Posts Tagged ‘Climate’

The IPCC Is Never Wrong -2- “Settled Science” Of Chinese Whispers

2009/10/15 13 comments

(for the first part, visit “The IPCC Is Never Wrong -1- Why Kevin Trenberth Is Right“)

Given that the scientifically-valid statements in the IPCC AR4 report are strictly capable to cover and include whatever outcome the Earth’s climate will compute for us, how can we find ourselves surrounded by people clamoring that, on the basis of the very same IPCC report, the “science is settled”?

“Chinese whispers”. That’s how.

The incoming strictly-orthodox and yet very open minded IPCC message is of an ongoing, complex, fascinating scientific analysis full of uncertainties that need to be investigated. Yet, at the other end of the “broken telephone” all channels are clogged by absurdist, simplistic claims of “the debate is over” (a statement that is, in a sense, the true denial).

(ironically, even RealClimate has recognized there might be a communication problem…)

Take a look for example at the magnitude of the solar forcing, again according to the IPCC. The “official value” everybody with even a remote interest keeps hearing about, is 0.12 and can be found in AR4-WG1-Chapter2 (*), page 193.

But then if you go to page 212, Table 2.11, it turns out that the “level of scientific understanding” for Solar Irradiance is “Low”, and for the component linked to cosmic UV rays is “Very low”.

And that’s not even remotely enough. All the known unknowns about the role of the Sun in shaping the Earth’s climate are clearly spelled out in Joanna D. Haigh’s “The Sun and the Earth’s climate” (**). True, that article might have been published after the official IPCC deadline. On the other hand, Dr Haig was well known at the time to the IPCC authors and reviewers, and appears four times among the References for that chapter alone.

What has happened then? Go back to page 193. The text actually reads:

The best estimate is +0.12 W m-2 (90% confidence interval: +0.06 to +0.30 W m-2)

That means that actual value can be half, or 2.5 times as much, and that’s just considering a confidence interval of 90% (“moderately confident” in statistical jargon) rather than the classic 95% (regarding which the spread between minimum and maximum possible value would have obviously been considerably wider).

And so we find the IPCC “moderately confident” about a forcing whose (1) known known components are “little to very little” understood, (2) known unknown components are not even considered despite being present in the Literature and (3) unknown unknown components… (well, “no comment” about those).

Add to that the fact that a “forcing”, like all “forcings“, is not a measurable quantity in the real world, and therefore exists strictly as an estimate. An estimate about which the IPCC is somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ to say the least.


And yet, all that fun is not found anywhere: instead of “low to very low understanding” about an estimate done with “moderate confidence“, what we read is how small the Solar forcing “IS”: 0.12.

Onwards and upwards, as they used to say…

(*) Forster, P., V. Ramaswamy, P. Artaxo, T. Berntsen, R. Betts, D.W. Fahey, J. Haywood, J. Lean, D.C. Lowe, G. Myhre, J. Nganga, R. Prinn, G. Raga, M. Schulz and R. Van Dorland, 2007: Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

(**) Joanna D. Haigh, “The Sun and the Earth’s Climate”, Living Rev. Solar Phys. 4, (2007), 2. URL (cited on Oct 14, 2009):

Has Nordhaus Demonstrated We Better Do Nothing About CO2 emissions?

2008/06/09 8 comments

Kudos to the climate-change-believers at the New York Review of Books for providing almost 3 full pages to climate-heretic Freeman Dyson’s review of William Nordhaus’ “A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies” (Yale University Press) (and of Ernesto Zedillo (ed)’s “Global  Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto”).

Well it does provide a welcome change from the usual doom-and-gloom of Hansen, Flannery and McKibben, doesn’t it

Dyson (whose article has been rebuked on RealClimate with way too quick a contempt) doesn’t actually deal with the reasons for his skepticism on the dangers of global warming. After a long preamble on how efficient vegetation is at capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the NYRB article deals (among other things) with Nordhaus’s conclusions about costs and benefits of various possible climate-related policies, in a 100- and 200-year timeframe.

First of all, Nordhaus is very convinced about the need to put a “price” to carbon, to avoid “economic inefficiencies”.

It doesn’t sound such a bad idea, if the majority of people are truly convinced CO2 is a harmful emission. My main concern is, how does anybody find out what that “carbon price” should be, if not an arbitrary value?

As Dyson reports, Nordhaus follows “the conventional wisdom of economists” and does all computations for a 4% discount rate.

For mysterious reasons, this has become a point of contention, with the Stern Report using a discount rate close to 0%, and the RealClimate guys rather naively trying to argue for an equivalence between people actually living today and people possibly living in the future. Luckily, an AGW-believer with a solid experience in economics has torn such equivalence to pieces. It simply makes no sense, morally-economically speaking.

What is the point of stealing from the people of the present thereby removing plenty of resources from the very people of the future one is trying to provide resources to?

And what is the moral case, outside of economics? Well, let’s say you have a sick child and a single dose of medicine…would you really withold it just in case you would have another child, five or ten years in the future?

