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The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)

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

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. 1651
    Tim Jones says:

    Re; 1629 FurryCatHerder says: 11 February 2010 at 10:49 PM
    Tim Jones @ 1581:
    FCH: “I mentioned the “Off” switch because I wasn’t sure Gilles knew they existed.”

    Yeah. I caught the context and wasn’t disapproving of your remark. It just seemed like a place I could segue in comments
    about hybrid renewable energy ideas.

    FCH: “Obviously if there is surplus capacity capacity someone should be out there figuring out how to use it, even if they are just going to dump it back onto the grid later.”

    Yes.

    Let me list some points I’d otherwise have to spend too much time composing into coherent paragraphs. Without right off the bat assuming I’m disapproving of anyone here, or that I’m not the worst of all…

    1. I’m not saying clever comebacks aren’t warranted, that venting and rants aren’t justifiable and sometimes quite entertaining, but I sometimes tire of reading through some of the reactive preludes to a topic under discussion. Do you a think a synthesis of ideas might develop more richly and informative if someone answering a point wasn’t smarting from an aspersion, being defensive, and seeking a fast comeback or perfect squelch?

    2. What would an adequate appellation be for an AGW skeptic who was consumed with ways to dismiss the entire concept, who relished in calling scientists and advocates “alarmists, hoaxers and frauds and worse, and who was carrying water for fossil fuel corporations seeking at all costs to enhance their bottom line, besides “denialists” or “deniers?”

    3. Perhaps we should have a contest for the most adequate descriptive name for use in in polite company.

    4. I would like to clear up an issue regarding formatting. I often see comments composed with highlighted words indicating url links. I see replies composed so that original remarks are bold type or offset so it’s easy to detect the flow of conversation.
    I have a Mac. I do have Microsoft word-for-mac for what that’s worth. I haven’t understood how to compose this way for the RC comments box. May I have guidance here?

  2. 1652
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Gilles: “Nope. I’m not asking about the energy yield, but the human to energy yield (of if you prefer, the average amount of energy available by human work hour).”

    Again you try this. Your jedi tricks only work on the weak willed.

    you asked, and I quote:

    “what determines the maximum amount of power (energy/yr/capita) that we can extract from a given technology”

    The limit is the Carnot cycle.

    If you want to insist it be built on the money reserve, then please tell me how the banking crash which lost trillions off the world money supply removed energy from the world.

  3. 1653
    John Mason says:

    I know one thing, Ray (#1649). The FOI Act needs looking at again in order to build in a mechanism to deter these spambots’ activities. Specifically, a request shall automatically be invalidated if a) the information is already available in the public domain or b) the information is available via the agency/agencies whose actual property it is (and if you have to pay for it, exactly as the CRU did, then tough).

    Those two parameters alone would negate a lot of timewasting as such requests could then fail at the first filter and simply be dragged and dropped into an appropriately-named folder, a task taking less than 18 seconds!

    Cheers – John

  4. 1654
    Jim Galasyn says:

    To those who think the FoI blizzard was somehow justified — and not a calculated provocation to embarrass scientists in a later email hack — what motive do you impute to Jones and UEA?

  5. 1655
    flxible says:

    Tim: I would like to clear up an issue regarding formatting. I often see comments composed with highlighted words indicating url links. I see replies composed so that original remarks are bold type or offset so it’s easy to detect the flow of conversation.
    I have a Mac. I do have Microsoft word-for-mac for what that’s worth. I haven’t understood how to compose this way for the RC comments box. May I have guidance here?

    As it’s a bit awkward to use the tiny comment text box, but any text editor will work to write out your post, using copy/paste from the comment thread for quoting, then again to put it all back in the comment box

    use the HTML tags shown in the comment section: bold with the b tag [ /b to end it] or the i tag to italicize – the highlighted links are made with the a href=””, with the link URL in the quotes and an end tag of /a

    the offset quoting is done with the blockquote tag [doesn’t need the cite=”” part], with the /blockquote to end …. hard to show well without the brackets, which makes the command tag “live”, but for each tag there’s an ending tag that uses the / slash before the same command

  6. 1656
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Leighton says, “They tended to multiply after spurious grounds were cited in denying the requests, as requesters sought disclosure of the purported facts on which the previous requests were denied.”

    Hmm, spurious grounds like the fact that the data were available for free to anyone with sufficient sophistication to navigate the WWW. Or that the justification for the requests (academic research) was fraudulent (given the rather pathetic publication record of the applicants)?

    And, gee, is that how scientists handle conflict, by inundating their rivals with fraudulent requests?

    Please. All little Stevie McI has to do to be taken seriously is publish a few peer-reviewed articles that actually add to the understanding of Earth’s climate. But he’s more interested in publishing on the Op Ed pages of the National Post and the Wall Street Urinal, isn’t he?

    This was a clear case of abuse of process. It was a denial of service attack, and the service they sought to deny was science.

  7. 1657
    Georgi Marinov says:

    1638: John E. Pearson says::

    “This might be the unquestioned assumption of the article you posted but it certainly isn’t the unquestioned assumption of the UN world population projections.”

    It’s not just population that matters, per capita consumption is the other factor and it is closely tied to economic growth

  8. 1658
    AxelD says:

    Ray Ladbury @1646, are we to suppose that the liberties you take with the facts are all too characteristic of climate science in general? I hope not. Surely not even you can believe that your response in 1646 is in any way near the truth? If it had been genuinely true that the data “were available on line to any competent user” then a simple email right at the start back to the enquirer would have saved the UEA an awful lot of trouble. And you wouldn’t now be digging a bigger and bigger hole for yourself.

    But no – obfuscation and denial was the automatic response of climate science. And you’re outraged that the original enquirers then tried to get round that FoI barrier erected by Phil and his friends! Why would they need to hide behind the barrier they erected if the data were freely available as you claim? Ray, you really should relinquish your position as RC’s Defender of the Faith to someone else that we can believe in.

  9. 1659
    Tim Jones says:

    The mainstream press is reporting climate science news crafted for public consumption continually. It doesn’t look wise to hesitate on subsidizing alternative energy installations. Yet the denialists appear to be having their way with the public as well as officials making legislation.

    What gives?

    Glaciers: Changing at a Less Than Glacial Pace
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1963878,00.html
    By Bryan Walsh Thursday,
    Feb. 11, 2010
    […]
    “But one of the biggest gaps in climate science is our understanding of how the major ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica will respond to warming temperatures. The science is so foggy that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which recently came under attack for hyping the impacts of global warming — has refrained from estimating how fast those ice sheets could melt and contribute to sea level rise. Dorale’s paper suggests the possibility that ice sheets may respond much more dynamically to changes in temperature, forming and melting at rates that are quicker than previously thought. “There might be a feedback with regards to ice melting,” says Dorale. “This is speculation, but it might point at some sort of catastrophic ice sheet dynamic.”

    “In other words, it could mean the world’s seas will rise even more quickly than we expect — bad news for those who think there’s plenty of time to adapt to a warmer world.”

  10. 1660

    How the purported IPCC error on sensitivity of Amazon forest to change in rainfall was hyped: http://bit.ly/AmazDry

  11. 1661

    AxelD: The simple fact is that, if the UEA had immediately responded openly to the first request, as they were legally required to do, then there would have been no need for multiple requests to force the issue after a long period of dissembling by the UEA.

    BPL: Garbage. There was no NEED for ANY of them. They were sent solely to harass the CRU people. And it takes at 18 hours to handle an FOI request. Stop blaming the villains.

  12. 1662

    Damn, I meant to say “blaming the victims!” Now you’ve got me doing it!

  13. 1663

    Leighton: There has been no serious suggestion by credible persons (present company excepted of course) that McIntyre or others were not acting well within their legal rights. It was the deliberate denial of those rights (and the fraudulent, to use your term, manufacture of baseless justifications for denial) that is the problem here.

    BPL: McIntyre has a “right” to harass scientists and prevent them from doing their job? You know, I’ve followed the ethics of natural rights for many decades now; I’ve even published short stories that examinations of problems in ethics. And I never even HEARD of a right to harass. It’s a new one on me. Did you think it up yourself?

  14. 1664

    “Carnot efficiency” after French engineer Sadi Carnot, active in the 1820s. The maximum efficiency achievable by a thermal engine is:

    eta = (Th – Tl) / Th

    where Th is the high temperature of the cycle, Tl the low temperature, both on absolute scales. For example, for Th = 400 K and Tl = 300 K, the maximum efficiency achievable is (400-300)/400 = 25%. Doesn’t matter how good your technology is, that’s the limit. Period.

    Now, for sunlight, Th = 5778 K and Tl = perhaps 300 K. That gives an effiency of (5778-300)/5778, or 95%.

    Now of course, in practice, all we can do is heat a boiler or something of the sort, and use the steam temperature as the high temperature, thus achieving perhaps 50% thermal efficiency.

    And for a boiler, the effiency is going to be ***exactly the same*** whether the heat is coming from nuclear fission, burning coal, or concentrated sunlight. The difference is, the sunlight is free.

  15. 1665
    Tim Jones says:

    You wanted PR. Here’s PR by past masters of such tactics.
    http://www.polluterharmony.com/

    Murkowski, Greenpeace exchange barbs on EPA issue
    http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2010/02/12/2 (subscription)
    (02/12/2010)

    Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
    “Greenpeace and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office are in a battle of words over her effort to block U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

    “An aide to the Alaska Republican condemned Greenpeace yesterday after PolluterWatch, a project of the environmental group, launched a Web site called PolluterHarmony.com, a take-off on the matchmaking site eHarmony.com.”

    “PolluterHarmony.com calls itself “the #1 matchmaking site for polluters, industry lobbyists, & politicians!” and features a photo of Murkowski along with a video with a man who says he is a corporate lobbyist and is matched with “Lisa,” who “likes to stay up late at night and gut clean energy bills.” The man speaks in romantic tones about his match with Lisa, saying, “It’s been just magical.” A picture shows a man and woman holding hands as they walk.”

    “The PolluterWatch site is one of a number of ads targeting Murkowski for her plan to offer a resolution that would essentially veto EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. Released last December, EPA’s determination opens the door for rules aimed at slashing emissions from a broad range of sources.”

    […]

  16. 1666
    Tim Jones says:

    For your convenience, here’s the rest of the article:

    http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2010/02/12/2
    […]
    Environmentalists yesterday said they planned to erect a billboard criticizing Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, one of three moderate Democrats who has signed on in support of Murkowski’s measure. Environmental and faith-based activists this week launched radio advertisements targeting eight senators seen as key in a vote on Murkowski’s measure, which the groups coined the “Dirty Air Act.” Last month, the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund released a television ad and Friends of the Earth Action Fund aired radio ads in Alaska, both attacking Murkowski.

    “This type of personal attack is highly offensive and clearly crosses the line,” Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said. “This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with Washington. Too often outside groups go for the personal attack when they can’t win on the merits. Rather than have a legitimate debate about the policy, they launch a smear campaign.”

    Dillon said the site featured “insults to the senator and her family — as if these people have no bounds, no sense of truth, and no interest in meaningful climate policy. Greenpeace should be downright ashamed to be associated with, let alone paying for, these ads.”

    PolluterWatch director Kert Davies responded today by saying that “what crosses the line is Senator Murkowski’s blatant attempt to gut the Clean Air Act in order to satisfy her dirty industry lobbyist backers.”

    “If she objects to the scrutiny her conduct has received, she should consider putting her constituents ahead of Washington lobbyists,” Davies said. “Until then, we will continue to hold her accountable for her close ties to influence peddlers like Jeffrey Holmstead.”

    News reports earlier this year revealed that Holmstead, an industry lawyer who served in the George W. Bush administration, advised Murkowski’s office on a failed amendment last year to block EPA regulations. Environmentalists have pointed to Holmstead’s involvement as a signal that Murkowski is working on behalf of industry interests, but the Alaska senator has said her staff consulted a variety of outside experts, including environmentalists and Republican and Democratic lawmakers, when drafting that amendment.

  17. 1667
    Tim Jones says:

    Vestas lays off 114 in U.S. on soft demand for wind turbines

    I can’t even post the url for this. Use Google.

  18. 1668
    Doug Bostrom says:

    AxelD says: 12 February 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Why so defensive?

    McIntyre encouraged his followers to adopt an approach of “the more the merrier” on peppering CRU with FOI requests. If you’re ok with that there’s no need to get all upset when somebody points out how that approach may have been defective.

    Just calmly explain how forty requests were more effective than one, that’s all. Presumably there is some good reason, though the necessity of the explanation itself does seem odd.

  19. 1669
    Completely Fed Up says:

    GM:”It’s not just population that matters, per capita consumption is the other factor and it is closely tied to economic growth”

    No, it’s closely tied to wasteful economies.

    What’s the US growth been?

    What about China?

    Who has the biggest per-capita or per GDP CO2 out of those two?

    And growth depends on ENERGY, anyway (just not solely), not CO2 production.

  20. 1670
    Georgi Marinov says:

    Completely Fed Up 1669

    No, it’s closely tied to wasteful economies.

    What’s the US growth been?

    What about China?

    Who has the biggest per-capita or per GDP CO2 out of those two?

    And growth depends on ENERGY, anyway (just not solely), not CO2 production.

    If you have found a way to uncouple economic growth from non-renewable resource consumption, please share it with me. You will be the first person to do that in history.

    It is not CO2 I am taking about, it is energy+non-renewable resources. China’s growth has been closely coupled with an even bigger growth in non-renewable resources consumption

  21. 1671
    AxelD says:

    BPL @1661 and Doug @1668: I thought it was so obvious that it needed no further explanation … but if one single request was simply ignored or refused, as were subsequent follow-up requests refused, then what does one do? Does one walk away, thinking “Gosh, those clever scientist fellows must be terribly busy, far too busy to take any notice of little me.” Or does one think “Why are these guys ignoring a legal requirement upon them? Must have got something to hide, I guess …”

    So then, after more obstruction, you get a bit curious about what it is that’s being hidden, and you decide to make it very obvious that there is a legal requirement to reply to such a request. It’s extremely stupid for non-responding scientists to cry “Foul!” at that point, when they committed the foul in the first place, much earlier. Clear enough?

    The inevitable conclusion is that climate scientists are, well, to put it politely, naive, and it’s apparent here that their apologists are too. But that’s OK, guys: we’re here to put you straight, and help you learn the ways of the world.

    [Response: BS. The reason for the refusal was clear after day 1, and all the rest was simply harassment because they didn’t want to take no for an answer. After another two years of wasted time, they get exactly the same answer. And this is surprising how exactly? If they actually wanted the data they would have asked the NMSs. Instead they prefer to use to CRUs inability to provide something as a cause celebre and political rallying cry. Hardly surprising either, unless you actually thought someone wanted to do, you know, actual science. I mean, look how much they did with GISTEMP. – gavin]

  22. 1672
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 1645 AxelD says: 12 February 2010 at 10:23 AM
    “Ray @1639, your synthetic outrage at the “harassment of British scientists organized by Canadian citizens. In one week alone, UEA/CRU received over 60 fraudulent FOI requests …” shows more of that disingenuousness that you’ve shown before.
    “The simple fact is that, if the UEA had immediately responded openly to the first request, as they were legally required to do, then there would have been no need for multiple requests to force the issue after a long period of dissembling by the UEA. The fault was entirely with the UEA, and they’ve now reaped the appropriate reward.”

    AxelD, a solid fact is that McIntire and his cabal of pro coal sellouts have been harassing Michael Mann for years in a failed attempt to discredit the so called hockey stick. The evolution of that assault into stealing private emails to manufacture scandals, to drag reputable scientists through the mud because they wouldn’t capitulate to abuse so you could discredit climate science in order to sabotage Copenhagen and US lawmaking is beneath contempt.

    FOI is the last straw you can reach for to save a drowning campaign. But we know the whole thing was a setup to trap scientists into failure of compliance.

    FOI was gamed and you know it. Are scientists supposed to lay aside important work to help a disinformation campaign
    by denialists abusing their rights? No. It’s better that the inadequacies of the law have been exposed. We’re hip to the game. You can twist and squirm all you want but McIntyre has been caught with the smoking gun on his own website. It’s been posted here in several posts.

    To be refused one FOI does not give McIntyre the right to flood the CRU with requests, certainly wasting tax payer funding of university employee’s time. He should have gone through proper channels for a redress of grievances.

    As Jim Galasyn posted: Climategate revisited
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2010/02/11/climategate-revisited/
    (excerpt)
    “The core of the campaign is a network of professional lobbyists, rightwing activists and politicians, tame journalists and a handful of scientists (including some at the University of East Anglia itself) who present themselves as independent seekers after truth, but are actually in regular contact to co-ordinate their actions and talking points. The main mechanism of harassment was the misuse of Freedom of Information requests in an effort to disrupt the work of scientists, trap them into failures of compliance, and extract information that could be misrepresented as evidence of scientific misconduct. This is a long-standing tactic in the rightwing War on Science, reflected in such Orwellian pieces of legislation as the US “Data Quality Act”.

    Otherwise useful laws have been twisted to the point of having to be revised so opportunists couldn’t turn them into unfair advantage. I suspect FOI will be modified too so as to exclude the sort of abuse you’re trying to defend.

    With piecemeal information and spin you all have Phil Jones in a trial by blog with Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh screaming for the death penalty. Really, aren’t you a bit ashamed with where you’re taking this?

  23. 1673
    Ray Ladbury says:

    AxelD, Oh my, I appear to have touched a nerve. You can always tell when you’ve scored a point with a creationist or a climate denialist when they start projecting “faith” and “religion” on their opponents.

    Gee, AxelD, what did I say that was untrue. I mean that the vast majority of the data are available going back clear to 1880 is common knowledge among those who actually publish in climate science. Are you going to contend that McI was sufficiently clueless that he didn’t know that? Not good strategy, Mate! And why should scientists just doing their job–and on a shoestring at that–be subjected to FOI requests in any case. What is stopping McI from going to the very same sources as Phil Jones did. Or why didn’t Stevie send a simple letter of request to CRU asking for the sources of the day. Didn’t you guys learn in sandbox that asking nicely for the toy is the more effective strategy.

    And leaving aside the question of whether Jones responded properly to the first request (certainly a grey area and unprecedented afaik in science), surely you don’t approve of spamming civil servants and preventing them from doing the job the taxpayers are paying them to do, do you? Is that the response of a mature scientist, or is that the response of a grandstander.

    And gee, how can we know if the harassment would have stopped after delivery of data? Gee, what could we do to try and figure that one out. Oh, I know! Let’s ask Mike Mann, shall we? He’s had dealings with McI before.

