I’ve been letting my peers know of my displeasure regarding the article in New Scientist by the BBC journalist Roger Harrabin :-
Just thought I’d run the flag up for the fact that an allegedly sceptical journalist, Roger Harrabin, has written a poor opinion piece in the popular science magazine New Scientist.
Annoyed ? We could perhaps be :-
Joseph Romm from ClimateProgress.org got back with this :-
Thanks. I might hit this.
Harrabin is quite lame.
Note that on the BAU path, we are almost certainly headed toward 800 to 1000 ppm by 2100.
I have a lot of links on that here
Center for American Progress
Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog.com got back too :-
Thanks for this Jo. I’ve passed it on to one of our writers.
Sent from my mobile device
DeSmogBlog’s much anticipated book, “Climate Cover Up: the crusade to deny global warming” is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble – get your copy today!
Rich Hawkins of PIRC.info was more critical :-
It’s down the meaning of “basic physics”. Without any feedbacks or other GHGs, the consensus IS that a CO2 doubling would warm the world by 1 degree.
Sensitivity comes out as 2-4.5 degrees because the system isn’t basic, and includes feedbacks.
This is what he’s implying the skeptics dispute, in his final paragraph. Other GHGs and forcings are outside the sensitivity measure as you know.
It’s sort of sloppy but I don’t think it’s a terrible piece. Maybe I’m wrong.
Not quite so fast, Rich my boy :-
Most of the Global Warming at the moment is caused by the rise in Carbon Dioxide concentrations in the Atmosphere. Therefore, the Transient Climate Response is pretty much due to Carbon Dioxide on its own, as I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong).
This is in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Technical Summary, TS.4 “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change” :-
“The range of transient climate responses (defined as the global average surface air temperature averaged over a 20-year period centred at the time of CO2 doubling in a 1% yr–1 increase experiment) among models is smaller than the range in the equilibrium climate sensitivity. This parameter is now better constrained by multimodel ensembles and comparisons with observations; it is very likely to be greater than 1 degree C and very unlikely to be greater than 3 degrees C.”
That’s the consensus, and that’s not 1 degree Celsius.
The Climate Sensitivity, as you rightly point out, is the total eventual temperature rise calculated from models and data to be associated with a doubling of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. This is not 1 degree Celsius, as you say. Here’s what the IPCC say in the Fourth Assessment Report regarding Climate Sensitivity :-
IPCC AR4 [Fourth Assessment Report] Technical Summary TS4.5 “Climate Response to Radiative Forcing” :-
“A range for equilibrium climate sensitivity – the equilibrium global average warming expected if CO2 concentrations were to be sustained at double their pre-industrial values (about 550 ppm) – was given in the TAR [Third Assessment Report] as between 1.5 degrees C and 4.5 degrees C. It has not been possible previously to provide a best estimate or to estimate the probability that climate sensitivity might fall outside that quoted range.”
And that’s not 1 degree Celsius, either.
The way that Roger Harrabin writes that sentence, he is being weasel-ish, not only using the lowest value of the TCR, but rounding it down.
The Climate Change sceptics pick and choose which elements of Radiative Forcing they choose to accept, and which long-term Climate Changes they choose to accept. This is not the way to proceed.
Roger Harrabin seems to be trying to make an assertion that is not correct about the nature of the scientific consensus.
Rich just got back again :-
I’m not saying sensitivity is 1 degree and nor is Roger Harrabin. The warming you’d get from a doubling of co2 alone (without the fast feedbacks, water vapour and clouds etc.) would be 1 degree.
That’s what Roger is referring to, although I agree it’s not very clear.
This 1 degree doubling is obviously very artificial, as the water vapour etc. WILL change. Hence the 2-4.5 degree climate sensitivity figure, which includes the fast feedbacks: they add the extra 1-3.5 degrees (lots of uncertainty).
Harrabin is implying that the skeptics disagree with fast feedback part (Lindzen comes to mind) rather than the ‘CO2 is a radiative gas’ part.
I’m not sure they do all think this (for example Piers Morgan [Corbyn ?] doesn’t, although he’s REALLY loopy), but the savvy ones certainly do (Lawson et al.). This is possibly because it’s pretty easy to demonstrate the radiative nature of CO2 with a glass tube and an infrared camera (as Ian Stewart has done). Much stronger to play on the inherent uncertainty in both the fast (climate sensitivity) and slow (carbon cycle, long-term albedo etc.) feedbacks, a la Lawson’s ‘we don’t know how much the world will warm, how quickly or how much damage it will do… so let’s just wait and see’!
So, I felt obliged to reply :-
By saying “Most agree with the scientific consensus that basic physics means CO2 will warm the planet by about 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels.” about the Climate Change sceptics, Roger Harrabin is effectively making the claim that the “basic physics” means we will only get a total, eventual warming of “1 degree C”.
