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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. 1551
    Septic Matthew says:

    1529, Georgi Marinov: As I said before, techno-cornucopianism is just as dangerous as denialism, because they are both completely detached from physical reality

    I don’t think that your term “technocornucopianism” applies to anything posted here. We have supplied you with short-term (5-10 year) extrapolations of work already underway and progress recently achieved, with numerous reliable references.

    1543, Georgi Marinov: This is precisely the attitude I am talking about – “When shortages come, we will find a substitute. Always”.

    Already the newer designs of wind turbines can, like hockey sticks and golf clubs, be made mostly of carbon compounds (called “graphite”, but really complex stuff like silicon magnesium carbide, and the complex stuff that is used in the Boeing 787), and even the windings can be made of treated carbon nanotubes. It’s not economical, but no industrialized nation need depend on China for the materials for wind energy.

  2. 1552
    Martin Vermeer says:

    AxelD, is David Walker a bit too sceptic for your taste?

    ;-)

  3. 1553
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:1523 mct says: 10 February 2010 at 2:17 AM

    “There’s no point saying (@1482) “If Joe Public is going to be the judge…” – Joe Public is and will always be the final arbiter of what happens in a democracy. Sort of goes with the territory.”

    This statement comes out of some sort of utopian la la land. Though would be it were so.

    Where do we have a democracy?

    The US has a representative form of government. We have a republic, not a democracy. The congress makes the law. Final arbitration of the law occurs with the Supreme Court. Short of a constitutional amendment the public has little say in the matter except to elect representatives. Even elections are subject to PR blitzes constraining intelligent choices to be subject to tactics using fear and hatred as deciding points.

    Anyone watching the progress of legislation in America can see that special interest money often buys the law, or much of it, if it finds itself in conflict with the public interest. Thus much of the law is found to reflect the desires of large corporations and other wealthy interests. This is unfortunate. But this is the way it is.

  4. 1554
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Al Gore is neutral right — 10 February 2010 @ 11:46 AM:

    I don’t like to respond to trolling, but I think it is worth saying that if Al Gore uses his private jet and his energy expensive office building (it isn’t just a home) to get one coal power plant replaced by one equivalent geothermal plant (for one example), he will be carbon negative in a big way. Why don’t you promote a way to do this without carbon taxes or creating a one world government.

    Steve

  5. 1555
    Gilles says:

    “Skepticism is a virtue. Practice it. As an exercise, try to find a “skeptic” narrative that coherently explains everything we know, or think we know, about climate, the way the standard “consensus” narrative does. You may give up after a finite amount of time ;-)”
    So let us practice some skepticism ;) :

    Who can explain coherently why all proxies curve show a warming only before 1960, where the anthropic influence is thought to be the weakest, and not after, where the anthropic influence is thought to be dominant ?

    [Response: Try giving us a task that is actually true. Mann et al (2008). – gavin]

    Who can explain coherently why temperatures ceased to increase after 1940, whereas models must wait until the volcanic eruption of Agung in 1963 to get a “decline”?

    [Response: Natural variability is perfectly ‘coherent’ an explanation, though there are always possibilities that the forcings (aerosols in particular) are not well known enough to give strong confidence in a conclusion. – gavin]

    Who can explain coherently why the average slope over 30 years (supposed to be a “real” climate time) between 1910 and 1940 is very close to that between 1970 and 2000 ?

    [Response: Seriously? Numerology. – gavin]

    Who can explain coherently that Europe experienced a medieval optimum and a little Ice age , even “local” ? can “local” temperature be so much decoupled of “global” ones?

    [Response: Yes they can. Why is that hard to believe? Ocean circulation, solar driven wind changes – all sorts of candidates…. – gavin]

    BTW, claiming that a consensus “explains everything we know” is generally much more a matter of religion than a matter of science….

    [Response: Possibly that is why we have never said anything remotely similar to that. Strawman. – gavin]

  6. 1556
    Gilles says:

    “Gilles, you’ve just said it’s not possible to get more than 20% and you posit that the Danes don’t count because they get 23% of their energy away whilst giving away some to other countries.

    Wouldn’t this require that they produce more than 23% of their power needs from wind?

    And please point me to any point in time where there has been no wind on the continent of Eurasia.”

    as far as I know, the percentage holds for the energy produced, wherever it goes (I didn’t check the 23 % figure). They are slightly exporters, so probably they produced a litte bit more than 23% of their need; the point is that they wouldn’t have done it if they couldn’t sell it outwards – and even now I heard that they were forced sometime to use electricity to boil water in … thermal plants heaters. At this point, it starts being silly to build new ones, don’t you think ?

    concerning Eurasia, the point is IF you want to be sure that there is always enough wind somewhere to power the whole continent, then you have to build probably so many windmills everywhere that it could ALSO happen that your network simply melts due to excessive power.

    [Response: Yes of course. That’s the big problem with wind. Oh please. – gavin]

  7. 1557
    mondo says:

    Re #1499.

    Gavin, thanks for your detailed commentary. I was responding to what I thought your comment meant. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

  8. 1558
    Septic Matthew says:

    Georgi Marinov, I think we have beaten this horse to death, as the saying goes.

  9. 1559
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Gilles: “the point is IF you want to be sure that there is always enough wind somewhere to power the whole continent, then you have to build probably so many windmills everywhere”

    Uh, no the point is that’s bollocks.

    How many windmills would you have to build to cross the Eurasian continent and how much power would that yield?

