On UN’s ‘Hottest Year on Record’ Claim, Context is Key

COMMENTARY Environment

On UN’s ‘Hottest Year on Record’ Claim, Context is Key

Feb 2nd, 2015 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Katie Tubb

Policy Analyst

Katie Tubb is a policy analyst for energy and environmental issues in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Today, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization repeated the results it previewed in December and declared 2014 the “hottest year on record.”

As with the December announcement, which came in advance of U.N. climate talks in Lima, today’s announcement precedes more talks starting next week in Geneva.

Climate alarmists will point to the report as evidence it’s time for drastic measures. But policy makers should remember that context is key—starting with the fact the Earth has been around much longer than the 150 years or so for which we have reliable temperature records.

Discussing the U.N.’s preview of 2014 temperatures back in December, Judith Curry, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology who has served in NASA, NOAA, the Department of Energy and other offices, brings up two good points to keep in mind:

  • It’s quickly forgotten in news cycles that as data is cleaned up after the splashy press releases, temperatures have been adjusted downward. As Curry explains: “We won’t really have a good assessment on the temperatures for 2014 until about March 2015, when all of the observations have been assembled and quality controlled…Even if one or several data sets do find 2014 to be the hottest year, given the uncertainties one can only conclude that this is one of the top five or so warmest years.”
  • The difference between climate models and data—observed reality—plainly is growing more disparate. That 2014 is apparently just as warm as 2010 and 2005, according to WMO’s count, again indicates the plateau in global surface temperatures since the 21st century has continued, even as greenhouse gas emissions have increased.

Speaking of the 2014 ranking, WMO Secretary-general Michel Jarraud said: “We expect global warming to continue, given that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future… In 2014, record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods in many countries and drought in some others – consistent with the expectation of a changing climate.”

The U.N.’s own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change doesn’t come to those conclusions. As Heritage analyst David Kreutzer summarizes, the IPCC found there was not enough evidence to say even with low confidence that there is a global trend in rainfall, floods or droughts.

In other words, the U.N.’s press release today is nothing to write home about, let alone wave as proof that America needs to move forward with proposed and misguided climate policies that stand to do incredible damage to America’s economy and freedoms without making a dent in global temperatures.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal