by Judith Curry
The climate debate is becoming more complex and sophisticated, and the issues and the ‘sides’ in the debate seem less black and white than they used to.
The op-ed written by Rep. Lamar Smith, and the vociferous response from the ‘greens,’ made me think that a lot of the debate and overheated rhetoric is less driven by substantive differences than by knee-jerk responses to the most extreme talking points on both sides.
GWPF Background Paper
Benny Peiser has written a Background Paper that outlines the key areas of agreement and disagreement between the GWPF and the ‘consensus':
A. Matters where we agree with the dominant scientific establishment and can quantify the outcome
1. The greenhouse effect is real and CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
2. CO2 has increased in the atmosphere from approximately 0.029% to 0.039% over the past 50 years.
3. CO2’s greenhouse warming potential follows a logarithmic curve with diminishing returns to higher concentrations.
4. Absent feedbacks, and other things being equal, a doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels would warm the atmosphere by approximately 1.1C.
5. Since 1980 global temperatures have increased at an average rate of about 0.1C per decade. This is significantly slower than forecast by the vast majority of GCMs.
B. Matters where we agree with the scientific consensus but cannot quantify the outcome.
1. Positive feedbacks from water vapour and soot, negative feedback from clouds and aerosols, and other factors, mean that actual climate sensitivity is a matter of vigorous scientific debate.
2. Natural variability caused by ocean oscillations, amplified solar variations and other factors also act to increase or decrease temperature change. Thus overall temperature prediction is doubly uncertain.
3. Arctic summer sea ice has decreased, but Antarctic sea ice has increased; this is more consistent with regional albedo changes due to soot than with global temperature changes due to greenhouse warming.
4. There is no consensus that recent climate change has affected the variability of weather or the frequency of extreme weather events.
5. Economists generally agree that net economic damage will occur above 2C of warming, net economic benefit below that level, but this cannot be certain.
C. Matters on which we think the evidence does not support the scientific consensus
1. There has been no net increase in global temperatures for about 16 years, a period about the same length as the warming period that preceded it.
2. Paleo-climate proxies agree that worldwide temperatures were higher and changed faster during other periods of climate change about 1,000, 2,000, 4,000, 8,000 and 12,000 years ago.
3. Predictions of increasing humidity and temperature in the tropical troposphere, a key prediction of rapid greenhouse warming, have been falsified by experimental data casting doubt on whether the warming of 1980-2000 was man-made.
4. Ice core data clearly show carbon dioxide responding to temperature change, rather than preceding them during glaciation and deglaciation episodes.
5. Satellite evidence confirms that vegetation has increased in density, in natural as well as agricultural ecosystems, probably as a result partly of carbon dioxide increases.
D. Why alarm is not secure
1. All sides of scientific debates have vested interests and display confirmation bias. Science keeps itself honest not by expecting unrealistic self-criticism by scientists but by encouraging challenge, and diverse interpretations of data, rather than trying to enforce a single “consensus”.
2. Forecasting of all kinds is extremely unreliable and predictions of ecological disaster have an especially poor track record.
3. Policies to decarbonize the economy using today’s technology are likely to be harmful to human welfare and natural ecology.
4. Integrity, openness and objectivity need to be introduced to the conduct of the scientific debate to restore the damage done by the Climategate, Hockey Stick, Gleick, Gergis, Lewandowsky and Marcott episodes.
5. Exaggerated alarmism is not harmless and is not scientific.
E. GWPF’s policy position
1. Policy needs to take account of uncertainty.
2. Policy needs to be subjected to thorough cost-benefit analysis.
3. An enforceable global agreement on emissions reduction is unrealistic.
4. Adaptation may be a cheaper and less harmful policy than mitigation.
5. Public funding should support open debate, not one-sided advocacy.
Meeting (?) between GWPF and RS
- text provided by Michael Cunningham, aka ‘Faustino’
In a speech earlier this year at Melbourne University, Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, was severely critical of the former UK Chancellor Lord Lawson, chairman of the GWPF, on his stance on global warming. Lawson sent a strong response to Nurse on 25/2/2013.
Given the major difference in views of the two bodies and the importance of the issues, Lawson on 19/3/2013 proposed meetings to further understanding of global warming. Both parties have nominated delegates to undertake discussions. The GWPF has drafted an excellent two-page summary of the state of play and matters which need further research or resolution.
Nurse to Lawson 30/4/2013
Thank you for your letter of 19 March.
Responding to that letter I append the names of five internationally distinguished climate scientists who are all UK based and Fellows of the Royal Society. I have copied them into this letter so they are aware that you may be contacting them.
- Sir Brian Hoskins, Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change
- Professor John Mitchell, Principal Research fellow Met Office
- Professor Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research fellow, University of Oxford. Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics
- Professor John Shepherd, Professorial Research Fellow in Earth System Science, University of Southampton, School of Ocean and earth Sciences
- Professor Eric Wolff, Science Leader, Chemistry and Past Climate, British Antarctic Survey
[Nurse then discusses some points from Lawson’s letter which are not germane to the forthcoming meeting. He concludes by saying that:]
… policy discussions need to be carried out in an open and transparent manner, which includes identifying where your financial support comes from. It was you who mentioned the fossil fuel industry and the fact that some people suggest it is funding you. You might have added that others speculate that you may be funded by wealthy individuals who have particular political views. The only way to deal with rumours like these is to be open and transparent about the funding of GWPF.
