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The Guardian’s Editorial

Filed under: — eric @ 8 December 2009

The following editorial was published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like The Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. The Guardian, the editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons.

RealClimate takes no formal position on the statements made in the editorial.

Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

663 Responses to “The Guardian’s Editorial”

  1. 551
    Leonard Evens says:

    People shouldn’t really try to use the Comments forum as a means of learning the basic science. It is not a very good way to learn things. For example Rod B says

    “I have a uncertainty about GWPotential but don’t understand it enough to come to any conclusion. You made a statement to Pete that might aid my understanding: How can a molecule of CH4 have 20x the GWP of a molecule of CO2?”

    Marcus kindly provided him with an answer, but I doubt whether that will help much without further study.

    On this particular issue, I recommend David Archer’s video lectures at
    (particularly Chapter 4). He might even purchase the book

  2. 552
    paulina says:

    Re short-lived & long-lived sources of forcing.

    “Other forcings are important and need to be minimized, and some may be easier than carbon dioxide to deal with, but policy makers must understand that they cannot avoid constraints on carbon dioxide via offsets from other constituents.” — Hansen: Storms of my grandchildren, p. 164

  3. 553
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 526 Richard Steckis says:14 December 2009 at 10:0 AM
    > …
    > 1. Rapid climate change of 10 years or less are
    > well known from the geological record.

    You’re here conflating something real — abrupt climate change, change to a new longterm pattern — with short term events we call ‘weather.’

    You can’t claim you’ve detected a change in climate based on a ten year record immediately, at the tenth year.

    You may do so in retrospect, once that change has persisted for decades over a wide area.

  4. 554

    Timothy Chase: Well said!

  5. 555
    MarkB says:

    On another topic, I was wondering if any of the RC folks are attending the AGU fall meeting this week. I’d personally like to see a post on this summarizing the interesting presentations and having attendees comment. Not as exciting as stolen emails, I suppose, but still interesting to many of us.

  6. 556
    Ron R. says:

    One of the issues with nuclear plants, besides leaks, accidents etc. is the routine release of radioactive products to the environment and the possible effects that has. These releases are the suspect in cancers around nuke plants. We have no choice but to trust the NRC to tell us the truth about what these plants are releasing. A conflict of interest.

    According to the NAS even low doses of radiation have adverse health effects.

    Again my point from the beginning is not to be reflexively anti-nuclear power per se. But I just think that we should be moving away from large centralized energy sources that are vulnerable to all kinds of problems, from potentially devastating accidents in nuclear’s case, due to their size, to terrorist attack, to monopolization with customers defenseless against arbitrary price increases to breakdown causing many people to go without power at once etc. vs decentralized and smaller scale non-hazardous alternative energies which are without these risks. Ok maybe someone will get hit by a blade from their wind power rig or get a sunburn setting up their solar system. I’m sure the Big Energy giants or their spokesmen at CEI OR AEI can come up with their own “horror stories” about these risks.

  7. 557
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny @528, Did you read Tamino’s analysis? I found it rather compelling. In any case, I don’t see how this could be considered an appeal to authority. Since Tamino publishes his blog entries under a pseudonym, they must stand or fall according to their cogency. I find that more often than not, they stand quite well.

  8. 558

    #546 Timothy Chase

    It’s really incredible isn’t it.

    The simple fact that some scientists are receiving death threats is not entirely unexpected considering the mentality and lack of critical thinking capacity of some involved in the debate. However it is truly abhorrent.

    To anyone that might read this that is of such ilk. If you’re going to make a death threat, at least have the integrity to use your real name so the authorities can come arrest you and thus better society by getting you off the street and into a nice correctional facility where you can have some time to think about how truly ridiculous your choices are.

  9. 559
    Hank Roberts says:

    This is a reasonable cite for Rod. No, Rod, you won’t find “550 ppm” here– the point is the rate of change.

    An early Cenozoic perspective on greenhouse
    warming and carbon-cycle dynamics
    James C. Zachos, Gerald R. Dickens & Richard E. Zeebe

    No longer available at:

    Google cache file (text only) available:

    “By the year 2400, it is predicted that humans will have released about 5,000 gigatonnes of carbon (Gt C) to the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution if fossil-fuel emissions continue unabated and carbon-sequestration efforts remain at current levels1. This anthropogenic carbon input, predominantly carbon dioxide (CO2), would eventually return to the geosphere through the deposition of calcium carbonate and organic matter2. Over the coming millennium, however, most would accumulate in the atmosphere and ocean. Even if only 60% accumulated in the atmosphere, the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) would rise to 1,800 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.)….

    Observations of modern and Holocene (the past 10,000 years
    or so) climates have provided essential constraints for understanding climate dynamics and a baseline for predicting future responses to carbon input. But such observations can provide only limited insight into the response of climate to massive, rapid input of CO2. To evaluate climate theories more thoroughly, particularly with regard to feedbacks and climate sensitivity to pCO2, it is desirable to study samples obtained when CO2 concentrations were high (approaching or exceeding 1,800 p.p.m.v.) and to make observations for intervals longer than those of ocean overturning and carbon cycling (more than 1,000 years)4. Earth scientists have therefore turned increasingly to ancient time intervals, particularly those in which pCO2 was much higher than now, in which pCO2 changed rapidly, or both. Recent reconstructions of Earth’s history have considerably improved our knowledge of known ‘greenhouse’ periods and have uncovered several previously unknown episodes of rapid emissions of greenhouse gases and abrupt warming.

    On shorter timescales, atmospheric CO2 concentration and tem
    perature can change rapidly, as demonstrated by a series of events during the early Cenozoic known as hyperthermals. These were relatively brief intervals (less than a few tens of thousands of years) of extreme global warmth and massive carbon addition but with widely differing scales of forcing and response. During the most prominent and best-studied hyperthermal, the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; about 55 million years ago), the global temperature increased by more than 5°C in less than 10,000 years6 (Fig. 3). At about the same time, more than 2,000 Gt C as CO2 — comparable in magnitude to that which could occur over the coming centuries — entered the atmosphere and ocean.

    Evidence for this carbon release is found in sedimentary records across the event…. The entire event lasted less than 170,000 years.

    Outlook for the future

    If fossil-fuel emissions continue unabated, in less than 300 years pCO2 will reach about 1,800 p.p.m.v., a level not present on Earth for roughly 50 million years.”

  10. 560
    Silk says:

    “Patrick 027 (497), I have a uncertainty about GWPotential but don’t understand it enough to come to any conclusion. You made a statement to Pete that might aid my understanding: How can a molecule of CH4 have 20x the GWP of a molecule of CO2? CH4 can absorb a single photon as can CO2 and those two photons are fairly close in energy level — certainly not a difference of 20x. Or is there some process that allows CH4 to do significantly more photon absorption – energy transfer cycles than CO2 (though I don’t know why that would be…) and the 20x factor comes somehow from probabilities and/or quantum factors?”

    It’s because different molecules have different absorbtion cross-sections, and different spectra. The probability of a passing photon being the correct wavelength and passing ‘close’ enough to a molecule of CH4 is significantly greater than the probability of a passing photon being of the correct wavelength and ‘close’ enough to be absorbed by a molecule of CO2.

    If you want to know more about this, any Physical Chemistry text book will be able to sort you out. I recomend Atkins.

    “Silk (508), not surprisingly you’re still bellowing the mantra of “mountains of evidence,” “REAL EVIDENCE” (emphasis yours), and finally just plain “EVIDENCE” to support the nominal 3 degrees increase following a doubling of CO2 — as opposed to models and physics theory. I’d still like to be directed to the referenced for that evidence with pointing sans higher db’s.”

    Rod B – You’ve been around here a long time, and are clearly trolling. However, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m hiding from the question, so I’ll point you to the answer, which you can then deny at your own leisure.

    Box 10.2 : The first category of methods (see Section
    9.6) uses the historical transient evolution of
    surface temperature, upper air temperature,
    ocean temperature, estimates of the radiative
    forcing, satellite data, proxy data over the last
    millennium, or a subset thereof to calculate
    ranges or PDFs for sensitivity (e.g., Wigley et
    al., 1997b; Tol and De Vos, 1998; Andronova
    and Schlesinger, 2001; Forest et al., 2002; Gregory
    et al., 2002a; Harvey and Kaufmann, 2002;
    Knutti et al., 2002, 2003; Frame et al., 2005; Forest
    et al., 2006; Forster and Gregory, 2006; Hegerl
    et al., 2006)

  11. 561
    Jiminmpls says:

    #507 Gary Thompson

    Gary – I’m NOT a scientist, but I’ve been reading this blog – and many skeptic sites – for years. There IS a conspiracy afoot – but it’s not among the climate scientists.

