Don’t be fooled: man-made global warming does exist

Published in The Times on 9 January 2013

This was the story that the scientists “tried to bury”; yet more evidence that global warming is at a standstill — or so it seemed to climate sceptics.

The reality about the Met Office’s new decadal forecast is more prosaic, and also more complicated: it has indeed issued some predictions for how global temperatures might change between now and 2017, but these are not like long-range weather forecasts. They are experimental projections assessing the probabilities of different temperature outcomes averaged out over the whole globe.

Nor is it true that these show a downgrading of global warming. Although five years is a short time period for assessing a changing climate, it is still likely that the planet will continue to warm and that new temperature records will be set. The Met Office also make clear that warming is driven by increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, not natural fluctuations.

This is not to say that it will definitely be warmer in 2017 than it is in 2013, but that global warming certainly makes it more likely to be so. Probabilistic forecasts emphasise that we are loading the climate dice in a warming direction — you can still get a cool year, but they become less and less likely as time passes. The danger for all of us is that we see a spell of cold weather as evidence against global warming: no one actually experiences “average weather”.

The global warming debate has become a cover for a fight between left v right world views. Many greens see evil corporations gambling the future of the planet and call for drastic statist measures, while many sceptics allow themselves to be blinded to scientific truths about atmospheric physics that are now as well-established as Darwinian evolution.

As a result of all this hyperbole, the voices of scientists get lost in the noise. The scientific consensus, echoed by every major academic institution in the world, is that increased greenhouse gases are warming our planet, and we reject this knowledge at our absolute peril. Global warming happens on a slower timeline than politics, but its physical reality is undeniable. Over the next century we are now more likely than not to see temperatures rise higher than they have been on Earth for more than 50 million years. I find that prospect terrifying.

Scientific dissent absolutely has a place, but we must not end up being derailed from the primary mission, which has to be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve a relatively habitable climate for our children.



  1. Mikeb

    “The danger for all of us is that we see a spell of cold weather as evidence against global warming: no one actually experiences ‘average weather’.”

    It’s inevitable that this will happen, given the phenomenon of the “reversion to the mean,” whereby extraordinary performances will tend to followed by more ordinary ones. I’d be little surprised if the next few years were “ordinary.”

    And most people will not be able to perceive that “ordinary”–the “mean”–is actually shifting gradually upward.

    Maybe not, anyway.

    1. Jonathon Harrington

      During the Q and A session after Mark Lynas’s brave speech at The Oxford Farming Conference Stuart Agnew (UKIP MEP) rather stupidly tried to cite the fact that 1/3rd of his Sugar Beet had been frozen in the ground as ‘evidence’ of the lack of global warming! When climate change cynics have to resort to this as ‘evidence’ it makes even the most open minded observer conclude that they really do not have real material on which to support their views.
      For those of us who wish to base our opinion on solid scientific data this drives us straight into the camp of that which thinks there is a problem which we need to deal with urgently. As far as I can tell 98% of the scientific opinion worth considering that ‘we’ and our activities are a substantial part of the warming that we are now experiencing.

      If anyone has any worthwhile data to the contrary could they possigive it to The Royal Society so that we can have their guidance? Meanwhile I and most of my impartial colleagues are now converted to The Lynas camp!

    2. Scott

      One thing to consider is the moderating effect life has. In my opinion the main cause for global warming is conventional farming destroying the soil. The “breathing” of the web of life that starts in the soil and the carbon cycle there has a moderating effect on climate. Water released cools in summer and the thick organic decomposing material provides warmth in winter. The net effect of the loss of organic material in the soil, with all its associated web of life causes winters to be colder, summers hotter, over all dryer, and a climatic shift long term to global warming as an average of the extremes.

      Anyone with any doubt of the moderating effect of life needs only visit a desert and spend a few days and nights. Incredibly hot in daytime and freezing at night. Then visit a forest with the same average temperature.

      Global warming with the moderating effect of life in the soil is fine. Global warming without life in the soil? Huge problem.

    3. Jonathon Harrington

      Dear Scott,
      It’s an interesting idea particularly if you have some scientific data to back it up! Please could you reference anything you may have so I can look into this further? If this is the cause or even part of the cause do you have any suggestions as to an alternative method of food production? Organic farming has a higher use of fossil fuels per tonne of production so that is not an option.


    4. Scott

      Of course organic is an option, depending of course on the organic method being discussed.

      The easiest organic method to implement would be MIRG (Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing) This has the benefit of being a net carbon sink, instead of a net carbon producer. It also can out produce conventional CAFO models per acre when properly done. The nutritional quality of the product is superior. Since often no grain is needed, all the fossil fuel costs in planting, raising, harvesting, transporting, drying, storing, etc the grain and soy are all eliminated. Instead of bringing the grain to the livestock, the livestock walks from paddock to paddock daily. Those corn and soy fields if planted in pasture will yield a far bigger profit per acre for the farmer too.

      But to me the biggest advantage is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Farmers can gradually increase the yields of the pastures they already have. They also are not forced to go 100% organic all at once either. They don’t even have to completely eliminate grain if they prefer to take it step by step. The method works so well that it is helpful right from the start, even while farmers are still learning the system. First year typical results are double the bulk biomass produced in their existing pastures. Later as they tweek it for local conditions (every bit of land is slightly different) they can expect results up to 5 times or more productivity off their pastures, and eventually produce more meat, eggs and/or dairy per acre than even the best CAFO models.

      A good source for that would be Undersander, D., Albert, B., Cosgrove, D., Johnson, D., Peterson, P. 2002. Pastures for profit: A guide to rotational grazing. UW-Extension.

      That will get you started. The science behind it has boomed in the last 10 years though. But at least you can get the basics from that.

      As far as proof that the web of life, particularly plants, moderate climate…..It is a well known principle. I learned it in high school biology class over 30 years ago. Not sure if I ever saw a scientific study on it though. It is just one of the basics that is well known and has been well known for a long time. It is one reason why deserts are both hotter and colder as either forests or grasslands. Natural deserts of course are hard to change due to water. But man made deserts or desert like conditions are reversible. Once the soil starts holding more water, and that gets slowly released through plant respiration, on large areas that can actually cause more rainfall, creating a positive feedback effect. I remember an article many years ago documenting that very same positive feedback effect happening in Israel as more and more land became settled and under more beneficial agriculture.

      Now the carbon cycle and how agriculture has affected that natural cycle. That is somewhat newer science. But you can find information of that from the soil survey. The erosion of the topsoil due to conventional agricultural methods is pretty well documented. Since carbon in the topsoil is one of the major components, it doesn’t take too much brain work to figure out that is a major component to global warming. (along with other destructive practices like deforestation) Mark likes to quote studies about how carbon emissions add to global warming, but he fails to usually include all the loss of sequestered carbon in the soil cause by agriculture. It is pretty significant. The good thing is that it is also relatively easy to correct. Organic methods of agriculture are all about sequestering carbon. That’s why it is called organic after all! It is all about improving the soil with humus and humus is carbon.

      If you are not too good at using Google Scholar, I would be happy to look up a few articles for you. There is a lot of studies involving desertification due to improper/inappropriate agriculture. Either that or contact Dr. Nina Fedoroff. She was interviewed by Mark on another thread. Apparently she doesn’t understand too much about the science behind modern organic methods. But she does understand the destructiveness of conventional Ag.

      “The problems of agriculture are many: from an ecological perspective, there just isn’t anything as destructive as agriculture.”- Dr. Nina Fedoroff

    5. Scott

      It occurred to me that the reply to your request “Please could you reference anything you may have so I can look into this further?” was probably less than satisfactory. It is true that knowledge was part of my basic education, but I should have given you better references.

      I got side tracked by your dismissive attitude towards organic methods. My apologies. Organic agriculture ultimately is the solution, but until I establish for you the problem, discussing solutions or possible solutions is fairly out of order.

      First let’s establish the premise that life (biodiversity) does in fact moderate weather and climate both.

      “Biodiversity modifies or moderates weather systems”

      Prof. Douglas Tallamy PhD
      Chair Entomology and Wildlife Ecology
      University of Delaware

      “The world’s forest ecosystems provide environmental services that benefit, directly or indirectly, all human communities, including watershed protection, regional climatic regulation, fibre, food, drinking water, air purification, carbon storage, recreation, and pharmaceuticals.”

      Ahmed Djoghlaf
      Executive Secretary
      Secretariat of the Convention
      on Biological Diversity
      United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

      “Essential ecosystem benefits provided by rangelands include maintaining the composition of the atmosphere; mitigating climate and moderating weather; creating, fertilizing and stabilizing soils; disposing of wastes; cycling nutrients; storing and purifying water; and providing natural control of diseases and pests to name only a few. Loss of biodiversity can negatively influence the quality and quantity of these benefits.”

      West, N.E. “Biodiversity on Rangelands.” Journal of Range Management, 1993. Vol 46, Number 1, p2-13.

      “Food production, mitigating climate change and ecosystem services are closely intertwined and all rely on biodiversity and soil biodiversity. Therefore, we need to take a new approach to agriculture that builds on biodiversity (especially within the soil), soil quality, and organic fertilizers and seeds variety as productive factors to be optimized. The objective should be to design an agricultural landscape that is both rich in diversity and species and more productive.”

      Conference Executive Summary
      Soil, Climate Change and Biodiversity — Where do we stand?
      Environment Directorate-General and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

      Is that sufficient for you to establish the link between soil, biodiversity and weather and/or climate?

    6. Jonathon Harrington

      Dear Scott, You are perfectly entitled to your opinions although not to your own ‘facts’. Your assertion that ‘organic’ farming (whatever that is)is the solution rather polarises our positions so without wishing to appear rude it is probably best if we do not continue this dialogue.
      Anyone can cite some ‘evidence’ to ‘prove’ almost anything they want to but it is best to look at the evidence ‘in the round’ before coming to such conclusions as you seem to have.
      Certainly they are NOT ones I would draw from my field of knowledge but of course I accept you may well be right! It was unfortunate that the catholic church did not extend such grace towards those who hypothesised that the earth goes round the sun!
      My very best wishes to you, JAH

    7. Scott

      Dear Jonathon,
      I am sorry to hear you are so dismissive of organic agricultural technology. I suppose it could possibly be due to not understand what organic means. In it’s simplest form:

      Organic agronomy is the growing of food with complex carbon compounds as the primary source of plant nutrients as compared to conventional “green revolution” agronomy which uses primarily salts to fertilize the soil.

      No one requires you to convert to some dogmatic pseudo-religious certified organic fruitcake to use organic technology to sequester carbon in the soil. (along with the many other benefits to the ecology)

      So perhaps we could discuss those organic methods separate from the completely different issue of “certified organic”, seeing as most certification bodies have lost the meaning of organic in the first place?

      Because it would be very difficult to discuss a solution that sequesters carbon in agricultural land, while at the same time dismissing out of hand 70 years of organic technology and soil science. It would be like trying to solve a problem with one hand tied behind your back.

      Think about it reasonably. Life on this planet is carbon based. Ignoring the carbon cycle is what got us into this position in the first place. Saying that we must also ignore organic (which is the science of the carbon cycle in agriculture) in trying to devise a solution seems rather obtuse. Doesn’t it?

      Just as an example: This is a webinar showcasing just how effective adding these organic technologies to conventional agriculture can be in improving BOTH diversity and production, with many side benefits to the ecology as well. None of these showcased farms can be called “certified organic”, yet it is with organic methods that these farms have been improved.

      I hope you will consider furthering our discussion.


    8. Jonathon Harrington

      Dear Scott, You may not realise it yet but you have just ‘shot yourself in the foot’ with your comments about ‘Organic’ farming.

      I spend about 25 % of my working day helping ‘Organic’ farmers, particularly dairy farmers solve problems brought on by the restrictions they are under so I do know a little about this.

      I have enjoyed our discussion up till now but thank you enough is enough! JH

    9. Scott

      I am not sure what offends you so much. Perhaps you thought I was calling all organic agriculture crazies? Certainly not. There are some that are. But certainly not all. In fact I have been growing organic for 35 years. But you are helping dairies! Why didn’t you say so earlier! Organic animal husbandry is far easier than even organic agronomy. In agronomy if you do everything perfect, there is still at minimum 3-5 years+ before the soil improves enough to reach a tipping point and out produce conventional with all their chemical and energy inputs. If what you do is help organic dairy farmers, then that is the easiest of all! That can double the cow grazing days per acre in the very first year!

      Carbon sequestering in pasture is incredibly efficient managed correctly. In fact if all the cattle and dairy operations in the Western nations were to adopt multi species MIRG (managed intensive rotational grazing) then all the carbon emitted by all the factories since the beginning of the industrial age could be sequestered in about 10-15 years. In fact the pastures can produce up to 5 times more biomass on the same acreage with less outside energy inputs. Even not done optimally, it still easily produces a yearly increase of 2 tons more usable forage per acre per year. Also it is very well documented scientifically for Dairy and the pressures on Dairy are in fact what spurred on it’s development in the first place!

      You are looking at about 10-20% less milk production per cow if certified organic, but at least double (and up to 5 times) the number of cow days per acre. Net effect is more profit to the farmer. Furthermore, it allows additional species to be raised on the same land (like chickens) for additional revenue streams that actually improve the pasture even more and add even more profit to the farmer.

      The organic farmers using this technique of multi species MIRG are making money by the bucket load and doing incredible things for the environment.

      One source, a bit older, but containing the original scientific basis for the concept is “Pastures for profit: A guide to rotational Grazing”

      Then what has happened is that for very little cost per acre infrastructure (portable by nature) additional species can be added to further improve the pasture production even more. Chickens especially are beneficial, since they can follow the cows 3 days later, and their foraging actually sanitizes the pastures, eating parasites, insect control like fly larvae, spreading the cow manure, adding their own high nitrogen manure, for an even greater blaze of growth in the “rest period” of that paddock. All the while their eggs or meat produce even greater profit on the EXACT same land. Some farmers have brought their profit as high as 5,000 to 8,000 dollars per acre of pasture.

      “40,000 lbs beef
      30,000 lbs pork
      10,000 broilers
      1,200 turkeys
      1,000 rabbits
      35,000 doz. eggs
      off of 100 acres
      and at the end of the year
      there is more biodiversity, not less
      there is more fertility, not less
      there is more soil, not less.
      This is NOT a zero-sum system!” -Michael Pollan On Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm

    10. Jonathon Harrington

      Oh dear Scott, you really have swallowed it hook line and sinker haven’t you!

      No I really cannot continue this discussion with you; our positions are poles apart and my 35 years working with both organic and conventional farmers leads me to completely different conclusions than yours. I wish you well with whatever you do and wherever you do it. J

  2. Barry Woods

    it is the downgrading of some highly publicised Met Office predictions!!

    Paul Hudson (BBC, and ex Met Office, and very relevant degrees)

    “One of their most high profile forecasts came in late 2009, coinciding with the Copenhagen climate conference.

    It stated that half the years between 2010 and 2015 would be hotter than the hottest year on record, which I wrote about on my blog.

    This already appears wide of the mark.

    The latest projection seems to address this error with a prediction to 2017 in which temperatures rise 20% less than previously estimated.

    In November 2009 I wrote about this levelling off in global temperatures, using research available at the time on the Met Office website.

    In it, the Met Office explained that the levelling off of global temperatures that we were experiencing can be expected at time periods of a decade or less, because of the computer models internal climate variability.

    But intriguingly, the research ruled out zero trends for time periods of 15 years or more.

    The new projection, if correct, would mean there will have been little additional warming for two decades despite rising greenhouse gases.

    It’s bound to raise questions about the robustness and reliability of computer simulations that governments around the world are using in order to determine policies aimed at combating global warming.

    1. klem

      It also raises questions about IPCC predictions. C’mon the IPCC makes a high profile prediction in time for the 2009 Copenhagen conference, now they make another one for 2017, they are posturing, its politics, its designed for maximum effect. The IPCC continually make fools of themselves. Long live the IPCC. Lol!

  3. Gareth Kane

    The left/right debate is an interesting one as socialist states have demonstrated that they are as capable of destroying the environment on a grand scale as free market capitalism. Personally, I became a professional environmentalist after witnessing ecological devastation in the far north of Russia (which had been mending since the fall of the Soviet system), so I find it bizarre to be described as a ‘watermelon’.

    Likewise the green movement has shown itself just as capable of cherry-picking and distorting evidence as climate change deniers.

    Thank goodness for the new breed of pragmatic environmentalists (including Mark Lynas) who are driven by what works rather than political ideology.

    1. klem

      I used to be an environmentalist myself, I am not anymore for some of the same reasons you mention above.

      The final straw occurred several years ago when my local government eased environmental regulations regarding endangered birds. It meant that the corporate owners of new wind turbines would not be held responsible for chopping up endangered birds. It also allowed the turbines to be built in a large marsh in the middle of one of the major bird migration routes in N America. My environmental friends said that a few thousand dead birds was a small price to pay to save the world.

      That was the final straw for me.

  4. Philip Richens

    Hi Mark,

    In the article, you mentioned that “The Met Office also make clear that warming is driven by increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, not natural fluctuations.”

    Could you point out where they make this clear please?


    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      You’ll find it here. Cheers, Mark

    2. Philip Richens

      Thanks, Mark. I think this means that the Met Office quote you are using is, “The forecast of continued global warming is largely driven by increasing levels of greenhouse gases.” They are therefore saying that this is the behaviour seen in the new GCM, rather than the the real world climate. The distinction is worth making because of credible evidence in PPL that GCMs may not correctly model long-term fluctuations seen in proxies. As far as I know, this evidence has not yet been successfully refuted either in PPL or informally.

