On Matt Ridley’s latest attempt at climate change denial

Note: Matt Ridley has responded – please see his reply piece here

Matt Ridley’s latest column in the Times illustrates a persistent theme for those who oppose action on climate change: that cuts in carbon emissions intended to reduce the dangers of global warming are somehow code for a war against the poor. Climate sceptics use this logic to claim the moral high ground in their own war against policies to cut back on fossil fuel burning. They defend the high-carbon consumption of the rich, in other words, purportedly to assist in the development prospects of the billion people in poorer countries who still don’t have access to electricity. If this sounds strange, it’s because it is.

Biofuels mistake

Ridley’s piece (paywalled here, free version on his website here) complains about “eco-toffs” promoting socially regressive carbon mitigation policies and maintains that “the cost of climate policies falls heavily on today’s poor”. Strangely, one of his key examples to justify this claim is that “subsidies for biofuels have raised food prices by diverting food into fuel, tipping millions into malnutrition and killing about 190,000 people a year”.

Whoops! I don’t know any green groups, however aggressively they may promote carbon cuts, that still promote subsidies for biofuels that might compete with food production on land. Greenpeace calls land-based biofuels “a dead-end path”. ActionAid UK, which strongly promotes action on climate change, recently had a whole campaign called ‘Food not fuel‘, saying: “The rush for biofuels is pushing millions into hunger. It’s madness that we burn food in our cars as biofuels whilst 1 in 8 go hungry.” I’m sure Ridley would agree, as would I. There is a UK-based environmental campaign group called Biofuelwatch that frequently campaigns against biomass in power stations being classed as a subsidised ‘renewable’ fuel. Friends of the Earth makes similar points.

Ridley maintains that “Greens think this harm is a price worth paying to stop the warming”. This is clearly not the case when it comes to biofuels, not least because there is abundant evidence now that the most unsustainably harvested biofuels (such as palm oil on ex-rainforest land in Malaysia, or biomass pellets from North American clear-cuts) are many times worse than fossil fuels even in straight carbon terms. When their biodiversity and social impacts (competing against food production for humans) are factored in the case against becomes even stronger. Actually this is one of the few areas where climate sceptics and greens seem to agree – something to acknowledge and build on perhaps!

Climate paradoxes

But this is only the beginning. Unfortunately, because Ridley has convinced himself that cuts to carbon emissions will harm the world’s poor, he feels the need to craft ‘scientific’ justifications for his clearly intuitive belief that global warming will not be so bad. (More likely, it’s the other way round: he’s against tackling global warming, and wants to use the world’s poor as a moral justification for this.)

Let me say at the outset that I don’t even think this is logical. It is quite possible (maybe even probable) for global warming to both be extremely damaging and for near-term carbon emissions cuts to have a harmful effect on the world’s poor. Ridley mentions in his piece the “3.5 million deaths a year from indoor air pollution caused by cooking over open fires of wood and dung”. I agree with this figure; indeed the latest estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are as many as 4.3 million premature deaths a year are likely attributable to “pollution exposures among the estimated 2.9 billion people living in homes using wood, coal or dung as their primary cooking fuel”.

I entirely accept that these peoples’ lives would be much improved by using electric cooking in the home (or much cleaner gas) even if this electricity were to come from new coal-fired power stations in places like India and Bangladesh, thereby worsening carbon emissions and the resulting global warming. (Though one should bear in mind WHO’s figure of 3.7 million annual deaths worldwide from outdoor air pollution, of which coal burning is by far the largest source.)

This is a familiar paradox, and one that has been pointed out by many people (e.g. Breakthrough Institute and Roger Pielke Jnr. There is no doubt that global energy production is going to have to double, triple or even quadruple this century in order to allow for economic development and poverty eradication worldwide. This is one of the reasons I have supported nuclear power, which along with renewables can offset the use of coal and other fossil fuels in producing this much-needed increase in energy supplies.

Wishing away global warming

What bugs me however is that Ridley resolves this paradox instead by denying the gravity of global warming. He does this by rejecting the seven-year-long effort of the IPCC to come up with a consensus position on future global warming estimates, and instead cherry-picking a couple of studies that seem to support lower warming projections to bolster his pre-determined position.

Here’s Ridley’s key paragraphs in the Times article:

But is greenery really quite so selfless? Take climate change. The “synthesis report” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published yesterday, warns of an increased “likelihood” of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts if emissions continue. But when you cut through the spin, the IPCC is actually saying that there is a range of possibilities, from no net harm at all (scenario RCP 2.6) through two middling scenarios to one where gathering harm from mid-century onwards culminates in potentially dire consequences by 2100 (scenario RCP 8.5).

This latter scenario makes wildly unrealistic assumptions about population, coal use, trade, methane emissions and other things; RCP 2.6 is equally unrealistic in the other direction. So let’s focus on the two middle scenarios, known as RCP 4.5 and RCP 6. In these more realistic economic projections, if you use the latest and best estimates of the climate’s “sensitivity” to carbon dioxide (starkly lower than the out-of-date ones still used by the IPCC), the most probable outcome is that the world will be respectively just 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than today by the last decades of this century.

Most of that warming will be at night, in winter and in northern latitudes, so tropical daytime warming will be less. Again, on the best evidence available, it is unlikely that this amount of warming, especially if it is slow, will have done more harm than good. The chances are, therefore, that climate change will not cause significant harm in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

When challenged by me on Twitter Ridley did cite a couple of references:

Ridley’s scientifically unsupportable claims

Now let’s go through this and see where Ridley’s ideological bias is pushing him into making scientifically unsupportable claims. Ridley rejects both the very high and very low emission scenarios of the IPCC as being “unrealistic”. I agree the low-emission RCP 2.6 scenario, which sees a peak in global emissions in about 6 years from now, and then negative emissions after about 2070, is indeed unrealistic. It is very difficult to square this with rapid economic growth in developing countries and the energy consumption growth that must support it.

However, I do not see any a priori reason to reject RCP 8.5, the highest-emissions scenario considered by the IPCC, not least because that is the scenario world emissions are currently tracking slightly above, as this graph – which plots historical emissions against all the RCPs – demonstrates.

From Sandford, T. et al, 'The climate policy narrative for a dangerously warming world', Nature Climate Change, http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n3/full/nclimate2148.html

From Sandford, T. et al, 2014: ‘The climate policy narrative for a dangerously warming world’, Nature Climate Change, http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n3/full/nclimate2148.html

That’s Ridley’s first sleight of hand. But the second is far worse. Armed with the two scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 6 that he considers ‘realistic’, Ridley then ignores the IPCC’s projected warming responses and substitutes his own, which just happen to be “starkly lower than the out-of-date ones still used by the IPCC”. In other words, Ridley cherry-picks a couple of studies which project lower ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’ (ECS), superimposes them on RCPs 4.5 and 6, and hey presto! – he has low enough figures for global warming this century in order to conclude “that climate change will not cause significant harm in the lives of our children and grandchildren”.

I have to admit this drove me to sarcasm on Twitter:

Consensus science

But really. What is the point of the entire 7-year IPCC process, assessing thousands of papers in the peer-reviewed literature, assembling hundreds of experts to author chapters and then pick through them line by line, if the resulting report (and the Synthesis Report was just launched this week) can then be dismissed by right-wing newspaper columnists as merely “out of date”?

To me the value of consensus science is just that: by dint of a weighty literature review it rules out cherry-picking. I accept that Ridley has written knowledgeably about evolutionary biology and many other things in the past, but on climate change he blows away any claim to scientific credibility with this extraordinary dismissal of the vast majority of the evidence in order to bolster a pre-conceived ideological position. I believe this is called ‘motivated reasoning’ by psychologists.

And he doesn’t even get it right. Yes, Lewis and Curry (one of Ridley’s cherry-picked citations linked in his tweet above) come up with a much lower estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity, but ECS is a fairly academic value anyway – it imagines the equilibrium response of the climate system, meaning many centuries away from today. (In reality true equilibrium would never be reached as the climate is a dynamic system subject to multiple and always-changing forcings, both natural and anthropogenic.)

The temperature value that we all actually care about is called transient climate response (TCR), which is how much global warming we might expect, in Ridley’s words, “in the lives of our children and grandchildren”. And as has been pointed out elsewhere (including by the IPCC – see Fig TS6.2, p.84 here), Lewis and Curry’s estimates for TCR are pretty much in line with everyone else’s. So Ridley, blinded by his ideological fervour, has plucked the wrong cherry.

Here’s the relevant graph for TCR for the various RCP scenarios. I have taken it from a 2014 Nature Geoscience paper by David Frame, Adrian Macey and Myles Allen, so it’s not, er, ‘out of date’. The IPCC version of this graph can be viewed in the Synthesis Report – see Figure 2.3 in this PDF – but it’s rather low-resolution and difficult to read.

From Frame et al, 2014: 'Cumulative emissions and climate policy', Nature Geoscience, http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v7/n10/full/ngeo2254.html

From Frame et al, 2014: ‘Cumulative emissions and climate policy’, Nature Geoscience, http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v7/n10/full/ngeo2254.html

A killer mistake

As the IPCC makes clear, transient climate response is very much a function of cumulative carbon emissions, and actually has very little to do with whatever your idealised value is for equilibrium climate sensitivity many centuries away. If you read off the graph, RCP 4.5 gives us about 2.4C global warming by 2100 (not 0.8C as Ridley maintains), while RCP 6 takes us to about 3 degrees C (more than double Ridley’s 1.2C). If we include the scenarios Ridley rejected, only the lowest, RCP 2.6, stays under 2 degrees, the internationally-agreed objective for mitigating global warming, whilst the highest, RCP 8.5, takes us well over 4 degrees C.

Now, I wrote a book a few years back called Six Degrees, which looked at the likely impacts of each degree of warming. I won’t prescis it here, but let me say that 2 degrees was bad, four degrees was catastrophic, and six degrees was pretty much unimaginable (though I did try). Because of this, and because I have children myself, I would be delighted if Ridley was right and global warming could be easily restrained to just 0.8C. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to achieve this by wishing away consensus science and inventing our own convenient alternative. There’s a word for this: it’s called ‘denial’. We have to deal with the world as it is, not how we’d wish it to be.

55 Comments

  1. Buck Field

    If only such critical analysis was more uniformly applied.

    While the above has many fairly good arguments, several of the basic epistemological criticisms you apply to Ridley re: climate change & biofuels seem applicable to your arguments regarding monoculture farming and GMO’s:

    – Claiming moral high ground in a war against policies to cut back on fossil fuel burning (FFB) / GMO deployment
    – Opinion contradicts general consensus of green groups
    – Claims that cuts to FFB / GMO will harm the world’s poor
    – Feeling a need to craft ‘scientific’ justifications for clearly intuitive beliefs
    – Excluding the middle possibilty (maybe even probable) for FFB / GMO to both be extremely damaging and have near-term harmful effects on the poor
    – Ignoring relevant data, in the case of GMO’s this data is the consistent behavior of corporate boards to suppress open study of potential health impacts, and our level of ignorance regarding gut biomes and many other important factors.

    Reply
    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Rubbish. I’m not concerned about “general consensus of green groups”. I’m interested in the scientific consensus, which is that GMOs are safe and that climate change is real, a point I’ve made so many times it’s getting boring.

    2. Buck Field

      >Rubbish. I’m not concerned about “general consensus of green groups” –

      Whether “concerned” or not, you did choose to advance green groups consensus as evidence while criticizing some of Ridley’s many errors in paragraph 3 above. You even contrast (well) your appraisal of perhaps their strongest relevant arguments against the false strawman Ridley presents – with a tone I take as generally supportive.

      If we only are concerned with some consensus when it agrees with us, then we lose another potential source of learning: when it disagrees.

      When GMO’s, the contrast is called “rubbish”. This seems cause for concern. There are many reasons my proposal that you have a blind spot here could be wrong, but what is most troubling is that when confronted with the criticism, you seem to regard providing reasons which might change my mind as inappropriate, while name-calling “rubbish” and refusing to discuss or acknowledge any validity to the objection is an acceptable response. We don’t accept this from ACC deniers for very good reasons.

      It runs counter to what we hope distinguishes the best of scientific reasoning, in the words of a pretty good scientist: “dealing with the world as it is, not how we’d wish it to be.”

      I wish I could talk to *that* scientist about things that exist, and best practices for dealing with any available evidence on important subjects.

    3. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      I think you’re actually trying not to understand. The consensus that matters is the scientific one, not the Green one, the right-wing one or any other ideological one. Here’s helpful infographic for you.

      climate-gmos infographic

      Now do you understand?

    4. Buck Field

      I understand these ontological statements and their positions, but my objection is based on epistemological factors upon which these statements are based.

      > The consensus that matters is the scientific one, not the Green…etc.

      There is both good and bad science, and sorting them is a complex matter (see: Systematicity by Hoyningen-Huene). Sorting good from bad well takes into account scientific practices over time, covering vast ranges of activities, contexts, and differing levels of reliability, etc.

      What matters from this perspective is whether a consensus is reliable and based on what we ought to consider “good” science, based on both internal and environmental factors.

      Statements on GMO’s you provide appear to be based on unprecedented levels of directed influence from non-scientists, lawyers, corporate control, suppression of information, political investments, scoping investigations, and so forth which ACC deniers like Ridley cannot even attempt for structural reasons.

      I get no traction for such concerns when relating them to GMO’s, but you ably deploy such tools to criticize positions of ACC deniers who you are certain are wrong.

      What would convince me the AAAS’ statement (et al) is reliable? A reasonable justification for equating absence of data indicating possible GMO adverse impacts with safety, within a context of large resources from outside. Vested interests seem to have pursued ensuring no reliable negative data can be produced by top research institutions.

      What possible reason could there be for GMO license holders to invest in preventing open research if the ultimate facts are as these statements claim?

    5. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      In short, you believe in a conspiracy to pervert legitimate science on GMOs, just as climate deniers believe in a conspiracy to pervert the science on climate. I’m generalising, but that’s the gist I get from your rather confusing reply. I think it’s a Left-Right thing: leftists see corporations as malevolent agents perverting science; rightists see governments as the same. I think they’re both wrong.

    6. Robert Saik

      Buck, have you spent time in the fields of the world’s poorest farmers?

      Have you seen the devastation caused to crops by insects and disease?

