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David Rose Hides the Rise in Global Warming

Posted on 19 March 2013 by dana1981, John Russell, John Mason

It seems like we have to debunk this myth on a weekly basis, as it keeps popping up in the mainstream media.  So, yet again, this is global warming:

Fig 1

Figure 1: Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter ocean heat content (OHC) increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012).

The overall warming of the Earth over the past 15 years was larger than over the previous 15 years.  Global warming has not stopped; it's not even slowed down.

A leading purveyor of the myth to the contrary is journalist David Rose, of the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday and Vanity Fair.  We've previously pre-bunked and debunked his articles on the subject, but he appears oblivious to any criticism of his work.

"No, the world ISN'T getting warmer (as you may have noticed)," wrongly begins an article published in last week's Mail on Sunday.  Try saying 'there's no noticeable warming' to the Australians and Americans who suffered the greatest run of heat waves ever recorded; or the British or New Yorkers who were flooded out of their homes during 2012.

Global Surface Warming is Within the Predicted Range

Rose's latest denial of global warming makes a great play of this graphic created by Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading (which Rose modified, printed, and misrepresented without permission or attribution). [Update 2. 19:41 GMT, March 20th: The Mail has now attributed the figure to Ed Hawkins' site, provided a link and apologised. However they still misrepresent Ed Hawkins' original graphic.]

hawkins graphic

Figure 2: Comparison of observed global surface temperature changes (black) with 38 climate models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), including 25–75% and 5-95% uncertainty ranges (gray).

Rose's first mistake is to claim that "the speed of global warming has been massively overestimated."  Putting aside the fact that he's only looking at surface air temperatures, which only comprise a small percentage of global warming; as Ed Hawkins noted,

"In the article David Rose suggests that this figure proves that the forecasts are wrong.  This is incorrect ... the observations are at the lower edge of the projected range"

Despite being on the lower end of that range, global surface temperatures are nevertheless within the 90% (5–95%) confidence interval of model runs, and therefore have not been overestimated.  Note that we expect the data to fall outside the 90% range 10% of the time, so even if the observational temperatures were outside that envelope (which they are not), it wouldn't necessarily mean that global surface warming has been overestimated.  This is further illustrated by a simiar graphic created by Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate, using the previous Coupled Model Intercomparison Project collection of climate models, CMIP3, which shows that the observed surface temperatures are within the 95% model confidence interval (Figure 3), which is somewhat wider than the 90% confidence interval.

schmidt cmip3

Figure 3: Annual mean global surface air temperature anomalies from the CMIP3 models plotted against the surface temperature records from the HadCRUT4, NCDC and GISTEMP products, baselined to 1980-1999 (as in the 2007 IPCC report).  The envelope in grey encloses 95% of the model runs.

So why are surface temperatures currently on the lower end of that 90% interval?  There may be several contributing factors, one being that there has been a preponderance of La Niña events over the past decade, which cause a short-term cooling of surface temperatures.  Over this timeframe, more heat has accumulated in the deeper oceans — heat which David Rose conveniently ignores by focusing exclusively on surface air temperatures.

Global Warming Continues Unabated

Rose's second error is contained in the article sub-heading, but he quickly contradicts it himself in the body of the article:

"No, the world ISN'T getting warmer ... there has been no statistically significant increase in the world’s average temperature since January 1997"

These two statements say very different things.  Figure 1 obviously shows that the world IS getting warmer — in fact, over the past decade it has accumulated the equivalent heat of 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second.  But even surface temperatures have most likely warmed over that timeframe, at a rate of about 0.081 ± 0.13°C per decade.  Calling that 'not warmer' is no different than saying 1 ± 2 = 0.  It's just statistically and mathematically wrong.  The surface warming trend may be zero; but it could also be +0.21°C per decade.  Most likely surface temperatures have warmed 0.12°C since 1997, which is not zero.