  5. Rod Adams

    Mark – here in the states we have a shorthand for conservative versus liberal (or Republican versus Democrat) called Red-Blue.

    Several years ago, I heard a cogent analysis about the climate change issue that suggested that a different color alignment is in play Black-Green. (Black for hydrocarbons like coal and oil, Green for people who are more concerned about the health of the environment.)

    The issue really does seem to cross traditional party and left-right boundaries. I personally think there is a mitigating strategy that will work for almost everyone except those whose wealth and power are tightly bound to selling hydrocarbons or servicing that industry.

    Nuclear energy is abundant enough to be a destination rather than a “bridge” like natural gas. It is virtually emission free, with the strong probability of being able to reduce its already low emissions even more as more and more of the power that is consumed in mining and construction is supplied by fission itself.

    Costs can be reduced dramatically; the reason there has been an experience of “negative learning” in nuclear construction and manufacturing is that no one ever challenged nukes to be cost conscious. Quite the opposite. We have repeatedly told that cost is no object when it comes to “safety” even when we already have developed systems that have operated for 50 years with few, if any, associated radiation injuries.

    Nuclear energy may look like an expensive, long term proposition, but so is getting a solid education. No parent worthy of the name would encourage his off spring to take the many easy, uncertain, or unreliable paths of development that do not include getting a good education that can form the basis for reliable income and comfortable retirement.

    1. John Stumbles

      Rod, you say “Nuclear energy is abundant enough to be a destination rather than a “bridge” like natural gas”

      MacKay arrives at a less optimistic appraisal:

      Could you show your figures and show in what ways you think he is wrong?

    2. Rod Adams

      I do not agree that MacKay arrives at a less optimistic appraisal of the resource base, though he does offer a more cautious appraisal of the technology that enables the use of that base. He recognizes that there is a lot of controversy and resistance to the use of breeder reactors that are far more efficient in fuel utilization than our current once through cycle.

      I converse on a regular basis with some of the people who developed the Integral Fast Reactor and know quite a bit about its history, both from a technological and political view, I am confident that breeder technology works fine and will last a very, very long time – unless it is beaten in the competitive market place by something like the liquid fluoride thorium reactor, which opens up access to a fuel source that is four times as abundant as uranium.

      Again, I know enough about that technology and its political history to be confident that it works and that it eliminates fuel resources as a concern for humanity for about as long as the sun will last.

      Here is a paper that shows that fission fuel resources are inexhaustible.

      The situation with fission is FAR different than the situation with something like Carbon Capture and Sequestration or nuclear fusion where important components of the system have not yet been invented, much less proven at the demonstration scale achieved by nuclear fission plants that are substantially better at using fuel than our current commercial units.

      We have no nuclear waste problem; our used nuclear fuel is a valuable future fuel resource base.

      Rod Adams
      Publisher, Atomic Insights

    3. John Stumbles

      Thanks Rod.

      Your “fission fuel resources are inexhaustible” claim is based on breeder reactors. As you remark, in SEWTHA MacKay offers a cautious appraisal of them, pointing out that previous attempts to develop breeders have been less than encouraging (or in his quipping words, “dangerous failed experimental technology whereof one should not speak”!). I knew Monbiot had been singing the praises of IFRs but hadn’t followed up and learned much about them. Googling around it seems that GE/Hitachi seem confident enough of their viability to (according to Monbiot in offer to put their own money where their mouth is even though they haven’t yet (as far as I can make out) actually built and run such a beast.

      LFTRs seem to offer much the same advantage with respect to fuel supply (though most sources quote Thorium as being 3 times as abundant as Uranium, not 4 times as you say) and ability to dispose of existing high level wastes, with – it would seem from the Oak Ridge reactor – a more proven design.

      Obviously we should be pushing ahead with all urgency developing both technologies rather than second-guessing which might turn out best at this early stage in their evolution (in any case it is quite possible they will have different pros and cons that suit them for different applications). Hopefully with MacKay advising the DECC there’s a possibility of an scientifically-informed evidence-based approach to the issues.

    4. quokka

      John Stumbles,

      LFTR is far less developed than the IFR (PRISM). The forerunner to PRISM was the EBR-II at Argonne which very successfully ran for decades. Unique characteristics of PRISM such as metal (rather than oxide) fuel and passive safety are directly derived many years of work at Argonne. If you want a genuine Generation IV reactor “today”, PRISM is about all there is. LFTR is more like sometime in the 2020s – hopefully.

      I’m not really aware that LFTR would be better than IFR for recycling spent nuclear fuel from LWRs, but it may well have other advantages. There is very likely a role for both technologies and unless proved otherwise, they should be seen as complementary as should Gen III LWRs and advanced Gen IV such as IFR, LFTR, high temperature gas cooled reactors and others.

      This is certainly not an anti-LFTR comment, but we have to be realistic about time frames.

    5. G.R.L. Cowan

      Like Rod Adams, I do not see any grounds for pessimism in the SEWTHA page you linked.

      A little farther on in Mackay’s excellent book, at the bottom of page 165:

      if uranium were delivering, say, 22 kWh per day per person, each 1GW reactor would be shared between 1 million people, each of whom needs 0.16 kg of uranium per year. So each person would require one tenth of the Japanese experimental facility, with a weight of 35 kg per person, and an area of 5m^2 per person. The proposal that such uranium-extraction facilities should be created is thus similar in scale to proposals such as “every person should have 10m^2 of solar panels” and “every person should have a one-ton car and a dedicated parking place for it.” A large investment, yes, but not absurdly off scale. And that was the calculation for once-through reactors.

      Emphasis mine.

    6. klem

      I think it was Bill McKibbon who once said that nuclear is a great option if you’re ok with paying $20 per KWH.

    7. Rod Adams

      McKibbon is ignorant about nuclear technology. As many people say as an insult, fission is just another way to boil water. Said in another way, fission is just a heat source that can use machinery that is very similar to all other heat sources to produce electricity. There is no technical reason why nuclear fission power plants have to cost any more than other thermal power plants that produce the same amount of power.

