Weird World Weather

There is a lot of happy talk out there that is premised on the belief that you can't tell the public the bad news because it’ll scare them and they'll not do anything, or they will fall into despair.
David W Orr

You've all seen the Hollywood disaster movies: the hero is an engineer or scientist who wants to warn people of impending danger.  But there is always some politico / company man / jobsworth who thinks it's a really bad idea to alarm the public.  Well, of course, if the mayor evacuates the town and it all turns out to be a false alarm then he's going to lose a few votes.  And so, if questioned, he denies that there is a problem and tells the media that the engineer / scientist is being unreasonably alarmist / having a psychotic episode.

That is the gist of what I would call 'the Hollywood equation': you compare the risk of losing votes / personal income to the risk of people losing their lives / homes / livelihoods / land, and you throw in a weighting factor that tilts the scales in favor of inaction in the face of predictable - and actually predicted - catastrophe.

Weird word-wagglers

There is a concerted effort by propagandists to convince the world at large - even in the face of an ever-mounting number of natural-disasters  - that either climate change isn't happening, or else that it is all part of natural cycles.  Using classic tricks of propaganda they prefer to argue, not the wide view of scientific insight but the narrow view of cherry-picked - or even manufactured - data.  It is a favorite trick of word-conjurers to revise history , and to inject irrelevant terms into the discussion - terms such as 'Al Gore' and 'hoax'.

George Orwell's Big Brother would have been immensely proud of them.

For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world's systems and atmosphere stable.
But it is possible that with all these enormous changes (population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels) concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.

Margaret Thatcher, PM, Speech to the Royal Society, September 27 1988.

Margaret Thatcher's 1988 speech to the Royal Society -
- the Orwellian historical revisionism version
according to the Iron Lady's
1982 Falklands War propaganda adviser.

Writing in 1868, George P. Marsh wrote, in a footnote in The Earth As Modified by Human Action:
The subject of climatic change, with and without reference to human action as a cause, has been much discussed by Moreau de Jonnes, Dureau de la Malle, Arago, Humboldt, Fuster, Gasparin, Becquerel, Schleiden, and many other writers in Europe, and by Noah Webster, Forry, Drake, and others in America. Fraas has endeavored to show, by the history of vegetation in Greece, not merely that clearing and cultivation have affected climate, but that change of climate has essentially modified the character of vegetable life. See his Klima und Pflansenwelt in der Zeit.
Al Gore was born in 1948.  Climate change is not and cannot possibly be be a hoax invented by Al Gore, any IPCC report participant or anyone at all, really.  It was being discussed by scientists in the early 19th century - which is why George P Marsh felt the need to collate and publish the wealth of scientific evidence for human-induced climate change.

But, say many deniers of human-caused climate change, how can puny humans affect such a big planet?  George P. Marsh, citing around 200 academic sources, put forward - in 1868 - some very strong arguments to show that humans not only can, but demonstrably have affected and  do affect climate.

But what about all those temperature readings?  Scientists didn't know that you have to be very careful about where and how you site a thermometer - until James Watts very cleverly discovered this fact all on his own and then set up a site to demonstrate the need for care when siting a weather station.  He even performed an experiment to show that even when those idiots at NASA remember to use a Stevenson screen, they fail to allow for errors due to color.

The importance of whitewash in pseudo-science.
image credit:

He was so concerned about the need for scientific accuracy in climate science that he started marketing his own thermometers so that citizen scientists can drive around and see for themselves just how inaccurate the warmist data is.

UHI VHI - Urban Heat Island Vehicle Heat Input detector

This bit of kit is an 'enhanced version' of Watts' USB datalogger - a nifty gadget that lets you prove to your friends that global warming is a hoax by logging directly to your hard-drive a moment-by-moment measurement of how hot your laptop is getting due to the extra power drawn by a USB device.

Now, that is what a Londoner would call "a nice little earner".

But was Watts really the first person to notice that scientists need to correct their temperature data for errors?  Was every climate scientist on the planet so incredibly stupid as to overlook a possible source of error?
... it is but recently that attention has been drawn to the great influence of slight differences in station upon the results of observations of temperature and precipitation. Two thermometers hung but a few hundred yards from each other differ not unfrequently five, sometimes even ten degrees in their readings;

George P. Marsh, 1868

The Arctic is melting.  Any observer can note just how small, mobile and scattered the floes are in the main Arctic ice pack.

Central detail from Modis terra Arctic mosaic August 12 2010.
The whole ice cover is vastly fragmented and shows considerable amounts of open water.
This is far from normal Arctic sea ice behavior.
Please see the source image and click on any area to view in other resolutions.