Rose Misrepresents Climate Scientists

Rose gathers some quotes from the few contrarian climate scientists who disagree with the 97% consensus that humans are causing global warming.  Among these are Judith Curry and  David Whitehouse, the latter being associated with the climate contrarian lobby group Global Warming Policy Foundation.  Whitehouse is not a climate scientist.

Rose quotes Oxford's Myles Allen saying that the odds of catastrophic 5°C surface warming this century have come down, but that's a far, far cry from saying the planet isn't warming or that we shouldn't be worried about it, as Allen has explained in a response on The Guardian.

Rose also quotes Piers Forster as claiming that "global surface temperatures have not risen in 15 years."  As shown above, this quote is factually wrong.  Forster has also called Rose's article "terrible," and clarified his position on future warming:

"It's fine to say that current models overestimate the last decade of [surface] warming. They clearly do, and as I say in my quote I think we can rule out some high sensitivity values because of this. But to do a fair comparison you need to remove the effects of variability ... Even with a suggested ECS [equilibrium climate sensitivity] of around 2.5 C or so we can end up with a very significant climate change by 2100 if we don't do something—therefore I think the tone of the article in terms of its implications for the IPCC, climate science and the climate itself are all wrong ... I would put the best estimate using this evidence around 2.5 C."

In short, Forster believes the scientific evidence puts equilibrium climate sensitivity (the total amount of warming, including feedbacks, once the planet reaches a new energy equilibrium) in the 2–3.5°C range, most likely 2.5°C surface warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2.  This would mean a significant and potentially very dangerous amount of climate change over the next century if we listen to Rose and don't take serious action to address the problem.

Finally, Rose claims that James Annan believes that climate sensitivity is "likely to be about half of the IPCC prediction in its last report in 2007."  This is a gross misrepresentation of Annan's views on the subject, which are very similar to Forster's, in that Annan thinks the higher end of the IPCC climate sensitivity range (above 4°C) is implausible and given too much weight. 

The IPCC best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity  is 3°C in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 (likely range of 2–4.5°C), while Annan believes the most likely value is about 2.5°C and unlikely above 4°C.  Needless to say, 2.5 is quite a bit higher than half of 3, and is well within the IPCC likely range.

Annan has clarified his position on his blog, and expressed displeasure that Rose did not attempt to contact him before grossly misrepresenting his opinions.

"he never attempted to contact me to check he had represented my views accurately ... The bit Rose adds about "the true figure likely to be about half of the IPCC prediction in its last report in 2007" is a complete fabrication of course, it's not something I can imagine having said, or being likely ... their range, or best estimate, is certainly not something I would disagree with by a factor of 2."

In short, Allen, Forster, and Annan's positions are that we're not doomed to catastrophic climate change just yet.  This is probably true, and is obviously very good news.  But their positions also mean that continuing to rely on fossil fuels as Rose advocates will result in very dangerous and potentially catastrophic consequences.  For Rose to claim these climate scientists' positions support his global warming denial is a gross distortion of their views, and it is not surprising that they have objected to these misrepresentations.

Long-Debunked Myths Thrown in for Good Measure

The second half of the article is ambiguous in that it appears to be written by — or is in the words of — David Bellamy, the botanist and former televison presenter.  Here Bellamy is given a platform to complain he was kicked off TV due to his views on climate change, which contradicts a previous admisssion that his departure was because of his political activities. 

However, leaving that aside, with Bellamy's input we end with a Gish Gallop of hackneyed climate myths.  We'll not go into a detailed debunking in this post, but for the sake of thoroughness:

  • the claim that CO2 lags behind temperature changes is debunked here;
  • the myth that the sun is causing global warming is debunked here;
  • the myth that climate scientists were all predicting an impending ice age in the 1970s is debunked here;
  • the myth that humans aren't causing global warming is debunked here; and
  • the myth that renewable energy is too expensive is debunked here.

