The denier web has been alive with excitement over the past week about a presentation by the German meteorologist Dr. Mojib Latif, who told a recent scientific meeting in Geneva that he expects a temporary lull in global warming.
One of the National Post’s most vigorous climate change deniers, Lorne Gunter, grabbed onto this story in a celebratory column titled: Global Warming Takes a Break. But Gunter has not suddenly decided to take science seriously. He dismissed as somehow unknowable Latif’s ultimate conclusion: that climate change is a real and pressing problem and that even if global temperature increases stall, they will inevitably resume.
Nope. Gunter doesn’t want to listen to a whole scientific sentence: but he’s willing to bet our lives on a fragment that bolsters his own agenda.
Actually, on the question of betting, this isn’t the first time that Latif has suggested that a change in the ocean currents in the North Atlantic may cause a short-term global cooling. He made a similar argument last year as one of the authors of a letter to the prestigious journal Nature. At that time, the scientists at RealClimate.org responded by first questioning Latif’s conviction and then testing the strength of that conviction with the offer of a small wager (at first €2500 and finally, any bet of the Nature authors’ choosing). Not surprisingly, there were no takers. Latif and company have a tidy little experiment, demonstrating the potential for a short-term lull in warming, but they aren’t prepared to bet on its accuracy.
Not to be outdone in the campaign to muddy the waters, the thin-skinned Anthony Watts at WattsUpWithThat.com, found a way to connect the Latif paper with the work of another quibbler, the astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark. Svensmark has long suffered under the weight of that chip on his shoulder: he seems to think that climate scientists don’t take his work seriously enough and that scientific funders favour atmospheric physicists, shortchanging scientists who want to blame as much as possible on the activities of the sun.
There is, however, no reason to dismiss ether Latif or Svensmark. Ocean currents and solar flares will continue to affect the global climate. So will volcanoes, meteors and other often unpredictable inputs. But that doesn’t change the underlying problem of anthropogenic climate change. Humans are digging carbon out of the ground and setting it on fire, dangerously changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and contributing to the earth’s capacity to trap heat.
Svensmark wouldn’t deny it. Latif has pointed specifically to the risk. In light of that, how on earth could anyone take Lorne Gunter even a tiny bit seriously?