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Peter H. Gleick


More Climate B.S. at Forbes: Hiding the Energy Imbalance of the Planet

Posted: 07/17/11 05:19 PM ET

On July 1st, I published a blog entry here about climate distortions and misrepresentations at Forbes, which regularly publishes biased and misleading opinion pieces on climate issues. That entry described a remarkable piece by serial climate science conjurer Patrick Michaels and showed his clear misrepresentation of data on food production and climate risks. This falls well into the category of climate B.S. (bad science).

While I have no misconceptions about the likelihood of Forbes trying to apply any error-checking or fact checking to these opinion pieces, I was somewhat astounded to read today another piece by Michaels on the Forbes site, in which he makes even more egregious and outrageous claims and errors.

In this new piece, Michaels poses and then tries to answer a rhetorical question: "Why Hasn't The Earth Warmed In Nearly 15 Years?"

I am not going to go into the detail of why his specific arguments in his opinion piece are wrong, self-serving, or serious misinterpretations of good, peer-reviewed science.

Why? Because his fundamental premise -- his initial rhetorical question -- is wrong. Very simply, the Earth has warmed over the past 15 years. Significantly.

Michaels' essay is like trying to prove why the sun goes around the Earth. Or why gravity doesn't work. Or how the U.S. faked the moon landing. It doesn't matter what his arguments are: his initial premise is wrong.

There are really only two simple pieces to this: the actual temperature record; and all of the other ways the planet is screaming to us that the heat balance of the planet is out of whack. On both of these accounts, Michaels is simply wrong.

First and most simply: the temperature of the Earth has risen substantially over the past 15 years. As reported by the BBC, data and observations show that global temperatures have warmed by around 0.19˚C between 1995 and 2010. This warming has a statistical confidence level of 95 percent, which means that there are one in twenty odds that the trend came about by chance.

Second: scientists also know that "warming" is only one of many indicators of a screwed up planetary heat balance. We know that an important part of the energy imbalance of the Earth caused by humans doesn't go toward raising global temperatures. Substantial excess energy is going into the oceans and unprecedented Arctic ice melt. Additional energy is going into raising the sea level relentlessly at over 3 millimeters per year. Added energy is going into intensifying precipitation patterns and storm intensity. And there is new evidence that some of the imbalance is being temporarily masked by new pollution from China's coal plants.

We also know that periods of slower or faster warming will occur, simply because of natural variations in temperature, and that these periods say nothing about the growing influence of humans on climate.

Michaels has been around the climate debate long enough to know all of these things. Or he should, if he really cared about understanding the science. What does this imply about his continued misrepresentation of the science, and increasingly desperate efforts to explain away the facts? I can't speculate. As for Forbes, they've seemingly decided that ignoring or misrepresenting climate science is in their political or economic best interest, even if it isn't in the planet's.


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