it seems that the Climate Change deniers simply cannot let go of the dead story and bury it. Benny Peiser of the adroitly named “Global Warming Policy Foundation” (suggested motto “We want policies to guarantee Climate chaos” ?), is to publish a report at the end of the month written by Andrew Montford, of Bishop Hill web log fame :-
The BBC are undergoing a review on balance in Science reporting. They need to get Climate Change right, and that could start by one of their programme editors actually trying to understand what programmes like this do to an unprepared or semi-prepared audience.
The Newsnight audience have been left with the view that “maybe Climate Change is not so bad after all”, which is the worst take-home message they could be given.
See further down the post for e-mail traffic related to the Newsnight broadcast of 23rd August 2010.
What do you get when you compare an exponentially rising trend (economic losses from Climate Change damage) with another two exponentially rising trends (human population growth and economic development), and use the last two to factor away the first ?
Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) appears on BBC Newsnight, the flagship British widescreen influential TV show for those who work until super-late o’clock and want to watch something serious after having a few beers, and all he can say is “we just don’t know” to the Kirsty Warkian question of whether Climate Change is (a) happening or (b) problematic.
Come on Andrew ! It’s not “too early to say” or even “too early to call”. It’s in black and white and online. It’s called the IPCC report, and has been followed by American and European government studies, and a mountain of academic research analyses which back it up : the world is warming, the reports are that change is already significant, and the prospects are risky.
There is still something that “we just don’t know” about. We just don’t know if Andrew Montford has read the Science. If he were to put his virtual nose between some of its digital pages he might well learn a thing or two. He seems fairly intelligent. So, here’s hoping.
Oh, and by the way, will he feel he has to disguise himself if he wants to come and talk to the freethinking carbonbusters at Climate Camp ? No need, Andrew. Peace-loving people will welcome you for a vegan curry over at the RBS Royal Bank of Scotland Headquarters, no worries, mate. But can you please take off the earnest brown tweed jacket ? It makes you look so much like Nicholas Stern, love.
Shock ! Horror ! Major Climate Change Scientist spotted at Climate Camp…ah, but which one… ? How to distinguish one dressed-down, unwashed individual with dishevelled locks from any another ?
Any sign of Climate Change sceptic-denier Andrew Montford, as affectionately known as “Bishop Hill” ? Can’t make him out, but he might have responded to the banner appeal to “Come On Over for Lunch”. You never know. That might be him chopping potatoes, right in the thick of it.
“The report confirms that our scientific understanding of the climate system and its sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions is now richer and deeper than ever before.”
Who is meant by the ownership word “our” ?
It cannot mean the whole of humanity, since there are still a large number of people who have no idea about the Science of Climate Change, or who deny it.
I suspect that most Climate Change deniers would stop reading this report right there – as they don’t want to be included in the group of people who accept that Climate Change is real, happening and serious, too.
Notice that there’s no question that the Climate is sensitive to Greenhouse Gas Emissions accumulating in the Atmosphere. There’s no “likelihood” associated with that statement.
If there’s one thing about Climate Change nobody could be able to disagree on, it’s that there’s a huge amount of literature on the subject.
I figure it would be impossible for any one person to have a good grounding in the totality of the Science, spanning, as it does, most of humankind’s discoveries about the physical world.
It would be hard too to have an exceptionally well-rooted understanding even of the Synthesis of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.
A human mind is surely not capable of remembering all the facts and figures and how everything relates. My personal forgettery is quite active in selecting what to drop after not using it for a while, and I’m sure others experience the same thing.
For example, I’m sure Dr Judith Curry, accomplished as she is in Earth Sciences, does not remember the entire field, and does not have the tools to look everything up quickly. Which is why she gives shorthand vague, answers on web logs which annoy other people so much :-
I reckon, though, people should give her a break for a while to let her compose herself, and get over the shock of the Anthony Watts “tribe” eating her heart out with steak knives after she published a proper piece of Science.
As you can see, there are Climate Change sceptic-deniers everywhere, even in the most knowledgeable and respectable circles.
