Friday, 6 June 2008

Bolt Warms Up

Andrew Bolt has really irked me today. He's still banging on about climate change being imaginary.

Look, I understand that climate change is a difficult problem. I understand that people want it to just go away. I do.

But closing your eyes and putting your fingers in your ears and screaming "LA LA LA LA LA" won't make it happen.

I'm not sure if it's pride or ego or wilful ignorance or all three, but Mr Bolt is revelling in his supposed status as last-man-standing among the climate change skeptics.

His self-image is of a man standing tall, head high and proud. He doesn't appreciate that he's actually the last person on the tiny desert island in a 1950's cartoon (you know, 1 metre across with a palm tree in the middle), staring fixedly into space so he can't see the water lapping at his ankles.

The amazing fervour with which he clings to any piece of evidence, however slight and however manipulated, that climate change might not be real is sad. So sad.

I'll leave aside his insistence on continuing to refer to the phenomenon as "global warming". Presumably this is so he can use it as ammunition when climate models show that parts of the earth will cool as a result of climate change. Memo to Mr Bolt: that's why we changed it to "climate change".

His rant today was simply a reheat of the old chestnut that average warming levels flattened out in 1998, so what are we so worried about? After all, it said so in the New Statesman, so it must be true!

This argument has been going around for months now, and has been comprehensively debunked over and over again . . . for example here, here and here.

The fact that this argument is still getting recycled clearly shows that the anti-climate change brigade is really clutching at straws.

So anyway, I left a comment. It was published, but I reproduce it here for your enjoyment. I begin with a reference to Bolt's statement that many people are skeptics of climate change, some of them prominent scientists.

It's interesting that you say "some of them prominent scientists . . . ". How many of these "prominent scientists" are climatologists? None, I suspect.

I also suspect none of them are statisticians. Your argument, Mr Bolt, is based on a convenient selection of statistics that happen to tell your story.

The fact is that 1998 was an oddly high year for temperature, because it was at the peak of the El Nino cycle. If you cherry-pick 1998 as the starting point, then yes, it can be made to appear that warming has stopped.

But this is noisy data. You can't look at one isolated section and draw any meaningful conclusions.

If you look at the decades-long trends in the data, then it's painfully clear that 1998 was an anomaly, and it's painfully clear that the temperature is still going up.

Now let's have no more of this nonsense.