*Note: there is no debate about climate change and the human causes of what we observe. There is still an opportunity to have a meaningful debate on how we can best deal with climate change. It's this discussion that Tom Fletcher is polluting.
written by me, twitter-->@edwiebe, 2016-12-23
My Tom Fletcher is wrong about climate change index page.
My main Tom Fletcher is wrong about climate change page.
On 2016-11-30 Tom Fletcher Polluted the Climate Change Debate here in British Columbia. He accomplished this by writing down his opinion on climate change and not providing any evidence to support his claims. In this bit of written opinion (link below) Tom Fletcher sets off writing about pollution in Chinese cities and finishes with mistaken ideas about Climate Change. Along the way Tom Fletcher drops a few smelly carbon bombs.
His opinions have been archived.
The first problem is:
TF: This is not “carbon pollution,” [his quotes] as some North American politicians no refer to carbon dioxide, the invisible gas we exhale with every breath that helps plants grow.
Let’s examine Tom Fletcher’s claim a bit more thoughtfully though we’ll ignore the general awkwardness of the end of the sentence. We can find a number of different sorts of official references to “carbon pollution”. Here are some examples.
From the USA Environmental Protection Agency: “Carbon Pollution Standards for New, Modified and Reconstructed Power Plants".
From the Government of Canada: “Government of Canada Announces Pan-Canadian Pricing on Carbon Pollution”.
From the Government of Australia: “The recent government Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper also adopted a cap and trade approach”.
From the UK Government (Department for International Development): “such as those on financial transactions or carbon pollution”.
The World Bank: “The phrase put a price on carbon has now become well known with momentum growing among countries and business to put a price on carbon pollution as a means of bringing down emissions and drive investment into cleaner options.”
Here we see it in the China Business Review: “Popularly known as cap-and-trade, ETSs involve setting a “cap” on permits to engage in carbon pollution”.
From Google Scholar we find references in journals going back quite a ways, at least to 2008 (and in Australia).
Tom Fletcher said that “some North American politicians” use the term. My interpretation of this, my opinion, is that his intended sense is the implication that only some left-wing North American politicians use it and that’s not true.
TF: Claiming carbon dioxide is pollution, rather than an essential trace gas that adds to heat trapping in the atmosphere, is just one problem with the climate-change narrative pushed by the United Nations.
There is a narrative on various on-line fora where one can find with very little effort that the UN is evil, that it has an Agenda to control populations, to eliminate property rights, to undermine governments, and to destroy economic well-being by destroying the fossil fuel industry. This is conspiracy nonsense and is often tagged with the term #Agenda21. From Wikipedia: “Activists, some of whom have been associated with the Tea Party movement by The New York Times and The Huffington Post, have said that Agenda 21 is a conspiracy by the United Nations to deprive individuals of property rights. Columnists in The Atlantic have linked opposition to Agenda 21 to the property rights movement in the United States. In 2012 Glenn Beck co-wrote a dystopian novel titled Agenda 21 based in part on concepts discussed in the UN plan.” When Tom Fletcher writes about the “climate-change narrative" it's the conspiracy nonsense that comes to mind. Is this what his readers think as well?
Here’s story about the conspiracy theory from the Guardian website.
Is the Agenda21 Conspiracy theory what Tom Fletcher is referring to here? I believe so but since no evidence for any of Tom Fletcher’s claims is ever presented I can’t be sure.
TF: I’ve described some of the other inconvenient truths before, like the fact polar bear populations have increased in recent decades or that there has been a two-decade pause, with only a slight rise in average temperatures, a trend that may be returning after a couple of warm El Nino years, similar to 1998.
It’s interesting that Tom Fletcher should bring up polar bears (he also brought it up in 2015 where he discussed research from Susan Crockford). A new study in Biology Letters (2016-12-07, two weeks after Fletcher’s opinions were published) claims the likelihood that in three generations the global polar bear population will be greater than 50% of what it is today is 7%. They also report that their estimate for the likelihood that the population will be greater than 30% of today’s values is 71%. This means that there’s a 30% chance there will be fewer than 30% of today’s polar bear numbers in three generations.
