Category: Global warming

Meanwhile…Earth’s Temperature…

The January UAH Satellite temperatures are avaialble:

The fall from the El Nino highs is still slower than you might expect.

Elsewhere, the right is throwing up claims of temperature records being cooked.  Here’s four different temperature records based on different data sets from 1980 to current.


The baseline for the anomalies are different and there is some variation in exactly what they are measuring and even the trends are a bit different but the message is the same whichever way you look at it.

It is getting warmer. The whole planet. The impacts on everybody will be substantial and long lasting. Our children will inherit a very different world.


Further Down the Denial Hole

Time to wander down another global warming denial rabbit hole. I was presented with a video of Judith Curry (who’s been covered here before) bemoaning the funding of climate science. It is political, she claims, because too much goes to research into the human causes of global warming and not enough into natural causes. This is bullshit. It doesn’t even require a great deal of investigation to see that it is bullshit we just need to apply what we know about global warming science.

Let’s take her claim literally. It is true that changes in climate can occur for non-human reasons and as a result of human actions. However, Curry’s characterization requires us to imagine a bizarro world of climate research in which some people are just looking at possible human causes and others are looking at natural causes. In reality, there isn’t a great deal of mystery about human causes as such – the main one is anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and of those the big culprit is CO2. It isn’t as if the bulk of researchers out looking for some alternative human causes (not that nobody is looking at other human impacts – it’s just not the main focus).

The reality is that people investigating anthropogenic global warming NECESSARILY investigate natural drivers of climate. You can’t investigate the one without the other. The very nature of trying to find the impact of human action on the climate involves trying to distinguish between natural variability and changes from human action PLUS the interaction between the two. Worse, Curry knows this.

Ah, but that isn’t what Curry means exactly. What she is cross about is that more money goes to researchers who think humans are impacting the climate than ones who don’t. The problem here is that what she is actually asking for is not less politics in the funding but more. After all, NORMALLY in science funding you’d expect more funding in mainstream positions and less in fringe positions. That doesn’t mean no fringe position ever becomes mainstream or that fringe positions are necessarily false – it just means that funding tends to go to places where evidence and expert opinion suggests that the answers are.

It gets worse though.We know that the bulk of active climate scientists genuinely believe that global warming caused by anthropogenic global warming is real. So to achieve the supposedly unpolitical increase in research of alternative hypotheses, Curry would need the more fringe views to receive disproportionate funding.

It gets even worse. What exactly would get funded? While proportionately small compare with climate science as a discipline, there are number of scientists of one kind or another who dispute the more generally accepted position. I’ve covered several here and given their views some airing. The problem is that while they have strong things to say about how they disagree to some extent with the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis they have very little in the way of alternative hypotheses. What these other approaches amount to tends to be very had wavy speculation and a vague appeal to more data.

Nor is the government the only source of funding. Interestingly all those conservative think tanks paying out cash on the topic global warming prefer to spend it on people claiming the data is wrong somehow rather than pooling their resources into alternative hypotheses. Some private funding from conservative sources (e.g. the Koch brothers) has helped aid some serious climate-science though, just not very often. Curry herself participated in one such project – the BEST study of the temperature record. I’ve discussed it before. It was widely promoted by conservative climate blogs when it started…but when the results came in and the BEST study confirmed that yes, things have got warming and yes it looks like we are to blame, it suddenly got less popular in certain quarters.

Don’t Forget Climate Change: The End


The final third of this dire book is entitled “The Climate Change Movement”. This arse-end of the collection is easily the most dull. The essays are either dry accounts of events or rather weak complaints about failed predictions of doom.

Chapter 13 by Rupert Darwall discusses attempts by international governments to agree to action on climate change. I guess it is supposed to be depressing reading for somebody like me and by that standard, the essay is a success.

Chapter 14 by Ross McKitrick I assume is a reprint from somewhere else. It’s is possibly the most interesting essay in this section, if you haven’t read a hundred accounts already of McKitrick’s attempts to discredit Michael Mann’s infamous ‘hockey stick’ reconstruction of past temperatures. While it was a definite success for McKitrick, the basic hockey-stick path of global temperatures has been re-confirmed multiple times since.

Chapter 15 is a pointless digression into whether people who participated in the IPCC also share in the Nobel Peace Prize that the IPCC was awarded.

Chapter 16 by Mark Steyn is a short piece laughing at the Australian expedition that got stuck in Antarctic sea-ice.

Chapter 17 by Christopher Essex is just weird. It is a protracted complaint that many journalists don’t know a lot about science. While this is true it is hard to see how Mr Essex and his chums help with that.

Chapter 18 is rather like Chapter 13 but about the IPCC history among other things.