    As for your question, google “Mojib Latif” and read. He’s often misrepresented by delialists as disproving global warming theory, but he doesn’t. He explains that natural variation over annual or decadal periods may temporarily mask global warming, but the warming is still occuring and it is man-made. As I understand it, climate modelers tend to screen out the effects of the solar minimum/maximum cycle and ocean currents because they are cyclical events and have no impact over the long term.

  12. 562

    Re previous comments back to #533

    Just read this very nice item regarding black and organic carbon re the Himalayas from Dr. Hansen:

  13. 563
    Phil. Felton says:

    Marcus says:
    14 December 2009 at 10:46 AM
    I realize that RealClimate has a backlog of interesting things to get to, but at some point it might be nice to cover statements like the following:

    I could see it being “possible” that summer Arctic ice might disappear in the next five to seven years, but 75% chance sounds, well, alarmist. And I usually admire Al Gore’s ability to listen to scientists and package the information in intelligible ways. So it would be nice to hear if a) he is exaggerating in this case, or b) there actually is new science out there that indicates that near-term Arctic summer disappearance is actually likely.


    [Response: This is based on claims by Wieslaw Maslowski (unpublished as yet, but widely reported) and come from a simple linear extrapolation of the Arctic ice thickness data from his model of historical changes which indeed show a faster decline than summer ice extent. However, it is clear that since the extent and the thickness give different times for no summer ice, that there is probably something a little suspect about linear extrapolations of these things. No physical model gives timescales that short, but then again they are underestimating trends so far. Thus, this claim remains speculative. – gavin]

    This is what Maslowski said in a presentation in 2008. (note the !)
    “Between 1997-2004:
    annual mean sea ice concentration has decreased by ~17%
    mean ice thickness has decreased by ~0.9 m or ~36%
    ice volume decreased by 40%, which is >2x the rate of ice area decrease
    If this trend persists the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free by ~2013!”

  14. 564

    Did: my point stands: nobody has died in the US directly from a civilian nuclear accident

    BPL: You either read very carelessly, or…

    Here are the relevant entries. I assume you’re saying the Manhattan Project, SL-1 etc. facilities don’t count as “civilian.” So here are some that do:

    07/24/1964. United Nuclear Corp. fuel facility, Charlottestown, RI, USA. Criticality accident in uranium pouring. 1 fatality. Ref: Lutin.

    07/27/1972. Surry Unit 2 commercial reactor, Virginia, USA. Steam explosion. 2 fatalities. Ref: Lutin.

    12/09/1986. Surry Unit 2 commercial reactor, Virginia, USA. Steam explosion (again). 4 fatalities. Ref: Lutin.

    Just 7 people dead, but 7 > 0 where I come from. Or are you using the Nuke industry propaganda trick of not counting plant workers as “civilians?” None of these guys were employed by the military.

  15. 565

    RS: The data from three of the four main datasets that are relied upon show that there has been no statistically significant net warming since 2003

    BPL: That’s probably because 5-6 years can’t give you a significant warming, cooling or flat trend, RS. You need 30 years. How many times do we have to say it?

  16. 566
    David B. Benson says:

    Richard Steckis (526) — (1) Please give citation about rapid climate change in 10 years or less in the “geologic” record. I believe you will find that the actual evidence is only to be found in Greenland and northern Scandinavia; hardly global.

    (2) WMO defines climate as 30 years or more of climate data. I suspect the reason has to do with statistical significance; try reading an advanced text on meteorology. In any case, from my amateur understanding of ocean oscillations and GISS’s ModelE characteristic time, I’d rather see at least 90 years of data. Fortunately, the modern instrumental period gives (almost) 130 years of data; that’s enough.

  17. 567
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Silk #560, patience of a saint…

  18. 568
    SecularAnimist says:

    As I said earlier, my nostalgia for arguing with nuclear proponents — who at least acknowledge that global warming is a real problem, in contrast to the deniers — evaporated pretty quickly and I have no desire to prolong another fruitless and futile “debate” over nuclear power.

    I do, however, want to make one point clear. My opposition to investing resources in an expansion of nuclear power has relatively little to do with the very real, very serious, dangers of nuclear technology.

    I oppose investment in new nuclear power because expanding nuclear electricity generation is neither necessary, nor is it an effective means of reducing GHG emissions, particularly in the time frame within which large reductions are needed. Indeed, nuclear is SO expensive, and takes SO long to build, that the opportunity costs of putting resources into expanding nuclear power instead of into more cost-effective and timely solutions (e.g. efficiency and renewables) actually hinder, rather than help, the effort to reduce GHG emissions.

