The Art of Lying by Omission
Back in the old days, when scientists had standards, they would never get excited over one hot year and certainly not over one meaningless hundredth of a degree.
The NOAA and NASA spinmeisters are parsing their press releases carefully, using vagueness to speak in half-truth-tongues. They utter no outright lie, yet misinform the crowd with lies by omission.
NOAA and NASA don’t say their models still don’t work, that the world was supposed to be a lot warmer and the “pause” continues. Nor do they admit that it has been warmer before many times in history. They don’t say the warming trend started long before we pumped out CO2. They don’t mention how tiny the “record” is, so tiny it could, and probably will, disappear with the next man-made adjustment. They don’t mention that the record depends entirely on which dataset you pick, and better instruments, satellites, show it wasn’t a record. NASA may launch satellites, but they prefer a thermometer in a carpark or beside a runway for measuring temperatures.
They don’t mention how much hotter it was than the last record. That’s because it looks very uncool — scientifically speaking — to get excited over two hundredths of a degree, when the error bars are 500% bigger. It’s called “noise”, in real scientific publications.
Get a grip on how much a few hundredths of a degree matters in this graph. “Get excited”.
If it was the hottest in 130 years, who cares? It was hotter 7,000 years ago, hotter 120,000 years ago, and hotter for most of the history of life on Earth. It doesn’t mean CO2 caused the last hot spell. It doesn’t mean warming is bad. It doesn’t mean it will continue to warm. And it doesn’t mean we understand what drives the climate.
But it does mean some people who want to seem-scientific want more of your money.
The Vaguest Scientists in the world
While NOAA and NASA declare that “… 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend…”
If they had wanted to they could have said the opposite and it would be true too. It’s a fact that we’ve been in a long term cooling trend since human civilization developed. In this case the not-to-long term trend they refer to is 135 years long, but it has been running for 300 years. They don’t mention that either. It is equally true to say “2014 temperatures continue a warming trend that started circa 1700″. There were no coal fired power stations until 1882. Coal power is so dangerous that it causes heating 200 years before it starts producing carbon (sic).
The El Nino Spin
NOAA and NASA are pointing out that ” 2014′s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year.” What they don’t say is that this is exactly what we would expect for an object that started off warm and continued to stay warm. The world has been in pretty much the same warm zone for 16 – 25 years (depending on how you measure it). In other words, El Nino-in, El-nino-out — we don’t need to add much more energy, in the big-scheme, to raise it by a hundredth of a degree.
But if I were a marketing and promotions agent, and not interested in science, I would make a big deal out of the non-el-nino which didn’t happen and doesn’t matter.
NASA wants your money
Here’s the line early in the press release which is the real point of the story:
“NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”
Who cares about accuracy or serving the public. The only decimal places that matter to these NASA scientists are the ones on the numerous grant cheques.
Gavin Schmidt knows that it is naughty to make a fuss over one hot year:
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.
Schmidt knows that the long term trends matter and that is what he should be talking about, yet he hunts the headlines with short term noise. He must surely also know that the NASA climate models have no idea what causes the real long term trends in the climate since they can’t explain what drove the medieval warm period, the little ice age, or the warming of the 1870s or 1920s and 1930s which was at a similar rate to the warming in the 1980s and 1990s.
Changes in the long term rate are what matters, and Unskeptical-scientists won’t be putting numbers on that in public. Just like they won’t be talking about verifying those roulette-wheel-climate models either.
John R. Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is known for his skepticism about the seriousness of global warming, pointed out in an interview that 2014 had surpassed the other record-warm years by only a few hundredths of a degree, well within the error margin of global temperature measurements.
“Since the end of the 20th century, the temperature hasn’t done much,” Dr. Christy said. “It’s on this kind of warmish plateau.” — CNBC
Even the BEST team balked at pumping the hottest ever meme:
The BEST reanalysis consortium have also reported their findings which are similar and their interpretation is in stark contrast to NASA’s:
“The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.” — GWPF