Faulty communication allowed an unsubstantiated estimate of the melting rate of Himalayan glaciers to make it into the landmark 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a senior scientist and panel official said Monday. […] The official, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice chairman of the climate change panel, said that a glaciologist, Georg Kaser at the University of Innsbruck, in Austria, had sought to correct the information about the glaciers before it was published by the panel but that the correction came too late and never reached the people who could fix the statement.
This “explanation” obviously explains very little and simply opens up a series of new questions:
Why didn’t Dr Kaser think it worthwhile to voice his concerns in any form (public, or private) after the publication of the IPCC report in 2007?
What made Dr Kaser place more importance on his colleagues potentially ill feelings about being criticized, than on scientific truth?
And if a relatively well-known published scientist such as Dr Kaser finds himself forced into some kind of self-censorship and reluctance to speak out, how poisonous, impermeable to criticism and ultimately anti-scientific has the world of the IPCC become?
Words of wisdom to the big cheeses at the IPCC: please stop digging!
And so here I’ll add my small contribution: because the IPCC authors and reviewers have managed to collate evidence for climate change where even James Hansen and Reto Ruedy agree that the climate has not (yet) changed. Time to ditch AR4-WG2-Chapter1 altogether?
Two out of three of the remaining observed “significant changes compatible with warming” come from North America. And so on and so forth.
If it interested anybody, we could start discussing how Europe has been warming of late. But about North America, the IPCC assessment is now smelling even fishier. It all started on Jan 14 with Judicial Watch announcing they
obtained internal documents from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) related to a controversy that erupted in 2007 when Canadian blogger Stephen McIntyre exposed an error in NASA’s handling of raw temperature data from 2000-2006 that exaggerated the reported rise in temperature readings in the United States
In their snobbish and arrogant effort to belittle those asking questions about what was the warmest year on record, they [GISS] inadvertently admitted that the current warm period is not significantly greater than the warm spots seen in the US in the 1930’s and 1950’s
The US has been warming in the period 1980-2006 similarly to the period from 1920-1934; that earlier 15-year period then was followed by a cooling period and the same might be true for the current 25-year period. The annual US mean changes are still large compared to any CO2 effect
In other words: not even at GISS they can see any “climate change” concerning the USA.
And yet…amazingly, at the IPCC “somebody” still managed to find a series of pieces of evidence about “climate change” in the USA. Here they are from fabled IPCC AR4-WG2-Chapter1:
p84: Table 1.1. Direct and indirect effects of non-climate drivers. Invasive species:Tamarisk (USA)
p85: no change in the number of frost days in the south-eastern USA (Feng and Hu, 2004)
p86: Table 1.2. Selected observed effects due to changes in the cryosphere produced by warming. Decreased snow in ski areas at low altitudes:Decrease in number of ski areas from 58 to 17:1975-2002 New Hampshire, northeastern USA:Hamilton, 2003b
p89: Table 1.3. Observed changes in runoff/streamflow, lake levels and floods/droughts. Due to dry and unusually warm summers related to warming of western tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans in recent years:1998-2004:Western USA:Andreadis et al., 2005; Pagano and Garen, 2005
p92: 220.127.116.11 Changes in coastal wetlands. In the USA, losses in coastal wetlands have been observed in Louisiana (Boesch et al., 1994), the mid-Atlantic region (Kearney et al., 2002), and in parts of New England and New York (Hartig et al., 2002; Hartig and Gornitz, 2004), in spite of recent protective environmental regulations (Kennish, 2001)
p100: Table 1.8. Changes in the timing of spring events, based on observations within networks. Location:Period:Species/Indicator:Observed changes (days/decade):References. Western USA:1957-1994:Lilac, honeysuckle (F):-1.5 (lilac), 3.5 (honeysuckle):Cayan et al., 2001
p100: Table 1.8. North-eastern USA:1965-2001,1959-1993:Lilac (F, LU),Lilac (F):-3.4 (F) -2.6 (U),-1.7:Wolfe et al., 2005,Schwartz and Reiter, 2000
p100: Table 1.8. Washington, DC:1970-1999:100 plant species (F):-0.8:Abu-Asab et al., 2001
p102: Table 1.9. Evidence of significant recent range shifts polewards and to higher elevations. California coast, USA:Spittlebug:Northward range shift:Karban and Strauss, 2004
p102: Table 1.9. Washington State, USA Skipper butterfly Range expansion with increased Tmin Crozier, 2004
p102: Table 1.9. Montana, USA Arctic-alpine species Decline at the southern margin of range Lesica and McCune, 2004
p103: 18.104.22.168 Climate-linked extinctions and invasions. The pika (Ochotona princeps), a small mammal found in mountains of the western USA, has been extirpated from many slopes (Beever et al., 2003)
p105: Table 1.10. Observed changes in agricultural crop and livestock. Yields:Part of overall yield increase attributed to recent cooling during growing season: 25% maize, 33% soybean:USA county level:1982-1998:Lobell and Asner, 2003
p105: Box 1.2. favourable conditions for wine…the same tendencies have also been found in the California, Oregon and Washington vineyards of the USA (Nemani et al., 2001; Jones, 2005).
p107: Climate warming can also change the disturbance regime of forests by extending the range of some damaging insects, as observed during the last 20 years for bark beetles in the USA (Williams and Liebhold, 2002)
p107: One study of forest fires in Canada (Gillett et al., 2004) found that about half of the observed increase in burnt area during the last 40 years, in spite of improved fire-fighting techniques, is in agreement with simulated warming from a general circulation model (GCM)[…] it seems to be confirmed by another recent study (Westerling et al., 2006), which established a dramatic and sudden increase in large wildfire activity in the western USA in the mid-1980s closely associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snow melt.
p108: This increase in heatwave exposures, where heatwaves are defined as temperature extremes of short duration, has been observed in mid-latitudes in Europe and the USA
QED: the IPCC AR4-WG2-Chapter1 is a sad joke almost devoid of scientific content. All that effort has been for nothing, all the more so as it reported (especially) about warming-related climate changes no matter what.
