Fiddling while we drown

This is a hard post to write. It has been bubbling around my consciousness for months, if not years, but I struggle to frame it. It’s too big. Too important. And too lost to the public view. Buried in the politics. I speak, of course, of climate change. How do you react to something like this?

When the leader of one of our major parties – who came within a whisker of becoming the leader of our country – responds to major weather-related devastation with desperate political greed (I don’t know why he didn’t just blame Yasi on Julia Gillard and be done with it).

When the leader of our country responds with taxes to handle the devastation, but is alarmingly silent on the bigger issue of tackling the cause of the devastation.

When the public screams about taxes, cries about “one in a hundred year events” and fails to notice that we get those roughly once a year now.

When the government’s top climate change adviser says “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Well. What can you do? I feel a crushing sense of panic building inside me like the mother of all high pressure systems, yet the world seems to be sitting quietly in the eye of the storm, saying “It was a freak event. These things happen.” and then trundling along with business as usual.

Ross Garnaut makes it clear that the science shows these things happening with increasing frequency, and increasing severity – even if we STOP EMITTING CARBON RIGHT NOW. We can’t stop this. But we can make it infinitely worse, unless we get serious about climate change TODAY.

I know the psychology. How human beings aren’t good with threats that aren’t immediate and in our faces. That it’s easier to deny it and snuggle back into our cosy, fossil-fuelled cocoons. What did the man who cut down the last tree on Easter Island say? Well, I think I might have heard his echo, all around the world, over the last few years. He probably blamed the opposition.

I don’t know if we still have a chance to avert total catastrophe. But I know that doing nothing guarantees it. And yet nothing is precisely what we are doing. Sure, individuals ride their bikes, install solar panels, and plant trees. But what we need is urgent, global action on a governmental scale. And it will cost us. But not as much as Yasi’s big brother will cost us. Not as much as Katrina’s mum is going to cost us. Not as much as all the nameless floods, bushfires, droughts and ice storms will cost us.

What does it take for the world to take this seriously? How many people will die? Or is it more a case of which people? The headlines about Yasi are largely economic. Food prices will rise. Eating out will get more expensive. Insurance will get more expensive. Home owners will suffer as inflation rises and interest rates climb. Perhaps if more rich, white people died at the hands of extreme climate events, the media would care. Perhaps then the government would act.

Or perhaps it’s simply something the world won’t get its head around in time.

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37 thoughts on “Fiddling while we drown

  1. rogerthesurf

    Have there been floods before in the history of Australia?

    Have there been cyclones before in the history of Australia?

    The answer to both of those questions is “YES”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/02/uk-australia-cyclone-history-idUKTRE71113N20110202
    http://www.bom.gov.au/hydro/flood/qld/fld_history/brisbane_history.shtml

    Please think very hard before you attribute the current disaster to Global Warming.

    Cheers

    Roger

    http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

    1. lindamciver

      Of course there have. And any single disaster stands alone and not as evidence. But when you stack up changing weather patterns, changing sea currents, and an overall global temperature increase at a rate that is faster than ever before, and look at the evidence of climate scientists who study this stuff for a living, as opposed to armchair theorists, the evidence is clear. The links you posted show that cyclones and floods have happened before. They say nothing about overall trends and the impact of climate change.

  2. Joe

    It *is* still a tough debate, not “provable” no matter how many event stats are waved and *especially* not provable that there’s any human influence in any trend that might be emerging.

    But it comes down to this: The cost of the potential impact VASTLY outweighs the cost of doing *everything* humanity can now. By a factor of hundreds. If there’s even 1% chance that man-made climate change is a genuine effect, the cost of that 1% risk is greater than the cost of doing something about it.

    THE POTENTIAL IMPACT: Lives lost, economic turmoil, vast populous regions becoming uninhabitable, the entire way of life for humanity turned on its head, suddenly discovering at some point we have to relocate hundreds of millions of people over a relatively short time frame ie only decades and relocate our agricultural bases to different continents, and much more)

    People who say “prove it” really irritate me. I don’t have to prove it. “Reasonably possible, even a little bit” is enough to be really really scary.

    The argument “against” is summarised nicely in a quote my “cimate skeptic” team member circulated, badly paraphrased: “You want me to believe that the same people who can’t forecast the weather tomorrow can tell me what the weather will be in 50 years!”

    What they don’t realise is that while I may not be able to tell you what you’ll roll next on two dice, I can tell you that if you roll them every day next year you’ll average pretty darn close to 7.

    In spite of all that… I oppose pressing people into *individual* action. This is a matter for government, and the “helping hand” that 30% of the population are lending to ease the burden on our infrastructure is unfair on them, and merely lets governments get away with being that little bit more complacent and delaying that little bit longer before eventually they will be forced to *properly* regulate full product lifecycle environmental impact, *properly* install water management systems in our cities, *properly* fund and engage renewable energy and so on.

    I’ll tell anyone who wants to here “we” (society as a whole) should be doing more. The more is big enough that it needs to come from governmental management, not from idealistic individuals. eg banning incadescent light bulbs, imposing vehicle emissions targets and so on … simple but effective measures (within their own tiny little boxes). This is what government is *for* … to make members of society co-operate in ways that otherwise we couldn’t be bothered.

    1. lindamciver

      You’re right, Joe. And the thing is that you can’t prove anything incontrovertibly without proper scientific experiments with a control. So until we can find a control earth, we’re not going to get incontrovertible proof. And although correlation is not causation, it is smart to respond to a high correlation as if it were proof, when, as you say, the consequences of being wrong are catastrophic.

      And I agree that governments need to legislate (and fast) to manage the situation. But I do believe that individual action is also required – and there are ways that governments can support that (eg providing decent public transport to make doing without a car more feasible). But individual action alone will only ever be a drop in an increasingly large ocean!

      1. Actually, climate change is no longer being debated (except by the skeptics) and has been proven. Although to the general public it may seem like climate change is not proven, in 928 articles published in scientific journals in the past 15 years, there is 0% doubt as to the cause of climate change. However, in the media, more than 50% of articles are routinely written falsely give the impression that climate change is still in doubt. That is a crime. It’s not just the government that needs to make changes. The media need to be accountable too.

      2. Joe

        That may be so, Grace. (Though I think there are still a couple of legitimately qualified debaters out there.) In any event, the remaining minority who are active skeptics are going to remain completely unswayed by any further attempt to convince them of the legitimacy of the research. It’s not a debate worth getting into since your average Roger is convinced that the scientific evidence “in favour” can be falsified, and is probably being done so… maybe in order to milk the economies of the world into the private pockets of a few people, and/or maybe because it’s a fad with momentum which would see serious egg-on-face if anyone were to back down now so the researchers are all biased now.

        To make an absolute statement like “anthropogenic climate change is 100% proved, you are just being bilked by vested interests and the media into thinking there’s a debate” is just as alienating to such people as the converse “it’s obviously a fake, you are just being bilked by vested interests and the media into thinking it’s possible” statements from the skeptics might be to you or I. And I suspect neither position is really tenable, just born of the frustration of years long debate with a bunch of people who simply “aren’t listening” and refuse to “admit the obvious”.

        Personally I’ll allow cracks in the modelling capability (it’s seriously tough stuff to get right) and in the data quality (which has clearly needed huge amounts of work to filter and qualify) and in historic examples of momentum in a “reasonable” scientific theory which can not be disproved.

