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Tropical tropospheric trends again (again)

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 October 2008 - (Italian)

Many readers will remember our critique of a paper by Douglass et al on tropical tropospheric temperature trends late last year, and the discussion of the ongoing revisions to the observational datasets. Some will recall that the Douglass et al paper was trumpeted around the blogosphere as the definitive proof that models had it all wrong.

At the time, our criticism was itself criticised because our counterpoints had not been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. However, this was a little unfair (and possibly a little disingenuous) because a group of us had in fact submitted a much better argued paper making the same principal points. Of course, the peer-review process takes much longer than writing a blog post and so it has taken until today to appear on the journal website.

The new 17-author paper (accessible pdf) (lead by Ben Santer), does a much better job of comparing the various trends in atmospheric datasets with the models and is very careful to take account of systematic uncertainties in all aspects of that comparison (unlike Douglass et al). The bottom line is that while there is remaining uncertainty in the tropical trends over the last 30 years, there is no clear discrepancy between what the models expect and the observations. There is a fact sheet available which explains the result in relatively simple terms.

Additionally, the paper explores the statistical properties of the test used by Douglass et al and finds some very odd results. Namely, that their test should nominally inadvertently reject a match 1 time out 20 (i.e. for a 5% significance), actually rejects valid comparisons 16 times out of 20! And curiously, the more data you have, the worse the test performs (figure 5 in the paper). The other aspect discussed in the paper is the importance of dealing with systematic errors in the data sets. These are essentially the same points that were made in our original blog post, but are now much more comprehensively shown. The data sources are now completely up-to-date and a much wider range of sources is addressed – not only the different satellite products, but also the different analyses of the radiosonde data.

The bottom line is best encapsulated by the summary figure 6 from the paper:

The grey band is the real 2-sigma spread of the models (while the yellow band is the spread allowed for in the flawed Douglass et al test). The other lines are the different estimates from the data. The uncertainties in both preclude any claim of some obvious discrepancy – a result you can only get by cherry-picking what data to use and erroneously downplaying the expected spread in the simulations.

Taking a slightly larger view, I think this example shows quite effectively how blogs can play a constructive role in moving science forward (something that we discussed a while ago). Given the egregiousness of the error in this particular paper (which was obvious to many people at the time), having the initial blog posting up very quickly alerted the community to the problems even if it wasn’t a comprehensive analysis. The time in-between the original paper coming out and this new analysis was almost 10 months. The resulting paper is of course much better than any blog post could have been and in fact moves significantly beyond a simple rebuttal. This clearly demonstrates that there is no conflict between the peer-review process and the blogosphere. A proper paper definitely takes more time and gives generally a better result than a blog post, but the latter can get the essential points out very quickly and can save other people from wasting their time.


284 Responses to “Tropical tropospheric trends again (again)”

  1. 151
    Hank Roberts says:

    Walt, ‘climate change debate’ wants to “keep debate alive” — look at their suggested reading at the website climatechangedebate.org (anything anybody wants to add is included) –it’s a chatgroup meant for maintaining controversy; Yahoo is selling readers to advertisers.

  2. 152
    Deep Climate says:

    #145
    Speaking of Spencer, his latest musings are at Watts Up in the form of a “simplified” version of a paper he is “preparing to submit” to GRL.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/10/19/new-paper-from-roy-spencer-pdo-and-clouds/

    The paper argues that climate sensititvity to CO2 is much lower according to “observation” and that simplified “models” combining PDO and CO2 can “explain” most of 20th century warming through PDO-induced changes in cloud cover.

    I’m not clear how the oscillation with alternating warming and cooling (presumably about some sort of mean) can cause such a strong warming trend. It even appears the combined effect with CO2 is somehow less than the PDO alone in the early part of the century, if I’m understanding the fitted curves. More to the point, the PDO-temperature relationship clearly breaks down after about 1975 (no surprise there).

    Even before we get to the argument and curves, things go badly wrong. As one commenter has already pointed out, the estimate of sensitivity to CO2 doubling of 1.1 in Schwartz 2007 has already been corrected upward by that author (to 1.9).

    It’s hard to imagine that this paper could get published without serious revision. But in the end the publication of the article may be beside the point.

