[Marxism] Study Finds More of Earth Is Hotter and Says Global Warming Is at Work

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 7 09:06:17 MDT 2012

NY Times August 6, 2012
Study Finds More of Earth Is Hotter and Says Global Warming Is at Work

(Study is at 

The percentage of the earth’s land surface covered by extreme heat in 
the summer has soared in recent decades, from less than 1 percent in the 
years before 1980 to as much as 13 percent in recent years, according to 
a new scientific paper.

The change is so drastic, the paper says, that scientists can claim with 
near certainty that events like the Texas heat wave last year, the 
Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 would not 
have happened without the planetary warming caused by the human release 
of greenhouse gases.

Those claims, which go beyond the established scientific consensus about 
the role of climate change in causing weather extremes, were advanced by 
James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, and two co-authors 
in a scientific paper published online on Monday in the Proceedings of 
the National Academy of Sciences.

“The main thing is just to look at the statistics and see that the 
change is too large to be natural,” Dr. Hansen said in an interview. The 
findings provoked an immediate split among his scientific colleagues, 

Some experts said he had come up with a smart new way of understanding 
the magnitude of the heat extremes that people around the world are 
noticing. Others suggested that he had presented a weak statistical case 
for his boldest claims and that the rest of the paper contained little 
that had not been observed in the scientific literature for years.

The divide is characteristic of the strong reactions that Dr. Hansen has 
elicited playing dual roles in the debate over climate change and how to 
combat it. As the head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in 
Manhattan, he is one of NASA’s principal climate scientists and the 
primary custodian of its records of the earth’s temperature. Yet he has 
also become an activist who marches in protests to demand new government 
policies on energy and climate.

The latter role — he has been arrested four times at demonstrations, 
always while on leave from his government job — has made him a hero to 
the political left, and particularly to college students involved in 
climate activism. But it has discomfited some of his fellow researchers, 
who fear that his political activities may be sowing unnecessary doubts 
about his scientific findings and climate science in general.

Climate-change skeptics routinely accuse Dr. Hansen of manipulating the 
temperature record to make global warming seem more serious, although 
there is no proof that he has done so and the warming trend has 
repeatedly been confirmed by other researchers.

Scientists have long believed that the warming — roughly 2.5 degrees 
Fahrenheit over land in the past century, with most of that occurring 
since 1980 — was caused largely by the human release of greenhouse gases 
from burning fossil fuels. Such emissions have increased the likelihood 
of heat waves and some other types of weather extremes, like heavy rains 
and snowstorms, they say.

But researchers have struggled with the question of whether any 
particular heat wave or storm can be definitively linked to 
human-induced climate change.

In the new paper, titled “Perception of Climate Change,” Dr. Hansen and 
his co-authors compared the global climate of 1951 to 1980, before the 
bulk of global warming had occurred, with the climate of the years 1981 
to 2011.

They computed how much of the earth’s land surface in each period was 
subjected in June, July and August to heat that would have been 
considered particularly extreme in the period from 1951 to 1980. In that 
era, they found, only 0.2 percent of the land surface was subjected to 
extreme summer heat. But from 2006 to 2011, extreme heat covered from 4 
to 13 percent of the world, they found.

“It confirms people’s suspicions that things are happening” to the 
climate, Dr. Hansen said in the interview. “It’s just going to get worse.”

The findings led his team to assert that the big heat waves and droughts 
of recent years were a direct consequence of climate change. The authors 
did not offer formal proof of the sort favored by many climate 
scientists, instead presenting what amounted to a circumstantial case 
that the background warming was the only plausible cause of those 
individual heat extremes.

Dr. Hansen said the heat wave and drought afflicting the country this 
year were also a likely consequence of climate change.

Some experts said they found the arguments persuasive. Andrew J. Weaver, 
a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia 
who reviewed the paper before publication, compared the warming of 
recent years to a measles outbreak popping up in different places. As 
with a measles epidemic, he said, it makes sense to suspect a common cause.

“You can actually start to see these patterns emerging whereby in any 
given year more and more of the globe is covered by anomalously warm 
events,” Dr. Weaver said.

But some other scientists described the Hansen paper as a muddle. 
Claudia Tebaldi, a scientist with an organization called Climate Central 
that seeks to make climate research accessible to the public, said she 
felt that the paper was on solid ground in asserting a greater overall 
likelihood of heat waves as a consequence of global warming, but that 
the finding was not new. The paper’s attribution of specific heat waves 
to climate change was not backed by persuasive evidence, she said.

Martin P. Hoerling, a researcher with the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration who studies the causes of weather extremes, 
said he shared Dr. Hansen’s general concern about global warming. But he 
has in the past criticized Dr. Hansen for, in his view, exaggerating the 
connection between global warming and specific weather extremes. In an 
interview, he said he felt that Dr. Hansen had done so again.

Dr. Hoerling has published research suggesting that the 2010 Russian 
heat wave was largely a consequence of natural climate variability, and 
a forthcoming study he carried out on the Texas drought of 2011 also 
says natural factors were the main cause.

Dr. Hoerling contended that Dr. Hansen’s new paper confuses drought, 
caused primarily by a lack of rainfall, with heat waves.

“This isn’t a serious science paper,” Dr. Hoerling said. “It’s mainly 
about perception, as indicated by the paper’s title. Perception is not a 

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