• Why global warming is real and what it really means

    I’ve been on the case of Michael Mann for some time now, and something I suspected would happen has happened.  I’m finding myself in slightly the wrong company here.  There is a certain number of people who are saying that a majority, or even all climate scientists are faking data, or are part of some conspiracy, or the rest of it.  I’m sorry to say that Mark Steyn seems to be steering close to this; I don’t want have a go at a man who says stuff is ‘remarkably prescient’ so I’ll just focus on this argument.

    I will have no truck with that line.

    I will not have good scientists accused of the worst sin without rock solid evidence on every one of them.  I’m certainly not going to go along with any blanket accusation of climate scientists in general from people who probably couldn’t name a single one, apart from Mann.


    I know I’m in a fortunate position here.  I can access the science directly.  I have often wondered, if I wasn’t able to do that, and didn’t have my own background in the sciences, would I think climate change is real?  If I had to watch the politicised, simplified hackwork that is paraded in the press – would I have the same level of confidence?

    How Science really works

    Simply put, most people who write on this subject don’t really understand how science works.  That’s the only way the idea of some sort of a conspiracy among scientists can make sense.   Simply, if you tried to hold some sort of a meeting to organize ‘the line’ on global warming, what would happen would be PhD students and other showing up to scarf all the free food before returning to do… exactly what they were planning to do in the first place.

    As a group, scientists are hard to organise into going to the same lab meeting.  A global conspiracy or collusion among scientists?  Ludicrous.

    Ah, but you say, what about all those research funds…  Well, here’s a reality check: we don’t shovel all those research funds into our own swiss bank accounts.  We want the research funds to do research.  To find the truth.  There’s not much point otherwise.

    That engenders a certain deep trust amongst scientists that is hard to understand if you’re not one.  Whenever I read a scientific paper my very strong prior is that the author is honest and scrupulous, and knows more about whatever it is than I do.  Anyone who has ever done a PhD knows the strange feeling that you know for a fact more about a tiny little area of knowledge than anyone alive now or who has been alive in history.  It’s quite something.  I’ve occasionally (okay, once) found myself correcting a Nobel laureate (real one) on a point in a presentation and realizing that I was the only one who knew that point.  It was… invigorating.

    Now, with everyone operating on this high level of trust, of course, comes the occasional problem.  This is one of my all time favourite paper titles:


    I won’t bore you with the details, but basically what the paper shows is that people were barking up the wrong tree for four decades because they didn’t notice that the original experiment didn’t have enough salt in it.

    This sort of thing does indeed happen.  But in case you’re holding your breath that something like this will come to light about global warming, and that this will disprove it, please don’t.  No completely gross error could be sustained throughout the decades.

    The above mistake really was genuine, and people were indeed on the wrong track but, and this is the glory of science, while chasing down the wrong track they made all sorts of other discoveries – great discoveries, magnificent discoveries that shed a great deal of light on that subject.  So when the original error was corrected, everything pretty much fell into place.

    The fall of Mann

    You may get some idea of where Mann fits into this picture of climate science.  If the trust network among researchers is so strong that they may be lead astray by a simple misreading, how much more so can they be lead astray by active distortion?

    If Mann had just been willing to publish his original hockey stick, and keep working and not mind when it was overhauled and superseded by far better work – none of us would be having this discussion.  That would have been perfectly fine.  Things are so different because Mann, I am sorry to say, seem to have embraced the political over the scientific.

    The way I see things happening, from the witnesses of his conduct down the years, is that a young PhD candidate found a chance to be part of the IPCC, to have an express ticket right to the top.  So he pushed a little harder for his ideas than was strictly warranted. Remember, later the National Academy of Sciences would conclude about the hockey stick:

    “The IPCC used it as a visual prominently in the report […] I think that sent a very misleading message about how resolved this part of the scientific research was. “

    Then later on he found himself attached to it, and pushed a little harder.

    Regarding the Hockey Stick of IPCC 2001 evidence now indicates, in my view, that an IPCC Lead Author [Michael Mann] working with a small cohort of scientists, misrepresented the temperature record of the past 1000 years by (a) promoting his own result as the best estimate, (b) neglecting studies that contradicted his, and (c) amputating another’s result so as to eliminate conflicting data and limit any serious attempt to expose the real uncertainties of these data.

    And the next thing you know he was in the business of intimidating other researchers, Climate Science Made Flesh and all the rest of it.  He was the public face of climate science and he enjoyed it.

    So, you may ask, why did no one call him on it?  Well, with the juniors there was probably a tendency to toe the line, but there is another thing: for most of us, politics is the last thing we want to get involved in.  Frankly, my ideal world would be one in which I could be left alone to do science and never have to even think about politics, or religion, or anything else for that matter.  I would suspect that the majority of climate scientists felt about Mann’s activities that, basically, it’s a mucky job but someone’s got to do it and Mann seems to like it.

    There’s another thing here, and this is where the political right, especially the American right, needs to take some responsibility.  This is its persistent flirtation with absurd nonsense like creationism and whatnot.  By playing around with this stuff, they’ve made themselves incredible ab initio.  I suspect that most climate scientists – who, again, don’t really care that much for politics – just reflexively circled the wagons at some of the diatribes about climate change, without understanding the deep arguments that have happened behind it.

    So when Steyn writes that “For a year or two around the turn of the century, he over-egged the pudding very usefully for them”, it’d be good to know which ‘them’ he means.  If he means the apparatus  climate media & ngo racket, then he’s probably right.  If he means the real scientists, then he’s wrong, as you will see shortly.

    (N.B. I imagine a three year lawsuit and all its costs does leave one remarkably short on sympathy)

    And there are indeed genuine people of questionable integrity out there, on the anti-AGW side.  Please watch the following interview with Ian Plimer and try to say that he doesn’t look as shifty as Mann in’t:

    Please note: that when pressure was brought, and the hockey stick was re-examined the previously quoted National Academy of Sciences did indeed find that the thing was faulty.  Scientific integrity prevails.

    I’m going to take a look at what some of the science tells us in a lovely Mann-free world.  You may be surprised what we find.  If you are surprised, please remember: there is a significant difference between what you read in the literature and what is seen in the press.  For example, in Al Gore’s film he claims that the oceans will rise twenty feet by the end of the century.  The problem is that the IPCC Says that they will rise two feet.  Please keep that difference in mind whenever you see some apocalyptic headline.

    Carbon Dioxide is on the up and up, and it’s mostly man-made

    You can in fact drill down through various ice cores and find bubbles of air trapped there, and learn just how much carbon there used to be.  I’m sorry to say that this is primarily dominated by human emissions.  I can’t find the original article, but there is one where Mark Steyn claims that 95% of carbon emissions are natural.  I’m sorry, but that’s poppycock.  Natural carbon emissions are largely locked into the carbon cycle.  What we are releasing is material from fossil fuels – carbon reserves built up over hundreds of millions of years and being released in far shorter timescale.

    Basically, humans are releasing 26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere a year.  That’s not disputed.  We know that carbon dioxide traps heat.  That’s not disputed either.  So it’s just nuts to assume that we can change things on this scale with no consequence.

    Ah, but what are those consequences?  That’s where things get interesting.

    What does the climate of the past look like?

    Here’s a lovely paper that looks at the relationship between CO2 and the great changes of ice ages and their end.  As they say,

    During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels.

    Well, open and closed, right?  We’re about to see 25 to 40 meters of sea level rise?

    Er, not exactly.  Look at the timescales involved.  The paper is discussing twenty million years of history.  So, yes, it could well be that within another repeat of that time scale we’ll see major changes.  For the record, that doesn’t necessarily mean that what we do today will not have repercussions for a long time.  I’ve spoken with scientists who’ve said that, even if we stopped all carbon emissions today, we’d be seeing warming going on until at least the year 2150.

    But what can we find out in a bit closer range?  This is where things get really problematic.

    Since we don’t have records of temperature going back more than a hundred years or so, we have to rely on proxies – things that are dependably affected by temperature that we can look at.  Tree rings are the classic, but there’s also pollen, grapes….

    We can start with this paper, as you can see, published in Science.  What we get from it, is the following graph, which looks like the Mann’s hockey stick:


    The paper says, quote,

    The 20th century experienced the strongest warming trend of the millennium (about 0.6°C per century).

    Again, pretty strong huh?  But it goes on to say:

    Some recent changes in ENSO may have been unique since 1800, whereas the recent trend to more positive NAO values may have occurred several times since 1500. Uncertainties will only be reduced through more extensive spatial sampling of diverse proxy climatic records.

    This is a persistent problem throughout the climate record.  Trying to reconstruct the climate of the planet via a handful of proxies is always going to be difficult.

    Incidentally, take a look at what you get if you extend the graph backwards:



    Please notice again the black line, which is the measurement readings, that goes above and beyond the point where the proxies stop.  I have never understood doing this in so many papers – why can’t we just track the proxies along with the temperature readings?  That’d surely be a much better way of doing things?

    Again, it’s not anywhere near as dramatic as Mann’s graph, but the warming is definitely there.

    But is this really an accurate picture of how this goes down?  More to the point, is this an absolutely accurate picture of what happens? Not everyone agrees.  Here’s another lovely graph from Anders Moberg:



    What you see here is rather different.  You see a temperature peak at about 1000 -1,2000 years ago (depending on what you look at) and that temperatures then were a shade below what they are now.  Then we had a long, deep cooling phase, and this was following by the modern warming.

    Now compare this graph to the old Mann graph:

    Hockey Stick from the original paper in 1999
    Hockey Stick from the original paper in 1999


    The Mann graph shows what is basically a flatline until the nineteenth century.  The Moberg graph shows a gradual decline until about 1600 when things start to pick up again.  Those two graphs tell us very different things: the Mann graph says that the warming is predominantly or exclusively manmade (as it were), the Moberg graph says that there’s a natural warming cycle in addition to the human caused global warming.

    As Moberg puts it:

    This large natural variability in the past suggests an important role of natural multicentennial variability that is likely to continue.

    (This was published in Nature, so please spare me the #Kochfundeddenialist stuff)

    From our point of view – that’s actually worse news, because it places a severe limit on what we’re able to accomplish, even if we manage to reduce carbon emissions.

