Apocalypse delayed?

© The Economist

Times are changing…

The Economist tackles the issue to which many are intentionally blind, including the usual headbangers, our own Climate Commission, the IPCC and the majority of Western governments, namely, why have global temperatures levelled off despite ever increasing CO2 in the atmosphere?

In an editorial, it writes:

IT MAY come as a surprise to a walrus wondering where all the Arctic’s summer sea ice has gone. It could be news to a Staten Islander still coming to terms with what he lost to Hurricane Sandy. But some scientists are arguing that man-made climate change is not quite so bad a threat as it appeared to be a few years ago. They point to various reasons for thinking that the planet’s “climate sensitivity”—the amount of warming that can be expected for a doubling in the carbon-dioxide level—may not be as high as was previously thought. The most obvious reason is that, despite a marked warming over the course of the 20th century, temperatures have not really risen over the past ten years.

And it dares to question the drive for alternative energy without regard to consequences:

Bad climate policies, such as backing renewable energy with no thought for the cost, or insisting on biofuels despite the damage they do, are bad whatever the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases.

In an accompanying article it deals with the science in some detail:

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models (see chart 1). If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models’ range within a few years.

The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now. It does not mean global warming is a delusion. Flat though they are, temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century remain almost 1°C above their level in the first decade of the 20th. But the puzzle does need explaining.

The mismatch might mean that—for some unexplained reason—there has been a temporary lag between more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures in 2000-10. Or it might be that the 1990s, when temperatures were rising fast, was the anomalous period. Or, as an increasing body of research is suggesting, it may be that the climate is responding to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in ways that had not been properly understood before. This possibility, if true, could have profound significance both for climate science and for environmental and social policy.

It is a very encouraging sign that finally some in the mainstream media are beginning to acknowledge the divergence between models and observations, and are starting to ask questions. I encourage you to read it all.

(And wait for the inevitable headbanger backlash at Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science, amongst other places, where they are always desperate to defend their religion at any cost. UPDATE: As predicted, here it is.)


  1. It’s not so much the apocalypse has been delayed, but more that it never was …
    GISS global temp data displayed on an alcohol style thermometer from syuts space weblog.

  2. manicbeancounter says:

    This is very significant for the Economist considering some of the past pronouncements in the subject of climate. It is well worth reading, along with the leader.

    However, the article is not fully joined up. It does not matter how much the average temperature rises. It is the impacts of that rise upon human beings and the rest of nature that should be of concern. There are two factors that are important here.
    First, is that lower sensitivity will imply a slower rate of temperature rise over time for a given rise in greenhouse gases. Therefore if median sensitivity is halved, so is halved the median expected temperature rise this century. The worst alleged impacts are from destabilization of the climate system as a result of rapid change. The climate tipping points are far less likely to be breached by slower rates of warming. Along with that, it is far easier to adapt to more gradual changes. So 30cm a century of sea level rise is far easier to adapt to that 30cm a decade.
    Second, is that catastrophic impacts have been over-hyped. The most costly projected impacts have turned out to be founded on little or no substance. The melting of the ice sheets is not accelerating. Crops yields will not fall by 50% in some African countries by 2020. The Amazon will not suddenly collapse from a drop in rainfall. Tropical storms are not getting more frequent or violent. Etc.
    These two components of slower warming rates and the lower costs from a rise in temperature over time multiply together, to make a dramatically different picture of the future. The likely impacts of global warming become orders of magnitude less than was projected a few years ago.

  3. Lew Skannen says:

    Oh dear. If even the Economist is preparing the way for a u-turn then things are not looking too rosy for the scammers. I have a feeling that we might indeed be heading to a tipping point. The media are realising that they have gotten all the mileage they are going to get out of the AGW story and that it no longer has legs. The next story then can only be – “Why did climate scientists lies to us?!?”
    Such media love nothing more than pursuing the villain and so the likes of Phil Jones and Mike Mann might have to get used to waking up to the sound of dozens of Sun reporters clamouring for soundbites as they hurl questions through the bedroom window at 6am.

    • How do you know that is is not aerosols (mostly from coal) holding temperatures, instead of a miscalculation of CO2 warming?

      • You’ve been reading Hansen’s latest paper, I see.
        So what you are saying is that the effect of aerosols is very much greater than any effect of CO2 plus all the other natural effects on climate. If so your AGW theory is just been proven to be wrong.

        • David Appell says:

          Truthfully, I haven’t read Hansen’s latest paper. This question has been in the air for many years.

          Can you answer it? Surface warming is a function of many variables: CO2, aerosols, heat uptake by the deep ocean, and more.

          So how have you, personally, separated them out, and concluded (apparently) that CO2 is the weak link in the equation?

        • David ,

          In response to your comment below. I am just responding to this part of your previous post ” How do you know that is is not aerosols (mostly from coal) holding temperatures…”
          If as you are suggesting it is aerosols holding temperatures then logically they must have a stronger opposing effect than CO2 as we know the levels of CO2 have continued to increase in recent years ( with no corresponding increase in warming).

        • David Appell says:

          Your logic is wrong — aerosols need only have a certain negative radiative forcing, which combines wiht the two back-to-back La Ninas — the first of them very big — to reduce temperatures.

