Thursday, 11 February 2010

Climate scepticism on the rise

Last week the BBC reported that climate scepticism is on the rise. Between November and February there was a 10% increase in the proportion of people who don't believe in global warming, from 15% to 25%. Now, why?

i) What we might call the no-brainer. We've had a cold winter in the UK. Therefore there is no global warming. With logic like that, it's no wonder we're still the world's greatest Empire.

ii) The "Climategate" emails. Why does every scandal have to have the word "gate" appended? I know, it's because of the Watergate building. Well maybe we should call it the "WaterClimate" conspiracy for a bit of variation. Was there anything to disprove global warming in these emails? Not really. Enough to paint the scientists concerned as human beings, i.e. not the ivory-tower ascetics we might have suspected they were. You didn't expect that? H'mm. Steve McIntyre's blog has good coverage of these (though some would say it is not entirely neutral). You can get the raw emails here.

iii) The Himalayan glaciers. The Internation Panel picked up on a story that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035 and put it in their state-of-the-end-of-the-world report. Trouble was, the story had no basis in science. Whoops.

iv) The slow drip of confusing allegations by sceptics. "The Proxy Data are wrong." "The Hockey Stick is an invention." "Carbon dioxide is already saturating in the atmosphere." "Use a trick to hide the decline." (the latter from the Climategate emails). (See ClimateAudit again for these; RealClimate has the orthodox view.

v)The UEA, host of the Hadley Centre (Climate Research place), found to have dealt wrongly with the Freedom of Information requests by sceptics searching for a global conspiracy.

Well, that's quite a bit of negative press. To address item i) alone for now. You know the problem? It's simple. If we have a mild winter, experts are wheeled out who say (or are made to say by journalists) things like "we'll expect more weather like this with climate change." Ditto summer heatwaves. They're due to global warming, as are storm surges and rainstorms leading to floods.

Then we have unseasonally cold weather, the folks in the public put two and two together and work out that the same causal attachment should be made between climate and all spells of weather, not just the ones that fit the picture that the media now expect. All of which is nonsense, but natural.

So next time there is a heatwave, listen out for any voices mentioning global warming. There will be some.

The other items on the list will have to wait for another day, but I will address them all in time.

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