Groser underplays the real risks

I listened to Climate Change Minister Tim Groser being questioned about the ETS on The Nation last weekend and explaining that the government’s position on climate change action is that we will play our part in the global effort, doing our fair share but not more. It confirmed my impression that Groser’s focus is on our negotiating position, not on the reality of the threat of climate change. He is intelligent and articulate in his exposition and it all sounds reasonable as far as it goes. The fact that in terms of realistically tackling climate change the global effort doesn’t go nearly far enough was not mentioned during the interview either by the questioners or the Minister.

The government doesn’t deny the science. It doesn’t refuse to participate in global action. What more is it reasonable to ask? A good deal more, as I see it. The complacency which attends Groser’s defence of the government’s position is not justified when one considers the reality of climate change which is already unfolding around the globe and is only going to intensify.

It is not enough to not deny the science. It’s not even enough to say it is accepted. It is necessary to affirm it and to express alarm at what it forebodes. Heaven knows there’s ample reason for high alarm. Government ministers have ready access to the best scientific advice. Groser in the course of The Nation interview was very ready, when defending the government stance on agriculture and the ETS, to refer to the advice he had from the chief scientist heading the research into animal methane emissions. As climate change minister one assumes he also seeks advice on climate science, and there is little doubt that New Zealand scientists will be relaying the common recognition amongst scientists that the effects of continuing high levels of  greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be disastrous, even catastrophic.  I have yet to hear that message clearly delivered by the minister with chief responsibility for climate change issues, or by any government minister for that matter. Admittedly The Nation panel didn’t ask any question that would have invited Groser to communicate the seriousness of the scientific message, but neither did he seek to put his discussion of New Zealand’s role in addressing climate change into such a context.

One can only speculate why the government excuses itself from openly and publicly expressing understanding of climate science and full appreciation of the likely impacts of climate change.  Maybe it’s ignorance, though that would be inexcusable in a democratic society with an educated political community. Maybe it’s inattention, also inexcusable given the magnitude of the issue. Maybe it just all seems too much to get a handle on when there’s so much to be busy about in the day-to-day running of the country.  Whatever the reasons it’s a dereliction of political responsibility.

But even if the Minister made strong and unequivocal statements about the threats to human society from elevated levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, would it make any difference to what we, a small country, did?  Surely it would see us ready to push the boundaries of possible action rather than be satisfied to do our bit in a manifestly inadequate global response to the challenge. Instead of a panel on The Nation asking the kind of comfortable questions which enable a minister to keep on saying we’re doing our fair share they might well ask why in view of the seriousness of the risk we’re not aiming to do more than that, why we’re not giving a stronger message to business that our energy use must change, why we’re not putting more money into agricultural research and into renewable energy support, why we’re still talking about creating wealth from fossil fuel exploitation.

International negotiations on climate change grind on, and by many accounts Tim Groser plays a significant and constructive part in them. But it is very apparent that they are bedevilled by the concerns of the negotiators to ensure that their perceived national interests are not compromised. The world desperately needs countries to become less obsessed with preserving what they see as their own economic advantage and more ready to a take a lead in tackling emission reductions with urgency and with optimism that there are viable alternatives to fossil fuel based economies.

New Zealand may be very small. That’s no reason why it shouldn’t be pulling ahead of the pack rather than cautiously fitting into an inadequate process.

117 thoughts on “Groser underplays the real risks”

  1. Shame we have very few journalists in NZ who understand the climate science. It would have made a much better interview had Garner had a handle on the seriousness of the situation.

  2. I am reading Alvin Toffler’s “Ecospam” written in 1975 following the first oil shock and predicting future financial and political events. Its prescient in parts, in other parts woefully inaccurate.

    I wonder if the problem with Groser’s approach is one of conflation of different types or levels of risk. Groser seems to be confusing the uncertainties associated with financial forecasting over the next few decades with scientific risk assessment over the same period. If you look at the history of financial forecasting it is all over the place. Politicians rightly hedge their bets on future courses of action because there are so many variables.

    But the assessment of risk and degree of certainty we have about rising planetary temperatures and associated consequences is quite different and many, many times more certain than any financial forecasts. We have the measurement of atmospheric CO2, the warming properties of greenhouse gases, tree ring and ice core data.

