Stuck in the 20th century at #Ozfail

I really need to get back to the analysis of tax and expenditure options I’ve been working on, but the absurdities of the Oz keep distracting me. Today’s paper runs a front page story claiming “Temperatures were higher 2000 years ago“. The story is based on a study published in Global and Planetary Change, which uses tree ring records to estimate (with lots of caveats about uncertainty) that Northern Hemisphere (presumably land) temperatures were warmer in the 1st Century AD than in the 20th. More precisely, “The first century AD was the warmest 100-year period (+0.60C on average relative to the 1951-1980 mean) of the common era”. Take that, warmists!

There’s are a couple of minor problems with the story. As part of the Murdoch empire, encompassing 20th Century Fox, the Oz has apparently not noticed that the 20th century ended some years ago. And, being prone to printing silliness about pauses in warming, the writer, Graham Lloyd, did not bother to check whether the temperature today is warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. This isn’t hard to do. The US National Climatic Data Center reports global temperatures on a monthly basis. It reports that the Northern Hemisphere land temperature for September 2012 was +1.04 ± 0.26 above the 20th century average (I’ve checked and 1950-80 was about equal to the average for C20 as a whole).

So, the correct headline for the story should have been “Northern Hemisphere warmer than at any time in past 2000 years”

One more point, just for completeness. Readers might reasonably assume that the graphic accompanying the story is taken from the journal article it reports. In fact, it’s credited to the Global Warming Policy Foundation – given the fact that the Oz has linked to it, you don’t need to be Einstein to guess what kind of policies the scientific ex this foundation (headed by Benny Peiser) is pushing.

Update Reader andrewt points us to the actual article. The GWPF graphic is taken from the article, with the addition of a bunch of chartjunk. The article actually focuses on Northern Scandinavia, though its results are broadly consistent with other reconstructions at the hemispheric and global scale. And, while I won’t bother linking, it’s clear that Lloyd has taken his story, and interpretation of the results, from the Anthony Watts “sceptic” site.

56 thoughts on “Stuck in the 20th century at #Ozfail

  1. I think the NRL should adopt the same policy to judge Broncos rugby league games. If they can find any 10 minute period in a completed game where the Broncos outscored the opponents then the Broncos win! I look forward to a lot of Bronco’s premierships under that system.

  2. BTW, does Rupert Murdoch own a lot of coal mines or oil wells? Why exactly is he so keen to deny AGW?

  3. Ikonoclast @3, he probaby sees it as his comradely, or rather tribal, duty. Studies in Australia and the US show a strong correspondence between right-wing political partisanship and AGW denial, at the level of both the general public and political elites. There is an excellent study on this topic by Fielding et al in the latest edition of Environmental Politics.

  4. Anthropogenic climate change is a strongly divisive issue even though there is a very large consensus that it is occurring. Why is it so politicised? The sacred free market is not providing a solution and there is absolutely nothing on the horizon to see that this will change before irreparable damage is done. The failure of the market indicates that the best way forward would be some kind of government intervention to account for the externalities. The science aspect can get technical and unfortunately some of the right-wing has an overt anti-intellectual bias. Despite what some of those group say, they lack the information to make an informed decision and are totally helpless. All of these combine into the latest “big-government attack on their freedoms which will lead to communism” scare. For the average joe, it’s far easier just to dismiss the whole field with a cry of “Climategate!” or some one liner (which totally debunks thousands of academic papers and millions of hours of research and thousands of years of historical data from many different scientific fields).

    For big business the issue is simply money. If AGW gets to the point that it can no longer be ignored then the largest polluters will be on the hook for likely trillions of dollars in remediation/compensation/mitigation. So Murdoch has the back of big business and tells a good chunk of people what they want to hear. And he makes money hand over fist.

  5. Not only that, but the proxies they used only cover one region (northern Sweden and Finland), not the entire northern hemisphere as Lloyd says. Also the main point of the paper (difference between proxy records by more than the amount the warm periods differ from the 1951-1980 mean) appears to have been conveniently overlooked. Denialist hackery at its most shamelessly, brazenly dishonest.

    Everyone write to Media Watch. They will have a field day with this one.

  6. the 20th century is so long ago that a smart, young work colleague had not heard of Yes Minister!

  7. Curiously, under the ACMA/2GB deal Alan Jones will now be free to repeat this rubbish without having to do any “fact checking” because the “facts” are not from a “non-media” source.

    Thanks ACMA:

    “Pre-broadcast fact-checking by the program’s executive producer of any material provided by non-media sources or third parties which may require additional confirmation and attribution.”

  8. @MG42

    That’s an extremely good outline of the whole problem, MG42. You wrote one (or two) of those succinct, insightful, near perfect paragraphs that make me wish I had written them.

    The level of denial is immense. I really wonder what it’s going to take, in terms of disasters, to ram home the truth to all the deniers. Things are really looking very bleak now with probably 4 degrees C warming already locked in and 6 degrees almost certain to happen. It’s all because we have delayed action too long.

    I notice that even some peak oil and limits to growth sites are now saying, “Yes, the warming might happen but renewables will never work so we might as well burn all the fossils anyway.”

    I kid you not, I have seen peak and limits arguments that essentially amount to that. I think a number of peak and limits sites have been infiltrated by the fossil fuel lobby. Maybe some are even run by them. Their idea is;

    “We can’t win them over but we can cherry pick factoids to deny that renewables will ever work. This will induce induce despair and passivity. We have trained the populace to seek solace from despair and passivity by consuming. Thus they will give up direct political action and consume to forget.”

    As I say, I am pretty sure (from analysing their arguments) that some peak and limits sites have been infiltrated and perverted in this way. I won’t name names. You can soon find them.

  9. Hot times in the Roman or Medieval period remind me of the search for Lasseters Reef or Blackbeards Treasure. All the evidence is snippets with the definitive proof always tantalisingly out of reach. That evidence is more than enough to maintain belief. I suspect it correlates well with belief in supreme beings because it creates a positive outlook when things are generally crook.

    When The Australian is defunct like The Sportsman I wonder which will be remembered more fondly. At least the latter contained an excellent form guide.

  10. Not sure why you are wasting effort on the Aus-troll-ian. They are, after all, part of an organistion entitled to their own facts, and in many cases their own laws. A Golden Dawn among journals.

  11. @rog
    Murdoch has taken a number of postions on global warming in recent years including calling for a global treaty and setting a carbon neutral target for news corporation. he must have spotted a green rent-seeking opportunity?

  12. This is all a bit odd. The Australian has a denialist agenda, that is evident. The Daily Telegraph generally stays away from the topic, i.e. does not crusade on it either way, (with political opportunism exceptions now and again) but its letter-writing readership is mostly rabidly denialist. The News Ltd Carsguide insert is quite green in its editorial policy, such as can be discerned, praising frugal and low-emission vehicles, coming down hard on cars and trucks which aren’t. This is done in the copy, headlines and in its star-rating systems.
    News Ltd itself is very green indeed internally, with its 1 degree environmental sustainability policy, see here:

    So Jim Rose, above, is correct. I think The Australian must have some commercial reason to do with its advertising base to take this loony stance editorially. What other explanation can there be?

  13. AGW denialists are not particularly anti-science , that is, opposing all the results from all disciplines of science. It’s just that the climate science (facts) do not support their pro-business (low taxes, no regulation) beliefs, so they must discredit the scientists and the research.

    If years ago scientists announced that more CO2 had to be pumped into the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic cooling then they would be championing the science and scientists in every article, blog post, and mass media outlet they could find or pay for. Not to mention the direct lobbying of government for subsidies for CO2 producing industries like coal fired electricity, to “save the planet and future generations”.

  14. @Jim Rose Murdoch has just signed up Roger Ailes for another 4 year stint at Fox News. Murdoch is responsible for an industrial scale of misinformation and you choose to use him as a referee?

  15. see which says:

    “There is no dispute that The Australian has opened its news and opinion pages to a wide range of views on the existence and extent of climate change and what should be done about it … the position taken by Australian newspaper in its daily editorial column, or leader, has been clear for well more than a decade:

    In the editorial of April 6, 1995, the paper said: “The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring unnaturally, primarily as a result of industrial development and deforestation, is no longer seriously disputed in the world.””

    that newspaper supports global action on climate change based on the science, allows a diveristy of views in its op-eds and even supported Rudd in 2007. a right-wing rag indeed?

  16. @dexitroboper

    Yep, the Greens are correct on all environmental fronts and in most political areas except for their implicit acceptance of neo-con austerity economics by calling for balanced budgets.

  17. @Jim Rose

    I guess we can soon see the Australian post 6 articles for the science that says C + O2 = CO2 and 10 articles against it. After all, it’s just a matter of opinion isn’t it? I mean to say all those experiments from Priestly onwards proved nothing right? The same thing would go for the science of the CO2 Greenhouse effect right? All the experiments and calculations from Svante Arrhenius onwards about the CO2 greenhouse effect are just opinions too right? (That’s sarcasm folks.)

    Denialists have no idea how comprehensive, extensive and inter-connected the scientific enterprise is. Deny one piece of science solidly established by repeated experimental results and bit by bit you have to deny it all. Then again, that’s exactly the path delusionists take come to think of it.

  18. An occasional expression of acceptance of climate science doesn’t outweigh the persistent expressions of doubt and denial in the service of delay. In the 1990’s even John Howard expressed acceptance but more recently has staunchly defended that serial peddler of misinformation about climate, Ian Plimer. Influential elements of political Right made a politically expedient choice to frame the climate issue as a green left beat up. Even now they like to portray The Greens’ policies on energy and emissions as irrational and irresponsible, yet, by giving the nod to – and even helping to promote – climate science denial and deniers, the LNP coalition reveal a dangerously irrational response to a serious threat to our future security and prosperity and they make The Greens’ ‘irrationality’ look downright amatuerish.

    It shouldn’t even be about The Greens – they would have no real traction or prominence if mainstream politics addressed issues of environment and sustainability seriously and rationally.

  19. @Ikonoclast
    It is so much easier to believe that your opponents are ignorant or steeped in moral turpitude, preferably both. saves having to make your case.

    There is Christopher Robert and Richard Zeckhauser‘s taxonomy of disagreement:

    Positive disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Scope: what elements of the world one is trying to understand
    2. Model: what mechanisms explain the behaviour of the world
    3. Estimate: what estimates of the model’s parameters are thought to obtain in particular contexts

    Values disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Standing: who counts
    2. Criteria: what counts
    3. Weights: how much different individuals and criteria count

    Any positive analysis will tend to include elements of scope, model, and estimation, though often these elements intertwine; they frequently feature in an implicit or undifferentiated manner. Likewise, normative analysis will also include elements of standing, criteria, and weights, whether or not these distinctions are recognized.

    Let climate science be settled. How much will global warming cost is the correct question for policy debate.

    The chances of India, China and much of the rest of the Third world agreeing for forego or even slow economic development to fight global warming is zero even before you consider the international collective action, verification and free rider problems.

  20. @Jim Rose I don’t dispute that those comments were made however the content of the newspaper regularly negates any good intentions that may be expressed in the editorial. Mitchell describes himself as a dictator so you can draw your own conclusions as to integrity of the editor.

  21. @rog The Australian stands condemned for being one-sided to brainwash its readers and for presenting both sides of a major debate and leaving it up to its readers to decide. First the verdict, then the trial.

    Knowledge grows through critical discussion, not by consensus and agreement

    If the righteous majority silences or ignores its opponents, it will never have to defend its belief and over time will forget the arguments for it.

    As well as losing its grasp of the arguments for its belief, J.S. Mill adds that the majority will in due course even lose a sense of the real meaning and substance of its belief.

    What earlier may have been a vital belief will be reduced in time to a series of phrases retained by rote. The belief will be held as a dead dogma rather than as a living truth.

    Beliefs held like this are extremely vulnerable to serious opposition when it is eventually encountered. They are more likely to collapse because their supporters do not know how to defend them or even what they really mean.

    J.S. Mill’s scenarios involves both parties of opinion, majority and minority, having a portion of the truth but not the whole of it. He regards this as the most common of the three scenarios, and his argument here is very simple.

    To enlarge its grasp of the truth the majority must encourage the minority to express its partially truthful view.

    Three scenarios – the majority is wrong, partly wrong, or totally right – exhaust for Mill the possible permutations on the distribution of truth, and he holds that in each case the search for truth is best served by allowing free discussion.

    Mill thinks history repeatedly demonstrates this process at work and offers Christianity as an illustrative example. By suppressing opposition to it over the centuries Christians ironically weakened rather than strengthened Christian belief, and Mill thinks this explains the decline of Christianity in the modern world. They forgot why they were Christians.

  22. @Jim Rose I don’t know why you are presenting all this stuff, your argument is efficiently working against you. If, for instance, you want to argue that water runs uphill then go right ahead but don’t expect the opposing majority to collapse into a heap of confused befuddlement, as predicted by Mills.

  23. @rog Biologists spent great effort over many decades to rebut creation science is a cold methodical manner designed to change minds through facts and reasoned arguments. Insults and conceit give peoples excuses to not listen.

    Darrow’s polite and careful cross-examination of Bryan in that great movie Inherit the Wind caused millions to reject religious-based opposition to the theory of evolution.

  24. “The Australian stands condemned for being one-sided to brainwash its readers and for presenting both sides of a major debate and leaving it up to its readers to decide.”

    No it doesn’t.

    It stands condemned – in this particular piece – for being wrong.

  25. No one is preventing denialists from making asses of themselves.

    Meantime intelligent opinion solidifies around a consensus supported by science. Does intelligent opinion know all the science? No. But that doesn’t matter.

    All that matters is that the denialists are prevented from persecuting their opponents in the way perpetrated by creationists on evolutionists.

  26. katz, see

    a majority of Australians favour a future ‘Coalition government removing the Emissions Trading Scheme’ if it is elected at the next Federal election. the loss of jobs and it is not necessary to act before other countries are leading reasons for this.

    Even 38% of Australians who say they always or sometimes vote for the Green Party are in favour of removing the legislation.

    Only a third of Australians now support the most aggressive form of action, down from two-thirds back in 2006 who said ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem.’

    Intelligent opinion is a broader church than the people who agree with you.

  27. The “skeptics” are a funny bunch. They don’t trust the temperature record of the last century, with thousands of thermometers around the world subject to many different analysis all producing essentially the same result. No, the “skeptics” smell a rat.

    But give them 2000 year old tree rings that happen to give them comfort, and they are happy to believe…

  28. @Jim Rose

    Yes, its hardly surprising. We’ll need a regular string of obviously “global warming” related disasters to change public opinion.

    And strangely enough, on the green side of politics, there are those who think that imperfect action is worse than no action at all.

  29. That’s some very impressive white lab-coats and clipboards!

    I’ll have my colleagues at The Ponds Institute look into it first thing Monday.

    But in the meantime, the Lowy site is hopelessly ‘News Ltd’ like in its vague assertions.

    For instance: “The 63% of Australians who say they are against the legislation were presented with three statements…”

    seems to lead on to all groupings thereafter being referred to as “a majority of Australians” (or minority etc as the agenda requires).

    Therefore, it looks as though the “majority” is actually 57% of the 63%.

    That would be about 35%? That would be a minority in the real world.

    The Lowy Institute has about the same credibility as ‘The Australian’, both of which have a little less than the Ponds Institute.

  30. @Jim Rose Goodness gracious me

    Just 60% of Australians say democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, and only 39% of 18 to 29 year olds.

    Quality polling from Lowy.

