Some people, especially climate deniers like David Rose, seem to have a hard time grasping the fact that more than one thing can affect global temperature at the same time. Some things, like man-made global warming, bring about a trend that keeps on giving. Others, like el Niño, cause temporary fluctuations that just don’t last.
Yet another article has appeared defending David Rose’s misuse of temperature data. This time it’s Jaime Jessop writing for the “Climate scepticism” blog rushing to Rose’s rescue. His central theme is this:
The main objection to Rose’s article is that he ‘cherry-picked’ land only data from the RSS lower troposphere dataset and ignored the oceans (he did not) and that (bizarrely) he cherry-picked two data points and ignored the longer record. The whole point of Rose’s article is that this is exactly what the media and scientactivists were doing …
That’s not true.
Here is David Rose’s real purpose in his article, in his own words:
Some scientists, including Dr Gavin Schmidt, head of Nasa’s climate division, have claimed that the recent highs were mainly the result of long-term global warming.
Others have argued that the records were caused by El Nino, a complex natural phenomenon that takes place every few years, and has nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions by humans.
The new fall in temperatures suggests they were right.
I’ve emphasized the part that shows David Rose’s real purpose, which he makes crystal clear by saying it explicitly: to promote the idea that the spate of records (soon to include three record-breaking hot years in a row) has “nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions by humans.”
Plain and simple: David Rose is trying to deny the reality of man-made global warming. That’s why he is (quite rightly) called a “denier.”
Jessop goes out of his way to show other data sets, to quell criticism that Rose picked RSS land-only data because it shows the recent drop from the February 2016 peak. That includes surface temperature data (for land regions) from NASA, posted on twitter by Gavin Schmidt:
Unfortunately for Jessop, this graph shows what David Rose left out in one of his real indulgences of cherry-picking: what happened before 1997. That makes the trend obvious. Even “blatant.” David Rose didn’t want you to see that, because he doesn’t want you to see the trend, which is why he adds his name to the very, very long list of deniers who use that particular cherry-pick.
Indeed temperature has subsided since the peak in February 2016, because temporary factors like el Niño don’t last. Gavin Schmidt himself has emphasized that often enough. So have I.
In fact, I did so back in March when the peak temperature was “hot off the presses,” when NASA released their data update for February 2016. I posted about how it was a record-breaker; so did a lot of people. But I also made it abundantly clear that what really matters isn’t the fluctuation (in this case el Niño), it’s the trend. Here’s exactly what I said:
I like to emphasize that what matters most is the trend:
It’s going up. Has been, steadily, no pause.
The continuing barrage of record-breaking heat is remarkable. That’s because of the trend. Of course there’s fluctuation too, but without the trend we wouldn’t see records getting smashed again, and again, and again, year after year, month after month. We’re sure to see times again — soon — when the fluctuations go the other way and we get a respite from record-breaking heat. But that respite will be brief, because fluctuations will turn hot again too; that’s what they do. When they do, they’ll be added onto an even hotter trend value, because the trend isn’t going to stop any time soon.
Any way you look at it, not only was it a scorcher of a February, the trend is rapidly taking us down the path to worse trouble than we’re already in.
Let’s get to the main thing David Rose and a whole lot of other climate deniers just can’t seem to wrap their heads around. It’s a wee tiny bit more complicated than a 5-second sound bite, so maybe it’s just too much for them.
We’ve had big el Niño outbursts before, but the recent ones have brought record-breaking global temperature. That’s because lately, el Niño peaks have been added to such high trend values. Global temperature is affected by both, and when they conspire to bring the heat, the heat is incredible. Newsworthy. Well worth being discussed, and pointed out to the public who will end up suffering the consequences of our inaction to put a stop to global warming.
Let me give (once again) an analogy which is perfectly appropriate. Sea level is on the rise, and because of that, when very high tide comes to Miami it floods the streets. They didn’t used to flood even with high tide. Nowadays, because of the rising trend from global warming, when they conspire it brings a peak big enough to spell real trouble for Miami.
David Rose’s argument is just like saying that the latest “king tide” which flooded Miami was followed by a strong low tide, so the flooding “has nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions by humans.”
James Delingpole’s complaint that the temperature drop following the el Niño peak wasn’t heralded by the press and scientists, is just like whining that the low tide following Miami’s latest high-tide flood wasn’t heralded by the press and scientists.
Strong high tide, especially the “king tide” that comes each year, isn’t the reason for Miami’s flood problem. The reason is global warming, because it’s sea level rise that has turned king tides into floods. El Niño isn’t the reason for the record-breaking temperatures. The reason is global warming, because it’s the trend that has turned el Niño peaks into record-breakers.
I know that’s oh so difficult for David Rose and James Delingpole to grasp — it involves two steps of reasoning — but their inability to “get it” doesn’t alter its truth.
David Rose really did pick two data points — the latest el Niño peak and its following trough — in order to distract us from the trend. Toward the end of his piece, Jaime Jessop lists that as one of the objections raised by Stephan Lewandowsky in a critique. But the only “defense” he offers is “Highly amusing. Psychology professor criticises journalist for misrepresenting climate science!” If you’re going to indulge in ad hominem you should at least offer some fact or reasoning to back it up.
Jaime Jessop’s defense is a disgrace. It credits Rose for objecting to cherry-picking a few data points and ignoring the longer record, when that’s precisely what Rose does, while totally avoiding what he did actually say — his real purpose — pushing the false idea that recent record-breaking heat has “nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions by humans.”
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