Unfortunately my holiday cottage has Wi-Fi, so I haven’t been able to completely ignore what’s been going on in the outside world. I can’t quite resist, therefore, commenting on Andrew Neil’s interview with Ed Davey. Andrew Neil is the host of The Sunday Politics and Ed Davey is a Liberal Democrat MP.
You can watch the interview and also read a transcript. Much of what Andrew Neil claimed was pretty standard “skeptic” arguments and was not really consistent with current scientific understanding. Andrew Neil was quite heavily criticised in Twitter and retorted by saying
Please, anybody, give me one factual error that was presented to Ed Davey this morning. Some people have just stopped thinking #bbcsp
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) July 14, 2013
So, Andrew, here goes.
Ed Davey mentions the Cook et al. survey which showed that 97% of the scientific literature that stated a position on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) endorsed AGW. Andrew Neil replied by stating that this survey has been discredited. No it hasn’t. Richard Tol, an economist at Sussex University, has indeed claimed to have discredited the Cook et al. work. However, his paper was rejected by the editor of the journal to which it was submitted, and having looked at his work it is a set of statistical tests that he does not justify, explain, or even attempt interpret. Furthermore, he doesn’t even disagree with the result of the Cook et al. study, he simply disagrees with their method.
Andrew Neil then shows a graph of temperature and CO2 concentrations showing the temperature rising from 1980 and then flattening off in the last decade or so, while CO2 levels continue to rise. Firstly, the graph is a cartoon and really overestimates the slowdown in surface temperatures. It also doesn’t show the rather large change in temperature in 1998 as a result of a large ENSO event. It also shows no errors, which are quite large, so in fact the slowdown is not really statistically significant. Also, despite this slowdown, the 10 hottest years on record happened after 1998. Ed Davey tries to explain that short-term variations can produce these plateaus, but Andrew Neil cuts him off a number of times and doesn’t really let him finish the point he was making. When Ed Davey tries to discuss the oceans and the Arctic ice, Andrew Neil continues focusing on the surface temperatures.
Andrew Neil then goes on to quote Doug Smith, from the Met Office
“It’s fair to say that the world warmed even less than our forecast suggested… We don’t really understand at the moment why that is.”
I’m sure Doug Smith has been correctly quoted, but what Doug Smith was referring to (and what Andrew Neil is referring to) is the global surface temperature. It appears to be rising slower than most models predicted. However, the Earth as a whole hasn’t warmed slower than expected. The ocean heat content continues to rise and the Arctic sea ice volume is dropping dramatically. Global warming is about an increase in energy in the climate system, not simply about global surface temperatures (which is only associated with a few percent of the excess energy).
Andrew Neil claimed he could address the issue of ocean heat content (but didn’t) and claimed that Arctic sea ice melt this year was “normal”. Well, maybe Andrew Neil should read this post so as to see how little he understands about Arctic sea ice. So, I was very unimpressed with Andrew Neil. He regurgitated many typical skeptic arguments and clearly hasn’t spent much time talking with actual climate scientists. Ed Davey, on the other hand, seems to really understand some of the subtleties of the science of global warming. I don’t know much about Ed Davey, but was impressed by his performance here.