Right-wing media run with Mail article falsely suggesting climate expert predicts "mini ice age"
Research ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG & BROOKE OBIE
FoxNews.com, Fox Nation, and Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft have cited a Mail on Sunday article suggesting that climate scientist Mojib Latif predicted a "mini ice age" over the next 20 or 30 years, with Hoft asserting that global warming is "junk science." But Latif has since challenged the Mail article's use of his research, and at the U.N. climate conference the Mail article references, Latif stated that while temperatures could "cool" temporarily "relative to the present level" due to natural climate variability, there is a clear "long-term warming trend" that is "manmade."
Right-wing media run with falsehood that Latif predicts "mini ice age"
Mail falsehood: Latif's research "refutes" view that short-term cold weather is distinct from climate change. In a January 10 article headlined, "The mini ice age starts here," Mail on Sunday (U.K.) writer David Rose asserted that Latif's predictions "challenge some of the global warming orthodoxy's most deeply cherished beliefs" and "undermine the standard climate computer models, which assert that the warming of the Earth since 1900 has been driven solely by man-made greenhouse gas emissions and will continue as long as carbon dioxide levels rise." Rose further claimed that Latif's work "refutes" the view "that the big chill was merely short-term 'weather' that had nothing to do with 'climate', which was still warming."
Hoft: "climate scientists warned" of "mini ice age" after Obama pushed "global warming junk science." In a January 10 post to his Gateway Pundit blog, Jim Hoft cited the Mail article and added: "And just think... It was less than a month ago that Barack Obama was in Denmark pushing international legislation on global warming junk science. Thank goodness he failed."
Fox Nation: "Now Climate Scientists Predict Mini-Ice Age." One January 11, Fox Nation linked to the Gateway Pundit post with the following image:
FoxNews.com: Latif "says we're in" for "a mini ice age, he calls it." A January 11 FoxNews.com article, headlined, "30 Years of Global Cooling Are Coming, Leading Scientist Says," claimed that Latif says current cold weather "could mark the beginning of a mini ice age." The article further stated that Latif "says we're in for 30 years of cooler temperatures -- a mini ice age, he calls it, basing his theory on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the world's oceans." Although the Mail article did not quote Latif using the term "Ice age," FoxNews.com attributed the term to Latif.
Latif has since challenged Mail report and other media distortions of his research
Guardian: Latif "challenges Mail on Sunday's use of his research." The Guardian reported on January 11 that Latif "has hit out at misleading newspaper reports that linked his research to claims that the current cold weather undermines the scientific case for manmade global warming" and stated of Latif's research, "Despite clarifications from the scientists at the time, who stressed that the research did not challenge the predicted long-term warming trend, the study was widely misreported as signalling a switch from global warming to global cooling." The Guardian further reported:
Mojib Latif, a climate expert at the Leibniz Institute at Kiel University in Germany, said he "cannot understand" reports that used his research to question the scientific consensus on climate change.
He told the Guardian: "It comes as a surprise to me that people would try to use my statements to try to dispute the nature of global warming. I believe in manmade global warming. I have said that if my name was not Mojib Latif it would be global warming."
He added: "There is no doubt within the scientific community that we are affecting the climate, that the climate is changing and responding to our emissions of greenhouse gases."
The Mail on Sunday article said that Latif's research showed that the current cold weather heralds such "a global trend towards cooler weather".
It said: "The BBC assured viewers that the big chill was was merely short-term 'weather' that had nothing to do with 'climate', which was still warming. The work of Prof Latif and the other scientists refutes that view."
Not according to Latif. "They are not related at all," he said. "What we are experiencing now is a weather phenomenon, while we talked about the mean temperature over the next 10 years. You can't compare the two."
He said the ocean temperature effect was similar to other natural influences on global temperature, such as volcanos, which cool the planet temporarily as ash spewed into the atmosphere reflects sunlight.
"The natural variation occurs side by side with the manmade warming. Sometimes it has a cooling effect and can offset this warming and other times it can accelerate it." Other scientists have questioned the strength of the ocean effect on overall temperature and disagree that global warming will show the predicted pause.
Latif said his research suggested that up to half the warming seen over the 20th century was down to this natural ocean effect, but said that was consistent with the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "No climate specialist would ever say that 100% of the warming we have seen is down to greenhouse gas emissions."
Latif predicts "nothing that would constitute a little ice age or an ice age." Appearing on Russia Today on January 11, Latif stated, "I don't think" we will see decades of global cooling, noting, "There are of course natural climate fluctuations which could warm or cool the Earth. However, they ride on top of the long-term warming trend and at best they can offset the warming trend. And so the net result may be a kind of pause of halt of global warming, maybe a slight cooling, but nothing that would constitute a little ice age or an ice age."
Latif: "They just make these things up." Joe Romm of ClimateProgress.org wrote in a January 11 post that Latif stated of media reports on his research, "I don't know what to do. They just make these things up":
Call Dr. Latif up and ask him if accepts the IPCC's finding that, as he put it, most of the warming in the past century was very likely due to human causes. He had me reread the quotes attributed to him a number of times, asking twice, "those are direct quotes?" After I did, he said to me: "I don't know what to do. They just make these things up." I suggested asking reporters to read quotes back to him.
According to Latif, over a short time span, say, two decades, it's hard to determine exactly what fraction of the temperature change is due to what cause, but Latif does not believe nor ever said what the Daily Mail suggests, which is that you can add those periods together and somehow negate the IPCC's finding. His work simply "does not allow one to make any inferences about global warming."
Latif has NOT predicted a cooling trend -- or a "decades-long deep freeze" -- but rather a short-time span where human-caused warming might be partly offset by ocean cycles, staying at current record levels, but then followed by "accelerated" warming where you catch up to the long-term human-caused trend. He does NOT forecast 2 or 3 decades of cooling.