The researchers write, “Our findings support the potential for large declines in polar bear numbers owing to sea-ice loss, and highlight near-term uncertainty in statistical projections as well as the sensitivity of projections to different plausible assumptions.” (DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0556) It’s important to note the scientists reporting their findings also give error estimates for their forecasts.
Next we can quickly dispose of his mention of a so-called pause in a straightforward manner. There was no pause in global warming. Tom Fletcher appears never to ask experts for help to understand climate change and appears to rely on blogs and other online commentary written by like-minded people who can’t accept the inconvenient truths about climate change. Though globally averaged surface temperatures grew at a slower rate during the approximately 10 year period in the early 2000s they didn’t “pause”. You can’t demonstrate that there was a statistically significant halt to warming in the atmosphere. See also the five figures below. The first four are from the UK Met Office, the Berkeley Earth project, The Japan Meteorological Agency, and NASA GISS. Where is this recent pause? It doesn’t exist. Click on the images for a high resolution version.
To really drive home the point that there has been no pause we have to note that the figures above and the “average temperatures” that Tom Fletcher mentions are atmospheric average temperatures near the surface of the Earth. There is another enormous reservoir for the unbalanced energy being stored in the climate system by human caused changes to the atmosphere and land surface: the ocean. The ocean absorbs most of the heat imbalance that we are causing to the climate system and this causes ocean temperatures to rise. However, water has a large heat capacity and there is a large amount of the stuff. When we measure the heat content of the ocean and plot that observation over time we can see that the stored energy is rising. Notably we do not see any kind of pause. The figure below is from the freely available BAMS State of the Climate 2015. Tom Fletcher the sometimes journalist should examine resources like this even if Tom Fletcher Man with Opinions doesn't. And he shouldn't hesitate to ask experts for help with interpretation if it’s needed. BAMS is the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
So, the only inconvenient truth we see here is that Tom Fletcher does not care to know the truth about climate change.
It’s difficult to find experts in climate who will attempt to support contrary positions. This is because these positions are unsupportable scientifically. Tom Fletcher occasionally does refer to people who express opinions that he agrees with (but remember, he ignores everyone else including every major scientific body on the planet).
Tom Fletcher quotes Judith Curry on the definition of climate change: a perversion of the definition . . . designed to mislead people into thinking that all climate change is caused by humans.
The only response I can make to this is that Judith Curry is wrong. No one who studies climate and who helps to educate others about it claims that all climate changes are caused by humans. No scientist would (could!) make that claim because it’s not true. Climate changed all on it’s own without the help of humans in the past and climate will continue to change in the future. Curry’s argument (and Fletcher’s) is a straw man. The fact is that more than 100 years of climate science demonstrates very clearly that the changes to the climate system that we are observing now are a combination of natural climate variability and that caused by human activities. The IPPC AR5 report makes this very clear in figure SPM6 (below). This figure compares the warming from natural forcing (not humans) to that with natural and human forcing. This figure was created using climate models but there are many attribution studies that use observations of different kinds to show the same result. Humans are modifying the climate of Earth.
Tom Fletcher concludes with: Here’s to cleaner air and a fresh look at the obvious biases of climate change politics.
I agree completely and I hope that eventually Tom Fletcher will realize that the denial of climate change among many politicians, pundits, and regular folks, denial in the face of overwhelming evidence is the “obvious bias of climate change politics”.
The argument is morally bankrupt, too. It excuses our bad actions by pointing to others who are doing worse things. We'd never say to our child: "It's okay to shoplift that chocolate bar, Johnny, because other people are stealing a lot more."
Yet some people are comfortable with the same moral reasoning when it comes to our carbon emissions, even though these emissions are relentlessly stealing our children's future well-being.
[Added 2017-01-02]: Canada must not give up the fight on climate change