On March 19’th, talk show host Jason Lewis wrote an opinion piece about global warming in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His headline was entitled “Climate change is natural, and we don’t have the data to predict it”, with the contents reflecting the attitude that climate change isn’t a big deal.
On March 23, engineering professor John Abraham wrote a rebuttal to Lewis’ piece in the same paper. He claimed that Lewis was misleading readers and gave a series of bullet points explaining each error.
Who’s right? Let’s look through the article and keep a running tab of errors. Both articles had errors, and I’ll point them out.
I’m going to quote the section from Lewis’ article, then quote Abraham’s rebuttal, then explain who is right.
The famous “hockey stick” graph showing rapid warming in the 20th century was thoroughly debunked by Canadian researchers even before the purloined e-mails showed how global warming researchers were desperately trying to “hide the decline” in temperatures.
Made an unsubstantiated and untrue claim that scientists hid a “decline in temperatures.” Where is the evidence of this? No scientists made any statement that they were hiding a decline in temperatures. This is a distortion of a stolen e-mail that was actually referring to increasing temperatures.
Who’s right? Abraham is. “Hide the decline” is NOT referring to temperature. For a better explanation, watch this video.
Lewis 0, Abraham 1.
Not long ago, the Heartland Institute asserted that NASA had “been artificially inflating U.S. temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius since the year 2000” and as a result erroneously reported that readings over the last decade “were warmer than the 1930s, when in fact the opposite was true.”
Eventually, agency officials did recant 1998 as the hottest on U.S. record when the data were reanalyzed showing the pre-greenhouse-gas era year of 1934 to be slightly warmer.
Took aim at reputable institutions, including NASA. He claims that NASA has “erroneously reported that readings over the last decade were warmer than the 1930s, when in fact the opposite was true.” This statement is inaccurate, as is his claim that NASA recanted 1998 as being the hottest year in U.S. history.
Who’s right? They are both right and wrong. The 2000’s were warmer than the 1930’s, in the US and globally. One point for Abraham. However, Lewis’ claim that NASA did have to recant 1998 as the hottest year in the US is true. Abraham is wrong in saying that statement is inaccurate.
If you want proof of this look no further than a 2007 post on RealClimate by Gavin Schmidt, a scientist at NASA:
The net effect of the change [McIntyre’s found error] was to reduce mean US anomalies by about 0.15 ºC for the years 2000-2006. There were some very minor knock on effects in earlier years due to the GISTEMP adjustments for rural vs. urban trends. In the global or hemispheric mean, the differences were imperceptible (since the US is only a small fraction of the global area).
There were however some very minor re-arrangements in the various rankings (see data). Specifically, where 1998 (1.24 ºC anomaly compared to 1951-1980) had previously just beaten out 1934 (1.23 ºC) for the top US year, it now just misses: 1934 1.25ºC vs. 1998 1.23ºC.
Gavin goes on to explain how this isn’t significant. But the point is, Abraham is wrong and Lewis is right. One point for Lewis.
Lewis 1, Abraham 2.
In 1975, Newsweek cited the scientific consensus (heard that one before?) about the coming danger of global cooling.
Temperatures had been declining since 1940 even as carbon dioxide levels rose. Regardless of who is correct, we would do well to remember that cold is far more calamitous for mankind than the purported 0.6 degrees Celsius rise in the last century.
Claimed that temperatures have been declining since 1940. They have not. No scientist would agree with that statement.
Who is right? Well, Abraham is right in stating that no scientist would agree that temperatures have been declining since 1940. But Lewis didn’t say that. He was talking about the 1970’s which is obvious from the context. Had temperatures been declining from the 1940’s to the 70’s? That might depend how you define cooling, but basically yes, Lewis is right.
Lewis 2, Abraham 2.
And therein lies the problem. The global-warming hysteria is based on computer models, not empirical data, because the records simply don’t go back far enough.
If Climategate taught us anything, it’s that these models are subject to human manipulation.
