The “global cooling since 1998” myth is an ever-present talking point emanating from virtually all contrarians. Australian geologist and “Heaven and Earth” author Ian Plimer is no exception, as I pointed out in my discussion of his ludicrous error-filled piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) online “Unleashed” series.
Of course, the claim does not stand up to any serious analysis, as I discussed in great detail in my dissection of a National Post column by Canada’s own Lorne Gunter.
Now it turns out that Plimer and Gunter have something else in common: they both thought that 1934 was the warmest year on record (and for all I know Gunter still does). Even worse, an examination of the ABC interview that discussed these very claims shows that ABC management knew very well that Plimer had no credibility on climate issues, and yet still offered him a platform for his propaganda.
Many readers will be aware of Plimer’s continued refusal to answer George Monbiot’s eleven basic questions about his “facts” and sources. The claim about 1934 as “the warmest year on record” was addressed in question 4:
4. In your discussion of global temperature trends, you maintain that:
“NASA now states that […] the warmest year was 1934.” (p99)
a. Are you aware that this applies only to the United States?
b. Was this a mistake or did you deliberately confuse these two datasets?
(Monbiot’s questions 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 address Plimer’s various other distortions of the recent temperature record).
Recently, I ran across a very telling Plimer interview by Tony Jones of ABC’s LateLine (although I’m certainly not the first to discuss it – Tim Lambert covered it back in April). Here’s Jones raking Plimer over the coals:
TONY JONES: Let’s look at the evidence from this Hadley centre, the data for global mean temperatures. You’ve acknowledged they’re reliable, they say 1998 is the hottest year on record, 2005 the second hottest year on record, the third hottest is 2003, the fourth 2002, the fifth hottest 2004, the sixth 2006.
Now, if these figures are right, isn’t it reasonable to state that global temperatures remained on a remarkably high plateau rather than cooling, as you’re suggesting?
IAN PLIMER: No, in the 1930s, it was much hotter. We had from 1920 to 1940 far less arctic sea ice than now, much, much warmer temperatures. [Emphasis added]
Wow! Not only has it been cooling, but the 1930s were warmer than present. Jones persists in trying to get Plimer to see reason, by showing how 2008 fit into the overall record:
TONY JONES: … Let’s look at 2008 when the La Nina event impacted on temperatures. As you’ve written, it led to blizzards in China, 40 per cent of the rice crop killed by the cold in Vietnam, record low temperatures in Mumbai and Minnesota. So you actually signal out one year to make a demonstration yourself. Yet the Hadley data shows that 2008 was still warmer than any year prior to 1995. Than any year back to 1880.
IAN PLIMER: A number of things – that’s been widely criticised, as I’ll now mention three times, NASA tried to do the same, and that was withdrawn by NASA.
TONY JONES: Well, it wasn’t, but I’ll come to that.
A little later, Jones grills Plimer on the “correction” to NASA’s global temperature record:
TONY JONES: Let’s go back to your book. Pages 98, 99, where you tackle the issue of NASA’s claim that 2005 was the hottest in recorded history. You state that NASA had to reverse – I think you’ve just repeated it a moment ago – NASA had to reverse that position on the basis of work undertaken by Toronto based statistician Steve McIntyre, that’s right, isn’t it?
IAN PLIMER: Yes.
TONY JONES: So it’s correct.
This is, of course, a reference to McIntyre’s discovery of a Y2K data collation problem in NASA data processing that led to a small correction of recent continental U.S. temperature data, with a negligible impact on the global record (as discussed in my piece on Gunter). It turns out that, in “Heaven and Earth”, Plimer made the same mistake as Gunter and confused the U.S. and global temperature records.
Plimer twists and turns, and never actually admits the mistake. But neither does he dispute Jones’s claim that he did make the mistake, even though he doesn’t repeat it once confronted. It’s almost as if he’s just working it out for the first time, although with Plimer it’s always hard to tell (hence the second part of Monbiot’s question).
TONY JONES: But your book on those pages essentially claims that in the 1930s we saw the hottest years on the world record, and that’s what NASA had to change.
IAN PLIMER: We saw them in the US.
TONY JONES: You actually said the correct thing here, it’s in fact in the United States. It isn’t in the world.
In other words, Plimer got it completely wrong, but still refuses to admit it. And, of course, along the way Jones has completely demolished Plimer’s claims about recent global cooling.
In a comment on my previous Plimer post, Chris Colose described ABC’s response to his efforts to provide a rebuttal to Plimer’s “Unleashed” piece (something Colose is eminently qualified to do):
I have received a reply from Catherine Taylor of ABC. It doesn’t appear that they want to put up a rebuttal article on the basis that they want to move away from the climate change issue for a little while. Apparently they’ve had quite a few recent articles on the topic (with Plimer’s being the only one on the “denial” side) but she simply recommended to leave objections in the comments forum.
So not only does ABC management refuse to correct Plimer’s egregious errors, but they categorically refuse even to allow a rebuttal. Even worse, it is crystal clear that ABC management knew that Plimer’s assertions were likely to be rubbish, as their own star journalist had demonstrated Plimer’s penchant for deception just a few months before. And yet ABC still offered Plimer a venue where he could spew his disinformation without effective challenge, implicitly validating his assertions as plausible.
So, to which version of the “global cooling” lie does the title of this post refer to? In the end, it doesn’t much matter. The “global cooling since 1998” meme is perhaps more widespread, but the more egregious “the 1930s were warmer than now” is remarkably persistent.
And that’s the way it’ll stay, as long as managers at complaisant media outlets like ABC and the National Post continue to flout even a minimum standard of journalistic ethics.