…see it as propaganda
…then starve it of light
I thought religion was dead — for practise only behind closed doors in the privacy of one’s home — then Gwynne Dyer thunders on the pages of the Herald with a rant about “the gods of climate.” Setting an unequivocally moralistic tone, he threatens divine punishment for our sins! Thoroughly unscientific. Amazing.
Dyer often mindlessly repeats all manner of misleading science about global warming, but this time he gives the science a staunchly moral cast. Well, how else to instil a proper sense of guilt?
In an article published today in the Herald, Dyer summarises the global warming story so far:
The standard climate change predictions said people in the tropics and the sub-tropics would be badly hurt by global warming long before those living in the temperate zones felt much pain at all.
That was unfair, because it was the people of the rich countries in the temperate zone – North America, Europe and Japan, mainly – who industrialised early and started burning large amounts of fossil fuel as long as two centuries ago. That’s how they got rich. Their emissions of carbon dioxide over the years account for 80 per cent of the greenhouse gases of human origin that are now in the atmosphere, causing the warming, yet they get hurt least and last.
Let’s have a look at the “tropics and the sub-tropics” to understand what Dyer says. Here’s a map from Wikimedia:
Here’s the first problem with Dyer’s tirade: dividing developed and undeveloped humanity between temperate regions on the one hand and tropical and sub-tropical regions on the other does not reflect reality. What of South Africa and Australia? What of at least half of China, living, apparently “developed”, in the temperate north — and is that fully a quarter of the USA languishing in the “undeveloped” sub-tropics?
Has Dyer glanced at a map lately? Surely not, for he has not noticed the laxity of his assertions. Note the logic as he moves from “people in the temperate zone” to “causing the warming.”
People in the rich countries (see, they were already rich — a dreadful crime to the left) “industrialised early”. Well, they had a long, proud tradition of reason and objective inquiry which allowed them to discover important things in the world around them. They developed machines and processes nobody could understand who had no proper education.
So the rich countries’ industrialisation was “early” — but that just means “first”. The Europeans made the breakthroughs — North America and Japan had nothing to do with those. Coal was the almost magical fuel that powered the Industrial Revolution and made the world so envy the new technology they searched eagerly for their own black deposits.
Still, it wasn’t the fuel-burning by itself that made the Europeans rich (or driving cars would make us all wealthy), it was understanding how to build machines that could use the energy thus released for productive purposes. It was a time of awe-inspiring invention, rapid change and confidence. From mining to metallurgy, from chemicals to crucibles and from trains to telescopes, the studious, self-disciplined and inquisitive men trained in the universities of Europe raced ahead of the old technology. Advances quickly followed in health, agriculture, transport, pharmacology, architecture and so much more. A mere two hundred years later lifetimes have tripled, incomes have soared and mass passenger transport now ignores cruise liners and includes jet aircraft.
But those advances constitute our sin because it resulted in “[our] emissions of carbon dioxide over the years accounting for 80 per cent of the greenhouse gases of human origin that are now in the atmosphere, causing the warming.”
Wait a minute. How much warming have we caused?
0.6 of 30% of sweet FA
Well, first, the IPCC estimates (it can’t calculate, it can only guess) that over about the last 100 years, global temperatures have risen by about 0.6°C.
Second, of the CO2 in the atmosphere, how much did we put there? I’ve seen figures ranging between 0.001% and 30%. If we accept the higher figure of 30%, then our share of the 0.6°C temperature rise is 0.3 × 0.6 = 0.18°C.
CORRECTION – Second, how much did we cause? Assuming, as the IPCC emphasises, that warming is wholly caused by the increased CO2 in the atmosphere, how much did we contribute to that increase? I’ve seen figures ranging from 0.001% to 30%. If we accept the higher figure of 30%, then our share of the 0.6°C temperature rise is 0.3 × 0.6 = 0.18°C. [h/t Bob D and other readers. Thanks. – RT]
Finally, Dyer claims that the “rich” nations are responsible for only 80% of the man-made CO2 in the atmosphere, so the wealthy people have caused 0.18 × 0.8 = 0.144°C.
This amount of warming cannot be detected but everyone ought to thank us for very slightly ameliorating the chill of every frosty morning. Of course, if our share of increased airborne CO2 is only 0.001%, we can expect their gratitude to be somewhat cooler.
Frankly, when we manage to quantify what idiots like Mr Dyer are blathering on about, it’s quite hard to understand why we listen to them.
Still, the vitriolic Mr Dyer goes on to spell out the moral matter he beats us with:
The people of the temperate zones are going to get hurt early after all, but not by gradual warming. Their weather is going to get more and more extreme: heat waves, blizzards and flooding on an unprecedented scale.