      Of course, the cost of anything can be drive high based on human decisions, but the fundamentals do not change.

      The big advantage that nuclear has over other thermal sources is that the fuel is really cheap. Even our once through, inefficient fuel cycle produces commercial fuel at a cost of about $0.68 per million BTU. That cost includes all of the following components:

      “purchasing of uranium, conversion, enrichment, and fabrication services along with storage and shipment costs, and inventory (including interest) charges less any expected salvage value.”

      That is a huge discount to even “cheap” natural gas that sells for $3.00 per million BTU at the well head, a price that does not include any delivery or storage charges.

    8. klem

      From what I’ve read, the average 1 gigawatt nuke plant costs around $8 billion, the average 1 gigawatt coal plant costs around $2 billion.

      In addition, nuke plants are terrorist targets, the fuel is deadly to handle, the fuel is a terrorist target, and the spent fuel rods must be buried in abandoned coal mines because it is so toxic.

      Coal has none of these issues.

      I’ll take coal please thanks, and lots of it.


    9. Rod Adams

      Despite searching for more than 2 decades, I have yet to find a single story describing how anyone has been harmed by exposure to used nuclear fuel. If unshielded, the material can harm or kill; the fact is that it is quite simple to apply the concepts of time, distance and shielding to handling procedures that make them a very safe industrial activity.

      There are thousands of materials and processes used every day that have a far worse safety record. Handling coal is one of those processes that is demonstrably more deadly than handling used nuclear fuel. In certain configurations, coal dust explodes with deadly results; that tragic event happens with depressing frequency around the world.

      The capital costs that you mention are mere projections, not actual costs. It is quite possible to drive up the cost of building nuclear plants; the opposition has been quite effective in inserting as many delays and obtrusive regulations as possible. However, at least in the US, building a coal plant that meets modern rules is not much easier or cheaper. For example, there is a 630 MWe station called Edwardsport that has been the subject of numerous articles about cost overruns. The current regulatory “cap” on its cost has been increased to $2.6 billion, but the plant is still not quite finished despite having its initial construction start in 2006.

      Of course, there is no comparison at all between coal and nuclear on an emissions basis. Nuclear fission power plants are clean enough to operate inside sealed submarines. Coal burning power plants are, to put it mildly, rather less friendly to the environment.

  6. plazaeme

    I see three problems.

    1) “Over the next century we are now more likely than not to see temperatures rise higher than they have been on Earth for more than 50 million years. I find that prospect terrifying.”

    This is not what IPCC is saying. His most likely outcome is plus 3 Celsius, and this is not at all “higher than they have been on Earth for more than 50 million years”. Not at all.

    2) “The scientific consensus, echoed by every major academic institution in the world, is that increased greenhouse gases are warming our planet, and we reject this knowledge at our absolute peril. ”

    There have been many scientific consensus echoing things which came to be completely wrong. “This knowledge”, as any knowledge, can be judged. Must be judged, if you want to know where you are. I don’t have the feeling you are doing any effort to judge “this knowledge”. If this is true, I think your opinion about “this knowledge” is completely worthless.

    3) “Warming” doesn´t have much meaning. You may have a warming, and not notice it. You may even have warming, and be very happy with it. All depends on how much warming. There are some well-established scientific truths but they don’t say what you think they say. CO2 forcing is well-established. Strong positive feedbacks are not. And you don’t have a problem without the later, no matter how much you fancy it.

  7. Barry

    “The scientific consensus, echoed by every major academic institution in the world, is that increased greenhouse gases are warming our planet”.

    And virtually every sceptic on earth is part of that same consensus. Nobody rejects that knowledge, but is it a red herring? As you well know, Mark, the dispute is about the extent of that warming – which depends on the highly-contentious value accorded to climate sensitivity.

    “Over the next century we are now more likely than not to see temperatures rise higher than they have been on Earth for more than 50 million years. “Now that’s a brave statement! What’s your authority for it?

    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      There were two whole chapters on this in my book Six Degrees, with scientific references provided. Hope that helps.

    2. plazaeme

      “Hope that helps.”

      Not really. It depends on the selection you did in your book. The last two year studies I am aware of are:

      Year …… Author ……………… Sens

      2011 Annan & Hargreaves … 3.0°C

      2011 Lindzen & Choi ……….. 0.7°C

      2012 Ring and Schlesinger .. 1.6°C

      2012 van Hateren …………… 1.9°C

      2012 Magne Aldrin et al ……. 2.0°C

      2012 Schmittner et al ……… 2.3°C

      2012 Olsen et al …………….. 2.8°C

      2012 Gillet ……………………. 1.6°C

      2012 Rohling et al ………….. 3,1°C

      2012 Lewis …………………… 1.3°C

      2012 Dowsett ……………….. 6.0°C

      2012 Hansen & Sato (fast) .. 3.0°C

      2012 Hansen & Sato (slow) .. 6.0°C

      2012 Asten …………………… 1.1°C

      I would take any of them with a grain of salt, but I think that’s about all the “knowledge” you can get.

  8. Barry Woods

    I think, the resposne below is quite funny:

    Are these cycles just something scientists have invented to explain away the lack of recent warming?

    No. The Met Office admits that we still know far too little about how these natural cycles work, and how big they are. And climate scientists are open to the charge that they ignored the potential impact of natural variability when it was accelerating global warming. According to Brian Hoskins of Imperial College London, it now looks like natural cycles played a big role in the unexpectedly fast warming of the 1990s.


    1. klem

      “According to Brian Hoskins of Imperial College London, it now looks like natural cycles played a big role in the unexpectedly fast warming of the 1990s.”

      This is an interesting viewpoint since this is is exactly what the deniers have been saying for decades, but were ignored because they had no peer reviewed literature to back it up.

  9. Barry Woods

    so to prove the sceptics wrong, New Scientists ends up agreeing with them.. too funny..

