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March 06th 2013 print

Barry Brill

The Climate Commission plumbs new depths

Remember when global warming was all about surface temperatures? Now that IPCC Chairman Pachauri has let the climate cat our of the bag, Tim Flannery & Co. have had to make some adjustments. The mainspring of global catastrophe is now somewhere at the bottom of the sea



Just one day after the IPCC Chairman claimed that global warming had stopped happening 17 years ago, the Australian Climate Commission rushed out a press statement, “The Earth Continues to Warm.”


Clearly, there is a lack of consensus here. Are these diametrically opposed views between leaders in the field of climate change? Not at all. On closer inspection, it all turns out to be that well-known sleight-of-hand which Americans call “bait and switch”.

For over 20 years, the IPCC has been noisily agitating about an unprecedented rate of global warming at ground level – where we all live They told us that a predicted rise in surface temperatures of 3-6°C by 2100 had the potential to harm mankind in a myriad of ways. These warnings certainly attracted our attention. They were the bait.

See also: Another dose of Flim-Flannery
The greenhouse with no roof
Sins of omission and Climate Commission
Our hottest week ever?

Now, it turns out that the Climate Commission (ACC) has very little to say about surface or atmospheric temperatures. Its press statement and accompanying report rely almost entirely upon its opinions regarding the heat content of the deep oceans. This is the switch.

The deep oceans have nothing to do with the climate we experience, which is wholly manufactured in the atmosphere. Nothing to do with droughts or floods or fires or cyclones or temperature records. Nothing to do with what the ACC calls Australia’s “Angry Summer”, or the spread of malaria, the melting of glaciers, the shortages of food or other aspects of the long-threatened AGW Armageddon. The whole ACC report is a red herring.

Dr Pachauri was addressing the real thing – surface (or lower atmosphere) temperature anomalies averaged over the whole globe. They haven’t moved since 1996. He says that the sharp warming phase which began in the late 70s levelled off in the late 90s. The whole episode lasted only 20 years, and we now know that nobody should believe the IPCC models which projected that this warming would continue into the 21st century.

Might the warming start again? Nobody knows. All we know for sure is that is either in remission or it is over.

The ACC report says that 2000-09 was the warmest decade since modern measures began. But that is because it commenced at a warm level. To pick another decade, 2003-12 was notably cool in comparison.

Some diehards suggest we should take account of apparent warming/cooling tendencies that are insignificant in a statistical sense. Such an approach seems to be an abandonment of science. If skilled climatologists are unable to detect any clear signal amongst screeds of noisy data, then that should be an end to the argument.

Although irrelevant to the lack of climate change in the last 17 years, ocean heat content (OHC) is a challenging metric. There has been no warming in the upper 700m, which has been measured by the ARGO float project since 2003, and we can’t monitor the temperatures in the depths below 700m. The ACC claim that “missing heat” could be in the ocean depths is merely an assumption – a faith statement.

Saying nothing at all about “the bait”, the ACC report “switches” to pages of material on other topics. Shakespeare described it well: “Methinks, the lady doth protest too much.”

Hon Barry Brill OBE is a New Zealand barrister and solicitor. He is a former Minister of Science & Technology, and Minister of Energy, and is currently chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition