+Comment So the results are in. The main US global-temperature scorekeepers - NASA and the NOAA - say that last year was definitely the hottest year on record. But they've been contradicted by a highly authoritative scientific team, one actually set up to try an establish objective facts in this area.
On the face of it, there's no dispute. The NASA and NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) statement says:
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.
Open and shut, right?
But in fact, detecting a global average temperature rise - of less than a degree since the 1880s, as all sides agree - among thousands upon thousands of thermometer readings from all over the world and spanning more than a century is no simple matter. The temperature at any given location is surging up and down by many degrees each day and even more wildly across a year. It can be done, across a timescale of decades, but trying to say that one year is hotter or colder than the next is to push the limits of statistics and the available data. This sort of thing is why the battle over global temperatures tends to be so hotly debated.
A few years ago, a new dataset was established called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. It was intended to address various issues raised by climate sceptics: but in fact it has plumped down firmly on the warmist side of the debate, saying that in fact there are no undue biases in the temperature records, changes in the Sun do not have any major climate effects, and so on.
Now, however, the BEST boffins have broken ranks with the NASA/NOAA/UK Met Office climate establishment and bluntly contradicted the idea that one can simply say "2014 was the hottest year on record". According to BEST's analysis (pdf):
Our best estimate for the global temperature of 2014 puts it slightly above (by 0.01 C) that of the next warmest year (2010) but by much less than the margin of uncertainty (0.05 C). Therefore it is impossible to conclude from our analysis which of 2014, 2010, or 2005 was actually the warmest year.
That may seem like not such a big deal, but it is really. At the moment the big debate in this area is about the "hiatus" - has global warming been stalled for the last fifteen-years-plus, or not?
If you think it hasn't, and you're seeking to convince ordinary folk without advanced knowledge in the area, it is a very powerful thing to be able to say "last year was the warmest on record".
If on the other hand you contend that global warming has been on hold for over a decade, saying "last year was almost exactly as hot as 2005 and 2010" fits exactly with the story you are trying to tell.
It matters, because colossal amounts of CO2 have been emitted during the hiatus period - on the order of a third of all that has ever been emitted by humanity since the Industrial Revolution, in fact. Nobody says that CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas, but it could well be that it isn't nearly as serious a problem as had been suggested.
You takes your choice of who you listens to on this, of course: NASA/NOAA/UKMetO or BEST, warmists or sceptics.
But it might be worth remembering that the former are arguing for massive government and economic action, action which people would not take voluntarily - that is action which will make people poorer, then. In other words the warmists want to take away your money and your standard of living (for your own good, they would say). And standard of living is not just consumer goods, it's health care, it's regular showers and clean clothes, it's space programmes and education for your kids and many many other things that you will have less of in the green future advocated by warmists - it's your whole life.
Whereas the sceptics, certainly the more reasonable among them, are merely saying "look here wait a minute". Which is always a good idea before taking massive governmental and economic action, some would say, especially as rather a lot has been done in that line already.
And one thing's for sure - given NASA/NOAA/UKMet's attitude this year ("hottest on record") compared to 2013 ("one more year of numbers isn't significant"), the idea that they aren't actively pushing a warmist agenda - the idea that they are in some way unbiased and objective about all this - is quite plainly rubbish. ®