The case(?) for climate change alarmism

by Judith Curry

“Rather than justifying a lack of response to climate change, the emphasis on uncertainty enlarges the risk and reinforces the responsibility for pursuing successful long-term mitigation policy,” according to a 2010 analysis by researchers at Sandia National Laboratory.

All things considered, alarmism seems like common sense to me.

William Pentland has an article at Forbes entitled “The case for climate-change alarmism.”  Some excerpts:

For better or worse, uncertainty pervades projections of global warming.  Historically, this uncertainty has eroded support for implementing climate-change policies, but that may soon change – and dramatically so.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but only if you haven’t heard of climate-change’s “fat tail.”   To put the significance of this fat tail in perspective, the “probability distribution representing the uncertainty in expected climate change implies that the risk of catastrophic outcome is more than forty thousand times more probable than that from an asteroid collision with the earth,” according to a recent report, “A Deeper Look at Climate Change and National Security,” by researchers at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

This has vast implications for how we manage the potential risks posed by climate change. Simply put, “the planetary welfare effect of climate changes . . . implies a non-negligible probability of worldwide catastrophe,” according toMartin Weitzman, a professor of economics at Harvard University and a pioneer of the so-called “Dismal Theorem.”

Climate change’s fat tail makes the likelihood of rare events more so. The distinguishing feature of a power law distribution is “not only that there are many small events but that the numerous tiny events coexist with a few very large ones,” according to Albert-Lászlí Barabási, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame and author of Linked: The New Science Of Networks

Carolyn Kousky, an economist at Resources for the Future, has explained that:

Traditional responses to the risk of extreme events are of limited value in mitigating risks of a mega-catastrophe. The underlying changes in the climatic system could not be reversed over any time scale relevant for decision-makers, limiting the efficacy of traditional recovery measures. Insurance markets will not function for these risks as they violate three key conditions of insurability: independent and identical losses, feasible premiums, and determinability of losses. Impacts could be difficult to smooth over time, even for governments.

Uncertainty is intrinsic to complex systems like Earth’s climate, but in the context of catastrophic climate change, this uncertainty is so severe that it is difficult to draw basic conclusions about how fat the fat tail is. According to Weitzman, it “is difficult to infer (or even to model accurately) the probabilities of events far outside the usual range of experience.”

Uncertainty, risk and (in)action

Last May, I did a post entitled Uncertainty, risk, and (in)action, where Weitzman’s paper was discussed.  I suggest that those of you that are unfamiliar with that paper read that thread before engaging in the discussion here.

Decision making under deep uncertainty

The state of our knowledge about future climate change is such that the degree of uncertainty and the level of ignorance precludes formulating a PDF of outcomes, or even putting bounds on the outcomes with a high confidence level.  Given this, expected utility approaches to decision making don’t make sense.

The issue of decision making under deep uncertainty was discussed in this post on Can we make good decisions under ignorance?  Robert Smithson enumerated six options for decision makers faced with deep uncertainty, with the precautionary principle being one of the options.

Weitzman, Friedman and Pentland seem to assume that the best solution lies within the framework of the precautionary principle.  Apart from whether or not the precautionary principle is the best option here,  at the heart of this debate is the weak vs strong precautionary principle.

While there are many definitions and nuances to the precautionary principle, of particular relevance here is the concept of ‘strong’ versus ‘weak’ precaution (e.g. Gardiner 2006): under weak precaution, the burden of proof for justifying the need for action falls on those advocating precautionary action, whereas under strong precaution the burden of proof is on those who argue that the activity does not cause significant harm.  That is, under the weak precautionary principle, uncertainty does NOT make the case stronger for action, whereby the under the strong precautionary principle, uncertainty arguably strengthens the case for action.

So a preference for weak versus strong precautionary principle is related to a tolerance for risk.  In the previous threads, it was pointed out that people are loss avoiders, not risk avoiders.  If this is true, the strong precautionary principle is a hard sell as the preferred option for decision making under deep uncertainty.

JC summary:  It seems that the case for climate change alarmism rests on the following dubious and arguable premises:

1.  It is appropriate to represent future climate change outcomes as a PDF or a power law.  (JC’s opinion:  it is appropriate to represent future climate change outcomes as possible scenarios, and that emphasis is needed on imagining scenarios on both tails, including possible dragon kings.)

2.  Avoidance of future risk should drive the decision making process (JC opinion:  loss avoidance is more important than risk avoidance).

3.  The precautionary principle is the preferred option for decision making (JC opinion: the other options for decision making under deep uncertainty need to be considered and frankly make more sense to me.)

In closing, I  here is a statement from my testimony last year:

Based upon the background knowledge that we have, the threat does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century, even in its most alarming incarnation. It is now up to the political process (international, national, and local) to decide how to contend with the climate problem.  It seems more important that robust responses be formulated than to respond urgently with a policy that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.

Note:  Michael Tobis has an article on this at his new blog, Planet 3.0.  Check out the post, it has a very funny cartoon on “Easter Bunny Island”

509 responses to “The case(?) for climate change alarmism

  1. High uncertainty presumably means it could get castrophically cooler as well as warmer. How do we deal with both at the same time?

    • See the post on can we make good decisions under ignorance? referenced in the main post.

      • I read it and didn’t see the issue addressed. I didn’t read all of the comments. Maybe you wouldn’t mind directly quoting the part you see as relevant?

      • Emotionally we differ little from the natives who sacrificed their own cattle and relatives to the Great Volcano God!

        From my visit to the USSR in 1980 to present the plenary lecture at the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow and travel around the country two weeks, I concluded that Big Brother has an especially strong aversion to:

        a.) Citizens reading George Orwell’s book, “1984.”
        b.) Scientists acknowledging a power greater than Big Brother.
        c.) Anyone believing there is a power greater than Big Brother.

        In view of other evidence that bullying Big Brother is taking control of our government, I have even started wondering if the stories about HAARP’s influence on weather might be mostly bluff, i.e., an effort to convince citizens that Big Brother can control weather?

      • dan, thanks for spotting this. I’ve updated the link

      • From the abstract of that report:

        Thoughtful action is required now if we are to acquire the capabilities, tools, systems, and institutions needed to meet U.S. national security requirements as they evolve with the emerging stresses and shifts of climate change.

        Seems to me that there is a relevant distinction there. If the report argues for the acquisition of capabilities, tools, systems, and institutions that could help meet the potential for problems brought on by climate change, it is not necessarily arguing for the adoption of specific adaptations or mitigation strategies. Developing the capacity to implement policies if the uncertainty of the science is reduced is distinctly different than advocating immediate action irrespective of uncertainties.

        Seems to me like the biggest risk is represented by allowing existing uncertainties to prevent us from even developing the capacity to implement policies should uncertainty be reduced.

      • Thanks, Dan, that is a very important document.

        It shows why the US Government is, and should be, concerned about climate change.

        It does not explain why we received misinformation about Earth’s heat source – the Sun for the past 40 years, 1971-2011 [1]:

        1. Roadblocks to scientific progress (1971-2011):

        http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

      • I was looking for a decision making reference – which is somewhere in my attic- from a session I had a Stanford a few years back. I still haven’t found it, but I did come across this paper that you might find of interest-
        “A Multi-Criteria Decision Making Based Method for Ranking Sequential Patterns”
        Zeinab Dashti, Mir Mohsen Pedram, Jamshid Shanbehzadeh-

        http://www.iaeng.org/publication/IMECS2010/IMECS2010_pp611-614.pdf

        Abstract— Sequences are one of the most important types of
        data. Recently, mining and analysis of sequence data has been
        studied in several fields. Sequence database mining and change
        mining is an example of data mining to study temporal data.
        Specific changes might be important to decision maker in
        different time periods to schedule future activities. Working
        with long sequences requires useful method. This paper
        presents a study on similarity measure and ranking sequence
        data. We employed sequence distance function based on
        structural features to measure the similarity, and a
        multi-criteria decision making techniques to rank them.

  2. Invoking the precautionary principle to prevent future risks is akin to invoking international friendliness to prevent future wars: not even naive.

  3. Latimer Alder

    Remind me where I can read a cost-benefit analysis of a 1.5C warmer world?

    On the plus side.

    Better crop growth..longer growing season –> more grub
    Fewer deaths from hypothermia, winter-realted accidents etc
    Less need for winter heating in populated NH/Canada

    On the minus side:

    Sea level a foot higher –> Need to add two extra bricks to sea walls
    Ski resort investment potential reduced.

    Seems a no-brainer to me. Warmer is, on balance, better.

    Is there any evidence for this analysis? Historical records seem to show that warmer times are more prosperous than cooler. And very few have made a propserous living in cooler areas eg Siberia.

    I see no case whatsoever for drastic climate alarmist measures. By reducing potential warming they may be doing a great disservice to our descendants..Double whammy – b…r up our lives…and those of the kids and grandkids too.

    • Latimer,

      On a curved scale like our planet, Any mm change can be vastly huge in volume of water. Up or down, land is not straight cliffs all around the planet.
      The curvature of the atmosphere also has vastly different volume of air/mm.
      Laboratories do linear measurements which fail to realize the difference.

      • Latimer Alder

        And the relationship between your point and the topic under discussion is what?

        Perhaps you could give us a practical worked example to help us understand?

      • Slopes by angle can expose more or less volume of water to evaporation or flooding depending on degree of the slope to the height of water being displaced. A puddle of water will evaporate faster in volume and time than the same volume in a glass depending on the exposure face length. So, a mm of water in a narrow test tube would take a longer time to evaporate than a mm spilled on a table.
        Now curves and volumes in a circular parameter have a vast amount of complexities as well as they also include added weight over each mm compared with the different volumes per mm being unique and different in both volume and collapsibility at different depths.
        If it is the atmosphere or water, they have the same characteristics but on a different scale of density.

      • Latimer Alder

        Joes

        Please stop writing psuedo-scientifc bollocks. Like Hunter suggests ..help is available. But we are not your therapists.

      • Correction, not the same characteristics, but similar characteristics.

      • Latimer,
        If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask.
        Your certainly wasting my time.

      • Apparently what Latimer fears is if the world is a huge nostrile hovering over a body of water, if the water level rises just a millimeter, cranial lengthening will be required or the world will drown whereas you Joe are simply suggesting the world might just turn easily turn its head a little to the right for plenty of fresh air.

      • Latimer Alder

        @wagathon

        Latimer is pleased to reassure you that has no such fear.

        But I do observe that Joe seems to have missed all the basic science in elementary school and now (in adulthood ??) regularly ‘rediscovers’ simple stuff then lectures us in how we are ignoring it.

      • Latimer Alder says:

        But I do observe that Joe seems to have missed all the basic science in elementary school and now (in adulthood ??) regularly ‘rediscovers’ simple stuff then lectures us in how we are ignoring it.

        Funny, but what Lalonde says is no more ridiculous than the mess most of the skeptics commenting here make out of purely statistical phenomena. Cherry pick one high data point: ergo, all cooling after that! Why don’t you go after that?

        Latimer Alder, face it, Joe is your typical skeptic, and you should have ignored him. Now it is even more clear that you don’t want to follow the science. In regard to the deceptive numerology, when you wrote the following, you reduced the IQ of everyone reading this blog:

        And that all the molecules that aren’t CO2 were 9,997 in the first case and 9,995 in the second. No argument involved…a simple illustration of some basic molecular facts. Designed to give some perspective on these numbers. Even at 1000 ppm, 99.9% of the atmosphere will not be CO2.

      • Latimer Alder

        No numerology involved. Let me take you through it step by step so that you understand.

        Carbon dioxide levels are measured in Parts per Million (ppm). A concentration of 1 ppm means that for every million molecules of gas, only one is carbon dioxide. The rest are something else (immaterial what)

        But humans have difficulty grasping a million. It is outside our normal experience. But 10,000 is just about within our grasp. It is the number of spectators at a typical Championship football match.
        On that scale, a CO2 concentration of 300 ppm is the same as having three spectators in the ground supporting Team Carbon Dioxide, and 9,997 who do not. Similarly a CO2 concentration of 500 ppm is equivalent to having five spectaroors cheering for good ole CO2 and 9,995 who don’t.

        That’s it. End. Just a way of rebasing the problem to a scael where we have soem ‘feeling’ for it. Maybe you can work happily with ppm as a measure but I don’t have a mental picture like that. But i do go to football and I can just about visualise 10,000.

        Dunno why this rebasing causes such excitement and disquiet.
        It is only a mathematical transformation that leaves the essential problem unchanged. But somehow some people feel threatened by it. Very strange………

      • Dunno why this rebasing causes such excitement and disquiet.
        It is only a mathematical transformation that leaves the essential problem unchanged. But somehow some people feel threatened by it. Very strange………

        It causes disquiet because you are quite manipulative in your argumentation style. Scores of physical phenomena rely on parts per thousand or parts per million effects, and when you put it in terms of a few spectators at a filled stadium, you are simply trying to trivialize the situation. Give me a break.

      • Latimer Alder

        @webbie

        So you have no argument with my maths or with the concept of relating the numbers to real life? I fail to see how that trivialises anything..it just makes the problem more understandable.

        If I were to explain to my old Mum or my grandkids what the whole AGW thing was about this analogy would be very useful in giving them a sort of intuitive grasp of the numbers.

        I’m sorry if you find my style ‘manipulative’. I prefer to describe it as robust and direct. Seems to me that I lay out my stall free and open and argue my point. It may be that you have better counter arguments. And I’m happy to debate them too…I do not run away like some drive-by commentators.

        But I cannot see how a simple rebasing of the problem ‘trivialises’ it. Just shines a light from everyday existence on what would otherwise be a pretty arcane and technical discussion IMO.

        But being a good scientist, I’m content to work in any units since it is the underlying physics that really matters, not the words we use to describe them. If you;d like to stay with ppm fine with me.

      • During the present Holocene man has already survived at least three periods of warming which by all indicators were warmer than present day trends. Also one has to consider as has already been pointed out that man does seem to do quite a bit better in warmer latitudes. I find it hard to be alarmed over any present day warming and I am a coastal dweller. My in laws family beach house and it’s dock looks pretty much as it did in the pictures taken in 1931 when it was originally built.

        Instead of attempting to throttle the economic growth of western civilization I believe efforts should be concentrated on developing more efficient energy sources such as exploiting our plentiful natural gas reserves. That way we would be prepared to deal with climate change be it a warming or a cooling phase.

      • Joe, the tides near me go up and down 15 feet. And if its stormy they can go up more. People can adapt to 1 or 2 mm a year … as they have done for thousands of years.

    • LA,

      What makes you think the rise in global temperatures is going to be limited to 1.5C?

      • Latimer Alder

        Experimental observations and Arrhenius’ equation

        Our friend tempterrain kindly pointed us to this plot which shows all the data you need to do the calculation using real observations.

        If you double CO2 you get a rise of about 1.5C. Doubling CO2 is going to take a while, so its a reasonable planning horizon to look out that far.

        Maybe in 50 years things will be different and it’ll be time to look again but for the moment there is no need for drastic atcion. And wasting limited resources on such things reduces our ability to solve real actual problems today. For all these good reasons it is a stupid idea to concentrate on this not very important phenomenon.

      • LA,

        It would be very convenient if climate sensitivity was that easy to calculate but if that were so I think the scientific community would have cottoned on by now. I’m not an expert but I think that you have to at least allow for other forcings other than CO2 which have been in play during the period in question and bear in mind the difference between transient and equilibrium sensitivity.

        Forster and Gregory did this and came up with an estimate of 1.3 to 2.3 for the transient climate response, so your figure is within that range and may be correct, but the figure for equilibrium sensitivity will be higher.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sure…and when they come up with some stuff that matches the observed numbers, then I’ll be happy to revise my estimate. Arrhenius’s work fits the nubers well and has some sensible basis in theory. It is not the last word, but until other methods do as well, I’m sticking with it.

        BTW – calculating equilibrium sensitivity may be the purist’s gaol, but since we will only ever be able to reach equlibrium long after every last carbon atom has been well and truly oxidised, then transient sensistivity is the only useful number for any practical and/or policy repsonse.

      • Latimer,

        I don’t have a problem with Arrhenius’s formula but your argument that it matches reality is rather circular because ISTM that you used it to calculate sensitivity based on observed changes in temperature and then used it to calculate the expected change in temperature based on that figure for sensitivity. Of course it is going to “work”.

      • I don’t have access to the Forster paper. Can you tell me how much of the warming during the time period they studied was attributed to warming to equilibrium from the earlier forcings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Or did they decide this effect was too small to matter as they decided with natural forcings?

      • Latimer Alder

        And your problem with the method is what exactly? Arrhenius reproduces observed temeperaures reasonably well, which gives confidence that it has some merit. Using the formula and the observations I calculate the only unknown – the constant alpha, and then use this to predict future temperatures at any value of CO2 concentration. Simple stuff…O level physics…measure, calculate, predict.

        Like I said I doubt if good old Svante really has the last word on the topic, but I’ve seen nothing else that is better and fits the observed data.

        If you know a better practical method of determining sensitivity than observation of the shape of the temperature vs CO2 curve over more than 50 years, please let me know. A worked example would help my understanding. And no – I am not frightened of sums even if they have lots of curly ds in them.

      • I am not sure all the details of what Arrhenius did for sensitivity.
        As the partial pressure of CO2 goes like
        c = c0 * exp(-E/kT)
        and the climate sensitivity is
        T = α * ln(c/c1)
        where c is the mean concentration of CO2, then it seems that one could estimate a quasi-equilibrium for the planet’s temperature. Even though they look nasty, these two equations actually solve to a quadratic equation, and one real non-negative value of T will drop out if the coefficients are reasonable.

        For CO2 in water, the activation energy is about 0.23 electron volts. We don’t know what C1 or C0 are and we are guessing what α is (between 1.5 and 4.5).

        When solving the quadratic the two exponential coefficients can be combined as
        ln(w)=ln(C0/C1)
        then the quasi-equilibrium temperature is approximated by
        T = α ln(w) – E/(k*ln(w))

        What the term “w” means is the ratio of CO2 in bulk to that which can effect sensitivity as a GHG.

        This may be an interesting way to look at the problem in the absence of CO2 forcing. Is this what Arrhenius did?

      • Didn’t Forster and Gregory later revise these figures upwards.?

      • Ted Middleton

        Andrew Adams

        What makes you think that global temps will increase by more than 1.5C

      • Ted,

        The known radiative properties of CO2 and the large amount of research into climate sensitivity give a very strong theoretical basis. The fact that global temps have already gone up by more than 0.5C since the mid 70s and we are still pumping increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere with no immreiate sign of stopping would seem to back that up.

      • The research was not properly scientific – it was all about confirmation, you know fooling yourself. The leap from the known radiative properties of CO2 to the atmospheric warming effect from increasing human CO2 emissions is giant.

      • Global temps have only just managed to stagger up by 0.5C in the last seventy years according to NOAA.

        http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/recenttc_triad.html

        Andrew – Do not overplay your hand…it makes you look superficial..and of all the contributors here you are rarely that..

      • TT,

        Sure, I didn’t take into account the flat temperatures in the middle of the century but I also didn’t include the early 20C warming.

      • Edim,

        The research was not properly scientific

        Evidence?

      • andrew adams,

        The research was heavily confirmation-oriented. Where are the falsification papers from the established science? I agree with Feynman that researchers must first of all avoid fooling themselves, be willing to question and doubt their own theories and their own results, and investigate possible flaws in a theory or an experiment. He recommended that researchers adopt an unusually high level of honesty which is rarely encountered in everyday life, and gives examples from advertising, politics, and behavioral psychology to illustrate the everyday dishonesty which should be unacceptable in science. Feynman cautions that “We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in Cargo Cult Science.”

        So where is the questionong, doubt and investigation of possible flaws in the theory? Not to mention the things we’ve seen in the leaked e-mails.

        For me the evidence is in the consensus papers. All of them. Take any paper you like and show me the doubt and inestigation of possible flaws. I haven’t encountered any.

      • The more important question is what makes you so fearful that a 1.5 or 2.5 degree increase is actually bad for humanity overall over the long term?

      • I’ve been posing that question by asking our alarmist brethren to complete the sentence

        ‘We must do something urgent about AGW because……’

        and there has not been a single answer in three days. Perhaps somebody somewhere can actually articulate a case for alarm, but it is remarkably quiet so far.

        I’m beginning to think the true answer is:

        ‘We must do something urgent about AGW because we must. And you are all well-funded evil Big Oil deniers and scum. So yah boo sucks and no returns’

        which is hardly a rallying call beyond age 7 or so.

        Like you, I haven’t seen any thing that suggests to me that a warmer world wouldn’t be, on balance, a better world. And that any downsides along the way can be accommodated without too many problems.

      • I am not discounting the human contribution to atmospheric CO2, but for you to write criticism of others knowledge of the carbon cycle, and then see you write about the increase in atmospheric CO2-
        “this is ALL attributable to humans burning fossil fuel.”

        This demonstrates you have eliminated any natural variability in the emission or absorption rates of non human emitted CO2. Perhaps you need to look in the mirror regarding the lack of carbon cycle knowledge.

      • I agree.

        It appears it all comes down to the output of the models and then the analysis of the results of those same models. From what I can tell from the outputs of the GCM’s we see general circulation patterns which would suggest areas of the planet would be warmer, but not a lot else of real value to the issue of impact on humanity. From that data, others have hypothesized that this bad thing or that bad things will happen, and therefore we should take these steps.

    • “Remind me where I can read a cost-benefit analysis of a 1.5C warmer world?”

      I’d like to know where I could find a cost benefit analysis from the consensus on any projected amount of warming. If there has ever been any serious discussion of the costs by those dying to control the energy economy, I have never seen it.

      Benefits, we see claimed (exaggerated) a lot,

      Costs, are ignored as though they don’t exist.

      Oh and effectiveness. What is the likelihood of the proposed drastic economic changes actually having the intended effect (in light of Russia, China and India not being willing to stay in the iron age economically)?

      If someone sold stocks based on such narrowly focused arguments, ignoring more than half of the equation, they would be either bankrupt or in jail by now.

      • <a href="http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/"Nordhaus:

        http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21494

        From a toasty lukewarmer: mitigation doesn't pay.

      • Blew the tags:
        Nordhaus:

        http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21494

        From a toasty lukewarmer: mitigation doesn’t pay.

      • Reading the description of that book, it appears to consider the costs of mitigation technology, but not the cost of mitigation itself, ie. lost economic activity.

        “Each run of DICE takes as input a particular policy for allocating expenditures year by year. The allocated resources are spent on subsidizing costly technologies—for example, deep underground sequestration of carbon dioxide produced in power stations—that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, or placing a tax on activities that produce carbon emissions. The climate model part of DICE calculates the effect of the reduced emissions in reducing damage.”

        The point is made more clear in this part of the review:

        “Nordhaus is basing his judgment on the assumption that the next hundred years will bring to the world economy a mixture of stagnation and prosperity, with overall average growth continuing at the same rate that we have experienced during the twentieth century.”

        In other words, Nordhaus assumes decarbonization will have no net impact on economic growth over the long term. The typical CAGW pipe dream economic view.

        When assessing the “costs” of climate change, the consensus advocates employ analyses of all types of economic loss, including loss of productivity. When assessing the costs of their beloved “mitigation,” those types of costs are not considered. At least as far as I have seen, including the cited book apparently.

      • Yes, and even with that omission, his conclusions still make mitigation look foolish economically. If you check his site, you will see that he has a more nuanced update of the DICE cost/benefit model called RICE, the regional version (finer grained). They are available for download in Excel versions, etc.

        His preferred conclusion, given the lack of acknowledgment of the productivity losses, etc., is that a carbon tax is the best option. But the aggressive legal decarbonizing and renewables building frenzy is shown to be hugely wasteful.

  4. The proponents of the more uncertain things are, the more we have to act, act as if this was a one way bet.. ie no downside

    Yet, just in case.. means trillions spent (wasted) on policies and actions, that could be better spent on serious problems now..

    Then there is the political capital wasted, time and effort that could bevdirected at more certain risks now.

    The effects of extreme weather effect the worlds poorest the most. Money spent now on infrastructure, clean water, sanitation, electricty for the billion and a half that have none, basic refridgeration, prevention of diseases like malaria.. could be solved now..

    5 MILLION children die a year because of poverty, diseases, lack of the basics..

    The ‘alarmists’ only ever speak of future generations. Many of the problems envisaged by global warming, could be solved now. Ie malaria eradicated, vs mitigating the allegef spread of it in 50 years, due to CC

    The more uncertain something is argument is just crazy.. driven by emotion, not rational thought.

    • Exactly right!

      Emotionally we differ little from the natives who once sacrificed their own cattle and relatives to the Great Volcano God!

    • “5 MILLION children die a year because of poverty, diseases, lack of the basics”

      This bears repeating. We’re spending billions trying to combat and legislate something that we:
      a) do not know is going to happen and
      b) we don’t even know we can do anything about
      c) we don’t even know if it’s bad.

      We’re often told that we have tot hink of the children of tomorrow. Well, everyone who’s a parent go home and look at their chilc/children and answer me this- is it right to spend billions on something as nebulous as climate change, or should we stop children, 5 million of them, just like ours, dying needless and painful deaths each year?

      It disgusts me that we send so much on climate change when these things are occuring now.

      I’ll do a more ‘on topic’ post further down the thread.

      • you are going to be utterly incensed then when you find out how much we spend on the military

      • WisconsinitesForGlobalWarming

        And I’ll bet everyone was incensed at how much was spent on the military during WWII as well…

      • That’s actually a very interesting point, not for discussion here, but a great point nontheless.

        The paralells aren’t the same- hence my comment, but it IS something that bears exploring.

      • Not really. Those man caused disasters are real and are much more of a controllable than the weather.

      • There is a constitutional requirement to spend money on an army and a navy. There is no requirement to spend a cent on climate change.

      • randomengineer

        The military needs MORE money if anything. What gets spent on the military budget ends up trickling down and creating a massive economy, unless of course you think computers and the internet and GPS and satellite tv etc were wholly developed by well intentioned hairshirt businesses. Good heavens even the interstate is a military investment (the autobahn was better for moving tank divisions than any of the other roads of the day.)

      • Indeed. The military is a precautionary investment that has proven its worth many times. Climate change mitigation, in contrast, is almost certain to cause untold damage and even at best will have negligible effect. The pro-mitigation arguments all seem to slide over the essential ineffectuality of CO2 emission reduction.

        What a scam!

      • lolwot
        Yes please compare “how much we spend on the military”
        against the EPA’s proposed expenditures:

        US$7 trillion divided by 0.00375°C gives us … US$1,900 trillion dollars for each measly degree of cooling.

        That is 1000 times larger than global military spending of $1.6 trillion per year.

      • That EPA data was reported in How Much Would You Buy? by Willis Eschenbach

      • by Willis Eschenbach

        And there’s your problem.

        I won’t ask if you have any sources for this “fact” that are not delusional, serial fantasists, because we both know the answer is you don’t.

    • Barry,

      I am not sure if you saw a recent EU report “Climate change” – http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_372_en.pdf . This was noted-
      ” Overall, EU citizens consider climate change the second most serious problem facing the world today.”
      “One in five (20%) said climate change was the single most serious problem. The only issue perceived to be more serious is poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water, which was mentioned by 28%.1″

      The survey/pool did NOT cover the most serious concerns of the EU citizens- poverty, hunger, etc.

      • Yes as dodgy a survey as I’ve ever seen.. plus what does the avearge member of the public know about anything discussed here – ZERO..

        they have had 20 years of climate change ‘alarmism’ in the media..it realy should be MUCH higher don’t you think

        Take a look at how the survey questions were presented, and then consider if it was not designed with a purpose..

        look at the map legend -on pg 8 – 23-100% concerned about climate change – lots of countries coloured in..
        of couse it should read 23-35% as 34% is the highest figure in any European country.. but it looks much more scary with the previous figure.

        A survey designed by the EU, which need to justify it commitment to massive CO2 reduction. comes out in faviour. there is a surprise.

        But

      • Barry,

        I concur that the focus of the survey (the questions asked and how they were asked) seems to bit dodgy. The part of the survey that I found interesting was that 28% of the folks polled were more concerned about poverty then those concerned about climate change (20%). I concur with you that not many folks (the public) are aware of the uncertainties discussed here.

      • The survey was massively “loaded”. The pols don’t want any disagreement.

    • Careful. When I suggested that our ethical obligations to current generations outweighed our obligations to the unborn, I was called a sociopath by my friends at Tobis’ place

  5. One tell a belief system is magical is that no matter the evidence or lack of, it is all proof of the magical obsession.
    The position of this writer is a very good example of magical thinking in a post-religious world.

  6. Judith,

    Is not the Alarmism based on a balance system?
    Too much heat or too much cold changes the scales of what current society created to deal with the issues.
    In researching, every moment is unique and can never be duplicated exactly due to the constant changes of our solar system and Universe.
    Measurements of 3.14159 is okay to describe the roundness of planets but motion does not do perfect. So each time our planet rotates around the sun, we are not back to the exact same mark. This then changes the measurement to be 3.1416 as it will always be slightly different.
    This then effects trying to duplicate any pattern or track any system to follow the same exact coarse.

  7. In industry, risk assessments are part of the process of business trying to attract investors. The IPCC performs an assessment of a sort but is a fraction of the level of detail and due diligence that would be accepted in the commercial sector. My father, a retired engineer put it this way:

    “Predicting climate change is not rocket science. It’s much, much more difficult. And the consequences of getting it wrong may be much, much more costly. So what do you do, given that there may be something happening that could cause humanity immense harm unless we change something? You conduct proper Due Diligence studies – engineering quality, not academician quality.

    You need to get the protagonists – those who claim we have a severe, looming problem – to assemble their best arguments and evidence to support their case. They should only offer papers which have been published with full public disclosure of all the data and computer codes so that the claims made within the paper can be reproduced by others. Then you appoint a Due Diligence Team (DDT) and give it a proper briefing (a Scope of Work). In the commercial world DDTs are usually independent disinterested contractors. They will need to see all of the things that peer reviewers usually don’t see as described above. In fact for proposals which will cost the community billions, the DDT will want to see a lot more. For example, many academic papers cite other previously published papers. These citations may have to be examined too. They will want to see the ‘bad’ data as well as the ‘good’. Also, published papers and other evidence may be invited for positions purporting to be contrary to the protagonists case. “

    I agree with this, but in the context of this post, I would add that part of DDT assessment is to review all possible responses to a potential problem/threat, which includes other potential scenarios such as cooling.

