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Questioning Global Warming

2013 April 28
by sonicsuns

(I made errors in the first version of this post. Please see the updates below.)

The IPCC is, by far, the most prestigious scientific organization when it comes to Global Warming. I have long had faith in the IPCC, and in the idea that human-caused Global Warming is a serious problem that needs to be addressed soon.

But suddenly, I have doubts. I came across two articles recently that appear to prove that the IPCC has a terrible track record at predicting Global Warming. Namely, they claim that the IPCC has been predicted far more warming than has actually occurred. Furthermore, they claim that average global surface temperatures have scarcely risen (on average) for over 10 years. If true, these results throw the entire field of Climate Science into question.

The articles are here and here.

First graph:

Second graph, which deals with the 2007 AR4 report:

Important note: I don’t have reason to believe that either of these sources are especially trustworthy. But they claim to be getting their data from great sources, including the IPCC itself and the Met Office in Britain.

The big question is this: Are these graphs based on real data?

If the articles are simply making stuff up based on nothing (which certainly happens sometimes), then we have nothing to worry about. But if this is the real, actual data…then Global Warming appears to be tiny compared to what we expected.

The temperature data appears to be confirmed here, at least mostly.

One of the scientists from the DailyMail article says he was misrepresented…but his response never seems to refute the idea that the IPCC has been wrong four times in a row (95% confidence range!). He says that the “highest-response models” are “looking iffy”, which seems to indicate that, yes, errors have been made…and then he fails to address the magnitude of the errors alleged in the DailyMail article, which he is responding to.

I’ve tried searching for articles by climate scientists who refute these findings. I haven’t found much.

Michael Lemonick, a journalist, writes that surface temperatures have indeed stayed pretty steady for the last ten years. He says that although the surface temperatures haven’t been increasing, the ocean has been absorbing an unusual amount of heat. He says that the heat in the ocean will eventually return to the air around us, causing a quick increase in temperature. I can see how that might be true…but why didn’t the IPCC see this coming? The graphs above show confidence intervals for 95%. Is this ocean phenomenon really so rare? And how do you explain the IPCC being wrong 4 times in a row over several years?

I’m wary of post-hoc explanations. Perhaps the ocean argument is true, but perhaps it’s merely speculative (and wrong). Perhaps the climate scientists were simply wrong to begin with, and now they’re convincing themselves that it’s ok, because of this new development with the oceans. But if we don’t understand the oceanic absorption of heat well enough to account for the climate over a 10-year period…what else don’t we understand? I mean really, you’re not supposed to exit the 95% range four times in a row. That really indicates that the system is more complex than you realized.

Some may say that the long-term predictions of the IPCC will still come true, even though the short-term trends have failed. But how can we know? What reason do we have to trust the IPCC, considering their failures thus far?

Reuters, which I consider trustworthy, chimes in with this article: Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown
There’s a response here, and a response to that response here.

Reuters dismisses the idea that the warming slowdown has been caused by a slowdown in carbon emissions, saying “Greenhouse gas emissions have hit repeated record highs with annual growth of about 3 percent in most of the decade to 2010, partly powered by rises in China and India. World emissions were 75 percent higher in 2010 than in 1970, UN data show.”

So…emissions are going up, but global warming is slowing down…and as far as I can tell, the graphs I showed earlier really did display real data, and the IPCC does in fact have a terrible track record with its predictions.

So…have we been wrong? All this time? I don’t know. If we have been wrong, three things:

  1. Yay! No more climate crisis!
  2. Oh crap, we’ve been misleading people all this time…
  3. We had better change some of these laws we set up!

I do not make any strong conclusions simply on the basis of these graphs. Considering the sheer weight of scientific consensus that “Global Warming is a big deal and we need to address it now”, I simply say that I have doubts about Global Warming. If I had the power to do so, I’d send out journalists and scientists to re-evaluate all the data we have, and figure out exactly what we do and don’t know, and where we have and haven’t been wrong. I wish the president or somebody would launch a serious investigation of this, and figure out exactly what is going on.

And if, in fact, we’ve been wrong all this time…we need to face that. There’s no point in ignoring reality. That’s not how science works.

Always check the data. Always admit to the truth. Even when it’s inconvenient.


Here’s another graph, from the same source as the first graph above:

Notice how the black line is higher than it was originally. Also, look at the brackets on the right side that indicate the confidence ranges of the reports. In most cases the black line still resides on the lower side of things, which indicates that the IPCC has indeed overpredicted Global Warming. But at least it’s in the ranges, instead of being below them entirely. And in the case of SAR, the black line seems to fit perfectly!

I don’t know why this graph is different from its predecessor. They’re from the same source, after all. Is this one just using a different sort of analysis, perhaps? Or has someone been sloppy?