    There are other commenters here who have much more expertise than I do as to the documented harms and dangers of nuclear power. I leave that discussion to them. I would only say that IF we really had no other options except to replace coal-fired power plants with nuclear power plants, then there might be a compelling argument that the price of action against AGW is that we will just have to deal with the problems of nuclear power as best we can. Arguably, even multiple full-blown nuclear power plant meltdowns would be a lesser catastrophe than unmitigated global warming.

    But that is not the case. We have plenty of other options — and they are faster and cheaper and better and safer and more sustainable than nuclear (and have potential social benefits as well, e.g. decentralizing and thus democratizing the production of energy). We simply don’t need nuclear power, so there is no need to deal with the problems of nuclear power. We can phase out both coal and nuclear and get more electricity than we could possibly need from renewables.

  19. 569
    Tilo Reber says:

    Hank: #559
    “If fossil-fuel emissions continue unabated, in less than 300 years pCO2 will reach about 1,800 p.p.m.v., a level not present on Earth for roughly 50 million years.””

    Okay, Hank, let’s say that it does go to 1800 ppm – so what? I see in your quote that 5C in temperature rise caused a lot of CO2. I don’t see where a lot of CO2 caused 5C in temperature rise. I also see a record where the CO2 was still rising and temperature reversed direction. This happened hundreds of times. So far in the entire industrial era we have added about 105 ppm. To get to your number we would have to add about 14 times as much as we have already added. Considering the parallel peak oil scare that we hear about, we will have to do most of that based upon coal and gas alone. That would be very difficult and very unlikely in just 300 years. That problem would also disappear through the simple expedient of making any newly built power sources nuclear and replacing any gas and coal plants with nuclear when they wear out. No rush – no emergency – no need for cap and trade – no need for global governance by the unelected.

    Taking it a little further, at 1800 ppm we would not yet have reached a third doubling of CO2. If Lindzen or Spencer are right, then, that would mean an extra 1.8C or less. The same is most likely true if Svensmark is right – and I still think that he is. So let’s say that a reasonable number for getting to that 1800 point is 500 years. Look at the amount that life has changed in the last 500 years. Do you really think that we will be using the same technologies by then – even if CO2 is found to pose no dangers. It will be a completely different world technologically then. We may be using fusion reactors. Or we may be using a power source that we don’t even know exists today.

    I think that you need to stop thinking of time scales of 20 years as being significant. What happened between 1976 and 1998 is a 22 year warming acceleration. It corresponds to a period that was heavily dominated by warming PDO and ENSO events. You simply can’t say that a 22 year period of heating acceleration means that we have uncovered “THE TRUE TREND”. Let’s see if this same trend manifests for the next 30 years – because it certainly hasn’t for the past 11. But if it does, we can discuss what, if anything, we need to do about it. In the meantime, the only emergency is the emergency that politicians and activists feel at the possibility of letting a perfectly good scare go by without taping it for power and money. The real thing that the people at the IPCC are afraid of is that the current flat trend will continue.

  20. 570
    Didactylos says:

    Studying my feelings, I think my annoyance with the anti-nuclear crowd stems from the fact that had they had more foresight and less nuke-fuelled paranoia thirty years ago, we would now not be reliant on coal at all.

    Maybe I do them an injustice. Although I think the anti-nuclear reaction has always been overblown, back then there were some very valid concerns: insufficient regulation, poorly designed control systems, some unsafe early designs still in operation, and the very real link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

    The problem is that the more extreme environmentalists have come to believe their own propaganda; they treat the TORCH report as gospel, and they refuse to accept that with the end of the cold war, the nuclear weapon situation has changed completely. They also refuse to accept that new designs and regulations have not only ensured safety, but now go possibly way beyond what is required (in the US, at least).

    Ron R, I see you link to a polemic about nuclear power from an advocacy site. I spotted this quote: “Permissible does not mean safe.” It’s true. Permissible levels are a tiny, tiny fraction of what is considered to be safe. Nothing I saw on the site led me to have any confidence in it.

    Besides, scientists have been unable to find any evidence of “the suspect in cancers around nuke plants”:

    In 1990 the United States Congress requested the National Cancer Institute to conduct a study of cancer mortality rates around nuclear plants and other facilities covering 1950 to 1984 focusing on the change after operation started of the respective facilities. They concluded in no link. In 2000 the University of Pittsburgh found no link to heightened cancer deaths in people living within 5 miles of plant at the time of the Three Mile Island accident. The same year, the Illinois Public Health Department found no statistical abnormality of childhood cancers in counties with nuclear plants. In 2001 the Connecticut Academy of Sciences and Engineering confirmed that radiation emissions were negligibly low at the Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. Also that year, the American Cancer Society investigated cancer clusters around nuclear plants and concluded no link to radiation noting that cancer clusters occur regularly due to unrelated reasons. Again in 2001, the Florida Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology reviewed claims of increased cancer rates in counties with nuclear plants, however, using the same data as the claimants, they observed no abnormalities.

