Matt Ridley responds

After I posted my piece ‘Matt Ridley’s latest attempt at climate change denial‘ Ridley wrote the following response, which I am happy to publish in full below:

As far as I know Mark Lynas is an honourable man. He changed his mind on the benefits of genetically modified crops, going against the views of nearly all environmental campaign groups and bravely putting up with much criticism for doing so. I know how he feels, because I have done the same – changing my mind about the dangers of climate change, going against the views of nearly all environmental campaign groups and putting up with much criticism for doing so.

That Mark does not agree with my change of mind on climate (which happened gradually but was cemented by the way the green and scientific establishments reacted to the Climategate controversy) is fair enough. I don’t, however, understand why he chooses to take the low road in his attacks on me. His latest blog post is entitled “On Matt Ridley’s latest attempt at climate change denial”. He knows full well that I have never advocated climate change “denial” and that that very phrase was invented as a way smear sceptics who think the dangers of climate change are being exaggerated by associating them with holocaust denial. Yuk.

He then tweeted that I had “invented” numbers about climate sensitivity, when there were links in my piece to one of the peer-reviewed sources I had used. I asked him to withdraw the charge of “invention” three times on twitter and he has so far refused to do so. He did something similar a couple of years ago when attacking a piece I had written on wind power.

I am quite used to ad hominem attacks. I do not expect them from a fellow science writer and the winner of a book prize I was four times short-listed for. I have a rule that I do not go ad hominem, unless attacked myself. I always simply try to present arguments for or against a particular point of view.

And why does Mark feel the need to guess at and question my motives?

He makes the unpleasant insinuation that I come to my view backwards, that is to say that I am “against tackling global warming, and want to use the world’s poor as a moral justification for this”. He calls my view that climate change will probably not be dangerous this century “clearly intuitive”.

Well it’s not clear to me.

He produces not a shred of evidence for these entirely false and frankly nasty charges. I hereby ask him to withdraw them.

I question exaggerated claims about climate change when I think there is good evidence that they are questionable. I also question efforts to tackle global warming partly because I think they are hurting the poor, just as I think opposition to genetically modified crops is hurting the poor. Do I need any other motivation?

As to the substance of Mark’s article, let me take his points one by one.

He says that all the green groups he knows now oppose some biofuels. Well some now do – after years of criticizing people like me for opposing them – but not all by any means. Biofuel policies were driven by enthusiastic lobbying by green groups. I am delighted Mark and I agree on this and I look forward to him joining me in what has been a rather lonely fight against the burning of imported wood to generate electricity in the UK and other counterproductive schemes.

We also agree about the deaths of millions of people as a result of indoor air pollution thanks to the lack of electricity and gas.

Mark objects to my charge about the harms done by climate policies that “Greens think this harm is a price worth paying to stop the warming”, but he then goes on to make plain that he does think exactly this: “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.” This could not be a clearer illustration of the claim I made.

So far, then, there is no disagreement at all, just some nasty and unsupported allegations about my motives.

Where we disagree profoundly is that Mark thinks I am wrong to have reached the conclusion that climate change is not likely to be harmful, let alone severely so, for many decades. He accuses me of “cherry-picking a couple of studies” to support this conclusion. Well, for the Times article in question I consulted three key papers, two of them peer reviewed journal articles, and the third a peer-reviewed report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, written by a very good science writer and one of the scientists who co-authored the other two.

The first is by Lewis and Curry (2014) (http://niclewis.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/lewiscurry_ar5-energy-budget-climate-sensitivity_clim-dyn2014_accepted-reformatted-edited.pdf; further links and discussion here http://judithcurry.com/2014/09/24/lewis-and-curry-climate-sensitivity-uncertainty/), which takes the energy budget estimates from all the relevant data in the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) to arrive at a conclusion that the best estimate of transient climate response is 1.33 degrees. (Like Lewis and others, I take TCR as the most policy-relevant measure of sensitivity. Equilibrium sensitivity – ECS – is a measure of eventual temperature after a much longer period or adjustment.)

The other paper I consulted was Otto et al (2013), (http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v6/n6/full/ngeo1836.html) which was authored by a large group of prominent IPCC lead authors. They reached the conclusion that TCR is 1.3 degrees.

The third paper I consulted was the very clear and comprehensive review written by Lewis and Crok (2013). (http://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2014/02/A-Sensitive-Matter-Foreword-inc.pdf) They gave a very slightly higher estimate of TCR of 1.35C. They helpfully provide a chart to show how much warming was expected to result from such a TCR:

You can see from this where I got the estimate of 0.8-1.2 degrees of warming (from today) by the later part of this century in the two middle scenarios. I checked it with Nic Lewis before publishing.

So I was entirely correct in my claim that — using the best evidence – you get very modest warming in the two middle scenarios.

However, Mark has two further objections. First, that I was wrong to reject the IPCC’s own out of date estimates of 21st century warming. Well, actually, here I used a form of words that was a bit hard on my own case. Not only are Lewis and Curry’s estimates based on AR5’s results, the fact is that there was no AR5 best estimate. Astonishingly, AR5 does not actually give a central estimate of climate sensitivity at all. This omission of a key parameter was explained by the substantial discrepancy between the low observation-based estimates and the high estimates derived from climate models. Nor does AR5 give a best estimate of TCR. If we take the models instead, then (see the table above) we still get only moderately harmful warming in the two middle scenarios: 1.6-2.0C from today (2.4-2.8C from pre-industrial.)

Ah, but why did I leave out the RCP8.5 scenario? Mark argues I was wrong to do so on the grounds that CO2 emissions are rising as fast if not faster than in that scenario. Yes, but emissions are not the only factor in how much warming happens. It is CO2 levels, not emissions, that count. Just because emissions are following what RCP8.5 assumes, it doesn’t mean concentrations are. RCP8.5 assumes changes in carbon cycle feedbacks for which there is precious little evidence. The latest studies refute its assumption that the oceans and biosphere have slowed in their ability to absorb CO2. For example, Gloor et al say: “Claims for a decreasing long-term trend in the carbon sink efficiency over the last few decades are currently not supported by atmospheric CO2 data and anthropogenic emissions estimates.” (http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/10/7739/2010/acp-10-7739-2010.pdf)

Other factors include methane and other non-CO2 emissions, which are rising much more slowly than the scenario assumes. Plus RCP8.5 depends on economic assumptions that are, I submit highly unrealistic: 12 billion people, 10 times as much coal use as today, very little trade leading to low energy efficiency, and so forth. (But still the world is three times richer in income per head.)

Here’s a description by Dave Rutledge of RCP8.5: “Coal accounts for half of future carbon-dioxide emissions through 2100, and two-thirds of the emissions through 2500. The IPCC’s coal burn is enormous, twice the world reserves by 2100, and seven times reserves by 2500. Coal so dominates that it is not an exaggeration to say that the IPCC and climate-change research programs depend on this massive coal burn for their existence. Without the threat of coal, the IPCC could close up shop and the research program funding would drop to a small fraction of what is spent on research in weather forecasting.”
(http://judithcurry.com/2014/04/22/coal-and-the-ipcc/)

In the chart below, black is coal in RCP 8.5, red is oil and blue is gas. Ask yourself if you think this is at all plausible. I don’t.

Most journalists do not report the extreme economic and energy-mix assumptions behind extreme temperature projections.

Anyhow, let me take Mark’s suggestion and put the RCP8.5 scenario back into the mix. Under the best TCR estimate, see above, we would still only have 2.1 degrees of warming from today, 2.9 from pre-industrial. Under the models’ TCR we would have 3.5 degrees. Well, even I agree that that’s going to do harm (though I find it odd that the IPCC and others insist on an amount of warming, rather than a rate of warming, that’s dangerous, but leave that aside). Does even that harm – experienced by rich people in the future – justify the pain we are inflicting on the poor today with climate policies? I am not sure it does, even before you examine the plausibility of the assumptions.

My point is that if you make heroically bad economic, demographic, carbon-cycle and energy-mix assumptions, AND you ignore the best evidence available about sensitivity then yes, warming might be very dangerous. In all other circumstances, warming is slow and mild, or possibly turning dangerous in the time of our grandchildren. That’s precisely what I said in my article.

