UPDATE: Lord Monckton replies again, with a further clarification (see end of post)
Yesterday I wrote concerning Mike Steketee’s alarmist article in the Weekend Australian, Lord Monckton’s rebuttal, and Steketee’s response to the rebuttal. I am grateful that Lord Monckton took the trouble to write a long comment on that original post, which I have elevated to a post of its own.
The two points I made in that post were, firstly, that claiming no warming since 1998 is spurious, and secondly, that Steketee’s article was not worthy of a response. In relation to the first, Lord Monckton’s rebuttal to Steketee states:
4. THE WORLD IS NOT COOLER COMPARED TO 1998.
Actually, it is cooler. There was a remarkable spike in global temperatures in 1998, caused not by manmade “global warming” but by a Great El Niño event – an alteration in the pattern of ocean currents that begins in the equatorial eastern Pacific and spreads around the globe, lasting a few months. In the first nine months of 2010 there was another substantial El Niño, but even at its peak it did not match the Great El Niño of 1998.
The point here is that making any comparison of temperatures to a year in which there is a particularly strong El Niño is inadvisable (since it is a natural upward spike over and above the temperature had it not occurred). So whilst the 2010 El Niño spike indeed did not match that of 1998, it says nothing about the underlying trend, and more to do with the relative strengths of those El Niño events. In any case, as I said previously, who cares if the planet is warming? It’s the causation that is important.
In relation to the second, I believe that it is not worth sceptics efforts in responding to uninformed, journalistic alarmism. There are journalists all over the world who write material similar to, if not more extreme, than Mike Steketee. Responding to all of them would be impossible and pointless. Maybe Lord Monckton has a reason for choosing Steketee’s article over the thousands of climate scare stories that are published every week throughout the world – possibly that The Australian is generally regarded as more “climate realist” than any other in this country – but take a look at Adam Morton in The Age, for example. Fairfax made up its mind on climate change years ago, and regurgitates the same tired alarmist material on a daily basis. For that very reason, I have abandoned critiquing Fairfax articles. It just ain’t worth the effort (except for a bit of light entertainment now and again).
One final point I would like to make to Lord Monckton is that despite my original post, we are both on the same side here! As I said, I appreciate the work that Lord Monckton has done with the Science and Public Policy Institute, and I was first in the queue to meet him at his talk in Sydney last January.
Here is Lord Monckton’s response in full. Thoughts and comments appreciated.
Right from the get-go, Michael Steketee’s prejudice is evident in his attempted rebuttal of my article pointing out a couple of dozen questionable assertions – some of them downright false – in a scare story he had published in The Australian: Steketee says experts will continue to challenge my assertions about climate. It would have been more balanced to add that other experts will continue to support my assertions, or, better still, to leave out that redundant statement altogether.
Steketee next argues that I should not have held his remark that 2010 was the warmest year on record against him, because he was quoting the World Meteorological Organization. Yet it was his lack of balance I was criticizing: he was too prejudiced also to quote the satellite record of Remote Sensing Systems, Inc. and of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, which does not show 2010 as the warmest year on the 160-year global instrumental temperature record.
On this point, Simon-from-Sydney carelessly weighs in, accusing me of “plugging the no-warming-since-1998” line. No: in my Monthly CO2 Reports at www.scienceandpublicpolicy.org, I date the temperature graphs from both 1980, the beginning of the well-calibrated satellite record, and 2001, the beginning of the new millennium. I do not date my graphs from 1998 or draw any trend-lines starting at that date. All I did, correctly in every respect, was to point out that Steketee had said that 2010 was warmer even than the great-El-Niño year of 1998, when in fact the satellite records show it is cooler.
Steketee goes on complain that I criticized him for cherry-picking individual extreme-weather events that pointed in one direction only. True, he cited a professor as saying there had been some cold-weather events too, but not one of these was specifically mentioned in Steketee’s article, which was full of specifics about various hot-weather events.
Next Steketee tries to mislead his readers by complaining that I had criticized him for saying the 2010 hurricane season was among the worst in recent decades, when in fact, according to Dr. Ryan Maue, who keeps the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, it was just about the least active in half a century. The fact is that on this as on many other points Steketee simply got it wrong, and all his errors fell in the direction of making up a problem where there isn’t one and exaggerating it where there is – again, an indication of the prejudice that was (and is) my fundamental criticism of him.
Steketee goes on (and on) to accuse me of “complete misrepresentation” in saying he had asserted that “even cautious scientists tend to say we can blame [manmade] climate change for certain extreme-weather events. But that is what Steketee actually said. Steketee uses a get-out clause all too prevalent in his sort of journalism: he says he stated that a single proessor did not argue that climate change was responsible for any single event – except the bush-fires in Victoria, for which he had said there was strong evidence for an anthropogenic component. Yes, Steketee cited that one scientist: but his wider point – that “even cautious scientists” – in general – are attributing individual extreme-weather events to manmade climate change is not extinguished by his citation of a single professor who said that most extreme-weather events cannot be attributed to us.
Finally, Steketee says I was unfair to say he had asserted that manmade climate change had contributed to the 20% decline in rainfall in parts of southern Australia over recent decades. But that is exactly what he said. True, he attributed the statement to the CSIRO, but he did not offer any countervailing evidence.
But it is the omissions in Steketee’s attempted rebuttal that are so damning.
The simple fact is that many of the facts in his piece were simply wrong; I said so; and he was quite unable to say I was wrong to say so. Just a few examples:
2010 was not the most active hurricane season on record, but just about the least. the floods of last year in Pakistan were not the worst on record; only the worst since 1980 or thereby. We will not face 2 C of locked-in warming if we stop emitting any CO2 from today: it’s more like 0.4 C at most. The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has not risen by 27.5% since 1990, but by just 10.5%; and, if one takes into account all other greenhouse gases as well, the anthropogenic component has risen by just 2%.
So, Simon-from-Sydney, take some trouble to get your facts right before you accuse me of scoring an own goal. You say you don’t think I should have responded to Steketee’s nonsense at all: however, it is precisely because he and his ilk have been peddling trashy, largely truth-free extremism for years that so many feeble-minded governments have bought into the climate scare. Sometimes it is necessary to hit back with the facts, even if those who got them wrong then complain – quite inappropriately – that they were “misrepresented”. – Monckton of Brenchley
UPDATE: Lord Monckton’s response to this post [edited]:
It was Steketee, not I, who made a comparison between 1998 and the present, and he got it wrong, by saying that 2010 was warmer than 1998. No, it was cooler. I merely corrected Steketee’s error. There was and is, therefore, no basis for Simon’s allegation that I made comparisons between 1998 (where the result was distorted by an exceptional el Nino event that caused a strong spike in warming worldwide) and 2010 (when the el Nino was less intense). No, I didn’t, and don’t.
Lord Monckton did not respond to any other points in my post. Although 2010 was technically cooler than 1998, and Lord Monckton indeed corrected Steketee’s claim (although Steketee argues he didn’t say that), it’s all meaningless. In general, alarmists love to point out that sceptics of many different varieties rely on the “no warming since 1998” line, and they rightly pull such an argument apart. In Lord Monckton’s 2008 American Physical Society paper, the first paragraph of the abstract reads (my emphasis):
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions probably caused more than half of the “global warming” of the past 50 years and would cause further rapid warming. However, global mean surface temperature has not risen since 1998 and may have fallen since late 2001. (source)
I merely believe 1998 should never be used as any kind of starting point for comparison of global temperatures, whether by alarmists or sceptics.