Climate Change

Every Country is Warming Twice as Fast as the Average!

If you read the recent media headlines that Canada’s temperature is warming more than twice as fast as the average, you would probably believe it, as I did at first, and fear that Canada is facing a unique climate emergency.

But the same “warming twice as fast as average” headline recently appeared for numerous other countries: Australia, Finland, China, Sweden, Russia, Britain, all of Europe, Singapore and Japan. How can all these countries be warming twice as fast as the average?

Surprisingly, these media stories are neither a joke nor a mistake. They are a trivial fact, turned into a frightening story by deceptively vague language.



Acknowledgement: I thank Dr. Ross McKitrick of Guelph University for bringing to my attention the explanation for the “twice the average” media stories.

The Canadian Climate Change Story

Canada Warming at Twice the Global Rate

The CBC Headline: Canada warming at twice the global rate, leaked report finds (April 4, 2019)

“Canada is, on average, experiencing warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, with Northern Canada heating up at almost three times the global average, according to a new government report.

The study …. was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada…. .”

Similar headlines appeared in numerous other media stories about Canada.

In the competition for clicks and subscribers, journalists have an economic incentive to sensationalize boring government reports.  With these stories, they have done a good job at making the trivial seem sensational.

The Finland Climate Change Story

Finland-is-warming at nearly twice the rate of any other country on earth

Finland is warming faster than the rest of the world

“Finland is warming fast—faster than scientists ever predicted and at nearly twice the rate of any other country on Earth …. .”

The Other Climate Change “Twice as Fast” Stories 

You can use any of the links below to see the numerous other similar stories.

Australia Warming Faster Than the Rest of the World

China Warming Faster Than Average

China Heating Twice as Fast

Sweden Rising Almost Twice As Fast as World Average

Russia Warming Twice as Fast




Japan warming faster than global average

How is All This Possible?

Everybody, it seems, is warming twice as fast as the average.

Is all this just fake news? No, it is all true. How is that possible?

It’s only possible because of the deceptive use of the word “average.” The average referred to is the average temperature of the entire planet. The story is not that any country is warming twice as fast as the average of every other country. Rather, it is that the country in the story is warming faster than the average temperature of the entire planet. But the entire planet is not just the land countries are on, it is the land and the oceans. And, as we all learned in school, the Earth’s surface is only 30% land and 70% ocean.

According to NASA, (the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) from 1881 to the present the ocean surface has warmed about 0.6 C but the land surface has warmed about 1.8 C.  The large ocean surface warms much more slowly than the smaller land surface.

Using the 30/70 distribution of the Earth surface, that implies combined warming of 0.3 x 1.8 + 0.7 x 0.6 = 1.0 C.

Thus, if every country warmed at exactly the same rate, every country would be warming at 1.8 times the global average. But they don’t all warm at quite the same rate. The tropics warm less quickly than the higher latitude regions: NASA Latitude Bands. With that adjustment for latitude, any country outside the tropics will warm approximately twice as fast as the (land and ocean) average of the entire planet.

All of these media stories convey the same misleading political message: the country is warming at twice the (unspecified) average, making makes it doubly urgent for that country to cut its greenhouse emissions quickly compared to all the other countries. This politically manufactured emergency tries to pressure the frightened voters (and their even more frightened children) to accept whatever measures their government proposes to reduce CO2 emissions. It also enhances the budgets and influence of the country’s environmental politicians and bureaucrats.


The Canadian Government’s report shows nothing more than that Canada is a land mass, not an ocean. Not scary, just trivial.

If our Prime Minister has “listened to the science”, as he has said, and has understood it, he should require his government to present the whole truth about warming.  If that makes such stories and reports less scary so be it.

If governments want to use changes in “average” temperatures to justify higher carbon taxes and other costly measures to “fight climate change”, they should tell their voters exactly what they mean when using less than obvious terms like “average.”

NOTE: The Financial Post published a slightly different version of this post here.

19 replies »

    • I agree, and when saying that it helps to specify what average we are talking about. Average height, average intelligence, etc. If someone fails to specify what average they are presenting we can rightly question whether the omission has a misleading purpose.


    • You have fallen into a innumeracy trap, notwithstanding that you know what Kelvins are. A Celsius degree is the same size as a Kelvin, just the zero point on the scale is different. So a 2-degree change is twice as big a change as a one-degree change, whether the degrees are on the Celsius scale or the Kelvin (absolute scale.)

