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So, today this email arrived.  (Yes, I asked, and he said it was okay to use it on the blog). ‘George’ wants to know:

 Does it make any sense to envision a “wind power” matrix with a large
number of small-to-tiny individual wind turbines slotted in (like eggs
in an egg carton, or CDs in a tower case): little pinwheels, with
integral micro-generators, perhaps only producing a few watts (or
fractions of a watt) each, but overall combining to reach significant
power levels. This is based on two highly efficient contemporary
manufacturing principles: mass production of standard components, and
miniaturization. Is this technically feasible (can micro-turbines be
designed to harvest power from wind in this way?); if so, can the
required micro-turbine generator components be manufactured cheaply
enough? Analogous micro-turbines exist in the form of toy pinwheels (not
designed to produce electricity, but powered into motion by wind);
comparable very small electrical appliances or tools (transforming
electricity into rotary motion: the reverse of the generation process)
like mini-fans or electric tooth-brushes are inexpensive to manufacture.

The first thing that occurs to me is that we need to clear up what you mean by ‘micro-turbine generators’. In the wind ‘industry’ such as it is, the term ‘micro wind’ is already used to refer to small, domestic-sized turbines, such as the Swift 1kW, or the Ampair-type battery-feed systems originally designed for yachts. But the way you describe it, you seem to have in mind something much smaller than this: is this right?

The problem with the original question is that it can be answered ‘yes’, but only as long as you ignore the description, in which case, the answer may well be ‘no’. But there are virtues to your suggestion; enough that I am sure that several people are probably working on such an idea already. The problem is, I am one of those people, and it’s going to be tricky to give too much detail of what my ‘team’ has planned.

The principle of mass production and the economies of scale make lot of sense; if a  company can produce an items in the tens or hundreds of thousands, then costs reduce dramatically. But this is not the whole story; the two other costs of wind energy systems are installation (which is critically important) and grid connection/storage. These are not trivial matters.

There is a second consideration. The main reason investors like ‘big’ wind is that the power available is in proportion to  the swept area of the turning unit (whether it is vertical or horizontal axis); this means that the bigger your ‘prop’, the more power you can generate relative to the size of the unit. For power companies, a micro-system would never compete, in comparable winds, with a single large tower.

But there are other ways of looking at this idea which would make the concept more interesting. it should be possible to mass produce something a bit bigger than a standard ‘micro unit’ – think auto production plants, for example. A ‘loose’ network of these, attached to people’s homes, and linked in some way, could act as a viable alternative to getting your power from a the grid. This kind of ‘distributed micro-grid’ is already being examined.

I can’t say any more for now. It’s New Year’s Eve and our chums have arrived. more on this later. over to the dedicated bloggers for now…

And a Happy Hogmanay to all!


A new theory which attempts to explain the causes of global warming has been published today, and it looks like those doubting Thomases were right all along.

The study, from the University of Lappland’s Department of Seasonal Studies, points the blame for recent warming around the globe firmly at a new, previously unconsidered source. This is bad news for the ‘climate change’ lobby, who have long claimed that the science was clear and that we are directly responsible for the change, which is projected to lead to dramatic, perhaps catastrophic consequences in the next few years.

The theory points to a seasonal phenomenon which has a strong correlation to recent increases in global temperature. What makes it unusual is that, unlike many other hypotheses, this seems to account directly with the phenomenon known as ‘Polar Amplification’.

‘This is an astonishing breakthrough in climate science, something beyond even our expectations,’ explained Professor Helga Elvffrend, the Department’s director.

‘When the idea was first suggested, we were skeptical, naturally, but the strength of the correlation and the additional explanation for Polar Amplification places this as the top of the tree as far as alternative theories go.’

The new theory uses estimates of population growth and demographics, combined with calculation of the carbon impact of flying, along with ruminant methane emissions, to produce a combined global trend which closely matches the instrumental temperature record since the 1750’s.

Using these well-understood measures, the team calculated the emissions trend of Santa Claus, who now covers an estimated 27 million air miles each December. Combining the CO2 emissions from his ‘sled’, an unspecified aircraft which the team estimates must be at least twenty times the size of the new Airbus ‘superliner’, with the emissions from his reindeer ‘companions’, whose methane emissions are expended directly into the mid-troposphere, the team has shown that Santa’s annual ‘excursion’ could account for as much as fifty percent of the current warming.

