RealClimate logo


Perspectives from China

Filed under: — gavin @ 26 September 2007

I spent the last three weeks in China partly for a conference, partly for a vacation, and partly for a rest. In catching up over the last couple of days, I notice that the break has given me a slightly different perspective on a couple of issues that are relevant here.

First off, the conference I attended was on paleoceanography and there were was a lot of great new science presented, particularly concerning the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (around 55 million years ago), and on past changes to tropical rainfall patterns (see this week’s Nature) – two issues where there is a lot of relevance for climate change and its impacts today. I’ll discuss the new data in separate posts over the next few weeks, but for now I’ll just mention a topic that came up repeatedly in conversations over the week – that was how to improve the flow of information from the paleo community to the wider climate community, as represented by the IPCC for instance.

There was a palpable sense that insights from paleo-climate (in this case referring mainly to the ocean sediment record rather than ice cores or records from the last millennium) were not being given their due, and in fact were frequently being misused. In a panel discussion (hosted by Stefan), people lamented the lack of ‘synthesis’ that would be useful for the outside community, while others stressed (correctly) that synthesis is hard and frankly not well regarded within the community or their funders. I think this is a general problem; many of the incentives for success within an academic field – the push for novel techniques, the ownership of specific slices of data, the desire to emulate the paths to success of the previous generation – actually discourage work across the field that pulls together disparate sources of information.

In the paleo-oceanography case, this exhibits itself in the overwhelming focus on downcore records (the patterns of change at a single point through time) and the relative lack of integrated products that either show spatial patterns of change at a single time, or that try to extract common elements from multiple events in the past. There are of course numerous exceptions – the MARGO project that compiled records from the peak of the last ice age, or the work of PMIP for the mid-Holocene – but their visibility makes their uniqueness all the more obvious. There were no ideas presented that would fix this overnight, but the discussions showed that the community realises that there is a problem – even if the solutions are elusive.

My second thought on China came from travelling through some of the most polluted cites in the world. Aerosol haze that appeared continuous from Beijing to Hong Kong is such an obvious sign of human industrial activity that it simply takes your breath away (literally). In places, even on a clear day, you cannot see the sun – even if there is no cloud in the sky. Only in the mountains or in deeply rural parts of the country was blue sky in evidence. This is clearly an unsustainable situation (even if you are only thinking about the human health impacts) and it points the way, I think, to how China can be engaged on the climate change front. If reducing aerosol emissions can be done at the same time that greenhouse gases can be cut, the Chinese will likely jump at the chance. As an aside, I noticed that Compact Florescent Light bulbs were being used almost everywhere you looked, and that the majority of Shanghai’s motorbikes and scooters were electric rather than gasoline powered. These efforts clearly help, but they are just as clearly not sufficient on their own.

Finally, the limited access to the Internet that one gets in China (through a combination of having better things to do with one’s time and the sometimes capricious nature of what gets through the Great Firewall) allowed me to take a bit of break from the constant back and forth on the climate blogs. In getting back into it, one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues (Hansen’s imagined endorsement of a paper he didn’t write thirty six years ago, the debunking of papers that even E&E won’t publish, and the non-impact of the current fad for amateur photography) at the expense of anything substantive. In effect, if possibly not in intention, this wastes a huge amount of people’s time and diverts attention from more significant issues (at least in the various sections of the blogosphere). Serious climate bloggers might all benefit from not getting too caught up in it, and keeping an closer eye on the bigger picture. We will continue to try and do so here.


183 Responses to “Perspectives from China”

  1. 1
    David B. Benson says:

    Gavin — “We will continue to try and do so here.” Yes please, and welcome back!

  2. 2
    jre says:

    We rely on you to do just that.
    However … social animals that we are, it is hard to ignore the chatter. Might this be a good time (by way of making lemonade from the current bumper crop of lemons) to discuss competing forcings in the light of evidence that aerosol sensitivity may be higher than previously thought, to explain why this makes action on greenhouse gases more, not less urgent, and to suggest that Rasool and Schneider may have been asking exactly the right question?

    [Response: Asking about aerosols is definitely a good question, but this documentary (which we discussed at length when it first aired - http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/global-dimming-and-climate-models/ ) doesn't really show that aerosol sensitivity is larger than we think, and the implications for climate sensitivity were exaggerated (see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/07/climate-sensitivity-and-aerosol-forcings/ ). Still, aerosols are an important part of the mix. - gavin]

  3. 3
    Jim Eager says:

    Gavin wrote: “My second thought on China came from travelling through some of the most polluted cites in the world. Aerosol haze that appeared continuous from Beijing to Hong Kong is such an obvious sign of human industrial activity that it simply takes your breath away (literally). In places, even on a clear day, you cannot see the sun – even if there is no cloud in the sky. Only in the mountains or in deeply rural parts of the country was blue sky in evidence. This is clearly an unsustainable situation (even if you are only thinking about the human health impacts) and it points the way, I think, to how China can be engaged on the climate change front.”

    Bingo! Some of us have been saying this for some time now, even without traveling to China, but I’m sure seeing–and breathing–it in person drove the point home in a way that looking at satellite images of China in which you can not clearly see the ground does not. Now that China has exceeded the United States in per-nation emissions of CO2, let alone in aerosols, I have no doubt that the Chinese government is acutely aware of the impending health crises that their nation faces. It is clearly in our own best interest to assist China in developing technologies to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and shift to alternative forms of electrical generation and transport fuels. If we don’t China will eventually do it without us and it will be we who will end up buying those technologies from them. Our choice.

    “In getting back into it, one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues…. at the expense of anything substantive.”

    Hear, hear! Tilting at the pathetic attempts to pick away at perceived and imagined chinks in the mounting, mutually supportive evidence that it is we humans who are largely responsible for the current warming is a waste of time, and a navel-gazing luxury that we simply can no longer afford. Personally, I have decided to shift my time and effort over to campaigns to educate the public and school groups about the many actions that individuals, families, neighborhood groups, and small businesses can currently take to reduce their fossil fuel and energy consumption footprints, including putting real pressure on their elected representatives, and to motivate high school students to pursue careers in science, engineering and even developing and manufacturing marketable technologies that will be needed to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to any substantial, meaningful extent. In other word’s it’s time to get to get out there and get to some real work.

    That said, Gavin, I do very much look forward to your future posts to bring us up to speed on the science presented at the conference.

    Regards,

  4. 4
    sidd says:

    i have been hearing that china is backing away from coal-to-liquid (CTL) processes to produce synthetic diesel and gasoline. while in china did you hear anything about that ?

  5. 5
    pat n says:

    I would like it if you would be specific on what you meant by the “non-impact of the current fad for amateur photography) at the expense of anything substantive”. I followed the link by clicking “non-impact” but saw no amateur photography at that website.

  6. 6
    Steve Bloom says:

    Apparently the future holds a little less chatter from Virginia.

  7. 7
    dallas tisdale says:

    Welcome back Gavin. Excellent post, but I am curious why a free survey of climate stations is considered a waste of time. A photographic survey of surface stations was recommended well before surfacestations.org started their effort. By people that would not be considered skeptics if memory serves.

    [Response: See my previous post - not sure there's anything to add. - gavin]

  8. 8
    Raplh Smythe says:

    I don’t see why anyone is concerned about what anyone else is doing, or spends so much time discussing it. Everyone should be spending time implementing the truth as they know it, not discussing what they think it is with others or trying to convince anyone of anything. Except the people that are in control of the methods of implementing policy.

  9. 9
    Timothy Chase says:

    Gavin wrote:

    allowed me to take a bit of break from the constant back and forth on the climate blogs. In getting back into it, one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues (Hansen’s imagined endorsement of a paper he didn’t write thirty six years ago, the debunking of papers that even E&E won’t publish, and the non-impact of the current fad for amateur photography) at the expense of anything substantive. In effect, if possibly not in intention, this wastes a huge amount of people’s time and diverts attention from more significant issues (at least in the various sections of the blogosphere). Serious climate bloggers might all benefit from not getting too caught up in it, and keeping an closer eye on the bigger picture. We will continue to try and do so here.

    I have had the impression pretty much from the get-go that the contributors would prefer to be spending more time on the issues that really matter, on explaining the science, answering questions and so on. In contrast we have seen a number of people come through here who only seek to confuse matters and make a general pain of themselves – to have their almost purely negative criticism of climatology treated on an equal par with the positive explanations of the science itself. An obvious case was the attack upon the surface stations – which seemed to go on well after everything had been done to death. I imagine the same might be said regarding the absorption and reemission of radiation – which went on far longer, but which I like to think was somewhat more productive even at the end. Then there are the alternate theories for which they can cite little or no evidence (on the rare occasions when they actually try to present them) treated as being on an equal par as well.

    In any case, I am not sure that there is an easy solution. If no one responds, it may seem like there is no response to offer – at least to someone who has just wondered in. But if someone does respond, it can feed the senseless debate which is often only slightly above that of arguing with a pure troll. But it is something worth giving some thought to. I myself have have a project of sorts that is related to this site, but given the debating I haven’t had nearly as much time for it as I would like. I also know that people have wondered through here and been highly impressed with the level of discussion – which is I believe is well above that found nearly anywhere else on the web.

