slurp from the vast trough of U.S. and international grants available to those “experts” whose research is designed to affirm the AGW line.