The “basic physics” of climate change was settled by Tyndall, Arrhenius and others in the 19th century, they say. Then came the models, then came the irrefutable warming, then came the attribution and the fingerprinting and they assured us, again and again, and again over the years, that ‘the science’ was indeed settled – which, curiously, did not forego the need for further, lavishly funded research into just how settled it was.
Alas, though the blogosphere, media and Twitter’s little army of climate change scientivists and Green blobbies might insist otherwise, resorting alternately as they do to pointing out the ‘overwhelming evidence’, the ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’ or – for the benefit of those less easily convinced, engaging in a spot of sciencey-sounding mis(dis)information – the Science is not settled, even this late into the ‘climate crisis’. Peeps like myself who might be inclined to point this out are called deniers, pseudosceptics, serial climate misinformers and fossil fuel shills – because, presumably, if you have science on your side, you can liberally defame, insult, denounce, patronise and dismiss – and censor – your opponents with joyful abandon knowing that, if it comes to the crunch, and you really have to argue science, you can hit back hard with the actual scientific facts and blow them away. Well, that’s the theory anyway. I often found that silence was the more usual response when it got down to the nitty gritty.
So anyway, here we are, 40 years after the publication of the Charney Report and I can tell you with some confidence that the science is still not settled, despite five major UN IPCC reports (soon to be six), countless international champagne and oyster climate conferences and hundreds of thousands of research articles. All that vast accumulation of knowledge and expertise – and Dom Perignon induced climate changing flatulence – and they still can’t say for sure how sensitive the climate is to the build up of greenhouse gases and they still can’t tell us for definite what the crucial top of the atmosphere global energy imbalance is, or what part natural external (solar) forcing and internal variability has played in recent, historical and paleo climate change. But hey, don’t let that get in the way of unicorning the Western industrial economy into 100% reliance upon renewables by 2030 and crippling Western industrial competitiveness in favour of China, India, etc., or depriving Africans of cheap fossil fuel power so they can’t grow their own economies. Because despite all the uncertainties my luvvies – annulled by a judicious sprinkling of Precautionary Principle – we can still say ‘It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot Mum’ [RIP Windsor Davies] because 4x4s, because light bulbs, washing machines, hot tubs and ride-on lawnmowers, because cats, dogs, farting cows and corpse munchers.
Natural internal variability is the canary in the coal mine for climate alarmists. Despite wishing it away, it threatens to not obligingly drop dead, thus giving little credence to the urgent cries that we should abandon the mine right now and leave all the climate changing black stuff in the ground. In fact, the cheeky sooty canary appears to be in ever ruder health, chirruping and chattering its way through the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Imagine if you will a reversal of the classic Monty Python sketch with Judith Curry insisting that the canary is very much alive, while Gavin Schmidt swears blind it is dead. This is where we’re at.
Judith has written an interesting blog post just yesterday in fact, on this very subject, re. the early 20th century warming, arguing that internal decadal variability must have played a significant part in that early warming, casting doubt on the elimination of internal variability from the post 1950s warming attribution and questioning the logic which basically says ‘we have a rational explanation (anthropogenic GHGs) for late 20th century warming, so it must have been GHGs wot dunnit’ – despite the fact that similar warming in the 1940s cannot be attributed in its entirety to CO2.
Judith kicks off by saying:
A careful look at the early 20th century global warming, which is almost as large as the warming since 1950. Until we can explain the early 20th century warming, I have little confidence IPCC and NCA4 attribution statements regarding the cause of the recent warming.
Tamino, bless his cotton socks, takes huge issue with Prof. Curry saying ‘almost as large’. He reckons it was nowhere near as large and, as proof, wheels out some graphs of global temperature which he’s fitted ridiculous curves to. He bizarrely claims, on this ‘evidence’, that the modern warming is anywhere between 2.8 and 1.8 times as much as the early 20th century warming and that “deniers” (whips out silver crucifix) have used fake graphs to argue that they are similar. In light of Tamino’s conspiracist musings, let’s take a look at Hadcrut 4:
This is not a fake graph. It is actual data via Tim Osborn of the UEA. The blue line is a decadally smoothed average. What it shows is that between 1910 and about 1945, global temperature increased by just over 0.5C. Between 1950 and now, global temperature has increased by approximately 0.75C, looking at the decadal average. 0.75 is 1.5 times 0.5C, not forgetting that the decadal average ends with a particularly powerful El Nino in 2015/16 and begins when the mid 20th century cooling was starting to bite. If we look at the anomalies only, notice that 1910 was a little less than -0.5C, 1945 was about +0.1C, 1950 was about -0.05C and 2018 – the latest year in the series – is +0.6C (January to November). So, very similar warming 1910 to 1945 and from 1950 to 2018. Whichever way you look at it, the warming from 1950 (or 1979 if you prefer, which I do, because it was uninterrupted rapid warming, just like the E20C warming) to present is of similar magnitude and rate to the early 20th century warming. They are not vastly dissimilar as claimed by Tamino. Unless there is a significant El Nino in 2019, the magnitudes will be even more similar.
Judith’s concluding remarks are as follows:
In order to have any confidence in the IPCC and NCA attribution statements, much greater effort is needed to understand the role multi-decadal to millennial scales of internal climate variability.
Much more effort is needed to understand not only the early 20th century warming, but also the ‘grand hiatus’ from 1945-1975. Attempting to attribute these features to aerosol (stratospheric or pollution) forcing haven’t gotten us very far. The approach taken by Xie’s group is providing important insights . . . . . .
There are too many climate scientists that expect global surface temperature, sea ice, glacier mass loss and sea level to follow the ‘forcing’ on fairly short time scales. This is not how the climate system works, as was eloquently shown by Gebbie and Huybers. The Arctic in particular responds very strongly to multidecadal and longer internal variability, and also to solar forcing.
Until all this is sorted out, we do not have a strong basis for attributing anything close to ~100% of the warming since 1950 to humans, or for making credible projections of 21st century climate change.
I would say that qualifies for the epithet ‘the science is not settled’. There’s a lot more ‘unsettled science’ of course, some recently pointed out to climate scientists publishing inferior quality work claiming that it’s ‘more settled than we thought’, only to have their research mercilessly critiqued by people who know what they’re talking about, who’ve pointed out glaring and very basic errors in their work. Unsettled scientists and unsettled science go hand in hand I guess. Watch this space.