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This is Global Warming - A Lesson for Monckton and Co.

Posted on 13 December 2012 by dana1981

To put it as simply as possible, this is global warming:

Fig 1

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

This figure shows the amount of heat the Earth has accumulated since 1960, most of which has gone into the oceans.  The amount of energy accumulating in the oceans over this timeframe is the equivalent of more than two Hiroshima "Little Boy" atomic bomb detonations per second, every second, since 1960.  And this global warming shows no signs of slowing. 

However, the myth that global warming has magically stopped is a pervasive one, most recently repeated during a rather silly and disruptive stunt in the middle of an important international climate negotiation.

Monckton Misinforms.  Again.

Christopher Monckton impersonated a delegate from Myanmar at the 2012 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change international meeting in Doha, Qatar.  He sat in the Myanmar delegate's seat, was mistakenly called upon to speak, and recited two common pieces of misinformation — that the planet has not warmed over the past 16 years, and that mitigating global warming by reducing human greenhouse gas emissions is more expensive than adapting to the consequences of climate change.  Neither point is even remotely true.

Monckton later elaborated on his points in a blog post on one of the many climate contrarian blogs praising his dishonest and disruptive antics, attempting to justify the 'no warming in 16 years' myth by claiming:

"There has been no warming – or, to be mathematically nerdy, there has been no statistically-significant warming."

Being "nerdy" usually means getting the technical details correct; instead, Monckton has gotten the technical details very, very wrong here.  A simple example illustrates why.

A Simple Nerdy Statistics Example

Let's say there has been an observed warming trend of 1 degree with an uncertainty of 2 degrees, or in math terminology, 1 ± 2 degrees.  In this example, the warming trend is not statistically significant (the uncertainty is larger than the trend).  Quite obviously, this does not mean the temperature trend is zero; rather, this means the most likely value is 1, and the possible values range from -1 to +3 degrees. 

We cannot say for certain that the temperature trend is positive in this example, but that is most likely the case, and it would be very wrong to claim with any certainty that the true trend is zero.  But that is exactly the mistake that Monckton has made here by claiming "there has been no warming".  That is simply wrong, as any math nerd will tell you.

Similarly, the measured global surface warming trend over the past 16 years is approximately 0.09 ± 0.13°C per decade according to NASA, as anyone can check for themselves by using the Skeptical Science Temperature Trend Calculator.  The surface warming is not statistically significant — again, the uncertainty is larger than the trend, and possible values range from -0.04 to +0.22°C per decade.  However, the most likely value is still a positive one, meaning the Earth's surface has most likely warmed 0.09°C per decade, or 0.14°C total for the period of late 1996 thorugh late 2012. 

Zero warming is one possibility within the range of uncertainty, but it would take a different statistical test to show that there has been no surface warming over the past 16 years, and that test would fail.

Pielke Sr. vs. Monckton — Earth is 3D

The Earth isn't flat; it's more than just a surface, and global warming is not accurately represented just by looking at surface temperatures.  As climate contrarian scientist Roger Pielke Sr. correctly noted,

"The use of a global annual average surface temperature is an inadequate metric to quantify global warming and cooling."

In fact, over 90% of global warming goes into heating the Earth's oceans (Figure 2). 

where is warming going

Figure 2: Components of  global warming for the period 1993 to 2003 calculated from IPCC AR4

This is why Pielke Sr. also argued that global warming "is best diagnosed by changes in upper ocean heat content".  We don't quite agree — we believe that global warming is best diagnosed by considering all warming measurements including both surface warming and ocean heat content, as shown in Figure 1 above.  Nevertheless, Pielke Sr. is correct to note that ocean heat content is a critical measure of global warming, as Figure 2 shows.  Perhaps he should have a talk with Monckton to correct this Flat Earth thinking.

Monckton vs. Monckton

There is also a fundamental physical reason why we know global warming has not magically stopped: there is a global heat imbalance due to the increased greenhouse effect, and that heat has to go somewhere.  In fact, a fellow going by the name of Christopher Monckton previously conceded this physical reality:

"Is there a greenhouse effect? Concedo. Does it warm the Earth? Concedo. Is carbon dioxide a greenhouse gas? Concedo. If carbon dioxide be added to the atmosphere, will warming result? Concedo."

Perhaps that Monckton should have a word with this Monckton, who is denying the physical reality that global warming has resulted from the increased greenhouse effect.

