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Our planet is getting hotter, faster and faster.  That is a fact, unexpectedly confirmed by a research institute created in 2010 to address the “concerns of climate change skeptics regarding global warming.” That is quoted from Berkeley Earth’s online pamphlet, Know the Facts: A Skeptic’s Guide to Climate Change.

Berkeley Earth is an autonomous NGO research institute largely funded by grants from foundations.  For example, they report that their initial 2010 funding came from the US Dept. Of Energy ($188,587), The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund ($10,000), William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation ($100,000), Bill  Gate’s Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research ($100,000), Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000), and The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000).  These last two have links to the petroleum industry.

One of the founding principles of Berkeley Earth is transparency in climate science.  They therefore make their data publicly available, and they grant permission (free of charge) for others to use their data and to reproduce their materials with acknowledgment of Berkeley Earth and with links to their website ( http://www.berkeleyearth.org ).

This graph is reproduced from Berkeley Earth’s online “Global Temperature Report for 2018“. As can be seen, annual average temperatures (blue dots) fluctuate year to year. The bar above and below each dot shows the confidence interval, or error range, based on how many places on the planet had temperature reports that year. In the 1800s, there were fewer sites recording temperatures; hence, the error ranges are larger.  Since 1980, there have been many thousands of sites recording temperatures, and the error ranges are smaller. Each small segment of the red line shows the average temperature for the preceding 10 years.This ten-year moving

average smooths out the year-to-year fluctuations so that the trend is easier to see. Since 1910, the trend is upwards.

The vertical axis on the right shows how much our atmosphere has heated relative to the temperatures of the pre-industrial baseline (1850 to 1900). Since 2014, global average temperatures are more than 1̊C (1.8̊F) above that baseline.

A dotted linear trend line is projected to 2060.  “Since 1980, the overall trend is +0.19°C /decade (+0.34 °F/decade) and has changed little during this period,” says Berkeley Earth’s “Global Temperature Report for 2018″. Thus, Berkeley Earth’s data and trend line predict that by 2035 our planet will be 1.5̊C (2.7̊F) hotter than it was in the 1800s, and by 2060 we will live in a world 2̊C (3.6̊F) hotter than our ancestors ever knew.

These predictions, by a center serving climate science skeptics, is alarming.  Most climate scientists, and many national and international panels, consider a 1.5̊C (2.7̊F) increase above pre-industrial temperatures to be an upper limit for stable, livable climates.  Heating our Earth to 2̊C (3.6̊F) will trigger runaway climate heating, for example, by forest fires, by loss of solar reflection at the polar ice caps, by releases of methane from Arctic permafrost and seabeds, by more moisture in the atmosphere, by loss of high altitude cloud cover, etc.

But, actually, Berkeley Earth’s analyses show that our situation is worse than their trend line predicts. If you look at the graph, you will see that three of the last four years (2015, 2016, 2017) are above the linear trend line, and Berkeley Earth predicts that 2019 will also be above the trend line.  If the atmosphere were heating at a linear trend, then there would be as many data points above the trend line as below, like the balance of blue data points above and below the red moving average.

Thus, the trend in climate heating is not linear, but is accelerating.  That is, there are not constant increases in Earth’s temperature every year and every decade, but greater and greater increases in temperature.

It is not easy to understand linear trends vs. accelerating trends.  Consider the analogy of driving a car down a road and passing a sign that says, “Danger! Dead-end ahead!” If cruise control is on, then the speed of the car stays constant, say, a constant 60 miles per hour.  That is like the constant 0.34̊F per decade for the linear trend that Berkeley Earth reported.  If the dead-end is 60 miles ahead, then our car, set on 60 mph cruise control, will hit the dead-end in one hour.

A sensible driver would stop the cruise control and start to slow down.  That is what governments said we would do in 1992 in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and again in 1997 in the Kyoto Protocol. We would stop business-as-usual and start to slow down our carbon emissions in order to slow down global warming.  But we didn’t.  We increased carbon emissions.  In 2016, in the Paris Agreement, our governments again said we will slow down.  But they have been pushing on the gas pedal not on the brake pedal. This is like increasing our car speed to 61 mph, 63 mph, 67 mph, etc., going faster and ever faster. Obviously, by accelerating, we will hit the dead-end before one hour.  And we will hit 1.5̊C (2.7̊F) before 2035, and 2̊C (3.6̊F) before 2060.

