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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 913

Has Global Warming Stalled? – Hockey Stick has met a sticky puck!

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

The global warming debate, which has been lying dormant in recent months with rapidly dwindling support, was rekindled again this week in the journalistic realm, thanks to a report published by the British Met Office on Christmas Eve last year. Had it not been for the anxiety loomed over the ‘End the of the World’ event, in all probability, it could have dampened the festive spirit of the folks beyond repair, who had been very emotional supporters of the immensely-controversial phenomenon.hockey.gif

In a press release, the Met Office revised down the increase in global temperature by 20% for the next five years; i.e. 0.43 degrees higher than 1971-2000 average, instead of an increase of 0.54 degrees as previously predicted. It means there will be no significant increase in temperature for the next five years.

Does that mean the global temperature is at a standstill, as the Global Warming has clearly slowed down since 2000, in the presence of the latest data? It is not quite so, according to the climate scientists at the Met Office.

Having come under attack on multiple fronts – politicians, laymen, journalists and even some sane scientists – not only for the ‘auspicious’ timing of its release of the data, but also for the lack of illumination attached to it, the Met Office was forced to issue a ‘clarification’ of its position in relation to Global Warming – one of its most ambitious pet projects - in a hastily-prepared second press release:

"The latest decadal prediction suggests that global temperatures over the next five years are likely to be a little lower than predicted from the previous prediction issued in December 2011. However, both versions are consistent in predicting that we will continue to see near-record levels of global temperatures in the next few years. This means temperatures will remain well above the long-term average and we will continue to see temperatures like those which resulted in 2000-2009 being the warmest decade in the instrumental record dating back to 1850.”

Unfortunately, it didn't silence the critics. On the contrary, it almost brought the feebly-conceived foetus of Global Warming under the sharp stiletto of skeptic abortionists, amidst shrieks of damaging headlines and corresponding reader responses: ‘Global Warming has stalled,’ declared major newspapers across the globe; the loyal readers, in turn, demanded the money back – paid in the form of various Green taxes.

While inadvertently walking into a PR minefield, The Met Office became the focus, when it meant it to be the Global Warming – or as the revised data points out, the absence of it.
Graham Stringer, a Labor MP, for instance, accused the Met Office of ‘burying’ bad news on a good day – for releasing the data on Christmas Eve. He went even further by asking the Met Office to give up on long term predictions and climate change forecasts altogether while focusing only on short-term forecasts. According to Bob Ward of London School of Economics, “It was not the finest hour of the Met Office.”

The Met Office attributed its new found ‘wisdom’ to a new mathematical model; it is worth noting, however, its previous forecast – which it admitted being flawed – also came from a mathematical model. The setback suffered by the Met Office, despite the availability of qualified men and women, resources, super computers, expensive computer models and fairly-effective PR mechanism, is a slap in the face for the folks in the same field in the developing world, who waste no time in attributing their own shortcomings coupled with sheer incompetence, to the things that they do not have an access to – when they get things horribly wrong.

A model failure, then? Not quite so, according to the learned men at the Met Office. “The updated five-year predictions were a result of a new modeling system, which takes into account changes in ocean surface temperatures.” They have recognized one more factor, that they think, is behind the illusive phenomenon, after all.

The Global Warming craze, started with a publication of a study on the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere for the past one thousand years by Professor Michael Mann in 1999, gathered breathtaking momentum in proportion to the involvement of politicians – both retired and active - celebrities, commercial interests and of course, the Nobel Foundation. In a matter of a decade, it became the deadliest thing that could potentially subject us, the mortal folks, to an agonizing death, coupled with anxiety, perpetual guilt and Karmic repercussions.

With the introduction of a new scale to quantify our guilt, the Carbon-Footprint, the Global Warming movement dropped its anchor into the ocean of relentless climatic debates. Towards the end of the decade, however, the progress started slowing down owing to numerous PR hiccups, ranging from subtle manipulation data to ‘militant’ tactics, using the tools of mathematics and statistics - both for attacking and defending.

While analyzing the temperatures – both recorded and estimated - within a period, say a thousand years, the mathematical models predict the temperatures of the years or decades to come by a mathematical process called extrapolation. By definition, the extrapolation is the process of estimating the value of something, in relation to another, beyond the observation interval – which leads to uncertainty in the best case scenario and ludicrous outcomes in the worst case.

In order to make the ‘science’ behind the whole project – if there is any – permanently inaccessible to the laymen, another statistical tool, called principal component analysis, has been brought into the same process with a fairly mischief intent.

In this context, 4.5-billion-year-old earth, temperatures – said to be from one thousand years- and the mathematical process of extrapolation, do not evolve into the most likeable intellectual equivalent of a buddy, even if is backed by emotions, tears – both normal ones and what crocodiles usually shed - underwater cabinet meetings, highly-ambitious scientists, thought-provoking arguments, a mild-form of sea piracy and above all, selective data – chosen by a stubbornly unscientific process, called cherry-picking.

The competence of the Global Warming movement gets into hot water, when the computer models dismally fail to forecast the weather for five days ahead, let alone for hundreds of years to come, despite the best effort made by the professionals who man them. At personal level, I didn’t warm up to the movement, when the weather app on my iPhone repeatedly let me down with inaccurate forecasts that in turn stopped me from carrying an umbrella - before being soaked in cold wintry showers.

When, then relatively young, Professor Mann introduced his famous temperature graph of one thousand years in 1999, it became an instant hit in the scientific realm and became affectionately known as Hockey Stick for its shape: a downward slope up until 1990s, with a sharp trend upward in 1998, branding it as the warmest year of the millennium.

With the latest findings, the Hockey Stick appeared to have swapped its traditional role of striking with a sticky one – by obstinately refusing to go up on temperature charts to fulfill the whims and fancies of some climate scientists.

- Asian Tribune -

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