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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. 201
    Ray Ladbury says:

    captdallas2 says “The GLOBAL decline of glaciers started with the Holocene this time. . Glaciers always retreat during interglacial periods.”

    And yet, if we were following the good ol’ patterns of the glacial-interglacial, we ought to be cooling about now. Odd, that. Now I agree that the alpine glaciers do represent a tiny fraction of the trillions of tonnes of ice that have melted in the past few years, but they do seem to be consistent with that general trend.

  2. 202
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dagnabbit, Gavin, we need more than “Preview Comment”
    We need a smart button for “Check Citations” as well.

    I wish some genius out there had time to write something like this* for science writing and blogging.

    Something that would pop up the F’ing Paperclip** saying “It looks like you’ve written a belief without any basis in the literature, are you sure you want to post this as an unsupported opinion without a citation to any source?”

    Hmmmm, maybe the IPCC would be a market for exactly this kind of tool.
    I’ll suggest they consider branching out to scientific citation-checking.
    ________________
    * Yeah, I know the guy who writes that, but he’s too dang busy now.
    ** His software doesn’t have that feature, but it should.

  3. 203
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mondo says “I think you might mean ‘excerpt’.”

    You know, maybe if you guys attached a little less significance to typos and a little more to physics, you might actually understand some of the science and we wouldn’t have to spend so much time slaying zombie arguments.

  4. 204

    Further to Ray’s point, Kaufmann 2009 suggested that the cooling “about now” means roughly “cooling for the last 2000 years, consistent with calculated Milankovitch orbital forcings, up until the last five decades or so, when things started warming up again through some other (non-orbital) mechanism.”

    To be clear, Kaufman et al weren’t focussing on glaciers, but on various temperature proxies.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/kaufman2009/

  5. 205
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Rattus: Win.

  6. 206
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Completely Fed Up: why are you repeating errors that we went to all that trouble to correct earlier?”

    Nope, you didn’t correct those figures. You dispute that they apply to the UK.

    According to Matt’s latest take on what he said, he didn’t say anything about how much it costs in the UK.

    Ergo your annoyance is completely self inflicted.

    “The most charitable assumption is that you are applying US costs to the UK.”

    Which is completely correct: it does cost that in the US. So why will it cost more in the UK to such an extent that nuclear becomes the cheaper option?

    It doesn’t.

    And Matt’s proposition that only deepwater offshore wind will produce enough power for the UK is bunk.

    And you shouldn’t decide not to correct me just because we agree on AGW.

    Then again, neither do I accept your assertion when I disagree with it just because we agree on AGW.

  7. 207
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Jiminmpls: Sure, we could just build hundreds of dams.

    India farmers create artificial glaciers to forestall crop failure

    Stakmo, India — Chhewang Norphel makes artificial glaciers. The reason: The real ones have rapidly receded up the Himalayan slopes in his home district of Ladakh in northernmost India.

  8. 208
    Kris says:

    #172 Edward Greisch: “AGW has already had a significant impact. Peak oil hasn’t yet.”

    So far, I still don’t see AGW in economic indicators, but impact of high oil prices is everywhere to be seen, and already drives the policy of many states. Plus, AGW impact will be slow, and extend hundreds of years in the future, while peak oil is 2050 time frame. Thus, I am confident that we can economically adapt to AGW, as the costs will be spread over many years, while peak oil will cause a nasty shock.

    Frankly, I find the fixation on CO2 incomprehensible. It is obvious that we have two problems: fossil fuels and AGW. If we eliminate the dependence on fossil fuels, we solve both. But, somehow, the whole debate is about trying to mitigate the symptoms, instead of the root cause of the problem. I mean, we are considering implementing CO2 capture, but how much extra CO2 will we have to produce to power the installations for CO2 capture? I am sure someone has calculated that…

  9. 209
    Doug Bostrom says:

    captdallas2 says: 21 January 2010 at 8:34 AM

    “Glaciers always retreat during interglacial periods. ”

    Yes, and funny thing, many of them appear set to vanish within the next geological instant, even though they persisted for some 10,000 years past the end of the immediately prior stade.

    Let’s say that “optimistic” predictions are correct, that some of the major glacier systems under discussion last another 400 years. So they vanish in roughly 4% of the total period of the current interstade. That immediately begs the question, if they were shrinking at a constant rate for the prior 96% of time available, how large were they to start with? Take a look at a map, and you’ll see the answer is “too large to fit the available footprint”, terminal moraines not sufficiently distant to fit this hypothesis.

    So it appears that shrinkage accelerates. What an odd coincidence, that we should see that happen just as we’ve modified the atmosphere in a way that could produce that result.

  10. 210
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Winny says: 20 January 2010 at 11:46 PM

    “I’m a bit gobsmacked at the responses that I’ve had here.”

    Spend a little time on sites like RC and you may understand why patience for dealing with silly peripheral minutiae is thin. The air here is thick with desperate attempts to swerve discussion away from anything that improves general understanding of the topic at hand. Hence, the extraordinary reverberation of the poor provenance of a single paragraph buried in page 968 of an ancillary portion of the IPCC report.

    You unfortunately fell for a ruse and then having unwittingly had a wooden rifle shoved into your hands by cynics, stepped into the line of fire where you promptly became the target of derision for your gullibility.

    I’m sorry it happened to you, I’m sure you’re a nice person and did not intend to go to war for the forces of ignorance.

  11. 211
    Nick O. says:

    What a wonderfully helpful, safe world the anti-AGW commentators inhabit.

    IPCC ‘wrong again’? So there’s nothing for us to worry about!

    The Arctic sea ice extent at the moment tracking the minimum record set in 2007, and quite possibly set to break the record again this year with a new El Nino forecast?
    (http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png)

    Nahhh …. just local effects, noise in the system, unreliable satellite data etc.

    And also, presumably, all the modelling work on Pine Island Glacier and its imminent collapse?
    (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18383-major-antarctic-glacier-is-past-its-tipping-point.html)

    Nahhh (again) …. all down to faulty models, dodgy input data, some more of those local effects, plus buried volcanoes, and maybe a few high energy pixies floating in the Southern Ocean, but absolutely and definitely nothing whatsoever to do with humans changing the climate.

    How reassuring … er, erm, .. oooh, well, … hmmmmmm …

  12. 212
    michael says:

    Re 208. The potential economic impact of Anthropegenic Climate Change may be measured in terms of decades, with high impact around mid-century if multi-meter sea level rise occurs. Firstly, consider the effect of SLR-induced take out about 50% of the world’s nuclear fleet on a 30-40 year time scale (nb most of fleet of 440+ are sitting next to sea). Secondly, consider the impacts through global supply chains which require some sort of inputs from the petro- and chemical refineries (nb most of those are sitting next to the sea). Thirdly, consider the impact on next-to-the-sea cities whose sewerage systems fail causing living conditions which may be somewhat unpleasant. Now, track the impacts of these impacts, cross correlate with economic effects caused as inter-related systems fail or transition to inter-locking states of degradation and one has a reasonable scenario for the next 2-3 decades.

    The simple exercise of going through the objects in the typical household and asking “does a global supply … or a local supply relying on something from a global supply chain … need to function for me to obtain another one these” and one soon starts to build up a sense of the potential economic implications of ACC. Just a few items to consider: a medicine, an item of electronics, an item of clothing, a computer, etc.

    It is on account of these types of considerations that one comes to view that a lot of what is peddled as economic analysis of AGW is little more than nonsense.

  13. 213
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks Kevin for the link to that UNEP report. Good one!
    Brief excerpt from that:

    “The production and use of biodiesel from palm oil on deforested peatlands in the tropics is cited. It can lead to significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions-up to 2,000 percent or more when compared with fossil fuels.

    This is mainly as a result of carbon releases from the soils and land. However, a positive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions can arise if the palm oil or soya beans are instead grown on abandoned or degraded land.