Despite the ease with which he could see for himself that the Arctic is warming, in post after post Anthony Watts denies that the Arctic is getting significantly warmer:

Conclusion: There is no evidence that Arctic warming over the last 30
years has anything to do with CO2. If it were CO2 causing it, we would
see warming at both poles.

By implication, Watts agrees in this post that the Arctic has got warmer over the last 30 years.  But he seems unaware that the recent trend towards greater Antarctic sea ice extent in winter is due to ocean warming.  And the downward trend in Antarctic land ice is due to global warming.

Recalling the significant contribution that Islam made to western science, I have a message for Anthony Watts:
The more forceful the pretense is in the beginning,
the harder it will be to keep up the pretense in the end.
Imam Ali son of Abu Talib

That's enough about the propagandists' favorite weatherman.  Let's find out what a scientist with more degrees than most people have loose change has to say about climate change.

David W. Orr

David W Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics. He is also a James Marsh Professor at large at the University of Vermont. Born in Des Moines, Iowa and raised in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, he holds a B.A. from Westminster College (1965), a M.A. from Michigan State University (1966), and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania (1973).

Interviewed by Huffington Post, David W. Orr had this to say:
"We're setting climate records at a record-setting pace," David Orr, a professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College, told HuffPost. "More hottest hots, driest dries, wettest wets, windiest wind conditions. So it's all part of a pattern. If you ask is this evidence of climate destabilization, the only scientific answer you can give is: It is consistent with what we can expect."

"Is it specifically caused by climate destabilization? No one could say that for sure, but it is certainly consistent with what appears to be an accelerating pattern of climate anomalies, or what some people call 'global weirding,'" said Orr. "It isn't global warming. It really is planetary destabilization... And we'll see more of that kind of thing. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts the odds that humans are in fact the driver in such things at well above 90 percent, which means it's a virtual certainty that yeah, that's what's going on."

"We really don't have a name to describe behavior of this sort," Orr said of the resistance to dealing with climate change.

"It is criminality beyond any language, concepts or laws that we presently have. It's criminality that places the entire human enterprise at risk. And we simply have not been able to confront inaction that allows the entire human enterprise to slip into catastrophic failure. It really does beggar the imagination to understand why, given the consensus of the scientific community on this issue, why inaction was the order of the day," said Orr, conspicuously referring to the failure to address the issue in the past tense.

"A lot of effort is spent to try to figure out how to cleverly frame issues so as to appeal to people's self-interest. And I don't know that that's always the smart way to do it. I think the smartest way to do it is to tell the truth as best you understand it. And the truth of the matter is, for me personally, all of the events that you've mentioned are yet further evidence that climate is rapidly destabilizing. Would any one of those specific events have been likely to happen in the absence of the human influence of climate? I think the answer would have to be no to almost a vanishing point."

There is a lot of happy talk out there that is premised on the belief that you can't tell the public the bad news because it’ll scare them and they'll not do anything, or they will fall into despair.

That wasn't the strategy that Winston Churchill had in 1940;
Churchill told the British people that he didn't have anything to offer them but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. He didn't say, "hey this is a great opportunity for urban renewal in London and we can beat Nazism at a profit."
Is anybody awake yet?
... public attention has been half awakened to the necessity of restoring the disturbed harmonies of nature, whose well-balanced influences are so propitious to all her organic offspring, and of repaying to our great mother the debt which the prodigality and the thriftlessness of former generations have imposed upon their successors--thus fulfilling the command of religion and of practical wisdom, to use this world as not abusing it.

George P Marsh, 1868

But wait!  The possibility that humans are damaging our planet's climate has only been studied as a formal branch of science since 1868.  Shouldn't we wait until all the facts are in before making hasty decisions? 

After all, it would be totally wrong to put up taxes to subsidize those silly, ugly windmills.
No, no, no!  Let global warming continue! 

The fossil fuels industry says that taxpayer-funded
subsidies are damaging to the free-enterprise economy.

Fossil fuel combustion is estimated to contribute more than 90% of gross domestic greenhouse gas emissions (1). To the extent that production and/or consumption of these fuels is subsidized, market transition to increased conservation or alternative fuels is slower than it would be in the absence of subsidies. The presence of baseline subsidies also makes achieving greenhouse gas reductions under the Kyoto Protocol and the Framework Convention on Climate Change more expensive. Renewable energy sources also receive subsidies, and policy transparency is equally important for them. However, most multi-fuel assessments have found fossil-based energy to receive the majority of federal subsidies (see Section II of Table 2), followed by nuclear energy. In addition, the environmental impacts of the renewable subsidies tend to be substantially smaller.
Our planet is giving us a very loud climate wake-up call.
Is anybody awake yet?

Edited August 14 to add these interesting links:

The polar regions are not only the keepers of the Earth's climate archives. They also act as sentinels; a kind of early warning system of what can be expected by the planet as a whole…