    1. klem

      The biggest climate deniers out there are the ones who believe that the climate has always been the same.

    2. Barry Woods

      too be honest that sounds like a lot of environmentalists (ie who seem to think climate never changed before 1850)

      Sir Brian Hoskins also said a little while back thatthe computer mpdel;s were lousy, and are still lousy ! 😉

      I’ll dig out the video.

  10. William Hughes-Games

    If indeed global warming is not happening, the escalator is a nonsense and so forth then we need some pretty convincing hypothesis why:
    *Lodge pole pines are being replaced by poplars in the high Chilcoten of BC
    *Arctic ice is less and less each year (nsidc)
    *Mountain glaciers are disappearing (Chasing Ice)
    *Greenland is shedding mass at an ever increasing rate
    *Antarctic continental ice is shedding mass at an ever increasing rate
    *Extreme weather events are becoming statistically more common.
    *More and more areas of coral are bleaching and dying
    *Alaska is remaining warm further and further into the fall

    I’d love to hear a theory that embraces even a few of these without invoking climate change.

    1. plazaeme

      But who says global warming is not happening? it’s just stopped for about 16 years. Who knows tomorrow? But, the discussion is about the amount of warming, and the cause.

      Moreover, if you are measuring the warming directly, you don’t need to talk about proxies. There are answers for your questions. But they are not needed since the temperature is being measured.

  11. Ferran P. Vilar

    Readers, please be aware of the well-known Spanish climate professional denier and blogger plazaeme. Anyway, his lack of consistency in the most basic climate science is here (once again) present, where he conflates temperature increase (when?) with climate sensitivity, and selects papers some of them already fully debunked mostly bu cherry-picking.

    In his blog he is now trying to unduly co-opt Mark Lynas for the denial cause based in his clever autonomy thinking concerning nuclear power, GM, etc.

    1. plazaeme

      Ha, ha, ha. Oh, poor guy!

      Yea, temperature increase has nothing to do with sensitivity. Good to know. And, if you think I am cherry picking, do bring a more complete list. I would appreciate it.

      To make it short. As far as I know, “climate professional denier and blogger” is not an argument who may tell as how much it has warmed, and why. Of course it is another of your lies, but this is not the point. Name calling is your point. The only thing you can do since you are not able to have an open discussion and you forbid it completely in your own blog, or elsewhere. After having fled from mine, defenceless.

      Try to be happy.

    2. Eclectikus

      Please readers, be aware that hysterical Spanish blogger Mr. Ferran is a seriously unbalanced person. You’ll never read from him other argument than ad-hominem fallacies and conspiracy theories. Plazaeme has passed over him a few times on the only basis of arguments and verified data.

  12. Ferran P. Vilar

    For those who can understand Spanish, here is a 3-post article on “Why you should never debate with climate denialism”:

    1. plazaeme

      I do recommend it. Strongly. About the best way to understand some of “alarmists” communication problems. Normally you don’t see the fallacy so clearly exposed. People tend to be more clever than that.

    2. Eclectikus

      Particularly interesting on the psychiatric science field.

  13. Mark A. York

    Warm Front, the global warming thriller.

  14. pete k

    our species lifetime frame is but a speck in the universal time scale, as is the entropy associated with it.

    earthlings, be not afraid! your end will come, but you and i will never live to see the day!


  15. Matt

    @Gareth Kane

    “so I find it bizarre to be described as a ‘watermelon’”

    You are what is known as an useful idiot.

  16. Matt

    Climate cooling/global warming/climate change is just a hoax by the elites to control people/population. Yes, yes, I’m conspiracy nut blah blah. You’ll all get what you are asking for. And there will be nobody left to protect you. How do I know? My father is one of the elites behind this. Don’t ever say you were not warned.

  17. Barry Woods

    MArk has it wrong the story is not about a slowdown for the next 5 years, but that the next 5 years ADDS to the slowdown observed over the previous more than ten years.

    iethis is a slowdown from 1999 for example, that is projected now to continue to 2017 (and then they ran out of money to run the model any further..)

    note I avoid saying 1998..

    This new projections also seems to falsify Vicky Pope’s pre Copenhagen statement (that had a lot of coverage) in Sept 2009 that 3 out 5 of the next 5 years would be the warmest on record, which the old projection supported, but the new one (and observed temperatures since does not..)

    that was made in this press release:

    thus the story, as Paul Hudson, Fred Pearce and Roger Harrabin have identified is that this slowdown in warming is now expected for a longer period. (and of course they say to resume later)

    Remember have environmentalists vilified sceptics for even talking about the slowdown at all.. When in fact, the climate scientist were also very interested in the slowdown and were actively investigating and looking into it..

    The very best proof of that statement of mine, is actually from the Met Office press release itself prior to Coepnehagen, where the Met office link to an article that acknowledges the slowdown in temperature from 1999 (see my comment above, for avoiding using 1998)e

    “Observations indicate that global temperature rise has slowed in
    the last decade (Fig. 2.8a). The least squares trend for January 1999 to December 2008 calculated from the HadCRUT3 dataset (Brohan et al. 2006) is +0.07±0.07°C decade–1—much less than the 0.18°C decade
    –1recorded between 1979 and…”

    The 2009 paper also goes on to describe a longer period of this slowdown, to be an issue for the models, but thought warming would resume soon – hence no doubt Vicky Popes statement (3 out of 5 next years warmest on record).

    SInce then of course observed temps – that are still flat/paused/slowed, and the new projection show this to be wrong, and that the slowdown may continue.

    The earlier paper also ruled out slowdown periods of 15 years or more.

    “The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more, suggesting that an observed absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with the expected present-day warming rate.)”

    Now as Paul Hudson and other point out, the additional observed temps since then, and new projectiosn, 15 yrs plus, challenges this.

    Either way, it is clear scientists were aware of the slowdown, and were trying to explain it, and it has continued. Yet at Copenhagen and since, to talk of this slowdown, is to have abuse heaped onto anybody sceptical that discusses it. And as Myles Allen points out, at Copenhagen some were even talking about accelerated global warming! – which is against the science.