        But if there’s just a possibility that the researchers around the globe are mostly legit, a smidgen of chance that most of the numbers are roughly right, a sniff of a hint that the climate modelling is plausible when it shows massive increase in devastating environmental events and massive shifts in climate behaviours around the world for just small increases in temperature… then the risk from doing nothing outweighs the cost of aiming for carbon sustainability.

        Quite simply… we’re a big enough impact on the planet now that we ought to be cleaning up after ourselves as we go along. Seems reasonable to me.

        (And in any event, establishing a human global approach to energy and resources that allows our great grandkids a chance at a comfortable existence is really really really closely aligned with massively reducing our dependence on fossil fuel, finite mineral reserves, and carbon emissions. If yer gonna advocate sustainable human existence, tacking on carbon neutrality is a snip.)

  3. Dana Tymms

    Individuals are stronger when acting with others, so as well as doing our bit with light bulbs and public transport, we need to be working together with like minded groups to bring pressure to bear on governments so that the “urgent, global action on a governmental scale” will take place. And that means the hard decisions: not just what kind of light bulb, but what is the source of the power that lights the bulb, not just what kind of transport, but what powers the transport. And re-thinking the whole philosophy of growth.
    Keep up the great posts, Linda.

    1. Joe

      Dana, yes. Sorry my trivial examples were meant to be obvious tangible examples of government regulating social behaviour for mutual benefit. They were not intended to be examples of an adequate governmental response to sustainability or carbon issues.

      I think individual energy is better spent influencing social intent than in saving an extra plastic bottle from landfill. I will save a plastic bottle … because it’s part of influencing social intent rather because I believe I’m personally making a material difference. More to the point, I’ll gripe to my council and anyone listening if they don’t make it easy for me to save a plastic bottle. But attempts by community individuals to improve the situation through personal effort are tiny compared to what could happen under better regulation and infrastructure.

      I see little reason to stop at, or even particularly focus on, carbon as such.

      A key thing I’d be in favour of is complete product lifecycle cost… that every enterprise is legally responsible for ensuring and pricing in appropriate and perpetually sustainable end-of-use disposal of whatever products, packaging, and waste they produce at the end of its life. (Which may mean pre-paying a cleanup / recycle service operated by a third party, reducing the cleanup effort required for what they do produce, and / or operating their own reclamation arrangements.) “Waste” would, of course, include CO2 emissions.

      If that makes some things “too expensive”, then perhaps we will be discovering rational behaviour at last.

      (I wholeheartedly agree with you about “the whole philosophy of growth”.)

  4. Hi all, may I make a suggestion to all of you supporters and disciples of the doctrine that our continuing use of fossil fuels is leading to catastrophic changes to the different global climates. Start looking at th facts instead of simply accepting what others tell you. As Roger said earlier, extreme weather events are nothing new to this world. We’ve had them before – long before humans started using significant amounts of fossil fuel. We’ll’ have them again, long after humans have found a viable alternative to fossil fuels (which is centuries away).

    There is no convincing evidence that these extreme weather events are getting more frequent or that the doctrine has any substance, any more than the fairy tale about Santa.

    Please stop your nonsense and try to form your opinions from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance. If you believe the CACC propaganda being thrown at you by the power-hungry, the politicians, the environmentalists, whose agenda have nothing whatever to do with taking over nature’s job of controlling global climates, then your simply gullible.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should be doing all that we can to stop wasting resources. It’s disgraceful how we do this, more so because there are millions of people in underdeveloped economies who are suffering real deprivation while we in the developed economies wallow in waste.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley

    PS:

    Roger, how about posting the comment that I sent you today onto the Watching the Deniers thread?

    1. lindamciver

      Pete, I have allowed this comment through, but must ask you to be more polite. I won’t allow any further posts this rude in the future.

    2. Joe

      Hi Pete, what about the rest of us? The non-“disciples” who have genuinely spent days at various times pouring through “facts” as presented from various viewpoints, and in spite of natural skepticism about everything are nonetheless inclined to recognise in the research and evidence that there’s at least a decent possibility of a risk so momentous that we just don’t want to take the chance?

      (Bah. Those dice aren’t loaded… I’ve seen plenty of dice roll three “1s” in a row before. Hmmm.)

      Pete, by the time you are “proved” wrong it would be too late for modern humanity. Many of the “skeptics” would accept only such proof, which is very frustrating not only for climate change “disciples” but also for what we might call the “moderately inclined science reader”. Meanwhile, if the climate modelers are ever proved wrong then all that happened in the meantime was an arbitrary redistribution of marginal excess wealth (ie more than rationally desirable for personal consumption for quality of life) and a cleaner planet.

      Neither nature nor research work in binary.

      (I am, however, reminded of the “Y2K end-of-the-world” scare. When year 2000 actually rolled around it was a bit of a non event and people were asking “what was all the fuss about”. But the reason it was such a non-event was that literally millions of professionals had been dedicating substantial attention in the preceding years to making it a non-event. I was one such professional. If we ever do actually clean up our CO2 impact and subsequently have only trivial weather changes… … …)

  5. Hi Linda, fair comment and I apologise. We are all entitled to our opinions but there is no need to insult when exchanging them. I’m afraid that I lapse on occasions and appreciate being pulled up for it. Perhaps you’d like to edit out what you didn’t like.

    If you are interested there are some exchanges that illustrate the misunderstandings about “climate science” even among people who consider themselves to be knowledgeable in relevant disciplines. See http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/30/physics-of-the-atmospheric-greenhouse-effect/#comment-38919 and http://judithcurry.com/2011/01/31/slaying-a-greenhouse-dragon/

    Besty regards, Pete Ridley.

  6. Hi Linda, my previous comment was responding to yours of February 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm not the one at 6:19 pm. I’ll get back on that one after I have done the kob that “she who must be obeyed” has just assigned for me. Briefly, there is such a thing as being overcautious. What do we do (and what damage do we do n the process) to guard against the risk of a large meteorite blasting our societies to smithereens? The Health & Safety experts use the term “so far as it is reasonably practicable”. In light of the enormous uncertainties about the processes and drivers of the different global climates, the policies being proposed by governments (particularly members of the EU) are way our of proportion. The risk is as yet not properly quantified.

    As one of those professionals who were involved n YR2K activities (I was too), you should understand what proper risk analysis involves.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley

    1. Joe

      Heh. So we each have a sense of risk, we each understand assessment of impact and probability vs cost and timeliness and efficacy in mitigation. We each acknowledge there is a possibility of concern in climate change, we each feel there is uncertainty… and we arrive at different conclusions. If I read you correctly, faced with the huge uncertainty, you call for more certainty before action. Let me comment on why I am, possibly from a similar comprehension, way down the other end of the response spectrum.

      This is not at all comparable to the asteroid example. For an asteroid the impact value has a (calculable) wide distribution curve and could be very high, while the probability is highly calculable with small error terms and is very very tiny over the next thousands of years. For asteroid collision there are already substantial (de facto) early warning arrangements in place, and there are even some (probably) quite efficacious proposals at achievable cost (would any “cost” be too high?) that could be activated in a timely way between “early warning” and impact to reduce the probability of potential disaster… leaving only the largest direct “hit” being a problem.

      What we’re talking about with climate change might also currently be said to have a wide distribution in the impact value curve. In this case not because of a highly calculable distribution in the size of asteroids, but because of the difficulties in making a calculation in the first place. Adding to the uncertainty there may be similar difficulties in calculating the probability of the risk. Add that even then the thing being calculated is not an absolute but a variation in statistical outcomes… trying to work out if we’re shifting from rolling six sided climate dice to rolling eight or ten or twenty sided dice, so the modelling may be highly accurate in stating a large increase in probability of extreme weather events, yet see no actual increase, and the model may still be right.

      As you say, it’s “not properly quantified” and there are “enormous uncertainties” (at least from where I sit). Or rather, shall we more precisely say, there may be large error terms introduced by: the uncertainty of efficacy of modelling techniques, the uncertainty in the models themselves, the uncertainty in the underlying data used to feed the models, the uncertainty in the influence of scientific community politics. Those error terms on projected outcomes – both on probability and on impact – seem to be (to this interested but lay reader) of a similar magnitude to the proposed impacts and probabilities themselves. “No material effect” may lie within the impact distribution curve, and “no chance of happening” may lie within the probability distribution curve.

      But that same uncertainty still allows a significant probability of an impact on a scale that’s literally hard for people to comprehend. And there is no known rapid, efficacious response to an “early warning” detection of unambiguous climate change actually having happened. (The sort of change that people would experience and find personally convincing, that is.)

      Faced with the same uncertainty range that has you calling for more certainty before action, I’m quite firm on taking an approach more like doing our best to “leave the kitchen area ready for the next user”. Personally I’d need proof that we can afford to do otherwise.

      And quite honestly humanity has the available manpower to make the changes, which would merely be a rearrangement of economies. I don’t sense any disaster in making that shift in human effort… just different people “earning a living” doing different things, societies steering their internal organisation into different urban management. Changes, yes.

      Even if the limits are uncertain, there are certainly limits to sustainable human behaviour. There is no historical model for 7 billion people.

  7. Joe, you said earlier “ .. cost of the potential impact VASTLY outweighs the cost of doing *everything* humanity can now. By a factor of hundreds. If there’s even 1% chance that man-made climate change is a genuine effect, the cost of that 1% risk is greater than the cost of doing something about it.” Where did you get that from? Please can you provide a link to the risk analysis that gave you that information. There is a risk that we are heading into another ice age, which could be made even worse by us trying to reduce any of the small amount of warming that we may have been responsible for. Did the risk analysis include that aspect?

    Linda. I see from your Twitter bio that you are “Teacher, writer, computer scientist, cyclist. Social Justice addict. Tree-hugging, latte-sipping greeny. But not chardonnay-swilling. I don’t like chardonnay”.

    Many of us who are sceptical of the doctrine of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) see that bio as being typical of doctrine supporters. I wonder how much you have in common with another staunch supporter of the doctrine, Polly Higgins (http://www.treeshaverightstoo.com/) who tried to get the UN QUOTE: .. to accept “ecocide” as a fifth “crime against peace”, which could be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) .. ” (http://www.treeshaverightstoo.com/news/).

    I took a look at some of your back numbers and could not find you offering any scientific justification for your opinions about CACC. If I have missed some then please would you provide a link. I read your “Climate clamour” thread (https://lindamciver.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/climate-clamour/) and one of your comments brough back memories for me from April 2007, when I first started researching the pronouncements being made about global climate change and our use o f fossil fuels.

    That comment was “ .. It was both inspiring and terrifying. .. What was terrifying was hearing from David Spratt, one of the co-authors of Climate Code Red about the scale of the problem, the cataclysm (his word) that is coming, and the utter lack of the political will needed to tackle it. A 4 degree rise in average global temperature, which may already be unavoidable, will lead to the melting of the arctic and antarctic, and a resulting sea level rise of 70 metres. That would put 1/3 of Australia under water. One third. And it would be the inhabited, arable third.”

    Back in April 2007 Mark Lynas published his scare-mongering booklet “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet,” (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_reviews/article1612169.ece) and The Sunday Times magazine ran an article summarising its contents. After reading it I was a very worried father and grandfather and decided to research the subject to see what could be done about combating it. After almost four years of searching for information a have moved from being uncertain about the issue to being highly suspicious of the motives of those who push their propaganda. My first task was to see if the claims made in “Six Degrees .. ” were valid. Time and again I found that Mark had merged fact with fiction in order to paint a frightening story-line. I challenged him on his blog over about ten of the instances in just the first section, where he had presented a highly distorted interpretation of facts concerning the impacts of a 1C increase but never had a response from him. If you’re interested I can dig out the comments that I made.

    When I’m suspicious about motives I have found that “follow the money” is a sound approach to resolving it. Follow the money trail left by Al Gore, Maurice Strong, et friends, a useful starting point being “Free Republic” (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2091792/posts). Please don’t come back screaming “conspiracy theorist” because I see myself more of a realist.

    The booklet “Climate Code Red” was not written by scientists having any expertise relating to the processes and drivers of the different global climates. The Authors (http://www.safecom.org.au/climatecodered.htm) “David Spratt is a Melbourne businessman, climate-policy analyst, and co-founder of Carbon Equity, which advocates personal carbon allowances as the most fair and equitable means of rapidly reducing carbon emissions. He has extensive advocacy experience in the peace movement, and in developing community-campaign communication and marketing strategies.
    Philip Sutton is the convener of the Greenleap Strategic Institute, a non-profit environmental-strategy think tank and advisory organisation promoting the very rapid achievement of global and local ecological sustainability. He is also the founder and director of strategy for Green Innovations, and an occasional university lecturer on global warming science and strategies for sustainability. .. has worked on a number of advisory and policy committees for Australian state and federal governments, was the architect of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and is a former president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Ecological Economics (2001-2003)”.

    1. lindamciver

      Is the research of thousands of expert scientists in the field sufficient, Pete? You can find links to it at http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm.

      I will not respond to your comments on me personally other than to say that ideas are fair game on this site, people are not. The kind of person I am is not relevant to the debate. Please refrain from personal attacks.

    2. Joe

      Pete since we’re profiling ourselves now…

      I’m a father of two. I hate latte (and chardonnay for that matter). Along with a bank I share ownership of a house in about the tenth most expensive real estate council district in Australia, being about the fourth or fifth most expensive area in one of the handful of most expensive cities in the world. (ie Sydney.) My house contains enough value of consumer goods to fund a small village for a year in many countries in the world. Yet apparently I’m sufficiently a selfish bastard that I cheerfully bought the goods rather than redistribute the wealth. I drive own a convertible which I’ll happily change for a hybrid when they get around to making a hybrid convertible. I put my recyclables in the recycle bin provided and managed by council, because I don’t have to go out of my way to do it and cleaning up properly after ourselves (as a community) seems like a generally Good Idea to me.

      I work for a major investments and insurance company. I have a science degree (computer science and statistics from just before comp sci was popular).

      Which is just to say that I’m a fairly generic Australian professional, married to another fairly generic professional, so by all accounts we’re among the world’s wealthiest few percent, though to compare to my colleagues friends and indeed city overall you wouldn’t particularly get that feeling.

      I’m something of a universal skeptic. (Which means I can be just as skeptical of “follow the money” as I can be of climate modelling.)

      I’ve never been to any political rally. I don’t recall ever hugging a tree, though I’ve walked between them often enough and even climbed a few in my day. I’m a pragmatic swinging voter, and usually vote for the sanest sounding independent candidate in a vain hope for local representation in government.

      Frankly I don’t think I’m particularly related to your stereotyping. Nor am I particularly gullible. And in profiling I’m in the top 3% of “willing to accept risk” in my financial dealings.

      What I won’t accept (risk wise) is doing nothing about a risk where the cost exceeds my capacity to pay. And the point here is that it is a “risk”. It doesn’t have to be a “foregone incontrovertible conclusion” to be a “risk”. It doesn’t have to be “proved beyond reasonable doubt” to be a risk. Risk doesn’t operate in binary.

