Skeptics Need to Chill About Global Cooling

Like a bad horror movie villain, global cooling is the skeptic meme that just won’t die. The latest “respectable” media figure to perpetrate that myth is Newsweek and The Washington Post columnist George F. Will, who wrote a global warming piece last Sunday that was roundly denounced by scientists and bloggers alike for its gross factual errors.

The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has been doing yeoman’s work cataloguing the many obvious inaccuracies over the last few days – you can see the latest tally here, courtesy of Think Progress – even going so far as to offer Will’s editors, who have yet to issue an apology or revise the original column, a perfectly acceptable correction.

While I would expect such antics from Will, a well-known conservative and global warming skeptic, I find it deeply disturbing, albeit not entirely surprising, that the editorial board of one of the country’s most prominent newspapers would refuse to admit such a flagrant mistake – let alone publish such garbage in the first place – and issue an immediate correction. I understand that many media “elites” still bristle at the notion that blogging has become a respectable platform – hence their well-worn aversion to responding to criticisms from bloggers – but ignoring actual scientific evidence smacks of journalistic FAIL.

Putting aside the know-nothing cranks like George Will, my other big complaint about global warming coverage has been the media’s near myopic on providing so-called “balance” – the misguided notion that, for every article about the impacts of climate change, there should be another one questioning the consensus (preferably citing the likes of Bjorn Lomborg, John Coleman, and their fellow travelers at the American Enterprise Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers).

Though things as a whole have vastly improved in recent years, many reporters continue to struggle with this idea – some more so than most, of course – while others, lacking the requisite knowledge or simply chasing the latest headlines, fail to do the science justice. Now while I don’t expect all environmental reporters to have post-graduate degrees in climate science, they should be knowledgeable enough to provide some context and background when writing about the latest Nature study (Time’s Eric Pooley wrote a great piece about this).

As much as I wish it weren’t so, George Will is hardly the first writer to touch on global cooling in recent months. Joe Romm and the Real Climate team have blogged at length about the media’s tendency to seize on short-term weather or climate patterns – a brief cold spell here, an extremely warm period there – and make grand predictions or statements about climate change.

Last year, skeptics so hyped up reports showing that January had been slightly colder than usual that many reporters, including thoughtful ones such as The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin, felt compelled to write about it. Never mind the fact that a single blip in a decades-long process is hardly worth the mention – even if it happens to follow the warmest blip on record.

Which is why I had to laugh when I read Romm’s post, entitled, “Breaking news: Unprecedented global warming in past year.” While it did end on a serious note, this post is a perfect encapsulation of the breathless, short-sighted coverage we often see in the mainstream media. Instead of explaining the larger trends, or at least providing some context, a reporter might simply hone in on the numbers: a 0.37°C year on year temperature rise, or 20 times the annual rate of warming in recent decades.

Leaving aside the jokey elements here, Romm does use these numbers to make a larger point about the predicted long-term global warming trends:

I should note that the National Climatic Data Center has this as the 7th warmest January (see here), with year-over-year warming of ‘only’ 0.35°C.

Note also that we are still experiencing La Niña conditions, which tend to slightly cool global temperatures.

Now what could really make this a genuinely serious emerging storyline is that in the summer of 2007, the Hadley Center made some interesting near-term predictions in Science (see “Climate Forecast: Hot — and then Very Hot“). They pointed out that in addition to the steady increase in anthropogenic warming from greenhouse gases you have to add a smaller variation from climate oscillations linked to the oceans. Those oscillations have been tamping down temperatures a tad, and may keep doing so for the next year or so, but the decade of the 2010s is going to bring a return to record-smashing temperatures.”

To put it more bluntly: While we always want to avoid making a mountain out of a molehill, the media needs to recognize two critical facts: a) global cooling doesn’t exist, and b) one month, or year, of slightly unusual temperatures does not a trend make. We know global warming is real because it is a decades-long process that has been well-documented and studied over the last half-century.

