|CPDS Home Contact||Finding the Truth on Climate Change|
In October 2006 the Climate Change Roundtable produced a report, Australia Responds: Helping our Neighbours Fight Climate Change, which drew upon earlier work by the CSIRO. Both reports are available at http://www/ccdr.org.au. The CSIRO's report started with the assumption that climate change is attributable to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and then explored the economic / social / political impacts which would follow from that assumption. The Roundtable also explored options available to Australia to respond on the basis of the CSIRO's impact analysis, and its theme was seen to be 'No Time to Lose'.
However it seems unclear exactly what there is 'no time to lose' in doing.
A useful account of the consensus emerging amongst scientists involved in the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is John Houghton's Climate Change: The Science, The Impacts and the Politics. A revised version of the IPCC's scientific assessment of climate change was made available in early 2007, and in late 2007 another revision suggested that GHG increases and associated climate effects were accelerating requiring urgent and significant cuts in GHG emissions to avoid possible abrupt or irreversible climatic changes with many serious consequences.
A useful overview of critiques of the official view is 'The Stern Review: A Dual Critique', a heavily-referenced document, of which an outline is reproduced below. A fairly light-weight argument is presented on the web-site of the makers of The Great Global Warming Swindle. Various web-sites are available which present counter-arguments (ie suggest ways of responding to any questioning of the IPCC's consensus) eg the RealClimate web-site, and New Scientist's Climate Change: a Guide for the Perplexed.
A Wikipedia article on Global Warming provides a brief introduction to the complexities of the issues involved that seems more comprehensive than the IPCC's presentation (though the fact that when consulted by the present writer it was incomplete because of unresolved controversies amongst contributors gives perhaps the most relevant insight into the state of the debate) .
There seems little doubt that climatic change is occurring (though the possibility that observed changes could prove cyclical can't be entirely dismissed). Moreover it seems likely that a 'greenhouse effect' associated with human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases is (at least) part of the cause.
None-the-less, for various reasons the conclusions being drawn from this by the IPCC and its supporters seem overly simplistic.
The Science is Uncertain
Despite Al Gore's assertion (in An Inconvenient Truth) that none out of a sample of 928 technical papers disagreed with the basic science of global warming, it seems an inconvenient truth that only a very small percentage of climate scientists fully support the interpretation of the link between climate change and CO2 emissions that Gore assumed to be beyond discussion . Accepting that humanity is affecting the climate and that CO2 and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are part of the story is not the same as accepting that GHG emissions are all that really matters, and that the mechanisms involved are adequately understood.
An important issue seems to be the validity of the (so called) 'hockey stick' diagram. This diagram showed fairly constant temperatures for 1000 years before the 20th century with a dramatic rise then correlating with rising CO2 concentrations. It caused public alarm (eg when used ny Al Gore as a centre-piece of An Inconvenient Truth) . However it apparently downplayed earlier, well documented, significant warmings and coolings - and was thus challenged professionally.
This issue is very important, because geological history is littered with examples of climate changes that are vastly greater than have been experienced recently, and the main basis for concern about current changes is that the rate of change may be exceptional (an assumption that would be falsified if it were shown that other climatic shifts have been equally or more rapid).
Unfortunately, the scientist who developed the 'hockey stick' diagram refused to release his 'private intellectual property' to those who wanted to check it (a check that was vital to establishing real scientific validity) so many years were reportedly needed to formally re-assess the diagram .
This seems not to be the end of the story because computer models used to correlate climatic change with greenhouse gas (GHG) levels have been built on the 'hockey stick' assumption (ie that there were no powerful influences causing global temperature changes in the centuries before the 20th century) . Models may need to be redeveloped taking more account of natural drivers of climate change. If allowance has to be made for robust influences on the earth's climate by natural drivers, the perception that anthropogenic GHGs are the only significant driver of late 20th century climatic change would not necessarily survive.
Another important question apparently relates to the long term energy storage which seems possible in the earth's climatic systems (eg in oceans and in atmospheric circulation). The IPCC appears to have have assumed that reducing radiant energy escaping to space through a greenhouse effect will simply result in heating of the earth - whereas it seems likely that large amounts of energy can be stored without resulting in significant immediate temperature gains, and possible that recent warming reflects the release of energy stored in those systems hundreds of years ago (see further below).
Other uncertainties (many of which appear to be the subject of active for-and-against disputes) can be illustrated as follows:
In response to claims about uncertainties such as outlined above, various web-sites provide defence of anthropogenic global warming theories on climate change [eg 1, 2]. One site maintained by the World Wildlife Fund addresses challenges such as:
Bias is Possible
On the other hand the IPCC's conclusions are increasingly being treated by the public (and thus by politicians) as 'gospel' though:
Perhaps the strongest indication of possible bias by the IPCC is its persistent reluctance to address the possibility of very large changes in sea levels. Raising such risks might be avoided so as not to seem alarmist. However very large sea level changes have occurred in the recent geological past - and these events show that non anthropogenic factors (which are complex and by no means understood) can have a major impact on the earth's climate, and thus have to be considered (together with GHG effects) as drivers of current climatic change.
Moreover avoiding long term climatic history also downplays the fact that CO2 is not simply a potential cause of global warming. Its atmospheric concentration is apparently increased by warming as a result of reducing / reversing natural processes which absorb it (see Greenhouse Gases and Climatic History). From the point of view of the analysis reviewed in the latter document, this raises the possibility of dangerous feedback effects from anthropogenic GHG emissions. However, if non GHG climate drivers are significant, then it is possible that CO2 levels may be more an indicator of climate change than a primary cause.