    According to didactylos, you need 630m between each 7.5MW turbine.

    It’s nearly 8200 km between paris and Bejing.

    that would make it 14,500 with a few spare to cover that distance.

    Multiply by 7.5MW and you get about 110GW.

    France’s power needs are 12,500GW.

    I take it France’s power network hardly ever stays up, eh?

  10. 1560
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Steve Fish: “Why don’t you promote a way to do this without carbon taxes or creating a one world government.”

    If people did that without needing it mandated then it wouldn’t be mandated.

    Why don’t you find a way to get people motivated?

  11. 1561
    Tim Jones says:

    Pathetic testament to the effectiveness of the coal lobby in Utah. “[Rep. Kerry Gibson] said there is mounting evidence that humans can’t influence their environment…”

    House OKs resolution doubting climate change
    http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13436996
    Amendment » A non-binding statement passed after lawmakers deleted charges of a “conspiracy” on climate data.
    By Robert Gehrke
    The Salt Lake Tribune
    Updated: 02/09/2010 05:04:17 PM MST

    “The House adopted a sternly worded resolution declaring the body’s deep skepticism over current climate science and called for the federal government to halt carbon dioxide reduction programs.
    “Rep. Kerry Gibson said that by pursuing cap-and-trade policies, Washington is engaging on a path that could destroy Utah’s way of life.
    “I’m afraid of what could happen to our economy, to our rural life, to our agriculture, if such a detrimental policy continues to be pursued for political reasons,” said the Ogden Republican.
    “He said there is mounting evidence that humans can’t influence their environment and the costs of enacting climate change policies could be staggering.”

    I’m wondering if this fellow wasn’t staggering when he said it.

    There’s a saying in Texas that if we didn’t have fools in the legislature it wouldn’t be a representative body. But even Texas hasn’t gone this far back into the dark ages.

  12. 1562
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Andrew Byron says: 10 February 2010 at 7:26 AM

    “If you trawl though the comments on that times link to the article about Phil Jones then you’ll see, on page three i think, that the FoI requests were coordinated from the climate audit website. Apologies if this has already been mentioned as i haven’t read every comment.”

    Check Eli Rabett’s site where in comments somebody called “steven” goes through contortions trying to explain how dozens of requests are no more difficult to deal with than one. The argument fails even as he utters the first word; no need to explain dozens of requests if the matter had been handled properly. Also, he entirely fails to address CA’s imprecation “the more the merrier.”

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/02/steve-had-little-list.html

  13. 1563
    Tim Jones says:

    Planet Earth’s PR effort.

    Climate Ark
    http://www.climateark.org/
    Climate Change and Global Warming Portal

    Climate Change, Global Warming & Renewable Energy Links
    http://www.climateark.org/links/

  14. 1564
    Tim Jones says:

    How the ‘climategate’ scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics’ lies
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/09/climategate-bogus-sceptics-lies
    Claims based on email soundbites are demonstrably false – there is manifestly no evidence of clandestine data manipulation
    Fred Pearce
    guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 9 February 2010

    “Almost all the media and political discussion about the hacked climate emails has been based on soundbites publicised by professional sceptics and their blogs. In many cases, these have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something they were never intended to.

    “Elizabeth May, veteran head of the Canadian Green party, claims to have read all the emails and declared: “How dare the world’s media fall into the trap set by ?contrarian propagandists without reading the whole set?”

    If those journalists had read even a few words beyond the soundbites, they would have realised that they were often being fed lies. Here are a few examples.”

    The skeptics and denialists have picked a fight with people that buy ink by the barrel by manipulating the press. Let’s see how turnabout finds the denialists hoist on their own petard.

    Where goes British public opinion now?

  15. 1565
    Georgi Marinov says:

    Didactylos says:
    10 February 2010 at 1:21 PM
    Al Gore is pragmatic.

    This is something that the right just won’t give him credit for. They are so busy taking shots at his energy consumption, and at his offset plans, that they don’t manage to put the two together and realise that Gore is preaching exactly what they want to hear: “You can continue your lifestyle without earth-shattering changes, and avert global warming. It won’t even break the bank.”

    The problem is that this isn’t exactly true. You can either have a small number of people living the modern lifestyle, or many people will have to drastically change their lifestyles. You can’t have it both ways and this means and earth-shattering change in either case

  16. 1566
    mct says:

    Tim Jones @1553. That may well all be true of the law-making process – perhaps far more so in the USA than where I hang out – but I still believe that the great body of people need to be convinced before wide-ranging action is going to be politically feasible in any democracy. And it is my strong contention that they are currently being UN-convinced at a rapid rate. David Walker @1544… I’m actually based in Australia, but what you say about the UK certainly applies here.. in spades. Plenty of support for action still, but a real and growing disconnect between the populace and the scientific community.

    Tim would seem to contend that it doesn’t matter and that is, I suppose, a perfectly defensible position. I just don’t see where that takes getting a result forward at all. It seems to me to be self-defeating… if the idea isn’t to convince everyone of the merits of the case, what exactly is the point? To be smugly self-satisfied as the World goes down the gurgler?

    The scientists have laboured long and hard and now, when it comes to getting action on the results, it just seems to me that the only approach being tried is “here are the facts, now do as I tell you”, and that is simply not working. Recognising that is not, as some here seem to think, giving in… it’s recognising that when Plan A isn’t working it makes little sense to continue to hit your head against that brick wall… time to find Plan B.

    When Completely Fed Up @1536 asks “So if someone makes a fool of you to get you to leave, even if it’s not your fault, you have to leave.” all I can respond with is “Exactly correct”. If the head of the IPCC has lost the confidence of the public, if he has singularly failed to communicate the AGW position to a wider audience, and I believe that he has, then he needs to be replaced. Whether that is just or not is not the issue here. It may be an issue for another day or another discussion, but in terms of getting the case across right now it’s irrelevant. Pachauri is so clearly not part of Plan B.

    I don’t claim to have the answer… what inspired me to post was that I see so many here not even asking the question.

  17. 1567
    Georgi Marinov says:

    Septic Matthew says:
    10 February 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Your comment about Science is ad hominem, and does not address the particular claims (all based on peer-reviewed research or actual investments) in the article.

    It does address them very well. As I said, you exponential growth can never continue forever, and this is just as true for the growth of renewables as it is for the growth of the economy and human population. Unfortunately, people who deny one of those, tend to deny all of them

    Not all wind turbines require neodynium. Where did you get that? The newer models have smaller blades, so they can be made out of lots of materials, and higher efficiencies than the turbines now installed.

    You don’t need neodymium for the blades, you need it for the magnets. You are out there arguing about these things and you don’t even know the facts


    Tens of billions can indeed accumulate to hundreds of billions and eventually to trillions. How do you think we got where we are from where we were 125 years ago? The known resource limits are very high, the most important right now being time and labor.

    Of course society will be different 125 years from now, that’s what we are trying to make happen. Even now, solar powered cell phone systems are being deployed in rural India where no cell phone towers have ever been deployed before.

    And that’s good? It’s the classic fallacy of the overshoot denial: “We have never enjoyed a better lifestyle, we have never had more people on the planet, those people have never had more gadgets than now, etc.”. True, but this doesn’t matter, what matters is whether you can sustain it indefinitely, and the answer is that you probably can’t even sustain it for another 20 years, let alone indefinitely, and how do you get in line with what is sustainable and what “sustainable” will mean after the growth orgy is over

    Septic Matthew says:
    10 February 2010 at 2:27 PM
    I don’t think that your term “technocornucopianism” applies to anything posted here. We have supplied you with short-term (5-10 year) extrapolations of work already underway and progress recently achieved, with numerous reliable references.

    It describes what I see here very accurately:

    Person A (me in this case): We can’t grow forever, if we continue growing, we will overshoot (which we have already done) and then crash hard, and we won’t be able to recover because the carrying capacity will be much lower than what it used to be before we destroyed it. We need to stop growing and start shrinking, and while technology will be a major component of the transition, the end of growth it the main thing

    Person B: Oh no, you’re wrong, we have all this cool technology that will allows to overcome all physical limits of the planet we live on and we will keep growing until we’re harvesting the energy of each photon
    that the Sun sends our way and until we have two people on each square meter of the Earth surface
    1543, Georgi Marinov: This is precisely the attitude I am talking about – “When shortages come, we will find a substitute. Always”.

    Already the newer designs of wind turbines can, like hockey sticks and golf clubs, be made mostly of carbon compounds (called “graphite”, but really complex stuff like silicon magnesium carbide, and the complex stuff that is used in the Boeing 787), and even the windings can be made of treated carbon nanotubes. It’s not economical, but no industrialized nation need depend on China for the materials for wind energy.

    See above, it’s not the blades we’re talking about. And I repeat, neodymium is just an example. Without all the rare elements there is no high tech industry, period. Try to understand that

  18. 1568
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Walker, I am frustrated not because I am an American, but because I am a scientist (physicist) who has actually taken the time and effort to learn the science of Earth’s climate, and I am seeing the science ignored in favor of petty squabbles–especially in the press.

    Has your press noted that UEA received over 60 FOI requests in a single week, all nearly identical except for the list of 5 countries for which data were requested (some merely sent in the form and left the notation “insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested”. Have your reporters detailed the abuse that scientists in this field are enduring? All for doing their job!

    David, I do not think my comments toward you were at all vitriolic. Believe it or not, I’m not that hard to get along with. All you have to do is avoid making unsubstantiated accusations of fraud against working scientists and make a good faith effort at learning more about the science. That is what this wonderful resource of Realclimate is for, after all. Anyone here will tell you that if you have sincere questions about the science, I’m among the first to jump in and try to explain to the extent of my understanding.

    The sharp side of my tongue is reserved for anti-science idiots who contend that the entire global scientific establishment (’cause it’s not just the climate scientist, but every relevant scientific organization that has expressed a position) is perpetrating a fraud.

    Sometimes the press gets it right. Sometimes they get it wrong. Sometimes, some of them lie like a rug. It is up to you to be educated enough to spot the difference.

  19. 1569
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray and Doug,

    Your concern over my [irrelevant] credibility seems hollow – let’s review the tape. I raised an item that had been making the rounds all over the place, but not at RC as far as I could tell. Note the apology I offered in case I was covering old ground, and with that a tacit and respectful assumption all you regulars were way ahead of me. I note that you were, indeed, following the story, though not posting about it, I guess.

    It’s a pretty damning statement from Lacis (thus its circulation) and how it was dealt with, to me, is an interesting topic and of a piece with the most recent criticism surrounding the evident politicization of the IPCC. What did I say that was not true? Was the draft (“beyond redemption”) deleted per his request? For all Lacis’ back-peddling with Revkin, would you truly want to use the subsequent amendment of the executive summary as an example of how science is supposed to work? Perhaps it’s a good example of how scientists can try to prevent advocates from overstating their case, but surely no more than that? It would be useful if somebody were able to point to the original draft side-by-side with its amended version to see how drastic were the changes. Perhaps someone already has.

    Thanks not quite so much for your inference that my honesty is not up to snuff, but that’s a pretty boring topic relative to the long-overdue criticism of the IPCC’s failings.

    Walter

  20. 1570
    Tim Jones says:

    I found this in one of the comments to the Guardian article I posted earlier.

    “How the ‘climategate’ scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics’ lies”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/09/climategate-bogus-sceptics-lies

    I’m not sure how many FOI requests were received by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, but the revelation of who was driving the contemptible effort is abundantly clear. In case you weren’t aware of this:

    Comment by,
    JBowers
    9 Feb 2010, 8:53PM

    “How many read ClimateAudit?”

    (quote from the blog)

    Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 24, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    “I suggest that interested readers can participate by choosing 5 countries and sending the following FOI request to david.palmer at uea.ac.uk:”

    Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 24, 2009 at 11:03 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “A CA reader notified me offline that he requested agreements involving Russia, China, India. I already requested Canada, United States, Australia, U.K., and Brazil.

    Please keep adding to the inventory of FOI requests to CRU.

    Here’s the form letter he wrote for everyone to use:”

    Dear Mr Palmer,

    I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect to any confidentiality agreements)restricting transmission of CRUTEM data to non-academics involing the following countries: [insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested]

    1. the date of any applicable confidentiality agreements;
    2. the parties to such confidentiality agreement, including the full name of any organization;
    3. a copy of the section of the confidentiality agreement that ?prevents further transmission to non-academics?.
    4. a copy of the entire confidentiality agreement,

    I am requesting this information for the purposes of academic research.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Yours truly,

    yourname

    “Note the line:
    “I am requesting this information for the purposes of academic research.

    “Was it for academic research? Is that true?
    EAU got just under 60 FOIA requests in less than a week!”

    Steve McIntyre has lost all credibility now, if he ever had any.

    Why can’t everyone who participated in this be called to account for a criminal conspiracy?

  21. 1571
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter,
    Actually, that is precisely how science is supposed to work when it comes time to summarize it for the public. Scientists argue. Some feel a statement is too strong, others that it is too weak. Sometimes it comes down to which scientists have the strongest bladders and can wait out the others to prevail. In the end, though, bringing the experts together and forcing them to reach agreement is one of the best ways of geting close to the truth.

    Walter, you seem willing to pounce on anything you perceive as a weakness and yet completely unwilling to learn enough of the science that you can assess it for yourself. I have to ask myself why that is. If your opposition is to the policies proposed for mitigation, would it not be more profitable to propose alternative policies? In the end, any policy must start with the science, though, correct? Even a decision not to act must be based on the science, and the science simply does not support inaction. So you can go with the science or you can go 180 degrees against the science, but I don’t see how you come up with a convincing justification for that.

  22. 1572
    Septic Matthew says:

    Georgi Marinov: Oh no, you’re wrong, we have all this cool technology that will allows to overcome all physical limits of the planet we live on and we will keep growing until we’re harvesting the energy of each photon
    that the Sun sends our way and until we have two people on each square meter of the Earth surface

    Nobody here said what said that.

    I’ll let you have the last word:

    Without all the rare elements there is no high tech industry, period.

  23. 1573
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Walter Manny says: 10 February 2010 at 5:27 PM

    “What did I say that was not true? ”

    Walter, I was quite clear with you, I thought. But let me be more explicit. By stripping Lacis’ remarks of all context and dropping them here in a transparent attempt to sway opinion, you committed deceit, a lie of omission.

  24. 1574
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:1566 mct says: 10 February 2010 at 5:01 PM
    “Tim Jones @1553. That may well all be true of the law-making process – perhaps far more so in the USA than where I hang out – but I still believe that the great body of people need to be convinced before wide-ranging action is going to be politically feasible in any democracy.”

    Then why do we have un-labled G M O food on the shelves? Why is rBGH allowed in milk? Why do we have politically unpopular wars? Why doesn’t the US ban land mines? How do banks charge usurious rates on cre-dit card lo-ans? Why can’t a health care bill with a public option be passed by congress?

    Yes, for legislation requiring sacrifice on the part of both the citizenry and fossil industry there will have to be strong public support. The problem is that the public is swayed by propaganda. Mendacious propaganda. Thus there is a great effort on the part of industry to get people to vote and advocate against their own self interest without knowing they’re doing so.

    This is what’s happening. Most every national environmental group in America has come out with tremendous PR supporting action to address climate change. The upshot is that all the denialists have to do is inject doubt and character assassination into the political equation and people fall away from advocating for things they’re led to believe will cost them money.
    (And they vote with polls that we better come up with something to allay their doubts,)

    There’s an equation for it. Fear + hate = power. This is exactly what’s being employed by industry to confuse people.
    It’s a powerful equation. And it works. It appears that significant climate legislation has been abandoned for the time
    being in the US. As all the rest of a progressive agenda is being undercut to the point of giving us nothing.

    mct: “And it is my strong contention that they are currently being UN-convinced at a rapid rate.”

    This is true. Not on the merits of the science but by people with a lot of money conspiring to make people fear and doubt
    science and scientists.

    mct: “David Walker @1544… I’m actually based in Australia, but what you say about the UK certainly applies here.. in spades. Plenty of support for action still, but a real and growing disconnect between the populace and the scientific community. Tim would seem to contend that it doesn’t matter and that is, I suppose, a perfectly defensible position.”

    Of course it matters. But don’t let them frame the argument.

    mct: “I just don’t see where that takes getting a result forward at all.”

    We’ve been at it for years. What do suggest we do differently?

    mct: “It seems to me to be self-defeating… if the idea isn’t to convince everyone of the merits of the case, what exactly is the point?”

    Nobody’s abandoning the effort. I don’t know how a PR battle with deep pocket corporations is going to win the effort.
    Look at where we are now. Should we take up lying and driving people nuts to have our way?

    mct: “To be smugly self-satisfied as the World goes down the gurgler?”

    I’m not so sure that we don’t think alike, just out of phase, so to speak. I’m probably growing a bit cynical at almost 67.

    Here’s what I wrote earlier, before the Guardian article, but didn’t include in the reply I posted.

    “mct goes on about PR. I think negative PR has a limit. At some point the yellow journalist’s scandals will be revealed for the degree of importance they actually have. In the meantime the physical evidence compiled as scientific research piles up day by day adds to the sum of understanding of climate change. People watch this sort of thing despite PR spin raging through the tabloid press and the blogs.

    “If you ask me, people want the truth more than the way some demagogue or special interest manages to filter the news.

    “Yes, the knee jerk reaction by the body politic is to sort out the bad guys and punish them. But the sorting will become turnabout as the preponderance of information (PR?) assures the public that the science is right despite the foibles of human conduct under stress. As this occurs our representatives will feel more comfortable in doing the right thing, (in front of snarling corporate attorneys and baby faced lobbyists) despite the scare tactics and defamation perpetrated by corporate special interests and their willing tools.”

    Right now it doesn’t look good. But the political climate will eventually turn round. Let’s just hope so before Earth’s climate crosses a tipping point and there’s nothing we can do to stop cascading feedbacks from overwhelming human effort come too late.

    To tell you the truth I’m not sure we’re not bound for the gurgler anyway. I’m not smug about it. I have land and animals that depend on me, not to mention the children. I’m not an arm chair environmentalist.

  25. 1575
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Tim Jones asks: Why can’t everyone who participated in this be called to account for a criminal conspiracy?

    Filing vexatious FoI requests is (probably) not criminal. But hacking is. “Steven” on the Eli thread has fallen silent; one wonders if this is on advice from counsel.

  26. 1576
    Chris Fox says:

    For those of us who are not scientists, but do our best to understand science (and teach our children), these are troubling times. I stumbled upon this site after being frustrated by the NY Times Dot Earth and the resulting “comments.” As such, I want to commend the level of discussion and thank those who take such pride in seeking facts and correcting misinformation. The war on science is real (dare I point out that the attack on evolution appears to have subsided?) and while I will not be able to recite the proper response to every “water-cooler” comment, at least I know where to go to get help. My only request would be for the contributors to not ignore completely the general “news” sites as there is a relentless and serious PR campaign to attack and deny science and scientists. We need sane and knowledgeable people to respond to some of those articles and comments as well. If this post is removed for its lack of relevance that is fine, but I do hope that at least the moderator learns of my true appreciation.
    CF

    [Response: Thank you!]

  27. 1577
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Completely Fed Up — 10 February 2010 @ 4:10 PM:

    I am having trouble interpreting what you said to me regarding my suggestion to a libertarian troll. I am doing the best that I can, as are you I think. You are not getting weird on us again are you?

    Steve

  28. 1578

    I don’t know about “criminal conspiracy”–there has to be an actual crime, as opposed to an ethical transgression. This is about as close as I can come to the former:

    “Abuse of process is a common law intentional tort. It is to be distinguished from malicious prosecution, another type of tort that involves misuse of the public right of access to the courts.

    “The elements of a valid cause of action for abuse of process in most common law jurisdictions are as follows: it is the malicious and deliberate misuse or perversion of regularly issued court process (civil or criminal) not justified by the underlying legal action. “Process” in this context is used in the same sense as in “service of process,” where “process” refers to an official summons or other notice issued from a court. The person who abuses process is interested only in accomplishing some improper purpose that is collateral to the proper object of the process and that offends justice, such as an unjustified arrest or an unfounded criminal prosecution. Subpoenas to testify, attachments of property, executions on property, garnishments, and other provisional remedies are among the types of “process” considered to be capable of abuse.”

    (Wikipedia)

  29. 1579

    Gilles,

    There is a thing called an “Off” switch. If, by some weird fluke, there are a bazillion turbines on the planet, and they are all producing at 100% of rated power one day, the “Off” switch would allow some of them to be disconnected from the electric grid.

    Likewise with solar panels. When I’m off-grid and my solar panels are making more power than the the batteries can accept, this thing called a “charge controller” reduces the amount of energy being taken from the solar panels.

    Most of your information, besides being just plain wrong, is also just plain way out of date. The 20% limit that you like to toss around was something that utility companies MADE UP (yes, I researched the heck out of it) in order to block increases in renewable energy sources. Consider ERCOT, the Texas electric grid. In order to keep Texas running, we have to maintain a 2,600MW reserve, at all times — and that’s not for our 8,000MW of wind turbine nameplate capacity. That’s for a 2,600MW nuclear reactor.

