Archive for the ‘IPCC’ Category
(In conversation with a “technological optimist”)
I was so impressed by the ‘Growth Delusion’ article by Nick Reeves (published on this blog on Monday), that I decided to bring it to the attention of members of my extended family and to one person in particular (who has asked to remain anonymous). What follows is just over 2000 words in length but it made no sense to me to arbitrarily divide it up into pieces (you will either be interested or you won’t)…
I started by pointing out what I feel sets this article by Nick Reeves apart – the facts and figures that he has compiled in order to back-up his argument that human civilisation cannot survive in the long term unless it acknowledges that technology alone cannot solve our problems. Here are two examples:
– Agriculture: It is true that, globally, we waste an awful lot of food. Therefore, we could feed a lot more people if we eliminated this waste. However, as Nick Reeves points out, global agriculture today is an industry that converts oil into food. Therefore, what will it do when the Earth runs out of hydrocarbons (and phosphorus)?
– Industry: The era of cheap energy has come – or is coming – to an end. Meanwhile: how can China consuming 53% of the World’s cement production; 48% of the World’s iron ore; and/or 47% of the World’s coal… be described as anything other than unsustainable?
In response, my anonymous relative insisted that Nick Reeves facts were nothing of the sort; and implied that he/she thinks I am misanthropic and unduly pessimistic. My anonymous relative is very clearly a technological optimist, but I prefer to think of myself as an environmental realist.
What follows are 10 points made by my anonymous relative; with my refutation appended to each one in bold text:
1. He [Reeves] claims that the economic crisis was a consequence of dangerous speculation on the part of the banks. This is not a fact. The alternative hypothesis is that it was a consequence of rotten policy-making by government leaders who believed that they knew what was best for society at large. I hope this is not a statement of faith in some vague global conspiracy to install global socialist government (of which I too would disapprove). I hope also that you are not suggesting that the solution would have been weaker regulation.
2. He attributes short-term trends in commodity prices solely to demand considerations, but gives no corresponding analysis to what might happen on the supply side, simply taking it as a given that reserves will wither and making no reference to the possibility of finding new reserves at any point. Thankfully, Antarctica is protected from exploration (which I am sure will one day become viable). Sadly, the Arctic is not so protected. I hope your faith in technology and human ingenuity can keep pace with increasing demand.
3. His “facts” about the growth of China are also disingenuous. He refers to a historical growth rate of 10% pa and then projects that this will continue, even though the available evidence shows that this growth has not continued and may well soften further over the coming years. Thankfully, China’s growth rate has dropped from 10%pa to 7%pa, which means the doubling time for its economy has increased from 7 to 10 years. This is still nowhere near being environmentally sustainable.
4. Likewise, his estimates of Chinese cement, iron ore, and coal use are all based upon an enormously imbalanced economy in China, where government policies have long repressed consumption and incomes among ordinary Chinese workers in order to drive through massive infrastructure projects, many of dubious value – a model of uncertain merit, but which some experts have deemed to be economically unsustainable. Consumption of resources is the problem – it does not matter who is doing the consuming. Think of all the rare earth metals required to give everyone in China a new mobile phone.
5. The claim that lost-cost hydrocarbons will be a distant memory by 2050 may prove true, but until we get a little closer to that date, this is not a fact, but rather an assertion, and one with considerable uncertainty attached given the volume of known coal reserves in the world. Higher retail prices for hydrocarbons increases oil company turnover but a fivefold reduction in EROEI for unconventional fossil fuels does beg the question as to when you stop flogging a dead horse.
6. The idea likewise that a depleted supply of hydrocarbons risks global economic collapse is also open to debate. Even if one agreed with his view (unproven) that we are about to run out of hydrocarbons, I would still question the inevitability of economic collapse. Everything would depend upon the timeframe and upon the extent to which prices throughout the journey are left to reflect the realities of supply and demand, as opposed to the political priorities of people who think they know better. Your questioning of it does not make it any less likely to happen. The last financial meltdown was triggered by lending money to risky people. The next one will be a global debt crisis resulting from the end of the era of “cheap” energy (which has made the success of the last 200 years possible). If we do not plan – and put into place – a transition, collapse is almost inevitable. This is a lesson we should learn from population dynamics in biology.
7. Similarly, his point about the recycling of metals is hardly a statement of facts. If these commodities were so precious as he makes out the fact is we would be recycling more of them, and many of our consumer products would have much shorter replacement cycles. To make these claims with no consideration either of the estimated reserves of un-mined metals still under the ground or of the history of metals exploration is surely a significant oversight? Please remember that I am a geologist, [name redacted]. I find it deeply depressing to admit that much of what my fellow geologists do is, in effect, treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation. However, denial is not a river in Egypt; and a business that is selling its assets to generate turnover will eventually be bankrupted.
