Repeat after me: Weather is NOT climate!

Oh dear, here we go again. An editorial in the Irish Times yesterday was headlined ‘Global cooling’. It began: “So much for all of that guff about global warming! Are world leaders having the wrong debate? We are experiencing the most prolonged period of icy weather in 40 years and feeling every bit of it”.

In fact, what the above piece illustrates is the hazards of conducting climate science by looking out the window. The good ol’ Daily Express took it a degree or three further yesterday in its screeching front page headline: ‘SNOW CHAOS – And they still claim it’s global warming’.

I could spend another thousand words trying Online Pokies to unpick this silliness, or instead hand over to the excellent Peter Sinclair, who runs an intriguing YouTube channel called ‘Climate Denial Crock of the Week’. The clip below is from Feb 2009, but it perfectly illustrates the recurring problem that as soon as the temperatures plummet, the deniers start banging loudly on their tin drums, and many folks in the media who really ought to know better, just take a peek out through the net curtains, see the snow and experience an almost instantaneous 50-point drop in their IQs.

Over to you, Peter…

An archive of Peter Sinclair’s excellent series can be accessed by clicking here.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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17 Responses to Repeat after me: Weather is NOT climate!

  1. Richard Tol says:

    Pot, kettle, black. As soon as the temperatures rise, the alarmists start banging loudly on their tin drums.

  2. Klem says:

    Well it sure is cold outside today. I thought we were supposed to have global warming by now. I’ve been letting my car idle for hours some days, trying to warm up the planet but nothing ever happens. So much for global warming, I guess it’s all over.

  3. John Gibbons says:

    @ Klem

    ha bloody ha ha.

    @ Richard

    Glad to see you’ve finally shed even the pretence of being the honest expert just striving for the truth – “alarmists”, methinks you’ve been hitting the mulled wine over the holiday with all those buddies of yours on the Global Warming Propaganda Foundation “Advisory” Committee!

    BTW, when do we get an update on the “vigorous debate” you and your denialist colleagues have been having? Particularly enjoy the crooked little News Aggregator on the site – it even adds phoney headlines to articles pulled in from 3rd parties – magic!

    How about this article from the Guardian today, headlined: “1970s-style rationing as National Grid cuts off gas to factories”.

    Link to this article on the GWPF, and poof! It magically becomes: “Green Hell Britain: National Grid Cuts Off Gas To Factories”.

    Green Hell? Wow, this IS impressive. Maybe that’s where all those Alarmists go after they’ve perished in the New Ice Age? And that crooked little graph still sits atop their home page. All those professors, and between them, despite having two gos at it, they couldn’t produce ONE honest graph. How very sad.

    Still, having made a royal jackass of himself in the “Latest recruit to Confederacy of Climate Dunces” thread, one can but admire R. Tol’s determination to come straight back to once again bash his head repeatedly against the brick wall of reality until it hurts. Panadol, anyone?

  4. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    That headline from the GWPF is so very revealing, isn’t it. It’s noticeable, also, that Richard Tol, a GWPF member, likes to row in with a negative or critical comment whenever anyone makes a good point. Come to think of it, aren’t all his comments negative and critical?

    The impression left by all of Tol’s missives is that he sees it as his job to confound or thwart any useful progress made by this blog on improving public understanding of climate change. Is it possible that he actually has a commercial side-line that we don’t know about? Richard? A yes or no answer will suffice.

  5. Pidge says:

    An annoying (and, I think, fairly recent) part of the climate debate is the tendency of people on either side of climate change policy debate to conflate their opponents views with those of extremist twats, or non-scientists.

    Someone can’t seriously advocate a differing policy on dealing with climate change without being accused of being some sort of climate denier, which is a real pity. It leads to something of a group think.

    Similarly, when some well-meaning prats looking for PR argue that any individual weather extremity is the result of climate change, those opposed to them take such views and smush them in with anyone who advocates a stronger policy response, like Richard just did there, lumping everyone in under the one homogenous banner of “alarmists”. Not only it that term particularly stupid, but categorising everyone looking for a stronger response than oneself under that banner is exceptionally lazy. Awful pity.

