Taking the Science Out of Climate Science

Communicators of the mainstream position on climate science, including prestigious scientists, appear to be papering over gaps in our understanding of climate science, presenting their position as the default state of the world.

They’ve done it with atmospheric sensitivity, which they quit talking about once observations led to the surprising finding (not 100% confirmed) that sensitivity is less than half the median value used by the IPCC. It was replaced by Representative Concentration Pathways, which in fact are nothing more than preset inputs to climate models, using dictated assumptions for 2100 and working backwards to see how they could get there. They are not predictions, they are not projections–but they are being used as such so that nobody has to confront the disturbing (for them–it’s good news for the human race) reality regarding atmospheric sensitivity.

Now they are doing it with attribution. Given that the more serious scientists have the bad habit of saying that no specific weather event can be attributed to climate change, they want to build climate change into the assessment–before the assessment. Climate has changed. It’s the new normal. We don’t need to do formal attribution exercises. Of course this will allow them to attribute everything from a hangnail to an oncoming meteor to climate change.

Surprisingly, this is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Michael Tobis’ endorsement of Kevin Trenberth’s blanket assertion that climate has entered a different state of existence–that we are living in a ‘new normal.’

According to this theory, analysis of extreme weather events starts with the built in assumption that climate change has made it worse.

As Tobis writes, “Trenberth is however responding to an overvaluing of the formal attribution question that has plagued climate change conversation from the beginning. When we see something odd in the weather, it is natural to ask whether it is “because of” human interference. This is formalized into scientific questions of various sorts, and the result is often inconclusive or misleading.”

Overvaluing attribution? That’s kind of like a district attorney saying that evidence is overvalued.

If we accept Trenberth’s proposition, then of course it would give him more time to sign letters calling for the prosecution of climate skeptics. Which would be convenient for him.

But one of the main reasons we are debating climate is that we are not often even able to recognize climate change and its impacts, let alone attribute some portion of that change to human contributions to climate change.

Trenberth’s–and Tobis’–blanket assertion that we have entered a ‘new normal’ where the climate does violence to all the tenets of science. Essentially, they have recognized that they are not winning the debate, so they are just echoing the past meme that said ‘the debate is over, the science settled’ using different words.

If the climate has changed, it has changed to something that looks remarkably like the old climate. Global warming has been concentrated in the Arctic, and it has had effects there: increased summer melt, changes in wind and ocean currents, weird weather and storms.

But the rest of the world? No. Drought indices haven’t changed in the past 100 years. Storms are neither more frequent nor more intense. Sea level rise is inching along at somewhere between NOAA’s figure of 1.7mm per year to alarmist claims of 3mm per year–about a foot per century.

But as we see with the recent rains in South Carolina, if we take it for granted that the climate has changed (and of course accept the corollary that human activity has caused it), then all that rain can be blamed on fossil fuels.

As Kevin Trenberth said in another context, “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

If he and Michael Tobis get away with this stunt, they won’t have to.


South Carolina’s ‘Disaster Tango’

Michael Tobis has a guest post up at ‘And Then There’s Physics,’ where he explores the debate over the latest extreme weather event, torrential rain experienced in South Carolina.

It’s a thoughtful post, unlike so much of what appears in that space, so let’s take it seriously and walk through the implications.

Tobis writes, “Even now, before the rivers have stopped rising, the usual Disaster Tango has ensued, with the dance partners partners each dancing to a different tune. The tunes were “climate change caused it” / “it has nothing to do with climate change”. This dance inevitably follows a severe weather event, especially in the USA. Little is achieved by it.”

That matches what I wrote in a recent post–“If recent past serves as example we will now see skeptics offering rainfall  records that show this storm is not the worst in record or even memory, charts of sea temperatures and winds that show no recent rise in temperature, etc. Alarmists will counter with pictures of the devastation and quotes.”

Tobis continues: “We should be looking at what science says, and using it to bring the conversation closer to reality. Instead, each side picks their own evidence and uses their favorite points as a cudgel. That may be how politics is done. But it’s not how we attain to a world that is informed by reality.”

That makes sense to me, although you can make the opposite case–that politics is the arena in which the decisions are made, so victory there may be more important. But overall I agree with Tobis.

However, what Tobis thinks is an avenue to escape the Disaster Tango looks very much to me like an unproved assertion serving as table stakes for participating in the discussion we would like to have. He quotes Kevin Trenberth as saying “The climate is changing: we have a new normal. The environment in which all weather events occur is not what it used to be. All storms, without exception, are different. Even if most of them look just like the ones we used to have, they are not the same. ” 

And with this I do not agree. Yet. If the world’s climate has changed in any significant way, nobody has shown it. And although I see potential changes arising from climate change in the future, it is just that–a future, and an uncertain one at that.

That’s not an avenue to escape the Disaster Tango–it’s a trap that would serve to ignore the breadth of opinion on climate change, rather than explore it.

As ATTP banned me from his site before I ever had the opportunity to participate there, I took my thoughts over to Tobis’ site, Only In It For The Gold. There I wrote,

“I read your post over at ATTP. I’ve never been allowed to comment there, a pre-emptive strike by ATTP that you might sympathize with.

There’s an apocryphal story about an English professor who spent his career trying to prove that the Iliad wasn’t written by Homer, but by another Greek with the same name.

There are elements of your post that remind me of that story. The first is Trenberth’s assertion that there is a new normal, that the climate has changed and that this change ‘infects’ every meteorological phenomenon.

As a Lukewarmer, I can be expected to challenge that assertion–and I do. We’ve had this conversation after every extreme weather event over the past 7 years, so why should rain in South Carolina be different?

I offer as example the assertion that the current California drought is ‘outside the norm.’ It is not. California has frequently had droughts of greater severity and duration than the current drought, some lasting for centuries. The same is true for Pakistani floods and Russian heatwaves. A combination of much higher populations and increased access to modern media is a better explanation of the ‘new normal’ than changes to the climate.

As skeptics (and we lukewarmers) frequently mention, there are no measurable changes in much of what you are writing about. There has been no change in global drought over the past 100 years. Heatwaves in France like the one that caused so much loss of life are called ‘canicules’ and have been documented for centuries. Storm intensity and frequency have if anything decreased in recent decades. Trends in flooding are very hard to capture, due to the structure of data capture efforts, but the fact that reports of intense flooding occur in areas with recent dramatic increases in population, which increases the number in harm’s way, do not help us understand if it is increasing or not.

If the new normal is the same as the old normal, we are like the professor attributing the Iliad to another Greek with the same name. Or to use a more recent line, ‘Meet the new boss–same as the old boss.'”

To which Tobis replied, “Are you saying the climate hasn’t changed? Or that the climate has changed, but coincidentally the distribution of severe events is exactly the same as before? Or that it’s the same except for the parts where it has gotten more benign?

If you have a story please stick to it.”

My counter-riposte was “Of course the climate has changed. It’s 0.8C warmer. But because so much of the warming has occurred in the Arctic, the rest of the world hasn’t seen dramatic temperature rises and hasn’t suffered notably different impacts. For every instance of extreme weather that has been associated with human contributions to global warming, there are clear examples of equivalent events in the same region.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic have clearly impacted the regional climate. Some of that tails down into the upper reaches of the Northern Hemisphere.

But globally? Globally the drought index hasn’t changed in the past 100 years. Storms really don’t seem to be getting ‘more intense’, pace Sandy and South Carolina. Here in Asia they don’t think so, anyhow.

I don’t honestly think we can say too many intelligent things about floods right now, given the state of data collection. Improved technology is bringing the news about events to us that we would not have recorded in the past. It is also working to lessen impacts, especially loss of life, which in the past, especially regarding floods, was just about the only metric recorded.

I think there’s a helluva story out there waiting to be told. I just don’t think we know the plotline yet.”

I’d like to discuss this more thoroughly. What is the base point for deciding we are living in a changed climate? What measurements should we use?


Before I close, I’d just like to note that my new book, “The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us” is now available in paperback.

You can get it from Amazon here.

It is also available from the publisher, Stairway Press here.

Climate, Gangnam Style

With the selection of Hoesung Lee as new head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, what changes will we see in their approach to human contributions to global warming?

If he does absolutely nothing he will be a huge improvement on his predecessor, Rajendra Pachauri, who disgraced his office with sexual misconduct as well as attempts to profit from their research.

Mr. Lee’s initial statement seemed oriented at engaging and upgrading the climate science as practiced in the developing world. He also said “The next phase of our work will see us increase our understanding of regional impacts, especially in developing countries, and improve the way we communicate our findings to the public. Above all, we need to provide more information about the options that exist for preventing and adapting to climate change.” All areas that need improvement, to be sure.

I hope his ambitions extend to recognition and attribution as well.

He’s getting a lot of press right now. He’s an economist with a number of relevant publications.

However, the press seems to be overlooking two relevant entries on his resume:

1996-1999 Board Member, Hyundai Corporation

1975-1978 Economist, Exxon USA

So we may actually see a slightly different governing style… Economics does need to play a larger role in addressing issues surrounding adaptation and mitigation. And both Hyundai and Exxon are important players. Exxon in particular has shown a willingness to engage with climate science and scientists. Of course they are the spawn of the devil, but they did give $100 million to Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project.

Hyundai, on the other hand, preceded Volkswagen as a target of the EPA, being fined $350 million in 2014 for overstating fuel efficiency.

So Mr. Lee will have a choice of examples from his personal history to guide him. I hope he doesn’t neglect this one…

Rain in South Carolina

With 12 people having lost their lives in the recent rains in South Carolina, I will resist the temptation to joke. I do wonder at the loss of life–Super Typhoon Soudelor here in Taiwan only claimed 10 lives. The mountains here experienced 900 millimeters of rain in a 24-hour period, far more than seen in South Carolina. Of course, Taiwan gets it every year and is probably much better prepared as a consequence.

The ‘dog bites Mann’ statement comes from the Mann himself as quoted in the Guardian: “This is yet another example, like Sandy or Irene, of weather on ‘steroids’, another case where climate change worsened the effects of an already extreme meteorological event.”

The Guardian also carried a counter view: “Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, said in an email that “no single weather event can be attributed to climate change”.

If recent past serves as example we will now see skeptics offering rainfall  records that show this storm is not the worst in record or even memory, charts of sea temperatures and winds that show no recent rise in temperature, etc. Alarmists will counter with pictures of the devastation and quotes.

The storm had dumped more than 18 inches (45 cm) of rain in parts of central South Carolina by early Sunday. The state climatologist forecast another 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) through Monday as the rainfall began to slacken.

The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, said parts of the state were hit with rainfall that would be expected to occur once in 1,000 years, with the Congaree river running at its highest level since 1936.

Wikipedia notes “While precipitation is abundant the entire year in almost the entire state, the coastline tends to have a slightly wetter summer, while inland March tends to be the wettest month. During the cold season, extratropical cyclones is the main cause of precipitation, while during the summer, tropical cyclones and thunderstorms forming due to afternoon heating are the main causes of precipitation. A lee side rain shadow from the Appalachian Mountains lowers annual precipitation across central portions of the state.[4] Inland sections average 40 inches (1,000 mm) to 50 inches (1,300 mm) of rainfall, while near the coast 50 inches (1,300 mm) to 60 inches (1,500 mm), and the Piedmont receives 70 inches (1,800 mm) to 80 inches (2,000 mm) of precipitation.[5] Winter precipitation is determined in large by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. During El Niño events, the jet stream is further south and east across the U.S., thus leading to cooler and wetter winters in South Carolina, while La Niña keeps the jet stream further north and west causing warmer and drier winters.”

I’ll chip in with the observation that South Carolina’s population has grown by 22% since 1990, the year after Hugo wreaked havoc in the region. There are more people there to affect.

This storm will join the Weather Catalogue composed of events that are unusual enough to make people wonder if human contributions to climate change also contributed to the severity of the event, something I explore at length in my recently published book. Answers are in short supply, which doesn’t stop any of us from pronouncing authoritatively on the subject.

I won’t pass judgment today. Instead, I’ll leave you with the very best song about rain in the American South. It’s not South Carolina, but it fits.

Solar Powered Popcorn, or What’s a Meta For?

I moved to California when I was 8 years old. I’ve lived there on and off ever since. This doesn’t surprise me. It does sadden me…

From The Daily Trojan, “In an effort to motivate students to take action against climate change, Know Tomorrow, a student-led movement spanning 60 college campuses nationwide, held an activity fair and a series of speakers featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in McCarthy Quad on Friday.

…”Students spent the day learning about the environment from different groups on campus, and participated in activities intended to teach participants about sustainability in an engaging manner.

Among these activities were a “Change the Course Challenge,” which showed students the importance of facilitating the Earth’s recovery; a solar-powered popcorn machine sponsored by the California Public Interest Research Group and Environmental Core; Elementerra, a virtual reality video game; and a SolarCity Exhibit featuring solar power ovens, microwaves and air conditioning units.”

“I really appreciated the number of viewpoints we had and the way [the speakers] interacted,” said Environmental Core member Zach Manta. “One of my favorite parts was watching the interactions.”

Manta was among a group of students initially contacted last spring by Dornsife School of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Vice Dean Steven Lamy about the Know Tomorrow movement. The national event was launched by Wendy Abrams, founder of Cool Globes, who donated money to USC to help fund a climate science campaign.

“We originally tried to make this an event that was just a simple shout through many voices, saying ‘Hey, let’s do something about [the state of the environment],’” Manta said. “But it turned into a critical discussion [involving] a lot of people who are already really concerned about the problem.”

The university as an institution has long been a venue for young adults to drink too much, lose their virginity, rail against the powers that be (you should see what was written about Harvard students 200-odd years ago if you doubt me), and just generally piss off their elders. Why it should be any different regarding climate change than other subjects such as GMOs or vaccines is not clear to me.

But the level of ignorance and the vacuity of the statements in this article… just make me sad.

A solar powered popcorn maker. It’s not that I’m becoming a grumpy old man. They’re forcing me to adopt the pose.

solar popcorn

Mitigating Climate Change–$1 Million Relocation Per Family

From The New York Times: “ANCHORAGE — One of the most eroded Native Alaskan villages on the state’s coast is being considered as a possible national model for moving entire communities whose futures are threatened by natural disasters escalated by climate change.

“The state is hoping to kick-start an exodus from the village of Newtok, about 500 miles west of Anchorage, through a national competition for states and local governments vying for a slice of nearly $1 billion in grants to be awarded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

I don’t want to debate (today) what percentage of their problems actually are exacerbated by human contributions to climate change. If it was zero, if their problems were completely natural, these people would still probably have to move.

…”Alaska officials are proposing that $62.6 million of the money be used for relocation costs, including money for infrastructure and to allow 62 families from Newtok to establish new homes at a site on higher ground nine miles away.”

That’s $1 million per family. The average listing price on Trulia for Bethel County in Alaska, home to both Newtok and the proposed relocation site is $236,000, so the ancillary costs of relocation are notable. I’m sure they’re real–they may have to build homes, streets, schools, etc.–but it’s nice to see they are not being ignored.

So we have a stake in the ground. We have a proposed price of $1 million per family in the U.S.

I think that there is scope for considerable savings. I think the price will vary dramatically depending on the wealth of the country involved.

But I consider it important and valuable information that we now have a hard number for worst case mitigation of problems to which climate change may contribute.

This is probably how the issue will play out in many parts of the world. Towns like Newtok are precariously located. It’s a very legitimate exercise to try and determine how much of their problems are caused by recent climate change. That will happen again and again. People living in marginal situations may try and game the system by blaming climate change (can you blame them?), but the truth is, people living in marginal situations need help.

We don’t have to start from scratch, thankfully. As Tol writes, “The Thames Barrier in London is an example of making infrastructure more robust. It includes a 1-m/century allowance based on the observed rise in high water levels in the Thames before the barrier being built (GILBERT and HORNER, 1984; KELLY, 1991) This translates into a 0.5-m highwater-level rise allowance from 1980 to 2030. Consideration of secular SLR and water level change has been a part of engineering design in the United Kingdom for decades, preceding concerns about human-induced climate change.” There are other examples ranging as far as Malaysia and Egypt.

We are starting to get a picture of how much land may realistically be affected by storm surge and sea level rise–Tol and Yohe estimated 0.23% would be threatened by 50 cm of sea level rise a few years ago–and we can figure out how many people live in that area and even nearby.

Finally, we can generate estimated costs instead of using fuzzy percentages of GDP using horribly inaccurate assumptions.

