Tag Archives: climate change

A look at the future of global warming. Our political response depends on its trend.

Summary: The degree of global warming during the next few years might have large political effects, as the public policy debate appears to be at a critical point in its 29th year (from Hansen’s Senate testimony). Will the pause resume, or will we get rapid warming? Close examination of the monthly data will give us clues about this important question.

Global Warming

How can we see the short-term temperature trend?

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Here are three different perspectives; all give roughly similar results. First, let’s look at a graph by NOAA of the global average surface temperature (their excellent interactive website shows data since the reliable instrument era began in 1880). The time period selected depends on what we are looking for. The following graph shows January’s. It minimizes the overall warming trend, which is concentrated in the months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

The warming since 1950 — the period in which over half of the warming comes from anthropogenic causes — occurred almost entirely in two steps: 1981-83 (near the 1979-83 El Niño period) and 1998-99 (near the 1997-98 El Niño).  Since then climate scientists have shown that the two century-long temperature rise has “paused” (aka the “hiatus”). There are various theories about the cause. Then came the spike of the 2015-2016 El Niño. The peak to peak rise, 1998 to 2016, was only 0.4°F.

What happens next? The El Niño might have been just a spike, after which temperatures will fall back to the 1998-2014 average — and the “pause” continues.  If temperatures don’t fall back to their previous levels, then we begin a new watch. Will the 2015-16 El Niño start another stair step, with temperatures flat at a new high level? Or will temperatures begin a steady rise? The one month anomalies provide an easy if rough way to see which of these three scenarios unfolds, each having different political implications. Unfortunately, climate models cannot yet make reliable predictions for five to ten years horizons

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A climate scientist assesses the threat of climate change

Summary: Eminent climate scientist Judith Curry gives a brief assessment of the threat of climate change, starting from first principles — such as the definition of “risk”. It is a timely reminder, as the debate about the public policy response to climate change moves into hysteria.

“US politics could be focused on preventing climate change from destroying all life on Earth. Instead, it’s focused on Vlad Putin & Nordstrom.”

— David Sirota on Twitter (74 thousand followers). He is a radio host based in Denver, nationally syndicated columnist, and Democratic political spokesperson. He says this often, ignoring those pointing out that the IPCC’s Working Group I’s reports say nothing remotely like that. See his Wikipedia entry.

Global Warming

 

The ‘threat’ of climate change

By Judith Curry,
Posted at Climate Etc, 29 January 2017.

Posted under a Creative Commons License

 

A major disconnect in the discourse surrounding climate change is interpretation of the ‘threat’ of climate change.

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle.  It was a very good meeting …One of the best things about such conferences is the opportunity for extended face to face discussions with other scientists.  I had one such discussion that triggered the theme for this post.  This scientist (who will remain unnamed) does not disagree with me about climate change science in any significant way, although he has more confidence in climate models than I do.  In particular, he has publicly discussed the uncertainty issue.

He doesn’t take the ‘heat’ that I do largely because, in spite of these substantial uncertainties, he makes statements about the ‘serious threat’ of climate change, substantial risk of dangerous or even calamitous impacts,  reducing this risk requires a reduction of carbon emissions.

We both agree that there is the ‘possibility’ of extreme impacts if the warming is on the high end of the model projections.  We agree that we can’t quantify the probability of such impacts; it is best to regard them as ‘possibilities.’

So, what is the differences in reasoning that lead us to different conclusions regarding policy responses?

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Climate activists’ final act, as they move into the last stage of grief

Summary: Trump’s election, solidifying the Republican’s dominance at all levels of the US government, has disheartened climate activists. A new article in The Atlantic attempts to build support, but only shows the weakness of their beliefs. Perhaps the skeptics have won this round of the climate wars, but only the weather will determine which side is correct.

Climate nightmares

For 29 years advocates for public policy changes to fight climate change have struggled to convince the US public to support their agenda. They have failed. Polls show it ranks near the bottom of American’s policy priorities, and the increasingly dominant Republican Party has little interest in their recommendations.

It’s taken a while, but it looks like climate activists have worked through the process of accepting their failure. Paul Rosenberg’s January 2 article at Salon and now Meehan Crist’s article at The Atlantic suggest activists are moving into the fourth stage of the Kübler-Ross process, depression — and their leading edge is moving into the final stage of acceptance — and finding new crusades to wage.

