This is a minor comment on this good work, but I can’t open certain documents because of what this Mac and Abobe construe as encoding errors.
It’s the “ftp” prefix on three .pdf url links, I think.
Thanks for doing this. Perhaps now the information on climate change these folks have succeeded in downplaying so long can reach the light of day in the halls of power.
I have a feeling Barton has bitten off more than he can chew.
Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 18 Jul 2005 @ 9:48 AM
Such a clear and complete response is likely to be wasted on those looking to undermine our knowledge of the actual “state” of Earth’s climate, but thanks for a remarkable effort to preach to the tone-deaf.
By the way, it’s Malcolm with an “l”. I’d be a malcomtent if this happened to me, but the respondents were quite measured in their response.
1. Thank you for making these responses available. I can’t read them all right now, but just scanning them is reassuring. Certainly one can tell this sort of thing was anticipated and I’m glad you got counsel.
2. Re #2 (Jankowski):
Perhaps the good folk at ClimateAudit would agree that this post IS a scientific discussion: the scientific work is being questioned, and this is a response to that questioning. Certainly permitted. And the creators of this website can bend their own rules.
Spin it however you want, but even Gavin admitted “this is a special case.” And I simply posed the question, not criticized its presence. It is a more than worthwhile topic to discuss.
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 18 Jul 2005 @ 1:45 PM
RE #2 & 7, This whole thing is under the purview of science. ANTHROPOGENIC GW is a multidisciplinary topic, certainly a topic of many natural & physical sciences, but let’s face it the primary FORCING is us humans, so GW ultimately falls under social & behavioral sciences. We need to understand why people are emitting GHGs at such high levels, and why they do not cease & desist (or at least reduce) in the face of scientific evidence that GW may harm them and/or their progeny & others on planet earth. Earlier research showed that many simply didn’t understand the problem – many confused it with the “ozone hole,” and thought buying a pump hair spray rather than the CFC spray would solve the problem.
Now research is going into the psychological, cultural (incl. ideological), and social (incl. political) factors or “forcings” that make contrarians so resistant to GW science. You yourself have been a valuable source of insights. If you could just explain from your own point of view why you think you are so resistant to GW science, that would help me with the research I’m doing, and the paper I’m presenting in the fall at the American Anthropological Association conference. This is the participant-observation method of research – a favorite in anthropology.
The link to MBH 1999 is broken, at least in my browser. The reason is that the file actually uses a lower case “pdf” as the file extension and the link on this page specifies all capitals. So the correct link is:
Readers who feel they’d like to give moral support to the work of Mann, Bradley, Hughes etc can sign a petition here against the politicisation of science. I should emphasise that this petition was set up independently of the scientists in question. Comments are encouraged, and will be delivered by Joe Barton in due course!
This is unbelievable, what I have been reading on this page.
It is a matter of harrassment of scientists from members of the Congress.
This is similar to what KGB/STASI did to dissidents in the glory days of the Soviet Union.
Scientists should spent their time on science and not on defending themselves against attacks from politicians associated to the oil industry.
I have in general a great respect and admiration for the Congress and their members, but the actions taken by one member of the Congress are not in line with my expectations and must be condemned.
It is a matter of freedom of science.
[Response: While this issue is clearly of some concern (as outlined clearly in the various letters), it’s not clear to me that associating this with the much worse behaviour of past East European authorities is particularly helpful. Please keep the rest of the thread focused on the issues here, rather than on comparisons with other, much more serious, cases. -gavin]
Comment by Klaus Flemloese, Denmark — 18 Jul 2005 @ 4:22 PM
fFreddy, I’m afraid post #8 was no joke at all. Millions of people continue to consume resources at unsustainable rates with no consideration of future consequences.
I agree with Lynn, as well, in that people confused the whole ozone layer problem with GW. In fact, those who do not read up on environmental issues still do. Many people I’ve spoken to about GW bring up the ozone layer, thinking the two issues were entirely related.
No, fFreddy. Lynn’s post is, unfortunately, no late April Fool’s Day prank whatsoever.
It is unfortunate that politicians like Congressman Joe Barton and some of the more histrionic members of the media have politicized science. We have also seen a proliferation of “Think Tanks” that are operating with a political and economic agenda that have nothing to do with science.
One of the tragic results of this is that we now have a significant portion of the population that is un-informed and ill-informed on the critical issue of climate change. Scientists are having their reputations and credibility trashed by unscrupulous individuals and organizations. Their goal is not scientific debate to discover truth, it is blatantly political.
Those scientists who are doing real research and writing peer reviewed articles are facing a shrewd propaganda machine bent on clouding the issues. To large a portion of the American public is woefully uneducated about scientific methodology. The essence of what science is against scientists when facing these opponents. Scientists are now drawn into a world of spin, marketing and distorted meaning that they never have had to face before.
Professor George Lakoff of UC Berkeley has written extensively on how reactionairies are using language to manipulate and control. Scientists caught in this battle would be well advised to start reading Professor Lakoff, so that they can better defend themselves in this new arena. He has analyzed the effective and distorting rhetoric of the extreme right and has interesting ideas on how to counter it.
I am aware the phrase “Global Climate Warming” has confused a lot of the public. It semantically implies something that sounds rather nice to the public. Global Climate Disruption begins to describe something that gets the public attention. The coming climate changes may not be nice is the message. Without compromising science and the search for a clearer understanding of the universe we live in, scientists will be forced to become frontline fighters in political wars and learn a whole new vocabulary and style to defend themselves and the important ideas and knowledge they are attempting to communicate.
Re #8: “We need to understand why people are emitting GHGs at such high levels, and why they do not cease & desist (or at least reduce) in the face of scientific evidence that GW may harm them and/or their progeny & others on planet earth.”
Consider, if you will, smoking. People continue to inhale cancer causing compounds directly into their lungs despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that smoking may harm then and/or their progeny & others on planet earth.
It is not so hard to understand people’s actions in the case of GHG and GW because the links are so much less direct. Indeed the costs are obvious – how much do you want to pay for a litre of petrol/gallon of gas? – and the benefits are not. Just some idle speculation and ironic juxtaposition – I wonder how many climate scientists smoke.
RE #8, I did write it in a bit of a humorous vein, but the content is serious – anthropogenic environmental problems are within the purview of social & behavioral sciences – they are an indirect way in which people relate to each other as perpetrators & victims. Even the natural environment is a factor to be considered in soc/beh sci studies, as it impacts us, though we tend to hold it constant in our studies.
As for cigarette smoking, well that tells us a lot about human nature (psychological-cultural-social factors). This is not a scientific study, but I’ve noticed that gamblers tend to smoke more than non-gamblers (just go to Las Vegas or Bingo night at church). I would hate to believe that human nature & cultural & social factors are so perverse that we are doomed to experience the worse-case GW scenario. I’ve been interested in revitalization (social) movement theory, and hope we humans will form one soon, & rally in time to stem the worst of GW.
RE others that bring up the costs of addressing GW, as I’ve mentioned before, we have lowered our GHGs by more than 1/2 since 1990 cost effectively (while increasing our living standard) & are laughing all the way to the bank. In economic terms our U.S. economy is well inside the Production Possibilities Frontier (it’s very inefficient, given the cost-effective, off-the-shelf technology available). It’s really too bad if others want to persist in inefficiency and wastefulness & lose their money & destroy our world. Why don’t we put our energies into implementing & finding cost-effective solutions, rather than persisting in stubborn harmfulness. Where is American ingenuity & the spirit of challenge when we need it???
The high road exists and is being traveled by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes (and by the organizations). I applaud Dr. Mann for using this opportunity to explain the science in terms anyone can understand.
The inclusion of the responses by RealClimate is a public service and is vital as the scientific aspects interface with the political aspects of climate change. Scientific freedom is essential for those who are working in fields that have an impact on public policy, and it is also essential that scientists be able to follow the data without fear that their conclusions will upset the wrong people.
I don’t see why the New York Times article should be called misleading. The article seems a good summary of the situation. I would be pleased and relieved if most other newspapers and news magazines would do as good a job reporting on climate issues as does the Times.
Wow, I’ve just now read the letter to Mann (made me angry) and Mann’s response. The latter was excellent. Not only was science defended in a dignified manner (with a couple of gentlemanly barbs deservedly thrown in), but I learned something, too. I will have to read up on the RE statistic after the summer (we still use r^2 or root mean square error in my field).
Re #20. Lynn I’m only a casual browser of this site so I’ve missed a bunch of your earlier posts – can you elaborate on who the ‘we’ is that has reduced GHGs by 50+% since 1990 please and give an indication of which changes were most effective?
RE #16: I think this recommendation will be of limited use. Lakoff seems to assume that the final filter placed before the public’s eyes, the mass media, is neutral and that presented content simply reflects progressives’ own inability to properly frame issues.
But the familiar brands that still broadcast news and opinion are not the same entities that existed even 15 years ago, and they are increasingly acting as communications organs for corporate PR and the politicos that serve them. They typically ignore (or reject through punditry) points of view that might threaten the profit models of the Fortune 500 and the specific conglomerates of which they are a part. So do not expect the overall portrayal of your activities and testimony to be fair or in the spirit of public service.
Say hello to more ‘egdy’ coverage of a politically-manufactured controversy interspersed with soothing, idyllic ads from the likes of Exxon.
Comment by Christopher Laprise — 19 Jul 2005 @ 5:20 AM
RE: #15 & #25(below).
Thanks for the BBC link, however I think Myron Ebell in the quote at the end, (“put science on trial”), portrayed himself as an “Inquisitor” of science. I get the feeling the editor had his tounge firmly planted in his cheek when he selected the traditional last word for the “skeptic”.
RE: #25 and RealClimate Editors:
Love the site, it’s often posted on slashdot.org (“Say hello to more ‘egdy’ coverage”), as a “THE” refrence site for everthing climate. Post a link to this story over at slashdot and you may get a formidable army of nerds on your side.
Comment by Alan. Mortimer. — 19 Jul 2005 @ 10:47 AM
I though I posted this earlier. I apologise if you have already received it.
I have some questions on the MBH reconstruction.
[Response: Many such posts are filtered out, as was yours originally, because the questions raised have already been addressed numerous times on this site, or are addressed elsewhere in material that we link to offsite. That having been said, its useful every once and a while to use one such post to make some general points. See responses below. -mike]
1. What is the reason for the sudden sharp upwards inflection just after 1900. This is not something which can be seen in any of the various, measured surface temperature records?
[Response: Your assertion is peculiar, and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The increase in the early 20th century is well known from the instrumental record of global and hemispheric mean temperatures (which extends back into the mid 19th century). See for example the University of East Anglia/CRU global temperature record. – mike]
2. Is it a coincidence that this inflection occurs roughly around 1902 -i.e. just at the start of the period (1902-1980) that MBH use to ‘centre’ the data series?
[Response: See above, and note in particular that the Mann et al reconstruction was, of course, shown to match the instrumental record well during both the calibration interval (1902-1980) and the pre-calibration “verification” interval (1856-1901). For a readily-available graphic indication of this point, see this publication (which is available online here (along with links to the data):
Mann, M.E., Gille, E., Bradley, R.S., Hughes, M.K., Overpeck, J.T., Keimig, F.T., Gross, W., Global Temperature Patterns in Past Centuries: An interactive presentation, Earth Interactions, 4-4, 1-29, 2000.
See in particular Figure 7 and associated data here -mike]
3. As it’s unlikely that the sudden rise is anything to do with an increase in GHG emissions (CO2 is only 295 ppm in 1900 as quoted by Prof Mann on this site) it would seem to be caused by an increase in solar radiation. If so, this increase would appear to be unprecedented (according to MBH) in the last 1000 years. Is this actually the case – or is it that the reconstruction does not replicate the true amount of variability for the 900 years between 1000 and 1900.