8. The risks to food supply, to a greater extent than is true of other resources, I am inclined to take seriously. However, many of the issues here are not about resource constraints, they are about political constraints – immoral European subsidies, an unwillingness to support the development or application of GM crops, the shameful subsidies to turn sugar and corn into ethanol, and the diversion of water resources away from agriculture for environmental purposes are all excellent examples from the developed world. As a hydrogeologist, I am already aware that groundwater mining is a reality in almost every arid country in the World. Food supply problems are a little more distant but, just as a spike in food prices contributed to the Arab Spring uprisings two years ago, increased extreme weather events of all kinds are going to make such spikes more frequent in the future.
9. And his solution to the food problem – organic farming – is just hilarious. Every serious scientific study I have ever seen on this subject tells me that global-scale organic farming would lead to mass starvation. What is wrong, I ask with just letting prices do their work? In a resource-starved world, I would expect a much greater proportion of the world simply to go vegetarian. Now I have no problem with organic practices, but you tell me that the facts here speak for themselves. So where is his evidence that organic farming can do the trick? His comment here is again just an assertion. I am not opposed to GMOs because they could damage the environment. I am opposed to them for the same reason I disapproved of Nestle selling powdered baby milk to mothers perfectly capable of breast-feeding their babies. Technology may be very useful but it is useless if you have no fuel to use it. On a global scale, therefore, low-tech solutions locally-sourced may well prove more resilient.
10. The fact is, at every turn, he is looking for the angle, not the fact. Arctic ice levels are indeed very low – and lower than some (but not all) models predicted 15 years ago. But if he is going down this route, why just pick this piece of evidence? Why not also talk about the trends in temperature? Are they tracking ahead of schedule too? When one reads something like this, and detects zero scope for uncertainty, it is hard to take the presentation of his “facts” seriously. I am not sure what models predicted faster collapse of Arctic sea ice. The reasons for the hiatus in global surface temperature rise in the last 14 years (or so) are well understood. You are just parroting junk science peddled by merchants of doubt. I would like to see you dismiss all the other positive feedback mechanisms now starting to make their presence felt – such as thawing permafrost which last year released more CO2e that humans did in 2010.
I could go on, but I am not sure much would be served by it. Martin, you and I come at the world with very different world views, and also with different knowledge sets. When I read something like this piece, I am afraid I don’t see facts and logic. I see emotion and anger. I also see a lack of faith in humanity as a whole, a distaste for our species and for our civilisation that is frankly not only misguided but also profoundly depressing. I do not presume to understand your world view (apart from that imposed on you by your chosen career). However, for the record, I am neither a progressive nor a liberal, and I do not believe in ‘big government’. I just believe humans should take more responsibility for their actions. I am socially and politically conservative with the sole exception that I do not believe in the delusion of growthmania or that technology can and will invalidate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What I find depressing is that so many think we can win the fight modernity has picked with science. The history of human civilisation is replete with examples of those who – whether they understood it or not – lost just such a fight.
Despite having rebutted all the points made, my anonymous relative responded by ignoring the opinions of the vast majority of climate scientists; focussing on what he/she repeatedly referred to as significant uncertainty; and personalising all predictions of near-term problems as if they were merely my opinions.
And so it went on, with emails backwards and forwards. I tried very hard to point out that: I am merely reflecting the opinions of the vast majority of climate scientists; the uncertainty is now vanishingly small; the IPCC has spent decades under-reporting the scale of the problem we face; and there is an ongoing business-led campaign to discredit the science and the scientists. However, the harder I tried to do this, the more (it seems to me) my anonymous relative appeared to feel I was attacking him/her personally.
I was told my moral certainty (about the need to act) was a cause for concern: I responded each time by referring to the facts of history and the opinions of the World’s professional bodies. However, each time, it was as if I was accusing my anonymous relative of personally orchestrating the campaign of denial.
When I highlighted my concerns regarding Richard Lindzen’s misleading and hypocritical presentation in the Palace of Westminster over a year ago (of which I had first-hand experience), I was told I was being “preposterous”. My suspicion of Lindzen was countered with suspicion of some (un-named) mainstream scientists.
When I cited the Geological Society’s carefully-worded public statement regarding climate change, I was told that believing my “doomsday scenario” to be suspicious did not require the invocation of conspiracy theory. What I never got, however, was any valid reason to dispute the scientific consensus.
Finally, my anonymous relative suggested that it would be best to bring our exchanges to a close but only after once more insisting that climate science is uncertain and/or corrupted and that I am misanthropic (with my final observations added [in square brackets]):
Nonetheless, climate science has implications that are clearly political rather than scientific [I agree]. This is true really of any area of science where the stakes are high and the uncertainties are significant [repetition of a lie does not make it true]; and this, unfortunately, does tend to encourage people to talk about things that are really based upon personal value judgements [yes it sure does], as if they were scientific fact. I have seen this, not just within the public domain, but in scientific establishments and within professional scientific bodies [i.e. equating consensus with the corruption of science]. You do it too, by discounting uncertainties [what uncertainties?], by interpreting everything as a contest of two polar-opposite world views [because they very probably are], and in your distaste for modernity [my distaste is for the collateral damage modernity has caused].
