The Coming Climate Change Propaganda Tsunami

Climate change protest

Batten down the hatches! Yet another tsunami of global warming and “clean energy” propaganda is approaching!

On September 23, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit at UN headquarters. Guterres is calling on all leaders to come to New York City with “concrete, realistic plans” to increase their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction pledges “in line with reducing GHG emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.”

The goal is to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C”, lessen sea level rise, reduce extreme weather, and other impossible objectives. The UN warns:

[T]he last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health, through air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security.”

This is all either nonsense or irrelevant (for example, sea level has been rising, at times much faster than today, for the past 15,000 years). But this won’t stop civil society, businesses, organizations, youth and other representatives from the public at large from joining heads of states and government from UN member states at the summit in demanding that we make “massive movements in the real economy in support of the [climate change] agenda,” to quote from the summit website. Currently sailing across the Atlantic on her way to address the conference is 16-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in what she erroneously dubs a "zero-carbon" yacht. Thunberg is being brought in to help the U.S. climate delusion movement and to recruit more well-meaning but naive children into its ranks. 

To prime the public to be ready to accept their demands, we can expect increasingly dire announcements about the supposed climate catastrophe unfolding around us. Since, as Mark Twain is credited with saying, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," let’s get a bit ahead of the game and start to debunk one of the claims that is almost certain to come out next week.

Just as at the end of July, we will likely soon hear that August temperatures either set a record or were close to it. But an examination of the problems with the July ‘record’ will help us defuse this claim even before it is made. For "global temperature" records are generally meaningless, and the one for last month is especially so.

Strictly speaking, it is no more meaningful to calculate the average temperature for the whole planet than it is to calculate the average telephone number in a phone book. Like viscosity and density, and of course phone numbers, temperature is not something that can be meaningfully averaged. “Global temperature” does not exist.

In their award-winning book, Taken by Storm (2007), Canadian researchers Dr. Christopher Essex and Dr. Ross McKitrick explain: “Temperature is not an amount of something [like height or weight]. It is a number that represents the condition of a physical system. In thermodynamics it is known as an intensive quantity, in contrast to quantities like energy, which have an additive property, which we call extensive in thermodynamics.”

Even if you could calculate some sort of meaningful global temperature statistic, and indeed, if you did, interpreting its significance would be difficult, the figure would be unimportant. No one and nothing would experience it directly since we all live in relatively small regions, not the globe. There is no superbeing straddling the planet, detecting global averages in temperature. Global warming does not matter.

And, of course, it was only 1978 when we launched satellites to determine the temperature distribution of our atmosphere. Up until then, and still mostly today, we collect temperatures around the globe in a rather spotty and often inaccurate manner. When meteorologist Anthony Watts went about obtaining photographs of 1200 temperature stations in the United States, the best-covered area in the world, he found that about 80% were near useless because of their proximity to objects that bias the readings, such as air conditioning units, highways, and operating equipment. They were likely not present when the stations were first established, but they rendered many of the readings to that point useless.

Reporting for RealClear Energy, James Taylor, senior fellow, Environment and Energy Policy, for the Arlington, Illinois-based Heartland Institutedescribes the results of the new (since January 2005) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Reference Network (USCRN). USCRN includes 114 well-located and maintained temperature stations spaced relatively uniformly across the lower 48 states. Taylor writes: "USCRN temperature stations show no warming since 2005 when the network went online. If anything, U.S. temperatures are now slightly cooler than they were 14 years ago [see graph below, where temperature is in degrees Fahrenheit on the left]."

Taylor concludes: “Climate crisis advocates attempt to dismiss the minor satellite-measured warming by utilizing ground temperature stations around the globe, which tend to have even more corrupting biases and problems than the old U.S. stations.”

There are, of course, huge regions of the Earth that have no land surface temperature data at all. There is very little data for the 70 percent of Earth’s surface that is ocean. There is also little data for mountainous and desert regions, not to mention the Antarctic. And, despite the fact that NOAA claimed that central, equatorial Africa was much hotter than usual in July (see first figure below), in reality they had practically no data for the region at all (see second figure below). The high central African temperatures were merely extrapolated from data measured hundreds of miles away.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts explained one of the problems with this approach:

When station data is used to extrapolate over distance, any errors in the source data will get magnified and spread over a large area.

For example, say the nearest station is 400 miles away, at an airport in a city, but they are trying to use that data to extrapolate for the African savannah. The are basically adding the Urban Heat Island of the city to a wide area of the Savanah.

As an illustration, Watts contrasts a July temperature map of 250 KM "smoothing radius" with one with 1200 KM "smoothing radius." The first (the first figure below) does not extrapolate temperature data over much of the African savannah (where little real data exists) and results in a global temperature anomaly of 0.88°C. The second (the second figure below), which extends over the Savanah, results in a global temperature anomaly of 0.92°C.

Watts concludes, “Statistically induced warming is not real.”

Regardless, the hot spot NOAA computed for central equatorial Africa is almost certainly imaginary since, as climate data analyst Tony Heller said, "NOAA shows July record heat in Central Africa, in regions which UAH [University of Alabama at Huntsville] satellite data showed close to or slightly above normal" (see figure below).

 As if that were not enough to dismiss the whole "warmest month ever" arguments, a quick look at the temperature data on the NOAA web site tells us that none of their grand announcements make any sense. Consider first that, according to NOAA, July 2019 set the record of the warmest month by0.03°C for combined global land and ocean surface temperature. But the uncertainty is listed as 0.17°C, or almost six times the amount by which the record was supposedly set. In fact, July 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 all fall within the 0.17°C error bar of July 2019. Therefore, we cannot know which year set the record.

We also sense something fishy is going on when we notice that the July 2019 temp anomaly at 0.95°C above the 20th-century average is exactly (to the second decimal place) the same as the year to date (YTD) temperature anomaly. Unbelievably, it is also exactly the same, 0.95°C, for June and the YTD for June. Four numbers all the same to the second decimal point. How is that possible? It is as if someone in the agency decided that it would be easier for media to get it right if all these numbers were exactly the same. And so, apparently, they made it so.

The public needs to take a highly skeptical view of the inevitable dire warnings that we will soon see in advance of the 2019 Climate Action Summit. The real goal has more to do with restricting our freedom, in particular, our access to inexpensive fossil fuels.

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Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. Dr. Jay Lehr is Senior Policy Analyst with ICSC and former Science Director of Heartland.