Welcome words from a politician

by Bryan Walker on January 26, 2010

“This is a century in which we will recognise that living within your means can no longer just be about money, but also must be about first living within your carbon means and second living within the natural world’s ability to support humankind over issues like fishing and deforestation.”

I took pleasure in the these words from UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, reported in the Guardian today, while realising that I open myself to the accusation of being too ready to credit that a politician can mean what he or she says.

Benn is calling for a way to be found to price the impact of our decisions on biodiversity in the same way that the international community is finding a way of pricing carbon. He warns that the world may be going through its sixth great extinction event.  He’s hoping that a report being prepared for the European commission by the Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev into the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity may “do for our understanding of the natural world what Nick Stern did for the understanding of the economic impact of climate change.”

“Stern made people sit up and take notice. Stern said ‘this is the cost of dealing with climate change and this is the cost of not dealing with it.’ Stern brought this issue to the attention of business people and economists. We have to realise we live in a world where we can no longer take without consequence”.

Earlier in the month Benn contributed an opinion piece in the BBC’s Green Room series explaining his biodiversity concern at greater length. He was careful to conjoin it with climate change: “Climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked. We ignore natural capital at our peril.”

Benn is only saying what many scientists have been pointing out for some years.  But it matters that politicians should be saying it.  The general populace needs to hear it from them.  It’s called political leadership and it has often mattered at critical times in the past.  I commented in an earlier post on the willingness of the Milliband brothers and Gordon Brown to speak unequivocally about climate change to the UK electorate. John Prescott was similarly outspoken and active in the lead-up to Copenhagen.

Admittedly the Copenhagen experience was dispiriting in relation to the rhetoric we were increasingly hearing from political leaders beforehand.  Benn will address that fact in a speech he is due to deliver tomorrow, when he will say that a way has to be found to reverse “the collective loss of personal, economic and environmental optimism”.

Our own political leadership is not given to statements like that of Benn’s which opened this post.  I realise they make a virtue of not wanting to promise more than they can deliver, but the New Zealand electorate needs to hear unequivocally from the government (and from the main opposition party for that matter) that climate change and biodiversity loss are supremely important issues, with the corollary that our catching up with Australian incomes is a rather lesser matter.

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Le Chat Noir January 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Politicians are just sooooo good at saying inspirational stuff aren’t they? Back in the real world here’s Mr Benn’s biodiversity report card.

mikh January 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm

From today’s London Times, reporting on the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser John Beddington…

“Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.
He said that public confidence in climate science would be improved if there were more openness about its uncertainties, even if that meant admitting that sceptics had been right on some hotly-disputed issues.
He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7003622.ece

You may like to drop the terms denialist, flat earther and your other intolerant insults now Bryan and Gareth… I mean, if it’s good enough for the UK’s chief science adviser to admit that the science isn’t settled, and the sceptics may have a point or two to make, do you think a little more manners and a little less intolerance might be called for ?

Bryan Walker January 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Mikh, may I suggest you have a look at the Guardian’s report of what Beddington has to say. The Times on Line report is heavily slanted and buttressed with extremely doubtful statements about sea ice, sea level rise and global temperatures. I have no problems with what Beddington is saying as reported in the Guardian. None of the work I read written by scientists is light on caveats. Uncertainties abound and are recognised and often emphasised. His comments are extremely general, and I would have thought unnecessary. I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism either, but I haven’t come across examples of that happpening. If you come up with a body of scientific work which demonstrates that my alarm at climate change is quite unnecessary I’ll be greatly relieved and happily drop the term denialist.

Bryan Walker January 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Le Chat Noir, I acknowledge I’m too inclined to take comfort from words. Sometimes that’s about all there is to take comfort from. I agree the report card is not good. I guess I hope that when politicians start saying the sort of things Benn is saying the possibility of improvement grows a tiny bit stronger, or perhaps I should say a tiny bit less weak.

mikh January 27, 2010 at 4:32 pm

So the Guardian Bryan, presents an accurate account of Beddington’s sentiments, while the Times is “heavily slanted and buttressed…” That “slanting and buttressing” couldn’t happen on the objective pages of the idealogically sound Guardian of course, could it ?

So… even the Guardian swallows the dead rat, and reports Beddington’s key points…”There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed…All of these predictions have to be caveated by saying, ‘There’s a level of uncertainty about that’.”

Someone who put that statement forward to you a week or two ago would have been dismissed by you, and the more intemperate Gareth, as a denialist, flat earther and/or crank, and I see you still use the word crank in your most recent post. At the very least Bryan, you could offer your polite, unabusive critics the courtesy of acknowledging their very valid sceptical viewpoint, and perhaps use your derogatory terms such as denialist, flat earther and crank with a little more reservation.

Bryan Walker January 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Mikh, I can’t recall ever dismissing anyone for saying there’s a level of uncertainty about climate change prediction. I do use the term denialist for those who deny the science on grounds which lack scientific backing, and make no apology for that. You’ll have to ask Gareth about crank – it’s not a word I use.

mikh January 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

…well, do you agree now, that the science of global warming/climate change is characterised by a level of “fundamental uncertainty…that can’t be changed…” ?

Bryan Walker January 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Mikh, you’re quoting from the Times account of what Beddington said. I agree that a level of uncertainty has to be part of most climate science predictions. If “fundamental uncertainty” means that the whole basis of climate science is shaky of course I don’t agree. I note the Guardian reported him: “While it was unchallengeable that burning fossil fuels released CO2 that warms the Earth, ‘where you can get challenges is on the speed of change’.” That statement seems OK to me. Will it do for you?

mikh January 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Bryan, you are very much mistaken, and I’m afraid, are resorting to evasion. Below are direct quotes from The Guardian, and as you noted above… “I have no problems with what Beddington is saying as reported in the Guardian.”…

“I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism,” he tells the Times newspaper today. “Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”

Do you now agree Bryan with Beddington’s statement that…

“There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.” ?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/27/climate-change-uk-top-scientist-urges-caution

Bryan Walker January 27, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Mikh, oops you caught me out, not in deliberate evasion I assure you, but in an overhasty reading of the Guardian article. The answer to your question is still that it depends what he means by fundamental uncertainty. I presume he is not referring to the finding that burning fossil fuels releases CO2 that warms the Earth, which he explicitly says is unchallengeable. So I’m not sure exactly what he means, and I’m not going to be tied to a declaration the import of which is not clear to me.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 6:36 am

All right Bryan, I won’t labour the point, except to say that Beddington’s statements are a total exoneration of the sceptical position, that has always insisted, (despite vigorous and abusive retorts from people like yourself and Gareth), that the science of AGW ISN’T settled.

In addition, the revelations of IPCC overstatement re glacier melt are a further nod towards those of us who have pointed out similar exaggerations in the past. And that, when taken with clear evidence of scientific mishandling and fudging of data, and now alleged financial impropriety by Pachauri, effectively ends the AGW debate.

A victory I think, for the denialist scum.

Can you hear me Gareth ?

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 10:59 am

As I’m now back at my desk, yes. But you are talking nonsense. I have never claimed that the “science is settled”. I have always maintained, as Bryan notes above, that we have no doubt that increasing CO2 is already warming the planet, and that more will make matters worse. That’s basic — unavoidable — physics, and for that to change would require a rewrite of physics down to the quantum level. But there’s lots of uncertainty about the details of what is/might/will happen. The climate system is a wonderfully complex and interesting thing with a myriad of complex interactions between land/ocean/atmosphere and biosphere, made the more complex by humanity’s many differing impacts.

I draw a distinction between genuine scepticism — a willingness to review all the facts, something that all scientists have to do — and the false “scepticism” exhibited by deniers and cranks, which grabs only at the stuff that appears to support their pre-existing position. Beddington, I take it, is talking about the former, not the latter.

Dappledwater January 28, 2010 at 7:16 am

“And that, when taken with clear evidence of scientific mishandling and fudging of data, and now alleged financial impropriety by Pachauri, effectively ends the AGW debate” – Mikh

A whole lot of wishful thinking going on there.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 8:18 am

“A whole lot of wishful thinking going on there”.

A plaintive and rather weak retort Dappledwater.

Further revelations will echo the guts of this exchange between Bryan and I, and make it plain that the wishful thinking is not coming from the sceptical camp.

Dappledwater January 28, 2010 at 10:22 pm

“A plaintive and rather weak retort Dappledwater.” – Mikh.

Errr, No, weak and plaintive is an apt description of your comments here. Your wishful thinking is that one minor error in a document suddenly invalidates all climate science. Is that how you think reality operates?.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

…and while I’m at it, a Google link to Hot Topic, leads with the words…

“Our tame cranks, the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition are trumpeting Royal Society resignee Vincent Gray’s recent update of his seminal paper The Global Warming Scam…”and finishes “…Vincent Gray is 86.”

This pathetic, patronising and offensive tone has characterised Gareth’s postings since I first visited this site.

It’s time I think for a little more restraint and respect from you Gareth, don’t you agree ?

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

No. I call things as I see them. And Gray meets every definition of crank out there (except possibly the mechanical form).

As for the “pathetic, patronising and offensive tone”, you might reflect on the stuff you write at your own site, where you are happy to repeat and promote the accusation that climate scientists are “cheats, crooks and frauds”.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 11:19 am

Gareth, welcome back to your desk.

I am not, as you say, talking nonsense, I am debating the position of John Beddington, as you can read above. I am also inviting you to display a little more courtesy, and even a little humility towards those you disagree with, in light of Beddington’s statements.

As you say…

“I draw a distinction between genuine scepticism — a willingness to review all the facts, something that all scientists have to do — and the false “scepticism” exhibited by deniers and cranks…”

Well, that of course leads to my invitation to you to please direct me towards the website or a link, from a “genuine sceptic”. Someone whose sceptical position re AGW you respect. Perhaps if you can’t find a link to a “genuine sceptic” a name would do.

Not too long ago Gareth, as I have pointed out to Bryan, this statement would have caused a derisive response from you…
“There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”
…do you agree now with John Beddington’s sentiments ?

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

Re “genuine” sceptics: the best example is one that happened here. SamV was sceptical of the reality of global warming when he first visited Hot Topic. He was pointed to Spencer Weart’s Discovery of Global Warming and took the trouble to read it. He then revised his position, and you may have noticed that he is now convinced that we have a problem. I would also say that AndrewW, a frequent commenter here and elsewhere is a good example of a real sceptic: he follows the balance of the evidence, and so accepts that warming is happening and will continue, but he is sceptical that it will be as a big an issue for our civilisation as some others — peak oil being one. Vibenna’s blog comes and goes (it’s in a goes phase at the moment, it seems – link in the blogroll), but he’s what I would call a credible sceptic.

Beddington says “a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction” (prediction being the key word) and he’s absolutely correct. The future is essentially unknowable, and much of what happens in climate terms will be determined (if we’re lucky) by what we do to restrain emissions. That’s why the IPCC developed scenarios to be used in AR3 and AR4, and why new more policy-relevant scenarios that take various emissions trajectories into account are now required.

One thing you need to bear in mind: uncertainty is not our friend. Being uncertain about the details does not mean we don’t know enough to act. And the balance of evidence hasn’t changed because a few emails were stolen and hyped, or because a glaciologist pointed out an error in the Asia chapter of WG2.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Well done ! A rational and restrained response. Gareth, you suprise me.