Does Mark think dangerous warming is inevitable? I doubt it. Does he think he can rule out non-dangerous warming? I hope not. It would require cherry-picking to achieve that. The IPCC gives a range of outcomes from harmless to harmful. I think the lower end of the range is more plausible. Mark thinks the higher end is more plausible. But we are both within the range of outcomes. How does that make me a “denier”?

Let me add three final points.

First, Mark simply ignores my argument that climate change policies are regressive, taking money disproportionately from poor people and handing it disproportionately to rich people. There are plenty of climate policies that would not do this, and that I think would do a better job of getting emissions down, such as spending a lot more on new nuclear and solar and gas research and development. Being a landowner myself, this would remove some very lucrative potential options for me (all of which I currently refuse, but if I fall on hard times…) – to build wind farms, install solar panels, grow biofuels, install subsidized wood based heating systems, grow crops for subsidized anaerobic digesters. But I am happy to argue against these policies because I care about what they are doing to poor people and the environment.

Second, does the slow progress of climate change, compared with model predictions, not give Mark even the slightest doubts about high sensitivity? In the past 35 years (the satellite era), warming has happened much slower than predicted by the models and it has slowed down, rather than accelerating. Remember that TCR of 1.35C is higher than pure greenhouse physics for CO2: it implies some very small positive feedbacks. So it’s the full greenhouse effect of CO2 and a bit more. Twenty-six years ago when I first wrote about climate change I was happy to accept predictions of sensitivity being 3C or so. Today, with so much less warming than predicted, I have been forced to change my mind. Why is Mark so confident that the slow warming of the last 35 years is an aberration and that a sudden acceleration is just around the corner?

Third, I do wish Mark and people like him would at least discuss the evidence on global greening: the satellite evidence for a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation and the evidence that this is caused to a significant extent by extra CO2. This leads to huge benefits: higher yields, less land needed for farming, more productive and diverse natural ecosystems. Whenever I write about this, my critics just ignore it. Do they just hate admitting that CO2 emissions might have an upside?

Mark Lynas and I agree on a lot. We disagree on how dangerous warming looks likely to be. Let’s do so politely please.

101 Comments

  1. Mark Thompson

    I wish scientists would behave like true scientists instead of taking sides on this. How about someone starts a website with ALL the details of climate data then lists the pro and cons so us mere mortals (with science degree admittedly) can see all the evidence and draw our own conclusions and maybe the truth!

    Reply
    1. Karl Marx crossed with Jesus
    2. Lucibee

      How about Real Climate http://www.realclimate.org/

    3. Jeff Id

      Definitely not RealClimate

    4. TJ

      http://climatedebatedaily.com/

      This does an OK job of showing both sides of the discussion. However, it does seem to chose lower-caliber dissenting voice articles.

    5. mailman

      Realclimate? Bwaaaahahahahahhaa 🙂

      Honestly, stop it! I can’t take too much of this laughing:)

      Regards

      Mailman

    6. Dodgy Geezer

      Mark,
      What you have asked for is much the same as requesting a site which provides all the data necessary to tell you how to vote at the next election.

      You would be much better off reading the Conservative, Liberal, Labour, Green and UKIP (and any independent’s) party documentation, then making your own mind up.

      Similarly, to get a handle on Climate Change, you should read Climate Audit, Real Climate, Watts up with That, Skeptical Science, and then come to your own conclusions…

    7. Scott

      The problem with RealClimate is that while much of the stuff they publish is very good, they also allow completely flawed bunk on their page as well. I became aware of this when they published a seriously flawed article by Briske and West on one of the most promising new mitigation technologies. (yep they are against it and willing to use seriously flawed numbers in their attacks) Since then I have found other flawed pseudoscience published there as well.
      If you are going to have a serious discussion about climate science, it is extremely critical that the numbers be rigorously examined. Oh and just for the record I do believe AGW is a serious problem. I don’t agree with the mainstream view on mitigation though. Just a load of bunk that fits into liberal social planning. IMHO as soon as the discussion sheds so called “solutions” that are thinly veiled excuses for social engineering, the problem will evaporate quickly. As quickly as it takes to get that CO2 back into the soil, which BTW is pretty darn fast if you know what you are doing. Pretty profitable for those poor starving masses too, again if you educate them so they know what they are doing.

  2. Leon

    How can we ever agree on assumptions, models and predictions of the future?? This discussion is useless.

    The basic needs for the poor are clear: food, water, energy and a livable regional climate. The poor are even able to pay for this themselves ones they will be regarded as worthy, demanding costumers (instead as victims) and products and payment schemes are designed to their needs and capacities.
    Regional climates rely on vegetation cover (around noon forest temperatures can be up to 30 degrees cooler than surrounding plains). Planting the right trees (multi purpose: food, fodder, soil retaining, AC etc) can do a lot for adaptation to the current and the (unknown) future climate.

    Why not share a positive message about opportunities we can all agree upon, instead of the endless arguing about theories of the future?

    Sunny regards from Ethiopia

    Reply
    1. Hans Erren

      I have good memories from my visit to Ethiopia. Pity they planted lots of eucalyptus trees which completely ruined the soil underneath.

    2. Leon

      True, eucalyptus is terrible for the regional climate. Just look at Australia.. These trees are mainly planted for its fast growth and to use it as wood fuel.

    3. Judith Knott

      It’s good to know that Matt and others have a social conscience, but isn’t there a lot of muddled thinking here? Nobody can predict the future of course, but it’s “the poor” (wherever they are) who would be most exposed to an unstable climate if drought and floods worsen, agriculture and water supplies are hit and communities are forced to migrate. The rich can always “adapt”. If these moral concerns are for the UK poor, we do have a welfare state and I’m sure coal subsidies could be diverted to those most in need or taxes tweaked to cover the transition period before costs come down.

      And even if the entire science community is wrong in seeing greenhouse gas build-up as a danger (and it’s much too risky to listen to the wishful thinking minority here) I for one would choose an expensive clean energy future hands down when the alternative is expensive, dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, with revenues going to the richest companies in the world. Climate tipping points would bring unstoppable change, and as long as there’s even a small chance they might happen, better to stop quibbling and concentrate on technology we know to be safe.

    4. Eduardo Ferreyra

      In Argentina eucalyptus trees are used by developers to dry up swamps that are useless and a source of malaria or dengue carrying mosquitoes. They were also used during the 1920s by Mussolini to get rid of swamps west of Rome, building four cities on those then useless terrains. You see, under a eucalyptus tree it will never grow any kind of grass or shrubs.

    5. Leon

      That’s a great example of the regional climate adaptation made possible by trees Eduardo. The eucalyptus takes up a lot of water, because of its fast growth. If you want to get rid of wet swampland it can apparently be a good choice to plant it. In already arid countries less so.

    6. Michael Cunningham aka Faustino

      Juidth, if the poor are most exposed, wouldn’t policies which raise them from poverty be optimal? Any such approach would, of course, depend on low-cost, reliable energy supplies.

  3. Bryan Tookey

    Whatever end of Mr Ridley’s “scale of global danger from global warming” you place yourself, he’s spot on about the need for thought leaders to be polite to each other.

    If he’s right and Global warming represents a less severe threat than Mr Lynas’ believes, then we are going to find it hard to change our minds.

    Reply
    1. Dodgy Geezer

      …If he’s right and Global warming represents a less severe threat than Mr Lynas’ believes, then we are going to find it hard to change our minds…

      The scientific establishment will find it impossible. They are far too far down the path of nailing their trousers to the mast.

  4. Benny Peiser

    Mark, I hope you have the courage and integrity to withdraw your accusation that Matt is a climate change denier.

    Reply
    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Yes, I withdraw that accusation, with apologies. It is clear from this response that he is a ‘lukewarmer’ – I checked with him and he is OK with that particular moniker.

      Mark

    2. NikFromNYC

      How about an acknowledgement too that at its very core, climate “science” is a total scam not even pretending any more to be doing real science with intact functioning peer review? I sound crazy to you Mark, I imagine. Well then have a real, honest, sincere, respectful, adult level LOOK at the utter lack of any sudden blade in the input data of the latest hockey stick media sensation:

      http://i.imgur.com/IsEf6hS.jpg

      Instead of a retraction, a bizarre FAQ was issued on RealClimate.org, a site owned by notorious junk science litigator PR firm Fenton/EMS that was behind both a vaccine scare and the junk science silicone breast implant scare that bankrupted Dow Corning. In the FAQ they disown the blade that got the paper published at all, let alone in top journal Science, then verbally tack on the high resolution real thermometer record to the very low resolution average of multiple proxies going back 12K years, an apples to oranges comparison that amounts to pseudoscience.

