You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2007.

A new paper on proxy reconstructions of temperatures has appeared in Geophysical Research Letters. It involves a reworking of the Esper et. al. numbers for past centuries.

In the abstract (I haven’t looked at the paper yet), it says that the Medieval Warm Period temperature has been adjusted downward by 0.2C. Oops. Maybe MBH wasn’t so far off the mark after all?

Seeing as certain bloggers – or should I say, types of blogger – love looking at revisions of temperature records, you’d have expected someone to pick up on this by now. But no, hang on a minute; this sort of revision is bad news for them. So, silence. I hope some others pick up on this.

Go on, then; here’s that abstract:


Proxy records may display fluctuations in climate variability that are artifacts of changing replication and interseries correlation of constituent time-series and also from methodological considerations. These biases obscure the understanding of past climatic variability, including estimation of extremes, differentiation between natural and anthropogenic forcing, and climate model validation. Herein, we evaluate as a case-study, the Esper et al. (2002) extra-tropical millennial-length temperature reconstruction that shows increasing variability back in time. We provide adjustments considering biases at both the site and hemispheric scales. The variance adjusted record shows greatest differences before 1200 when sample replication is quite low. A reduced amplitude of peak warmth during Medieval Times by about 0.4°C (0.2°C) at annual (40-year) timescales slightly re-draws the longer-term evolution of past temperatures. Many other regional and large-scale reconstructions appear to contain variance-related biases.

To me, this sounds like good news.

I have tried to post this comment on Stoat, in reply to this post, but the server is playing up and not letting me through. I’ll try again later. In the meantime, here is one possible line of argument:

No, it’s okay; it’s now on there three times. Sorry, William.

Does scientific opinion on climate change matter, beyond the PR value? Of course it does. Not so much within science itself, perhaps, though there are those who would argue this too, as it might help liberate the ‘voices’ of individuals who could be intimidated by the prospect of opprobrium and thus prevented from voicing their true opinion.

Where the value in understanding scientific opinion lies mostly is in the critically important interface between scientific results and public attitudes. If the survey of public responses to CC cited today on the radio is correct, 90% of the public are aware that they should be doing something about climate change, but only 10% actually do it. At least one plausible explanation for why people aren’t changing their habits (and this applies to governments, too) is that there is no clearly established and trusted ‘authority’ to act as a guide. It is a given that a rational person would want reason to be the guide, and in CC, this means climate scientists. Whether the expectation of a definitive, clear message is misplaced or not doesn’t bear: the public perception is that the science is still ‘uncertain’ (a loaded, multi-meaning term).

If the public or policy makers are in a position to see that climate scientists can speak with ‘one voice’, even on a relatively straightforward matter, this offers a reassurance and a motive for ending apathy. Perhaps this shouldn’t be how things work, but it is (at least in part), how it seems to pan out in the real world. In brief: we want to be told, without prevarication, ‘the truth’.

As to how you establish what that opinion is: there is a lot of value in reviewing the findings of a collection of papers (and the embedded research) on a regular basis, and keeping the public up-to-date with the ever-progressing understanding of what is going on and how the body of evidence is developing. OTOH, if you want to know what someone thinks, surely the easiest way is to ask them.

Polls and reviews alike need careful construction and considerable thought for any meaningful and valid conclusions to come from them. They also need to be robust to criticism and open to discussion and revision. This may be a difficult task, but it is not beyond the competence of a dedicated team of researchers to achieve.

For the benefit of scientists and the public alike, I suggest then that having a clear notion of what scientists think is one of a number of desirable, if not necessary ways of getting the message across in a way which will improve the prospects of CC action being timely and potent.


I hope Inel enjoys this idea.

This is an argument which is familiar, I am sure, to many people who do work for charity, or are involved in financial planning, or many other areas.

You can do this in your head (a thought experiment), or do it for real.

Take an old-fashioned kitchen scale, the sort that has a place on one side for the weights and on the other for the ingredients. Have the weights handy, as well as a bag of sugar and a spoon. You can use a post-it note pad and a pen, too, if you want.

Put the 1lb weight (or 454g, if you wish) on the scale, where the weights usually go. This is to represent the sum of anthropogenic climate forcings and feedbacks. Write ‘forcings/feedbacks‘ on a post-it note to remind you, if you wish.

On the other side, put one of the smaller weights, the 4oz (112g) one might be good, labelled ‘EU‘. This is the amount of forcings offset by current policies and efficiency improvements in Europe.

What happens? Nothing.

Now add a spoonful of the sugar. It’s not easy to label this, so you can stick a note next to the scale with ‘efforts by individuals so far to reduce energy use/carbon footprint‘.

Still not much happening.

Add another weight; (20z, 56g): label: ‘reduced deforestation‘.

Another: ‘clean coal technology‘. Another: ‘alternative energy‘. Add one or two small weights as appropriate.

By now, there will be a pile of stuff on the scales, but they still won’t have shifted.

Add a few more spoonfuls of the sugar: ‘more people make an effort‘.

No quite there yet.

Now label the 80z (227g) weight ‘China, India, USA and international agreement‘. When you add it to the scales, it might tip the balance, it might not quite do it yet. You’ve probably got a scale which is nearly, but not quite balanced.

