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

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

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

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

They reported on it here and here.

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

Fabius Maximus then reinterpreted the results here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom_Scott_stupid_fight-570x384

Real Climate’s Stefan Rahmstorf–A History of Defamation

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

defamation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the journalist Rahmstorf libeled?

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

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

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

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

witchhunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Hat tip to Junk Science:

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

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

 

Earth 2100–A Look Back

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

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

Guess I’ll give that a miss.

U.S.-retail-gasoline-prices-EIA.gov_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ignoring Instead of Learning Lessons From the Medieval Warming Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morris’ book is excellent and I recommend it highly.

Update on Sea Level Rise

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

It doesn’t change the shape of this chart:

Post-Glacial_Sea_Level

Although recent performance is easier to see here:

Trends_in_global_average_absolute_sea_level,_1880-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Food Security and Climate Change

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

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

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

FAO Food Security 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Climate Change, Vox Populi is not Vox Dei

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zarathustra

Climate Change Takes on the Trappings of Religion

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

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

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

Pilgrimage

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change Predictions and Mathematical Decay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top3InnovationQuotes2

The Various Misuses of RCP 8.5

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

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

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

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

Maybe they used these good folks:

What-May-Happen-in-the-Next-Hundred-Years_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

syrian desert

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

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

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

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

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

That’s business as usual.

So close… and yet so far

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

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

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

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

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

Oh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It just smells bad.

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

Citi Says Climate Change to Cost $44 Trillion through 2060

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

99-bankers-2011

Mainstream Science Specifically…Denies… Climate Catastrophe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here they are:

IPCC unlikelihood

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

Those who shout catastrophe from the rooftops are denying science.

Crusade to Climate Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake. And if we narrowly fucking miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own fucking personal individual fucking self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of fucking nerve saying you are on my “side”.

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

Or this:

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t need a shooting war.

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

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

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

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

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

Peoples voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farming and Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

agricultural productivity

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

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

sub saharan africa agricultural productivity

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

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

It’s not just true for agriculture.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An unanticipated cost of climate change…

… is legal fees. “One kid says that his family’s farm has been damaged by drought and wildfire. Another says that his childhood home has been devalued by rising sea levels. A third alleges an assault on his whole culture as man-made climate change upends the natural world.

These and 18 other “youth plaintiffs” (ages 8 to 19) sued the federal government on Wednesday, walking a first-of-its-kind constitutional claim up the courthouse steps in Eugene, Oregon. The kids argue that inaction on climate change is a violation of their right to life, liberty and property. And they demand that President Obama, seven federal departments and the Environmental Protection Agency act immediately to preserve the climate for “future generations.”

Perhaps the key part of the MSNBC story is ““This case presents the opportunity for a landmark decision like Brown v. Board of Education (on racial equality) or Obergefell v. Hodges (on marriage equality),” Julia Olson, one of the kids’ lawyers, wrote in a briefing sent to msnbc. It asks the court to decide whether children have a constitutional right to protection from fossil fuel policies that “knowingly create dangerous climate change.”

Olson is executive director of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit that has spearheaded climate-related lawsuits in all 50 states. All have fallen short of success in one way or another. But this new federal filing goes further than anything the group – or anyone else – has filed in the past.

It includes a claim by James Hansen, a climate researcher who headed NASA’s Goddard’s Institute for Space Studies for more than 30 years and first warned Congress of global warming in 1988. Hansen’s granddaughter is one of the plaintiffs, and Hansen himself—fresh from calling Obama’s climate change policies “practically worthless”—is listed as a “guardian for future generations.”

So, a lawyer for a green organization has filed lawsuits in 50 states and persuaded 18 kids to sign on as victims. But victims of what?

Tia Marie Hatton, an 18-year-old plaintiff from Oregon, told msnbc “They depend on a healthy climate and right now that healthy climate is being negatively impacted by the government allowing and promoting the use of fossil fuel.”

Although the EPA has recently damaged the environment by inadvertently spilling mine tailings into a river, that wasn’t in Oregon. The seven inches of sea level rise in Oregon has not materially affected the lives of Oregonians. Farmers in the estuaries of the Oregonian river basis have been building dikes to protect their farms. Well, actually they started doing that in the 1880s.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Oregon was in Pendleton. In umm, well, 1898. The warmest 30-year period ever recorded in Portland was from 1921 to 1950. The driest year Portland ever saw was in 1978, barely beating the previous record set in 1923.

So I’m struggling to see present climate damages.

I also am wondering why the U.S. government is responsible for the climate of the world. Even if you accept that the U.S. led the world in emissions for many years, it wasn’t the government doing the emitting. It was that group of nefarious bastards also known as ‘us.’ We got us where we are.

As for the U.S. government being responsible for future climate, well, even if the U.S. stopped all emissions today–100%–the increased emissions of China would bring the level back up to today’s in a decade. And then emissions would continue to increase.

Does the organization Our Children’s Trust advocate war with China to reduce global emissions? Should Barack Obama vacate the agreement he reached with the Chinese to limit their emissions starting in 2030?

There have been lawsuits filed against various government bodies that were actually supported and financed by government bodies including the EPA. I’d like to know if the EPA supports this lawsuit. I’d like to know if they’re funding it. I’d kinda like to file an amicus curiae brief to defend the government from what is essentially a frivolous lawsuit.

And yes, Our Children’s Trust is in Eugene, not Portland, but who can resist?

The Biggest Driver of Human Contributions to Climate Change

Although we talk incessantly about fossil fuel emissions and to a lesser extent than we should about deforestation, black soot and other human causes of climate change,  the big one is population. More poor people consume more energy (cutting down trees for fuel), need more land (cutting down trees for building materials and space to build) and food (cutting down more trees for farmland). More rich people fly more, jet ski more, snowmobile more and burn more wood pellets in their stoves. They probably drive more, too.

About 10 years ago the UN expected population to peak at about 9.2 billion. They now expect population to reach 11.3 billion by the end of the century and to continue growing afterwards.

So when the UN released its revisions to global population predictions for the rest of the century, I would have expected the climate change community to take notice.

So far I haven’t seen a word.

Nigeria may well have 450 million people by the end of the century–it may have many more. That will have an impact on the environment of Africa. The USA may also have a population of 450 million by that time–and depending on the decisions we are making today, that may have 10 times the impact on the environment that Nigeria’s population growth will have. Put simply, Nigeria’s population rise may devastate Nigeria’s environment. America’s growth may impact the whole world.

China and India are set to remain the most populous countries in the world, with Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan climbing up the rankings.

From a strictly climatic (not anti-climatic) point of view, what needs to happen is for America to innovate for energy efficiency and non-emissivity and to pass that technology on to developing countries as quickly as possible.

I don’t really see a good Plan B.

crowd1

Climate Child Abuse

A feature appearing in In These Times is titled “Is Climate Change Causing Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Millenials?‘ The answer is apparently yes, although we have to wade through stories about Paul Ehrlich drinking to cope beforehand.

The story references a survey done in 2007 (8 years ago? There’s a sign of a pressing problem.) done by BrainPop.

Now, the story in In These Times says that over 60% of the children surveyed are worried more about climate change than terrorism, car crashes or cancer. (Only one of these pose a significant risk to middle school children. It isn’t climate change, terrorism or cancer.)

But the survey doesn’t say that. The survey says these children fear a grouping of global warming and other environmental disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding, more than those other remote risks.

This is actually a typical trick of the Klimate Konsensus. If you’re worried about biodiversity, they will say that global warming is a contributor, along with real threats like over-hunting/fishing, pollution, introduction of alien species and habitat loss. They just won’t mention that the contribution  of climate change to this threat is about 1% of the total, while the other problems constitute 99%.

Has fear of climate change increased since 2007? Those middle schoolers are now young adults.

This Pew Survey doesn’t think so–global warming ranked last on a list of priorities for Americans. In fact, dealing with climate change almost always ranks last as a priority. (This is a mistaken feeling in my opinion, but it’s still the truth.) “In a June 2015 Pew poll, 51 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 rated climate change a “very serious” problem.” But they still don’t advocate doing much to combat it.

It isn’t for lack of trying. From the No Pressure Video to John Cook’s MOOC on how to deal with climate deniers, Konsensus Katastrophists have been trying to terrify children about global warming. There was ‘Earth 2100‘, produced by ABC television and marketed to kids, showing how the heroine (Lucy–no show is complete without a reference to the Leakey family) moving through life as life becomes unbearable. Due to global warming.

A recent story in Think Progress is titled ‘How to Talk to a 5-Year-Old About Climate Change.’ Even though the story links to the American Psychological Association and EcoAmerica saying ” children “tend to be especially vulnerable to the psychological impacts of climate change, especially those related to stress and anxiety”, Think Progress highlights a parent who says “I talk to him like I’m talking to you.”

I suppose that’s better than pushing a red button to blow him up as the Katastrophist video No Pressure did.

exploding children

I consider this pretty close to child abuse. Berating children from the time they are four until they have the legal power to escape the madness is more than a decade of pushing a dystopian future that is at the farthest range of possibilities, according to the IPCC. And these educators, entertainers and too many parents are painting this Mad Max world as inevitable. It’s only just barely possible. It is far more likely that we will continue to develop and our lives will continue to improve. We will have to spend money dealing with climate change (we’ll spend less money if we spend it now…), but it is almost certain that climate change will not be a civilization buster. It’s just another problem we have to deal with.

We just had a very strong typhoon here in Taiwan. It finished Sunday. It was dramatic. It wasn’t traumatic. The city is 99% back to normal. People went to work yesterday. People adapt. They overcome obstacles. They deal with extreme weather.

If Millenials have become numb due to the mindless repetition of Katastrophists, more power to them. I hope they find a way to temper the messages their own children receive.

Once more on Verheggen et al while I squeegee water out of my apartment

A day after Typhoon Soudelor passed overhead and I am busy getting water out of our apartment. Casualties were few, the mess is large.

Typhoon

While my wife thought I was watching the torrential rain, I was actually thinking of the Verheggen et al survey I have been going on and on about over the past week.

Briefly, Verheggen et al conducted a survey of practicing climate scientists to determine how robust the climate consensus really is. In his report on the survey, he almost completely neglects to tell us the consensus is 66%, focusing instead on the fact that scientists with more publications are stronger supporters of the consensus than scientists with fewer publications. More here. And more here. And here. And their paper is here.

So, I went over to Bart Verheggen’s excellent weblog and posted the following comment.

“Hi all,

If analyzing subgroups based on their level of expertise had been part of the project design, perhaps the questions should have and would have been written differently.

Analyzing by level of expertise is not mentioned as one of the project goals in the Introduction to your paper, nor in any of the material I’ve seen written about it prior to fielding the survey. It appears to be something added after you looked at the results.

This is not unusual–often data surprises researchers and provides new avenues to explore. But never in 20 years of doing this have I seen it completely eclipse the principal objective of the research.

Bart, I’m specifically excluding you from what follows–I think one member of your team (John Cook) is an apologist for the worst of the climate activist community and this is primarily aimed at the activist community. Please feel free to correct me–if Mr. Cook was completely neutral and acted like all our best visions of a scientist at work, let me know.

Because John Cook is lead author of a heavily publicized paper that trumpets a 97% consensus in the literature, I believe that the 66% consensus found in your survey ( and repeated in Bray, von Storch 2010) was considered either unhelpful or anomalous. I note you cite other studies but not Bray, von Storch. I am ‘struggling to understand’ (apologies to ATTP) why you would fail to note that another survey conducted in 2008 came up with exactly the same percentage of agreement with the consensus (although the definition was different).

It appears from what has been written regarding the survey that because the topline agreement with the consensus statement came in at 66% that a decision was reached to highlight the results of other questions.

That would explain why the topline percentage was reported only by question number only and combined with the figure for another question in the only sentence where it was mentioned in the report.

As there is a clear difference in responses between those with more publications and those with fewer, that became the story that was reported.

To repeat–it is not wrong or even unusual to note differences between subgroups–that’s why you ask demographic or organographic questions in the first place.

But to bury the topline finding and focus on the subgroups is something I’ve never seen before. Ever.

I’ve designed, fielded, analyzed and reported on the results of over a thousand surveys. In addition, I have trained other researchers, coached them, corrected their mistakes (and learned from them) and edited their reports. I am not a scientist but I believe I will claim status of subject matter expert on the technical aspects of quantitative surveys, both consumer and professional.

You know I have the highest regard for you–for years you were the only consensus blogger I knew that ‘played fairly’ and I have learned a lot of what little I know about climate science here at your blog.

So I don’t say this lightly. Your survey is good. The reporting of the results is not.”

Climate Despair

I normally search Google News for stories about climate change. Today I wish I hadn’t.

Knowledge@Wharton, a website sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, has a story today titled ‘The Climate Change Tipping Point: How Should Businesses React?‘ It is based on James Hansen’s recent foray into igniting food fights with his paper published in the Discussion section of the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion Journal.

The story has no advice for businesses at all. It just discusses the wilder claims in the Hansen paper. It has quotes shouting out “If you look at what [the IPCC] predicted [in 2000] for 2020 in terms of greenhouse gas emission, in terms of impact on the planet — the worst-case scenario is already happening….”

and “We may wake up … in 2025, 2030 and see rapid sea level rise — that’s what people have been fearing for years, because they don’t have the time to adapt.”

and “We’re not talking about an increase of sea level by a few feet; we’re talking about a large number — five, 10, 20 meters — basically two, three, four, five floors.”

None of which are predicted by mainstream science, which used to include James Hansen.

It’s dispiriting to see science ignored. It’s worse when you realize that it isn’t just Wharton–Rolling Stone has  a piece titled “The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here“. SBS has a story titled “Is anywhere on Earth safe from climate change?

In all, the search for “Climate Change Hansen” on Google News returns 42,300 results.

Hansen’s claims are not based on mainstream science. Rather, they come from his nightmares. Hansen as much as admits this in a piece he wrote for Huffington Post titled “Disastrous Sea Level Rise Is An Issue For Today’s Public–Not Next Millenium’s.” Hansen writes, “Did you read any of the recent papers that concluded ice sheets may be disintegrating and might cause large sea level rise in 200-900 years? The time needed for ice sheets to respond to climate change is uncertain, and there are proponents for time scales covering a huge range. However, 200-900 years should cause a scientist to scratch his head. If it is uncertain by an order of magnitude or more, why not 100-1000? Where does the 200-900 precision come from?

Why the peculiar 900 years instead of the logical 1000? Probably because nobody cares about matters 1000 years in the future (they may not care about 900, but 200-900 does not seem like infinity). A scientist knowing that sea level is a problem does not want the reader to dismiss it.”

The ice Hansen is worried about is mostly the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, particularly the Pine Island Glacier. It has been predicted to fail since the 1930s due to mechanical stresses, not global warming and scientists think that it will take about 200 years to have an impact on sea level. The ice cap in Greenland would take a minimum of 3,000 years to lose half its volume. The Eastern Ice Sheet in Antarctica would take even longer than that to impact sea levels.

But the sheer volume of the hysteria caused by Hansen’s ill-advised paper, meant no doubt to provide fodder for the climate concerned in Paris, is dispiriting. How can misinformation be countered on that scale?

It’s like we’re watching a cheesy disaster movie from the 70s.

the-towering-inferno

Maybe sane people could counter with an appropriate satire?

Joey

Look. Disasters are serious. I am currently living in Taipei. Some time in the next 12 hours Typhoon Soudelor is expected to pass over my house. It is thought that it might strengthen as it approaches. 3 people in Taiwan have already been swept out to sea by the storm.

But the people here, unlike the hysterics agitating about 5 meters of sea level rise by 2020, are doing what we need to do. Sandbagging, laying in water and batteries for flashlights, tying things down. We are not accusing someone of creating this storm. We are not advocating that windows be permanently removed from buildings, nor that we start living in caves.

Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t have enough problems. Forcing his nightmares on us might be therapy for him. It’s leading to a real disaster for us–if we choose to believe him.

I get my kicks on the Route to 66… Percent Consensus

Sorry to bore all of you with my third post in as many days regarding Bart Verheggen’s survey of climate scientists.

However, it’s important to highlight defects of their reporting scheme before John Cook starts trumpeting it all over the intertubes as support for his nonsensical 97% consensus.

Verheggen’s survey is good. His report is not.  The data shows clearly that the percentage of scientists who think half or more of recent warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases is 66%. He almost point blank refused to use that figure, preferring to show the higher percentage of agreement among scientists who claim to have more publications under their name.

Route 66

Over at Bart’s weblog, he writes this in justification for his decisions:

“Tom,

I disagree with this conclusion of yours:

Those answering ‘I don’t know’ need to be included in your calculations of a consensus, precisely because they do not form part of the consensus.

For the reasons given in this post. Many of those who answered I don’t know, unknown, or other, could realistically be expected to form part of the consensus in terms of thinking warming is predominantly human induced. That is clear from comparing the answers to Q1 to the answers to Q3 and from the responses to the open question box with Q1.”

Bart–could? Could?

Bart continues, “To substantiate your approach, you’d need to answer types of questions such as:

What is your explanation for the large number of undetermined answers to Q1?”

The explanation is simple. It is a difficult question and many scientists honestly do not know the answer. Many may believe it is possible but not shown or not proven, that half or more of the recent warming is due to human emissions.

That is why they count as part of the global response to your question and do not count as part of the consensus.

You continue: “How would you explain the big difference between Q1 and Q3 based on your preferred approach of including the large fraction of undetermined answers?”

First of all, why do you neglect Q2 in trying to understand Q1 and Q3? In Q2, only 32% say the long term trend has changed. An equal percentage say the trend is masked by short term variation and 24% say it is impossible to state. To me that fully explains the percentage who say they don’t know to Q1 and still attribute warming to concrete causes in Q3.

Bart: “How would you think the same sample of scientists would have responded if we had asked one of the questions I discussed in the post, namely:

Imagine that we had asked whether respondents agreed with the AR4 statement on attribution, yes or no. I am confident that the resulting fraction of yes-responses would (far) exceed 66%. We chose instead to ask a more detailed question, and add other answer options for those who felt unwilling or unable to provide a quantitative answer. On the other hand, imagine if we had respondents choose whether the greenhouse gas contribution was -200, -199, …-2, -1, 0, 1, 2, … 99, 100, 101, …200% of the observed warming. The question would have been very difficult to answer to that level of precision. Perhaps only a handful would have ventured a guess and the vast majority would have picked one of the undetermined answer options (“I don’t know”, “unknown”, “other”). Should we in that case have concluded that the level of consensus is only a meagre few percentage points? I think not, since the result would be a direct consequence of the answer options being perceived as too difficult to meaningfully choose from.

Do you disagree with this quoted paragraph? If so, why?”

Umm, Bart–it doesn’t work that way. The way to quantify a consensus is to count those who raise their hands  when you ask them if they agree. It is only those who actively volunteer who form part of the consensus.

If you think more would agree with the AR4 attribution statements, ask them. Your confidence in the answers you think they would provide is admirable. But don’t pretend that it was asked and answered in your survey. Your argument as reproduced here indicates that the consensus is so weak that only precise phrasing can bring it to light. If it’s robust (and 66% is robust–it just isn’t 97%) then you don’t have to make excuses for those who say they don’t know.

I wish you had asked for help on this. There is a battery of questions you can use to get this information.

As it stands, you are saying those who answer ‘I don’t know’ should be eliminated from the total. That’s an incorrect choice for honest analysis.

As for the publications thingy, that’s just hand-waving. ‘Look over here, the numbers are higher!’

You need to show why you think higher numbers of (self-declared) publications are an indicator of a higher level of expertise for it even to be relevant. And you don’t even try.

Younger scientists may have been educated with more up-to-date information and even techniques. They may be far more expert that old fuddie duddies who sit in a room writing papers.

A brilliant scientist might write one paper as a single author who sheds significant light on a subject, while  her colleague might get his name onto 15 different papers as a co-author without doing anything significant.

Authors who don’t agree with the consensus may be keeping their head down. Worse, they may face a wall of dissent from the consensus when they seek to publish.

More on Verheggen et al: Great Survey. Pity about the report… It’s still 66%.

As I wrote yesterday, “I have written several times about the 2012 survey by Bart Verheggen and theNetherlands Environmental Survey. However, the climate blogosphere has started to look at it and is coming to some incorrect conclusions. But that’s okay, Bart himself is pushing a skewed interpretation of the results, so let’s look at it again.”

The conversation is continuing in several venues–the website of Fabius Maximus and Bart Verheggen’s own weblog, My View On Climate Change.

The report of Verheggen and his team is found here.

Verheggen’s survey was intended to measure how robust the scientific consensus is on climate change. As the report notes in the Introduction, “The general public is strongly divided over the question of human causation of climate change. Many believe that climate scientists are equally divided with respect to the same question, in contrast to what several studies have found. Perceptions about the level of agreement or disagreement among scientists influence people’s acceptance of scientific conclusions and their support for related policies.Public perception of climate change and of the scientific consensus on the subject, in turn, is influenced by ethical, social, and political values and attitudes.”

So it is very surprising that a survey intended to measure the consensus goes to such great lengths to avoid telling us what the answer is.

The answer is very clearly found in the data. Sixty-six percent (66%) of the respondents to the survey believe half or more of recent warming is attributable to human emissions of CO2.

That is the answer.

Now look at the only mention of that figure in the report: “There are two ways of expressing the level of consensus, based on these data: as a fraction of the total number of respondents (including undetermined responses), or as a fraction of the number of respondents who gave a quantitative or qualitative judgment (excluding undetermined answers). The former estimate cannot exceed 78% based on Q1, since 22% of respondents gave an undetermined answer. A ratio expressed this way gives the appearance of a lower level of agreement. However, this is a consequence of the question being difficult to answer, due to the level of precision in the answer options, rather than it being a sign of less agreement.

As a fraction of the total, the level of agreement based on Q1 and Q3 was 66% and 83%, respectively, for all respondents, and 77% and 89%, respectively, for the quartile with the highest number of self-declared publications. As a fraction of those who expressed an opinion (i.e., excluding the undetermined answers), the level of agreement based on Q1 and Q3 was 84% and 86%, respectively, for all respondents, and 91% and 92%, respectively, for the quartile with the highest number of self-declared publications.”

In journalism that is known as ‘burying the lede.’ In climate science it is perhaps best known as ‘hiding the decline,’ in this case the decline in the consensus from the 97% invented by pseudo-scientist John Cook (who is actually a cartoonist), who actually is part of Verheggen’s team.

I don’t care what the percentage is for the quartile with the highest number of self-declared publications. (Number of publications is a notoriously poor indicator of expertise in science, although it is a good indicator of networking ability and writing skills.) How strong is the consensus?

I don’t care what the fraction is of those who expressed an opinion. ‘I don’t know’ is a valid answer to this question. (Surveyors will sometimes remove those saying ‘I don’t know’ to questions like “Do you prefer the purple car or the red car?” But never for a question like this.) How strong is the consensus?

And I most certainly don’t care that the question is ‘difficult to answer.’ It’s a difficult question. Had you consulted me or any of 10,000 market researchers with the requisite level of skill in writing surveys we could have made it a bit easier for respondents to express their true perceptions on this issue. But this is the question you have and these are the answers you have.

It is painfully obvious they are trying to bury the answer. They refer to it as Q1, not as the question that inspired the survey. They conflate it in the same sentence with a follow up question. In the same paragraph they try to dilute its impact by citing higher percentages for sub-groups of respondents, those with a high number of publications and the total of those who didn’t say ‘I don’t know.’

So, Bart, here is my question. What percentage of practicing climate scientists believe half or more of recent warming is caused by human emissions of CO2?

Any answer other than 66% is dishonest.

The survey done by Verheggen et al is a good survey. The data they gathered is useful, relevant and important.

The report–not so much.

Verheggen’s Consensus: Not 97%, not 47%. It’s 66%.

Update: After an exchange of comments with Bart Verheggen, he has pointed out that he did indeed reference the headline figure I said he was ignoring in his paper in EST–the 66% who said half or more of recent warming was caused by human emissions of GHGs. It did not appear in his blog post or previous writing about the survey and it is only mentioned once in his paper. I apologize for the error.

I have written several times about the 2012 survey by Bart Verheggen and the Netherlands Environmental Survey. However, the climate blogosphere has started to look at it and is coming to some incorrect conclusions. But that’s okay, Bart himself is pushing a skewed interpretation of the results, so let’s look at it again.

Fabius Maximus has posted that the Verheggen survey shows the consensus of scientists believing half or more of recent warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases is only 47%. This got picked up by several blogs and is being used to counter John Cook’s nonsense about the consensus being 97%. Cook’s figure is nonsense. The figure reported by Fabius Maximus is not nonsense, but it is a somewhat tortured reading of the data. Bart Verhegeen himself is turning a blind eye to the headline results and writing solely about the opinions of scientists who have the most publications under their belt.

Let’s show why the true consensus on the issue is not 97% as Cook reported and not 47% as Fabius Maximus reported. It is a very legitimate 66% as the survey data shows very clearly.

In the Spring of 2012, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency PBLheld a survey among 1868 scientists studying various aspects of climate change, including physical climate, climate impacts, and mitigation. The main results of the survey were published in an article in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) in August 2014: “Scientists’ views about attribution of global warming”. It showed that there is widespread agreement regarding a dominant influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on recent global warming. This agreement is stronger among respondents with more peer-reviewed publications.”

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

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

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

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

Why Fabius Maximus Is Over-Reaching

Fabius Maximus gets a lower percentage because he feels that the true ‘consensus’ consists only of those who were extremely confident of their opinion out of the 66% who believed half or more of recent warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. That would be in line with the level of confidence asserted by the IPCC, which says it is 95% certain that half or more of recent warming is caused by humans.

Fabius Maximus writes, “Now for the second part of the statement: what is the certainty of this finding? That the IPCC gives these answers is one of its great strengths. Of the 1,222 respondents to the PBL survey who said that the anthropogenic contribution was over 50%, 797 (65%) said it was 95%+ certain (which the IPCC defines as “virtually certain” or “extremely likely”).”

But the IPCC offers a definition of 95% certainty in their publications. This definition was not presented to survey respondents prior to asking them about how certain they were. Some may have used the IPCC definition of certainty, some may not. In any case, without knowing how they defined certainty it is not possible to assert that only 47% of respondents agree with the consensus.

We do know that 66% agree. We know that they are more confident than those who disagree. That is the percentage that should be offered as the Consensus. It is exactly the same percentage as found in a survey by Bray, von Storch et al in 2008 (although the question was worded differently), which should give us more confidence in the figure.

Why Bart Verheggen Is Under-Reaching

In all of his writing on the results of the survey, Bart Verheggen has focused exclusively on the higher agreement with the IPCC shown by scientists with more publications.

Indeed, in a paper written with John Cook, among others, Verheggen does not even report the top line statistic of his finding–that 66% of the scientists he surveyed agree that half or more of recent warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

This is astonishing. That a report on a survey would not show and discuss the headline finding is bizarre. It would be like writing a report based on what Donald Trump’s supporters think of Mexican immigrants without even reporting what the overall population thinks.

It is legitimate to focus your analysis on the numbers of interest to you–even if that interest is only sparked by the fact that the entire numbers don’t support your position. But it is not at all legitimate practice to fail to report the top line data.

Verheggen’s failure to report the real numbers of his survey in my mind invalidates the rest of his paper. I know Bart Verheggen slightly through extended conversations at his blog and via emails. He has always been fair and honest with me. I find this incident bizarre, but the participation of John Cook in this paper may well explain it. John Cook is the author of a paper that should by now be completely discredited that reports the consensus at 97%. It is junk science and should be treated as such.

As for the position adopted by Verheggen’s report, it may well be that scientists with more publications are a better judge of attribution than scientists with fewer articles to their credit.

But we don’t know that. Verheggen et al make no attempt to show why that would be the case and they don’t even really make the argument. There is nothing in the survey that would show greater expertise on their part and there are a number of reasons to question that assumption, for assumption is all it is.

Scientists working in the private sector may have equal or even superior expertise than academics who must publish or perish. New scientists may be even more conversant with new information and data than older scientists who may not feel they have to keep up with the latest data. Scientists who get their name added to 10 multi-author publications may have no more expertise to offer than their colleague at the next desk who writes only one paper.

In any event, Verheggen et al don’t even try to make the case. They simply ignore the 66% consensus shown by all the respondents to his survey and report only on the differences in opinion shown by those with differing numbers of publications.

So at the end of the day, what a surprise. Advocates for skeptics and alarmists look at the same data and come up with different answers. Neither advocate tells an untruth. Both strain at gnats and swallow camels to come up with an answer that they like. Both the answers that they like are gross distortions of reality.

The consensus is real, although it looks more like a majority. It is not the nonsensical 97% shown by John Cook. It is not the 47% shown by Fabius Maximus. Verheggen doesn’t even show it at all.

It is 66%.

Is It Just Me Or Is Climate Change Making Everybody Crazy?

I hope the title is a two-sided attempt at humor. Certainly I get so frustrated at some of the looniness spouted by both extremes on the climate spectrum that I wonder if I am still sane. Certainly I wonder if people like Eli Rabett or Ted Cruz have lost all their marbles.

Crazy

In Time today, Cruz is quoted as saying ““If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there’s been zero recorded warming,” Cruz said in California’s Orange County. “The satellite says it ain’t happening.” Instead, Cruz said, government researchers are reverse engineering data sets to falsify changes in the climate. “They’re cooking the books. They’re actually adjusting the numbers,” Cruz said. “Enron used to do their books the same way.”

You might see something like that appear 200 comments down on a thread at Judith Curry’s fine weblog–there are some skeptics who think that 18 years is enough to prove warming either never happened or is finished. But for a candidate for the U.S. presidency to spout off nonsense like this is truly astonishing.

(For the record, we have had two similar pauses that lasted similar lengths of time in the past century, after which warming resumed. The physics functions. As for the adjustments, even skeptics eventually understand that when you measure temperatures in the morning for 50 years and then start measuring in the evenings–or vice versa–if you don’t adjust to account for it you will end up with bad numbers.)

It’s a crazy thing to say.

So too are two separate comments from Eli Rabett, host of the Rabett Run website.

The first is a comment he made here at The Lukewarmer’s Way where he flat out lied about economist Tim Worstall, linking him to economists listed as having worked for the tobacco industry. Worstall not only has not worked for the tobacco industry, his name isn’t even on the list Rabett linked to.

It’s crazy to tell a lie that’s so easy to spot.

Second, over at his site he compares Andrew Revkin to skeptic Sky Dragon aficionados, part of a long-running campaign to undercut Revkin in the same way Rabett, Tobis, ATTP and others have tried to undercut Bjorn Lomborg, Roger Pielke Sr. and Judith Curry.

Rabett claims that reviewing a paper is ‘a matter of ethics’, surprising all of us who felt that reviewing a scientific paper was well, a matter of science. He’s pissed at Revkin for submitting a comment on Hansen’s latest ‘what if’ excursion. Revkin noted two scientific papers that flew in the face of some of Hansen’s latest claims. Apparently noting that the Godfather of Green might be in error is tantamount to heresy.

Despite the fact that the same thing has happened to environmental journalists Mark Lynas and George Monbiot, both of whom like Revkin have been stalwart supporters of the climate cause until all of a sudden they actually reported something in opposition to the party line, the idea of trashing journalists who have supported your cause for years is, well, crazy.

Revkin is a top-notch j0urnalist. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.

Obama, Sanders and the Republicans on Climate Change. Not Edifying.

From a Lukewarmer standpoint, when climate change is discussed by politicians running for office, little good is done. Precious little knowledge is displayed. No judgement at all is discerned.

On the other hand, when a politician no longer is running for office, we can see where her or his priorities lie. Thus, when several newspapers reported today that President Obama is unveiling his new and more robust EPA Plan for reducing U.S. emissions we can see several interesting themes.

First, his plan is indeed a war on coal. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is correct with his label. I support this war on coal, however–I am of the opinion that developed countries should move away from coal as quickly as possible. In part this is to give leeway to developing countries to continue using coal as they develop. In part it is to take the lead on developing alternatives. But in part it is because I believe that coal kills, even in rich countries. Coal kills miners, but it also kills through pollution via fly ash, mercury and simple emissions. It is an archaic fuel that served us well for a long time. But it’s time to say goodbye to it as a major fuel source.

Second, President Obama, who I support, respect and admire, is choosing to play politics with his proffered solutions. Setting a minimum of 28% of generating capacity from renewables and not including hydropower or nuclear as part of the renewable portfolio is ‘picking winners’, something government is not really very good at. Setting emission targets at 32% lower than 2005 by 2030 is not a big deal–I think we’ll make that with room to spare. But pushing states away from natural gas and towards more costly wind and solar isn’t going to help.

Third, by reviving the zombie of Cap and Trade (albeit a modified version of intrastate markets), President Obama is bowing to lobbyists for industry sectors not even associated with energy to help make money. Cap and Trade is unlikely to work. Even if it works it won’t work as well as a carbon tax. It will increase bureaucracy and skew incentives.

It shows Obama once again as a pragmatic Democrat who is doing what Democrats do–going out of their way to satisfy party stakeholders, even at the expense of the nation’s best interests. I’m a Democrat and I’m willing to put up with some of these games to get coal out of the picture–but this is very close to going too far.

But in contrast, Democrat Bernie Sanders and the gaggle of Republican candidates for the role of Obama’s replacement are incredibly worse. Here is a sample of their foolishness:

Bernie Sanders: ““Climate change is the greatest threat facing the planet,” Sanders said. He added that “the debate is over.” Fail. The planet faces a dozen threats greater than climate change and the debate has barely begun.

Dammit, I’m with Sanders on a lot of issues–I really am a confirmed leftist and I like the guy. This ritual obeisance to the party line on climate change is stupid–he’s more than willing to confront the party elders on other issues. There’s no reason apart from ignorance that he would accept the exaggerations of the Konsensus.

As bad as that is, the Republicans are worse:

“Rick Santorum calls climate change “a beautifully concocted scheme.””

No, climate change is real. It has been observed for decades. The planet has warmed and we have contributed.

“Senator Ted Cruz contends that no climate change has been recorded in the last 15 years, bluntly declaring, “It hasn’t happened.””

This is reminiscent of the Know Nothing nonsense of prior centuries. Global warming has stalled. But we do have records that go back more than 15 years. The world has warmed by 0.8 C since 1880 and 0.5C of that is since 1950.

“Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon, has said, “We may be warming. We may be cooling.””

No, Dr. Carson, we have been warming. We’re in a pause right now. We are not cooling.

“Former Florida governor Jeb Bush grants that climate change is real, but he is unwilling to say it is caused by humans.”

Bush is obviously the best politician here–what he says is the least offensive of the statements, but only because he doesn’t say that humans haven’t contributed to global warming.
“Donald Trump, meanwhile, sees a conspiracy: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive.””

Donald Trump is insane. I don’t know how else to characterize him. He’s insane about immigration. He’s insane about John McCain. He’s insane about the Chinese creating the concept of global warming. People are saying his candidaccy might be the equivalent of Perot’s quixotic play for the presidency, which gave a victory to a Clinton at the expense of a Bush. But really, Trump’s bombast and obvious ignorance of just about everything really is more reminiscent of another politician from an earlier era:

Mussolini

That’s Benito Mussolini, for younger readers.

Feminists and LGBT’s on board for climate fight–Racial and ethnic groups, not so much

As a white liberal, I suppose it should distress me that white liberals tend to be on the other side of the climate debate. It doesn’t–white liberals have been wrong on a lot of things historically. Being right all the time would be boring. I can’t do anything about my color–I’m getting of an age where tanning seems dangerous. As for being liberal, I’m liberal because of principle, not past performance. As long as we’re wrong less frequently than the opposition, I figure we’re doing okay. And we are.

I do note that the LGBT community and activist feminist groups are climbing on board the Klimate Train. I just read a story in the Daily Beast titled ‘Is Caring About Climate Change An Essential Part Of LGBT Identity?’

Like the story’s author, I approached this story ready to scoff. But there’s a real case to be made. Those from the LGBT community who have been converted to climate activists say that “While governments and corporations refused to acknowledge the severity of the AIDS crisis—an eerie parallel to the response to date on climate change—we educated the masses, told our stories, harnessed the media, raised money.”

Perhaps even more importantly, they believe that strategies and communications techniques they used in the fight to change public opinion on gay marriage and acceptance of LGBTs overall are exactly what is needed to persuade the ‘moveable middle’ to embrace more active measures to fight climate change.

On the other hand, a recent story in the Des Moines Register titled ‘Why Climate Change Is a Woman’s Issue‘ was not nearly as impressive, the thrust of the piece being that because women handle more of the agricultural work in developing countries, climate change will have a greater impact on women. The author also argues that in those same countries women can get shortchanged at mealtimes if there isn’t enough to go around.

(The piece also features Democrat Tom Steyer, the guy who’s funding candidates based on their commitment to fighting climate change. The story has a quote that may come back to haunt him. Steyer said, “Per kilowatt hour, solar requires eight times more jobs than fossil fuels.” As Tim Worstall has been known to remark, those are additional costs of green energy. Higher labor costs for solar is a bug, not a feature.)

Back to feminism and climate change. Using the same logic as the author, feminists should also be participating heavily in the debates about GMOs and the allocation of resources to micro-nutrients, vaccines and clean water. Women are more heavily impacted by all changes involving health and nutrition, not just because they go out in the fields, but because they are caregivers to children and well, because there are more women than men on this planet. Using the same logic, women would almost certainly argue for more resources being directed to these more immediate threats.

Missing from the bandwagon so far are ethnic activists, despite it being fairly clear that the people most affected by whatever climate change impacts come our way will not… be… white… This may be because even expatriates can see that economic development of India, Nigeria, China, Indonesia and Brazil will have a greater impact than avoiding climate change.

As someone who does not see danger to global agriculture from climate change, I cannot support this feminist viewpoint. (I have no idea how widespread this new climate activism runs through either the LGBT or feminist communities.) I have long argued that feminists in the United States probably miscalculated and misallocated resources when they chose to aim at the glass ceiling instead of fighting harder to establish a concrete floor below which women would not sink. Feminists in other countries that chose differently have seen better outcomes. State supported childcare seems to have more of an impact than a guaranteed percentage of seats on the board of directors. Focusing on climate change rather than malnutrition, disease and access to clean water seems very much like making the same mistake.

I would urge feminists to widen their vision to include other environmental impacts on women. It is women who are breathing dung fumes while cooking over a 3 stone oven. It is women making the long march to get water. It is women looking after ill and weak children suffering from cholera and malaria.

As for gay activists fighting climate change–go for it. Your experience may elevate the discussion of the issue and one thing is for sure. You will certainly  do better than the idiots that have been trying to push the issue to date.

People-dance-and-cheer-du-011

The Climate Change Industry is Worth $1.5 Trillion

The climate change industry is worth $1.5 trillion, according to a story in Insurance Journal.

Greedy Business Man

Their story references a news source I was unaware of, the Climate Change Business Journal.

According to Insurance Journal, “Interest in climate change is becoming an increasingly powerful economic driver, so much so that some see it as an industry in itself whose growth is driven in large part by policymaking.

The $1.5 trillion global “climate change industry” grew at between 17 and 24 percent annually from 2005-2008, slowing to between 4 and 6 percent following the recession with the exception of 2011’s inexplicable 15 percent growth, according to Climate Change Business Journal.”

Climate Change Business Journal is selling a 200 page report that says among other things, “CCBJ estimates today’s climate change consulting market at $1.9 billion worldwide and $670 million in the United States. These figures are expected to more than double in the next five years, even fully accounting for the financial meltdown of 2008. We believe the Climate Change Consulting Industry will have an even steeper and faster growth trajectory than the Environmental Consulting Industry, which in 1976 had billings of $600 million but today generates $27 billion.”

You could buy a lot of solar panels with that kind of money.

Not a word about the brothers Koch, sadly.

Solar Must Fight Straw Men As Well As Fossil Fuels

As an unabashed supporter of solar power, I cringe a bit when I see other enthusiasts make overly broad claims of what we can expect from solar in the near term. Longer term, most seem to feel that solar will make a huge contribution. But between now and 2075, when most policies will be implemented to combat global warming, expectations of solar need to be tempered.

It doesn’t help when opponents of solar power (they’re not really opponents of solar power–they just object to it being accorded subsidy and privilege, sometimes at the expense of fossil fuels) try to show how solar cannot deliver on extravagant claims that… nobody is making.

A case in point is a post up at my friend Anthony Watts’ website, Watts Up With That. A post titled ‘The Green Mirage‘ repeats and helps perpetuate misconceptions about what can be reasonably expected of solar, its impact and even its footprint.

The post, which is actually a review of a piece in Forbes that draws heavily on this piece from fusion4freedom, tries to make the following points:

· 29.3 billion 1square meter panels would cover 29,333 km2 which equals 7.2 million acres, or almost all of Maryland and Delaware.

Here they describe the theoretical footprint of enough solar panels to power the United States–to provide all its energy needs. This is in response to a prediction by Ray Kurzweil that this would happen in 20 years.

But Kurzweil is pretty much alone in his prediction. Almost every forecast has been based on all renewables (not just solar) providing 30% of our electricity needs (not all power). I have the utmost respect for Kurzweil and hope that much of what he writes concerning the Singularity comes to pass. But providing 100% of our power through solar is not what is being asked of the industry. To provide 30% of our electricity needs, putting wind and wood pellets out of business, would require something on the order of 5 billion panels, not counting those that have already been put up.

As for the footprint issue–sigh… Most solar is placed on rooftops. It doesn’t take any additional space. If very large solar arrays are required, they will take up more space. But most of that space will be in desert that is otherwise not fit for human habitation or industry. I don’t understand why this is even an issue. It’s a strawman.

· If 1 square meter PV panels were manufactured at the rate of 1 per second, it would take 929 years to manufacture 29.3 billion panels

Panels can be built in different sizes. They don’t all need to be ready tomorrow, or indeed in 20 years. There were about 370 high volume solar panel manufacturers last time I looked and they would cheerfully ramp up production if asked. There are idle plants waiting for customer orders all over the world. This is a strawman.

· The cost of a solar only approach exceeds $15.27 trillion

Assuming costs freeze today, building 29.3 billion solar panels might indeed cost $15 trillion, give or take. But costs of solar have declined precipitously and can be expected to continue to decline.

Emanuel Sachs MIT

Extending the timeline through 2075 and lowering the number of panels to provide its expected contribution to 30% of electricity needs both lowers the total cost and the annual expenditure. It would cost somewhere near $2.5 trillion. Spread out over 60 years it would amount to about $41 billion a year. For perspective, U.S. subsidies for renewable energy were about $23 billion a couple of years ago.

· Moore’s Law is not applicable to the production or deployment of solar panels

This is true, but irrelevant. The quest for efficiencies and cost reductions in solar panels don’t have to advance logarithymically forever. The steep decline that we have seen in the prices of solar modules looks similar to Moore’s Law. And efficiencies can still be obtained. But the cost of solar modules doesn’t have to drop to zero. The overall cost of solar (including balance of systems, installation, permitting and light maintenance) only has to drop below the cost of the cheapest competing power source in a given area.

This is already the case in some areas of the U.S. and it’s getting close in others. Another generation or two of module manufacturing should get us there. We don’t need 50 years of continuous advancement. This is a strawman.

· Unsubsidized Solar has applicability in rural areas and developing countries with low population density

This is true. If you draw a bubble map of where solar is applicable strictly from a cost point of view, there are many bubbles of different size. The point is that there are more bubbles than two years ago and the bubbles are larger.

· Google’s Green Energy Project RE<C was canceled; “Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach; Suggest “A disruptive fusion technology…”

Google has abandoned so many projects in the past 10 years that it is clear that they have a limited attention span and that spending 1 day a week on your pet project is probably not going to power the company to greater glories. Solar power and other renewables may in fact fail to live up to our hopes. But Google predicting that doesn’t mean a thing. They give up too quickly.

Solar power can, if cultivated properly and used intelligently, provide 30% of the electricity requirements of the United States. It can do so without costing much more than we are spending now. It can do so without ruining landscapes.

That is what was asked of the technology. Complaining that it won’t wash your car or feed your baby as well is a little unfair.

40% of the World’s Population Has Never Heard of Climate Change

As someone who has been writing about the subject since 2008 I can only say I envy them.

I was planning to write a long-ish post about the degradation of the environmental movement. I was going to start with Patrick Moore’s recent video on why he left Greenpeace. Instead I’ll just show it here.

I was going to cleverly segue to Bishop Hill’s brief post on the new book ‘Panda Leaks’ found here, about the sins of the WWF.

I would then go on about the trashing of Machu Picchu by environmentalists, the ‘We know where you live‘ episode by Greenpeace, the opposition of environmental organizations to coal power plants in the developing world, etc.

I was planning to end with a statement about how environmentalist organizations were doomed once they started getting large sums of money, much of it from fossil fuel companies.

But I’m tired today. You’ll have to imagine the post I could have written. I wish I was one of the 40% who haven’t heard of all this mess. I’m tired of being called a denier. I’m tired of being lied to and lied about. I’m tired of being censored.

But I’ll leave you with the graphic I was going to use.

green-is-the-color-of-money

Risky Business? Come Heat and High Water

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has sponsored a series of reports on the economic impacts of climate change under the rubric ‘Risky Business.’

The latest report focuses on impacts on the U.S. Southeast and Texas. The report is here. It is called Come Heat or High Water, remarkably similar to the title of a book published by Joe Romm. It is as alarmist and foolish as Romm, so caveat lector.

The report ignores the published science on climate change, relying on climate models that have shown no indication of predicting the present, let alone the future. They have fantastical projections of sea level rise, temperature increases and damages to agriculture that just ignore reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In other words, it’s a Business As Usual scare story.

A much better take on Risky Business is here:

In Come Heat and High Water they write, “By the end of the century, the Southeast and Texas will likely experience dangerous levels of extreme heat. » By the end of this century, the average number of extremely hot days across the region each year—with temperatures above 95°F—will likely increase by as much as 14 times from nine days per year in recent decades to as many as 123 days per year.

Ooooookay. They continue: “Rising temperatures will likely lead to a surge in electricity demand, as well as to a decline in energy system efficiency in many of the manufacturing-intensive states in the Southeast and Texas. …The Southeast region will likely see an average increase of 4% to 12% in energy costs by mid-century.”

Might happen even sooner, depending on choices of fuel portfolio made today.

“Sea level rise along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will likely lead to large-scale losses from damage to coastal property and infrastructure. …Local sea level rise will vary along the coasts. At Grand Isle, Louisiana, mean sea level will likely rise 1.9 to 2.4 feet by 2050 and by 4.1 to 5.8 feet by 2100. Meanwhile, mean sea level at Charleston, South Carolina will likely rise by 0.9 to 1.4 feet by 2050 and by 2.1 to 3.8 feet by the end of the century.”

Gee, that’s funny. The IPCC predicts sea level rise will be between 26 and 98 centimeters this century, or between 10 inches and 38 inches. I guess the South will rise again… and again…

Other gems from the report: ” Kentucky will likely experience the third largest crop losses in the country. By mid-century, Kentucky will likely see average losses in its grain and oilseed crops of as much as 32% annually, absent adaptation. By the end of the century, Kentucky’s losses will likely increase to as much as 69% annually.”

“Over the next five to 25 years, Florida will likely see as many as 1,840 additional deaths per year and Texas, as many as 2,580 additional deaths per year due to extreme heat.”

But gee, Mr. Wizard, I thought you just told us that they were all going to get air conditioning?

It’s all in the assumptions of course.

“Our research combines state-of-the-art climate science projections through the year 2100…” Uh-huh, and tell me how that makes you feel?

“When assessing risk related to climate change, it is particularly important to consider outlier events and not just the most likely scenarios. ”

I see, and how long have you felt this way?

“As with classic risk analysis, our work does not take into account the wide range of potential adaptation strategies Southern industries and policymakers will surely pursue in the face of shifting climate impacts.”

Umm, actually classic risk analysis offers several alternatives based on reactions to threats. Didn’t you get the memo? Or take a class? Or read a book?

From the endnotes to the report:

“The “current greenhouse gas emissions pathway” we use throughout the report refers to RCP 8.5.” Ahhh. Basing your standard predictions on an outlier, I see.

“Annual death figures in the report were calculated using state- or region-specific heat-related mortality rates multiplied by that region’s 2012 population.”

So, no thinking at all about increases in air conditioning, take-up of technology such as robots or drones for outside work, no allowances for other adaptations such as telecommuting… and no balancing of your statistics against lower death rates due to cold… Brilliant!

They have achieved Neven-like status.

Umm, Hillary–500 Million Solar Panels?

According to Time, “Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday made tackling climate change one of her key goals were she to enter the White House, pledging to have more than half a billion solar panels installed nationwide by the end of her first term in office.”

I’m a Democrat. Hillary Clinton autographed  my copy of her book. (Bill Clinton autographed my copy of his book, too.) I think Barack Obama will be remembered as one of our finest presidents once he’s safely out of office. In all probability I will vote for Hillary in 2016.

I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton.

I’m a huge fan of solar power. I worked in the industry and have written reports saying it has a glowing future, something I firmly believe. I actually believe that solar power can and probably will rescue us from the worst of global warming, starting around 2075.

I’m a fan of solar power.

But 500 million?

There were 123 million households in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Census Bureau.

Energy Star says there are 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. and 346,000 industrial facilities.

The federal government owns 900,000 buildings.

That totals 130 million buildings, not counting buildings owned by state and local governments. Or churches.

That means that every building in America will have to have 3.84 solar panels on it.

Here are 34 of them:

solar panels

I dunno. Maybe she meant modules, not panels?

I’m not a fan of pie in the sky promises that are pretty obviously undeliverable.

And in four years?

In 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced the California Solar Initiative with the goal of putting solar panels on 1 million California homes. Eight years later they’re at 247,060 solar projects, a good number of which predated the Initiative.

I don’t think the current subsidy structure could handle the increased volume. I’d like to know how lower than average income home owners will afford this. I’d like to know how the 30% of homes that are rented are going to negotiate between landlord and tenant.

President Obama was kneecapped by the climate activists when he came into office, forced to push the Waxman Markey Cap and Trade bill, which turned into a pork-laden monstrosity. This new initiative would do the same thing to Hillary.

I would hate to see Hillary Clinton run on a platform that includes unrealistic projections of solar growth. It would give Trump or whomever too much easy ammunition.

I’m not a fan of pushing the market faster than it can bear, nor of distorting it with budget busting tax rebates and cash subsidies.

I demand a recount!

Hillary

What Is The Social Cost Of Reducing Carbon?

The World Bank and both the United States and the United Kingdom have chosen not to help developing countries build fossil fuel plants to generate the electricity these countries need to move ahead.

This refusal is designed to reduce emissions of CO2. But there is a social cost associated with it. If the people who otherwise would have had access to electricity are forced to continue burning dung and firewood, many will die from the attendant pollution caused by those much dirtier fuels. The conventional pollution and deforestation may not only harm human health but the surrounding environment as well.

Climate activists make the case that fossil fuel companies should not be subsidized. I happen to agree with them. However, subsidizing green energy sources is different, they claim. New industries with the potential to revolutionize our energy infrastructure deserve government support.

And again I agree with them. I think green energy should receive modest levels of subsidy, as should innovative efforts to improve storage and distribution.

But I at least am aware that there is a social cost to doing what I favor doing. That money might be better spent on vaccines, micronutrients, access to fresh water and more. So far it seems that those other worthy causes are receiving adequate funding, in no small part thanks to private charities. Yanking money away from research into new energy seems a bit like eating the seed corn. But there is a social cost to this spending.

Because they keep good statistics, this is perhaps clearest in the United Kingdom, where government support for green energy in large part consists of allowing utility companies to charge customers more to cover the costs of investing in green energy. The number of English people suffering from fuel poverty has risen every year since this support started and thousands die every winter as they cannot afford the cost of heating their homes.

There of course is a social cost of carbon. It is a negative externality. Sea level rise and increased flooding may cause harm to our grandchildren and their children. It may be appropriate for us to spend money and utilize resources to minimize this threat.

But there is a social cost to reducing carbon. Anyone who goes on (and on) about tackling the social cost of carbon without acknowledging that the sacrifices involved are very real and will be selectively paid, not by those calling for this sacrifice, but by the poorest of those in the emerging countries as well as the more developed nations is engaged in bombastic propaganda.

If you want to discuss the issue, I’m happy to. But the issue has two sides–at least.

If you want to say the future looks like this:

Tesla Powerwall

It is incumbent upon you to acknowledge that it means many more years of this in the developing world:

Woman burning dung

And this closer to home:

Fuel poverty UK

John Cook–Identity Thief

I might actually have several posts today–lots to talk about. But, as always in the climate debate, scandal before science!

John Cook is an Australian and the founder of the Konsensus website ‘Skeptical Science’. It is not Skeptical. It is not Science. It is hysterical condemnation of anyone who opposes the Konsensus view on policy options with regard to climate change.

Cook is not a scientist. Before becoming one of the Leading Lights of the Konsensus, he was a cartoonist. Perhaps that explains some of the flaws in his famous paper “Quantifying the Consensus”, discussed and dissected here and elsewhere.

Update: Andy Skuce volunteers this: “John Cook is not “dressed as a Nazi” in that picture, it’s a Photoshop image. It was done as a joke, by one of the Skeptical Science regulars, in response to people calling us “SS” and Nazis. Of course, it is in very poor taste and should have been deleted, rather than left lying around on the server.”

This is John Cook dressed as a Nazi. He has strange ideas of fun.

Herr Cook

He has other,  stranger ideas of fun. One is stealing the identity of Lubos Motl, a physicist who is skeptical of what the Konsensus says about climate change, and making comments on weblogs.

Identity theft is a crime in some countries–I don’t know if they’ve gotten around to it yet in Australia.

John Cook was co-author (along with Stefan Lewandowsky) of another paper, ‘Recursive Fury‘, that was based on an even earlier paper reporting on the results of an internet survey of climate change skeptics. Recursive Fury had to be retracted because it violated ethical considerations, publishing the names of people the paper incorrectly labeled ‘conspiracy ideationists.’ It has now been republished as Recurrent Fury, the name Sergeant Fury being taken and Samuel L. Jackson considered as unapproachable.

Sergeant Fury

The original paper is very bad. So is the new one.

The survey that led to Recursive Fury (those who criticized the original survey were considered disturbed and available for psychological profiling) was available only on climate alarmist websites. Nonetheless, many who claimed to be skeptics filled out the survey. When the paper was published, many real skeptics noticed when looking at the data that some of those who claimed to be skeptics in actuality looked like they were climate Konsensus believers who were imitating skeptics and falsely answering questions to try and make skeptics look bad–like conspiracy theorists. Falsely impersonating skeptics…

John Cook cheerfully admitted to his friends that he was using the fake identity, falsely impersonating skeptic Lubos Motl. But one of his comments about it was, “John Cook: Sorry about the Lubos thing. Was posting some Lubos comments for the UWA experiment and forgot to log back in as John Cook.” The UWA experiment being the research that led to Recursive Fury.

For those who want to trumpet the story that 97% of climate scientists believe that climate change is real, mostly human caused and catastrophic, please remember that it comes from a non-scientist who steals the identities of his opponents and violates research ethics.

John Cook is now offering an online course meant to educate young people about how awful skeptics are. It is called ‘Making Sense of Climate Denial.’

The Social Cost of Carbon

While I’m trying to get my ducks in a row regarding RCP 8.5, I want to discuss the social cost of carbon (SCC).

Although the immediate trigger for this post is Pat Michaels’ testimony to Congress (found through Watts Up With That), I have been wondering about SCC for some time. Here is Pat Michaels’ testimony:

I have no doubt that those most worried about climate change and the social cost of carbon will ignore Michaels’ testimony, hoping it disappears from public view.

The EPA fact sheet on the Social Cost of Carbon (which of course they have to rename as SC-CO2) is here. They write, “The SC-CO2 is meant to be a comprehensive estimate of climate change damages and includes, among other things, changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk and changes in energy system costs, such as reduced costs for heating and increased costs for air conditioning. However, it does not currently include all important damages. The IPCC Fifth Assessment report observed that SC-CO2 estimates omit various impacts that would likely increase damages. The models used to develop SC-CO2 estimates do not currently include all of the important physical, ecological, and economic impacts of climate change recognized in the climate change literature because of a lack of precise information on the nature of damages and because the science incorporated into these models naturally lags behind the most recent research. Nonetheless, the SC-CO2 is a useful measure to assess the benefits of CO2 reductions.”

There is a social cost of carbon. It includes money we spend now and will spend in the future on repairing damage caused by floods, heatwaves, sea level rise, etc. that are worse than they would have been due to climate change.

As the World Resources Institute writes, “In the case of climate change, the government calculates the cost imposed on society globally by each additional tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas. These include health impacts, economic dislocation, agricultural changes, and other effects that climate change can impose on humanity. The benefit to society of avoiding those costs is summed up in the social cost of carbon.

In 2009 an interagency team of U.S. government specialists, tasked to estimate the SCC, reported a range of values from $5 to $65 per tonne of carbon dioxide. The choice of a final figure (or range of figures) is, in itself, a major policy decision, since it sets a likely ceiling for the cost per tonne that any federal regulation could impose on the economy to curb CO2. At $5 a tonne, government could do very little to regulate CO2; at $65, it could do significantly more. Higher SCC numbers, such as the United Kingdom’s range of $41–$124 per tonne of CO2 with a central value of $83, would justify, from an economics perspective, even more rigorous regulation.”

These current and potential impacts are studied diligently and are calculated frequently, always with different results. Skeptics who don’t think that climate change will be significant or severe therefore tend to ignore the discussion or laugh at the imprecise and contradictory results. They shouldn’t.

I don’t want to replicate or even discuss in detail the factors that are covered by high powered think tanks and academia. I don’t want to debate the wide range or optimum value of SCC. I think it’s a political game where activists come up with high values and skeptics come up with low values and I don’t believe either set.

I want to discuss two things. First, the social cost of carbon is already high and getting higher, despite the lack of impacts of climate change on our real world. This is because we are spending large sums of money studying anthropogenic climate change, creating communities of professionals charged with advocating mitigation or preparing for adaptation, launching satellites to monitor climate change, lobbying politicians, sending messages to a largely indifferent public, etc. This costs a lot of money. It continues today and will almost certainly increase.

The point is that money spent in this way is part of the Social Cost of Carbon, even if there is no climate change.

The obvious related point is that I don’t ever see included in these calculations the opportunity costs related to climate change. We have spent many billions of dollars on dealing with climate change. If we were not spending this money on it we could either spend it on something else or put it back in our wallets.

featured-opportunity-cost

I find it somewhat distressing that of the billions (actually that could read hundreds of billions, depending on how you categorize certain expenses) spent on climate change, very little of it has been spent on building sea walls, relocating roads or towns at risk of sea level rise or floods, funding research into drought resistant crops or pilot studies of geoengineering–any of the concrete steps we will end up taking if climate change is as urgent a problem as the activists suggest. Instead we are spending it on conferences and television commercials.

I actually consider that insane. At least the EPA is spending money (well, forcing companies to spend their money) on actually reducing the amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere.  At least government bodies that approve subsidies for solar or wind are spending their money on reducing emissions. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are just about the only ones that are doing something concrete.  Everybody else is just blowing smoke.

Coincidentally, the EPA and subsidizing bodies are the ones getting the most hate mail and negative coverage.

RCP 8.5: Foundation of Current Climate Discussions

This really is just about the worst post ever. I’m leaving it up as I hope to update it with better information. Read on at your own risk…

Picking up where we left off yesterday, Judith Curry thinks we should take the ‘plausible worst case scenario’ on which to base our plans for living with climate change in the 21st century.

The IPCC has a case that they are putting forward as just such a worst case scenario. It is called RCP 8.5. It is based on what the IPCC says are ‘internally consistent set of economic assumptions’ and is one of four such scenarios. RCP 8.5 is the most pessimistic.

RCP stands for ‘Representative Concentration Pathway’. It attempts to chart the increase in forcings on our atmosphere, measured in watts per square meter. Most of the assumptions are adopted wholesale from the scenarios that RCP replaced–the SREs used in prior versions of IPCC reports AR3 and AR4 .

RCP 8.5 uses assumptions from the most pessimistic SRE, variant A1F1 if you believe Skeptical Science or A2r if you believe the RCP database.

RCP 8.5’s answers to the important question are, emissions will more than triple during this century, radiative forcing will quadruple and temperatures will rise 4.9C over the pre-industrial period.

To evaluate its fitness for purpose we need to examine the assumptions involved. We should be aware of the worst case scenario, but it has to be plausible.

These assumptions don’t appear to be in any one place, either by the term RCP 8.5, SRES A1F1 or SRES Ar2. If anyone can help me find them I will be forever in your debt.

At Climate Change National Forum, John Nielsen-Gammon describes RCP 8.5: “RCP8.5 was developed to represent a high-end emissions scenario. “Compared to the scenario literature RCP8.5 depicts thus a relatively conservative business as usual case with low income, high population and high energy demand due to only modest improvements in energy intensity.” (Riahi et al. 2011) RCP8.5 comes in around the 90th percentile of published business-as-usual (or equivalently, baseline) scenarios, so it is higher than most business-as-usual scenarios. (van Vuuren et al. 2011a).”

Here are the assumptions underlying RCP 8.5:

Population: They assume population will reach 12 billion by 2100. This is well above the UN median projection of 10.1 billion, but less than their high variation of 15.8 billion.

Urbanization: SRES A2r assumes 85% urbanization by 2100

Emissions: RCP 8.5 assumes peak emissions in 2090 at 27.5 PgC (petagrams of carbon)

Concentrations: RCP 8.5 assumes CO2 concentrations reaching 950 ppm by 2100, more than double current concentrations of 400 ppm.

GDP: Skeptical Science has a chart saying that RCP 8.5 shows global GDP growth to a little less than $200 trillion in US 2000 dollars, which is bizarre, because everybody else shows results in 2005 US dollars. I can’t trust them, but it’s really hard to find these figures. (Help!) The US DOE Energy Information Administration predicts global GDP to reach $200 trillion by 2040…

Energy Consumption: It appears that RCP 8.5 projects energy consumption to reach 1,657 quads by 2100. In 2010 the globe consumed 523 quads. Sadly, I think they have underestimated consumption–as faithful readers know, my projection for energy consumption at my other blog serves as its title–I project consumption to reach 3000 quads by 2075, before stabilizing.

Okay, I don’t even know if I should publish this post. In population, RCP 8.5 looks mid-range, if somewhat pessimistic. They really think GDP is going to grow slowly. But energy consumption? That looks low.

I confess I need help with this. If help arrives I will update this. Quickly, as it is a bit of an embarrassment.

Ah, well–work in progress.

Hansen’s Catastrophic Vision of Climate Change This Century

Retired NASA scientist and climate guru James Hansen is coming out this week with another paper predicting catastrophic climate change. The paper is not yet available but has apparently been sent to some in the media, notably here and here.

As the Washington Post article says, “In the new study, Hansen and his colleagues suggest that the “doubling time” for ice loss from West Antarctica — the time period over which the amount of loss could double — could be as short as 10 years. In other words, a non-linear process could be at work, triggering major sea level rise in a time frame of 50 to 200 years. By contrast, Hansen and colleagues note, the IPCC assumed more of a linear process, suggesting only around 1 meter of sea level rise, at most, by 2100.” The Daily Beast article says Hansen predicts ‘several meters’ of sea level rise this century.

Doom

Hansen’s paper apparently also predicts possible disruptions to major ocean currents, potentially blocking the circulation “in which (in the northern hemisphere) warm water travels northward, and then colder, denser water sinks and travels back south again.”

Judith Curry has a good post up at Climate Etc. discussing this and related issues. However, as with most discussion of future impacts, she calls for close examination of the ‘worst plausible case’ to direct our response. As I think that is close to suicidal, I wrote the following as a comment there and reproduce it here.

“Sadly, I think the emphasis on ‘worst case scenarios’ does not really serve our interests, especially if the worst cases are also the least likely.

I think it would be extremely useful to have a graduated approach for a number of reasons. First, even if temperature and sea level rises prove to be high, given the stop-start nature of rises in GAT over the past century we can expect to spend a considerable period of time dealing with lower levels and whatever impacts they bring.

Preparing a response to different levels of climate impacts would allow for a measured response. Sea walls built to deal with 98cm of sea level rise could easily build in a margin of 50%, which might be adequate overall if Nic Lewis is right, but would certainly buy us enough time to see if Hansen’s catastrophic nightmares have any chance of coming to pass.

The same is true of other pre-adaptation measures. It is also true of attempts to mitigate climate change. Radically reducing coal usage in the developed world may actually be enough of a response, if sensitivity is low. But even if more will be required of us in the future, allowing the emerging countries to burn coal for the first decades of this century may be enough to generate the resilience they need to make cuts later if they are required.

Furthermore, preparing for modest impacts now would also buy time for technological innovation to spare us from huge expenses now. Using the technology of 2040 to prepare for impacts in 2075 is likely to be just as effective and far less expensive than using what is available today.

The activist side of the climate debate has consciously tried to maintain the world’s focus on outlier estimates of temperature climbs, sea level rise and sensitivity estimates. It keeps them in the news, allows them to shout denier and probably generates more funding for research.

But it does not serve our needs.”

I short, I label this ‘almost suicidal’ in terms of the politics of climate change, as it allows the climate activists to set the agenda using outlier estimates. But it is also hugely destructive for those of us advocating a more measured response over a longer period of time, as the activists who have been attacking organizations like the Breakthrough Institute, the EcoModernists and proponents of Fast Mitigation would like to take all the options these more moderate voices put forward off the table. And we need those options.

We need to remember that in terms of present impacts on our environment, climate change is an asterisk in the totals when compared to habitat loss, over hunting and over fishing, conventional pollution and introduction of alien species.

We need to remember that in terms of acting against climate change, mitigating black carbon, deforestation, HFCs and methane will reduce forcings more quickly and more cost-effectively than the measures proposed by the catastrophe activists.

In terms of solutions being put into place, we need to remember the adage ‘measure twice, cut once’. Instead of throwing windmill farms up almost at random, we need to site better and integrate with existing generation more fully. The same is true of solar.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to re-evaluate opposition to nuclear and hydro-electric, the producers of 98% of non-emissive energy in the world, and figure out how to more effectively implement these technologies that have worked for us in the past.

No, Eli, Global Warming Is Not Like A Catastrophic Earthquake

Eli Rabett is trying to compare (he misuses the world ‘correlate’, but let’s not quibble) a potential large earthquake in the Northwestern United States with global warming. The two phenomena are similar in the way a pig is similar to a painting. Or a tractor. (Would that then mean that paintings are also similar to tractors?)

Which is to say they are not at all similar.

Rabett writes, “The correlations I see between this issue and climate are in the seriousness of risk, timescale, and effort needed to respond to the problem.” There is no correlation between a large earthquake and global warming for any of these factors.

Seriousness of risk: A large earthquake in the Pacific Northwest is postulated to create a tsunami. The director of FEMA Region X said ““Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” This would endanger 7 million people living in the affected area. Global warming, on the other hand, moves at a glacial pace. Sea level rise is currently 3 mm per year. And although the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet might succumb to a combination of mechanical pressure and warmer waters at its base, its collapse would still play out over decades, giving ample time to move people and valuables inland.

The sea level rise expected this century from global warming will not be as great as the distance from the bottom to the top of your computer screen. Sea level rise amounts to one inch every 8 years.

This is a tsunami:

Timescale: An earthquake is over in a few minutes. Climate change is something that started 70 years ago, is barely noticeable now and is not expected to hit its stride until the middle of this century. See the difference?

Effort needed to respond to the problem: We are already preparing both both climate change and earthquakes. The difference is we can adapt to climate change. At this point in time there is very little we can do to adapt to a 9.5 earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. The best we could do is move people out of harm’s way.

No, Eli, earthquakes accompanied by tsunamis have nothing at all in common with climate change. However, you inadvertently made on telling point, writing, “Having said all that, one thing that did bother me with the article is that some things seemed exaggerated.” While that I believe is not true for earthquakes and tsunamis (the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed a quarter of a million people), it is certainly true of climate change.

Peruse The Climate Change News

Or as we used to call it, ‘Point Counter-Point.’

JaneYouIgnorantSlut_zps9e5f7f83

Or, as it’s known in the climate debate,

ajlfajl

Part 1: I wanna know what snow is… I want you to show me…

Point

Recent snowfalls at ski fields in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains may have been good news for holidaymakers, but studies have shown there might be disappointment ahead for snow lovers in the long term. …Australia must adapt to warmer conditions caused by climate change, that is increasingly turning the alpine landscape from white to green. …Study co-author Professor Catherine Pickering said the current trends did not look promising and good years like the recent snow dump had become less frequent.”

Counter-point

Winter in Boston has officially come to an end: The last of the leftover snow in the city finally melted on Tuesday, July 14. “The pile officially melted today,” Boston mayor Marty Walsh announced, noting that the end of the 70-foot “snow farms” in Boston’s Seaport District were finally gone, leaving a pile of gravel and refuse behind.”

Point

“The UK government* says that climate change poses risks that demand to be treated as seriously as the threat  of nuclear war. **

* Well, a report done by the Centre for Science and Policy, a ‘networking organization’.

** The report was ‘sponsored’ by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office among others, including the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

Counterpoint

“The risk of climate change demands a similarly holistic assessment” (as analysis of nuclear disarmament and proliferation).

Funnily enough, that’s from the same report. In fact, that’s the  only mention of nuclear threat in the same report that produced the first quote…

Point

“California is a global leader in combating climate change, but it hasn’t been enough.”  “The state has emerged as a global leader in fighting climate change, despite producing only about one percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It has created a dizzying array of programs to cut pollution.”

Counterpoint

“California electricity rates to undergo biggest change in 15 years”  “California regulators radically revamped the way electricity rates work in the state, approving changes Friday that will raise monthly utility bills for the most energy-efficient homeowners while giving many bigger energy users a break.”

Point

“Rude and Touchy”

“What caught my eye was what he said with regards to Matt Ridley and Nigel Lawson:

Their influence is less and less I am happy to say. The facts of science, life and measured views of people like Pope Francis are undermining them. They have become just rude instead of arguing and they are so touchy.”

Counterpoint

From the same post: “To be fair, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Matt Ridley being actually rude.”

Point

“Climate Change Seen as Top Global Threat”  “This is particularly true in Latin America and Africa, where majorities in most countries say they are very concerned about this issue.”

Counterpoint

“Polls show most Americans believe in climate change, but give it low priority”

Global warming also ranked near the bottom of Americans’ 2014 priorities for President Obama and Congress (28% said it was a top priority). Similarly, when asked last November about long-range foreign policy goals, 37% named global climate change as a top long-range goal; by comparison, 83% cited guarding against terrorist attacks and 81% named protecting American jobs as top goals.”

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Global Drought Has Decreased Since 1901

(Hat tip to Climate Depot): “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.

“Monthly precipitation (P) and potential evapotranspiration (PET) from the CRUTS3.1 data set are used to compute monthly P minus PET (PMPE) for the land areas of the globe. The percent of the global land area with annual sums of PMPE less than zero are used as an index of global drought (% drought) for 1901 through 2009. Results indicate that for the past century % drought has not changed, even though global PET and temperature (T) have increased. Although annual global PET and T have increased, annual global P also has increased and has mitigated the effects of increased PET on % drought.”

Temperatures have risen and the potential for evaporation has too. But increased precipitation has more than counter-balanced this and so the annual occurrence of drought has decreased globally. As that is in line with what global warming theorists have written–that global precipitation should increase by about 5% due to global warming–this finding should not be too surprising.

But because we live in a climate dominated by propagandists pushing the idea that we are undergoing constant climate catastrophe, the finding will probably not be welcomed.

rain

I wonder if that will show up in the Guardian? They managed to ignore Sheffield and Woods when they reported the same thing in 2012.

Funny how that works.

“the doctor is saying ‘you are gravely ill.” Climate Checkup

Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography  said if this is Earth’s annual checkup, “the doctor is saying ‘you are gravely ill.”

Severinghaus was referring to the NOAA report just released, titled ‘State of the Climate.’

Let’s see if these excerpts from that report describe a planet that is ‘gravely ill.’

Carbon dioxide: “Using measurements taken worldwide, scientists estimated 2014 global average carbon dioxide concentration at 397.2 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 1.9 ppm over the 2013 global average.”

Temperatures: “Globally averaged surface temperature for 2014 was 0.27° -0.29° Celsius (0.49°-0.52°F) above the 1981–2010 average. Depending on the small differences among different data sets, 2014 was either the warmest or tied-for-warmest year since records began in the mid-to-late 1800s.”

Precipitation: “When taken as a whole, precipitation over land was generally below average, while precipitation over the oceans was above average. … Southeastern North America, eastern Europe, northeastern South America, central Africa, much of southeast Asia, and eastern Australia were drier than usual. Compared to 2013, however, dry conditions over western North America, northern Eurasia, and southern Africa became less extreme. Above-average precipitation fell over southern Europe and central South America, with the exception of Brazil.”

Soil mosture: “While slightly wetter than 2013, the global average soil moisture in 2014 was near-normal.”

Sea level: “In 2014, global average sea level was 2.6 inches (67 mm) above the 1993 average, which is the highest yearly average in the satellite record (1993-present). Overall, sea level continues to rise at a rate of one-eighth of an inch (3.2 mm) per year.”

Fires: “Overall, total global fire emissions in 2014 were on par with the long-term average. Emissions were much higher than normal in North America (mostly Canada) and the Indonesian archipelago. While North America and Indonesia saw elevated fire emissions, lower than-average emissions were observed in South America and Africa due to a combination of lower tropical deforestation rates and land use changes.”

Glaciers: “In 2014, glaciers continued to shrink. Based on an analysis of more than three dozen reference glaciers with long-term monitoring, the 2014 BAMS State of the Climate reports that in 2014, glaciers experienced an average loss of 853 millimeters of water equivalent, meaning the equivalent depth of water (spread out over the entire glacier area) that would be produced from the amount of melted snow or ice. This loss was not quite as severe the loss from 2013 (887 millimeters), but it still counted among the larger losses recorded since 1980.”

Temperature Extremes: “In terms of both warm days and cool nights, cool conditions prevailed across large parts of the North America, especially the eastern half of the continent. Across much of the rest of the globe, though, 2014 conditions were unusually warm compared to 1961–1990.”

River Outflow: “Overall, however, there was a large decrease in the spring’s high-flow season compared to 2013. Most rivers showed lower than usual conditions except for a few rivers near the Mediterranean Sea such as the Danube. Asia experienced a considerable low-flow deficit in August. The Ganges–Brahmaputra, northern Indochina peninsula, Lena, and East Asia were in a low-flow state, while the Kolyma, Ob, and river systems in southwestern China were in a high-flow state.

North America, Africa, and Australia experienced an average year in terms of annual amount and seasonal variations of runoff, though the peak occurred one month earlier than the long-term average in Australia. Rivers in the northern part of North America such as the Yukon and the Mackenzie experienced high flow, while rivers in the southern part of North America (including the Mississippi and the Colorado) and in Africa (the Congo and the Nile) had lower flow than their long-term average.

The Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that over the long term, runoff and river discharge generally have generally increased at high latitudes, with some exceptions. However, the report concluded, “no long term trend in discharge was reported for the world’s major rivers on a global scale.”

In all honesty, does that sound like a patient who is ‘gravely ill?’

2014 was also a year of increasing vegetation cover over the world’s surface, record harvests, declining mortality and morbidity, the further retreat of malaria, polio and other vector born diseases, an increase in global GDP and per capita income, low levels of storms and storm intensity.

Maybe we should be asking a few pointed questions about our doctor…

bad doctor

Out Of Everything We Do To The Oceans, Is Climate Change The Worst?

… It is, according to this story in Carbon Brief.

Never mind what BP did to the Gulf, never mind the Exxon Valdez. Never mind over-fishing, pollution, de-oxygenated blooms at the mouths of rivers worldwide.

Deepwater

The Carbon Brief story references  a paper just published in Nature Communications titled “Spatial and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world’s ocean.”

The paper says “Globally, increases in climate change stressors (sea surface temperature anomalies, ocean acidification and ultraviolet radiation) drove most of the increase in cumulative impact, confirming the need to address climate change to maintain and sustain marine ecosystems globally.”

However, they also write “Nearly 66% of the ocean experienced increases in cumulative impact over the 5-year study span  Increases tended to be located in tropical, subtropical and coastal regions, with average increases in 77% of all exclusive economic zones.” That would suggest that other human contributions might be more significant.

And in fact, according to the paper, “Overall, countries with greater increases in coastal population had larger 5-year changes in cumulative impacts.”

Well, okay–they suckered me in. Let’s look at sea surface temperatures, which, according to the European Environmental Agency are 1 degree Celsius higher than they were 140 years ago.

Here is how they describe the impacts:

“Some organisms are now appearing earlier in their seasonal cycles than in the past.”

“The consequences include increased vulnerability of North Sea cod and stocks to over-fishing”

“Fish and plankton have expanded their geographical distribution further north in response to increasing temperatures. Depending on the species this expansion occurs at an average rate of 30 -100 km per year.”

The horror.

My problem with the paper is that they lump together various potential impacts–sea surface temperatures, acidification and UV radiation–and assign it a score that is hard to disambiguate. The only impacts I have seen discussed with regards to acidification are to coral reefs, and it appears that impacts are being re-evaluated as the reefs show surprising resilience–as soon as other human impacts, such as dynamite fishing, are removed from the picture.

I have seen no discussion of the impacts of UV radiation. Perhaps a better-informed reader will guide me.

The upshot appears to be that 1C of warming sea surface temperatures have changed seasonal movement and growth patterns in some species, very similar to what has happened on land.

Until there is greater visibility on how their metrics are defined I will remain of the opinion that climate change has had far less impact on our oceans than pollution, over-fishing and introduction of alien species. Just as it has been on land.

20 Feet Sea Level Rises… Won’t Happen Overnight

The migration of a climate meme from over-hyped press release to uninformed discussion in more mainstream outlets is a constant in the climate debate. Just 5 days after publication of the paper “Sea Level Rise Due to Polar Ice-Sheet Mass Loss During Past Warm Periods” comes a story loosely based on it in Market Business asking “Will 20 foot rise of sea water level engulf whole earth?

They are joined in this by Tech Times, ZME Science, Climate Progress (surprise!), and (I’m not kidding here) several hundred other news articles. They don’t answer the question, but I will. No. The ZME article even shows a picture of what Europe would look like after 20 feet of SLR. It is greatly changed. It is still there. We’re not ready for this fellow yet. noah-and-animals-39461-print I read a handful of these articles. They all use the same quote from Andrea Dutton. “It won’t happen overnight.” But they bury that in frightening language and give no estimate of when it might actually take place.

This is despite the widely publicized projection of the IPCC in AR5–that between 26 and 98 centimeters of sea level rise is predicted for 2100. The 2007 IPCC report expects melting of the Greenland ice sheet to occur over about a 1,000 year period, delaying much of the expected sea level rise for many centuries. I have seen estimates of 3,000 years for full meltdown of the Greenland ice caps if climate change continues unabated. Fully melting the vast Anatrctic ice cap will take much longer.

They also use the same term to describe this 20 feet of sea level rise–‘irreversible.’ That’s despite the fact that the study is based on prior periods of high sea levels–that were reversed. That’s, umm, why we have this ice around us today.

Point being that like the game of telephone, as a message filters through the various levels of the media, the factual content is not improved with each passage. We can surmise that there will be periods in our future when all the ice has melted. That’s because there have been periods in the past when it happened.

But scientists are not predicting in within 1,000 years. Or 2,000 years. Can human caused climate change bring that date nearer? Yes, many scientists think so and on balance I agree. But how much closer? Jury’s still out. More importantly, if and when that day arrives there will still be dry ground for us to walk on. Land mammals survived the previous ice-free periods–even polar bears. It will be hugely disruptive for our remote descendants and if something we can do will push that day into the even more remote future, we should do it. But saying ‘it won’t happen overnight’ is not a scientific statement. It is a cheap way of not saying ‘it won’t happen for millenia.’

Zero Room For Climate Debate: Greg Laden Plays With Himself

On June 25, Greg Laden posted an update to his post slamming NY Times journalist/blogger Andrew Revkin for sleeping with the enemy–giving aid and comfort to the enemy–being a Klimate Kwisling, a traitor to the cause. Yeah, Laden’s nuttier than  a fruitcake.

Laden had opined that there was zero room for debate on climate science.

Quotation-Joseph-Joubert-debate-logic-Meetville-Quotes-120395

His update was a riposte to Revkin’s reply to him. Revkin had written: ““Zero room.” That’s scientific.”

To which Laden replied

“Yes, it is. There is zero room for debate when an issue has been pretty much settled. In science debate can come up anywhere, you never know, but for all practical purposes we do not debate if the Earth is hollow or solid or flat or round, or that germs cause many diseases, or that frogs reproduce as most other tetrapods do rather then spontaneously emerging from mud.”  He later continued, “So to repeat my original post, I said “… there is absolutely zero room for considering the reality of climate change or its severity.”

Ya know… if that’s really the case then why is Tamino debating (and losing to) Judith Curry on the… ummm, severity of climate change?

Why is Adrew Dessler debating Richard Lindzen on sensitivity and the Iris Effect? They’ve done so publicly, in the peer-reviewed literature and in the blogosphere.

Why is And Then There’s Physics debating Sharapova  Zharkova (think I’ve been following a little tooo much tennis? Thanks ATTP for the correction.) on… um… the severity of climate change?

Why is the Australian  Bureau of Meteorology debating Jo Nova, Jennifer Marohasy and seemingly hundreds of interested Australians on umm… the existence of climate change?

Oh, wait–here’s Greg Laden in the comments section of the post saying there’s no debate… “As stated, there is debate over climate sensitivity, and no one expects the value to converge until it converges … ”

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In Praise of Judith Curry’s Week in Review–and the Social Cost of Carbon

As someone who tries to keep up with stories related to energy and climate change, I know how hard it is to keep your finger on the pulse. I used to do a weekly review here at TLW and it was actually very close to work (shudder).

Judith Curry at Climate Etc. has done a remarkable job following the various segments relevant to the climate debate. This week’s post on energy and policy is no exception. I want to explore one of the stories she linked to in a little more depth.

If you think that the climate change debate is all about temperatures and models, her link to a discussion of the social cost of carbon should wake you up to the fact that it’s all about the money. And I’m not talking about contributions from the Koch brothers or subsidizing solar power.

When companies pollute the water or air and they don’t have to pay for the damages that pollution causes, it’s called a negative externality. Now that CO2 is classed in the U.S. (wrongly, IMO) as a pollutant, there are efforts to quantify the damages and to create a metric known as the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC).

This is done by estimating the price in today’s dollars to repair the damage a unit of CO2 (or equivalent) will cause in the future.

I think it’s a legitimate exercise in theory, but I don’t place much stock in early efforts. One of the reasons why it’s difficult is that people on different sides of the climate debate cannot agree on what is called the ‘discount rate’.

One of the stories Judith Curry linked to shows just how contentious this can be. It has a point of view–heck, it’s titled ‘OMB Whitewash on the Social Cost of Carbon‘–but whatever your stance on the impacts of climate change, there is good information here.

That includes a good plain-language explanation of discounting:

“Present dollars are more important than future dollars. If you have to suffer damage worth (say) $10,000, you will be relieved to learn that it will hit you in 20 years, rather than tomorrow. This preference isn’t simply a psychological one of wanting to defer pain. No: Because market interest rates are positive, it is cheaperfor you to deal with a $10,000 damage that won’t hit for 20 years. That’s because you can set aside a smaller sum today and invest it (perhaps in safe bonds), so that the value of your side fund will grow to $10,000 in 20 years’ time.

In this framework, it is easy to see how crucial the interest rate is, on those safe bonds. If your side fund grows at 7% per year, then you need to set aside about $2,584 today in order to have $10,000 in 20 years. But if the interest rate is only 3%, then you need to put aside $5,537 today in order to have $10,000 to pay for the damage in 20 years.

An equivalent way of stating these facts is to say that the present-discounted value of the looming $10,000 in damages (which won’t hit for 20 years) is $2,584 using a 7% discount rate, but $5,537 using a 3% discount rate. The underlying assumption about the size and timing of the damage is the same—the only thing we changed is the discount rate used in our assessment of it.”

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Faithful readers of this space will know that much of the criticism of Nicholas Stern’s massive report on the costs of climate change and efforts to combat it were centered on his choice of a very low discount rate, which greatly colored his conclusions.

It’s an important issue. CAGW alarmists and Konsensus Kooks prattle on about the end of the world, saying we are heading for an environment that looks like a Mad Max movie or worse. However, in actual fact even Stern only predicts economic losses of between 1% and 5% of global GDP as a result of climate change. (And to arrive at that figure he not only used a low discount rate, but also over-estimated population rise and the rise in CO2 concentrations.)

But it’s a confusing issue as well. Those who most want action on climate change are also the ones urging a small discount rate, which pushes up the cost of fighting climate change, often to the point where the struggle seems impossible. I imagine they feel that if the cost is too low nobody will take it seriously. And just perhaps they hope that the fight against climate change will get more funding if the cost is higher.

My point is that most of the time we are focused on small ball. Temperature adjustments, solar variation, foolish pronouncements by people who would be better off keeping silent–all of that can be reduced to trivia by a simple accountant’s decision.

More importantly, a lot of these decisions are being made now–and made perhaps in too much haste. We may indeed be headed for a long term future of low interest rates that justify the EPA’s choice of a low discount rate. We’ve already had a long period of almost zero interest rates and Japan’s example shows that such periods can last longer than anyone expects.

However, at some point inflation will return and interest rates will rise. This can confound estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon.

How The Media Confuses People Regarding Climate Change

I want to highlight two stories that show how some parts of the media distort the truth on climate change.

The first comes to us via Bishop Hill and it recounts the story of an encounter between a skeptic journalist and a reporter for the Toronto Star. As can be shown in the video, the Toronto Star reporter flat out lies in the article she wrote on the subject. It turns out that the skeptic was not the bad guy and the reporter was not the good woman. The 9-year-old kid comes off okay, though.

The second example is from the Guardian, the UK’s self-appointed (or self-anointed) champion of climate activism.

Google News returns 66 articles covering a new paper in the journal Science. The paper is titled,”Sea Level Rise Due to Polar Ice-Sheet Mass Loss During Past Warm Periods.” I didn’t read them all but I read enough of them to know that the Guardian missed something that others did not.

The paper shows that in past warm periods, much of the ice melted from the polar ice caps and Greenland and contributed greatly to sea level rise, as much as six meters more than current levels. This is not exactly news–we’ve known that there were ice-free periods on Earth where the seas were much higher.

But other articles on the paper and its subject managed to provide some perspective. As CBS News reported, “The ominous aspect to this is that CO2 levels are continuing to rise, so we are entering uncharted territory,” Clark said. “What is not as certain is the time frame, which is less well-constrained. We could be talking many centuries to a few millennia to see the full impact of melting ice sheets.”

That’s something the Guardian neglected to mention. They’re happy to write, “Dutton’s analysis was able to get better estimates of the upper bounds of sea level rise. And those results don’t bode well for the world’s coastlines as they showed that sea levels were up to 42 ft higher than the present.

“These numbers are consistent with our study on sea level commitment,” Anders Levermann, a sea level rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research who authored a 2013 study, said.

But there is no mention of the time frame. This is what the Guardian says: “The big outstanding question — and the one that’s most relevant to people living along the coasts — is just how long it could take sea levels to rise to such great heights. The process isn’t linear. It’s currently accelerating and that trend is expected to continue.”

So, something that has happened repeatedly before and may happen 3,000 years in the future if nothing else interferes with the climate is presented as a man-made event that could happen at any time.

It is clear that many media organizations have made an editorial commitment to support activists advocating robust action on climate change. I have no objection to that–privately owned media companies are entitled to have a point of view,  although it is usually better off in the opinion pages rather than coloring beat reporting.

However, stories like this are at best an advertorial for activists beating the drum for an outlier view of climate sensitivity. At worst it is propaganda.