“Global Warming should be called Global Heating, says Key Scientist”
is the headline to an article by Jonathan Watts in today’s Guardian. Watts is their science editor, the guy who used to be brought in with the mop and a cup of Horlicks when George Monbiot or one of the Graun’s other Environ-mentals had one of their funny turns. Not any more. Watts is at the Kratowice COP, gibbering with the best of them.
The key scientist quoted is Met Office Professor Richard Betts. We know Richard. He comments here sometimes. He’s the Good Scientist, the one who argues politely and corrects mistakes without a sneer. He apologised to me once at Bishop Hill for Saying Something Wrong on the Internet. A gentleman and a scholar. And a hero to come here at all.
Betts bats butts. Bots bite back
“Global heating is technically more correct because we are talking about changes in the energy balance of the planet,” the scientist said at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland. “We should be talking about risk rather than uncertainty.”
Should we? Well I’ve been following this story for twelve years or so. I’ve listened to twelve Gores a-bleeding,
eleven Hansens bleating,
ten Manns a-moaning,
nine Lews eluding,
eight Wards a-weeping,
seven Kevins searching,
six Gavins schmidting,
five (million) Graun Warnings,
three (thousand) Nobels,
and My Lord Monck-ton of Bench-ley.
And I’m blowed if I’ve ever heard any of them (except the last) mention uncertainty. It’s risk all the way down with them. In what hideaway unknown to science does Richard Betts hear too much discussion of uncertainty? Is he spending too much time here at Cliscep?
I don’t know exactly what Professor Betts does at the Met Office – something to do with weather forecasting I expect. But I’m pretty sure his job description doesn’t involve correcting English usage. The difference between “warm” and “hot” is not something you can decide with a General Circulation Model, or even a thermometer. Although with the latter you can determine that temperatures have risen about half a degree in the past sixty years, the same rise I recorded this morning between 7and 8am.
On the other hand, average monthly temperature anomalies have fallen off a cliff, plunging half a degree in the past year or two, utterly wiping out a lifetime’s man-made global roasting. At this rate, Europe will be under a kilometre thick sheet of ice by 2030.
Phew! What a Brass Monkey’s Ballbreaker!
Earlier this month, the Met Office produced a new report that showed the searing heatwave that hit the UK this summer – along with other parts of the northern hemisphere – was made thirty times more likely by human-caused climate change
…whereas the contemporary cold spell that hit other parts of the world at the same time was made thirty times more unlikely. It’s like your annual Christmas game of Monopoly with granny, when you throw a double six first time, and you realise that it probably won’t happen again until 2054, when gran will be 112 and it’ll be roast turkey under the palm trees. Or raw woolly mammoth in the igloo. Whatever.
Betts said the shifting climate was pushing some natural processes – such as the blossoming of trees and laying of eggs – out of sync.
There’s something about this in Nostradamus, I’m sure: “When the oak shall lay eggs, and acorns shall come forth from the chicken’s bum, then the end of the world shall be nigh” or words to that effect.
“That’s already happening. We are also seeing higher temperatures of heatwaves. The kind of thing we saw this year will happen more often. The risks are compounding all the time. It stands to reason that the sooner we can take action, the quicker we can rein them in.”
Of course, nobody among the 30,000 delegates at Katowice bothered to ask what action would be needed to rein in the thirty times greater risk of a heatwave and get it down to —say—twenty nine times. How many plastic straws to be recycled, how many holiday flights to play Monopoly with gran to be cancelled? Only the Met Office computer can tell us.
Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, said “cracks” were starting to appear in the climate system that were pushing nature from being a friend that absorbs carbon dioxide to an enemy that releases carbon dioxide.
Stockholm’s Rockström’s cracks: Hostile Plankton holds its Breath
His views were echoed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a professor of theoretical physics and founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He said his recent Hothouse Earth report, which was one of the most widely quoted and downloaded studies of this year, had helped to change the language used to describe the climate crisis. “Global warming doesn’t capture the scale of destruction. Speaking of hothouse Earth is legitimate,” he said.
There’s no Potsdam Prof that’s nicer
But how schwer the Kehr’ from warmer to heißer
Every time we say
“Goodbye. See you at COP26.”
Call it warm? Balmy, if you ask me.