[Response: There are numerous detailed discussions already available on this site comparing modeled and reconstructed hemispheric temperature variations over the past 1000 years. The model results (which are based on driving various climate models with estimated solar, volcanic, and anthropogenic radiative forcing changes over this timeframe) are, by in large, remarkably consistent with the reconstructions, taking into account the statistical uncertainties. – mike]
RE #24, the “we” is my husband & myself. The biggest GHGs reducer was our SunFrost frig (see http://www.sunfrost.com ) in 1990, which uses 1/12 the electricity of our old clonker. Along with greatly reduced food spoilage it gave us a “payback in savings” time of less than 15 years, & is going on to save us $$. We changed the kitchen fixture from in an amber chimney chandelier with 5 60 w bulbs (300 w) to a more attractive fixture & 15 watt CF globe that gave us more light, & later installed CFs nearly everywhere. I bought a used bicycle (also great for health) & offset a bit of driving with that & walking; we were already close to work & stores, being conscientious of the 70s energy crisis & entropy (other benefits of close location are less stress & road pollution & more time with family). We installed low-flow toilets & showerheads, reducing the energy to pump & heat water by 1/2 (I figure the $6 showerhead will save us $2000 in its 20 year lifetime). We turn off water while brushing teeth/shaving, off lights not in use, & engine in drive-thrus. We let grass go brown in summer (itâ??s drought-resistant, and only once had to reseed a few small patches) – except the summer we sold our house. Jacket for water heater, caulking, added insulation. I close vents in rooms not being used; line-dry some clothes (requires less ironing, folding). Use reusables, avoid throwaways. Recycle (esp aluminum) & buy recycled. Became vegetarian (great for health), but backslid to fish; organics; local produce when available; vegetable garden & composting (we were already doing that); reduced lawn with drought-resistant plants, mainly by thinning & spreading existing plants (improves prop value). We use power strips to turn off appliances that have unnecessary clocks, etc. (we already know we’re running out of time!). We buycott: Switched to a large Chicago area grocery chain that got onto EPA’s GreenLights program, installed single tubes with reflectors & electronic ballasts, saving 3/4 over previous double-tube fixtures, while emitting same lumens, saving them over $1 million/year, paying for the fixtures/installation in savings within 2 years.
I called our waste treatment facility to suggest capture & use of CH4 & they were already doing it, lowering our bill to boot. Tried but failed to get our church & workplace to become energy/resource efficient/conservative.
I guesstimate we had reduced our GHGs by at least 1/3 over our 1990 emissions, when we moved to Texas and got on Green Mountain 100% wind energy and are now saving $1/month over conventional. So now we are emitting less than 1/2 what we emitted in 1990. I wonder if Joe Barton is on wind, or even knows it’s available here & cheaper??
When hybrids come with a plug-in feature & a 10+ mile range (available in Europe, Japan & for fleet vehicles here), I want to buy one. Since we usually drive less than 3,000 miles per year, this will not save us money but I’ll be happy to drive on wind and avoid gasoline for 90%+ of our driving. If I had time & lived close to an electric vehicle association (see http://www.eaaev.org), I’d do a conversion to an electric car (save big in energy & maintenance).
Our flying (mainly work-related) has not been reduced much. However, airlines have become more efficient over the decades. Hope they come out with hydrogen fuel-cell planes.
I know there is much more we could do, if we really put our mind to it, and weren’t so lazy and busy.
a similiar chart for US personal income.
The author there notes:
“You will not be outraged by outrageous statistics
if you don’t comprehend the numbers.
Unfortunately most people don’t know how to visualize large numbers.”
[Response: Actually it was Jerry Mahlman, then head of GFDL in Princeton.- gavin]
Scientists respond to intimidation from Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)
RealClimate has the complete scoop on how scientists have responded to efforts to intimidate scientists by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) over a particular detail (the now famous hockey stick) in the climate science. I think that Thomas Crowley summes it up in…
Michael Mann and the others who were sent letters are among the best climate scientists in the world. Their work is subject to the peer-reviewed “scientific court of inquiry” only, not some committee of the House of Representatives. This politically motivated attack is tantamount to a kind of scientific “McCarthyism” reflecting the paranoia, megalomania and assault on civil liberties of that era. You can not and will not alter the reality of climate change by ad hominem attacks on those who bear the bad news.
Re #13 This is unbelievable, what I have been reading on this page. It is a matter of harrassment of scientists from members of the Congress.
Yes, that’s right. I did not allude to “McCarthyism” lightly.
I think it was a good choice of you to take this on this page (despite your rule). However, I am not seeing why this should be an inapropriate question? Scientists too often spend time amongst themselves as to the point that they lose the possibility of positive criticism and objective research (see BBC and “Memory of Water” – hoax).
I am also inclined to dismiss some of the comments here, because of politicing views (not every critical person is a “puppet” of the oil industry, nor is the oil industry “bad”).
So, all in all, the questions by a concerned Texan statesman were only right, because he has to decide what to do in politics and he needs a sound background in science to do so. (Which is doing nothing at best- my own opinion)
However, I have one big questions ( I can see that intellectual right’s issues may be invovled here), why don’t you just give those critics all the so-called unreleased code to vanquish their position once and for all?
[Response: You should carefully re-read the first of the two “main points” (in particular, the hyperlink therein) of our posting!]
Good responses by the 3 scientists! Is it too naive to think that some meaningful education of the congressman and his staff may occur, regarding the scientific process and the status that confers on scientific statements (as compared to political hot air)? Between the tartness of Dr. Bradley, the thoroughness of Dr. Mann, and the earnestness (including hospitable invitation) of Dr. Hughes, something will surely hit a soft spot. Surely it would be un-Christian to suggest that no correspondence could have any impact on the souls of our fellow citizens from Texas?
Is it too naive to think that some meaningful education of the congressman and his staff may occur, regarding the scientific process and the status that confers on scientific statements (as compared to political hot air)?
And the answer to your question is “Yes”, it is too naive to think…. The seriousness of this attack on science can not be overstated and must be nipped in the bud. C’mon people, consider who you’re dealing with.
I read Mann’s response and view it as entirely unnecessary. In my view [not the view of RC, of course], “Screw you” would have been a more appropriate answer. Nonetheless, Mann convincingly argues the science in his letter, as if this whole process had some legitimacy.
You won’t find much support from economists is your quest. Bill Nordhaus, perhaps the dean of economists studying climate change, has written the following (pretty much representative of the center of gravity of economists views on this) in the special issue that I referenced:
“The major conclusions are: (a) the net global cost of the Kyoto Protocol is $716 billion in present value, (b) the United States bears almost two-thirds of the global cost; and (c) the benefit-cost ratio of the Kyoto Protocol is 1/7. Additionally, the emissions strategy is highly costineffective, with the global temperature reduction achieved at a cost almost 8 times the cost of a strategy which is cost-effective in terms of “where” and “when” efficiency. These conclusions assume that trading in carbon permits is allowed among Annex I countries.” http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/Kyoto.pdf
If you want to advocate for Kyoto then, rather than economics, you are probably on more solid ground referring to intangibles like international cooperation and environmental symbolism. But you may be on even stronger ground yet by expanding your solution space beyond just considering Kyoto. There might be better options out there.
Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 20 Jul 2005 @ 10:24 AM
“We must burn down the observatory so this will never happen again!”
One hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt used the special powers of the legislative branch to tackle corruption and graft. Now, the his heirs in the GOP shamefully use the same powers to obliterate progress and reason. House Energy Committee Chairman…
Hmm, but as I understand it this is in the short term, what about the long run… say 2100?
If i remember it correctly didn’t “Blomberg?” get criticised for his assumptions that money was better spent elsewhere? (i.e. 3-world)
[Response: Lomborg’s so-called “Copenhagen Consensus” is a textbook example of “framing” (see comment #16). It basically frames the issue thus: given limited funds, should we rather help the poor in Africa or do something about global warming? Ever since, I regularly meet industry representatives at panel discussions who in great moral earnesty tell me that we cannot spend money on the global warming problem because it is better spent to help the poor in Africa.
Of course, this is just a clever framing trick. In the real world, nobody has suggested that the costs of reducing our emissions should come out of development aid budgets. In contrast, reducing emissions involves things like perhaps driving a fuel efficient car rather than a wasteful SUV. It involves having energy efficient appliances at home (much of which can be done at zero cost or even a net financial gain). And it involves investments in renewable energy, which will probably lead to higher electricity prices. The question is not whether we want to take money away from the poor in Africa, it is more like: are we willing to accept an electricity bill that is $15 higher per month per household, in exchange for a stable climate? When asked in this way, an overwhelming majority of Americans is in favor of limiting emissions. -Stefan]
Going down this path, you’ll quickly find yourself in a debate on discounting and the time value of action/resources, which will take you deep into discussions of subjects such as environmental ethics, future/present generations, the foundational assumtions of the discipline of economics, etc. — all very important and interesting subjects, but ones on which there is unlikely to be forged a new consensus on meaningful time scales related to climate change. (And an assumption that a consensus on these subjects would motivate certain actions is itself dubious.) Along these lines this exchange may be of some interest:
Since this is off topic here (and thanks for the RC folks for the forum), if you’d like to continue to discuss, visit us over at Prometheus where I’d be happy to try to draw in some others. http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/
Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 20 Jul 2005 @ 12:10 PM
This is obviously an attempt to intimidate scientists into silence. But I believe that this could turn out to be a great opportunity to warn the public about the dangers of global warming. We have often complained that the public is uneducated about global warming. Take this opportunity to educate the public.
The first thing these scientists should do is to hand over the requested documents. However they should hand over everything they have connected with global warming. It would take Barton and his staff the better part of a year to sort it all out. Fellow scientists should submit there own documents to Barton. Make it as unpleasant for him and his staff as possible. The next thing is to publically go on the offensive. Barton’s connections to the oil and gas industry (I’m sure he has some) should be highlighted at every opportunity. This should especially be done at the hearings themselves. Openly question his motives at every opportunity. He is obviously doing this at the behest of the oil industry; a fact the public has a right to know. What you want to do is to put Barton on the defensive.
It should also be made clear to the public that there is no debate about global warming. It is real and it is happening! Point out the fact that those who question global warming tend to work for the oil industry-so their true motives must be questioned.
A final thought. Back in the 1950’s scientists first raised the possibility that cigarette smoking causes cancer. The powerful tobacco industry spent the next 50 years trying to debunk the science. Finally, they were forced to admit that cigarette smoking does indeed cause cancer. We may not have 50 years when it comes to global warming.
Comment by Angela Williams — 20 Jul 2005 @ 12:37 PM
Responding to Texas Congressman Joe Barton
The three scientist who were called out on the floor by Congressman Joe Barton from Texas have provided their responses. When last we looked, the theoretically intelligent amongst the right were slavering over the possibility that these uppity scientis…
The responses of Professor Mann and the other scientists are thorough and professional, but it cannot be avoided that Congressman Barton has mounted an attack and it is based on the destructive campaign of M&M. They in turn have largely based their attacks on holding science to a standard of perfection and thus clamoring endlessly over petty mistakes of fact and alleged procedural flaws having little or no effect on outcomes.You can make book on it that Barton will follow the same approach as he seeks public attention to build his political capital. Must the science be utterly perfect?
I would like to suggest that Dr. R.A. Pielke Jr. has made an important contribution to public understanding by being the first to openly broach what can be called Messy Science. This is not just a question of errors in papers, or of the new pushing aside the old, or polemics, or technical controversies. As he described it in Promotheus, it is a general fact that scientists and their methods of work can be ill organized, that things can be hard to find once used and put aside, and that the rush to get the work done can leave all sorts of things trailing that never do get…finished.
This bit of social reality (if it is OK to call it that) opens the door for the general reader to get a better appreciation of a reasonable approach to viewing the efforts of scientists. Without it one is easily stopped by opportunists who will find petty errors, like M&M did using about 17 1/2 pages of the 20 pages of their first article to describe them, then using the claim that only perfection is acceptable as a basis for denouncing a major collaborative work that has been peer reviewed and even had its conclusions reproduced several times since. Dr. Pielke’s remarks point toward a needed re-balancing in such matters. He was joined in comments by a number of scientists. Dr. James Annan explained that messy features are found not only in climate science. Dr. Kooiti Matsuda explained, with careful precision, practical and ethical difficulties in collaborative work with respect to code writing. And Dr. Hans von Storch explained difficulties of retrospective efforts to untangle who-did-what and what may or may not still be extant among a variety of contributions to method. He also provided a stunning example of scientific forthrightness in his description.
