Prat watch #5: Ignorance is bliss

By Gareth Renowden 29/03/2012

What happens when you deny things? Well, if you deny the reality of global warming, and if you are to be in any way self-consistent, then you have to deny every bit of evidence that it might be happening. Here’s a classic example, drawn from New Zealand’s very own little corner of the climate crank echo chamber, Richard Treadgold’s “Climate Conversation Group” blog. Treadgold concludes a recent post thus:

Once more: let’s stop accepting this palpable nonsense that climate change is responsible for anything.

Climate change means global warming. Global warming has not happened for about 15 years, unless you take a micrometer to the thermometer. And if you have to do that just to detect warming, then it’s hardly dangerous, is it?

Oh — if it didn’t happen, then it didn’t cause anything! No droughts, no wildfires, no floods, no storms. No ice melt.

Look at the bit I’ve emphasised. No warming for 15 years? Tell that to the planet, Richard. Here’s what the World Meteorological Organisation says about the first decade of the 21st century:

…climate change accelerated in 2001-2010, which was the warmest decade ever recorded in all continents of the globe.

No warming for 15 years? After we’ve had the warmest decade ever recorded in all continents of the globe?

The decade 2001-2010 was the warmest since records began in 1850, with global land and sea surface temperatures estimated at 0.46°C above the long-term average (1961-1990) of 14.0°C. Nine of these years were among the ten warmest on record. The warmest year on record was 2010, closely followed by 2005, with a mean temperature estimated at 0.53°C above the long-term average. It was the warmest decade ever recorded for global land surface, sea surface and for every continent.

No warming for 15 years? Not to put too fine a point on it: balderdash, piffle, stuff and nonsense.

And because there has been warming, it can be linked to extreme events1. The IPCC has just released its full SREX report, full title Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (PDF – 44MB), which finds, amongst other things, that not only is there a clear signal of warming’s effect on extremes such as heatwaves, but that large parts of the world — especially coastal megacities such as Mumbai or countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam — are vulnerable to increasing extremes and sea level rise over the course of the coming century. [AP/NZ Herald, AFP.]

The certainty of Treadgold’s denial is only possible because he creates a carefully cultivated cocoon of ignorance around himself and around the true believers who worship at his blog. The world where the rest of us live is a much more uncomfortable place. We have to work with whatever reality throws at us. Retreating into a fantasy world where warming hasn’t happened for 15 years is a luxury only the deluded can afford.


  1. I’ll have post examining recent work on the attribution of extreme weather events soon.