    So hopefully Mark, you can see. those that abused sceptics for talking about the slowdown, are very much also on your ‘anti-science’ side of the fence…

    1. Barry Woods

      the story went a bit viral after the today program:

      Roger Harrabin saying:

      ‘little additional warming for 2 decades’

      which is more than 15 years, and makes pre Copenhagen projections, wrong.. and as Paul Hudson says:

      “It’s bound to raise questions about the robustness and reliability of computer simulations that governments around the world are using in order to determine policies aimed at combating global warming.

      The Met Office says natural cycles have caused the recent slowdown in warming, including perhaps changes in the suns activity, and ocean currents.

      And mainstream climate scientists, who are in a majority, say that when the natural cooling factors change again, temperatures will be driven up further by greenhouse gases.

      But climate sceptics, who have long argued that natural processes are either underestimated, or not properly understood, will not be surprised at this scaling back of expected warming.”

  18. Leo Smith

    It would be ridiculous fr anyone to say that rising CO2 levels have NO effect on climate. The real issue is ‘how much’?

    By assuming that once known knowns are eliminated, the only known unknown that is relevant is CO2, the IPCC is guilty of completely ignoring the very real possibility that any one of a dozen other known unknowns and an unknown number of unknown unknowns are not.

    The climate model they use is already horrendously fudged to explain such warming as we have had – that puts its projections into scary territory. That those predictions have significantly failed to be fulfilled is strong evidence that either the model is flawed, or that some other unknown unknowns are in play.

    The IPCC model itself needs one ‘known unknown’ – essentially positive feedback – to account for late 20th century rises. By and of itself the CO2 forced temperature rises are virtually insignificant. That feedback is what produces the scary projections.

    The IPCC model therefore is on an even basis reliant on a known unknown. Or rather, assuming they know what the unknown is, and how it operates.

    And alternative model in which in addition to CO2 forcing another (non amplifying) factor is in play, could match the same data equally well and indeed better.

    The political problem with that is, however, is that it doesn’t lead to scary predictions, government funds pouring into climate research and renewable energy, and ultimately if there other unknowns turn out to be something we can do nothing at all about justifies the immediate termination of nearly all the funding into low carbon energy and climate change research, and diverting it into building robust societies able to handle a degree or two natural climatic variation.

    That, it seems, cannot be allowed to happen. Climate turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. The Met office at least has seen the possible writing on the wall and having other things to do, is not so threatened by the end of ‘climate change science as we know it’.

    And is slowly disentangling itself from partisanship to neutral observer.

    Watch for more as global temperatures stubbornly refuse to conform to alarmist predictions, ice reforms, record snowfall happens and twenty years on everyone is back to worrying about the new ice age.

  19. turnages

    Take a look at this graph:

    It shows the monthly north polar sea ice area in x 10^6 plotted against times since 1979.

    The summer minima indicate the amount of non-melting, multi-year ice remaining at the north pole. Since ice has an enormous latent heat of melting, the multi-year ice extent is a good multi-year average representation of whether the north polar region as a whole is gaining heat or losing it.

    We see that in the last few years of the 1990s, the non-melting multi-year ice extent averaged arount 4.4 million

    We also see that in the last few years since 2007, the non-melting ice average has been around 3.2 million This is a substantial drop, and there is no indication of anything but a continuing downward trend.

    Perhaps messrs Woods and plazaeme could explain to the north polar ice cap that it’s got it all wrong, and that there has in fact been no significant warming for the last 16 years.

    1. plazaeme

      Hello, turnages.

      1. As we happen to measure the temperature of the lower troposphere directly, we don’t need the ice to know the air hasn’t warmed. And it was predicted to warm. They didn’t say all the warming was going to melt the ice, and not heating the air.

      2. Try to follow the discussion about the changes in the estimate of climate sensitivity due to the lack of warming of this 16 years. It’s all around.

      3. How much heat are you talking about, and how does it compare to the expected global heating? Do the numbers because nobody is using this ice melting as an explanation for the lack of warming, as far as I know.

      So, what we are talking about is comparing predictions with reality as a sanity check. “Warming”, without a quantity attached to it doesn’t have any meaning. And, it does not tell you a thing about the cause.


    2. turnages

      1. What do you mean, the air hasn’t warmed? The warming is both melting the ice *and* heating the air, and has actually been *measured*.

      See .

      This represents the *global* average surface temperature, not just the north polar regions. We see from this that the 5-year running average has indeed gone up by about 0.2 C over the last 16 years.

      Of course, it’s better to take decadal averages, since these smooth out the multi-year perturbations from ENSO, NAO, PDO and sunspot cycles. Doing this, the decade 2001-2010 is still 0.16C warmer than 1990-2000.

      2. Predictions about sensitivity based on “no warming in the last 16 years” are likely to be moot if warming has actually occurred, which it has.

      3. The point about referring to ongoing melting of multiyear polar ice was that:
      a. The enormous thermal inertia of the icecap is further buffered by the latent heat of melting/freezing. This smooths out the variations from year to year so that multi-year trends are much more clearly evident.

      If the polar regions are experiencing a nett gain of heat, this buffering means that the temperature is not going to rise very much at first, any more than a glass of beer will rise in temperature while there are still ice cubes floating in it.

      But when the ice has gone, it’s a different story. The heat required to melt one litre of ice, is enough to raise *10* litres of water by about 8 degrees C once it’s melted.

      In other words, the amount of ice melting is a lot more significant than the temperature rise in the polar regions.

      b. People often point to the fact that the GISS records are very sketchy in the polar regions. Measurements of multiyear ice decreases reinforce the point that the polar regions are also taking some serious heat.

      Your “no warming in the last 16 years” assertions are ridiculous.

    3. plazaeme

      Great, turnage. Be happy.

      Temperatures hasn’t warmed for:

      – RSS (lower troposphere): 16 years

      – UAH (lower troposphere): 11 years

      – NOAA OIv2 (SST): 16 years

      – HadSST (SST): 16 years

      – HadCrut3: 16 years

      – Hadcrut4: 16 years

      – Gisstemp: 10 years.

      But all this stuff doesn’t matter for Turnage. He eyeballs a graph of one of the series, and concludes “the 5-year running average has indeed gone up by about 0.2 C over the last 16 years”. Not just Gisstemps, but the temperature, the only and real thing. And we forget, very conveniently, about every other temperature data.

      OK, I realize you don’t understand the idea of a sanity check. Comparing models to reality. Reading the lasts papers on CS, and the effect of this 16 years on them. Or maybe you understand it, but you don’t need it because you have a truth, and your only interest is advocating for your truth.

      Any case, be happy. You have of course the right to try to convince as many people as you can. But I think folks have data enough to think for themselves. You want to “think aloud” in public, so we all help each other in our thinking? I’ll play along. But since you are playing rhetorical table-tennis, and not very good for that matter, I’ll leave you play alone. It’s just boring and worthless.

    4. Jonathon Harrington

      I don’t think taking figures from such a short period can really be ‘safe’; unless of course you want to make a point. How about taking them over say the past century or since we started burning fossil fuels? They paint a rather different picture from the data I have seen made public by amongst others Prof Brian Cox.

    5. plazaeme

      Hi, Jonathon.

      Such a short period has a great effect on a not so short period. The last thirty something years, which include all of the “global warming” we are talking about. Two effects, in fact.

      – Models run very hot.

      – Climate Sensitivity constrained by data is lower.

      . . . the IPCC’s sensitivity estimate cannot readily be reconciled with forcing estimates and observational data. – James Annan

      So much for a “settled science”.

      Let me say it so. Alarmism rest on two premises. Direct “Greenhouse Effect”, which is reasonably accepted by all, and strong positive feedbacks, which are basically a scientific speculation. Whatever side you chose to be, it sounds pretty sensible to be calm. The warming standstill and the presumably lower climate sensitivity give us more time. If the standstill continues some more years, say five or seven, then we will have a very different perspective. The only reason I can see to not being calm is having an agenda, or maybe an ideology. Anyone not addressing the importance of the standstill is … a denier?, most probably with an agenda or an ideology.

      One more thing. You can’t say now 30 years is a short period, having accepted 20 years of global warming was not a short period. You risk someone may think you are not too serious.

    6. Jonathon Harrington

      I never said that 30 years was a better measure! Not sure where you got that from!
      I said a century might be a better measure since we started burning fossil fuels in large quantities. In my opinion there is NO clear science from which to form a definite opinion BUT I would prefer to err on the side of caution for say the next 50 years. By then the picture should be clearer.
      THEN if the alarmists were wrong then little harm done but we shall have some independence in our fuel supply (wind, hydro, solar et.c) and IF they were right mankind we will have done some good and be in a position to do more!

    7. plazaeme

      So sorry, Jonathon.

      No, you didn’t say 30 years was a good measure. Alarmists say the alarming global warming is what happened post-1975 (aprox). And, they say the problems is what the models say. That is the “proof” (attribution, really). They had a point at the beginning of the century, but the point (attribution) is quite less strong after the warming standstill.

      Moreover, 30 years is the time we have more or less reliable global data. You want to use 100 years worth of data? OK, but you still need the same attribution to think you have a problem. And, the conclusion is you don’t have a mature enough science to do such attribution. Using a 100 years don’t change the problem because before 1950 CO2 supposed forcing was not strong enough.

      BUT I would prefer to err on the side of caution for say the next 50 years.

      That’s what I think, exactly. But for me caution is not choosing a speculation which leads to a sure impoverishment. The richer you are, the better you can manage whatever will come.

      If you fancy to imagine problems ahead, I would prefer cold than warm. If we have again the temps we had just around 1850 and before, we would have a really serious food problem.

      and IF they were right mankind we will have done some good

      Sure? How much “good” have we done with Kyoto exactly?

    8. Jonathon Harrington

      I think we may be more in agreement than you might think BUT being in agriculture I am very concerned about things like The European Corn Borer and Wheat which are moving out of the tropics and for which we have very little defence as plant breeders have NOT beed selecting the right genes. Monsanto do have one solution for The ECB but nothing for the wheat rust which could wipe out up to 1/3rd of the world crop in any one year!
      I will leave this now as I have other work waiting my attention. Best wishes, HoTH

    9. plazaeme

      Sorry, I forgot the reality check you are not interested in. Red is climate (alarmist) speculation, blue is climate reality. 30 years, and the first 20 are not a prediction, as the temps were already known. But you have a truth, yea.

    10. plazaeme

      Just one more thing about your ice melting obsession. You can’t know when this heat entered the system. You may conceive it heated the sea during the 90s warming, traveled North, and now is melting the ice.

      Other possibility. The system heated during the 90s, and now is at a higher temperature level. With no increase for some 16 years. This level of temp melts the ice, but it doesn’t mean it’s warming. It just means is warmer than it was. But warmer and warming is not the same thing. It’s very simple logic.

    11. plazaeme

      And, more.

      You may have an Arctic warming without a global warming. But were talking about global warming, weren’t we? So …

    12. Jonathon Harrington

      If you study the graph closely and more importantly go back to the raw data, and then calculate a CoV into the figures you find that there has been a significant drop in the area of sea ice over the past 30 years. I would agree that it may not be as much as some people have been worrying about but it is there as anyone who has studied statistics and the relevance of LSD’s can confirm.

    13. plazaeme

      Is anyone saying there has not been a significant drop in the area of sea ice over the past 30 years?

  20. Bill Sparling

    The “science” around climate change/global warming is NOT settled. There are a lot over very serious problems with the conclusions and the science that they are based on. For example, temperature gradients for south america are based on 17 thermometers, located in urban settings (most in paved parking lots!).

    This needs to be studied by responsible researchers, BEFORE commiting to a course of action that will create great hardship for everyone.

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