December satellite temperature record

As always, some caveats. The UAH satellite based temperature record isn’t the best or most authoritative and has had errors in the past. I pick it out because it avoids a pointless argument about where weather stations are sited or whether global warming is just urban heat island effects (it isn’t) or whether the record is rigged by climate scientists (it isn’t)

Way back in 2018 [good grief – when did 2018 become the past?] I looked at the whole “it’s the Sun” diversion. That idea has an intuitive appeal, after all the ultimate source of our earthly energy is from this guy.

I thought I’d update the graph I showed then: compare historical temperatures with solar activity data.

The graph plots SIDC monthly sunspot numbers and the BEST temperature set with both sets of data normalised so they fit on the same axes.

The “it’s the Sun” theory has a basic prediction: lower solar activity then lower temperatures. We have lower solar activity but we have historically HIGH temperatures. We are actually at the trough of a historically low cycle.

Like all of these alternative explanations for the undeniable warming that has occurred, the solar activity hypothesis predicts at some point we should see a reversal of the warming trend and a period of global cooling. Indeed, we should have seen that start by at least the year 2000.

Global warming isn’t the sun, it’s not clouds/cosmic-rays, its not some big natural cycle. None of these match the data. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions mainly from burning fossil fuels DOES match.

How denial of global warming kills

I’ll start with the usual satellite temperature record:

All the usual caveats apply.

Meanwhile, here is a photo I took yesterday:

Those clouds aren’t clouds but smoke from a huge 26 thousand hectare fire in the southern part of the Blue Mountains/Kanangra-Boyd National Park. The smoke from that fire, another near by, and an even bigger fire in bushland to the north-west of Sydney is pushing smoke into the Sydney Metropolitan area and creating a persistent smog-haze in the city.

Further north in the state, more extensive fires have been burning for months now, impacting farms, regional communities, tourism and wildlife. With no end in sight to the current drought and three months of summer still to come, Rural Fire Service volunteers and NSW Fire Brigade staff are stretched to the limit.

Naturally the issue of global warming is a major topic in Australia. The right, for obvious reasons, want to downplay that discussion. They have been making use of three arguments. Two have some value (but avoids a deeper point) and the other is a rather nasty lie:

  1. If Australia had taken more extensive action on climate change it wouldn’t have stopped the drought or these fires.
  2. Periods of drought and fire is just a fact of life in Australia.
  3. The fires are the fault of the Greens (sometimes they say ‘inner city Greens etc) who stop burning back aka hazard reduction burns in cooler months.

The first of those points is strictly true. If Australia alone had taken stronger action on climate change it would not, BY ITSELF, have prevented global warming and hence the inaction on climate change isn’t to blame for the fires. Of course, that downplays the role Australia has played in undermining global efforts on climate change but there is a worse aspect that I’ll get to.

The second point is true. Australia has some unusual climate cycles, including periods of drought and periods of heavy rains. There is plenty of evidence to suggest substantial bush fires have been a fact of life in Australia since at least human habitation began a very, very long time ago. That fact though tells us nothing about how we might currently be making things worse.

The last is a simple lie and reveals the issue hidden behind the other two. The Greens who currently enjoy no substantial control over any government in Australia have zero influence on hazard reduction policy and ‘greens’ in a generic sense are not particularly opposed to nor are campaigning against hazard reduction burns and even if they were, nobody is going to NOT do a needed burning back because of that. It’s an obvious nonsense that falls down after a moments inspection. Yet it is repeated on talk-back radio stations and by conservative politicians.

So what is the core issue that is being hidden? Mitigation.

We are already past the point where every nation but particularly Australia now has to plan for and adapt to a world with higher baseline temperatures. Reducing emissions will help limit how bad it will get but the bad is happening now whether we like it or not.

But here is a simple fact: mitigation is going to cost money. At a basic level for Australia that means:

  • More firefighters
  • More firefighting equipment
  • Less sharing of specialist equipment with other nations because now our fire seasons overlap (e.g. California and Australia share equipment which is great but not when b0th places have fires at the same time)

None of that, even in the wildest libertarian imaginings, is going to be paid for by magic market forces. That means funding has to come from somewhere and yes, you guessed it, that means taxation.

The real reason why there aren’t more hazard reduction burns in Australia during winter is that they are difficult to do right, dangerous and require lots of expertise and people…all of which costs money…which the two fire services don’t have…because of limits on public spending…by conservatives.

Spending big on fire fighting should be an easy vote winner and an obvious thing to do EVEN IF a politician thought that reducing carbon emissions was not worth it economically. However, spending big on fire fighting in a planned manner (or on mitigation measures against drought or other impacts of global warming) would mean conservatives conceding that global warming really was real and a problem. If they did that then…well they would find it difficult to argue against emission reductions, so they have been playing down the risks of climate change for decades INCLUDING around mitigation.