    3. NikFromNYC

      Here’s how it works. The hockey stick team behind the IPCC and EPA etc. create a brazenly fraudulent “vindication” of the radical Orwellian hockey stick revision of climate history, grab headlines, create skeptic bashing web pages on official government sites, then issue an informal FAQ on a PR firm site about the blade being “not statistically significant.” But the scare pages and the published paper remain:

      http://climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/what%E2%80%99s-hottest-earth-has-been-%E2%80%9Clately%E2%80%9D

      The problem is, this corruption of science being taught even at college level, is a threat to our civilization and is quite equivalent to Stalinism, and assuming my claim of fraud is correct, is it not?

    4. harkin

      When over 95% of the models from the last 20 years were wildly wrong on the hot side and everyone who said they were wildly wrong was deemed “anti-science” or a “denier”, the people who used those terms should be the ones who now take ownership of them.

      Instead they move the goalposts and say we really won’t see any big change for 30-50 years. They’ve learned that they can still lie but to do so in a way where they can’t be held accountable for a very long time.

    5. MB

      It’s absolutely fascinating to see what conniptions some put themselves through to argue against thermometers, satellite photos and direct observations.

      Models? Too many of them were underestimating the speed of ice melt, sea warming and acidification, methane release from melting permafrost, drought length and desertification. Modeling was not widely known to predict the distortion of the Rossby Waves that control the jet streams.

      Still, the average results of models predict a warmer future. One can predict that, if one looks deep enough, one will find a fossil fuels connection to those who object to anthropogenic climate change modeling (an easier target than actual observations) through multiple writings backed by those fueled by libertarian ideology.

      That’s not modeling. It’s just observation.

  5. Barry Woods

    Hi Mark. Perhaps you can’t get past who Matt ‘is’ (perhaps he learned something about the ‘value’ of political (no more boom and bust) financial banking consensus’, a little while back)

    Lomborg makes the same point?

    “We live in a world where one in six deaths are caused by easily curable infectious diseases; one in eight deaths stem from air pollution, mostly from cooking indoors with dung and twigs; and billions of people live in abject poverty, with no electricity and little food. We ought never to have entertained the notion that the world’s greatest challenge could be to reduce temperature rises in our generation by a fraction of a degree.”

    Source: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/bj-rn-lomborg-says-that-the-un-climate-panel-s-latest-report-tells-a-story-that-politicians-would-prefer-to-ignore

    and the RCP 8.6 scenario is so unrealistic, it should be discounted, ie population, 10 times the coal use, etc.

    Reply
    1. Francisco G Nobrega

      Great to remember Lomborg. I side fully with Matt Ridley along the lineage that has Julian L Simon as a scientist of great integrity and vision. Lynas progressed a lot when he abandoned his previous fight against GM plants. He is still to move to a more rational outlook about “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”.

    2. MB

      The meme ‘to lift the Third World from poverty’ used in writings about climate change are usually promulgated by those who suggest or imply that can be done with “cheap” fossil fuels better than any other soure of energy.

      Bollocks.

      First, it’s not cheap. Even today’s reduced price of crude is ~500% than 15 years ago. It remained well below $50/bbl until the peak in conventional oil in late 2005. Those who push fracked oil and gas usually dismiss the actual production rate record that consistently indicate extraordinarily high decline rates and exceptionally short play life due to the geological limits. The gluts are temporary. All unconventionals add up to no more than a third of the production of plateaued and declining conventionals.

      Second, the cost of solar PV has come down by 200 times thanks to German and Chinese government policies. Rooftop solar and local biodigesters would go a long ways to provide clean electrical energy for light and appliances and cleaner heat for cooking. And you don’t need thousands of kilometres of transmission lines to feed Third World villages with a hundred solar roofs.

      I suggest the issue that sticks in the craw of the fossil fuel lobby is that these are decentralized sources of energy under local control instead of contracted regionally to corporations paying bribes to Third World government officials to build large-scale coal, gas or oil-fired power plants, or for imported refined liquid fuel for imported generators.

      In other words, institutional corruption and its perpetuation by organizations who have money and influence is one of the greatest catalyzers of poverty, not the absence of coal, oil or gas at the local village level.

  6. John Catley

    How refreshing to read a well constructed and polite response to what was an unsubstantiated and impolite attack.
    What kind of response might we expect?
    Hint – consider the facts message rather than the messenger.

    Reply
  7. Bas

    Thanks for this very interesting info!

    It would be nice if you could summarize it in a shorter piece (may be leave out statements about what Mark said).

    Reply
  8. Brendan

    Well done Matt Ridley for responding so politely to something so personally unpleasant. This exchange reflects pretty badly on Mr Lyas as a scientist and a person, with the caveat that there is slight redemption in being willing to publish Mr Ridley’s response.

    Reply
  9. Benny Peiser

    Mark, thank you for your sincere response which is very much appreciated.

    Reply
  10. ...and Then There's Physics

    Matt,
    So I was entirely correct in my claim that — using the best evidence – you get very modest warming in the two middle scenarios.
    I appreciate that you may not have any desire to respond to this and – if so – that is obviously fine. Let me make a couple of observations. Firstly, the claim that this is the best evidence available is yours and not really accepted by the scientific community as a whole. I think Nic Lewis’s work makes a really good contribution to the field, but arguing that it is the best does your argument no real favours. There are many ways to estimate climate sensitivity. Just because you, Nic Lewis and a few others think his method is best, does not make it so. This is especially true if one considers that the aspects that Nic Lewis’s method is unable to capture (non-linearities, inhomogenieties, slow feedbacks, polar amplificiation) would mostly increase his method’s estimates.

    Additionally, even if it were the best method we had, I still think that you are using the term best estimate incorrectly. The number you have chosen to use is a single value for climate sensitivity (I can’t remember if its the mode or the median, but that doesn’t really matter). It is, however, incorrect to argue that it is a likely result. If it’s the mode then it is indeed more likely than any other single value (based on Nic Lewis’s method) but, in fact, there is a greater than 50% chance that the actual value will be greater than this. If it’s the median, then there is a 50% chance that it will be greater and a 50% chance that it will be smaller.

    Therefore, presenting this as you have ignores that there is a non-negligible chance that the warming will be greater than you suggest for these two emission pathways. My own analysis (using Nic Lewis’s numbers) is that the range of warming – relative to pre-industrial times – for RCP6.0 is between 1.8 degrees C and 3.7 degrees C (95% range, I think). Therefore to argue that it will probably be 1.2 degrees relative to today is incorrect. Additionally, even using a method that produces lower estimates than most others still suggests that 2 degrees of warming by 2100 is quite likely.

    So, the value you choose to present is certainly a possible outcome, but not a probable outcome – it is much more likely to not be 1.2 degrees, than to be 1.2 degrees.

    Reply
    1. Bas

      As climate science is still in its infancy, it is clear that a best estimate (~1.2%) implies a wide range around that estimate. Seems to me that your estimations of the 95% confidence interval are even a far wilder guess.

      Actions with negative health consequences for poor people, based on such speculations seems to me unjustified.
      Especially since more CO2 has beneficial consequences, such as more agricultural production, for many of the poor.

    2. ...and Then There's Physics

      Seems to me that your estimations of the 95% confidence interval are even a far wilder guess.
      Nope, mine were Nic Lewis’s 95% confidence interval.

    3. Hans Erren

      Please note that RCP8.5 temperature calculations do not have a negative temperature feedback built in. If 3 degrees temperature rise has a 3 percent negative impact on GDP (per Richard Tol) then this has an immediate negative effect on CO2 output.

    4. ...and Then There's Physics

      Hans,
      It sounds like you’re arguing that the damage climate change will do to our economies will prevent us from ever growing to the point where our emissions are following a really high emission pathway. Possible, but not a particularly good argument for not doing something.

