Friday, February 19, 2010

What we do with what we know: a story

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was not an easy cancer to explain to people, because, basically, the doctors hadn’t seen any cases quite like it before and could not identify precisely where it had started or what caused it. Since it was such a rare growth, they could also not give me a meaningful prognosis. The scans indicated that it was of a significant size, in a critical location and there was good reason to think it was probably growing quite rapidly. Their recommendations were that surgery would be almost impossible (one of them told me, “I’m not into killing my patients”), but that chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy might have some effect (one oncologist spoke of “curative doses” and another simply of reducing its size).

Now at this point, I had a variety of possible responses open to me. I could go and get further oncological opinions (I had already gone to three different hospitals and had multiple scans and a variety of tests).

I could have weighed up the probable side effects of treatment (quite a long list!) and decided that it was not worth it and tried to make the most of my remaining time, however long or short that turned out to be.

I could have heeded the many voices telling me that traditional medicine doesn’t know how to deal with cancer and that I needed various alternative treatments: homeopathy, acupuncture, meditation, herbal remedies, hypnosis, miracle diets and many more that were urged upon me by well-meaning contacts, often with powerful testimonials.

I could have listened to the Christian sisters and brothers who told me that I would be healed if I had faith, that God loves miracles and would preserve my life without treatment, that they had seen or been given amazing recoveries after prayer.

I could have embraced the cynical critiques of the medical system by noting that it is in doctors’ interests to keep me thinking that I am sick, that I need them, that I need their expensive and complicated treatments.

I could have gone onto Google and attempted my own re-diagnosis on the basis of extensive reading of the most popular sites, or by consulting the most helpful discussion boards.

Each of these options were being put forward by people who apparently desired good for me. Yet deciding to go ahead with the recommended treatment was a relatively easy conclusion for me. Despite its costs, I do not at all regret the decision and suspect there is a very good chance I would not be here today without the excellent treatment I received at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Indeed, it has been three years today since I had my last radiotherapy dose, a few more days since my final round of chemo.

I’m sharing this story not for the sympathy vote, nor to celebrate an anniversary, and nor yet to ridicule the faith or intentions of those who urged me to avoid treatment. I share this story to raise the issue of the relation of knowledge to ethics. How does our knowledge of the world affect our obligations and opportunities to pursue good?

Many factors contributed to my decision to accept treatment, but significant amongst them was the considered advice of recognised experts in the field based on years of empirical research. I was not morally bound to follow this advice. The research has not been exhaustive. Not all the experts I saw recommended exactly the same treatment. My case involved some degree of novelty. Not all cancer treatment is as effective as mine has been so far. But I do believe I would have been both foolish and seriously at fault if I had simply ignored their advice, or acted as though the diagnosis must be wrong because I’ve heard of some misdiagnoses in the past, or if I had presumed that I would be alright because some tumours undergo spontaneous remission.

It would be no good to say that since the scriptures don’t tell me whether or not to trust doctors, then I have no reason to trust them. It would equally be no good to say that since the scriptures don’t tell me to have cancer treatment, then I was under no moral obligation to take the advice of the oncologists seriously.

Of course, receiving treatment in order to try to stay alive was neither my only nor my highest moral obligation. There are worse things than death. There are ways of staying alive that diminish the point of being alive. But all things considered, I believe there was a compelling moral case for me to accept the recommended treatment. I believe that not only was it possible to pursue this treatment without being distracted from more important things (like loving those around me and praising the wonders of the one who gives all life), but that the treatment was in fact a means to that end, keeping me alive for more service and song, and opening many opportunities to love and praise that I might otherwise not have had.

It may be obvious where I am going with this, but in case it is not let me spell it out. There is a large and diverse body of scientific experts with years in the field who point to widespread and growing empirical evidence of a critical diagnosis, which we cannot in good conscience ignore. They may offer a variety of different (even sometimes conflicting) advice on specific treatment, but it would be irresponsible to dismiss their warnings or to treat the situation as though it were nothing but a distraction from what is truly important.

Our knowledge of the world, though fallible and incomplete, is nonetheless sufficient to contribute to the moral deliberation of Christians. The evidence for alarming anthropogenic climate change is strong enough such that wilfully ignoring or burying the issue at this stage has become irresponsible. This is not a denial of sola scriptura nor to fall into legalism. Nor is it to say that climate change is the only or primary moral challenge of our day, or that all Christians ought to become climate change activists. And neither yet do I claim that Christians owe their allegiance to any particular mitigation strategy. But as one significant pastoral and social issue amongst others, and one linked to fears and guilt, to anger and confusion, to questions of greed and of faith, hope and love, addressing climate change Christianly is neither a luxury nor a distraction from the gospel.

113 comments:

michael jensen said...

That, my friend, is a brilliant piece. Thankyou.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Thank you.

gbroughto said...

Utterly clear and compelling... thank you.

Anonymous said...

I remember when you were going thru treatment, I spoke to you about my mom going thru treatment for lung cancer.

She was diagnosed in Dec. '06, today, she is alive and well. The Drs had a big part in helping her go into remission, but having said that, I believe with all my heart that our prayers were answered.

Michelle
s0ngbird1962@aol.com

byron smith said...

Michelle - thanks, I remember you mentioning your mother. I am very glad she is also in remission!

And I agree about prayer. I did not mean to imply that prayer is irrelevant or secondary, simply that it would generally be a mistake to pray for healing while rejecting the help of expert healers.

And just to clarify for the other options as well, I am not saying that there is no place for any of them. For instance, I found some visualisations and meditation to be quite helpful in keeping me calm during the more uncomfortable parts of treatment, even if I don't think there is good evidence for healing being all in the mind (as some people claim). Similarly, getting another opinion can often be a good idea. And Google is a massively useful tool, though its limits need to be kept in mind. A few searches is not going to turn you into an expert, especially on complex matters like oncology (or climatology). One illustrative story: a friend of mine heard about my diagnosis from another friend and then did a Google search in which he found peer-reviewed studies saying that my condition had a five year survival rate of <5%. The only problem was that he had heard a slightly garbled message and so was searching stats on a different cancer.

jm said...

Byron, did you seen Lisa Pryor's (sort of) related article in yesterday's paper.

Gordon Cheng said...

It's quite extraordinary to draw an analogy between a cancer (of which you've been cured, and thank God), and another problem that scientists claim to have expertise on, in another field, and using different methods, and operating from a knowledge base that is completely unrelated to the one in which your specialists were expert in.

So I thank God that you are better. And I thank God too that we're past the day when scientific consensus prescribed leeches and herbal remedies for the problem you had to face.

And I thank God too that the point you are making is essentially irrelevant to the kindness God has shown in curing you from your illness. Praise God that you continue in good health!

Gordon Cheng said...

PS and with Michael, a brilliant piece of writing.

Andrew Chirgwin said...

Byron,
As they say "You can lead a horse to water, but it doesn't mean the beast will drink".

I think there is a large number of people, Christian and non-Christian, who are blinded by various things around them. I get blinded by plenty of things from my past.

Also, in a nod to an otherwise terrible film (The Second "XXX Almighty" with "Bruce Almighty" as the first one).

Morgan Freeman's "God" character says (to the effect of)...
"When you pray for more patience, do you expect to suddenly have more patience or that God will give you the chance to practice more patience?"
When people pray for health and healing, do they think "God is going to 'magic' away my cancer" or "God's made some darned smart people who know a lot about cancer and are going to help heal me?"

I personally think that sometimes we forget that God likes to work out his blessings and miracles through the people he has created with the vast raft of talents they have. And I'll avoid running off onto my hobby-horse topic of "Eyes, Ears, Feet, Hands, Stomachs, Kidneys, Colons & Appendixes of Christ's Body"...

Good to know you were taken care of Byron, and I hope you will remain healthy.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Absolutely amazing! This is quite compelling Byron.

Anonymous said...

we thank God that there are a lot of opportunities for disinterested love in your house right now, Byron. How is your capability for song these days?

Alan Wood

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

That was real apples and turnips stuff.

Loved your apples, can even personally relate to it - I spent 2 weeks in RPA undergoing coarctation of aorta operation on my 21st birthday and now live with encroaching myelofibrosis with excellent medical care.

However the turnips or whatever - entirely different matter, dealing with contentious and inter-related matters (science, economics, politics, sociology) made even more hotly/coldly contested post the Copenhagen fiasco.

Just think about the uncertainty/risk factor equation: can you really equate your own situation with one potentially affecting 6.3, soon to be 9.1 billion Byrons with umpteen outcomes depending on which paths are followed, not followed? The mind boggles.

No, I think there's a logical fallacy lying at the heart of your post.

byron smith said...

Alan: yes indeed - my singing is far better than it was three years ago! But still gives up fairly quickly on its limited range. Nonetheless, I'm thankful to be able to sing some nursery rhymes and so on each day. :-)

Gordon and David: thank you for your comments. Notice that I have not suggested any particular strategy or political path in this little story. The issue I am discussing is knowledge and its relation to ethics. This is what forms the analogy between the two situations. In each case, the best knowledge that we have tells us that there is a major problem with how things currently are. Those who would reject this diagnosis currently bear the burden of proof as those opposed to the mainstream position in their field. Those who (for example) think cancer is caused and cured by mental states have the burden of proof to show why mainstream oncology is not the best explanation of the data. And those who claim that anthropogenic climate change is not the best explanation of the data also bear the burden of proof to provide a compelling alternative explanation.

I am not saying that such alternative explanations are impossible or undesirable, simply that until they are made coherently and compellingly (and as a basic rule of thumb, reputable peer-reviewed journals are the best media for offering such explanations in a scientific context), there is a positive epistemic reason to accept and respond to the current best explanation.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

I wonder whether we can have discussion on global warming and may be this is the place!

First I’ll introduce myself. I am now in my mid 60’s and according to Andrew Cameron men of my age tend to be sceptical – my response is that our background is important. In my case I did a BE in Chem Eng at Sydney University followed by an MBA 10 years later. I worked for a large British multinational, holding a succession of production jobs in the petrochemical industry. My last job was manager of a medium size R&D group where I had maybe a dozen researchers with PhDs and Masters so I have some familiarity with science, but also the turning of science to practical applications which is no easy thing involving issues of science, engineering, economics, people, politics, etc.

During my life we’ve lurched through crisis after crisis: possibility of nuclear war; in the 1970’s we were overpopulating and running out of fossil fuels - that was all very difficult if you worked in the petrochemical industry (I hope it doesn't bother you that I should have worked in the petrochemical industry); 1980/90’s ozone problems (I believe ozone thinning still occurs), Y2K was massive for a few years prior to - then poof, gone; global cooling for a while in 1970’s; now global warming. (I had a complete change in direction in 1990 when I entered PTC, Melbourne)

So for me there is a bit of déjà vu about global warming. I wrote a paper in 2007 (http://candn.pcvic.org.au/media/pdf/articles_4/ReviewofClimateChange.pdf) on the subject of Climate Change which gives the gist of my views.

In trying to get the issue into perspective I have in mind a number of bright orange orang-utans bouncing around on the top tier of the MCG Great Southern Stand, last Saturday of the year, attracting attention. Now I’m not at all sure that in a crowd of 100,000 footie fans having 35 or 60 of these bright orange orang-utans is going to make much difference to the visual impact. May be 3,500 compared to 6,000 bright orange orang-utans, but not 35 compared to 60 of them.

Now you might say, David, there’s a BIG fallacy if you want me to relate your 35 or 60 of bright orange orang-utans to 350 ppm or 600 ppm CO2, and I’d have to agree with you.

You say,

The issue I am discussing is knowledge and its relation to ethics. This is what forms the analogy between the two situations. In each case, the best knowledge that we have tells us that there is a major problem with how things currently are.

I take your point re the analogy between your situation and global warming in regard to knowledge and its relation to ethics but with respect to the size and significance of the issue including what is at stake, (as I discuss in earlier post) the analogy falls, with respect it is more chalk and cheese or apples and turnips than an analogous comparison.

However I do take your point in relating ethics and knowledge and I acknowledge that the knowledge that you possess and affirm about global warming should, and I can see drives you to an ethically sound position. So far so good. I’m with you.

However it all turns on whether you are operating with the best knowledge.

Perhaps I’ll pause here.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

I’m still here.

Before taking up the question whether you are arriving at ethical conclusions based on best knowledge, I will interact with your post a little more

There is a large and diverse body of scientific experts with years in the field who point to widespread and growing empirical evidence of a critical diagnosis, (I agree this is the case though with caveat regarding the quality of the evidence) which we cannot in good conscience ignore (I agree this should be the case if the quality of the evidence demands it). They may offer a variety of different (even sometimes conflicting) advice on specific treatment, but it would be irresponsible to dismiss their warnings or to treat the situation as though it were nothing but a distraction from what is truly important (OK but with the previous qualification).

Our knowledge of the world, though fallible and incomplete, is nonetheless sufficient to contribute to the moral deliberation of Christians (Agreed). The evidence for alarming anthropogenic climate change is strong enough such that wilfully ignoring or burying the issue at this stage has become irresponsible. (No - way overstated, not only because I challenge the quality of evidence, but because there is an implicit assumption within the statement, that because the science says so and so, we must do xyz – doing xyz is complex, bringing an incredible array of factors into play: political will, popular opinion/concerns, economics, availability of proven technology, engineering, environmental aspects associated with proposed remedial action, requirement for prioritising because of scarce resources, timing issues and so on) This is not a denial of sola scriptura nor to fall into legalism (Understood and agreed). Nor is it to say that climate change is the only or primary moral challenge of our day, or that all Christians ought to become climate change activists (Agreed). And neither yet do I claim that Christians owe their allegiance to any particular mitigation strategy (Agreed). But as one significant pastoral and social issue amongst others, and one linked to fears and guilt, to anger and confusion, to questions of greed and of faith, hope and love, addressing climate change Christianly is neither a luxury nor a distraction from the gospel (Setting aside my caveat regarding evidence, agreed).

And from your reply to Gordon and myself,

I am not saying that such alternative explanations are impossible or undesirable, simply that until they are made coherently and compellingly (and as a basic rule of thumb, reputable peer-reviewed journals are the best media for offering such explanations in a scientific context), there is a positive epistemic reason to accept and respond to the current best explanation (I generally agree with this, though it can be messy going through a paradigm shift - BTW I’m not prepared to say we are going through a paradigm shift on global warming combined with disastrous calamities to follow, but I think it a real possibility).

OK, enough for now.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

These are my debating points – I am happy to add references. My reflections as a Christian are those in the paper cited earlier.

1. It is now possible to predict with a degree of confidence that a period of reassessment of global warming, the likely consequences for the environment and actions to address the phenomenon will take place, almost certainly lasting several years. Whether or not this reassessment will now take place under the auspices of the IPCC remains to be seen. (I make this point because we already know the nations adjacent to the Himalayas with India taking the lead announced recently that they intend undertaking their own independent study of the Himalayan glaciers.). A period of reflection and further work over the next few years without clamour would be a GOOD THING.

That this should be so results from an accumulation of factors:

2. Questions raised over the integrity of the data presented in the IPCC AR4 report and more importantly the predicted calamitous scenarios contained in the report attributed to unchecked and increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. These questions arise from Climategate (the leaking of emails and documents from the Climate Research Unit at the UEA, so called glaciergate, africagate, amazongate – I know Byron, you were inclined to say climategate was a storm in a tea cup: George Monbiot at the Guardian doesn’t think so, UK Science chief John Beddington doesn’t think so, saying climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics, Prof Phil Jones has had to step down while an inquiry led by a senior public servant takes place (the Russell enquiry), just this past week the UK Met Office has announced it is creating a brand new global temperature data set open to public scrutiny and rigorous peer review, in particular to better assess the risks posed by changes in extremes of climate. This is quite an admission of doubt in the data being used in the models

3. Unfortunately somewhere along the line, advocacy of a perceived need to reduce carbon emissions seems to have driven the science rather than advocacy being fuelled by the science. This is now going to change. The Russell enquiry may well vindicate Jones (the science establishment closing ranks just as I observe in Presbytery, ministers instinctively defend fellow ministers when some dispute arises between that minister and his congregation), but better science will be done and already examples of peer reviewed articles critiquing the current AR4 consensus are appearing in the journals – I can document this.

4. The AR3/AR4 hockey stick has been discredited by further revelations in the leaked CRU documents. Phil Jones in the recent interview with the BBC’s Roger Harrabin entertained the possibility of a medieval warm period, the very thing the hockey stick denied (and thereby fundamentality altered the shape of the temperature anomaly curve).

5. Particularly challenging for “the greatest moral challenge of our times” to borrow Mr Rudd’s words, has been
the lack of global warming over the past decade, if not the past 15 years. Again in the same interview with Harrabin, Jones acknowledged that there was no statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present time – this is a huge concession. This lack of warming was not predicted by the very models used to predict future rises of 2-5 degrees C. Vicki Pope of the UK Met Office has bravely predicted global warming to resume in 2, 3 years. Time will tell.

6. So, there is a gradually widening perception that Global warming has been exaggerated coupled with question marks over predicted future calamities - this doubt is more a gnawing doubt that refuses to go away and even appears to be gaining support, including from climate scientists. All recent measures of public opinion demonstrate sharp decline in concern over global warming.

TBC

David Palmer said...

7. A realisation that that there are no easy ways of dealing with increasing atmospheric CO2, either technically or politically, and further that a commitment to reduce CO2 will require action by all major economies including China, India and Brazil, and further that such action will be very expensive and uncertain as to success.

8. The failure of the Copenhagen process to find a successor to Kyoto, itself a largely failed process in terms of outcome – this failure has been due in large part to the unwillingness if not inability of sovereign nations to act in favour of a global good that might be to the detriment of the perceived interests of such nations. It wasn’t America but China that scuttled Copenhagen, aided and abetted by India. China is the world’s largest CO2 emitter and India if not already number three can’t be all that far away from overtaking Russia.

9. The concomitant loss of confidence by politicians and the public that a solution can be found to a problem that just may not exist, or at least not exist to the degree of severity up to very recently believed to be the case.

10. Cap and trade is dead in America, whilst Rudd’s CPRS has just yesterday lost its last business support – it too is dead. Actually I’m glad it is dead - very much a complicated churning maelstrom of ideas and policy confusion: Government auction carbon credits (that part OK), industry passes costs on, supposedly, maybe, maybe not the poor are compensated, some of the biggest polluters plus trade affected industries get free credits, and then there’s that business of o’seas offsets with a whole lot of question marks over that. Clive Spash is a major critic of cap and trade.

11. As a general rule, adaptation is what the human race is good at.

12. I would happily support a carbon tax that is used to fund new (preferably renewable) technology because regardless of whether or not there are dire global warming consequences, with rising world GDP and rising population, fossil fuels, especially oil will keep going up in price (and therefore happily act as a de facto tax forcing the development of alternative energy resources). There should be no escape hatches as per CPRS.

13. Australia like the rest of the world will be shifting a lot of its electricity generating capacity to nuclear power in the coming decades, and sooner rather than later. I’ve seen analysis on Kevin Rudd’s 5% reduction in carbon emissions on 2000 levels demonstrating a required annual rate of decarbonisation of 4-5% pa (it’s this high because of the projected population growth and per capita GDP growth – when you get your mind around these figures you are talking nuclear power sooner than later.

14. Wind farms have serious short comings which will become clearer with the passage of time. Solar probably has better prospects long term but the technology is still away off. Carbon capture and storage is unproven and siting and the possibility of leakage are problems.

Happy to see how you react. I hope you can see I'm open to the possibility of the need for action. I'm not convinced the case for action has been made and if the problem is as bad as the IPCC says then honesty has been lacking. The measures necessary to reduce carbon emissions are enormous and the idea that you can make the transition with little effect on GDP is ludicrous, hence my point about adaptation, rather than mitigation. If peak oil is truly peak oil then is a lot of compensation in that fact alone.

byron smith said...

David - Thank you for taking the time to reply at such length with thoughtfulness and clarity. And thank you for linking to the paper you have mentioned previously. It is very helpful to have a document laid out in such detail. From memory and for reference, I don't believe I am in major dispute with any part of Andrew Cameron's presentation to Anglican Synod in 2007 on this matter.

