Whatever Happened to Global Warming?
Whatever happened to global warming? You might not have heard so much about it recently because it has taken a back seat to our new national obsession with "woke" racial politics—though somehow the big enemy, capitalism, remains the same. What a coincidence.
I have—rather cleverly, I thought—come up with my own theory about the reason for the shift. "If you view these doctrines as mechanisms for the redistribution of moral and intellectual authority, the problem with global warming is that it redistributes ultimate authority to the wrong people: scientists. The beauty of woke racial politics is that it transfers authority to people with degrees in the humanities—that is, to the same people who created this political outlook in the first place."
But don't think the global warming crusade has gone away. Old anti-capitalist hysterias never die, they just go in and out of fashion.
I was reminded of this because I happened across some of my articles from a few years ago describing frantic attempts to portray 2014 or 2016 as the "hottest year on record." Then I looked to see what's happening now, and guess what? They're still at it.
First the big picture. The global warming hysteria emerged in the 1980s, during a period when global temperatures were rebounding somewhat from a period of decline between 1940 and 1970. But global warming really became entrenched in the public mind during the late 1990s, when temperatures hit a bit of a peak. To the scientifically ignorant—or to those seeking to confirm their own biases—a few decades of slightly rising temperatures were all they needed to prove that climate was suddenly and radically departing from 10,000-year-old trends.
But then the warming partisans ran into a problem. The high temperatures of the late 1990s were not followed by continued rising temperatures but instead leveled off. We know that this was troubling to the partisans because they admitted it privately in the Climategate e-mails leaked in 2009. Hence the frantic attempts by the mid-2010s to portray a few relatively warm years as dramatic new highs in global temperature, when they were statistically indistinguishable from the highs of the late 90s.
In 2015, I caught them peddling 2014 as the "hottest year on record," when the difference was only 0.02 degrees Celsius—far smaller than the margin of error, meaning that all you could really say is that 2014 was about as hot as several previous years, going back to 1998.
So allow me to suggest a more accurate first sentence to sum up this story: "In the tiny little blip of geological time for which we have accurate surface temperature records, last year was pretty much the same as 2005 and 2010, continuing a plateau of global temperatures that has lasted nearly 20 years."
What remains of the original description of this news? Nothing but bluff, spin, and the uncritical press-release journalism that dominates mainstream reporting on the climate.
The most significant part of this story is how hard it is, if you read reports in the media, to find actual numbers so you can understand the data for yourself. This set a trend I later called "Science Without Numbers."
They say that mathematics is the language of science, which is a way of saying that science is quantitative. It is moved forward by numbers and measurements, not just by qualitative observations. 'It seems hot out' is not science. Giving a specific temperature, measured by a specific process at a specific time, compared to other systematically gathered measurements—that is science.
So when you read an article proclaiming that, for the third year in a row, last year was the hottest year on record, you might expect that right up front you will get numbers, measurements, and a statistical margin of error. You know, science stuff. Numbers. Quantities. Mathematics.
And you would be wrong.
I even got a New York Times reporter to admit that he deliberately leaves out the numbers for fear that you would misunderstand them, which is to say, that you would have the information necessary to question the preferred narrative he wants to feed you.
It is a pattern repeated again and again.
You will not be surprised, then, to hear that they're up to it this year, too. In January, the New York Times came back to proclaim: "Last year effectively tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, European climate researchers announced Friday, as global temperatures continued their relentless rise brought on by the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases."
Wait, why does it say "tied"? Because 2020 was 0.04 degrees C cooler than 2016, which is within the margin of error and statistically a "tie"—just as 2016 and 2014, etc. were statistical ties with 1998. But notice the change in terminology. An average temperature that is 0.02 degrees hotter is just plain hotter. One that is 0.04 degrees cooler is a "tie." Margins of error only count in one direction.
The Times went on to do its usual press-release journalism, citing a bunch of general scaremongering from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an agency recently created by the European Union as a kind of climate propaganda unit, about how totally real and dangerous global warming is. But notice the big fact, the most relevant comparison they're trying to sweep under the rug, which is that the global warming "pause" continues.
If 2020 is tied with 2016, which is tied with other years going back to 1998, then we have seen no significant warming for more than 20 years, since the high point of the 1990s. Far from being evidence that "global temperatures continue their relentless rise," they are evidence that the rise has relented. The big warm years of the late 1990s were harbingers of the future, but of a future in which temperatures remain at roughly the same level. Yet continued increases were what the global warming hysteria warned us about. We simply have not seen the runaway increase in temperatures predicted in all of the computer models used to back up the doomsday theories.
This is another big part of the reason global warming has faded into the background. The movement is still coasting on the big impression it made in the public mind 20 years ago. But without unambiguous new records and further increases, it is harder to maintain the hysteria.
Whatever happened to global warming? It stopped happening, and those looking to tear down our entire existing economic system have had to look for other excuses.