Climate Change: A Meaningless Artifact of Technology?

October 13th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

swemson120727Climate change, to the extent that such a thing exists, only matters if it is significant enough to affect humans or ecosystems. And even if it does exist, there is no way to know how much is natural versus human-induced. Contrary to popular belief, there are no “fingerprints” of anthropogenic global warming.

There is no question that weather variations affect us all. And there is no question that in certain regions, there can be multi-decadal changes which, as far as we know, have always occurred from time to time: e.g. Alaska warmed up in the late 1970s, and has mostly remained warm since. The Sahelian drought lasted decades…then went away. The Medieval and Roman Warm Periods were good for human prosperity.

Large year-to-year changes in weather are particularly common. Please don’t bore me with claims they are the fault of Exxon-Mobil.

Yet we are now wringing our hands over current temperatures which are arguably no different than during previous periods of human progress and abundance, 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. Even a modern Methuselah wouldn’t be old enough to remember back that far.

Hubert Lamb, who founded the UK’s Climatic Research Unit in 1972, had the proper perspective on climate, a perspective that is sorely lacking in the new crop of climate researchers who anthropomorphize everything they see in nature. Lamb’s books on past (natural) climate change show how humans have been affected by what I call “climate chaos” throughout the centuries and millennia.

Now to the point of this post: With huge variations in temperature or precipitation being the norm for most life on the planet, would anyone have noticed “climate change” if not for thermometer records which (after much fiddling) researchers have extracted warming trends so small that no one alive would ever notice? I doubt it.

Those who “see climate change out their window” apparently can’t separate their emotional response to weather events (which there is no long term change in) with real long-term change, which can’t be observed by humans looking out their windows.

Our satellite systems can monitor global temperature changes to hundredths of a degree. Interesting, but mostly irrelevant to life on Earth. Warming of the deep oceans, if it is even occurring, is only thousandths of a degree.

The satellite microwave radiometers that have been flying since 1979 have seen Arctic sea ice decreases, but Antarctic sea ice increases, with the global sea ice now running close to the long-term average. Would we even notice this if not for satellites?

We can measure change in the CO2 content of the air to better than 1 part in a million…but the increase in CO2 in the last 100 years amounts to only 1 part in 10,000. Does our precision with which we can measure change determine the significance of the change to life on Earth?

Admittedly, most glaciers have been seen to be retreating. But that’s been happening for at least 150 years, which is before humans can be blamed. Some of the retreating glaciers in Europe, Canada, and Alaska are revealing tree stumps…evidence of past warmth greater than the most recent centuries which similarly cannot be blamed on humans.

And why do we assume all change is “bad”? There has been a documented greening of the Earth due to modest warming, and especially to that 1 part in 10,000 increase in the life-giving gas, carbon dioxide.

I’m sure you can find parallels in a variety of environmental pollutants that technology has allow us to measure to infinitesimal levels of precision. This inspires the EPA to regulate pollutants to ever-decreasing levels which reduces prosperity, destroy jobs, and will likely cause more harm than good.

This seems to be the fate of our advanced society — we must find increasingly obscure things to fret over as we solve our major problems…hunger, disease, water-borne illness, infant mortality. But with real problems now appearing – renewed terrorist threats, Ebola — I fear we are straining gnats as we swallow camels.

24 Responses to “Climate Change: A Meaningless Artifact of Technology?”

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  1. Hoi Polloi says:

    “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
    ― Charles Darwin

  2. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    “I’m sure you can find parallels in a variety of environmental pollutants that technology has allow us to measure to infinitesimal levels of precision”
    A very good point. The science need to use their new equipment with some caution.
    Whenever they measure some ingredients they have not measured before, they all fear that it is harmfull. But they never use their science skills to evaluate if the fear is relevant.
    From the reports scientist are the most fearfull peoble i know. All new equipment with improved performance should have a warning label. “The use of this equipment can provoke fear and anxiety, so use it responsible”. Don’t cry wolf unless there is a wolf.

  3. BBould says:

    If climate change wasn’t “BAD” there would be nothing to control.

    • JohnKl says:

      Hi BBould,

      Whether “BAD” or “GOOD” we should all know one thing for certain regarding the IPCC and CAGW community of climate farce alarmists. They have provided little or no evidence they can control even their own seemingly inexhaustable supply of false climate models/predictions let alone the climate itself.