    As a simple analogy, think of companies in NZ deciding whether to build wind farms. Whether the financial conditions to build them will remain the same in the next 12 months is much harder to tell than whether atmospheric CO2 will have climbed in the same period.

  3. Interesting argument, but I’m not sure why our lack of size would be an argument *for* doing “pulling ahead of the pack” on climate change. Cui bono?

    Bryan wrote: “The world desperately needs countries to become less obsessed with preserving what they see as their own economic advantage and more ready to a take a lead in tackling emission reductions with urgency and with optimism that there are viable alternatives to fossil fuel based economies.”

    But… this is a strategic problem just because states don’t perceive incentives to act. Lots of top-down analyses (Stern, Garnault, that sort of thing) argue that *if* the world were a unitary, rational agent capable of internalising all the costs and benefits of climate change, then the world would put maybe $100/tonne on carbon (+/-, obviously).

    But that guy (unitary, rational etc) doesn’t exist. And as voters, we want our government to represent New Zealand’s interests. It would be an abrogation of their duties to New Zealanders for MFAT to turn up at climate meetings and say “you know what? It’s all about the Maldives.” Their (MFAT, Groser, etc) mandate is narrow, and includes doing only those deals that are digestible to the New Zealand electoral palate.

    [They *could* go for eye-wateringly tough deals (40% reduction by 2020, that sort of thing) but they’d get heaved out at the next election, and breed huge reaction to any subsequent attempts to do climate policy.]

    1. I don’t know that they would get heaved out at the next election if they laid the climate change threat fairly before the public. The Greens, and I hope Labour, would be unlikely to try to seek electoral advantage from such a move. In fact National are supremely well placed to give a lead. I think their reasons for not doing so are other than fear of electoral defeat on the issue.

  4. David, this is the tragedy of the commons; by pursuing their narrowly-defined self-interest in the short term, governments ensure general catastrophe in the long term.

    I expect we are close to “peak human” – how great will the species die-off have to become before we act on what we already know?

    1. The rational response in a common problem is to recognise the problem and work towards a sustainable solution… while keeping your sheep on the commons. Simply withdrawing your sheep from the commons in the name of piety actually isn’t a constructive or rational thing to do since (1) you lose; (2) you haven’t actually done anything constructive to solve the structural problem.

      As for peak human – you may be right but I don’t think climate will be involved. People have incentives to adapt to a slow burning issue like climate change. A lot of the stuff around “catastrophic” climate change is hyperbole; it is pretty speculative given how little we know about the impacts of say 5C warming by 2100. [Richard Tol made this point quite nicely in a rather disorganised seminar in Oxford a couple of months ago.]

      1. So let’s say for argument’s sake, five thieves plan to descend on a man in the street, rob his wallet and split the proceeds evenly. For one of this gang to simply withdraw from the robbery in the name of piety isn’t a constructive or rational thing to do since (1) they lose their split; and (2) they haven’t actually done anything constructive to solve the structural problem of street crime. This is the intuition I have that kind of cuts across your 2009 statement that “There are no particular reasons, economic, scientific or moral, why we need to be 40 per cent of the way there by 2020.”

  5. But the threat is laid out pretty well in IPCC ARs 1 through 4. The evidence keeps looking the same, and governments (not just ours) generally base their arguments on that. There are of course papers that make the problem look more or less acute than the ARs have, but that’s to be expected, and I think most people would think it was irresponsible to base policy on the fringes of a literature rather than on its core, since falsification of a single paper at the fringe might have large implications for policy, while falsification of a single paper in the middle of a literature will almost certainly not.

    So my reading is that the NZ govt – small g, and successive large Gs as well – have consistently portrayed the scale of the problem fairly reasonably.

    And I’m not sure what you mean by “their reasons for not doing so are other than fear of electoral defeat on the issue.” What do you think is going on?

    1. Dave, I think their reasons are that they can’t/won’t accept the urgency of the need for emissions reduction. It’s one thing to say you accept the science but another to say that means working as rapidly as possible to decarbonise the economy. But you apparently don’t see that urgency yourself if you think climate change is a slow burning issue.

  6. A lot of the stuff around “catastrophic” climate change is hyperbole; it is pretty speculative given how little we know about the impacts of say 5C warming by 2100.