    “I am posting this information in advance of publication because of its potential importance to pending EPA regulations or congressional legislation which assume that carbon dioxide is a major driver of climate change. Since the news media now refuses to report on peer-reviewed scientific articles which contradict the views of the IPCC, Al Gore, and James Hansen, I am forced to bypass them entirely.”

    I’m not aware of any “pending regulations” or “legislation” that might be enacted any time soon, say by the end of the year. But there is an election soon, so perhaps Spencer means that this is important information for voters to use in deciding which legislators to support.

  3. 153
    Rod B says:

    Gavin et al are certainly more qualified and experienced to assess climate models than I. None-the-less, the conclusions drawn (#143) seem overly sanguine (though admittedly my characterization is subjective). The IPCC claims the models’ global (wide) mean annual temperatures is highly correlated (0.98) with measured actual (ignoring for now the question of the validity and reliability (noise) of the measurements themselves). That clearly is very positive. It also said, for example, it missed both polar regions badly, had a 10 degree standard deviation over much of the land mass, missed significant portions of the eastern ocean basins, etc. I would agree with Brian K. that this certainly would not disprove the models by any stretch. But it certainly raises eyebrows in the overall validity. “The pieces were screwy but when averaged out together came out pretty good” may be a good indication (prove the Law of Large Numbers??) but certainly does not prove the process. This applies if the pieces are parts of the global temperature and the whole is the global mean, or if the parts are individual models and the whole is all models thrown together (mathematically) — the latter being especially specious in my mind.

    On the other hand, “proof”, as an absolute, is not usually the appropriate metric as has been pointed out here numerous times. So a question for anybody (with strong interest in Galvin’s professional opinion): what is your real confidence level, in percent, that the models correctly reflect the temperature deviations?

  4. 154
    thingsbreak says:

    @152:

    I’m not aware of any “pending regulations” or “legislation” that might be enacted any time soon, say by the end of the year. But there is an election soon, so perhaps Spencer means that this is important information for voters to use in deciding which legislators to support.

    Spencer is probably referring to the fact that both candidates for the Presidency have at least claimed they will enact an emissions cap and trade policy. Furthermore (although I have no idea of whether Spencer was aware of it at the time of writing) Barack Obama has said that absent meaningful legislation on emissions within the first 18 months of inauguration, should he win he will allow the EPA to have the authority to regulate GHG emissions as dangerous pollutants.

    [captcha: Repairs chemist]

  5. 155
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #154

    “Barack Obama has said that absent meaningful legislation on emissions within the first 18 months of inauguration, should he win he will allow the EPA to have the authority to regulate GHG emissions as dangerous pollutants.”

    In other words, Obama has committed to unilateral emissions reduction? Does this mean that the courts will settle how much has to be cleaned up, how soon?

    Does it seem rational for Obama to announce that he will act to curb emissions even in the absence of an agreement that other nations will do the same?

    Moral absolutism as a substitute for rational policy making?

  6. 156
    Mark says:

    Walt, #154. America agreed to a democratic republic and a written constitution without wondering if anyone else woul do it too.

    Because it’s the right thing to do.

  7. 157
    Deep Climate says:

    Re # 154:
    “Spencer is probably referring to the fact that both candidates …”

    You do seem to agree that the timing has everything to do with the elections (both presidential and congressional) and that there are no “pending regulations”. Obviously, some unknown proposed regulations that might be imposed under some hypothetical scenario in almost two years from now hardly qualify as “pending”.

    But if both presidential candidates are proposing cap and trade systems, how is one supposed to use Spencer’s comments to usefully distinguish between them? Unless, of course, he is hoping that Sarah Palin can convince McCain that contemporary climate change is not primarily attributable to human activities (assuming she is capable of coherently expressing that point of view). And of course perhaps Spencer’s post could also be used to bolster the re-election efforts of congressional “sceptics”.

  8. 158
    Rod B says:

    Walt asks, “Moral absolutism as a substitute for rational policy making?”

    Yes, so it seems. The advantage is that moral absolutism requires little knowledge.

  9. 159

    Re 155, 156 & 158:

    The old adage, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” comes to mind. I think many on this forum would welcome *any* of the above with respect to Administration policy; Bush has been rather good at standing in the way.

