Climate change deniers are in full cry in anticipation of new UN report

This piece is to alert you that the next round of climate change deniers is in full cry, ahead of the coming release of the new IPCC assessment report. But first, my thanks to everyone who read the recent climate overview piece. There were many of you.

About that new IPCC report. The IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report is due very soon. This will be their fifth assessment report (abbreviated “AR5”), and their first update in six years. IPCC AR4 was released in 2007. There was a smaller (but significant) update from many of the same scientists in 2009 for the Copenhagen climate conference. That excellent and readable document is called the Copenhagen Diagnosis. I recommend it highly.

Ahead of the release of AR5, the deniers are launching a pre-emptive attack. The new gotcha is a supposed leveling of temperatures in the last decade. Here’s a sample of the denier story, oddly, from the BBC website:

Global warming pause ‘central’ to IPCC climate report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is meeting in Sweden to thresh out a critical report on global warming.

Scientists will underline, with greater certainty than ever, the role of human activities in rising temperatures.

But many governments are demanding a clearer explanation of the slowdown in temperature increases since 1998. …

You can read the whole article for denier Matt McGrath’s “on the hand, on the other hand” mastery. The IPCC part of the reporting is all about the certainty. The author’s added questions are all about the latest denier red herring. More on why the deniers latest story is a false one below.

Most government leaders are hungry for reason not to act on global warming

A word about who the market for denialism really is. Yes, it’s the billionaires. But it’s also their key enablers. Note that the piece says “many governments” are demanding…”, not “many scientists”.

Why “many governments”? Because no major government official really wants to act to restrain global warming — for the simple reason that big money owns every national government worth owning, and putting the brakes on carbon means separating the carbon bigs from their unmonetized assets — the almost 3,000 gigatons of carbon reserves still in the ground awaiting transfer to our air and their cash accounts.

Let’s put that more simply. Is Barack Obama going to tell Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, and David Koch that they can’t have their still-in-the-ground billions without first exploring every single reason he should just shut up? Obama can’t fund his library if he does.

So they grasp at straws. And folks, this “pause” is a straw.

Problem 1: Why the “global pause” is not a pause

Which brings us to the point of this post. From an excellent and readable science website, dedicated to taking on the deniers, Skeptical Science (my emphasis and some reparagraphing throughout):

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

Posted on 16 September 2013 by dana1981

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.

The writer then lists a number of recent denial articles and editorials, and adds:

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

He illustrates Stage 1, “Deny the Problem Exists,” by debunking the very problem we noted above, the so-called global warming “pause.”

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.

Here’s the chart that goes with that observation:

Total heat content of deep ocean, shallow ocean, land, ice and atmosphere (1960–2012)

Change in total heat content of deep ocean, shallow ocean, land, ice and atmosphere (1960–2012)

Not much of a “pause.” The technical description of that chart, from Skeptical Science, is as follows (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Global warming is sometimes thought of as just an increase in the air temperature, and it is a recurring myth that global warming has magically stopped whenever there is a pause in the long-term trend of increasing air temperature.

However, heat is exchanged between all parts of the Earth System, and the oceans can hold vastly more heat than the air.  Global warming is actually the total accumulated heat in the whole Earth System that results from the imbalance between incoming solar energy and outgoing heat and reflected energy.

This figure from Nuccitelli et al. (2012) [PDF] [immediately above] shows the change in the total heat content of the Earth System since 1960 in terms of its major components:  the total land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red) from Church et al. (2011), and the ocean heating for the 0-700 meter layer (light blue) and the 700-2,000 meter layer (dark blue) from Levitus et al. (2012).

More than 90% of global warming goes into heating the oceans, while less than 3% goes into heating the atmosphere.  Even relatively small exchanges of ocean heat with the atmosphere, as occurs during the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), can produce short-term fluctuations and pauses in the increasing air temperature.

Just keep this in mind when you hear the magic words — “But what about the pause?” Don’t be fooled. There are pauses, but this “pause” is bogus.

Also, note above the author’s definition of global warming. It’s the:

“total accumulated heat in the whole Earth System that results from the imbalance between incoming solar energy and outgoing heat and reflected energy.”

In other words, energy in minus energy out across the system. Pretty simple. The IPCC has revised its previous SRES scenarios (explained by us here) to reflect this new definition. They’re calling the new baselines “radiative forcings,” which is just the scientific term for the definition above. Again, energy in minus energy out across the whole system.

For an advance peek at the four pathways on which projections will be overlaid, click here. Yes, that is indeed 1200 ppm by 2100 in the worst case pathway.

Problem 2: Sometimes things do pause before they kill you; doesn’t mean you’re safe

It’s true that sometimes there are pauses. But by definition, a pause is just temporary relief, and sometimes a “recovery” is just noisy data. Consider (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Cherrypicking is the practice, widespread amongst climate change contrarians, of carefully selecting particular points in the noisy short-term climate datasets and using them to show ‘trends’ that are not representative of the true situation.

The huge global surface air temperature spike that accompanied the monster El Nino of 1997-98 is thus chosen as the starting point for the “no warming in […] 16 years” that you may read in internet comment-threads below climate stories (the number varies, apparently at random, from commentator to commentator).

This year we have seen the Arctic sea-ice melting season once again reported by contrarians as a recovery, although as the graph below, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, clearly shows, there have been a number of ‘recoveries’ in previous years too. The long-term trend, as shown by the dotted trendline, is downwards.

Here’s that northern hemisphere ice chart mentioned above:

Northern hemisphere ice extent anomalies

Northern hemisphere ice extent anomalies through August 2013

Note that there are several places one could declare a “pause” or a “recovery” — and then go running to world leaders and say just what they want to hear — “See, maybe you should wait just one more year.”

What does this chart actually show? That the decline in Arctic ice extent, which last year surpassed 30%, is this year (through August) about 15%. That’s decline. Minus is still bad on that chart. And to make the author’s point, notice the trend from 1980 through today — about –1% per year. When the headline hits that “summer arctic ice is gone,” most of you will see it.

The Skeptical Science piece, Five Stages of Denial, is rather good and very readable. All five stages are well thought out, and you’ll see them all displayed in the coming weeks.

My suggestion, don’t be fooled. We have to act. We have to act now. And no world leader with billionaire money in his pocket wants to go first. Time to make them? I think so. (Yes, that’s Chris Hayes I’m linking to.)


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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42 Responses to “Climate change deniers are in full cry in anticipation of new UN report”

  1. BillFromDover says:

    Al Gore is not a climate scientist, he just espoused their views… so get over this red herring, already!

    “Professor Wieslaw Maslowski

    So now the score is now 109,456,957,026 for and 1 against?

    I suppose this supports your view that there is not conciseness in the scientific community?

    BTW, what is a Wieslaw Maslowski, or a Reince Priebus for that matter?

  2. rhjames says:

    Al Gore for one – his term, not mine. Also, the BBC reported this in 2007, quoting Professor Wieslaw Maslowski. Ask the people who predicted it.

  3. BillFromDover says:

    Perhaps… but we need Him in right here in America the Exceptional, not the fuckin’ Middle East!

  4. BillFromDover says:

    The same water we drank which led us all to descend on the poor bankers and lie about our incomes so we could live in a nice house until forfeiture?

    I would go with something in the air… like excessive heat.

  5. BillFromDover says:

    “Arctic was supposed to be ice free by 2013”

    According to whom… the deniers so they could make up even more bullshit for their fantasies?

    And what exactly what is your definition of ice-free (please include all seasons in your explanation).

  6. Dave of the Jungle says:

    “Someone’s going to come before anything that bad could happen.”

  7. Hue-Man says:

    1. Don’t know what IPCC says. I posted about the SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH done on crabs in water containing high levels of CO2.
    2. Anecdotes about Maine lobsters in a single year have nothing to do with my comment and provide no proof one way or another about man-made climate change.
    3. There is SCIENTIFIC evidence that greenhouse gas emissions produced by mankind are having negative effects on worldwide climate – irrational religious delusions have nothing to do with being conservative about dumping more CO2 into the atmosphere. There is zero evidence that any god of any description has ever done anything at all.

  8. accountant says:

    1. Isn’t it true that the IPCC has no way of knowing whether the ocean has absorbed additional carbon, because they don’t consider it except as an explanation of why their predictions didn’t come true?
    2. Isn’t it true that Maine has a record crop of lobster, exactly the opposite of what you say is supposed to be happening due to the ocean’s absorption of this missing CO2?
    3. Isn’t it true that your statement that even if you don’t believe in global man-made global warming theories, shouldn’t we reduce green house gas emmissions “just to be safe” is the same thing many religious people say about God….even if you don’t believe in one, shouldn’t you just to be safe in case there is eternal life? Isn’t climate change bordering on religion when we have to go to this?

  9. Indigo says:

    Good point. It’s astonishing how easily misled Americans can be. Maybe it’s something in the water.

  10. BillFromDover says:

    Actually, it’s even simpler; just install doubt in the minds of the average idiot Americans, and ya have won the propaganda war.

    And how easy it that?

  11. BillFromDover says:

    Hey, a denier’s argument is simply that sometimes shit happens.

    Now, discarding your scientific mumbo-jumbo evidence, how can anyone possibly argue with that?

  12. BillFromDover says:

    The weather is obviously influenced by outside forces acting on it… yes?

    And, if so, is not your argument rendered to total bullshit?

    BTW, where was the Industrial Revolution… oh, shall we say, about 4.5 billion years ago?

    And are you actually agreeing that the age of the Earth is > 10,000 years?

  13. BillFromDover says:

    How you guys constantly come up this this utter bullshit baffles the mind of those of us with a clue.

    A simple question: are you simply as disingenuous as your talk radio counter-part heros, or do ya actually believe the easily disprovable shit your side constantly regurgitates?

  14. rhjames says:

    Arctic was supposed to be ice free by 2013. This was supposed to be something special (even though a submarine surfaced at the North Pole in 1959). I think it’s time to admit that the poles are refusing to take any notice of climate predictions, nor are the so called “record” conditions valid.

  15. BillFromDover says:

    Asthma from air pollution that slows down synapses, perhaps?

    Because a bagger can’t handle a 5-sylable word?

    Whatever, it it certainly scary for those of us not looking forward to the four horses of the Apocalypse and those with Jesus-boners praying to be Raptured up ASAP!

  16. BillFromDover says:

    Did the simple fact temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than the Antarctic ever come to mind?

    I’ll leave it up to the astute reader to point out why.

    Then again, did ya just not answer your own question?

  17. BillFromDover says:

    Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets grow when it gets cold for the simple fact that it snows in the winter.

    Without mentioning this simple fact, the deniers would have ya believe that all is well until the final ice-melt out sometime in the near future… in the summer, of course.

    When all is said and done, the trend is a continually shrinking ice sheet.

  18. rhjames says:

    I’m familiar with the ACC, and it’s influence on protecting Antarctica from warmer currents. Also the convergence point (I’ve been swimming in the water both side of this, having spent some time in Antarctica. Antarctic ice area has been increasing for at least 30 years. There are theories being worked on to try to show that human activity is changing this current. If Arctic ice had been increasing, and Antarctic ice decreasing, there would be similar theories developed to explain it. My point remains remains – Arctic ice shouldn’t be cherry picked as an indicator of global warming, without similar reference to Antarctic ice, or ignorant people like myself will wonder why.

  19. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Wrong. Look up antarctic circumpolar current.

  20. rhjames says:

    I get concerned when I see plots of Arctic ice, but not Antarctic ice. Surely they should both be considered. If the same logic is applied to Antarctic ice, then we would assume global cooling.

  21. fletcher says:

    Some years ago when I visited Lake Mono in California, the lake was at its lowest point ever due to drought and the pumping of water to the Los Angeles area, the people were both angry and confused. Many earned their living from tourists coming to fish. There were signs asking that the transfer of water south halt or at least slow down. Then Governor Duekmajian told them to get over it and find another way to make a living. So the owner of the bait shop began repairing kerosene heaters.

  22. Hue-Man says:

    I commented on a recent open thread about the PBS Newshour item about Alaska crab and climate change. It’s worth reposting here because it’s a reminder that a large portion of the CO2 that humans are producing is being absorbed in the world’s oceans, leading to acidification. So what? Imagine the elimination of all crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimp, krill, etc.) and mollusks (clams, octopus, squids, etc.) because they are unable to grow the shells they need to survive (as well as all the species that feed on them).

    “New research suggests the chemistry of the North Pacific is changing in ways that pose serious trouble for Alaska’s two signature crab species, red king crab and snow crab, the culprit, ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions.”

    “Scientists like Jeremy Mathis with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found the oceans have grown 30 percent more acidic just since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”

    “Essentially, all the crab died within the first 200 days. So, if they are dying very rapidly in the first 200 days, obviously they’re not going to make it to be fishable size.”

    “And what is really alarming about that study is that we thought we were exposing these crabs to future scenarios which may have been 50 or a hundred years from now, when, in fact, our recent work in the Bering Sea has shown that those conditions exist today. So this is a real thing
    that is happening right now today, not some future condition that they’re going to experience some time later on.”