And number crunching is something we can all do for fun and profit. Although I note that the traditional green eye shades favored by accountants seem to have been upgraded, stylistically speaking.

green eye shades

Consistency of Climate Argumentation–The Test of Time

I wrote this in 2010. There’s very little I’d change in it for today’s readers:

There’s a joke about the perennially polite British–typical protest outside Westminster: “What do we want? Moderate change! When do we want it? In due course…”

I find that I cannot agree with the analysis or course of action put forward by Al Gore, Joe Romm and the gang at Real Climate. I believe they claim too much certainty regarding the science and that their policy prescriptions would serve to make us feel good without lowering CO2 emissions, while at the same time doing active harm to the poor.

I find that I cannot agree with the analysis or course of action put forward by Senator James Inhofe, Marc Morano or Viscount Lord Monckton. The idea that humanity can triple its population and equip so many of them with cars, electricity, air conditioning, unlimited supplies of domestically grown meat and other high caloric foods without having an impact on our climate and other aspects of our environment seems absurd. I think for the most part that they have to consciously avoid looking at the planet and the work of the main body of science to maintain this point of view, and that their proposed course of action would serve to make us feel good without lowering CO2 emissions, while at the same time doing active harm to the poor.

Being in the middle of two extremes does not make me right. At best, it might allow me to see reason in some arguments at both ends without rejecting them just because of their provenance. And I do not choose my position because of where the extremes lie. I choose it because this is where my best thinking (poor as it may be–I am not a scientist) has led me.

I believe that global warming is real, and a moderate threat to our optimum course of development. I believe the first theory of global warming–that a doubling of concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to a slight warming of the planet’s mean temperatures–but not the second–that this will trigger positive feedback through the untrammeled growth of water vapor leading to much more drastic temperature rises.

I see this as a threat requiring a policy response because there really is no such thing as an average global temperature. What we are measuring is an increased level of heat in a system, and it will appear unevenly, striking certain areas with heavy impact while leaving others basically untouched.

But I see it as a threat that must be dealt with in the same context as many other threats to our continued development. I believe our first responsibility is to the poor of this world, and that brings an immediate conflict between our responsiblity to them and to remediation of global warming. The most important thing the poor need is access to cheap energy, which will serve to worsen CO2 emissions. But I have to say their need is so pressing that we should address it first.

The rest of it is just taxes and spending–which companies will win, which ones will lose, and how one section of society will work to make sure another section pays for what we decide to do. But the poor should not be forced to wait.

The natural tendency is for technology to make our energy sources and consumption less CO2 intensive, and we should work to encourage that tendency. The primary tool at our disposal right now is nuclear power, and we should be actively encouraging its increase. While candidate for president, Barack Obama put forward a sheaf of policy proposals regarding energy generation, consumption and distribution that I support whole heartedly. I believe that we need to put a price on carbon emissions to show that we recognise that those who generate and use fossil-fueled energy have a negative impact that carries a cost. I was originally supportive of Cap and Trade, and might be again if American legislation improves dramatically. If it does not, I would rather see a small, revenue neutral carbon tax that can be adjusted every ten years as circumstances warrant.

The UK DFID once did a study that showed that Africa could be electrified at a cost of £150 billion. That’s peanuts in the context of the figures thrown around in the global warming debate. Let’s do that first, and do similar good work in Asia and Latin America. Where possible, let’s use green energy sources. But when the poor have been dealt with, and only at that point, then we can focus our huge energies on energy purity.


A New and Productive Approach to the Climate Debate

John Horgan blogs at Scientific American on ‘Climate Change Facts Versus Opinions.‘ It’s a brilliant approach to the current state of the climate debate, in large part because of one key sentence Horgan writes: “So the list below, which is skewed toward issues I’ve written about, represents my opinion of what are facts and opinions.”

As it happens, I agree with most of his opinions on the facts of climate change. Where I disagree, it’s more because I think he should have added qualifiers to some of his statements of ‘Facts.’

For example, he writes as  a ‘Fact’, “FACT: As a result of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, global surface temperatures have increased by about one degree centigrade since 1880.”

If he were to rewrite it to get my agreement, he would only have to add the word ‘partially’ at the beginning of his sentence.

This is my introduction to John Horgan and I hope to read more of his posts and learn more quickly. Because this is the sanest approach I have seen to laying out the debate in quite some time.

That it appears on the Scientific American website is doubly refreshing. They have spent most of the past decade as a purveyor of some of the worst messaging about climate change imaginable. When they have been right they have been turgid, boring and hectoring. When they have been wrong, they have been stubborn, harmful and poisonous.

There’s hope for all of us.


How Many Shuklas Are Profiting From Climate Change?

Although some of the signatories to a letter calling for RICO prosecution of climate skeptics are famous, others are not. I had never heard of Jagadish Shukla before he authored the letter that others signed.

Thanks to Roger Pielke Jr. and Steve McIntyre I now know more about Mr. Shukla. He was a professor at the University of Maryland before moving on to George Mason University. He opened an institute to study climate change.

Mr. Shukla is well-paid, both by his universities and his own organization His wife is well-paid as well. They have been paid millions of dollars, mostly in the form of government grants to study climate change. Most of the millions were consumed by the salaries paid to Mr. and Mrs. Shukla.

Mr. Shukla is co-author of about 150 papers, an impressive list found here. However, only 6 of those papers have been published in the past 5 years. Neither Mr. Shukla nor his institute is mentioned frequently in the climate blogosphere, which doesn’t really mean much, but as you might have guessed, I do wonder what the output is from the work financed so liberally by the U.S. government and Mr. Shukla’s employers.

Steve McIntyre will certainly apprise us all of any conflict of interest issues associated with Mr. Shukla getting paid to serve two masters. I am more concerned by what we are getting for our money. Over the next few days I hope to read some of his publications. I don’t want to judge him prematurely. However, he’s getting a lot of money for what he’s doing.

Which of course leads to the question referenced in the title of this post. How many extremely well-paid climate researchers are collecting really large salaries–George Mason University paid him $314,000 in 2014, while his organization paid him and his wife over $800,000 in 2014–are out there?

We are spending a lot of money researching climate change. I support the research. However, I hope we are spending the money wisely. Maybe all those kids chasing the MBAs and law degrees should start looking at other professions…

money professor

The Mistake I Made When Criticizing Anderegg, Prall et al PNAS 2010

I don’t like mistakes, but I do make them. In the climate wars I really don’t like mistakes because they clutter up the conversation and give Konsensus Kooks ammunition they cheerfully use against me and other Lukewarmers.

Anderegg, Prall et al is a paper published in PNAS 2010. It purports to show that scientists who support the consensus are more expert than those who oppose it. They do this by counting publications.

I have criticized the paper since the day it came out. My criticisms were:

  1. They made serious errors in counting publications and classifying scientists. Many of them.
  2. They used Google Scholar instead of one of the databases created specifically for housing academic publications.
  3. They only used one database, when it would have been easy to use more than one to cross check their work.
  4. They searched only in English, despite the fact that climate change is researched worldwide.
  5. Their analysis of the findings of their research contains serious errors.
  6. They made it possible for anyone to find out who they had studied and who they had tagged as climate change deniers. This is a very serious violation of research ethics.

I wasn’t alone in my criticism. Famed physicist Spencer Weart, author of The History of Global Warming, said on the day the paper was published that it shouldn’t have been published in ‘its present form.’

However, this year while doing a bit more study on the study, I found what I thought was a further reason to criticize the paper. The researchers searched through open letters that challenged the climate consensus and were signed by scientists and others. Anderegg, Prall et al combed through those open letters and took the names of signatories to serve as their database of deniers.

I found what I thought was one of those open letters–a relatively famous document called the Heidelberg Declaration of 1992. It was a fairly innocuous letter saying that the environment needed to be considered as a whole and 4,000 people signed it, including 73 Nobel Prize winners.

However, Anderegg, Prall et al used a different letter also published in 1992 that was signed by 47 skeptical climate scientists, 46 of whom they used in their denier database.

I regret the error.

I do not withdraw any of my previous criticisms of the paper. I consider it shoddy science, unethical research and wrong in its stated results.

Oh, do I regret the error.

Typhoon posting

Well, the wind is howling here and we’ve got water on the floor again. So today’s post will be short and sweet. Typhoon Dujuan snuck up on us and I’m not as prepared as I was for Typhoon Soudelor. I didn’t stock up on ice cream!

I may have to post a correction to my criticism of Anderegg, Prall et al. It won’t make their work look any better, but I thought they used one open letter to get their victims from. It may turn out that they used another one.

Go look at this. It’s a really clear look at media coverage of climate change, mashing together data from Google and mapping software from CartoDB. They are raising the bar on how to present data to explain important things.

It seems like the past never dies–it never even really is the past. Steve McIntyre is discussing Cuccinelli again, an event I played a small role in. Cuccinelli famously tried to go after Michael Mann for fraudulent use of taxpayer’s money, something I oppose on principle. Cuccinelli should have just waited for Mark Steyn…

Back after the storm blows over. Buy my book, look at my wife’s pictures and those of you in the area, stay safe!

Typhoon Dujuan


Whatever happened to sensitivity?

The IPCC is now looking to the future based on Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). These are essentially assumptions on watts per square meters of forcing. (They were developed as inputs to climate models and are now being mistakenly used as predictions or projects, neither of which they are.)

They then tell us that some things may result from this level of forcing. But that doesn”t necessarily follow. We don’t know how the earth will respond to forcings. We don’t know if more watts per square meter over the ocean will cause more clouds to develop that will reflect sunlight back out of the atmosphere. We don’t know how sensitive the atmosphere is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2.

Similarly, it is popular now to demand that anyone proposing an alternative to panicked running around like headless chickens produce a carbon budget to gain a seat at the table.

But whatever number they develop, from 1,000 petatons to a spoonfull of coal, it is completely dependent on what sensitivity is. Without knowing sensitivity you cannot create a carbon budget.

Do you budget for family expenses without considering the cost of food or gas? Do countries budget for military expenditures without knowing what they will pay their soldiers?

The rush to forget sensitivity is understandable, as successive efforts to calculate it keep coming back with lower and lower values for it. Climate warriors now want to pretend it has been settled. At a higher value than current observations.

But it hasn’t. And until we have a good range of potential values for sensitivity it is not only ludicrous to talk about carbon budgets–it is impossible.


My Book Gets Its Own Website

Stairway Press has created a website for my recently published book “The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us.”

You can visit it here. It has a brief bio and an ordering form if you want to get the hard copy, which I believe will be out on October  7th. It is doing quite well on Kindle and I’m curious to see how many people will want the hard copy.

I am hoping that it will make my promotional efforts less burdensome on visitors to this site. I will still mention it occasionally, but there’s enough going on in the climate world that I prefer to focus on it.

But here’s the cover again–I like it.

Book Cover

Antidotes to the Pre-Paris Psychotic Frenzy

As has happened with every COP to date, the media is unquestioningly carrying hyperbolic stories about the doom climate change may bring to us. The reason is the approaching conference in Paris, COP 21, the latest in a series of conferences sponsored by the UN Framework on Climate Change. The purpose of this conference is to review the implementation of the 1992 Rio Convention. Scary stories may mean more money committed to the cause.

Before we get all carried away by the nonsense (for nonsense most of it is), let’s briefly look at what a good year this has been for those who actually pay attention to climate change.

Let’s actually start with 2014. CO2 emissions in 2014 were the same as in 2013, the first year that has ever happened without an accompanying economic downturn.

China and the U.S. agreed this year to work together on reducing emissions (more on that below). The top two emitting countries, accounting for almost 40% of global emissions, are working on reducing emissions. The U.S. committed to reducing CO2 emissions by between 26% and 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. China pledged to have its emissions peak by 2030 or earlier.

To that end, the U.S. EPA has come out with new regulations that should lower emissions from electricity production and automobiles (if Volkswagen quits lying about them).

Yesterday the U.S. and China went further. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. and China on Friday announced significant steps in their efforts to combat climate change, including a pledge by China to launch a program by 2017 to cap some emissions and put a price on carbon and to contribute $3.1 billion to help poorer countries finance their own transition programs.”

This should cheer those in the climate consensus. The Konsensus Krazies will still whine–some of China’s $3.1 billion may actually end up financing modern, cleaner coal powered plants, much in the way Japan is financing cleaner coal in developing countries today. But for saner people, this is evidence that ‘business as usual,’ the epithet preferred by the loonies, is not what is happening in the world today.

Despite further whining from the usual suspects, 2015 has seen new initiatives announced, ranging from the EcoModernist Manifesto to Fast Mitigation.

Commercial notice: (And if you want a more complete examination of these phenomena, you can always buy my book ‘The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us‘.)

Despite the flood of ever-less credible scare stories about climate change, the Konsensus Krazies who have tried to dominate the debate and suppress opposing view points, the Konsensus Krazies who have tried to turn the respectable truth about scientific consensus (66%) to an imaginary 97% Thought Purity Program, the Konsensus Krazies who cheer when fools call for prosecution of dissenters… are being left behind by reality.

The Konsensus Krazies, far different from the climate scientists working hard to understand more about our climate and more about our effects on it, far different from the environmentalists working hard to remediate centuries of our abuse of the environment, far different from those in NGOs working hard to better the lot of the developing world… the Konsensus Krazies are content to sit and moan about the certain doom of an outlier prediction that looks less likely every year.

prison door

Whine on!

A Different Look At Business As Usual–Climate Style

Probably the least reported climate story this year is the wonderful news that emissions of greenhouse gases did not rise in 2014, the first time that ever happened without an accompanying economic downturn. For the climate mainstream, good news is no news.

Instead, what we get is a steady diet of RCP 8.5, a set of inputs to climate models falsely labeled a ‘business as usual’ scenario. It isn’t a scenario, projection or prediction. They were told to generate inputs for climate models that topped out at 2100 with 8.5 watts per square meter forcing and that’s what they provided.

As far as business as usual, some say all that means is ‘no new policy’ on climate change. But the EPA has set new policy on emissions in the U.S. China has set new policy on emissions. Japan is restarting their nuclear power program. There is no ‘business as usual.’ What there is is governments taking action to forestall climate change.

As for business…

From the New York Times: “Nine major companies are expected on Wednesday to join a global coalition of firms intent on converting to renewable energy. The new members include Johnson & Johnson,Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walmart andGoldman Sachs. A handful of the companies have already reached the 100 percent target; others do not expect to do so for several decades, but they are typically setting aggressive interim targets.

For example, Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer-products company, said it would convert to 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, up from 7 percent today. The new target, a culmination of years of environmental efforts by the company, means that Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet tissue, Tide detergent and many other goods commonly found in American pantries will increasingly be made with green energy.”

And as for the rest of us, “Shattering previous records, the United States residential solar market grew 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, installing 437 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) in the first three months of 2015. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q1 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, released today, the U.S. installed 1.3 gigawatts of solar PV across all market segments.”‘

So while Konsensus activists continue to shout their lamentations from the rooftop, tear their hair and beat their chests, remember that business as usual is actually working.

Just don’t mention Volkswagen….


Taking Back The Language One Word At A Time

As Eric Blair noted, to control the language is to control thought. So it’s good news that the Associated Press Style Guide will no longer label climate skeptics ‘deniers.’

The term ‘climate change denier’ was hijacked from more normal usage in 2005 by DeSmogBlog and perverted to mean that the subject of the insult was equivalent to those who denied the Holocaust. I’m pleased the AP Style Guide will stop legitimizing hate speech.

As Huffington Post reports, “The Associated Press, which sets editorial guidelines followed by media outlets around the world, ruffled a few feathers on Tuesday when it announced it would no longer call those who reject climate change “deniers” or “skeptics.””

Gee, I wonder whose feathers were ruffled? ”

Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for the environmental group 350.org, told HuffPost that the word “doubt” gives climate change deniers too much credit. “Defying 90+% of scientific consensus on something isn’t a well-reasoned act of ‘doubt’ — it’s an irrational act of ‘denial,'” Ganapathy wrote in an email.”

This is why I keep pointing out in post after post that the measured consensus is not 90+%. It is a very respectable 66%. But the 34% of published climate scientists who are not part of the consensus are not ‘deniers.’  Which is why Ganapathy is very mistaken.

“Greenpeace spokesman Joe Smyth had a similar view. “The explanation for why the phrase ‘climate deniers doesn’t fit is unconvincing,” he told HuffPost. “It basically seems to boil down to that it hurts some climate science deniers’ feelings.””

Hate speech will do that, Mr. Smyth. And you who use hate speech are perhaps not the best judges of its effects. An objective third party such as Associated Press might be better qualified.

I have heard defenses of each of the following words by people who were mortally offended when I called them bigots. (‘The word has existed for centuries!’ ‘It is an accurate description!’ ‘Some of them use it proudly!’ ‘It’s harmless–it’s just a word!’ ‘They deserve it.’)

hate speech

Top Result, Google News, Search Term “Climate Change”

From the website of the AAAS, the column ‘Science Shot’ provides the top search return today for climate change on Google News.

Sometimes Alarmists ask us why we call them Alarmists.

The article is titled “Climate Change Could Cost Trillions More In Damages Because Of Thawing Arctic Permafrost

“As global warming thaws perpetually frozen Arctic land called permafrost (pictured), the greenhouse gases trapped within will escape, ramping up climate change’s economic toll by trillions of dollars, a new study finds. To make the calculations, researchers first determined how much carbon dioxide and methane the permafrost would release as the world warms. They used a model that estimates how climate factors like temperature affect absorption and release of these gases by land, plants, and microbes. They then fed the results from that model into a different model that estimates economic damages based on future greenhouse gas emissions. The model assumed that human activities by themselves would boost carbon dioxide levels 75% from today to 2100. Total damages without the permafrost emissions would be $326 trillion globally, the researchers found. With permafrost-related emissions included, however,additional damages ranged from $3 trillion to $166 trillion, depending on how much human emissions warmed the Arctic, the team reports online today in Nature Climate Change; the average value was $43 trillion. Aggressive cuts in human emissions could reduce that average price tag to around $6 trillion, the researchers suggest. ”

The author of the piece in AAAS is described as a ‘freelance science writer.’ The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

The lead article on their website is ‘Irreverence for Evidence.’

“Climate-change denial, the anti-vaccination movement, the omission of evolution from many high-school biology classes, and surveys that reveal a widespread misunderstanding of basic scientific concepts were also cited by Holt as examples of America’s growing irreverence for evidence.”

I would counter that AAAS is evidencing an extreme ‘irreverence for evidence’ in these outlandish claims for permafrost, an extreme irreverence for journalism in pasting up a freelancer’s outlandish exaggeration of and ignorance of what mainstream science says and an extreme irreverence for the reading public.

I swear I could do this every blessed day.


Mental Stress: Is It Climate Change Or Climate Misreporting?

Maine’s Portland Press Herald published a long and thoughtful piece on the reactions of Americans to our changing climate. Unlike some pieces in the media that are dashed off with a couple of taglines, the story went into depth, did some research and accurately reported on the results. Although the central subject of the interview was a climate activist, the story did a fair job, noting that and the fact that most people are not like her.

(Hey! If you haven’t already done so, buy my book! And review it on Amazon after you’ve finished it!!)

The phenomenon the story reported was the negative mental reaction–the stress–some people experience as a result of climate change. With all due respect to the Herald, I think they could have explored another potential cause for this stress–inaccurate reporting of news about climate change.

As the story says, “When you’re feeling sad, mad or bad, reading about deadly heat waves in Pakistan and India, or flaming rain forests in Washington state, or the epic El Niño on the way is not a pick-me-up.” Bad news is never a pick-me-up. What makes these stories worse is the inaccurate tie-in to human caused climate change. Heat waves in Pakistan and India are hardly new. Neither are forest fires in the Pacific Northwest or strong El Ninos.

When Salon headlines a piece “This is a climate-change nightmare: Droughts rage and fires burn, while evil ALEC and hapless Democrats dither” it contributes to stress. Droughts don’t ‘rage’, and drought conditions globally have not changed over the past century. Our current plague of forest fires is partially due to drier climates, of course, but a major contributor has been the way we managed the forests in our care. Instead of blaming the reader for causing these events, Salon could have put it in perspective by noting the historical record–more and larger forest fires preceded the era of global warming. More and more intense droughts have occurred long before we started emitting CO2.

When the Canberra Times tries to explain ‘Why Climate Change Is Australia’s Biggest National Security Issue‘, it relies on a survey of students–and doesn’t report the results. It just declares climate change ‘should be our top national security concern.’ Why? Well, they redefine national security “as safeguarding the “wellbeing” rather than “survival” of Australia – “survival” being more relevant to the Cold War era.” Australia is indeed a lucky country. The story notes that the U.S. has made climate change a national security concern, but doesn’t explain why that is relevant to Australia. The story quotes the Brits: “The British Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Trends Program: Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2045 notes that “climate change, a rise in sea levels, desertification and reducing biodiversity are all issues that could affect us even more over the next 30 years. They are likely to impact on agricultural production and fishing, and could exacerbate humanitarian crises. National security impacts of climate change include major population movements, changes in disease patterns, and climate-affected changes in economic development.” But ‘could,’ ‘likely’, ‘could (again)’ without numbers don’t constitute a threat to a nation’s national security. Again, the paper is pushing a policy position, surely its right, but relying on threats to other countries and not saying anything about the country they’re in. The effect is to add to the mental stress of the reader–at the cost of being accurate.

Regular readers will know that I could go on for days citing stories like this. However, I think it is clear that the major media organizations are contributing to what the Portland Press Herald describes as: ”

“… fear, despair, a sense of being overwhelmed or powerless. From there, the path diverges. For some, being overwhelmed inhibits “thought and action” and the next step is denial, paralysis, apathy.

Based on historical responses to incidences of drought, heat waves as well as extreme weather and natural disasters, the report postulated that, for others, despair can lead to anxiety disorders, depression, sleeping disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, increasing vulnerability for those who already have severe mental health issues and even higher rates of suicide attempts. Studies of Australian farmers’ responses to drought conditions contributed to the suicide findings.”

From photoshopped polar bears to red buttons blowing up skeptical children, those pushing an activist agenda on climate change have repeatedly distorted the truth about climate change to gain support for their agenda.

Their disregard for accurate reporting and often the truth imposes costs on us. Some of those costs are financial, some are opportunity costs. But some of those costs are on the mental well-being of ordinary people.


Perfect Sunday

I haven’t had a day off for three weeks, so it’s really refreshing to just have a Sunday morning with nothing to do.

It’s even better when I can start the day off with a new post from Steve McIntyre, Judith Curry’s Week In Review and some true nonsense from the Konsensus Krazies to keep the blood flowing. Evil Eli Rabett is busy equating Richard Tol with American Tea Partiers, (Someone should tell him that sometimes when you compare, you actually contrast…), 20 Konsensus Kooks including Kevin Trenberth have demanded that President Obama hang, lynch, excommunicate persecute prosecute skeptics under the RICO act, etc. Because four legs good, two legs bad, etc.  ATTP is ‘struggling to understand’ (his favorite phrase) The Heterodox Academy, while the rest of us note he is actually ‘struggling to make sense.’ He can’t understand why conservative students would be reluctant to make a career out of social sciences, never even testing the hypothesis that liberal social science professors might make it a bit difficult for conservative students…

And over at Only In It For The Gold, Michael Tobis recovers from a series of reasonable posts in time to post the usual nonsense justifying the comparison of climate skeptics with Nazis. (I’m not kidding.) The article he is lamely trying to defend is here.

All this and the 49ers play football today! Perfect Sunday, perfect day off.

Please alert relevant media: I have finally updated my blogroll. Additions include Fernando Leanme, Climate Nuremberg, Tamsin Edwards’ new home, Ben Pile’s Climate Resistance, A Chemist in Langley, And Then There’s Physics, CraigM350, Fabius Maximus, Jose Duarte, Making Science Public, the newly revived Only In It For The Gold, The IPCC Report, The View From Here and Utopia–You Are Standing In It. I have removed some blogs that are no longer active–but I left some inactive blogs that I think have valuable archives.

I also included links to the Amazon pages of both my recently published book (The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us) and my previous book (co-authored with Steve Mosher) Climategate: The CRUTape Letters).

In addition, I have put in a link to my wife’s photography website CeePixPic and would appreciate it if you visited there at least once. One of her pictures is at the top of this weblog. Here’s another one:

la rose à l'éventail froissé

Obama publicly humiliates Kevin Trenberth

Kevin Trenberth, valiantly reprising the role of Robert Stadler in Atlas Shrugged (I read it so you don’t have to–the politics in that books are as functional as first generation climate models and the characters make Marvel Comics look like Dostoevsky. Atlas Shrugged remains relevant to the debate on climate change not because skeptics think of themselves as heroes in an Ayn Rand novel, but because the Klimate Konsensus continuously acts like Ayn Rand villains.)–oh–where was I? Kevin Trenberth, valiantly reprising the role of Robert Stadler in Atlas Shrugged, is one of 20 signatories to an open letter to Barack Obama asking him to use RICO legislation (the Racketter Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act) to go after climate skeptics. I don’t know why they neglected to include Lukewarmers in their attempted whitewashing of the debate.

Fortunately, President Obama gave his response publicly two weeks later, saying “”I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women,” Obama said. “I gotta tell you I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

“Sometimes I realized maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded, maybe I didn’t take this into account, maybe I should see this person’s perspective,” Obama said.

Kevin Trenberth, shame on you. You call yourself a scientist? You signed a letter saying “One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. The actions of these organizations have been extensively documented in peerreviewed academic research (Brulle, 2013) and in recent books including: Doubt is their Product (Michaels, 2008), Climate Cover-Up (Hoggan & Littlemore, 2009), Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes & Conway, 2010), The Climate War (Pooley, 2010), and in The Climate Deception Dossiers (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015). We strongly endorse Senator Whitehouse’s call for a RICO investigation.”

For shame.


Hey–buy my book!

The Climate Debate May Not Be Settled, But It Is So Over

At least for now. Despite the best efforts of skeptics, conservatives and a few lobbyists, Those in power in countries with high emissions and high populations are proceeding as if there was no more debate to be had. (The exception is India, which quite rightly feels as if their developmental pathway is being constrained in a manner no other country had to submit to.)

China is all on board, although pragmatic concerns over conventional pollution, coupled with their position as manufacturer to the world for both solar and wind power might have just a little to do with their newfound green conscience. There’s no room for debate in China and no opportunity for it either.

The United States, number two emitter behind China, may not have the votes but it does have an EPA controlled by the executive branch of government and that branch is foursquare behind cutting emissions. Despite the protestations from the sidelines, the greens and the government have quit debating. When Republican candidates say they don’t believe climate change is primarily caused by humans, it is ignored. We lukewarmers, like skeptics, are allowed to say whatever we want–but we’re speaking to ourselves in an otherwise empty room. (Oh, yeah–almost forgot. Want to buy my book?)

Japan, busy reviving their nuclear fleet despite its unpopularity, can use emission control as a shield while they bring the nukes back on line. They’ll continue funding solar and a little wind to look good, but it’s all about the nukes. And they don’t have time, money or desire to debate the point.

Russia–well, Russia. Their economy is in such dire straits that they may go green because they don’t have two sticks to rub together and make a carbon dioxide emitting fire. Their fossil fuel of choice is natural gas and they have just enough hydropower and nuclear plants to claim green fame. But they have no patience for debate on anything, let alone nuclear power.

That leaves only India. This article (h/t to Judith Curry) explains the situation India finds itself in clearly and succinctly:

  1. India must be the first country in the world (of size and significance) to successfully transition from a low-income, agrarian existence to a middle income, industrialised society without burning even a fraction of the fossil fuels consumed by other developed countries. China was the last country to enjoy this privilege. India will be the first that will have to cede this option and of course this may well be the new template for other developing countries to emulate.
  2. The scale of this transition and the current economic situation in some parts of the world, alongside the complex and privately controlled innovation landscape, means that there is limited ability for the Annex 1 countries (the developed world) to offer any meaningful support in terms of financing or technology transfer. Official Development Assistance (ODA) is a small fraction of what is necessary today, and India will therefore need to mobilise domestic resources to power the non-fossil-fuel-fired Indian story.
  3. Even as India adopts this ‘exceptional’ approach to industrialisation, and creates the necessary financial and commercial arrangements to achieve it, mostly through its own endeavors, the developed world and others want to retain the right to judge Indian performance. India will be monitored with an increasingly extensive system of compliance verification, and will be criticised for its missteps on the journey despite the novelty and scale of its undertaking.

China and Russia are dictatorships, Japan dominated by a privileged elite. The U.S. is rich enough to afford the inefficiencies inherent in a premature race for green gold.

It is only India that has both a lot on the line and a desire for debate. Expect to hear a lot from them in Paris. And expect to hear a lot about them (most of it unflattering) from the green gurus who have succeeded in other big countries.

These five countries will account for 60% of human CO2 emissions by 2040. The stakes are high as there is a lot to play for. But the playing field will shift to Delhi and Mumbai as the last battlefields.


Climate Counter Punching

The relentless pace of promoting my book has me in such a state that I’m almost relieved to be distracted by more of the usual nonsense emanating from such anonymous climate bullies as Eli Rabett and And Then There’s Physics. (But don’t forget to buy my book if you haven’t done so.)

The birth of the Heterodox Academy has Rabett in a tizzy, as he obviously fears that they will object to the Stalinist party line adhered to and enforced by Konsensus thugs.

After all, the first lines on the website of the Heterodox Academy are “We are social scientists and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines. We have all written about a particular problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” It’s what happens when everyone in a field shares the same political orientation and certain ideas become orthodoxy. We have come together to advocate for a more intelectually diverse and heterodox academy.”

This is a threat to Eli Rabett’s worldview, so in typical fashion he compares them to Donald Trump (does anybody else see a connection?) His ploy? To also compare the Heterodox Academy with a journal that failed. Nobody at the Heterodox Academy was associated with the journal. Their aims and practices are completely different. So of course Rabett lumps them together.

As for ATTP, he is in a tizzy because Richard Tol got published. Tol was criticizing John Cook’s junk science paper on the 97% consensus.

ATTP thinks it strange that Tol would criticize junk science regarding the consensus when Tol himself believes the consensus is high. The befuddled professor clearly doesn’t realize that junk science contaminates real science and obscures the truth.

The befuddled academic writes “Well, if I’m trying to survey relevant experts and they don’t know the answer, then they’re probably not relevant experts.”

Actually, no, ATTP. They were qualified as relevant experts before they were invited to participate in the survey. Climate science isn’t easy. The fact that a significant percentage of published climate scientists don’t know the answer is something for us all to consider carefully, not to gloss over in yet another attack on Richard Tol.

The consensus is clearly robust. 66% of climate scientists agree with the IPCC position attributing half or more of recent warming to human emissions of CO2. This finding is repeated in more than one survey of published  climate scientists.

But John Cook’s paper is garbage. It comes up with a 97% total only through ignoring proper research guidelines and extensive use of smoke and mirrors. It is trash. I’ve covered it here. And here.

The Brigati Verdi of the blogosphere–Joe Romm, Michael Tobis, Things Break, Deltoid, Open Mind–and of course Rabett and ATTP–have lost a lot of their clout and readership in the past two or three years. Those remaining soldier on, perhaps more bitter than before as their impact lessens.

The fact is that this Old Guard has been proven wrong on so many elements of climate science that they are now essentially talking to themselves.

The Old Guard dies, but never surrenders. Dustbin of history and all that.

Old Guard

Climate Change For The Rest Of Us #2: Update and Excerpt

Well, the first 24 hours were excellent for my new book “The Lukewarmer’s Way.” Expectations were high, given that the book I wrote with Steve Mosher 5 years ago (Climategate: The CRUTape Letters) was released in the middle of a media feeding frenzy about Climategate.

We didn’t sell as many copies on our first day with the new book, but we are now a very respectable #8 in books about weather on Kindle and #17 on books about ecology there. Still waiting for our first review, though, which isn’t good.

Book Cover

Here’s a teaser from the book:

As I have said throughout this book, I believe global warming is occurring and that we need to both address the causes and the effects. I’m also aware that the process of species loss occurs in slow motion, as well. Which is why it’s clear that anthropogenic climate change to date cannot be held responsible for large scale loss of species, because global warming is so recent in its inception. Scientists date the beginning of human-caused climate change to around 1945.

Meanwhile, the abandonment of scientific perspective by some Alarmists in order to join the crusade to climate Jerusalem gives tacit permission to continue to those who are causing the real damage via habitat loss, pollution, lax procedures that allow invasive species to be introduced inappropriately, and over-hunting.

