There is no doubt that climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed and addressed. But alarmist headlines and personal agendas only give climate change deniers more ammunition in the fight against real science that tells us we need to pay attention to climate change.
In response to a report from a European Satellite Agency, everyone from CNN to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is howling from the rooftops about June being "the hottest month ever recorded on Earth."
The report has been interpreted to show that the global average temperature this June was about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the previous record set in June 2016.
According to the same headlines and tweets, experts say that climate change is to blame.
Let’s take a look.
First, many have mistakenly called it the hottest month ever recorded. What the report actually said is that it was the hottest June ever recorded, not the hottest month.
Second, technically speaking, yes, it is the hottest June "ever recorded." But recordings are only officially recognized back to the 1880s.
During the Hadean period billions of years ago, Earth had a surface temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. We do not have enough reliable data from historical times, and we simply don’t know what the temperatures were to the level of precision we have today.
That still leaves us with the thought that this June was the hottest in the past 139 years. Is that true?
Whether 2017 was warmer or cooler than 2015, or 2014 or 2013 really doesn’t prove anything. The only way to see a pattern is to look at long-term temperature changes spanning hundreds of years, along with many other measurements.
When average global temperatures are taken, there is always a margin of error on the measurement. It is impossible to find the one true value. There is always a plus or minus associated with the finding (and sometimes the plus or minus is greater than the alleged increase or decrease).
For instance, an old NASA press release projected that 2015 would be the hottest year ever. The agency predicted it would break the record by .02 degrees Celsius. However, the margin of error was plus or minus 0.1 degrees Celsius, larger than the projected increase.
In other words, they had no idea what was going to happen.
Now, after a significant amount of searching, I couldn’t find the statistical details of this on the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s (European Commission) website (where the official statement of June’s heat wave came from), but I can promise you, there is a plus or minus attached to the 0.18 increase.
Let’s give these measurements the benefit of the doubt and say that this June was .18 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the previous hottest June. Even if true, it is basically irrelevant to decision-making.
Variation is the spice of life, and it exists abundantly in nature. Whether 2017 was warmer or cooler than 2015, or 2014 or 2013 really doesn’t prove anything. The only way to see a pattern is to look at long-term temperature changes spanning hundreds of years, along with many other measurements.
Yes, the trend is warming. Yes, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and we know its concentration has increased drastically since the industrial revolution. Yes, we know it is harmful.
But if we are so desperate to get our points across that we embrace alarmism, we demean the real science that tells us that we do need to pay attention to the environment, and we inevitably give climate change deniers enormous ammunition.
Climate change zealots vilify climate change deniers for denying science. Unfortunately, much of the time, they do exactly the same.