Morning Morgantown

by Gareth on May 3, 2009

Morgancod.jpgThere have been occasional rumblings over the last year that high profile Kiwi economist and biker Gareth Morgan was working on something to do with climate change. This week TV One has been trailing an item with Morgan in the Sunday programme (tonight, 7-30pm), discussing the results of his research into the subject. This is all part of the launch publicity for his latest book, Poles Apart: The Great Climate Change Debate — which appears to be a cross between a travel book (based on two bike trips, one to the Arctic and the other to Antarctica: the words “lucky bugger” spring unbidden to mind) and an investigation of the state of our understanding of climate change. You can perhaps judge the end result from the fact that Jeanette Fitzsimons is hosting the launch, but if there was any remaining doubt, today’s Herald gives the game away:

Poles Apart, which Morgan co-wrote with freelance writer John McCrystal, concludes the weight of current evidence favours human-made climate change. Morgan said the book was designed to get past emotion and misinformation, such as views expressed by Hide. Hide last year told Parliament climate change data and hypothesis “do not hold together”. He called emission trading schemes “a worldwide scam and swindle”. Morgan said: “When I get a non-scientist belching emotion like that, I just think that’s gutter of politics. I was trying to clear the room of the Rodneys of this world, and whoever his equivalent is on the other [environmental alarmist] side.”

Good stuff. Nice to see that Gareths are sticking together… ;-) And possibly an object lesson for other authors in how to conduct a fair assessment of the state of our understanding of climate.

[Update: Just found the Poles Apart web site which includes some interesting background papers… I’m still digging…]

[Update 2: Sunday segment part one here. Watch the whole thing. There’s a fair bit of Gareth Morgan, a lot of Flannery, some good shots of Carbonscape’s Black Phantom biochar generator, and pictures of a Papua New Guinea island (Takuu) flooding at high tide — and an amazing stat: sea temperatures around the island have warmed by 5ºC over the last 50 years.]

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew W May 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Morgan has been as successful as he has because he keeps to the facts and doesn’t let political bias interfer with his analysis – most people of influence these days base their conclusions on preconceptions developed from an initial bias.

What I’d like to know – and hopefully the book will cover it – is where he’s drawing the line and who he concludes is Rodney’s equivalent on the other side, you can bet they – people of the political left who exaggerate the effects that AGW will have – exist.

Gareth May 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I tend to agree, Andrew. Infometrics has generally been pretty sensible on climate change matters, but the tenor of Morgan’s remarks on the radio last year did make me raise an eyebrow…

I would guess that he’ll be able to find a more than a few cases where politicians and lobbyists have over-egged the climate pudding – but it’ll be interesting to see what his take is on the overall seriousness of the issue.

hicksville May 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm

My impression (and Ian Wishart’s book is a good example of this) is that climate change denial has become an article of faith for the wingnut constituency in the last few years. It’s hard to imagine any evidence that could change their views (they’ll probably be blaming Obama for rising sea levels and ocean acidification twenty years from now!). I think this is one of the lobbyists’ biggest (and most insidious) achievements – that it’s apparently quite difficult to be a right wing extremist nowadays without ticking the global-warming-denier box.

We just have to hope that constituency will be less and less relevant as time goes on…

greg May 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Wow – Gareth had direct input from the who’s who of the denialosphere… Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, Monckton of Benchly, Vincent Gray, Bob Carter and Willie Soon.

This one document alone has responses from four them.
http://polesapart.com/files/6_singer.pdf

Carol Stewart May 3, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Well, hey, that is a welcome surprise. I got a slightly different feeling from his remarks on the radio last year, but am more than happy to be proven wrong.
As for Bill McKibben’s lecture in Wellington, it was packed out with people squashed into the aisles and on the floor at the front, which was even the more impressive as he was competing with the Hurricanes playing just across the road. The local chapter of 350.org looks set to be off to a flyer.

Steve Wrathall May 4, 2009 at 11:09 am

From Sunday 3/5/09
“…on the Antarctic Peninsula, ten massive ice shelves, some as big as Texas, have broken off”
I challenge anyone to name at least 2 ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula that have each lost in the past century an area greater than Texas (700,000 sq km).

Steve Wrathall May 4, 2009 at 11:13 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takuu
“Takuu lies about 250 km to the northeast of Kieta, capital of Bougainville, at the intersection of two shifting tectonic plates, which are causing the atoll to sink…”

How does this make them “climate change refugees”? Tectonic change refugees maybe.

John Hudon May 26, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Takuu Island is not sinking. Yes it lies in an area where two tectonic plates meet but the geological evidence gathered at the time of the flooding last year shows there are ancient reef fossils just off the Island that are up to a metre above sea level. New coral has formed below sea level. This shows that the Island is not subsiding. Perhaps you would like to tell this to Wikipedia.

cindy May 4, 2009 at 11:13 am

The piece on Sunday has drawn the usual vitriol to their message boards… but it looks like Gareth Morgan has “discovered” the truth here – “we’re a joke” being my favourite quote about the NZ Govt’s attitude to climate change.
“Banging heads against a wall”? Well, hopefully, an economist like Gareth Morgan might just be the right person to do it. We need more people like him on board to convince Kiwis that we need to act.

erentz May 4, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Doubt it. Remember Gareth, and many other economists, not to mention anyone who applied common sense, warned us about the recession we’re in now too. People, I sometimes think, are just doomed to ignore such problems, unless you can somehow put it to them with direct consequences. For example, pose the question, in a scientific way to every registered voter, and ask them if they feel we should take action. Make their response a matter of public record for future generations, so they have someone to blame. (If I had a digital copy of the electoral role I’d have already done that.) Or something else like this. People won’t make the changes themselves, but I feel something like this just may give the mandate to a responsible Government to do make the hard changes on their behalf.

jonno May 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm

What did Morgan’s book find? When it was first mentioned (on National Radio), I was worried that he would be a climate skeptic.

Steve Wrathall, I challenge you to get a life buddy.

StephenR May 4, 2009 at 12:42 pm

He has a point about Texas, i’ve only heard Conetticut used as a comparative example.

cindy May 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm
Steve Wrathall May 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Jonno, answer the question. Broken Ice shelf? Big as Texas? Where?

If this it the sort of “real truth” that Gazza Morgan paid half a mil for he should be asking for his money back.

Gareth May 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Steve,

That statement was made by the TV NZ presenter’s voice-over, not Gareth Morgan, Tim Flannery or any of GM’s advisers, and unless they were talking about Texas, Australia, they got it wrong. Take it up with TV NZ, not GM.

If you follow the links in the post, you can find some of the papers GM relied on… (I’ll probably do a post on that soon).

cindy May 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Indeed, Gareth, it was Sunday who got it wrong. No doubt they employed one of the vast number of senior science reporters on the TVNZ staff.

nice link to your Ian Wishart trashing from hard news today.

Steve Wrathall May 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Please explain how the Emissions Trading Scam will stop the tectonic subduction that is causing Takuu Island to sink.

John Hudon May 26, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Apart from reading Wikipedia what makes you think Takuu Island is sinking?

fragment May 4, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Steve, did you even bother to read all of the wiki article you linked to?

Their very existence is under threat in the near future for two reasons: firstly because the tectonic plate on which the atoll sits is sinking, and secondly because of the rise in sea level caused by global warming, forces combining to cause sea levels to rise at a rate estimated at 20 centimeters per year.

Bold mine.

Steve Wrathall May 4, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Fragment: Yes I did. Global sea level rises are ~2 mm/year, have been for the last ~10,000 years and there is no evidence that they are increasing. Therefore 99% of observed sea level “rise” at Takuu must be due to tectonic forces, which will be totally unaffected by $3000 of carbon indulgences ripped out of the pockets of NZ consumers- if we’re gullible enough to let our “leaders” do that to us , that is.

Note: TVNZ made NO mention of tectonic forces with regard to Tavuu’s problems with the ocean. Why?

This and the other string of untruths I have listed, is symptomatic of how any pretext of journalistic integrity on this issue has long since fled our state broadcaster.

