What constitutes “dangerous” climate change?

by Judith Curry

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC ) international environmental treaty (1992) states as its objective:

The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

As stated by the Climate Change Emergency Medical Response (an organization that is trying to grapple with the problem of dangerous climate change):

The position of Annex 1 signatory countries (industrialized nations), the UNFCCC Secretariat, and the IPCC is that “dangerous,” in the context of interference with the climate system, is not yet defined.

In spite of the lack of definition of “dangerous” climate change, we have international and national policies on the table targeted at stabilization of greenhouse gases to prevent “dangerous” climate change.  We also see statements from scientists and others that “dangerous” climate change is already happening.

So, what actually constitutes “dangerous” climate change?  The answer depends on societal values and vulnerability/resilience, which vary regionally and culturally and even among individuals within regions and culture.  We need to understand these issues before implementing far reaching policies to avoid “dangerous” climate change, even if our understanding of future climate change was perfect.

Reasons for concern

The IPCC 3rd and 4th Assessment reports refer to “reasons for concern” (summarized by Pew Climate):

  • Risk to unique and threatened systems (e.g., coral reefs, tropical mountain glaciers, endangered species, etc.)
  • Risk of extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes)
  • Disparities of impacts and vulnerabilities (e.g., disproportionate harm to developing countries and the poor in developed countries)
  • Aggregate damages (i.e. net global market damages)
  • Risks of large-scale discontinuities (e.g., rapid sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and strong amplifiers of warming)

Authors of the IPCC AR4 subsequently published a paper in PNAS  which included the “burning embers” diagram that revised the sensitivities of the reasons for concern to increases in global average temperature based on a more thorough understanding of the concept of vulnerability.

IPCC WGII Chapter 19 identifies  “key vulnerabilities”  as being associated with  food supply, infrastructure, health, water resources, coastal systems, ecosystems, global biogeochemical cycles, ice sheets, and modes of oceanic and atmospheric circulation. Key vulnerabilities were identified using the following criteria:

  • magnitude of impacts
  • timing of impacts
  • persistence and reversibility of impacts
  • likelihood (estimates of uncertainty) of impacts and vulnerabilities and confidence in those estimates
  • potential for adaptation
  • distributional aspects of impacts and vulnerabilities
  • importance of the system(s) at risk.

This treatment is still rather vague and doesn’t address what actually constitutes dangerous climate change.

Other perspectives

Hansen et al. (2007) define dangerous in the context of Arctic climate change, tropical cyclone intensity, and ice sheet stability.  They conclude:

Identification of “dangerous” effects is partly subjective, but we find evidence that added global warming of more than 1C above the level in 2000 has effects that may be highly disruptive.

Schellnhuber, author of Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, states:

‘One school of thought has been that climate change caused by human activities will be gradual and we will be able to adapt to it. However, I believe the evidence now indicates that once climate change exceeds certain “tipping points” or critical thresholds, the consequences will enter a largely uncontrollable and irreversible domain.’ He says there is a real possibility that we will see a range of major large-scale events that will be beyond our management. The dangers, says Schellnhuber, include intensification of El Niño and the risk that it could become a permanent feature, weakening of the Gulf Stream, melting of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, disruption of the Indian monsoon, widespread death of corals due to bleaching, and hurricanes of increased intensity. Without action on our part, these tipping points could occur one by one, some sooner, some later.

The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change provides a comprehensive analysis of the economic impacts of climate change.  Main conclusions on the economic impacts are:

  • Climate change threatens the basic elements of life for people around the world — access to water, food production, health, and use of land and the environment.
  • The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed — the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most. And if and when the damages appear it will be too late to reverse the process. Thus we are forced to look a long way ahead.
  • Climate change may initially have small positive effects for a few developed countries, but it is likely to be very damaging for the much higher temperature increases expected by mid-to-late century under BAU scenarios.

Obertsteiner et al. (2001) provides the best articulation of possible danger from climate change that I’ve come across:

“[N]on-linear response processes of natural ecosystems transmitted through complex cause-effect chains would lead to a sudden upward shift in the level of climate related damages and disasters that finally result in civil unrest in some regions of the world as those societies lost their capacity to deal with the additional climate risk(s).”

External and internal definitions of danger

Dessai et al. (2004) provide what I find to be the most lucid analysis of the issues surrounding defining dangerous climate change. External definitions of dangerous climate change are those provided by researchers:

Danger measured through threshold in physical vulnerability (top down approach):

  1. Large-scale eradication of coral reef systems (O’Neil and Oppenheimer, 2002)
  2. Disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (Vaughan and Spouge, 2002)
  3. Breakdown of the thermohaline circulation (Rahmstorf, 2000)
  4. Qualitative modification of crucial climate-system patterns such as ENSO and NAO (Timmermann et al., 1999)
  5. Climate change exceeding the rate at which biomes can migrate (Malcom and Markham, 2000)

Danger measured through threshold in social vulnerability (bottom up approach):

  1. Irrigation demand exceeding 50 per cent of annual seasonal water usage for agriculture in northern Victoria, Australia (Jones, 2000)
  2. Depopulation of sovereign atoll countries (Barnett and Adger, 2003)
  3. Additional millions of people at risk from water shortage, malaria, hunger and coastal flooding (Parry et al., 2001)
  4. Destabilisation of international order by environmental refugees and emergence of conflicts (Homer-Dixon, 1991; Barnett, 2003)
  5. World impacts exceeding a threshold percentage of GDP (Fankhauser, 1995; Nordhaus and Boyer, 2000)

Internal definitions of danger  are based on psychological, social, moral, institutional and cultural processes that influence perceptions o about what constitutes danger and significant impact associated with  the perceived insecurity arising from impacts associated with changing extreme weather events, and often immediate threats to life and livelihood.

How to proceed?

In my opinion, the primary reason that the UNFCCC has been unable to define “dangerous” anthropogenic climate change is because they have framed the problem and its solution to be irreducibly global.  If the problem is viewed as an aggregate of regional problems in the context of a bottom-up incremental policy approach such as that promoted by Ron Brunner, then presumably a more meaningful understanding of dangerous climate change could emerge, which would be a source of political will for actually addressing the problems.

More importantly, extreme weather events and natural climate variability have adverse impacts, which in some instances (time-space) may counter the impacts of AGW and in others may amplify the AGW impacts.  Addressing the regional impacts of natural variability in combination with possible AGW impacts would increase overall resilience to extreme weather events and climate change/variability.

IMO, the IPCC WG2 should be addressing the social vulnerability aspect in a major way, other than relegating this to a single chapter.   Unfortunately, the IPCC WG2 seems more intent on attributing adverse impacts of extreme weather events and climate variability to AGW (which the IPCC was roundly criticized for in terms of its statements of confidence by the IAC report).

184 responses to “What constitutes “dangerous” climate change?

  1. Judith,

    You point out an important dichotomy:

    1. “The IPCC does not define “dangerous” climate change.”
    2. On April 2, 2007, the USSC ruled in the case of MA v. EPA in a 5-4 decision in favor of MA that the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
    3. In turn, on December 7, 2009, the EPA Administrator signed two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:
    a. Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), per fluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) — in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
    b. Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.
    The EPA administrator refers to the IPCC AR4 report as “proof that the science is settled.”

    Do you wonder why many are skeptical about whether or not future EPA regulations will abate the threats to “public health and welfare?”

  2. So, what actually constitutes “dangerous” climate change? The answer depends on societal values and vulnerability/resilience, which vary regionally and culturally and even among individuals within regions and culture. We need to understand these issues before implementing far reaching policies to avoid “dangerous” climate change, even if our understanding of future climate change was perfect.

    I think that understanding the science of climate change will be a lot easier than understanding human variations on perceptions of danger. Societies and countries need to make policy decisions one way or the other, and the democratic/pluralistic process they use to make those decisions will include some discussion of this. But it doesn’t need to be written in some scientific report on climate change. It’s far beyond the purview of the IPCC to understand or try to define what danger is. They shouldn’t even try.

  3. David L. Hagen

    Judith – Thanks for raising another key issue. Following some thoughts:

    Re:“Dangerous Climate Change”
    1) Quantifying “Dangerous” by Benefit/Cost ratio
    Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus addressed the question:

    Imagine you had $75bn to donate to worthwhile causes. What would you do, and where should we start?

    This quantifies “dangerous” climate change. The resulting Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ranking listed micronutrient supplements for children at the top. Global warming mitigation came in dead last of the 30 projects evaluated.

    Climate change control advocates need to quantitatively address this benefit/cost issue relative to other humanitarian needs. To be credible, they need to quantify why we should not hold global warming mitigation as least important of all major humanitarian projects. Especially when they advocate spending $65 trillion to “control climate”.

    Until global warming advocates can provide quantitative justification to change the Copenhagen Consensus ranking, why should not all humanitarian funding be prioritized in the order of the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ranking?
    Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus addressed the question:

    Imagine you had $75bn to donate to worthwhile causes. What would you do, and where should we start?

    This quantifies “dangerous” climate change. The resulting Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ranking listed micronutrient supplements for children at the top. Global warming mitigation came in dead last of the 30 projects evaluated.

    Climate change control advocates need to quantitatively address this benefit/cost issue relative to other humanitarian needs. To be credible, they need to quantify why we should not hold global warming mitigation as least important of all major humanitarian projects. Especially when they advocate spending $65 trillion to “control climate”.

    Until global warming advocates can provide quantitative justification to change the Copenhagen Consensus ranking, why should not all humanitarian funding be prioritized in the order of the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ranking?

    2) Analogies
    An audit of the IPCC methodology in evaluating global warming has been found seriously wanting by statisticians

    Kesten Green and Scott Armstrong are heading up a project of Analogies to the alarm over dangerous manmade global warming. They have listed 26 major issues. Quantified “dangers” of projected global warming needs to be quantified in comparison to these analogies.

    3) Validating Dangerous Climate Change Projections
    IPCC has highlighted projections of “dangerous” climate change. However, have any of these models or projections been quantitatively validated?

    Australia’s CSIRO issued an Exceptional Circumstances Report. However it refused to provide the data needed to validate it. David Stockwell was finally able to test CSIRO’s projections of increasing drought.
    Stockwell found the historic data was opposite CSIRO’s drought projections! See:

    Stockwell, David R.B., 2010. Critique of Drought Models in the Australian Drought Exceptional Circumstances Report (DECR), Energy & Environment, 21:5, 425-436, DOI:10.1260/0958-305X.21.5.425, Link:http://multi-science.metapress.com/content/L4870G0N8Q064377

    This paper evaluates the reliability of modeling in the Drought Exceptional Circumstances Report (DECR) where global circulation (or climate) simulations were used to forecast future extremes of temperatures, rainfall and soil moisture. The DECR provided the Australian government with an assessment of the likely future change in the extent and frequency of drought resulting from anthropogenic global warming. Three specific and different statistical techniques show that the simulation of the occurrence of extreme high temperatures last century was adequate, but the simulation of the occurrence of extreme low rainfall was unacceptably poor. In particular, the simulations indicate that the measure of hydrological drought increased significantly last century, while the observations indicate a significant decrease. The main conclusion and purpose of the paper is to provide a case study showing the need for more rigorous and explicit validation of climate models if they are to advise government policy.

    Climate models need to be verified line by line. Then the projections need to be validated like Stockwell tested CSIRO’s drought models. Until then, what confidence can be placed in “dangerous” projections?

    4) Evaluation of All scientific evidence.
    IPCC has highlighted evidence supporting “dangerous” global warming. The Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) reviewed scientific literature, finding substantial evidence showing showing beneficial evidence not mentioned in AR4, and published since. See the 880 page 2008 report Climate Change Reconsidered Each of the “dangerous” projections should be reviewed in light of ALL scientific evidence. Probabilities of both “beneficial” and “dangerous” scenarios need to be evaluated and reported.

  4. I must be assume this web page is setting the context for future topics. I really don’t see why this question is really THAT important: what is dangerous climate change? I always thought the important topic was whether human activity had anything to do with any observed climate change (warmer recently, or cooler in the 1970’s ice age scare)? Please consider many scientists have noticed that the sun spot cycle and its activity have recently changed, with spots not as frequent and with decreasing magnetic strength (Livingston and Penn) to where some suggest we might be heading toward an extended solar minimum. Previous extended solar minimums were accompanied by significant cooling on Earth. We COULD be discussing the possible dangers to Earth’s climate should solar energy noticeably drop (and the accompanying effects on cosmic rays and clouds, as suggested by Henrik Svensmark, to result in the theorized cooling). However THAT discussion is obviously not worthwhile here because no one will suggest that human activity has anything to do with it (and I am not suggesting it since it would just be taken correctly as alarmist). There are so many analyses about what COULD happen if the Earth got many degrees warmer (which this web page summarizes to some extent). I see far too much emphasis on studying what bad will happen from the projections of warmer temperatures (these are the stories often in the press and popular mags) and far too little emphasis on truly determining whether human activity is involved. There have been earlier warm phases in history (as recent as the 1930’s) but somehow the most recent warm phase is unique from all those before (though 1934 and 1998 were similar hot years, one with lower CO2 levels than the other). I can only hope eventually to see references to the important research into whether human activity is relevant to these doomsday climate scenarios. THAT to me is the important topic about climate change.

  5. Dr Curry
    As hmcard points out above, the dichotomy you point out, has neatly crystallized in the EPA’s present official position.

    The EPA has decided, on the one hand, that US emissions of CO2 are “dangerous” because it believes in the IPCC-derived chain of causation via a global mechanism.

    On the other hand, it has refused to examine in any meaningful detail, the numerous errors in the IPCC WG II report because these errors are not ‘relevant to the impacts’ upon the US, caused by the very same global change.


    • Ergo, the EPA is behaving in a political manner and NOT in a scientific manner with regard to the issue(s), and the actions it is undertaking are motivated by politics and economics and philosophies that are NOT of science, but which only use science as a false faith so as to achieve these objectives. Seems there’s more to climate than meets the eye.

  6. David L. Hagen

    5) Global warming vs Peak Oil
    A more essential weighting of “dangerous global warming” is to compare the impacts of funding global warming mitigation compared to providing transport fuel to compensate for rapidly looming chasm between growing oil imports and declining oil exports. Catastrophic projections are made, demanding Global warming mitigation. However, major fuel shortages and skyrocketing costs that severely damage our economies will likely have far greater impacts over near term increases in deaths from starvation and malnutrition. On the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cut off of subsidized fuel compounded a massive famine in North Korea.

    See the new book: The Impending World Energy Mess, By Robert Hirsch, Roger Bezdek, and Robert Wendling 2010.

    While solar and wind power will have a slowly growing place someday, many years and trillions of dollars will be required to effect a transition from liquid-fueled machines to those using electricity or some other fuel. The writers seem pessimistic that capital required to make such a transition smoothly will be available during the times of trouble ahead. . . . The effectiveness of physical mitigation is seen as having a lot to do with just how fast oil production declines after the peak. The historical record says this could be anywhere from 2 to 6 percent each year with the decline becoming faster with time. To this must be added the possibility that some oil exporting nations, who will be accumulating vast riches from very high prices, may start withholding production from the market in order to make the good times last and last.

    The current focus on “climate change” and push for “renewable energy standards” and renewable electricity to mitigate global warming will be counterproductive in addressing peak oil by sucking up capital critically need for this perilous transition to alternative fuels.

    See the ASPO-USA’s 6th Annual Peak Oil Conference Oct 7-9th for current presentations.

    • This is why our current market sytems and government systems are grossly outdated to protect citizens as profits are more important than lives.
      Policies good for the country can clash with good of the citizens.

      • David L. Hagen

        Not clear. You can’t save lives without foundational economics (“profits”). Economic development demonstrably provides the greatest savings of lives. Compare death rates vs income by country. Conversely, collapsing economies directly lead to major reduction in health and increase in malnutrition and deaths.

      • Well stated David. The US grew to a giant among nations on capitalism and individual freedom. Everyone in the country lived a better life because of it. I don’t understand why it keeps getting kicked in the head.

    • David L. Hagen

      Summer Monsoon Failures
      Shifting (“failure”) of the summer monsoon causing reduced rainfall on the Indian subcontinent resulting in famine is one of the greatest “dangers”.


      A particularly severe famine occurred during the rule of the English East India Company in Bengal in 1770, when it was claimed that perhaps 10 million of Bengal’s 30 million people died. . . . In the period from 1876 to 1878 huge areas, particularly in southern India, were afflicted by monsoon failure and massive famine. The availability of early census and vital registration data has led to several estimates of excess mortality for this time, varying between 5 million and 8 million in a total population of perhaps 210 million.

      These were all prior to “anthropogenic climate change”. The subcontinent’s population has since grown 720% to about 1,156 million (in ~2010) (India 1,180 million, Pakistan 180 million, Bangladesh 156 million). Recognizing a “natural” 2.5% excess deaths from monsoon driven famine would mean recognizing 29 million deaths as “natural” variation! (Not accounting for changes in technology, transportation, famine relief etc.)

      “Dangerous” climate change must account for and distinguish from such natural weather extremes. Cause versus effect must also be sorted out. e.g.

      The traditional view has regarded SST anomalies in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans as causing the A–AM variability. The present analysis suggests that the SST anomalies in these warm ocean regions are, to a large extent, a result of anomalous monsoons. Thus, the atmosphere–warm ocean interaction may significantly modify the impacts of remote El Niño forcing and should be regarded as one of the physical factors that determine the variability of the A–AM.