Since it is well established that Santa visits every home at Christmas, and since the number of good little boys and good little girls has increased at a rate consistent with the warming of the late twentieth century, the conclusion, that population growth, stimulating an increase in Santa-activity, is responsible for Global Warming appears, on the surface of it, to be robust.

‘If we work on the assumption that Santa must use the Polar routes more than any other during the many visits to and from his grotto, then we have a simple explanation why warming has been greater in the Arctic region than any other. It also explains why the same phenomenon has not been observed so clearly in the Antarctic,’ Professor Elvffrend told me, Her final comments really put the whole ‘is it/ isn’t it? AGW ‘debate’ into its proper context.

‘This is a great moral victory for the few of us who dared to express our doubts about the IPCC and it’s so-called consensus, those who they ridiculed as skeptics and denialists,’ she said, ‘and even the most hard-line alarmist will have to finally admit that there really is an alternative explanation for global warming, which is as credible as anything that skeptics have previously produced.’

As I stumbled through the thick, fresh snowfall from the university building to the airfield, on my way back south to Tromso, I couldn’t help wondering how many people would read to the end of my article and realise that they’d just ordered another set of encyclopedias.

merry christmas to you all.

:w00t: 😀

  If the science is right, why are computer models struggling to get the facts right?

Yes I trust the scientists, yes I agree we should take preventative measures and yes I agree we are warming. What I find difficult to trust is a panel who find it a good idea to play around with data to make things fit. Dishonesty at such a high level will always create a lack of trust in the entire idea. Some say that the report has been watered down while others say it is over the top. Which is it? Why are some scientists back pedalling from the report? If the theory is so rock solid wouldn’t they all be sticking together?

What I know about climate change only scratches the surface of the subject but I’m currently hearing that the information may be flawed. What do I do?

So the Old man replied:

First, I think we need to be clear about what it is we think global climate models do and don’t do, and what they can and can’t do. One of the difficulties is that we often have the impression that, since these are expensive, sophisticated pieces of technology programmed by bona fide geniuses, then they should bl**dy work! More seriously, mainly thanks to the way that the media tends to report the output of model studies and research, we are given the impression that the modellers are presenting clear-cut and precise projections which have a real correlative at a specific point and time. This is not how modellers see their output, and they would probably say that it was wrong to imagine that this is what they are trying to do.

Problems arise when actual events (such as the 2007 Summer sea ice melt) occur which fall outside the projections of the models. This might be because an exceptional combination of factors (with a low combined probability) have occurred, in which case it would not be surprising if the models ‘missed’ it, or because the models themselves (which are simplifications of the real world) did not have the relevant information or programmes to calculate such an event. But this also falls into the category of having unrealistic expectations of what GCMs do and how they work.

Where you have a point is that it does look like the GCMs as a whole are not capturing the rate of change as it is currently (apprently) occurring. I would correct this to say that the current rates of change are at the upper bounds of model projections but (on average) within the bounds of acceptable margins of error.

Your worry seems to be about the IPCC. Is it right to claim that they are ‘playing around with data to make things fit’? The simple answer to this is no. Generally, such claims come from sources which wish to discredit the work of the IPCC, for whatever reason. That science involves reanalysing data and making corrections to previous observations is a good thing, not a bad one, so long as the result is that the new information is more accurate and more reliable than the old information. But some unscrupulous people take advantage of the common misunderstanding that this somehow demonstrates a flaw in the fundamental science or processes, to score political points. I cannot necessarily convince you that the IPCC is not dishonest, but the only claims I have seen to this effect have come from very specific and controversial sources. Given the credentials, experience and expertise of the people involved in putting it together, I am strongly convinced that these people would not knowingly engage in an act of deliberate scientific deception; such a thing would run counter to all of their training and principles and is, given the implied need for hundreds of them to conspire to deceive collecitvely, extremely unlikely.

