Hammering the Trend

I tend to hammer away at the concept of trend. Like many, I’m especially interested in whether, and if so when, trends have changed.

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Cancelling the New York Times, because truth is now more important than ever

Because of their hiring a climate denier, Stefan Rahmstorf (from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research) has cancelled his subscription to the New York Times. Here is his letter to the editor:

To the executive editor

The New York Times

27 April 2017, via email

Dear editor,

I am a climate researcher, professor for physics of the oceans and have worked for eight years as advisor to the German government on global change issues. I regret to have to tell you that hereby I cancel my subscription to the New York Times in the wake of you hiring columnist Bret Stephens. Let me explain my reasons.

When Stephens was hired I wrote to you in protest about his spreading of untruths about climate change, saying “I enjoy reading different opinions from my own, but this is not a matter of different opinions.” I did not cancel then but decided to wait and see. However, the subsequent public defense by the New York Times of the hiring of Stephens has convinced me that the problem at the Times goes much deeper than a single error of judgement. It concerns its attitude towards seeking the truth.

The Times argued that “millions agree with Stephens”. It made me wonder what’s next – when are you hiring a columnist claiming that the sun and the stars revolve around the Earth, because millions agree with that? My heroes are Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler, who sought the scientific truth based on observational evidence and defended it against the powerful authority of the church in Rome, at great personal cost. Had the New York Times existed then – would you have seen it as part of your mission to insult and denigrate these scientists, as Stephens has done with climate scientists?

The Times has denounced the critics of its decision as “left-leaning”. This is an insult to me and was the final straw to cancel my subscription. There is no left-leaning or right-leaning climate science, just as there is no republican or democrat theory of gravity. I have several good climate scientist friends who have been lifelong republicans. Their understanding of climate change does not differ from mine, because it is informed by the evidence.

Quite unlike Stephens’ views on climate change, which run counter to all evidence. He is simply repeating falsehoods spread by various “think tanks” funded by the fossil fuel industry.

In December 2015, Stephens called global warming “imperceptible” and the Paris climate summit a “meeting to combat a notional enemy in the same place where a real enemy just inflicted so much mortal damage”. My colleagues and I have analysed 150,000 temperature time series from around the world, finding that monthly heat records occur five times more often now as a result of global warming than in an unchanging climate (Coumou et al, published in Climatic Change 2013). One of those record-hot months was August 2003 in western Europe. 70,000 people died due to this heat wave. Was global warming “imperceptible” to these people and the ones they left behind? On 15 August 2003, the New York Times reported: “So many bodies were delivered in recent weeks to the Paris morgue that refrigerated tents had to be erected outside the city to accommodate them all.” Was that just a “notional” problem?

Stephens doubts that global warming will continue, claiming that in hundred years “temperatures will be about the same”. That is a shockingly ignorant statement, ignoring over a century of climate science. Our emissions increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, it is higher now than in at least 3 million years. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as demonstrated first in the year 1859 by physicist John Tyndall. CO2 traps heat – more CO2 means a warmer climate. That is basic physics, borne out by the history of climate. Denying these well-established facts is about as smart as claiming the Earth is flat, and best left to cranks, ideologues and fossil fuel lobbyists.

Stephens has claimed that “in the 1970s we were supposed to believe in global cooling.” That’s an age-old climate denier myth. It would have cost Stephens just 60 seconds with Google to find out it is wrong. (Try and google “Did scientists predict an ice age in the 1970s”.) But Stephens is clearly not interested in evidence or seeking the truth about matters.

Last Friday, you sent me an email with the subject: “The truth is more important now than ever.” It made me cringe seeing this in my inbox. It said “thank you for supporting news without fear or favor.” The hypocrisy of that is unbearable, and I will support your newspaper no more. Instead, I will give the money to ClimateFeedback.org, a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage. It is much better invested there.

Best regards,
Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf

Stefan Rahmstorf
Head of Earth System Analysis, PIK

Sea LevelNiño

The Sea Level site of the University of Colorado has an interesting graph which shows quite plainly that there’s a relationship between global sea level and the el Niño southern oscillation:


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Trump Twit

Fascinating FaceBook post from France.

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Share this video

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Thank you, Arnold.

Sea Ice Seasonal Cycle

Several readers mentioned that the plot of sea ice anomaly in the Arctic shown in the last post has much greater fluctuation after about 2007. Anomaly values are the difference between a given time’s extent, and the average for that time of year, so to get anomalies you take the original values and subtract the average seasonal cycle. It was correctly concluded that the exaggerated fluctuations after 2007 are because the seasonal cycle itself has changed; subtracting the average seasonal cycle still leaves that difference in place.

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Climate Change in the News

Some news items worth reading:

Donald Trump denies climate change, the U.S. military disagrees

“The military has seen climate change as a problem since 2003, if not earlier,” says retired Army Gen. Gerry Galloway, now with the Center for Climate and Security… National security threats from climate change are included in eight defense and intelligence documents published before President Obama took office, according to the center… Capt. Dean VanderLey, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command for the Mid-Atlantic region, says “The higher the sea level gets, the more we’re going to have to deal with that. I don’t think we fully understand the scope of the problem. And we definitely don’t fully understand the solution” … there’s more.

Arctic Gone Wild

What’s happening in the Arctic is so out of the ordinary, even scientists studying Arctic climate change are shocked.

Pentagon: Arctic melt requires updated US strategy

The Arctic is opening up, and so is the most direct route between the U.S. and Russia. The Pentagon has very serious security concerns.