    I’m puzzled, Dave, as to how you know its “hyperbole” when, in the same sentence, you admit we know little about the impacts of 5C warming by 2100.

    The reason we know so little is that global warming, as far as we know, has NEVER happened so rapidly before.

    We do, however, know quite a lot about much more leisurely warming episodes – such as the PETM – which were indeed catastrophic for a great many species, none of which had an urban civilisation dependent on agriculture and infrastructure….

    The IPCC reports are also consensus documents that have been approved by the likes of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US; what makes you think they are a realistic appraisal of the dangers we face?

    1. The reason we know so little is that global warming, as far as we know, has NEVER happened so rapidly before.

      Are you referring to the 0.8 degrees of warming that have occurred over the last 150 years? Is this the biggest and most rapid change in global mean temperature ever seen?

      1. OK, Andy, let’s see if you can find a more rapid rise in average global temperatures, absent an extraterrestrial impact (which can cause short-term heating, followed by rapid cooling).

        When global warming has happened at various times in the past two million years, it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century is at least 20 times faster. This rate of change is extremely unusual.

        1. I’m sorry Rob, but I can’t discern 0.8 degrees of change in the graph that you show,

          Besides, new research shows that perhaps half of the 0.8 degrees of warming is actually a data artifact from the homogenisation process.

          It is not unreasonable to state that the warming of the last 150 years is nothing unusual – it is what happens next that is important.

          Of course, the acolytes of Michael Mann will disagree here.

          1. The “new research” you (fail to) cite shows no such thing. If you rely on µWatts or the Bishop for your news, you will get a very slanted picture or reality.

            You might want to check here before touting that “result”.

          2. Actually the warming of the last 150 years is anomalous within the context of the last 7-8000 years. We know this because global ice is a global paleo-thermometer. If the intervening period was warm for any extended period of time it would have affected global sea levels. Yet global sea levels were virtually static until the late 19th century.

            And an even more notable context is Ocean Acidification. The current rate of acidification is unparalleled within the last 300 million years. Given that waters off Oregon and Washington in the USA have recently become seasonally corrosive to calcifying marine life, there are serious future implications for New Zealand.

            Yes, scientists are generally poor at communicating these concerns, but the scientific literature indicates a rapid re-adjustment of human civilization lies just ahead. It might just be hugely inconvenient, but on the other hand………

          3. So, Andy, did you do the research and fail to find a greater rate of delta-T in paleoclimates, or did you not even bother to try, knowing you’d be wasting your time?

            1. Rather than wasting bandwidth on your graphs Rob, why don’t you show me the relevant part of the IPCC that shows that 0 8 degrees of warming over 150 years is unusual?
              Bear in mind that the IPCC do not, to my knowledge, attribute early 20th century warming to GHG emissions. So you might want to explain to me what that is attributed to, how much warming there was, and why this is not unusual or otherwise.

    2. “how you know its “hyperbole” when, in the same sentence, you admit we know little about the impacts of 5C warming by 2100.”

      It’s hyperbole in the sense that it’s not obvious what constitutes a “catastrophe”. People don’t define the term but they use it anyway – this makes me think of it as a rhetorical device rather than a terribly useful way of actually anchoring science/policy discussions. [As for the point about +5C – it’s obvious that we don’t know much about worlds like that – it’s clearly a research gap. I don’t see any tension between these two claims (since +5C is plausible but (IMHO) unlikely – we’d have to try quite hard to get there.]

      “The IPCC reports are also consensus documents that have been approved by the likes of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US; what makes you think they are a realistic appraisal of the dangers we face?”

      Because when I look at the research literature and I look at the IPCC reports I see pretty good agreement between the two.

      1. We usually call it a catastrophe if hundreds of thousands of people say in the Sahel zone are threatened with starvation, lack of water and the bare essentials to survival.

