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Congratulations!

June 13th, 2007
.!.

To Al Gore and the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is the second time the Nobel prizes have honored work on climate change, the first being the award of the 1995 Chemistry Prize to Crutzen, Molina and Sherwood for their discovery of the chemical reactions that led CFCs to deplete the ozone layer.

That award came at an opportune time. Although the world had agreed under the Montreal protocol to phase out CFCs, US Republicans working through the aptly-named DeLay-Doolittle committee were working to undermine it, attacking the science and so on, with the support of a number ofleading delusionists (Sallie Baliunas, Pat Michaels, Fred Singer and others). The Nobel award took the wind out of their sails and most of the “skeptical scientists” involved went very quiet on the issue thereafter. That didn’t stop them using the same tactics and arguments regarding CO2 and global warming.

I hope the 2007 Peace Prize award will have a similar impact. While it’s not a science prize, it would certainly not have been awarded if there was any serious doubt about (rather than politically motivated opposition to) the science of climate change. And it rightly honors Gore’s role in solidifying public opinion on the issue.

Of course, for those inside the Republican bubble of delusion, it will have the opposite impact (since they are opposed to both peace and science, it could hardly do otherwise). But it will certainly have an impact in Australia, leaving those who have been scathing about Gore and the IPCC with (yet more) egg on their faces. Of course, that group includes John Howard who refused to meet Gore last year. Since he seems to be in the mood for changing his tune, he would be well advised to take this opportunity to ratify Kyoto.

Congratulations also to the other Nobel winners. Doris Lessings literature prize is certainly well-deserved and while I’m not an expert, the winners of the science prizes announced so far have made contributions notable enough that I was already aware of their significance.

Of course, I’m awaiting with interest the Economics Nobel (more precisely the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) to be announced on Monday. I’ve previously noted my enthusiasm for Robert Shiller. Greg Mankiw points to this prediction from Thomson Scientific and makes some bets of his own.

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  1. John Styles
    October 13th, 2007 at 08:04 | #1

    Don’t you think that the delusionists and friends have become more secure in their delusions since then?

  2. Hermit
    October 13th, 2007 at 08:30 | #2

    Gore’s recognition is Pyrrhic because worldwide emissions are still increasing with little sign of any slowdown outside Europe. If Gore has elevated public awareness so far it hasn’t been enough to spur decisive action. I noted ALP luminaries cozying up to Gore on his recent visit; the next day their State counterparts approved new coal mines. Without wishing to detract from Gore I think his approach has been somewhat like theology when what’s needed now is insurgency. Then again he has a receptive audience the hardliners don’t.

  3. Jill Rush
    October 13th, 2007 at 10:50 | #3

    The Nobel Peace prize should have a great impact on the debate.

    This week Andrew Bolt drew attention to 11 supposed mistakes that Al Gore made in “An Inconvenient truth” as determined by a British judge (other sources made it nine or ten)- he made a great feature of the number 11 although not the exact details of the supposed errors.

    What he missed of course was that there may be some revision of some details but that the overall thesis was necessary to make us think and act and he didn’t question whether a judge is in a position to be making decisions which are science based.

    Ratifying Kyoto by the PM may not be done before the election is called (this could lead to a core promise) but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is promised by the PM as part of the election campaign. After all he has acknowledged climate as one of the key areas for the future and he is desperate.

  4. Joe
    October 13th, 2007 at 13:35 | #4

    Tim Lambert explains the British High Court case at An ‘error’ is not the same thing as an error. The British High Court is the equivalent of our District Courts.

  5. Persse
    October 13th, 2007 at 14:50 | #5

    I am not sure that Hermits description of Gores message as being Pyrrhic is quite right. While true that the serious hard work to prevent heat trapping gases building in the atmosphere is yet to be done, an essential prerequisite is the psychological acceptance of the necessity to act throughout the entire world. It is a towering achievement on Al Gore’s part to lay the ground work for that to happen.