    According to the National Safety Council, people living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant receive an additional 0.01 mrem per year. Living within 50 miles of a coal plant adds 0.03 mrem per year. These numbers are negligible compared with the average annual dose of 358 mrem per year.

    I’m sure that on a site like RC, it is really controversial to back the scientists, and to say that “if you claim some extraordinary medical risk from nuclear reactors, please provide some scientific evidence”….

  21. 571
    AC says:

    re “Just read this very nice item regarding black and organic carbon re the Himalayas from Dr. Hansen:”

    Here’s a quote from that article: “Global warming must be the primary cause of glacier retreat, which is occurring on a global scale, but observed rapid melt rates suggest that other factors may be involved.”

    “Must” is an odd word choice, don’t you think? People have been suggesting that black soot is a primary cause of glacial retreat for many years.

  22. 572
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Mark #550. All you need to do is figure out “I’m not as smart as the hundreds of people who look at this professionally, so in what way could I have missed something and be, in the end, wrong?”.

    You were thinking of the problem:

    We have carbon soot and that does melting

    But not the solution:

    But CO2 is still reckoned to be a greater effect

    To which “Duh. Of course. Soot washes out, doesn’t it!” becomes a fairly obvious answer.

    To expand you could see at what level they sort of cancel out, as an intellectual exercise.

  23. 573
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Error: please fill the required fields (name, email).
    but provided me with no way to get back to do that short of starting all over.

    Am I missing something?”

    For me (on firefox), right click on the window, select “Back”.

  24. 574
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Rod B, #540, try googling it.

    “Annan paper historical constraints of climate response to CO2”

    It’s been posted SEVERAL TIMES while you’ve been an active participant.

    That you remember so much proving AGW is wrong from years ago, yet forget that is telling.

  25. 575
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray, thanks, but my question was not about his analysis. I must not have worded my first note very well, because my point is that an appeal to Tamino is NOT an appeal to authority, which I’m OK with. (As a counterexample, McIntyre is routinely dismissed as a mere statistician, though I assume you would stick only to the weakness in his arguments.) I’m just surprised that you are OK with it, given your reasonable insistence on the established, peer-reviewed, consensus view of things. Tamino’s claims to have published must necessarily fall to the ground if he – I take it he’s a male – is an unidentified person, no, or is it more routine that I might have thought for scientists to publish anonymously? (Certainly if Mr. Chase is correct that there have been death threats, that would be a compelling reason to allow anonymity, though I have only heard about these death threats here today.) It is unfortunate that Tamino is unable for whatever reason to identify himself given the current if temporary consensus that climate science needs to carried out with greater transparency.

  26. 576
    Eli Rabett says:

    Leonard, Hi – just right click on the read comments line and then select opening the comments in a new tab or new window. That brings the comments up in a way that you can easily search. (works in Firefox and Safari at least)

  27. 577
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny,
    I think that you are misunderstanding–Tamino’s analyses are compelling because they are cogent, clear and correct (how’s that for alliteration?). I know Tamino knows what he is doing insofar as analysis of time series and other data series because it is also something that I have to do on occasion. OTOH, it is not so much the statistical analyses of McI that I object to, but rather his unsubstantiated allegations against the entire science community.

    And as to revealing of identities, the potential for harrassment is not to be taken lightly. I can certainly see wanting to keep your professional and intertube personae distinct.

    [My emphasis added –eric]]

  28. 578
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Tilo Reber says: 14 December 2009 at 4:14 PM

    After all the conjecture you cite, you’re still at least beans, an enchilada and a taco away from the combination plate you need. You’ve got to come up with a robust alternative hypothesis that explains not just why we’re safe ignoring C02 but also the numerous signals indirectly indicative of a global change in energy balance, quite apart from direct temperature measurements of air and ocean. Such an explanation needs to be pretty versatile in order to encompass all the observations we’re seeing. Attempting to tackle the issue by focusing on a single type of data does not work.