    In any case, I am looking forward to learning more about your trip to China. Incidentally, back in the eighties Hong Kong was perhaps my favorite city. Either that or Singapore. Nearly polar opposites – the yang and the yin of the Orient.

  10. 10
    ray ladbury says:

    Gavin, Welcome back, although it may have been disheartening to go directly from the pollution of the atmosphere to the pollution of the blogosphere. And with record energy prices filling the coffers of the major polluters of both atmosphere and blogosphere, I fear we are not due for any respite. It has been more than 22 years almost to the day since I last set foot on Chinese soil. It is an amazing place–over a billion people doing whatever they need to for survival. Perhaps China can take some heart from the experience of India. On my last trip there in ’96, Delhi was so polluted, you literally could not see the lamp post across the street. My wife and I both got bronchitis after only a week. I am told that it is now relatively clean–albeit at the expense of surrounding districts. China will be tougher, but I would think that >$80/barrel oil would provide an incentive for them to adopt greater conservation and efficiency measures even if their environmental woes do not.

  11. 11
    Steve Reynolds says:

    gavin> ‘This is clearly an unsustainable situation (even if you are only thinking about the human health impacts)…’

    While I certainly think pollution in China should be greatly reduced, what is ‘unsustainable’ about the health impacts? Humans have lived hundreds of thousands of years with average life spans much less than anything likely to result from this pollution.

    It probably is unsustainable from the point of view that as the Chinese become wealthier, they will decide it to be worth the cost of greatly reducing health threatening pollution, just as western peoples have. But that did not seem to be what you meant.

  12. 12
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, I hope you can invite those researchers here, give them the anonymity they may need, and host a discussion locking the rest of us gabbling amateurs out so you all can find space to think (grin).
    Seriously, more scientists, less noise, at least in one thread or one forum, maybe ‘next door’ — would be fascinating to watch.

    Raplh, if you will reread what Gavin wrote:

    > the overwhelming focus on downcore records (the patterns
    > of change at a single point through time) and the relative
    > lack of integrated products that either show spatial patterns
    > of change at a single time, or that try to extract common
    > elements from multiple events in the past.

    He means — I think — that each lab has its core of sediment brought up and is going through it.

    Each lab may be describing the sequence of layers, and from that describing what they learn about the ocean when that particular layer was laid down — then looking say at continental drift to see where that piece of the planet was on the globe when that layer formed.

    That’s fascinating, but it’s a time series for a point that slowly drifts across the globe — depth of the ocean changes, currents around the area likely change as continents move, and so forth.

    And Gavin means — I think — that few are able to spend time and money focusing on say collecting even a digitized image of every little bit of all those cores, let alone an index tied to the image of every bit of analytical work done, for each core, on each successive layer.

    Suppose you could go to any piece of data from the ocean core records and cross-check every other data file that had the same kind of chemical signature, or was from the same point in time, or had formed at a similar latitude or depth or temperature layer on the globe at a different time …

    Look at one, but be able to find all related info worldwide, from something like this or a database with it:

    http://sciencematters.berkeley.edu/archives/volume2/issue11/images/story3-3.jpg

    We’ve got Google Moon, and Google Mars, but no Google Sediment yet.

    Why not? Oh, right. Not enough advertisers to sponsor it.

  13. 13
    Gareth says:

    I’ve also recently spent time in China, though my reasons were mycological rather than paleoceanographical. Those little electric scooters are obviously a good thing, but also a danger to pedestrians – you can’t hear them coming. And I was very impressed by the number of solar water heaters to be seen – on the tops of apartment buildings, even yak herders (turned matsutake harvesters) homes.

    I was actually quite impressed by the availability of broadband internet in hotels. Most had broadband connections in every room – even if they weren’t always connected up….

    But the Asian brown haze is an amazing and terrible thing. Even in the largely rural province I visited (Yunnan), there was significant (eye-watering) pollution around major cities. Cleaning that up is going to be no small task.

  14. 14
    Raplh Smythe says:

    Hank, I didn’t say anything about sediment. Are you talking about Lake Baikal?

    My point was that the discussions should go towards influencing policy makers (and/or the general public) and not quibbling about minutia with people that clearly think differently about the issues. It’s pointless.

  15. 15
    SteveSadlov says:

    I’ve been dealing with the PRC for over a decade. There is something in the Chinese / communist mentality which most Westerners fail to grasp. The value of human life / the human spirit is considered much lower than it is in Western cultures and isolated examples elsewhere in the world. In fact, there is a certain fatalism about physical life in the here and now. This leads to an overall destructive mentality. Certainly, the West had its moments in the past. But back in those days decades ago when we were the primary belchers of unmitigated filth, our population was much, much lower. There were large spaces between our cities and the impacted areas were actually pretty small. There is no precedent for what is going on in China now.