      Have you walked fields being degraded by excess tillage?

      Have you talked to families whose nutrition health is so low they suffer from nutrient induced disease?

      ALL of these scenarios could be positively impacted by GMO technology.

      Science consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of the technology. And it is not correct to correlate all GMO technology with only large corporate interests.

      I find it paradoxical that climate change supporters embrace science to substantiate climate change while simultaneously denying the overwhelming body of science supporting GMO’s

    7. John Mitchell

      Mark,

      I love the piece and don’t want to detract from it Re: GMOs but I think you should know that the necessary sample size for an effective study to determine the potential for low-grade allergy and bowel irritation (as well as impacts to gut flora) resulting from wide-scale distribution of GMO crops has yet to be performed.

      An analog to this type of study needed is the German KiKK study of childhood leukemia incidents near nuclear power plants. https://www.nirs.org/radiation/radhealth/kikkcommentary0709ijoeh.pdf

      Before this study was performed it was (and even still is) commonly asserted hat this would be impossible. However, the results are robust. This study definitively proved a statistically significant increase (a doubling) of childhood leukemia within 2 Km of nuclear power plants in Germany. This is the primary reason for their dismantling of the nuclear industry and resultant temporary increases in GHG emissions.

      And this was for an obvious disease, leukemia. To prove the risk that is potentially directly attributed to the increases in autoimmune disorders (caused by leaky gut and other factors) within the U.S. an even more comprehensive study, including universal screening, would have to be applied.

      In the end, with regard to the safety of GMOs. This has yet to be proven on a long enough trial with a large enough sample size.

    8. Buck Field

      As far as I can tell, a number of factors you present cannot be considered by Mark and some other pro-GMO advocates for emotional reasons.

      I share pro-GMO goals and aspirations, but insist they be pursued with at least the kind of rigorous safety reserved for a boner pill.

    9. Clyde Davies

      Buck, in his typically tortuous post, states:
      “Statements on GMO’s you provide appear to be based on unprecedented levels of directed influence from non-scientists, lawyers, corporate control, suppression of information, political investments, scoping investigations, and so forth which ACC deniers like Ridley cannot even attempt for structural reasons” – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/11/matt-ridley-climate-denial/#sthash.8KX7Ycpn.dpuf

      I’m a great believer in Plain English and simple arguments, simply stated. There is an online database of studies performed on GM crops at http://genera.biofortified.org/ . Very few if any show any adverse toxicological effects from these crops.

      In the past I have proposed a modest bet of £50 in this forum. It’s that in five years from now, nobody will be able to demonstrate any harm, proven in a court of law, from consuming a GM crop. Buck started to take me up on it, then welshed out of it (and *I’m* allowed to use that word, being a Welshman myself).

      So, it’s time to put up, or shut up. Let’s see if people have the courage of their anti-GMO convictions. Anybody?

    10. Buck Field

      A simple question for Mark or Clyde: do you agree that unprecedented involvement of corporate power, lawyers, etc. on science reports ought to be considered in assessing their reliability?

    11. Benjamin David Steele

      I don’t clear opinion on GMOs. But I apply the same attitude as I do toward climate change. The only rational response is the precautionary principle.

      We are still figuring out basic issues about climate change and that is after decades of research. GMOs are even less well-researched. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we simply don’t know the impact GMOs might have.

      That isn’t denialism. It’s being intellectually humble and honest.

  2. ...and Then There's Physics

    Good post and I agree with you completely about Ridley’s assessment of future warming. It seems obvious to me that this is really a risk assessment problem. We don’t know precisely what future warming will be. There is a chance that Ridley/Lewis’s projections might be right. However, what we have to consider is what is the chance that they’ll be wrong (which is almost certainly greater than the chance of them being right), what are the implications of this (i.e., how much damage will this warming produce) and what are the costs/risks associated with mitigating or adapting to these potential risks. Climate policy shouldn’t simply be us deciding to gamble on a single climate sensitivity.

    Additionally, what I found odd about his article was this bit that you also highlight
    But when you cut through the spin, the IPCC is actually saying that there is a range of possibilities, from no net harm at all (scenario RCP 2.6) through two middling scenarios to one where gathering harm from mid-century onwards culminates in potentially dire consequences by 2100 (scenario RCP 8.5).
    It’s as if he’s suggesting that the different RCPs are somehow all equally possible; as if we could, by chance, follow a low emission pathway. We could, but that would either be because our economies have crashed and we’re no longer generating energy, or because we’ve developed some alternative energy source without even really trying to do so. These RCPs represent possible pathways that we could choose to follow, not pathways that will simply happen by chance. If we want to minimise the risks associated with climate change, we should decide to follow one of the lower emission pathways, not hope that we will simply do so by chance.

    Reply
    1. Arecibo

      “Climate policy shouldn’t simply be us deciding to gamble on a single climate sensitivity.” Agreed. The thing is, that’s precisely what you’re suggesting; that we take action based on the worst case emissions scenario and assume that the catastrophic effects modelled in cyberspace are the inevitable result in the real world.

    2. ...and Then There's Physics

      The thing is, that’s precisely what you’re suggesting; that we take action based on the worst case emissions scenario and assume that the catastrophic effects modelled in cyberspace are the inevitable result in the real world.
      Nope, that’s not what I’m suggesting. I don’t actually believe I said we should do anything. I’m suggesting that climate policy should be a balance between the risks associated with climate change and the risks/costs associated the minimising those risks. I don’t really see how this is particularly controversial. Any risk analysis always involves considering the more extreme scenarios and whether or not one should take action to minimise the risk of those outcomes. It doesn’t involve going “well, it might be alright”.

      We don’t wear seatbelts because we think we’ll probably have an accident. We wear them because they are a sensible thing to wear in the event of an accident. Just because we will probably not have an accident is not a good argument for not wearing them. Similarly with climate change, just because it might be alright doesn’t mean we should assume that it will be alright. A caveat with climate change, though, is that if we choose to follow a high emission pathway, it will almost certainly be extremely damaging (unless you think guaranteeing almost 4 degrees of warming by 2100 is fine).

      So, we have options. We could choose to try to drastically cut our emissions now to virtually guarantee that there is no risk associated with climate change. We could take some middle route where there is still a chance of a large amount of warming, but it’s small enough that we can afford the risk, or we can follow a high emission pathway and hope that climate science is wrong.

    3. Robin Guenier

      To whom are you referring when you say ‘we’? It’s a word you use a lot: ‘we have to consider … we could [do this or do that] … we should … we have options’ etc.

      Do you mean mankind? But, if you do, I suggest you’ve overlooked the reality that ‘we’ (or most of ‘us’) have made ‘our’ choice: the developing world (responsible for around 70% of global GHG emissions) has opted to give economic development and (note this) the eradication of poverty priority over emission reduction.

      That completely changes the terms of this discussion. It’s not really about a possible trade-off between action on climate change and the development prospects of the world’s poorest people. That decision has essentially been made: the world has chosen emission growth – even Bangladesh is building coal-fired power stations. No, given that reality, the question now is this: what should the developed world be doing to help the poorest people in areas where it still may have some influence – essentially in Sub-Saharan Africa?

