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Climate Tipping Points for COP26

Posted on: February 15, 2020







  1. CLAIM:  With every week that passes, we are confronted with mounting evidence of a warming climate. Just yesterday saw reports of Earth’s hottest January on record.
  2. RESPONSE:  This claim is derived from a NOAA press release saying that “January 2020 was the hottest in modern recorded history. There has never been a warmer January in 141 years of climate records”. The relevance of these data to AGW climate change has not been established either by NOAA or by Carbon Brief. AGW climate change is a theory about the impact of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric composition and the further impact of the resultant higher atmospheric CO2 concentration on the long term warming trend in accordance with climate sensitivity. Therefore the progress of climate change and the determination of tipping points can be made only in these terms and not in terms of temperature events without the relevant warming trends that are implied by the use of the high temperature to claim a tipping point in AGW climate change.
  3. CLAIM: temperatures in Antarctica surpassing 20C for the first time in recorded history. As the thermometer mercury creeps ever higher, the cumulative impact of these changes could also cause fundamental parts of the Earth system to change dramatically and irreversibly. These are known as “tipping points”, where a tiny change could see a system shift into a completely new state.
  4. RESPONSE: Esperanaza Base: As described in a related post [LINK] , there was a very high temperature recorded at the Esperanza Base near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This temperature was reported almost 65F (equivalent to 18.3C). It is also reported that on 9 February 2020, a temperature of 20.75 °C was recorded on nearby Seymour island which is the highest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica, higher than 19.8 °C on Signy Island, near Seymour Island, on January 1982. This is a single temperature measurement (not measurements) in an isolated island located in a geologically active location also known to experience sudden warming incidences by way of  foehn and chinook winds. The arguments against the similar interpretation of the Esperanza Base temperature of 18.3C [LINK] also apply to this isolated extreme temperature event in a geologically active location and therefore it cannot be generalized for Antarctica nor interpreted in terms of AGW climate change.
  5. CLAIM:  From Amazon rainforest “dieback” and permafrost thaw through to ice-sheet disintegration and shifting monsoons, these are “high impact, low probability” events. And there is no shortage of views about what tipping points exist and how close their thresholds lie.
  6. RESPONSE: No data are cited for “Amazon rainforest dieback” or “permafrost thaw” or “ice sheet disintegration”. The only possible interpretation of these claims is that they are hypothetical events – in which case they have no relevance to real events that can be established with data.
  7. CLAIM:  New research published this week warns that deadly “day-night hot extremes” are increasing across the northern hemisphere due to climate change.
    These “compound” heat extremes are particularly dangerous to human health because the round-the-clock hot conditions limit the chances for people to cool off.
    And the risks are set to increase, the study says. For example, if global temperatures reach 2C, the frequency of compound hot extremes could more than double across the northern hemisphere, when compared to 2012. One scientist not involved in the study told Carbon Brief’s Daisy Dunne that the findings present “clear evidence” that human-caused climate change is leaving its mark on extreme heat events.
  8. RESPONSE:  The source of the “day-night hot extreme” is a 2020 paper in Nature Communications [LINK] in which the authors report an increase in the frequency and intensity of summertime hot extremes in the Northern Hemisphere in the study period 1960-2012 and during that time they found that the intensity increased by 0.28C per decade and the frequency increased by 1.03 days per decade. They then concluded that if these trends continue to the year 2100, these summertime hot extremes will increase in intensity and frequency by 4 to 8 times. A strong warming rate is seen in the summer months (June July August) for land surfaces in the Northern Hemisphere in the CRUTEM temperature reconstructions 1960-2010 of 0.22C/decade but this rate is significantly less than the reported warming rate of 0.28C/decade. The corresponding satellite data, generally considered more reliable than reconstructions, show a summer (June July August) warming rate of 0.15C per decade in the period 1979-2019 as compared with 0.307C per decade in CRUTEM for the same period (1979-2019). These significant inconsistencies among the three data sources, the one used by the authors of the paper, CRUTEM, and UAH, need to be resolved before summer heat events are interpreted in terms of AGW climate change.
  9. CLAIM: The magnitude of these climate risks only emphasizes the importance of global action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And this year marks a key milestone for achieving just that. November will see tens of thousands of delegates descending on Glasgow (probably) for COP26, the UK-hosted climate talks where countries are supposed to “ratchet up” the emissions reductions pledges they made five years ago at the Paris talks. It will take no small amount of international diplomacy to lead the talks successfully. Hence, the government was rumoured to be looking for a “big hitter” to replace sacked COP26 president Claire O’Neill. David Cameron and William Hague turned it down. Michael Gove was seen as the frontrunner. Yet, in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle, prime minister Boris Johnson gave the job to new business secretary Alok Sharma.
  10. RESPONSE:  The last claim appears to imply that the the first five claims are intended to set an alarming case for costly climate action that requires the right kind of sales agent at COP26. By extension, the further implication is that the climate alarms are not science but climate action salesmanship. This view is supported by the steep rise and fall of such alarms on the approach to and departure from COP meetings. This, for example, is how COP15 at Copenhagen was sold “Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have caused the following alarming changes to our planet: (1) ice covering the Arctic Ocean shrank in 2007 to its smallest since satellite records began, (2) In Antarctica, a section of the Wilkins Ice Shelf has broken up in recent days, (3) glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are shrinking and threatening to disrupt water supplies to hundreds of millions of people, (4) melting permafrost in Siberia will release large quantities of methane into the atmosphere and hasten global warming, and (5) if all of the land based ice in Antarctica melted it would raise the sea level by 80 meters. 
  11. Details about the rise and fall of Climate alarm before and after COP15 at Copenhagen are described in a related post [LINK] . The graphic from that post is reproduced below. It shows the rise and fall of the number of alarming newspaper stories about the impact of climate change before and after COP15. 






  1. 2/19/2020: Corrected bad link to cited document.
  2. 2/19/2020: Added new temperature data from Seymour Island.
  3. Both updates above made with thanks to Philip Clarke.
















8 Responses to "Climate Tipping Points for COP26"

And your link to the article goes to a Google mail site.

Attention to detail, 3/10.

Thank you. Will fix it asap.

Thank you again Philip. I made some changes.

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  • chaamjamal: Thanks. A specific issue in climate science is correlation between time series data where spurious correlations are the creations of shared trends, s
  • Jack Broughton: I remember a paper published in the 1970s by Peter Rowe of UCL in which he showed how even random numbers can be processed to seem to correlate by usi
  • chaamjamal:
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