Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and The Australian provided the media coverage for climate denialist damage control, ahead of the release of the IPCC report in September 2013. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA

By Dana Nuccitelli   
15 September 2013

(The Guardian) – The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is due out on September 27th, and is expected to reaffirm with growing confidence that humans are driving global warming and climate change. In anticipation of the widespread news coverage of this auspicious report, climate contrarians appear to be in damage control mode, trying to build up skeptical spin in media climate stories. Just in the past week we've seen:

Interestingly, these pieces spanned nearly the full spectrum of the 5 stages of global warming denial.

Stage 1: Deny the Problem Exists

Often when people are first faced with an inconvenient problem, the immediate reaction involves denying its existence. For a long time climate contrarians denied that the planet was warming. Usually this involves disputing the accuracy of the surface temperature record, given that the data clearly indicate rapid warming.

In the 1990s, Christy and Spencer created a data set of lower atmosphere temperatures using measurements from satellite instruments. These initially seemed to indicate that the atmosphere was not warming, leading Christy, Spencer, and their fellow contrarians to declare that the problem didn't exist. Unfortunately, it turned out that their data set contained several biases that added an artificial cooling trend, and once those were corrected, it was revealed that the lower atmosphere was warming at a rate consistent with surface temperature measurements.

Most climate contrarians have come to accept that the planet has warmed significantly. Unfortunately many have regressed back into Stage 1 denial through the new myth that global warming magically stopped 15 years ago (most recently exemplified by David Rose in the Mail on Sunday). The error in that argument involves ignoring about 98 percent of the warming of the planet, most of which goes into heating the oceans. When we account for all of the data, global warming actually appears to be accelerating. […]

Stage 2: Deny We're the Cause

Once people move beyond denying that the problem exists, they often move to the next stage, denying that we're responsible. John Christy and Roy Spencer took this approach by disputing the accuracy of global climate models in The Daily Mail and The Christian Post, respectively. Spencer was quite explicit about this:

...we deny "that most [current climate change] is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community."

Christy and Spencer made their case by comparing the outputs of 73 climate models to satellite temperature measurements, and showing that the models seemed to predict more warming than has been observed. But the comparison was not of surface temperatures, or of the lowermost layer of the atmosphere, or even any measurement global average temperatures. They specifically looked at measurements of the temperature of the middle troposphere (TMT) in the tropics.

There's certainly nothing wrong with examining this particular subset of temperature data, but it's a bit of an odd choice on its face. The real problem lies in the fact that satellite measurements of TMT are highly uncertain. In fact, estimates of the TMT trend by different scientific groups vary wildly, despite using the same raw satellite data.

Another problem is that the stratosphere (the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere) is cooling – an expected consequence of the increased greenhouse effect. But some of the cooling stratosphere bleeds into the TMT data, leading to another cool bias. While there is a discrepancy between model simulations and measurements of tropical troposphere temperatures, it's not clear how much (if any) is due to the models being wrong, and how much is due to errors in the measurements. As a U.S. Climate Change Science Program report co-authored by John Christy concluded,

"This difference between models and observations may arise from errors that are common to all models, from errors in the observational data sets, or from a combination of these factors. The second explanation is favored, but the issue is still open."

However, in mainstream media interviews and editorials, Christy and Spencer always fail to mention the possibility that the problem could lie more in the measurements than the models, which frankly is intellectually dishonest. Additionally, climate models have done very well in projecting long-term global surface temperature changes. [more]

The 5 stages of climate denial are on display ahead of the IPCC report


  1. Anonymous said...

    There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for climate denial. It is now far, far past the point where there can be any credible reasons to claim that this is not human caused, or does not actually exist.

    Therefore, this means that any denial is willful and malicious and is coming from sources that are easily misled or persuaded by vested interest (Big Oil being just one of them).

    Denial should not even be tolerated anymore, nor more than racism should.

    From today's Climate News Network: "Eleven days before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes its latest report, a group of eminent scientists says there is massive evidence of human responsibility."

    They say that if humans continue with business as usual, using fossil fuels and pumping out excessive amounts of greenhouse gases, the world will be on track for a planet that is 4°C warmer by the end of this century, or even earlier.

    The group says assertions that there has been no warming this century are simply wrong. "Regardless of the... (erroneous) claim that global warming has already stopped, evidence is that once well-known impacts from El Niño, volcanic aerosols and solar variability are removed from the observations, the warming trend of the ocean-atmosphere system is unbroken; and that it will continue (potentially towards 4°C) unless serious mitigation action is taken.

    "That global warming continues unabated over the last decade is confirmed by ocean measurements. Ninety per cent of the additional heat that the Earth system absorbs due to the increase in greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans, and the global array of thousands of scientific measurement robots in the oceans proves that they keep heating up at a steady pace. Meanwhile satellites show that sea levels also keep rising steadily."

    The statement says a 4°C rise would drastically change the Earth. Some coastlines and entire islands would be submerged by rising sea levels, and more extreme heat waves would cause crop failures and loss of life.

    It says powerful feedback processes that would very probably raise the warming even higher could be triggered, and might prove irreversible: "Four degrees of planetary warming means some 8°C change close to the Arctic, which will cause even larger impacts on the Eurasian and North American land mass and the surrounding seas."

    "...our societies seem to be willing to impose immense risks on future generations.”

    This is EXTREMELY SERIOUS and any "denial" is simply willful stupidity beyond belief.  


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