David Evans, Greenhouse sceptic debates his views on Troppo

Since I lived in a group house with him, I’ve stayed in touch with David Evans and discussed various issues – mostly economic – via email with him. As a result I get the odd group email from him setting out his views on greenhouse in which he argues that an ETS is a stupid idea. Last time this happened I told him that I couldn’t assess his claims without seeing them argued out in front of others who are knowledgeable in the area. He said he was sick of being demonised by abusive supporters of greenhouse action and that moreover he didn’t have the time to do this.  

I told him I’d moderate the thread strictly and that not only would I not tolerate abusive comments, I’d also try to ensure that the debate was not a session where people talked past one another or engaged in a technique I’ve seen used often which is that when the opponents look close to pinning someone down, they say something like “I went over all this here here and here”.  Problem is, when you follow the links you don’t find concise responses to the questions at issue.

Anyway, below the fold I’ve set out David’s latest article, and I’d invite anyone who thinks they can play by these rules to begin.  Then, since David seems to have had time to write another article, I’ll hope he has time to engage in the debate. I for one will be interested in the outcome.

Postscript: I’ve emailed David and got his agreement to participate. 

PPS: There will be times when I’m not at my computer when I may be unable to moderate. Please be disciplined in conversation whether I’m present as ring master or not.  If you’re obviously not participating in the spirit of the occasion, I’ll kick you off Troppo for a while.  

PPPS: A person has written pointing out that David’s initial piece as posted doesn’t adhere to the standards I set for the thread – ie it contains ad hominem attacks against his opponents. FWIW I agree with the point. However David didn’t write the piece for Troppo, and on my reading he appears to be participating in a way which is consistent with the rules I set – as are others.  So my thanks to all so far. 

The ETS: Completely unnecessary

Rudd has failed to see through the vested interests that promote anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the theory that human emissions of carbon cause global warming. Though masquerading as “science based”, the promoters of AGW have a medieval outlook and are in fact anti-science. Meanwhile carbon is innocent, and the political class is plunging ahead with making us poorer because they do not understand what science really is or what the real science is.

The Renaissance began when the absolute authority of the church and ancient texts was overthrown. Science then evolved as our most reliable method for acquiring knowledge, free of superstition and political authority. Suppose you wanted to know whether big cannonballs or small cannonballs fell faster. In medieval times you argued theoretically with what could be gleaned from the Bible, the works of Aristotle, or maybe a Papal announcement. In the Renaissance you ignored the authorities and simply dropped cannon balls from a tower and observed what happened – this was science, where empirical evidence trumps theory.

From 1975 to 2001 the global temperature trended up. How do you empirically determine the cause of this global warming? It turns out we can learn a lot simply by observing where the warming occurred: each possible cause of global warming heats the atmosphere differently, heating some parts before others. The pattern of warming is the cause’s “signature”. 

The signature of an increased greenhouse effect consists of two features: a hotspot about 10 km up in the atmosphere over the tropics, and a combination of broad stratospheric cooling and broad tropospheric warming. The signature of ozone depletion consists just of the second feature. These signatures are theoretically derived by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and are integral to our understanding of how the atmosphere works. [1]

We have been observing temperatures in the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes – weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. The radiosonde measurements for 1979-1999 show broad stratospheric cooling and broad tropospheric warming, but they show no tropical hotspot. Not even a small one. [2] 

Empirically, we therefore know that an increased greenhouse effect was not a significant cause of the recent global warming. (Either that or the signatures from the IPCC are wrong, so its climate models and predictions are rubbish anyway.) 

Human carbon emissions were occurring at the time but the greenhouse effect did not increase. Therefore human carbon emissions did not increase the greenhouse effect, and did not cause global warming. So AGW is wrong, and carbon is innocent. Suspect exonerated – wrong signature.

Alarmist scientists (supporters of AGW) objected that the radiosonde thermometers were not accurate and maybe the hotspot was there but went undetected. But there were hundreds of radiosondes, so statistically this is unlikely. They have also suggested we ignore the radiosonde thermometers, and use the radiosonde wind measurements instead. When combined with a theory about wind shear they estimated the temperatures on their computers – and say that the results show that we cannot rule out the presence of a hotspot. But thermometers are designed to measure temperature, so it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that wind gauges are accidentally better at it. Serious alarmist scientists do not claim that the hotspot was found, only that we might have missed it. The obvious conclusion is that the hotspot was too weak to be easily detected. We cannot collect any more data from the past warming, and there is no sign of the hotspot in the data that was collected – so the occasional claims that appear on the Internet that the hotspot has been found are simply wrong. [3] 

So can we tell from the observed warming pattern what did cause the global warming? Unfortunately we have little idea of the signatures of some of the suspects, such as cosmic rays or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, so we cannot say except to note that ozone depletion was one of the causes.

Is there any observational evidence in favor of AGW? As of 2003, none at all. 

The only supporting evidence for AGW was the old ice core data. The old ice core data, gathered from 1985, showed that in the past half million years, through several global warmings and coolings, the earth’s temperature and atmospheric carbon levels rose and fell in lockstep. AGW was coming into vogue in the 1980s, so it was widely assumed that it was the carbon changes causing the temperature changes. 

By the late 1990s ice core techniques had improved. In the old ice cores the data points were a few thousand years apart, but in the new ice core data they were only a few hundred years apart. In the early 1990s, New Scientist magazine anticipated that the higher-resolution data would seal the case for AGW. 

But the opposite occurred. By 2003 it had been established to everyone’s satisfaction that temperature changes preceded corresponding carbon changes by an average of 800 years: so temperature changes caused carbon changes – a warmer ocean supports more carbon in the atmosphere, after delays due to mixing. [4] So the ice core data no longer supported AGW. The alarmists failed to effectively notify the public.

After several prominent public claims by skeptics in 2008 that there is no evidence left for AGW, alarmist scientists offered only two points.

First, laboratory tests prove that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. But that observation tells us nothing about how much the global temperature changes if extra carbon enters the real, complicated atmosphere. Every emitted carbon atom raises the global temperature, but the missing hotspot shows that the effect is negligible.

Second, computer models. Computer models are just huge concatenations of calculations that, individually, could have been performed on a handheld calculator. They are theory, not evidence. 

Governments have spent over $50 billion on climate research since 1990, and we have not found any actual evidence for AGW. [5]

So if there is no evidence to support AGW, and the missing hotspot shows that AGW is wrong, why does most of the world still believe in AGW?

Part of the answer is that science changed direction after a large constituency of vested interests had invested in AGW. The old ice core data provided support from 1985, the IPCC was established by the UN in 1988 to look into human changes to climate, and the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997 to limit carbon emissions. By 1999 the western political class were doing something, the western media were rallying behind “saving the planet”, and scientists were being paid by governments to research the effects of human-caused global warming. 

But then the evidence took science off in a different direction: the new ice core data in 2003, the missing hotspot in 2007, and the global temperature has stopped trending up since 2001 [6]. Governments, the media, and many scientists did not notice.

The remainder of the answer for the current belief in AGW is darker and more political. An offbeat theory in the 1970s, AGW was adopted by a group of about 45 atmospheric modelers and physicists. That group dominated climate science journals, peer reviewed each others papers, and hindered competing ideas by underhand methods [7]. AGW gained political support from proponents of nuclear power, and vice-president Gore appointed AGW supporters to science positions in the USA.

AGW grabbed control of climate funding in key western countries. Lack of diversity in science funding has been a major problem since government took over funding science in WWII. Science is like a courtroom – protagonists put forward their best cases, and out of the argument some truth emerges. But if only one side is funded and heard, then truth tends not to emerge. This happened in climate science, which is almost completely government funded and has been dominated by AGW for two decades. Skeptics are mainly scientists who are retired or who have moved on to other areas – their funding no longer depends on allegiance to AGW. The alarmists are full time, well funded, and hog the megaphone. 

AGW was always promoted as being supported by nearly all scientists (though polls and history do not support this). Counting numbers of supporters and creating a bandwagon effect by announcing you are in the majority is a political tactic. 

AGW always advanced principally by political means; as a scientific theory it was always weak, and now the evidence contradicts it. It’s like a return to medieval times, where authority rules and evidence is ignored. Notice how the proponents of AGW don’t want to talk about evidence of the causes? Anything but evidence of cause – attack people’s motives, someone else “has the evidence”, theoretical models, evidence that global warming is occurring, how important they are, what credentials they have, how worthy they are, the dog ate my evidence, “the science is settled”, polar bears, anything. Talking about the evidence of the cause of global warming does not advance their cause. Politics says AGW is correct; science says it is wrong. 

Science demands evidence. Evidence trumps theory, no matter what the political authority of those promoting the theory, even if they dress up in lab coats and have job titles that say “scientist”. The hotspot is missing and there is no evidence for AGW. The alarmists cannot ignore this and continue to play political games forever. They are entitled to argue the case for AGW, but they should also acknowledge the evidence and inform the political class that AGW appears to be wrong – even if it means risking their status and their jobs (and yes, we scientists are also people who have kids and mortgages).

There are two central lies in the political promotion of AGW. 

The first appears in Gore’s movie. He gave the old ice core data as thesole reason for believing AGW (the rest of the movie presents evidence that global warming occurred, a separate issue). He said that increases in carbon caused increases in temperature in the past warming events. But Gore made his movie in 2005, two years after the new ice core data had established the opposite! Gore’s weasel words when he introduced that segment show he knew what he was about to say was false. Who would have believed his pitch if he added “and each temperature rise occurred 800 years before the corresponding rise in carbon that caused it”? [8]

The second lie is the hockey stick graph, which presented the last thousand years of global temperature as the flat handle of a hockey stick and the next hundred as the sharply rising blade [9]. The hockey stick graph was heavily promoted by the IPCC in 2001, and the IPCC even adopted it as its logo before it got discredited. It is significant because most non-scientist AGW supporters seem to believe some version of the hockey stick. When the IPCC “scientists” who produced the graph were asked to show their data for past temperatures, they refused (true scientists share data). But one of those scientists was a British academic and subject to the British Freedom of Information Act, and after two years of stonewalling all was revealed. It showed they had grossly skewed the data (even omitting inconvenient data to a folder labeled “Censored”), and that the computer program used to process the data had the hockey stick shape built into it – you could feed it stock market data instead of tree ring data and you would still get a hockey stick! In reality it was warmer in the Middle Ages than today, and there was a mini ice age around 1700 from which we have since been warming ever since. [10] Finally, the sharply rising blade of the hockey stick is contradicted so far by actual temperatures, which from 2001 to 2008 have been flat – something all of the climate models got wrong.

Among non-scientists, AGW appeals strongly to two groups. Those who support big government love the idea of carbon regulations – if you control carbon emissions then you control most human activity. And those who like to feel morally superior to the bulk of their fellow citizens by virtue of a belief (the “warm inner glow” and moral vanity of the politically correct) are firmly attached to AGW. These groups are politically adept, are planning to spend your money and tell you how to eat, travel and how to live, and they are strenuously avoiding the evidence.

The media has avoided presenting information that undermines AGW, until recently. Instead they promoted alarmism, and discredited skeptics as being in the pay of big oil – while giving a free pass to Gore, who made a movie based on an obvious lie then made millions selling carbon offsets. The media is very keen to present evidence that global warming is occurring, but have you noticed how quiet it is on evidence that carbon emissions caused it?

In 2007 almost no one in the west knew that the hotspot was missing, that there was no evidence for AGW, that temperatures had been flat for six years, that the hockey stick was a fraud, or that Al Gore lied when he gave the old ice core data as a reason for blaming carbon. But due to the Internet the public is gradually finding out anyway, which risks further discrediting many media outlets. Why buy a newspaper if it’s not going to tell you the actual news? 

And as the public become generally aware, what politician is going to risk being so ideologically stupid as to unnecessarily wreck the economy by slashing carbon emissions? Hmmm, Kevin Rudd?

Endnotes

[1] The IPCC published several signatures in IPCC Assessment Report 4, 2007, Chapter 9, Figure 9.1, page 675: http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_Ch09.pdf

[2] The US CCSP published the observed changes in atmospheric temperatures for 1979 1999 in part E of Figure 5.7 on page 116 in 2006: http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-1/finalreport/sap1-1-final-chap5.pdf

[3] See http://sciencespeak.com/MissingSignature.pdf for links to debates, further commentary, and arguments from alarmist scientists.

[4] Callion’s 2003 paper is at http://icebubbles.ucsd.edu/Publications/CaillonTermIII.pdf, and a colorful but informative and link-filled presentation is at http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/07/carbon-dioxide-and-temperatures-ice.html.

[5] The US has spent about $30b (http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/file-uploads/USGCRP-CCSP_Budget_History_Table_2.pdf) and other western countries combined have presumably spent about as much again. The UK will not release its sending figures. See also http://joannenova.com.au/2008/12/02/big-government-outspends-big-oil-1000-to-1.

[6] Look at the data from the four bodies that produce global temperature records. Satellite data is the only temperature data we can trust, but only goes back to 1979; satellites operate 24/7, measuring everywhere except the poles. Land based thermometer readings are corrupted by the urban heat island effect-and they show temperatures rising faster in areas with higher populations (see http://www.surfacestations.org/odd_sites.htm and http://wattsupwiththat.com/test/). 
1. Remote Sensing Systems in California. Uses only satellite data: www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/RSSglobe.html.
2. University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Uses only satellite data: www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/UAHMSUglobe.html.
3. The Hadley Centre in the UK uses a mix of satellite data and land-based thermometers: www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/HadCRUG.html.
4. The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at NASA uses land-based thermometers (plus a few ocean thermometers), but no satellite data: www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/GISSglobal.html.

[7] For many examples from an impeccable scientist in the trenches, see http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0809/0809.3762.pdf.

[8] A British judge ruled that when Gore presented the ice core graphs of temperature and carbon in his movie, “the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts”. The nine errors found by the judge in Gore’s movie are summarized in the graphic at http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23416151-details/Judge+attacks+nine+errors+in+Al+Gore%27s+%27alarmist%27+climate+change+film/article.do.

[9] The Australian Department of Climate Change still sports the hockey stick on its website in 2008: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/science/faq/question2.html. Hear from the scientist who uncovered the fraud: http://www.climatechangeissues.com/files/PDF/conf05mckitrick.pdf.

[10] What the combined mass of independent researchers say about the historical past in 2007 is in Figure 3 at http://www.weatherquestions.com/Roy-Spencer-on-global-warming.htm (the last blue downtick seems to be due to using 30 year averages with the last period ending in about 1975, the end of the last cooling).

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Geoff Honnor
12 years ago

I’m 55 and my entire life has been back-dropped by the imperative to ameliorate the effect of human technological advance on the natural life of the planet and I’m absolutely convinced that it’s the right course to follow. Enormous environmental improvements have been achieved over the last half century – this didn’t start with Al Gore’s movie.

But I remain unconvinced that we’re suddenly on the edge of a precipice that – should we not heed the warnings – will result in the cataclysmic destruction of the world as we know it. If the worst of the worst case scenarios are true, why would we bother?

I’ve noted around 55 different predictions about sea levels in 2100 and about 120 different predictions about global temperature levels in 2100. All of them based on mathematical models that are utterly dependent on the variables selected to support them.

These scenarios play into the long-established conventional developed world wisdom that reducing pollution is an intrinsic good. Unarguably, it is. But at what cost?

The most unfortunate aspects of the current debate are that, firstly, it is increasingly polarised along Left/Right ideological lines and secondly, that the MSM have bought into the incontrovertible “truth” of AGW worst case scenarios. There is absolutely no interrogation of the evidence. It’s a done deal.

You would have to be brain dead not to realise that human advance is having a variety of impacts on the planet – many of them, inevitably, negative. Why, after decades of endeavour focussed at addressing this are we suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of it all?

MikeM
MikeM
12 years ago

David’s article overlaps very much with his 18 July op-ed in The Australian, which Tim Lambert responds to here.

Tim addresses the “missing hot spot” argument, pointing out that the already observed stratospheric cooling is the characteristic feature of increased CO2 concentration, not the hot spot. He describes evidence that, contrary to David’s claim, observed temperatures are consistent with the theory that CO2 is having a significant influence. Tim also addresses correlation over geological time between temperatures and CO2 levels.

The page that David cites where McKitrick “uncovers the hockey stick fraud” is currently inaccessible although there is an HTML version of it in Google’s cache.

I don’t agree with McKitrick’s hockey stick arguments, but time has overtaken that debate and we are better to discuss the NASA graph of global land-ocean temperature variation that Tim provides, which contains additional data points up to 2007.

David did not respond to Tim’s post, at least in the first 30 or so comment posts (they start to get fairly repetitive after that).

Perhaps in his next article here, David could do so.

TimLambert
12 years ago

I’ve already dealt with Evans’ main argument. Click through for the images which I can’t post in a comment.

But let me boil it down further. Evans’ first reference absolutely does not say that the signature of an enhanced greenhouse effect is a “hot spot”. Let me quote from the relevant bit:

Further evidence has accumulated of an anthropogenic
influence on the temperature of the free atmosphere as
measured by radiosondes and satellite-based instruments. The
observed pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric
cooling is very likely due to the influence of anthropogenic
forcing, particularly greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone
depletion.

