Adaptation: Evaluation of IPCC AR5 WG2–Did Bjorn Lomborg Write This?

Adaptation: The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects. (IPCC AR5 WG2, Summary for Policy Makers [SPM]). Read the SPM here.


I had to read the beginning of the AR5 WG2 report very quickly, as I didn’t want to get bogged down in stuff I don’t agree with. I was looking for specific recommendations on what the human race can do to adapt to climate change over the course of this century.

Having read the rest of it, I have to say that it makes sense. It also reads as if it were written by Bjorn Lomborg.

Their advice for dealing with malaria and other vector borne diseases? “Achieving development goals, particularly improved access to safe water and improved sanitation, and enhancement of public health functions such as surveillance”

For dealing with stresses on crop productivity? “Technological adaptation responses (e.g., stress-tolerant crop varieties, irrigation, enhanced observation systems)”

For stress on water resources? “Reducing non-climate stressors on water resources.”

I wonder why the Konsensus is so angry at Lomborg. The IPCC is stealing his ideas….

Here’s more. I will  continue with this for a few posts.

The IPCC believes that some progress is being made in institutional planning processes, writing “Engineered and technological options are commonly implemented adaptive responses, often integrated within existing programs such as disaster risk management and water management. There is increasing recognition of the value of social, institutional, and ecosystem-based measures and of the extent of constraints to adaptation. Adaptation options adopted to date continue to emphasize incremental adjustments and cobenefits and are starting to emphasize flexibility and learning (medium evidence, medium agreement). Most assessments of adaptation have been restricted to impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation planning, with very few assessing the processes of implementation or the effects of adaptation actions (medium evidence, high agreement). 1″

Most of what has happened in terms of adaptation involves education and planning.

“Examples of adaptation across regions include the following:

• In Africa, most national governments are initiating governance systems for adaptation. Disaster risk management, adjustments in technologies and infrastructure, ecosystem-based approaches, basic public health measures, and livelihood diversification are reducing vulnerability, although efforts to date tend to be isolated. 18

• In Europe, adaptation policy has been developed across all levels of government, with some adaptation planning integrated into coastal and water management, into environmental protection and land planning, and into disaster risk management. 19

• In Asia, adaptation is being facilitated in some areas through mainstreaming climate adaptation action into subnational development planning, early warning systems, integrated water resources management, agroforestry, and coastal reforestation of mangroves. 20

• In Australasia, planning for sea level rise, and in southern Australia for reduced water availability, is becoming adopted widely. Planning for sea level rise has evolved considerably over the past 2 decades and shows a diversity of approaches, although its implementation remains piecemeal. 21

• In North America, governments are engaging in incremental adaptation assessment and planning, particularly at the municipal level. Some proactive adaptation is occurring to protect longer-term investments in energy and public infrastructure. 22

• In Central and South America, ecosystem-based adaptation including protected areas, conservation agreements, and community management of natural areas is occurring. Resilient crop varieties, climate forecasts, and integrated water resources management are being adopted within the agricultural sector in some areas. 23″

• In the Arctic, some communities have begun to deploy adaptive co-management strategies and communications infrastructure, combining traditional and scientific knowledge. 24

• In small islands, which have diverse physical and human attributes, community-based adaptation has been shown to generate larger benefits when delivered in conjunction with other development activities. 25

• In the ocean, international cooperation and marine spatial planning are starting to facilitate adaptation to climate change, with constraints from challenges of spatial scale and governance issues. 26

Sadly, “Uncertainties about future vulnerability, exposure, and responses of interlinked human and natural systems are large (high confidence). This motivates exploration of a wide range of socioeconomic futures in assessments of risks. Understanding future vulnerability, exposure, and response capacity of interlinked human and natural systems is challenging due to the number of interacting social, economic, and cultural factors, which have been incompletely considered to date.”

However, starting on page 21, they start giving concrete policy options.

Their first ‘key risk’ is “Compounded stress on water resources facing significant strain from overexploitation and degradation at present and increased demand in the future, with drought stress exacerbated in drought-prone regions of Africa.”

The options they provide are: “• Reducing non-climate stressors on water resources • Strengthening institutional capacities for demand management, groundwater assessment, integrated water-wastewater planning, and integrated land and water governance • Sustainable urban development.”

Next is “Reduced crop productivity associated with heat and drought stress, with strong adverse effects on regional, national, and household livelihood and food security, also given increased pest and disease damage and flood impacts on food system infrastructure (high confidence)”

And their advice is “• Technological adaptation responses (e.g., stress-tolerant crop varieties, irrigation, enhanced observation systems) • Enhancing smallholder access to credit and other critical production resources; Diversifying livelihoods • Strengthening institutions at local, national, and regional levels to support agriculture (including early warning systems) and gender-oriented policy • Agronomic adaptation responses (e.g., agroforestry, conservation agriculture.”

This is followed by “Changes in the incidence and geographic range of vector- and water-borne diseases due to changes in the mean and variability of temperature and precipitation, particularly along the edges of their distribution (medium confidence)”

Their prescription is: “• Achieving development goals, particularly improved access to safe water and improved sanitation, and enhancement of public health functions such as surveillance • Vulnerability mapping and early warning systems • Coordination across sectors • Sustainable urban development.”

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ll be struck by how much Bjorn Lomborg would be nodding his head.


Adaptation Bleg

Most of the stuff I’ve read about adaptation to climate change involves sea walls and rerouting roads.

What I’d like to see is costings and timelines for retrofitting large cities, from rerouting sewers to jacking up buildings, from flood proofing metros and power sub stations to improving drainage.

Anyone know where I can look for this?


Adaptation to Climate Change

I have had the privilege of living in London, Turin, San Francisco, Shanghai and Taipei over the last 20 years. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Each of those cities is different in different ways. One way in which they are very different is their climate.

I bring this up to introduce the topic of adaptation. After a week going on (and on) about mitigation, it’s time to change the subject.

If mitigation is not successful in reversing whatever climate change is coming our way, we shall have to adapt. For a species that has robust communities in the Arctic and the Sahara, adapting to 2C or even 4C doesn’t sound like much of a challenge.

My own experience suggests that adaptation to differing climates is certainly possible–but it brings noticeable changes and you have to actually consider it. The daily pattern of your life does change. It can affect your work, your travel plans and your love life. Here in Taipei I go jogging (well, shuffling…) early in the morning. In London I went in the evening.

The infrastructure of the cities I have lived in are built around expectations of a certain range of temperatures, precipitation and even pollution. Streets are surfaced differently, buildings have different interiors and exteriors, drainage is very different.

London and Turin are built along the Thames and the Po rivers respectively. Each city has different ways of preparing for flood and drought. San Francisco is at the tip of a peninsula on the Pacific and a lot of it is built on landfill. Shanghai is a low lying city in the Yangtze River Delta bordering the East China Sea. Taipei is on the northern tip of an island and is bordered by the Keelung and Xindian rivers.

All of these cities could survive 2C or 4C of temperature rises and its attendant climatic consequences, increased precipitation and sea level rise. But it would not be automatic or easy. It would be expensive and time consuming. People would be relocated. Transportation would be disrupted. Buildings would have to be renovated and reinforced. Sewers would have to be rebuilt and defenses against rivers and seas built higher and tougher. But they are modern, wealthy cities and they would find a way to thrive.

I have visited other cities built low to the ground and near the seas–Manila, Singapore, etc. I think they would have a much tougher time of it, mostly because of the expense involved. They have just as many active and intelligent people as the cities where I have lived. But it takes money to build seawalls, relocate sewers, elevate buildings, etc. It also takes time.

The megacities of the developing world are growing so quickly that they struggle to meet the needs of their people with today’s climate. They are projected to keep growing as quickly as they have in the past two decades. Most of these megacities are in harms way from existing climate and that harm will increase if temperatures, precipitation and sea levels rise.

I’m not worried about Miami–it would probably get richer as the new Venice than it is today. I am worried about Mumbai, good portions of which are already below sea level.


I will be writing more about adaptation this week, perhaps not as much as I did about mitigation.

I hope you all are as generous about sharing your thoughts as you were last week.

Meditation on Mitigation

Happy Sunday, everybody. Let’s take a minute for some morning meditation about mitigation.


My knees don’t bend like that any more. Actually, they never did.

If you start with the assumption (and skeptics will call it a heroic assumption) that it is worth time and money to reduce human contributions to climate change, this week’s posts here , here, here, here, here and elsewhere on mitigation should show that it is possible with current technology to provide significant levels of mitigation at a cost of far less than 1% of global GDP per year.

By ‘significant’ I mean rapid progress towards meeting the Kyoto goal of 20% less than 1990 emissions by 2020. We will not achieve that goal, but we can get within signaling distance.

President Obama’s plan for the U.S. is well-designed to go after the low-hanging fruit–moving towards the elimination of coal as a fuel for power plants, rapid escalation of CAFE standards, maintenance of subsidies for renewables. If he can break the logjam preventing construction of nuclear power plants before he leaves office he will have done enough for his two terms. Assuming of course that the U.S. doesn’t stop there.

Improvements in energy efficiency, the Rodney Dangerfield of efforts to address climate change, can do a lot–easily able to reduce emissions by 5,300 mmts of CO2 out of the approximately 40,000 mmts we emitted in 2014. If we could magically replace coal with nuclear worldwide, that would eliminate another 10,000 mmts and we would be within striking distance of the Kyoto deal.

We cannot wave a magic wand and remove coal from the developing world’s plans. What we can do is provide technology assistance to make their use of coal as low impact as possible and work with them on speeding adoption of more efficient energy sources.

I also favor adoption of a carbon tax in those parts of the world that don’t have one yet. I recommend that it be revenue neutral and re-evaluated every decade against pre-agreed metrics and that it start at a low level ($12/ton in the U.S.)

The rest of the program should consist of Fast Mitigation efforts–planting trees, (lots of trees), attacking black soot, improving the technology of cement production and heightening the albedo of some parts of the earth’s surface.

There are longer term efforts we can’t ignore, such as continued investment in energy research, storage and distribution, and smaller scale efforts that can contribute at a 2% each level, such as dismantling no-fly zones left over from the Cold War, encouragement of telecommuting, uprating of turbines in hydroelectric facilities and increased adoption of CHP and ground source heat pumps in northern residences. We should also continue to encourage take-up of solar power and this encouragement should include subsidies.

Taken together, these measures would reduce human forcings dramatically and lower CO2 emissions to roughly 18,000 mmts by 2050.

I have written this series as a result of the invention of the derogatory term ‘mitigation skeptic’ used by the minions of the Konsensus against Lukewarmers. I have made this mitigation case in the past but it was scattered in comments across the blogosphere. Pulling the threads together I have noticed that neither the consensus nor their exploiters in the Konsensus have actually put together a coherent mitigation plan.

They’re welcome to any part of this that fits their fancy.

More Mitigation Metrics For Climate Change

The other day it seemed as though the metrics I showed were painting us into a corner. It appeared that the only way we could reduce CO2 emissions was by constructing a vast armada of 600 nuclear power plants, something that would cost at least $12 trillion dollars.

Then we looked at a list of 2% solutions that might add up to the emission totals we need to exorcise from our diet–portion control and exercise…

Today we’ll approach the issue from a third perspective, by looking at how we use the fuel we consume. This time we’re going to use 2011 figures from the DOE EIA, as that’s the latest year they have figures for.

This is essentially a ‘no regrets’ approach at improving the efficiency of the machines we use and which consume large quantities of energy. It is sneered at by some, most of whom have already shown that they are math deficient. Watch it work.

In 2011 the EIA estimated world energy consumption at 524 quads (in our previous posts the 2012 figure was 542.) For convenience we’ll use the same figure of 73.8 million metric tons of CO2 for each fossil fuel quad. Remember that in 2011 we generated about 56 quads without emitting CO2–thanks to hydroelectric power, nuclear and wind/solar. So the 468 quads from fossil fuels produced a total of 34,538 mmts of CO2.  The total we would like to reach is 90% of 1990 emissions, 16,700 mmts. In a world where energy consumption grows every year, that’s an ambitious target–but that’s the target.

I’m sure readers understand that coal emits more than natural gas, but I hope for this exercise that isn’t too important.

Here’s the EIA table:

End-use sectors Energy end use2  Electricity losses3  Total energy use4  % of total
Industrial 200
Total end-use sectors
Electric power sector4

Obviously, when 27% of your entire energy consumption is wasted while generating electricity, you have an existing problem and a clear target for a solution. If we could eliminate this waste it would save 10,479 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. It’s quite a bit more now, as the developing world has been increasing its use of coal.

Of course that just leads us back to the conclusion of my previous post, that eliminating coal-fired power plants is where we should look first. But the EIA’s table also shows other areas where we can improve.

It is a commonplace that about a third of the energy used in homes and offices is wasted–that we could use existing technology to eliminate most of that waste and that it would actually pay for the cost of improvements in a short period. That number is rarely disputed. What’s much discussed is why it doesn’t happen. Again, I’ll glide over that topic as something that we could solve if we decided it absolutely needed to be solved.

If we reduced energy consumption by a third in both the residential and commercial sectors it would reduce global emissions by 1,972.6 mmts of CO2. Not as much as we might have hoped for, but still significant.

Can industry help? Well, in 2004 a study conducted for the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy indicated that yes, industry can contribute to lower emissions.

Loss Factors for Selected Equipment Energy System Percent Energy Lost Steam systems

  • Boilers – 20%
  • Steam pipes and traps – 20%
  • Steam delivery/heat exchangers – 15%
  • Power generation Combined heat and power – 24% (4500 Btu/kWh) Conventional power – 45% (6200 Btu/kWh)
  • Energy distribution Fuel and electricity distribution lines and pipes (not steam) – 3%
  • Energy conversion Process heaters – 15%
  • Cooling systems – 10%
  • Onsite transport systems – 50%
  • Electrolytic cells – 15%
  • Other – 10% Motor systems
  • Pumps – 40%
  • Fans – 40%
  • Compressed air – 80%
  • Refrigeration – 5%
  • Materials handling – 5%
  • Materials processing – 90%
  • Motor windings – 5%

The study charted how losses could be reduced cost effectively, with a payback on money spent on increasing efficiency of between 3 and 8 years.

If extrapolated across the world (which means assuming the rest of the world is currently as efficient/inefficient as the U.S.) in only six industry sectors (that account for 80% of industrial energy consumption) the global energy savings would be 25 quads, further reducing emissions by 1,845 mmts of CO2.

Which brings us to the transportation sector, which in 2011 consumed 101 quads and was responsible for 7,453.8 mmts of CO2 emissions.

Jet aircraft are now being built that use 20% less fuel than their predecessors. Well, the same is true for cars and ships. Just by telling companies and people to use best of breed vehicles would have dropped consumption by 20 quads, reducing emissions by a further 1,476 million metric tons.

This low pain scenario, mostly consisting of doing things we should do regardless of global warming, would have reduced 2011 emissions by a total of 15,772 mmts of CO2. Subtract that from 2011’s total of 34,538 mmts and this ‘no regrets’ policy would have left emissions at 18,766.4 mmts, only 2,000 mmts above our Kyoto goals.

There are a number of problems with this simplified scenario. Savings are never 100%, implementation is never immediate and solutions bring problems of their own, trailing behind.

But I think this shows that we could make major savings in emissions without ruining the economy, letting the lights go out or destroying the industrial base of the world.

The coal companies won’t like it. And I feel some sympathy for them and a lot more sympathy for their employees. Coal powered us for many years and created much of the good we see in modern economies today.

But you could say the same of wood and even whale oil. Coal has had its day. Let’s retrain the workers, offer compensation for stranded investment to the shareholders in coal companies and move on.

Answers to Climate Questions That Never Get Answered–Fifty 2% Solutions

My thanks to everyone who responded to my call for suggestions on how coping with different levels of anticipated warming could be addressed. Your answers matched some of my own opinions and, well, preconceptions about the issues.

The skeptics among you advocate no special actions, a reasonable position given your beliefs and attitudes about climate change. If you are correct, then we would save money and other resources that would be used to address climate change.

As I disagree with you about the subject, I’ll press on if you don’t mind.

Some of you who I think of as lukewarmers made concrete suggestions, including staged conversion of coal-fired energy plants to first natural gas, then nuclear. You also advocate smaller scale solutions such as increased (and mandated) telecommuting, dramatically higher CAFE standards, etc.

Almost Iowa, a frequent commenter here, did the most detailed assessment which I reproduce here:

1) The president goes on television and announced a goal of having 10% of the workforce telecommute. The ripple affect would be tremendous, anyone who lives in a metro area knows the difference between summer (vacation time) driving and the traffic when school is in session.
2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
4) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
5) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

1) Workforce telecommuting goal of 30%
2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
5) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
6) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

1) Restriction on all unnecessary travel. Workforce telecommuting goal of everyone who can. Banning of all unnecessary air travel.
2) Conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas, accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable). Removal of all vehicles that do not comply with CAFE standards within 5 years.
4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
5) Incorporation of solar technology into building materials.
6) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity. Restrictions on air conditioning.
7) Manhattan project-type funding for alternative energy R & D.

Almost Iowa’s prescriptions are for U.S. responses, although they could be extended throughout the developed world. As I wrote in response, I agree with most of what he wrote, although I would add to his list. What I especially like in Almost Iowa’s proposals is that with some of them he involves the entire population, which offers scope for wider engagement with environmental policies overall, and may extend beyond climate change, which I think is extremely important. Our major impacts on the planet at present–habitat loss, introduction of alien species, conventional pollution and over hunting/fishing, still dwarf the current impacts of climate change and we need the populace to enter into efforts to reduce each of them.