  16. 16
    joel says:

    If we don’t China will eventually do it without us and it will be we who will end up buying those technologies from them. Our choice.

    As you must know, China is on a coal power plant building frenzy, about 1 per week is opened I have read, using the most primitive technology available, and avoiding more advanced technology from Europe or the USA.

    China is, and seems intent, on being the lowest cost producer in the world. So, get used to the brown haze.

  17. 17
    Hank Roberts says:

    Raplh, Gavin started the thread talking about the need for more discussion among the scientists who are working in “paleo-oceanography … the overwhelming focus on downcore records” and the need for them to talk. We agree I guess that we nonscientists should sit back and hope Gavin gets that conversation going.

    Gavin, did any discussion of the content of Ward’s book “Under a Green Sky” come up at your meeting?

  18. 18
    SteveSadlov says:

    RE: #10 – The problem is, China is now addicted to coal. Most current installations burn high sulfur, soft coal. There is very little use of high quality, low sulfur hard anthracite. Due to the lack of air pollution control laws / any meaningful air basin authoritie / systemic monitoring, etc, both the state (i.e. power generation) and industry have exploited the situation. As you ride the ferry up into the Pearl River Delta, there are stacks upon stacks to the horizon and beyond. I have never seen any thing like this elsewhere – not in the old US rust belt, not in the UK midlands, not in the Ruhr.

    There is now much talk of reducing coal based pollution in the PRC. I shall believe it when I see it.

  19. 19
    ray ladbury says:

    Steve Sadlov, First, I don’t think it is fair to say that the Chinese, or the communists for that matter (for China is hardly communist in any meaningful sense) do not value life. China’s policy on almost everything is driven by two related factors–its massive population and its alarm at being so far behind the West (and particularly the US) technologically. The latter represents an external threat to the survival of the Chinese Oligarchy. The former represents an internal threat. China’s economy needs to grow at 8% per year just to keep up with the growth of the workforce–and a large cadre of unemployed (and likely sexually frustrated given the gender ratios) males is not a welcome prospect.
    The Chinese will use whatever means they can to address these threats, and if that trashes the environment–well those threats will manifest further down the line. However, the crisis presents a considerable opportunity–we can try to facilitate making cleaner technologies available to the Chinese. The infrastructure they adopt will penalize or reward us for decades, and maybe centuries, to come.

  20. 20
    John Norris says:

    re #19

    “… for China is hardly communist …” Someone better tell them to edit their constitution then:

    “… the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the ruling political party of the People’s Republic of China, a position guaranteed by the country’s constitution. …”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_China

  21. 21
    Figen Mekik says:

    I think it is insulting to say that the Chinese or any people for that matter do not value life. First, that is unknowable; and second it serves to alienate and isolate groups of people from others. I am sure Sadlov did not intend this, but it is easy to interpret it from phrases like “Chinese do not value human life as much as westerners do.” [It's not adiret quote, I paraphrased a little.]

  22. 22
    Karen Kohfeld says:

    Gavin, I think you’ve highlighted some great points, both about the need for data synthesis and also the difficulties in obtaining them. There is frequently a tendency to underestimate the effort and resources required to take data from multiple sources and assemble them in a manner so that they are compatible (same time scale, same units, indicators presenting the same environmental parameter). Both PMIP and MARGO projects were multi-year (multi-decade in the case of PMIP?) projects involving many principle investigators. It seems to me, though, that there have been other recent data synthesis successes, although perhaps the majority have been centered in terrestrial data rather than the paleoceanographic community. I’m thinking of the drought data in the midcontinental USA; remarkable data compilations of Arctic temperature and vegetation changes for the last few millennia, the Holocene, and most recently the last interglacial – to name a few. There are always a few individuals who focus on synthesis, but it’s refreshing to hear that there is a developing, community-wide interest amongst paleoceanographers to create benchmark datasets.

  23. 23
    danny bee says:

    Unless a Chinese Gorbachev comes around there soon, the entire world will fall victim to China’s big bag of lethal tricks. It is the most dangerous country in the world, and we should all refuse to go to the Olympics there. Send a message to China, the communists there, who do not value life, only their own.

    [Response: Folks, this particular discussion is getting way off topic, so this will be the last such post we'll allow If you want to discuss the politics, take that to some other site. Thanks. -mike]

  24. 24
    ray ladbury says:

    John Norris, Try walking out of the Terra Cotta Army Museum and dealing with the hawkers outside, or walk through any Chinese market and you will find capitalism at its most raw. The “communism” in China is merely a useful fiction that perpetuates the myth of continuity and stability. There is nothing there now that Marx, Lennin, or even Mao would recognize.