In other words, we have found the signature, and Evans is just denying it. And he keeps doing it, even though his error has been pointed out to him on multiple occasions.

Evans’ claims about “An Inconvenient Truth” and the hockey stick graph are also easily seen to be false, but I’ll start with the signature.

MikeM
MikeM
12 years ago

The most unfortunate aspects of the current debate are that, firstly, it is increasingly polarised along Left/Right ideological lines and secondly, that the MSM have bought into the incontrovertible truth of AGW worst case scenarios.

Geoff,

I suspect that more ideological Right adherents own shares in coal mines than do ideological Lefts.

The MSM have not unilaterally bought into the incontrovertible “truth”. A paper just delivered to the American Geophysical Union reports that arctic temperatures are rising at an accelerating rate with recent warming in some places of 3 degrees C over the last four years. However Google finds 17,000 pages that feature the terms: arctic warming debunk. This is about 5% of the pages that mention: arctic warming. The fifth from the top of which is a Fox News opinion piece, “JUNK SCIENCE: What Arctic Warming?”.

Watch for a similar view from The Australian.

Geoff Honnor
12 years ago

God. I feel like a Menshevik in St Petersburg in August 1917……………..:)

devans
devans
12 years ago

Tim, what you wrote on Deltoid is wrong, confused, and disagrees with the IPCC, and the evidence.

First, endnote [1] above points you to AR4, where the IPCC gives the warming signatures it expects for an enhanced greenhouse effect. Readers are invited to follow the IPCC link in endnote 1 above, or to a summary document that shows the relevant with diagrams with a number of links on this topic I put up at
http://sciencespeak.com/MissingSignature.pdf.

There is the hotspot, a big part of the signature of enhanced greenhouse. In plain sight, very prominent.

On Deltoid, Tim, you are a bit ambiguous but you appear to claim that the hotspot is not part of the signature of enhanced greenhouse (“so the “greenhouse signature” is stratospheric cooling”). Tim, are you saying the IPCC is wrong, or is there some other reason you deny that there is a hotspot in the enhanced greenhouse signature?

Second, the observed warming data is published by the US CCSP, see the link in endnote [2] above or see it in my summary document
http://sciencespeak.com/MissingSignature.pdf.

Clearly there is no hotspot in the data as presented there, and thus no signature of enhanced greenhouse. Note that this is the only data we have — the radiosonde results during the period of recent warming (1979 – 1999) — and we cannot go back in time and get more.

On Deltoid, Tim, you say “Actually we have found the greenhouse signature”. Tim, are you saying (1) you have some other data? Or (2) you can see the signature of enhanced greenhouse, and thus the hotspot, in the data above? Or (3) are you denying that the hotspot is part of the signature of enhanced greenhouse?

Let’s deal with these points first Tim, before moving on to how IPCC scientists Santer and Sherwood addressed the missing hotpot.

Also readers, notice in my article above that the second feature of the enhanced greenhouse signature is broad stratospheric cooling and broad tropospheric warming. This is indeed in the observed data, but is also the signature of ozone depletion, which we know was occurring during the period 1979 – 1999. Some people take this to mean the enhanced greenhouse signature has been found — Tim seems to saying so on Deltoid. Obviously this is wrong, because the hotpot is also part of the enhanced greenhouse signature, and the observed stratospheric warming/tropospheric cooling may be entirely due to the ozone depletion.

JC
JC
12 years ago

David:

There certainly isn’t an economic case for mitigation. Using 2100 as the baseline;

1. Current GDP is US$65 trillion. Using an molested (unmitigated)growth rate of 3.5% for the rest of this century we end up with $1,540 trillion.

I use what I think is a conservative growth rate even though Stern used 2%. Stern wasn’t even taking into account any acceleration in the global GDP growth rate which is actually occurring and becoming far more visible.

2. Applying Sterns mitigation cost of 1% of the growth rate we’d end up with 2.5% which is $614 trillion by 2100.

So even if we don’t apply a cost of capital of 7% which has been the stock market growth rate since 1900 and accept Stern’s assertion that we would lose 20% of our GDP potential by 2100, the end result is that the economic hasn’t been made for mitigation (which is diverting economic resources from their most productive use). 60% is greater than 20%.

3. To mitigate would mean (the difference of $1,540 trillion- $614 trillion =) $926 trillion which is a loss of 60% of global GDP potential vs sterns claim of 20% if we don’t mitigate.

So even by using Stern’s estimates the case for mitigation hasn’t been made.

Stern’s other weaknesses were that he didn’t take

1.the rate of AGW change,
2.the rate of adaptability
3.and the rate of technological change into account. As I said He also, didn’t take into account that GDP has actually begun to accelerate.

Retarding GDP growth over oceans of time is hugely effected by the rate of growth and the effect of compounding.

It far better taking this line of argument I think.

Further if you’re going to mitigate it would be far more effective and economically efficient to apply a carbon tax with income tax set off. The ETS is the least attractive method of creating economic efficiency especially when subsidies and more government interference is at involved.

——–

Tim

The hickey stick has been made into a joke. I am surprised you are still using that angle these days. Please get up to date.

devans
devans
12 years ago

Geoff (post 1):
“the current debate … is increasingly polarised along Left/Right ideological lines”

I’ve noticed the same thing over the last ten years. In 1998 almost everyone assumed AGW was correct (me included), and usually had no real opinion. The situation was not at all ideological. It was not “An Issue”.

But over the years people mainly drifted towards skepticism, as variously the temperatures stopped going up, the ice core data reversed, the hockey stick fraud got noticed, the missing signature became known, the emissions traders and other vested interests became clearer, the predicted doom kept getting postponed or failed to materialize, and people noticed there was no actual evidence that carbon was guilty.

Except, as noted in the article, the supporters of big government and the politically correct. These groups would much prefer AGW to be true. But most everyone else, including lefties not in those camps, have tended to drift towards being more skeptical. There has been a lot of movement in the last year.

It’s now pretty ideological: in my experience if someone is into big government or is pc, they will always defend AGW. If not, they are sometimes pro-AGW, often neutral, or often anti-AGW. I predict, based on the rate of movement, that by 2010 it will be completely ideological — and pretty much only those with vested interests, or in one of the two groups mentioned, will believe in AGW.

I get asked about AGW issues by all sorts of people (both camps), and I can see which facts light them up and which annoy them. Tossing out the factoids, it’s clear people are becoming more ideological.

The ideological polarization is a great pity for the science. It makes people intractable and one-eyed, it produces camps that ignore each other to avoid conflict, it dissuades scienitst from getting into the field (who wants endless sterile arguments?) or finding stuff that is not right for their camp, and it is going to slow down our rate of figuring houtt how the climate works.

Sorry to go on, but it’s a bit of a pet peeve!

devans
devans
12 years ago

JC (post 7):

If carbon is not causing GW, there is no point in mitigation and we may or may not need adaption.

The solar people (including most all of the Russian scientific establishment) point to the strong correlation between solar activity (especially the lengths of solar cycles) and global temperatures, note that the last few decades were very active for the sun and had short cycles, note that the current solar cycle is very long and the sun’s activity is slowing down, and predict global cooling for the next few decades.

Imagine the egg-on-face for countries embarked on full-scale mitigation programs if temperatures trend down from now until 2030!

I have no strong opinion about the causes of the recent GW (except they don’t include carbon!), and simply note the long warming trend going back to the depths on the mini ice age in the 1700s (endnote [10]).

I did however make a public bet that temperatures would not rise as much as the IPCC predicts: http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/2007/04/new-global-warming-bet-for-7-10.html

BTW, a theoretical reason for believing adding carbon to the atmosphere makes very little difference is that the atmosphere is a self regulating system with feedbacks that simply adds or removes water vapor (the main greenhouse gas) as required to keep the levels of greenhouse gas roughly constant (and thus radiation back into space about constant). The atmosphere has access to as much greenhouse gas it wants in the oceans, and can eliminate greenhouse gas from the atmosphere by raining out some water vapor. This theory is supported by observations that the upper atmosphere has indeed been getting drier over the last few decades. As we add CO2, the atmosphere dumps a compensating amount to water vapor back into the oceans. Maybe :)

Stephen Bounds
12 years ago

David,

Three questions:

(1) The atmospheric data you have been talking about has not changed; as you say, it’s historical. So why did the IPCC present an atmospheric model in 2007 which couldn’t account for (a) human-caused global warming and (b) the scientific data? Did they think no-one would compare their predictions to the actual data? More generally, why did no-one notice this problem earlier?

(2) You say in 1998 everyone assumed that AGM was correct. Could you provide a potted timeline of major developments in scientific research into climate change, and particularly the points at which they overlap with major political events relating to it (Gore, Kyoto, etc). I would be interested to know when you think a “reasonable observer” would have said that, on balance, man-made global warming was not real.