      Wang, Bin, Renguang Wu, Tim Li, 2003: Atmosphere–Warm Ocean Interaction and Its Impacts on Asian–Australian Monsoon Variation*. J. Climate, 16, 1195–1211. etc.

      The natural causes of varying monsoons must be thoroughly understood before the differential impact of “anthropogenic” causes can be discerned. Furthermore, depletion of light oil, water, and arable land on top of population growth are all likely to have far greater impacts than the “anthropogenic” component of “global warming” (aka “climate change”). See: The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It, by Julian Cribb
      Without that, all we have is fear mongering used to drive politicians to provide support selfish research budgets – to the destruction of science itself and the greater detriment of the developing world – where 2 billion live on less than $2/day and another one billion on less than $1/day.

      • David, thanks for bringing up this issue. Climate Etc. will have a guest post by Peter Webster at some point that addresses this issue. The rapidly growing population in South Asia dominates any climate related issue and amplifies any climate vulnerability, see this paper by Webster.

      • David L. Hagen

        Thanks for ref to Webster’s article. I am curious why there is so little recognition of WJR Alexander’s showing runoff being driven by the 22 year solar cycle in Southern Africa. e.g. Alexander WJR, Bailey F, Bredenkamp DB, van der Merwe A and Willemse N, (2007). Linkages between solar activity, climate predictability and water resource development. Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, Vol 49, No 2, June 2007, pages 32-44, paper 659.

        The three lowest years before a sunspot minimum had average flow of 52. The three following years average was 300. i.e. a 577% increase. That is a huge impact when predicting droughts/floods, yet there is no mention of it.

        Webster notes (Fig 3) “Long-period data for rivers in the developing world are relatively rare.” Does 1,080 years of data from the Rodda Nilometer recorded during the period 641–1946 count as “long” and in a “developing country”? H E Hurst (1951, 1954) cited by Alexander.

        Has Alexander been shown to be an outlier? Or are his results ignored for not fitting the current “climate change” paradigm?

      • David, I’m forwarding this to Peter Webster

      • Hi David,

        You are correct. There is long-term data from the Nile. But I did say “relatively”. I must say that I am not aware of the quality of the data or if it would be useful for the purposes we write about? Is it daily, for example? For the type of things we do or want to do (flood forecasting on daily, monthly seasonal time scales) daily river discharge is essential.
        Following up on some comment about the Hurst phenomena in Judith’s column I must say that it reminded me of the “Jesuits die in threes” phenomenon. Of course that is nonsense but perhaps one of perception. And it comes down to statistical significance. Without an a priori theory or mechanism one falls on a posteriori confidence limits that are much harder to satisfy. So if there appear to be a coincidence between sunspot cycles and whatever it may be just that unless one can establish a physical tie. So I have always been skeptical of solar relationships and climate (beyond the Milankovitch orbital oscillations, the seasonal climate and the diurnal cycle) because there is a lack of a physical basis that I can understand. Often relationships with climate factors are figured relative to the anomalous number of sunspots above and beyond the 11-year cycle of sunspots. But no-one talks about the impact of the 11-year cycle itself. The magnitude of the cycle is orders of magnitude greater than the anomalies. So wouldn’t one expect a strong, resilient and statistical significant oscillation in climate on an eleven-year period. So when I see someone saying that solar flares or sunspots change climate or are responsible for the major changes that have occurred in the past and the present, I am skeptical because (a) there is no apparent climate oscillation the 11-year cycle so why would I expect variations of that 11-year cycle to be more important?) and (b) I find physical explanations absent.
        Please forgive me for what you might consider a rant. I become equally passionate with people who say that everything that occurs in climate, every extreme and etc. has anthropogenic roots. But I should to return to Alexander (of whom I know little except his writings seem to infer that he knows more than most) and the Hurst phenomenon. Does it pass a posteriori statistical confidence tests or is there an underlying physical hypothesis that I do not know about (thus allowing lesser stringent statistical significance limits?)
        My homework is to check out the Nile data about which I know little.
        Thanks for the comment.

      • David L. Hagen

        Thanks Peter. Appreciate the challenge of finding daily data. On significance, note that W.J.R. Alexander analyzed more than 100 years of river flow and precipitation data from the Southern Africa region, including 11,804 cumulative years of data from 183 stations. Development of a multi-year climate prediction model, W.J.R. Alexander, ISSN 0378-4738 = Water SA Vol. 31 No. 2 April 2005 209-218 http://www.wrc.org.za

        Alexander showed an

        “incontestable, statistically significant (95%), 21-year periodicity in the South African rainfall, river flow and other hydrometeorological data.”

        Note Alexander et al. show precipitation driven by the 21 year solar magnetic cycle NOT the 11 year cycle. He finds a big difference.

        Alexander compiled a “474-page technical report entitled Climate change and its consequences – an African perspective (Alexander 2006). It includes 51 tables, 33 figures and 218 references.” (available on CD.) Alexander’s life work appears to include a comprehensive long term data compilation.

        Happy hunting.

      • David L. Hagen

        Peter. On the “Hurst phenomena”, see the references provided in a number of posts under: What can we learn from climate models.
        See especially those on: “Hurst-Kolmogorov”

        See references on Hurst & Nile data

      • David L. Hagen

        Peter, on the Nile, Koutsoviannis refers to study of: flows of several rivers such as
        Nile (Eltahir, 1996; Koutsoyiannis, 2002)
        , citing:

        Eltahir, E. A. B. (1996), El Niño and the natural variability in the flow of the Nile River, Wat. Resour. Res. 32(1), 131–137.

        Koutsoyiannis, D. (2002), The Hurst phenomenon and fractional Gaussian noise made easy, Hydrol. Sci. J.,
        47(4), 573-596.

      • David L. Hagen

        Thanks Judith for forwarding.

      • David L. Hagen

        Numerous authors are finding correlations/causation between the impact of Jovian planets on the Sun and on the earth’s Length of Day (LOD) and climate solar system. These are now being applied to predictive models. e.g. on the Monsoon see:
        Ian R. G. Wilson, Can We Predict the Next Indian Mega-Famine? J Energy & Environment, ISSN 0958-305X, Issue Volume 20, Number 1 – 2 / January 2009

        Catastrophic multi-year failure of the Indian monsoon has caused at least eight mega-famines in India over the last 1100 years. Historical data shows that seven out of the eight mega-famines have either started within ± one year of the year of greatest asymmetry in the Sun’s motion about the Solar System’s centre-of-mass, or 11 years ± one year after this event. The Sun is currently experiencing a maximum in the asymmetry of its motion about the centre-of-mass. Evidence is presented to show that there is almost a 1-in-4 the chance that there will be another Indian mega-famine in 2018-20. While the chance of such a catastrophic event occurring is small, it is large enough that the governments on the Indian sub-continent should take precautionary measures to confront this potentially devastating threat.

      • David L. Hagen

        Seven mega famines associated with the sun’s motion would appear to warrant further study! Nicola Scafetta explores: Empirical evidence for a celestial origin of the climate oscillations and its implications
        arXiv:1005.4639v1 [physics.geo-ph] 25 May 2010

        We investigate whether or not the decadal and multi-decadal climate oscillations have an astronomical origin. Several global
        surface temperature records since 1850 and records deduced from the orbits of the planets present very similar power spectra.
        Eleven frequencies with period between 5 and 100 years closely correspond in the two records. Among them, large climate
        oscillations with peak-to-trough amplitude of about 0.1 deg C and 0.25 deg C, and periods of about 20 and 60 years, respectively, are
        synchronized to the orbital periods of Jupiter and Saturn. Schwabe and Hale solar cycles are also visible in the temperature records.
        A 9.1-year cycle is synchronized to the Moon’s orbital cycles. A phenomenological model based on these astronomical cycles can
        be used to well reconstruct the temperature oscillations since 1850 and to make partial forecasts for the 21st century. It is found
        that at least 60% of the global warming observed since 1970 has been induced by the combined effect of the above natural climate
        oscillations. The partial forecast indicates that climate may stabilize or cool until 2030-2040. Possible physical mechanisms are
        qualitatively discussed with an emphasis on the phenomenon of collective synchronization of coupled oscillators.

  7. David L. Hagen

    Pew Research polled the US Public’s Priorities for 2010: Economy, Jobs, Terrorism Energy Concerns Fall, Deficit Concerns Rise.
    The economy ranked first with 83%. Global warming ranked last at 28%.

  8. It seems that “dangerous climate change” is emotional verbiage used for propaganda purposes.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

    • Maybe, but these words made it into an international treaty that has been in force since 1992.

      • There’s the rub:(

      • Yes, and that’s confirmation

      • If the US comes to the conclusion that global warming is a non-problem, the treaty can be re-negotiated or if all else fails abrogated. It isn’t the best thing in terms of keeping trust, but we shouldn’t shoot ourselves in the head to keep a treaty that is based on false premises.

      • Treaties are not kept for many reasons AND they are kept for many reasons too. International agreements are very complex devices and are designed to achieve many things, many, if not most, of which are not specified in the agreement. The popular idea that the international treaty in effect since 1992 is for “X”, as its title would imply, is nieve. In politics, nothing is only about the obvious.

      • PS: In politics, economics, political and social philosophy, AGW is NOT about the weather, or the climate, a region or the world, or who caused what, when, why, where, or how. It’s only an excuse to do something, or not, that can be used as a vehicle toward an end. Currently, and for the foreseeable, AGW is not a question of science to anyone other than a few honest to goodness Climate Scientists.

  9. It is odd that the most important issue of climate is so poorly defined.
    Since people began burning veldt and forests to chase game and to influence what grows in them we have influenced the climate.
    So the question is not if we are influencing the climate. The question as I see it is this: is CO2 being released into the atmosphere in a way that is causing or will cause a ‘global climate disruption’ (the latest official branding)?
    We have been subjected to ~22 years of fear mongering claims that we are already experiencing, or will experience in the next few years, a ‘tipping point’ that will send us into climate Armageddon.
    Have we experienced in the last ~22 years a global climate disruption?
    Are we facing a ‘tipping point’ into a new, dangerous climate caused by CO2?

  10. Judith,

    The other side of this question is the issue of favourable climate change. Both warming and cooling affect different regions in different ways. The assumption seems to be that all warming is adverse, but that is plainly not the case for everywhere. Shouldn’t the question be expressed in net terms: on balance is warming/cooling likely to be good or bad?

    And then, of course, no one in say, Siberia, cares all that much about whether or not warming will be bad in say, the Sahara. But as I understand it the models aren’t very good at regional or local scenarios.

    Altogther, it’s another awful muddle in this whole muddled business.

    • Even with uncertain climate models, it is pretty likely that Russia, China (northern), Canada would all be “winners” with global warming. Also, pretty much any region where additional rainfall occurs, which is mostly mid and high latitudes.

      • David L. Hagen

        Presumably, a higher sea temperature gives
        higher absolute humidity, which results in
        higher precipitation.

        Frank J. Wentz,* Lucrezia Ricciardulli, Kyle Hilburn, Carl Mears state:

        the observations suggest that precipitation and total atmospheric water have increased at about the same rate over the past two decades.

        How Much More Rain Will Global Warming Bring?

        Richard P. Allan1* and Brian J. Soden warn of higher extreme precipitation events.
        Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes

        Is there any validated evidence/projections of any regions which will NOT have additional rainfall with higher temperatures?
        Gadgil*, M. Rajeevan and Ravi Nanjundiah caution:

        (India) experienced a deficit of 13% in the summer monsoon of 2004.. . . Our analysis of the predictions generated by the operational models at IMD from 1932 onwards suggests that the forecast skill has not improved over the seven decades despite continued changes in the operational models. Clearly, new approaches need to be explored with empirical models.

        Colder weather causes much greater death rates than warmer weather.
        Richard P. Allan1* and Brian J. Soden warn of higher extreme precipitation events.
        Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes
        Why the panic over reducing average death rates?

  11. @All
    The USEPA is a regulator. It’s entirely within its mandate to declare something dangerous. The IPCC is an assessor. Value judgements are explicitly excluded from its mandate. The IPCC can therefore not say whether something is dangerous or not, the EPA can.

    Danger indeed varies over space and between people. It also varies over time — and it responds to policy. For instance, climate change may well increase the incidence of malaria and this would endanger the lives of many children. However, if a malaria vaccine would be available, the danger goes away. If climate change would be deemed dangerous in the malarial sense of the word, greenhouse gas emission reduction may not be the best response to this danger.

    • Richard,
      Why would you drag out the old untrue chestnut of linking malaria to AGW?

      • @hunter
        If you think that AGW is true, and if you think it increases the prevalence of malaria, then you should still not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you don’t buy either or both of my two ifs, you should not reduce emissions either.

        I buy both ifs, by the way. The mechanisms are straightforward and undisputed.

      • Richard, the mechanisms are highly disputed or we would not be here.
        How do you explain Malaria in Venice in the good ol’ days pre-AGW, and its absence today?
        As for the CO2 issue, I think Dr. Curry has spent a pretty decent effort in demonstrating disputes with AGW.
        I wonder how you missed it?

      • I guess that would be ‘Dr. Tol’, to me.
        But my questions still stand.

      • David L. Hagen

        See NIPCC’s review 9.1.3. Malaria

        research that takes into account more than one or two variables typically shows little or no relationship between the incidence of malaria and temperature. Many factors are more important than temperature, and those that are subject to human control are being used to steadily reduce the incidence of deaths from this disease.


        For further info see:

  12. Paul in Sweden

    ” Richard Tol | October 6, 2010 at 4:18 am
    The USEPA is a regulator. It’s entirely within its mandate to declare something dangerous. The IPCC is an assessor. Value judgements are explicitly excluded from its mandate. The IPCC can therefore not say whether something is dangerous or not, the EPA can.”


    Once the Obama’s EPA dares to actually regulate, we know very well all data, studies and papers used by the EPA to justify regulating CAGW gases in the USA will be subject to full legal disclosure and discovery. Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming legislation deserves it’s day in a United States court, that day will come, and I say this will little uncertainty!

    • and rightly so

      this is a rather important decision and it deserves utmost scrutiny

      • Then why are AGW promoters so hard at work avoiding scrutiny?

      • Paul in Sweden


        Scientists like Richard Tol, both Pielkes, Christy, etc I place in the warmist camp(rightly or wrongly) but I view them as “honest brokers”. An honest broker has no qualms about opening his ledger for all to see or be paid in accordance to his own weights and measures.

        Those that treat climate data as national secrets or produce science papers that cannot be replicated are not considered honest brokers and have been treated accordingly. What other reason can there be for the entire world to ignore the catastrophic predictions and policy recommendations of the UN IPCC decade after decade can there be?

      • That is why I use the name, ‘AGW promoters’.
        Those are people promoting the social movement- the idea that we are facing a climate apocalypse/ ‘global cliamte disruption’, as opposed to people who are working to understand what is going on the former group spends a great deal of time learning how to package their message, or writing scary books about storms their descendants may experience. The latter simply tells truth of what they are doing and seeing.

  13. OK, so we’ve got some definitions of “Dangerous Climate Change”.
    Right, since AGW started in 1976 (As I believe Grant Foster aka Tamino has claimed), what physical evidence of this have we seen since this date?
    To the best of my knowledge, hurricane/typhoon numbers & strengths are at historical low levels, no atolls have been abandonned due to be submerged by rising sea levels, Arctic ice is going up & down in extent, but nothing that’s not been reported over the decades/centuries, Antarctic sea ice is growing a bit, bits of Greenland & Antarctica have dropped off, we’ve had floods, droughts & fires, but we’ve had them is the past.
    All that can be said with some confidence, is that during warmer periods in humanities’ history, we’ve thrived & expanded across the world. During colder periods, we suffered.

  14. It seems to be a propaganda game rather than a real concern that CO2 is doing any damage. Manufacturing has all left for cheaper places to compete.
    So, what does it leave the government for jobs?
    Let’s build power generating turbines and solar panels. Very temporary and still manufactured mostly elsewhere.
    How about jumping on the CO2 bandwagon and regulate emmissions so manufacturing has to be higher tech, more costly and under researched.
    What is the ratio of government paid jobs all level of policial government (including schools and hospitals)?
    1:2? 1:5?1:10? Still unaffordable.

  15. I believe David L. Hagen hit the nail on the head and it comes to the heart of the discussion. Spending billions or trillions on global warming mitigation and cutting back on fossil fuels in favor of more expensive energy sources will create a drag on our economy. This in turn will cost in terms of shortened lives and a lower standard of living. This is why the probability that global warming will cause serious adverse problems must be known to a high degree of certainty. A gut feeling based on incomplete models and shaky data won’t do.

  16. Judy – This is another outstanding, much needed post!

    I would like to add to this discussion by introducing your readers to Section E of the IGBP BAHC book

    Pielke, R.A. Sr. and L. Bravo de Guenni, Eds., 2004: How to evaluate vulnerability in changing environmental conditions. Part E In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al. Eds., Springer, 483-544. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/cb-33.pdf

    including the Conclusion chapter [http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/cb-42.pdf].

    In this material, we recommend the adoption of a bottom-up perspective as the most effective (and inclusive) approach to assess the vulnerability of key resources to climate and other environmental and social issues.

    Indeed, we do not know what is “dangerous” until such an assessment is performed. Even with respect to a top down view, alterations in large scale weather patterns, as one example, are only “dangerous” if they negatively influence these resources.