In summary, (for those without the time to read my much longer answer, which will continue over multiple posts below), with respect David, while I appreciate and join with you in your concern for avoiding false solutions and in wanting to give a faithful Christian perspective on the ethical issues surrounding climate change, I think that you give far too much credence to a small set of repeatedly discredited voices, you repeat numerous sceptical canards that have been frequently answered (you'll see that I frequently link to this very useful resource, which summarises 90 common sceptical objections and answers them with reference to peer-reviewed work), and you do not seem familiar with much of the actual peer-reviewed science. I make no claims to expertise on the matter, but I had little trouble finding studies that contradict, clarify or answer most of your key sceptical claims about the science.

Let me address your points in the helpful sequence you have laid out, beginning with a couple of points you made prior to your numbered sequence, which I will label with capital letters for future reference:

A. No - way overstated, not only because I challenge the quality of evidence, but because there is an implicit assumption within the statement, that because the science says so and so, we must do xyz
I think you may have misunderstood me. I reject the implicit assumption you are making. Please notice that I have repeatedly said this and I stand by it:
Notice that I have not suggested any particular strategy or political path in this little story.
And this:
And neither yet do I claim that Christians owe their allegiance to any particular mitigation strategy.
My claim is simply that addressing climate change Christianly is neither a luxury nor a distraction from the gospel.

byron smith said...

B. During my life we’ve lurched through crisis after crisis: possibility of nuclear war; in the 1970’s we were overpopulating and running out of fossil fuels - that was all very difficult if you worked in the petrochemical industry (I hope it doesn't bother you that I should have worked in the petrochemical industry); 1980/90’s ozone problems (I believe ozone thinning still occurs), Y2K was massive for a few years prior to - then poof, gone; global cooling for a while in 1970’s; now global warming.
While alarmism (unnecessary fear over unlikely or exaggerated threats) is a real issue, I'm afraid that most of these examples do not show what you claim for them.
• Nuclear war – this was indeed a very real threat and remains a grave danger for our civilisation. Despite the end of the Cold War, there are still more than enough nukes around to see off a significant proportion of the global population and plunge the rest into a very dark time indeed. Over decades there have been widespread and vigorous international efforts by governments, churches and NGOs to reduce this threat. A major nuclear exchange is not a problem to which we adapt if and when it happens, but one we energetically try to avoid as far as possible.
• Ozone – This also was a real and growing danger (and remains something of a problem), though was fairly successfully addressed by the Montreal Protocol in the late 80s, an international agreement that attempted to mitigate levels of CFCs through international agreement and regulation. It is often quoted as a model of the kind of successful agreement that may be needed for GHG emissions, though there are of course major differences (carbon and methane are far more intimately tied to our economy than CFCs were). Nonetheless, it is also often cited as the most successful international environmental agreement to date (despite some frantic warnings of the dire economic consequences of implementing it. There is no monopoly on alarmism).
• Running out of fossil fuels – as you know, the problem is not running out, but peak oil, which remains a serious concern amongst governments, big oil companies and a wide range of other interested parties. Once again, to suggest we adapt after we have passed the peak would be a serious failure of foresight as argued by the 2005 Hirsch Report to the US Department of Energy, which estimated that even with ten years of aggressive preparation, the US would not avoid a serious economic downturn as a result of global peaking. The report claims that at least two decades of concerted effort is required prior to peak to facilitate transfer to other sources of energy.
• Y2K – the debate is still ongoing about this. Was it an expensive preparation for a non-problem? Or was the extensive preparation what enabled there to be little problem? It may be a little of both – that the extent of the potential problem was overstated but that various still quite troubling outcomes were avoided due to good preparation ahead of time. I am not very well read on this issue so I don't make much of it, though it seems there was a level of unnecessary hysteria in some circles over it.
• Global cooling – this is a mistaken meme that needs to be put to rest. There was no widespread global cooling scare put forward by scientists in the 1970's. Only a handful of papers mentioned it, while there were many times more already warning of warming back then. Please read this or watch this.

Perhaps your case could be strengthened by mentioning terrorism, or Iraqi WMDs, or Christians who believe that barcodes are the mark of the beast?

byron smith said...

In summary, I agree that there are pathological forms of alarmism, and that the extent of problems can be overstated for political or economic gain (or due to mistaken theological assumptions), but many of the issues you raise were (and often are) serious threats to human and global wellbeing requiring careful forethought to avoid or minimise. They were not false alarms in which scientists irresponsibly sounded the alarm. And none of the more alarmist issues have the degree of scientific support as anthropogenic climate change.

C. Was your reference to orangutans at the MCG an actual event that I missed? Or were you just making a point about the relatively small number of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere that couldn't possibly be making a difference? If the latter, I'm sure you're aware that much smaller concentrations of certain gases can have very dramatic effects and you yourself acknowledge that even such a small handful of CO2 molecules raise earth's temperature by an average of about 33ºC from what it would otherwise be. So why mention it if you know that it is a fallacy to suggest that such a small number couldn't be having a significant effect?

byron smith said...

1. It is now possible to predict […] that a period of reassessment of global warming […] will take place, almost certainly lasting several years. […] A period of reflection and further work over the next few years without clamour would be a GOOD THING.
Of course important work will continue on understanding the mechanisms, gathering more data, improving models and predictions. And of course technical, economic, social and political suggestions and strategies for mitigation will also continue to be developed and debated. And you are right that sometimes a bad solution can be worse than the problem. But taking "a few years" off from implementing any strategies will make it significantly more difficult to reach any of the targets that have been seriously proposed (and continue to be, media silliness notwithstanding).

2. Questions raised over the integrity of the data presented in the IPCC AR4 report and more importantly the predicted calamitous scenarios contained in the report attributed to unchecked and increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. These questions arise from Climategate […] so called glaciergate, africagate, amazongate
You are conflating a number of issues here. The IPCC AR4 report included a mistaken claim about glaciers (ironically, the mistake itself has been widely misreported, since the report says that it is highly likely they will reduce in size from 500,000 km2 to 100,000 km2, not disappear entirely). This is not the only mistake in the report, since there are numerous cases in which the report underestimated likely effects. But this was an embarrassing mistake because it was based on a poor source, nonetheless, the peer-reviewed glaciological research that should have been cited supports the (still worrying) claim that "The Himalayan glaciers are of vital importance to half a billion people. Most of this crucial resource is disappearing at an accelerating rate."
"Africagate" and "Amazongate" are media beat-ups based on very shoddy journalism attempting to jump on the bandwagon. Read here about "amazongate", which was simply a case of citing grey literature that itself cites peer-reviewed literature. The "mistake" was simply that the IPCC report should have gone straight to the horse's mouth and cut out the middle man. Read here about "africagate", where the mistake was saying "countries" rather than "country" and citing grey literature when superior sources were available.

How do these minor mistakes undermine the credibility of the IPCC? It has never claimed to be perfect, simply that it is "the leading body for the assessment of climate change" (NB Notice also that the IPCC aims to be "never policy-prescriptive", which is interesting in light of your comments at the start about the science telling us to do xyz.). Are mistakes embarrassing? Yes, particularly the glacial claim. But does this invalidate its position as leading body? No (or you can listen to what Nobel winning scientist Steven Chu has to say on the matter).

byron smith said...

2. (cont) I know Byron, you were inclined to say climategate was a storm in a tea cup: George Monbiot at the Guardian doesn’t think so, UK Science chief John Beddington doesn’t think so, saying climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics,
I have said right from the start that the hacked emails contained matters that there were potentially of genuine concern (and I linked to Monbiot's piece), specifically relating to FOI requests, and also noted that more things could yet come to light. My point in that post was that the small number of quotes that immediately hit the headlines and dominated the blog discussion were irrelevant pieces of perfectly innocent things being taken out of context. I am still waiting for an acknowledgement from any of those who ran around screaming that it was the end of climate science to acknowledge that fact. There have been subsequent questions and clarification and debate about the methodology in one (one!) study about urban heat islands from 1990 in China, whose results have been replicated numerous times since. Apart from that, I am not aware of any other studies thought to have been discredited by the emails, nor of any proof of fraud or illicit fudging. That is why I believe that the vast majority of the media coverage has indeed been a storm in a tea-cup as far as the climate science is concerned.

By the way, I just watched Frost/Nixon last night, and so was thinking about the original "–gate", which was so much more serious than many of the media-driven frenzies of [insert alleged scandal]-gate since!

Prof Phil Jones has had to step down while an inquiry led by a senior public servant takes place (the Russell enquiry),
And let's not jump the gun in anticipating the result of that enquiry. He is innocent until proven guilty. And also let's pay close attention to what the enquiry actually says when it comes out. The headlines may not do it justice, if recent climate reporting is anything to go by.

just this past week the UK Met Office has announced it is creating a brand new global temperature data set open to public scrutiny and rigorous peer review, in particular to better assess the risks posed by changes in extremes of climate. This is quite an admission of doubt in the data being used in the models
Not necessarily. In fact, the press release says that the new data set will "augment, not replace, the current temperature data sets" by providing more detail (at least daily figures, rather than monthly averages). Their current data has been available online for some time and they continue to stand by them.

byron smith said...

3. The Russell enquiry may well vindicate Jones (the science establishment closing ranks just as I observe in Presbytery, ministers instinctively defend fellow ministers when some dispute arises between that minister and his congregation)
So you will only accept the outcome if Jones is not vindicated?

better science will be done and already examples of peer reviewed articles critiquing the current AR4 consensus are appearing in the journals – I can document this.
I do indeed hope that better science will continue to be done. But the science we've already got isn't too shoddy. As for AR4 being critiqued in peer-review, yes, I've already noted that, though most of it has been for being considerably too conservative in its estimates. Can you point to more?

4. The AR3/AR4 hockey stick has been discredited by further revelations in the leaked CRU documents.
Where? As far as I am aware, Michael Mann and his "hockey stick" graph have twice been largely vindicated by independent assessments. First the US National Academy of Science and then more recently by investigators at Penn State University.

Phil Jones in the recent interview with the BBC’s Roger Harrabin entertained the possibility of a medieval warm period, the very thing the hockey stick denied (and thereby fundamentality altered the shape of the temperature anomaly curve).
Entertained for the sake of the question, but rejected.

byron smith said...

5. Particularly challenging for “the greatest moral challenge of our times” to borrow Mr Rudd’s words,
It is not the greatest moral challenge of our times. With respect, I disagree sharply with Mr Rudd. I am planning to post on this soon.

has been the lack of global warming over the past decade,
Incorrect. See here for text or here for video (or here).

if not the past 15 years. Again in the same interview with Harrabin, Jones acknowledged that there was no statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present time – this is a huge concession.
No it isn’t. The headline writer simply made a lamentable misreading of Jones' comments presumably due to lack of familiarity with the concept of statistical significance (that's a charitable reading). See here for text or here for a video that explains it quite simply.

This lack of warming was not predicted by the very models used to predict future rises of 2-5 degrees C.
In an important sense, it was, since the computer simulations are run thousands of times and only their average result is generally published, which is why the graphs generally show a fairly smooth upward rise with each year warmer than the previous one. No one involved with modelling believes that this is how the actual temperatures will run, since they know full well there will be a lot of "noise" from other factors (various natural forcings such as sun cycles, Southern Oscillation, volcanic eruptions and so on). That is why we are talking about climate over decades, not weather month by month. The last decade has been the warmest in the instrumental record.

6. All recent measures of public opinion demonstrate sharp decline in concern over global warming.
I haven't seen the numbers for Australia, but in the US, the decline in numbers correlates with places that have had unusual amounts of snow this northern winter (itself predicted by the models as the result of warmer weather and despite all the snow January was the warmest January in the satellite record). But public opinion is irrelevant to the scientific questions. Can you provide any evidence for your claim of a shift amongst scientists? Can you name any who have changed their mind recently? You might be right, but I haven't heard anything about it.

byron smith said...

7. A realisation that that there are no easy ways of dealing with increasing atmospheric CO2, either technically or politically, and further that a commitment to reduce CO2 will require action by all major economies including China, India and Brazil, and further that such action will be very expensive and uncertain as to success.
I mainly agree. And this is where the gospel makes a big difference in questioning some of the key assumptions behind much of the discussion about mitigation, notably (a) the largely unquestioned priority on economic growth, (b) the fear of death and attitudes of survival at whatever cost and (c) the belief that solutions must be either technological or political.

However, the question of whether they will be more expensive than doing nothing is not irrelevant, as are considerations of factors other than expense (for example, how do you put a price on loss of biodiversity? Or on the loss of cultural continuity through forced migration?).

8. The failure of the Copenhagen process
I predicted this, and I'd put blame on both the US and China (amongst others, but these two take the lead – though the blame is not necessarily equal or for the same reasons). But the failure of Copenhagen says nothing about the science.

9. The concomitant loss of confidence by politicians and the public that a solution can be found
All the more reason for Christians to speak in such a situation for this again is not about the science, but about human hopes, fears, possibilities and failures – all topics on which the gospel has a great deal to say. And I am not necessarily suggesting that the proper Christian response is "let's try again, harder this time". As throughout this post, my argument is that Christians ought to be engaged in these ethical discussions, not retreat or label the discussion a distraction.

byron smith said...

10. Cap and trade is dead in America, whilst Rudd’s CPRS […] too is dead.
Neither are in great shape politically, though I'm not about to write political obituaries for either, since politics is a difficult field to predict(!). In the past, I have mentioned some reservations with cap and trade, so I'm not a big fan, especially of offsetting, grandfathering and locking in pointless targets. Though as I've said before, I am no expert on these matters.

11. As a general rule, adaptation is what the human race is good at.
As a general rule, general rules have exceptions (see discussion above about previous threats). And I would add that planning has also had a very strong role in human survival and thriving.

12. I would happily support a carbon tax
On this we agree, and you are right to point to other benefits of shifting our emphasis from carbon-intensive energy.
There should be no escape hatches as per CPRS.
Agreed.

13-14. Yes, the debate is still open on the potential of various technologies and careful attention ought to be paid to the risks and benefits of each. (Though remember that these need to be weighed not only against each other, but against the very serious risks of climate change if we continue with carbon intensive energy production).

My point is that Christians can add something else to this discussion (apart from hopefully some honesty, humility and other epistemic virtues), namely, a warm and generous commendation of contentment and thankfulness and an invitation to a life that seeks to be free of selfish fears and insecurities. That is, we trust Christ and join him in saying that there is more to life than food and clothes, or GDP and comfort.

byron smith said...

I hope you can see I'm open to the possibility of the need for action.
Yes, and it is refreshing to see. You are right to ask the questions about the costs of various paths, and about the novelty of the situation, where we have to act without full knowledge. But as I've pointed out before, business as usual is as much of an untested and novel experiment as any of the suggested alternatives.

The measures necessary to reduce carbon emissions are enormous and the idea that you can make the transition with little effect on GDP is ludicrous,
I am no expert on the economics of various models, though from what I've read, I agree that there often seems to be too much sugar-coating ("climate change solved in three easy and cheap steps!"). Some hard things need to be accepted. We cannot endlessly have our cake and eat it. But Christians ought to be on the cutting edge of living lives of gratitude rather than presumption, and of self-control rather than gluttony. The discipline of fasting may have much to teach us (including how to feast properly!). Our goal is not the preservation or multiplication of our wealth, and our headache should not be how to build more barns to store it all. GDP is not the holy grail. If it is costly for us to face the truth about ourselves and our situation, if it hurts to acknowledge and remedy our complicity in over-consumption, if caring for the living spaces of the planet means we cannot have it all, if consideration of future generations means biting the bullet today, then so be it. God is good and will provide all that we need (though this may include redefining what we think we need).

These are among the kinds of contributions that I think Christians can make to this debate. And these are not distractions from proclaiming the gospel of Christ in which is found redemption from destructive patterns of life and from fear of missing out.

byron smith said...

And now let me add a few points of my own in response to your paper.

15. On page 2 you say One of the leading sceptics has been Bjorn
Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”, published in 2001.

Are you aware that Bjorn Lomborg does not enjoy a good reputation as a source of information? Here is a site listing over 350 errors in the book, at least 50 of which appear to reflect deliberate distortions and another 30 which were either deliberate or due to gross negligence. And there are dozens just in the chapter on climate. See what scientists have said about the book. And here is a topic by topic reply to The Skeptical Environmentalist by experts in each field that Lomberg addresses. The book was torn to pieces in a review in Nature 2002 by Stuart Pimm and Jeff Harvey. It was condemned in very strong language by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, and this result was only overturned through the admission that Lomberg was merely a social scientist and so could not be expected to be an expert in all the fields he attempts to address. I note that Lomberg has responded to many of these accusations, but has only admitted a tiny fraction of the documented errors. He may be right on some issues, but as a source (especially on climate change), he has to be considered very tenuous.

16. On page 3, you say If capitalism has caused a problem, then capitalism will be required to fix the problem.
I do not understand the reasoning behind this claim. If capitalism represents a systematic distortion of humanity (as some argue), then how can further application of the problem solve it? That is, there needs to be more investigation as to how capitalism may have caused or contributed to a problem before more capitalism (or better capitalism) can be prescribed as a remedy.

byron smith said...

17. Page 4: It is salutory to remember that scientists have a poor track record in making predictions. 1972 the Club of Rome predicted oil would run out within 30 years
The CoR's predictions of an oil crisis were both confirmed and delayed by the OPEC oil crisis just years after the publication of Limits to Growth. It was confirmed that spikes in oil prices due to insufficient supply could cause widespread economic and social problems. And one result of the price shock was massive demand destruction, pushing back the timing of peak oil. Although their specific timing may prove to be a decade or two too early, concerns about peak oil have only increased and become more mainstream since the publication of their book (despite its other problems. Remember, the book, like Lomberg's, was not peer-reviewed). Notice too that in 1974, they published a more detailed analysis under the title Mankind at the Turning Point in which they modified their earlier claims quite substantially.

Earlier, in the 1960’s, population growth was said to exceed the world’s capacity to produce enough food. Wrong!
And it was wrong largely due to the Green Revolution in agriculture, which has a mixed legacy. It has multiplied global food production many times over, but at serious environmental costs to water use, biodiversity, soil health, pesticide contamination and itself has issues of sustainability due to heavy reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers (see peak oil above).

More generally, to say that scientists have a poor track of making predictions is highly selective. It is true that certain fields are difficult to predict, but other scientific predictions are startlingly accurate. To make a general claim about the ability of "scientists" to predict the future is too simplistic.

18. Page 4: Generally speaking, apart from very localised sites, human activity does not impinge on atmospheric water vapour concentration. Water vapour as a result, has been excluded by climatologists from their considerations of greenhouse gases.
I am not a scientist, but my reading on the topic suggests that water vapour is taken very seriously indeed by climatology. The difference is that it is a feedback, rather than a forcing. See here for a brief summary, or a good video here.

byron smith said...

19. Page 4: gradually speeding up to the current figure of 380 ppm and expected to double in the next 100 years9.
I expected a reference in the footnote to a study showing an expected doubling (how about this one from MIT or this one from the Hadley Centre, both of which say more than doubling is likely on BAU), but instead was back with your orangutan fallacy. What is the relevance of the image?

20. Page 5: I won't go into detail about various updates to the science since you wrote your paper, just to note that the Antarctic is losing ice mass, not gaining, Greenland is melting faster than expected, and the IPCC sea level rises do not include meltwater, only thermal expansion, and are currently regarded as significantly out of date. Indeed, the retraction of a paper on sea level rise a few days ago was one of the key publications arguing for a low-end figure, thus once again showing much of the media got the story backwards.

21. Page 5: Certainly the 2007 findings are considerably less confronting than the scenarios painted by climate alarmists, and indeed represent something of a partial retraction on the IPCC’s 2001 report in terms of temperature and sea level rises
So IPCC are not climate alarmists? Good to hear. Because even the AR4 report is still pretty alarming. NB "Reduction" not "retraction". See also #20 on sea level rises.

22. Page 5: Whilst the findings have a certain vagueness in mathematical precision the report is peppered with qualitative statements of great certainty in the use of a finding being “very likely” or “extremely likely”.
These terms are technical ways of handling uncertainty and are used consistently throughout the report according to the official guidelines found here.

23. Page 5: The statement in the Summary that the historic temperature rise of 0.65EC since the mid 20th century was 90% "certain to have been the result of man-made release of greenhouse gases", is open to question if only because "global temperature actually fell between 1940 and 1975 despite the continuing rise in CO2 concentration over this period."
This is widely discussed in the literature and is included in the current understanding. See here for a brief explanation.

byron smith said...

24. Actually the most helpful thing in the report and a useful antidote to those calling for immediate drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is the report’s finding that no matter how much civilisation slows or reduces its greenhouse emissions, global warming and sea level rise will continue on for centuries.
But the pace and extent of the changes are very much related to how much more carbon we put into the atmosphere and the pace at which we do so. These are serious differences: compare the top predictions for BAU with the bottom predictions for serious immediate mitigation. There is a world of difference between them.

25. Page 7: Soon et. al., 2003 has been discredited by a number of subsequent publications (see also the relevant discussion here). The editorial board of the journal in which the paper first appeared complained of irregularities in how the paper came to published and the chief editor and three other members of the editorial board resigned in protest.

26. Page 8: there has been a somewhat erratic upward move in global temperatures since 1850 of less than +0.8°C, but certainly not in any straight line relationship with constantly rising CO2 levels
No climate scientist has claimed that CO2 is the only forcing or expected a direct correlation between levels of CO2 and annual temperatures. This is a straw man.

The mid-century cooling has also been extensively discussed in the literature is quite well understood, as I noted above.

27. Page 8: this phase peaked in 1998 with the curve flattening out if not commencing to turn over, suggesting the world may be entering a cooling period again
Can you link to a peer-reviewed paper showing that a climatologist or statistician agrees with your reading of the graph? According to NASA figures, 2005 was the warmest year, with 2007 and 1998 tied for second place. The difference between the two data sets is due to different conventions for dealing with temperatures from the Arctic where there are no temperature measurements. The CRU simply ignores this area, whereas the NASA data applies readings from the nearest stations to cover the area. It is widely acknowledged that the NASA figures are likely to be superior. Even so, based just on the CRU figures, there is still a positive trend to the figures since 1998.

byron smith said...

28. Page 8: Indeed there are climatologists on the basis of changing patterns of solar magnetic behaviour who predict the world is about to enter a cooling period again.
The newspaper article you footnote provides no reference to any relevant publication and is simply an interview with a scientist from another field, whose theory has been regularly refuted as insufficient to explain recent warming.

29. Page 8: Climate has always had its extremes
Again, a red herring.

(I will not reply to your sections on Kyoto or nuclear or alternative energies, as these relate to specific strategies and fall beyond the scope of my point.)

30. Page 22: takes enormous conceits to itself regarding mankind’s ability to change the environment for better or for worse
This, and the associated footnote, is a common misconception: namely, that it is hubris to think that humanity are having an impact on the planet. Yet we are. We have deforested significant proportions of the land surface (in excess of 95% of old growth forests in many countries). We are directly responsible for the extinction of hundreds of recorded species (875 at last count) and somewhere between twenty thousand and two million in total. We have changed the flow of rivers, reclaimed vast areas from the ocean, blown the tops off hundreds of mountains and created a vast swirling patch of plastic particles in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas. We have changed the level of background radiation, contributed significantly to the rates of desertification, dried up rivers and almost suffocated the Aral Sea, formerly the second largest body of fresh water in the world. In the opinion of some geologists, we have begun a new geological era, the Anthropocene, which will be visible in the geological record for millennia. We have fished a significant proportion of edible marine species into collapse, changed the rates of soil erosion and salination, changed the pH of the oceans, been responsible for countless destructive introduced species, and introduced hazardous heavy metals into the food chain. We have blown a hole in the ozone layer and created acid rain. We have stained glaciers black with soot and created highly toxic radioactive waste with a half-life measured in hundreds of thousands of years. I could go on and on. Humanity has had an enormous collective impact on the planet, particularly since industrialization enabled us to harness huge stores of fossilized sunlight to supercharge our ability to get things done. Denying this is not humility, but hubris. It takes humility to face reality as it is, rather than how we wish it to be. If God has indeed given us dominion over the earth, then is it any surprise we are able to have an effect?

byron smith said...

31. Page 23: Point 2 already addressed.
Nor is it clearly evident that the weather has become more extreme.
You offer anecdotes. See here for one study that examines the proportion of record highs and lows.

32. the eruption of Krakatau in 1883 remains unrivalled in modern human history
I don't see the relevance. There is no claim that climate change affects volcanic activity.

33. The IPCC 2007 Summary’s conclusion that “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely71 due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations” sits uncomfortably both with the above observations and the fact that in each of its successive reports the IPCC has reduced its estimates for future phenomena whether radiative forcing, global temperature or ocean sea levels .
Even if this final claim (about successive reports) were true, it is irrelevant in considering the question of whether anthropogenic GHGs are primarily responsible for observed temperature increases.

34. it appears incredibly reductionist to tie global warming down to a single factor
No serious climatologist does. The argument is not and has never been that GHGs are the only forcing or have always been the primary forcing, but that the observed temperature increases since the mid-20thC are very likely largely due to anthropogenic GHGs. This is a crucial distinction often overlooked in the popular media (and by many sceptics). See here.

35. Because climate change is a long term issue, extending beyond today’s horizon of 2100, Governments […] Churches need to take collective deep breaths
This again misunderstands the issue. The claim is not that by 2100 things will reach a point where something really ought to be done, but that our current way of life is contributing to a present, ongoing, cumulative and unavoidable problem whose worst outcomes can be somewhat mitigated by thoughtful serious action now and into the future.

byron smith said...

36. Page 24: Increased levels of CO2 will make Earth a greener planet with greater crop productivity.
Not true. While some high latitudes may benefit from warmer temperatures, beyond a certain temperature threshold, increasing CO2 does not benefit plant growth, and there are numerous documented negative effects that will substantially reduce crop yields. Overall, the documented likely negative effects far outweigh any positives.

37. Page 24: Who knows, Siberia may become the breadbasket of the world as North Africa was once for Rome!
Speaking of Siberia, I notice you haven't mentioned positive feedbacks, such as the melting of the methane in the Siberian tundra.
And speaking of North Africa, do you realise that Roman agricultural practices and deforestation were likely responsible for accelerating desertification in that region?

38. Page 24: Fifthly, if fossil fuels are to be phased out (or carbon capture and storage added), it is vital that it be done so without blunting economic growth
Isn't this part of the mindset that Christians need to question? Economic growth for those who are in poverty is indeed on the whole a good thing, but our society has turned it into an idol, a master criterion against which to measure every policy. It is too blunt an instrument to perform that function.

39. Page 24: with the proviso that global GDP growth remains high (to provide funding), time will then exist for the multiplication of existing technologies
Human ingenuity is indeed remarkable, but is it moral to pass on our mess to our children to solve? (Particularly since we already have so many of the necessary tools in our hands already.)

40. Page 24: With Australia’s share of CO2 emission at 1%, its contribution will be
strictly at the margin.

This is also part of the mindset that needs to be decisively rejected by Christians. Australians have the largest (or amongst the largest, depending how you measure it) per capita carbon emissions in the world. To claim that we are minor is merely creative accounting. And, of course, this also applies to any discussion in which China is the "worst polluter". Population needs to be taken into account to look at the kinds of lifestyles that are simply unsustainable.

byron smith said...

41. Page 26: In contradiction to every expression of anxiety resulting from the portrayal of imagined catastrophic global warming, as Christians we affirm that God is committed to his creation and though through man’s folly the world has become “subjected to futility”, in “bondage to decay”, yet God in His mercy will not forsake the works of his hands (Psalm 138:8).
No, he will not forsake the work of his hands, yet in his love, he may give us over the consequences of our folly. He has made no promises to save us from self-destruction. Civilisations have risen and fallen before and God makes no promises to save ours.

42. Page 26: Christians, again it is to be hoped, because of their professed commitment to the poor, would be disappointed if a preoccupation with combating global warming and its effects meant that the issues confronting the developing world, not so much melting glaciers and rising sea levels, but rather malnutrition, disease, clean water and better sanitation were ignored.
This is a false dichotomy. Climate change has largely been caused by the richest. Its effects are and will disproportionately affect the poorest. For instance, the (in)famous Himalayan glaciers help to supply water for hundreds of millions of Chinese in the dry season. And you only need to look at Bangladesh to see that rising sea levels are not an elitist concern.

remedial actions for global warming need to be broadly based and carefully considered so that the cure is not worse than the condition
Agreed.

43. Pages 27-31: Your sources are mainly newspaper articles and blogs?
One article I don't remember seeing in your footnotes but which appears in the appendix is Khilyuk and Chilingar, 2006. It too has been discredited. You might like to check out the links here and the comment here.

byron smith said...

44. Page Monckton? Seriously? He has no peer-reviewed publications (despite being a hereditary peer ;-)), no qualifications in climatology and he has been repeatedly shown to be either grossly wrong or just an outright liar (you do know that he claimed on his letterhead to be a member of the House of Lords?). Read just some of the huge number of critiques of his lunacy (and there are many more). If you're looking for another good item to add to the list of alarmist hot-topics, you should definitely add world government!

David, in conclusion, while I realise that you have a genuine concern to avoid wasting time, energy and resources on a false alarm, there is ample reason to think that anthropogenic climate change is not a false alarm.

Of course, the good news of Jesus Christ has plenty to say to us in our fears. Praise God for that!

Grace & peace,
Byron

David Palmer said...

Byron,

What a trooper you are!

I'll be back next week.

I shouldn't be disrupting your schedule so much!

God bless you

David

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

The reason for my delay in replying is that I am in the process of organising a 3 day colloquium, Religion in the Public Square later this year which is taking up a lot of time plus various other things plus I note my humble 4 posts led to 19 power punches in reply, so I'm just winding myself up and in the meantime you can have more time for your wife, daughter and what else you get up to.

Cheers

David

Gordon Cheng said...

Byron, thanks for hosting the discussion and for your thoroughness in response. It would be easy to write off a detailed debate about climate change as a sidetrack to the major purpose of a blog. ;-)

David, my dad did Chem Eng at USyd, about 20 years before you.

Like you, he does not appear to be currently worked up about Man-made global warming (and before you ask, of course he's still alive!)

As you are a baby-boomer and he is significantly older, I put it to you that there is an inter-generational consensus here.

Thanks for the work you've put in to thinking about things, and I hope and pray it is not distracting you from gospel ministry and personal evangelism!

But thankyou, to you and Byron.

byron smith said...

David - No rush to reply! Remember, I wasn't just replying to your four posts, but to (some of) your 31 page document.

and what else you get up to.
That would be researching the role the gospel plays in discussions of ecological ethics that are so often marked by denial, despair and desperation. :-)

A few extra thoughts to throw into the mix as a postscript:

• re ##1 & 35 on whether delaying action is a good thing:
Most power stations are designed to function for about 50 years. So every extra carbon-intensive plant that is built during the period of delay is a sunk cost making switching to cleaner sources of energy more expensive.

• re #2 on the credibility of climatology:
Neither Monbiot and Beddington have changed their minds on the actual science one bit. They are simply calling for greater honesty and accountability, with which I agree. I notice they are also both still highly critical of the dishonesty of critics, who almost never admit mistakes or submit their work for peer-review.

Pachauri's denial of the Himalayan mistake was much worse than the mistake itself. Mistakes are made by everyone and can be innocent or deliberate. Cover-ups are always blameworthy. I look forward to prominent critics of the IPCC being half as transparent and honest about their mistakes as Pachauri. This is not to exonerate Pachauri, but is simply a desire for critics to take their own purported standards of criticism seriously and so improve the quality of discussion.

• re #30 on human impacts on the planet:
Last night I saw the 5th and final part of a fascinating BBC documentary series called How Earth Made Us. It is a real pity that I think is only available for download in the UK (and only for a few more days - be quick!) as it was an excellent and fascinating series. After episodes on the effects of earth, air, fire and water on the history of human civilisation (i.e. how geological forces have shaped human history), the final episode turned the tables and asked how humans have shaped (and are shaping) the planet. Apart from mentioning many of the same things I did (with more humour and excellent visuals), there were a few stunning claims made by Professor Iain Stewart that I'd love to source. He said that every year humans move more earth and rock than the combined forces of erosion, that we currently put 26 million tonnes of plastic into the ocean each year, that 75% of the earth's ice-free landmass owes its appearance to us, that 25% of the earth's arable land has been degraded by human activity (mainly poor agricultural practices) and that we have dammed and stored five times as much water as is contained in all the world's rivers, affecting (very slightly) the speed of the earth's rotation. I recommend the whole series, but particularly the final episode as very thought-provoking stuff.

Gordon - It would be easy to write off a detailed debate about climate change as a sidetrack to the major purpose of a blog.
Only if you (a) weren't reading what I said, (b) mistakenly assume that ethics is a distraction from the gospel, or (c) think that knowledge of the world is irrelevant to ethics (in which case, you haven't been paying attention). ;-)

byron smith said...

Oh, and re #5 (on whether CC is the greatest moral issue of our time), I said was going to post something soon, but had forgotten that I already have.

Dave Barrie said...

Thanks for all your work Byron in responding to David's claims and for all the links. Very interesting and helpful for me.

David I'm looking forward to reading your response (time permitting).

Interestingly, a couple of days ago I was browsing itunes U and whilst looking through some of the lectures available from Stanford Uni I came across a lecture entitled,

Cancer and Climate Change: Parallels in Risk Management (Stephen Schneider)

Schneider's point is more about the need for a strong response to climate change because of the potential catastrophic consequences rather than the point Byron is making about the link between knowledge and ethics, yet there is still a fair bit of overlap in the arguments and it is worth a listen.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

It might have been helpful to our discussion had there been post numbers (you have made 19 separate entries!), but I will try and work my way through. In a number of instances I will indicate that I need to go away and do some more work.

I think we may need to accept that we will not achieve agreement on all things and I think the reasons for that relate to a range of factors as simple as difference in age and life experience, but perhaps also more complex philosophical/theological reasons.

Thank you for drawing attention to Andrew Cameron’s paper. Although Andrew and I were in discussion on the subject of climate change at the time, I had not seen it. I had two reactions on reading his paper (report to Synod).

Firstly, I think he was too trusting of AR4 and the process followed - - something which the events of the past 6 months have made plain. However he is willing to hedge his bets as it were – see point 9, p27. In contrast to Andrew, I do not see you as a person willing to make such a concession (“History may prove our judgment wrong”)?

Secondly, on page p34, Andrew makes a comment about those under 30 being absolutely convinced about environmental concerns in general and climate change in particular being “the defining problems” of their future, and therefore those over 50s need to think carefully about their tone and message so as not to alienate younger Christians, but lead them effectively.

I agree that on the whole younger people are more likely to accept AGW than older people though I question raising the issue to the level of “the defining problem” – for some young people yes, for even many, yes, but certainly by no means all. Secondly I take it as a challenge as an over 50 (which is exceedingly generous to myself) to help younger people to understand that science is never settled, it is always pushing boundaries, filling in gaps, backtracking, refining, that there is always the possibility of a paradigm shift, even on such a “defining problem” as climate.

I am aware of John Cook’s website and I need to have a look at his 90 common sceptical objections and see how well he does, especially since I’m meant to be debating him for Eternity magazine.

I’m not sure how best to indentifying debating points .

I’ll take your identification.

tbc

David Palmer said...

Point A

I don’t think I ve misunderstood you at all – you do want action – I don’t say you want a specific action because I’m unclear on what action you want, hence I ascribe “we must do xyz” - you can define xyz anyway you want to, including if you want a set of options.

Actually, this highlights what I think is a major difference between us – to me problems require solutions, I can’t think about a problem without thinking about practical solutions (and yes solutions involve scientific, technological, political, environmental, sociological dimensions).

Point B

I should have been more precise in raising the possibility of nuclear war – I was referring to the period from WW2 to the collapse of the Soviet Union – during this period nuclear weapons were held by 2 super powers and their respective possession of such weapons prevented WW3 contra the experience of WW2 following WW1. The worst thing that could have happened during this period would have been Western Governments following the advice of CND, etc to destroy their nuclear weaponry. The thing that I deplore from that period was the fear generated in young people during this period , with the same pattern being followed today over alleged runaway global warming epitomised by Al Gore’s film which I watched and which I assert to be disgraceful scaremongering.

Re fossil fuels, the point I was making was a simple one: In 1972 the Club of Rome predicted oil would run out within 30 years and economic growth was doomed because the world would run out of raw materials – it was nonsense.

Bryan, why do you raise issues I don’t raise: “barcodes the mark of the beast”. Who do you take me to be?

Point C

My 35 orange orangutans on the last Saturday in September was a serious observation. I didn’t say 350 ppm of CO2 kept the earth 33 degrees C warmer than otherwise. I said, “without the greenhouse effect, planet Earth would be vastly colder (by 33°C on average)”. CO2 is but one of a number of compounds contributing to the greenhouse effect – a small contributor actually, esp compared to water vapour.

David Palmer said...

Point 1

Byron, if we are talking a 100 year time scale as per AR4, a few years out is neither here nor there. Time out is going to happen. Too many people, including in Government have had their confidence in the IPCC shaken. If AR4 is correct, the policy implications globally post Copenhagen are enormous. There will be a review of the operation of the IPCC. IPCC will be reformed (Check out Richard Black’s blog at the BBC, “Tough love in a troubled climate”).

I’ll make a bold prediction, just as AR4 toned down future effects of CO2 emissions on global temperature and sea rise vis a vis AR3, so AR5 will do likewise vis a vis AR4, but I get ahead of myself.

The fact of an ongoing 15 year a lull in global temperatures rising compared to earlier rising temperature periods will reinforce the view that this is a time for regrouping and reconsideration.

Point 2

I contest your assertions here about glaciergate, amazongate, africagate, disastergate not being serious and will come back later to do so.

I think you are failing to take Climate gate seriously enough.

I suggest you check out the submission of The Institute of Physics (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm) to the enquiry being conducted by the Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament into the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

Also relevant are the submissions of the Royal Society of Chemistry (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4202.htm) and the Royal Statistical Society (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4202.htm)

Along with all the other enquiries going on, including the independent review of the IPCC ordered by Governments that Richard Black refers to plus the Russell Review of the CRU which promises to be a thorough investigation as to whether there is evidence of poor scientific practice and data management which could call the CRU’s research into question. Sir Muir Russell said, “the review is about scientific rigour and honesty, freedom of information procedures and data handling,”

So I think all in all, everyone will appreciate a breather before returning to the policy issues (global, as much as national).

David Palmer said...

Point 3

The point I raise about the Russell enquiry is a question about the composition of the review panel and how close the members are to the CRU scientists. Sir Muir Russell has said they will be independent and rigorous, etc.

It will help the Committee’s findings enormously if the sceptics (and here I’m referring to those in the science establishment, people like Roger Piekle Jr, Philip Stott, Roy Spencer, etc, not the Moncktons) are able to affirm the findings to be independent, rigorous, etc.

Point 4

I think you will find whatever remnants of support there is for Mann’s hockey stick will have evaporated after all the reports are in on CRU. Michael Mann of course is a Professor at Penn State University. I wouldn’t put too much weight on an exoneration by Penn State University.

As I’ve said before if there is a problem between minister and congregation, most times the minister is backed by his fellow ministers just like an offender is backed by his family. This is why truly independent enquiries are required when there are charges of malfeasance.

I’ll make a further prediction: there will be no hockey stick in AR5.

I note you challenged my assertion,

“Phil Jones in the recent interview with the BBC’s Roger Harrabin entertained the possibility of a medieval warm period, the very thing the hockey stick denied (and thereby fundamentality altered the shape of the temperature anomaly curve).”

with the comment,

“Entertained for the sake of the question, but rejected” which was linked to Joe Romm’s Climate Progress website which I find disappointing given Romm’s statute as purveyor of global warming scaremongering and general muckraker.

In my book Romm and Lord Monckton cancel one another out. I’m surprised you would use Romm as a source of information – you won’t find me quoting Monckton, though I think Monckton gets many things right.

However back to the Romm’s blog.

Romm gives his own spin on what Jones should have said and then says “Phil Jones has confirmed to us that our interpretations of his comments in the BBC interview are indeed the correct ones, and that he agrees with the statements in our piece above”, without actually quoting Jones.

The fact is Jones gave the interview to Harrabin: his words are on the public record.

tbc

David Palmer said...

Here is Harrabin’s question and Jones’ answer.

Harrabin’s QuestionThere is a debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was global or not. If it were to be conclusively shown that it was a global phenomenon, would you accept that this would undermine the premise that mean surface atmospheric temperatures during the latter part of the 20th Century were unprecedented?

