A Warming World



The estimated change in the average temperature of the Earth (in degrees Celsius) compared with a baseline average temperature over the period 1960 to 1970. The new analysis extends back to 1800. Picture from the BBC. Click for larger verison.

The BBC last week reported on a pre-publication draft of a new study of historical temperature records which essentially confirms what all previous studies have shown: the Earth appears to be getting warmer.

Actually, most people already believed that , but that had not stopped many  vitriolic attacks on the scientists who struggled on very limited funds to establish the techniques for creating such an estimate.  I will just pause now to allow time for them to glow with vindication….

The Berkeley team deliberately used different techniques and included more data than previous studies – including using data previous studies had rejected for reasons of quality or provenance. And it made no difference. Although this result is something of a ‘me too’ result, the study is still significant important.

Most interesting is effect on climate ‘skeptics’. So far I have enjoyed the The Register’s reporting on the issue: they report that Berkeley team  had ‘been concerned that University of East Anglia had been concealing discordant data‘ but have in fact confirmed that team’s conclusions. Even hyper-contrarian ‘überskeptics’ such as Anthony Watts are now busy trying to find any way to criticise this new work while stating that they always thought the Earth was warming in the first place! The Global Warming Policy Foundation have had to front up and say they were never denying the Earth was warming in the first place, but even so they still disagree with the new research anyway!

I predict that the general tack of Climate Change deniers will be to say that the important question to ask now is ‘How much warming – if any – is associated with human influences?’. Mmmm. This is an interesting question, but the wrong one. It’s like asking ‘The car I am in is going to crash, I wonder if it is my fault?’. In this case, the  correct question to ask is ‘Can I stop the car before anything bad happens?’ And in the case of global warming the questions we should be asking are similar. But if, as is most likely the case, the warming observed in these studies derives from increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, then it is already too late to stop further warming.

Even stopping carbon dioxide emissions right now, we would still most probably have committed the Earth to hundreds more years of warming. So I think the most important question we should ask is this:

  • Are we ever going to take this issue seriously?’

Despite our government’s commitments, and the existence of a Department of Climate Change, I am not yet convinced that we are really serious about this. A Warming World is not a comfortable place to live.

A Warming World
Tue, 25 Oct 2011 08:00:25 GMT


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