        Now in a 5+ Deg world, I fail to see how this would not be amplified by a very very large factor. Already the US this year had to cut its harvest expectations by a very significant percentage. And last year Russia was affected in similar ways while we have had serious impacts in Pakistan and elsewhere too. Add to that the significant and certain impacts of sea level rise and ocean acidification and you have a scenario that I fail to describe as anything else than catastrophic. Catastrophic for the human species but also very much so for the bio-diversity of the planet and the future of the biosphere as such. Shock-like changes to the system such as a doubling of CO2 levels in (geologically speaking) a blink of an eye are very significant and as far as I know unprecedented in the speed of the developments in the paleo-climate record.
        Our civilization at present time with its dependency on just-in-time delivery of essential items and its vanishing reserves in capital, grain stores and fresh water reserves and our dependency on global staple food trade is extraordinarily vulnerable to global disruptions. Our ability to respond to the events we are already booked for due to the current CO2 concentration are highly questionable, let alone the seemingly inevitable developments as we lunge head on into the remaining coal, oil and gas reserves and liberate the stored Carbon in those….

        You say we have to struggle to get to +5 Deg…. well, so far many developments have outpaced all worst case predictions such as ice and glacier retreat in the Arctic for example. The uncertainty in how fast things will evolve goes both ways and the IPCC ‘consensus’ is conservative if anything!

        1. The point I wanted to make in my original post was actually about policy rather than science. I don’t want to get into a long and pointless argument about the details of the applicability of a word we haven’t defined (catastrophe) in a world we know very little about (+5C). But I’d like to point to a couple of sources that I think are interesting in the context of this conversation.

          (1) On biodiversity – this is from a paper that Kathy Willis delievered at the beyond 4C conference in Oxford a couple of years ago. (Kathy’s an expert in long-term ecological change, which I’m guessing is vaguely relevant here.)

          “the fossil records contain large amounts of relevant data for understanding current and future responses to climate changes of 4 .C and beyond. Based on such evidence we urge some caution in assuming broad-scale extinctions of species will occur due solely to climate changes of the magnitude and rate predicted for the next century. The fossil record indicates remarkable biotic resilience to wide amplitude fluctuations in climate and although there may have been local or regional extinctions, global extinctions due solely to climate change appear to have been extremely rare. However, evidence suggests that there will be
          rapid community turnover, broad-scale migrations, threshold
          events and the formation of novel ecosystems.”

          (2) “You say we have to struggle to get to +5 Deg…. well, so far many developments have outpaced all worst case predictions such as ice and glacier retreat in the Arctic for example.”

          Some things are changing faster than we thought and some things are changing slower. Overall, the picture has been fairly consistent. Here’s a nice review paper on the overall scale of the long-term climate response: .

          My point is just that the peer-reviewed scientific literature contains a range of views (this is shown nicely in the Knutti & Hegerl paper), and not all these views are consitstent with catastrophism / “it’s all worse than we thought”. And this doesn’t make me a denier, or a merchant of doubt. It just makes me a scientist reminding people of some of the lgitimate diversity of expert views in the literature.

          1. David, thanks for the reply. Yes of cause as Scientists we must keep looking at all possible outcomes and not jump on a particular bandwagon.
            But on the balance of evidence so far and evaluating the risks for our civilization, I would keep with the assumption that a +5 Deg world would be catastrophic. I am sorry but I can not see it in any other way.
            Yes, the fossil record shows resilience, but mind you we are talking here about time scales with a resolution of observations of more likely of millions of years, certainly when we go back further. What matters for us is how far the pendulum will swing in the generation of our children and grandchildren and the next several generations. Will see a world that is happily feeding the population we have now? In a +5 Deg world I seriously doubt that.
            Also the Ocean Acidification matter must be clearly taken very seriously and has the ability to sour matters in many ways.
            For a summary of what a +4 Deg world would look like this compilation of papers is perhaps a good reference:
            But you would have read those I assume.

            1. The Willis et al paper I quoted from was from that volume.

              I’m making two points: (1) Absent of an agreed definition* of catastrophe it’s hard to know what sort of world we’re talking about. eg: when you say “catastrophic”, how many deaths are we talking about? 1Bn? 100M? Fair enough. But if you get down much below those numbers on a centennial scale, then climate change is actually a lot like a bunch of other problems and it’s no longer one of the problems Marty Weitzman is talking about.

              My second point is that the levels of warming we often talk about when people use words like catastrophe, which are several degrees above pre-industrial, have not really been very well studied. This doesn’t mean they are or aren’t catastrophic.