Jones’ Answer There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia. For it to be global in extent the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.”

Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today (based on an equivalent coverage over the NH and SH) then obviously the late-20th century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm that today, then current warmth would be unprecedented.

We know from the instrumental temperature record that the two hemispheres do not always follow one another. We cannot, therefore, make the assumption that temperatures in the global average will be similar to those in the northern hemisphere.


With respect my interpretation remains a fair interpretation of Jones’ concession.

I need to break, but I will be back, hopefully Thursday.

Blessings, remembering that our Lord Jesus makes everything worthwhile

byron smith said...

David - Thanks for your further comments. I already have plenty to say, but will wait for you to complete your reply. There is no rush.

David Palmer said...

Thank you for your restraint Byron - I was rather hoping you wouldn't jump in before I finished. It may take a few days to finish as I have so many other things on my plate.

Loved your post on de facto Christians - but it would be a diversion to get into that one!

David

David Palmer said...

HI Byron,

Before returning to your points, some back up on why I don’t think you should be relying on Joe Romm.

Roger Piekle Jr has challenged Joe Romm to a debate on account of this posting by Romm: http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/28/foreign-policys-guide-to-climate-skeptics-includes-roger-pielke-jr-meanwhile-andy-revkin-campaigns-for-him-to-be-an-ipcc-author/

This morning Piekle has this to say: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/03/end-of-week-deadline-for-romm-to-agree.html

As you will recall in my 2007 paper I preferenced adaptation over mitigation. I think the first 2 paragraphs of this story is an application of the point I was making: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/91a7cc02-256a-11df-9cdb-00144feab49a.html?nclick_check=1

Point 5

Firstly I am glad in respect of “the greatest moral challenge of our times” we agree on something! And I’m sure lots more!

Re “my lack of global warming” comment it could have been more nuanced.

Several comments:

1. With the greatest of respect to John Cook, he isn’t the ultimate authority on climate science – I say this suspecting you are going to quote him rather a lot. (I may be proved wrong as I proceed through your responses, and if so apologise in advance)

2. I note John’s point about the imbalance in the Earth’s heat – I’ve come across this issue elsewhere and need to dig further on the topic.

3. Regarding global temperatures, I’m not sure removing ENSO signals from the temperature record is the way to go. Sure, we had a strong el Niño effect in 1998 though I don’t think anyone made much of that until temperatures flattened out. El Niños and la Niñas come and go. Earlier last year it was la Niña, now we are in el Niño phase which I understand will peter out midyear. All sorts of phenomena come and go, it’s the nature of climate.

4. If we want to talk about HadCRUT3, then I suggest this is a useful graph: http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcrut3/diagnostics/global/nh%2Bsh/index.html

5. The problem of the “my graph-your graph” caper is that with four main temperature graphs to choose from and the selection of different time spans, as a cherry-picker you can prove anything.

6. I refer you to this article which makes a lot of sense to me: http://www.masterresource.org/?p=5240.

David Palmer said...

Point 5 cont'd

Regarding your comments on my statement concerning Jones acknowledgement “that there was no statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present time”, I make the following points:

1. You refer me to John Cook’s post where he draws attention to Jones’ wording. What Jones says is that there is a positive warming trend (0.12 deg C per decade) for the period but it is not significant at the 95% confidence level.

2. The only textbooks I have retained from my University days are those on statistics.

3. When you say something is not significant at 95% confidence level you are saying precisely what I said, and if I may quote myself, “Jones acknowledged that there was no statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present time – this is a huge concession.”

4. John Cook says,” Over longer time periods, the uncertainty is less and the trend is more statistically significant”. I say, “maybe, but don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”.

5. What John and yourself should have acknowledged is that a rise of 0.12 deg C per decade is a) much less than the immediately prior period and b) at a warming rate of 0.12 deg C per decade, temperatures in a 100 years would be 1.2 degrees C warmer, a far cry from the IPCC forecast. I won’t push this point just as I don't think John was entitled to make that statement of his that I quote above.

Re climate models, you engage in special pleading: the models did not predict the current hiatus.

You say, “The last decade has been the warmest in the instrumental record”. I agree, but this is not to deny the statistically sound statement that “temperatures have not risen in the past 15 years”. Both can be true at the same time.

I agree that public opinion is irrelevant to scientific questions, but public opinion is highly relevant to actually doing something to address the problem at issue.

I have come across scientists who have switched opinion but at this point don’t offer names.

Well, that was hard work and I'm about to be seriously waylaid with my wife returning home from Canberra after 6 days with her parents.

Byron, why don't you tell me what you are up to in St Andrews, is it? I used to spend a lot of time in Dumfries.

David Palmer said...

Point 7

As you say we are largely in agreement around my statement but then you raise issues I don’t directly address.

The point that I would make about economic growth is that countries pursue growth as the way to draw their people out of poverty and poor health outcomes – I’m sure that is a major objective for the Chinese and Indian governments.

Capitalism may be criticised on any number of grounds but I will argue that it is the best system going around in a fallen world. I think I have mentioned the Colloquium I’m organising in July. Among a range of issues to be covered over 3 days, we will have three papers around this issue: “Which model of market economy -- libertarian or Christian democratic?” to be delivered by a colleague, ”On the intersection of Ethics and Economics - the case for capitalism” to be delivered by this guy (http://www.cbhd.org/content/scott-b-rae) and “Is the marketplace no business of God's?” to be delivered by the Academic dean of John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.

Regarding solutions: Whilst other factors are important (and we can discuss these further), solutions will most definitely be technological requiring political will.

Perhaps I should comment on your remarks re loss of biodiversity and loss of cultural continuity through forced migration.

I don’t think it is possible to prevent these things occurring, though I do think all feasible measures should be attempted (another debate), but we know that new species came and went long before man ever appeared on the earth.

Regarding loss of cultural continuity through forced migration, again a shame but this has happened all through human history. It can be very sad, but it can also mean a fresh start. Amongst my forebears I count Huguenots, at least one convict, and Scottish ancestors forced from their homes thro the highland clearances, all to make a new life in Australia. I think we have to live with considerable groaning until Christ comes to put all wrongs to rights - I’m not justifying wrongs - far from it, but God is able to work all wrongs into rights through in His Son, our LJC.

Point 8

I think we are in agreement on this point though I weigh the contributions of China and USA differently and not to be forgotten was the wrecking role of poorer nations who saw the whole thing as a money grab opportunity. (also don’t forget the role of India supporting China - India is well along the way to being the #3 CO2)

Point 9

I think your points about the ethical aspects are important and I thank you for this reminder.

Again, I’m an engineer by training and I can never get it out of my mind that if there is a problem that may be defined both practically (let us say rising CO2 level melts glaciers) and ethically (the life and livelihood of people is at risk, species may die out, etc), then we ought to give attention to practical solutions which will involve science, engineering, money, manpower (including their brains), popular demand (including aspects of human dignity and hopes), political will and capability, and most importantly not forgetting the law of unintended consequences.

David Palmer said...

Byron,

How do I do the link to a web page?

David Palmer said...

Point 10

Yes, not wise to write political obituaries.

Last year Roger Piekle Jnr did an analysis of Rudd’s CPRS (http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/12/new-discussion-draft-on-australian.html) and came to the conclusion that the scheme’s emissions reduction target of 5%, 15% and 25% from 2000 levels by 2020 would require decarbonisation rates of between 3.8% to 5.9% pa. The pa is the killer and the reason why it is as high as it is, is the forecasted rise in Australian population and rise in per capita GDP. Piekle said the only way that this could be managed would be “the deployment of dozens of new nuclear power plants or thousands of new solar thermal plants within the next decade”.

Penny Wong’s response as reported in The Age on February 13th was that (Pielke’s) "paper ignored the important role of international permits in the proposed (CPRS), enabling companies to buy international offsets if it was cheaper than cutting emissions locally".

Leaving aside the issue of how well informed the Minister is about what is required to achieve decarbonisation, ethically speaking I find her response morally repugnant – Australians including their fossil fuel dependent transport and power generating industries do not need to change their lifestyles and policies for power generation - we’ll get poor sods in the under developed world to do it for us.

I mention this story also because it illustrates the kind of measures that will be necessary if Australia is to significantly decarbonise its economy. (OK you may respond, “simpler lifestyle, etc”. I say spell out what you mean with a few figures and then we can talk about it)


Point 11

We are probably in agreement on this point. Good planning is vital.

Point 12

Agreement again.

Points 13 & 14

Your comments are well made.

Have you developed your ideas outlined in the 4 paragraphs you have written to round out your comments on my points 13&14 (and which you have been referring to one way and another throughout your responses). I would find it helpful if collected together in an article (article I said, not book).

I think we now come to your additional points.

I'll come back tomorrow, and hopefully get a better run at responding.

byron smith said...

David - thanks for your gracious replies. Keep them coming. I'm also looking busy in the next few weeks, so I make no promises about the speed of my reply either.

As for linking to web pages in your comments, instructions can be found here or here, or just Google "HTML links" for many similar tutorials (I've linked to the first two hits on Google).

David Palmer said...

I now come to Byron’s critique of my 2007 paper

15. Re Bjorn Lomborg

I consider your post strays into the realm of ad hominem attack: “deliberate distortions”, “gross negligence”, “torn to shreds”, “torn to pieces”.

It is quite some years since I purchased and read “The Sceptical Environmentalist”. I was aware at the time of controversy swirling around him and his eventual exoneration, which incidentally may yet come to Phil Jones (interesting parallels).

Back in 2006 his website covered the allegations and his defence.

I really don’t have the time to trawl through 350 alleged errors and his responses. Science, its implications and application is always contested terrain. The Wikipedia article on Lomborg gives a very different version of the controversy and your claim that the overturning of the Danish Committee was only on account of Lomberg being “merely a social scientist” is plain wrong and could be said to be mischievous.

Worth reading is this article and also worth visiting is Lomborg’s website listing many accolades to set against Byron's disgruntled scientists/environmentalists.

Enough of Lomborg, though I agree with his essential point of living with what comes and focussing on poverty, clean water supply, eradication of malaria, etc.

16. Re capitalism

My comment re capitalism is made in the context of the oft repeated canard in respect of the environment, ‘capitalism is the problem’.

The Wikipedia definition of capitalism: “Capitalism is an economic and social system in which capital and land, the non-labor factors of production (also known as the means of production), are privately owned; labor, goods and resources are traded in markets; and profit, after taxes, is distributed to the owners or invested in technologies and, industries”

I use capitalism in this sense.

All I’m saying is capitalism will be a part of the solution, not the only part, but a very important part.

I have this growing feeling Byron that you underestimate the totality of what is involved in tackling something like global warming – I may come back to this point depending on what else I find.

David Palmer said...

17a. Club of Rome prediction re 30 year runout of oil

Byron, you are engaged in special pleading. Their “specific timing” as you put it will be a lot more than “a decade or two”. Oil will not run out. As supplies dwindle, price will go up and reduce demand. Supply and demand through the pricing (and other) mechanisms always come together.

17b Food production

Again special pleading and if I might add, a perfect example of adaptation to a manifest problem, in this case increasing population.

I am not competent to comment on the particular downsides of the Green revolution that you mention though again humans do appear to have wonderful adaptability to face new problems that will always arise in accord with the law of unintended consequences. Who knows yet what damage wind farms will do to the environment and to local communities?

18. Water Vapour

I believe my statement on p4 is non controversial. There is no argument over the importance of water vapour. The comment in my paper is simply related to the fact that 2007 IPCC WG1 SPM paper, page 16 omits water vapour from its list of radiative forcing components (both –ve and +ve)


19. Forecasted BAU CO2 level

Not sure the point you make, other than querying whether my 60 orang-utans should be 95?

20a Antartic

Suggest you check these articles out here and here and here.

20b Greenland

Something to round out your reading.

20c The Arctic

Yes, we have all heard that the Artic would be ice free in 5 years - this precisely what lets the climate change alarmists down – wild predictions.

This graph is helpful. Artic sea ice after a period of decrease is increasing, for how long, don't know but 2008 & 2009 saw increases and 2010 appears to be going the same way.

21. Reduction not retraction

Yes you are correct, “partial reduction” for 2007 report cf 2001 Report and just maybe further reductions for the 2013 report, even by a greater extent?!

22. Use of “very likely” or “extremely likely”

I understood the definitions – they are made clear in the SPM report. My comment related to the fact that each definition relates to a a high level of certainty and very narrow band: extremely likely >95%, very likely 91-95% - p3 WG1 SPM – I find such level of certainties about matters well into the future questionable – that was my point.

23. 1940-1975 global temperature decrease

No matter how widely a 1940-1975 fall is discussed in the literature, it did occur and now from 1996 up to the present time either a fall/levelling off/slight rise is occurring (depending on which cherry picker you choose). My question then becomes, “why not if global temps start rising again today there won’t be periods of further levelling off later this century, falls which will make ‘very likely’ and ‘extremely likely’ predictions of this and that catastrophe look extremely foolish in hindsight?

David Palmer said...

24. Global warming and sea level rising for centuries to come

Nothing to add

25. Soon Paper

What you quote sounds like another battery job. I haven’t the time or inclination to research this particular story and allegation, sounds like another Lomborg story.

By the way here is a listing of 500 peer-reviewed papers supporting scepticism of "man-made" global warming.

If you go to the section for Medieval Warming Period - Little Ice Age, you will find 23 peer reviewed papers dealing with this subject which seems to be what Soon’s paper was about.

26. Irregular Upward move in global temperatures post 1850

The question I would ask is, “do the forward projections from the models on rising temperature allow for this up and down variability?”.

27. Current Shape of Global Temperature Curve

Rereading my comment I’m pleased I was suitably circumspect in what I wrote.

Try these papers: here and here

I’m confident more papers will be written and in large quantities if the current trend continues past Vicki Pope’s prediction for the resumption of global warming.

28. Predictions of a cooling period

Indeed there are climatologists on the basis of changing patterns of solar magnetic behaviour who predict the world is about to enter a cooling period again.

Check out the references in the 500 peer reviewed sceptical articles – there are lots of article under the heading, “Solar”..

29. Climate and its extremes

John Cook again I see. My statement is non controversial and factual as it stands.

30. Man's conceit re ability to change the environment for better or for worse

I think this is a large topic. I don’t wish to deny that humans impact their environment in very unfortunate ways. My point is more about the extent of that impact. I think God has made a world with capabilities, resources, possibilities beyond our imaging. Man is rather fleeting, not just on a individual basis but a civilisation basis as well. I think we need a sense of proportion.

All those things you say that we have done, are they all bad or have all the bad consequences you imply? As I have said I don’t deny we have done bad things, but we have done good things as well, believe it or not. This is very much a black armband view of life. Don’t you find it amazing that despite, and I’m not bothering to dispute your figures, all those man responsible extinction of species, there are still millions more, I don’t know what the factor more is but I imagine for every new species becoming extinct (and many are probably not lost at all) many more are still be discovered. Don’t you think there are (and have seen) many places in the world where men have actually beautified the environment?

There is surely enough to despair over – think of all the damage that has been done to society and individual lives by the breaking of the consensus that sex belongs in marriage and marriages are to be welcoming of children.

I’m getting tired and my wife is getting annoyed that I’m spending so much time replying to you.

David Palmer said...

32. Eruption of Krakatau in 1883 remains unrivalled in modern human history

The point about Krakatau was the climatic effect of the discharge.

33.

I think we have already traversed this ground

34. Tying global warming down to a single factor, CO2

Ask the man in the street what is causing global warming (well, before the Copenhagen/Climategate fiascos) and the answer will be fossil fuels/coal/co2 – something along those lines. The whole focus is on decarbonisation – surely we can agree on this point!


35. Long term issue, therefore take collective deep breaths

I would like to see you develop this point further – you may be able to point me to material you have already put together. Happy to discuss further.

36. Increased levels of CO2 will make Earth a greener planet with greater crop productivity

It is true. CO2 acts as a fertiliser.

37. Who knows, Siberia may become the breadbasket of the world as North Africa was once for Rome!

Re Siberia, there is some balance here and I suspect no one knows what it is.

Re North Africa, surprised you don’t say climate change likely responsible for accelerating desertification in that region?

38. Reducing fossil fuel without blunting economic growth

I think the point I’m trying to make is the economic growth is important to pulling people out of poverty and achieving good health outcomes.

39. Time exists for the multiplication of existing technologies

I’m not at all suggesting we pass the problem on to our children. All I’m saying is that the developing of new technologies takes time. With CC&S we are probably looking at a 10-15 yr period. I’m totally supportive the our Government’s $2 billion initiative in this area.

40. With Australia’s share of CO2 emission at 1%, its contribution will be strictly at the margin

I really think we are on two different points.

All I’m saying is that whatever Australia does, it is small bickies if the goal is to reduce tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere. It has nothing whatsoever to do with “creative accounting”.

Regarding Christian lifestyle: We should consider/approach the matter of “what is the appropriate lifestyle that we believe God wants us to follow” as a matter of fidelity to God full-stop. It may have benefits for planet earth, but that would, if true, be a consequence of pleasing God.

41. God in His mercy will not forsake the works of his hands

I don’t disagree with you.

42. Christians, again it is to be hoped, because of their professed commitment to the poor, would be disappointed if a preoccupation with combating global warming and its effects meant that the issues confronting the developing world, not so much melting glaciers and rising sea levels, but rather and better sanitation were ignored

I know that you think it is a false economy, but I think you are wrong about this in practical terms. I agree with Lomborg’s argument and I note Bill Gates who has this huge Aid Foundation of his up and running, recently said much the same thing when he wrote that he feared the promises of funding for the developing world given at Copenhagen might lead to reduced aid for combating malnutrition, disease, filthy (or lack of) water

43. Your sources are mainly newspaper articles and blogs?

Yes they were.

David Palmer said...

44. Monckton’s Standing

I think you are repeating scuttlebutt.

He is a politically motivated person just as much as Joe Romm is.

When Monckton came to Melbourne I took a deliberate decision not to listen to him, not because he hasn’t many truthful valid things to say but because he is too political and I fear demonises the other side, who I might say respond in spades.

I do believe there were statements in the earlier drafts for an agreement at Copenhagen that tended in the direction of ‘world government’ and certainly anti democratic tendencies. My point of departure from those seizing on these tendencies/statements was that the possibility of such a thing occurring seems ridiculous scaremongering, but 1984 and all that, who knows one day, Byron?

Well I’ve come to the end, thank you for reading my paper. I hope you could see that it was not without some merit. I apologise if I became progressively more terse and crabby, but I got tired and we were repeating things.

byron smith said...

Hi David,

Here is the start of my second round that follows your own second bite. Since our conversation is covering a wide range of topics, I will continue with the system of referring to issues by letter and number. Where comments have been made without either, I will try to add them.

AA. [Andrew Cameron] is willing to hedge his bets as it were – see point 9, p27. In contrast to Andrew, I do not see you as a person willing to make such a concession (“History may prove our judgment wrong”)?
I don't think that Andrew is hedging his bets. Hedging bets would mean that he is putting money both ways, basing his actions (in this case recommendations) on the genuine possibility of either outcome (the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is shown to be fundamentally erroneous OR the evidence for anthropogenic climate change continues to become stronger). But he is not doing that, he is merely acknowledging the possibility that our present knowledge may be proved wrong. Something I have done myself many times. Our present knowledge may be proved wrong. But the only serious alternative theories so far proposed have not stood up to testing against the data.

I would love for someone to show that the current warming is unrelated to our carbon emissions. And they would win a Nobel prize for it for sure. But until then, I'll continue on the assumption that the current understanding is the only serious contender in explaining the data.

I agree that on the whole younger people are more likely to accept AGW than older people though I question raising the issue to the level of “the defining problem” – for some young people yes, for even many, yes, but certainly by no means all.
This is acknowledged by Andrew, who says that it is true "in general". And remember that I am not under 30 and that I reject the claim that AGW is the most pressing moral issue of our day.

