Commentary

Record Temperatures Highlight Lack of Warming

Recent “record high” global temperatures are more significant for what they are not than for what they are. While September was reported to be the warmest month on record averaged over the earth’s surface, it was not anywhere near as warm as climate alarmists and the climate models that they rely on projected it would be.

For those worried about climate catastrophe, the latter situation should be far more important than the former. But you’ll never catch them, or their let’s-regulate-away-fossil-fuels cheerleaders, admitting to that.

The data show that the current rate of global warming is far less than computerized climate models had projected and far less than environmental activists expected. Rather than rethink their positions against fossil fuels in light of the dearth of warming, opponents of our modern energy society dig in their heels and respond with excuses and misdirection.

Global warming is proceeding at a rate much slower than the one upon which climate alarm is built.

All week long, headlines coming out of federal climate centers (amplified by many sympathetic media outlets) have been all about record high global temperatures, not only for the past month, but for year to date — with speculation about 2014 becoming the warmest year on record.

“Pause” deniers — folks unwilling to admit that there has been little to no reliably identifiable rise in the earth’s surface temperature for the past 18 years or so — are quick to jump on these announcements in their desperation to relight the global warming bonfire that has now burned down to a few faintly glowing embers.

But in doing so, they expose the lengths that they’ll go to hide the bigger truth — that global warming just isn’t proceeding according to (their) plan.

For example, global warming fear-mongers point out that the average global temperature so far this year is a few hundredths of a degree higher than the previous record. Yet they fail to point out that the same temperature is more than two-tenths of a degree (about 10 times as much) below where it was supposed to be based on computer model projections of climate change resulting from the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

They throw out statistics like “the 12 hottest years on record have come in the past 15 years.” And yet never mention the fact that 15 of the past 15 years are cooler than their (obviously overheated) global warming predictions.

As the body of scientific evidence mounts that climate models produce too much warming from greenhouse gas increases, they offer up that the models actually do work, except that we haven’t given them the right input data, haven’t taught them well-enough, haven’t accurately compared them with observations, and expect too much of them. OK then, what are they good for?

That the earth is warming from human activity is an interesting bit of trivia, but it is not very useful for guiding government policies. The relevant issue is not that the earth is warming, but how, how much and how fast. It is only after a sufficient understanding of these details is reached and a thorough and balanced accounting of the impacts which they may engender is completed, that a robust policy discussion can be had. And the science remains largely unsettled on those key issues. But one thing we do know for sure is that global warming is proceeding at a rate much slower than the one upon which climate alarm is built.

The sooner that this fact is fully embraced, either by federal regulators or the voters who put them in place, the better we will all be, for no longer will our supply of cheap, reliable, plentiful energy be put at risk by misguided policies aimed at mitigating a climate problem that exists more in computer models than in the real world.

Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger is the assistant director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, and coordinates the scientific and outreach activities for the Center.