    More recently, I posted with the title

    A Way Forward In Climate Science Based On A Bottom-Up Resourse-Based Perspective [http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-way-forward-in-climate-science-based-on-a-bottom-up-resourse-based-perspective/]

    in which I wrote

    ““There are 5 broad areas that we can use to define the need for vulnerability assessments : water, food, energy, [human] health and ecosystem function. Each area has societally critical resources. The vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to these resources from climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risk from natural- and human-caused climate change (estimated from the GCM projections, but also the historical, paleo-record and worst case sequences of events) can be compared with other risks in order to adopt the optimal mitigation/adaptation strategy.”

    To establish what is “dangerous”, the following are the questions that need to be answered

    1. Why is this resource important? How is it used? To what stakeholders is it valuable?
    2. What are the key environmental and social variables that influence this resource?
    3. What is the sensitivity of this resource to changes in each of these key variables? (this includes, but is not limited to, the sensitivity of the resource to climate variations and change on short (e.g. days); medium (e.g. seasons) and long (e.g. multi-decadal) time scales.
    4. What changes (thresholds) in these key variables would have to occur to result in a negative (or positive) response to this resource?
    5. What are the best estimates of the probabilities for these changes to occur? What tools are available to quantify the effect of these changes. Can these estimates be skillfully predicted?
    6. What actions (adaptation/mitigation) can be undertaken in order to minimize or eliminate the negative consequences of these changes (or to optimize a positive response)?
    7. What are specific recommendations for policymakers and other stakeholders?

    I have been appointed as an Editor-in-Chief of a 5 volume set of books that focus on these questions for water, food, energy, human health and ecosystem function which should appear late 2011 or early 2012. We will then have a bottom-up focus on the issue of what are the “dangerous” risks to the key social and environmental resources.

  17. Tomas Milanovic


    ■Risk to unique and threatened systems (e.g., coral reefs, tropical mountain glaciers, endangered species, etc.)

    Well there might be that “risk”. It is rather trivial – everytime something changes somewhere, something else is at risk . Nothing new there, has been like that since the Earth exists. Now WHY anything in that list should be dangerous? OK tropical mountains glaciers disappear. So what? Wouldn’t be for the first time.

    ■Risk of extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes)
    Here again. This risk exists already today and existed yesterday. What is specially dangerous about that? If you need to resist to 1 earthquake, you will resist to 2 too.
    If you are prepared for 1 heat wave, you are prepared for all of them and if you are not prepared then it doesn’t matter how many of them there are.

    ■Disparities of impacts and vulnerabilities (e.g., disproportionate harm to developing countries and the poor in developed countries)
    This point stinks especially bad. How can anybody make such a stupid statement? How could a climate change specifically target and “disproportionally” harm poor countries?
    Any harmful event impacts more a poor country than a rich country regardless whether the climate changes or not. This is a tautology! And I don’t mention that nobody can predict the climate at country/regional level.

    ■Aggregate damages (i.e. net global market damages)
    This doesn’t even begin to be science. What actualisation rate should be used to decide an investment today to decrease a possible (but not sure) damage in an unspecified tomorrow? A damage in 2100 has a net present value of nearly 0, so it does’t economically matter for all practical purposes.

    ■Risks of large-scale discontinuities (e.g., rapid sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and strong amplifiers of warming)
    I don’t understand “large scale discontinuity”. All the parameters mentionned are continuous. It is perhaps meant that the time derivatives might increase because it is sure that they won’t stay constant.
    But if this means some “tipping” points then I don’t see what theory justifies existence of tipping points. If anything, the system had the opportunity to explore the phase space during 4 billions years and never found any “tipping” points. Dissipative chaotic systems can’t “diverge”.

    It is statements like that that made me skeptical of IPCC.
    I don’t consider anything in WG2 as science with the possible exception of sea level variations and hurricane studies.
    It is here that you will find crowds of people who understand nothing about climate science but will cherry pick some random model projection and then mindlessly apply the results on some ecological microsystem and find, of course, that “things are worse than we thought”.
    Then they will clutter the media with dramatic headlines “Tropical rainforest will disappear in 20 years”, “Polar bears will die”, “Cockroaches survival is threatened”, “Himalaya glaciers are gone soon” etc etc.
    I consider a vast majority of these people as parasites who ride the AGW wave and transform it in CAGW to milk it as much as it goes.
    I don’t trust these people to even be able to correctly add 2 fractions.

    This might come across a bit rude but the sheer mass of garbage in the WG2 has exhausted all my patience with those drama queens already years ago.

    • Agreed that WGII really needs a “make over”, they aren’t even asking the right questions.

    • Paul in Sweden

      Risks and predictions… With all that has been said and done in the “Climate Science” community I have had my fill of “beliefs” and predictions that “may”, or “may likely” occur years beyond the career or life span of the “climate science” oracles.

      Since the end of the little ice age the earth’s alleged “Global Average Temperature” has risen by tenths of a degree Celsius.This has been documented by surface stations measuring temperatures on airport runways and on inner city rooftops. Is this dangerous? Should I be concerned?

      On a cold winter night a candle burning in my basement adds to the heat buildup in my home, if I breathe heavy and produce excess CO2 can I tell the wife and kid we do not have to turn the furnace on or put another log on the fire?

      I can understand that cutting down the rain forest surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro affects the water shed, cuts evaporation, local cloud formation and thereby limits the snowfall on the snow cap, but does this also affect the climate & price of tea in China? Does all the increased irrigation and water evaporation of the corn fields in the mid-west affect the jet stream or the rain storms in the UK or is it about as significant as my candle in my basement on a winter night?

      Phil Jones told Roger Harrabin in a BBC interview back in February of this year “I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity”.

      Since the 1950s most of the warming is due to human activity, heck it is almost 2011 now. That is 60 years. Should I be worried? Where are the crop reports stating that the growing season in higher latitudes & elevations have increased dramatically and this is somehow a problem? I know I must have an old copy of the Old Farmers Almanac from the 80s back home in America. When I compare the maps of the growing seasons with the Old Farmer’s Almanac of 2011 will I grow faint and have to warn the neighbors?

      I asked Bart what the ideal temperature of the earth was? I do not think that it was a particularly stupid question. The earth has increased 0.6C-0.8C since the end of the little ice age. Am I to believe that climate scientists believe that the temperatures of the little ice age were ideal? Were the warmer temperatures of the MWP ideal? Should I really be concerned about the few tenths of a degree increase in the global average temperature since the end of the little ice age and should I really believe “climate science” because it tells me that with the current grasp of all natural climate forces it has been determined that all remainders are to be assumed anthropogenic CO2 emissions(just because no better excuse can be guessed)?

      Climate scientists, stop telling me about risks 100 years into the future. The IPCC claims there has been 60 years of mostly anthropogenic dangerous global warming. Where is it? Show me that the last 60 years have been so much different from the previous 60 years and that it is due to anthropogenic causes which by coincidence began at the end of the little ice age and the beginning of the industrial age. How have the last 60 years been bad?

      Nothing is going to happen at the IPCC conference in Mexico. Nothing is going to happen in the United States congress aside from intensive corruption investigation into “climate Science”. India, China and all of the third world will gladly take any and all monies the EU and the United states will hand them but they will in no way reduce use of coal, oil or natural gas. Some climate scientists kid themselves & believe that they have made a strong case in the face of world rejection of their science and policy recommendations and feel the world should prove their anthropogenic global warming theories wrong.

      Should I believe that anthropogenic climate change constitutes danger or should I side with the majority of the governments and people on earth and continue to believe that the energy policies presented by “climate science” are by far the clear and present danger to civilization?

    • Great post, Tomas,

      “Any harmful event impacts more a poor country than a rich country regardless whether the climate changes or not. This is a tautology! ” It’s axiomatic, too.

      As we’re all aware, the appeal to the plight of “poor countries” is Pavlovian. If people really thought about it, they would conclude that when Mr Honda designed his 50cc step-through, he contributed far more to the betterment of the “poor countries” than all the legions of IPCC groupies put together.

  18. ‘What constitutes “dangerous” climate change?’

    It’s so easy to get off topic.
    I need to keep pinching myself to remember what it is we’re suppose to focus on.
    So what constitutes “dangerous” climate change? Well it’s not the UN or the EPA or some stupid international treaty. Perhaps a way to quantify this is to look back over the past 120K years or so and see what ‘natural’ climate is, then draw a line above and below that. Let’s say that the new high and low lines then constitute “dangerous”. We’re NOT going to classify natural change as “dangerous” change, right? So everything in-between in ‘normal’. Right? At the height of the present interglacial a few thousand years ago and at the depth of the last glacial a few more thousand years before that we have the ‘natural’ range of climate. If we then draw a line 10-20% above and below those extremes we could say that these would be “dangerous” and anything in-between was “natural”, right?
    How then to preclude “dangerously” high interglacials and “dangerously” low glacials is the question and where we need to throw our money, right?
    Well, personally, I think it’s all an academic and political waste of time and money and it’s high time we throw anyone who runs around the barnyard shouting that the sky is falling into the next available chicken factory truck so we can have some peace and quiet. If that’s not a practical option, we could always elect some folks with more than two brain cells to rub together.

  19. From my engineering prospective, the proposed top-down definition of the problem and its only possible, top-down revealed, solution, i.e. stop today using carbon, is the most troubling aspect of the global climate disruption discussions.

    The bottom-up work, work that is absolutely required in order to correctly define the problems, has not even been started. Not even started! If the problems have not been correctly defined, solutions will be not be successful.

    So-called solutions proclaimed based solely on positions of authority have not ever been successful and will never be successful.

  20. The Royal Society document that Judith links to says “There is no such thing as ‘safe’ climate change”. This suggests that they think that any climate change is dangerous. This was written back in 2009, when the RS (or at least their GW spokespeople) were in full AGW-hysteria mode. Since then some of their fellows complained and they have produced a more sober document (Climate change:
    a summary of the science, Sep 2010) that does not use the terms ‘dangerous’ or ‘safe’.

  21. Tomas Milanovic

    One more thing.
    It is very likely (IPCC definition) that BRIC&Co will continue to increase their CO2 emissions approximately in proportion of their GDP growth.
    Therefore it is very likely that, as long as one is a believer of the WG2, any and all of the “dangers” will take place.
    a) WG3 is useless and must be disbanded because there is no alternative between “mitigation” and “adaptation”.
    b) WG2 if it is not disbanded should be dedicated to exclusively study adaptation strategies. Everything else is waste of time and money.
    c) Anybody who advocates mitigation despite all (basically the rich West) , has to propose a strategy how to compel BRIC&Co to obey the western world.
    As I have already written, I am familiar with several of the BRIC&Co countries and people and it is very unlikely that such strategies can succeed short of cold or hot war.

    • Your last sentence is very prophetic. When people get excited they get mean and stupid. The more reasonable simply have to defend ourselves.

  22. So far the only “clear and present danger” that has come of the use of burning fossil fuels, have been cleaned up with the advent of modern coal power plant construction. The use of powered fuel, particle separators, flue scrubbers, exhaust to intake heat exchangers, and periodic maintenance schedules, has removed almost all of the real pollution problems associated with older models, due to be replaced from wear anyway.

    Now with the export of coal burning power plants in India and China, they are not using any of the new advances in pollution controls, due to the additional unwanted cost of construction, then are importing all of the coal they can get, at resultant reduced prices due to lower domestic demand for consumption. How is that decreasing the output of the “real toxic non CO2” pollution coming out of the ground?

    The real effect of the Kyoto treaty and this new push for additional tax and regulation of CO2 as well as of soot, “black carbon”, SOx NOx and heavy metals, has been to move all coal combustion for the production of electrical power and resultant industrial production jobs and economies to countries where the lessons of the early regulations are totally ignored.

    There has been a loss of control over keeping the real life threatening pollution products contained, just as the domestic industry has gotten rid of them and found ways to increase efficiency at the same time. The real clear and present danger is detailed in the effects of the atmospheric haze, and toxic levels of heavy metals now being released uncontrolled and unabated in someone else’s backyard into the Earth’s common atmosphere.

    Granted the highest concentrations are “over there” but they will still have any/all of the effects on the range of proposed “climate change problems”that might become real, this is truly giving a child a machine gun, after taking it from the “big mean” soldier trained in discipline and with a first hand knowledge of the atrocities of war to under stand restraint is a good thing.

    Why bother to demand tighter control and tax penalties on those who have responded to fixing the problems associated with fossil fuel burning, just to give an economic advantage to those who will no listen to reason at all. The additional transportation cost for the use of the coal far from it’s origin is just less ERoEI and wasteful of a somewhat limited resource.

    Setting up a straw man of global warming is just a clever distraction from the movement of industrial production, jobs, and incomes by a process that results in the loss of regulation over the use of the coal, that has been counter productive for the real environmental progress we were making, while at the same time looting the jobs and incomes of those who were being responsible in the first place.

    The international banks and corporations who have moved their investments onto preselected politically stable third world countries are the profiteers behind this displaced drive to “Change the world for their better incomes”.

    It is still the undeveloped nations of extremely poor people with unstable governments that will suffer the most, and receive none of the benefits of investments just because of the untrustworthy forms of unstable governments they have. The environmental movement that was founded on the principals of cleaning up the real pollution problems, have been high jacked into being the dedicated free labor useful grassroots idiots to help drive this ploy.

    Climate science has been corrupted and derailed to help with this process, there by ruining the reputation of all science in general, to dis empower it’s ability to fix anything, except what the giant international banks and corporations want to be worked on for their own ends. The developed world now properly saddled with domestic regulations, and soon to be bridled with more taxes in some form, then will be ridden off into the sunset of western civilization.

  23. “What constitutes ‘dangerous’ climate change?”

    Using these as only obvious examples of many that can be found on our tiny planet…

    Would the inundation of The Neatherlands constitute a ‘damgerous’ climate change?
    I vote NO. Even though Europe would have big problems.

    Would the loss of all Arctic ice during June-July-August constitute a ‘dangerous’ climate change?
    I vote NO.

    Would the melting of 50% of Antarctic ice over a 50 year period constitute ‘dangerous’ climate change?
    I vote YES. Why? Because a whole lot of people problems around the world would have to be solved and fast.

  24. Kiminori Itoh

    The most dangerous climate changes are no doubt due to natural origins: for instance floods and droughts.

    The second most dangerous ones are due to local changes of anthropegenic origin, such as land-use changes and soot depositon.

    The least dangerous ones are due to homogeneously distributed GHGs. In fact, none of the possibly dangerous phenomena listed in Judith’s post proved really dangerous at last. Most of seemingly dangerous ones, like melting glaciers, were fakes. I really want to know what will remain.

  25. As people have become more urban and outdoors less, and with better car heaters and air conditioners, I think they have come to believe weather is more stable and benign, because they never suffer from it. In the old days farmers all knew that periodically their crops would be wiped out and even cows get frozen to death. This goes along with a general increasing risk aversion of wealthy citizens to risks like playgrounds and germs and “contamination” in food. Thus what is now considered dangerous has shifted to almost the standard of the phobic individual.

  26. David L. Hagen

    Hansen gives another example of alarmism of “dangerous” climate change.


    “is fool’s gold because it’s going to be clear and understood within a reasonably brief period of time that we cannot exploit unconventional fossil fuels like tarsands and tar shale. If we do, we’re going to have to suck the CO2 back out of the atmosphere and the estimated cost of doing that is $200 to $500 a tonne of carbon.” . . .
    “We should not develop the unconventional fossil fuels. Those fuels – coal and tarsands – are so dirty and have such large regional negative consequences that it only makes sense to leave them in the ground.”

    1) Fallacy of speaking from authority: Hansen demonstrates the logical fallacy of speaking from authority rather than science. Contrary to Hansen’s claim of $200 to $500/ton, David Keith of the University of Calgary is demonstrating ways to recover CO2 from the air for less than $30/ton.

    2) Mitigation vs adaptation: Hansen assumes the necessity of climate mitigation with no acknowledgment that climate adaptation may be more cost effective.

    3) Ignoring greater danger of Peak Oil: Hansen is oblivious to the critical need to provide for alternative fuels on a war time footing to ameliorate the devastating economic harm of running short on transport fuel with skyrocketing costs resulting in massive unemployment.

  27. David L. Hagen

    Archaeological finds exposed by retreating glaciers suggests earlier times were substantially warmer than present and that humans thrived. How is that “dangerous”?

    From climatic research, it is well-known that in Europe between the 3rd Millenium and 1750 BC, a mild climate prevailed. The average summer temperatures might have been at that time for 0.5 to two degrees than today. As consequence the pass was passable over the 2756 meters high Schnidejoch in the summer and represented together with that 2000 meters high Simplonpass the shortest connection between north Italy and the Bernese upper country. The large number of finds is for the Bernese experts evidence of traffic movement at that time.

    Archaeological Finds in Retreating Swiss Glacier

    • A moments thought will tell anyone that it is possible to cross a pass with some snow in it. Therefore, that the Schnidejoch pass was passable at various times through history is not evidence that the pass was ice free at those times.

      A little further thought (and any knowledge of archeological experience) will tell you that wet textiles rot away very rapidly if not frozen (or buried in a low oxygen environment like a peat bog). That leather and wood artifacts have survived in the Schnidejoch pass since very early times shows that the pass has been ice covered for most, if not all of that period. Certainly it has not been icefree for more than a month in that time. Therefore, the evidence of the Schnidejoch pass is quite unequivocal that this is the warmest period in that region in at least 5 thousand years.