“One thing you need to bear in mind: uncertainty is not our friend. Being uncertain about the details does not mean we don’t know enough to act. And the balance of evidence hasn’t changed because a few emails were stolen and hyped, or because a glaciologist pointed out an error in the Asia chapter of WG2.”

There, in spite of the spin you put on it, is the crux of the matter; uncertainty rules. And uncertainty of course always rules and always will rule, and we make our decisions on a basis of trust in our advisers, and on the quality of their work. And if that trust is betrayed, and if that work has serious holes in it we act, or don’t act accordingly. From the Times “….He (Beddington) condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.He said that public confidence in climate science would be improved if there were more openness about its uncertainties, even if that meant admitting that sceptics had been right on some hotly-disputed issues.”

With respect Gareth “hotly disputed issues” have characterised these pages, and with regard to some of those debates “sceptics had been right.” Even, dare I say it, the much maligned and mocked Vincent Gray. And whether “the balance of evidence” has changed is still in dispute. What isn’t in any dispute however, from any objective sector, is that the AGW equation has changed for ever, and the need for urgent and potentially crippling economic remedial action is over.

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm

we make our decisions on a basis of trust in our advisers, and on the quality of their work

We make our decisions on the evidence, and that hasn’t changed. Nor — however much you might wish it to be true — has the balance of that evidence, or what it tells us. The onus of proof is not on the mainstream here: look at the published literature — it’s vast and compelling. To persuade the world to do nothing, you need to do much, much more than sling mud, and pick minuscule holes in thick reports. You need to explain, in detail and with sufficient credibility to convince working scientists (atmospheric physicists, at the very least) why adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will not cause further or damaging warming. This is not a trivial matter. You will need extraordinary proof, but that’s not coming from Gray, Monckton, Singer or Morano.

What isn’t in any dispute however, from any objective sector, is that the AGW equation has changed for ever, and the need for urgent and potentially crippling economic remedial action is over.

And so we get back to your basics: it’s all about politics and economics — not science. “Sceptics”, deniers and cranks are not trying to win any kind of scientific argument, they are trying to win a political debate. That’s why they feel so free to malign working scientists, to call them frauds and crooks and cheats. It’s a big PR campaign, funded and planned in the USA, designed to attract support from the likes of you, mikh/Ayrdale. And it works, well.

But it no more changes the evidence or the need for action than my wishing for a lottery win will change the odds against getting one.

Gosman January 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Has Gareth addressed the fact that Professor Bedddington condemned Scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports?

Why did he do that do you think?

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Why does Gosman talk to me in the third person, I wonder?

Having data openly available is a good thing, but if all it gets you is stupid diversions from people who don’t know what they’re doing, then it’s not going to advance science much, it it?

Gosman January 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm

That’s not Professor Beddington’s position though is it Gareth?

“There is a danger that people can manipulatethe data, but the benefits from being open far outweigh that danger”

Do you disagree with that view?

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm

That’s his opinion, and he’s entitled to it. I think he’s right, in principle, but I don’t see principled use of data coming from the cranks and deniers — I see faulty analysis and smears.

RW January 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I look in again – nothing has changed, just a different name in the denialist camp. Goodbye, mikh and fellow travellers – who’s next in the tag team?

mikh January 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm

“It’s a big PR campaign, funded and planned in the USA, designed to attract support from the likes of you, mikh/Ayrdale. And it works, well.”

It works well, Gareth, simply because it has a lot of merit in its arguments. As Beddington acknowledges.

No funding that I know of, from governments (taxpayers) or corporates, no greenpeace type emotional campaigns , minimal media support, no public stunts, no celebrities airing their sincere green opinions, just a small group of well organised people who obviously have valid points to make.

And, as you say, it works well.

And please Gareth, tell us more about how we are “funded and planned in the USA” ?

Are you referring to this ?

http://mickysmuses.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-sceptics-are-winning.html

Laurence January 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Gareth January 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm

And specifically this: Bryan’s review of Hoggan’s Climate Cover Up.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Very good link. Thank you Laurence.

So, follow the money to get the answers. Will do, as I know many sceptical sleuths are doing right now. Some of the sleuthing is of course revealing that Dr Pachauri may be on the money trail too…

http://www.hindustantimes.com/rssfeed/newdelhi/Pachauri-under-attack/Article1-489504.aspx

So put sceptic opinion down to subversion by dreaded multinationals if you like, and enjoy the fact that the internet (conveniently invented of course by Al Gore) will allow you to uncover all the chicanery that’s there, publish it and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

That’s what we do of course.

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm

mikh/Ayrdale writes:

No funding that I know of, from governments (taxpayers) or corporates, no greenpeace type emotional campaigns , minimal media support, no public stunts, no celebrities airing their sincere green opinions, just a small group of well organised people who obviously have valid points to make.

If you know of no funding, then you are deliberately ignoring the facts.

Let’s just run through some that spring unbidden to mind… No funding? Look at the funding given by Exxon, the Scaife foundations and Koch foundations in explicit support of campaigns to undermine the science of global warming. No emotional campaigns? What about CO2, we call it life from the Koch and Scaife funded CEI? Minimal media support obviously doesn’t count national newspapers in every country only too happy to run contrarian op-eds and columnists. Celebrities? You got a few (Ted Nugent!). The small group of well-organised people who draw on Morano’s Climate Depot (a project of the Scaife-funded Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow), to choose only one web site among many.

I’m not denying that there are lots of eager volunteers keen to help out, but the core of the campaign was laid out in the early ’90s. Create doubt and uncertainty, delay action. And you play along because you are unwilling to face facts.

Sad.

mikh January 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Oh well done Gareth ! what a cabal of deceit and fraud !

