FAQ 3.1 | Is the Climate Becoming More Extreme? […] None of the above instruments has yet been developed sufficiently as to allow us to confidently answer the question posed here.
Full text follows.
In its latest “Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)”, whose “Summary for Policymakers” (1) is dated November 18, 2011, the IPCC writes (my emphasis):
(p9) “Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame”
Therefore people trying right now to discern/portray climate change of the extreme variety, (“disasters [that] produce widespread damage and cause severe alterations in the normal functioning of communities or societies“, according to the IPCC – in other words the only changes of actual practical interest), are placing themselves outside mainstream science, perhaps out of naivety, perhaps due to personal gain.
In any case, not one of the usual suspects will lament such a manipulation of the best evidence we have. Who needs skeptics when believers are so determined to sustain each other through long-distance charades?
This is it, guys and gals. The IPCC is dead.
Either that, or following Piero Manzoni’s example the bowel movements of scientists should be labelled “scientific stool”. That’s the end result of going the authoritative way, believing anything coming out of a scientist is necessarily scientific.
Now, of course the death of the IPCC way means nothing regarding the reality of AGW, or of CAGW. We’ve wasted “only” 23 years, and countless more in the future whilst people keep trying to ride the dead IPCC horse.
In Andy Revkin’s “A ‘Shared Vision’ on Climate, With a Glitch“, our dear friend laments the distortion of the IPCC’s own conclusions in the Cancún “shared vision” draft, in particular in the statement:
Recognizes that warming of the climate system, as a consequence of human activity, is unequivocal, as assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report
OF COURSE, there is nothing of the sort in the IPCC AR4. Revkin writes “I’m not sure how the clause ‘as a consequence of human activity’ slipped in, but it shouldn’t be there” and concludes hoping “several [IPCC] scientists and Rajendra K. Pachauri” will “suggest a change” to correct such a “glitch“, even if “it’s minutiae“.
Here’s my comment posted at the NYT:
Andy – this is is not “glitch” #1, this must be “glitch” #267…say, have you ever tried to follow the trail from the IPCC’s 2007 statements on solar influences to what appears in newspapers and at policy conferences?
And all those “glitches” always go in the same direction. What more evidence do you need to realize that these “broken telephone” games:
- are biased from the start,
- make a mockery of climate science,
- undermine any effort to deal with future resource and disaster management challenges and
- (d) demean journalists that keep talking about them as “glitches” into the kind of people whom dodgy characters would like to sell a bridge to
Dipende da come uno se la voglia girare, suscitera’ sicuramente delle acrobazie linguistiche per dimostrare quando ci sia da essere comunque ottimisti sulla riduzione delle emissioni, ha gia’ provocato poco igieniche fughe nella paranoia da parte di alcuni commentatori…ma di una cosa tutti sono in fondo d’accordo: 45mila persone sono andate in Danimarca per due settimane piu’ o meno per parlare di cambiamenti climatici, hanno fatto una confusione incredibile, e sono riuscite a non arrivare assolutamente a niente.
Il documento finale firmato da USA, Cina, India, Brasile e (chissa’ perche’) Sudafrica non vale neanche la pena che sia commentato.
Un altro paio di Conferenze cosi’ e la Nazioni Unite fanno una strapessima fine.
The following is my translation of a talk given by Prof Luigi Mariani of the Agrometeorological Research Group, Dept. of Crop Science, University of Milan after a public screening of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, on 23 January in Comano, Italy.
The original text in Italian is available at this link: “Verità, mezze verità e menzogne – Un commento al documentario ‘Una verità scomoda’”
Al Gore vs. The Aristotelian Method – or The Moral Irrationality Of Climate Scaremongering
by Luigi Mariani
As a complete non-expert in the field of documentary movies, my opinion is that Gore is a natural born actor and “An Inconvenient Truth” (AIT, directed by David Guggenheim) such a well-paced work, that it is hard not to feel the involvement.
It places itself half-way between American Graffiti and the classical tale of the romantic hero, seasoned with a moral vision calling at times for a collective sense of responsibility for humankind. It is also full of slogans that sound great. All in all, AIT is a veritable testimony of faith in the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).
AGW is based on the theory that greenhouse gases are the key factor for climatic variability. In particular, according the AGW the rise in temperatures recorded in the past 150 years (after the end of the Little Ice Age) is caused by human emissions into the atmosphere, especially of carbon dioxide. One of the best known champions for AGW is the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Composed of scientists and government representatives, the IPCC supports a human cause for increased temperatures on the basis both of past climates’ reconstructions and of “forecasts” for up to 100 years in the future, made with mathematical models (Global Circulation Models – GCM). What is less widely known is that the IPCC’s is not the only way to take a look at climate (Mariani, 2008). With those premises, let’s analyze Gore’s documentary according to the three Aristotelian techniques (Wollf, 1995), ie logic, dialectic and rhetoric.
Logic (one may say, science) is the rational process reaching “true” conclusions starting from “true” statements and using demonstrations. Dialectic seeks the “truth” starting from conflicting ideas. Rhetoric is the art of persuading an audience of the “truth” an idea. My personal assessment for AIT is as follows: 10% science, 0% dialectic and 90% rhetoric. In other words, it is a well-polished work of propagandistic fiction.
Of science there is not a lot, because Gore is not a scientist and knows simply too little about Atmospheric Physics (even with Keeling in the background, the absence of any experience in actual scientific research is apparent). The sheer number of contradictions in Gore’s charts vs. words makes that all too evident. The graph showing CO2 concentrations over the last 650,000 years (in red) alongside temperatures (in blue) clearly indicates increased CO2 is an effect of warming and not a cause. Temperatures in Switzerland definitely increase but only from 1989: why would the greenhouse effect of CO2 show up only from that date, one wonders? Is there something else, perhaps, underneath Gore’s neat explanations?
I am really impressed by Gore’s light-mindedness in navigating among contradictory data. If he delivered the same ideas around the world in hundreds of speeches, how on Earth can it be possible that not even one person in the attendance has ever made Gore confront his own contradictions? Had he spent at least part of his precious time reading scientific literature or at least opening himself to a frank and open discussion with anybody aware of the complexities of climate science, I am sure he would have presented things in a different way.
Also note how many times Gore pushes on the ethics button, whilst anybody with a different mind on these topic is basically a person of lowly morals (a “skeptic”, a well-paid mouthpiece for Big Oil, etc). That’s why there is no dialectic at all.
What openness to dialogue could be expected from someone convinced of being the depository of an absolute truth? And what science can be done if there is no space for dialectic, and rhetorics is instead sprinkled away freely throughout AIT, even with the empathetic use of a series of private events (such as the emotional life stories of the son and the sister of Gore, and a retelling of his misadventures during the 2000 election?).
With not even an inch of dialectic lightening up AIT’s heavy chains of rhetoric, focusing on the scientific elements of the Gore-Guggenheim documentary becomes more important than ever. In this regard please note that all my comments below are based on data and bibliographical references from the scientific literature to date (January 2009). You may notice how this constrasts with Gore’s assertion that an analysis of over 928 scientific papers in international journals showed exactly 0% of them in disagreement with AGW. It should go without saying that most scientific work concerns limited areas of research. This is the way of science as there has to be a suspension of disbelief in respect of matters that are not covered by the available data. That alone explains why many scientists in their peer-reviewed articles express no actual opinion regarding the whole-planet interdisciplinary topic of research called climate science. And yet their silence is taken as consent.
Still, it is not really that difficult to find peer-reviewed scientific articles critical of AGW, focusing instead on the importance of solar activity (Shaviv, 2005), the role of land use (Pielke et al., 2007) and even the sensitivity of climate to changes in the underlying forcings (Lindzen and Giannitsis, 2002), to mention a few.
Let’s check Gore’s statements against current scientific understanding.
1. The ice cream shown in the cartoon melts not due to global but of urban warming effect (Mariani, 2008). If global temperatures have risen by 0.5C in a century, in a city like Milan they have increased by 2.5C, especially in the minima (at night, during the summer heatwaves, our cities are definitely less comfortable than in the past). So what’d be wrong in fighting urban warming? Is anybody afraid of interfering with “bricks”, since those make up the foundations of our economy?
