This week the news reported that the last decade was, “the warmest decade ever recorded.”
To the uncritical mind it sounds like we’re doomed.
But if we unpack the statement we discover that the term “Warmest decade” isn’t so bad, and certainly doesn’t mean we’re going to boil anytime soon.
Record keeping started in 1880, which means a more accurate statement would be, “of the fourteen past decades, the last decade was warmer than the 13 previous decades.”
But what does it mean to be “the warmest.”
The Global Mean Temperature, or GMT is 50.1, which means that if you add up the several dozen globally placed thermometers, the average daily temperature at sea level over 365 days is 50.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
To put things into perspective, the last decade’s average was 50.6 degrees, or one-half of a degree warmer than the combined average over the previous 13 decades. The latest decade will also now raise the average GMT moving forward, so now the average is slightly higher, at 50.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Breaking it down, the average global temperature rose a half degree warmer within a ten-year period between 2011 and 2019 (which is actually only 9 years, by the way), which means one or two warmer years by one degree might increase the overall average by a little less half a degree.
Listen, folks. I don’t know about you, but half a degree over a ten year period, and even still, over a 140 year period of averages is not that significant. Statistically speaking, it’s not significant at all, especially with a margin of error above +/-1 degree variation. We should also consider that from 1880 to 1910 the measuring equipment used was only as reliable as the people who used it.
That this significance is tied to human activity means we really aren’t making that much of an impact. Last weeks volcanic activity produced 100 times more soot in the atmosphere than humans did all year. And yet, the earth always seems to find equilibrium. If you consider all of the carbon humans have produced, the impact has been minimal, which leads me to believe there is far more panic than there needs to be about climate change, and specifically, globally warming.
The scaring we see going on is counterproductive to our real efforts, which should be working towards a cleaner environment, not a more expensive energy system that does nothing to clean the environment. We need to stop wasting.
We can argue renewables and the climate, but the real discussion should be on plastics and dirty water supplies.
Expensive energy policies hurt the poor, what helps the poor is more access to cheap energy and access to the market, being able to buy and sell goods and services. Communications has made it possible now for villagers in rural Africa and elsewhere to sell their products and make an income for their family. Taking land from them to build solar panels is not smart policy, even if it makes members of the IPOCC in Brussels sleep better at night.
Carbon is not the problem. Waste is the problem. We need to be better at reducing waste so that our natural resources go further.
Certainly AI can help aid us in producing better ways of food distribution, and even more effective ways of producing food. Think of, instead of solar panels, we build greenhouses that produce food for people so they have a reliable source for fruits, vegetables, protein rich food supplies, improved water filtration and irrigation systems, instead of worrying about whether the weather is going to get hotter.
We know the earth will warm, or cool, but if we tackle things at home, on the ground, those issues that affect us locally, the global aggregate effect of this will produce far better results, which will improve and preserve a higher quality of life for all.
Instead of worrying about whether the last decade was half a degree warmer than the previous 13, we should instead, learn how to better manage our resources so that we raise the standards of living for those hardest hit by climate events that may, or may not be related to human activity.
Real concern for human activity should be directing our energies toward being more efficient, not being more expensive.
James Watkins is a climate researcher, author and host of the podcast Speaking Out.