      There’s little we can do that will have significant effect on global GHG emissions. But there’s quite a lot we can do now to help those people: probably the most effective is to provide access to inexpensive reliable electric power. And that, I suggest, is best done by building coal and gas fired power plant.

  3. Mark Brinkley

    Mark,

    An excellent refutation. Well argued and cogent. It will be interesting to see if Matt Ridley can reply with anything coherent. More likely, he will slope off, only to return with another “thought-provoking” comment piece about “eco-toffs raping the poor” in the Times in a few weeks time.

    One further point that annoys me (that you didn’t touch on) is that, whilst Ridley (and Lomborg) are happy to shoot down IPCC climate models as being alarmist and “out of date”, they continue to cite economic models which foretell untold wealth in decades to come if only we can stop all these (crippling) green subsidies which (singlehandledly) seem to be about to end economic growth as we have known it. Yet these economic models are simply based on plotting the growth of wealth forwards at the trajectories we have seen during the 20th century (and have somehow been rather absent in the 21st century, at least in the West). They are subject to nothing like the same scrutiny as the climate models have received. Whilst climate science may be inherently difficult and a little chaotic, economic forecasting is nothing but guesswork.

    Furthermore, they completely fail to see that climate change may in time have a devastating impact on hopes for economic growth as farming systems, water resources and sea levels change, causing all manner of economic stress. Whilst on the other hand, switching to low or non carbon energy sources, whilst undoubtedly expensive in the short term, could prove to be quite a boost to economic growth over the next three or four decades. Admittedly, this is just speculation, but it’s far more plausible than the line pedalled by Ridley and Lomborg.

    Reply
  4. Ariel Poliandri

    The fact that you dislike wild overstatements & idieological drives to plunge us back into the dark ages doesn’t make you a denier Mark. You can believe CO2 increases radiation’s absorption (hence increasing global temperatures) without believing that the world will come to an end in 2100s. Specially when the mathematical models (and that’s what they are, just mathematical models) used to predict climate change have overshooted again and again.
    Regarding “peer reviewed” literature: have you noticed the many “peer reviewed” papers on circulation supporting homeopathy? I guess not. It seems to me that “climate” scientists are a closed group of researchers convinced that we should repent of our eco-sins or else.

    Reply
    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Oh come on. Are you honestly suggesting that there is a worldwide scientific consensus on the efficacy of homeopathy that we should all valiantly oppose? You’re twisting yourself in knots. Though using homeopathy to justify ignoring the weight of peer-reviewed literature on an issue is admittedly a new one on me!

    2. Ariel Poliandri

      There is consensus among Homeopaths, as there is among “climate” scientists. Despite the fact that, as stated above, their models are clumsy to say the least. But the main problem are not the inaccurate models;the problem is the “solutions” that they propose.

    3. knr

      The idea that this group of ‘experts ‘ should be unquestionable be believed and those that refuse to believe should be dammed as ‘deniers ‘ , is odd given that science should welcome challenge , as central to science is the idea of ‘critical review ‘ While if it has ‘settled ‘ has repeatedly claimed should have no issue dealing with these challenges. And this supposed to be science not religion with claims of absolute truths come from prophets that cannot be questioned.
      And its before we get to problems of how these ‘experts’ have shown themselves more than willing to ‘create the right results ‘ defame those that challenge them and to seek to manipulate the very process , that is peer review , which is supposed to give validity to these experts in the first place. And finally but by no means lest, the problem that these ‘experts ‘ often worked at a standard that is unacceptable for any undergraduate handing in an essay claiming their dog eat their data or ‘trust me its true’
      People may be more inclined to offer blind support to these ‘experts’ that some seem to what if they actual acted has good scientists letting the data speak for itself , rather than advocates of a political outlook and their own careers , out to make the data sign the right song in the right way.

      The idea that ‘experts ‘ should be unquestionable be believed is both illogical and anti-science and that is before the reality that history tell us the scientific consensus has been proved by dead wrong by the very type of outsiders attacked and vilified by those whose strength in belief of ‘the cause ‘ is far more important than actual facts. The need to guard against such confirmation basis is especially important in areas where much is still poorly know and some unknown as we see in climate science, this issue being at the root of way that the models have failed in application, hence the need for the ‘hidden heat ‘ . Their presumptions where wrong because they were built on ‘quick sand ‘ not a solid foundation.

  5. Clive Elsworth

    I can’t help wondering if both you and Matt Ridley are barking up the wrong tree, or at least not the best one.

    Now that the dangers of global warming are more or less accepted by decision makers, what’s now important is that policies chosen to reduce global emissions are not only as economically painless as possible – especially to the poor – but also successful.

    But I see little or no discussion on the merits of the different economic instruments in this regard, which are:

    – Command and Control – Government regulation
    – Government Subsidies
    – Cap and Trade – letting the market put a price on carbon, given an emissions limit
    – Carbon Tax – setting a direct price on carbon, usually redistributing the revenue back to citizens.

    Perhaps the worst problem with global warming is the incentive for nations to free-ride when others like Britain reduce our emissions. Why should we go through all that pain of burning less, if it leaves a glut of cheaper fuel for others to buy and burn?

    And so you’d think the question of international coordination might feature prominently when choosing the best economic instrument to reduce emissions globally, wouldn’t you?. No it doesn’t apparently.

    Whenever the word “tax” is mentioned, it seems to cause an allergic reaction in politicians, and so cap-and-trade has, to date, been the main instrument of choice.

    Fortunately, a global NGO based in Washington DC, Citizens Climate Lobby, has done its homework and is advocating a simple, honest carbon pricing policy called “Fee & Dividend”. This is essentially a progressive carbon tax which as such, would put a growing downward pressure on emissions throughout the entire economy. The free-riding problem is partially solved by domestic energy intensive industries being protected by the levying of “border adjustments” on trading partners not collecting a similar carbon tax.

    But the genius of this policy is that all trading nations would be incentivised to impose a similar carbon price domestically: Their choice would be to either raise their own carbon tax or pay the US government border duties – a no brainer in many cases.

    The “Dividend” part of the policy means 100% of the carbon fee revenue is rebated in equal measure back to legal citizens (half for children). This makes it a progressive policy, given that most low income groups spend less on energy (in absolute terms) than everyone else. So the poor would actually be better off.

    It is quite close to being accepted in both US houses – 30 more Congressmen and 5 more Senators needed.

    On the other hand the EU Cap-and-trade scheme is regressive, in that the only way they could get the big emitters to sign up to it was to give them lots of free permits to pollute – tantamount to printing money and giving it to rich people.

    However, what’s worse about cap-and-trade schemes is they are horrendously complicated (i.e. impractical) to harmonise internationally.

    So even though cap-and-trade puts a price on carbon, it is unlikely to solve the problem globally, not that many environmentalists have paid much attention to that.

    Instead they, perhaps unwittingly, tend to favour the least efficient instruments – government regulation and renewable subsidies.

    When Chairman Mao observed that one of the things the “successful West” did was make steel, he brought tragedy on his country by insisting that China put all its energy into doing the same – just making steel. Famine ensued and millions died.

    Now I fear that our over-simplified approach of dictating shopping lists of green products, in the absence of any debate about the economics, could result in climate change spiralling out of control, bringing even worse tragedy down the line – on billions.

    Reply
    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Yes, good points – I largely agree. Fee & Dividend is a great idea – all power to it.