My criticism of Nordhaus is different. I would have rather preferred computations based on a progressively fuzzier discount rate, since the future gets harder and harder to predict (obviously) the further we try to look into the…future!

Leaving the rate at 4%, Nordhaus’ 1-century results are the following, compared to a “do nothing/business-as-usual” (BAU) situation:

(a) with a continuously-adjusted carbon tax, a $3 trillion net gain
(b) with an updated Kyoto protocol, a $1 trillion net gain (with the US), and zero (without the US)
(c) with draconian, Stern-like limits on emissions, a $15 trillion net loss
(d) with drastic-but-gradual, Gore-like limits on emissions, a $21 trillion net loss
(e) if a cheap way to capture and store CO2 (“low-cost backstop”) is discovered, a $17 trillion net gain

Dyson reports the conclusions as:

(1) Avoid the ambitious proposals
(2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop
(3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails
(4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent.

These objectives, according to Dyson, are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.

I am not sure I can agree with the above.

What I see is a strong case for doing absolutely nothing.

In scenario (a), in fact, the total loss for BAU is about $15 billion per year. Not much to cry about, really. 

Just the complex mechanism that needs to be setup and run for a continuously-adjusted carbon tax, with its load of intrinsic inefficiencies, should be more than enough to bring such a loss to zero.

Kyoto-like interventions (scenario (b)) look absolutely irrelevant, and of course both Stern and Gore (scenarios (c) and (d)) have the single-minded goal to make us all miserable (starting with the Chinese).

The one “hope” is in carbon capture and storing, something presented by Dyson in his preferred terms of genetically-modified trees that could reduce the atmospheric CO2 content “by half in fifty years”.

But…if you believe in CO2 as a greenhouse gas, reducing its atmospheric concentration by half will surely sound like absolute madness…a one-way trip to a worldwide refrigerator?


All in all, then, it looks like the work of a convinced AGWer such as William Nordhaus has been useful in identifying what to do regarding CO2 emissions: nothing, zero, zilch, nada.

Will that accelerate the end of the AGW madness? I don’t think so. Perhaps the above is why Lord Stern, well aware of the overall situation, went through all the pains of trying to argue for a quasi-zero discount rate.

If logical arguments show the best course of action is to do nothing, that concept by itself will simply convince AGWer to become gloomier prophets of doom than ever.

You see…there simply is no AGW worry without catastrophism.

Parallels between Lysenkoism and AGW

2008/06/06 23 comments

Timely broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time” series, about NOTE UPDATED LINK Lysenko and “lysenkoism”, the propaganda-based “science” that Stalin’s agricultural adviser managed to sell as “truth” from 1928 to 1962 at least.

In 1928, as America heads towards the Wall Street Crash, Joseph Stalin reveals his master plan – nature is to be conquered by science, Russia to be made brutally, glitteringly modern and the world transformed by communist endeavour.

Into the heart of this vision stepped Trofim Lysenko, a self-taught geneticist who promised to turn Russian wasteland into a grain-laden Garden of Eden.

Today, Lysenko is a byword for fraud but in Stalin’s Russia his ideas became law. They reveal a world of science distorted by ideology, where ideas were literally a matter of life and death. To disagree with Lysenko risked the gulag and yet he damaged, perhaps irreparably, the Soviet Union’s capacity to fight and win the Cold War.

The MP3 of the programme can be NOTE UPDATED LINK downloaded here.

What makes it relevant to the climate debate is the list of parallels that can be made between Lysenko’s “Soviet biology and genetics” and contemporaneous thoughts of Anthropogenic Global Warming:

(a) Results, and success are declared before an experiment has completed (at position 12m10s, in the mp3 file above). In AGW, just look at the innumerable papers that take AGW as established truth, even as the debate on “attribution” is still very much open among mainstream scientists.

(b) Proponents always declare “victory”, no matter what happens, and are always ready to shift the ground (mp3 position: 14m15s). That’s quite common in AGW circles: nowadays, if the planet warms up or cools down, it’s anyway compatible with AGW theory.

(c) Science is presented as a series of “solutions”, not simply as “knowledge” (mp3 position: 19m45s). AGWers cannot disentangle research from advocacy: for example, the IPCC is politically active, to the point of qualifying for a Nobel Peace Prize.

(d) According to the scientists, central planning is better than free capitalism (mp3 position: 35m45s). From Al Gore to London School of Economics’ Professor Lord Giddens, there is only one thought: free markets are not good enough, and a big State intervention is needed to save the planet from climate doom.

Ironically,  the BBC guests laughed only up to a point to the witty remark made by one of them: that Lysenko’s personality and attitude would have made him a “guaranteed success in British science today” (mp3: 24m15s).

Even more ironic is the fact that Lysenko himself did come up with a geoengineering way to change the climate of Siberia (by planting trees in clusters, so that the weakest ones would sacrifice themselves to let the most resistant plants survive).

