Friday, December 31st 2010, 11:26 AM EST
So I read m’colleague Alex Singleton’s latest blog, and was startled to find that, at the bottom, it did not read “James Delingpole is away”. Because the God-Emperor himself would have been proud of it.
• UPDATE: Mr Bastardi has responded to me, and with much more dignity than my childishness deserves! His “open letter to Tom Chitters” is here, and I thank him for it.
Anyway. The story: a US meteorologist has said that it’s time for the “CO2 people” to admit they might have cocked it all up and that warming “may be nothing more than a fictional ghost that man has nothing to do with”.
The meteorologist in question is called Joe Bastardi, by the way. Which is splendid.
Mr Bastardi – that’s “Bastardi” – told the Fox Business Network that people who say that all this cold weather proves global warming are acting like children who don’t get their way. Which would be fine, if anyone was saying that.
Lots of people are theorising that the cold weather in northern Europe and America may have been influenced by global warming. It was suggested for years that melting icecaps would lead to a reduced flow in the Gulf Stream bringing warm water up from the tropics past Britain. As our own Roger Highfield says in a piece on the topic, that’s probably not what’s going on here; there’s been no evidence of a change in the Gulf flow, so it’s unlikely to have caused the last two harsh winters.
[i[As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s a bit silly to talk in terms of global warming “causing” specific weather events, in the same way as it would be silly to think of a slightly weighted die “causing” it when you roll a six. If you roll the die 300 times, and you roll 150 sixes, you can say that the weight caused the change in probability, but any individual six is caused by the myriad factors behind the roll of a die. So it is with climate. But some scientists are saying it is possible that cold winters may be made more likely: “the climate is becoming more dynamic, and thus large shifts in the wind patterns are possible – in this case, sub-tropical air being trapped further south than usual”, says Prof Mark Maslin of University College London.
I’m not qualified to comment on that. But it’s a long way from people saying that cold weather proves anything. What proves – or, rather, provides evidence for – global warming is the fact that the globe seems to be getting warmer, as all the data show. (Yes, yes, Watts Up With That say the data isn’t real, because Nasa and GISS use smoothing of Arctic temperatures – but their preferred data set, the Danish Meteorological Institute, also shows warming, as the DMI acknowledges.) With that in mind, the cold winters in specific parts of the world are facts that need explaining, not evidence for or against global warming.
Mr Bastardi – that’s “Bastardi” – also goes on to say in a blog that this looks like “another in a string of missed ideas that cause needless worry”, just like “Ozone hole, Ice Age, Y2K”. Now. The Y2K bug aside – the arguments over whether the action taken was necessary or not can go on without me – the other two are just ignorant. The “Ice Age” I assume is a reference to the “they predicted global cooling in the 1970s” myth, which I’ve written on recently. Ad the hole in the ozone layer was definitely not a “missed idea” that caused “needless worry” – it was a serious problem that caused and is causing more skin cancers in southern hemisphere countries (and associated panic about sun exposure that may have led to vitamin D deficiencies), and it was solved by real international cooperation. Since both of those topics are in Mr Bastardi’s – that’s “Bastardi’s” – own area of meteorology, I’m a little surprised that he is so palpably wrong. Forgive me if it makes me a little sceptical about his pronouncements on other matters.
But that’s not the real point. Mr Bastardi is a global warming sceptic. That’s fine, that’s no reason to disbelieve his account. He’s got some strange ideas about other climate-related issues, as discussed above, but we shouldn’t discount everything he says on that basis – although a little wariness may be advised.
The real point is, it doesn’t matter what Mr Bastardi (“Bastardi”) says. It doesn’t matter what Al Gore says, what James Delingpole says, what Alex Singleton or I say. What matters is data, research, peer-reviewed science. Alex says it’s a “big deal” because it shows “one of the world’s biggest meteorological firms saying the global warming consensus is probably wrong”. But it doesn’t. It shows one man saying that. AccuWeather itself says that 2010 is one of the three hottest years on record, and explains why that is separate from the cold weather in North America. (It also shows that sea ice volume is decreasing in the Arctic. I don’t think AccuWeather are a bunch of global warming sceptics. They provide our weather forecasts, by the way.)
It’s the usual old trick – report on one man’s opinion, ignore the massive weight of data. Mr Bastardi (Bastardi!) gets a lot of attention – I’m giving him some more here – but as people write about him, more and more data are quietly gathered. The world is warming, it’s almost certainly man-caused, and it’s probably going to cause serious problems. An attention-seeking meteorologist and a bit of snow in December do not change that.[/i]
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