    I agree that as a consequence of industrialisation and population that mankind should not just take it for granted that everything will be ok and we should not worry ourselves over the impact we have on our planet, but that does not translate into our very existence and way of life as being a threat to the planet. Therefore, alarmism is not really called for, but prudent concern and proper balancing of risks as function of frequency (the likelihood) and consequence.

    At the very least, I am uncomfortable with basing decisions on the level of assessment that the IPCC have performed – I would like to know those decisions were being based on a great deal more rigour.

    • Latimer Alder

      Excellently put. But getting the climatologists to reveal their secret ways of working will be very difficult.

      Hell will likely have frozen over before they allow access to their data and codes. Assuming that they haven’t forgotten them/thrown them away/made them up in the first place……….

    • Political intervention should be made conditional on full disclosure of the supposed science and its supporting administrstion.

      No full disclosure, no political action.

      • Latimer Alder

        Ain’t going to happen. See what a kerfuffle there was about getting Mikey Mann to show his working. Or Phil Jones to reveal our data that we (UK taxpayers) had paid him good money to collect. The climatologists resist independent scrutiny of their work with a visceral hatred.

        Just put CAGW to bed as a non-problem. If the proponents can’t be a…d to prove their case in a resonably rigorous manner…nor to conduct themselves in such a way. I don’t see that the rest of us need spend any more time or effort on it.

        It is yesterday’s cause du jour and will be forgotten – along with its advocates within a decade. Its time as a sensation came and went..like UFOs

    • Agnostic,
      Politicians and profiteers are unwilling to do this, apparently, regarding climate.
      Part of it, it seems, is the effective way the early promoters pushed the buttons of centers of influence.
      Gore, Hansen, WWF, Greenpeace and the others who profited off of the doom and gloom and simple but compelling misrepresentations of the truth were largely ignored as cranks or just typical political hacks for a long time.
      Now they have fabricated a decision making matrix where they are able to pretend their position is unassailable, settled and reasoned.
      Many people look at climate through their catastrophic bs lens. Look at
      Australia, whose politicians have sold out Australians for a pointless gesture, as far as climate is concerned,but one that happens to enrich those who have been pushing AGW for decades.
      And don’t think for a moment that the EPA is going to wake up and realize that its CO2 policy, which fails the EPA’s own decision making process, should be put on hold and made correct.
      The damage that this social mania has done to the public square is huge.
      This nasty little paper, with its deception and misleading rationales is just a small example of how bad it is.

    • “You need to get the protagonists – those who claim we have a severe, looming problem – to assemble their best arguments and evidence to support their case.”

      I think it should work the other way round.

      Humans are dramatically altering the composition of the atmosphere*.

      Protagonists that claim everything will be fine should assemble their best arguments and evidence to support their case.

      *1) A staggering, perhaps historically unique, rate of CO2 increase. 2) CO2 levels breaking through highs not seen for millions of years.

      • Latimer Alder

        And that’s the nett of your case??

        Instead of CO2 being three molecules in every ten thousand it will be four or five. Instead of 9,997 not being CO2 it will now only be 9,995. And the temperature might rise from (say) 287.6K to 289.7K. Sealevel up the depth of two housebricks.

        Wow. Colour me unconvinced. There’s an awful lot of ‘therefores’ to get through before you even begin to raise my level of concern beyond that of a minor annoyance.

      • The reason you don’t understand the case I made is because you have a number of misconceptions.

        First you say:

        “Instead of CO2 being three molecules in every ten thousand it will be four or five”

        You don’t obviously don’t realize that the forcing effect of CO2 is logarithmic. I’ll leave it as an exercise for you to look up what a logarithm is. The summary for your example though is that the absolute number of molecules doesn’t matter. All that matters is the relative increase. Going from three molecules in every ten thousand to six and going from three hundred in every ten thousand to six hundred has the same effect.

        “And the temperature might rise from (say) 287.6K to 289.7K”

        The last glacial maximum was only about 5 or 6K cooler than present. Great ice sheets stretched over where the USA is now and over Europe. You are underestimating the significance of 1K global temperature change.

        Your temperature rise is hardly a worse case scenario. One more lesson I can give you is that when making a professional risk assessment you should always consider the worse case scenario. Your sea level projection suffers similarly.

      • WisconsinitesForGlobalWarming

        @lolwot

        From Wikipedia:

        “The relationship between carbon dioxide and radiative forcing is logarithmic so that increased concentrations have a progressively smaller warming effect.”

        Want to rephrase your response?

      • my response fits that description, I suspect you don’t understand what logarithmic means

      • lolwot

        You state

        ‘The reason you don’t understand the case I made is because you have a number of misconceptions.’

        Not true. I did not understand your case because you dn’t make one at all. You said no more than:

        ‘*1) A staggering, perhaps historically unique, rate of CO2 increase. 2) CO2 levels breaking through highs not seen for millions of years’

        which may be interesting and possibly even true assertions, but do not – of themselves – make a case for action or inaction or anything else. If you wish to make such a case, please feel free to do so, but you have completely missed the ‘and therefore….’ from your assertions.

        As to the rest, I have been aware of the meaning of logarithms since I was old enough to get my first slide rule about 45 years ago. And I guess you may be resident in North Ameica where perhaps our British sense of irony is not so innately understood as here. If so, my bad.

        But to make a case for action you actually have to give some reasons that pass the ‘So What’ test.. You have not done so here.

      • Let’s put more distance between ourselves and the last glacial maximum, when great ice sheets stretched over the USA and Europe. About 5 or 6K is way too close. Invoke the precautionary principle. Crank up the thermostat.

      • “which may be interesting and possibly even true assertions”

        Says it all. Why don’t you figure these things out?

        I find the argument you made about molecules of CO2 inexcusable. It’s BS like that which misleads so many people. You can’t claim you are new to this subject, so what, you simply don’t care about accuracy?

        If you did already know that the effect of CO2 on temperature is logarithmic why did you use an argument that only applies if the relationship was linear?

        And why don’t you apply that knowledge to the actual CO2 data where you will see very clearly how unusual the recent CO2 changes are because of that.

      • lolwot says:
        You don’t obviously don’t realize that the forcing effect of CO2 is logarithmic. I’ll leave it as an exercise for you to look up what a logarithm is. The summary for your example though is that the absolute number of molecules doesn’t matter. All that matters is the relative increase. Going from three molecules in every ten thousand to six and going from three hundred in every ten thousand to six hundred has the same effect.

        So your contention is that 3 molecules (6-3) can produce the exact same amount of DWLR as 300 molecules (600-300) or by extension that 3 is equal to 3000 (6000-3000)?

      • @lolwot

        ‘I find the argument you made about molecules of CO2 inexcusable’

        What argument was this?

        I merey restated that 300 ppm was three in every ten thousand while 500 ppm is five in every ten thousand. And that all the molecules that aren’t CO2 were 9,997 in the first case and 9,995 in the second. No argument involved…a simple illustration of some basic molecular facts. Designed to give some perspective on these numbers. Even at 1000 ppm, 99.9% of the atmosphere will not be CO2.

        If you can find anything wrong with my sums, please let me know. Otherwise, tell me which argument you think I have made in error.

      • “Instead of CO2 being three molecules in every ten thousand it will be four or five. Instead of 9,997 not being CO2 it will now only be 9,995.”

        Can you flesh this point out a little more? Something that is small in concentration cannot be important?

        “And the temperature might rise from (say) 287.6K to 289.7K.”

        Or it might rise quite a bit more than that. But your central point seems to be, again, that a two or four or six degree rise is not important, because there are three hundred degrees between us and absolute zero. Why do you believe that, exactly?

        “Sealevel up the depth of two housebricks.”

        You would seem to be off by 1-2 orders of magnitude. Can you explain how you arrived at this estimate?

      • Latimer Alder

        The points were just to give a different perspective by restating the problem in different units. You’ll concede, I am sure, that my mathematics is correct. But what prompted this restatement?

        En passant I note that schoolchildren today are already led to believe that killler gas CO2 is about 40% of the atmosphere. This is wrong and my numbers illustrate this.

        I note also that the kinetic energy of a gas (which we can consider to be something to do with its weather making ability) is proportional to its absolute (K) temperature, not its celsius temperature. Looking purely at Celsius can give a misleading view of the difference between two temperatures..12C –>14C looks a lot proprtionately, but 285k–>287K is less.

        But of course, if there really is a problem, it should be capable of being worked in any old units you like..mine are just as valid as yours since they are equivalent.

        But I concede that I got the housebricks wrong. On careful remeasurement of my house in daylight, it shows that to accommodate the middle of the IPCC’s predicted range for 2099 (35 cm = just over a foot) would take 4 UK standard house bricks, not 2. My bad. But not the 1 to 2 orders of magnitude that you mention.

      • Latimer Alder stated this urban legend:

        En passant I note that schoolchildren today are already led to believe that killler gas CO2 is about 40% of the atmosphere. This is wrong and my numbers illustrate this.

        Why must you insist on knocking down strawman arguments?

      • lolwot,

        These comments are subjective. I don’t think any one denies that humans alter the atmosphere, but you have described it as ‘dramatic’. That is an emotive response to an empirical observation. Your point “1)” enforces this with the word “staggering” and then “perhaps unique”. Such remarks are “alarmist” but not informative – they have negative connotations and as such instil fear. The motivation for this alarmism is to encourage action, which is not unreasonable in itself, but action from fear can lead to ill considered decisions. Also, as the ‘facts’ ‘evolve’ as they inevitably do, the initial alarm can be perceived as hysterical, and undermine the credibility of the case for continuing action.

        In self defense, we describe alarm as a form of panic, in which you initially freeze and further action can make your situation worse. Instead we try to teach zanshin, or ‘awareness’, whereby you continually assess your environment and your options so that every decision when confronted with a threat is the most efficient way of coming away with the least amount of damage.

        BTW your point “2)” is not correct.

        The degree of harm or potential benefit needs to be evaluated by a far more rigorous assessment of the evidence than we have seen by the IPCC, at the commercial engineering level that is the legal obligation of an enterprise attracting investment on a venture. From societies point of view GW mitigation should be no different, and before my politicians embark on a potentially pointless and extremely expensive exercise I would like the science guiding their decisions to have gone through the same rigorous process as would be expected in the commercial world. That’s not unreasonable is it?

        I want my children to grow up in a safe, peaceful world, as unspoilt by human activities as possible, but also with the prosperity to be able to enjoy it and live in security. I also would like them to live in a world more free of guilt and especially fear that seems to mark so much of modern society.

        PS – What’s the go with that? Now we don’t have to run from predators we have to make up our boogey men all the time (and I am not necessarily talking about just GW here….).

      • “I don’t think any one denies that humans alter the atmosphere, but you have described it as ‘dramatic’. That is an emotive response to an empirical observation.”

        There’s a big difference between what some on this thread are pushing (the CO2 rise is just some irrelevant happening of unnotable consequence) and reality.

        Reality shows that the recent CO2 rise is notable and highly unusual, both in it’s level and rate of change.

        I had to use some word to reflect how “special” or “dramatic” or “insert here” these recent changes in CO2 level are compared to changes of the past:

        “The motivation for this alarmism is to encourage action, which is not unreasonable in itself, but action from fear can lead to ill considered decisions”

        It’s not alarmism to point out reality. If people are alarmed at reality than perhaps they should be. It’s much like when scientists proposed to seed the ocean with iron to try and draw up CO2. When people hear this they are alarmed – because they realize this is an unnatural untested change which could have unforeseen consequences.

        The situation with the CO2 rise is less obvious. People don’t realize how akin to such an unnatural untested change it is.

        This is against a backdrop of attempts, even on this thread, to pretend there is no issue here, that scientists haven’t “proven the case” or whatever as if the recent CO2 rise isn’t known or is just typical of past natural changes.

        “BTW your point “2)” is not correct.”

        That CO2 levels are breaking through highs not seen for millions of years? I think it is true, I could have even said at least 15 million (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091008152242.htm)

        More important though is where we are heading. An excess of 1000ppm isn’t out of the question so I wonder when was the last time CO2 levels were that high.

      • lolwot says:
        More important though is where we are heading. An excess of 1000ppm isn’t out of the question so I wonder when was the last time CO2 levels were that high.

        Hogwash. If we burned all the coal, oil and natural gas we know of we cannot get to a 1000 ppm. And even if you were correct it will take several hundred years for us to burn all of it.

        Just to make you happy though we have thousands of years of methane hydrates available just off the coasts. So once we start in on them we could get to 1000ppm.

      • “Reality shows that the recent CO2 rise is notable and highly unusual, both in it’s level and rate of change.”

        This is a reasonable phrase, with the caveat that in recent human history it is likely to be true.

        But: “It’s not alarmism to point out reality.” is true only if it were the case you were making was reality. You don’t know with sufficient certainty that the reality (CO2 levels are increasing) warrants being alarmed – yet. You would be utterly sensible to take notice and look into it very carefully – ie be concerned. But there is no case for alarm. this is an important distinction.

        At the moment, it doesn’t look like there is much if any justification for alarm. Bear in mind that nearly 30% of all the CO2 man has ever emitted has been in the last decade, yet you well know the story. Temperatures have not risen in line with expectations, and arguably not only not risen but fallen slightly. At the very least, it doesn’t for the moment look like there is need for alarm. There is certainly no need for panic, and the wise course would be to encourage the development of sustainable alternative energy sources, but without hampering ourselves by committing to unnecessary measures to mitigate what appears to be a non-problem.

      • @lolwot

        An excess of 1000ppm isn’t out of the question so I wonder when was the last time CO2 levels were that high.

        Coal mine productivity in the US has declined 20% in the last 6 years. It’s a global phenomenon, the US is in better shape then most. based on a simple mechanism, we burn the easiest to extract coal first.

        Please project out a 3% average annual decrease in coal mine productivity and project the cost of the coal that we would need to get to 1000ppm.

        Then we have the matter of coal transportation costs increasing as well.
        Another global phenomenon based on a simple mechanism…we burn the coal that is ‘closest to market’ first.

        The net result is that the ‘delivered’ price of coal has increased on average 6.7% per year in the US for the last decade.

        Now project out an average 6.7% increase per year in the cost of delivered coal. (It doubles every 11 years)

        The go over to the DOE LCOE calculator and plug in what coal will cost in 22 years and find out how much coal generated electricity will cost compared to other forms of energy – http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

        Then come back and explain how will we get to 1000ppm when coal doesn’t offer any cost advantage over other forms of energy.

      • Agnostic,

        Bear in mind that nearly 30% of all the CO2 man has ever emitted has been in the last decade, yet you well know the story. Temperatures have not risen in line with expectations, and arguably not only not risen but fallen slightly.

        The fact that there is Intra-decadal and inter-decadal variability in warming trends is completely in-line with expectations. Warming from 2000-2009 or 2001-2010 has certainly been below the expected trend but then warming from 1995-2004/1996-2005 was well above it. Over the whole 1995-2010 term the trend works out similarly to projections. Also note on that link that you’d be saying the same thing if you were writing in 1997.

      • Latimer Alder

        @paul s

        The thing about successful predictions is that you have to make them beforehand. When you do them afterwards (as in ‘in line with expectations’, the technical term is 20:20 hindsight.

        You can see this at the bookmakers. The nasty people want you to put your bet on the race before the start, not after the winner has been declared. You will not get rich by coming up later and saying that ‘slow nag came in at 100:1 but it was in line with my expectations that he would win…gimme the dosh’.

        If you want to be a bit more science-sounding its also called ‘post-hoc rationalisation’, but the concept is the same.

      • Latimer Alder,

        None of that had anything to do with what I’ve posted here. Agnostic has stated a perception that observations have not met with expectations. My point is that you need to understand what the expectations were before you declare them unmet.

        Chiefly, there was never any expectation that decadal trends would constantly match the ensemble mean and there was never any expectation that cooling trends across specific decadal periods were now impossible, or even particularly unlikely.

        To adopt your analogy, if you’ve placed an each-ways bet and the horse comes in second the bookmaker can’t refuse a payout on the grounds that it didn’t win.

        To clarify my position I do actually think the AR4 ensemble means tend to slightly overestimate early 21st Century trends because they are overweighted by some models lacking in comprehensive aerosol effects.

      • Latimer Alder

        @paul s

        ‘Chiefly, there was never any expectation that decadal trends would constantly match the ensemble mean and there was never any expectation that cooling trends across specific decadal periods were now impossible, or even particularly unlikely’

        Fine. I’m perfectly prepared to believe you that your expectations were otherwise ..if you can provide some contemporary documentation that says so. And was as loudly promulgated as Mann’s Hokey Stick.

        Otherwise, I suggest that you are viewing the past through post-hoc tinted spectacles.

      • “And was as loudly promulgated as Mann’s Hokey Stick.”

        So you continue to be in denial about the success of Mann’s temperature reconstruction?

        OK. Where’s your evidence that Mann (and the multiple groups of scientists that have reproduced his results) was incorrect?

        If you can’t understand the basics of climate science, like the repeatedly validated and extended “hockey stick” then why should we think you less ignorant about any other part of the science?

        Let’s make this simple; in what peer-reviewed journal is your refutation of Mann going to be published, and on what date?

        If no such paper exists, can you admit that you have no case?

      • @Paul:

        Chiefly, there was never any expectation that decadal trends would constantly match the ensemble mean and there was never any expectation that cooling trends across specific decadal periods were now impossible, or even particularly unlikely.

        Well, that was not the impression I formed back in the late 90’s when I first became aware and concerned about the issue. But even so, if it is the case that decadal trends allow for cooling periods it only supports the view that there is not the case for alarm, since natural variability can still overwhelm any Anthropogenic effect. It means that, if you were to accept that warming that could eventually become catastrophic eventually, we have a great deal more time to make an orderly transition to reliable and cheap alternative energy sources, rather than do anything costly and rash as soon as possible.

        It undermines the case that the problem is pressing and urgent, even if it does not rule out there is a problem at all.

      • Latimer Alder

        @Robert

        I made no remarks at all about the correctness or otherwise of Mann’s work. Merely that it was given very wide publicity at the time. And that level of publicity is the benchmark by which all other work about expectations should be judged

        But I believe Messrs McIntyre and McKitirck and other associates have published extensively – and with far more expertise than I have time to bring to the table – on the many deficiencies in Mann’s work. There is also an extensive and very readable discussion of the long and winding road they were obliged to go through to in the face of Mann’s obstructive stance in ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ , by AW Montford. This is freely available from all good bookshops, and I commend it to your attention.

        It may well be that in alarmist circles, this excellent book has yet to receive the favourable reception it deserves, but it serves to illustrate just why an increasing number of people such as myself think that climatology as practised by the supposed ‘leaders of the field’ like Mann, Jones et all – stinks to high heaven, and bears no relationship to the ethics of science that I learnt as an undergraduate only 30 years ago.

      • Latimer Alder

        @robert

        Sinc eyou response is already enetirely predictable – I will write it for you and save you the trouble. You will probably want to use soem or all of these. In reply you can just list the clauses you want to include.

        1. You are a Big Oil funded denier.
        2. Mike Mann is one of the greatest scientists of his generation and we can see this by the amount of grant money he brings in to Penn State.
        3. McIntyre is a professional statistican, not a climate scientist. How on earth does he presume to know anything about processing large quantities of data and finding (or not) signals in them.
        4. Many of Mann’s coworkers have ‘reproduced’ Mann’s results. Especially the ones where he is a co-author.
        5 Climatology is the cleanest,most honourable science there is and is staffed only by people of the highest integrity and ethical standards.
        6. Listen you little schmucks – none of you are even fit to be in the same blogosphere as as any ‘leading climate scientist’, let alone to challenge their work. As to the Freedom of Information stuff, the Union of Climatologist disapproves of this as a matter of principle and we have no intention of complying with it. Now or forevermore.The data and methids are ours and ours alone. The general public should feel privieleged that we stoop so lowas to take your momey to create it
        7. When it is time for you to think about climatology we will tell you – and tell you exactly what correct thinking is. We do not encourage backsliders, apostates or heretics. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.
        7

      • “if you can provide some contemporary documentation that says so. And was as loudly promulgated as Mann’s Hokey Stick.”
        In fact Hansen’s 1988 prediction, stated loudly to Congress, had two stretches of about four years of non-increase in Scenario A over the last decade, and a gap of about seven years, starting about now, in Scenario B.

      • steven mosher

        Robert

        “OK. Where’s your evidence that Mann (and the multiple groups of scientists that have reproduced his results) was incorrect?”

        Look no further than mann’s last paper on sea level rise. Check the SI.
        Look no futher than Manns own page where he has posted up substantive corrections ( based on errors McIntyre pointed out) without
        A. crediting steve
        B. issuing a correction in the literature.

        Or consider mobergs latest or any number of reconstructions that are at variance with his.

        The “error” in mann really isnt what one would call an error. The error is an overstatement of the confidence in the results. Ie, Confidence intervals that are unrealistically small, you can call this an artifical reduction in variance if you like. That is what everyone in the field calls it. For the most part, Mann and others have tried to invent new techniques to get more signal out of the same old data. The flaws are.

        1. failing to update key data
        2. continuing to use data that is suspect
        3. refusal to use certain data
        4. using methods that artifically reduce variance, thus increasing confidence in the reconstructions.

        On the last point I would agree with Tim Osborne ( from CRU) who had a hard time explaining to mann that manns reconstruction had smaller CIs that the temperature record! a pretty clear sign that something went wrong.

        The truth is messy. Its in the middle. Its not a fraud, Its not correct. The conclusions are overstated. The silly thing is the MWP doesnt even matter

      • Latimer Alder

        @nick stokes

        Thanks for the link.
        Interesting to know about scenarios a b and c. It may be that some bookmakers accept a bet on any one of three horses to win, but that is not the usual way of doing things

        And its a shame that of all his 3 scenarios, it seems like C is the nearest to the truth – the one that didn’t have the dips in it.

        BTW – I know Hansen is a clever guy, but the graph you present is not contemporay with his 1988 speech. It contains observations for 2005, so must have been created afterwardsd.

        As I have said to others, predictions are only good predictions if they are made in advance. This graph is 17 years too late to qualify.

        You have to place the bet before the race starts.

      • “You have to place the bet before the race starts.”

        The projections are from his 1988 paper. I linked a RC discussion of how they worked out.

        The use of scenarios is standard. His computer model will not predict how much carbon we will choose to burn. It predicts the consequences of burning it.

      • Latimer Alder

        @nick stokes

        Grrr! And you wonder why many people here think that the default position of the Alarmist Tendency is to obfuscate, mislead and generally be disingenuous…….

        In a discussion about the need for predictions to be made before the event you provide a link that is not to the original paper, but to a post-hoc discussion by a bunch of Hansen’s mates.

        Why? When you had the original paper and link to hand? What purpose did it serve?

        I will reread the orginal looking for Hansen’s loud statements that there will be a lot of natural variation in the temeperatures, and where these were given as much prominence as The Hockey Stick.

      • Well, I thought it was reasonably obvious that the information that they compared the prediction to, post-dated the prediction. However, the practical reason is that they didn’t have jpg’s in 1988, and pointing to a scanned paper is a good deal less immediate. But yes, I could have done both.

      • Latimer Alder,

        The original IPCC report from 1990 said this, with regard to its temperature projections, in the SPM:

        ‘Because of other factors which influence climate, we would not expect the rise to be a steady one.’

        Agnostic,

        As shown in this link from my original post, if you were looking at this issue in the late 90s you would have just experienced a slight decadal cooling trend similar to the present one, so clearly they were known to be possible within an overall warming period. If people in 1996/97 looked at temperature graphs in the same way as some do today they would have concluded that warming stopped in 1987.

        But even so, if it is the case that decadal trends allow for cooling periods it only supports the view that there is not the case for alarm, since natural variability can still overwhelm any Anthropogenic effect.

        It’s only over relatively short periods that natural variability will tend to dominate the anthropogenic forcing. As with 1987-1996, the 2001-2010 trend is most likely being dominated by the 11-year solar cycle: 2001 was a maximum and 2010 was just about emerging from a long and deep minimum by the end of the year. If there isn’t near-significant warming over 2001-2016 I think then you can declare with some degree of confidence that expectations have not been met.

        You might say that we should put off any action until 2016 in that case. That’s not completely unreasonable although, as I’ve shown, this “lull” has happened before. There’s a danger we get trapped in a “let’s wait and see” cycle.

      • More important though is where we are heading. An excess of 1000ppm isn’t out of the question so I wonder when was the last time CO2 levels were that high

        The Devonian, 400 million years ago. Now the next obvious question is when was the last time temps were this low. We are in a period of extremely low temperatures and have been for the last million and a half years. Does not take a NASA scientist to see that we are overdue for a warming trend and quite frankly the Earth doesn’t care about the Co2 content when it comes to it’s temperature when you look at it on a geological timescale.

        as has been pointed out numerous times, Co2 follows temperature, the CAGW crowd seems to be incapable to see that they have the cart pushing the horse

      • @Paul S.
        You might say that we should put off any action until 2016 in that case. That’s not completely unreasonable although, as I’ve shown, this “lull” has happened before. There’s a danger we get trapped in a “let’s wait and see” cycle.
        That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

      • “In self defense, we describe alarm as a form of panic, in which you initially freeze and further action can make your situation worse.”

        Maybe you should call this period “denial,” instead.

        “The degree of harm or potential benefit needs to be evaluated by a far more rigorous assessment of the evidence than we have seen by the IPCC”

        According to whom? What credentials do you have in this area?

        Deniers are NOT the target audience of the IPCC. Your ideology determines what you think. The IPCC and climate science generally are directed at reasonable people. Do you have any argument that would convince a reasonable person that the IPCC needs to be taking lessons in rigor from lying, plagiarizing, death-threat-issuing, summer-camp-murdering climate deniers?

        Let’s see your facts.

      • no we elect the target audience. And you just insulted the people who will elect the next target audience. Not a bright move.

      • “no we elect the target audience.”

        Don’t be silly, steve. Fringe fanatics like you don’t affect anything but internet polls won by Ron Paul. Hardcore deniers are less than 10% of the population; those active on blogs like this one are an even smaller minority.

        No one needs to convince you. In fact, you’re perfect just the way you are: normal people do not want any part of internet loons raving about conspiracies of scientists and “liberal fascists.” Your hate and irrationality drives more and more people towards a pro-science attitude.

      • “According to whom? What credentials do you have in this area?”

        My credentials are that I am potential investor in efforts to mitigate what I have been told is a pressing problem. Another qualification I can offer is that I am father two brilliant children, and I want to leave a world for them that is not in any danger of human induced climate catastrophe, but is also a world were they will have financial security, and even more importantly a world not dominated by fear.

        The next part of your objection is far from objective and creates what I believe is the term ‘straw-man argument’, since I am not expecting the IPCC to take lessons from anybody, merely re-examine its frame of reference and conduct its assessment with the same rigour and detail as would be expected for any risky financial investment in the commercial world.

      • “My credentials are that I am potential investor”

        So you think ignorance with money should trump actual understanding? Why?

        “Another qualification I can offer is that I am father two brilliant children”

        Where’s the paternity test? Color me skeptical.

        I want to leave a world for them that is not in any danger of human induced climate catastrophe, but is also a world were they will have financial security, and even more importantly a world not dominated by fear.

        So your ordering of priorities is:

        3. No catastrophic environmental disasters.
        2. A hefty 401k

        And finally, number one on the list . . .

        1. Nobody should be afraid.

        . . . never mind whether such fears are realistic, it’s just too stressful on your little darlings to worry and such. Better to IGNORE things that might frighten you rather than deal with those nasty emotions.

        If your children are as smart as you say, I doubt you will be able to maintain their blissful ignorance by promoting denial. That you, the “father” of such children, think such a scheme could work, brings me back to my point about the paternity test.

      • lolwot | October 12, 2011 at 9:36 am | Reply

        [ “Protagonists that claim everything will be fine should assemble their best arguments and evidence to support their case.” ]

        Why should anyone defend against an unproven hypothesis? IMO That’s bassackword logic.

        [ “Humans are dramatically altering the composition of the atmosphere*.] Well yeah………ever since we evolved we’ve been altering the composition of the atmosphere and environment. It you want to sell me on your cause, these kind of nonsensical statements need to be dumped by you and such as IPCC.

        One more lesson I can give you :

        Make YOUR case with transparent observational evidence – backed with models stats. Not models seeking observational evidence. [ another bassackword approach by AGW’ers, IMO ].

        I completely agree with this statement:

        “You need to get the protagonists – those who claim we have a severe, looming problem – to assemble their best arguments and evidence to support their case.”

        When science of any branch – [ including policy ] becomes authoritarian – they are held [ logically, integrity, and morally ] to a much higher standard, IMO.

        When a car salesman tells me, “You have to buy this car, because it gets 80 mpg and saves the planet – He better be able to prove it. I want obsevational evidence backed up with model stats.
        IPCC – AGW is no different.

      • “Why should anyone defend against an unproven hypothesis? IMO That’s bassackword logic.”

        If you are going to advance the hypothesis that elevating CO2 to 1000ppm in just two centuries will be fine then you should have the burdern to defend it. Society should demand such a change be proven to be sufficiently safe before committing to such a feat.

        If you don’t have the scientific knowledge to demonstrate the change will be safe then that’s a very fine argument against doing it.

        Pleading ignorance as to the effects is no excuse. Uncertainty doesn’t equal safety.

      • Hang on a minute Lolly me old pal me old beauty…..

        Just a few posts ago you asserted that a convincing case that it was unsafe had already been made. So you’re asking for something that you already believe will fail.

        What do you want to do with your cake. Eat it or have it? You can’t do both.

      • it can be overturned. As it currently is the changes are unsafe. Im not going to be convinced otherwise unless it can be shown that the changes will be safe.

      • lolwot,
        Sionce you have no credible evidence at all that CO2 ppm will get to ~1000 ppm in a century or two, you are, as typical, using strawmen and red herrings to hide your lack of a case.

      • Awww grow up lolwot. As soon as a gas warms a little it rises up up and away and expands. No problem, pump as much CO2 into the atmosphere as you possibly can, you’ll still wake up to pleasant mornings.
        There are other more pressing issues for humankind to worry about.

