Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hot year hype

Some more drivel in the Indescribablyoverhyped, which starts off with
"A combination of global warming and the El Niño weather system is set to make 2007 the warmest year on record with far-reaching consequences for the planet, one of Britain's leading climate experts has warned."
I call bullshit on sentence 1. To clarify, I don't challenge the very reasonable prediction that 2007 could be the hottest year yet (with probability 60%, according to the Hadley Centre via the BBC, which doesn't quite reach the standard "likely" threshold but perhaps is close enough to not be worth quibbling over) but I do challenge anyone to describe the "far-reaching consequences" which will arise if and only if 2007 is indeed hotter than 1998.

In other words, I'm looking for a statement of "far-reaching consequences" X such that the proponent will be prepared to bet on X occurring if and only if 2007 becomes the warmest year on record. That is, if exactly one of "X is true" and "T(2007)>T(1998)" occurs, then you lose, since either set of outcomes is inconsistent with the proposition that a new high temperature will have those far-reaching consequences. If neither or both happens, you win, since both outcomes are consistent with the proposition. Any offers?


Belette said...

Hey, I know I ripped of one of your posts but still... I've done this already: The main thing wrong with this stupid article is that they've shoved words into peoples mouths. PJ didn't say that at all.

James Annan said...

Wups. And I actually got it from your blog too, cos I don't read the Indescribablyoverhyped much these days. Readers, please follow the link to see William's wise words :-)

PJ didn't say that at all.

So I presumed, which is why I was restrained enough to not rage at him :-) It's usually the way when a supposedly attributed comment is not actually enclosed in quotation marks.

Will he complain to the Indy that he was misrepresented, I wonder? Or is it a case of all publicity being good publicity, and anyway it's only a minor exaggeration and the end justifies the means?

Belette said...

I think you're being unfair to PJ. From an incidental email I've seen, this wasn't any attempt to get publicity, merely giving a bog-standard answer to a journalist (probable El Nino equals probable warmth) and being bog-standard misrepresented.

Magnus said...

Well, one far reaching consequence could be my first green (not white) Christmas (Living in Luleå Sweden)... and the better would then be Santa, so I will get back to you as soon as I get in contact with him! ;)

James Annan said...

Oh, I certainly don't mean to criticise him at all for what was written. I guess it's a matter of judgement whether it is worth chasing up every bit of exaggeration.

Talking of which, I have a comment awaiting moderation at RC :-)

James Annan said...


I'm hoping that someone can come up with something more far-reaching and consequential than merely a repackaged version of "it's the warmest year". Ie, actual consequences for us or the ecosystem - like Santa not being able to deliver his presents because there is no snow for his sleigh to run on:-)

EliRabett said...

Santa surely had trouble this year, as you can see. AND Eli has the video.

OTOH, are you telling me that when the mangled British newspaper that shall remain namless, if not incapable of being pronounced directly quoted Jones as saying

"El Niño makes the world warmer and we already have a warming trend that is increasing global temperatures by one to two tenths of a degrees celsius per decade. Together, they should make 2007 warmer than last year and it may even make the next 12 months the warmest year on record."

They were NOT directly quoting him. Even the checkout line papers are a bit more careful when they put stuff in direct quotes.

BTW beat you both to it.

James Annan said...


It's not the forecast of warmth per se (which as I said, I find entirely plausible) but the "with far-reaching consequences for the planet" that I object to, and that I guess PJ did not say.

Alastair said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alastair said...

If you read the Press release from the UEA at
it ends by saying "In September, the extent of arctic sea ice was again below average, although it has recovered slightly from 2005's all-time minimum. In the southern hemisphere, sea-ice coverage remains close to average."

These links from GlobalChange suggest that the Artic sea ice is now much thinner, and that one summer, as a result of natural variability such as an El Nino, it may disappear completely.
The full paper is available here:
A short video is available here:
A BBC News Article is available here:

The obvious conclusion is that Phil Jones was thinking of the possibilty that Santa Clause would not be able to leave the North Pole next Xmas, because although his reindeer can swim, his sledge would sink under the weight of all those toys!

The lack of Arctic sea ice has already led to a warm winter this year. With no sea ice next year, then the widespread lack of frost will cause severe disruption to the ecosystem.

Anonymous said...

