Thursday, January 22, 2015

Climate Deniers Desperately Try to Deny 2014 as Hottest Year Ever

One of the most striking aspects of climate denial is how much effort - and desperation - deniers put into denying even basic realities. This desperation was in full view this week as three of the world's biggest climate research organizations announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record. The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) was the first to report it, followed soon after by NASA and NOAA using their own independent data sets. The news was reported widely in the media, including this nice discussion and graphics by Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian.

Even the business media acknowledged the undeniable science. Bloomberg offered up a really cool animation showing how thirteen of the fourteen hottest years ever have all occurred in the 21st century (the exception is 1998, which is the one year denialists always cherry pick to fabricate their false "warming stopped/it's cooling/hiatus/pause/whatever" talking point). Bottom line, 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded, continuing a trend that has become self-evident and undeniable to any honest reviewer.

Not surprisingly, the climate denialists were apoplectic. "No way!," they exclaimed with great expectoration. "It can't be because, well, well, well, er, um, because, because it's cooling! Yeah, that's it, it's cooling!" This, of course, is followed by desperate cries of incompetence and (somewhat self-contradictory for a bunch of incompetents), corruption, collusion, and conspiracy!!

So off the amateur denialists go to their favorite non-science bloggers for a "rebuttal." In the hours and days after the actual scientific organizations release their reports - with all the data and discussion and charts with circles and arrows on the back explaining each one (with apologies to Arlo Guthrie) - the amateur denalists are back with their copy-and-pasted "proofs" that all the world's scientific organizations have conspired to make Al Gore rich. [Al Gore always seems to get mentioned by denialists even though there isn't a scientist on the planet that relies on Al Gore for science. He does, however, serve as a Pavlovian bell to the drooling amateur denialists reliant on ideological motivation for their denial.]

Sources cited by these amateur denialists include the usual cast of non-science bloggers: Watts Up With That (partially funded by the denialist Heartland Institute), Climate Depot (a libertarian-funded blog paid to misrepresent the science), World News Daily (a right wing political blog), Breitbart (ditto), JoNova (pseudonym for a non-scientist comic book writer also supported by Heartland Institute), David Rose (a blogger for a British tabloid who routinely is chastised by the UK Met Office for lying about what they say), InfoWars (a whacked out conspiracy blog alternating between 9/11, Benghazi, and climate change conspiracies), Fox News (ditto), and a variety of other non-science venues with no expertise and who are always shown to be wrong.

What denialists don't ever do is provide any actual legitimate science to back up their denial.

Luckily for humanity, climate denialism seems on its way to being relegated to the more buffoonishly ignorant segments of society and intentionally obstructionist politicians such as Senator James Inhofe. Even some traditionally anti-science lobbyists and politicians have been desperately seeking a way out of the corner they painted themselves into. More on that in future posts.

But back to the reason climate denialists have been so hot to deny that 2014 is so hot. They know, or at least the professional denialists know (the amateurs are willfully ignorant), that 2014 is just the latest in an ongoing trend of warming (e.g., see the Bloomberg animation linked to earlier). As President Obama noted in his 2015 State-of-the-Union Address, one year of record isn't the problem, it's the trend of rising temperatures that is the problem.

The trend point was also discussed by statistician Grant Foster (who blogs under the name "Tamino"), who notes that the warming trend not only hasn't stopped, contrary to denialist opinion, it isn't even slowing down. In fact, 2014 may have been the warmest in the last 2000 years, and worse, as climate scientist Michael Mann write in Scientific American,  we may cross the climate danger threshold as early as 2036 (i.e., in only about two decades).

Needless to say, there is a correlation between the certainty and direness of the ongoing warming and the buffoonishness of the few amateur denialists who refuse to accept reality. To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson, the validity of science isn't dependent on whether or not you believe it, so actively ignorant deniers have no effect on (or perhaps even are inhabitants of) reality. The science of climate change has been developing for more than 100 years, and the millions of empirical data points and more than 100,000 peer-reviewed studies combine to make the conclusion unequivocal - the climate is warming and human activity is the dominant driver of that warming.

And that's true no matter how much a bunch of self-appointed "Facebook Experts" deny the science.

[Note: The Senate voted 98-1 late January 21, 2015 that "climate change is real and not a hoax," but James Inhofe (who voted for the resolution) immediately got up to say that the "hoax" is that humans have any effect on the climate. In other words, he cleverly voted for a resolution while still denying the crux of the resolution.]