    The report Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels is based on a detailed review of published research up to mid-2009 as well as the input of independent experts world-wide.”
    http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=599&ArticleID=6347&l=en&t=long

    (I like to give the readable links for people who print this to read later or copy and paste the comments as text)

    -0—

    This whole area of replacing the remnant natural forest with — anything else! — is a developing [sic] nightmare.

    A few places to look for more on the money-changing aspect:

    http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/carbonwatch/
    http://motherjones.com/environment/2009/11/gms-money-trees
    and
    http://www.centerforinvestigativereporting.org/blogs/project/4231 Carbon Watch

  14. 214
    Tim Jones says:

    If we can’t translate climate science into policy then the effort is academic. Some posting here have declared to that effect. They may have their wish.

    ROBERT Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said today: “Shed a tear for our democracy. Today, in the case Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited
    amounts of money to influence election outcomes. Money from Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and the rest of the Fortune 500 is already corroding the policy-making process in Washington, state capitals and city halls. Today, the Supreme Court tells these corporate giants that they have a constitutional right to trample our democracy.”

    [edit]

  15. 215
    Didactylos says:

    “So why will it cost more in the UK to such an extent that nuclear becomes the cheaper option?”

    Many reasons. First, and most simple, is that nuclear is cheaper in the UK, because it hasn’t been regulated out of existence by the coal lobby. Second, land is at a premium in the UK. There simply isn’t much free space to use, and the available space is limited by all sorts of things.

    Anyway, my argument isn’t tied down to what it *will* cost. I’m basing my argument on what is *does* cost. And currently, wind in the UK is expensive, and nuclear is cheap. This is fact, according to every source I can find. You dispute it based on what, exactly?

    Can wind be cheaper? Yes and no. I believe there is room for improvement, but the unfortunate fact is that the most economical sites will be developed first, so it will get harder and harder to find and develop sites as time goes on.

    Both globally and in the UK, nuclear is cheaper than wind. The US, with its wide open spaces, will always be able to rely more on wind than the average country. Nuclear, however, can be made cheaper in the US, if the political will existed.

    And any sensible energy plan for the UK will take advantage of offshore wind. It shouldn’t be hard to see why, any more than it is to see why most parts of the US wouldn’t gain anything much from offshore wind.

    An anti-nuclear argument may be pro-wind in the US, but if you make the same argument in the UK, it is effectively pro-coal. And this is why our government is fiddling around with CCS instead of de-coaling the country. Thanks for that. Foot. Shoot.

  16. 216
    t_p_hamilton says:

    michael has an idea:”The simple exercise of going through the objects in the typical household and asking “does a global supply … or a local supply relying on something from a global supply chain … need to function for me to obtain another one these” and one soon starts to build up a sense of the potential economic implications of ACC. Just a few items to consider: a medicine, an item of electronics, an item of clothing, a computer, etc.

    It is on account of these types of considerations that one comes to view that a lot of what is peddled as economic analysis of AGW is little more than nonsense.”

    I guess you know better than the economists who wrote the Stern report?

    Did you think of looking in your pantry, to think about what it takes to get food there? 9 billion people will be “fine” as long as we all have iPhones, I suppose.

  17. 217
    T Barra says:

    @192 – ScaredAmoeba: Thanks for the link to the 4degrees conference!

  18. 218
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Both globally and in the UK, nuclear is cheaper than wind”

    Wrong.

    You were wrong on this before.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/wind/overview.html

    3.5c/kWh.

    A different link, since you didn’t read the last ones.

    And this:

    http://www.mng.org.uk/gh/resources/nuclear_subsidies1.pdf

    talks about nuclear subsidy.

  19. 219
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Kris: “Frankly, I find the fixation on CO2 incomprehensible. It is obvious that we have two problems: fossil fuels and AGW”

    And fossil fuels cause AGW by releasing the millions-of-years locked-in CO2.

    Frankly I find your lack of comprehension incomprehensible.