Rosenberg’s article is discussed here. Crist’s article is less interesting, mostly just the usual throwing chaff into debate. But it is revealing in its own way. The opening is a classic tactic by climate activists.

“There has been a subtle shift recently in the rhetoric of many conservative pundits and politicians around climate change. For decades, the common refrain has been flat-out denial — either that climate change is not happening, or that any change is not caused by human activity. Which is why viewers might have been surprised to see Tucker Carlson of Fox News nodding along thoughtfully on January 6 as climate scientist Judith Curry, a controversial figure in climate science, explained, ‘Yes it’s warming and yes humans contribute to it. Everybody agrees with that, and I’m in the 98% [of scientists who agree]. It’s when you get down to the details that there’s genuine disagreement.'”

The first point is an outright lie, evident from her failure to cite any examples. Only a tiny fraction of skeptics believe that “climate change is not happening,.” The climate is always changing. As for the second, there is a fringe among climate skeptics who believe that “any change is not caused by human activity.” But the debate for the past 29 years, since James Hansen warned the Senate in 1988, is and has been about how much of the past warming is anthropogenic — and about forecasts of future temperatures.  That’s true not just of skeptics (both scientists and laypeople), but among mainstream climate scientists as well. Let’s review the evidence, starting with what she said to Tucker Carlson.

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Put the stories about record 2016 warming in a useful context

Summary: Alarmists have gone hysterical about the third year of record global warming. Should we be hysterical? Fortunately NOAA and NASA provide graphics showing us the temperature record, so we can put the current warming in a larger context. The temperature trend is not the only piece in the climate change puzzle, but it’s an important one — worth taking a few minutes to understand. The climate does not care about our politics, and will have the last work in the policy debate.

Global Warming

Current trends: what’s the weather doing now?

The big news is that 2016 temperature anomaly was a record high: 0.07°F warmer than 2015 and 0.4°F warmer than the previous El Nino peak in 1998 (0.04 by the satellite data). Measuring temperatures from El Nino peak to peak is a crude but effect measure of warming because ENSO cycles are so powerful. NOAA “The global temperatures in 2016 were majorly influenced by strong El Niño conditions…“.UK Met Office: “A particularly strong El Niño event contributed about 0.2C to the annual average for 2016…

Also, neither increase is even close to statistically significant. The 2016 anomaly was 1.69°F  ±  0.27°F). Alarmists ignore the actual numbers, preferring to make alarming pronouncements about the coming climate apocalypse (vagueness is the alarmist’s best friend).

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Here are three different perspectives; all give roughly similar results. First, a graph by NOAA of the global average surface temperature in Decembers (their excellent interactive website shows data since the reliable instrument era began in 1880). This graph minimizes the overall warming trend, which is concentrated in the months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

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Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.

Summary: During the past two weeks I’ve posted much good news to help you prepare for the New Year. Concluding the series is the best news of all: a solid leftist declares an end to the planetary climate emergency! Solar and wind are replacing fossil fuels at an astonishing pace, sooner even than optimists expected when James Hansen began the climate crusade in 1988.

Good news about the climate

Donald Trump’s “carbon bubble” economy is bound to pop
— the only question is how bad it will be

“Trump’s economic policies are built on many flawed assumptions,
especially a fossil-fuel boom that won’t end well.”
By Paul Rosenberg at Salon, 2 January 2017.

Let’s go directly to the money paragraphs that give us the good news.

“The carbon bubble does exactly the same thing. It’s not just fossil fuel reserves that are overvalued by the bubble, but everything associated with the sector — pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. …

“The carbon bubble risk is only made worse by the fact that renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, and become increasingly competitive. Thus, even if those reserves were not unburnable because of their potential impact on climate change, they will become so for economic reasons in the next few decades. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recently released “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors” reported:

‘[T]he unsubsidized, levellized cost of electricity (LCOE) for utility scale solar photovoltaic, which was highly uncompetitive only five years ago, has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate, making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries. By 2020, solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.’

“Add to this the fact that renewable energy — particularly solar and wind — is a new technology sector, in which large efficiency gains are to be expected. That’s quite unlike the fossil fuel industry, whose costs are increasing because the cheap, easy-to-get fuel has already been burned. By 2030, renewables could well leave fossil fuels in the dust. …

“Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.”