    Okay, if we need 2,600MW of spinning reserves for the South Texas Nuclear Power station (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Texas_Nuclear_Generating_Station) how is that not a “bad” thing? Right? Not that this is a hard thing to do — right now there are 7,981MW of reserves and 2,750MW of power from wind. 2750 + 2600 is still less than 7981. All the wind, and our biggest nuke stop running — still have enough researves. Throw in Comanche Peak — 2,300MW — and the total is 8,600MW. Okay, that’s too much to lose at once, but that’s pretty drastic, and that’s two large nuclear sites =and= all the wind we have right now.

    Are you starting to understand why you’re wrong? And not just a little wrong?

  30. 1580
    Doug Bostrom says:

    While I fear it is an old, tired topic, IPCC is nonetheless nominally the subject of this thread. Ricky Rood (climate scientist)produces a useful commentary on IPCC process at his blog at Wunderground, here:

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/RickyRood/comment.html?entrynum=152

    Dr. Rood also points out what is probably the most definitive, fog lifting account of the Himalayan pandemonium I’ve seen, here:

    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/ipcc_slips_on_the_ice/

  31. 1581
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:1579 FurryCatHerder says: 10 February 2010 at 11:38 PM
    “Gilles,
    There is a thing called an “Off” switch. If, by some weird fluke, there are a bazillion turbines on the planet, and they are all producing at 100% of rated power one day, the “Off” switch would allow some of them to be disconnected from the electric grid.”

    Perhaps. But if turning turbines are wearing out spinning around for nothing it would be a waste. Wouldn’t it be better to convert excess capacity to storing energy in another form, say large flywheels, then using that to meet peak demand? Or couldn’t excess energy be skimmed off the grid to extract hydrogen through electrolysis which would be used for fuel?

    It should be noted there are serious issues regarding bird and bat mortality in the mid continental flyway and other places, like along along the gulf coast. But there are many ways to use wind in less harmful ways. Included in this would be the use of radar to detect migrating birds and lights etc to ward them away from stanchions. It’s actually a highly contentious issue. I’m not sure a bazillion turbines are what we need.

    FCH: “Likewise with solar panels. When I’m off-grid and my solar panels are making more power than the the batteries can accept, this thing called a “charge controller” reduces the amount of energy being taken from the solar panels.”

    Can’t you hook up to the grid? We turn the electric meter backwards for much of the year, though the Pedernales Co-op leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to them rewarding individual customers selling energy back to them.

  32. 1582
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Grownups talk about improving IPCC, here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/10/ipcc-reform

    Nothing from Lord GaGa, or Pielke. How refreshing.

  33. 1583
    Completely Fed Up says:

    There’s also the fact that nuclear and coal power stations, taking a long time to run up and down to and from operational use they will spend a fair bit of their time shorting out to a null load.

    Because the power isn’t needed at that time.

    Yet somehow the electrical grids do not spontaneously melt.

    Engineers that Gilles thinks are today so dumb thought about that already and guess what? They solved it.

  34. 1584
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “When Completely Fed Up @1536 asks “So if someone makes a fool of you to get you to leave, even if it’s not your fault, you have to leave.” all I can respond with is “Exactly correct”.”

    Then why do we still have Inholfe, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, Plimer, Monckton, Singer, McIntyre, Gerlighch, Lomberg, etc.?

    No, when you are attacked, you should NOT be punished for it.

    This is what you want to happen.

    Why?

    Stalling for time, so you can shuffle off this mortal coil with mucho wonga and the life of riley lived?

  35. 1585
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Filing vexatious FoI requests is (probably) not criminal.”

    There is a crime of harassment.

    There’s also barratry (which on the sea is mutiny by officers, but on land, abuse of legal process to coerce or threaten: see SLAPP in the US).

    There is also vexatious litigation which can see you rejected from court access (see the religious nutjob Jack Thompson and his insane lawsuits against video games).

    And there’s also the waste of government resources, requiring more taxes or less output. How many conservatives complain about the waste of taxpayer money in make-work tasks? Vexatious FOIA requests are make-work.

    If they’re answered, it’s a waste of taxpayer money, if it’s not done, it’s “fraud”.

  36. 1586
    David Walker says:

    Further to the exchange of comments above with respect to how AGW issues are now handled in the UK, have a look at the attached link to a BBC iPlayer video (the AGW item starts at about 11mins 30 seconds in)(Again, I understand that BBC iplayer isnot available outside the Uk but, I believe there are “fixes” out on the ‘net):

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00qvh4p/The_Daily_Politics_08_02_2010/

    The Daily Politics Show is a midday show on the BBC. Andrew Neil (the presenter) is a respected political broadcaster and previous Sunday Times Editor.

    I give you the link to show the “temperature” of the issue here in the UK – and, I think, represents the difference in coverage between the UK and the USA.

  37. 1587
    Gilles says:

    “[Response: Try giving us a task that is actually true. Mann et al (2008). – gavin]”
    Sorry Gavin, the figures are a little bit hard to decrypt. Which warming do the proxy (not instrumental) reconstructions show after 1960 again?

    [Response: All the data is there – plot it for yourself. – gavin]

    Which, say, 50 years period encompasses most of the warming shown by the proxy (not instrumental) curves, and which proportion of variability is attributed to the sum of all anthropic forcing in this period?