    Your conclusion, “In the meantime, the only emergency is the emergency that politicians and activists feel at the possibility of letting a perfectly good scare go by without taping it for power and money” also does not help your case. It’s just one step away from the magic rabbit hole used to explain what otherwise cannot be wished away, namely “it’s all a conspiracy, there are secrets being kept from us that can explain everything”.

  29. 579
    Ed Every says:

    What are you trying to do here?
    Which objective takes precedence? (Select just one even if you think one could include the other.)

    1. To defend the work done and the claims made concerning the CO2 problem to date?
    2. To induce action that will reduce growth of CO2 levels?

  30. 580
    Eli Rabett says:

    Walter Manny makes a telling mistake. Tamino is much more identifiable to the climate science world than he would be under his civilian name (yes, this has become a war especially after the last attack. E is tempted to use the T word here especially given the death threats). We are our writings, and Tamino has, in a relatively short time established an outstanding reputation.

    If Eli said go read Eric Blair, most would say who dat? OTOH we know George Orwell through his writings. In short Walter, we know you through your writing.

  31. 581
    Ron R. says:

    Didactylos #570 said: “Ron R, I see you link to a polemic about nuclear power from an advocacy site…. Nothing I saw on the site led me to have any confidence in it…. I’m sure that on a site like RC, it is really controversial to back the scientists, and to say that ‘if you claim some extraordinary medical risk from nuclear reactors, please provide some scientific evidence'”

    I guess you didn’t like the scientific studies I provided but mention only the one advocacy site. That’s fine. Whatever floats your boat.

    I know that there have been studies in the past that supposedly found no link between cancer and nuke plants, others more recent have. The German study was quite large.

    The point is that nuclear power is an inherently unstable and potentially quite dangerous source of energy. It requires many, many components all working together precisely not to fail.

    If things change, I don’t know, say for example the creation of “teeny tiny nukes” for individual communities, something much more managable I might be able to support that if proven safe. But I don’t see anything like that coming along. And I’m just throwing a bone to you guys.

    Like SecularAnimist said, I just don’t see it as necessary when we have other, less controversial choices. Let’s exploit them to their utmost first then when that’s done look to nuclear if still necessary. Let’s also try to seriously find a way to reduce world population, and soon (obviously non-draconian) so that we don’t need more and more energy sources.

    I appreciate the patience of other posters here and RC allowing us to go off on this tangent. I’m now done on the subject.

  32. 582
    llewelly says:

    Hank Roberts says:
    14 December 2009 at 2:28 PM:

    An early Cenozoic perspective on greenhouse
    warming and carbon-cycle dynamics
    James C. Zachos, Gerald R. Dickens & Richard E. Zeebe

    No longer available at:

    Google cache file (text only) available:

    Hank, the original pdf is available here.

  33. 583
    Hank Roberts says:

    The Maslowski 2008 presentation is here:
    or here:

    I always wonder what having access to a nuclear submarine fleet does for one’s ability to publish in climatology. It can’t be an unmitigated blessing.

  34. 584
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    PEER-REVIEW. For those who don’t understand the process, or just want a good belly-laugh:

    “Scientific Peer Review, ca. 1945” at

  35. 585
    SecularAnimist says:

    Didactylos wrote: “I think my annoyance with the anti-nuclear crowd stems from the fact that had they had more foresight and less nuke-fuelled paranoia thirty years ago, we would now not be reliant on coal at all. Maybe I do them an injustice.”

    You certainly do “them” an injustice, since the reason that no nuclear power plants have been built in the USA for decades has nothing to do with “the anti-nuclear crowd”. It has to do with the “anti-throwing-money-away crowd” on Wall Street, who refused to invest in new nuclear power plants, because nuclear power was an economic failure. And nuclear power is STILL an economic failure, and Wall Street STILL won’t put a dime into it — unless, of course, the taxpayers and rate payers are forced to absorb all the costs and all the risks up front. And that includes the risk of economic losses, if the new nuclear power plants prove to be unprofitable to operate, or even if they are never finished. That’s exactly what the nuclear industry is asking for: for the taxpayers and rate payers to bear all the cost and all the risk, and guarantee the nuclear industry’s profits. And without that, they won’t stick a shovel in the ground to build even one new nuclear power plant, and they have vehemently said so, in so many words.

    And I’m pretty sure you will ignore what I just wrote above, and accuse me of “irrational fear” of radiation or something else that fits your preferred stereotype of an “anti-nuke crowd” cartoon figure.