A big gap in understanding for the general reader has been identified with a resulting gain in reason, for which Dr. Pielke may be thanked.
re #5 && #22 (apropos of the New York Times coverage).
It seems the web and print versions of the article were different. The print version (which prompted my comment)was heavily edited, ended with the quote by a spokesman for the Energy and Commerce Committee, and focused on the spat between the two Senators.
1. What is the reason for the sudden sharp upwards inflection just after 1900. This is not something which can be seen in any of the various, measured surface temperature records?
[Response: Your assertion is peculiar, and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The increase in the early 20th century is well known from the instrumental record of global and hemispheric mean temperatures (which extends back into the mid 19th century). See for example the University of East Anglia/CRU global temperature record. – mike]
I am actually quite familiar with the the CRU temperature record and am well aware that there is an increase in the early part of the 20th century. Let’s just say I believe there is a ‘visual anomaly’ between the CRU record and the reconstruction. Not to worry we’ll let that pass. Could I, though, just ask for a comment or opinion on one aspect of the reconstruction.
Ok – let’s accept that the reconstruction is broadly correct – particularly with respect to the period 1850-1980. Now – as you point out – the CRU record and the reconstruction both show a sharp increase in the early 20th century.
So – what in your opinion was responsible for this?
I assume it’s due to an increase in solar activity and/or a decrease in volcanic activity. We know that additional GHGs cannot be the cause as there was no discernible increase in the atmospheric concentration from the the pre-industrial period. What’s more James Hansen (with Gavin as a co-author) has produced a paper which implies a time lag of several decades before the full warming response is realised.
Mike – your reconstruction shows this rise to be without precedent in the previous 900 years, so I’m interested in your view as to why this particular change in solar/volcanic forcing was so unusual. As you point out other studies agree with the MBH study so I would have thought what amounts to a sudden global climate shift would be of major interest to climate scientists everywhere yet one sees relatively little written about it. Anything you can tell me, therefore, would be greatly appreciated.
From the Union of Concerned Scientists: “UCS President Kevin Knobloch is scheduled to appear on the PBS television program NOW to talk about the growing problem of political interference in science this Friday, July 22, 2005…. The hour-long program is expected to focus on one well-known example of scientific abuse: the Bush administrationâ��s long history of manipulating, suppressing, and distorting the science on global warming. Last month, the New York Times reported that Phil Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist working for the White House, edited scientific climate change reports to significantly exaggerate uncertainty about the science behind global warming. Two days after the Times article, Cooney resigned and took a job with Exxon-Mobil.”
RE #35, the best economic argument can be found in the work of Amory Lovins, who figures the U.S. could reduce its fossil fuel consumption by at least 3/4 cost-effectively & without lowering productivity, given current technology. He has examples of some businesses reducing even 90%, without lowering productivity, by “tunneling through.” Even if he’s overly optimistic, a 50% reduction still sounds very good! See http://www.natcap.org and http://www.rmi.org
Now why do we need Kyoto, if we can reduce so drastically in a money-saving manner without lowering productivity. The answer comes from some research I did preparing a “business & environment” course. For instance, 3M started 3P (Pollution Prevention Pays) after they told their all their workers, from assembly line to engineers, to start finding ways to reduce pollution to meet future regs in ways that wouldn’t cost them too much. Their workers found plenty of ways to reduce in ways that save money – I think over $1 billion to date. When they asked the engineers why they hadn’t come up with those money-savers before, they replied that it wasn’t put to them that way. Dow has its similar WRAP (Waste Reduction Always Pays), and I read that Dow would have continued to reduce pollution/waste cost-effectively, if the head & impetus of that program had not retired. Another example was a plating company in Mass. that was polluting the river & knew it had to reduce to meet tougher future regs. They tried reducing their water, but still couldn’t meet regs, until they developed a “closed-loop” system – separating out the pollutants (which were valuable resources) & recycling the water, reducing their pollution to almost nothing. They figured the system would pay for itself in a couple of years, except that the water main for the city broke for three days a few months later & they were able to keep up production, saving them $150,000, nearly paying for the system right then.
The fact is that regs & Kyoto are ultimately great for business – it gets them to think outside the box, & more often than not come up with solutions that are even better than their earlier business-as-usual. I have some archaeological examples, as well. The principle is that some barrier, natural or artificial, leads to great break-throughs. Refusing Kyoto, as the U.S. has done, is tantamount to stifling economic progress, even if GW is totally false & later disproved. It is tantamount to destroying the economy, if GW is real, because (I’ll state it again) the environment is fundamental, the economy contingent. It surprises me (and angers me as a tax-payer funding public education) that it takes so much smarts to figure that one out.
RE #16, I agree with #25, though I think framing is also very important (I take a nondeterministic, more ecological, multivariable approach). But one frame that irks me a bit is the binary structural framing of liberal v. conservative, blue v. red. What about green?
Re #33 and #34, it is important to distinguish between audiences. Rep Barton will not be swayed by evidence. He is on a witchhunt. Some of his requests might be relevant, but the demand for complete CVs, the repetition of known lies from the WSJ etc make clear this is not a genuine fact-finding mission.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there who have not followed this closely. They are open to being swayed, and clearly written, convincing and polite responses will move them. Hopefully, really good responses will cause Barton to go beserk and lose even more credibility. As a science communicator (rather than research scientist) I think this has been handled well so far.
I am unsure why you have not posted the following, which I sent on 19 July:
I find it interesting that Michael Mann, in his letter to the House Committee, describes Steve McIntyre as a “mining industry executive” and McIntyre’s own biography (www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/stevebio.doc) describes him as working “in the mineral business”. Both descriptions are pretty euphemistic. Around the time of the writing of McIntyre and McKitrick (2003; the Energy & Environment paper) and of the above biography (dated in October 2003), McIntyre was actually a “Strategic Adviser” to CGX Energy Inc. who describe their “principal business activity” as “petroleum and natural gas exploration” (cgxenergy.ca/investors/CGX_AR03_part2.pdf). CGX Energy Inc. occupy the same Canadian address given for McIntyre in McIntyre and McKitrick (2003), an address which is also occupied by Northwest Exploration Company, another business which apparently engages in oil and gas exploration (or at least a company with the same name does). McIntyre was also President of Northwest Exploration Company.
Now, if you believe that you can divorce the message from the messenger, then this may all be irrelevant information. However, I still find it interesting that nowhere in McIntyre’s biography or in his other public writings can I find any mention of his involvement in the oil and gas industry.
You may consider this as “political”, but so is much of this thread (as others have pointed out). The point is not to pretend that everyone who has any connection with the fossil fuel industry should be disbelieved, but rather to indicate a small but significant discrepancy in the common description of Steve McIntyre. I know it is only a marginal piece of information, but so is much that is on this thread.
Anyway, an emailed reason for rejection would have been nice. However, if you are snowed up with postings and mine is just in the queue, please ignore this.
This Barton case exemplifies Michel Foucault’s dictum. We’ve all heard that “knowledge is power,” but Foucault said “power is knowledge” (meaning that power determines knowledge). As a post-structuralist he was going beyond cultural (binary frame) determinism. The Barton case is a blatant attempt of power to control and determine knowledge. As mentioned, I’m not a determinist. I see a reality principle (a term psychologists use for non-psych variables): even if the powerful persist in distorting and covering up GW science, and GW is true according to or beyond what CC scientists are telling us, eventually GW will impact humanity to an extent that powerful contrarians like Barton & Co will be quashed, along with a lot of other harm to a lot of innocent people. I pray we avert such disaster rather than head straight into it, led by unscrupulous shepherds like Barton.
I agree with #16 that “climate disruption” is a better term; one of the contrarian arguments re climate change is that the climate has always been changing and always will. But we can keep all the CC acronyms if we call it “climate catastrophe.” However, I somehow doubt that even such an “alarmist” term would get people to turn off their engines in drive-thrus.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 21 Jul 2005 @ 11:50 AM
Great letters. It’s good to see some well written responses to the continuing push of the anti-science/reason forces that dominate the headlines everyday. They should be published in newspaper editoral pages and made required reading for undergraduates.
John, thanks for #49. WRT #40 and Lomborg, did anyone notice that preventing war, etc, in Africa (or at least not promoting it economically or supplying arms) wasn’t promoted as a good way to help the environment? I know in terms of money that militaries around the world eclipse aid and other priorities. I wonder what the CO2 contributions of militaries (especially airforces) are to the Earth’s present burden? How about other influences of war on climate?
Re #51: Great research! But didn’t McIntyre state that he had “no competing interests” in one or more of his paper submissions? And hasn’t he described himself as being in some manner retired from the “mining industry”? Has he failed his own standard of transparency? Curiouser and curiouser.
This matter about McIntyre and McKitrick’s backgrounds should be the issues investigated rather than those of Drs. Mann, Bradley, and Hughes.
It is a far larger scandal that researchers neglect to disclose their competing interests (i.e. those who receive funding from the fossil fuel industry but lie or obfuscate about this information), to the scale where a full-fledged public inquiry and “outing” of these researchers would be far more productive than going after those whose goals are purely scientific in nature.
Following such an inquiry, the public would have a real idea of which researchers to trust, since they would know exactly what specific researchers’ goals were. (They could then choose to ignore the statements by people like Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, Sherwood Idso, etc. having known they are harping fossil fuel industry positions.)
Tomorrow, NPR’s Science Friday will feature in the first hour a discussion of Barton vs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes. Here’s the background page at the NPR site.
Also, I am quite disappointed in the lack of news coverage of this story. Aside from the usual sources e.g. NY Times, BBC and now NPR, there is relatively little beyond a few other weblogs about this issue. What is at stake is free independent scientific inquiry as most RC readers and contributors already know.
What will have to happen to get this discussed more widely and taken more seriously?
Well, there’s no evidence at all that we are “chaning the climate”. To be fair, perhaps “chaning” is based on the English noun/verb “chain”, the verb meaning “connect or arrange into a chain by linking”. There appears to be little evidence that we humans are altering the climate by linking (some unknown) things together into a chain. There is, however, considerable evidence that humans are changing the climate by our emissions of fossil fuels but to understand that, you need to be familiar with the etyomolgy and the meaning of the word “change” used as a verb. Anyway, I’m a pushover and I like to be fair toward all points of view, just as Texas Congressman Joe Barton is.
Sometimes I think the really BIG mistake Nature made was at the beginning of the Pleistocene between 1.8 and 1.6 million years ago after the initial appearance of the genus Homo at about 2 million years ago, but that’s a deep subject….
John Finn wrote: What is the reason for the sudden sharp upwards inflection just after 1900.
Mike – your reconstruction shows this rise to be without precedent in the previous 900 years, so I’m interested in your view as to why this particular change in solar/volcanic forcing was so unusual.
It is not correct that the sudden temperature rise after 1900 is without precedent in the previous 900 years. There are several sudden temperature changes (up and down) in the 1000 years record of Mann, Bradley and Hughes; for instance at about 1150, 1350 or 1450. The difference is that these were short swings in the temperature curve. What is unprecedented in the 20th century temperature rise is its continuation until today to a level clearly above the pre-1600 noise level of the Mann et al. curve.
The temperature rise at the beginning of the 20th century can be well explained by a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors (see for instance model calculations of T. Crowley in Science 14 July 2000, page 270- 277).
There was an increase in solar activity during the first half of the 20th century known from the sunspot record (following the Damon sunspot minimum). There were also only few volcanic eruptions during this period. Both added to the climate warming seen in the temperature curve. However only the anthropogenic greenhouse effect can explain the continuing temperature rise during the later 20th century.
I just want to apologize to Michael Jankowski (RE #2, 7) for my brash response (#8). While I am working on a anthropological paper, “GW: Fact & Fiction,” it is not primarily about contrarian positions. Only a small section on that will be included, and I am not planning to use anything MJ has written.
