A few warm days in December precipitated a deluge of absurd remarks from climate alarmists. Paraphrasing a couple of lost intellectual sailors on Facebook, “… back when we actually used to have cold weather and snow in the wintertime…”, and “… no one can deny that the Earth is warming now!” Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders beclowned himself with similar comments. The fact that the warm temperatures were due to an El Nino pattern didn’t seem to register with these souls. Their apparent memory of weather history extends about as far as the evaporation of skin moisture on their last trip to the mailbox. Of course, there have been many wintertime warm spells in the past.
I recall a very warm December when my mother expressed amazement at the temperature as we trimmed the tree on Christmas Eve. I checked weather records for St. Louis, MO and found that it was probably 1971. The temperature hit 70 degrees on December 27th of that year. In Boston, the temperature on Christmas Day in 1889 hit 65 degrees. The early- to mid-1950s saw several warm Decembers along the eastern seaboard (see this data from 1955). And there were several other years with comparable holiday warm spells.
The point is that the over-reaction to weather is silly. The hysterics are not driven by good science or actual weather facts. As this article notes, the warm weather in December is likely to transition to a La Nina pattern later in 2016, which could bring a colder-than-normal winter next year.
Here are a few facts about climate change that should be very non-controversial:
- Climate models based on carbon forcing have a consistent track record of predictive inaccuracy. They have over-predicted global temperature for decades. The actual surface temperatures have been at the low end and even below the lower bounds of “confidence intervals” around the predictions.
- Climate change over the past 60 years is within the historical range of natural variation. Solar forcings, even if poorly understood, have played an important role. Active El Nino’s in the 1980s and 1990s might have contributed to the warming that occurred during those decades, before the so-called “pause”.
- Satellite temperature records, available for only 35 years, show a smaller trend toward warming than surface temperatures, and no discernible warming since the late 1990s. Surface temperatures are subject to a number of controversial measurement issues making recent claims about “record warmth” suspect.
- Ice melt data is ambiguous. The Arctic sea ice extent has been more stable than advertised, and the Antarctic has experienced ice accumulation.
- Sea level increases pre-date industrial carbon forcings and have not accelerated.
- The rate of increase in atmospheric carbon concentration has slowed dramatically in developed countries, a development that is likely to continue.
- Poor countries cannot afford expensive measures to reduce carbon emissions and they are in desperate need of economic growth. Exploiting fossil fuels in those countries can contribute to a cleaner environment and economic growth, which would ultimately allow adoption of more expensive energy alternatives.
- Hot temperatures kill fewer people than cold temperatures. A little warming is likely to confer benefits on mankind.
- Carbon is the stuff of life! Higher carbon concentrations are contributing to a re-greening of the earth and will improve overall agricultural productivity.
Climate hysteria is encouraged by models that are consistently unreliable in their predictive accuracy, and by an unsupported presumption that the consequences of warming would be unambiguously negative. The first bullet above, by itself, is sufficient to show that climate science is not “settled”. There are many climatological processes, including irradiative effects and feedback mechanisms, that are not well understood. The magnitude of the warming experienced over the past 100 years is far from alarming (less than one degree Centigrade).
On any reasonable cost-benefit basis, arguments for a massive, forced reallocation of resources toward alternative energy technologies and carbon remediation are ill-founded. Absent real proof of accelerated warming AND of negative consequences, the development of alternative energy and carbon absorption technologies should proceed as the economics of the situation dictate, not by government edict.