How very unmoving and shallow your retort is. Do you REALLY believe that the wicked hand of rampant capitalism is spoiling your and the IPCC’s sincere efforts to save us all on the planet ? And that all the successes of the sceptical AGW movement can be attributed to underhand chicanery by secret financiers and “a reluctance to face facts” ?

No Gareth, I’m afraid not. If your shiny green arguments hadn’t been found severely wanting, you’d have the world on your side, clamouring to be saved. As it is, the facts have shown otherwise and public opinion has moved well away from where you want it to be. The good John Beddington’s comments above wouldn’t have been necessary, and neither would the AGW opposition. Neither would my blog.

Try again.

Gareth January 28, 2010 at 5:03 pm

What a revealing reply. No attempt to grapple with the facts of the matter, just an argument from incredulity. Unfortunately, it also reveals you as the credulous one. You’ve been pointed at this stuff before, but seem unable to take it in.

The science is what the science is: not what you want it to be. And it tells us very clearly that we need to act. And soon.

Bandersdad January 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm

“Information and communication are ultimately everything. Blogs succeed at the first and only appear to succeed at the second. Worse though is that I suspect we beleive they do both, thereby losing the opportunity to communicate but worse still moving forward on the assumption that we have.”-Bandersdad

“Bandersdad – interesting point. Perhaps effective communication and discussion is limited by comments quickly going off topic. In which case…” – Mike C

“I do note with interest that almost every comment thread includes something from one of the usual suspects trying to change the subject or just derail the discussion. It’s a deliberate policy,as far as I can see.”
-Gareth

You guys really make me laugh. If you stopped seeing adversaries everywhere and stood back just a little you’d see that you’re active participants in the very thing you deride. The point remains that your current model of communication, as used here, is partially responsible for its own failures.
Maybe you just like the fight. Personally I think the issues outweigh the entertainment, hence my points about improved communication. If the oposition have the big money and a plan that stretches back a decade don’t you think you need to think smarter about how you counter them?

Gareth January 29, 2010 at 11:10 am

It’s a reasonable point, B’dad. I set up Hot Topic to act as an NZ-relevant source of information on climate science and policy – to provide the sort of stuff that ought to be appearing in quality newspapers (and does, in some cases, overseas).

I also wanted to challenge NZ’s sceptics when they published nonsense, and I make no apologies for continuing to do that. If left unchallenged, the less well informed reader might suppose that their arguments had merit. I don’t see it as a fight — I see it as public education (which may be touchingly naive, but it’ll have to do). I’ve also made it clear on many occasions that I want to encourage debate, and I don’t moderate comments (other than for legal/rudeness reasons). That, unfortunately can lead to a lot of noise — but it can also sometimes lead to productive discussions (see the recent exchange on biochar, for instance).

The blog format has its strengths and weaknesses, but it’s the tool I’m working with…

Improving communication of the problem is an issue I’d like to address at some point in a post. They say the devil has the best tunes, and there’s no doubt that those arguing for inaction are playing their limited instruments with great skill. How we counter that, and build a public policy consensus for action in the face of concerted lobbying is a very worthwhile question to try to answer…

mikh January 28, 2010 at 8:48 pm

“Maybe you just like the fight. Personally I think the issues outweigh the entertainment, hence my points about improved communication. If the oposition have the big money and a plan that stretches back a decade don’t you think you need to think smarter about how you counter them?”

A very perceptive comment I think. I certainly enjoy the fight, particularly when it’s with people who “know what’s best” for humankind and seek to regulate and control us like sheep for our own good.

I enjoy mixing it, and at the last demo I attended (anti-GE) I am very confident I gave a good account of myself.

It wasn’t at all difficult. One of my placard waving opponents (I had a placard too) challenged me by saying, “What’s has science ever done for us ?” That was fun. Another alleged that the tamarillo was an unholy cross between a kiwifruit and a frog. I’m not joking.

But Gareth, my green friend, that challenge from Bandersdad was aimed at you.

“If the oposition have the big money and a plan that stretches back a decade don’t you think you need to think smarter about how you counter them?”

What say you ?

Bandersdad January 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

“The urge to save humanity (“know what’s best” for humankind) is always a false front for the urge to (seek to regulate and control us like sheep for our own good) rule it” H L Mencken (et al.)
Consistent and unwavering and duely commendable. Also quite right that Gareth was the primary target and I think he’s answered pretty well. I suspect though that you agree with the primary point.
A dissident “denialist” like yourself takes something more from the debate than just expressing your viewpoint. We’ve already established there’s the debate itself and I also suspect the search for tuth is equally high on your list. My question therefore to you is whether this means of communication fulfills these needs or, more likely, provides information and diversion. Rhetorical I know; and there I go proving my own point again.

Phil Sage January 31, 2010 at 8:28 am

The link below is to a description of how coral atolls actually grow. I would be interested in your assessment of whether you believe it and whether it constitutes a sensible contribution to ensuring the small annual rise in sea levels from the end of the last ice age means there is not likely to be a problem for atolls ( as opposed to low lying non coral coast)

Phil Sage January 31, 2010 at 8:40 am
Dappledwater January 31, 2010 at 5:42 pm
Bryan Walker January 31, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Phil, I had a look at the post you linked to. I noticed at the start that he claimed on the basis of University of Colorado data that the sea level was no longer rising, though I couldn’t see how he reached that conclusion from the graph he provided. I checked the University website and was unable to find his graph, but this one on the overview page doesn’t look to me like a slowing down. How can it not continue to rise with thermal expansion and ice melt? The rest of his article seems to be predicated on sea level rise not continuing at the accelerated rate that is now being observed. I’m afraid that appears very unlikely.

