The latest e-newsletter from Greg Knight has claimed the planet is no longer warming and may even be heading for a mini-ice age in what is a shameful abuse of climate science and statistics.
The newsletter, sent by his senior parliamentary researcher, Matthew Thomas, contains the following story:
The supposed consensus on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing that our planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.
The figures even suggest that we could be heading for a mini iceage to rival the 70 year temperature drop that saw ‘frost fairs’ held on the Thames in the 17th Century.
Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week, rather quietly, and without fanfare by the Met Office. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.
Having previously dismissed the role that our sun plays in climate changes, some scientists are now having second thoughts, but it will probably take ten or more years from now before we will be able to determine for certain whether the warming that took place late in the 20th Century was caused by manmade CO² emissions or merely by natural variability.
This story has been lifted near verbatim from an article written by the Daily Mail’s David Rose who, in January, claimed that the Met Office’s latest data showed there had been no warming for 15 years. The Met Office responded:
This article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.
They go on to include the full response they provided Mr Rose. One key part, which he ignored, said:
[...] what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850.
As the Skeptical Science website shows, David Rose was selective in his use of data as well as quotes from the Met Office, a common tactic among people who claim global warming is not caused by humankind.
Similarly, the second claim, that we are heading towards an ice age, is also false. The Mail article suggests this will be caused by weakening solar activity but as the Met Office said:
This research shows that the most likely change in the Sun’s output will not have a big impact on global temperatures or do much to slow the warming we expect from greenhouse gases.
The suggestion that global warming is caused by the sun rather than human industrial activity, is one that holds no water. As Skeptical Science – a really handy website – points out, the trend for solar activity over the 20th century has been a slight cooling.
Note also that Mr Knight makes no explicit references or links to the data or the “some scientists [who] are now having second thoughts”. A person with the power to participate in lawmaking should at the very least provide evidence for such bold claims as those contained in his newsletter*.
This also links to his use of “supposed consensus”; actually a David Rose line. Climate skeptics like to talk down the consensus among scientists studying climate change and global warming. In actual fact, “around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.” (source: includes an explanation of how consensus emerges)
Furthermore, the claim that it will take ten years or more to know for certain what caused (like it’s stopped) global warming sits nicely with Greg Knight’s apparent views on renewable technologies. The MP has been vocal in his opposition to proposed wind turbines in East Yorkshire; if he can undermine, in the eyes of his constituents, the science that supports our need for them then his opposition appears expedient.
And finally, for a bonus laugh, there is the use of this Time magazine cover to illustrate the story. This cover is from… 1977. As if thirty five subsequent years of science don’t matter.
I have written to Mr Knight to ask for an apology and correction in his next newsletter and, further, that he engage in the grave issue of climate change with the scientific rigour it sorely needs.
*Not that it’s a problem in this case as Mr Knight (or whichever of his staff wrote the newsletter) was lax enough to simply copy text from the Mail article, making it easy to source the information.