Last week your Intrepid Reporter (IR) sat down with Jackson Partwhit (JP), Media Director of the Climatewatch Institute.
IR: Mr. Partwhit, it says here that the mission of Climatewatch is to "Confuse and obfuscate the debate around climate change for as long as possible so that fossil fuel companies can make as much money as possible for as long as possible."
JP: Where did you get that?
IR: I just downloaded it from your website.
JP: You seem to have gained access to our "Members Only" page. If you'll give that to me, I'll happily provide you with our officially published mission statement.
IR: I see that you're also issuing a press release today: "A preemptive, counter-factual and completely misleading statement regarding why 2014 will be the hottest year on record."
JP: Again... where did you get that?
IR: Ah, sorry... website.
JP: Here is the official press release.
IR: Thank you. Hmm, it says only, 'The Warming Has Stopped."
JP: Yes, you see, forecasters now make it an 80 percent chance that an El Nino will develop by this summer. NASA reports that this April was the second-hottest ever measured and, if it keeps up, this year will go right to the top.
IR: An El Nino?
JP: Yes, it's a natural, periodic phenomenon where shifting wind patterns in the Pacific Ocean bring excess heat that has been stored underwater to the surface, resulting in higher global temperatures. The last strong El Nino occurred in 1998, which was, at the time, the hottest year on record, and is still third-hottest behind 2003 and 2010, even though those were weaker El Nino years.
IR: And I see that the frequent 'The Earth Has Stopped Warming' statements that Climatewatch issues seem to use 1998 as a starting point for their measurements. Why is that?
JP: Just between you and me?
IR: Of course.
JP: If we use the unusually strong El Nino in 1998 as a starting point, it makes it seem that the warming has stopped... well, not stopped exactly.
IR: What do you mean?
JP: The surface temperatures haven't actually stopped warming on a statistical basis since then, only slowed down.
IR: So why do you say that the warming has stopped?
JP: It just has a stronger punch to it.
IR: I see. And climate scientists seem to be saying that the main reason surface temperatures have slowed down is because a lot of the excess heat we have been accumulating due to greenhouse gasses is being temporarily stored in the oceans.
JP: Yes, that's right.
IR: And they say that when the next strong El Nino comes that this heat will emerge to the surface and spike up global temperatures.
JP: Yes, thus, this press release. We want to get out ahead of things.
IR: Mr. Partwhit, maybe I'm missing something, but if the El Nino comes and 2014 is the hottest year on record, doesn't that actually support the scientist's contention that the four-Hiroshima-bombs-per-second of heat our atmosphere is accumulating due to greenhouse gasses has, in reality, been lurking in the oceans, waiting for the next strong El Nino? And wouldn't this support the argument that warming has not, in fact, slowed?
JP: Natural cycles.
IR: What's that?
JP: I said, "natural cycles." We've found that if you blame things on natural cycles, most people immediately relax and think, "Oh good, then I guess everything's all right."
IR: Yes, but... that isn't logical, it makes no sense to blame each new hottest-year-ever on El Nino. I mean, that is... wait... just give me a minute. Okay, what I mean to say is that even though El Nino is indeed a natural cycle, if each El Nino year is hotter than the previous El Nino year, this indicates that the warming is NOT due to natural cycles but that it is, in fact, due to the extra heat the planet is accumulating.
IR: Come again?
JP: Was that a bit confusing for you to work out just now?
IR: Yes, it was, I had to take my time and think it through.
JP: Exactly! We have found that a vast majority of folks would rather feel comforted than to painstakingly think through challenging situations. Biologists refer to this behavior as "comfort seeking." So... we throw in a bit of confusion, a bit of misdirection and... voila!
IR: Voila?... voila, what?"
JP: Voila, well... you know... voila that "Members Only" mission statement you somehow got hold of."
IR: Oh right, the bit about fossil fuel companies."
JP: Yes! And, FYI, recent studies have found that the so-called "warming pause" is mostly due to a lack of temperature-measuring stations in the Arctic region which is heating up like a Naga Viper chili pepper dipped in hot sauce."
IR: Why are you telling me this, doesn't that study damage your ability to accomplish your "mission"?
JP: Nah, not really. Those studies have been out for a while now. Besides, if peer-reviewed scientific findings were going to hurt us, we'd have been out of business a long time ago! Just today, for example, NASA released a definitive study that part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has gone into an irreversible collapse that will result in 15 feet of sea level rise. Goodbye Manhattan, adios Miami. And Bangladesh? Forget about it!
IR: But that's awful, surely you must be quite concerned!
JP: Tsk, tsk, don't forget...
IR: "Comfort seeking"?
IR: One last question. How long do you hope to keep up what, in the end, amounts to a systematic and malicious campaign of deception?
JP: Well, of course, at a certain point those four additional Hiroshima bombs will simply push civilization so out-of-whack that folks may get around to taking action against the actual sources of the problem. But until then, the only thing we have to worry about, as I've said, is for a critical mass of the public to apply concerted pressure on world leaders to change the situation.
JP: Let's just say nobody around here is losing any sleep.