His claim that atolls will simply continue to build and keep their heads above sea level rise, provided they’re given appropriate assistance from those who live on them, appears to depend on sea level rise becoming very small. The practices he advises may be sensible, but I would think scientists would consider them as likely to avail little against the sea level change that is actually ahead of us and that is already making itself itself felt.

I notice he speaks, sensibly, of the importance of the health of the coral reefs. Unfortunately they too are under threat not only from sea level rise but from other consequences of higher levels of CO2 as is apparent in this earlier post.

Phil Sage January 31, 2010 at 10:39 pm

dappledwater. You have some gall to link to Lambert accusing Willis Eschenbach of lying. The lambert post is a fabrication of what Eschenbach actually writes. Either you are sufficiently credulous not to read the source document yourself or simply a liar.

To quote Eschenbach at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/the-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/ “In resolving station records, it’s a judgment call. First off, you have to decide if what you are looking at needs any changes at all. In Darwin’s case, it’s a close call. The record seems to be screwed up around 1941, but not in the year of the moveIn resolving station records, it’s a judgment call. First off, you have to decide if what you are looking at needs any changes at all. In Darwin’s case, it’s a close call. The record seems to be screwed up around 1941, but not in the year of the move
…I shifted the pre-1941 data down by about 0.6C. We end up with little change end to end in my “adjusted” data (shown in red), it’s neither warming nor cooling. However, it reduces the apparent cooling in the raw data.”

Dappledwater February 1, 2010 at 1:16 am

“dappledwater. You have some gall to link to Lambert accusing Willis Eschenbach of lying. The lambert post is a fabrication of what Eschenbach actually writes. Either you are sufficiently credulous not to read the source document yourself or simply a liar.” – Phil Sage.

Not gall Phil , relevance. It’s helpful for people to know the background of these deniers, and their history of deceit. Those with the will to do so can check both links and see that Lambert has quoted Eschenbach accurately. Heck, he links to Eschenbach’s article. Sorry, but your faux outrage won’t distract from the facts.

Weird that you would highlight a passage by Eschenbach that shows he doesn’t what he is talking about. Truly weird. I wonder too, if Eschenbach has any idea what major event happened in Darwin in 1942?.

Phil Sage February 1, 2010 at 3:09 am

“deniers, and their history of deceit” – Chortle. In light of the recent revelations of deceit that really takes chutzpah to continue.

Lambert uses the first part of the post only. Eschenbach uses the graph of raw data to set the scene and then goes on to analyse where legitimate adjustments should be made concluding that the 1941 station change is the only one required. He concludes with a different graph showing no substantive warming in Darwin. That style of blog writing is used on the sceptic blogs to show the lay reader where their information comes from. Lambert is simply a fraud.

By your logic I can quote dappledwater as stating “The lambert post is a fabrication”

Dappledwater February 1, 2010 at 8:14 am

“Chortle. In light of the recent revelations of deceit that really takes chutzpah to continue.” – Phil Sage.

You being ironic?.

“Eschenbach uses the graph of raw data to set the scene and then goes on to analyse where legitimate adjustments should be made concluding that the 1941 station change is the only one required.”

Yes, a classic example of ignorance. There is no actual analysis. The first comment at Deltoid sums up the tenor of Eschenbach’s article:

“I don’t know what adjustments were made or why, so instead of asking somebody or applying the published homogenisation procedures, I’ll assume they’re fradulent.”

Maybe if Eschenbach has bothered to ask he’d have found out that the introduction of a Stevenson screen would account for the step-change around 1942. The screens are known to introduce a cooling bias of up to 1 degree C.

Surely the graph of raw data would have had a genuine person investigating the reason for the step-change, but that would have been somewhat inconvenient to his claims of “bogus” and “fraudulent” wouldn’t it?.

Of course other changes can introduce bias, but does he even attempt to uncover why changes may have been made?. Nope, just spurious allegations of fraud.

That man Eschenbach is a liar, and you seem to blithely accept his distortions because you clearly have no idea of how the temperature record is constructed, nor why adjustments are necessary. Some reading on the topic “could” cure you of this condition.

Phil Sage February 2, 2010 at 2:46 am

dappledwater states: “dappledwater… is a liar”

The Darwin 1941 change was put down to a station move rather than a Stevenson screen by Eschenbach http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=302#comment-23412

This resulted in his adjusting the temperature down by 0.6 deg to show negligible warming over the century.
Apparently that still makes him a liar. Eschenbach is a liar for disagreeing with GISS adjustments post 1941 that the Australian BOM knew nothing about.
Eschenbach is a private citizen and blogger with limited resource and time and a necessity to take shortcuts.

Whereas Al Gore and the head of the IPCC Pachauri can say;
– The oceans will rise by 20 feet ( 6 metres vs Bryans 1-2m vs 30cm of internationally documented trend ).

– Himalayan glaciers will be destroyed by 2035 based on a 9 year speculation in a magazine

– The Amazon will lose 40% of its cover in the next 20 years

– Hurricanes have increased because of global warming.

among any number of other exaggerations in a UN sponsored report and massively successful film that are being used to justify a massive impact on GDP. And Gore and Pachauri are worthy of Nobel prizes rather than being called liars.

Riiiiiigggggghhhhhttttt.

Dappledwater February 3, 2010 at 12:34 am

“The Darwin 1941 change was put down to a station move rather than a Stevenson screen by Eschenbach” – Phil Sage.

Perhaps, but I don’t place must faith in the integrity of Warwick Hughes. Is that really the Darwin Post Office in 1890?. I researched online and can’t find anything to confirm or deny the claim.

My earlier comment was based on this old blog: (yes I know John Daly is dead):

“Prior to the 1941 move, there were 3 main temperature measurement locations, at Government House, the old Post Office, and the Botanical Gardens. The meteorologist I spoke to was not sure which of these was designated as the site for the official Darwin record at that time. He was going to research the question and get back to me. However, both Government House and the old Post Office were/are in the very centre of town, and located on a cliff immediately above the port.”

