Sorry, Alarmists, Lies and Insults Don’t Change Cooling Trend

Sorry, Alarmists, Lies and Insults Don’t Change Cooling Trend
August 6, 2014

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

In a recent column at Forbes.com I called attention to the latest, most accurate data showing U.S. temperatures have cooled during the past decade. At the end of the article I predicted global warming alarmists would try to claim the temperatures are irrelevant. Sure enough, freelance blogger Erik Sherman did not disappoint, subsequently performing an epic face plant making that very argument.

As I noted in my initial article, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in January 2005 began collecting temperature data from a nationwide network of more than 100 pristinely located temperature stations immune to corruption by human development or other factors. After a decade of collecting data, NOAA has released the first decade of data. The data show a fairly consistent cooling throughout the decade. Temperatures are cooler now than they were in 2005. Moreover, with the exception of a very brief period in 2011 and 2012, cooler temperatures have dominated since 2007.

I noted, “Of course, 10 years is hardly enough to establish a long-term trend.” Nevertheless, I drew three lessons from the cooler temperatures: (1) Global warming is not as dramatic and uniform as alarmists claim. (2) U.S. temperatures are consistent with the global temperature stagnation of the past 17-plus years. (3) The temperature data debunk assertions that rising temperatures caused various extreme weather events in the United States during the past year.

In a column abrasively titled, “The Latest Climate Change Denial Fact Twisting,” Sherman unleashed a torrent of misinformation and character assaults to the effect that I “inaccurately characterized and misrepresented the information and what it shows.” In the process, Sherman not only fulfilled my prediction that alarmists would try to claim the temperatures are irrelevant, but he additionally displayed an impressive lack of reading comprehension skills.

Sherman opened his column saying I “claim[ed] the new government data debunks the concept of global climate change.” That is quite rich. To the contrary, I have consistently maintained that climate is constantly changing and humans have likely played a role in recent planetary warming. Sherman did not identify anywhere in my article where I say the data debunk the concept of global climate change.

Sherman next admitted that “yes, the stations showed a slight end-to-end drop over the time they’ve run.” That was nice to see. But he then argued the very brief temperature uptick in 2011-2012 means the long-term temperature trend may end up oscillating while remaining rather flat rather than being one of long-term cooling. OK, that may or may not turn out to be the case, but where did I claim that Sherman’s admitted 10-year cooling portends a longer-term cooling trend? Which part of “Of course, 10 years is hardly enough to establish a long-term trend” was Sherman incapable of understanding? Moreover, even if a long-term oscillating temperature stagnation does indeed occur, that would also support my larger argument that the temperature data contradict claims of accelerating warming.

Sherman next claimed “Over the period show[n], six years saw temperatures above normal; only three years saw lower than normal temperatures.” Well, that may be true, but Sherman conveniently forgot to mention that most of those above-average temperatures occurred at the very beginning of the 10-year period. When a time series shows warmer temperatures at the beginning of a time period and cooler temperatures at the end of the time period, this hardly disproves the notion that temperatures were warm early in the time period.

After launching several additional character assaults, Sherman concluded by claiming, “I had first asked Heartland last week for someone to interview. Although a representative said that a person would be made available, the organization has yet to provide a name or contact information for a discussion. If and when I hear more, I’ll update this post.”

I laughed out loud when I read this final mischaracterization and disparagement. Sherman sent an email to generic Heartland Institute staff on a Friday afternoon. I guess that qualifies as “last week” in the most generous sense of the term. A more precise and less misleading way of putting it would have been, “I sent an email Friday afternoon to generic Heartland Institute staff but nobody called me back over the weekend.”

Also, Sherman claimed he sought “a name or contact information for a discussion.” Considering I wrote the article in question and he was attacking me and my article by name, I am surprised he could not identify the most appropriate “name or contact information” for a discussion. My email address is all over the Internet. Sherman could have easily contacted me directly if he desired an open and honest conversation rather than an excuse to assert the Heartland Institute was dodging him.

The long and short of it is – as Sherman admitted – U.S. temperatures have indeed declined over the past decade. The verdict still stands. All the constructed straw men in the world won’t change that, nor will Sherman’s desperate insults and character attacks. To his credit, however, Sherman finally and parasitically found his 15 minutes of fame. Nice effort, Erik.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)