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The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)

Filed under: — group @ 19 January 2010 - (Italian)

Like all human endeavours, the IPCC is not perfect. Despite the enormous efforts devoted to producing its reports with the multiple levels of peer review, some errors will sneak through. Most of these will be minor and inconsequential, but sometimes they might be more substantive. As many people are aware (and as John Nieslen-Gammon outlined in a post last month and Rick Piltz goes over today), there is a statement in the second volume of the IPCC (WG2), concerning the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are receding that is not correct and not properly referenced.

The statement, in a chapter on climate impacts in Asia, was that the likelihood of the Himalayan glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035″ was “very high” if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate (WG 2, Ch. 10, p493), and was referenced to a World Wildlife Fund 2005 report. Examining the drafts and comments (available here), indicates that the statement was barely commented in the reviews, and that the WWF (2005) reference seems to have been a last minute addition (it does not appear in the First- or Second- Order Drafts). This claim did not make it into the summary for policy makers, nor the overall synthesis report, and so cannot be described as a ‘central claim’ of the IPCC. However, the statement has had some press attention since the report particularly in the Indian press, at least according to Google News, even though it was not familiar to us before last month.

It is therefore obvious that this error should be corrected (via some kind of corrigendum to the WG2 report perhaps), but it is important to realise that this doesn’t mean that Himalayan glaciers are doing just fine. They aren’t, and there may be serious consequences for water resources as the retreat continues. See also this review paper (Ren et al, 2006) on a subset of these glaciers.

East Rongbuk glacier 1921 and 2008East Rongbuk glacier just below Mt. Everest has lost 3-400 ft of ice in this area since 1921.

More generally, peer-review works to make the IPCC reports credible because many different eyes with different perspectives and knowledge look over the same text. This tends to make the resulting product reflect more than just the opinion of a single author. In this case, it appears that not enough people with relevant experience saw this text, or if they saw it, did not comment publicly. This might be related to the fact that this text was in the Working Group 2 report on impacts, which does not get the same amount of attention from the physical science community than does the higher profile WG 1 report (which is what people associated with RC generally look at). In WG1, the statements about continued glacier retreat are much more general and the rules on citation of non-peer reviewed literature was much more closely adhered to. However, in general, the science of climate impacts is less clear than the physical basis for climate change, and the literature is thinner, so there is necessarily more ambiguity in WG 2 statements.

In future reports (and the organisation for AR5 in 2013 is now underway), extra efforts will be needed to make sure that the links between WG1 and the other two reports are stronger, and that the physical science community should be encouraged to be more active in the other groups.

In summary, the measure of an organisation is not determined by the mere existence of errors, but in how it deals with them when they crop up. The current discussion about Himalayan glaciers is therefore a good opportunity for the IPCC to further improve their procedures and think more about what the IPCC should be doing in the times between the main reports.

Update: This backgrounder presented by Kargel et al AGU this December is the best summary of the current state of the Himalayas and the various sources of misinformation that are floating around. It covers this issue, the Raina report and the recent Lau et al paper.


1,804 Responses to “The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)”

  1. 101
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Jimbo “Sceptics on the web are not generally publicly funded.”

    They aren’t?

    How do you know?

    It’s not like the oil industry (or tobacco industry, who’d love to have science proofs ignored, for obvious reasons) don’t have large wodges of cash earmarked for PR lobbying and so on.

    Nor is it that they don’t get great big handouts (like about 75million dollars a year from the US alone), so money spent on PR is public money.

    And how do you know pro-science posters on the web are not generally publicly funded?

  2. 102
    KSW says:

    Much has been made of the Stephen Schwartz paper in this thread and the blogosphere is all a tizzy today. Dr Schwartz’s home page provides the appropriate background for interpreting this latest release.

    No comfort should be taken by the AGW denialists by this paper.

  3. 103
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #67 Jimbo

    Sceptics don’t have to prove a thing regarding AGW,

    Saying of the decade. I suppose that they don’t even have to demonstrate a skeptical approach to denialist propaganda.

    #69
    Bulldust.
    Basically he attacked the manuscript on the basis of a couple of incorrect reference interpretations (out of 2,300 references).

    Exaggeration of the decade. On the basis of his web page, Plimer would find it hard to muster two correct sentences in support of his main conclusions. He has recycled almost all of the self contradictory myths in the denialosphere with especial emphasis on the assertion that the observed rise in CO2 is not man made and that there is too much CO2 for any extra to have an effect (the 100 year old saturation error). How about looking at this?

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/do-you-believe-ian-plimer/

    and notice also that he as a ‘geologist’ he does not appear to have heard of isotope analysis.

    Allegations like these are not analagous to the glacier error in wg2 because they are not at all trivial. They could overthrow most of the science in working group 1. Its just a pity they are all wrong.

  4. 104
    Harry says:

    This is classic confirmation bias at work.

    Information that confirms my beliefs is accepted as fact with little or no proof.

    Real Scientists are supposed to guard against confirmation bias.

    The only way to guard against confirmation bias is to have a ‘skeptic’ review the work.

  5. 105
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Harrington says “Yet a couple of minor erros in Plimer’s book on Climate Change are found an this is sufficient to debunk his entire argument?”

    You mean like saying that the Sun is made of iron, perhaps? Plimer’s book is simply a bad joke. You might as well be trying to resurrect Velikovsky!

  6. 106
    captdallas2 says:

    Glacier advance and decline is pretty much non_AGW in my mind. Yes, there is some evidence that there may be an AGW influence, but it is not as strong as hyped. It is unfortunate that some non-peer review stuff gets published as is some non peer reviewed stuff gets dissed. The search is for the truth and the labels are throwing the bloodhounds off the trail.

    Gavin’s workshop for the next IPCC should revise some solar estimates hopefully, to the sane side. And the cloud feedback thing needs some work. Yes, Gavin clouds can warm at times, they also can reflect. One study I would like to see is variation in convective energy during the satellite age. You may not be a fan a L and C but the tropics are the thermostat if there is one.

  7. 107
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Captdallas2 says “Glacier advance and decline is pretty much non_AGW in my mind.”

    And yet your mind is not the real world. Isn’t it funny that you should have glaciers melting in Montana and New Zealand, the Himmalayas and the Andes. Yes local factors probably play a role, but the fact that the effect is seen GLOBALLY suggests there is also a global driver.

  8. 108
    Completely Fed Up says:

    David Harrington says “Yet a couple of minor erros in Plimer’s book on Climate Change are found an this is sufficient to debunk his entire argument?”

    And what about this:

    http://www.complex.org.au/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=91

    means “a couple of errors”?

    100 >> 2.

  9. 109
    PB says:

    In the third paragraph, suggested minor edit:

    “…and there may be to be serious consequences for water resources…”

    That “may be to be” seems like you were in the middle of writing either “may be” or “(appear) to be” and ended up mooshing them together.

    [Response: indeed again. thanks. - gavin]

  10. 110
    Matthew L. says:

    #95 CFU
    Hopefully some expert on paleoclimatology will be able to answer your questions regarding Mr Schwartz & Co’s article (one or two of those here!).

    #96 CFU
    Not different wind, differnt location. The strongest and most consistent winds in the UK are offshore, in deep water and prone to violent storms. So you have to pin these monsters down pretty hard – a very costly exercise. Onshore turbines would be a lot cheaper, but would deliver a lot less electricity.

  11. 111
  12. 112
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Harry says: The only way to guard against confirmation bias is to have a ’skeptic’ review the work.

    Like this?

    Statisticians confirm: no global cooling despite skeptic spin

    And this?

    Science of global warming not faked, AP inquiry decides

  13. 113
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Of course there will be errors in climate science, and in big reports based on thousands of climate studies. Just remember those errors cut both ways — some overestimating, others underestimating the threats.

    In the face of doubt and incomplete knowledge (afterall, there is a 5 or less % chance AGW is not happening), but having to make a decision, ask “What Would Pascal Do?” or WWPD (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager )

    The big difference, however, between Pascal’s Wager and the AGW Wager is that the FALSE NEGATIVE (acting to mitigate AGW, when it isn’t happening) is actually the best of all worlds — great financial savings, saving finite resources, reducing other environmental problems (& great financial & health savings from that), reducing other problem (and great financial & health/life savings from that), increasing health (cycling & eating low on food chain & organic is good for health), reducing crime (studies show that areas were there are more pedestrians and cyclists, reduces crime), reducing taxes (do you know how much money goes to maintaining heavily used roads??), psychological/spiritual benefits (walking and cycling lifts spirits), and, of course avoidance of hell and the gaining heaven (since God may be happy with people who act to do good and solve a problem, even if the problem isn’t happening, but will surely not be happy with those who refuse to consider there’s a problem and refuse to solve it ….. esp given scientists are saying it has 95% confidence of being true. Refusing to mitigate under those conditions seems to me to be flagrant and arrogant disregard for life on planet earth — not a very good stance to get on God’s good side).

  14. 114
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Not different wind, differnt location. ”

    What is so special that instead of being about 3 times less expensive than nuclear, it makes your professed conclusion hard to manage globally: they are both rather large and they’d have to become about 5x more expensive.

    What about the location of everywhere else on earth make a difference that large?

    “The strongest and most consistent winds in the UK are offshore, in deep water and prone to violent storms.”

    Uh, the amount of feasible shallow water offshore wind power for UK territorial waters is 1/3 of the european capacity. This does not suggest that the UK is poor in wind power.

    Again, you would seem to be wrong there too.

    “Onshore turbines would be a lot cheaper, but would deliver a lot less electricity.”

    Not really: the Australian, Texas and Californian farms are onshore and they’re much much cheaper than nuclear.

  15. 115
    steven mosher says:

    I imagine if the report were one written by a corporation about the safety of a drug or the environmental impact on an endangered species or a report about the construction of a nuclear power plant that people would be less sanguine about the errors that slip through. It’s not like lives are at stake in Global warming. On a less sarcastic note, one way to minimize errors slipping through is to allow non peers to review. Very simply, a newspaper journalist or a historian will tend to look at a document differently than a scientist, will check for things like proper sourcing with more rigor than perhaps a scientist might, perhaps. There is, of course, another case of improper sourcing in Ar4, but for the sake of comity I won’t raise it here. Just a bit of constructive advice, add some non peer reviewers.

    [Response: The review process was completely open and all drafts were publicly posted. Even Monckton got to review it. How much more open would you like? - gavin]

  16. 116
    Ernst K says:

    I must say that I am perplexed by all the “what season were those pictures taken in” comments. Do these guys seriously believe that glaciers advance and retreat several kilometers over a seasonal cycle, or that you can get several hundred feet of ice build up after a snowstorm?

    But at the same time, I feel the suggestions of “serious consequences for water resources” need some more context. Based on the abstract, the reference cited in the article (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/igsoc/agl/2006/00000043/00000001/art00032) focuses on documenting glacial retreat, not the impacts on water resources.

    If we’re talking about the great rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra, or Yangtze then I find it hard to believe that glacier contributions represent a large enough fraction of the annual flow in these rivers to constitute serious consequences unless we’re talking about people who live relatively close to the glaciers themselves. Generally, most of the water in rivers this large comes from mountain snow melt, mountain rain, and rain in the lowlands. Even if the glaciers disappear completely, you’ll still have mountains which should get lots of rain and snow. I would be more concerned about changes to the precipitation patterns and shifts from snowfall to rainfall due to warming than the loss of glacial volume.

    That said, you may have noticed that I didn’t mention the Indus River. While I still expect that far more water in that river comes from snow and rain in the highlands than from glacial melt, the Indus Valley itself is a desert so I’m more cautious about the Indus. I’m also concerned about the Qinghai region in China. While it isn’t a desert, it’s still quite dry and it isn’t on the Indian Monsoon side of the Himalayas, so I wouldn’t be as confident that it would still expect a lot of mountain precipitation.

    I should also add that I am much more familiar with these processes in the North American, especially Western Canadian, context than the Himalayan. I would greatly appreciate it if someone could set me straight on the relative contributions glacial runoff in the great Asian rivers.

  17. 117
    Garry Hemming says:

    This Report from 2001 actually has the quote used in the IPCC report;

    “”Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high”, which is attributed to ‘A 1999 report by the Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology (WGHG) of the International Commission for S now and Ice (ICSI)’.

    http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1807/18070690.htm

    Who are the ‘Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology’ and the ‘International Commission for S now and Ice’?