John Hudon May 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Calm down Steve your bias is showing. We didn’t mention tectonic plates because they have nothing to do with what is happening on Takuu Island. Have you considered the western Pacific warm pool, La Nina, thermal expansion, spring tides coinciding with storms? Perhaps you should get up there and find out like the aussies have.

samv May 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm

another hint: sea level rise is not consistent all over the world. Water flows, but differences of 2mm here or there take a long time to distribute everywhere. I don’t have the exact figures handy, but even a metre of sea level rise in the Antarctic might take 20 years to reach the Pacific..

stuey May 5, 2009 at 12:28 am

oh come on Steve, there are plenty of examples of bad science by journalists on all issues, not just AGW, and bad science by journalists has been happening since journalism began, not just lately, so I don’t think there is need for a pro-AGW conspiracy theory.

secondly, why dyou think emissions trading scheme is going to cost NZ jo public money? it depends how it is implemented, it could be revenue neutral, we could even save money and carbon at the same time, it doesn’t have to be a financial burden.

fragment May 5, 2009 at 9:34 am

Steve, are you arguing that the source you linked in support of your claim is unreliable?

Anyway, sea level rise isn’t the same in all places. I have no idea what the specific figure for Takuu is, but you can’t just assume it’s the global average and use that to calculate a percentage.

Doug Mackie May 5, 2009 at 10:31 am

Steve,

You said in your ETS submission that:
“There is no evidence that this rate is increasing. On the contrary, there has been no net warming since 1998″

How do you reconcile that with the endless debunkings (most recently with the GRL paper by Easterling and Wehner)? It is well known that the general temperature trend is upwards but also that 1998 was an especially strong El Nino/La Nino change over and so was especially warm.

Steve Wrathall May 5, 2009 at 11:11 am

Stuey,
Isn’t it peculiar how this “bad science by jounalists” was all in one direction ? Fictional Texas-sized ice break-offs (10x reality), Bogus “climate refugees” when tectonics are obviously the cause . Fragment, if you have actual evidence that the gravitational equipotential surface that is the ocean is for some reason rising many-fold faster at Takuu, then post it here.

No wonder that climate stories are now viewed as light entertainment.

jonno May 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

“No wonder that climate stories are now viewed as light entertainment.”

As opposed to you?

Silly man, how do you make this claim?

Steve Bloom May 5, 2009 at 11:36 am

“Global sea level rises [have been~2 mm/year] for the last ~10,000 years and there is no evidence that they are increasing.”

Both of those points are demonstrably wrong. Why just make stuff up?

fragment May 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

As I said, I have no idea what rates of sea level rise at Takuu are. I have no idea what the tectonic rates are either, but 20cm per year sounds implausibly high for that too – for comparison the Southern Alps are being uplifted at around 10mm per year.

But all I’m doing here is saying you’ve made an incorrect assumption, and that your argument rests on saying that your own source is faulty. Basic rationality says that your conclusions are therefore questionable. You might be right, but you haven’t posted anything even remotely convincing. If you want to say sea level rise is insignificant at Takuu, go and do the work of finding the evidence.

For my part, I think the 20cm per year figure in the wiki article is highly questionable. It sounds incredibly high for both tectonics and sea level rise. I’d like to see that confirmed from a good scientific source before bothering to make any further inferences based on it.

Steve Wrathall May 5, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Fragment, my “assumptions” are totally reasonable. Namely that sea level rise around Takuu Is. is near the global average of ~2mm/year, and that the vast majority of any observed ocean intrusion is due to its location in a zone of subduction.

The assertion of the “Sunday” program, conversely is totally UNREASONABLE. Namely that Takuu is the “ugly face of CC” producing “CC refugees” . The claim that human-induced sea-level rise is happening in this particular spot, is the extraordinary claim that requireds extraordinary proof. I have no more burden to disprove this absurd claim than I do to disprove Russel’s orbital teapot. This story is exactly the sort of heart-rending schmalz, that gets endlessly recycled through the warmist disinformation network. And yet not one person in this thread has made any attempt to defend its truth, but demand that I have to disprove it.

