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Monckton makes it up

Filed under: — group @ 7 August 2010

Guest commentary by Barry R. Bickmore, Brigham Young University

If you look around the websites dedicated to debunking mainstream climate science, it is very common to find Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, cited profusely. Indeed, he has twice testified about climate change before committees of the U.S. Congress, even though he has no formal scientific training. But if he has no training, why has he become so influential among climate change contrarians? After examining a number of his claims, I have concluded that he is influential because he delivers “silver bullets,” i.e., clear, concise, and persuasive arguments. The trouble is his compelling arguments are often constructed using fabricated facts. In other words, he makes it up. (Click here to see a number of examples by John Abraham, here for a few by myself, and here for some by Tim Lambert).

Here I’m going to examine some graphs that Lord Monckton commonly uses to show that the IPCC has incorrectly predicted the recent evolution of global atmospheric CO2 concentration and mean temperature. A number of scientists have already pointed out that Monckton’s plots of “IPCC predictions” don’t correspond to anything the IPCC ever predicted. For example, see comments by Gavin Schmidt (Monckton’s response here,) John Nielsen-Gammon (Monckton’s response here,) and Lucia Liljegren. Monckton is still happily updating and using the same graphs of fabricated data, so why am I bothering to re-open the case?

My aim is to more thoroughly examine how Lord Monckton came up with the data on his graphs, compare it to what the IPCC actually has said, and show exactly where he went wrong, leaving no excuse for anyone to take him seriously about this issue.

Atmospheric CO2 Concentration

By now, everyone who pays any attention knows that CO2 is an important greenhouse gas, and that the recent increase in global average temperature is thought to have been largely due to humans pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases (especially CO2) into the atmosphere. The IPCC projects future changes in temperature, etc., based on projections of human greenhouse gas emissions. But what if those projections of greenhouse gas emissions are wildly overstated? Lord Monckton often uses graphs like those in Figs. 1 and 2 to illustrate his claim that “Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the air at less than half the rate the UN had imagined.”



Figure 1. Graph of mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations contrasted with Monckton’s version of the IPCC’s “predicted” values over the period from 2000-2100. He wrongly identifies the concentrations as “anomalies.” Taken from the Feb. 2009 edition of Lord Monckton’s “Monthly CO2 Report.”



Figure 2. Graph of mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations contrasted with Monckton’s version of the IPCC’s “predicted” values over the period from Jan. 2000 through Jan. 2009. Taken from the Feb. 2009 edition of Lord Monckton’s “Monthly CO2 Report.”

It should be noted that Lord Monckton faithfully reproduces the global mean sea surface CO2 concentration taken from NOAA, and the light blue trend line he draws through the data appears to be legitimate. Unfortunately, nearly everything else about the graphs is nonsense. Consider the following points that detail the various fantasies Monckton has incorporated into these two graphics.

Fantasy #1.
Lord Monckton claims the light blue areas on his graphs (Figs. 1 and 2) represent the IPCC’s predictions of atmospheric CO
2 concentrations.

Reality #1.
The IPCC doesn’t make predictions of future atmospheric CO
2 concentrations. And even if we ferret out what Lord Monckton actually means by this claim, he still plotted the data incorrectly.

The IPCC doesn’t really make predictions of how atmospheric CO2 will evolve over time. Rather, the IPCC has produced various “emissions scenarios” that represent estimates of how greenhouse gas emissions might evolve if humans follow various paths of economic development and population growth. The IPCC’s report on emissions scenarios states, “Scenarios are images of the future, or alternative futures. They are neither predictions nor forecasts. Rather, each scenario is one alternative image of how the future might unfold.” Lord Monckton explained via e-mail that he based the IPCC prediction curves “on the IPCC’s A2 scenario,which comes closest to actual global CO2 emissions at present” (2). In his “Monthly CO2 Report” he added, “The IPCC’s estimates of growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration are excessive. They assume CO2 concentration will rise exponentially from today’s 385 parts per million to reach 730 to 1020 ppm, central estimate 836 ppm, by 2100,” which is consistent with the A2 scenario. In other words, Monckton has picked one of several scenarios used by the IPCC and misrepresented it as a prediction. This is patently dishonest.

Monckton’s misrepresentation of the IPCC doesn’t end here, however, because he has also botched the details of the A2 scenario. The IPCC emissions scenarios are run through models of the Carbon Cycle to estimate how much of the emitted CO2 might end up in the atmosphere. A representative (i.e., “middle-of-the-road”) atmospheric CO2 concentration curve is then extracted from the Carbon Cycle model output, and fed into the climate models (AOGCMs) the IPCC uses to project possible future climate states. Figure 3 is a graph from the most recent IPCC report that shows the Carbon Cycle model output for the A2 emissions scenario. The red lines are the output from the model runs, and the black line is the “representative” CO2 concentration curve used as input to the climate models. I digitized this graph, as well, and found that the year 2100 values were the same as those cited by Monckton. (Monckton calls the model input the “central estimate.” )



Figure 3. Plot of atmospheric CO2 concentrations projected from 2000-2100 for the A2 emissions scenario, after the emissions were run through an ensemble of Carbon Cycle models. The red lines indicate model output, whereas the black line represents the “representative” response that the IPCC used as input into its ensemble of climate models (AOGCMs). Taken from Fig. 10.20a of IPCC AR4 WG1.

Now consider Figure 4, where I have plotted the A2 model input (black line in Fig. 3), along with the outer bounds of the projected atmospheric CO2 concentrations (outer red lines in Fig. 3). However, I have also plotted Monckton’s Fantasy IPCC predictions in the figure. The first thing to notice here is how badly Monckton’s central tendency fits the actual A2 model input everywhere in between the endpoints. Monckton’s central tendency ALWAYS overestimates the model input except at the endpoints. Furthermore, the lower bound of Monckton’s Fantasy Projections also overestimates the A2 model input before about the year 2030. What appears to have happened is that Lord Monckton chose the correct endpoints at 2100, picked a single endpoint around the year 2000-2002, and then made up some random exponential equations to connect the dots with NO REGARD for whether his lines had anything to do with what the IPCC actually had anywhere between.



Figure 4. Here the black lines represent the actual A2 input to the IPCC climate models (solid) and the upper and lower bounds of the projected CO2 concentrations obtained by running the A2 emissions scenario through an ensemble of Carbon Cycle models. This data was digitized from the graph in Fig. 3, but a table of model input concentrations of CO2 resulting from the different emissions scenarios can be found here. The red lines represent Monckton’s version of the IPCC’s “predicted” CO2 concentrations. The solid red line is his “central tendency”, while the dotted lines are his upper and lower bounds. Monckton’s data was digitized from the graph in Fig. 1.

John Nielsen-Gammon also pointed some of this out, but Lord Monckton responded:,

[Nielsen-Gammon] says my bounds for the 21st-century evolution of CO2 concentration are not aligned with those of the UN. Except for a very small discrepancy between my curves and two outliers among the models used by the UN, my bounds encompass the output of the UN’s models respectably, as the blogger’s own overlay diagram illustrates. Furthermore, allowing for aspect-ratio adjustment, my graph of the UN’s projections is identical to a second graph produced by the UN itself for scenario A2 that also appears to exclude the two outliers.