    So which picture is accurate?  As I’ve indicated, I don’t trust Mann.  I’m hardly alone – here’s another Science paper by Jan Esper.  It is specifically reconstructing the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere.   Take a look at this:


    The red line is ‘MBH’ – Mann-Bradley-Hughs.  Notice that it shows basically no variability over the last thousand years, but the RCS chronology shows a far more variable climate.  The paper concludes that, well, the RCS only looks at the Northern Hemisphere, and Mann looks at the whole planet, so that’s why things were flat overall, and there’s a big computer model that back him up.  I frankly don’t buy this.  Firstly because, though I’m not a climate scientist, I do know computer models, and they are to be treated extremely carefully unless they have a lot of proof backing them up.  Secondly, and more importantly, the Mann hockey stick is principally a Northern Hemisphere thing. To quote him directly, in response to the National Academy of Sciences investigation:

    Mann says that he is “very happy” with the committee’s findings, and agrees with the core assertion that more must be done to reduce uncertainties in earlier periods. “We have very little long-term information on the Southern Hemisphere and large parts of the ocean,

    And, yes, that red line is the original hockey stick – look at the references in the Esper paper.

    My general impression from these papers is that part of the reason that the warming looks so drastic is that we’re pulling out of a particularly cold time.  Take the following paper by Shaun A. Marcott, which points out that about 200 years ago we were in the coldest we’d been for five thousand years.

    I can keep doing this, or you can just look at the Pages2K consortium and see that things change quite a bit depending on which continent you are interrogating.  Or, for that matter, what proxy you use.  Here’s a proxy reconstruction that relies on grape harvests and ripening times:



    Published in Nature.  The

    This business that the picture changes depending on the measuring technique you use is quite well know.  Take this paper from Geophysics Research Letters.

    By combining 6 standard criteria to define variants of the basic regression method used in MBH98 we have found an enormous spread in the resulting millennial NHT reconstructions from AD 1400 onwards, with none of the criteria being solely accountable for the spread. This uncertainty persists even among the best performing variants, and we believe that we were able to trace it back to a scale mismatch between the full millennial and the calibrating proxy variations. Under such circumstances, the regression model leaves its generic domain of validity and is applied in an extrapolative manner. Even if linearity still holds for the larger scales, the error is prone to be linearly inflated by those scales.

    Any robust, regression-based method of deriving past climatic variations from proxies is therefore inherently trapped by variations seen at the training stage, that is, in the instrumental period. The more one leaves that scale and the farther the estimated regression laws are extrapolated the less robust the method is. The described error growth is particularly critical for parameter-intensive, multi-proxy climate field reconstructions of the MBH98 type. Here, for example, colinearity and overfitting induce considerable error already in the estimation phase. To salvage such methods, two things are required: First, a sound mathematical derivation of the model error and, second, perhaps more sophisticated regularization schemes that can keep this error small. This might help to select the best among the 64, and certainly many more possible variants. In view of the relatively short verifiable period not much room is left.

    Short summary is as follows: if you try to apply the Mann method, you can get all sorts of pictures of the past depending on how you run it.  And the further back you go, the less likely that it holds together.

    As regards the general business of proxies, here is Hans von Storch in Science:

    The centennial variability of the NH temperature is underestimated by the regression-based methods applied here, suggesting that past variations may have been at least a factor of 2 larger than indicated by empirical reconstructions.

    And from the text:

    Athough the amplitude of these preindustrial variations is still debated, according to the most quoted NH temperature reconstruction [Mann, Bradley, Hughes, 1998 (MBH98) (1) and Mann, Bradley, Hughes, 1999 (MBH99) (2)] and the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (7), these variations were of small amplitude. However, recent studies with general circulation models suggest that these centennial variations may have been larger

    The real argument, as has been said, about the hockey stick isn’t the blade but the stick – the long flatness doing nothing for a millenium.  What the von Storch paper is saying clearly is that this is nonsense, because it underestimates the noisiness of the signal.

    In summary then:

    1.  Our planet is warming.

    2.  Anyone who says human influence has nothing to do with it is wrong

    3.  Anyone who says that natural influences have nothing to do with it is also wrong.

    Now, dear reader, can I ask you this:  Has anyone ever laid out the issues like this for you?  I don’t follow the popular media on climate science, but has anyone ever written or said something like “Scientists are debating how clear our knowledge of the climate of the last thousand years is”?  Or “Scientists are concerned that earlier techniques may have underestimated the amount of climate variability over the last thousand years”?  Or even “We are living as part of a general global warming trend, but it varies from continent to continent, and we’re trying to determine how much of it is natural and how much is man made “?

    I have a distinct feeling that the answer to this is ‘no’.

    You see then how the dialogue of the deaf works.  Credible climate scientists hear all the accusations made, but they are looking at the primary work and they know how carefully it is done, so they think to themselves “Well, this lot must be a bunch of cranks”.  Meanwhile, the public is looking at the grossly distorted and sensational picture presented in the media and goes “Well, if they believe this, they must be frauds”.

    So much for the whole ‘Koch funded denialist machine’.

    And so much, also, for the idea of some scientific cabal.  Read back over those papers and look at the dates.  Reputable scientists have been disassembling the hockey stick for a long while now.  The reason that none seem to want to support Michael Mann is, I suspect, that they are just now realizing (as I have pointed out repeatedly) that he presents a different face to the world than the one he presents to the scientific community, or rather, a different stick.