              *One poster claimed that the IPCC uses 2C as its threshold for “catastrophic”. I don’t think that’s right – WGs II & III do talk (in AR4) about the possibility of catastrophes (in discussions of high impact *low probability* events) but they don’t, as far as I know, put a number on it.

      2. Dave, are you seriously suggesting that a warming of 5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels would NOT be “catastrophic”? You then go on to suggest that we have no clear definition of the word – yet it is the word carefully adopted by the IPCC to describe a warming of 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Either you take issue with the findings of the IPCC, or you dispute the fact that a warming of as much as 5 degrees C would be of serious consequence – which I suggest is rather an extreme position to take.
        Or am I completely off beam in my interpretation of your above comment?

        1. Actually Dave is quite correct – the word used to describe a 2 deg rise is “dangerous”. This is the state of warming that the EU, amongst others, has adopted as its guidelines to avoid. Just what “dangerous” involves could include the Arctic ice-free in summer, and the melting of Greenland ice sheet, as a consequence. Whether this is catastrophic I suppose depends upon the use of words. At the top of Salamanca Road a 6 m sea level rise would be rather “interesting” – but on the steps of the Bee Hive it might be a different matter.
          The fact that we can be reasonably certain of a 2 degree warming at his point in time is borne out by the fact that GHG concentrations are already at the 450 ppm (and climbing)* considered by the IPCC and others as the upper limit to avoid a 2 degree warming.
          So what it boils down to is:

          “Just how dangerous do we want things to get?”

          To suggest that “business as usual” is an ok path to follow because we are doing alright, thanks very much, strikes me as the height of foolhardiness. It is a highly dangerous game we are playing, and it is behooven on all who supposedly understand the science, and the situation we are now in, to be shouting as loudly as they can and as often as they can, to anyone who will hear, that things cannot continue to go on in the usual way.

          *CO2 contributes 395 ppm of the 450 ppm GHG equivalents, and we are currently adding 3 ppm to that each year.

          1. The EU define two degrees as dangerous.
            OK that’s settled then.

            A bureaucracy in Brussels has defined dangerous for us.

            I feel much better now.

            It’s a shame that a lot of climate scientists don’t agree with this.

            1. Macro – you may regard my comments as “fatuous” but the fact is that Richard Betts (climate modeller and IPCC contributor) said this ( I have posted this link before so apologies for the repetition)

              Most climate scientists* do not subscribe to the 2 degrees “Dangerous Climate Change” meme (I know I don’t). “Dangerous” is a value judgement, and the relationship between any particular level of global mean temperature rise and impacts on society are fraught with uncertainties, including the nature of regional climate responses and the vulnerability/resilience of society. The most solid evidence for something with serious global implications that might happen at 2 degrees is the possible passing of a key threshold for the Greenland ice sheet, but even then that’s the lower limit and also would probably take centuries to take full effect.


              The 2 degrees is largely a political threshold. I don’t see much scientific basis for the figure.

              Of course, you may chose to pick a figure out of the hat to engage political and public action. The problem you have, however, is if this threshold is reached and nothing bad happens ( a possible outcome that I am not applying any probability to ) then the public may accuse you of crying wolf and you may find it harder to engage public support down the track.

            2. I make no apologies for repeating what has already been stated above by Gareth:

              “If you rely on µWatts or the Bishop for your news, you will get a very slanted picture or reality.”

            3. Macro July 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

              I make no apologies for repeating what has already been stated above by Gareth:

              “If you rely on µWatts or the Bishop for your news, you will get a very slanted picture or reality.”

              Well I apologise if an IPCC contributor whose opinions are deemed invalid because they publish on a non-approved website

              Why do you think guys like Dave Frame give up on you?

            4. Betts’ suggestion that the only tipping point that might be passed under 2 degrees is the melt of a large portion of the Greenland ice sheet is remarkable, because he appears to be ignoring the reduction in Arctic sea ice. This is already well underway at current temperatures, and it seems likely that the summer ice will be long gone before the globe hits +2ºC.

              The reduction in ice is already impacting NH weather patterns, thus delivering rapid climate change to a great deal of the planet. I am therefore inclined to dismiss the rest of his comment as irrelevant.