Countering Climate Change denial from so-called “sceptics” takes a lot of time and energy, and is a bump-in-the-road nuisance/irritation distraction from the main priority for human civilisation, which is how to stop being addicted to Fossil Fuels.
The problem with several Climate Change denier arguments is that they are “meta” arguments – philosophical arguments about how people behave, what they intend and how things are done.
One such issue that they take is with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “consensus” method of operation. They seem to view the IPCC consensus as “blurred lines” – their conclusion is that the IPCC’s unified interpretation of the evidence is suspect.
When the Police want to interview eye-witnesses, and when a judge wants to hear witness evidence, the standard practice is to keep the witnesses apart, so that the lines of evidence can be as independent as possible.
By contrast, in Climate Change Science, there is a certain amount of collaboration between researchers during the course of their work, so you could say that no observations are made independently. However, this should not be labelled as “malicious collusion”, although many Climate Change deniers do do that.
How paranoid is Andrew Montford of Edinburgh, Scotland ? Does he have any reason to be afeard now that the Climate Camp has parked up on his doorstep ?
Don’t worry. This isn’t a threat, Andrew. It’s a invitation. When the rocket stoves have been lit and the canvas staked out, you’re invited to come and talk with real people about the realities of Climate Change instead of being cooped up with your hot laptop at home cooking up hurtful and inaccurate things to say about working Scientists and activists.
By the way, I rocked with laughter at this recent review of your book “The Hockey Stick Illusion” :-
[ UPDATE FROM JOABBESS.COM : ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND, EDINBURGH, CLIMATE CAMP SITE HAS BEEN TAKEN. ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION FROM email@example.com, Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 9:59 PM : “Site taken! People needed NOW! At 9.15PM tonight Climate Camp took the site on RBS HQ. Get on site as fast as you can! Defence help urgently needed. Come to RBS Gogarburn Gardens, off Gogar Station Rd. More info later. x” ]
Al Gore has been telling all the young people, and well, all of us, really, to protest, in public, to make a downright law-unabiding nuisance of ourselves :-
“Gore calls for major protests on government’s climate change inaction…In a post on his personal blog headlined “The Movement We Need”…”
Well, it won’t work to call people out onto the street. Most people are too busy credit-crunching, wage-slaving or favour-scraping to be able to commit to a short-term, potentially self-defeating public display of annoyance, frustration and shrill demands.
And if people do come out to the big protests, it won’t achieve much. News reports can be swept into the trash. Activists can be swept into holding facilities. Politicians can conveniently ignore anything that isn’t violent.
Drop the loud-hailers and home-made placards, I say, and do something more…focussed.
The Climate Camp want to target the Royal Bank of Scotland for financing Coal power plants and Tar Sands oil projects, which are very bad things to be doing, and smacks of huge corporate irresponsibility, considering the bank is largely owned by the British taxpayer, and I say, if you can’t make the camp (and I can’t for reasons which I shall not go into just now), do something about money in other ways instead.
What’s your money doing ? Which oppressive regimes in oil-rich countries is it supporting ? Which Fossil Fuel companies trashing your Environment do your bank support ? Why not switch your money to an ethical financial organisation ? Why don’t we all try to do this at the same time ? “Crowd-banking” could have an impact, you never know until you try.
Let’s pick, say, Monday 23rd August 2010. And let’s all spend our way out of Climageddon together on that day. Transfer your money to an ethical bank, or pledge to do so. Phone your bank and tell them you’re leaving for a sustainable bank.
Other actions possibly useful :-
1. Refuse to buy Fossil Fuels for a day.
2. Refuse to use any hot water for one day (most hot water is produced by burning Fossil Fuels). It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere – come on – a cool shower won’t hurt you.
3. Don’t spend any money on anything that had Petroleum-based plastic or Natural Gas-based chemicals in its production – which would rule out 85% of non-food purchases, I reckon.
4. If you’re working for a company or an organisation who have anything to do with the Energy industry, make a point of asking your boss, or their boss, or the Chief Executive or something what the company/organisation intends to do about moving the whole business to Renewable Energy.