The following graph from Berkeley Earth’s online “Global Temperature Report for 2018″ shows increases in atmospheric temperatures above land (in red) and separately above sea (in blue).  The upward bending curve of an accelerating trend is easy to see in the land temperatures.  Increases in land temperature are not straight-line linear. They are increasing faster and faster, and have been doing so for 100 years or more.

The highest data point in the upper right is the average land temperature for 2016. It shows that we have already increased global land temperature 2̊C (3.6̊F) above the pre-industrial baseline.

And remember, this all comes from data prepared and analyzed by a research institute with the goal to be skeptical of climate science reports issued by academics, by government agencies, and by media.  Even skeptical climate science shows we are in a dire crisis.

Our governments are in the driver’s seat of our planetary vehicle, and they are not slowing down our greenhouse gas emissions.  We are accelerating towards a dead-end. We need new drivers who will take their foot off the gas pedal, cut the cruise control, and hit the brakes.  Now.

Floyd Rudmin, Professor Emeritus, Social & Community Psychology University of Tromsø, Norway


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7 Comments

  1. This is the basic problem of modern civilization: To cling to one(ghgs as the cause) as if it were all, heedless of the consequences, heedless of the harm, narrow, dull and dark. How about dams as the dominant cause? If you stop producing needless ghgs, but allow dams to flourish, will climate change vanish? No never. Forests must be preserved, protected and at enormous cooperative effort of all, regrown, over the next millennia. Forests prevent earthquakes. Dams cause earthquakes. Forests, by their osmosis and transpiration driven by the sun, distribute the rainwaters all over the globe, in proportion to their density of dry biomass. The forests transpire their own weight of water in a day, defying gravity. But dams are slaves of gravity. Fundamental physiological principles of plants are lost in the greed to profit by self destructive contraptions of modern civilization like dams and nuclear devices. Dams concentrate the might of waters behind them at the centre of gravity and cause calamity to unfold on the earth. There is perfect knowledge, learn thou it is this: To see one changeless life in all the lives,in the separate the one inseparable. See my complete profile and unlearn your specialist approach and get into a normal mode of life: Imperishable is the supreme. Its location in each individual being is called Adhyatma. Respect it and let nature be the bottomline of life in this world. The offering in return, which causes the GENESIS and SUPPORT of LIFE is called KARMA. Not conquering nature by a parallel economy of mining at infinite cost. See https://livingnormally.blogspot.com/2019/09/dams-climate-change-amazon-and-borneo.html

  2. Three consecutive (or even four) points above the trend line are statistically meaningless. Using that as a central argument is counterproductive and falsely alarmist. The graph shows many clusters above or below the trend line which appears to be linear for now.

    I agree with the science but I believe that using spurious arguments only damage our position and credibility. There is enough good, true science to show that climate change is real that giving the nay-sayers and ignoramuses fuel is stupid and dangerous.

  3. Thank you for the comment. The trend line is NOT the 10-year-moving-average. The trend line is the dotted line and there are no points below the trend line (2018 was on the trend line). The binomial probability of 4 out 5 recent years above the trend line is .03, which is statistically significant, ie, unlikely by chance.

    • Oops. The binomial probability of none of the 5 recent years below the trend line is .03. A trend line is a regression line, and the sum of the squared deviations above the trend line should equal the sum of squared deviations below the trend line. That is dramatically not the case for the 5 recent years.

  4. Also, in the land data, you can see the accelerating trend with your eye. That is NOT a straight line from 1860 to 2018.

  5. This was cut from an earlier draft: Accelerating increases in global temperatures are also evident in Berkeley Earth’s historic land temperature data. Using land temperatures going back to 1750 (http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/global-land ), they tabulate the “Mean Rate of Change” in degrees per century:

    Since 1760, +0.43̊C/ century.

    Since 1810, +0.79̊C/ century.

    Since 1860,+0.91̊C/ century.

    Since 1910, +1.11̊C/century.

    Since 1960, +2.16̊C/entury.

    Since 1990, +2.78̊C/century.

    If climate were heating in at a linear trend, those increases would be the same, not great and greater heating the closer we come to the present.

  6. According to NOAA, CO2 increases in the atmosphere are accelerating.

    https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/gr.html

    In June 2018, NOAA reported: “This is the sixth consecutive year of steep global increases in concentrations of the greenhouse gas…”

    https://www.noaa.gov/news/carbon-dioxide-levels-breach-another-threshold-at-mauna-loa

    Berkeley Earth computed their linear trend based on 1980-2014 temperatures. Recent temperature increases, consistent with recent CO2 increases, are greater than their predictive trend.