    As for the future, someone *always* has to go first.

  10. 160
    kevin says:

    Wow. Walt and Rod are now characterizing a decision to LET THE EPA DO ITS JOB, a decision based on THE CONSENSUS VIEW OF CLIMATE SCIENTISTS WORLDWIDE as “moral absolutism,” not “rational policy making,” and a position which “requires little knowledge.” This stuff is Orwellian in the extreme, IMO. I think the harmful “moral absolutism” is in fact coming from people with irrational beliefs that mainstream climate science must be wrong because A) it runs counter to their religious beliefs (the “God wouldn’t let us screw things up” camp, who like to say how we’re too small and insignificant to actually affect Earth’s climate) and/or B) it runs counter to their political beliefs (in that they think environmentalism = liberalism, and that liberalism = the evil commies) and/or C) it runs counter to their fundamentalist belief in the transcendant wisdom of unregulated markets (“get government out of industry’s way and everything will be allright! [yeah, ok. ask people who were invested in Enron. Or, Nowadays, ask people who were invested in anything else. Better yet, ask a Chinese mother whose baby died because of melamine contamination. That's what "free" {i.e. unregulated} markets do. They concentrate wealth in a few hands, and stomp everyone else into the ground.]).

    Whew, veered off there for a few minutes. Sorry. Anyway, I don’t think letting the EPA fulfill its mission in light of the best available science is in any sense “moral absolutism as a substitute for rational policy making.”

  11. 161
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #156

    What if it is actually the wrong thing to do? Announcing an intention to “go it alone” seems likely to garner a response of “have at it!” from places like China and India. China already out-emits the US, and if I am not mistaken, India soon will.

    “Good ideas” can often times be abysmal policy.

    Re: #160

    When you are prepared to ask me where I stand rather than tell me, please let me know.

  12. 162
    kevin says:

    Hi, Walt. From where you stand, does allowing the EPA to have the authority to regulate GHG emissions as dangerous pollutants constitute “moral absolutism?”

    If so, then I stand behind what I said in #160. If not, well, your earlier post was a bit misleading, then.

  13. 163
    David B. Benson says:

    Walt Bennett (161) — Here is the estimate of annual CO2 emissions by human activities:

    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_glob.htm

    Summing all that, you’ll find that very little of it has so far been contributed by China or India.

  14. 164
    thingsbreak says:

    @155: In other words, Obama has committed to unilateral emissions reduction?

    No, in other words, unlike the Bush administration, Obama would allow the EPA to follow its own conclusions regarding the proper implementation of the Clean Air Act.

    Does it seem rational for Obama to announce that he will act to curb emissions even in the absence of an agreement that other nations will do the same?

    The agreement will come in 2012 (and will be largely settled by 2009), whether the US is part of it in a substantive way or not. We have two options, and only two:

    1. Be a credible partner if not a leader, and commit to firm emissions reductions, and as with the Montreal Protocol present a strong, united front to the developing world with a proper package of carrots and sticks for its compliance.

    OR

    2. Continue to kick the can down the road, and allow our status of “the nation most responsible for total GHG emissions yet still doing nothing” to provide cover for India, China, Brazil, and the rest of the developing world.

    There is no “guarantee” that if we choose 1, we are 100% certain to succeed in bringing the developing world into the fold, but I’ve yet to speak to any rational party that believes that it’s even possible, much less plausible to do so if we choose 2.

  15. 165
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #163

    lol

  16. 166

    Re: Response to Comment 143:

    Just a quick note of clarification. Gavin’s use of an “enhancement of the Antarctic polar vortex” to support model behavior is perhaps appropriate, but it seems that far and away the most important player down there is ozone depletion rather than GHG increases, at least according to Karpechko et al. (posted on-line today at GRL). So, while “an enhancement of the Antarctic polar vortex” may be used to support model replications of observations, it shouldn’t be used to support model replications of observed impacts of an enhanced greenhouse effect (because models without ozone effects do not well replicate observed trends there).

    -Chip

    [Response: We were talking about models in general, not effects of CO2 in particular - note that I threw in Pinatubo as well. I don't suppose anyone assumed that I though that volcanoes are caused by CO2 emissions as a consequence. - gavin]

  17. 167
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: $162

    Kevin,

    You are attempting to make simple a complex issue, and David is attempting to use statistics to alter the issue. What exactly do the two of you have against facing reality?

