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>The Art of Climate Science

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The BBC’s chief science correspondent, Jasper Fothingham, interviews renowned climate scientist, Malcolm Bradmann, on the state of climate research and discusses the likely impact of our failure to heed the signs of global warming.

Fothingham:

It’s no understatement that the world faces a challenge like never before in its history. The scourge that is Global Warming has led to not only record high temperatures around the globe but also withering blizzards, torrential flooding, an increase in hurricane activity and intensity, longer droughts, and the loss of vast tracts of Antarctica’s and Greenland’s ice sheets, which leading scientists in the field tell us will inevitably lead to unparalleled human catastrophe. At the root of the problem is mankind and its insatiable appetite for energy, pumping huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere resulting in the planet warming dramatically. To paint us a picture I’m joined by renowned climate scientist, Malcolm Bradmann, who has spent most of the last twenty years devoted to better understanding the field. Welcome to the program, Malcolm.

Bradmann:

Thank you, Jasper. It’s very good to be here.

Fothingham:

Malcolm, there’s quite clearly an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists on the scale of the problem. What’s the up to date view?

Bradmann:

Yes. You’re right, Jasper. The consensus view is that global warming is real, that it’s anthropogenic in origin – that is, to say, man made – and that unless we do something about it immediately the world will face the huge problems you described in your introduction.

Fothingham:

There has been quite a bit of controversy, especially in the last year or so, from scientists opposing the consensus and actually challenging the fundamentals of climate science. How do you respond to them?

Bradmann:

In the normal course of events I don’t respond. When you have in your corner such scientific luminaries as James Hansen, James Lovelock and Lonnie Thompson you know you’re in good company. The science is completely established, and accepted, as fact, so the views of these Flat Earthers really does nothing more than make us waste time on the debate.

Fothingham:

I’m sure that viewers will be interested in putting that one to bed so I’d like to get you to comment on some of the criticisms. Out of left field has come a statistician, Steve Mullofkintyre, whose analysis of the iconic Hockey Stick used to support the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change position on global warming has seemed to gain traction with many of the critics. What’s your position on Mullofkintyre?

Bradmann:

Ha-ha. Yes. Ha-ha. Well, not only is Mullofkintyre not a climate scientist but he has also worked for Big Oil so your viewers can decide for themselves what his real motives are in attacking us. But seriously, Jasper, we pointed out errors in his analysis a long time ago and, as far as climate science goes, the debate has moved on since then.

Fothingham:

Yes, you did point out the errors but weren’t Mullofkintyre’s statistics demonstrated to be valid by none other than Edward Wegman, a very well respected statistician and chair of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics in his report to the Barton Commission? Doesn’t that call into question the validity of your work?

Bradmann:

No not at all. Certainly Wegman sided with Mullofkintyre on the statistical method that he used but as we pointed out they used the wrong method. We have our own method that is peer reviewed and validates our results.

Fothingham:

Well, can you explain the method you used, then?

Bradmann:

Unfortunately, no. I’m a climate scientist. I am not a statistician.

Fothingham:

You mentioned before that the debate had ‘moved on’. Can you expand on that statement for our audience, please?

Bradmann:

Certainly! To remind people, our work is based on the field called dendroclimatology. That is, the use of tree ring data to analyse the earth’s climate from the distant past. By looking at how the tree rings are formed we can make an assessment of the impact of CO2 and other factors and make predictions about what climate changes the world faces with the current increase in CO2. However, there is a new field of research that has climate scientists even more excited than dendroclimatology.

Fothingham:

And what’s that?

Bradmann:

Artoclimatology!

Fothingham:

Artoclimatology?

Bradmann:

Yes! Artoclimatology.

Fothingham:

I must confess that I’ve never heard of the term. Please tell us what that is.

Bradmann:

I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard of the field yet, Jasper, as it’s very new and very exciting and there are only a few people working in it. The use of proxies is what underpins any analysis of past climate. Therefore, we look for those things that provide an indicator of climate through history. What better way to view nature than through the eyes of those people who were alive at the time and who actually painted the scenery? Artists! There are thousands of examples of the same landscape being painted by artists through the ages so an analysis of these paintings provides a huge clue as to the prevailing climate of the time. Thus, artoclimatology.

Fothingham:

Fascinating! And what is the research showing?

