Spinning greenhouse gas numbers: good or bad?

[BPSDB] Spinning numbers in more ways than one. The explanation of the science is correct, and the purpose of the counter seems admirable. But of course, the supposed precision of the numbers is spurious.  (It grates on this former science lecturer, who used to have to explain why all the digits output on a calculator were just not significant.)

But, if the figure was displayed to a reasonable precision (maybe hundreds of millions of tons?), you just would not see the display updating. The whole point of the display is to convey how we are recklessly pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with consequences that can be calculated, but with further consequences that cannot be foreseen. In this case, spin actually conveys the message more vividly, through an appeal to feeling (seeing the numbers changing creates a sense of unease and restlessness) and an implicit call to action, rather than a logical appreciation of the figures and their scientific implications.

Cold weather freezes columnists’ brains

We’ve been having a colder winter this year in the UK than we’ve had for some years (about thirteen, or eighteen or twenty years, depending who you’re reading). Some people seem to think this is evidence that global warming has stopped, or even that the world is getting colder (see Melanie Phillips, Gerald Warner, Richard Littlejohn, Christopher Booker and a host of their blog hangers-on, ad nauseam).Surprisingly, that is, because these are the sort of people who like to claim they are talking ‘common sense’, yet they don’t even seem to be aware that when it’s winter here it’s summer in the southern hemisphere. So it’s not cold ‘all round the world’ when their own asses are freezing. As it happens, it has been reported that Australia (the southern part anyway) is currently having its worst heatwave on record.

Neither the UK’s winter nor the Australian summer are in themselves evidence for either heating or cooling. The key is in the two words ‘global’ and ‘average’, because the global average temperature is related to the balance of heat received from the sun and heat radiated back into space, which is what keeps much of our planet within a comfortable range of temperature for life. This is why careful measurements of temperatures around the world are much more significant than whether Gerald Warner’s feet are cold. Real Climate has discussion of the data up to the end of 2008.

None of this will stop any the above hacks from going on believing what they want to believe. But it’s not ‘common sense’ to claim at the same time that the climate is too complicated for computer models and also that 

because it’s icy outslde there is no global warming. [bpsdb]