This is unbelievably frustrating, it is as if I have just wasted a fortnight trying to explain something to someone who is physically incapable of listening.
I appear to have a habit of posting items starting with the words “What on Earth..”. Here, then, is another one to add to that list…
A few weeks ago, one of the regular contributors to discussion on this blog (Pendantry), brought the work of Professor Guy McPherson (University of Arizona) to my attention. I must admit that I was a bit lazy and just watched the video embedded on Pendantry’s blog. However, in my defence, that was partly because I was shocked by what I saw and heard. Even though I have since embedded the same video on this blog, I had still done little more than scratch the surface to examine the huge amount of research to which McPherson refers. Here and now, I intend to put that right.
Having worked out how to get Professor McPherson’s attention (by inserting a link in my post to a specific post on his blog), he has since graciously joined the discussion. In welcoming him to my blog, I said this:
…Thanks also for providing a link to the new article on your brilliantly-named Nature Bats Last blog… I had thereby also found the Think Progress article by Joe Romm, highlighting the fact that, even today, the IPCC is still not incorporating the effects of positive feedback mechanisms into its projections. This would be truly incredible, were it not for the fact that I understand the pressure the IPCC is put under to avoid being “alarmist”… What amazes me, therefore, is that there are not more scientists like you who are speaking out about the way in which humanity is sleepwalking to catastrophe. However, I know, you say this is because they want to keep their jobs. What about [preserving] the lives of their children? By 2030, I will have reached retirement age, but my children will only be in their early 30s; they may even still be childless…
So, then, I am reluctantly coming round to Professor Guy McPherson’s view that both mainstream climate scientists and climate change sceptics are equally guilty of believing what they want to believe and seeing only what they want to see. This is because, when you investigate the ten positive feedback loops that McPherson has recently highlighted (see below) you realise that, in doing so, he is referring to the results of peer-reviewed research; all of which is already in the public domain.
The problem is that the vast majority of mainstream scientists are refusing to join the dots and admit that these 10 feedback loops are going to interfere with – and mutually reinforce – each other. It also does not help that the IPCC is still not incorporating these feedback loops into its projections (link below).
I started by reading what is currently the most popular post on McPherson’s blog, Climate-change summary and update, which starts by listing a nasty-looking trend in large-scale projections of global average temperature rise:
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (late 2007): 1 C by 2100
- Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (late 2008): 2 C by 2100
- United Nations Environment Programme (mid 2009): 3.5 C by 2100
- Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (October 2009): 4 C by 2060
- Global Carbon Project, Copenhagen Diagnosis (November 2009): 6 C by 2100
- International Energy Agency (November 2010): 3.5 C by 2050
- United Nations Environment Programme (December 2010): up to 5 C by 2050
Having done this, McPherson then goes on to list the 10 Positive Feedback Mechanisms that he has identified from recent research. Below, I have reproduced his list and, where they were missing, inserted links to more information in each case.
10 positive feedback mechanisms:
Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean (Science, March 2010)
Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic as it shoots through the Fram Strait (Science, January 2011)
Siberian methane vents have increased… to about a kilometer across in 2011 (Tellus, February 2011)
Drought in the Amazon triggered the release of more carbon than the USA in 2010 (Science, February 2011)
Peat in the world’s boreal forests is decomposing at an astonishing rate (Nature Comms., November 2011)
Methane is being released from the Antarctic (Nature, August 2012)
Russian forest and bog fires are growing (NASA, August 2012)
Cracking of glaciers accelerates in the presence of increased carbon dioxide (J. of App. Physics, October 2012)
Exposure to sunlight increases [is] accelerating thawing of the permafrost (PNAS, February 2013)
Arctic drilling was fast-tracked by the Obama administration during the summer of 2012
Having listed these, McPherson then points out that the only one of these over which humanity has any control (and can therefore choose to stop or reverse) is the decision to drill for oil in the Arctic. The same could be said for all unconventional fossil fuels. However, acknowledging this reality, McPherson then adds… “Because we’ve entered the era of expensive oil, I can’t imagine we’ll voluntarily terminate the process of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic (or anywhere else).”
For the sake of brevity, I will not comment on all of these mechanisms but, for those that are interested, here are some of the more notable responses I found (both dismissive and concerned) on the Internet.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_methane_release (includes a good list of references);
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/31/1524981/why-climate-scientists-have-consistently-underestimated-key-global-warming-impacts/ (discussed below).
As intimated above, I want to focus on the fact that the IPCC is still not including any of these positive feedback mechanisms and is therefore continuing to be overly optimistic (i.e. under-reporting the nature, scale and urgency of the problems we have now created by failing to decarbonise our economies already).