    The idea that the nuclear industry in the USA was stopped by “anti-nuclear protesters” is bogus. It is false. It is nothing but a comforting mythology for people who are unwilling or unable to deal with the economic failure of nuclear power.

    And by the way, the people that you excoriate for opposing nuclear power 30 years ago were promoting wind and solar power back then, too. That’s when Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof. And then Reagan came in, took down the solar panels, slashed funding for renewable energy research, and turned US energy policy over to the fossil fuel industry.

    Sure, we could’ve had a carbon free electric power system by now — a super-efficient system powered by wind and solar and geothermal and biomass. And the reason we don’t has nothing to do with “anti-nuclear protesters” or “irrational fear” and everything to do with Big Energy corporations who were determined that decentralized, democratized, renewable energy generation was not going to cut into their profits.

  36. 586

    #575 Walter Manny

    Just FYI. I’ve heard about death threats from ‘multiple’ sources (which shall remain unnamed), and long before today. I never spoke of it until today because the subject was breached.

    There are some that have a darn good reason to remain anonymous. But generally speaking, people should use their real names. Science is a subject that relies on integrity. When spineless anonymous people claim imagined phantom arguments overturn an established evidentiary trail… I think that is a lapse in moral and ethical fiber as well as a failure of reason, commons sense, and critical thinking.

  37. 587
    Lyle says:

    RE # 544 the bus bar cost is what the cost is at the power plant just like the price of a car before the destination charge (at the assembly plant). To this you add the costs of the transmission (hi tension system) to get what is often called the energy charge. Then you add the distribution charge which pays to get the electricity from the substation to your house, sending the bill etc, this is often broken out separately. For today the model that IMHO makes sense is renewables backed up by combined cycle gas plants (6.3 or so times as co2 efficent as coal plants, and rapid start to handle the rapid changes. One could also take more of our reservoirs and make them pumped storage For example except that it is an irrigation project Grand Coulee dam has all the elements of a pumped storge plant and in fact does this with 1/2 the pumps. Why not go to 100% with the pumps.

  38. 588
    Sean A says:

    Libertarian former skeptic now accepts AGW. Interesting. The comments are pretty much what you’d expect: mostly bilious.

  39. 589
    Silk says:

    “Silk #560, patience of a saint…”

    You have no idea. It’s 00:35 and I’m locked in a room in a large city in Denmark…

    I’ve been here many hours, and there is no end in sight.

  40. 590

    #571 AC

    Considering current forcing levels “Must” is certainly appropriate.

    Please feel free to post your real name.

  41. 591
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yep. You don’t even need to be a climatologist, or a sponsor of a blog; being a reader who comments can get you attention from the nuthatch side and support from their blogger hosts:

    In other news:

  42. 592
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray and Eli, thanks, and I understand your attachment to Tamino’s arguments more clearly now. Having said that, it is hard to see how in the current climate – lame pun intended – his anonymous contributions can be taken seriously except insofar as they inform the unconcealed community, in the arena, publishing. That he has achieved some notoriety as a blogger is interesting, to be sure, but I would be surprised if you were to argue that his scientific findings, published under his civilian name in the mainstream journals, are less important. In any event, this was a question for Ray, who has been trying to educate me in the ways of scientific consensus for a long while, and I am surprised it has generated other than a quick explanation from him.

  43. 593
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sean A. says, “Libertarian former skeptic now accepts AGW. Interesting. The comments are pretty much what you’d expect: mostly bilious.”

    Yeah, you know it’s one thing to be an ideologue, but when your ideology forces you to argue against physical reality, you’d think they’d recognize that as a losing proposition.

  44. 594
    Walter Manny says:

    Oops. I am now informed that Eli Rabett is a pseudonym as well. Too bad, cool name. Well, I hope you, Eli, are enjoying as much influence in your real publishing life as well as this one! — Monsieur Le Blanc

  45. 595
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny,
    I commend to you some of Tamino’s posts on subjects other than climate change as well–especially the one on Kullback-Liebler Divergence, which is the first in a series on Akaike Information Criterion. It is a very nice exposition of a powerful technique that many seem to have a hard time understanding.

    I have been telling you all along that scientific consensus is not at all about “voting” but rather about the strength of evidence and the utility of techniques and concepts. As such, it would not matter whether Tamino published under his name or not. Newton’s Principia would be just as important (and just as hard to read) if it were published under a pen name. When a technique or idea becomes so indespensible to understanding a field that hardly anyone publishes anything that doesn’t at least implicitly assume that idea or use that technique, then they become part of the consensus. We vote with our work.