  25. 25
    SteveSadlov says:

    RE: #19 – So, I’ll open my kimono a bit here. I am quite a mutt, in terms of ethnic background. Based on matrilineal descent I am Jewish, but am also a bit Chinese (father’s side). What I describe is not meant to offend. It is meant to bluntly shatter some of the notions that Westerners, who can easily fall under the spell of so called “oriental mystique” may entertain. This is especially common, I have noticed, with many of the Western business people who are currently quite obsessed with China. There is an understated brutality that is simply embedded in Chinese culture. To get somewhat of a sense of this, the Amy Tan books are actually not all that bad, believe it or not, particularly the sequences dealing with life prior to emigration to the US. Amy has clearly been very observant of her own family, Chinese friends and has also done her homework. Indeed, some of the things you’ve noted factor into why this is. Let me explore the statement about value of human life / value of human spirit a bit more. Some may commend the fact that Chinese society is less individualistic and more communitarian (this predates commun-ism by millennea) than most Western ones. Fair enough. But there is also a dark side (as with all things involving humans!).

    Confucianism, combined with millennea of paternalistic, authoritarian social organizational priciples, have resulted in the issues with value of individuals that I have noted. If I were to portray a spectrum, with the purest Anglo-Saxon / English Common Law “human rights” culture at the left end and the purest Far Eastern top down, do as you are told culture at the right end, Chinese culture both pre and post Mao would certainly be much closer to the right end, and, realized 21st century Anglo Saxon ones closer to the left end. People who take human rights very seriously would likely render similar analysis. I make no deterministic value judgment. I simply report what I have learned from real life.

  26. 26
    dhogaza says:

    “… for China is hardly communist …” Someone better tell them to edit their constitution then

    Stalin’s Constitution was perhaps the most liberal, in regards to person rights and civil rights, ever written.

    Yet … millions did die in the Gulags, the oppression against the Kulaks, etc.

    What counts? Words written on paper, or actions?

    The answer is simple, I think.

  27. 27
    Hank Roberts says:

    C’mon, John, the Chinese have communism like the USA have a republic.
    Editing either their — or our — Constitution would be a distraction from the real work urgently needed, eh? World to save and all that.
    _____________________________________________________________________
    At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a lady asked Dr. Franklin directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
    “A republic if you can keep it” responded Franklin. http://www.bartleby.com/73/1593.html
    ———————————

    Gavin, how about the scientists in your host country there — why were you meeting there, specifically? Hope to educate the politicians? New info not published outside China to discuss?

  28. 28
    Mark A. York says:

    Generally, the closer life comes to carrying capacity, the less value it has and the more perilous life’s struggle becomes. We still burn coal with the same result: air polution, CO2 increases and mercury dumped in the seas fed back to us in tuna, where it biomagnifies. The result is the same no matter who does it.

  29. 29
    Paulina says:

    More science, less responding to the trolls? Yes, please!

  30. 30

    So the extensive work done by surfacestations.com has shown, so far, that the GISS temperature record for the lower 48 (2 % of the world according to Hansen) is not significantly biased by UHI or microclimate issues. Great! Science works when skeptics arrive at the same result as proponents. However, the skeptics seem to have two points that I am still bothered by. One is why the NOAA record is so different than GISS especial when factoring the station classification. The other is the assertion that the GISS record for the ROW is derived differently and has more significant error sources than the US record. Since the ROW record is so important in climate modeling I would like to see some response to the “where’s waldo” posts on ClimateAudit

    [Response: NOAA's record is not particularly different from GISTEMP so there is nothing to explain. The ROW record is derived similarly to the US except for the rural/urban distinction which uses night lights in the US (which has been groundtruthed) but population in ROW which is the best that can be done at present. If you want to know where the global has been warming, look at the maps on the GISTEMP website (e.g. this one). The answer is all northern hemisphere land masses, Australia, India etc. etc.). - gavin]

  31. 31
    Marion Delgado says:

    In getting back into it, one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues (Hansen’s imagined endorsement of a paper he didn’t write thirty six years ago, the debunking of papers that even E&E won’t publish, and the non-impact of the current fad for amateur photography) at the expense of anything substantive. In effect, if possibly not in intention, this wastes a huge amount of people’s time and diverts attention from more significant issues (at least in the various sections of the blogosphere). Serious climate bloggers might all benefit from not getting too caught up in it, and keeping an closer eye on the bigger picture. We will continue to try and do so here.