Why is the IPCC being unduly optimistic?
Writing in the Scientific American magazine 6 years ago, in an article entitled ‘Conservative Climate’, David Biello gave us all the answer:
By excluding statements that provoked disagreement and adhering strictly to data published in peer-reviewed journals, the IPCC has generated a conservative document that may underestimate the changes that will result from a warming world, much as its 2001 report did.
The IPCC was set up by conservative political leaders in the 1980s (Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachov) but its hands were tied from the start; its complicated internal and external review process (i.e. government-appointed reviewers) ensuring that it never publishes anything that is too scary. By refusing to countenance the possibility that more pessimistic opinions amongst the scientific community might actually be coming from those that are being the most objective, it has completely inverted the well-respected precautionary principle; and promoted instead the wait and see approach of climate sceptics everywhere.
However, the IPCC has not just wasted 6 years, it has wasted 20 years; and things are now getting serious: If you are not convinced, then I would invite you to read what Joe Romm on the Think Progress website has to say about all of this: He starts by informing the reader that the thawing of the permafrost will release “a staggering 1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere, much of which would be released as methane… 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 to 100 times as potent over 20 years!”Therefore, with reference to the above graph, the thawing permafrost is already releasing 0.2 Gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere on an annual basis. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to realise that, in the short term, even this has the warming potential of 20 Gigatons of carbon, which is twice the global anthropogenic carbon emissions in 2010. Given that the thawing of the permafrost is something we cannot now stop; and it is not going to be possible to capture and burn all this methane, the fact that the quantities being released are projected to quadruple between now and 2030 is not good news.
It is little wonder, then, that Dave Roberts posted an item on the Grist website almost a year ago, entitled: Climate change is simple: We do something or we’re screwed.
If you have not done so already, please join Bill McKibben’s 350.org and/or join a local group promoting sustainable responses to the approaching socio-economic meltdown: To me, and many others who are not ideologically blinded to the nature of reality, this now seems to be the inevitable consequence of the refusal of our carbon-based civilisation to acknowledge the impossibility of perpetual growth on a finite planet.
I therefore fear that it may be time to “brace for impact!”.
This is a transcript of an email I sent to Lord Monckton yesterday (and copied to Directors of both the GWPF and the IEA).
Dear Lord Monckton,
I am pleased to note that you were satisfied with my attempt to rectify a somewhat careless remark I made in my email to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on 13 March 2012 (viewable here if you scroll down). I must admit that the comment that attracted your attention (presumably MIT sent the email to you for comment?) was unusual for me, in that I generally try to limit myself to textual criticism (i.e. exposing fallacies in the things people have actually said).
As such, although I am confident than none of it is libellous, based on the research I did for my MA in Environmental Politics (i.e. my dissertation), I believe I have produced a great deal of criticism of so-called climate change “sceptics” and apparently “sceptical” organisations, such as the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Institute of Economic Affairs, that you and your fellow “sceptics” may be interested to read. If so, a good place to start would be the following: A brief history of mine (12 March 2012).
In the mainstream media there is a distinct lack (no pun intended) of objective criticism of such “scepticism”, which I believe Peter Jacques (University of Florida) is right to conclude is not in the public interest. Furthermore, I believe that all remaining climate change “scepticism” can be reduced to economic rationalism (i.e. the belief that we must not wreck the economy in order to fix the problem). However, even this tired old argument is now looking decidedly unsound, given the findings of Lord Stern (2006, 2009), the International Energy Agency (2011) and, most recently, William Nordhaus (2012).
In addition, of course, we have ongoing observations and/or incoming data revealing that, just as the climate models predicted it would, the warming of the oceans due to the Earth’s current energy imbalance is giving rise to more frequent and more severe weather of all kinds. Thus, although no single event can be categorically blamed on anthropogenic climate disruption, the dice are clearly now loaded – making extreme events that break century-old records (as in the UK and US last month) ever more likely (see the SREX report, as recently-published by the consistently overly-optimistic IPCC)…
I am therefore left wondering when you “sceptics” are going to throw in the towel; and admit that you are wrong?
International Energy Agency (2011), World Energy Outlook 2011.
Stern, N (2006), The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.
Stern, N (2009), A Blueprint for a Safer Planet: How to Manage Climate Change and Create a New Era of Progress and Prosperity.
Nordhaus, W (2012), Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong.
This is a transcript of an email – copied to about 20 key contacts (i.e. the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, British and American journalists, and climate science bloggers around the world) – sent at 0900 hrs GMT today, Monday 5 March 2012.
***UPDATE: Please make sure you read this too (and/or instead)!***
Professor Richard S. Lindzen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dear Professor Lindzen,
RE: Your presentation in the Palace of Westminster in London on 22 February 2012
In writing you this third email, I am hoping that it will not be spammed. I say this because it seems very clear to me that I may have alienated you by previously making “contentious accusations”. These having been that you have undertaken “previous advocacy work for and on behalf of the tobacco industry”; that you have “fought for so long on behalf of the tobacco industry to prevent legislation to minimise the harmful effects of smoking”; and that you are now “focused instead on helping the fossil fuel lobby deny that anthropogenic climate disruption is happening”. These remarks were unsubstantiated potential slurs on your reputation for which I am now happy to publicly apologise.
I say “publicly” because, in addition to accepting this apology, I hope you will forgive me taking the liberty of copying this email to a number of my relevant contacts. This is because you have publicly and repeatedly (since at least May 2010) questioned the integrity, reliability and/or sensibility of the conclusions of the vast majority of relevantly-qualified climate scientists, the IPCC, and the majority of the World’s relevant professional institutions – all of which consider that we do indeed have legitimate reason to be concerned over ongoing anthropogenic climate disruption. However, just as James Hansen once described you and other “contrarians” as behaving like lawyers (who only present “arguments that favor their client”), I believe this is what you were doing in your presentation at Westminster – and have been doing repeatedly since at least May 2010.
You have repeatedly asserted that climate sensitivity is very low (i.e. 1 Celsius eventual temperature rise for a doubling of atmospheric CO2); whereas the genuine consensus view is that climate sensitivity is somewhere in excess of 2.5 Celsius. I therefore believe that we have reached a momentous point in human history; and that bad decisions made now will have irreversible consequences. This is a view recently endorsed by the economist William Nordhaus, who has concurred with numerous other assessments – such as the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (2006) and the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook (2011) – that delaying de-carbonisation of the World’s power generation systems – and all other mitigating actions – will be a false economy. If so, then despite being in the middle of a global debt crisis, we simply must change course; because we cannot afford not to.
In stark contrast to this, James Hansen has also suggested that “policy inaction is the aim of those that dispute global warming” and, once again, I believe this is your aim too. What I am unclear about is your motive(s). However, even if I am entirely wrong, can you please explain why I came away from your Westminster presentation feeling like this?
For example, can you please explain:
– 1. How you can legitimately criticise both Science and the Guardian for publishing a letter signed by 255 prominent members of the National Academy of Sciences in May 2010, given that the Wall Street Journal refused to publish that letter – choosing instead to publish one signed by 16 “sceptics”; of whom you were 1 of only 4 legitimate climate scientists?
– 2. Why did you highlight the manipulation of graphs (e.g. by stretching their y-axes) as being the way that those with whom you disagree supposedly make things seem more alarming; and then do exactly the same thing with a number of your own graphs to make it seem that there is no cause for alarm? (e.g. see Skeptical Science)
– 3. The PDF of the presentation that is (or was) on the Internet does not include what I think was possibly the most misleading graph (i.e. the one showing a steeply inclined Keeling curve superimposed on temperature data [as per the screenshot from the video on my blog – see links below]), which appears to show no correlation with it over the short-term). Is there any good reason why this omission should have occurred?
Therefore, far from being an environmental “alarmist”, I believe I am a realist and – because climate change denial has prevented significant energy policy changes for at least 24 years now - it seems to me that we are gambling the entire future habitability of planet Earth on you being right about climate sensitivity; when the vast majority of the evidence (including looking at 1990 modelling in the light of what actually happened to CO2 emissions) strongly suggests that you are in fact wrong.
To conclude, Professor Lindzen, I am an unemployed environmental advisor and/or lobbyist; I have no employer to embarrass, and no job to lose. However, it seems to me that it would not be unreasonable for any objective observer to conclude that you have been indulging in the hypocritical obfuscation of many relevant facts; and the misdirection of your multiple audiences. Therefore, because your presentation at Westminster was not one, could you please give me an unequivocal and clear statement of the reasons for what appears to me to be your entirely unwarranted optimism?
I look forward to hearing from you very soon.
Yours very sincerely,
Martin C. Lack. BSc (Geology), MSc (Hydrogeology), MA (Environmental Politics).
N.B. My two previous emails to you were published as promised last week (subject to minor modification and enhancement with video and screenshot of the “missing” graph) at:
An open letter to Richard Lindzen (28 February 2012)
Prof. Lindzen – try this instead! (29 February 2012)
Further to my somewhat over-long email to Professor Richard Lindzen on 23 February (on which yesterday’s post was based), and as a result of the subsequent exchange of emails between us, I extracted the key 17 questions buried in the original email; and turned them into 17 assertions that can either be accepted or disputed. This was sent to Professor Lindzen on 25 February 2012.