  46. 596
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter–perhaps another way to look at it. It has been 30 years since I took undergraduate physics–and yet I still go to The Feynmann Lectures so that I will be able to express the fundamental ideas I learned more clearly. It’s been 20 years since I took stat mech, but I still read Landau and Lifshitz for the same reason. And I still peruse Ed Jaynes’s (posthumously published ) statistics text for its gems of insight, despite the fact that I learned the subject years ago. None of these works is “cutting edge,” but all of them help us crystalize our understanding the basics so that we can do cutting edge research.

  47. 597
  48. 598

    Barton Paul Levenson says:
    14 December 2009 at 3:05 PM

    “RS: The data from three of the four main datasets that are relied upon show that there has been no statistically significant net warming since 2003

    BPL: That’s probably because 5-6 years can’t give you a significant warming, cooling or flat trend, RS. You need 30 years. How many times do we have to say it?”

    Actually 2003 was a typo it should read 2001.

    YOU DO NOT NEED 30 YEARS to establish trend. The 30 year time period is a furphy based on nothing more than opinion with no scientific justification. 10 years of data is NOT noise. You point me to the statistical analyses that justify the 30 year time period. I am not interested in rubbish like “it is the official WMO time period for a climate signal to emerge from noise therefore it is cast in stone”. Justify it!

  49. 599
    Tilo Reber says:

    Doug: #578
    “You’ve got to come up with a robust alternative hypothesis that explains not just why we’re safe ignoring C02 but also the numerous signals indirectly indicative of a global change in energy balance, quite apart from direct temperature measurements of air and ocean.”

    If there is a change in the energy balance, then it will eventually manifest as either temperature or ocean heat content or both. If we can measure those accurately then there is no need to worry about other signals. As probably dozens of skeptics have told you by now, there is no issue about the earth warming. The earth is 4.5 billion years old. It has been either warming or cooling for most of that time. So the fact that it has been doing lately what it has been doing for roughly half of it’s existence is hardly a cause for alarm.

    Why do I need a “robust alternative hypothesis”? Current warming has been seen many times before when there was no man made CO2. It is your contention that only man made CO2 can cause what we are currently seeing. So it is up to you to justify such a claim. Just how insignificant current warming is can be seen here in a 50,000 year ice core from Greenland:

    In any case, I regard Svensmark’s cosmic ray theory as a good one. We may not yet completely understand the physical mechanism involved, but the correlation between cosmic rays and clouds is very good.

    “It’s just one step away from the magic rabbit hole used to explain what otherwise cannot be wished away, namely “it’s all a conspiracy, there are secrets being kept from us that can explain everything”.”

    “Conspiracy” is a red herring word that warmers like to use to discredit skeptics. Skeptics don’t claim or imply a conspiracy. It doesn’t require a conspiracy for governments to want more power and more tax revenues. That trend is longer than any warming trend. It doesn’t require a conspiracy for scientists to want research funding, or for them to move to where the funding is available. It doesn’t require a conspiracy for greens to embrace any theory that blames mankind for any problems. These are the same people that told us we couldn’t have DDT, Nuclear Reactors, and that the Alaskan oil pipeline was going to wipe out the caribou herds. It doesn’t require a conspiracy for leftists to embrace any cause that they know will move them further to the left. Common self interest and common political agendas is all that you need, not conspiracy.

    However, that being said, there appears to be a significant subgroup within the AGW community that uses coordination of effort to achieve their agenda. This can be seen in many of the CRU letters. Here is Briffa with a fine example:

    “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple.”


    “I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago. I do not believe that global mean annual temperatures have simply cooled progressively over thousands of years as Mike appears to and I contend that that there is strong evidence for major changes in climate over the Holocene (not Milankovich) that require explanation and that could represent part of the current or future background variability of our climate.”

    The CRU letters show us many other examples of serious doubts that are expressed to other members of this same group. A group well represented in the IPCC and a group that is on a first name basis as well as a group that is responsible for much of the peer review of each others work. So the question is, why where none of these doubts ever explained in public. I think that Briffa’s first quote gives us the answer. That doesn’t imply a conspiracy, but it does point to at least a part of the AGW community being a good old boys club that served to influence it’s members.

    [Response: Hmm. “Much of the peer review of each others work.” And how do you know that? As for the ice core data you point to — those are not global changes, as we have shown before. Try reading up, just a little, on the facts, before pontificating like this.–eric]]

  50. 600
    IA says:

    Ian Plimer posts today on the ABC Australia webite: