On being wrong

Image by Jack Triest

I was wrong on climate change

You have to be prepared for unexpected evidence on climate change and I think I might have been wrong.

I thought that that the BBC would never report solid evidence that the Antarctic ice shelf is cooler now than it used to be.  I was convinced that it would just never happen.  After all,  Richard Black, the BBC’s environment correspondent is so sure his ground, and exerts such a powerful influence, and is so definite that “the science is settled” that all would be ever see from the beeb was a story of catastrophic warming.  Oh well, no one can be right all the time.

Here’s the stuff we know:

  • There are basically two lots of ice down at the Antarctic: the ice sheet and the ice shelf.
    • The ice sheet is the stuff that sits on top of the land. There is a lot of it, and it is very cold. If it were to melt then there would be significant rise in sea levels.  It is continually slipping off the land into the sea and continually being replenished by snow falling out of the sky.
    • The ice shelf, on the other hand, is the stuff that is floating, particularly around the peninsular that sits nearest to South America. Because it is floating, any melting would have no effect on global sea levels (simple physics here: if you watch the ice melt in your gin and tonic, you will see that the level does not alter.  Unless you drink some of it while you are waiting, in which case you will see it going down.  Or unless you drink lots of it, in which case you will see two levels. Or unless you are Richard Black, in which case you will see it rising).  The ice shelf is continually being replenished by ice from the ice sheet, and off course big hunks regularly break off and melt away (this last bit is a good thing, because otherwise the ice shelf would keep on getting bigger and bigger and eventually take over the world)
  • There was some general observed warming in global temperatures in the last ¼ of the 20th century. Since then (i.e. over the last decade or so) that warming has stopped, and temperatures have remained pretty steady across the board.
  • Views vary as to the cause of that observed warming.  No single model has done a very good job of both explaining the past and predicting the future. Theories include:
    • A rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere due to mankind’s industrial activities;
    • Variations in solar activity;
    • An increased use of measuring stations in urban environments;
    • The “butterfly effect” of natural variability;
    • The scientists are lying in order to keep the additional grants coming;
    • The governments are lying to keep the additional taxes coming;
  • Apart from these perfectly rational explanations, there is also some whacky stuff.
  • Over the past 50 years, the ice sheet has stubborn refused to either warm or lessen. The warmists rarely refer to it. Conversely, the ice shelf has been their golden boy, with quite a bit of warming there, and bigger bits than usual breaking off and floating away.
  • Shifting topic here (you will soon see why) it was about 10,000 years or so ago than mankind started settling down, building cities, getting numerous and generally having a bigger impact on the world than any other ape.  So, if you want to know what impact the human race might have had on the world, that would be about the time to start.
  • The British Antarctic Survey have been busy checking temperatures in the ice shelf, using deuterium variations.  That gives a record for the past 14,000 years or so. A summary is reported in Nature.

And here is the first funny thing. 11,000 or 12,000 years ago, the ice shelf was warmer than today. In other words, over the whole span of human activity, there has not been any overall warming of the ice shelf.  But instead, cooling of about a couple of degree centigrade, as you can see from the graph.

And then there is another funning thing.  The recent warming is not that recent. It has been going on for some hundreds of years.  So recent industrial activity cannot possible be what set it off, although of course, it may exacerbate it.

So that news is not good news for the warmists. On any test, there is simply no direct correlation between Antarctic ice shelf temperatures and recent emissions of CO2.  So I would expect Richard Black of the BBC to be not reporting it all.

But hold on! Look at the byline of the report.  It is not Richard Black, but someone else at the beeb – Jonathan Ball.  And the report desperately tries to put backspin on the story. Those at the Beeb cannot bring themselves to give it straight.  Under the heading Human Origins? the BBC pumps out  a rent-a-quote from Prof Eric Steig from the University of Washington in Seattle:

A fingerprint of forced climate change – that is, anthropogenic (man-made) forcing of climate by greenhouse gases – is that it will warm in most places at the same time.

 Which is not really convincing, given that most of the Antarctic has not been warming at all.

Happily the British Antarctic Survey revealed the raw data. Not like the data from the University of East Anglia, which was manipulated, with the original data then illegally withheld and destroyed.

So I was not that wrong, after all.



Filed under Climate

5 responses to “On being wrong

  1. Adrian Palmer

    I was wrong once. That’s when I thought I was wrong, but in fact I was right.

    PS. When the ice in your G&T melts, the “water level” does rise, as the ice has been floating with part of it above the surface.

    I haven’t even started on the third order effects of changes in specific gravity and viscosity.

    Looking forward to being shot down by a proper physicist


  2. Never mind about 3rd order effects. I think you will find that the factor of the ice floating above the surface is exactly cancelled out by the factor that, when the ice previously below the surface melts, it becomes more dense and thus takes up less volume.
    That, at any rate, is how the laws of mechanics worked when I was a proper physicist. Perhaps things have moved on? We live in a world where PR and spin is regarded as more important than the prosaic truth.

    • Adrian Palmer

      There are a few of us who will simply accept, when we are presented with the evidence in a clear and straightforward manner, that we were wrong, apologise and not bear a grudge for having been found to be imperfect.
      Apologies and Best Wishes!


  3. Are you suggesting that I should say, “Sorry” to the Beeb?

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