It is fair enough to point out that Fig. 10.26 in IPCC AR4 WG1 has a plot of the projected A2 CO2 concentrations that seems to leave out the outliers. However, Monckton’s rendition is still not an honest representation of anything the IPCC ever published. I can prove this by blowing up the 2000-2010 portion of the graph in Fig. 4. I have done this in Fig. 5, where I have also plotted the actual mean annual global CO2 concentrations for that period. The clear implication of this graph is that even if the A2 scenario did predict atmospheric CO2 evolution (and it doesn’t,) it would actually be a good prediction, so far. In Figures 1 and 2, Lord has simply fabricated data to make it seem like the A2 scenario is wrong.



Figure 5. This is a blow-up of the graph in Fig. 4 for the years 2000-2010. I have also added the annual global mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations (blue line), obtained from NOAA.

Fantasy #2.
Monckton claims that “
for seven years, CO2 concentration has been rising in a straight line towards just 575 ppmv by 2100. This alone halves the IPCC’s temperature projections. Since 1980 temperature has risen at only 2.5 °F (1.5 °C) per century." In other words, he fit a straight line to the 2002-2009 data and extrapolated to the year 2100, at which time the trend predicts a CO2 concentration of 575 ppm. (See the light blue line in Fig. 1.)

Reality #2.
It is impossible to distinguish a linear trend from an exponential trend like the one used for the A2 model input over such a short time period.

I pointed out to Lord Monckton that it’s often very hard to tell an exponential from a linear trend over a short time period, e.g., the 7-year period shown in Fig. 2. He replied,

I am, of course, familiar with the fact that, over a sufficiently short period (such as a decade of monthly records), a curve that is exponential (such as the IPCC predicts the CO2 concentration curve to be) may appear linear. However, there are numerous standard statistical tests that can be applied to monotonic or near-monotonic datasets, such as the CO2 concentration dataset, to establish whether exponentiality is being maintained in reality. The simplest and most direct of these is the one that I applied to the data before daring to draw the conclusion that CO2 concentration change over the past decade has degenerated towards mere linearity. One merely calculates the least-squares linear-regression trend over successively longer periods to see whether the slope of the trend progressively increases (as it must if the curve is genuinely exponential) or whether, instead, it progressively declines towards linearity (as it actually does). One can also calculate the trends over successive periods of, say, ten years, with start-points separated by one year. On both these tests, the CO2 concentration change has been flattening out appreciably. Nor can this decay from exponentiality towards linearity be attributed solely to the recent worldwide recession: for it had become evident long before the recession began.

In other words, the slope keeps getting larger in an exponential trend, but stays the same in a linear trend. Monckton is right that you can do that sort of statistical test, but Tamino actually applied Monckton’s test to the Mauna Loa observatory CO2 data since about 1968 and found that the 10-year slope in the data has been pretty continuously rising, including over the last several years. Furthermore, look at the graph in Fig. 5, and note that the solid black line representing the A2 climate model input looks quite linear over that time period, but looks exponential over the longer timeframe in Fig. 4. I went to the trouble of fitting a linear trend line to the A2 model input line from 2002-2009 and obtained a correlation coefficient (R2) of 0.99967. Since a perfectly linear trend would have R2 = 1, I suggest that it would be impossible to distinguish a linear from an exponential trend like that followed by the A2 scenario in real, “noisy” data over such a short time period.

Temperature Projections

Atmospheric CO2 concentration wouldn’t be treated as such a big deal if it didn’t affect temperature; so of course Lord Monckton has tried to show that the Fantasy IPCC “predictions” of CO2 concentration he made up translate into overly high temperature predictions. This is what he has done in the graph shown in Fig. 6.



Figure 6. Lord Monckton’s plot of global temperature anomalies over the period January 2002 to January 2009. The red line is a linear trend line Monckton fit to the data, and the pink/white field represents his Fantasy IPCC temperature predictions. I have no idea what his base period is. Taken from the Feb. 2009 edition of Lord Monckton’s “Monthly CO2 Report.”.

FANTASY #3. Lord Monckton uses graphs like that in Fig. 6 to support his claim that the climate models (AOGCMs) the IPCC uses to project future temperatures are wildly inaccurate.

REALITY #3.
Monckton didn’t actually get his Fantasy IPCC predictions of temperature evolution from AOGCM runs. Instead, he inappropriately fed his Fantasy IPCC predictions of CO
2 concentration into equations meant to describe the EQUILIBRIUM model response to different CO2 concentrations.

Monckton indicated to me (5) that he obtained his graph of IPCC temperature predictions by running his Fantasy CO2 predictions (loosely based on the A2 emissions scenario) through the IPCC’s standard equation for converting CO2 concentration to temperature change, which can be found here.

The problem is that the equation mentioned is meant to describe equilibrium model response, rather than the transient response over time. In other words, they take the standard AOGCMs, input a certain stabilized CO2 concentration, and run the models until the climate output stabilizes around some new equilibrium. But it takes some time for the model systems to reach the new equilibrium state, because some of the feedbacks in the system (e.g., heat absorption as the ocean circulates) operate on fairly long timescales. Therefore, it is absolutely inappropriate to use the IPCC’s equation to describe anything to do with time evolution of the climate system. When I brought this up to Lord Monckton, he replied that he knows the difference between equilibrium and transient states, but he figures the equilibrium calculation comes close enough. But since the IPCC HAS published time-series (rather than just equilibrium) model output for the A2 scenario (see Fig. 7,) why wouldn’t he just use that?


Figure 7. Ensemble AOGCM output for the A2 emissions scenario, taken from Fig. 10.5 of IPCC AR4 WG1.

The answer is that if Lord Monckton had used the time-series model output, he would have had to admit that the IPCC temperature projections are still right in the ballpark. In Fig. 8, I have digitized the outer bounds of the model runs in Fig. 7, and also plotted the HadCRUT3 global annual mean temperature anomaly over the same period. The bottom line is that Monckton has put the wrong data into the wrong equation, and (surprise!) he got the wrong answer.



Figure 8. The blue and green lines represent the upper and lower bounds of the global average temperature anomaly from AOGCM output for the A2 emissions scenario during the 2002-2010 period. The black line represents the HadCRUT3 global temperature anomalies for that timeframe, normalized to the same base period.

Summary

I have shown here that in order to discredit the IPCC, Lord Monckton produced his graphs of atmospheric CO2 concentration and global mean temperature anomaly in the following manner:


  1. He confused a hypothetical scenario with a prediction.
  2. He falsely reported the data from the hypothetical scenario he was confusing with a prediction.
  3. He plugged his false data into the wrong equation to obtain false predictions of time-series temperature evolution.
  4. He messed up the statistical analyses of the real data.

These errors compound into a rather stunning display of complete incompetence. But since all, or at least nearly all, of this has been pointed out to Monckton in the past, there’s just no scientifically valid excuse for this. He’s just making it up.


665 Responses to “Monckton makes it up”

  1. 551

    #544–

    Soon to be a denialist talking point, but not yet, to my knowledge:

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=117580&org=NSF&from=news

    [Response: Why? Surely they aren't as silly as to equate a solar effect 200 miles up in the atmosphere with climate change? Especially an effect attributed using computer models! What am I thinking, of course some of them will be that silly.... - gavin]

    Actually, it already has surfaced as a denialist talking point, at least in one interaction I had. A poor dweeb was going on and on about the shrinking thermosphere, alleging an imminent Ice Age (or at least Little Ice Age), and pointing to the UAH monthly values over the preceding few months, which happened to show a declining trend, which he described as “huge.” It wasn’t hard to find larger month-to-month variations in the same data, as it happened–which ended that particular conversation.

