Saturday, September 26, 2009

Angst and lies over climate predictions

Mojib Latif knew that the climate change skeptics wouldn't understand what he was saying, or would misrepresent it.

Sure enough.

Latif, the German ocean circulation and climate modeling expert, recently famously announced that in the long global warming trend, there might be an upcoming limited cooling period.

Climate is cyclical, after all.

In the immediate future, he said, a powerful cool phase in the North Atlantic Oscillation, could temporarily overwhelm the larger warming trend for a few years. The rest of his commentary is important: it's that while his models suggest a possible short-term cooling trend, he fully endorses the larger view that the globe is in a long-term severe warming trend.

Nobody who hates climate change seems to have bothered to read the rest of what Latif had to say. A confident response of climate skeptics has been: See, it's cooling, so we don't have to do anything about climate.

The Vancouver Sun, citing Latif, wrongly headlined: “Scientists pull an about face on global warming.” A lot of other skeptic commentators in various media have also grabbed on to just the convenient half of Latif's comments, while ignoring the rest.

The truth, again, is that Latif, looking at the wider data, continues to be convinced about the long-term warming trend and has not, as the Sun suggested, “started batting for the other side.”

Latif told the UN World Climate Conference in Geneva: "People will say this is global warming disappearing... I am not one of the sceptics,"

The clear-eyed science writer for the New York Times, Andy Revkin, reported on the issue this past week. Revkin called Latif on the phone and asked him about the issue. He suggested that many people simply can't handle the complexity of the climate story.

“People understand what I’m saying, but then basically wind up saying, ‘We don’t believe anything,’” Latif is quoted as saying.

And this post would not be complete without noting that a number of other climate scientists disagree with Latif's short term conclusion, arguing instead that we're looking at more warming in the short term as well as the longer term.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

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