      • “So you’re asking for something that you already believe will fail.”

        Look at Latimer struggling to grasp the concept of remaining open to new evidence. Intellectual honesty is just totally foreign to him, like a kitten with scuba gear. It’s kind of cute.

      • lolwot | October 12, 2011 at 11:45 am |

        Let me see the observational evidence that any “mitigation solution” of CO2 by AGW – IPCC changes temperatures – even 1C [ up or down ].

        You’ve put lipstick on your pig and tried to sell it as a “solution”..

        You, AGW and IPCC are the ones trying to sell the “solution” to an unproven hypothesis.

      • Latimer Alder

        @robert

        ‘Intellectual honesty is just totally foreign to him, like a kitten with scuba gear.

        Not me, me old pal, me old mucker

        Just pointing out the contradcitions in lolwot’s argument. If that makes you uncomfortable and feel the need to start chucking insults around, why so?

        Now remind me, why should I be worried about all this stuff? because it is remarkable that I have got this far down the thread with not a single credible reason having been advanced as to teh case for alarm. Lolly got as far as saying ‘we’ve never been here before’, which may be true but is not of itself a sufficiently good reason to panic. But apart form that,, not a single cogent point of actual argument.

        I am beginning to feel that the case for alarmism is a will o’the wisp..lots of people asssert that it is there and well-founed, but when you try to pin it down it disappears like mist in the morning…….

        .

      • Not me, me old pal, . . .

        Look at that, he’s in denial . . . shocker. /sarc

        Just pointing out the contradcitions in lolwot’s argument.

        Is that what you thought you were doing? And you didn’t notice you completely failed to find a contradiction? And instead revealed that you don’t even comprehend what intellectual honesty is?

        Sad little clown.

      • lolwot

        If you are going to advance the hypothesis that elevating CO2 to 1000ppm in just two centuries will be fine then you should have the burdern to defend it.

        Let’s analyze that statement in detail based on observed data rather than simply model simulations based primarily on theoretical deliberations.

        Based on a 2010 report by the WEC, all “inferred possible fossil fuel resources in place” on our planet would be enough to raise atmospheric CO2 level from 390 ppmv today to around 1,060 ppmv some day in the far distant future when they are all gone.

        That’s it, lolwot. Ain’t no’ mo’.

        So how much temperature rise could we theoretically expect from this?

        1850 CO2 concentration was around 290 ppmv (IPCC).
        2011 CO2 concentration is 390 ppmv (Mauna Loa)
        From 1850 to 2011 we saw an increase in the HadCRUT3 global temperature of 0.7C

        IPCC tells us that 93% of the past forcing was from anthropogenic components and that all other anthropogenic components beside CO2 (aerosols, other GHGHs, etc.) cancelled one another out so that total anthropogenic forcing = CO2 forcing.

        From these data points and the logarithmic CO2/tempetrature relation, we can easily calculate the expected temperature increase when atmospheric CO2 has reached 1,065 ppmv and all fossil fuels on our planet are gone.

        This “maximum ever possible” GH warming from human CO2 turns out to be 2.2C.

        That’s it lolwot.

        Using observed data for the past and the IPCC assumption that 93% of past warming was anthropogenic, I have just defended the position that raising CO2 level to ~1,000 ppmv by burning up all the fossil fuels that exist on our planet will not cause alarming warming.

        However, there are several solar studies out there, which suggest that around 50% of observed past warming (rather than only 7%, as assumed by IPCC) can be attributed to the unusually high level of 20th century solar activity (highest in several thousand years).

        If we consider this, the “maximum ever possible” GH warming from human CO2 is around 1.3C. (Yawn!)

        Now, lolwot, the burden is up to YOU to defend your notion of alarming warming from human-induced CO2.

        Your turn.

        Max

        PS Here are links to a few of the cited solar studies:
        Stockwell (2011)

        http://vixra.org/pdf/1108.0020v1.pdf

        Shapiro et al. (2011)

        http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1102/1102.4763v1.pdf

        Scafetta (2010)

        http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/scafetta-JSTP2.pdf

        Scafetta and West (2006)

        Lockwood and Stamper (1999)

        http://www.ukssdc.ac.uk/wdcc1/papers/nature.html

        Geerts and Linacre (1997)

        http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap02/sunspots.html

        Lean et al.(1995)

        http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/bradley/lean1995.pdf

      • And yet LOL, we are still far below the ideal level of CO2 used by greenhouses to maximize plant growth (1000 ppm). Nope, simply saying that things are changing doesn’t make it bad, it makes it different.

      • that’s quite a strawman. We don’t live in a greenhouse. We live on a planet.

      • We don’t live in a greenhouse. We live on a planet.

        bwahaha haha but but but according to all those who are in an alarming state, we DO live in a greenhouse. THAT”S THE WHOLE BALL GAME right there.
        Where have you been these last 30 odd years?

      • @goodspkr…

        I’m skeptical, and I don’t intend to go searching for links. How about a peer-reviewed reference (NOT in E&E) in support.

      • Actually, I recently discussed this here:

        http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/04/climate-crises-half-a-millennium-ago/#comment-119256

        Somewhat tongue in cheek, I linked to this website:

        http://www.jasons-indoor-guide-to-organic-and-hydroponics-gardening.com/plant-growth-and-carbon-dioxide.html

        …because it is just what gardener is advising rather than something politicised by climate science. According to a dude doing his own thing in the real world the optimum concentration is 1500 ppm.

        NOT that i necessarily think that allowing levels to get that high is OK – just that I don’t know if it is not OK. On balance, I would definitely side with caution on that.

      • Today WUWT has a story on a interesting study being conducted at the University of Michigan on tree growth and elevated CO2

        http://tinyurl.com/4x28krq

    • Agnostic, do you seriously think and contend that any risk/cost assessment the IPCC performed could/would have come to the conclusion that AGW/CC was not a dire threat requiring all-in global commitment to avert?
      They barely went through the motions; the conclusion was pre-cooked.

      • Actually, I do think the IPCC could have done the job. And I also think that an organization like the IPCC makes good sense to have. But (and this is a point I have picked up on Judith’s site) I don’t think their terms of reference was conducive to a balanced result.

        1. Their frame of reference was to examine how much anthropogenic effect there was on climate. That immediately skews the investigation to look only at man-made factors rather a more neutral question of “what is happening with our climate”, a subset of which might be anthropogenic.

        2. The assessment was only rigorous from an academic point of view, not on the level and quality expected were you trying to attract private investment. For something as potentially expensive as mitigation, the assessment conducted by the IPCC is inadequate.

        Science in general is self correcting. Again my father put it beautifully in a letter to Julia Gillard:

        “Peer reviewers are unpaid experts in the same field as the writers of the paper. They seldom see all the basic data, the computer codes, the corrections, deletions and adjustments, the instrument calibration details, full details of all assumptions, etc, and their judgments are often coloured by their personal prejudices. Also they don’t get to see the experimental equipment and test environments or the actual samples that form the basis for the paper being reviewed. Usually none of this matters because scientific progress is self correcting. If a rocket scientist gets it wrong the rocket may crash or wander off course or fail in some other way. “Oh dear, what a shame. Well, we’ll get it right next time round.”

        Predicting climate change is not rocket science. It’s much, much more difficult. And the consequences of getting it wrong may be much, much more costly.”

        Therefore in order to conduct a proper assessment, you would need to call in paid experts outside of climate science but with relevant skills. Computer modellers from other fields to check GCMs are being done right, statisticians to check that the climate scientists sums are being done right, physicists to check the physics, mathematicians to check the maths, technicians to check the equipment being used to make observations that constitute the data. All assumptions to be checked and evaluated, all conclusions and results to be replicated several times.

        Naturally this is more expensive than the rather limited effort of the IPCC, but if this is as serious a problem as we are led to believe, then it’s the minimum requirement.

      • Your “could haves” are relating to some idealized IPCC in some other universe. This IPCC, as chartered and constituted, could not have. As for bringing in “outside experts”, it is telling that the insiders at UEA and elsewhere are dead-set opposed to non-climatologist input. They live in a world of self-admiration and -justification in which only they appreciate all the interactions of specialties necessary.

        But the reality is that they are Jackasses of All Sciences, Masters of None. Statisiticians are horrified at their data collection, filtration, and manipulation; mathematicians and modellers at their grotesque Tinker-Toy models, and on and on.

      • typo: Statisticians

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘The assessment was only rigorous from an academic point of view’

        which seesm to mean that two of your mates couldn’t find anything egregriously wrong with it and didn’t think your conclusiosn would upset their precious consensus.

        Or that a guy may once have mentioned something as a throwaway line in a telephone interview ten years earlier – and by a (deliberate?) process of Chinese Whispers this had become accepted as gospel. And nobody ever bothered to check. Years of work by (supposedly) the brightest guys on the planet amd nobody did a simple thing like that. Perhaps they were all too busy studying the beachside climate in Bali? Pathetic.

        Rigour means poking and prodding all the data, all the methods and all the conclusions from every conceivable viewpoint. Throwing it up in the air and seeing if you can reassemble the parts. Making predcitions and checking that they come true. As much demolition as can be done until – if there is core of truth – it is found

        It does not mean half an hour looking through one of your buddy’s paper with the implicit assumption that this is a mutual back-scratching exercise in ramping up each other’s publication record.

        Academic rigour? Don’t make me laugh. I no longer trust a climatologist even to tell me the time with any confidence that it would be accurate or even a reflection of what his clock actually says.

      • Agnostic;
        you and I and Latimer all actually agree, except that you appear to be willing, perhaps pro forma, to give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ that the IPCC was set up and ever attempted to operate in good faith.

        There’s abundant evidence to the contrary, but here’s a pick from my Clipmate files of a comment from a year ago:
        In the Comments on a SciAm article subtly dissing Judith Curry, “Iconoclast” posts the following:

        14. Iconoclast 05:06 PM 10/23/10

        The proposition that the average temperature of the earth’s surface is warming because of increased emissions of human-produced greenhouse gases cannot be tested by any known scientific procedure.

        It is impossible to position temperature sensors randomly over the earth’s surface (including the 71% of ocean, and all the deserts, forests, and icecaps) and maintain it in constant condition long enough to tell if any average is increasing. Even if this were done the difference between the temperature during day and night is so great that no rational average can be derived.

        Measurements at weather stations are quite unsuitable since they are not positioned representatively and they only measure maximum and minimum once a day, from which no average can be derived. They also constantly change in number, location and surroundings. Recent studies show that most of the current stations are unable to measure temperature to better than a degree or two.

        The assumptions of climate models are absurd. They assume the earth is flat, that the sun shines with equal intensity day and night, and the earth is in equilibrium, with the energy received equal to that emitted.

        Half of the time there is no sun, where the temperature regime is quite different from the day.

        No part of the earth ever is in energy equilibrium, neither is there any evidence of an overall “balance”.

        It is unsurprising that such models are incapable of predicting any future climate behaviour, even if this could be measured satisfactorily.

        There are no representative measurements of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide over any land surface, where “greenhouse warming” is supposed to happen.

        After twenty years of study, and as expert reviewer to the IPCC from the very beginning, I can only conclude that the whole affair is a gigantic fraud.

      • The question of whether the IPCC was ever intended to be set up to distort evidence – ie deliberate fraud or advocacy is a different one from saying that an organisation such as what the IPCC should be doing is a worthy one.

        It’s pretty obvious that mankind has industrialised and populated the planet to an unprecedented degree, and that it is possible and even probable that we have some impact on it. It is completely plausible that by burning fossil fuels we accelerate the amount of co2 increase and that that could have an impact on our climate by warming it up – in particular (and people seem to forget this) by warming it and changing our climate faster than we can adapt.

        It is utterly reasonable to take the precaution of studying it carefully to see if there is indeed something we need to be seriously concerned about if we are not to lose control of the situation, and threaten our survival. It’s a global problem and through the UN is an appropriate avenue for doing this.

        It’s just that it turns out not to be as big a problem as was first thought, if it even is a problem at all, or ironically not something to our nett benefit. The big problem is that by the AR4 advocacy had infected objectivity and now we have this raging polarising debate. The frame of reference for the IPCC has a big role in why this has panned out – I do accept that.

      • “It’s just that it turns out not to be as big a problem as was first thought, if it even is a problem at all, or ironically not something to our nett benefit. The big problem is that by the AR4 advocacy had infected objectivity and now we have this raging polarising debate. The frame of reference for the IPCC has a big role in why this has panned out – I do accept that.”

        Yes.
        But the study of climate is still important. It was before AGW and it will be after AGW.
        How to repair it.
        That Is the question.

      • gbaikie | October 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm |

        But the study of climate is still important. It was before AGW and it will be after AGW.
        How to repair it.
        That Is the question.

        Nope. That’s classic “begging the question”. “Repair” assumes damage, and that it’s in an unwanted condition, and needs to be returned to a known better one.
        Not a single one of those assumptions is true.
        Nor is the additional presumptuous assumption that humans can affect the climate significantly. The cost/1°C “mitigation” given above, $1,900 trillion, is really a simple and clear indication that the presumption is foolish, inane, egregious.

  8. “The state of our knowledge about future climate change is such that the degree of uncertainty and the level of ignorance precludes formulating a PDF of outcomes […]”

    Remarkable. Someone has a clue.

    The randomness & i.i.d. (independent, identically distributed) assumptions are patently untenable. Opinions suggesting otherwise are patently absurd, founded on fundamentally flawed spatiotemporal conceptual frameworks.

    With Absolute Sincerity.

    • By the way: “the degree of uncertainty and” should be scratched to attain accuracy: “The state of our knowledge about future climate change is such that the level of ignorance precludes formulating a PDF of outcomes […]“

      Ignorance differs fundamentally from uncertainty. The correct term is “ignorance”. Misapplying “uncertainty” as a collegially diplomatic euphemism for “ignorance” makes statements technically false. Ignorance is the correct term since the spatiotemporal version of Simpson’s Paradox is IGNORED in mainstream conception. This is a DEEPLY fundamental conceptual omission.

      • So, we still have the theory that our planet started out in a chemical pool which changed to water and created life.
        Yet a new discovery shows many frozen bodies in space to be the same composition of the oceans.
        And we have not lost a single drop of water no matter how much salt is left behind.

      • Latimer Alder

        Nope. We did not start with ‘a chemical pool that turned to water and created life’.

        The rest of your post fails.

      • Don’t tell me,
        A BIBLE THUMPER???

      • Latimer Alder

        Fully paid up and continuous member of the militant atheist tendency since age 15. And a Masters in Chemistry from a decent Euorpean university.

        We did not start with a chemical pool that turned to water and created life. You need to be accurate about these things.

      • Latimer,

        It was NOT my theory.
        So, why shoot the messenger?

        All my research shows water was here at the creation of this planet.

      • Joe,
        Go away.
        Get help.

  9. It is indeed true that the climate represents a very complex system that is very difficult to model. However, it is also true that our social/economic/political system is also a very complex system that is very difficult to model.
    What I find very odd is that the ‘precautionary principle’, an extremely conservative philosophy, is heralded as the cornerstone of human/climate interactions, but is never extended to the social/economic/political system.
    I find it odd that changes in banker regulation, or same-sex partnerships, or assessing childhood education are never based on the ‘precautionary principle'; that is, any change to a complex system may have unintended negative impacts that far outweigh any benefits.
    Why is it that revolutionary changes in our social/economic/political system are greeted with enthusiasm, as ‘progress’, and yet the rather small increase on atmospheric [CO2], a byproduct of cheap transport and electricity that underpins our whole way of life, is treated as a disaster?
    I find the use of the ‘precautionary principle’ in the political sphere, very odd indeed.

    • Doc,

      It’s called greed and corruption on a terrible system we created to control society from beating the crap out of each other.

    • Doc, the climate system is not just “difficult” to model, it’s impossible — same for social/economic/political systems, etc.

      As to why isn’t the precautionary principle applied to social/economic/political “problems”? What makes you think that it hasn’t been applied throughout human history – but just under different names? It’s basically a call to act from ignorance (not uncertainty). This has too often been the norm for human behaviour. Better known as Mob Rule. Or the ends justify the means.

  10. Dr. Curry, in a risk assessment, both loss and risk are part of the equation. The real problem is that the precautionary principle as used is to avoid the problem that uncertainty in the loss category causes. PP is rhetorical. The comparison to asteroids is simply to show that reductio ad absurdum is an inappropriate argument, a red herring in this case. As uncertainty in the capability (loss) goes up, risk management would indicate to use the money in other endevours. The argument is that we can’t afford not to do something. There are two errors with this approach. One it discounts loss in the future for loss today (an error), which gets rid of the fat tailed economic analysis that shows within an economic framework, consideration of possibilities on the horizon of 30 to 50 years cannot be justified economically. The second error is that risk management involves incremental investment. A typical example is to compare is it better to build a new boiler, or pay more for low sulphur fuel to meet SO2 limits. In the PP, doing something and doing the correct thing are the same, or are assumed so. It is a given, we do not know the future and the argument is about what the future holds. Doing the correct thing is not just anything, as possible futures are not the future we will necessarily see. The real argument is a pre-emptive bid to disallow how humans approach what they are willing to lose versus what they are willing to risk. Fine by itself, however, by getting rid or invalidating the economic analysis, it becomes political, not about risk. We have management tools for risk. The advocates have expressed their displeasure with the economic results (IIRC you had it posted here about advocates wanting to change the future value to something unrealistic to make the window 100 to years compared to the 30 to 50 years in current analysis), and are proposing political solutions in the flavor of stopping CO2, not controlling the effects of climate change. They are not the same.

  11. Rick Bradford

    Left/Greenies want change, especially change which smashes the capitalists.

    To that end, they will use any specious argument, trash any data, hide any decline, pick any cherry, which enables them to prop up their lifelong personal ego projects of being ‘saviours of the planet’.

    “Yes we can”, they say, utterly indifferent to the people whose lives are damaged by their actions.

  12. It seems to me that the strong precautionary principle applies on the skeptical side, since it is the alarmists who are advocating extreme government action. BAU is not an action.

    • Of course BAU is an action. It’s an action to do this:

      • “Action” here means government action, which is the issue. How billions of people presently live is not itself an action subject to decision making. The issue is one of government action.

      • then I would say the precautionary principle applies also to inaction.

      • There are an infinite number of possible problems we do nothing about and we only have finite resources. So the vast majority are going to get inaction, no matter what the precautionary principle may or may not say.

        So you need to make a convincing case that ‘your’ particular worry is of special interest. And if your proposed solutions are going to be resource intensive and/or high impact, your case will need to stand up to some pretty tough and rigorous scrutiny. Which will go a lot, lot further than relying on a couple of coworkers give you a peer review tick and some dodgy output from some even dodgier models.

        As climatology shows no signs of matching up to the minumum professional standards of rigour and integrity expected of even the lowliest small shopkeeper (accurate record keeping, full disclosure when required by law, integrity in his dealing and pleasant and effective customer service), I suggest that you go away for a decade, get yourselves sorted out, and then, assumig that there still is some sort of a cse, reapply in about twenty years with appropriate rigorous documentation.

        Until then…not a chance.

      • Climate Change Science is the only science I know of that requires action when more is known and requires action when less is known.

        The question then becomes, “In theory, is there any information that climate change science could present that would require that any action be delayed, if any action should be taken at all?”

        Andrew

      • lolwot, the precautionary principle is usually invoked in the context of proposals for change, such as introducing a new chemical. The plain language version is let’s not do it until we are sure it is safe, which cannot apply to BAU, because we are already doing it.

        If the PC applies equally to BAU and the proposal for radical decarbonization then it simply cancels out. One is left with cost-benefit analysis, where the avoidable cost of BAU is the benefit of change and the benefit of BAU is the avoidable cost of change.

      • “So you need to make a convincing case that ‘your’ particular worry is of special interest.”

        Such a case has already been made. That’s why the subject is an issue in the first place.

      • “The plain language version is let’s not do it until we are sure it is safe, which cannot apply to BAU, because we are already doing it.”

        We haven’t elevated CO2 to 700ppm yet. It’s a choice.

      • “The question then becomes, “In theory, is there any information that climate change science could present that would require that any action be delayed, if any action should be taken at all?””

        Yeah if you can show that the effects of tripling CO2 in a space of centuries are safe

      • @lolwot

        In repsonse to my suggestion that alrmists need to make a convincing case for action you replied:

        ‘Such a case has already been made. That’s why the subject is an issue in the first place’

        Well, the fact that we are still having this discussion about some pretty basic stuff about such a case would belie your assertion. It may be that you are personally convinced, but that is not the same thing at all. You have yet to convince the rest of us. And so far in this particular discussion your case is retreating not advancing IMO.

        PS Snarky remarks about logarithms do not help you.

      • “Yeah if you can show that the effects of tripling CO2 in a space of centuries are safe”

        How about showing that the effects of tripling CO2 in a space of centuries is dangerous?

        Andrew

  13. If I had built my entire career on the proposition that CO2 would cause unprecedented warming I would be a little alarmed right now myself. There is still a chance that it may so I see no need for alarmism. The appropriate position to take is one of data collection and analysis.

  14. Once again we see the ambiguity between two senses of uncertainty. Within AGW the uncertainty is how long and fat the tail is? But in the general debate the uncertainty is whether there is any tail at all? There is a big difference.

  15. Just in case anyone needs to refresh their memory on “the case for cliamte change alarmism”
    This isn’t bad:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/10/AR2007101002157.html

    But, of course, we are now much more uncertain than we were then, and that means the worst possible option in 2007 ” ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing” somehow becomes the best possible option in 2011 !

    Isn’t uncertainty a marvellous thing? And so much cheaper than reducing carbon emissions! How can the cost benefits have been overlooked for all this time? It’s a concept with limitless potential.

    • Latimer Alder

      @tempterrain

      Did Judith actually write the words you have attributed to her? Or are you being a little ‘economical with the actualite’ to better fit your narrative?

      • Yes she did. Word for word.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sure? Actually word for word?

        Because in the post you link to she says this:

        ‘But I have yet to see any option that is worse than ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing’ ?

        which is similar, but subtly different from what you suggest. especially with the modification of ‘I have yet to see’.

        Maybe your word for word quote comes from another essay?

      • The quoted words were ” ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing”. The idea of using quote marks should be that everything within them should be “word for word”. I have seen people break this rule and I would say it is a no-no.

        The other rule should be that quoted passages shouldn’t be taken out out context to imply a completely different meaning from the one intended. For instance it would be possible to imply ” ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing” was meant by Judith to be a good option.

        She didn’t. She meant it was the worst of all options in 2007.

      • If you follow the evolution of JC’s thinking, I believe you’d find that her analysis of risk and response has evolved considerably in the last 4 years. At least, I hope so.

      • “evolved”?

        Changed certainly.

        Its supposed to be due to something Judith read in some leaked emails. Mind you, I’ve seen those emails and I can’t see anything at all which would negate the logic and good sense of what she had previously written.

    • tt, You are made, to read the Bible… & talk about the ‘limitless potential’, wow! Please be sure to follow the enclosed instructions to the letters, too.
      All the Best. Tom

    • WisconsinitesForGlobalWarming

      @tempterrain

      So your argument is the more uncertainty the more we should be compelled into action?

      Wouldn’t you agree that there is even more uncertainty surrounding whether a planet-sized asteroid will strike the Earth or not than around what happens if CO2 increases?

      If that’s the case, shouldn’t we first build a global “asteroid-strike defense system”, then worry about the climate?

      • “So your argument is the more uncertainty the more we should be compelled into action?”

        Judith, in her previous personality, was able to explain it all very well.

        Think of risk as the product of consequences and likelihood: what can happen and the odds of it happening. A 10-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100 is not likely; the panel gives it a 3 percent probability. Such low-probability, high-impact risks are routinely factored into any analysis and management strategy, whether on Wall Street or at the Pentagon. The rationale for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide is to reduce the risk of the possibility of catastrophic outcomes. Making the transition to cleaner fuels has the added benefit of reducing the impact on public health and ecosystems and improving energy security — providing benefits even if the risk is eventually reduced.

      • I love this so much I had to give it
        blog immortality.

      • tempterrain

        You are treading into dangerous territory when you talk of our host’s “previous personality”.

        I have not witnessed any basic change in “personality”, but possibly only an awareness that something is not as it should be with the IPCC process and its handling of uncertainty.

        These are reasonable observations, which can shift overall opinions on specific points.

        For our host’s position on uncertainties related to a) natural factors and CO2/climate impact, b) the lack of evidence that AGW will become an existential threat in this century and c) the need to clear up as many uncertainties as possible before starting the implementation of actions whose unintended negative consequences we cannot judge today, read her testimony to the Baird committee of US Congress last fall.

        She states her thoughts on these matters very clearly and succinctly. And I do not see any evidence that she has changed from these conclusions since then.

        Do you?

        Max

      • Yes

  16. Dr. Curry,

    I’ve had two comments eaten by the spam filter, I’m not sure what’s triggering it.

    • Gene, your comment has been released, no idea what triggered the spam filter.

    • I’ve just had a similar problem. I’m not sure if US sensibilites are much more acute than would be normal in say the UK or Australia but Judith’s spam filter certainly took exception to the word “sh*t”. That’s surprising. I’ve just been watching “The Wire” and it’s used is just about every sentence of dialogue in that.

      • tt

        Filter catches verbally stated “S” in “BS”.

        Hidden “BS” comes through.

        Keep posting your “BS”, as you have in the past, without using the “S”-word and you’ll have no problem with the filter.

        Just a tip.

        Max

  17. One part of the application of the precautionary principle that makes no sense is the focus on just one of the possible causes of catastrophe. Given all the uncertainty, wouldn’t it make sense to also mitigate methane (other than from fossil fuel production), land use changes, and natural drivers of climate change?

    It seems to me that if uncertainty drives you to act on one potential cause of undesirable change, it should drive you to act on all of them. Unless, of course, the cart is in front of the horse and the desired actions are really driving the perception of risk instead of the other way around.

    • It’s not just uncertainty. It’s knowing how far and fast CO2 is going to rise and that CO2 is the dominant of the non-condensing greenhouse gases.

      • Still nowhere near scary enough! That CO2 is ‘the dominant of the non-condensing greenhouse gases’ ain’t going to keep me awake at night. Sorry

        Will you be mentioning those nice cuddly polar bears later?

  18. This author (referenced by Dr. Curry) is starting from false premises: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3693423/Weitzman_OnModeling.pdf?sequence=2

    Every lecture in advanced stats (INCLUDING “Bayesian”) starts with assumptions that do NOT hold in practice. Those immersed in the abstract paradigm either don’t see or (for the rare few with deeper awareness) don’t want others to see this. The cases where the assumptions actually hold are so trivial that inference is not even needed to draw sensible conclusions.

    If they’re not blinded by blizzards of algebra, students of advanced statistical inference are undermined by uncritical, unconditional, & unconscious wholesale acceptance of untenable assumptions.

    And watch out for your local Bayesian snake oil salespeople, who offer only “new & improved” ways of basing inference on *untenable* assumptions. The cases where the assumptions actually hold (whether Bayesian or Classical) are so trivial that inference is not even needed to draw sensible conclusions.

    Arguments founded on false assumptions aren’t worth hearing.

    Regards.

    • The economic uniqueness of the
      climate-change problem is not just that today’s decisions
      have difficult-to-reverse impacts that will be felt very far out
      into the future, thereby straining the concept of time discounting
      and placing a heavy burden on the choice of an
      interest rate. From the Weitzman Introduction.

      The paper starts from an incorrect, untestable claim as a basis. And an omission. The claim is that the future is one with a severs problem that is difficult to revers and carries far out to the future. In other words the worst case scnario will be true. This pre-empts the discussion of loss versus risk, and is another attempt to justify a different economic basis than risk assessment, while apparently calling it that.

  19. I’ve studied semantics from both a linguistic and neurological perspective, and what stands out to me in this whole discussion is this statement from the “Uncertainty, risk, and (in)action” thread:

    Increased uncertainty provides a greater probability of occurrence of the catastrophe, strengthening the case for action under the precautionary principle

    Now, the word “action” is sitting there in the middle of a technical discussion like a junebug on a birthday cake. Unlike the other important words in the sentence, and whole discussion, there’s little rational discussion of its meaning.

    Why are we arguing whether or not we should take action, while there seems to be a tacit assumption regarding what that action is? Let’s start with the obvious fact that “action” might come in many forms, some of which have “fat tails” of their own, and others might not. I’ve seen this called the “no regrets” approach, which is not the same as proposing that everything we do should have been done anyway. It just means that we aren’t going to get into a known economic “fat tail” risk, while trying to deal with the “fat tail” climate risk.

    • Well said (although I’d suggest the argument is more over whether the uncertainty dictates the urgency rather than whether to act or not)

    • Neither discussion properly takes place in isolation from the other. One problem, as I see it, is that both discussions tend to be driven more by motivated reasoning and partisanship than by a willingness to openly engage in comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

      Further, assuming that discussions of costs and benefits of different forms of action or of inaction should be fairly proportional to in-depth discussions of the reasons for inaction/action in some generic sense, there does seem to me to be an imbalance (towards the later).

      • … there does seem to me to be an imbalance (towards the later).

        I’m getting into politics a little here, but AFAIK the vast majority of the “action” proposed by alarmists is tantamount to imposing a Marxist agenda on the world. Whether or not most alarmists see it that way, most denialists certainly do. If people who are alarmed about climate were a little more willing to consider a broader range of options for action, perhaps some of the denialists would become more willing to consider action. (And then, some wouldn’t.)

      • AK,
        Your reliance on the term “denier” only makes you look like an ignorant bigot, which is a shame because much of what you write is otherwise very interesting.

      • @hunter…

        AFAIK most (or all) ignorant bigots ape/parrot language of better informed people without understanding it, or its context. I’ve gotten some pretty rude comments from people who reacted to a perfectly good technical post with knee-jerk bigotry (on both sides, so IMO I’m batting 1000). I’m going to call them by the most appropriate term, which is “denialist” or “alarmist”. The fact that some people use the terms for anybody who disagrees with them doesn’t (IMO) make the terms off-limits.

      • Actually, AK, what I “told” you by including that poll was that your categorizations of those who are alarmed about climate change is overly broad.