5. One short telephone call could have you moving from burning Coal for your home electricity to a Green Energy account.
This is not a riot – but it is an emergency, and the response should match the scale of the problem.
Dr Judith Curry insists, quite correctly, that we should take uncertainties into account when deciding Climate Change policy.
Yet I think our respective positions probably strongly differ on which way we weight the uncertainties.
I strongly favour the Precautionary Principle, implemented Early, making it the “Early Precautionary Principle”.
One of the reasons I come down on this end of the spectrum of possible responses to uncertainties is that there are quite a spectrum of unknowns that form the pillars of those uncertainties.
After all, if we don’t know a term in an equation, how can we possibly calculate anything meaningful with any kind of confidence ?
How can anybody feel safe and secure not knowing for certain what the actual equilibrium Climate Sensitivity amounts to ? The response of the Earth’s Climate system to extra airborne Carbon Dioxide-forced temperature rise is a number that is becoming firmer, but there are error bars. Surely this points to conservatism in emissions ?
Moreover, we could be well advised to cut back on Fossil Fuel burning not just to protect the Climate, but to save the Economy. How can we pursue our normal everyday Carbon-emitting lives not knowing how much Fossil Fuel there is left in the ground that can be inexpensively mined ?
How can we know the order of magnitude of Fossil Fuels left to extract ? And how can we know what kind of impact this will have on the Climate ?
“…Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occurring when CO2 fell to 425 +/- 75 ppm…”
The sceptic-deniers laughed and scoffed and said things to the effect that clearly there’s nothing to worry about that the current concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the air is over 390 parts per million – it won’t melt the polar ice caps.
What the sceptic-deniers haven’t understood, or pretend not to have understood, is that it is a combination of factors that caused major lasting glaciation on Earth. Yes, the level of Carbon Dioxide in the air is important. But the rate of change of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is a significant component.
If the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere change rapidly, the heating or cooling effect is amplified, in effect. You have to take account of the relative change in levels of Carbon Dioxide, not just its level at any particular point in time.
As Dr Judith Curry has tried to communicate to me, the physical science of Climatology is full of deep complexity, with strong ranging on a number of processes.
Just to take a typical example – the Hurricane storm track in the Caribbean. Different years produce different levels of risk, and a constantly updated projection is needed as short-term relevant climatic factors shift.
But despite the likelihood of any particular Tropical Depression forming, the range of its strength and the eventual pathway, there is still a clearly identifiable track that storms take – that Stephen Schneider called “Hurricane Alley”.
This kind of “big picture” of regional and even global phenomena means that we can safely scale out from the inner workings of individual changes in air pressure, prevailing winds and humidity and take in the larger-scale, longer-term trends.
Despite her claims that she thinks there’s too much uncertainty in the Earth’s Climate system to be able to project significant Climate Change with confidence, Dr Judith Curry is still able to do Science, as I first read in Wired :-
“Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice : Jiping Liu and Judith A. Curry : School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332 : Edited by Mark H. Thiemens, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, and approved July 13, 2010 (received for review March 15, 2010) : Abstract : The observed sea surface temperature in the Southern Ocean shows a substantial warming trend for the second half of the 20th century. Associated with the warming, there has been an enhanced atmospheric hydrological cycle in the Southern Ocean that results in an increase of the Antarctic sea ice for the past three decades through the reduced upward ocean heat transport and increased snowfall. The simulated sea surface temperature variability from two global coupled climate models for the second half of the 20th century is dominated by natural internal variability associated with the Antarctic Oscillation, suggesting that the models’ internal variability is too strong, leading to a response to anthropogenic forcing that is too weak. With increased loading of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through the 21st century, the models show an accelerated warming in the Southern Ocean, and indicate that anthropogenic forcing exceeds natural internal variability. The increased heating from below (ocean) and above (atmosphere) and increased liquid precipitation associated with the enhanced hydrological cycle results in a projected decline of the Antarctic sea ice.”