    We are probably already past the first Hansen tipping point, the eventual loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet. If we are serious about saving ourselves from that, and from gliding past other tipping points, then we are going to have to talk rationally about where we are and where we’re headed.

    If Obama does what he’s threatening, no more coal plants will be built in the U.S. Now we all know that day must come; but how soon is it practical to get there? I’m sure there are idealists out there who say ‘NOW! STOP NOW! RIGHT NOW! TODAY!’

    Are you two among those? If so, I’d ask you who will do without electricity. I somehow suspect it will not be the rich.

    If you are not among them, I am sincerely interested in knowing what alternatives can be brought online soon enough to do without the coal plants, or perhaps what real world changes can be made in efficiency.

    My larger point was that without the cooperation of other large emitters of CO2, the Hansen tipping points will surely fall; what would be the difference in years, if the U.S. hits its targets but China and India don’t?

    What would be the real sacrifice in increased costs for goods, services, labor, heat, electricity, fuel? Would that sacrifice be borne by the U.S. alone? What is the plan to account for these increased costs? Are we talking about a Hansenish redistribution? I’d like to know if that’s part of your solution package.

    Obama is fine at saying, “Here’s what we’ll do.”

    Wait a couple of years, and see how much “we” get done. Politics is a mud bath, and everybody gets dirty. Obama may be “transformative”, but I wager that he will not find a way to alter that paradigm.

    The way I see it, he has committed another rookie mistake by announcing his unilateral intentions to curb emissions. I repeat what I said: there will be a long line of nations who wholeheartedly agree to let us go on and do that.

  18. 168
    Eric says:

    Lucia at Rank Exploits has claimed to apply the methods of Santer to the Global Temperature anomaly and found that most of the model trends do not lie within the 2sigma error of the data trends.

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2008/lets-apply-the-method-in-santer17-to-gmst-part-1/

    Are her calculations correct? I don’t have access to the data, nor the background and expertise to tell.

  19. 169
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… When the mind of a nation is bowed down by any political superstition in its government,… it loses a considerable portion of its powers on all other subjects and objects….”
    http://www.ushistory.org/paine/rights/c2-03.htm

    Any country that can run quickly ahead of the rest of the world in developing the technology that is more efficient, less polluting, more profitable, and that contributes to the general good of the world will have something valuable and, I hope, be eager to license it on very affordable terms. Ask yourself if your country is better off being ahead, or being behind, in innovation and development.

  20. 170
    David B. Benson says:

    Walt Bennett (167) — I see it as an ethical issue; some philosophers have attepted to say something productive about this; Hansen already has, more briefly. The point is that the EU, U.S., Canada and Australia all need to control emissions first; so far only the EU has mad minimal progress, none elsewhere (except the Province of British Columbia and a bit in Ontario).

    Joe Romm, on ClimateProgress, has a plan; he states that efficiency is the first goal and much can be done here; then in the U.S. solar thermal and wind will have an increasing role. Turns out China has lots of wind and they are certainly installing numerous wind turbines.

    [But reCAPTCHA states the final answer: "No population".]

  21. 171
    Rod B says:

    kevin (160), Speaking of little knowledge, it sounds like you are accusing Walt and me, and not Obama, of being Orwellian, in which case it behooves you to find out what it means. You also ought to bone up on the EPA’s mission and the process (unpoliticised rule of law and inconvenient things like that) it is supposed to go through, not that you would have any interest. It’s much easier to simply and autocratically decree what will be done (which in the oddest stretch imaginable Mark somehow equates with writing the Constitution, etc!!) It’s all a little strange since Obama should have little trouble accomplishing his dictum through the normal processes (though it might take an extra year or two) — but he probably doesn’t know that (there’s that “little knowledge” thing again ;-) )

    Would you be pleased if the EPA (through normal legal processes) finds CO2 a class 1 pollutant and bans it totally from all electric power generation by, say 2012, and from all motor vehicles by, say, 2015? It sounds like you would though maybe it is just the veering off thing I’m reading.