  31. @Jim Rose

    “The chances of India, China and much of the rest of the Third world agreeing to forego or even slow economic development to fight global warming is zero even before you consider the international collective action, verification and free rider problems.” – Jim Rose

    1. Why assume that preventing global warming requires foregoing economic development? The changeover to renewables power, particularly solar and wind, continues economic development with safer power. Allowing global warming to happen is what will cause foregone development and in fact regression and possibly civilizational collapse.

    2. Why finger India, China and much of the rest of the Third world for all the implicit “blame” when the West has emitted most of the greenhouse gases to date?

    3. Why talk about free rider problems without mentioning the free ride the West and fossil fuels have had in destroying a commons (the benign holocene climate) without paying any costs?

  32. a majority of Australians favour a future ‘Coalition government removing the Emissions Trading Scheme’ if it is elected at the next Federal election. the loss of jobs and it is not necessary to act before other countries are leading reasons for this.


    A majority of Tennesseeans were in favour of persecuting John Scopes. Probably today a majority still would be. If Australians want to be the Tennesseeans of the 21st century, so be it.

  33. What the AGW denialists and delusionists don’t get is that if the environment is wrecked then there will be NO jobs at all. All jobs are 100% dependent on a benign, productive environment which supplies all the economic and “non-economic”* resources we need. The problem is the mentality which thinks and acts like the economy is free-standing in a vacuum separate from the environment.

    * Note: By “non-economic” resources I mean those acquired for free without trade or payment. For example, chemically free oxygen in the atmosphere is acquired and used without payment.

  34. Murdoch is an old man who doesn’t seem to be having a particularly successful life if judged by values other than those that the capitalists have managed to foist on us, wealth and power. He appears to have no close relationships – even his marriage to the lovely Wendy – is said to have gone sour. He has not managed to raise a successor who is competent to take over his empire, or to look after him.

    He surely has the longevity gene but he will not live as long as his mother although I imagine that he has access to all the latest expensive treatment for staying young. The deterioration of his abilities is becoming obvious. His increasingly incoherent and misjudged tweets show this. The haiku ones were the most obvious indicators of how intellectually ordinary he is and that he doesn’t have any self insight.

    I don’t think that at this stage of his life, Murdoch is capable of taking any reasoned position on climate change or any of the other issues that are important to the rest of us. There is evidence that people can, well into old age, learn and change – the brain is ‘plastic’ throughout life – but Rupe makes no effort to challenge his ideas and in this way ‘grow’ new neurons and connections.

    Perhaps he is relying on those new drugs that are supposed to increase brain power without any effort. That is always the capitalist aim; make more stuff with less effort – and then they criticise people for being lazy!

    Anyway this article in the Boston Review

    explains that increasing voter knowledge about what each party stands for leads to an increase in votes for the Democrats. Who wouda thought?

    “Voters uninformed on party positions who received information increased their evaluation of the Democratic Party by 0.8 points and decreased their evaluation of the Republican Party by 1.4 points, relative to the control group that received no information.”

    The article concludes

    “In the short run, a more informed electorate very well could influence election results. And in the long run, more information can change the nature of politics altogether. Citizens ignorant of the true nature of their political options cannot be adequately represented. But, empowered with knowledge, these previously under-represented citizens will be able to encourage government to act on their preferences.”

  35. Acceptance of the reality and perils of AGW does not commit one to supporting particular policies designed to combat AGW.

  36. Katz :
    Acceptance of the reality and perils of AGW does not commit one to supporting particular policies designed to combat AGW.

    Surely it would commit one to supporting those policies one considered to be of likely efficacious or ameliorative effect. This would be so unless one wanted AGW to occur.

  37. Does global warming, on the scale suggested by IPCC, produce a large negative externality? That is the public policy question.

    Richard Tol has pointed out that maybe 20 or so academic economists work extensively on climate change. The key survey papers are written by the same few people – often him.