  6. mugwump
    October 14th, 2007 at 05:58 | #6

    Nobel prize for Hypocrisy.

    He joins other notable hypocrites: Arafat, Kissinger.

    He is still living in his 25,000 sq ft house. Still travels by private jet. Yet all those emissions are supposedly the greatest threat to humanity. And don’t give me that rubbish about carbon offsets: if reducing emissions is so important, why doesn’t he fly commercial, live in a small house, and buy offsets?

    When Gore makes a sacrifice maybe I’ll start listening to him.

    I am reminded of a quote by one of Gore’s relatives:

    “One must never underestimate Scandinavian wit.â€?

    –Gore Vidal, on the announcement that Henry Kissinger had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Oh and BTW, the whole ozone thing is turning out to be bogus.

  7. jquiggin
    October 14th, 2007 at 06:35 | #7

    Umm, not exactly, mugwump. But keep hopping on delusionist bandwagons. Maybe sometime you’ll find one that’s going somewhere.

  8. mugwump
    October 14th, 2007 at 07:07 | #8

    You can always rely on The Ministry of Truth realclimate to smartly come out with an opinion piece discounting any results contrary to their political views. There are no concrete numbers in that article, just:

    Should the results hold up, the chemistry involved in polar ozone loss may need to be re-evaluated.

    I’ll say.

    The Nature article I linked to claims up to 60% of the ozone depletion is now unaccounted for.

  9. BilB
    October 14th, 2007 at 08:23 | #9

    Republicans, “since they are opposed to both peace and science, it could hardly do otherwise”.

    Very succinct comment, JQ. That was my smile for the week.

    A friend dropped in a January 1978 Scientific American opened at “The Carbon Dioxide Question”. Thirty years later with the science defined to crystal clarity there are still naysayers in positions of power, butressed by mugwumps, determined to obfuscate, delay, defray, and dismiss concensus and action. Thank goodness for Al Gore and his positive direction.

  10. mugwump
    October 14th, 2007 at 11:30 | #10

    BillB, methinks you wouldn’t know a scientific argument if it bit you.

  11. Chris O’Neill
    October 14th, 2007 at 12:20 | #11

    mugwump, methinks you wouldn’t know a scientific argument for purely-observation-based climate sensitivity if it bit you.

  12. mugwump
    October 14th, 2007 at 12:31 | #12

    Chris, you already lost that argument.

  13. BilB
    October 15th, 2007 at 06:13 | #13

    Right back at ya, mugwump. “Bogus” is hardly a correct conclusion from the reading of the article that you cited. They are talking about new information pointing to a more complex situation in the atmosphere, hardly surprising. Not new information makes all previous information intentionally false as your use of the word “bogus” implies.

  14. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 08:20 | #14

    BillB, Id say “bogus” is in the right direction. You reckon we would have banned CFCs if 60% of Ozone depletion is due to some other factor?

    Now, I agree this is early days, which is why I said “turning out to be bogus”, not just “bogus”.

  15. BilB
    October 15th, 2007 at 09:58 | #15

    mugwump, you still haven’t understood what the article is saying. One key reaction, thought not to be significant, has now been found to not work as assumed in the energy spectrum available in the upper atmosphere. What it means is that there is a new player on the block working……as well as……cfc’s. This will slow down the correction of the ozone problem. There may well be more harmful reactions yet to be discovered. That does not wash away everything that has been achieved so far as you, apparently, would like it to so be. Elevating one’s status by tearing things down is not a very laudable persuit. Try thinking positively, it is far more satisfying.

  16. wilful
    October 15th, 2007 at 10:44 | #16

    It’s a joke that an inferior British court can seek to pass judgement on the scientific validity of a film. If there were nine minor errors, what about the two hundred statements of fact?

    Mugwump, you’ve alluded to a greater scientific understanding than the rest of us mere mortals a few times since you’ve been frequenting here. You must be pretty hot, since you’re in opposition to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists and related disciplines. You’ve not actually put up any falsifiable claims however, at any stage, which makes me question your ability to put up or shut up.

