Is There Really a Climate Crisis? – Watts Up With That?

Ivor Williams

Summary

There are two reasons to doubt that our changing climate is a ‘crisis’.

1. The science is largely based on rising global temperature values. But these are given a false aura of accuracy by way of their unbelievable measurements to one hundredth of a degree Celsius.

2. The weather and climate of England and Wales have been monitored more closely for much longer than anywhere else in the world. Why is there no trace of a climate emergency in the temperature, rainfall, storm and tidal measurements?

We are being told there is a climate emergency

The UK govt May 2019: ‘MPs have approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency ….This proposal, which demonstrates the will of the Commons … was approved without a vote.

Teachers were encouraged to take action by way of a 29-page manual: ‘How to declare a climate emergency at your school or college … Do you simply declare a climate emergency, or do you proclaim a MEANINGFUL climate emergency? A meaningful climate emergency declaration demands direct action and measurable systemic change.’

Local councils in the UK were quick to join in: ‘300/404 (74%) of District, County, Unitary & Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency to date. Also 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.’ (October 2021)

The United Nations added detail: ‘Climate change is the defining crisis of our time and it is happening even more quickly than we feared …. Rising temperatures are fueling environmental degradation, natural disasters, weather extremes, food and water insecurity, economic disruption, conflict, and terrorism. Sea levels are rising, the Arctic is melting, coral reefs are dying, oceans are acidifying, and forests are burning.’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change:  ‘Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region,’ they pronounced in their August 2021 report. ‘Many of the changes observed … are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes … are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.’

These warnings of catastrophe have turned every flood, every storm, every drought and every ‘record’ high or low temperature into clear evidence of dangerous climate change. But the world’s weather has been regularly monitored only over the last two centuries – a mere 2% of the period since the last ice age finished. There will be many more records broken in the next millennia or two.

Is the data real?

Greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide (CO2): Research has shown that the pre-industrial (1750-1800) atmospheric content of CO2 was around 278 ppm (parts per million). This is used by the IPCC as a base-line. Measurements made at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958 show a steady increase.

September 1961: 315 ppm

September 2021: 413 ppm, a rise of around 30% in 60 years

413 parts per million = 0.04%

Scientists say that it is the continued rise in the amount of this and other greenhouse gases that is driving global warming.

The atmosphere contains 1-4% of water vapour which is by far the largest greenhouse gas. The others are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), ozone (O3), and fluorinated gases, all in much smaller quantities.

These gases are keeping earth warm. Without them the earth’s average temperature would drop over 30 deg C, from plus 14 to minus 18. But there is also a feedback problem: if the atmosphere warms it can hold more water vapour, thus exacerbating its effect on weather and climate.

Global temperatures

Global temperatures are being monitored by the US National Aeronautics & Space Administration, Goddard Institute of Space Studies (NASA/GISS), the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre. The reports are in the form of a temperature anomaly with reference to an agreed period average, usually 30 years.

The NASA/GISS graph of global temperatures from 1880 to 2020 uses data as an anomaly with reference to the 1951-1980 average.                              

This graph is shown as it appears on the NASA/GISS website. Note that the y-axis (temperature scale) is exaggerated to show the trend more clearly. It is this shape, sometimes with the x-axis (year) squeezed for even more exaggeration, which appears throughout the media.

NOAA also use data from 1880. Their graph plots global temperatures as an anomaly with reference to the 1901-2000 average and is a very similar shape to the one above.

The JMA calculate the global temperature anomaly with reference to either the 1991-2020 average or to 1901-2000.

The UK Met Office Hadley Centre use data from 1850. Their 2020 anomaly was +0.92 deg C above the 1961-1990 average which was in fact 14.0 deg C, so they are saying the global temperature for that year was 14.92 deg C.                                                                                                                

Temperature data

Meteorological observing stations report temperature to one decimal place. ‘NASA’s temperature analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from more than 20,000 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures … These in situ measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heat island effects …. These calculations produce the global average temperature deviations from the baseline period of 1951 to 1980.’

The NASA/GISS, NOAA and JMA websites give the annual global anomalies for 2020 to two places of decimals: +1.02, +1.19 and +0.34 deg C respectively, warmer than each of their average periods.

The whole scientific basis for global warming rests on the temperature data produced by these five organisations, plus the CO2 records.

It is very hard to believe that scientists can measure the overall annual temperature of our entire globe, all 510,000,000 km2, to an accuracy of one hundredth of a degree. The two places of decimals reflect only the extent of the averaging process, not the accuracy of the data.

The whole scientific basis for global warming rests on the temperature data produced by these five organisations, plus the CO2 records. There is no indication of any margin of error, which leads to considerable doubt about the quoted accuracy of the figures.

The fifth temperature series and other UK data

There is another temperature record available, for a much smaller area but running from 1659. This is the UK Met Office Hadley Centre’s Central England Temperature Series which is by far the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world. It covers a roughly triangular Manchester-London-Bristol area. Currently four reporting stations are used.

The monthly graphs (below) include the latter part of the Little Ice Age (1300-1850) and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (from the second half of the 18th century). The y-axis (temperature scale) is more condensed than on the NOAA and HadCRUT graphs (above).

These graphs show actual average temperatures (not anomalies) using four reporting stations over a small area. This much longer time span buries all traces of weather and shows climate more clearly. There is some warming evident in several months, but nothing to indicate a crisis.

Precipitation

The England & Wales rainfall totals are available for a period of 254 years from 1766. There is no sign of a climate emergency here, or of any noticeable change in the amounts recorded.                                

Storms

There also seems to be no effect of climate change on UK storms.

Sea level

UK long-term tidal measurements at North Shields and Newlyn show a slow and steady rise over the last 100 years of 2 mm/year.

Summary

The global temperature anomalies, plus the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other emissions, are the reason for the concern about climate change.

The extraordinary publicity given to the temperature data has led to every case of unusual weather throughout the world being seen as evidence of impending doom.

Weather is mostly normal with variations, plus occasional lapses into something wilder. It has always been like that.  

Although the global climate is changing there are two reasons to have some doubt about calling the situation an ‘emergency’.

1. The science is largely based on the rising global temperature values. But these are given a false aura of accuracy by way of their unbelievable measurements to one hundredth of a degree Celsius.

2. The weather and climate of England and Wales have been monitored more closely for much longer than anywhere else in the world. There is no trace of a climate emergency in the temperature, rainfall, storm and tidal measurements.


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