    Even if you don’t believe everything the IPCC concludes, the “conservative” approach – before the TeaParty/GOP turned that word into an obscenity – would be to reduce green house gas emissions just to be safe (recognizing the cost to the world’s economic situation). Instead, it has become official government policy in Canada, Russia, the U.S., Australia, and other countries to develop oil and gas and coal as rapidly as possible in case the demand goes down in the future either by market forces or by international treaty!

  23. Dave of the Jungle says:

    There’s more in the thermodynamic system than air. Why is this so hard for some people to get?

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    I suspect that climate change deniers will be the same road as the rest of us.

  25. Indigo says:

    True. That’s why I’m deeply concerned about developing survival protocols.

  26. GaiusPublius says:

    Interesting comment thread. I think you can see the energy and angst deployed by the deniers by the number of them on this thread. This IPCC report that’s coming out is a big deal, and they show it by the loudness of their voices. And it’s not just here; it’s everywhere this subject is reported.

    It must be like the seasonal hiring of salespeople at christmas time; denier patrolling of climate posts is a growth business at the moment. (Congrats; I’m sure you, like all of us, need the work.)

    I’m fine with deniers coming out of the woodwork. Show yourselves. As more stuff like this happens — and in front of everyone’s eyes — we’ll know who to blame. That would be you, deniers, working for the bigs or on their behalf, and their bigs future monster carbon payday. (Psst: You need to charge a percentage, not the pittance you’re likely getting now.)

    So please. show yourselves. I really want to see what and who we’re dealing with as we fight this last and most important of battles. Thanks, all, for and against, for caring about this issue.


  27. Naja pallida says:

    And not a thing you list matters when the goal of the “skeptic” is to do nothing, and prevent anyone else from doing anything. Though, I do have to scoff at the cost benefit analysis tidbit. It is never cheaper to address problems after or as they occur, than it is to prevent them or mitigate them in the first place. There is absolutely no logic at all in “Well, glad we had that flood. Cleaning up the mess, rebuilding homes, and fixing the levees will be so much cheaper than just having built the levees properly in the first place.” Or “Why fix the bridge, after it collapses and kills a few people, it’ll be rebuilt so much better than it was before!” Hokey corporatist nonsense, that cares more about money than people.

  28. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Ignorant opinions all sound the same to me.

  29. cole3244 says:

    mother earth has an over under on the demise of the human garbage ravaging her beautiful planet, sooner rather than later i say.

  30. MyrddinWilt says:

    No, the issue is not whether man is causing climate change, that is proven beyond honest dispute at this point. The issue is what to do about it.

    Since the folk on K street working for thunk tanks who are paid $100K/year by the Koch bros and such are going to continue to spew lies and FUD are going to continue until the Koch bros and such decide they can fill their greedy pockets better with solutions, it is the solutions that matter anyway.

    Climate change denial will melt away as solutions prove themselves to be viable because the argument isn’t really over facts. It is about how fast a group of parasites are going to get richer. In the case of the Kochs’ the guilt of their family money coming from Stalin’s gulags is too big a stain for them to bear.

    There is a lot that can be done. Wind and Solar are becoming mainstream production technologies. LED lighting has cut my electric bills by 25% since I eliminated the incandescents and fluorescents, better light quality too. If everyone in the country did the same, electricity demand drops 20%.

    Electric cars are becoming viable. It isn’t just Tesla any more. Jaguar and Mercedes are also working on plug in hybrids which is one of the main reasons Tesla has moved out of the sports niche.

  31. pappyvet says:

    We are in deep trouble Gaius and it is going to get much worse. Just one example; Lake Mead is losing an average of 10 feet per year. It has about 35 feet to go before the turbines can no longer function. Greed will kill us all. It is becoming more and more likely that the Human Race’s greatest calamity will come more like a cancer that eats it one bite at a time than with a nuclear bomb.

  32. Monoceros Forth says:

    Although there is no single
    sceptic view, most** sceptics broadly agree with the following:
    (followed by a laundry list of supposedly universally-agreed upon points.)

    I think you’re wrong, actually. There are all manner of “sceptics” as you ostentatiously label yourselves, ranging from wafflers such as yourself who grudgingly concede there might be something to it, to American deniers who assert that nothing is happening at all, to religious maniacs who don’t care because Jesus is coming again soon.

    You do all broadly agree on one thing: nothing should be done.

