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The Failed Predictions Of James Hansen

June 22, 2018

By Paul Homewood

 

30 years on, how do James Hansen’s predictions hold up?

 

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"Thirty years of data have been collected since Mr. Hansen outlined his scenarios—enough to determine which was closest to reality. And the winner is Scenario C. Global surface temperature has not increased significantly since 2000, discounting the larger-than-usual El Niño of 2015-16. Assessed by Mr. Hansen’s model, surface temperatures are behaving as if we had capped 18 years ago the carbon-dioxide emissions responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect. But we didn’t. And it isn’t just Mr. Hansen who got it wrong. Models devised by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have, on average, predicted about twice as much warming as has been observed since global satellite temperature monitoring began 40 years ago…"

"Several more of Mr. Hansen’s predictions can now be judged by history. Have hurricanes gotten stronger, as Mr. Hansen predicted in a 2016 study? No. Satellite data from 1970 onward shows no evidence of this in relation to global surface temperature. Have storms caused increasing amounts of damage in the U.S.? Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show no such increase in damage, measured as a percentage of gross domestic product. How about stronger tornadoes? The opposite may be true, as NOAA data offers some evidence of a decline. The list of what didn’t happen is long and tedious."

 

By Climatologist Dr. Pat Michaels and Meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue

June 21, 2018

James E. Hansen wiped sweat from his brow. Outside it was a record-high 98 degrees on June 23, 1988, as the NASA scientist testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during a prolonged heat wave, which he decided to cast as a climate event of cosmic significance. He expressed to the senators his “high degree of confidence” in “a cause-and-effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming.”

With that testimony and an accompanying paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Mr. Hansen lit the bonfire of the greenhouse vanities, igniting a world-wide debate that continues today about the energy structure of the entire planet. President Obama’s environmental policies were predicated on similar models of rapid, high-cost warming. But the 30th anniversary of Mr. Hansen’s predictions affords an opportunity to see how well his forecasts have done—and to reconsider environmental policy accordingly.

Mr. Hansen’s testimony described three possible scenarios for the future of carbon dioxide emissions. He called Scenario A “business as usual,” as it maintained the accelerating emissions growth typical of the 1970s and ’80s. This scenario predicted the earth would warm 1 degree Celsius by 2018. Scenario B set emissions lower, rising at the same rate today as in 1988. Mr. Hansen called this outcome the “most plausible,” and predicted it would lead to about 0.7 degree of warming by this year. He added a final projection, Scenario C, which he deemed highly unlikely: constant emissions beginning in 2000. In that forecast, temperatures would rise a few tenths of a degree before flatlining after 2000.

Thirty years of data have been collected since Mr. Hansen outlined his scenarios—enough to determine which was closest to reality. And the winner is Scenario C. Global surface temperature has not increased significantly since 2000, discounting the larger-than-usual El Niño of 2015-16. Assessed by Mr. Hansen’s model, surface temperatures are behaving as if we had capped 18 years ago the carbon-dioxide emissions responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect. But we didn’t. And it isn’t just Mr. Hansen who got it wrong. Models devised by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have, on average, predicted about twice as much warming as has been observed since global satellite temperature monitoring began 40 years ago.

 

James Hansen testifies before a Senate Transportation subcommittee in Washington, D.C., May 8, 1989.

James Hansen testifies before a Senate Transportation subcommittee in Washington, D.C., May 8, 1989. PHOTO: DENNIS COOK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

What about Mr. Hansen’s other claims? Outside the warming models, his only explicit claim in the testimony was that the late ’80s and ’90s would see “greater than average warming in the southeast U.S. and the Midwest.” No such spike has been measured in these regions.

As observed temperatures diverged over the years from his predictions, Mr. Hansen doubled down. In a 2007 case on auto emissions, he stated in his deposition that most of Greenland’s ice would soon melt, raising sea levels 23 feet over the course of 100 years. Subsequent research published in Nature magazine on the history of Greenland’s ice cap demonstrated this to be impossible. Much of Greenland’s surface melts every summer, meaning rapid melting might reasonably be expected to occur in a dramatically warming world. But not in the one we live in. The Nature study found only modest ice loss after 6,000 years of much warmer temperatures than human activity could ever sustain.

Several more of Mr. Hansen’s predictions can now be judged by history. Have hurricanes gotten stronger, as Mr. Hansen predicted in a 2016 study? No. Satellite data from 1970 onward shows no evidence of this in relation to global surface temperature. Have storms caused increasing amounts of damage in the U.S.? Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show no such increase in damage, measured as a percentage of gross domestic product. How about stronger tornadoes? The opposite may be true, as NOAA data offers some evidence of a decline. The list of what didn’t happen is long and tedious.

The problem with Mr. Hansen’s models—and the U.N.’s—is that they don’t consider more-precise measures of how aerosol emissions counter warming caused by greenhouse gases. Several newer climate models account for this trend and routinely project about half the warming predicted by U.N. models, placing their numbers much closer to observed temperatures. The most recent of these was published in April by Nic Lewis and Judith Curry in the Journal of Climate, a reliably mainstream journal.

These corrected climate predictions raise a crucial question: Why should people world-wide pay drastic costs to cut emissions when the global temperature is acting as if those cuts have already been made?

On the 30th anniversary of Mr. Hansen’s galvanizing testimony, it’s time to acknowledge that the rapid warming he predicted isn’t happening. Climate researchers and policy makers should adopt the more modest forecasts that are consistent with observed temperatures.

That would be a lukewarm policy, consistent with a lukewarming planet.