  20. 220
    ccpo says:

    Magnus,

    Try here: http://aleklett.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/%E2%80%9Dthe-un%E2%80%99s-future-scenarios-for-climate-are-pure-fantasy%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%9Dfns-framtidsscenarier-for-klimatet-ar-rena-fantasier%E2%80%9D/

    The problems Aleklett and his followers have are they refuse to accept 1. they could possibly be wrong about reserves and 2. they don’t understand climate science at all.

    For example, they don’t understand that the IPCC reports are basically literature reviews synthesized and analyzed. They argue that if the IPCC hasn’t said it, it is irrelevant. This is, of course, absurd. The IPCC reports, due to their nature, will always be behind the science not just a little, but significantly in some cases, as was shown to be the case with the sea ice and glaciers in the last report. Consider: the report came out in 2007, but the science it reported on was no more recent than 2005, as there was necessarily a cut off date for submission of papers.

    Worse, some of the folks over at Aleklett’s site even make such comments as they are studying reserves, not climate, so stop asking them to! Yet, the discussion is exactly about climate as affected by FF’s!

    I find it hard to take any person seriously who is so utterly myopic and so married to an agenda that they cannot see what is before them. The point was made by me that we are already at dangerous levels, so any additional emissions are a serious problem. The response? Since we couldn’t burn as much as the IPCC worst case said, there was nothing to worry about!

    I also pointed out feedbacks. Response? We don’ care ’bout no stinkin’ feedbacks – they ain’ in the IPCC IV.

    There’s not much help for those who choose not to see, Magnus.

    Also, this has also been discussed at theoildrum.com long ago. These are from 2007:

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2697

    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/2726/

    This is my favorite, from 2008:

    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/4807

    Here’s one from 2009:

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5084/

    There are quite a few more discussions. Use the search function. Also, be sure to read the comments, or you will miss much.

    Cheers

  21. 221
    Dave P says:

    I get the feeling that with everybody jumping on the climate change bandwagon and trying to get their name in print by making spectacular claims the glacier business was an accident waiting to happen. If it causes people to think before they publish some good may come from this.

  22. 222
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Another link, Didactylos.

    http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/windenergy/index.html
    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Cents_Per_Kilowatt-Hour

    http://www.novoco.com/energy/resource_files/reports/windcost_01.pdf

    Fuel Levelized costs (cents/kWh) (1996)
    Coal 4.8-5.5
    Gas 3.9-4.4
    Hydro 5.1-11.3
    Biomass 5.8-11.6
    Nuclear 11.1-14.5
    Wind (without PTC) 4.0-6.0
    Wind (with PTC) 3.3-5.3

    (remember, wind costs have gone down with increasing technology, as you would expect with an emerging tech)

  23. 223
    Matthew L says:

    # 206 – CFU
    Lots of reasons why it is not possible to put cheap wind farms on shore in the UK. One of the most important is the cost of land.

    Prairie / ranching land in the USA varies a lot in price but wind farm suitable land of poor agricultural quality without residential or other development value is probably less than $500 an acre.

    In the UK the poorest land (that is not actually the side of a mountain) will cost you £2,000 ($3,000) an acre – and if it has any capability to grow any kind of food it will probably cost £4,000 ($6,000) an acre.

    Then there are the planning regulations. With such a high population density, most local Governments are highly protective of their undeveloped land.

    Most land that is at a high enough elevation to catch decent wind and is also not usable for agriculture (and hence too expensive) is probably in a National Park or major holiday destination. The best onshore sites are probably in west Cornwall (densely populated holiday location), west Wales and the Lake District (“National Parks” and “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty”). You cannot put up a shed in your back yard in a National Park let alone a mega sized wind farm.

    The only land in the UK that is even remotely remote enough and with a low enough land price is probably the north-west of Scotland. There are already a few wind farms there but expect huge opposition to the despoiling of the pristine Scottish landscape with the kind of development needed to generate the quantity of electricity we are going to need.

    It is clear you are not familiar with the UK, if you were I would not have to explain all this to you.

  24. 224
    ccpo says:

    #

    #172 Edward Greisch: “AGW has already had a significant impact. Peak oil hasn’t yet.”

