The Art of Lying by Omission
Back in the old days, when scientists had standards, they would never get excited over one hot year and certainly not over one meaningless hundredth of a degree.
The NOAA and NASA spinmeisters are parsing their press releases carefully, using vagueness to speak in half-truth-tongues. They utter no outright lie, yet misinform the crowd with lies by omission.
NOAA and NASA don’t say their models still don’t work, that the world was supposed to be a lot warmer and the “pause” continues. Nor do they admit that it has been warmer before many times in history. They don’t say the warming trend started long before we pumped out CO2. They don’t mention how tiny the “record” is, so tiny it could, and probably will, disappear with the next man-made adjustment. They don’t mention that the record depends entirely on which dataset you pick, and better instruments, satellites, show it wasn’t a record. NASA may launch satellites, but they prefer a thermometer in a carpark or beside a runway for measuring temperatures.
They don’t mention how much hotter it was than the last record. That’s because it looks very uncool — scientifically speaking — to get excited over two hundredths of a degree, when the error bars are 500% bigger. It’s called “noise”, in real scientific publications.
Get a grip on how much a few hundredths of a degree matters in this graph. “Get excited”.
If it was the hottest in 130 years, who cares? It was hotter 7,000 years ago, hotter 120,000 years ago, and hotter for most of the history of life on Earth. It doesn’t mean CO2 caused the last hot spell. It doesn’t mean warming is bad. It doesn’t mean it will continue to warm. And it doesn’t mean we understand what drives the climate.
But it does mean some people who want to seem-scientific want more of your money.
The Vaguest Scientists in the world
While NOAA and NASA declare that “… 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend…”
If they had wanted to they could have said the opposite and it would be true too. It’s a fact that we’ve been in a long term cooling trend since human civilization developed. In this case the not-to-long term trend they refer to is 135 years long, but it has been running for 300 years. They don’t mention that either. It is equally true to say “2014 temperatures continue a warming trend that started circa 1700″. There were no coal fired power stations until 1882. Coal power is so dangerous that it causes heating 200 years before it starts producing carbon (sic).
The El Nino Spin
NOAA and NASA are pointing out that ” 2014′s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year.” What they don’t say is that this is exactly what we would expect for an object that started off warm and continued to stay warm. The world has been in pretty much the same warm zone for 16 – 25 years (depending on how you measure it). In other words, El Nino-in, El-nino-out — we don’t need to add much more energy, in the big-scheme, to raise it by a hundredth of a degree.
But if I were a marketing and promotions agent, and not interested in science, I would make a big deal out of the non-el-nino which didn’t happen and doesn’t matter.
NASA wants your money
Here’s the line early in the press release which is the real point of the story: