Monday, February 15, 2010

An interview with Professor Jones

Professor Phil Jones is the currently-on-leave director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, source of the massive "leak" in November of e-mails, data, computer code and other files related to climate change research ("Climategate"). Professor Jones is the author of the controversial e-mail in which he talked of using "Mike's nature trick" to "hide the decline."

He is a man who is supported with taxpayer dollars because of concern about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, and has, therefore, a vested interest in producing materials which perpetuate or exacerbate concerns about that possibility. To quote Al Gore quoting Sinclair Lewis, "it's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it." (The climate alarmists have for years been warning us that we couldn't trust any "science" funded by the oil companies - why we should trust science funded by zealous, power-hungry bureaucrats and performed by leftist academicians?)

Professor Jones has been a significant figure in the propagation of the kind of scientific information which leads to widespread panic and enables "well-meaning public servants" to argue for greater central control of world-wide economies and private behaviors. He's fought to suppress any kind of research which doesn't support the AGW position out of peer-reviewed literature, to "hide the decline," and, in short, to paint the picture of "settled science" which suggests a imminent catastrophe.

And the BBC got a chance to ask him some questions last week. Before we look at some of the excerpts, here are a couple of key points to remember. There are some who have questioned various aspects of the official story, as represented by the UN's IPCC, and been criticized or ostracized as "deniers." In the case of the AGW story, "skepticism" has been a dirty word. The following articles of the AGW case are considered to be "settled science," which no one of any intelligence would challenge, indisputable facts.
  1. There has been an unprecedented rise in global temperature over the past 30 years.
  2. The earth has never before been this hot.
  3. The rise in temperature has proven to be caused by human behavior.
  4. There is no legitimate "debate" about the causes of the current unprecedented warming.
  5. Warming has continued rapidly over the past 15 years.

So, let's hear from Professor Jones:
Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?

An initial point to make is that in the responses to these questions I've assumed that when you talk about the global temperature record, you mean the record that combines the estimates from land regions with those from the marine regions of the world. CRU produces the land component, with the Met Office Hadley Centre producing the marine component.

Temperature data for the period 1860-1880 are more uncertain, because of sparser coverage, than for later periods in the 20th Century. The 1860-1880 period is also only 21 years in length. As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).

I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.

So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

B - Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?

Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

C - Do you agree that from January 2002 to the present there has been statistically significant global cooling?

No. This period is even shorter than 1995-2009. The trend this time is negative (-0.12C per decade), but this trend is not statistically significant.

G - There is a debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was global or not. If it were to be conclusively shown that it was a global phenomenon, would you accept that this would undermine the premise that mean surface atmospheric temperatures during the latter part of the 20th Century were unprecedented?

There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia. For it to be global in extent the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.

Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today (based on an equivalent coverage over the NH and SH) then obviously the late-20th century warmth would not be unprecedented.

N - When scientists say "the debate on climate change is over", what exactly do they mean - and what don't they mean?

It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don't believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.
Let's see. The debate's not over, the MWP may have been warmer, the recent warming is similar to other warming periods in the last 150 years, there's been no statistically significant warming in the last 15 years, there's been cooling in the last 8 (albeit also not statistically significant). It sounds to me as if Professor Jones is one of those "skeptics" or "deniers" that draw so much opprobrium from the likes of Al Gore.

I know this - I need a LOT more convincing before I'll peacefully acquiesce to the planned destruction of the US economy...

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