Chapter 19 is a complaint that Australia’s peak science body, the CSIRO, gets stuff wrong.

Chapter 20 by blogger Anthony Watts feel like a relief in comparison. Watt’s argues that it isn’t clear that global warming is implicated in extreme weather events because we can’t know for sure.

Chapter 21 rounds off the book with Australian right-wing journalist Andrew Bolt complaining about other predictions of consequences of global warming that might not have occurred.

And that’s it. A giant exercise in throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. There is little actual agreement between the points raised and collectively pseudo-science credulity is mixed in with a half-baked critique of the scientific method.

The strongest chapters in the whole book were from Patrick Michaels and Richard Lindzen. Inadvertently, pointing at Khun’s concept of paradigm shifts tends to illustrate how what science there is in this book is trapped in a 1960s when it was possible to still believe that human greenhouse gas emissions would always have less impact on global temperatures than other factors.

In the final section even the half-hearted attempt to make a claim of minimal warming was abandoned (although not repudiated) for a weaker strategy of hoping that maybe bad things won’t happen.

So farewell Climate Change The Facts 2014 – you were a half-baked bunch of essays poorly edited and thrown together by an Australian right-wing think tank with literally more money than sense.

Don’t Forget Climate Change: Chapters 7 to 12, a journey into nonsense

Oh, I am still slogging my way through his book by a rightwing Australian think-tank. Before I go on, I should sum up this set of chapters.


Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, Ch5, Ch6, Section 1, Ch7, Another Aside, Ch8, Ch9, Ch10, Ch11, Ch12, …

This second part of this book of three parts was entitled “The economics and politics of climate change” but it was more of a miscellany of things.

Only one chapter was actually about economics and while several touched on politics, it was lacking in any depth of analysis. Three of the chapters seemed more concerned with promoting a more half-baked science critique similar to the chapters in the first section. Mind you, at least market researchers trying to do climatology was at least funny.

Has this book actually been edited? Surely somebody must have noticed that half of a section on the economics & politics of climate change didn’t really address either topic?

I’ve read ahead from here of course and in the next section entitled “The climate change movement”, it doesn’t get much better. Of the nine chapters, three would make more sense in the science section – well not so much because they are ‘science’ but because they are attempts to refute some aspects of climate science.

A better structure for the book would have been:
Section 1: Half baked science
Section 2: Random stuff.



Don’t Forget Climate Change: Chapter 12 Climate Science venus Market Researchers

I’m still trapped in this hell-hole of a right-wing think-tank’s attempt to wish climate change away. It almost makes me miss Vox Day.

Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, Ch5, Ch6, Section 1, Ch7, Another Aside, Ch8, Ch9, Ch10, Ch11, …

Kesten C. Green & J. Scott Armstrong are both affiliated with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia. Now that sounds quite impressive but it is an institute of Market Research. No, no, that’s OK – no snide comments – market research is a numerate discipline and is in an interesting place developing underlying theories and models. Still as a discipline it has neither the depth, success or theoretical clout of climatology and meteorology.

Now you may, if you’ve been paying attention, wonder why a discussion of the efficacy of forecasting techniques of climate science is stuck as the last chapter of the ‘economics and politics’  section rather than in the ‘science’ section. Given that this chapter is going to claim to demonstrate that forecasts of global warming are somehow invalid, then you might doubly wonder that. Indeed, given how confident Green and Armstrong are of their finding, I’d be a little disappointed that I wasn’t Chapter 1 and that Plimer, Michaels, Linden, Soon, Carter et al weren’t making a big hullabaloo about this chapter – particularly Soon who apparently has collaborated with Green and Armstrong. It is almost as if even fellow doubters are unconvinced.

Kesten C Green is, or presents himself as, an expert in forecasting as a general discipline. Looking through his publicly available work that isn’t global warming related, his work has grown out of forecasting techniques for businesses. In particular describing the principles that should be applied when faced with complex data (for examples sales data or perhaps political polling data) and attempting to make guesses about what will happen next.

Green describes his view of forecasting like this:

For nearly a century, researchers have been studying how best to make accurate and useful forecasts. Knowledge on forecasting has accumulated by testing multiple reasonable hypotheses about which method will provide the best forecasts in given conditions. This scientific approach contrasts with the folklore that experts in a domain will be able to make good forecasts about complex uncertain situations using their unaided judgement, or using unvalidated forecasting methods.

And that all makes sense. Empirical, data-driven approaches make sense. Intuitive approaches don’t, even when those intuitions are based on people with experience. Such approaches should involve substantive models when possible but collecting reliable data and basing claims (whether they are forecasts or projections or something else) on the combination of sound models, good data and knowledge of changing conditions is wise. It’s also something climatologist already know.