    5. Hans Erren

      ATTIP: no I am arguing that RCP scenarios are in essence typical Malthusian one dimensional model inputs that do not implement output feedback. So basically not different from the the 1% exponential growth input of the early models. They are what-if scenarios that have no resemblance to the real world, although they sound like they do.
      I’m with Matt Ridley that climate action now means stealing from the poor for the benefit of the rich. A reverse Robin Hood so to say.

    6. Mondoman

      Mr. …Physics, it’s easy to make claims about calculations that others can’t examine. Perhaps you could post a link to a manuscript/paper covering your calculations in similar detail to that provided in the papers referenced by this commentary’s author?

    7. Nic Lewis

      “My own analysis (using Nic Lewis’s numbers) is that the range of warming – relative to pre-industrial times – for RCP6.0 is between 1.8 degrees C and 3.7 degrees C (95% range, I think). Therefore to argue that it will probably be 1.2 degrees relative to today is incorrect. Additionally, even using a method that produces lower estimates than most others still suggests that 2 degrees of warming by 2100 is quite likely.”

      Just to clarify, whatever ATTP has done with my numbers, I strongly disagree that they give rise to his 1.8 to 3.7 degrees C range for the warming from pre-industrial times under RCP6.0 – I can’t imagine how he gets a figure anywhere near as high as 3.7 degrees C based on my published numbers.

      “So, the value you choose to present is certainly a possible outcome, but not a probable outcome – it is much more likely to not be 1.2 degrees, than to be 1.2 degrees.”

      This statement makes no sense. For an uncertain variable, like the amount of warming, that takes continuous rather than discrete values, the probability of it taking any particular value is not just low, but zero (save in exceptional cases).

    8. ...and Then There's Physics

      Nic,
      Oh come on. Your 5-95% range from Lewis & Curry is about 0.9 – 2.5 K. I used a range of 1 – 2 K, which is actually narrower than your range. What I actually did was to set up a one-box model in which I chose climate sensitivity values to give TCR values of 1K, 1.35K, and 2K and that produced a temperature profile that matched the instrumental temperature record. I then ran them to 2100 using a RCP6.0 forcing dataset to see what the temperature was at 2100. The results I got was as I said. Now if your 95% range is actually 0.9 – 2.5K, then I would crudely calculate the warming by 2100 as being between 1.5K and 4K. Maybe you can explain how it can be much different than this. Avoiding pedantry would be appreciated.

      This statement makes no sense. For an uncertain variable, like the amount of warming, that takes continuous rather than discrete values, the probability of it taking any particular value is not just low, but zero (save in exceptional cases).
      Are you being intentionally difficult, or do you really not get what I was suggesting? Maybe you just think that the way to have these discussion is to focus on pedantic terminology, rather than on the actual point being made. Maybe you could try a bit harder, although I appreciate that doing so may require you to say something that damages your – and Matt Ridley’s – chosen narrative. On my blog you suggested that people should recognise how there’s only so much detail one can include in a comment, and people should avoid nitpicking. Maybe you think this only applies to people with whom you agree, as nitpicking certainly seems to be your chosen approach.

      The TCR value used by Matt Ridley is the median of the distribution that your analysis produced. Therefore, there is a 50% chance that the actual value will be higher/lower than this value. As you say, the chance of any specific value is zero. However, even if were to chose a small range in T around a particular value (say 0.1K) then the chance of the TCR actually falling within dT of the value used by Matt Ridley is smaller than the chance of it falling outside this value. Do you dispute this.

      Here’s the point, though. Just in case you really don’t get it. Matt Ridley has selected a single value for TCR from a small set of studies that tend to produce lower climate sensitivities than other studies. He is then arguing that this means that the warming by 2100 will be low enough that we shouldn’t be concerned about following an RCP6.0 pathway. Even your own analysis suggests that there is a non-negligible chance that the warming by 2100 could be considerably higher than the value presented by Matt Ridley. Also, if one chooses not to completely dismiss other work – which you and Matt appear to be quite happy to do – the chance of this is even higher than your work suggests. Maybe you think we should gamble on climate sensitivity being low despite the chance that it won’t be. I don’t think we should.

  11. Chris Goodall

    Thanks to Mark Lynas and Matt Ridley for this highly informative exchange of views.

    As I understand it, the core of Matt Ridley’s argument is that we have the balance wrong. The rich world is pursuing aggressive carbon reduction strategies that will cost the poor billions even though the consequences of climate change are probably relatively minor.

    Some responses to the first part of this proposition that decarbonisation harms the poor.

    a) among the primary beneficiaries of the West’s decarbonisation efforts will be the poor in less prosperous parts of the world. The order of magnitude reductions in PV costs are, for example, giving access to electricity to countries that will never be connected to a national grid. Many other technologies – such as micro wind and very small scale AD – are also being expensively nurtured under Western subsidy schemes but the benefit will flow to all global citizens.

    b) Matt Ridley may be saying that decarbonisation subsidies are flowing inside countries from the poor to the rich. This sounds plausible because a poor household in, say, the UK spends a smaller fraction (though not that much smaller) of its income on electricity and gas than a richer one. But is it really true? Other implicit ‘carbon taxes’, such as fuel duty and air passenger tax are actually highly progressive. And it bears repeating that the impact of feed in tariffs and ROCs on domestic bills is still remarkably small. Depending on how one calculates the number, a figure of about £65 a household is not unreasonable. For many of the poorest households, this regressive tax is completely rebated by others of the vast and growing number (yes, Ridley has a good point here) of UK government schemes such as the Warm Home Discount.

    c) Matt Ridley points to the clear fact that the benefits of carbon reduction in the UK are going principally to the very rich. (The top 0.1%). Specifically, to large landowners who can rent their fields to wind developers and solar farmers. There’s nothing much we can do about this. This is how capitalism works.

    I think Matt Ridley should think about using his own land for gathering renewable energy from sun, wind, water or wood and then returning what he thinks is his excess profit to charities that help poorer people pay to insulate their homes. A good wind site in Northumberland can now produce power at prices below a gas fired power station, and can make money at the same time. Everybody can gain.

    The unarguable fact is that renewable technologies are becoming cheaper by the month and Matt Ridley’s moral sense implies that he then he should be using his land to enhance the pace of that change, and helping the poor at the same time.

    Thanks again to Matt and Mark.

    Reply
    1. Clyde Davies

      ” Matt Ridley may be saying that decarbonisation subsidies are flowing inside countries from the poor to the rich. This sounds plausible because a poor household in, say, the UK spends a smaller fraction (though not that much smaller) of its income on electricity and gas than a richer one.” – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/11/matt-ridley-responds/#more-1457

      Are you sure about that? ‘Fuel poverty’ strikes the poorer household because (a) energy prices in the UK have gone through the roof (due, in part, to the notorious wholesale price ratchet) and (b) the poorer household spends a far greater proportion of its income on heating and lighting. Decarbonisation subsidies, and other inputs of money such as in home insulation, *should* benefit the poor far more than the rich.

    2. professor Anthony Trewavas FRS

      I address the comment that wind power is cheaper than gas. I have seen this claim before usually made by the renewables industry itself of course but as a claim it leaves out half the costs of running an electricity system highly dependent on an intermittent source of electricity generation. I don’t believe anything I hear from DECC about this question, they have no-one qualified from the electricity industry, David Mackay their current chief scientist is a mathematician who wrote an interesting book Renewable energy without the hot air but he lacks experience of the requirements of the industry itself. Colin Gibson was formerly power director of the National Grid and does know what is needed. You will find his detailed assessment http://www.iesisenergy.org/lcost/ and the title “A probabilistic approach to levelised cost calculations for various types of electricity generation”. Wind £170/MWh: gas £60-70/MWh. He puts in essential integration costs, transmission losses from north to south, maintenance of two separate generating systems, increased wear and tear on essential back usually OCGT and construction of new gas fired to accommodate variability of supply. He has no axe to grind unlike DECC (political axe and saving government face) renewables industry, (money galore) and green organisations (emotional commitment to downsizing mankind) and further more he has the many years of experience that the others don’t. His aim seeing that the UK has a reliable electricity system that is fit for purpose. What we have at the moment isn’t.

    3. Bas

      Costs PV-solar panels: We thank the great cost reductions to the German Energiewende, who created a volume market. The German Energiewende is not motivated by climate change, but by:
      1. nuclear out
      2. democratize electricity generation (hence rooftop PV, etc)
      3. more renewable, motivated by the idea that fossil fuels will end.