Anthropogenic contributions to climate change are recent. Anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity have been going on for millenia. I have no doubt that we can chart many species already feeling additional pressure because of climate change. That’s a given, because that’s a constant. The climate always changes and it always puts pressure on vulnerable species. Anthropogenic climate change will do the same.

Global warming will have a negative effect on some species, perhaps many. Species loss is currently a real problem. The two facts don’t have much to do with each other.

My thoughts about preserving the biodiversity remaining on this planet are fairly simple:

  1. Policy that encourages urbanization density. Right now, over half the people on this planet live in cities that cover 3% of the land surface. This should be considered a good beginning, especially as most projected population growth is expected to be absorbed by the cities. However, given that only 2% of the population is required for modern agriculture, there should be room for improvement. Policies that make 3rd world cities more liveable, safe and sanitary can decrease pressure on the land.
  2. It is time to renegotiate the law of the sea. Let’s appoint conservators for individual fish species that have czar-like abilities to establish fishing regulations that keep the health of the fish paramount. Establish a multinational compensation fund that helps countries wean themselves off of their over-supplied and over-mechanized fishing fleets and just put them out of business slowly.
  3. Focus some element of scientific research on creating best practices and standards for sustainable fish farms. Create sustainable certification standards and labeling. Focus more on rewarding winners than punishing losers–many bad fish farm practices are the result of poverty more than anything else.
  4. Introduce best of breed agricultural practices to insure that needed agricultural product comes from better practices, not more land coming under the plough. Start at the geographic margins and work inwards, as it is at the margins that expansion of farms into new territory happens. Refine the food distribution system to reduce wastage, introduce GMOs liberally, etc.

If you want to protect other species, you must start by removing the need to harm them by improving the lot of the species that is threatening them. That would be us.

This Lukewarmer believes greenhouse gases may help cause temperatures to be about 2 degrees C warmer than otherwise would be the case, which will cause damage in many regions around the world. As it’s an average, some regions will be affected more than others.

Although this will not be a civilization buster (especially for the U.S.), we will be spending money–either to prepare for and so minimize some of the effects beforehand, or to fix some of the damage afterwards. The first of these two is easier and cheaper than the second.

Whatever you call Sandy, whether hurricane or tropical storm, you can look at it as something we will see more of in a warmer world. I don’t think Sandy was caused or strengthened much by current warming, but I think it’s currently an outlier that may look more normal in the future.

How close to the shore should we build? What offshore structures should we erect to soften storms’ impacts? How much cheaper are seawalls than extensive infrastructure repair? How does our current insurance system interact with public wishes and natural disasters to guide rebuilding?

We also might visit other societies impacted by storms at sea, from Japan to the Netherlands, to see if we can benchmark best practice.

Climate Change for the Rest of Us–The Lukewarmer’s Way is Now Available

The Kindle version of The Lukewarmer’s Way is now available on Kindle. If you are considering buying it, please remember that early sales are most helpful to an author, as signs of success push a book up the charts and make it visible to other prospective customers.

Book Cover

The book is divided into three sections:

  1. The Lukewarmer’s Way
  2. Why I am not an Alarmist
  3. Why I am not a Skeptic

“For myself and those other Lukewarmers I am in regular contact with, our position is not just the adoption of a mid-range between Alarmists and Skeptics. Examination of the data available from the same sources used by Alarmists and Skeptics have steered us to a different conclusion.

Here are some of the data points that have informed my view. I examine them in greater detail in the second and third sections of this book:

Why I’m not an Alarmist:

  1. Climate models have projected more warming than has occurred through 2014. Although they do a good job at charting the broad sweep of climate over the years, they do not get the fine level of detail needed to inform planning.
  2. A pause (or slowdown) in temperature rises has occurred just at the time that human emissions of CO2 have exploded. Almost one third of all human emissions have taken place since 1998, but warming has slowed dramatically during that same time frame. This is an argument against a high sensitivity of the atmosphere.
  3. Recent calculations of atmospheric sensitivity to increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are based on observations and provide values for sensitivity that are much lower than previous versions that were based on models.
  4. Sea level rise has increased from 2mm a year to 3mm a year in the past two decades. However, sea level rise shows no sign of accelerating beyond that and some indications are that it is returning to the 2mm annual increase of prior years.
  5. The physics-based approach to calculating climate change leaves calculations vulnerable to large biological or chemical responses to warming. Vegetative cover on earth has increased by 7% recently—how much additional CO2 will this draw out of the atmosphere? Physicist Freeman Dyson is frankly dismissive of models’ ability to capture the interaction between the various inputs into models.
  6. Temperatures estimated from before the modern record do not seem reliable, although part of the problem may be due to inappropriate statistical treatment of the data.
  7. Advocacy of an active policy response does not seem to rely on a confident view of science. Rather it suggests that Alarmists rely more on dismissing the opposition as ‘deniers’ and exaggerating the modest findings of climate science, precisely because the results of science to date are not alarming.

Here are reasons why I am not skeptical of human-caused climate change:

  1. The physics underlying the basics of climate science are utterly uncontroversial, over a century old and broadly agree with observations. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it does interact with infrared radiation at certain wavelengths and prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere.
  2. Temperatures clearly have risen since 1880 by as much as 0.8C.
  3. One of the key predictions of climate science, that the Arctic would warm much faster than the rest of the planet, has come true. Arctic temperatures have climbed by 2C.
  4. Sea level rise, almost all ‘steric’ (expansion of the water caused by heat) has increased from 2mm to 3mm per year.
  5. Human emissions have grown from 236 million metric tonnes of carbon in 1880 to 1,160 in 1945 to 9,167 in 2010.
  6. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have grown from 280 ppm in 1880 to 400 ppm in 2014.
  7. The rate of increase in CO2 concentrations is increasing. The volume of CO2 in the atmosphere grew by 0.75 ppm annually in the 1950s. In the last decade it has increased by 2.1 ppm per year.
  8. Growth in energy consumption is skyrocketing with the development of Asia and Africa. My projections show that we may use six times as much energy in 2075 as we did in 2010.
  9. Other impacts of human civilization, such as deforestation and other changes to land use, pollution and black soot landing on Arctic snows also contribute to warming.
  10. Published plans for construction of renewable energy infrastructure and nuclear power plants fall far short of what is needed to appreciably reduce emissions.
  11. The two principal drivers of emissions are population and GDP growth. Both are projected to rise considerably over the course of this century.”

Many thanks to the crew at Stairways Press for their work in bringing this book to life.

Shauna Theel’s Twittering on Climate Change

For me, the word ‘twitter’ doesn’t easily associate with concepts like depth, study, diligence or even consciousness. But as it has become a major communication tool, used to broadcast broadsides on either side of almost any issue, Twitter is something we have to consider.

On Tech Insider there is a story about Shauna Theel’s ‘tweetstorm’ about climate change. Tech Insider describes Ms. Theel as a ‘clean energy expert.’

I guess she qualifies. She’s actually Deputy Director of the American Wind Energy Association, something Tech Insider might have thought to mention. Almost head of a lobbying organization might have also served as an introduction.

Here’s what Ms. Theel tweeted, with my response below in bold.

“There’s currently more CO2 in the atmosphere than at any other time in human history (1)”. Human history is short. CO2 levels dropped from 3000 ppm to about 287 ppm about 50 million years ago. On the other hand, temperatures for most of the past 10,000 years were as warm or warmer than today.

“We WILL be at 500 ppm. The question is how much higher. No climate scientist can tell you exactly what that will lead to. (2)” Well, actually, the IPCC says that should that happen around mid-century it will lead to about 2C in temperature rises, if it stops there.

“But it will be dramatic and difficult to deal with. We are doing an experiment on the Earth that hasn’t been done in millions of years (3)” True, but it is an experiment that has been repeated many times over the past few billion years. Temperatures change. They go up. They go down. So does CO2. Occasionally (not always), they do it at the same time.

Half of what’s in the atmosphere now will still be there 1,000 years from now. 1/3 will still be there 20,000 years from now. (4)” Well, some say that. Some say it won’t. You’re more confident than most scientists, but then you have wind turbines to sell, don’t you?

“Decisions we make now will not save us from climate effects we have already locked in. They will have a moderate impact on our children (5)” This lock in theory–seems a bit soft on details. Can you elaborate?

“Decisions we make now will have a dramatic effect on people 1000s of years from now. That is the long tail of climate change. (6)” And the evidence for this is found… where? The IPCC says emissions will start to decline after the population stabilizes and people reach a certain level of development shortly after the next century begins. I haven’t even seen speculation on impacts thousands of years into the future. Where do you get this?

“We may not be willing to pay in order to avoid that, but should we morally? What will those in the future think of us now? (7)” You think our descendants will pass judgement on us. Tell us how you feel about George Washington and Aaron Burr. Or even how often you think of them.

“The timescales of climate change mean we need to think about cumulative emissions reductions, annual reductions are a bad measure. (8)” But we can only control our current emissions. This doesn’t make sense. What has been emitted has been emitted.

“Natural gas reduces our short-term emissions but may lock us into a fossil economy. Our policies need to be shaped around the long tail (9)” You keep using the phrase ‘the long tail.’ I don’t think it means what you think it means. Natural gas is a great bridge fuel while we wait for renewables, like your precious wind turbines, to become affordable. Don’t knock it. Compete with it.

“So stick that in someone’s pipe to smoke next time they tell you renewable energy will raise our electric bills a few cents. :)” Bad optics on that image, don’t you think? If it were only a few cents….

Well, as propaganda goes, this… goes. Fossil fuel companies have shills. So too do renewable energy companies. Let the games begin.

Is a 4C Temperature Rise by 2100 Feasible? Possible? Likely? Certain?

Following on from Emma Thompson’s bold statement on BBC that we were in for 4C by 2030, And Then There’s Physics showed up in the comments here and mayhem ensued, as it so often does when he arrives. Here’s Emma once again in all her glory:

In his post on the Emma Thompson story he acknowledged that large temperature rises before 2030 are unlikely. But in comments here he challenged me when I said that 4C rise in temperature ‘ain’t gonna happen’ this century.

He wrote “And that illustrates a large part of the problem with this entire topic. You (and Hunter, I think) feel perfectly comfortable stating something as a fact, even though it is not definitively true. The amount we will warm by 2100 depends both on climate sensitivity, on our emission pathway, and on the significance of carbon cycle feedbacks. It is not true that there is “no way 4C is happening this century.”

I’m not a scientist of course, but I do read the IPCC, which said in their Fifth Assessment Report “Relative to 1850–1900, global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century (2081–2100) is projected to likely exceed 1.5°C for RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 (high confidence).

Warming is likely to exceed 2°C for RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 (high confidence), more likely than not to exceed 2°C for RCP4.5 (medium confidence), but unlikely to exceed 2°C for RCP2.6 (medium confidence). {2.2.1}

The increase of global mean surface temperature by the end of the 21st century (2081–2100) relative to 1986–2005 is likely to be 0.3°C to 1.7°C under RCP2.6, 1.1°C to 2.6°C under RCP4.5, 1.4°C to 3.1°C under RCP6.0 and 2.6°C to 4.8°C under RCP8.59. The Arctic region will continue to warm more rapidly than the global mean (Figure SPM.6a, Figure SPM.7a). {2.2.1, Figure 2.1, Figure 2.2, Table 2.1}”

So, according to the IPCC, only the most extreme expression of the most extreme RCP would get us to 4C by 2100. And as I’ve written here before, the RCPs aren’t predictions or projections, they’re scenarios that start from the conclusion (8.5 watts per square meter for RCP 8.5) and work backwards to see how we could get there.

Warming so far this century has been negligible. That of course is subject to change. I expect warming of 2C by this century, in large part because the developing world will use a lot of fossil fuels.

To me, 4C in the remaining 85 years of this century, while I suppose it’s physically possible, is such an outlying scenario as not to deserve much attention. But as I said, I’m not a scientist.

So somebody tell me–what is the mechanism whereby warming accelerates so drastically from a standing start. Global emissions didn’t increase in 2014 and neither did temperatures (much).

How do we get to ATTP’s nightmare scenario?

A New Master of Climate Disaster

I realize that Emma Thompson set the bar pretty high by proclaiming that we would achieve 4C of warming by 2030.

And while her co-religionists on the Konsensus side are willing to acknowledge she exaggerated slightly, they say it’s only by a couple of decades.

This of course is in sharp contrast to the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reported in their most recent Assessment Report that temperatures will rise by between 0.3C and 0.7C by 2035. (They write, “The global mean surface temperature change for the period 2016–2035 relative to 1986–2005 is similar for the four RCPs and will likely be in the range 0.3°C to 0.7°C.” Please see page 10 of the linked Summary for Policy Makers.) So far this century we’re not even on track to attain those modest goals.

Not to worry, however. Jonathan, writing in New York Magazine, is not about to allow Emma Thompson to be the chief doom-cryer for very long. He writes “The rise in atmospheric temperatures from greenhouse gases poses the most dire threat to humanity, measured on a scale of potential suffering, since Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany launched near-simultaneous wars of conquest.”

This is both absurd and a crying shame. Absurd because mainstream science does not share his opinion on the threat posed by climate change. A crying shame because what he writes below this tromp of doom is interesting and useful. But at least it entitles him to some interesting body art:

master of disaster

Mainstream science believes, as I wrote two days ago, that “Global warming is not expected to destroy the Earth. It is expected to be expensive, to cause loss of life due to more intense storms, to be disruptive to both industry and agriculture and to hinder development of the poorer nations of the world. These impacts are expected to kick in starting around the middle of the century. They certainly haven’t shown up yet.” I cite this report by the Potsdam Institute commissioned by the World Bank as evidence. Others might wish to look at the IPCC’s Summary for Policy Makers (here is the same link again), which also reports that while disruptive, expensive and potentially hazardous to many in the developing world, global warming is not expected to cause even 1% of the loss of life generated by Jonathan Chait’s recollection of World War II and its antecedent conflicts in Asia.

The reason it’s a crying shame? Chait accurately (if optimistically) charts the fall in costs of solar and wind power and points to the development of storage technology. He also details our decreased dependence on coal and gives credit to the main driver of that decreased dependence, natural gas. He also acknowledges the role hydropower has played in helping China and other developing countries reduce the rate at which coal consumption has grown in their countries.

Could have been a great article. Pity about the hyperbole. But maybe it will sell a few extra copies of the magazine.

That may be what it’s all about.


Forests and Global Warming

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization has released the Global Forests Resource Assessment 2015. Coming a week after the world learned that we have 3 trillion trees, about 4 times more than we thought, the report takes on even more importance.

From the report’s Forward: “FRA 2015 shows a very encouraging tendency towards a reduction in the rates of deforestation and carbon emissions from forests and increases in capacity for sustainable forest management. The reliability of the information collected has also improved enormously – presently national forest inventories apply to some 81 percent of global forest area, a substantial increase over the past 10 years.

Two broad conclusions can be drawn: 1) we have a wealth of reliable information today on the situation of the world’s forests; and 2) the direction of change is positive, with many impressive examples of progress in all regions of the world. However this positive trend needs to be strengthened, especially in the countries that are lagging behind.”

FAO Senior Forestry Officer Kenneth MacDicken is among those monitoring how the forests are faring.

“What we’ve seen is a continued forest loss in the tropics, not surprisingly,” he says. “But the good news is that it’s happening at a rate that is half of what it was in the 1990s. So, the deforestation rate is slowing.”

Forests are still being cut down to make room for agriculture, the FAO said. But the process is slowing.

The FAO report said, “Countries have more knowledge of their forest resources than ever before.”

However, between 1990 and 2015, there was a net loss of 129 million hectares of forest. That’s an area about the size of South Africa. The biggest forest loss occurred in Africa and South America.

The report said “challenges remain” and warned, “the existence of sound policies, legislation and regulation is not always coupled with effective incentives or enforcement … and that unsustainable forest practices and forest conversion to farmland clearly persist.”

Since 1990, the world’s population has grown by 37 percent. Agricultural food demand has increased by 40 percent.

At the same time, MacDicken said, forest areas have declined by 3.2 percent.

In 1990 the world had 4128 million ha of forest; by 2015 this area has decreased to 3 999 million ha. This is a change from 31.6 percent of global land area in 1990 to 30.6 percent1 in 2015, an annual loss rate of 0.13%.

MacDicken said while a direct impact of climate change on forests is hard to measure, indirect effects are being monitored. These include more large wildfires and destructive insects and diseases that are not killed off by milder winters.”