      I’m not an expert on climate change. I’m a lay reader of multiple sources over decades. I do tend to recognise spurious conclusions from statistics. I recognise also that I have an appalling head for dates and names so with apologies I’m somewhat useless as a resource for quotable references. Probably some of Linda’s links will get you there.

      A further thing that I recognise is that if there are thousands of reasonably sane intelligent people pouring over information in detail on one hand forming one opinion, and thousands of reasonably sane intelligent people on the other hand forming a different opinion, then both conclusions need to be considered “reasonably” possible.

      In any event, the pointy end of possible climate disaster (for humanity) has always been loss of arable land and human-habitable regions, especially coastal regions subject to increasing disastrous storm events and regions supported by agriculture in borderline climates, necessitating the relocation (or starvation) of hundreds of millions of people and establishment of new agricultural locations, assuming enough space can be found. While change is inevitable the cost of ringing in that change over a matter of only decades would be vast, in lives and upheaval as well as economic disruption and urban infrastructure resource scarcity.

      (Hmmm. 70m rising sea levels would be about right IF *all* the major ice repositories on earth completely melted. That’d make our house, being on the bluff of one of the higher plateaus in inner urban Sydney and currently 7km from the coast, only 20m or so above sea level, and only dozens of metres from waterfront. We’d be on an island!)

  8. I note that Professor Barry W. Brook, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, Director of Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability, The University of Adelaide lavished praise on “Climate Code Red” (http://www.scribepublications.com.au/book/climatecodered), but that is not surprising. Although he holds that position at Adelaide U, Professor Brook is an ecologist with demonstrated research expertise in specie extinction but I have found no reports of any such research expertise in relation to the processes and drivers of global climates. In fact Professor Brook said in April 2009 “ .. There are a lot of uncertainties in science, and it is indeed likely that the current consensus on some points of climate science is wrong, or at least sufficiently uncertain that we don’t know anything much useful about processes or drivers .. ” (http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/04/23/ian-plimer-heaven-and-earth/). That last phrase is in my opinion highly significant and absolutely correct.

    Professor Brook went on to say “But EVERYTHING? Or even most things? Take 100 lines of evidence, discard 5 of them, and you’re still left with 95 and large risk management problem .. ”. That might give some the impression that scientists are only 5% uncertain, but there is no evidence to support such a notion. In my opinion that is a figure plucked out of the air. The IPCC does this but calls it “expert judgment” (https://www.ipcc.unibe.ch/publications/supportingmaterial/uncertainty-guidance-note.pdf).

    I commend to you all the scientific debates going on presently at Professor Judith Curry’s “Physics of the atmospheric greenhouse(?) effect” (http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/30/physics-of-the-atmospheric-greenhouse-effect/#comment-38919 – particularly Roger Taguchi’s contributions) and “Slaying a greenhouse dragon” (http://judithcurry.com/2011/01/31/slaying-a-greenhouse-dragon/).

    If any contributors here are interested I can E-mail a copy of Roger’s excellent “Net Feedback Analysis 2009_11_29 ” as well as a recent simplified explanation of the “greenhouse effect” that he sent me today.

    May I respectfully suggest that you stop worrying and start learning.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley

    1. Joe

      Hi Pete,

      I believe the “capacitor” analogy is flawed, because a capacitor storing more electricity does not (as far as I know) increase the voltage potential it can discharge but in order to store more heat the net temperature of Earth rises, and in order to radiate more energy the temperature rises also.

      Not that I know anything about it, but a (partial) radiation insulator can certainly act more restrictively on energy going out than on energy coming in, because the thing inside the insulator (ie in this case the Earth) absorbs radiation on a range of frequencies and discharges them on different frequencies. Many many substances are selectively transparent to different frequencies of light.

      So this concern with the modelling, of itself, seems baseless to me.

      Anyway you already had a lengthy debate over your analogy on the thread where you linked your post.

  9. Andrew

    Hi all,

    This whole debate is wrong. None of us have the skills and data to know whether climate change is real. The experts do and the experts in this case are climate scientists. This is the meaning of expert – someone who actually knows the stuff in the particular field of interest.

    So why do we think we know more than them? Do you trust your cardiologist? Do you agree tax law with your accountant? Do you tell the electrician rewiring your lights that he is wrong? No.

    You might get a second opinion if you are in doubt, but with climate change you can get a hundred second opinions and find that 99 of them are in agreement. Why would you then believe the odd one out?

    This is science, not an election or an opinion poll. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is. It doesn’t matter whether you don’t like the consequences. What matters is which hypothesis best fits the data. And there is virtually no doubt amongst the experts. Climate change is real, just like eventually it became accepted that smoking tobacco causes cancer.

    Just my opinion :)

    Andrew

  10. Joe

    Hi Andrew,

    While mostly you’re right, for the record at various times I have (correctly) pointed out to professionals in each of those categories that they are mistaken, or provided information that they didn’t have. (Except cardiologist, but I can substitute in a couple of medical specialists. Heh… my GP once was telling me about blood sugar, cholesterol, and stress, and then said “but actually you’re probably more up to date than I am”.)

    Experts are indeed generally better informed and more likely to draw correct conclusions than … non-experts. But they can still be wrong. We should allow them to be wrong (sometimes) without criticism of their professionalism. I’m a professional, and sometimes I’m wrong in the field of my profession too.

    Debate and discussion are healthy things.

  11. Julia

    My research areas at the moment are human judgment, rational consensus and areas of practical philosophy applied to science. With that old saying in mind, “the tailor’s child is poorly clad”, I run quite a risk in entering into any debate on human-induced climate change. :)

    Boundary critique, as part of practical philosophy, means dialogue about what is to be considered important and relevant. It has been claimed that laypersons and experts can discuss boundary issues on equal terms, such as, for example, what kind of knowledge should count as valid, and who are to be considered the experts. Rational debate requires such assumptions to be uncovered.

    In this comment section, at least one opinion about expertise has surfaced. Other sources of expertise might, or might not, include logicians and statisticians. What do they have to say about human-induced climate change? I don’t know…I find it hard to get information about this kind of detail.

    All I am sure about is that I’d like to understand this topic better.

  12. Hi Linda, again fair comment. I’ll do my best to ensure that there are no more personal comments from me.

    Hi Joe, my analogy is deliberately simple to make the process more easily understood by lay people like me. If I remember my basic electrical theory properly, the voltage (V) across a capacitor (C) is proportional to the charge (Q) put into it which is the product of the current (I) and the duration of its flow (t) , i.e. V = It/C. A discharge resistor R across C will divert some of I past C, causing less charge hence less V. When I is stopped C discharges through R My analogy is the temperature (V), the earth (C) and the rate of absorption of solar energy (Q/t = I) while the sun shines. When there is no solar energy (Q) being absorbed the earth (C) discharges energy through the atmosphere (R0 with no greeenhouse gases). As the sun’s energy (I) gets absorbed during the day the earth’s temperature (V) increases, faster if the earth is dry (e.g. a desert – smaller C) and slower if the earth is wet (e.g. an ocean – larger C). Greenhouse gases (r) added to the atmosphere (R) slightly reduce the discharge rate of energy loss to space from the earth (C) (i.e. the discharge resistance is increased by a small additional variable r in series with R0. The discharging during the night (or when there is thick cloud) would be faster with no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. I see the sun as being a source of constant current, switched off at night or when it is cloudy.

    If you can provide a more useful analogy then please do so.

