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The Sensitivity We Can Measure

40,000 people are in Paris right now trying to decide the world’s course of action on human-caused climate change.

Their problem is that none of us knows what climate change will do to us. We don’t know the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2, which renders all the carbon budgets, RCPs, etc., irrelevant. We don’t really know how much CO2 we will put into the atmosphere, as we don’t know what fuel portfolio choices will be made going forward. To this extent, the alarmist mantra ‘we are not predicting the future, we are deciding it’ has some validity.

But referencing a global average temperature target, the 2C that was picked solely because of a convenient reference point (William Nordhaus famously said that that was the top range of previous temperatures in modern human existence) is fraught. Despite predictions to the contrary, we don’t know when we will reach this target (although I think we will by the end of this century) and more importantly we don’t know what the impacts will be on our planet and our way of life.

I’m not the first to try and change our focus and I hope I won’t be the last. It seems clear that the sensitivity we should be looking at and measuring is society’s sensitivity to changes. How well and how quickly we cope with large scale changes has the benefit of having past examples to work from and the availability of much more concrete data. We don’t have to look at climate change alone to estimate its impact.

In yesterday’s post I quipped that the climate future some predict for 2C temperature rise would resemble the world as it stood in the 1940s. There’s an element of truth to that and it provides an example of how society reacts to large scale changes. Huge numbers of people were refugees, cities had been destroyed, 60 million people had lost their lives–and those were just the headline changes. But it only took about a decade to recover from 90% of the problems caused and another decade for the remaining 10%. The U.N, the Marshall Plan and the heroic efforts of those living in affected countries effectively erased all traces of the convulsive conflict in less than a generation.


Examining the world’s uneven but dramatic recovery from WWII would help give us an idea of how we could adapt to climate change’s impacts. So could closer examination of other events, such as the Spanish Flu of 1918, the HIV crisis, WWI, the Great Depression and on as far back as we like.

We could observe the broad reaction to change and also observe the differences in how individual cultures reacted. These could help create pathways for preparing for impacts of climate change. Some societies seem brittle and unable to withstand certain types of impact–think the Mayan’s collapse due to climate change. Others seem fairly robust, while others are uneven in their adaptability, doing well for crises A, B and C, while struggling with crisis D.

Two things are certain–there is more data to examine in the past than the future and historical data is more robust than paleoclimate proxies.

Given my personal Lukewarm view that temperature rises pose a serious but not existential challenge to the planet, climate change seems to me to offer a golden opportunity to learn from a broader past. Some of our best and brightest have focused their intellectual energies on the world’s history–including some climatologists such as Hubert Lamb. Many historians, from Edward Gibbons to Jared Diamond have looked closely at the failure of societies from Rome to Mexico and their insights are freely available. Some, such as Norman Davies and Ian Morris, range widely across cultures and include climate’s influence on great events.

It goes without saying that this line of examination is more congenial to those of us who are convinced that a focus on global warming has become context-free. Both skeptics and lukewarmers continually bring up the point that monomania in a complex world may be okay for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but less than appropriate when evaluating a global course of action on  a globe with many problems. So my approach is ‘politically’ convenient for those of us arrayed against the consensus view on climate change. But I submit it is also relevant and likely to prove useful.

We have history laid out before us. Let’s use it.


What Could Be Worse Than Climate Change?

Let’s (just for a minute) say we accept the prognosis of the saner activists regarding the impacts of climate change through 2100. So let’s say that sea level rise will be between 26 and 98 cm. Let’s say that 0.23% of currently inhabited land is lost to this happening. Let’s say that global average temperatures will rise by 3C. Let’s imagine that drought-prone lands get more droughts and flood plains get more floods. Let’s take as a given that even if storms are not more frequent they get more intense. Let’s say that conflicts increase and that we must deal with tens of millions of climate refugees. Let’s say that the economic cost is 5% of GDP and that lives are disrupted around the planet.

We could just say ‘welcome to the 40s and 50s’, a period in the 20th Century that saw similar numbers of conflicts, refugees, economic turmoil, disease and poverty. But that’s a bit too easy.

What could be worse that what is outlined above? I would argue that the case is surprisingly easy to make. For billions in the developing world, their present is worse than the scenario depicted above.


The present today is worse than the future predicted  due to climate change for all too many. We pray that development will be as good for them as it was for so many of us, precisely because their present day condition is so miserable. If our prayers are answered they will have the resources to join us in whatever needs to be done to address climate change long before its impacts reach the levels described above.

The millions who have left Syria would perhaps smile if you told them that conflicts would get worse due to climate change, that the number of refugees would increase. What they see today is worse than forecast for climate change. There are 60 million refugees today, none of them due to climate change. Surely they suffer as much or more than will refugees of a richer future?

Those living at the water’s edge in the Philippines, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh are playing a seasonal lottery today with storms and storm surge. Those who die each year don’t care what tomorrow’s climate will bring.

Climate change may disrupt agriculture in many parts of the world–but don’t tell the 3.1 million children who die due to hunger every year now. Malaria may spread due to changing climate conditions–but that’s not at all important to the 438,000 who died from malaria last year. The same is true for the 374,000 who died from flooding between 1999 and 2009 and those who have died since.

If we address the needs of those who are suffering today, they will help us address the needs of those who suffer tomorrow. We will learn better ways of dealing with things. If we do not address their needs while mitigating climate change, we are securing the future for ourselves and our descendants at their expense.

It’s not only about deciding whose lives we will try to save.

The Economist reports that the world urgently needs to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure just to address the huge gaps that are retarding development. Spending on that will provide an incredible bang for the buck in terms of improved productivity, better lives, etc. If we were to commit to doing that today, nobody would object to adding a margin on top of that trillion dollars to prepare for climate change. Call it ‘pre-adaptation.’

For a survivor of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, struggling to farm around the army’s depredations and the ongoing struggles with ethnic minorities, describing a world affected by climate change is likely to produce a ‘so what’ response. Asked to choose between the spending agendas put forward in Paris at COP 21 and something based on what I’ve written here, I think there’s little doubt what he or she would choose.

The standard response of the activist community is to say that we could address all of these problems and climate change besides, all at the same time. And certainly we could do more on all fronts.

But the fact is that experience of the past century-plus shows that we focus on the problem getting the most attention, the squeaky wheel. For now, that squeaky wheel is climate change and it has led to horrible damages to the developing world–forests cut down for palm oil plantations, villages forcibly evacuated for other biofuel farms, corn used as fuel instead of food, the refusal of development funds for power plants based on their fuel and more.

The developing world is being harmed today so that we can say we are addressing climate change.

What could be worse than climate change? Ignoring the needs of the developing world while we smugly pat ourselves on the back for making our children (not those of the developing world) safer at the end of the century.

Is Global Warming Killing People Today?

Update: I continued this post after finding a bit more information.

Average temperatures are 1C higher than in 1880 and sea levels are about 9 inches higher. Is that killing people today? Are other impacts of global warming proving fatal to people around the world?

There have been several recent reports out that give very different answers. Bad weather, drought, floods, heatwaves and cold snaps have killed people for as long as there have been people. There are more people today than previously and many of them live in areas heavily affected by weather-related disasters. Our ability to get information about these disasters is vastly improved, pushing up the number of disasters we can evaluate. And technology and infrastructure in the developed world has improved dramatically, lowering the number of deaths due to weather. It’s not an easy issue to resolve.

This story at HGN leads off with, “The data revealed 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events caused major damage to different regions of the world over the past two decades, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reductions reported. The United States was hit the hardest with 472 natural disasters, followed by China, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The researchers estimated natural disasters cost the U.S. between $250 billion and $300 billion annually. Since the first Climate Change Conference in 1995, 606,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured.”

That’s 30,300 fatalities a year on average. The story claims that half of those deaths have occurred in Asia, despite the U.S. experiencing the largest number of disasters. The death toll in Asia included 138,000 deaths caused by Cyclone Nargis which struck Myanmar in 2008, according to the report linked to in HGN’s story. 164,000 fatalities are attributed to ‘extreme weather,’ and 148,000 of those are attributed to heatwaves.

The linked report says that the number of ‘events’ has doubled since a previous reporting period of 1985, writing “In total, an average of 335 weather-related disasters were recorded per year between 2005 and 2014, an increase of 14% from 1995-2004, and almost twice the level recorded during 1985-1995.”

“Average death rates, on the other hand, increased during the same 20-year period, climbing to more than 34,000 deaths per year between 2005 and 2014, up from an average of 26,000 deaths in 1995-2004. This average was pushed higher by the massive toll from Cyclone Nargis, which claimed 138,000 lives in Myanmar in 2008. Excluding this one megadisaster, average death rates fell to 20,000 a year during 2005-2014. Preliminary data for 2015 show this decline continued, with around 7,200 deaths from weather-related disasters.”

We know from flood records that the number of some events is increasing because of better reporting, not necessarily because of more events–but we don’t know how much is due to better news coverage. Certainly some of it may be due to more events or stronger events. But we’ll have to look elsewhere for answers.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser say “On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure.” But if better technology and infrastructure are reducing fatalities where it exists, that doesn’t mean that global warming isn’t killing people where the technology and infrastructure is not in place. A huge overall decline in weather-related fatalities has taken place–but that doesn’t mean that current global warming is not exacting a toll. This is perhaps easiest to note in drought records.

Globally, drought has not increased over the past century. However, the use of the term ‘global warming’ obscures the fact that parts of the globe are warming faster than others and that the impact of drought may be severe in some places even if it doesn’t drive up the world average. Unlike floods, which are short-lived events subject to confused reporting and inaccurate statistics, droughts by definition last a long time and are confined to a region.

Climate change theory predicts that areas susceptible to drought will in fact experience longer and more severe droughts. And while we can take some comfort in the fact that recent droughts in Texas and California have not involved loss of life, especially in Africa the story is different. The UN report says, “Drought affects Africa more than any other continent, with EM-DAT recoding 136 events there between 1995 and 2015, including 77 droughts in East Africa alone.”

One key point: “While EM-DAT data also show that just 4% of weather-related disaster deaths were due to drought (Figure 6), this figure is rather misleading as it excludes indirect deaths from malnutrition, disease and displacement.” However, the indirect deaths, real as they are, would be difficult to attribute to climate change. So the 4%–24,240 human lives lost over a 20-year period–would be the ones we would examine as potentially affected by climate change.

Formal attribution to climate change is difficult and outside the scope of a quick blog post. But it seems clear that there is the potential to conduct such an attribution study. Someone like Indur Goklany or Richard Tol might undertake it.

Looking at what’s available now, I am left with the conclusion that current climate change might be contributing to fatalities from floods and drought, but how much is very open to question. Floods are the worst natural disaster in terms of loss of life, but they’re also probably the worst in terms of assigning some responsibility to climate change.

An example is the flooding of Pakistan in 2010. About 10,000 people lost their lives during the flood. However, a larger flood struck Pakistan in 1930 and one of equal strength in 1950 and another in 1961. The effects of the 2010 flood were severe–but that’s primarily because the population of Pakistan has grown rapidly, from 32.5 million at the time it gained independence in 1947 to 187 million today.

Therefore, if I were looking to understand the effects of current climate change on mortality due to weather-related disasters, I would focus on drought. Wish I had time to contribute more to our understanding of this.

Update: Google Image Search is a very useful tool. It led me to Indur Goklany’s previous writing on the subject via some charts on the web.

Here are global deaths per year from extreme weather events, both gross totals and per million:

Global deaths per year all weather disasters

Figure 2: Average Number of Extreme Weather Events per Year by Decade, 1900–2008.  Source: Goklany (2009), based on EM-DAT (2009). – See more at:

Here are drought-related mortality statistics:

Global deaths drought

Figure 3: Droughts: Global Deaths & Death Rates, 1900–2008. Source: Goklany (2009), based on EM-DAT (2009), McEvedy and Jones (1978), and WRI (2009). – See more at:

As Goklany writes (quoted from a post at Bishop Hill), “But on the other hand, and that stunned me, I found that the mortality from extreme weather events has decreased tremendously. In a disaster year like 1931 more than 3.5 million people died because of something that could be attributed to the weather or climate. However, the cumulative total death from all extreme weather events since 2000 is less than half a million. In 2013 it was only 30 thousand. And that while the population has increased from two to seven billion people, in the 30’s 241 people per million people worldwide died because climatic, meteorological and hydrological disasters; in the first decade of this century this declined to five people per million. The chances now that you die because of drought, storms, heat or floods have declined to only one-fiftieth compared to eighty years ago.”

This would seem to show that whatever climate change has done, it pales compared to the improvements societies have made in alleviating the worst effects of drought, whether exacerbated by climate change or not.

Judith Curry, Climate Change’s Rorschach Test

Note: I have banned ATTP from commenting at this blog, as he has banned me from his. As I write critically of his post here, he is welcome to respond in the comments should he choose to do so.

Not being a scientist, I am not able to judge Judith Curry’s contribution to the field of climate science. She has published over 200 papers and was former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, so somebody must think she is good at her job.

Judith Curry

But I am capable of offering an opinion on her impact on the public discussion on climate change. Her impact has been considerable and to me seems largely beneficial. I have written before that just her engaging with skeptics has to a large extent defused elements of the debate, persuading skeptics to put down their pitchforks and pick up their pens. Sadly, it has had much the opposite effect on climate activists.

So when David Rose published an article in the UK’s Spectator on her, it seemed obvious to me that it would get quite a bit of attention. The article is reproduced on Judith’s weblog, which has gotten quite a few comments so far.

I feel like I have been defending Judith (who very clearly doesn’t need any help from me) since Michael Tobis carried out a (typical for him) hatchet job on her at his blog, an attack which he later admitted was political in nature. It couldn’t have been scientific, as he also admitted he hadn’t read any of her papers. Michael Tobis and I have been barely on speaking terms since then. In the meantime I awarded Judith my coveted (/sarc off) Blogger of the Year Award for 2014, joining Steve McIntyre and Gavin Schmidt as previous winners. I am a big fan of Curry’s, although I don’t agree with her on everything. (For example, like ATTP I am saddened that Curry has chosen to support Lamar Smith’s demand for emails from scientists at NOAA–I think she got it wrong on that one.)

Rose’s piece is close to hagiographic, but is also accurate. He writes, “Some consider her a heretic. According to Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, a vociferous advocate of extreme measures to prevent a climatic Armageddon, she is ‘anti-science’. Curry isn’t fazed by the slur.

‘It’s unfortunate, but he calls anyone who doesn’t agree with him a denier,’ she tells me. ‘Inside the climate community there are a lot of people who don’t like what I’m doing. On the other hand, there is also a large, silent group who do like it.”

As if to prove Rose right, And Then There’s Physics was up within hours with a blazing critique (okay, another hatchet-job) on Curry, where he wrote, “So, as far as I can tell, Judith Curry gets criticised because she says things that – for a senior scientist who has a record that is apparently second to none – are embarassingly wrong. She also appears to have ejected herself from a tribe that only exists in her imagination.”

The title of his post is ‘There is no Tribe,’ which will seem ludicrous to those who have been participating in the discussion of climate issues for years. There are at least two tribes (and I’m agitating for recognition of a third, the lukewarmers, although I promise we will adopt a politically correct mascot if it ever happens), both largely created by the activist community supporting drastic action to combat the impacts of climate change.

They defined the criteria for inclusion in their own tribe, and then created another tribe called ‘deniers’ and tried to shove everyone who didn’t agree with them into it.

And Then There’s Physics was an active part of creating both tribes. On a previous blog he obsessively followed Anthony Watts’ blog, Watts Up With That, slamming Watts at every opportunity, and creating opportunities when he couldn’t find one in anything Watts wrote. And he, like Michael Tobis, has been clear that Judith Curry should be shunned by members of his tribe, slammed whenever possible–even worse than slamming Watts. And that is clearly because Judith has the scientific credentials to present a threat to his tribe while Watts is ‘merely’ a meteorologist turned blogger.

