Now that he is to be a member of the UK House of Lords, I wonder how his writing and attitude regarding climate change will be impacted. I hope not at all. He’s a fine writer who has consistently made important points and frequently refreshed our memories about what life and the world was like in the past and contrasted it with our present-day experiences.
But his essay published by the GWPF last week is about the future. (His essay is here: Ridley-Lukewarmer-Ten-Tests) He makes ten points and says they need to be addressed before he will accept that current policy makes sense. As someone who thinks that many elements of current policy do not make sense, I sympathize. Nonetheless, my previous posts on his first four points show that I don’t agree with everything he says. So let’s move on to his fifth.
Ridley (Lord Ridley?) writes: “Even the Met Office admits that the failure of the models to predict the temperature standstill of the last 16 years is evidence that natural factors can match man-made ones. We now know there is nothing unprecedented about the level and rate of change of temperature today compared with Medieval, Roman, Holocene Optimum and other post-glacial periods, when carbon dioxide levels did not change significantly, but temperatures did. I would need persuading that natural factors cannot continue to match man-made ones.”
I may have been one of the first to note that humanity has emitted one-third of all greenhouse gases since the 1998 pause in temperature rises, so it may seem strange that I don’t automatically agree with Matt here.
But this is actually a point that has been frequently raised and just as frequently addressed by the climate consensus. The overly-used, overly facile but probably apt comparison is with wildfires–just because lightning causes some wildfires doesn’t mean an idiot with a match didn’t cause this one.
There are a variety of forces that impact atmospheric temperatures. Milankovitch cycles, the state of the ocean (I almost said humours of the ocean…) such as total heat, ENSO states, etc., variations in the sun’s radiance and orbit, changes in land cover (some caused by humans, some natural), emissions of greenhouse gases (some human, some natural), the newly elevated forcing of black carbon and quite possibly more.
These forces are not synchronized, but occasionally work in concert rather than against each other. Thus, even without anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases the atmospheric temperature record looks like nothing so much as a sawtooth waveform, with ups and downs. Some of the ups and downs can last a decade or longer.
With the advent of high quantity human emissions of CO2 and other gases, that waveform has been superimposed on a rising trend. However, there have been pauses and dips in the trend. Nonetheless, the trend has risen since 1880.
Current temperatures are not unprecedented. As Ridley notes, they have been equalled and probably surpassed more than once in the very recent past 10,000 years–a blink of an eye in the history of the planet. Temperatures have also risen quite quickly at other times, to the best of current knowledge. Despite the best (well, worst actually) efforts of climate activists to pain the current warming period as unprecedented, it isn’t and Ridley is quite right to point this out.
However, putting aside the natural repugnance one feels towards propaganda efforts meant to scare those who haven’t had time, training or inclination to become well-versed in the subject, the real question then becomes, ‘So what?’
If this current warming is due in no small part to our emissions of CO2 then our emissions of CO2 are still an issue to be faced. And the sad fact of the matter is, despite the pause in warming since 1998, the temperatures haven’t dropped.
So, if we can get past the scare tactics and propaganda from well-meaning souls who want to motivate us to get beyond business as usual, we quickly arrive at the point using our own good sense and a careful look at measurements.
They ‘hid the decline’. They insulted our intelligence. They invented Red Buttons to blow up disbelievers. They exaggerated the threats to polar bears, Himalayan glaciers and the Amazon rain forest. They inverted temperature proxies, improperly used treemometers and exaggerated the extent of warming in Antarctica.
But CO2 is still probably one of the primary contributors to rapid and unusual warming since the mid-1950s.
And seeing that we are going to quite possibly multiply our emissions by six times before 2075, it’s not something that will move off the horizon soon, even if atmospheric sensitivity is as low as some now hope.
Let’s stay focused on the real issue.