This leads to a rather deep question : we know the Arctic sea ice is probably doomed, and that Greenland’s ice cap is melting, so the whole Northern Pole could be relatively ice free within decades. And then the Antarctic will most likely degrade as the added snowfall caused by Global Warming turns to rain. Does Judith Curry know how unstable the Earth’s Climate was when last the Earth didn’t have either Arctic or Antarctic ice caps ?
Judith Curry is probably also highly aware that melting both the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps away rolls back at least 3 million years of stabilisation at lower relative temperatures, in less than 400 years of Anthropogenic Global Warming !
“So exactly what is it that you are fighting for? A Waxman-Markey type bill that even Jim Hansen said wouldn’t do any good? Some sort of UNFCCC global treaty that has zero chance even if the U.S. were behind it? That wouldn’t have any impact on the climate until the latter half of the century? SOMETHING, but you don’t know what? In that case, exactly what is wrong with delay? Let us know what you are fighting for, something that MATTERS.”
I can only assume from your questions that you have not read any of my work, or you would know where I stand, and how I’ve moved.
Most of the things that you have written recently, on a variety of web logs, indicate to me that you are so firmly entrenched in your position that it would be of no use in attempting to respond to you, or engage with you in any way.
I could pull apart everything that you have written on Collide-a-scape, but that would serve no real purpose apart from indicating that, like many other Climate Change scientists and activists, I too feel that you have lost your way, both intellectually and philosophically.
Of course, Pat Michaels is “right-wing”, but that’s not what I meant.
Some folk will be surprised that I agree with anything that Patrick Michaels says, as he is consistently inaccurate about the Science of Global Warming.
However, he is right that a Carbon Tax is the wrong way to proceed.
Carbon pricing, whether by direct taxation or by a trading scheme, effectively creates a double disincentive for change.
We have a large number of companies and organisations that are highly dependent on the use of Fossil Fuels. Carbon pricing will make these companies and organisations less financially efficient, and they will try anything they can to pass on the costs of Carbon to their consumers and clients, in order to remain profitable.
Carbon Taxation will therefore stimulate cost offsetting, but not Carbon reductions.
Moreover, if companies that make and sell energy are forced to pay for Carbon, they will have less funds available to deCarbonise their businesses; less capital to invest in new lower Carbon technologies.
Carbon Pricing will not alter the patterns of emissions significantly, if at all.
We have to face facts : the economists are largely wrong about environmental taxation. Record fines and levies demanded of Fossil Fuel companies in the last ten years have not stopped the spills, the leaks, the poisonings of waterways; nor have they helped the companies change course and start to develop Renewable Energies.
The pricing of large scale environmental pollution is a failed disincentive.
Statistical analysis of the raw data on Global Warming suffers from two major pitfalls :-
1. You are looking at the combined effects from several causative sources. Unless you have the means to distinguish the various factors, you cannot apply statistical techniques to the data and expect to get anything truly meaningful out. All that can be said, at best, is, “The Globe. Still Warming.”, as the warming trend over a long enough period of time has managed to stand out over the short-term variations.
2. Looking at the data purely by eye, some of the warming or cooling effects are clearly short-term, others longer-term; so picking a range of years/months/seasons at random, or according to some bias, is likely to distort the analysis. This is known as “cherry-picking”. The results of cherry-picking include the fallacious and discredited claim that, “Global Warming stopped in 1998”, or the much more crafty and misleading, “There has been no statistically significant Global Warming since 1998”.
Some researchers are content just to point to the overall effect of the raw data – global temperatures on land and at sea are rising sharply and the charts should be sufficient to understand the basic problem.
However, some people still contest that Global Warming is taking place, or that if it is, it isn’t serious. This then, is the cue to do an in-depth analysis into the known factors in global temperatures, and to attempt to “deduct” obvious short-term warming and cooling features in order to eyeball the underlying trends :-
The BBC puts the blame on Climate Change – almost – in a report on the Russian heatwave-wildfire disaster.