And in case you wonder: no, it didn’t work…


Dealing with Climate Change…in Ancient Rome

2008/05/15 1 comment

(thanks to LM for pointing this out)

Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella (AD 4-70) writes in De Re Rustica (“Agriculture”, or perhaps “Affairs of the Land”) (Book III, Chapter 20):

For there is never a year so mild and temperate as not to inflict some injury upon some variety of the vine: if it is dry, that kind which thrives on moisture is damaged; if rainy, that which delights in dry weather; if cold and frosty, that which cannot endure blighting cold; or if hot, that which cannot bear heat. 2 And, not to run through, at this time, a thousand rigours of the weather, there is always something to work harm to vineyards.

Climate Models Are Irrelevant, and Latest IPCC Models a Regression

(many thanks to LM for pointing this out)

  • “[GCM] model outputs at annual and climatic (30‐year) scales are irrelevant with reality
  • model predictions are much poorer that an elementary prediction based on the time average
  • The GCM outputs of AR4, as compared to those of TAR, are a regression in terms of the elements of falsifiability they provide, because most of the AR4 scenarios refer only to the future, whereas TAR scenarios also included historical periods

Those are not the insane ramblings of yours truly, but the conclusions of D. Koutsoyiannis et al’s “Assessment of the reliability of climate predictions based on comparisons with historical time series“, a poster presentation at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2008 in Vienna, Austria, 13‐18 April 2008.

Of course, it’s only a poster presentation…and of course, there was really no space at all to talk about it in the news, eg on the BBC.

Well, there is one good thing that has come out of this though: some explicit references in RealClimate about the need to have “a very civilized and friendly chat, “to be respectful, sincere, and show courtesy in our criticism, even when we argue why we think that a paper has flaws“, and that “we some day may be mistaken, so it’s important to be humble and check our drafts amongst ourselves“.

This will mean no more verbal attacks about “negationism”, and few if any displays of condescension. Sure it will… 

Gulf Stream Myths (2)

Another March, another collection of scientific half-truths about the Gulf Stream. I do not believe it is a coincidence that I wrote about gulf stream myths a year ago, quoting also Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:

“That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend. […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […]

The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.”

Nothing has changed since. And so yesterday we have learned that the “Atlantic’s Gulf Stream has huge influence on atmosphere“. But is it really so?

(1) Not to mention Prof. Carl Wunsch, let’s have a look at what NASA has to say about oceanic currents:

“The major surface currents are wind generated (as most other oceanic currents are)”

Therefore, rather than discovering that “a band of rain […] tracks the warm surface water” it may very well be the other way around.

(2) In terms of European warming by the Gulf Stream, let’s also compare like-for-like following Seager’s line of thought: and so the cities to choose around latitude 50N are Vancouver (V) and London (L), not Quebec City or the island of Newfoundland.

Vancouver and London, in fact, have an Ocean to their West: while Quebec City, Newfoundland, or the Avachinsky volcano in Kamchatka, all places much cooler on average than London, are just east of a continent.

And so: weather conditions as from the BBC weather site show very little difference between the two cities. Values in the following list are VancouverLondon: for example “Avg Min: -1.3C” means Vancouver is 1.3C cooler in average minimum temperature, than London.

Average Sunlight (hours): 1.2
Temperature (C):
Avg Min: -1.3
Avg Max: 0.2
Rec Min: -3.2
Rec Max: -0.4
Relative humidity am: 11.4
Relative humidity pm: 6.4
Average Precipitation (mm): 72.1
Wet Days (+0.25 mm): 1.6

As it happens, there are warm Oceanic currents that reach Vancouver. But how likely is it that they are as powerful there as the Gulf Stream is in London? What a remarkable coincidence that would be.

Rather, the best explanation in the Occam’s Razor sense is that the warming of Vancouver and London compared to other places around latitude 50N, is due to a metereological (atmospheric) effect, not an Oceanic one.

Gulf Stream Myths

2008/03/14 4 comments

(originally published on 18 March 2007 as “Gulf Stream Myths“. Click here for the March 2008 update “Gulf Stream Myths (2)“.)

Myth #1: The Gulf Stream will fail if a massive outpour of freshwater will come out of Greenland glaciers due to increasing temperatures.

Answer: No, it most definitely will not. As explained by Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the MIT in Cambridge, Mass. (USA), in a letter published on The Economist:

The Gulf Stream is a wind-driven phenomenon (as explained in a famous 1948 paper by Henry Stommel). […] Shut-off would imply repeal of the law of conservation of angular momentum […] focusing on near-impossible Gulf Stream failure is an unproductive distraction

Myth #2: The Gulf Stream is responsible for the milder weather in the United Kingdom and part of Northern Europe than North American regions at similar latitudes.

Answer: No, it most definitely does not. As explained by Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in an article published on American Scientist:

That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend.


Seager’s comments are particularly telling on how current Climatology is self-destroying by way of catastrophism:

Pretty much everything we had found could have been concluded on the basis of results that were already available […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […] The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.

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