  6. Richard Tol says:

    My primary income is from the ESRI. ESRI funding sources can be found in our annual report. My secondary income is from the Vrije Universiteit. VU funding sources can be found in our annual report. My tertiary income is from Elsevier. Elsevier funding can be found in their annual report.

    You wonder about my motives. They are simple. I think that the environmental agenda is hampered by polarisation and by disregard of the facts.

    On polarisation, see John’s comment above.

    On my initial comment, see in which one John Gibbons blames Hurricane Katrina and the 2003 heatwave on climate change, confusing weather and climate.

  7. Coilin MacLochlainn says:


    Thanks for info, glad to see you’re keeping busy.

    While Hurricane Katrina may have been ‘weather’, it is regularly reported that global warming is causing increasingly intense hurricane activity, so you are just nit-picking there, as usual.

  8. John Gibbons says:

    @ Coilin

    With respect, you might as well be trying to have a dialogue with the leg of a table as with our friend from the GWPF/ESRI. Plus, it appears he has little else to do all day but blog, blog and blog, judging by his prodigious output. No cause is too hopeless, no discussion too resolved, no scientific fact too clear for R. Tol not to want to jump in and do his schoolyard “look at me, look at me, aren’t I clever, aren’t I, aren’t I?” routine.

    This tiresome ‘professional contrarian’ lark can get on your nerves (ok, my nerves!) after a while. Lomborg does a similar performing monkey routine, but at least he doesn’t do it on this blog!

    When I want my teeth fixed, I visit a dentist. When I need guidance on climate science, I’ll look to climate scientists, not economists, for it.

  9. Marcus says:

    @ John G

    “When I want my teeth fixed, I visit a dentist. When I need guidance on climate science, I’ll look to climate scientists, not economists, for it.”

    With all respect John, what is your field? Are you a geo-scientist of some sort?

  10. Richard Tol says:

    Instead of playing the man, would you mind commenting on your 2007 piece in which you seem to confuse weather and climate?

  11. John Gibbons says:

    @ Marcus

    I’d ask you to re-read the very quote you used, particularly the phrase “…When I need guidance…”

    I’m a journalist specialising in climate, sustainability and related environmental issues. My job as a journalist is to assess the many sources of information on a given topic, and try to sift out hard fact from spin and propaganda. So when I say that “I’ll look to climate scientist” for guidance, that’s exactly what I mean.

    Everyone has opinions, some of these have merit, others do not. As a journalist, I’m also especially interested in the credibility of sources. So to say that I use climate scientists (who produce the peer-reviewed research in this field) rather than economists, who do not produce peer-reviewed climate research, that’s exactly what I mean.

    @ Richard

    Since it’s not possible that you don’t know the actual answer to this question, I’ll just echo (or parrot, if you prefer) Coilin’s comment above. The world’s oceans are undergoing significant and sustained surface area warming. This excess energy provides fuel to hurricanes, typhoons, etc. But of course you know this, so I’ll leave it at that.

    I note you have yet to make any statement clarifying your role and input on the GWPF “Advisory Committee”. I made some specific observations regarding the GWPF’s rigged news aggregator and grossly misleading home page graphic, all of which you have failed to respond to. You have also failed to illuminate us on the “vigorous debate” you claim to be having with a Committee packed with climate change deniers, people who reject mainstream climate science and many of whom accuse climate scientists of engaging in widespread fraud.

    So you’ll understand why I don’t wish to play silly Climate 101 games with a dyed-in-the-wool denialist, who spouts drivel such as the below:

    “The notion of catastrophic climate change has little scientific support, and is more easily explained by an age-old belief in an apocalypse, often attenuated by a belief in the wrath of a superior being over our sins.”

    Life is too short to be engaging with this level of puerile debate.

  12. Richard Tol says:

    You may want to read up on your hurricane meteorology. Hurricanes are driven by temperature differences (surface-tropopause; land-ocean; equator-pole) rather than by sea surface temperatures. If it were as simple and unicausal as you suggest, why would there be a controversy?

    You duck the question. In 2007, you blamed two weather phenomena (Katrina, 2003 heatwave) on climate. In 2010, you trivialise another weather phenomenon as “weather not climate”. To the unsuspecting reader, you seem to argue “it’s climate when hot, weather when cold”.