Alleged that climate change theory is based on models and not real data. This, too, is inaccurate. The fact that increasing greenhouse gases cause the earth to warm is known from data that go back 800,000 years. Is that a long enough record?
Who is right? This is a difficult one. Abraham claims that Lewis is stating that the theory is based on models and not data. But Lewis states that the hysteria is based on models. I think this is true, because I don’t think many people would state that the current temperature of the world demands hysteria. It’s the models which claim that the earth will warm 4 or 5 degrees that we worry about.
However, Lewis claims that we must rely on models because the temperature record doesn’t go far enough back. He might be referring to the instrumental temperature record which only is reliable back to the 1880’s or so. Abraham counters this claim by stating that we have a record of 800,000 years. This is a reference to ice core data. However, Abraham implies that this data proves AGW. Ice core data is hotly contested and to state that the record is proof of AGW is false. It shows a correlation between temperature and CO2, but as we all hopefully know, correlation doesn’t equal causation. There is also a lag versus lead issue, whether CO2 changes the temperature or the temperature changes the CO2 content.
Also, Abraham cannot dismiss the importance models play by simply stating that an ice core record exists. Climate modeling is a huge part of climate science, and it has its own problems.
I’ll call this one a tie.
Across the globe, the last few winters have been exceedingly harsh.
China has endured its most severe winter in 100 years, snow has fallen in Baghdad, and the United Kingdom just suffered through its coldest December since 1683, according to figures from the Met Office.
British astrophysicist David Whitehouse says that not only have temperatures leveled off since 1998, they may actually be cooling once again.
Suggested that since 1998, temperatures have leveled off and might be decreasing now. It turns out that the hottest three years on record, according to NASA, were 2010, 2005 and 2009. It is tough to have this trend occur in a cooling world.
Who’s right? First, Lewis is citing British astrophysicist David Whitehouse for these claims, which Abraham doesn’t mention. Have world temperatures leveled off since 1998, or even cooled? Well this is a game that is played with starting and ending a trend at different points. It also depends on which record you use. If you start at the height of 1998, and go to right now, temperatures have certainly declined, especially if using the UAH record.
So technically Lewis is right, although Abraham is also right in pointing out that NASA claims 2010, 2005, and 2009 were the three hottest years. Of course those years are only hotter than others by a few hundredths of a degree, and the GISS record doesn’t match up with CRU or UAH exactly.
Phil Jones is famous for stating that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995. World temperatures haven’t been clearly moving in any direction for over a decade now, and claims of warming or cooling, or hottest year, are just playing around with statistically insignificant numbers and data starting points and ending points.
Neither men get a point for this.
Lewis makes other points but nothing that Abraham challenges. Abraham also makes other claims, such as the following:
Someone reading this article might believe that Lewis knows more about climate science than the 97 percent of scientists who agree that humans are causing the Earth to warm.
Big-time, flat-out wrong. First, he does not make a distinction between climate scientists and all other scientists. Surveys of all scientists have found substantially less than 97% support for AGW.
Even if he had claimed that 97% of climate scientists agreed on AGW, he’d be wrong. That is based on the seriously flawed study Doran 09, or the misquoted study Anderegg 2010. Doran asked questions which nearly everyone would answer yes to (and several prominent “skeptical” climate scientists did exactly that), and Anderegg 2010 only chose certain “top researchers” to get 97%, otherwise it is 66% of researchers who believed AGW.
Well the score ended up tied. What is the tie-breaker?
Lewis is a talk show host. Abraham is an engineering professor at a St. Paul University. Also, he is famous for responding to Monckton of climate skeptic fame on a series of climate issues. One might expect that someone so involved in climate change issues and with a teaching position at a university might understand the issues a little more deeply.
I’m not saying that Lewis gets off the hook for being wrong, only that people automatically value Abraham’s rebuttal more highly because he is a professor instead of a talk show host. It seems clear to me that Abraham is equally as wrong on these issues as a local talk show host.
I won’t declare a winner, it’s more like a loss for everyone who wants to learn more about climate change by reading the Star Tribune.