Where is the global warming?

A few days ago, the letter below was published in The Irish Times, Ireland’s most respected newspaper:

Sir, – I’ll believe in global warming when I don’t have to turn on my central heating in mid-June. – Yours, etc,

PETER STAPLETON,

Drumshanbo,

Co Leitrim.

As the short statement contains three common misunderstandings, I thought it worthwhile to respond. My response is published in The Irish Times today :

Sir, – Peter Stapleton writes “I’ll believe in global warming when I don’t have to turn on my central heating in mid-June” (June 16th). This short statement contains three classic errors:

1. Weather is not climate. Mr Stapleton has confused a wet summer in Ireland with longterm trends in global climate.

2. There is now a great deal of evidence pointing towards a gradual increase in the average surface temperature of the earth and its oceans, an increase that is strongly linked to carbon emissions. Recent data from MET Éireann show a warming in Ireland in line with this global trend.

3. Climate change is not a question of belief, it is a question of science. The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that global warming has the potential to affect the lives of many millions of people, from widespread flooding in some countries to permanent drought in others.

Sadly, one suspects Mr Stapleton’s misapprehensions are shared by a great many political leaders worldwide. – Yours, etc,

CORMAC O’RAIFEARTAIGH,

Lecturer in Physics,

Waterford Institute of Technology.


All in all, I think the two letters sum up the challenges of communicating climate science. Could it be that mankind will one day face devastating cimate change, all because we couldn’t distinguish between weather and climate?

Flooding in Bangladesh: soon to be permanent?

Drought in Africa: more frequent and severe?

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13 Comments

Filed under Global warming, Science and society

13 responses to “Where is the global warming?

  1. Bent Rothenberg

    hi to fight againts the greenhouse effect use grenhouses, these should be posed by the seaside in tropical area, they will absorb a lot of energy(depending of size and surface coverd), they will produce sweetwater and electricity and by a big number millions of square km ,it would be possible to control climate !!

  2. Funnily enough for anyone watching the mean temps, this June is almost 1.0°C warmer than last year. Due to the extensive cloud cover the minima night temperatures are much higher.

    As you pointed out people often mistake weather for climate. It is unfortunate that the phrase “global warming” became the defacto term in the media.

    The frankly useless attempts by the Irish government to introduce green taxes and initiatives on the back of climate change issues only increases peoples reluctance to accept it as a real phenomena which warrants our attention.

  3. cormac

    Brent: nice idea! I’m nervous of the more grandiose geo-engineering fixes! Prevention is better than cure, as they say in medicine, especially if you don’t really know the potential side effects of the cure

  4. cormac

    Micheal: Yes, badly managed initiatives can backfire badly, just look at the rout of the Greens in Ireland. I think global problems require global solutions, starting with a worldwide reduction in tax incentives for fossil fuels. Frank mcdonald has a good article on this in today’s Irish Times

  5. Great response. And you’d be pulling your hair out over here in Alberta though, where that sort of thinking is the mainstream.

  6. cormac

    Troy: yes, Canada seems to have gone backwards on climate in the last few years. it’s tragic to see science so disregarded by political ‘leaders’

  7. I know what you mean about the public not understanding these concepts. I recently found this letter in a british newspaper..

    “Whilst eating a Birdseye Potato Waffle the other day, I was sickened to be able to fashion a crude swastika from the compressed starch matrix. And Alphabety Spaghetti is no better. After carefully selecting a plateful, I was able to spell out ‘Hitler is nice’ if I used a z on its side for an n. How long are the frozen food giants going to be allowed to get away with this?”

  8. Christian

    Hi Cormac,
    Did you read the editorial in the Irish times last Friday? As you reminded us, weather is not climate when it is unusually cold. Thus, will you be writing to the Irish Times to correct them on their interpretation of the recent heavy rainfall?

  9. cormac

    Yes! It’s the same mistake…

  10. oldfossil

    Norman!!! Take your meds!!!! (_!_)

  11. Terry Rogers

    See climatecrocks.com and the youtube link on rhs. These 100 videos contain evidence from leading scientists, us military,navy and cia. See Michael Manns evidence on the hockey stick graph. etc “climategate”. Hear what Stephen Hawking,Carl Sagan have to say. and the Science Acadameys of the world. Obviously they are all part of a vast world conspiracy,so i propose that Turn180 should be nominated for the Nobel Prize!! (also the moon landing was faked,and the Russians had to be part of it too!!)