In answer to your ‘how many’ question: in my research, 17% thought the IPCC was overstating the impact of CO2, 18% thought it was understating it, and 65% thought the report was pretty much bang on. Since there is almost certainly an underlying tendency in most science to be conservative in its conclusions, I would tend towards the view that the IPCC, if it is in error, is likely to be too conservative about its projections, rather than the other way around. Your point at the top about the GCMs apparently not capturing the rate of change would be illustrative of this tendency.

I do not know of any scientists who are distancing themselves from the scientific basis of the report. There are some who have concerns about the third section, in particular, but much of this is because this is less about what the science shows, and more about what we should do about it; as such, it is intrinsically less ‘scientific’ than section 1, and is therefore open to a range of interpretations and opinions which may not have been fully represented, in these scientists opinions.

I should say that ‘the theory’ – by which I presume you mean ‘the AGW theory’ – is not something which is in question in the IPCC’s work, as such. Right at the outset, the summary reports state that this is, in scientific terms, a ‘given’. In my research, not a single scientist claimed to believe that AGW was not happening, though a small number (fewer than 5%) did express the opinion that much of the recent warming is likely to be natural.

I think that covers the main points… 


  Doubting Thomas came back with:

…There are changes happening but I can’t see anything that convinces me that it is not primarily a natural cycle…

To which he got this response, which I will probably get slammed for by real scientists…

Being a weathery sort of person, and thus being aware of the natural variability in both weather and climate, it is no surprise that you are inclined to consider this as a real possibility. You probably know a bit about NWP, too, be honest…

This feeling is so often at the core of various people’s doubts that I think it is worth thinking about. What follows is an exercise in mental visualisation for chronologically advanced. I hope at least some of you are old enough to get the idea…

Rolf Harris.

Long before he recorded ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or held a puppy’s paw while its n*7s were removed, Dear Rolf had his own, quite popular, television variety programme on the BBC. The highlight of each programme came at the end, when, armed with a huge canvas (four metres by three) and a set of decorator’s paint rollers, Rolf would paint a picture live. The first strokes were always big, bold blocks of virulent orange and blue, red and so forth, across, along and down the canvas. ‘Can you see what it is, yet?’, he would ask the audience. No, Rolf, not a clue. The painting would continue, along with some irritating humming and pseudo-aboriginal grunting, a splash here, a dab there; the canvas was getting quite full. ‘Can you tell what it is, yet?’ asks Rolf, knowing that the answer will still be ‘No.’ At the last minute, Rolf would add just a few more lines and dabs in critical places, the subject of the picture becoming suddenly apparent to us: ‘Oh; it’s a kangaroo crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge! How clever…’ And we, the audience, berate ourselves for not seeing it sooner. And applaud Rolf for his ingenuity.

This is nothing like climate modelling. I’m using it as a metaphor. Bear with me. (Can you tell what I’m getting at, yet?)

When we start doing ‘detection and attribution’ of climate change, we put in the background first; the basic physics of Solar radiation, the basic chemistry of the atmosphere, the proper proportion of ocean to land surface, and so forth. We have nothing which does more than vaguely resemble an idealised and simplified world. Then we add, here and there, the details of interactions and processes, the Coriolis effect, this feature and that feature, until we reach a stage where the background is all in place, but we still can’t really see the picture. All of these are natural components and physical/chemical interactions. (How do we know what goes where? In the case of climate modelling, the background is the known science and the observed historical data.)

At last, every known natural variable is incorporated into the picture, with all that is understood about the various interactions of elements added in. Then, in the case of climate models, we look at the past. If the timeline is sent backwards, from a starting point of, say, 1850, and the model is run, do we get an accurate replication of temperature change since that time? At first, things look good, but by the 20th century, the observed temperature and the model replication are clearly diverging. But all known natural variables have been included; how can this be? We tweak the models, change the assumptions about the physics and so forth, to the limits of possibility. But, however hard we try, the models will not replicate late twentieth century temperature change.

So we add the final dabs and touches, the critical lines and bits of information; the human alterations to the physics and chemistry, the emissions and land use changes, the effects of deforestation and wildfires, power plants and industry, agriculture and urbanisation, and so on. And, Wow! Suddenly the picture becomes clear: we can see the kangaroo! The climate models now replicate historic temperature changes in a pattern which bears a close resemblance (from a distance) to historic events, captured by the data. The detail is a bit fuzzy in places, and the match isn’t perfect, but the divergence of temperature which existed before has now disappeared.