That is, independently even from the actual measured temperatures.
(*) The obligatory full reference: Rosenzweig, C., G. Casassa, D.J. Karoly, A. Imeson, C. Liu, A. Menzel, S. Rawlins, T.L. Root, B. Seguin, P. Tryjanowski, 2007: Assessment of observed changes and responses in natural and managed systems. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 79-131.
Is this a way to confirm Timpanogos/Ed Darrell‘s suggestion that “you guys cheer at train wrecks and hit-and-run auto-pedestrian accidents, too“? I think not (even if I should thank Ed for comparing the lesser Milliband and Gordon Brown to train wrecks and hit-and-run accidents). There is something enormously serious about climate-related deaths. Compared to that, the misadventures of True (AGW) Believers getting themselves and others in trouble for almost no reason at all, well, those become laughable indeed.
Remember the infamous 2003 Summer Heatwave in Europe? Wikipedia claims it killed “more than 37,451” people (the Earth Policy Institute sums up a toll of “more than 52,000“) across the Continent. Now take “excess winter mortality” in England and Wales alone, and despair: according to the Office for National Statistics, in 2008/2009 the number of additional deaths “compared with the average for the non-winter period” was 36,700.
One can only imagine a grand total of excess winter deaths for the whole of Europe in the hundreds of thousands. And that happens every single year, whilst the 2003 Heatwave is just an exceptional event that caused for example a total of 2,139 excess deaths in England and Wales.
Notably, in England and Wales even the 2003/2004 winter saw more than 20,000 excess deaths compared to a non-winter period that included…the August 2003 heatwave.
Given the way things are shaping up at the moment, the 2009/2010 numbers will likely be in the 30,000-40,000 range too…I am perfectly sure if we had tens of thousands of excess deaths during a hot summer in the UK, even the rocks would be yelling out about the perils of Global Warming. But since those people are dying because of the cold, one might have to guess it must be alright..
Have to admit, having read an AGW blog about COP-15 I could not avoid committing the sin of wasting time reading the Copenhagen Accord. And yes, there is an interesting and quite telling concept after all. It shows that no scientist, AGW believer or otherwise, has likely participated to the writing of the Accord, or has even been involved in reviewing any of it.
I am referring to a concept that is repeated twice:
(point 1) “recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius“
(point 2) “reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius“
In there, “the increase in global temperature” is referred in absolute terms. A much more scientific, logical and legal thing to write would have been
“the increase in global temperature due to anthropogenic interference“
To understand the absurdity of the Accord as it stands, imagine the world of 2050, with giant emission reductions already achieved, and powerful models showing that “anthropogenic interference” amounts to +1.7C. Still, if by pure misfortune natural variability sums up to +0.4C, the Copenhagen Accord says we have failed (despite having achieved the wildest dreams of the average 2009 greenie).
Imagine now another world of 2050, with no emission reduction at all and “anthropogenic interference” running at +3C. Still, if by pure stroke of luck natural variability sums up to -0.9C (eg a series of giant volcanic eruptions from 2045 onwards), the Copenhagen Accord says we have succeeded (despite having done nothing at all).
Sadly, all of that shows how silly is the idea that there is something good in the Accord because it has followed the lead of scientists. In truth, the Accord has made the IPCC irrelevant apart than as a confirming body for whatever the USA and China would like to see agreed upon regarding “climate change”.
100% of the people all over the world agree that 45,000 humans travelled to Denmark and made a lot of fuss for about two weeks, and all we’ve got is a declaration that is not worth a single paragraph of commentary. Give me another UN conference like this and we’ll be back to the League of Nations.
There’s more one should think about and I am sure it will slowly surface in the next few days. One question is who are the losers out of that all, and by that I mean the “jokers” that were presumed to be able to achieve something, proceeded to huff and puff a lot but were then demonstrated able to achieve nothing at all. Among them:
Yvo De Boer
Rajendra Pachauri and the IPCC
Al Gore and (admittedly, in a considerably lesser amount) Jim Hansen
Ed Milliband, Gordon Brown and the whole UK government
France, Germany and all other EU countries (apart, one suspects, from the Czech Republic)
Greenpeace, Avaaz and a list of greenie organizations just too eager to jump on the AGW bandwagon
When push came to shove, the Powers That Be did not care at all about the opinions of those listed above.
I wouldn’t be too harsh with the Maldives, most of the African nations, etc. They do not have much power to do anything at UN level, anyway. Russia has lost a bit, by not being included in the final five signatories, and for the same reason Brazil, India, and (mysteriously) South Africa have gained a little.