Although I hope to address what the developing world can contribute to mitigation efforts in another post, it seems clear to me that for an exercise like this we in fact should focus on the developed countries. We are the ones most exercised about this, we have the wealth to adopt mitigation strategies, with most of that wealth being in part due to our current and past consumption of fossil fuels.

It seems apparent that for lower levels of anticipated warming that the actions that are most appropriate do not consist of blanket, high impact changes. For example, Almost Iowa’s prescription to move from coal to natural gas and nuclear is already being undertaken piecemeal, which serves to lessen the impact.

His other suggestions for mitigating 2C or 3C warming are what I have in the past labeled “2% Solutions.” Even his most ambitious, the doubling of CAFE standards for automotive efficiency, if adopted throughout the developed world would only reduce emissions by about 2%. I haven’t run the numbers on telecommuting, but it would at best approach 2%.


I think this is perfectly okay–if we can find 50 of them. Almost Iowa has started the list. I would add some more:

  • Uprating of turbines in hydroelectric facilities to increase generation from existing plants
  • Introduction of best of breed technology and best practices to air traffic control systems, allowing large savings of jet fuel
  • Institute a Cash for Clunkers program for commercial aircraft, retiring planes that are not fuel efficient
  • Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power to make it easier to gain approval. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
  • Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities in the U.S. from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.

I hope readers will volunteer other suggestions. If we get to 50 we have a program.

With regards to mitigating temperature rises of 4C, Almost Iowa offers a more draconian set of suggestions. I hope to deal with them in another post.

Climate Change Mitigation Metrics

In 2012 human emissions of CO2 were 32,310 million metric tons.

In the same year we consumed 540 quadrillion BTUs (quads) of energy. However, about 61 quads of this was generated by renewable resources or nuclear power, so let’s say that burning 479 quads of energy created those 32,310 mmts of CO2.

At current levels of efficiency, that works out to about 73.8 million metric tons of CO2 for each quad.

Let’s imagine that we wanted to reduce emissions by 25% below our 1990 emissions, in line with the Kyoto Protocol. The world’s 1990 emissions were 22,261 mmts, less 25% gets us 16,700. Roughly 50% of what we emitted in 2012. How would we go about this?

hard choices

Let’s see what we have to work with. According to the DOE EIA, this is the fuel portfolio the world used in 2012:

Liquids: 179.9 quads
Coal: 154 quads
Natural gas: 120.4 quads
Nuclear: 25.5 quads
Other: 60.6 quads

The ‘other’ category includes renewables–but also firewood and dung.

If we look at our goal using the portfolio approach we would say let’s convert coal to natural gas and nuclear. In addition, we would say let’s use clean energy to power trains and push to get everybody out of cars and planes and into trains (and metros).

If we were wildly successful–let’s say cutting liquids from 179.9 quads down to 90 and eliminating coal altogether (with half being replaced by natural gas and half by nuclear), we would save 14,000 mmts of CO2 from being emitted (the energy switch from coal to natural gas still produces emissions). And we would be almost there.

The sobering news is that to get an additional 75 quads from nuclear power we would have to construct about 600 new nuclear power plants… which we could do, of course.

But that immediately should start us thinking that a top down allocation of fuel portfolio choices may not be the best approach.

So we’ll look at alternatives in an upcoming post.

Climate Questions That Never Get Answered

Let’s take a mini-test. I will discuss the results in another post. All are invited, all are welcome. Good faith is urged.

child taking test

Let’s say we knew without a doubt that anthropogenic influences meant that temperatures were going to rise 2C over the course of this century. Please take a minute to marshal your list of what we would do to either prevent it or adapt to it before, during and after. Order your list–what’s the first thing you would have us do? What’s next?

Now let’s imagine that we learned that our treatment of the planet meant that temperatures were going to rise by 3C over the same period.

What would we do differently? I have asked this question repeatedly without anyone ever giving an answer.

And for 4C–same question.

It is my working hypothesis that if we ordered a list of adaptation and mitigation processes, the first 10 things we would do would be absolutely the same for each level of rise.

If true, that would mean that a lot of the squabbling going on between various factions is not strictly necessary. We could actually just start doing the first 10 things on the list and by the time we had finished we might even know whether or not number 11 was appropriate.

For bonus points on this exercise, please indicate which items on your list are things we should do whether or not there is any global warming for the rest of this century.

One Technological Innovation With The Potential To Reduce Energy Consumption

Yesterday I talked about the potential for robotics, drones and driverless cars to increase energy consumption in ways that are not currently accounted for in calculations of energy usage. More of each of them will result in more energy consumption, as not all of them will be replacing humans or less efficient machines. They will be used to do brand new things and consuming energy to do so.

But one new technology may be instrumental in reducing energy consumption. I refer to additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.

By reducing the need for mass production runs, the idea of ‘build to order’ for replacement parts and even new products will reduce energy in manufacturing, storage and recycling or disposal.

When Steve Mosher and I self-published Climategate: The CRUTape Letters, there was no advance publishing run. If you ordered the book, Amazon printed it, packed it and mailed it to you. That was just 2D printing.

Now the same principle can apply to almost anything–parts for your car, vacuum tubes for your 1940 radio, your new gadget for monitoring your heart rate while you sleep, etc.

Nonrefrigerated warehouses in the U.S. use an average of 6.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and 13,400 Btu of natural gas per square foot annually. There are a lot of square feet of warehouse space–just ask Amazon.

General Electric is trying to get its large customers to install 3D printers to print large airplane parts like turbines, which will save GE transportation and storage costs.


I don’t know if 3D printing will save more energy than robots will consume while flying, driving or working–but it’s something…

Technological Innovation and Climate Change

Most discussion of technology with regards to climate change focuses either on energy efficiency or green energy generation. Given that the next 10-15 years is going to be a time of dramatic technological change, perhaps we should expand our focus a bit.

Improvements in software have now laid the groundwork for expanded use of machinery, principally robots, drones and driverless cars. It seems clear that there will be very large numbers of them deployed throughout the world in the coming decades. Deployment is already being led by military applications. Typically that transitions into police and other first responder organizations and then into commercial application and finally home use.


Many of these new machines will replace humans, which is already worrying many. I personally will welcome the arrival of our new Robotic Blogging Overlords… But many of these machines will be doing things that humans cannot or will not do.

This means that these technologies will spur energy consumption. If these technologies innovate and spread as quickly as other recent technological advances there may be tens of millions of each of them by 2050. That’s actually a sizable amount of energy. when Google driverless gyrobikes are bringing your groceries to your door while sushi comes to your window via a drone, it will all take power. When community service has to be redefined because robots are picking up the trash along the county highway, the robots will be using power.

This is likely to provide added impetus to research in improved batteries, which is all to the good. However it should sharpen our gaze on the fuel portfolio for generating electricity. We’re going to need more energy than people think.

As these are only three of the next generation of coming ‘gadgets’ I think it is safe to assume that we will need a lot more energy than people think. The last generation of innovation has been purposefully invisible–your computers, televisions and mobile phones are better by far, but they’re pretty much still the same shape and size, coming in the same boxes.

The next generation of technological change will be very different.

Lukewarmers under the microscope

Over at the blog Making Science Public, Brigitte Nerlich is trying to figure out who Lukewarmers are, what we actually think and how we’re different from skeptics and warmists. After a lot of discussion it turns out that we agree with the science, that there is an A in AGW, but that we also think sensitivity is lower than warmists. Not much of a revelation there.

One of the commenters on the thread is one of my favorite humans, Lucia Liljegren of The Blackboard. She pursues the topic in greater depth here, referring to Tamsin Edward’s post in The Guardian and is kind enough to mention me.

With all of that as background I would like to offer some thoughts on why there is a sudden flare-up of interest in Lukewarmers.


From the point of view of the consensus, it seems clear that a combination of the pause that may no longer be mentioned and observational studies showing the likelihood of a lower value for atmospheric sensitivity are pushing them to consider that Lukewarmers may well be correct.

As for the parallel universe inhabited by the Konsensus, those who exaggerate what the consensus says for political gain, these efforts by the better-educated and better-mannered consensus holders are galling. They are making a concerted effort to counter the more reasonable explorations of the Lukewarm ideas with their own propaganda.

Dana Nuccitelli at the Guardian is leading the charge to imprint the label of denier on Lukewarmers, making up stuff like “This group believes that the climate is relatively insensitive to the increasing greenhouse effect, and hence that climate change will proceed slowly enough as to not be a serious concern in the near future.” Not that he allows his article to be sullied by any conversation with Lukewarmers–not even a quote from things we’ve written in the past. Nuccitelli ends up calling us Stage 3 Denialists–I don’t know if that’s better than Stage 2 or Stage 4…

When Nuccitelli writes “For the Luckwarmer case to be true, first the climate sensitivity must be close to the lowest end of possible values” he writes something that is untrue. The IPCC provides a range of possible values for sensitivity. Lukewarmers almost by definition believe that sensitivity is within the range provided by the IPCC. We just think it’s at the lower end. My personal SWAG is about 2.1C.

Not to be outdone, Evil Eli Rabett has taken on the responsibility of popularizing the label ‘luckwarmer’ and taping it to our foreheads. He says we’re all from the far right and as delusional as he believe skeptics to be. Does that mean I can get a refund for 30 years of campaign contributions to Democratic candidates?

(Why do I call Eli Evil? Because he’s a trasher. Because Tamsin Edwards did not condemn us in her article, Eli wrote “Tamsin Edwards is Roger Pielke Jr. in training with a couple of good papers to her name. She is a careerist just like Roger, just a bit younger.” Anyone who reads Tamsin’s article will see immediately that this is not true. But Eli does this to everyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with his rigid worldview.)

We could go case by case refuting the untruths written about Lukewarmers–and it might end up with a pretty good definition. As we don’t have a manifesto or anything like that, the definition of Lukewarmer has been pretty ad hoc.

But the fact that people are starting to write about us means that if we don’t come up with a definition someone else will do it for us. And the odds are pretty good that the someone will be as unprincipled and as careless about the truth as Dana Nuccitelli or Eli Rabett.

So let’s look at what Lucia Liljegren, one of the Lukewarm pioneers, has to say.

Lukewarmers are different from skeptics:

“Lukewarmer disagree with those who:
1) Believe CO2 has no net warming effect.
2) Believe the warming effect is so small that any observed rise in measured global temperature is 100% due to natural causes.
3) Believe the measured global temperature rise purely or mostly a result of “fiddling”.
4) Believe the world is more likely to cool over the next 100 years than warm.”

As for what we actually do believe, Lucia writes

“To expand, the list of things lukewarmers believe include:

* lukewarmers believe ECS is on the lower end of the IPCC AR4 range (note the AR5 range did move down). However, they believe it is inside that range. That is, they don’t think it has the optical properties of something like Nitrogen.

* lukewarmers recognize the magnitude of the temperature change matters as does the rate of change. So the magnitude of ECS matters. (If lower, the consequence of a set emissions level is lower than if it is higher.)

* lukewarmers think it’s important for the estimates of ECS used in economic models that are used to guide policy to not be biased by things like using inapproriate priors in statistical results or models that appear to be over-predicting the level of warming. In contrast, your comment specifically omitted this in your list of what is important.

* lukewarmers disagree with the rhetoric that suggests that we must all focus on the high end of ECS especially when the rhetoric seems to suggest this focus means we are to pay less attention to other features like the central estimates ( mean, median). In other words: they think we should use the full range out comes just as we normally do for things like life insurance car insurance and so on. We don’t base decisions only on the worst possible outcome. (This rhetoric that the high end is central exists exists– as ATTP’s site and in his comments indicate. Some may tap-dance carefully when implying this but its evident in the tone and sometimes directly stated.)”

That’s good enough for a starting point. But I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

Global Warming and 30C Temperatures

Today in Taipei it reached 30C by 9:00 a.m. That’s 86F for you incorrigibles out there. It changes how you think of your day. You break the day into activity in the morning, reading (or napping) in the afternoon and more activity in the evening.

When the Wall Street Journal asked the great and the good to name the most influential invention of the last millenium, those in more temperate climes were free to choose things like the internet, birth control, the printing press and other fripperies. Lee Yuan Kew got straight to the point, naming air conditioning. The authoritarian leader of Singapore understood that without air conditioning, those in tropical countries could not be as productive as those with more forgiving climes.


This is relevant to discussions about climate change. The United States currently uses more energy for air conditioning than all other countries combined. The U.S.consumes 185 billion kilowatt hours on air conditioning each year.

By 2050, half the world’s population will live in the tropics.

Currently the climate is one factor in keeping them poor.


However, they are getting richer. In 2010 China installed 50 million air conditioning units. This will help them improve productivity and get richer still.

Currently, the Konsensus has introduced a new line of argument into the climate debate. They have de-emphasized the focus on sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of CO2 concentrations, probably because all the new studies show that sensitivity is far lower than the Konsensus has claimed. Now they are just saying we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. It’s about as content heavy as Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No.’

If we leave fossil fuels in the ground we are leaving the tropics and half the world’s people trapped in a cycle of poverty.

I’m not saying ‘drill, baby, drill.’ If we can provide them with nuclear power, hydropower, wind and solar instead I am all in favor of it. But for those who think it is a viable alternative just to not provide the developing world with power you have nothing but my contempt.

It’s hot outside even without climate change.

From Climate Hero to Denier–McKibben Goes After The President

Not since Theodore Roosevelt has a president shown as much concern for the environment as Barack Obama. Much of that concern has been evidenced in his efforts to combat climate change. From spending early political capital in a vain effort to pass Cap and Trade legislation to giving the Environmental Protection Agency free rein to go after large emitters, Barack Obama has been upfront in championing the fight against climate change. Indeed, in my opinion he has sometimes gone overboard, casual in his use of the term ‘denier’, more confident in assessing the state of the science than scientists, etc.

But now he’s a climate denier, according to Bill McKibben. “This is climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children. They just deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground.”

Never mind that McKibben is one of the looniest of climate alarmers.

What’s important here is what now qualifies someone as a ‘denier,’ suitable for photographing next to skin-head thugs denying the Holocaust.

It is no longer skepticism. It is no longer lukewarmism. You are now a ‘denier’ even if you accept all the science and the urgency of swift action.

You’re a ‘denier’ if you don’t accept the solution of the Alarmist Konsensus. Unless you sign on to their policy prescription–in this case that fossil fuels need to be left in the ground–you are a ‘denier.’

This is insane. So is McKibben. So are all those that insist that leaving fossil fuels in the ground is the only scientific stance to take on climate change.

We live in a world where we don’t know what atmospheric sensitivity is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2. We live in a world where almost every month a new study comes out strengthening the idea that sensitivity is lower than assumed. We live in a world where temperature rises have plateaued at their current high level for almost two decades. We live in a world where the developing countries have stated as plain fact that they intend to increase their use of the fossil fuels McKibben insists we leave in the ground.

So an American president who has spent much of his presidency and no small amount of the meager political capital he had to work with in combatting climate change is now a ‘denier?’

I suggest that McKibben and perhaps the Alarmist Konsensus alongside him have jumped the shark. Or tried to…

jump the shark

Feeding the world in a warming world

Chris Mooney, a man long recognized as one of the most alarmed of climate activists, writes in the Washington Post that “With a world population of 9 billion in 2050, wheat demand is expected to increase by 60%. To meet the demand, annual wheat yield increases must grow from the current level of below 1% to at least 1.6%.” That’s why the punchline of a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is pretty troubling. A warming climate, it suggests, could drive wheat yields in the opposite direction – down — in the United States and, possibly, elsewhere.”


The thrust of the article is that global warming will either reduce crop yields if there are more days with high temperatures above 34C, leave them the same or improve crop yields if there are fewer freezing days in the fall.

So of course the piece is headlined “Troubling new research says global warming will cut wheat yields”.

President Obama joined his voice to the scientific community’s in declaring (quite correctly) that 14 of the 15 highest recorded temperature years have occurred this century. Some have declared an increase in the number of heatwaves, droughts and dry spells falling short of drought.

So let’s see how that has impacted global wheat yields. We turn to the FAO, the UN Organization for Food and Agriculture, which for some reason wasn’t consulted for Mooney’s article. They show that wheat yields have increased from 585,690,886 tonnes in 2000 to 713,182,914 tonnes in 2013. The table doesn’t extend beyond 2013, but 2014 set records…

Mooney quoted the Wheat Institute as saying “To meet the demand, annual wheat yield increases must grow from the current level of below 1% to at least 1.6%.” But the FAO says historical growth for the past 15 years has been 1.34%. Someone will have to explain that to me.

At any rate, having the 14 hottest years since modern records began, having the supposed increase in droughts and heatwaves–has resulted in bumper harvests and record yields. Someone will have to explain that to me as well.

Given the rate of technology transfer and the ability of farmers in the developing world to improve yields by adopting modern agricultural methods, given the promise of genetically modified strains and the boost afforded by additional CO2, I really have to wonder if worrying about wheat is the most profitable use of our time.

How Would You Make Climate Policy Using These Facts?

Someone once said that everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but everybody has to rely on the same facts. All but one of the statements below are made by, or in stories about statements by scientists. Spot the one that wasn’t and win a cookie! Now, no Googling blocks of text or I’ll be very annoyed.

What do you do when people state things as fact that are wildly different? If you’re a city planner evaluating developments on a coastline, who do you listen to? If you’re a voter trying to make sure your choice means something, who do you believe?


I’m going to do this with no links, as I want you to decide what to do based on statements, not your opinion of where it appeared.