        I find it interesting that you in your comment to me you link the Hartwell Paper as an example of viable perspectives for those who are alarmed about global warming – in contrast to how you characterized those alarmed about global warming and how you characterized my perspective – when in a previous thread you responded to a post where I, in fact, referenced the Hartwell Paper.

        If you’re going insist that by referencing that poll, I was telling you what my beliefs are, then knock yourself out.

      • If people who are alarmed about climate were a little more willing to consider a broader range of options for action…

        I think that your categorization is overly broad, there, (although at the extreme end of “alarmism,” it might be valid). For example, this poll is a bit old (from 2009), but it shows that “… 58% support a tax on carbon emissions to create incentives to reduce emissions and increase efficiency, and that provides tax refunds to individuals and households to offset the overall impact of the carbon tax….”

        http://www.climatetaskforce.org/2009/12/01/survey-results/

        I believe that more recent polls show results that are in line with those results.

        Now while some might call such a tax to be “Marxist,” I’d say that is an arguable categorization.

        I think that those who fit the descriptor of “denialist” will not be persuaded by anything. As for “skeptics” more generally, I agree that more openness among “warmists” to debating the costs and benefits of different “action” would, in turn, engender more openness to action (see my response to you here: http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/12/the-case-for-climate-change-alarmism/#comment-121374).

        However, overly broad characterizations of the debate’s participants, on either side, will not likely lead to more openness.

      • @Joshua…

        Now while some might call such a tax to be “Marxist,” I’d say that is an arguable categorization.

        It’s a classic example of redistribution of wealth, which is generally considered a Marxist bullet point. Certainly by the American Right.

        It’s exactly the wrong solution to the problem, which is clear to most people familiar with how the economy fits together. In order to increase the price of energy sufficiently to provide the incentives you suggest, you would have to impose effectively punitive taxes on energy from fossil carbon. There are two problems with this:

        – AFAIK every time energy prices have risen dramatically, the economy began to slow down, with associated problems nobody’s going to accept on top of the current problem. This is a classic “fat tail” proposal.

        – Everybody in a position to invest money in non-fossil energy will see the very high risk that the whole regime will only last a year or so, and not invest. That’s exactly what happened in the 1970’s.

        You, and people like you, need to be open to solutions that don’t involve expensive energy for anybody. Economic growth is the only way people in general are going to be able to achieve the lifestyle currently enjoyed by better off folks in the developed world. Solutions that don’t involve economic growth aren’t going to happen, for political reasons.

        We need to find solution(s) that permit rapid economic growth, cheap energy, and relatively rapid conversion to non-fossil energy. IMO the best approaches involve forcing people who want to be involved to use their imaginations a little more. Along with massive subsidies to original research, perhaps funded by a much more modest tax on fossil energy.

        (You talk about subsidies for low-income people, but what about subsidies on costs of delivering food to the markets they shop in? Delivery of stuff ordered on-line? Shipment of the manufacturing intermediates for the products they’re going to buy? etc.)

      • AK – I find it interesting that even as you call for more openness, you resort to overly broad categorizations, that return no real value in terms of discussion.

        Pielke Jr. and PIelke Sr. support a carbon tax; does that make them, along with majorities of the American public, “Marxist” in their proclivities?

        It’s exactly the wrong solution to the problem, which is clear to most people familiar with how the economy fits together.

        So you think that PIelke Jr. is “[un]familiar with how the economy fits together?”

        In order to increase the price of energy sufficiently to provide the incentives you suggest, you would have to impose effectively punitive taxes on energy from fossil carbon.

        Actually, what I would suggest is a relatively weak carbon tax, in order to fund research and development of renewable technology infrastructure, developing public transportation infrastructure (which very often stimulates economic activity), etc.

        AFAIK every time energy prices have risen dramatically, the economy began to slow down, with associated problems nobody’s going to accept on top of the current problem. This is a classic “fat tail” proposal.

        Do you have any evidence that differentiates causation and correlation there? I haven’t seen any that I find convincing.

        - Everybody in a position to invest money in non-fossil energy will see the very high risk that the whole regime will only last a year or so, and not invest. That’s exactly what happened in the 1970′s.

        First, you are arguing a conclusion before the relevant conditions have been stipulated. You don’t even really know what I am or am not arguing for (because you haven’t asked), and based on that lack of knowledge are concluding that what I’m arguing for wouldn’t be attractive to investors. In point of fact, I have seen much evidence that investment in non-fossil energy is a relatively fast growing segment of our investment economy.

        You, and people like you, need to be open to solutions that don’t involve expensive energy for anybody. Economic growth is the only way people in general are going to be able to achieve the lifestyle currently enjoyed by better off folks in the developed world. Solutions that don’t involve economic growth aren’t going to happen, for political reasons.

        Once again – you argue based on overly broad categorizations, that leave no room for a nuanced discussion.

        As for the rest of your post, the questions you ask are good ones, but until you seem willing to get past the problems with the first part of your post, there seems little reason to discuss them. You wouldn’t be discussing anything with me, but only with some imagined “warmist” demon.

      • @Joshua…

        You don’t even really know what I am or am not arguing for (because you haven’t asked)

        Well, I didn’t have to ask because you told me:

        58% support a tax on carbon emissions to create incentives to reduce emissions and increase efficiency, and that provides tax refunds to individuals and households to offset the overall impact of the carbon tax

        This, without any caveats, makes a good starting point for responding to you. It’s simply not compatible with

        a relatively weak carbon tax, in order to fund research and development of renewable technology infrastructure, developing public transportation infrastructure (which very often stimulates economic activity), etc.

        Now, I don’t agree that your later proposal is the best approach, but the key fact here is that it’s not the one you ran up the flagpole in your previous post. Stimulating investment requires much higher fossil energy prices. Prices high enough, IMO, to bring the economy to a grinding halt.

        If you want to discuss a modest and increasing fossil carbon tax, along the lines of the Hartwell paper, along with how to spend it, I’m open.

      • @Joshua…

        I’ve started the thread over, here

      • I’m not sure why a carbon tax is inherently considered to be ‘Marxist’. As far as I know Marx was unaware of climate change problems and so would never have considered this. Even if he had he may have had a problem with it, as it is an indirect rather than a direct tax. A direct and graduated tax on income is definitely Marxist. he certainly advocated that. As are all State funded educational establishments BTW. He advocated free education. If you are keen to free Government of Marxist influence you should start by closing down the schools and abolishing income tax. But its not an argument against a carbon tax.

  20. Tobis, and several others, seem to have not yet learned that “strawmen eating a red herring”, especially when presented with the absolutely upmost of dismissiveness, do not contribute to constructive, learned discussions. Such an approach additionally, and more importantly, detracts greatly from their arguments.

    Here are two examples from the Planet 3.0 Post:

    Perhaps you might argue for the zero-feedback 1.2 C, which apparently means your faith in science doesn’t even extend to established facts about how water evaporates.

    Others are willing to throw away all of astrophysics along with climate science, and suggest that nothing about radiative transfer is known.

    Personally, whenever I encounter such statements, my mind immediately gets distracted and begins to wander away from the subject at hand and begins to focus on the lack of basis for the statements.

    • Personally, whenever I encounter such statements, my mind immediately gets distracted and begins to wander away from the subject at hand and begins to focus on the lack of basis for the statements.

      Actually, he’s right on the money technically, and you have only to look at some of the comments here (this blog, not necessarily this post) to see he’s right WRT the arguments of some denialists. I will agree his statements are a little strong (and bitter), but it’s his blog.

      • I would question what possible benefit can be gained from the tone of those statements.

        Again – if I think of a cost-benefit analysis, it seems pointless: all cost, no benefit. Some people will reject any analysis that allows for the possibility of AGW – but those people are a “sunk cost.” In the meantime, statements like those only distract from discussing the costs and benefits of different forms of action – and potentially (beneficially?) exposing the motivated reasoning that dominates in that realm.

      • AKAIK MT’s not interested in such discussions. I could be wrong. Why not make your criticisms at his blog? (Assuming you haven’t and it’s waiting in moderation.)

      • Joshua: If one does not believe in AGW then it is perfectly reasonable to reject including it. The scientific debate is about precisely this, the reality of AGW.

        But I see you are now using the theory-laden term “motivated reasoning,” which you strongly claim dominates the realm. Is this MR different from ordinary reasoning? If so how? If it is reasoning that is independent of belief, which I suspect, then there is no such thing.

      • “Motivated Reasoning” is what the old Roman Catholic Jesuits called “Diabolical Logic”: logic that starts from accepted premises and achieves unacceptable conclusions. The Church IPCC establishment accuses people like Galileo Judith Curry of listening to the Devil taking money from (or being “dupes” of) “big oil” to publish things they don’t like. That’s diabolical logic motivated reasoning.

      • Is this MR different from ordinary reasoning?

        David – all reasoning is motivated. The point for me is to examine how wiling people are to examine, be open about, and try to control for their motivations. It is impossible to be perfect in that regard – but an unwillingness to be open to the fundamental nature of motivated reasoning, IMO, marks someone as a lost cause (on either side of the debate, btw).

        If one does not believe in AGW then it is perfectly reasonable to reject including it.

        Indeed – I couldn’t have said it better myself. That is why it is important to examine why people do or do not “believe in AGW.”

      • Joshua,

        There are people out there who do claim that the feedbacks are zero or even negative. There are people who will dispute the basics of radiative transfer – see the various “dragon” threads here. In the context of MT’s piece it was perfectly reasonable to mention that. If people are so put off by those statements that they will disregard the whole article I would suggest that the piece is not aimed at them anyway and they are perhaps too sensitive to be reading discussions on the internet at all.

      • AA –

        My question is what would the benefits be of such language. It might be reasonable, but is there any benefit, or what are the potential costs?

        What is the benefit of aiming your participation in the debate towards those who are already convinced of your position? To make those already convinced feel better about themselves, and to feel more convinced about the intractability of anyone who might disagree?

        Let’s assume that the “dragon-types” are a sunk cost. There might be some middle-ground “skeptics” who are turned off by that kind of language, but I would argue that there are greater costs to straw man types of arguments: They lower the bar of self-scrutiny.

        Let’s look at this example provide above:

        Others are willing to throw away all of astrophysics along with climate science, and suggest that nothing about radiative transfer is known.

        Sure – there are people that fall into that camp. In point of fact, from my observations, the # of people that fall into that camp is regularly underestimated by some “skeptics” and Judith – but still, there are people who question how much is known about radiative transfer without arguing that “nothing” is known. Now I’m not in a position to judge whether or not enough is known about radiative transfer to validate the theory of AGW – but I am in a position to recognize a straw man argument. My inclination is to think that the predominate opinion among experts (that what is known about radiative transfer validates AGW theory) is the most likely to be sound – but when I see straw men arguments being articulated, it lowers my confidence in those who claim to have more insight into the technical questions than I have.

      • Joshua,

        What is the benefit of aiming your participation in the debate towards those who are already convinced of your position? To make those already convinced feel better about themselves, and to feel more convinced about the intractability of anyone who might disagree?

        It kind of depends exactly what you are discussing. Even for those of us who are convinced that AGW is a real threat there are still real questions about the likely consequences and possible strategies and solutions to combat it, and there are likely to be genuine disagreements on particular topics. But such discussions are necessarily predicated on the assumption that there is an actual threat to be considered and no purpose is served by allowing people to clutter up the discussion by trying to argue otherwise, there are other forums such as this one where they can do that. I’m not saying people should be excluded from the discussion if they have something valuable to contribute, but it’s not wrong to lay down ground rules for what is or isn’t up for debate.

        I don’t see the comment by MT as you quoted as being a “straw man” argument – you acknowleged yourself that a not inconsiderable number of the “skeptics” do believe that. And it’s demonstrably wrong. Have you read all of MT’s piece – I think both of the comments which you object to are reasonable when seen in contect.

      • Technically I wasn’t aware that we had determined the exact zero feedback sensitivity of co2 was 1.2 C. So if you start out by making an assumption it is rather easy using that assumption to determine that others are incorrect. Historically the response to forcing has been 1.2 C.

        http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/2009JCLI3461.1

  21. –> “Traditional responses to the risk of extreme events are of limited value in mitigating risks of a mega-catastrophe…”

    I am quite sure that is exactly what Bush believed, but then Bush was reacting to man-made castrophes not acts of nature, where the only rational response is preparedness, not casting chicken bones and upping the ritual bleeding of the capitalist system to pay for face paint.

  22. Judith Curry

    [Fourth and last attempt: there is something that is scrambling the 5th paragraph from the bottom.]

    I would agree 100% with your comments on this call for alarmism.

    You summarized it very well in your level-headed testimony before the congressional committee a year ago.

    It appears to me that these calls for alarmism using fear mongering are becoming increasingly frequent.

    Is this a desperate reaction to the apparent perception (based on polls) that the public has grown weary (and leery) of doomsday predictions, so there is a need to ratchet up the fear factor?

    Pentland’s “fat tail” argument that “that the risk of catastrophic outcome is more than forty thousand times more probable than that from an asteroid collision with the earth” sounds scary at first.

    But let’s make a qualitative analysis of this statement: “40,000 times more probable” is not based on any sort of real statistical analysis (let alone a scientific one, where probability does not enter the equation anyway).

    Past history tells us that a future asteroid collision is virtually 100% certain, although the timing is not.

    Let’s say these happen every 70 to 75 million years (based on the past) and we are due for a “hit” within the next 5 to 10 million years.

    So we could say (in IPCC parlance) from past experience and from all the stuff floating around out there that we are “virtually certain” (>99%) to be struck by a major asteroid some day in the future, and this is “very likely” (>90%) to occur within the next 5 to 10 million years.

    On the other hand, we have no empirical evidence that we are even likely (>66%) to have catastrophic human-induced climate change.

    In fact, based on past temperature/CO2 changes since 1850 and the estimated total carbon contained in all possible fossil fuel resources on Earth, the total human-induced warming we could envision (when this resource is all used up) is around 2.2 degrees C above today’s temperature.

    Based on GH theory and past experience, this warming is “very likely” (>90%) to occur some day when all fossil fuels have been used up.

    However, at this level, this warming is “extremely unlikely” (<5%) to be a catastrophe for humanity or our environment

    Admittedly, if we start throwing in model-based postulations of "climate equilibrium delay" and "warming hidden in the pipeline" we can double this estimate to 4.5 degrees C as an absolute "maximum ever" warming.

    Here we are moving out of the “very likely”(>90%) region into a more uncertain category: let’s be generous and call it “more likely than not” (>50%) that this would occur at all, all other things being equal.

    Let’s also say that it is ”likely” (>66%) that this warming will not be offset by natural factors (as has occurred over our present decade)

    We can then speculate that this much climate warming would have winners and losers, but would be negative on balance.

    And since it looks like all fossil fuels will be used up over the next 150 to 200 years, that sets the timing for this climate change to reach its maximum (possibly “catastrophic”) level.

    Then let’s try to quantify “catastrophic impact”.

    A 4.5 degrees C global warming would have winners and losers. Let’s say that it is “likely” (>66%) that there would be more losers than winners, but “extremely unlikely” (99% certain to occur, >90% certain to be catastrophic for humanity and >90% certain that this will occur in the next 5 million years.
    The asteroid strike of 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs, so it is “very likely” that a similar strike would do a god job wiping out at least half of humanity (let’s say 3.5 billion.human deaths, if it happened today). [Earlier estimates of the impact of “nuclear winter” went into this direction.]

    A 4.5 degrees C global warming would have winners and losers. Let’s say that it is “likely” (>66%) that there would be more losers than winners, but “extremely unlikely” (99% certain to occur, >90% certain to be catastrophic for humanity and >90% certain that this will occur in the next 5 million years.

    The human-induced global warming of 4.5 degrees C is >50% certain to occur, with a >66% probability that it would not be offset by natural changes, a 90% certainty that this could occur some time between 150 to 200 years from now.

    So Pentland’s argument that a “climate catastrophe” is “40,000x more probable” to occur than a catastrophic asteroid impact appears to be weak. It simply considers the time frame (25,000 to 33,000x), but not the other probabilities.

    If these are also considered, one could say that a human-induced climate catastrophe is 450 to 600 times more likely to occur within the next 150 to 200 years than a catastrophic asteroid strike.

    Admittedly, this is just a very rough qualitative look at the probabilities, but it does point to the suggestion that Pentland’s “400,000 times more probable” postulation is grossly exaggerated.

    Maybe someone else here, who has a better understanding of the statistical analyses behind betting odds will take a more exact look at Pentland’s postulation, but it seems way off to me.

    Max

    • Sixth paragraph from the bottom should read:

      The paragraph starting with “A 4.5 degrees C global warming…” was posted twice with a garbled ending. It should read:

      A 4.5 degrees C global warming would have winners and losers. Let’s say that it is “likely” (>66%) that there would be more losers than winners, but “extremely unlikely” (<5%) that it would mean billions of human deaths.

      [Can't figure out why this gets garbled.]

      Max

    • The difference between climate change and an meteorite impact is that Bruce Willis can protect us from fast moving rocks.

  23. Accepting the argument that uncertainty regarding possible serious impacts of future global warming dictates that we should take immediate action, what actions can we take, what will be the cost, and what can we afford? The alarmists tell us that it will cost more to do nothing. I don’t believe it. The world is a poor place. Much of the world lives in poverty. The United States is a poor place. The census bureau reports that 46.2% of Americans live below the poverty line (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html?pagewanted=all). The United States federal debt is now well over $40,000 per man, woman and child in America. Our expenses outweigh our incomes and we can’t stop spending. Even so, many of our government programs are underfunded and in trouble. If the world stops using fossil fuels, won’t it enter a depression far worse than the 1930s? If we depend on renewable energy, won’t we be beset by continual outages, and won’t it take so long to establish renewable energy that CO2 will build up in the interim? And who, pray tell, is going to get China, India, and the other Asian countries to stop using fossil fuels? It is not clear what the alarmist agenda is for dealing with their hypothesized future crisis, so it is not simple to estimate its cost. Yet, whatever it costs, it seems likely to me that since we are a poor country in a poor world, we can hardly afford it.

  24. –> “For better or worse, uncertainty pervades projections of global warming…”

    Imagine thinking in such terms during the time of Charles Dickens?

    Charles Dickens expressed the reality of the climate at the time he grew up with far greater precision than making up concepts like the “global average potential” to describe the temperatures of his day; “… the Maunder Minimum of solar activity during the 17th century occurred at exactly the same time as the Little Ice Age. The low level of solar activity in the period 1800-1830 coincided with another cool climatic period dubbed the “Dickensian Winters” (Charles Dickens was a young boy at the time, and his novels depicting snowy Christmases in London, which normally does not get snow in December, reflects his memories of childhood). 1816 has been called “The Year Without a Summer”, due to the severe cold which affected America and Europe that year. In 1814, a frost fair was held on the River Thames in London, indicating that temperatures had very briefly descended to even the Little Ice Age level when Thames frost fairs were common.”

    What do the Vostok ice cores show about the past 650,000 years? For example, the current levels of atmospheric CO2 is at about the lowest level in the geological history of the Earth. Will Happer’s testimony in the Senate established that, “the planet is currently starved of CO2, and has been so starved for several million years.” The observation is valid without advert to a meaningless concept like “average global temperature.”

    We can only give the concept of “average global temperature” meaning if we are honest in its use. For example, we cannot prove human-CO2 is causing global warming based on the concept of “average global temperature.” However, we can use the concept to prove it is meaningless to this application, e.g., what do the Minoan, Roman, and medieval warm periods have in common? Current global temperatures are 5°F cooler than these previous warm periods. Similarly, we can use the same concept of “average global cooling” to demonstrate that rather than global warming, we currently are heading into a period of global cooling.
    The WMP (the Medieval Warm Period) existed in the IPCC’s its 1990 report. In its 2001 report, however, the IPCC wiped the WMP. Instead, they printed Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ graph, knowing that it was erroneous. Moreover, the IPCC showcased Mann’s graph and reproduced it over and over, even after Mann’s graph had been debunked. It is obvious that the IPCC deals only in politics and that, from the beginning, has never been anything more than an ideologically motivated purveyor of “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    It is for these reasons that the concept of an “average global temperature” can be seen to have no more than a political meaning.

  25. Power-laws and fat-trails are not some new thing and they have always been there. They come about simply from uncertainty propagation. The simplest case is if you have some measure that comes about from dividing one variable by another. If the divisor has a normal distribution but is large, a fat-tail power-law will pop out automatically.

    Now think back to the discussion on the last few days concerning feedback effects. It is easy to show how the feedback goes directly into the divisor as a 1/(1-f) factor. If there is any uncertainty in the feedback term, this goes as an uncertainty in the divisor, and bang, there you have a fat-tail in uncertainty.

    You can’t just wish this stuff away. Uncertainty propagation is known to everyone that did their first Physics 101 experiment, dropping an object and trying to infer velocity from timing. Time was in the denominator and the velocity results never looked normally distributed. Until we get better accuracy on the timer, the uncertainty made our results look bad.

    That is just the epistemic uncertainty. On the physical behavioral side, Stephan-Boltzmann for wavelength, CO2 impulse response, etc, are all the result of aleatory uncertainty that comes from entropy and diffusional considerations and thus shows up as fat-tails as well. Nothing we can do about those unfortunately, as entropy will always be there.

    There you have a 2-cent qualitative view on how fat-tails and uncertainty conspire together in practical terms.

  26. The fat tail scenario while I understand the reasoning, does seem to rely on a number of assumptions (that cAGW is occurring, that it is dangerous and that there is a tipping point) and I think is using the probably using the probability scenarios in a disingenuous way. Probably.

    I find it very hard to believe that the planet would ‘allow’ the system to be pushed so far out of kilter without some very strong feedbacks kicking into place to control it. I therefore find the fat tail scenario unlikely and misleading.

    Surely, given the remarkably stable nature of our climate, the larger the forcing, the larger the probability of a significant feedback event occurring.

    Just as the (current) absence of a tipping point for the cAGW theory doesn’t seem to negate it’s existence, I’d argue it’s just as, if not more likely, that there will be a feedback tipping point. All naturally occurring buffered systems that I’m familiar with possess this characteristic and given that this planet has seen significantly higher CO2 levels, I find it implausible in the extreme that the capacity is not there to deal with the rising levels we see now.

    So when it comes to probability in relation to political agenda and planning, what can we do?

    Well, as has been alluded to and implicitly stated in some cases, mitigation is the key. If you increase the ability of those at most risk to deal with these changes, the negative effects of such changes reduce, as does the risk.

    So perhaps, instead of trying to reduce the risk by combating the situation itself, we should come at it from the other direction, negate the risk by increasing our ability to deal with said situation. Same net result, but one is infinitely more achievable and immediately useful than the other (not to mention cheaper!)

  27. re: JC’s note –> Note: Michael Tobis has an article on this at his new blog, Planet 3.0. Check out the post, it has a very funny cartoon on ‘Easter Bunny Island’

    The cartoon itself may be based on ‘fairy tale archeology’…according to the latest research. Quote– Lipo thinks the story of Easter Island’s civilization being responsible for its own demise might better reflect the psychological baggage of our own society than the archeological evidence. –End Quote. full article at

    http://www.livescience.com/616-view-easter-island-disaster-wrong-researchers.html

    • This was discussed on a thread here not too long ago, along with Diamond’s response.

      • Lippo and Hunt have responded to Diamond as well.

      • Thanks, Gene. I had not yet seen Lippo and Hunt’s response to Diamond. Yet another example of honest science newly done overthrowing a ‘popular science consensus view’.

      • Yeah, Thanks Gene. I hadn’t seen their response to Diamond, but I’m skeptical of his whole thesis because the “Mycenaean Collapse” followed by a dark age (between Late Bronze and Iron) seems to be the centerpiece of his discussion, and that idea’s been challenged since 1991.

  28. Thanks Manaker
    Asteroids
    The Romig report statement:

    the risk of catastrophic outcome is more than forty thousand times more probable than that from an asteroid collision with the earth,”

    appears to be a bald assertion with no references, calculations or justification given. Your preliminary estimates provide a far greater basis by which to compare the issues.

    While NASA is running a “Near Earth Object” (asteroid etc.) detection program, we obviously have NOT discovered all the asteroids and comets. Thus, there is major uncertainty on this statement in that we know we do not know all the details on the probability of asteroid impacts.

    Peak Oil Excluded: Furthermore, Romig’s argument makes the fallacy of the excluded middle by ignoring the more immediate threat of rapid depletion of light crude oil with production exceeding discoveries (aka Peak Oil). That is backed by strong evidence from numerous geological fields. Discovery / Depletion models project severe economic disruption in the near future. There is serious probability of famines due to political mismanagement, far greater than any alarmist catestrophic global warming scenarios. e.g. See the consequences of China’s Great Leap Forward, where some 30 million died from man made famine, with another 30 million fewer births.

  29. The precautionary principle loses its force once you consider the risk that the modern economy might bog down and even decline. The economy is just as mysterious as the climate, and we are in really bad shape without it. Most of the proposals to respond to CO2 emissions have grave risk to the health of our economy, and the “precautionary” thing would be that we don’t risk the economy if at all means we can avoid it.

    • Exactly–

      “Advocates use the Precutionary Principle saying we should stop greenhouse gas emissions in case the AGW hypothesis is right. But that turns the Principle on its head.

      “Stopping the emissions would reduce fossil fuel usage with resulting economic damage. This would be worse than the ‘oil crisis’ of the 1970s because the reduction would be greater, would be permanent, and energy use has increased since then. The economic disruption would be world-wide. Major effects would be in the developed world because it has the largest economies. Worst effects would be on the world’s poorest peoples: people near starvation are starved by it.

      “The precautionary principle says we should not accept the risks of certain economic disruption in attempt to control the world’s climate on the basis of assumptions that have no supporting evidence and merely because they’ve been described using computer games.

      “So, global warming is not a global crisis but the unfounded fear of global warming is. It threatens a constraint of fossil fuel use that would kill millions – probably billions – of people.” ~Richard Courtney:

    • There are indeed growing risks that “the modern economy might bog down and even decline”.
      See Gail “the Accountant” Tverberg:
      Oil Limits, Recession, and Bumping Against the Growth Ceiling, especially following ongoing depletion and strong declines in crude oil.

  30. –> “All things considered, alarmism seems like common sense to me.”

    This is a good example of why schoolteachers should not be confused with scientists and how government-funded academia has failed America.

  31. I have little technical to add to this discussion, but I’ll mention a philosophical issue. Ordinarily, when we balance the risk of loss or harm against the cost of averting it, we are referring to the cost to us of averting the harm to us. In the case of climate change, we are more often asking, “how much will it cost us to avert harm to somebody else?”, This tends to distort our risk aversion intuition in the direction of a preference for cost saving. I don’t suggest an answer, other than to recognize that there are moral dimensions to the issue beyond the simple balancing of costs and harms.

    • Fred M: That knife cuts in both directions. How often do the climate orthodox ask, “How much harm will our climate mitigation measures do to somebody else?”

      When energy costs are raised or corn is harvested for ethanol instead of food and so forth, the poor suffer all over the world, and they are doing so already. I have seen little sensible, or even honest, discussion from the orthodox of what a full-on program of climate change mitigation would mean to the poor of the world, especially with the global economy teetering over the abyss here and now — not theoretically in 2100.

      Yes, there are moral implications. Be assured that your side does not get a pass on those. I’m rather discouraged that you seem to be blind to this.

      • Spikes in agricultural commodity prices, whether caused by biofuels, climate, or just human mistakes, cause irreparable harm to the global poor. Therefore, in the short run, it is important to ensure food availability to all, but most importantly to the global poor.

        Considering Macroeconomic Indicators in the Food versus Fuel Issues Cheng Qiu, Greg Colson and Michael Wetzstein 2011

        Mandating ethanol now diverts 50% of the US corn crop to fuel from food.
        This is an example of the consequences of pushing the “precautionary principle” that directly harms to the poor.

        I strongly encourage our legislators to revisit this immoral policy and aggressively encourage more cost effective alternative fuels that do NOT compete with food.

      • “Mandating ethanol now diverts 50% of the US corn crop to fuel from food.”

        How confident are you in this assertion? Are you confident enough that if, say, you turned out to be wrong about this fact, that you accept that you’re probably wrong about global warming in general?

      • Robert –

        David has said that it is proven that Tea Partiers know more about climate change than others in America, even though Tea Partiers are far, far more likely to think that the climate isn’t warming (independent of whether the warming is anthropogenically caused). And he has stuck by that assertion when challenged.

        Make of that what you will.

      • What I have found is opponents of ethanol love to not net out the residue that is returned to the barnyard and fed to the animals, which is why their number is usually barnyard stuff.

    • It is the assumption of “harm” that is also a problem. From the point of view of whether there is justification for “alarm” there are two important points:

      – whether the evidence convincingly suggest a scenario that could be threatening is playing out. As you well know, it isn’t – at least for the moment.
      – whether that scenario will lead to significant harm at all anyway. That’s pretty debatable at least.

      Then there is the issue of mitigating risk. It may well be that on balance adaption to whatever comes our way is the most prudent and balanced approach, with a measure of circumspection surrounding our current economic activities. That is to say, do nothing except continue to look for safer, more sustainable and cheaper forms of energy.

  32. What about the high certainty that immediate action could be a huge global economic and technical burden for decades? I think we’re solidly still in the R&D phase on solutions for this POTENTIAL problem, not the fielding/execution phase by any means. Except for Nuclear which ought to be fielded more regardless.

  33. Based on the usual definition of risk I suggest that

    Annual Risk of Climate Change = (Sum(Prob(Future Annual Climate events)*Loss(caused by Future Annual Climate events)) – Current Annual Climate Risk – Extra Current based Annual Risk due to accumulated economic growth and demographic changes

    where costs are based on Money of Today ie compensate for growing wealth and inflation.

    I would suggest that if one were to apply this from some early point in the Anthropogenic Carbon Age it would track between flatline at zero and negative so far and will continue to do so.

    That’s because we become better at building and engineering but continue to do stupid things like inappropriate building on 100 year flood plains. Any risk increase due to climate change will be imperceptible and compensated for by our improving technology and better planning for growth and regeneration over the next 200 years.

    That is unless we waste trillions on the precautionary principal.

  34. The Cost of Carbon Concern

    The UK Climate Change Act 2008 was approved in Parliament by 464 votes to 3, and duly signed by Her Majesty in 2009. It commits spending of 1% of GDP each year, £1000 per year for every UK taxpayer, for the next 43 years on ‘tackling climate change’.