As things stand, no known combination of (physically) possible natural interactions can account for the changes in climate which have happened in modern times. On the other hand, the combination of natural and human interactions, using the known science, can provide a reasonably good match to these changes; good enough for scientists to be satisfied that the change in climate can only be explained by such a combination. Now, C-Bob (and others) have a point: we know that we don’t know everything about this complex system, therefore the possibility always exists that something has been missed, overlooked, underestimated or misunderstood. There is a theoretically possibility that the models are wrong. Knowing this, other scientists look at the various variables and uncertainties, and apply probabilistic formulae to the problem. Then, they express their results in terms of the probability of this being correct. As things stand, both the model replications and the probability of error are both strongly indicating that the answer they have come up with – AGW, in short – is very likely, nearly certain, to be the best and correct answer.

In short; no combination of natural forcings can account for recent climate change. The combination of natural forcings and human forcings can.

Can you see what it is, yet?

You can stop shaking your heads right now. Never mind all the reasons why the Old man shouldn’t rise to the bait, he did.

On the Netweather blog (weather geek heaven – see blogroll) , a regular said this:

Hello folks,
As everyone is aware I have questions and doubts concerning all the AGW malarky. I don’t want to have doubts or questions, I’d quite happily join the pro-camp, if I could be convinced…

 Then went on to ask if anyone was willing to give it a go. You can imagine the nature of most of the responses. Since nobody else seemed so inclined, the Old man, trusting fool that he is, weighed in with the following effort. It might not be the best aswer, but it was what i thought of as I wrote it. Is it persuasive?

_ _______________________________________________________


Hi xxxxx. As I know you are a sincere person, I don’t mind having a go. If any of my assumptions are uninentionally patronising, please accept an apology in advance, and if any are questionable, please question them.

I will work on the assumption that what you are having doubts about is the scientific basis of AGW. Since ‘all that AGW malarky’ could also cover issues to do with politics, energy, the environment, and a number of other things, if we agree to deal with the underlying idea – AGW – first, then other concerns or doubts can be put into context at another time.

Let’s be clear first what the discussion is about. First, there are the observations, made over time, of mean temperatures. In some areas/countries/regions, these go back to the 1600’s (the instrumental period). There are many observing stations around the world which have been collecting weather data since the middle of the 19th century, independently. Direct meaurements of the entire globe only begin in the satellite era, with reliable and regular data going back at least to the 1970s. In current times, since there are both local and global measurements being made, these are often cross-correlated, to test reliability and ensure accuracy.

In the late 1800’s, it was first observed that, on average, over a large number of discrete measurements, there was a small trend upward on mean temperatures, year-on-year. Even at this early stage, the idea was suggested that a known phenomenon of the atmosphere- carbon dioxide – might be increasing, and thereby causing the upward trend. The source of this increase was speculatively suggested to be human activity, in particular, the relatively short-term and rapid acceleration in the burning of coal and other industrial processes. this idea was largely ignored at the time, little known and little understood.

The idea of a ‘global warming’ became a matter of interest again in the 1930’s, when widespread droughts, heat waves and unusually warm weather were experienced in the USA and Europe. Because of the timing of this warm period, during the great depression, the impact on humanity was considerable, causing widespread hunger and suffering, loss of living and long-term damage to farming and other land phenomena. The original notion that the warming phase might not be entirely natural in origin was revived, and a considerable amount of theoretical work done to establish whether the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere could cause changes such as the ones which had occurred.

The question of the nature of the world’s climate and the possibility that human activities might have an influence on it was revisited in the 1970’s. One famous case relates to the paper which suggested that a thirty-year trend in slightly decreasing temperatures could be the signal that the period of warming which had previously occurred had since stopped, and a new cycle of climate might be beginning which, if it continued over many centuries, could lead to a new ice age. The idea was abandoned fairly quickly, not least because the trend stopped, and mean temperatures once again began to rise.