While waiting for Professor Lindzen to clarify his position, all readers are invited to see how many they are willing to concede may very well reflect reality:
1. The IPCC is too optimistic.
2. Holocene climatic stability is now endangered.
3. The ‘marketplace of ideas’ is a fallacy.
4. The notion of a scientific conspiracy is an illusion.
5. Some of your (Lindzen’s) graphs were potentially misleading.
6. Given (2), post-Industrial temperature rise is significant.
7. Given the inertia in the system, more warming is ‘in the pipeline’.
8. Sceptics are always ‘going down the up escalator’.
9. Therefore ‘global warming’ did not stop in 1998 (or at any other time).
10. Neither the Sun nor volcanoes are now the dominant climate forcing.
11. As CO2 is the only thing to have changed significantly, this is a ‘fair test’.
12. ACD is inevitable because the Earth’s energy balance must be restored.
13. Soon we will have to re-name the Glacier National Park in Montana.
14. It would be sensible to move to a low/zero carbon economy ASAP.
15. Environmental concern is based on palaeoclimatology not models.
16. Climate “sceptics” are not like Galileo.
17. Environmentalism is not the enemy of humanity.
How highly did you score?
There is one crucially-important factor (not stated as a question in the orginal email) – and that is Climate Sensitivity. If Professor lindzen is wrong, I think we’re all screwed… Unfortunately, just about every other legitimate climate scientist – apart from Judith Curry, Pat Michaels and Roy Spencer – thinks Professor Lindzen is indeed wrong.
So the big question is, what are we all going to do about it?
***UPDATE: Please make sure you read this too (and/or instead)!***
I concluded last week by reviewing the insane ramblings of James Delingpole, the person who coined the term ‘Climategate’ in 2009; declaring that it might be “the final nail in the coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’”. Me thinks he was a wee bit premature. Moreover, the repeat of the stunt two years later may well mean that the whole thing has been a spectacular own-goal for the corporately-sponsored global campaign to perpetuate doubt regarding climate science; and prevent effective legislative action being taken to mitigate it. With any luck, the Heartland Institute’s “Denialgate” (more on this later in the week) will finish this dubious ‘joint enterprise’ (as those in the UK might legitimately call it) completely.
Climategate 1.0 and – particularly 2.0 – proved nothing other than the mendacity of those who want to discredit climate science and scientists. Apart from some understandable frustration with FOI requests and poor housekeeping by scientists, the actual science they had done was completely vindicated. Furthermore, now that the boot is on the other foot, of course, the Heartland Institute don’t like it one bit.
James Delingpole is so mired in conspiracy theory that, as is often the case, it can only be sustained by widening the ‘circle of distrust’ as more and more conflicting evidence pours in. I am therefore not surprised that Mark Lynas could not bring himself to finish reading James Delingpole’s second version of Watermelons. It is, from start to finish, an utterly-ridiculous inversion of reality and to believe even one bit of it, necessitates a global conspiracy of unprecedented proportions; now encompassing 1000s of research scientists, and hundreds of professional and academic institutions, governments, the UN, the WMO, and the IPCC. With regard to the latter, it just cannot be ignored that when it was set-up by Ronald Reagan et al, it was deliberately made impotent by requiring that the content of all its reports be subject to line-by-line government review and/or veto.
Therefore to turn around now and claim the IPCC is part of an alarmist conspiracy is patently nonsensical: On the contrary, because it was castrated at birth, the IPCC has been consistently overly-optimistic and under-stated the probable scale of the problem we are causing and the urgency of the need to do something about it. Furthermore, for similar reasons of political expediency, the UNFCCC set off down the wrong road 20 years ago – in pursuing emissions reductions rather than carbon taxes.
So, I really do hope that the Heartland Institute (and all the other Conservative Think Tanks) that have been consistently “acting against the public interest by promoting environmental skepticism” (see Peter Jacques et al 2008, 2009) will now be prosecuted to the maximum extent permissible under Federal Law. Maybe now we will finally get the Climate Change Denial movement in Court in the same way as the ‘Tobacco Smoke is not Dangerous’ outfit was 6 years ago?
If anyone is still in any doubt about any of the above, I really do think you need to read Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, except, of course you won’t will you, because he is part of the conspiracy. Dooohh, how could I be so stupid!
Unfortunately for their adherents, I think David Aaronovitch (Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History) was right: Conspiracy theories are history for losers; those prone to abdications of responsibility; and/or those that can’t deal with the harsh realities of a world in which nasty things happen to nice people.
Hopefully “mugging” has the same meaning in English-speaking countries all around the world. If not, for the avoidance of any doubt, I mean “what to do if someone steals your money from you while you’re walking down the street…”
First let’s agree on what you don’t do: You don’t just ignore it; and you don’t stand there arguing with the person next to you about who is going to give chase. However, even if you don’t fancy your chances tackling the criminal yourself, surely you would chase them anyway and draw attention to the person making off with your money, in the hope that others will come to your aid? Failing all of that, you would report the matter to the police, in the hope that they can track down the person responsible and bring them to justice.