Likewise the Stern review of climate change (which primarily explored the economic consequences of assuming that the IPCC's conclusions were valid) has been described as:
In 2010 a committee of scientists concluded that the IPCC "assigned high confidence to statements for which there is very little evidence, has failed to enforce its own guidelines, has been guilty of too little transparency, has ignored critical review comments and has had no policies on conflict of interest". Claims of using only peer reviewed data have been found to be unreliable. Counter theories have been unreasonably ignored. All errors have the effect of exaggerating the likely effect of climate change. IPCC reports have been 'sexed up' in terms of policy implications - in ways that suited environmental lobbyists but discomforted scientists. While having believed three years ago that IPCC process was fair, this no longer seems valid . The IPCC was suggested to have been told to focus on the science, rather than on the policy implications 
Subsequently Britain's Royal Society (the UK's top scientific authority) suggested that there were gaps in understanding that make predictions of the extent of climate change and sea level rises impossible. This can be seen as as a retreat from politics, following scandals that engulfed the IPCC. Society does not dismiss climate change or the need for coordinated action, but undercuts claims about looming ecological disaster. 
'Business as Usual' Solutions may not Exist
It has reportedly been suggested (by Price Waterhouse Coopers) that a 30% cut in emissions could be achieved while saving money - because there are many low-cost emission reduction options available .
Similarly McKinseys argued, based on analysis of 100 opportunities to reduce emissions and their associated costs, that 30% GHG reductions by 2020 (and 60% by 2030) would have only modest costs. Moreover 25% of total reductions would have cost benefits (eg better lighting and insulation) though others (wind power, geothermal options and reafforestation) would increase costs 
An Australian Climate Action Network (CANA) also presented a case for actions which might significantly reduce CO2 emissions.
However, even if it is assumed that CO2 and other GHG emissions are the only significant cause of climate change, it is not necessarily a trivial matter to reduce emissions. For example:
Non 'Business as Usual' Solutions could be Hazardous
While technological advances may allow high grade clean energy sources to be identified, if this is not achieved then unconditionally reducing fossil energy consumption (which would be required to moderate the CO2 component of the greenhouse effect) could result in economic crises, conflicts and perhaps billions of deaths over the next few decades.
Thus targets set for reducing carbon emissions, that are not conditional upon the development of high-grade alternative energy technologies, would be either unrealistic or potentially dangerous.
The Garnaut review of climate change policy in Australia apparently sees the problem in terms of breaking the link between energy consumption and economic growth , and thus must confront the above challenges.
There are many other environmental challenges that need to be met in the longer term, for which energy-intensive solutions may be required that could be rendered impossible if unconditional reductions in CO2 emissions resulted in reduced overall energy usage. Examples of other challenges that appear to require simultaneous solutions include:
How is Success Determined?
If emissions can be reduced effectively, it will take 10-30 years for this to have any detectable climatic effect and 100-300 years to get the full effect .
If in 5 years, global temperature changes end the correlation with greenhouse gases levels that they have exhibited for the past few decades (eg because other factors have become more significant), will programs to reduce carbon emissions be no longer needed?
In part the uncertainty of the climatic change equation is due to the fact that those who fear the economic consequences of popular solutions or have private interests that are threatened are challenging the consensus view developed though IPCC machinery.
However, the IPCC's consensus view was shaky anyway - and some are ignoring this in claiming to have identified easy solutions.
The present writer, who had taken as self-evident for years that CO2 emissions were likely to drive global warming, now suspects that overly simplistic claims may be being made to satisfy demands for an 'answer' (any answer) so that political leaders can be seen to be doing something to allay public fears about climate change.
In particular, the IPCC seems institutionally susceptible to bias, and may not have examined the climate change issue squarely because of its narrow terms of reference. It was initially set up to evaluate only the effect of man-made emissions, and focused upon short term (ie about 50 year) correlations to make projections and appeared to pay insufficient attention to the earth's long term climatic history. Moreover it did not appear to seriously evaluate alternative possible explanations of recent events, which is inconsistent with the traditional methods of scientific research.
The Stern Review in the UK seems to have been even more professionally unreliable than the IPCC.
Moreover responses from those with a commitment to reducing GHG emissions can be hostile when attention is drawn to uncertainties in the climate science 'consensus'. It might be suggested, for example, that highlighting uncertainties must be based on:
Furthermore it seems that some advocates see reducing GHD emissions as a kind of religious duty for the future of humanity and the earth, so that even though the science might be uncertain a 'precautionary principle' (which is privately-held but seldom mentioned in public debate) requires action because, if the 'science' is correct, the cost of inaction could be devastating. They seem unconcerned by the possibility that if the 'science' is wrong, the cost of acting could also be devastating.
One advocate suggested the possible need (in Australia) to suspend the democratic process in order to achieve reductions in GHG emissions that he believed appropriate .
Whether or not the 'science' (which science?) is correct, highly emotional adherence to a preferred solution is not likely to be helpful.
The present writer has had previous experience where a political consensus developed behind an agenda which had been incubating for decades (see Towards Good Government in Queensland). Beset with a fundamentalist zeal, 'reformers' surrounded themselves with cronies and 'yes men'; punished anyone suggesting alternative viewpoints; and treated their long held ideology as 'the solution' to current problems though their view of the situation was out-of-date and biased. Because politicisation of the Public Service prevented any 'reality check' on the populist proposals, the consequences were disastrous (see Queensland's Worst Government).
Attention to alternative possibilities related to climate change is potentially at risk of being stifled and ignored by political populism, and this could be just as damaging as the overly simplistic assumptions that the US administration apparently made about what was required to create a politically and economically successful Iraq as a model for the Middle East.