    However, it stuck in my mind as an odd interaction, and I wondered where it came from (as usual, no sources were cited.) Must have been from one of the previous stories cited in the current press realease, since this all happened a few weeks back now.

  2. 552
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, if it´s subjective, then A)It isn´t PRA, or B)It is Bayesian, and therefore inherently subjective anyway. Rod, 95% confidence means something. The terms confidence and probability have very specific meanings. There are standard procedures for determining them. Those procedures have a mathematical basis, and a strong track record of success. I will take the work of Fisher, Kolmogorov, Akaike and others over an assertion you pulled out of an alternative orifice any day of the week.

    Frankly, if you disagree with the analysis then it is up to you to produce a better one. I would also note that no one has come even close.

    Now as to 95% CL, it can be demonstrated in many ways. None of them have had questions raised about them by serious researchers. Look, Rod, I do PRA for a living.

  3. 553

    #542 Jim Galasyn

    I honestly think that many here tried to help her. I don’t recall anyone being rude to her. I did not read all the posts I’m sure. But my impressions was that there were a lot of people trying to help her understand contexts that she seemed to be missing.


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  4. 554
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 550 Septic Matthew
    have built substantial water control projects without any AGW policy.lack of AGW policy has not been a problem.

    Okay, but you missed my point. Absent AGW as an issue, there shouldn’t be an emissions tax (at least for climatic effects; ocean acification still a problem; of course there are other problems associated with mining coal, drilling for oil and gas, but those should be addressed by additional regulations – anyway…), but there is still the issue of water resources. Thus, some resources that come from somewhere besides an emissions tax should go toward water resource management, to the extent it is of net benifit absent AGW. Absent charity or perhaps various historical issues, it makes sense for the beneficiaries of such water resource management to pay for it.

    On top of that, there will be some additional water resource issues that come from AGW, and it would make sense to use funds from an emissions tax to address those water resource issues.

    (The one caveat is that there could be some places where AGW reduces the net required investment in water resource management, particularly if little investment has yet been made; for example, if there were a problem either with flooding or with drought that has not yet been addressed, and AGW reduced that without increasing the opposite, then less investment would be necessary. I’m guessing (not something I’ve read about in such detail) that this isn’t expected in the global average, at least to the extent that water management would include aquaducts to supply agriculture or migration of agriculture towards the water resource … Anyway, for well-mixed gases, the emissions tax generally has to be justified by a global average net public cost.)

    I hate to blame the victims, but Pakistan’s negligence since the floods of the first half of the 20th century was not enforced on them by a lack of funds.

    Not from AGW policy, but I suspect either more efficient/benificial government or greater wealth would have helped, as would have perhaps different colonial policies so as to not set the stage for the conflict with India, etc, or going back farther in time…(?)

    You are correct that I expect any CO2 treaty to continue to exempt India, China, and other industrializing nations, or that attempts to include them will have negligible effects before about 2050, by which time most industrializing and industrialized nations will have boosted their non-fossil fuel energy industries to where they provide a majority of power. In light of recent history, I don’t see how you can call that “cynical”.

    Well okay, but even a purely domestic policy can plug the holes in trade. In practice this may be hard to calculate (but a lot of things are and we attempt it anyway), but one could simply apply a tariff on imports and perhaps a subsidy on exports (being careful not to double count the effects) proportional to the the amount of CO2 involved and to the difference in policies among countries. (Tracing the lifecycle CO2eq through all nations for a given product, there is some tax rate – subsidy (zero or otherwise) applied; the tariff would be the difference between the importer’s tax rate and the tax rate already imposed on the product.)

    Even if two countries have the same tax rate, this could become necessary if the structure is different; for example, (aside from land use net CO2eq emisssions) if one country taxes fossil CO2eq at the point of extraction and another taxes it at the point of combustion at electric utilities or sale to users, then some adjustment would be necessary when fuel or electricity are traded.

    Because developing countries could escape some costs by building up infrastructure that is more CO2eq from the outset, it could be generally benificial to start ‘greener’ rather than start ‘brown’ and turn ‘green’. If developing countries have trouble doing so now, developed countries could help, and they could be incentivised to do so by earning CO2eq credit for it. Bottom line – it makes sense to reduce CO2eq in the most efficient way (as measured in total – not forgetting about safety, etc.), and if a developed country can reduce emissions from another place with less expense, that makes sense. (PS some have ridiculed CO2 offsets, but aside from perverse incentives (which can be fixed) or inaccurate calculation (can be corrected when found) or fraud (a risk in any endeavor), etc, it is a real effect that accomplishes what it is supposed to accomplish.)

    The ideal global policy absent multiple nations would be a global CO2eq tax. On the international level, one could have an AGW fund that nations contribute to on the basis of their emissions and recieve from on the basis of their AGW-costs or contributions to other nations for mitigation and adaptation. In order to include all nations,
    1. you have to agree to contribute in order to recieve
    2. In addition to payments for ongoing emissions, nations would contribute some amount to account for past emissions to level the field (in proportion to the same tax rate, but then discounted through time to be fair to ignorance of the issue pre-19?? and to be efficient given that we have to work with things as they are and can’t change the past; and with earlier emissions being paid for in proportion not to each nations’ contribution to emissions but rather to each nations’ accumulated wealth, because wealth can migrate relative to emissions sources and because of changes in governments/territories through time).

    To support the transition to a mostly non-fossil fuel energy industry, I support a CO2 tax.

    GREAT!

  5. 555
    Brian Dodge says:

    Gilles 25 August 2010 at 1:38 AM
    “can the recent melting of northern sea ice be related with the recently measured acceleration of the Gulf stream, which I understood was not predicted by the current models ?”

    If you look at the surface currents in the Arctic[1], there isn’t much penetration from warm Gulf Stream water – it’s already very salty, and as it cools it sinks. Most of the flow is down as part of the AMOC. Some does penetrate the Arctic, but mostly as deep spreading currents overlain by fresh water from Siberian rivers and melting Barents sea ice flowing into the Arctic, which isolates it from the ice[2].
    In addition, the bulk of loss has been north of Alaska and over the East Siberian Shelf; there has been some loss along the east coast of Greenland[3], but gains north of Svaalbard[4].

    [1] http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/ocean_currents_and_sea_ice_extent
    [2] http://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu/atlantic/spitsbergen.html
    [3] http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_daily_extent_hires.png
    [4] http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=08&fd=15&fy=2009&sm=08&sd=15&sy=1983

  6. 556
    Gilles says:

    Ray , objective theory of probabilities is only a theory of measure and integration over subsets of events, whose measure is supposed to be known. There is no objective way of determining the measure itself if it isn’t known. You can’t objectively compute the probability that the superstring theory is right. Concerning the problem of climate, it is the correctness of theories that is at stake – and in this case, there is no objective evaluation of the probability they’re right. It’s all a matter of subjective evaluation of “experts” – whose definition is also subjective. Even the AR4 admits this : the terminology “likely”, “very likely” , and so on, relies only the consensus of experts, but there is no objective way of calculating them

  7. 557
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gilles can find the Gulf Stream speeded up, from a paper that doesn’t make the claim, that’s discussing uncertainty in measurement; then a few days later, he can lecture Ray that nobody can know anything for sure. The guy just likes seeing his name in print. Blah blah blah Gilles blah blah ….