    2. Clive Elsworth

      Thanks Mark.

      BTW perhaps I should have been clearer by saying: What’s now important is that policies … painless as possible – especially to the poor – but also successful **at reducing emissions**.

      Right now there appear to be many intelligent people arguing amongst themselves, whilst the fossil fuel corporatocracy continues to invest in more emissions producing plant. Once Fee & Dividend becomes a real prospect I suspect thet will try to discredit it even more vigorously than they have done so for climate change, because they know that if it becomes legislation their number will be up.

      So I guess I’m urging everyone here to give up your small(ish) battles and prepare for the big one – justifying a fully redistributed carbon tax vs half baked and wasteful schemes like Europe’s cap-and-trade Emissions Trading Scheme, or worse – huge “green” subsidies, like coal gasification!

    3. Robin Guenier

      “And so you’d think the question of international coordination might feature prominently when choosing the best economic instrument to reduce emissions globally, wouldn’t you?”

      Maybe – but the problem is that international coordination has totally failed. And it’s failed because the developing economies – responsible for nearly 70% of GHGs and with no interest in being coordinated – are giving economic development and the eradication of poverty priority over emission reduction. In the light of the Ridley/Lynas debate, it’s significant that these countries have opted for a policy of burning fossil fuels as their primary method of eliminating poverty. And they can hardly be described as ‘the fossil fuel corporatocracy’. Nor are they likely to be interested in a carbon tax. (Note that China’s harsh and successful response to the EU’s attempt to impose a carbon tax on flights to and from non-EU destinations indicates that attempts to impose border duties are likely to do more harm than good.)

      As you say, many intelligent people in the West are arguing amongst themselves. But, in the meantime in the real world, emissions are – for the above reason – increasing and are likely to continue to do so.

    4. Clive Elsworth

      Robin
      I probably shouldn’t have said “corporatocracy” because it implies something negative and I don’t have a problem with business or profits. Indeed if anything will save the planet I believe it will be the market economy.

      What I do have a problem with is the way some wealthy firms skew the political decision making process, to the point that some senior politicians now apparently know science better than the National Academy, The Royal Society and all the world’s meteorological offices, etc.

      And yes, nobody wants to be “coordinated” but I think you are being rather opportunistic in that case, so let’s say “incentivised”.

      I agree it’s significant that the developing world chooses fossil fuels to grow their economies, etc., and who can blame them? So is pretty much everybody else in reality, given the paucity of effective economic plans in operation.

      Regarding China’s harsh response to the EU carbon tax on flights, if the dangers of climate change are to be taken seriously, then that is not a reason to give up. It may be that the EU is just too weak or handled it badly.

      In another example, the US only *began considering* adopting a cap-and-trade scheme in which border adjustments would have been imposed on China, and China immediately began piloting their own cap-and-trade schemes. (Not that such border adjustments wouldn’t have been horrendously complicated to administer with all the offsets, free permits and volatile prices. They would be much better off with simple, direct carbon pricing in that regard.)

    5. Buck Field

      @Clive,

      By professing belief in “the market” saving the Earth, I take it you have not read Adam Smith’s take on destruction of the commons, especially deforestation.

      If that impression is mistaken, do you have a response to his analysis?

  6. Buck Field

    Robert,

    A focus on my time in fields, etc., seems a deliberate distraction from clear and reliable analysis, which is my primary goal.

    It would be false to believe I associate “all GMO tech” with large corporations.

    First: Do No Harm.

    The idea that an action “could” benefit anyone or everyone is only at issue if downside risk is clear. This is why we developed rigorous drug trials. It seems reasonable to expect the strongest push to prevent such testing would come from those with the deepest pockets and most to gain from sales of the drug in question.

    Reply
  7. Paul Matthews

    There is a non-paywalled version of Ridley’s article at his blog

    http://rationaloptimist.com/blog/greens-take-the-moral-low-ground.aspx

    I suggest people read it to see whether he made any “mistakes” or indulged in any “climate change denial”.

    Reply
    1. John Hindley

      The fact that Mark Lynas provided the same link in his own article makes your challenge somewhat redundant. I wonder whether you bothered to read Mark Lynas’s article or just had a quick look at the general subject matter before making your comment. Having read both, it’s clear to me that Ridley is talking nonsense.

  8. Jonathan Brown

    In the United States, beginning in the1940s, large volumes of DDT were sprayed outdoors to kill mosquitoes and pests on crops. As early as the 1940s, scientists in the U.S. had begun expressing concern over possible hazards associated with DDT, and in the 1950s the government began tightening some of the regulations governing its use. However, it was only banned in 1972, after it built up in food chains, nearly wiping out bald eagles, pelicans and other birds.

    The EPA then held seven months of hearings in 1971–1972, with scientists giving evidence both for and against the use of DDT. The hearings produced a 113-page decision, in which Hearing Examiner Edmund Sweeney wrote: “DDT is not a carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic hazard to man. The uses under regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on fresh water fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife. The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for essential uses of DDT.”

    In 2001, more than 100 countries signed the Stockholm Convention, a United Nations treaty which sought to eliminate use of 12 persistent, toxic compounds, including DDT. Under the pact, use of the pesticide is allowed only for controlling malaria.

    Use of DDT to fight malaria has been increasing since it was endorsed in 2006 by the World Health Organization and the President’s Malaria Initiative, a U.S. aid program launched by former President Bush. In 2007, at least 3,950 tons of DDT was sprayed for mosquito control in Africa and Asia, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme. That volume is slowly increasing.

    If DDT is so dangerous why is its use being promoted when there are viable alternatives?

    Use of synthetic insecticides to control vector mosquitoes has caused physiological resistance and adverse environmental effects in addition to high operational cost. Insecticides of botanical origin have been reported as useful for control of mosquitoes. Azadirachta indica (Meliaceae) and its derived products have shown a variety of insecticidal properties.

    Today’s use of DDT differs greatly. In Africa, it is sprayed in much smaller quantities but people are directly exposed, often to a greater extent, because it is sprayed on walls inside homes and other buildings.

    In 2009, environmental scientists from the US and South Africa said, “Based on recent studies, we conclude that humans are exposed to DDT and DDE, that indoor residual spraying can result in substantial exposure and that DDT may pose a risk for human populations,” the scientists wrote in their consensus statement, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

    The research and consequential evidence about the effects of DDT on humans is amazingly thin. The problem of persistence seems to be the main concern. However, how much of the outright ban, initially in the US in 1972, of DDT and the supposed scientific consensus that followed, was political rather than real, remains very questionable. The then available alternatives were certainly as, or more, hazardous than DDT, the primary difference being greatly reduced persistence. The alternatives were also much more costly.

    There are as many accusations about the effects of DDT as there are for GMO’s. Scientific consensus does seem very fragile yet self perpetuating in some respects.

    Reply
    1. Clyde Davies

      “If DDT is so dangerous why is its use being promoted when there are viable alternatives?” – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/11/matt-ridley-climate-denial/#sthash.OdsNP43H.dpuf

      It’s very simple. Firstly, it’s used under highly controlled circumstances: it’s only sprayed on the walls of dwellings where, as a persistent organochlorine insecticide, it kills female mosquitoes resting after their blood meals. Secondly, the risks from the insecticide have been weighed up against those of catching falciparum malaria.
      Likewise for GMOs like Golden Rice. the risks from this crop are negligible compared to the consequences of not using it. This argument I have been belabouring for so long now I am beginning to wonder whether I should try it out on somebody less incorrigibly stupid.