Perhaps the Takuu Islanders could relocate to the Greenland Rainforests?

Steve Wrathall May 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm

From “Sunday” 3/5/09
FLANNERY: We’ll be back in a world we saw 50 million years ago where there was rainforest growing in Greenland, and where the tropics were utterly uninhabitable.
TVNZ: Within this century?
FLANNERY: Within this century.

Gareth May 5, 2009 at 1:59 pm

I’m not sure we’ll get a rainforest in Greenland this century (trees take some time to grow, after all), but we could easily put ourselves on a path that would make such a thing inevitable in the long term.

fragment May 5, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Steve, here’s a graphic of rates of sea level rise 1993-2003, showing linear trends of up to 15mm per year near PNG. I do not call 15mm near to 2mm.

Also, you missed the assumption that the 20cm per year figure cited by wiki is in fact correct. I question that, for reasons stated above. Despite looking at the refs wiki cites and a quick google I can’t get a reliable source for it. I actually suspect the real figure to be 20mm per year and unit error has been propagated through various news sources without adequate fact-checking.

“…the vast majority of any observed ocean intrusion is due to its location in a zone of subduction” is your conclusion, not an assumption. Or at least it should be.

So, one assumption is false, and another is questionable and requires a reliable source.

BTW I’m not demanding you disprove anything. On the other hand you have, in fact, made claims here that depend on positive assertions. You should be willing to defend or retract those. The fact is that 20cm per year vertical change strikes me as a pretty extraordinary claim, and requires at least proof better than an interview with an anthropologist (which appears to be where wiki got it from).

Finally, Alaska has rainforest. I’m not sure that Greenland having the same is so far-fetched.

Andrew W May 5, 2009 at 7:21 pm

There’s a good article on Morgan’s perspective in the latest Listener (of all places) no mention of disappearing islands in it. Morgan seems to reached the same conclusions as me – he’s a brilliant man! ;-)

stuey May 5, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Steve, no it is not at all peculiar that in a single news report that all the “bad science” should be in a particular “direction”. There are plenty of examples of news media articles that contain “bad science” in the opposite “direction”, i.e. anti-AGW and it is not peculiar that they exist either.

Now if all the media reports in all the media organisations were in one direction that would be peculiar.

StephenR May 5, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Andrew W, in lieu of a free Listener, what were Mogan’s conclusions that you so happen to agree with?

Andrew W May 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm

From the Listener article:

Morgan: “People have very emotive, very predetermined views, and that typifies both sides”…”If I had one message, it is, ‘For God’s sake, stay objective, don’t get wound up by either sides polemics and emotion”

Morgan: “Are we satisfied as jurors that it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the cause of the warming is anthropogenic?” asks Morgan. “No, we’re not. But if we rephrase the question and ask, if, on the weight of the evidence presented, we think the cause of the warming is anthropogenic or natural, then we would say anthropogenic.”

Listener: “…the two authors seem to conclude” (that the IPCC) “is as willing as any other participant in the debate to play politics”.

Morgan: “The position we reached is that the science of anthropogenic global warming is almost impossible to argue with. Sceptics are light on coherent propositions that stack up against the coherent propositionon the other side”.

Listener: “But McCrystal says what gives the debate its urgency is that no one can wait for absolute certainty because the stakes are too high.
Indeed, because the book is devoted to exploring whether global warming is man-made, it ends just when it is getting interesting. If global warming is man-made, what can be done to stop it?”

Morgan: “if you ask by how much do we have to reduce emissions in order to [make a difference], I look at the numbers that are required and there’s not a show, not a shit-show of that happening. My first pass at it is, ‘You’ve got to be joking’.”

Listener: “Morgan says serious efforts to reduce emissions have to include China and India.”

Laurence May 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Information on sea level and related parameters at various locations in the South Pacific.
http://www.bom.gov.au/oceanography/projects/spslcmp/reports.shtml
The information collected supports scientific reports on sea level variations from climatic and gravitational influences, as well as geographic variations through tectonic movement and atoll decay.

The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project home page here
http://www.bom.gov.au/pacificsealevel/index.shtml

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