(3) This relates somewhat to (2). Gore did seem to be genuine in his advocacy of acting responsibly to prevent climate change. Was it just a case of him jumping on the bandwagon as scientific evidence began to turn against climate change? Or did he seek to deliberately mislead? And if so, why?

JC
JC
12 years ago

David:

If a carbon tax causes little damage in terms of the economics landscape I see little reason to oppose it. In fact it may actually get this debate out of the polity and into the lab and science journals where it seems to mostly belong. With little economic cost it would also cover for the possibility that there may be something there.

However that wasn’t the total gist of my comment. The point is that on current IPPC estimates (that Stern used) there still isn’t an economic case made for mitigation despite what stern and others claimed.

devans
devans
12 years ago

Stephen (post 10):

(1) The IPCC have known that the missing signature has been a problem since the mid 1990s, and said so publicly on occasion. Positions have hardened in the last few years, and now they are quiet about it. A couple of IPCC scientists, Santer and Sherwood, have quite properly tried to explain the missing signature. However there is plainly a problem and everyone knows it: the hotspot should have been detectable by the radiosondes. Still, the AGW crowd are sure they are right and live in a worlds of few close critics (all their colleagues are pro-AGW because government almost only funds pro-AGW researchers).

Why should they give up? Maybe they will find a hotspot next time there is a warming period, using better technology? They cannot just announce AGW is wrong and give up their jobs and funding: “Sorry folks, got it wrong, no problem after all. Emit all the carbon you like.” There are obvious human problems with doing that. I reckon they should level with the public and say that maybe AGW isn’t right (remember, even the IPCC only says 90% in AR4). But if they lose the trust or attention of the public, how will they ever regain it if it turns out there is a problem or something similar? Y2K! Science is in an invidious position.

Climate scientists such as Fred Singer have noticed and been talking about the missing signature since 1995. No one much listened. That the signature is missing (or at least, too faint) is neither new nor a secret, in the climate science world.

It’s a difficult topic to make accessible to the public. Alarmists can simply confuse the issue with talk about other signatures or confuse it with the ozone depletion signature, or simply claim it has been found (very few people know to contradict them). Santer and Sherwood give them some cover for this by providing very authoritative and dense papers that give the impression that the hotspot has been found, while not actually claiming it has been found.

I am trying to make the issue public, because it is one of the few single issues that can decide whether AGW is true: If there was a strong signature, AGW would have been proven true. But the signature is missing or faint, so carbon emissions are a minor cause of global warming at most.

(2) Good question, and one I have often pondered. Ok, there is a time line of sorts in the article. If you want (ask again), I could lay it out as a column of dates. P

ersonally my “what?!” moment was in 2002 or 2003, when I learned that the new ice cores showed carbon lagged temps — because I knew that was the only actual evidence. Uh oh, just a theory. The missing hotspot also became known around 2003 (Santer), I think.

A reasonable and informed person at that point, 2003, should have started having major reservations. By 2006, after five years and a flat temperature trend was established, I think a reasonable observer would have been backing away from plans to cut carbon emissions. Today I think a reasonable observer would not cut carbon, but would be doing lots of renewables research and implementing some renewables just in case.

(3) I used to be a big fan of Gore. But I am sorry to say he really did misrepresent the ice core causation, and given the dates, his contacts, and the wording in his movie, the inescapable conclusion is that he knew he was misrepresenting it when he made the movie. Perhaps he felt that the means justified the ends, I don’t know. The guy seems genuine to me, he just doesn’t acknowledge that the evidence changed after 1998 (btw Gore jumped on the AGW bandwagon in the late 1980s). And as it happens, he made over $100m in his AGW activities since 2001 :)

devans
devans
12 years ago

JC (post 11):

It’s getting a bit off the topic of my article (that an ETS is not necessary because AGW is wrong), but the costs of carbon reductions are not as small as some are hoping IMHO.

I prefer to avoid the veil of dollars, discount rates, and ever-redefined CPIs, and consider the real physical equipment and operations.

To cut emissions by 5% by 2020 is to cut emissions 34% per capita, and 34% is roughly the proportion of current emissions that come from electricity production. So Rudd’s target is roughly equivalent to eliminating emissions due to electricity production (and that’s the cheapest option; replacing emissions in the transport sector is harder).

To do that, we need to replicate and duplicate our electricity producing infrastructure. Replication to provide the same per capita power with renewables and nukes, and duplication because we need to keep the existing gear for times when the renewables don’t work.

So that is going to double or triple our electricity costs, especially as the renewables are more costly to both install and run. And the capital cost is only going to be spread out over a few years, because we are building it fast.

And the costs of the electricity component of all goods and services will also double or triple. And it’s an ongoing cost of producing electricity more inefficiently, not just a one-off capital cost.

Clean coal might work, but will be pretty expensive to run. Not only do we need 50 – 100% more coal to get the same power output, but the captured CO2 is liquid — and thus takes up much more volume than the coal it came from. Six times bulkier I believe. And then it has to be transported hundreds of kilometers to a disused oil well or some such. Yikes!

TimLambert
12 years ago

David, I am baffled that you can find what I have written ambiguous. The hot spot is not the signature of greenhouse warming. The IPCC report you cite does not say that it is. I quoted the relevant part above. Here it is again:

The observed pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling is very likely due to the influence of anthropogenic forcing, particularly greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion.

The IPCC says that the signature is tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling. Which is what we have observed.

Again, the hot spot is not the signature of greenhouse warming. Look at the graphs here. You get a hot spot if the surface warms, no matter what the cause is.

One more time: the hot spot is not the signature of greenhouse warming.

I’ll deal with your misrepresentations on ice cores and the hockey stick later.

conrad
conrad
12 years ago

“Second, computer models. Computer models are just huge concatenations of calculations that, individually, could have been performed on a handheld calculator. They are theory, not evidence.”

I think you’ll find that almost every area of science uses computer models of one sort or another (and I see no relevance whether you do them by computer, calculator, or in your head), otherwise all you are left with is a description of the current state, which is of course not useful for predicting things. I might also note that if you don’t like theory, then you can forget about E = mc2 and the rest of modern physics, chemistry and so on. There are also no theories which are perfect — all still have error in them (unless we have found the theory of everything), yet they are still useful (as Box realized). Newtonian physics, for example, isn’t perfect — we even know many things it doesn’t work on, but that doesn’t make it useless.

Stephen Bounds
12 years ago

David:

(1) The increase in carbon PPM remains uncontested, right? (eg http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.html) And in your view, is this increase definitely caused by humans?

(I just want to check that the issue here is the link between carbon emissions and warming, not human activity and warming.)

(2) One of the problems I have with the diagram in http://sciencespeak.com/MissingSignature.pdf is that I can’t match it up with *any* of the models presented by the IPCC. How can we plausibly combine the graphs in 9.1 to end up with the temperatures observed via the weather probes? And how do you reconcile the fact that in the “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere” report (http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-1/finalreport/sap1-1-final-chap5.pdf) they conclude that lower-atmosphere warming seen in the observed radiosonde data is *still* likely to be from human sources?

(3) Are there other valid reasons for reducing carbon emissions, eg impact on health?

Also, a question for Tim Lambert:

Given that the “hot spot” features so prominently in the models that are consistent with man-made climate change (“Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere” again), why are you so quick to dismiss its absence as relevant?

In particular, the models all show substantial warming at the 12-16 km level, whereas this is not even slightly observed in the radiosonde data. How do you account for this?

mupcher1
mupcher1
12 years ago

“But the opposite occurred. By 2003 it had been established to everyones satisfaction that temperature changes preceded corresponding carbon changes by an average of 800 years: so temperature changes caused carbon changes – a warmer ocean supports more carbon in the atmosphere, after delays due to mixing. [4] So the ice core data no longer supported AGW. The alarmists failed to effectively notify the public.”

This does not rule out CO2 causing temperature increases at all, because it is possible for the causation to run both ways. That is, the initial temperature rises increase CO2 emissions with a lag, then the increases in CO2 feed back with much shorter lags to raise temperature further. Human CO2 emissions are then simply a means of starting the process without the need for the initial temperature changes that occurred in past episodes.

Has anyone done a proper analysis of the data to statistically test the causality (eg. Granger Causality tests)?

devans
devans
12 years ago

Tim (Post 14):

With your last reply, we have now identified the source of your disagreement: You say the hotspot is not part of the signature of enhanced greenhouse warming, I say it is.