      These facts are not hard to discover – in fact they amount to simple common sense. Of course, if your sense is not that common, it was also clearly stated in the original report of the Schnidejoch artifacts. But though the facts of the Schnidejoch pass are unequivocal in their evidentiary value; they are easily spun for those for whom the conclusion is more important than the evidence. And hence turn up again and again as proof that AGW denialism is a close intellectual cousin to young earth creationism.

      • David L. Hagen

        Tom –
        Try a few more than “a few moment’s thought” and read the article:

        However it was still hotter in the third millennium BC. At that time the temperatures in the Swiss Alps were up to two degrees over the today’s. The timber line had climbed substantially, the glacier zone began only at 2700 meters. </blockquote
        Timberlines to rise from cold.

        it is quite unequivocal that this is the warmest period in that region in at least 5 thousand years.

        You’re fixated on Mann’s hockeystick. For contrary evidence, see Don Easterbrook’s review of the wide range of ancient temperatures – warmer and colder.
        For critique of Hockey Stick Studies, see

      • First, specifically referencing the temperature in 3000 BC, the age of the first find in Schnidejoch, does not show the temperature to have been greater at any time in the intervening period in that region. As I indicated, the evidence from Schnidejoch in unequivocal that that has not been the case.

        Second, the data from treelines show them to have been up to 180 meters higher in the alps than at present more than 5,500 years ago. That represents a peak sustained temperature in that region approximately 1.08 degrees than that in approx 1985, or approx .8 degrees above the present global average, not the two degrees that you claim. The reason it is an indication of mean temperature in the 80’s rather than 2003 is that trees do not grow overnight, so treelines do not respond instantaneously to warming.

        Third, even those figures are probably over estimates of early Holocene temperatures. Milankovic cycles has reduced summer insolation relative to winter insolation in the Northern Hemisphere since the Holocene Climactic Optimum. Consequently, it probably requires a higher annual average temperature today to achieve the same degree of summer ice melt, and tree growth than it did 5,000 years ago.

        Fourth, that indicates the HCO had temperatures below the 2 degree increase that is the commonly accepted level beyond which we can expect dangerous climate change. Looking to the last time that the Earth did have temperatures warmer than that 2 degree increase we muct go back to the Eemian. Durring the Eemian, sea levels were at least 3 meters higher than currently. That means, by the way, that the current consensus is that a 3 meter increase in sea level is not dangerous – a view point that seems not so much alarmist as wildly optomistic.

      • This is an amazing exchange.

  28. “What constitutes ‘dangerous’ climate change?”

    It really depends on who you ask and what their background is and why they choose to use the term. The scientist will have twenty-one definitions and tell you ‘X’ twenty-one different ways. The environmentalist will have their fourty-two definitions and tell you ‘Y’ just as many ways. The inner-city socialoist will tell you ‘Z’ as many ways as there is time to tell you. The politician will tell you whatever you want to hear.

    In so many cases, in as many ways, it all depends on who you are and who you’re speaking to. It’s so very ill-defined. Really.

  29. Kevin McGrane

    Unfortunately, the Royal Society (the national academy of science in UK) produced a briefing paper entitled “Preventing dangerous climate change”.


    They avoid the whole problem of defining what is ‘dangerous’ by making two statements in the body of the text:

    “There is no such thing as ‘safe’ climate change.”

    “Any level of climate change will be dangerous”

    This is abundantly clear and leaves no wiggle room – the proposition has been expressed in its positive and negative forms.

    Though this comes from a supposedly august body of scientists, I fail to see how anyone reading this cannot see it for what it is: ignorant drivel. If climate change is by definition always dangerous then the world has always been in danger whether the climate changes have natural or anthropogenic causes. This devalues the meaning of the term ‘dangerous climate change’ to something practically useless.

    • Yes, indeed, Kevin, the statements, . . .

      “There is no such thing as ‘safe’ climate change.”

      “Any level of climate change will be dangerous”

      . . . are pure propaganda; Ignorant drivel!

      Truth itself is “dangerous” to the UK Royal Society (RS) and the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

      Any child of ordinary intelligence quickly grasp that:

      a.) Earth’s climate has always changed, if shown the geologic record, and

      b.) Earth’s heat source is not a ball of H, if told that this assumes the Sun’s interior is the same as the top of the Sun’s atmosphere – 91% H and 9% He, the lightest and next lightest elements, respectively.

      The “new science” of RS and the NAS bear a remarkable resemblance to the Emperor’s new suit in Hans Christian Andersen tale:


      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • David L. Hagen

      Re: Royal Society’s

      “There is no such thing as ‘safe’ climate change.”
      “Any level of climate change will be dangerous”

      That is equivalent to saying:
      “Life is never safe”
      “Everything you do is dangerous.”

      That is professional negligence of their task to exemplify “dangerous climate change”, which in turn should focus on “global warming” from anthropogenic CO2.

  30. I wonder how the line is being drawn to measure what is deemed “dangerous”. Perhaps there could be a campaign to cool the Earth enough to enable woolly mammoths to roam the South Downs of England again or a campaign to warm the Earth so enabling the hippopotamus to reclaim the banks of the Thames as they did in a previous interglacial?

  31. stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change,

    Unfortunately the Lamarkian inference here is constrained by theory.This is well known as evolution eg Darwin 1859.

    A good example is Henderiks and Rickaby 2007

    Abstract. An urgent question for future climate, in light of
    increased burning of fossil fuels, is the temperature sensitivity
    of the climate system to atmospheric carbon dioxide
    (pCO2). To date, no direct proxy for past levels of pCO2 exists
    beyond the reach of the polar ice core records. We propose
    a new methodology for placing a constraint on pCO2
    over the Cenozoic based on the physiological plasticity of
    extant coccolithophores. Specifically, our premise is that the
    contrasting calcification tolerance1 of various extant species
    of coccolithophore to raised pCO2 reflects an “evolutionary
    memory” of past atmospheric composition. The different
    times of evolution of certain morphospecies allows an upper
    constraint of past pCO2 to be placed on Cenozoic timeslices.
    Further, our hypothesis has implications for the response of
    marine calcifiers to ocean acidification. Geologically “ancient”
    species, which have survived large changes in ocean
    chemistry, are likely more resilient to predicted acidification….

    …The high proportion of duplicate genes
    within plant and algae genomes is indicative of a high rate
    of retention of duplicate genes (Lynch and Connery, 2000).
    Gene duplications contribute to the establishment of new
    gene functions, and may underlie the origin of evolutionary
    novelty. Duplicate genes can exist stably in a partially redundant
    state over a protracted evolutionary period (Moore
    and Purugganan, 2005). A half-life to silencing and loss of
    a plant gene duplicate is estimated at 23.4 million years such
    that remnant duplicate genes, which can be reactivated by
    environmental conditions to encode calcification within coccolithophores
    under “ancestral” conditions representative of
    60 Ma, appears reasonable.

  32. Any level of climate change will be deemed dangerous if it can be used to justify why 5 Billion must not aspire to our lifestyle.

    Once you accept the ideology, the science becomes a necessary hindrance.

  33. I support a bottom up approach to climate distruption adaptation in opposition to “Precautionary” mitigation behavior propositions since the bottom up analysis will include the “Opportunity Lost Cost” calculation. I find the waste of resources in doing something that does nothing to change what you want to change, as dangerous. Exploring the unknown with pilot studies is fruitless unless there is an implicity commitment to fund/carry out the larger study that will provide definition and clarification. No use ending your paper with ” this pilot study suggests the need for further study” and then not doing that further study. So: 1) there is a cost to doing something which includes one being wrong; 2) don’t do things half-heartedly. Commitment, integrety, accountability, transperancy and all that stuff.

  34. Dear Dr. Tol
    While I will agree that the EPA has a mandate, it is only to declare something dangerous. But that indeed requires the agency to ‘find something to be dangerous’ – a question, the EPA in a moment of weakness has outsourced to the IPCC.

    The EPA’s defense of its endangerment finding, has been childish and threadbare to the extreme – for the simple reason that it has now been forced to defend an argument that does not originate from its own work.

    In the flipside, the cleverness and genius in this approach of the EPA has to be congratulated. But relying on the IPCC, even a weak to moderate argument can defend the IPCC of its catastrophic predictions and errors, and once that is done, the endangerment – the act of finding danger in the climate can syllogistically be reinstated or propped up.

    “IPCC right, all objections explained, therefore climate is dangerous” – this is the path we are in track now.

    The EPA has neatly sidestepped the argument of why climate change is dangerous, yet makes rulings based on finding it so. Pure genius indeed.

  35. It may be acceptable for campaigning organisations to indulge in alarmism and rhetoric, but extremely saddening and depressing to watch aghast as the venerable institution the Royal Society, by historic repute, all elite scientists, gamble the hard-earned respect earned by the pioneering discoveries of their predecessors away in such reckless political advocacy. It will take much more than rewriting their climate change webpage to do that. Probablythe lost respect is now permanent. I regret it, as I do similar self destruction of respect for the BBC, but thats life. Political advocacy really is a malignant virus.

    • You are right, Richard,

      The US NAS and the UK RS perhaps imagined that science might receive better funding if they endorsed cherished policies of politicians, but public support for all sciences is now in danger.

  36. Very many of our governers have been sold on the precautionary principle which does not require evidence in order to make and implement policy.
    This is a major stumbling block in the debate because the PC advocates do not need to be convinced by the science as it is almost errelevent. How is that mind set going to change.

  37. I am continuously amazed by the hubris of climate alarmists. They promote a costly and destructive political agenda, to decarbonize the production and use of energy based upon scenarios of catastrophic injury to the biosphere. Their hypothesis indicates that we are in jeopardy if the atmospheric CO2 level increases by 10% above the current 390 ppm. Their solution is to reduce CO2 levels to 350 ppm by shifting to energy sources that have zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

    Their plan is preposterous for several reasons. It presumes that, even though we barely understand the workings of some facets of our climate system and are ignorant about the rest, climate change can be geo-engineered by decarbonizing energy sources. Also, they presume that energy technologies needed to achieve their goals exists or will be invented soon. Finally, given that climate is chaotic, “dangerous changes” are inherent. Ice ages are disastrous, but their is little evidence of past harm to life during warm periods.

    “Dangerous climate change” is an outcome. Those advocating zero
    CO2 emissions from energy production in order to prevent and/or mitigate climate change, claim to have proved that anthropogenic CO2 emissions is the primary climate forcing cause of warming. Assuming for purpose of discussion that CO2 is the culprit, then both the safe high and low limits of these emissions must be determined so that public policies that promote viable solutions can be formulated. The downside is that we don’t know whether reduced CO2 levels could be more dangerous than increased amounts.

    I am not aware of any research that indicates the minimum safe level of atmospheric CO2 below which damage to the biosphere occurs. We know that in the past the biosphere has prospered in an atmosphere containing 10 times more CO2 (3,900 ppm) than current levels. Climate reconstructions using proxies indicate that the lowest level of atmospheric CO2 known is in the 200-250 ppm range. It follows that the biosphere tolerates atmospheric CO2 in range of 250 ppm to 3,900 ppm.

    Intuitively, it seems that we are closer to the minimum safe condition below which life will suffer than to conditons that could produce extreme climate that also endangers the biosphere. Moreover, the fear that extreme climate will result from slight increases in atmospheric CO2 is based upon hypothetical scenarios from climate models. Historical and empirical evidence supporting this hypothesis is absent.

    Those alarmed by increasing CO2 emissions want shift energy production to non-carbon fuels by 2050 at a cost of trillions of dollars and significant decrease in standard of living in developed nations. Before committing economic suicide, we need assurances the alarmists’ proposed changes pose a danger to the biosphere.

    Proposed energy policies cannot work without real participation from China, India and Brazil. Todays Wall Street Journal contains an article that quantifies the discussion:
    “China committed last year to cut carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by at least 40% from 2005 levels by 2020, and Chinese officials plan to enshrine that pledge into their 12th five-year economic plan, the country’s economic blueprint set to start in 2011.

    Activists say these actions have given China greater stature in the talks, while the U.S. has lost credibility after failing to move on climate legislation. The two countries account for a combined 40% of world emissions of carbon dioxide.

    But China’s failures are also drawing attention. China is struggling to meet a goal of increasing energy efficiency 20% by the end of 2010 from 2005 levels.
    And despite its efforts, carbon emissions are soaring so fast that some analysts say that by 2030 China will have emitted more carbon in total than the U.S. ever had in history.”


    China, despite conciliatory comments, has a 200 year supply of dirty brown coal. They have to use every ton plus importing vast quantities of coal and petroleum to produce their energy needed for manufacturing, transportation, and improving standards of living. If China’s existing government fails to do so its people will replace it.

    As readers can tell I am not a scientist, but I believe that my comments are based upon sound logic and critical analysis. If I am wrong, explain why.

  38. The basic dilemma is that there is insufficient acknowledgement that our climate, during the ascendancy of modern mankind, is geologically atypical, and inevitably transient. Still within a relative warm interstadial of a debilitating ice age, inevitably of limited duration. The physiology of all the diverse phyla, classes and genera of life developed in significantly warmer prevailing conditions with much higher CO2 levels, only recently, in the Quaternary, thrown into the grips of oscillating high latitude glaciation and sealevel. We are only now the successful colonisers of all latitudes due to efficient exploitation of food production, fuel supported thermal and energy resources, build environment technology and the complex social societies capable of managing trading and distributing essentials.

    No one knows whether we are in for natural termination of the ice age era, or (much more likely) yet another glacial advance.

    So. my main point, we are getting in a tizz about trivial anthropogenic climate risks when the real fearsome power of natural change hangs over humanity like the Sword of Damocles. We will survive, through ingenuity and industry, not by arrogantly assuming we have the power to moderate climate. At all. And if we are able to predict natural change, lets do it, and that means concentrating climate research on natural mechanisms and drivers.

    • David L. Hagen

      Don Easterbrook et al. show good graphics of recent and ancient heating/cooling trends.

      During the past century, glacial fluctuations record global climate changes that correlate with sea surface temperature changes. Four distinct periods of climate, two warming and two cooling, occurred: a cool period from 1880 to about 1915; a warm period from about 1915 to about 1945; a cool period from about 1945 to 1977; and a warm period from 1977 to 1998. Global cooling has occurred since 1999. These warm/cool periods correspond almost exactly to sea surface temperature changes (the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and glacier advance and retreat. Twenty three earlier, cyclic, warm/cool periods of 25–30 years duration are recorded by glacier fluctuations, historic records, and changes in the 18O/16O isotope ratios in the Greenland ice cores since 1500 AD. 96% of global warming periods in the past 500 years could not have been the result of increase atmospheric CO2 because significant rising of CO2 emissions did not occur until after 1945. . . .The pattern of Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO) during the past century matches each of the four global climate periods―each time the PDO has been warm, the global climate has been warm and each time the PDO has been cool, the global climate has been cool. The warm PDO of 1977–1998 turned cool in 1999 and satellite thermal imagery shows that it has become entrenched, assuring at least three decades of global cooling. Time will test this prediction.

  39. David L. Hagen

    Eco-terrorism and Eco-fascism are two dangers of climate change.

    Blow Me Up, Blow Me Down

    What do we do with people who do not wish to join in the climate protection movement propagated upon us by environmental activists and politicians? You just blow them up and justify it by claiming these few non-conformists are nothing when compared to the 300,000 people who have supposedly already died because of climate change so far. For this number there is no scientific basis, just climate models.


  40. As the dangers listed have all been documented prior to the advent of industrial levels of emissions, it seems that we are talking about quantities, not qualities, of risk.

    No ‘new’ risks are cited, such as increased vulnerability to asteroid strikes or tectonic subsidence. We are left with the task then of estimating pre-AGW incidence of these phenomena and calculating what level of increase poses a threat to human… what? Existence? Optimum happingess? Economic development?

    Sounds like more of a job for accountants.

  41. Dr. Curry:

    Considering NASA is a major contributor to most of this stuff about global warming (though we may refer to climate change, disruption, etc., we always talk about the hot end, don’t we). I must ask:

    Houston, do we have a problem? That is. Do we have a Deviation that is Undesireable with Unknown Cause.


    Do we have a deviation? Is the climate warming, cooling, changing or the same? This is entirely a statistical question. I would suggest that: No one knows.

    If there is a deviation, is it undesireable? This is entirely subjective. I suspect that, in isolation, the residents of Whitehorse might not consider global warming to be undesireable. Also, is it proven that increased temperatures imply increased deleterious effects in general?

    Do we know the cause?

    Well, assuming that we can identify a deviation (and M and M may dispute that there is a deviation), the cause is not necessarily known. Is it CO2, reduced SO2, reduced particulates? How certain are we that IFF there is increased CO2, THEN we have increased temperature? Certainly, Modtran models support that. (On a totally off topic note, what is the relationship between MODTRAN and HITRAN? I honestly don’t know, but I suspect it may be a pin poised in front of my favourite balloon.)

    At this time, I would humbly posit that we do NOT have a problem. We don’t know if there really is a deviation, we do NOT know if the deviation is undesireable and even if there is a deviation, we are not entirely certain of the cause.

    Of course I could be wrong. Often am.


  42. No mention that a warming climate might not be a bad thing. How odd. Would everyone feel better if it was cooling down.

    A simple questions that AGW prometer can’t answer well. And a simple question that most everybody can understand. And a clue as to why most folk just aren’t ready to buy.

    • Andrew Dodds

      No, it’s simple to answer.

      All human infrastructure – cities, ports, transportation, etc – are built around the current hydrosphere. So cities are placed where there is a reliable water supply; ports are at sea level; transportation links are above sea level; and farmland is generally planted according to climatic zone.

      So a major climate change – involving a significant change in rainfall patterns and a couple of meters sea level rise – has the potential to render a fair chunk of human cities uninhabitable fo one reason or another, as well as having potentially disastrous effects on crop yields as farmers struggle to work out what they should plant.

      Note that a significant climate cooling, with falling sea levels, would be nearly as bad, although at least out infrastructure would remain above water.

      Is that complete enough? Essentially, the consequences of climate change promise to be far more costly than the transition to a nuclear/electric/synthetic economy, especially given that this transition has to happen at some point.

      • You don’t have family connections to real farmers do you?
        There is always a question as to what is the best crop to plant, and how to schedule the rotation patterns for best yields over the next 3 to 4 years.
        The seed purchase/delivery system is rather flexible from year to year, and quite often is the weather shifts dramatically in early spring and the corn crop drowns out in low lying areas, there is still time to plant a short season crop of soy beans in the same ground. (some of my neighbors did that this last spring).

        Usually it takes quite a change in total rainfall to drop the resultant yield more than 50%, lots of irrigated crop land is reserved for those crops that might need to be watered to make a good harvest, normally that crop choice varies from year to year as the weather shifts around naturally.

        This over all resultant flexibility from state to state, just allows the type of crop planted to shift to the most optimal locations, no complicated government intervention needed, just farmers talking at morning coffee in front of the overhead TV weather forecast. Or chatting with the silo and train car loaders of the harvested crops, and seed supplier at the local coop elevators, whom are hooked up to state of the art satellite forecasts and hourly up dates of agricultural news and commodity prices.

        It isn’t like we are all ignorant of the outside world, and can’t adapt on as quick as a weekly basis, in response to weather and crop growing condition changes as they happen world wide. Not to mention at the farm home PC stations on satellite high speed connections just like the city dwellers have for their individual needs.

        It is time to learn that the rest of the world is not as stupid as you perceive your local neighbors to be. Try not isolating your self from other real people, watching sports on the tube, MSM news crap, and sucking up all of the advertising BS.

      • Richard, I am very interested in how weather/climate forecasts on timescales of weeks to months can support agricultural decision making. I would be interested in any sources of info that you have on time horizon of varying decisions that farmers make. We have been working with farmers in South Asia, and a key horizon for them is 20-30 days.

      • There has been recent focus on solar influences on weather, the give and take of solar cycles is being debated. Where the mainstream meteorologists have gone wrong with modeling is that they are ignoring the Moon and it’s myriad interacting tidal periods.

        The diurnal tides as the moon passes over head, affects the surges in precipitation rates, and it’s interaction as the light phase shifts causes these effects to vary across the time of day.

        Some of the Lunar studies done in the past with the best signal to noise ratios, were in regard to precipitation rates related to sun/moon rise and set time, and the time of day of rainfall occurrence.

        Where the lunar cyclic studies in the past went wrong was the dependence on light phase focus. The actual most effective indicators of lunar effects on the weather are due to the Declinational tides as the Moon moves North / South in the 27.32 day cycle in phase with the rotation of the magnetic poles of the sun. In other words the varying magnetic polarity of the solar wind is actually driving the Earth and moon individual centers of mass above / below the ecliptic plane formed by system’s barycenter position.

        This inductive movement results in the driving of the meridional flow structure of the atmosphere, that creates and maintains the Rossby waves and the jet streams that form along the areas of fastest flow as a result of the surges in the pumping of equatorial air masses into the mid latitudes, pressing against the polar out flows and their combining to produce the modulation of the resultant tidal bulges as they propagate around the global circulation patterns in a four fold pattern. Details @


        Due to the long term trends of the 18.6 year pattern of min max culmination angle changes from 18.5 degrees to 28.7 degrees either side of the equator, for an included angle just short of 60 degrees, these driven patterns form cyclic repeats in the movement of frontal systems that account for more than 80% of the background variability in the weather and climate.

        By finding these natural analogs and filtering the past three cycles of patterns to synchronize the declinational, phase, perigee apogee cycles along with the electromagnetic solar wind effects driven from the inner planets I have devised the above method of plotting the expected repeats of the cyclic patterns, that account for the real drivers of the weather patterns to the resultant combination of the data from the past cycles generates an analog signal that can be used as a forecast, for this cycle.

        Were it not for the disturbances in the electromagnetic flux in the flows of the solar wind strength, created by the occurrence of Synod conjunctions of the Earth with the outer planets, this inner planet / Lunar pattern would be 95% accurate. However with the every 12 to 13 month influences by the outer planets causing the most notable 6 to 10 day long, surges in global tropical and mid-latitude cyclone generation and intensity, more work still needs to be done.

        Posted in the above link is the number of days to shift each cycle of the past “dates of data for input” into the resultant analog, (with a check to see how the leap year date progression affects the actual date of the forecast needed two out of four years.)

        If you just apply the process to the data history, this will produce for you the patterns of the times of droughts, and major floods, you would need to plug into the models you are using to fine tune the one to two week forward windows of time they now fall apart in, that could be easily extended to a couple of years.

        I have helped my local neighbors plan crop rotations, dry land planting of corn, or milo, soybeans or wheat, best years for Alfalfa or grass, hay production and best times for cutting bailing of hay, for over 15 years now, most of them (that will listen to me) now operate way in the black, and are out of debt.

        The forecast method is simple, put all raw daily data into tables one file for each parameter followed, per each past date for the total area wanted to cover. Then pull up the files for the three cyclic dates of past data for the forecast date in question, form composite grid, plot map, post to server, pull up data for next / repeat till forecast period up to 18 years is covered. Store and print as needed, if I can be of more detailed assistance let me know, I am retired and can travel, if my travel and per diem expenses can be covered, by requester.

      • Almost forgot to answer your basic question about which parameters I find important to give a forecast that is usable.

        Soil temperature, and moisture profiles, first and last frost potentials, humidity and rain fall potentials during critical periods, and of speed of the changes in soil moisture, can be critical to seed sprouting and emergence timing, corn silking for good ear filling, wheat and rice frost sensitivity in early or late growth stages, wind speeds and conditions for pollinators, excessive soil moisture at planting, cultivating, or harvest times that cause disruptions that result in crop loss or edibility.

        Periods of excessive rain fall that can compact heavy soils just after planting causing soy beans to snap off their tops that becomes trapped in the rapidly hardening clay the next day if sunny and windy, wheat falling over just before harvest causes losses, hail is one of the many problems in crop damage, being produced , both at midsummer for the solar declinational peak culmination, and by rapid non turbulent meridional air flows, just a couple days before and as the lunar declinational peak culmination occurs, before the shear that produces tornadoes, starts the next four days, then an increase in hail again as the cold front presses down the back side of the tidal bulge, behind the turbulent flow for a couple more days.

        Wheat harvest planning is complicated by the result of the genetic process of selection of the parent genes that were selected to be planted by two processes in nature, when almost ripe the grains stays moist for up to two weeks, hoping to be ready for hail to drive it into the soil where it needs to not yet be dormant so it can survive the quicker soil drying times seen at midsummer. The other natural opportunity for good sprouting conditions, is during the winter early spring, when covered by heavy snow that is slowly melting, can rehydrate the dried dormant grain to allow spouting.

        So as a result of the genetically selected responce to changes in atmospheric humidity and tempertures, the planing of wheat harvest is always complicated by the natural syncronization of the “too moist to cut yet stage” and natural arrival of the annual hail patterns of production.

        In nature there is no chaos only periotic cycles and adaption to them. Calendars are a man made thing, natural patterns resulting from cyclic patterns of nature do not follow the days of the months, or the weeks of the year, although it does seem to rain on weekends alot.

      • Thank you!

      • Arizona, California, New Mexico, all have cities which violate your rule except for modern technologies making the difference.
        All of them have cities that have grown due to the impact of water technology, not nature. And they have grown up, in many cases, in just a few decades. Certainly more quickly than any but the science fictions versions of AGW would have sea levels change.
        By the way, you might find it illuminating to find out how high much of Boston San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, New Orleans, and other seaside or low lying Cities have climbed above water levels, and how quickly they have done it.
        One of the interesting corollaries of the AGW movement is that somehow human infrastructure is static and do not change over time. A large amount of historical illiteracy is required to believe it.
        What is required to sell the idea over and over?
        You should revisit you assertions.

      • David L. Hagen

        How about some data?
        CO2 and Crop Yields

        The average global combined crop yield has increased 229% from 1400 kg/ha to 3200 kg/ha while CO2 increased 15% from 312 ppm to 360 ppm. And we have a problem? Especially when we have more mouths to feed?

        Obviously there are other factors involved that have to be sorted out, including hybrid/genetic improvement, irrigation etc. For a quantitative review of evidence ignored by IPCC and since then, see:
        Ch 7 Biological Effects of Carbon Dioxide Enrichment

        Yet “global warming” over this period did NOT reduce crop yields! There will be a lot more mouths to feed over the next generation. Increasing crop yields through higher CO2 will go along way towards keeping people from starving.

  43. Andrew,

    Your comment provides another clue.

    Fair and honest accountings of risks resonates with the public. Scary stories about worst case scenarios don’t – we could be bashed by a meteorite at any second, I’m not overlly fused about that.

    Regarding farming. If warming occurs mostly at high latitudes, mostly in the winter, and mostly at night; and if (as I’ve read) precipitation increases. Farmers will have more rain falling over longer growing seasons, expanded crop ranges, and free fertilizer – hardly a bad thing.

    BTW, you do know that cities don’t grow their own food?

  44. David L. Hagen

    Another major danger of “climate change” is anthropogenic manipulation of public funding to benefit a few with consequent harm to the poor by neglect.

    e.g., D. Patterson highlights the prevalence of scientific fraud.

    When billions of dollars are being spent, does that not constitute a measurably powerful financial “attractor”? What then when $65 trillion are proposed to ameliorate the alleged anthropogenic causes?

  45. David L. Hagen

    Another component of “dangerous climate change” is amplified hubris arising from precise projections by enormously complex climate models.

    cf projections of solar cooling during the “waning” portion of a solar cycle.

    “But, contrary to expectation, radiation in the visible part of the energy spectrum increased, rather than declined, which caused a warming effect.”


  46. The question that has not been answered, unless I missed it, is this:
    What is dangerous climate change, or the latest branding, ‘global cliamte disruption’?

  47. Its a very interesting question and I hope were not going to get the usual uninteresting commentary! I think I made a suggestion on your framing tab as far as one approach to this question. But I have a very big problem with your list of putative dangers which seem to me very speculative or worse, a kind of science fiction.
    OT But is it strange that we, who live in the safest, most comfortable, most environmental nice (park etc), at the same time most cultivated world (look anywhere in the UK landscape – there is no ‘wilderness’, now, that has been created as such, oh dear, the birds don’t sing!) now worry about the so called environment? Isn’t it beyond boredom extraordinary that we continue to invent ‘possible’ nightmares because we sleep so safe at night? Aren’t there a number (a great number!) of questions that we ourselves should ask to ourselves? For instance, and just as a starter(!), what does it mean to be in this new, big world? Do we really ‘understand’ what ‘others’ want? For instance, perhaps they want ‘global warming’? Or not? Let’s hear from them, please and if we can!

  48. Sorry, Dr Curry, I said ‘your’ list of putative dangers but they weren’t ‘yours’, of course. Sorry!

  49. Sorry, Dr Curry (you realise I don’t know how to address you?) there are to many questions and not enough answers – for instance, I have a TV ( unfortunately) which has involved manufacture and transport – now,that means employment and development but at the same time ghgs – how should one balance this? For instance, if I have a coffee (never latte – can’t stand the nonsense!) I am, tenuously, giving employ to thousands who would otherwise be in dire poverty? Where do we balance this? Lets say grand ‘Kapital’ gives employ to all? Do we want that? Perhaps I’d rather be a bum than ‘working’ for the man’?
    What I’m saying is, all these questions should be asked before we can ‘assume’ what is ‘best’ for the world – who knows, we might want the ‘dangers’ promised by ‘climate change’?

  50. It occures to me to suggest, at this late date in the discussion, that the use of “dangerous” is counterproductive and inappropriate vis-a-vis the science of climate change. That, from the scientific perspective, “dangerous” is arbitrary and essentially meaningless.

    To offer a list of studied, calculated, scientifically-highly-probable impacts based upon so-and-so various changes, plus and minus this or that, is certainly appropriate. To characterize them as “good” or “bad, “beneficial” or “dangerous”, seems rather, well, somehow rather unscientific.

    Say what?

    • Pascvaks,
      I Think that is the ‘moment’ of discussion. But the answer, apparently, is the so called ‘rate-of-change’.We cannot adjust too fast! O well

      PS Thanks for reminding me how to write ‘ vis-a-vis ‘!

  51. If I was to say I want ‘desertification, hurricanes and any disaster’ you can give me a shove’ rightly, I’d be laughed at. But if, in my little corner of the world, it made my square of land more productive then the last laugh would be on you. It is only latterly that we have become ‘global’ and for most people it means very little. It mean as much as the concern of a very unproductive Bowie growing old in New York city vis a vie an Indian farmer cutting ‘mother earth’ and going home to his wife and children and then praying to his god for fecundity.

  52. Pascvaks, I think I can be very precise about what is ‘danger’ – unexpected and rapped change. If, for instance, over a century, the temperature barely creeps up over an degree, that ain’t rapid. But, allegedly, there are such things as ‘tipping points’ – complete and utter fictions, but ‘it sounds right’. So, in the future (putative) we can expect all kinds of wonders! So what?

  53. Ok let us define ‘danger’ as meaning ‘rapid and unexpected change’. What does this mean? I mean for each of us in our particular world? For instance, the ‘end of the world’ flooding of London will not affect me (I live near Cumbria) immediately but, mediately, it probably will have a massive affect. Strangle this can work the opposite way – for instance, let us say, ‘climate change’ makes a particular area more fecund!
    So, what we’re talking about is something not ‘science fiction’, not Bradbury, but real. Or are we? For instance, are these changes to happen now (obviously not) or in our future

  54. I’m sorry, Pascvaks, I was a little to fast on the draw and didn’t appreciate what you were saying. But, in a sense, in that post, I think your saying what I’m saying:
    I) No scientist can be involved in deciding what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (which is your point, I think, in essence)
    2)Even if we decided some ‘things’ (lazy speak!) had a ‘negative’ impact how is this measured? It can’t be (my argument)

  55. So, in fact, we have two different arguments! Never mind.

  56. Isn’t it ironic that you and I , Pk, chase the tail of this fireless dragon? That JC began with such hopes and cured herself of them so quickly? It was a ‘curing’ of her blog problem? And, also, turning our gaze away a litle how banal people are? I can imagine dear old ( sorry!? I meant young!) Judy, with her cup of coffee (bad for you NA – try assam) looking absolutely askance at this , how shall we put it, ‘dirty bomb’ she had to explode? Ask McIntyre, who is so bored that he’d rather not lift a finger – ask anyone, who is truly interested in science, what it means to keep a blog? Judith must have thought about all this but the reality is much different? Anyway, I feel for Her.

    • I’m wrong, Dr Curry, as usual. It was just one thread (I forget which) where the commentary came across as particularly banal. I think your getting a hang of this and starting to get some commentary of a high order. It encourages me to think our so called ‘climate wars’ may yet be a passing phase. Well done and keep it up!

  57. In case you haven’t spotted this, the latest “top down” analysis is a recent National Academies report entitled “Climate stabilization analysis: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millenia”


  58. OK Judith, I’ve read the reviews but the book would cost more than my yearly wage – give us a precis.
    You haven’t understood my point – no matter how bad things might be, mankind will adjust. Is that not true? Ie the so called ‘dangers’ are merely opportunities?

  59. An ice-age constitutes dangerous climate change.

  60. Howard is the first person to make a definitive answer to the request for a definition or example of ‘dangerous cliamte change’.
    Any others?

  61. I hate to be a harbinger of doom, but we actually are in an ice age, albeit an interglacial. So we live in dangerous times, or so the experts would have us believe

  62. Should this not be broken down into

    1) Dangerous climate change – Natural…

    Is it happening, what should we do to adapt, etc,etc
    Are the natural processes bigger drivers of climate than AGW, (ie aGW)
    Will it warm, how does warm actually translate into weather, regionally, etc.
    Are we going to COOL for the next few decades, possibilties (precautionary principle, surely would apply whether cool/warm – we just need to do DIFFERENT/opposite things to adapt, need to choose) tricky that.

    2) Dangerous climate change – man made
    Reducing co2 emmision ,etc. instead of adapting, etc

    If 1) instead of 2) we may be in a lot of trouble…

    and the ‘precautionary principle’, often touted by the ‘warmists’ MUST apply, to all possibilities in 1)

  63. This was posted on another one of Judy’s threads also.
    Well Judy: after a little over a month do you think that you’re any closer to an answer to the Internal question ‘Does the ‘greenhouse gas effect” exist? Does Mann-made global warming” exist? Is climate change actually happening?
    Having lived in the Great Lakes Region for 71 years-more than 25000 days,I missed a few as a baby,I can assure you that “climate change” is a figment of politicians imaginations.
    Definitions of the Climate Discussion
    What is Climate?
    Definition:A few thousand weather days end to end for a specific location.
    How many climates are there in the world?
    Every part of the country and the world has a unique climate -the south of France, the North slope of Alaska, the heart of Africa, the northeast Great Lakes region of the US ,the north of Italy, the south of Italy,thousands of different climates etc.
    What is weather?
    The atmospheric conditions where you are.
    Can mankind control the weather?
    We have tried for thousands of years from the Indian rainmaker, to the cloud seeders of the 1950-60. Man can not control the weather, then how the hell can man be controlling the climate. This whole B.S of MANN-made global warming is a fairy tale.
    What example do you have that the world is experiencing climate change?
    Does the freezing to death of hundreds of thousands of lambs in a spring snow storm in New Zealand,-worst in 26 years prove Climate change?
    Does last years coldest winter in 50 years in Russia and 100 years in China,and the prediction that this winter will be the coldest in 1000 years,prove “Climate change”?
    As John Stausal says-“Give me a break!”

    • May I join in the chorus in disagreeing with this message. I believe Dr Curry is wrong to support CAGW. However, the way I hope she can be convinced of this is by proper scientific discourse. Plain, dignified, and objective. Dr. Curry seems to be providing a wonderful venue where both sides of the issue of CAGW can be discussed as I have indicated. Please let us keep this blog up the the high standards which it seems to have achieved initially.

  64. You question is, cleanwater2 , ridiculous and, therefore, Judy has nothing to answer. It’s a kind of rhetorical distraction which just waists our time. Please stop it.

  65. To make that more explicit, you already know what Judith Curry’s opinions are on this, she has not been unforthcoming, and to keep harrasing her with nonsense questions is just stupid. Go to real Climate or WUWT if that’s your taste. This place, and I’m with Judy here, is for thinking, pure thinking!

  66. # Lewis Deane | October 7, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Reply : “This place is for thinking, pure thinking!”

    Fair enough, but kindly be consequent. What sense does it makes to ask: what constitutes “dangerous” climate change, if a reasonable scientific definition for CLIMATE is not given. The UNFCCC has none, but only defines “climate change” and “climate system”, which is a laugh but not serious, as explained here: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b202-open-letter.html

    Trying to compensate the deficiencies of UNFCCC with the WMO definition that: “..in a narrow sense Climate is usually defined as the “average weather…” ( details here: http://www.wmo.int/pages/themes/climate/understanding_climate.php ), is a useless exercise either, if nothing is said about the meaning of “weather”. WMO offers nothing, and AMS Glossary says
    ____The “present weather” table consists of 100 possible conditions,
    ____with 10 possibilities for “past weather”, while
    _____Popularly, weather is thought of in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind.
    (In detail discussed at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b206_need_to_talk_July_2010.html )

    As soon as “climate” would be defined in scientific relevant and clear manner, it would presumably not be to difficult to discuss with some success what constitutes: dangerous changes.

    • In the Climate Fix, Roger Pielke Jr. points out the great policy and communication problems that have been caused over confusion in definition of “climate change.” The UNFCCC is clearly referring to anthropogenic climate change, whereas the IPCC WGI is referring to all causes (natural plus anthro), with some confusion in WGII. Most of the actual “danger” (apart from the slow creep of sea level rise) is probably associated with extreme weather events (e.g. floods, droughts, hurricanes), which further muddies the issue.

      • Roger Pielke Jr is one of the few, together with his father, who paid attention to the definition issue, e.g. 2005, “Misdefining ‘‘climate change’’: consequences for science and action”; in: Environmental Science & Policy , No 8. p.548–561, which has been discussed at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/e510-roger-pielke-jr-misdefining-climate-change.html .
        Concerning the correctly drawn distinction between UNFCCC (anthro-CC) and IPCC (natural plus anthro) there is no difference with regard to CLIMATE. Both lack proper definitions. Neither approach offers a definition which meets minimum academic standards. Instead, science use a layman’s term, including the IPCC in FAQ 1.2.: “Climate is generally defined as average weather”.
        http://www.whatisclimate.com/b206_need_to_talk_July_2010.html The problem is that it explains nothing, neither scientifically nor legally. (more here: http://www.whatisclimate.com/legal-means-for-understanding-the-marine-and-climatic-change-issue.html

        Indeed the all-inclusive approach (natural plus anthro) by IPCC WGI should receive more attention. In a mere footnote and without a legal mandate the IPCC raises matter beyond the “ultimate objective” of the UNFCCC (Art.2) which is: “a stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” State Parties have to formulate their climate policy on the basis of this convention. The unilateral approach by IPCC WGI is unfortunate, and at least affects clarity and transparency.
        Discussion as this one are very much needed. Thanks.

  67. Perhaps NASA is going to discover natural climate variability.

    NASA just announced that 2011 will be The Year of the Solar System!


    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  68. I am looking forward to a proponent that we are facing a global climate disruption caused by CO2 to post some specifics of what we will be facing in this dangerous climate change.

  69. As in many such things, in addition to the touchy feely stuff there is a real physical answer that could make large regions uninhabitable, not tomorrow, but coming to a warm spot near you in a century or two.

    Of course, if you are a coral, kiss you house goodbye anyhow.

    • And there is a real physical answers that could make large regions more inhabitable, not tomorrow, but coming to a cold spot near you, in a century or two.

  70. To Lewis Deane and others : My definition is in absolute seriousness! Can any of you come up with a better Definition? Stop and really think!
    ArndB gave a link which is excellent! being repeated with a small extraction:

    “ It is therefore very unfortunate if the reference letter of just 240 words mentions ‘climate change’ seven times. If your organization believes that “rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities“ has an impact on air temperatures, then any alert should be restricted to this aspect. But as long as science is not able and willing to define CLIMATE, and subsequently CLIMATE CHANGE it is misleading and wrong to tell the general public and politics, that greenhouse gases are the “prime driver” of climate. That are the oceans as expressed in a letter to NATURE 1992: “Climate is the continuation of the oceans by other means”[2], or to say it with Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): “Water is the driver of nature”.

    Yours sincerely
    Arnd Ber****ts

    In addition to the fact that very few actually understand that Climate is different for thousands of locations and to try to talk about “one Climate for the whole world” is beyond scientific comprehension.
    The most important thing to remember is that there is “NO Creditable scientific experiment that proves that the “greenhouse gas effect” exists. Without experimental data to show that the greenhouse gas effect exists, it is a Hypotheses-better defined as a Scientists guess for a possible explanation of some observation in the real world.
    As an environmental engineer for more than 47+ years ,the consequences from continuing the lie of “greenhouse gas effect” and supposed “climate change” is only starting to be realized. The start is the suing of the developed world by Third World counties for trillions of Dollar,EU,and Pesos, for damages that don’t exist. Even the court costs will bankrupt most nations, and nothing will be gained except world poverty.
    To Eli Rabett: The world environment is far more resistant to the “supposed effects” of mankind as it has survived for millions of years with changes but the causes of these changes are far beyond the control of mankind.

  71. Judith, the success (and thus size) of your website makes it hard for casual readers like me to determine if certain questions have been discussed. So, if this has been examined, please point me towards that discussion.
    My question is, what is the line of reasoning which shows that it is likely that warming will have a net “dangerous” effect? Isn’t it just as likely that warming would have a net “beneficial” effect?
    For example, TAR states a concern about, “■risk to unique and threatened systems (e.g., coral reefs, tropical mountain glaciers, endangered species, etc.)”. Why is it not reasonable to assume that some “unique and threatened systems” might find survival easier in a warmer world, while some will find survival more difficult, and the net result is a wash? Is there a scientific basis for assuming that the net effect is negative?
    I think that this is an important matter.

    • good question, and I mean no disrespect when I say that it has been asked before. It is a natural response to those who presuppose human guilt in all things in general, and in climate change in particular, by those who do not.

      As I recall the history of CAGW, “global warming”, tout court, had a brief existence until this ineluctable question was asked. That was when the “C” was added. “Catastrophic”, you see – a tipping point, “runaway” warming, no vineyards in Scotland, we’re all going to fry. Clear?

      The regularity with which the climate scare has been extended to counter each cogent appeal to the null hypothesis as it has arisen has been a potent factor in my own scepticism.

      I believe we have far more to fear from a cooling climate, and no less reason to expect one, than from a warming.

      I also believe that when Mr Honda designed his 50cc stepthrough motorcycle, he contributed more to the betterment of mankind than all the greenies put together. The impulse to convict carbon is insidious, not just to good science, but to humanity, and I wish it would cease.

  72. Hi David, I touched on this issue in this comment (note this is the only thread that addresses the “dangerous” issue). The IPCC WGII has focused on the negative impacts, which is misleading. Surely Russia and Canada would prefer a warmer climate (even with the occasional bad heat wave).

  73. Alex Heyworth

    An excellent article by Frank Furedi on the climate of fear in modern society that forms the background to this issue: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/fear-is-key-to-irresponsibility/story-e6frg6zo-1225935797740

    • Alex,

      Thanks for the link. Here’s what I think.

      Furedi writes eloquently of the precautionary response to the “crisis of causality” – great term – he sees existing in the minds of catasrophists. But he doesn’t refer to the other response, and driver of collective preoccupations such as climate alarmism – guilt, and the craving for expiation/indulgence.

      Reading of plague-ridden 14th century Europe, one is struck by the resort to extreme and inventive forms of expiation which characterised that society. The plague was of course both very real, and incomprehensible to those it afflicted, except as the expression of divine displeasure. So I would say it answers to Furedi’s “crisis of causality”. Perhaps it’s not immediately obvious why 14th century lollardry, catharism, etc, on the one hand, and on the other, climate alarmism, which claims a rational, scientific basis, should be related. After all, the second half of the 20th century was characterised in the west by relentless secularisation. While it had its threats in abundance, they were all seen to be susceptible of rationalisation, so the impulse to seek irrational, and increasingly ornate, forms of expiation should be absent. The faith in science which infused society would surely banish superstition, no?

      Well, I grew up in the 50’s, when on the one hand all the “childhood killers” had been slain with a single jab; things and, soon, people were going into space; man seemed to have all but mastered his environment – yet on the other hand, we were all liable to be rendered to charcoal at four minutes notice. Importantly, this event would not be preceded by suffering.

      On its own, each of these was, even in retrospect, a plausible (if flawed) assessment of contemporary reality, but together they were psychologically incompatible. You couldn’t live your life in obedience to both. I think this conflict resembles Furedi’s “crisis of causality” in its psychological implications.

      By the 60s, with Stalin dead and Mao’s first famine a guilty but open secret among the intelligentsia, a lot of western socialists and fellow travellers were having to admit, at least in private, that their enthusiasm for the workers’ paradises might be misplaced, and that those who ran them might, indeed, be enemies of freedom just as much as the Nazis they helped us defeat, and a threat to their, by now considerable, wellbeing. It was also reasonably clear, notwithstanding (perhaps because of) a couple of rather wobbly moments like the Cuban missile crisis, that MAD was staying that threat. It is always painful to admit to being beguiled, and alternative narratives, particularly if, as well as setting up a less inconvenient culprit for the world’s woes than Marx, Lenin, Mao, or whoever, they also collectivise the guile, the beguiled will seize it.

      Cue Rachel Carson. It isn’t those misunderstood despots who are the enemies of mankind, it’s mankind! Or at least that portion of mankind living in societies which have developed sufficiently to produce or consume flyspray.

      We now know that the DDT scare she sparked was greatly exaggerated, (http://www.eco-imperialism.com/Waite%20-%20Facts%20about%20DDT.pdf) and that resurgent malaria consequent upon the discontinuation of its use cost millions of African lives. Yet, in a pattern that persists to this day, the prosecutors of DDT were never held to account for wrongfully convicting it.

      By the time DDT was, very quietly, exonerated, Silent Spring had created the new and enduring post-Enlightenment narrative – that man is his own most threatening enemy, and that those who had identified the threat he posed also had the key to disarming him. Crucially, this offered the promise of redemption through proselytising and largely symbolic self-denial, in a warm, cuddly, self-congratulatory rebirth of 14th century flagellation, couched this time in secular, scientist terms. The scourge, without the pain and the blood. It was too precious to the western bourgeois psyche to be allowed to succumb to reason, which is why catastrophists respond to sceptics with a vehemence and venom more usually found in cult adherents.

      By the 80s, “waking up” to a series of threats, each in its own, often tortuous way attributable to human wickedness, and then congratulating oneself for having done so had become a way of life, and was as necessary in western society as a mobile phone or real coffee. This is not a condition likely to sharpen the critical faculties.

      The secular, anthropophobic and pharisaical habit of mind persisted and flourished, through global cooling, with a brief excursion to Y2K, and on, seamlessly to global warming. It constitutes an inflation-ridden market for doom and pessimism that has debased the science underlying CAGW belief, and blunted the critical faculties of the lay public.

      One of the consequences of this is that there is so much putative, factitious threat bandied about that detecting real threats and assessing their extent is like trying to find true love in a brothel – like the currency of “statistical significance” in climate science, the currency of “threat” in our society has been debauched. Good luck trying to get a serious handle on what constitutes it!

      • Very eloquently put, TomFP. Perhaps one should refer to what Nietzsche called ‘European nihilism’ which is now a world phenomenon and has it’s essential origin in European Christian civilization. Indeed, the thesis finds even science and it’s rationalism having it’s ultimate origin there. Perhaps science itself is merely becoming itself?

      • And, as an aside, I think what fascinates people about ‘climate science’ is what Judith called, in a completely different context, ‘ontic uncertainties’ ( sorry, can’t help teasing her about that), that it poses, or purports to pose existential questions which are, at the same time, nebulous (because in the future)but also very graphic (in terms of their description). More importantly, it asks of us how we should live in a very, let us say, Russian roulette fashion. It asks, that is to say, very fundamental ethical questions. And according to Frank Furedi, it also insults our human dignity in a very fundamental sense. And our intelligence – are we the plaything of an ‘environment’ of which we are, at the same time, the author? A lot of fascinating questions!

      • OT I think, sometimes, one would do better to read a poet like R.S.Thomas, whose dark, deep acknowlagement of ‘generation after generation’ having shaped his landscape, his visions of the cottagers and crofters of the Welsh landscape whose souls he desired to ‘save’, always touched me as a young man and still do, than any scientific tome, however dry? Is that what ‘climate science’ is missing, art?

    • Alex, thanks for this one, the probability issue is directly relevant to a (near) future post

    • Frank Furedi and Ben Pile of climate-resistance fame come from the same school – I respect their approach to these questions but some might find their belief in human ingenuity overstated! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suspicious of ‘schools’ and I find their ‘late-marxist’ approach fascinating, even if history finds it a little dangerous. In other words, they also have their ‘painted paradise’ in front of them and, therefore, one should be wary. That is to say Marxist theories of the business cycle still prove powerful but in order to understand that one doesn’t need to buy in to his Utopia!

      • What Frank Furedi is addressing is something we experience in the ‘newsworld’, as it were. For instance, the general ‘angst’ about crime – we live in probably the safest world, as far as crime is concerned, and yet we become more and more terrified about going out onto our streets. In fact, crime statistics rapidly fall and the only reason they are as they are is that we keep legislating against new ‘crimes’! Similarly, with the environment – what is now ‘dangerous’, hurricanes, for instance, we are now the most best prepared against of any generation. So that were once thousands might have died, now the numbers of causalities are likely to be counted on one hand. In the developed world, of course. It reminds me of the old adage that the rich are ‘unhappy’ only because they have time to be unhappy! Hence, the Chinese and the Indians, in practice, continue to ignore these alleged ‘dangers’.

      • Actually, Frank Furedi, is much more subtle than I give him credit for! But I would pose this question – just as the ‘entertainment value’ of ‘crime’ has no bearing on the actuality, is it not true that the ‘entertainment’ of ‘dangers’ in ‘climate science’ is in the end equally meaningless in terms of actuality? A kind of bourgeois pornography? If one just looks at the massive growth in ‘charities’ that depend on this? Or even the IPCC? And yet, as Roger Pielke Jnr continues to demonstrate, no significant ‘action’ has happened as far as GHGs etc? A kind of self-indulgence? We still walk the streets, we still burn oil?

      • One final comment and I’m sorry, Dr Curry, that I seem to have plagued the latter end of this thread with my nonsense but my only defense is that I only have the weekend to read your fascinating posts and then try to read the commentary! Please don’t do to many posts over too short a time. It’s heavy going.
        What interests me most about the referenced article is the idea that fear of possibilities have made us, in the end, more irresponsible, not less so. That, in fact, the continued stressing of ‘dangers’ has made people feel powerless. What alternative address to the possible problems of ‘climate change’ might be more productive? I remember some study that purported to show that the more ethical peoples environmental choices were, the more irresponsible they became? A sort of ethical balance? Is this true and, if so, what way can it be addressed?

    • Alexander Harvey

      Mr Furedi is interesting and stimulating but I think that he indulges in legerdemain.

      Some statements which may seem reasonable are open to direct challenge.

      For example:

      “Human beings have always exercised caution when dealing with uncertainty.”


      Now which version of caution would that be:

      Positive caution: which I will describe as behaviour characterised by alertness, atention, on-guardedness, and preparedness to act or react.

      Negative caution: Which I will decribe as timidity, cowering, or hiding.

      Neither precludes exercising indifference to uncertainty, either positive as in recklessness or negative as in refusal to engage.