  22. 172
    Rod B says:

    kevin (162), “allowing the EPA to have the authority to regulate GHG emissions as dangerous pollutants constitute[s] “moral absolutism?” Yes, as you precisely say it. The President does not have legal authority to do that, which makes it absolutism. He can pressure them to make their assessment as the Supreme Court says they can do (wrongly IMO, but that’s not relevant) and encourage the correct outcome (like what some threatened to impeach Bush for doing, …like that), but this was not the assertion.

    [Response: Actually, the supreme court already decided that EPA has this authority. The only block at the moment on doing the necessary findings and plans is at the political appointee level. And that is something that any new president can change. - gavin]

  23. 173
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #169

    Hank,

    I could not have said it better myself.

    Let’s get started on a huge technological revolution, a post-industrial age where we blend all sorts of energy sources into a balanced, sustainable, growable solution.

    And let the U.S. lead the way. I’m all for economic transformation, a tide which lifts all boats.

    I am 100% all for a reality based dedication to such a future.

    Just do me a couple of favors along the way, such as not radically altering the cost structure for delivering fuel to those who need it, and those who seek it for their own sustenance. As I have said before, it is not their fault we are in this mess.

    I would also point out that it is realistic for me to suggest that we will engineer our way forward.

    Re: #164

    We disagree on the certainty of any sort of international agreement which will cause year-over-year reductions in emissions, within any sort of timeframe which will avert “tipping point” levels of CO2. You will recall that Kyoto was “agreed to” as well, and the targets were not met.

    Further, whether it is “right” or “wrong” to “do the ethical thing” (and I would submit that in reality, that’s a very weak argument in terms of its potential to effect change), my point was that if Obama really wants to “do the right thing”, he needs the rest of the world to do the same. It is my opinion that he sacrifices leverage toward that goal when he categorically states that he will unilaterally curb emissions.

    It seems to me that the next move after that would have to be threats of sanctions if other nations don’t reci-procate.

    And what I see at the end of all of that is serious disruption of the lives of those who can least afford the disruption. Since I consider myself among those people, and since I know I am better off than 80% of humanity, I therefore know that the disruption will be truly devastating for perhaps billions of people.

    Meanwhile, the planet will continue to warm *anyway*.

    We certainly need a worldwide commitment to a sustainable future, and if we are talking reality, then we also know that we need to find a way to actually take CO2 levels down, not wait for nature to do it.

    So, if Obama is truly interested in success, then he needs to start with a clean sheet of paper and look at what’s real and what’s possible. Showing his hand before he’s even been elected, as I said, strikes me as another of his rookie mistakes.

  24. 174

    Walt, why do you keep on referring to “unilateral” cuts? It seems quite likely to me that others will be ahead of the U.S. on this; the EU for instance are busily negotiating targets now.

    Further, an Obama administration would undoubtedly be participating in talks to achieve global (hopefully) or at least internationally agreed action on mitigation. So the “unilateral” bit seems rather a straw man to me.

  25. 175
    Mark says:

    Walt, 161

    What if the moon was made of cheese?

    How does the smalll possibility of failure make trying wrong?

    I thought the US was ‘the leader of the free world’! SO LEAD!!!

  26. 176
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Eric writes:

    Lucia at Rank Exploits has claimed to apply the methods of Santer to the Global Temperature anomaly and found that most of the model trends do not lie within the 2sigma error of the data trends.

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2008/lets-apply-the-method-in-santer17-to-gmst-part-1/

    Are her calculations correct? I don’t have access to the data, nor the background and expertise to tell.

    In a word, no. For details, ask Tamino, who has actually analyzed what Lucia did and pointed out her mistakes:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com

  27. 177

    Walt, it is pretty clear to me that you are vastly underestimating the power of inspired leadership. There hasn’t been too much of that lately, so perhaps your pessimism is forgivable.

    The way I see it is this: there are two essentially different kinds of international treaties. There are treaties of the first kind, voluntary agreements among sovereign nations, that any one of them may join or leave. And then there are treaties that have the ambition of universality: the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. These look like treaties, but are in reality emergent international law.

    Climate treaty negotiations have been seen as being of the first kind, due to rich and powerful nations behaving in that way. It doesn’t have to be so. Obama’s example may well bring about a world in which, e.g., the moral status of a coal-fired power plant burning in the atmosphere is no better than that of a nuclear device exploding in it.