Please look at Chapter 9 of the IPCC Assessment Report 4, 2007:
http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_Ch09.pdf

On page 675 is Figure 9.1, which shows “Zonal mean atmospheric temperature change from 1890 to 1999 (

fbr
fbr
12 years ago

Hi David, two questions:

1) If the warming observed is due to ozone depletion, would it not be expected that antarctica, over which most ozone depletion has occurred, to be the place of the most pronouced warming? As articles on the Lavoisier site say repeatedly, Antartica has shown no warming in the last 30 years.

2) When the idea that solar cycles could impact on climate started being touted, I was really interested and had a look at the correlation between cycles and temperature. Frankly, if you think CO2 and temperature corrleate poorly, you would have to admit that the correlation between solar cycles and climate is non-existent. That said, if David Archibald is right (he predicts an imminent mini ice age), I will buy every Lavoisier group member a slab of Pilsner.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
12 years ago

Economic cost-of-mitigation projections are far more susceptible to input variable and computer model bias than are AGW projections. You can’t dismiss predictive warming numbers in the same breath as you fling about predictive economic cooling numbers. Especially when economists can’t even predict something as close-at-hand and generationally singular as ‘the greatest economic crisis since the Depression’.

I always thought that basing, or at least actuarially skewing, any risk-amelioration policy towards ‘worst-case’ scenarios was about as rational as man could get. Even Homo Economus. Unless you have the intellectual consistency to be a true ‘non-believer’ like David Evans, and so reckon that the only appropriate AGW-ameliorating policy should be ‘do nothing’ (because the problem doesn’t exist)…then the (scientifically feasible)’worst case’ scenarios are the ones that matter.

You don’t take throw good money at a full life insurance policy because you think that one day you might – just might, worst case, if you’re unlucky – break a leg.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

I think the jig’s up, myself.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Sorry, Nicholas, that probably broke your rules of engagement.

trackback

[…] to scientists who have changed their minds on climate change (UPDATE – including Australia’s David Evans).

TimLambert
12 years ago

David writes:

Now Tim, look at the sentence after the one you quoted: The combination of a warming troposphere and a cooling stratosphere has likely led to an increase in the height of the tropopause. That increase in the height of the tropopause IS the hotspot! The hotspot arises in AGW theory because an increase in greenhouse gases (of CO2 due to humans, and of water vapor due to increasing temperature) pushes the top of the tropopause higher, thus replacing cold stratosphere with warmer troposphere at the top of the troposphere which is at about 10km over the tropics.

No. This is completely wrong. The IPCC report states:

Analyses of radiosonde data have documented increases in tropopause height over the past 3 to 4 decades (Highwood et al., 2000; Seidel et al., 2001).

So if the increase in the height of the tropopause is the hot spot, it’s been found. But the increase in the height of the tropopause is NOT the hot spot. The very sentence you quote says that the increase in the height of the tropopause is because the troposphere is warming and the stratosphere is cooling. It does not depend on their being a hot spot in the stratosphere. The tropopause is the point where it stops cooling as you go higher, so if you warm the atmosphere below it (the troposphere), it will get higher. And if you cool the atmosphere above it (the stratosphere), it will also get higher.

I think it is telling that in all your citing of chapter 9 of the IPCC AR4 WG1 report you haven’t mentioned the section that is actually about the hot spot.

You also claim:

Btw, it now appears that the atmosphere just drops out water vapor as it is replaced by CO2, to keep the total greenhouse effect about constant. This is the nub of the argument, and where AGW went wrong.)

Also not true. See Dessler, A. E., Z. Zhang, and P. Yang (2008), Water-vapor climate feedback inferred from climate fluctuations, 20032008, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35

Warming temperatures evaporate water, increasing humidity. This increase in humidity has the potential to further warm the atmosphere because water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. This water vapor feedback has the capacity to about double the direct warming from greenhouse gas increases. Using satellite data, Dessler et al. (2008) observed and quantified the behavior of atmospheric water vapor and the water vapor feedback during variations of the Earth’s climate between 2003 and 2008. They found that global averaged surface air temperatures on Earth varied by 0.6

Robert Merkel
Robert Merkel
12 years ago

Among non-scientists, AGW appeals strongly to two groups. Those who support big government love the idea of carbon regulations – if you control carbon emissions then you control most human activity. And those who like to feel morally superior to the bulk of their fellow citizens by virtue of a belief (the warm inner glow and moral vanity of the politically correct) are firmly attached to AGW. These groups are politically adept, are planning to spend your money and tell you how to eat, travel and how to live, and they are strenuously avoiding the evidence.

In debates, far too often there is a tendency to assume your opponents are acting for reasons other than their stated ones.

An ETS or carbon tax is one of the most free-market, libertarian means possible to reduce emissions. The hands-off types have largely won the argument about how best to tackle the issue (assuming that you agree there is one. The fact that those who accept the scientific evidence for AGW have been prepared to accept such an approach should give some indication that it’s not having a hard-on for imposing additional regulation for the hell of it.

In any case, I repeat a question that I’ve heard asked of AGW skeptics many times, and I’ve never heard a good reply – what are the relative consequences of you being wrong, vs. me being wrong? If I’m wrong and the world acts on my view of things, a few trillion dollars gets spent needlessly over a few decades. If we act based on your view and you happen to be wrong, we screw up the biosphere in ways that will take millennia to repair.

And that’s why there’s a tendency to be abusive towards people who hold views like yourself (and I’m perfectly prepared to accept that you are sincere in them, if utterly wrong). The potential consequences of your view being adopted, in what we regard as the very likely event that you are wrong, are quite literally catastrophic.

mcaskil
mcaskil
12 years ago

Excellent question Robert.

“what are the relative consequences of you being wrong, vs. me being wrong? If Im wrong and the world acts on my view of things, a few trillion dollars gets spent needlessly over a few decades. If we act based on your view and you happen to be wrong, we screw up the biosphere in ways that will take millennia to repair.”

I think that on balance spending “a few trillion dollars” is very likely to have no effect on climate at all. I concede it is possible it may have some effect.

However the opportunity cost of that spending is easily predictable with a far higher degree of certainty. It will reduce the net quality of life for humans on earth. Using less energy is directly proportional to a poorer quality of life for all humans. For you and me this probably means inconvenience. For the majority of human life on earth it means a much lower standard of health, nutrition, education and amenity. This means people get sicker, more often, and die younger.

So the “precautionary principle” that the pro-AGW crowd have fallen back on when the proof of their hypothesis collapsed, if properly constructed, works against them.

Spend a few trillion on the very slim chance that the AGW hypothesis may be correct after all to make a very small difference to the ultimate outcome for humans; or spend those trillions on the certain outcome of keeping more people alive and healthy right now.

Dean McAskil

Cathy
Cathy
12 years ago

Robert,

It is gross oversimplification to approach this matter as a case of right and wrong, or of two equal but opposite choices. Rather, it is all about prudent risk minimisation in a situation where the future is unknowable.

A risk assessment says:

1. Natural climate change in both directions happens, and can be damaging; get used to it.

2. Despite not yet having been unequivocally detected, human-caused change poses similar risks to natural change, though the empirical evidence indicates that human-caused change is likely to be of much lesser magnitude.

3. Neither natural nor possible human-caused climate change can be predicted or prevented. Therefore the sensible strategy is adaptation and amelioration of effects when they occur, just as for other natural disaster hazards.

4. CO2 is involved in many complex positive and negative feedback loops. These are incompletely understood to the degree that both the sign and the magnitude of the temperature response to further human increases are uncertain.

5. It is therefore also uncertain whether increasing CO2 is environmentally beneficial or harmful as judged from the self-centred human perspective. However, empirical evidence favours it being beneficial because it causes enhanced plant growth; more efficient plant use of water; and perhaps a gentle warming (at a time of planetary cooling).

6. Adapting to natural disasters, and helping other poorer nations do so as well, requires the generation of wealth. Imposition of a carbon dioxide tax destroys wealth. The money spent on a completely unnecessary rejigging of the world energy supply also represents a huge lost opportunity cost when you consider the needs of third world nations for help with their economies and environmental problems. Given the known real problems that exist, it is grotesque for comfortably housed, clothed, educated and fed citizens of well off nations to spend “a few trillion dollars … needlessly” on a hypothetical solution to a hypothetical problem just because it makes them feel good.

7. It is indeed true that the non-human biosphere is under many pressures, but global warming isn’t one of them. If we have money to spend on the biosphere it needs to be allocated to prevent habitat destruction, to properly maintain the hundreds of underfinanced and understaffed national parks around the world, and to implement sensible gene-bank and artificial breeding and re-release strategies for appropriate organisms.