It will do no one any good to put in a huge amount of effort to 'solve' the climate change problem if that effort does not actually address the real current cause of the problem (eg if carbon emissions are not the only significant factor in climate change) of if reducing carbon emissions (a) is not as trivial as enthusiasts assume or (b) makes it difficult to find solutions to other possibly equally important challenges.
As Mark Twain suggested:
The IPCC's 'consensus' now seems to be being challenged by a diversity of scientists and other professionals who are outraged that the scientific debate has been pre-empted and politically declared settled after hearing only one side of the debate. A significant revision of that consensus seems possible in 2-3 years time, though those whose beliefs have become a quasi 'religion' might take much longer to accept this.
The science of climate change has been mismanaged. The IPCC was created to investigate anthropogenic climate change - and is dominated by persons interested in that theory. Since it appeared (in the early 1990s) that climate change might be occurring, IPCC's emphasis has been on proving that its theory is a possible explanation rather than evaluating all possible hypotheses. The IPCC's approach has been most 'unscientific'.
The basic precaution of properly funding the examination of alternatives is now 15 years over-due and arguably an urgent priority. The IPCC estimates a 10% probability that global warming is not due to human GHG emissions. However as Garnaut's review is showing, if the consensus 'science' is incorrect, the cost of acting on it could be devastating.
Finally, even if it were to be shown that climate change can't be influenced very much by reducing CO2 emissions, there might still be a case for expediting a shift to more renewable energy sources (eg to reduce dependence on oil from the politically unstable Middle East).
Moreover, given the irresolvable uncertainties of human attempts to understand the true complexity of any environmental system, a general orientation towards minimizing the human 'footprint' in the environment (and thus unpredictable consequences of human action) may make more sense than initiatives focussed on the assumption that CO2 emissions are virtually all that matters.
|Addendum A : Stern Review Critique||
Brief Outline of 'The Stern Review: A Dual Critique: Part
1 - The Science'
The Stern Review outlined climate science and analysed the impacts of climate change. Its credibility rests the accuracy of the science. It concluded that: the scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is a serious global risk, and demands an urgent response.
But the evidence for dangerous change is far from overwhelming, and the Review's picture of the debate is neither accurate nor objective. It understates the uncertainty about the evolution of poorly understood complex systems. Its treatment of sources and evidence is selective and biased. This makes the Review a vehicle for alarmism. The assumption that peer review guarantees quality and objectivity is false - as climate science peer review is inbred and insufficiently thorough.
1. Flaws in the Alarmist Paradigm:
The alarmist view of climate science
Stern stated in OXONIA lecture of January 2006: “in August or July of last year, [he] had an idea what the greenhouse effect was but wasn’t really sure”. After this he quickly adopted the views of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research - which are in line with IPCC, but not universally held.
Many Review claims have been challenged in the literature. It presumed that:
The Review fails to take account of the uncertainties and gaps in knowledge of climate science, and ignores continuing debates about climate change mechanisms and impacts. Like its sources, it relies on model projections rather than established data. By exaggerating climate alarm it fails to provide a sound basis for policy.
Mishandling of uncertainty
The Review cautions about modelling, yet fails to heed its own warning.
Many unqualified Review statements attribute causality or state what “will” happen to climate or the biosphere - on the basis of computer models. The IPCC by contrast warned that in dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, long-term prediction is impossible - and talks of a ‘cascade of uncertainty’ which extends to biophysical and socioeconomic impacts.
The Review tries to deal with these uncertainties by comparing thousands of model runs under varying assumptions - but ignores the possibility that CO2 emissions may have minor or benign effects. The Review draws on the upper end of risk distributions and presents these as representing the range of credible outcomes.
Climate prediction: is it a mature or a new science?
The Review assumes incorrectly that climate prediction is a mature science. It is a new area emerging from weather forecasting, aided by more computer power.
The IPCC, by contrast:
Since then, major scientific papers have claimed, that:
These are ignored in current climate models except that aerosols are used, without justification, to reduce otherwise excessive greenhouse warming forecasts.
Also, as late 20th century temperature changes were only a few tenths of a degree, model simulations of external forcings may not be needed as an explanation. Such minor changes may be natural (eg due to variability are oceans that are never in equilibrium because of exchanges between the abyssal heat reservoir and the thermocline), together with changing atmospheric circulation that deposits heat in regions with differing infrared opacity. Models may never be able to deal with this.
Exaggerating warming trends
OXONIA Technical Annex, said that “The rate and scale of 20th century warming has been unprecedented for at least the past 1,000 years.”
But there is only 50 years of accurate global measurements of temperature and GHG. The only global records of measured temperature come from weather balloons (since 1958) and satellites (since 1978). These indicate a gentle warming trend of 0.1–0.2 degrees C/decade (at the low end of the trends the Review considers). Also much of the increase in balloon data occurred in 1976–77. Since 1979, satellite data show little change, especially in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere.
Variations can be due to volcanic eruptions and El Nino events, and are not alarming anyway. Nor is there any sign of acceleration.
The rates of modern temperature change are within the rates of minor warmings and coolings inferred for the Holocene (eg in ice cores).
Using the ‘global average temperature’ statistic since 1860 suggests that late twentieth-century warming is similar to (natural) warming between 1905 and 1940.
Comparisons over longer and more climatically relevant time spans (using data from ocean seabed and polar ice cap drill cores) suggests that late 20th-century warming represents a high on a sinusoidal, millennial temperature pattern of possible solar origin. Recent warming was at a similar rate, but of lesser magnitude, that the Mediaeval, Roman and Minoan warm periods.