    From the Impact Assessment: Summary: Analysis and Evidence. “Total Cost: £324 – 404 billion. 1% of total GDP for 43 years. [ I make the Total £632 – £789 bn by the way, has someone got their figures wrong up? ]. As with most large project estimates, the actual cost is likely to be much higher.

    “Figures do not include short term transition costs.” …….

    The benefits include ‘avoided damages’ from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, £404 – 964 bn. But read the small print in the footnote: the £964 bn is only ‘if others join in’. It could be £404 bn. So a possible net benefit of nil IF you accept the £404 bn total cost?

    Still. a break-even sounds not too bad, except for one question: What are the ‘avoided damages’?

    This is the only mention in the entire study:

    “The science indicates that the costs of failing to limit temperature rises to below 2°C are very significant, and the costs of inaction leading to temperature rises beyond 4ºC are catastrophically high and that there would be large net benefits to global action”

    That is it. ‘The science indicates catastrophe’.

    On that speculative basis of global warming scenarios, the UK government has committed 1% of its GDP for 43 years. Current growth is 0.2% So growth become a negative 0.8%.

    And if the IPCC scenarios are wrong?

    Oops, £404 (or £786) billion down the drain. Sorry chaps. Great news for the ‘carbon trading’ and ‘carbon capture’ growth industries though. BP is well in there already, smart movers.

    But as stated with great pride in the Paper, at least the UK will have set a ‘good leadership’ example to the world. While crippling the UK economy and throwing away billions that could have been used to tackle REAL, GENUINE environmental issues,

    The US plans to spend $1400 per person per year on the same folly.

    Global temperature is currently within the range of natural historic variation of +/- 0.5 deg C each side of 14 deg C which has taken place over the last 1100 years. IPCC models cannot simulate more than about 50% of those natural variations. Solar heat,, solar activity and a resultant 2.4% variation in average cloud cover would fully explain historic cooling and warming. Why not modern warming? You don’t need CO2 to explain it at all.

  35. Here’s a relevant article that makes a similar case with alarmism:

    The Hidden Dangers of Geoengineering

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-hidden-dangers-of-geoengineering

    Here’s a snippet:
    “There are just a few problems. The first is the side effects. The best-studied proposal, to pump sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere to block sunlight, would cause its own troubles. The sulfates would slow or reverse the recovery of the ozone layer; they might also reduce global rainfall, and the rain that did fall would be more acidic. And those are just the foreseeable effects. Aerosols are the least understood aspect of the climate system.”

    Alarmist throughout and notice at the end the appeal to uncertainty as a cause of alarm. The logic of this kind of article is widely acceptable even to climate skeptics, they “get it”.

    But let me rewrite:

    “There are just a few problems. The first is the side effects. The CO2 would significantly warm the Earth; it might also lower ocean pH, raise sea levels significantly and change rainfall patterns. And those are just the foreseeable effects. Such effects are the least understood aspect of the climate system.”

    Simply by changing the subject this logic is now unacceptable to climate skeptics. They’ll belittle the logic, they’ll claim that the cited ill-effects are all hypothetical, unproven, based on models, etc etc. They’ll decry the article as being “alarmist”, casting exaggerations, etc.

    • Indeed – there is a beautiful irony in “skeptics” who argue against mitigation policies – on the basis of “alarmism” about the costs of mitigation.

      • The mitigation consequences are certain, the benefits and the need are highly uncertain. Not so ironic.

      • The mitigation consequences are certain,…

        lol!

      • The mitigation consequences are certain, the benefits and the need are highly uncertain.

        So – the benefits are uncertain but the consequences are certain.

        Classic.

    • The CO2 would significantly warm the Earth; it might also lower ocean pH, raise sea levels significantly and change rainfall patterns.

      And the sulfur oxides would lower the pH even further when they rained out into the ocean. As for sea levels, that’s (probably) a consequence of warming, and can be prevented by preventing warming. But the changed rainfall patterns are a real risk, unless the aerosols can be exactly matched to the well-mixed greenhouse effect.

    • Your comparison is very weak.
      In the case of adding aerosols to the atmosphere- it does not make sense to do so because we do not know that the benefits will outweigh the potential harms.

      In the case of CO2, we know that historically the benefits have outweighed any potential harm. In order to modify that perception, it will be necessary to have much better data to demonstrate that the harms will outweigh the benefits. Currently that has not been done.

      In addition, in the case of potential harm from CO2, the next question would be if any action being considered to mitigate the CO2 increase is the most efficient use of resources to address the potential issue. If you spend a (x) billion to take actions to lower a countries CO2 emissions, but there is no data to suggest that the amount of the “avoided increase” will have an impact on the future climate- then it would be an inefficient expenditure. Add to this that given that resources are limited, might that (x) billion have been better spent on improving a countries infrastructure to be better prepared for severe weather?

      • “In the case of CO2, we know that historically the benefits have outweighed any potential harm.”

        How do you know that? Where is your proof?

      • Robert

        Please keep your comments realistic if you wish to continue any dialogue. The release of atmosphere CO2 allowed humans to have heat, food, medicine, etc, etc. You obviously know this, so keep the comments relevant.

      • CO2 has never doubled in the history of our species. So it’s definitely not correct to say that such future Co2 changes are known to be beneficial. They haven’t even happened to us before.

      • “Please keep your comments realistic if you wish to continue any dialogue.”

        Scared, huh?

        I’ll repeat the question:

        “In the case of CO2, we know that historically the benefits have outweighed any potential harm.”

        How do you know that? Where is your proof?

        Try not to duck it this time.

      • Robert’s very silly question was to show that CO2 emissions historically were a benefit to society. I wrote that using fire, having electricity, concrete, fertilizer, plastics, etc. have been benefits to the development to humanity to this point. Humanity would not exist as we know it if humans had not released CO2.
        Lowot’s related but very different point was asking if there is evidence that the continued release is a net benefit or a net harm. I say we do not have enough data to say with certainty, but based on history and probable outcomes, actions by the US will not impact the long term situation dramatically. CO2 will go up and mitigation is an inefficient means to address the perceived problem.

      • “In the case of adding aerosols to the atmosphere- it does not make sense to do so because we do not know that the benefits will outweigh the potential harms.”

        If a company or very rich individual wanted to do that anyway – ie they set up a load of aerosol pumping stations around the earth with the intention of activating them next week, how could a climate skeptic oppose the idea?

        The argument that geo-engineering is dangerous is not based on conclusive science. It’s based on alarmism, the precautionary principle, hypothetical worse-case scenarios and a few model based studies showing harmful side effects.

        None of that is available to a climate skeptic, so what would they do other than have to sit back as this company rolls out such a dangerous operation? ….presumably kicking themselves for having dismissed all avenues of reasonable complaint.

      • You are ignoring the climate “skeptic”‘s secret weapon — a limitless capacity for hypocrisy.

      • Again, you make a very weak argument.

        It would follow the same decision path that I outlined previously. If the potential harms outweighed the perceived benefits the practice would be halted.

      • If the potential harms outweighed the perceived benefits the practice would be halted.

        Just like burning fossil fuels, right?

        The potential harm, not the certain and incontestable harm, is the test you chose.

    • lolwot

      “Uncertainty” about whether or not something (very costly), which we do (in the “uncertain” attempt to change our climate from an “uncertain” model-generated threat) will have “uncertain” unintended negative consequences, which could be much more severe than the “uncertain” threat we are attempting to mitigate against in the first place, seems to ba a reasonable justification for NOT doing this mitigating action.

      Let me give you an example.

      Obama’s science “czar”, John Holdren, has backed off from this suggestion (largely for political reasons), but has was proposing shooting a major air pollutant involved in acid rain, sulfuric acid, into the stratosphere to reflect incoming solar radiation and cool the planet.

      Huh?

      How far removed from reality are these guys?

      Max

      PS Time for “Oktoberrevolution” to get rid of “czar”

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        We now have scrubbers on coal and oil fueled power plants because high concentrations of SO2 resulted in health problems for humans and certain trees. However, keep in mind that as a result, the “plant food” that is being emitted is no longer a whole food. What problems that may cause, we shall see.

        Still, a more even distribution over the oceans might be good for climate regulation through DMS cloud nucleation and still be safe for humans in far off cities. And the problems with trees related to the killing of symbiotic fungus may also ameliorate with warming in higher altitudes and latitudes. The problems with fruit trees may largely go away with a reduction in the amount of sulfur based fungicides. A plus, organic farming may become easier.

        The point I am building up to is that geo-engineering via high altitude SO2 injections could one-day save our asses with a minimal down-side as compared to other available alternatives. Let the research move forward.

        Otherwise you could be saying, in effect, is that global regulation of national economies is the only option you will permit.

  36. Wouldn’t it be a more rational application of the precautionary principal to ban nuclear weapons? What would the damage be from an all out nuclear war? Vastly worse of course than global warming. At least in the case of nuclear weapons, we can all agree they exist. Moreover, is there any doubt that human beings are capable of bombing one another right back to the stone age?

    • Does it make sense to ban human CO2 in America when Western Europe cheats and when Brazil, Russia, India, China and all of the developing and Third World likens climatelogy to the ancient science of astrology?

      • “all of the developing and Third World likens climatelogy to the ancient science of astrology?”

        Back in the real world, India taxes every ton of coal and China is proposing a carbon tax for 2012.

        But don’t let me not give you a fair shot:

        1. Prove that every single country in the developing and Third World (including those that already have carbon taxes and those that have committed themselves to emissions cuts) regards climate science as akin to astrology.

        Or . . .

        2. Admit that, as with most of your “facts,” you made it up and hoped no one would call you on your fantasy.

      • Please…

        China pissed all over the Leftists who jumped one of Europe’s coldest winters to drink margies in Cancun. You do understand that the global warming alarmists were shown the door in Curruptenhagen, right? And, that was after Obama’s entreaties. India is well embarrased over the antics of Rajendra Pachauri the “Himalayagate.” The outing of CRUgate was broadcast from Russia–remember? The boffins of Japan have likened climatology to the ancient science of astology. Most anyone with a brain questions if we even have an uncorrupted land-based record of average global warming and New Zealand isn’t guessing: they know it is corrupted. Dead and dying Old Europe is completely irrelevant. Brazil is getting a good chuckle at all of the global warming alarmists of the secular, socialist Big Government Education Complex in America. Any scientist with a reputation to preserve made a beeline for the UN exits years ago.

        ing to spend the

      • Robert

        Most of the developing world is not joining the west in its attempts to drastically cut carbon emissions. As a result they now are the major emitting group and as their percentage of carbon emissions grows we will become increaingly irrelevant to the debate.

        India and China are scouring the globe for supplies of coal and have no intention of putting a brake on their development by reducing their coal consumption.

        http://www.creditwritedowns.com/2011/06/coal-demand-supply.html

        tonyb

      • In a word, “no.”

    • pokerguy: You’re right — nuclear weapons have not gone away. Right now I’m reading a cheery little volume titled “How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.”

      There are still thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alerts. The risk of large nuclear exchanges remains all too-real and far larger than the “non-negligible risk” of catastrophic climate change that, we are told, is 40,000 times greater than the once in 100 million years rate of asteroid collisions.

    • pokerguy

      Good idea (banning nuclear weapons).

      Let’s start with Iran.

      Max

  37. With the Hot World Syndrome of the global warming alarmists, Western civilization is experiencing something worse than barbarians at the gate: we now have idiots in the loft.

  38. @Joshua…

    I’m starting the thread over, for ease. Yes, my reference to the Hartwell paper as a starting point was a deliberate return to a conversation you started.

    While I found their language and preliminary points amusing, I can’t agree with their solutions, because they’re ignoring ocean acidification. They’re also ignoring the possibility that the increase in CO2 is natural variation (in the biosphere, not climate). Both these risks, IMO mandate a primary focus on remediation/sequestration. NOT mitigation, NOT black carbon or CFC’s or whatever alternative GHG’s.

    IMO taxing carbon to fund the necessary adaptations is optional. If my intuitive thoughts about the economy are correct, printing money would be a better option than taxing/taking it. That’s a topic for elsewhere/elsewhen, however.

    In previous comments I’ve mentioned technology that might be able to grow exponentially to deal with the problem, probably within 2-3 decades, which AFAIK is the same sort of time-frame mentioned in the more draconian mitigation scenarios. Such technology would develop naturally out of original research, such as into the genetics, development, and kinetics of photosynthesis. Of course, more focused research (farther along towards development), would also be desirable, but IMO something closer to the private sector would be preferable to government spending.

    • AK –

      I wouldn’t argue that the Hartwell paper is conclusive – but an interesting evaluation of the costs and benefits of different policy options.

      I would like to see more open discussion about the Hartwell paper analysis, and other nuanced analysis – but to repeat one last time: Categorizing any arguments for even strong carbon taxes as “Marxist” does not seem to me like a good starting point (as would categorizing the Hartwell paper as “denialist.”

      If someone argues for a carbon tax for the simple objective of “redistribution of wealth,” then it would justifiably be categorized as “Marxist.” If someone argues for a carbon tax as an option to be considered in response to potential problems resulting from carbon change – as apparently do a majority of Americans – then their argument may be flawed, but facile politicization of such a perspective will never create openness to discussion about its flaws. If someone argues that all or even the majority of people who are “alarmed” about climate change – and consider carbon taxes as a potentially viable policy – are Marxist in their intentions, then I see little room for discussion.

      • “If someone argues for a carbon tax for the simple objective of “redistribution of wealth,” then it would justifiably be categorized as “Marxist.””

        Not really. It could be fairly described as socialist. To call it Marxist I would like to see an element of collective ownership of the means of production, or historical determinism, or class analysis, or something else that is distinctly Marxist — these are idle thoughts, of course, since your average right-wing drone doesn’t know economic/social theory from a hole in the ground. “Marxist” is just their word for the 99% of the public that don’t share their reflexive pseudolibertarian fundamentalism.

      • A carbon tax is not a redistribution of wealth any more than any other tax. It is a means of raising revenue and to a limited degree a means to lower consumption. Regardless- worldwide CO2 levels will continue to rise for years to come-period. Does it really make sense to work really hard to be at 480 ppm vs 510 ppm in 20 years?

      • A carbon tax is not a redistribution of wealth any more than any other tax. It is a means of raising revenue and to a limited degree a means to lower consumption.

        When the carbon tax is high enough to be confiscatory, combined with large subsidies to people not otherwise able to pay it, it’s redistribution. When it’s combined with general payments to anybody, which IIRC was the proposal on the table, it’s redistribution of wealth.

      • “When the carbon tax is high enough to be confiscatory . . .”

        That’s pseudointellectual nonsense. All taxes are involuntary, and thus none is more or less “confiscatory” than any other.

        What precise rate of tax qualifies it as “confiscatory”? Remember to provide solid evidence and show your work.

      • A carbon tax with large “rebates” to the poorer segments of society becomes a poor mean of both raising revenue and discouraging consumption. But it isn’t marxist

      • But you aren’t trying to reduce consumption in general; you are trying to discourage the emission of greenhouse gases. Ideally without depressing consumption at all. We tax lots of things — property, alcohol, tobacco — without depressing consumption in the wider market.

      • A carbon tax is not a redistribution of wealth any more than any other tax. It is a means of raising revenue and to a limited degree a means to lower consumption.

        Don’t tell that to Julia Gillard, she seems to think it is

        Billions of dollars raised by Australia’s carbon tax will end up overseas, helping poor countries battle climate change.

        Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s new tax will be used to allow Australia to meet its share of a $100 billion-a-year United Nations fund to transfer wealth from rich countries to help undeveloped nations adapt to global warming.

        http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/latest/8916664/carbon-tax-billions-to-help-poor-nations/

        on a off note, it is going to be interesting to see what effects of the carbon tax on the Australian economy

      • Jim

        The tax was not marxist, it was what is done with the revenue from the tax that may be considered marxist.

      • Does it really make sense to work really hard to be at 480 ppm vs 510 ppm in 20 years?

        First, it is possible that revenue raised would produce benefits with respect to alternative sources of energy. Second, building upon the first point, within that “years to come” there is a problem w.r.t. the degree of climate change we may see in the future. You’re talking about 20 years out – but isn’t it possible that technological developments in those 20 years might produce mitigation strategies/options that would result in an exponentially greater difference 50 or 100 years out than what is represented by 510-480 ppm?

      • In general raising one tax essentially and lowering others leads to a change in behavior. If the change is done based on correctly estimated external costs, it will be beneficial in the long run, but it it’s done in absence of such externalities, it will have negative influence on the well-being, because it means in that case that some behavior is replaced by a less beneficial behavior. Something with high benefit/cost ratio would be replaced with something else that produces less good.

        Applying to carbon tax this means that the tax is good, if producing CO2 is indeed at least as damaging as the level of the tax implies, but bad, if CO2 is not damaging or if the tax is much higher than the damages would make justified.

        It’s correct to take the precautionary principle into account in the estimate of the damages giving more weight to the unfavorable outcomes than to the favorable, but the uncertainties in the efficiency of the mitigating measures should be also taken into account and taken them into account means that the correct level of tax is lower than it would be without this uncertainty. Something that’s 50% likely to work should not be encouraged by more than 50% of the encouragement given to something that works with certainty.

      • Pekka
        What I wrote previously is correct from an economic perspective
        “A carbon tax with large “rebates” to the poorer segments of society becomes a poor means of both raising revenue and discouraging consumption.”
        These potential “carbon taxes” impact the poor to a greater degree than they impact the wealthy. The proposed fix to this issue is the suggestion to give tax rebates to poor people so that they are not hurt by the new tax. Unfortunately the “rebate approach has fundamental flaws.
        1. By giving the rebate to the poorer segments of society it has been demonstrated that the motivation to reduce consumption by this poorer segment of society has been significantly reduced. The problem here is very simple. You do get the desired reduction in consumption by a large segment of your society, and that was the goal of the initial tax.
        2. By adding the rebate, you make the new tax administratively more complex and expensive to manage. It takes more government personnel to manage who gets the rebates, how much, rooting out fraud, etc. This means the tax is now a much less efficient means of raising revenue.
        So in summary, if you want to have a system that will do little to reduce CO2 emissions and will also add to government’s bureaucracy, and collect revenue inefficiency; then a carbon tax with rebates to the poor is a viable plan.

      • @Joshua…

        If someone argues for a carbon tax for the simple objective of “redistribution of wealth,” then it would justifiably be categorized as “Marxist.”

        OK

        If someone argues for a carbon tax as an option to be considered in response to potential problems resulting from carbon change – as apparently do a majority of Americans – then their argument may be flawed, but facile politicization of such a perspective will never create openness to discussion about its flaws.

        Perhaps. But a confiscatory tax to “stimulate investment” is typical of the the Marxist agenda. People need to be aware of this.

        If someone argues that all or even the majority of people who are “alarmed” about climate change – and consider carbon taxes as a potentially viable policy – are Marxist in their intentions, then I see little room for discussion.

        I actually went back to check to be sure: I didn’t actually say that. I said it was “tantamount” to imposing a Marxist agenda. I also mentioned that most of the American Right sees it in those terms.

        The best approach, IMO, is to start by broadening the thinking. The goal is to reduce our use of fossil carbon as quickly as feasible. People on the right need to be invited to help find solutions on that basis. When solutions proposed by more “liberal” activists trigger their Marxism alarm, they should be challenged to offer solutions that don’t.

        We need to remember that the West won the Cold War, using a (highly distorted) version of “free market” capitalism. That’s the default core for any proposal. Schemes that involve massive redistribution of wealth, whatever their provenance, aren’t going to get support from the Right, and IMO they’ll be able to convince most of the Center, and even part of the Left. Whatever the reason for proposing such schemes, all they’ll do is produce opposition. Nobody wants the world to go through what Soviet Russia did for most of the 20th century. (Except for the real Marxists.)

        We need solutions that involve tweaking our current capitalist system, not trying to impose socialism under the banner of climate alarm.

      • “But a confiscatory tax to “stimulate investment” is typical of the the Marxist agenda.”

        Thanks for the laugh.

        If you nurse any ambitions of being taken seriously in these kinds of discussions, you might want to study a little economics, just to get the basics down, avoid embarrassing yourself with this kind of silliness.

        Also, try googling “hayek” and “carbon taxes” and see what you find. I’m curious if you have the stones to denounce Hayek as a closet Marxist . . .

      • Robert,
        Your giving advice to anyone on how to be taken seriously is laughable.

      • Well, this thread shows two things, Robert is well versed in Marxist theory, but has no clue as to conservative economic theory.

        Much of what is described as “Marxist” these days is not. Modern socialists have been modifying Marx’s theories since at least Lenin. One explanation after another has been sought for why Marx’s hair brained dialectic doesn’t work. Lenin first speculated that it was imperialism that was delaying the supposedly inevitable.

        More modern socialists have had to cope with the fact that the free market as it existed in Marx’s time continued to develop and create the richest societies in the history of humankind. It’s hard to provoke a revolution when 90% of the population have 401(k)s, everybody has cars, TVs and microwaves, and even the poor have a higher caloric intake than the rich of old.

        The leftist grail of a carbon tax is in part the modern socialist’s response to this reality. You can’t convince people to adopt the economy that made Russia and even East Germany such wastelands. You have to come in the back door. Undermine the economy, get people addicted to government largesse, and create a socialist system by fits and starts. The nationalization of industries, though still desired, will just have to wait.

        Now most modern progressives (what I call default progressives, like Joshua and probably Robert) are only aware of what they have been taught by the propaganda arm of the progressive movements (you know, the education establishment and MSM). They are oblivious to where their leaders are trying to head the ship of state.

        And Hayek would have rejected carbon taxes of the type discussed here. When he wrote about externalities, he was not writing of amorphous claims of potential harm from generalized industry. He was discussing what to do when an identified polluter directly caused harm to an identified person. This is the type of issue dealt in nuisance law, not global taxation.

        But at least Robert got his Marxism right.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        I googled Hayek and carbon taxes as per your suggestion and sampled seven sites at random. Five sites quoted Hayek and claimed he would have opposed a Carbon Tax. Two sites claimed Hayek would have supported a Carbon Tax; although one referred to Hayek fanciers as “crackpots”, the other called them “right wing idealogues”.

        That was disappointing, Robert.

      • “More modern socialists have had to cope with the fact that the free market as it existed in Marx’s time continued to develop and create the richest societies in the history of humankind.”

        I would say that Keynes abolished the free market as Marx understood it. It’s only since WW2 that economists have understood how to create these kind of “richest societes” . This has also co-incided with a period of much higher taxation than even Marx could have imagined.

      • The best approach, IMO, is to start by broadening the thinking. The goal is to reduce our use of fossil carbon as quickly as feasible. People on the right need to be invited to help find solutions on that basis. When solutions proposed by more “liberal” activists trigger their Marxism alarm, they should be challenged to offer solutions that don’t.

        Actually, I agree with this completely. The single biggest driver of climate denial, in my opinion, is that the right has no idea how to address the problem within their own values and philosophy of government. So the only way they can “win” is by denying the existence of the problem altogether. If they would rouse themselves to come up with some solutions that work for them ideologically, we could have a productive debate about how to address the reality rather than getting bogged down in the right’s denial of reality.

        Unfortunately today’s right seems to be too rigid, too extremist, and too uncreative to come up with any solutions. Market-based solutions like a carbon tax should be the right’s rallying cry against non-market-based regulation and state-sponsored investment. Instead it gets denounced as Marxist.

      • Why don’t those who fear CO2 strongly support the building of large numbers of modern nuclear power plants as a productive start? That would reduce CO2 emissions and be outstanding for the US economy.

      • Robert, I don’t know about the “Right”, my socio-political preferences don’t fit on any 1-dimensional scale. I see it as Marxist, because it advances their agenda. If there were any chance of “Communism” returning to Russia, I would have seen the kleptocratic Potemkin Capitalism of the ’90’s there as advancing the Marxist agenda. (In fact, in some of my more paranoid moments…)

        However, I’m prepared to address the issue, and have made some suggestions here and there. My biggest objection to the carbon tax is that in order to stimulate investment, it would have to be so high that it would bring the world’s economy to a screeching halt. (IMO.) Cheap energy is essential to growth. I don’t know if the “Right” says so explicitly, but I do. If it were really necessary to tax fossil carbon to get the world’s energy supply transferred to something else, I would be willing to stop arguing against it.

        But it isn’t. The Hartwell paper suggests a carbon tax that starts small and increases slowly, and in fact I made a similar suggestion back in the late ’90’s when the whole issue came up (since lost in the ether). I also suggested compulsory earmarking of all the income from that tax to subsidies on non-fossil energy. Given the ratios, a small tax on fossil carbon would translate into a very large subsidy on non-fossil energy.

        As the generation of such non-fossil energy begins to take off, the increasing tax on carbon would keep the subsidy from falling too fast. There would be strong incentives for investment, development, and expansion of every type of non-fossil energy.

      • Why don’t those who fear CO2 strongly support the building of large numbers of modern nuclear power plants as a productive start? That would reduce CO2 emissions and be outstanding for the US economy.

        First, your argument rests on an overly-broad characterization. There are many who “fear CO2 strongly” who do support building more nuclear power capacity. For one particularly notable example:

        James Hansen keen on next-generation nuclear power

        http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/james-hansen-keen-on-next-generation-nuclear-power/story-e6frgcjx-1225838858482

        Second, one might ask: “Why are those who don’t fear CO2 adverse to government spending and centralized energy policy of the type that has proven to be a factor in virtually every country that relies significantly more on nuclear power than we do? Further, why are those who don’t fear CO2 inclined to overlook the concerns of the majority of the American public with respect to the safety of nuclear power? Would they prefer that we just hand the decisions about nuclear power over to those who stand to benefit economically, and disregard public sentiment? How would they suggest that we overcome safety concerns among the public? Should we do so by preventing people from voting for representatives who enact regulatory laws?

      • I’m also very much in favor of using GM to create new carbon-eating plants. Elements of “cap and trade” might be used here, allowing fossil fuels that are offset by capture and sequestration to get the subsidy. This would allow the use of GM plants for capture to become profitable right away, without having to wait for methods of burning the results for energy.

        We need to rebuild the Intellectual Property laws, as well, to prohibit sequestration: perhaps a patent that’s not used should be sold at auction and the holder compensated with whatever the market’s willing to pay. This would suppress the buying and holding of patents on useful technology to prevent competition with established technology.

        And before all the libertarians jump all over me, I’ll remind everyone that patents in their modern sense are only a few centuries old, were originally established to reward innovation (and revealment of trade secrets), and replaced a system where the local overlord would give cartel rights for use of technology to his cronies, regardless of who invented it. I’ll also mention that property in any form is a social construct, just like language.

      • Joshua
        If you are writing about the US or the EU, then given the budget situation, any addition revenue raised would not be available to do much but other than lower the annual deficit. (This absolutely must happen). Here are a few points to consider.
        Government is generally a poor source of innovation, so having the government “develop” the new technologies is probably a bad idea economically, and slower for technology development. It would probably be more efficient for government to issue “requests for proposals” to companies to produce the outcomes that were desired and then select the best approach.
        I do not see any path for human CO2 emissions to not increase over the next 20 years or so. Longer term technology may well greatly reduce the rate of human emissions. The will undoubtedly happen at some point as fossil fuels become more scarce and expensive.

        My overall point was that most mitigation steps will not result in the long term situation changing to any significant degree and will be expensive. The funds would seem to be more efficiently spent in adaption and not mitigation. Regarding the earlier point on nuclear power- in your opinion why don’t a very high percentage of those who are concerned about CO2 damaging the environment favor nuclear power? Is it ignorance or perjudice?

      • “Robert, I don’t know about the “Right”, my socio-political preferences don’t fit on any 1-dimensional scale.”

        You remind me of the people whose friends know them to be gay long before they know themselves.

        “I see it as Marxist, because it advances their agenda.”

        That is utter nonsense, you realize. On so very many levels.

        “My biggest objection to the carbon tax is that in order to stimulate investment, it would have to be so high that it would bring the world’s economy to a screeching halt. (IMO.)”

        Why? Work the numbers. If you have a $50/ton carbon tax, than the incentive to develop something that if implemented could cut our emissions by one gigaton is $50 billion dollars . . . annually. That’s a huge incentive in exchange for a modest tax.

        And where is the evidence that any carbon tax ever proposed would bring the economy “to a screeching halt”? Property taxes don’t. Sales taxes don’t. Countries like Sweden and Denmark tax half again as much as we do as a share of the GDP and yet remain wealthy and highly competitive. So where is the evidence for the screeching halt?

      • Robert,
        Since not one AGW community policy or law has worked to reduce CO2 or change the climate at all, it is odd but not surprising for you to rely on a figment of your imagination- your delusions about the ‘right’- to blame instead of taking responsibility for your own failure.
        Believers, instead of dealing with their failures have to…..deny…..reality and find others to look to in dealing with the problem they onlyalone perceive.
        What better way than to pretend that all skeptics are are ni**ers under a new name, beneath contempt and subhuman, and right wingers to boot?
        It obviously gives great comfort to shallow reactionaries like Robert and many others.

      • We need to remember that the West won the Cold War, using a (highly distorted) version of “free market” capitalism.

        Really? I thought that the West won the Cold War using progressive income taxes, a welfare state, nanny-statism, and “jobs-killing” regulations on the financial market and on environmental degradation.

        When solutions proposed by more “liberal” activists trigger their Marxism alarm, they should be challenged to offer solutions that don’t.

        I agree there. But the problem is when suggested policies are called “Marxist,” or “tantamount to Marxism,” when such charges are completely unqualified with respect to whether climate those change mitigation policies are motivated by intentions to “redistribute wealth.” When people stretch any reasonable boundaries to sound the “Look, look, it’s a Marxist” alarm – then they are more than likely a “sunk cost,” IMO. Nothing can be done to effectively address their “alarmism.”

        That said – I think that “liberal activists” need to engage in reasonable debates about the costs and benefits of mitigation policies – and categorizing all “skeptics” in that regard as “deniers” is no more productive than overly broad characterizations of “warmists.”

      • @Joshua…

        Really? I thought that the West won the Cold War using progressive income taxes, a welfare state, nanny-statism, and “jobs-killing” regulations on the financial market and on environmental degradation.