>I do challenge anyone to describe the "far-reaching consequences" which will arise if and only if 2007 is indeed hotter than 1998.

Huh??? Do you really think people are going to interpret that quote in that way rather than reading it as:

"A combination of global warming and the El Niño weather system is set to make 2007 the warmest year on record with *Global warming having* far-reaching consequences for the planet, one of Britain's leading climate experts has warned."

I am with William on this:
"The main thing wrong with this stupid article is that they've shoved words into peoples mouths. PJ didn't say that at all."

Next is 'is set to make' a reasonable set of words for a 60% probability?

Your strict interpretation of the words would come a very poor third and, if anything, tends to show you are on a mission to find overhype. If you are going out to look for overhype and find it, that could be very poor evidence that overhype is a problem.


James Annan said...


Why do you think it is reasonable to insert those words in the sentence? It is hardly ambiguous as it stands, you've simply tried to change the meaning to make it defensible.

I agree it is not an extreme example of over-hyping, especially in the context of what the Indy has published previously. Nevertheless it still clearly misleads and exaggerates in its linkage of the predicted warmest-ever year to "far reaching consequences". In fact I would guess that any significant effects, if they occur, would be much more reasonably attributed to the El Nino component rather than the AGW part.

Anonymous said...

Global warming is the first thing mentioned and is likely to be seen as the subject of the sentence. We clearly have different views.


EliRabett said...

Let me take another shot at this perhaps paying more attention. The proposition on the floor as I now understand it, is that if and only if 2007 is really really hot, and 2008, 2009, 2010, etc are nice and kinda standard, then the Independent's formulation is bull. Wanna bet on that happening:)

The consequences come because 2007 is shaping up to be a very hot year in a long and continuing run of hot years, and that our best knowledge says things are getting hotter and going to get hotter. In that contect the sentence is not so bull.

If the Independent had said that as global temperatures continue to rise, as we know they are, there will be serious consequences, I presume you would be satisfied. Essentially you are concerned that the time in which things will get cold is longer than a year. If you continue to search for precision in newspapers, I assure you you will continue to search without ever being satisfied.

Lumo said...

Neither of you, William and James, have disappointed me. I strongly believed that you would figure out that 2007 > 1998 doesn't mean an apocalypse. ;-)

Incidentally, does Jules exist or do you have the name in the blog name as a decoration only?

James Annan said...


The point is really that the impacts of AGW are basically unrelated to whether 2007 is the hottest year or not. In fact it seems likely that climate impacts next year will be much more closely related to whether there is a large El Nino or not, and as such be largely uncorrelated with the (fixed) AGW trend. By linking (in advance) a particular hot year to AGW catastrophe they set themselves up for a fall if/when it doesn't turn out that way - like this year with hurricanes in the USA.


Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether you really exist :-)

Lab Lemming said...

James, are you asking for a specific, local effect that can be predicted from a change in the global mean? Is that a trick question?

BTW, since when did an SOI of -2 qualift as a strong el Nino? NW Australia is getting drenched this summer, so unsurprisingly, the pressure in Darwin is pretty low.

James Annan said...


I don't want a small local effect but rather "far-reaching consequences for the planet". Maybe a new Al Gore documentary would qualify :-)

AIUI we aren't in a big El Nino at the moment but it is forecast to grow.

John Quiggin said...

Quite a few others have already said this, but it's obvious that the cause of far-reaching consequences is meant to be global warming in general not the specific outcome for 2007. The very use of the term "far-reaching" implies a long-term rather than a short-term interpretation.

Honestly, while there's plenty of hype out there, I think you're starting to find it where it doesn't exist.

Finally, if you're going to complain about the ethics of quotation, you should be a bit more careful yourself - as I noted, your edited quote from me was tendentious, to put it mildly, and the fact that you gave a link doesn't change this.

James Annan said...


I'm sorry if you didn't like the way I quoted you, but do you seriously disagree with my assessment that "even John Quiggin struggles to defend it" (Stern's 1% cost of stabilisation)? I honestly thought (and still think) that it is a fair summary of what you wrote. You explicitly disagreed with his central estimate of 1% and can only get close by changing your own figures to match his, even then only just about getting there.

If you want to say something more explicitly supportive of Stern, I'm all ears.

In any case, the point I was really trying to make about certainty ("this would cost 1%") versus risk ("up to X% would be lost") is, I think, undeniable.