Well, I have news for you, in 2011 the Planet may have been mugged by Climate Change but many people seem to have failed to notice and/or take action: Take the Arab Spring for example, this was basically triggered by sky-rocketing food prices that were themselves a consequence of unprecedented drought in central Russia. Next we had the record-breaking number and intensity of tornadoes hitting the south-eastern States of the USA and, worldwide, so many flooding events one hardly knows where to begin. However, somewhere between Queensland in January and the Phillipenes in December, it surely must have become obvious to most people that our global climate has gone bananas?
If not, then check out the latest report from the NASA, which highlights the fact that 2011 was the 9th warmest year on record despite being in the middle of a La Nina event (which should have made it cooler). Helpfully, Hansen et al (2012) also point out that “Nine of the ten warmest years are in the 21st century, the only exception being 1998, which was warmed by the strongest El Nino of the past century.”
In July, it was reported in the UK’s Independent newspaper that scientists on both sides of the Atlantic were preparing to abandon their reticence to identify human activity as being the cause of increasingly-frequent extreme weather: Extreme weather link ‘can no longer be ignored’ (1 July 2011). Then, in November, the IPCC released its ‘Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation’ (SREX).
Although immediately dismissed by sceptics as saying nothing new (because we still cannot prove a causal link between human activity and any given event [i.e. conveniently ignoring that we may never be able to do this]), it should be clear to anyone who understands the meaning of the phrases “beyond reasonable doubt” and “most prudent course of action” what we should do. However, if not, the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has provided a useful summary: ‘Ten key messages of the IPCC Special Report on Extreme Events’.
So then, what was the international response to all of this? Not a lot, I am afraid: Hailed as being the last-minute success of extended deliberation and almost all-night debate, the agreement reached at the end of the UNFCCC’s talks (COP17) in Durban in December has made significant, irreversible climate change almost certain. Having been warned by everyone from Greenpeace to the International Energy Agency that time is running out, COP17 gave the UNFCCC 8 more years to argue about who is more to blame and who should blink first. But don’t take it from me, this is the view of one of India’s most prominent and successful environmental journalists, Praful Bidwai:
Online article: Durban’s Greenwash Outcome (Jan 2012); and
New book: The politics of climate change and the global crisis (Jan 2012).
If so, what should our leaders have done. Well, of course that is much more tricky. Primarily because the actions necessary challenge so many of our long-cherished assumptions about the way economics and politics work best. What everyone seems to so conveniently forget is that, leaving aside for a moment the inherent difficulty of spending your way out of a global debt crisis, investing in an environmentally-sound future would actually create and secure jobs.
In a deliberate allusion to the transformative ideas of President Franklin D Roosevelt over 80 years ago, this has been called The Green New Deal; and I would say that the time to pursue it is now: It is not a plan for a green utopia; it is merely a plan to guarantee the survival of humanity – Our current course of action is not sustainable and not survivable.
Now is no time for arguing because, we have not just been mugged, at least 20 years ago many of us were collectively abducted and held hostage by a nasty strand of neoliberalism that paints environmentalism as the enemy; and environmental concern as a zero sum game. However, the truth of the matter is that treating the environment as a vast warehouse whose goods can be used without paying for them is the real zero sum game; and the warehouse is now dangerously empty. Therefore, even if you feel you cannot embrace the principle of participatory democracy by doing something yourself (why not?), you should embrace that of representative democracy and write to those who supposedly act on your behalf (otherwise they will have no mandate to demand change).
Finally, please remember that some people on Earth – along with all non-human inhabitants and future generations of humans – do not have a vote; so please don’t waste yours.
About 18 months ago I was struggling with an addiction to Zynga Poker on Facebook. It was so bad, I would happily spend 6 hours on a Saturday and frequently stay up half the night, playing with anonymous people and with imaginary money, just trying to see how good a hand I could get and win. I therefore cannot really criticise my children for having occasional fixations on games like Runescape. However, given that my daughter likes animals so much, I am dreading the day that she finds out about Farmville….
Apart from psychological and sociological damage that these games probably do, I think what disturbs me the most is the way people can indulge all manner of fantasies; they can hide behind a facade and behave in ways they never would in reality: It is at least an order of magnitude worse than the sense of invulnerability that allows many car-drivers to be so rude while safely seated behind the steering wheel. In this latter respect (anonymity facilitating anti-social behaviour), fantasy games are very much like Internet chat rooms and online discussions appended to Blogs. The trouble is that many people spend so much of their time in these places – and are so deeply embedded in their online persona – it is hard to see how they can be functioning individuals or effective employees in the real world.
Far more importantly, however, is the question as to what is reality? Now then, I do not mean to get all metaphysical but, when it comes to climate change, either it is real or it is not real. Many so-called “sceptics” insist that they do not deny that our climate is changing; they only dispute its cause, magnitude, and/or seriousness. However, in the blogosphere at least, large numbers of people do continue to deny that change is happening at all. So, which is the fantasy? Is it Alarmville or Calmville?
