Why do people say... Climate change 'is the norm'?

Well, its understandable why Joe Septic says it, but why does the BBC say it? [1]. Although to be fair, its not by the BBC its by "Dr Martin Keeley, Geologist, and a Visiting Professor at University College London" who just happens to be... Visiting Professor in Petroleum Geology, but you only find that out if you read his tag line at the bottom. Odd they didn't manage to find space for it at the top, no?

Does MK have any kind of track record in publications in the environment? Not according to his own publications list [2]. He does list one publication under environment :In whose interest is this climate of fear ? 29 June 2001 Lloyd's List, London, p8. KEELEY, M.L. in that well known climate journal, Lloyds list. In fact, he doesn't seem to have any publications in the scientific literature since 1998.

But wait... he is a self-declared environmental septic [3]. Funnily enough, no room on the BBC site to mention that, either. Perhaps the electrons are running short. Curiously enough, he quotes that other well-known climate expert I took apart yesterday, David Bellamy. How curious. Now, DB is a prominent enviro-type, but if he was ever a scientist it was a long time ago. But MK needs to pump DB up, so he describes him as a "prominent scientist". Ho ho. He then follows that up with some twaddle by rent-a-septic Philip Stott (also at UCL... coincidence?).

No much science and lots of invective in this post. I'll try to improve it this evening...

(pause for blogger to eat my wisdom. I hate websites that can't cope with the back button)

So, the question was: why do septics say: Climate change 'is the norm'? The answer, of course, is that they are trying to say to you "climate would have varied anyway, so why worry about a bit of warming, please let my oil/gas company go on making lots of money". Their argument is wrong, and fairly easy to demolish, so I'll do so.

The picture in the BBC article gives the impresssion of a wiggly climate. But... what is the scale on the horizontal (time) axis... look closer: its millions of years. yes, it was a lot warmer 4000 million years ago, but so what? Try this: "Global warming is wrong. Proof?: The earth used to be warmer that it is now: 4.5 billion years ago it was molten: so the long term trend is downwards". Convinced? No. In other words, MK and his ilk are ignoring timescales, and the speed of the change. The BBC graph has no scale on the vertical (temperature) axis (did you notice that?) but lets look at the T change between 6.5 Myr and 2 Myr, and assume the change is 20 oC - a passable guess, probably on the high side. That means the trend is a cooling of 20/4.5 oC/Myr, or about 0.0004 oC/century. By comparison, the global temperature has risen about 0.6 oC over the last century (+/- 0.2oC), a rate 1500 times as fast. Current climate change is fast, by comparison with what is seen in the long term record.

But also, the recent climate (excluding the recent rise) has been quite stable, at least since the end of the last ice age: say the last 10 kyr (over which time, it is traditional to point out, human civilisation has developed). Over the past millenium [4] or two [5] global mean temperature has varied by about +/- 0.5 oC, or maybe twice that at the outside. The recent rise is unprecedented in the record; and projected increases for the next century even more so.

To complete his recital of the standard septic canon, MK throws in we still cannot predict next week's weather with any accuracy, probably less because he thinks it makes sense than because its traditional for septics to say such things. Weather and climate aren't the same thing (which is, err, why there are different words for them) and predicting one isn't the same as the other. Consider (analogy: not perfect but not bad) the shore of the ocean and the level of the sea: tides can be predicted with great accuracy years in advance; waves can't be predicted any better than weather.

MK says environmentalists ask whether climate change is anthropogenic, and if so, can it be stopped. I have come across no rigorous proof that wasteful human pollution has caused any significant climate change. If he hasn't come across it, its because he hasn't bothered look. Scientists are studying the problem (for some reason MK seems to think that only env's are interested), and you can find out more [6] if you want to. The bottom line is the IPCC's There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.

Why the BBC bothered publish MK's rubbish is a mystery to me.


Anonymous Roger Coppock said...

Every atom heaver than hydrogen on this planet was fused inside a star. This required temperatures of millions of degrees. So, why worry about global warming? Its just another natural climate cycle. It has been warmer in the past, hasn't it? ;-)

6:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the not-so-timely reply. I am a non-scientist trying to understand the issues concerning climate change which have recently become mainstream. It seems to me that as climate may vary over geologic time, so too can the rate of climate change. While there seems to be a correlation between increased rates of climatic change and modern industry, that isn't proof of an anthropogenic cause, is it?

2:42 am  
Anonymous Luke Austin said...

Though anyone who goes to dr martin kelly's website (convieniently taken down today, but still cached by google) will see his agenda:

"If you are looking for Investment Opportunities currently being promoted by Dr Martin Keeley, directly and indirectly, in the oil & gas and precious metal/mining sectors, you should click on “Martin Keeley, Wealth Creator and Entrepreneur”

Who is in the hands of outside investors?

4:37 pm  

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