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Climate myths? Andrew Bolt’s claims scientifically tested

Andrew Bolt today presented 10 climate change “myths”. Here is my response to each. Essentially, the “sceptics” are searching for short annual or biannual changes, rather than looking at decade-scale trends. Failing to understand that science is a self-correcting discipline, they hope that, if and when they find minor errors or uncertainties (such as always exist) the entire scientific edifice behind the idea of climate change will collapse.

By the fact that the so-called “climate change sceptics” are attempting to refute every single direct observation and measurement in nature, as well as the basic physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, indeed climate science as a discipline, they reveal a resistance to the scientific method as such.

MYTH 1 — THE WORLD IS WARMING:

BOLT: Wrong. It is true the world did warm between 1975 and 1998, but even Professor David Karoly, one of our leading alarmists, admitted this week “temperatures have dropped” since - “both in surface temperatures and in atmospheric temperatures measured from satellites”. In fact, the fall in temperatures from just 2002 has already wiped out a quarter of the warming our planet experienced last century. (Check data from Britain’s Hadley Centre, NASA’s Aqua satellite and the US National Climatic Data Centre.)

Some experts, such as Karoly, claim this proves nothing and the world will soon start warming again. Others, such as Professor Ian Plimer of Adelaide University, point out that so many years of cooling already contradict the theory that man’s rapidly increasing gases must drive up temperatures ever faster.

But that’s all theory. The question I’ve asked is: What signs can you actually see of the man-made warming that the alarmists predicted?

GLIKSON: As has been projected by climate science over the last 20 years, the increase in atmospheric energy level associated with global warming results in greater variability, including: greater frequency and stronger amplitude of the ENSO (El-Nino – La-Nina) cycle and extreme weather events (hurricane intensity, floods, extreme droughts and fires) and, most particularly, rapid melt rates of large parts of the Arctic Sea ice, Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and shelves — as is in fact happening around the world, including the recent Australian droughts, mega-bush fires and floods Australia.

MYTH 2 — THE POLAR CAPS ARE MELTING :

BOLT: Wrong. The British Antarctic Survey, working with NASA, last week confirmed ice around Antarctica has grown 100,000 sq km each decade for the past 30 years. Long-term monitoring by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the same: southern hemisphere ice has been expanding for decades.

As for the Arctic, wrong again. The Arctic ice cap shrank badly two summers ago after years of steady decline, but has since largely recovered. Satellite data from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre this week shows the Arctic hasn’t had this much April ice for at least seven years. Norway’s Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre says the ice is now within the standard deviation range for 1979 to 2007.

GLIKSON: This claim is inconsistent with the numerous reports by NASA and the National Ice and Snow Data Centre ( NSIDC) regarding the Arctic Sea ice, Greenland and West Antarctica (References: here; here; here; here), while the entire Antarctic ice sheet (east and west) has warmed over the last 50 years by 0.12 degrees C per decade and west Antarctica by 0.17 degrees C per-decade, including major polar warming anomalies where mean temperature rises over the last 10 years reached levels 3 to 4 degrees higher than during 1951 – 1980.

MYTH 3 — WE’VE NEVER HAD SUCH A BAD DROUGHT:

BOLT: Wrong. A study released this month by the University of NSW Climate Change Research Centre confirms not only that we’ve had worse droughts, but this Big Dry is not caused by “global warming”, whether man-made or not.

As the university’s press release says: “The causes of southeastern Australia’s longest, most severe and damaging droughts have been discovered, with the surprise finding that they originate far away in the Indian Ocean.

“A team of Australian scientists has detailed for the first time how a phenomenon known as the Indian Ocean Dipole - a variable and irregular cycle of warming and cooling of ocean water  — dictates whether moisture-bearing winds are carried across the southern half of Australia.”

GLIKSON: The development of the Indian Ocean dipole is related to the current La-Nina ENSO phase and the development of turbulence northwest of Western Australia, resulting in strong southeast-directed air currents. The warming of these currents as they pass over inland Australia result in the dry warm winds which created the conditions for the tragic Victorian fires, as confirmed by CSIRO.

MYTH 4 —  OUR CITIES HAVE NEVER BEEN HOTTER:

BOLT: Wrong. The alleged “record” temperature Melbourne set in January - 46.4 degrees - was in fact topped by the 47.2 degrees the city recorded in 1851. (See the Argus newspaper of February 8, 1851.)
And here’s another curious thing: Despite all this warming we’re alleged to have caused, Victoria’s highest temperature on record remains the 50.7 degrees that hit Mildura 103 years ago. South Australia’s hottest day is still the 50.7 degrees Oodnadatta suffered 37 years ago. NSW’s high is still the 50 degrees recorded 70 years ago.

What’s more, not one of the world’s seven continents has set a record high temperature since 1974. Europe’s high remains the 50 degrees measured in Spain 128 years ago, before the invention of the first true car.

GLIKSON: Isolated extreme weather events occurred throughout history, but the rapid rise in mean global temperatures since early 20 th century (+ 0.8 degrees C, or 1.3 degrees C once the masking effect of emitted sulphur aerosols is accounted for), and related shift of global climate zones by hundreds of km toward the poles , exacerbate these events, including droughts. Climate “sceptics” consistently confuse the weather for the climate, cite isolated weather events and decline to look at decade-scale climate trends, as explained among others in Pittock’s authoritative books.

MYTH 5 — THE SEAS ARE GETTING HOTTER:

BOLT: Wrong. If anything, the seas are getting colder. For five years, a network of 3175 automated bathythermographs has been deployed in the oceans by the Argo program, a collaboration between 50 agencies from 26 countries. Warming believer Josh Willis, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reluctantly concluded: “There has been a very slight cooling …”

GLIKSON: Check NASA’s website and find out that ocean surface temperatures have been rising through the last few decades (for example by 0.2 to 1.0 degrees C in most areas during 2000-2009 relative to 1951-1980), while lesser areas cooled by -0.2 to -0.5 mostly in the Pacific Ocean, partly in connection with La-Nina phases. Sea surface temperature increases around Australia are reported by CSIRO (“ Ocean warming on the rise ”), stating: “The team of Australian and US climate researchers found the world’s oceans warmed and rose at a rate 50 per cent faster in the last four decades of the 20th century than documented in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report (IPCC AR4).

MYTH 6 — THE SEAS ARE RISING:

BOLT: Wrong. For almost three years, the seas have stopped rising, according to the Jason-1 satellite mission monitored by the University of Colorado.

That said, the seas have risen steadily and slowly for the past 10,000 years through natural warming, and will almost certainly resume soon.

But there is little sign of any accelerated rises, even off Tuvalu or the Maldives, islands often said to be most threatened with drowning.

Professor Nils-Axel Moerner, one of the world’s most famous experts on sea levels, has studied the Maldives in particular and concluded there has been no net rise there for 1250 years.

Venice is still above water.

GLIKSON: From about 9000 years ago sea level have risen by about 15 metres (Siddall et al, 2003: Nature, 423: 853-853). Rates of sea level rise rose from a mean of 0.11 cm/year during 1870 -1970 to a mean of 0.25 cm/year during 1970 – 2006 and are currently rising at 0.35 cm/year , confirmed by both tide gauge measurements ( US Geological Survey ) and satellite measurements.

MYTH 7 — CYCLONES ARE GETTING WORSE:

BOLT: Wrong. Ryan Maue of Florida State University recently measured the frequency, intensity and duration of all hurricanes and cyclones to compile an Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index.

His findings? The energy index is at its lowest level for more than 30 years.

The World Meteorological Organisation, in its latest statement on cyclones, said it was impossible to say if they were affected by man’s gases: “Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.”

GLIKSON: Cyclone intensity, related to sea surface temperatures, has risen according to Webster et al. 2005, who observe “We examined the number of tropical cyclones and cyclone days as well as tropical cyclone intensity over the past 35 years, in an environment of increasing sea surface temperature. A large increase was seen in the number and proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 and 5. The largest increase occurred in the North Pacific, Indian, and Southwest Pacific Oceans, and the smallest percentage increase occurred in the North Atlantic Ocean. These increases have taken place while the number of cyclones and cyclone days has decreased in all basins except the North Atlantic during the past decade.

MYTH 8 — THE GREAT BARRIER REEF IS DYING:

BOLT: Wrong. Yes, in 1999, Professor Ove Hoegh-Gulberg, our leading reef alarmist and administrator of more than $30 million in warming grants, did claim the reef was threatened by warming, and much had turned white.

But he then had to admit it had made a “surprising” recovery.

Yes, in 2006 he again warned high temperatures meant “between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef could die within a month”.

But he later admitted this bleaching had “minimal impact”. Yes, in 2007 he again warned that temperature changes of the kind caused by global warming were bleaching the reef.

But this month fellow Queensland University researchers admitted in a study that reef coral had once more made a “spectacular recovery”, with “abundant corals re-established in a single year”. The reef is blooming.

GLIKSON: That the Great Barrier Reef is suffering from elevated temperatures, increased acidity and coral bleaching is beyond dispute as has been observed by numerous studies, including the University of Queensland, the Marine Park Authority and the Australian National University.

MYTH 9 — OUR SNOW SEASONS ARE SHORTER:

BOLT: Wrong. Poor snow falls in 2003 set off a rash of headlines predicting warming doom. The CSIRO typically fed the hysteria by claiming global warming would strip resorts of up to a quarter of their snow by 2018.

Yet the past two years have been bumper seasons for Victoria’s snow resorts, and this year could be just as good, with snow already falling in NSW and Victoria this past week.

GLIKSON: Typically climate skeptics will look at annual or biannual changes rather than longer term decade-scale trends, and this applies to the ever shortening snow seasons in the Australian snow fields.

