Weather Whys, January 27, 2013

December was the third warmest in the Thunder Bay record. It reinforced that 2012 was easily the warmest year in the long term record. For statistical people, last year was about a 3-sigma event, highly unlikely to have happened by chance.

I saw a report that claimed that NASA identified 2012 as a “cool year” for the world. This seemed highly unlikely because NASA scientists at least two months ago had identified 2012 as the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.

The suggestion of “cool” may have been misinformation because, although 2012 was warmer than 2011, it was not as high as 2010, the warmest on record.

Disinformation in the age of the Internet
The use of bogus claims is nothing new. Distortion and false claims has been used to influence opinion, voting and to create scams for centuries.

Many readers will know the name Jim Hansen. He has been the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies for decades and in the 1980s began alerting policy makers to the perils of climate change as a consequence of human industry and land use. He predicted that world temperatures would rise significantly and his estimates made in the later 1980s have been very close to actual measured increases.

Quite recently, he has described in writing and testimony a grim picture of what will happen in the near future because of extreme weather and other consequences of climate change.

Yet, in an editorial in the Washington Post (January 17, 2013) Hansen was reported as saying “nature, not mankind, played the decisive role in directing global temperatures over the past 10 years”.

James Hansen is as likely to have said this as Mohandas Gandhi, while leading India to independence through non-violent civil disobedience, would have advocated taking no prisoners. (India became independent on January 26, 1948.)

Hansen was misquoted and actually said, “On the decadal time scale it is going to get warmer because we know the planet is out of energy balance… We can predict with confidence the next decade is going to be warmer than the present one.”

James Hansen has used tactics of Gandhi when protesting proposed construction of Alberta oil sands pipelines. Like Gandhi, he gets arrested. Why does he have this passion? His book, Storms of My Grandchildren states that observed trends will continue and, depending on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, will accelerate with more “storms” and weather chaos.

“Executives of fossil fuel industries are now aware… their actions raise issues of ethical responsibility to the young and the unborn, and legal liability, it seems to me,” according to Hansen.

Perhaps in the future people will be puzzled that scientists’ predictions were distorted, mocked or ignored by those who pursued and invested in this business as usual option.