Please, Michael, do continue to contribute to this blog.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 22 Jul 2005 @ 11:54 AM
One comment though on the latest developement. I notice that MM (or one of them) have changed their focus from the initial claim about non-centering the principal component analysis (PCA) to the question about cross-validation. They complained for a long time about not getting the original code (now disclosed) and tried to create the impression that science works like accounting or detective work, i.e. that each specific method/test must be EXACTLY replicable for one particular case – a demand that is impossible in most scientific fields since it’s impossible to reproduce EXACTLY the same results in ordinary physics experiments or clinical trials (due to random measurement errors and statistical fluctuations). Even for computations this may be difficult, due to different software configurations (platforms, CPUs, libraries, annd so one). The important point is, however, that universal patterns/laws are replicable. And this is exactly what the results of Mann et al are: the same general features are found in other independent studies. If this is not fulfilled, then the results are not very interesting because then they are not universally true.
MBH are doing the right thing. Complying with Barton’s interrogatories is an opportunity to stand up for the facts and climate change science. Hopefully this will get climate change and the political campaign against science the attention it deserves from the federal government, the media and the public.
A politician asking questions about climate change science seems to be on its face reasonable. Reducing greenhouse gases will require a new and complex regulatory scheme. The science that these regulations will be based on should be thoroughly examined. These regulations will have a major impact on the oil/petrochemical industry so it is understandable that a Texas politician would be especially interested because the oil/petrochemical industry is a major part of the Texas economy.
However Rep. Barton’s requests are one-sided and seem to be attempts to disparage scientists and manufacture uncertainty in the climate change debate. Intimidation would not be too strong a word to describe this. His requests seem to be a thinly veiled threat to the scientific community.
Barton does have close ties to the oil industry. He is a sponsor and an advocate for legislation that favors the oil/petrochemical industry but has questionable value, for example subsidies to an oil industry with record profits and a failure to require security measures at vulnerable chemical plants. Oil companies are major campaign contributors to Barton. see http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/recips.asp?Ind=E01&cycle=2006
Barton is also openly hostile to environmental regulations like pollution control. The League of Conservation Voters tracks the voting records of congress people on conservation and environmental issues. see http://www.lcv.org/president-and-congress/house/house-energy-and-commerce-committee.html
“MBH are doing the right thing. Complying with Barton’s interrogatories is an opportunity to stand up for the facts and climate change science. Hopefully this will get climate change and the political campaign against science the attention it deserves from the federal government, the media and the public.”
I agree with this statement.
Turn the inquiry it into a positive effort to inform the representative Joe Barton (Texas), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the the climate science and also about M&M’s, Soon and Baliunas scientific achivements.
Comment by Klaus Flemloese, Denmark — 23 Jul 2005 @ 2:55 PM
“Use this as an opportunity to publicize the crisis of climate change and to expose the political pressure on the scientific community.”
What exactly is the ‘crisis’ of climate change? The fact that we may be experiencing global warming (temporarily or permanently?) is not a crisis per se, is it? So again, what exactly is the crisis?
Several studies by economists at Yale University have shown that global warming will have a net positive impact on the US economy. If true, this “crisis of climate change” may not be a crisis after all.
Comment #68 (3:33 pm) hardly deserves a response, but I’m in a strange mood: First, this website is (mostly) about the science of climate change. Climatologists are held to a high standard in terms of independence, disclosure, consensus, etc, in public and political arenas (read what this post is all about). Now we have some economists from Yale who don’t fully understand the consequences of climate change even on climate (because they’re not climatologists and because even climatologists can’t predict the extent of climate change, especially regionally) saying, “Hey, this is a net economic positive for the United States as a whole.” Yeah, I’d like to see the source code for the model they used to make that prediction!
Secondly, this comment demonstrates a severely nationalist (dare I say bigoted) attitude that an action potentially good for one group of people but demonstrably damaging to another group is well worth following. If the United States wants to wage war (using climate as a weapon) on Tuvalu’s or any other country’s citizens for economic reasons, they had better declare it. Such a declaration would signify a moral crisis. This says nothing of potential inequities in the distributions of costs and benefits among citizens within the United States, but if those calculations could be worked out in advance I’m sure it would be considered a crisis by some.
I do have one question. Prometheus’s latest column includes the following quote:
>NCAR’s Jim Hurrell observes, “… it should be recognized that mitigation actions taken now mainly have benefits 50 years and beyond now.”
So if we were magically to stop all human cause carbon emissions today, we would see no climate change mitigation over the next 20 years at all? I understand that there are other benefits from phasing out fossil fuels. But in terms of preventing climate disruption, are we really too late to prevent any effects in shorter term than 50 years?
Joe Bartons inquiry/Chemical industries inquiry/Fishing expeditions
I will be pleased to draw your attention to a similar action taken by the chemical industry against scientists in US. It is the chemical industry’s lawsuit against Prof. David Rosner and Prof. Gerald Markowitz. The two professors have written a book about how the chemical industries and their trade organisations have tried to hide the connection between cancer and PVC/VCM and between lead pollution and health. The chemical industry is so upset over this books disclosure that they have filed a lawsuit. The layer of chemical industry went during the disposition on a fishing expedition to the files of the authors, peer reviewers, University of California Press and the Milbank Fund. This is similar to Joe Barton’s fishing expedition.
In addition to this the chemical Industry has hired their own “scientist” to discredit the two professors. M&M have a similar role in their attempt to discredit MBH.
It looks like that the same master plan is behind the way the tobacco industry, the chemical Industry, the petrochemical industry and other industries are trying to discredit scientists.
The effect of these inquiries could be that no scientists want to be involved in areas where there could be a conflict with major financial interests. This could be what Joe Barton/American Petroleum Institute/ ExxonMobile/ the chemical Industry/The Marshall Institute/the tobacco Industry etc. aim at.
I find both cases interesting, fascinating and frightening.
Comment by Klaus Flemloese, Denmark — 24 Jul 2005 @ 5:54 AM
RE # 38, 62 & 68 (economists say Kyoto will cost a net $700 bn & not abating GW will have a positive impact on the U.S.). When economists can predict what the stock market will be like a year from now, maybe I’ll start gambling with it, but I’ll never believe what they have to say about the costs & benefits of abating/not abating GW. They are simply wrong. I am confident from my own personal experiences and readings that abating GW (even not figuring in GW harms & the many other harms prevented by implementing abatement measures) will save us money in the U.S. & help the economy up to & possibly exceeding 1/2 reduction of GHGs. By the time we get to that point in 15-20 years (if we start in earnest now), perhaps there will be some new technologies that save us even more money while reducing GHGs (assuming something has not made us all stupid &/or unmotivated to save money & increase profits).
I cannot understand how GW will be beneficial to the U.S. If you’re (#68) suggesting larger crops in a warming/C02 enriched world, I think that’s wrong. Studies I’ve seen show that CO2 enrichment will cause greater crop damage from weeds & pests, and the increased droughts & floods from GW are not good for crops either. And I believe that the actions that produce GHGs also pollute the soil, acidify it, release toxins, etc. No, we are looking at agri-disaster with continued GHG emissions.
Furthermore, we should be also looking at reducing GW harms to others in the world, not just figuring whether GW will help or hurt the U.S. What are we, pigs oriented only toward satifying our gluttony? Where are the religious Americans (concerned about helping & reducing harm to others & abating their own sinfulness) when we need them?
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Jul 2005 @ 10:37 AM
Politics Collides With The Scientific Method
A bunch of letters from Representative Joe Barton regarding the findings of a study on global warming have caused quite a stir in the scientific community. RealClimate cites the following concerned parties:
Thanks for an outstanding and long needed site.
(Just wish to see this quality and comitment for websites of other fields of science)
Now to my point. Over the years I have come to find the US right wing Christiansâ?? (at least partly under the lead of the Bush administration) involvement in and distortion of science (exemplified by, but not limited to, climate change, biology-evolution, and medicine-stemcell research. Also see http://www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/page.cfm?pageID=1641 ) so upsetting and revolting that I sometimes have considered to boycott publicizing my own research (in wireless communication systems) in US under the current administration. Is academic boycott an option? What would be the effects if many researchers joined forces?
[Response: I think you are confusing the scientific establishment (the universities, journals, societies, science agencies etc.) with the other bits of the US (the administration or fringe groups). The scientific process in the US is extremely active and produces some of the best science in the world, boycotting this would be very counter-productive. On the contrary, US scientists need support for education and outreach activities to help remove some of the confusion that exists. – gavin]
It seems that, increasingly, the only area of possible dispute in GW at this point is in the cost to society of mitigation for the cost of GW. This is clearly a very complex question. Does anyone know what the basis of this Yale study was? How much warming did it assume, before concluding that it would have a positive effect on the U.S.? What factors did it consider, beyond the obvious such as heating costs versus air conditioning costs? We’re a long way away from having even a slight handle on the possible costs of global warming. I know this site prefers to discuss the science behind GW itself, but it seems to me that the climate-science battle has already been lost and won, and the impact analysis is going to be the next area of both serious debate and political bluster. Perhaps RC would consider amending their editorial policy and including a guest commentator posting something on this topic. If not, any links to serious articles on this topic would be appreciated.
#68, though phrased a bit confrontationally, asks the right question. “What is the crisis?”
The right answer is “we are almost certainly in the process of causing the largest abrupt transition in the global geophysical regime at least over the past 50 million years, and now we are arguing about its severity and suddenness beyond that established fact”. I don’t know how to explain that to people who believe the earth is only 6000 years old, though.
#68 also refers to “some studies at Yale”. One would prefer actual references before even considering a response.
It is unclear whether economic arguments are or should be considered within the scope of this forum in any case. I’d appreciate some guidance from the editors on this point.
RE #78, I also suggest reading NATURAL CAPITALISM by Paul Hawkens & Amory Lovins ( http://www.natcap.org ). It gives a beautiful vision of the future that we should strive for; then hopefully we can get halfway there. It’s a must read for green engineers & architects.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Jul 2005 @ 11:38 AM
Sunlight is diffuse. In order to be useable it would have to be concentrated in large batteries of some kind. This would create potential radiation hazards and waste pollutions. Not much different possibly worse then combusting finite petroleum resevoirs.
Comment by Thermo-Dynamist — 25 Jul 2005 @ 12:34 PM
Thank you for approaching the matter like a scholar and a gentleman.
The three main authors at Yale are Robert Mendelsohn, James Neumann, and William Nordhaus. Mendelsohn has a joint appointment in the Economics Department and the Enviromental Studies Department (in the School of Forestry). Nordhaus is a very well-know and highly-respected economist.
In 1999, Mendelsohn and Neumann published (Cambridge University Press) “The Impact on Climate Change on the US Economy.” At present, they are working on a follow-up book “Global Warming and the American Economy: A Regional Assessment of Climate Change.” Mendelsohn has published several papers with Nordhaus. A few appeared in the American Economic Review, the most pretigious refereed journal in economics.
As for Nordhaus, here are a few of his papers.
“An Optimal Transition Path for Controlling Greenhouse Gases” in Science, 1996
“A Regional Dynamic General-Equilibrium Model of Alternative Climate-Change Strategies,” American Economic Review, 1996.
“Climate Impacts on Aggregate Farm Values: Accounting for Adaptation” (with Robert Mendelsohn and DaiGee Shaw), Agriculture and Forest Meteorology, 1996.
“The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: Reply,” (with Robert Mendelsohn), American Economic Review, 1996.
“What is the Value of Scientific Knowledge? An Application to Global Warming Using the PRICE Model,” The Energy Journal, 1997.
#80 Dan, see my post to #81 for links to their work (actually references–they don’t PDF their published work and post it like many do).
The work done by these folks considers temperature increases that range from 1.5 to 5C between now and 2100. A central message of economics is that people respond to incentives and what Mendelsohn’s work shows, and what non-economists almost always ignore, is that firms/households will respond to climate change in a way that enhances the benefits and reduces the damage.
Mendelsohn finds that the big winner in global warming is (not surprisingly) argriculture (unless warming is unexpectedly severe). Forrestry is a small winner too. And people living in the North are bigger winners than southerners….