Rose and Bellamy also argue that the planet will survive global warming.  While that is true, the question is whether species living on the planet will survive it, and how difficult that survival will become.  The more and faster global warming and climate change humans cause, the more difficult it will be for species (including humans) to adapt to those changes, and the fewer species will surivive.  As a botanist, we would have thought Bellamy should know this.

Rose-Colored Denial Glasses

Ultimately David Rose has given us yet another textbook example of global warming denial, quite literally denying that the planet is warming.  In attempting to support this myth, Rose has grossly misrepresented the positions of most of the climate scientists he references in his article, as well as misinterpreting their data.

In reality the planet is accumulating heat equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second, and that warming shows no signs of slowing, let alone stopping.  It's a physical reality that the Earth will continue to accumulate heat as long as we continue to increase the greenhouse effect by adding CO2 to the atmosphere.  Quite simply, global warming will not stop until we actually DO something to stop it.  We cannot change the laws of physics simply by denying them.

Also see posts on this subject by Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, Carbon Brief, and by the University of Reading's Richard Allan.


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Comments 1 to 33:

  1. I hope this time Rose is the subject of a  complaint to the newspaper, or the Press Complaints Commission. He seems to be allowed get away with his chicanery as a matter of course.

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  2. I wrote to the Press Complaints Commission last time Rose wrote a similar an article. The PCC did nothing.

    Anyone in the UK who want to have another go this time please don't hesitate.

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  3. I agree, I'm not British but Rose has a long history of grossly distorting climate science.  If the PCC offers a possible recourse, I would recommend pursuing it.

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  4. Has there been any response yet by Myles Allen to Rose's article. I would guess that he is not pleased.

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  5. tmac57 @4 - no, we attempted to contact Myles Allen but have not received a reply.

    XRAY @5 - if you refer to Figure 1, it ends in 2009 because it's a 5-year running average.  The data are up-to-date.

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  6. Of course this is the normal Sunday Mail nonsense. What horrifies me that in the interest of balance it was reported on BBC radio 4 (probably the best news radio station in the UK).

    What is of most interest in the new Levinson related legislation  - big brinksmanship in Westminster yesterday to curtail lies being printed by the press. Of course this is related to individuals - there have been a few horrific cases recently, but I need to digest if the new complaints procedure can be used. 

    John Russell any thoughts?




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  7. I just came across another recent quote from Prof Myles Allen (University of Oxford) that shows how grossly Rose distorts his views ...

    “While every new year brings in welcome new data to help us rule out the more extreme (good and bad) scenarios for the future, it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened since the early-2000s as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

    That link also contains statements from a number of other climate scientists who reject any suggestion that ‘global warming has stopped’.  

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  8. @StBarnabas

    I'd be interested if you could point us to that Radio 4 report.

    As for the new PCC. I must admit I don't have great hopes. It neeeds testing. In theory newspaper articles must not print falsehoods, but I agree their remit seems very people-oriented. Science seems to be seen as fair game for spin. Is the view 'nobody got hurt': which is maybe true for the short term, but will it in the long term?

    It now appears (See Leo Hickman's Tweets for today) that the Mail on Sunday have today been changing Rose's article—for instance by acknowledging the origin of Ed Hawkins' graph (see end of the article). The cynical might say this marks a new tactic... write your story (as deliberately error-strewn as you like); wait until it's been seen by a few million people; then water it down to make it acceptable to the PCC. Voila! Job done. How can you print a retraction of something that's already been retracted—or indeed, appears to have never existed?         

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  9. The title of the original Mail on Sunday article is "The Great Green Con no. 1 :...."

    I wonder if this means we can expect a continuing series of articles in the same vein. If that is the case you're going to be kept busy playing whack-a-mole.

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  10. @SCM

    Actually this was the first of two complementary (note: with an 'e' not with an 'i') articles written by David Rose and published by the Mail on the same day. This is 'No 2'.  'No 1' sets up the con that justifies No 2.

    As to whether these are a continuing series: based on both the Mail's and Rose's history to date, I fear so.  