      When we talk about temperature changes, we don’t mean the percentage change from absolute zero. We mean the absolute change observed between two temperatures, the operation being subtraction, which cancels out zero points. Sometimes the ratio between two temperatures is important, as in predicting pressure changes in a closed container when temperature changes. You know, PV = nRT. Then you must use Kelvins, because a temperature of 30C is not twice as hot as a temp. of 15C (or infinitely hotter than a temp of 0C.) It’s T2/T1 that matters there, not T2 – T1.
      But in calculating and predicting the “global temperature anomaly” it is the absolute, subtractive change between global (estimated) average today and global (estimated) historical values. T2 – T1


      • Very well. I take 70 kg as the zero point for my weight. When my actual weight changes from 71 kg to 72 kg, expressed in the new scale it goes up from 1 kg to 2 kg. So my weight doubled?

        Important misunderstanding

        Because temperature is a measure of the microscopic energy of atoms (or molecules), the temperature doubles if the microscopic energy doubles. That being said, going from 10°C today to 20°C tomorrow isn’t doubling the temperature (even though 20 is twice ten).



  1. Surely, if the regions (R) slated as warming twice as fast as the overall average (A) are *part* of the average (A), then the mathematical equation must have a limit – there can only be so many R=2A compared to R=xA, where yA<xA<zA; where y is the smallest fraction of A, and z is the largest unity+fraction of A; and the average value of all yA xA zA and 2A must = A
    My maths is a bit rusty – someone else may be able to define this better.
    Let me know if you do – I'd like to see the relationship!


    • It’s more about politics than mathematics. Warming is measured differently in different countries. And “warming” refers to temperature changes that are ongoing, and therefore, are estimated for the future using different assumptions about the future, and different computer models.


    • If following some health regimen caused your weight gain from age 30 to age 50 to be only 2 kg, while someone not following the regimen gained 10 kg, then your regimen was 5 times as effective as hers at reducing age-related weight gain. The weight that either of you started out at, the zero point, doesn’t matter and would in principle be different for the two of you anyway. A basic skill in numeracy is being able to tell whether the correct approach to solving a problem consists of subtraction (absolutes) or ratios (relatives.) It’s more than just memorizing that 10-2 = 8 and 10 / 2 = 5. I think you are deliberately trying to feign misunderstanding of this in the hopes that other people will become confused.


  2. I posted a link to your blog in response to a comment I received from some Climatista who thinks that Canada, Finland, Australia, Greece and France ad infinitum can all be warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Facebook has deemed this a violation of community standards. I would deem it blatant censorship. Thought you should know.


    • Community standards are not about what the global average temperature trends are, but Facebook won’t say that I am wrong in my math, so it has nothing else to fall back on as a reason for its censorship.


      • The idea that “all the children in Lake Wobegon are above average” is from Garrison Keeler, but our own Stephen Leacock in one of his Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town did one better. He told a tale of some civic project, a home for incurables perhaps, that needed donations from the Mariposa worthies to get off the ground. So (freely synopsizing from memory) a public meeting was called to solicit pledges. Stand up and be counted. The barber got the ball rolling by pledging $5 — this was 1910 or so — contingent on the total amount raised reaching $100. Another fellow pledged $20 contingent on the fund reaching $1000. Not to be outdone, the really successful businessmen were pledging $1000 contingent on the total reaching a million. In a few minutes, many thousands of dollars had been pledged, the contingency by this time having reached 100 million dollars (which probably exceeded the GDP of Canada.) Leacock as narrator marveled (ironically of course) at the straight-up selfless generosity of the townspeople rivalling the Carnegies and the Rockefellers, dispelling forever the notion that Canada was a nation of parochial tightwads. Yet, despite the obviously heartfelt charitable enthusiasm demonstrated by the pledgers, no shovel ever got put into the ground for the project, since the contractors wouldn’t take contingencies as payment.

        I think of this little parable every time the national leaders come together at climate conferences to pledge yet more stringent reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions (someday….), but of course contingent on all the other nations doing things that will hurt them more than ours will hurt us. On average it should all work out, right?

        Behavioural economists call this a common-action problem — intractable except if an all-powerful sovereign can compel the desired action from all — but I just smile and think of Leacock.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s