- - Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A climate scientist, comfortable in his government digs, nevertheless has a lot in common with the palm reader at the mall, hunched over her crystal ball between Nell’s Nails and Wanda’s Wigs. Both make their money from predictions, and as any high-end soothsayer could tell you, the more outlandish the prognostication, the more readily the client can be parted from his cash. Speed is essential, because the game ends when the mark realizes he has been played the fool. That’s why the weather clairvoyants who have been predicting global warming doom — “climate change” is the current name for it — are starting to sweat.

Bureaucrats being who they are, the government handouts will continue long after everyone is onto the game. But a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that of 117 computer models used to make climate predictions over the past 20 years, 114 overestimated global warming. The models predicted an average rise in the earth’s surface temperature of 0.30 degrees Celsius per decade; the actual temperature increase was less than half that. The study noted that the “predictive inconsistency” over the past 15 years “is even more striking.” The simulations predicted four times more warming than actual readings showed.

In 2007, climatologists predicted that rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic would leave the top of the world ice-free by 2013, prompting hysterical prophecies of melted ice that would raise the worldwide sea level, inundating coastal cities and drowning cuddly polar bears. NASA satellite photos of the Arctic Ocean during the summer of 2012 showed the ice was indeed disappearing. Snapshots of the region last month revealed that a chilly summer has expanded the ice sheet by nearly a million square miles. The polar bears, never actually cuddly, are nevertheless in the pink. The scientists are red in the face, or should be.

Similarly, sea ice in Antarctica set a record in August, covering more than 11.5 million square miles. The two polar regions gained record sea ice this year. Putting it mildly, the Nature Climate Change report said the failure of temperatures to keep up with the simulations “suggests a temporary hiatus in global warming.”

Making public policy on the basis of what science “suggests” is not much wiser than summoning a fortune teller. This is a problem for the governing class, which has accepted as fact since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol the premise of a direct correlation between human-caused carbon dioxide and an overheated planet. The engine for global warming advocacy, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, now must explain that global warming’s hiatus. A portion of the U.N.’s fifth assessment draft report, due for release Sept. 27, is expected to pull back warnings to more closely reflect actual temperatures. Their credibility is at stake.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a throwback to an earlier age, when a pastoral nation relied on its remedies for a sore throat and directions for worming pigs and canning pickles, but the Almanac is best known for its long-range weather forecasts. The 2014 edition just out predicts the coming winter will be a cold and snowy one. The almanac is not always accurate, but it has been around for 222 years, which is not likely to be said of climate scientists and their computer models two centuries hence.

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