    2. Jonathan Brown

      Clyde, in most of the circumstances you describe, the mosquitoes are already resistant to DDT. What I was trying to highlight in my comment was not whether or not DDT is or is not effective but that there is a scientific consensus that DDT is hazardous to human health.

      The example of DDT demonstrates the misleading and variable nature of a supposed “scientific consensus” over an extended period of 60 plus years – controls on the use of DDT being initiated in the early 1950’s. DDT was banned in 1972 without any real understanding of the hazards real or imagined of DDT for probably political reasons.

      There are 152 signatories to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, It is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) of which DDT is one. Although some critics have alleged that the treaty is responsible for the continuing death toll from malaria, in reality the treaty specifically permits the public health use of DDT for the control of mosquitoes (the malaria vector). That is despite all the evidence that the malaria vector is mostly resistant to DDT.

      From a developing country perspective, a lack of data and information about the sources, releases, and environmental levels of POPs hampers negotiations on specific compounds, and indicates a strong need for research. That is made worse because there is little or no international funding for alternatives to DDT, such as Neem, that are effective.

      People die, not as a consequence failing to spray or treat but as a result of the availability of funding only for the use of specific and mostly ineffective sprays that are hazardous to human health. To cite one Indian research paper: “Use of synthetic insecticides to control vector mosquitoes has caused physiological resistance and adverse environmental effects in addition to high operational cost.”

      From personal experience in Africa, I can confirm that people are exposed to DDT and DDE through indoor residual spraying that does result in substantial exposure that is largely ineffective against mosquitoes. Despite these known hazards, there are few or no localised risk assessments but there are conditional financial incentive requirements to verify spraying.

  9. Graham Strouts

    Mark, please drop the “denialism” epithet- it is quite unnecessary and detracts from any valid arguments you may have. If you have disagreements, you should be able to make your points without having to resort to invective labeling. I see Matt is planning a response so I will wait for that, but just to point out that the point about biofuels is that they are largely a result of, and justified by, concern over climate change and the push to find alternatives for fossil fuels, even if there are no valid alternatives currently available – I think you could concede Matt is at least half right here, whatever about the position (now) of Green groups. I also think he is largely correct that most Greens have no regard for the negative impacts on the poor wrt climate policies, any more than they do regarding GMOs.

    Reply
  10. Hank Roberts

    > emissions are currently tracking slightly above

    Is there any estimate what part of current fossil fuel emissions reflect investment in sustainable future paths, vs. investment in even more fossil fuel use?

    I know big energy companies, e.g.
    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%22duke%20energy%22%20biomass%20solar
    are investing in solar and biomass generation, for example. That’s still central generation and grid distribution (I don’t see them investing in distributed solar and storage, but could be).

    I realize much of the big company delay is to give them time to move their investments away from stranded assets, no doubt hoping to sell them off to pension plans and suckers before their value crashes, but that’s aside …

    Likewise I know companies from Cree to Tesla are building more factories to build more efficient hardware.

    But is this trivial compared to investment in, oh, Arctic petroleum and gas drilling and more pipelines and refineries, where the investment is further down the path toward the precipice?

    Reply
  11. Jonathan Brown

    A year ago, Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, made landfall in East Samar, Philippines. Typhoon Yolanda was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. A year ago tomorrow, it hit the coastal strip around Tacloban, Philippines. The official death toll is now over 6,000 and over 4 million people were displaced. Nearly 500,000 homes were totally destroyed.

    A number of political leaders and climatologists have connected the typhoon to the effects of climate change.

    Ask any of those survivors of that typhoon, whether or not Mark Lynas or Matt Ridley is right or wrong and the likely response would be “who are they?”

    The reality is that poorest in many parts of the tropics are already suffering the consequences of climate change. It is the richest billion people that use 1/2 of all fossil fuels whereas the poorest 4 billion only use negligible amounts.

    Getting lost in arguments about which set of figures is right or wrong is often used as an argument for avoiding any liability for what are very real catastrophes, here and now. Those catastrophes may well be the consequence of the wanton irresponsibility of the wealthiest energy consuming nations. Alongside that, those same wealthy States are increasingly allocating blame for being poor, on the poor, by vilifying poverty.

    The total aid pledged in cash and kind from around the world as a result of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda was over US $1.6 billion. Of that US $1.6 billion and one year on, the Philippines has only received less than 24% of what was promised.

    Reply
  12. Ben Pile

    Mark says “The consensus that matters is the scientific one, not the Green one, the right-wing one or any other ideological one.” He points to a document showing statements made by scientific academies. Unfortunately for Mark, that is not the scientific consensus.

    The scientific consensus is that

    —The equilibrium climate sensitivity quantifies the response of the climate system to constant radiative forcing on multi-century time scales. It is defined as the change in global mean surface temperature at equilibrium that is caused by a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence)16. The lower temperature limit of the assessed likely range is thus less than the 2°C in the AR4, but the upper limit is the same. This assessment reflects improved understanding, the extended temperature record in the atmosphere and ocean, and new estimates of radiative forcing.

    16 – No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies. —

    Mark’s objection is that Matt denies “the gravity of global warming”. He continues,

    —“[MR] does this by rejecting the seven-year-long effort of the IPCC to come up with a consensus position on future global warming estimates, and instead cherry-picking a couple of studies that seem to support lower warming projections to bolster his pre-determined position.”—

    But Matt’s argument is not outside of the consensus position:

    — “if you use the latest and best estimates of the climate’s “sensitivity” to carbon dioxide (somewhat lower than the out-of-date ones still used by the IPCC), the most probable outcome is that world will be respectively just 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than today by the last two decades of this century.–

    Mark then does away with ECS. “ECS is a fairly academic value anyway”, he says, and points instead to TCR. “If you read off the graph, RCP 4.5 gives us about 2.4C global warming by 2100 (not 0.8C as Ridley maintains)”.

    But in fact, the graph shows that TCR may be as little as Matt says – around just over 1 degree. Mark incorrectly reads Matt as saying 0.8 degree rise over the baseline, rather than a 0.8 degree rise over today’s temperature. After all, having no best estimate for ECS means having no best estimate for TCS.

    What I think is going on here is that Mark is tying himself up in knots trying to defend the binary notion of consensus and extra-consensus arguments, to avoid admitting any nuance to the consensus position and its consequences. But in the end, this causes him to depart from the scientific consensus.

    Reply
    1. Martin Reed

      For the umpteenth time. Since when was science decided by a majority vote? I’ll use the word with great reluctance – consensus.

  13. mailman

    Martin Reed,

    The irony of your post is, I hope, not lost on you? 🙂

    Regards

    Mailman

    Reply
  14. Stacey

    Unfortunately you place your beliefs above reason which of course is the path all zealots take.

    Fact: Global warming has ceased for eighteen years despite increasing amounts of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

    Fact: Antarctica sea ice is at a thirty year high.

    Fact: Artic sea ice has recovered and it is no less than in 1922 or 1817

    Fact: The oceans are alkaline and are not getting more acidic

    Fact: Consensus in science is used by those who wish to suppress debate.