By the late 1980’s, following several years of much more intensive research (and the development of computers, which allowed for large data calculations to be made), the scientists who were studying climate had concluded that the global mean temperature was rising, was likely to continue to rise,and was rising at an unexpectedly rapid rate. By this time, a fairly broad range of factors which influence global climate had been identified and their relative roles calculated. After analysing the relationship between the known forcing factors (the forcings) and the changes in global temperature, it was understood that not all of the rise in mean temperature could be accounted for by natural forcings, so some other factor, forcing global warming, must be in operation.

Since the people working in this field already knew about the work done on atmospheric chemistry and physics, and the radiative forcing effect of CO2 on global surface temperature, and since the idea had already been posited that it was the increased CO2 from human industrial activity which had released many billions of tonnes of this into the atmosphere since the 1750’s, the conclusion that some, if not most, of the warming in the global record since the 1850’s was probably down to this forcing.

The AGW story since then has been much more complex. Much work has been done on the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere, and more components of it are now understood to have an effect – positive or negative – on the temperatures we experience on average. As well as CO2, Methane, Ozone, Sulphates (various), nitrates and, of course, water vapour, all contribute to the mix, and all have some effect or another. As understanding and measurement of all of these components has developed, it has become progressively easier (though still not without controversy) to allocate various effects to various components. By the early 1990’s, scientists were broadly satisfied that they had identified at least the broad picture, and the principle causes of changes in global climate, which had been experienced largely as global warming. Both the natural forcings, and the ‘human-pruduced’ forcings have been further studied and elaborated on since then, so that we are now at a stage, (summarised by the frist section of the IPCC AR4, the WG1 section) – where pretty much all of the people who specialise in studies related to the way the climate and the atmosphere works can agree that it is pretty much certain that a proportion of the global warming since the late 1800’s has been caused by human activity, and that it is very likely that most of the warming since the 1950’s has a human origin.

So, the ‘anthropogenic’ part of AGW is now understood to include a great many human activities which have as at least one of their consequences, a change in the capacity of the ‘natural system’ to absorb or ‘sink’ the excess ‘greenhouse gases’, and other effects such a changes in the location of tropical convection zones, changes in patterns of atmospheric circulation, and changes in long-term patterns of weather and climate in many regions around the world.

One way of understanding what is being referred to when ‘climate change’ is discussed is to recall those lovely pictures in the atlases we had when we were schoolkids. Next to ‘fascinating’ bar graphs showing the mean precipitation and temperature, month by month, of Rio de Janiero, London and Vladivostok, was a big world-map which showed the various ‘climate regimes’ around the world. Some I can recall are; desert, tundra, deciduous forest… remember?
Now, when a scientist talks a bout ‘climate change’, one of the things he/she could be talking about is where, and how, that map is changing. Places which were once tundra are now taiga, some arid grassland is now desert, etc. etc. So what we are dealing with is the notion that, over a period of a century or less, what was once considered to be a ‘stable regime’ of climate has been seen to be variable. Beyond this, there is the notion that the more recent changes are all in a broadly similar direction – towards a warmer world, with less rain over land and more over ocean, less extreme cold in the higher temperate zones, and rapid changes to the polar latitudes.

Some of the changes which are in the process of occurring are to do with the way in which people in some regions live in relation to the land. Widespread deforestation, overfarming and inefficient irrigation, as examples, as well as badly-conceived major public works such as the damming of rivers, all contribute to these changes. On top of these, even relatively small changes in the global average temperature can ‘knock’ a system out of kilter, and thus damage it in the long-term.

We live in a very complex society, in the sense that many of our current practices are based on certain assumptions about geophysical stability, amongst which are assumptions about the way the weather will effect agriculture during a year, what crops work where, and what sort of buildings are needed to survive extremes. Much of our infrastructure has been coinstructed on an assumption of a certain range of climate variability.

Back to the point: what AGW is pointing to is twofold; first, the identifiable causes of the measured changes in global climate, and secondly, the interrelationship between the impacts of these changes and our society.