MYTH 10 — TSUNAMIS AND OTHER DISASTERS ARE GETTING WORSE:

BOLT: Are you insane? Tsunamis are in fact caused by earthquakes. Yet there was World Vision boss Tim Costello last week, claiming that Asia was a “region, thanks to climate change, that has far more cyclones, tsunamis, droughts”.

Wrong, wrong and wrong, Tim. But what do facts matter now to a warming evangelist when the cause is so just?

And so any disaster is now blamed on man-made warming the way they once were on Satan. See for yourself on http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm the full list, including kidney stones, volcanic eruptions, lousy wine, insomnia, bad tempers, Vampire moths and bubonic plagues. Nothing is too far-fetched to be seized upon by carpetbaggers and wild preachers as signs of a warming we can’t actually see.

Not for nothing are polar bears the perfect symbol of this faith - bears said to be threatened by warming, when their numbers have in fact increased.

Bottom line: fewer people now die from extreme weather events, whether cyclones, floods or blinding heatwaves.

Read that in a study by Indur Goklany, who represented the US at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “There is no signal in the mortality data to indicate increases in the overall frequencies or severities of extreme weather events, despite large increases in the population at risk.”

So stop this crazy panic.

First step: check again your list of the signs you thought you saw of global warming. How many are true? What do you think, and why do you think it?

Yes, the world may resume warming in one year or 100. But it hasn’t been warming as the alarmists said it must if man were to blame, and certainly not as the media breathlessly keeps claiming.

Best we all just settle down, then, and wait for the proof—the real proof. After all, panicking over invisible things is so undignified, don’t you think?

GLIKSON: This point is answered in the reference to Webster et al . 2005 above, showing the frequency of category 4 and 5 cyclones has increased during the last decade.

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  • 1
    Scott
    Posted Tuesday, 5 May 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I am not a climate scientist, and when people who oppose the science of global heating make specific claims, I am rarely in a position to refute them. Which is why the intent of this piece is admirable. Thanks for the attempt. However, I did find it a bit lacking, vague in places and not focussed.

    Myth 1” is easily refuted by reference to the statistical error employed by Bolt to make his claim. Bolt points out the uncontroversial fact that 1998 was the hottest year on record and then draws the curious inference that therefore the world is now on a cooling trend. Dr Glickson’s reply does not directly address this logical fallacy and seems rather vague and confused.

    Myth2”: I have now come across this claim in three places. As best as I can determine, Andrew Bolt’s claim that Antarctic sea ice has increased is correct. Richard Farmer supplied supporting data in today’s Crikey, as well. Dr Glikson’s piece does nothing to refute this specific claim. If it is true, then why? What does it mean? Please explain!

    Myth3”: Inadequate answer from Dr Glikson. Bolt claims that, because drought in South Eastern Australia may be associated with the Indian Ocean Dipole, that this, somehow displaces global warming as a cause - a non sequitur.

    Myth5”: I would like to see a response to the claim that Josh Willis has stated “There has been a very slight cooling …”. Was it quoted out of context? Is Josh Willis a notable authority on the matter?

    I wont go on. My point is that I would like to see knowledgeable scientists (I assume Dr Glikson is one) directly attack and refute, or explain, the specific claims put by people such as Andrew Bolt. Avoiding them looks bad.

    Providing outsiders like myself with simple, clear, quotable, facts to use in daily discussion would be a public service. I remember a while ago the Union Of Concerned Scientists (www.ucsusa.org) used to maintain a global warming FAQ which addressed the most popular fallacies. I have referred to it many times. It is not there anymore in the form I remember. I could find nothing on their site specifically covering the issues raised in Andrew Bolt’s list of fallacies, for example, the “global cooling since 1998” fallacy.

  • 2
    barbiplease
    Posted Wednesday, 20 May 2009 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Scott,

    Thus far, Mr Bolt has refuted himself according to his own sources. I’ve written a detailed rebuttal to each of his arguments.

    I too found that while admirable, Glickson’s scientific responses were a bit lacking and vague. Below are links to my personal responses to the first 7 “myths.” I’ll post links to the remaining 3 “myths” once I’ve looked at them and have had the opportunity to “fact-checked” Mr. Bolt’s remaining claims and sources:

    Mr Bolt’s “MYTH 1: THE WORLD IS WARMING”

    Mr Bolt’s Mr Bolt’s Myth #2: “IT’S JUST A FALSEHOOD.”

    Mr Bolt’s Myth 3: WE’VE NEVER HAD SUCH A BAD DROUGHT

    Bolt’s “MYTH 4: OUR CITIES HAVE NEVER BEEN HOTTER.”

    Mr Bolt’s “MYTH 5: THE SEAS ARE GETTING HOTTER.”

    BOLT’S “MYTH 6: THE SEAS ARE RISING” & Take the Way-Back Machine”

    Mr Bolt’s MYTH 7 — CYCLONES ARE GETTING WORSE

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