By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The politicization of climate science, including direct attacks on the credibility of researchers, has made it more difficult to communicate the results of important research, NASA scientist James Hansen wrote in a recent draft paper on observed global temperature changes.
The repeated attacks on climate scientists in the media have taken a toll, as recent polls show a growing public skepticism about climate science. Hansen, one of lightning-rod figures for global warming deniers, said the best available science shows clearly that there is no global cooling, as has been widely reported by people trying intentionally to confuse the public.
Hansen took direct aim at the media for its role in misreporting global warming science as well:
“We have the impression that the effect of politicization on communication of the science is aggravated by the fact that much of the media is owned by or strongly influenced by special economic interests,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t sure that the language relating to climate science politics and to media coverage of the issue would make it past editors in the final version of the paper.
Read the original document here. Another factor that complicates getting the message out is that people tend to confuse fluctuations in local weather with larger global climate change patterns. In other words, a regionally cool winter helps convince people that there is no global warming. Read more about how climate scientists measure global temperature here.
“This difficulty can be alleviated by stressing the need to focus on the frequency and magnitude of warm and cold anomalies, which change noticeably on decadal time scales as global warming increases,” he wrote.
Hansen said the politicization of global warming reporting was probably inevitable, given the economic and social implications of efforts required to alter the course of human-made climate change. Read the letter signed by 11 Nobel Prize winners that calls for an end to political attacks on scientists here.
The bottom line is that global warming on decadal time scales is continuing without letup,” Hansen wrote. “But because it is important to draw attention to change as soon as possible, we need ways to make the data trends clear without waiting for additional decades to pass.”
A simple way of illustrating the rate of change is by mapping it out on graphs with five-year running averages, which minimizes variability resulting from cyclical ocean temperature changes, while a 132-month running average smooths out cycles of solar variability. The graphs “gives the lie to the frequent assertion that “global warming stopped in 1998.” he wrote.
Other global warming skeptics have claimed that global surface temperatures have “flattened out since the late 1990s,” but Hansen said all the credible scientific evidence points to the contrary — that the long-term trend indicates a continued warming of about .15 to .20 degrees Celsius per decade that begin in the 1970s.