    Woof. Please send a better skeptic, this one’s not working out.

  8. 558
    Septic Matthew says:

    554, Patrick 027: Bottom line – it makes sense to reduce CO2eq in the most efficient way (as measured in total – not forgetting about safety, etc.)

    On that we agree, subject to the caveat that “efficient” has many definitions. To me, the most efficient way forward has to include much more capital devoted to water: flood control and irrigation in the Indus Valley, and more nuclear powered (off topic, sorry) desalination along the coasts of India and the US. However, I think the majority opinion here is that it should be done as rapidly as possible, because costs of delay are considered catastrophic, and the fact that catastrophes will continue to occur even if global warming is prevented is given little cognizance.

    I don’t know how representative or effective James Hanson is, but he has never called for anything like a better flood control and irrigation system for the Indus Valley (and like places), nor has Paul Ehrlich or John Holdren. But the floods in Pakistan, like the fires in Russia and the US and earthquakes on the Pacific Rim will recur even if policies to reduce CO2 are implemented. Hanson’s call for an end to technology (granted, he calls it “Western Technology”, ignoring its universality) would condemn some future generation to what has just happened.

    [Response: The man's name is Jim Hansen, and I doubt quite seriously that he has ever advocated the end to technology that you claim. Do not misrepresent the statements or positions of others; such posts as do will be deleted. It would also help your cause if you didn't make ridiculous arguments--Jim]

  9. 559
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Gilles, are the glaciers melting on your planet? Because they sure are on mine.

  10. 560
    John Peter says:

    Patrick 027

    “…We need to convince China that they don’t have to make a choice between prosperity and protecting the climate. We need to help them towards a low-carbon future…”

    80%+ Chinese citizens are dirt poor dirt farmers. Their government is trying to manage this population toward a better standard of living.

    Developed nations have had the advantage of inexpensive fossil fuel energy to develop a more prosperous middle class. It is “unfair” to try to remove this very important economic advantage from developing nations now that “their turn has come”.

    China is a leader in non-poluting technology R&D. They also commission two coal-fired power plants a week. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6769743.stm

    Is it possible to level set RC on China?

  11. 561
    Rod B says:

    Hank, I guess you don’t like Gilles’ comment # 556 and would prefer he just shut up. But can you scientifically refute the substance of what he said? What is the objective mathematical confidence level of the risk probability that string theory is wrong?

    [Response: Enough of this crap.--Jim]

  12. 562
    dhogaza says:

    What is the objective mathematical confidence level of the risk probability that string theory is wrong?

    I think people are having a problem with his suggesting all climate-related science has the same problem that string theory has (which leads many to claim that string theory isn’t science at all, as you know).

    So what’s the objective mathematical confidence that CO2 absorbs LW IR, Rod? Is there “no objective evaluation of the probability that this is right”?

  13. 563
    Joe Cushley says:

    Last time I looked string theory had jack-sh*t to do with climate change…

  14. 564

    #556 to the anonymous Gilles

    Actually there is a reasonable objective evaluation. It’s called science. The scientific method is designed to achieve the most objective view possible with the available methodology. The notion that we really don’t know much is actually not objective. In fact it is much further from objective than the science. So arguing we don’t know much is a pot meet kettle moment. It’s merely a hypocritical opinion that is guilty of that which it is accusing. That is what you are doing. Circular reasoning will get you nowhere by the way. As long as you keep chasing your own tail the dizzier you will get and the more it will cost you.

    Not to mention all the confirmation signals. Read the first para. of my note to Rod below.

    #560 Rod Black

    What does that have to do with glacier melt, temp. rise, sea level rise, ice mass loss and attribution? The basic science that indicates that without added GHG’s we would be relatively around thermal equilibrium on the radiative forcing. Instead we are above it?

    The giant red herring of what is the probability of string theory . . . has absolutely nothing to dow with human caused global warming. It’s just another distraction argument to say, Hey look we don’t know everything there is to know in order to get a fish to bite a special lure, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. SO how can we know that the current global warming is not natural?

    It’s just a really dumb argument to present and it sows a clear incapacity to understand the basic reality of the science and the observations.

    Arguing for the sake of arguing is just silly. Ever heard the saying ‘never try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig. That’s what it feels like sometimes when one argues science against red herrings.


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  15. 565
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 559 John Peter – Consider what happens with a global CO2eq tax, or something to that effect (international policy would incentive domestic policies). If a country A emits 10 % of the tons of country B and produces wealth at a rate of 10 % of what country B does, then the tax would be the same fraction of GDP (or GNP?). On the other hand, it is a lower fraction of GDP (or GNP?) if the economy is more CO2eq efficient.

    Regarding wealth already produced, see the last part of the last big paragraph of my comment 554. For recent past emissions, there would be a payment of backtaxes; for older emissions, a payment in proportion to built-up wealth. Hence, to some approximation, there would be some transfer of wealth from countries that have benifited from previous emissions to those which have not, thus leveling the field (in a fair way broadly consistent with ca pit ali sm; this isn’t so ci ali sm). With an international AGW-fund, So some poorer countries would owe the fund according to their emissions (which would tend not to be large, yet) and receive according to AGW-impacts, but also recieve some payment from richer countries. Richer countries (or any country that decides to do so) could get a tax credit by directly contributing to poorer countries via CDM or AGW-adaptation aid.

  16. 566
    John Peter says:

    Patrick 049 @550, 554, 565

    In 2008 total US metric tons of carbon emissions were less than 75% of Chindia. Since Cindia’s population is 6 or 7 times the US, the per capita rates are much smaller. As these nations develop their industrialization further, the ratios and the totals are expected to become even less favorable. For the numbers see: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/graph-showing-each-countrys.html

    Princeton came up with a new “fair” allocation method just before Copenhagen. See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090706171505.htm

    for a news item description. I do not know how their scheme faired at Coppenhagen.

    That said, your proposal looks interesting. I wonder:

    @550 Why exempt Chiindia? Won’t this seriously wound the program?

    @554 As I said, you method is quite interesting and unique. It’s not clear to me that it would offer any relief to Chindia – who, I believe, currently hold most of the world’s assets and thus the world’s wealth. It also might be difficult to get agreement on past emissions by region, the way emissions move around in the atmosphere and oceans.

    @565 One of the problems with developing nations is that they have few banks and fewer accounting systems. Their societies, outside of major cities is pretty much cash based. Their savings accounts are usually in a mattress. That’s part of the reason the developed nations tend view underdeveloped governments as untrustworthy and even corrupt. Every politician in a financial chain takes a cut.

    What do you think of the Princeton proposal? Do you know what happened to it?

  17. 567
    Septic Matthew says:

    558, Jim: The man’s name is Jim Hansen, and I doubt quite seriously that he has ever advocated the end to technology that you claim.