    Andrew, you are mistaken to believe that “ .. there is virtually no doubt amongst the experts .. ”. The position of many sceptical scientists is that those who promote the CACC argument do Not know, they speculate, hence the disagreement between those who understand the science. This is evident from the exchanges taking place on Judith Curry’s thread “Physics of the atmospheric greenhouse(?) effect” (http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/30/physics-of-the-atmospheric-greenhouse-effect/#comment-38919). Yes. “ .. Climate change is real .. ” but what is not known is the cause.

    Julia, you ask about the role of statisticians. Are you aware of the involvement of expert statisticians Steve McIntyre and Ross MkKittrick (http://www.multi-science.co.uk/mcintyre-mckitrick.pdf) in showing the flaws in the analysis undertaken by the “hockey stick experts” Michael Mann et al. and the conclusions of the expert statistician who chaired the US enquiries? The UK enquiries into the recent Climategate scandal made the recommendation that expert statisticians be involved in future analyses. You can see my articles on this at http://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2010/09/can-there-be-independent-investigation.html and earlier.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley

  13. Joe

    Surprisingly (to me) the wikipedia discussion of the “greenhouse effect” appears brief enough, complete enough, and clear enough to cover the details. I know enough physics (high school and first year physics) to understand every part of that explanation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect#Basic_mechanism

    I can’t think of a good analogy, but the basic reality isn’t *that* complicated…

    Note that Earth is radiating heat into space regardless of whether the sun is currently shining on that part of it or not. Indeed, the sun’s radiation reaching Earth is close to constant, just on different parts of the planet at different times. So, specifically, even the parts of Earth that the sun is shining on are continuously radiating heat back out into space. Outbound is not “on” or “off”, just proportional to temperature. And the temperature around Earth doesn’t vary much at all… mostly within (say) 260 to 310 degrees Kelvin and predominantly 270 to 300… only (say) predominantly 10% variation in temperature.

    The only point of interest (in the quite limited confines of “the greenhouse effect” due to CO2) is thus how much CO2 inhibits or allows energy incoming and outbound from Earth.

    The key parts are…
    – Radiation inbound (reaching Earth’s atmosphere) is roughly constant. (Varies a little with the time of year.) There is no “on” or “off” as such except temporarily locally.
    – Earth absorbs radiation on all wavelengths.
    – The inbound radiation adds energy to Earth (ie warms it).
    – (Earth thus also warms the air near it by conduction / convection.)
    – Being warm, the Earth and air re-radiate energy, specifically as infrared radiation.

    The system reaches equilibrium (in a mildly varying yearly cycle) where the amount of energy being radiated from all over Earth (varies slightly with Earth’s temperature) equals the amount of energy arriving on the side facing the sun (varies slightly with distance from the sun ie time of year).

    What if the amount of CO2 changes while *all else remains the same*?

    – Radiation inbound is pretty much unobstructed by CO2, so no change to inbound energy reaching the Earth’s surface
    – CO2 obstructs outbound infrared radiation that would have otherwise simply escaped from Earth and Earth’s atmosphere.
    – The CO2 thus heats up.
    – The CO2 thus (by conduction and convection) transfers heat to other air molecules, and also radiates infrared radiation in all directions.
    – A key point: Half of that radiation goes (roughly) “up” and half goes (roughly) “down”
    – Hence some of the energy that would have otherwise escaped as infrared radiation is instead trapped (“for the time being”) as heat in the atmosphere and/or radiated back toward Earth
    – Reminder: in order to achieve thermal equilibrium, the outbound energy needs to equal the inbound energy
    – As long as outbound energy is lower than inbound energy, the atmosphere and Earth are gaining heat, until…
    – Being at a slightly higher temperature, the Earth is giving off more infrared radiation, such that the amount that is no longer getting past the CO2 is being compensated by the increased radiation from the Earth’s surface.
    – Hence the Earth is kept (marginally) warmer if there is more CO2

    By not so simple but well understood physics, the net “blocking” effect of a given amount of CO2 can be readily calculated, and the miniscule percent hotter that the Earth needs to be can similarly be derived. This computation is beyond me personally but is well understood enough that I don’t dispute the accepted figures. (eg Wikipedia says “9% to 26%” of radiation retention is due to CO2)

    A similarly well understood physics calculation says that without the atmosphere (water, CO2 et al) inhibiting energy loss from Earth due to infrared radiation the surface would be roughly 10% cooler, specifically 33 degrees is what I just read.

    Basic sanity check… ie numbers should be “about right” within a factor of ten… CO2 is maybe 15% of the infrared blocking effect that causes us to be 33 degrees warmer. Directly measured CO2 in the atmosphere has increased roughly 20% in the last 50 years, 33 x 0.15 * 0.2 = almost one degree Kelvin / Celcius. If someone who knows more than I says “actually the effect has only been 0.5 degrees, or 0.1 degree, due to X, Y, Z” then that’s fine with me.

    So. “The Greenhouse Effect” somewhat basically works, in isolation, and not debateably as far as I’m concerned. (Although it doesn’t actually work the way a glasshouse works alas which no doubt makes for lots of confusion and pointless discussion.)

    Room for debate: What else happens as the Earth warms that might counteract or enhance this effect? (More clouds, changes in other gases, changes in ocean uptake, changes in vegetation.) What has happened in the past that isn’t happening now that might or might not invalidate comparison to prehistorical events? (eg massive proliferation of vegetation vs massive deforestation) How well can climate models work, built as they are (or were anyway) largely on statistical inference, with parameters that have no comparison in practical observation? (There’s more in this paragraph but I’ve run out of “oomph” and have to put kids to bed.)

    1. lindamciver

      Excellent summary, Joe. What interests me is the catastrophizing with respect to the cost of reducing our carbon footprint. Yet fossil fuel supply is not infinite, and there are heaps of other downsides (environmental cost of extraction, particulate pollution, etc etc) that make renewables a really good idea. Sure, the changeover has costs. But long term, I don’t see the catch.

  14. Hi Linda, you ask “ .. Is the research of thousands of expert scientists in the field sufficient, Pete? .. ” but I have no reason to believe that any of those 1000s of scientists have significant expertise in the processes and drivers of the different global climates. I’ve already quoted (February 8, 2011 at 7:24 am) what Professor Barry Brook said about that a couple of years ago. A large proportion of the scientists whose research was referenced in the IPCC reports are involved in areas having nothing to do with the causes of climate change. I have read a lot of what is said in IPCC AR4 WG1 report (that’s the section relating to causes) and “uncertainty” “if” “”maybe” “could” and “might” are the key words. The SPMs (sumaries for politicians by politically-influenced authors) pay scant regard to those words, givng the impression of a far better understanding than exists within the broad scientific community. Speculation is rife within and outside the IPCC, especially among environmentalists, ecologists and the like.

    Hi Joe, thanks for providing that profile of yourself. There are some similarities with mine that I suspect you would find surprising, other than that I don’t now have a mortgage for my expensive property on the outskirts of London (I’m much older than you). I go along with the hybrid car plan – once they become economically competitive with straight petrol/diesel (all-electric in my opinion will not replace these as the general family vehicle). I recycle all that I can, my motto being repair, re-use, renovate, recycle and as a last resort, refuse (as in garbage). Our council does provide very good facilities for general household waste but we have to put ourselves out to take things like batteries, metal, wood, cardboard, construction rubble, garden waste, electrical/electronics, paint and other toxic waste down to the recycling centre a couple of miles away. That’s no sweat and well worth doing – as long as it doesn’t all eventually end up as land-fill in India or the like, which does happen due to the recycling process being privately operated. I do my utmost not to leave my waste where it shouldn’t be left (leave a place how you like to find it).