“However, the previous station at Darwin PO did not have a Stevenson screen. Instead, the instrument was mounted on a horizontal enclosure without a back or sides. The postmaster had to move it during the day so that the direct tropical sun didn’t strike it! Obviously, if he forgot or was too busy, the temperature readings were a hell of a lot hotter than it really was! I am sure that this factor accounts for almost the whole of the observed sudden cooling in 1939-41.”

“The record after 1941 is accurate, but the record before then has a significant warming bias. The Bureau’s senior meterologist Ian Butterworth has written an internally published paper on all the factors affecting the historical Darwin temperature record, and they are going to fax it to me. I could send a copy to you if you are interested.”

“Eschenbach is a liar for disagreeing with GISS adjustments post 1941 that the Australian BOM knew nothing about.” – Phil Sage

No that makes him an ignoramus, for assuming he can arbitrarily make adjustments as he sees fit.

“Eschenbach is a private citizen and blogger with limited resource and time and a necessity to take shortcuts.” – Phil Sage

With penchant for claiming climate scientists are perpetrating a fraud.

“Whereas Al Gore and the head of the IPCC Pachauri can say; – The oceans will rise by 20 feet ( 6 metres vs Bryans 1-2m vs 30cm of internationally documented trend ).”

Al Gore?. Is that supposed to be some sort of rebuttal?.

Phil Sage January 31, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Bryan – Eschenbach uses 2.5mm and that graph cites 3.2mm per year so I don’t see much difference there. I would have thought 32cm over a century would be within the growth capacity of the coral which is Eschenbach’s point.
“Since (as Darwin showed) atolls float up with the sea level, the idea that they will be buried by sea level rises is totally unfounded. Despite never being more than a few metres tall, they have survived a sea level rise of up to three hundred plus feet (call it a hundred metres) within the last twenty thousand years. Historically they have floated up higher than the peaks of drowned mountains.”

100m is 100,000mm over 20,000 years or around 5mm/year. (Source of the 100m is unknown to me but seems reasonable).
30cm per century is quite within the ability of coastal communities to cope with, evidence the dutch and Londoners.

It seems to me that takes the problem of disappearing atolls out of the global climate change problem and strongly into the local use problem.

Bryan Walker February 1, 2010 at 7:47 am

Phil, as it seems from what I read that we’re facing the possibility, even the likelihood, of one to two metres of sea level rise this century, and certainly more than 30 centimetres, Eschenbach’s assurances are irrelevant.

Bryan Walker February 2, 2010 at 8:43 am

Phil Sage

Of course the oceans will rise 6 metres if the Greenland ice sheet disintegrates, which is all Gore has ever pointed out. He has not made predictions of the rate of sea level rise – merely shown what is at stake if we allow global warming to continue. Pachauri heads the IPCC whose predictions are for a relatively modest rise this century because they felt unable to take into account the possibility of ice sheet movement – though they did indicate that would alter the predictions. It is simply wrong to attach the names of Gore and Pachauri to a 6 metre prediction this century. The 1-2 metres you ascribe to me are from my reading of serious scientists who realise that the possibilities of ice sheet contributions (including West Antartica) are larger than formerly recognised. Hansen in fact worries that non-linear ice sheet disintegration could result in as much as a 5 metre rise this century. The 30 cms you prefer is often cited as the result of thermal expansion of ocean water and assumes no further contributions from glaciers or ice sheets.

Gore has never said the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035. That was a possibility mentioned in the IPCC report, a mistake which they have acknowledged and expressed regret for.

I don’t know where you get the 40% loss of Amazon forest within 20 years from, but human activity is resulting in significant loss and Al Gore has certainly interested himself in the protection of the Amazon. The likely effects of a hotter planet on the forest cover are ominous. I hope you don’t regard this as inconsequential.

Gore has never set out to be anything more than an interpreter of the science for the general public, a task many scientists consider he has performed with distinction.

Phil Sage February 2, 2010 at 9:41 am

20 years was my brain drop addition. I did quickly without attribution but the 40% was in IPCC. As with the atoll issue above local human activity in the Amazon is certainly having an impact but that is a completely different issue to global warming destroying up to 40% of the rainforest as stated by IPCC.
Trees grow better with higher levels of CO2 and higher temperatures will generate more precipitation over the Amazon so I hope you don’t think the science is in favour of any global warming wiping out any part of the Amazon.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/7113582/Amazongate-new-evidence-of-the-IPCCs-failures.html

” Dr North next uncovered “Amazongate”. The IPCC made a prominent claim in its 2007 report, again citing the WWF as its authority, that climate change could endanger “up to 40 per cent” of the Amazon rainforest – as iconic to warmists as those Himalayan glaciers and polar bears. This WWF report, it turned out, was co-authored by Andy Rowell, an anti-smoking and food safety campaigner who has worked for WWF and Greenpeace ”

The problem is that a 0.6 degree proven warming is not terribly sexy. So all kinds of claims have been made in IPCC and by Al Gore of catastrophic impacts. These are steadily being revealed to be not based on any kind of science but on unsubstantiated speculation.

You dont have to disbelieve in global warming and increased CO2 to be completely sceptical of too many of the catastrophic claims made.

The medieval warm period of 1000 years ago is generally accepted as being warmer than today but dismissed by Mann et al as being localised to…..
…Greenland.

And yet the Greenland ice sheet has been present since the last major ice age. Does common sense tell you anything?