        That was just rhetoric. After all, Reagan lowered taxes substantially, dismantled much of the Welfare state, and won the Cold War.

        when suggested policies are called “Marxist,” or “tantamount to Marxism,” when such charges are completely unqualified with respect to whether climate those change mitigation policies are motivated by intentions to “redistribute wealth.”

        “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Try studying the history of Marxist infiltration of various societies after WWII.

        Well, If you don’t like it, I won’t say it. But don’t be surprised if much of the “Right” keeps on saying it. Redistribution of wealth is redistribution of wealth, whether that’s your goal or not.

      • That was just rhetoric. After all, Reagan lowered taxes substantially, dismantled much of the Welfare state, …

        lol!

        Reagan’s administration saw a worse debt to revenue ratio, and a worse debt to GDP ratio than the Dems who preceded and followed him in office.

        Reagan oversaw the biggest tax increases ever enacted in peacetime, he increased payroll taxes to fund Social Security.

        Guess Reagan’s intentions were “tantamount to Marxism,” eh?

      • Sorry – that should have read spending to revenue ratio.

      • Oh, and btw – more evidence that Regan’s beliefs were “tantamount to Marxism?”

        He raised gasoline taxes.

      • @Joshua…

        AFAIK Reagan made one very large cut in taxes, early on, followed by several small rises after the economy improved. Net was a significant cut. Perhaps next time the subject comes up, I’ll have links to prove it.

        Just quickly, from Wiki (Not that I consider them authoritative):

        President Reagan lifted remaining domestic petroleum price and allocation controls on January 28, 1981[6] and lowered the oil windfall profits tax in August 1981, helping to end the 1979 energy crisis. He ended the oil windfall profits tax in 1988 during the 1980s oil glut.[citation needed] Reagan followed his 1981 tax cut with two large tax increases. In 1982 Reagan agreed to a rollback of corporate tax cuts and a smaller rollback of individual income tax cuts. The 1982 tax increase undid a third of the initial tax cut. In 1983 Reagan instituted a payroll tax on Social Security and Medicare hospital insurance.[7]

        WRT your other claims, do you have anything beyond Joe Romm’s distortions and misrepresentations, or the equivalent from others like him?

      • AK,
        Debating with Joshua is wrestling with a pig.
        Only the pig is generally better informed.
        Here is a link summarzing the Reagan tax cuts, by the way:

        http://www.house.gov/jec/fiscal/tx-grwth/reagtxct/reagtxct.htm

      • All the “claims” I made are easily documented.

        Look up the 1982 tax hikes. Look up TEFRA. Look up the 1983 $165 billion bailout of Social Security. Look up the creation of the 1982 increase in gasoline taxes. Look up the 1986 largest increase in corporate taxes in history. Look up the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act. Look up the ratio of spending to revenue during his administration, and the debt to GDP during his administration.

        Looking past your Joe Romm straw man, here’s a link for you to start. Is the National Review more to your liking?

        http://old.nationalreview.com/nrof_bartlett/bartlett200310290853.asp

      • I notice how quickly the discussion wanes when it changes from squabbles over terminology to actual solutions. I’ve noticed this before (e.g. at Collide-a-scape). Any suggestions why?

        Thanks, hunter, but leaving Reagan aside, what about solutions you might consider acceptable?

      • @Joshua…

        How do these rises compare to his tax cut in 1981 (ERTA)? As for your link, advocacy doesn’t impress me unless it contains references to more controlled publications. But please, don’t bother searching out links. I want to discuss solutions, and if necessary re-definitions of the problem, not squabble over terminology.

      • AK –

        Near as I can tell, this looks accurate:

        According to a table in Reagan’s last budget (FY 1990), the cumulative legislated tax increase during his administration came to $132.7 billion as of 1988 ($367 billion today). This compared to a gross tax cut of $275.1 billion. Thus Reagan took back about half the 1981 tax cut with subsequent tax increases.

        Given the fact that spending as a % of revenue increased dramatically during his administration, as did debt as a % of GDP (particularly in comparison to the Dem administration that preceded him and the nearest one subsequent Dem administration) – then it makes sense that his tax cuts were larger than his tax increases.

        Interesting, isn’t it, that he won the Cold War by increasing debt and increasing spending as a % of revenue?

  39. All things considered, alarmism seems like common sense to me.

    When has a problem ever been solved by common sense? Not only does common sense tell us that the earth is flat and the sun “rises” and “sets”, but common sense presents us with many aphorisms of opposite implication:

    1. A stitch in time saves nine.

    2. Haste makes waste.

    After a mistake, everyone with common sense will agree that one of these applied.

    I agree: alarmism is a lot like common sense: some people are alarmed that the Earth is in for imminent cooling, and some are alarmed that the Earth is in for imminent warming.

    • It is alamming that you confuse common sense with superstition and ignorance.

      • That was not a “confusion”, it was an implied assertion that they have a lot in common.

      • Common sense and superstition have nothing in common. Needless to say, it is simple common sense to understand that the idea that schoolteachers will save the world is the sort of leap of faith that separates global warming anti-science from any real science. A belief that has not been validated and can never be validated is what we call superstition, not science and simply cannot be is to be taken seriously by anyone with any common sense!

  40. Proportion is the key.

    Why does the Left hate George Bush? I think they see very clearly, and from very early on in his presidency, that their global warming highway was blocked by just this one man.

    Remember the lone Chinaman and commies’ tank in Tiananmen Square? That’s the image you need to conjure up if you want to feel the rage of the leftists/liberals over being denied their Pyrrhic victory over reason and common sense.

    But, just who was this one lone man that drew back the curtain on the inhumanity of the thoughts and beliefs of the leftists/liberals, which were an obturation to individual freedom and self-reliance of average Americans? Well, that is what really irks Bush’s detractors: in many ways, George Bush was an average American.

    “He is a great average man; one who, to the best thinking, adds a proportion and equality in his faculties, so that men see in him their own dreams and glimpses made available and made to pass for what they are. A great common-sense is his warrant and qualification to be the world’s interpreter. He has reason, as all the philosophic and poetic class have: but he has also what they have not,- this strong solving sense to reconcile his poetry with the appearances of the world, and build a bridge from the streets of cities to the Atlantis.” (Emerson)

  41. I forgot: some people are alarmed by the prospect that CO2 controls will reduce the energy needed for civilization.

    • MattSat,
      If you could please expand on how pointing out the known costs of implementing the AGW community demands on CO2 is an example of the abuse of the precautionary principal?
      TIA,

      • If you could please expand on how pointing out the known costs of implementing the AGW community demands on CO2 is an example of the abuse of the precautionary principal?

        Huh? Some people point out the known costs of implementing mitigation policies demanded by the AGW alarmists; others are alarmed.

        Just as some people point out the potential losses associated with AGW; and others are alarmed.

        For any threat that you can think of, the alarmists always argue that it is wise to be alarmed. If not “wise”, then “common sense” as in the quote at the head of the thread.

        Consider the threat of Islamic Jihadists: alarm produced the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security. Alarmists got the measures through Congress by persuading enough people that being alarmed was the right approach. Right or wrong, they were alarmists while the opponents wanted to take more time to examine everything.

      • Who is this poor principal being abused? That’s against my principles.

        ;p

    • “I forgot: some people are alarmed by the prospect that CO2 controls will reduce the energy needed for civilization.”

      You have that backwards; CO2 controls will reduce the energy *available* for civilization. Button up your coats!

  42. Based upon the background knowledge that we have, the threat does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century

    This passage raises a number of questions for me. These are serious, non-rhetorical questions, because I want to understand the position you are taking.

    1. How do you define a “existential threat”?

    2. How did you chose the time scale of the 21st century as the relevant one — shouldn’t we care about existential threats in 2101 and onward?

    3. Given uncertainty, what is your level of confidence that the threat is not existential? What is the likelihood that you are wrong?

    4. In your opinion, do changes in our tax code and regulatory environment — for example, substituting carbon taxes for sales taxes or requiring new construction to be energy efficient — constitute an existential threat to humanity?

    • “tax code and regulatory environment — for example, substituting carbon taxes for sales taxes or requiring new construction to be energy efficient — constitute an existential threat to humanity”
      Not to everyone. Just to those most dependent on the small amounts of energy (i.e., inexpensive fossil fuel) they can scrounge to survive. They’re destined to be part of the first wave of culling, bringing population levels down to those more convenient for the wannabe Green Oligarchy.

  43. Judith Curry’s testimony: “…It is now up to the political process (international, national, and local) to decide how to contend with the climate problem.”

    That’s what is wrong with this blog site, in a nutshell.

      • Harry,
        Can you tunnel down a bit rahter short answer and provide a sketch or two of what you mean on that?

    • “That’s what is wrong with this blog site, in a nutshell.”

      In fact, Dr. Curry’s recognition of the extent to which so much of the supposedly scientific climate debate is really political (together with the fact and that she encourages open debate on that aspect of the issue) is the single best feature of this blog in my opinion.

      Penetrating both the pretense that the consensus arguments are “all about the science,” and the exaggerated claims of certainty, is a great service, regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum.

  44. The asinine fixation on the Precautionary Principle might actually be an American thing typical of these days rather than a leftist attitude. Here’s a post of mine comparing the PP to Dick Cheney’s “One percent doctrine”: http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/what-have-vp-dick-cheney-and-activist-agwers-got-in-common/

  45. Huxley wrote: “There are still thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alerts. The risk of large nuclear exchanges remains all too-real and far larger than the “non-negligible risk” of catastrophic climate change that, we are told, is 40,000 times greater than the once in 100 million years rate of asteroid collisions.”

    I think this points up a phenomenon I read about recently whereby human beings are somehow wired to fear relatively new things, even if the risk is objectively speaking far lower than more established dangers. I think the nuclear discussion really underscores that. When you think about it rationally, it’s well nigh preposterous to be pulling our hair out over global warming while ignoring the potential for nuclear war..

    I grew up in the 50’s when the A-bomb was still a new development. We had frequent drills in school (how foolish!), and people were building bomb shelters in their back yards. (equally foolish in my opinion). People in general were deeply fearful. As well they should be.

    Today the danger is greater than ever, and yet it’s rarely discussed.

  46. Other people are alarmed by uncontrolled flooding that will occur, as it always has, in the absence of global warming:

    http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Japan_firms_output_hit_by_Thai_floods_999.html

    There are so many threats to be alarmed about that it is irresponsible to focus on just one of them.

  47. This discussion reminds me a little about the health care debate on prostrate cancer. It is estimated that nearly half of all men over 70 will get prostrate cancer. Most however will have a form with such a slow progression that they will succumb to something else before the prostrate cancer causes them any problems.
    Traditionally, a diagnosis of cancer caused alarm resulting in agressive treatment. Some of these treaments were very expensive, some were only moderately expensive but most had side effects that materially affected the quality of life of the patient such as impotance and incontenance. If the treatment save a life, it might be considered to be worth the cost but if it turned a healthy ,active person into a shut in for the remainder of their life but had no material impact on their life expentancy, it would have been a high price to pay for very little benefit. As a result, most doctors now recommend a “watchful waiting” approach for the disease for people after a certain age.
    When it comes to climate change and risk, there often seems to be a presumption by some that the treatment for the problem does not involve excessive costs and that the treatment will be effective. On the other hand, many see the treatment for the problem as worse than the disease. In other word, how much fuel poverty in the developed world or famine in the undeveloped world will be tolerated to mitigate a slight warming that may not really be a burden to anyone? Looked at in this way, is there a “watchful waiting” strategy that would allow us to look for certain signals in the climate and only take effective action as necessary if it is merited. I think this is in essence what Roger Pielke Jr. recommended. Have a very small tax on carbon that didn’t materially affect prices and the money would be devoted to devloping cost effective solutions. The tax would go up if temperatures rose but would stay low if they didn’t change. While I would not advocate that specific approach, it seems more rational than solutions that could lead to widespread energy poverty or famine.

  48. If the climate models are correct, humans have been very effective at adding aerosols to the atmosphere – what’s allegedly cancelling out the arming effect of CO2.
    Then if we were to see “catastrophic” warming begin to continue, I’m sure there would be no problem for people (the West at least) to dramatically cut GHG’s, and institute a “geo-engineering” of pumping out aerosols, seems we’ve been pretty effective so far, and it has just been a by-product.
    But the aerosols have adverse effects! Well if the warming is as catastrophic as we’ve been told, I’m sure we could accept the lesser of two evils.

  49. To answer AK’s question above, what solutions might be acceptable:

    – incentives for conservation and efficiency
    – transitioning from coal and oil fired power plants to nuclear, hydro, biomass, geothermal and gas (perhaps giving incentives for accelerated retirement)
    – curbs on methane emissions (sequestered methane sources can help feed the gas-fired plants listed above)
    – curbs on black carbon emissions
    – white roof and green roof initiatives
    – ending the flood insurance program and encouraging more responsible building and zoning practices
    – promoting research on feasable, reliable, next generation power

    • What’s wrong with solar power, especially Concentrated Solar Power? Unlike the semi-conductor-based solar panels, this technology doesn’t have to use anything really new. I’d like to see it combined with cheap floatation technology, so it could take sunlight from parts of the ocean that don’t currently have any bio-productivity, rather than taking up terrestrial space that’s almost all used by human or natural ecosystems.

      And, longer-term, what about Space Solar Power?

      • Q: “What is wrong with solar power?”
        A: 1) night time; 2) cloudy days

        BTW, I am unaware of any part of the ocean that has ‘no bio-activity’. Can you point some out?

      • @hunter

        Not off-hand, but I could find it easily enough if somebody wants to discuss it seriously. Much of the tropics have little or no life due to lack of nutrients in the sunlit portions. I’ve dug into it before, but didn’t save the results of my search.

        Intermittency is a problem, but it’s mostly one of storing energy. One point I’ll make is that deep ocean offers the ability to store energy simply by moving weights up and down. Or pumping water out of/into large storage containers at deep levels. I’ve done some of the calculations, and it looks feasible to me.

        Another point is that much of what has to be done with energy can be can also be intermittent. Water distillation (for agriculture or humans), industry of many types, factories, etc.

        I’m disappointed that the response is to bring up easily solved problems, rather than solutions I’m sure you could come up with on your own, if you wanted to. Who know, you might come up with something better than mine, or that combines with mine or others to get synergistic benefits.

        Why do you obstruct, rather than help?

      • AK,
        Putting large floating solar arrays in the corrosive stormy ocean and trying to get power to where significant numbers of people live is an engineering challenge that would make the power source useless.
        The niche uses of solar or wind are great.
        Civilization needs large amounts of dependable high quality power delivered to where people and their factories/industries actually are.
        I am not trying to be snarky or evasive.
        I have been down this path you are on a long long time ago, listening while my grandfather recalled how MIT scientists living down the street where he grew up were designing brine heat storage units to place in the attics of homes when the oil great oil crisis of the early post WWI period took place, and President Wilson wanted to know what to do when the oil ran out.
        When I upgrade my roof in a year or two, I wll add solar powered roof fans to move hot air out of the attic. They are wonderful, and will help deal with the sunny and warm summers we have here in Texas.
        that is not a base loading problem. It is a nice niche that soalr is very appropriate to fill.

      • @hunter…

        Putting large floating solar arrays in the corrosive stormy ocean and trying to get power to where significant numbers of people live is an engineering challenge that would make the power source useless.

        Actually, it’s not really much of a challenge at all. Most of the technology has already been developed for oil. Note that most of the complex technology on oil platforms is needed to operate at the bottom. It wouldn’t be needed for mirror arrays. As for power transmission, AFAIK undersea lines occupy one of the most stable environments on the planet. However, there’s another option, which is to put most of the industry that needs it right there, where the power is.

        Getting the cost down is the real challenge, but then consider what people in 1988 would have said about the current costs of computing technology.

      • AK,
        Good points. But check out the economics of large platforms and you will find some real financial challenges.
        We only use deep water drilling where the chances for huge returns are very attractive. the Northsea/Gulf of Mexico type platforms are of limited size, and are not really in the true tropics. Avoiding tropical cyclones is going to be a challenge, as they enjoy the tropical sunny places:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_cyclone_basins

        the idea of stacking factories near the solar platforms is interesting, but again the costs and then added issues of leaking wastes into ocean waters is going to make a significant hurdle.
        Again, I am not flippantly disregarding your ideas. they are interesting.
        I just think clean coal, natural gas, and most all nuclear power, are the best optins to to use for large scale power for a long time.

      • @hunter…

        I’ll agree that the issues you’ve brought up need to be solved. Along with a host of others that haven’t come up, may not even have been thought of. But consider Moore’s law, both in terms of achieving similar exponential reductions in costs for other technology, and in terms of how the ability to use built-in computers everywhere will change how everything is put together and works.

      • Hunter is being way too kind here. Concentrated solar out on the ocean will never work. for CSP to work, there are some very specific criteria that need to be met. Things like infrequent clouds and rain. Also relatively flat ground and a very large footprint. The mirrors need to track the sun to keep it focused. Also you need to keep those mirrors clean. The ocean is a very violent and unforgiving environment. As far as ideas for green energy go this one is a no-brainer, litterally.

        On the other hand it might be worth 500 million from a politician.

        Don’t take this the wrong way, there are things out there that will work. Just not this. It’s best to kill bad ideas quickly.

      • @Dennis…

        Those actually aren’t very difficult problems to solve. There are many parts of the ocean where clouds are fairly infrequent. Tracking the sun just requires computer power. You’re probably thinking about a control system without feedbacks. With the proper feedbacks, acting at literally microsecond (or nanosecond) time-frames, keeping mirrors focused in a dynamic environment isn’t all that hard. Keeping the mirrors clean might be more of a challenge, but I doubt it’s more than protecting them from sandstorms.

      • @AK,

        Keeping the mirrors clean might be more of a challenge, but I doubt it’s more than protecting them from sandstorms.
        Which reminds of the progress that Solar has made in 30 years.

        The first Saudi Solar village was built in 1981 –

        http://www.nytimes.com/1983/11/01/science/in-saudi-arabia-the-sun-shines-bright-on-solar-power.html?pagewanted=all

        Scientists say the project is the first to use optical concentrators instead of mirrors. The power is supplied by 160 arrays, that is, huge sheets, 8 feet by 40 feet, of silicon cells, approximately 57 centimeters in diameter. Each array produces up to 2.2 kilowatts from 256 cells……solar technologists generally believe it will be at least the 1990’s before solar plants are profitable except in the most unusual circumstances. By then, they hope, photovoltaic power that could now cost consumers as much as $1.50 a kilowatt hour might be down to a competitive price around 15 cents a kilowatt hour.

        Then i read a 2010 article like this in a ‘eco’ magazine

        http://www.ecoseed.org/solar-energy-blog/other-solar-technologies/article/55-other-solar-technologies/8300-solfocus-tapped-for-saudi%E2%80

        %99s-largest-concentrating-pv-plant
        Concentrating photovoltaic is an emerging solar technology

        There is a reason some of us are skeptical of ‘renewables’, they were tried in the early 1980’s and they were found ‘wanting’. We were assured that with just a few more government research dollars commercial viability was just a few years away.

      • To tie this in to the topic at hand,
        I guess this is the biggest problem I have with people who demand that we do something, anything, right now (alarmists). Is that hey tend to have absolutely no idea what it takes to generate the energy that our current society requires. They want everyone to drive cars powered by batteries that don’t exist. They mandate by law that we will use millons of gallons of cellulosic ethanol with no clear path for making the fuel. They want to generate electricity using the lowest energy density possible (solar and wind). CSP is too expensive on land and now you imagine huge paltforms out on the ocean????
        The problem with most alarmists, is they don’t understand the problem. The energy genie is out of the bottle. If CO2 is a problem, there are only 2 solutions, fission and fusion. And so far we can barely do one.

      • AK,
        A client of mine with a condo in a high rise at the beach had a winter wind (not a hurricane) come through two years ago and blow the brick veneer off the building.
        The builder had not used stainless steal brick ties, and even though the the brick ties were on the inside of the brick, between the brick curtain wall and the concrete structural wall the salt in the air had corroded the galvanized material to uselessness.
        Offshore is even more corrosive.

      • Terrestrial solar will always have the reliability issue, even if the cost comes down. Space-based solar is an interesting hypothetical. Until it’s closer to reality, it’s just a curiousity.

      • Reliability is solved by having lots of installations in parallel. Failure of any one (or few) would stay within the designed safety margin. (Assuming rational controls on design, as opposed, for instance, to 2-year plans from drawing-board to IPO)

      • Reliability is solved or should be solved by numbers of installations? I’m not aware of anyone scrapping their backup capacity yet. This link discusses some of the claims that have been made regarding reliability of wind and then shows them false using data from those operating the wind farms. The well’s dry…time to move on to technologies that show promise.

      • AK, no matter how many solar heat or photo voltaic systems you have, if it is dark they stop.
        As to storage, how long would the back up be for?
        12 hours? 1 day? 2 days? How cloudy can it get for how long?
        What would you use? Super flywheels? Pumping water into a reservoir? (tough at sea)
        Enough solar rigs to span time zones? (a cool science fiction-esque idea)
        I did know a guy once who was working with a low boiling-point fluid and pumping it down into the deep ocean to tap the thermal mass of the cool ocean at depth.
        But I think the pump and heat exchanger was pretty tough to operate and yield a positive energy flow from.
        OTEC is what it was called.
        Here is a wiki link:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_thermal_energy_conversion

        Here is a link to what may have been the company I was in contact with about ten years ago.

        http://www.otecorporation.com/index.html

      • OTEC is correct Hunter. That is as close as AK will get to an ocean solar thermal system. The perfect place for it is Hawaii where they have tested the concept. You have warm (80C)surface water and close to shore you have very deep cold (4C) water, perfect for OTEC. But with the low delta T you get an inefficient heat engine that can barely supply the energy to pump the fluid. Not a bad idea for the few locations with an infinite supply of warm and cold water, but so far it hasn’t been economical, if it were they would be using it in Hawaii.
        Now if you tried to add mirrors and pumps and heat exchangers and good intentions the economics only get worse.

      • @hunter…

        What would you use? Super flywheels? Pumping water into a reservoir? (tough at sea)

        Actually, it’s not tough at all. Pumping water in and out of a low-pressure chamber at a depth of 1 kilometer would store about 10,000 joules per cubic meter. A 60-meter ID sphere would store about 10^9 joules, perhaps a kilowatt day. Of course, making it cost-effective would require substantial economies of scale, along with the sort of technological improvement found in, for instance, information processing hardware over the last 20 years.

      • AK,
        Forgive my trouble in getting my mind around the words “no trouble”, “low pressure” and “kilometer down”, used in one paragraph.

  50. Is the ‘fat tail’ not symmetrical?
    Should one ignore the very high probability of ‘equal=no-change’ or ‘better than’ outcomes?
    ‘Doom and Gloom’ sells newspapers. Is that good science?

    • Fat-tailed distributions are typically not symmetrical. In many cases the statistical moments will start to diverge in the direction of the tail. Since a mean is an expected outcome, and risk is thought of as this outcome multiplied by the severity, you can understand why fat-tails are taken seriously.

  51. Joshua

    Economically, the key point to remember that is different today for the US than 1980 is the percentage of our budget that goes to servicing the debt. In 1980 it was insignificant but today it is about 20% of the budget (depending the percentage in short term vs longer term notes). Because deficits were carried for to long (everyone likes something for nothing) the practice can not continue

  52. The thing about “The case(?) for climate change alarmism,” is that it is an appeal that requires an OJ-type jury as a finder of fact. 15-year old Kristen Byrnes (Ponder the Maunder) knew when she was in high school years ago that the climage changes–duh!–and, that Leftist lifetime politician Al Gore was a phony.

  53. Looking over the comments in Forbes article, I notice that there is little skeptic presence and that presence is not sophisticated. No one has brought up objections to the Precautionary Principle, which have been well-explored on this blog.

    To his credit William Pentland, the author, is an active participant and a decent moderator in the comments section.

    • Maybe it’s me, but I can’t see any comments, though it permitted me to enter one after logging in. FWIW, here’s what I posted:
      Very spotty article.
      The difficulty with the IPCC is in miniature the problem with PNS: the corruption of those self-appointed to adjudicate the suitability of the science and its practitioners rapidly moves to the “absolute” end of the scale. Because in the end they are not willing to put limits on their own authority and presumptive “correctness”.

      BTW, the adage goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” And the IPCC pudding has been quite nauseating, thankyewverymuch.”

  54. wag wrote: “Proportion is the key.
    Why does the Left hate George Bush? I think they see very clearly, and from very early on in his presidency, that their global warming highway was blocked by just this one man.”

    This is simply oversimplified to the point of useless. The left hates George Bush because he’s a simpleton who got us into two unfunded wars and presided over one of the great financial collapses in our history. And that’s just for starters.

    • Another winner of the Ward Churchill Schlarship Award?

    • Sorry, oversimplified to the point of uselessness. House crawling with visiting relatives..

      • Gore snares a Nobel for deceiving people as Bush earns the Left’s lifetime hatred award for believing in America with his whole heart.

      • As for “simpleton”, what does that make Gore and Kerry, both of whom scored and graded lower than GWB on SATs and in college courses? Not that Gore actually even graduated from his undergrad divinity studies. I guess he figgered he was adequately qualified as an autodidact.

      • They’re all “simpletons”. Gore, Kerry, Obama, Bush… The political system allows only simpletons. All over the world.

  55. Of course, there was more at stake with the global warming hoax–more than just the eroding credibility of science. Even so, it actually is amazing considering that all (not a majority but, all!) of the Leftist, liberal fascist, enviro-wackpot part of the country was allied and conspiring together in a conspicuous consensus of un-Americanism to bring capitalism down, along with a willing mainstream media and a broken governmental-funded education machine as the eager facilitators of the hoax with millions being spent for endless filing cabinets full of junk research. And, we now have a lot more evidence of the role of thankless, hostile and hypocritical Old Europe, and all of typical anti-America, tyrannical regimes, tin pot dictators, fascists and commie states comprising the UN, all united in a consensus against President Bush, the U.S., Jesus/ Jews/ capitalism/ business/ and free enterprise, in an attempt to crush personal liberty and freedom.

  56. “Excuse me Mr. Voter, sir, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.

    No, no, wait, come back, stop screaming in fear.

    Seriously, I represent the consensus of the government/climate/industrial complex. We used to believe that it was “very likely” that human emissions of CO2 might be causing global warming, and that warming might have catastrophic results. Based on that belief, we wanted you to vote to let us drastically raise your energy costs, and “decarbonize” the global economy.

    We have now decided that maybe we are not as certain regarding attribution, or the likelihood of catastrophic effects. So we are now more certain that you should vote to give us control over the world energy economy. and therefore most aspects of your life.

    No…stop laughing…I’m serious here.

    Sir? Sir? Please stop laughing. Don’t you understand I am saving the planet – from you and your stupid SUV?”

    The precautionary principle in all its glory.

    I can’t wait for November 6, 2012.

    • There is an interesting parallel between climate and enterprise: climate does not change it is change because the weather changes and climate is comprised of the weather and therefore embodies change.

      Similarly, free enterprise is comprised of businesses and businesses are always changing. Accordingly, enterprise embodies change. For example, there are businesses today where products that were more than 70% of sales five years ago are less than 30% now and the current product stars didn’t exist 3 years ago.

      No government can plan free enterprise. All planned economies fail by comparison to a free economy. That is why the Left’s Marxist dream of Utopia is an illusion.

      Similarly, the Left’s use of global warming hysteria to undermine free enterprise is equally bankrupt. The Left can no more stop weather from changing than it can plan and bring about a successful economy by government fiat.

    • “No, no, wait, come back, stop screaming in fear.”

      That’s deniers for you . . . screaming in fear at phantoms that aren’t there, such as the evil government that took away their whites-only lunch counter and is now trying to confuse them with this strange stuff called “overwhelming scientific proof” . . .

      It’s sad, really.

      • Fatal flaw of Leftist global warming alarmist reasoning and politics: Climate change is the norm not an exception—it can’t not change.

      • Fatal flaw of Leftist . . .

        Sorry, you mentioned your phantom terror, the “Leftists.” Automatic fail.

        See if you can get through a whole comment without lapsing into paranoid fantasies about “Leftists.” That’s your homework. ;)

      • And here you got through a whole post without resorting to the big oil conspiracy or the Koch brothers or even the ‘d’ word.
        You have outdone Romm, Gore, Hansen, Lacis and so many others.
        Congratulations.

      • “And here you got through a whole post without . . .”

        Was that an attempt at a comeback on your fellow denier’s behalf? How cute! :)

      • Robert,
        You blew it.
        Not surprisingly.

  57. A monocausal explanation like human-induced runaway global warming is a liberal fascist version of ‘Mein Kampf’ and Mao’s ‘Little Red Book.’

  58. Alarmists (in the sense of serial alarmists) seem to take delight in being seen as mentally inadequate (and I intend no offence to alarmists.)

    My reasoning is that no-one has ever been able to see into the future, and no one ever will. Therefore, any one that attempts to purloin one moment of my time, or the smallest coin from my purse based on the alleged ability to foretell the future is mentally deranged.

    Most of us confuse prediction with assumption – winter will be colder than summer, the Sun will rise tomorrow and so on.

    I challenge anybody to a contest of predictive skill – me and a plate of chicken entrails against your accumulated qualifications, skill and knowledge. You may use any computing facilities on the face of the planet.

    So, hopefully, you now agree you can’t “predict” the future any better than I.

    So why pay alarmists any notice, after making your own assumptions, and deciding on a course of action based on those assumptions.

    Now if someone merely sounds an alarm, that is not “alarmism”. I would expect someone who sees someone apparently about to detonate a bomb on an aircraft (particularly if I am a passenger), to raise and strident and loud alarm – possibly “He’s got a bomb!”

    Still an assumption – but I will temporarily agree until the matter is settled. My life might depend on that assumption.

    Now in the case of climate alarmism, I assume that the consensus of scientific knowledge about climate is tosh – assumption piled on speculation, sitting on a guess, with a foundation of surmise.

    Don’t like my assumption? Use your own – be my guest. Alarmists don’t seem to like being ignored. If you resist their attempt to bend you to their will, they grow ever more shrill. “It’s worse than we thought!!!!” “Snow will be but a distant memory!!!” (UK 2000, Australia 2011).