Update 2: It seems the first graph simply drew a line between the first and last datapoints. Since 2012 was unusually cold, this brought the line lower. The second graph is more of a best-fit scenario considering all of the data, which makes the second graph more authoritative. (Climate change should always be measured according to long-term trends.) So the climate-skeptic case is weaker than I first thought when I wrote this post, but it’s still a lot stronger than I would have expected prior to seeing any of this data.

Update 3: The BBC chimes in: Climate Slowdown. It says that warming has indeed slowed down, and describes this trend as “unexplained”. It says that this new data lowers the probable short-term temperature forecast, but that the long-term forecast remains unchanged. But it’s really unclear about what counts as “short term” and “long term” in this context. The best I can figure is that “short term” runs to maybe 2100 (or maybe not as far as that), and “long term” is thousands of years. I think we can safely ignore any climate problems that won’t crop up for more than a century. After all, after a whole century has gone by, who knows what technology we might have? Carbon scrubbing could be simple, at that point.

I’m still not sure what to think about all this…

Update 4: A blog called ClimateDepot has published a long post on the (alleged) state of the science. Can this blog be trusted? I don’t know. But it links to other sources. Notably, it linked to an article where James Lovelock, a scientist, admitted that his earlier views of the climate had been “alarmist”. (Though his views had been really extreme to begin with.) More notably, Dr. Ivar Giaever, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, is mentioned as a firm skeptic of global warming. Physicist Hal Lewis felt similarly, until his death in 2011. There’s also a page on Dr. Lennart Bengtsson, formerly of the IPCC, who is also skeptical. (Many of his quotes are poorly translated, though.) Matt Ridley weighs in here.

All told, I’m still not sure what’s going on. It’s very difficult to keep track of all the different sources, and their various degrees of (possible) bias, and to adjust for degrees of certainty, and the difference between “The earth will heat up by one degree” vs. “The earth will heat up by one degree if X amount of carbon is emitted within Y amount of time.”, and to judge the accuracy of the latter statement when in fact we’ve emitted L amount of carbon within M amount of time.

It’s very confusing.

Update 5:

Here’s an article with plenty of graphs, describing the earth’s temperature according to various databases: Ten years of ‘accelerated global warming’ ? If this data can be trusted, it’s clear that global warming actually ended back in 1996, and the trend is actually slight cooling over the last 10 years.

We could imagine a situation in which global warming pauses for 16 years and then starts up again in earnest. But do we know that this will happen? What do we actually know, and what is speculation?

President Obama recently said that warming has accelerated over the last 10 years. If this data is correct, then Obama is utterly wrong. And if he’s utterly wrong, that demonstrates a disturbing disregard for the facts on his part.

What’s going on here? Is all this data simply wrong? Is it made up? Has it been misinterpreted somehow? Or is Anthropogenic Global Warming simply a crackpot theory, which persists despite massive contradictory evidence?

By the way, the initial graph for this post displayed confidence ranges of 90%, not 95%. I was wrong about that.

But still, I have great doubts about Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Update 6:

Some videos from Anthony Watt:

He posted a guest post about climate science here.

Update 7:
(4 January 2014)

Want to see a big technical post with lots of raw data? Here is is:

And here’ a year-end summary from Anthony Waats:

*sigh* At this point, I qualify as a Global Warming Skeptic. Call me a “denier” if you like. But I just don’t see how the mainstream theory can be reconciled with the data.

Here’s my rough sketch of the situation:

  • The earth is getting warmer. Slowly.
  • The earth will probably continue to get warmer over the next century. Slowly.
  • The current rate of warmth is not going to cause major problems. Our warmth-related problems will be minor.
  • The rate of warming is not likely to accelerate to such a degree that it produces major problems anytime during the next century.
  • Carbon, along with other man-made greenhouse gasses which we currently know of, has some power to warm the climate. But the effect is small. Perhaps it is so small as to be completely negligible.
  • The mainstream scientific community has it wrong. We all jumped onto a bandwagon, and we lost our impartiality.
  • I believe that believers in Global Warming are generally good people who honestly want to improve the world, and their biases are generally subconscious. This is not, as some right-wingers allege, a grand scheme to reduce our freedoms. This is largely a case of well-intentioned passion which overpowers our ability to think clearly.
  • Environmentalism in general is not rendered false simply because Global Warming is false. But we should re-evaluate each part of environmentalism individually, to see what does and does not make sense.

I admit I may be wrong. But this is my position at the moment.

Update 8:

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change is a skeptical organization.

More data:

BBC shows some dissent within the IPCC:

Update 9:

Dr. Judith Curry, a climatologist, speaks out:

The more I research climate change, the more skeptical I get.

Update 10:

Nigel Lawson weighs in: Cool It

(last updated 4 May 2014)

2 Responses
  1. Jim Cripwell permalink
    April 23, 2014

    What took you so long?

    • April 23, 2014

      What, have you been waiting for me to make this post? I first posted it last year, actually.

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