The Tenacity of Mendacity
Earlier last week, I was visiting with someone who is now in charge of implementing a climate change initiative. We chatted about how we are now entering a new phase in the continuing saga of humankind's growing awareness of the challenges that lie ahead.
However, there are still those who would mislead us and misinform us.
Whether it is Michael Griffin of NASA offering inanities on NPR about the pretentions of expecting a stable climate, or the political edits of the many minions of the present "oil administration" that has hijacked our democracy, there is a lot of shaped information out there. But even these "bad actors" must at least offer some evidence that their position is a reasoned one, and that they are not just plain old willing to lie and endanger us all just to keep their job and their power.
One piece of climate change evidence that is always making the rounds is this idea that it was warmer 1000 years ago than it is today. The "so called evidence" comes from a German high school teacher named Beck.
Here is Real Climate on the Beck data.
Much research effort over the past years has gone into reconstructing the temperature history of the last millennium and beyond. The new IPCC report compiles a dozen reconstructions for the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere (including of course the original "hockey stick" reconstruction, despite opposite claims by the Wall Street Journal).
Lack of data does not permit robust reconstructions for the Southern Hemisphere. Without exception, the reconstructions show that Northern Hemisphere temperatures are now higher than at any time during the past 1,000 years (Figure 1), confirming and strengthening the conclusions drawn in the previous IPCC report of 2001.
“Climate sceptics” do not like this and keep coming up with their own temperature histories. One of the weirdest has been circulated for years by German high-school teacher E.G. Beck (notorious for his equally weird CO2 curve). This history shows a medieval warm phase that is warmer than current climate by more than 1 ºC (see Figure 2).
So how did Beck get this curve?
The curve is a fake in several respects. It originally is taken from the first IPCC report of 1990: a scan of the original is shown in Figure 3. At that time, no large-scale temperature reconstructions were available yet.
To give an indication of past climate variability, the report showed Lamb’s Central England estimate. (Unfortunately this was not stated in the report – an oversight which shows that IPCC review procedures in the early days were not what they are now. We will post in more detail on the history of this curve another time.)
But Beck did not stop at simply using this outdated curve, he modified it as highlighted in green in Figure 2. First, he added a wrong temperature scale – the tick marks in the old IPCC report represent 1 ºC, so Beck’s claimed range of 5 ºC exaggerates the past temperature variations by more than a factor of three.
Second, the original curve only goes up to the 1970’s. Since then, Northern Hemisphere temperatures have increased by about 0.6 ºC and those in central England even more – so whatever you take this curve for, if it were continued to present, the current temperature would be above the Medieval level, as in the proper reconstructions available today.
As this would destroy his message, Beck applied another fakery: he extended the curve flat up to the year 2000, thereby denying the measured warming since the 1970s. With this trick, his curve looks as if it was warmer in Medieval times then now. (more)
I suppose in a world where there is an Assault on Reason,
Where Demagogues offer to protect us from their own lapses,
and professional Idealogues speak of bombing innocents
in the leading business journal without even a clammer,
we can expect to see more of these kinds of misrepresentations.
And we can expect to see these mispresentations used
to no good end.
"Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth; when perfect sincerity is expected, perfect freedom must be allowed; nor has anyone who is apt to be angry when he hears the truth any cause to wonder that he does not hear it." Tacitus
Liars when they speak the truth are not believed. Aristotle
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