    I studied computer engineering as my specialist subject and did a management diploma course which included a significant amount of statistics (although I agree with Mark Twain that one has to be wary because in many cases there are “lies, damn lies and statistics” – http://www.notable-quotes.com/l/lying_quotes.html).

    You attitude towards voting for a representative is similar to mine but we rarely have independents standing in this country. One of the reasons that I now conclude that Western-style democracy fails to be other than another form pof dictatorship is that we, the voters, really have no idea what are the motives of those for whom we cast our vote – but it’s a lot better than living in places like Zimbabwe.

    We do appear to differ regarding risk. I consider myself to be very averse to risk, particularly where my hard-earned money is concerned. I’m extremely cautious about entering into any agreement that involves me handing over my money into the care of others and getting it out of me is almost like getting blood out of a stone (she who must be obeyed will vouch for that, although she, like most women, has ways of squeezing). For example, I do not insure against accidental breakage to house contents, or against the failure of electronic or electrical equipment, or against car breakdown, on the basis that amortised over a lifetime these taken together will cost me far more that the sum of the premiums (that decision is not speculative but based upon years of experience) so I’m prepared to take the small risk that everything could go at once.

    Maybe that’s one of the reason why I feel the way I do about insuring against the impacts of global climate change. The premium being asked by the environmentalists and the politicians far outweighs the risk of a catastrophe. Why do I have that opinion about it? Because all of the scientific papers that I have read n the subject repeatedly refer to the uncertainty about the processes and drivers.

    You yourself use the word that the scientists repeatedly use when offering speculative predictions about the future, “if”. You said “ .. 70m rising sea levels would be about right IF *all* the major ice repositories on earth completely melted. That’d make our house, being on the bluff of one of the higher plateaus in inner urban Sydney and currently 7km from the coast, only 20m or so above sea level, and only dozens of metres from waterfront. We’d be on an island! .. ”. What would be your situation (and that of others globally) IF we are indeed now heading into another ice age? That’s much less of an IF than the chance of those masses of ice all melting “ .. over a matter of only decades .. ”.

    Another catastrophe considered to be likely (sometime) is the effects of the Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano erupting. There is an interesting article on the CoolGeography site (http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/GCSE/AQA/Restless%20Earth/Supervolcanoes/Supervolcanoes.htm). As the article says “ .. Are we due another? Scientists don’t know. .. ” – shades of CACC and the next ice-age.
    As for my simple CRIV analogy, it may be imperfect, but it was the best that I could do to satisfy myself that the earth would indeed heat up more as a result of the greenhouse gases, rather than simply cooling less. I’m happy with that, you’re happy with Wikipedia’s explanation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect) so we’re both happy.

    As for the theoretical calculations of the extent of the warming produced by a doubling of CO2, Roger Taguchi provides excellent but head-pounding analyses on Judith Curry’s “Physics of the atmospheric greenhouse(?) effect” thread (http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/30/physics-of-the-atmospheric-greenhouse-effect/#comment-38919). It even made his head spin and he’s an “expert” in that particular aspect of science. As he E-mailed only a couple of days ago, “Hi Pete! This back radiation stuff hurts the brain (like trying to resolve Boltzmann vs Loschmidt)! .. I trust this partly clears up your difficulties in understanding backscatter, temperature change, etc. Your brain may really be throbbing with pain, however!
    Feel free to pass on parts or all of this explanation to others .. ”. If anyone would like to see his analysis then I can forward his E-mail or post it here (but be warned, it’s heavy.

    Some may simply be happier knowing that for a doubling in the atmosphere from 300-600ppm, Roger calculates that “ .. change due to CO2 alone (not including feedbacks) is back to 1.0 degree (not 1.5), the
    overall IPCC value is a factor of 3 too large, and IPCC predictions of future temperature increases too large by a factor of 7 .. ”.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley

  15. Talking about insuring against risk, there’s that island that is likely to split in half sometime “soon”. QUOTE: .. huge landslides and the mega-tsunami that they cause are extremely rare – the last one happened 4,000 years ago on the island of Réunion. The growing concern is that the ideal conditions for just such a landslide – and consequent mega-tsunami – now exist on the island of La Palma in the Canaries. In 1949 the southern volcano on the island erupted. During the eruption an enormous crack appeared across one side of the volcano, as the western half slipped a few metres towards the Atlantic before stopping in its tracks. Although the volcano presents no danger while it is quiescent, scientists believe the western flank will give way completely during some future eruption on the summit of the volcano. In other words, any time in the next few thousand years a huge section of southern La Palma, weighing 500 thousand million tonnes, will fall into the Atlantic ocean.
    What will happen when the volcano on La Palma collapses? Scientists predict that it will generate a wave that will be almost inconceivably destructive, far bigger than anything ever witnessed in modern times. It will surge across the entire Atlantic in a matter of hours, engulfing the whole US east coast, sweeping away everything in its path up to 20km inland. Boston would be hit first, followed by New York, then all the way down the coast to Miami and the Caribbean. .. UNQUOTE (http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2000/mega_tsunami.shtml).

    Should the Americans start building a big wall along the East coast just in case?

    Best regards, Pete

    1. Joe

      btw specific risk-relevance aside, what these geologists and climeatologists *are* pointing out is that “modern” societies are indeed building communites and economies based on a pathetically short-sighted horizon, both foresight and hindsight… yes, the coastal cities of America (and every country) *should* be at least *considering* the possibility of tsunami, or indeed anything that might have a once-in-hundreds-of-years expectation, or possibly even less frequent. How *will* we react, as our respective nations and as a global community, when “modern” society is hit by its first once-in-ten-thousand-years event that kills millions and displaces tens of or hundreds of millions?

      Recently Brisbane was flooded by huge rainfall combining with “forced release” of water from upstream resovoirs. The flooding included substantial new residential developments along the riverfront, in areas that as recently as the 1970s were abandoned for industrial purposes because … they were disastrously flooded. Since the 70s someone had spotted this valuable “wasted” waterfront land, bought it up, annnnd …. oops.

      Our memories and our forsight are both way too short for our own good.

      I read a summary of some bit of analysis of political behaviours a year or three ago, which compared the *popularity* of governments that did nothing in particular to plan for their regional inevitable natural disasters, vs the popularity of governments that by judicious planning saved (commonly) 90% of the cost when disaster inevitably hit. (This is within my Dad’s area of interest, as I mentioned.)

      I recall that the study showed that a government that opens the public purse *after* a natural disaster, at great financial cost, gets a *surge* in popularity on average. While a government that had planned in advance and thus overall saved the public purse huge amounts of money and many lives in the community … was less popular during the pre-emptive public spending and *also* didn’t benefit from such a popularity surge after the disaster. (After all, how popular were I.T. professionals after Y2K disaster was averted?)

      This isn’t measuring how badly governments plan for disaster. This is measuring how badly “we the people” react when they get it right.

      No wonder we’re in trouble.

      1. lindamciver

        I like this, Joe (actually, I don’t like it at all, but it’s an excellent summary of our madness!). We’re a crazy ol’ species. :(

  16. Joe

    “Should the Americans start building a big wall along the East coast just in case?”… heh, that’d be a question for my Dad. He’s a structural engineer specialising (now) in natural disaster mitigation (especially in coastal areas and poorer communities).

