Climate of extremes

The Cato Institute has recently published a new book by Pat Michaels and Robert Balling Jnr about climate change science — caled “climate of extremes”. It’s a valuable read for people interested in the science debate. The short version is:

The earth is getting warmer, and humans are contributing… but it’s not that big of a problem so calm down and stop being so scared.

The longer version:

“The overall picture seems quite clear. Humans are implicated in the planetary warming that began around 1975. Greenhouse gases are likely to be one cause, probably a considerable one, largely becaue the warming is accentruated at high-latitude land areas in the Northern Hemisphere, and because it is more prevalent in winter than in summer. A stratospheric cooling trend is also consistent with greenhouse warming as well as stratospheric ozone depletion.

“Counterfactual is the observation of no net warming (and probably a cooling) of Antarctica, and very conflicting data on Antarctic snow-fall, which should increase eas a result of warming of the surrounding ocean. Another problem is that there is a clearly “nonclimatic” warming in the temperature history, owing to local site and regional and national factors. In general, destitute nations will not make maintaining a high-quality weather or climate network a high priority. It is interesting that when the UN’s surface temperature histories are adjusted for this, the frequency distribution of very far above-normal months is modified, and that it much more resembles the satellite data (which are insensitive to local economic or land-use influence). The main change is there are fewer months that are very far above normal.

“As far as ‘iconic’ climate change is concerned, the picture is very ambiguous. This is particularly true for hurricanes. The most severe stroms in the Atlantic and Western Pacific have become about as frequent as they were in the 1940s to the 1960s, long before the second warming of the 20th century began. Actual observations of hurricane strength and frequency in these two regions are probably reliable back to when ‘hurricane hunter’ aircraft first took to the air. But other ‘proxy’ records of storms, such as cave stalagmites or datable sediments from periodic overwashes, go back hundreds and even thousands of years, indicating nothing unusual in the current regime.

“Historical temperatures turn out to be much more problematic than once thought. The three major records (surface thermometers, weather balloons, and satellites) have undergone major revisions, which create ‘more’ warming out of the same initial data. This is like flipping a coin and getting all heads or tails, as presumably it is equally possible that each record would suffer from methodological or technical flaws that would give an equal probability of either raising or lowering the temperature trend when revised. At any rate, the probability for the records to be initially unbiased but to change in one direction for two revisions is 0.016, or less than 1 in 50. What’s happened is certainly possible, but it is not very probable.

“With regard to theice and sea-level rise, again we find conflicting data, even though there has been a tremendous amount of press coverage about the demise of Greenland. The most recent decade was certainly no warmer than several in the early 20th century, and long-standing temperature records even hint that it may have been just as warm in the late 18th century. The big to-do about the discovery of ‘Warming Island’ turns out to be a farce. It’s shown as an island in a map accompanying a book by aerial photographer Earnst Hofer, published in 1957, near the end of several decades of warm temperatures. Greenland then cooled down adn extended anice bridge to the ‘island’, which was uncovered again in 2005.

“Arctic temperatures are going up — and beginning to exceed those observed in teh 1930s. Still, there’s some pretty strong evidence from the tundra of Siberia and Scandinavia that conditions were much warmer for millennia after the end of thelast ice age. If the summer sea ice is receded now, it was probably gone then (despite that, the polar bear and the Inuit survived).

“Satellite-sensing of sea ice extent began in 1979, when the Arctic was at the end of its coldest period since the early 1920s. Consequently, ice there had to have expanded when that record began, and much of the early decline was merely a return to normal. Since then, late-summer ice has continued to decline because of increasing temperature. But on the same planet, what is to be made of the fact that summer sea-ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere reached record levels in 2007-08, that most ‘warming’ in Alaska is explained as a one-year jump in 1976-77, or that the glaciers of Kilimanjaro were receding when the planet was cooling in the mid-20th century?

“The IPCC expresses ‘low confidence’ in any estimate of future temperae-latitude storms. That’s probably because, despite a jillion stories in the Euro tabloids, there’s no evidence for any long-term trends in storminess there. Here in the States, rainfall is increasing, but the proportion from heavy rainstorms remains the same.

“Politicians blame wildfires in Southern California onglobal warming, with absolutely no supporting evidence from the local climate history. Recent, highly publicized drought in the Pacific Southwest pales when compared with a whopper in the 12th century. Despite a warming trend, satellites show us no global trend whatsoever in fire frequency or extent.

“It turns out that Europe’s killer heat wave of 2003 was a small atmospheric bubble embedded in a summer known worldwide for its relative moderation. Nonetheless, themore frequent heat waves become, the fewer people die. It’s called adaptation, which is physiological as well as political. Consequently, when a similar heat wave hit three years later, there were fewer deaths than would have normally been generated bysuch temperatures. Speaking of a real catastrophe, it turns out that the North Atlantic’s circulation has been quite stale, quashing scare stories of an imminent ice age in Europe.

“But perhaps the biggest piece of science that has been kept out of public view is the tremendous number of lives that have effectively been saved by the technology powering and developed by our fossil fue-driven society. When life expectancy doubles, as it has in the industrialised world in the last 110 years, that’s equivalent to saving one of every two lives. No one will ever know the number of people who would have otherwise died, but somewhere around a billion of us is a reasonable estimate.”