I assume he is talking about the climate models when he says this. But this is what I am unhappy about, as it does not match the data coming out of research based on paleoclimates.
Here’s a very recent example : during an Ice Age, for a drop of 30% in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels, the temperature of the tropical oceans dropped by 1 to 3 degrees C (and the reverse case, also) :-
“Carbon Dioxide Has Played Leading Role in Dictating Global Climate Patterns”, Agency: NSF, Date: June 17, 2010
A presentation by Schellnhuber at the 4 degrees and beyond conference last year made the case for treating the Pliocene as an analogue to current times :-
That’s certainly not 1 degree of warming, and that’s real, live historical data.
There are many questions (most of them unjustified) about the climate models, but there can surely be no arguing with history ? Or are the Climate Change sceptics all into revisionism ?
Joe Romm replies :-
Jo is right.
One can waste a lifetime trying to figure out what The “skeptics” aka the disinformers “believe.” Who knows and who really cares? The job of the media isn’t to explain what people who are wrong and/or are paid to lie believe or say they believe. The piece is bad — though there have been much worse recently.
Rich writes back :-
Whether it’s useful for journalists to present what skeptics believe is another matter. My point relates to the 1 degree issue. Harrabin isn’t referring to the paleoclimate, climate sensitivity or the models, he’s referring to “basic physics”, Wikipedia citing Rahmstorf:
“Without any feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 (which amounts to a forcing of 3.7 W/m2) would result in 1 degree C global warming, which is easy to calculate and is undisputed. The remaining uncertainty is due entirely to feedbacks in the system, namely, the water vapor feedback, the ice-albedo feedback, the cloud feedback, and the lapse rate feedback”
I agree that the language he uses is ambiguous, particularly the use of the word ‘consensus’, and I’ve emailed him about that. If you don’t like the piece, attack the fellow by all means, but arguing that he’s completely wrong on the 1 degree point won’t get you anywhere.
So, I replied again…
One of my problems is the use of the phrase “basic physics” itself. It sounds like a classic fudge from Patrick Michaels. What “basic physics” does Roger Harrabin possibly mean ? :-
“Most agree with the scientific consensus that basic physics means CO2 will warm the planet by about 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels.”
I don’t think you can safely assume that Roger Harrabin is making a reference to the actual science as quoted by Stefan Rahmstorf.
I think Roger Harrabin is making a reference to what he thinks is the “basic physics” as presented by Christopher Monckton :-
Roger Harrabin does not mention that the “one degree” would be in relation to a “doubling” of Carbon Dioxide. This is a critical omission.
Another problem is that even if he is talking about the radiative forcing of Carbon Dioxide he has not included other parts of the “basic physics”, as fleshed out in the Rahmstorf paper you refer to :-
Stefan Rahmstorf is not talking about highly speculative Climate Change effects – he is still talking about “basic physics”.
The fundamental “basic physics” includes things about which we are not entirely certain, but can give a range of probable values for. Therefore the use of the figure “about 1 degree C”, without giving a range from the full set of the “basic physics” is highly dubious.
I don’t like Roger Harrabin’s use of the term “scientific consensus”, because a casual reader would not know which part of the literature this refers to. The use of this term makes it an “us” type statement – usurping any opposition – as in “we think this – are you with us ?”, the kind of language used to shore up disastrous philosophies and regimes for centuries.
That means that the whole sentence is a fudge, and it seems to be intended to lodge in peoples’ minds. It would need a heap of qualifications in order to justify using it. Its purpose appears to be to leave a shard of falsehood in the public discourse.
Readers who have no inkling of what the sceptics get up to, and who have no in-depth exposure to the Climate Change science, could be left in error.
The sentence seems to be hinting at and reinforcing the “Global Warming is not that significant. Things will only change a little bit” argument of the sceptics.
It would be fine to use that sort of language amongst sceptic-kind, but please, not in the New Scientist magazine.
Language is so important. And in Climate Change, language is critical. We have to give a range of values if there is a range of values, and a range of probabilities if there is a range of probabilities. There is no room for shortcuts of the Roger Harrabin kind. He must know this, so I find it highly damaging that he has chosen the language he has.
I don’t think we needed to read what happened at the Heartland Institute sceptic conference in the New Scientist magazine. A huge waste of paper. The so-called sceptical position is actually unscientific, and based on conjecture and whim, including shaving values, warping research results, and denying the evidence.
Giving room for discussion of sceptic events is tantamount to offering support Climate Change scepticism – as there’s no such thing as bad news. For Roger Harrabin to write this article shows that he still doesn’t understand the problem with Climate Change scepticism, which is further evidence to corroborate the accusation levelled at him by some – that he is perhaps a Climate Change sceptic himself.
I don’t want to see articles like that again in New Scientist. One less page for non-science, one more page for proper science, in my view !
My finest regards,