Monday, 12 October 2009

The Great BBC global warming swindle

So The Great Global Warming Swindle has come to the BBC. Of course, it is dressed up in the adornment of 'balanced reporting' that is so important to the BBC. But, nonetheless, it uses the type of arguments used in that infamous, wholly manipulated and, at times, fabricated Channel 4 documentary.

The culprit? Well, it is an article from the BBC's Paul Hudson which poses the provocative question, What happened to global warming?. It has all the hallmarks of the climate change denying press: the lone gunman, the conspiratorial scientific establishment, expert quotes relegated to the foot of the article (it must be balanced remember), an air of sensationalism, it's all very confusing (when it isn't in the slightest)and a bit of quasi-science sprinkled in. Only this isn't The Spectator (and for completeness, here is George Monbiot's response to the linked article.) It's the BBC.

And the worst thing? This is a very old debate about solar flares etc. The impact of the solar cycle on the earth's climate has long been appreciated. It's not new. It's not a devastating challenge to anthropogenic climate change.

Here is a screen clip from Peter Sinclair's effortless rebuttal of The Great Global Warming Swindle.

The blue line is temperature rises. The red line is solar activity. You will see how they march in step until the early 1970s. Then they diverge spectacularly. That does not imply that solar activity has no impact on earth's temperatures. It has an enormous impact. Climate change may be appearing to slow and that is because of diminished solar activity and is temporary. Nonetheless, eight of ten warmest years on record have been in the last decade or so. The BBC piece could easily have pointed this out but failed to. Poor.

For a real treat, here is Peter Sinclair's short video rebuttal of The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Oh, the assertion that the world hasn't warmed in the last decade is nonsense as well. Here is paper from Yale explaining what has actually happened. (As well as solar activity, there is El Nino and La Nina to consider also- who said this was simple?)

I will be at the launch of the Committee on Climate Change first report this morning. Tweets and a blog will follow.

Post script: And just in case the BBC thinks that the way it reports has no consequences, then read this blog post from Tory Bear. Careless talk costs lives and not just polar bears.....


  1. The new scientist published a similar paper identifying cooling a short while ago. This is turning into a more complex issue and it is time to be honest about it.

  2. It's complex- you are right. And that is what gives the denialists their opportunity to spread misinformation and distort the evidence.

    There is nothing in the recent climate patterns that is of surprise to climatologists. All you have to do is read the comments from the Met Office and Hadley Centre in the report. Anyone who follows this issue knows the science behind these observations and is not in the least bit concerned by them.

    There is one New Scientist piece (which you don't link to so we can't assess.) Well I could link to 1000s from the same publication more that detail climate change.

    Yes, it is time to be honest. I agree.

  3. I have to agree this is just a reporter stirring the pot a bit with some sensationalism, probably good for his career, he gets more widely read.

    It's pretty clear from looking at a graph of the actual data that this recent 'cooling' is just noise and small amplitude oscillations on top of a longer term trend.

  4. Sorry for not linking but here is the NS piece

    World's climate could cool first, warm later

    17:56 04 September 2009 by Fred Pearce, Geneva,The New Scientist
    For similar stories, visit the Climate Change Topic Guide
    Forecasts of climate change are about to go seriously out of kilter. One of the world's top climate modellers said Thursday we could be about to enter one or even two decades during which temperatures cool.

    "People will say this is global warming disappearing," he told more than 1500 of the world's top climate scientists gathering in Geneva at the UN's World Climate Conference.

    "I am not one of the sceptics," insisted Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University, Germany. "However, we have to ask the nasty questions ourselves or other people will do it."

    Few climate scientists go as far as Latif, an author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But more and more agree that the short-term prognosis for climate change is much less certain than once thought.

    Nature vs humans

    This is bad timing. The UN's World Meteorological Organization called the conference in order to draft a global plan for providing "climate services" to the world: that is, to deliver climate predictions useful to everyone from farmers worried about the next rainy season to doctors trying to predict malaria epidemics and builders of dams, roads and other infrastructure who need to assess the risk of floods and droughts 30 years hence.

    But some of the climate scientists gathered in Geneva to discuss how this might be done admitted that, on such timescales, natural variability is at least as important as the long-term climate changes from global warming. "In many ways we know more about what will happen in the 2050s than next year," saidVicky Pope from the UK Met Office.