  33. Whitewitch says:

    And the fix is what? Great articles GP, however, can you do one on how to fix it. I don’t see a fix, humans what they are. No one is giving up their cars (how will they get to work), or the a/c, (how we will live in this humidy/heat). Heck they won’t even quit flushing their toilets.

    More importantly, the wealthy are certainly not giving up their planes, trains and toys…not even our hero Al Gore – because of course he has to fly around to warn everyone (even though the internet is less desvasting to the environment than jet plans and mansions)

    …so I don’t actually see a fix.

  34. UncleBucky says:

    If they/we stall any longer, the march off the edge of the cliff is assured.


  35. UncleBucky says:

    Where’s YOUR article?

  36. UncleBucky says:

    Naw. Nice post, but naw.

  37. heimaey says:

    Just because you don’t want climate change to be a real threat doesn’t mean it isn’t. We can’t just wish this problem away. Scant evidence? Whatever.

  38. Drew2u says:

    Are you still the go-to guy for the UK Independence Party? (Libertarian/Anarchist party)

  39. Strepsi says:

    For a research project I have listened to dozens of oceanographers and scientists. They all conclude without hesitation that the ocean will br 2 or 3 degrees warmer, and that this will continue increasing as it’s self propelling. The delicate coral ecosystems are projected to collapse by 2050 latest. Lobster have already moved out of New England and off the coast of Canada where the water is colder, and Alaskan pollock are leaving Alaska to colder Russian waters. How the UN packages it is of course open for debate, but there is mountains of evidence.

  40. mikehaseler says:

    As Chairman of the Scottish Climate & Energy Forum I would appreciate it if you didn’t make up the views of sceptics to fabricate a case against us. In an on line consultation May 2012 the agreed statement of views was as follows:

    Although there is no single
    sceptic view, most** sceptics broadly agree with the following:

    *Carbon Dioxide (CO2) has been increasing. In 1960 it was 0.032% of the atmosphere, today it
    is 0.039%.
    * There has very probably been warming of average global temperatures in the last 150 years.
    *There is a greenhouse effect and CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The best scientific estimate of
    this effect (for doubling CO2) is about 1C warming.
    *People think there are mechanisms that could increase warming further than the direct
    effect of CO2. This is not supported by the evidence.
    *Current estimates of about 0.8 C temperature rise in the past 150 years are very likely too
    high. There is compelling evidence of malpractice, urban heating and poor instruments & siting. A figure of 0.5-0.6C warming appears more likely.
    *Man-made sources have increased global levels of CO2, however scientific analysis shows
    part of the increase is natural and no one is certain how much or little of this rise is man-made.
    *Water in the atmosphere is far more important than CO2 in determining global temperature.
    *The harmful effects of warming have been exaggerated as shown e.g. by the absence of
    substantial evidence for increasing weather extremes.
    *Known benefits have been hidden. It is estimated there are more than 20,000 extra winter
    deaths each year in the UK and increasing fuel costs will make this worse. CO2 is essential for plant growth and increasing levels are beneficial to plants.
    *Even under the worst case scenario warming, when the usual method of comparing the cost and
    benefit of policy is used, it is more cost effective to deal with any problems that occur than to pay to try to stop them.
    *Climate proxies are not reliable. If we consider all the evidence including historical records, the evidence suggests the world was warmer during the “medieval warm period” as well as being cooler during the “little ice age”.
    *Climate varies naturally. Most of the CO2 rise occurred in the latter half of the 20th century. If this change were man-made the global temperature change for the early and latter 20th century should be very different. They are not. This suggests a natural cause for much of the 20th century warming.
    *In 2001 the IPCC stated with a high degree of confidence that global temperature would warm. It has not. In science a theory is not valid unless the data supports it. Climate scientists must accept this theory is not validated and acknowledge that the IPCC confidence in warming was greatly overstated.
    *We condemn the many instances of malpractice seen in climate science and those who condone them.

    Full details on

  41. pogden297 says:

    This article is nothing but spin. We need to have honest science, not science in which the facts are twisted to support a certain politically-correct theory. Of course, climate change is happening. The climate has been changing for 4.5 billion years and will continue to change. The issue is whether man is causing dangerous global warming and there is scant evidence of that.

  42. Indigo says:

    All the deniers have to do is stall. All the concerned have to do is stop the oil cycle right now. Sane money might be on the concerned but the gambling facts are the gambling facts and “smart” money is likely to be on the deniers. All they have to do is stall.

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