Bottom line, and to quote Mendelsohn: ” climate change does not appear to be a major threat to the US for the century to come. There is little motivation for expensive crash programs to curb short-term emission of greenhouses gases. The focus of mitigation policy should remain on inexpensive ways to control global emission over the next century.”
Inexensive ways? Certainly not Kyoto. Taxes, by contrast, are an inexpensive way to control global emission so long as they are structured correctly (such as pollution permits that could be traded in secondary markets, etc). Oh well, I’ve turned the discussion to economics which isn’t the purpose of this forum.
Editor/censor–don’t post this but please read on. Your posting policy is terribly biased. You let #72 put up a post in which he calls me a twit and then refuse (to this point) to post my reply. Fair and balanced you are NOT.
[Response: Sorry, the original post slipped through. For all contributors, please remember that a certain measure of decorum is required here. -gavin]
To R Xapt: thanks for the references. It was my expectation that the end of my previous comment would get deleted by the editing process, but I accept the fault — I should not have written that regardless of my expectations. I look forward to seeing your rebuttal when it is posted.
Its off topic but since this thread started with a comment I made I will respond but only once.
The fact that there is global warming is now established and even well known scientific skeptics do not contest it. Ecosystems around the world are undergoing disturbances. Economies are not separate from ecosystems. This is a crisis, one that we are causing.
I suspected the study #68 was referring to is “The Impact of Climate Change on the United States Economy” a book published in 1999. Basically said that the overall effect on the US economy would be a small positive if warming was small and gradual. Cato, Singer and friends loved it, but outside of that you don’t hear much about it.
Basically the Pew report said there will be small short-term economic positives but larger long-term economic negatives and the greater the magnitude of the warming the greater the negative economic effects. It also said there are many uncertainties especial when considering the economic consequences of environmental effects so these were not included but these were likely to increase the negative economic effect of global warming.
One of the most difficult parts of CBA is natural resource damage assessment (NRDA). I have had some experience with nerda as lawyers call it, and it is an extremely difficult determination where there are few clear answers.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 25 Jul 2005 @ 9:16 PM
X rapt (#84),
I read the Nordhaus links I could find that you pointed to. “Requeim For Kyoto”, “Global Warming Effects On Agriculture”, and one regarding the cost benefit of information related to global warming.
First, Nordhaus does not strike me as an ideologue – in fact one of his other papers suggested that the U.S. was drastically underestimating the cost of the Iraq war, which has turned out to be true.
However, I think you are somewhat misrepresenting Nordhaus’ rather more limited conclusions. He never says Global Warming will be no big deal. In his “Requiem For Kyoto…” article, he simply looks at Kyoto’s mechanism for reducing GHG as compared with other theoretical alternatives (they all involve different models of allowing nations to trade rights to emit GHG), and concludes that Kyoto’s mechanism is inefficient. I do think he makes a significant mistake in evaluating the cost of Global Warming overall. Because he is an economist, he chooses to define cost as, in effect, “cost to future economic growth,” or “cost to future GDP”. The problem with this is that GDP is a measure only of activity, not of wealth. If sea-levels rise by 5 feet, and many cities are partially submerged, trillions of dollars of net-wealth will be lost in uninhabitable homes and buildings, etc.. However, paradoxically, this can cause an increase in GDP, as there are sudden needs for construction, etc. Just because there is no cost in terms of future economic growth, doesn’t mean there is no cost!
Still, Nordhaus never states what you claim he states, that global warming is not a crisis.
His other article, on Agriculture, I personally found more persuasive. He points to weaknesses in assumptions some have made that have led them to conclude that warming will be disastruous for agricultural output (especially, as he observes, you cannot simply change climate variables without also assming farmers will take logical measures to adapt to those changes). Nonetheless, even if we assume he is right regarding agriculture, there are many other costs of GW that he makes no claim about.
[Regarding the agricultural costs associated with GW]
According to my crude understanding of GW, the more energy in the atmosphere, the greater the variability. Now, variability is a usually a wonderful thing, but not to farmers. The more this year is like last year, the better farmers like it. (Ordinarily.) Greater variability in rain fall, temps, humidities, what-have-you, even absent a disaster, isn’t necessarily a Good Thing. When we have to feed six billion of us, with petroleum products like fertilizers at a premium, we have scant leeway.
About future costs of GW: I think a wider view (wider than just GDP or wealth) should be used to assess future costs GW. There are a number of things that cannot be evaluated properly. For example, GW will increase migrations and war/security risks. But what will be the cost of that ? (might be expensive, when you think of Iraq.)
To put it in another way, what happens to the rest of the world will have an impact – and a cost – to the US and other industrialised countries. This is not usually included in impact evaluation, as it is very difficult to evaluate. Costs might thus be higher than what we can evaluate now.
Thanx. I’m interested in what you climatologists think of the work being done by economists. Your comment on activity (flow) versus wealth (stock) is interesting. Of course, given that we’re talking about temperature rise over the next 100 years it’s likely that those living on coastal areas would have sufficient time to adapt in ways that would at least mitigate the loss in wealth.
And a minor point (not worth arguing over), I don’t think I ever said Nordhaus claims that global warming is not a crisis. If I did, I misspoke. The consensus among economists (and many climatologists?) seems to be that we just don’t know.
Below is a link to Mendelsohn’s website. As you can see, his publications are listed but none are PDFed. I take it that you have access to some of the journals he publishes in, so hope this helps. Again, I’m interested in what you folks think about the work being done by economists when it clearly spills over to your field….
Yes, $80B is chump change in the world that is Washington, D.C. Of course, we won’t get there with the ‘energy bill’ that came out of the conference committee last night. Sheesh, more subsidies to oil companies [good for me b/c I own oil stocks], opening the producers of MTBE to the trial lawyers [bad for everyone except the lawyers], and more ethanol [great for large agri farmers]. I have read that more energy is used producing a gallon of ethanol than a gallon yields! If true, ethanol represents 1 step forward and 2 steps back.
RE #94, that sounds right about ethanol using more fuel than it produces, because beyond fuel to run the farm equipment, you have to also figure in irrigation & the energy to pump the water, and the energy to produce tractors & farm equipment, & the shipping of metals to produce tractors, and destruction of rainforests to mine the bauxite to make the aluminum (more energy) used in the farm equipment, and the paperwork (& trees) involved, & production of pesticides, etc., etc…..
All I can say is, it’s a darn good thing that weather and climate aren’t the same, and breaking records for temperature is _weather_. Eh?
Today’s NY Times:
The demand for electricity to run air-conditioners is expected to break records in the District of Columbia, Maryland and in parts of Virginia today, according to Pepco, the energy company that serves more than 725,000 customers in the three regions.
Pepco – which broke its record for peak demand at 5 p.m. on Monday as customers used 6,452 megawatts of power – asked its customers to “use energy prudently” to help prevent “possible power supply problems.”
The Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., also issued an alert today asking everyone to turn off any computers and electric appliances that are not in use.
I am curious about something in your July 24 post (#76 above). You said, “When economists can predict what the stock market will be like a year from now, maybe I’ll start gambling with it,”.
I think that we could all agree that the global climate system is somewhat more complicated than the stock market.
I also think that we could agree that thousands of (generally) intelligent people motivated by personal gain have modelled stock markets using all the best available technology and data for hundreds of years.
If you are unwilling to put your faith in stock market forecasts for one year, are you willing to put your faith in global climate model forecasts of 50 and 100 years into the future, given that these models are based on incomplete data and limited resources?
I’m also confused as to how you (Lynn) are such a strong a proponent of long-term climate investing (and personally take such action) but an absolute opponent of long-term stock market investing (and personally do not take such action). There most certainly is a consensous that long-term investing should include stocks and that these stocks (properly diversified, such as in a mutual fund, or even an index fund that simply attempts to track the market) will make money as a whole over the long term – returns you cannot expect to get with savings accounts, bonds, annuities, etc. And historically, this has held true. I think there have only been a few periods where the US stock market has lost money over any 10-yr period.
I would be very happy to discuss the items in #8 with you, but I think now it should be prid quo pro…you ask me questions as to why I’m “so resistant to GW studies,” and I’ll do the same with you regarding the stock market.
I’ll provide an email address after someone tells me how I can list it here without becoming overwhelmed by spam (or a moderator could simply email it to you privately).
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 27 Jul 2005 @ 10:07 AM
Re #97, while the global climate system is complicated, we have a good grasp of the basic physical laws under which it operates. Amusingly, one of the strong limits on our ability to model the system is the lack of strongly reliable data from more than about 100-150 years ago against which various proposals can be tested.
As someone (maybe one of the hosts of this blog) put it, who you gonna trust for climate data in 1800, the models or the measurements. There is no easy answer to that one which explains the importance of climate reconstructions and the efforts being put into improving them.
RE #97, I think I’m consistent. It is prudent to abate GW (esp. with cost-effective measures) and reduce risks of its harms (though I am mainly concerned about reducing its harms to others), and it is prudent not to gamble. Now the truth is I am invested in mutuals and annuities, & increasingly so, partly BECAUSE OF ALL THE MONEY I’M SAVING FROM ABATING GW. But a financial expert did exclaim how conservative our investments are. Knowing the complexity of the ecosystem, and that scientists don’t have all the answers, it is just possible (& increasingly so) that we are headed for at least economic disaster (the economy being even more sensitive to disruption than total earth system).
The other issue is what are we gambling with. GW is gambling with life; stocks are only gambling with money (which comes & goes & comes).
Now, I understand that scientists are gambling with their reputations, so they must seek to avoid the false positive (GW is not happening when they claim it is), or no one will believe them again. I explained to my stat students that scientists don’t gamble, they need .05 significance, 95% certainty. One student always chimes in, “but I know a scientist who gambles.” I reply, “Yes, with money perhaps, but not with their reputation.”
For people living in the world, we should be avoiding false negatives (behaving as if GW is not happening, when indeed it is). Why would we gamble with life? Play Russian roulette? Unless one is an Exxon CEO, it just doesn’t make sense.
In improving the climate reconstructions do we not face the same problem as drug trials and other contentious research? In both cases it is reasonable to assume that the people doing the work will have personal views that could lead to bias. Peer review may well be a necessary process but is it sufficient? Isnâ??t independent or even hostile verification at least as important?
There are some few things known in economics — not many. For example Gresham’s law (bad money replaces good money) and the fact that printing paper money and distributing it causes price inflation.
My guess is that climate science is working with comparably basic observations — greenhouse gases function to capture heat; gas hydrates when warmed sufficiently release methane. That sort of thing.
In economics, there are some few things it’s known to be really stupid to do. Reduce the percentage of gold in the coinage — people hoard the coins with more gold and spend those with less. Print lots and lots of paper money — undermine an economy.
In climate science, there are some few things it’s looking very likely would be really stupid to do, too.
In economics, “in the long run we are all dead.” That’s the people, real and corporate, participating in the economy (it remains to be proved that all corporations die, but we can hope none is immortal).
In climate science, “we” is the biosphere. So far, it hasn’t quite died even in the worst events. We can hope that remains true.
Re 101: If you want an analogy, the IPCC is the equivalent of an NIH or FDC (US example) panel of experts who recommend for or against a drug. They examine all the studies. The IPCC has clearly said there is a problem. Why don;t you accept that and let us move on?
If you want an analogy, this is like the situation with the morning after pill in the US. The FDA board of experts (science) has recommended that the pill be allowed on general sale, but the FDA (policy) is resisting and trying all sorts of yes but gambits. If the foo….
I think the comparison of predicting the economy vs predicting the climate is an interesting one.
People who think these fields are on comparable intellectual footing are incorrect. Climatology is a physical science, and is limited by very specific constraints. There are many trajectories that we know without any doubt that the climate cannot and will not take. They are not actually of much scientific interest, but when comparing to the state of the art in economics it’s important to consider the fact that the vast majority of conceivable climate outcomes simply can’t happen. Energy conservation, angular momentum conservation, mass conservation, etc. will not be violated.
