A grandiose United Nations Climate Change conference is to be held in Paris at the end of the month. It has been extensively billed as the last chance for world leaders to sign up to the massive expenditure supposedly necessary to save the world from the global warming disaster. A previous effort of this sort in Copenhagen six years ago went horribly wrong, so it is not surprising that the propaganda associated with the lead-up to the Paris conference has been vastly more intrusive and hysterical. As a consequence, the apparently coherent scientific story behind the politics is beginning to fall apart.
The general public learnt from the Climategate and “hockey-stick” scandals that activist climate scientists are quite willing to cherry-pick and manipulate real world data in support of their efforts to save the world. The scientists on their part have learnt that they can get away with it. Their cause is politically correct, and is shaping up well to be the basis for a trillion-dollar industry. That sort of backing automatically provides plenty of protection.
Mind you, they have to be careful to ensure that any doubtful manipulation of data is buried deep in esoteric science so that other scientists – to say nothing of outsiders — find it almost impossible to understand exactly what has been done. In the hothouse of the Paris conference preparation, it seems that the climate-change establishment has not been careful enough.
First, it should be explained that global surface temperature has not risen significantly for the last eighteen-or-so years. According to theoretical models, it should have been rising strongly and continually as a consequence of human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide. The problem is that the campaign to sell the concept of dangerous global warming has been so successful that it is now not an option for scientists to admit in so many words that their models are wrong.
So in 2013, with the Paris conference already on the horizon, a frantic search began for some acceptable explanation as to why the world’s temperature has not been behaving as predicted. Very quickly a number of theories emerged, most of them based on the idea that natural fluctuations are hiding the heat of man-made global warming in the deep ocean. The beauty of the idea is that it allows for the lost heat to come back to the ocean surface at some future date and bite us all disastrously on the bottom. It also satisfies the need to be a fairly esoteric notion, thereby difficult to disprove. The idea that heat is hiding in the ocean depths was accepted very quickly as gospel, and was loudly promoted by the climate-change publicity machine.
Last June, in a major press release, the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made something of a mistake. Having constructed new “adjustments” to some of the data on global temperature, it maintained that the 18-year pause is a result of nothing more than an error of data interpretation, and that the temperature has been going up after all.
The problem for activist climate scientists is that these latest NOAA adjustments are far from esoteric. It took only a few days for scientifically literate critics to spot all sorts of issues with the new analysis. Not the least was that the newly manipulated data do not agree with satellite measurements confirming existence of “the pause”. Suffice it to say that the efforts of the climate establishment to keep all this scientific confusion away from the mainstream media have been wondrous to behold.
The political problem is that there is already a suspicion within the general community that past temperature records have been deliberately manipulated over the years so as to tune surface temperature measurements in directions that support the global warming thesis. The NOAA announcement, coming as it did so soon after bedding down the “hidden heat” idea in the mind of the public, may have confirmed for the man in the street that climate scientists are either guilty of playing too much politics or simply don’t know what they are talking about. Or both. The man in the street has a good record of being right about such matters.
Suffice it to say, the chairman of the House Science Committee of the US Congress has publicly asked for NOAA scientists’ internal e-mails and communications on the subject. (see Chairman Lamar Smith’s correspondence here) NOAA has refused to supply them. This is not a good strategy by a government agency when dealing with Congress. It tends to upset powerful people. More to the point, it suggests that the agency really does have something to hide. The stoush is warming up quite nicely.
Garth Paltridge is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Tasmania, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and a former Chief Research Scientist of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research.