    Fact: Hurrican intensity is not increasing.

    Fact: Climate related disasters are at an all time low.

    Fact: The Climategate emails are a reality.

    You really are in denial Mr Lynas but at least I am polite emough not to call you a denier.

    Have a good weekend.

    Reply
    1. Jai Mitchell

      Stacey,

      Fact: Global Warming is the entire globe, including the oceans, the oceans have warmed enough in the last 10 years that if that heat went into the atmosphere it would be 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer all over the world 24/7.

      Fact: WINTER Antarctic sea ice coverage is higher, due to winds pushing the layers further outward and cooling coming from CONTINUED ice loss from the land-based ice. SUMMER Antarctic sea ice continues to decline.

      Fact: the oceans are getting more acidic, this means that the PH value is moving LOWER. (moving toward the acid region).

      Fact: Consensus in science is a way to ensure that no extreme position is taken and the best information is derived from multiple sources. In this way, consensus in science always leads to incremental change, even if the newer evidence shows faster rates than previous ones.

      Fact: Hurricane intensity is dependent on sea surface temperatures, sea surface temperatures are increasing and so are the intensity of hurricanes that form near them. However, climate predictions state that other factors (like wind shear) will lead to reduced NUMBERS of hurricanes in many locations.

      Fact: climate related droughts are at an all time high and leading to critical groundwater depletion in agricultural areas. The cost of weather related disasters continue to increase well beyond economic growth on a decadal scale. The U.S. Pentagon has instructed all military branches to include climate change assessments in their analysis of CURRENT national security threats.

      Fact: climategate emails (the ones that you have seen) are cut and paste mischaracterizations specifically promoted by PR agencies, paid by the oil and coal industries in vicious propaganda. Multiple later investigations showed no wrongdoing and the Michael Mann hockey stick graph has been verified by multiple sources using over 11 different methods and sources to determine paleoclimate records including but not limited to lake bed samples, sea floor samples, ice core samples, tree ring analysis, coral reef samples, speleotherm samples as well as many many others.

      Fact: Stacey, you ARE a denier, and your abject denial, in the face of your lingering ignorance and pathetic confirmation bias is helping to lead your own children to an early death (along with over 1 billion human beings in the next 50 years) if we do not dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

      you should be horribly ashamed of yourself.

    2. Ty Hallsted

      Jai,

      You make a lot of claims as FACT but back none of them up with source links.

      But just to play devil’s advocate let’s look at your first one: “Fact: Global Warming is the entire globe, including the oceans, the oceans have warmed enough in the last 10 years that if that heat went into the atmosphere it would be 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer all over the world 24/7.”

      According to Ncar/Ucar (https://www2.ucar.edu/climate/faq/what-average-global-temperature-now) the average temp of the planet was around 57.2 from 1961-1990. In 2013 it was 1.12F higher. 10 years ago would be about 2005, about 2/3 of the way between the two so lets take 66% of that anomaly and say that in 2005 the average global temp was .74F higher. That’ll be close enough for the point I want to make. So 57.2 + .74 = 57.94 F is the approx starting temp in 2005 and 35 deg F higher would be 92.94 F.

      Converting to celcius then we’re looking at an equivalent increase of from 14.41C to 33.85 or 19.44 deg C.

      So your effective claim is that enough heat has entered the ocean in the last 10 years to raise atmospheric temp by over 19 Deg C, had the heat landed there instead.

      The most dire model projections have the atmosphere warming by 6 deg or so by 2100, 85 years from now, which averages out to about 0.7 deg C per decade.

      According to your claim, then, heat is accumulating at 27 times the rate projected by the most extreme model.

      Now, I’m not saying you’re wrong, or your source (whatever it is) is wrong, but I do suspect as much.

      What’s even more interesting, though, is if you’re right.

      In that case, this is one of the strongest cases I’ve seen to (1) throw out the models, (2) bolster the skeptical viewpoint and (3) do nothing about curbing CO2.

      For if the planet is warming 27 times faster than the most dire models project then it has to be natural and there is no amount of CO2 reduction that will make enough of a difference to justify the sacrifice.

    3. ...and Then There's Physics

      Ty,
      I think you misunderstand what Jai is trying to say. If you look up how much energy has gone into the oceans in the last decade (Google – Ocean Heat Content) you’ll discover that it is around 10^23 Joules. The mass of the atmosphere is around 5 x 10^18kg and has a specific heat capacity of 1000 J/kg/K (therefore 5 x10^21 J would increase the atmospheric temperature by 1 degree C). Therefore if all the energy that went into the oceans had warmed the atmosphere instead, the atmospheric temperature would have gone up by many degrees (you can do the calculation yourself if you wish).

      This isn’t an indication that the models have failed because the models all include that the oceans absorb a significant fraction of the excess energy. By excess energy I mean the difference between the amount that comes in and the amount that goes out. That the Ocean Heat Content has been increasing, tells us that global warming is happening. Additionally, that the oceans absorb such a big fraction of the excess energy (about 93%) small changes in this can have a big effect on how the surface and atmosphere warms.

      If anything, this is an argument as to why we should be cautious about claiming that the models have failed simply because the last decade has warmed slower than we were expecting. It could simply be a consequence of internal variability that has meant more energy going into the oceans and less heating the land and atmosphere. Of course, if it were to continue for many more years, then it might indicate a significant mismatch. If, however, we continue to increase our emission of GHGs, I wouldn’t bank on that. An ever increasing energy imbalance that didn’t lead to increased surface warming would be physically implausible.

    4. Ty Hallsted

      Thanks for the civil clarification.

      I assume ocean heat content is determined from the Argo units. Yet these have only provided reasonable coverage for a bit over ten years. Prior to that there were instruments measuring ocean tempurate and other stats but they were very sparce in comparison to Argo, correct?

      If so, would it be unreasonable to conclude that, with nothing to compare it to, we don’t know whether the increased heat content over the last ten years is typical or atypical? And if it’s atypical, is it the result of increased CO2, or natural, due to any of the numerous known ocean cycles or even increased underwater volcanic activity.

      And if this is not an unreasonable conclusion, then while that fact may be interesting and sound scary, it is not evidence of AGW.

    5. mailman

      attp,

      And yet thats exactly what is happening…emissions maybe increasing BUT temperatures are not. There is certainly no concrete evidence that the supposed heat is disappearing in to the deep ocean either AND that is a travesty, to quote one of your friends in context 🙂

      The simple fact is none of the claims made by any consensus scientist have come true or will come true (given their track record of failure) and continuing down our current path of economic destruction will only cause more problems than it will ever solve.

      The sooner labour, the conservatives and their retarded child the lib dems are voted out next year the sooner we can return to a sane energy policy where production, security and cost reduction are prioritised over ground unicorn horn and fairies.

      Regards

      Mailman

    6. ...and Then There's Physics

      Mailman,
      What do you mean “temperatures are not increasing”? Yes, they are. Sure, you could choose a very short time interval or select one dataset and ignore all the others, but the evidence suggests that temperatures are rising. Disputing this is nonsensical. Additionally – as I pointed out above – the Ocean Heat Content is increasing. That is fundamentally what AGW is all about – the role of GHGs in trapping outgoing long-wavelength radiation and producing an energy imbalance (more energy coming in than going out).