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  11. @John Russell

    Not a report as such. Just a regular slot what is in the papers early Sunday morning, where it got a mention. Sadly half asleep in bed at the beginning- had a rude awakening!, Possibly I can find it on BBC I-player but it was just a 30s or so summary going through the main points of Rose's article. Job done as far as the Skeptics are concerned of course...

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  12. @ John, St Barnabas - have sent them a link to this page.

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  13. Myles Allen has responded in the Guardian.

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  14. Thanks OPatrick @14,

    Someone in the comments section summed up part of the problem nicely:

    "[Dr. Myles Allen] "But if climate scientists refuse to talk to Mail on Sunday correspondents, then their only information sources left are bloggers and David Whitehouse." 

    And the problem with that is? "The Mail story is based on bloggers and a non-expert" doesn't have much credibility in comparison to "The Mail story is based on an interview with climate scientist, Myles Allen". You gave their lies credibility."

    Exactly, therein lies the problem and scientists need to wake up to that fact.  If scientists do elect to speak to a journalist, then they need to insist that they (the scientist) record the interview.

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  15. Dr. Allen's conclusion seems rather naive:

    "I am perfectly prepared to believe David sent in an accurate article that was then hacked to pieces in the newsroom"

    Given Rose's long long history of misrepresenting and distorting climate science and scientists, I wouldn't believe that for a second.

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  16. Yah, Dana, that's actually laughable.  The suggestion that Rose is a victim is apalling. Knowing what I know about the construction of rhetoric, the "newsroom" would have had to completely re-write Rose's pieces each week.  I suspect that Allen knows this, though.  I, too, am prepared to believe that, if evidence can be found to support it. 

    Ha. Ha. Ha.


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  17. It is all very well critising David Rose and his ilk, but they have families to feed and mortgages etc. to repay. While no present or future sanction exists for him and his fellow correspondents, such as Melanie Philips, Peter Hitchens etc., they have a choice: submit articles that are going to please their editor and thus win more commissions, or tell it the way it really is and lose a significant source of income. I don't for one minute think that they are not fully aware of the error of their ways. The print media is collectively in dire straights, thanks to the internet, and will do anything to please its advertisers. As for their ethics, well, they are newspaper people, which says it all in my book.

    Similarly, one also has to have sympathy for those scientists who take the fossil fuel industry's shilling and by pure coincidence find that climate change is not going to be too bad after all. I am sure that they, too, have families to support. It is just the way the world works today. Look at the role of lobbists and political sponsors and the millions spent trying to become President of the U.S.A. Can you remember when democracy actually worked and money did not swear when it talked? I can, but only just. I don't like it one bit, but I can't ignore it. It is called facing the facts.

    Perhaps this side of the fence should take a leaf out of Architects and Engineers 911 Truth's approach to getting its message across. Imagine something like Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out but with climate change as the issue. (Pilots for 911 Truth videos are also interesting to watch, especially for those interested in aeronautics.)

    Surely, the opening sentence to this post: "It seems like we have to debunk this myth on a weekly basis" shows that a change of tack has at least to be considered. I imagine that most, if not all, of those in the scientific community will by now have formed an opinion on climate change, so there are very few left that have yet to decide their stance on the matter, no matter how often this site publishes the latest findings.

    Perhaps a few record breaking temperature years will do the trick, but do we have that long? It seems to me that Old Mother Nature is having a laugh at our expence. Perhaps by not quite providing headline grabbing global temperatures so that there is not a collective effort to combat the changes to the climate that are slowly taking place is her way of solving over-population. It is all very sad when one looks back at the missed opportunities the world's leaders have had to act collectively for the common good.

    ps. The above link is a technique that I have not used much, so if it fails, please copy and paste: into your browser.

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  18. I too was surprised by Allen's final words. Given Rose's track record on the issue he must be quite the charming actor. The Mail has a pretty clear anti-renewable energy agenda but Rose doesn't have to be a party to it.  

    #15 Exactly indeed. That is why we jurnos call experts in first place. Scientists do, and should, check me out before agreeing to talk on record. And check with colleagues about their experience w specific reporters. 

    Dana - nicely done explanation of yet another messy distortion.

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  19. Dana #16 - I suspect Myles Allen's generosity towards David Rose may be somewhat influenced by their being near neighbours. Very local politics may be coming in to play here.

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  20. finglestrumpet #18

    Point and SHIFT/Click on the link in the 'ps' will take you there.

    I did try using the

    Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out

    construct that once worked but had trouble with it in this new gizmo editor, it did not look right in Preview, and there is no way back for further editing or using Submit.

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  21. Funglestrumpet @18  "Surely, the opening sentence to this post: "It seems like we have to debunk this myth on a weekly basis" shows that a change of tack has at least to be considered"

    The roots of this consistent denier/"sceptic" meme must be that the effects of increased CO2 have been consistently presented as X° C per decade which created a loophole for critics to pounce on every time the surface temperatures don't respond in such a linear way.

    While the normal presentation of the expected cumulative heating of the total sytem is a scientifically "pure" parameter, when modelled projections are put to the public there strongly needs to be some way to better communicate that the cyclic non-cumulative variations (ENSO etc) are pretty large and can swamp the upward trend for a long time - like waves on a beach can swamp the incoming tide line.

    I think the graphs from Foster and Rahmsdorf, which clearly show the underlying signal by subtracting natural variations, need massively greater exposure. Full page newpaper ads. 30 second TV infotainment ads. The more academic scientists, who are bad at adequately communicating the science to the public, need to be trained to use such aids when speaking to or being interviewed in public. The IPCC itself needs to feature them prominently, right up there in the summary for policy makers and not buried deep in some attribution study appendix.

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  22. Just in case anyone missed the update (above) which we just added, the Mail on Sunday have now added these words (including the link) to the end of Rose's article...  

    "The original graph was produced by Dr Ed Hawkins, a senior research scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Discussion of the graph and its meaning can be found on the website Climate Lab Book.

    We apologise that this credit was initially missing."

    Of course, they should have written, "The original graph which we plagiarised..." .

    We understand from a tweet today by Tamsin Edwards of Bristol University that the Mail's footnote came about as a result of requests to David Rose by her and Ed Hawkins. 


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  23. The only thing I'm interested in is if, how and how much Rose is paid by the GWPF for his handiwork.

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  24. I'd argue it's a gallop all the way through. There's at least three unsubstantiated claims about climate science and policy in the headline alone.

    Pieces like these read more like advertising than any real scientific endeavor. Kind of like the offers for cheap pharmaceuticals I get by email twenty times a day. The message never changes, but sometimes the volume does.

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  25. Interesting twist that Myles Allen response in The Guardian.
    I also think that if Rose is a neighbour, then Allen is being diplomatic.

    In any case, has Allen seen the attack Rose made in the follow up article?
    Currently it is law that all local government councils in the UK must have one climate change officer, Rose was attacking this (amongst other things). In fact the follow up Rose article used FOI data which must have taken weeks/months to obtain. So Rose appers to have planned the 'attack' before speaking to Myles Allen.

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    • Last June I made a submission to the Leveson Inquiry which I entitled ‘The press should speak truth to the people so that the people can speak sense to power’.
    • This is an extract relevant to this discussion:
    • “PRESS REPORTS ON GLOBAL WARMING JANUARY TO JUNE 2012 Using an iPad to search for items on global warming in the eight major national daily newspapers published in England I have identified 76 items of news and comment over the period 1 January to 25 June 2012. …
    • “In summary, the Daily Telegraph (0.7 million readers), the Daily Express (0.7 million readers) and most of the time the Daily Mail (2.1 million readers) reject the scientific evidence that gives a high probability to the Earth warming up due to human activity in releasing greenhouse gases; the Sun (3 million readers) and the Daily Mirror (1.2 million readers) are not concerned; while the Times (0.5 million readers), the Independent (0.2 million readers), and the Guardian (0.3 million readers) are committed to giving their readers the latest evidence and pertinent comment on man-made global warming leading to climate change.
    • “That adds up to 3.5 million readers exposed to rejection of ‘human responsibility’, 4.2 million unaware from their newspaper reading, and 1.0 million given the scientific viewpoint. Or as percentages of the presumed daily readership: rejection 40%, unaware 48% and acceptance 12%.”
    • It shows why journalists like David Rose and James Delingpole, with potential audiences of 31/2 million readers endanger us all.