    So far, I still don’t see AGW in economic indicators, but impact of high oil prices is everywhere to be seen, and already drives the policy of many states. Plus, AGW impact will be slow, and extend hundreds of years in the future, while peak oil is 2050 time frame. Thus, I am confident that we can economically adapt to AGW, as the costs will be spread over many years, while peak oil will cause a nasty shock.

    Frankly, I find the fixation on CO2 incomprehensible. It is obvious that we have two problems: fossil fuels and AGW. If we eliminate the dependence on fossil fuels, we solve both. But, somehow, the whole debate is about trying to mitigate the symptoms, instead of the root cause of the problem. I mean, we are considering implementing CO2 capture, but how much extra CO2 will we have to produce to power the installations for CO2 capture? I am sure someone has calculated that…

    Comment by Kris — 21 January 2010 @ 11:47 AM

    This line of reasoning gets wearying to refute, yet it is so simple. Kris, you are not very aware of how climate works. Your assumptions prove this. By assuming climate only changes over hundreds of years, and apparently smoothly, you are putting yourself at great risk.

    The science community used to think this, too, but by the time the 1990′s were finished they realized it could change drastically within a decade, particularly regionally. (See the Little Ice Age.) Subsequent studies, including one quite recently of, I believe, Irish lake sediments, shows that major temperature changes have occurred in months!

    You need to read up on Rapid Climate Change.

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

    As I have said many times in many places, thinking Peak Oil is everything or that Climate Change is everything are both extremely short-sighted. We must base policies on analysis of both, and their concomitant economic effects.

    Can you say overshoot?

  25. 225
    michael says:

    216 Yep. Went to the pantry. Looked at ingredient lists on numerous food stuffs. Tracked through supply chains. Identified plants at risks (eg agrichem plants, petrochem plant, agri distribution systems, machinery, etc). Came to conclusion that food supply supply systems would be hit hard. Also looked at recent impacts on fungal infection of key crops – happening now. Projected impacts by mid-century are mind-numbing. Stern admitted he and his team got it wrong.

  26. 226
    captdallas2 says:

    Ray, Doug and Nick,

    I am shocked that my views on glacial retreat are so controversial! Nick’s reference to the PIG retreat is interesting and brings up a point. The western Antarctic is warming and more rapidly than the remainder of the continent. AGW may be a significant part of the warming but it is unlikely that it is all of it. We still have decadal oscillations to factor in and weird climatic changes that are poorly understood. Around 1979/80 for example there was a 2 to 3 degree C spike in temperatures in Scandinavia. GHGs should not produce spikes so it is unlikely that AGW caused that spike. What caused that spike and the unprecedented warming in the Antarctic peninsular? Don’t know. Could be related to shifts in one or more decadal/multi-decadal oscillations or changes in ocean current velocities. Weather occurs. Why did the Arctic Oscillation shift and cause me to nearly freeze my butt off a week ago? Don’t know but it doesn’t appear to be caused by GHGs. Why did the winds in the Arctic change and blow so much sea ice South in 2007. Don’t know, but it didn’t seem to be caused by GHGs.

    I have no doubt that GHG increases are causing warming. I also have no doubt that GHGs are not solely responsible for all the warming. Climate is an interesting puzzle with a lot of pieces.

  27. 227
    Liam Hedge says:

    Rather than give my two cents on this whole debacle, I have a question which I though was best directed at the fairly informed community here at Realclimate. In Australia we’re currently locked in a political debate on how to minimise carbon in our economy. One of the most interesting claims to me is the idea of carbon sequestration in agricultural soil. I understand the concept if you are going to actually lock the carbon in there for a prolonged time, i.e. by planting carbon intensive plants, but if you are then going to use the land afterwards I fail to understand how you can easily remove the carbon from the natural carbon cycle. If anyone can point me in the direction of any resources on this matter it’d be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Liam

  28. 228
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Just thought I’d repost the link Gavin gave under that last topic — about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers — great overview of the situation and its impacts:

    http://www.asiasociety.org/onthinnerice

  29. 229
    Rod B says:

    The claim that California is producing usable wind power at less than 5cents/kWh (179) has been debunked numerous times. Sad to see it keeps getting trotted out.