Secondly I take it as a challenge as an over 50 (which is exceedingly generous to myself) to help younger people to understand that science is never settled, it is always pushing boundaries, filling in gaps, backtracking, refining, that there is always the possibility of a paradigm shift, even on such a “defining problem” as climate.
Yes. I agree. With the proviso that strong evidence (albeit refinable, fallible, incomplete evidence) can be sufficient for drastic action. The science investigating the relation of lung cancer to smoking continues to push boundaries, fill in gaps and so on, but that doesn't mean that governments have been ill-advised to make strong moves to limit smoking and educate people about the associated health risks. There is still much to be learned about climate, but we know enough to know that we're having serious detrimental effects.

I am aware of John Cook’s website and I need to have a look at his 90 common sceptical objections and see how well he does, especially since I’m meant to be debating him for Eternity magazine.
Do you have a likely date?

byron smith said...

A. I don’t think I ve misunderstood you at all – you do want action – I don’t say you want a specific action because I’m unclear on what action you want, hence I ascribe “we must do xyz” - you can define xyz anyway you want to, including if you want a set of options.

Actually, this highlights what I think is a major difference between us – to me problems require solutions, I can’t think about a problem without thinking about practical solutions (and yes solutions involve scientific, technological, political, environmental, sociological dimensions).

Of course problems require solutions and I am very interested in solutions, though I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on what are very complicated questions. On this blog I have from time to time made small suggestions concerning various proposed solutions or provided some links to pieces that have provoked my thoughts on these matters.

I have been deliberately avoiding discussions of solutions in this thread as I think that unpalatable solutions are so often used as excuses for rejecting the science that says that there is a problem in the first place. So for the moment, I simply want us to focus on the question of our obligation to take that science seriously. (NB I am not necessarily accusing you of using this distraction technique.)

As for my current research, it is focused on what might be considered a second order problem, namely the emotional and spiritual responses to the perception of alarming anthropogenic climate change, such as fear, guilt, anger, grief and denial. I have written on these second order issues at greater length (for example in this series), and I believe that Christian theologians and pastors do indeed have very important contributions to make at this level based on the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Interestingly, it may be the case (I am not saying that it is) that there exist no achievable solutions to our situation, that we are in a genuine predicament. If that were to be the case, then I believe that the gospel only becomes more relevant to a healthy response to our situation.

byron smith said...

B. I should have been more precise in raising the possibility of nuclear war – I was referring to the period from WW2 to the collapse of the Soviet Union – during this period nuclear weapons were held by 2 super powers and their respective possession of such weapons prevented WW3 contra the experience of WW2 following WW1. The worst thing that could have happened during this period would have been Western Governments following the advice of CND, etc to destroy their nuclear weaponry.
No, I think a worse thing that could have happened during this period would have been a major nuclear exchange between the two sides resulting in the cessation of human life on earth.

That such a major exchange was possible despite the doctrine of mutually assured destruction was seen at the Bay of Pigs, as well as on numerous other occasions (or see this doco about a very close call in 1983).

Such an outcome would have been far worse than the UK government unilaterally disarming (as CND wanted). Profound concern about such a possibility was not alarmism as the threat was genuine. Of course such legitimate concerns can be used in illegitimate ways or for illegitimate ends, so I am not defending everything that has ever been said about the threat of nuclear war, nor about the threat of climate change. But abuse doesn't abolish use.

The thing that I deplore from that period was the fear generated in young people during this period , with the same pattern being followed today over alleged runaway global warming epitomised by Al Gore’s film which I watched and which I assert to be disgraceful scaremongering.
Although I am interested in the question of what to tell children (and so was Andrew Cameron, see the two paragraphs immediately prior to the section you quoted on p.34), for the moment our discussion is between and about thoughtful adults. Is it right for us to take the grave warnings of climate science seriously? Is there a moral fault in ignoring them?

Re fossil fuels, the point I was making was a simple one: In 1972 the Club of Rome predicted oil would run out within 30 years and economic growth was doomed because the world would run out of raw materials – it was nonsense.
My point was also simple. Their timing was wrong; but the issue they raise is still a very important one taken seriously by most of the people directly involved.

Bryan, why do you raise issues I don’t raise: “barcodes the mark of the beast”. Who do you take me to be?
My point about the mark of the beast was to agree with you that there are genuine instances of alarmism and to suggest examples that I believe are more straightforward than the ones you offered. Of course I never intended to say or imply that you hold these positions, simply that using them to illustrate your point about alarmism might have been simpler.

BTW, my name is Byron. Who do you take me to be? ;-)

byron smith said...

C. My 35 orange orangutans on the last Saturday in September was a serious observation. I didn’t say 350 ppm of CO2 kept the earth 33 degrees C warmer than otherwise. I said, “without the greenhouse effect, planet Earth would be vastly colder (by 33°C on average)”. CO2 is but one of a number of compounds contributing to the greenhouse effect – a small contributor actually, esp compared to water vapour.
But water vapour is a feedback, not a forcing. This is a very important distinction. As I understand it, without the CO2 (and other GHGs, though we're mainly talking about CO2), before too long there would be very little water vapour and the earth would indeed be much colder. And my point still stands: your illustration makes a misleading comparison since very small concentrations of certain gases can have huge effects.

1. Byron, if we are talking a 100 year time scale as per AR4, a few years out is neither here nor there.
We are not talking a 100 year time scale. AR4 documents changes that are currently happening, and says that the window of opportunity to avoid the worst case scenarios is measured in years, not decades or centuries. For example, the AR4 Synthesis Report's Summary for Policy Makers says that global carbon emissions need to peak by 2015.

I’ll make a bold prediction, just as AR4 toned down future effects of CO2 emissions on global temperature and sea rise vis a vis AR3, so AR5 will do likewise vis a vis AR4, but I get ahead of myself.
You do realise that AR4's sea level rises "do not include uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedback nor do they include the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow" and “larger values cannot be excluded” [AR4 SPM 10.6]. TAR (="AR3") included the latter before it was realized how complex the speed and movement of glaciers actually is. So can you see how calling the changes between TAR and AR4 as simply "toned down future effects" is an oversimplification? See here for a longer discussion of the difference between TAR and AR4 on sea level.

From Skeptical science: "More recent research accounting for accelerating ice sheets predict sea level rise of 75 cm to 2 metres by 2100 (Vermeer 2009, Pfeffer 2008). Even these latest predictions admit they may not fully predict the non-linear aspect of ice sheet dynamics."

You might also like to read about sealevelgate, or if you prefer peer-reviewed pieces, then check out Oppenheimer et. al. in Science, September 2007, key excerpts of which can be read here.

byron smith said...

The fact of an ongoing 15 year a lull in global temperatures rising compared to earlier rising temperature periods will reinforce the view that this is a time for regrouping and reconsideration.
There is not a 15 year lull. There is a positive trend of 0.12ºC/decade over the last 15 years, which statistically has over 90% confidence that the trend is not due to noise. If you move out to 16 years or longer there is over 95% confidence. I don't think you have read/viewed the links I posted above about this under #5. Here is yet another explanation of what Phil Jones said and what it meant. And here is a more technical explanation asking "how long do we need to identify a trend?".

2. I contest your assertions here about glaciergate, amazongate, africagate, disastergate not being serious and will come back later to do so.
Here is a very helpful summary of the IPCC error(s) and what was involved and what is at stake.

PS I think you forgot sealevelgate.

I think you are failing to take Climate gate seriously enough.
I have and am taking the relevant aspects of the hacked emails seriously, namely the issue about freedom of information and sharing data. I have said from the start that there is a prima facie case to answer. But I will only take the allegation that the science has been undermined by these emails seriously when it can be shown that the science has been undermined.

Do you admit that most of the noise made in the first few weeks by much of the media about "tricks" and "hiding the decline" was based on a poor and contextless reading of the relevant emails? Please see links and videos above for details.

I note that Nigel Lawson and Benny Peiser have conceded the use of the word "trick" was innocuous. Lawson also said, "This is nothing to do with the basic science, that's not the issue."

I suggest you check out the submission of The Institute of Physics (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm) to the enquiry being conducted by the Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament into the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
I have done so. I have also noted the controversy surrounding that particular submission, which was not approved by the members of the society, nor apparently by many of the committee responsible for it. I note that it is also at odds with what the ICO said to the UEA. The submission shifts from noting prima facie evidence to assuming guilt. The Institute of Physics has now had to clarify its position, which is to support the science and the need for action. I note that it is also quite ironic that they are declining to say who wrote the submission: an anonymous contribution calling for greater transparency.

I've never said that Phil Jones did nothing wrong, but I'm appalled at the gross misrepresentations in so much of the trial-by-media being carried out with little information and less understanding of the issues.

byron smith said...

Also relevant are the submissions of the Royal Society of Chemistry (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4202.htm)
Yes, they agree with me that there may well be issues around FOI. And they agree that the public needs to be better informed of the difference between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed work.

and the Royal Statistical Society (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4202.htm)
You have provided the same link as for RSC. You actually wanted this one. And they also agree that data should be freely available, but note that "It is also clearly unreasonable to require that any given scientist having published some research is then condemned to answer each and every question that might possibly arise from it." Thus, they acknowledge an understandable reason for busy and under-funded scientists denying mischievous or harassing FOI requests.

I assume then that you have also read the submission from the UEA, which clarifies much of the confusion. If only more journalists and bloggers had read it to get a sense of the issues involved.

4. I think you will find whatever remnants of support there is for Mann’s hockey stick will have evaporated after all the reports are in on CRU.
OK, I await the evaporation. Let me know when it's done.

Michael Mann of course is a Professor at Penn State University. I wouldn’t put too much weight on an exoneration by Penn State University.
Of course not. How about the NAS? That minor, unreliable, partisan and light-weight organization.

I’ll make a further prediction: there will be no hockey stick in AR5.
Can you clarify your claim? Do you mean that Mann et. al. 1999 will not be quoted amongst the scientific literature of AR5? It almost certainly will. Or that AR5 will not note that current temperatures are most likely the highest they have been for hundreds of years? It almost certainly will say that too. Or do you merely mean that a graph from 1999 will not be used when there are plenty of more recent papers that confirm and expand it? In which case, I agree.

byron smith said...

I note you challenged my assertion, “Phil Jones in the recent interview with the BBC’s Roger Harrabin entertained the possibility of a medieval warm period, the very thing the hockey stick denied (and thereby fundamentality altered the shape of the temperature anomaly curve)” with the comment, “Entertained for the sake of the question, but rejected” which was linked to Joe Romm’s Climate Progress website which I find disappointing given Romm’s statute as purveyor of global warming scaremongering and general muckraker.
Romm has a PhD in physics from MIT, has been awarded an American Physical Society Congressional Science Fellowship, and has been elected a Fellow of the AAAS. None of these are foolproof indications that he is not a scaremongering muckraker, but I'd appreciate some evidence of your charges.

You have now linked to an exchange between Romm and Pilke, Jnr, and Romm says he won't debate someone whom he believes to fabricate evidence. I see nothing wrong with that. Public debates are not a good forum for scientific issues, which is why science occurs in journals, not public debates. It is too easy to do a Gish Gallop, that is, to muddy the waters with false statistics and misleading claims that take far longer to correct than to make and degenerate into a "he said vs he said", creating the very impression of expert conflict that professional delayers desire. Romm himself has recently said as much, explaining why public debates are bad forum for science.

In my book Romm and Lord Monckton cancel one another out. I’m surprised you would use Romm as a source of information – you won’t find me quoting Monckton, though I think Monckton gets many things right.
Um, you did quote Monckton in the appendix of your paper. And can you provide links to coherent and specific criticisms of Romm to justify your claim that he is as clearly erroneous as Monckton?

Romm gives his own spin on what Jones should have said and then says “Phil Jones has confirmed to us that our interpretations of his comments in the BBC interview are indeed the correct ones, and that he agrees with the statements in our piece above”, without actually quoting Jones.
You'll notice that like the IPCC, I cut a corner. I quoted a secondary source (Romm), who quotes the primary source (the climatologists at RealClimate.org). Romm provides the link, but to save you finding it, it is here. Jones admitted nothing more than was already in AR4. That much requires no further confirmation than simply reading AR4. As for whether we can trust the claim that Jones confirmed their reading, can you provide evidence of the unreliability of the authors of this blog, who are generally regarded as highly qualified and well respected research climatologists?

5. Firstly I am glad in respect of “the greatest moral challenge of our times” we agree on something! And I’m sure lots more!
I'm sure we do. J

Re “my lack of global warming” comment it could have been more nuanced.
Thank you for acknowledging this. How would you nuance it?

byron smith said...

5.1. With the greatest of respect to John Cook, he isn’t the ultimate authority on climate science
No, that would be the peer-reviewed literature, as he admits himself and which he bases his responses on.

5.5. The problem of the “my graph-your graph” caper is that with four main temperature graphs to choose from and the selection of different time spans, as a cherry-picker you can prove anything.
Which is why peer-review is used to minimize erroneous, spurious and misleading claim.

5.6. I refer you to this article which makes a lot of sense to me: http://www.masterresource.org/?p=5240.
I assume Knappenberger has published these important insights in a peer-review journal somewhere?
And it doesn't fill me with confidence that New Hope Environmental Services try so hard to keep their funding secret, but that it turns out to include significant contributions from major companies with vested interests in downplaying the threat from climate change. Yes, this is ad hominem, but there is so much professional disinformation around that peer-review is the best rule of thumb to give us a fighting chance.

Re statistical significance
When you say something is not significant at 95% confidence level you are saying precisely what I said, and if I may quote myself, “Jones acknowledged that there was no statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present time – this is a huge concession.”
No, it is not a huge concession. There is over 90% confidence for the warming trend from 1995 and over 95% confidence for the warming trend since 1994.

John Cook says,” Over longer time periods, the uncertainty is less and the trend is more statistically significant”. I say, “maybe, but don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”.
No need. Just go back to 1994 and you find statistical significance (>95% confidence) to the warming trend.

What John and yourself should have acknowledged is that a rise of 0.12 deg C per decade is a) much less than the immediately prior period
I acknowledge that the trend varies, but it is not a major issue. The scientific literature does not predict that atmospheric warming will be a smooth and steady line, nor are IPCC predictions made by picking the trend of any given period and extrapolating it.

the models did not predict the current hiatus.
You overstate. Hiatus implies that warming has stopped, when you've just acknowledged that it hasn't. As for whether models have predicted the current events, see Cook, who links to various studies and also here, where IPCC models are compared to recent observations. The summary: the match with the models used by the IPCC is quite good, though there is a sizeable spread in the models (as I said) indicating a range of plausible options. There is no single IPCC result, though for the sake of convenience, the average of the models is used in graphs.

You say, “The last decade has been the warmest in the instrumental record”. I agree, but this is not to deny the statistically sound statement that “temperatures have not risen in the past 15 years”. Both can be true at the same time.
No. Your second comment is incorrect. Temperatures have risen in the last 15 years and we have over 90% confidence that this is not due to noise (over 95% confidence if we look at the last 16 or more years). If you wanted to improve the accuracy of your second statement, it should read "the upward trend in temperatures over the last 15 years is not statistically significant to 95% confidence", but even then it would be a misleading statement, taken by itself.

byron smith said...

6. I agree that public opinion is irrelevant to scientific questions, but public opinion is highly relevant to actually doing something to address the problem at issue.
Of course, but citing public opinion in a discussion about the scientific basis of our knowledge of climate and its variations is irrelevant.

Byron, why don't you tell me what you are up to in St Andrews, is it? I used to spend a lot of time in Dumfries.
I am studying a PhD in Christian Ethics at the University of Edinburgh. A brief outline of my area of interest is found here, though that is slightly out of date now.

7. The point that I would make about economic growth is that countries pursue growth as the way to draw their people out of poverty and poor health outcomes – I’m sure that is a major objective for the Chinese and Indian governments.
It may well be, but can the same be said for, e.g. Australia? Are we still being drawn out of poverty? And at what point does our attempt to create even more wealth end up robbing from the poor (who are likely to be most quickly and severely affected by climate change) and from future generations?

we know that new species came and went long before man ever appeared on the earth.
The issue is not that species are becoming extinct per se, but on the rate at which they are going extinct and the primarily human contribution to this ongoing destruction. This is estimated at between 100 and 1000 times the "background" rate of extinction and is also estimated to be faster than the rate at which new species are forming.

Regarding loss of cultural continuity through forced migration, again a shame but this has happened all through human history. It can be very sad, but it can also mean a fresh start.
Yes, God can bring good out of even great evil. But as you say, this doesn't mean that those who cause the evil are not culpable. "Do no evil" may be an impossible goal for governments in a fallen world, but "minimize evil" is not. Anthropogenic climate change is likely to cause

The reason I raised extinction and cultural dislocation was to say that financial considerations are not the only (or perhaps even the primary) criteria for making good decisions about responding to climate change.

8. not to be forgotten was the wrecking role of poorer nations who saw the whole thing as a money grab opportunity.
Yes, those pesky small island nations! If only they hadn't ruined everything by greedily trying to hold onto a livable landmass.
Joking aside, of course, I'm not denying that Copenhagen wasn't about greed and self-interest. Far from it. Simply that your characterization of poorer nations is a little simplistic at this point.

byron smith said...

9. Again, I’m an engineer by training and I can never get it out of my mind that if there is a problem that may be defined both practically (let us say rising CO2 level melts glaciers) and ethically (the life and livelihood of people is at risk, species may die out, etc), then we ought to give attention to practical solutions which will involve science, engineering, money, manpower (including their brains), popular demand (including aspects of human dignity and hopes), political will and capability, and most importantly not forgetting the law of unintended consequences.
I'm all for practical solutions that are ethically responsible: the best that it is actually possible to do. In a situation as complex as climate change, working out what is actually best (not to mention what is actually possible) is very difficult. I don't want us to be distracted from these very important tasks by misinformation and confusion created by those who interests are served by confusion and subsequent inaction.

Leaving aside the issue of how well informed the Minister is about what is required to achieve decarbonisation, ethically speaking I find her response morally repugnant – Australians including their fossil fuel dependent transport and power generating industries do not need to change their lifestyles and policies for power generation - we’ll get poor sods in the under developed world to do it for us.
I entirely agree. International carbon offsets are very problematic, as I said above.


13-14. Have you developed your ideas outlined in the 4 paragraphs you have written to round out your comments on my points 13&14 (and which you have been referring to one way and another throughout your responses). I would find it helpful if collected together in an article (article I said, not book).
I have posted a brief talk I gave on Jesus and Climate Change that may do some of what you are asking, or perhaps reading through my thesis question might help. You could also try looking at my tags for topics like consumerism or contentment. And posts like this and this might be relevant. If these don't help, can you be a little more specific about which ideas you were referring to?

15. Re Bjorn Lomborg
I consider your post strays into the realm of ad hominem attack: “deliberate distortions”, “gross negligence”, “torn to shreds”, “torn to pieces”.
Ad hominem means that I illegitimately attacked the source when I should have been attacking the arguments. I consider Lomborg to have been discredited so many times on so many fronts that he is no longer considered a credible source.

byron smith said...

I really don’t have the time to trawl through 350 alleged errors and his responses. Science, its implications and application is always contested terrain. The Wikipedia article on Lomborg gives a very different version of the controversy and your claim that the overturning of the Danish Committee was only on account of Lomberg being “merely a social scientist” is plain wrong and could be said to be mischievous.
I apologise and retract the word "only" and "merely" in my comment above: "this result was *only* overturned through the admission that Lomberg was *merely* a social scientist and so could not be expected to be an expert in all the fields he attempts to address." And I admit that I conflated two separate points from the Wiki article. (a) The DCSD found Lomborg's book "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice". However, while "the book [was] scientifically dishonest, […] Lomborg himself [was] not guilty because of lack of expertise in the fields in question". (b) The MSTI overruled the DCSD partially because the book was not shown to be a scientific publication and because of a lack of clarity regarding the "standard for deciding 'good scientific practice' in the social sciences".

I stand by my claim that Lomborg has been repeatedly shown to fudge his numbers, misuse his sources and perpetuate fallacies even after they have been shown to be such. See here for yet more.

Enough of Lomborg, though I agree with his essential point of living with what comes and focussing on poverty, clean water supply, eradication of malaria, etc.
This is a false either/or. Not only is it possible to address more than one problem at a time, but climate change is a multiplier of many of these issues and so addressing climate change is an important part of responding adequately to them.

16. Re capitalism
My point was simply that your initial claim is a logical fallacy ( If capitalism has caused a problem, then capitalism will be required to fix the problem.), whether or not capitalism has caused the problem and whether or not capitalism may be part of the solution.

I have this growing feeling Byron that you underestimate the totality of what is involved in tackling something like global warming – I may come back to this point depending on what else I find.
I am sure that is probably true, since I doubt that anyone can have a sense of the totality of what may be involved. I am more concerned at the moment to focus on the nature of the problem and not allow the vast difficulties of the solution/response to marr judgement on the science that investigates it.

byron smith said...

17a. Re Club of Rome
I have no particular agenda to defend the 1972 Club of Rome document, which is flawed in many ways (though quite prescient in others, as I mentioned above). My point is that to use this and a handful of other examples to claim that scientists have a poor track record in making predictions is very misleading. Scientists have a poor track record in making predictions? Do I need to start a list of hugely and spectacularly successful scientific predictions? It would go on for some time, but I don't need to tell you all the ways we rely everyday on successful scientific predictions that keep bridges up, aeroplanes airborne, diseases minimised, electricity flowing and so on. Yes, there is no guarantee that just because a scientist says something about the future it will necessarily be correct but the fact remains that our societies are built on our best possible predictions about the future.

The predictive power of the theory anthropogenic climate change has been repeatedly vindicated: rising levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, long term warming trend of the surface and lower atmosphere with cooling of the upper atmosphere (predicted on the basis of primarily greenhouse warming, rather than primarily solar warming), changes in the migration and germination patterns of wild animals, thermal expansion of the oceans, increasing acidification of the oceans, melting glaciers, shrinking ice-caps, changes in the intensity and distribution of precipitation patterns, tree lines and species distribution shifting towards the poles, increasing height of the tropopause, increasing ratio of record hot to record cold days, degradation of Arctic permafrost. All these have been predicted by the theory and then confirmed by empirical observation.


17b. humans do appear to have wonderful adaptability to face new problems that will always arise in accord with the law of unintended consequences. Who knows yet what damage wind farms will do to the environment and to local communities?
Yes, we do have a wonderful adaptability. Unfortunately, not all species are as adaptable (as discussed above) and even we have our limits (see Jared Diamond's book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive for a large number of case studies where human actions (often failures to act on issues that could have been anticipated) contributed to the collapse of entire societies). Why would we ignore a problem if we can predict that is likely to get significantly worse and more difficult to solve the longer we leave it?

18. Water Vapour

I believe my statement on p4 is non controversial. There is no argument over the importance of water vapour.
On page four you said Water vapour as a result, has been excluded by climatologists from their considerations of greenhouse gases.
I was pointing out that far from excluding water vapour, there has been a great deal of research into it.

The comment in my paper is simply related to the fact that 2007 IPCC WG1 SPM paper, page 16 omits water vapour from its list of radiative forcing components (both –ve and +ve)
I don't understand that reference. Where should water vapour be mentioned on that page? And there was no reference to this page in your paper.

19. Forecasted BAU CO2 level
Not sure the point you make, other than querying whether my 60 orang-utans should be 95?
Yep.
And whether these orangutans are actually suicide bombers each strapped with explosives (i.e. questioning your choice of illustration and its implication that the relatively tiny amount of CO2 (compared to oxygen and nitrogen) means that CO2 is not very relevant to climate).

byron smith said...

20a. Antarctic
Suggest you check these articles out here and here and here.
The first two links are again to the website of the advocacy group New Hope Environmental Services with their close financial ties to companies with an enormous vested interest in downplaying any climate threat. They may be making good points, or they may not. Such funding doesn't automatically invalidate their position, but it does compromise their credibility.

The authors of the study quoted in the second link put their findings into context here.

Antarctic sea ice is a complex phenomenon, but increases in Antarctic sea ice do not necessarily indicate cooling (Zhang 2007. And contra the third news article, the total mass of Antarctic ice is dropping, despite cooling in some areas. If Garrett did actually say that the West Antarctic would collapse by 2100 and add 6 m to sea levels, then he is going beyond the science.

20b. Greenland
Something to round out your reading.
To summarise: Greenland has been significantly warming and melting over the last 25 years. Prior to that, it has experienced very rapid shifts in temperature in both directions. Modelling dynamic ice flow is a very difficult and still emerging field. Yes?

20c. The Arctic
Yes, we have all heard that the Artic would be ice free in 5 years - this precisely what lets the climate change alarmists down – wild predictions.
Can you show where this claim exists in the peer-reviewed science? And remember, there is a massive difference between a prediction of an ice-free north pole in summer and the Arctic being ice free.

This graph is helpful. Artic sea ice after a period of decrease is increasing, for how long, don't know but 2008 & 2009 saw increases and 2010 appears to be going the same way.
This comment makes the same mistake we have discussed before about "cooling" since 1998. The Arctic sea ice extent is at record lows, and is still below the worst cases predicted by the models. The fact that 2007 was so jaw-droppingly anomalous in the extent of its melt is no reason to lose sight of this (and the causes of the anomaly have been discussed in the literature). And it is not just about area, but volume. The volume for 2008 was actually lower than for 2007 (due to a higher proportion of thin first year ice), though I haven't seen any data for 2009 (it takes longer to come out since it is more difficult to calculate).

21. Reduction or retraction? Neither
Yes you are correct, “partial reduction” for 2007 report cf 2001 Report and just maybe further reductions for the 2013 report, even by a greater extent?!
See above under point 1. There was not even a reduction, let alone a retraction.

22. Use of “very likely” or “extremely likely”
I understood the definitions – they are made clear in the SPM report. My comment related to the fact that each definition relates to a a high level of certainty and very narrow band: extremely likely >95%, very likely 91-95% - p3 WG1 SPM – I find such level of certainties about matters well into the future questionable – that was my point.
WG1 does not relate to the future. It is dealing with the scientific basis. The references you cite on page 3 are talking about the degree of confidence in the causes of past events.

byron smith said...

23. 1940-1975 global temperature decrease
No matter how widely a 1940-1975 fall is discussed in the literature, it did occur
Yes, no one disputes this. What I was disputing was your claim that this cooling makes anthropogenic warming "open to question", given that there are accepted explanations within the current understanding that explain the cooling.

and now from 1996 up to the present time either a fall/levelling off/slight rise is occurring (depending on which cherry picker you choose).
We've covered this a number of times now. There has been a warming trend.

24. Global warming and sea level rising for centuries to come
Nothing to add
Do you then agree that the pace of the changes is important and that if the current understanding of climate is broadly correct, then the rate at which we emit GHGs is very important? That is, do you retract your statement that the inevitability of warming provides an "antidote" to those who want significant cuts to be made now?

25. Soon Paper and 449 others?
What you quote sounds like another battery job. I haven’t the time or inclination to research this particular story and allegation, sounds like another Lomborg story.
Neither do I, but I'd like to know why I shouldn't be paying attention to the various peer-reviewed refutations of that particular paper.

By the way here is a listing of 500 peer-reviewed papers supporting scepticism of "man-made" global warming.
No, that list is a total crock. It is on a site that permits no negative comments, and is a thoroughly misleading list. I came across the list about a year ago before I read anything about it. I was intrigued, so I started looking through the papers that were linked. I checked about 20 and found not a single one that was what the list claimed. Those I checked were either not peer reviewed (or from Energy and Environment, a journal with a very shady reputation and excluded from the authoritative Science Citation Index Master Journal List), irrelevant, confirmed the IPCC position or had been shown to be incorrect in subsequent publications. Others who have looked at the list in more detail have found the same pattern: see for example here and here.

When Pilke Jnr. was made aware of the list, he said that the 21 papers by him and his father should be removed.

26. Irregular upward move in global temperatures post 1850
The question I would ask is, “do the forward projections from the models on rising temperature allow for this up and down variability?”.
Yes. This is all to do with relative forcings and has been widely discussed. As I said, no serious climatologist proposes CO2 as the only forcing and so none predict a perfect correlation between CO2 and surface temperatures.

byron smith said...

27. Current Shape of Global Temperature Curve
Try these papers: here and here
The first paper argues basically for what I just said in #26: that warming is non-linear. It does not say that warming has stopped, just slowed, and attempts to explain why from within the mainstream understanding.

The second link was to the same paper.

28. Predictions of a cooling period
Indeed there are climatologists on the basis of changing patterns of solar magnetic behaviour who predict the world is about to enter a cooling period again. Check out the references in the 500 peer reviewed sceptical articles – there are lots of article under the heading, “Solar”.
I don't have time to check them all out, when I have almost zero confidence in that list as a whole. It is also not always clear from their titles which of them predict cooling. Can you point to some?

29. Climate and its extremes
John Cook again I see. My statement is non controversial and factual as it stands.
Yet misleading in context. No one denies that there have been extremes before, but pointing to them is no counter-evidence against predictions of worse based in a robust theory.

30. Man's conceit re ability to change the environment for better or for worse
I think this is a large topic. I don’t wish to deny that humans impact their environment in very unfortunate ways. My point is more about the extent of that impact. I think God has made a world with capabilities, resources, possibilities beyond our imaging. Man is rather fleeting, not just on a individual basis but a civilisation basis as well. I think we need a sense of proportion.
Yes, our civilisations are fleeting and one of the capabilities that God has created us with is the ability to destroy ourselves, both individually and now collectively. It sounds like you now reject your statement in your paper since you admit that humanity does have the ability to change the environment for better and worse.

All those things you say that we have done, are they all bad or have all the bad consequences you imply? As I have said I don’t deny we have done bad things, but we have done good things as well, believe it or not.
Of course, I have not denied this. My point was showing how much damage we are capable of doing.

This is very much a black armband view of life.
Or one expressed in the doctrine of total depravity. There is something wrong with everything, and human sinfulness and ignorance is capable of astonishing destructiveness. This is not to deny real goodness, but we shouldn't be surprised at the human capacity for great harm (saddened, yes, but not surprised).

byron smith said...

Don’t you find it amazing that despite, and I’m not bothering to dispute your figures, all those man responsible extinction of species, there are still millions more, I don’t know what the factor more is but I imagine for every new species becoming extinct (and many are probably not lost at all) many more are still be discovered.
Why are many not lost at all? Are you saying the biologists haven't been looking hard enough? The formal declaration of an animal as extinct is extremely conservative, and usually takes decades of no sightings after careful searching as well as other evidence.

We might be finding more, but that simply represents the small fraction that have been catalogued. The real issue (which you have not disputed) is that humanity is responsible for an increase in the background rate of extinction by a factor of somewhere between 100 and 1000, and as I said above at #7, this is likely to be higher than the rate at which species are evolving. The current age is known as the sixth great extinction event, rivaling earlier events caused by meteorite strikes or massive volcanic activity. Humanity has become a force of nature.

Don’t you think there are (and have seen) many places in the world where men have actually beautified the environment?
Yes.

There is surely enough to despair over – think of all the damage that has been done to society and individual lives by the breaking of the consensus that sex belongs in marriage and marriages are to be welcoming of children.
So once we've had enough despair we should stop looking? I don't mean to be morbid and I'm not denying the God-given capacity for humanity to do good, but it seems that you have shifted your ground quite significantly from the claim you made in your paper since you now acknowledge that humanity does indeed have the capacity to change the environment quite significantly. Is that correct?

34. Tying global warming down to a single factor, CO2
Ask the man in the street what is causing global warming (well, before the Copenhagen/Climategate fiascos) and the answer will be fossil fuels/coal/co2 – something along those lines. The whole focus is on decarbonisation – surely we can agree on this point!
No, we disagree. What the man on the street happens to understand or misunderstand is irrelevant to evaluating the scientific claims, which is what you were doing in this part of your paper.

35. Long term issue, therefore take collective deep breaths
I would like to see you develop this point further – you may be able to point me to material you have already put together. Happy to discuss further.
I'm a little confused. You want more information on the effects of climate change? There is an abundance of material on this. You could start with Wikipedia or better, the IPCC AR4 WG II. Although the scenarios explored in AR4 go out to 2100, they do not say that nothing bad will happen until then or that we have until then to respond. The window for mitigation is small and closing, since the effects of GHGs are slow, meaning that we are already locked into decades more warming even if we stabilized GHGs at their current levels. The more GHGs we add, the worse the eventual outcome and the worse the path we take to get to those outcomes, plus the closer we come to triggering various positive feedbacks that will ensure centuries of dangerous warming and climate chaos. The sooner and faster emissions are reduced, the lower the danger and the less severe the damage we will suffer. Is this what you mean or were you looking for something else?

byron smith said...

36. Increased CO2 and crop productivity
It is true. CO2 acts as a fertiliser.
It is not true. Higher temperatures undercut any benefit from higher CO2 levels so that plants are less productive overall. Furthermore, shifting precipitation patterns will render many important agricultural areas far less fertile. Can you point to a study that shows more CO2 is likely to lead to greater global crop productivity?

37. Who knows, Siberia may become the breadbasket of the world as North Africa was once for Rome!
Unfortunately, Siberian soils are generally quite poor and rocky.

Re North Africa, surprised you don’t say climate change likely responsible for accelerating desertification in that region?
Well, I only have so much time. J

40. Regarding Christian lifestyle: We should consider/approach the matter of “what is the appropriate lifestyle that we believe God wants us to follow” as a matter of fidelity to God full-stop. It may have benefits for planet earth, but that would, if true, be a consequence of pleasing God.
I agree, though part of the point of my post is that our knowledge of the world is important in helping us consider how God wants us to love our neighbour.

42. Christians, again it is to be hoped, because of their professed commitment to the poor, would be disappointed if a preoccupation with combating global warming and its effects meant that the issues confronting the developing world, not so much melting glaciers and rising sea levels, but rather and better sanitation were ignored
I agree that this would be tragic. But so would using these as an excuse to ignore the increased suffering, especially amongst the poor, that climate change is already bringing and is likely to increase in coming years.

44. Monckton
He is a politically motivated person just as much as Joe Romm is.
Motivation is not the issue. Credibility is. Joe Romm is highly partisan, but a credible source of information. Monckton has been repeatedly shown to distort and deceive, to repeat information he knows is false and to oversell his credentials.

Well, congratulations to anyone who has made it to the end of this. David, thanks again for the conversation. I am unlikely to be able to make any further replies for a couple of weeks at least.

Grace & peace,
Byron

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

It will take me a little while to get back to you. I have printed off your comments and hopefully have a look next week. My problem is that presently I'm involved in combating with other church reps some really unhelpful proposed Victorian legislation plus a Government instigated enquiry into hate crimes - both of which are incredibly time consuming.

I suspect what I will do is have some general reflections on where we have got to, as I suspect we are drawing our conversation to a close.

God bless

David

byron smith said...

No problem. I hope you are able to follow some of the links, which are quite important.

You might also like to read this, and follow the link to the open letter, which gives an excellent summary of where the vast majority of climate scientists in the US are up to and what they think about the errors in the IPCC. This gives a far better indication of the significance of the mistakes than you find from most journalists, who are looking to sensationalise to sell papers.

What is the proposed Victorian legislation?

byron smith said...

36. (addendum on crop production)
I apologise for my too brief and simplistic reply on crop production. Here is part of the relevant section of AR4 WG2 Ch19, though the discussion continues quite a bit after this.

19.3.2.1 Agriculture
Ensuring that food production is not threatened is an explicit criterion of UNFCCC Article 2. In general, low-latitude areas are most at risk of having decreased crop yields. In contrast, mid- and high-latitude areas could generally, although not in all
locations, see increases in crop yields for temperature increases of up to 1-3°C (see Chapter 5 Section 5.4.2). Taken together, there is low to medium confidence that global agricultural
production could increase up to approximately 3°C of warming. For temperature increases beyond 1-3°C, yields of many crops in temperate regions are projected to decline. As a result, beyond 3°C warming, global production would decline because of climate change and the decline would continue as GMT increases. Most studies on global agriculture have not yet incorporated a number of critical factors, including changes in extreme events or the spread of pests and diseases. In addition, they have not considered the development of specific practices or technologies to aid adaptation.(see Chapter 20).

byron smith said...

36. Summary: low to medium confidence (20-50%) that small rises in temperature could improve global yields (though with some big winners and losers (with most less developed nations being big loses)) and very likely (>90%) global declines above 3ºC (with even larger declines amongst less developed nations).

David Palmer said...

Dear Byron,

Rather than a point by point rebuttal, I will focus on a few things. Points I pass over either I consider to be of smaller significance or that there is no substantial disagreement between us or I can't answer at this point in time.

1. I would love for someone to show that the current warming is unrelated to our carbon emissions. And they would win a Nobel prize for it for sure.

I don’t wish to say that current warming is unrelated to carbon dioxide (important to say carbon dioxide, particularly remembering its beneficial value for plant growth), I deny that it is able to fully explain and indeed its precise contribution is in question.

2. strong evidence (albeit refinable, fallible, incomplete evidence) can be sufficient for drastic action.

Rather than drastic action I would argue in favour of measured, incremental action, on as many fronts as possible. Drastic action might sound appropriate/good but is difficult to define in precise terms and when done is unlikely to gain bilateral political support and further, beware the law of unintended consequences!

I’m not at all convinced that smoking and lung cancer has any relevance whatsoever. The comparative scale of the two matters is out of all proportion as bow and arrow to howitzer.

3. As for my current research, it is focused on what might be considered a second order problem, namely the emotional and spiritual responses to the perception of alarming anthropogenic climate change, such as fear, guilt, anger, grief and denial.

OK, I would need to read what you have written, but when I consider the subject, I don’t experience feelings of fear, guilt, anger, grief and denial. When I think about our use of fossil fuels from the dawn of the industrial age, I think what a great improvement over time they made to the lives of ordinary people. I hope people in the developing world are not to be denied that improvement. In saying this I’m not advocating a lifestyle that is based on "more equals greater happiness", but I am in favour of every action that will pull people out of poverty, squalor, poor health outcomes, and whilst it is by no means the only required action, yet fossil fuels have had, and will have a very important continuing contribution. I believe God made creation good, and fossil fuels were not part of the devil's messing with God’s creation, but rather part of God’s provision for which we should be grateful.

4. No, I think a worse thing that could have happened during this period would have been a major nuclear exchange between the two sides resulting in the cessation of human life on earth.

Steady on Byron, cessation of human life - that’s a big call. My point about nuclear arms was simply that had the west disarmed as CND advocated, we would have seen the use of those weapons by the other side which is precisely what happened at the end of WW2 in Japan.

5. Is it right for us to take the grave warnings of climate science seriously? Is there a moral fault in ignoring them?

No, I think you know I take the grave warnings of climate science seriously – seriously enough to spend a considerable amount to time trying to assess how seriously they need to be taken.

Regarding children, I regard it as unconscionable that children are used as tools in the debate over climate change and what to do about it, as I believe our PM has done. I regard it as unconscionable that children are subjected to worse case scenarios.

6. My point (re running out of raw materials) was also simple. Their timing was wrong; but the issue they raise is still a very important one taken seriously by most of the people directly involved.

Yes, it is all about timing: whether 30 or 60 years is one thing whereas 30 or 300 years is a vastly different thing. Remember there will always be fossil fuels – price matches supply and demand, certainly over the long haul.

David Palmer said...

7. But water vapour is a feedback, not a forcing.

With respect, I wasn’t raising an issue about whether water vapour was a feedback or forcing, just that it is a greenhouse gas. According to the article you directed me to, Gavin says, “Making some allowance (+/-5%) for the crudeness of my calculation, the maximum supportable number for the importance of water vapour alone is about 60-70% and for water plus clouds 80-90% of the present day greenhouse effect”

That was the only point I was making.

8. You take exception to my statement, a few years out is neither here nor there. But think about it. AR4 (SPM: The Physical Science Basis, Fig SPM-5, p14) was predicated on continuing uninterrupted global warming through the noughties – this did not occur – see here.

I repeat “a few years out is neither here nor there”. If AR4 says on the basis of Fig SPM-5 data that global emissions need to peak by 2015, they will now need to add a few years because of the correction to temperature rise occurring in the noughties.

9. I’m not up to date on sea level rises and would need to come back to this subject. Presumably the figures are reliant on melting Himalayan glaciers, melting Artic/Antarctic/Greenland - this is all contested ground I suspect.

10. Regarding what Phil Jones said and is supposed to have said, you have mangled what Phil Jones actually said to Harrabin – he did not mention 90% but 95% CL - the statistically significant measure of whether a correlation exists and likewise you have mangled John Cook’s post. What John actually said was

This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

You cannot simply say that if you move out to 16 years or longer there is over 95% confidence, as you say, without having the actual temperatures for the additional years – they may yield 95% for 0.12 degC/decade, they may not. Again, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched!

