Is this what global warming is like?

I look out of my window to see my garden frozen solid, covered in frost and snow. It is April 7th, and I have just turned the heating up.
Will the government please give us some accurate figures of temperature trends over the last 100 years, given the disputes we read about over the very simple question “Has it been getting warmer or not?”

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22 Comments

  1. Posted April 7, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    You could start by getting the Hadley Centre to release the exact data and algorithms they use to calculate their global average temperature series. NASA GISS, the other organisation that produces a global average temperature estimate, released their data and algorithms and third party analysis has found several mistakes. To date, the Hadley Centre has only published a list of which climate stations they use.

  2. Posted April 7, 2008 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    It would help if the Met Office's Hadley Centre could be persuaded to release their raw data and the code for the computer programs which convert it to the adjusted figures which are published.

    It's useful to note that in NASA's figures for the USA, the warming trend is due solely to the adjustments made to the data. The trend in the raw figures is flat.
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2007/7/22/

  3. Posted April 7, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    You will need to look elsewhere than the government for an honest answer to your very pertinent question.

  4. Posted April 7, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    The trouble is, there aren't any! All contemporary-measurement data sets over that period are open to challenge one way or another. Example problems include: changes in local microclimate near a measuring station due to local development creating a 'heat island'; moving a measuring station; and, the best of all, if you just average all measurements across the globe you should allow for the closure of all the old Soviet measuring stations in the Arctic (all with low temperatures, so their closure in the 1990s creates a false illusion of average global warming). One of the reasons Al Gore's data are so fatuous is that his sources failed to do the last of these. It is only very recently that satellite measurement has begun to give us accurate information, and while it's too early to draw conclusions or extrapolate a definitive trend all the indications are that there is no justification at all for all the scare-mongering. Even when we have data, predictive temperature modelling based on an inadequate understanding of the physics underlying climate will inevitably give us bad results on the 'rubbish in, rubbish out' principle. All we can say for certainty is that the climate always changes, and the period we're now in is neither extremely hot nor extremely cold by historical standards. Until we understand the physics, we can't do more and it's foolish to base high-impact government policies on guesswork.

  5. Posted April 7, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Its not global warming any more, its climate change. Climate change means we must dump all electric items, all modes of transport except walking, and move into a cave – although don't start a campfire, that will get you a fine. They've renamed it climate change so they are right if it gets warmer and right if it gets colder, they're right if they're right and right if they're wrong.

  6. Posted April 7, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I don't think there are indisputable figure over that period. The best estimates probably come from satellite readings (not going very far back) & tree ring growth. Official readings are certainly wrong since so many of them are taken from recording stations which were in the countryside a century ago but have been urbanised. These records corrected for this effect by the US show 1934 as the warmest year 7 the 1930s as the warmest decade but this correction has been done for figures outside the US.
    http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2007/08/off

    In any case the worst that has been claimed by alarmists is that there has been a 0.6 C rise over the century & since we are still about 2 C below historic maxima the catastrophe theory depends, not on current measures but on the theory that there is currently an unequalled rate of massive warming going on (the Hockey Stick theory). Not only has that theory been proven mathematically fraudulent (I use the term advisedly) but, as you point out, reality is failing to comply.

  7. Posted April 7, 2008 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Brian, you would need to look elsewhere than the government for an honest answer to ANY question.

  8. Posted April 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Neil Craig: "The best estimates probably come from satellite readings (not going very far back) & tree ring growth."

    There was an article over on the excellent whatsupwiththat website,
    http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/

    at least I think it was there, anyway, the article put forward the idea that tree rings are not so much a proxy for temperature, but water.

  9. Posted April 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Even with the excellent (and hitherto unknown to me) points made by Chris H and Bishops Hill, isn't it the case that there have been no temperature increases at all in the last decade? Further, wasn't the warmest decade of the twentieth century the 1930's?

    The Mann hockey stick graph is widely discredited and facts which didn't suit the scare-mongering were ignored, but if I may, here is the reality.

    If you were a government minister, given absolute 100% proof that the whole global warming thing was nonsense, would you

    (a) Go on TV and honestly admit you mistake, thereby calling into question your judgement and competence, as well as the fact you wasted £50B by signing the world up to Kyoto. Would you realise that all the green taxes like fuel duty, road tax, air passenger tax etc were based on nonsense and immediately cut them and return the revenue raised on false pretences, would you accept you no longer had a reason to "morally" tax people or lecture them or seek to restrict their freedom, or would you
    (b) Realise global warming is a handy stick to beat people with into accepting higher taxes, less freedom and a weapon to create general fear, uncertainty and reliance on the government, as well as it being a fantastic Trojan horse for otherwise failed and discredited socialist policies. Would you therefore decide to cling to ths nonsense because your entire political career depends on it.

    Thus, the position of the government.

    Reply: That is how it comes across – another way to tax us.

  10. Posted April 7, 2008 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    According to our local harbour master there has been no change in the sea level within living memory. He has got a big white post he swears by. So unless the post is being push upwards…….

  11. Posted April 7, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, it is far more likely that Labour saw global warming as an excuse to impose stealth taxes than the current phase of climate change being caused by carbon emissions.

    Let me rephrase that slightly – it is a certainty that Labour viewed global warming as an excuse to impose further stealth taxes, whereas it is a current argument that global warming is caused by carbon emissions.

    Let me elaborate – anyone who believes that the motivation for Labour's tax program has any true virtue hasn't lived in this country for the last ten years. Anyone who has lived here knows that the weather is as unpredicatable as ever, and that a sceptical public has awoken to Labour's lies.

    The only iceberg Gordon Brown could be worried about is the one for which his Labour ship is unerringly aimed as he busily rearranges the deckchairs. However, the Titanic scraped past its fatal iceberg whereasBrown will ram straight into his version of the same.

  12. Posted April 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Hayek said (in ‘the Constitution of Liberty’) said the feature he objected to most in conservatism was ‘its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it’. ‘By refusing to face the facts’ he said (referring to Darwinism as an example), ‘the conservative only weakens his own position’.

    It may be that the evidence for climate change is weaker than that for evolution, or that there is simply not enough fossil fuel to burn to realise dire predictions projected for hundreds of years from now, but to me it makes little difference. I prefer to breathe clean air and drink clean water to polluted. What I do reject as a fallacy is that it is only through global action that we can tackle these problems. London still retains a reputation as a smoggy city, but one day in Bombay or Shanghai should be enough to convince anyone that that the effects of pollution are strongest close to the source of the pollution and that much can be achieved by local regulations such as we have in this country. I see no reason why we should wait to deploy clean technologies here on the grounds that other countries, that cannot afford them, have not signed up to Kyoto or other international agreements. If we all care for our own neighbourhood the world will take care of itself.

  13. Posted April 7, 2008 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    apl thanks for the link, I stand corrected about rainfall being important.

    Stuart
    c) Change the name (always an option with a failing brand) to "climate change"and hope the public have as short term a memory as the media, who after all have a similar disincentive to admit to being wrong.

    The inertia of human societies to keep driving in the wrong direction, indeed to accelerate & abuse any heretic who disagrees is one of the big problems with human society & is caused by this inability to admit error.

    Medieval witchburnings, market peaks & crashes, ( a couple of items left out – ed) certainly the global warming scare story can all be put down to this phenomenon. Mankind evolved as a herd animal, we follow the herd leader & he has to make sure he is going in the direction we are.

  14. Posted April 7, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    That's a very good question. There has been some warming in places, but not in others. Average global temperature is a pretty meaningless figure, which is always going to be disputed for all the reasons on the other posts.

    The climate change CO2 theory is attractive to the third world and India and China, as it allows them to blame the West for their adverse climate, even some form of reparations has been suggested. If there was a real crisis demanding immediate drastic cuts in CO2 emissions, then haggling over who makes the biggest cuts would be futile.

