Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science
William Happer is a Princeton physicist and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the right-wing fossil fuel-funded think tank George C. Marshall Institute. Although he has not published any climate-related research in his scientific career, Happer nevertheless seems to enjoy making his opinions about climate science known, as we have previously examined here and here. Unfortunately, Happer does not seem interested in taking the time to ensure that those are informed opinions.
Rather than subject his thoughts to the peer-review process, Happer’s publication of choice appears to be The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), as he was one of the 16 scientists who recently published a plea for climate inaction in that paper, and a follow-up article defending their previous misrepresentations. Happer has now gone solo, publishing another opinion-editorial in the WSJ with such a Gish Gallop of climate-related myths as to be a truly Moncktonian effort.
Though we will briefly whack each of Happer’s moles in the post below, one particular myth caught our attention. This myth was also recently endorsed by Roy Spencer in an interview with John Stossel on Fox News – the myth that the planet has not warmed in the past 10 years.
Global Warming Continues
The quotes relevant to this myth are:
Happer: “What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years…The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.”
Spencer: “…for some reason it stopped warming in the last 10 years, which is one of those dirty little secrets of global warming science”
There are a number of problems with these assertions. First, Happer mentions statistical significance, but global surface temperature trends are rarely if ever statistically significant (at a 95% confidence level) over periods as short as a decade, even in the presence of an underlying long-term warming trend, because of the natural variability and noise in the climate system.
Second, if we filter out some of those short-term (i.e. interannual) influences, as Foster & Rahmstorf (2011) did (the El Niño Southern Oscillation, volcanoes, and solar activity), once we reduce the noise, the global surface warming trend over the past decade does become statistically significant. We can use the new SkS temperature trend tool developed by Kevin C to illustrate this with any data set, but since the argument was made by the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH)’s Roy Spencer, we will choose the UAH data set (Figure 1).