          So how do you know what these relative forcings are compared to CO2 plus other GHGs?

        • When you don’t know scientifically all the factors that affect climate and by how much. The debate about climate usually end up being what one think/believe. Not what it should be, what we know?
          The Western world have wasted 21 years and billions in an attempt to support the UNFCCC/CAGW.
          Had the time and money been used on proper scientific climate study both the public and politicians would be in a better position today?

        • David Appell says:

          Jon: the IPCC has done this in each of their ARs. Are you really unaware of their tables?

      • “How do you know……….?” It’s not up to the “skeptics” or “deniers” to answer. It’s up to CAGW proponents to offer an explanation and defend their science. I don’t “know” anything. That’s why I am skeptical. Obviously, many prominent “scientists” were off base, also. They’ve been found wrong, so don’t hold your breath for anyone believing their next explanations or new models.

      • Carbonicus says:

        No sale, David.

        How do you know that it’s sulfate aerosols and not natural cooling?

        The burden of proof is on you warmists, not those of us who’ve long since dismissed the pseudo-science.

        Empirical evidence, David. Your theory doesn’t even come close to standing any scrutiny.

        Game over.

  4. But of course the carbon tax has decreased emissions!!! (Julia Gillard) She needs to see a Psychiatrist As other warming alarmists These people have delayed the apocalypse!!!! Need some sense in all of this.

    • David Appell says:

      Has the Australia carbon tax decreased emissions? Where is this data?

      • Why don’t you ask Julia, You stupid [snip][ssnippety-][snip]? She’s the one who makes the claim.

      • Carbonicus says:

        Maybe, maybe not. But here’s what we do know:

        The US has reduced our CO2 emissions to around 1996 levels. We did it WITHOUT cap/trade, WITHOUT CARBON TAX, and despite environmentalists. In fact, we did it because environmentalists tried to kill coal, so industry zagged, perfected a technology out there for 50 years, and overcame the environmentalists’ hatred toward fossil fuels and flooded the US with nat gas and new booming oil supplies. FRACKING! No subsidies, no govt. grants/loans, nada. Just good old fashioned capitalism, technology, and profit motive.

        Your kids will be better off for it.

        • David Appell says:

          Natural gas is killing coal, not environmentalists.

          And natural gas is a fossil fuel too, that emits CO2 when burned, which heats the planet and will alter the climate for at least 100,000 years. Getting to dump one’s pollution for free is, of course, a massive subsidy. Just traditional pollution alone creates over $120 B/yr in externalized damage costs (i.e. before climate change), according to a 2010 report by the National Academy of Sciences.

          Privatize profits, socialize damages. It’s easy to run a profitable business when you get to dump your trash in the street for free.

  5. This is an amazing U-turn. I dropped my subscription to The Economist over a year ago with a note explaining that while I appreciated the articles that took an analytical and rational look at various topics, I’d had enough of their quasi-religious articles on “climate change” and I was no longer prepared to pay to be preached to.
    Perhaps a few other people also got sick of paying for The Economist’s sermons.

    • Same story here – I subscribed to the Economist for 20+ years, and, having found myself unable to continue ignoring their idiotic, monomaniacal promotion of the AGW panic, reluctantly cancelled a handful of years ago. I don’t ask for them to agree with me, only that they stop trying to jam a sketchy idea down my throat, unbalanced by the wealth of credible evidence to the contrary.

      I’d quite look forward to again being a subscriber, and will hope to see continued evidence of a return to excellent journalism on their part.

  6. Alan the American says:

    The output of the Sun is also headed towards a slump not seen since the Dalton/Maunder Minimums. What are the odds of that having a lowering effect on Global Mean Temperatures?

    Depends on whom you ask, I suppose…..

  7. William Lippincott says:

    The Economist rather generously equates models with observations in its I-dunno-but-we-should-still-gut-the-world-economy conclusions. In fact, models = theory, and observations = evidence. In real scientific discourse, evidence is king..

    • David Appell says:

      Observations have their own models. All data depends on a model — all of it.

  8. James Hansen now claims burning coal reduces carbon dioxide in the air, causing global warming to reverse. Read it here: http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2013/03/hansens-mea-culpa-says-man-made-global.html

  9. thingodonta says:

    It’s actually not that puzzling, its a negative PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) since the early 21st century, and lower solar activity since the late 20th century, over-riding the very weak warming effect of human C02.

    Oh, and it isn’t likely to warm much in the next 20 years either, it may even get a bit cooler, as the negative PDO will continue until about 2035, the same as it did in the mid 20th century for around 30 years, when temperatures were flat to slightly negative between ~1945-1975. The sun also shows no sign of being very active in the next 20 years or so.

    If the IPCC had bothered to take notice of these things, they would have figured out the reasons for the current temperature standstill years ago. It isn’t likely to change for another 20 years either. Too simple for the IPCC to see, and too much caught up in politics.

  10. Reblogged this on Newtz Climate Change Blog.


  1. […] consider the Apocalypse Delayed? posting of March 28th. Referring to an Economist article, it says that a number of empirical […]

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