Updates October 27 below
Thanks Arnd for another provocative comment.
EXXON, as many others, deserve no regret when „charged with all kinds of misdoing with respect to climate science“. EXXON’s fault is not strongly opposing a meaningless language with regard what ‘climate’ is.Full Comment is here:
Dr. Bernaerts raises a number of issues and goes into some depth at his website, especially this page.
I am prompted by this to respond with three points.
1. Climate Alarmism Depends on Equivocation
There is something like a lawyer’s frustration in Dr. Bernaerts’ writing about climate. It is customary in a legal document for the first section to define all the terms, and then in later sections to respect those definitions in making arguments. He is right to criticize climate science for lacking such discipline.
Going further, it can be said that the anti-fossil fuel movement is built upon equivocation. That is a fallacy in which the meaning of a word changes in the course of a logical argument, so that a change of subject occurs in a hidden way. Alarmists frequently refer to CO2 as “carbon pollution” when the harmless trace gas is essential to life in the biosphere. A slight change of ocean pH toward 7.0 is called acidification. And so on with assertions that climate will cause all kinds of catastrophic weather: extra rain in wet places, drought in dry places, melting glaciers, sea level rises, destructive storms, etc. Much is made of the “greenhouse gas effect” to raise concerns about CO2, without acknowledging that H2O is by far the most important IR active gas in the atmosphere.
Without obfuscation, there would be no cause for alarm or for 40,000 people to gather at the Paris COP.
2. Climate Itself is a Human Construct.
Andrew John Herbertson, a British geographer and Professor at Oxford, wrote in a textbook from 1901:
By climate we mean the average weather as ascertained by many years’ observations. Climate also takes into account the extreme weather experienced during that period. Climate is what on an average we may expect, weather is what we actually get.
Mark Twain, who is often credited with that last sentence actually said:
Climate lasts all the time and weather only a few days.
The point is, weather consists of events occurring in real time, while climate is a statistical artifact. Weather is like a baseball player swinging in the batter’s box, climate is his batting average, RBIs, bases on balls, etc.
In a previous post, The Climates, They are A-changing, I wrote about seasonal climate change, which farmers in a place like Canada rely on to plan their planting and harvesting, knowing their actual activities may be earlier or later depending on this year’s weather. Meanwhile in equatorial zones, like the Caribbean or Tahiti, the seasons shift between wet and dry, rather than hot and cold. Of course, even the notion of years divided into named months is human imagination imposed over nature.
In other words weather is natural events while climate is a pattern imposed by humans upon the weather. And so, to speak of “climate change’ is engaging in a double abstraction: the derivative (change) in our expectations (patterns) of weather.
When the anti-fossil fuel movement began, it was at least honest in its claim of Global Warming. That assertion has some content to it: an expectation that future temperatures will be higher than the past. And climate models were built to project those rising temperatures as an effect from rising CO2. Once people noticed the exaggeration of those projections compared to observations, the issue was renamed “climate change”, with the advantage that any weather can then be cited as proof.
3. Weather is the Climate System at work.
Another distortion is the notion that weather is bad or good, depending on humans finding it favorable. In fact, all that we call weather are the ocean and atmosphere acting to resolve differences in temperatures, humidities and pressures. It is the natural result of a rotating, irregular planetary surface mostly covered with water and illuminated mostly at its equator.
When activists say that climate change causes more or worse storms, they are obfuscating. Climate is the result of weather, not the cause. What they really mean to say: “The climate system has changed because of our burning fossil fuels, and the weather will be worse for us.”
That statement is plainly ridiculous as Dr. Ball has illustrated:
In the comments below both ElCore and Frederick Colbourne helpfully emphasize an important aspect of this topic: namely that humans invented “climate” in order to describe local realities. Climate is not global, it is local and even micro in its uniqueness.
Some years ago Roger Pielke Sr. did excellent research on a set of weather stations in Colorado to investigate a strange phenomenon. The regional average from the 11 stations did not reflect any of the individual records that went into the calculation. The study linked below showed that numerous differences in the landscapes at each site meant that temperature and precipitation measurements differed significantly from one to the other, even when located a few kms apart. Not only absolute differences, such as altitude would create, but also the trends of changes differed due to terrain features. Thus the averages are not descriptive of any of the local realities. In my studies of temperature trends, I took Pielke findings to heart and focused on the pattern of change observed in each specific site.
The paper is available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/joc.706/abstract
Thanks to smamarver for reminding me of a pertinent quote from Dr. Bernearts
It seems Dr. Bernaerts struggles with this question since long, writing a letter to the Editor of NATURE 1992, “Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292; http://www.whatisclimate.com/1992-nature.html:
“SIR – The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the earlier struggle for a Convention on Climate Change may serve as a reminder that the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea has its tenth anniversary on 10 December. It is not only one of the most comprehensive and strongest international treaties ever negotiated but the best possible legal means to protect the global climate. But sadly, there has been little interest in using it for this purpose. For too long, climate has been defined as the average weather and Rio was not able to define it at all. Instead, the Climate Change Convention uses the term ‘climate system’, defining it as “the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions”. All that this boils down to is ‘the interactions of the natural system’. What is the point of a legal term if it explains nothing? For decades, the real question has been who is responsible for the climate. Climate should have been defined as ‘the continuation of the oceans by other means’. Thus, the 1982 Convention could long since have been used to protect the climate. After all, it is the most powerful tool with which to force politicians and the community of states into actions.”