Home > Economic policy, Environment > The debate really is over now

The debate really is over now

November 15th, 2006

The scientific debate over the reality of anthropogenic global warming has been over for some time, but as long as the opponents of science continued to dominate the political process, it was necessary to combat their claims.

But with the Howard government now supporting emissions trading, at least in principle, and with the overwhelming majority of the public convinced of the need for action, that necessity has now passed, at least in Australia. The main task now is to encourage the government to adopt the most efficient and effective strategies for mitigation and adaptation, in co-operation with other countries. That obviously includes signing Kyoto (with the latest change in position and with Bush a lame duck there’s no reason not to), but it could also include getting the (so-far merely decorative) AP6 process to do some work.

Of course, at least some of the denialists will keep on denying. But they’re in a hole and I’m happy to let them keep on digging. At this point, they’ll do less harm banging on about the hockey stick than they would if they accepted the reality of global warming and used what’s left of their credibility in an attempt to derail any positive response.

So from now on, I’m not going to bother refuting the absurdities of Bolt, the Lavoiser Group and other denialists. Rather than make all those who’ve enjoyed the stoush here go cold turkey, I may put up more open threads from time to time, but my future posts will be about the economics and politics of our response.

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  1. chrisl
    November 17th, 2006 at 16:08 | #1

    Proust (who are both of you anyway)
    Soap-opera science
    That is a gem
    I have been thinking about that all day!

  2. jquiggin
    November 17th, 2006 at 16:50 | #2

    “By that argument every author should be judged by the worst work of any co-author they have ever published with. I say McIntyre because he is very active in the area, I have read a lot of his analysis, it is sound, and he appears to be a smart, honest broker. I know much less about McKitrick.”

    Fair enough. I agree that sole-authored papers published by McIntyre should not be judged by the fact that he has previously published with the egregiously-wrong McKitrick. And I’m even prepared to agree that the poor quality of the joint McIntyre-Mckitrick papers I’ve read can be explained by McKitrick’s involvement.

    So point me to the list of sole-authored, peer-reviewed papers by McIntyre on which you rely, and I’ll look at them without prejudice.

  3. proust
    November 17th, 2006 at 17:12 | #3

    Whatever, JQ. This is a silly game. Climatologists have to rely on proxies but we have the luxury of going straight to the source.

    If you really want to know whether McIntyre is kosher, just read his peer-reviewed publication in GRL, and read through pretty much any piece of his analysis on his website. Do it with an open mind. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. He’s no fool and he doesn’t have horns.

  4. chrisl
    November 17th, 2006 at 17:27 | #4

    Steve McIntyre has 10-15000 reviewers visit his site EVERY DAY
    They are more than welcome to offer a critique of his analysis
    He is beholden to no-one (except his wife and daughters)

  5. Simonjm
    November 17th, 2006 at 17:44 | #5

    Andrew I’ve changed my mind on recycling not automatically being the best option, that under best practice forestry many of our forests should be open to sustainable logging and more than open to having nuc’s on the table for investigation.

    It’s a pity that on something of national importance we cannot have a mature open debate from many of politicians- Brown isn’t perfect either- and certain sections of the media.

    This isn’t about the next election but the future of this nation and many others around the world.

    It about time certain individuals just grew up.

    Terje I’m optimistic about technology getting us much of the way but I hope we have the time to see that happen.

    The rest will take lifestyle changes, if the rejection by Toowoomba on recycled water is any indication while many people say they are concerned by AGW and other eco matters giving up the convenience of our modern affluent lifestyle will be much harder.

    Nothing a few hurricanes or other massive natural disasters won’t fix.

  6. Aunty May
    November 17th, 2006 at 17:46 | #6

    Steve McIntyre has published criticism of others’ work, no original research of his own. It’s really not a soap opera in the sciences kidz, and that’s something McIntyre struggles to keep straight himself. Less vituperation, more honest perspiration is good for us all. Try to lift yourself to the level of the science, leave the likes of TCS, Lindzen, Carter and friends to Fox news and the tabloid press. That’d be cool, kidz!
    best, aunty

  7. November 17th, 2006 at 17:57 | #7

    Are you wishing for the latter?

  8. November 17th, 2006 at 18:02 | #8

    Proust – “Climatologists have to rely on proxies but we have the luxury of going straight to the source.”

    No they don’t. They only rely on proxies for temperature measurements before such instrumentation was invented. This as JQ has explained patiently before is only a tiny tiny part of the whole AGW picture and even if every proxy study was proved wrong it would not disprove AGW at all.

    “If you really want to know whether McIntyre is kosher, just read his peer-reviewed publication in GRL”
    Only one compared to the hundreds of studies that support the proxy studies. Even then GRL is a bit looser on the peer review than some other publications – it was rejected by Nature. Even Von Storch does not agree with M&M:

    “Global-climate-change scientists interviewed by ES&T say that there is some basis for questioning the hockey-stick study, but Regalado’s story blurred any distinction between businessman Stephen McIntyre and scientist Hans von Storch, who directs the Institute for Coastal Research at the GKSS Research Center (Germany). Von Storch disagrees with Mann about the degree of variability in past temperatures before the present warming. Mann’s research finds little variability; von Storch argues that there was more.

    “We are speaking about the shaft of the hockey stick, not the blade,â€? says von Storch. “We have no conflict about anthropogenic warming. That’s not the point.â€?”
    http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2005/aug/business/pt_wsj.html

  9. proust
    November 17th, 2006 at 18:33 | #9

    “even if every proxy study was proved wrong it would not disprove AGW at all.”

    To the extent that “AGW” without further qualification is not a falsifiable theory, your statement is trivially true.

    However, there’s clearly one fundamental empirical question that needs to be answered to determine the extent to which increasing temperatures are due to human-generated GHGs: how much does the climate vary of its own accord? The only way we have to answer that question at present is to go back through the proxy records. Proxies are also an important mechanism for calibrating climate models.

    “Only one compared to the hundreds of studies that support the proxy studies. Even then GRL is a bit looser on the peer review than some other publications – it was rejected by Nature. Even Von Storch does not agree with M&M:”

    More proxies. Just read him. Decide for yourself.

  10. November 17th, 2006 at 20:54 | #10

    proust – “However, there’s clearly one fundamental empirical question that needs to be answered to determine the extent to which increasing temperatures are due to human-generated GHGs: how much does the climate vary of its own accord?”

    It varies a lot. The tree ring proxies are only one such. Does M&M have a problem with the ice core measurements? The question is not how much it has varied in the past at all that is of historical interest only. We can see from the past, far beyond the tree rings, that there are cycles of glacial and interglacial periods. The problem is that several thermal events, be they heating or cooling, in the past like the Younger Dryas seem to have a specific trigger. We know that greenhouse gases is one of those triggers that set off climate change.

    We clear land, reducing the carbon scrubbers, and emit gigatons of these trigger gases as a part of our energy use. We do not need a long historical record to decide that interfering with the heat regulating mechanism of the planet is not a good idea. The historical record is nice however it is not essential – it simply places recent warming in perspective. Whether it is correct or not the heating continues and the results will be known shortly.

  11. Louis Hissink
    November 17th, 2006 at 21:14 | #11

    John,

    In Science there is no debate about facts – the hypothesis is either true or false.

    What part of the sentence I just wrote have you difficulty with?

    If it’s consensus then it is not science and never has been.

    So global warming theories are not science but technically sophisticaled religion, for which you have fallen, hook, line and sinker.

  12. Tam o’Shanter
    November 17th, 2006 at 21:58 | #12

    re M&M: just check out the Mann & Co proxies against the instrumental record since 1850. Do they fit? No. You then have to adjust their proxies for pre-1850 year by year by the level of mis-match since 1850. Result?

  13. November 17th, 2006 at 23:15 | #13

    Louis – “In Science there is no debate about facts – the hypothesis is either true or false.”

    Hypothesis
    Human emitted greenhouse gases alter the heat balance of the Earths atmosphere causing warming.

    Facts
    1. Measured CO2 level rise
    2. Isotope ratios of CO2 are fossil origin
    3. Humans burn fossil carbon for energy
    4. Measured global average temperature rise

    So according to your simplified true or false statement the AGW hypothesis is true. You cannot debate these facts, as by your words, in Science there is no debate about facts.

    “So global warming theories are not science but technically sophisticaled religion, for which you have fallen, hook, line and sinker.”

    However your religion is not even technically sophisticated – how are the Atlantians doing BTW?

  14. November 17th, 2006 at 23:24 | #14

    Tam o shanter – “re M&M: just check out the Mann & Co proxies against the instrumental record since 1850. Do they fit? No. You then have to adjust their proxies for pre-1850 year by year by the level of mis-match since 1850. Result?”

    Why would you do this? In 1850 accurate thermometers became available so proxies are not needed anymore. You have completely misunderstood the work of MBH. They found a method using PCA of getting some sort of a valid temperature record from inherently inaccurate tree ring records or proxies. That was the whole point of MBH’s work – they were the first people to do this with ANY degree of accuracy. There is no way that tree rings are going to be accurate against precise thermometer records and nobody except M&M, for reasons best known to them, expect them to be.

    The proxies are all we have to get any idea of paleo climate before temperature records. They are not perfectly accurate and need a huge amount of analysis to get anything usable at all but they are all we have.

  15. Chris O’Neill
    November 18th, 2006 at 05:50 | #15

    “and read through pretty much any piece of McIntyre’s analysis on his website”

    A good one is his review of Wahl and Ammann 2006 for which he recommended rejection. It’s hilarious. Talk about a bad temper. Was he having a bad day or what?

    “combined with the fact that things were considerably warmer in the MWP”

    Careful proust, no-one has shown it is a fact. Making bare-faced unsupportable assertions of fact like this shreds your credibility.

    John Quiggin reminded us that:

    “I’ve read what McIntyre and McKitrick published since they came out, and their arguments have changed radically over time, while their conclusion (that Mann et al wrong) remained unchanged and in accordance with McKitrick’s prior published views, based on such nonsense claims as the nonexistence of a global average temperature. The original piece barely mentioned things like the principal components and the bristlecone pines, and claimed to derive its results by correcting errors in the datasets. As their initial claims fell to pieces, they retreated to the latter issues.”

    This is exactly the point, their conclusion stays the same even though their arguments are destroyed one after the other.

    First argument: M&M’s 2003 unreviewed paper was called “Corrections to the Mann et. al. Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemisphere Average Temperature Series”.

    Normally a correction to something is supposed to be better than the original. M&M subsequently backpedalled and said it wasn’t actually better than the original, it was just meant to say there was something wrong with the original.

    Second argument: The MBH98 reconstruction is wrong because they made a mistake in the method and if you do it our proper way (centering principal components calculations) you don’t get the MBH result.

    M&M got a different result because they didn’t apply their approach correctly. When their approach (using centered principal components) is implemented correctly, the same result as MBH98 is obtained.

    Third argument: The MBH98 reconstruction is wrong because some proxies have grown faster since atmospheric CO2 started increasing after 1800 and therefore it is impossible to get a good reconstruction when using these proxies.

    Results using these proxies can be checked against results using other proxies from 1428 to 1901 and show that they give a good reconstruction over this period. There is no objective reason why these proxies should suddenly change behaviour before 1428, given that atmospheric CO2 changed very little before 1428.

    So the whining stays the same even though the arguments come and go.

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