Green goes on to talk about various principles of forecasting and says:
The principles are readily available in the Principles of Forecasting handbook.

Which is, specifically Armstrong’s  Principles of Forecasting handbook.

And this is where the chapter gets progressively more odd. Firstly the authors can’t find in the IPCC any reference to (Green & Armstrong’s) validation of forecasting processes (ignoring the actual processes followed within climatology as a discipline). They then sent emails to authors of sections in the IPCC asking them about validation. I’m guessing they go the equivalent of either blank looks or responses akin to ‘do your own homework’.

Green and Armstrong then ‘audited’ the IPCC’s “forecasting procedures” using “Forecasting Audit Software available on”. Specifically that is the Green & Armstrong Forecasting Audit Software that is available on Green & Armstrong’s website.

It’s around this point that the weird tone and approach of the chapter suddenly makes sense. This is an advertorial. It is literally marketing. The customer base for “” is a business audience, and some proportion of the readership of this right-leaning book of disturbed wonkery are a good fit for Green & Armstrong’s market. And good for them! I’ve no objection to self-promotion! It’s a clever use of what is otherwise a giant waste of effort.

“We analysed the IPCC’s forecasting procedures to assess whether they followed the Golden Rule of Forecasting. The Golden Rule of Forecasting requires that forecasters be conservative.”

That’s Kesten C Green’s Golden Rule of Forecasting of course.

“We found that the IPCC procedures violated all nineteen of the Golden Rule guidelines that are relevant to long-term climate forecasting.”

So they set off to do a better job. If you are thinking ‘this is going to be a trainwreck’ then you’ve been reading this blog to long. Go and do something useful with your life 😉

Thye produce this graph:


What is this? You may ask. It is the train wreck you anticipated earlier.

What they’ve done is take the HADCRUT3 global mean anomaly data set from 1850 to 1975 and then tested three “forecasts” that somebody in 1850 could make about future temperature changes.

  1. Persistence: basically change nothing. 1850 average temperature stays the same.
  2. Cooling: a steady 0.01 degree C cooling per year.
  3. Warming: a steady  0.03 degree C warming per year.

These are on the basis of predictions somebody may have made in 1975. Now they then find the absolute difference between each scenario and then plot it.

This is an odd way of finding trends in data and there are better ways of treating time series data, and they are assuming a linear relationship etc. More weird is why 0.03 degrees C per year warming (a projection based on increasing global warming) starting in 1850 when they know in advance that the warming is less than that for the period in question.

They also stop in 1975 before a major increase in warming – for vague reasons.

This what the HADCRUT3 global mean data looks like

to 2016

Green & Armstrong’s graph covers the red bit and ignores the steeper green bit and tests a projection of warming for increased levels of CO2 that come after the green bit. Quite what golden rule of forecasting this is meant to be is anybody’s guess but it looks a lo like “just make up shit”.

I thought, what the heck, I’ll try and draw their graph and see what they are trying to do. I think this is it:


Yellow is their 0.03 warming, orange is there 0.01 warming and blue is persistence. As they are insistent that good forecasting involves testing multiple scenarios I added in the grey line: 0.01 warming – much closer to what we know occurred. And blow me down! The obvious warming scenario they left off (in violation of their own principles of forecasting) does quite well. Actually I could tinker around and get a warming scenario that does even better.

Conclusion: somebody who predicted mild warming in 1850 would have made a BETTER forecast than Green & Armstrong’s no change rule.

They also say that good forecasts use recent data. So let’s throw in 1975 onwards:


The grey line is actually 0.013 degrees warming because I was tinkering. Notably, persistence now is diverging more and the 0.013 degrees warming is looking better. This isn’t a surprise because we know what actually happened in the 20th century.

But let’s skip forward. After all, nobody in 1850 was making these predictions. What about 1950? That is a more interesting time because global warming from anthropogenic greenhouse gases was being taken more seriously as a hypothesis. There wasn’t a consensus of opinion on it at that point though.

This is less data of course but it is also more recent data.


This time, the grey warming scenario is 0.015 degrees -and doesn’t it do well! Persistence is only a tad better than 0.03 warming as a forecast and cooling is the worst.

The Persistence scenario by Armstrong & Green’s tests would have been a not good prediction in 1950 – particularly compared to warming.

They conclude:

We found that there are no scientific forecasts that support the hypothesis that manmade global warming will occur.

Which is odd, because using their methods I found plenty.

Instead, the best forecasts of temperatures on Earth for the twenty-first century and beyond are derived from the hypothesis of persistence.

Which isn’t even true if you intentionally cut out the period of greatest warming from the twentieth century.

And that’s chapter 12 and the end of the politics section!