      I think human beings use all three strategies and hence I do not believe his statement at all.

      He uses the phrase “crisis of causality” which sounds cute but seems left up to the reader to choose it’s meaning from the following quotes.

      Here it is an entity capable of expressing a sense of unease:
      “A crisis of causality expresses a profound sense of unease towards people’s capacity to know.”

      Here it is an entity capable of being experienced:
      “The crisis of causality is experienced as a world where important events are mostly shaped and determined by a hidden agenda.”

      Here it is a tendency:
      “The tendency to engage with uncertainty through the prism of fear and therefore anticipate destructive outcome can be understood as a crisis of causality.”

      So it is a tendency, that expresses feelings, and can be experienced. I really don’t think that is meaningful at all.

      It also seems to be a borrowed phrase but inverted to mean something new and quite different, perhaps it is a philospher’s joke. I can see its meaning in the crisis caused by cartesian thought in an age of faith but what it means here seems to be debatable. It seems to be meaningful but isn’t, and were I suspect the worse it is misdirection used as a ploy to get one to accept a premise without acutally giving it underpinnings, if so he would seem to be guilty of just as much hoodwinking as he accuses others of.

      This is all a great pity as I find merit in much of what he says, but I feel that he is making a case for the acceptance of his view via an appeal to the human need to find meaning when faced with the inherently absurd, using meaningless or false statements which is just what he protests against.

      Alternatively it may just be a soddy abridgement of the original.

      I fear I shall be pilloried for this, he has a decent point which he gets across more by way of rhetoric than by aiding comprehension. Well he sure baffled the hell out of me which is kind of amusing when I think about it.


      • In many ways , more than you know, your points have merit (see later for explication) and you won’t be ‘pilloried’. The ‘school’ of which Fran Furedi is the father (indeed, the ‘God father’ according to some) is Marxist, through and through. Ie they have a philosophy and an agenda which is ‘background’ and undisclosed. This ‘shyness’ often makes what they write rhetorical. I have no problem, necessarily, with this ‘background’ but I do sometimes wish they were more forthcoming. All cards on the table and all that. I think their analyses has a lot to commend it but it often sounds like rhetoric, as you suggest.

      • So, for instance, what Frank Furedi calls ‘human agency’ is based on the Marxist idea of ‘bourgeois ingenuity’, that the ‘capitalist system’ produces solution that the feudal system could not envision. What Frank and Ben Pile are themselves terrified about is that environmentalism may postpone or prevent their inevitable ‘collapse of capitalism’ and therefore defer their Utopia! As I say, they may be right in ‘point’ but, in general, they may be as fantastic as the people they oppose!

  74. Alexander Harvey

    Dangerous Climate Change could be interpreted as any climatic change that produces winners and losers.

    A Dangerous Climate Change Projection could be interpreted as any projection that climatic change will produce winners and losers.

    Currently it seems that regional projection are considered inadequate for basing policy, but should this change and a clear projection of winners and loosers emerge then current intergovermental differences of opinion could look like a “love in”. Beware the rise of the regional climate model!

    It is not inconceivable that we may be faced with the proposition of having to compensate the poorest nations for both raising the global temperature by 2C and also for failing to raise the temperature by 3C. It is further conceivable that some not so poor nations might decide that they should be compensated for setting the global temperature horizon too low. Then let the bunfight begin!

    Let us imagine an instance. One thing that regional models may unearth is the paradoxical nature of deserts. Deserts are harsh not because they are too hot but becuase they are too dry. Also they are not necessarily too dry because they are hot, they are too dry because of lack of precipitation. Making some of the hotest deserts hotter will not make them much more arid; the hyper-arid deserts are pretty maxed out as far as evaporation goes. But there is historical evidence that making them hotter could make them wetter. Should this be confirmed by regional climate models then much of the moral case for mitigating climate change would be moot. There is historical evidence that the great deserts of Africa and also its rain forests like it hot and between them they comprise most of the continent. It’s not the temperature. It’s the precipitation stupid!

    Such evidence is historical and hence subject to revision but the apparent paradoxical climatic nature of that region and of the Near East aka Middle East aka the cradle of civilization could be a huge spectral presence in future UNFCCC get togethers. It could be political unforturnate that some of the nations that could benefit from a hotter world due to a return to wetter times and certainly could not get much drier are also the countries with the most oil. Some of the regions with the most gas also seem to be ones likely to benefit from being a lot less chilly.

    I am not saying that I think the world would be a better place if it was hotter or that CAGW is not a threat, but what I think about that doesn’t matter a jot anyway. What I am saying is that if it becomes apparent that there will be regional winners then the political basis for mitigation against global warming per se could be shot through. The argument might migrate to deciding on what the ideal climate should be, but in my view it is more likely to degenerate into greater rivalry and chaos.

    Where I trying to push the agenda for mitigation I would pull the plug on the modellers now lest they get off message. Where I a major national player I would move all serious work on regional outcomes into secure facilities due to its strategic importance. It may be fortunate for everyone that I am neither of the above.

    There was a period back in the eighties and nineties when the indicators around the world all looked pretty favorable for installing a plan for mitigation. There was a conjunction of alarming trends that was not to last. An odd mixture of polutants and happenstance, that caused or coincided with droughts in Africa, holes in the ozone layer, temperatures and OHC going up like a bat out of hell, and rapid seasonal shifts giving rise to coherent picture. Now much of that coherence seems to be slipping like sand through the fingers. Climate change continues but is straying off message. I wonder whether more knowledge, further unfolding of the perturbations, and better projections are likely to rebuild that coherent narative. Personally I doubt it. I suspect that climate change was forced into a narative and was going always going to make it prey to the falacious charge “look it has no clothes!”. Also I suspect that the recent “difficulties” with the scientists has done a lot more damage to the cause than is admitted. If the politicians feel that they can not rely on their scientists not to goof, or get off message, then they won’t be on their christmas card lists much longer. The various “gates” did not have to dent the science merely unsettle the narative.

    I do not think that the narative has every faced such a difficult time and given that so much of the intellectual underpinning of that old coherent story was based on global climatic projections it would be a twist of fate if improved regional projection atomises that narative, and the is the final straw that snatches hostility from the jaws of consensus.

    Beware the rise of the Regional Climate Projection!


    • Alex you raise many interesting points here, of high relevance to the broad framing issue, i’m putting this on my list for further pondering. Thanks.

    • Interesting. Indeed, what happened to Romes’ ‘bread basket’ of north Africa! And if, as you allude, the science shows a mix of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, then, indeed there will be another WTO! But, in your diabolis advocatus persona (sorry, my Latin disappeared with my age!), your suggestion that, in order to achieve their ends, scientists should keep back this complexity cuts to the quick – is ‘climate science’ a political movement with a set agenda and a particular aim, or is it science? Quaeritur!

      • Alexander Harvey


        Thank you for your comments, and your consideration of my stance, which is correct, if that be one of amorality sometimes feigned to give Old Nick’s case.

        I do not have a direct answer to your question as raised. Such answer as I have, rests on a dark logic of revolution so easily corrupting, I fear just my thinking in this way risks being morally suspect.

        Instead of scientists I will discuss “climate revolutionaries” who may be “climate scientists”. Those with either deep or shallow understanding of the science, who are united by a belief, perhaps well justified and indeed correct, that they have identified the one paramount consideration for humanity, and are uniquely placed to impel correct action. Anyone convinced that they have both seen the most important issue and know the correct response is bound by their duty to humanity to enforce their logic irrespective of the costs. Such is the imperative of revolutionary insight.

        The consequential risk of revolutionary insight is that to prevent the people from going to hell in a handcart, one chooses to send them to heaven in a tumbrel. Thus the moral justification for the despotism of truth against ignorance must rest in perfect insight.

        If both the one question, and the one answer, are known then any and all methods, that are necessary, are justified. This includes deliberate misrepresentation of the very truth that is the basis of action. Truth must be held hostage to conflict.

        So must a climate revolutionary have a duty to deceive. They must force the people to be green, anything less would be to betray them.

        For others the greatest threat to all humanity is the tyrany of such zealots, and the response is to resist such tyrany at all costs even if the zealots are right. This is the insight of the counter-revolutionary. The dreadful logic is problematic; the moral imperative to defeat tyrants, no matter how despotic the means, is paradoxical.

        Whenever I hear the term “unhelpful” when applied to a fact, concept, or scientific opinion, I whiff the odour of the zealot.

        I will not say that a climate scientist should mislead, but a climate revolutionary is duty bound to do so if the truth is “unhelpful” to the cause. In such a way the useful narrative is born, the essential myth of a never happened past leading to a not to happen future. The real truth, that one perfect insight, need never be disclosed.

        I cherish my doubts for they keep me sane. For it is certainty that paves a road to hell with good intentions. Certainty that one is acting in the best interests of humanity allows one to understand the awful consequences of revolution, its corrupt and ruthless methodology, and still sleep, the gentle sleep, of the tyrant.

        Are there any climate revolutionaries? I don’t know, but I expect there are. If I believed I had the one answer to the one question I would be compelled to stop at nothing or be stopped. Such is the obligation of perfect insight.

        So to any that have this perfect insight: I urge you to do your duty, to enforce on us the best of possible outcomes by what ever means necessary. I in turn will strive to stop you, not for being wrong, but for being a tyrant.

        Thus your question is answered.


      • Delicious! :)

      • > Anyone convinced that they have both seen the most important issue and know the correct response is bound by their duty to humanity to enforce their logic irrespective of the costs.

        Anyone in particular in mind?

      • Alexander Harvey

        As I said relating to climate:

        “Are there any climate revolutionaries? I don’t know, but I expect there are.”

        So “No” to “anyone in particular in mind?”.

        Have such people existed in other fields? I would say Yes.

        Just the usual suspects, pick any revolution. In my opinion many of the most despicable revolutionary thinkers could and sometimes did maintain they had the moral high ground because they knew the answer to the most important question. I would judge some despots as just sadistic opportunists but some I judge did actually beleive that their actions were either morally justified or simply transcended normal moral judgement.

        It does not worry me when I precieve people to be lying to the public in order to justify a course of action. It worries me when they actually believe what they are saying.

        I think there are some notable examples still with us, who actually believed that actions that have had disasterous consequences where not expedient opportunisitic manoeuvres dressed up as existential necessities, but necessary acts for the betterment of mankind. I expect politicians and other theorists to lie about motives, I fear those that actually believe what they say.

        But then I have a dark heart.


      • Very interesting (at least rhetorically) interesting stuff. I would be interested in a thinker that harboured all his doubts and for all to see, but still felt an urgency about this or that emergency. But like you, I think, I have my own doubts and, perhaps, am sometimes to ready to sniff a directional motive rather than the ‘objective’ rationality of his/her case. And usually the ‘motive’ I detect, apart from a general anomie, is that of European Nihilism. And, then I say, let history play itself out – whether we continue or fail much has been magnificent!

  75. If you were driving along the highway and learned there was an 80% change you were about to go over a cliff, wouldn’t you at least slow down while we debate how steep the drop off is?

    The near term impact of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions will not be that severe. (See the CBO study.) Indeed using new technologies to reduce our dependence on coal and oil would have many collateral benefits. If in the next couple of decades we find that the likely impact of AGW is modest we can still burn all the coal and oil we want. If we do nothing until we are certain and every semantic nuance has been settled and it turns out the mainstream scientific assessment of AGW dangers are correct we will be in a very difficult position. (Or do we have to debate what ‘difficult’ means?)

  76. Ian Blanchard

    What do you mean by ‘near term’? There are obviously major infrastructure issues that need to be addressed if we are going to be weaned off fossil fuel dependence without a drastic cut to the bulk energy consumption (which is the only way that the emissions targets set by the UK government will be met) – the only technology with the capacity to take up the slack in base load energy generation is nuclear, and that has its own problems as far as the more ardent greens are concerned. Even if those are disregarded, it will take in the order of 20 years to build sufficient capacity in electical generation from non fossil fuel sources (yes, in some areas there is scope for hydroelectric, hydrothermal, solar and to a lesser extent wind to supplement nuclear). And that’s the easy one, as the technology is already existent and largely proven.

    Energy sources for personal vehicle travel is likely to be an even bigger challenge – electric battery powered vehicles have huge problems to overcome (weight, performance and range of vehicles, use of resources, reliability and life-span), and the majority of the population of the west are not going to accept vehicles like the G Wizz as replacements for their current SUVs etc. Hydrogen (fuel cell) technology seems to offer a potentially better ‘like-for-like’ alternative but the engine technology is still really only at prototype (vehicle) stage, and then there’s also the necessity to convert the current gas stations to provide suitable fuels.

    Your opening premise is a straw man, as you are making the inherent assumption that the change is a danger – as others have discussed, assuming that the AGW hypothesis is correct, there will be some areas that benefit greatly from a somewhat warmer and perhaps wetter climate (e.g. increased growing seasons in temperate to sub-polar regions), and some that suffer with increased desertification or flooding with rising sea levels (although some areas and island nations are being dishonest or wilfully ignorant in their current campaigns against rising sea level, ignoring the dynamicism of their own land). The level of risk is largely dependent on the rate of any climate changes, much more than on the eventual scale of them.

    • Ian,

      By near term I mean 10-20 years. The CBO did a study on the likely economic impact of HR 5424 and found the loss of GDP to be real but small. (You can look it up.) Initial energy saving can come from higher CAFA standards, great efficiency in homes and building and converting coal power plants to natural gas (there is an MIT study on this; see NYT June 25, 2010) as a prelude to nuclear power which will late longer. In the longer term it will depend on what new technologies are developed.

      No one outside a few right-wing blogs and “news” stations thinks climate change is safe. If we are going to change Earth’s climate shouldn’t we be sure this is safe before hand? “Winner and losers” means mass migrations. Many species will disappear. What is the up side to ocean acidification?

      • Ian Blanchard

        I’m British – we did a large scale conversion from coal to natural gas fueld power plants about 25 years ago (partly because of the abundance of natural gas in the North Sea and partly for political reasons that the Thatcher Government and National Union of Mineworkers were in perpetual conflict), so we don’t have the same capacity for gain that way. Additionally, our building standards require far better insulation than do US ones, so again the easy gain is not as readily available.

        There are some gains still to be made in energy efficiency, and probably the area that the UK can make most savings in will be transport, as our infrastructure (particularly in the south-east) is inadequate for the volume of traffic and so a lot of fuel is wasted by vehicles going nowhere fast.

        As for ocean acidification, do a few sums and you’ll see how vastly over-stated the risk is (I’ve an MSc and PhD in geochemistry, so this is an area I think I can speak with reasonable background knowledge). Also, the levels of atmospheric and hence oceanic CO2 are still about an order of magnitude lower than in the Cretaceous, when there was an enormous abundance of carbonate-shelled organisms.

  77. Michael Tobis

    Many interesting questions raised here, but it seems that one of the most crucial has gotten little if any attention. There is, perhaps, no particular optimum climate, within a broad range. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an optimum rate of change of climate. The optimum rate of change of climate is zero, or near enough zero that natural and artificial systems can adapt gradually with little stress. This has been the case during the emergence of civilization, LIAs and MWPs notwithstanding. The natural changes of the last millennium, even on the high estimates, are much smaller than the changes anticipated in this century.

    Dangerous climate change has two parts: a rate and a duration. Impacts depend not only on how large the climatic excursion is, but also on how quickly it transpires. Most evidence points to accelerating change over the coming century, which is at the core of the concern.

    If that evidence has been grossly misconstrued, as so many readers here believe, there is perhaps little to worry about. If the consensus is approximately right, it now appears unlikely that we will avoid all serious consequences. Indeed, one may make a plausible case that serious consequences are already beginning (droughts, heat waves, sudden flooding events, coral decline, forest mortality). The question becomes one of degree.

    Some of these events are specifically transients. In particular, ocean acidification is not a problem when the CO2 concentration changes gradually, but can cause near-total marine extinction (according to the fossil record) when CO2 increase is very rapid. It is also possible that in a rapidly changing climate the ocean will not be organized in a quasi-equilibrium state, so the conditions “seen” by the atmosphere will go through large changes on decadal scales, leading to increasingly wild swings of regional climates on those scales.

    The fact that there are locations where the swings in climate to date are not obviously outside natural variability is some consolation, but hardly enough. The point is that “business as usual” seems to indicate ever-increasing emissions, which in turn lead to ever-accelerating climate shifts, which appear likely to be very disruptive.

    Discussions of an “ideal” climate or an “ideal” CO2 concentration as several lucid commentators have offered here uniformly miss that point. The “danger” in “dangerous climate change” has as much to do with rates as with amplitudes.

    • Indeed, one may make a plausible case that serious consequences are already beginning (droughts, heat waves, sudden flooding events, coral decline, forest mortality).

      As I read about global climate change, it seems to me that there are serious discussions about the uncertainties associated with wether the occurrences of these can be attributed to global climate change in any specific manner.

      Can you point me to analyses that indicate, say, ‘heat waves’, on a global basis, can be shown to be solely attributed to global climate change? I note that you have omitted ‘more powerful hurricanes’ and additionally, did not use ‘widespread’ drought and ‘more frequent’ heat waves.

      Actually, thinking about it right now, you simply list (droughts, heat waves, sudden flooding events, coral decline, forest mortality). Because these events have always been a part of weather and climate, exactly how does ‘already beginning’ fit in here?