I notice later on you want to include 1994 to get to 95% CL – no, you can’t do that! I am quite prepared to concede the warming prior to 1995 was greater than 0.12degC/decade.

11. You are really quite naughty over the Institute of Physics submission. As I understand it, they did not withdraw it. If they have, I would like verification of that fact.

Whether it was approved by all the members is neither here nor there. Bodies such as the Institute of Physics either have existing committees or appoint committees to make submissions such as these.

There was a similar brouhaha several years ago in the reverse direction when AR4 received strong endorsement from The Royal Society with individual members who disagreed with that endorsement complaining they were not consulted.

12. Re Mann’s hockey stick, I am saying that the argument/proof for the earlier MWP will only grow stronger over the next few years and so not prevent the IPCC the travesty of ironing out the MWP in AR5. Of course, I could be wrong, but equally I wouldn’t hang your hat on it remaining.

One of the benefits of the kerfuffle on CRU data manipulation, secrecy, bad attitudes to opponents, and the manipulation of the peer review process, will be greater openness in the AR5 process to alternative viewpoints and papers. In this respect I find the terms of reference for the independent review of the IPCC assessment process set up earlier this month, (due to report in August) most encouraging. At the very least, it is an acknowledgement that all was not well with AR4.

13. Re Romm’s status as a global warming scaremongering muckraker, I’m really surprised that you would try to defend him, but I suppose there is no accounting for taste.

David Palmer said...

14. And it doesn't fill me with confidence that New Hope Environmental Services try so hard to keep their funding secret, but that it turns out to include significant contributions from major companies with vested interests in downplaying the threat from climate change.

I now it’s a “aren’t they naughty” and therefore tremendously self justifying kind of statement, but surely we can be more grown up and recognise that everyone in the game needs financial support.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that From October 8, 1999 through November 13, 2007 (the period of AR1,2,3 & 4), IPCC stated on their “about” page that the role of the IPCC was specifically related to “assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change.”

When you look at the source of funding for IPCC and for the scientists whose work forms the basis of the IPCC’s reports, I think you will find it is overwhelmingly from Governments and Government agencies who are seeking an assessment of "the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change”.

Might it not be possible that Government funding is channelled in the direction of human induced climate change, never mind weighing natural and human factors?

Further, might it not be possible that such funding is to a vastly greater extent than that available to the climate change deniers (sic) from Mobil Exxon or, dare I say it, New Hope Environmental Services?

I am reminded of Matthew 7:3-5.

15. DJP said, "the models did not predict the current hiatus".

You overstate. Hiatus implies that warming has stopped, when you've just acknowledged that it hasn't.


Not quite.

For the sake of argument, I accept 0.12degC/decade which is next to nothing, as I said previously - 1.2 degC per 100 years. No one not even Al Gore is going to get excited about such a small value, certainly not Governments.

16. (DJP says), “The last decade has been the warmest in the instrumental record”. I agree, but this is not to deny the statistically sound statement that “temperatures have not risen in the past 15 years”. Both can be true at the same time.

No. Your second comment is incorrect. Temperatures have risen in the last 15 years and we have over 90% confidence that this is not due to noise (over 95% confidence if we look at the last 16 or more years).


My point stands because 90% confidence limits are not acceptable, they must be 95% and I’ve already indicated that you can’t duck back to 1994, my original point being 15 yrs forward from 1995 (I’m repeating myself, but it is an important point - you are not entitled to go back to 1994!)

17. (DJP says) "I agree that public opinion is irrelevant to scientific questions, but public opinion is highly relevant to actually doing something to address the problem at issue".

Of course, but citing public opinion in a discussion about the scientific basis of our knowledge of climate and its variations is irrelevant.


I have a general point to make, Byron. It may sound strange. The issue is not really the science of climate change – people are going to argue over it, possible forever: it is issues to do with the developing world’s quest to improve the standard of living and health outcomes for its people and how they will do it, its whether alternatives to fossil fuels are actually practical, safe, cost effective, the willingness or otherwise to embrace nuclear power, it is whether people are willing to accept changes to their lifestyle: get rid of cars, walk, cycle, use public transport, build smaller homes.

TBC

David Palmer said...

In other words, it is all about how people are prepared to accept radical lifestyle change including the politics of it all (I note Sarkozy has just dropped plans for a carbon tax), the feasibility, practicality and economics of alternatives to fossil fuels.

I suspect the driving force for moves away from fossil fuels will be future availability and price rather than climate per se.

18. (DJP says) "not to be forgotten was the wrecking role of poorer nations who saw the whole thing as a money grab opportunity".

Yes, those pesky small island nations! If only they hadn't ruined everything by greedily trying to hold onto a liveable landmass.


No, you miss my point, I wasn’t focussing on those small island states which are tiny, but on that group of mainly African nations, but central and south American, etc, ones represented by that gentleman from Sudan.

19. Under point 9, I don't want us to be distracted from these very important tasks by misinformation and confusion created by those who interests are served by confusion and subsequent inaction.

I think this is verging on an ad hominem attack against unidentified but presumed targets. There may well be people like this and we might even agree on names such as Romm and Monckton, though we both would have our respective and important caveats on both of them.

However to suggest people like Lomberg, Roy Spencer, Lindzen the MIT man or Anthony Watts or the statistical guy who found errors with Mann’s construction of the hockey stick or the Pielkes, father and son, are just there to peddle misinformation or confuse is ungenerous to say the least.

20. I accept your retractions re Lomberg, though I am unconvinced by attempts to discredit him and more particularly his work, much as I note you are unconvinced by attempts to discredit the work of Mann, Jones, etc. For a man who you say gets to “fudge his numbers, misuse his sources and perpetuate fallacies”, it is remarkable how many of his articles appear in the press. I don’t fully understand your opposition to him, he is not a global warming denialist, he just thinks more good for the world’s poor can be achieved by other means at a fraction of the cost.

21. I see you get fired up by my claim (though it’s not in 17a Club of Rome), that scientists have a poor track record in making predictions (not sure where I made it but presumably I made it in relation to Club of Rome predictions with possible/probable projection onto IPCC).

OK, having made that statement in a certain context does not entitle you to cast me as denying every prediction made by scientists, though I imagine a good few in various fields have fallen through. The scientific method is about measurement, formation of hypothesis and then testing that hypothesis to validate it (the method of Kuhn and Popper involves more than that). What we have with climate change and predicting catastrophic effects in 50, 100 year times is a very different thing to building bridges, planes and the like. Chalk and cheese again.

If I may say so, the predictive power of anthropomorphic CO2 induced climate change theory in relation to warming trends, migration habits of birds, tree lines, degradation of Arctic permafrost, etc may look less compelling as the time scale backwards is extended. However I am not competent to judge on such things though no doubts there are authorities able to debate these points.

David Palmer said...

22. Unfortunately, not all species are as adaptable.

Unfortunately with the best will in the world we can never guarantee the survival of all species. You may be right that some species, maybe thousands and thousands of them will disappear if average global temperatures increase 6 deg C through rising CO2 levels (a point that I don’t concede), others may well adapt and flourish.

23. Orang-utans

Yes, I might give them a rest, though I’ve yet to hear of an orang-utan strapped with explosives, although I believe their excrement makes a useful fertiliser.

24. Reduction or retraction? Neither

Well, I did quote the reduction in my paper on radiative forcings between 2001 and 2007 – are you saying I got that wrong?

I’ve skipped over Antartic, Arctic, Greenland, etc, because I think there is a lot of genuine confusion, claim and counter claim about what is going on, whether we are prepared to accept settlements in Greenland during the MWP, whether or not in the past the Arctic was ice free, etc. I notice for example a report in the Guardian earlier this week (and I presume there is a peer reviewed article behind the article) that “much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is down to the region’s swirling winds and not a direct result of global warming”.

You rightly want to restrict everything to peer reviewed articles (and I noted earlier Jones et al attempts to interfere with that process), but Al Gore probably did more than anyone else for exaggerated claims. Do you acknowledge the unsustainable claims and damage he did to the cause of anthropomorphic CO2 induced climate change? You can’t fall back on peer reviewed articles when alarmist claims where being peddled from IPCC sources, starting with its own chairman, Rajendra Pachauri.

David Palmer said...

25. DJP said "By the way here is a listing of 500 peer-reviewed papers supporting scepticism of "man-made" global warming" to which Byron replied, "No, that list is a total crock", quoting your research on 20 such papers and the Pielke Jr’s withdrawal of his and his father’s papers.

At face value this evidence appears to be serious undermining of the list and I thank you for drawing my attention to it.

Whether it is "a total crock" in the sense that there is in fact no peer reviewed papers anywhere supporting scepticism of “man-made” global warming is another thing.

I know for example Pielke Jr, whose blog I regularly visit is not a person who denies anthropomorphic CO2 induced global warming but is a harsh critic of how climate science, especially that represented by the likes of Michael Mann, is conducted. He is particularly scathing of catastrophic scaremongering and recently had a serious beef about how AR4 dealt with the peer reviewed research (and grey literature) on the science of disasters, mainly because it involved his own peer reviewed papers.

Here is a good example of his position.

Please note his comments about the IPCC’s use of non-peer reviewed literature. We now know that glaciergate and africagate resulted from the IPCC’s use of so called grey literature. I am in support of the concept of peer review provided it is free of the sort of corrupting influences that climategate exposed, but given your backing of peer reviewed literature surely you must be nervous if not offended by the IPCC’s use of grey literature particularly when it involves, as it does, disaster scenarios?

BTW, Pielke Jr’s reason for asking his 21 articles to be removed (I haven’t checked to see whether they have been) is cryptic but may have something to do with the site’s assertion that the 450 papers “support scepticism of "man-made" global warming or the environmental or economic effects of.

"My attention has just be called to a list of "450 Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Scepticism of "Man-Made" Global Warming", says Pielke. "A quick count shows that they have 21 papers on the list by me and/or my father. Assuming that these are Hypothesis 1 type bloggers they'd better change that to 429 papers, as their list doesn't represent what they think it does."

26. Predictions of a cooling period

There is some discussion of this as a possibility in the Nicola Scafetta paper I cited earlier.

27. Man’s conceit

I don’t know that I have ever denied that humanity has the ability to change the environment for better or worse. You are now living in the UK. The UK has undeniably ugly parts mainly associated with its industrial past. But many areas are beautiful - enhanced over the centuries through generations living and building and nurturing their small portion. In the same way take a journey along Grand ridge road in Gippsland and there is much to delight the eyes in the natural landscape shaped by human hands over 150 years.

Re climate change, I’m aware of potential damage but I’m not convinced re the anticipated temperature rise and alleged consequential effects, and even if true in part, I think human history says we are better at adapting to a reality rather than anticipating and adjusting for a reality that may in fact not come to pass (I hope this makes sense – I’m getting tired but I want to finish).

I notice that you are inserting frequently that I might have shifted ground vis a vis my 2007 paper. I’m not particularly conscience of doing so, but in three years I’ve collected 8 lever-arch files full of material, mainly from sceptical sources but not entirely, and I’m interested in researching the alternatives to fossil fuel. So I’m a work in progress as I hope you are.

David Palmer said...

28. 36. Increased CO2 and crop productivity.

DJP says, "It is true. CO2 acts as a fertiliser".

Byron replies, "It is not true. Higher temperatures undercut any benefit from higher CO2 levels so that plants are less productive overall. Furthermore, shifting precipitation patterns will render many important agricultural areas far less fertile. Can you point to a study that shows more CO2 is likely to lead to greater global crop productivity?"


Well, it is true that CO2 acts as a fertiliser – you want to say the fertilising effect is over-powered by other factors. As you know, I’m not into citing specific studies but I’m entitled to make some observations.

The first one is that given the sharp rise in temperature that we have been thro in the 20th century, it doesn’t seem to have done too much harm to food production. In the second place geneticists have done amazing things adjusting plants to local and changing conditions, why will that stop? In the third place, I don’t doubt that if temperatures continue to rise there will be changing patterns as to the most suitable places for the growing of particular crops. Perhaps we will change our food to plants that currently exist and are edible but not currently eaten, or if eaten are minor crops today.

29. I’m about washed out. I’m going to now give attention to writing my article on climate change for AP. I’m sure our discussion will impact the article, though not sure how at the moment.

I'd be interested in your opinion of this article by two climate scientists, Judith Curry and Michael Mann. Roger Pielke Jnr comments, "It is worth reading in full to see two very different views of climate science and how it should engage with the broader community. One of these voices represents the future of climate science, and the other, its recent past." Leave you to work out which is which.

30. You asked me somewhere or other what I was involved in – the main thing is a 3 day colloquium involving prepared papers in July around 6 themes

o Business ethics and the future of capitalism
o Securing freedom of religion in a hostile environment
o The case for Religion in the Public Square (Christian Reformed world view – Calvin’s 2K theology+Kuyper)
o Understanding vocation
o Affirming and promoting prolife policies
o Sex: the worst and the best

When we’ve finalised the programme I’ll give you a link. I’m thinking of doing something on atheism and climate change next year, so if you are back in Australia, I’ll come knocking on your door.

In addition to this, I work with Australian Christian Lobby and other Christians across the Catholic-Orthodox-Protestant divide here in Melbourne making submissions to Government enquiries, lobbying politicians and the like. We have had a decidely left liberal State Government that has pursued issues that Christians generally feel strongly about. I think I referred you previously to my Committee’s website. The two current issues are a new Equal Opportunity Act which definitely curtails religious freedom and hate crime legislation which is another nest of vipers/can of worms.

Cheers for now. God bless. I salute you for being so well informed on climate change.

David

byron smith said...

Dear David,

Sorry for the month long delay. As I said on the other thread, I have been travelling with very limited net access for some time.

Since your reply seems to have dropped our previous referencing convention and begun afresh at #1, I will simply drop all numbers to avoid extra confusion.

I don’t wish to say that current warming is unrelated to carbon dioxide (important to say carbon dioxide, particularly remembering its beneficial value for plant growth), I deny that it is able to fully explain and indeed its precise contribution is in question.
In question by whom? Any reputable climate scientists? Do they have a better explanation for the data?

I’m not at all convinced that smoking and lung cancer has any relevance whatsoever. The comparative scale of the two matters is out of all proportion as bow and arrow to howitzer.

I made the link to smoking and lung cancer for two reasons: (a) the original analogy of my post and (b) the widely documented numerous links in strategy, funding, institutions and personnel between the tobacco-funded denial machine that successfully obfuscated and delayed government action on tobacco regulation and the similar efforts to cause delay on climate.

OK, I would need to read what you have written
You could start here and here.
[W]hen I consider the subject, I don’t experience feelings of fear, guilt, anger, grief and denial. When I think about our use of fossil fuels from the dawn of the industrial age, I think what a great improvement over time they made to the lives of ordinary people.
Yes, but some of our great achievements have come at great cost.

I hope people in the developing world are not to be denied that improvement.
It is concern for the developing world that makes it crucial we aggressively attempt to mitigate climate change, since it is already affecting the developing world first and most and most models predict to only become more pronounced. I don't know of any serious and widely accepted proposed strategies that involve deliberately denying developing nations the benefits of reducing poverty.

I believe God made creation good, and fossil fuels were not part of the devil's messing with God’s creation, but rather part of God’s provision for which we should be grateful.
Creation is indeed good. It is human greed, short-sightedness and hubris that cause much of our own suffering.
Do we also thank God for the provision of asbestos? Yes, but we acknowledge that certain human uses of it turned out to have unforeseen negative consequences of a magnitude that means that various places have banned all extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products, even though it is such a useful material that brought about all kinds of real benefits to society.

byron smith said...

Steady on Byron, cessation of human life - that’s a big call. My point about nuclear arms was simply that had the west disarmed as CND advocated, we would have seen the use of those weapons by the other side which is precisely what happened at the end of WW2 in Japan.
I was just saying that unilateral disarmament would not have been the worst possible outcome as you claimed. And as far as I am aware, CND advocated the unilateral disarmament of the UK, not of "the west".

Regarding children, I regard it as unconscionable that children are used as tools in the debate over climate change and what to do about it, as I believe our PM has done. I regard it as unconscionable that children are subjected to worse case scenarios.
I regard it as unconscionable that children are likely to be subjected to worse case scenarios if we fail.

Remember there will always be fossil fuels – price matches supply and demand, certainly over the long haul.
The question is not about whether fossil fuel supplies will continue to exist, but about whether we have enjoyed a historically novel period of very cheap energy that may well be drawing to a close.

You take exception to my statement, a few years out is neither here nor there. But think about it. AR4 (SPM: The Physical Science Basis, Fig SPM-5, p14) was predicated on continuing uninterrupted global warming through the noughties – this did not occur.
It was not predicated on uninterrupted global warming through the noughties. It made long term predictions, not year by year predictions.

I repeat “a few years out is neither here nor there”. If AR4 says on the basis of Fig SPM-5 data that global emissions need to peak by 2015, they will now need to add a few years because of the correction to temperature rise occurring in the noughties.
The timing of peaking is correlated to calculations of overall CO2e, not directly to temperatures in any given year (if 2010 turns out to the hottest year, this would not bring forward the need to peak, merely highlight the need).

I’m not up to date on sea level rises and would need to come back to this subject. Presumably the figures are reliant on melting Himalayan glaciers, melting Artic/Antarctic/Greenland - this is all contested ground I suspect.
Not at all to do with Arctic, since it is sea ice. Very slightly to do with Himalayas. Mainly to do with Greenland and Antarctica (which is where the greatest masses of land ice are). But also to do with thermal expansion. This is, of course, contested ground, since the modelling of dynamic ice flow (i.e. ice sheet collapse) is still a maturing field, but at the moment, as I understand it, the peer-reviewed literature spreads on predictions around a 0.75-2m rise by 2100 (and ongoing significant increases after that for at least a few centuries), with some studies above that range, but now basically very little below it (the one paper with credibility that argued for a lower figure was recently retracted due to serious mistakes being revealed in it). Of course, the uncertainties in this range are not only to due to uncertainties in the modelling of ice flow behaviour, but also due to uncertainties about which emission path we might follow.

You cannot simply say that if you move out to 16 years or longer there is over 95% confidence, as you say, without having the actual temperatures for the additional years – they may yield 95% for 0.12 degC/decade, they may not. Again, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched!
I have looked at the numbers. My claim is correct. And it is discussed in one of the links I gave, namely this one.

byron smith said...

I notice later on you want to include 1994 to get to 95% CL – no, you can’t do that! I am quite prepared to concede the warming prior to 1995 was greater than 0.12degC/decade.
My point was not that warming has suddenly slowed in 1995. To claim this on the basis of Jones' comment is a misunderstanding of statistical significance. The confidence that a trend is not merely noise grows as the sample is expanded. There is a point where the confidence hovers just below the 95% mark. At that point, we have very solid reason to believe there is a real trend, even though it has not yet reached the point at which it is "statistically significant".

You are really quite naughty over the Institute of Physics submission.
An anonymous submission calling for more transparency? Nice. And those who refused to support the submission were not simply a individual members, but almost the entire committee who were meant to oversee the submission process.
However, the IoP submission really is something of a sideshow. Both the inquiries completed so far have revealed no problems with the data or published science, while finding problems with how FOI requests were handled. This is basically what I said in my original post on the matter.

Re Mann’s hockey stick, I am saying that the argument/proof for the earlier MWP will only grow stronger over the next few years and so not prevent the IPCC the travesty of ironing out the MWP in AR5. Of course, I could be wrong, but equally I wouldn’t hang your hat on it remaining.
What is your evidence? Mine is the current peer-reviewed literature and the thorough review by the NAS, which all broadly confirms the hockey-stick.

Re Romm’s status as a global warming scaremongering muckraker, I’m really surprised that you would try to defend him, but I suppose there is no accounting for taste.
Thank you for providing evidence of his inaccuracies and deceptions.

I now it’s a “aren’t they naughty” and therefore tremendously self justifying kind of statement, but surely we can be more grown up and recognise that everyone in the game needs financial support.
Yes, but the source of that support is crucial. It has long been recognised that funding from private companies whose profits are directly related to the material under consideration is not a very reliable source of solid research. Government-funded universities providing tenured academics with the freedom to follow the data where it leads has long been considered a much better model - not foolproof, of course, but streets ahead of privately commissioned work.