    Thank you for the correction, and I apologize for the misattribution. Hansen (got it that time) merely endorsed reading a book with an extreme recommendation, he did not endorse the recommendation. According to links on his web page, he supports a linear reduction in coal use, with a 50% reduction by 2020. He believes that, if properly negotiated, a treaty to tax coal use could be negotiated with China.

    With China building new coal-fired power plants faster than the US and EU are phasing them out (to say the least), I don’t see that happening, but it would be nice.

    Have prominent leaders in AGW actively promoted increased investment in irrigation and flood control projects? My impression is that there is a large overlap between the people who promote AGW (such as the Sierra Club) and the people who oppose all new dams (such as the Sierra Club.) Granted, Sierra Club is not large, but their influence is great compared to their numbers.

  18. 568
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 558 Septic Matthew – but do you understand my point that, in as far as there is some justifiable water resource management expense in the absence of AGW, funds for that component shouldn’t come from AGW policies. Funds from AGW policy would pay for additional costs due to AGW. And while anything of benifit should be done in a timely manner, the urgency of AGW tends to pertain to mitigation; mitigation prevents future climate change; adaptation to conditions as they evolve will always lag the emissions that caused that evolution. The exception is proactive adaptation, which is a good idea, of course, but I would guess it could have reduced efficiency (relative to mitigation) due to greater regional uncertainties in climate responses. Anyway, funds to pay for AGW-caused expenses should generally come from a CO2eq tax revenue **, which has the effect of mitigation, so this aspect of mitigation policy provides the resources for adaptation.

    **- because of the timing, the revenue might instead by used to boost the economy in general (tax cuts (justified by how AGW will affect the ability to earn, spend, and hold property) and equal-per capita payouts (justified by the ways in which AGW affects everyone, rich and poor), and of course some clean/green industry/infrastructure (and some temporary aid to locations/people more negatively affected by the policy – job retraining, clean power plants built at old coal mines, offshore oil switch to offshore wind, oil and gas switch to CO2 sequestration, etc.) with the return on investment allowing greater general tax revenue in the future to provide for AGW

    —-

    Of course, we have to be careful about how our water management affects ecology and erosion/sedimentation – not just for nature’s sake, but for sustainability and future people (likewise, not every sunny or windy place is a good place for a solar power plant or wind turbines, etc.). Aside from that, there are some things that people just won’t call for all that much because it’s a bit obvious.

    Anyway, absent charity and historical issues, and aside from cross-border physical connections, it would tend to be Pakistan’s job to worry about Pakistan’s floods and droughts, etc, which occur without AGW. Other countries might seek to help Pakistan as an investment that will pay back to themselves, of course, and some effective international insurance program could be helpful, though the benificiaries would tend to pay for it. In contrast, good international AGW policy must address the fact that actions by some incur costs to others; hence, international funds from emissions taxes may be owed to various countries.

    (Policies for AGW and in general constructed from ideal market concepts must be adjusted not only for real market behavior (ie an emissions tax might be accompanied by some targeted incentives and mandates), but also for migration issues, since an ideal market on the global level would include migration as a response, while immigration is often politically constrained.)

  19. 569
    Patrick 027 says:

    … PS just to be clear, re my last 2 comments:
    some transfer of wealth from countries that have benifited from previous emissions to those which have not, thus leveling the field (in a fair way broadly consistent with ca pit ali sm; this isn’t so ci ali sm

    absent charity it would tend to be Pakistan’s job to worry about Pakistan’s floods and droughts, etc,

    I was not trying to suggest that there should not be a (well-implemented) charitable aspect to the policy, but I’m not trying to push hard for it or justify my policy concepts primarily with it, because I suspect that will cause many more people to stop listenning, perhaps including some people who don’t want to address AGW because of their generosity (?).

    ——-

    PS as with domestic supply-demand relationships, there shouldn’t be a problem in charging some tax from countries according to their emissions (or emitting-causing activity (for fossil CO2eq, not necessarily at the point of combustion; possibly at the point of extraction – so long as it is consistent, it works)), because a country that is responsible for a rather large share of emissions due to CO2eq-intensity and volume of exports can pass along a share of the cost to the importers, which is exactly what we want to have happen.

  20. 570
    Rod B says:

    dhogaza, again with the strawman, a problem with his suggesting all climate-related science. As I said to Ray in 549, if you disagree with something I said, rebut what I said, not what I never said.

    Joe Cushley missed the entire point. But Jim said stop it. c’est la vie

  21. 571
    Rod B says:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) (564), ditto what I said to Ray and dhogaza.

  22. 572
    Rod B says:

    Patrick 027, Did you just recommend a carbon tax be applied IN ARREARS??? Who would be charged the tax due for all of the personal vehicle tailpipe emissions for the past hundred years or so?

  23. 573
    Gilles says:

    To all who dislike the idea that evaluation of probabilities without a known a priori distribution is subjective, you could first read things like that, as an introduction : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_interpretations.

    I repeat : the computation of an objective probability is only possible for a subset of events whose individual probability is exactly known. And to test the probability law, you have to rely on a large number of experiments to check that your evaluation is “probably” correct. But to my knowledge, there is no probability law on the set of physical theories ; there is no way of asserting objectively the criteria that could allow to compute this probability.

    Of course we are “almost certain” of the validity of some theories. But actually we are unable to QUANTIFY this confidence – nobody can say if the fact that CO2 absorbs IR radiation is 99,999 or 99,9999999 or 100 % certain ! (for instance you may want to keep a small room for the solipsist hypothesis that everything is an illusion created by your own mind (or mine in my case) : but which probability would you attribute to that ???). The only thing we can say is : “we are -subjectively- confident enough in the fact that it is true, to use it as it were true”. Period.
    This is VERY different from the “objective” probability that for instance, we won’t win the jackpot each time if we play 100 times – because the probability is extremely tiny.

    But there is absolutely no way of quantifying objectively the probability that some uncertain theory is true – because there is no known probability theory over the set of theories ! all “intermediate” probabilities like “likely” or “very likely” can ONLY be the result of a subjective poll among experts, or among computers models (which is not an objective set of course), not more. If it is NOT 100%, it can be anything following your mood or what you have eaten at lunch. Just think of a very simple idea : if you can program a computer to compute the probability that you win 100 times the jackpot, or the result of a dice throw, how could you program it to compute the probability that a given physical theory is true ? good luck !

    no algorithmic computation, no objectivity. As simple as that .

  24. 574
    Gilles says:

    John#564:, I’m afraid you didn’t understand me. It’s pointless to argue that science establishes almost certain facts (the fact that classical law of gravity is a very good approximation FAPP for instance), but that other are still not well understood (quantum gravity). Everybody will agree on that, and this is not a point of discussion. What I’m arguing is that there is nothing objectively quantitative below “certain enough to act as if it were true” (which is the only useful practical conclusion). Risk assessment can help you to take decisions if you postulate some risk probability, it cannot tell you if the postulate is true or not. You can at best validate it with a large set of different similar cases (for example to evaluate the solidity of a company, you can compare objective criteria among a large number of companies). Unfortunately we DON’T have a lot a similar earths to test statistically climate models !

  25. 575
    John Peter says:

    Gilles @493

    \… what is “proved beyond any reasonable doubt” in your mind …\

    For scientists, beyond a reasonable doubt can mean accepted, no serious counterexample, i.e. consensus. IPCC WG1 has carefully reviewed the CC literature and has pretty well established the scientific consensus for AGW.

    Consensus may not be enough however. Strong correlations can be perceived as \”guilt by association”\. More unanimity may be required for a \”beyond any reasonable doubt”\ fact.

    This can be a problem for a climate scientist trying to be effective in a more political environment such as IPCC WG2. Facts must be simplified. Logic must be direct. Any presentation, be it the two minute sound byte or an OP ED note, needs to be short and to the point; an “elevator speech”. (http://www.businessweek.com/careers/content/jun2007/ca20070618_134959.htm)

    Many scientists are not proficient at such over simplifications. Many deniers such as Monckton are very proficient. They exploit this to the detriment of the AGW message.

  26. 576
  27. 577
    Hank Roberts says:

    John Peter:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site:realclimate.org+pacala+socolow
    or
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site:realclimate.org+stabilization+wedges

    (hmmm, server’s choking, this may duplicate the first lines; but
    see particularly

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/06/make-your-own-forecasts-of-future-energy-carbon-emissions-and-climate/
    and
    http://www.ecoequity.org/2009/07/one-billion-high-emitters/

    The latter says in part:

    \An important scientific paper (by Chakravarty et al.), called Sharing global CO2 emission reductions among one billion high emitters was just published in the Proceedings of the [US] National Academy of Sciences. And because, as _Greenwire_ notes, it \loosely builds on the idea of ‘greenhouse development rights,’\ we’ve decided to write, and prominently feature, this a friendly rejoinder to it….

    The key point about the \one billion high emitters\ paper is that it shares with the GDRs approach a central message, that _the right answer to the \Who pays\ question is, \The rich\ (or at least the \unpoor.\) This, certainly, is the point that’s getting the most attention. See [various reviews, see original page]

    In its essence, this effort by a noted team (that includes Princeton University’s Stephen Pacala and Rob Socolow of \stabilization wedges\ fame) helps to shift the North/South debate in favor a more compelling — and empirically substantiated — rich /poor analysis.

    Despite sharing this viewpoint, we do have differences, one of which is important. Our basic critique is that the Princeton group … ultimately provides for a rather large subsidy from the poor to the rich. This gives, in the final analysis, a burden sharing framework that is even less fair to the poor than an equal per capita allocation….\

  28. 578
    SecularAnimist says:

    Rod B wrote: “Did you just recommend a carbon tax be applied IN ARREARS???”

    That would be called “reparations”.

    Rod B wrote: “Who would be charged the tax due for all of the personal vehicle tailpipe emissions for the past hundred years or so?”

    Those who profited from selling the fossil fuels that produced those emissions would be charged.

    International aid for the Pakistan flood disaster is currently around $150 million dollars pledged, with about one third of that actually committed.

    ExxonMobil alone rakes in over $150 million in profit every two days.

  29. 579
    Hank Roberts says:

    Where you see a backslash in my posts and apparently some others’ as well — those are supposed to be double quote marks.

    Thus: ” ”
    (Mac, Firefox 4 beta 4)

  30. 580
    Septic Matthew says:

    568, Patrick027: but do you understand my point that, in as far as there is some justifiable water resource management expense in the absence of AGW, funds for that component shouldn’t come from AGW policies. Funds from AGW policy would pay for additional costs due to AGW. And while anything of benifit should be done in a timely manner, the urgency of AGW tends to pertain to mitigation; mitigation prevents future climate change; adaptation to conditions as they evolve will always lag the emissions that caused that evolution. The exception is proactive adaptation, which is a good idea, of course, but I would guess it could have reduced efficiency (relative to mitigation) due to greater regional uncertainties in climate responses.

    Mitigation will not prevent future extreme events like the Pakistan and China torrents, though it may make them less extreme and less frequent.

    The regional distribution of the extreme events that will occur even if there is no climate warming is well known.

    Funds for building water control systems like China has been building and Pakistan has not been building probably will come out of the funds for AGW mitigation. If some one person could simply order the funds spent this-a-way or that-a-way, perhaps not, but that is not the way that monies are obtained and allocated. International aid agencies have complained that the EU rush to reduce its own CO2 emissions have led to reductions in aid for other purposes.

  31. 581
    John Peter says:

    HR@577

    Thanks for the refs, your usual excellent work.

    Thanks also for the background on “GDR” (Global Depository Receipts or German Democratic Republic ???)

    I like PNAS, their papers are current and interesting, might even pay their $190. GS found the paper for me, but your links are tricky; IE finds PNAS but not the paper, Firefox and Chrome can’t find a PNAS page either.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/29/11884.full works for me.

    Thank you again, I have some reading to do.

  32. 582
    John Peter says:

    Guys and gals:

    Correction

    PNAS on-line access to articles full text is free, once the article is six months or more old.

    PNAS $190 subscription fee is only required for on-line access to articles less than six months after they are published.

  33. 583
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Gilles – This is VERY different from the “objective” probability that for instance, we won’t win the jackpot each time if we play 100 times – because the probability is extremely tiny.
    But what about the possibility that the existence of the jackpot is an illusion?

    Anyway, within the context of science, governance, practical stuff… I think we can agree to use a common set of assumptions as a base for farther reasoning – or another way to put it, the ‘it could all be an illustion’ card should be played consistently or not at all, as opposed to one sides’ unfair advantage.

  34. 584
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist, you say, “Those who profited from selling the fossil fuels that produced those emissions would be charged.” Why not all of the people who benefited enormously by driving their vehicles and actually producing the CO2. The oil companies produce very little CO2.

  35. 585
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 572 Rod B, 578 SecularAnimist, 566 John Peter –

    Will have to get back to you on Princeton’s allocation

    @550 Why exempt Chiindia? Won’t this seriously wound the program?
    That was not my comment; one of my points was that, absent a comprehensive international policy, domestic policies could still do real good and be designed to plug the perverse incentives that would come about by trade between nations with differing policies.

    It also might be difficult to get agreement on past emissions by region, the way emissions move around in the atmosphere and oceans.
    The problem isn’t so much that the emissions move around, but that the responsibility for emissions moves around. My suggestion of, particularly in the more distant past, tying it to accumulated wealth, is meant as an approximation.

    Perhaps there could be some justification for a domestic backtax, but I’m not sure; my idea was to apply the backtax to nations. It’s a way to make up for some nations’ having being able to burn fossil fuels (and cut down forests, make cement) without paying for the emissions. But I also emphasize that I wouldn’t apply the same tax rate to past emissions as to emissions now; the rate would be discounted going farther back in time (with an increasing portion being assessed based on accumulated wealth). The reasons:
    1. part of the justification for an externality tax is that it incentivises increased efficiency with public costs and benifits included. But past behavior cannot be changed. The economies have developed as they have, and there may be some net loss in trying to redistribute wealth to recreate a condition that might have evolved had emissions been taxed all along. (However, it must also be kept in mind that there are political barriers to immigration (so a market response of increased migration to developed countries will not actually occur in response to reduced future growth elsewhere), and a psychological cost as well to emmigrants.)
    2. People didn’t know as much in the past.

    I also want to point out that I don’t envision such large sums of money actually going through an international agency; what would go through that agency would be net amounts – the differences between what a country owes and what the country is owed. A developing nation might recieve a net amount of money even as it emits; it will just recieve more if it emits less.

  36. 586
    John Peter says:

    Patrick @581

    Thanks for your response

    Hank Roberts (577) refs a PNAS paper which includes the Princeton authors. I found it at http://www.pnas.org/content/106/29/11884.full
    It is fairly complete, there are some comments and a rebuttal referenced in the paper. A comparison of your proposal to the PNAS paper (Chakravarty et al.) might be more productive. They would tie emissions to individual high emitters within a nation, a novel concept, at least in my experience. That might help to pin down responsibility for the emission. They give two examples for their overall scheme.

    The comment and rebuttal are also interesting.

  37. 587
    Hank Roberts says:

    > GDR …?
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aecoequity.org+GDR
    “… The right to development in a climate constrained world.
    The Greenhouse Development Rights Framework … “

  38. 588
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts @577, Patrick 027 @585

    In their rebuttal to the Luxenburg/New Haven criticism, Chakravarty et al. state:
    “…We suggest a refocus on the emissions of individuals
    rather than national averages as a path to assignment of
    national responsibilities for mitigating climate change where
    every country participates. And we show that meeting basic
    energy needs can be accommodated via fossil-carbon sources,
    where convenient, with limited implications for the solution
    of the climate problem…”

    I am simple minded, unskilled and probably naive in this area. That said, I fail to understand why the Chakravarty scheme is any better than a tax on fossil fuel emitting nations based on some combination of their GDP and target reduction anomalies.

  39. 589
    Silk says:

    #544 “I do not know what the surest way to end the economies of the world and devastate the world’s poor people is, as I wrote.”

    This is not an argument against action to mitigate climate change.

    As I understand your position, you oppose action to globally reduce GHG emissions. Perhaps I misunderstand your position.

    However, if your position is “We shouldn’t reduce emissions of GHGs because something else terrible might happen that harms more people than climate change will”, then that’s a very odd position

    #545 – I should have been more precise. Far more precise. What I meant was, there is no evidence to predict any ‘natural’ climate shocks on the horizon that could lead to very significant increases in global mean temperature (say an increase of 2-3 degrees by 2100, with further increases thereafter). There is ample evidence that human activity will cause such an shock, without emissions reductions strategies.

    #550 – “You are correct that I expect any CO2 treaty to continue to exempt India, China, and other industrializing nations”

    Matthew. I can assure you that without China, India and others taking emissions, there will be /no/ treaty. You may consider Copenhagen to be a success or a failure, but China is as bound by its outcomes as the US is.

    A replacement for Kyoto that doesn’t bind China in some what is not a political possibility.

    #567 “Have prominent leaders in AGW actively promoted increased investment in irrigation and flood control projects?”

    Matthew, I’m very sorry, but this is a staggeringly ignorant thing to say. A bit like coming into a cancer meeting and asking “Do you guys clean your tools before operations?”.

    If you really have such limited knowledge of how climate neogtations work, and what goes on at them, I /beg/ you to do some background reading before you start posting on the internet about them.

    For you information, Kyoto established an Adaptation fund.

    You seem to be under the impression that the UNFCCC spend their entire time trying to work out how to reduce emissions and nothing else. This impression /could not be further from the truth.

    There is no point continuing this discussion. Please go away and do some background research. http://www.unfccc.int would be a good place to start.

    Or, if you aren’t interested in the subject, fine. But don’t post about it.

    #580 “Funds for building water control systems like China has been building and Pakistan has not been building probably will come out of the funds for AGW mitigation.”

    This is a staggering niave thing to say. Governments spend money on all sorts of things. It is possible to address more than one issue at once.

    The vast majority (80%) of the cost of reducing emissions would be paid for by NOT building fossil fuel plant and the associated fuel costs. this number is from the IEA. And it doesn’t even include the avoided damage costs of having better air quality.

    “International aid agencies have complained that the EU rush to reduce its own CO2 emissions have led to reductions in aid for other purposes.”

    I’m calling you out here. Provide some evidence to back this statement up.

    John Peter, re : #566 “I do not know how their scheme faired at Coppenhagen.”

    It’s more fundamental than that, John Peter. The US, irrespective of what the President wants, can’t get any form of climate legislation through Congress. Do you believe that, even if the rest of the world took action, Congress would change its mind? Perhaps, but I am skeptical.

    Meanwhile, decision makers in China have not come to any conclusion about what level of climate change they can live with. At least, not publically.

    So you have the US unable to act, because of their lawmakers, and China unwilling to act, because they haven’t decided which way to jump on the issue, and the rest of the world is paralysed.

  40. 590
    sambo says:

    Silk (#589)

    In your response to #544, I don’t think you understood the logic of the argument. The argument seems to be (from my perspective) that if there is a cost effective way to spend money to solve a large problem (eg flood protection in pakistan) then we should spend the money there in order to fix that problem. If someone comes and says, but yes you can fix this problem, or you can spend the same money on upgrading all houses in the US to be white, which will slightly mitigate GW. Personally, I’d choose the former since even in a world with GW, it will help the people of pakistan, while the former might make the US feel better, but pakistan will still be vulnerable to floods, which will come with or without GW.

  41. 591
    Septic Matthew says:

    589 Silk: As I understand your position, you oppose action to globally reduce GHG emissions. Perhaps I misunderstand your position.

    I support a tax on CO2 to help fund the transition to renewable energies — whether this can be imposed somehow on the whole WTO (without which it can’t work) I don’t know, but it doesn’t look likely soon. I support R&D on CO2 sequestration. I support development of more water projects: flood control and desalination powered by solar and every other process that produces excess heat and is constructed near the ocean. With projects already underway, I expect that this whole discussion will be much different by 2020, or (to pick an obvious political timeline) by the American presidential debates of 2012. I think that AGW proponents would be much more effective politically if they allied with all energy industries to develop all alternatives to fossil fuels, instead of being allied with organizations such as the WWF and Sierra Club who oppose most new construction.

    As for the others, I’ll get back to you later.

  42. 592
    Silk says:

    “I think that AGW proponents would be much more effective politically if they allied with all energy industries to develop all alternatives to fossil fuels, instead of being allied with organizations such as the WWF and Sierra Club who oppose most new construction.”

    You seem to think “AGW proponents” (whatever or whoever those are) are a single entity.

    If you mean “I think people who want to reduce emissions should work with the energy industry to reduce emissions” then, guess what, a lot of them do. The people who introduced feed-in tariffs, or the EU ETS, for example.

  43. 593
    John Peter says:

    Elevator speech from \Wired\ interview

    “…Wired: Do you think that this is part of a broader trend? Is science under assault?

    Simon Singh: What shocks me is people who have no expertise championing a view that runs counter to the mainstream scientific consensus. For example, we have a consensus amongst the best medical researchers in the world—the leading authorities and the World Health Organization—that vaccines are a good thing, and that MMR, the triple vaccine, is a really good thing. And yet there are people who are quite willing to challenge that consensus—film stars, celebrities, columnists—all of whom rely solely on the tiny little bit of science that seems to back up their view.

    Wired: Yet the celebrities sometimes seem to be winning.

    Simon Singh: Part of the problem is that if anybody has a gut reaction about an issue, they can go online and have it backed up. That said, they can also find support for their ideas in the mainstream media—because when the mainstream media gives a so-called balanced view, it’s often misleading. The media thinks that because one side says climate change is real and dangerous, the other view is that it’s not real and not dangerous. That doesn’t reflect the fact that something like 98 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and dangerous. And this happens with everything from genetically modified foods to evolution. But, at the end of the day, all that this misinformation does is slow progress—it doesn’t stop it. Antiscientific and pseudoscientific attitudes will get corrected; it’s just a question of how painful that process is going to be.

    Wired: Should scientists do more to get real science out there?

    Simon Singh: Scientists aren’t necessarily good communicators, because they aren’t trained to be good communicators. A researcher could be doing really important work on global warming, and then somebody writes a column in a national newspaper that completely undermines what they’re saying. But the scientist doesn’t think the column is important—it’s just some nincompoop writing a column—so they don’t take that writer to task in the way they should. It’s a case of saying, “How do we make a difference?” We certainly don’t make a difference by just moaning over coffee the next day.

    Wired: What about nonscientists? How are we supposed to know what’s true?

    Simon Singh: Don’t come up with a view, find everybody who agrees with it, and then say, “Look at this, I must be right.” Start off by saying, “Who do I trust?” On global warming, for example, I happen to trust climate experts, world academies of science, Nobel laureates, and certain science journalists. You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe.

    Wired: Why is it so hard to convince people, even when the science is so clear?

    Simon Singh: Science has nothing to do with common sense. I believe it was Einstein who said that common sense is a set of prejudices we form by the age of 18. Inject somebody with some viruses and that’s going to keep you from getting sick? That’s not common sense. We evolved from single-cell organisms? That’s not common sense. By driving my car I’m going to cook Earth? None of this is common sense. The commonsense view is what we’re fighting against. So somehow you’ve got to move people away from that with these quite complicated scientific arguments based on even more complicated research. That’s why it’s such an uphill battle. People start off with a belief and a prejudice—we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth.”

    We are not alone

  44. 594
    Kevin Stanley says:

    A bit late to the thread with insufficient time to read back through all the comments, so please disregard if my comment misses so much context as to miss the point. With that said…

    Gilles at 573 seems to be making the point that, using a rigorous definition of ‘objective,’ objectivity cannot be claimed in any figuring of probability in which the probability distribution of one of the variables in play is not perfectly known.

    By such a rigorous definition, that may be true. But it also renders the word ‘objective’ utterly useless in any discussion of physical reality.

    The example of leaving some unquantifiable amount of probability for the possibility that solipsism is correct (or that the universe was sneezed out of a great green Arkleseizure, or whatever) proves his point and mine, I think.

    At the same time, I wonder if Gilles dismisses the calculations of, say, bridge engineers, regarding the probability of failure modes under certain circumstances, as “subjective.”

    This strikes me as another version of the conversation about evidence versus proof. There are those who are fond of pointing out that some accepted scientific theory is unproven. And they’re right as far as that goes, but if the listener/reader is then invited to infer that the theory is therefore unreliable, the speaker/writer is being deceptive.

    Proof is a feature of formal logic, not of physical reality. That doesn’t mean that EVIDENCE is lacking, for instance in the cases of biological evolution, or greenhouse warming as a result of human activity. So “proof,” being unattainable, is irrelevant. What matters is evaluating the evidence.

    Similarly, if “objective” probability estimates are rendered impossible by the remote possibility that Gilles’ entire existence is a dream I am having, then objectivity is a useless concept.

    I think it’s probably better, though, to think of objectivity as something that comes in degrees, rather than an all-or-nothing proposition. One can make a relatively more objective argument about the probable correctness of a quantitative theory about a set of physical processes, compared to a relatively more subjective argument about whether someone is being an internet troll by drawing people into silly arguments about semantics. For example.

  45. 595

    SM 591: I think that AGW proponents would be much more effective politically if they allied with all energy industries to develop all alternatives to fossil fuels, instead of being allied with organizations such as the WWF and Sierra Club who oppose most new construction.

    BPL: This is a staggeringly ignorant thing to say. The whole point about the fossil fuel industry is that they DO NOT WANT alternative energy to be developed. They don’t just fund global warming deniers so they can keep selling coal and oil, they send swarms of nuts to testify against any new wind or solar project. Wake up and smell the coffee! ExxonMobile and Koch Oil and Consolidated Coal have no intention of letting any alternatives make any progress. Working with them is like working with the Nazis to halt German aggression in the ’30s.

  46. 596
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin Stanley: “But it also renders the word ‘objective’ utterly useless in any discussion of physical reality.”

    Not so. “Objective” simply means “that which is accessible to multiple observers”.

    Kevin Stanley: “Proof is a feature of formal logic, not of physical reality.”

    “Proof” is also a “feature” of law, as in “the anthropogenic causation of the objectively observable warming of the Earth has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt”.

  47. 597
    Septic Matthew says:

    Silk, 593: You seem to think “AGW proponents” (whatever or whoever those are) are a single entity.

    It seems that way in my writing sometimes. I distinguish subgroups. There are AGW proponents who do not go along with the Sierra Club resistance to all new dams, and there are AGW proponents who support more development of nuclear power.

    Silk, 589: This is a staggering niave thing to say. Governments spend money on all sorts of things. It is possible to address more than one issue at once.

    Governments can not give equal weight to flood control and to CO2 elimination. China has in the past 30 years without doing much to reduce CO2 (it hasn’t done anything that will reduce CO2 in the next 30 years, though they are moving toward a less CO2 intensive economy, and their dams provide a lot of low CO2 electricity.) California in the last 10 years has devoted more resources to solar than to new improvements to its irrigation/flood control system. I doubt that you could persuade Californians now to fork over sufficient money for both alternative energy upgrades and water control upgrades necessary to meet the near-term needs.

  48. 598
    Hank Roberts says:

    > why the Chakravarty scheme is any better than a tax on fossil
    > fuel emitting nations based on some combination of their GDP
    > and target reduction anomalies.

    Oligarchy.

  49. 599
    Silk says:

    BPL, Re: 595 – “This is a staggeringly ignorant thing to say. The whole point about the fossil fuel industry is that they DO NOT WANT alternative energy to be developed. ”

    I have to disagree with you here. The reality is more complex than this.

    Exxon have a bad track record, I grant you. I do not disagree with the notion that Exxon’s strategy has been to sow doubt, to stave off any climate legislation.

    but BP (cursed though they be) and Shell, while still investing far more in fossil than renewables, would like to work within a world where GHGs are regulated (I think). Principally because they are made up of individuals who are not stupid, and realise the implications of BAU.

    It’s up to governments to put in place frameworks that force companies to reduce emissions.

    I’m not suggesting companies aren’t part of the problem. I’d say it’s more complex than that, they are part of the problem /and/ part of the solution.

    And to suggest all companies are the same, or indeed all people who care about climate change mitigation are the same (as Matthew casually does) is, IMHO, incorrect. At least in my experience.

  50. 600
    Septic Matthew says:

    Related to an earlier post, this article reports a loss of ice sheet mass in Anarctica:

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n9/full/ngeo946.html#B2

    Is this concordant with or discordant to AGW? I wrote that I had read of Antarctic ice loss. Is this not Antarctic ice loss? Are the “ice sheets” distinct from other Antarctic ice, such as sea ice?


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