    It may of course be that you have a better understanding of weather and climate in 2010 than you did in 2007.

    I don’t see how I can further clarify my role in the GWPF. I’m on the academic advisory council, and in that capacity I’ve advised the chairman of the board of trustees on matters of internal consistency of scenarios.

  13. Marcus says:

    @ John

    Just curious about your perspective, thanks.

  14. jason says:

    The IT editorial wasn’t very well written and is somewhat typical of the meandering approach taken to various subjects in that paper nowadays. However, I think you’re being unfair -and somewhat over-sensitive – to take the opening sentence as being representative of what the piece actually said. In fact, the editorial concluded with a sentence which called on the various authorities to understand what climate change (Not Warming) is going to mean for this country in future and to ensure that we are better equipped to deal with flooding, snow, ice, etc.

    And in specific reference to the opening sentence, having had a huge amount of publicity for Global Warming and, particularly, the Copenhagen summit, we’re all just having a little chuckle at the fact that this is one of the coldest winters on record. It’s just a bit of humour in an otherwise bleak January and I think that the IT was just reflecting that. Don’t take it too seriously!

  15. John Gibbons says:

    @ Marcus
    No problem

    @ Jason
    Point taken, I think you’re bang on the money. There has been so much voodoo written and said on this topic in recent times esp. since “Climate-Gate” that yes, I’ve found myself perhaps over-sensitive to some of this stuff which, like our frozen roads, could do with more than a pinch of salt.

    @ Richard
    No offense, but I’ve made a list of New Year Resolutions, and avoiding getting drawn in to pointless elliptical ad infinitum arguments is right on the top of that list. Sorry about that.

    Can’t say it hasn’t been fun (at times) but alas, I really have too many other demands on my time this year to be also running a debating society on this blog. Nothing personal, honestly.

  16. EWI says:

    I think you should be honoured, guys. It isn’t every blog in Ireland that gets such an avid following by the Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg of Irish economists (and one of the Inhofe 400 to boot, but I digress):

    Zorg: Where are the stones?
    Priest Vito Cornelius: I don’t know. And even if I did know, I wouldn’t tell someone like you.
    Zorg: Why? What’s wrong with me?
    Priest Vito Cornelius: I try to serve life. And you seem to want to destroy it.
    Zorg: Oh, Father. You’re so wrong. Let me explain.
    [Puts and empty water glass on his desk]
    Zorg: Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Now take this empty glass. Here it is: peaceful, serene, boring. But if it is destroyed
    [Pushes the glass off the table. It shatter on the floor, and several small machines come out to clean it up]
    Zorg: Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life. You see, father, by causing a little destruction, I am in fact encouraging life. In reality, you and I are in the same business.

  17. Paddy Morris says:

    @ Richard
    “Pot, kettle, black. As soon as the temperatures rise, the alarmists start banging loudly on their tin drums”

    Temperatures rising are consistent with climate predictions. This is because people who are concerned with climate are looking at a longer time frame than ‘weather this week’, and hence report temperature rises as proof of the theory, and possible reason for alarm. Of course this should be reported by journalists who write and/or care about the climate.

    Calling people concerned about climate ‘alarmists.. banging loudly on tin drums” is not productive.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the weather this week is simply that – the weather for this week. It should be reported as such – as not being indicative of a long term trend.
    It might be cold today but the temp. trend up is still there on a longer time scale.

    Case in point – The last decade was the warmest on record.

    To state the rather obvious you know all this.

    You also have a unique definition of “alarmists’ – in this case you seem to mean ‘people who care about climate change, who think action should be urgent, who act accordingly’ – and whose ideas on what courses of action to follow and when to act on these you possibly disagree with.

    So what was the point of your comment, especially in light of the fact that you “think that the environmental agenda is hampered by polarisation and by disregard of the facts”

    There are very few facts in your post, unless your research recently involved ‘The Economic and Acoustic Effects of Tin Pot Supply And Demand As Affected By Climate Change Alarmism’.

    It’s more of a troll than a decent contribution, and it is hardly likely to reduce the polarisation of the debate.

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