Kyoto and error

Given that I’ve been posting on both Kyoto and admissions of error I thought it would be interesting to check if any of the leading contrarians on climate change had revised their views in the light of recent evidence. On past form, I wasn’t expecting much.

The leading contrarians and their organizations (SEPP, Marshall Institute, Cato) cut their teeth in the debate over the ozone laye. Most of them are pretty quiet about this issue now. For example, despite extensive searching I couldn’t find a copy of Sallie Baliunas’ widely-cited article Ozone and Global Warming: Are the Problems Real? which is quoted as saying

there is currently no evidence to suggest that man-made chemicals, like CFCs, have significantly eroded the ozone over most of the world…. Rather than supporting federal regulation, scientific evidence leads to the conclusion that regulation is both economically devastating and scientifically irresponsible. Federal regulation…will cost the U.S. economy an estimated $2 trillion in the near term.”

Still, as far as I know, none of them has ever admitted being wrong, and some, like Fred Singer of SEPP are still keeping up the fight.

Anyway, I was particularly interested in Australian contrarian John Daly because, earlier this year, he took the unusual step of making a testable prediction. In this entry he predicted that, with the sunspot cycle turning down and El Nino ending, the climatic extremes of 1998-2002 would be a thing of the past.

Finally, last year in 2002, even before the solar cycle had started its usual decline towards the cooler Solar Minimum, we saw the development of another El Ni–o on top of an already stretched out solar maximum.Ê A Solar Maximum happening concurrently with an El Ni–o, with no cooling volcanic action for the last 10 years, is a potent combination climatically.Ê And the weather has been very active as a direct result of this combination.

But it will pass.Ê These things always do.Ê The solar cycle is now heading down towards its expected solar minimum around 2006, while the current El Ni–o is expected to wane in the next few months, possibly being replaced by its cooling counterpart, La Ni–a.Ê

The greenhouse industry has thrived off Nature’s climatic drama of the last 4 years, using a combination of public hysteria and bent statistics, but the pickings will be leaner in the months and years ahead – until we reach the next El Ni–o or the next solar maximum expected around 2012 (the same year the Kyoto Protocol expires) .

How has this prediction stood up so far? As Daly’s own site shows, the solar cycle has indeed turned down, and the El Nino has passed, (though without a return to La Nina). But, in case you haven’t been reading the news, the weather hasn’t got any cooler..

Of course, Daly will find a way to ignore all this. Rather than engage in fruitless debate, I’ll offer the following prediction. No matter how hot it is in 2006, we won’t see a retraction from Daly.

8 thoughts on “Kyoto and error

  1. John, John, John. You’re just showing your doomsayer bias! Who does your funding, hmmm?

    Of course, you fail to mention that every single temperature measuring station on the planet is surrounded by concrete and that’s why it is so warm in Europe – it’s not that it’s any hotter there, see, the thermometers are all biased.


  2. Thanks for that, Dano. I guess we can tell all those sluggard climatologists who have been working on the factitious measurement bias problem for the last 50 years to go put their feet up and have a cup of tea now you’ve sorted it. Well done. Perhaps you might like to turn your hand to world poverty now.

  3. My prediction… no matter how hot or cold it is in 2006 we wont see a retraction from John Quiggin on Kyoto. Further, no matter what the tax rate in 2006, John Quiggin will believe that it should be just a little bit higher.

    Expanding on Kyoto, my prediction is that strained debate will plod forward for another decade and by the time we get close to having an international agreement, some as yet unimagined tech breakthrough or as yet undiscovered anti-warming counter-trend will occur and make the whole debate irrelevant. By that time, the big scare on earth will be the shrinking population in rich countries. Phew… some big calls. 🙂 I’ll go one further, by 2050 we will have the capacity to get a decent group of humans off this planet for good and by 2500 we will have non-earth options for life. I probably wont be around to see the last prediction, but my children might be because of some breakthrough that I don’t yet know about. 🙂

  4. John, sounds like John Humphreys is a modern day Micawber – “something will turn up”. Micawber, as I recall, emigrated to Australia. Perhaps John is a migrant from the USA, which, after your observation last week on its consumption patterns, could be more truthfully named the USM – United States of Micawbers.