              In one respect, however, I do agree with him. The “two degree guardrail” is more of a political than a scientific construct, designed to give politicians something to aim for. The fact that their aim is so poor, and that 2 degrees is probably in the rear view mirror, doesn’t help.

          2. In spite of some fairly sage advice, I’m going try to reply…

            There are quite a few misconceptions and misreadings of what I’m saying here – not sure why, but I suspect it’s because public (esp internet) debate is disproprotionately inhabited between people who think climate change is the end of the world and people who think nothing should be done. If someone isn’t in your camp, you tend to think they’re in the other. I don’t see much to admire in either of these positions.

            Dappledwater wrote: “The constant hand-wringing, and dog-ate-my-homework excuses, just won’t do.” and
            Macro said: “To suggest that “business as usual” is an ok path to follow because we are doing alright, thanks very much, strikes me as the height of foolhardiness.”

            I never suggested anything like this. I suggested that we need to decarbonise the global economy over the next 50-100 years. Given that IPCC, the UK CCC and various others have argued that a global 50% cut in emissions by 2050 would give you a reasonable shot at avoiding a 2C warming I don’t think my ball-park timescale for decarbonisation is at all complacent or that it’s obvious that “the climate horse will have bolted by then”.

            As for the position that “GHG concentrations are already at the 450 ppm” This conflates short- and long-lived gases. It’s overly pessimistic to redenominate methane (for instance) forcing as though it were much more permanent (ie CO2). It gives a false picture of where we are (and, regrettably, can lead to perverse policy incentives).

            “The fact that we can be reasonably certain of a 2 degree warming at his point in time”

            Again, this is untrue. Climate change commitment (fixing today’s concentrations) amounts to about 1.3C above pre-industrial according to Matthew and Weaver 2010. The gap betwen that and 2C is what’s in play over the next few decades. There are several factors in play as to whether or not we meet the 2C target, including technology, politics and the amplitude of the climate response. Everyone accepts 2C will be challenging but few are as pessimistic as you.

            On the moral dimensions of climate change, George wrote:
            “… five thieves plan to descend on a man in the street…”

            I don’t accept the analogy at all. Climate change is not a paradigmatic case of moral harm, (Dale Jamieson has a nice breakdown of moral harm and climate change here: – I’m referring to the six examples of Jack & Jill & the bicycle…). Emissions are a pollution externality problem that arise while we’re leading otherwise reasonable lives (lives which allow us to generate surpluses that let us address poverty, public health demands, even international aid to give people we don’t know a hand up). They are not the result of purely sinister motives with no upsides. I don’t see these situations as remotely analogous. [Neither do policy makers, who are the folks who actually have to make the tradeoffs between a tax dollar spent on childhood poverty, one spent on care for the disabled/dying and one spent on climate change initiatives.]

            On reasons for NZ leadership on climate change, Dappledwater wrote: “We might become pariahs of international trade unless we can convince buyers that we aren’t contributing to the ongoing climate carnage.”

            Now this is, refreshingly, an actual argument for why we ought to lead, rather than just a mere assertion. It’s one I have sympathy with, because (as documented here ) I think small trading countries are reputationally vulnerable, But in many ways we’re pretty good global citizens, and that hasn’t stopped the EU (for instance) from making it hard for our big sectors to get market access. In other words, you can win cuddles from overseas citizns (who may admire our low levels of corruption, high human development scores, or even (bozarrely) our nuclear free stance), but cuddles don’t necessarily translate to cash via trade benefits. I agree we might face disproportionate penalties for perceived inaction, and that’s a sound reason to ensure we’re in the leading bunch. But that’s not the same as undertaking really strong unilateral action (of eg the greenpeace sort).

            “It would sure be a refreshing change if we (NZ) had people in positions of influence that were fully conversant with the science,”

            I appreciate you’re probably just being snide, but I’ll answer as if you’re not: we do. NZ has reasonable climate science capability, and we do get to talk to policy makers quite a bit (I’ve certainly been impressed at the access to Ministries and politicians). Where NZ is lacking, I think, is having a community who understand both climate science AND policy very well. On the whole they’re non-overlapping communities. Policy makers aren’t sure which bits of science are relevant, and scientists, expert in narrow areas, know little about trade-offs and policies.