    As a parting thought, most people seem to prefer happiness to misery. Anybody who doesn’t seems a bit odd to me. Alarmists want to change this state of affairs. They figure it’s their goal in life to interfere with our quiet enjoyment of our allotted span, by spreading alarm based on, well, their assumptions. If we don’t respond to the initial alarmism by running round in circles being despondent, they will bring in fresh ammunition.

    The weak precautionary principle. The strong precautionary principle. Bayesian analysis, fat tails, thin tails, white swans, black swans, multiple regression, fourth order derivatives. The list goes on. “For want of a nail, the battle was lost”. Excuse me, but I have better things to do than nervously count my pile of nails “just in case’.

    I have discovered a new place for “Greenhouse Gas Effect”. It now sits on my shelf between “Ether, Luminiferous” and “Phlogiston”.

    Thanks

    • Big money exercises significant control over global warming science: Green is big business from Corruptenhagen to Cancun.

    • “My reasoning is that no-one has ever been able to see into the future, and no one ever will.”

      So you’re a happy-go-lucky type of guy? Not a care in the world. You just live for the day and seize the moment eh? I wish I could have been like more you but I guess I’ve always been one of those boring people who’ve thought they could see into the future. At least to some extent. I tended to think, but from what you say I may well have been wrong, that I might not get paid at the end of the month if I didn’t turn up for work, and my wife would divorce me if she and the kids were evicted from the house as result.

      I guess it takes all sorts!

      • Latimer Alder

        But it seems to me that you are letting your worries about AGW overwhelm you to the point where you are no longer capable of articulating what they are.

        Despite repeated opprotunities you have not advanced a single credible reason as to why the rest of us should

        a. share your concern and
        b. be suitably motivated to do something about it.

        Instead you resort to teh standard tedious quips about denialism etc.

        These are not the characteristics of a rational man trying to persuade others but of one trapped in a cycle of irrational fears leading to irrational thoughts. I’m no psychiatrist, but I know that help is available. And that a clear and clean head is essential for recovery.

      • Tempterrain,

        In answer to your first question, I prefer happiness to misery. I believe this is rational thinking, but I would not presume to challenge your beliefs.

        If you thought you could see into the future, well and good. By now, you may have realised that your “predictions” were really assumptions.

        I agree with some of your assumptions. If you did not assume that you wouldn’t get paid for going to work, you probably wouldn’t bother going. You assume your employer will continue to pay you. Another fair assumption, but keep Lehman Brothers, Enron and all the rest in mind. I am guessing you are British, so you can no doubt point to many people who “predicted” their future, to find it rudely changed without their concurrence.

        You might be surprised by your wife not divorcing you. Many people get laid off, sacked, or otherwise unexpectedly deprived of employment. Their spouses in most cases stay with them, as far as the data shows.

        I repeat . . . “My reasoning is that no-one has ever been able to see into the future, and no one ever will.” I will go further – anyone who believes that can peer into the future is either a fool or a charlatan. Time travel does not exist. Take up my challenge – “predict” the future better than I can, and I will change my mind.

        Dr Curry may offer to play the part of the stakeholder, and adjudicate on the superiority of your ability to examine the future against my admitted assumptions based on the entrails of a chicken.

        Thanks for your interest.

    • ozzieostrich

      I have discovered a new place for “Greenhouse Gas Effect”. It now sits on my shelf between “Ether, Luminiferous” and “Phlogiston”.

      Beautifully said.

  59. The precautionary principle is more and more polluting public action. If looking a priori reasonable, this principle is indeed just nonsense. First of all because “zero” risk is pure fantasy, but also because precautionary principle basically absolves policymakers from any responsibility regarding the potentially dangerous effects of the decisions and policies they promote. Provided their intention is to mitigate a possible risk, even if not proved, their liability just disappears, whatever are the collateral damages of their risk mitigation policies!

    This precautionary principle is actually the exact negation of a maturated political decision or action. Policymaking requires to carefully weigh up the pros and cons, at all levels (human, social, financial, industrial,…), the risks at stake, either those related to the issue to be treat, or those inherent to the actions that are promoted to treat that issue… Because sometimes remedies are even worse than the illness they are supposed to cure! By applying the precautionary principle, the policymaker just tries to get rid of any responsibility as well as of this difficult risk analysis that is most of the time out of his competence.

    Promoted policies to mitigate potential (but not demonstrated) risks related to climate change would costs hundreds of billions dollars. They are very likely to rush our already flickering economies into a deadly spiral of decline, whose effect would be much more damaging than a 1 or 2 °C warming.
    Therefore Dr Curry I fully share your concluding point :

    “It seems more important that robust responses be formulated than to respond urgently with a policy that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.”

  60. The craziest thing is, at the heart of global warming alarmism, is the Left’s fear of humanity. And yet, they would deign to tell all of the rest of us what to do.

  61. JC: the threat does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century, even in its most alarming incarnation. It is now up to the political process (international, national, and local) to decide how to contend with the climate problem.

    Dr. Curry, were you emulating Allen Greenspan? In one sentence you tangentially hint that the science is telling us, even under the most alarming uncertainty, the CAGW threat does not seem to exist. But in the next sentence you say the political process must now deal with a climate problem -(shhh..) than cannot be supported by science under the most troubling assumptions.

    Refering back to the USCGRP draft thread where you wondered, “Where was the science?”, in a proposal concentrating on communication.
    A + B = C.
    science + COMMUNICATION!!! = Policy
    It appears to me political process is contending with the climate problem, thus:
    B(t) = C-A(t)
    A(t): Science changes over time.
    It is the POLICY (C) that is settled (and therefore constant).
    The communication B(t) is a function of time, whose purpose is to adjust to the changes in science to preserve the unchanging policy.
    “If science does not help, we’ll make up for it in communication.” Political process at its finest.

  62. 2. Avoidance of future risk should drive the decision making process (JC opinion: loss avoidance is more important than risk avoidance).

    Applause! The certainty of losing $trillions chasing impotent solutions to mitigate phantom risks is a loss worth avoiding. The only winners are those with First Class seats on the money train.

  63. wag wrote: “A monocausal explanation like human-induced runaway global warming is a liberal fascist version of ‘Mein Kampf’ and Mao’s ‘Little Red Book.”

    This stuff bothers me quite a lot because it feeds right into liberal stereotypes, making it very easy to dismiss anything reasonable you might say about the over-selling of CAGW. There is simply no reasonable comparison between Hitler/Mao and liberal warmists. Wagathon, you really do skeptics no good at all with this over-heated junk.

  64. Alarmism cannot be sustained when contrary to observation!

    Since IPCC’s first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested global average temperature increases between about 0.15°C and 0.3°C per decade for 1990 to 2005. This can now be compared with observed values of about 0.2°C per decade, strengthening confidence in near-term projections

    http://bit.ly/9pwVyH

    UPDATE

    Since IPCC’s first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested global average temperature increases [at least, because of IPCC’s accelerated warming claim] between about 0.15°C and 0.3°C per decade for 1995 to 2010. This can now be compared with observed values of about 0.1°C per decade, DASHING confidence in near-term projections

    http://bit.ly/rtjd0b

    • The Medium is the Message: the truth depends not on the passage of time but upon Western civalization’a perception of truth and the west is insane according to the facts according to Game theory.

    • Will we read the above update in the Fifth Assessment Report?

      • The Fifth Assessment will of course be far more nuanced than previous Reports and that is how a hoax dies but hopefully along the way there will be a needed reassessment of continued funding paid for by hard working Americans of all anti-America, anti-capitalist, nti-Judeo/Christian institutions like the UN, EPA and Big Government-funded academia.

      • I don’t think the AR5 will be any more nuanced than the AR4. There may be caveats and waves to uncertainty in footnotes and attachments, but the purpose, people, processes, ideologies and funding of the IPCC have not changed one whit, so neither will its primary output.

        The IPCC’s AR5 will be prepared to further the CAGW agenda. That was why the IPCC was created. Expect leaks and “preliminary drafts” galore in the run up to the 2012 U.S. elections.

      • Except that this is a game played by Western civilization on itself by Westerners — no one else is listening — and, other than people like Al Gore — who could care less about truth — the bad actors of global warming alarmism that are still left are so far to the Left that they will probably be seen more as communists than scientists.

  65. Easter Island bunny:
    “Can we change? How? How?”
    Don’t have socialism?
    With free market and private porperty a bunny can keep his tree regardless of a what an “authority” desires.
    The bunny it’s required to give up his tree to the State religion.
    Seems pretty simple.

  66. Speaking of making decisions under uncertainty, Mark Twain allegedly observed:

    “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

    • Yes, that is a problem.

      If climate change is a matter of national security, as you note above, then it is almost treason to misrepresent information about:

      a.) Earth’s heat source – the Sun, and
      b.) Earth’s global surface temperatures

      See Comment #53 on

      http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/polling-the-educated/

      Comments #5 and #13 on

      http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/free-thinking/

      • There nothing exceptional or unusual but tax payer supported scientists
        withholding raw data from the public. A two year delay of releasing data was a norm with NASA until rather recently, now the standard is about 6 month delay. This shortening of the delay has been something Goldin and space advocates have pushing for some time. Most regard a maximum of a 6 month delay as acceptable.
        Of course from climategate we see that some scientists are of the opinion that they actually own the data, despite the fact that they have access to to this data due to US citizens paying for this science to be done- quite a bizarre notion, robbing from the commons is somewhat typical human behavior- but that they can’t even imagine that it is wrong is the strange part.

  67. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/10/12/a-case-against-climate-change-alarmism/?feed=rss_home

    Heartland’s James Taylor has posted a counter commentary to Penland’s. Perhaps it should be a separate topic post here, this thread having been given over to political rhetoric. As I suggested early in this thread, he argues that there is no fat tail. Warming is natural. The central issue simply presented.

    • The “fat tail” arguments seem to me to be a form of begging the question: presuming the conclusion in the phrasing of the issue. It is almost tautological to say that if disastrous warming is more likely than moderate warming, we’d better brace for it, and stop it if possible.

      But the claim “more likely” (fat tail) is itself so dubious that the whole thing falls of its own weight.

      What’s REALLY “fat” (probabilistically speaking) is, as Taylor points out, the chance for continued benefits to civilization and agriculture should warming continue, even to Holocene Optimum levels (? ~4-6°C above current).

    • Perhaps it should be a separate topic post here, this thread having been given over to political rhetoric.

      This thread was initiated with a reference to political rhetoric.

    • David W.: Good catch! And here’s a great quote from that article:

      This really gets to the heart of the Sandia paper. If we have real-world evidence that temperatures were warmer than today during most of the past 10,000 years (and also during several interglacial warm periods during the past few million years), and if we also have real-world evidence that human civilization thrived during these warmer temperatures and the warmer temperatures did not trigger so-called “tipping points” sending the planet into a climate catastrophe, then we have very little reason to believe that our presently and moderately warming temperatures are now poised to send the planet into a climate catastrophe.

      However, the caveat IMO is that if increasing CO2 levels continues to raise temperatures, at some point in the future it does become a problem, maybe even a tipping point.

  68. People will be dying this winter from the cold because their heating bills have gone up due to this alarmism.

    What would William Pentland say to their loved ones?

    They were collateral damage?

    Warmists, really are some of the most cold hearted people I know. No number of deaths are too many for their sacred “precautionary principle”.

    • Scepticscot,

      You’re you’re saying that the introduction of measures to combat AGW may have been done unfairly. It’s disadvantaged the poor. They may not be able to afford their heating bills this winter, and so some may die as a result. And so it is better to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

      I’m thinking there is a slight flaw in this logic. Can anyone else see it too?

      • Latimer Alder

        Your analysis is incorrect. Everybody has been disadvantaged by unnecessarily raising fuel bills. A few rich landowners benefit mightily by the huge susbidides they receive for putting windmills on their rolling acres of shooting moors. The many freeze and shiver as winter comes in..pray &yourdeity. that it’s not a hard one like the last two as my old Mum in Scotland will not survive it.

        But nobody has, or will, recevie any benefit from ‘combatting AGW’.
        Unless you can remind us all of exactly why we are doing this, it sounds like ‘fighting for peace’ or ‘killing to save lives’ to me.

        Perhaps it will comfort my Mum in her last moments that her view of the Highlands has been ruined by windfarms……with her dying breath she will know that she dies to save the planet.

        And perhaps it won’t!

      • Latimer,

        Are you scepticscot too? You’re not playing ‘sockpuppets’ are you?

        I’m with James Hansen. Convert your coal stations to nuclear power. They will keep your old mum warm and help preserve her view too.

        You’re still in the rut of:

        ‘Person X has died of cold. Person X didn’t deserve to die. Therefore, the scientific theory on AGW is all wrong’

        As Mr Spock used to say on Star Trek “This is just not logical, captain”.

      • tempterrain

        the scientific theory on AGW is all wrong

        Here is why:

        http://bit.ly/pWwqH8

      • Latimer Alder

        Nope. I am not scepticscot.

        And if you look at what my post actually says it is

        ‘Unless you can remind us all of exactly why we are doing this, it sounds like ‘fighting for peace’ or ‘killing to save lives’ to me’

        and you – like many other posters here – can do no more in building a case than say ‘lots of clever people believe in AGW, therefore windfarms, or carbon taxes or electric cars’ or whatever the fashion du jour is at the time.

        There are an awful lots of ‘therefore’s missing in your analysis. If you can fill them in, then you have a chance of persuading the vast majority of people that there is an urgent case to do some unpopular things. Until then dear tt, you are failing bigtime.

        Come on …try to finish the sentence:

        ‘We need to do soemthing urgent about AGW because……..’

        And then imagine persuading a bunch of people in a pub, on a bus or at a football match with

        ‘We need to do something urgent about AGW because……..and it wil cost you real money’

        Once you’ve been round that loop a few hundred times and got a case, then come back.

      • Judith herself once answered your question very well.

        You shouldn’t ” mistakenly assume that existing technologies and strategies can’t make a big dent in carbon emissions at an affordable price. We’re developing hybrid and electric cars, building wind farms and ocean wave energy stations. New batteries, fuel cells and solar panels are smaller, better and cheaper than they were just a few years ago. I am in awe of the new technologies that I see being developed at Georgia Tech, and such research is happening at the nation’s major research universities and in the private sector.”

        A big dent in our emissions at an affordable price. Get the idea?

      • Latimer Alder

        @tempterrain

        Yet again, you fail to advance an argument for doing anything at all. It is perfectly possible to commit suicide for less than twenty quid. It is ‘affordable’. Doesn’t mean it is a sensible thing to do.

        Please return to the central point and finish the sentence

        ‘We need to do something urgent about AGW because…….’

      • what is not logical is any assumption that that CAGW is an issue. When one looks past the 160 year mark there was plenty of GW with no C or A prefix

      • tempterrain

        You seem to like Hansen’s plan to shut down all US coal-fired power plants by 2030, replacing them (your idea) with new nuclear plants.

        This is a hare-brained scheme, tt.

        It will result in a theoretical reduction of global warming by 2100 of 0.08C at an investment cost of $1.5 trillion.

        Only a fool would go down that road, tt (leaving aside the post-Fukushima hysteria against nuclear power).

        Wake up to reality.

        Max

      • Actually, if you look at the aging of US coal fired plants a fair share will be retired by 2030 regardless of what one believes in AGW. They don’t last forever, eventually the thermal expansion/contraction cycles lead to metal fatigue and the boilers have to be replaced.

        What they will be replaced with is anyone’s guess, but the cost of a new coal fired plant with SO2,NOx and particulate scrubbers isn’t all that much different then a nuclear plant. Depending on region nuclear can actually be cheaper.

        US DOE’s projection that no new coal fired plants will be built in the US after 2015 isn’t predicated on any new legislation happening. It’s predicated on economics.

      • “It will result in a theoretical reduction of global warming by 2100 of 0.08C at an investment cost of $1.5 trillion.”

        Really?

        I don’t think I would trust you and your dodgy calculator to give me the right change from a $5 note , never mind do these sort of calculations accurately.

      • Tempterrain,

        The “scientific theory” on AGW [caused by the greenhouse effect] IS wrong.

        A physical impossibility. You cannot raise the temperature of a uniformly heated body at equilibrium exposed to a source of radiant heat in a vacuum by surrounding it with gas of any sort, that is initially the same or a lower temperature than the body. The most you can hope for is that the body’s surface temperature will not drop.

        This will only happen if the gas absorbs zero energy from the source. If the gas absorbs any energy AT ALL from the source, then quite obviously the temperature of the body cannot be as high as if the gas was not there.

        And indeed, that is precisely what we observe. A slight insulating effect due to the characteristics of the atmosphere. Slightly cooler days, and slightly warmer nights than without an atmosphere (compare Earth with the Moon, and you will see what I mean).

        In any case, feel free to believe what you want. I may be wrong, but that’s my choice. Unless you can give me reason to act as you would wish me to, please excuse me if I exercise my right to act based on my assumptions, not yours.

        Thanks.

      • “The “scientific theory” on AGW [caused by the greenhouse effect] IS wrong.”

        So there’s your claim. Now you just need to prove it.

        What proof do you have for your extraordinary claim?

      • This is a bit weird. I appear to be replying to myself. However this response is to “Robert – 2:07 pm”.

        My claim is that AGW caused by the greenhouse effect does not exist.

        You submit the details of a scientific theory that the greenhouse effect exists, and I will attempt to disprove it. Please do not provide a link to somewhere else. A dozen or sol lines should suffice

        Without seeing your version of the theory, I cannot disprove it.

        My approach will probably be to show that if you have an active radiating body of fixed output e.g. the Sun, and a passive radiating body e.g. the Earth, in a vacuum, temperature stability will eventually occur for both bodies.

        Now the only way the temperature of the passively radiating body can rise is to absorb energy. The actively radiating body cannot provide any more. Energy cannot be created out of nothing.

        Provide your theory. One of us will leave the field broken, bloodied and bowed – or at least a little disgruntled.

      • “You cannot raise the temperature of a uniformly heated body at equilibrium exposed to a source of radiant heat in a vacuum by surrounding it with gas of any sort, that is initially the same or a lower temperature than the body.”

        Yes you can. It’s not often I reference Roy Spencer but he is a person you might take some notice of. Here he explains how:

        http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/04/in-defense-of-the-greenhouse-effect/

      • Like most Hansen ideas, he is wrong.
        We could not build enough nuke power plants to offset coal by 2030 if we tried.

      • “We could not build enough nuke power plants to offset coal by 2030 if we tried.”

        So there’s your assertion. Where’s your evidence? What is your proof?

      • I strongly disagree. If the government were to adopt standard designs and a streamline regulatory process it could easially be done. All it takes is the desire

      • Exactly, Rob. Look at what a much poorer America was able to build in six years to fight the second world war.

      • Vogtel #3 and #4 had their final NRC hearings 2 weeks ago, VC Summer #2 and #3 had their final NRC hearing this week.

        The fact that it took 9 1/2 years to get to the first final hearing is not an indicator of the potential build rate.

        Areva just got approval from US NRC to build an enrichment facility in Idaho and Urenco recently opened up an enrichment facility in New Mexico.

        http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/10/13/business-industrials-us-areva-license_8732212.html

        One would assume that we already have enough enrichment facilities to provide for our 30 year old civilian nuclear fleet. Why would private companies invest $billions$ in additional capacity if they don’t expect significant additional demand?

      • We seem to be getting wrapped around the axle on whether or not the USA could build enough nuclear power plants by 2030 to replace all the coal-fired power generation.

        But the real question is WHY would we want to do this in the first place?

        A cost/benefit analysis shows that this move would result in an imperceptible reduction in global warming by 2100 at an enormous investment cost over the next 20 years.

        It is truly a silly proposal (which is why Hansen et al. did not show a cost/benefit analysis in their paper).

        Replacing plants that are obsolete or no longer economically viable is another story, but that is only a small part of the total.

        Max

      • @manacker,

        A cost/benefit analysis shows that this move would result in an imperceptible reduction in global warming by 2100 at an enormous investment cost over the next 20 years.

        Look at the aging of US generating capacity.

        http://205.254.135.24/energy_in_brief/age_of_elec_gen.cfm

        Notice the spike at 1970…73% of all coal fired capacity in the US is at least 30 years old now,.

        Regardless of what you believe about Climate Change an enormous investment in replacement generating capacity is going to have to be made between now and 2030.

        Here are the levelized costs of new generating capacity.

        http://205.254.135.24/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html

        The difference between advanced coal(clean coal without CCS) and nuclear is negligible.

        The price of natural gas looks good today but who knows what it will be in 10 years time. Natural Gas doesn’t have a history of stable prices.

      • harrywr2

        I won’t argue with you that replacing obsolete or outdated coal-fired plants with nuclear plants could be a good idea (although the nuclear plants will involve a higher investment cost and a political will that is not there today after Fukushima).

        Assuming that the political hurdle is overcome, the choice should be based on economics.

        Shutting down ALL coal fired plants by 2030 (as Hansen et al. have suggested) does not.make any sense at all.

        Moreover, this plan would only result in a theoretical reduction of global warming (by 2100) of 0.08C = an imperceptible impact (so it remains a “harebrained scheme”).

        Max

  69. “To put the significance of this fat tail in perspective, the “probability distribution representing the uncertainty in expected climate change implies that the risk of catastrophic outcome is more than forty thousand times more probable than that from an asteroid collision with the earth”

    What kind of asteroid?
    Define a catastrophic outcome.
    How many of climate change catastrophic outcomes have occurred in last 100 million years.
    How many asteroid collisions have occurred in last 100 million years- other then one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

    Is a 100 or 1000 year flood a catastrophic outcome.
    Is a Cat 5 hurricane hitting highly populated area a catastrophic outcome?
    Is a 20 meter diameter space rock hitting earth an asteroid collision?
    Is a solar eruption a climate change? A major Volcanic eruption a climate change.
    Or does climate change catastrophic outcomes mean something like Mass Extinction event [several have occurred].
    Is “suddenly” as in within 10 to100 year period, entering an Ice Age, a climate change catastrophic outcome.
    Large failure of crops due to drought, disease, nuclear wars, colder unexpected weather, etc an climate change catastrophic outcome?

    • How about one compare catastrophic outcomes of natural causes
      and human caused.
      Compare human caused climate catastrophic outcomes with other human
      caused catastrophic outcomes.
      And scale them as metric of per human death per year and bonus
      points more sudden affect [causing confusion/disruption] and bonus
      to year after year deaths caused by one event,
      so 100,000 deaths in one day has say 10% more value than in a year’s
      time and say 20% per each year of constant death death rate.
      So per year catastrophic outcomes:
      more than 100,000 deaths
      1 million deaths
      10 million deaths
      100 million deaths
      1 billion deaths
      half of population dead.
      80% of population dead
      90% of population dead
      99% of population dead
      Extinction of all intelligent life
      Extinction of all multicellar life
      Planet is vaporized.

      So far human cause climate catastrophic outcomes haven’t resulted in any of these categories. Human cause events have fit in some. And natural events have also fit some of categories.

      • But note that NONE even roughly fit into the untoward consequences of warming. Keep in mind that the “extreme weather” meme is without foundation; cooling causes more vigorous tropics/polar heat flux, and worse weather along the way. The LIA was characterized, per official and civilian accounts, by weather events that make modern experience look, literally, like a walk in the park.

  70. I continue to believe that the precautionary principle is logically defective, and is simply a variant of Pascal’s Wager.
    Pascal’s Wager, you may recall, was that however small the probability may be that Christianity is true, we would be well advised to believe it, since the costs of failing to believe it if it should be true will be eternal damnation. That is, very high indeed.
    Similarly, we should act as if lowering CO2 will avert the end of human life on earth, since if we do not and are wrong, the costs are enormous.
    The logical flaw is that there are four cells to this 2 x 2 matrix. We are right and do nothing or something. We are wrong and do nothing or something. You have to fill in all four cells. Having done that, you have also to figure out what other choices there are. In Pascal’s case, the problem facing him was not properly construed as Christianity false or true. It was ANY religion. So he also needed some way of deciding between Christianity and Islam. His wager could not help with this.
    Climate places us in the same situation. There may be some chance of the end of civilization if we do not act, but there is also some chance of it if we do, and there are lots of things that may happen which will be a mixture of good and bad.
    In the end, this is pure intellectual laziness. There is no substitute for laying out the alternatives and quantifying them and then making a decision based on analysis. The climate alarmists always want to bypass this, and resort to imaginary dichotomies as the grounds for decision. It did not help when Pascal did it, and it does not help now.
    This by the way – its 1,000 year old logic. That’s what this is. Put that with your 200 year old physics and smoke it!

  71. It is sad that so many of the posts are looking for the reasons behind people’s positions vs. the reasonableness of their actual position

  72. Alarmed by the prospects of drought? Here’s one approach:

    http://www.terradaily.com/reports/China_invests_billions_to_avert_water_crisis_999.html

    Droughts will occur where they always have occurred, with or without AGW. It would be foolish to put all the money into destroying fossil-fueled electricity and transportation, and to neglect water control.

  73. The precautionary principle, whether weak or strong, doesn’t always apply. If you already have comitted all your resources to known and verified problems which are currently happening, then all you’re doing by following any form of the precautionary principle is defocusing resources, which is ineffiecient.

  74. The “precautionary principle” is simply an attempt to push through policy actions, which are not supported by a scientifically corroborated premise or hypothesis, but only by sloppy and/or biased model simulations based primarily on theoretical deliberations.

    Clean up the IPCC consensus process and clear up all the many uncertainties first before clamoring for mitigating action based on the “precautionary principle”.

    Max

  75. Richard Saumarez

    The danger of the precautionary principle is ignoring the unintended consequences. One could argue, that in the light of uncertaintity about the unintended consequences, one should never apply the precautionary principle.

    Here in Europe, where the EU has embraced the precautionary principle, we are seeing a few unintended consequences. Biofuels are causing environmental havoc, decreasing food supplies and whether biofuels really lower CO2 emissions is now being seriously questioned.

    The rush for “renewable” energy (what is renewable energy exactly?) has had a few unexpected consequences in terms of lower performance, pushing a significant proportion of the population into energy poverty and generally skewing energy planning. I expect that this will get worse.

    I predict that when a significant fraction of the population understands what is happening, they may care less about catastropic global warming than keeping warm. Politically, it may become much more difficult to sustain climate alarmism when its consequences really start to bite.

    • Richard,
      Great point, well stated.
      The only strategy that can work, until we have so much new energy from fusion, fission or something we do not even consider today is adaptation.
      It is what we have done very well for a very long time, and really well the last ~100 years or so.
      The misuse of the precautionary principal by the AGW community has already inflicted costs, as you have outlined. If people considered the opportunity cost imposed by the AGW community on top of the hard costs being experienced now, I believe the change in political perception would come even more quickly.

      • What’s particularly glaring and galling is that since it is admitted that even the most drastic “mitigation” will have only trivial long-term (much less short-term) effects on CO2, whose efficacy in affecting temperature remains mired in well-justified doubt, we will have to adapt to what comes ANYWAY. Now the choice becomes, ‘with or without all the wealth and tools and energy resources we can muster?’ To “voluntarily” toss aside most of all three for trivial and dubious “mitigation” is beyond irrational.

        To quote a classic sci-fi novelette (whose title I don’t recall at the moment): “I won’t.” The key phrase for asserting and maintaining self-determination and freedom from bureau-dictators.

  76. Latimer Alder

    @tempterrain

    ‘The other rule should be that quoted passages shouldn’t be taken out out context to imply a completely different meaning from the one intended’

    Agreed.

    So why did you leave out the rest of the sentence

    ‘But I have yet to see any option that is worse than ….’

    which does subtly alter the meaning you ascribe to her.

    Example

    Lots of people know that the US Consitution says:

    ‘..the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

    But fewer remember the full sentence:

    ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’

    And the two are not the same. Similar, but subtly different.

    I’m sure that if Judith had meant that it was the worst possible option in 2007, she would have written that. She didn’t.

    • Latimer Alder

      Wow..somehow this got well out of position. Meant as a reply to tempterrain at http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/12/the-case-for-climate-change-alarmism/#comment-122006

    • Latimer,

      So what are you suggesting? Judith hadn’t seen worse options in 2007, but she knew they were there really?

      Why don’t you ask her yourself if she thinks I misrepresented her feelings at the time?

      I get the feeling that she’d rather just bury this, rather than have you trying to find some redeeming feature in it.

      • I am really quite unconcerned about whether Judith thinks today what she thought yesterday, nor whether she will think the same tomorrow.

        She is old enough (beg pardon Judith – just a figure of speech) and has been around the block (sorry again) enough times to be able to look after herself. And a few years ago – before I started really looking at climatology – I might have agreed with her views at that time..

        But your quotation was selective – and deliberately so – in that it omitted the first part of the sentence…just like the earlier example of the right to bear arms in the US constitution.

        Whether this is a ‘redeeming feature; depends on whether you think there is something to be redeemed.

        That’s all. No more. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Don’t read too much into it that isn’t there.

        PS – she wrote extensively a while back about why she had changed her mind. It was a good read.

  77. William Pentland has a new post up at Forbes:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/10/14/the-post-normal-seduction-of-climate-science/

    My paper “Reasoning about climate uncertainty” gets a plug.

    • Pentland’s articles highlight a key fallacy in the “fat-tail” argument for mitigation. That is, even after cobbling together the best statistical assessment of likelihood of a strong warming event, taking that onwards to the projected negative consequences is an exercise in (literally) pure fantasy.

      Because there is no data, no historical precedent, no basis beyond hand-waving assertions that SST warming will make for worse hurricanes and change precipitation patterns in famine-inducing ways. That every effort to make those connections since the dawn of AGW alarmism has failed spectacularly (Somalia got dry instead of wet, the Sahel got wet instead of dry*, ACE and hurricane frequency fell instead of rising, etc., etc.) means that there is no empirical base whatsoever for that next step. At the very least, it requires that a much larger positive “fat tail”, with considerable empirical basis, be juxtaposed against the phantasmagorical negative one.

      It’s no contest.

      *[Satellite] Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.

  78. I think what is missing here is a consideration of how we get to the upper end of the fat tail. Let’s forget for a moment that that area doesn’t really exist as anything other than a mathematical construct based on dubious assumptions. What we have to remember is that we don’t just wake up one day, find that it is 2100, find that we are in trouble, and have no way out of it. If we are going to the upper end of the fat tail, then we will not get there as a step function, but rather we will begin to trend there very eary. In other words, conditions in 2020 will already be narrowing that tail. And the trajectory will either make it more likely or less likely. And what we see can still shape our actions in 2020 and still change the outcome in 2100. In other words, the system is a feedback system with humanity providing the feedback over the entire period in accordance to what humaninty sees as being the LIKELY trend at any point in time. There will be no step function that gets us to the upper end of the fat tail in 2100, and there will be no step function of human action in 2012 that changes the outcome in 2100. Human action will modify and adjust on a year to year basis as the data comes in. And that is the missing element from the fat tailed charts. That is why treating them as just a tool rather than as predictors of a possible future is absurd.

    So, let’s say that we get to 2025 and decide that we will have climate trouble by 2100. Then, if we decide that we have to, we will begin removing CO2 from the atmosphere. In any event, the bottom line is that there is no climate catastrophe that is going to happen based on some decisions that we make today. And based on the trajectory information that is currently available, the right human feedback is no particular response at all.

  79. The precautionary principle is correct, but extremely difficult to apply well. The distinction between weak and strong PP is not qualitative, but quantitative, as nobody does really think that the likelihood of the negative outcome doesn’t matter at some level. We have no real PDF’s or probabilities, but every decision has an implied valuation of the relative preferences of the alternatives. Thus saying that we don’t have any idea on the likelihoods implies that we cannot have any preferences.

    If people wish to improve their decisions or reach better agreement with each other, there’s no alternative for discussing the likelihoods. Alarmists are alarmists, because their intuition tells that the risks are very large, when the severity of the outcome and it’s probability are combined. The opposite applies to those, who don’t favor any action.

    The difficulty of handling very severe low probability events has led to the situation that few people are willing to discuss the likelihoods explicitly. That means that few people have accepted the only viable way forward to more reasonable policies rather than those that correspond to their general attitudes.

    Good policy choices require that the consequences of realizable policies are compared as well as we can do it. As long as that cannot be done based on solid knowledge, the best possible analyses may be quite bad, but then the choices must be made based on deficient analyses. At that stage the formal analyses made by experts are not necessarily any more reliable than more intuitive evaluations, but the intuition does not either work well, when applied to something uniquely different from all earlier experience.

    Even more generally the intuition is extremely unreliable, when applied to low probability risks. When the intuition is not likely to work, the role of scientists gets more important, but most scientists are not capable in analyzing policy alternatives. In this situation, the best proposal that I can make is creating several groups of wise and trusted men and women, which have somewhat different general attitudes, but likely to be honest avoiding purposeful promotion of preconceived solutions. There’s a need of several groups to gain a balanced view of alternatives. One bigger group that tries to reach a consensus would be less likely to have an open mind and dig more deeply into the alternatives. When the views of several groups are known, they could be argued in a wider context. The final decisions would be reached by the normal political processes based on the alternatives produced by the groups and the ensuing discussion.

    • See my comment above. You (almost) overtly conflate the (low) likelihood of strong warming with negative consequences (even lower likelihood). And assert we have no basis for judging the latter.

      But we do. Conveniently, the world has done it for us. The globe warmed considerably since the depths of the LIA, and the consequences have been hugely, spectacularly positive. And nowhere in history or science is there any empirical basis for postulating that that will or could suddenly “flip” into disaster.

      The onus is completely and very heavily on those proposing use of the Precautionary Principle to provide any rational basis for ignoring 100% of the empirical data available to date. Good luck with that! (Not.)

      • The positive outcomes have a reduced weight in an evaluation that takes the risk aversion of most people into account. Therefore it makes little difference, whether it’s thought that warming may also be beneficial or not.

      • In that case, let’s load up and make widely known the VERY fat tail of the almost-certain mass-murderous consequences of slashing CO2 emissions to try and avoid the other phantasmagorical fat tail. The risk-averse will shriek and bury that option (mitigation) so deep it will have to await vigorous archaeological excavation in the far future before it ever gets any more attention.

      • I have written in several earlier comments and in my own blog about the problems related to potentially large negative consequences of some mitigation measures. Thus I agree that far, but as so often I cannot stop wondering on the certainty shown by you on the validity of your own own prejudices.

      • My core certainty is that it is outrageous that those who use hypotheses which paper over huge areas of ignorance, and show no skill when applied, nevertheless have the arrogance and megalomania to even suggest, much less demand (as they/you) do, that the Precautionary Principle be invoked, in the form that says:
        “If we’re right you will all suffer horribly [dubious and contra-indicated by all precedent], so you need to give us the power to ration your access to affordable energy forever. Incidentally, there will be an adjustment and transition period during which at least a large minority of you will starve to death.”

        To use a bit of Brit slang, Sod Off!

      • That’s the reason for the latter part of the starting sentence of my first level comment above:

        The precautionary principle is correct, but extremely difficult to apply well.

  80. John Robertson

    My comment on this interpretation is it would be disastrous to implement policy based on this theoryl. This would be saying that Positive Feedback is always the correct response to an uncertain situation. One can see where this would lead…

  81. when looking at the very real and very current fact that there are 1 billion, and yes that is billion with a B, people on Earth that do not have access to a supply of clean drinking water, then the prospect of pouring billions of dollars down a rabbit hole of a “possible” problem seems to be a very inefficient way of serving mankind.

    • Jim in SC,

      You’re saying that the proposal is that money which has been earmarked for CO2 reduction should be diverted to the supply of clean drinking water?

      Money may well be diverted. But it won’t be towards the supply of drinking water or anything similar. You know that as well as anyone I would suggest. This sort of argument is quite disingenuous.

      • Latimer Alder

        Doubt if it’ll be spent on ‘reducing CO2′ either. It’ll be spent on subsidies to rich folks – wherever it is.

        Follow the money

  82. Having grown up when nuclear winter was a real possibility and noting that catastrophic events (volcanoes and meteors) tend to cool the planet, it appears to me that it is a lot easier to cool the planet than it is to warm it. Indeed, we know that we can rapidly cool the planet. I suspect that in 100 years, we can figure out how to rapidly cool the planet in a way that does not bring about the end of the world as we know it.

    I am sure that all on this list know that the temperature maximum for this interglacial period occurred during the Holocene Optimum some 2,500 to 5,000 years ago and that we have been cooling ever since.

    I personally have been strongly in favor of decarbonization since the 70s for non AGW reasons. Had we adopted something close to European scale fuels taxes then, IMHO, we would live in a very different geopolitical environment today.

    I do agree that dramatic action is required. IMHO, that action is to get the science back in climate science. I see the recent interaction between Spencer and Dessler as a step in the right direction.

    • Good post. But one caveat: the prospect of nuclear winter was very faint. Just one of the areas that Sagan went off the rails on. He was adamant that the Kuwait oil fires would chill large portions of Asia and beyond. The effects were barely a blip for a few days.

  83. I was going to comment here but “Latimer Alder” seems to have said it better and with a great deal more stamina than I can muster.

    Latimer Alder, count me among your fans; you seem to have much younger legs!

    • Latimer Alder

      @galloping camel

      Too kind..too kind.

      Perhaps you will enjoy this extremely rare archive clip where the (one imagines briefly totally sober) philosophers do something interesting.

      A joy to see the tedious old bastards getting a bit of exercise. But that Beckenbauer looks good…could go on to win something!

  84. Latimer Alder

    Three days on, over 450 comments.

    And nobody has been able to finish the simple sentence

    ‘We must do something urgent about AGW because……’

    C’mon guys…put your brainpower to work. Even I, archsceptic that I am, can come up with some plausible (if unlikely) reasons. Here’s a few:

    ‘…all the polar bears will drown’ (Al Gore)
    ‘….My Pa-in-law needs his windmill subsidies’ (David Cameron)
    ‘…I’m bored with being PM and want out’ (Julia Gillard)
    ‘….It gives us a great excuse for new taxes (HM Treasury)
    ‘….I told you so…..’ (J Hansen)
    ‘….Deniers don’t want it an dmust be exterminated (Real Climate)
    ‘….How dare you presume to ask me such a question? I am a Climate Scientist and there is no way I am goingto reveal the Secrets of the Guild to outsiders like you…) M. Mann

    • @- Latimer Alder | October 15, 2011 at 5:26 am | Reply
      “Three days on, over 450 comments.
      And nobody has been able to finish the simple sentence
      ‘We must do something urgent about AGW because……’”

      How about –
      We must do something urgent about AGW because…… otherwise future generations will regard us as even more stupid than the people who felled the last tree on Easter Island, or the Dodo hunters, or the 19thC whalers or the Grand banks cod fishermen, or CFC manufacturers…
      Or any of the other examples from history of human activities damaging a common resource by overuse.

      • Latimer Alder

        Yes…but being regarded as stupid or misguided or short-sighted by future generations happens to everyone. Nothing special about that. Apart from a few egomaniacs (often politicians), the regard of future generations is not a big motivator. I’d like a warmer world anywya. I think, on balance, it would be better, not worse.

        And surely your post should say ‘might’, not ‘will’.

        What is it that is so special about AGW that IYO makes it an urgent problem to fix within our lifetimes? Especially given the much discussed uncertainties?

        But thanks for being the first sensible answer. Cheers

    • Latimer,

      In answer to your repeated question about the need for action:
      I had thought of giving you these links before but decided you wouldn’t bother to read them and if you did you wouldn’t understand them. But if you insist:

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-not-urgent.htm

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-limits-economy.htm

  85. Latimer Alder

    @tempterrain

    Thanks for making your 19th comment on this thread..and the first that actually attempts to argue a case for doing something.

    Despite all those long and woolly words that I find so difficult, (could , might , possibly, some research shows), I did manage to read the simple stuff as I’m sure that the real sciency bit for the pointyheads would be beyond me only having a Masters in Atmopsheric Chemistry) The case seems to be that James Hansen has a scary model that says we must,. No actual experiments or observations to support it, no track record of predictions. Just a model.

    OK – lets assume for the moment that Hansen’s model is the only predictive tool available. How would you go about proving to Joe Public that he needed to do something rather than just yawn and go back to his sixpack? Joe is familiar with computer games. If he doesn’t play them, his kids do.

    Would you test the predcitive skill of the modle against some real world observations? And do it a few times to make sure that if it was right first time it wasn’t a fluke (what diplomats/peace negotiators call ‘confidence building measures’) . Or would you just proclaim ‘Habemus Modellus’ like the Vatican electing a pope and expect all present ot give worship, squles of girlish pleasure and lots of genuflection?

    Coz it seems to me that the latter has been the course adopted. And pretty unconvincing it is.Gimme something better than untested models.

    • I think that the current meme is that “‘We must do something urgent about AGW because the ‘committed warming’ continues to grow and we will, in this century, hit a ‘tipping point’ where things get ‘really bad’.

      Committed warming is a term that appeared in the 2000s when actual warming failed to cooperate.

      The ‘tipping point’ is that speculative point at which the positive feedback become irresistible and temperate/tropical weather spreads to the far north and south. It is also that point in which all of the ice in the world melts and we will finally get out of our long running recession as we have to build housing for billions of coastal city dwellers in our new found temperate and tropical paradises.

      ‘Really bad’ is the term that alarmists use for ‘not like now’. I humbly submit that ‘now’ is not too whoopy for billions of people in the world.

  86. Latimer,

    Are you sure you’ve read these links? If so, you’re comprehension is awry. Not models. Try reading this again.

    “In 2008, his [James Hansen’s] team came to the startling conclusion that the current level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is already in the danger zone. Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric CO2 has increased from 280 to 390 parts per million (ppm). Don’t be fooled by the small number – 390 ppm is higher than CO2 has been in millions of years. CO2 is rising by 2 ppm per year as we continue to burn fossil fuels. To stabilise the Earth’s climate, we must reduce CO2 to the relatively safe level of 350 ppm. And we must hurry, because the task will soon be an impossible one. The 350 target is based not on climate modeling, but on past climate change”

    • AH!! Should be “your comprehension”

    • Latimer Alder

      Well we’re all doomed then. Having already got to 392 ppm we ain’t going to get back to 350 anytime soon, no matter what we do.

      We might as well party, party, party until thermageddon arrives. With luck it’ll be our great great great grandkids who get to fry, not anybody we actually know.

      But, just before we all whizz entirely over into fantasy land, lets just review recent history. According to the graph you so kindly provided, on another thread, the temperature has risen just under 0.5C for a rise of 78 ppm in CO2. And it looks pretty much like a straight line graph. This is a long long way away from 6C per doubling that he claims.

      How would you go about building my confidence that this mumber is correct? Becasue we are putting an awful lot of faith in the work of Hansen and his team. By his public actions, he doesn’t appear to me to be a guy who puts objectivity and dispassionate assessment of the evidence at the top of his priority list. Nor to surround himself with such team members.

      • Well we’re all doomed then. Having already got to 392 ppm we ain’t going to get back to 350 anytime soon, no matter what we do.

        Latimer: Yes. By the claims of many climate change luminaries and organizations, devastating climate change may already be in the pipeline — no matter what we do.

        The IPCC has backed off talk of tipping points and irreversible climate change, though I get the impression that may be a political calculation — in line with Lacis’s peeve that “likely” and “most likely” are weasel constructions for appearance’s sake.

        My reaction is similar to yours — if it may be too late already, why bother with the calculated cries from the climate orthodox? I’m not of the “party, party, party” mindset, but I do believe that in fifty years or so we are going to have much better technological choices for energy and climate out of the ordinary run of scientific progress, assuming we don’t plunge the world into severe economic turmoil with draconian measures to reduce carbon levels to 350 ppm ASAP.

  87. Don’t be fooled by the small number – 390 ppm is higher than CO2 has been in millions of years.

    tempterrain: Whoa! You’re scaring me.

    What does that mean? The earth is 4.5 billion years old and CO2 levels have been as high as 5000-7000 ppm hundreds of millions year ago (mya), and 3500 ppm as recently as 50 mya.

    One of the many reasons I have trouble respecting the climate orthodox are these scary context-free factoids they toss about to frighten the horses.

  88. Let’s have a little common sense. Those of you who suggest that a warmer climate is a bad thing should remember that mammals achieved their present dominance during the Eocene period when there were trees growing in Antarctica.

    Can you imagine how much more warming will be needed to bring that about?

    http://www.scotese.com/lateeoc1.htm

    • gallopingcamel

      At the current rate of CO2 increase? About 1500 years worth of warming, plus a few millennia for the ice to melt.

      What’s your point?

      That nothing’s wrong unless a tree grows at the South Pole?

      I don’t follow that reasoning at all.

      It doesn’t sound like the common sense my grandmother used.

  89. Uncertainty seems to be a difficult topic, even for the experts, to get right, to treat with rigor, and to draw correct conclusions about.

    For instance, decision making using the Precautionary Principle (PP) in all its forms ought always be a fallback position, and approached with a colder eye than Gardiner’s paper suggests.

    At one point, Gardiner uses an example of ‘Uncertainty’ prompting PP involving a choice of whether to take an airplane flight that may crash.

    However, the circumstance of an airplane crash is a matter of pure Risk, not Uncertainty, as the probabilities of crashing are well-enough defined that cost/benefit analysis (always superior to PP where possible) applies.

    Thus tolerance for Risk is meaningless in such questions; Uncertainty removes all sense of Risk entirely, no cost/benefit formulation, no statistical distribution containing a mean, no Risk preference can be expressed.

    Hence, Gardiner’s example is both inapplicable and counter-illustrative, leading the reader to an incorrect sense of PP’s weaknesses and strengths.

    Likewise, the strong/weak definitions of Gardiner are somewhat misconstrued at the top of the thread. While there are many definitions and nuances to the precautionary principle, of particular relevance here is the concept of ‘strong’ versus ‘weak’ precaution (e.g. Gardiner 2006): under weak precaution, the burden of proof for justifying the need for action falls on those advocating precautionary action, whereas under strong precaution the burden of proof is on those who argue that the activity does not cause significant harm. That is, under the weak precautionary principle, uncertainty does NOT make the case stronger for action, whereby the under the strong precautionary principle, uncertainty arguably strengthens the case for action.

    So Loss Tolerance likewise is not an applicable question.

    Indeed, to clarify, PP has problems of symmetry in point of view if you leave out information. One must define which of the competing sets of events are defined as action or inaction, and must set out all harms. In some cases, the matrix of actions vs. harms becomes impossibly convolved, and PP is no longer appropriate in any form.

    We are somewhat saved by there being several species of PP (like strong and weak), in that we can sometimes choose the most appropriate type for a particular problem.

    Where Uncertainty is relatively small (but still too large for other decision methods) and harms relatively small on the go vs. halt side, we can be satisfied with a less restrictive PP, and might consider Loss Tolerance.

    Where Uncertainty and harms of going outweigh the harms of halting or where we cannot know, on the other hand, we prefer a more restrictive PP regardless our Tolerances for Loss or Risk, which are moot.

    We ought never prefer an irrational PP inapplicable to the circumstances, and we always prefer where possible to end the circumstance that requires us to resort to PP in a long-run scenario, whether by restructuring the problem space to eliminate disorder or decreasing ignorance by researching to gain sufficient information to produce results better than PP, as the one-time cost of restructuring or research will inevitably be less than the supposed infinite future costs of indeterminacy.

    We can, for example, War Game style, set out so many competing scenarios as we can imagine and deem relevant to our decision-making framework. The lowest-cost package of solutions that address the most scenarios becomes the preferred non-PP decision. Where the scenarios can be trimmed from the War Game by research, we can narrow the breadth of the package of solutions, and sometimes reduce the cost of harms.

    Looking at the problems of Uncertainty in climate, we have enough knowledge to mediate the argued harms of restricting GHG emission and considering GHG effects in land use, because a) we know the Market will bring forces to bear to replace the forestalled resource exploitation with the next most efficient alternatives, that the resulting innovation pressures on technology, shifts in taste, access to underutilized alternative resources, reductions in waste and elimination of free riding will diminish harms to nothing in the short term, while preserving the untapped fossil resources for future generations to tap in less costly manner more efficiently, when they will be of more value; and b) we know the more developed nations will be able to preserve their lead in welfare because they have better means to take the lead on the shifts in technology and taste, so the thing that really matters to us all, that American remain on top, is protected.. and we still get to transfer our technology to the less developed nations at a profit to us and to them.

    This is not a novel argument. It is the same argument as allows us to pursue policies that restrict any other activity we find contrary to national interests. We have laws against murder, contraband drugs, kidnapping, and so forth, even though many people could make a lot of money if there were no such laws. We consider the economy unconstrained by such laws, as we are able to place the horse before the cart and order our minds to the concept that some things are not sensible, even if some people could benefit from them.

    We don’t have symmetric information about what to do in a higher CO2 climate, what the outcomes may be, or what rate of harms on what schedule we will encounter. (This mandates the most restrictive form of PP, if PP is to be used. )

    Here we’ve trimmed the ‘harmed economy’ scenarios from consideration, and can consider all scenarios — including natural variability and self-stable scenarios, as well as AGW — of optimal economic performance.

    Uncertainty does not, in other words, give Policy makers the option of saying they have support for continued actions that emit GHGs. It is one of the strongest arguments for reducing GHG emission levels so dramatically as can be done, so rapidly as can be achieved.

    There is no mathematics or logic supporting other Policy at this time.

    • You were doing fine up until you slipped in this fast one: “We don’t have symmetric information about what to do in a higher CO2 climate, what the outcomes may be, or what rate of harms on what schedule we will encounter. (This mandates the most restrictive form of PP, if PP is to be used. )” The information about higher CO2 climates that does exist is indeed asymmetric; and it is almost unanimous that it has been historically either highly beneficial or neutral. No eras or incidences of CO2 harm or untoward consequences can be found, but long periods of vigourous biosphere are easily identified.

      As for the “schedule”, the lags for even the hand-forced GCM outcomes are much longer than human adaptation and technological resource-multiplying cycles.

      This mandates zero or token PP. Spending $1,900 per degree of “mitigation” is risible, not to be considered seriously even for an instant.

      • I would love to see your citations in support of this: “it is almost unanimous that it has been historically either highly beneficial or neutral. No eras or incidences of CO2 harm or untoward consequences can be found”

        As well as this: “$1,900 trillion per degree”

        Both claims are pretty silly on their face.

      • Hoping this does not get out of control, as I genuinely do find Brian H to be an admirable correspondent..

        I ought have expanded why I believe we don’t have symmetric information about a high CO2 world to the information we have about a world with economic challenges, but had been running very long on my post already, and I’m ever sensitive to the worry I may be rambling.

        Simply put, we can be pretty certain of what a world with economic constraints on CO2 emission would be like for several reasons:

        a) we have several jurisdictions already that constrain CO2 emissions aggressively, among them some of the strongest economies in the world;

        b) almost as a rule, jurisdictions have measures that constrain most exploitation of specific scarce resources — this is the very basis of Capitalism — and so are familiar with how well this generally works, for instance with mobile telecommunications and the regulated auction of bandwidth, or laws against kidnap or extortion for ransom;

        c) we’ve seen challenged economic times and have much more detailed economic data and many more validated and verified economic models and tools to work with than anything we have or could have to examine a climatic condition that has not existed for millions of years, or a temperature regime we are not sure of anything about other than it is likely to be sudden, steep and strange on a millennial scale.

        d) Chaos Theory very much tells us pure Uncertainty will grow when you perturb a dynamical system.. but that’s about all it tells us about the climate. There is nothing symmetrical in Uncertainty to this in economics.

      • Those “strongest economies” are rapidly finding the renewables meal unpalatable, and are spitting up as much as they can get away with politically, sometimes more. The horrific cost/benefit ratios are coming home to roost.

        And your confidence in advanced economic models and tools, and fear of chaotic consequences, are both grossly overblown. The former have long (and recent) histories of unmitigated failure, and the latter is just handwaving. In a theoretical chaotic environment in which a butterfly’s wing flap can set off a disaster, the advice must be to hunker down and do nothing. But that’s impossible, and probably fatal. So I guess we’ll just have to rely on the planet to absorb our little tweaks the way it has much larger ones thousands of times in the past.

        As for your “millions of years”, that’s cherry-picking. The glaciations and interglacials are themselves a major deviation from the “normal” Hot House condition of the planet. And there is no understanding whatsoever of what initiates transitions from and to interglacials. In fact the current one is miraculously holding up longer than the usual peak and collapse pattern. And CO2 had nothing to do with any of it.

      • Re the “unmitigated failure” economics models I referred to, here’s a current and cogent explanation: There’s Enough Math in Finance Already. What’s Missing is Imagination”

        With a lovely definition: “lock-in: The process whereby an idea or a model becomes the basis for subsequent development, so that its flaws cannot be remedied without dismantling the entire system that is built upon it.”

      • Brian H

        Major strong economies, the BRICS.

        Brazil – newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/24/529_brazil_forest_conservation_victory/ vs. http://www.pewclimate.org/global-warming-in-depth/all_reports/brazil/pol_brazil_execsumm.cfm

        Not an unmitigated success, but a strongly performing economy also taking strong action on CO2, in ways that put the USA to shame by comparison in both per capita and absolute terms, and that will coincidentally strengthen their economy. 70% of their CO2 emission growth is through deforestation for the past 3 decades, which Brazil is reversing, and their target is 36% CO2 emission reduction by 2020.

        Russia – Due largely to their economic meltdown, dropped 23% in CO2 emissions since 1992.. and seeks to solidify a 25% drop from 1990 by 2020 as their economy heats up again.

        India – “An assessment by the Planning Commission is that from 1990 to 2005, India’s carbon emissions naturally came down by 17 to 19 per cent because of efficient and cleaner technologies without any conscious effort by the government. The plan now is to take these cleaner technologies further, push for more forest cover and reach the target of 20 to 25 per cent emission cuts.” Sure, not as unambiguous as it sounds, and research shows issues, but better than the USA, and their economy hasn’t melted down like the USA. (www.climateactionprogramme.org/news/approaching_cop16_india_focuses_on_reducing_carbon_emissions/)

        China – One Child Program. Makes the whole question of their commitment to climate action programs moot.. while raising other fundamental questions too large for this blog to cover.

        South Africa – Committed to 34% CO2 emission reductions by 2020. The smallest of the BRICS, and burdened with many other troubles, still asking for help to get there, but still a strengthening economy putting America to shame in this arena.

        And of course my favorite non-BRICS, as it has a very USA-like economy in miniature (except a stable, growing economy and well-managed low-corporate-tax haven that uses direct democracy to decide tax issues) with a carbon cycle pricing scheme that could become a model for a made-in-America policy that puts revenues from carbon-emission-pricing in the pockets of the owners of the carbon cycle – the citizens, directly, British Columbia. Like Columbia if it were British, I guess. ;)

      • Brian H

        No one prestends the world hasn’t seen economic models fail.

        I’m certainly not boosting them as infallible, nor in this context especially important, either.

        I’m just pointing out that we’ve been through economic downturns before — far larger ones than could be supported by the hugely exaggerated claims of those who purport economic disaster due rational action taken to reduce CO2 emission. Recently. Repeatedly. We know what it looks like. We’re certain of what it’s like at its worst.

        Symmetrical information of the alternative does not exist. The last time CO2 levels were this high globally was five to ten times the age of our species ago. We’re absolutely ignorant about that, and so uncertain.

      • “I’m just pointing out that we’ve been through economic downturns before — far larger ones than could be supported by the hugely exaggerated claims of those who purport economic disaster due rational action taken to reduce CO2 emission. Recently. Repeatedly. We know what it looks like. We’re certain of what it’s like at its worst.”
        False, root and branch. Loading up the cost of energy sufficient to even seriously attempt to effect a temperature “mitigation” would be a throat-cutting murder of the world’s marginal economies, and would result in mass death unprecedented since the Black Death (by %, not just absolute numbers).

        Given the miniscule impact of human emission variations on the “global temperatures”, there is no such thing as “rational action taken to reduce CO2 emission”.

      • Brian H

        Wow.

        I had no idea.

        And here I thought, y’know, WW II might’ve had more impact than updating old coal to the next cleaner alternative, getting rid of gas-guzzlers for new models with double or triple the mileage and otherwise indistinguishable or better features, and removing subsidies from ethanol and petrochemicals.

        But then, if you can link to some meaningful economic model that proves your contention with finality that reflects your degree of absolute certainty as depicted by the vigor of your assertions, maybe I’ll have to rethink.

        What is it? Tea leaves? Dove’s entrails? A feeling in your gut?

      • So now you’ve made a series of lurid claims about the future.

        Now all you have to do is provide some extraordinary evidence for your silly, fearmongering nonsense.

        I look forward to your list of references.

      • Sorry for the misthreading, that response was for Brian.

  90. typo: $1,900 trillion per degree …

  91. Dr. Curry–

    After reading this, your earlier post and the Weitzman paper, I want to let you know a couple of things.

    I find NO references in either thread or in Weitzman to the last twenty years of formal decision-theoretic work on models of decision under uncertainty (as opposed to risk). Marty Weitzman has a lasting and well-earned place in enviromental economics, based on important insights of several decades past. But he is completely out of his depth on the subject of choice under uncertainty. The observations in his REStat paper are artefacts of a specific theory of decision under risk (Subjective Expected Utility) and (to boot) a specific functional form for one of the great universe of underlying functions possible in the SEU framework (logarithmic utility of outcomes, which is unbounded both below and above…a very special case in the universe of possible utilities of outcomes). It is well-known that unbounded utilities of outcomes produce strange and counterintuitve results. That Weitzman references Geweke in a footnote, and then attempts to pretend that he has shown something original, is telling: He doesn’t even discuss Rabin (2002) or Cox and Sadiraj (2007). In short, Weitzman is way out of his depth here, and no amount of praise from Krugman can hide the fact. Note carefully that Krugman has absolutely zero expertise in decision theory–economic, prescriptive, descriptive or otherwise. His main qualification for the Nobel prize is that he was a Bush critic during the time that Europeans were particularly alarmed about Bush (I am not the only economist who thinks so).

    REStat is not a decision theory journal: It is a respected applied (that is empirical) economics journal. But Weitzman’s paper is a theory paper (and as I said, dated as all get-out). If this were a serious contribution to contemporary economic decision theory, it would be published in Econometrica or the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty. But it is not. This should tell you something important as to how seriously anyone should take the Weitzman paper.

    I don’t understand why this Weitzman paper has made any waves at all in climate science. If you want to correspond with anyone who knows better, I can direct you to appropriate scholars. Myself I am an experimenter and econometrician, but my subject matter is decision theory and even I know more about the theory side of this than Weitzman seems to. But I can put you and others in touch with competent theorists of decision under uncertainty if you would like, because I know them through my research interests. Believe me, the choice is not simply between cost-benefit, SEU and versions of the precautionary principle. To say so is pretty much blind to the last 20 years of theoretical work on choice under uncertainty.

    • NW

      I’d be very grateful to hear more, and thank you for the mentions of Econometrica and the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, though they are very certain to make me blush at how limited my knowledge of the field.

      Thank yuo.

      • You have no reason to blush any more than anyone else. Anyway, this is a good place to start, with a good bibliography and background, by one of the best writers amongst the theorists, Mark Machina at UCSD.

        http://cear.gsu.edu/workshops/7/Machina%20%20–%20Ambiguity%20Aversion%20with%20Three%20or%20More%20Outcomes.pdf

      • NW

        That is a really apt reference, and a pleasure to read.

        Thanks again.

      • That’s a major overstatement, IMO. The work done by Machina et al. has little to do with this issue. It studies the behaviour of people with reference to Risk and Ambiguity Avoidance, but that is psychology, not economics and physics modelling, etc. The real payoffs and risks are what they are, regardless of how individuals or groups would “bet” in the lab, or even in real life.

        I also note that there are probably major step functions in how such decision-making occurs; winning or losing $100 or $1000 in the lab is not the same as survival-critical choice.

      • Brian, Tom Sargent’s recent Nobel committee citation includes reference to his work on “robust control” modeling of complex economic systems which, as Machina notes, is a special case of the MMR “Variational Preferences” model of ambiguity aversion.

        As for outcome levels, you may also see that Machina discusses this aspect of ambiguity aversion in this paper, and agrees with you on the essence of the point.

        Finally, ambiguity attitudes (averse or loving) are, in the Ellsberg view, precisely those situations where no single pdf can describe the attitudes of the decision maker toward the alternatives. This seems to be a huge part of the threads here.

  92. Ok, I’m just visiting to see if there’s a reason my comments won’t post

    Testing, testing,,,,