Former CRU chief admits warming may not be unprecedented

posted at 10:54 am on February 14, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In a rather stunning series of admissions, the suspended chief of the East Anglia CRU now admits that the warming seen in the late 20th century may not be unprecedented after all, that the planet has stopped warming for the last 15 years despite the predictions of AGW advocates, and that his own record-keeping has been poor.  Phil Jones, who stepped down at least temporarily from his position at the CRU when its e-mails exposed a series of embarrassing attempts by climate scientists to undermine careers of skeptics and to hide contradictory data, now says that the entire basis of the “hockey stick” graph could have been invalid:

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.  … The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

But that’s just the start:

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming. …

And he said that the debate over whether the world could have been even warmer than now during the medieval period, when there is evidence of high temperatures in northern countries, was far from settled.

Sceptics believe there is strong evidence that the world was warmer between about 800 and 1300 AD than now because of evidence of high temperatures in northern countries.

But climate change advocates have dismissed this as false or only applying to the northern part of the world.

Professor Jones departed from this consensus when he said: ‘There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia.

‘For it to be global in extent, the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.

‘Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today, then obviously the late 20th Century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm than today, then the current warmth would be unprecedented.’

The “hockey stick” graph has already been shown to be mainly a creation of graph-scaling bias, but this gets to the heart of the entire argument.  During the MWP, farmers grew crops on Greenland for a couple of centuries.  Until now, AGW advocates insisted that the warming only took place in the northern hemisphere.  If that warming was indeed global, then it dwarfs anything seen in the 20th century, as these two charts from Climate Audit, via  Sonic Frog, demonstrate:

If the massive warming seen in Europe occurred around the world, then what we have seen in the 20th century would be almost certainly a moderate, natural, cyclical warming coming out of a cold trough.  It would also call into question what exactly a good temperature would be for the Earth.  After all, even if the second graph only applied to the northern hemisphere, the increased temperatures didn’t cause the end of life on the planet; indeed, food became more plentiful, and the melting of the polar-region ice didn’t create massive catastrophes.  Further underscoring this interpretation are the cooling cycles seen in the mid-century and last fifteen years or so, expecially since the 1940s saw a huge increase in carbon emissions due to wartime production.

Jones’ late admissions demonstrate that there is nothing “settled” about AGW, and that the process and the data are too murky for any declarations of certainty.

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