This is the good news of the decade (even if bad news for fossil fuel investors)! For a decade climate activists have warned about the coming apocalypse from RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s AR5 report (often misrepresented as “business as usual” despite its unlikely assumptions). Almost all the articles you have read about the horrific effects of climate change assume the RCP8.5 scenario.

To learn about this possible future see “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011. It describes a hot dirty 21st century, in which coal use increases 5-fold to become the world’s major source of power (it’s a back to the 19thC future) — with the steepest increase coming after 2030. This graph shows energy use by fuel in 2100 for each of the four scenarios in AR5.

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A status report on global warming. Much depends on the next few years.

Summary: Alarmists went hysterical about the warming during the 2015-16 El Nino. In October the decline began from that spike. The climate policy debate might depend on what the world’s temperature does during the next year or so. Will the pause continue, or will warming resume? Here are several perspectives on the current warming, provided by NOAA and NASA.

775 degree warming

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— One of the most important conclusions of IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

This statement about past warming is important. But for making public policy decisions future warming we need to know the odds of various amounts of warming during the 21st century. There is no easy answer to this, let alone a consensus of climate scientists about it. So climate activists either ignore the research (such as the 4 scenarios described in AR5) or focus on the worst of these (the truly horrific RCP8.5) while ignoring its unlikely assumptions.

So far the weather has sided with the skeptics, with little of the extreme weather activists predicted. No surge of hurricanes after Katrina (despite the predictions). No sign of the methane monster. Northern hemisphere snow extent has risen since in both the Fall and the Winter. There is little evidence that we have passed one of the often declared “tipping points”.

So it is logical that — despite the efforts of government agencies, academia, and many ngo’s — the public’s policy priorities have been unaffected (details here). Republican control of the Presidency, Congress, and most States makes policy action almost impossible for the next 4 years (ceteris paribus). As a result, activists are going thru the 5 stages of grief for their campaign.

Current trends: what’s the weather doing now?

Both sides in the public policy climate wars obsess over short-term weather, even local weather. They rejoice over statistically insignificant changes in the global average temperature. They celebrate record highs and lows in obscure corners of the world. But there is a gram of sense in this, as short-term (decade long) trends have had great influence on the policy debate — and might bring decisive victory to either side (no matter what the climate does by 2050).

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Bob Tisdale produces a detailed monthly analysis. Here are some perspectives better suited for the general public. First, a graph by NOAA (excellent, as usual) clearly showing the trend since the reliable instrument era began in 1880. This graph exaggerates the flatness because warming is concentrated in months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

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What happens to the losers of the public debate about climate change?

Summary: Liberals believed that 2017 would mark a new start for US public policy to manage climate change. Now Conservatives agree, in a different sense. Both are wrong. The weather will determine who will win. The stakes for both sides are large (as are the possible effects on the world). The consequences for the losers will be severe. Just as we are unprepared for climate change (even repeat of past extreme weather), both sides are unprepared for defeat. This is an update and expansion of a post from March.

Cover of "Turning the Tide On Climate Change" by Robert Kandel

Cover of “Turning the Tide On Climate Change” by Robert Kandel (2009).

“The future is not what is coming at us, but what we are headed for.”
— Jean-Marie Guyau in Le Genèse de l’idée du temps, translated by Astragale.

The US public policy debate about climate has run for 28 years, from James Hansen’s famous Senate testimony to Trump’s threat to cut NASA’s climate research. This is one of the largest publicity campaigns in American history. Many people assume that US politics will determine the eventual winner, skeptics or alarmists. I disagree: the weather will determine who wins the public policy debate.

So far the weather has sided with the skeptics, with little of the extreme weather activists predicted. No surge of hurricanes after Katrina (despite the predictions). No sign of the methane monster; little evidence that we have passed the long-predicted tipping points. So, despite the efforts of government agencies, academia, and many ngo’s, the public’s policy priorities have been unaffected (see yesterday’s post). As a result, activists are going thru the 5 stages of grief for their campaign.

Global surface temperatures, flattish for 14 years (except for the 2015-16 El Nino).
October 2016 shows the El Nino spike, but exaggerates the recent flatness.
Warming is concentrated in months of May, June, & July.

NOAA Global temperature anomalies: October

From NOAA. Temperature in October of each year. Reference period is the 20th century.

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