1. “The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

2. “No, climate change is not experiencing a hiatus. No, there is not currently a “pause” in global warming.”

3. “A new study has found sea level rise accelerated faster in the past two decades than it did for the majority of the 20th century.”

4. “A new paper shows that sea levels rose faster in the ten years from 1993-2003 than they have since. Sea levels are still rising but the rate has slowed since 2004.”

5. “The number of victims caused by climate change is very big–bigger than the victims of wars.”

6. “I’ll put this in a crude way: no amount of climate change is going to cause civil violence in the state where I live (Massachusetts), or in Sweden or many other places around the world.”. “If we want to reduce the level of violence in other places, then it would be more efficient to focus on these factors: to bring people out of abject poverty, to provide them with the technology that loosens the connection between climate and survival, to reduce corruption, and so forth, rather than on preventing climate change.”

7. “In the context of global warming, extreme atmospheric flows are causing extreme climate incidents to appear more frequently.”

8. “There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”

mmm, okay, some of them were IPCC, Michael Mann, Osama bin Laden, James Hansen, but not in that order…

Climate Seepage–Another Gem From Lewandowsky and Oreskes

As far as I can tell, Stefan Lewandowski is the author of one true statement in his less than illustrious career as propagandist for the false Konsensus. It is this: “The media failed to accurately report facts prior to the Iraq War; climate reporting is failing in similar fashion. The lethal fallout from misinformation a decade ago,” wrote Lewandowsky, “primarily affected the people of Iraq.” But “the fallout from misinformation about climate change is likely to affect us all.” I think that is something both extremes of the climate spectrum would agree on, although I doubt if they’d come up with the same examples.

In his latest charade, the charlatan worked with (of all people) Naomi Oreskes to alert us all that extremist language is ‘seeping’ into the debate. Funnily enough he didn’t talk about the term ‘denier’ in his work. That term managed to ‘seep’ into the diatribes of the Konsensus after James DeHoggan let slip the words of war in 2005. But because it was directed at their opponents, Lewnadowsky and Oreskes seem to think it isn’t worth mentioning.

No, their targets are words like ‘hiatus’, one of several terms used to describe the plateau (oooh–is that next?) in global average temperatures reached in 1998. Since then, temperature rises have been slight–on the order of 0.05C in total, far below the rapid rate experienced between 1976 and 1998.

Google nGram shows the occurrence of words found in Google books. I’m sure Lewandowsky and Oreskes will be pleased to discover that, unlike the temperatures that have plateaued, the usage of the word ‘hiatus’ has actually declined since 1998.

According to Tech Times, “The imbalance in discussing warming trends reflects what the researchers refer to as “seepage” of contrarian claims into scientific work. Lewandowsky said it’s reasonable to say that deniers create enough pressure to get climate scientists to re-assess their studies, as if second-guessing their works.

To explain how deniers are able to influence climate scientists, researchers pointed to three psychological mechanisms: stereotype threat, pluralistic ignorance and the third-person effect.

Stereotype threat refers to behavioral and emotional responses when an individual is reminded of a stereotype against the group they belong to. So when climate scientists are dubbed as alarmists, they respond by downplaying threats to distance themselves from the stereotype.

Though its effects are in evidence, climate change remains a debatable topic. Now, researchers have found that deniers can have an impact on climate scientists — influencing the way they present their work.

In a recent study, Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues showed how language used by deniers has seeped into discussions among scientists regarding the alleged pause in global warming — which has them unwittingly reinforce a misleading message.

The idea of a hiatus in global warming has been promoted in many avenues available to deniers for years, even finding its way into scientific works. That includes the latest assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The researchers focused on this event to show how misleading the talk of a hiatus is.”

I guess they didn’t focus on James Hansen, former director of NASA’s GISS, who said in 2013 that “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.” Of course, ‘flat’ is not the same as ‘hiatus’…

Tech Times continues, “The imbalance in discussing warming trends reflects what the researchers refer to as “seepage” of contrarian claims into scientific work. Lewandowsky said it’s reasonable to say that deniers create enough pressure to get climate scientists to re-assess their studies, as if second-guessing their works.”

Because we know that people like James Hansen, who once said “chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to [should] be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature” is probably easily cowed by those dastardly deniers and started using the word ‘flat’ because he was scared…

Tech times continues, “To explain how deniers are able to influence climate scientists, researchers pointed to three psychological mechanisms: stereotype threat, pluralistic ignorance and the third-person effect.

Stereotype threat refers to behavioral and emotional responses when an individual is reminded of a stereotype against the group they belong to. So when climate scientists are dubbed as alarmists, they respond by downplaying threats to distance themselves from the stereotype.”

Like this statement: ““Our research shows that while there may be short-term fluctuations in global average temperatures, long-term warming of the planet is an inevitable consequence of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations,” says Matthew England, chief investigator at the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales. “This much-hyped global warming slowdown is just a distraction from the matter in hand.” He sure sounds like he’s downplaying global warming, doesn’t he?

“Pluralistic ignorance is the phenomenon that arises when minority opinion is given too much attention in public discourse, which makes it seem like it represents more people. This makes those in the actual majority assume their opinion represents the minority — inhibiting them from speaking out.”

Funnily enough, Oreskes and Lewandowsky are responsible for inflating the consensus, from a very real and respectable 66% to an imaginary if not hallucinatory 97%. So if the word ‘hiatus’ can awaken scientists from the fever dream spun out of nonsense by Oreskes and Lewandowsky, it is a powerful word indeed–and perhaps one we should use more.

As for the third-person effect, it highlights how persuasive communication can win over the truth. This hints that the scientific community is at risk of being susceptible to arguments made by deniers — even though climate scientists know them to be false.”

I typed ‘hiatus global warming’ into Google News and got a paltry 3,800 results. By comparison, the Greek word ‘sinensis’ returned 10,400′ results. Only one of the top 50 results fr ‘hiatus’ was on a skeptic communication, a piece by Forbes.

The idea that skeptics of the Konsensus are all that persuasive beggars the imagination. I find it difficult to imagine too many scientists spending much time on skeptic or even lukewarmer blogs being exposed to our smooth talking and persuasive good looks. Tamsin Edwards followed up her excellent article in the Guardian about Lukewarmers by paying blog visits, not to Judith Curry, Steve McIntyre or even here, but to And Then There’s Physics, where she kowtowed to the majority opinion and emphasized that she did not agree with lukewarmers.

What is seeping into the climate conversation is increasingly absurd tap-dancing from people like Lewandowsky and Oreskes, John Cook, Jim Prall and others and the effect of their efforts is to devalue science.

In short, Lewandowsky and Oreskes are just up to their old tricks. They are making up reasons why their chosen tactics for conducting climate discussions–refusing to debate, calling their opponents deniers, inventing a 97% consensus that falls apart at the slightest examination–are failing in the court of public opinion.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving group. Perhaps some more rebranding is in order.


Economics of Wind Power

I know a lot more about solar than I do about wind, having worked in the solar industry. However, I reported on wind energy for BCC Research in several published (and still available) reports, so here goes.

To my mind, solar has several big advantages compared to wind. First, sunshine is much more reliable than wind. Second, panels last twice as long as turbines, maybe more–a lot of panels are still producing well long past their sell-by date. Third, wind turbines require far more maintenance than solar. Other factors to consider are attractiveness (people have fewer objections to being next door to a solar array than a wind turbine), footprint, noise, bird kills, etc.

But wind power is still a potent entry into the field, manufactured by very large companies for sale to very large companies. (Which is something else that puts me off–with residential solar it’s a consumer product, requiring consumer satisfaction and with higher levels of competition working to lower prices). So why is wind such a popular choice by governments, utilities and manufacturers?

First off, wind power stays on the right side of the meter. It’s still owned by the utility and the power it produces is sold to consumers. True, there are large solar plants that fit the same description, but most solar is on your home’s rooftop.

Second, when the wind is blowing, turbines can push a lot of electrons our way. They have more oomph than solar when conditions are propitious, producing more energy for the buck. It is easier to build a wind farm than a large solar array, especially if you’re using CSP (concentrated solar power) for the solar.

Other problems with wind are those they share with solar power–intermittency makes wind impossible to rely on for baseload production of electricity. You have to have another generator primed and ready to take up the slack when the wind stops. That means leaving the spare generator operational, burning fuel and emitting CO2. (Same is true for solar.) As these are frequently cited in climate conversations, I won’t go into that further.

About 75% of lifetime costs of a wind turbine are upfront–construction, installation, siting and transportation. As is the case with solar, the fuel is free.

One way of analyzing the economics of all energy sources including wind is by calculating the ‘Levelized Cost Of Energy’, or LCOE.

The DOE EIA defines that as, “Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-kilowatthour cost (in real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type.3 The importance of the factors varies among the technologies. For technologies such as solar and wind generation that have no fuel costs and relatively small variable O&M costs, LCOE changes in rough proportion to the estimated capital cost of generation capacity. For technologies with significant fuel cost, both fuel cost and overnight cost estimates significantly affect LCOE. The availability of various incentives, including state or federal tax credits, can also impact the calculation of LCOE. As with any projection, there is uncertainty about all of these factors and their values can vary regionally and across time as technologies evolve and fuel prices change.”

Bear in mind the last sentence there. People game LCOE calculations, which is why every time you see them they are different.

That said, here’s what Worldwatch Institute put forth as LCOE in 2013:


Compared to other renewables, wind looks pretty good. The NREL makes the case that wind has never been cheaper:


However, I do trust the EIA numbers a lot more. Here’s what they say LCOE is before subsidy:

Table 1. Estimated Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for New Generation Resources, 2019

Plant type Total system LCOE
Dispatchable Technologies
Conventional Coal 95.6
Integrated Coal-Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) 115.9
IGCC with CCS 147.4
Natural Gas-fired
Conventional Combined Cycle 66.3
Advanced Combined Cycle 64.4
Advanced CC with CCS 91.3
Conventional Combustion Turbine 128.4
Advanced Combustion Turbine 103.8
Advanced Nuclear 96.1
Geothermal 47.9
Biomass 102.6
Non-Dispatchable Technologies
Wind 80.3
Wind-Offshore 204.1
Solar PV2 130
Solar Thermal 243.1
Hydro3 84.5

So if we were doing this all based on LCOE we would start digging for geothermal everywhere.

On land, wind doesn’t look horribly awfully bad. Offshore it seems horrendously expensive.

The other thing to remember is variation in price by geography. In China and India, installed costs run $1,300 per kw. In the U.S. it’s $2,000. So maybe wind makes more sense in the developing world. But it’s still far more expensive than coal, which is why they’re using so much of it.

Willing the ends without describing the means

When we talk about what to do about climate change there is a curious disconnect between where we want to end up (with temperature rise hopefully below 2C) and how we mean to get there.

Perhaps the upcoming conference in Paris will fix all that–countries are supposed to show up with detailed plans in hand, although only a couple seem ready. The U.S. is one of them, with Barack Obama and the EPA relying heavily on higher CAFE standards and replacing coal fired electricity plants with natural gas.

However, I haven’t seen any concrete suggestions that are appropriate for the developing world.

Our default strategy appears to be denying them capital for construction of coal fired plants, as cynical and immoral a strategy as the colonialism of past centuries. If we make energy expensive enough the developing world will certainly use less.

Fortunately, China is making that strategy almost completely ineffective by establishing development banks that will supply the money that the West won’t.

That means that energy consumption in the developing world will most likely continue to increase at 4.19% per year, almost double what has been forecast by the DOE EIA and the IEA. This will lead to global energy consumption doubling from 2010 levels by about 2035.

So what’s Plan B?

Skeptics and lukewarmers are criticized for not contributing to the peer-reviewed literature, for not advancing plans for mitigation, for sitting on the sidelines and carping. And of course there’s an element of truth to that.

But truth be told, the mainstream community has not exactly deluged us with policy prescriptions. In fact, the standard line from both the consensus and the Konsensus is that we have to stop emissions. Okay, but how? On this they are uncharacteristically silent.

This is not because a lack of knowledge. They, like anyone who has taken time to inform themselves on the situation, can clearly see what is possible. But they lack the moral fiber to advance these prescriptions because some of them are unpalatable.

So let’s lay out the potential alternatives for them.

1. Nuclear power. For $23 trillion spent over the course of the next 40 years we could build enough nuclear power plants to generate all our electricity. In addition, we could transform the world’s transportation sector, powering trains while electrically replacing the internal combustion engines of cars and trucks with electric batteries and drive trains. This would drop our emissions to where the consensus says they need to be. It is a brute force solution, but it would work.

2. Natural gas. We could do essentially the same thing using natural gas. It would be considerably less expensive than nuclear, but the emissions savings would be far less and we could end up using all the easily available natural gas fairly quickly. But natural gas already runs a lot of cars and buses and it could run more. And it is a quick and easy way to replace coal in electricity plants. The painful part won’t be building the plants–it will be converting the infrastructure. LNG refining, transportation and storage, converting vehicles to run on LNG, all this could double the cost and insuring that all of this doesn’t leak won’t be cheap either. About $8 trillion over 25 years.

3. Renewables. Renewable energy is growing quickly, but from such a small base that it won’t make an impact on emissions for several decades. My projections are that by 2075 solar alone will be a primary source of power worldwide. However, take-up of renewable energy could be accelerated with increased government funding. Quite a lot of government funding, actually. But wind, ethanol and solar have well-publicized drawbacks that would also require governmental intervention to enable large-scale use. About $12 trillion if done organically through 2075, about double that (the same as nuclear!) if accelerated to a 25-year time frame.

So, my challenge for the consensus is to pick an alternative and push for it in the sphere of political advocacy. Heck, mix and match and say 30% of each if you want to. Come up with alternatives 4, 5 and 6 if you want.

Right now your entire platform is based on what you don’t want. CO2. Okay, we get it. How about a policy preference on how the world gets to Climate Jerusalem?


Climate Cage Match: Christiana Figueres vs. Maurice Newman

While in the U.S. people might not feel overly threatened by a disagreement with someone named Maurice (does he speak of the pompitous of love?), it may well be different in Australia, where Maurice Newman serves as advisor to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Mr. Newman is upset with Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That’s because part of what she said in an interview with an Australian journalist was “Not overnight but over time there does need to be an economic diversification view that is not going to rely fully on coal but that is actually going to look at what are the other possibilities for an expanded export base over time for Australia.”

To which Maurice helpfully added, “Figueres is on record saying democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model,”

You know, Maurice, in climate change discussions we tend to look down on cherry picking numbers to make our position look better than it really is. The same is (or certainly should be) true of cherry picking quotes.

Let’s get the China thing out of the way so we can rationally discuss the rest of this.

First off, Figueres is right. China as a dictatorship can move more quickly on any policy initiative it deems of primary national interest. China has done so with plans to quickly and dramatically increase the number of dams, nuclear power plants and wind and solar power installations. How many nuclear power plants and dams are being built in Western countries these days?

Second, noting that China can move quickly is not an endorsement of communism or any dictatorship. People forget that when everyone was talking about Mussolini making the trains run on time it was not because they liked Fascism.

Throwing that quote into today’s argument is cheap populism.

Regarding the rest of what Figureres said, I wonder how Maurice could have avoided reading this?

“That’s for Australia to decide what that is going to look like for them.

It’s not for us to put out a number there and put out a level of which any country has to jump.

That is very very much of an internal conversation that is then submitted internationally and all of the other governments then take a look at each other and will be asking each other questions about the depth of the policies and measures behind any commitment as well as to the level of commitment, but that is for governments to do.

JAKE STURMER: Why should Australia take a strong position?

Our emissions only make up around 1.5 per cent of global emissions.

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: It’s 1.3 per cent actually, not even 1.5 so it’s 1.3, but Australia is the 14th largest emitter in the world and among all industrialised countries, it is the highest per capita emitter, the highest per capita emitter.

So that does put a very interesting responsibility on the shoulders of each Australian citizen and that cannot be taken lightly as we look into the future.

Not overnight but over time there does need to be an economic diversification view that is not going to rely fully on coal but that is actually going to look at what are the other possibilities for an expanded export base over time for Australia.

JAKE STURMER: The Prime Minister said coal is good for humanity and that it’s the foundation of Australia’s prosperity and will be for the foreseeable future, so given that, should it be?

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: It probably was or it definitely was together with the other minerals, our resource base that Australia has and has been blessed with, that’s not the only resource that is underground here in Australia and it definitely was the backbone of growth and of prosperity.

There’s no doubt about that.

And some of the rest of the resource base will continue to be part of that backbone but equally true is that Australia has two other resource bases that still have not been used to their fullest potential and that is sun and wind.

So it is the sunniest continent of the world, it is the windiest continent of the world, and also it doesn’t seem logical or prudent not to use resource base that is there frankly for only the cost of infrastructure but no fuel cost.

It makes a lot of sense to begin to integrate as much as possible those two other resource bases.”

Ms.Figueres in my mind is making perfect sense, speaking very diplomatically and does not deserve being treated in this fashion.

It brings to mind other Australian scenes of conflict.


And we’ve clearly moved beyond a Mad Max view of the world, haven’t we? We can have a civilized discussion between a Central American diplomat and the aide to an Australian Prime Minister, can’t we?


Fury road used

The Economics of Renewable Energy, Part 1, Solar Power

As usual during a climate discussion, we always start talking about the wrong part of the issue and get stuck there for years.

Solar power is getting cheaper!
Yeah, but it’s still more expensive than traditional power!
You can get power without going through the utility company–distributed generation is great!
Yeah, but you free ride for the connection you need when the sun isn’t shining and poor people are paying for the maintenance on your wires and poles!
We’re going to have to turn to solar eventually–why not start now?
Because we can’t store it–we’re burning fuel to back you up while you’re burning daylight.