If I wanted to understand the physics and chemistry fully, which explains how, why and how much human-produced greenhouse gase are changing global mean temperatures, I would probably have to do the postgraduate diploma in climate change at UEA, or a similar course. Since my area of specialisation is environmental ethics, I don’t have the time (and arguably, not the talent) to do this, so to a certain extent I have to engage in a act of trust. I have to decide whether or not I can trust the people who work in the fields related to climate, such as atmospheric chemistry, to know their jobs, report their work honestly, and understand the implications of the research they do and the discoveries they make. Whilst not all of them do this, on balance, most them do, and therefore I choose to trust them. Since their work is overseen by others with experience and knowledge, and criticised and studied by fellow scientists all around the world, and since their reputations (and livelihoods) depend on them not making bad mistakes, I am reassured in my inclination to trust their words and work, but also concerned that the entire system is imbued with an innate conservatism, so that the more radical notions of consequences migh not come out so clearly.

My suggestion, in a nutshell, then, is that, if you are not in a position to spend a year or more studying the basic equations and formulae directly, instead you should decide whether, on the balance of things, you are willing to trust other people – dedicated, hard-working, honest and assiduous people – who are expert in their fields, to tell you what is or is not happening. Please note, though, that there is a difference between not trusting and not wanting to trust; if your case is the latter, it may be that you could consider whether your wish to not have to trust these people is founded on the underlying wish that AGW isn’t really happening.

It is a simple truism that none of us can know everything, and few of us have the talent or skill to study and analyse in depth the work of scientific specialists. This does not stop us from trusting that an engineer has designed a bridge well enough to allow us to cross it in safety, or a that a doctor has correctly diagnosed and treated an illness. Living in a technological society, in fact, we place an implicit trust in literally thousands of different kinds of specialists and experts, every day; we even trust them with the safety of our own children. Some of the people who inhabit NW are experts in their own fields.

So, I am afraid, in a sense my simple response to your question ‘why should I believe all this AGW malarky’ is ‘because the experts tell us so’. They might be wrong. They could have missed something, or left something out. Some of them might be jumping on a bandwagon. But the sheer weight, the mass of material which supports their assertion that AGW is real, especially when measured against the material which attempts to contradict it, should also, in itself, be convincing testament to the rigorousness of the original hypothesis.

This is a rather longer reply than I had planned. I know there are weaknesses and errors in it, and that some matters are not addressed, but I hope that the underlying reasoning is itself persuasive.

Sometimes, a blogger has nothing better to do. Since Tim Lambert and RP Sr. both bring up the subject, the Old man took a look at that ‘open letter’ to Mr Moon. Below are some observations and comments about its construction and content.

What does the statement by these 100-odd signatories amount to? From my reading, it seems to be saying the following, in paraphrase:

‘We aren’t sure that human-caused climate change is really happening; we don’t think it’s a good idea to reduce CO2 emissions; this is because it wouldn’t make any difference, and because it would make us poorer. The best way to prepare for the future is to carry on doing what we have been doing for the past few hundred years, i.e., making ourselves richer. We think adaptation is better than mitigation. CO2 regulation is pointless.’

Nothing new there, then. Since there are going to be few people who would argue that protecting the interests of citizens through good adaptive strategies is a bad idea, all this really boils down to is the issue of whether or not CO2/emissions regulation is a good idea or a bad one. The authors are claiming its a bad idea, principally for economic reasons, but with the underlying assumption/argument that future human-caused global warming is uncertain. I suppose one could argue that, if it were true that future climate change was uncertain in this way, then spending money to prevent future damage or risk would be potentially wasteful. This, however, does not look like a very strong argument in itself to support the proposed policy of inaction.

This does not, though, take us away entirely from the central issue which seems to pervade this particular point-of-view, in comparison to what is being pushed at Bali. The risk which appears to be at the centre of the USA’s resistance to commitment is that of (possible) economic harm in the near future, against all sorts of other (likely) harm in a more distant future. In the end then, is this simply an argument about whether or not we should take out an insurance policy? It is more complex than that, because the other question is who gets to pay for the premium. It is hard, though, to avoid the conclusion that all of the words are really about horse-trading.


Here’s my take on the letter:

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

Re: UN climate conference taking the World in entirely the wrong direction

This is merely a statement of the authors’ opinions.

It is not possible to stop climate change, a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages. Geological, archaeological, oral and written histories all attest to the dramatic challenges posed to past societies from unanticipated changes in temperature, precipitation, winds and other climatic variables…

‘The climate changes naturally, anyway’. This misses the main message of the IPCC reports; recently, the climate has changed unnaturally, and is expected to continue to do so for many decades at least.