The Review’s claim that “An overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates that the Earth’s climate is rapidly changing, mainly as a result of increases in GHG caused by human activities” is without foundation.
Reinventing climate history
Public and governmental concerns over anthropogenic global warming soared with the media use of a graph from the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report of 2001, which showed nine centuries of near constant temperatures followed by a dramatic rise in the 20th century correlating with the rise in CO2 concentrations.
The Mediaeval Warm Period (MWP), previously believed much warmer than now, and the colder Little Ice Age (LIA) did not appear on this graph, which was dubbed the ‘hockey stick’ and became the basis of claims that natural climatic variation had been very small for a thousand years.
Other temperature reconstructions are said to support the ‘hockey stick’, but they may be questionable.
Many doubt the ‘hockey stick’ as LIA and the MWP are well documented - and suggest that natural factors have a far more significant role in climate changes than the ‘hockey stick’ suggested. They put in question claims that recent warmth can only be explained by human-induced increases in GHG.
Despite implying that the debate on the science of climate change is now settled, the Review had to admit that major doubts exist over the ‘hockey stick’.
Recent reports confirm that the hockey-stick shape is invalid.
The Review now says “Climate change arguments do not rest on ‘proving’ that the warming trend is unprecedented over the past Millennium". It also claims that “Much of the debate over the attribution of climate change has now been settled as new evidence has emerged to reconcile outstanding issues.” - without saying what the “new evidence” is.
Earlier Stern Review documents cited the ‘hockey stick’ as valid, though the Review now treats it as irrelevant.
But climate models are tuned to the low estimate of natural climate variability put forward by the IPCC in 2001. If the world was much warmer in mediaeval times, the models could not replicate this without giving more weight to natural variability and their ability to identify anthropogenic forcing would be decreased.
Attribution studies: circular reasoning
The Review’s confidence that greenhouse gases are likely to give rise to major, deleterious climate change is largely based on a single Hadley Centre paper prominently used in the IPCC Third Assessment Report.
However to simulate observed trends, the Hadley Centre had to eliminate about two-thirds of the anthropogenic greenhouse forcing with countervailing aerosols (the net result being referred to as anthropogenic forcing) -ie the model exaggerates the actual warming.
Also as aerosol forcing is poorly known, it was felt that calculating how much aerosol forcing is needed to cancel greenhouse forcing is as good a way of estimating the aerosol forcing as any.
The IPCC’s claim that the model had simulated observations is circular. In actuality, even the sign of aerosol forcing is unknown.
In a more rational and less politicized environment, it would be considered that the models are exaggerating the response to anthropogenic greenhouse forcing.
This circular reasoning undermines claims that models prove warming could only be caused by forcings. Advocates of the idea that the response of the real climate to radiative forcing is adequately represented in climate models must prove that they have not overlooked a single nonlinear, possibly chaotic natural feedback mechanism - an impossible task.
The IPCC cautioned in relation to the Hadley study that it showed that the forcings included are sufficient to explain observed changes, but do not prove that other forcings were not also involved.
The Review disregards these warnings and asserts that “more than a decade of research and discussion… has reached the conclusion there is no other plausible explanation for the observed warming for at least the past 50 years”.
The Review does not mention other plausible explanations that have been advanced in professional literature, eg:
Carbon dioxide in perspective
It is important to distinguish CO2 emissions, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and climate forcing (which is all that is relevant to potential warming).
Emission reductions proposed by the Kyoto Protocol would have only a minuscule effect on atmospheric concentrations, while increments in these concentrations would have a diminishing impact on climate forcing.
A doubling of CO2 represents a forcing of about 3.7 Watts per square meter. Since anthropogenic greenhouse forcing is already estimated at about 2.7 Watts per square meter (50+% due to CO2, and half of the rest to methane) then we are already about three quarters of the way to an effective doubling of CO2, yet we have experienced less warming than such forcing would suggest.
The Review assumes that future CO2 increase will have much greater effects than in the past.
Changes in CO2 concentration don't correlate well with the 0.6 degree C increase in ‘global average temperature’ in 20th century. Temperatures increased between 1905 and 1940 before any greatly increased industrial emissions of CO2. The rapid post-1940 increase in CO2 emissions was accompanied by a falling temperature between 1945 and 1965. The hockey-stick curve conceals these problems.
Even the direction of causality is uncertain. Ice core data indicate that, in ancient climate changes, increases in temperature preceded increases in CO2 by hundreds of years.
It is estimated that a doubling of CO2 would, other factors kept constant, result in a global mean warming of about 1 degree C. But alarming predictions all require that water vapour and clouds act to amplify the impact of CO2, though water vapour and especially clouds are poorly modelled, while the underlying physics for determining their behaviour is missing or even unknown. The governing equations of fluid dynamics (Navier-Stokes) have resisted solution for 100 years.
The Review’s only substantive remarks on water vapour feedback are irrelevant. These relate to Lindzen’s 1990 suggestion for a mechanism whereby a warmer surface might lead to a drier tropopause region, even though it has long been shown that changes in water vapour at these levels would have marginal impact on climate.
For some time now it has been recognized that the real feedback in the atmosphere likely consists in simply changing the relative areas of moist / cloudy and dry / clear regions. Recent work supports the existence of such a mechanism, the strength of such a mechanism, and the failure of current models to replicate. The process (sometimes referred to as the Iris Effect) would reduce sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 to less than 0.5 degrees C
2. Overstating Climate Impacts
The Review’s treatment of impacts is alarmist because of two systematic biases.
In scenarios analysis only fossil fuel intensive options were considered in high-growth scenarios - used as the base scenario. It forecast 15bn global population in 2100 - which has a very low probability (and is 50% over UN's medium population scenario). This inflates emissions and the numbers at risk for each of the climate-sensitive hazards, and hence the consequences and costs of dealing with them.
A second bias in consideration of climate impacts is reliance on papers that assume either that human beings will do nothing to combat adverse impacts of climate change, or will only use existing technology. IPCC’s scenarios, by contrast, take account of advancing technologies.
The Review’s consideration of various climate impacts is biased towards damaging or disastrous outcomes, eg in terms of
3. Professional Standards
The scandal of non-disclosure and poor archiving
Given the global impact of the ‘hockey stick’, governments should be insisting on strict professional standards of archiving and disclosure, but most do not. Poor disclosure, verification, and media reporting in climate predictions are common.
Data volume makes verification impossible without help of original workers. The 1998 Mann et al. ‘hockey stick’ paper was questioned, but so poor was the archiving of its data and computer programmes that it took 8 years to show its defects.
By refusing to release data / programmes, researchers prevent checks and argue that their thesis has not been falsified. Some publicly-funded climate scientists maintain self-regulation solely by peer review (with British Government and IPCC support).
The global temperature series used by IPCC is basic data equivalent to CPI but is not produced by a statistical agency working under transparent protocols. It is produced by Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (closely affiliated with the Hadley Centre), which refuses to allow external study of how they produce this data. This is astonishing as scepticism and efforts to falsify hypotheses are fundamental elements of science.
Similarly Mann had refused to help researchers trying to replicate his ‘hockey stick’ diagram - as it was considered private intellectual property.
Public policy should not be based on private and unverified intellectual property.
Inadequacies of peer review
Policymakers rely too much on peer review which only ensures quality in journal papers appearing, not that their hypotheses are correct.
Bias in science is seldom intentional, but is more likely when consensus is sought.
A prominent observer argued that exaggerated claims pass internal quality checks easily, but reasoned and accurate claims find an unwelcome audience - because the former are seen to lead to 'good' policy and career success.
Papers are now published in prestigious journals on global warming with almost no checking yet valid criticisms of the Mann et al. paper were rebuffed by many journals (based on peer review).
The UK government continued to defend ‘hockey stick’ work because it had been peer reviewed - which simply missed the point.
The IPCC's peer review process is also unsafe, eg dissenting panellists have withdrawn leaving a very narrow group.
The Stern Review is biased and alarmist. It:
The Review relied on a few people and organizations with a history of alarmism. Most research cited does not make a good case for the Review's conclusion. Contrary research and facts are consistently ignored.
Annex - Mishandling of Basic Observational Data:
The Review’s presentation of data on the key parameters of the greenhouse equation - emissions, concentrations, and forcing - are inconsistent and unreliable. It puts the worst possible face on emission trends. In particular:
All data errors follow a consistent patter - total change to date (substantial, but harmless) is minimised, but future changes (said to have dire consequences) are exaggerated.
|Garnaut Climate Change Review: The Need for a Broader Approach||
Garnaut Climate Change Review: The Need for a Broader Approach (Email sent 1/6/11)
Garnaut Climate Change Review
Re: Update 2001
From a quick perusal of the Introduction to this update, I should like to draw the review team’s attention to three matters which seem to require additional attention.
First, as I understand it, the IPCC argues that CO2 emissions account for only about half of the effect of the greenhouse gases whose increasing levels have raised concern about global warming. However, while there is a brief mention of other significant greenhouse gases in Chapter 1, there seems to be no serious discussion of anything apart from reducing carbon emissions in the report.
Second, the report endorses pricing carbon emissions as a basis for inhibiting climate change and presents an economic analysis of the costs of doing this and of appropriately compensating different segments of the community. However, the global ‘peak oil’ event seems to be increasingly regarded as imminent (see General Notes on Peak Oil), and likely to result in a substantial increase in some energy costs (and thus have similar effects to pricing carbon emissions). Moreover it could be economically disruptive in ways that could impact on greenhouse gas emissions (eg by triggering changes in international trade and travel, as well as in regional transport and urban systems). Overall there seems to have been a grossly inadequate effort by Australia to analyse and prepare for the ‘peak oil’ event. In particular it seems that the Climate Change Review’s apparent failure to mention the inter-relationship with pricing carbon emissions is a serious limitation.
Third, the review update starts (in Chapter 1) by asserting that the mainstream view of climate science is increasingly regarded as reliable. However, this is hardly surprising as there does not yet seem to have been any serious resourcing of attempts to falsify the mainstream anthropogenic greenhouse gas theories of climate change by those who believe that the mainstream view might be overly simplistic (see Finding the Truth on Climate Change). Until this necessary stage of the scientific process is actually undertaken, the confidence that the review update expressed in mainstream climate science may be unjustified.
|Overcoming Climate Change Paralysis||
Overcoming Climate Change Paralysis - email sent 23/4/15
Mark Triffitt and Travers McLeod,
Re: Hidden crisis of liberal democracy creates climate change paralysis, The Conversation, 22/4/15
Your article points to the undeniable fact that liberal democracy has difficulties dealing with challenges as complex as climate change. Some suggestions about this difficulty (which were developed in 2003 without any reference to climate change issues ) are in Challenges to Democratic Institutions (in Australia's Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building). The latter included suggestions added in 2010 (see A Nation Building Agenda) that those constraints might be reduced by developing stronger institutions – and doing so parallels, though would be by no means identical to, the solutions suggested in your article.
However, in relation to climate change, it seems likely that reforms in the area of climate science are also required to expedite progress. Encouraging (long overdue) scientific attempts to falsify mainstream climate science should show either: (a) that the many non-mainstream speculations that divert public attention are wrong; or (b) that mainstream climate science is overly simplistic (eg as suggested in Finding the Truth on Climate Change, 2007). In either case, public confusion about the issue should be reduced, and rational action through liberal democracies should be expedited.
I would be interested in your response to my speculations
|Malcolm Turnbull's Opportunity to End the Climate Change 'Culture War': Commission a Serious Review of Believer's Climate Science||
Malcolm Turnbull's Opportunity to End the Climate Change 'Culture War': Commission a Serious Review of Believer's Climate Science - email sent 28/10/15
Re: Malcolm Turnbull Builds New Climate Coalition, The Australian, 28/10/15
Your article suggested that the Prime Minister (whom you described as a ‘climate change believer’) has a strategy to end the ‘culture war’ over climate change. However, while it may be politically convenient to believe that climate science is well established and thus beyond debate, this does not seem to be so scientifically. Thus the best way to bring an end to the current stalemate (and thus reliance on quasi-religious ‘belief’ as the basis for determining a policy response) would undoubtedly be for Mr Turnbull to commission a serious effort to falsify mainstream climate science’s claims that climate change is mainly driven by human CO2 emissions.
There are reasonable (though not certain) grounds for doubting that the key to dealing with global warming is to reduce CO2 emissions (see Climate Change; 'No time to lose' in doing exactly what? 2006). This referred to a very large number of often-still-unresolved concerns about the validity of ‘believing’ that CO2 emissions are the main driver of climate change. For example, CO2 accounts for only about half of humanities’ greenhouse gas emissions; there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that atmospheric CO2 levels are a consequence, rather than the primary cause, of climate change; defects are seen to exist in the IPCC’s climate models that explain why those models did not predict the pause in global warming that has been observed over the past 18 years; and non-anthropogenic factors have been more than sufficient to drive massive climate change in the earth’s fairly recent history - and some reputable scientists argue that their influence continues to dominate.
Rather than merely debating the best way to reduce CO2 emissions on the basis of quasi-religious ‘belief’ that this is the key to dealing with climate change, it has long been desirable to continue the process that is vital to truly validate scientific conclusions (ie attempt to falsify those conclusions). How this might be achieved was suggested in Finding the Truth on Climate Change (2007). Doing so could take the ideology out of climate change debates – by resolving the dispute between climate change ‘believers’ and skeptics one way or the other.
Doing so could well be critical to Australia’s future economic prospects because of the economy’s current significant level of dependence on coal / natural gas exports. It has recently and reasonably been suggested that the “UN’s COP21 climate summit in Paris in December is likely to be a landmark event that starts to shut the door on parts of the fossil fuel industry” and that this might have legal ramifications by enabling those who suffer damage as a result of climate change to bring claims for compensation (Evans Prichard E., Fossil fuel companies risk plague of 'asbestos' lawsuits as tide turns on climate change, The Telegraph, 27/10/15). In an environment in which claims for compensation for the effect of climate change were proceeding, it would be critical to have the clearest possible understanding of whether or not it really is reasonable to ‘believe’ that human CO2 emissions are the primary driver of climate change.
Significant Climate Science Issues Remain Unresolved
Significant Climate Science Issues Remain Unresolved - email sent 18/12/15
Professor John Quiggin,
Re: Climate claims a victory in the culture wars. Inside Story, 17/12/15
Might I respectfully suggest that it is nonsense to claim that attempts to resolve issues related to climate science are in some sense a ‘culture war’. Uncertainties about the presumption that there is a simple / predictable link between CO2 emissions and climate change remain very real and significant (eg see Finding the Truth on Climate Change, 2007+ and The Science is Uncertain 2006+).
At the recent Paris conference, the world’s political leaders all decided to ignore the uncertainties about climate science – and commit to doing what would need to be done if mainstream theories are correct. However, as numerous commentators have pointed out, the reality of what resulted seems to be much less than the politicians suggested would be needed if mainstream climate science is actually correct. For example:
The uncertainty that remains about what is actually needed can only be resolved by taking seriously the concerns of the increasingly numerous and prominent scientists who are pointing out that there are problems with the theories that were taken as gospel in Paris. Those uncertainties can’t be resolved, as your article claimed, by asserting that the issue simply comes down to a ‘culture war’. Australia still has the potential to make a major global difference by initiating action to resolve those scientific uncertainties (eg as suggested in Malcolm Turnbull's Opportunity to End the Climate Change 'Culture War': Commission a Serious Review of Believer's Climate Science).
|CO2: A Forcing or a Feedback||
CO2: A Forcing or a Feedback - email sent 26/3/16
Katrin Meissner and Katlin Alexander
Re: Mass extinctions and climate change: why the speed of rising greenhouse gases matters, The Conversation, 24/3/16
I was very interested in your account of what is now being learnt about changes in climate / CO2 levels (and the consequences for life on earth) over the past several tens of millions of years.
However it seems to me that attention should have been paid to the question of whether CO2 is the key forcing or to some extent a feedback in those processes. As you will be well aware water vapour has the greatest greenhouse effect but is ignored in analysing climate change because it is recognised to be largely a ‘feedback’ from other factors that are taken to be the relevant ‘forcings’.
The reason that it seems to me to appropriate to consider whether CO2 should be regarded as a forcing or a feedback is outlined in Finding the Truth on Climate Change (2007). This includes reference to: (a) an article that James Hanson (then NASA’s top climate scientist) sent me in which he suggested that CO2 should be regarded as a feedback over geological time scales; and (b) the conclusions by other climate researches that CO2 levels seem to peak after temperatures peak - which again suggests a feedback rather than a forcing role for CO2 under some circumstances.
Your article made several references to feedback effects, but did not consider the extent that this might apply to CO2.
I would be interested in your response to my speculations
|Avoiding Scientific Scepticism: The Main Tactic of the Prevailing Climate Consensus||
Avoiding Scientific Scepticism: The Main Tactic of the Prevailing Climate Consensus - email sent 11/8/16
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky
RE: The Galileo gambit and other stories: the three main tactics of climate denial, The Conversation, 11/8/16
Your article pointed out that Senator Malcolm Roberts' scepticism about the prevailing climate consensus was based on: (a) a case in which an outsider (Galileo) upset the scientific consensus of his day; (b) a perceived conspiracy; and (c) what he perceived as a lack of empirical evidence. You also argued that such claims were: (a) paranoid; (b) conspiratorial ramblings; (c) denying facts that are supported by the overwhelming body of evidence; (d) pseudoscience and science denial; (e) quackery; (f) couched in sciency-sounding terms; (g) contrary to thousands of peer review scientific articles; and (h) and contrarian talking points that were judged to be misleading and fraudulent by expert statisticians and data analysts.
Encouraging efforts to falsify scientific theories is foundational to scientific progress. Doing so will either reinforce a current theory or require that it be abandoned.
There are uncertainties about the prevailing climate consensus which require determined efforts to falsify it (see Finding the Truth on Climate Change, 2007). None of the data related to climate change establishes a definite causal relationship between human CO2 emissions, increasing atmospheric CO2 levels and rising temperatures. Correlation is not always causality. And statisticians and data analysts can’t prove causality one way of the other. There were massive changes in the earth’s climate prior to widespread human use of fossil fuels. For example about 12-14,000 years ago something initiated an interglacial period in what is still (perhaps) the current ice age. The British Meteorological Office has suggested the ‘possibility’ of a little ‘ice age’ in Europe in the 2030s. And there are indications of reverse causality. For example NASA’s Dr James Hansen, a prominent advocate of the prevailing climate consensus, argues that over geological time scales rising temperatures have driven increases in atmospheric CO2 levels. And other respectable scientists argue that: (a) there is evidence of reverse causality over much shorter time scales; and (b) there are a large number of other drivers of climate change. Water vapour is ignored as a major factor in driving climate change even though it has the largest greenhouse effect – because it is a mere ‘feedback’ ie levels increased by the real ‘drivers’ of climate change. Perhaps, to some extent, analysts need to treat CO2 as a ‘feedback’ rather than a ‘forcing’.
Such possibilities need to be investigated by providing resources to those who have advanced alternative theories. Unfortunately scientific scepticism in relation to the prevailing climate consensus has been strongly discouraged by (for example) suggesting that: (a) the prevailing climate consensus is necessarily correct because a particular group (eg expert statisticians and data analysts) support it; and (b) that there is something wrong with anyone who suggests otherwise (eg by denigrating them as ‘denialists’). Those tactics are the defining characteristics of ‘political correctness’ which has become a major obstacle to progress in many areas of human endeavour (see The Church of Political Correctness Threatens National Progress).
|Climate History and the History of Climate Science||
Climate History and the History of Climate Science
In response to an email concerning a quite different matter, the present writer's attention was drawn to Professor Matthew England (UNSW) as a reliable source of information about both climate history and the history of climate science.
CPDS Reply - 18/2/16
I did not initially have a specific question – as I was mainly interest to hear XXXX's recommendation about you and to keep that in my mind for the future.
When XXXX mentioned your work I scanned the Internet for references to it. The first that I saw indicated your involvement in public debates about climate science. By way of background my position on this is that we need more than quasi-political debates that involve stating (but not resolving) competing views about climate science. I suspect that firming up the science by providing resources for a formal process to try to falsify mainstream theories (and thus to either strengthen, or to force changes in, them) has been needed since the 1990s when climate change was first recognised to be more than a future possibility.
However, as indicated in my email of 16/10/16 below, a question about sea levels did turn up a day or so later about which I would appreciate an opinion.
A marine scientist friend I discussed this with had quite a different view of this to the perceptions I have had from other sources. His argument was that the end-of-ice-age sea level rise must have been slow (ie taken about 20,000) years as otherwise the barrier reef would not have survived. He suggested that reef ecosystems can only exist on of existing reefs – and that while coral polyps can establish new coral clumps just establishing one in a new location could take 100 years – and thus that any rises in ocean levels must have been very slow. [My interpretation of what he argued could well be wrong – as coral and reef ecosystems are a mystery to me]. He also believed that the Biblical Great Flood accounts must have reflected local events in Europe rather than a global phenomenon.
The impression that I had previously had was that the rise must have been a lot faster and global. There are (so I understand) stories of a ‘great flood’ in folk histories worldwide that parallel the Biblical account. A rise of (say) 6mm pa over 20,000 years would not have caused anyone to get excited about a ‘great flood’. Also it is my understanding that when surface water penetrates to the base of ice sheets it can cause them to collapse relatively quickly. And the first images that were put out of subsurface areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef seems to show an ancient reef 120m down – but nothing to indicate intermediate reefs between that and the current reef. And, if coal polyps can establish new coral clumps that could eventually provide the basis for a reef and reef ecosystem after say 1-2,000 years, would there be any real need for it to be near the old reef? Also I read at one stage (but can’t now locate reference to) indications in coastal areas of NSW of 10-20 rises in sea levels earlier in the earth’s geological history that were believed to have only taken a decade or so. Needless to say it is a lot easier to get evidence about sea level rises that affected areas now above sea level than about those that are now submerged.
Your thoughts on this would be valued.
Needless to say if there is a possibility that climate change could induce very fast ocean level rises (eg several-metres-year rather than the prevailing few-mm-per-year assumptions) the whole climate change debate could gain a new public urgency and require a lot more resources to be devoted to understanding what is going on.
CPDS Reply - 18/10/16
Thanks for links which I will chase up.
However early in my career (in the early 1970s) I was asked to write a report on climate change for Queensland’s Coordinator General . The dominant view I found at that time seemed to involve expectations of the end of the inter-glacial era and the resurgence of a new ice age. I can’t recall finding any significant material then that talked about expected climate changes in the way that is now normal. The latter may have been suggested in the literature but it did not seem to be the established view.
CPDS Reply - 18/10/16
Fair enough. Leading scientists may well have held views on the GHG issue comparable with the current mainstream in the late 1970s. They would not have been the sources I was reviewing.
However there did not seem to me to be any public understanding that climate change due to GHGs might be a real risk (and thus that it might be necessary to ‘do something’ about it) until the late 1980s / early 1990s. I have found a similar gap between expert and public understanding in many fields – and that expert views are often being challenged by something else by the time they have become publically / politically accepted.
|Climate Science is Not Set in Concrete||
Climate Science is Not Set in Concrete - email sent 9/11/16
Avoiding Scientific Scepticism: The Main Tactic of the Prevailing Climate Consensus may be of interest re your article Senator Roberts beats the science out of CSIRO's climate findings, Brisbane Times, 7/11/16. There is a case for devoting resources to checking whether current mainstream views about climate change and its relationship with human CO2 emissions are as solid as your article presumed.
In relation to Senator Roberts' observations about warnings of ‘global freezing’ in the 1970s, recent comments on that thesis are outlined in Climate History and the History of Climate Science. The latter also points to constant changes in scientific views as prevailing theories are challenged by others and by new information. And what is publicly-accepted as ‘climate science’ runs some (say) 15-20 years behind leading scientific ideas. As in many others areas, presuming that that currently publicly / politically accepted ideas are the final word (which your article seems to do in relation to climate science without actually studying what leading edge scientists are suggesting) is unwise. Reputable scientists are still challenging scientists’ consensus and thus laying the basis for a new (and perhaps different) publicly / politically accepted view of climate science in 15-20 years.
Challenging Senator Roberts view that there is something wrong with publicly-accepted interpretations of climate science, requires doing more than claiming that his case is based on prawns, dolphins and fish fingers.
|Scientific Debate on Climate Change||
Scientific Debate on Climate Change - email sent 3/12/16
Re: Whose word should you respect in any debate on science?, The Conversation, 1/12/16
I have to submit that there are weaknesses in your article’s attempt to argue that anthropogenic global warning (AGW) theory can be accepted as ‘true’ because reputable scientific societies say that it is (ie that recent changes in the earth’s climate are more-or-less solely due to human emissions of various ‘greenhouse’ gases).
In logic, appeals to authority are invalid as a method of ‘proving’ a conclusion – no matter how august the authority. This does not mean that a consensus of scientists who have studied an issue is not well worth listening to – merely that this does this does not ‘prove’ that what they are saying is truth. Recognition of the limits to what can be known though science (eg in terms of the logical invalidity of induction) has long been a major focus of the philosophy of science. And there are other apparent limits to the scientific method which seem to be emerging. For example it has recently been plausibly suggested that up to half the contents of scientific literature may be untrue because of the difficulties that now exist in reaching reliable conclusions and an obsession with pursuing fashionable ideas.
The philosophy of science was expanded in the early 1960s by recognition of the phenomenon of ‘paradigm shifts’ ( ie replacing the core assumptions in a field of knowledge with other core assumptions). Paradigm shifts (eg the 17th century shift from 5th century Aristotelian natural philosophy to an emphasis on 'scientific' methods that your article referred to) may take a long time (eg not to occur until the significant advocates of an established paradigm die).
In considering climate change, there might now be a need for a ‘paradigm shift’ to take account of non-AGW factors as somewhat or very significant drivers of what has recently been happening to the earth’s climate - either counteracting or amplifying (and thus perhaps being mistakenly treated as) AGW effects. There is nothing new about climate change in the earth’s history – and until very recently AGW was clearly not involved in driving change. Scientific research in recent decades has focused on finding evidence of AGW since (say) the industrial revolution. This will not adequately identify the ongoing climate effects of non-AGW factors (see Finding the Truth on Climate Change). The indicators of the limits to mainstream climate change theories that the latter referred to do not ‘prove’ that AGW has not been the main recent influence on the earth’s climate. However they suggest that mainstream AGW theories might be overly simplistic. It has thus probably been necessary since the late 1990s to focus significant scientific resources on investigating non-AGW influences on the earth’s climate. This has not been done. Calling anyone who questions the absolute ‘truth’ of AGW theories names (eg ‘deniers’) does nothing to contribute to resolving such uncertainties.
There are indicators that there might be a need for significant paradigm shifts in other areas (eg economics) in which governments have been guided by established expert opinion – see Problems with a 'Post-truth' World. The latter also mentioned the possibility that a related paradigm shift in the philosophy of science might be needed (eg to recognise the limits of what can be learned through the scientific method). Science seeks to identify deterministic laws and using such laws to predict what will happen is always limited by an inability to take account of influences from outside whatever system is being studied – eg when evolution occurs).
I would be interested in your response to my speculations