  5. yeah, i’m with humphreys. clearly we should be making policy based on an understanding that some heretofore unforseen technological breakthrough or scientific discovery is coming soon to solve this whole problem.

  6. Advancing technology or the supernatural may or may not save us, but don’t forget our secret weapon: orbital plane oscillation. However, even if all three of those things ultimately fail us, then at least we can fiddle around entertaining ourselves while Rome burns. It sure seems to beat the prospect of trying to save our Earth and ourselves! So here’s a bit of entertainment: When preparing my comment at John’s post on A lesson in statistics, I found the 414 kYr graphs of temperatures over Antarctica [Ref 1, Ref 2] very intriguing. In particular, the 100,000-year (100 kYr) cycle that was evident in them. So I thought it might be of interest to see what work, if any, had been published in the quest for the causes and dynamics of the cycle. This is what I’ve been able to come up with.

    The standard explanation for the 100 kYr glaciation cycle has been the ‘Milankovitch theory’. There’s a readable account of it here – you have to scroll down the page a little. Note that it only mentions one of the two eccentricity cycles of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. An orbital eccentricity cycle occurs when the shape of the Earth’s orbit (the orbit’s eccentricity) regularly varies from almost-circular to more elliptical and back again. This changes the distances between Earth and Sun and results in climate change caused by variations in the amounts and concentrations of sunlight reaching the Earth. There is a 100 kYr orbital eccentricity cycle and a 400 kYr one. Apparently the 400 kYr cycle doesn’t do at all well in explaining the temperature data, and this is one of the drawbacks of the Milankovitch theory. In Nature [1995] Richard Muller and Gordon MacDonald noted this drawback and announced that they had found a much closer fit of the temperature data to the Earth’s orbital plane oscillation cycle, which also has a period of 100 kYrs!! They didn’t use the Antarctic temperature data – so I’m assuming here that there are acceptable levels of agreement among the various data sources. Muller and MacDonald followed up with a more comprehensive paper in Science [1997].

    The two papers build upon the observation that the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun goes up and down in a slight ’tilting’ motion every 100,000 years – by as much as 2.5 degrees of angle if I read the 1995 graph correctly. There’s a very descriptive news release about the 1997 paper here, containing the following description of this oscillation process: To visualize [it], imagine a flat plane with the sun in the center and nine planets circling close to the plane. In fact, all the planets orbit the sun close to such a fixed orbital plane. The earth’s orbit slowly tilts out of this plane and then returns. As Muller first calculated in 1993, the cycle of tilt repeats every 100,000 years.

    In their 1995 paper, Muller and MacDonald suggested that ‘… extraterrestrial accretion of meteoroids or dust’ might cause global mean temperature to vary with orbital tilt. By this they meant that every 100,000 years our orbital plane movement might be taking us into a dust cloud that lies close to the mean solar system plane. Presumably the dust cloud reduces the amount of solar radiation we receive, thereby lowering global temperatures. In the last few paragraphs of the 1997 paper they refer to some promising observational developments in this respect. If Muller and MacDonald are correct, then we will be in the densest part of the cloud when temperatures are at their lowest, and we’re then also as close as we get to the solar system’s average plane of orbit (according to the 1995 graph, about half a degree of angle away from it). It’s somewhat heartening that we appear right now to be close to the maximum tilt of Earth’s orbital plane this time around, where things are supposed to be at their warmest. In thousands of years’ time, as we move back towards the solar system’s mean orbital plane, the obvious question will be answered: as we re-enter the area of thicker extraterrestrial dust, will the resultant cooling processes be sufficiently strong to overcome the greenhouse effect? This does assume, of course, that our political leaders won’t decide to prove to everybody that, as a species, we really do have intelligence – by proceeding to apply the principle of pre-emption to something a bit more constructive than mere militarism.

    Finally, another interesting feature of the 414 kYr graph were the (apparently) more rapid temperature rises as we emerged from the ice ages, while the returns to lower temperatures proceeded more slowly. The best hint that I can find at the reason for this is that possibly the warming-phase feedback effects, which occur as greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, are stronger than the cooling-phase feedback processes. Perhaps some of the feedback effects described here are relevant in this regard.

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