      Btw
      German integration studies (e.g. by Agora) showed that the integration costs of wind+solar are rather marginal. If wind+solar produce ~50% of all electricity, those integration costs are ~6%-10% (<0.3cent/KWh) only.
      But there are studies, financed by the incumbent utilities, that come with ridiculous high numbers in their quest to lessen the share of wind+solar; e.g. those of Hirth (Vattenfall).

    4. Sven

      “The German Energiewende is not motivated by climate change, but by:
      1. nuclear out
      2. democratize electricity generation (hence rooftop PV, etc)
      3. more renewable, motivated by the idea that fossil fuels will end.”

      No, Bas, the utopia called the German Energiewende (and nuclear out) is motivated by typical West-European mainstream environmentalism. And it’s a catastrophy that unfortunately is doomed to end with a fiasco. Especially in a situation where European (incl. German) economy is in dire straits and has completely lost its competitiveness.

    5. Bas

      Sven,
      With ~30% renewable now the Energiewende is few years ahead of its scenario towards 80% renewable in 2050!
      German population and economists consider the Energiewende to be a success, as shown by the increasing support; from ~55% in 2000 towards ~90% (yes unbelievable high) now. That was also shown at last elections; the only party that wanted to slow the Energiewende was minimized (from ~17% towards 4.8%)!

      German economy does better than any other economy in the euro-zone; no budget deficit at all! There is some pressure to create a deficit so growth will be stimulated (US stimulates grow by increasing its debt).
      But the Germans find creating grow by debt increase, slightly insane as it implies the burden is passed on to the children.

      So all indications show that the Germans will reach their targets with a satisfied population!

      What indications do you have for your estimation that the Energiewende would be a catastrophe?

  12. Sven

    Well, the style as well as the substance and knowledge of the two gentlemen and their pieces are here for everybody to see and evaluate. Any soul searching reflections, Mr. Pie man?
    And further… Matt Ridley’s points in this article are pretty much the mainstream of the views of the “skeptical” community and most of the “skeptical” blogs and as Mr. Ridley is now considered as a lukewarmer by your distinguished self in the comments, who exactly is a “denier” in your books?

    Reply
    1. John Russell

      To answer your question, Sven. A person who is in denial is, for instance, someone who refuses—without sound, scientific arguments—to accept the reports of the IPCC.

    2. geronimo

      Hi John, are you saying that someone who doubts the ability of the of the IPCC to foretell the future state of the climate is a “denier”, considering the performance of CMIP 5 and the fact that the IPCC said so itself in TAR WG1 14.2.2.2?

  13. John Russell

    This ‘best estimate’ business is worth clarifying as it’s clear from the IPCC’s reports that scientists do not use this terminology due to it providing no real understanding of the likelihood of possible outcomes. An analogy might help explain the point.

    When casually watching a person aim a dart at a dartboard, the best estimate for where the dart might land would be the bullseye, being the median. In reality it could, depending on the skill of the thrower and his preference for how he will reach his total score, land almost anywhere.

    Now consider a person aiming a rifle at the same dartboard. Again, a ‘best estimate’ would be his bullet will hit the bullseye, but this time he’s unlikely to be far off the centre. There’s much less uncertainty.

    I hope now you can see that conflating the wide range of projections to a ‘best estimate’ ignores the question of accuracy (uncertainty) and is a very poor way of expressing the chance of any potential outcome occurring. Which is why it’s an expression that’s totally inappropriate when considering how we manage the current risk to our climate.

    Reply
    1. Mondoman

      Mr. Russel, the IPCC included a “best estimate” value (along with a range) up through the AR4 report, then inexplicably did not provide one in the most recent AR5. You can understand, then, why AR5 readers might reasonably suspect non-scientific motives for the lack of including a “best estimate” value.

    2. Nic Lewis

      “This ‘best estimate’ business is worth clarifying as it’s clear from the IPCC’s reports that scientists do not use this terminology”

      Oh no? IPCC reports give ‘best estimates’ in many places. To take the first occurrence in Chapter 12 of the AR5 scientific Working Gropu 1 report, on page 1033: “Best estimates of ocean warming in the top one hundred meters are about 0.6°C (RCP2.6) to 2.0°C (RCP8.5)”

    3. John Russell

      I think some people miss the point of my comment. Although the IPCC might indeed call it a ‘best estimate’, it’s not a single best estimate but a range of estimates which depend on scenarios.

  14. Hugh Sharman

    Thank you, Mark, for hosting Mr Ridley’s measured response. It seems that most of your other contributors are also relieved.

    I do not pretend to have any expertise or any deep knowledge about this subject. However, the shrill shouting match between “alarmists” and “deniers” must come to an end before we can hope for a more rational political and economic response to the issues of our time, including the alleviation of mass poverty.

    That said, it is actually unarguable that levels of atmospheric CO2 are at highs not seen in the geological record for millions of years and that these highs are anthropogenic in origin. This, and the simple evidence of our eyes, convinces me that in the short 15,000 years of the Holocene, and the effective existence and flourishing of homo sapiens, we are well justified in calling this inter-glacial the Anthropocene. Even if civilisation were to be exterminated, the era we are living in now will leave an indelible fossil record.

    Anyone with even a passing interest in geology is well aware of the many, sudden, mass extinctions of species that have occurred on this wonderful and beautiful speck of life, floating so apparently serenely within the Milky Way Galaxy, amongst billions of other galaxies.

    We may, after all, be the only planet in the whole universe transformed by life. Viewed against geological time, the Pleistocene will do, we humans are transforming the planet and with it life on earth within a millisecond of geological time.

    As it happens, I am not a misanthrope. But I am concerned that the Anthropocene will end with a population collapse caused by over-population and natural resource exhaustion, long before AGW is likely to seriously affect civilisation and certainly before the next inevitable ice age which must surely be rather close. The 5° C warmer, seawater 5 m higher, Eemian only lasted 15,000 years or so (certainly not driven by CO2). By some measures, the beginning of Holocene is already 15,000 years old.

    If humanity survives that long, the next ice age will be curtains for civilisation of course! If there are any human survivors, they will struggle to do so because of the depletion of the natural resources that we as a species inherited at the beginning on the Holo/Anthropocene!

    The good and much mocked Rev Malthus may have the last laugh, after all!

    Reply
  15. Randy Hudson

    I’m happy to see this disagreement.

    When scientists agree, the scope of their agreement and the reasons for it are often unclear to those of us without intimate knowledge of the situation.

    But when they disagree, they each explain their own positions and their understandings of the other’s positions; and thus both the extent of and reasons for their disagreement.

    In this case, by my limited understanding, Mr. Ridley feels that the three studies he cites, all co-authored by Nicholas Lewis, are the “best evidence” of the likely path of climate change. Because he considers those the best evidence, he gives no weight to the IPCC report that Mr. Lynas considers the most complete and current analysis of the situation.
    Each accuses the other of cherry-picking data, selecting studies whose results they find most supportive of their own views.

    When Mr. Lynas calls Mr. Ridley’s defense of his views “clearly intuitive”; Mr. Ridley takes exception, but his response doesn’t dispel that accusation by showing a graph of energy usage by fuel and asking rhetorically, “Ask yourself if you think this is at all plausible. I don’t.” That seems to me a clear appeal to intuition. And while my own intuition agrees with Mr. Ridley, I don’t trust my intuition enough to completely discard a scenario which includes a counterintuitive assertion, when that scenario and assertion are otherwise supported. While Mr. Ridley may have more confidence in his intuition than I have in mine, he is also a better scientist, and so should be even more wary of overdependence on intuition.

    I share Mr. Ridley’s concern that those with more control of governments will tend to use that control to improve their own futures, and those of their children, without great concern for the burdens that places on the futures of those lacking such control, and their children. I don’t see his argument that the scenario they are attempting to avoid, agw, is not as bad as we fear, as likely to be politically effective. But that’s a political argument, not a scientific one.

    Reply
  16. Joshua

    Matt –

    ==> “…and that that very phrase was invented as a way smear sceptics who think the dangers of climate change are being exaggerated by associating them with holocaust denial. ”

    Looking beyond your questionable certainty about whether the term “denier” is used as an association with holocaust denial (not that I’m defending the use of the term) – given your expressed concern about the use of pejoratives, perhaps you should think twice about their use in your own rhetoric.