    Well put, but how do we do it? my guess is we have to start by simply not responding to a whole raft of trolls people who aren’t making the cut because they don’t change what they post even when answered, or even refuted.

  32. 32
    Marion Delgado says:

    I think Paulina is right.

    An unnecessary-to-answer commenter is someone who keeps asking the same question after it’s been answered, or making the same point after it’s been refuted. If they are the original asker/pointmaker, TROLL: the process stops. No response whatsoever. If another commenter was the asker, pointmaker, UNINFORMED/REDIRECT: you say “asked and answered – link” or “already refuted – link” and no further answer. If they repeat the question or point anyway, go to TROLL.

    It’s like going on a troll-free diet.

  33. 33
    Chris says:

    what was said about the PETM?

  34. 34
    David Graves says:

    I suggest that John Norris might read some Marx or Lenin or Mao to understand the comment about “China is hardly Communist”. Authoritarian, yes, Communist–I don’t think so.

  35. 35
    PHE says:

    Does China’s aerosol pollution explain why global mean temperature has not risen for the past 8 years (or ownly very marginally if you assume 2005 was the warmest)?

  36. 36
    SomeBeans says:

    I’d like to second (or whatever number is appropriate) the appeal for more new, interesting science and less responding to ridiculous non-issues.

  37. 37
    Johnno says:

    China’s emissions may reduce sooner than we think due to depletion http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/5/13/105158/220. This somewhat contradicts assumptions of long term increasing coal use in the IPCC 4th report. The potential implications of this are enormous not only for emissions scenarios but global trade.

  38. 38
    pete best says:

    Dear Gavin

    I am sure that the average professional climate scientists annual carbon footprint is somewhat larger for attending all of these global conferences several times pe annum even if one does take a vacation alongside it.

    BAU seems to be necessary for everyone these days. I wonder if the message will ever truely get across to ordinary skeptical citizens of the need to dare I say it reduce carbon expenditure. The Tough choices people including scientists need to make are not becomming a reality, but maybe soon eh.

    Soon, soon, soon.

  39. 39
    Florifulgurator says:

    Re 24 Have a look e.g. at the picture here: http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Short_Instrumental_Temperature_Record_png
    Then STFU.

  40. 40
    roverdc says:

    I found this comment of interest.
    My second thought on China came from travelling through some of the most polluted cites in the world. Aerosol haze that appeared continuous from Beijing to Hong Kong is such an obvious sign of human industrial activity that it simply takes your breath away (literally). In places, even on a clear day, you cannot see the sun – even if there is no cloud in the sky.
    This industrial activity blocks out the sun so why does removing this not result in more global warming? Why should this not even be enough to outweigh improvements in co2 output.
    It is interesting to me that given a hundred years of industrialisation it is only now that we are starting to clean up our act with industry that global warming is becoming a significant problem. Perhaps the farmer who said to me, “If you don’t like shit keep away from nature, it loves the stuff.” unwittingly has the answer. Natural burn is dirty but post industrial man orientated burn is more efficient and therefore too clean.

  41. 41
    roverdc says:

    Sorry there should have been a line space after the comment at:- This industrial activity , which is misleading and unfair to the original author. Can’t see as a beginner how if possible to edit it.

  42. 42

    PHE posts:

    [[Does China’s aerosol pollution explain why global mean temperature has not risen for the past 8 years (or ownly very marginally if you assume 2005 was the warmest)?]]

    I have just added a page, “Why Tim Ball is Wrong,” to my climatology site:

    http://members.aol.com/bpl1960/Climatology.html

    It examines the fallacy in the “Global warming stopped in 1998!” cry of some deniers.

  43. 43
    bigcitylib says:

    China is ripe for the kind of technology transfers envisoned under Kyoto. Sell them a license to green tech, and let them build it themselves. Otherwise they’ll steal it and build themselves.

    (PS. I believe Beijing wants to make its entire public transit fleet move to fuel cells. They are VERY serious about this stuff, for the reasons Gavin mentions).

  44. 44
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    Welcome back Gavin! You may be a bit overly optimistic about the practical opportunity to combine aerosol reductions with CO2 reductions. Its quite a bit cheaper to install end-of-pipe scrubbers for SOx and NOx than to make more fundamental changes to the energy system. Ironically, the push for clean air in China will likely speed up warming rather than help abate it.

    [Response: Much of the problems in China come from small inefficient sources - small factories, cars etc. that are not likely to ever get scrubbing technology installed. However, I think you could envisage a replacement of those small sources with more efficient large sources with scrubbers + potential for sequestration that would address all problems at once. However, I've had some offline discussions with people that have worked on precisely those kinds of issues in China with little success, and so I'm more appreciative of how difficult getting things to actually happen is. This is definitely the challenge of the age. - gavin]

  45. 45
    steven mosher says:

    Hi Gavin, welcome back.

