Eugene Linden
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Maddening Numbers

The way in which the media and policymakers are using the numbers on coronavirus approaches insanity. Most of the numbers published are about as credible as Trump’s estimates of the size of his inaugural crowd. Absolutely no one with any expertise believes that China has only 80,000 cases o...


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Friday November 15, 2013

That didn’t take long. Recall that just a few weeks ago climate change deniers were crowing about the "missing" global warming because the latest draft IPCC report on the state of the climate noted that in the years since 1997 the rate of warming seemed to have dropped. Part of the answer -- ignored by the denier crowd -- was that trends had been distored by the super El Nino of 1998. Now it seems that even with that skew there was no pause in warming.

From the climate modelers’ go-to site,, comes news of a study of global temperatures that argues that between 1997 and 2012 the world warmed at twice the rate reported in the latest draft IPCC report. According to Stefan Rahmstorf at RealClimate, the findings weren’t used by the IPCC because the researchers, Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way, responsibly waited until their report was published by the Royal Meteorological Society before going public. Basically, the scientists found that there were big gaps in temperature data from the Arctic (which has undergone extraordinary warming) because of the paucity of weather stations, and they figured out how to fill in those gaps using satellite data. Once adjusted, the global trend rose from 0.05 degrees C per decade to 0.12 degrees C per decade, which is in line with previous warming.

Presto! No more pause. No doubt the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and the hundreds of other media outlets that made a big deal out of  the “missing” global warming will now issue retractions and updates.

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Short Take

A Glimmer of Hope in the Coronavirus News?

I’m usually the most apocalyptic guy in the room, but, maybe, there’s a glimmer of hope in the latest news on the coronavirus. If it’s been circulating in Washington state for several weeks, it’s probably also been circulating in a few other states for weeks as well. And if there hasn’t been a big spike in visits to emergency rooms with respiratory ailments (and I have not read about such), it may well be that the virus is already widely spread in the U.S., but not hitting Americans as hard as it has populations elsewhere. If this turns out to be the case, the difference might be that there are far fewer smokers in the U.S. than in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy, and that the air is far cleaner in American cities than in China’s. 

We’ll find out in the next few weeks whether Americans are better able to withstand the disease. There remain major unknowns about coronavirus; nor do we know how hard the virus will hit the elderly and infirm. Still, this latest news could be a positive. 

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