Sound familiar? Getting a little boring?

If you want a fairly recent evaluation of the costs, payback times and energy savings for a solar home, click here.

On a more general level, let’s talk honestly about solar power. It is almost certainly the power source of the future. We will find adequate storage, modules and balance of systems components will continue getting cheaper and there are just too many rooftops begging for panels.

Solar power is probably not the fuel of the present. I predicted 2015 would be the year that solar reaches parity for residential systems. Hasn’t happened yet. Looks like mayyyyybeee 2017. But even when it hits parity that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to switch in a day. Or a decade. It will take 50 years from the point it’s cheaper to the point where it’s everywhere. That’s how long it took coal. That’s how long it took oil.

Here’s the best looking solar chart in the world:

Emanuel Sachs MIT

But here’s one that’s a little more recent:

Economist solar

Solar isn’t there. Solar is almost there.

What tickles me when discussing solar power is that nobody talks about the elephant in the room. Or to mix metaphors, they don’t talk about the parable of the bear. At this point, the cost of solar power could probably just stand still and it would still win out. Why?

Here’s what happened to utility rates between 1990 and 2011:

State % Increase in Avg. Rate
Arizona 22.6%
California 48.1%
Colorado 12.6%
Connecticut 80.9%
Hawaii 238.0%
Maryland 68.5%
Massachusetts 41.1%
New Jersey 50.1%
New York 52.5%
Oregon 101.7%
Pennsylvania 38.4%

While the cost of solar is going down, the cost of everything else is going up.

Astute observers will already have noticed that many of the states with the highest increase in electricity prices are heavy into solar power. Some will say that that’s one reason solar is popular. Others will say that accommodating solar is driving electricity prices higher.

Both statements are trivially true. Solar is popular primarily because upper middle class people want to go green. Utilities are using connection issues that cost them pennies to raise rates by dollars.

Solar will win in the end. The fuel is free and the capital costs get lower every year.

But it won’t win tomorrow. And it will face robust competition from natural gas, coal and the subject of the next post, wind power.

Denial 101–I made the list!

I’m getting hits on this weblog from That’s the website where John Cook and his merry band of witch hunters are busy inoculating innocent minds to prevent contamination from skeptics and lukewarmers.

For those of you arriving from that site, welcome! I wouldn’t want it to be said that we dastardly denialisters are inhospitable. I mean, wrecking the planet is one thing, but rudeness? Heaven forfend.

While you’re here, I hope you check out some of the things I’ve written about the fearless leaders of your course.

On John Cook, I have a couple of posts here and here.

On Stefan Lewandowsky, see here and especially here.

Long ago, before climate change brought sea level rise to our collective intention, the phrase ‘beachfront property in Florida’ was used to describe a scam, a con, unethical real estate agents selling plots to gullible retirees.

Perhaps we should revive the phrase to discuss the course you are taking. On the other hand, if you think you are getting good value for money from your MOOC, (and time is money, innit?), perhaps I could interest you in a bridge in Brooklyn, slightly used, only one owner.


Why the Konsensus Doesn’t Talk About Legitimate Surveys of Climate Scientists

Almost since the beginning of the controversy over man-made climate change and its potential impacts on human society, policy advocates have jumped in front of the science repeatedly. This has contributed to a politicization of the issue and a polarization between skeptics and alarmists. Although both sides have contributed to this unfortunate turn of events, the harm done by alarmists is much greater.

There is a real consensus among climate scientists that global warming is real, in part caused by humans and likely to continue. That consensus has been measured by surveys of climate scientists. However, Alarmists don’t refer to these surveys much at all, first because the ‘consensus’ revealed by the surveys is not overwhelming enough and second, the surveys reveal problem areas within climate science that Alarmists don’t want to publicize.

Von Storch Bray 2008

In 2008, Hans von Storch and Dennis Bray surveyed 375 scientists from 34 countries who had authored papers in peer-reviewed climate journals. 65% had worked in climate science for more than 10 years and 66% had authored more than 6 papers. 78% of them were working in the physics of climate science, on model development, data acquisition, etc.

And 66% were either ‘very much convinced’ (35%) or ‘convinced’ (32%) that ‘most of recent or near future warming is/will be a result of anthropogenic causes. Furthermore, 62% were ‘very much convinced’ (35%) or ‘convinced 28%) that ‘climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity.’

But because the survey also disclosed that climate scientists had very real issues with the quality of data they were working with and the ability of current models to predict precipitation in the future, the Alarmists don’t really like to talk about the von Storch Bray survey. Besides, 66% doesn’t sound… convincing enough.

Verheggen et al 2012

Atmospheric scientist Bart Verheggen teamed up with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency to conduct a larger survey of climate scientists in 2012 . (Disclosure—I offered some advice to Verheggen on how to field the survey.) 1,868 scientists participated. The research went out of their way to insure that those skeptical of climate science were included in the survey. Some of the skeptics had not published in peer-reviewed journals—many had, as had all of those recruited in other ways.

More or less replicating the von Storch findings, Verheggen’s study found that 66% of the respondents felt that more than half of the global warming since the middle of the 20th Century was anthropogenic in origin. Those who felt that way were far more confident in their perception than those who felt that humans had been responsible less than 50% of the current warming period. This is a solid consensus about recent climate change.

Again, the survey has not been frequently cited by Alarmists—66% just isn’t sexy enough. So Alarmists went to work to create a false picture of a consensus that would satisfy their needs. Cue John Cook, Jim Prall and Stefan Lewandowsky…

The Disturbing Data From The Surveys

I mentioned above that one reason Alarmists don’t use these surveys in their discussion of climate change is that some of the data might not be helpful to their cause. Here are some examples.

In the Bray von Storch survey:

• 43% of the surveyed climate scientists said that the direction of research in climate science has been influenced by external politics in the last 10 years, either ‘very much’ or ‘much’.
• Only 9% said that atmospheric models are adequate in dealing with vapor in the atmosphere and only 1% said they were adequate in dealing with clouds. 2% said the models were adequate in dealing with precipitation.
• Only 5% said the current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of turbulence and only 5% said the same for land surface processes. 9% said the same for sea ice and 32% said the same for anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
• Only 9% said that the current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of model temperatures for the next 50 years.

In the Verheggen et al study:

• 30% of respondents set the lower bound for sensitivity at below 1.5C. 38% gave their best estimate for sensitivity at 2.4C or below.14% gave their upper bound for sensitivity at 4.4C or below.
• 46% of these climate scientists believe that the lower bound for sea level rise this century is below 26 centimeters. 40% believe the upper limit for sea level rise this century is below 70 cm.

This is why the Konsensus turned to John Cook, Prall et al, and Stefan Lewandowsky. The consensus wasn’t strong enough so they had to manufacture a Potemkin Village of opinion, a Konsensus.

The Myth of Mitigation Skepticism

The concept of a Lukewarm view of climate change is actually entering a somewhat wider range of discourse these days, as witness Tamsin Edwards’ recent Guardian article, Matt Ridley’s adoption of the term, Clive Hamilton’s rant against the concept, etc. We’re not the popular kids yet, not by any means, but the idea is getting enough traction to merit a disparaging perversion of the term (‘luckwarm’) and considerable gnashing of teeth in the usual places by the usual people. Heck, they’re gnashing their teeth because Tamsin Edwards didn’t gnash her teeth. (Tamsin, be careful–they will cheerfully throw you under the bus if you don’t start harping on how evile we are. Case in point, Eli Rabett saying Tamsin is just a careerist)

They’ve also introduced a new term–‘mitigation skeptic’–with which to objectify us. I suppose it’s better than denier or delayer. A mitigation skeptic apparently is someone who accepts the basic tenets of climate science but doesn’t think we should do anything to mitigate human-caused climate change. It is being hurled at all the usual suspects–Lomborg, Ridley, The Breakthrough Institute, Roger Pielke Jr. and myself, at the low end of the totem pole.

Of course it’s not accurate, but since when have Alarmists ever been accurate? Truth for them is over-rated and outdated.

Take The Breakthrough Institute. Reviled by the Alarmists for not being on board with centrally mandated emission reductions, they are now accused of being mitigation skeptics. Of course, they are still called deniers and delayers too. (Maybe we should just think of the term as another arrow in the quiver of insults always at the ready for the Konsensus Brigade.)

Back in 2008 The Breakthrough Institute published policy recommendations in Harvard Law and Policy as part of an essay titled ‘Fast, Clean and Cheap.’

1) Establish a Price for Carbon Dioxide That Is Consistent With What Present Technology Can Accomplish

2) Establish a Dedicated Source of Public Funding for Clean Energy Investment That Can Rapidly Drive Down the Deployed Cost of Clean Energy Technologies

3) Ramp Up: Invest $300 Billion in Research, Development, and Deployment of Clean Energy Technologies

4) Insulate Federal Clean Energy Investments From Pork-Barrel Politics

5) Buy Down the Price of Solar Technology Like We Did With Microchips

6) Play the Field: Make Strategic Investments in Key Energy Sectors and Technologies

7) Create a Framework for Global Carbon Regulation Tied to Living Standards

And the Breakthrough Institute has been working to realize these goals ever since.

Perhaps opponents can disagree on certain points. Perhaps they can say it is insufficient. What they cannot say without lying is that The Breakthrough Institute doesn’t think we should do anything about mitigation.

In the Hartwell Paper the easy opportunities that they highlight include getting rid of a lot of black carbon (atmospheric soot) and ozone in the lower atmosphere; both are responsible for a lot of harm independent of the warming that they cause, and thus easier to act against than carbon dioxide. Others have made this point, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it, since it is a good one. They approve of reducing deforestation, too, which is a completely mainstream view.

Those are part of what is now being called ‘Fast Mitigation.’ Not No Mitigation.

As Roger Pielke Jr. is part of The Breakthrough Institute we’ll skip over him for the moment.

As Bjorng Lomborg is author of a book called ‘Smart Solutions for Climate Change’, (endorsed by both Bill Gates and Rajendra Pachauri), one would think it obvious that he has a mitigation strategy. And he does, including repeated calls for phaseout of all fossil fuel subsidies. He also advocates putting a price on carbon. The central thesis of his mitigation strategy is to make green fuels cheaper than fossil fuels.

As for me, you can call me a denier, delayer, luckwarmer, mitigation skeptic, whatever. You can butter my bum and call me a biscuit.

But as I wrote 5 years ago,

“Although there is only one supremely important question regarding the science of climate change (sensitivity—remember?), when it comes to the potential impacts of climate change a host of issues appear. Both the Alarmists and the Skeptics tend to ignore the sober comments about uncertainty that accompany almost every scientific paper and they actively twist scientific comments to better make their case.
But even though I believe sensitivity is lower than what Alarmists claim, it is scant comfort when I have also projected that our planet will consume six times more energy in 2075 than it did in 2010. The brute force emissions of both CO2 and conventional pollution is almost certain to cause significant problems for regions of the world that don’t have the resiliency (for which you can almost substitute the word wealth) to prepare for it and adapt to it.
One of the common criticisms of Lukewarmers is that we advocate doing nothing, that we are delayers. It isn’t true. So here is what I think we should do while waiting for clarity regarding sensitivity and other unresolved issues with the science:
1. Tax CO2 at a starting rate of $12/ton and revisit the rate every 10 years, adjusting the rate to reflect changes in CO2 concentrations and a pre-agreed metric for observed climate change that has occurred in the interim. Where possible (especially in the U.S., to offer some hope that conservatives may eventually support the concept) the carbon tax should be arranged so as to be revenue neutral. In the U.S. that might involve reductions in Social Security taxes for both employers and employees.
2. Spend a global total of $100 billion for the transfer of technology to the developing world for the purpose of reducing the impact of development technologies, in hopes that they can leapfrog one or two generations of energy development. If nothing else, donating scrubbers for Asian coal-fired power plants will reduce conventional pollution and black soot that degrades the Arctic snows.
3. Commit to spending over the course of this century on moving roads inland, removing permission for construction on threatened coasts and flood plains. The EPA found that this would cost about $400 billion for the United States about 20 years ago–adjust for inflation. But that’s a one-time cost.
4. Continue Steven Chu’s investment strategy for reducing costs in renewable energy, storage and transmission. Continue with ARPA-E at full funding. Institute high value X Prizes to reward innovation in these areas.
5. Encourage the U.S. EPA to continue to regulate CO2 emissions from large emitters.
6. Accelerate permitting for new nuclear power plants to restore nuclear power’s percentage of electricity to 20% in the U.S.
7. Uprate existing hydroelectric plants to take advantage of advances in turbine technology.
8. Mandate uptake of GPS within the air traffic control infrastructure and controlled and one-step descent on landing.
9. Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power to make it easier to gain approval. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
10. Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities in the U.S. from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.
11. Support introduction of charging stations for electric vehicles.
12. Force existing coal power plants to meet best available technology standards or close.”

As is consistently the case, the Konsensus is wrong about this. I do not know a single professed Lukewarmer that does not support mitigation in one form or another. Not one.

But it doesn’t matter. Truth is just another obstacle to be overcome on the long, weary road to Climate Jerusalem.


Answering Tamsin Edwards’ Important Question

Climate modeler Tamsin Edwards is one of the sanest people involved in public discussions of climate change. She gets it. She doesn’t demonize, she engages. She doesn’t rant, she discusses.

Ms. Edwards has an article up on the Guardian that I saw courtesy of Judith Curry’s excellent Week in Review series. I used to try and do a weekly review–now I don’t have to.

Ms.Edwards’ article is about Lukewarmers and it is good. Not perfect–she gets some things about us wrong, but overall it is a credit to her.

Her article ends with a question for Lukewarmers and I want to provide an answer. She writes, “If you agree with mainstream scientists, what would you be willing to do to reduce the predicted risks of substantial warming? And if you’re a lukewarmer, confident the Earth is not very sensitive, what would be at risk if you were wrong?”

As a Lukewarmer we have the added risk of being wrong in two directions. If the Lukewarm position overstates coming warming, our focus on no regrets policies, technology transfer and the revenue neutrality of the carbon tax I advocate minimize the risk of huge overspending on warming that doesn’t occur.

But somehow I don’t think Tamsin was thinking of that direction to our potential error.

If we underestimate upcoming warming what are the consequences?

I submit that the path to emission reductions almost has to start with the policy preferences Lukewarmers endorse. Indeed, many of our policy preferences are actually votes in favor of continuing policies that predate the Lukewarmer position, such as a focus on energy efficiency. Governments are investing in innovation in energy generation and storage. Technology transfer is taking place.

True progress on mitigation is likely to take most of the rest of the century to achieve. Even if it were today determined that more aggressive action is required to combat climate change because it is ‘worse than we thought’, the first actions taken are likely to be actions Lukewarmers propose. Just as with energy efficiency, climate change mitigation would begin with the low-hanging fruit.

For example, I heartily endorse the actions described as Fast Mitigation, especially chasing after black soot that changes the albedo of the Northern Hemisphere by graying up snow. If you imagine Paris coming up with a treaty that magically authorizes a command and control response to global warming starting today, it still makes sense to go after black soot and the other Fast Mitigation policies first. Fast Mitigation reduces forcings by 0.5C this century while top down emission control policies would only reduce forcings by 0.1C.

In a sane world we would beef up the things we are doing that are working in parallel with new activities.

So if instead the Paris conference on climate change mistakenly votes for a Lukewarm view of climate change and climate change proves to be higher than we think–and that is a possibility–then we will have merely started down the road that Paris would lead us down if the Alarmist view had won the day. But we would have done it more quickly and quite possibly more cost effectively.

I hope Tamsin Edwards keeps coming up with more intelligent commentary and intelligent questions for Lukewarmers. We need to be challenged on our premises more frequently. Precisely because we are in the middle of the food fight between skeptics and alarmists (we participate in the food fight too, I’m not suggesting we are somehow above the fray), it is easy to say that because we are attacked by both skeptics and alarmists we must be doing something right.

While I hope that’s true, it’s not a given. The skeptics and alarmists could both be wrong and we could be as well. We could easily all be wrong. That’s why the discussion is still important in 2015.

Variation in the Keeling Curve

Rob Monroe over at the Scripps Institute blogged this in February, but I didn’t see it until this morning. I do get behind in my reading…

“The rate of growth in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere has accelerated since the beginnings of the Keeling Curve. The rate has gone from about 0.75 parts per million (ppm)/yr in 1959 to about 2.25ppm/yr today.”

…”this plot also shows that the growth rate (while staying positive) does vary quite a bit from year to year, something that is less evident in the Mauna Loa record. These variations are due to a combination of natural and human factors.”


Great. Something else to quarrel about. We’ve all been used to the Keeling Curve looking like a metronome. But it isn’t! Look how fast it rose in 1998!

Update: In case irony really is deficient, the key phrase in this post is, “The rate has gone from about 0.75 parts per million (ppm)/yr in 1959 to about 2.25ppm/yr today.”

CO2 reading on Apr. 29, 2015 was 400.62 ppm. Have a nice Sunday…

Why Climate Change Skeptics Fail To Get Traction With Their Views

Let me ask the climate change skeptics a question. My motive is well-meaning–I have given advice to those on the consensus side of the fence several times in the past, so I’m not singling you out.

If the people on the other side were only those like John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky, Michael Mann and Peter Gleick, wouldn’t you say that it was easy pickings for you to expose their weaknesses and show them up? I think you would.