  30. 230
    Frank Giger says:

    I agree that the solutions are far more hollistic than many present them to be.

    Burning coal to heat water into steam so that it will turn a turbine that generates electricity seems very 1910 to me, and yet it accounts for some 40% of the USA’s GHG emissions. Finding a way to double turbine efficiency would halve that, and I don’t think anyone would be against reducing the coal burned. Nuclear is consistent and has a great bang-for-the-buck, wind and solar is efficient (but not always effective), and hydroelectric has its own set of environmental issues and concerns. The key is to manage all of the resources and balance them.

    As to the error in the report, I can actually appreciate both sides of the shouting match (which is what it really is).

    To say that the IPCC report is imperfect because of the size and omnibus nature of what it set out to do (and therefore is bound to have errors here and there) is reasonable. Even the Bible is given the caveat that while it is inspired by God it is written by men, and therefore imperfect in translation and version.

    However, literally Trillions of USD and entire ways of life are on the line via policy decisions largely based on IPCC reports. Politicians do not quibble with percentages and possible scenarios; they govern from the position of facts, as anything less results in non-action. Some very odd policy initiatives get justified through the IPCC reports, and often through minor or convoluted citations.

    When I tell my son to put on a rain coat when hie is looking to play outside, I dodn’t say “there is a 70% chance of rain,” I say “it is going to rain, put it on.” Unfortunately the stakes are much higher than him being uncomfortable should the rain not come with the Global Warming political debate.

    Unfortunately, because of this, the IPCC reports have been taken be literal truths, and so any falibility is taken to invalidate the whole thing. Both approaches are wrong, naturally.

  31. 231
    bushy says:

    At-Dale Power. Something has to be done about the denial groups?
    Listen to yourself my friend, your attempt to suppress the opposition may just be wrong and trying to stifle opposing or contrary opinion is counterproductive in the extreme.
    Do you really believe you are correct in your assumptions and that there is no possibility of you being wrong, or are you able to produce proof that you are correct.
    I firmly believe that at our current level of understanding we have no basis for making the claim that AGW is real or even that it poses a threat of any kind.
    Please provide proof of this impending apocolypse if this is available ie. measurable effects of CO2 influence on our climate.
    I suspect that you cannot do this because it is all theoretical and does not take into account all the additional drivers and vagaries of our climate system. Please give us sceptics some credit because for the most part we are at least looking at alternative drivers and causes of climate variation as opposed to the closed minded who only focus on CO2.

    [Response: Who are these 'closed minded' folks? - gavin]

  32. 232
    captdallas2 says:

    227 Liam

    Adding charcoal to soil both sequesters carbon and benefits the productivity of the soil. Unfortunately it takes energy to produce charcoal so the net savings depends on the efficiency of energy use. Other sequestering methods have potential, but it all depends on the net bang for the buck. A variety of biomass options can produce energy and sequester carbon. Algae is my personal favorite of the biomass options since it grows rapidly in saltwater and eats sewage, neither of which are in short supply.

  33. 233
    Tom says:

    @156 Ray makes a ludicrous analogy that doesn’t even make argumentative sense. Airplanes and bridges afford the possiblity of repeated, honest to goodness trial and re-trial against their respective models. Test pilots were heroes for taking their risks back in the day. The general style of reliance on models in climate is simply not the same.

    I can understand if you are frustrated explaining, but maybe if you understood a little bit more about what makes people doubt you could allay their concerns a bit more effectively. To a bystander, comments like that make you sound like about as much of a loon as those you counter.

