Correcting Some Bizarre and Incorrect Assertions on Global Warming

Sheldon Whitehouse

Sheldon Whitehouse

The global warming debate has long since taken a number of bizarre twists and turns. But what’s continuously amazing are the exaggerated claims, misinformation, and flat-out inaccuracies often spewed by public figures and environmental groups. Here are a few random, and often self-contradictory, assertions.

STATEMENT: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cites a statement from Texas A&M: “Average global surface air temperatures warmed by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95¬∞C) between 1880 and 2012…It is extremely likely that humans are responsible for more than half of the global warming between 1951 and 2012.”

THE PROBLEM: As temperature measurements from 1880-present show, some of the strongest 20th century warming occurred from about 1910 to 1940, and was followed by a 30-year period of cooling, which was then followed by the current warming cycle. Fossil fuel emissions continued to climb steadily all through this timespan. The senator doesn’t explain what drove the warming of the first half of the 20th century, or why it was followed by cooling, and then warming again.

STATEMENT: Earth Hour Global says: “Since 1900, every decade has been warmer than the previous one, and 2014 was the hottest year on record— a reality endorsed by reports from the world’s top meteorological agencies (NASA, NOAA, UK Met Office, JMA).”

THE PROBLEM: As noted above, 20th century temperatures climbed steadily from 1910 to 1940, cooled from 1940 to 1970, and then started climbing again. The 1930s was an incredibly warm decade. Not only have temperatures not climbed with “every decade” since 1900, but NASA’s own temperature graphs contradict such an assertion.

STATEMENT: A NOAA study says that recent “cold winters appear to be within the range of natural variation.”

THE PROBLEM: Natural variation is often cited by climate critics to explain recent warming, particularly the influence of strong 20th century solar activity on contemporary warming. But climate alarmists routinely deride these claims of “natural variation.” Thus, there’s no logical consistency for NOAA to cite “natural variation” regarding cold winters, and not warm summers.

STATEMENT: The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) offered a blog post last year that noted: “If the share of global sea level rise caused by Antarctica’s ice melt is less than originally thought, where is the sea level rise coming from? Clearly, we continue to look at uncertainty in our ever-changing climate. This is why we must take steps to manage the mounting risks we know we face.”

THE PROBLEM: As NASA has reported, Antarctica’s ice sheet continues to grow— an unforeseen contradiction to the notion that global warming will accelerate the melting of glaciers. The EDF blog post says that there is a lot of “uncertainty” in an “ever-changing climate.” And yet, despite admitting this uncertainty, they urge only an alarmist agenda on climate.

STATEMENT: More from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF): “…the next ice age isn’t due for another 50,000 years from now…”

THE PROBLEM: Glacial cycles (aka “Ice Ages”) are a recurring feature of the current Ice Age—which has already lasted 2.6 million years. Over the past one million years, these glacial cycles have occurred at regular intervals. They endure for 100,000 years, and are interrupted by roughly 20,000 or so years of interglacial conditions (a warm period), before resuming another 100,000-year glacial period. This recurring pattern was first identified in the early 20th century by astronomer Milutin Milankovitch, and is attributed to cyclical changes in the Earth’s axis and solar orbit.

Currently, the Earth is roughly 18,000 years into the current interglacial period, which means that within a few thousand years, the conditions allowing for warm summers in the northern hemisphere will begin to fade, presaging a return to a full-on glaciation. There is simply no reason to state that the next ice age will begin “50,000 years from now.”

STATEMENT: The Union of Concerned Scientists is worried about the Great Barrier Reef suffering “coral bleaching” from warmer oceans.

THE PROBLEM: When discussing the “worst ever coral bleaching,” they note that coral reefs also face threats from “coastal development, agricultural run-off pollution, port-based shipping activities, illegal fishing and outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.” The question is why a minor warming of the oceans is viewed as the key problem, when coral reefs are beset by more serious problems, such as industrial pollution and agricultural run-off.

THE STATEMENT: Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” claims that the Earth’s climate is “changing 10,000 times faster than ever in history.”

THE PROBLEM: The Earth’s climate has changed catastrophically and rapidly at varying points throughout its geologic history. No doubt, the widespread extinction event of 65 million years ago, caused by either a meteor impact or worldwide volcanic eruptions, altered the Earth’s climate more rapidly and thoroughly than the minor warming seen over the past century. The 0.8 degree Celsius (1.44¬∞F) rise in temperatures noted since the late 1800s is, by comparison, a very tiny blip in the overall geologic record.

Some historical events to ponder when considering Nye’s incredibly exaggerated claim. In 829 AD, the Nile River froze. But 300 years later, temperatures had risen so significantly (into what’s called “The Medieval Warm Period”) that the Vikings were able to colonize and farm a warm, temperate Greenland. At the same time, the British began to grow grapes and make wine. This warming is also documented in China’s historical record. By the 1300s, however, global temperatures had dropped off rapidly, leading to what is now termed “The Little Ice Age,” which lasted about 300 years. In a matter of decades, global climate swung profoundly—a much greater change, and in a shorter time span, than the 20th century warm period that Nye views as being so dramatic. (For a helpful illustration of climate swings over the past 4,000 years, see this chart.)

THE STATEMENT: The EPA warns that global warming is leading to warmer oceans, and that increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the oceans is leading to “ocean acidification.”

THE PROBLEM: The oceans have never become acidic in the Earth’s long geologic record, despite historical eras of far higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. And currently, the oceans remain safely alkaline, not acidic. But more significantly, there is a logical flaw in the EPA’s argument. Whenever the oceans warm, they “outgas” CO2. That is, warmer oceans are not able to hold as much dissolved CO2, and so they actually release CO2. Therefore, since warming oceans can’t hold as much CO2, they can’t become less alkaline (I.e. “more acidic”) due to CO2.

Comments (4)

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    These types of posts are very helpful. Keep up the chem lessons please for us all.

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    Members of the climate welfare industry say what ever will pump the tires of their business . It is good to see a short list of a few of the real stupid ones and the rebuttals.

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    Stuart Van Tine


    Bill Nye the “Science Guy” is not a cllimatologist, nor an oceanographer, nor is he trained in any earth science that I know of. He’s a mechanical engineer. It’s if we had Jaques Cousteau critiquing aircraft design.

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