19 thoughts on “Climate of extremes

  1. My 7 year old told me the other day that in the future global warming was going to cause the planet to explode. Apparently it is common knowledge and everybody except Dad knows this sort of stuff. I pointed to Venus as an example of an extremely hot planet that hasn’t exploded but even in your own home it is hard to combat a lunatic meme run wild. As such we are doomed I tell you, completely doomed. I blame it all on literacy. 😉

    On a separate note does anybody know of any good books on moral and political philosophy for children.

  2. Stick with home schooling…

    A couple years ago (before the last federal election), my nieces informed their parents that they hoped Kevin Rudd won the election. You can’t shield your kids from the nonsense of politics – they’ll just be brainwashed by the left if you don’t inoculate.

  3. Yeah, but they grow up. I only know a handful of hardcore left wingers older than 25, hell, I was a socialist but I grew up and realised that the government was full of it and couldn’t handle transport properly, let alone health and education :/

  4. Terje, any book regarding free choice/ accepting others would be a good start. Some of them may even be written by lefties, but you can put “rights” in the appropriate context of “negative rights only” rather than having your kids start to believe in the fairy tale that is “positive rights”.

    Any stories teach about productivity, work ethic and self-made greatness are good, too.

    I’d advise against “Why Daddy is a Democrat”, though…

  5. Terje,

    Seven may be a bit young to teach him/her about discriminating thought, but it never hurts to start planting seeds about thinking for themselves, in the hope that by the time they are surfing the internet, they will be willing to research for themselves.

    The subject-at-hand is the most obvious one where I too see constant attempts at political indoctrination by the employees of the education system – and where I hope to encourage my girls to develop fully functioning BS radar !

    Makes you wonder how much other blatant political advocacy the kids are being immersed in ?

    Control of the education colleges was one of the first and most successful steps in the Long March through the institutions.

  6. The thing is I don’t think it comes from school teachers. I think it comes via the media, books, peers and a wild imagination.

    I’d really like a good introductory text that outlines rights based ethics versus utilatarianism, rules base and virtues based ethics. Not for babies but for beginners.

  7. I’ve been thinking about an income redistribution experiment with a bunch of M&Ms and a group of kids. It makes sense for a bunch of kind-hearted, innocent kids to share a gift of lollies, but what if one or two kids cleaned the room while the others did nothing? Would the cleaning kids be as happy to share then?

    Looking at the amount of tax taken from my first big full-time paycheck certainly was thought provoking for me. And getting kids thinking for themselves should be the goal.

  8. Terje, I read this a few years ago and liked it. “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey”

    It might be a little advanced for a 7 year old but it’s definitely designed for kids:
    http://www.jonathangullible.com/about.htm

    I think that philosophy and politics are just dogma until a person reaches their late teens early 20s and has a wider experience of the world and can integrate abstract ideas to their own life. But I don’t see the harm in exposing kids to some good ideas early on. At least then, they know where their parents stand and they can remember these arguments later in life.
    Politics is the most complex and advanced area of philosophy. It’s not really for kids.
    – But then again kids are getting brainwashed by their teachers and the crappy standards of epistemological theory in schools. So if I had kids, I’d definitely be trying to explain to them what I thought.

    Jonathon Guillible is a little like Guiliver’s travels.

  9. This book seems disgustingly even-handed! Watch out, or someone with the initials JJ will smite you with something called Climate-Audit! You have been warned!

  10. Aesop’s Fables – you can get an illustrated version for kids.

    Not all of the stories can be described as libertarian but they all make more sense than your usual leftist children’s books.

  11. Despite some basic errors, inflation of the relative importance of some pieces of evidence but not others, and references to US temperatures when all we are really concerned about is global ones, not too bad for Cato. I especially like the last paragraph – too often deep greens forget the massive benefits of capitalism and industrialisation, and only consider the costs.

    Nicky, you’re developing an unhealthy concern about what I think. Time to build a bridge, and get over it.

  12. And did everyone have a quiet chuckle at the Global Warming Activists who were snowed in, in Washington? God has a cool sense of humour!

  13. From JC’s link:

    Swanson thinks the trend could continue for up to 30 years. But he warned that it’s just a hiccup, and that humans’ penchant for spewing greenhouse gases will certainly come back to haunt us.

    “When the climate kicks back out of this state, we’ll have explosive warming,” Swanson said. “Thirty years of greenhouse gas radiative forcing will still be there and then bang, the warming will return and be very aggressive.”

  14. Fatty:

    What this lunatic is basically saying is that the models they have been using are basically useless for prediction. The models never predicted this amount of Co2 with no warming this decade.

    In other words they know little how the climate system works, which is why they’re pushing warming after another 30 years hiatus.

    It’s like the financial equivalent of removing the mark to market rule when things get ugly.

  15. “the models they have been using are basically useless for prediction”

    But he’s making his own prediction, presumably using a model. You can’t say models are bad based on another model! 😉

    Besides, the models have done quite well in some respects. They are certainly far from useless.

  16. Thanks for making my point.

    So we have a set of models telling us that we’re going to have .17degs of warming every decade and another set telling us that the warming has taken a holiday for the next 30 years.

    And we’re using this swill to formulate a pretty aggressive taxing/mitigation scheme?

    Is this a comedy skit your proposing?

  17. Jarrah, you are quite right, the models are far from useless, they are next to useless.

    Where is all this radiative forcing going to holiday for thirty years? Swanson is taking a wild punt, hoping to keep the AGW pot boiling despite 30 years of apparent contradiction. When will these clowns just give it up and except that the AGW hypothesis has failed the test of real world validation? They could always move onto Bertrand Russell’s Infraredioscope to scare the crap out of people and gain world power.

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