  24. 1674
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Phil Jones asks AxelD: “Really, aren’t you a bit ashamed with where you’re taking this?”

    Anyone else reminded of another piece of history. Here’s a hint:

    “Finally, sir, have you no shame?”

    Though, I suspect with AxelD and Leighton, we already know the answer to that historical question.

  25. 1675
    Leighton says:

    Barton Levenson (#1663) asks me to elaborate about natural rights. The question is inapt because I was referring to statutory rights. Levenson once again demonstrates his lack of a legal education. But that’s OK, I’m sure he has expertise that others lack.

    [Response: Yes, he understands that the planet sets the rules, that climate science rather than wishful thinking is what is needed, and that all the wordsmithing and reinterpreting and look-awaying and pretzel-logic-ing of deniers (and lawyers) won’t mean a thing when nature sets her course. Damnedest thing.–Jim]

    I confess I’m disappointed in Gavin (inline response to AxelD, #1671) who I thought had gained a better appreciation for the legal and ethical problems with CRU’s conduct. The reason for the refusals couldn’t have been clear from day 1, because the evidence now reveals that the real reasons were not the reasons that were actually stated in the FOIA responses. Gavin knows this, even if he prefers to suggest otherwise. But it’s hard to hold the moral high ground when you’re defending unlawful conduct, don’t you think?

    Same comment to the egregious Ray Ladbury (#1674), except in his case it isn’t obvious that he even understands the problem.

    Just on the subject of real reasons versus stated reasons, the recent statement by the Information Commissioner’s Office (cited earlier in this thread) led me to review the emails about the David Holland FOIA request to which the Commissioner referred. (By the way, the statement is clearly contrary to Steve Fish’s earlier misinterpretation, in which he foolishly claimed that the statement merely presented an abstract summary of the Act’s provisions, without reference to any particular set of facts. While making this error Fish proclaimed without irony that he was especially adept at reading news articles!) In CRU’s effort to manufacture a basis to deny the request, the email record reveals CRU personnel inviting an apparently bemused researcher in Colorado to advise them that he “generally” regarding ALL of his communications with them as “confidential,” so they could thereby color an argument that they were somehow precluded by confidentiality agreements from releasing the contents of their correspondence. In my business, we refer to “the red face test,” which that kind of cheap evasion could never pass.

    [Response: Did you check your condescension list to see that you haven’t forgotten anyone?–Jim]

  26. 1676
    Gilles says:

    CFU :you asked, and I quote:

    “what determines the maximum amount of power (energy/yr/capita) that we can extract from a given technology”

    The limit is the Carnot cycle.

    I understood, but your answer is incomplete. Even with a limited Carnot yield 1-Tc/Th, we could produce – in theory – an infinite number of Carnot machines per capita. But we can’t, because engines have a cost, too. Meaning we must use human work to build, maintain, repair, replace them – of course just like solar panels and windmills , although energy is illimited. But you agree that the amount of human work per capita is a finite quantity.. And this has NOTHING to do with the surface of the Earth, it could be infinite, the amount of machines we can afford to build and maintain per capita would have exactly the same limit !
    But the amount of manpower we need to maintain an energy network is very simply related to its cost, because fundamentally, we pay only people working on it, not solar photons or the wind !

    So all this tracks back to the cost of energy. Now can you justify that the cost of renewable energy is less than that of fossil fuels, for all applications (that are not ALWAYS convenient to do with electricity), and much worse, that this cost WITHOUT BUILDING THEM WITH FOSSIL FUELS is lower?

    just try to build ONE big windmill, including blades of steel (or carbon composites…) , concrete foundation, copper wires and electrical connexions, …. without using fossil fuels. And tell me the -human – cost. Must be a funny exercise.

  27. 1677
    Doug Bostrom says:

    AxelD says: 12 February 2010 at 6:53 PM

    Question still hanging the air: How are forty FOI requests dividing what could be a single list more efficient and more effective than a single FOI request?

    Why run away from such a simple question?

  28. 1678
    Gilles says:

    Going a little backwards, Gavin : ” 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]”

    How do you explain then “coherently” the amplitude of the “hockey stick blade” , occurring mainly (in all proxy reconstructions I’ve seen at least), BEFORE 1960 , meaning before the time when anthropogenic influence is supposed to become dominant ?

  29. 1679

    AxelD: If it had been genuinely true that the data “were available on line to any competent user”…

    BPL: It IS true. Why don’t you try it and find out? Unless, of course, you’re not a competent user of the worldwide web yourself.

    Google is your friend, AxelD.

  30. 1680
    Theo Hopkins says:

    An written interview by the BBC with Prof Phil Jones of the CRU at the University of East Anglia:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8511670.stm

    Could this be the foundation for series of (hopefully constructive) discussions here?

    Apologies if this is second posting,Firefox is playing up.

  31. 1681
    AxelD says:

    Ray @1674/5: Please – stop digging! As Leighton says, it isn’t obvious that you even understand the problem, so pressing on blindly is really not a good idea.

    To get some idea of how the public presentation from the top of climate science has changed in the UK, take a look at this interview with Phil jones on the BBC website. It seems to be more written responses than interview so, on the flagship “Today” news program this morning, Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst, the interviewer, gave his own summary of the responses. And what came across from his summary was a dramatic change in the attitude of both the BBC analyst (previously very much on-message) and Phil Jones himself. The analyst’s views are particularly revealing towards the end of the Today program segment. There seems to be a rather more balanced presentation from the BBC, and far more humility – public recognition of great uncertainty – from Phil Jones. But I wouldn’t bet on the same attitude from Michael Mann.

  32. 1682
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Gilles:
    “I understood, but your answer is incomplete.”

    No, it was complete.

    “we could produ ce- in theory – an infinite number of Carnot machines per capita.”

    In just the same way as we could produce an infinite number of coal fired power stations per capita. Just devalue the capita as needed.

    “the amount of human work per capita is a finite quantity”

    And so is the carnot cycle.

    I thought you’d said you understood it?

    And it’s not a finite quantity, per capita makes it an INDEFINITE quantity. Just change your capita.

    “just try to build ONE big windmill, including blades of steel (or carbon composites…) , concrete foundation, copper wires and electrical connexions, …. without using fossil fuels.”

    There’s plenty enough wind power to do so.

    Easy peasy.

    That’s ignoring hydropower, geothermal, solar of varying types and all other renewables.

    Easy.

  33. 1683
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “If you have found a way to uncouple economic growth from non-renewable resource consumption, please share it with me. You will be the first person to do that in history.”

    Easy: More efficient use of power.

    Then when you take half the energy to produce a product you sell for $X, for the same energy use you can produce twice as many products to sell. Guess how much money that returns?

    $2X.

    Twice as much money.

    How much energy used?

    Just as much.

    A 100% increase in productivity for nil increase in energy use.

    Think this is make-believe?

    Check out the changes in the Port Talbot Steelworks in Wales.

  34. 1684
    Completely Fed Up says:

    PS I notice george didn’t answer the question:

    “Who has the biggest per-capita or per GDP CO2 out of those two?”

    Maybe he ought to ask a growing economy like China how they’re managing it.

  35. 1685
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “1667
    Tim Jones says:
    12 February 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Vestas lays off 114 in U.S. on soft demand for wind turbines”

    The US is in a recession.

    Power needs have dropped and investment is sitting still in banks. The big money is waiting it out like high noon, waiting for the other side to make a mistake and cash in on it.

  36. 1686
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Leighton,
    So let me get this straight: You are defending the actions of people who in effect launch a denial of service attack against scientists when they don’t get their way, correct? You don’t see anything wrong with violating every standard norm of scientific courtesy and then when that doesn’t get you what you want, trying to stop the scientific enterprise.

    Gee, since you seem to have some really interesting ideas on ethics, let’s explore some other areas. So how are you about the fabrication of quotations of prominent climate scientists out of whole cloth?
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/fabricated-quote-used-to-discredit-climate-scientist-1894552.html

    And if that’s OK, then I suppose you are all right with the distortions of the words and positions of climate scientists (e.g. Lal, Latif, etc.) that are common practice for denialists.

    And getting back to those FOI requests, one thing that really bothers me. The requests said the data were being requested for purposes of academic research. And yet the person behind the requests has only one peer-reviewed publication. That’s not the sort of track record that inspires much confidence that the data will be used for research. You know, Leighton, I do a lot of meta-analysis on other peoples’ data, and I often operate under an agreement that I will not share the data. If someone asks me for it, I have to tell them to go to the original source–legally bound, I’m afraid. See, it’s not really my data. And I really think it’s a good idea to send people to the original source, since they may learn something from that source about the data that isn’t obvious in lists of numbers. So, see, Leighton, the fact is that from a scientific point of view, Jones was doing the right thing–even if we make the very charitable assumption that Stevie McI would have actually published with the data. If we do not make extend such charity, then the requests could be seen as fraudulent.

    Oh, and thank you for elevating me to egregious. It means so much to me coming from someone like you. Kiss, Kiss.

  37. 1687
    Dave Walker says:

    Q & A between Phil Jones and Roger Harrabin of the BBC in the UK see:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8511670.stm

  38. 1688
    Steve Fish says:

    RE–Comment by Leighton — 12 February 2010 @ 11:22 PM:

    Putting aside your creative reading ability and its resulting ethical accusation of Mr. Smith, the FOI requests were legally denied.

    From the UK Freedom of Information Act, http://www.opsi.gov.uk

    “Part II Exempt information
    21 Information accessible to applicant by other means

    (1) Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant otherwise than under section 1 is exempt information.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1)—

    (a) information may be reasonably accessible to the applicant even though it is accessible only on payment, and

    (b) information is to be taken to be reasonably accessible to the applicant if it is information which the public authority or any other person is obliged by or under any enactment to communicate (otherwise than by making the information available for inspection) to members of the public on request, whether free of charge or on payment.

    (3) For the purposes of subsection (1), information which is held by a public authority and does not fall within subsection (2)(b) is not to be regarded as reasonably accessible to the applicant merely because the information is available from the public authority itself on request, unless the information is made available in accordance with the authority’s publication scheme and any payment required is specified in, or determined in accordance with, the scheme.”

    There are also remedies and appeals in the act. Have the FOI applicants followed through? Perhaps they were not really seeking information. Have they contacted the relevant Met offices and asked for, or purchased the information they required? Perhaps they were not really seeking information. I wonder what their purpose was.

    My remote satellite connection doesn’t like the weather, so this may be a repeat. Steve

  39. 1689
    Leighton says:

    Steve Fish (#1688) claims that the information was always reasonably accessible, while Ray Ladbury (#1686) says it was shrouded behind confidentiality agreements. You folks might want to work on telling a consistent story. Right now, you’re falling all over yourselves.

    Jim (inline comment to (#1675) finds my tone condescending. That may just be your sensitivity, Jim. But even if “condescending” were fair, c’mon. RC “moderators” let pass all manner of really slimy remarks here, when directed at those who disagree with your views. You shouldn’t mind a little polite banter. (I confess, though, that my characterization (“egregious”) of Ladbury was a little harsher than in retrospect I would wish it to have been. But in my defense, it was . . . Ladbury. “Kiss, kiss,” Ray.) :-)

  40. 1690
    Steve Fish says:

    RE– Comment by Gilles — 13 February 2010 @ 12:28 AM:

    I am getting tired of your deliberate logical strawmen. I don’t think that anybody advocates complete elimination of all fossil fuel use in the near term. If much of electrical generation were shifted to non polluting sources with an increase to include private transportation, a large part of the problem would be solved. While working on further alternatives, fossil fuels could still be used where industry required.

    If the above shift were complemented by energy conservation measures, agriculture reform, and research, we will have a chance to dig our way out of a catastrophe.

    Steve

  41. 1691
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Leighton, I really can’t tell if you are as dim as your posts indicate or if you are being deliberately obtuse. The overwhelming majority of the data are available online, and that is where CRU gets it. Indeed, that is where I get most of my data. Even when this is the source of my data, I vector those who enquire to the original source–as the original source may contain info about the data that the numbers and my analysis do not reflect. It is only when I get data specifically from a private source that I tell people I can’t release it and tell them to enquire with my source. I hope that is clear. In all cases, I send people to the original source. Got that? Really? You sure?

    Now the only question in my mind is how many times we will have to repeat it given your evident problems with short-term memory.

  42. 1692
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Leighton — 13 February 2010 @ 10:27 AM:

    Let’s see. Your statement to Gavin “that Dr. Jones engaged in unlawful conduct” was based on an opinion in a news article that did not indicate an “official finding” at all. Now you claim that Ray Ladbury and I disagree when we don’t at all. You well know that the CRU couldn’t release the data because they didn’t own it. It was, however, available from the original sources. The UK Freedom of Information Act says that under these circumstances a FOI can be denied.

    Because of your comprehension problem, you might reconsider your blog disrupting hobby. Steve

  43. 1693
    Septic Matthew says:

    1690, Steve Fish: I don’t think that anybody advocates complete elimination of all fossil fuel use in the near term.

    I think that Barton Paul Levenson and SecularAnimist come close.

    1667, Tim Jones: Vestas lays off 114 in U.S. on soft demand for wind turbines

    GE and Siemens are expanding their manufacturing capacity in the US. Plus, Vestas faces competition from imported wind turbines. Demand will probably pick up when (if?) the off-shore wind power projects on the East Coast get their final approvals.