    So, what does this mean for the future?

    Here’s where things get interesting, and also horribly difficult.  How solid our grasp on the past is proportional to how well we can predict the future.  As we’ve seen, the knowledge of the past is less than you might expect.  Hence the failure of current climate models to predict the current warming pause.

    (Remember Mann’s comment that we have very little data on ‘parts of the ocean’?  )

    The future is certainly uncertain, at least to a degree.  The trouble here is that ‘uncertain’ implies that things could go better than we think, they could also much worse than we think.  So here we enter fraught territory.

    Here, I cleave to the IPCC line on predictions, or more accurately, the ‘best guess’ on what will happen.  What you see if you read it is that there’s a problem.  What there is emphatically not is The End Of Days.

    Take, for instance, the issue of sea level rise.  As I mentioned before, there is a lot of hype on this – increased flooding and whatnot.  Al Gore, I repeat, makes much of the apocalyptic vision of first Greenland and then the Antarctic melting.  That would indeed be a disaster like you cannot imagine.

    The trouble with the Gore vision is that it isn’t backed up by the science.  The IPCC places the sea level rise between 0.33-0.66 cm (one to two feet), and the most extreme models I’ve seen published in Science place it at two meters over the course of the next century.  Now, that’s a lot, to be fair, but it’s a) not at apocalyptic levels, and b) at the end of the century.

    So here I need to make another adjustment:

    Any projection of doing things now to change things in the year 2100 is a complete waste of time.

    Why?  Because it cannot factor human ingenuity and human action.  imagine someone in the year 1914 trying to project the life of his great grandchildren in 2000.  Now add to the fact that technological progress is exponential, not linear.

    For this reason, I’m focusing on what they call the ‘near term’ climate change scenarios, the ones up to 2050.  Also, to be frank, the projections beyond the year 2050 are something of a dart board, with projections ranging from 0 degrees to 4.5 degrees increase.  Bearing in mind the troubles that models have, I’ve also restricted myself to the IPCC’s high confidence and very likely projections, given the troubles that the models tend to show (as documented previously).

    To summarize and simplify, we’ll see an increase in precipitation in the northern hemisphere, an increase in heat deaths with a larger decrease in cold deaths, and there will be an increase in flooding.  Tropical storms will change their distribution, though the IPCC seems to be unsure what form that will take – if someone is attributing hurricanes to global warming, they are simply not correct.  Disordered stuff about a new ice age in Europe (The Day After Tomorrow) is nonsense.  Upticks in temperature probably will see diseases like malaria spread further.  Agriculture is a bit of a difficult one to work out – there could be either a modest decrease or a modest increase in agricultural production.  Water stress will increase in some areas of the developing world, but will decrease in others.

    The IPCC is a weighty document, but I do encourage people to go and take a look at it for themselves.  I’d also recommend Bjorn Lomborg’s excellent film and bookd Cool It

    And before anyone starts up about Lomborg being ‘disproven’, please read the following.  I have carefully checked Lomborg’s footnotes and I have found that the bulk of the accusations against him are simply false.


    So what do we do?

    Here is the point I completely break with the consensus.  First of all, whenever you hear something like ‘Climate scientists say we should do such-and-such’, you’re being had.

    Why?  When was the last time you asked a plumber to look at your electrical wiring?  Or a computer scientist to do genetic engineering?

    Policy solutions and engineering solutions to climate change are outside the area of expertise of climate scientists.  They are restricted to saying “If we have such-and-such an amount of CO2, then this will happen”.  In terms of appeals to authority, they have no better claim than anyone else.

    If you want to talk about how to measure the costs of global warming and the various cost-effective solutions of it, as compared with other costs, then that belongs in the domain of the economists (see Lomborg, above).  Other specialists are needed for matters like carbon capture and the rest.

    I’ve written before why I think that big government solutions to global warming are nonsense.  Command and control, carbon cuts are just not going to happen.  Apart from anything else, it is deeply immoral to try to impose these on the developing world – and also is never going to work when it comes to imposing these means on China or India.

    The one thing that can solve this mess is research.  I’ve long been a proponent of a manhatten-style project to get us all off oil.  Apart from anything else, ISIS is getting something like three million dollars a day from Iraqi oil.  It’s not just a matter of climate policy, it’s a matter of civilizational security to fix this.  Further, there happens to be a cheap, clean source of energy with no carbon emissions: it is called nuclear power.  The more sensible and intelligent environmentalists have come out in favour of this energy source, and it would be an important move in the right direction.  Solar energy is currently too expensive, but further research and improvement is always possible.

    There is also the business of carbon capture.  Simply, once carbon is up, it’s up, and you cannot get it back down easily.  Ideally, we should be looking to find a way to capture carbon en masse, and bury it so that it can’t cause any further troubles.  I know that Richard Branson has been sponsoring research into exactly this.

    These outline some fruitful areas of research, and I maintain that a lot of that could be funded by private initiative.  We might actually get things done that way.

    In the meantime, there’s a lot of prosaic work of adaptation that can be done.  People don’t talk about this, but it is the main, and effective thing that we can do now.  Remember, a significant chunk of warming is coming no matter what is done, so adaptation is a necessity.

    For example, increased range of malaria is a worry.  But malaria is a problem right now in any case, so dedicating some time to eradicating it (draining swamps, exterminating mosquitoes, distributing bednets etc.) is money well spent.  Meanwhile, rising sea levels and flooding dangers can be compensated for by flood barriers – and we’ve seen in the case of New Orleans what happens when these are ill maintained (again, a point about big government failures, but I digress).

    Addendum: The Environmentalist agenda

    There’s something I should have touched on something, which is the perversion of science.  That’s much worse than anti-science.  We in the skeptisphere make fun of creationists, and they usually deserve it, but consider:

    Which evolutionary pseudoscience caused more damage during  history:

    a)  Creationism


    b) Eugenics?


    Creationism is obviously wrong, but Eugenics is less obviously so.  That is why it was so dangerous.  Eugenicists spoke and argued in the language of evolution, and did indeed champion reforms such as cleaning up the homes of the working class to prevent disease and mutation, improve diet and healthcare – and also laid the intellectual basis for some of the worst crimes in human history?

    I’ve written about this before.  Right-wing anti-science is annoying – left-wing antiscience is positively lethal.  Nor can we pretend that this sort of stuff is consigned to the dark days of Eugenics and Lysenkoism:

    James Lovelock has said it might be necessary to “put democracy on hold for a while”.

    Mayer Hillman, senior fellow at the Policy Studies Institute in London agrees with him.

    James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard institute, “Chinese Leadership needed to save humanity”.

    David Suzuki, Canada’s famous environmentalist: ““What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there’s a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they’re doing is a criminal act,”

    The New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman.  “One party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks.  But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today it can also have great advantages”.


    History seems to be repeating itself.  You get a number of people who can kinda, sorta talk sciencey who are perverting good science in the name of a monstrous ideology.  In the same way that you don’t have to be a molecular biologist to smell danger when someone says “MAO-A distribution proves that blacks will always be more criminal and violent”, you don’t have to be a climate scientist to smell danger when people start talking like that.

    This agenda has already done some awful things.  When you’ve seen Greenpeace & Children of the Earth bragging about how the block GM food to the worlds’ poorest, or prevent the building of hydroelectric dams and power stations, or John Kerry telling Africans that they shouldn’t build more farms because it releases CO2 – then you start to see this agenda in play.  And I’m not surprised that people don’t like it very much.







    Category: APGW

    Article by: The Prussian

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    • igsy

      I enjoyed reading this post. It ties in all the important strands. My own view, which I’m not implying is the same as yours, is that Mann’s hockey stick has set us all back many years. Fortunately, as you note, better efforts by Moberg and others suggest that the past climate was distinctly more variable than MBH98/99, M08, and the supposedly corroborating independent papers (that use the same problematic tree-ring proxies) would have us believe. (We are indebted to Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick for their groundbreaking work in identifying the problems in the paleoclimatological corpus).

      Can I say without dispute that most people who get called “deniers” believe that more CO2 will warm the planet, all else equal? I certainly do. The dispute is over the sensitivity, and I’m much more impressed by the transparency and the statistical rigour of the work by Nic Lewis than I am by the mainstream climatologists. All this points to a non-trivial – but far from catastrophic – amount of anthropogenic warming that is likely to be within the bounds of natural variability, albeit at a faster gradient. But there is a risk that it could be catastrophic, therefore we do need to think in terms of insurance.

      So it seems to me that a perfectly good societal compromise would be to embrace expansion of nuclear power as the only CO2-free continuous baseload power source (in the absence of scalable storage, which is likely to remain absent for many years); to accept fracking as a bridge fuel that delivers significantly lower CO2 emissions than coal per unit output; and, as you and Lomborg say, really ramp up the investment – a la Manhattan Project – in solar and especially grid-level storage technologies. Carbon capture, I personally believe, is a long shot, but we may as well give it a go.

      While it’s one thing for rich countries to divert resources into currently costly wind and solar developments, we need to get China and India on board, and despite the fact that they are incentivised to reduce coal burning because of the damaging effects of normal particulate pollution alone, they desperately need – and will not abandon – relatively cheap and continuous baseload power generation, which in the absence of nuclear means coal and gas. (The supposed high cost of nuclear is to a large extent an artefact of costly Western regulations, not all by any means sensible ones.) Anyone who thinks that on present trajectories China and India will make any meaningful dent in their carbon emissions through reducing their reliance on coal really is a denier.

      I’m sure the real concern most “deniers” have, is not that they are particularly worried about the share price of Exxon and others, but that a world of intermittent power and all it entails in terms of lifestyle, power availability and the emerging political apparatus required to administer, direct, and generally intervene and meddle in our day-to-day affairs, would be extremely unwelcome, and a price not worth paying.

      • ThePrussian

        Thanks. That’s pretty much my sense. I added a little bit to the above post, because I thought it was necessary.

    • Bill

      From the IPCC AR4, natural carbon emissions total about 771 billion tonnes per year and humans emit approximately 29 billion tonnes. That’s a grand total of about 800 billion tonnes. If my math is correct, humans are then responsible for 3.6% of the total carbon emissions per year. So Steyn is correct.

      Also from the IPCC AR4 report, 40% of the human emissions are absorbed, leaving 60% in the atmosphere. 60% of 3.6% is 2.2%.

      CO2 represents only 0.039% of the atmosphere. Increasing that by 2.2% is essentially negligible. The true effects of CO2 as it relates to planetary greenhouse effects is also very poorly understood. One of the reasons the climate models have done such a poor job is because they overstate the effect of CO2 on the planetary greenhouse effect.

      Add to this the fact that average global surface temperatures have not increased in nearly 18 years, and there’s more than enough reasons to be skeptical. But AGW climate believers don’t let that fact get in the way of their narrative. “Where’s the heat going then?” Into the ocean they tell us. Probably. Maybe.

      And while you may downplay the idea of most or all scientists falsifying their data, it certainly is suspicious that the original, unmodified data is so difficult to obtain. If climate science and climate scientists were truly on the up-and-up they would have no problems releasing all the original data along with whatever programs and algorithms were used to analyze that data.

      • ThePrussian

        I’d love to see the specific page reference, but assuming that all of that is completely accurate, the maths doesn’t stack up. I’m referring to the _increase_ in CO2. Natural sources are almost all reabsorbed but, as you point out, only about 60% of man made sources are. Hence the unprecedented level of Carbon Dioxide. Just look at that spike:


        Carbon dioxide _increase_ is predominantly human caused.

    • Brad Keyes

      OK, fine, let’s talk conspiracy facts (not “just” theories!).

      Climate scientists may or may not, in most cases, be honest scholars. But their profession has passively and silently benefited no end from the many years of lies that have been continually told in its name. And ordinary people are under no obligation to forgive “the scientists” for letting that happen.

      You say they don’t like getting involved in politics. Let’s ignore the fact that there are countless climate scientists who have NO hesitation whatsoever in getting involved in politics when it suits them! Even if they actually were an apolitical bunch of people, so what? That would be no excuse. Or rather, it’d be an excuse we’ve heard before, wouldn’t it, back when we wondered how ordinary, decent Germans could possibly have allowed concentration camps to be built next door to their ordinary, decent farms. “Oh, sometimes the screams would carry over the back fence on a still night… but we never had much interest in politics.” (Yes, I know, the comparison is obviously an extreme and hyperbolic one—but the principle of mass culpability still applies, even if the quantum of heinousness differs.)

      Fact: Rajendra Pachauri toured the world for *years* spreading the meme that IPCC reports were sourced exclusively, 100%, from peer reviewed scientific literature, and he succeeded to the point where just about every commentator took this myth for granted and would rather confidently repeat it at every opportunity. (Naturally, being science journalists, they never bothered to verify it—as I’m sure Pachauri knew they wouldn’t.)

      During all those years, what did “the world’s 2,500 leading scientists” do to correct the falsehood?

      Nothing, unless I missed it. Not one IPCC scientist got off his or her ass to speak up about what they knew was a lie. And this, despite professing a career that’s supposed to be synonymous with truthfulness.

      I believe that’s what’s known poetically as a conspiracy of silence. (It’s not REALLY a conspiracy because there’s no organization, no plot, no agreement—it’s a spontaneous shared behavior.)

      They were quite content, weren’t they, to leave it up to Donna LaFramboise and her unpaid readers to tally up the 5,587 non-peer-reviewed citations in AR4.

      Is there much doubt Pachauri would STILL be selling the same lie today if not for LaFramboise? Were “the scientists” ever planning on putting a stop to it? Or were they too busy attacking “denialists” for “misrepresentating” and “cherry-picking” “the science”?

      Strange, isn’t it, that they happily make themselves available to the media for the purposes of virulently denouncing non-alarmists, yet can’t ever be counted on to rein in the flagrant liars on their own “side” because, y’know, they just want to lead a quiet life of labwork.

      • ThePrussian

        First of all, please don’t use that comparison here. Thanks.

        Second, there are not ‘countless’ scientists involved in climate politics. I guarantee you, you have never heard of most of them. Of those in the public eye, most are just confused – they’re defending their science and not seeing the broader issue. I’m fortunate, because I served my political apprenticeship on both the left and the right, and I’m a working scientist – that’s why I can see all this.

        Yes there are some who have made that horrible pact – Hansen springs to mind, the late Stephen Schneider also. But Pachauri isn’t a climate scientist – he’s an electrical engineer and an activist.

        • Brad Keyes

          Sorry, I had no idea holocaust-denial was an impermissible allusion in the climate debate. My apologies.

          “Second, there are not ‘countless’ scientists involved in climate politics. I guarantee you, you have never heard of most of them.”

          I agree that those involved in politics are just the tip of the iceberg, but there’s no shortage of them in my country (Australia) alone. One of our most “respectable” climate scientists, Will Steffen, has contributed nothing that I can discern to our knowledge about the climate, yet is never shy to give macroeconomic advice—he was once the subject of a headline that read, “Make Tax Hurt, Scientist Advises PM.”

          So it boggles the mind (or it would, if I were sufficiently naive!) that none of them seemed to have a spare moment to contradict Pachauri’s systematic disinformation campaign w.r.t. the nature of IPCC reports. (Maybe they were afraid of being called voodoo scientists by a railroad engineer?)

          Nor has anyone in the climate “establishment,” to my knowledge, asked Pachauri to have the decency to refrain from likening and/or equating CAGW skeptics to lung-cancer deniers. (And I’m not holding my breath about Gore, who devised the trope.)

          And, at the risk of repeating myself, not a single Australian climate academic spoke out when the “scientist” David Karoly invented his libelous meme about a “relentless campaign of email death threats against our scientists” being waged by climate skeptics. This vile fiction was allowed to circulate for an entire year, totally unchallenged by the very people who could have disproven it simply by looking in their own inboxes, while a skeptical blogger with a law degree fought tooth and nail to compel university authorities to disclose the death threats, or lack thereof.

          Not one of them spoke up. For a year.

          I wonder why.

          Any theories? An aversion to politics, perhaps? (But then why did Karoly initiate the rumor in a newspaper interview in the first place?)

          It couldn’t be systemic, institutional moral corruption, could it? It couldn’t be that climate science, at least in Australia, is gangrenous en bloc, could it? Surely not.

          • Brad Keyes

            “But Pachauri isn’t a climate scientist – he’s an electrical engineer and an activist.”

            Interesting that you feel that’s relevant. Are you arguing that engineers are bound by lower standards of probity than scientists, and that if Pachauri’s PhD were in Climate Science he’d never have lied repeatedly about the peer-review content of IPCC reports?

            Or are you saying that the fact that electrical engineering is not a science degree is likely to enter into climate scientists’ calculations when wondering if they’re professionally obliged to correct his lies?

            “He may be the IPCC Chairman but his degree was awarded by the Engineering Faculty, which is a whole separate building. So it’s up to engineers to say something if they feel he’s lying, which he obviously is. Not my problem—I’m one of the world’s 2500 leading scientists.”

        • maniak123

          Correction – Pachauri is not electrical engineer, he is railroad engineer. But he is still considered an authority on global warming of man-caused variety.

    • RichardSmith

      “Basically, humans are releasing 26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere a year. That’s not disputed. We know that carbon dioxide traps heat. That’s not disputed either. So it’s just nuts to assume that we can change things on this scale with no consequence.”

      Are you sure you are a scientist?

      “Basically, humans are releasing 26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere a year.”
      – Carbon, or CO2?
      – So? The statement is just a big-sounding number and is meaningless without further context, e.g. half-life, re-absorption rates etc., etc. You may be sincere but it reads like value-loaded advocacy not science.

      1- Take a sheet of squared paper (4 or 5 mm, doesn’t make much difference).
      2- Take a pencil and shade in one square somewhere near the middle of the sheet.
      3- Shade in about the left third of the square on its right.
      4- If the page represents the entire atmosphere, the shaded part is represents the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere in Mauna Loa in 1950. Extend it by the thickness of a couple of pencil lines. That’s the current proportion.

      “That’s not disputed”
      – Err, it is actually; there are many other factors involved – see above.

      “We know that carbon dioxide traps heat”
      Agreed. But in itself it traps very little. It is important also to state that the absorption increases logarithmically and we are relatively close to the asymptote at the moment. In other words it doesn’t much matter whether we inject 26 billion or 260 billion tons into the atmosphere – the rain forest will love that.

      “So it’s just nuts to assume that we can change things on this scale with no consequence”

      No it isn’t, no one is assuming anything. YOU need to demonstrate that this is the case.

      If you mean by “change things” “emit CO2” that is a very misleading statement.

      AFAIK even crazy warmists accept that CO2 in itself will hardly do diddly squat (technical term, sorry).

      The whole CAGW theory which you seem to be defending depends on some posited amplification/forcing by water vapour +/- cloud effects, aerosols, albedo changes, pixie dust etc.

      Be honest, we don’t really know what the climate sensitivity for CO2 is. The computations over the last fifteen years have delivered progressively lower values. We are now approaching 1, meaning no effect whatsoever. The longer the ‘pause’ lasts, the lower this is going to get.

      Forget about CO2. That theory is a busted flush.

      PS_1: It’s not just Mann, it’s ‘the Team’. Climategate was a wonderful thing.

      PS_2: Close to 20 years of flatlining surface temperatures. “Global warming is real”. Really? Could we have some evidence-based argumentation on this blog?

      • ThePrussian

        “Are you sure you are a scientist?” Yes. And you are insulting.

        Carbon dioxide, thought that has increased to 34 billion tons a year. And we have a higher concentration of Carbon dioxide in the air than we have had for the last eight hundred thousand years.

        The evidence is there, if you care to read it. I specifically agreed that we don’t know the exact climate sensitivity to CO2 – but that means it could be much, much worse.

        • RichardSmith

          Sorry – it reads worse than it was intended. My apologies.

          But you are not responding to my points, so it seems that I hit a nerve.

          You are just giving me another large number (34bt) – but even bigger than the last one (26bt). Which one is it?

          No warming has taken place in the satellite record over nearly 20 years.
          The CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased in that time.
          How do you reconcile these two statements?

          If CO2 doesn’t do anything much, I am not at all worried about the trace amount of it in the atmosphere.

          Please forgive my frustration. We have had nearly fifteen years of hysteria: dig up you garden and plant cacti, your children will never see snow again, the Arctic will be ice free, all the glaciers are melting, don’t leave your cellphone charge in the socket, alpine plants are moving up mountains, there’s a bad moon on the rise…

          We know so little. I just hope we are prepared should the ‘pause’ turn out to be a peak. Somehow I think we will be taken by surprise.
          I really have no more that I can say to you…

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    • Bob Goodwin

      May I add some comments.
      I will dispute several minor assertions, because you placed value on them. I have had a plumber wire my house, and I am a computer scientist who dabbles quite aggressively in genetics and pathogens. I also had heard many times your central arguments about CO2, uncertainty, human causes and natural causes.
      I would also guess that we would both strongly agree that there will be a replacement for fossil fuels, and that science is key to getting us there.
      But the place where the well educated right gets its panties all crumpled up was left unaddressed by you. It is actually two very closely related issues.
      We know that ideology drives science. You seem to state that good will overwhelms these forces. I see huge science mistakes being made by closed groups of like minded scientists controlling the agenda in economics, and in various parts of medicine. But of course this occurs, there is a lot of money involved. For you to dismiss this undermines a lot of your argument, even if there are great people in these fields.
      The other big problem for scientists is the “97% agree” lie. If there is a single obligation of a scientist it is expose falsifiable facts. It was not enough for Copernicus to observe. He had to insist. By letting this lie fester, the basis of scientific trust was badly eroded. If you allow yourself to be raped, people will believe you to be a willing participant.

    • MikeNov

      I think the same forces that keep Mann at the top work in other parts of climate science as well. The IPCC reports, one had Mann as lead author when his chart became the ‘cover’. In the next report Briffa was lead author, and he went out of his way to make sure Mann was defended. For climate sensitivity, in the latest report they dropped the ‘best estimate’ of global warming from a doubling of CO2, which they had previously estimated as 3C. Nic Lewis recalculated what they should have gotten based on the the other numbers in the report, and it was 1.6C. They also put a 95% estimate of 1.5-4.5C leaving the high end in place and only dropping the low end.
      With modeling, the papers tend to talk about how much they agree with others. Then they went out of their way to avoid talking about how the models are not matching reality, tweaking the baselines and colors to get a better match.
      Having the editor resign for publishing Roy Spencer’s article in Remote Sensing is a level of pressure by Kevin Trenberth that is disquieting.

    • Chic Bowdrie

      Lately there have been challenges to the IPCC/consensus view that human emissions are predominately responsible for the increase in atmospheric CO2. Evan Mearns (http://euanmearns.com/whats-up-with-the-bomb-model/) demonstrates how C14 sequestration rates led the IPCC to overestimate the human contribution. This supports Murray Salby’s findings: http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2013/06/climate-scientist-dr-murry-salby.html

    • maniak123

      I have an issue with few of the points you making. I won’t go into all of them, as they are too many, but here are 2 that I wanted to talk about:

      1. Scientists, paraphrasing, are only interested in truth and science and there is no way they would be organized around global warming issue unless it is real.

      That is a very naive, IMHO, look at things. The scientists are people, just like everyone else. They have families, they have mortgages and car payments, they have same problems as everyone else, and they use same methods to solve them as everyone else. So, even if they do not put those research funds into their bank accounts directly, they put them into their bank accounts as a salaries that they continue to receive.

      Unless you are tenured, you have to bring grant money to continue your employment, or you going to find yourself out of job. Scientists on the level of principal investigators are fully responsible for funding themselves and their groups. Just to make it clear, I personally familiar with the system – I’ve worked for 10 years in MIT research lab.

      In order to have money you have to publish, you have to have collaborations, etc. You reputation is extremely important – and it takes very few people, as ClimateGate emails showed, to destroy your reputation.

      There are politics, and there are office politics – and none are above those. You don’t need conspiracy to understand the direction from which wind is blowing. If you know that your professional organization states that AGW is settled, no sane scientists who doesn’t have security of tenure or retirement is going to say anything otherwise.

      Using global warming in your science work does not produce any negatives and it could produce positives. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

      “Prof Mhaisalkar, said this innovation will pave the way for extending the range of electric cars, as the integrated design combines the two of the most important parts of an electric car, thus reducing its complexity into one highly efficient solution.

      “With the global population of electric vehicles set grow rapidly to 20 million in 2020, a more efficient electric motor cum air-con compressor, will enable cars to travel further on a single charge,” added Prof Mhaisalkar. “This energy efficiency will in turn reduce overall greenhouse emissions and promote sustainable transportation solutions.”

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-scientists-award-in-motor-electric.html#jCp

      See what just happened here – obligatory reference to reducing greenhouse gases. No conspiracy of any kind required. After all, you don’t need to talk to other drivers to start moving when traffic light turns green – the rules are clear for everyone.

      2. “Whenever I read a scientific paper my very strong prior is that the author is honest and scrupulous, and knows more about whatever it is than I do”

      Here is excerpt from Economist:

      “A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated. Even that may be optimistic. Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 similarly important papers.”

      Or here is actually published paper, with title “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”

      As an electrical engineer, I often look for published papers in my field. I am not at all surprised to find that good part of them are total irreproducible garbage.

      I am not sure why peer review is considered to be golden standard of science – it is completely failed, IMO, to separate good stuff from bad.
      Unfortunately, I do not have as high opinion of published papers as you do.