Latif: Clear "long-term warming trend" is "manmade"
U.N. Conference presentation addressed "decadal variability," noting "we all believe that this long-term warming trend ... is manmade." Latif opened his August 31, 2009, presentation at the U.N. World Climate Conference-3 by stating: "What you see here is just the globally averaged temperature during the 20th century. And you can clearly identify the long-term warming trend, and we all believe that this long-term warming trend is anthropogenic in nature, is manmade. However, you see also a lot of fluctuations superimposed on this trend, interannual, as Tim has pointed out, but also decadal scale variations." Latif went on to discuss the "mechanisms" of decadal variability and the potential for predicting climate at the decadal timescale. [U.N. World Climate Conference -- 3, 8/31/09]
Latif chart suggests temperatures are "cooling" in the short term, but that these temperatures are still indicative of a long-term warming trend. Latif's chart shows that "cooling" period follows the hottest decade on record last century.
From Latif's World Climate Conference PowerPoint presentation:
Latif: "It may well happen that you enter a decade, or maybe even two ... when the temperature cools ... relative to the present level." Latif stated that due to natural climate variability over the decade-long timescale, "it may well happen that you enter a decade, or maybe even two, you know, when the temperature cools, all right, relative to the present level." Latif added: "And then, you know, I know what's going to happen. You know, I will get, you know, millions of phone calls, you know -- 'What's going on?' 'So is global warming disappearing, you know?' 'Have you lied on us, you know?' So, and, therefore, this is the reason why we need to address this decadal prediction issue." [U.N. World Climate Conference -- 3, 8/31/09]
Latif: Media mistakenly think of global warming as "a monotonic process," in which "each year is warmer than the preceding year." During his presentation, Latif stated: "All right, so, first point: Why decadal prediction? Now, people who know me, at least my German colleagues, know that I do a lot of media work, OK. There is almost no day in the year when I'm not called by some media person, OK. And so, they basically think about global warming as a kind of slowly evolving process and a monotonic process, OK -- so each year is warmer than the preceding year." He added: "However, we all know there is variability." [U.N. World Climate Conference -- 3, 8/31/09]
Latif: "[I]f my name was not Mojib Latif, my name would be global warming." Latif stated, "Everybody who knows me is aware of the fact that I am definitely not one of the skeptics, OK. And if my name was not Mojib Latif, my name would be global warming, all right." Latif then stated of decadal variability within the long-term warming trend, "[W]e have to ask the nasty questions ourselves, all right, or some other people will do it." [UN World Climate Conference -- 3, 8/31/09]
Greater natural variability in shorter-term modeling of climate than in longer-term trend
Latif: "[I]nternal variability" is "dominating uncertainty" on "interannual and decadal timescales." During his presentation, Latif stated, "If we look at the next 100 years, there are different uncertainties, OK. So AR-4, the last IPCC report, basically was the boundary force problem, so, it -- the uncertainty arose mostly from the scenario uncertainty and from the model bias, OK." Latif continued: "However, if you look at short lead times, right, then you see that the internal variability is really the dominating uncertainty in the climate change forecasts or, slash, projections. And especially on interannual and decadal timescales, this is true." Internal variability is defined as "climate variability not forced by external agents."
IPCC Report: "[N]atural climate variability" is larger factor on time scales of less than 50 years. In its Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC concluded that "[m]ost of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." The report further noted that "[d]ifficulties remain in reliably simulating and attributing observed temperature changes at smaller scales. On these scales, natural climate variability is relatively larger making it harder to distinguish changes expected due to external forcings." [IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report]
From the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report:
UNDERSTANDING AND ATTRIBUTING CLIMATE CHANGE
Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations12. This is an advance since the TAR's [Third Assessment Report] conclusion that "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations". Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.
Difficulties remain in reliably simulating and attributing observed temperature changes at smaller scales. On these scales, natural climate variability is relatively larger making it harder to distinguish changes expected due to external forcings. Uncertainties in local forcings and feedbacks also make it difficult to estimate the contribution of greenhouse gas increases to observed small-scale temperature changes.
Vicky Pope, Met Office: "In many ways we know more about what will happen in the 2050s than next year." Vicky Pope, the head of Climate Change for Government at the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre, has reportedly said that when predicting climate conditions over the next few years, "natural variability was as important as the long term warming trend." She further stated, "In many ways we know more about what will happen in the 2050s than next year." [The UK Daily Mail, 9/10/09]
Met Office: Climate shows "continued variability, but an underlying trend of warming in the previously steady long-term averages." The Met Office states: "In 1998 the world experienced the warmest year since records began. In the decade since, however, this high point has not been surpassed. Some have seized on this as evidence that global warming has stopped, or even that we have entered a period of 'global cooling'. This is far from the truth and climate scientists have, in fact, recognised that a temporary slowdown in warming is possible even under increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions." [Met Office, accessed 9/22/09]
The Met Office further notes:
After three decades of warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, why would there suddenly be a period of relative temperature stability -- despite more greenhouse gases being emitted than ever before? This is because of what is known as internal climate variability. In the same way that our weather can be warm and sunny one day, cool and wet the next, so our climate naturally varies from year to year, and decade to decade.
Before the twentieth century, when man-made greenhouse gas emissions really took off, there was an underlying stability to global climate. The temperature varied from year to year, or decade to decade, but stayed within a certain range and averaged out to an approximately steady level.
In the twentieth century we have had continued variability, but an underlying trend of warming in the previously steady long-term averages. This is what we observed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Now we have seen a decade of little change in the average global temperature -- but that doesn't mean climate change has stopped, it's just another part of natural variability.