  44. 1694
    Louise D says:

    #1681 _ Axel D. I’ve just read the transcript of the BBC interview and listened to the Today programme and draw a different conclusion from you.– ‘And what came across from his summary was a dramatic change in the attitude of both the BBC analyst (previously very much on-message) and Phil Jones himself.’
    Both Roger Harrabin and Phil Jones agreed that there are uncertainties (as there always are in science) but were both clear that the fundamental science stands.
    This is a transcript of part of the interview between Roger Harrabin and Phil Jones
    D – Do you agree that natural influences could have contributed significantly to the global warming observed from 1975-1998, and, if so, please could you specify each natural influence and express its radiative forcing over the period in Watts per square metre.
    This area is slightly outside my area of expertise. When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors (so human and natural influences as well as natural internal variability of the climate system). Natural influences (from volcanoes and the Sun) over this period could have contributed to the change over this period. Volcanic influences from the two large eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991) would exert a negative influence. Solar influence was about flat over this period. Combining only these two natural influences, therefore, we might have expected some cooling over this period.
    H – If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?
    The fact that we can’t explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing – see my answer to your question D.
    What does this change? The most likely reason for the recent warming is still that it is anthropogenic. Also, in my view the BBC generally does try to support both points of view, even if one side has little scientific merit

  45. 1695
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Microsoft co-founder Gates tackling climate change

    Gates said that if he were allowed a single wish in the coming 50 years, it would be a global “zero carbon” culture.

    “If I could pick a president or a vaccine, which I love, this is the wish I would pick,” he said.

  46. 1696
    Radge Havers says:

    “…obfuscation and denial was the automatic response of climate science…”

    Ah, we’re making things up. Apparently there’s a new definition for ‘obfuscation’: when somebody says something a person doesn’t understand because it doesn’t fit with that person’s need to impugn somebody’s integrity.

    Denialjection–1 a denialist’s tendency to project. 2 A denialist’s tendency to mimic the language of people they’re at odds with. 3 a denialist’s sense of sadness at not being able to keep up, often expressed as outrage.

    I have a theory that the Dunning-Kruger effect is partly a result of people thinking that because they’ve mastered survival in a human environment using simple terms and routines, that everything of any importance can be expressed in equally simple ways; which is not to recognize that pigeons and raccoons often do very well in even tough urban environments.

  47. 1697
    John Mason says:

    Leighton reminds me of a wasp around a glass of cider: continuously shifting one way then another, often performing 180 degree aerobatic turns in the process, never getting anywhere but nevertheless extremely obvious by its presence!

    Here, we take a half-pint glass with a half-inch of warm cider in the bottom and place it at the end of the table, with a large beermat ready for the landing-and-falling-in point. Works every time!

    cheers – John

  48. 1698
    Georgi Marinov says:

    Completely Fed Up says:
    13 February 2010 at 7:33 AM

    Easy: More efficient use of power.

    Then when you take half the energy to produce a product you sell for $X, for the same energy use you can produce twice as many products to sell. Guess how much money that returns?

    $2X.

    Twice as much money.

    How much energy used?

    Just as much.

    A 100% increase in productivity for nil increase in energy use.

    Think this is make-believe?”

    Yes. Unless you think that it is possible to do work with zero energy which is where your logic takes us if we take it to the limit. There is a lot of room for efficiency improvements, you are right about that. But you can only improve it up to a point, but if growth continues, you will have done nothing in the end, and often since efficiency improvements take time, growth will be cancelling them even while they are being implemented. Not to mention Jevons

  49. 1699
    Gilles says:

    “Gilles:
    “I understood, but your answer is incomplete.”
    No, it was complete.
    “we could produ ce- in theory – an infinite number of Carnot machines per capita.”
    In just the same way as we could produce an infinite number of coal fired power stations per capita. Just devalue the capita as needed.”

    so back again to the initial question : why don’t we, and why has the energy production per capita stagnated around 1,5 tep/yr/capita ? if you don’t have an answer to that, you can’t understand the problem of shifting from fossil fuels to renewable. The maximum power a society can sustain is NOT infinite – it is finite, it has always been finite, depending on the productivity , and this productivity is measured by their cost. If you are unable to understand that, it’s useless to continue the discussion.

    Steve :”I am getting tired of your deliberate logical strawmen. I don’t think that anybody advocates complete elimination of all fossil fuel use in the near term.”

    That’s the issue. Why don’t anybody advocates the complete elimination of all fossil fuel, if they’re unnecessary ? So reverse the argument : they ARE necessary. Modern societies can exist (and do exist) without hydropower, nuclear power, wind power, geothermal power, or solar power – actually without any particular kind of electric power, since they’re basically all equivalent. They can’t exist (and they don’t) without fossil fuels. That’s not “strawman” logics, that’s simple facts, just the real world everybody can observe – weren’t you blind to reality.

  50. 1700
    Georgi Marinov says:

    “PS I notice george didn’t answer the question:

    “Who has the biggest per-capita or per GDP CO2 out of those two?”

    Maybe he ought to ask a growing economy like China how they’re managing it”

    They are managing it by expanding their resource use and energy consumption just as rapidly as their economy is growing. It’s the lower standard of living that makes the lower per-capita CO2 emissions

    It doesn’t really matter though, because your argument would make sense if China was capable of continuing growth for centuries; it has so far done it for 3 decades with collapse within then next 2 being an increasingly likely possibility