Now look at your own side. When an AP reporter wants to get the skeptical point of view, who does she or he end up talking with? You may hope that it’s Judith Curry, Freeman Dyson, Steve McIntyre or Richard Lindzen, but in fact the people who are on TV and in the newspapers are generally folks like Marc Morano or Viscount Monckton.

Nobody appointed them spokespersons–like John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky they saw an opportunity to make a name for themselves and seized upon it. Marc Morano was very busy playing partisan politics before he inherited the global warming assignment from Senator Inhofe and he will happily return to partisan politics when this gig is finished.

As for Monckton, well I must say I have never seen a clearer example of a publicity hound in all my life.

It’s not just who’s representing you–it’s what you are saying. What is the coherent message of skeptics?

To me it seems that you mostly react vehemently to whatever story the consensus (or the Konsensus, mostly) puts out. You don’t have a narrative that you can consistently put forward, nor a way to fit new science and climate news into your narrative. Judith Curry does very well with the Uncertainty Monster theme, but she’s not a skeptic.

And you regularly get your clocks cleaned. Just this week, when Harvard Kennedy School released results of a poll showing that 23% of U.S. young people thought global warming was unproven and a further 20% thought recent warming was due to natural causes, bloggers like Jo Nova put up the post. The same day Skeptical Science, a popular Konsensus blog that is as far from skeptical as you can get, put up a story titled “College students are making global warming a moral issue. Here’s why that scares people.” The same day. When was the last time skeptics were that quick off the mark?

What is the skeptic story? I get that you’re not organized and not likely to become so. But you do need to use a shared vocabulary that provides you with some legitimacy and answers some questions before they are asked.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation and Heartland, the two signature organizations for skeptics on climate change, have clearly not done enough to provide a shared base of information. Leading lights such as Richard Lindzen and Freeman Dyson are either not interested or not in a position to become spokespersons.

Of course, I’m a lukewarmer. I don’t agree with you on the probable extent, impacts or preferred policies to deal with climate change. But I’ve gotten to know a lot of you over the years as intelligent, honest and well-meaning individuals who really have something to contribute to the conversation.

get involved

Taking pride in your individualism is one thing. Refusing to work on putting together a coherent framework to explain your views on climate change is another. I submit that it’s in part intellectual laziness. Saying that ‘getting skeptics to agree on anything is like herding cats’, something I have frequently read on blogs, is also saying that you feel no sense of responsibility for what happens.

1. Tell the world you (mostly) agree with the laws of physics, that that isn’t the issue
2. Confront the ‘denier’ meme.
3. Keep the record in front of you. Temperatures have plateaued, albeit at a high level, despite vast increases in emissions.
4. Keep a sense of humor about the absurdity of some of what is being published. Laugh at Cook’s MOOC. Laugh at the claims about Xtreme Weather.
5. Vote. Get involved with politics at a local, regional and national level. Politicians don’t know who you are or what you believe. All they hear is what the Konsensus tells them. And they lie.

I’d write something similar for Lukewarmers, but as far as I can tell we could all fit into a closet. Okay, I know that’s no excuse. I’ll come up with an action plan for us as well. Might not be very different from what I prescribe for skeptics.

Climate Change and Public Figures

If I were a lawyer who had spent most of my earlier years as a community organizer before achieving high office, I doubt I would know too much about climate change. I doubt if as president I would have a whole lot of time to study it.

I would rely upon the scientists. Like the Director of NASA’s GISS, James Hansen. Like my science advisor, John Holdren. Like the NOAA. And the EPA. And if they all told me the same thing, I would act on their advice. And if their opinion was supported by the IPCC, well that would help convince me I was doing the right thing.

If I were a Latin American priest focused on improving the lives of the poor and helping the region recover some of the ground it has lost to civil unrest before achieving high office, I doubt if I would know too much about climate change. I doubt if as Holy Pontiff I would have a whole lot of time to study it.

I would rely upon the scientists. If they all told me the same thing, I would act on their advice.

If the skeptics that came into my field of vision were folk like Marc Morano and Viscount Monckton, that would actually reinforce my confidence in the scientists who gave me advice. Their history and hunger for publicity are painfully easy to see and they would not inspire confidence. If I never saw or read people like Richard Lindzen or Freeman Dyson, who would bring them to my attention?

Given that Steve McIntyre shocked a roomful of skeptics by saying he would rely on the IPCC version of the science, can we blame Barack Obama and Pope Francis for doing the same?

As a Lukewarmer I have a lot of natural sympathy for skeptics, in part because I get the same insults as they do, in part because the Konsensus is really creating an Orwellian framework that I believe will damage science for decades.

But really, skeptics. If you want to present an argument to public figures with busy agendas and no background in climate science, you need to up your game.


Xtreme Weather and New Math

Bishop Hill links to a Guardian article which in turn links to a paper in Nature by Fischer and Knutti entitled “Anthropogenic Contribution to Global Occurrence of Heavy Precipitation and High-Temperature Extremes.”

Xtreme Weather is back!

They claim that 18% of what they call moderate daily precipitation extremes are attributable to the observed temperature increase since pre-industrial times. (First ‘Huh?’ moderate extremes?) Should temperatures rise by 2C they claim that 40% of predicted precipitation extremes will be caused by human caused temperature increases.

I should think they would be pleased to hear that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Analysis for 2014, global precipitation was 0.52mm below average in 2014.

No? No. “Likewise, today about 75% of the moderate daily hot extremes over land are attributable to warming.” I could have figured that out without a slide rule. Temperatures have risen–hot spells are more frequent and probably hotter.

They’re very precise. How did they achieve such precision?

“Although the framework is effective, the underlying model experiments often have to be designed specifically for certain events.”


Wait. Doing a model run is an experiment?

Wait a bit more. “We base our estimates on well-defined estimates of daily temperature and precipitation derived from long pre-industrial control runs of 25 CMIP5 models.”

Hmm. That would be these CMIP5 models that have done such an excellent job of forecasting temperatures, then:


And what’s this I read further along in the paper?

“Quantifying a human contribution to the likelihood of a single event is challenging because there is sometimes a considerable observational uncertainty in the exact intensity of the event… However, in some cases models may even be unable to simulate the extent of an observed event, which implies that bias correction of mean and possibly even higher-order are required.”

Ya know, I think I’ll wait for a paper based on observations, if you don’t mind terribly.

Lomborg, Ridley and Power to the People

Bjorn Lomborg has been invited by the Australian government via the University of Western Australia to relocate the Copenhagen Consensus Center to the lucky country. I wish him well in his new surroundings.

News of this has revived the muttering and outright ranting about how Evile!!! Lomborg is. This is because the policy conclusions of the Consensus Centre (and Lomborg in his writings prior to the CC being established) shows that investing in renewable energy and other mitigation and adaptation measures regarding climate change is less effective at improving health and raising living standards in the developing world than other measures, such as insuring access to micro nutrients, suppressing and treating malaria, etc.

Obviously, Lomborg and the CC are right. Nicholas Stern estimates the cost of dealing with climate change at between 1% and 5% of global GDP. Providing micro nutrients for the poor costs pennies per person. The only real question is are healthy poor people more important than reducing CO2 emissions?

Although Stern and a few other economists argue that eliminating or reducing the threat of climate change for people in 2100 is more important than providing sustenance to today’s poor, not many agree, which is why the argument is rarely put in such stark terms.

However, the argument is clearest in discussions about provision of power to the poor. Those most alarmed about climate change wish to push the developing world into using renewable energy sources instead of the much cheaper and more available fossil fuels, especially coal. As Matt Ridley notes over at his blog, “In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)

In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.”

This argument is not actually new–those of us who remember the Greenpeace thug who threatened skeptics saying “We know where you live and we be many while you be few” know that the subject under discussion was Greenpeace and the WWF’s efforts to stop World Bank funding for a coal plant in South Africa.

The average household income for someone with solar panels on their roof in the USA is $150,000. The capital costs of renewable energy make it unaffordable for Africa and India in most cases.

There are numerous exceptions, of course. In areas where it is expensive to extend the transmission grid to villages, Rural Electrification Programs using solar power have been used effectively since the 1980s. However, these don’t provide enough power to truly power a village–at most they provide radio and some lighting. These are hugely valuable and I support the expansion of such programs.

But they are insufficient for powering the light industry the region needs to truly improve their lot and they cannot power the refrigeration needed for improved health outcomes.

Lomborg is right that the poor of today need more concrete aid than they do emission reductions. Ridley is right to point out that coal fired power plants are what they are crying out for and would make possible the concrete aid that we all know they need.

And the manic Alarmists have forgotten that coal, bad as it is (I am no friend of coal), is a denser fuel than dung and firewood, emitting less than what it will replace. Obviously, because of the potential to provide more power to more people, emissions will rise as it saves lives, but dung burnt indoors kills millions and the relentless search for firewood denudes forests and exposes the women who undertake the daily search to threats of attack from animals and unscrupulous men.

The developing world has found an unlikely savior in China, who are well-pleased to help them build the infrastructure that Africa and Southern Asia need, want and are crying out for.

Because the argument is truly clear, alarmists are reduced to insinuations about Lomborg’s motives (does he really want to help the poor?) and the horror of his being offered a post in Australia, while Ridley is attacked because he used to serve on the board of a bank that went broke some years ago. Phoney arguments such as this keeps the alarmists occupied, the water muddied and the Greens still dictating policy to western governments. Alarmists agonize over whether or not climate scientists should fly (coming to the conclusion that they should), but after sober reflection they call helping Africa a ‘serious and complex issue’.

Perhaps the clearest example of their hypocrisy is their accusation that people like “Lomborg and Ridley, if they were serious, would be encouraging dialogue, not trying to demonize” their opponents.

After ten years of a concerted effort by Greens to demonize Lomborg and Ridley, the very people who have demonized Lomborg and Ridley say they shouldn’t demonize their opponents. But Lomborg and Ridley do not. They don’t make attacks on people or even organizations. They just show quite clearly that stringent caps on emissions that are enforced first on the poor and loosely or not at all on the rich kill, sicken and immiserate the poor. It is the Greens that have vigorously pursued a policy of vicious and calculated demonization of those like Lomborg and Ridley.

At some point, future generations will have a different color code–and they will say that Greens have no right to advocate policies that trap Black and Brown people in poverty. They may use a different ‘G’ word to describe the net effects of what Greens are doing today.

Update: No, I’d better be explicit, rather than dropping coy hints. As a D level blogger what I write won’t make any difference, but to be agonizingly clear, there is a case to be made for saying the aggregate effect of Green policy in the developing world is perilously close to being complicit in genocide. At the very least they are showing an appalling indifference to the plight of people in the developing world. I wonder if the skeptics will mention that while they’re touring the Vatican?

China is doing more for the world’s poor than Greenpeace. Go figure.

What’s Left After The Hyperbole Is Discounted?

While editing my book it struck me that I need to take an inventory of what I think the effects of global warming will be after I have discounted the hyperbole put forth by the Konsensus.

I have no problems with the IPCC projections of sea level rise–between 26cm and 98cm.

I have no problems with global average temperature rise this century of up to 2C.


So, exaggeration from the K Kids aside, what can we reasonably expect to see?

I think the IPCC is largely correct in saying that impacts in the form of extreme weather events, storm surge and increased precipitation in the form of intense rainfall will begin to show up some time between 2030 and 2040.

I think Bangladeshis and Floridians alike will have to make other plans. From Manila and Singapore to Thailand and even Vietnam, low lying areas will either get protected or submerged. It may well amount to only 0.25% of total land area affected, but that’s no consolation to those living there.

I don’t really know what to say about droughts. They are infrequent enough in specific locations to require a very long time series to understand if there’s a trend. If I understand the IPCC, that’s pretty much what they say too.

Seasons will start and end at different times. Mobile species are already changing migratory patterns and that may increase. They don’t seem particularly upset about it, however. Less mobile species will need to add climate change to the list of human caused problems they have to cope with, and for some that may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There are positives associated with this change, primarily in increased vegetation, fewer human deaths from cold, longer growing seasons in that part of the planet that serves as breadbasket to the world.

And that seems to be about it. What have I missed? (I want your answers, but please–no hyperbole…)

Innovation, Adaptation and Mitigation

On June 23, 1988, James Hansen testified before a Senate committee saying that man made global climate change had begun. Two months later a member of the Bush family was nominated as Republican candidate for president and a huge earthquake in Nepal killed over 1,000 people. The U.S. Drought of 1988 caused big crop damage in many states, impacted many portions of the United States and caused around $60 billion in damage. Multiple regions suffered in the conditions. Heat waves caused 4,800 to 17,000 excess deaths while scorching many areas of the United States. Is history a cycle, a circle or a spiral?

Of course, virtually nobody was on the internet, virtually nobody had a mobile phone, there was no Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, so we’re making more of Hansen’s testimony today than we did at the time.

There have been a lot of changes in the past 27 years.

At the time, 35% of American homes did not have air conditioning. By 2005 only 15% did not. By 2009, 97% of homes in the South had an air conditioner.


Of course, air conditioning has changed as well.


The average energy consumption per household in 1988 was 89.6 million BTUs per year. By 2013 that had climbed to 99 mbtu per home. Homes are bigger, they have more appliances and we are enough richer to turn on the A/C and the heat more frequently.

The Department of Energy projects that average household consumption of energy will decline to 75 mbtus by 2040. This is despite their prediction that new housing will be bigger, that more homes will be built in the South and that we will be considerably wealthier by 2040 than we are today.

That’s a heavy burden to place on our capacity to innovate. Programs like Energy Star have been in existence for quite some time now. Air conditioners, washing machines, dishwashers and even computers are far more energy efficient than previous models.

But it hasn’t stopped us from using more energy per household.

America’s overall energy consumption has declined. Our overall consumption per person has declined. We’ve done very well in many different aspects of CO2 emissions, energy production and energy consumption.

But ambitious plans for further falls in consumption and emissions do not seem to be based on careful analysis of consumer behavior. Americans like being comfortable. They like using the appliances they have.

I believe in our power to innovate new and improved technologies. But what the data suggests is that the EPA, our President and our current crop of energy analysts are counting on our ability to innovate new Americans instead.

Improvements in energy efficiency may not slow down climate change, but they can help us adapt to it when and if it comes, especially if it comes with lower sensitivity. But real reductions in emissions–enough to make a dent in climate change will require a new ‘us.’

I wish them luck with that. Jimmy Carter tried it and it cost him the presidency. Subsequent holders of the office have made fewer demands of citizens.

The world overall doesn’t want to be exactly like Americans. But they do want to have access to the same level of energy. If we are serious about emitting less CO2–if we are serious about consuming less energy–then we are going to have to change what people consider to be comfort, to be enough.

I think that is a far more difficult task than inventing more efficient gadgetry.

Stairway Press Will Publish ‘The Lukewarmer’s Way’ by Thomas Fuller

More details will follow.

The book will lean heavily on research done for posts here and at my companion blog 3000 Quads.

It will be divided into three sections:

1. Why I am not an alarmist

2. Why I am not a skeptic

3. The Lukewarmer’s Way

Wish me luck. I’ll try not to bombard this space hyping the book but you can expect the occasional nudge to buy it. I’ll let readers know when it’s available in bookstores, on Amazon and Kindle, etc.

Sobering statistic for the day:


Commenting here instead of… there

Sorry to trouble you, but because I’m banned at And Then There’s Physics, this will have to serve as my forum for comments I would normally post there.

And Then There’s Physics has the mandatory Kill Lomborg post up, which every Konsensus blogger is required to do twice a year. Lomborg, of course, is the evillest person on the planet because he thinks helping the poor is more important than stopping all fossil fuel emissions.

One of the major criticisms is ATTP’s abhorrence that Lomborg has not publicized anything he has done to help the poor, despite writing that helping the poor should be a high priority.

One example of Lomborg’s indifference to the poor is Roger Pielke’s attendance at a party. For Konsensus idiots, that actually works.

On April 8, ATTP had a post, “No More Flying?” in which he agonizes over whether or not climate scientists should quit flying.

ATTP writes, “To be honest, I’m in two minds about this whole idea. … However, I’m not sure about the whole idea that climate scientists should be setting some kind of example. ….However, I do still worry that we’re expecting an awful lot from those who are really just the messengers, not the decision makers. … I’m just not convinced that we should be expecting climate scientists specifically to publicly change their behaviour. This is a global, societal issue and we should all be considering how we can help to both highlight the issues and reduce our emissions. We shouldn’t be leaving it only to climate scientists, simply because their research is most closely related to the topic. It’s not that hard for the rest of us to understand the significance.

Physics vs. Biology–Thinking Out Loud

I would like to try and develop a topic on the fly, writing down my thoughts pretty much as they occur and seeing where they lead. This topic is the relative weight placed on physics in determining the extent of global warming, its impacts and the constraints on our options to deal with it, and the relative discounting of biological processes that may make the inputs to physical equations harder to determine.

In this I need to acknowledge the impact of my recent reading of work by and about Freeman Dyson. Dyson is a theoretical physicist and quite possible the second smartest person on the planet. (Possibly the smartest, Stephen Hawking, is on the other side of the fence from Dyson regarding global warming. Hawking is far more concerned about it than Dyson.) However, Dyson worked in the field of climate science for 15 years and has consistently made the point that while we roughly know the relative sizes of the major carbon sinks (ocean absorption, ocean plant life, atmosphere, vegetation and topsoil), at least to the ‘right number of zeroes’, we don’t know enough about how they interact.