    Cold Atlantic

    Latif predicted that in the next few years a natural cooling trend would dominate over warming caused by humans. The cooling would be down to cyclical changes to ocean currents and temperatures in the North Atlantic, a feature known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

    Breaking with climate-change orthodoxy, he said NAO cycles were probably responsible for some of the strong global warming seen in the past three decades. "But how much? The jury is still out," he told the conference. The NAO is now moving into a colder phase.

    Latif said NAO cycles also explained the recent recovery of the Sahel region of Africa from the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s. James Murphy, head of climate prediction at the Met Office, agreed and linked the NAO to Indian monsoons, Atlantic hurricanes and sea ice in the Arctic. "The oceans are key to decadal natural variability," he said.

    Another favourite climate nostrum was upturned when Pope warned that thedramatic Arctic ice loss in recent summers was partly a product of natural cycles rather than global warming. Preliminary reports suggest there has been much less melting this year than in 2007 or 2008.

    In candid mood, climate scientists avoided blaming nature for their faltering predictions, however. "Model biases are also still a serious problem. We have a long way to go to get them right. They are hurting our forecasts," said Tim Stockdale of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK.

    The world may badly want reliable forecasts of future climate. But such predictions are proving as elusive as the perfect weather forecast.

  5. I don't see anything in this that hasn't been previously referred to. The problem with falling for cooler years as a trend is that you aren't prepared for the years when the trend continues upwards. The science is running hard to keep up but what is clear is that, with a lag, there is a strong correlation between the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and warming, decade by decade. The overall trend is up but with oscillation.

  6. So is anyone who questions your viewpoint a "denialist"? Don't scientists encourage and welcome dissenting viewpoints? If your theories are correct, then doesn't that dissent only help to firm them up over time? Why work so hard to silence them, label them as "denialists", and otherwise convince others not to hear them out? Why not simply rebut their ignorance when you can (if you can), and be open minded when you can't?

    Why is there such urgency to proclaim the debate as being over? It smacks of being afraid of the debate.

  7. It is interesting that Mr. Painter responds quickly until confronted with an inconvenient point (thanks Clay.) It would be refreshing to see both sides exhibit a little scientific (and political) integrity and refrain from name calling and sensationalism. After all those who thought the world was round were once labeled that time the church was desperately trying to maintain power over the people (and their money.) I detect a similar ulterior motive in this one sided debate.

  8. I'm happy with the word 'denialist'. There is enough evidence to support it beyond a 90% certainty. In fact, most sensible sceptics have shifted to despair as a tactic rather than denial. For evidence you can read the climate change Thursday features on this blog.

    And thank you for the reminder to respond.

  9. As a non scientist but a marine engineer with enough of a grounding in the basics of physics, are we really to believe that a trace gas of 385 ppm and a human contribution of that 385 of 1% can influence the climate enough to cause mass panic and the introduction of carbon tax? Even though the earths surface is two thirds water and is the biggest emitter of co2, we are to believe that our miniscule contribution is responsible for supposed temperature increase.This must have Albert Einstein, Isaac newton, and all the worlds past great minds, spinning in their graves.
    It seems logical to me that the oceans are a colossal reservoir of co2 and that warming from any source will eventually be absorbed by the oceans and will result in time to a release of more co2.
    Any increase in the level of co2 in the earths atmosphere presently is the result of the oceans 800 year memory.
    Or do these AGW proponents have a way of discerning which bit of co2 came from where.
    Its time they found a better cause for their supposed talents, maybe they should try to do something to help the destitute and starving people of Africa who are suffering as a direct result of their mis-guided beliefs.

  10. The whole theory of the "greenhouse effect" is only a theory and is not a settled science.
    An actual greenhouse works by allowing light and therefore heat in, but will not allow heat out by stopping it physically with sheets of glass.
    I dont ever remember, during my years as a physics student taking part in experiments that show any gases allowing light and heat to pass through one way but not the other.
    The grren house effect may work with water vapour which will put up some kind of a physical barrier to the escape of heat, water vapour in the form of clouds for instance, but to assume that co2 or any other pure gas can restrict the passage of light or heat is not part of any science I have ever come across.
    Unless the laws of physics concerned with liquids and gases has changed,I think we are being fed a line of non scientific BS.