    The West should have none of this and insist that all countries come to the table with a clean slate. I predict that this would lead to no agreement. This shows that the world's leaders are not serious about the impending disaster. It is simply another political bargaining chip.

    If the climate fails to show the predicted warming, the theory will fade away.

  15. Posted April 7, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    If all this climate charge stuff is utter nonsense then why are the Conservatives pledging to fund any tax cuts via hikes in green taxes rather than taking an axe to welfare dependency ( i.e. tax credits & incapacity benefit that tie people to Labour's client state ) and the waste of money on 800,000 extra public sector workers many of dubious value to people who pay taxes & £123 billion p/a spent on the QUANGO state ( that benefits Labour supporters ) ? Tax credits could be axed to fund higher child benefit !Let the the Lib Dems pledge to hike green taxes to fund keeping the 10p tax band if they want to fly in the face of reality ! Why not slash QUANGO's by 20% over six years and put the £25 billion or so saved into raising the basic personal allowance ? That would aid the bottom 20% who pay more tax than the top 20% ( according to income ) and middle class familes who paid 36% of their income in tax ten years ago and now that figure is 54%. Just as people are waking up to the fact that higher public spending does not work & that green taxes are just an excuse to tax us more why are the Tories attacking Labour while at the same time pledging to stick to their fiscal policy ? Time for a rethink ! By all means tax plastic bags out of exsistence as they ruin the countryside & kill animals when we do not need them anyway & the UK is running out of landfill space – Eire is a successful low tax economy and they manage without plastic bags . Green charities can always do with the money from charging for bags as they can provide a better quality of life with more sports facilities for youngsters etc..

    So the plastic bags need to go for reasons of protecting the countryside that has suffered from global warming & my grandparents generation got the shopping home without them so why not swallow our pride & learn from previous generations who had more sense than the throwaway society that the 1960's produced ! Recycling is good as if we want higher consumption rates than we need to re-use as much as possible as landfill space is limited in a country that can be fitted into Texas three times over while fly-tipping ruins our rural areas & the seas and animals suffer . My ideas are evidence based and mean no potty New Labour style nonsense but instead produce less poverty, lower taxes & smaller government and less litter !

  16. Posted April 8, 2008 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Neil,

    "c) Change the name (always an option with a failing brand) to “climate change”"

    Help me to understand why you think that climate change is a new term. For example, what do you think the letters CC in IPCC (formed in 1988) stand for?

    For extra points, who wrote this in 2003:

    We have spent the last seven years examining how best to communicate complicated ideas and controversial subjects. The terminology in the upcoming environmental debate needs refinement, starting with “global warming” and ending with “environmentalism,” It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation.

    1. “Climate change’’ is less frightening than “global warming ” As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

  17. Posted April 8, 2008 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    The following things can be believed in by everyone:
    1. (SOME OF? -ED)the people who are behind climate change/global warming are fanatics. I did some work on this on websites and got struck off very quickly. So did everyone else who was reasonable. Green issues (of which this is now one) is taught in schools, you know, with the same fervor that other leftie ideas are taught and absorbed. I was horrified, for instance, to hear my daughter in law (well almost) banging on about it over lunch yesterday. She was (UNPREPARED TO CONSIDER OTHER ARGUMENTS – ED – TO HELP YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HER!). That was worrying. The general idea is that you just listen and then are converted. Argument is seen as either ridiculous or else plain rude.
    This fanaticism means that converts are economical with the truth. Al Gore and the hockey stick, or the correlation between co2 and the ice in the poles is another example. It is an almost religious atmosphere which is totally unscientific – although it pretends to be.
    2. The government is on and on about it (as is the BBC) as if it were common sense. It isn't. Also, have you noticed, Europe, too has begun to bang on about global warming and climate change and also limiting co2 emissions etc.
    3. Nobody, whatever their position in authority, has done a damn thing in their personal lives to address the problem. Oh, sorry, I forgot the Leader of the Opposition's windmill!
    I don't think anyone can disagree with anything I have said in this – can they? So let's raise a glass to George Bush who behaved so sanely at Kyoto shall we?

