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Climate camps and the world’s shortest year

by 21 May 2010Science0 comments

Mean surface temperature anomaly January to April 2010

Off to a Bad Start: The January–April 2010 mean surface temperature anomaly—period is warmest in 131 years of records. chart NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

And the prize for the most foolish first line goes to:

Climate change advocates will be buoyed by data which has emerged from the US today.

Admittedly, the New Zealand Herald is not alone in using the ludicrous phrase ‘climate change advocate’. But for foolishness, the first line is pipped by the story’s headline:

2010 is ‘warmest year ever’

Quote marks do not legitimise misquoting the story’s already dubious reporting. As many will have guessed even before reading its second line, it is the January to April period that is a record. By the time it ends, however, the record may well be for the whole year—it was reported, as early as January 2010, that:

[Dr James] Hansen’s group estimates that there’s a good chance 2010 will be the warmest year on record if the current El Niño persists.

Meantime, there have been, and still are, climate change advocates. The earlier ones were those who advocated burning more coal to fend off a feared ice age. Fear of an impending ice age was reasonable, but it was based on a somewhat sketchy understanding of the phenomena.

Current climate change advocates are those who picture the additional warmth and carbon dioxide providing a bonanza for farmers and foresters. If it is, it will probably only in a few favoured places—the effect generally will be unpleasant, and potentially unstoppable.

Preference for the term climate change over global warming is widely attributed to the National Academy of Sciences. The Mahurangi Magazine considers global warming the more descriptive term, but finds climate useful when combined with action—such as in:

Climate action advocates have been vindicated by data published in the United States today.

But what is instructive is that the New Zealand Herald reporter saw the data in terms of camps—camps of advocates, and the rest—all of humanity is in the same camp, in respect to surviving global warming. Certainly wealthier countries and individuals may temporarily insulate themselves from the initial impacts, but ultimately life is set to become brutal for all.

Although humanity is split into numerous, antagonistic camps, what they all have in common is that they are camped in the same riverbed. And the walls of the riverbed cannot be scaled—humanity is trapped on its home planet. Now is the time to tax the stuffing out of BP et al with the black card.

That would make for some happy campers.


Longest year The year (or more precisely the Earth’s orbital period) is found to be getting longer, by two milliseconds a century.

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