      And so far as the rate of change of the climate is concerned, I think to accurately illustrate your point, the data you provide must use that as the independent variable; not simply the past and present climate. I think that there are no data whatsoever for which the rate of change of climate is known.


      • Dan, the attribution of events that you refer to is very challenging, and much more uncertain than than attributing the global surface temperature change. the issue of “attribution science” will be addressed in a future post (in about 4 weeks)

      • Michael Tobis

        Judith’s point that “attribution” is difficult is correct, but I would go further. I think a lot of time has been wasted on purely statistical attribution, as if we had no physical insight whatsoever.

        That we see an increase in flooding events is clear; that we expect an increase in flooding events is clear. That the increase in flooding is in fact the same increase we are expecting can be phrased as a frequentist problem, but that doesn’t mean it should be. The alternative, that our expectation of increased flooding is false but that flooding is increasing anyway by sheer coincidence is logically possible, but it isn’t a good bet. How bad a bet it is depends on many other factors which are far too many to include in a frequentist framework.

        If you are standing on a railroad crossing in the fog, hear a loud whistle, and see a bright light in the distance, but have no knowledge of anyone standing on this very track before, one could easily argue that there is insufficient evidence to attribute the factors you see to a train in a statistically significant sense. It would still make sense to get off the track.

        In this sense, the extreme summer in Australia in 09, in Russia this year, seem like they might well be the beginnings of actual consequences of climate change. But we can’t know for sure yet. It may become statistically clear (in a frequentist sense) retrospectively once more data arrives. The question is more of a Bayesian one; not what can we eliminate at the 95% level but what do we suspect at the 50% level. Here, our different expectations play a role, but that’s exactly what a pure Bayesian approach says they should do.

        If you look at the sorts of severe events that become more likely in model projections and the sorts of events we’re getting a lot of these days, they do seem to match: expansion of the subtropical arid zones, poleward retreat of the jet streams with increasing meridional (“blocking”) excursions, more vigorous mesoscale convective events.

        And the sorts of ecological damage we see are associated with poleward and upward migration of pests into forest populations previously protected by cold; coral bleaching from heat and acid stress, beach erosion.

        So it looks sort of like it’s expected to look, so far. I think it’s fair to say that the great Pakistan flood took us by surprise, and I think as the excursions from the expected distribution become more extreme, we’ll get more surprises.

        It’s very important to distinguish between “proving” something and having enough confidence in something to take action. It is likely that ever higher barriers of “proof” can be raised as barriers to action (in the service of those protecting the value of fossil fuel reserves) even as evidence that the anthropogenic perturbation becomes ever larger.

        Policy is rarely made under conditions of certainty. The balance of evidence is what we seek here, not proof. Your suggestion that one show that something ” can be shown to be solely attributed to global climate change” goes even further.

        We have yet to encounter an event that is demonstrably impossible without anthropogenic change. Though I think given current practice this will eventually happen, such an eventuality is not something to anticipate eagerly. The state of Arctic sea ice may be getting near that point, but even if it disappears, how would one turn that into a “can be shown to be solely attributed” argument?

        Can you think of any meteorological event that can be “solely attributed” to any cause? Are you not setting up a criterion that can’t conceivably be reached, no matter how dire our circumstances might become?

      • I understood your original comment to mean that the rate of change climate has contributed to ‘serious consequences are already beginning’. I attempted to ask for supporting data. I have not yet seen any.

        At this tine I would characterize the comments as an attempt to wrap the policy precautionary principle with some ‘climate science’, and that the science is extremely thin and provides a very weak wrapper. I see both hands waving, wildly.

        This short discussion, for me, illustrates a part of the communication problems. Science is frequently thrown in, but at a level that would not pass muster in a first year engineering class. Science is hard and demands hard data and hard causality. Mixing science and policy simply causes a big mess and that reflects very badly on the science.

        Do you have any data at all about any weather or climate aspect that can be related to the rate of change of climate?

        Stats is not a part of my experience and expertise. Does 50%, even in the Bayesian universe, correspond to random and that the outcome could go either way?

      • Dan H: “I understood your original comment to mean that the rate of change climate has contributed to ‘serious consequences are already beginning’. I attempted to ask for supporting data. I have not yet seen any.”

        Ocean acidification certainly fits the bill; although CO2 concentrations have been much higher than projected, ocean pH has probably only been comparable on a few highly catastrophic occasions in the distant past. The ocean can buffer the pH on a time scale of millenia, but that leaves plenty of time for an extinction event. Is that “data”? The acidification is only starting but the mechanism is pretty well established.

        There are a number of ecological impacts that fit the bill; forests cannot migrate or develop immunity to newly viable pests. Alaska’s Kenai peninsula shows massive spruce die-off under an onslaught of spruce beetles. Had climate change been more gradual, the invasion would have been less immediately successful.

        As for extreme events of the sort hitting Pakistan and Russia, anything I could say would be speculative, as I’ve already admitted. But I think the fact that the extreme events there were so far outside the realm of experience is part and parcel of rapid climate change. Were the climate to change more gradually, the emergence of new outliers would be less likely to be as severe.

        Is this “science”? Maybe not.

        Policy is about risks, not about science, and as you are so quick to point out, we don’t have a clear idea how to quantify those risks.

        The “precautionary principle” as usually stated simply doesn’t allow for any innovation at all. We can’t afford that in our present state even if it were a good idea in a sustainable world.

        But what you seem to be doing is to say the best estimate of any hard-to-quantify risk is zero.

        That’s irrational in dealing with human opponents. No military person would put up with that for a second. How then is it reasonable in dealing with nature?

        Sometimes science can only say “we don’t know any reason why this wouldn’t eventually happen”, or “we really don’t think that would happen”. Most of the policy relevant questions are in this class, and that is why IPCC reports have the shape they have. Essentially, we know we are in trouble, but we don’t know exactly how much trouble we are buying at any given moment. I don’t know why this is such a difficult concept.

        The earth is not an engineered system, and a great deal about it is unquantified, and a few important phenomena (mostly on the interglacial time scale) remain confusing. So it isn’t rocket science.

        In a sense it’s harder than rocket science. In the same sense it’s easier than medicine, but we still have doctors. I’ve yet to hear the doctor who says “let’s wait around until we’re sure this will kill you before prescribing any medicine. Hate to waste all that money, you know.”

      • Michael Tobis,

        This is probably the best response I’ve heard to the ‘prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that climate change is dangerous’ charge (which is a catch 22).

        “Policy is rarely made under conditions of certainty. The balance of evidence is what we seek here, not proof.”

        Amen. Thanks again for your comments.

        P.S. What an excellent and informative blog, thanks Judy!

      • Michael and isaacschumann, do you have examples of where this approach has been successfully applied. It would also be of interest to know when it has failed.

        My experience with decision support affecting the health and safety of the public is that best estimate plus uncertainties quantified by means of empirical data is the required standard. This is the case whenever models and software are parts of the decision support. In other cases, regulatory bodies require full-scale empirical demonstration; flight tests, drug tests, for examples. Bridges, elevators, heart pacemakers, the list is very long. Quantification of all the uncertainties by measured data is far beyond “The balance of evidence is what we seek here, not proof.”

        I seriously doubt that the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Aviation Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency or NASA or any number of other regulatory bodies would accept your approach.

        Note that even when the best estimate plus empirically quantified uncertainties standard is used failures still occur.

        I will venture to speculate that not a single aspect of my interactions with human-made products, structures, equipment etc. in which my health and safety are issues have ever been approved by any regulatory agency by the means that you suggest.

      • Michael Tobis

        Isaac, thanks.

        Dan, the analogy to engineered products is not helpful. The sorts of statistics you require are possible in engineered products, and therefore they are justifiably required. The question is what to do when they are impossible, and when there are risks from all possible policies.

        The examples you want are from successful economic, social, diplomatic and military endeavors. In none of these fields is a rigorous statistical defense of any policy possible. Yet a policy must be chosen nonetheless. The same is true in global environmental issues.

        Our difficulty is in that the climate situation cannot avoid risks, and that the competing tradeoffs (economic risk vs environmental risk) are not easily compared. So the definition of conservative design differs.

        If I were to design a system I were entirely confident would not lead to destabilization of the biosphere, you would consider it absurdly expensive. Meanwhile you are, I think, advocating ignoring that risk to an extent I find absurdly expensive.

        The question is which policy is to be the default; that of ever-increasing disruption to the physical system for fear of disrupting the economy, or the other way around. Your arguments really are similar to mine; the question is only which of us is introducing a risky proposition and which of us is defending the status quo. I think the status quo is around 300 ppmv CO2, and so on through other radiatively active perturbations. You think the status quo is ignoring CO2 concentrations in legislation. My belief is that it is you in your radically changing status quo, not me in advocating a new policy, that is introducing the unproven and dangerous product.

      • Michael, this is a very good description of the policy dilemma

      • I agree, and I’d really like to see Dr. Tobis’s comment as the starting point for what I think would be an interesting debate… but one that may be OT, and which certainly will end up in a very skinny column before long.

        Still, I hope it’s carried on, whether in this or in another venue.

      • A relevant post on this topic next week

      • Michael, quantification of the uncertainties is not impossible in climate science. It has simply been ignored. By what I’ve been reading recently, I think this is about to change.

        I have not stated anywhere my opinions about the risks, or benefits, that might be associated with changing concentrations of co2 in the atmosphere, nor about wether we should be concerned, or not. Kindly reframe from stating otherwise.

        I have expressed my opinions about energy policies. And I have discussed several aspects of models, methods and software and how these are universally handled in situations that involve the health and safety of the public.

      • Dan: “quantification of the uncertainties is not impossible in climate science. It has simply been ignored.”

        This is rather a surprise to me and various other people who spend their days trying to quantify uncertainty in climate models.

        As for whole system risks, we don’t even have a sensible metric yet, and I wonder if we will ever be able to agree on one. I agree that it may be a useful exercise but on the other hand, the more we force the system, the more those nasty unknown unknowns come into play, and the more caveats need to be placed on the risk model.

        Dan: “I have discussed several aspects of models, methods and software and how these are universally handled in situations that involve the health and safety of the public.”

        I don’t think there are universals, though I believe there are things that are commonly done. If you’d care to get specific we can see which ones might apply and how.

        Dan, “I have not stated anywhere my opinions about the risks, or benefits, that might be associated with changing concentrations of co2 in the atmosphere, nor about wether we should be concerned, or not. Kindly reframe from stating otherwise.”


        On the other hand, unless I misunderstand you, while you may claim to have no position, you do indeed have one. You believe that some metaregulatory standards which you perceive as universal must be applied in advance of any collective decisions. I can’t escape a sense that nothing practical would satisfy you in this regard that could be constructed in a time frame rapid enough to outweigh the added risk due to delays. I would be pleased to hear any suggestions to the contrary.

  78. Michael thanks for your comments. Actually, it seems that extreme events (that have an element of surprise) are the most disruptive.

    • And extreme events are weather, not climate.

      Judith, I think there is a preliminary question that I am still trying to get my head around, that is, what constitutes climate change, for the purpose of considering your question? Climate change as a process is intuitively obvious (“the climate is always changing”). Change in climate on a local/regional level is reasonably straightforward, but again, is always happening. However, the idea of “dangerous climate change” (at least as envisaged by the IPCC) seems to imagine some global phenomenon. Any ideas?

  79. The external “climate changes” listed are so hypothetical they verge on the improbable, even though theoretically possible. The internal “climate changes” listed are so subjectively experiential that I now feel I have a climate crisis every twenty four hours while undergoing the normal twenty degree temperature variations between night and day time periods. I’m now sleepless in Seattle. Perhaps if we stop the earth’s rotation, using green nuclear rocket engines on the equator to counter the earth’s spin, we could remedy this dangerous climate cycle?

  80. Dangerous Climate Change. The one question that I ask, when faced with a discussion of this topic, is a simple one. It is based on the goal-posts being moved, as the decades wear on, on what is indicating that we are in a dangerous climate change. More/fewer storms, colder/warmer winters, colder/warmer summers, more/less rain, etc. So, my question is, can you describe an occurrence, a definitive measurement, or an observation, that would indicate (during some specific period of time) that we simply have normal climate change taking place? The corollary to that question is, what exactly is normal climate change?

    I do not really expect an answer, as I’m not sure anyone knows what the answer is. These questions are the simple reason for my skepticism. Every problem should start with what is actually known.

  81. Any discussion of the dangers of climate change is incomplete without discussing Hansen’s book <a href=http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=hansen&x=0&y=0 "Storms of My Grandchildren." In the book, Hansen talk about extinction of humanity. According to news reports, he has also written to heads of state making the same claim.

    Hmmm… no preview. I hope this html tag works properly.

    • Ron,

      I don’t think it’s necessary to attempt to create a HTML link manually. Just paste in the URL normally and let WordPress do the rest.

  82. Having view some of the work of James Hansen -I’d suggest that you look up the medical description of Bi-polar depression. If it does not fit look up other forms of mental illness..


    The 2050 Pathways Calculator http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk published 3 March 2011 by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change provides an interactive site to investigate various pathways to a reduction of UK CO2 emission levels from the current rate to 20% of the 1990 emission rate. That is, from the current, (2010), 700 Mt/yr to 200 Mt/yr in 2050.

    The Pathways Calculator illustrates the challenge of achieving 20% of the 1990 emission rate by 2050. However, the calculator does not calculate what this reduction in CO2 emission rate will achieve in terms of temperature mitigation in the UK. A mitigation of temperature rise in the UK is, after all, the primary purpose of this major change of UK energy supply and consumption.

    It is calculated below that, if the UK acts alone, all of the various pathways to 20% of 1990 emission levels will result in a change of average temperature in UK in 2050 from 11.50 C to 11.49 C. That is, a temperature mitigation of 0.01 C.

    The reference or Business as Usual (BAU) scenario (given by the URL above) is an approximately linear increase in annual emissions from 700 Mt/yr in 2010 to 800 Mt/yr in 2050. Over the 40 years to 2050 and the cumulative UK emission is about 750 x 40 = 30,000 Mt = 30Gt.

    The suggested scenarios in the Pathways Calculator to achieve the required reduction result in approximately linear decreases from 700 Mt/yr to 200 Mt/yr. The cumulative emissions to 2050 are about 450 x 40 = 18,000 Mt = 18 Gt.

    Thus a reduction to 20% of 1990 levels of CO2 emission rate by 2050 would result in a reduction in cumulative CO2 emissions of approximately 30 – 18 = 12 Gt.

    The corresponding temperature mitigation can be found as follows: The change in global surface temperature is given by the well known relation

    dT = 3 x 1.2 x (dC/C) = 3.6 (dC/C)

    where the factor 1.2 corresponds to the Greenhouse Effect change in surface temperature due to CO2 doubling, the factor 3 corresponds to the IPCC assessment of the (positive) temperature feedback associated with changes in atmospheric CO2, dC is the change in CO2 content of the atmosphere, C is the existing CO2 content of the atmosphere, (C ~ 3000 Gt in 2010), and the ratio dC/C is a result of the logarithmic dependence of surface temperature on CO2 content in the atmosphere. The predicted global surface warming due to global CO2 emissions by 2050 is dT = 1.5 C, (IPCC 2007 Summary for Policy Makers). This can be equated, via the above equation, to a predicted cumulative increase in atmospheric CO2 by 2050 of dC = 1.5 x 3000/3.6 = 1,250 Gt. Thus by 2050 the CO2 content of the atmosphere, under a global BAU scenario, is expected to be 3000 + 1250 = 4250 Gt. Of which the UK BAU contribution would be, as predicted by the 2050 Pathways Calculator, 30 Gt.

    As shown above, if the UK achieves a reduction to 20% of 1990 levels by 2050, the UK contribution would be only 18 Gt thereby reducing the global CO2 content at 2050 by dC = 12 Gt. That is, from 4250 Gt to 4238 Gt.

    The corresponding global temperature mitigation is dT = 3.6 x 12/4250 = 0.01 C.

    The current average temperature in the UK is roughly equal to the current average Central England Temperature (CET) of 10 C. By 2050 the IPCC predicts, under a BAU scenario, an increase in average global surface temperature of 1.50 C. Thus, in 2050, the CET temperature can be predicted to be about 11.50 C.

    Therefore, if the UK achieves the required reduction in emission rate by 2050, the expected average temperature in the UK will be 11.49 C rather than 11.50 C.

    This temperature change, the result of a massive change in UK energy consumption and supply, is insignificant. It seems unlikely that major emitters such as China, the USA, Japan, India, Brazil and Indonesia will match the UK’s extraordinary commitment to GHG abatement. Therefore this insignificant temperature abatement calculated above is likely to be the overall result.

    When the UK government wishes to motivate concern about global warming it invariably uses predicted increases in global temperature. However, when attempting to reassure citizens that cycling to work, installing expensive solar panels or setting thermostats lower will be effective the government invariably expresses the results in terms of tonnes of CO2 abatement. Never in terms of temperature abatement. This suggests an attitude of duplicity or dishonesty on the part of the UK government. This note illustrates that it is relatively simple to convert from one measure of abatement to the other. UK citizens are primarily concerned that the economies they are being called on to make will result in something significant in terms of temperature abatement where they live 40 years from now. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that, in a public education tool such as the Pathways Calculator the UK government should provide a calculation of temperature mitigation associated with the alternative scenarios provided.

    Ian Edmonds
    Solartran Pty Ltd
    7 March 2011

    Media Release 3-3-11
    2050 Pathways Analysis