Conservatives are again denying the very existence of global warming

As we well know, climate myths are like zombies that never seem to die. It’s only a matter of time before they rise from the dead and threaten to eat our brains. And so here we go again – American conservatives are denying the very existence of global warming.

Working backwards from a politically-motivated conclusion

The claim is based on what can charitably be described as a white paper, written by fossil fuel-funded contrarians Joseph D’Aleo and Craig Idso along with James Wallace III. Two months ago, D’Aleo and Wallace published another error-riddled white paper on the same website with fellow contrarian John Christy; both papers aimed to undermine the EPA’s Endangerment Finding.

The Endangerment Finding concluded that the scientific research clearly shows that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare via climate change impacts, and therefore according to the US Supreme Court, the EPA must regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Conservatives who benefit from the fossil fuel status quo and oppose all climate policies have urged the Trump administration to go after the Endangerment Finding.

Both papers are rife with flaws because they start from a desired conclusion – that the science underpinning Endangerment Finding is somehow wrong – and work backwards trying to support it. In this paper, the contrarians try to undermine the accuracy of the global surface temperature record, which has been validated time and time again. They don’t bother trying to hide their bias – the paper refers to “Climate Alarmists” and speaks of invalidating the Endangerment Finding.

The errors in the white paper

The paper itself has little scientific content. Using charts taken from climate denier blogs, the authors claim that every temperature record adjustment since the 1980s has been in the warming direction, which is simply false. As Zeke Hausfather pointed out, referencing work by Nick Stokes, roughly half of the adjustments have resulted in cooling and half in warming. Moreover, the net adjustment to the raw data actually reduces the long-term global warming trend:

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Additionally, a peer-reviewed study last year led by Hausfather verified the validity of the temperature adjustments by showing that they bring the data in closer agreement with that from pristinely located temperature stations.

The white paper also claims that the adjustments remove a “cyclical pattern” that appeared more clearly in early versions of the temperature record. As Hausfather told me, that’s simply because we now have more data that better represent the planet as a whole:

What they don’t tell you is that the 1980 record in question only comes from around 500 land stations almost entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and does not include any ocean data at all. There is a well-known warm period in the mid-to-high latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere in the 1930s and 1940s, but it does not really show up much in the oceans and not at all in the Southern Hemisphere. As scientists have collected more historical temperature records from around the world in the past 35 years, we have created more complete records that show less warmth in that period simply because they cover more of the planet.

And of course natural thermometers validate this global warming as well. Ice is melting, species are migrating, spring is arriving earlier, sea levels are rising, oceans are warming, humidity is rising, and so on. The contrarian white paper also references satellite estimates of the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere – estimates that one group recently found are in close agreement with the global surface temperature record.


Comparison of NASA surface temperatures with RSS satellite temperatures. Illustration: Zeke Hausfather, Carbon Brief.

The white paper authors admit that some adjustments to the raw data are necessary (for example, to correct for changes in instrumentation technology, time of observation, moving station locations, and so on), and they don’t dispute the accuracy or necessity of any of the adjustments that climate scientists have made. Basically, because they don’t like the end result of global warming, the authors assert that the adjustments must somehow be wrong, but fail to support that assertion with any real evidence. It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Picked up by the right-wing media

Predictably, a number of conservative media outlets like the Daily Caller and Climate Depot picked up on the white paper. The Daily Caller even went as far as to call it a “peer-reviewed study.” In a sense that’s true – a number of other fossil fuel-funded contrarian scientists who are technically the authors’ peers signed onto the paper. But of course that’s really pal review, not peer review; the white paper was not published in a peer-reviewed journal because it obviously would not withstand scrutiny by scientific experts.

It’s telling that these contrarian white paper efforts to undermine the established climate science supporting the EPA Endangerment Finding are so poor. They’re forced to resort to conspiracy theories, implying that climate scientists from around the world are all falsifying data, adding a global warming signal to the temperature record that we also happen to see in nature and in satellites. As Hausfather put it:

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Posted by dana1981 on Monday, 10 July, 2017

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