2015: Warmest Year On Record?

Government agencies and climate activists (but I repeat myself) are loudly proclaiming 2015 the “warmest year on record.” There are several obvious problems with this, starting with the fact that the “record” they refer to goes back only until the late 19th century, 1879, coinciding with the end of the Little Ice Age. So, yeah, things have gotten slightly warmer since the Little Ice Age. That’s a good thing.

Actually, current temperatures are relatively cool–cooler than the Earth has been something like 90% of the time since the end of the last real Ice Age, 12,000 or so years ago. When the place where I am typing was buried under ice a mile deep. If you want to worry about climate change, contemplate the fact that we are due, or soon will be due, for another Ice Age.

Then there is the fact that the margin by which 2015 was the “warmest ever” is tiny compared to the margin of error in such measurements. Does anyone seriously believe that we can determine an average global temperature to within a few hundredths of a degree? Now, or 150 years ago? No.

Finally–for now–there is the fact that the “warmest ever” claim is based on surface temperature data that are fatally flawed, both because historical data have been altered by government-funded activists for political reasons, and because surface temperature stations are frequently–usually–thrown off by local environmental factors, most notably (although not most scandalously) the urban heat island effect.

Dr. Roy Spencer has more:

[O]ur satellite analysis has 2015 only third warmest [since 1979] which has also been widely reported for weeks now. I understand that the RSS satellite analysis has it 4th warmest. …

There are many things I could say, but I would be repeating myself:

Land measurements…that thermometers over land appear to have serious spurious warming issues from urbanization effects. Anthony Watts is to be credited for spearheading the effort to demonstrate this over the U.S. where recent warming has been exaggerated by about 60%, and I suspect the problem in other regions of the globe will be at least as bad. Apparently, the NOAA homogenization procedure forces good data to match bad data. That the raw data has serious spurious warming effects is easy to demonstrate…and has been for the last 50 years in the peer-reviewed literature….why is it not yet explicitly estimated and removed?

Ocean Measurements…that even some NOAA scientists don’t like the new Karlized ocean surface temperature dataset that made the global warming pause disappear; many feel it also forces good data to agree with bad data. (I see a common theme here.)

El Nino…that a goodly portion of the record warmth in 2015 was naturally induced, just as it was in previous record warm years.

Thermometers Still Disagree with Models…that even if 2015 is the warmest on record, and NOAA has exactly the right answer, it is still well below the average forecast of the IPCC’s climate models, and something very close to that average forms the basis for global warming policy. In other words, even if every successive year is a new record, it matters quite a lot just how much warming we are talking about.

This is a blindingly obvious point, but one that is always overlooked, probably on purpose, in news accounts. The real story is that by any measure, the Earth’s climate is not behaving the way the alarmists promised it would.

Then we have scientists out there claiming silly things, like the satellites measure temperatures at atmospheric altitudes where people don’t live anyway, so we should ignore them.

Oh, really? Would those same scientists also claim we should ignore the ocean heat content measurements — also where nobody lives — even though that is supposedly the most important piece of evidence that heat is accumulating in the climate system?


Dr. Spencer goes on to discuss what he calls “the elephant in the room”: the corrupting influence of billions of dollars in government money:

By now it has become a truism that government agencies will prefer whichever dataset supports the governments desired policies. You might think that government agencies are only out to report the truth, but if that’s the case, why are these agencies run by political appointees?

I can say this as a former government employee who used to help NASA sell its programs to congress: We weren’t funded to investigate non-problems, and if global warming were ever to become a non-problem, funding would go away. I was told what I could and couldn’t say to Congress…Jim Hansen got to say whatever he wanted. I grew tired of it, and resigned.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying climate change is a non-problem; only that government programs that fund almost 100% of the research into climate change cannot be viewed as unbiased. Agencies can only maintain (or, preferably, grow) their budgets if the problem they want to study persists. Since at least the 1980s, an institutional bias exists which has encouraged the climate research community to view virtually all climate change as human-caused.

There indeed is a climate change problem to study…but I don’t think we know with any certainty how much is natural versus manmade. There is no way to know, because there is (contrary to the IPCC’s claims) no fingerprint of human versus natural warming. Even natural warming originating over the ocean will cause faster warming over land than over ocean, just as we already observe.

But since the government has framed virtually all of the research programs in terms of human-caused climate change, that’s what the funded scientists will dutifully report it to be, in terms of supposed causation.

And until the culture in the government funding agencies changes, I don’t see a new way of doing business materializing. It might require congress to direct the funding agencies to spend at least a small portion of their budgets to look for evidence of natural causes of climate change.

Because scientists, I have learned, will tend to find whatever they are paid to find in terms of causation…which is sometimes very difficult to pin down in science.

This is the essence of the problem: the world’s governments are pouring billions of dollars into “research” of one kind only: research that supports giving more power over the world’s economies to governments. Huh. Funny coincidence: when the supposed climate problem was global cooling (a more realistic scare than global warming) back in the 1970s, the solution was more government power, too. Global cooling would have worked just as well for statists, probably better. But: cooling, warming, what’s the difference? We want your money, and we want to run your life! That is what global warming hysteria is all about. The money and the power. Global warming activism is perhaps the most corrupt enterprise of the 21st century.


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