    “Response: Natural variability is perfectly ‘coherent’ an explanation, though there are always possibilities that the forcings (aerosols in particular) are not well known enough to give strong confidence in a conclusion. – gavin]”

    Ok, and which stringent limit do you put on the amplitude of “natural variability”, and particularly on the existence of possible multidecadal or secular cycles ? do you have a trustable limit on the “natural” power spectrum in the 10-2 yr^-1 frequency range?

    [Response: You asked for an explanation as if no-one had ever thought about these things before. Now I need to know everything about the spectrum of internal variability to keep you happy? Hmm… but whether my opinion is trustable or not, I’d say that hundred-year variance due internal processes is around 0.1 deg C, and a little larger for ten year periods. – gavin]

    “Who can explain coherently why the average slope over 30 years (supposed to be a “real” climate time) between 1910 and 1940 is very close to that between 1970 and 2000 ?

    [Response: Seriously? Numerology. – gavin]”

    Seriously? average slopes over 30 years are just kind of random numbers ?


    Who can explain coherently that Europe experienced a medieval optimum and a little Ice age , even “local” ? can “local” temperature be so much decoupled of “global” ones?

    [Response: Yes they can. Why is that hard to believe? Ocean circulation, solar driven wind changes – all sorts of candidates…. – gavin]

    Great. Problem : people are generally sensitive to the LOCAL weather, not the average temperature on the globe. They don’t care January 2010 being one of the warmest January months , if they are engulfed in snow. So IF the local weather (extending on many decades if not centuries) is that decoupled from global averages, what is the significance of using global averages?

    [Response: The decoupling is only true for small changes in global means. And regional averages are much more closely tied. And for big impact changes – such as Greenland melting, I doubt I want to bet my beach house that Greenland is the one place that will be colder than the Arctic mean. (Note for other readers – I don’t really have a beach house). – gavin]

    “Gilles,

    There is a thing called an “Off” switch. If, by some weird fluke, there are a bazillion turbines on the planet, and they are all producing at 100% of rated power one day, the “Off” switch would allow some of them to be disconnected from the electric grid.”

    Oh really, there is an “OFF switch ! seriously, I was kidding when I said that the network would melt, of course . But think of something : where does the cost of wind power come from ? and how many more windmills than really needed during peak production do you have to built , to insure that power will never fail ?

    For the Texas figures, can you tell me how much wind power are produced on average .. but I doubt that Texas is isolated from the rest of US .

    Back to the initial subject : for those understanding French, I just discovered a post on a general scientific French forum, (that just decided to forbid all discussions about climate change BTW), futurasciences.

    http://forums.futura-sciences.com/debats-scientifiques/103287-une-verite-derange-revenons-film.html#post844949

    This was posted in 2006, criticizing Al gore’s movie. Its author is not a newbie, it’s Charles Muller, a scientific journalist maintaining a “skeptical” blog. At this time, I was not particularly looking at all this disputes. But I find it interesting to discover that in 2006, he posted a list of criticisms including this one

    “Himalaya et fin de l’eau potable en Asie
    C’est un rapport du WWF 2005, pas des travaux scientifiques qui font cette hypothèse. Je n’ai rien contre le WWF, mais que l’on ne prétende pas qu’il s’agit de l’état de la recherche. (Par ailleurs, plusieurs glaciers à l’ouest de l’Himalaya, dans l’Hindu Kush, gagnent en glace au lieu de fondre).”

    (do I need to translate?)

    [Response: The end of drinkable water in Asia? And you accuse us of exaggeration! Neither WWF nor Gore nor IPCC ever said any such thing. – gavin]

    The others criticisms, as far as I can judge, are mainly pertinent.

    So that’s interesting. A “skeptical ” journalist , in 2006, was able with very few apparent effort, to pinpoint most errors in Al Gore’s movie.. some of them being nevertheless transcripted in the IPCC 2007 report. And was perfectly aware of the WWF 2005 report on Himalaya. strange isn’t it?

  38. 1588
    Gilles says:

    CFU :”France’s power needs are 12,500GW.”

    what is this ridiculous number ? That’s neither the peak production capacity, nor the average production, nor the amount of GWh produced !
    the peak consumption is around 90 GW. The total annual consumption is around 500 TWh corresponding to an average of 57 GW. So how many windmills do you think we have to built to cover our needs ?

  39. 1589

    AxelD: a scientific case which is now seen to be far less than “settled”, and must certainly be less than the “90% certainty” claimed by the IPCC.

    BPL: And you base your probability estimate on what? A hunch? A comment by Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck? Without looking it up on Wiki, could you, right now, write down the equation of radiative transfer to save your life? I tend to doubt it.

  40. 1590

    Gilles: 23 % is the ratio of Danish wind energy to Danish total electric energy. “Danish” is a nationality. You don’t get the same number when you take the ratio of the total wind energy to the total electric energy of the interconnected Denmark-Sweden-Germany.. network

    BPL: And when they install more windmills, that figure will go up as well. What’s your point? That the whole world isn’t as well windmill-saturated as Denmark? Duh, as we say in America. We knew that. It’s nonetheless true that Denmark is getting 23% of its electricity from wind, so a country can do that.

    I don’t think ANY country gets ALL its power domestically. Even Cuba imports oil.

  41. 1591

    neutral right: Stay away from me with your carbon taxes and one world governments.

