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Climate sanity

I read this article, by Christopher Pearson, in The Australian. Then encountered it on both Greenie Watch, and indirectly via Tim Blair, before finally getting to Jennifer Marohasy’s own blog – where she is listing all the references received so far, and there are loads of them. It seems to have generated some interest in the blogosphere (dreadful term, even if accurate), and rightly so.The article discusses a radio interview of Ms Marohasy, conducted by one Michael Duffy.

The core was as follows -

Duffy asked Marohasy: “Is the Earth still warming?”

She replied: “No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you’d expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years.”

There is nothing Ms Marohasy has to say which I find at all controversial, the data to justify her opinions can be found on dozens of blogs and scientific sites scattered around the Internet. What is remarkable is that her comments were made not just by a respectable scientist, but were made in the belly of the beast, in a broadcast from the ABC – the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a state owned and financed broadcaster with a history demonstrating the same standards of honesty, integrity, objectivity and lack of bias for which the BBC, the CBC and NPR are justly famous. In other word, it is run by a pack of lefties, for lefties, who swoon at the mention of Al Gore.

Ok, so I am showing my bias there, but still; I have no statutory obligations to the tax payer. They do.

I think Ms Marohasy was disingenuous to claim that temperatures have fallen since 1998; that year saw the peak of a freakishly high el Nino event and temperatures spiked. They then fell back and continued to rise at trend rate. If the 1998 anomaly is removed from the data set, a statistically valid act, the temperature continues on it’s warming trend until 2002, from which time it appears to have plateaued to the end of 2007; at first glance, although the line wobbles a bit, it appears that no significant temperature change has occurred in that time. However, another el Nino occurred 2006/2007, with a standard el Nino temperature increase, and the line jumps up a little. If we remove that data from the series, again a statistically valid act, and smooth the line, the 2002/2007 trend is down. Not by much, but the trend is there. Combine this with the current (2008) freakishly cold northern hemisphere winter, and what price ongoing global warming? Ok, we have already removed a freakish spike from the data, to the advantage of the AGW proponents, and a gentle peak, to the advantage of the proponents of climate sanity, so I guess I can concede removing this 2008 downwards spike, at least until we see what happens to the trends over the next couple of years.

So, we see, if anything, in the interview Ms Marohasy understated the situation re. the non event of global warming since 2002. For the warming hysterics the situation is worse than she presents.

However, this is all beside the point. The main issue is – does this presage rationality returning to the climate debate, with the AGW* side actually justifying their positions instead of trying to shut down their opponents with nonsense’s like – claiming a consensus, stating “The science is settled, the debate is over”, labelling those who disagree with them as “deniers” or even threatening them with climate crimes trials?

The climate debate was kicked off by Margaret Thatcher in her famous 1988 speech to the Royal Society, when she became the first political leader with serious clout to acknowledge that there was a matter to be discussed. This legitimised discussion of the subject outside academia and meetings of green activists, and for a while, the discussion was rational, even if sometimes acrimonious. Although, try and tell the modern climate activist that Margret Thatcher, still regarded as the primal source of all evil by some sectors of the UK, is the founder of their obsession and you better be ready to deal with the spittle their hysteria generates.

What needs to be recognised is not only that the science not settled, but that climate study is still in its infancy. We are only now starting to get a handle on just how ignorant we are, and how many previously unknown factors there are. To use Dick Cheney’s concepts, we are only starting to get a feel for some of the known unknowns, let alone the unknown unknowns, and the last eight years temperature series amply demonstrates this ignorance.

Given the prominence shown Jennifer Marohasy’s comments, we may be seeing a tipping point, one where the debate restarts. That would be nice. Although, I suspect the ABC will be amongst the last to acknowledge it is happening.

Addendum: I was too lazy to find and display a temperature chart myself, but there is one presented as part of a further posting on the topic at the Jennifer Marohasy blog. I gotta say – this is a good site for intelligent and informed climate and other environmental commentary. It is a site where debate happens.

Addendum: As was just pointed out to me by Baselius Manuel II Paleologos here – we owe “known unknowns” to Donald Rumsfeld, not Dick Cheney. Mea culpa.

*AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming


  1. [...] reference to my post yesterday, I have lifted the following chart quite shamelessly from here, which is based on this article by [...]

  2. anonymous says:

    The “unknown unknowns” was Rumsfeld’s turn of phrase, not Cheney’s.

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