Gareth February 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

My word, what a lot you get wrong, Phil. The Amazon “issue” was one of attribution. The underlying studies showing Amazon drying in a warming world are robust enough – but they weren’t credited properly by the authors of that section. Small slip, but it does not mean the studies underpinning the statement don’t exist. In other words, your assertion that the Amazon will get wetter in a warming world is wrong (and your “trees grow better with more CO2″ is not necessarily true either).

The MWP is not “generally accepted” as warmer than today. It wasn’t a global phenomenon, for a start. The Holocene climatic optimum may have seen close to modern warmth, but that happened close to the end of the last ice age when there was a lot more ice about.

More interesting to consider is the last interglacial, the Eemian, around 125,000 years ago. CO2 peaked at about 300 ppm, global temps were a degree or two warmer than now, and sea level was 7m higher. Most of that water came from Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets, and there’s some evidence of periods of rapid sea level rise during the warmest periods.

We’re currently at 387 ppm CO2 and rising, and the planet is warming 20 times faster than during the fastest natural climate transitions of the last few million years.

Does common sense tell you anything?

Phil Sage February 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Gareth – links to peer reviewed studies on the Amazon being impacted by GLOBAL WARMING as opposed to local Deforestation please. IPCC certainly does not quote any.

MWP not global? Then what about evidence from New Zealand ignored by Mann. http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/shared/articles/MannetalScience09.pdf

“Temperatures derived from an 18O/16O profile through a stalagmite found in a New Zealand cave (40.67°S, 172.43°E) suggested the Medieval Warm Period to have occurred between AD 1050 and 1400 and to have been 0.75°C warmer than the Current Warm Period.”[22] The MWP has also been evidenced in New Zealand by an 1100-year tree-ring record.[23] – refs in page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period

Again, please link to somewhere that discredits South Pacific warming rather than simply ignores it and then dismisses the possibility. the absence of proof is not proof.

Gareth February 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Funny how you link to the Wikipedia page, but apparently want to ignore its opening sentence:
The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) or Medieval Climate Optimum was a time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region, lasting from about AD 800–1300, that may also have been related to other warm and cool anomalies around the world during that time.
NZ records prove nothing about global temps, but an interesting part of Mann’s most recent study (covered at John Cook’s excellent Skeptical Science is that if the period was characterised by a preponderance of La Nina phase ENSO events, then a warm NZ is exactly what you’d expect.

Phil Sage February 2, 2010 at 1:18 pm

That post is simply a repeat of the Mann paper I referred you to which ignores the two New Zealand studies. There are no papers referenced in there revealing the coldness of the South Pacific. Most of Mann’s links are self referential and must therefore be discounted.

A major wiki editor (Connolly? I think his name was) on climate related issues was recently revealed to have a substantial warming bias so I dont pay much attention to what wiki itself says on the subject but it can be a useful link.

So using our famed common sense you can accept a MWP in Greenland and warming in New Zealand and the Sargasso sea but still hold out for no evidence of it being global. Righto.

Still waiting for Amazon links and a better South Pacific link.

Gareth February 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Skeptical Science shows the maps: no global MWP, and current temps well above that period. You don’t get to discount Mann: in the real world, we have to live with all the data — you can’t just ignore the stuff you don’t like.

William “Stoat” Connolly has put a huge amount of effort into making the Wikipedia climate pages a worthwhile resource. Being a climate scientist himself helps, of course.

Amazon: this release about a recent paper covers the basics well. As for NZ, I’ve already said a warm NZ during the MWP is consistent with our understanding of ENSO events.

C3P0 February 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Phil: Keep in mind that although the MWP may well have been comparable in magnitude or warmer than today’s warming there were previous warm periods such as the Bronze Age warming that may have been even warmer again.

Gareth, send you give such credence to the opinion of climate scientists perhaps you should read the below link to the opinion of Chick Keller (who is a supporter of AGW theory). I believe it covers the issue with comparing historical records today’s warming well. Especially the note at the very end.

http://www.assassinationscience.com/climategate/1/FOIA/mail/0983566497.txt

Let me know what you think of his analysis please

Gareth February 3, 2010 at 11:09 am

The MWP was not “comparable in magnitude or warmer” than today. Take a look at the series of maps on Skeptical Science, linked above.

Keller was writing in 2001. Seems to me he was asking for a mechanism that could explain all the variability in the various records. Mann’s latest paper could be seen as an attempt to do that. But it’s worth noting one thing: we’ll never have perfect knowledge of past temperatures, we can only improve our understanding. Surfers as a proxy? Frequency of wet suit use might indicate changes in sea temps… ;-)

Phil Sage February 2, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Gareth – ask yourself. You accept New Zealand has MWP (If I read you right). But you don’t see that as being in contradiction to the Mann paper which shows nothing of the sort.

I accept your point about being forced to accept Mann. (Until he is completely discredited through the red noise = hockey stick proofs finally overcome the self referential papers that made IPCC 2007. Google Bishop hill and the jesus paper). It would be nice if Mann did not ignore things he does not like. (The MWP for example)

That Amazon link seems a reasonable link between drought and Amazonian carbon desequestration but I don’t see it as being a proof that warming will cause less precipitation in Amazonia. Sorry to be pedantic but the weather cycle there vapourises sea water that rains on the Amazon, revapourises, then rains close to the Andes.

In the meantime enjoy and explain this link. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/09/hockey-stick-observed-in-noaa-ice-core-data/

anyway – off to bed, interesting banter thank you both

Dappledwater February 3, 2010 at 1:29 am

“but I don’t see it as being a proof that warming will cause less precipitation in Amazonia” – Phil Sage

It is generally accepted that current warming trend will lead to the oceans ability to store heat to diminish and therefore give up more of it’s heat to the atmosphere i.e. more El Nino’s and less La Nina’s. This is bad news for the Amazon as there is a connection with El Nino, it’s effect on tropical Atlantic waters and drought in the area.

http://mudancasclimaticas.cptec.inpe.br/~rmclima/pdfs/publicacoes/2008/Zengetal2008.pdf

“A rare drought in the Amazon culminated in 2005, leading to near record-low streamflows, small Amazon river plume, and greatly enhanced fire frequency. This episode was caused by
the combination of 2002–03 El Ni Ëœ no and a dry spell in 2005 attributable to a warm subtropical North Atlantic Ocean.”