Carbon Sinks and Sources

Most criticism of climate models involves uncertainty about cloud cover and aerosols. But attempts to respond to this criticism has been about doing better physics. I submit that doing better biology would be a precursor to getting better answers. Clouds and aerosols have biological properties as well as influencing outward radiation at certain frequencies. Those biological properties may well be important. Vegetation, as Dyson recently pointed out, has increased by 7% globally in recent years. This was not something the physics-based scientific community anticipated. More importantly, I don’t see anybody discussing the possible effects of significantly more vegetation. That’s a lot of photosynthesis happening.

Similarly, vast changes in land use and land cover obviously change the albedo of the earth’s surface. But perhaps too obviously. Are we convinced that albedo is the only, or even primary change that should be considered? (To be fair, physicists also look at the vast vertical columns of air that are displaced by such changes–but even that begs the question, when we change the properties of the land, we are changing the biology–the plants that we grow for food change the climate and the topsoil as well.

If this is not quickly shown to be arrant nonsense, I hope that people will engage with this. Certainly I would like to see papers showing that the biology of the biome is appropriately considered in the delicate dance of climate change. But I also would like to hear thoughts on how it could be better integrated into our discussions. Of course, then will come the chemists…

Cook’s MOOC–or is it an RPG?

I’m afraid further reporting on Bart Verheggen’s survey will have to wait, as earth-shattering news has appeared on Real Climate.

John Cook, major contributor to Skeptical Science and author of one of the most frequently cited papers since Calvin and Hobbes, will be offering a Massive Open Online Course on the ‘Science of Climate Denial.’ He says ‘thousands of students’ from over 130 countries’ have already signed up, so you’d better move fast. The course is free and I’m certain it will be worth every penny.

I do have a few questions regarding this. First, since there is now a science of climate denial, what is the null hypothesis? Would it involve natural variation, unnatural deviation or cosmic transmigration?

Second, since Cook twice labels climate deniers a ‘small but vocal minority’, why are they worth studying? I thought the 65 papers out of the 12,000 he studied proved conclusively that 97% of all living creatures worshipped at the Konsensus Altar and spit on climate deniers in the street? Why do we need more of a focus on them?

Third, I’m afraid this passage at Real Climate needs clarification: “Several strands of research in cognitive psychology, educational research and a branch of psychology called “inoculation theory” all point the way to neutralising the influence of science denial. The approach is two-fold: communicate the science but also explain how that science can be distorted.”

If climate deniers are a small minority, why do they need to be neutralized? Wouldn’t neutering be almost as effective–and cheaper? And if we are to be blessed with the fruits of cognitive psychology, why isn’t Cook trumpeting the participation of Stefan Lewandowsky who managed to turn 10 respondents into convincing evidence that climate deniers believe that OJ Simpson is hiding on the moon? Surely the unfortunate fact that he had to withdraw his recent paper on climate denier as conspiracy ideationist would not affect Cook’s long-standing partnership?

It’s really helpful that you provide a graphic representation of the evils of climate deniers. I like the acronym FLICC–now if you could find a companion acronym BICC, the possibilities for word play are endless:

However I fear these icons may be misconstrued as road signs and lead to unfortunate incidents on our cities’ streets. And why is the gentleman suffering from conspiracy theories wearing a condom on his head that is radiating Ns? Moreover, why is the red herring represented in your graph not red? What exactly is being magnified in your picture of the magnified minority? And is the figure jumping to conclusions or falling? The world wonders…

I ask these questions here because I am sure the moderator at Real Climate is overwhelmed:

Thomas Fuller says:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Excuse me, but why is the red herring not red? And why is the conspiracist wearing a condom on his head?

– See more at:

Back to more important questions, however. Such as, when you interviewed David Attenborough at the Great Barrier Reef, were you both above water?

Did your long and fascinating conversation with Michael Mann focus on his more recent works, such as Blackhat and Texas Killing Fields, or did you probe his motivation for earlier masterpieces such as Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice?

Were your students from 130 countries assessed by citizen scientists for eligibility and purity of thought? Did the opinions of the assessors match each other?

Finally, is it true that weapons will be issued and the final grade based in part on providing the remains of expired climate deniers?

Verheggen Survey and Sensitivity

Yesterday we discovered that climate scientists think that human emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the world. Stop the presses!

Today we’ll look at what 1,868 practicing climate scientists think of sensitivity.

Verheggen and the PBL asked them, ‘What is your estimate of equilibrium (Charney) sensitivity, i.e., the temperature response (degrees C) to a doubling of atmospheric CO2? Please provide both a best estimate and a likely range (66% probability interval.

Slightly under half (49%) of the scientists provided a best estimate. (Wow. More than half the climate scientists surveyed refused to give an estimate for sensitivity?)

The average sensitivity given was about 2.7 C. (The IPCC provides a range of 1.5C to 4.5C.)

Fewer scientists were willing to provide upper and lower bounds.

852 scientists (46% of the total surveyed) provided a lower bound for sensitivity. The average was about 1.6C.

831 scientists (44% of the total)  provided an upper bound for sensitivity. The average value was about 4.3C.

Those whose best estimate of sensitivity was below 2.5C were asked to indicate why their estimate was lower than the IPCC’s best estimate of 3.0C. 271 scientists had given a low best estimate, 14.5% of the total.

Respondents were free to offer more than one answer and many did.

44% said ‘natural variability has been underestimated.’

33% said ‘models overestimate current warming.’

31% said ‘cloud cover acts as a negative feedback.’

29% said ‘the effect of natural forcings is underestimated.’

22.5% said ‘positive cloud cover feedback is overestimated.’

22.5% said ‘positive water vapor feedback is overestimated.’

21% said ‘natural aerosols act as a negative feedback.’

20% said ‘energy balance calculations show climate sensitivity is small.’

A similar follow-up question was asked of those who indicated they felt the best estimate of sensitivity was higher than 3.5C. However, the data has not yet been made available for this follow up question.

Bart Verheggen’s Survey of Climate Scientists

In the Spring of 2012, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency PBL held a survey among 1868 scientists studying various aspects of climate change, including physical climate, climate impacts, and mitigation. The main results of the survey were published in an article in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) in August 2014: “Scientists’ views about attribution of global warming”. It showed that there is widespread agreement regarding a dominant influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on recent global warming. This agreement is stronger among respondents with more peer-reviewed publications.” That should not be surprising–there’s no question that most climate scientists feel that way. While I question the extent of dominance of AGW on overall warming, if it turned out to be 50% I would not be overly surprised.

However, there are other areas covered by the survey that are well worth exploring. A supplemental report detailing the findings has been recently released.

First, as a professional market researcher I would like to compliment the research team on their methodological choices and execution of the survey. As one who has been very sharply critical of other research on climate scientists (in particular Lewandowsky, Cook, Anderegg, Prall et al), it is refreshing to see someone taking care to get it right. In that respect, Verheggen, PBL et al is a return to good primary research as exemplified by von Storch, Bray et al in 2008. The results from the two surveys have a lot in common and should be considered mutually reinforcing.

On to the survey findings. Starting with the sexiest topic first, the question of attribution was explored in the survey. 66% of the respondents said that 50% or more of global warming since the mid-20th century can be attributed to human induced increases in greenhouse gases. As 19% responded ‘don’t know’ or ‘unknown’, it is clear that only a small minority has the opinion that GHGs caused less than 50% of recent warming. In fact, only 12% indicated that GHGs caused between zero and 50% of warming since the middle of the 20th century.

An interesting follow-up question was asked of those who felt AGW caused more than 50% of recent global warming. “What confidence level would you ascribe to the anthropogenic GHG contribution being more than 50%?” Similarly, those who ascribed less than half of recent warming to GHGs were asked about their level of confidence.

Those who think GHGs caused more than half of recent warming are far more confident in their perceptions than those who think GHGs caused less than half the warming.

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of those who attribute more than half of recent warming to GHGs said it was ‘virtually certain,’ ‘extremely likely’or ‘very likely’. In sharp contrast, only 45% of those who felt that GHGs had caused less than half of recent warming expressed similar levels of certainty.

I hope to continue with this analysis in subsequent posts. For now, I would suggest that it is fairly clear that there is a very real consensus among climate scientists about the role of human emissions of greenhouse gases in warming since 1945 and that those scientists who form the consensus are far more confident in their perceptions than those who doubt it.

Another One Bites The Dust–And an Ecomodernist Manifesto

Keith Kloor has announced he is abandoning Collide-a-Scape for more fruitful pursuits. I’m going to miss him. I was a faithful reader for two years and a frequent commenter as well. I hope he saves the archives some place. Lots of quotes to be mined and somebody’s dissertation some day in the future will be greatly enriched by his posts and commentary.

Not to keep harping on the subject, but the climate blogosphere seems to be thinning out. Pielke Jr.–gone. Planet 3–gone. Collide-a-Scape–gone. The Way Things Break–gone. Deltoid–gone.

Lots of other bloggers have certainly slowed down production–The Air Vent, The Blackboard–even Real Climate seems to be slowing down.

Of course it’s the commenters’ fault. (Just kidding…).


I actually don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. A week in which I read for the first time ‘An Ecomdernist Manifesto‘ is definitely a week that shows that good and original thinking about environmental issues has not gone away. And there are new blogs, such as Jose Duarte, Climate Nuremberg and And Then There’s a Phsyique (sp?. It’s not like climate talk has disappeared.

But it seems as though there’s a changing of the guard, both among bloggers and commenters. I suppose that’s inevitable, natural, sign of vitality, something… But I’m going to miss Keith’s blog.

An Ecomodernist Manifesto is a remarkable document. It captures much of what I think and feel about the environmental struggle. It is an advance on earlier writings that I really like–Lomborg, Hartwell, The Rational Optimist.

The org has their website here. They’ve got some heavy hitters from the Breakthrough Institute, that no doubt being the reason Joe Romm went all hysterical. Can’t have sane people getting press! As further proof that irony is dead, Joe Romm declares somebody else’s writing to be a waste of time. After agreeing with much of what they say, Romm dismisses them because they don’t get on board with his preferred policies, notably cessation of new fossil fuel infrastructure by 2017. Geez, Romm–when you come back with India’s and China’s signature on that, let’s talk. In the meantime, hope you’re saving your pennies–You’re going to owe me and Les Johnson $1,000 in just five more years.

Echoing Romm is And Then There’s Physics, who after offering tepid support for the Manifesto’s goals, just has to get the alarmist dig in: “I’m still a little cynical and have a suspicion that this is a manifesto that acknowledges the problems we might face, but that is still really just proposing that we don’t do anything specifically to address them; we simply rely on our inate (sic) ingenuity to find solutions that will be ready when we need them.” The comments there are illuminating, if a bit disgusting. Lowlight: “…the most insidious and subtle exercise in corporate propaganda I have yet encountered. ”

I think it’s brilliant and I hope it serves as a base for further discussions about all aspects of the environment, including climate change.

Enough from me. Go read the Ecomodernist Manifesto. Report back on what it makes you think, feel and prepared to do.

A President I Admire Greatly Is Completely Wrong On Climate Change

I voted twice for Barack Obama and would cheerfully do so again if offered the opportunity. Maybe he can be senator from California some day.

He took office when the U.S. was in great disarray following 8 years of what I consider mismanagement, entangled in two wars and facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. Barack Obama has done a superb job in helping the U.S. recover. Sometimes it was through active policies, such as Obamacare. Sometimes it was by just staying out of the way, such as with fracking.

A President I greatly admire is completely wrong on climate change. “President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to put the reality of climate change in particularly stark terms.

“Today, there’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change,” Obama said. “Climate change can no longer be denied, or ignored.”

Mr. President, you’re mistaken. Climate change happens continuously. That’s why we measure it. Nobody denies that climate changes.

And very few deny that humans have contributed to changes since 1945. We have gone from 5 million cars to 2 billion wheeling around this planet. We have thousands of coal fired power plants where once we had hundreds. We have farms fit to feed 7 billion souls where once we struggled to feed 1 billion. We have cut down forests, burned them, paved over native grasses for strip malls and freeways.

But our actions constitute a nudge, not a shove. We are learning more about the sensitivity of the atmosphere to our actions and it turns out the climate is pretty resilient.

The scientists you say you trust on climate change do not forecast disaster. They estimate it will take between 1% and 5% of global GDP to manage the adaptations we will have to make to deal with the worst projected consequences, that 0.23% of our land will succumb to sea level rises, that the number of hurricanes may well diminish and that overall, global precipitation may increase by about 5%.

The Greenland Ice Sheet will not melt into the oceans, although many glaciers around the world may disappear. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is accumulating ice, as are the oceans around Antarctica. Malaria, recently thought to be poised to spread back to regions that had eliminated it, is now thought to be destined for eradication.

Global warming still continues to be most pronounced in winter time, at night, in the northern latitudes. Our CO2 will constitute a burden for our grandchildren to deal with, but in the meantime it has helped vegetation grow by 7% on this planet we share.

Mr. President, when you say, “2014 was the warmest year on Earth ever recorded. The 14 hottest years on record, meanwhile, have all fallen within the last 15 years,” I agree. But do you realize that conflict deaths have declined during that period, that there has not been a wave of climate refugees during that period, that mortality, poverty, malnutrition and infectious disease have all declined during this plateau of temperatures at record levels?

People concerned about the environment can be easily distracted by global warming, when in fact the major threats are over-hunting and over-fishing, pollution, loss of habitat and the introduction of alien species.

You can serve as witness for the dangers of distraction. Attribution of causes is of paramount importance. For many endangered species, the other causes comprise 99% of the threat and global warming 1%. When global warming activists try to reverse the percentages, they cheapen the debate and soil the science.

When you assign global warming responsibility for your daughter’s asthma, you provide a convenient alibi for two far more likely causes of her ailment–an allergy to peanuts being one and the presence of a parent who smoked being another. This is not to deny that global warming has occurred–temperatures have risen about 0.8C over the past century or so. But attributing all our problems to global warming is focusing on the tail, not the dog.


Your advisor Brian Deese was quoted as saying “The most salient arguments around climate change are associated with the health impacts and are ones that meet people where they are, and that requires making an argument around how climate is affecting local communities and individuals.”

As of now, the health impacts of climate change are benign. We are experiencing far fewer deaths from cold than any rise in heat related deaths. Whatever temperatures have done, they have not stopped our progress in reducing morbidity and mortality overall.

Climate change will rise in importance as developing countries continue to use more fossil fuels. Many of the remarks you make will be salient when applied to the period beyond 2040, when the IPCC predicts impacts from climate change will be more pronounced.

What a tragedy it would be if exaggerating the present state of our climate led us to ignoring what we will need to do in the future.

I am not a skeptic regarding climate change. I support tougher EPA regulations on coal fired plants. I will not be sorry on the day the last coal plant shutters its doors. I strongly believe in energy efficiency, better CAFE standards and many other no regrets options. I support a revenue neutral carbon tax and increased investment in renewable energy.

But blatant disregard for what the science is telling us about our climate today serves nobody’s purposes. You damage the credibility of your office and dilute efforts to prepare for the future.

I ask you to reconsider, not your stance on many of the issues surrounding climate change, but the over-blown rhetoric you and your administration employ in advancing your agenda.

Revisionist History at ATTP

Over at And Then There’s Physics, ATTP himself blogs, “One of the motivations behind yesterday’s post was the sense that we will start to see people, who might be regarded as contrarians (or mitigation skeptics, as Victor might say), starting to adjust their views to be more consistent with that of those who’ve been arguing for action.”

This conveniently overlooks that fact that those he is writing about have been clear and consistent for over a decade. Rather than Lukewarmers such as The Breakthrough Institute or Steve Mosher moving in ATTP’s direction, what in fact we’re starting to see are signs that some of the saner people on the alarmist side are beginning to consider what Lukewarmers have been proposing since Day 1.


Of course, what ATTP is really after becomes quickly clear: “I suspect, however, that if they do so, they will not acknowledge the role that they may have played in delaying action, will attempt to portray these ideas as new and their’s, and will probably do so with the goal of controlling the narrative and marginalising those who’ve already been speaking in favour of action.”

The Breakthrough Institute, so despised and reviled by Konsensus warmongers like Joe Romm and Michael Tobis, was founded in 2003. Their operating premises, goals and strategies have not changed in the past 12 years. They’re not slyly modifying their hymn sheet to sound more like the Konsensus. They were the ones who tried to find common ground between U.S. Republicans and Democrats, bringing together the liberal Brookings Institute and the conservative American Enterprise Institute to publish the report Post-Partisan Power, which calls for increased federal investment in innovation in order to make clean energy cheap.

ATTP singles out Steven Mosher, who in a previous post had said the time is ripe for horsetrading on climate policy, as one of those who is now slyly trying to curry favor with those right-thinking alarmists to salvage his reputation. Michael Tobis, who commented several times on ATTP’s thread, forgot to mention how unlikely it is that Mosher would be kissing up.

Mosher had written at Tobis’ blog, “I’m on the record from my first appearance on the web in 2007 at RC that the GCMs are the best tools we have for understanding future climate. I’m on the record at CA showing people how to download ModelE results and generally praising its fidelity. I’m on the record noting some of the improvements gavin has made in the documentation. I’m on the record extolling the virtues of MITs model and their approach of including software developers. Im on the record arguing that the IPCC should use the best of breed models. On the record saying that the models and the data as it stands gives us enough cause for action. NOW.
None of those positions on the SCIENCE and on the Need for ACTION, is inconsistent with my views on open data and open source and on best practices. Global warming is true. we should act now. AND hiding data and code is a short sighted tactic. Hiding the decline and other silly chartsmanship games are bad tactics. And I want my tean to STOP employing bad tactics. We’ve got the science on our side, there is no need for us to compromise our dedication to transparency or our dedication to the highest quality science.”

To which Tobis replied, “I understand you want to air the dirty laundry. You understand that I don’t, but you don’t seem to understand why I don’t.

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake. And if we narrowly fucking miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own fucking personal individual fucking self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of fucking nerve saying you are on my “side”.

“Unless and until you find it within yourself to understand that you have major fucked up, big time, by throwing big juicy meat to the deniers to chew on and spin paranoid fantasies about for years, even decades, I’ll take wild-eyed Frank who is inclined to start to hate me for exchanging a word with you, and gasbag Randy Olsen and the stunningly demoralizing Bill McKibben, and everybody, I’ll take all of them, on my “team” before I will pass the ball to you, because I have no way of knowing which way you will decide to kick it.”

Bjorn Lomborg has not changed his opinions since the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001. He has always stated that global warming is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed, but that it needs to be placed in context with the other problems facing humanity. For this he was attacked viciously and repeatedly–and the attacks have never stopped.

Roger Pielke Sr., one of the first scientists to call for using ocean heat content to quantify global warming, has not changed his opinions. He believes the global warming is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed, but that it needs to be placed in context with other anthropogenic forcings on the climate system, such as land use/land cover, etc. For this he was ridiculed and marginalised by many of the people piously sucking their teeth at ATTP’s thread, edged out of future contributions to the IPCC, had projects rejected for funding and was caricatured in a cartoon drawn up by Konsensus idiots who actually called themselves scientists.

As I wrote yesterday, I have been calling for adoption of no-regrets policies, bottom up approaches, investment in energy technology, $100 billion in aid to developing countries, a revenue neutral carbon tax and much more since 2008.

It never occurred to me that I should suck up to the smarmy hypocrites comprising the Konsensus. They’ve attacked me just as they’ve attacked the people mention above. They have attacked me, not despite my support for those policies, but because of it. Because I do not call for drastic emission cuts, it doesn’t matter what else I advocate. I am become Denier, slayer of worlds.

But I’m not surprised that as their efforts to impose ineffective policy from the top down fails, they would start the tapdancing.

The Konsensus has long acted as if they truly hated Lukewarmers far more than skeptics, much as priests hated those who have left the fold far more than adherents to other religions. If this is a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment, it won’t be lukewarmers saying they’ve seen the light. We saw it long ago.

Postscript: Over at ATTP, where the blog owner continues to insist I am not banned, we see this:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Fast Mitigation, No Regrets, Geoengineering, Bottom Up Approach to Mitigation

A couple of years ago a lightbulb went on in the heads of some climate scientists and they figured out that black soot floating up to the Arctic was actually a very potent factor in global warming. It dirties the snow, reducing its albedo and helps it melt more quickly, further reducing planetary albedo.

This was about the same time that discussion was ongoing regarding geoengineering to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. (Geoengineering is not a new idea. In 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson received the first-ever U.S. presidential briefing on the dangers of climate change, the only remedy prescribed to counter the effects of global warming was geoengineering.) The most popular options being discussed were Carbon Capture and Sequestration at source and dusting the ocean with iron, fertilizing the ocean with nutrients that would allow plankton to grow faster and thus absorb more carbon.

We were talking about geoengineering because the concept of ‘no regrets’ options had been pooh-poohed for over a decade as distracting from the need to drastically cut emissions and providing a false sense of accomplishment.

No regrets options leaned heavily on investment in energy efficiency and R&D on better solar and wind, better storage, rationalizing flight paths and including direct descent options, etc.

Paul Kelly and I were busy commenting over at Bart Verheggen’s blog that a bottom-up approach would be a useful kickstart to mitigation efforts, for which we both were roundly ridiculed. Nobody ever responded to our basic points, though. If I buy a hybrid car or put solar on the roof, it obviously won’t stop global warming (although if I convince a friend to do likewise, and she convinces a friend…).

However, a bottom-up approach serves as a signalling device. Politicians do look at the number of green purchases made across categories, from cars to solar panels to ground source heat pumps to triple paned windows. And it influences both legislation and regulation. Lobbyists and NGOs follow that information like baseball stats gurus, obsessing over trends and totals. Perhaps most importantly, manufacturers and retailers live and breathe this stuff. If you have ever talked with a business analyst working inside a consumer packaged goods company, you will be amazed by the level of detail they follow and the connections they make between categories.

So now a new concept enters the scene. Fast Mitigation, the idea that we focus our efforts on areas we can actually impact. I don’t know who started it, but Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Mario Molina and Durwood J. Zaelke explain it pretty well here.

“Can any strategy produce such fast results? To answer this we need to review the underlying climate science, to understand that there are two main levers we can pull to slow climate warming. The first lever is the one that reduces the carbon dioxide emitted when we burn from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. To insure long-term climate stability we need to pull this lever, now, as hard as possible, promoting energy efficiency, low carbon fuels, and clean energy sources. But we also need to understand that pulling back the carbon dioxide lever will produce climate cooling very slowly: by mid-century an aggressive effort to reduce carbon dioxide can avoid 0.1° Celsius of warming, out of an expected 2° Celsius or more of warming by 2050 under business as usual.

We also need to pull back the lever to reduce the short-lived climate pollutants. These pollutants include black carbon (soot) air pollution, tropospheric ozone (the principal component of smog), methane, and several HFCs, which are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Pulling this lever to cut the short-lived climate pollutants can avoid 0.6 ° Celsius of warming by mid-century, six times more than the carbon dioxide lever can produce. At the end of the century, the avoided warming from cutting the short-lived climate pollutants is 1.5° Celsius compared to 1.1° Celsius for carbon dioxide. Both strategies are essential at this point.”

I’m happy to endorse this initiative, but I’d like to offer a word of warning to those thinking of joining. The Klimate Konsensus will crucify you. When Freeman Dyson suggested that planting trees (and if necessary changing the genetics of trees to help them take up more carbon dioxide) was an effective strategy for dealing with our excess of CO2, he was labeled a senile denier. The Konsensus asked what a theoretical physicist could possible know about climate change. When informed that he had worked for 15 years on climate science, they said he was still a senile denier.

When The Breakthrough Institute tried to introduce common sense about mitigation and adaptation, they were damned and double damned and vilified by the Konsensus, for whom Klimate Purity allows only one solution–drastic emission cuts now. When George Bush the Elder had his team come up with the concept of ‘negawatts’, energy efficiency as a tool for mitigation, he was called a tool for fossil fuel companies.

When Paul Kelly and I offered our own modest proposals, we were called delayers, deniers and much worse.

In a rational world, we would be pursuing George Bush’s negawatts, planting trees, encouraging signaling devices such as green consumer activity, researching the potential of geoengineering and vigorously working on that part of the problem amenable to our actions–black soot, pollution, HFCs, methane and any others we can think of.

But the Klimate Konsensus has ruled that anything other than emission cessation is evil. So those of us who actually want to do something about climate change know who our enemy is. Fulminators like Joe Romm (“I want to trash them (the authors of Superfreakonomics) for this insanity and ignorance.” and Michael Tobis (“emitting CO2 is the same as mugging an old lady”) will come out in force and enforce Klimate Purity.

The Klimate Konsensus (entirely separate from the very real, if narrow, scientific consensus) is the enemy of effective action on climate change. I hope to have the time and energy to continue confronting their insanity.


India, Greenpeace and Coal

Over at my companion blog 3000 Quads, I recently wrote “This analysis shows that India can potentially shift its fuel portfolio slightly in a ‘greener’ direction, but meeting the economic needs of its people will almost certainly mean continued use of large quantities of coal.”

Sometimes I hate being right. India is cutting off funding to the Indian offices of Greenpeace, freezing seven bank accounts and proceeding with their long battle against the Green NGO. I’m not a big fan of Greenpeace. I believe they ignore the poor in their quest for environmental Jerusalem and I certainly do not consider them to have a balanced or even sane view of climate change. India does not want Greenpeace interfering with their new plans to mine more Indian coal instead of buying it from Australia and Indonesia. Although I understand the government’s actions, I somehow wish a reasonable debate could take place between the government and somebody–maybe not Greenpeace, but somebody–about how to meet India’s energy needs without killing millions of Indians.more indian coal But India needs fuel to run its power plants and coal is the fuel they have access to. Coal is the fuel used to provide 44% of India’s energy needs–and right now they are importing 42% of their coal despite having huge amounts of coal in India. Regulations, corruptions and Byzantine corporate practice make it very difficult to get coal out of the ground in India, something their new prime minister is trying to change.

There are 167 million families in rural India that don’t have access to electricity. Although I’m a big fan of rural solar electrification programs to get some power to the people quickly, in all honesty India needs large scale power plants and the only fuel they can afford today is coal. This is a mortal pity, because India is just as polluted as China–it just goes mostly unnoticed.

There is a solution. Really.

What Greenpeace could do is lobby intensively for Western countries to provide at no cost the scrubbing technology needed to make India’s inevitable dash for coal as clean as possible.

They won’t, of course. Scrubbing technology doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions.

Coal is much, much better for Indians than burning dung or firewood. It’s better for their health, better for their environment, and, dirty and emissive as coal is, is a major improvement on the kerosene used for heating and cooking today.

It would be wonderful if India could skip a rung or two on the energy ladder and go straight to hydropower, nuclear, wind and solar. And they are working very hard to bring those fuels online. But today, Old King Coal is still the answer to India’s energy crisis. It would be nice, if a bit fairy tale-ish, if our Green organizations could find a way to help them make it work. But I guess there’s a whale to save somewhere, or an archeological treasure to trash.

Kibitzing on Klimate Konversations

Since my time is somewhat short these days, I am having to narrow my focus here. Instead of looking at major themes and events I’m going to try and take advantage of my predilection for snooping in comment threads at places where I’m banned.


One such is And Then There’s Physics, a Klimate Konsensus blog run by and for true believers. I was banned there before even making an appearance, due to what the blog owner said was my ‘nastiness’. Okay. Of course, then he said he didn’t ban me, his co-blogger said she did, and my comments weren’t allowed up (and everything I’ve written there or in emails to the blog owner have been scrupulously polite and on-point). As I’ve had comments moderated for quoting was was said about me in comments that were approved, I’m forced to assume that nastiness, like the tallness of aunts, is a discretionary matter.

But I go there to read the comments. (The actual posts are not very useful. If And Then There’s Physics has a lot to say, it certainly isn’t about physics. His thought for today was apparently “as far as climate science is concerned, physics + logic beats statistics. I don’t have an issue with people delving into the details of some analysis to try and understand what was done, or trying to improve some analysis. However, at the end of the day, this is a physics problem and applying complicated statistics doesn’t mean that the result makes any sense, or finding some technical statistical fault with an analysis doesn’t mean the result is completely wrong. The day that Steve McIntyre and Nic Lewis recognise this, is the day I’ll take them more seriously. I’m not holding my breath.”

At some point, someone should take him aside and gently point out that since climate scientists including physicists do attempt to make statistical comparisons of climate, related data, other studies and even the occasional meta study, it would help to use good statistical practices rather than bad. Or even emphasize that not only does McIntyre not try to use statistics to trump climate science, he supports the broad sweep of the multidisciplinary findings, saying in front of a group of skeptics that he would listen to the IPCC recommendations. But when scientists like Michael Mann misuse statistics to emphasize a narrative they have already decided on, good statistics trump bad statistics.

When another commenter remarked “I know you don’t want to talk about Mann, but that is another example where statistician involvement at the onset could certainly have saved a lot of wasted energy” ATTP replied, “I doubt it would have made any difference. I don’t believe that the attack on MBH98 was motivated by a desire to do sound statistics. You can live in your fantasy world where you believe that to be the case. I’ll remain in the real world where people appear to attack anything that present results that they perceive to be inconvenient.”

And this is what I’ve encountered time and time again in the conversations held on weblogs about climate change. It is clear that ATTP is not familiar with what he is discussing. He clearly does not know what Michael Mann did. He does not know what Steve McIntyre wrote in response. Most importantly, although he clearly does not know why McIntyre has done what he has done, he imputes a base motive to Mac–that he is only attacking Mann’s work because he doesn’t like the results.

Far from it: “Similarly, the Oxburgh report, cited by Mann (Pl.’s Resp. at 19) as evidence of his “exoneration,” examined only the conduct of East Anglia Climate Research Unit scientists, not Mann. Nonetheless, the panel concluded that it was “regrettable” that tree-ring proxy reconstructions “by the IPCC and others” neglected to emphasize “the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century.” See Pl.’s Resp., Ex. 5 at 5 ¶ 7. Prof. David Hand, the head of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the panel, subsequently singled out Michael Mann’s research for criticism, noting that Mann’s used “inappropriate methods” that “exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick.”

…[Hand] said the strongest example he had found of imperfect statistics in the work of the CRU and collaborators elsewhere was the iconic “hockey stick” graph, produced by Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. The graph shows how temperatures have changed over the past 1000 years (see graphic, right). Hand pointed out that the statistical tool Mann used to integrate temperature data from a number of difference sources – including tree-ring data and actual thermometer readings – produced an “exaggerated” rise in temperatures over the 20th century, relative to pre-industrial temperatures. That point was initially made by climate sceptic and independent mathematician Stephen McIntyre.”

And in this he is wrong. And this error cheapens whatever ATTP could possibly hope to bring to the debate.

Part of ATTP’s current popularity is due to his presentation of himself as an academic physicist, above the fray and beyond partisanship. However, he started his blogging peradventures by authoring another weblog that spent most of the time attacking Anthony Watts and his wildly popular blog Watts Up With That. As ATTP’s blog failed to get any traction or traffic, he cast about for another forum to use for promoting his preferences regarding climate change.

ATTP is unpleasant to those he disagrees with, but probably has a contribution to make to the climate debate. However, his current efforts insure that he will be preaching to the choir–and of course, the occasional kibitzer such as myself.

More on Freeman Dyson

If you saw either of the videos on yesterday’s posts, I’m sure you’ll agree that Freeman Dyson is special. He talks the way Bertrand Russell wrote–clear, to the point, logical and… well… kind. (I hope someone can help me explain what I mean by that–but compassion comes through in the communications of both Dyson and Russell.)


It’s not often that one of the great minds of the century can communicate in clear, plain English. You don’t need to be a climate scientist to understand what this climate scientist (for 15 years) thinks. You don’t need to understand biotechnology to understand his vision of a future that is propelled by that science.

I would argue that the principal failing of the consensus of climate scientists has been their inability to produce someone of Dyson’s gravitas who can communicate clearly what the position is. Michael Mann just doesn’t cut it. James Hansen was closer, prior to his retirement, but his tendency to exaggerate and excoriate lessened his effectiveness.

As for the Klimate Konsensus, those NGOs, lobbyists and self-styled ‘climate communicators’, if I could I’d strap them in and make them watch Dyson over and over. Instead, they created a page for him in their Denier Database and looked for every opportunity to denigrate him or to complain, as Michael Tobis did, that he’s ‘getting too much press.’

Gee. I wonder why he gets so much press?

In 1951 he joined the faculty at Cornell as a physics professor, although still lacking a doctorate, and in 1953 he received a permanent post at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey—where he has now lived for more than fifty years.[18] In 1957 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States and renounced his British nationality. One reason he gave decades later is that his children born in the US had not been recognized as British subjects.[5][6]

Dyson is best known for demonstrating in 1949 the equivalence of two then-current formulations of quantum electrodynamics—Richard Feynman’s diagrams and the operator method developed by Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga.[19] He was the first person (besides Feynman) to appreciate the power of Feynman diagrams, and his paper written in 1948 and published in 1949 was the first to make use of them. He said in that paper that Feynman diagrams were not just a computational tool, but a physical theory, and developed rules for the diagrams that completely solved the renormalization problem. Dyson’s paper and also his lectures presented Feynman’s theories of QED (quantum electrodynamics) in a form that other physicists could understand, facilitating the physics community’s acceptance of Feynman’s work. Robert Oppenheimer, in particular, was persuaded by Dyson that Feynman’s new theory was as valid as Schwinger’s and Tomonaga’s. Oppenheimer rewarded Dyson with a lifetime appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study, “for proving me wrong”, in Oppenheimer’s words.[20]

Also in 1949, in a related work, Dyson invented the Dyson series.[21] It was this paper that inspired John Ward to derive his celebrated Ward identity.[22]

Dyson also did work in a variety of topics in mathematics, such as topology, analysis, number theory and random matrices.[23] There is an interesting story involving random matrices. In 1973 the number theorist Hugh Montgomery was visiting the Institute for Advanced Study and had just made his pair correlation conjecture concerning the distribution of the zeros of the Riemann zeta function. He showed his formula to the mathematician Atle Selberg who said it looked like something in mathematical physics and he should show it to Dyson, which he did. Dyson recognized the formula as the pair correlation function of the Gaussian unitary ensemble, which has been extensively studied by physicists. This suggested that there might be an unexpected connection between the distribution of primes 2,3,5,7,11, … and the energy levels in the nuclei of heavy elements such as uranium.[24]

From 1957 to 1961 he worked on the Orion Project, which proposed the possibility of space-flight using nuclear pulse propulsion. A prototype was demonstrated using conventional explosives, but the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (which Dyson was involved in and supported) permitted only underground nuclear testing, so the project was abandoned.

In 1958 he led the design team for the TRIGA, a small, inherently safe nuclear reactor used throughout the world in hospitals and universities for the production of medical isotopes.