Nasty stuff from a mean-spirited, narrow-minded Luddite.
But does he mean it? On an unprecedented scale? Really? He offers no evidence for this and that is because there is none.
Let’s ask the IPCC
The SREX, a special IPCC report on extreme weather, was published in 2012 (though the IPCC managed to publish the summary for policy makers (SPM) in 2011, oddly, before the main report was available). The SPM and SREX contain some points bearing on Dyer’s rhetoric:
Heat waves – SPM: It is very likely that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, or heat waves, will increase over most land areas.
Blizzards – SPM: [doesn’t contain the word ‘blizzard’.] SREX: [doesn’t contain the word ‘blizzard’.]
Snowfall – SREX: Note that we do not distinguish between rain and snowfall (both considered as contributors to overall extreme precipitation events) as they are not treated separately in the literature, but do distinguish changes in hail from other precipitation types.
Flooding – SPM: Overall there is low confidence at the global scale regarding climate-driven changes in magnitude or frequency of river-related flooding.
The IPCC does not say heat waves will be “unprecedented”.
It does not mention blizzards, but lumps snowfall in with rain. Dyer cannot pretend to predict more blizzards when the world authority finds it too difficult.
The IPCC predicts neither increased flooding nor “unprecedented” flooding (unless it’s unprecedentedly small).
Next, Dyer looks at a single northern hemisphere winter. He’s quite disturbed that such extreme cold is being caused by severe warming — and so would I be, if I could believe it. But I don’t believe anyone who claims that extreme cold is caused by extreme warming because it is quite stupid.
Dyer cites the wintry weather in three places as though it reflects global trends. But during 2013 we had record high and low temperatures in both hemispheres. Every year, numerous places around the world report record warmth and record cold. Different places, usually. Dyer mentions only whichever sort bolsters his argument, but lots of us see the bias he exhibits.
‘Abrupt’ climate change — less than 5 years old
He then cites something he calls “abrupt climate change.” Apparently this involves numerous elements and it must be faster than the usual climate change — but that’s just a guess. Here’s his scientific description of abrupt climate change.
In Britain, it’s an unprecedented series of great storms blowing in off the North Atlantic, causing disastrous floods. In the United States and Canada, it’s huge blizzards, ice-storms and record low temperatures that last much longer and reach much further south than normal. The extreme weather trend in North America and Europe is less than five years old, so the science that might explain it is still quite tentative. The first hypothesis that sounded plausible, published in 2012 in Geophysical Letters, blamed a slowing of the northern polar jet stream.
So storms, floods, blizzards, ice storms and low temperatures are “abrupt climate change”? Well, no, they’re weather, Mr Dyer. Please don’t embroider the truth. They’re also caused exclusively by CO2, apparently ours. You remember? 0.6 of 30%, etc.? Accomplishes quite a bit, that small fraction.
Oh, he claims there’s an “extreme weather trend” in North America and Europe, only it’s less than five years old!
He hasn’t heard about the standard averaging period of 30 years for climate. It’s been in the news lately in connection with the last 17 years (or more) lack of global warming.
So the period of observation is much too short to conclude a “trend” of increased extreme weather, but as well as that, numerous papers in recent years have found no evidence of increase. Here’s one: Fluctuations in some climate parameters, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar–Terrestrial Physics, Volume 73, Issues 7–8, May 2011, Pages 805–809.
Interesting tactic, to describe the science “that might explain it” as “still quite tentative.” Sorry, rather than ‘interesting tactic,’ I should say ‘deceitful behaviour’ because it presents as science what can only be either a guess or an agenda. Less than five years!? Clutching at straws, this one.
The rest of his pseudo-science is not worth reading until he provides the magnitudes of the factors he cites as producing this “increasing trend” in extreme weather (which doesn’t exist).
Factors he conveniently fails to quantify include the Arctic warming trend, the temperature difference between the Arctic air mass and the air over the temperate zone, and the actual speed reduction of the northern jet stream.
It must be satisfying indeed for Dyer to ascribe all these diverse weather events to a single jet stream, altered solely by our wicked emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide. I just wish the mechanism was easier to follow.
Hence the “polar-vortex” winter in North America this year, the record snowfalls in Japan in 2012 and again this winter, the heat waves in the eastern US in 2012 – and the current floods in Britain.
Come on, Herald — stop publishing this rubbish.
Dyer actually gets paid for spreading those distortions, lies and guesses.
How fortunate that debunking them costs nothing.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist published in 45 countries [and despised in every one of them – RT].