But let me say very clearly, as UK taxpayer I find the performance of the Ed Milliband particularly awful, and the absolute unimportance of anything Gordon Brown had to say especially embarrassing. Go, go, Gordon go!!
ps looks like it’s high time to get US or Chinese citizenship…
A deal in Copenhagen? Hopefully. A meaningful deal in Copenhagen? Perhaps. Will there be substantive actions in order to stay within the 2C limit? Maybe. Is there going to be a plan to significantly reduce emissions? It’s a promise.
After all, what’s a President that is also the first preventative Nobel Peace Prize winner going to be good at selling? Hope, mostly hope.
In a slightly unsettling if not miraculous development on his way to fight climate change, Tom Friedman tells us today that Dick Cheney’s “instinct” (treating any “low-probability, high-impact event” as a certainty) “is precisely the right framework with which to think about the climate issue“.
As Mr Friedman rightly points out, Cheney’s strategy concerns “the same ‘precautionary principle’ that also animated environmentalists“. Unfortunately, previous performances bodes badly for the attitude that has brought upon us the Iraq invasion disaster.
It is a fact that everybody wants a green economy with clean air and non-polluting energy for all. Greenhood has become the new “motherhood and apple pie” of politics. It is also a fact that a shared goal doesn’t mean a shared idea on how to reach it. Each one of the various ways to address the risk of catastrophical global warming has its own inherent costs and risks. It is not just about declaring the will to buy insurance “aggressively“: one has to go out and choose which insurance to buy, weighing the various pros and cons.
For example, steel giant Mittal has been recently reported as benefiting around £1,000,000,000 ($1.6 billions) from the European emission trading scheme (cap-and-trade) If Mr Friedman wants to be serious about preparing for climate change, that’s what he should be discussing about.
[…] We have a ‘widely accepted [by the scientific community]…global cooling trend’, at least judging from Mitchell’s work in 1972; doubts about that growing in the same scientific community from 1975/1976, as per Damon and Kunen’s paper; but not early enough to prevent Newsweek from publishing its 1975 article, one that even mentions a certain Dr Murray Mitchell. That means that pieces of the global cooling puzzle do suggest that cooling was a widely-held view in the 1970s.
Admittedly, such an agreed view did not last the whole decade: rather, it concerned the 1972 to 1975 period. Says who? Says the CIA, in a unique report I was recently able to re-discover in the British Library […]
This article is much longer than the Spectator’s and contains all the evidence one should need to establish that there was a scientific consensus on global cooling in the period 1972-1975.
An eye-opening “global cooling consensus” CIA document dated 1974 has just been re-discovered in the British Library by Yours Truly and is extensively mentioned today in the (printed) pages of The Spectator (UK) and Il Foglio (Italy).
(updated 20091203 – 1042am GMT – the (suitably degraded) scan of the Spectator article is at the bottom of this blog)
the most obdurate catastro-warmists (when they will notice that almost all AGW scares are a search-and-replace job from “cooling” to “warming”), and
the history deniers fixated on ‘demonstrating’ that a scientific consensus about Global Cooling in the 1970’s were a ‘myth'(*)
And there is more (much more), from ever-improving climate models promising to become good in a few years’ time to the unsettling apparent ease with which Government agencies then (as now) could get scientists to agree on whatever they needed them to agree on.
Nobody aware of the CIA document’s contents should be able to avoid a good chuckle after reading any of the current AGW reports on famine, starvation, refugee crises, floods, droughts, crop and monsoon failures, and all sorts of extreme weather phenomena; on climate-related major economic problems around the world; on Africans getting in climate troubles first; and so on and so forth.
Why? Because it is all too clear that those scares cannot be real, since they have already been mentioned verbatim in all their dramatic effect, but about Global Cooling.
The whole lot of them, they are just empty threats, instruments of doom-and-gloom policy manipulation with no relation to reality.
It is deeply ironic that it takes a 35-year-old document, available on the web so far only in title, to show the absolute vacuity of the vast majority of pre-COP15 reports and studies. It is time to ditch everything we hear about collapsing ice sheets, disappearing glaciers, species extinctions, and each and every “it’s worse than we thought” report by “scientists”.
It is time to become climate adults.
As I wrote for The Spectator:
This might be the most important lesson of the 1974 report on global cooling: that we need to grow up, separate climatology from fear, and recognise – much as it pains politicians and scientists – that our understanding of how climate changes remains in its infancy.
(*) Anybody thinking about Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck’s largely mistitled “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus” (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Volume 89, Issue 9, September 2008, pp 1325-1337)? Well, think again after reading this little gem of theirs:
By the early 1970s, when Mitchell updated his work (Mitchell 1972), the notion of a global cooling trend was widely accepted, albeit poorly understood
As I wrote a little more than a year ago: “Widely accepted”: check. “Global cooling”: check.. There was a global cooling consensus among scientists, at least up to 1974. And it went on to appear in Newsweek, The Washington Post, The New York Times and many more media outlets around the world, at least up to 1976.
Researchers are retracting a highly-cited 2004 Science paper describing a new way of adding sugars to proteins — a longstanding challenge in molecular biology — citing their inability to repeat the results and the absence of the original lab notebooks with the experiment details
Professor Trevor Davies, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer of the UEA, quoted yesterday by Willis Eschenbach in a comment to his “Freedom of information, my okole…“:
The University [of East Anglia, home of the CRU] takes its responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004, and the Data Protection Act 1998 very seriously and has, in all cases, handled and responded to requests in accordance with its obligations under each particular piece of legislation.
