We are cooling. We are not warming.


“We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? Not very long.”

– RNC Chairman Michael Steele, guest-hosting Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show, March 6, 2009


If you looked up “Train Wreck” in the dictionary, do you think this quote would appear?

Hard to know where to begin with this.

As we’ve posted before, the planet is not cooling. Yes, 2008 was cooler than 2007, but it was still one of the top ten warmest years on record. And, the warmest decade on record is the last ten years.

Here is a graphic from our Climate 411 blog that shows the extent of the current warming trend:

global warming trends chart graphic

Folks who claim that the planet is cooling simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

Oh, and as for why Greenland is called Greenland when it’s mostly covered in ice, it’s an interesting historical story. It turns out that Viking settlers used the inviting name to entice more settlers to join them. In reality, Greenland’s ice cap is hundreds of thousands of years old and covers more than 4/5 of the land.

The rest of Steele’s quote kind of loses, um, focus. Not sure how to politely respond.

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  1. profharv
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    The reason why the Global Warming Thesis has fallen into disrepute recently is that the view that “the matter is settled” has been taken by many to mean that we do not have to research and think through our rebuttals. Further, even though one is writing to an audience of friends doesn’t give one the right to pass along mis-information just because you know no one will be inclined to question you.

    First of all, taking the offhand remarks of a non-expert is really just setting up a strawman rather than addressing serious counterarguments.

    Even so, the rebuttal given has many errors. Your comments on Greenland are incorrect as any knowledgeable archeologist can attest in great detail. Further, Wikipedia states, “the southern portion of Greenland (not covered by glacier) is indeed very green in the summer and was likely to have been even greener in Erik’s time because of the Medieval Warm Period.”

    While CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it’s decidedly not a pollutant. CO2 concentrations have trailed, not lead, temperature increases. This is becuase CO2 has the peculiar property of being LESS soluble in water as temperature increases so the oceans give up part of their vast store of CO2 as temperatures rise. The earth’s temperature did peak in 1998 and then leveled off with a slight slope downward until recently when the slope downward steepened. The past decade is not the warmest on record.

    I’d suggest posting the most credible counter arguments to the Global Warming Thesis and then doing a thoughtful rebuttal. Thanks

    Thanks for your comment, profharv. The point of this blog is to respond to opponents of global warming action, whoever they may be. Mr. Steele is a leader of a major political party commenting on global warming and undermining the political case for global warming action. It is fair game to respond to his misinformation.

    As to your points about Greenland — Indeed during the Medieval Warm Period, lasting from about the 10th century to the 14th, temperatures in the North Atlantic were a bit warmer than normal and Greenland was a bit “greener.” It was still 80% covered in ice, as it has been for hundreds of thousands of years. And, in fact, Greenland did get its name in part as a way to attract new settlers.

    As to your comments about CO2 lagging temperature swings, this is true for past warming cycles. But, what we are experiencing now is different. The current era of high CO2 concentrations are unlike any we’ve seen in at least the last 650,000 years and the global temperature increase is being driven by the spike in CO2. Here is a great post in our Climate 411 blog to help explain the difference: http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2007/06/29/human_cause-3/

  2. peterst
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Mann’s “hockey stick” curve shown above has been discredited for so long and in so many ways that you should be ashamed to be caught using it. Even if you choose not to acknowledge the missing Medieval Warming Period and the different measurement techniques used for the horizontal portion vs. the 20th century increase, you should at least include the error bars in the original chart that show how uncertain the data is.

  3. Sam Parry
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Hello peterst,

    Thanks for your comment. Actually, we have acknowledged the Medieval Warming Period. In fact, on Climate 411, we have an entire post dedicated to the issue: http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2007/07/05/human_cause-4/.

    On your other point, the Mann “hockey stick” debate is a tempest in a teapot. The American Association for the Advancement of Science called the controversy “a search for some basis on which to discredit these particular scientists and findings, rather than a search for understanding.”

    The National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate concluded in 2006:

    “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years. Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward.”

    See: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676&page=R1.

    At the end of the day, we can spend our time quibbling over the finer points of the tiny nuances of small details related to global warming. Or, we can come to terms with the overwhelming, virtually universal scientific agreement that global warming is real and we have to do something about it.