RED INK IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

2014 was H O T

Analysis by Jay B Gaskill

A red map of the world reflecting the resumption of warmer temperatures prominently ran in some editions of today’s NYT (Saturday 1-17-2015):

The sense of relief that “Climate warming is back!” was palpable. You could hear the sighs all the way to the West Coast. A heat record for 2014 has been declared on the basis of a tiny number difference well within the margin of statistical error.[1] We now have a possible warming resumption after the 13 and ½ year hiatus in temperature increases. The tone of the announcement reveals just how deeply worried prominent members of the climate establishment really were about that disturbing pause in climate warming.

But, wait. What pause? Ironically, this is likely the first time most ordinary people will have even heard about the climate warming pause. It was belatedly reported by the respected British news journal The Economist in 2013 – http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions.

Today’s announcement was like just learning for the first time that Uncle Fred is really getting along well after that major coronary event two years ago. “Heart attack?” you say. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“We didn’t want to worry you.” Of course, in this case, the establishment didn’t want to reassure us. They didn’t want to leave the impression that possibly, just possibly, the whole warming crisis has been a bit overdone.

But the warming pause was long enough to prompt some scholarly introspection. Scientists advanced new theories to explain the pause, such as additional heat trapping by the oceans, increased volcanic activity and decreased solar radiation, but I didn’t notice anyone mentioning my personal favorite, the Ruddiman Hypothesis.[2]

This is another example of the folly of attempting a single factor explanation of large scale complex systems.

What do I think about the next ten years? The planet is warmer now that in 1850, but the trend has been and remains sufficiently uneven to reasonably doubt whether current science is competent enough to make reliable predictions over long time spans. Recall that the 1970’s were filled with dire warnings that we were heading into an Ice Age.[3]

What might a reasonable climate observer expect over the next few decades?

o Chaos will trump straight line trends.

o Eventually, the multifactor predictive models will trump single-factor ones, like the current conventional wisdom about CO2.

Bottom line: We humans have the advantage over our plant and lower animal neighbors of the capacity for intelligent adaptation. No matter what takes place, we will have to adapt.

JBG

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