Mitigation is Cheaper than Adaption

Finally, we must briefly address Monckton's second myth, that adapting to the consequences of climate change will be cheaper than mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This is an assertion Monckton has been making for a very long time, which we have debunked many times, for example here and here and here.  The sole peer-reviewed economics study which Monckton has referenced to support his argument was published by Richard Tol in 2009.  Tol is one of the most conservative economists when it comes to estimating future economic damage from climate change.  Nevertheless, this is what Tol said in the paper Monckton cited (emphasis added):

"A government that uses the same 3 percent discount rate for climate change as for other decisions should levy a carbon tax of $25 per metric ton of carbon (modal value) to $50/tC (mean value). A higher tax can be justified by an appeal to the high level of risk, especially of very negative outcomes, not captured in the standard estimates"

Thus even the most conservative economists like Richard Tol and William Nordhaus support mitigating climate change by putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, quite contrary to Monckton's argument.  This is because trying to adapt to the consequences of climate change will be trillions of dollars more expensive than avoiding global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Figure 3).  There is simply no credible evidence to the contrary, and yet Monckton continues to repeat this myth over and over again.

Figure 3:  Approximate costs of climate action (green) and inaction (red) in 2100 and 2200. Sources: German Institute for Economic Research and Watkiss et al. 2005

Lessons Learned?

There are two lessons to be learned here.  The first is that anybody who claims 'global warming has stopped' does not understand basic math and may be a member of the Flat Earth Society, because they seem to believe that the Earth's surface is an accurate representation of the planet as a whole.  In reality, most global warming goes into the oceans, and ignoring the two Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second equivalent of ocean heat accumulation over the past half century is quite a large oversight.

The second is that anybody who claims adapting to climate change will be cheaper than preventing it is in denial of the body of climate economics research

Ultimately Monckton was escorted out of the UN Doha conference by security personnel.  Lucky for him that there are no Science Police, for if there were, his misinformation would certainly have earned him a ticket.

science police ticket

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Comments 51 to 63 out of 63:

  1. Even though I'm currently on vacation, since Ridley's WSJ piece was little more than a repeat of the errors in his WIRED piece (as noted by KR @50), I drafted up a blog post about it. So that will probably be published here in the coming days.
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  2. "No need to do anything to prevent this."
    That's a howler. Basically, just another handwaving variant of It's not bad.
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  3. Thanks for the replies to my post. I think I could defend my, admittedly a bit provocative, metaphor with the hockeystick, but I don't want to sidetrack. I shall follow up the links and the reactions to the wsj article, to counter-evidence some lukewarmist tendencies I now detect in myself.
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  4. My response to Ridley's WSJ piece will be published later today, FYI.
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  5. dana 1981 Looking at your paper cited above ref Fig 1, I was interested in why you and your co-authors used pentadal data and why it would make such a difference with DK12 data which you claim is focused on short term noise. note: "Our 0-700 meter result differs from that of DK12 over the 2002-2008 period because we use pentadal data whereas DK12 use quarterly data. This result highlights the fact that the DK12 conclusions are a result of their focus on short-term noise" Also why is there such a sharp rise in the 0-700m OHC in the 1998-2003 period which is not reflected in the 700-2000m OHC over the same period. Also why does this OHC graph stop in 2008 and not up to 2011 (the paper published in March 2012). Finally, the warming imbalance you confirm in the 0.4-0.6Wm-2 range agrees with Hansen's recent estimates but not with his 2005 model result of 0.85+/-0.15Wm-2, which should be increasing with growing CO2 levels since 2005. Why is the imbalance decreasing from the 2005 level?
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  6. Ron @55 - NOAA only has pentadal data available for 2000m OHC, except since 2005, so that's all we had to use. The graph ends circa 2009 because that's the average of 2007 through 2011. DK12 were using just 0-700 meter data and focusing on short-term changes (a.k.a. noise) and calling every little bump a 'climate shift'. As you can see from Figure 1, the global energy imbalance (essentially the slope of the graph) isn't decreasing. Estimates of the global energy imbalance may be changing, but that's not the same as the imbalance itself changing.
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  7. dana 1981 The slope of your Fig 1 OHC graph reduces sharply around 2004 indicating a reduced imbalance. This coincides with the full deployment of the Argo floats and their use for OHC measurement. Before the wide coverage of Argo - ocean heat content measurement was sparse and very doubtful reliability. So the slope of the graph has decreased in the Argo period. So I don't understand what you mean by; "Estimates of the global energy imbalance may be changing, but that's not the same as the imbalance itself changing". Both the estimates of warming imbalance (Hansen and others) and the measurement have reduced since 2004-05 which seems inconsistent with an increasing radiative imbalance from steadily higher CO2 levels.
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  8. dana 1981 Any response to my correction to your statements?
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  9. My response is that you're going down the up escalator.
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  10. dana 1981 (-argumentative wordplay snipped-). Regarding your cited paper 'Nuccelli et al 2012' - is John Church the only recognised climate scientist among the co-authors? (-reverse argument from authority snipped-).
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] " John Church the only recognised climate scientist among the co-authors..."

    Non sequitur. As noted, arguments from authority used as denigration do not advance the dialogue. If you have nothing positive to add to this conversation, then refrain from detracting from it. Please thoroughly review this site's Comments Policy before composing any future comments.

  11. Ron King - Global energy is increasing, despite all variations (ENSO, low solar cycle) and some forcings (aerosols) currently acting to decrease that warming. All that, and the trend is still up, which shows the strong long term warming trend. If there wasn't a trend under the noise, we would be seeing a strong temperature drop right now - which we are not. You can continue to claim that short term variations in warming indicate (to you) that the world is now cooling - and those with any knowledge of statistics will continue to see that you are just looking at the noise. Year to year variations are on the order of 0.2-0.4°C (peak-to peak ENSO is ~0.4°C, for example). The trend shows 0.8°C over the last hundred years or so, 0.16°C per decade over the last 40 years - and to see that you need to look at enough data for the signal to be larger than the noise. Stats 101 - make certain you're looking at signal, not at noise. The rest of your post consists of, quite frankly, Arguments from Authority. That does not support your argument.
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  12. Ron @60, "...should not be attacked for not being a climate scientist by people who aren't climate scientists." Your red herring argument dismisses one and all critiques made by non-climate scientists in this faux debate? You are conceding that the opinions Monckton, Watts, McIntyre, Ridley, McKitrick, Morano, Michaels, Pielke Jnr., Inhofe, Bastardi, Douglass, Knox, Singer, Easterbrook, Peiser, McLean, Jo Nova, Montford, Mosher, Baliunas, Loehle, Tom Harris, Muller, Liljegren, Condon, Happer, Lewis, Plimer, Soon, Idso, Tisdale, Dyson and many, many other fake skeptics and contrarians are to be ignored when it comes to climate science. For the record, in science it is not considered an "attack" to note legitimate and noteworthy errors and flaws in arguments made by fake skeptics and those in denial. Trying to invoke that hyperbole in a scientific debate is conceding that you have lost and are grasping at straws.
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  13. Ron King, you're really asking the wrong question. Relevant questions are: "What qualifications do Drs. Douglass and Knox have as "climate scientists" Douglass and Knox paper on ocean heat content is the one that Nuticelli et al. (2012) address] answer: none. Douglass is a low temperature superconductivity physicist. He gained his PhD in 1959 and essentially retired as a publishing physicist in 1991 (his last paper in the area of his expertise was published in 1991). Knox is a spectroscopist with a particular focus on biological photochemistry. He gained his PhD in 1958. "Why are Drs Douglass and Knox writing occasional papers in an area completely divorced from their expertise in their late 70's? answer: Difficult to understand. Their first paper in their late career choice [Douglass, Blackman and Knox (2004) Temperature response of Earth to the annual solar irradiance cycle. Physics Lett. A. 323, 315-322] was scuppered by their error in not accounting for the fact that the (albedo-corrected) total solar irradiance has to be divided by 4 to account for the spherical geometry of the Earth when considering the Earth-absorbed irradiance. The smattering of papers this pair have published since on climate science have almost uniformly been shown to be blatantly flawed by rebuttals published in the scientific literature. The answer to your question: " John Church the only recognised climate scientist among the co-authors..." answer: John Church is a recognised climate scientist. That's ONE MORE than the authors of the paper Nuticelli et al. are addressing. Robert Way is a graduate student studying glaciology, climate statistics and climate change attibution. John Cook is at the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. That seems like quite a bit of climate expertise status to me (If it's "staus" you're after which seems to be the case). Judging by the postings at this site the other authors have the requisite qualities to address the issues, i.e. a strong physical understanding and honesty. Three questions for you Ron: 1. Couldn't you have found this out for yourself? 2. Don't you think it's a little odd that two elderly physicists choose to write very occasional papers on subjects completely outside their expertise, and that are objectively shown to be wrong? 3. Don't you think it's quite a good idea that objectively flawed analyses that find their way into the scientific literature are robustly rebutted?
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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) Ron King was yet another sock puppet of Ken Lambert - banned some time ago for troll-ish behaviour.

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