8. The question you ask is often accompanied by a statement that decreasing carbon dioxide emissions is the precautionary thing to do. Paragraph 4 above makes it quite clear that that is not the case. Indeed, given that climate is currently cooling, and the likely impact that that will have on the world’s grain-growing capacity, the precautionary thing to do would be to increase CO2 emissions. Why? Because (i) the warming that you believe it will cause, even if only minor as I believe, will be a definite asset at a time when the world may be facing 3 decades of cooling into a little ice age; (ii) the extra plant fertilisation will help offset food shortages, provided we are not so silly as to use it to generate biofuels; and (iii) we would avoid squandering 30-50% extra of one of our most valuable non-renewable commodities (coal) in the vain pursuit of carbon dioxide sequestration.

9. Finally, to paraphrase and adapt your final sentence, the potential consequences of your view being adopted (heavy carbon dioxide taxation in an attempt to reduce emissions, in the belief that that will inhibit dangerous warming) are (i) a reduction of wealth and increase in costs which will be strongly regressive, impinging most strongly on both poor persons and poor nations; (ii) the creation of a corrupt trading market in an invisible, tasteless, colourless, odourless gas, the production of which is mostly unmeasurable and for which both buyers and sellers have an interest in inflating their emission estimates; this market will make the poor poorer (i, above) and have as its sole discernible benefits that it will make the rich richer and the middle class feel good; (iv) the replacement of cheap, efficient, effective and environmentally acceptable coal-fired power stations with environmentally damaging, inefficient alternatives such as wind turbines; (v) other environmental damage because of a lack of money to pay for sensible environmental management policies; and (vi) no measurable effect on future climate. Doesn’t sound like much of a deal to me.

mcaskil
mcaskil
12 years ago

That said I also think there is little point in arguing against the ETS, and the pro-AGW movement at the moment.

There is so much political and personal capital invested in the AGW juggernaut that even if the hypothesis were negated with absolute certainty today nothing could stop it before climate reality overtook it. And that will probably take about a decade.

In the meantime we should simply hunker down and do our best to mitigate any personal cost.

Dean McAskil

JC
JC
12 years ago

Robert:

An ETS is most certainly not one of the most free market libertarian means to reduce emissions. Even the father of the AGW movement says an ETS is a horror story in the making.

Heres what James Hansen has to say about an ETS:

No, the spiritual leader of the climate-change movement hasnt recanted. Global warming threatens not simply the Earth, but the fate of all its species, including humanity, he writes in his manifesto, which is tame by Mr. Hansens normal rhetorical standards. (He likes to compare carbon to the Holocaust: those coal trains will be death trains no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria.

Hansen surprises me in what he is quoted as saying in the opinion piece.

But Mr. Hansen also had the honesty to follow his convictions to their logical conclusion, while reproaching his followers President-elect Obama among them for not doing the same. To wit, Mr. Hansen endorses a straight carbon tax as the only honest, clear and effective way to reduce emissions, with the revenues rebated in their entirety to consumers on a per-capita basis. Not one dime should go to Washington for politicians to pick winners, he writes.

And

A tax should be called a tax, Mr. Hansen writes. The public can understand this and will accept a tax if it is clearly explained and if 100 percent of the money is returned.

And

Beltway sachems prefer posturing that disguises the cost of rising energy prices, such as cap and trade. This subterfuge, as Mr. Hansen terms it, shifts the direct burden onto businesses, which then pass it along to consumers. Congress may flatter itself that it is saving mankind, but what the Members really want is a cap-and-trade windfall that they can redistribute in the green pork of Mr. Obamas new energy economy, whatever that means.

..Mr. Hansen also favors a complete phase-out of coal-fired electric power, arguing that it be replaced by advanced nuclear, which could be capable of recycling radioactive waste within a decade. He adds: It is essential that hardened environmentalists not be allowed to delay the R&D on 4th generation nuclear power. Wed like to see him debate Al Gore on that one.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122843675983981401.html

What if you’re wrong? Shouldn’t those that opposed an ETS have a right to sue those that supported it to the extent that my children ought to have a claim against your residual estate if we’re gone by then? What you want is a one-way street- tails you win and heads I lose.

Your analogy is simply another way of putting forward the precautionary principle in that we must all bend to the possibility of avoiding a cataclysm. Sorry but that doesn’t wash as life on earth is all about risk. Getting up in the morning is risky and driving our cars is risky behavior. Somehow we manage in the way that a great number of us make it to old age while not suffering a broken neck in between.

It is also spurious in the extreme to be introducing the ETS while the one major workable option is not allowed on the table. How about this, how about you try to convince your side that nuke has to be part of the energy mix and then tell us when you have.

You say:

And thats why theres a tendency to be abusive towards people who hold views like yourself (and Im perfectly prepared to accept that you are sincere in them, if utterly wrong). The potential consequences of your view being adopted, in what we regard as the very likely event that you are wrong, are quite literally catastrophic.

Interesting that’s how you feel that way because there are a lot of people like myself that are leaning to the possibility that AGW is an issue and feel just as angry and upset that the economic consequences of going into an ETS (targeting a 34% drop in emissions in 12 odd years) are also catastrophic if those that are pushing for this are too cowardly to even put nuke on the table. The avoidance of this issue ought to be seen for what it is- a total fraud.

The Europeans have had a ETS for around a decade and even though some of those countries have nuke the ETS has been a dismal failure. If they didn’t cheat and message the figures it would even be worse. Says lots about our chances going into to this without the ” luxury” of nuke power. Furthermore after being in it for a decade the Europeans arent exactly inundated with new technology that is available right now to allow a modern civilization to function without emissions. In fact we havent seen any startling success there other than more promises that its just around the corner like we have been hearing for the past 50 years about solar. Solar has been like a perpetual promise that its around the corner for that time while it offers nowhere near the economies of scale of present energy generation.

Lastly how is it possible to prevent nations like China simply bidding away some our industries that are heavily energy reliant and creating the laughable scenario that the net result will be even more global emissions?

Would you be prepared to make me whole for the money it costs to fund an ETS over the next 20 years if you’re proved wrong? Would you? If not why? If you’re so certain I couldn’t imagine how you would walk away from this suggestion.

JC
JC
12 years ago

Here’s a thought let those who support an ETS place all their net worth in trust set up in the way that if warming doesn’t occur by 2030 their net worth and estate will be used to compensate those that opposed it to the extent that even children and grand children should be compensated.

tomd
tomd
12 years ago

Oh dear, Cathy:

1. Natural climate change in both directions happens, and can be damaging; get used to it.

Yes, over many millennia. It’s the scale that is concerning. I see this type argument a lot, for some reason. Imagine someone driving at 100km/hr in a CBD and reassuring their passengers by saying “Don’t worry, car crashes happen at 60 anyway, so just get used to it”.

2. Despite not yet having been unequivocally detected, human-caused change poses similar risks to natural change, though the empirical evidence indicates that human-caused change is likely to be of much lesser magnitude.

Um, what? We have observed change at a much faster rate than can be inferred by looking at the historical record. The potential risks of faster change than observed pre-industrial age are many: species go extinct as they can’t keep up, many potential problems for human activity such as infrastructure near coasts and changing weather patterns affecting agriculture, etc. In the long run (millions of years) for the planet it’s probably no big deal, as new species will evolve. It may suck for us short term, though.

What “empirical evidence” were you referring to?

3. Neither natural nor possible human-caused climate change can be predicted or prevented. Therefore the sensible strategy is adaptation and amelioration of effects when they occur, just as for other natural disaster hazards.

The warming observed thus far has been predicted and if the causes of it are indeed human CO2 emission (along with other things we can affect such as methane emission) then we can prevent or mitigate some of it. Why on earth couldn’t we?

And since when do we not mitigate the effects of natural disasters ahead of time? Back-burning and the (unmaintained) levees in New Orleans leap to mind, but there must be thousands of examples.

4. CO2 is involved in many complex positive and negative feedback loops. These are incompletely understood to the degree that both the sign and the magnitude of the temperature response to further human increases are uncertain.

If you have a theory that predicts lower temperatures caused by increased CO2 I’d love to hear it.

5. It is therefore also uncertain whether increasing CO2 is environmentally beneficial or harmful as judged from the self-centred human perspective. However, empirical evidence favours it being beneficial because it causes enhanced plant growth; more efficient plant use of water; and perhaps a gentle warming (at a time of planetary cooling).

You keep saying “empirical evidence” when I think you mean “my personal theory”, since you haven’t actually cited any such evidence and you use the phrase when predicting outcomes, not stating observations.

However, let’s take “enhanced plant growth”. The Garnaut Review does a reasonable job of summarising the mainstream science position. Check out chapter 5 which talks about the predicted change in climate for Australia and chapter 6 which discusses likely effects, stating that in the no mitigation case:

By mid-century, there would be major declines in agricultural production across much of the country. Irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin would be likely to lose half of its annual output. This would lead to changes in our capacity to export food and a growing reliance on food imports, with associated shifts from export parity to import parity pricing.