2. In another animation, greenhouse gases trap the rays of the sun. Now, even if one should not be too picky in adapting science knowledge to the masses, still one should steer clear of anything capable mostly of entrenching further ignorance. The so-called “greenhouse effect” is due to components of atmosphere intercepting longwave radiation emitted from the planetary surface, and partly irradiating it back towards the ground. This is a phenomenon essential for life, contributions to which come from water vapor (55%), clouds (24%) and CO2 (14%) (Mariani, 2008). Considering CO2 alone (Mihre, 1998) and translating its increase in concentration into a rise in temperatures using the Stefan Boltzmann equation, the expected “global warming” will be less than 0.5C between today and the time when CO2 concentration will be double the pre-industrial levels. AGW mathematical models estimate a larger increase on the (unproven) assumption that CO2 increases correspond to great increases in water vapor and decreases in low clouds (and/or increases in high clouds).
3. Gore at one point says that we must get rid of “evil” greenhouse gases. Everybody must be made aware of the fact that CO2 is not a poison, rather it is a major foundation for life itself. Without CO2, there would be no photosynthesis and we would not have much if anything to eat. Vascular plants appeared during the Devonian era, with CO2 levels 20 to 30 times higher than current ones, and yet temperatures were not much different than today’s (Hetherington et al. 2005). And if there was no man at the time to call CO2 as a “cancer on the planet”, could anybody please explain on what grounds Devonian air was the way it was?
4. Gore indicates the melting of the Kilimanjaro glaciers as an unequivocal sign of AGW. However, according to Kaser et al. (2004) ice started declining on the tallest African mountain around 1880, probably because of land use changes (the destruction of forested areas) and a consequent change in available humidity and rainfall patterns.
5. Gore speaks of unprecedented melting of Arctic and Alpine glaciers as a symptom of Global Warming. What should be noted though is that an even more massive melting of Alpine glaciers took place between 7500 and 5500 years ago, during the so-called “postglacial optimum”, and then 1000 years ago, coinciding with the “medieval optimum” (Mariani, 2006). Many current glaciers originated during the “little ice age” period between 1500 and 1850 (Giraudi, 2005).
6. Gore argues that to allow CO2 to increase is deeply immoral. It would be interesting to ask for an opinion on such a claim by a plant of wheat, or a vine.
7. Gore argues that the European heatwave of 2003 is a perfidious effect of AGW and that it is the alarm bell for phenomena increasingly more common in the future. Chase et al (2006) have analyzed the frequency and persistence of major subtropical anticyclonic fronts of the kind that lingered on for much of the the summer in 2003. Their analysis covered 1979-2006 and a latitudinal band between 22° and 80° North. According to their findings similar or greater anomalies than 2003’s happen regularly and there is no significant trend in the annually affected area. What was different in 2003 was the structure of European urban areas, with high-rise buildings of stone and mortar, and very little, often not even properly irrigated green areas (Leroy Ladurie, 2004).
8. Gore mentions Hurricane Katrina as evidence that we are facing an increase in the destructiveness of hurricanes. However, U.S. statistics for 1900-2005 indicate a substantial lack of any trend (Pielke et al., 2008).
9. Gore says that AGW leads to an increase in rainfall and cites as unprecedented example the 930mm that fell upon Mumbai in just 24 hours. This assertion is false as a number of precedents have been recorded for decades (Cati, 1981). Among the highest global pluviometric records during the space of 24 hours: 1168mm in Beguio (Philippines, 14-15 July 1911); 1036mm in Cherrapungi (India, 14 June 1876); 1034mm in Funkiko (Taiwan, 31 August 1911); 975 mm in Thrall (Texas, 9 September 1921); 940 mm in Suva (Fiji, 9 August 1906). In Italy alone: 948 mm in Bolzaneto (Genoa, 7-8 October 1970); 750mm at the Reschenpass (9 October 1936) and 702 mm in Lentini (17 October 1952).
10. Gore talks of unprecedented cases of drowned polar bears. It is just very inconvenient for him to mention that Arctic temperatures reached similar values to present ones in the 1930s, and were higher in at least four occasions since the end of last ice age (Figure 1). If Polar bears survived then, perhaps they are capable of adapting themselves to periods of mild climate
11. Gore fears the spread of tropical diseases like malaria. Would anybody please remind him that in the middle of the “little ice age”, Oliver Cromwell died of malaria in London in 1658, killed by a disease that was endemic in the Thames region (Lamb, 1966). What is keeping Londoners healthy today, temperatures notwithstanding, are health policy measures (Reiter, 2008).
12. Gore talks of an increase in the level of the oceans. In truth, oceans have gone up by 1mm/year between 1900-1951, then decreased by approximately the same yearly amount up to 1980, and are now rising again, still by about 1mm per year (Mornera et al., 2004; Mornera, 2007). That translates in 10 cm in a century, far less than needed for submerging entire regions (such as the Netherlands or Florida, shown in what is a veritable moment of fiction during AIT). Note that even with CO2 levels significantly lower than current ones, abnormally high sea levels happened 125,000 years ago, with up to +6 meters compared to today (IPCC, 2007); 7000 years ago, up to +2 meters (Törnqvist et al., 2004) and 1000 years ago, up to +0.5 meters (Froede, 2002).
13. Gore raises concerns about floods, droughts and storms: computerized GCMs present those scenarios, something in my opinion still all to be proven. However, even taking them as true, don’t they also show temperatures rising more at the Poles than in the tropical regions? And doesn’t that translate into a contraction of the pole-equator thermal gradient, the main trigger of general circulation and energy source for the smaller circulatory structures that make up the weather? One would then expect a reduction in extremes, not an increase.
14. Just to be clear, the father of the theory of continental drift was Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), a meteorologist and a disciple of Koeppen, a great climatologist), not any one of Gore’s classmates. Wegener’s own story (expelled from his University post in Germany as an advocate of a theory considered heresy by most of the “scientific community” in his days) is a clear example of the importance of a free, unimpeded scientific debate for the advancement of knowledge, rather than ever more clumsy attempts at silencing whoever does not follow “scientific consensus”
15. Gore cites Mark Twain “Danger comes not from what we know not, but from what we believe to be true but it is not”. A formidably true sentence if there’s ever been one, and even more so concerning AGW, a field about which there still is so much room for uncertainty, in my opinion. Having read Mark Twain (see for example his story “How the Animals of the Wood Sent Out a Scientific Expedition“) I can imagine how little trust would he put into a “dominant scientific theory” such as AGW.
Last but not least, global warming as such has stopped in 1998 (warmest year ever, with a very strong El Nino phenomenon). Global temperature data similar to 2008’s happened in 1996 (see the satellite MSU data in Figure 2).
Discussion and conclusions
Regarding such a complex system as climate, no serious scientist can claim absolute certainty. Doubt is inevitable, actually functional for the growth of knowledge. Perhaps that is why Guggenheim’s documentary is led by Al Gore, a politician mandated to hide all doubts and trained from an early age into rhetoric as a tool to convince the masses. That is the exact opposite of scientists, trained instead to be wary of any truth and to criticize and verify existing “dominant” theories. Modern science sprung also from the ideas and experiences of Copernicus and Galileo, as recently reiterated by Claude Allègre in a beautiful article published by Le Monde in October 2006 (C. Allègre, 2006). The history of science is like a graveyard of once-popular theories, now outdated, and that more often than not have allowed an increase in the understanding of the world exactly by being proven erroneous.
Let me finish then with the following question: is there an ethical aspect in all of the above? Yes, there is, but not in the sense claimed by Gore and repeatedly reaffirmed by his followers.
When all efforts are concentrated into a single all-pervasive issue, attention is distracted from the real problems, and solution to any of those prevented. Mental energy dissipated in analyzing false concerns is simply not there to confront real ones. As clear an example as any, the attitude after the 2003 European heatwave: having failed to recognize the importance of urban rather than global warming, no measures will be taken to counteract the real cause. For example in Milan (of which Gore is now honorary citizen, by no coincidence (Tiezzi, 2008)), houses are being allowed to rise up by an additional floor, further preventing cooling at night, which means of course that the city will be even more hot in future heatwaves.
AIT offers no science-based evaluation of what issues are really at stake: it is in fact its exact opposite, more likely part of a neo-Apocalyptic mindset that distorts the scale of importance of our issues and is capable of contributing little or nothing to the solution of actual problems currently facing humanity. And it will open up the field to speculators, including (not by chance) the same Big Oil denounced by Gore as guilty of financing the “non-scientists”’ efforts to deny the “Inconvenient Truth”.
Granting the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize together to a politician (Al Gore) and a supposedly scientific organization (the IPCC) has simply reinforced the idea that the IPCC itself and AGW in general are heavily constrained by politics. And for this topic, I refer you to Professor John Christy’s “My Nobel Moment” (2007) article on The Wall Street Journal.
Christy has long worked within the IPCC and his insider’s view is definitely useful to enlighten the issue of AGW.
“…I’m sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never “proof”) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.
There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don’t find the alarmist theory matching observations….
…Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, “Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .’”
I haven’t seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer…
… California and some Northeastern states have decided to force their residents to buy cars that average 43 miles-per-gallon within the next decade. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.
Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world’s energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 — roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It’s a dent.
But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?
My experience as a missionary teacher in Africa opened my eyes to this simple fact: Without access to energy, life is brutal and short. The uncertain impacts of global warming far in the future must be weighed against disasters at our doorsteps today. Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus 2004, a cost-benefit analysis of health issues by leading economists (including three Nobelists), calculated that spending on health issues such as micronutrients for children, HIV/AIDS and water purification has benefits 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit “global warming.”
Given the scientific uncertainty and our relative impotence regarding climate change, the moral imperative here seems clear to me.
Christy’s article’s moral stance is incomparably superior to Gore’s rhetoric-filled documentary. Who in their right mind would ever argue against the necessity of consistently pursuing health policies, water resource management, energy sources’ differentiation, and food security starting from a rational assessment based on available data, instead of Gore’s neo-Apocalyptic grandstanding?
BIBLIOGRAPHY (partly not in English)
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le rechauffement de la terre est suspécte. On ne peut accepter l’idée d’une verité incontestable et officielle. Le Monde,
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present at Key Biscayne, Florida: Geology, v. 30, p. 203–206.
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Rivista di storia dell’agricoltura, anno XLVI, n.2, 3-42.
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Figure 1 – Central Greenland temperatures from the end of last ice age to present (Alley, 2000). Four large warm episodes are noticeable: medieval optimum (1), Roman warm period (2), Mycenean warm period (3) and postglacial optimum (4). Last 90 years of data extracted from the GISP2 set by Cuffey and Clow (1997).
Figura 2 – Global temperature measured with the UAH MSU sensors (source: University of Alabama in Huntsville – http://mclean.ch/climate/Tropos_temps.htm)
[…] In earlier years of reporting climate change, news media were regularly accused of attributing any unusual or extreme weather events to climate change – and often the accusations were justified. […]
some scientists have on occasion gone beyond the data in arguing that climate change will bring global catastrophe […]
clearly, highly intelligent, highly educated people can look at the same set of scientific evidence and come to radically different conclusions – not, perhaps, on the basic issue of whether climate change is or isn’t happening, but certainly on what the pace is likely to be and what threat it poses. […]
These are all disparate elements of a complex picture. How do you rate them? Which do you regard as more or less important?
We are back to what you believe; and if Chris Field sees catastrophe in the picture before him, he is entitled to say so, just as Vicky Pope or Mike Hulme are entitled to urge restraint. […]
On this issue of climate understanding as a (personal) belief, I would especially like to quote the last part of Black’s blog:
Individual pieces of research rarely prove anything by themselves […] In the meantime, scientists, politicians and Joe and Joanna Bloggs down the pub are all entitled to give their own assessments, and often there is a fair amount of belief involved, even for the scientists.
To me, there’s little wrong with that. It’s what we do with politics and football and music and film, and I don’t see why climate discourse should be different.
There are facts out there, and we should recognise them as such, just as we should with medicine and social issues and economics; but there is freedom to believe too, and that, the last time I looked, was supposed to be a universal human right.
In other words, Black is saying that climatology is a “soft science”, just as the Social sciences, Economics (and may I dare suggest for personal experience, much of Medicine). He may have even claimed that the “climate discourse” is akin to pub-based football analysis, but personally I really do not want to go in that direction!!
Now, before the usual voices are heard, let me state that I do not consider “soft” to be a demeaning word for a “science”. Of course we would all want to have all sciences as precise and cast-in-stone as Mathematics, and Physics is perhaps the clearest example of what comes closest to the “ideal” concept of a “hard science”.
But there is no point in wasting time in the realm of the impossible: there are areas of knowledge that can only be dealt with in a “soft” manner. As argued by Massimo Pigliucci for “Rationally Speaking“, under the headline “Strong Inference And The Distinction Between Soft And Hard Science” (Jan 27, 2009), perhaps it’s just that the more complex the phenomenon, the more “soft” its science.
Still, if one recognizes Climatology as a “soft science”, then there is absolutely no meaning in oft-repeated claims such as “the science is settled” and “all skeptics are crank, corrupt and/or perverts“. A soft science, by definition, cannot be settled. Its conclusions are ultimately a matter of belief.
Observationally, they have nothing to show to support their claims of upcoming climate disasters. Scientifically, they got it mixed up and regularly distort what Science is and is not showing. In practice, they are using persuasion tools developed to save pandas and the Hudson river, and those are the wrong ones because Anthropogenic Global Warming is not a species in peril now or a river polluted at the present, but a risk for the end of the century.
No wonder then, Climate Change activists have been fighting a mostly political battle for at least two decades. And the main objective appears time and again to force their solutions upon us, and to stifle all forms of dissent.
In desperation, what else have they got?
If the Gods of Olympus subscribed to the New York Review of Books, they would surely be laughing hard after reading the unwitting ironies peppering Bill McKibben’s “Green Fantasia” review of Thomas L Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America”.
One wonders if Mr. McKibben will find a way to display less hubris, and more wisdom next time around.
I will focus here on what I see as the two most glaring examples: first of all, about Katrina, the 2005 hurricane that devastated New Orleans and, in the words of Mr McKibben, “woke Friedman from his nap”.
At that point, Mr McKibben (who should have known better) implicity concedes Mr Friedman’s point: making a direct connection between Katrina, and human-induced Climate Change.
[Friedman:] “Have we introduced so much CO2 into nature’s operating system that we no longer know where nature stops and we start in shaping today’s weather”. [McKibben:] Well, indeed we have.
But no serious scientist will confirm that Katrina was caused by (anthropogenic) Climate Change. Within the IPCC itself, the question of “attribution” (how to identify the “signature” of Climate Change in the weather of today, rather than the climate in 15 or 20 years’ time) is still open, and no doubt we will hear more about it in the months leading to the December 2009 Copenhagen Conference.
After all, Katrina was a relatively average Category-3 hurricane when it struck the New Orleans area. And even if 2005 saw a record hurricane season, neither that nor the “duds” of 2006 and 2007 can be used as evidence for or against Climate Change.
In truth, Mr McKibben should have forcefully corrected Mr Friedman on Katrina, as it is extremely unwise to try to solve Climate Change, that he defines as the “most severe of our challenges”, starting from incorrect premises. In fact, by propagating the idea that New Orleans was destroyed by Climate Change, Mr McKibben and Mr Friedman help the real culprits “off the hook”, including the extreme lack of organization in the rescue efforts, of which FEMA’s now-legendary incompetence will forever be indicated as the most damning example.
Another point where Mr McKibben will surely regret his words, concerns “the largest story of the year, and indeed the dominant new trendline of our time”. Dire financial straits for the majority of the world’s economies, perhaps? No: “the sharply rising cost of oil”.
Evidently, Mr McKibben submitted the article long before Lehman Brothers went bust alongside the country of Iceland, before it became normal to hear of hundreds of billions of dollars being handled out to avoid a Depression-Mark II; and before the “cost of oil” sharply stumbled back to below $60 a barrel. No fault there.
The real irony is that Mr McKibben comments that Mr Friedman’s book is “out of date even before it’s published”: that is, exactly what McKibben’s article is. Images of motes and beams spring to mind…also, is it true that “we’re [possibly] starting to run out [of oil]”? Well, yes, it is possible. But as the precipituous fall in oil prices has shown, that was not the reason for barrels to be traded at more than $140 just a few weeks ago.
A final consideration on Mr McKibben’s polemic against Mr Friedman’s “optimism”, “the great imperative of the conventional wisdom”: the alternative to which is alas left unexplored.
Is Bill McKibben advocating “pessimism” by any chance? And what kind of pessimism, one asks? Obviously (or not?) McKibben is not the type to elicit apathy and desperation by advocating a frame of mind where everything we do is useless, because too little, and too late. Therefore: if “Global Warming, above all, should give one pause” (emphasis in the original), what is the next action (if there is any) after that pause has finished?
And by the way…the reason for Mr Friedman’s optimism can be found with a simple search in The New York Times archives, in the May 11, 2008 “Mother’s Day” column:
“But every time life knocked [my mother] down, she got up, dusted herself off and kept on marching forward, motivated by the saying that pessimists are usually right, optimists are usually wrong, but most great changes were made by optimists”
And so to you Bill McKibben…what would you rather be? “Usually right”, or able to “[make] great changes”?
What happens when somebody finally gets down to identify actual climatic patterns in a specific area, without the AGW/GHG credo?