    If you use pejoratives yourself, then it might look as if your “yuk” reflects a double standard.

    Reply
    1. Tom Fuller

      Joshua is always so concerned about what horrors may befall anyone who is not part of the consensus. Mr. Ridley must sleep better at night knowing that Joshua is so attentive towards his credibility.

      Oh, wait! Joshua doesn’t like what Mr. Ridley writes. He is on the side of Mr. Lynas! How to explain this?

  17. Judith Knott

    Exactly! He can’t be oversensitive, either, if as an individual writer he chooses to accuse green groups of taking the moral low ground, when they’re simply accepting the scientific consensus. How polite and “measured” is this?

    As a member of the public with no scientific expertise, I continue to be suspicious of anyone who thinks he knows better than those infinitely better qualified than himself. A zoology background is better applied to writing about the grave threats to biodiversity, surely?

    WHY is he spending hours and hours on technical stuff that a general public has no interest in following, yet not subject it to peer review in the normal way? Could it be that it might be subjected to a review that most of us are unable and unwilling to give?

    Reply
    1. Graham Strouts

      What exactly IS the “scientific consensus” ? In terms of precise predictions of the future, there is none:

      ” The IPCC gives a range of outcomes from harmless to harmful. I think the lower end of the range is more plausible. Mark thinks the higher end is more plausible. But we are both within the range of outcomes. How does that make me a “denier”?”

      If you cannot easily point out actual errors in Matt’s comment,- and Lynas accepts he was at least partly wrong- then your own has no basis.

    2. ...and Then There's Physics

      Exactly! He can’t be oversensitive, either, if as an individual writer he chooses to accuse green groups of taking the moral low ground, when they’re simply accepting the scientific consensus. How polite and “measured” is this?
      Well, yes, I had thought the same myself. This could qualify as a classic example of Climateball(TM). Write an article implying that those with whom you disagree are taking the moral low ground and don’t care about the poor. Whine when the response to your article is somewhat insulting, and manage to get a response published on your critics blog, where your critic actually apologises. You graciously accept, appearing to still hold the moral high ground. Clever?

      Additionally, we never actually get around to really discussing the details of Matt Ridley’s article, which is still based on a selective choice of evidence and a complete lack of recognition that even this evidence doesn’t really support the level of certainty that Matt appears to be suggesting. If this was an article written by anyone else, the howls of indignation from the usual suspects would be resonating around the blogosphere for days. Strangely silent now, though.

    3. c1ue

      Wow, what a poorly disguised attempt to repeat the normal “expertise” argument.

      One of the central points of Mr. Ridley’s article was that the so-called experts have called their own expertise into question – by the failure of the “consensus” hypothesis and models to prove out in reality.

      You don’t need to be a climate science expert to understand that the projections put out by IPCC have been utterly, completely, and inexplicably wrong for nearly 2 decades.

      It is this reality which caused Mr. Ridley to change his view.

      Equally amusing is how you fail to address his assertion: that present climate policy hurts the poor. Do you disagree?

      As for Mr. “Physics” – a law which nature fails to adhere to, isn’t a law. Go back to school and read up on future vs. present benefits: being killed today by indoor air pollution does not get evened out by a highly theoretical future (not worse) world.

    4. John Vonderlin

      Judith,
      “As a member of the public with no scientific expertise, I continue to be suspicious of anyone who thinks he knows better than those infinitely better qualified than himself ” – So when George Bush, the intelligence community and military experts, all of whom knew “infinitely” more than you about geopolitics and warfare, insisted we must invade Iraq to prevent a “Mushroom Cloud,” over America, you immediately enlisted, encouraged your children to, or voted for politicians that supported that “wise” policy?
      Climatology is as complex in the issues involved and subject to as much self-delusional bias as geo-political strategy is. Be skeptical of all experts. Pay attention to those who question authority in all its guises. And try not to use “he” and “himself” instead of “they” and “themselves,” when referring to skeptics. Many women, including notable scientists, are in that camp too. And especially don’t use “infinitely” to modify “better qualified,” as it reads like a Valley Girl’s “totally” and in no way is accurate in describing the comparative knowledge base of the spectrum of people who question the so-called Climate Change Consensus Community’s assertions, including their paranoid CAGW wing.

    5. MB

      John V., it was painfully easy to see the shallowness of Pax Americana’s justifications to go into Iraq. Just where are you coming from with that analogy? It doesn’t prove your point.

      ACC is a much tougher nut to crack because the coterie of scientists is much, much larger, hugely more intelligent, and has produced a wealth of more information to process, the bulk of it peer-reviewed.

      And ordinary, everyday observations tend to get in the way of rebuttal success. You know, pesky little things like millions of thermometer readings, thousands of ice core samples, etc. etc.

  18. Dave

    Unbelievable but typical for Jane.
    Find one little thingy in a large post and bitch about it.
    But this time Jane takes it to a whole new level.
    Equating “denier” with “yuk”.
    Yuk indeed!

    Reply
  19. Judith Knott

    It’s good to know that Matt and others have a social conscience, but isn’t there a lot of muddled thinking here? Nobody can predict the future of course, but it’s “the poor” (wherever they are) who would be most exposed to an unstable climate if drought and floods worsen, agriculture and water supplies are hit and communities are forced to migrate. The rich can always “adapt”. If these moral concerns are for the UK poor, we do have a welfare state and I’m sure coal subsidies could be diverted to those most in need or taxes tweaked to cover the transition period before costs come down.

    And even if the entire science community is wrong in seeing greenhouse gas build-up as a danger (and it’s much too risky to listen to the wishful thinking minority here) I for one would choose an expensive clean energy future hands down when the alternative is expensive, dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, with revenues going to the richest companies in the world. Climate tipping points would bring unstoppable change, and as long as there’s even a small chance they might happen, better to stop quibbling and concentrate on technology we know to be safe

    Reply
    1. Graham Strouts

      I think it is yourself who displays the muddles thinking. In fact, you provide a good example of those Greens who Ridley is talking about in his original post- taking the moral low ground as a result of being quite unable to understand what real poverty means.
      In fact, Ridley was not mainly referring to the UK poor, but to the couple of billion in the developing world who have scarcely any access to energy at all:

      “By contrast, the cost of climate policies is already falling most heavily on today’s poor. Subsidies for renewable energy have raised costs of heating and transport disproportionately for the poor. Subsidies for biofuels have raised food prices by diverting food into fuel, tipping millions into malnutrition and killing about 190,000 people a year. The refusal of many rich countries to fund aid for coal-fired electricity in Africa and Asia rather than renewable projects (and in passing I declare a financial interest in coal mining) leaves more than a billion people without access to electricity and contributes to 3.5 million deaths a year from indoor air pollution caused by cooking over open fires of wood and dung.”

      You say:
      “I for one would choose an expensive clean energy future hands down when the alternative is expensive, dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, with revenues going to the richest companies in the world.”

      But coal is much cheaper than renewables (and nuclear)- that is the whole point. That is why the fastest way out of poverty for the millions without electricity is coal. Wind and solar have orders of magnitude lower energy density- there is no way they alone can bring people out of poverty. Some 600million people have used coal to come out of poverty in the last 30 years; there is still no better option for millions more. That kind of poverty equates to high infant mortality and low life expectancy- yet many greens complacently ask them to put up with this because of putative impacts of climate change far into the future.

      I if you would be willing to make any real sacrifices, right now, for future climate change- give up your car/phone/ computer/lights perhaps? Would you be willing to give up your washing machine and condemn yourself to hand washing -forever, for the rest of your life? If not, your words ring hollow.

      http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine?language=en

    2. Eli Rabett

      Coal is not much cheaper than wind or hydro on grid, and is an absolute loser off grid. Worse, this does not include the cost of infrastructure to haul the stuff to market. Moreover the costs of gas, wind and solar are falling rapidly.

      http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/WEO2014_AfricaEnergyOutlook.pdf pg 58 to start

    3. MB

      Graham Strouts, it appears you are paid by the coal industry to have unmuddled thinking.

      Who needs an externality like 300,000 deaths in China alone in 2011 directly attributable to thermal coal to cloud one’s thoughts?

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/

  20. Steve Bloom

    Mark, you really shouldn’t base an apology on someone else’s definition of a neologism (lukewarmer) when the long-standing definition of denial is quite clear (long-standing since it was in place long before any debate about climate policy, and note, contrary to Ridley’s weird ahistorical assertion, simply applied to rather than developed for Holocaust denial). From the Wikipedia article:

    Denial, in ordinary English usage, is asserting that a statement or allegation is not true. The same word, and also abnegation, is used for a psychological defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

    The subject may use:

    simple denial: deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether

    minimisation: admit the fact but deny its seriousness (a combination of denial and rationalization)

    projection: admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility by blaming somebody or something else.

    So there’s lukewarmerism.

    Then in the linked article detailing minimisation we find:

    A variation on minimisation as a manipulative technique is “claiming altruistic motives” such as saying “I don’t do this because I am selfish, and for gain, but because I am a socially aware person interested in the common good”.

    Enter the poors!

    Re Lewis’ tightly focused efforts, energy balance models are necessarily misleading (as in lowballing) as to the future, albeit arguably interesting as a purely academic exercise. They do tell people like Ridley what they want to hear, although as ATTP notes above their high end is high enough that it still requires tamping down. The selection of the median (or mode, whatever) of EBM results as the “most likely,” as Lewis knows (and very probably Ridley too, assuming he did any actual research on this question), has been demonstrated by James Annan (an actual subject matter expert) to be simply invalid.

    Reply
  21. Eli Rabett

    There are a number of things which are useful for examining the clap trap that Matt Ridley is selling.

    First, climate change underway today mostly hurts the poor. It is clear that any assessment shows that the countries that are going to be most hurt by climate change are the poorest countries. Every attempt at an integrated assessment model, the IPCC reports and more shows this.

    Second, fossil fuel as an energy source is characterized by relatively low capital costs and high operational costs. Wind, solar, hydro and nuclear the reverse. If fools like Lomborg and Ridley really wanted to help the poors they would be advocating for donation by the developed world to carry those initial capital costs and increased energy efficiency so the poors were not subject to eternal thralldom under the coal and oil industry

    Reply
  22. Bas

    At which CO2 and temperature level can the earth support the highest number of people (living in relative wealth?
    Or what are the optimal levels in the world (in the long run)?

    Some considerations:
    It seems that desert type areas south of the Sahara become greener nowadays. Most say due to higher CO2 levels.
    Plants grow better / faster with more CO2, hence more food / m².

    Higher temperatures create more evaporation from the sea, so more rainfall. And rain / water also facilitates the grow of food, wood, etc.

    Higher temperatures imply that vast areas, such as those in Siberia, become suitable for food production.

    So a further CO2 rise in combination with a temperature rise may facilitate a larger and wealthier world population. Hence may be beneficial.

    The world changes all the time (when will next ice age come?) so why try to stop the change, if the change is in the end beneficial.

    After all, the trouble of adaptation due to the slow temperature rise, is only a temporary problem. Adaptations are already ongoing such as the gradual migration of population to higher latitudes (Africa to Europe; Mid-America to N-America, etc).

    Reply
    1. Eli Rabett

      Go read IPCC WG 1 and 2. Your guess is not what observation and best science says has and will happen.

      http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9s9-5-4-3.html

    2. Bas

      @Eli
      Local droughts confirm only some change is going on. But that story does not answer my question at all.

    3. Eli Rabett

      It answers enough of them to show that you need to do more reading. Go Gish gallop with someone else.

    4. Jeff Harvey

      Higher temperatures increase food production in Siberia? Kindergarten level science as usual from a clear denier. Bas, like Richard T(r)ol(l), conveniently forgets that inconvenient little caveat called the soil. Acid soils are not conducive to crop growth. Changing acid soils to alkaline soils in which crops thrive is a process that will take many thousands of years. `yet AGW deniers never ever factor this in. They seem to think that the soil is an essentially inert, lifeless medium.

      One thing that jumps out at me from tis blog is that it is full of the usual denier suspects. Its actually quite an embarrassment, and more so give that the two years since this debate occurred has seen record warm temperatures with 2016 pretty well on its own in an historical context. As for Ridley, he’s long been considered a laughingstock amongst the real experts, and his allegedly lukewarm views fall well within the realm of AGW denial. The bilge he churns out on the greening of planet Earth is indeed nauseous. He appears to think that there is no such thing as qualitative parameters in plant communities, and that biomass is everything. Unlike him, I actually have expertise in this area and can categorically refute any notion that an increase in biomass – clearly that will asymptote at some point – tells the entire story. Ridley clearly knows very little about plant primary and secondary chemistry, of differing carbon pathways, and of non-linear effects in ecology based on cause-and-effect scenarios. Many of the usual suspects here lap up his shallow scientific approach, but there are actually scientists in this world – like me – who know better. Like his hero, Bjorn Lomborg, Ridley is targeting his puerile gibberish at a lay audience anxious to embrace denial and the status quo. Seems like he found quite a few takers on here.

  23. Eli Rabett

    Further, consider, if you will, the argument that coal is necessary for development and it would be unethical to oppose development of the poorest. Well, if this were 1800 perhaps, but let us concede it just to be nice.

    The Montreal Protocols under which freons were phased out provide a fine solution, the developed world goes first, drops coal like a hot rock right now and the underdeveloped and developing world follow on at a later time.

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, might suspect that the tears being whined for the poor developing countries not being able to use coal are a beard but that would not be nice, would it.

    As to the costs of coal, consider China which is moving as fast as it can away from coal because of the half MILLION deaths each year from air pollution and here are some picture postcards .

    Reply
    1. Hans Erren

      That’s why China recently closed a deal with Russia for the delivery of Russian gas, and is Australia exporting high grade coking coal to China for steel manufacturing, because China doesn’t want to burn its forests for sustainable charcoal.

    2. Eli Rabett

      Hans, no way China could generate enough charcoal for its metal refining from wood.

    3. Hans Erren

      Exactly eli, exactly.

    4. MB

      Hans, some people see anthracite as a very beneficial substance because it’s an essential ingredient in very beneficial high-strength steel, the kind used in, say, windmill tower structures, solar array scaffolding, and steel rails for electrically-powered high-speed trains. It’s the burning of thermal coal for electricity that does most of the damage and kills the most people.

      One day some smart nation will fund the R&D into electric arc furnaces energized by geothermal, nuclear or hydro to create Portland cement. Perhaps a way will be found to infuse carbon into steel alloys without using combusted anthracite. With enough such plants, the supply of these renewable, cleaner alternatives will go up and price will come down.

      What cannot be argued for long, though, is that nations that rely too much on the extraction and export of raw resources like fossil fuels with little value-added measures or a plan for when they hit the inevitable geological limits are playing with a one-horse economy. It doesn’t take a wild-eyed radical to determine that diversification is a good thing.

  24. Jai Mitchell

    “My point is that if you make heroically bad economic, demographic, carbon-cycle and energy-mix assumptions, AND you ignore the best evidence available about sensitivity then yes, warming might be very dangerous.”
    —————————

    When your “best evidence” is Nic Lewis and his hare-brained “absorption windows to space” theories published in unrecognized and highly suspect journals (if published at all), and then you go on to criticize real scientific work done under the intense rigor of real science, then you are doing yourself and the entire world an incredible disservice.

    If anything, recently published studies shows that sea level rise will be much higher than the current ICPP worst case estimates (Rignot et. al 2014) and that GHG radiative forcing and direct and indirect aerosol forcing may be significantly underestimated (Durack et. al. 2014). The latter implies that the “most likely” ECS value is now much higher and explains very well why northern hemisphere temperatures are underperforming (slightly) to the models.

    Reply
    1. Jai Mitchell

      oh, and another thing, that comparison of observed temperatures and the CMIP5 models. The Hadcrut4 series is adjusted downward, stops over 2 years ago and doesn’t include the Cowtan and Way adjustments of increased arctic coverage.

      In addition, the 90 selected model runs are cherry picked to show the higher runs and not include the lower runs that would hold more natural variation due to increased Aerosols and heat deposition to the oceans.

      I think the most important response to the “pause” denialists is that the ARGO buoy float network as DIRECTLY measured an increase of 12*10^22 Joules of added heat to the worlds oceans over the last 10 years.

      If this amount of heat went, instead, directly into the atmosphere, this would warm the earth’s surface by over 20C, all over the world, day and night.

      Global warming is real, the amount of heat going into the earth is stunning and the implications are dire for our future.

    2. Jai Mitchell

      Correction: I falsely attributed spectrum analysis work to Nic Lewis, I apparently confused him with a different hack.

      I think it is high time that we take global warming to be what it truly is, an existential threat that, if left un-mitigated in the very immediate future, will lead to the deaths of over 1 billion human beings over the next 5 decades.

      In this circumstance, likely an understatement if current groundwater depletion trends continue, then those among us who ARE climate deniers are WORSE than holocaust deniers, by several magnitudes of order. (being that the deaths may yet be avoided!)

  25. Graham Strouts

    Wow- are you for real? Great example of everything that is wrong with the Green movement- I will def file away for future reference.

    “I think it is high time that we take global warming to be what it truly is, an existential threat that, if left un-mitigated in the very immediate future, will lead to the deaths of over 1 billion human beings over the next 5 decades.”

    got a sci reference for that little statistic by chance?

    Reply
    1. Jai Mitchell

      At current groundwater resource depletions in the western united states, the middle east and northern India, as well as the collapse of the Amazonian rainforest and water resources in Sao Paulo, combined with the highly likely ice-free arctic summer between 2020 and 2030 we have already unleashed over 2.5C of warming at current CO2 values.

      There is a very real reason that the U.S. pentagon has declared that climate change is a real and present national security threat NOW. Under BAU scenarios with the release of Carbon from frozen soils and carbon-cycle feedbacks looming, most of humanity will experience much shortened lives within the next 50 years.

      Since we are talking about climate regime feedbacks leading to 4C of warming within the next 50 years, I recommend the Royal Societies work on the subject:

      http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1934/6.full.pdf+html

    2. Eli Rabett

      Strouts, your bluster has been called. Do some reading and come back.

    3. MB

      Graham, let me guess. You are paid 50p a word, right? Doesn’t matter what you say, let alone have a legitimate or even intelligent rebuttal, just hit the keys.

    4. Graham Strouts

      Ironic- but predictable- that all these “shill” accusations re Big Coal etc are *exactly* the same thing that happens if you defend GMOs- you are immediately accused of being a Monsanto shill! Yet we all use fossil fuels, for example to keep our computers going.
      I explored this aspect of the issue a couple of years back:

      http://skepteco.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/shill-for-monsanto-shill-for-big-oil/

  26. Steve

    The comment that Mr. Ridley is less credible that the “climate science” community because he has a zoology background reminded me of the reason I became a skeptic (not a denier) on CAGW. First, I am a scientist with over 115 peer-reviewed publications and more than 25 years of competitive biomedical research funding. So, I would claim that I know something about the methods and standards of science. When I saw the response most representatives of the climate science community to Climategate, I instantly suspected that the field was infected by confirmation bias and groupthink to such an extent that its policy recommendations were less than trustworthy. Further study has only strengthened that impression. It is no accident that many scientists in other fields are among the most vocal skeptics; one of the most famous was Michael Crichton, who was a scientist before he was a novelist. Before Climategate, he provided a nice summary explaining why his take on the data left him wondering how climate scientists could sound so certain in the IPCC reports, when the actual data were full of contradictions and inconsistencies that are not addressed rationally my most climate scientists but which more often lead to ad hom attacks that inevitably include the term “denier” and also commonly “fossil fuel industry shill”. That’s just not how real scientists act. If they are really sure they are right and that all objections to their theories can be adequately addressed, they should be anxious to present their detailed arguments as to why and slow to make the argument personal.

    Reply
    1. ...and Then There's Physics

      First, I am a scientist with over 115 peer-reviewed publications and more than 25 years of competitive biomedical research funding.
      First, an appeal to authority,

      It is no accident that many scientists in other fields are among the most vocal skeptics
      then an apparent suggestion that this somehow means that your criticism is justified rather than simply ill-informed,

      lead to ad hom attacks that inevitably include the term “denier” and also commonly “fossil fuel industry shill”.
      and then a bit of whine.

      That’s me convinced!

    2. Eduardo Ferreyra

      Well, well, well… it seems that you reject appeals to authority. That’s a positive attitude. But… why do you accept IPCC’s appeals to authority? That’s warmist’s most solid argument, along with the moronic 97% consensus… Hah,aha, you really made my day. Cheeers!

    3. ...and Then There's Physics

      Eduardo,
      In what sense do you think I accept the IPCC’s apparent appeal to authority (which, of course, is your own construct). Have I said that specifically or are you simply inferring that because I’ve said things that suggest that I broadly agree with what they present? If I was you, I’d be careful using the word “moronic”.

    4. mailman

      Is it more the case that you only don’t accept appeals to authority when it’s made by someone who doesn’t believe in your religion of Mann Made Global Warming ™ as much as you do anders?

      Mailman

  27. Eduardo Ferreyra

    Because of you answer to Steve it is easy to inferr that you are a warmist. Actually, a member of the new breed of Deniers… because warmists deny natural climate changes, deny sun’s influence on Earth’s climate, deny the “warming hiatus”, and many things that are in front of your eyes. Fortunately you are not I, so don’t worry about the use of the term “moronic” for some hypothesis and claimed consensus.

    Reply
    1. ...and Then There's Physics

      What absolute tosh. Complete waste of time responding to your comments, so I won’t bother again.

    2. Eduardo Ferreyra

      You warmists are such a predictable breed… I did hurt, isn’t it? It always hurt when you are faced with the truth. No more arguments, then? Bye, bye, black bird.

    3. mailman

      Hahahahaha….the old “im only replying because I’m telling you I’m not wasting my time replying to you” trick 🙂

      Mailman

  28. Eli Rabett

    Another issue which has not been commented on much is the claim that the world will be much richer in the future and better able to deal with climate change.

    Well the costs of dealing with ongoing climate change will also be much higher and that is more certain.

    Matt Ridley is waiving his hands, just as he did when assuring Parliament and the markets that Northern Rock was ready for anything. We believe him at our peril

    Reply
    1. Jai Mitchell

      Eli,

      I recall that the NORDHAUS DICE integrated assessment model expected a 2100 gross world product on the order of 930% higher than 2010.

      It is only through this amazing inflation and assumed unlimited natural resource that he can justify the outrageous (and culpable) intergenerational discount rates of 5% (or even 7%) from the Manhattan inst. neoliberal think tank.

      makes one wonder if global depopulation is an actual strategy. . .

  29. Jeremy Poynton

    Dear Mr. Lynas,

    Remember. If your knee jerks TOO hard, you may just kick yourself in the mouth. Just a friendly word of advice…

    Reply
  30. Joris van Dorp

    Is it really so ridiculous to assume coal consumption could continue to rise as in the most extreme IPCC scenario?

    I think not.

    Coal reserves and resources are positively huge (130.000 EJ is hundreds of times more than is consumed today), and there is no particular reason to suppose these resources won’t be largely consumed, if it comes to that.

    http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2005/c05020.pdf

    Except of course if nuclear power is allowed to compete with coal, which could happen if the public decides it’s had enough of the (truly) ridiculous anti-nuclear propaganda which it is fed almost on a daily basis. Because while the coal resource is huge, the nuclear fission fuel is quite simply inexhaustible.

    http://www.mcgill.ca/files/gec3/NuclearFissionFuelisInexhaustibleIEEE.pdf

    Reply
  31. Terri Jackson

    there is no such person as a climate “denier”. What there is are thousands of physicists who deny that human use of fossil fuels is a problem. As Professor Salby noted in his recent Westminster lecture(now on youtube) human effects on climate are “negligible”. nearly all the CO2 in the atmosphere is coming from natural sources such as plant decomposition and ocean de-gassing(agreed by Professor Lindzen). The two satellite temperature data sets RSS and UAH show no warming for 20 years. By contrast the three terrestrial data sets including NASA-GISS have been altered and are now compromised See latest NASA-GISS warming that never was! on http://scientificqa.blogspot.co.uk CO2 is at its lowest level for thousands of years

    Reply

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