You can do this next bit one grain at a time, or a spoonful or more at a time. It is ‘Individuals around the world making their own contribution‘.

Eventually, the scale will tip, and a balance will be achieved. Well done; through a combination of efforts, we have managed to balance the forcings and feedbacks with a variety of responses.

What will happen if we take a spoonful of the sugar back?

What will happen if we take the 8oz weight off?

What will happen if we add even more sugar?

What would be the implications of adding more weight to the other side of the scales, labelled ‘atmospheric CO2 after 2007‘?

No individual effort will work. No effort, without international agreement, especially from the ‘big three’, will work, though it might make some nominal difference. Other observations can be made, depending on how you imagine, or set up, the experiment. But without the extra spoonfuls of sugar, the effect of the other efforts combined might hang in the balance…

Now, get a kitchen timer, clear the scales, and start again, setting the timer at 2 minutes. Can you get the scales to balance before time runs out?

Now, do it again, with the timer set to 30 seconds.

It isn’t just a matter of action, but timing, which matters in tipping the balance away from dangerous climate change and towards manageable impacts.

Now bake a cake…

Just noticed on my regular trawl through the web on a Sunday, Roger Pielke Sr. has announced that his website, Climate Science, is to cease activity on September 2nd. The archive will remain available.

There will be a range of responses to this news, some regretful, others crowing or cynical. Some may feel that it is no great loss to the blogosphere. I will not be one of those people.

Agree or disagree, like or loathe, satisfaction or frustration: irrespective of the feelings or reactions that the website generated, it has had a large number of readers for the two years it has been running.

I have personal feelings in response to this news, as I have had the pleasure of working with Roger, and have great respect for him both as a person and a scientist. I am frequently astonished by the sheer extent of his output, a workload which shames many of us, and which probably goes a long way to explaining why he is not going to keep the website up. I also have huge respect for his personal courage in refusing to bow to peer-pressure and having the audacity to continue challenging what he saw as important issues in climate change, politics, science and the rest.

But for me, the critical matter is that Climate Science is just about the only credible website I have been able to go to in recent months with any expectation of rational consideration of some important issues, from a particular perspective. It has never been a ‘sceptic’ website, though too many of the commenters recently have been of that persuasion, but it has given me a lot of information about the science which might otherwise have been lost in the crowd. It has also alerted me to the complexity of the issue of land-use in relation both to the climate and the environment.

Now I’m going to have a problem: when a ‘genuine’ doubter asks where they can find a challenging, scientific approach to some of the questionable ‘orthodoxies’ of theIPCC, where am I going to send them?

I’ve left a goodwill message on CS. I repeat it here: all the very best wishes, Roger.

Let’s keep it simple to start with: you’ll be richer, have more friends, be happier and get more sex.

You’ll be richer because you’ll be paying less in energy bills around your home, spending less filling your car up with fuel (if you take the diesel or hi-efficiency option), wasting less on inefficient and unnecessary consumer goods (or cheap tat, as we call it here) and paying less for the local council to take away your rubbish or clear up the streets. There are other financial benefits if you run a company, including increased profitability through efficiency gains, lower BTL costs and greater client sympathy.

You’ll have more friends, especially if you are a young adult or someone in the prime of their life, as for the first, the idealism of being serious about the environment as a whole and the climate is now more usual than being sceptical about it. You’ll have something in common to discuss with people, making you more interesting, and you won’t sound like a cynical g*t, which is increasingly becoming the fate of people who pooh-pooh climate change or demonstrate innate scepticism.

You’ll be happier because you’ll know that, even if it did turn out to be less of a problem than most scientists seem to think, you won’t at least have made the world a worse place for your presence. Right or wrong, you’ll feel as if some of the decisions you make about your life have a basis in moral purpose, which implies your desire to be a good person, which in turn makes you feel good about yourself. You’ll also be aware that you are being altruistic in an enlightened-self-interested sort of way, especially if you have children or grandchildren, as you’ll be doing something for someone else. Even if it involves minimal effort and costs you next to nothing (see above), you’ll still feel good about caring about the fate of others and being unselfish. This extends further if you look at the places where climate change is really going to be a problem. You’ll also enjoy the countryside more, being aware that you are interacting with it positively, which may help prevent that nagging feeling that you’d better enjoy it now, before it all goes to hell, that ennui which so often accompanies being out and about in pleasant places.

You’ll get more sex because all of the above will make you inherently more attractive to others. Some of these others will respond in a way which may lead you to satisfy your carnal cravings, should that be your desire. Though it is true that some people find self-important, cynical, self-centred g*ts attractive in a perverse way, more people are attracted to happy, caring people who have a bit of spare cash to spend as circumstances offer. More contentment in yourself easily extends into a confidence and ease which is often compellingly attractive.

Slightly more seriously, by actually doing something to contribute to reducing our energy consumption or increasing our efficiency, you’ll be sending a clear signal to government that you care enough about the issue to do something yourself, so they’d better get off their a*ses and do something, otherwise they won’t get elected next time.

Why “do your bit”? Everyone wins, especially you. Nobody gets hurt. Political commitment becomes more likely. The world becomes a better place.

A much, much more difficult question to answer would be: “why not?”.

Be yourself.


Blog Stats

  • 67,186 hits
August 2007