 

Mr. Michaels is director and Mr. Maue an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science.

http://www.climatedepot.com/2018/06/22/scientists-30-years-on-how-well-do-global-warming-predictions-stand-up/

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20 Comments
  1. June 22, 2018 9:15 pm

    Hansen’s 1988 global warming warning was false alarm. Even though CO2 emissions went up faster than his fastest “scenario,” temperatures rose only ≈1/4 as much (at most 1/3, depending on your choice of data), and sea-level rise didn’t accelerate at all.
    https://tinyurl.com/hansen88
    http://sealevel.info/MSL_global_thumbnails5.html

  2. June 22, 2018 9:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  3. Broadlands permalink
    June 22, 2018 9:30 pm

    “These corrected climate predictions raise a crucial question: Why should people world-wide pay drastic costs to cut emissions when the global temperature is acting as if those cuts have already been made?”

    Even worse, why should people pay even more for untested at scale capture-and-store negative emission technologies to lower CO2 by billions of tons to go back to Hansen’s 1987 value of 350 ppm? Fifty ppm CO2 is a massive 100 gigatons to geologically bury….somewhere safely?

  4. GEORGE LET permalink
    June 22, 2018 9:32 pm

    It’s just as likely that the extra CO2 has had no effect except making the earth greener and those who predict colder climate coming will be correct.

    • Colin Brooks permalink
      June 23, 2018 10:52 am

      oldbrew

      Your comment is the equivalent elephant in the room answer (like 42) to all the climate questions; WE SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT HOW CLIMATE WORKS. There is so much that we have no clue about that it seems likely to be many, many years before we can start to genuinely predict anything about it. As with defence the best thing to do is prepare for all eventualities and not gamble on just one course of action.

      • GEORGE LET permalink
        June 23, 2018 2:29 pm

        Spending some money on research into alternative fuels including safe disposal of nuclear waste is fine. But letting politicians pour billions in because of the scare based on junk and fraudulent science – no way.

        Solar and wind create huge amounts of hazardous environmental junk and don’t even produce power worth the cost that goes into them – must rely on major government subsidy.

  5. June 22, 2018 9:35 pm

    Most climate predictions will fail, some more miserably than others. Thinking otherwise is futile when we have such limited understanding of how it all works.

    • dave permalink
      June 23, 2018 7:23 am

      However, nothing – literally nothing – will shake the convictions of the ruling academic and political circles in “The West.” It is very like the automatic eugenics assumptions of the late nineteenth century. Academics used to apologize for introducing factors other than race degeneration in discussing “what must be done.”

      Whether the mildly populist Trump will be anything more than a foot-note in history – like the last Pagan Emperors of Rome – remains to be seen.

      In the UK, every day, ordinary people are forced to conspire in a sick process, akin to a neurotic girl cutting herself. Meanwhile, the rest of the World merrily continues to develop, with its ever-accelerating, fossil-fuel-burning, policy.

  6. June 23, 2018 7:48 am

    We know, and Hansen must have known, that it is impossible to calculate (and thus predict) the future climate. The IPCC also says so. It is because the climate system is a chaotic, non-linear, multi-variate, open system.

    Hansen lied and the scam he perpetrated has cost $trillions and has led to millions of unnecessary deaths and mass poverty.

    It is impossible to get this message through to TPTB, because they are protected by many layers of people in on the scam (the media (BBC, Channel 4, the Grauniad etc), the civil service, the Met Office, universities, to name just a few).

  7. Bob M permalink
    June 23, 2018 10:03 am

    Off topic, but…
    I had always assumed that the gas used in food packaging was nitrogen or some other inert gas. However it seems it is CO2 and there is currently panic over a shortage of the gas, a by-product of ammonia production, principally for fertiliser.

    Question:
    What volume of CO2 is used by the food industry for packaging and fizzy drinks compared to that produced by transport and power generation. (CO2 used by the brewing industry is, of course, essential and honourable!)

  8. June 23, 2018 11:06 am

    Tip : The thing about the plastic scare, the “show me the bodies rule” applies.
    You’d expect there to be be billions of animal bodies.

    Oh hang on a BBC crew filming in a remote island has suddenly found a load
    \\ Seabirds are starving to death on the remote Lord Howe Island, a crew filming for the BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic has revealed.
    Their stomachs were so full of plastic there was no room for food
    .//
    Does the exception make the rule in this case ?

    Amazing coincidence that the news comes out just as BBC PR issue a Press release : announcing
    \\major initiative ‘Plastics Watch’ following the global impact of Blue Planet II //

    Liz Bonin’s 90 min special for BBC1 is part of a series
    another prog : Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will present War On Plastics, continuing the work he started in Hugh’s War On Waste.

  9. June 23, 2018 4:28 pm

    Reason cannot defeat emotion. Skeptics speak to facts; alarmists, to fears and positive self-worth.

    If we were to contrast rich wind park owners with crying, poor children and link the $$ the ecogreen get to the $$ the children didn’t get, we would be playing on the same field, let alone a level one.

    But it ain’t the rationalist’s game.

  10. Tom Dowter permalink
    June 23, 2018 11:13 pm

    There is a very wide range of temperature sensitivities to CO2 to be found in the peer reviewed literature. These range from a low of 0.1°C to a high of 9.6°C for a doubling of CO2.

    Given this, just about anything could be forecast insofar as future temperatures are concerned. Hansen merely used his preferred value(s) in the forecasts that he made.

    • nigel permalink
      June 24, 2018 8:15 am

      “…[dynamic] sensitivities…”

      We are in the realm of “cybernetics” here. Since “the peer reviewed literature” is not produced or reviewed by anyone who knows any cybernetics, it is largely a waste of paper.

  11. Marshall Rosenthal permalink
    June 28, 2018 4:00 pm

    whoops!

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