Curry quite openly started her blogging career as an effort to ‘build bridges’ between her side–the climate consensus–and the skeptics in the world. She is a scientist who supported the consensus view for decades–and largely still does. However, it is also clear that improved communications with those outside the consensus brought her into contact with information about sloppy processes and inadequate procedures by some climate scientists, and more importantly exposed her to the media tactics of what I call the Konsensus, the NGOs, complaisant media and rabid bloggers who are only to willing to slime to make a point.

As is clear from both Rose’s article and ATTP’s response, Judith Curry today has become a Rorschach test on climate issues. You can gauge someone’s opinion on climate science based on their opinion of Curry. And you can predict someone’s opinion of Curry based on which climate tribe they belong to.


Anthropomorphic Global Warming and The Merchants of Doom

Well, commenter hunter supplied me with the catch-phrase ‘Anthropomorphic Global Warming’, which to me means that for the activist community global warming is really a projection of all human failings onto the temperature record. And commenter Almost Iowa came up with ‘Merchants of Doom’, an appropriate response to Erik Conway’s and Naomi Oreskes’ ‘Merchants of Doubt.’

At some level it is clear that for many activists ‘Catastrophic Global Warming’ doesn’t really have much to do with climate change at all. It has long been noted that many of their concerns about climate change’s impacts on our planet were simply transferred from concerns about population growth and environmental issues.

It’s a little facile to say they just don’t like people, but it’s clear that when the same impacts predicted for global cooling in the 70s are now given as impacts for global warming, projection and transference are legitimate topics of conversation. When they trumpet the coming catastrophe for decades in every newspaper in the land and then accuse skeptics of calling them catastrophists, there is a disconnect from reality.

This disconnect is amplified by environmental NGOs, many of which receive large contributions from fossil fuel companies, and are stimulated by bogus reports of things like ‘300,000 deaths from climate change every year’, a paper published under the name of Kofi Annan.

These organizations are Merchants of Doom. They claim that Pacific islands are disappearing, when in fact they are growing in size. They point to receding glaciers (many of which started receding long before humans contributed CO2 to the atmosphere) and ignore the many glaciers that are growing.

merchants of doom

These Merchants of Doom produce videos like the No Pressure monstrosity:

They tell skeptics “We know where you live and we be many while you be few.” They tell us that polar bears are going extinct when in fact their numbers are growing. They tell us that global warming will cause malaria to spread across the world when in fact the number of countries affected by it is decreasing.

As just one example, I want to turn back for a minute to talk about Kofi Annan’s widely repeated claim that 300,000 deaths per year are due to climate change. His team writes, “An estimated 325 million people are seriously affected by climate change every year. This estimate is derived by attributing a 40 percent proportion of the increase in the number of weather-related disasters from 1980 to current to climate change and a 4 percent proportion of the total seriously affected by environmental degradation based on negative health outcomes.”

Considering that there has been no increase in either the frequency or intensity of hurricanes or cyclones, tornadoes or drought–considering that deaths from extreme weather have dropped 98%–considering that rapid population increase in areas long hit by severe weather has put many more in harm’s way–considering that the World Health Organization puts the same figure at 150,000–that seems to be a blanket statement using a finger in the air, not anything scientific.

Annan’s report contines: “The 40 percent proportion is based on an analysis of data provided by Munich Re on the past trend of weather-related disasters, as compared to geophysical (i.e. non climate change related) disasters over time.5 It compares well to a 2009 scientific estimate of the attribution of climate change to droughts.11 It is assumed that the 40 percent increase due to climate change based on frequency of disasters can be applied as an approximation for the number of people seriously affected and deaths. The 4 percent proportion is based on a study by WHO4 which looks at health outcomes from gradual environmental degradation due to climate change.12 Application of this proportion projects that more than 300,000 die due to climate change every year—roughly equivalent to having an Indian Ocean tsunami annually.13 The number of deaths from weather-related disasters and gradual environmental degradation due to climate change — about 315,000 deaths per year — is based on a similar calculation, (i.e. an attribution of 40 percent from weather-related disasters that translates into 40 percent of the death burden from weather disasters due to climate change and 4 percent of current death burden from disease14).”

But the WMO reports ” Weather, climate and water-related disasters are on the rise worldwide, causing loss of life and setting back economic and social development by years, if not decades. From 1970 to 2012, 8,835 disasters, 1.94 million deaths, and US$ 2.4 trillion of economic losses were reported globally as a result of hazards such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, tropical cyclones and related health epidemics, according to a new report.”

That averages to 46,190 deaths a year, many from cold weather. Even if you were to assume that 40% of the deaths were due to the 0.8C rise in temperatures or the nine inches of sea level rise since 1945, that’s still quite a bit less than either Kofi Annan or the WHO project. It would be 18,476, including 40% of those who froze to death.

Merchants of Doom? Yep. Make stuff up to scare people.

But Anthropomorphic Global Warming and the Merchants of Doom? Get Harrison Ford on the line–I have a project for him…



Climate Catastrophism: Scientists vs. Activists

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, I notice that there appears to be a difference between what scientists say about the impacts of climate change and what activists, bloggers and NGOs say.

Most of the cataclysmic Voice of Doom rants come from the self-proclaimed activists. As it’s eye-catching stuff to read about catastrophe, the media covers the activist proclamations eagerly, in the same way teenagers eat up horror movies.

Apart from scientists like Michael Mann and Michael Tobis, the scientific community is far more restrained. (Although once they’ve drunk the Kool-aide, those few scientists can be just as umm. unrestrained… as the activists. Tobis once wrote, “It is because the f***ing survival of the f***ing planet is at f***ing stake” in response to Steve Mosher trying to make peace with him. Michael Mann doesn’t swear as much but even so, “If we are going to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change impacts, we have to be ramping down our carbon emissions dramatically in the years ahead.”

More typically, scientists write in carefully couched language: “These impacts pose challenges to infrastructure, businesses, and communities, particularly in countries already struggling to meet the basic food, water, shelter, and security needs of their citizens.”

Now, this shouldn’t be very surprising. People become activists because they are very concerned about something. Otherwise, why be an activist?

And it’s been apparent for a long time. One of the first and biggest confabulations about climate change is that ‘97% of the scientists are convinced that climate change is real, that humans are the cause and that it poses a very real danger.’

Probably more than 97% of scientists are convinced that climate change is real (both in the broad sense and in the narrow instance of warming since 1945). And probably almost as many believe that humans have caused half or more of the warming since 1945–certainly Bart Verheggen’s survey found that 66% did.

But that last part–that it poses a very real danger–that comes straight from the activists, not science. Activists add that in on their own.

Prince Charles, who believes strongly in homeopathic medicine and has a butler give him his toothbrush pre-loaded with toothpaste every morning, believes that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is very real. He said, ““The best projections tell us that we have less than 100 months to alter our behaviour before we risk catastrophic climate change.” Not only do the best projections not say that, no projections at all say that.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is far more sanguine, writing about ’26 Key Risks’ that taken together do not spell catastrophe, but more an expensive pain in the butt for the developed world and a sad delay in development for poorer countries around the globe.

Look–I get that activists will say stupid things, and not just about climate change. They’re evidently predisposed by nature to worry excessively and perhaps that prevents them from taking a better perspective on things. For them, AGW perhaps really means ‘Anthropomorphic Global Warming’ (h/t to hunter for that one).

But the rest of us should be clear that catastrophe is not part of anthropogenic global warming. It is not predicted by science. It is invented by activists.

For me the real question is why do scientists let the activists get away with this? It doesn’t help science at all. It certainly doesn’t help guide policy. And when combined with the activists’ very real hatred for those opposing them, it contributes to the paralysis that they’re hoping to end in Paris next month.

1A - Prophets of Doom

Catastrophe is What They Sell

Over at Stoat, William Connolley has just discovered that some alarmists have labeled either global warming or climate change as ‘catastrophic.’ This upsets him, as he is one of many who maintained that ‘catastrophic’ is something that skeptics say that alarmists write, but that in fact it is only skeptics putting words in the mouths of sober scientists and politicians who would never exaggerate.

Connolley is referring to this open letter, which indeed does talk about preventing ‘catastrophic climate change.’ And it indeed is fairly silly, as Connolley rightly points out.

So, are skeptics falsely accusing alarmists of shouting fire in a crowded theater?

This open letter is not unusual, as Connolley surely knows. Many activists, alarmists and even more who should know better have been describing future climate change in apocalyptic terms for decades.

It’s in the academic literature: “On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change “(Weitzman 2009), “Catastrophic Events and Stochastic Cost-benefit Analysis of Climate Change“, (Azar et al, 2003), “Insurance Against Catastrophic Climate Change,” (Adams, 2007) are three examples found in seconds using Google Scholar. The search term ‘catastrophic climate change’ returned 190,000 results in the academic database.

When those papers are released into the wild, their authors make statements to the press. Like this:

“What would happen with that kind of temperature increase? No one knows exactly, but Wagner and Weitzman properly view the outcome as “near-certain disaster.” “‘Catastrophic’ no longer seems to do it justice,” they say.”

It’s in the IPCC reports: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out (Meehl et al., 2007).”

It’s pervasive in political speech. As the BBC reports, “The costs of inaction on climate change will be “catastrophic“, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. In a statement, Mr Kerry said: “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice.” Mark Carney, head of the Bank of England, says the “catastrophic impacts of climate change” — including floods and storms and financial costs of shifting to a low-carbon economy — will only be felt over a longer period than the three to ten year horizon used in the financial industry.”

It is very common in the messaging from environmental NGOs: “It’s nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising more rapidly than predicted and consequently the world is warming more quickly. Global warming will have catastrophic effects such as accelerating sea level rise, droughts, floods, storms and heat waves.” “We are already experiencing dangerous climate change…we need to act to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

A search for “catastrophic climate change” on Google returned 20,500,000 results. Much of it was from the media. Here are some representative examples:

Certainly the imagery associated with climate change is less than subdued. If you want to see catastrophe, look at Google Images:


30 Nov 2009, US President, Barack Obama. Adverts with heads of state placed all over Copenhagen International Airport by the global coalition, and Greenpeace calling on world leaders to secure a fair, ambitious and binding deal at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

30 Nov 2009, US President, Barack Obama. Adverts with heads of state placed all over Copenhagen International Airport by the global coalition, and Greenpeace calling on world leaders to secure a fair, ambitious and binding deal at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.




So I’m afraid William Connolley has been reading with blinders on for quite some time. Climate Catastrophe is what his team is selling. Even if they don’t want to admit it.



Catching the Climate Rabbit

For over a year now, climate activists have been publishing different prescriptions on how to avoid dangerous temperature rises. They now have carbon budgets to avoid going over 2C, they have an organization dedicated to keeping CO2 concentrations under 350 ppm and they have Representative Concentration Pathways that show some of what they think will happen as we increase our forcings. But they have entirely skipped over several key steps needed for their prescriptions to be credible.

They are like college kids trying to make rabbit stew for the first time. However, they have neglected the key step–first, catch the rabbit.

We don’t know if any carbon budget is accurate because we don’t know what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of CO2 concentrations.

These are ‘finger in the wind’ exercises based on the mid-point estimate of 3C sensitivity. But the range of sensitivity values is 1.5C to 4.5C and all of the estimates derived from recent studies indicate it is likely to be far closer to the lower end of that range than the mid-point.


For those busy making carbon budgets etc., it seems as though time stopped in 2009, six years ago.

It would be relatively easy to make carbon budgets on a sliding scale that would say, “If sensitivity is X then our carbon budget is Y.” The fact that nobody has done so clearly emphasizes the point that these are exercises in communication, not science.


In that, these carbon budgets resemble the 2C target and the 350 ppm goal. They are established not based on any scientific study but rather from a desire to draw a line in the sand. Which is understandable, right up to the point when science tells us that those lines in the sand were wrongly drawn and are incorrect.

There is nothing really wrong with rabbit stew without the rabbit. It just has a different name.

Vegetable stew

Paris COP 21: Burning Man for Climate Nerds

Just about every year, tens of thousands of people committed to changing the way we live get together to celebrate how they are different from the rest. Some spend significant sums of money getting there and staying there. The local government strains to support the endeavor, which has become an icon of more than one movement. Sometimes the national government has to lend a hand with policing, etc.

It’s kind of an experiment in a temporary community based on values.

And then there’s Burning Man.

Unlike the COP 21 in Paris which was the subject of my first paragraph, Burning Man is a for profit endeavor that is committed to leaving no trace of its having happened.


One is about having fun in an environment presented as a playful alternative to modern society. The other often seems determined to radically change the way we live.


COP 21 will have 40,000 attendees, carefully shepherded by 30,000 Parisian police. Burning Man hosted about 67,000 in 2014.

The government budget for COP 21 is 187 million Euros. On the other hand, the Burning Man event pays $4.5 million to the Bureau of Land Management to use the land where their party is held, and another million dollars in taxes and fees.

I know which one I’d rather attend.

Grist For The Mill

When an article starts like this… “When the apocalypse comes, it’ll be every man and woman for themselves” it might be a clue that alarmist tendencies may color what they write.

Grist used to mean grain that had been cleaned of its chaff and was ready for grinding. Now it apparently means words thrown on the internet that are ready for the electronic version of pulping.

The article that drew me to the site, which claims 2 million unique visitors a month, was a fairly unreadable rehash of a MIT paper postulating negative effects on agriculture and more importantly, found a way to hyperventilate on how trade will somehow make it even worse. But really, Grist is just a vehicle for regurgitating whatever scary stories are available about the environment, especially global warming.

Typical is this story titled “4 Reasons Why We Can And Must Fight Terrorism And Poverty Through Climate Action.” In it they state that “the poor suffer most from climate change.” Given that the most measurable impact we have seen from climate change is a greening of the planet that has contributed to an 11%-17% growth in agricultural yields, I beg to differ.

The story also adds that green energy will create tens of thousands of new jobs. Perhaps they don’t realize that labor is a cost of doing business and that those new jobs are one of the primary reasons green energy is more expensive than fossil fuels.

But really, the story doesn’t say anything about how climate action will reduce terrorism or poverty. It just says that we must do it and it will be good for us.

Typical also is this article railing against the possibility that BP will be able to deduct some of the $20 billion it has paid in penalties for the Deepwater spill from its tax bill. They quote a familiar name, Representative Raul Grijalva, he who wants to investigate Judith Curry and Roger Pielke for climate crimes, who disapproves of this, saying it is ‘gaming the tax system.’

So Representative Grijalva and Grist want businesses not to be able to deduct expenses? I think I’d like to see their tax returns…

I just wonder at the ability of such shoddily written, one-note alarmist scare stories to attract 2 million unique visitors a month. I wonder if those stats are current.

Given that Real Climate has apparently forgotten to pay their domain registration fee, it would appear that interest in the alarmist side of the climate war is fading. And given the number of alarmist blogs that have gone inactive over the past two years, one wonders if Real Climate will pony up the fee to continue. I’m not even sure we’ll be able to say ‘Well, we’ll always have Grist.’ The mills are waiting. (Of course you can always read my book…)

grist for the mill


Polar Bears, Antarctic Ice and The Silence of the Lambs

Tamsin Edwards is part of a team that has come out with a new paper on Antarctic ice and its probable destiny. If I understand it correctly, it attempts to forecast contributions to sea level rise from the Antarctic if our changing climate causes significant ‘instability’ in the ice sheet.

Its conclusions include a range of possible sea level rise (from this source only): “Here we project that the Antarctic ice sheet will contribute up to 30 cm sea-level equivalent by 2100 and 72 cm by 2200 (95% quantiles) where the ASE dominates. Our process-based, statistical approach gives skewed and complex probability distributions (single mode, 10 cm, at 2100; two modes, 49 cm and 6 cm, at 2200).” Tamsin writes in the Guardian that this instability will most likely contribute about 10 cm to sea level rise by the end of this century.

Because that’s not enough to alarm anyone, the paper has so far been greeted with a resounding silence in the alarmist corner of the climate blogosphere. Only William Connolley, the Miserabilist Mustelid, has blogged on it. As major media have featured stories on it (see the BBC piece here), the alarmist blogs have ignored it.

Both extremes in the climate debate have selective vision. But the alarmist side is a bit more comical about it–it’s as if they have to have a therapy session (maybe led by Stephan Lewandowsky) before they can agree on a response. In this they are like sheep, easily led to a single point of view which they then defend with all the resources they can muster.

However, perhaps their attention is on another story–the resurgence of the population of polar bears on the other end of the planet. Bishop Hill calls our attention to the story as given by scientist Susan Crockford. The population range is now given as between 20,129 and 32,558, with a mid-point of 26,344. Last time they checked it was 25,000.

Certainly the Guardian is interested enough to write a story.  Of course, their story isn’t about the recovery of the polar bear population. In fact, they don’t mention it (although they do give the new figure). The headline of their story is ‘Climate change is single biggest threat to polar bear survival.’

Which is not true. The single biggest threat to their survival is hunting.

If it is true that 2015 will see the hottest average temperature since 1850–if it is true that 14 of the warmest 15 years have happened this century–if it is true that the environment populated by polar bears is undergoing dramatic change due to temperature rises–then what are we to make of a significant rise in their population?

Perhaps we should consider the possibility that polar bears, smart as well as savage, have within their ursine minds the ability to adapt successfully to a changing climate, as they have done repeatedly in the past.

Perhaps we should wonder if the Guardian’s reporters are as adaptable as polar bears. They continue to write the same story regardless of changing facts on the ground.



Knee in the Curve or Calm Before the Storm?

Notwithstanding the efforts of scientists like Kevin Trenberth to make us believe otherwise, impacts of climate change to date are very difficult to discern. Although temperatures today average about 1C more than they did in 1850, it hasn’t changed the number or intensity of storms, droughts and probably not for floods. We are not inundated by either sea level rise or climate refugees. As temperatures have climbed, so have agricultural yields. However, the number and intensity of conflicts have gone way down.

A minor debate occurring now in the climate blogosphere is tangentially related to this. Roger Harrabin, writing in the BBC, quotes Richard Tol as saying “Most people would argue that slight warming is probably beneficial for human welfare on net, if you measure it in dollars, but more pronounced warming is probably a net negative.” In this, Tol is merely echoing the IPCC–or quoting himself, as he was a lead author for the IPCC’s section on the subject.

The question is when do the benefits of warmer climate begin to be outweighed by negative impacts? Harrabin and Tol go back and forth on this, and have gone back and forth since the story’s publication in the climate blogosphere.

As near as I can tell, what Tol is arguing is that a warming climate shows net benefits up to 1C temperature rise–what we have now. He believes that the negative impacts of climate change will clearly outweigh those positives when it gets to 2C temperature rise. This leaves a grey area between the two levels–and given the state of the science, that seems reasonable.

In fact it would be reasonable, given what temperatures have done since 1945 (when human contributions of CO2 are held to have begun on a large scale) that there will be periods of time between the realization of 1C and before we hit 2C that will be benign, and periods of time that will see sharp negative impacts.

A more germane question might be ‘How long a period will we see between a 1C temperature rise and a 2C temperature rise?’

As Tol accepts the IPCC mid-range estimate of 3C, he thinks it will be relatively early in the century. As a Lukewarmer with a more modest view of sensitivity (I think it will be about 2.1C), I think we have a little more time.

But because my calculations show energy consumption (and fossil fuel usage) rising much more than do the International Energy Agency, British Petroleum, the World Bank, the IMF and the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (gulp–that’s a lot of smart people I’m disagreeing with), the grace period won’t be as long as we would all like.

I think the worm turns in 2075. At which point what Kevin Trenberth is saying will become cogent and salient. Which is why I wish he and others would quit crying wolf.

Because I believe the wolf will come. The next 60 years are essentially the calm before the storm.



No Backward Steps

The world is taking steps to combat unwanted effects of future climate change. Some would characterize them as baby steps. Others would say they are false steps.

I think they are appropriate. For example, the U.S. is doing the right thing in phasing out coal as the fuel of choice for electricity generation. Moving to renewables, natural gas and increased use of nuclear power will have a significant impact on U.S. emissions and is broadly affordable.

Some may not have noticed, but ‘Business As Usual’ no longer exists, if indeed it ever did. With the increasing take-up of solar and wind, with the ‘dash for gas’, with China’s big push into hydroelectric power, countries the world over are changing how they do business–and sometimes why.

These steps, no matter how little they accomplish in the short term, are important over the long haul. Some economists argue that small scale efforts at mitigating climate change are in fact the appropriate way to start a campaign that will probably last a century. That’s one reason I keep advocating a carbon tax introduced at a low level and re-evaluated every 10 years. In a concession to conservatives, I am happy to do whatever they want to make sure such a tax is revenue neutral.

But what is essential is not to reverse any of the positive steps we have taken. We can’t really afford to pay for a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ approach to dealing with climate change. And dithering, backtracking and hesitating may make future efforts less effective and more expensive.

Which is why it is disturbing to read about the U.S. Senate’s vote to block President Obama’s climate change rules. I’ve got nothing against politics, and the role of the opposition is to oppose. But if plans are made on a century-long timescale, it is counter-productive to have each step challenged several times. Oppose and God bless you–but if you cannot win the day, put your shoulder to the wheel with the rest of us.

Fortunately, President Obama can veto this new Senate resolution and it is unlikely to be over-ridden. However, opponents of action on climate change should save their ammo and wait for the next initiative. As a supporter of President Obama and of action against climate change, I recognize the possibility that our efforts may go too far in the future and we may thank opponents for either stopping over-reach or at least warning us of it. But when the fight is over, let the dust clear and let’s all move on.

kiss and make up


30,000 Police and a budget of € 187 Million For COP 21

Climate change had better be serious. If France is going to put 30,000 police on security patrol for the conference and spend €187 million on the exercise, it had better be serious.

Otherwise someone might ask if all this couldn’t be done via telephone. 40,000 people converging on one place to try and negotiate a definitive climate agreement seems a bit like overkill, given the difficulty any group of more than three people have on deciding where to have dinner.

Otherwise, some might get the impression that this is a ‘shock and awe’ demonstration of the overwhelming importance of the issue without going to the trouble of actually proving it.

Look, I get it. Climate change is real and my Lukewarm view (brilliantly expressed in my recently published book, which you should buy) is that we have probably caused about half of it. And a good portion of our contributions to climate change are in the form of CO2 emissions. I want to lower our emissions, stop deforestation, use renewable energy and maintain the PH balance of the oceans. And my shampoo.

But this seems more like a ceremonial parade down the Champs d’Elysee than a political negotiation. It seems more like theater than serious horsetrading.

And I don’t think anyone will enjoy the show.

parade champs elysee

Climate Change Predictions 2030

Climate scientist/activist and blogger Michael Tobis just republished his predictions for what climate change will bring us by 2030. He originally made his predictions in 2010.

His predictions are pretty vanilla, which is as it should be, as even dedicated activists understand that the climate isn’t going to fall apart any time soon. The IPCC thinks we won’t really see much in the way of effects until the second half of the century and even that’s with a pessimistic view of atmospheric sensitivity.

Truth be told, most of Tobis’ predictions have little to do with climate change, being more philosophical observations about the nature of life. He thinks we will all be eating farmed seafood instead of fresh caught fish–he doesn’t relate that to climate change (nor should he). He thinks life will be more hectic. Okay. Amazingly, he thinks that politicians will still be practicing politics.

But he does say that CO2 concentrations will not only continue to rise, but will accelerate. That’s a prediction worth watching. He also predicts there will be demands for geoengineering, something that has not yet materialized.

For me, five years out is what I feel most comfortable predicting, far too short a timescale for climate change and its impacts. Instead I’ll provide some data context for some of what Tobis has predicted.

Regarding CO2 concentrations, they have increased at an accelerating pace since the 1960s. In the 1950s, CO2 concentrations increased at about 0.75 ppm annually. In the past 15 years, the concentrations have increased at about 2.25 ppm per year. We’re emitting more CO2, more of it sticks around. Pretty simple.


Whether it will continue to accelerate or not will only be proven by time. It is almost certain that emissions will continue to increase. Global population continues to rise.


The developing world is getting richer. They’re using some of that money to buy things that use energy.


Global usage of fossil fuels continues to increase.

Global Fossil Fuel Consumption

The only counterbalance to that that we have seen is increasing vegetative cover on the planet, having risen perhaps as much as 12-17% over the past 30 years. If that goes on, those plants will eat some of that pesky CO2 and spit out the oxygen that we prefer in our lungs. But it’s doubtful that that will be enough.

The other prediction Tobis made in 2010 that I want to comment on is this one:

“As climate deterioration continues, the initial impact will fall, unfortunately but inevitably, largely on less-developed subtropical regions. This year’s events in Pakistan will be marked as the harbinger. This will greatly exacerbate the already absurd tensions between the Islamic world and everybody else. The west will not be able to motivate any useful intervention. Low-grade guerilla war will persist. We will find ourselves turning into Israelis.”

Of course this might be true. But there isn’t any sign of it as yet. Two days ago there was a horrible terrorist attack in Paris. But globally, violence is down. Wars are fewer in number, whether they are civil wars or wars between states and fewer lives are being lost as a result.

Climate deterioration, if it ever existed, does not appear to be continuing. Global drought has decreased over the past century. Heatwaves in the U.S. show no trend, according to the EPA.


Sea level rise is happening at pretty much the same rate today that it was when Tobis made his predictions. Storms and tornadoes have not increased in either strength or frequency. And although the number of refugees and migrants has increased, it is apparently due primarily to bitter conflict in the Middle East, not climate change.

As for the Pakistani flood in 2010, it had nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with the huge population increase in the country that saw flood zones see too many people move into harm’s way.

We’ll see if Tobis’ predictions for 2030 come true or not. I confess I would have more confidence in his crystal ball if he had been able to predict the past.


A tortured, but not facile comparison: France, Islam, Climate change, skeptics

This is a climate blog, not a political one. My feelings on what happened in Paris will remain private. My wife is from that city–my feelings are strong.

France has a history of not treating Muslims well. They make all the right, politically correct noises. They have Muslim ministers in government and mosques dot the landscape, although not as frequently as castles. But the banlieues of Paris and the slums of other cities are full of Muslim unemployed and almost unemployable. They are completely disaffected and burn bourgeois cars every night in the big cities. They are trapped and they know it. Hence the burning cars.

The white French have never fully accepted them as French. Even now they call them ‘pieds noir’ or similar identifiers that are actually separators. French Muslims who have jobs are far more likely to be hanging off the back of a garbage truck than having anything like a white collar job. And as I said, only a few have any job at all.

The terrorist acts that have occurred in France over the past 5 years have been committed almost exclusively by French Muslims. They were born in France, educated in France, exposed to French culture and media all their lives. They also have been shut out of the better schools, unable to contribute to French culture and have only a token presence in the media.

France has created a fertile field for recruiting terrorists willing to strike at France.

What has happened in France is 100–no, 1,000 times worse than the treatment of climate skeptics by climate activists. There are no bodies to bury in the climate wars, nobody has been falsely imprisoned.

But the mechanism is the same. Climate activists have insulted, harrassed and harmed those in opposition to the point where they have created enemies out of those who were merely opponents.

Activists are still in 2015 defending their right to call skeptics ‘deniers.’ They are still sliming respected scientists like Richard Lindzen, Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaevar, Will Happer, Willie Soon, Roger Pielke Sr. and John Christy. When they can’t argue with the science presented, they resort to name-calling, labeling scientists according to their age, political affiliation or religion.

The activists have made a concerted effort to censor the skeptics, refusing to debate them, conspiring to shut them out of the peer-reviewed literature, agitating for the firing of editors who do publish skeptic work, all while insisting that the debate is over, the science settled.

They have created a ghetto for skeptics and they work hard to keep them walled in. Even if this were a minor issue, their behavior would be unconscionable. But to act like this in defense of what activists believe to be the premiere challenge of this millenium is horrible.

It is also short-sighted.

I’m not a skeptic, although I correspond in a friendly way with many of them. I hold a position far closer to the consensus than some might suspect, especially those who have been calling me a denier, delayer, pimp and scumbag for the past 8 years. But I’m close enough to the skeptics that I can foresee a possible future. At some point the consensus, if not the activists, will see the need to make peace with the skeptics, to find some common ground.

But the activists have poisoned the soil, in much the same way that right-wing French have made the banlieues a recruiting ground for terrorists. And hence there will be no peace.

The first dictum of conflict is to try and leave a path whereby your enemy can become your friend.

Otherwise conflicts do not end.

War or peace

Climate Change and other tragedies

What happened in Paris shouldn’t change anyone’s ideas about climate change and its importance or lack thereof. It shouldn’t change anyone’s opinions about poverty, hunger, education or anything else, with the possible exception of peace in the Middle East.

It was less than a year ago that I was writing about Paris in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. As I mentioned then, my wife is from Paris and I’ve spent a lot of time there.

There are no words, so I won’t pretend.

It’s nothing but a sad coincidence that COP21 is in Paris this year, that Al Gore was broadcasting from the Eiffel Tower when the 7 bombings occurred, that Black Bloc protesters are giving French security headaches as they plan to disrupt the city to call attention to climate activist policies.

At the end of the day, as with all acts of terror, it doesn’t mean anything. The French will pick themselves up and move forward, perhaps in the direction of Marine LePen’s rightward vision for the nation. The war against both ISIS and Al Qaeda will continue and probably become more severe, which will mean less concern for civilians used as human shields by those rat bastards. Security around the world will continue to squeeze us all a little tighter and we probably won’t complain–at least for a while.

But all it means, all this will ever mean, is that there are a large number of people, mostly young, all innocent, who are dead who didn’t need to be.

black wreath

Climate Change Needs A Narrative. No, A Story. No, A Blockbuster Movie. No, A Video Game

The dilemma facing climate activists isn’t that people don’t know about climate change. Poll after poll shows they do. The problem is they don’t care. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Climate change isn’t as important a problem to people (well, aside from activists) as getting and keeping a job, taking care of the kids, etc.

Climate activists at first thought they were facing an ‘information deficit’, a lack of knowledge that their brilliant messaging could surely overcome. Twenty years later it is clear that either the information deficit isn’t the major problem or their efforts to eliminate it were not quite up to snuff.

What in another era would have been called propaganda was the next step. Starting with An Inconvenient Truth, political messages based at least partially on science started appearing on both large and small screens. Didn’t work. Even action movies like The Day After Tomorrow didn’t cut the mustard.

Authors have flooded the bookshelves, if not the best-seller lists, with a new genre of fiction called Cli-Fi, science fiction stores organized around the theme of apocalyptic climate change. It is unreadable and has gone unread by billions.

So why not a video game? Get ready for the next edition of Call of Duty, set in 2065 and full of climate issues that complicate the mission. According to Motherboard, “players face environmental extremes wherever they go—dust storms in Egypt, floods and hurricane winds in Singapore, and so on.”

Hmmm. We’ll see if this moves the dial.

My personal opinion, shaped by my age and the technology available to me when I was in my protesting days, is that they’re really missing a bet. Where’s the climate change song? The Climes, They Are A’Changin’.

The Third Degree

Apparently the average temperature of the earth’s surface is one degree Celsius higher than it was in 1880.

It hasn’t had much of an impact. The planet supports many more of us than in 1880 and many of us live like kings and queens. Thanks to technology, bad weather kills far fewer of us than way back when–about 98% fewer of us.

If climate scientists have it pegged  correctly, the second degree of (human caused) warming won’t take anywhere near as long as the first. The first degree (and yes, I know that first degree was not all caused by our emissions of CO2) took 135 years. The second degree might only take half that long–we might get it by 2075.

Whether it is 100% caused by humans or if none of it is, another degree Celsius of warming will have impacts. Extreme weather, which today is nothing but a fever dream of those wanting to scare the world into following their policies, will actually happen. We will probably have stronger storms. Droughts probably will become more severe. The places receiving the extra precipitation caused by climate change will probably get quite a bit more than they want.

Dealing with the impacts of a second degree of climate change will be expensive and time consuming. It is not predicted to cause serious disruption to life on earth or civilization, but that won’t be much comfort to taxpayers and insurance companies footing the bills for hundreds of billions of dollars in additional damages.

Given that much of Western infrastructure is badly in need of repair, and given that much of the infrastructure in the developing world is waiting to be built, it would behoove us to undertake a building program that takes future warming into account. Call it Pre-Adaptation. It won’t change the course of our climate, but it might change the course of our rivers, not to mention the roads running along the sea and the houses built too close to it.

It’s called building in a safety margin. Just common sense. But how much? If you’re building a sea wall, or relocating a road or houses, should you do so with the 26-98 cm of sea level rise predicted for the rest of this century? If you’re planning to build a school that will withstand a F5 tornado, do you put enough extra protection to handle the stronger storms that climate change is predicted to bring?

If you take all the arguing about fossil fuels and CO2 emissions off the table. If you just note that the temperature has risen 1 degree Celsius in 135 years and this pause, like the two pauses that preceded it, may have run its course. If you think that, whatever the cause, climate change may continue on its course, doesn’t it make sense to plan for it?

Well, while we’re at it, we may benefit from looking past the end of the century. It’s quite possible that I am wrong in my non-scientific opinion that temperature rises will amount to 2C. I’ve been wrong before, enough so that I always try to plan for my percentage of errors.

Should we plan for a third degree? I mean, apart from the 3rd Degree that climate alarmists would like to subject us to…

3rd degree

COP 21–We Should Focus On What We Can Measure

As 40,000 of the climate concerned descend on Paris for COP 21 (Government budget: 187 million Euros), the debate continues on what we can do to keep temperature rises under 2C. To the extent that we can do anything about it, it will largely depend on reducing emissions. How much? By whom?

Emissions are hard to measure–China just discovered it was burning about 17% more coal than it thought. That impacts their CO2 emissions, but it’s hard to say by how much. Nobody has updated their statistics for the past few years to account for this, so people are arriving in Paris with wrong numbers in their spreadsheets.

Worse, the calculations of what we should do are based on assumptions about sensitivity that are seemingly outdated. If sensitivity is lower than the estimated 3C, then two things happen: first, it will be easier to stay at 2C total temperature rise and second, each unit of CO2 emissions is worth less.

All this is explored at length at Judith Curry’s blog here. What I would like to focus on is how much easier it would be to focus on our fuel portfolio and to match it to projected increases in energy consumption. This leaves out other human contributions to climate change, such as deforestation and cement production, but it has the twin benefits of being a good proxy and already the subject of much measuring.

Given that we know energy consumption will increase dramatically during this century, configuring our portfolio of available fuels to minimize impacts on the environment (not just CO2 emissions, but conventional pollution as well) would result in much firmer plans that are easier to evaluate in terms of success.

For the U.S. it could be quite simple. The U.S. has long held out the goal of 30% electricity generation from renewables. It is transitioning from coal to natural gas for the bulk of its electricity generation. It is dipping its toes into the nuclear pool once again. It really wouldn’t be too difficult for the EPA to come up with a plan and a timeline to get U.S. to a fairly clean fuel portfolio that would meet energy needs and reduce emissions. If they use (almost) zero coal for electricity and build about 30 new nuclear power plants, continue subsidies for solar and wind at current levels and maybe build a few more dams so that California can give its newcomers something to drink and get hydroelectricity from them as well, they’re pretty much done. CAFE regulations, a little waste to energy, some CHP and a boost to ground source heat pumps in the northern parts of the country will tidy up the loose ends.

This could be done at a country level quite rapidly and efficiently. As opposed to focusing on CO2 emissions, energy provision is metered and charged for–we know how, when and why most energy is consumed.We know where we’re starting from and we know where we want to end up.

Measuring the aether is fraught. It’s good for playing political games but not for getting the results we want.

And we do want results, don’t we?


The Stakes Are High In The Climate Wars

Global spending on energy is probably somewhere between $5 and $7 trillion US dollars. It’s actually difficult to be more precise than that, but when figures are that high perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Our climate, any changes to it and our responsibility for some of those changes matters to all of us. But because the bulk of whatever changes we have caused are caused by our use of energy, those involved in the $5-7 trillion sector have a lot at stake. It matters more.

Although all of us involved in the Climate Debate know who the Koch Brothers, Exxon, Shell and Peabody Energy are, they are only one side of the playing field. General Electric, Siemens, Solar City, Archer Daniels Midland, Trina and Yingli, BHP Billiton, Vale and a host of other very large companies are competing to be the dominant energy supplier for the rest of the century. Many have more than one offering–Exxon supplies natural gas as well as oil, General Electric works on nuclear power as well as wind turbines, etc.

In what I described yesterday as The Greater Game, I noted the number of players, ranging from companies and governments to NGOs and organized crime. But it’s time to recognize that the reason everybody is involved is not just a concern for our health and well-being. People want a bigger slice of a pie that is very large and is going to grow rapidly through most of this century.

Whether it happens by 2030, 2040 or 2050, energy consumption is set to double in the medium term future. And it may well double again by 2075. If the dollar figures involved in energy production and provision double along with it, a $10-14 trillion dollar market is well worth playing for.

And when playing for that kind of stakes, you can bet they will play hardball. NGOs inclined to oppose nuclear power get donations from fossil fuel companies. NGOs opposed to fossil fuels are supported by other energy providers. Those appalled by the strength of the fossil fuel lobbying battalions would be equally appalled by the strength and numbers of lobbyists for other types of energy, especially nuclear.

As each of the competing energy technologies has both strengths and weaknesses, there is plenty of room for argumentation and horse-trading. But scientists, bloggers and citizens won’t have any seats at the table where winners and losers are decided.

Our signals from outside the casino may have some marginal effect, which is one reason I continue to write. But a lot of money is involved in the Greater Game–enough to deafen the players to outside information and blind them to the probable effects of wrong decisions.


The Greater Game and Everything to Play For

Wikipedia tells us that the century-long Great Game, the struggle between Britain and Russia for control of Asia, was given its name by ” Arthur Conolly (1807–1842), an intelligence officer of theBritish East India Company‘s 6th Bengal Light Cavalry.[4] It was introduced into mainstream consciousness byBritish novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901).[5]  “


The Climate Game is Greater. It involves more players and the stakes are higher. Huge multinational corporations, including General Electric and six more of the top 10 companies in the world are directly involved. Fully 30 of the top 100 companies may well succeed or fail depending on decisions made on climate change. Not only energy companies, but insurance firms and airlines–the list goes on. And of course, even companies not directly involved are indirectly impacted and are following the Game with considerable interest.

This Greater Game may in fact have been started by corporate behemoths trying to advance the cause of nuclear power–Edward Teller may have been an earlier version of James Hansen, positing global warming as a reason to move away from gas and oil as long ago as the 60s.

The Greater Game of course involves countries, predictably split between the developed and developing. The poor would welcome development aid from any source and for any reason, and climate change is as good as any–they need sea walls and river control systems already and building them a bit stronger to take climate change into account is just fine with them. The developed world, on the other hand, sees the potential problem but is reluctant to part with the money needed to address it. They subsidize fossil fuels even as they attack them and their producers. They agitate for cleaner fuels but are reluctant to follow the lead of emerging countries and finance the nuclear power plants that seem to be the obvious solution. And they are reluctant to pay climate reparations directly to the developing world, hoping they can pay their own countries’ consultancies and energy transformers to do the work and keep the money in their national accounts.

But it also involves a huge number of NGOs, many of them supported by the governments they are trying to influence, creating a positive feedback loop for messaging and decision-making that trends towards extreme views of what human contributions to climate change portend.

Organized crime is a player in climate change, running circles around regulators trying to set rules for carbon emissions and renewable power generation. From Italy to Brussels to Japan, criminals have repeatedly taken advantage of efforts to jump start a new sector and they eagerly await their share of any new money committed to the cause of dealing with climate change.

While we here in the blogosphere look at each other and try to debate/fight/slam/convert each other, we are pale shadows of the real fight between organizations that are large, well-financed, organized and very much used to getting their own way on important issues. Most bloggers don’t even know who the major players are, let alone what they are doing or why.

While we fuss and fight about trivialities like the Keystone Pipeline or Exxon’s statements to its shareholders, General Electric’s three contract wins in four months for large-scale battery storage deals are far more germane to the issue. While Australia dithers on how much solar and wind it should finance for their paltry emissions, their exports of coal look set to increase as India’s power consumption soars.

The Great Game referred to above lasted 104 years (although shadows of it are still in play). Who wants to bet that this Greater Game will last longer?

Greater Game

One Cause of Climate Policy Failures

Initiatives to address global emissions in an effort to combat ‘unwanted’ climate change have been largely unsuccessful. Emissions continue to increase, despite last year’s plateau in global CO2. Nobody expects a repeat of 2014 this year, in part due to the construction of hundreds of coal plants in Asia, increased use of coal in Germany and the gentle decline of nuclear provision in Western countries and Japan.

One reason initiatives have not been successful is a focus on supply rather than demand. This is natural, as supply is focused on what we can do, whereas demand is a more difficult question, based on what we both need and want.

It’s great to trumpet the coming online of wind generation and large solar arrays and I don’t want to belittle the achievements involved, even if I consider them proof of concept rather than solutions.

But India’s demand for air conditioning is expected to grow 8% this year. That one statistic trumps the real triumphs in renewable energy. Because India’s economy grew at 7% this year, it is mundanely predictable that their desire for air conditioning will continue to grow dramatically. It will be a while before India’s take-up of air conditioning will match Kuwait’s, where they use two-thirds of all their energy for air conditioning, but the demand curve is inexorable.

It is also much more predictable. Energy consumption for countries that have more recently joined the elect club of developed countries could be overlaid on each other to create almost a single line, just using different starting dates to match the beginning of the modernization process.

In fact, the curves remarkable resemble the American experience shown here:


Starting about 1900, energy consumption in the U.S. started an inexorable and dramatic rise, unchecked by World War 1 or 2, the Spanish Flu or the Great Depression. It didn’t stop until the 1974 Oil Crisis, which I think is just a coincidence. 1974 was the year that saw a plateau because that’s when American development had reached a peak. I put the subsequent fall in consumption down to the Oil Crisis, but that’s a different story.

China’s about three quarters up that curve.


Brazil about one quarter. India’s just getting started. But like Turkey, Mexico and every other recently developed country, they are fated to follow the same energy consumption curve. As the citizens of a country start to get richer they use their new-found wealth to make their lives better. Appliances, vehicles and air conditioning are high on the shopping list.


They don’t have to reach the same level as America to hit a plateau–Americans use about 310 million btus per person per year, but Germans have a pretty nice standard of living at 250 mbtus per capita and Denmark does very well with about 160 mbtus per capita. But geography and weather have a big influence on this–large distances (China and India) and hot weather (India and Indonesia) tend to push the totals up.

As I explain in my book and at my companion blog, 3000 Quads, rapid development makes it quite likely that in 2075 about 8 of the 9 billion plus people on this planet will be consuming somewhere between the modest Danish and exuberant American totals per person per year. Energy consumption may rise to 3000 quadrillion BTUs per year, six times the level of 2010. (My prediction is an outlier–the EIA and the IEA think energy consumption will be much lower. The difference is entirely due to what will happen in the developing world. Those two august bodies think energy consumption will grow by 2.4% annually in the developing world. I think it will grow at 4.19% each year.)

What does this mean for climate policy? It should be obvious, but apparently is not.

Coordinating our fuel substitution efforts should not be a national endeavor. It makes no sense for California to replace a million BTUs generated by natural gas with the same amount generated by solar. The savings in emissions isn’t sufficient (at first). To balance our fuel portfolio while meeting the rising demand we should focus on the bottom of the energy ladder.

We absolutely must eliminate the use of fire and dung as fuels. They are the dirtiest, most injurious and most emissive, and we shouldn’t care overly much about what replaces them. That includes coal, although of course we should celebrate when we can use gas, nuclear or renewables instead.

Then we can turn our attention to coal. And quickly–coal is far better than dung or firewood, but that’s damning with faint praise. When coal is no longer used as a primary source of fuel we can then look at oil and natural gas, which ought to be getting scarce and expensive by then. And when that is done and most of the world is powered by nuclear, hydro and renewables, our job will be done.

So that $100 billion per year being bandied around as the amount the developed world should give to the developing world to deal with climate change could be paid in kind, not cash. California could build facilities to generate power from natural gas, hydro, renewables or geothermal in the developing world, helping to eradicate the bottom rungs of the energy ladder. It would be far more useful than getting a little cleaner in California–which amounts to a vanity purchase to stroke the egos of those in the Golden State. They’re clean enough for now.

Looking at where demand for energy is rising and configuring the world’s fuel portfolio to get the biggest reduction in CO2 emissions for our buck is something that does not appear to be rocket science. One wonders why it is not on the various agendas of the climate great and good.

Ah, well. We’ll always have Paris.


Will Political Hardball Settle the Climate Debate or Kill It?

News that the NY State Attorney General has subpoenaed records from Exxon should not be surprising. 2015 has seen calls from Raul Grijalva to investigate climate scientists who speak out against the consensus, a letter signed by Kevin Trenberth and many others calling for RICO investigations of skeptics and, just to show that both parties are the party of stupid, Lamar Smith’s own call for emails between scientists.

Exxon’s supposed crime is misleading shareholders about the threat to their business model posed by climate change.

As Shub Niggurath details over at his blog, much of this activity seems to be instigated by a group called The Climate Accountability Institute and includes well-known names like Naomi Oreskes,  which held a workshop that was an ‘exploratory, open-ended dialogue’ on the use of  ‘lessons from tobacco-related education, laws, and litigation to address climate change.’ One of the key recommendations of the workshop was State attorneys general can also subpoena documents, raising the possibility that a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents to light.

Persecuting–err, prosecuting Exxon under the 1921 Martin Act is interesting, as the NY Attorney General does not have to prove intent to deceive or even produce an injured party. New York State’s highest court ruled in 1926 that it covers “all deceitful practices contrary to the plain rules of common honesty.

Exxon began reporting to its shareholders on a cost per ton of CO2 in 2007 which they put at $60/ton at the time. They have since raised it to $80. I don’t know if the Martin Act is subject to a statute of limitations, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. If Exxon is guilty of this, probably everyone is.

When should they have started informing shareholders of the risks of climate change? The 70s, during the Global Cooling Scare? 1990, when the IPCC’s First Assessment Report declared that it was not yet possible to discern human influence on global warming? 2002, when Exxon very publicly gave Stanford University $100 million to study climate change, something very prominently featured in their annual report?

But this post isn’t about Exxon’s travails. They seem fated to suffer for their customers’ sins. We want their oil, although I suppose we’d be equally happy to guzzle the competitors’ products.

This is about political and legislative restraint on a scientific debate. Like previous debates about DDT and eugenics, not to mention on how many communists held responsible positions in American institutions in the 50s, the debate is not helped by political or legislative control. In the case of DDT, many argue today (despite vehement opposition) that people died of malaria who otherwise wouldn’t have because of the demonization of DDT.

In the case of climate change, allocating resources to green energy may happen instead of allocating those resources to reducing poverty, instead of in addition. Should that happen, people will surely die.

As someone who wholeheartedly advocates the swift take-up of green energy, I hate to think of the entire initiative being tainted by the needless deaths of poor people in the developing world.

We need to have this debate and we need to conduct it without fear of prosecution and without the sideshows these political proceedings entail.

I oppose these political prosecutions on principle–they are abhorrent to believers of the rule of law and representative democracy. I also oppose them on grounds of efficacy–these prosecutions will delay the finding of appropriate answers to the important question of what we should do about climate change.

These prosecutions are wrong. They are worse than wrong, they are stupid. They are worse than wrong and stupid–they are unnecessary mistakes.

starving solar

Pause… for Reflection on Climate Change

I get caught up in the routine confrontation with ridiculous claims about climate change and with bloggers with whom I disagree. Every now and then I need to stop and think about what I’ve learned and unlearned and to take stock of what I really think.

This seems as good a time as any. In November of 2015, my non-scientific assessment of the science hasn’t changed overmuch. My perceptions as a non-scientist are heavily colored by my assessment of the credibility of those communicating on either side.

This year has seen more in the way of massaging down likely ranges of atmospheric sensitivity, which has led to some trying to downplay its importance. This doesn’t help their credibility. It has also seen the sudden emergence of RCP 8.5 as a shining beacon of Business As Usual Which Will Lead Us To Doom, which is laughable, as it, like the other Representative Concentration Pathways, started with the end figure–those using it as a prediction or projection are displaying abysmal ignorance.

And I still trust what Freeman Dyson says more than James Hansen. I still trust Richard Lindzen more than Andrew Dessler. I still trust Steve Koonin more than Kevin Trenberth. I trust Andrew Revkin more than Dave Roberts, Judith Curry more than And Then There’s Physics, Steve McIntyre more than Gavin Schmidt. And I don’t trust Michael Mann at all.

The only Climate-involved people I have ever met are Steve Mosher, Anthony Watts and Richard Muller. Steve’s a friend, so is Anthony and Richard seems like a nice enough guy. None of them fit the descriptions of the villainous caricatures floating around the Internet. I suspect that is true of most of the people I haven’t met as well.

Since I moved my thinking from skeptic to lukewarmer six or seven years ago, I have seen little that would change my point of view. Certainly this year has been no exception. The profusion of panic stories leading up to COP 21 in Paris should be embarrassing to those on the side of the consensus. On the other side, those cheering Lamar Smith’s chasing emails of scientists should be every bit as embarrassed as those calling for RICO prosecutions of skeptics and Raul Grijalva’s investigations of skeptics as well.

Looking at 2015 from a climate lens, there is little for any of the three sides to be proud of.

Climate change still is very real to me. It is still something we should work to avoid or adapt to. But it also still pales for me in comparison to the problems facing those in the developing world and I still think our efforts should incline more to the second set of problems than the first.

Climate Doom, Defeat and Despair–Oh My

The Nation’s headline is pretty stark: “The Future of Climate Change is Widespread Civil War.”

A failure to cap carbon emissions guarantees another result as well, though one far less discussed. It will, in the long run, bring on not just climate shocks, but also worldwide instability, insurrection, and warfare.

…” The IPCC report, however, suggested that global warming would have devastating impacts of a social and political nature as well, including economic decline, state collapse, civil strife, mass migrations, and sooner or later resource wars.

Armed conflict may not be the most immediate consequence of these developments, the IPCC notes, but combine the effects of climate change with already existing poverty, hunger, resource scarcity, incompetent and corrupt governance, and ethnic, religious, or national resentments, and you’re likely to end up with bitter conflicts over access to food, water, land, and other necessities of life.”

There’s only one problem with this–it doesn’t seem to be happening. We’re setting temperature records now and 14 of the 15 warmest years in recorded history have happened this century. But what has happened in terms of both interstate and intrastate conflict?

Conflicts by type

Despite severe droughts, neither Texas nor California have seceded from the Union or declared war on Mexico–or each other. Despite a three-year period of alarming rises in food prices, nations across the world did not dissolve in internal conflicts over food shortages (despite what some claim about Egypt’s hamfisted efforts during the Arab Spring, they were actually getting more food than before).

The story makes much of the Syrian drought, which has been disputed in the academic literature and from commentators inside the country and region. And on this blog as well.

Global warming is predicted to increase precipitation globally by 5%. Of course water wars could still break out–but having more rain doesn’t seem guaranteed to make it happen. Writing as if it is guaranteed doesn’t make sense.

Global warming is expected to cost between 1% and 5% of global GDP. We lost more than that during the 2008 recession–and the world is still standing.

So far, the period of global warming has increased vegetative cover and agricultural production dramatically, with much of the increase in fact due to increased CO2.


And fewer wars, civil and between nations. We may be living in the most peaceful period in history.

So, peace, Nation. Maybe the modest global warming that we are certain to see will have us all singing Kumbaya.


Is Climate Change Our Most Important Environmental Problem?

I ask because it was labeled as such by Stu Clark, Washington State’s air quality program manager. His statement was in a follow-up article to something I posted on in August, a series of lawsuits filed by NGOs on behalf of children against state bodies. If the lawsuits prevail (and several have been summarily dismissed by courts) states would have to shoulder the burden of fixing a global problem.

However, I am curious at the statement that climate change is our most important environmental problem. Public opinion polls don’t reflect that in general perceptions. Water quality, air quality and soil quality routinely are cited well above climate change as environmental concerns.

Washington State has problems with all three. Puget Sound has water pollution problems that have affected wildlife. The Seattle area has real air quality issues on many days. And the presence of military bases and defense contractors have led to toxic soil issues. I’m not suggesting that Washington is environmental hell. It’s not–it’s really a beautiful state.

But the population there is growing swiftly and this does lead to environmental issues–habitat loss and pollution, while their position across the ocean from Japan and China makes it vulnerable to introduction of alien species.

Climate change is projected to have impacts very relevant to Washington. It is a coastal state–sea level rise will affect it. They have forests vulnerable to both wildfire and drought. Drought  leads to increased infestation. Much of their water and a good bit of their power comes from mountain snows. Reduced snowpack will have a very real effect on Washingtonians. A deeper look at how climate change is found on Washington’s Department of Ecology website.

I agree with those who say that Washington should take future climate change seriously and make planning decisions with it in mind. But whether it should rank top of the list is to me not a settled issue. A state that has grown in population from 4.8 million to 7 million since 1990 risks looking like some of the less attractive parts of California, Arizona and other states that have received similar inflows.

Planning for growth might solve as many real world problems as planning for the effects of climate change.

If they’re really smart, perhaps they can do both at the same time. You don’t want the whole state looking like this.


Idle speculation about sea level rise

Over at Lucia’s Blackboard they’re having an interesting discussion about UHI, BEST and of all things, sea level rise. I pitched in with a comment, reproduced below.

I found a paper that maps U.S. lands vulnerable to sea level rise. It can be found here. It found 58,000 square kilometers lying below a 1.5 meter contour along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They had data difficulties that hampered their ability to make similar estimates for the West Coast.


So I wrote, “Tol & Yohe 2007 found that 0.24% of habitable land would be lost to 50cm of sea level rise. As that’s mid-range of IPCC AR5 estimates, let’s go with it until incoming data shows otherwise.

Seacoast property is in most parts of the world very desirable and more expensive in the developed world. In the U.S. and Europe and the richer parts of Asia, it will be insured and protected. Parts of Tokyo have subsided several meters due to aquifer depletion, yet they’re still there and doing okay.

In the developing world, the monetary value is less but the utility is still very high. Because of high levels of poverty, much of the coastal infrastructure is fairly easy to relocate.

The environmental changes to estuaries, tidal marshes, etc. in the developed world will be significant. South of the equator things like mangrove stands tend to offer a good measure of protection.

In the rich world we seem to be pre-paying for damages due to sea level rise, due to frightening stories about extreme weather allowing insurance companies to charge higher premiums without having the damages to pay out on.

My judgement call is that if sea level rise comes in at about half a meter this century we’re in pretty good shape.”

Predictions of sea level rise without contributions from the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are not frightening. We can handle them.

Recent work on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets show that both are gaining ice in the huge centers of the ice caps, while losing some at the edges. Neither will contribute much water to sea level rise this century.

There is still one bad possibility. That some unstable masses of ice on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica might drop into the ocean due to mechanical reasons, reasons that might be accelerated by warmer water undercutting the ice that is holding the mass up. Scientists now think that might affect us in about two hundred years and that when the process starts it will take about 50 to 100 years to complete.

So I still maintain that sea level rise this century is an eminently solvable problem, assuming it stays within the IPCC’s projected range of 26cm to 98cm.

Too Much Climate News: A Tale of Two Ice Caps, Cuccinelli Redux, And Halloween Zombie Climate Denier Justifications

It’s late Sunday morning in Taipei and I don’t want to spend the day in front of my computer. That means this will hopefully be succinct.

Watt’s Up With That highlights a new paper by Jay Zally, a person who previously had published work showing that Antarctica was losing ice. His new paper comes to the different conclusion that it is in fact gaining ice. This is important for two reasons–the first being that climate change theory postulates that Antarctica should be warming (not nearly as much as the Arctic, but there should be some). Increased ice can occur because warmer temperatures mean more snow over an area, but the finding is still surprising. The second important part of the paper, as Zally notes, is that if there isn’t as much Antarctic ice melting into the ocean, then where is the extra water coming from? That will keep scientists busy for a few years.

Over in Alarmist land, And Then There’s Physics  tries to explain away a similar gain in ice in Greenland. The huge ice cap is gaining mass. This leads inevitably to more pressure on the rivers of ice we call glaciers and more ice gets pushed into the ocean as a result. ATTP says we should still be worried because more ice is calving into the ocean than is forming on the ice cap. So climate is causing more ice to form, but the normal action of physics is causing more ice to fall into the sea. Of course, all this falling into the sea stuff actually amounts to 0.01% of the ice in Greenland–most of the ice is held in a ‘bowl’ carved out by the weight of the ice. It isn’t going anywhere. It’s not melting.

Of course, ATTP gets distracted in comments, holding a lively discussion on whether or not it is legitimate to use the term ‘climate denier.’  Interested parties can navigate over there to see the result. It will surprise no-one. ATTP held a lively debate on whether climate scientists should quit traveling by air to conferences. He bravely decided they should. Oh, I’ll spoil the surprise–ATTP thinks it’s perfectly okay to call people ‘climate deniers’, for the same reasons that it’s okay to call Jews ‘kikes’, Hispanics ‘greasers’, Italians ‘wops’, etc. Ya see, we’re all just pretending to be offended at being compared to Holocaust deniers.  We are cynically using their insults to gain an advantage in the climate debates.

Of course it doesn’t occur to the ‘struggling to understand’ ATTP that they could take away our new-found weapon by… quit using a degrading term coined by Fenton Communications and pushed actively through the media by DeSmogBlog in 2005. C’mon ATTP–make us weaker! Quit calling us deniers.

Never happen, though. Those using the term get too much of a testosterone charge when they call someone a ‘denier.’

Representative Lamar Smith has issued a subpoena for emails and records from NOAA scientists participating in Thomas Karl’s rather desperate attempt to prove the ‘pause’ in global warming never existed.

The pause did exist, and Karl’s paper is being contested where it should be–in the scientific literature.

What Representative Smith is doing is both wrong and stupid. Wrong, because we don’t need to create a climate of fear in science. Scientists should be able to communicate via email without re-reading every word they write with an eye on future investigations. Stupid, because witch hunts don’t increase your stature, reputation, amount of information or even the size of your… big toe.

When Cuccinelli did this with Michael Mann I opposed it, writing an open letter to Cuccinelli equating what he was doing with Salem’s search for witches. What Smith is doing is no different and I oppose it just as strongly.

To be clear, I have no objection for asking for data, models, calculations. But emails between scientists? No. That way lies poorer science.

Representative Lamar Smith, call off your dogs.

Update: Sorry for those in the comment thread. I just booted ATTP and yanked his posts. It will disrupt the threading. That’s four people I’ve booted in four years. Sigh…

Fact Free Climate Alarmism: Episode 384

The headline in Grist is grim: “Climate change is forcing people to migrate and the world doesn’t have a plan to handle it.”

But the story cites a grand total of two people who claim to be climate refugees. They are a couple who overstayed their visa in New Zealand and when they were busted decided that all of a sudden they were climate refugees.

The couple is from Kiribati, an island in the central Pacific. A Google search for ‘Is Kiribati Disappearing’ yields 97,500 results. And the first few pages of search results certainly give the impression that the answer is yes, Kiribati is disappearing.

The only problem is that Kiribati is gaining land, not losing it to the sea. Since the 1950s the three main urbanised islands also “grew”  – Betio by 30 percent (36ha), Bairiki by 16.3 percent (5.8ha) and Nanikai by 12.5 percent (0.8ha). The islands are mostly comprised of coral debris eroded from encircling reefs and pushed up onto the islands by winds and waves. The process is continuous, because the corals are alive. In effect the islands respond to changes in weather patterns and climate – for example, Cyclone  Bebe deposited 140ha of sediment on the eastern reef of Tuvalu in 1972, increasing the main island’s area by 10 percent.

Since 1960 the population of Kiribati has grown, not shrunk. People are not migrating away from Kiribati due to climate change. In 1960 the population was 35,000. By 2013 it had grown to 100,000.

But back to Grim’s–I mean Grist’s fairy tale. “While island nations like Kiribati face total inundation, other regions less existentially threatened still face an increase in weather-related disasters like droughts and hurricanes — and people who flee such disasters aren’t covered under the refugee convention.”

Except that the 100 year trend globally for drought is negative. (Very slightly–it’s  not statistically significant. But it is negative–see here.)  As for hurricanes, gasp in horror at the dramatic increase in hurricane frequency and intensity shown here:

Hurricane intensity


Grist writes with increasing worry: “One thing we know is that, time and time again, the people who are least responsible for creating global warming are the ones most often forced to find new places to live because of it.”

But they haven’t found anyone who has actually had to, you know, move because of global warming. Anybody.

And they (thankfully) close with: “As it stands, one person is displaced each and every single second because of a natural disaster. That’s more than 25 million displaced people every year since 2008 — millions of whom can blame climate change for their plight.”

But they haven’t found one person who fits the description.

How does Grist get away with this?

‘Bygones.’ Forgetting the Climate Past, Reinventing the Climate Future

Back in the mists of time, the television show Ally McBeal popularized the one-word dismissal of all past wrongs–‘Bygones.’  Where normal people would offer an apology and attempt to make things whole, a senior lawyer would, when confronted with mistakes or misdeeds, just utter the magic word and expect everyone to get on with their lives.

He wasn’t the hero.

Yesterday in comments to a previous post, Michael Tobis of Only In It For The Gold made a number of surprising assertions, which I’ll discuss in a moment. But what really struck me is that he is willing to throw under the bus entire lines of argumentation regarding sensitivity and temperature rises that inspired endless debate, name calling and accusations of climate denial and utter, base ignorance.

The Alarmist Brigade, which I have taken to calling Klimate Kultists, are the ones who made those arguments and uttered most of the insults. They insisted that the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 was the key metric in climate change and that it was obviously high. Cuz their models told them so.

Now, observation-based models strongly suggest that sensitivity is low. Well, duh. 18 years with almost no increase in temperatures accompanied by the emission of almost one-third of all the CO2 humans have emitted throughout history will kind of wake most of us up.

But not the Klimate Kultists. They are now engaged in a campaign to pretend sensitivity doesn’t matter–and hilariously, that it never mattered.

They have replaced their devotion to sensitivity with a dogmatic belief in an artificially constructed forcing figure, the RCP 8.5 monstrosity I have discussed frequently. (Basically, a team of scientists was given a forcing figure–8.5 watts per square meter–and a date–2100–and told to develop inputs for climate models based on those two assumptions. They were asked for, but have not yet delivered, narratives that showed how this could plausibly happen. In everything this team of scientists have written they have explicitly said they were not predictions or projections. They started with the conclusion as a given. But that hasn’t stopped Klimate Kultists from treating the one with the highest forcing as gospel truth.)

Based on this artificial end-point to the data, Tobis insists:

“The ECS is probably between 2.5 and 3, where it has always been.” No, Tobis. The ECS has been continually defined–and defined down.


Tobis says, “The extent of change can already be expected to be comparable in magnitude to the Milakovic cycle changes but much faster, leaving local adaptations, both artificial and natural, stressed and at risk of decline.”

Measured peak to trough, the Milankovitch cycle appears to correspond with about 11C of temperature change at its strongest. The smallest change peak to trough looks like 6C. If Tobis is suggesting that this will manifest in a short period of time due to climate change, he is not basing that suggestion on either observation or model output.


Sensitivity still matters. It matters to scientists trying to narrow the broad range of potential values–the IPCC still has it at between 1.5C and 4.5C, which is so broad that you can justify skeptics, lukewarmers and alarmists using a value potentially acceptable to the IPCC.

Sensitivity still matters to policy. If it is low, we will have to do less in the way of preparation and accommodation and we will have more time to make those preparations.

To suggest otherwise is daft. Tobis has been daft frequently in the past. He claims Peter Gleick and Stephan Lewandowsky as friends. One is a thief and a forger, the other a charlatan. He calls Michael Mann a ‘mensch,’ which basically redefines the term to include a whining, litigious, sloppy wannabe scientist under the rubric. All three have been conspicuously wrong on what Klimate Kultists want to call the defining issue of our age.

Temperature rises have not been notable. Nor has sea level rise. Drought, flooding, heatwaves, storm frequency and intensity are all within the range of historical variation. This is probably because sensitivity is quite low.

So Tobis wants to change the subject.

Teach Your Children Well

Some other climate blogger is using songs from the 70s as titles for his posts. Well, two can play at that game!

I’m volunteering part time at a local elementary school teaching English here in Taipei. And I swear the kids are the cutest in the world. Smart, too. Makes me a lot less worried about the future.

These kids range from 9 to 12 and they’re not at all concerned about climate change. They know a lot about the reduce, re-use, recycle mantra (Taipei is the cleanest big city I’ve ever seen–cleaner than Singapore!) and most of them wear masks to fight the air pollution. Right now we’re getting a dose of mainland China’s dirty air (wind’s out of the northeast–does that mean Mary Poppins is coming?), which pleases no-one here.

Should I tell them anything about global warming? If so, what? I’m not sure my recently released book would serve as a text, although I strongly believe you should buy it now. If I did say something, should I go by Spencer Weart? Roy Spencer? My nephew Spencer? He’s half Japanese, cute as hell and smarter than I am. He’ll learn anything as long as a pillow fight precedes the lesson.

Should I ‘teach the controversy?’

Should I use global warming as an example of how difficult problems can be in the real world?

Can’t get too deep, of course. I just graded 23 essays, six of which were primarily focused on bathroom humor.

Let’s put it this way. Since so many in the climate blogosphere are male, pale and stale like myself, what do you hope your grandchildren are being taught about climate change? What are they being taught?

The Klimate Kultists have a variety of essays out on ‘how you should talk to your Uncle Fred about climate change’, especially if he’s a conservative skeptic. They even have a couple of videos. Has anyone here ever actually had a conversation with a family member about climate change? Were any of them children?

Teach your children well.

Taiwan children

Scalable Solutions To Reduce Greenhouse Gases

(Commercial message: I keep forgetting to mention that my book is now available on iTunes here. If you don’t have a copy, get one now!)

I can’t take any more fact-free hysteria. My eyes are bleeding at the nonsense being written about blast furnace heat coming to Persia or how the economy will be crippled by warming. I’m especially tired of reading nonsense based on RCP 8.5, used as a prediction when it is not.

So it is with great relief that I found a report from UCLA on 10 solutions to put the brakes on our emissions of greenhouse gases.

The report is titled ‘Bending the Curve.’ The solutions seem very similar to those advocated by EcoModernists and those advocating Fast Mitigation actions. But these are endorsed by Jerry Brown and Janet Napolitano (remember her?)

As reported by the UCLA newsroom, “Some of the report’s solutions include:

  • Immediately targeting short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons, and ozone, which are all powerful contributors to global warming. Unlike carbon dioxide, emissions of these pollutants can be cut back quickly, slowing warming in the near term, averting extreme climatic events.
  • Scaling up the technology we already have by providing more economic incentives for using things like solar and wind power, electric vehicles and efficient lighting.
  • Focusing on communication from a variety of leaders, including religious and community leaders, to encourage fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviors.
  • Reducing emissions from the wealthiest, who contribute roughly 60 percent of the climate pollution, while promoting clean energy solutions for the poorest three billion people, and providing more support for those who also live in and manage many of the great forests and other ecosystems that capture and store carbon.”

Given that the Klimate Kultists call Ecomodernists, Fast Mitigationists and The Breakthrough Institute deniers, delayers, mitigation skeptics, luckwarmers and far worse for such proposals, I wonder how they’ll react to similar proposals with the imprimatur of Jerry Brown?

One thing they are sure to say is that it isn’t enough. To forestall any such nonsense here at least, let me state the obvious. Of course it isn’t and nobody is saying it is. It’s a start. If Klimate Kultists don’t try and hamstring it right out of the gate, it could be a good start.

But let the gnashing of teeth and wailing begin. The Kultists won’t be satisfied ever. Most certainly they won’t be satisfied until a top-down emission control scheme is mandated worldwide. However, since I don’t like them and I know they will never get such a scheme, it just makes me smile.

Hooray for the UCLA Bruins!


Airbrushing Sensitivity Out of the Climate Debate

I’ve posted on this before and I suspect this isn’t the last time I’ll discuss this. There appears to be a concerted effort to de-emphasize the importance of the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2 in determining the extent and impacts of probable warming and other changes to our climatic system.

Michael Tobis, proprietor of Only In It For The Gold has another in a series of guest posts at And Then There’s Physics. He has a companion post up at his own blog. At his own blog he goes even further, saying that global warming is ‘just a symptom’ and that ‘we’re obsessing over a number, sometimes even to the exclusion of the patient’s health.’

Then tell your friends to quit obsessing about it.

Over at ATTP, Tobis starts by criticizing the nature of models used by economists to estimate costs and benefits of future climate change, saying they’re inadequate. He cites Dave Roberts (formerly a ranter at Grist, now writing more polished work at Vox), who whipped up an ‘uncertainty loop’ showing the questions that in a sane world should be answered prior to determining policy. Here it is:

Uncertainty loop

Because we don’t know the answers to any of those questions, there is a fair bit of uncertainty in determining what the global response to human contributions to climate change should be.

Tobis is dissatisfied with this. He thinks our policy responses should be part of the feedback loop. And to be fair, most ‘Business As Usual’ scenarios completely neglect to incorporate the policy measures already enacted, ranging from emissions trading and carbon taxes to the dramatic growth of solar and wind power, not to mention policies that have actually worked, like China’s push for hydroelectric power, both in China and places they do business. But I don’t think that’s what Tobis means.

Tobis is specifically advocating taking action before we know the extent of the problem we face. This is a legitimate option–Judith Curry has been writing about acting under conditions of uncertainty for years on the other side of the fence. If Tobis hadn’t written volumes criticizing–no, not criticizing, trashing her for the crime of existing on this planet–they might have a good discussion on the subject.

But then Tobis begins the herculean effort of unsaying what science has been saying about sensitivity for almost 20 years. After all, the IPCC has said in several of its Assessment Reports that atmospheric sensitivity, along with the contribution of clouds, remain the most important scientific questions to be answered regarding climate change.

Tobis writes, “Before climate change became obvious, when it was merely a prediction, the sensitivity was a good thing to focus on. …The real sensitivity we care about is damage per unit of carbon emitted. That damage is caused directly by climate change, not by GMST.”

I saw you palm that card, Tobis. You are trying to take impact assessment out of the realm of science and into the realm of fantasy. Instead of using data to determine what climate change will do you want to invent a social cost of carbon, attribute any weather event that causes damage or injury to climate change, add in bogus numbers from the ‘acidification’ of the oceans that have been labeled junk science and dictate your policy aims, already decided long ago, to the rest of the world. And I predict with some confidence that you will neglect to factor in the social cost of reducing carbon.

Tobis criticizes economists for using a model that is too simple to capture the myriad contributors to and effects of climate change. He wants to add another factor to the uncertainty loop.

But while removing scientific measurements from the equation he wants to replace them with the scare stories Klimate Kultists have been pushing at the world for the last two decades.

Klimate Kultists already ignore the fact that globally, drought has actually decreased in the past 100 years, although the decrease is not statistically significant.

200 year drought

They ignore the fact that the EPA says ‘there is no discernible trend’ in heatwaves in the U.S. for the past century.


They ignore the fact that tropical storms show no increase in either frequency or impacts.


They ignore the fact that destructive tornadoes show no trend over the past 50 years.


And perhaps most pertinent, they ignore the fact that in a century where the Klimate Kultists think sea level rise will be 1 meter, with 15% of the century already behind us we have seen 47 thousands of a meter. In a century where the Klimate Kultists fear temperature rises of up to 6 degrees Celsius, with 15% of the century behind us we have seen perhaps 0.19 degrees Celsius in elevated temperatures.

It’s no wonder that Tobis is agitating for removal of science from policy making. And it’s no wonder that he wants to airbrush sensitivity out of the policy debate. This chart, appropriated from Jo Nova’s site, shows what has been happening to estimates of sensitivity as scientists continue to study it:


Climate Change and Children

The American Academy of Scientists Pediatrics has published a report saying that “Climate change poses a major health threat to children.” Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine and member of the AAP’s Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee, told CBS News. “Climate change is about the world in which our children are living today and in which they will be raising their own families. Their future is at stake, yet they do not vote and they have no voice in the debate. We have a moral obligation to act on their behalf.”

Direct effects include those that result from extreme weather events, including severe storms, floods and wildfires that scientists say are occurring more frequently and on a larger scale because of climate change. “Children’s unique needs place them at risk of injury, death, loss of or separation from caregivers and mental health consequences due to severe weather events.”

However, the scientists say that extreme weather events, including storms, floods and wildfires are neither more frequent nor more extreme.

And they forgot to inform the UN’s World Health Organization, which has a different view of child health.

“Prematurity was the largest single cause of death in children under five in 2013, and approximately 50% of under-five deaths were due to infectious causes.”


The report from the American Academy of Sciences uses Katrina as an example. But Katrina, tragedy that it was, had nothing to do with climate change. It was a normal hurricane that was a Cat 3 when it landed. The timing was bad and the location was bad. But climate change was not a factor in it.

And the report flies in the face of published science when it says “In addition, as heat waves have become more frequent and prolonged in many regions in recent years, heat-related illnesses and deaths among children have also risen. The report points out that infants and high school athletes are especially vulnerable.”

But heatwaves have not become more frequent nor more prolonged.

According to the EPA, ” Heat waves occurred with high frequency in the 1930s, and these remain the most severe heat waves in the U.S. historical record. Many years of intense drought (the “Dust Bowl”) contributed to these heat waves by depleting soil moisture and reducing the moderating effects of evaporation.There is no clear trend over the entire period tracked by the index.”


As for drought, “The annual time series of globally averaged % drought indicates a mean value of 66%, a range of about 4%, and no long-term trend (−0.2% per 100 years, non-statistically significant)”

This rather unambiguous statement comes from a recently published paper “Variability and Trends in Global Drought,” published in the journal Earth and Space Science.”

Look, people. Global warming is not a myth. The globe has warmed. If it continues to warm our great-great grandchildren may face the threats of increasing infectious disease, heat waves, stronger storms and storm surges strengthened by sea level rise.

But to talk as if this were happening now is not science. It is nonsense.

Climate Change: It’s Technology’s Fault

I blame technology for our concerns about climate change. Not so much the centuries-old technologies of steam engines, nor even their successors, the various flavors of internal combustion engines. I don’t blame power plants. I don’t blame cement production.

It’s modern technology that is at fault for our concerns. Without satellites we would not be worried about the extent or area covered by Arctic sea ice. Without sophisticated use of several technologies to pinpoint the amount of sea level rise it would not be a concern. Without communications technologies we would not be aware that the global average temperature has risen.

This has caused the creation of a new discipline of science–climate science. Although we have been studying the climate for centuries, this new science uses new tools, primarily computer-based and folds several other sub-disciplines within it.

Most of the phenomena captured and studied by this new science only have good data going back 30 years, in some cases a century and a half. Older data exists but is corrupted by time to the extent that using it properly means highlighting large error bands and other indicators of uncertainty. What climate scientists are doing is extrapolating from a few decades’ worth of data, extending trends and not having a good grip on natural variability.

We know from well-established physics that doubling CO2 concentrations should try and put the global average temperature up by about 1 degree Celsius. We know from observation that we are well on our way to doubling the concentrations extant in about 1880. And we know that the global average temperature has risen by about 0.8C. Beyond that, we are making guesses, some educated, others less so. This is particularly true when it comes to understanding the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2. It is also particularly true of our understanding of the net effects of clouds.

Perhaps the most pernicious application of technology to climate change is a bit unexpected–the proliferation of statistical analysis software applications that permit number crunching without understanding. This has led to misinterpretation of data, faulty extension of trend lines and a religious observance of the 95% level of confidence that permits publication of results with banner headlines without any backwards look at how that level of confidence is arrived at, what may augur a 5% faulty result. We now have a number of climate scientists that literally do not study climate. They study computer findings.


Just as meteorologists are advised to look out the window prior to making a forecast, we should require climatologists to spend more time in the field gathering data and more time in the lab looking at it.

Otherwise we end up in a similar situation to the 50s and 60s in the U.S. food safety programs, where increases in science’s ability to detect ever smaller residues of pesticides led to the FDA’s ever tighter requirements for limits on their existence on the surface of fruits and vegetables. These limits were tightened not because of findings of harm, but merely because they were increasingly detectable.

Science, like every other part of modern societies, has new toys to play with. What they need is more history to help put it in perspective. What we need is a science historian. The tragedy we face is that someone like Naomi Oreskes has the job title. She is committed to the cause of eradicating human CO2 from the planet, to the point where she gamed her seminal study to conceal the diversity of opinion on climate change, rather than describe it.

So the one scientific position that could help us put new technological findings in perspective has been discredited by its premiere office holder.

So the game continues.

Oh, Dat Nutty Nuccitelli–Lying For The Climate Cause Again

Dana Nuccitelli has it in for skeptics, whom he lovingly calls ‘climate deniers.’ He doesn’t like us Lukewarmers much either, saying we’re in the ‘third stage of climate denial.

The UK’s Guardian, which is so sloppy it is nicknamed ‘The Grauniad’, testimony to its many typos (Nuccitelli is lucky they haven’t misspelled his byline–they like Nutella over there), has given Nuccitelli free rein at its publication. As Nuccitelli is funded by a private consultancy, I doubt if the Guardian has to pay too much.

Nuccitelli has responded by attacking opponents of the Krazed Klimate Konsensus he represents. In recent days he has lambasted Ecomodernists, conservative journalists, the Republican Party (three times–you would think he might remember that the Grauniad is published in the UK), the fossil fuel industry, etc.

His most recent diatribe is against Indur Goklayn’s paper published by the skeptic organization GWPF, which I always want to think stands for Global Wymen for Peaches And Freedom, but probably doesn’t.

Goklany’s paper, with an excellent forward by Freeman Dyson, is about the benefits the CO2 is bringing to us, principally through Global Greening. Titled ‘Carbon Dioxide–The Good News‘, the paper is certainly one-sided–focusing on the benefits of CO2, trusting us to have been exposed to adequate information on the horrors of the thing.

CO2 has led more or less directly to a 14% rise in the productivity of Earth’s biosphere,  a notable rise in agricultural yields and has reduced our need for new land for farming by between 11% and 17%. This is important. It’s happening now, it’s helping those among us who most need the help and is a useful counter to those intent on demonizing the substance.

And Nuccitelli is livid. So livid, in fact, that he makes a fool of himself. His first point about the paper is that Indur Goklany is funded by the GWPF–just the same way that Nuccitelli is funded by a private consultancy. To be clear, I don’t care that Nuccitelli is funded by a private consultancy, any more than I care that Indur Goklany gets the jaw-dropping figure of… $1,000 a month from the GWPF. The fact that Nuccitelli’s employer is directly funded by Exxon is something I find funny, but not relevant to the discussion. What I care about is whether Goklany and Nuccitelli are correct.

Nuccitelli isn’t.

In the Guardian blogpost, Nuccitelli knowingly tells an untruth. He writes, “Unfortunately the bad consequences far outweigh the good, as even the GWPF’s own economic advisor Richard Tol has concluded.” Both links in the quote go to… Nuccitelli’s assessment of what Tol wrote.

In the comments to Nuccitelli’s madness, Tol writes, “Intriguingly, Mr Nuccitelli writes that I “conclude” that “bad consequences far outweigh the good”. As evidence, Mr Nuccitelli refers to a piece written by Mr Nuccitelli. Mr Nuccitelli could have referred to my work instead. Had he read that paper, he would have noticed that I do not support said conclusion.”

What Nuccitelli said Tol wrote: “Unfortunately the bad consequences far outweigh the good, as even the GWPF’s own economic advisor Richard Tol has concluded.”

What Tol wrote: “Climate change will probably have a limited impact on the economy and human welfare in the 21st century. The initial impacts of climate change may well be positive. In the long run, the negative impacts dominate the positive ones. Negative impacts will be substantially greater in poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries. Poverty reduction complements greenhouse gas emissions reduction as a means to reduce climate change impacts. Climate change may affect the growth rate of the economy and may trap more people in poverty but quantification is difficult. The optimal carbon tax in the near term is somewhere between a few tens and a few hundreds of dollars per tonne of carbon.”

Human emissions of CO2 bring us benefits in the present and near term future. They also contribute to warming the climate. Goklany’s paper could have included a more even-handed assessment.

But given the relentless attacks, diatribes, rants and personalized attacks–and yes, deliberate lies to obfuscate the issue–regarding CO2 and those who don’t agree with consensus policies to prepare for, minimize and adapt to whatever warming may come, to blame Goklany for not including the over-publicized hype about it is not just disingenuous. It’s downright hypocritical. Although real scientists will note that increased CO2 does bring benefits, those of the KKK would rather slit their throats than admit it. If they never write about the benefits of CO2 (and Nuccitelli hasn’t said a nice thing about CO2 in his life) why should Goklany be excoriated for focusing on its benefits?

One final note–Nuccitelli makes a big deal out of the fact that Goklany’s paper was peer-reviewed by the GWPF, which does include people qualified to do so. Given Nuccitelli’s co-authorship of John Cook’s trainwreck of a paper on the 97% consensus, here’s some advice for Nuccitelli–next time you write a paper, get the GWPF to review it for you. They’ll do a better job.


Putting the Climate Debate In Its Proper Perspective

I’ve been writing and reading about climate change for close to a decade now. I look at climate blogs every day. I comment on blogs (where I’m allowed to–the Klimate Kultists tend to ban folks like me, sometimes even before I ever say a thing. Yes, that’s you, ATTP.)

It’s not just me, of course. Thousands of interested citizens, politicians, other journalists, lobbyists, NGOs and corporate types follow the climate debate almost obsessively. We know the lingo, the nuance. We know our Dunning Kruger from our Overton Window. We have our touchstones–when someone insults one of them, whether it’s Michael Mann or Steve McIntyre, we are quick on the draw with a quiver full of comebacks.

So it’s nice to remember once in a while that while there may be thousands of us participating in the debate, we are the fringe. No matter which side we take, we are weird by definition just for being so over-involved.

A website called Fusion just put it all into perspective, showing Google search results for both climate change and… the NFL. Here’s what they found:

Interest over time

 Sep 29, 2015Oct 6, 2015Oct 13, 2015Oct 20, 2015
Date climate change nfl
Thursday, September 24, 2015 1 25
Friday, September 25, 2015 1 27
Saturday, September 26, 2015 0 18
Sunday, September 27, 2015 0 100
Monday, September 28, 2015 0 46
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 0 33
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 0 19
Thursday, October 1, 2015 0 24
Friday, October 2, 2015 0 28
Saturday, October 3, 2015 0 18
Sunday, October 4, 2015 0 97
Monday, October 5, 2015 0 49
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 0 32
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 0 19
Thursday, October 8, 2015 0 23
Friday, October 9, 2015 0 24
Saturday, October 10, 2015 0 17
Sunday, October 11, 2015 0 89
Monday, October 12, 2015 0 45
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 0 31
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 1 17
Thursday, October 15, 2015 1 22
Friday, October 16, 2015 0 24
Saturday, October 17, 2015 0 16
Sunday, October 18, 2015 0 83
Monday, October 19, 2015 0 44
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
The polls that show climate change as bottom of the priority list for Americans were not exaggerating. Americans are not interested in climate change. You can argue that they should be (and I’ll agree). You can argue that it doesn’t mean they don’t ‘believe’ in human caused climate change. And I’ll agree again. But… they… don’t… care.
What scares me is that every day I go to Google and search for news about climate change, looking for inspiration for my next post. Those clicks could all be me! Or could be, if I were searching from America instead of Taiwan.
If the Niners weren’t doing so poorly this year I might consider a change of focus for this blog. Come to think of it, they are having land use / land cover issues…
49er turf

Hot Weather Sucks…

…So starts an article in Wired titled “Climate Change Is Going To Be Expensive–For Everybody.” Not being an expert in suckology I decided to read further.

A paper recently published in Nature “compared annual temperature to annual GDP for every country. “What we found is that temperature has played an important role in shaping GDP output in the last 50 years,” says Marshall Burke, economist at Stanford University and co-author of the study.”

“The study found that economic growth has a sweet spot: Around 55˚F. If the average annual temperature falls above or below that, GDP starts to taper off—slow at first, then very fast. “The graph looks like a strong inverted U,” says Edward Miguel, economist at UC Berkeley and another co-author of the study. At either end, the GDP remains fairly stable between 32 and 77 degrees F, but drops rapidly beyond those boundaries.”

As global average temperature right now is 60.4˚F, we must already be suffering the effects, right? And the global average has been above 55˚F since…. well, 1880, at the conclusion of the Little Ice Age. And you can see the crippling effect of the climb in temperatures on global GDP here:

Global gdp

But of course, it could be that some countries have been over-producing because their temperatures haven’t been rising as fast.

Countries in the northern hemisphere have been warming  faster than those in the South. “If global warming were a race, the Northern Hemisphere would be winning. It is warming faster than the Southern Hemisphere, with some of the most rapid warming rates on Earth located in the Arctic, where sea and land ice is shrinking and thinning.”

Hemispheric warming

So obviously, the Southern hemisphere must be going like gangbusters to compensate for lazy folk in the North sweltering under this newly arrived heat, right?

And in fact, the top two countries in GDP growth between 1990 and 2007 are Equatorial Guinea and Vietnam. And so is number 11 on the list, the Cook Islands. And so is number 21, Samoa, and Sri Lanka at number 29.

But the other 24 top growing countries are in the Northern Hemisphere.


Average temperatures:

Equatorial Guinea: Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 73°F to 88°F and is rarely below 70°F.

Vietnam: July is the hottest month in Hanoi with an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) and the coldest is January at 17°C (63°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 8 in July.

Cook Islands: the average daily temperature is 25 degrees celcius/77 fahrenheit.

Sri Lanka: The average temperature in Sri Lanka is 27.0 °C (81 °F). * The range of average monthly temperatures is 2 °C.

Samoa: You will find year round sunshine with temperatures rarely dropping below 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) by day and sea temperatures averagingaround 24 degrees Celsius (75° Fahrenheit).

So the quickest growing economies in the Southern part of the world have temperatures dramatically above 55°F. The quickest growing economies in the Northern part of the world are warming more rapidly. There’s something I’m not seeing here, evidently.

The Wired interview quotes one of the paper’s authors as saying ““Overall economic production would fall by about 23 percent by 2100 if climate keeps changing under the current models.”

That’s kind of a lot. I wonder what model they are using?

Some models work better than others.


Climate Migration–to Puget Sound?

When I first saw the headline I thought, well this can’t be evidence that climate change is bad: “Will climate change cause population surge?” Sadly, though, it’s about people in the Pacific Northwest worried that even more Californians will invade their space.

They’re already worried that California weather is migrating north–some studies predict Seattle will start to have the weather of San Jose (hope the water doesn’t come with it… re: Tom Lehrer). But to also have the actual people? The horror.

It might be a little unfair to ask the author of the article and the study it references if they’re actually native to the region. I mention it because California has a long tradition of recent arrivals hoping they’re the last to come and agitating to close and lock the door the minute they get in.


Quite possibly climate change won’t have much at all to do with future growth in the region.

It’s the coffee. Gotta be.

So Now It’s Really A Climate War? Who Knew…?

Well, okay. Venkatesh Rao at the Atlantic says that the only chance we have at dealing with climate change is to treat it like a war. Here are two similarly well-thought out declarations in the same video:

Rao writes, “Precedents in public health, civil engineering, epidemiology, and public safety offer clearer examples of technocrat-led revolutions. But those transitions were far simpler, technologically, than a retooling of global energy infrastructure.

Properly qualified, there is only one successful precedent for the kind of technological mobilization we are contemplating: the mobilization of American industry during World War II.

The proposed climate change war—and no other term is suitable given the scale, complexity, and speed of the task—requires a level of trust in academic and energy-sector public institutions (including international ones) comparable to the trust placed in military institutions during times of war.
The significant political difference is that climate change offers up no conveniently terrifying dictator, against whom to rally the troops and general population. Without a sufficiently charismatic narrative, casualties will go largely unacknowledged, like the victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 (which caused about twice as many deaths as World War I, but is barely remembered today outside of public-health circles).”

To which I respond, if you are correct we are doomed. Not because of climate change–but because of your solution.

War has been declared on cancer, poverty, drugs and almost every other ill imaginable. I hate to break the news to Mr. Rao, but we lost them all.

War is what happens when reason fails. War is what happens when it’s root hog or die. War is always evidence of failure at the highest level of government.

Bringing that mindset to climate change will do just as much good as it has done to marijuana. None to speak of.

How will we know when we’ve won? When the climate no longer changes?

Why don’t we treat climate change as a long-term policy issue of the same magnitude as eradicating malaria or ending poverty worldwide? I’ll be that would work a lot better.

My advice to Mr. Rao–do as we did in Vietnam. Declare victory and go home. Worked for this guy:


Bring On The Engineers! Pre-Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts

Hoesung Lee, the new head of the IPCC, isn’t wasting time writing tawdry romance novels as did his predecessor. He yesterday called for a shift in focus for the IPCC, saying that they should focus more on solutions.

As he told the Guardian, “We have been doing a fantastic job in identifying the problem of climate change. At the same time we have been somewhat slow in identifying the solutions aspects,” Lee told the Guardian. “I believe the next cycle of the IPCC should be more focused on opportunities and solutions.”

I think everyone on his side of the fence is tired of talking about the problem. Given the quality of data available to quantify the existence and scope of the problem that’s no surprise.

One way of side-stepping around the legitimate concerns of those unconvinced by prior emissions of climate ‘information’ is to focus on things that need doing anyway.

Cities from New Orleans to Manila need to build robust defences against storms. Cities from Tokyo to New York need to address subsidence. Beaches from England to California have suffered serious erosion. Forests from Canada to Indonesia are dealing with wildfires. Populations from Thailand to Pakistan are increasing so fast that they are moving into areas threatened by serious flooding.


Bring on the engineers! Let’s start fixing areas threatened by today’s climate and build in a prudent safety margin for threats that may arise from sober assessments of future climate change. If those safety margins are added on to existing projects it won’t hurt so much–it won’t cost so much.

From sea walls and harbor protection to forest management practices and combating incursions into rain forests, from river management to aquifer depletion, these tasks need to be undertaken with or without climate change.

Action taken on these existing problems would provide real world protection for threatened populations and show evidence that making a better world can also include provision for an uncertain future.

Acting in such a manner would forestall criticisms from skeptics that we are building protection against a problem they don’t see coming. We need to do these things anyhow. And it wouldn’t necessarily take the focus away from where the alarmists believe it should be–on mitigation. We need to do these things anyhow.

Someone tell me I’m missing something important, because I don’t see why we aren’t moving on this now.

Maybe Hoesung Lee has something…


The Evil That Men Do–to Climate, the Environment, People’s Health and More

Don’t you just hate it when you get a great idea for a post and find out someone just wrote it–and probably did a better job than you would have done?

The Volkswagen scandal had me thinking of other policy blowbacks of the past. Volkswagen gamed their emission results, leaving their new cars polluting far more than they were supposed to. But the real crime is in the mandating of more diesel (because it emits less CO2) than conventional car engines, which emit far less pollution (except when Volkswagen is gaming the results).

I intended to talk a bit about DDT, which environmentalists agitated against decades ago, leading to numerous unnecessary cases of malaria, many fatal. I also wanted to talk again about the UK’s policy response to BSE, which led to a remake of the country’s agricultural system and the massacre of 8 million cows, ignoring the advice of scientists that the small number of cases didn’t call for such a heavy-handed approach.

I wanted to talk about the UK’s method of converting to a greener fuel portfolio, passing along investment costs for green energy to consumer utility bills, which led to fuel poverty on such a scale that thousands of poor UK citizens freeze to death every year because they can’t pay their energy bills.

I was going to continue with more recent examples, but Matt Ridley beat me to it with a really good post on his Rational Optimist blog.

He writes of the Volkswagen scandal, “The great European switch to diesel engines was a top-down decision as a direct result of exaggerated fears about climate change. Convinced that the climate was about to warm rapidly, and extreme weather was about to get much worse, European governments signed the Kyoto protocol in 1997 and committed to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide in the hope that this would help. In the event, the global temperature stopped rising for 18 years, while droughts, floods and storms also showed no increase.

But in 1998, urged on by EU transport commissioner Neil Kinnock, welcomed by environment secretary John Prescott and acted on by chancellor Gordon Brown, Britain happily signed up to an EU agreement with car makers that they would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25% over ten years. This suited German car makers, specialists in Rudolf Diesel’s engine design, because diesel engines have 15% lower CO2 emissions than petrol engines.

The EU agreement was “practically an order to switch to diesel”, says one clean-air campaigner. As subjects of Brussels, Britain obediently lowered tax on diesel cars, despite knowing that they produce four times as much nitrogen oxides as petrol, and 20 times as many particulates, both bad for human lungs.”

I would add that the air in London is heavily polluted, despite modern technology’s best efforts, primarily because of the proliferation of diesel fuel, especially in London’s fleet of buses. When I lived there I was surprised to find that air quality was no better than in Turin, the city I left for London, often criticized as the most polluted city in Western Europe. But London was just as bad.

Ridley goes on: “What is more, this is becoming a repetitive story. Almost every policy adopted to fight climate change has been a disaster, doing more harm than good.

Diverting agricultural crops into making ethanol or diesel to feed motor cars rather than people forces up the price of food, kills approximate 200,000 extra people a year and increases pressure on the rain forest.

Burning wood instead of coal in power stations has devastated forests and actually increased CO2 emissions: wood emits more CO2 per unit of energy generated even than coal and the argument that this does not matter because trees eventually regrow is unpersuasive.

Subsidising windmills has raised the price of energy, rewarded the rich, killed eagles and gannets, polluted Chinese waterways with effluent from rare-earth refining, and increased energy poverty – all without making a significant difference to emissions.

And now we know that giving tax breaks to diesel cars has made urban air quality worse than it would otherwise have been, killing possibly 5,000 people a year in this country alone. These were all mistakes made by people who thought they knew best.”

His post goes on, but for my purposes his point is clear. Our blunderbuss efforts to address climate change have done more harm than good. The unwillingness of the Climate Elect to admit this means the harm continues.

I’m not saying we should quit trying to address climate change. I’m saying if we don’t learn from the mistakes we have made, our efforts are hardly likely to improve.

Smart solar, natural gas, modular nuclear power. These are winning ideas. Letting the market dictate the pace of adoption, assisted by modest subsidies, can reduce the pain this massive conversion may cause.

Offshore wind, biofuels (outside of Brazil, where they make sense), shipping wood pellets across the Atlantic to biomass plants in England, and perhaps most of all, advantaging diesel cars that kill people today instead of normal ICE cars with modern pollution control devices–these are loser ideas invented to enrich a small group of investors and plutocrats put in place despite the peoples’ desires, not because of them.

25 more letters

An Offset Program That Might Be Worthwhile

The last decade saw the emergence of programs whereby people and organizations could offset their energy consumption and/or their CO2 emissions by paying money to preserve rain forests, plant trees, etc. These programs are often called carbon offsets.

CarbonFund, for example, promotes three types of offset activities–Renewable Energy and Methane, Energy Efficiency and Carbon Credits, and Reforestation and Avoided Deforestation.

However, there are problems associated with carbon offsets. Emission reductions are hard to verify, many programs have large administrative costs that reduce the amount spent on emission reduction, there have been more than a few instances of downright fraudulent activity, etc. There are also what I call ‘philosophical’ issues with these programs, such as perverse incentives and property rights.

However, if the focus were on generation rather than reduction, offsets could play a role in both emission reduction and developmental aid for emerging countries.

Take California for example. This is where California gets its energy:

Californai fuel sources

California is currently spending a lot of money, time and energy on improving its fuel portfolio. More power to them–literally. However, the solar panels they put up today are in all likelihood displacing natural gas. Natural gas is already a lot cleaner than coal and California could do better than just aiming at a vanity proclamation that X% of their energy consumption is fueled by pure as snow renewables (they don’t count hydroelectric power or nuclear as part of their emission free portfolio). The world doesn’t need to focus on removing natural gas from our portfolio. Our focus should be on coal–and California doesn’t use it.

If California wanted to make an impact on climate change and conventional pollution, they would do far better by building clean energy generation facilities elsewhere. Someone else would get the power (although the builder and operators would be compensated) but California would be making a contribution to a cleaner planet–and the reduction of fossil fuel usage in the target country.

Take China for example. California gets some of China’s dirty air, although they only notice it when there’s a sandstorm blowing off the Gobi. If California built a solar facility, wind farm, natural gas plant or even–horrors!–a clean coal plant, China would be the primary beneficiary–but the world overall and California as well would also reap the rewards.

If there were a way to recognize and reward these efforts, it would cut the Lomborgian knot that sensibly recognizes the need for access to energy throughout the developing world, while also insuring that the donor country or state (or city, for that matter) received both recognition and compensation for their efforts.

In Paris in 50 days they are going to talk about climate reparations, whereby those of us who used fossil fuels to power our development over the past two centuries pay those we are begging not to follow the same course $100 billion–to start with. There will also be a number of other schemes used to incentivise emission reduction and low carbon development.

Shifting the concept of offsets away from emissions to fuel generation would be a practical idea that would contribute to a solution. I hope someone brings it up in Paris.

Climate Purge in Paris in Advance of COP 21

Now, where did they store those guillotines?


Philippe Verdier is a veteran meteorologist with a Masters in sustainable development. He has been bringing weather news to France for years on the television channel France 2. He has impeccable credentials (very important in France), and has covered previous COP gatherings in Bali, Copenhagen and Cancun. He has been actively studying climate change since 1997.

And he just got yanked off the air. The reason? He has written a book called ‘Climate Investigation‘ where he claims “that leading climatologists and political leaders have “taken the world hostage” with misleading data. He now calls himself the ‘Snowden’ of climate change. I hope that doesn’t mean he has to move to Russia…

In a promotional video for the book, Mr Verdier said: “Every night I address five million French people to talk to you about the wind, the clouds and the sun. And yet there is something important, very important that I haven’t been able to tell you, because it’s neither the time nor the place to do so.”

He added: “We are hostage to a planetary scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear.”

For this scandalous utterance the former French Minister of Ecology, Natalie Kosciusko Morizet, called him and other skeptics ‘assholes.’ On national television. I guess when you’re hosting 40,000 of the Climate Elect you want to keep the story simple, if not straight.

Verdier is not a kook, not an extremist. His doctoral thesis is about the role of media in the current debate on climate change. He sounds very much like a Lukewarmer, and his book sounds similar to some of what I have written in my recently published book, ‘The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us.

But his book is twice as expensive as mine :) And it’s in French…

Verdier said “said he decided to write the book in June 2014 when Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, summoned the country’s main weather presenters and urged them to mention “climate chaos” in their forecasts.

“I was horrified by this discourse,” Mr Verdier told Les Inrockuptibles magazine. Eight days later, Mr Fabius appeared on the front cover of a magazine posing as a weatherman above the headline: “500 days to save the planet.”

Mr Verdier said: “If a minister decides he is Mr Weatherman, then Mr Weatherman can also express himself on the subject in a lucid manner.

“What’s shameful is this pressure placed on us to say that if we don’t hurry, it’ll be the apocalypse,” he added, saying that “climate diplomacy” means leaders are seeking to force changes to suit their own political timetables.“”

Shameful, yes. But certainly not limited to France.

Hey Senator Sheldon Whitehouse–What the…? More Climate Stupidity

In England they call summer ‘the silly season’, where normal rules of journalism and even political speech give way to celebrating the odd, funny and strange.

Nowadays we can hijack the term to describe the run-up to the Conference of Parties which have been happening annually and produce some of the most entertaining and/or obnoxious statements imaginable regarding climate change, our contributions to it and its potential impacts on our planet and we, its inhabitants. COP 21 in Paris is no different.

Probably the stupidest statement(s) of the past few days comes from a U.S. Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, a name that may also capture his ambitions. But he won’t get my vote for higher office. Following the vicious call for RICO prosecutions of those who dissent on climate change coming from some who profit greatly from fears of climate change, Senator Whitehouse calls those who are criticizing the Salem witchhunt as ‘attacks from the right-wing attack machine.’

Senator, I am a Democrat (and I am ashamed that you call yourself one, too). I am not part of any machine. It is not the ‘right wing’ that is correctly criticizing those calling for RICO prosecutions of dissenters. It is people who respect freedom of speech and love this country and apart from you, that includes many Democrats. I criticized Ken Cuccinelli when he tried to shut up Michael Mann. How dare you drag my party down to that level?

And where do you get off calling Judith Curry a climate denier? She’s making climate science, not denying it. From Wikipedia: “Judith A. Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She is a member of the National Research Council’sClimate Research Committee.[1]

Curry is the co-author of Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans (1999), and co-editor of Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences (2002), as well as over 140 scientific papers. Among her awards is the Henry G. Houghton Research Award from theAmerican Meteorological Society in 1992.”

And on what planet does a U.S. Senator think it is acceptable to characterize a respected scientist who happens to be on the other side of the fence on one policy issue as similar to someone who denies the Holocaust occurred?

As someone who signed letters asking the IRS to investigate conservative groups in the run-up to elections in 2010 and 2012 I can understand Senator Whitehouse’s willingness to use repressive bullying tactics to get his way.

But I don’t have to approve.

Senator Whitehouse, quit dragging the name and reputation of my party through the mud. Go back to Rhode Island and STFU.

Seriously. You are wrong on the facts, insulting in your speech and you are trashing our image. I’ll say it again–so this guy doesn’t have to.


Testimony from the McCarthy hearings is appropriate.

Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad.

When McCarthy Whitehouse tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:

Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

McCarthy Whitehouse tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch interrupted:

Mr. McCarthy Whitehouse, I will not discuss this further with you.  You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”
Just STFU.

After The Gold Rush

Long post warning: This is a long post.

I have used the title of Neil Young’s song several times during my research career. The first time was as a journalist was back in 1993, when writing for the Italian supplement to the International Herald Tribune. I was writing about the demographic tidal wave about to hit Europe overall and Italy in particular, saying that a combination of immigration and improved total factor productivity were just about their only option for dealing with negative population growth. Exciting stuff, perhaps one reason why I no longer write for them. I have since used the title over articles and reports about the withdrawal of subsidies for solar power in Europe, the slowing of innovation in Silicon Valley and other subjects.

It’s a great song and the title lends itself to a number of uses.

However, today I’m using it because Michael Tobis and I are involved in a lengthy exchange, dueling blog posts as it were. He has been guest posting over at And Then There’s Physics and is promoting a new paradigm for discussing climate change impacts.

In his first post, Tobis quoted Kevin Trenberth, who may end up being more famous for calling for RICO prosecution of climate dissenters than for his contributions to climate science. Trenberth had written “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. ”

Tobis then added, “Trenberth is however responding to an overvaluing of the formal attribution question that has plagued climate change conversation from the beginning.”

This struck me as bizarre. A scientist writing that attribution is over-valued? And I wrote in response that it was similar to a district attorney saying evidence was over-valued.

Tobis then replied that he wasn’t arguing against attribution, but the way that we had been going about it. Because his argument strikes me as important, I’ll leave the ‘he said, she said’ stuff aside, along with my long history of bad blood with Tobis and focus on what comes next.

Here’s Tobis:  “What we should care most about is the prognosis for the future climate that is dramatically much more altered than the one we face today. To inform that, we should not look at individual events, even the most extremely destructive ones, without taking a historical perspective and seeking comparable disasters in the past. ”

He elaborated on the subject in his second post, titled ‘Thinking About What A Friend Had Said, I Was Hoping It Was A Lie.” That’s a lyric from the Neil Young song, which partially explains the title of my post here. Not completely–you’ll have to suffer through to the end of the post to find out why.

There he writes, “I certainly don’t advocate that “analysis of extreme weather events starts with the built in assumption that climate change has made it worse” as has been alleged. Quite to the contrary, I am suggesting we approach the Disaster Tango afresh, in such a way as to engage skeptics and consensus supporters alike, provided they are reasonable and rational about it.” 

This is a constructive beginning, as long as Tobis isn’t the arbiter of who is labeled reasonable or rational. His coterie of blog friends includes many who are neither. But onwards…

Tobis then lists a 9-point program that, stripped to its essentials, argues for looking at extreme weather events primarily in a historical context, rather than just imputing human-caused climate change automatically when there is a flood in Pakistan, a drought in California or a flood in South Carolina. Specifically, Tobis wants to focus on recurrence times for events. Are they happening more frequently than in the past?

As Tobis notes, this takes climate models out of the equation, as far as attribution goes, and this seems positive to me, as climate models are not designed to bring much light to bear on the subject and past attempts to force them to contribute to the discussion have been not helpful.

And I think it’s a great idea. We don’t even have to start from scratch–some members of the consensus as well as skeptics and lukewarmers have been working along these lines for some time. It should be fairly quick and easy to adapt their findings to show recurrence times for events.

As I noted in a previous post, ”

“The annual time series of globally averaged % drought indicates a mean value of 66%, a range of about 4%, and no long-term trend (−0.2% per 100 years, non-statistically significant). This rather unambiguous statement comes from a recently published paper “Variability and Trends in Global Drought,” published in the journal Earth and Space Science.”

As the U.S. Geological Survey wrote yesterday with regard to recent precipitation in South Carolina, “While this certainly was a catastrophic flood with lots of damage and tragic loss of life, USGS provisional data and preliminary analysis show NO indication that a 1000-year flood discharge occurred at any USGS stream gauges. However, based on that analysis, it does appear that the USGS streamgage on the Black River at Kingstree, SC and the one on the Smith Branch at Columbia, SC both measured peak floods in the neighborhood of a 500-year flood. Currently, there appear to be a few more stream gauges experiencing a 25-year to 50-year flood, but the majority of USGS stream gauges had flood peaks that were less than 10-year floods.”

As most of the climate action is occurring way up North, I think special efforts should be made to provide historical context for what is clearly a changed climate regime in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. I suspect such work would find clear evidence of a changed climate that might be of more value to understanding our role in climate change and would also probably produce storylines that Tobis and his compadres find more pleasing.

One potentially fruitful area would be a continuation of the examination of Himalayan glaciers. Although there has been a lot of horribly wrong things written about them, they are well worth studying and the studying has already begun.

As I write in my recently published book which you all should acquire speedily, “As the planet warms, many of the world’s 200,000 glaciers are retreating—some are even disappearing. However, the process is not simple. Many retreating glaciers started retreating long before humans started affecting the climate. Some glaciers are growing in size—including some located very near retreating glaciers.

“Thus a study has been carried out to find the change in the extent of Himalayan glaciers during the last decade using IRS LISS III images of 2000/01/ 02 and 2010/11. Two thousand and eighteen glaciers representing climatically diverse terrains in the Himalaya were mapped and monitored. It includes glaciers of Karakoram, Himachal, Zanskar, Uttarakhand, Nepal and Sikkim regions. Among these, 1752 glaciers (86.8%) were observed having stable fronts (no change in the snout position and area of ablation zone), 248 (12.3%) exhibited retreat and 18 (0.9%) of them exhibited advancement of snout. The net loss in 10,250.68 sq. km area of the 2018 glaciers put together was found to be 20.94 sq. km or 0.2% (02.5% of 20.94 sq. km).”

More work like that should be funded on an ongoing basis. Closer to home, putting the current California drought into context is important. California is very aware of climate change and has done far more than most to move towards lower emissions and a greener fuel portfolio.

For this they seem to be being punished by a harsh drought, which some are attributing to climate change. Tobis’ initiative would be very helpful in putting the California drought into historical (and pre-historical) context.


So I welcome Tobis’ new initiative. It could run well alongside my own new offering, the RAMA initiative I introduced over the summer, where I call for renewed efforts to explain and reach agreement on Recognition, Attribution, Mitigation and Adaptation.

It would be better than previous efforts to mandate consensus on climate change, something perhaps best characterized by the last line in Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush,’ a line that seems to capture the entire mainstream fuzzy attitude towards the environment and eschews any quantitative analysis of the phenomenon:

Riding Mother Nature’s silver steed to her new home in the sun.

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…