    Let me give an update on the amateur photography.

    I could, of course, point to the work of amateur
    astronomers, but since you work at Goddard I was
    sure you had read this:
    http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/news-release/releases/2003/03-78.htm

    Nice collaboration there I thought.

    Instead, however, I will point to the work of an
    amateur climate scientist. JohnV. You already
    linked to his work seen on Rabbetts site.

    In the matter of a couple days, JohnV developed, coded
    and posted a unique approach to estimating the land
    temperature record of the lower 48. Quite a piece of
    work for an amateur. And it’s different
    from the GISS approach.

    Now, to the results. The chart you linked represent the
    results from roughly 50 sites in the US. Sites that
    have been surveyed, photographed and rated as class1
    or class2. When you check the trend over the century
    you’ll find these sites to be slightly cooler that the
    trend in GISS.
    The significance of the difference in
    trend has not been assessed, but once the professional
    statisticians get involved, we’ll report the results.
    and the analysis code. Further, when we restricted the
    analysis to sites that are rural, we saw larger differences, but the number of stations was rather low.
    So, we await the complete audit before concluding
    anything.
    Finally, we have also compared the best sites (class1 and class2) with the worst sites,the class5s. Here too we saw a difference in Trend, with the class5s warming at a higher rate than the class1 and classs2. Again, the
    final analysis with proper statistical documentation has not been completed, there are some geographical
    differences in site distribution that need to be addressed. Again, when the full audit is done we would
    expect the geographical distribution of good sites and bad sites to be more uniform than it is with the current subsample.

    So, what you see is a work in progress with full and open documentation all the way along. In the end at the very least we will have this.

    1. The historical network will have photo documentation. Just as the new CRN has photos. 50 years from now no one will have to wonder what the site in Orland looked like in 2007. Today we can only speculate what it looked like 50 years ago.

    Second we’ll have a suite of open documented software tools for people to run the numbers and see for themselves. We appreciate that Dr. Hansen released the
    code; however, no one has been to compile it successfully; I worked with a couple guys and they got
    to step5 of the release. In the midst of that effort JohnV just struck out and did his own thing from scratch. Hopefully, we’ll get back to the NASA code and do a proper cross validation, or Reudy can get the code
    from JohnVs site. It runs on Windows, so no Unix or AIX required.

    [Response: John V. did what I suggested you (pl.) do. Take the description and raw data and do an independent analysis yourself. That fact that his analysis is very similar to GISTEMP is a validation of both approaches. This is the best kind of replication and if it's simpler than what GISTEMP uses and runs on more platforms, kudos to him. His application to the photo gallery classifications is interesting too, demonstrating that only using the 'best' stations (per your definition) gives pretty much what we had anyway. Again, a conclusion, as I said, that was very likely. Feel free to carry on, just don't make the claim that your efforts change anything of substance. - gavin]

  46. 46
    Timothy Chase says:

    Barton Paul Levenson (#40) wrote:

    I have just added a page, “Why Tim Ball is Wrong,” to my climatology site:

    http://members.aol.com/bpl1960/Climatology.html

    It examines the fallacy in the “Global warming stopped in 1998!” cry of some deniers.

    It may seem like overkill, but I would include the formula by which one calculates the linear trend. I might also consider pointing out that if one calculates the trend since say 1992, the rate at which temperatures have increased is actually higher than that for the preceding 15, but then briefly explain why this is not statistically significant in terms of red noise with a reference to Tamino’s post on the subject. However, I hope you won’t mind if I steal this idea later.

    Looking at your page on Climate Sensitivity, I would include the analysis by Annan and Hargreaves. It is conspicuously absent – particularly since this is the best we have.

    Here is the tech article:

    Using multiple observationally-based constraints to estimate climate sensitivity
    J. D. Annan and J. C. Hargreaves
    Geophysical Research Letters 33, L06704, 2006

    Here is Annan’s post on the subject:

    Climate sensitivity is 3C
    Thursday, March 02, 2006
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2006/03/climate-sensitivity-is-3c.html

    This is the figure and analysis (or rather 2.9C) which seems to be held in high respect by leading climatologists. And it has a great deal of paleoclimatological evidence in its favor, more than 400,000 years worth. He also has a reference to an analysis from the 1960s I believe which arrived at the same value back in the 1960s based upon an eruption.