There are no accounting issues, no trading issues, no reserve issues, no previously unknown problem issues. I think I can honestly say that the company is probably in the strongest and best shape that it has probably ever been in.
(a guest blog by Willis Eschenbach, originally posted to the Climate Sceptics mailing list. Published almost completely as-is).
An excerpt for those without time to read it all
the issue is not Trenberth or scientists talking smack. It is the illegal evasion of legitmate scientific requests for data needed to replicate a scientific study. Without replication, science cannot move forwards. And when you only give data to friends of yours, and not to people who actually might take a critical look at it, you know what you end up with? A “consensus” …
Freedom of information, my okole… by Willis Eschenbach
People seem to be missing the real issue in the CRU emails. Gavin over at realclimate keeps distracting people by saying the issue is the scientists being nasty to each other, and what Trenberth said, and the Nature “trick”, and the like. Those are side trails. To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency.
Science works by one person making a claim, and backing it up with the data and methods that they used to make the claim. Other scientists attack the work by (among other things) trying to replicate the first scientist’s work. If they can’t replicate it, it doesn’t stand. So blocking the FOIA allowed Phil Jones to claim that his temperature record (HadCRUT3) was valid science.
This is not just trivial gamesmanship, this is central to the very idea of scientific inquiry. This is an attack on the heart of science, by keeping people who disagree with you from ever checking your work and seeing if your math is correct.
Greenfyre: if there is a subsequent release and it contains actual credible evidence of data tampering, I will say so
And that’s good enough for me.
After “ClimateGate” the consensus is still there, the AGW science is still there, COP15 will still take place, etc etc. What is dead is the notion that climatological alarmism is a nicely consensual necessary conclusion of an unbiased reading of the data, rather than a reasonable worldview based on observations but that might just as well be supplanted by a different one.
I just hope that in the eyes of all, “catastrophical AGW” is now a little less like “General Relativity” and a little more like “String theory”.
And even if the work of hundreds hasn’t been invalidated, still there is enough ongoing “power politics” activity at CRU (and elsewhere) to warrant a different approach to AGW skepticism. The problem is in fact not much in scientists that have an “ideology of science”, rather with scientists whose ideology involves stifling debate and censoring those who do not follow orthodoxy.
How many of those quoted would be prepared to “say so” if any “credible evidence of (dishonest) data tampering” were to surface?
But of course…no, now it is different! Now “we have satellites monitoring high-latitude snow cover, thinning sea ice and deep-layered atmospheric temperature increases, coupled with ground observations revealing the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro (85 percent ice loss since 1912) and many other glaciers“.
In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility, not always with the lack of knowledge
In “What They Really Believe” (NYT, Nov 17), Tom Friedman states (before the usual tirade against “willfully blind” non-believers in global warming):
if you follow the debate around the energy/climate bills working through Congress you will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents of this legislation are now making two claims. One is that the globe has been cooling lately, not warming, and the other is that America simply can’t afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax
I am afraid Mr Friedman is missing the most important point.
“If you follow the debate around the energy/climate bills working through Congress“, and what has already come out of it in the House of Representatives, you will not find anything remotely like the “serious energy/climate bill” global warming advocates such as Mr Friedman are opining for.
Surely not even “green hawks” believe that the pork-laden 1,400-pages of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ (aka “Waxman-Markey”) will bring anything practical about climate change? Unless, that is, one is talking about “green hawks” that are “willfully blind“, and (literally) “hurting America’s future to boot“.
The two Koutsoyannis et al.’s are of course the papers arguing that climate models “won’t reproduce the local climate” and any “statement that the predictions would work at [a] longer distance scales is unsupported” (in the words of Luboš).
HK Climate has definitely been written for non-specialists. A couple of quotes:
(from the Start page) “we maintain that there is no reason whatsoever to worry about man-made climate change, because there is no evidence whatsoever that such a thing is happening“
(from the Epilogue page) “Climate is equally uncertain at all zoom levels. In fact, mathematical analysis of the climate indicates that its behaviour is such that the uncertainty is the maximum possible at all zoom levels. This maximisation of uncertainty at all scales is called the Hurst-Kolmogorov behaviour of climatic processes. Nature loves uncertainty, and it fools us in two ways: on the one hand we wouldn’t be able to predict the future of climate, even if we fully knew the natural laws that govern it, because of chaos; and on the other hand, we can’t be very certain of the statistically expected behaviour of climate which is based on our observations of the past, because of the Hurst-Kolmogorov behaviour.”
On November 18, 2008, Population Media Center conducted a daylong summit called Changing Climate…Changing People. The summit was held in partnership with the Writers Guild of America West, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Women in Film and the Environmental Media Association. The summit gave attention to the health and security consequences of climate change and the role that population growth plays in accelerating the climate crisis. Writers and producers of numerous American television shows attended the Summit.
END THE HUNGER SCANDAL: […] some wealthy countries are threatening to renege on a new $20 billion pledge made earlier this year to boost agriculture in the poorest countries […]
FROM HERE TO A GLOBAL TREATY: […] Developed countries need to put money on the table. How much? According to the Climate Action Network International policy paper, $150 billion per year, additional to existing aid, and raised from auction allowances. The European Commission Communication on Climate Financing is talking on a similar scale at least, calling for €50 billion annually by 2020 […]
Would anybody now please stand up and tell the world they believe it will be any easier to extract billions of dollars from “Developed countries” in 2020 than it is now?