This is what happens: Static and Dynamic Agroclimatology in the Veneto region – Analysis of the 1956-2004 period, PhD thesis by Alessandro Chiaudani
(Main text is in Italian, but there is a summary in English between pages 8 and 9, and most graphs should be self-explanatory).
In particular one of Chiaudani’s findings may sound truly ironic:
an important aspect of climate evolution is represented by abrupt changes with different phases separated by break-points
In other words, at regional level it is possible to identify…TIPPING POINTS…that make local climate switch from one “climatic homogeneous phase” and another.
Results show the existence of a climatic breakpoint in the ’80 with a consequent change of climatic phase. This change point is particularly evident for temperatures and evapotranspiration […] The evidence of a change of phase in the ’80 is strengthened by (i) analysis of phenological data regarding some Veneto crops (grapevine, maize and soft wheat) (ii) analysis of climatic data of other Italian regions (Emilia Romagna and Piemonte) (iii) climatic and phenological analyses referred to other European regions
So it is exactly by throwing out the fashionable all-encompassing fixation with CO2, and by looking for breakpoints in some measured climate-related variables, that Chiaudani is able to identify specific climatic changes, rather than the usual vague scenarios of increasing floods and drought episodes.
However, Chiaudani’s work is not compatible with the ever-increasing temperature trends that are part-and-parcel of the AGW crowd.
And whatever Hansens has to say about tipping points, the existence of one of them around 1980 cannot easily live together with the notion that we are slowly but steadily bringing the whole planet to ruin by emitting CO2, and a catastrophe is looming (Chiaudani finds some interesting correlation between the 1980’s climatic changes the winter-time NAO index, and the EAWR – East Atlantic West Russian index).
Hence, as supreme paradox, for once that there is evidence for climate change, do not expect it to be any popular among people that blame human activities for…climate change.
Well, sort of…after all, they just had their “elections“. And the individual countries’ did push hard to get the best seats for next round of reporting:
Each round of the IPCC assessment process kicks off with an election, where national delegations vote for the panel’s chairman, the co-chairs of its three working groups —which respectively deal with climate science, impacts and adaptation, and mitigation — and an array of vice-chairs.
But after last year’s glory, this time countries eagerly sought seats on the prestigious panel. According to Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology in California and new co-chair of Working Group II, nations stake “a flag in the ground” when they commit a big-name expert — and corequisite staff and funding, in the case of wealthy nations — to support the panel.
If that’s not a series of political machinations, then what is? Like in politics, one doesn’t have to be competent to get the top jobs. In fact, there is now at least one Working Group chaired by two people that are officially not experts in the field:
Some were surprised, however, that Working Group II will be led by two physical scientists — Chris Field and Vicente Barros, a University of Buenos Aires hydrologist — rather than by a social scientist or economist. Field, known for his research on carbon cycles, “is very much a natural scientist,” says Colin Prentice, a geoscientist at the University of Bristol, UK. “It’s a big change for him.”
Working Group II’s remit is about “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability“.
The good thing is that whenever their fifth report comes out, I’ll be able to claim to know about the subject as much as the IPCC’s own Working Group Chairmen!
Nel rapporto IPCC 2007 (AR4-WG2):
(a) Il 96% dei cambiamenti riportati e’ avvenuto in Europa
(b) Per tutta l’Africa, hanno trovato solo 7 cambiamenti
(c) Per Australia e Nuova Zelanza, solo 6 cambiamenti
(d) Per l’Asia, il continente piu’ grosso, solo 114 cambiamenti
In termini di cambiamenti per kmq, l’Europa ne ha:
1- 11,978 piu’ dell’Africa
2- 85 piu’ del Nord America
3- 853 piu’ del Sud America
4- 1,066 piu’ dell’Asia
5- 3,702 piu’ di Australia e Nuova Zelanda
6- 270 piu’ dell’Antartide
Se anche escludiamo l’Europa, e ci riferiamo al Nord America, quest’ultimo ha:
1- 142 piu’ cambiamenti per kmq dell’Africa
2- 10 piu’ del Sud America
3- 12 piu’ dell’Asia
4- 43 piu’ di Australia e Nuova Zelanda
5- 3 piu’ dell’Antartide
Insomma quando all’IPCC si parla di “verifica globale” si sta dicendo una grossa esagerazione. Prima di parlare di “globale” occorrerebbe studiare per bene l’Africa, l’Asia, l’Australia, la Nuova Zelanda, e il Sud America. Per un totale dei due terzi delle terre emerse.
What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?
Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:
I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.
And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).
“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.
But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.
If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.
If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.
Gavin Schmidt writes at RealClimate
“The obvious ineptitude of this contribution underlines quite effectively how little debate there is on the fundamentals if this is the best counter-argument that can be offered.”
But it has been my impression that the main story, Monckton’s press releases notwithstanding, has been (and still is) the FPS Editor remarking that there is a considerable number of scientists skeptical of the IPCC conclusions.
The FPS Executive Committee now states on the FPS July 2008 page that they do not agree with the previous remark, suggesting it is all a matter of opinion.
However, with the APS jumping in against Monckton’s paper with red inks (thankfully now turned to black), and more than one call for the FPS Editor to be “fired” from his volunteer position for the mere reason that he made that remark, I wonder what kind of “debate” could at all be possible?
Actually, I’d rather the APS had replied with Gavin’s words “The obvious ineptitude of this contribution etc etc” challenging any of its readers to come up with something better than Monckton’s.
That would have given debate a chance. As things stand, I pretty much doubt any against-consensus contribution would appear on the FPS in the future, even were such a contribution to surface (and am sure, it won’t: otherwise yet more people’s bosses will receive e-mails asking to “fire the heretics”, an ominous metaphore it there’s ever been one)
More figures to understand how awfully incomplete is the current knowledge of global climate.
And it’s very clear for all to see in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report – Working Group 2 (AR4-WG2), in Chapter 1 and in the Summary for Policymakers.
A bumper 96% of reported changes are from Europe and Europe alone. And what does that mean?
It means that for the whole of Australia/New Zealand, the IPCC could find only 6 significant changes (SC). For the whole of Africa, 7 SCs. For the whole of Latin America, 58 SCs. For the whole of Asia, 114SCs.
In terms of SC per square kilometer, Europe has:
1- 11,978 more than Africa
2- 85 more than North America
3- 853 more than South America
4- 1066 more than Asia
5- 3,702 more than Australia/New Zealand
6- 270 more than Antarctica
But one may reply to that, I am putting too much emphasis on the 28,000+ European biological SCs.
Let’s recompute the above with reference to North America then. In terms of SC per square kilometer, North America has:
1- 142 more than Africa
2- 10 more than South America
3- 12 more than Asia
4- 43 more than Australia/New Zealand
5- 3 more than Antarctica
It is blazingly blatant that before we can speak of global warming, more data has to be collected at least about Africa/Asia/Australia-New Zealand/South America .
We are talking 67% of the total land area of the planet.
Is anybody in the IPCC/Al Gore/James Hansen/Tim Flannery crowd pushing hard to get a complete picture of what is changing where and how?
With their over-the-top reaction to the publication on one of their newsletter of Monckton’s ideas on climate sensitivity, the APS leaders have shown themselves not stupid…
…because a “stupid” is somebody that damages others without a gain for himself: whilst the APS has only damaged itself.
Look at the “peer-reviewed” issue. Monckton is likely to be behind a wildly-exaggerated press release by the SPPI
Mathematical proof that there is no “climate crisis” appears today in a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 46,000-strong American Physical Society, SPPI reports.
Should have been child’s play to issue a counter-release explaining that there cannot be any mathematical proof in a scientific field (outside of mathematics, that is); that “Physics and Society” is a newsletter, and not a “learned journal”; and that Monckton’s invited article was only part of the beginning of a debate.
Look what’s happened instead: Monckton is now perfectly in the right to state that he’s been unfairly, and uncourteously treated. He’s been invited to write an article that has been published, that then caused APS to undergo all sorts of fits, including a series of unwarranted put-downs plastered all over the place in apparent panic.
In fact: at this very moment both Monckton’s article and the IPCC-consensus piece by Hafemeister and Schwarz sport on top the following statement in black ink (my emphasis) (this is similar to what appeared in red ink on Monckton’s article alone):
The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters. The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”
Something similar has materialized at the beginning of the FPS July 2008 issue’s web page:
The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer- reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee
Physics and Society is the quarterly of the Forum on Physics and Society, a division of the American Physical Society. It presents letters, commentary, book reviews and reviewed articles on the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society.
Now..what is the difference between peer-reviewed and reviewed?
