Climate Change Confusion: Warming or Cooling?

Over the past couple of years, the nation’s media have trumpeted the fact that global warming has slowed during the past 15 years, for example, “A Cooling Consensus,” by W.W. Houston, The Economist, June 20th, 2013. (However, within the article, The Economist editorially states that some people affirm “that the urgent necessity of acting to retard warming has not abated, as does Brad Plumer of the Washington Post, as does this newspaper”).

There is no doubt that the planet is continuing to heat, but it has been heating less than scientists predicted, and scientists readily admit that no one ever expected global warming to be continuous, increasing like a straight line, and furthermore, there is plenty of evidence in observed historical records of a hiatus during climatic periods, similar to the past 15 years.

The current warming hiatus, if in fact a real hiatus has occurred, is a dream come true for the fossil fuel crowd because national publications headline the “slow down,” which, in turn, serves to calm the waters about climate change. This may, however, be the calm before the storm, which will be touched upon in this article.

In real life, the confusion is not with the science; the problem is public perception and its impact for climate-policy advocates who base their positions on the authority of scientific consensus that global warming is an issue. As it goes, their position is weakened by media headlines about ‘cooling’; thus, undercutting scientists’ pleas for governmental action to minimize the impact of fossil fuels or to take corrective action to rescue the melting Arctic, which may be the most serious climate threat of this century, leading to the possibility of an extinction event.1

It is at times like this when climate deniers move as quickly as possible to center stage. For example, the Drudge Report recently (August 2013) carried a headline that read: “Danish Newspaper Warns: ‘Globe May Be On Path To Little Ice Age; Much Colder Winters; Dramatic Consequences’….” Drudge sourced this article from Climate Depot.

Climate Depot is the website of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and its principal employee is Marc Morano, a conservative global warming denier. In his previous life Morano served as environmental communications director for Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). Additionally, and according to public tax filings, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow has received funding from ExxonMobil Foundation as well as from many foundations associated with billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who was the primary source behind the attacks against Bill Clinton during the Whitewater and Lewinsky eras.

The Danish newspaper article in Climate Depot features Danish solar physicist Henrik Svensmark, who claims solar is the primary cause of global warming, or lack of it, and he calculates that a low point of solar impact will commence, hence, a little ice age will ensue.

However, according to members of the scientific community, like Peter Laut (Professor Emeritus of Physics, Technical University of Denmark), when the errors of Svensmark’s paper are removed, the conclusions do not hold water.

And, according to Dr. Rasmus Benestad of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, “While the experiments [Svensmark’s] were potentially of interest, they are a long way from actually demonstrating an influence of cosmic rays on the real world climate, and in no way justify the hyperbole that Svensmark and colleagues put into their press releases….”

And, according to Dr. Gavin Schmidt, NASA, “The irony is that Svensmark ignores the fact that the night-time temperature has risen faster than the day-time temperature, which I did pester him about on a Nordic Meteorology Meeting in Copenhagen in 2002.” Furthermore, Svensmark, rather than wait for credible quantitative results, short-circuited all of the tedious follow-up work normally conducted in research and simply declared in press materials that his team discovered that cosmic rays play the major part in climate change.

Additionally, Forbes magazine has weighed in on the cooling issue.2 According to the article: “Climate Change itself is already in the process of definitively rebutting climate alarmists… one of the most interesting conclusions to come out of the seventh International Climate Change Conference sponsored by the Heartland Institute… the Heartland Institute has effectively become the international headquarters of the climate realists, an analog to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” Whew!

The Heartland Institute is the heart and soul for America’s conservative/libertarian policy wonks that work to ensure fossil fuels power America now, and forever.

Forbes again (almost a year-to-the-day later) in May 26, 2013 ran another article by Peter Ferrara, “To The Horror Of Global Warming Alarmists, Global Cooling is Here,” which article embraces the Svensmark theory of a weak solar cycle as the cause of cooling. The article’s title definitively states: “global cooling is here.” Titles like this have a profound impact on how readers view climate change because most people read the titles and skim the articles, assuming the title says is it all (especially climate change articles which are so boring).

As well, Russian scientists recently claimed worldwide cooling would start next year and last 200 to 250 years. Climate Depot carried this story, June 15, 2013. Coincidentally, Russia only recently surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil.

Additional ‘cooling’ news is forthcoming, scheduled for August 21st in Miami when global warming critic John Casey, who has called for a news conference, will release evidence that the past sea level rise was caused by the Sun with little impact from greenhouse gas-type emissions.3

But, the Cooling Arguments Do Not Stand Up to the Hard Evidence

“Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS)… compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries.”4

Nevertheless, and in opposition to the AMS’s findings, the ‘Cooling Crowd’ has been yelping about ‘solar cycles’ and the ‘warming plateau’ of the past 15 years as evidence that global warming is not a hot issue, as well, the nation’s media, including TV, radio, magazines, Internet, and newspapers have ‘run’ with this cooling story over the past couple of years.

As a result, it’s no wonder that public opinion polls about climate change are registering extreme levels of complacency all across America.

Here are the highlights of the 2012 State of Climate report:

  1. The events of 2012 confirm the long-term trend of global warming
  2. Carbon levels are climbing with CO2 reaching a record high
  3. Sea levels continue rising, reaching record levels in 2012
  4. The Arctic continues to warm at twice the rate of lower latitudes
  5. Arctic sea ice is melting at record levels – This is the major story of 2012 as the region experienced unprecedented change, sea ice shrank to its smallest summer minimum extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. Arctic ice has 54% less mass than in 1980
  6. Greenland – More than 97% of the ice sheet showed some form of melting during the summer. This is four times greater than the 1981-2010 average melt extent
  7. Alaska- The temperature of permafrost reached record-high values
  8. Ocean heat content remains near all-time record highs

Cool temperatures were at record levels in the lower stratosphere (6-10 miles above Earth’s surface), which is a result of increasing greenhouse gases and decline of stratospheric ozone, which tend to cool the stratosphere while warming the planet’s near-surface layers.

Is it possible that the media stories about ‘cooling’ are really about the cooling stratosphere without specifically mentioning the stratosphere? If such is the case, the ‘cooling crowd’ is 100% correct.

It will be interesting to see what evidence of global cooling or lack of human-caused global warming or solar causation of climate change John Casey presents at his Miami news conference scheduled for August 21st. Maybe he’ll counter all of the climate change evidence just released by the American Meteorological Society, and, as well, he likely discounts the Society’s studies anyway because of right-wing opinion that the scientists representing AMS are a bunch of leftist. Are they?

  1. See: AMEG. []
  2. “Sorry Global Warming Alarmists, The Earth Is Cooling,” by Peter Ferrara, Forbes, May 31, 2012. []
  3. “Claim: Global cooling, not warming, is Earth’s coming threat,” Washington Examiner, August 5, 2013. []
  4. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (U.S. Department of Commerce), August 6, 2013. []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.