    The reasons were that inter-disciplinary works is looked down upon in the economics profession and government agencies do not like what economic research says about climate change so they pre-emptively do not fund it.

    No amount of action between now and 2020 will affect the climate in the 2020s because of the amount of time that new greenhouse gases take to affect temperatures.

    As Richard Tol observed in WHY WORRY ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?, ESRI Research Bulletin 2009/1/1:
    • Climate change is likely to have a positive impact in the first half of the 21st century, and impacts turn negative later.

    • The workings of the climate system are so slow that they cannot be avoided even if emissions were to fall to zero tomorrow.

    • The part of climate change that can be influenced by climate change policy are the parts that have net negative impacts.

  38. @Ikonoclast

    Possibly, but not “surely”.

    Solutions will be promulgated and perhaps adopted in the political sphere. Maximalist proposals stimulate opposition. The perfect becomes the enemy of the good.

    Unlike acceptance of the theory of evolution, there will be practical consequences of AGW denial. Eventually, only the terminally delusional will be able to deny AWG.

    In the meantime it’ll be possible to sell low-lying coastal property to these folks. So they do have their uses.

  39. @Jim Rose

    “Does global warming, on the scale suggested by IPCC, produce a large negative externality?” – Jim Rose.

    Projections indicate the affirmative, even if mostly in the long term (twenty years plus). The first mistake is to frame the question wholly as an economic question. It is also a moral or ethical question. Permitting climate change in a world with children is akin to permitting the supply of tobacco to children. Both are done for short term economic gain by immoral adults. Both will cause harm to accrue to the children in the long term. The harm wil be to health, longevity life amenity amenity.

    I would be very dubious about the claim that “Climate change is likely to have a positive impact in the first half of the 21st century, and impacts turn negative later.” I won’t enumerate too much here but increases in extremes like storms, floods and droughts are happening right now and causing increased insurance pay out and premium costs world wide. The barrier reef is dying from coral bleaching right now. Species are migrating and/or going extinct right now. To look solely at immediate orthodox economic costs and to ignore destruction of natural capital like forests, ecosystems etc., is to be extremely shortsighted.

    “The workings of the climate system are so slow that they cannot be avoided even if emissions were to fall to zero tomorrow. ” – Jim Rose.

    The future changes will be even worse if we do nothing now. Also, we might be relatively close historically (say 10 or 20 years) to the accumulated emissions that would cause a serious climate tipping point. If action from now on can avoid that tipping point it will be highly worthwhile.

    All these rationalisations for delaying action are completely fallacious on any proper logical, scientific, ecological and moral analysis. Good long term economics is actually that economics which is kept fully congruent with logical, scientific, ecological and moral analysis.

  40. @Ikonoclast Are you sure that your want to frame it as “a moral or ethical question”? That allows people to oppose action on global warming because of any number of moral or ethical reasons.

    Questions of intergenerational justice are complex? Defining sustainable development is easy by comparison! Was it Joan Robinson who asked what has the future done for me?

    Why should the current generation sacrifice for far richer future generations? This is especially pertinent in developing countries where today’s children and young people are far richer and live much longer that their parents and grandparents generations. Even in the industrialised countries, incomes per capita double inside every 40 years.

    Answering questions on intergenerational equity is hard enough in the context of an ageing society and unfunded social security liabilities etc.

    The whole point of appealing to scientific authority was to avoid a clash of ethical perspectives and cost-benefit ratios. The reduction in the level of GDP due to global warming is by most of the estimates reviewed by Richard Tol no more than a few percentage points. that is not much more than the welfare cost of an annual inflation rate of 10%.

    In any case, many global warming alarmists also belong to the peak oil camp. We are supposed to be running out of oil in a few decades so a carbon free economy will arrive of its own accord, including massive rises on carbon fuel prices. To show my age, running out of oil was the original cover story for investing in renewable energy.

  41. @Jim Rose

    Was it Joan Robinson who asked what has the future done for me?

    It probably allowed her to purchase her house and support her retirement.

    It also camouflaged her economics and thereby sustained her career.

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