Bradmann:

The best way to demonstrate the results is to show people a number of views of the same landscape that have been painted at different periods, hundreds of years apart. I’ve brought in paintings from the same scene at the lovely Hyde Park in London. The first is a picture of a lady painted by monks in around 1300. At that time, Hyde Park was part of the Manor of Eia, which was run by the monks. The second painting is also of a lady and it was painted just before the civil war in about 1630. Finally, we have a painting from 1998, the warmest year on record, also of a lady.

Fothingham:

So, Malcolm, why are the paintings important and what can we deduce from them?

Bradmann:

Well, Jasper, as you can see these three paintings are all of exactly the same scene and are painted at the same time of the season. The reason that these paintings are important is that the first was painted when there was supposedly a medieval warm period, the second during a supposed little ice age and the third during the hottest year ever. When we examine them we see that the women in the first two paintings are wearing pretty much the same outfits, indicating that the temperature must have been much the same. This supports the conclusion of our research, which is that there was no Medieval Warm Period and no Little Ice Age. Dress standards had obviously changed by the twentieth century but there’s no doubt that the subject is wearing much less because it’s so much hotter.

Fothingham:

She’s wearing a bikini!

Bradmann:

Of course she is. It’s the warmest year ever.

Fothingham:

Malcolm, I can’t help noticing that the lady in the first painting is standing in the shade of the tree and has a closed parasol by her side. Wouldn’t that seem to indicate that it was indeed warm at that time?

Bradmann:

I agree that her position and the parasol are anomalous but my team did extensive research on 14th century fashion and parasols were quite the order of the day. As for standing in the shade – you can see that she’s quite a pale lady and she’s probably protecting her complexion from the sun.

Fothingham:

Hmmmm. OK. So this second painting indicates that there was no Little Ice Age because she’s dressed the same way?

Bradmann:

Well done! That’s exactly correct, Jasper.

Fothingham:

It appears to me that it really must be a deal colder because…well…um…this is a general viewing rated program so I need to be careful how I put it…her nipples seem to be standing out due to the hardness caused by the cold. Isn’t it possible that it really was colder when this was painted?

Bradmann:

To be perfectly frank, we were quite concerned by the hard nipples at first. However, if you look at the lady’s face you’ll see a little smile, sort of mischievous, and a bit of a gleam, a spark, in her eye. We believe that the painter was her lover and that she was simply aroused by it all.

Fothingham:

You’re not serious?

Bradmann:

Absolutely serious, Jasper. This is the future of the planet we’re talking about here!

Fothingham:

Well then, can you tell who the painters are and look at any of their other work? Does their style give a hint to their identity?

Bradmann:

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you. I’m a climate scientist. I am not a classical painter.

Fothingham:

So how much more research is there to be done in the field of artoclimatology?

Bradmann:

As I mentioned earlier, it’s a very new field but the results are so promising that we’ve been awarded quite a few million dollars from the IPCC to continue the research.

Fothingham:

And do you have any other paintings that you’re able to compare from different centuries?

Bradmann:

We do already. There are quite a few of the Swiss Alps, Paris and from Egypt and Mesopotamia that we’re looking at. Fortunately, the grants allow us to do quite a lot of flying to Switzerland, Paris, Egypt and the Middle East to continue our research.

Fothingham:

Flying? But isn’t that a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions?

Bradmann:

It certainly is, Jasper, but our research is so important that the environmental damage our flying around does just has to be borne. It’s a race against time and time is running short. If we can’t do this work and then Greenland melts in ten years’ time, putting us all under twenty feet of water then what will people say then?

Fothingham:

They probably won’t say much, Malcolm, as they’ll be quite drowned by then. You don’t happen to live on the coast do you?

Bradmann:

As a matter of fact I do.

Fothingham:

Goodly. Let’s hope that we get at least a little global warming, eh! Thank you, Malcolm Bradmann for being with us tonight.

Bradmann:

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me

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Categories: Climate Change
  1. February 13, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    >surrealist interview!

  2. February 13, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    >How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?A fish.

  3. February 24, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    >Please tell me that this was brilliant satire. As that, it would be outstanding. Otherwise, it occurs to me that there is a killing to be made in the manufacture and sale of industrial-strength butterfly nets.After that, straightjackets would naturally follow. I wonder what the profit margin on those would be?I think I need to go put together a business plan.

  4. February 25, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    >Hog,The fact that you have to ask whether it’s satire demonstrates how round the twist the global warming argument is!

  5. February 26, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    >I’m with Hog. I’m sitting her laughing. Kinda reminds me of the “Elephantoplasty” skit from Monty Python. I visualise Graham Chapman as the guest Try it: it works beautifully!

  6. February 26, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    >Or rather Terry Jones. Either one works great.

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