    Tell us, clearly and simply, what is the single greatest flaw in the theory of anthropogenic climate change? What’s the most egregious error in the literature?

    If you can’t do that, please just go away.

  17. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 11:00 | #17

    I understand the article just fine, eg:

    “If the measurements are correct we can basically no longer say we understand how ozone holes come into being.�

    And:

    The rapid photolysis of Cl2O2 is a key reaction in the chemical model of ozone destruction developed 20 years ago2 (see graphic). If the rate is substantially lower than previously thought, then it would not be possible to create enough aggressive chlorine radicals to explain the observed ozone losses at high latitudes, says Rex. The extent of the discrepancy became apparent only when he incorporated the new photolysis rate into a chemical model of ozone depletion. The result was a shock: at least 60% of ozone destruction at the poles seems to be due to an unknown mechanism, Rex told a meeting of stratosphere researchers in Bremen, Germany, last week.

    I am old enough to remember the CFC debate and subsequent ban. We knew human emitted CFCs created the ozone hole. We had the mechanism. The guys who discovered it won the Nobel prize for Chemistry. Open-and-shut-case.

    Now we find out they may well have been wrong. It may still be true that human-produced CFCs are at the root of ozone depletion, but it’s a lot more uncertain than the iron-clad case that led to Montreal.

    Remind you of anything?

  18. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 11:05 | #18

    wilful, the single greatest flaw is the use of dodgy statistics by climatologists. It shows up everywhere in the field, from the discredited hockeystick studies to overfitting in climate model predictions.

  19. wilful
    October 15th, 2007 at 11:17 | #19

    “dodgy statistics”.

    OK, any ones in particular?

    Are you a statistician (I’m not)?

    But you have made one particular point, the “hockeystick” by Mann et al. Any other first level complaints?

  20. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 11:32 | #20

    I use statistics everyday in my job. My PhD is in mathematical statistics.

    Specific complaint on hockeystick and other dendroclimatological studies: they extrapolate hundreds or thousands of years further into the past based on very small cross-validation studies of tree-ring/temperature correlations from 1880-1980 (with the concommittant “test set snooping problems” that entails), yet refuse to go out and collect more recent tree cores, which really would validate their method.

    Mcintyre is now collecting that data for them (out of his own pocket BTW), an activity apparently beyond the capabilities of Michael Mann, the leading proponent of the hockeystick:

    While paleoclimatologists are attempting to update many important proxy records to the present, this is a costly, and labor-intensive activity, often requiring expensive field campaigns that involve traveling with heavy equipment to difficult-to-reach locations (such as high-elevation or remote polar sites). For historical reasons, many of the important records were obtained in the 1970s and 1980s and have yet to be updated.

    I can’t wait for McIntyre’s results. The first independent verification (or not) of the graph that has led the world down this crazy path. And all done without any public money. What do these guys spend my tax dollars on? Carbon-spewing business-class airfares to fancy European conferences?

  21. BilB
    October 15th, 2007 at 11:50 | #21

    Mugwump, “Montreal” went with the best science available at the time. Without the action the ozone whole could well be covering half of Australia by now, accelerated by inaction. That is how the scientific process works. You develop a theory based on obsevation then you test it, and follow up with further observation and evaluation. Based on the evaluated conclusions you adjust the method or develop a new theory. It is all about gaining knowledge and applying that knowledge.

    My refrigerator works just fine with the new advanced refrigerants. I’m not suffering for the adjustment, but I would be pissed off if I had to stay underground with my tinnie to avoid severe sunburn because nothing was done to prevent the spread of the ozone hole, when it could have been.

    The same thing applies to GW. Going to Solar Power and Alternative fuels will not hurt my back pocket one bit in overall terms, but my daughters will be after my blood and yours if temperatures reach 55 degrees C on a summer regular basis because we did not act when we can so easily do.

  22. BilB
    October 15th, 2007 at 12:19 | #22

    As for hockey sticks, it is not a hockey stick that threatens to burn my house down, it is an extremely hot dry day with unnaturally high winds. As I recall the early reseach on atmospheric CO2 found that trees do not increase their foliage or trunk sizes in reaction to elevated CO2 levels, they increase their root bases (underground). Trees toughen their winter rings and expand their summer rings in reaction to temperature, available sunlight and water. Now I did that research at my own expense by comparing packing case wood from Australia with the same from Europe, where both are from the same variety of tree.

    Climate change is entirely relative.

  23. wilful
    October 15th, 2007 at 12:38 | #23

    the graph that has led the world down this crazy path?

    You’re not seriously inferring that the entire theory of ACC is based on one graph do you?

    just reading from Wikipedia, not a scientific source but as unbiased as we’ll find, lends strong credence to arguments that there is nothing in this controversy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy

    At best it’s a beat-up, at worst McIntyre starts to look foolish.

    Really, you don’t have much, do you?

  24. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 12:40 | #24

    BillB, the whole point of the latest results is that action on CFCs may well have achieved very little. We just don’t know.

    Sure, Montreal went with the best science at the time, but the uncertainty now looks to have been seriously underestimated.

    BTW, I don’t really have an issue with Montreal, since the phasing out of CFCs was a relatively cheap affair. But the phasing out of CO2 production is going to be far more costly (despite Stern’s claims), and the uncertainties involved are far greater.

  25. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 12:44 | #25

    You’re not seriously inferring that the entire theory of ACC is based on one graph do you?

    Of course not. But a huge chunk of AGW hysteria can be traced back to that graph.

    We’ll see who looks foolish when the new tree ring results come in.

  26. BilB
    October 15th, 2007 at 12:58 | #26

    mugwump, no one (no one seriously connected) is saying phase out CO2 production. What is being said is short circuit the process. Take out the 300 million years storage process, shorten the CO2 cycle and plug in the energy source directly. Which we can do. It is smarter, it is simpler, and it is cheaper. And it is underway.

  27. Ken Miles
    October 15th, 2007 at 13:03 | #27

    From the Nature article which Mugwump linked to:

    Nothing currently suggests that the role of
    CFCs must be called into question, Rex stresses.
    “Overwhelming evidence still suggests that
    anthropogenic emissions of CFCs and halons
    are the reason for the ozone loss. But we would
    be on much firmer ground if we could write
    down the correct chemical reactions.�

    I’ll simply add that the ability to go through an article cherry picking the bits that you want while ignoring the rest is one of the classic signs of a pseudoscientist.

  28. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 13:27 | #28

    Ken Miles, that doesn’t alter the point: Montreal was based in large part on the near scientific certainty regarding the mechanism for ozone depletion. I seriously doubt it would have passed without it. Yet 25 years later we discover the chemists were probably wrong.

    And let’s wait and see whether Rex is right: 20 years after Montreal we’re still waiting for the ozone hole to diminish.

  29. mugwump
    October 15th, 2007 at 13:29 | #29

    It is smarter, it is simpler, and it is cheaper.

    If that’s the case, why don’t you assemble a team of investors and start operating your own solar plant? I’m in if you can show me the numbers.

  30. Ken Miles
    October 15th, 2007 at 13:44 | #30

    Montreal was based in large part on the near scientific certainty regarding the mechanism for ozone depletion.

    When the Montreal protocol was signed, there were still large numbers of unknowns in the rate constants of the various possible reactions which are involved in atmospheric ozone chemistry (had you paid more attention to the Realclimate post which you hand waved away you could have inferred this).

    The basic reactions which involve ozone breakdown were well known then, and nothing subsequently has changed that. The overall effect of chlorine and ultraviolet light on ozone has been determined experimentally. The new findings call into question the exact mechanistic details about how part of the overall process occurs.

  31. Chris O’Neill
    October 17th, 2007 at 23:25 | #31

    “Chris, you already lost that argument.”

    Sure, if you say so, Mr Declare-victory-and-get-out.

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