  18. Posted April 8, 2008 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Neil

    It's interesting you mention witch burnings. I saw a youtube video recently, and a climatologist was making the comparison between witches who were burned in the sixteenth century for "weather cooking" and blaming people who drive larger cars today for seemingly erratic weather. I'll see if I can find the link and with JR's permission, post it here.

  19. Posted April 8, 2008 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    When all the furore started about global warming, my first thought was stealth taxes. I still don't think I was wrong.

  20. Posted April 8, 2008 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Actually blaming CO2 on all the ills of the Western World is just another symptom of the decline of reasoned thought in the "political elite" . Its their "hair shirt" for our succesfull past.

    Until we start being governed by statesmen and not schoolboys, we will only decline even more. "Global Warming" is a tool by the new autocrats to control the population.

    Argumentum ad hominem:
    Listen to the language of the "alarmists" and you will soon see that their "evidence" is weak. Anyone who stiffles debate is not only unsure of his argument but also a bully.

    Ronald Reagen and Mrs Thatcher defeated communism, but the "Global Warming" movement is far worse and more dangerous to our liberty, and when the conservatives actually try to be one up on the greens on who can cut the most "emmisions", then we are really in trouble. Alas, I can see no great statesman (or woman) in the wilderness to save us this time.

  21. Posted April 8, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    You may find this speech by Margaret Thatcher in 1990 interesting. She uses the term Climate Change. And you should trust her – not only was she a Conservative Prime Minister, but also a scientist. And how many Tory cabinet ministers have been trained scientists?

    http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=108237

    Some quotes from Margaret’s speech:

    “Many of the precautionary actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event. It is sensible to improve energy efficiency and use energy prudently; it’s sensible to develop alternative and sustainable and sensible … it’s sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it’s sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it’s sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it’s sensible to tackle the problem of waste. I understand that the latest vogue is to call them ‘no regrets’ policies. Certainly we should have none in putting them into effect.

    “And our uncertainties about climate change are not all in one direction. The IPCC report is very honest about the margins of error. Climate change may be less than predicted. But equally it may occur more quickly than the present computer models suggest. Should this happen it would be doubly disastrous were we to shirk the challenge now. I see the adoption of these policies as a sort of premium on insurance against fire, flood or other disaster. It may be cheaper or more cost-effective to take action now than to wait and find we have to pay much more later.”

    Way ahead of her time.

  22. Posted April 9, 2008 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Frank o Dwyer: "Help me to understand why you think that climate change is a new term."

    It really doesn't matter that it is new or old, it has gained currency in the last few years to become a term used frequently by the talking heads on MSM and and a rag tag of politicians. 'Global warming' is not so frequently used as it once was? These fads and fashions change, like the weather.

    So it is new in so far as it is more frequently used in discussion and propaganda about planetary climate than say, 5 years ago.

    "Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt", was a headline from the Washington Post* – dated from November 2nd 1922. But it could have been cribbed directly by any of a modern twenty first century copywriter. Of course glaciers have been retreating for hundreds of thousands of years, they have also been advancing for about the same amount of time too. Seals have mysteriously reappeared after their 1922 vanishing act, and well, we still despite the doom mongering, we still have icebergs. Icebergs being, by and large the most obvious manifestation of the retreat of the floating ice shelf during the normal seasonal variation of temperature most of us otherwise know as 'summer'.

    Five hundred years ago, we would all have been herded into the churches and told by the clergy that the unseasonal weather was because we have sinned. It was nonsense then and it is nonsense today, the only difference is the clergy have changed, but the new priests are still trying to scare everyone into the cathedral of environmentalism.

    *thanks to the fine whatsupwiththat web blog

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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