  47. 47
    Eli Rabett says:

    If you want to get a feel for the brown cloud, take a look at a couple of Monet pictures of the Houses of Parliment Eastern european cities were exactly the same in the last part of this century

    As to China, it has been the wild west as far for the past 15 years or so. As long as you paid the sheriff off (the Party), kept your head down and didn’t have anything anyone else wanted to steal, anything goes.

  48. 48
    steven mosher says:

    Thanks Gavin,

    You wrote:

    “Response: John V. did what I suggested you (pl.) do. Take the description and raw data and do an independent analysis yourself. That fact that his analysis is very similar to GISTEMP is a validation of both approaches. ”

    Actually, you argued that the papers supplied enough detail to replicate the approach. They didnt and we have found several details in the code that are not documented in the papers. For example, how various data sources are given priority over others. Second, the limited results JohnV has produced “match” .. for some periods. So, would you conclude that we can extend his method to ROW? And, since we have found a difference in trend between GISS and the best stations would you conclude that Johns approach is valid? One chart that has not been posted is the following:

    GISS using all all stations.
    JohnV using all all stations.

    Now, it is a very interesting chart. When we compare the Class1 and class2 sites ( the 50 we have) to All the GISS, we see a differences here and there. I would not conclude, as you seem to, that that constitutes a validation. So, I ran all 1221 sites through John’s Code. Then compared. Interesting chart that.

    We also compared the best sites to the worst. Interesting chart as well, showing that class5 sites warmed more than class1&2. Valid?

    “This is the best kind of replication and if it’s simpler than what GISTEMP uses and runs on more platforms, kudos to him. His application to the photo gallery classifications is interesting too, demonstrating that only using the ‘best’ stations (per your definition) gives pretty much what we had anyway.”

    Actually, it is one form of replication. The simplest form is running GISSTEMP. For example, to see if there are any platform dependencies or irregularites. In One of our compiles we found a floating point difference that made one station record a month longer ( It had to do with a test for Less Than on a floating point calculation which in certain cases can be CPU compiler dependent)

    Further, the definition of best stations is not “mine”. Dr Leroy developed the site ranking methodology. The methodology is being used to classify all of frances 550 stations. You can find references to his work at the WMO. His methodology was adopted by NOAA to rate CRN sites. In order to rank a site you basically need documentation ( photos) of the site characteristics. Is it shaded, are there artifical heating sources within 10M, 30M 100M. That’s one of the reasons we suggested that volunteers take tape measures on their surverys. So, the ranking of the sites is based on an accepted methodology developed by the WMO, used in France and currently in use in the CRN. So, it’s not “ours”. Finally, the preliminary study ( software is still alpha) showed a trend difference. So, is it
    “pretty much” what you got. That is hard to say. Our trend was lower as we expected. However, the chart you linked combined both urban and rural, and we do no adjustments for urban. GISS adjusts the Urban sites to the rural neighbors with a 1000km radius. Further the sample is skewed heavily toward ASOS sites. 11 of the 17 class1 were at ASOS. So, we hesitate to say there is agreement and conclude that both approaches are valid and we hesitate to poud the table about the difference in trend we found.

    “Feel free to carry on, just don’t make the claim that your efforts change anything of substance. ”

    Well, that’s odd. You look at preliminary results, ignore the trend difference, and conclude that the results validate BOTH. But, if we carry on, and find something of note we have no rights to make a claim.

    Here is what we do. Take the data, publish the code, publish results as we get them and let others draw conclusions.

    So, if the results match you can say the code is validated. If the results don’t match you can say the code is not valid.

    [Response: If independent analyses of the same raw data give the same result, then the sometimes arbitrary choices that go into different analyses don't matter. If the analyses do differ in any substantive way (which in this case they don't), then it's worth looking deeper into it to find the sensitivity. So if you find something that makes a real difference, then we can pursue it. If a one month extra in one station is all you find, I think even you would admit the effort expended was not particularly cost-effective. - gavin]

  49. 49
    PHE says:

    BLP (41) I don’t know the truth about Tim Ball, but on your website, you start off by knocking his academic credentials. What has that to do with the facts, and are you more qualified to comment on climate change than a retired PhD and Geography Professor? You accuse him of cherry picking by doing exactly that yourself. You chose the NASA temperature record to show 2005 was warmer than 1998 (as does Al Gore), while the IPCC ‘scientific concensus’ shows 1998 as the warmest. Does IPCC represent the scientific consensus or not? Or is it OK to pick which bits you want? And using the term ‘deniers’ simply demonstrates that faith is more important to you than science.

  50. 50
    SteveSadlov says:

    RE: #44 – One key result of JohnV’s compilation of Class 1 and 2 sites is that the resulting temperature history indicates a warmer 1930s than 1990s.


Switch to our mobile site