Note, this avoidance of both mitigation spending and emission reduction doesn’t save money in the long term. The Australian government (and the ‘taxpayer’) still ends up footing a big bill to help out drought stricken farmers, the huge cost of fighting massive bush fires and the huge economic cost to communities of both bush fires and drought. We can add to that the direct deaths caused by the fires and the indirect health problems caused by heat and air-quality and the mental-health impact on rural communities.

Global warming denial is costing lives in Australia. It is a crude diversion to avoid and disrupt a national conversation. By pretending the risks are low or non-existent right-leaning state and federal politicians have avoided taking even the absolutely needed measures needed to mitigate the impact of climate change. Denial is killing us.

Global temperatures from satellites again

As I do semi-regularly (i.e. when I remember) here are figures from the UAH temperature record up to October.

The usual caveat applies: this is not necessarily the best temperature record but it’s one that avoids a whole set of pointless side arguments.

Meanwhile, as I’ve discussed before the impact of climate change continue. Northern and Southern hemisphere fire seasons are now more extensively overlapping. Changing rainfall patterns are impacting agriculture across the world. For those conservatives worried that climate change advocacy will lead to governments increasing spending, you’ll be glad to know that ignoring climate change is already increasing spending as local and national governments struggle with impacts on farmers and impacts such as both droughts in some places, floods in others (i.e. changing rainfall patterns) and fires.

Vox Day sort of denies he is a flat earther

I say “sort of” because he really doesn’t believe the Earth is more or less spherical. One of Day’s recruits to his video streaming thing has been the comedian Owen Benjamin Benjamin had the beginnings of a Hollywood career including co-starring with Christina Ricci in an obscure film in 2009. However, his career got derailed by his increasingly extreme views. These days Benjamin pushes extreme anti-Semitic conspiracy theories which amount to a kind of unified theory in which her thinks everybody is trying to make you believe lies about the moon landing etcetera as part of a Satanic plot. It’s the usual nexus of anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia with epistemic paranoia. The central theory is that people are lying about everything to make you believe lies in general.

What’s interesting here is that Day appears to be following Benjamin down the same path. Not that Day also doesn’t push the same kind of fallen-world anti-Semitic nonsense but that he’s being more open about how out there some of his beliefs about the world are — including flat earthism.

The specific pretext is this 2012 interview with a NASA data visualisation person: The interview explains how he helped create an image of one hemisphere of the Earth as seen from space by stitching together multiple higher resolution images of Earth. Aha! Say the flat Earthers, Manipulation! Lies! etc etc.

It’s something you see a lot from falt-earth to vaccine denial to global warming denial: a rejection of any data, images, graphs etc that relies on any kind of inference or data cleaning etc. The demand is for evidence that is an unfiltered capture of external reality — which is impossible. Heck, not only is it impossible but which we know is myth at least since the time of Plato. What you see out of your own eyes is stitched together and processed and inferred.

Day sums up his position:

“Notice that ALL of the hemisphere photography we think we’ve seen has turned out to be nonexistent. It’s becoming clear that from the evolution fairy tale to the Blue Marble fraud to the dinosaur fraud and the satellite myth, the world is very, very different than we have been told it is. What is the point? To deceive you into serving Satan rather than God.”

Interestingly he gets a lot more pushback in his comments than he normally does. I guess even Day’s followers aren’t keen to adopt a flat-earth although structurally it’s no different than the anti-vaxx and anti-evolution stuff Day peddles.

In the comments Day responds with a weak equivocation:

“VD October 24, 2019 12:20 PM Jesus… The earth is not flat. What part of “fraud is being committed concerning X” leads you to immediately conclude that this means “Therefore Y”? I don’t believe the Earth is flat. But I don’t believe the mainstream narrative concerning the nature of the Earth either, because it contains too many lies. Binary thinking is usually a serious mistake.”

The “mainstream narrative” here being that the world is more-or-less spherical.

Unfortunately Day really does need to engage in some binary thinking here. Just by visiting different places in the world we can quickly observe that whatever curvature the Earth has it’s pretty much the same everywhere. Sure big mountains are pointy and oceans are flat but in both places you can observe that whatever is going on it’s pretty much the same everywhere. That is seriously limiting to the range of possibilities for the curvature of the Earth. A flat or curved disc with an inaccessible underneath would have edges with a radically different curvature. Any shape that you could circumnavigate, if it wasn’t basically a sphere, would have some spots with extreme curvature that frankly everybody would have noticed i.e. the Earth really isn’t a cube.