    There are probably cheaper ways to protect the community against such an event. One seemingly common recommendation I’ve seen a lot is letting 90% of the buildings go to pot, but make enough safe space for the community to hang out while Armageddon hits. Usually schools and hospitals, since (a) most folk know where the schools are (b) it’s hardest to move the kids and the sick if a disaster is coming and (c) keeping your hospitals running during a disaster is a Really Good Idea.

    In any event:
    – the (specific) landslide possibility proposed seems a tiny minority scientific viewpoint (er, maybe just those two scientists?) not supported by others who have so far investigated the site
    – “soon” in geological terms is a long time frame
    – we are not currently making that situation worse, or more likely to occur
    – what would be needed here is investigation and thinking

    Whereas:
    – atmospheric CO2 *has already* measurably increased (20% or so by simple measurement in the last 50 years) so this is not hypothetical or waiting for geological timeframes
    – CO2 in the atmosphere, of itself, *does* warm the planet (debate: how much?)
    – “turning back the clock” on CO2 would be a hard thing to do
    – hence mitigating the situation *now* until we figure out how bad it really is and what we can do about it seems a good idea

    I propose a simple experiment. Let’s tone down the rate we (humanity) are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and stop cutting down old-growth forests for a few years and see if atmospheric CO2 stabilises or retreats at all. (Oh hang on, the practical scientific experiment would require global governmental co-operation. Oh well, back to theorising until practical proof is shoved up our noses then. Oh hang on that would be too late.)

    If we ever feel the need to pump vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere I’m sure we could do it pretty quickly. (BURN THE AMAZON!) It’s getting it out of the atmosphere again that seems a bit trickier.

    As we say, I’d rather leave the situation at least as good I find it, or make a definitive improvement. CO2 -> air is neither.

  17. Julia

    That was an interesting article by the statisticians, McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. I reckon the “multiproxy approach” is probably the same as multivariate analysis and similar terms that I’ve seen elsewhere. The prioritising and weighting of the factors for such analysis has been touched on in the human judgment literature that I’m familiar with. I expect to look into it further over the next year, although not for climate change specifically.

    Having said all that, I’m still mightily shocked by the flooding in Melbourne last Friday night! I was hit by the storm in St Kilda, which was terrifying, and then drove around the flooded streets for hours. I keep turning people’s other conversations around to the flooding…like now…because that night was so strange.

    1. Julia

      Or maybe those guys are economists not statistians…not sure…
      The evidence is pretty complicated, and so is the debate, it seems to me.

  18. Hi Linda, don’t you think you are being a little unkind with your blanket “ .. We’re a crazy ol’ species .. ”? Humans have made significant improvements to the world as a human habitat. Yes, we’ve made mistakes along the way and will no doubt make more further down the line but overall, I for one much prefer the way those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a developed economy live nowadays, with all of those human-made “luxuries” to the way things were even just 100 years ago. I have no doubt that if everyone here looked carefully at their own way of life each would find that they benefit enormously from those improvements.

    Your comment reminded me of the story about the old gardener and the vicar:

    Vicar “God and you have made a wonderful job of that garden”
    Old gardener “Aaarr, well, you should have seen the mess it was in until I took charge”.

    I had another read of your header and remember how convinced you appear to be that our continuing use of fossil fuels is leading to CACC. “Ross Garnaut makes it clear that the science shows these things happening with increasing frequency, and increasing severity – even if we STOP EMITTING CARBON RIGHT NOW. We can’t stop this. But we can make it infinitely worse, unless we get serious about climate change TODAY”.

    Ross Garnaut “Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Australian National University and both a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Professorial Fellow of Economics at The University of Melbourne.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Garnaut) – hardly a reliable source of information on the processes and drivers of those different global climates! I recommend a closer look at the level of uncertainty and disagreement within the scientific community about those processes and drivers. I seem to recall having mentioned this before.

    Both McIntyre and McKittrick have expertise in statistical analysis and their criticism of the statistical manipulations used by Michael Mann and his hockey team to produce their desired “hockey-stick–shaped” CO2 curve. This analysis was given full support in the “Wegman Report”, chaired by no less an expert than Edward J Wegman, ex-President of The American Statistical Association. This is what the ASA said about Wegman when presenting the ASA Founders’ Award in 2002 “Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, for over thirty years of exceptional service and leadership to the American Statistical Association; for editing various ASA journals; for selfless and dedicated service to the Statistical Graphics Section of the ASA; for fostering the reputation of the ASA and American statisticians in computing as President of the International Association for Statistical Computing; for significantly expanding the funding for research in probability and statistics at the Office of Naval Research; and for serving in leadership roles at the Interface Foundation of North America since its inception, thus promoting the connection between statistics and computing” (http://www.amstat.org/careers/foundersaward.cfm). .

    The findings presented in the Wegman Report were supported by the North Report, produced by others on the same subject around the same time. This is fully described in Andrew Montford’s “The Hockey Stick Illusion” and outlined in Steve McIntyre’s article “The Wegman and North Reports for Newbies” (http://climateaudit.org/2007/11/06/the-wegman-and-north-reports-for-newbies/).

    Julia, you may also find interesting the excellent exposé by Andrew Montford in his book “The Hockey Stick Illusion”. It provides a good example of how the misuse of statistics, whether through incompetence or intent, can result in those “Lies, Damn Lies and statistics” (http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/lies.htm) so loved by politicians and similar.

    Regarding your reaction to the flooding in Melbourne, I think that most of us are mightily shocked when we are made aware of or experience the power of Nature as expressed through extreme weather events. These days, because of the global nature of communications, we hear about these whenever and wherever they occur. This was not the case 100 years ago. I am half way around the world yet have been kept aware, almost instantaneously, of the horrors in Queensland, Victoria, NSW and Western Australia thanks to the wonders of TV and the Internet. Even just 20 years ago this was not possible.

    (Linda, those are two examples of those innumerable wonderful human innovations that you and I are able to benefit from.)

    Joe, you appear pretty certain that it won’t be long before “ .. Armageddon hits .. ” and that humans are “ .. making that situation worse, or more likely to occur .. ” but. as you indicate “ .. soon .. in geological terms is a long time frame .. ” so we’ll have stacks of time to prepare our defence against what nature may have planned as her version of Armageddon, catastrophic climate change. I could not agree with you more when saying “ .. what would be needed here is investigation and thinking .. ” and that is what the climate researchers keep asking funding for. My opinion is that more than enough taxpayers money has been wasted on this.

    Prime examples are reported in yesterday’s Daily Mail article “Is this the UK’s most useless wind turbine? It cost £130,000 in subsidies last year… to raise electricity worth just £100,000” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1355419/UKs-useless-wind-turbine-Cost-130k-raise-electricity-worth-100k.html#ixzz1DfEwwb3u). I loved the comment QUOTE: A spokesman for Ecotricity said: ‘The turbine is designed to power the business park and has been doing a good job. They are happy with it and we are happy with it.’ UNQUOTE. I’m not surprised that Ecotricity are happy, they ” .. earned £130,000 from
    the scheme .. ”

    QUOTE: .. Lee Moroney, of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: ‘If the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases then you should put wind turbines in the most efficient sites, rather than have a scattergun approach. .. ‘If the least efficient turbines are getting £130,000 of subsidy, then the owners of the most productive turbines must be coining it in.’ One of Britain’s most effective wind farms is in Burradale in the Shetlands. Its two turbines generated 7,194MWh last year, bringing in £345,000 in public subsidy. .. UNQUOTE.