We therefore need to equip nations to become resilient to the full range of these natural phenomena by promoting economic growth and wealth generation.

An interestingly ambiguous conclusion. That ‘therefore’ implies that this follows from the previous statement, but it is surely not necessary. ‘Equipping nations to become resilient to change’ is a desirable goal in itself. But then this is qualified by the second part – ‘by promoting economic growth and wealth generation’. In other words, the solution to any future problems which societies might face is within the bounds of adaptation to manage, if these societies have the money to spend to implement adaptive strategies. Since it is hard to imagine a modern society which does not ‘promote economic growth…’ anyway, what this amounts to is a call to continue doing what we have been doing, on the basis that this is a sufficient response to potential future changes in climate.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued increasingly alarming conclusions about the climatic influences of human-produced carbon dioxide (CO2), a non-polluting gas that is essential to plant photosynthesis.

Disregarding the implied criticisms, this is on the surface of it intended to be a statement of fact(s).

While we understand the evidence that has led them to view CO2 emissions as harmful, the IPCC’s conclusions are quite inadequate as justification for implementing policies that will markedly diminish future prosperity.

Another interesting juxtaposition of statement and opinion. Having described CO2 as a ‘non-polluting gas’ [need I mention Mass. Vs EPA?], the implication is that their conclusion, that it is ‘harmful’, is irrational. It entirely ignores the matter of why the IPCC views such emissions as ‘harmful’, whilst avoiding the need to admit that CO2 is a primary forcer of climate warming and simultaneously avoiding admitting or denying that pesky ‘evidence’, by use of the word ‘understand’. The second part of the paragraph is very interesting. Given that the authors have already expressed the view that sound economics is the benchmark goal, here they both assume that policies derived from the IPCC’s conclusions must, necessarily, ‘markedly diminish future prosperity’, and make the claim that these conclusions are ‘inadequate as justification’. Clearly, then, they know what policies are going to be implemented, otherwise they cannot know whether or not these are justified by the IPCC’s conclusions.

In particular, it is not established that it is possible to significantly alter global climate through cuts in human greenhouse gas emissions.

This appears to be false. If it is possible to alter climate through emissions, then it is also possible to alter it through cessation of emissions. Unless the authors are making the claim that CO2 is not a climate forcing, which they have avoided doing, they cannot back up this claim.

On top of which, because attempts to cut emissions will slow development, the current UN approach of CO2 reduction is likely to increase human suffering from future climate change rather than to decrease it.

First, there is the assumption that ‘attempts to cut emissions will slow development’. I think this needs an explanation of why this must be so, at the least. Historically, challenges to society have tended to lead to positive and productive long-term consequences, with human ingenuity finding original solutions which advance social efficiency and hence wealth (otherwise, we’d still all be subsistence farming). Then there is the assumption that CO2 reduction will likely increase human suffering (by causing recession). Given the present social conditions of those most vulnerable to changes in climate, and their existing prospects of development and wealth, it is hard to see how their condition will be worsened by policies which have no effect on their situation. The only circumstance under which their marginal existence can be worsened is by changes to the environment, which make survival or subsistence less likely. This cannot be altered by anything but CO2 reduction.

The IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers are the most widely read IPCC reports amongst politicians and non-scientists and are the basis for most climate change policy formulation. Yet these Summaries are prepared by a relatively small core writing team with the final drafts approved line-by-line by ­government ­representatives. The great ­majority of IPCC contributors and ­reviewers, and the tens of thousands of other scientists who are qualified to comment on these matters, are not involved in the preparation of these documents. The summaries therefore cannot properly be represented as a consensus view among experts.

There’s that ‘consensus’ word again. Disregarding the question of what methodology might substitute for the complex process of synthesis, the argument is that the Summaries are not representative of the views of experts. This is not the same as claiming that they are not representative of the views of ‘all’ experts. It is possible to show that the balance of expert opinion is in sufficient support of a sufficient majority of the Summaries’ contents to justify calling their agreement ‘consensus’.

Contrary to the impression left by the IPCC Summary reports:

z Recent observations of phenomena such as glacial retreats, sea-level rise and the migration of temperature-sensitive species are not evidence for abnormal climate change, for none of these changes has been shown to lie outside the bounds of known natural variability.