    And consider also that the economic development of China and India is premised on export to the West, and will be for a foreseeable future. Imagine how they will look side by side on a shop shelf, a Chinese product from a fossil-fired economy, competing with a carbon-neutral domestic product. Can you hear the calls already for carbon-graded import duties?

    Appearances matter. Morality matters. They will play ball.

  28. 178
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    “A proper paper definitely takes more time and gives generally a better result than a blog post, but the latter can get the essential points out very quickly and can save other people from wasting their time.”

    There is a role for blogging to fill the gaps that peer review can’t and I think Real Climate is doing a good job at it.

    #172 Rod B
    The president does not just have the authority to regulate GHG emissions, he must obey the law and regulate them. The Clean Air Act is clear about this. The Supreme Court decision didn’t even turn on this issue. The only serious issue was if the states and environmentalists had the right to sue.

    Gavin is right, now its just political delay.

  29. 179

    Barton #176, this is a different computation than the one Tamino commented on.

    I am also in no position to judge the correctness, but it looks reasonable. What it shows is the effect of the structural uncertainty in individual GCMs (meaning that some of them are systematically high, others systematically low, due to flaws in the representation of the physics; most probably related to discretization/parametrization effects for clouds and/or aerosols). It shows up when you use for comparison a longer, globally averaged time series rather than a shorter, tropical-only one.

  30. 180
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walt, one of the problems we have with climate mitigation is that we’ve never confronted such a grand issue on a global scale, so nobody is quite sure how to approach it. We’re all standing around, dipping a nervous toe or two into the water and saying, “After you…” “No, after you…” It is quite possible that early adopters will make mistakes that have significant economic consequences. On the other hand, the first one that gets it right, will reap significant advantages selling technology and expertise to the rest of the world. I have to say that I am concerned that I don’t see the sort of leadership from the US business community needed to tackle this crisis. It is hard to believe that they are so myopic as to only see the risks and ignore the opportunities. This is something that has to be done. You can’t negotiate or spin the laws of physics, and as capitalists used to say in a more adventurous time, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

  31. 181
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (172), the Court declared that the EPA can assess the question (the various self-serving spins put on it not withstanding). It then can decide yea or nay. If it decides yea it would, in turn, have the authority to actually regulate and to determine allowances and prohibitions of emitting CO2, but would have to go through the legally established process to do so. The President can greatly influence this as I said and you imply, but can not decree it as kevin said and Obama implied.

    [Response: I've read the findings report - there is no doubt that EPA will decide that CO2 emissions are harmful under the Clean Air Act. Whether it goes forward depends only on the appointee level. - gavin]

  32. 182
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #!77

    Martin,

    You correctly describe me as pessimistic that any year-over-year reductions, on the world level or on national levels, will materialize in time to matter.

    You write that appearances matter and morality matters. So they do. What they don’t do, of course, is rule. You can “do the right thing” and still get screwed. Is the U.S. lining up to play patsy? We will see. I only point out that the potential is there.

    Meanwhile, of course, my issue has to do with the cost burden, which will be quite real and quite “now” to those it affects.

    I’m waiting for the “moral leadership” brigade to explain their moral approach to making sure those on the edge don’t go over the edge when energy costs rise.

  33. 183
    Rod B says:

    Kevin McKinney (174), the EU and members are re-negotiating their own targets that they (save a couple) missed the last time they went ahead of us. Why should we assume they are way out front this time?? And if we made actual goal-reaching cuts, it would be on our own. We’re discussing “unilateral” only because that is what Obama clearly implied, so if it is a straw man go fuss at him.

  34. 184
    Rod B says:

    Joseph (178), as was done here in RC not too long ago, you’re just reading the Clean Air Act to suit your desires, not as it is actually written.

  35. 185

    Walt #182

    I’m waiting for the “moral leadership” brigade to explain their moral approach to making sure those on the edge don’t go over the edge when energy costs rise.