Ouch.

Btw, which cooling trend were you referring to?

6. Adapting to natural disasters, and helping other poorer nations do so as well, requires the generation of wealth. Imposition of a carbon dioxide tax destroys wealth. The money spent on a completely unnecessary rejigging of the world energy supply also represents a huge lost opportunity cost when you consider the needs of third world nations for help with their economies and environmental problems. Given the known real problems that exist, it is grotesque for comfortably housed, clothed, educated and fed citizens of well off nations to spend a few trillion dollars needlessly on a hypothetical solution to a hypothetical problem just because it makes them feel good.

Don’t implement a carbon tax (were we?), think of the poor third world! Because we give them so much money currently. I wonder what their answer would be if we gave them a choice between developed nations using their wealth to reduce their emissions and mitigate the effects, and developed nations using their wealth to rescue them when their agriculture fucks up.

JC
JC
12 years ago

Sorry Nic

I became confused with your initial caution after i saw Tim accusing David of “misrepresentation” subsequently linking to a site implying he’s only being 1/2 truthful (which has disappeared?) and Robert passionately explaining why he thinks it’s ok to be abusive to people that disagree with him.

So I get your point now. Thanks

Tel_
Tel_
12 years ago

I suspect that more ideological Right adherents own shares in coal mines than do ideological Lefts.

How do you intend to explain to the coal miner’s unions that their ideology demands they all legislate themselves out of work? Right now, the biggest wedge being driven between “green” politics and “red” politics is carbon dioxide (as we saw with the recent 5% target).

JC, this is supposed to be a disciplined thread. It isnt a general open get your rocks off on greenhouse thread. There is no shortage of these on the net.

I’d very much like to get my rocks off on the general nature of scientific debate, and scientific publication in particular (and yes, I believe it is relevant meta-information for any discussion on global warming). First problem is that many peer-reviewed scientific papers are simply not available for public download, so it is difficult to get information and impossible to reliably cite information in order to convince other people. Second (and worse) problem is that most modern scientists do not make their raw data available for public scrutiny. Third is that professional scientists are ALWAYS on someone’s payroll and money talks. We have seen dodgy announcements by government health departments worldwide (no AIDS in India, no bird flu in China, trust British Beef… etc)

We can debate all night, but it’s all so much hot air because it won’t be convincing to the jaded citizens who rightly trust half of what they see and none of what they hear.

Without getting into any science at all, I regard JC’s point as valid in as much as those who are happy to pontificate about future events are doubly happy to do so in the comfortable knowledge that if they get it completely wrong they have no personal risk riding on the outcome (and quite likely they have do their job and future job prospects riding on supervisor approval, which means they reliably reach the conclusion expected of them). The scientific method is founded on skepticism, repeated independent measurement and analysis and open communication. The current global warming debate is not following those principles.

trackback
12 years ago

David Evans doesn’t even know what the hot spot is…

Back in July, David Evans had on opinion piece in the Australian claiming: The greenhouse signature is missing. … The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. This……

rog
rog
12 years ago

MM says I suspect that more ideological Right adherents own shares in coal mines than do ideological Lefts.

I think you would be surprised just how many “lefty” industry superfunds hold shares in miners, like BHP.

Cathy
Cathy
12 years ago

Nic,

Apologies if you think that this is off-thread, but the issues are important and I do need to offer brief comment on tomds remarks. I will shut up thereafter.

Tomd, as a generalization, just repeating an established article of faith of the alarmist creed does not make it true. In more detail with respect to the numbered points:

1 & 2. You assert that modern temperature change is occurring at a much faster rate than represented in the geological record. There are literally tens of thousands of research papers which show your assertion to be wrong.

3. You assert that the warming thus far (I presume that you mean the Late 20th Century Warm Period, which ended with the century) has been predicted.

Again, simply wrong. None of the available GCMs is validated, or has shown skill at projecting the actual course of temperature since 1990, and nor do they provide predictions. In contrast, several statistical models have shown some skill in projecting cooling for the first part of the new century.

3 again. Nothing wrong with a bit of mitigation, indeed it is a sensible part of a comprehensive policy of adaptation. The key is, however, that the mitigation has be demonstrably effective. No-one has shown, and nor does it seem likely, that cutting human CO2 emissions will mitigate dangerous climate change; in contrast, cutting fire breaks does help control bushfire.

4. No-one that I know has a theory (you mean hypothesis) that predicts lower temperatures (are) caused by increased CO2 because, prima facie, CO2 is a mild greenhouse gas. But whether the ultimate effect of increasing CO2 is cooling or warming remains dependent upon the interaction of a large number of feedback loops, both positive and negative. You may claim to know all of these, and their magnitudes; I dont.

5. You assert that Chapter 5 of the Garnaut report contains an accurate account of the likely effects of CO2 on agricultural activity in Australia.

In reality, Garnauts judgements (or guesses) are projections, not predictions, that are based upon unvalidated, regional GCM modelling.

5 again. You ask Which cooling trend were you referring to?

Depending upon which database you inspect, within the limits of error there has been (i) no global warming since 1958 (radiosondes), (ii) no warming since 1980 (MSUs), and (iii) cooling since about 2002 (Hadley and MSUs). Drawing trend lines through any of these sets of data, or parts of them, is climatically pointless because of multidecadal cyclicity and because even the longest (Hadley) represents only 5 climate data points.

6. I regret that, whilst being aware of the problems and difficulties involved, I cannot share your dismissal of the need to commit our resources to real rather than speculative environmental and social problems; many of these do indeed lie in the third world.

S.Fred
S.Fred
12 years ago

Let me comment here on the tropospheric hot spot. Acc to the IPCC and the CCSP-1.1 report that is the fingerprint of GH gases. But the data dont show it, acc to the same report (of which Ben Santer, a known AGW promoter) is a lead author. This disparity is a key argument against AGW; stratospheric cooling is not debated. So David Evans is right and Deltoid is wrong.

If you want to see the evidence, go to the NIPCC report Nature Not Human Activity Rules the Climate http://www.sepp.org/publications/NIPCC_final.pdf
Figs 7 and 8 show modeled and observed patterns of temperature trends (fingerprints). Fig 9 (also taken from the CCSP report) and Fig 10 show the disparity quite clearly.

NIPCC contains also other evidence against the various IPCC conclusions.

jshore
jshore
12 years ago

Dave Evans and S. Fred:

You guys are completely out to lunch on this. The tropospheric hot spot is predicted independent of the warming mechanism. The RealClimate piece that Tim Lambert links to makes that abundantly clear, as they see the same hot spot when they turn up solar forcing in their climate model. (What they do not see is stratospheric cooling…that truly is a signature of warming due to greenhouse gases.)

Yes, it is true that scientists have been trying to figure out why the hot spot did not appear to be there in the radiosonde data and in some of the analyses of the satellite data (e.g., UAH)…and have recently been making considerable progress in understanding the problems with this data. However, that effort is not because it is a prediction specific to the mechanism of the warming being greenhouse gases but rather because it is such a basic expectation from moist adiabatic lapse rate theory. Santer et al state that clearly in their paper (which, by the way, is not nearly as dense as some of the people talking about it appear to be).

Santer et al also point out that the hot spot is in fact seen for temperature fluctuations on the monthly to yearly timescales. I.e., those fluctuation are magnified as you go up in the tropical atmosphere. It is only when one looks at the long term trends over the entire multidecadal time period that the hotspot was not seen (at least until recently in the radiosonde data analyses and some of the satellite data analyses).

If “S. Fred” is really S. Fred Singer, I am rather shocked that you are so ignorant of basic facts that are out there in the literature. After all, this is your field, not mine, as I am merely a physicist who reads climate science papers in my free time.

Oh, and part of the reason that you guys have been able to confuse so many people…and maybe even yourselves…on this issue is that Fig. 9.1 of the IPCC report was not designed to in detail the structure of the warming (or cooling) from different mechanisms. I.e., they used constant contour spacings on all the plots, which made sense for their purposes, but has the unfortunate side effect of not clearly illustrating the occurrence or lack thereof for the other warming or cooling mechanisms. (For solar, the plot is basically compatible with any magnification between 1 and infinity. For aerosols, one can actually see the “hot spot” although it is really a “cool spot” since the mechanism of the moist adiabatic lapse rate is to amplify the change at the surface, which in the case of an increase in aerosols is a cooling.)

jshore
jshore
12 years ago

Oh, by the way, it is also worth noting that if it were really true that the tropical lapse rate did not decrease with warming (which is what the lack of a “hotspot” would suggest), then at least naively this would actually tend to predict a stronger response of the earth’s global temperature to greenhouse gases since it implies that the temperature at the atmospheric level at which most of the radiation back into space is occurring does not rise as fast as the temperature at the surface…which would then require greater rises in surface temperatures to restore equilibrium following an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. (To put this another way, the lapse rate is a well-known NEGATIVE feedback in the climate models that partly cancels out the positive water vapor feedback, and by claiming the hot spot doesn’t exist, you are essentially challenging the existence of this negative feedback.)

So, it seems to me that it might not be such a good thing for those who want to argue for low climate sensitivity to be trying to claim that the data do not support a hot-spot in the tropical troposphere!

jshore
jshore
12 years ago

One more thing, it has come to my attention that the term “Santer et al.” is ambiguous, as they have written multiple papers on this subject, including a rather recent one published this year: https://publicaffairs.llnl.gov/news/news_releases/2008/NR-08-10-05-article.pdf

However, my references were to their earlier paper in Science in 2005 [referenced in the paper above as “Santer, BD et al., (2005)”].

devans
devans
12 years ago

Tim (Post 24):

You replied to my post 18 by avoiding the substantive issue and just commenting (erroneously) on a couple of asides. So, for you, I’ll narrow the focus and ask only one question per post.

With post 14, we identified the source of our disagreement: You say the hotspot is not part of the signature of enhanced greenhouse warming, I say it is.

In post 18 I gave three sources of signatures or warming patterns: IPCC, US CCSP, and Lee. The first two showed the hotspot in the simulated signature of enhanced greenhouse effect, and all three showed the hotspot in the combined warming pattern simulated by the models.

Tim, do you still claim that the hotspot is not part of the signature of enhanced greenhouse warming, and if so why?

jshore
jshore
12 years ago

Nicholas: Sorry. I’ll try to be more temperate in my language.

jshore
jshore
12 years ago

Dave (Post #43): My own reply to you would be that perhaps what we have in part is a difference in language. If I say that “A is a signature of B” then I would tend to use it to imply that it somehow distinguishes B from other possibilities. For example, if I sign “Joel Shore”, I think one can safely assume it is me and not Tim Lambert who wrote the post. However, if I just sign “X”, that doesn’t constitute much of a signature to distinguish me from lots of other people. If I understand the point that you are making, you now seem to be wanting to use “signature” to merely mean that A is expected if B occurs, just as it is expected if D, E, F, G, H, or I occur.

I don’t think anyone is arguing that the tropical hotspot is not expected with the enhanced greenhouse effect. However, it is also expected if the warming is due to solar forcing…or just about any source of warming that one can imagine. In fact, the magnification of temperature fluctuations that occur on a monthly to yearly timescale due to God-knows-what (perhaps internal oscillations such as ENSO) is not only predicted by the models, but is in fact seen as Santer et al. (2005) demonstrated. It is a consequence of moist adiabatic lapse rate theory, a pretty basic piece of atmospheric physics.

Even assuming that the uncorrected radiosonde data and the certain satellite analyses that suggested this hotspot does not occur for the temperature trends over multidecadal timescales is correct, it would not directly say anything about what mechanism is responsible for the warming that we have seen. Admittedly, it would tell us that we understand less about the atmosphere than we thought we did (and would imply some major piece of physics isn’t being included in our models)…But this would not really affect the issue of attribution one way or the other.

And, as I noted, the most direct consequence of the hotspot failing to be there would seem to be the implication that models that include this hotspot and the corresponding negative lapse rate feedback that it produces are incorrect in the inclusion of this feedback, and thus that the real climate sensitivity might be higher. Personally, I rather doubt this is the case. I think that the fact that the data clearly agree with the predictions over the timescales of months to a few years where the data is much less susceptible to problems and that they disagree only for the trends on multidecadal timescales where the both the satellite and radiosonde data are known to have serious problems (and, in fact, serious discrepancies between different analyses and re-analyses) suggests that problems with the data are the main source of the disagreement. There seem to be lots of papers re-analyzing the data that are in fact coming to this same basic conclusion.

jshore
jshore
12 years ago

Nicholas, another paper that looked at the water vapor feedback is B. J. Soden et al., “The Radiative Signature of Upper Tropospheric Moistening”, Science 310, 841 (2005). Abstract here: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;310/5749/841

As the name implies, this paper focussed on the upper troposphere (although it has references to work looking at the whole water column). However, it is particularly nice in that it shows that not only do you have to assume the increase in water vapor with temperature is occurring roughly as expected in order to get the right trends, but also to get the right fluctuations on the shorter timescales.

devans
devans
12 years ago

Conrad (post 15):

I agree with you. Theories are vital in science, they drive it forward and tell us what to look for. Theories need to be verified by observations however, before they should be taken seriously.

My point in your quote was just that models do not have some mystic quality that makes them comparable to evidence. They are just a long series of calculations that could have been done by hand or on a calculator. The context was that some people (who really ought to know better) offer models as evidence that supports AGW.

I spent years building models of Australia’s plants, debris, mulch, and soil, tracking carbon. I am painfully aware of how they are made and their limitations!

Btw, here is the version of your quote in the first draft of the article (I cut if due to length):

Second, they pointed to computer models. Computer models are simply huge concatenations of calculations that, individually, could have been performed on a handheld calculator. They are theory, not evidence. So any predictions by computer models, or comparisons of their predictions with what actually happened, are not observational or empirical evidence. (While agreement between observed temperatures and a model output may raise our confidence in that model, it only shows that the model was right in that instance. As long as models omit the effects of the suns magnetic activity, cosmic rays, and ocean oscillations, and treat the all-important clouds and water vapor simplistically and unrealistically, our confidence in them ought to remain low.)

devans
devans
12 years ago

Stephen (post 16, point 1):

Yes, the increase in carbon PPM (as per your link) is uncontested. It is well measured.

Whether “this increase [is] definitely caused by humans” opens up a messy and unresolved can of worms. Some factoids:

– There is roughly 800 Gt (gigatonnes) of CO2 in the atmosphere. Each year, the atmosphere interchanges about 100 Gt with plants and 100Gt with oceans. So a quarter of the atmospheric CO2 gets turned over each year, confirmed by the decline in C14 introduced by the atmospheric bomb tests 1944 – 1963. Every study (20+) that I know of that has looked at the residence time of a CO2 molecule emitted into the atmosphere has said 5 – 20 years — no surprise there. But the IPCC claims that each emitted CO2 molecule will cause an extra CO2 molecule to be in the atmosphere for 300 years — I find this incredible, and would have thought 5 – 20 years was the obvious answer.

– Human emissions are about 8 Gt per year. The increase in atmospheric CO2 each year is about 4 Gt per year. The balance must be being absorbed, on net, by extra plant growth or by the oceans.

– Any liquid with dissolved gas in it can support a certain concentration of gas in the air above it. This vapor pressure rises and falls as the temperature of the liquid rises and falls. Thus, as the oceans warm and cool, the oceans will raise and lower the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. But here are delays due to ocean mixing.

– Isotope studies (of the C13/C12 ratio) show that only 30% of the increase in CO2 each year comes from plants or fossil fuel (30% on average, over the last two decades) [recent finding, Quirk in Energy and Environment]. That is, human emissions cannot be responsible for more than 30% of the increase in CO2 each year! (Plants selectively choose C12 over C13, so their C13/C12 ratio is lower than for CO2 in the ocean. When plant matter is remitted to the atmosphere by dead plants including fossil fuel, the C13 level of those emissions is lower than for the CO2 coming from the ocean.)

– Ian Plimer reckons, on the basis of some German professor’s measurements a few years back, that a single hot spring at Milos in the Aegean emits about as much CO2 as humans (8 Gt per year). I could not verify this, and the huge uncertainty mean the amount may be far less. But it raises a huge issue: geological sources and sinks of CO2 are significant. Can we plug the hot springs and volcanoes???

– Basically CO2 comes from the earth’s interior via vulcanism, and is removed from the air/ocean system by turning into limestone in shallow seas. CO2 levels have varied enormously in the past, up to 20 times current levels — and the climate system was still stable, no runaway greenhouse heating occurred. There have been icy periods in the earth’s history where the CO2 levels are five times current levels.

– Plants grow faster in air with raised CO2 levels. Commercial greenhouses routinely raise the level to double or triple the current level (to 800 – 1000 ppm). The rise in atmospheric CO2 levels since pre-industrial times has increased plant growth speed by an average 15% (it depends on the species, up to 40% for some cereals) — it is partly responsible for the green revolution! Satellite survey show that the earth’s biomass (weight of plants) has increased by 6% in the last 20 years — a fair bit of this would be due to higher CO2 levels.

– The ice cores show that there was an average 800 year lag between atmospheric warming and increasing CO2 in the past. The medieval warm period was about 800 years ago. What? Is it possible? Surely not.

Yes, the issue in my article is the link between carbon emissions and GW.