Is there such a thing in scientific circles as an article reviewed but not by peers?
Has anybody ever heard of an inferior-reviewed article? Or of a superior-reviewed article? Who knows?
Looks like at the APS they have been cavalier with the issue of reviewing, until now. But if they need to sort out their own house, it should be for the future, and not for the past (unless they want to go against the principle of cause and effect).
And so Monckton on one thing is certainly right: for all intents and purposes, maybe the wrong way, maybe without thinking at the consequence, but Monckton’s article has been peer-reviewed indeed.
This is too funny to pass. Message just sent to the BBC:
Hi – you are using the wrong picture to accompany one article about the Ofcom ruling on the “Global Warming Swindle” documentary.
Obviously, you should have used the more recent IPCC (2007) temperature graph, as per your own website
That graph is published in the BBC News website’s “Climate Change: The evidence“.
Please have it fixed asap. After all, the article with the wrong picture is about…accuracy in the media!!
regards – maurizio
It didn’t take long for critiques to Monckton’s article at the FPS to appear. But I am inclined to believe that they are pretty much irrelevant.
what is the point of shooting against Monckton when the real offending statement for AGWers, the one that elicited all the “blogosphere brouhaha”, was written by FPS editor Jeffrey Marque?
There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution
Without the above, there would have been no NewsBusters article, no DailyTech comment, etc etc…
Monckton is one, a “considerable presence” is MANY
Many thanks to Ed Darrel at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for pointing once again to the extraordinarily compelling case put together by Patrick Frank in “A Climate of Belief“, an article for the Skeptic society’s online magazine, Vol.14, no.1, May 2008, that:
the claim that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the current warming of Earth climate is scientifically insupportable because climate models are unreliable
I had mentioned it at the time but had not had the time or memory to read it again. For those in need of a quick, heavily emphasized (by me) quote:
The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism. And aren’t we much better off accumulating resources to meet urgent needs than expending resources to service ignorant fears?
Here a longer extract, from the final remarks (my emphasis):
It’s not that we, “lack … full scientific certainty,” it’s that we lack any scientific certainty. We literally don’t know whether doubling atmospheric CO2 will have any discernible effect on climate at all.
If our knowledge of future climates is zero then for all we know either suppressing CO2 emissions or increasing them may make climate better, or worse, or just have a neutral effect. The alternatives are incommensurate but in our state of ignorance either choice equally has two chances in three of causing the least harm. Complete ignorance makes the Precautionary Principle completely useless. There are good reasons to reduce burning fossil fuels, but climate warming isn’t one of them.
Some may decide to believe anyway. “We can’t prove it,” they might say, “but the correlation of CO2 with temperature is there (they’re both rising, after all), and so the causality is there, too, even if we can’t prove it yet.” But correlation is not causation, and cause can’t be assigned by an insistent ignorance. The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism. And aren’t we much better off accumulating resources to meet urgent needs than expending resources to service ignorant fears?
So, then, what about melting ice-sheets, rising sea levels, the extinction of polar bears, and more extreme weather events? What if unusually intense hurricane seasons really do cause widespread disaster? It is critical to keep a firm grip on reason and rationality, most especially when social invitations to frenzy are so pervasive. General Circulation Models are so terribly unreliable that there is no objectively falsifiable reason to suppose any of the current warming trend is due to human-produced CO2, or that this CO2 will detectably warm the climate at all. Therefore, even if extreme events do develop because of a warming climate, there is no scientifically valid reason to attribute the cause to human-produced CO2. In the chaos of Earth’s climate, there may be no discernible cause for warming. Many excellent scientists have explained all this in powerful works written to defuse the CO2 panic, but the choir sings seductively and few righteous believers seem willing to entertain disproofs
I can’t help but laugh at the incredible somersaults being performed by the Council of the American Physical Society (APS) to reaffirm thieir unshakeable belief in AGW, after allowing the publication in their “Forum on Physics & Society” (FPS) of an article by Christopher Monckton, “Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered“.
Note: there is one thing I agree with the APS. Monckton’s paper has not undergone any scientific peer review. You see, he’s a Lord (a Viscount, no less) whilst on the “Council of the APS”‘s side there is obviously no trace of nobility. They have been “discorteous” indeed.
Time will tell about the position (and nobility) of Jeffrey Marque, the Editor of the FPS that has seen his July 2008 comments severely rebuked by the Executive Committee of the FPS. Who’s going to choose what will be published in the October 2008 issue, is anybody’s guess.
Interestingly, the FPS and the APS did not make too much of a fuss in the past, when publishing “heretical” climate-related opinions. For an example, see Gerald E. Marsh’s “Climate Stability and Policy” in April 2008.
Mr Marsh is not exactly your average AGW proponent: he argues that current CO2 levels are too low and contributing to climate instability, suggests that even 750ppmv could still be not enough to stop an upcoming, catastrophic Ice Age. and recommends that the IPCC switch its focus towards “determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide concentrations that will stabilize the climate, and extend the current interglacial period indefinitely”.
For some reason, the above did not cause any digestive pain at the FPS, either with its Editor, with its Executive Committee, or with the Council of the APS itself.
Is Monckton’s paper simply too hot to handle? Plenty of nutrients for conspiracy theorists there, no doubt.
An open letter to the Planetary “Sponsored Global Warming” Society
Dear Directors of the Planetary Society, dear Editors of the society magazine “The Planetary Report”
Your decision to dedicate a whole issue of the Planetary Report magazine to Planet Earth is commendable.
Too often one forgets that for the study of the universe there is a celestial body available to study 24/7, without the need for expensive trips to outer space. And that “body” is our own planet, the “cradle of humanity”.
All “missions to planet Earth” in the forms of orbital satellites and probes are worthwhile almost de facto, as new data can help us better understand our “motherworld”, and together with the accompanying experience may allow us to build the satellites and probes needed to explore the rest of the Solar System, and beyond.
But the July/August issue of the Planetary Report is not a celebration of past “missions to planet Earth” nor a comprehensive description of all the challenges lying ahead, and of all the questions still unanswered about our planet.
It’s just a collection of articles about global warming.
Is that what I and surely many other members await two long months for, every time? (and yes, I do follow Emily Lakdawalla’s blog).
Let’s assume “global warming” is indeed a big planetary issue, if not an emergency. Is it not talked about already in countless newspaper articles, movies, Nobel Prize wins, parliamentary sessions the world over, and now even a major topic of discussion at the G-8 “major industrialized nations” meeting?
And what purpose could it ever serve for a space-advocacy group to throw in its lot, especially since the issue has become so heavily politicized? Then one reads behind the magazine’s cover, and the “partial sponsorship” by Northrop Grumman Corporation starts explaining things.
After all, They are definitely not the first ones to jump on the “global warming bandwagon”, as demonstrated by a recent article on the International Herald Tribune. In the Planetary Report, they are the Company using the picture of a polar bear to advertise on the back cover that their “satellites above are safeguarding life below”.
Too bad though, Northrop Grumman Corporation wouldn’t survive a week by sticking to the environmental satellites market, and has to build some other pieces of hardware far less safeguarding for the lives experiencing a close encounter with their weapons.
But the problem is not with Northrop Grumman. The issue is what is the Planetary Society doing by jumping head first in the “global warming” debate, and also how it is doing it: because oversimplifications and mistakes abound. And that is definitely a no-no for something like the Planetary Society, that bases all its work of course on Science and on precision.
Here a quick list of observations:
(1) Contrary to what the Editor Charlene M. Anderson writes in the opening column, the Earth’s climate is not being recorded as undergoing a “steady warming”. There has been no warming in the past 10 years. Previous decades have seen warming and cooling episodes. If we are undergoing a warming, it’s definitely “not steady”
(2) In “Earth is, after all, a planet”, Charles F Kennel talks about “moving from knowledge to action”, because “human actions change our planet in ways that are not beneficial”. Note that certitude in those words. Does Mr Kennel realize that those words could be used to demonstrate there is no real need for more satellites to observe our planet? On the other hand: if the “global perspective” can “be found only in space” and therefore more satellites are needed indeed, what is the certitude on global warming based upon?
(3) Editor Charlene M. Anderson is then back in action with a “Venus and Mars, Earth’ s sister worlds” box making improbable connections between Venus’s clouds of sulphuric acid and acid rains on Earth (the two phenomena have little in common apart from elementary chemistry) and between Mars’s tenuous atmosphere and the Antarctic “ozone hole” (UV levels for the former are way higher than for the latter).
(4) In the same piece, we are told that Mars and Venus have shown us how “fragile, precious and unique” Earth is: I am not sure how anybody familiar with the evidence of periodical “asteroidal bombardments” on the surface of the vast majority of solar system bodies could define Earth as “fragile”, given that it has deleted almost all traces of four billion years of impact.