Activists have written about the decline of forests for quite some time, adding climate change to the list of what is dooming the forest. So it’s good to note that so far at least, the loss of forest area is small and getting smaller even as temperatures have risen since 1976.

As is the case with other ecosystems, humans pose a major threat to forests. However, it is cutting them down and burning them that form the bulk of our transgressions, not human caused climate change.


Clearly Stating the Climate Problem

Well, I was reading the Financial Times because I wanted to see Martin Rees try to justify using a low discount rate for calculating climate damages. (He couldn’t, but he tried manfully.)

But I got distracted by his rather insane attempt to draw a comparison. Read what he writes: “Suppose astronomers had tracked an asteroid and calculated that it would hit Earth in 2080, 65 years from now — not with certainty, but with, say, 10 per cent probability. Would we relax, seeing it as a problem to be set on one side for 50 years? I do not think we would. There would surely be a consensus that we do our damnedest to find ways to deflect it, or to mitigate its effects.”

I’m sure there would be a consensus and that we would do our damnedest to find ways to deflect it. I’ve seen both movies and I prefer this one:


Rees continues, “By contrast, our governments respond with torpor to the climate threat, as concerns about future generations slip down the agenda.”

I guess we’ll see about that in Paris. But more to the point, the world–not just governments–is not treating global warming in the same way as it would a date with an asteroid.

There’s a reason why. It’s because the two are not similar in nature, not similar in impact and not similar in the response required of us.

Global warming is not expected to destroy the Earth. It is expected to be expensive, to cause loss of life due to more intense storms, to be disruptive to both industry and agriculture and to hinder development of the poorer nations of the world. These impacts are expected to kick in starting around the middle of the century. They certainly haven’t shown up yet.

The asteroid would blow up the planet and kill all of us. Do you see the difference?

Maybe there will be a movie sequel:

Light Impact

Time and again the Klimate Krazies tell us that climate change will be the end of us. When confronted, they often back away from their hyperbole. They don’t realize that telling us the sky is falling has a predictable result.

When the World Bank commissioned a report on the impacts of 4C of warming (done by the Potsdam Institute) the report came in at 106 pages. Part of the World Bank’s ‘Turn Down the Heat‘ campaign, the report was titled “Why a 4C Warmer World Must Be Avoided.”

The Forward of the report says, “This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes. The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems. And most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs.”

The Executive Summary echoes the language of the Forward: “A 4°C world would be one of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on ecosystems and associated services.”

Before we look at the main body of the report, let’s look at what has been described here. It looks like a serious problem that will make other problems worse.

But nowhere–nowhere–does it hint at the Fall of Civilization. Nowhere does it describe the End of Days. It is not an asteroid and we need neither Robert Duvall nor Bruce Willis to save us at the cost of their lives.

Here is what the report says about impacts in general:

“The effects of 4°C warming will not be evenly distributed around the world, nor would the consequences be simply an extension of those felt at 2°C warming. The largest warming will occur over land and range from 4°C to 10°C. Increases of 6°C or more in average monthly summer temperatures would be expected in large regions of the world, including the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States.”

Here is what they say about ocean acidification: “Coral reef growth may stop as CO2 concentration approaches 450 ppm over the coming decades (corresponding to a warming of about 1.4°C in the 2030s). By the time the concentration reaches around 550 ppm (corresponding to a warming of about 2.4°C in the 2060s), it is likely that coral reefs in many areas would start to dissolve. The combination of thermally induced bleaching events, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threatens large fractions of coral reefs even at 1.5°C global warming. The regional extinction of entire coral reef ecosystems, which could occur well before 4°C is reached, would have profound consequences for their dependent species and for the people who depend on them for food, income, tourism, and shoreline protection.”

Here is what they write about sea level rise: “Sea-level rise impacts are projected to be asymmetrical even within regions and countries. Of the impacts projected for 31 developing countries, only 10 cities account for two-thirds of the total exposure to extreme floods. Highly vulnerable cities are to be found in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.”

Here is what they say about Risks to Human Support Systems: Food, Water, Ecosystems and Human Health: “In a world rapidly warming toward 4°C, the most adverse impacts on water availability are likely to occur in association with growing water demand as the world population increases. Some estimates indicate that a 4°C warming would significantly exacerbate existing water scarcity in many regions, particularly northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, while additional countries in Africa would be newly confronted with water scarcity on a national scale due to population growth.

The risk for disruptions to ecosystems as a result of ecosystem shifts, wildfires, ecosystem transformation, and forest dieback would be significantly higher for 4°C warming as compared to reduced amounts. Increasing vulnerability to heat and drought stress will likely lead to increased mortality and species extinction. Ecosystems will be affected by more frequent extreme weather events, such as forest loss due to droughts and wildfire exacerbated by land use and agricultural expansion. In Amazonia, forest fires could as much as double by 2050 with warming of approximately 1.5°C to 2°C above preindustrial levels. Changes would be expected to be even more severe in a 4°C world.

Maintaining adequate food and agricultural output in the face of increasing population and rising levels of income will be a challenge irrespective of human-induced climate change. The IPCC AR4 projected that global food production would increase for local average temperature rise in the range of 1°C to 3°C, but may decrease beyond these temperatures. New results published since 2007, however, are much less optimistic. These results suggest instead a rapidly rising risk of crop yield reductions as the world warms. Large negative effects have been observed at high and extreme temperatures in several regions including India, Africa, the United States, and Australia. For example, significant nonlinear effects have been observed in the United States for local daily temperatures increasing to 29°C for corn and 30°C for soybeans. These new results and observations indicate a significant risk of high-temperature thresholds being crossed that could substantially undermine food security globally in a 4°C world.

The effects of climate change on agricultural production may exacerbate under-nutrition and malnutrition in many regions—already major contributors to child mortality in developing countries. Whilst economic growth is projected to significantly reduce childhood stunting, climate change is projected to reverse these gains in a number of regions: substantial increases in stunting due to malnutrition are projected to occur with warming of 2°C to 2.5°C, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and this is likely to get worse at 4°C.

The projected impacts on water availability, ecosystems, agriculture, and human health could lead to large-scale displacement of populations and have adverse consequences for human security and economic and trade systems. The full scope of damages in a 4°C world has not been assessed to date.”

Now, never mind that 4C of warming is looking increasingly unlikely. Never mind that the report ignores the extent to which economic development can help us prepare for and adapt to climate change.

The Potsdam Institute was commissioned to describe the impacts of 4C of climate change on the world. They have done so.

They describe a world that will have to cope with extreme temperatures, sea level rise in line with the higher IPCC projections, more intense storms, droughts and floods, the probable loss of many coral reefs and damage to the ecosystems dependent upon them.

But there is no asteroid hidden in the fine print. Like every other organization that has studied climate change, the Potsdam Institute writes plainly that while climate change is a problem (that will vary in severity depending on location), nowhere is it expected to be a planet buster, a civilization destroyer or a sign of the End Times.

Now someone go tell my favorite actress. (It’s weird that my favorite president and favorite actress are so wrong about climate change…)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 03: Emma Thompson attends the fundraising event to benefit The Helen Bamber Foundation at Bonhams on October 3, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 03: Emma Thompson attends the fundraising event to benefit The Helen Bamber Foundation at Bonhams on October 3, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage)

Is This Evidence That Climate Change Should Frighten Us?

Steve McIntyre has apparently finished his summer holiday spree on American football. As he was not dissecting my San Francisco 49ers (looks like the opposition will do it instead…) I am quite pleased to report he has returned to his normal programming schedule.

In his latest post McIntyre welcomes the publication of “Robust global ocean cooling trend for the pre-industrial Common Era”. So should we all.

Not because of what they said about it. Here’s Michael Evans, one of the authors of the study: “This study truly highlights the profound effects we are having on our climate today.”

I don’t think he looked at the results of his research. Please identify the profound effects we are having on ocean temperatures from this picture:


McIntyre discuss the findings and implications at length over at his blog. I am more interested in the meta implications.

Coming in a week when we discover that the NOAA believes sea level rise to be half as quick as the Klimate Konsensus asserts (NOAA: 1.7 mm / year. Klimate Konsensus: 3 mm / year), news that ocean temperatures are only slowly increasing from a record low at the time of the Little Ice Age should be a great relief to us all.

Coming in a week when we are introduced to a temperature reconstruction highlighted by one of the Konsensus Krazies himself (David Appell, don’t you know) that shows no Hockey Stick at all (p. 345, reproduced here courtesy of Bishop Hill),

Non Hockey Stick

…isn’t it time we started a rational discussion about the pace and impacts of climate change?

Extreme weather isn’t happening yet. Not storms, not drought, not floods. Estimates of atmospheric sensitivity based on observations come in at about half that projected by models, explaining why the models are running hot. Sea level rise is not what is being trumpeted in the media. Neither are ocean temperatures.

If our contributions to climate change are not having the devastating impact (so far) that earlier predictions had forecast, does it not take the pressure off of places like India, desperate to continue using coal in their development? Does it not allow us to focus on helping China burn cleaner coal (or burn coal more cleanly)  rather than insisting it abandon coal for…. whatever?

Does it not enable the world to press on with our fight against malnutrition, disease and poverty?

Does it not then allow us, like McIntyre, to return to our regularly scheduled program of fighting the more immediate environmental problems of habitat loss, over hunting and over fishing, introduction of alien species and conventional pollution?

Rick Santorum, Politifact, Bart Verheggen, Fabius Maximus and the problem with surveys

If someone ever asks you to write a report of the results of a survey, remember one thing.

If you want to be taken seriously, shine a light on your problems. If you want the answer to be X and the survey result is Y, talk about it first. Talk about it often. That way nobody can say ‘Gotcha!’

Bart Verheggen conducted a survey of over 1,800 scientists on their belief in (and confidence in that belief) the amount of human contributions to recent climate change.

They reported on it here and here.

I criticized the report (not the survey, which I think is very good) here and here and here.

Fabius Maximus then reinterpreted the results here.

Rick Santorum then used Fabius Maximus’ interpretation in an interview with Bill Maher here:

Politifact then critiqued Santorum’s claims here. Bart Verheggen also critiqued Santorum here.

Everybody got it wrong. Politifact got numbers wrong, confused surveys and didn’t report accurately on what they found.

Santorum got it wrong because Fabius Maximus got it wrong. FM mistakenly inferred beliefs on the part of respondents that led him to understate the strength of the consensus. Santorum copied his mistake in his interview.

Verheggen et al got it wrong. They mistakenly inferred beliefs on the part of respondents that led them to overstate the strength of the consensus. They also committed the first cardinal sin of report writing–they tried to bury the bad news.

They didn’t refer to the headline finding by name. They tried to combine the responses to the headline question with another question and referred to it only by question number.

They didn’t want to report that ‘only’ 66% of the respondents agree that half or more of current warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. (Wording of the question meant that some scientists could agree with the premise but not be willing to put a specific percentage on human contributions.)

I do this for a living. I make mistakes and I’m not perfect, but I consider myself a subject matter expert on the details of collecting data from surveys and reporting it accurately. (I would rather have been a philosopher or poet, but…)

Here is what I wrote on Bart Verheggen’s weblog today. I stand by it as the most accurate reporting I have seen yet on this survey:

“Your survey is both good and useful. As I tried to warn you in advance, your reporting has left the door open for deliberate misinterpretation.

There is a strong consensus among climate scientists that human emissions of CO2 have caused half or more of recent warming.

66% specifically attributed half or more to emissions. It is possible that more may have done so had the questions been worded differently.

Those scientists with more numerous publications were more likely to make that attribution and were more confident in their judgment.

However, it is clear that the consensus among climate scientists in this survey does not approach the near unanimous agreement found in recent literature searches (Oreskes, Anderegg, Prall et al, Cook et al). Instead, the broad category of climate scientists in agreement on human contributions matches almost exactly that found in Bray, von Storch et al.

The findings of your paper suggest that more research is appropriate, both in attribution and confidence, but also in discovering why scientists with fewer publications do not share the same confidence as their colleagues with more publications.”


Real Climate’s Stefan Rahmstorf–A History of Defamation

Yesterday we looked at the long history of attacks on Bjorn Lomborg by Konsensus Kooks. It was prompted by the latest such diatribe by Stefan Rahmstorf of Real Climate.


Lomborg should be used to this by now. But the rest of us shouldn’t. And for the latest fact-free attack to be authored by Stefan Rahmstorf is a little rich.

Stefan Rahmstorff has form on quasi-libelous attacks on his opponents. Der Spiegel, the German newspaper, reports that “Time and again he has not only gone after journalists, but also after scientists who have openly expressed views that Rahmstorf didn’t like.” Scientists such as Hans von Storch, for example.

That was after Rahmstorf attacked a German blogger and ended up in court. Der Speiegel wrote about it then: “The well-known climate scientist and government adviser Stefan Rahmstorf has been convicted of an attack against a journalist Blog”.

The journalist had criticized an IPCC report drawn on water supplies in two North African countries. As Der Spiegel writes, “Indeed, there was in the IPCC report inaccurate formulations as researchers admitted later.”

Rahmstorf accused her of not reading the IPCC report and of plagiarizing parts of her article. Both accusations were false. Both accusations were based on zero prior knowledge. Both accusations were defamatory and injured the reputation and livelihood of the journalist, who abandoned her coverage of climate change following the incident.

A German magazine on science journalism wrote of the affair, “[T]he malice, which Rahmstorf shows for the author of the article, seems like personal defamation that has no place in public disputes. Not even – or, should I say, especially not – when it comes to a subject as important as climate change. Much of Rahmstorf’s way of behaving in this case is reminiscent of what he has always argued against so eloquently: the facts are polished until they support a predetermined interpretation.”

So in terms of writing false attacks on your opponents, we might say Stefan Rahmstorf has official standing.

It is tempting to wonder if his long-time association with the insurance company Munich Re has something to do with this. Many scientists work either within or with the private sector–Judith Curry has her own company, for example.

But Munich Re stands to profit hugely from climate change, charging higher premiums for protection from climate disasters. If disasters are wrongly classified as due to climate change, it grows the market for Munich Re’s insurance. Hence the recent onslaught of poorly sourced and obviously inaccurate stories about Xtreme Weather etc. Very convenient untruths.

Munich Re also stands to benefit from fears of sea level rise, again being able to raise their premiums because of the supposed elevated risk. And Rahmstorf has written paper after paper announcing–shouting from the rooftops–that human caused climate change will bring large sea level rise. Readers interested in how that has played out over the years can click here.

As for the journalist Rahmstorf libeled?

“Irene Meichsner – who had to fight her legal battle for her reputation on her own – has had enough of climate issues for the time being. She no longer writes about this subject.”

Rahmstorf lost the battle, but won the war. Defamation worked and scared off a journalist. Hope the same doesn’t happen with Lomborg.

Real Climate: When In Doubt, Slime Lomborg–The Witch Hunt Never Stopped

Coming just days after they posted approvingly about something they admit is ‘a long winded story’ about a paper written by the Konsensus hit team that happened to be rejected by five journals before finally being accepted, Real Climate (should it be Real Klimate or Real Slimeate?) goes after Bjorn Lomborg. Again.


I don’t know if it’s embarrassment over their hit job paper or if it’s just something they’ve contracted to do, but they have gone after Lomborg before. See here and here for just two examples.

Lomborg, the Skeptical Environmentalist, is sure to attract ire from Konsensus Kooks such as Dana Nuccitelli and John Cook. But Stefan Rahmstorff? I sort of thought he was a serious scientist.

Rahmstorff goes after Lomborg because he has only published 20 papers (seriously–I guess there’s a metric out there for enemies). Considering that Lomborg doesn’t even call himself a climate scientist (he’s a statistician), I don’t know why Rahmstorff is jumping up and down and screaming.

Rahmstorff also highlights the fact that Lomborg recently won, then lost, a chance to establish a branch of the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Australia. I don’t know why this speaks to Lomborg’s fitness, but then nothing in Rahmstorff’s attempted assassination does.

He goes after Lomborg for accurately describing the state of understanding of sea level rise in 2008 (Lomborg wrote, “Since 1992, we have had satellites measuring the rise in global sea levels, and they have shown a stable increase of 3.2mm per year (1/8 of an inch) – spot on compared to the IPCC projection. Moreover, over the last two years, sea levels have not increased at all – actually, they show a slight drop. Should we not be told that this is much better than expected?”) which Rahmstorff calls ‘a debating trick’.

Considering the NOAA describes sea level rise as between 1.7 and 1.8 mm per year, Lomborg’s writing seems almost… alarmed. But I doubt if that’s why Rahmstorff is out to hang the poor guy.

Then Rahmstorff tries to label RCP 8.5 a projection so he can criticize Lomborg’s description of the IPCC writing on sea level rise (Lomborg accurately describes it.)

Rahmstorff is flat out wrong here. RCP 8.5 is not a projection at all. The authors of RCP 8.5 are crystal clear on that. ” “Scenario development after the RCP phase will focus on developing a new set of socio-economic scenarios.

They were tasked with describing the effects of 8.5 watts per square meter and they also included a possible scenario that might produce it. They say that it is not a prediction and not a projection. The narrative hasn’t even been written yet. RCP 8.5 is just a set of inputs into climate models. If a climate scientist like Rahmstorff doesn’t know this, he is incompetent. If he knows it but is mischaracterizing it he is dishonest.

The Konsensus Brigade has been after Lomborg since the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist. As the Economist wrote, “Mr Lomborg defends these positions on the basis of official data and published science. Environmentalists typically use the same sources, but, as Mr Lomborg lays bare, are much less scrupulous about setting short runs of data in their long-term context, for instance, or about quoting ranges of data, where that is appropriate, rather than whatever extreme of any given range best suits their case.

…”The January issue of Scientific American devoted many pages to a series of articles trashing “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. The authors, all supporters of the green movement, were strong on contempt and sneering, but weak on substance. The arresting thing about Scientific American‘s coverage, however, was not this barrage of ineffective rejoinders but the editor’s notion of what was going on: “Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist,” he announced.

“That is amazing. Mr Lomborg’s targets are green scare-mongers and their credulous servants in the media. He uses the findings of scientists to press his case. How can using science to criticise the Kyoto agreement, to show that the world’s forests are not disappearing, to demonstrate that the planet’s supplies of energy and food will suffice indefinitely, and the rest, constitute an attack on science?

…”The fuss over Mr Lomborg highlights an attitude among some media-conscious scientists that militates not just against good policy but against the truth.”

After noting that Stephen Schneider was one of Lomborg’s critics, and after skewering Schneider’s critcism, The Economist closes with a statement that is equally appropriate of Rahmstorff’s rant:

“Science needs no defending from Mr Lomborg. It may very well need defending from champions like Mr Schneider.”


NOAA Says Sea Level Rise is “1.7 – 1.8 Millimeters Per Year”

Hat tip to Junk Science:

Global Regional Trends Comparison (4 Main Regions, various subregions)

“The graphs compare the 95% confidence intervals of relative mean sea level trends for CO-OPS and global stations. Trends with the narrowest confidence intervals are based on the longest data sets. Trends with the widest confidence intervals are based on only 30-40 years of data. The graphs can provide an overarching indication of the differing rates of regional vertical land motion, given that the absolute global sea level rise is believed to be 1.7-1.8 millimeters/year. Note that they are relative sea level trends, and are not corrected for local land movement. The calculated trends for all CO-OPS stations are available as a table in millimeters/year and in feet/century. A complete table of non-CO-OPS station trends are available as a table in millimeters/year and in feet/century.”


Earth 2100–A Look Back

I think my only mention in Wikipedia is for a critique I wrote of Earth 2100, the ABC television show meant to warn us of the possible dangers of climate change. I wrote “. . . when people realize (as they are realizing now) that temperatures are not going to climb every year, they are not going to remember what sober scientists say. They are going to think of Earth 2100 and other scare stories about catastrophe, and realize that they were lies. They will then completely tune out science and it will be impossible to even do the sensible things we can and should do.” I guess that’s a prediction of my own, of sorts. Not sure how that’s going to play out, but I thought I’d pay a visit to what Earth 2100 predicted for 2015.

Jan. 2015: “From coast to coast, motorists are searching for relief from soaring gas prices.” …”We can see a doubling or even a tripling of gas prices. That’s after inflation.”

Guess I’ll give that a miss.


July 14, 2015: “Good morning, Miami. The summer of 2015 is on track to be one of the hottest in history.” According to NOAA, that’s actually correct. Score one for the documentary.

“A man who worked at the gas station came out holding a sign. ‘No Gas. Sold Out.’ I guess they missed on that one, too.

Sept. 8, 2015: “I’ve been staking out an area that’s been hit hard recently by gas snatchers.” Hmm. No, not really…

“In the face of mounting protests over rising gas and food prices, Congress approved a plan today for construction of 40 new coal-fired power plants over the next 5 years.” Whoops! We’re sort of going in the opposite direction.

“The country took the easy way out.” No, the country didn’t. We retired coal plants and built solar and wind mills instead. Coal used to produce 48% of our electricity. Now it’s 34% and dropping.

Peter Gleick makes an appearance. “All the bad things from climate change are coming true.” Like no hurricane landfalls, like lower storm intensity and frequency, like record harvests and absolutely normal global levels of precipitation. Yeah, Peter. Go steal some more papers.

Oct. 21, 2015: “They’re calling it the storm of the century. Hurricane Linda, packing Category 5 winds. …big storms weren’t unusual. But this one was bigger and it was headed for Miami.” Well, we’ve got six weeks to wait for this one.

Later in 2015… “Some 250,000 Bangladeshi refugees fleeing from last month’s devastating cyclone…” …”Thousands riot as China faces its worst wheat shortage in a decade, the result of seemingly endless drought…”

That science fiction stuff is tough. I guess I’ll stand by what I wrote when the show came out.


Ignoring Instead of Learning Lessons From the Medieval Warming Period

I’m reading a fascinating history book by Ian Morris called Why the West Rules–For Now. Morris writes frequently about the role climate has played throughout history.

He writes about the Medieval Warming Period at some length. This is the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) that Michael Mann ‘disappeared’ with his Hockey Stick Chart and was the subject of at least one email to David Deming:

Those who are forced to grudgingly admit that there was a MWP often say it was only regional in nature, confined to a few locations and didn’t occur simultaneously. History says otherwise.

Morris writes in his book, (p. 363) ‘As if these strains were not enough, after 900 Eurasia came under a new kind of pressure–literally; as Earth’s orbit kept shifting, atmospheric pressure increased over the landmass, weakening the westerlies blowing off the Atlantic into Europe and the monsoons blowing off the Indian Ocean into southern Asia. Averaged across Eurasia, temperatures rose 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit between 900 and 1300 and rainfall declined by perhaps 10 percent.

As always, climate change forced people to adapt, but left it up to them to decide just how to do that. In cold, wet northern Europe this so-called Medieval Warm Period was often welcome, and population probably doubled between 1000 and 1300. In the hotter, drier Islamic core, however, it could be less welcome. Overall, population in the Muslim world probably fell by 10 percent, but some areas, particularly in North Africa, flourished.”

Writing of southwest Asia during that time, Morris continues: “Cities shrank, irrigation canals silted up and marginal villages were abandoned. In the hot, dry weather of the Medieval Warm Period farmers had to struggle constantly just to keep their precious fields from reverting to steppe and desert, but Seljuk policies made their jobs harder still.”

The situation was different in Europe: “…warmer weather brought northern Europe longer growing seasons and higher yields, making previously marginal lands potentially profitable. By the time the Medieval Warm Period wound down, farmers had plowed up vast tracts of what had once been forest, felling perhaps half the trees in western Europe.”

On the other side of Eurasia, the MWP was there and of great benefit to China. Morris writes, “Extraordinary as the Neo-Confucians’ achievements were, though, they paled into insignificance compared with a second development going on at the same time, an economic expansion to rival ancient Rome’s. The Medieval Warm Period was a boon almost everywhere in China: lake sediments, the chemistry of stalagmites, and textual records all suggest that the semiarid north go more rain, just what its farmers wanted, while the wet south got less, which suited that region’s farmers too. China’s population grew to perhaps 100 million by 1100.”

The Medieval Warm Period existed and had a great effect on the populations of the world.

If we lived in a society where climate science was actually informing policy, we would be studying that period of time for lessons that might help us adapt as our planet warms.

Instead, Konsensus activists with an ax to grind and the determination to never admit error are allowing the narrative to be rewritten to suit their hysteria, air-brushed out of climate journals–if not out of history.

Morris’ book is excellent and I recommend it highly.

Update on Sea Level Rise

Reuters writes, “Global sea levels climbed 3 inches since 1992, NASA research shows.” That’s less than one inch every 8 years. If it continues at that pace we will see 1 foot of sea level rise this century.

It doesn’t change the shape of this chart:


Although recent performance is easier to see here:


Those charts don’t seem like cause for much in the way of worry.

However, climate scientists are saying that sea level rise is not necessarily linear. I believe them. The Konsensus Krazies didn’t help the level of discussion by saying that the Greenland Ice Cap could melt and that we should actually be concerned by it.

The Greenland Ice Cap may melt, although it didn’t during previous warm periods that were warmer than today. If it does melt, it will take 3,000 years to get halfway finished.

The same is true of the incredibly huge Eastern Antarctic Ice Cap. Same panic stories, same exaggeration, even longer length of time involved.

So now we are told we must beware the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet. This in fact is being tortured by mechanical stress, reported in the 1920s. But climate scientists worry that warm water at the base of it may accelerate its disintegration. And the Konsensus Krazies seize on that as another reason to panic.

Global warming may accelerate the disintegration of the WAIS. It may happen 20 or 30 years sooner than would otherwise have been the case. But it still is estimated to require about 200 years or more.

The IPCC gives a range of between 0.26 meters and 0.98 meters over the course of the century. The lower figure is actually below current rates of sea level rise. The higher figure is based on RCP 8.5, which is not actually a scenario based on examination of the real world, but a postulated forcing of 8.5 watts per square meter with a brief look at what could in theory cause it.

The IPCC adds, ” We have considered the evidence for higher projections and have concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to evaluate the probability of specific levels above the assessed likely range. Based on current understanding, only the collapse of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic ice sheet, if initiated, could cause global mean sea level to rise substantially above the likely range during the 21st century. This potential additional contribution cannot be precisely quantified but there is medium confidence that it would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise during the 21st century.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Food Security and Climate Change

Grist starts its article off with a grim scenario. “It’s the year 2026. A poor monsoon season in India leads to low wheat output, which is followed by a surprise thaw and refreeze that flattens crops in the Black Sea region, and a bad Chinese wheat harvest. Russia and some other producers impose export restrictions to conserve food. Next, drought strikes the U.S., and things suddenly aren’t looking good for soy and corn, either. Then, because nothing can possibly go right, the second monsoon season fails in India. Panic ensues and households in some countries start hoarding rice! Importers start bidding up for larger orders of grains! There are more export taxes and restrictions and the cost of food increases!”

They reference a report by academics and policy makers led by David King, someone well known in climate circles, titled ‘Extreme Weather and Resilience of the Global Food System.’ They start their report by recapping the most recent fluctuation in food prices: “By 2050, the FAO estimates that demand for food will increase over 60% above the current situation. Demand growth is driven by population and demographic change, and increasing global wealth. This, in turn, leads to greater per capita food demand, often associated with demand for more livestock produce. In 2007/8, a small weather-related production shock, coupled with historically low stock-to-use levels, led to rapid food price inflation, as measured by the FAO Food Price Index and associated with the main internationally traded grains1 . This increase was compounded by some countries imposing barriers to local export, to ensure their own food security, leading to an FAO price spike of over 100%. A similar price spike occurred in 2010/11, partly influenced by weather in Eastern Europe and Russia.”

However the UN’s FAO shows a chart indicating that the very real price shock had no effect on the steady decline in the number of malnourished people.

FAO Food Security 2015

From 1 billion malnourished people in 1992 to just under 800 million in 2013, the decline has been notable and consistent. The 2015 FAO report on food security is found here and it makes for interesting reading. The headline should be that during a period when global population rose by 1.9 billion, the number of malnourished dropped by 216 million, an astonishing achievement.

It is easy to construct an End of Days scenario for food production. As Grist writes, “After analyzing historical records, the team came up with a doomsday scenario, in which Murphy’s Law rules. The result is not pretty. The people hit hardest would be those living in poor countries that import grains.”

But the King report notes something that is certainly counter-intuitive, if not mind bogglingly strange. ” Additionally, recent studies suggest that our reliance on increasing volumes of global trade, whilst having many benefits, also creates structural vulnerability via a liability to amplify production shocks in some circumstances.”

It is my strong impression (influenced undoubtedly by Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, as well as other writers) that global trade is our best defense against individual production shocks. So I certainly agree with the King report when it writes “More research is needed to understand and quantify the risks set out in this report. Our assessment is that they are non-trivial and increasing, but our knowledge of how extreme weather may be connected across the world, and hence the precise probability of multiple bread basket failures, is limited by available model simulations. Modelling limitations also constrain our ability to understand how production shocks translate into short run price impacts.”

The FAO notes again that food production is rising at 1.5% per year, faster in fact than the population, which is growing at 1.1% annually. However, because people want more meat when they can start to afford it and livestock needs to be fed, the FAO estimates that food production will need to rise by 60% by 2050. Which it is on pace to do.

However, the IPCC has said that some of the first ‘shocks’ to our climate will start being evident starting around 2040–that droughts will get more intense in some areas and floods stronger and more intense in others. Those prancing around saying that this extreme weather has already arrived are not only wrong, they are crying wolf in a most unhelpful fashion.

However, 2040 is not far off. So here’s a suggestion: Temperatures were rising at about 1.9C back before the pause–I think in the decade ending in 2003, if I remember correctly. So let’s set up an early warning system. If we get 5 consecutive years of temperature rises matching that rate of increase, let’s automatically set up food storage facilities near areas most likely to be affected by food production stocks and fill them as a ready reserve. As temperatures warm or cool, we can adjust the amount of food being stored accordingly. We can sell the oldest stock in the reserves on an annual basis to keep it fit for consumption. If we plan it correctly, it doesn’t have to have an impact on local farmers–we can buy their products for the reserve first.

Observers will note that I am not the first to talk about food reserves in a multi-national context and that many of the arguments made in 1977 are valid today. They will also note that those arguments were salient before discussion of climate change dominated every aspect of social policy.

As a Lukewarmer, I readily accept that even modest climate change can have a disproportionate effect on the world’s poor. Marshaling aid as a preventive measure only makes sense. The grain producing countries of the world already store much of their produce against a rainy day. Let’s just move the storage across the borders to where it is likely to be needed most.

On Climate Change, Vox Populi is not Vox Dei

Over at the Vox website, David Roberts (formerly of Grist and author of the famous statement “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards—some sort of climate Nuremberg“) is writing again on climate change.

Roberts is arguing against what I guess you could call ‘premature adaptation,’ criticizing those who blithely dismiss the effects of climate change by noting that we have a pretty good track record of adapting to whatever Nature has thrown our way. Of course, Roberts is writing on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a prime example of where we didn’t adapt (despite numerous warnings), but to Robert’s credit he doesn’t push on that.

But Roberts does think our confidence is misplaced. He writes, “In fact, if climate change remains unchecked, there will be multiple simultaneous disasters: heat waves, droughts in key agricultural areas, rising sea levels and more frequent floods, food shortages, resource conflicts, and mass migrations. Even if we think it’s better to adapt to those things, we are certainly nowhere near prepared at present.”

If only he had ended his article there I could almost agree with him. Sadly, he then creates a mini-morality play. Roberts writes that mitigation is good because it helps the world. Adaptation is, well, not exactly bad, but an inferior choice because its effects are local. “In other words, mitigation is an altruistic, universalist undertaking. Jesus would dig it. Adaptation is very different. It is not global but local, not universal in impact but highly targeted. A billion dollars of mitigation helps everyone a little bit; a billion dollars of adaptation helps a few people a lot. Specifically, adaptation helps people who have the luck to live in areas that can afford it.”

To the extent that he is correct, he is unintentionally reinforcing the Lukewarmer argument. Because the ethically superior choice, the choice we have been advocating for a couple of decades now, is that our responsibility does not end with mitigation.

Lukewarmers don’t reject mitigation, despite accusations of such. We do ask that it be effective, rationally evaluated for cost vs. benefits, etc. But Lukewarmers support mitigation efforts ranging from a carbon tax to energy efficiency to cleaning up black soot to supporting renewable energy and much, much more.

But alongside mitigation, our true ethical responsibility is to help the developing world (and the poorer residing in developed countries) to gain the resources to make their own decisions regarding both mitigation and adaptation. We are past the point where it can be justified for politicians, NGOs and lobbyists to agitate against the decision of a sovereign nation like India to exploit coal to further its own development. What we need to be prepared to do is to help them use cleaner coal, distribute its benefits widely enough and quickly enough that it becomes redundant before global warming takes its toll, so the Indian people can join the fight instead of participating in a supplicants’ Pilgrimage.

The day of the Great White Father has passed. We should not allow it to be replaced by a day of a Great Green Gaia, as interpreted for us all by the priests of the global warming religion.

Adaptation is a normal human response. Mitigation is a public good and should be encouraged. But resiliency to empower people to act according to their own values and beliefs is by far the best.

Even on a day when the Chinese stock market is scaring the world, the world is growing steadily wealthier. If we continue down the road we are on, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and even Nigeria will be wealthy enough and strong enough to resist, adapt and yes, overcome the difficulties that climate change will put in our path.

Despite the daily headlines suggesting the opposite, human contributions to climate change have yet to make an impact on this planet. Droughts are not stronger or more intense, no matter what Californians might say. Nor are floods or hurricanes or typhoons. Sea level has risen this century by less than the height of the preceding paragraph.

We cannot, must not, allow the hysterics of the world to interfere with the most successful transition this world has ever attempted–the elimination of poverty, the reduction of child and maternal mortality, the provision of access to clean water and adequate food to all and the conquest of diseases that decimated the poor in just the very recent past.

So when Roberts is ready to convene his Nuremberg Trial for deniers, I’ll volunteer, even though I don’t fit the description. His approach is misguided, his ignorance is startling and his prescription is vacuous and wrong. Although he claims to speak with moral authority, as if it is the voice from above, in fact it is only conventional wisdom he parrots, amplified by the echo chamber of which he is part. It is ‘Thus spaketh the NGO,’ not Zarathustra.


Climate Change Takes on the Trappings of Religion

Skeptics of course have long argued that the cause of climate change looked more like a religion than science, quoting some pretty wild statements from people ranging from Rajendra Pachauri (“For me the protection of planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than my mission, it is my religion.“) to Former Senator Tim Wirth (“We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”)

They may have more ammunition to work with. As The Jakarta Post writes,  “The People’s Pilgrimage — by individuals around the world to urge for a strong climate change treaty to emerge from the UN climate change negotiations in Paris this November — initiated its India tour on Friday. ” More about the People’s Pilgrimage is on their website, found here. It is organized by OurVoices, (‘Bringing faith to climate talks’), a non profit organized by The Conservation Foundation in the UK (‘Supporting Positive Environmental Action Since 1982’) and GreenFaith in the U.S. (‘Interfaith Partners for the Environment’)

The People’s Pilgrimage is strongly supported by Operation Noah (‘Let’s show global leaders how small and precious our planet is!’) .


This is in addition to the Islamic call for action on climate change (“Muslims have a religious duty to take action against climate change”), which of course follows on from Pope Francis’ recent encyclical called ‘Laudato Si’ urging more care be given to all things environmental, including the climate.

The Buddhists actually beat Pope Francis to the punch, releasing their own declaration on climate change, ‘The Time to Act is Now.’ The Hindus presented a declaration in 2009, but I can’t find out if it was adopted or not. Judaism has presented a number of statements and made some commitments as well–The Jewish Environmental and Energy Imperative, signed by 50 Jewish leaders “across the political and religious spectrum,” also establishes a goal of reducing Jewish community greenhouse gases by 83 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.

Back in the day, environmentalism as a cause was alternately praised and cursed as the new religion. Well, that has actually continued in recent times. It looks like the religions of the world have found a successful counter-strategy. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Just as Flood Myths resemble each other no matter where you pray, it looks as though the religious response to climate change will be pretty uniform as well.

As I am not a respecter of religion I can only say that the much-needed movement to prepare for and adapt to climate change is not appreciably helped by this band-wagon effect. Perhaps the churches are helped more.

Climate Change Predictions and Mathematical Decay

Happy Sunday! This may be a short post–not sure yet.

Forecasters, pundits and scientists have been happily engaged in predicting the state of our climate in 2100. Century timescales seem appropriate for discussing something that can’t even be accurately measured on less than 30-year timescales, so I think that’s appropriate.

The IPCC thinks that sea level rise will fall somewhere between 26 and 98 centimeters by2100. That’s a very wide range, which should protect their sense of self worth somewhat. It’s one thing to predict the Seattle Seahawks will win the next Super Bowl. It’s a bit different to predict that the next Super Bowl champion will come from the Western Division of the NFC.

Similar predictions abound for temperature rise, atmospheric sensitivity, frequency and intensity of storms, drought and flood, the number of climate refugees, etc.

But it’s no longer a century timescale. We are in 2015. No matter how precise the calculations and how liberal the range used, the fact that we are in 2015 should be affecting those predictions now. Honest scientists should be publishing new versions of the same forecasts based on the actual behavior of the system being studied. Even Las Vegas changes the odds on a football game right up to game time.

If a forecast was published first in 2000 saying that a meter of sea level rise was probably by 2100, it is completely legitimate to note that 15% of the time frame involved has passed with about 1% of the expected sea level occurring to date. As sea level is not expected to change in a linear fashion it would not even harm the forecaster’s reputation, assuming s/he phrased it properly.

That is called ‘mathematical decay.’ If you say something has a 85% chance of happening in the next five years and it doesn’t happen in the first year, if you’re smart you’ll recalculate the odds accordingly.

The same should be true for predictions about temperature, storms, etc. One would assume that the best scientists would incorporate the information gathered in the past 15 years to adjust the elements driving their prediction. The worst would just adjust the timeline, saying disaster would strike in 2115, rather than 2100.

But there should be changes. I’m writing this short essay because I haven’t seen studies that say ‘We predicted this in 2000. Based on what has happened since, we have adjusted our model in such and such a way and our new prediction in 2015 is this.’

The IPCC AR5 has attempted to use current scientific work in preparing their Assessment Report. But as it comes from many different models and voluminous work from many scientists, it doesn’t really capture changes effectively.

Perhaps I suffer from tunnel vision and haven’t seen glaring examples of this kind of adjustment. In which case I hope readers will show me where I’m wrong.

What’s important is to understand that if these changes are not occurring, is it because of some inclination to not give skeptics ammunition, internal pressure to be consistent, group pressure to conform or something else? I can’t think of real world legitimate reasons not to recalculate, but again that might just be tunnel vision on my part.

But this is the type of exercise that could be undertaken painlessly, without much in the way of embarrassment, and it could serve to give policy makers better information and the public more in the way of understanding.

We all know predicting stuff is hard. Smart predictors take advantage of new information to change their story. As for not-so-smart predictors…


The Various Misuses of RCP 8.5

Fernando Leanme has been all over the RCP 8.5 story. He’s commented on it here frequently but also at his own blog, a blog with a great masthead picture. Even if you don’t agree with Fernando or myself, it’s worth a look.

Representative Concentration Pathways replace the IPCC’s Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES). There are four RCPs named after the additional forcing in watts per square meter they are anticipated to have by 2100 compared to pre-industrial forcings. The four are 2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5.

Each RCP was developed by a different team. They also used different models. They cannot be compared to each other head to head.

The first important thing to know about RCPs comes to use directly from the IPCC. Writing in a document titled, ‘IPCC Scenario Process for AR5’ they say “The goal of working with scenarios is not to predict the future but to better understand uncertainties and alternative futures, in order to consider how robust different decisions or options may be under a wide range of possible futures”. The IPCC decided to act only as a catalyst for the process–in essence they commissioned independent scientific teams to generate the RCPs.

Maybe they used these good folks:


As stand alone products, the RCPs have limited usefulness to other research communities. First and foremost, they were selected with the sole purpose of providing data to climate models, taking into consideration the limitations in climate models differentiating levels of radiative forcing. They lack associated socioeconomic and ecological data. They were developed using idealized assumptions about policy instruments and the timing of participation by the international community.”

They used information from the previous SRES developed for AR3 and AR4–they didn’t want to just throw numbers out there–but they did not develop the emissions narratives and economic assumptions themselves.

They are not predictions. RCP 8.5 essentially says ‘if you want to get to this level of forcing by 2100, here’s a pathway that will get you there.’ It is not the end result of a scientific look at the fuels we will burn, the emissions they will cause, the sensitivity of the atmosphere and the results of the interactions between those and other factors. It is a reasonable-sounding trajectory that will get you to that result. It is meant to feed into climate models to keep the data consistent. It is not meant to be used as a prediction to form other scientific work or policy.

But that is how they are being used. See here, here, here, here, here and here.

And here. And here. And here. I could go on…

The problem is that RCP 8.5 is being used as a ‘business as usual’ scenario with the force of a prediction. People are using it in scientific papers as if it were the worst case scenario with their sketchy numbers borrowed from previous work being treated as if it were the sober judgment of scientists working in 2014, as opposed to scenarios created back in 2000.

RCP 8.5 comes up with these assumptions to get them to their goal–not vice versa:

“RCP 8.5 – High emissions This RCP is consistent with a future with no policy changes to reduce emissions. It was developed by the International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Austria and is characterised by increasing greenhouse gas emissions that lead to high greenhouse gas concentrations over time. Comparable SRES scenario A1 F1 This future is consistent with:  Three times today’s CO2 emissions by 2100  Rapid increase in methane emissions  Increased use of croplands and grassland which is driven by an increase in population  A world population of 12 billion by 2100  Lower rate of technology development  Heavy reliance on fossil fuels  High energy intensity  No implementation of climate policies.”

Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? I don’t know. Is it a prediction of the future?

Hell no.

Therefore, there is a need to develop socioeconomic and climate impact scenarios that draw on the RCPs and associated climate change projections in the scenario process. Referencing the RCP and  climate  change projections has two potential benefits; they would facilitate comparison across research results in the CM, IAM, and IAV communities, and facilitate use of new climate modeling results in conjunction with IAV research.

“The parallel phase has several components. Within CMIP5, CM teams are using the RCPs as an input for model ensemble projections of future climate change. These projections will form the backbone of the IPCC’s Working Group I assessment of future climate change in the 5th Assessment Report (AR5).   The IAM community has begun exploring new socioeconomic scenarios and producing so-called RCP replications that study the range of socioeconomic scenarios leading to the various RCP radiative forcing levels. In the meantime, IAV analyses based on existing emission scenarios (SRES) and climate projections (CMIP3) continue.

“In the integration phase, consistent climate and socioeconomic scenarios will inform IAM and IAV studies.  For example, IAV researchers can use the new scenarios to project impacts, to explore the extent to which adaptation and mitigation could reduce projected impacts, and to estimate the costs of action and inaction. Also, mitigation researchers can use the global scenarios as “boundary conditions” to assess the cost and effectiveness of local mitigation measures, such as land-use planning in cities or changes in regional energy systems.

“These scenarios need to supply quantitative and qualitative narrative descriptions of potential socioeconomic and ecosystem reference conditions that underlie challenges to mitigation and adaptation. And they have to be flexible enough to provide a framework for comparison within which regional or local studies of adaptation and vulnerability could build their own narratives. The defining  socioeconomic conditions of these scenarios have been designated Shared Socioeconomic reference Pathways (SSPs).”

Source: A framework for a new generation of socioeconomic scenarios for climate change impact, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation research; Arnell, Kram, Carter et.al

Zombie Climate Scare Stories #37 and #38: Mass migration and Syrian Drought

And Then There’s Physics highlights a Guardian article titled “Mass Migration is no ‘crisis’: It’s the new normal as the climate changes.” The Guardian piece gets it badly wrong. ATTP, unusually, provides useful nuance and shows some honest thinking.

The Guardian writes, “There is only one problem with calling this phenomenon of migration a crisis, and that is that it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal.

There are lots of estimates as to what we can expect to see in the near future, but the best known (and controversial) figure comes from Professor Norman Myers, who argues that climate change could cause 200 million people to be displaced by 2050.”

And later in the piece, “So what do we do about climate migration? The first step is to change our perceptions. We need to process the fact that migration isn’t going to go away or be “solved”. In all likelihood, it will become more common; a new normal.”

ATTP has the grace to add a quote from Richard Seager, “We’re not saying drought caused the [Syrian conflict]. We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.” I would agree with that, with the proviso that the attribution of additional stress to climate change might be about 1%.

As I wrote in March of this year, there is no rising trend in drought. The IPCC acknowledges that and says that some areas may start to experience more frequent and more intense droughts in the future.

Syria’s drought is not exceptional. It has been exacerbated by the construction of dams in Turkey that hold water back from Syria and the doubling of the Syrian population in the past 25 years.

syrian desert

The refugees are fleeing a brutal civil war. Other nations in the region with other troubles, from Iraq to Lebanon, have managed to weather the weather without sending millions of people to other shores.

The reason I’m bringing this all to your attention is that ATTP asks some interesting questions in his post. I will provide my answers below his bullet points–I’m interested in yours.

ATTP writes, “In my view, there are a number of questions that this issue raises.”

  • If we’re viewing the current migration situation as a crisis, how are we going to cope if it’s further exaccerbated by climate change? Some studies suggest a significant increase in the number of people being displaced as a consequence of climate change.
  • Tom writes: The situation for two years after the Second World War was a migration crisis, with a far higher percentage of the world’s population in movement. The current situation is a problem, not a crisis. The number of refugees rose by 8.3 million last year, reaching 60 million, less than 1% of the world’s population. When the commissioner of the UNHCR held a press conference to lament this, he mentioned conflict and economics–not climate change. I believe a handful of people have claimed to be climate refugees–some of their claims were denied.
  • What does this situation imply with respect to some people’s arguments about adaptation? Some level of adaptation is clearly unavoidable, but there are some who argue that we can adapt to almost anything that will arise in the coming century, including that people can simply move if they need to. Well, this situation seems to suggest that people may well be able to move, but it’s not clear that they’re typically welcomed by those who live in the regions to which they’d like to move.
  • Tom writes: Tol & Yohe estimate that 0.23% of habitable land area is at risk from 50cm of sea level rise, so that is unlikely to cause mass migration. Drought and flooding have always caused temporary movement of people–it is likely to continue to do so. But most who flee one-off events, including large storms, return when the situation returns to normal. As for social acceptance, migrants have rarely been welcomed by native inhabitants anywhere at any time. In the U.S., people got to change the ‘I’ in NINA from Irish to Italian and leave the same signs in their shop windows. But they adapt.
  • What about the moral issue? Climate change is a global issue, but emissions are not equally distributed across the globe. Some regions emit much more than others. This, however, does not mean that those regions are more likely to suffer the consequences of climate change. If anything, there is evidence to suggest that some regions that will suffer most, are regions that have emitted least.
  • Tom writes: This is why addressing poverty, food security, access to clean water and above all access to reliable energy is so important. In addition, assisting economic development is the best reparations the developed world can offer to poorer countries that may have to deal with an unequal impact of climate change. Resilience first.
  • What does this imply with respect to a carbon tax? I’m all in favour of a carbon tax and it does appear to be an option that is favoured by many. A carbon tax, however, is not introduced to explicitly reduce emissions; it is simply intended to properly price carbon emissions. The idea is that it includes all the costs, including externalities. Hence if there is some cheaper alternative, that will probably be adopted. If not, we’ll simply continue to pay for our emissions. However, this still seems to imply that wealthy regions could be choosing to pay for emissions that will negatively impact other regions that are insufficiently wealthy to cope with the consequences.
  • Tom writes: I also am in favor of a carbon tax. Its primary advantage is that it allows us to treat the emissions problem as settled and move on to the rest of the developmental agenda. The rich world should move first on reducing emissions, primarily by cleaning up electricity generation. The faster we help the poorer countries to improve their standard of living, the faster they will commit their own resources to improving the environment and combating climate change.

If warming this century comes in at 2C, as I think, normal technological innovation and economic growth will provide us with the tools the world needs to not only protect those most vulnerable to climate change, but also to remedy the non-climatic causes that have driven 60 million people from their homes.

That’s business as usual.

So close… and yet so far

Okay which song is the title of this post from. Can you sing it? Hint–it isn’t the title.

I remember the John D. and Catherine MacArthur foundation from the days that they were always sponsoring programs on PBS. (I told you I was a lefty–now do you believe me?) They’re also the folks who dole out the famous Genius Grants. I keep hoping…

They announced last week that they were narrowing their focus, henceforth to concentrate on climate change and the criminal justice system, two sectors that may in future be more closely related than you might expect, given what the Konsensus would like to do to skeptics.

They’re in the news today again. The headline in Crain’s Chicago Business reads “MacArthur Foundation Doles Out $50 Million Towards Climate Change.

Finally! Someone putting their money where everybody else’s mouth is. Are they going to buy solar panels? Wind turbines? A salt cavern for compressed air storage? A couple of run of the river mini hydro set-ups? Yay! Real progress!


The Environmental Defense Fund and the Nature Conservancy: $20 million in general operating support, including for their efforts to engage a cross-section of political and other constituencies and form coalitions

ClimateWorks Foundation: $3 million in general operating support, including for its efforts to mobilize philanthropy to prevent global climate change

Energy Foundation: $3 million in general operating support, including for its efforts to help develop an energy-efficient future and open markets for clean energy technology

Natural Resources Defense Council: $3 million in general operating support

Environmental Law and Policy Center: $1.5 million in general operating support, including for its public interest advocacy in legal and regulatory proceedings

Sierra Club: $15 million for the Beyond Coal campaign, which works to move the U.S. toward low-carbon and clean energy sources

EcoAmerica: $3 million for the MomentUs campaign to grow public support for climate action

Carbon Disclosure Project: $340,000 to accelerate implementation of effective carbon pricing

So, out of $50 million, not a penny goes towards reducing emissions or increasing energy efficiency. Not a penny goes towards getting air pollution out of the lungs of Indian women. Not a penny towards cleaner coal or phasing coal out in favor of natural gas or nuclear power.

All of it goes to help other environmental organizations pay their administrative bills or on marketing campaigns to remind us of how devastatingly horrible climate change will be and how we must do something–anything–to ward it off.

So close and yet so far. (Got that song title yet?)

To be honest, this is probably a smart decision–if the MacArthur Foundation is just getting involved in climate change, offering support to other organizations with more chops and a clear strategy is not a bad idea.

It just smells bad.

There’s a lot of English TV programs that would do well on public television. Just sayin’.

Citi Says Climate Change to Cost $44 Trillion through 2060

Citigroup has just issued a report from their Alternative Energy and Cleantech Research Unit, saying that “The central case we have in the report is that the costs in terms of lost (gross domestic product) GDP from not acting on climate change can be $44 trillion dollars by the time we get to 2060.” The report can be found here.

Having looked through the report, I can only say that if Citigroup uses the same logic for all their business decisions, you should not buy their stock. I just would also like to add that they don’t mention they’ve invested $100 billion in financing their solution to this $44 trillion problem.

Nonetheless, the report says that if we don’t adopt the green solution that they want to finance, the world  will spend $1.8 trillion more on fuel and capital expenditures than we would if we go green. Which is interesting, given that most sources say green energy is more capital intensive than fossil fuels. (I strongly support adoption of renewable energy, but that’s despite the higher capital costs, not because of it.)

But $1.8 trillion is nowhere near close to $44 trillion. Wherein lies the difference?

Well, they say that damages due to climate change of 2.5C will be $44 trillion. If calculated at a 0% discount rate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes that temperatures will rise by between 0.3C and 0.7C by 2035. I guess the period between 2035 and 2060 will be… dramatic.

As for the zero discount rate, that is just… crazy. Nicholas Stern was heavily criticized by economists the world over for using a discount rate as low as 1.4%. Typically, the discount rate for exercises such as this is 5%.

Looking around me in 2015, I do not see evidence of $1 trillion in losses to global GDP caused by climate change. Looking around me I don’t see anyone even claiming such a thing. We are not housing millions of climate refugees. The millions of refugees we see are fleeing conflict and poverty. The head of the UNHCR gave an impassioned speech asking for help with refugees. He mentioned conflict and poverty–not one word about climate change.

I do not see evidence of $1 trillion in losses to GDP this year from storms, floods or drought. I just sat through the strongest typhoon of the year in Taipei. Damage was slight, as was loss of life. It was not considered anything more than slightly unusual. Hurricane frequency and intensity are down. Floods and drought are occurring at normal historical levels.

Well, maybe next year we’ll have $2 trillion in damages?

Citigroup lost 90% of their share value due to poor decisions. They’ve gone through more CEOs than a bad baseball team goes through pitchers. They have lost billions for their investors, been subject to billions in fines for regulatory infractions. They have laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for drug traffickers.

Sounds like the right people to be telling us how horrible climate change is going to be and how using their special green finance vehicles is just the right thing to save us.


Mainstream Science Specifically…Denies… Climate Catastrophe

Far, far away from the serious scientists who are trying to understand our climate, there is a clique of Klimate Katastrophists who are trying to make us believe that human-caused climate change will bring about disaster.

Since about 1988 they have variously said that human caused climate change would cause a runaway climate, where positive feedbacks dominate our complex climate system and spiral us into a Deathworld of ever higher temperatures.

They have said that the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets would succumb to warming and disappear.

They have said that the permafrost in northern latitudes would warm up enough to release gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, warming us further.

Similarly, they have said that methane clathrates under the ocean would release their gas into the atmosphere, also contributing to warming.

They have claimed that both tropical and boreal forests were subject to extinction due to warming temperatures and changing patterns of precipitation.

The Katastrophists have claimed that the Arctic would be ice free in the summers, although their first predictions of such an event have already proven mistaken. Didn’t matter. They just changed the dates on the event and continued to trumpet the catastrophe.

They have said that droughts would be longer, hotter and more intense. Indeed they have said this has already happened.

And they have said that the monsoon cycle would change dramatically, disrupting Asian agriculture and the lives of millions.

While the Katastrophists were busy gnashing their teeth and wailing, real, actual scientists were actually studying these phenomena.

The findings of their studies are published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Here they are:

IPCC unlikelihood

Human contributions to climate change are real. They quite possibly will pose a problem for our children and their children–a real and serious, but not overwhelming problem.

Those who shout catastrophe from the rooftops are denying science.

Crusade to Climate Jerusalem

Although this post will focus on some of the things climate activists say, I don’t want anyone to imagine that it would be difficult to find similar statements from their opponents, the climate skeptics. I am focusing on climate activists because their tribe has immense influence in the media, the halls of power and on funding decisions for science. Because of this they should be held to a higher standard than their opponents.

Climate activists (whom I often label as members of a Konsensus, not to be confused with a very real if very narrow consensus on climate science) have not been temperate with their remarks. Their published statements show a complete willingness to abandon standards of fair play, ethics–even common decency.

They don’t just want to win the climate war–they want to crush their opponents. Or kill them. Or kill their children. Those two links are just what I ran across today.

Their anger is out of proportion to a problem that their own economists characterize as something that will bring economic costs of 5% of global GDP. Do you kill people for that?

The IPCC estimates sea level rise this century to fall between 26 and 98 centimeters. Does that warrant a statement like this from Dave Roberts of Grist?

It’s about the climate-change “denial industry”, …we should have war crimes trials for these bastards – some sort of climate Nuremberg.

The IPCC projects that strong storms–cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons–may become less frequent but more intense in the medium term future, perhaps beginning around 2040. Does that justify a statement like this from James Hansen?

“CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”

The IPCC offers a range of potential rises in  temperature–from 1.5C to 4.5C. They don’t know where it will land. Computer models give a mid-range estimate of 3C. Observations suggest less than 2C. Does that normally give rise to statements like this one from self-styled climate scientist Michael Tobis?

“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.”

Or this:

“It would depend on the denier. Mad “Lord” Monkfish? Smack the silly twat upside the head until his eyes stopped popping out of his head. One of the Kochs? Shoot the fucker dead. Beating him to death with my hands would be more satisfying but pointless. Some random moron denier? Watch.”

Again, it would not be overly difficult to find incendiary language written by skeptics of climate change. But James Hansen is the former head of NASA GISS. Michael Tobis is a climate scientist.

Worse, these comments are not only common–they are pervasive. The level of vitriol and outright hatred displayed is not what you find on football blogs. It is more like flame forums on subjects like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or the ongoing U.S. debate on abortion.

And yet this is a problem, as well described by the IPCC. It is not a looming catastrophe. If the Greenland ice cap does melt it will be 3,000 years from now before it is halfway done. It will take longer for the Antarctic ice cap. And that’s if global temperatures don’t… pause. Or decrease.

The very real and potentially quite serious problem of global warming could be addressed temporarily in the short term by adoption of the policies advocated under the rubric of Fast Mitigation, which would reduce forcings by 0.5C this century. This would give us time to address longer term issues with our fuel portfolio, allow development of the poorer countries on this planet and give technology time to come up with energy storage for renewables, higher efficiencies for solar panels and wind turbines and perhaps find a way to harness the power of the oceans.

We don’t need a shooting war.

7,764,300 People Vote Climate Change Off The Island

My World is a United Nations global survey for citizens. Working with partners, we aim to capture people’s voices, priorities and views, so world leaders can be informed as they begin the process of defining the next set of global goals to end poverty.”

As of  August 16 they had received 7,764,300 responses to a survey measuring priorities–what was important to people and what they hoped their government, NGOs and multinational institutions would help achieve.

The top three were ‘better education’, ‘better healthcare’ and ‘better job opportunities.’

Last on the list was ‘action taken on climate change’. (Click on image to embiggen)

Peoples voice

People care about the environment–ranking far higher than action on climate change were ‘access to clean water and sanitation’ and ‘protecting forests, rivers and oceans.’ But diverting resources away from other urgent needs to deal with climate change? Last.

You can say they are deniers, joining President Barack Obama in a category invented by Konsensus Kooks and intended to stifle conversation, not to mention debate.

You can say that they don’t know what they are talking about, although it would be hard to argue with the items they placed above climate change.

Or you could say that a problem that may threaten their grandchildren will not be salient to much of the world if parents don’t have children who survive to adulthood, or cannot find a job or have their ancestral forest bulldozed for palm trees used for biofuels.

Or you could say that an over-educated and over-worried elite with too much time on their hands and not enough in the way of real world problems to deal with are charging towards Climate Jerusalem to hammer away at what is most likely a modest problem with every weapon they have available, weapons that are more sorely needed to attack malnutrition, poverty and lack of access to clean water.

But as these ‘leaders’ race away into the Parisian sunset, one wonders if they will ever look behind them and notice that nobody is following.

Farming and Climate Change

Well, another day, another climate-related future problem. This time it’s agriculture, which according to CBS News will suffer ‘shocks’ more frequently due to climate change.

They write, “The chances of food shortages and extreme price hikes could triple by 2040 due to increasing extreme and erratic weather brought about by climate change, according to task force of British and American experts.

According to the new report from the Global Food Security program, the risk of a “production shock” is set to go from an event that has happened once a century to one that happens every 30 years mostly due to the impacts to farmers from floods and droughts.

If there are more frequent storms, more frequent droughts and more frequent floods, it will certainly ‘shock’ the agricultural world.

But will it matter by then? If yields are adequate we will store the surplus for just such occurrences, as we do now in the developed world.

In previous discussions regarding farming and climate change, much of the focus has been on a flattening of the curve of increased productivity in agriculture, which rose dramatically starting in the 60s following Borlaug’s Green Revolution.

And the dramatic increases in yields have leveled off to match population growth–no more, no less. Which may be more of a market signal than a failure of innovation or technology.

agricultural productivity

What actually is more important is total factor productivity in the agricultural sector. We don’t really need more technology or more innovation to take care of the current population–and I would argue, not even to prepare for the increase in population.

Farmers throughout the developing world are less productive than in the richer countries. Dramatically so. Hayami’s seminal paper in the 70s said the productivity of an Indian farmer was 5% that of an American farmer. The same is true in many parts of the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to parts of China to parts of Latin America. If those developing countries were as productive as European or American farms, we would have more than enough food for today and tomorrow as well.

sub saharan africa agricultural productivity

We would have enough to deal with the shocks of climate change–globalization would allow us to send food to wherever it’s needed, if our farms are unaffected, or to import it if we suffer from drought or flood.

Education, investment in tools, good conservation and environmental care–if we can bring those to bear we don’t need to worry about climate change, whether it’s two or three or even four degrees.

It’s not just true for agriculture.


Michael Mann, Bill Maher and Mark Steyn: Public Figures All

Michael Mann is a public figure worthy of prominent mention in Wikipedia: “Michael E. Mann (born 1965) is an American climatologist and geophysicist,[1] currently director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University,”

As co-author of MBH 1998 (with numerous sequels), he has come in for his fair share of criticism regarding that paper and his subsequent efforts to defend it. He will probably always be associated with the Hockey Stick Chart that was frequently and prominently featured by the IPCC as an icon of human caused global warming.

Some of that criticism has come from me. I think the blade of his hockey stick is accurate, but that the shaft representing historical temperatures as flat is artificially manufactured by wrong choices he made during analysis. I don’t think he’s a fraud and I don’t think the Hockey Stick Chart is fraudulent. I do think he has defended his hockey stick long after learning that many of the criticisms leveled at it were accurate. That may be natural, but it isn’t science.

Bill Maher is a vociferous advocate of early and urgent action to stabilize the Earth’s climate. He is also an advocate of positions on vaccines and GMOs that are a-scientific, if not anti-scientific. He’s an acerbic comic who used to be quite funny–now he’s a political spokesman for that part of the left that I don’t really like to be associated with, although I am probably further to the left than he.

Bill Maher trapped Michael Mann in Mann’s recent appearance on Maher’s show, pushing him to pronounce ‘the science settled.’ At first,  Mann wouldn’t say it. He said “You don’t have to ask me,” before rattling off the names of several science organizations that have pronounced on the state of climate science.

But Maher wouldn’t let go. “Yeah, but they’re not on this show. C’mon–the science is settled, right? I mean it’s super-settled.” And Mann succumbed, saying yes it was. See it here:

So now we have a prominent climate scientist saying on television that the science is settled. For years, climate activists have maintained that scientists didn’t say the science was settled, that only a few untrained and over-enthusiastic advocates would say something so unscientific, people like Al Gore or Bill McKibben. Scientists know better, right?

Being a public figure is dangerous and requires training. Being a public figure in the spotlight on prime time television is even deadlier.

Michael Mann is suing Mark Steyn for repeating and amplifying Rand Simberg’s statement that Mann’s Hockey Stick Chart is fraudulent. In an interesting twist, Mann is accusing Steyn of calling him a fraud, quite different from calling his work product fraudulent.

Mark Steyn is an acerbic humorist writing conservative columns (and delightful anecdotes about pop music from previous decades). He doesn’t get on TV, but otherwise fills much the same ecological niche on the right that Maher does on the left. One crucial difference is that Steyn is still funny.

If the law is still the law, Steyn will win the lawsuit filed against him. Michael Mann is a public figure, Steyn’s comment is clearly opinion and there is a body of evidence that supports his characterization of Mann’s Hockey Stick Chart.

But the reason I’m writing this is to show how easy it is for professionals to use and abuse a scientist. No matter how much Mann may have asked to be in the limelight, both Maher on the left and Steyn on the right have used Mann to score points in a wider ideological struggle. Mann lost to Maher’s need for an emphatic headline that does violence to science. (Scientists don’t use phrases like ‘the science is settled.’) Mann will lose to Steyn’s need for an easy target for ditto-heads. They’re all public figures–but Maher and Steyn are professional public figures. Mann is an amateur.

Bill Maher can’t be taken seriously. He is almost a cartoon character of everything I don’t like about my own Left. Anti vaccine? Anti GMO? C’mon.

Mark Steyn can’t be taken seriously. He writes about the fall of America and Hillary’s plot in Benghazi. I mean, c’mon. He guest hosts on Rush Limbaugh and has chosen to target that audience.

Both Maher and Steyn could have done better, could have done more. They settled.

They are all public figures in American public discourse. I am at a loss as to why that is true. The American public loses by this type of political celebrity. I love Jonathan Stewart and Steve Colbert, but they’re part of the problem.  (I think they know it and agree, which IMO is why they’ve both moved on.)  So was Mort Sahl back in the day. In small doses I like to watch Bill O’Reilly–but he’s just the flip side of the coin. I used to love to watch William F. Buckley on the other side of the fence. He was part of the problem too.

As for Mann, when I was younger I could learn about science and learn to love science watching, listening and reading Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Jay Gould and a host of sci-fi writers. Mann, and James Hansen for that matter, are a step down from that.

Maher and Steyn and Michael Mann-they all chose their position, their schtick, their audience instead of using their talents to shine a light on the real world.

I don’t think I want to be famous. (I don’t think I have to worry much about it…) That comforts me.