  34. 234
    David B. Benson says:

    captdallas2 (188) — Contemplate this sequence of events in the coastal mountains of British Columbia
    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Fast-Melting-Glaciers-Expose-7-000-Years-Old-Fossil-Forest-69719.shtml

  35. 235

    Re #165,

    Hate to break it to you, Dude, but the sun’s outer layers are 70% hydrogen and 28% helium by mass, with all other elements making up 2%. The inner regions are more helium and less hydrogen, but the “metals” portion is the same. Plimer believes “Iron Sun” Manuel whose theory is that the sun is composed like meteorite and is powered by an “internal supernova.” And if you believe that, I can actually get you public shares in a bridge in New York City–the city is selling interests in the Brooklyn Bridge, and I can get you stock certificates cheap, if you act now.

  36. 236
    Hank Roberts says:

    > double turbine efficiency
    Increase the temperature difference between the fire and the cooling loop, basically. Look up “supercritical coal” for example.

    > debunked numerous times
    Then it would be easy to provide a source. Got one?

    > bushy
    Bingo?

  37. 237
    Doug Bostrom says:

    bushy says: 21 January 2010 at 3:08 PM

    “I firmly believe that at our current level of understanding we have no basis for making the claim that AGW is real or even that it poses a threat of any kind.”

    Information is better than faith, usually. Do yourself a favor and spend a few hours wading through this truly excellent summary of where we stand w/regard to our understanding of climate, warts and all:

    http://www.aip.org/history

    You owe it to yourself, regardless of your personal inclinations; why take an unnecessary risk with your reputation?

  38. 238
    tharanga says:

    Following the inline response to 231:

    An interesting feature of http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelforce/RadF.gif is the relatively low activity of volcanoes in the period 1920-1950 or so.

    On the century timescale, can global volcanic activity be regarded as incoherent and random such that a calm will just happen now and then, or are there some underlying physics at hand?

  39. 239

    Forlorne, MacKay’s book has serious deficiencies, including improper comparisons to make renewables look less promising and nuclear more promising.

  40. 240

    Frank Giger,

    She is lampooning environmentalists, whom she believes want people to revert to a primitive lifestyle. It’s one of the most frequent slanders directed at environmentalists. There is, of course, a lunatic fringe of environmentalists who want to detechnologize the world, but nobody in their right mind pays them any attention–except the far right, when they want to smear environmentalists.

  41. 241

    Kris: Frankly, I find the fixation on CO2 incomprehensible.

    BPL: Think–complete collapse of world agriculture. Billions without fresh water. A hundred million “climate refugees.” Nuclear-armed Third World countries facing off over who owns a glacier (the latter has already happened, BTW).

  42. 242

    Tim Jones,

    Yep. The SCOTUS decision is obscenely stupid–or obscenely evil. Take your pick.

    Imagine telling people in some medieval feudal country, “You have equal rights to spend your money to influence the political process.” 95% of the people listening are penniless serfs. The other 5% are wealthy nobles.

    “The law in its majesty forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges.”

    Human civilization is doomed. I’m kind of upset about that. I liked junk food, watching DVDs and getting on-line.

  43. 243

    Matt. L,

    You can still grow food on land occupied by windmills. The footprint of the windmills is something like 1% of the area.

  44. 244
    SecularAnimist says:

    bushy wrote: “I firmly believe that at our current level of understanding we have no basis for making the claim that AGW is real or even that it poses a threat of any kind.”

    You are firmly wrong. Your “beliefs” are firmly grounded in ignorance.

    It is always this way with the deniers. The more utterly ignorant they are of even the most basic facts about climate and climate science, the more they “firmly believe” that Rush Limbaugh is right and hundreds of climate scientists are wrong.

  45. 245

    Fred Giger: Burning coal to heat water into steam so that it will turn a turbine that generates electricity seems very 1910 to me, and yet it accounts for some 40% of the USA’s GHG emissions. Finding a way to double turbine efficiency would halve that, and I don’t think anyone would be against reducing the coal burned.

    BPL: I’m pretty sure Consolidated Coal would be.

  46. 246
    Winny says:

    Doug Bostrom (#210) says: 21 January 2010 at 12:28 PM

    “Spend a little time on sites like RC and you may understand why patience for dealing with silly peripheral minutiae is thin. The air here is thick with desperate attempts to swerve discussion away from anything that improves general understanding of the topic at hand. Hence, the extraordinary reverberation of the poor provenance of a single paragraph buried in page 968 of an ancillary portion of the IPCC report.”