Is the Kilimanjaro losing ice because of man-made global warming? Now, that would be a challenging thing to properly demonstrate (never mind it would run against the gist of the IPCC work for example, where no particular weather-related occurrence can be attributed to “Global Warming”, let alone of the anthropogenic variety).
Regardless…step forward lead author Lonnie G. Thompson, concluding “that the melting of recent years is unique” (in the sense of unseen for “over the last 11,700 years“). And how does he know that AGW got anything to do with it?
Dr. Thompson emphasized that the melting of ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro was paralleled by retreats in ice fields elsewhere in Africa as well as in South America, Indonesia and the Himalayas. “It’s when you put those together that the evidence becomes very compelling,” he said.
This quote from somebody that has just published an article containing the following texts:
An energy balance study (7) concluded that mass loss from the upper (horizontal) surfaces of the ice fields has been dominated by sublimation although there is physical evidence of melting as well
The limited satellite observations have yet to confirm any unambiguous trend toward drier atmospheric conditions (1979–1995) and the lack of radiosonde observations over less-developed countries has limited the accuracy of tropical water vapor trends
Over recent decades there has been a continual transformation of the landscape surrounding Kilimanjaro into agricultural land, thus, unraveling large-scale climate forcing from regional forcing caused in part by landscape changes is difficult.
Let’s have a look at how many logical fallacies can be found in statements like the below:
Regardless of the relative importance of the multiple drivers responsible for the loss of Kilimanjaro’s summit ice fields, [the] widespread glacier mass loss, shrinkage, and retreat at high elevations (>5,000 m above sea level) in lower latitudes (30° N to 30° S), particularly in the thermally homogeneous tropics, suggests the likelihood of an underlying common driver on which more localized factors such as changes in land use, precipitation, cloudiness, and humidity are superimposed.
“How many expert assurances or warnings must turn out to be conspicuously wrong for the authority of science and scientists to be diminished?“: that’s the ominous conclusion of a beautifully no-holds-barred article today:
The article is full of interesting quotes. Excerpts:
It doesn’t take anything so extreme as scientific fraud to scupper what may have seemed, at the time, to be a well-grounded scientific prediction. At its most enthusiastic, science has always been prone to promise rather more, and sooner, than it has managed to deliver
Scientists have a strong incentive to make bold predictions—namely, to obtain funding, influence, and high-profile publications. But […] unfulfilled predictions […] can be a blow for patients, policy makers, and for the reputation of science itself
[The 1995 Varmus NIH expert panel concluded that] ‘overzealous representation of clinical gene therapy has [led to] misrepresentation [that] threatens confidence in the field and will inevitably lead to disappointment in both medical and lay communities‘
says Brian Wynne, professor of science studies at Lancaster University, UK. ‘Every research proposal these days […] has got to include an [impact] statement […] basically requiring scientists to make promises, and to exaggerate those promises.‘
As British fertility expert Robert Winston told the BBC in 2005: ‘We tend often to really have rather too much overconfidence. We may exaggerate, simply because […] we need support […] We can go about persuading people a bit too vigorously sometimes.‘
Predictions can also create a sense of haste and urgency that can impede cool, calm reflection on how to proceed at the policy level. [Nik Brown, co-director of the Science and Technology Studies Unit, University of York, UK] says it can create a pressure to legislate before experts properly understand a new research path and its potential.
Research [by Joan Haran, Cesagen Research Fellow at Cardiff University, UK shows that] ‘Because of the high esteem in which scientists are held, it becomes very hard to mount a critique of their promises,‘ […] Scientists defending their corner is understandable, says Haran, but it should be recognized that it can be at the expense of healthy skepticism.
Predictions can also create a sense of haste and urgency that can impede cool, calm reflection on how to proceed at the policy level. [Brown] says it can create a pressure to legislate before experts properly understand a new research path and its potential. [Sociologist Christine Hauskeller, Senior Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter, UK adds that] this is not only a waste of financial and legal resources […] but it serves to narrow social and scientific possibilities
Hilary Rose [professor emerita of the sociology of science at the University of Bradford, UK and Gresham College London] believes that an overemphasis on certain research trajectories, and overoptimistic expectations of what they can deliver, can obscure political and social solutions to problems
Parts of the article are specific to climate science.
The last line in a “Some famous (and infamous) predictions” table classifies as “Right or Wrong? PENDING” this 2007 “prediction”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 4th Assessment Report projects that global surface air temperatures will increase by between 1.1 and 6.4°C over preindustrial levels by the end of the century
A speech at the Copenhagen Climate Conference of February 2009 by the then Danish Prime Minister is mentioned as example of “politicians [trying to] ‘fob off responsibility to scientists’”
‘[Don’t] provide us with too many moving targets, because it is already a very, very complicated process,‘ he said. ‘I need fixed targets and certain figures, and not too many considerations on uncertainty and risk and things like that.‘ Such demands, says [Dan Sarewitz, director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University], can tempt scientists into providing simplistic and unqualified extrapolations from the current state of knowledge to possible future scenarios.
Is it time to design guidelines to “predict responsibly” then? These are Blackman’s suggestions:
Avoid simple timelines: “try to communicate the complexities of the process rather than make a specific prediction”
Learn from history: “heed the lessons of past predictions and promises”
State the caveats: “inform the public also of the current limitations”
Remember what you don’t know: “scientists know a lot less about technology and innovation and political context”
Global warming makes an inevitable appearance, but it’s not in Streever’s nature to mount the pulpit. His usual spark is missing here. His molecules have cooled. He is a man beguiled by nature’s complexities, and he knows too much to make the simplified arguments of the Gores and the anti-Gores. “The good new is this: the planet is not warming evenly. As ocean currents change, temperate Europe may become pleasantly frigid. And the Antarctic interior, surrounded by swirling winds thought to be driven in part by the hole in the ozone layer, has cooled.” he writes. And he impishly points out that the first two scientists to write about the greenhouse effect looked forward to a warmer planet.
Another problem is the treatment of global warming. Streever opens with a nod at the greenhouse effect, and halfway through he curses an unseasonable mid-winter warm-up in Anchorage for ruining his cross-country skiing, but it’s not until the last few pages that he addresses the issue of climate change head on. His discussion is (predictably) adroit, pointed, clipped and alarming — but it doesn’t connect the many scattered dots that came before. “Warmth is not always a good thing,” Streever declares heatedly.
I’ll definitely look to buy or borrow “Cold“. In the meanwhile, here’s an interesting quote from the book (my emphasis):
We are in the midst of a warm spell, we are worried about global warming, but the fact remains that even in summer, whole regions remain covered with snow and ice. An area of land five times the size of Texas is in the permafrost zone, underlain by permanently frozen ground. If the mathematical predictions are right, we are at the tail end of an interglacial period, dramatically increasing its warmth with greenhouse gas emissions. But nevertheless we remain in what a geologist one hundred thousand years in the future would clearly recognize as part of the Pleistocene Ice Age.
SRC have identified nine Planetary Boundaries (PB):
Stratospheric ozone depletion
Atmospheric aerosol loading
Biogeochemical flows: interference with P(hosphorus) and N(itrogen) cycles
Global freshwater use
Land system change (to cropland)
Chemical pollution (eg persistent organic pollutants (POPs), plastics, endocrinedisruptors, heavy metals, and nuclear waste)
(yes there is a reason why SRC do not list then in alphabetical order)
I have several criticisms about the above (I am not alone). What “stewardship” can we provide to the planet if we consider our existence as under siege? Do Planetary Boundaries exist, and even if they do, what can they scientifically tell us about the real world? And even if they are really, mostly useful as a policy tool, is it prudent to take any decision based on them?
-1- A PLANET UNDER SIEGE, or THE MASADA MENTALITY
The “joyous and optimistic” (not my words) goal of SRC appears to be computing the limits of essential resources (essential to us, that is), in order to help better manage those same resources better.
Crucially though, those “limits” are considered “boundaries” in the sense of “thresholds”: once a certain threshold is passed, SRC say, the tipping point (“non-linear changes in the functioning of the Earth System”) starts looming. That is, passing the limits means risking “unacceptable, potentially disastrous” changes, jumping into the dark, most likely straight into a ravine.
In this respect, SRC’s all-too-desperate attempt of communicating a “message” (“The Planet is in peril! It’s all our fault!”) is just too blatant to convince the unconvinced. Consider for example the way they describe PBs in their website. From the PB homepage, aptly titled “Tipping towards the unknown”:
Within these boundaries, humanity has the flexibility to choose pathways for our future development and well-being. In essence, we are drawing the first — albeit very preliminary — map of our planet´s safe operating zones. And beyond the edges of the map, we don´t want to go
- 2- DO PLANETARY BOUNDARIES EXIST?
According to SRC, no tipping point has been reached so far. That is, simply none of the expected “non-linear” changes of state has happened. What are we talking about, one wonders? Every “unacceptable environmental change” that would “drive the Earth System[…] abruptly into states deleterious or even catastrophic to human well-being” is firmly in the future.
The PB framework is only loosely connected to reality. In fact, too many of the foundations of the PB framework are taken for granted rather than demonstrated. Are we really in the “Anthropocene”? Only if we believe so. Can we seriously link Arctic ice extent and the increase of atmospheric CO2? (more about this later). Etc etc.
And in any case…do planetary thresholds/boundaries exist?
It is true that the simplest spinning top can show what a tipping poin is. On the other hand, is there anything about the environment or any of its aspects that suggests they behave like spinning tops? That is, do we have any example where a minor perturbation has resulted in a major shift from one relatively stable status to another relatively stable status?
Say, has the temporal evolution of any environmental indicator about the now-mostly-dry Aral Sea followed a similar path to the graphs used by SRC?
- 3 – WHAT COULD PLANETARY BOUNDARIES TELL US ABOUT THE REAL WORLD?
SRC admit that they can do quantifiable work in only seven out of nine PBs. In other words, discussions of PBs for “Biodiversity loss” and “Chemical pollution” are on the threshold of being science-free.
Among the remaining seven PBs, SRC state that only in three cases they have solid data to estimate the “threshold” has been “transgressed”. In other words, even if thresholds exist, there is little indication we are near danger for “Atmospheric aerosol loading”, “Biogeochemical flows”, “Global freshwater use” and “Land system change”.
Among the remaining three “transgressed” PBs, regarding “Ocean acidification” and “Stratospheric ozone depletion” the tipping point “into states deleterious or even catastrophic to human well-being” is still far away in the future.
Finally, for Climate Change, the one remaining PB where the threshold has been (perhaps) transgressed and the tipping point (perhaps) reached, all the SRC work appears to be pivoting around a single published work:
The author presents an empirical relation between annual sea-ice extent and global atmospheric CO2 concentrations, in which sea-ice reductions are linearly, inversely proportional to the magnitude of increase of CO2 over the last few decades
Hopefully the esteemed Johannessen will be magnanimous with whomever will state that his findings are contrary to other research, e.g. done by NASA.
Who knows, perhaps there is a case for awaiting more analysis and confirmatory studies? It is not one swallow that bringeth in summer.
- CONCLUSIONS – WHAT ARE PBs GOOD FOR?
Based on unremittingly pessimistic and undemonstrated assumptions, observation-free, with admittedly shaky foundations, and the one promising application based on a single article… would it be wise to follow SRC and base public policy on the concept of “Planetary Boundaries”?
One can expect the usual criticisms…who am I to dare critically reading some scientist’s work…
Thresholds are comforting for decision-makers […] But is a threshold really a good idea at all? […] Waiting to cross the threshold allows much needless environmental degradation. […] Unfortunately, policymakers face difficult decisions, and management based on thresholds, although attractive in its simplicity, allows pernicious, slow and diffuse degradation to persist nearly indefinitely […]
Schlesinger’s insight is important. The concept of “Planetary Boundaries” is written in the language policymakers will understand. On the other hand, under PB scientists and anybody caring about the environment become second-class players, in this paradoxical locking up of the study and preservation of our planet to the service of those who make “policy“.
That’s the way of the worst kind of management techniques, geared up to handle not what should be managed, rather just whatever happens to be measurable. A quick look at the proverbial efficiency and low costs of the British National Health System (NHS) will be enough to understand what can this all end up as.
Obviously, the PB concept is not unadulterated rubbish to be thrown away. Just as obviously, it is not (even remotely) the ultimate solution to our problems. My wild guess is that PB is valid and useful in two out of seven of the listed “boundaries”, but the thresholds need to be understood in terms of the range of possible scenarios (some good, some bad) that the reaching of the tipping point may bring.
And I realize that these questions do not have as much sense to most of the catastrophiliacs now, but let me ask their selves, reading this in 2029:
(1) Why were you scared silly of the future?
(2) On what logical basis did you take any possible change as something necessarily negative?
(3) Why did you fill your “scientific” thoughts of “tipping points” before having ever experienced even one of them?
At 10:33GMT, 3,916 IN and 4,836 OUT. Twelve hours later, it’s 10:36PM GMT, and 5,352 IN, 5,426 OUT. Even if there is nothing scientific in these onlines polls, considering also how lopsided the count was at the beginning of the day, one thing that is certain is that there are simply not enough AGW web users to counterbalance skepticism on their own
(I would not be surprised if in the long run the numbers will be higher on the AGW side…persuasion is the weapon of the AGW campaigner…)
PROVE IT! claims to provide “the evidence to decide where you stand”. Does it? One has to dig a lot in the site but it appears the evidence that the climate is changing rests solely on the increase in temperature “by 0.75 °C“. And the effects that should prove the climate is changing are dubious to say the least:
Rainfall patterns are changing. After three centuries of stability, sea level is now rising. Ice in the Arctic is melting further back year on year. Extreme weather, such as droughts and hurricanes, is becoming more common or more intense. The changing weather patterns are causing plants to flower earlier in the year and species to migrate as the climate in their habitats changes
If I happen to pass by the PROVE IT! exhibition, I will think of the best ways to rectify the Science of the science Museum on the topic…
A pleasant surprise in BBC Radio4’s “Start the Week” of Oct 19, 2009, with “Master of Game Theory” Prof. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, displaying that rare combination of AGW belief and optimism for the future.
Shortly, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (BBdM in the following) thinks the upcoming Copenhagen treaty won’t work and won’t matter (“will be forgotten in the twinkling of an eye“), and yet, we should be “most optimistic” about the future because “global warming […] induces a self-solving dominant strategy” and “new wind, rain, and solar technologies will be solving the problem for us“.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (BBdM in the following) can be heard in the Oct 19, 2009 programme (mp3) from around the 34th minute. The climate-change bit starts around the 37th minute and this is my transcript:
Marr: Let’s look at the other other to me fascinating prediction here, which is the Copenhagen Climate Change talk, about (which) the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) has been talking about in this country yesterday and everyone is focusing about. You say (A) it ain’t going to work and (B) oddly, that doesn’t matter very much
BBdM: Both correct. I would add a (C) that I am very cynical about politicians. We should be very disheartened by the way in which our political leaders are trying to deflect responsibility for dealing with global warming. So your Prime Minister and my President (Barack Obama) are calling for a universal global treaty at Copenhagen. Let’s take a very quick look at Kyoto. So Kyoto had 175 signatories not including the United States.
What do global treaties do? Well, if you think about self-interest, and these are self-interest (acts to co-ordinate among) nations, what you get is one of two consequences: either people sign an agreement which they will fully comply because it doesn’t ask them to change their behavior, or they will sign an agreement that does ask them to change their behavior, and the agreement will contain no mechanisms to punish them for failing.
So let’s look at Kyoto: 175 signatories, 137 were asked not to do anything…(laughter in the studio)…and they have complied (more laughter); 38 were asked to change their behavior and pretty much a lot of them, not all but a lot of them, came forward within a matter of weeks from Kyoto, the British Government did, the Japanese Government did, and so forth (saying) “We just can’t meet the standards. It’s such a pity. We would really have liked to but we just can’t do it.”. Now let’s ask ourselves: why don’t the politicians in the United States, Britain and so forth unilaterally cut back on greenhouse gas emissions if it is such a good idea? (short overlap of voices with Marr)
Marr: Very briefly, the reason (for being optimistic) is because there are market and technological solutions
BBdM: Technology will solve the problem
The last statement is understood with a short internet search. From the BBC programme’s synopsis:
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita uses game theory to foretell political, financial and even personal events in his new book Predictioneer: One Who Uses Maths, Science and the Logic of Brazen Self-interest to See and Shape the Future. Regularly consulted by the CIA and the US Department of Defence, Bruce is Professor of Politics at New York University. Predictioneer is published by The Bodley Head. Bruce is also giving a talk at the ICA on Monday 19 October at 7.00pm.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is one of the world’s most respected futurologists. He is here to lecture on the perilous business of futurology and how game theory can help understand everyday dilemmas.
This is the ICA introduction to the book “Predictioneer“:
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita can predict the future. He is a master of game theory. This book explores the origins of game theory as formulated by John Nash and develops these ideas to create a rigorous and pragmatic system of calculation that enables us to think strategically about what our opponents want, how much they want it, and how they might react to our every move. […]
The book “Predictioneer – One Who Uses Maths, Science and the Logic of Brazen Self-interest to See and Shape the Future” is available on Amazon.co.uk (published: 3 Sep 2009). On Amazon.com, where Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has its own Author’s Page, there is a “Predictioneer” book by the same author but with a different cover and slightly modified title, and publishing date 29 Sep 2009: “The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future“. Presumably it’s the usual story of an American and a UK edition, based on whatever the publishers think will attract the local readership (are Americans turned off by Maths and Science??).
The American edition of “Predictioneer” has “Look Inside!” enabled. There are several pages dedicated to Copenhagen and they by themselves already make “Predictioneer” a worthwhile book to read. The “optimism” bit starts at page 223:
If I sound downbeat, I am sorry. Actually, I am most optimistic for the future. My optimism, however, is despite – yup, despite – agreements like the ones struck in Bali or Kyoto or Copenhagen. These will be forgotten in the twinkling of an eye. They will hardly make a dent in global warming: they could even hurt by dealying serious changes. Roadmaps like the one set out at Bali make us feel good about ourselves becuase we did something. We looked out for future generations, we promised to do good – or did we? […] universal schemes do not put big change into motion. Their all-inclusiveness ensures that they reflect the converns of the lowest, not the highest, common denominator.
There follows an analysis similar to the one mentioned during Start the Week, until the conclusions at page 225:
So how might we solve global warming and make the world in five hundred years look attractive to our future selves? […] New wind, rain, and solar technologies will be solving the problem for us. Climate change due to global warming will add to our supply of rain, wind and fire, and if it raises the oceans […] then it also adds to our urge to exploit these ancirnet forcess just as their increades power makes us worry more […]
There is an equilibrium at which enough global warming – a very modest amount more than we may already have, probably enought to be here in fifty to a hundred year […] – will create enough additional sunshine in cold places, enough additional rain in dry places, enough additional wrind in still places, and , most important, enough additional incentives for humankind that windmills, solar panels, hudroelectriciity, asn as yet undiscovere technologies will be the good, cheap, evenly distribute, and clean meachasnisms to replace th efossil fuels we use today. Global warming, ijn other words, induces a self-solving dominant strategy […]
“Technology will solve the problem” has traditionally been dismissed as an argument for the last 100 years or so (despite overwhelming evidence in its support). Anyway…time will tell. And Bruce Bueno de Mesquita claims a 90% success rate.
We tried to correlate the width of the rings, i.e. the growth rate, to climatological factors like temperature. […] the relation of the rings to the solar cycle was much stronger than it was to any of the climatological factors we had looked at. We were quite hesitant at first, as solar cycles have been a controversial topic in climatology
Models of the boundary region between the heliosphere and interstellar medium have been based on the assumption that the relative flow of the interstellar medium and its collision with the solar wind dominate the interaction. This would create a foreshortened “nose” in the direction of the solar system’s motion, and an elongated “tail” in the opposite direction.
The Ion and Neutral Camera images suggest that the solar wind’s interaction with the interstellar medium is instead more significantly controlled by particle pressure and magnetic field energy density.
In other other news: the only thing that appears to be able to disprove AGW would be a series of Atlantic hurricane season with zero hurricanes. But that would mean ipso facto a change in global climate, thereby once again demonstrating…AGW!
Co-conveners: The 2009 Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference is being convened by The American Council for and Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE); the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE), University of California; and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), Stanford University.
This supports my hypothesis, pushed since the early 1990s, that the most active ’villain’ in the show is the technological research lobby, found in WG III of IPCC.
You have all been discussing WG 1! WG III (the solutions/ responses people) are served by WG 1, and is the place where the governments, NGOs and ‘technologists’ meet and propose the solutions..this is now down to one thing at last, a price for carbon above what? At least $40. It is much less at the moment, but please correct if you can find out.
As a political science student pointed out to me, in politics it is not unusual to have solutions searching for, and finding a problem.