A seminal work by Dyson came in 1966 when, together with Andrew Lenard and independently of Elliott H. Lieb and Walter Thirring, he proved rigorously that the exclusion principle plays the main role in the stability of bulk matter.[25][26][27] Hence, it is not the electromagnetic repulsion between outer-shell orbital electrons which prevents two wood blocks that are left on top of each other from coalescing into a single piece, but rather it is the exclusion principle applied to electrons and protons that generates the classical macroscopic normal force. In condensed matter physics, Dyson also did studies in the phase transition of the Ising model in 1 dimension and spin waves.[23]

Around 1979, Dyson worked with the Institute for Energy Analysis on climate studies. This group, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, pioneered multidisciplinary climate studies, including a strong biology group. Also during the 1970s, he worked on climate studies conducted by the JASON defense advisory group.[18]

Dyson retired from the Institute for Advanced Study in 1994.[28] In 1998, Dyson joined the board of the Solar Electric Light Fund. As of 2003 he was president of the Space Studies Institute, the space research organization founded by Gerard K. O’Neill; As of 2013 he is on its Board of Trustees.[29] Dyson is a long-time member of the JASON group.

Dyson is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Dyson has won numerous scientific awards but never a Nobel Prize. Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg has said that the Nobel committee has “fleeced” Dyson, but Dyson himself remarked in 2009, “I think it’s almost true without exception if you want to win a Nobel Prize, you should have a long attention span, get hold of some deep and important problem and stay with it for ten years. That wasn’t my style.”[18]

In 2012, he published (with William H. Press) a fundamental new result about the Prisoner’s Dilemma in PNAS.[30]

Freeman Dyson

Hi, everybody. I note that this video has been linked to by a number of climate blogs–forgive me if this amounts to yesteday’s news. But it’s important enough that I want it here too.

Freeman Dyson may be the second smartest person on this planet. He could probably even give Hawking a run for his money.

He’s a theoretical physicist, but spent 15 years working in the field of climate science. “Around 1979, Dyson worked with the Institute for Energy Analysis on climate studies. This group, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, pioneered multidisciplinary climate studies, including a strong biology group. Also during the 1970s, he worked on climate studies conducted by the JASON defense advisory group.[18]

Dyson retired from the Institute for Advanced Study in 1994.[28] In 1998, Dyson joined the board of the Solar Electric Light Fund. As of 2003 he was president of the Space Studies Institute, the space research organization founded by Gerard K. O’Neill; As of 2013 he is on its Board of Trustees.[29] Dyson is a long-time member of the JASON group.”

In this video, he repeats his basic message of the past decade–that climate models are great for understanding the climate, but horrible for forecasting it. That the planet is getting appreciably greener, in part due to our emissions of CO2 and that in all likelihood the benefits of this increased greenery are greater than the costs of climate change, which he says are dramatically overstated.

Dyson has been featured on this subject quite often. I like this one best.

Clean Water and Saving Energy

We often get into a tug of war about prioritizing any assistance we provide developing countries. We present choices as black and white–they can have energy (from fossil fuels) and the Utopia of energy availability it brings or condemn those in developing countries to candle light and kerosene. The reality is a bit more nuanced.

Probably the second biggest benefit we could provide many in the developing world is access to clean water. Believe it or not, that could for many be more important than access to electricity. Dirty water kills even more than indoor air pollution. The effects of water-borne illnesses are even more debilitating than the lack of power.

Water pollution India

If you don’t think it’s a current issue you are not paying attention. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce site, has about 3,000 different types of water treatment plant for sale, most of them small scale but with some fairly high capacity units thrown in.

Of course, clean water costs money. The other problem is that clean water uses energy. A lot of it. In the developed world it can comprise 10% of a city’s municipal budget and 35% of the same city’s energy consumption.

Which is why it’s important to note that there is huge variation in energy consumption in water treatment facilities. The much-maligned EPA has a useful document for city managers about how to reduce energy consumption in water treatment here:

More importantly, perhaps we can spend some time talking about how we can make solutions for Problem A contribute to solving Problem B.

I would submit that starting with the point of view of the end-user (okay, my background screams at me to use terms like ‘consumer-centric’) and look at all the challenges they face.

A village in India has multiple needs. They are far from an electricity grid, so they aren’t going to get connected soon. Rural electrification can help them somewhat, but a few solar panels will not rocket them into the fourth dimension of modernity.

Low cost refrigeration can give that village vaccines and medicines that need cold storage. Low cost water treatment can prevent diarrhea and work to combat malnutrition. Solar power might not provide 24/7 access to electricity, but it can charge cheap batteries and help with food storage.

Perhaps USAID and Greenpeace wouldn’t be so hostile to funding a fossil fuel power plant for the developing world if it was combined with a state of the art, hyper efficient water treatment facility and the last mile of a Cold Chain that kept medicines at a proper temperature. Of course the more rabid environmentalists would look at that as a ploy worthy of tobacco executives, but the more rabid environmentalists are doing a fairly good job of marginalizing themselves right out of serious conversation.

And as Eli Rabett noted over at Rabett Run, low-power fans can be a quicker and more acceptable solution to indoor air pollution than over-engineered solar stoves and high tech ovens.

The old saw about hammer and nail can be pretty accurate (and pretty damning) when it comes to aid efforts for the developing world. A portfolio approach to addressing multiple needs might work better.

It’s worth a try.

Comparing What Science Says To What The Konsensus Says, Part 1: The Hockey Stick

As I hope to show, there is a very real difference between what mainstream science says and what members of the Krazy Klimate Konsensus spout at every opportunity.

The Hockey Stick and Michael Mann

The Hockey Stick Chart showed a picture of stable temperatures over the past millenium, changing in modern times to a sharp rise, something laid at the doorstep of global warming, in part due to anthropogenic climate change.

Criticism of the Hockey Stick does not involve the recent rise. That is not disputed and is pretty much indisputable. But the regularity of the shaft is remarkable–and very much open to question. Michael Mann, a lead author for the IPCC AR3, defended his work against attacks from colleagues, opponents such as Steve McIntyre and other scientists.


Scientific American quotes Gavin Schmidt, one of the most respected leaders of the Konsensus. (Mann and Schmidt are also practicing scientists, rare among the Konsnesus.) “Although questions in the field abound about how, for example, tree-ring data are compiled, many of those attacking Mann’s work, Schmidt claims, have had a priori opinions that the work must be wrong. “Most scientists would have left the field long ago, but Mike is fighting back with a tenacity I find admirable,” Schmidt says.”

I must say, although the Hockey Stick graph has been defended by other scientists, I didn’t find much in the way of support for Michael Mann. Scientists who replicated his procedure using his data also got a hockey stick shape for temperatures over the past few hundred emails. However, more reconstructions focusing on the shaft found evidence of a medieval warming period, which Mann’s chart had disappeared, and a little ice age, also missing from Mann’s work.

Other scientists hold different views. Physicist Richard Muller: the graph was “an artifact of poor mathematics”, summarising the as yet unpublished comment including its claim that the principal components procedure produced hockey stick shapes from random data. He said that the “discovery hit me like a bombshell”.

In May 2007, Hans von Storch reviewed the changes in thought caused by the hockey stick controversy writing:

In October 2004 we were lucky to publish in Science our critique of the ‘hockey-stick’ reconstruction of the temperature of the last 1000 years. Now, two and half years later, it may be worth reviewing what has happened since then.
At the EGU General Assembly a few weeks ago there were no less than three papers from groups in Copenhagen and Bern assessing critically the merits of methods used to reconstruct historical climate variable from proxies; Bürger’s papers in 2005; Moberg’s paper in Nature in 2005; various papers on borehole temperature; The National Academy of Science Report from 2006 – all of which have helped to clarify that the hockey-stick methodologies lead indeed to questionable historical reconstructions. The 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC now presents a whole range of historical reconstructions instead of favoring prematurely just one hypothesis as reliable.
What is remarkable now is the level of revisionist history regarding the Hockey Stick Chart.  For example, the blog DeSmogBlog says, “His opponents constantly raise allegations against Mann, without ever mentioning the half dozen or so investigations into his academic work and conduct that have concluded his work and conduct to be sound.”
Chris Mooney, writing in the Atlantic, says “Climate deniers threw everything they had at the hockey stick. They focused immense resources on what they thought was the Achilles Heel of global warming research–and even then, they couldn’t hobble it. (Though they certainly sowed plenty of doubt in the mind of the public.)”
But DeSmogBlog and Mooney aren’t scientists. They are full-fledged, full-throated members of the Konsensus.
With the passage of time, mainstream scientists have been more open in their criticisms of Mann and his Hockey Stick.
CRU scientist Keith Briffa, whose work on tree rings in Siberia has been subject to its own controversies, emailed Edward Cook of Columbia University: “I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series,” adding that he was tired of “the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbiage [Mann] has produced over the last few years .??.??. and (better say no more).”
Cook replied: “I agree with you. We both know the probable flaws in Mike’s recon[struction], particularly as it relates to the tropical stuff. Your response is also why I chose not to read the published version of his letter. It would be too aggravating. .??.??. It is puzzling to me that a guy as bright as Mike would be so unwilling to evaluate his own work a bit more objectively.”

In yet another revealing email, Cook told Briffa: “Of course [Bradley] and other members of the MBH [Mann, Bradley, Hughes] camp have a fundamental dislike for the very concept of the MWP, so I tend to view their evaluations as starting out from a somewhat biased perspective, i.e. the cup is not only ‘half-empty’; it is demonstrably ‘broken’. I come more from the ‘cup half-full’ camp when it comes to the MWP, maybe yes, maybe no, but it is too early to say what it is.”

The Climate Consensus vs. The Klimate Konsensus

Those who stand in opposition to the popular madness that is the climate debate have spent a lot of time identifying the differences we have with each other. Hence we Lukewarmers look carefully at where we differ from full-throated skeptics and how far we really are from the consensus science, while skeptics proudly identify how they are different from Lukewarmers.

We haven’t spent enough time looking at the differences between those on the other side of the issue and that inattention has not helped us.


If the proposition is worded carefully and conservatively, about 80% of scientists working in the various fields of climate science agree with the statement that the globe is warming and that human emissions of CO2 have contributed to this warming.

Many skeptics and almost all lukewarmers would agree with such a statement as well.

But because careful wording to reach this high level of agreement must leave out speculation about the future extent and impacts of global warming, this very real consensus is mostly ignored by NGOs and activists pushing for extensive action to reduce emissions in the very short term. They are the Klimate Konsensus.

As discussed here and at many other places, these NGOs, activists and some political figures have worked hard to create an image of a much higher level of consensus, not only on the current state of the climate but on the notion that the extent of future global warming will be dramatic and the impacts both significant and negative.

To do this, the NGOs, activists and political figures make stuff up. There is no kinder way to characterize the literature reviews conducted by Naomi Oreskes, John Cook et al and Anderegg, Prall et al. All of these published papers rely on a strategy of carefully constructing search strings that hide an existing diversity of opinion instead of capturing it, mischaracterizing the thrust of published papers and arriving at surreal levels of 97% agreement, which in their papers they (incorrectly) say describes published literature but on their websites they claim represents the opinions of scientists.

Where the very real consensus acts carefully and conservatively (with scientists like von Storch and Bart Verheggen actually conducting very careful surveys that arrive at the 80% consensus figure mentioned above) the Konsensus tribe clings to the nonsensical 97% number and trashes hard-working scientists like von Storch.

Where the very real consensus looks carefully at the recent pause in the rise of global temperatures and tries to understand why it has occurred, the Krazy Klimate Konsensus denies that it has happened at all and accuses their opponents in the discussion of manufacturing it.

The very real and careful consensus creates a forum for discussion of issues,such as Climate Dialogue. The Konsensus creates propaganda sites like Skeptical Science, which combines accurate reporting of the basics of climate change with slanted and hyperbolic descriptions of current climate events. The Konsensus decided deliberately not to debate their policy opponents, preferring to lie about their connections to Big Oil and Big Tobacco and coming up with the phrase ‘climate change deniers’ to characterize all their opponents, creating an Alice In Wonderland world where Nobel Prize winners and distinguished professors with hundreds of published peer-reviewed papers are accused of denying climate science and quite deliberately associated with skinhead thugs who deny the Holocaust ever occurred.

Scientists belonging to the very real and conservative consensus have largely kept their silence regarding the abhorrent behavior of the Klimate Konsensus, as the Konsensus has shown itself perfectly capable of throwing scientists under the bus if they dare to oppose the media blitz and hateful propaganda the Konsensus employs on a daily basis. This lack of courage is lamentable, if understandable, and has left the public stage to the Konsensus.

However, the Konsensus is unlikeable, arrogant and short-sighted. They are often seen to brag about that, saying ‘I’m sure (insert name of opponent) is a nice human being but it doesn’t matter in the face of the coming catastrophe.

This has led to the wider public acknowledging the very real and conservative truth about recent climate change without being persuaded to take concerted and effective action to confront it.

The Krazy Klimate Konsensus is wrong on the science. It is wrong on its approach to the scientific community. It is wrong on the approach and the facts used in the public debate. When confronted with uncomfortable facts, the Konsensus hides behind the more sober consensus science that it ignores the remainder of the time.

The consensus is concerned about future impacts of climate change, but quite properly assesses the risk to be expensive but manageable. The Konsensus exaggerates real science and creates iconography of doomed polar bears, Himalayan glaciers and the Amazon rainforest.

The careful and conservative consensus takes recent studies showing lower sensitivity seriously, incorporating these new studies into their thinking and projections. The Konsensus ignores these studies when it can and fulminates against them when they can’t.

The consensus needs to come up with an effective way of dealing with the harm the Konsensus is causing. Skeptics and Lukewarmers cannot do this for them. Until then, the polarized camps cannot agree on action, despite broad agreement on the consensus science. The Konsensus won’t let it happen.

The true enemy of the very real and conservative consensus on climate change and its causes is not the skeptic brigade. It is not Lukewarmers. The biggest threat to climate science is the Klimate Konsensus. Viscount Monckton is not a threat. Marc Morano is not a threat. The Koch Brothers are not a threat. They are all obstacles–something science has to overcome on every big issue.

What’s killing climate science is the Konsensus.

The Klimate Konsensus in one Komment

In case you are wondering what the difference is between the consensus of mainstream science on climate change and the Krazy Konsensus hyperventilating about doom that no-one predicts, I thought I would share an example of the Konsensus here. I may share more later….

It had to come from BBD, of course. And it’s fitting it’s in response to the hyper-reasonable Pekka Perilla. And it’s delicious that it appears on ‘And Then There’s a Physique.’


Climate science can make quantitative projections for the temperature development with wide confidence limits, but estimating the net benefits of specific decisions or policies is very much more difficult, and impossible on objective quantitative level.

BBD says:

While strictly true, this is a formula for justifying inaction and therefore generally false.


First off, let me apologize for light blogging both here and at 3000 Quads. Lots of personal stuff going on–nothing out and out bad, but all requiring lots of time and attention.

I doubt if I have been much missed, as the climate blogosphere motors relentlessly onwards (or around in circles, depending on your perspective). Interesting posts by Steve McIntyre, Judith Curry, Bishop Hill and others have kept the non-consensus side coming back for more. Konsensus posts at Real Climate, Rabett Run and Stoat are keeping the stormtroopers pacified, if not occupied. But after a few days away from the keyboard I feel a bit like an outsider looking in.

A special edition of Nature published today says that “Global warming could bring about a resurgence in the Earth’s dragon population,” meant to be an April Fool’s Day jest. Sadly it just gets in line with the other hyperbolic claims about mosquitos taking over the world, the Amazon being reduced to matchsticks, the Himalayan glaciers turning into a water slide and global warming being discovered as the root cause of World War II. My own opinion is that global warming is turning GMOs toxic and mutating vaccines so that they cause autism, but that’s idle speculation, don’t you think?

The Guardian has published a story on California’s drought, complete with commentary from Michael Mann and Peter Gleick. The Guardian says California’s current drought is its worst in a millenium, which is not strictly true, but why let that stand in the way of a good story? Mann and Gleick make a good comedy team in their commentary, noting that there are four different definitions of drought before offering their own: “drought, most simply defined, is the mismatch between the amounts of water nature provides and the amounts of water that humans and the environment demand.” Perhaps someone should mention to Mann and Gleick that the population of California has doubled in the past few decades, which has caused the demand for water to rise correspondingly. Guys–California is a desert, for the most part. We have been making the desert bloom artificially for quite some time now, but drought is a frequent visitor to the Golden State. This one ain’t nothin’ special.

The Calgary Herald reports that more Albertans believe in Bigfoot than global warming. As they have ever been photographed together, I submit that in fact they are one and the same.

And finally, “WORCESTER, Mass., April 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Access Fixtures, a leader in commercial and sports lighting, today announced a “Global Warming Sale” on metal halide wall packs. The one day sale features 10% savings on wall packs with the older, inefficient lighting technology. The sale is designed to promote global warming and help melt this season’s extraordinary levels of snow.

“Scientists have warned about global warming for years, and it’s clear many just aren’t listening,” said Access Fixtures CEO, Steven Rothschild. He added, “When the wind’s blowing at gale force, there’s no point in sailing against it.”

Last month Access Fixtures announced a price drop on an energy-efficient 26w LED wall pack, making it less expensive than the 70w metal halide wall pack it is designed to replace.  However, many buyers still demand the metal halide light fixtures, including contractors working on specified jobs, medical marijuana growers, and many individuals who just want to live closer to a beach.

Mention GLOBAL WARMING to your Access Fixtures lighting specialist to apply discount. Due to local restrictions, discount is not valid in Florida.”

Have a wonderful Wednesday. Who needs April Fools when the fools in town are on your side?