    You seem to think it’s a trivial matter. It’s not. To quote the initial post from Gavin, it’s “more substantial”. At the same time, it’s not earth-shakingly fundamental. To quote from Gavin again, it “cannot be described as a ‘central claim’ of the IPCC.” Your attempts to categorise it as trivial do you and your cause a disservice.

    “You unfortunately fell for a ruse and then having unwittingly had a wooden rifle shoved into your hands by cynics, stepped into the line of fire where you promptly became the target of derision for your gullibility.”

    You unfortunately appear to have forgotten that this is science, not politics. Perhaps you once knew that.

  47. 247
    Mike of Oz says:

    @233 – Tom, you should examine your own arguments, and perhaps tone down the fairly blatant condescension. The principle of Ray’s (comment #156) analogy is the same, but the time scale is vastly different. This unfortunately works to climate modellers’ great disadvantage when it comes to satisfying a population who want instant confirmation of everything they predict. An aeroplane or bridge designer doesn’t usually need to wait 5, 10, 20 years or more for his model to be “trialled and retrialled”, as you say (though that apparently hasn’t stopped planes crashing and bridges collapsing due to poor design and engineering).

    I fail to see your point with the test pilot analogy. Aeroplane or aeronautical “models” were relied on to a huge extent. The ability to rapidly trial and re-trial them never helped dozens of test pilots back in the 60s. As Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton’s wife once said: “when Deke was a test pilot, I was surrounded by widows”.

  48. 248
    Charlie Laurel says:

    Piking up from 196
    Oh my. It seemed a shame to leave all the comments to this mornings NPR spot to the skeptics so I piped in. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122799611
    Yikes. This came back and I don’t know how to respond. Does Grossman have a point? Also I don’t know about the etiquette of on-line talk is it okay for me to copy someone’s comment and paste it elsewhere like this?:
    “Bob Grossman (nonothing) wrote:
    Mr. Laurel, I took your link and found this amazing statement from the UK Met Service at the outset:
”The database consists of the “value added” product that has been quality controlled and adjusted to account for identified non-climatic influences. It is the station subset of this value-added product that we have released. Adjustments were only applied to a subset of the stations so in many cases the data provided are the underlying data minus any obviously erroneous values removed by quality control. The Met Office do not hold information as to adjustments that were applied and so cannot advise as to which stations are underlying data only and which contain adjustments.”

This is sloppy science at best! Not worthy of a national meteorological service dispensing global data sets and the science based upon it. I’m both saddened and amazed at this.

Now I must ask the question: WHERE ARE THE METADATA ASSOCIATED WITH THESE GLOBAL DATA SETS!??? IF THEY DO NOT EXIST, THEN THE DATA IS WORTHLESS. ANY GOOD SCIENTIST WILL WANT THIS INFORMATION IN ORDER TO APPLY TRANSPARENT (FOR REVIEWERS) CONDITIONS AND ADJUSTMENTS TO THE DATA AT HAND. 

If I reviewed a paper based upon these data without access to metadata, I’d reject it out of hand.”
    Any help?

    [Response: He hasn't even looked. Instead he is simply looking for an excuse not to pay attention. You could point him to Peterson and Vose (1997) or all the other papers, the raw GHCN data and all the other information, but he'll find an excuse not to pay attention to those either. - gavin]

  49. 249
    flxible says:

    Doug Bostrum re bushy’s “firm belief” – direct link is http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

  50. 250

    245 Barton Paul Levenson and Fred Giger,

    Even more 1910 is the AC system from Tesla and Westinghouse that allowed these power plants to be place far away from populated areas such that the lousy 30% efficiency that still persists could be tolerated, since the heat thrown away would not bother people much. This ranks after the automobile as a leading world bungle, since we could be doing much better, even with fossil fuels, while still living our chosen way.


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