    You seem to have no idea how relatively minimal the costs of an effective mitigation programme will actually be… we’re talking mere percents of GDP. In other words, the same sort of money we’re willing to spend on the military, another kind of investment in security. Similarly uncertain, and the same moral question arises; yet somehow the money is found and spent — setting priorities, I guess. Note well, I’m not arguing against the legitimacy of having a defence force, just pointing out that your moral problem, while real enough, is a little broader than the cost of AGW mitigation.

  36. 186
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (181), which is pretty much what I said…. (though of course don’t like ;-) )

  37. 187
    Hank Roberts says:

    Walt Bennett Says:
    20 October 2008 at 8:58 PM
    Re: #169
    >…
    >I could not have said it better myself.

    As the guy said after seeing _Hamlet_, eh?

    Read the rest of The Rights of Man
    and ask if you could come even close,
    and consider why the USA should lead.

    http://www.ushistory.org/paine/rights/b2-intr.htm
    —————-
    … such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, — and all it wants, — is the liberty of appearing. The sun needs no inscription to distinguish him from darkness; and no sooner did the American governments display themselves to the world, than despotism felt a shock and man began to contemplate redress.

    The independence of America … would have been a matter but of little importance, had it not been accompanied by a revolution in the principles and practice of governments. She made a stand, not for herself only, but for the world, and looked beyond the advantages herself could receive. Even the Hessian, though hired to fight against her, may live to bless his defeat; and England, condemning the viciousness of its government, rejoice in its miscarriage.

    As America was the only spot in the political world where the principle of universal reformation could begin, so also was it the best in the natural world. An assemblage of circumstances conspired, not only to give birth, but to add gigantic maturity to its principles. The scene which that country presents to the eye of a spectator, has something in it which generates and encourages great ideas. Nature appears to him in magnitude. The mighty objects he beholds, act upon his mind by enlarging it, and he partakes of the greatness he contemplates…. In such a situation man becomes what he ought. He sees his species, not with the inhuman idea of a natural enemy, but as kindred; and the example shows to the artificial world, that man must go back to Nature for information.
    ————————————–

    And

    http://www.nellbrinkley.net/tompaine.htm

    ——————
    It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy.
    ——————

    Tabitha dore

  38. 188
    Lawrence Brown says:

    In April 2007, The Supreme Court handed down a decision
    that ruled that CO2 is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and the EPA has the authority to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.
    http://environment.about.com/od/environmentallawpolicy/a/epa_greenhouse.htm

  39. 189

    Gavin (re:181),

    I know that you serve(d) as a federal expert reviewer of the EPA’s “Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act,” but it was my impression (actually, it is a fact) that the Public Comment period is still wide open on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking of Regulating Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act. One of the things that is still open for comment is the endangerment issue. Thus, I should hope that your comment that “I’ve read the findings report – there is no doubt that EPA will decide that CO2 emissions are harmful under the Clean Air Act” is based only on your personal opinion rather than an insider’s knowledge of the way things are to be. I for one (among many) are very actively engaged in providing comments on the DRAFT of the “Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act.” From my initial readings, it is a superior document than the draft of the Unified Synthesis Product released for comment by the USCCSP earlier this summer (for which the public comments were sufficient to have the CCSP rethink the contents and release date of the final document), but, it is still in need of some modification and, most importantly, its support of an endangerment finding is still in question. Now, maybe you know something that I don’t know (which most assuredly is the case :^) ), but let’s hope for procedure’s sake (if for nothing else), that the decision on endangerment isn’t already made. Otherwise, I am going to be wasting a lot of my time over the next month!

    -Chip

  40. 190

    In #183 Rod B wrote:

    “Kevin McKinney (174), the EU and members are re-negotiating their own targets that they (save a couple) missed the last time they went ahead of us. Why should we assume they are way out front this time?? And if we made actual goal-reaching cuts, it would be on our own. We’re discussing “unilateral” only because that is what Obama clearly implied, so if it is a straw man go fuss at him.”

    “. . .save for a couple” is still more progress than we have made at a national level here–basically zero–so they are clearly ahead of us now–which would seem to dispose of “it would be on our own,” as well.

    It is not clear to me that Obama implied “unilateral,” given that his Administration is committed to meaningful participation in international negotiations on emissions mitigation. I think it is an assumption that you and/or Walt is/are making because you are viewing the idea in isolation from other (presumptive) Obama policies.

  41. 191
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Martin: “You seem to have no idea how relatively minimal the costs of an effective mitigation programme will actually be… ”

    I would like to see a credible, peer reviewed, analysis that shows that. Do you have an example of one?

    Then the next step after determining an effective program is to see how it could be implemented without politicians multiplying the cost several fold or making it ineffective with loopholes for their friends.

  42. 192
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    Chip Knappenberger is actually right, but only on a technically. The rule-making process is still undergoing and it will take time before any of this is resolved by the EPA. Once this process is started it must run through all the legally required steps.

    It really is inevitable that the EPA will have to find greenhouse emissions harmful. The science and jurisprudence all point in one direction. Even if politics trump science and the EPA rules no endangerment the EPA will be overruled in the sure to follow lawsuit.

    Once that is done the language of the CAA dictates the EPA regulate CO2, a development that will traumatize Rod B ;)

  43. 193
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve, many of the measures that can be taken have negative cost–that is they actually save money–but require an upfront investment that serves as a barrier to implementation.
    As to peer-reviewed analysis, would a real-world example suffice instead? Last year, the city of Juneau, AK reduced energy consumption by more than 30% when they were cut off from cheap hydroelectric power by avalanches. The did so without any real preparation, with little central planning and with no damage to the local economy.
    Finally, the thing people need to understand is that this is not optional. If we do not carry out steps to limit increased warming, we will suffer severe consequences down the road.

  44. 194
    Hank Roberts says:

    Steve, Google.
    E.g.
    http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/research/index.html

    > EPA, carbon

    They’re slow. The lead rule just appeared, it only took fifteen or twenty years after the research became convincing.

    Mercury is still (ahem) up in the air.

    CO2 is as well documented as either of those. It takes time — and votes — to get administrators who will listen to the scientists.

  45. 195
    Mark says:

    Steve, #191, the Stern Report is as close to that as you get with any economist report. Vetted and checked by lots of people for errors and omissions.

  46. 196
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Steve, Ray, Mark: don’t forget the IPCC report… WG1 isn’t all there is ;-)

  47. 197
    Rod B says:

    Joseph says, “…the language of the CAA dictates the EPA regulate CO2, a development that will traumatize Rod B…”

    Along with a jillion other folk, including even some proponents who are blind to the Chinese proverb (which I’ll mangle, but you get the point) to ‘be careful what you wish for’ and are so orgasmic they’re oblivious to potential STDs and other bad stuff. (I wonder if this will get past the spam censor…)

  48. 198
    Rod B says:

    I think the sanguine attitude on how easy this will all be (a little this, a little that, a bunch of HPFM, and then we all sing songs around the campfire) is way off the realistic mark. But I do admire the optimism (really).

  49. 199
    Marcus says:

    Rod B, Chip Knappenberger: You might want to look at: http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/4308/1/83/?TopicID=2

    The general assumption is that EPA _found_ endangerment, and that is why OMB never opened the EPA email, and instead of an endangerment finding the EPA went to an ANPR as a tactic to delay until Bush was out of office.

    Obama is, in fact, basically stating, in a fairly reasonable fashion, that he is going to actually follow the Supreme Court ruling and allow EPA to find endangerment which will require action. But, as he points out, Congress is free to step in at any time in the first 18 months and write legislation that preempts the CAA for GHGs. Ideally, this new legislation should actually _control_ GHGs, but if Congress really doesn’t want GHGs to fall under the CAA it could merely pass legislation saying just that.

    And I think there is some flexibility in implementation in the CAA such that a) the EPA can start with big sources and move down (they’ve done that for other pollutants), and b) an expedited approval process could potentially be developed for “small” sources, so even GHG regulation under the CAA (which it was admittedly not designed for) might not be as bad as some fear.

    But I don’t see moral absolutism here. I see following the Law of the Land as passed by Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court, and a perfectly reasonable window in which Congress can choose another path if they don’t like the Supreme Court’s interpretation. That’s how the different branches of the government are supposed to work together!

  50. 200
    Ray Ladbury says:

    No, Rod, I don’t think it will be easy. I do think we could do much more than we are doing now fairly easily, and that those efforts might buy crucial time for us to come up with the solutions to the hard part. Do you disagree with any of that?


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