A sphere isn’t just one option among many for the shape of a thing. It’s a particularly special shape. If you want a uniform (more or less) curvature and no edges, then let’s just say your options are limited. Or…maybe the devil is making me say that…

Bad, bad, tactics by Extinction Rebellion

This anti-climate change protest by Extinction Rebellion was extraordinarily foolish:

Let us count the ways:

  • It was poorly targetted. Who was disrupted? Commuters in the East End of London. Not wealthy people, not decision makers. Ordinary people trying to get by.
  • It had no thematic connection. The disruption targetted public transport. The net effect was to encourage people to DRIVE to work.
  • It was arrogant and alienating. It elevated the concerns of the protestors over the concerns of people who the protest should aim to persuade. That makes the protestors concerns look insular, out of touch and arrogant. It makes action on climate change politically less likely and easier for politicians to demonise.
  • It wasn’t direct action. Direct action is where people directly intervene for moral reasons against the thing they are protesting against. For example, disrupting the building of coal-fired power plant. The ethics of direct action are a thing in themselves but they very much depend on whether it is justified to directly stop a thing happening. This protest has the theatre of direct action but isn’t. There’s no ethical imperative here to stop people travelling by train.

There’s a moral equation between an extreme situation and extreme action. It is one that gets debated left and right, and within and outside of governments. However, just like war and revolution, that moral equation isn’t a carte blanche. There has to be a plausible connection between the action taken and some reasonable (and proportionate) chance of preventing, ameliorating or limiting the extreme situation.

There’s no moral justification for obviously bad tactics.

September Satellite Temps

As we were discussing global warming again the other day and certain sections of the internet announced that they wanted to hear from scientists rather than teenagers, here is the global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for September.

As always, I cite this temperature record not because it is necessarily the best or most representative but because it is the one that is global warming deniers/sceptics were consistent they would believe (they don’t of course).

This month’s temperature is a balmy “that can’t be right, seriously, good grief”. Doubly alarming as currently we don’t have strong El Niño conditions.

Using My Time Machine to Fix Right Wing Views on Climate

Ha! Tricked you all! This is a post about Larry Correia again! Larry has suddenly decided that he is really into more literary science-fiction and is making an assertive defence of Dan Simmons.

Simmons (an author whose books I do actively seek out) went off an a bit of anti-Greta Thunberg thung on Facebook. Many people objected. There was a post at File 770 about it:

Larry, who has made a point of stating how he nor very few other people read File 770 apparently read the post and was unhappy with people being unhappy with Simmons and discovered that he is a big fan of Simmons. Is it their mutual love of John Keats or the their shared interest in Proust? Larry doesn’t say. He does claim that File 770’s post critical of Simmons led to Simmon’s novel Hyperion being “number one” on Amazon.

However, I want to focus on a particular criticism of Greta Thunberg that I’ve seen from Simmons, Correia, and other right wing science fiction writers:

“Oh yeah, and it’s the ultimate Motte and Bailey play, because they can put an uneducated teenager with no scientific creds at all in front of one of the biggest government bodies in the world to demand socialism now or else, and when you go LOL WUT they switch to We Just Want A Clean Environment Why Do You Hate Children. It’s total bullshit.”

OK, there’s a germ of a point there – after all Greta Thunberg isn’t a climate scientist. How about instead of a school kid they got the most relevant and credentialed scientists up there instead! [Yes, we will ignore that Thunberg was speaking at a youth conference with multiple amazing young people trying to make their world a better place ]

OK but I can fix that with my time machine. Clearly what these authors need to see is not kids but scientists. Show them authoritative people, who know their stuff and the whole “no scientific creds” issue is dealt with. Yet, it’s no good doing it now when the warming is already substantial. I need to CHANGE THE PAST! Instead of scolding these guys they want hard science and reason and they need it years ago!

OK – to my time machine! I’ll be right back!

[weird groaning noises as if a Tardis is dematerialising and then rematerialising which are then revealed to be a fat cat snoring…]

Phew! Fixed it! I’ve changed the timeline! I went all the way back to 1988! Hopefully enough time to change everybody’s mind! Instead of scolding people I changed the past so the UN got together an international panel on climate change with experts from around the world! If you check Wikipedia you can now see in our new timeline an entry on the IPCC:

What’s that you say? My new amazing timeline with the UN promoting highly credentialed scientists to explain the detailed science of climate change for the past 30 odd years is EXACTLY the same? But, but, that’s not possible! For that to be true it would almost have to be that these conservatives never gave two shits about the science and where just moaning about credentials because Greta Thunberg was actually making a difference and got climate change and global warming back into the headlines!