      Maybe you want policy to be decided by those who are scientifically illiterate. Me, I’d rather that those who decided our policy did so based on actual scientific evidence rather than from the mis-information coming from sites like Bishop-Hill and the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Of course, it is a democracy and so everyone has a right to promote their own view of how we should proceed, so if your view is based on cherry-picks and ignorance, that’s fine. Don’t expect everyone else to agree though.

    7. Clive Elsworth

      Perhaps someone should come up with a model that predicts how long Heartland-style funded deniers will continue to argue against the overwhelming evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change vs parameters such as fossil fuel profits, predicted loss of income, etc. My guess is that these people will keep going, including claiming unfair treatment such as “bullying by scientists” along with occasional death threats *to* scientists, essentially as long as there’s a buck to be made from burning fossil fuel. i.e. essentially forever.

      Unfortunately they know that by keeping the phoney public debate on climate science going, they starve the airtime of the much needed economic debate. We’ve seen them argue against the hockey stick, against the link with CO2, for a link with solar activity etc. Now it’s the 18 year hiatus. (But the temperature peaked in 1998, so shouldn’t that be 16 years?) And now that Argo-floats have measured most new heat uptake going into the oceans their new port of call may be moving onto doubt about climate sensitivity.

      But even oil companies such as Exxon now recognise the reality of global warming and are sensibly recommending a carbon price floor as the best way to reduce emissions.

      I argued above for careful selection of economic instruments to most efficiently reduce CO2 emissions. But I’m reminded of a theory once put to me by a veteran of the corporate world. He suggested the airtime given for discussions is proportional to the amount of knowledge people have. His anecdote was a 1 hour meeting they had around 30 years ago where two decisions were taken – whether or not to: 1. Spend £1 million on a new mainframe computer, 2. renew the contract with the company that cut the grass outside the office. One of the decisions took 55mins, the other around 5mins. Guess which way round they were?

      Economists don’t seem to agree as closely as climate scientists, but as regards emissions reduction, apart from the obvious reduction of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and for deforestation they are generally more in favour of taxing carbon (and redistributing the revenue directly back to people) than for subsidising green energy.

      Fossil fuels are so pervasive throughout modern economies that simply bolting on renewables is unlikely to save us. What’s needed is more of a filtration process (if you will), in which money keeps cycling round the economy, gradually eroding GHG emissions activity as it goes, by putting a rising price on such activity. Each time it cycles round, spare money is available for the purchase of low carbon energy, which naturally attracts appropriate private investment.

      Such a scheme has been significantly reducing emissions in British Columbia, Canada for around 6 years – and the British Columbians are generally in favour of it!

      It seems too many people today, in the absence of any visible solution, prefer not to even think about climate change creeping up on us. So I urge those of you with the presence of mind, and time and inclination, to start learning a little about the economics, so you can talk about it. Two very good reads I recommend are: The Carbon Crunch by Prof Dieter Helm and The Case For A Carbon Tax by Prof Shi-Ling Hsu.

  15. GSW

    ” the value of consensus science”

    There is no such thing as consensus science, only science. Science is stuff you have evidential proof of, not what everyone agrees on in its absence.

    I’m reminded of a few lines of R.L.Stevensons “Kidnapped”,

    “”O!” says I, “I ken ye bear a king’s name. But you are to remember, since I have been in the Highlands, I have seen a good many of those that bear it; and the best I can say of them is this, that they would be none the worse of washing.””

    And, in this case, for those in support of consensus science, “they would be none the worse for an education”

    Reply
  16. rrm23

    Regarding biofuels, you are letting the environmental NGOs off the hook too easily. See for instans the 2012 Greenpeace energy revolution report. On page 40, in the section praising Germany’s nuclear exit, there is not a single bad word about the fact that 30% of the ‘renewable’ electricity generation is from biomass (most of it energy crops) and 100% of the renewable non-electricity generation is also from biomass. Not a single word about Germany’s coal problem either.

    The section also contains a picture of the biomass village Juehnde http://fes-baltic.lv/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Jhnde.pdf, where 20% of the farmland (250 ha) and 10% of the woodland (80ha) used for the electricity and heating needs of 800 inhabitants.

    Also, according to table 12.9, they want biomass in electricity generation to grow from 284TWh in 210 to 2690 TWh in 2050. So their renewable energy fantasies still have a very large biomass component.

    Reply
  17. rrm23

    @John Mitchell (KiKK study) The main problem with that study still is that its results are physically completely implausible, because the radiation doses are by a factor of 1000 to small to explain the observed effect. If the study showed a genuine radiation effect, we would observe a 1000 fold increase in leukemia in high natural background regions or around chernobyl, or for children who received high medical radiation doses. None of this is observed.

    See the opinion of the expert comission that evaluated the study here:
    http://www.ssk.de/SharedDocs/Beratungsergebnisse_PDF/2008/Kikk_Studie_e.pdf?__blob=publicationFile

    Before asserting that the experts were all bribed by the all powerful nuclear industry, consider how much the coal and gas industries have to gain from discrediting nuclear power. And those industries have a lot more money and political influence and ruthlessness.

    Reply
  18. Russell Seitz

    “Now do you understand?”

    I can recognize an appeal to authority when I see one, and I am no more interested in the length of your institutional line-up than the number of signatures on the Oregon Petition- please leave the P-R moves to Matt’s cohort, lest we recall the artistic license of your own cover designer.

    Reply
  19. Ty Hallsted

    Mark, your positions are well reasoned, but rest on 2 pillars that lack the strength needed to justify the certainty of your conclusions.

    1) Peer review: University publishing requirements, government funding and human nature have all converged to greatly diminish the objectivity of peer review in many branches of science. This is discussed with numerous examples in this piece by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/12/13/the-truth-wears-off (archived here http://www.webcitation.org/6SgCvSc3w). While the piece never mentions climate science, one would need to be delusional to believe climate science is not subject to the same forces.

    2). The IPCC: You seem to consider them a neutral body of objective scientists that objectively review the literature. Donna Laframboise and many others have documented innumerable examples of the IPCC’s failure to be neutral and objective, to cherry-pick Lead Authors, to be influenced by NGO Green Activists, not to mention being led Pachauri, who himself is a green activist. If this is all news to you I suggest you do some due-diligence. http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/ is a good place to start. If Donna claims it, it is backed up with source material references. Or you can google “IPCC Criticisms” or the like. If this isn’t news to you then how do you reconcile the obvious agenda of the IPCC with anything resembling the true state of climate science.

    It doesn’t take belief in a conspiracy to be a climate skeptic. All that is required is to be aware that the two pillars on which many alarmists rest their conclusions, more closely resemble pillars of salt than pillars of concrete.

    Reply
  20. James Wynn

    “Whoops! I don’t know any green groups, however aggressively they may promote carbon cuts, that still promote subsidies for biofuels that might compete with food production on land.”

    But the current programs were touted by green groups. Ending a government subsidy is simply very difficult once it has been established. The green groups have simply moved on to other government subsidies that have their own unintended consequences.

    Reply
  21. rabbit

    I am always surprized when scientists resort to ad hominem attacks amongst themselves. A most unscientific article.

    Reply

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