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Following the science round and round

07 Jun 2023 | OP ED Watch

Steve Milloy drew our attention to a 2015 posting by the all-in-on-man-made-climate-change National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asking why global warming appeared to stop since the turn of the century. And just when they had an answer all worked out, the warming started up again, requiring an update, and then another, to keep backfilling the story. But nothing can get around the key point: atmospheric CO2 continued to rise, indeed rose faster than at any point since 1850 yet the increase in temperature stopped. All the other stuff they said doesn’t matter just refused to not matter.

NOAA stated, circa 2015,

“Since the turn of the century… the change in Earth’s global mean surface temperature has been close to zero. Yet despite the halt in acceleration, each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.”

The second sentence is of course a piece of desperation. Naturally it has been, because there was a long gentle natural rise in temperature from the end of the Little Ice Age. So when it stopped, it stopped at a higher level than the chilly 1840s. The crucial point is the first sentence. NOAA tried to staple it together even then:

“The most likely explanation for the lack of significant warming at the Earth’s surface in the past decade or so is that natural climate cycles – a series of La Niña events and a negative phase of the lesser-known Pacific Decadal Oscillation – caused shifts in ocean circulation patterns that moved some excess heat into the deep ocean. Even so, recent years have been some of the warmest on record, and scientists expect temperatures will swing back up soon.”

Again, the business about recent years is just another way of saying that after a long natural warming it’s warmer than it was before when it was cooler. And “scientists expect” is a hypothesis not an established fact (both about what “scientists” actually expect and what will actually happen). But it’s legerdemain to blame natural cycles for cooling and human activity for warming.

Now they’ve added more staples, with an editor’s note saying:

“Since this article was last updated, the slowdown in the rate of average global surface warming that took place from 1998–2012 (relative to the preceding 30 years) has unequivocally ended. Scientists have learned more about the physical factors that contributed to the short-term trend, and they have documented the continued build up in sub-surface ocean heat during the period.”

Well, yes and no. What happened is that La Niña gave way to El Niño. But if the former is part of natural climate cycles in which it alternates with the latter, then the latter is part of those same cycles in which it alternates with the former, as even a scientist can see unless they are also a zealot.

Speaking of zealotry, the bit about having “documented the continued build-up in sub-surface ocean heat” is also a piece of desperate dogmatic thrashing. Actually we know stunningly little about how the ocean absorbs and gives off heat including those famous currents, including how long the process takes, and have virtually no data on what was going on there in the past.

Now here’s some data we do have. First, the actual recent warming of the oceans is not as large as alarmists claim. And second, the University of Alabama Huntsville satellite temperature series, which as we’ve explained elsewhere is the best available on atmospheric temperature, showed that as of April 2023 the planet was 0.18°C above the average from 1991-2020, and from 1998 on there has been no meaningful increase. The hiatus has not ended, which simply cannot be reconciled with the theory that atmospheric CO2 drives temperature because the latter has kept rising.

Among the minor points on which debate might usefully take place is that the famous Vostok ice cores suggest that atmospheric CO2, rather than driving temperature, lags it by about 800 years. So what we might really be seeing in the atmosphere isn’t the result of humans’ feeble contribution to the carbon cycle being in some strange way indigestible unlike the much larger natural amount (which really is implied by the pseudoscientific notion that all the natural stuff is absorbed whereas half the human contribution lurks causing disaster), but the oceans degassing in response to the Medieval Warm Period.

A much less minor point is that if you look at the long run, at centuries, millennia and millions of years, you find no evidence at all that CO2 drives temperature. And under the Doctrine of Uniformity fundamental to the scientific method, the laws of physics, chemistry and causation must remain constant or experiment and observation yield no knowledge. So if CO2 wasn’t driving temperature in 2023 BC, it can’t be doing it now.

Debating such things is hard. But not because “scientists say”. Because what we have is people so certain that man is heating the planet that they will twist any data that comes their way into confirmation. As with those who hypothesized that “phlogiston“ with negative mass escaped during combustion to explain why things got heavier when they burned, they’ll put that excess heat they know we’re generating somewhere you can’t see it to explain why you couldn’t see it, then claim they see it there.

Note that when the planet seemed not to be warming, they had an explanation that humans were warming it anyway. And when it seemed to start warming again, they dumped that explanation like a load of old fish heads and said yeah, told you so all along. And that the chart “Yearly surface temperature anomalies since 1880” in the original article also showed no warming from 1940 to 1977, though CO2 was rising, they simply passed over in silence. Instead they told readers to ignore any contrary data and focus on the real presence of man-made warming behind the veil of fluctuation:

“The long-term trend – change over the course of a century or more – is what defines ‘global warming,’ not the change from year to year or even decade to decade. Rising emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution explain most of the overall warming trend over the past century, and the rate of emissions has not slowed significantly in the recent past. So what else has been going on in the climate system over the past decade that could account for the pause in Earth’s surface warming trend?”

Whereupon they launch into their mental gymnastics to avoid questions like whether the much smaller amounts of man-made CO2 released between, say, 1910 and 1940 could really have produced warming as fast as that from 1980 to 2000, while the intermediate amounts between 1940 and 1980 could have produced none at all.

In its own way it’s impressive. Both the mental gymnastics and the sublime assurance. But it all comes down to whether the Earth keeps heating as atmospheric CO2 rises. If it doesn’t, the theory is wrong, and all your cleverness is sophistry.

4 comments on “Following the science round and round”

  1. "So what we might really be seeing in the atmosphere isn’t the result of humans’ feeble contribution to the carbon cycle ... but the oceans degassing in response to the Medieval Warm Period."
    I've been saying that for years. The numbers make sense. Problem is that the human race's rather small amount of CO2 output (on a global scale) has been conflated by the media et al. into an enormous problem which has given so-called democratic governments an excuse to act like tyrants unaccountable to anybody but themselves.

  2. ‘There is no climate crisis’ by David Craig provides an excellent summary of all the climate sophistry over the last 50 years. Well worth reading.

  3. I believe in anthropogenic global warming because , uh because it's really, uh awful and stuff.

  4. One of the few articles here not worth recommending.
    The relationship of CO2 and temperature in the ice core era is unrelated to adding manmade CO2 to the atmosphere. ... The fact that the global average temperature does not always rise when CO2 is rising does not prove rising CO2 can not impede Earth's ability to cool itself. The global average temperature is the net result of all local, regional and global climate change variables. The CO2 level is one of many variables, and not the temperature control knob. ... Nature (oceans, land and plants) ais a net CO2 absorber, INCLUDING the CO2 effects of ocean warming and underseas volcanoes ... Since about 1850, humans have added about +250ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere, and atmospheric CO2 increased by about +140ppm, meaning that nature absorbed about 110ppm of those manmade CO2 emissions. It is very unlikely that the +50% increase of CO2 since the mid-1800s had no effect on the global average temperature. Of course whatever effect CO2 did have was harmless.

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