But they just can’t bring themselves to admit it as an organisation – and put the claims into the mouths of others – using quotation marks in the headline (‘partly to blame’) and ascribing the opinion to “researchers”, the “UK Met Office” and “experts” :-
“10 August 2010 : Climate change ‘partly to blame’ for sweltering Moscow : By Katia Moskvitch : Science reporter, BBC News : Global climate change is partly to blame for the abnormally hot and dry weather in Moscow, cloaked in a haze of smoke from wildfires, say researchers. The UK Met Office said there are likely to be more extreme high temperatures in the future. Experts from the environmental group WWF Russia have also linked climate change and hot weather to raging wildfires around the Russian capital. Meteorologists say severe conditions may linger for several more days…”
Well, I’ve got a bit of a question to pose – it might not be possible to ascribe the current weather conditions in Russia (and Pakistan and China and and and…) to Climate Change, statistically. I mean no one weather event can be said to have been caused 100% by Climate Change. But would these extreme weather events have happened without Climate Change ?
That is by far the most important question to ask, and Michael Tobis does just that :-
“…Are the current events in Russia “because of” “global warming”? To put the question in slightly more formal terms, are we now looking at something that is no longer a “loading the dice” situation but is a “this would, practically certainly, not have happened without human interference” situation? Can we phrase it more formally? “Is the average time between persistent anomalies on this scale anywhere on earth in the undisturbed holocene climate much greater than a human lifetime?” In other words, is this so weird we would NEVER expect to see it at all?…”
Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway recommend that grassroots Internet writers focus on Climate Change Policy, in this Climate Science Watch interview shot at Netroots Nation 2010.
The subject of government policies to deal with Climate Change borders on the excessively dull – which is why most Internet web loggers (or “bloggers”) don’t want to touch Policy even with a full HazMat suit on.
It’s the kiss-of-interest-death to try to open up discussions on Carbon Taxation, Cap-and-Trade, Cap-and-Share, Cap-and-Dividend, Cap-and-Giveaway, Contraction & Convergence, Kyoto2, Border Tax Adjustments, Clean Development credits, Carbon Intensity and the like.
Only really seriously geeky, mildly obsessive people really want to think about the Big Picture. And many of us get stuck in a corner of unworkable aspiration, where we know something has to change, we fix on just a snippet of the giant problem, and then we find we cannot communicate it well enough for others to understand.
For example – very public insistence that the Coal-burning power generation industry has got to cease trading doesn’t make it happen, despite excellent reasoning and even entire Climate Camps of resistance and protest amongst the activist community.
This is probably because (a) most people don’t understand how banning Coal fits into the bigger Carbon picture, (b) most people don’t know how to go about asking the right people to ban Coal and (c) most of the Coal-burning industry don’t want people to look into their business too deeply so they have invested lots of money in public attitude smokescreens. No, it’s not a “conspiracy”. It’s a documented public relations exercise. Just ask Naomi and Erik.
Linking Climate Change to other Environmental Problems
The Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from humankind’s activities is accumulating very rapidly in the Atmosphere, and this is why the international Climate Change negotiations and Climate Change Science focus on it so heavily.
The warming response of the Earth’s surface correlates strongly with the rise in Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere, so Global Warming can be treated almost entirely as the Earth system’s reaction to rising levels of this one gas.
Other Greenhouse Gases, such as Methane (CH4) and high level water vapour (H2O), are increasing in line with the rise in Carbon Dioxide.
Logic and experiment dictates that they are doing this in response to the rise in Carbon Dioxide, so their rise is a feedback effect in the Earth system – a reaction to rising temperatures – caused by the warming due to increasing airborne Carbon Dioxide.
However, Carbon Dioxide is not the only Greenhouse Gas that humankind is pumping into the Atmosphere in excess of natural levels – a rather famous example being that growing numbers of livestock are belching Methane that is adding to the up-tick on concentrations of Methane in the Atmosphere.
There are still high levels of various gaseous industrial pollution, some of which is in the form of Greenhouse Gases.
In addition, Global Warming is not the only environmental problem, although it is exacerbating other environmental problems.
Climate Change is an added stressor on natural habitats that are being degraded by pollution, bad land management and deforestation.
It seems obvious to take a step back to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and mesh together once more the environmental threads of the United Nations conventions : on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification.