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Duffy on global warming

April 11th, 2005

Via Immanuel Rant, I found this piece by Michael Duffy in Saturday’s SMH, pushing global warming denialism. Immanuel points out that Duffy has been more than a little economical with the truth, saying

Duffy is correct to warn us not to overlook agendas and political interests and how they affect science. The trouble is that Duffy’s “cold, hard look� forgets the mote in his own eye. Kellow and William Kininmonth (also mentioned) are members of The Lavoisier Group. The group was created by Ray Evans of Western Mining and is an astroturf operation.

The article is full of similar examples. Sceptic Bob Carter is described as “an environmental scientist at James Cook University”. At least when I knew him there, he was a geologist working (not surprisingly) with the mining industry, and his current affilation is still with the School of Earth Sciences Nothing wrong with that, as Duffy himself says, but, why the misrepresentation.?

Then there’s the reference to a conference held by

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a liberal think-tank,

which

held a climate seminar in Germany in February and conducted a poll of the 500 climate researchers who attended. A quarter doubted that the modest warming of the past 150 years is due to human activity.

For most Australian readers, the term “liberal’ without capitalisation might imply a moderate progressive, perhaps an Australian Democrat. Duffy doesn’t bother to inform us that the Foundation is liberal in the classical sense. It stands for

he reduction of state interventionism, the advocacy of decentralization and  privatization, the cutting of existing state regulations and of bureaucratic red tape in our daily lives.

In other words, it’s an ideological clone of the CIS, IPA or Cato. It appears to have close ties with the last of these, a well-known promoter of junk science on this and other topics. Duffy could have been honest with his readers and called it a “free-market thinktank”, but that would have alerted them to possible bias. I managed to find a report on the meeting here, but it’s in German and I can’t really follow it. It doesn’t appear to me that those in attendance were climate scientists, though some of the speakers were.

It seems to be just about impossible to attack the consensus view on global warming without resorting to dishonest misrepresentation. Duffy is no exception to this pattern.

Update Tim Lambert has more.

And, given his past form, I’m not surprised to learn that Duffy is an exponent of rightwing postmodernism.

As you’d expect from someone hired as the “right-wing Philip Adams’, Duffy poses as a critic of postmodernism, as in this Counterpoint episode where he links it to Leninism, eugenics and contempt for ordinary people, and defends science as a source of truth.

But, when science says something Duffy doesn’t like, for example on global warming, he’s happy to embrace the “social construction of reality” thesis, as propounded by political scientist and Lavoisier Institute member Aynsley Kellow.

Further update It turns out (see the comments thread) that the respondents to the survey described by Duffy were not, as he says, climate scientists attending a conference in 2005, but members of meteorological societies who responded to a survey sent out in 1996! It’s scarcely surprising that a lot of respondents took the view, at that time, that anthropogenic climate change was not proven. IIRC, the IPCC took the same view. I’ll put this one down to sloppiness rather than deliberate deception, but it’s illustrative of the point that Duffy is not engaged in a serious search for truth here.

Yet further update 20/4 A lengthy search suggests that the claimed result does not refer to the 1996 survey, but to another survey undertaken by the same researcher in 2003. The results are apparently here but I can’t get them to work on any of my browsers.

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  1. Brian Bahnisch
    April 9th, 2005 at 18:16 | #1

    John, Michael Duffy has been running an anti-global warming/climate change/Kyoto line on his right-wing radio program Counterpoint. Coming up this Monday (4pm) he will have Bob Carter, Research Professor of Geology, James Cook University, Townsville, who will answer our queries from the Climate Change show Monday 4 April. He often does this sort of thing. He grabs right-wing viewpoint holder and puts him on as an authoritative source without the slightest qualification. Peter Saunders is one of his favourites as an authority on social security issues and whatever else Saunders goes on about.

    The said Climate Change show of Monday 4 April included guests Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator, US State Department; William Kininmonth, Australasian Climate Research; Garth Paltridge, Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Tasmania; Professor Aynsley Kellow, School of Government, University of Tasmania. Only Kellow and Watson made it into the transcript.

    Watson’s contribution is actually interesting as he authentically represents the official American viewpoint. From him we learn, though, that the Europeans problem is that they are risk-averse whereas the Americans don’t mind putting our future at risk.

    From Kellow we learn that the whole problem is socially and politically constructed and originally had to do with Helmut Kohl trying to wrong-foot the Greens and the Social Democrats. They wanted to phase out nuclear power stations in favour of greater use of coal.

    Of the rest, I think it was Garth Paltridge who was highly critical of climate change models.

    Meanwhile the issue has broken out at Webdiary, with a useful piece by David Roffey who seems quite knowledgeable. The gainsayers and minimizers are there, of course.

  2. April 9th, 2005 at 19:36 | #2

    Duffy is normally a pretty sound critic of “constructivism”, without being a foaming-at-the-mouth exponent of conservatism. He should have been more candid about the ideological allegiances of individual and institutional critics of Global Warming. That said, one wants to get past ad hominum attacks and get to the gist of the issu. Did Duffy actually misrepresent the arguments or facts relevant to this ecological issue? Or did he fail to be critical of the critics?

  3. John Quiggin
    April 9th, 2005 at 21:00 | #3

    He didn’t make any substantive points. He presented an argument from authority (many climate scientists don’t believe in GW) and misdescribed his authorities.

  4. James Farrell
    April 9th, 2005 at 21:13 | #4

    You can’t make that distinction in this case, Jack. Since Duffy has no scientific credentials, his piece is of necessity an appeal to authority. Most of it is a catalogue of dissent. He throws in a few facts and figures – carbon dioxide is only one percent of the atmosphere, etc. – but since he is not remotely qualified to judge the significance of those facts, it’s obvious they’re there only for the sake of technical verisimilitude. Furthermore, he makes no attempt to report that the ‘arguments and facts’ he raises are and have been frequently and easily dealt with by climatologists. Most Herald readers have neither the time nor the patience to read the IPCC web site, so they are desperate to know where the balance of authority lies. Duffy’s column is written on this basis, so the the credibility of the authorities he cites is indeed the issue.

  5. James Farrell
    April 9th, 2005 at 21:15 | #5

    And yeah, what John said, too.

  6. April 9th, 2005 at 22:02 | #6

    I would understand “liberal” in the classical sense, but I wouldn’t take the CIS etc. as exemplars of that. Rather, I would take their position as allowing in legal entities as well as natural persons as the subject matter of “liberal” – which allows non-state corporatism as well as individual freedom, and ends up squeezing the latter.

  7. April 9th, 2005 at 22:50 | #7

    Thanks for the mention John.

    Duffy having no scientific credentials is no excuse to rely on argument from authority. To do so is lazy journalism and suggests a predisposition to a particular view. With most scientific debates there is more than enough information for the layperson to form a considered opinion without cherry picking from like-minded ideological combatants. Though I think James gives Herald readers less credit that they are due ;-) his point can be extended to the general community. We need better reporting on science issues other than the fallacy that because there are differing opinions each deserve equal time in the press (the fallacy of balance).

    While consensus does not always indicate that a scientific position will hold it generally is a damn good sign without compelling evidence to consider otherwise.

    Cheer, Cheer, the Red and the White,
    Honour the name, by day and by night…….

  8. John Quiggin
    April 9th, 2005 at 22:57 | #8

    No coarse or offensive language, please, Irant! 50-metre penalty indeed!

  9. April 9th, 2005 at 23:27 | #9

    John, I hope you are not a Broncos fan as well.

  10. John Quiggin
    April 9th, 2005 at 23:44 | #10

    I’m a loyal Brisvegan, irant, but I have my limits!

  11. April 10th, 2005 at 05:01 | #11

    My comments on Duffy’s radio show are here.

  12. April 10th, 2005 at 08:41 | #12

    I would have to agree with the criticism made of Duffy by Pr Q et al. Duffy’s neglect of the counter-blasts to Global Warming denialists published in Nature, Sci-Am and sundry estimable blogs is especially disappointing.
    He is normally a pretty fair and reasonable conservative on sociological issues. Its a pity that his conservatism does not carry over to ecological issues.

  13. Paul G. Brown
    April 10th, 2005 at 08:54 | #13

    A small contribution (I can’t see it mentioned anywhere else here).

    The site Real Climate is an excellent resource for data and analysis on the science and media coverage of global climate change.

    (“Global Climate Change” being the preferred scientific term, as the current projections are that parts of the world will get colder – found that out on this little site.)

  14. Simon
    April 10th, 2005 at 10:51 | #14

    John was hoping for something more constructive and balanced from Duffy but it was a big ask.

    Again it raises my questions concerning confirmation bias, institutional bias and that we do use bounded rationality with its inherent limitations. I do see both sides as I admit I question and do reject the work of qualified individuals in their field of expertise, as the over diagnosing of childhood mental conditions that seems to be happening in child psychiatry and there are still some psychologists that think homosexuality is a mental disease. If that became a consensus position no amount of peer reviewed journals would sway me otherwise.

    Eugenics and the non-sexual female in Victorian times would seem good examples of social/institution bias that blinkered academic institutions in the past so it is plausible-though less so in the physical sciences- that it could happen again.

    Not so long ago you seemed to feel quite justified to make judgements about what is happening in evolutionary psychology eve though you are not trained in that discipline. It raises the question can science trained individual give opinions about things they don’t have a full understanding of let alone an intelligent lay person.

    It would seem to me that some institutions would be more prone to influences of social/institutional bias as their subject matter is more strongly tied to social construction. Whether masturbation is ‘harmful’ would seem to be directly related to how one socially constructs its context. Is for a society that sees it as wrong not in society’s who don’t.

    Maybe someone could tell me of a multidisciplinary approach that encourages science but in a socially deconstructed context? Is that even possible?

  15. April 10th, 2005 at 14:13 | #15

    Simon has articulated the technical basis of the disquiet that people feel about accepting science or research as political justification.

    “They’ve been wrong before,” we think. “I’m not going to be blinded by science.” “Hey, this thing is going in a really nasty direction.”

    But it is indeed true that some institutions are more vulnerable to social/institutional bias, partly because they centre on the measurement of human behaviour at inherently non-quantifiable points.

    Measurement in climate science depends on hard facts collected by machines. Where they go, how sophisticated they are, and what happens to the data are all fallible human decisions. But the chart recorders just do their job.

    Yes we are measuring human behaviour – our use of fossil fuel – but it is testable by the laws and customs of the natural sciences.

    In the end, I suppose, out here in the civilian world we can apply the same rough and ready rules about bias we apply to any institution. Is this huge institutional mass-mind actually plausible in this case? Can we see how this benefits the members in some direct way?

    I can see how developing a branch of psychology to justify torturing homosexuals would benefit its members. But not climate science.

  16. Iain
    April 10th, 2005 at 14:47 | #16

    Duffy appears to adhere to the infamous Luntz memo to the US Republican Party, “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

  17. Brian Bahnisch
    April 10th, 2005 at 23:01 | #17

    In scouting about a bit I came upon a recent paper by James Hansen:

    A slippery slope: How much global warming constitutes “dangerous anthropogenic interference”? An editorial essay. Clim. Change 68, 269-279

    There is an abstract and pdf link here.

    Hansen discusses the difficult problem of ice sheet degradation and makes a case for keeping additional climate forcing to 1.4 watts/m2, which would keep temperature rise to about 1C. About half that is already in the pipe-line.

    It’s a big ask, but he thinks things may go pearshaped quite quickly if we don’t. Of course ‘quite quickly’ doesn’t mean tomorrow, but maybe in a century or three. He is worried about a tipping point and thinks we may be already close to it.

    At the end of the paper he quotes his favourite quote from Richard Feynnmann:

    “We must continually question our conclusions, presenting all sides of an argument equally, and changing our conclusions when the evidence warrants it.”

    He has done this with the IPCC.

  18. April 11th, 2005 at 07:40 | #18

    given his past form, I’m not surprised to learn that Duffy is an exponent of rightwing postmodernism…when science says something Duffy doesn’t like, for example on global warming, he’s happy to embrace the “social construction of realityâ€? thesis,

    ……
    Intellectual degeneration springs from political corruption. Liberal England collapsed as the traditional party system morphed along European lines. The British elite were, as Muggeridge observed, a ruling class on the run and prone to embrace bad ideas. The Tories went proto-fascist and the Liberals went proto-socialist. Only Labor seemed to embody traditional liberal and chapel values, and even they went by the way when the Soviet illusion took hold. This period was, as Stove notes, also the high tide of Idealism, the foundational metaphysic of post-modernism.
    A similar intellectual degeneration deformed the partisans of the Left when New Left ideologies took root in the seventies.
    Now it is the US New Right, paeleo-cons excluded, which seems to be embracing some form of post-modernism or at least virtual realism. Steve Sailer points out that power politics now condition truth values in the post-modern GOP:

    The Foucault-ification of Republican ideologues continues apace. In French postmodern thought, there’s no such thing as “truth,� just power.
    ……………….
    More and more, Bush is dependent upon Fundamentalist Post-Modernism, the belief that belief is all that matters and that reality is trivial compared to having a positive mental attitude.
    …the mood of the country seems to be moving increasingly toward what I call Christian post-modernism: the feeling that reality is less important than thinking positive thoughts, that problems don’t so much exist in the real world as merely in the heads of those awful, negative-thinking cynics. They are the real problem!
    ……………..
    Increasingly, that way of thinking is popular among the more frenzied defenders of the Iraq Attaq.
    …It’s time to pull yourselves out of your deconstructionist death spiral.

    ……………
    Sailer’s analysis was stunningly confirmed when a high-ranking Republican official, Rove by the sound of it, told Ron Suskind of the NY Times that, in the new GOP, ideology trumped reality:
    …………………

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the “reality-based community”, which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    This is the authentic voice of power-mania and a diagnostic of the intellectual degeneration of some sections of the Right. This hostility to scientific epistemology is evident in the Rights antagonism to evolutionary thinking where it threatens theological shibboleths. In this the New Right mirrors the anti-scientific New Left which also opposed evolutionary thinking where it threatened sociological shibboleths.

  19. AN Smith
    April 11th, 2005 at 09:53 | #19

    This is all very strange, coming from someone who advocates a treaty (Kyoto) that will do nothing to change global warming, even if fully implemented. Who is it that is in denial again?

  20. ml
    April 11th, 2005 at 10:15 | #20

    Yep, as too often with these sorts of articles, little survives after logical-fallacy and ethical filters are run.

  21. Paul Norton
    April 11th, 2005 at 10:34 | #21

    Would someone with more current economics expertise at their fingertips than myself like to compare the economic modellers’ estimates of the impact of Kyoto on global economic performance with the IMF’s estimate that rising oil prices will trim 1% per annum from global economic growth over the next few years?

    In other words, are we at the point where growing consumption of fossil fuels on a “business at usual” basis is doing more economic harm globally, even in the short run, than the reduction in fossil fuel use which Kyoto is designed to achieve?

  22. John Quiggin
    April 11th, 2005 at 10:56 | #22

    Most estimates of the cost of Kyoto with emissions trading below 1 percentage point of GDP. This is a change in levels, not growth rates. A 1 per cent decline in growth for three years, followed by a return to normal growth, implies a 3 percentage point cumulative loss.

  23. John Quiggin
    April 11th, 2005 at 10:58 | #23

    AN Smith, since you know that I support Kyoto, I assume you’ve read my repeated refutation of your tired talking point. If not, search on Kyoto and you’ll find it.

  24. John Kotsopoulos
    April 11th, 2005 at 11:20 | #24

    Is it not time that so-called conservatives were exposed for what they really are, namely shameless carpetbaggers. I may not be fully convinced about the effects of global warming but I am sure as hell less convinced by people with transparent agendas who seek to create smoke screens of confusion.

    Lowering greenhouse gases should be seen as a marker for greater economic efficiency. You should not need to belong to the church of the Kyoto believers to want lower greenhouse emissions. Even Greenpeace is coming around to this view.

  25. AN Smith
    April 11th, 2005 at 11:37 | #25

    No, JQ, you havent refuted anything.
    Even the strongest proponents agree that Kyoto wont do a thing unless followed by even more precipitous falls in CO2 generation.

  26. April 11th, 2005 at 11:43 | #26

    Interesting that Ansley Kellow makes the statement “It’s certainly the case that CO2 is the largest single anthropogenic greenhouse gas,” as there are a few camps of skeptics. Some that deny CO2 is a man made problem, others that accept that CO2 is a minor problem that technology can fix, and the people who say CO2 will be beneficial.

    So Aynsley seems to be in the second camp.

    They are quoting the usual party line – economic cost, Kyoto ineffectual, developing countries excluded, junk science etc however like the people re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic are ultimatly going to be affected sooner or later. Do they think that Climate Change will bypass them because they are rich from the coffers of the polluters? Radical climate change if it happens, like a tsanami, is very democratic. It will kill you equally whether you are rich or poor, muslim or christian. Or are they like most people, living like kings now and hoping like hell that they are dead when it is time to pay.

  27. Frankis
    April 11th, 2005 at 11:51 | #27

    “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one first step” but some of us apparently won’t even be bothered to put two ideas together in sequence.

  28. Graeme Bond
    April 11th, 2005 at 11:58 | #28

    John,
    Sadly, the game is up. You and I and all the others who believe in scientific method and evidence have been exposed for what we are. The editor of Scientific American confesses all here http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ss/stories/s1333437.htm

  29. Tom Davies
    April 11th, 2005 at 12:08 | #29

    AN Smith, it’s not clear whether you read John’s opinions on Kyoto before you wrote your second comment. He recognises that Kyoto is a first step and believes it is not pointless.

  30. roberto
    April 11th, 2005 at 13:31 | #30

    Without sounding flippant, (watch me get flamed over this) how can meteorologists claim with any certainty that temperatures and resulting climate changes will be adverse in 100 years time, when they cannot with any certainty tell what the weather will be like in 7 days time.

    In addition, if you go to NASA’s website, there is a range of data/papers etc looking at temperature changes globally. They make interesting reading, as in many cases, based on temperature histories in many cities, the TREND, (not one off annual averages) shows little to no change, and in some cases quite the reverse. Further, many temperatures were higher pre-1930s than today. For example, yesterday in Melbourne recorded the highest temperature since 1939. I guess we were pumping all of greenhouse gases that day in 1939!

    cheers

  31. Tom Davies
    April 11th, 2005 at 14:14 | #31

    I’d like to understand more about the costs of mitigation, for instance, if the world decided to limit CO2 concentrations to 485ppm at 2050, and did it entirely via phased-in carbon taxes, what rates of tax would be needed each year over that 45 year period?

    Roberto, climate scientists aren’t claiming that any particular day in 100 years time will have bad weather. They are claiming that average weather conditions then will differ from average weather conditions now. They can do this because models of climate are less chaotic than models of weather, being driven by inputs such as CO2 levels and solar radiation, rather than initial conditions which are difficult to measure accurately. (At least, that’s my understanding—I’m neither a meteorologist nor a climate scientist!)

  32. April 11th, 2005 at 14:38 | #32

    roberto –

    There is no need to be worried about being flamed as you are just making a basic error that millions of people also make ie: not knowing the difference between climate and weather.

    Climate is the general conditions that an area will experience over a year or decade or longer. For instance Perth has a temperate climate – hot dry summers and cool winters, Darwin has a tropical climate and so on. These climatic are expected to to be the same over long periods of time. All our life patterns, agriculture, housing designs etc are based on the local climate.

    Weather is the day to day conditions that are experienced in an area. Rainy, cold, sunny etc. These are incredibly difficult to predict as there are so many variables. To predict the weather the climate, daily cloud cover, the past weather conditions for that time of the year, air pressure , wind strength amongst other things are taken into account to give a daily weather prediction.

    What is changing is the climate. With the increased forcings of CO2, methane etc minus the effects of atmospheric reflectors the net effect is a slow heating of the atmosphere which may affect the climate. Rainfall could increase or decrease, summer and winter temperatures could change.

    When all of these averages are taken together the it can be seen that global temperatures are rising. There will always be peaks and troughs and freak days but overall with all the peaks and troughs averaged out over the whole globe the temperature rise so far is about 0.6 of a degree. This rise is accelerating and could reach 2 degrees by 2020.

    The effect of this rise could be climate change, increased extreme weather, sea level rises as glaciers and sea ice melt or nothing at all. Scientists do not know exactly what will happen only what might happen.

    Its sort of like holding a revolver with 1 bullet in 6 chambers to your head. A scientist can tell you that you have 1/6 chance of living if you pull the trigger. However no scientist living or dead can tell you, without looking at the gun, whether you will live or die next shot until you are down the to the last chamber and still alive.

    Basically the earth is getting down to the last couple of chambers. When we can definately say what will happen it will be far far to late. Unlike the gun example by the time we are at the last chamber we cannnot choose not to press the trigger as that option will have been removed from us by past generations. The Earth will press the trigger and we will have to live with the consquences.

  33. April 11th, 2005 at 16:14 | #33

    With respect to the German conference and the comment about the poll of climate scientists, the quote does not match what’s in the actual documents. The original poll can be found here.

    It was a survey of 450 randomly selected members of the German Meteorological Society plus 50 randomly selected members of two Meteorological Institutes in Hamburg. Not a very scientific approach, since that would capture anyone from students to top level researchers. The response rate was 45%.

  34. Patrick
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:25 | #34

    roberto -

    Without sounding flippant, (watch me get flamed over this) how can economists claim with any certainty that profitability and the resulting economy will be adverse (or good) in a years time, when they cannot with any certainty tell what the stock market will be like in one days time.

  35. John Quiggin
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:35 | #35

    Thanks Peter. Am I right in thinking that this is the same as the survey reported here which was conducted in 1996?

  36. roberto
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:48 | #36

    Patrick – I agree! – but don’t tell my clients that – cheers

  37. roberto
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:49 | #37

    Ender – thanks for the very constructive response to my ‘basic error’. – cheers

  38. April 11th, 2005 at 16:49 | #38

    John, yes, it is the same survey. The paper was published in 1998. It does not say anywhere in the paper when the questionnaires were sent out, which is odd in itself.

  39. Ian Gould
    April 11th, 2005 at 17:09 | #39

    Roberto,

    I can’t predict with any real accuracy the maximum temperature in Brisbane tomorrow however I am reasonably confident that the average maximum daily temperature in mid-July this year will be lower than the average daily temperature was in January this year.

    Similarly, I can’t predict how the price of a particular good or commodity will change over the next week but I can point to a couple of hundred years of economic data that say the average price of most goods will tend to rise over time.

  40. Iain
    April 11th, 2005 at 19:55 | #40

    Roberto,

    Last century, eight of the warmest years were in the 90s [source IPCC].

  41. wpc
    April 11th, 2005 at 20:12 | #41

    Ender, it has risen 0.6 degree compared to when?

    Compared to the “medieval summer”? Probably not.

    Compared to the time of dinosaurs? It’s a lot cooler now.

    Compared to the “ice ages”? More than 0.6.

    The earth might be heating up at the moment, the only thing that would be truly suprising was if the earth stayed the same temperature.

    But the earth changing temperature does not mean humans are the cause. I’d be more willing to accept that explanation if someone can show me what caused all the other temperature changes the earth has undergone, and why this one is different.

  42. euan
    April 11th, 2005 at 21:07 | #42

    wpc perhaps you could look up the sources and their references for the temperatures you quote. After all these numbers had to be determined somehow, and the literature references may well include the explanations you seek.

  43. John Quiggin
    April 11th, 2005 at 21:32 | #43

    wpc, you might start by noting that the “medieval warm period” was a local event in Northern Europe and not a period of global high temperatures. And there is a large literature on the causes of both ice ages and Mesozoic warming.

    More generally, you might want to consider your attitude to science in general. There are lots of areas where standard scientific findings are counterintuitive to me, and where objections occur to me and I’m not aware if scientists have answered them. As a general rule, I don’t leap to the conclusion that the scientists are wrong.

  44. David Irving
    April 11th, 2005 at 22:47 | #44

    I heard the anti-climate-change “Counterpoint” several times – I was driving a taxi that night – and was quite amused that one of his guests was a social scientist (a walking, talking, oxymoron). Duffy’s major problem is that he has absolutely no understanding of the scientific method, or of scientific discourse. I think he believes it’s all a matter of opinion.

    I’m uncertain whether Duffy is a fool or a rogue. Since I prefer to take a charitable view of people, I’ll think of him as a fool until I get some evidence of intelligence.

  45. wpc
    April 11th, 2005 at 23:28 | #45

    John, its not that I think they are definitely wrong, its just that I don’t think that they are definitely right either.

    In my work area(health), I have noted how often “consensus of experts” becomes “whoops, got that wrong”.

    The human body may be harder to predict than climate, but with fairly plausible arguments on both sides of the argument, I will remain skeptical.

    (P.S I gain no direct profit from the use of petroleum, coal, etc. However, if any company would like to offer me kickbacks for my opinion, I will set up my talk back radio show as soon as possible)

  46. Brian Bahnisch
    April 11th, 2005 at 23:30 | #46

    wpc I’m only a layman, but I understand that the 0.6 degrees is from 1950. James Hansen in an article in the Scientific American (pdf) last year said that the best differentiated information of the various factors comes from the 1970s. You’ll find a graph of the main factors they measure on p.6. That will show you how irrelevant the sun has become.

    There is an excellent diagram on p.9 showing how the climate forcing mechanism works in general, together with a graph showing the increased forcing in the last 50 years.

    Hansen says we are just now reaching the equivalent of the peak temperature for the Holocene (present) interglacial, which was between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. If we go another degree we’ll reach the peak of the Eemian interglacial (the last one) when the sea level was estimated to have been 5-6 meters higher than it is now. That’s from the longer version of his Sci American paper (largish pdf file) pp13-14.

    There is some uncertainty about the measurements, but a smaller rise would put Manhattan, Florida, the Netherlands and Bangla Desh in trouble.

    They measure just about everything and model the changes at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (part of NASA). Their latest best estimate is that an additional 0.5 degrees of global warming will happen from what we have already done in putting stuff into the atmosphere. That’s halfway to where really interesting things happen and even the American neocons will become believers.

    If that is what your best science tells you, can you see why some people take global climate change seriously?

  47. wpc
    April 12th, 2005 at 00:17 | #47

    Brian, my point was more to demonstrate that there are large temperature variations well before the industrial age.

    I accept that there is certainly some evidence that the earth is getting warmer.

    I would just like to see some evidence that we are the cause.

    As one of the scientists said on that Real Climate site, correlation does not mean causality.

  48. Brian Bahnisch
    April 12th, 2005 at 00:36 | #48

    wpc if you read some of the stuff I referred to by Hansen he talks about very plausible mechanisms.

    Like soot falls on ice. The darker ice absorbs more heat. The ice melts and chunks break off. Sea absorbs more heat than ice because it’s darker.

    He doesn’t spell it out for everything, but I think the scientists working on this are good enough to think the thoughts you thought.

    The sceptics and deniers I hear are mainly geologists who have a mindset of huge changes that have occurred over geological time. (Yes, I know there are others.) But I wonder if they can see the trees for the wood.

  49. April 12th, 2005 at 01:20 | #49

    RealClimate, by the way, has a lovely April 1 spoof of the climate/weather argument.

  50. April 12th, 2005 at 10:12 | #50

    wpc
    Actually you are absolutely right. Correlation does not mean causuality. There is no direct evidence that increased CO2 is heating the atmosphere and there have been climate variations in the past.

    Climate science is like astronomy and evolutionary anthropology. It is a science based on observations, computer modelling and inferences. In physics etc you can formulate a hypothesis, design an experiment and test the hypothesis with hard verifiable data. In climate science it is much harder to do this as it is extremely difficult to conduct experiments on the Earths climatic system. This is similar to astronomers and astrophysists that cannot conduct experiments on stars.

    However when all the data that scientists have is taken with the computer models and also the basic physics that CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat it leads to the conclusion that increased CO2 will cause increased heating. This hypothesis is supported by data that shows that when the temperature variations are averaged over the whole globe (the hockey stick graph is one example) then a heating trend is observed.

    Also the ratio of the isotopes of the CO2 in the atmosphere at the moment is that of fossil CO2. This means that scientists can be absolutely sure that the CO2 causing more heat to be trapped is from fossil origin. The only source of fossil CO2 is the fossil fuels we burn.

    This climate event, if it happens, will be almost all man made.

  51. Brian Bahnisch
    April 12th, 2005 at 10:30 | #51

    John, last night I attempted to wade through some of the German material. I’m not a native speaker, and my German has been largely unused in 30 years. I never read scientific material, but reading same is facilitated by the astonishing number of imported English terms. So with caution and caveats, here goes.

    The report you found definitely refers to an event in 2005, as it has internal references to 2003, 2004 and a “Spiegel� article from Jan 2005. The report is an interim perspective on the Feb 2005 (?) conference from the conference organisers.

    Their focus is on the ‘climate’ of fear generated by specific dramatic weather events in the media and picked up by the politicians. They see the IPCC as stuck on their ‘hockey stick’ curve and in some denial about more recent findings. They seem to be pointing to real doubts on the part of a significant percentage of scientists about the effects of humans on climate and the difficulty of making predictions. They see the cost of measures being undertaken as unwarranted and greater than the harm being done by adverse weather events.

    The public panic is seen as serving unrelated short term agendas, eg money for researchers and political agendas.

    In this context, climate change doubters have a particularly difficult job in having their voices heard.

    The earlier report is based on a 1996 survey of 1,000 climate scientists from Germany, the US and Canada. Naturally the report foregrounds the differences between the German group and the others.

    The Germans were seen as having the greatest trust in the climate models and the most negative view of the consequences of climate change for society and hence the greatest need for political measures to counter the negative effects.

    The Germans saw the greatest need for scientific input into the political process, but statistically had fewer contacts with the media and politicians. So the report writers saw the socio-historical contexts in which the national groupings work as different, and saw the concept of ‘climate’ being differentially socially constructed.

    There does seem to be some warrant for these conclusions in the survey data as such. Nevertheless while I’m not expert in data interpretation I have the impression they are making a bit too much out of the differences.

    I suspect that the Duffy quote that “a quarter [of the Feb 2005 conference] doubted that the modest warming of the past 150 years is due to human activity� is likely to be significantly subjective. We have no indication of the data on which it is based. All scientists working in this area, it seems to me, recognise an element of uncertainty, so much depends on what question was asked and how the data was collected.

    No doubt the selection of attendees of the Feb 2005 conference (and hence their pre-existing views on climate change) were to some degree influenced by the views of the conference organisers and the sponsoring organisation.

    If Peter or any-one with better German than mine reviews my summary and finds me in error, I’d be grateful.

  52. Fyodor
    April 12th, 2005 at 11:02 | #52

    WPC has hit on the crux of the problem with the global warming hypothesis (GWH), which essentially breaks down into the following argument:

    a = increased CO2 may cause warming
    b = CO2 concentrations increase
    c = the Earth warms

    The GWH asserts that “if a+b, then c”. The supposed “proof” of the GWH is “a, b, c = true”. However, as WPC points out, and Ender admits, correlation is not causation.

    The Earth has experienced considerable variation in temperature and climate in the past from non-anthropogenic forces. We are expected to simply accept that the warming experienced over the last 50 years – and not consistently, mind you – is primarily due to anthropogenic forcing of greenhouse cases.

    The science gets very difficult when scientists construct computer models to project the climate impact of changes in certain variables. Of course, the problem here, as with so many modelling experiments, is that the model only represents the assumptions of the scientist about how their MODELLED climate works. When economists do this using assumptions about human behaviour they cop all manner of grief for making simplifying, “unrealistic” assumptions, and yet we’re supposed to treat climate models with unquestioned authority?

    A lot more work needs to be done before we can state that we know what’s going on with climate. I think it’s ridiculous that we should spending our resources on half-measures like Kyoto when there’s much more science still to be done.

  53. John Quiggin
    April 12th, 2005 at 11:23 | #53

    “When economists do this using assumptions about human behaviour they cop all manner of grief for making simplifying, “unrealisticâ€? assumptions, and yet we’re supposed to treat climate models with unquestioned authority?’

    So, for example, when economists assert that the German hyperinflation was due to unbounded printing of money you’d suggest keeping the printing press running until all the evidence was in?

    More to the point, when economists estimate the costs of Kyoto, there’s no basis for this, so we might as well go ahead and implement it.

    A lot more work is needed on both climate and the economy. In the meantime, all we can do is what appears best on the evidence available to us, which suggests that we are currently causing unsustainable climate change.

  54. Simon
    April 12th, 2005 at 11:44 | #54

    wpc-
    The basics of the Greenhouse are this – without CO2 and other ‘greenhouse’ gases the earth would be pretty cold, about 33C cooler. Increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will make the earth warmer, put enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere you end up with a runaway greenhouse effect like Venus (about 450C?).

    A guy called Fourier came up with the basics in 1824, so we’ve had a while to confirm his theories. Molecules absorb radiation and warm up. They then release radiation which is either absorbed by another molecule or travels back out into space. The overall effect is that the atmosphere warms up a bit and helps us at the surface stay nice and warm.

    Increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increase the Earth’s temperature. The only question is by how much and how quickly will it happen.

  55. April 12th, 2005 at 12:46 | #55

    Fydor –
    Uncertainty of the effects or causes of Global Warming does not mean that nothing needs to be done. Most scientists agree that whether or not they know exactly how the climate is warming, it is and that it could well cause catastophic climate changes. There is already enough research and data to indicate that we have a problem in the making.

    Actions taken now to reduce CO2 can be seen, if you need to, as insurance just as I am sure that you insure your house despite not knowing for certain if it will burn down or be robbed. In exactly the same way it is far too late to insure your house when it is on fire as only then do you know for absolute certain that paying or not paying insurance is worth it.

  56. April 12th, 2005 at 13:04 | #56

    Fydor –
    Uncertainty of the effects or causes of Global Warming does not mean that nothing needs to be done. Most scientists agree that whether or not they know exactly how the climate is warming, it is and that it could well cause catastophic climate changes. There is already enough research and data to indicate that we have a problem in the making.

    Actions taken now to reduce CO2 can be seen, if you need to, as insurance just as I am sure that you insure your house despite not knowing for certain if it will burn down or be robbed. In exactly the same way it is far too late to insure your house when it is on fire as only then do you know for absolute certain that paying or not paying insurance is worth it.

  57. Andrew Reynolds
    April 12th, 2005 at 13:37 | #57

    wpc,
    I am a long time climate change sceptic (as others on this forum will be able to testify). However, if you are looking for evidence that humans may be at fault for the climb in temperatures, look to the Feb 26th edition of the Economist (sub req.) Extract:

    SOME people do not believe global warming is happening; some believe it is happening, but that it is the result of natural variation; and some believe it is being caused by human activity. A paper presented to the AAAS by Tim Barnett, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, provides further evidence that the third camp is right.

    The Economist is not normally known for its excitability on these issues.

  58. Fyodor
    April 12th, 2005 at 14:32 | #58

    “So, for example, when economists assert that the German hyperinflation was due to unbounded printing of money you’d suggest keeping the printing press running until all the evidence was in?

    More to the point, when economists estimate the costs of Kyoto, there’s no basis for this, so we might as well go ahead and implement it.

    A lot more work is needed on both climate and the economy. In the meantime, all we can do is what appears best on the evidence available to us, which suggests that we are currently causing unsustainable climate change.”

    We do know what causes inflation. Likewise, we do know the economic consequences of the Kyoto Protocol.

    We don’t know what effect additional or reduced CO2 will have on global climate. Let’s find out before we decide we want less.

  59. Fyodor
    April 12th, 2005 at 14:40 | #59

    Ender,

    You’ve repeated JQ’s appeal to the Precautionary Principle, but your analogy to insurance is flawed.

    Insurers can estimate with reasonable accuracy over a portfolio of risks the probability of a claim and its likely cost.

    If you could provide the same accuracy, at a reasonable premium, I’d consider the purchase of insurance against global warming. Unfortunately, nobody can, and that’s the problem.

    We’re writing one blank cheque after another (assuming Kyoto is just the beginning, because “everybody” agrees that it’s just “not enough” to stop global warming), based on incomplete science.

    It’s poor science and it’s bad economics.

  60. April 12th, 2005 at 15:06 | #60

    Fydor
    The analogy is not flawed. Insurers can indeed calculate probabilities of claims however they cannot say that there will be a storm in Sydney next October and act accordingly. They can only make broad guesses as to the risk exactly as the IPCC can make informed guesses about what the future climate will do. Insurers realise this and have a product called reinsurance to cover themselves for large unforseen risks. The authors of the Kyoto realised this also and tried to limit CO2 emissions as insurance to try and stop further warming of the atmosphere.

    Kyoto is only flawed because we and the US made it that way. It started much tougher and the EU wanted it tougher however it was loosened up at the insistance of the USA and Australia to get them to join.

    My question is to you is what would you regard as complete science? As with insurance the IPCC has calculated a range of probabilities of various temperature rises. The only definitive answer you are going to get is if Climate Change happens and as I have said before this is too late.

    I do not know what poor science is. Is poor science when you do not agree with the outcome? What is wrong with the science that allows you to use a computer to post on this list? Is that poor science?

    The science is actually pretty clear. It is not fault of the science if it does not give the answers you desire. Really Fydor you will get your answer soon enough however do we all have to suffer the consequences simply because you and the Howard Government disagree with the IPCC findings?

  61. Fyodor
    April 12th, 2005 at 16:02 | #61

    Ender,

    You still don’t get it. The analogy is flawed if the risk event is of unknown probability or magnitude. The cost of Kyoto bears no resemblance whatsoever to an insurance premium for the very reason that nobody knows the likely damage in 50 years’ time. Insurers purchase reinsurance against catastrophic events with some awareness of the probabilities and potential loss – this is what facilitates a market in such risk tansfer. There is no such information available for a Global Warming event.

    “My question is to you is what would you regard as complete science? As with insurance the IPCC has calculated a range of probabilities of various temperature rises. The only definitive answer you are going to get is if Climate Change happens and as I have said before this is too late.”

    First off, the IPCC used a range of scenarios because of the sheer number of variables involved and the uncertainties attaching to them. The various scenarios they ran then defined the range of outcomes. That doesn’t make them any more accurate. More importantly, AFAIK no climate model has shown ex ante accuracy. That is, no climate model used to predict future outcomes has shown the capacity to “predict” historical changes in temperature based on historical variables. This is a surprising result given the ability of modellers to retrospectively “fit” the model to historical data, and says a lot about the difficulties involved.

    You’re asking me to tell you what I need to know about something we don’t know much about? The answer is, “I’ll tell you when we get there.” The bottom-line is that we need to identify and quantify all factors that affect climate, and how they interact. We also need to be able to build robust and credible models that can accurately predict long-term changes in climate patterns. Are we there yet? I don’t think so – not by a long shot.

    “Really Fydor you will get your answer soon enough however do we all have to suffer the consequences simply because you and the Howard Government disagree with the IPCC findings?”

    If we wait a couple more years to get the science right, will the apocalypse come that much sooner? Get a grip.

  62. April 12th, 2005 at 16:40 | #62

    Fyodor -
    I am sorry but it is you that does not get it. I am not equating the COST of Kyoto to insurance premiums at all. I am equating implementing measures to reduce CO2 so as to reduce the risk of catastophic climate change with Insurance premiums. You pay these insurance premiums reduce the financial risk to yourself in the case of an accident.

    Reducing CO2 is like paying insurance premiums not the cost of reducing CO2. Do you think Insurance companies assessing risk know what the potential events will be? The information for a global warming event is in the reports of the IPCC.

    What you said about climate models is not entirely accurate. Models are becoming more and more accurate. However the basic facts that more CO2 = more heating does not need computer models. The unpredicatable part is what will happen if the climate warms with various changes in temperature.

    I suggested no such thing. I merely said that in possibly 10 to 20 years you may have your definative answer. That is the sort of range of time that if something is going to happen it will. Either you and the skeptics are right and nothing happens or the 1500 scientists of the IPCC are right and there are climate changes. It is just that if we are right we have to put up the the consequences of your being wrong. If the IPCC is wrong then nothing happens and everything is OK. We get a sustainable renewable power system and future not tied to fossil fuels and warfare.

    What is a problem that if we let it go too far then the changes will be irreversable. Right now if we cut CO2 emmissions by 60% or so we could hold the temperature rise to under 2 degrees. The longer we leave real action the harder it will be to halt the warming. At a certain time no matter what we do it will not change the outcome.

  63. Ken Miles
    April 12th, 2005 at 16:45 | #63

    The GWH asserts that “if a+b, then c�. The supposed “proof� of the GWH is “a, b, c = true�. However, as WPC points out, and Ender admits, correlation is not causation.

    This statement is completely incorrect.

    The global warming hypothesis was determined long before it was known that the earth was warming. Rather the scientists who worked it out knew enough basic thermodynamics to work out that the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would have a warming influence.

    For your statement to be true “a� would have to changed to:

    a = the laws of thermodynamics don’t cease to apply when there is no observer.

  64. Fyodor
    April 12th, 2005 at 17:23 | #64

    “Reducing CO2 is like paying insurance premiums not the cost of reducing CO2. Do you think Insurance companies assessing risk know what the potential events will be? The information for a global warming event is in the reports of the IPCC.”

    Yes, insurance companies know exactly what the potential events will be – they are stipulated in the policy. Why? So that they only cover risks they’re prepared to underwrite. Newsflash: they only cover risks they can model effectively.

    I’ve read the 2001 IPCC report, and it’s predecessors, and it’s very interesting reading. However, although the 2001 report is not conclusive, it is an improvement on previous reports. Science is progressing the way you would expect, and we’re understanding more each year.

    “What you said about climate models is not entirely accurate. Models are becoming more and more accurate.”

    What was inaccurate about what I said? Models ARE getting better. That’s great, but they’re not yet good.

    “However the basic facts that more CO2 = more heating does not need computer models. The unpredicatable part is what will happen if the climate warms with various changes in
    temperature.”

    Unfortunately, yes it does. Models are supposed to quantify the variables and predict climate change. That’s the whole point. If CO2 forcing only results in a 0.1C change in temperature then the issue is a storm in a teacup. Quantification and prediction are absolutely important.

    “What is a problem that if we let it go too far then the changes will be irreversable. Right now if we cut CO2 emmissions by 60% or so we could hold the temperature rise to under 2 degrees. The longer we leave real action the harder it will be to halt the warming. At a certain time no matter what we do it will not change the outcome.”

    How do you know it’s irreversible? And do you acknowledge that the 2C increase in temperature is, again, the product of flawed models? The scientific consensus is that the lead-times involved are very long. I refuse to buy into the hysteria that the world is going to hell in a handbasket in 100 years time just because we’re not doing something immediately. Today. Yesterday. Waargh.

    Ken, your statement is illogical and facetious.

  65. Ken Miles
    April 12th, 2005 at 17:48 | #65

    I’m considerably more confident than Fyodor on the utility of climate
    modelling. Despite being far from perfect, the ability of climate
    models has improved significantly over the last decade.

    Some of the climate modelling success stories include:

    * Modern climate models are able to hindcast past climate trends (at
    least over a 100 year timescale). See here
    for an example.

    * In some areas where climate models have failed to replicate observed
    trends (such as tropospheric temperature trends) it turns out that the
    observations were wrong.

    * Climate models have predicted physical phenomena prior to their
    discovery in the real world. See here for
    details.

  66. April 12th, 2005 at 18:02 | #66

    Fyodor – you said
    “Unfortunately, yes it does. Models are supposed to quantify the variables and predict climate change. That’s the whole point. If CO2 forcing only results in a 0.1C change in temperature then the issue is a storm in a teacup. Quantification and prediction are absolutely important.”

    No sorry CO2 = heating is basic physics well supported by experiment. You really have no idea how much energy is required to heat the whole earth by 0.1 degree. This is a massive change and it is wrong the atmoshere has warmed 0.6 degrees.

    “How do you know it’s irreversible? And do you acknowledge that the 2C increase in temperature is, again, the product of flawed models?”

    Because the CO2 that we are pumping into the air will take about 100 years to dissapate. It does not take computer models to measure atmospheric CO2 concentrations and equate that with increased warming. The more CO2 that there is the longer it will take to disperse and the longer the atmosphere will be subject to higher forcings from the CO2.

    So refuse to buy into the hysteria. As I keep saying and saying nothing might happen. However 1500 scientists of the IPCC and most of the scientific community not in the pay of fossil fuel interests agree with the premise that pumping millions of tons of a trigger gas like CO2 into the atmosphere will have some effect sometime. Also not in dispute is that reducing or eliminating this CO2 production will reduce the risk of anything happening.

    The by-product of this will be a sustainable economic model as opposed to your no-regrets, dig it up and burn it type model. You need to face the fact that for the last 200 or 300 years we have been living in an unsustainable fossil fueled bubble that is about to burst. All of our progress has been underwritten by fossil fuel and cheap easy energy.

    The fact is that now people like you cannot believe that this drunken stupor is finally coming to an end and want to prolong it as long as you possibly can rather than changing. So of course you quibble with the science and want definite answers from an imprecise science because these are just delaying tactics that you use to prolong the inevitable realisation that the irreplacable easy energy laid down millions of years ago that we are squandaring trying to prop up our imbalanced unsustainable society is running out and could be costing us the Earth.

    We do not know or cannot predict the outcome of this massive experiment we are running here. You cannot say definitively that the Earths climate will be OK. I cannot say that it will not be OK. The safest course in this uncertainty is not full steam head as you seem to advocate but slow down, change the variables and see if that helps.

  67. John Quiggin
    April 12th, 2005 at 18:10 | #67

    “We do know what causes inflation. Likewise, we do know the economic consequences of the Kyoto Protocol.”

    Fyodor, if you have definitive answers to these questions, you can write in for your Nobel Prize in Economics now.

    As with climate science, there is lots of debate about the causes of inflation, the feedbacks involved and so on. The consensus, such as it is, includes propositions like “doubling the money supply is likely to raise prices quite a bit”, but there’s dispute about almost everything.

    A dishonest sceptic, of the kind abounding in the climate debate, could produce plenty of debating points to suggest that there’s no reason to worry about doubling the money supply.

  68. Iain
    April 12th, 2005 at 20:50 | #68

    Fyodor,

    You wrote – The Earth has experienced considerable variation in temperature and climate in the past from non-anthropogenic forces. We are expected to simply accept that the warming experienced over the last 50 years – and not consistently, mind you – is primarily due to anthropogenic forcing of greenhouse cases.

    That’s right.

    The silicate-carbonate cycle is an important mechanism in previous climate change. It can be infuenced ‘naturally’ and it can also be influenced by man. During natural cycles carbon release and formation occur for a large number of reasons. For example, the ocean which holds about 50 times the amount of carbon as does the atmosphere can naturally reinforce carbon ‘emissions’ during warming periods. Plant life may naturally reinforce cool periods by absorbing carbon.

    Tipping from warm to cool periods happens for a variety of reasons. For example, plants as mentioned will reinforce an ice age by absorbing carbon until things became too cold and they die in large numbers and release carbon.

    The silicate-carbonate cycle is important. Currently the biggest influence is man due to hydrocarbon fuel burning.

    Deal with it.

  69. Brian Bahnisch
    April 12th, 2005 at 21:53 | #69

    You’re asking me to tell you what I need to know about something we don’t know much about? The answer is, “I’ll tell you when we get there.�

    Fyodor, I don’t think this will satisfy you but here goes anyway.

    James Hansen has identified a distinct possibility that we will enter a danger zone with only 1.0 degree of additional warming or a little more. At that temperature it is thought that during the Eemian interglacial the sea level was 5-6 metres higher. Not a good thing for Manhattan, parts of Florida, the Nile delta, Bangla Desh, The Netherlands, not to mention our Pacific island brethren.

    There are significant uncertainties about all this as he freely admits. He thinks ice sheet degradation, which is his big worry, happens with a momentum that is played out over centuries. He also suspects that there will be an irreversible tipping point soonish (ie within decades) when things start to happen that will be dramatic enough to alarm. The problem here is that the hard science is impossible. If we wait to be sure we’ll find the critical time-zone for action has passed.

    In fact, given that any concerted international action will take decades, there is urgency to get going right now.

    So in the current time-frame you have the opportunity to do something that may well stave off a pretty nasty disaster in the story of the human race, not to mention our fellow creatures. If you are wrong you will probably do no harm. This is assuming that human activity turns out to be pretty irrelevant.

    It’s not all about co2. Apparently soot at the rate of a few parts per billion can alter the reflectivity of snow by 1%, which is significant. The Americans should look to see whether their muck is landing on Greenland. Air pollution is thought to kill about 1 million people per annum.

    I think we should increase our research effort urgently, both on climate as such and on climate friendly technologies. But we should also act on whatever information we can muster now to stop the increases in climate forcing emissions with a view to restoring the planet’s atmosphere as close as possible to how we found it before the industrial age. Such action should not be limited to Kyoto. We should proceed flexibly with due regard to new findings.

    I should point out that Hansen’s view of sea levels departs from the IPCC report, which saw ice sheets as largely stable and any sea level rise stemming mostly from thermal expansion. He’s not a dill IMO. He’s director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at NASA and earlier studied under James Van Allen. For convenience his recent published papers include:

    Hansen, J.E. 2005. A slippery slope: How much global warming constitutes “dangerous anthropogenic interferencerd”? An editorial essay. Clim. Change 68, 269-279 (pdf)

    Hansen, J. 2003. Can we defuse the global warming time bomb? Natural Science, posted Aug. 1, 2003. (1.4 mb pdf)

    Hansen, J. 2004. Defusing the global warming time bomb. Sci. Amer. 290, no. 3, 68-77. (pdf)

    The complete listing of GISS publications is here.

  70. Brian Bahnisch
    April 12th, 2005 at 21:58 | #70
  71. John Quiggin
    April 12th, 2005 at 22:23 | #71

    Brian, can I ask for a couple of clarifications on the report you kindly translated/summarised

    (i) Does it refer to a survey undertaken at the 2005 meeting, or only back to the 1996 survey

    (ii) Does it indicate what kind of people (climate researchers, policymakers, general public) attended the 2005 meeting

    Thanks in advance
    John

  72. drscroogemcduck
    April 12th, 2005 at 22:25 | #72

    I suggested no such thing. I merely said that in possibly 10 to 20 years you may have your definative answer. That is the sort of range of time that if something is going to happen it will. Either you and the skeptics are right and nothing happens or the 1500 scientists of the IPCC are right and there are climate changes. It is just that if we are right we have to put up the the consequences of your being wrong. If the IPCC is wrong then nothing happens and everything is OK. We get a sustainable renewable power system and future not tied to fossil fuels and warfare.

    You are implying if the IPCC is wrong and we pay the costs of reducing CO2 that the result is positive. We should be skeptical of this implication because if reducing CO2 (without the fear of global warming) is a positive it surely would of already occurred!

  73. Brian Bahnisch
    April 12th, 2005 at 23:02 | #73

    John, too tired tonight! I’ll have a go tomorrow pm.

  74. April 12th, 2005 at 23:21 | #74

    Actually, there is no problem doubling the money supply, as such. It has often happened. What matters is if it happens slowly enough that the economy grows faster, and that it does not cause too many disruptions on the way. Of course, those caveats make it unrealistic, but they point out the invalidity of the assertion as a general truth universally applicable.

    But let’s end all this with some practical suggestions. Here’s one: cut down all the trees in a maintainable (coppicing?) way, burn them inefficiently for charcoal, and bulldoze it into the rivers and creeks to be flushed into the sea where it will sink and be sequestered until the geological cycle grinds it slowly back. Only, first, shoot all the Greenies. And don’t complain if it turns out that you have interfered with a little understood self-stabilising mechanism in such a way as to cause unstable Pilot Induced Oscillation (maybe a new ice age?).

  75. April 12th, 2005 at 23:22 | #75

    I think I forgot to mention “…and repeat to taste”.

  76. April 13th, 2005 at 02:01 | #76

    Pr Quiggin in comment # 67 on 12/4/2005 @ 6:10 pm, without forethought or malice, manages to let slip Fyodor’s intellectual epitaph:

    A dishonest sceptic

    …………….
    The doctrinaire skeptic is usually insincere when not an out-and-out insane solipsist. In Fyodor’s case I used to put his frivolous and vexatious objections down to mischievous tendencies. The suspicion lurked that only ill-will could distil the toxic combination of arrogance and ignorance that he managed to drip into his comments. We all do it now and again. But he was a serial offender who seemed to have axes to grind, if not grudges to bear.
    I see now that I was being uncharitable. Fyodor is not trying to hurt anyone, just help himself. Embroiling commenters who make, in good faith, statements about matters of common-or-garden-place fact in frivolous disputes was just a way of self-medicating his attention deficit disorder.
    I only wish I had tumbled to this earlier. It is tedious to have to reinvent the wheel every time one presents intellectual arms. And my mind reels at the thought of the reams of .html that I could have left pixel-unstained, instead of inflicting them on long-suffering third parties.
    I suggest that we treat any further outbreaks of “Fyodor frivolities” as cries for attention rather than requests for information. Perhaps, when he feels another tantrum coming on, he will be good enought to formally beg our indulgence – “stop me before I be silly again!”. We can whip the hat around and send him a rattle that will keep him more innocently occupied.

  77. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 08:18 | #77

    Ken,

    I agree that models are getting better, and one day they will do the job. I’m in favour of putting more resources into that sort of science.

    Your second reference doesn’t say what you suggest.

  78. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 08:31 | #78

    Ender,

    You said:

    “No sorry CO2 = heating is basic physics well supported by experiment. You really have no idea how much energy is required to heat the whole earth by 0.1 degree. This is a massive change and it is wrong the atmoshere has warmed 0.6 degrees.”

    You misunderstood my point. To restate it, it is this: that increased CO2 concentrations cause heating is important, but we need to know how much causes what amount of heating. I’m well aware of the 0.6C figure for global temperature increase. What I’m suggesting is that IF the impact of CO2 is only, say, a 0.1C contribution, then the real environmental impact of further CO2 forcing is likely to be slight given the natural variation in temperature. That’s why I think the quantification of such variables is important.

    “We do not know or cannot predict the outcome of this massive experiment we are running here. You cannot say definitively that the Earths climate will be OK. I cannot say that it will not be OK. The safest course in this uncertainty is not full steam head as you seem to advocate but slow down, change the variables and see if that helps.”

    No, I can’t say that the Earth will be OK. But you are INSISTING that it will not be OK. One of us believes they know all they need to make decisions now. The other person would like more knowledge.

    FTR, my scepticism on this issue is not motivated by any particular personal, professional or other interest.

  79. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 08:40 | #79

    JQ,

    I didn’t realise there was so much prospective PhD mileage in tackling esoteric economic exotica like “inflation”. I must start my dissertation right away.

    “A dishonest sceptic, of the kind abounding in the climate debate, could produce plenty of debating points to suggest that there’s no reason to worry about doubling the money supply.”

    Except we know from past experience what happens when we do that.

    BTW, are you suggesting that my scepticism is dishonest? I would appreciate it if you were clear on this point.

  80. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 08:41 | #80

    Iain,

    Dealt.

  81. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 08:51 | #81

    Brian,

    It’s precisely because there are so many uncertainties involved that we do need further research. I agree with you whole-heartedly that this is an urgent issue that requires more resources and, I would add, more time.

  82. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 08:55 | #82

    What, no “Count” or “Sir” Fyodor, Jack? I’m heartily miffed that you’ve abandoned those honorifics so quickly. However, I’m not in the least surprised that your latest contribution to this debate is to free-ride other arguments simply to add gratuitous ad hominem abuse. True to form: you’re a class act, Jack.

  83. John Quiggin
    April 13th, 2005 at 09:20 | #83

    Fyodor, I wasn’t suggesting you were dishonest, and I have no reason to think you are. But most of the leading figures on the contrarian side of the debate are dishonest (including Duffy and most of the people he cites), and that should give you pause before you repeat any argument of theirs that you haven’t carefully examined for yourself.

  84. Brian Bahnisch
    April 13th, 2005 at 09:43 | #84

    Fyodor, the following article identifies (p6) the 10 main factors taken into account in establishing net climate forcing:

    Hansen, J. 2004. Defusing the global warming time bomb. Sci. Amer. 290, no. 3, 68-77. (pdf)

    Seven are positive and three are negative.

    On page 5 of the same document, Hansen states that 1 watt/m2 of forcing yields 0.75 degrees of temperature change, + or – 0.25 degrees. He explains that this isn’t derived entirely from theoretical models or what has happened in the past 50 years, but on the changes between the last ice age and today.

    Over at Webdiary David Roffey identifies the following as known:

    Some key facts are now proven beyond serious dispute (or at least undisputed by anyone who has any knowledge of the subject; there are plenty of others on the fringes of this debate):

    1. Temperatures globally have been rising steadily over the last several years – though this is complicated by regional effects which leave a minority of regions at steady or lower temperatures.

    2. This rise is well beyond that which can be explained by natural cyclic or other effects such as solar fluctuations, volcanoes and so on.

    3. The effects correlate very closely with those that would be predicted by models of the impact of increased GHGs – and the increased back-radiation from the GHGs has been specifically detected and identified as fossil-fuel-related.

    4. The increase in GHGs is almost entirely anthropogenic (ie caused by man: this is more than just ‘manmade’ – for countries like Australia, there are major impacts from livestock emissions of methane – cow and sheep farts – which aren’t really manmade, but wouldn’t have happened without our intervention).

    OK cows burp rather than fart. Not sure about sheep. But I think it’s pretty right and I’m a bit disappointed that we can’t accept the above as working knowledge, and go from there, while being aware that further research may vary things as we go.

  85. April 13th, 2005 at 09:59 | #85

    Fyodor – you wrote
    “No, I can’t say that the Earth will be OK. But you are INSISTING that it will not be OK. One of us believes they know all they need to make decisions now. The other person would like more knowledge.”

    Sorry I am not INSISTING at all. As I have said nothing might happen. This scenerio’s probability is getting lower and lower as the CO2 concentration rises which is not to say that it still may occur it is just getting less and less likely.

    As the atmospheric forcings increase there is more probability that something, and nobody knows what, will change in Earths climate.

    I am just saying in my opinion the risk of climate change is such that measures taken to reduce this risk would be very wise. I do not agree with your assessment of the risk and I am not sure that you are really looking at the data with objective eyes. However exactly the same thing can be said about myself.

    It really comes down to assessment of risk.

  86. Andrew Reynolds
    April 13th, 2005 at 10:42 | #86

    PrQ,
    At the risk (I think a full assessment is not needed in this case) of artificially inflating this thread, is this one of the longer threads so far in your blog? Do you have some stats for the topics that have drawn the most comments?

  87. observa
    April 13th, 2005 at 12:14 | #87

    The science of greenhouse forcing climate change is logical and largely acceptable. Rates of change are scientifically arguable and prescriptive remedies more so as a result. Conservatives can comfortably accept the precautionary principle here, even when liberals suddenly have a sea-change in outlook and we wonder why. We don’t have far to look with their fervour for Kyoto, the international feel-good equivalent of banning plastic shopping bags.

    Greenhouse aside, there is also the compelling arguments to be judicious in our use of fossil fuels, because they are finite and their widespread use has deleterious effects on our health. A switch to alternative energy(or perhaps the discovery of some remarkable new one) would ameliorate these problems, but have little impact on the underlying physics of our bigger one. We are using such energy to transform our natural environment at alarming rates, which there is no debate about. Shopping bag economics is not addressing that and the broader public know it. Kyoto is a mere diversion in the big scheme of things.

  88. John Quiggin
    April 13th, 2005 at 12:17 | #88

    We nearly hit 200 a while back, before being crushed by comment spam, but breaking the century is an uncommon event.

  89. Andrew Reynolds
    April 13th, 2005 at 13:44 | #89

    To me, at least, we need to answer several questions before taking this much further.
    1 Is global climate change happening?
    2 Presuming it is (and the rest of the questions make this presumption), what is causing it?
    3 What can we do about it?
    4 Is it something that is harmful to the planet as a whole?
    5 Is it something that would cost more to do something about it than the actual cost of letting it happen?
    Question 1 seems to have been answered in the affirmative according to many studies, so we can probably take it as correct.
    The answer to question 2 is a fair bit more uncertain, but it may well be the case that it is human caused, although there is strong (I presume no-one want to refute it) evidence that it has happened in the past without humans being involved.
    The answer to question 3 seems to be that, if we are causing it, we can at least reduce its impact by reducing our output of CO2. This seems logical, so let’s presume it to be correct.
    The answers to 4 and 5 are much more uncertain. There is a fairly strong argument that we are currently in an ice age (at least compared to long periods in the past) and that this may represent the end of it. Many of the plants and animals (including humans) may find the adjustment process difficult and some may even go extinct (I hope humans will not). Does this mean that it is harmful to the planet as a whole? This is even less certain.
    The answer to question 5 is therefore that there is an uncertain (but probably high) cost of reducing CO2 output by an amount large enough to make a difference compared to a highly uncertain (but also possibly high) cost of doing less than that.
    Once you throw in the moral question of whether we (humanity) should try to reduce our impact on the planet as a point of principal it is hardly surprising that there are long threads on this. I would also suggest there are a lot more arguments to have over the next few decades before these questions are resolved either way.

  90. April 13th, 2005 at 13:45 | #90

    JQ, when a thread gets as long as this, I often have trouble getting a complete download. It needs several goes.

    Fyodor, do you really know what happens when you double the money supply? Remember, a little learning is a dangerous thing. When the Dutch more than doubled the money supply in the East Indies, it was as part of a methodical conversion from extensive to intensive exploitation. Result: the highly successful (in its own terms) “Culture System”. Far from damaging the economy it greatly expanded it, even if only the compradores among the locals benefitted much.

  91. April 13th, 2005 at 13:50 | #91

    Oh, Fyodor, also increase of money supply into the Palestinian Mandate, combined with increased transaction demand for cash from reforms such as the commutation of tithes, led to economic expansion without material inflation. The fact that there was an accompanying wealth transfer has no bearing on the fact that the economy grew; economics doesn’t always consider the who/whom question.

    Increased money supply, along with other changes, was a common characteristic of “peaceful penetration” of unwarlike or pacified colonial areas. It’s just not that visible in British imperial history, since British beneficiaries mostly gained before the techniques were developed.

  92. Fyodor
    April 13th, 2005 at 14:16 | #92

    PML,

    As we were discussing economics, I assumed you meant a doubling of the money supply given that ever-present standby, “ceteris paribus”.

    I think you meant to refer to the “cultivation system” (cultuurstelsel), not the “culture system”, and I wasn’t aware that it was such a great success in monetary terms – bad money driving out the good. I’m no expert in Indonesian economic history, so I’ll defer to your evident expertise.

    The fact that we can debate such issues and identify key variables in an economic issue more than 150 years old says a lot about our understanding of economics, but not so much about our understanding of climate change.

  93. April 13th, 2005 at 15:21 | #93

    It was known as either the cultivation or the culture system.

    I wasn’t talking ceteribus paribus since the original statements – from JQ, BTW – were making completely general assertions without caveats; I was highlighting the need to bring out the assumptions.

    The Dutch accomplishment certainly did impoverish the locals (though not as much as if they had used a complete fiat currency beforehand). But the point was that the economy was grown by the techniques of expropriation that were used by, say, the French Revolutionary “evacuations” of occupied areas. And I have left out quite a number of accompanying measures that the Dutch implemented.

    And yes, that was a digression.

  94. John Quiggin
    April 13th, 2005 at 15:51 | #94

    Fyodor, if you allow the climate science guys ceteris paribus, they’ll make pretty good predictions. Of course since ceteris are never paribus in reality, such predictions are a bit hard to test, but economists have the same problem.

  95. Ken Miles
    April 13th, 2005 at 17:40 | #95

    1 Is global climate change happening?

    Yes

    2 Presuming it is (and the rest of the questions make this presumption), what is causing it?

    There is a mixture of causes. Some natural (solar and volcanic effects are the most significant on the decade time scale) and caused by human action (land clearing, ozone depletion etc). However, the largest cause is the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    3 What can we do about it?

    We have a very large range of options. Increasing both energy efficiency and the rate of decarbonisation of our energy sources are probably the best. Also CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere by plantation timber etc.

    4 Is it something that is harmful to the planet as a whole?

    “Harmful to the planet” is a pretty broad term. However, significant warming will have a large negative effect on biodiversity.

    5 Is it something that would cost more to do something about it than the actual cost of letting it happen?

    Depends. This is probably the hardest part to quantify. It isn’t really a either/or situation, as stopping global warming completely is impossible (the earth is already out of thermal equilibrium), whereas doing nothing would be amazingly stupid (especially given that some CO2 emission cuts could be done very cheaply).

    At the moment I would support Kyoto (or similar low cost system) as a first step to help spur technological development towards low emissions.

  96. Iain
    April 13th, 2005 at 19:56 | #96

    If you plot CO2 concentration in the atmosphere versus time and compare with temperature versus time – then the graphs are identical in shape for at least the last 400,000 years. Before this time the charts become sketchy. [The old paleo-thermometer needs some work captain.]

    Human activites are currently a huge contributer to CO2 at present. In the past these carbon cycles were influenced by ‘natural’ forces. Now humans have a big influence.

    CO2 levels are the highest they have been in all this recorded time, right now.

    It does make sense to put the ‘break on’. Why go into uncharted territory unnecessarily?

  97. Brian Bahnisch
    April 14th, 2005 at 00:20 | #97

    John, I’ll give the short answer tonight to the questions you asked and have another look at it tomorrow night. I enjoy the challenge, but the challenge really comes from my inadequate German. The questions you asked were:

    (i) Does it refer to a survey undertaken at the 2005 meeting, or only back to the 1996 survey

    (ii) Does it indicate what kind of people (climate researchers, policymakers, general public) attended the 2005 meeting.

    First, there is no indication of who attended the meeting and it probably doesn’t matter, since the survey had nothing to do with the attendees (contra Duffy).

    The reference is from the summary of the paper given by Dennis Bray at the meeting. He refers to a “survey of climate researchers, completed in 1996 and repeated in 2003″.

    The 1996 survey doesn’t, as far as I can see, ask a relevant question. That is, there is no question about the validity of the ‘human influence on climate change’ thesis.

    The 1996 survey was written up by Dennis Bray himself and Hans von Storch. Both work at the Institute for Coastal Reseach at Geesthacht which seems to be attached to Hamburg University.

    Presumably the same authors did the 2003 survey, but I haven’t discovered a report of it yet. It could be in their:

    Bray, D. and H. von Storch, 2005: Climate science, climate change and attribution to anthropogenic causes. submitted

    which is, would you believe No. 235 in a list of von Storch’s publications. A busy lad.

    I might have a go at translating the actual sentence that the 25% comes from tomorrow.

  98. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 20:46 | #98

    Thanks for this Brian. If you can advise me for certain, I’ll correct the post.

  99. Brian Bahnisch
    April 14th, 2005 at 22:21 | #99

    John, the prose is a bit turgid and my mastery of idiom, which never existed in science German, is a bit stretched.

    I want to let it settle and have another go. Tomorrow night we seem to be celebrating a wedding anniversary, so it’ll have to be the weekend.

  100. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 22:52 | #100

    Fine by me, and it gives me a chance to post comment #100

    Thanks again

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