This is a very different sort of confidence than “most of the time, historically, the stock market goes up in ten year intervals”.
We don’t know *exactly* what the climate will do in response to the anthropogenic carbon forcing but we know a *great* deal about what it *won’t* do. It won’t, for instance, stay substantially the same, because to do so would violate fundamental physical laws.
This is not an “eight times out of ten, barring unusual circumstances, all things more or less on an even keel” sort of certainty. It is simply a fact.
Back on the topic of “Science Under Seige,” Rachel’s Environment & Health News ( http://www.rachel.org/bulletin/index.cfm?St=1 ) has an article this week by that same title; they cover a wide range of environmental science topics under seige. An excellent book covering similar ground is, TOXIC DECEPTION: HOW THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY MANIPULATES SCIENCE, BENDS THE LAW, AND ENGANGERS YOUR HEALTH, by Dan Fagin, et al (1996).
Although these 2 sources do not cover climate change, they put the Barton case in a broader perspective and reveal how widespread the attack on science is.
It just occurred to me that Ray Bradley of this blogpage is the lead author of the article that gave me the initial impetus to reduce my GHGs (Bradley, R. S., H. F. Diaz, J. K. Eischeid, P. D. Jones, P. M. Kelly, and C. M. Goodess. 1987. “Precipitation Fluctuations over Northern Hemisphere Land Areas Since the Mid-19th Century.” Science 237:171-175). It was actually the film, HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, showing how the precipitation belt was shifting from the Sahel in Africa (causing droughts) to Europe (causing floods), and that this might be due to GW, if and when it was proved (which it was in 1995). I contacted Mick Kelly (who was in the film) & he sent me the article.
Now there is a very bad drought in Niger; looks like millions are going to die, because the world has ignored them. Can it be partly attributed to GW??
I do know (from a 1992 article I read) that uranium mining is harming the land of subsistent farmers and pastoralists in Niger, who don’t even use fossil fuel or nuclear energy. And now they have this drought, possibly enhanced by by GW.
I just wanted to say thank you to Ray Bradley & the other climate scientists.
I’m not so convinced by Michael Tobis’s argument. Sure, there are physical laws that are not in dispute. But at the sharp and interesting end, there are lots of uncertainties, and the fact that there is a (“hard”?) physical as opposed to (“soft”?) socioeconomic truth underlying it all is of little help when trying to predict the future. The truth is not accessible to us, and probabilistic estimation of future climate is a statement of our current ignorance rather than any fundamental randomness or unknowability. To the extent that we understand the physics “better” than the socioeconomics, we can forecast climate “better” than the economy (or vice-versa – how can we compare skill usefully between the two?). But this is a quantitative and not qualitative difference.
RE#103, interesting analogy there. Don’t forget about the products which are FDA-approved and get banned after use by the general public because problems show-up that the FDA missed.
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 28 Jul 2005 @ 9:02 AM
Re 108/109 Both posts talks about differences on the margin. WRT the FDA one must ask what percentage of treatment that were approved worked. Not bad odds and certainly orders of magnitude better than the previous system where any shaman could set herself up as a purveyor of cures and kill you. WRT physical laws, as Michael Tobis points out, they strongly limit the list of probabilities. Compare the how known physics, chemistry and biology limit climate change outcomes to the 10^500 possible realities of string theory and you begin to get the idea.
I don’t disagree with the observation that economic modelling and climate modelling are different only in the degree of complexity. But I would add a couple of thoughts:
It has been observed (by someone very wise – don’t remember who) that all quantitive changes eventually become qualitative changes. And I’m inclined to think that the difference in complexity between climate modelling and economic modelling is so great that, in effect, they are qualitatively different. After all, modelling what the economy will be in 10 years really means modelling human behavior in the next ten years -wars, politics, birthrates, crime rates, religious upheavals, changes in work-ethic, death-rates, etc. In effect – predicting history. We will never be able to do this by looking at each human actor (or even each group of human actors) in time-slices of an hour or a day or a week at a time, forecasting its behavior, and modelling forward.
Thanks for the link to the Pew study. Honestly, I found it frustrating in that it provided no explanation of its logic or assumptions. We are told that GW will eventually lead to much higher agricultural costs…but there is no discussion of how or why, so I don’t know what to make of the conclusions.
Re #93 –
X-rapt, I’m not a climate scientist, and don’t have access to these papers. Sorry.
Re #92 and others:
I agree, it is misleading to look at the cost of GW using ANY economic measure – wealth, GDP, consumption or whatever. Consider the possibility that coral will not be able to adapt to warmer ocean temperatures and 95% of it will die. This is not a measurable impact in terms of decrease in wealth. But, as it is a source of beauty and aesthetic pleasure to millions of people, losing it would surely, in some way, make the world poorer.
Yet while we may agree that justifying GHG reduction in economic terms alone is oversimplifying, there is no doubt that much of the future debate will focus on this issue – defined precisely in economic terms. So it would be nice if there was something concrete and defendable in this area that demonstrated economic costs.
“In economics, “in the long run we are all dead.” That’s the people, real and corporate, participating in the economy (it remains to be proved that all corporations die, but we can hope none is immortal).”
Forgive me for citing a non-scholarly movie quote in response to this. In “Star Wars IV” of all things, Han Solo said: “What good is money if you’re not around to use it?”
This quote should apply to the current debate, as well. If fossil fuel industries continue to pour out the GHGs and pollutants, it will lead to increased rates of cancer as well as increasing numbers of people dying as a result of famine-causing drought, from tropical cyclones and other storms, and from flooding, just to name a few.
Far too many people (especially those in business and politics) think only in the short-term. They rarely, if ever, consider the consequences of their decisions, some of which could end up making life unbearable or even unliveable in many parts of the world.
Even those in politics and in business will likely be in some sort of danger as a result of climate change. Those who live in gated communities and on the hills will not be completely immune to these effects.
RE #92 & economics, Adam Smith’s classical economics that privileges exchange value over use value (which I believe Nordhaus & nearly all economists follow) is not the only economic approach to environmental problems. There is talk of “green GDP” (I think by Michael Porter) and “quality of life” measures, including health (r/t mere quantity of money), putting value on “free” ecoservices (like bees that pollinate or the air we breathe), and distinguishing between “bads” and “goods.” “Bads” would include having to spend money (which increases the GDP) to correct (environmental) harms, such as medical bills and rebuilding after floods & hurricanes.
One problem with classical economics in which everything is reduced to monetary value, is that the lives of the poor (as in Niger) lost to GW are probably only valued at 2 cents each, if anything — so GW costs seem very low. It is the very old, the very young, the very ill, and the very poor (all virtually worthless in economic terms) that are the most vulnerable to GW harm. Fetuses “naturally” aborted by air pollution don’t even get a bleep. And, as mentioned by others here, things not of immediate economic interest are not valued at all, such as coral reefs — which not only give us beauty but are key to ocean ecosystems, supporting ocean life, fish, etc. in those areas.
Another problem with economics is that unlike the usual laws of supply & demand setting “correct” prices, the price of wood, say, goes sky high when only a few trees are left & the forest is in a state of collapse. I think I read that in Blueprint for a Green Economy, which gives the logic behind that. Thus in many cases, only when we have nearly destroyed life-supports and are gasping for air, metaphorically speaking, do such supports, such as air, suddenly gain economic value. But it may be too late. By then the life-support systems may be in irreversible states of collapse.
Finally, how can reducing GHGs, such as turning off lights not it use, “cost” money? Let’s give energy/resource conservation/efficiency a try for a year, then if we’re not satisfied, we can always go back to inefficiency and wastefulness.
BTW, the FDA has a dual mandate to protect business AND consumers, and who do you think comes first? They have allowed MSG (under 50+ different names) to poison our food supply without adequate labeling & cause neurological harm to many Americans (migraines for me). Buyer beware, as Adam Smith might say.
“In the oral tradition of Niger, drought and hunger are familiar topics. Before foreign conquest there were the periods known as Ize Mere, “the sale of children”; Goosi Borgo, “grinding up the water gourd”; and Yollo Moron, “sit and stroke your plaits”-for there was nothing more that could be done…”
“…One of the primary characteristics of arid and semi-arid zones is extreme variability in rainfall, and the Sahel is no exception…”
“…Climatic change is another popular incantation that is brought forward to “explain” the recent droughts in the Sahel, but this carries little validity except over the very long term…”
“…With a standard deviation of 57.2 mm, in any given year the chance are one out the three that rainfall will exceed 215 mm or fall below 101 mm…”
“This variability also makes it mathematically impossible to make any claims of short-term climatic change. In all likelihood any past climatic change took place over hundreds of years, so the change over a period as short as 50 years would be at most a few millimetres of rainfall…”
Another google tidbit, from July http://www.dawn.com/2005/07/01/int11.htm . Here the UN is blaming African droughts on global warming (including a ridiculous statement about how the frequency of droughts has increased greatly “in the past few years”). It concurrently mentions that, “In Europe, one of the worst droughts on record has hit Spain and Portugal” and that, “Researchers are reporting a general drying of the land and growth of desertification in the Mediterranean region.” This would seem to conflict with the idea of climate change causing a shift of precipitation from Africa (drought) to Europe (flooding).
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 28 Jul 2005 @ 5:44 PM
I acknowledge James Annan’s point that in practice the uncertainties of climate prediction and the uncertainties of economic prediction are substantially at play in the, alas hypothetical, project of designing and implementing sensible climate change policy. I will stick to my guns in asserting that nevertheless the fields are qualititatively different.
Economics is the study of a social construction and climate is the study of a natural system. Climate is very strictly constrained by physics and by the mathematics that describes it. While economists like to do some mathematics, those mathematics describe very crude approximations of human society compared to the precision of the ways in which mathematics describes physical systems.
Does it matter? In my opinion it does. I think wealth is well-defined over a short time periods, say a decade, but to say that thus-and-such a policy will cost so many billions of dollars over a century has dramatically less precision than it pretends to. A thousand dollars will buy me many fewer acres and many more books than it would have a century ago, and try as you might you cannot convince me that these goods can be substituted for each other. So is a dollar worth more or less? As a person who prefers information to real estate, I perceive deflation, but the person who prefers real estate will see the opposite. How does the concept of a “dollar” capture these opposing trends?
On the other hand, a degree celsius a millenium from today will mean exactly what it does today, and exactly what it “meant” (in a very real sense) a billion years ago.
Physical scientists are used to theories which apply well at certain scales and not at others. As fluid dynamicists, for example, we abstract away atoms. Economists seem to think that a dollar is a dollar, and come up with a “discount rate” that automatically and with a dubious claim on cold objectivitiy trivializes our moral obligation to subsequent generations. The discount rate, a meaningful and useful measure on short time scales, is abused. The resulting decision process, though brilliantly effective on short time scales, is stunningly perverse and arrogant on longer ones. Fluid dynamicists might see a rough analogy to applying an approximation outside its regime of validity.
Furthermore, in climate modeling, our prediction becomes fuzzier as we go deeper into time, but the validity of the theory on which the models are based remains constant. In economic modeling, the validity of the theory itself degrades over time becuase economics is a mathematical theory of a social and historical artifact, one whose nature changes gradually over time. This is a very fundamental difference between physical and economic models, and one which has practical implications for thinking rationally about global change policy.
Does this mean we should forego economic thinking entirely? I think not. On the other hand, the longer out in time we look, the less guidance conventional economic thinking offers.
More trivia perhaps, but it is good to get trivia as accurate as possible. In posting #51, I said “CGX Energy Inc. occupy the same Canadian address given for McIntyre in McIntyre and McKitrick (2003), an address which is also occupied by Northwest Exploration Company, another business which apparently engages in oil and gas exploration (or at least a company with the same name does)”. Steve McIntyre now informs me that there ARE two different companies called “Northwest Exploration Company” and that his company has “no oil and gas reserves or production” and is “nothing to do with a company with a similar name with oil and gas production in Nevada”. This does not of course change the main point of posting #51, which was that “around the time of the writing of McIntyre and McKitrick (2003 ….. ) and of the ….. biography, McIntyre was actually a `Strategic Adviser’ to CGX Energy Inc. who describe their `principal business activity’ as `petroleum and natural gas exploration'”.