      Have a great day!

      • BBould says:

        Freeman Dyson: That’s sort of what I would call part of the propaganda — to take for granted that any change is bad.

        Found the above quote today.

  4. As an admitted non-scientist (and a graphically challenged one, at that) who stumbled onto this particular “battlefield” almost 5 years ago (approx. 10 days “BC” i.e. Before Climategate), the loud petulant voices and virtually incessant cries of the doom-mongers have always puzzled me.

    In one of his exceedingly rare outbursts of veracity, during a Science mag. interview, published in Jan. 2010, the IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri was asked:

    “Has all that has happened this winter dented the credibility of IPCC?”

    Pachauri’s response:

    “I don’t think the credibility of the IPCC can be dented. If the IPCC wasn’t there, why would anyone be worried about climate change?”

    The IPCC, of course, was a creation (i.e. child) of the UNEP and the WMO, neither of which were (as I discovered quite recently) – and, to the best of my knowledge, still are not – part of the UN’s charter.

    Consequently, there is no mention whatsoever of “the environment” or (the increasingly frequently heard mantra of) “sustainable development” in the UN Charter.

    This being the case, it seems to me that the UN stands guilty of having subverted billions of international funds in order to promote and perpetuate that in which it has absolutely no business meddling.

    Just imagine how much better off the poor nations of the world might be if the funds expended – on and by these illegitimate UN pseudo-mandates (and their almost countless off-spring) – had been directed towards ameliorating the poverty and poor health that still prevail in far too many countries of the so-called third-world.

    Instead of focusing on – for all intents and purposes – the virtually imperceptible “danger(s)” for which they’ve cooked up a claim (far too readily adopted by far too many money-hungry academic institutions who further this unconscionable subversion of limited funds by glomming on to this so-called “cause”) that we in the so-called first-world are to blame.

    • jimc says:

      Sounds like clearer thinking than some non-non-scientists I’ve read. The UN is a political organization. It becomes scientific only when the science can be subverted to its political purposes.

  5. Aaron S says:

    It is very difficult to compare modern measurements of climate to paleoclimate data. The dominant driver of climate change is obviously the orbital parameters but higher frequency climate change is not easily detected in proxy data because most high resolution proxies (for example lake varves or tree rings) are regional and most global proxies like ice core data or marine isotopes are time averaged and do not include such events. There is just not typically the resolution or breadth to compare to century scale events. So the recent warming could be an entirely normal event. I also agree mild warming is likely a good thing for humanity… but of course there are winners and losers.

  6. Norman says:

    Dr. Spencer,

    Your statement above in bold is very significant. Some say the media is the cause of climate alarmism but on NPR they always have some climatologist speaking. They actually seem dishonest in intent (which is sad). It is as if the only weather pattern that matters is a severe or unusual one. Now it is the California drought. In 2012 it was the Midwest drought.

    Using this resource:

    I looked at the weather in Omaha, Nebraska this year and 2012 to compare. No one is talking about the cool wet year in the midwest (with record crop yields). That is why the climate world seems so phony.

    Omaha in 2012 had 11 summer (June, July, August) days 100 or above and 44 days in the 90 degree range. But this summer (just two years apart) there were no summer days 100 F or above and only 18 days in the 90 F range.

    A more balanced view from climatologists would be nice but they do have to feed their families and put their kids through school and only alarmism will bring money in a budget tight research world.

  7. James Strom says:

    “Warming of the deep oceans, if it is even occurring, is only thousandths of a degree.”

    If we measure a change in the temperature of the oceans in the range of a thousandth of a degree, can we have any confidence that our results are accurate? Graphs of measured temperatures look to have changes two orders of magnitude larger than that simply as a result of changes in instrumentation. And the deep oceans are even more poorly sampled. It will be a long time before there is any empirical confirmation of such minor temperature trends in the deep oceans.

  8. Bill Edwards says:

    to clarify your point about decreasing ice in the North Polar region and increasing in Antarctica – the increase in Antarctic sea ice is believed to be related to increased melting of glacial ice forming a fresh water lens that can freeze at higher temperatures than salt water.

  9. Juha Kuusama says:

    > …would anyone have noticed “climate change”…

    Actually, yes. My birthday is April 21th. Thirty years ago, I had a habit of taking my birthday off, and go fishing. Lake fishing was out of the question, but some local rapids were usually open. I was usually able to take my trip, but could not count on it. Nowadays, I still take my birthday off, but I’m going to play golf. That doesn’t work every time, but for last ten years, a local course has been open.

    So locally, I’d say the spring is coming about a month earlier than thirty years ago. Also, winter is coming later. But would I dare to say it is global? NO. Is it bad? Certainly not, quite the contrary. Is the change man-made? No idea.

    • Doug Danhoff says:

      Man is a natural part of our environment. To consider “natural” changes apart from humans is a mistake we should not make (like the alarmists do).

    • Streetcred says:

      Ok Juha … what about 30 years prior to your first birthday, what was that like weather wise?

  10. Wilda says:

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  11. Richard O'Connell says:

    What do yuo mean “…the increase in CO2 the last 1,000 years amounts to only 1 part in 10,000…”? Isn’t 1 part in 10,000 equal to 100,000 parts in a million?

    • Robert Valdez says:

      Check your math. 1 part in 10,000 is equal to 100 parts in 1 million.

    • Robert Valdez says:

      Also check your reading the actual quote was “but the increase in CO2 in the last 100 years amounts to only 1 part in 10,000.” 100 years, not 1,000 years.

  12. Oliver Manuel says:

    Thanks, Roy, for having the knowledge and the courage to speak out on the AGW fable.

  13. ”Global warming” as such, doesn’t exist. b] climate is in constant change; because H2O changes the climate, not CO2. c] Sahara and Brazil have same amount of CO2, BUT different amount of H2O. Those two different places have completely DIFFERENT climates; three guesses why?.

    If you don’t know what is a good ”climate” ask the trees!
    One oak-tree knows more about the climate than all the Warmist & Skeptics combined…
    On the other hand; the ”self adjusting mechanism doesn’t permit the ”overall” global temp to be higher, or lower than normal for more than few minutes. Here is the truth, if the Skeptics like to win, need to change their tactics:

  14. I came to climate science through paleoclimatology from partway into the Miocene about 15 million years ago. I found it so interesting that I did a masters in Earth science.

    What strikes me as very odd is the notion of climate alarmists that the Holocene epoch should have a fixed temperature — that a fixed temperature is even possible — taking account that no other epoch has had a fixed temperature.

    I have to go back to the time before the modern era, to at least to the time of Galileo to find mental states regarding nature and man’s relationship to nature comparable to what I read today.

    In developed nations the level of propaganda regarding Man’s relationship to Earth seems to be matched by the religious doctrines taught in Europe up to and during the time of Galileo and Copernicus.

    When I read papers by NASA scientists I do not come to the same conclusions as the journalists and politicians who base their writing and speeches on the same information and that may partly explain why I am not as alarmed as they seem to be.

    This is possibly because non-scientists look for results that are certain in which to believe whereas training in science focuses attention on the degree of uncertainty in scientific results and the direction the science is going.

    I have come to the same conclusion as Dr Spencer. I base my position on data published by NASA and other US agencies. Dr Spencer makes tha point that,

    “Our satellite systems can monitor global temperature changes to hundredths of a degree. Interesting, but mostly irrelevant to life on Earth.”

    Some NASA and other US government scientists and their colleagues have published papers that show just how little is known about the actual rates of net radiative heating and cooling and how uncertain are the conclusions on which climate policy is based.

    I have provided the references with URLs and comments here,

  15. richard says:

    I would say the climate is doing rather well. Good climate, good agriculture-

    Worldwide this year has seen bumper crops.

    Even in Australia-

    “Despite forecast falls, both farm production and export earnings in 2014-15 are projected to remain well above the 10 year average,” Ms Schneider said.

  16. For forecasts of the probable coming cooling based on the natural 60 and 1000 year cycles and using the 10Be and neutron count data as the most useful proxy for solar activity go to

    The entire UNFCCC and IPCC circus has been am an exercise in futility because their models are inherently incomputable and structurally wrong. Climate Science has gone backwards for 25 years since giving up the Lamb approach to the natural cycles.
    The climate and energy policies of the Western governments, like CAGW, have no basis in empirical reality- a huge farce based on mass delusion.

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