Might it not be possible that Government funding is channelled in the direction of human induced climate change, never mind weighing natural and human factors?
What is their motive? Taxes? Really? Read this.

byron smith said...

I have a general point to make, Byron. It may sound strange. The issue is not really the science of climate change – people are going to argue over it, possible forever: it is issues to do with the developing world’s quest to improve the standard of living and health outcomes for its people and how they will do it, its whether alternatives to fossil fuels are actually practical, safe, cost effective, the willingness or otherwise to embrace nuclear power, it is whether people are willing to accept changes to their lifestyle: get rid of cars, walk, cycle, use public transport, build smaller homes.
If I may return briefly to the theme of my original post, your point here seems to be that the diagnosis of cancer is not really the issue. The real issue is whether aggressive chemotherapy is going to be acceptable to the patient? In one sense, yes, if the patient decides that keeping their hair is more important than their life, then getting the diagnosis correct becomes decidedly less relevant. However, if the patient hasn't yet grasped what the diagnosis means due to being bombarded with misleading advertising from self-proclaimed meditation experts who claim that cancer is all in the mind, then focussing on the diagnosis and its reliability is very important.

The science is very important. We currently have very strong reasons for being very concerned about the standard of living and health outcomes in the developing world if we don't take drastic action to reduce carbon emissions. Most NGOs working in the developing world recognise that climate change, far from being a distraction from the fight against poverty and human suffering, is actually a very real multiplier of these issues.

I think this is verging on an ad hominem attack against unidentified but presumed targets. There may well be people like this and we might even agree on names such as Romm and Monckton, though we both would have our respective and important caveats on both of them.
Give me your caveats on Monckton. I am no fanboy of Romm, but Monckton is on another planet.
It is not illegitimate to make ad hominem comments when particular individuals have a history of misinformation and deception. It is simply prudent in a complex and loud debate to sideline those who have frequently been shown to be unrepentantly deceptive in the past.

However to suggest people like Lomberg, Roy Spencer, Lindzen the MIT man or Anthony Watts or the statistical guy who found errors with Mann’s construction of the hockey stick or the Pielkes, father and son, are just there to peddle misinformation or confuse is ungenerous to say the least.
The reputation of each of these figures can be dealt with independently, but I would be very hesitant to even begin mounting a defence of the credibility of many of them.

byron smith said...

I accept your retractions re Lomberg, though I am unconvinced by attempts to discredit him and more particularly his work, much as I note you are unconvinced by attempts to discredit the work of Mann, Jones, etc.
Notice what I did and did not retract. ;-)
There is a big difference between BL and MM/PJ. Lomborg has published a single peer-reviewed article in statistics (on game theory, based on his PhD) back in 1996. Mann and Jones have published scores of articles, and their work has stood the test of years of critical review. Mann has been exonerated twice, once by the highly esteemed NAS. Jones' work has also been exonerated in both inquiries currently completed. One official inquiry into Lomborg found his work guilty of fabrication of data, selective discarding of unwanted results (selective citation), deliberately misleading use of statistical methods, distorted interpretation of conclusions, plagiarism and deliberate misinterpretation of others' results. Another body deemed some of these conclusions to have not been adequately supported - hardly a ringing endorsement. Reputable scientists and organizations have repeatedly shown all kinds of problems with his work. For a start, you can check some of the links here.

For a man who you say gets to “fudge his numbers, misuse his sources and perpetuate fallacies”, it is remarkable how many of his articles appear in the press.
You place that much confidence in the press? Most news sources will publish whatever they think will sell. Controversy sells.

I don’t fully understand your opposition to [Lomberg], he is not a global warming denialist, he just thinks more good for the world’s poor can be achieved by other means at a fraction of the cost.
I don't automatically support anyone who accepts global warming. That would be silly. I oppose fudging numbers, misuse of sources and the perpetuation of fallacies. See the link above.

I see you get fired up by my claim […] that scientists have a poor track record in making predictions (not sure where I made it but presumably I made it in relation to Club of Rome predictions with possible/probable projection onto IPCC). […] What we have with climate change and predicting catastrophic effects in 50, 100 year times is a very different thing to building bridges, planes and the like. Chalk and cheese again.
Pot & kettle. You used examples that had nothing to do with climate science to make a general claim about the reliability of scientific predictions on page 4 of your Review.

If I may say so, the predictive power of anthropomorphic CO2 induced climate change theory in relation to warming trends, migration habits of birds, tree lines, degradation of Arctic permafrost, etc may look less compelling as the time scale backwards is extended. However I am not competent to judge on such things though no doubts there are authorities able to debate these points.
Yep, and these authorities are pretty clear. Check the peer-reviewed literature.

Unfortunately with the best will in the world we can never guarantee the survival of all species.
Unfortunately, with the best will in the world we can never guarantee the supply of fresh water, adequate nutrition, necessary medical supplies and quality education to the world's poor. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Losing a few species is very, very different to losing over 50% of all species.

byron smith said...

You rightly want to restrict everything to peer reviewed articles (and I noted earlier Jones et al attempts to interfere with that process), but Al Gore probably did more than anyone else for exaggerated claims. Do you acknowledge the unsustainable claims and damage he did to the cause of anthropomorphic CO2 induced climate change?
The inquiries have so far not found any evidence that Jones interfered in the peer-review process.
Can you name any of Gore's exaggerated claims? I'm sure he must have made some since I keep hearing that he does; I just can't think of any right now.

You can’t fall back on peer reviewed articles when alarmist claims where being peddled from IPCC sources, starting with its own chairman, Rajendra Pachauri.
If that were happening, that is precisely when we should be falling back on the peer-reviewed literature. His comments on Himalayan glaciers were a shocker, and he has since acknowledged this and retracted his comments. Do you have other examples?
And comments from an IPCC chair in a media interview is very different to the published work of the IPCC.

We now know that glaciergate and africagate resulted from the IPCC’s use of so called grey literature.
So-called "Africagate" was a beat up. The glacier claim was indeed a mistake, though it has to be kept in context. It was one mistake in a 4000-page paper (compare Lomborg's 300+ mistakes in about 250 pages), and it was in a single sentence that was not included in the summary, and which was corrected in the entire chapter devoted to glaciers in AR4I.

given your backing of peer reviewed literature surely you must be nervous if not offended by the IPCC’s use of grey literature particularly when it involves, as it does, disaster scenarios?
The IPCC are clear on their guidelines for the use of grey literature, which are freely available. I feel neither nervous nor offended at these guidelines and, on the whole, am quite happy with how they have been applied in AR4 (Himalayan glaciers excepted, as well as a claim about the Amazon, which was made with reference to grey literature, which in turn cited peer-reviewed material. In this instance, the middle man should have been cut out).

byron smith said...

I don’t know that I have ever denied that humanity has the ability to change the environment for better or worse.
DJP Review, page 22: "Many Christians, and here we include ourselves, are naturally and deeply sceptical of current environmental “apocalypticism”, that bears the hallmarks of a religion […] that takes enormous conceits to itself regarding mankind’s ability to change the environment for better or for worse."

Re climate change, I’m aware of potential damage but I’m not convinced re the anticipated temperature rise and alleged consequential effects, and even if true in part, I think human history says we are better at adapting to a reality rather than anticipating and adjusting for a reality that may in fact not come to pass.
Just as many indigenous populations adapted to the arrival of Europeans – that is, "adapting" to some experiences has involved catastrophic loss of life and cultural continuity.

I’m a work in progress as I hope you are.
Indeed. Prior to 2008, I considered global warming to be a secondary issue, whose consequences were too distant and too relatively minor to merit significant attention in comparison to other issues. Since reading a whole lot more, I am beginning to get a rudimentary grasp on the scale, and complexity of the dangers we're beginning to experience.

I'm going to have to pause there and return to the rest of your comments in a few days, or perhaps a week or so.

Grace & peace,
Byron

byron smith said...

Oops - I've just realised I seem to have repeatedly been switching between "Lomborg" (correct) and "Lomberg" (incorrect). My mistake.

byron smith said...

OK, let me return to the final few points that I didn't have time to address last week.

Well, I did quote the reduction in my paper on radiative forcings between 2001 and 2007 – are you saying I got that wrong?
Yes, though I didn't say it earlier as I hadn't checked the numbers. Here is the relevant paragraph from AR4 SPM, p.7: "The range of projections (Table SPM.1) is broadly consistent with the TAR, but uncertainties and upper ranges for temperature are larger mainly because the broader range of available models suggests stronger climate-carbon cycle feedbacks. Warming reduces terrestrial and ocean uptake of atmospheric CO2, increasing the fraction of anthropogenic emissions remaining in the atmosphere. The strength of this feedback effect varies markedly among models." (emphasis added)
So they say that the upper range and uncertainties are larger in AR4 than in TAR (= Third Assessment Report) due to a greater appreciation of the role of feedback mechanisms reinforcing warming once it begins. However, the size and likely effects of such feedback mechanisms was not well understood or modeled. It is still a developing area, but there has been a lot of work on feedback mechanisms since AR4, and there is now much more concern about certain kinds of feedback that AR4 didn't say much about, such as the release of methane from the thawing of Arctic tundra and ocean beds.
There are warnings throughout AR4 that as yet not fully understood feedback mechanisms could make all the numbers significantly worse. For example on p. 21 of AR4 SPM: "The emission reductions to meet a particular stabilization level reported in the mitigation studies assessed here might be underestimated due to missing carbon cycle feedbacks".
This is just one of the ways that the IPCC reports are quite conservative in their estimates as they didn't feel they had enough knowledge to adequately address the risk of non-linear changes.

I’ve skipped over Antartic, Arctic, Greenland, etc, because I think there is a lot of genuine confusion, claim and counter claim about what is going on, whether we are prepared to accept settlements in Greenland during the MWP, whether or not in the past the Arctic was ice free, etc.
There were indeed Viking settlements on the coast of Greenland during the medieval period, and it may well have been the case that parts of Greenland were warmer than average during some of this time. But Greenland is not the globe.
Can you find anyone who has seriously claimed that the Arctic has been ice-free anytime during human civilisation?

I notice for example a report in the Guardian earlier this week (and I presume there is a peer reviewed article behind the article) that “much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is down to the region’s swirling winds and not a direct result of global warming”.
As I understand it (and I my knowledge here has a lower degree of confidence that some of my other point), your account is partially correct. A new article has highlighted the contribution of wind patterns to loss of Arctic ice, but (a) this is only part of the story, there is still a long downward trend in both ice area and especially in ice volume (which is just as important, if not more important) and (b) the wind pattern that has caused the extra ice loss is itself one of the scenarios that becomes more likely as the globe warms.

byron smith said...

Well, it is true that CO2 acts as a fertiliser – you want to say the fertilising effect is over-powered by other factors.
The picture is indeed more complex than I first thought. I have done some further reading on this and the current understanding is that (broadly speaking) temperate crops might do a little better at around 1ºC global warming, but by about 1.5-2ºC, this benefit is undercut by other losses. Above 2ºC, there is a much higher degree of confidence that production goes fairly rapidly downhill. So a little warming might give a small benefit to temperate agriculture (which generally includes most of the developed nations). However, for tropical crops (and thus for most developing nations), it is downhill from the start. So this is yet another way in which warming hurts developing nations sooner and harder than developed nations.

As you know, I’m not into citing specific studies but I’m entitled to make some observations.
As long as your claims are acknowledged as hypotheses vulnerable to empirical evidence and you revise them if they are contradicted by the data.

The first one is that given the sharp rise in temperature that we have been thro in the 20th century, it doesn’t seem to have done too much harm to food production.
There have been many changing factors that have affected food production in the 20thC: social, political, agricultural, technological and genetic (as you go on to mention). However, there is no sharp rise in temperatures in the 20thC. The rise has been a noticeable, but far from precipitous. Furthermore, warming in the first half of the 20thC was driven primarily by solar changes, and remained within the range of temperatures experienced since the end of the last ice age.

In the second place geneticists have done amazing things adjusting plants to local and changing conditions, why will that stop?
This is indeed true, and has been one of the amazing success stories of the twentieth century, often called the Green Revolution. Yet even this amazing accomplishment has not been without serious costs. This is a whole further discussion in itself, but the main point is that adaptation is possible where change is small or slow, but there are no guarantees that climate changes will be either in coming decades.

In the third place, I don’t doubt that if temperatures continue to rise there will be changing patterns as to the most suitable places for the growing of particular crops. Perhaps we will change our food to plants that currently exist and are edible but not currently eaten, or if eaten are minor crops today.
Perhaps, but unless you can point to which kinds of crops and demonstrate that they will indeed flourish in the kind of climate we are heading into, then this remains a vague hope. I feel concerned about this because those with far more knowledge of agriculture and the climatic effects on crop yields are concerned.

byron smith said...

I'd be interested in your opinion of this article by two climate scientists, Judith Curry and Michael Mann.
I haven't yet had a chance to read it, but will try to do so soon.

I’m thinking of doing something on atheism and climate change next year
What is the link that you're interested in?

Once again, thanks for this discussion. I understand if you are too busy to continue it.

Grace & peace,
Byron

byron smith said...

Two part post from a research academic outlining why the claim that climate scientists agree with AGW for the money is ludicrous.

Part I
Part II

Here is the bottom line: "In the United States, it is essentially impossible to get rich from public funding for research because there are rules that forbid institutions from allowing that to happen."

byron smith said...

The Curry/Mann article you linked to is quite a sloppy piece of journalism. The author has made two simple errors of fact within the first couple of paragraphs (and since he's only asking questions, that'd quite an achievement). First, Mann et al. 1999 was not just about North America but Northern Hemisphere temperatures; second, Jones did not resign after the CRU email hack.

Next, Curry complains about how uncertainty is handled and that it is not adequately taken into account by climate science. Let me simply quote the title of Mann's paper: "Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: inferences, uncertainties, and limitations". How much clearer does it have to be than in the heading? And it is not like these uncertainties are then ignored in the body, or by the IPCC. Yes, understanding of uncertainties continues to grow along with the rest of our knowledge of climatology, but it's not like it is being hidden in the scientific discourse (the policy or media discourse is another matter).

My overall impression is that Curry has decided she wants to speak out about certain deficiencies she perceives in the culture of scientific research. That is fine and is a necessary task since improvement is always possible. However, in seeking to do so, she seems to make some unsubstantiated generalisations, and where her complaints become more specific (e.g. with regard to the role of ocean oscillations in 20thC atmospheric temps), she doesn't seem to be on the ball.

Mann's comments were reasonable, informed and media aware (he answered the questions about Copenhagen and policy very carefully and very well).

To get back to the theme of this post, I'd also like to note that I just came across this post, making a very similar point to mine, and posted a couple of days earlier. I did not steal the idea, but am pleased to see I'm not the only one drawing links.

byron smith said...

PS When I said that Curry doesn't seem to be on the ball, I could be wrong. But Mann's response indicates that he thinks she's not familiar with the field, but this could simply be the result of a journalist reporting what she said to Mann.

Going back to the discussion about adapting to climate changes, there are physical limits to our ability to adapt to extreme wet bulb temperatures, as seen in this recent paper considering a worse case scenario.

climatesight said...

What a great piece....a really strong analogy about acting in the face of uncertainty.

byron smith said...

Thanks Kate, I really appreciate your blog.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

I'm deep into writing my paper, so I will not be responding to you at this stage.

However, as you see on other of your posts, I'm keeping my eye on you!

I do wish you well with your studies, that God opens up for you a really worthwhile field of service, and in the meantime that you accept everything He gives you from day to day with pleasure and great thankfulness. I know you understand what I say having been so seriously ill in the past.

God bless

David

I will come back when I'm ready on climate change.

byron smith said...

David - thanks. No rush!

byron smith said...

The complex interaction of climate change and plant growth.

byron smith said...

The results of the Russell inquiry are out: basically what I said back in November. "They did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism as alleged, the panel found, while key data needed to reproduce their findings was freely available to any "competent" researcher." No work compromised, no studies retracted, no fudged data but there was an unhealthy fortress mentality.

Mann has also just been cleared (again) by PSU and that is very, very unlikely to be a whitewash for these reasons.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

I decided to run off a copy of our l-o-n-g discourse on this thread this morning and lo and behold I find another entry yesterday from you which I would never have seen but for my purpose today.

Why don't you do what Sam Norton does of having a link on the front page to recent comments?

I've removed Sam from my list of blogs to keep my eye on, but I intend keeping my eye on you! I admire your broad range of interests and photography. Because we disagree on some things, doesn't mean we disagree on everything - far from it.

I think there is a problem with the Muir Russell enquiry like the earlier ones and that is their failure to engage directly with Jones'/CRU's opponents. Now you may say they don't deserve to be heard, but McIntyre and McKitrick are not lightweights, whilst Mann's Hockey Stick looks sicker by the day.

The more sceptical side will not be convinced. I’ll be interested to see what the press make of it all.

However, I'm hopeful the IPCC and the scientists involved in their processes both in their own work as well as work for IPCC will have learnt some valuable lessons on being transparent and not hiding stuff, admitting uncertainties, and so on. In the latter respect the recent Dutch report on the way in which the IPCC accentuated the worse case scenarios is a useful finding. The Economist has run a story on this here.

Roger Pielke Jr has an interesting take on Muir Russell here.

I continue with my reading, currently ploughing my way through Claire Parkinson’s Coming Climate Crisis? which was recommended by Judith Curry. My Colloquium is taking up an inordinate amount of time and I will be pleased when the event has passed.

Cheers

David

byron smith said...

Thanks David, I've been meaning to add the latest comments feature for a while, but have just not got around to making all the changes I'd like on my sidebar. It's on my "to do" list.

The Economist article is reasonably balanced. 4,000 pages and a handful of problems is a remarkable achievement. Remember that in many other areas, IPCC AR4 is accepted even by its authors as significantly underplaying the risks because it excludes certain things that were not well understood at the time (including sea level rises and crucially, feedback effects).

And the Pielke argument concludes that apart from his one quibble, the Muir Russell review is "a nuanced and comprehensive assessment of the implications of the East Anglia emails". His quibble is that by mischaracterising the aims of the IPCC, the review underplays its analysis of one set of possible issues in the emails. He may be right. However, when I read the Muir Russell comment in context about the IPCC not producing a review of the scientific literature, I take it as ruling out an attempt to simply summarise the published literature. That is, that comment is not limiting the scope of the IPCC so that they can cherry-pick the literature, but is pointing out that the IPCC expert authors are to assess critically the literature as they summarise it. They are to "provide a balanced and complete assessment of current information". So they can't simply ignore relevant literature with merit, but nor are they merely listing the literature without comment or evaluation. So when Pielke says "It is not the job of the IPCC authors to serve as selective arbiters of the peer reviewed literature and judge which peer reviewed science they agree with and disagree with," he is wrong. They are indeed to give a balanced assessment of the current information.

Whether their assessment was balanced in every single case is something that only experts can judge. But you'd be hard pressed to point to a better or more balanced assessment of the evidence.

McIntyre and McKitrick are not lightweights, whilst Mann's Hockey Stick looks sicker by the day.
Mann's work was vindicated again by the PSU and is very unlikely to be a whitewash. Most of the claims of McI and McK were slapped down very heavily in the Muir Russell review. See the discussion, links and comments here.

failure to engage directly with Jones'/CRU's opponents.
Richard Lindzen can hardly be called anything but an opponent.

The more sceptical side will not be convinced.
It is interesting to reflect on why this is the case.

I admire your broad range of interests and photography.
Thanks - I enjoy posting the photos and in some ways the blog is really an excuse to put some of my favourite pics up. The words are the bait so that people will come and look at my photos. :-)

byron smith said...

Speaking of the IPCC AR4 leaving out many feedbacks, here is a report on a new study and many links to more information on various feedbacks.

byron smith said...

More on the IOP submission (mentioned above at #11).

The IoP submission came via the Energy Sub-group of the IoP Science Board. Peter Gill is no longer a member of the Energy Sub-group of the Science Board. In fact the Energy Sub-group no longer exists. This was the Institute of Physics email:

"Following the meeting of the Science Board on 17 June 2010, it is with regret that I announce that the Energy Sub-group is to be disbanded, immediately. This, as you can imagine, is a direct consequence of the Climategate affair."

byron smith said...

HufPo: A very similar idea outlined by David Goldstein.