That is to say, are we facing an environmental catastrophe if we fail to act, or do we have nothing to worry about? They cannot both be fantasies; one of them must be real, surely? For them both to be fantasies, would require us to pick and choose which pronouncements of scientists we accept and which we do not: This is the marketplace of ideas phenomenon which fools many into thinking that everyone can be an expert; and all opinions are equally valid. But this is itself an insane fantasy. So, which is the fallacy, Alarmville or Calmville?
I believe that anyone who decides to sit down and undertake a serious and sober assessment of both Earth and Human history can only come to one conclusion: I reviewed what we can learn from Earth history (i.e. palaeoclimatology) in my email to Chris Huhne in November (no answer yet received but he has been very busy!); and I feel I have stated and re-stated ad nauseam the historical evidence that big business has a long track-record of lying to the public in order to protect its own vested interests. This is not conspiracy theory; it is conspiracy fact – and has been extremely well documented in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt (other sources are available).
Therefore, no matter how much Calmville addicts wish to dispute it, the only basis for continuing not to worry about what the future holds for humanity is to invoke arguably the greatest conspiracy of all time – one to which the UN, WMO, IPCC, the vast majority of relevantly-qualified climate scientists and scientific and professional institutions are all part – which is that they are supposedly attempting to foist worldwide authoritarian government on a credulous world (and/or to accuse all those that call for action guilty of crying “Wolf”). If still in any doubt, take a look at this brilliant and effective animation debunking the warming stopped in 1998 myth. (Thanks must go to Charles Zeller for alerting me to this!)
However, I believe the reality of the situation is much simpler: Occam’s Razor is valid – the simplest explanation is the right one! Anthropogenic climate change is the result of there being too many humans pumping too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; such that the Earth’s ability to assimilate and or recycle it is completely overwhelmed. The solution is simple but very challenging:
– It is simple because we already have the alternatives – we just have to decide that it is important enough to stop burning fossil fuels solely because they exist.
– It is challenging because, even if we do this, the Earth will still not be able to support anything like 7 billion humans if everyone was to consume and/or pollute all its other resources at the rate that developed countries are currently doing.
So here is something for you to consider while over-indulging this Christmas: How are we going to cut this gordian knot? If we cannot deny the legitimate aspirations of poorer people to share in our comfortable existence, surely we are going to have to moderate our over-consumption? I think one thing is certain, we will never achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals without some sacrifice on our part.
And so the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Durban have ended with yet another decision to put-off necessary decisions for anything up to 8 years.
This is yet another vindication of Clive Hamilton’s 2010 description of climate change as “a failure of modern politics” (p.223 of Requiem for a Species). However, Garrett Hardin described the problem perfectly in his seminal 1968 article entitled ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’. Hardin used the example of medieval common land (not owned by anybody but used by everybody) to make the point that, unless collective action can be agreed by all, no individual will chose to act alone to prevent over-grazing because to do so would be to disadvantage oneself: “Ruin is the destination to which all men rush, each pursuing his own interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons“…
Therefore, it does not matter whether the global resource considered is the oceans or the atmosphere; we seem destined to over-fish one and pollute the other – simply because we cannot agree that everyone should simultaneously stop taking the restorative capacity of the environment for granted! This prophecy has now been conclusively proven to be valid because, despite being unequivocably told that time is running out, our schizophrenic politicians have decided that what the scientists are telling them is necessary (i.e. that we must stop burning fossil fuels) is politically unacceptable. James Hansen would also appear to be right – they are lying to themselves and us. If not, then they must be relying on the dangerous myth of Carbon Capture and Storage as means by which the fossil fuel lobby would have us believe we can carry on burning fossil fuels and achieve emissions reductions. If so, this may well prove to be the last and most ill-considered Faustian Bargain in human history.
Meanwhile, Sir David Attenborough is apparently being attacked for just stating facts – i.e. the climate is changing. For example, by highlighting the astonishing retreat of glaciers in South Georgia since they were photographed over 90 years ago by Ernest Shackleton’s expedition. However, as Attenborough says, the reason we should be concerned is because most of the melting has occurred in the last 30 years: See The final episode of the BBC’s Frozen Planet series (view from 32 minutes and 03 seconds).
As any intellectual property rights consultant will tell you, when you register an Internet domain name you should also register any obvious similar names to avoid any potential confusion and/or prevent direct competitors doing so in the future. Clearly, when someone at the International Energy Agency registered the URL iea.org in 1996 they did not think to do this, because sometime later the Institute of Economic Affairs registered iea.org.uk.This is one case where the “uk” really matters because, whereas the International Energy Agency clearly accepts the reality of ongoing anthropogenic climate change, the Institute of Economic Affairs appears to still be stuck in a state of non-scientific, ideologically-induced, selective blindness (otherwise known as the intellectually bankrupt state of climate change denial).
Therefore, as the British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, flies off to attend the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP17) in Durban this week, it must be hoped that he has been reading the World Energy Report (2011) rather than Colin Robinson’s Climate Change Policy: Challenging the Policy Activists.