Saturday, July 28, 2018


No! We had that long ago. It’s just that we are now starting to see the impacts “play out in real time”.

We have had heatwaves and long hot summers before, even in the UK. But record-breaking weather on its own, especially when confined to particular locations, demonstrates very little. Even so the coincidence of heatwaves across North America, Europe from the UK to Greece, and Japan, and, even more dramatically, the extraordinary temperatures observed in the Arctic.

Scientists, as opposed to much of the media, have always preferred to concentrate on careful and painstaking analysis of global average temperatures, rather than extreme events. The evidence of that is clear from temperature measurements showing a steady upward trend over many decades, and a trend that aligns closely with the predicted effect of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG). The serious nature of human-induced warming has been well established for at least twenty years. More on the scientific debate can be found on other pages on this site.

But the science is now starting to go further. It has long predicted that global warming would significantly increase the number and intensity of heatwaves, but improved analysis is now getting much closer to assigning the causation of particular extreme weather events specifically to the signal of climate change, at least with increasingly strong probabilities.

The heatwave currently scorching northern Europe was made more than twice as likely by climate change, according to one initial assessment. Even more extreme conditions could be occurring every other year by the 2040s. “The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,”  Friederike Otto, at the University of Oxford, is reported as saying.

“We found that for the weather station in the far north, in the Arctic Circle, the current heatwave is just extraordinary – unprecedented in the historical record,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

The Guardian reports that previous attribution analyses have shown very strong connections between climate change and extreme weather events. The scorching summer in New South Wales, Australia, in 2016-17 was made at least 50 times more likely by global warming, meaning it can be “linked directly to climate change”. The “Lucifer” heatwave across Europe’s Mediterranean nations in 2017 summer was made at least 10 times more likely by climate change, while the unprecedented deluge delivered in the US by Hurricane Harvey also in 2017 was made three times more likely by climate change. However, other events, such as storms Eleanor and Friederike, which hit western Europe in January, were not made more likely by climate change. Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes”, according to Professor Sutton, at the University of Reading.

But disputing the science, and the measurement of change, is an ideological obsession. The same team is trying to bring you Brexit.

What are the common factors linking the following?

·        The Institute for Economic Affairs.

·        Nigel Lawson. John Redwood. Jacob Rees Mogg.  (Conservatives – to name just three)

·        Graham Stringer (Labour).

·        UKIP and Nigel Farage.

·        Melanie Phillips. Christopher Booker. (Journalists)

·        Donald Trump

All have displayed strong or passionate opposition to the evidence and logic of climate science, or to any action to mitigate it.  All have also been passionate advocates of Brexit. Stringer was one of four Labour MPs voting with the government on recent crucial Brexit votes, and is also involved with Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation - Lawson of course was a lead figure in the Leave campaign.

Phillips also has strong anti-science form, supporting disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield  on the subject of MMR vaccination, a subject where the provision of flawed and inaccurate information to the public has caused huge damage. So does Booker, on the subject of evolution. To be fair, on Brexit, he has partially recanted.

I could create a much longer list (see my earlier comments on Brexit and Brexit economists), but one interesting question is simply this. Why is there such a strong correlation?  Is it the absence of any ability to deal rationally with fact and logic, or to comprehend the sophisticated nature of scientific method, or is it pure ideology?

And when are we going to hear more from some of the above on the subject of global warming?

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