    BPL: Don’t forget the black helicopters and UN detention camps!

  42. 1592

    GM: it will take a few hundred trillion dollars in investment to build the electricity generation capacity and infrastructure needed to phase out fossil fuels at the current level of energy consumption. Where are these money going to come from? Where is 5-6 times that amount of money going to come from given that we will have 9-10 billion people at 2050 and they will be consuming a lot more energy on a per capita basis than they do now?

    BPL: How much is invested in energy infrastructure worldwide every year? Assuming 3% real growth, how much will be invested over the next ten years? If incentives are added?

  43. 1593

    GM: “we have all this cool technology that will allows to overcome all physical limits of the planet we live on and we will keep growing until we’re harvesting the energy of each photon that the Sun sends our way and until we have two people on each square meter of the Earth surface”

    BPL: NOBODY here, except perhaps some of the deniers, has this attitude. You are attacking a straw man. Nobody is saying our lifestyle can get infinitely richer forever, just that it doesn’t have to drop significantly from where it is if we switch to renewables. I’m all for controlling population, and probably nearly everyone else here is as well, again possible excepting some of the denialists.

  44. 1594
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Chris Fox,
    You are certainly most welcome here, and please don’t hesitate to ask questions. Sincere questions (as opposed to trolling) present everyone with an opportunity to learn, even if it is learning how to present what little we know clearly.

    I think you are right that the Dover case has taken the pressure off of evolution right now to some extent, but be aware that that is still an important front with ongoing battles (Texas Textbook standards for instance). There’s the anti-vaccine campaign, cell-phone paranoiacs and on and on. Climate science just happens to be where the anti-science forces have the most money–and the nastiest tactics.

  45. 1595
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Septic Matthew and George Marinov @1572:

    Regarding rare earth metals. In this respect Earth–at least that which we can reach–is fortunate. Rare Earth’s are lithophilic, which means that when our planet was a molten, incandescent ball, the rare earths tended to stick with the mass of silicates and other pond scum floating on the top that eventually became Earth’s crust. As such, the crust is substantially enriched in rare earths (and actinides as it turns out) compared to the the cosmic abundance.

    This does not mean rare earths are common–just less rare. And they are much more common than siderophiles (e.g. gold and platinum) Platinum is especially rare because it doesn’t dissolve in superheated water as does gold (the reason why you find gold and quartz in association).

    So the situation wrt rare earths isn’t as grave as it could be. They probably aren’t the limiting factor on the economy.

  46. 1596
    Ray Ladbury says:

    AxelD, I 100% agree that climate skepticism is an honorable trait. The thing is I don’t know any true skeptics who are skeptical that CO2 is a greenhouse gas in the same way that I don’t know any gravity skeptics.

    There is certainly a place for skepticism:
    1)whether climate change will increase or decrease Atlantic Hurricane activity (unresolved)
    2)Whether Climate sensitivity is closer to 2.5 degrees per doubling or 4 degrees per doubling
    3)what the effects will be on global agriculture
    4)and so on.

    Where you fail miserably at skepticism is in assuming that all uncertainty mitigates against taking climate change seriously. Well you also fail miserably in understanding the science in the first place and in understanding your sources, but then nobody takes you seriously as a skeptic. No, Axel, your position would best be described as selectively credulous.

  47. 1597
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray,

    “The science simply does not support inaction.” Would that it were the case that’s it’s “the science” and that it’s “simple”. Obviously I reject your premise that the science is settled or that only you know what the science is. You seem chronically unable to discern that reasonable people disagree about climate science, as though that were not exactly what is going on all around you. Your passionate desire for complex scientific matters to be nailed down in your lifetime is admirable, but your arguments supporting the precautionary principle are more compelling than your occasional absolutism, I think.

    In any event, if you are right (entirely possible), you can keep on pounding the mitigation drum if you like, but as we reflect on Copenhagen and the politicized IPCC edifice necessarily crumbles — the Peace Prize was probably the harbinger there — you might want to join with Lacis on the geoengineering front.

    That aside, It will be interesting to see what Lacis posts next on Dot Earth, having stated his plans “to break this into several more manageable segments”.

  48. 1598
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Obviously I reject your premise that the science is settled ”

    Because you are making up what is being said by another in your own little head, Wally.

    Where is the unsettled part of gas laws?

    Where is the unsettled part of CO2’s absorbing effects?

    “or that only you know what the science is.”

    Nope, nobody here’s EVER said that except dittos like you projecting it on others. You don’t WANT to know what the science is, Wally. There’s a difference between not knowing and wanting not to know.

  49. 1599
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Some of the rare earth metals are surprisingly common.
    http://seekingalpha.com/article/103972-rare-earth-metals-not-so-rare-but-valuable

  50. 1600
    John E. Pearson says:

    1579 furry ch wrote: “utility companies MADE UP the 20% figure” Do you know if the 20% figure is where DOE’s 2030 target for wind power came from? (i.e. DOE plans that by 2030 the US will be getting 20% of its electrical power from wind.)

    1581 Tim Jones wrote: storing excess capacity in flywheels, hydrogen etc.

    I’ve been wondering about that recently. I don’t think you want flywheels around. Flywheels sound dangerous as hell to me, but storing excess energy as hydrogen or other liquid fuels seems fine. Or, perhaps, we could deliver excess power to reverse coal mines where CO2 is removed from the air and broken down into C and O2 and the C put back in the ground?