When a Congressman with strong links to oil and gas energy interests decides he needs to investigate scientists, I think that discussion of the item about that investigation will necessarily involve politics and the economy. However, I would be interested in more science — perhaps next week Dr. Archer can comment on interesting aspects of the Chapman Conference which took place this week, for which he was one of the co-conveners?
Chapman Conference on
the Role of Marine Organic Carbon and Calcite Fluxes
in Driving Global Climate Change, Past and Future
re #114 : ” This would seem to conflict with the idea of climate change causing a shift of precipitation from Africa (drought) to Europe (flooding). ”
I would be surprised to see any climate scientist making such an assertion. Do you have any indication that any science is suggesting “a shift of precipitation fomr Africa to Europe”?
This appears to be a straw man. The coupling between subtropical and middle latitude precipitation at a particular longitude is essentially nonexistent – the dominant rainfall mechanisms are very different and very weakly coupled through the global circulation.
Local humidity in subtropical desert regions is of course very low, which makes evaporation efficient. If these regions heat up, evaporation becomes more efficient. To avoid a decrease in soil moisture, there has to be an increase in local precipitation to balance it. In the African subtropics, this essentially amounts to wider latitude excursions of the intertropical convergence zone or increased intensity of equatorial convection. If we don’t have a strong reason to expect either of those, we would conclude that the African desert would expand. Apparently this drying is indeed what the models are indicating.
IPCC TAR (WG2) says: “Africa is the continent with the lowest conversion factor of precipitation to runoff, averaging 15%. Although the equatorial region and coastal areas of eastern and southern Africa are humid, the rest of the continent is dry subhumid to arid. The dominant impact of global warming is predicted to be a reduction in soil moisture in subhumid zones and a reduction in runoff. Current trends in major river basins indicate a decrease in runoff of about 17% over the past decade. Reservoir storage shows marked sensitivity to variations in runoff and periods of drought. Lake storage and major dams have reached critically low levels, threatening industrial activity. Model results indicate that global warming will increase the frequency of such low storage episodes.”
“This variability also makes it mathematically impossible to make any claims of short-term climatic change. In all likelihood any past climatic change took place over hundreds of years, so the change over a period as short as 50 years would be at most a few millimetres of rainfall…”
I will note that your source (http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/80422e/80422E00.htm#Contents) is a natural resource management specialist and the date is 1986. With all due respect to the author the claim of “mathematical impossibility” is obviously excessive and is almost certainly predicated on an implicit idea that global forcings will not change on the decadal time scale.
He just wasn’t considering anthropogenic climate change when it made the rather overstated assertion. probably in reaction to some statistically naive extrapolations that others were making at the time. This hardly constitutes any significant input into a serious review of our current understanding. We aren’t just indulging in weekend curve-fitting; a large group of smart people is trying very hard to anticipate what is going to happen as a result of human forcing of climate.
The result as embodied by the IPCC reports, especially regarding regional trends, may be wrong but it is reasonable at this point to have confidence that it isn’t stupidly wrong. A monograph from twenty years ago by someone who is not a physical climatologist is very unlikely to add to our understanding.
If we did reduce CO2 emissions to zero today then the difference it would make would still be fairly small in 20 years time, but would be noticeable in 50 years.
This is because the climate system takes a long time to respond to forcings on it [mostly because of the large heat capacity of the oceans] and so takes a long tim e to reach a new equilibrium. I believe that our committment to future climate change is generally though to be of the order of 0.5 degrees C [ie about the same as occured during the 20th century].
Recall that there was a large volcanic eruption in August 1883, the Krakatoa eruption, the largest volcanic eruption in the past several hundred years, which affected global climate for years, therefore “the sudden sharp upwards inflection just after 1900″ is most simply interperted as the rebound from an earlier abrupt increase in volcanic activity.
Comment by Donald Condliffe — 29 Jul 2005 @ 11:00 AM
#114; Re “climate change causing a shift of precipitation from Africa (drought) to Europe (flooding).”
Although not directly related to what you are saying I came across an interesting tidbit using results from an EU-funded project involving many regional climate models over Europe [the names of these EU projects are always hard to remember].
Anyway, the upshot of it was that the models were predicting mean summer rainfall to decrease over most of the European continent [ie more drought], but that the incidence of extreme rainfall events [above a certain threshold in mm/day] would also increase over much of Europe [ie more floods].
If you visualise a pdf of rainfall you can see that whilst the total amount of rain can decrease [ie the area under the curve], if the shape of the curve changes [in this case flattens] then you can get more extreme events at the same time.
RE climate v. economic uncertainties, we are really missing the big picture that the environment is FUNDAMENTAL, the economy CONTINGENT. And that uncertainties go in both directions. If the environment is greatly harmed from GW — either worst case scenario of the scientists, or even worse than that due to current uncertainties — the economy collapses, along with lots of human & nonhuman life. If, on the other hand, the environment is in good shape to support life, and the economy collapses (as it slightly did during the great depression), people can at least forage for themselves & survive, as animals (which do not have economies) do. For instance, my parents & grandparents went & picked their own produce during the Depression. I take Economy to mean the production (esp division of labor, work groups), distribution (incl exchange), and consumption of goods & services — money & the market type economy being very recent new-comers in human history/prehistory. Thus the economy is largely about social relations, but is dependent on and constrained by environmental factors. Now “subsistence patterns” and “technology” (how we eke a living out of the environment) are more fundamental than the economy; subsistence patterns include methods from hunting/gathering (food foraging) with stone tools to horticulture to industrialization — with its downside of causing GW, which is/will boomarang back on the economy, subsistence patterns, and all else.
RE #114 & 120, the article/film I cited (#106) do say the the Sahel is drought-prone, but point out the precip had been decreasing even further over seveal decades. In a drought-prone area, even a very slight decrease in precip (due to GW or other factors) could mean the difference between survival & millions starving; just as in a flood-prone area that few extra inches (due to GW or other factors) could mean breaching the levy & flooding a big metro area & billions in damages & some loss of life.
In other words, although GW & GHGs increase slowly & incrementally — sort of linearly (after that bend in the hockey stick) — the harms they cause might not follow a linear function, but go haywire, as in mathematics catatrophe theory. Thus when I hear “only slight changes in temp or precip” I think this might entail a big leap in harm. You know, the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
I would disagree with your assertion that if “…the economy collapses (as it slightly did during the great depression), people can at least forage for themselves & survive, as animals (which do not have economies) do.” Hunter-gatherers (human foragers) have dramatically lower population densities than do agriculturalists. Better suggestions of what true economic collapse in the modern era might do are the Stalinist destruction of Ukrainian agriculture in the early ’30s and the Great Leap Forward in China (late ’50s), which resulted in mass famines totalling something like 40-50 million victims.
Given today’s higher population densities, reduced proportion of farmers, and the dependence of modern farming on manufactured inputs such as fertilizer, fuel, & machinery, I would expect that a true economic collapse today would result in greater famines.
So, we clearly need to avoid both major economic and environmental harm. The tricky part is getting to agreement on what “major” means…
Re#120-“I would be surprised to see any climate scientist making such an assertion. Do you have any indication that any science is suggesting “a shift of precipitation fomr Africa to Europe”?”
I was responding to #114 – “It was actually the film, HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, showing how the precipitation belt was shifting from the Sahel in Africa (causing droughts) to Europe (causing floods), and that this might be due to GW, if and when it was proved (which it was in 1995).” I have no idea if the film is based on climate scientist assertions.
“I will note that your source…is a natural resource management specialist and the date is 1986.”
I acknowledged that it was old, and no, it is not purely a climate study. It was the first hit I looked at from a quick google search. But it was an interesting read nonetheless.
Under “Concluding remarks” (my caps): “Using station rainfall data extracted from the GHCN2 and CAM, we show that large decreasing rainfall trends were widespread in the Sahel from the late 1950s to the late 1980s; THEREAFTER, SAHEL RAINFALL HAS RECOVERED SOMEWHAT THROUGH 2003, even though drought conditions have not ended in the region. THESE RESULTS ARE CONSISTENT WITH MANY PREVIOUS STUDIES.” So the drought severity increased greatly even during a period of global cooling, and rainfall began to recover during some of the hottest decades in history. So at first glance, it might be complicated to blame things on GW.
Granted, they also conclude that, “large multi-year oscillations appear to be more frequent since the late 1980s than previously.” I’m not sure if 15 yrs of data is enough to make a substantial conclusion, but lets accept it. Nevertheless, GW doesn’t get mentioned, only this: “This might suggest that the region’s climate has become more unstable and prone to droughts after the prolonged severe droughts from the early 1970s to late 1980s due to, for example, reduced water-holding capacity by soils and vegetation that would normally provide some smoothing or stabilizing effects (e.g. Charney, 1975; Trenberth and Guillemot, 1996).” Also of note: “As shown previously (e.g. Folland et al., 1986; Dai et al., 1997; Ward, 1998; Dai and Widley, 2000), Sahel rainfall is significantly affected by ENSO.” They also say in the introduction: “Several possible causes or mechanisms, including local land-atmosphere interations (e.g. Charney, 1975; Nicholson, 2000), tropical Atlantic and global sea-surface temperature influences (e.g. Folland et al., 1986; Lamb and Peppler, 1992; Ward, 1998; Giannini et al., 2003) and atmospheric wave disturbances (Druyan and Hall, 1996), have been identified and investigated.”
One could argue, of course, that ENSO or other factors are enhanced in magnitude/frequency by GW. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that the only possible link suggested that could possibly be directly tied to GW was sea-surface temp influences, and one would have to go through the listed references to identify links to GW. Keep in mind that co-author Trenberth is the IPCC member who has tied hurricane frequency to GW and whose remarks helped produce the resignation of Chris Landsea from the IPCC. Jones has numerous studies concerning climate change and human influences. Dai has said he thinks the risks of drought increase with GW. The other authors have done climate change work, too. We’re not talking about a group that wouldn’t consider GW effects, so I found it particularly interesting GW got no mention, not even in passing.
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 29 Jul 2005 @ 2:01 PM
RE #127, anyway, the article & film (#106), both from the late 1980s, did give me impetus to reduce my GHGs, even if they are not as valid by today’s standards (science does change). And I don’t regret reducing because I’ve only saved money (without lowering living standard), and I have many other reasons now to abate GW – just read Mark Lynas’s book HIGH TIDE to get a picture of GW victims today & tomorrow.
The professional “skeptics” are now starting to defend Barton, and attack Mann. This, from Steven Milloy, is typical; Barton is simply trying to research global warming, while his critics are part of the climate change “lobby”.
Eli (#129): Trivially different initial conditions certainly lead to widely divergent weather, although a randomly-imposed perturbation (as distinct from a dynamically-relevant one) is likely to stay small (shrink, even) for some initial interval. In real applications, weather forecasters are quite some way from trivially small uncertainties in initial conditions, and in any case the models are imperfect enough that forecasts would degrade over a few days/week even with perfect initialisation, so the point is rather moot.
As for climate, so long as one averages over a long enough time scale (such that external forcing is large compared to internal variability), the initial conditions generally don’t matter too much. This pic gives a typical example.
Climate being not very well-defined as a mathematical construct, the question as to whether it is chaotic is also ill-defined. In defining the system, are we including the hydrosphere? the cryosphere? the carbon cycle? the tectonics?
Climate change is even more problematic. What constitutes an event and what constitutes a shift in statistical properties? Is El Nino a climate shift? What about decadal variability in tropical storms? There is signal at all frequencies so a formal definition climate change is somewhat elusive.
You can specify formal defnitions of the climate system in some specific way, and then, at least in principle, argue that the physical system so defined does or does not have certain statistical properties. Whether this is fruitful or not depends on what actual question you are considering.
Regarding the century scale climate predictions, the matter of whether the system is chaotic is rather unimportant. Chaos is a property that describes the predictability of an unforced system. What we see in Hansen’s plots that James Annan links is primarily the behavior of multiple realizations of a strongly forced system. The chaos part is qualitiatively the bumps and wiggles superimposed on the forced part, which is quite predictable.
It’s hard to predict the swirls of cream in your coffee cup, but if you push the cup off the edge of the table it will surely fall to the floor.
RE # 130, somebody forgot to throw the kitchen sink at Barton. Looks like people concerned about GW need to get some professional lobbyists to keep up with those slick oil guys, who really know how to toss the kitchen sink.
Before we move to another topic, I just wanted to say how depressed and demoralized I am by the Barton witch hunt.
As a social scientist, I think it (along with all the other attacks on science, see http://www.rachel.org/bulletin/index.cfm?St=1 ) tears at the fabric of society and demoralizes it. Laura Nader (legal anthropologist) did a film, “Little Injustices,” about people in the U.S. who buy lemons (bad appliances, cars, etc), and cannot get them fixed or get their money back. Since they have no recourse, they just “lump it,” but the overall effect is growing cynicism & apathy, which harm society. This is unlike traditional societies where informal justice fora resolve conflicts quickly and with the idea of reestablishing social harmony (an area my husband & I also specialize in).
I think the whole contrarian attack on science (beyond typical skepticism) is really harmful. The general public hears GW is happening one day, and it’s just a hoax the next. We hear that a study has shown chocolate to be good for the health, and I think, “Yeah, right, who did that study, the Chocolate Institute?” And apparently the CI did do the study, and maybe they’re even on to something, but we just can’t trust anyone anymore….
OK, I admit I’m all over the map on this thread, but I can’t resist commenting on Milloy’s efforts on the Fox website. Note the following:
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, long a proponent of global warming alarmism, chided Chairman Barton in a July 13 letter that Dr. Mannâ��s hockey stick had already been accepted by the United Nationsâ�� global warming organization and that Congress ought not interfere with that process.
Although the AAAS apparently believes that the UN should be the final arbiter on scientific matters, itâ��s not at all clear that political organizations have any special insight into what constitutes scientific fact.
Truly nasty business, calling the AAAS an alarmist group and calling the IPCC a political organization.
I like to think that people who act so effectively against the interests of all of us are honestly fooling themselves, but it’s hard to see something like that as other than maliciously misleading. I really can’t fathom this behavior. It sometimes seems like some of these guys are actively promoting as much climate disruption as they can get.
Re #133: Lynn, I think the Barton situation is showing all the signs of working out very well in the end. The scientific organizations and (for the most part) the media are stacking up very nicely on the proper side, and should Barton try to hold rigged hearings Boehlert is in a position to at least neutralize them. In the end, all Barton will succeed in doing is bringing more needed attention to the issue. I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that he will try to find a way to just let the whole thing drop, but even still the whole incident will be a net plus.
Have you considered the “clean drinking water” crusade? There are a number of organizations who do their part to improve sanitary conditions and improve water infrastructure in 3rd world countries (eg, Water for People). With preventable water-borne illnesses annually ranking at the top of the list of deaths world-wide, how long will it take the theoretical AGW sufferage to match? And many predict that water resources will start wars in the next 10, 25, or 50 yrs…maybe we’ll all be wiped clean before we can even see how right the IPCC models are.
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 30 Jul 2005 @ 6:46 PM
Re #135. You hope!
Re #130. Is true that only a single tree is used for the reconstruction of part of the 15th century in study under discussion? This sort of question and any answer would seem to be to do with the real science of climate change. So would the question as to whether the answer to Barton’s question 7C concerning R2 is yes or no. It is wishful thinking to suggest these basic questions will go unanswered.
[Response: The comment in the Fox news piece is incorrect. As I understand it, over the whole period from 1450 back (including the section 1400-1421) the first 3 PCs from the N. American network are used along with 9 over proxys as described in MBH99. The N. American PCs are the summaries of 70 tree-ring series (of which one is the Gaspe series) . The removal of the Gaspe series, or indeed of all the Bristlecone pine trees as well, has a minimal effect ( ~0.05 deg C) on the reconstruction as long as you include consistent numbers of PCs as described in the Dummies Guide. This is most clearly seen in the upcoming W&A paper in Climatic Change where they specifically go into these details (sorry I can’t post the figure). Including the Gaspe series does however improve the RE scores over the validation period, and so can be justified on those grounds. The reasons why RE is the preferred statistic rather than R2 is explained in Mann’s response above. It is important to note that while choosing the proxies to be used in a reconstruction is a valid test of the robustness of the result, it is not a criticism of the MBH methodology which is what the principle advance was in those papers. – gavin]
What’s wrong with requesting info? It happens all the time. Why be so defensive about it? If your study is correct it will be proven for the public once the complete record is brought forward in the manner requested. What better way to prove the WSJ article wrong?!
RE #135, I’m a firm believer that good comes from bad, new life from the humus of trials and tribulations, and from the long-suffering struggle against wrong. And I hope much good comes from this bad. But that doesn’t make the wrong right. It’s one thing for the people and private businesses to retreat into a shell of denial in the face of a serious problem or threat, such as GW, and work on reinforcing that shell, but when our leaders do that, risking putting the people in harms way, this is a serious matter and it de-legitimizes that leader and even the institution of governance itself, and it demoralizes the people.
A comparison was made earlier to McCarthyism, but I think this Barton witch hunt is worse than that. I remember the times. Many were afraid of communism, which was spreading around the world, and the bomb threat only heightened that fear. While McCarthyism was a misguided, excessive response to that fear, the thrust was to save the American way of life. I think McCarthy was sincerely in his own mind doing what he thought was right, and he was being bold and brave about it.
Here we have a leader in Barton who refuses to face up to the serious problem of GW facing our nation and world, but is doing all he can to strengthen denial, instead of taking the bold and brave action of confronting the problem and searching for creative ways of abating it that will not harm our American way of life. Okay, abating the problem (reducing GHGs) is itself a bit fearful and I understand how some could construe it as threatening the American way of life (even though I think they are dead wrong). Okay, it is even more scary for the oil companies that back Barton – but they should be trying to diversify into non-fossil fuel energy, as some are. A patient facing surgery may be more afraid of the surgery than the life-threatening disease. But that is no justification for ignoring GW and seeking to deny it (especially under the pretext of trying to understand it), and seeking to discredit the messengers that are bringing us the information about it. That is not leadership. That is the king running and hiding, clinging to his treasure chest, while letting the beast harm the kingdom and the people.
Until Barton does an “about face” to face the problem of GW or is removed from his post, I cannot give full respect to our government.
#129, #131, 132 seems to have reached a sensible consensus that the butterfly effect is not an issue with respect to climate. A couple of caveats and points:
– the stronger the forcing, the less important the butterfly effect even over shorter periods, for example, large volcanic forcings overcome chaotic behavior easily. The greenhouse gas forcing is now exceeds that scale
– chaotic (butterfly) effects average out over the 20-30 year time scale if there is no forcing, so on average they have no effect on climate viewed over any appropriately long time scale. This means that if we “de-force” the observed climate, we get a measure of the frequency spectrum of the chaotic component. The fact that noise in climate observations is not white shows that even the chaotic component is bound.
– (My original point, although perhaps not explicitly made) There is no way to see if climate, or even weather, is effected by butterflies without models. Ensemble forcasting shows that any effect averaged over time and/or space is at best small. In other words, it may or may not rain today over Joe Btfsplk’s head (fat chance), but the chaotic component of the forecast for greater Dogpatch is much smaller.
In the nice version one would say that the butterfly effect is not relevant to climate, in the not nice, that it is a red herring. Some will raise the issue that near a bifurcation this is not so, extremely small changes in some parameter can result in a large change in outcome. However, since all climate parameters have both inertia and fluctuations, once you approach a bifurcation, you are all but certain to cross, the only question is when. If you doubt this run Monte Carlo trajectories on an appropriate surface.
“FYI, a non-GW story about the woes in Niger. As is the case with most famine issues, a lot of the blame goes to politics”
I disagree. Famines are caused primarily by adverse meteorological or climatological conditions (droughts or flooding, reducing the ability of land to grow crops and feed livestock).
Sure, in this day and age of globalisation (not true globalisation, though), there are political aspects of famine, etc. However, Niger was suffering through severe drought conditions (before some flooding rains occurred around a week ago).
Political inactivity is a problem today. I agree. However, had Niger received a fairly normal quantity of rain, they would not be suffering through the current famine. Climate change is likely, in part, a contributing factor to this, since climate change is likely enhancing climatic variability. AGW will only exacerbate such problems in the future.
Stephen, if famines (as opposed to instances of crop failure) were really caused primarily by adverse meteorological or climatological conditions, then you would expect them to hit all countries affected by those conditions, not chiefly ones with bad governments. For a recent example, compare the mass famine in North Korea with the opposite in South Korea.
You would also not expect them to occur in the absence of such adverse conditions (as did the mass famines in 1920s Ukraine and 1950s China, and [perhaps in the near future?] the current situation in Zimbabwe).
How about the famines that struck India and China in the 1870s? The El Nino event of 1877-78 resulted in monsoon failures in India and drought in China from which tens of millions died. This famine was due primarily to adverse climatological conditions and not politics (though Mike Davis attempts to blame the British provisional government in India, perhaps, a bit more than he should in his otherwise excellent examination “Late Victorian Holocausts”).
Governments can try to safeguard their populations from starvation by stockpiling food supplies. However, this can only happen in rich nations where governments can purchase grain and produce in bulk. Poor nations, such as Niger, can ill afford to do this since every last grain must be put into the food supply to allow as many people as possible to be sufficiently nourished (or just nourished enough to survive) until the next crop comes in. This makes it tougher for them, however, since they cannot save grain for the next season to seed more crops. (Agricultural subsidies in the US, Europe, and to a small extent in Canada have made the situation worse.)
Lynn, I find the perspectives you have provided in #133 and #138 both large-minded and very valuable to a rational – and therefore scientific – understanding of the communication and decision-influencing processes currently going on.
RE crop failures & famine, if the world food production on the whole is decreasing (as apparently it is) then eventually there will be famine, even if food is distributed equitably & governments are all helpful. GW is expected to decrease global food production (though some areas may increase), and certainly those areas dependent on the glacial cycle for irrigation, once their glaciers are all melted, will be very severely hit, not to mention the drought areas, and flood areas; even heat can stunt & kill crops.
I thought #123 pointed to something important re increased drought AND flooding in Europe – due to a lot of precip coming down in a short time alt w/ long drought periods. I would guess that GW by holding more water vapor in the atmosphere (not allowing it to precipitate as much) would tend to lead to greater droughts in general. I remember the early computer models (around 1990) showing a GW world with greater droughts closer to the equator & mid-latitudes, & great precip closer to the poles, with a net greater precip, but in a smaller area. Are these models still basically valid?
I do agree with #136 that there are other problems besides GW that need attention, but we shouldn’t forget that (1) we hold the keys to reducing GHG in our daily lives, while we may not be able to help much with 3rd world water problems, aside from donating money (which we can raise by saving money by reducing our GHGs); (2) the GHGs we cause to be emitted today will be harming the world in the future, perhaps up to 1/4 of our emissions lasting up to 100,000 years (as David Archer on this site suggested); and (3) a lot of water problems are linked to GW in various ways – GW causing drought & glacier melt & sea rise (entailing salinization of coastal ag lands & drinking water supplies), as well as water conservation (which entails energy conservation) helping reduce GW.
My tiny church environmental group in my previous town was able to limp along only because we addressed everyone’s environmental concern, and I was amazed to find so many other problems related to GW in various ways – even nuclear power causing cancer to uranium miner, etc (since our electricity was 70% nuke & 30 coal – so reducing electricity helped reduce both problems). One member a geologist was even dead set against accepting that GW was a problem (I think she does now), but we found common ground by having a water conservation campaign (our area had water depletion problems). We either pull together or hang on separate gibbets. Now in my new town the church didn’t even have a “peace & justice” committee, so we started one, and the environment has taken a back seat to our anti-drug & family violence campaign, though I plan to bring in GW & environmental problems when we do “Souper Sunday” about world hunger.