A recent post Climate Hearsay featured an article by Ross McKitrick noting how climatists rely on charts and graphs to alarm people about temperature changes too small for them to notice otherwise. For example, NOAA each month presents temperature measurements globally and broken down in various ways. To illustrate McKitrick’s point, let’s look at the results for Quarter 1 of 2019, January through March. Source: Global Climate Report
So the chart informs us that for this 3 month period, the whole world had its third warmest year out of the last 140 years! 2016 was a full 0.27℃ hotter on average over those 90 days. Well, maybe not, because the error range is given as +/- 0.15℃. So the difference this year from the record year 2016 might have been only a few 0.01℃, and no way you could have noticed that. In fact where I live in Montreal, it didn’t seem like a warm year at all.
McKitrick also makes the point that claiming a country like Canada warmed more than twice the global average proves nothing. In a cooling period, any place on land will cool faster than the global surface which is 71% ocean. Same thing goes for warming: land temps change faster. For example, consider NOAA’s first quarter report on the major continents.
Surprise, surprise: North American temperatures ranked 38th out of 110 years, more than 2℃ cooler than 2016. That’s more like what I experienced, though many days were much colder. And browse the list of other land places: it was not that warm anywhere except for Oceania, with the land mass mostly in Australia.
Global warming/climate change is one of those everywhere, elsewhere phenomena. Taking masses of temperatures and averaging them into a GMT (Global Mean Temperature Anomaly) is an abstraction, not anyone’s reality. And in addition, minute changes in that abstraction are too small for anyone to sense. Yet, modern civilization is presumed to be in crisis over 1.5℃ of additional warming, which we apparently already got in Canada and we are much better for it.
Mike Hulme is a leading voice striking a rational balance between concern about the planet and careful deliberation over policy choices. I have posted several of his articles, for example on extreme weather attribution and on attempts to link armed conflicts with climate change. Pertinent to this post, Hulme has spoken out on the obsession with global temperature anomalies: See Obsessing Over Global Temperatures
Global temperature does not cause anything to happen. It has no material agency. It is an abstract proxy for the aggregated accumulation of heat in the surface boundary layer of the planet. It is far removed from revealing the physical realities of meteorological hazards occurring in particular places. And forecasts of global temperature threshold exceedance are even further removed from actionable early warning information upon which disaster risk management systems can work.
Global temperature offers the ultimate view of the planet—and of meteorological hazard—from nowhere.
And he has warned about the emergency rhetoric now on full display in the streets of major cities. See Against Emergency Countdown
But as we argued a few years ago, declaring a climate emergency invokes a state of exception that carries many inherent risks: the suspension of normal governance, the use of coercive rhetoric, calls for ‘desperate measures’, shallow thinking and deliberation, and even militarization. To declare an emergency becomes an act of high moral and political significance, as it replaces the framework of ordinary politics with one of extraordinary politics.
In contrast, a little less rhetorical heat will allow for more cool-headed policy development. What is needed is clear-headed pragmatism, but without the Sword of Damocles hanging over these heads. Climate Pragmatism calls for accelerating technology innovation, including nuclear energy, for tightening local air quality standards, for sector-, regional- and local-level interventions to alter development trajectories and for major investments in improving female literacy. Not desperate measures called forth by the unstable politics of a state of emergency, but right and sensible things to do. And it is never too late to do the right thing.