  18. 118
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Winny says: 20 January 2010 at 1:58 AM

    Really, you read about an error on a NASA public information web page here? Not in Gavin’s article about the IPCC Himalaya cite. Where? Oh, yes, brought in to comments here by a “Jerry”. That make it very important, and you found it all by yourself and became terribly concerned. Right.

    Bulldust says: 20 January 2010 at 2:01 AM

    “So your argument applies equally to the Monbiot attack on Plimer Re. Heaven and Earth? Basically he attacked the manuscript on the basis of a couple of incorrect reference interpretations (out of 2,300 references).”

    Monbiot’s a pundit, he’s not a scientist. What’s your point? Since you mention his name, as to actual scientists there’s about 1 AU of daylight between Plimer and scientists actually working the field. Try again.

    TheGoodLocust says: 20 January 2010 at 3:45 AM

    Must have been quite a snowstorm, eh? Hundreds of feet of ice in one winter. Also, you might want to take note that glaciers typically do not fluctuate enormously in size on a seasonal basis. Try again.

  19. 119
    Witgren says:

    OT to the original post, but here is yet another bit of anecdotal evidence for AGW…shipwrecks in the Baltic that have been preserved for six or seven hundred years are now being devoured by shipworms that have been expanding their range into the southern Baltic over the past 20 years.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/01/100119-viking-shipwrecks-worms-shipworms-global-warming/

    Actually, I guess maybe not so OT – this is just part of the plethora of evidence other than glaciers or CRU data that is out there…

  20. 120
    Josh Cryer says:

    #67 Jimbo, I have pointed out mistakes with skeptics before (and in the future will do a whole lot more). Cheifio was reluctant to retract his claims about Central Park Raw data, and in fact spun it in a completely different way. As far as I know D’Aleo was alerted to his errors, and has failed to correct them (by fully retracting his allegation). Imagine, if in the peer review, someone was shown to be wrong, and then they attempted to spin it a completely different way, without any logic to it at all. No one would take them credibly anymore. If you’re wrong, in science, you’re wrong. Feynman had his own theory of particle physics, but when quarks were discovered he instantly ceded to the process, rather than to try to pawn off his theory as truth.

    I doubt that the majority of skeptics are publicly funded, however, it is clear that some of the make huge amounts of money through ad revenue (WUWT), and most of them are misled by lobbiests whose sole goal is to spread doubt. This is precisely why Cheifio doesn’t feel like retracting an article he posted with misleading and wrong data, because the doubt is the product, not anything else.

    I always say, and it’s really simple, if people have a problem with the data, then submit it to peer review. Lindzen and Choi (2009) show that if you can make decent arguments you can get through the peer review, so objections about corruption in the peer review are garbage, on the face of it. The fact is the vast, overwhelming, majority of arguments by “skeptics” are very weak and usually based on an intrinsic misunderstanding of the data, or a concerted effort to make stuff up.

  21. 121
    Olivier says:

    An error in the GIEC report ? My God…
    At last, there was errors in D’Alembert and Diderot’s Enclyclopédie too… :-)

  22. 122
    Mauri Pelto says:

    ErnestK your comments on water resources are good, this is the key. The main controller of glacier runoff is size, and of 51 glaciers examined in the main Himalayan front from-Nepal-Nepal and Sikkim all are retreating. The areal extent loss is significant but still a small fraction of the total ice. Yet in this region we are expanding our use of glaciers for hydropower. Notice the Gangotri Glacier , or Zemu Glacier. Pakistan generates about 45% of its electricity from hydropower on the Indus River. The headwaters of the Indus River are the large glaciers of the Karokoram Range. The Biafo and Baltura are two or the largest. Both glacier have experience rapid retreat and loss of area in the last two decades. The Indus River flows have also declined.

  23. 123
    Matthew L. says:

    #114 – CFU
    I don’t know why you are arguing with me, I am just quoting the Economist. If you have an argument with their Economics, take it up with them. Personally I do not feel qualified to second-guess the Economist on Economics.

    From your comments it does not look like you have read the article properly. It makes no points about the expense of wind power anywhere else, only the expense of this particular proposal for offshore wind farms in the UK.

    There are all sorts of reasons why on-shore wind farms are difficult to construct here (planning controls, high population density, NIMBY residents, very high land costs).

    Sure, there will be plenty of locations around the world with fewer people, lighter planning regulations, better winds and cheaper land producing better economics for siting onshore wind farms. Unfortunately for us British taxpayers, not here.

  24. 124
  25. 125

    I cannot download the backgrounder by Karkel et al AGU that you refer to in your UPDATE. Can someone help?

  26. 126
    Michael says:

    Re: Ernst K “…I must say that I am perplexed by all the “what season were those pictures taken in” comments. Do these guys seriously believe that glaciers advance and retreat several kilometers over a seasonal cycle, or that you can get several hundred feet of ice build up after a snowstorm?…”

    I have also noted that Gavin has not clarified if he knows during which part of the year both photos were taken. In answer to questions about this he provided a link to the original reference. I followed it expecting to find this information but it does not appear to be there. If he doesn’t know then that is fine and but I feel that we should be comparing like to like.

    Does a glacier advance or retreat on a seasonal basis, I honestly don’t know, but I know that another large body of ice i.e. the Arctic certainly does. It does not then seem unreasonable for the less informed such as myself to at least ask the question. I am also fairly sure that seasonal snow/ice cover could make a difference to the perceived loss of glacial cover in a comparison of two photos like that presented here.

    Can anybody provide further comment on this?

    Kind Regards

    Michael

    [Response: The climbing season on Everest is short (usually around May I think?), and so my first guess is that they are likely to be spring. The lack of fresh snow cover in either picture is suggestive of that or later. But as the other commenters have made clear, it's irrelevant. The ~3-400 ft loss of glacier ice thickness is two orders of magnitude bigger than any seasonal fluctuation. That's why glaciers are useful - they integrate over long time periods. - gavin]

  27. 127
    Michael says:

    Dear Witgren #119

    The link provides this discussion. “…Why shipworms are suddenly able to spread there remains a mystery, but studies suggest rising sea temperatures have something to do with it….”

    Why are you sure it it anthropogenic GW rather than natural global warming or even changes to local conditions? Even the author does not make the link to human activity that you do.

    Kind Regards

    Michael

  28. 128
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Matt: “I am just quoting the Economist.”

    Well then they have it wrong, don’t they.

    Because it is 3x cheaper to get power in California.

    You don’t have a clue as to whether they are right, do you.

    PS did the economist say that the UK has only sufficient power from deep-sea offshore wind power? Did they say that onshore turbines were cheaper but couldn’t develop enough power efficiently?

    Did they?

    Or did you.

  29. 129
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “There are all sorts of reasons why on-shore wind farms are difficult to construct here (planning controls, high population density, NIMBY residents, very high land costs).”

    These all exist in California.

    They exist even harder in Oil-Baron-Land Texas.

    Matt, they are wrong.

  30. 130
    foodtube says:

    ====> POST #Caption for images in the post: “East Rongbuk glacier just below Mt. Everest has lost 3-400 ft of ice in this area since 1921.”

    A comparison of photos from 1921 and 2008 of glaciers in Jasper park Canada would show a similar shocking retreat. However the photos and a similar caption would not inform the viewer the Jasper glaciers have been melting since at least the mid 1800s(there are photos from the 1850s to prove it). This information is relevant and significant. This type of omission has become so prevalent in environmental “journalism” as to cause otherwise reasonable people to question the reliblity of all reporting in the field.

    ====> POST #3 w kensit says: 19 January 2010 at 5:31 PM “Unfortunately AGW true statements are weighed in a handsfull of goose down and never remembered. AGW stumbles are measured in shovel loads of lead and never forgotten.”

    This simply isn’t true. I’ve been watching the climate change issue since 1994. In the last ten years the vast majority of reporting has supported AGW. To suggest otherwise is silly.

    ====> POST #25 Lamont says: 19 January 2010 at 7:46 PM “Link 1 and 2: The melting may also be from soot. I am sure that is a great consolation to the people who depend on these glaciers.”

    Their consolation may be not paying an additional and possibly useless carbon tax on top of their other problems. It is sad poverty leads people to open air cooking with dirty fuels which leads to soot which may lead to glaciers melting, etc. How about we get the science and story straight before making their lives even harder?

    ====> POST #25 Lamont says: 19 January 2010 at 7:46 PM You have to understand that climate deniers live in this sheltered world where they believe climate scientists think that every single climate force on the planet is due entirely to CO2, therefore to come up with an effect which does not have CO2 as a cause disproves AGW…

    Some comments on RC have degenerated to the level of comments on the Watts site. You speak of denialists as if they are strange and scary creatures from down below rather than your neighbors and family members.

    ====> POST #25 Lamont says: 19 January 2010 at 7:46 PM Of course real climate scientists believe no such thing, but its so much easier for the deniers to argue with the caricature of a climate science that they hold in their head, than to argue with an actual climate scientist…

    Perhaps actual climate scientists should ensure their words and work are not misquoted, misunderstood or purposefully twisted by legions of ignorant and/or mischievious activists and so called journalists.

    [Response: I think you'll find that there are legions of people who purposefully twist what we say (though usually in the opposite sense to what you suggest) - and all our efforts to stop them doing it are pretty fruitless. Perhaps you have a suggestion for how to be more effective? - gavin]

    ====> POST #36 Dave Rado says: 19 January 2010 at 8:49 PM The Daily Express, a UK mass-market tabloid newspaper that has lately turned into a propaganda organ of the denialist lobby groups, recently made a meal of this in a front page article.

    Why worry about one “tabloid” newspaper? Almost every professional and popular publication on the planet only prints pro AGW stories. Unless you spend your time on conservative blogs and web sites it is difficult to find any stories questioning AGW. Why does an occasional article cause such panic?

    ====> POST # 37 Philip Machanick says: 19 January 2010 at 8:51 PM The brilliant thing about conspiracy theory is that you can make the evidence mean anything you like.

    Funny. Denialists make similar statements on their blogs about AGW theory. The switch from the term “global warming” to “climate change” added fuel to the fire.

    [Response: And when do you think that happened? Hint. - gavin]

    ====> POST 45 calyptorhynchus says: 19 January 2010 at 9:57 PM I work for a government department and if we produced a report the size of the IPCC that had only one minor error in it we’d be very pleased with ourselves.

    Thanks for a good laugh. How many errors are acceptable in a government report? The problem with calling this a “minor error” is the IPCC report gives the information legitimacy and thus results in it being repeated as fact over and over and over.

    [edit]

  31. 131
    Bill Teufel says:

    I’m definitely a skeptic about climate change. Here’s why. Money. There is a ton of money to be made if AGW is real, and a ton of money to be made if AGW is wrong.

    I have asked several times. Can anyone show me a scientific experiment, which can be repeated, that proves man is responsible for the warming of the planet, and does not involve man made computer models? I don’t trust the models since they are extremely complex, and can be adjusted to present the desired results. Especially when you consider the money at stake.

    And on the other side, what are the ramifications if AGW is true? Is it worth spending the money to prevent the inevitable?

  32. 132
    trrll says:

    “Yet a couple of minor erros in Plimer’s book on Climate Change are found an this is sufficient to debunk his entire argument? ”

    Seems like the key issue is not whether errors are made–everybody makes errors; I routinely find errors in peer reviewed papers–but whether those errors are forthrightly acknowledged and corrected once they are pointed out.

  33. 133
    gary thompson says:

    i see the 2009 data point was posted for the US. How can the US have such low temperatures for the past 2 years yet the other GISS graphs for the world be on a steady ramp up? are the weather stations in teh US more reliable and provide better data? the more i look at the station data and see the variability between staions that are less than 25k apart the more i lose confidence in this data.

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.lrg.gif

  34. 134
    kris says:

    #90, Tony:

    Except that you assume that all recoverable fossil fuel deposits will be extracted. They won’t. The decline in extraction of fossil fuels will drive the prices up (in fact, it already does). Now, fuel/energy price drives food prices (and inflation). Next stage is an economic crisis, followed by poverty, war and starvation (in any order). The result would be decrease in both the population and industrial output (infrastructure destruction). As a result, the CO2 emissions will stabilize, probably much below current levels. However, at that point it will be largely irrelevant: the massive social changes will have occurred due to peak oil even before the effects of AGW start to have any significant impact.

  35. 135
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Bill Teufel says: 20 January 2010 at 4:30 PM

    “I have asked several times. Can anyone show me a scientific experiment, which can be repeated, that proves man is responsible for the warming of the planet, and does not involve man made computer models? I don’t trust the models since they are extremely complex, and can be adjusted to present the desired results.”

    Whoa. Leaving aside the money part, you’re getting ahead of yourself as your question indicates!

    Read this and you’ll be able to form your own conclusion. Without it, you’ll be taking your conclusion on faith. Give yourself a few hours, it’s not short:

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

  36. 136
    Doug Bostrom says:

    gary thompson says: 20 January 2010 at 5:14 PM

    “How can the US have such low temperatures for the past 2 years yet the other GISS graphs for the world be on a steady ramp up?”

    I don’t know what the GISS data for the United States shows, but the basic answer lies in what a small fraction of the globe is the USA.

    United States: 9.2 million square kilometers. Earth: 510 million square kilometers, or less than 2% of surface area. Not much weight in the US contribution.

    I’m sure you could find other places with the same feature.

  37. 137
    David Miller says:

    EarnstK asks about the glacial portion of various rivers total flow.

    Earnst, one thing to keep in mind is that timing matters as much as amount of flow. What’s critical is that crops being irrigated with meltwater have the water when it’s needed. I don’t claim to know when that is, other than “not during the monsoons”. I’m sure that the monsoons deliver most of the water flowing out all the rivers. They also saturate all the agricultural basins, refill reservoirs, etc. That certainly counts for a lot, but it’s the glacial runoff that keeps things alive before/after the monsoons.

  38. 138
    Magnus W says:

    In Sweden we have professor Kjel Aleklett, that claims that there
    exists to little fossil fuel on the planet to make any of the IPCC
    scenarios possible. I have written a post abut it on our Swedish blog:

    http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=sv&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fuppsalainitiativet.blogspot.com%2F2009%2F11%2Ffinns-det-nog-med-fossila-branslen-for.html&sl=sv&tl=en

    I cant remember ever seeing a serious discussion about it in English… does this debate exist outside Sweden?

    One of his discussion papers on the subject http://www.internationaltransportforum.org/jtrc/DiscussionPapers/DiscussionPaper18.pdf

    Aleklett: http://www.fysast.uu.se/ges/kjell-aleklett

  39. 139
    Mark A. York says:

    “I’m definitely a skeptic about climate change. Here’s why. Money. There is a ton of money to be made if AGW is real, and a ton of money to be made if AGW is wrong.”

    Where is the ton of money? As it stands there is a ton of money for ExxonMobil to prevent climate mitigation and frankly another ton to do something about it with alternatives. Either way they win. I’d rather have them win and us win too. They already have the high prices working in their favor and against ours. There’s your money trail. Shutting down the coal mines is enough to keep the sceptics flailing away at the truth. That industry is running scared. So far, they’ve won.

  40. 140
    Tim Jones says:

    IPCC statement on the melting of Himalayan glaciers1

    http://www.eenews.net/features/documents/2010/01/20/document_pm_04.pdf

    Geneva, 20 January 2010

    The Synthesis Report, the concluding document of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (page 49) stated: “Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges (e.g. Hindu-Kush, Himalaya, Andes), where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.”

    This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment.

    It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938-page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment2 refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.

    The Chair, Vice-Chairs, and Co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of “the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC Report” 3. We reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring this level of performance.

  41. 141
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Magnus asks: In Sweden we have professor Kjel Aleklett, that claims that there
    exists to little fossil fuel on the planet to make any of the IPCC
    scenarios possible.

    I’ve followed Prof. Aleklett for a number of years, and my impression is that his research on fossil-fuel depletion is solid, but his understanding of climate science might be a bit too superficial to justify his “probably not a problem” position. Iirc, he thinks there’s only enough fossil carbon to get us to around 450ppm CO2, even including all coal reserves. The obvious critique is that climate sensitivity may be such that even in this “best case,” feedbacks will kick in and overwhelm the forcing from human carbon emissions.

  42. 142
    Tim Jones says:

    addendum to previous post:

    IPCC statement on the melting of Himalayan glaciers1

    1 This statement is from the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the IPCC, and the Co-Chairs of the IPCC Working Groups.

    2 The text in question is the second paragraph in section 10.6.2 of the Working Group II contribution and a repeat of part of the paragraph in Box TS.6. of the Working Group II Technical Summary of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

    3 This is verbatim text from Annex 2 of Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work.

  43. 143
    Doug Bostrom says:

    BTW, one of the great things about Weart’s history is that you can see exactly where errors in climate science were committed, how they were identified, corrected, etc. It’s a great general demonstration of the self-correcting tendencies we see when a lot of people with powerful curiosity are looking at the same phenomena.

    Seeing all the historical errors in this field rolled up in one place is also conveneient because we don’t have to see those corrections and acknowledgments made time and again in modern literature. If we did, the literature would quickly become too cumbersome to deal with.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

  44. 144
    Molnar says:

    Bill Teufel (131):

    “Can anyone show me a scientific experiment, which can be repeated, that proves man is responsible for the warming of the planet, and does not involve man made computer models?”

    Venus :p

  45. 145
    Sean A says:

    OK, I answered my own question about when the Himalayan glaciers might be gone by reading the report linked in #15 (http://web.hwr.arizona.edu/~gleonard/2009Dec-FallAGU-Soot-PressConference-Backgrounder-Kargel.pdf). Nice overview of the glacial zones in the area and what the future looks like for them.

  46. 146
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Magnus W says: 20 January 2010 at 6:24 PM

    Most interesting, particularly since it’s not authored by somebody unable to deal w/mainstream science.

    Also of note, the author’s ultimate conclusion seems to be the same as if optimistic reserve estimates were reliable and C02 was the most salient threat: fossil fuel is a dead end, time is scarce, we need to get off the habit before the withdrawal symptoms become too much to bear. Meanwhile t just looking at the energy budget and ignoring C02, the only difference between optimism and pessimism is the amount of time available for a fix, and that’s not ample in either case.

  47. 147
    Edward Greisch says:

    115 steven mosher “It’s not like lives are at stake in Global warming. ”
    131 Bill Teufel “what are the ramifications if AGW is true? Is it worth spending the money to prevent the inevitable?”
    As I have said many times: LIVES ARE AT STAKE IN GLOBAL WARMING. YOURS AND MINE. How much is YOUR life worth? I have also listed the kill mechanisms many times. Do I have to do so again? Do you understand the concept of extinction? It is us humans who could go extinct, and soon. Would the extinction of Homo Sapiens have enough economic impact for you?

  48. 148
    John E. Pearson says:

    141 Jim Galasyn wrote: “he thinks there’s only enough fossil carbon to get us to around 450ppm CO2, even including all coal reserves.”

    Hmm. I dunno about new feed-backs kicking in but Aleklett’s belief is hardly an argument that we needn’t wean ourselves from fossil fuels now. CO2 went from 315 to 385 in the last 50 years. Extrapolating this rate of increase puts us at 450 in 50 years. If he’s right (which I strongly doubt) we’d better be phasing in replacements now while we still have energy to do it with.

  49. 149
    flxible says:

    Ernst & Mauri re glacial melt, hydro and water supply

    Do either of you have any research/observation info re the the Comox Glacier beyond the tidbit from Canwest last month? the picture in the wiki article is pretty much the view from my back yard and this valley derives it’s power and potable water from the lake/river below it. I’m sure it’ll still be there after I’m gone, but it’s always been of interest watching the snowpack variations and late summer shape changes of the mass

  50. 150
    Matthew L says:

    #128 #129 – CFU
    Pardon? Where do California and Texas come into this? What has it got to do with the cost of offshore wind power in the UK?

    To repeat my last post, this article says nothing about the cost of wind power in California or Texas. Clue: the article is in the section of the Economist headed “Britain”.

    If on shore wind generation were so cheap in the UK then nobody would consider spending three times more building wind farms offshore. Or do you think the power companies are completely stupid and/or enjoy losing loads of shareholders money?

    The Economist is making no judgement on the comparative costs of on or off shore wind. It is simply reporting Govt plans to install massive capacity offshore and its likely costs.

    Insufficient permits have been given to build on shore wind farms in the UK on a scale needed to replace a significant part of our power generation. The reasons are the ones cited in my earlier posts. Yes similar problems may have been encountered in Texas, but clearly this has not prevented wind farms being built in the end. In the UK these problems have prevented wind farms being built – regardless of their theoretical financial viability.


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