(5) Finally some fresh air in Michael D King’s “The Earth’s changing environment as seen from space” that actually is a list of all that can be done with satellites to monitor our planet. King’s piece is a good reminder of what it means to stick to the facts, instead of trying to “knit” one’s preferred interpretation around them. On the same tone, Editor Charlene M. Anderson’s box “Here, there and not quite everywhere” about analogies (rather than forecasts of doom) between what is seen on Earth and what happens on other planets and on natural satellites.
(6) Things turn to the worse with 6 pages given to Richard J Sommerville to explain the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We are told that it is “90% certain” that us humans have caused “Earth’s atmosphere to warm up in recent decades” by emitting “greenhouse gases” in all our activities: too bad there is no space to explain where is this 90% figure coming from, for example why not 85.6% or 92.4%. We are just told it means “very likely” (why not stick to those words then).
(7) Furthermore, in the section “Recognizing climate change” Sommerville does nothing of the sort, and instead further dwells in the IPCC statements, before listing a rather selective group of observations (he forgets to mention the expansion of Antarctic ice, for example). And then after stating that “the IPCC does not specifically forecast what the climate will do”, Sommerville nevertheless writes that “sea level will rise perhaps by 18 to 59 centimeters”, with uncertainties due to scientists being unable to “assess the potential for further sea level rise”. Perish the thought of being unable to assess the potential for lower-than-expected sea level rise…
(8 ) In section “Absolute certain truth” we are told that the IPCC is “simply an honest and competent assessment of published peer-review science”. Hopefully so. But then on what basis did the IPCC get the Nobel Peace Prize? Not to mention the fact, reported by Sommerville, that the IPCC Working Group reports are approved line-by-line by governmental representatives.
The IPCC must have performed the miracle of uniting “honest”, “competent” and “government” under the same roof for the first time in history.
(9) The pictures accompanying Sommerville’s articles seem chosen for old-style PR purposes. There is a refinery emitting gases (those are not greenhouse gases); impressive satellite pictures before and after cyclone Nargis (that had nothing to do with climate change); and another satellite picture of the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica seemingly breaking up into icebergs (there is little indication that the southernmost continent is warming at all, apart from its Peninsula).
Ironically, there are other ways to advocate for more “missions to planet Earth”, rather than parroting the most trite global warming slogans.
For example, there is no mention in the Planetary Report issue of the first chapter of the IPCC’s Working Group Two report, where it is clearly shown that the overwhelming majority of data confirming the climate is changing come from Europe alone.
We are talking 96% of evidence coming from 7% of the planet’s land area.
A major Earth observation plan is definitely in order: for the most basics of reasons, in order to observe and understand what is truly happening. If the first step instead is to declare our knowledge more or less settled, a couple of satellites will suffice.
(10) As Berrien Moore III writes in the final article “As riders on the Earth together”, “to act wisely we require information and understanding”. Whoever is worried about global warming, they better concentrate on getting more environmental satellites up there, instead of declaring as a matter of principle that “we simply must take some of the pressure off Earth” as Mr Moore unfortunately states at the end of his article.
Tellingly, we Members of the Society are not provided anything else from this issue of the Planetary Report. No Society news, no items on sale, no information about upcoming events, nothing about existing projects. Perhaps those folks at Northrop Grumman didn’t want to pay for the additional couple of pages. Or perhaps if climate change is afoot, all other activities of the Society will not be of interest any longer.
maurizio morabito – london (uk)
Very funny and inspired yesterday John Tierney in his parody of a letter to Al Gore about the upcoming opera based on his book “An Inconvenient Truth“.
No prize to guess who the main character Prince Algorino is meant to resemble closely…
Much fanfare on Nature and elsewhere about a paper by Rosenzweig et al that appears to be a re-hash of chapter 1 of the IPCC AR4-WG2 report.
Now, there is one thing that is very evident: the vast majority of reported changes are about Europe.
Nature reporter Emma Marris admits “the bulk of the observations come from Europe”. That statement is somewhat incomplete. In the IPCC report, for example, there are, from Europe, 28,115 observed biological changes out of a worldwide total of 28,671.
That’s 98%. Just from Europe. And most of it, just from a single meta-analysis.
Perhaps Marris should have substituted “bulk” with “pretty much the absolute totality”.
So the years are passing by, but the question remains: what if Global warming is just European?
ps I am worried about Californian birds (the ones with plumage, that is). There’s a researcher studying them, Cagan Sekercioglu of Stanford University, but he doesn’t show much interest in the real world:
““We shouldn’t even need to publish such papers at this point,” he says. “This paper is an argument that climate change is causing the observed changes. This should be a given. Thirty years later we are still trying to convince people of this.”
Well, Mr Sekercioglu, with an attitude like this, I bet you’re going to make lots of unexpected discoveries, aren’t you?
What Climate Science?
Are AGW climate scientists and science-prone skeptics talking about the same subject? I thought so, but am not sure of that any longer.
Having read Real Climate (RC)’s “Butterfly” blog and engaged in some commentary about it at that site, and having followed the AGW debate for the last five years, my impression is that:
Imagine if paleontologists had decided to concentrate on the skulls of Rift Valley hominids, treating with disdain (aka as “noise”) all of a find’s context, including other human bones, remains of other animals, local geography (and climate). And deliberatingly ignoring every other hominid find, anywhere else in the world.
That’d still be science, but within such a very focused line of research quite unlikely to add much knowledge or understanding, apart than about itself.
There Must Be Some…
If such a colossal misunderstanding is indeed in place, that would go a long way in explaining the extraordinary ill feelings surrounding the whole of climate science at the moment (and I am deliberately keeping politics outside of this), with one side treating skepticism itself as a dishonest scandal that should be stamped out of existence once and for all, and the other side dismissing years and years of research as pretty much irrelevant gibberish written by incompetent liars.
No wonder they (we) can’t see each other eye-to-eye…how could two judges agree at a canine show contest, if one of them were only interested in (and had built a whole theory of canine beauty about) the shape of the tails?
Climatology: An Abridged History
The story of how contemporary climatology has ended up like this is illuminating.
At first, basic laboratory experiments gave some indications on how atmospheric constituents could interact with one another, and with the incoming solar radiation. Notable among them, the study of CO2’s “greenhouse effect” by Arrhenius in 1896. But the real world of meteorology (including climate) is somewhat more complex than a lab’s setting.
For example, vast energy exchanges manifest in atmospheric cell circulation, oceanic heat exchanges, and whole climate-affecting cycles currently known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, el Nino/la Nina, etc etc.
With no way of replicating that in controlled laboratory conditions, climatologists opted at one point to computational models of the atmosphere. This was of course possible only and after a minimum of computational power became available.
Computers of course understand only numbers and formulas/commands. In order to get to that, a momentous assumption was made: in an approach curiously reminiscent of the science of aeronautics, climate was taken as the response of the atmosphere to “forcings”, i.e. discernible components pushing and pulling the atmosphere in one or the other direction.
“Climate” is then the resulting overall effect of the action of each forcing, averaged over a certain lentgh of time.
In that context, “forcings” were purely operational, “digitizational” tools, providing some basis for computing the climate. By definition, in fact, forcings cannot be measured: all observations of the actual atmosphere will (obviously!) include the effect of them all. If “forcings” exist or not is therefore irrelevant. For all they were worth, forcings could have been substituted by Fourier analysis, or Principal Component Analysis, or whatever other technical tool that can transform a set of signals (and formulas) of any sort into computer-friendly figures (and procedures).
However, alongside a steady increase in available computational power, there came the a shift in focus, from real (observable) climate to forcings: in a first dichotomy with the real world, models became ways of investigating the (possible) effect of each forcing, instead of forcings being ways of investigating the (possible) evolution of the planet’s climate.
This change is less subtle than it appears. It entails throwing one’s hands up in the air about trying to understand the actual atmosphere, choosing instead to concentrate on known (pre-set) effects of known causes. Models in fact are far from independent from assumptions about forcings: they are made out of them. The effect of each forcing is already written in the code of each model, and model runs will show that effect at work. Even if results could vary for example modifying a model’s representation of geography, there is no way that model will be able to run contrary to its pre-assumed behaviour, for example in the case of increased CO2 concentration.
If I write a computer program that just adds one every time a white objects traverses a camera’s field of view, there is no way my program will ever count down, say to minus 20. And the fact that the counter always increases says nothing about how many white objects there are in the real world. It just shows how the counter works.
Nothing But Parameters
What can you do when all you have are models only useful to investigate what a particular forcing’s effect might be? You are left with playing with the parameters, modifying them to “fit” observations and “plausibility”. This is manifest for example in Hansen et al’s 2007 article, “Climate simulations for 1880–2003 with GISS modelE“, literally saddled with innumerable “estimations”, six of them explicitly “subjective” (little more than guesses, that is) but still able somehow to get published in a peer-reviewed scientific article.
Note that comparison to the real world is but a side issue in that paper. “Observations” (25+ years of averages) are useful to evaluate what the parameters are likely to be, i.e. the relative importance of each forcing. There is nothing important outside of them. In a second dichotomy with the real world, in such a vision of the world everything that is not included in the modelling is “noise”, in other words “irrelevant”.
There is no “going back to the lab” in contemporary mainstream forcings-based climate science, eg to learn anything new after finding unexpected observations, because those are “noise” (sometimes called, “weather”) and thus have to be ignored. And there is no meaningful effort to measure what if anything is going wrong: for example, comparisons between model results and observations are simply visual.
The good thing about this is that there are enormous avenues of research left open to future generations. The downside is that the reality of climate models is, at present, literally set in stone, whatever the real climate is out there.
Can climate models predict anything?
Skeptics and non-skeptics alike seem to agree that models cannot predict (i.e. make predictions that can be falsified, or confirmed, by observations) for timeframes shorter than around 25 years from the time of computation.
In fact, RealClimate seems to be willing to take a quarter of a century, more or less, as the minimum amount of time needed to get “averages” that can be called “climate” rather than mere “weather”. That is a second example of AGW climate scientists pigeonholing themselves: just as anything that cannot be modelled by forcings is “noise”, so anything that doesn’t cancel itself over 25 years is “noise” too.
So we started with “climate science” only to get stuck into “multi-decadal averaging to evaluate parameters to use in estimating the effect of forcings”.
Can anything ever disprove a forcings-based model?
No. Nothing at all ever will. Some AGWers are answering that with improbable claims about Popper being long dead, an eery reply one would expect only from inventors of perpetual-motion machines.
Actually, the prove/disprove question may simply be the wrong question. Models are only tools to investigate the possible effect of each forcing. Hansen et al talk about “using the model for simulations of future climate change”.
The key word there is of course “simulations”.
Models are not a weather-predicting tool (remember, they are about “climate”, not “weather”). And they are not a climate-predicting tool either, even if they are often abused as if they were. In its 2001 report the IPCC itself stated as much, in no uncertain terms: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible” (from the IPCC TAR-WG1, 2001).
What models can do is simulate the effect of individual forcings in isolation, something that can never be observed anyway. They also simulate the cumulative effect of forcings, with added uncertainty as interactions must be modelled too. Such a cumulative effect is not necessarily expected to be observable either.
It must be stated that as far as I can remember RC has never claimed anything more. Good for them. Perhaps they could have been clearer before more clear and more often, but things are starting to move in the right direction, of late. As already quoted in a previous blog: “[…] The ensemble mean is monotonically increasing in the absence of large volcanoes, but this is the forced component of climate change, not a single realisation or anything that could happen in the real world. […]”
And Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the IPCC-TAR report, recently wrote: “In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers ‘what if’ projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios.”
Don’t get me wrong: on its own, doing an estimation is part-and-parcel of conducting scientific research; computer modelling is a great tool for very complex situation; forcings are a good way to translate a system into a manageable model; and scenarios are the standard way to evaluate risk.
But with regards to forcings-based climate science, all of those combine together compounding their weaknesses rather than their strenghts: estimations are often subjective, computer models are used to study forcings rather than climate, forcings are taken as “real” even if they cannot be measured, and scenarios are interrogated not for current sensitivities but as forecasts.
They have become the basis for a large Intergovernmental organization, tens of international meetings, the collective action of thousands of people, one Oscar and one Nobel Peace Prize, all in the name of what every knowledgeable person knows it is impossible to predict.
What Kind of Science is Climate Science?
Restricted to “the computation of scenarios (the ‘what-ifs’ projections)”, climate modelling is a science (the “science of climate forcings”, in fact). And RealClimate is as good as it gets. The same applies to much of contemporary AGW scientific journalism and publications, including Scientific American, American Scientist, New Scientist, Nature, Science. And the BBC.
Just try, next time you read their reports, to imagine a world view (a “climate narrative“) where climatology, the most uncertain of exact sciences, is applied science, a policy-making tool where only forcings count and, among the forcings, only those of anthropogenic origin are relevant (as there is little to make policies about, for non-anthropogenic forcings).
That is too narrow a view to be useful for risk management, let alone to bring science forward. It may lead to worries wasting time worrying about possible future stronger hurricanes, rather than about certain concentrating on preventi present-day catastrophical levee failure for present-day storms.
Time to Expand the “Climate Narrative”
Models have been the cradle of climatology, Tsiolkovsky would have said, but we cannot live in the cradle forever. It is time to expand the “climate narrative”, by getting climate science of the models-forcings-scenarios hole.
Because “real” climate is much, much more than RealClimate.
This being the age of the Internet, not everybody reads after the second or third paragraph. So here’s a quick summary explaining why I write that “RealClimate Raises the Bar AGAINST Climate Models“:
(1) In the “RealClimate World”, models cannot be falsified by a single observation (i.e. atmospheric phenomenon). That phenomenon is called ”weather”, and “weather” for RealClimate is “noise”)
(2) In the “RealClimate World”, models cannot be falsified by a set of short-term observations. That set is just part of a “specific trajectory” towards the expected climate change / global warming. And RealClimate is “not too concerned” about a “specific trajectory“.
Example for point (1): If models indicate the world will get warmer by the year 2100, but world temperatures dip in January and February 2008, RealClimate can still “honestly” claim the models are right, and whatever happened is just a momentary event, during which the “signal” of anthropogenic global warming has been “obscured” by this or that natural (or man-made) cause.
Example for point (2): If models indicate the world will get warmer by the action of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, but world temperatures don’t climb after 1998, RealClimate can still “honestly” claim the models are right, and whatever happened is just the way things are going at the moment, with a random pause in temperature increases that is just one of the hundreds of possible “trajectories” that will take us to a warmer world.
The only way to verify if the climate models are right is by waiting a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check the world has actually got warmer. How many years? More than 10, evidently (see 1998), perhaps more than 30, following the classical definition of “weather”. And by how much, the temperature increase? Pretty much any positive amount would suffice to state, once again, that the “models are right”.
This looks like some kind of “suffocating love”, with the modellers so worried about their models, they have shielded them from almost all possibilities of falsification (in the process, pretty much abandoning “science” as usually understood).
And this is not the only contradiction: if the only way to see the models at work is by waiting a number of years, how could anybody advocate to “act now to save the Planet” because “the science is settled”?
The issue of model falsifiability has already been a topic on the NYT’s “Tierney Lab”, daring to ask this past January questions such as “Are there any indicators in the next 1, 5 or 10 years that would be inconsistent with the consensus view on climate change?” and “Are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent [with global warming}?“.
And what did Gavin Schmidt reply on RealClimate? No, and no:
this subject appears to have been raised from the expectation that some short term weather event over the next few years will definitively prove that either anthropogenic global warming is a problem or it isn’t. As the above discussion should have made clear this is not the right question to ask. Instead, the question should be, are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?
No “short-term weather event over the next few years” could ever disprove that “anthropogenic global warming“. And observations (events) and their analyses, in the RealClimate world, are only interesting to “improve the models“.
It’s hard to fail to spot in Schmidt’s reply that they did go back to “Hansen’s 1988” and other old projections, but whilst the bits that agree with the models are signs that those projections are “good“, those that disagree are so “for reasons that are as yet unclear“.
Instead of scientists trying to interpret the world, in RealClimate we have people subordinating the world to their models.
With the death of Ed Lorenz and a world apparently taking a hiatus on the way to unstoppable anthropogenic global warming, It has taken a group effort at RealClimate to try to deal with the issue of chaotic weather vs. climate modelling: “Butterflies, tornadoes and climate modelling“.
Rather unfortunately for the authors, the conclusions contain a remarkable amount of unintended irony.
[…] But how can climate be predictable if weather is chaotic? The trick lies in the statistics. In those same models that demonstrate the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, it turns out that the long term means and other moments are stable. […] Climate change then is equivalent seeing how the structure changes, while not being too concerned about the specific trajectory you are on
In other words, “climate change” is an entity that can only become observable in the long, long term. And since there is little concern for the “specific trajectory”, there literally exists NO possible short-term sets of observations that can falsify the climate models.
Another way of saying it is that for the climate problem, the weather (or the individual trajectory) is the noise. If you are trying to find the common signal that is a signature of a particular forcing then averaging over a number of simulations with different weather works rather well […]
In other words, since each and every atmospheric event can be obviously described as “weather”, there is no single observation that can falsify the climate models.
Their work doesn’t have to deal with any single observation, no short-term sets of observations…do they realize what they are saying???
Real climate is in their own words almost perfectly insulated from the real world. Nothing that can ever happen will be able to disprove the work of the climate modellers, apart from multi-decadal averages that are so poorly defined, they can easily be used to demonstrate anything.
Is this “science”? Looks more like long-term guaranteed employment to me… No wonder Anthropogenic Climate Change has important detractors in the metereological community.
In further irony, the above pairs up perfectly well with RC’s “comments policy” that can be summarized more or less into “we will censor everything we do not like“.
RealClimate: the insulated web site, where insulated researchers post insulated content. Now I understand why poor Gavin Schmidt had such a hard time dealing with an open debate…
Terry Barker (Co-ordinating Lead Author, Working Group 3 (Mitigation), Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and Director, 4CMR, Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research) responds to Nigel Lawson in a letter to the Financial Times that “the Stern review has been praised by the Nobel Prize-winning economists Kenneth Arrow, Robert Solow, James Mirrlees, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz“.
Is that true? A well-known quote by Mr Sen on the Stern review: “The stark prospects of climate change and its mounting economic and human costs are clearly brought out in this searching investigation. What is particularly striking is the identification of ways and means of sharply minimizing these penalties through acting right now, rather than waiting for our lives to be overrun by rapidly advancing adversities. The world would be foolish to neglect this strong but strictly time-bound practical message“.
Case closed? Not yet.
Here’s some more in-depth thoughts by Mr Sen: “[…] for the purpose for which the report was solicited, the job that was done […] adequately, and you know to say that whether you can judge whether it’s a good economics report that’s a different issue, its not a good economic question to ask the very specific question […]”
As Clive Spash reports, one is left wondering if Mr Sen has read the Stern review, or perhaps just a brief summary. For example, how else could a Nobel Prize in Economics make the mistake of “wrongly refer[ring] to the control benefits as costs and the Report as a cost-effectiveness analysis. This is not a cost-effectiveness analysis as the statement from Stern makes clear“?
The conclusion is: endorsements by famous names are no guarantee of quality.
Actually, such endorsements may mean absolutely nothing, because famous names may be too busy to read what they are endorsing.
And in the case of Amartya Sen and the Stern review, it appears that the former was already convinced enough of the urgency of the climate change issue, not to deem it necessary to read what Stern had actually written.
My feeling is that Terry Barker knows all that very well. The whole polemics with Nigel Lawson would have no meaning, without Barker’s mentioning of “The prospect of climate chaos is alarming but not, I submit, alarmist.”
In other words: the only way the IPCC Co-ordinating Lead Author for the WG3 (Mitigation) is able to justify mitigation, is by talking of the “prospect” (i.e. a future possibility for which no probability is given) of “climate chaos“: a prospect that goes beyond the IPCC’s own WG2 findings.
Comparing that unknowable prospect with the real-and-present evidence of climate change mitigation policies including biofuels being one of the causes of worldwide hunger and unrest, I opt for no mitigation, thank you.
A series of exchanges at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is a good occasion to re-iterate a simple point: the IPCC has to this day failed to prove that climate change is a worldwide effect.
In other words, there still is no solid evidence of the “global” character of “global warming”.
Let’s look at the IPCC AR4-WG2, Chapter 1.
I presume a “climate non-skeptic” would treat that document as an authoritative source. Better than vague reports on insurance companies or moving plants.
And so: the IPCC AR4-WG2 Chapter 1, dedicated to report ALL changes in a warming planet, lists:
(a) 26,285 significant changes compatible with warming
(b) 3,174 significant changes not compatible with warming (around 11% of the total of 29,459 significant changes)
Plenty to pick-and-choose from, I am sure. But then there are also other quite important numbers from the same report:
(c) 28,234 significant changes are from Europe alone
(d) 1,225 significant changes are from the rest of the world (4.15% of the total)
(e) 25,135 significant changes compatible with warming are from Europe alone
(f) Only 1,150 significant changes compatible with warming are from the rest of the world (4.4% of the total of 26,285 significant changes compatible with warming)
Note that (b) is almost two times bigger than (f). And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the vast majority of non-European significant changes, come just from North America.
And so, in a sense, it is the IPCC itself that says that the “global” in “global warming” is something that definitely still needs to be demonstrated.
(thanks to Douglas Hoyt for pointing to these interesting blogs)
From The Blackboard:
Note: author Lucia says “I believe AGW to be true, but since I am willing to pro-actively test projections against data during what appears to be a “stall” in warming, much of my audience consists of skeptics“.
Let me state that’s the worst indictment I have ever read of the mindset of most AGW believers…
Among the results of the first blog: “what this data indicates is that if and when warming resumes, it will likely occur at a rate that is lower than projected by the IPCC. So, while the trends will turn up they are unlikely to reach the 2C/century of warming“.
And two of the conclusions of the second: “Did the IPCC recent AR4 prediction/projections correctly estimate the magnitude of warming? (no). Did the IPCC correctly communicate the uncertainty in their estimate of the central tendency based on their hierarchy of models? (no).”
In a better world, these results would be celebrated…not sure how many in the AGW world and lobbies will be happy, though…
Are climate skeptics helping prevent AGW policies from being implemented? That may well be true: but the actual situation is much more complex.
In truth, one cannot fault people expressing their opinions, and their dissent from “consensus”, for the fact that their views appear to be listened to by politicians (not sure they truly are), whilst the “consensus” usually results into idle talk or cures that are worse than the illness (see biofuels, or the idiotically expensive Kyoto treaty).
One important point to remember is that much of the Anglo-Saxon world’s brouhaha around climate change is linked directly to the hysteria accompanying a lot of AGW proclamations and actions. Likely due to political naivete, groups of scientists-advocates have joined Greenpeace and the likes in an escalation of hyperboles, with the world depicted almost as turning into cinder by Tuesday, if we don’t all go back to living in caves.
As some AGW scientists said about Al Gore’s movie, those hyperboles are not scientifically right, but are deemed ok to “convey the message”.
Distortion of science for a good cause was and unfortunately still is in fact a tactic devised to break down the BAU inertia (aka the “cost of Doing Something”). The problem is that there are only so many times such inertia can be countered with doom-and-gloom. AGWers have been unlucky enough to show up years if not months after major scares have fizzled out, like Y2K and SARS.
The general population then, and many politicians, have been healthily inoculated against unwarranted exaggerations. That’s why the AGW camp, still using obsolete influencing techniques, have literally painted themselves into a whining-and-crying corner, with few listening to them unless when there is an occasion for swindling public money (see US corn subsidies, and the European cap-and-trade system).
You can just read Dr Pachauri’s incredible declarations about the latest Antarctic huge iceberg, to see what I mean by hyperbole, exaggeration and distortion of science:
“if the huge bodies of ice of western Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets, sitting on land, were to collapse […]”
There is no danger nor forecast nor model that suggests anything of the sort happening for a long long long time even under the direst temperature increases we can imagine. So what is the point of talking about that, rather than more pressing concerns, such as the droughts and floods that do seem to come out of the model runs???
And so the situation is: in a corner, AGW scientists and advocates kicking and screaming for action. In the rest of the world, lots of people that are turned off any meaningful action…by the kicking and screaming of those AGW scientists and advocates. Little wonder politicians do nothing of any meaning on the topic, apart from when they can spread “pork” and get more votes.
Every once in a while some analysis appears begging the “environmental” movement to change their ways of communicating what they care about:
But the AGWers are still in the dark ages, as far as advocacy is concerned.
Lately the only novelty is that they appear to have decided to be relentless, as if following the old saying that if you keep repeating a lie, eventually it will be taken as truth. But time is not on their side: year-on-year climate fluctuations are larger than any AGW “signal”, as admitted even by RealClimate.
There is so much we can say, think and care about the world in 2020, let alone 2050, when the models say evidence would be so much stronger. And when the news talk about a catastrophe for the 1,000-th time, the impact on the public will be much much smaller than it was 999 times before.
Anybody believing in AGW can keep on lamenting the situation…just please, try to understand: the lament is part of the problem. The existence of scientist-dissenters is not.
Just look at France: where a “green package” was discussed, defined and delivered without anybody running around like headless chickens. Believe it or not, I may have even signed that package myself!