Lawson to Nurse 20/5/13
Thank you for your letter of 30 April in reply to mine of 19 March, and for the names of five fellows of the Royal Society for us to contact. Our Director, Dr Benny Peiser, will be getting in touch with them with a view to setting up a meeting with a team from the Global warming Policy Foundation.
In addition to Dr Peiser, our team would comprise:
- Professor Vincent Courtillot (Professor of Geophysics, Paris Diderot University)
- Professor Mike Kelly FRS (Prince Philip Professor of Technology, University of Cambridge)
- Nic Lewis (independent climate science researcher)
- Professor Richard Lindzen (Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Viscount Ridley (the science writer Matt Ridley)
- Professor Richard Tol (IPCC Lead Author and professor of Economics, University of Sussex)
We propose the following twofold agenda:
- The science of global warming, with special reference to (a) the climate sensitivity of carbon and (b) the extent of natural variability;
- The conduct and professional standards of those involved in the relevant scientific inquiry and official advisory process.
In view of the public interest in this important topic, I believe that it would be right to invite members of the press to attend the meeting as observers.
Finally, two brief comments on the rest of your letter.
Second, while it is admittedly a matter of opinion, many would consider the GWPF’s reliance on voluntary contributions from ‘wealthy individuals” motivated solely by altruism as morally superior to running a political campaign on the back of the hard-pressed taxpayer, as the Royal Society under your leadership is now doing.
JC comment: now this is a debate I would like to see, I hope that it actually happens. And I hope this is about science and policy, and not about funding sources for the RS and GWPF.
Panel Discussion in West Virginia
From E&E Greenwire (behind paywall):
Congressional Democrats have pressed their Republican colleagues for three years to hold a hearing on climate change, and yesterday one did — in the heart of West Virginia’s coal country.
Despite having introduced a bill last week that would bar U.S. EPA from promulgating rules that would require the use of carbon capture and storage technology until a panel of officials from outside the agency deemed it to be economically and technologically feasible, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) hosted yesterday’s climate change forum in a technology park in Fairmont, W.Va.
McKinley’s office said “is fascinated by this issue” and read several books on climate change in preparation for the event, including Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) “The Greatest Hoax,” which denies that man-made warming exists.
“The congressman’s take-away is that the science is still unclear,” said his office. “There needs to be open debate about this in Washington, and both sides need to be represented and simply talk.”
Participants estimated the crowd at 70 people or fewer and said it appeared to be equally divided between skeptics and climate science believers. The discussion lasted more than three hours.
Representatives of think tanks who were part of the event said they found McKinley’s approach to the issue encouraging.
“He made a few comments that did lift my spirits, and I thought, maybe he is really serious about trying to think about ways to deal with climate change,” said Joe Casola, senior scientist for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
He said McKinley, who is an engineer by training, asked several times what it might take for the United States to bring its emissions under control, something Casola called “a constructive beginning.”
But Casola said that if McKinley’s purpose in holding the hearing was to get a genuine read on the effect fossil fuel use is having on climate, he should have stocked his panel with mainstream scientists rather than skeptics whom he said frequently steered the discussion toward other topics, like preindustrial climate fluctuations.
Annie Petsonk of the Environmental Defense Fund, who also took part in the discussion, said she, too, was impressed with what she saw as McKinley’s genuine interest in climate change science and in how it might affect the Mountain State’s economy.
Climate skeptics, too, praised the event, saying it allowed them to make their case that human emissions are not having a significant effect on warming and that efforts to rein them in are unnecessary.
- Annie Petsonk, International Counsel of Environmental Defense Fund.
- Marc Morano, Executive Director and Chief Correspondent for ClimateDepot.com; former senior advisor, speech-writer and climate researcher for Senator James Inhofe.
- Jim Hurrell, Director, NCAR Earth System Laboratory.
- Myron Ebell, Director of Energy and Environment, Competitive Enterprise Institute.
- David Kreutzer, Ph.D., Research Fellow in Energy Economics and Climate Change, The Heritage Foundation.
- Thomas Sheahan, Ph.D., MIT educated physicist and author.
- Dennis Avery, Director, Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute and author of “Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years”.
- Sarah Forbes, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute.
- A. Scott Denning, Professor, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University.
- Dr. John Christy, Distinguished Professors of atmospheric science, and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Climate Depot has several posts/links on this panel discussion:
- Extensive list of other links
- Marc Morano’s written statement
- John Christy’s presentation
- Rep David McKinley’s reaction to the discussion
- Televised segment
JC comments: I find several things to be noteworthy here:
The issues being articulated by the GWPF and Republican congressmen are sophisticated ones, and I suspect that defenders of the consensus will find it difficult to address some of these issues. What do you think of Benny Peiser’s list of issues?
For a long time, those that supported the AGW consensus would not debate skeptics or otherwise engage with them, because they felt that such engagement would legitimize the skeptics. It seems that a growing number of scientists and advocates that support the consensus are now engaging with skeptics in the scientific and public debate; this is a good thing (I hope that the RS/GWPF meeting actually takes place).
Rep. Lamar Smith and Rep. David McKinley are making efforts to engage in the public debate on climate change in a productive way, which should be encouraged by Democrats and other supporters of climate/energy policy.