C3P0 February 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm

This paper should be interesting reading for NIWA.

http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/twimberley/EnviroPhilo/CookPalmer.pdf

Figure 1 shows that tree rings do not suggest any modern warming in Westland. Figure 3 shows when the last 40 years are replaced with the Hokitika temperature series warming appears. Note the Hokitika series was adjusted the most by NIWA. I guess real world data doesn’t matter these days…..

Dappledwater February 3, 2010 at 12:54 am

“This paper should be interesting reading for NIWA.” – C3

Indeed:

“Of equal interest in the reconstruction is the sharp and sustained cold period in the A.D. 993–1091 interval. This cold event is easily the most extreme to have occurred over the past 1,100 years. Interestingly, Gellataly et al. [1988] reported evidence for a significant glacier advance in the Mount Cook area around the period 1100–950 BP. The
date of this event based on rock weathering-rind thickness is not precisely known (the error may be as great as ±300 years; see Gellataly [1984]), but its estimated timing is plausibly consistent with the reconstruction presented here.”

Medieval Warm Periods are also Medieval Cool Periods too.

” Note the Hokitika series was adjusted the most by NIWA. I guess real world data doesn’t matter these days…..” – C3

Yup, those retreating glaciers down the coast from there, must be coincidental.

C3P0 February 3, 2010 at 9:40 am

Dappled, I was refering to reported modern warming in Hokatika. Your diversion to regional cooling 1000 years ago is weak, if I found an area that cooled during the current warming would than mean 20th century warming was false?

Back to the point….

By looking at glaciers current trend you are preferring a bad proxy over an OK proxy because it gives you the result you want.

So why did the tree ring proxy recon not show 20th century warming? Is it scientifically robust to compare current instrumental records to historical proxy data?

Phil Scadden February 3, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Mann 2004 gives his reason for not including Cook et al 2002 – data as poor local box correlation. I hardly think though that the paper contradicts Mann.

For much more detail on NH and SH correlations see
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/324/5927/622?ijkey=602f2e25a09fcda4e4ad6d8922587742bc18f92b
It would also have say cool here in line with other data.

(though I know from a coauthor in next office that more data and analysis coming. Doesnt effect MWP discussion though but more on larger issue of NH/SH connections)

Cook et al 2006 with comparisons with Tasmania might be worth a look. You might also want to consider that Cook and Mann have collaborated on a number of papers so hardly unaware of what each other is doing.

Good to see some discussion based on published research however. Explain to me why this discussion of MWP is relevant to current climate please though. What do YOU think is wrong with the model data in Mann 2009 that represents a challenge to AGW?

Phil Sage February 3, 2010 at 1:07 am

dappled – I am interested in your comments on this piece as to why the graphs are not included in the IPCC. The source is the National Climate Data Centre
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/09/hockey-stick-observed-in-noaa-ice-core-data/

Gareth February 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

Phil: that is a graph of central Greenland temperatures derived from ice core data. It can’t cover temps over the last 70-odd years (because that’s how long it takes the firn layer to consolidate), and so has nothing to say about modern temps in the longer term context. Was it warmer than now in the early Holocene? Certainly possible. But that tells us nothing about the global temperature at the time. It’s certainly of interest in considering the history of Greenland’s ice cap…

RW February 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

Sigh – idiots still maundering on about the NZ temperature series I see. Time to beam up again.

Phil Sage February 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Gareth. If your faith allows you to ignore such evidence or consider it irrelevant to the question of whether temperatures have been higher in the past then I give up. I thought you called yourself a scientist.

Constant wittering about “global” temperatures from the true believers ignores that the globe is made up of individual places that have a correlation to each other in climate terms. Greenland is an incredible record of the northern hemisphere. and the north is half of the globe. But that does not suit your belief structure so rationalise it out of relevance.

I guess you must believe in the magical warm aliens who landed only in Greenland and warmed their environment. Whatever. End of my welcome here.

Gareth February 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Another revealing post… So you only believe in a global picture when it suits? Greenland’s ice cores are an incredible record of part of the northern hemisphere and a lot of useful information can be inferred from them, but they are not a proxy for the entire NH! Look again at the maps in the Skeptical Science article, and in particular at the map showing current temps compared to MWP and LIA. Warming was patchy in the MWP. It’s not now.

And, for the record, I do not claim to be a scientist. I am a writer specialising in climate science (amongst other things). I have a science background (degree level), and have worked with scientists on research projects, managing one of them.

Phil Scadden February 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Phil Sage – why would believe that warmer temperatures in earlier times invalidates AGW? Climate forcing are sun, aerosols, albedo and GHG all varying in the past. Its just the GHG is the forcing at the moment. AGW is founded on physics not paleoclimate. Paleo studies suffer from poor sampling, limitations on dating, and variable proxies leading to uncertain forcings determining uncertain temperatures. This is not to say paleoclimate isnt extremely valuable for constraining parameters and validation. Skeptics rabbit on about paleoclimate simply because they can – uncertainty is a happy hunting ground.

Phil Scadden February 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm

C3PO. If you want further info on Cook et al and SH temperature reconstruction then can I recommend section 6.6.2 in IPCC AR4 WG1?
Cook is contributing author. The whole discussion on proxies, past reconstructions and relevance to current climate in the chapter is a hell of a lot more enlightening then the drivel on the blogs.

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