    Michael Bassey

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  27. funglestrumpet, I sincerely hope you do not want to present the Architects and Engineers 911 Truth organisation as anything worth emulating. They're not. They are conspiracy nutters using appeals to authority. It's like the faux sceptics using their PhDs to claim their opinion about climate science carries weight.

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  28. It is vital that all UK readers make a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about Rose' article. I take John Russel's point, that the PCC is a pussy cat, but if enough of us write, and what is more, respond to the Daily Mail's defence when it is sent out, they may do something.


    I have posted my complaint up on my blog here

    It has the relevant links to the PCC and BBC, and you can copy, paste and modify at will.

    I am also complaining to the BBC Radio4 because of their mentioning this article on their news bulletin on Sunday morning. I mean, an article on p 22 of the Mail on Sunday merits a mention on the BBC news?

    Please let us all give the Mail and BBC a real earache over this, or Rose is just going to continue ad lib. Let us turn this thing around, not just send in a complaint, but follow it through until we win space on the Mail and the BBC to set the record straight.

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  29. Hello everyone.  

    Normally in statistics the null hypothesis is that "nothing will change".  In the case of the global mean temperature that would mean that it would remain where we would expect it based upon "natural" events.  

    Given that has anyone seen a 95% or 99% confidence interval of where we'd expect the temperature to be if there was not an underlying change brought about by carbon dioxide?

    For a skeptic, or denialist, to pick on the confidence interval of a "prediction" is inconsequential.  There is no way that that could be modelled in a super accurate manner as there is no way that anyone can know for sure what the strengths of ENSO and solar cycles will be.  

    I'm guessing that if someone was to do a 99% confidence interval of stationarity of global mean temperature, allowing for know cycles that are out of humanity's hands, that the temperatures we have seen in the last few decades would have exceeded that.  

    In other words can we finally put up a statistical arguement to say that "almost surely" the global mean temperature is increasing?  

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  30. Cicco - I would have to say one of the most clear illustrations of a climate null hypothesis, that of what we would expect with only natural forcings, is incorporated in the IPCC AR4 report:

    All forcings vs. Natural forcings


    Where the top illustration is the result of modeling temperatures with both natural and anthropogenic forcings, and the bottom is the result of modeling temperatures with only the natural forcings. Natural forcings alone, given the physics, would have resulted in temperatures some 0.8C cooler over the Industrial Era.

    Add to that, in the context of this thread, that ocean heat content has done nothing but rise in the last 50 years (see Fig. 1 in the opening post) whereas the null hypothesis would be no change. 

    Finally - in every temperature record we have,when you include enough information to separate between a null hypothesis of no warming and a long term warming trend (19-24 years, depending on the record and its short term variations) - you see statistically significant warming. There is really no doubt about that whatsoever. 

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  31. Cicco, if AR4 is too ancient for you, there's always Jones et al. (2013)

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  32. I am a UK resident, and have submitted a complaint to the UK Press Complaints Commission.  They informed me they are already investigating the article due to an earlier complaint.  I let you know the outcome.

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  33. David Rose is at it again. Same arguments, except maybe this time he attacked hindcasting more than he did the previous times; I don't remember.  He says hindcasting tailors the models to the temperatures. I submitted a corrective comment, but don't know if it will survive moderation over there.

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