Despite what the skeptics would have you believe, there isn’t, and never was, a cooling “consensus.” Studies published during the 1970s that predicted a period of intense cooling – a mini-ice age of sorts – were quickly disproven with the arrival of better, more accurate data. Citing those studies grossly misrepresents the state of modern climate science, since – and I know this will shock some people – researchers’ understanding of these processes have radically changed since the 70s.

The next time you try to mislead your readers, George, make sure your “evidence” is up to date.

This month we’re giving away FREE copies Nobel Laureate Dr. Andrew Weaver’s new book Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.


Jeremy, earlier this week I was listening to Spin Cycles (courtesy of Greenfyre’s), and in it there was an interesting observation made: what constitutes being “objective” is different between science and journalism. A scientist is considered objective only if he keeps personal opinion of any sort out of his statements (that is, his statements are made on the balance of evidence). A journalist is considered objective only if he represents all sides of a conflict (that is, his statements are made on a balance of viewpoints). Normally these differing approaches are left alone, but in reporting on political issues with a scientific basis, they tend to collide, and collide hard. It’s the differing definitions of objectivity that seem to cause science writers and the popular press to talk past each other.

On a related note, The Way Things Break has been cataloguing the assorted responses to Will, with the intention of illustrating the wide disapproval of the WaPo’s actions. When you have Andrew Sullivan agreeing with the Wonk Room, people should take notice.

yesterday the Science section (!) of the NYT published a rant by Tierney putting down global warming and working to mitigate it. Not one fact in it. Mostly a book review of Roger Pielke’s ‘philosophical examination’ of what scientists should and should not.

Big attack on science and scientists wrapped up in sophistries. Disgusting. suggests sending a letter of complaint asking for factual corrections to NYT. I’d already written a Letter To The Editor, but followed their suggestion also.

This while I’m in the middle of considering getting the Times delivered. I don’t think I can take much Tierney tripe.

Greenhouse gases are necessary to life as we know it, because they keep the planet’s surface warmer than it otherwise would be. But, as the concentrations of these gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature is climbing above past levels. According to NOAA and NASA data, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 1.2 to 1.4ºF in the last 100 years. The eight warmest years on record (since 1850) have all occurred since 1998, with the warmest year being 2005. Most of the warming in recent decades is very likely the result of human activities. Other aspects of the climate are also changing such as rainfall patterns, snow and ice cover, and sea level. advecia

I have noticed over the past several years that there is little difference between seasons.  The seasons seem to be evolving into different patterns.  We have the equinox to tell us when one season ends and another begins, but the weather patterns are being delayed.  Summer is hot into September, Fall is cool until December, Winter seems to meld into spring.  I am just a little concerned that the weather wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for global warming.  There seems to be a lot of disasters happening more frequently and in areas that aren’t normally affected.

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I think we take the wrong approach when we try to address all the smoke and mirrors of the AGW crowd. First of all, Climate Change is real. There is no disputing that science. It has been going on since time began.There has been a warming trend until 2001 and since then we are cooling. Those are scientific facts.

Another scientific fact is that carbon dioxide levels are increasing in our atmosphere. There is science to back that statement too. But there is NO SCIENCE that proves increases in CO2 causes the increase in temperature prior to 2001.

If you have a copy of that science (not just scientific consensus) you would publish it. It has never been published because it does not exist.

All the AGW crowd can do is to try to assassinate the character of anyone who dares to challenge their theory. They cannot carry on a civil debate of the facts of the science using the guidelines of the scientific method.

How many scientists does it take to prove the debate is not over? More than 30,000 scientists have signed The Petition Project. More than 9,000 of them have PhDs (not that that proves anything about carbon, but it does prove something about the myth of “consensus”).

The petition’s wording is unequivocal:
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon
dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments
of the Earth.”

The Petition Project is funded by donations from
individuals and run by volunteers. It receives
no money from industry or companies. Source:

I wonder, if there’s any scientific evidence of the fact that rejecting the Kyoto Protocol and going on poisoning the environment will delay the Judgment Day for the mankind? Using environment friendly technologies and reducing air pollution will not result in anything bad for us. And if those scientists worry so much about carbon dioxide, let ‘em be sure that only cows produce excessive amounts of it enough for all those possible “beneficial effects”.