    Politicians have no problem throwing away the taxpayers hard-earned money – once they have taken their cut in expenses, etc. If it was their own money and they had to earn a living like most of us they’d be doijng the right thing by those who elected them and be investing instead in the much useful and far more competitive ways of providing our much-needed energy, i.e. clean coal and nuclear.

    I don’t take issue with any of your QUOTE: .. atmospheric CO2 *has already* measurably increased (20% or so by simple measurement in the last 50 years) .. CO2 in the atmosphere, of itself, *does* warm the planet (debate: how much?) .. “turning back the clock” on CO2 would be a hard thing to do .. UNQUOTE. The first can only be good for the world’s flora, considering that the experts in food production have found that plant growth flourishes at about 1000ppm of that essential, life-supporting substance CO2 and the atmosphere is presently only around 400ppm (so I reject your “.. CO2 -> air is neither .. ”. The significance of the second can be shown to be insignificant in terms of impact upon global climates.

    Climate change is NOT the same as global warming because climates are not defined in terms of temperature alone. An excellent definition of “climate” is given in “Atmosphere, Weather & Climate” by Barry & Chorley (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Atmosphere-Weather-Climate-Roger-Barry/dp/0415465699#reader_0415465699). which also give a useful description of the different climate classifications. The most popular of these in use today is a modified version of that devised by Köppen (http://www.uwsp.edu/gEo/faculty/ritter/geog101/textbook/climate_systems/climate_classification.html) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (Köppen–Geiger), which is based upon temperature and rainfall characteristics. If you read my comments carefully you might notice that I frequently refer to “the different global climates” and also use the word “significant”. I do this quite deliberately, because based upon the Köppen classification system, global climates have not changed significantly in the past 100 years, during which the mean global temperature is estimated to have increased by <1C (http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/) whereas the range of temperatures within each of the climate categories defined by Köppen is far greater than that, being several degrees.

    Lets take an example (http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7v.html). Tropical Wet, Köppen Classification – Af. .. is characterized by somewhat consistent daily high temperatures ranging between 20 to 30° Celsius. The monthly temperature averages vary from 24 to 30° Celsius. Annual range of monthly temperatures is about 3° Celsius. One such region fitting this category is Andagoya, Columbia 5° N , Elevation: 65 m, with a mean temperature of 27C. Assuming that 100 years ago it was 1C cooler, in line with global estimates, it still fell into that same category. If such a rate of warming was to repeat during the next 200 years then it would still fit that category in 2300, i.e. no climate change w.r.t. a temperature change of 3C. For all we know the rate of temperature change could remain the same, increase or even decrease, because we have no way of predicting how the drivers of global temperatures will change. The computer models available today are little better that Xtal balls in the hands of fairground fortune-tellers.

    Precipitation patterns are important so perhaps someone here can provide some figures for the changes in rainfall distribution during the past 100 years, but it would have to change enormously in order to alter the climate defined for Andagoya. Can anyone provide a link to appropriate evidence supporting the CACC doctrine that people here seem to have so much faith in.

    Climate scientists generally consider a period of 30 years to be a satisfactory period for detecting climate change so anyone supporting the CACC doctrine should be able to describe what significant changes to the different global climates (as defined using the Köppen classifications) have taken place since 1980? I am not aware of anything, other than perhaps that insignificant <0.5C (http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/) of warming.

    Notice that although atmospheric CO2 levels are claimed to have continued increasing during those 30 years, according to the CRU/Hadleigh Centre graph the global mean temperature stopped increasing around 2004. That is apparent despite the fact that those previously statistically manipulated raw temperature measurement data is then smoothed with a 21-point binomial filter –that’s those “Lies, damned lies and statistics” for you.

    It’s also worth noting that the predicted outcome to 2010 made in 2006 (http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcrut3/diagnostics/comparison.html) was for a return to rising temperature in 2009, this is not apparent from the 2010 graph from Phil Jones, “hero” of the UK Government’s Climategate whitewash hearing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAj_lZv4Gxc and http://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html).

    I’ll ignore your “BURN THE AMAZON!” as a momentary lapse but regarding getting CO2 “ .. out of the atmosphere again .. ”, the global aquasphere and flora do a fine job of keeping that under control.

    I have no wish to challenge your comments about where and how humans choose to establish their communities, other than to point out that the poor and deprived in this world often have little or no choice in the matter.

    Regarding those “forced release” of waters in Queensland, I have been advised by others who live up there that some of those waters were not released out of necessity but because of political commitments arrived at during times of water shortage. What have you heard on that score?

    Your penultimate and ultimate paragraphs reminded me of a telecommunications project that I was managing in the late 80s. This was to improve the poor mobile ‘phone service being provided to emergency and customer services groups by commissioning a temporary upgrade before doing a complete overhaul. One of the user group managers complained about a trivial deficiency and I mentioned that the team hard been working very hard to make the improvements that had been achieved with minimal disruption to the service. His reaction was “You don’t thank the milk-man for bringing the milk, do you!” Well, in earlier times we did, with a Xmas tip, along with one for the coal-man, even though we could barely afford it. But people were much less selfish then – weren’t they?

    You conclude “No wonder we’re in trouble” but what particular trouble would that be?.

    Best regards, Pete

  19. Joe

    Hi Pete,

    Hmmm. You quote my words, but either innocently or deliberately misplace their context and implication. An easy thing to do. (Either innocently, or …)

    You did a similar thing with my “*IF*” comment earlier. I think it unlikely the ice reserves of the world will all melt, hence a hugely suppositional “IF”.

    The examples you quote of “wasteful” expense promoting renewable energy don’t seem like waste to me, since those circumstances predominantly already factor in cleaning up after ourselves, which are not adequately costed / priced into current mainstream coal or nuclear power sourcing, so the community is bearing the unpriced cost anyway, just not so visibly.

    You are precisely right that the concern in “global warming” isn’t the simple temperature rise, but the modelled consequential increased chaos in weather from even relatively small temperature rises, especially coast storms, hurricanes etc., and the impact on a few marginal climates that currently manage to support large agricultural base but which could readily tip into being desert. This is where the debatable space is as far as I’m concerned, and again the problem here is by the time those pesky climatologists are “proved” right it’s too late to fix it in a rational time frame.

    Plants may to well in CO2 rich atmospheres… but we’re not letting them. Globally, there’s far less vegetation now than there was 100 years ago. The atmospheric CO2 hasn’t been even remotely this high for a Very Long Time, and, when it was that high, any manner of factors may have been different, we didn’t have a human species dependent on stable climate maintaining agricultural regions and habitable coastal bases, and especially there was plenty of allowance for vegetation to do it’s own thing. This time around, we aren’t letting plants pick up the differential. Prehistorical comparisons *rationally* may be useless. If the average temperature changed 5 degrees 100 million years ago and vast areas of the world shifted habitability then “shrug”. Now, the expense to humanity would be (as said before) vast.

    Regarding reservoir water dumping in Queensland in the recent floods … I’m not sure if I implied anything else there but yes “forced release” was forced by protocol by contract, with contracts (in hindsight) erroneously based on assumed scenarios. I didn’t mean to imply anything about the causal nature of the reservoir dump. I was acknowledging that the rain on its own may not have been enough to cause the resulting disaster.

    “the global aquasphere and flora do a fine job of keeping that under control.” ??? Er… no, not at this time. In a measly 50 years the measured CO2 level has risen 20%. It’s quite definitively *not* currently being kept “under control”. I haven’t actually checked, but I doubt this rate of increase has ever been observed in prehistory short of a global cataclysm. This is *not* “geological time frames” by any stretch of the imagination.

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