Effectively, this is claiming that all of the evidence which suggests that the climate is changing beyond the bounds of recent historical experience (including those parts which have carefully not been mentioned) is circumstantial. It ignores the notion that the combined effect of all of these individual pieces of evidence is in itself abnormal, and points clearly in one direction only. It also ignores the apparent absence of evidence which would contradict the conclusion that recent and near-future warming is abnormal. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how any rational person could read through the many pieces of evidence documenting changes and not conclude that our current situation is abnormal.

z The average rate of warming of 0.1 to 0. 2 degrees Celsius per decade recorded by satellites during the late 20th century falls within known natural rates of warming and cooling over the last 10,000 years.

Which conveniently ignores the point that known natural warming has occurred previously through known natural forcings which are, however, not present in the late 20th century. As such, it is no more than a repetition of the claim that recent warming is natural.

z Leading scientists, including some senior IPCC representatives, acknowledge that today’s computer models cannot predict climate. Consistent with this, and despite computer projections of temperature rises, there has been no net global warming since 1998. That the current temperature plateau follows a late 20th-century period of warming is consistent with the continuation today of natural multi-decadal or millennial climate cycling.

Tim Lambert and Tamino have dealt with this claim. It is false.

In stark contrast to the often repeated assertion that the science of climate change is “settled,” significant new peer-reviewed research has cast even more doubt on the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming. But because IPCC working groups were generally instructed (see to consider work published only through May, 2005, these important findings are not included in their reports; i.e., the IPCC assessment reports are already materially outdated.

Firstly, I do not think that the IPCC makes any claim that the science is ‘settled’, and secondly, it is not clear what ‘significant research’ is being referred to. That there are some people (including scientists) who do not subscribe to the view that dangerous human-caused global warming is happening is a given. It is difficult to make this into a case for arguing, therefore, that there is either a significant body of evidence which ‘casts doubt’ (note, the absence of ‘refutation’), or that there are a significant number of experts who have such doubts.

The UN climate conference in Bali has been planned to take the world along a path of severe CO2 restrictions, ignoring the lessons apparent from the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, the chaotic nature of the European CO2 trading market, and the ineffectiveness of other costly initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Balanced cost/benefit analyses provide no support for the introduction of global measures to cap and reduce energy consumption for the purpose of restricting CO2 emissions.

This appears to be a statement that, so far, attempts to manage emissions reductions have not been successful, followed by a claim that, by economic measures, the introduction of restrictive emissions policies is not justifiable. Avoiding arguments about the nature of previous efforts to control emissions, it leaves us with the claim that economic cost/benefit analysis demonstrates that regulation of emissions is not beneficial.

Furthermore, it is irrational to apply the “precautionary principle” because many scientists recognize that both climatic coolings and warmings are realistic possibilities over the medium-term future.

Taking aside the ambiguity of the ‘medium-term future’ phrase, this is tantamount to claiming that, since the climate will continue to vary, taking precautions against future warming is irrational. This, by implication, suggests that future warming is uncertain. Unless the authors can provide some physical mechanisms by which future cooling is shown to be as likely as future warming, this amounts to no more than a claim that there is too much uncertainty to justify planning ahead for warming.

The current UN focus on “fighting climate change,” as illustrated in the Nov. 27 UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report, is distracting governments from adapting to the threat of inevitable natural climate changes, whatever forms they may take. National and international planning for such changes is needed, with a focus on helping our most vulnerable citizens adapt to conditions that lie ahead.

One might imagine that good government would already be engaged in planning for adaptive changes to prevent unwanted consequences from ‘inevitable changes’. Such planning need not be overlooked because governments also need to plan for avoiding ‘non-inevitable’ changes in the further future. One would hope that governments were sufficiently competent to manage their duties to their current citizens whilst taking suitable measures to protect their future interests.

Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile, and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity’s real and pressing problems.

The first statement here is both beside the point and, since it appears to express a truism, irrelevant. The authors need to establish that attempts to prevent avoidable and dangerous climate change from occurring, is futile. Since such attempts would not represent a ‘tragic misallocation of resources’, and would be addressing humanity’s ‘real and pressing problems’, they cannot do so.


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December 2007