            Anyhow.. posting here was a bit of an experiment for me. I’m looking for ways to communicate about climate policy with broad publics. I’ve never been a fan of blogs, though I’ve recently taken to getting involved in one back in Oxford. That’s been fun, so I thought I’d give this a go. But I’m afraid this one (almost certainly, in IPCC parlance) isn’t for me. I tried to ask a policy question which you need to have a convincing answer for if you’re to persuade mainstream New Zealand to buy your arguments and policies. Posters haven’t really replied to that question, but they’ve come out with stuff like: “I certainly hope David Frame’s reading of the peer-reviewed scientific literature is a lot more recent than the now five-years old 2007 IPCC assessment” and “Mealy mouthed platitudes by academics simply wont do.” and “The CCRI reminds me of [Monty Python skit]” etc. Those who haven’t been like that have often misinterpreted my position anyway (see above). So I don’t really see the upside to posting here. Which is a shame, because I really mean this bit: “CCRI aims to contribute significantly and constructively to public debates about climate change.” I still intend to do that, but elsewhere, I guess.

            1. Yeah, well, thanks for coming along here and giving an idea of where you stand. See you in that other place, I guess, wherever that is.

            2. Prof Frame
              I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write your very thought provoking response.

            3. I’ll add my thanks to you for coming here to put your position, Dave, and sorry for having been too busy to engage before now. I think it’s very valuable to have the perceived wisdom challenged from inside the same frame (ahem!). Too many of us are used only to being challenged by those who deny the need for any action at all, and discussion tends (as you’ve noted) to be polarised. That is a more general characteristic of internet discussion, as well particularly obvious in what passes for debate about climate policy.

              I tend to agree that NZ’s position has been (at least arguably) reasonable in the wider international context, but I suspect that I would rate two things slightly more importantly than you appear to. Reputational risk is obvious (and writ large in tourism/100% Pure etc), but I also think that there is a significant opportunity for first (or early) mover advantage that is being rather badly missed at the moment. Look at the struggle the Pure Advantage campaign has had to get the government onside for green growth initiatives, especially in comparison (say) to South Korea.

              Government policy settings, in particular with respect to the structure of the ETS and the slow phasing out of compensation to big emitters, are effectively locking us into an emissions pathway that is higher than necessary. This will inevitably lead to steeper and more expensive cuts in the future – unless the world simply gives up on emissions restrictions completely.

              Nor am I as sanguine as you about our (i.e., the global we) ability to meet any emissions budget that gives us a reasonable chance of staying at or under a 2ºC increase. I am also concerned that current observations of, for instance, Arctic sea ice loss and extreme weather events are running significantly ahead of where a cautious IPCC consensus would have put us only a few years ago. In other words, I’m not at all sure that we have 50 – 100 years to decarbonise the global economy. There is a risk (unquantifiable, unfortunately, but definitely there some distance up the long tail) that a climate emergency will force dramatic action on the international community, and at that point NZ will be concentrating on resilience and adaptation rather than carbon cuts. We can only hope that the tail does not start wagging the dog, or that Wally Broecker’s “angry beast” sleeps through the next few decades.

            4. Dave Frame, a few things:

              1. The 5 thieves analogy – there is an upside. The crims get to benefit from the proceeds of the robbery. I’m sure most criminals don’t see themselves as evil either – just like most people in society don’t consider the moral imperative to act on climate change – even when informed. There will be serious consequences, and I’m sure you realize this – despite your attempts to trivialize.

              2. “In other words, you can win cuddles from overseas citizns” Yes, very trite but did it occur to you if we were able to decarbonize our economy it would made possible by cutting-edge research & technology? Is that not something from which money can be earned too? If we wait for others to appreciate the obvious need for action I doubt we’re going to have head-start on this.

              There is no current impetus for innovation because people like yourself, who are supposed to be providing the best possible scientific advice to politicians, are well behind the latest scientific research and its rather dire implications. If you keep telling the patient he/she is fine, when they are not, do you think that is helpful in anyway?

              3. “Matthew and Weaver 2010” – Yes, if one excludes the rather large & rapid warming that will occur when sulfate pollution is no longer pumped into the atmosphere, then sure it won’t warm as much. But in the real world how do we get sulfates particles from pollution to remain aloft? They typically only last a week in the atmosphere before falling back to Earth, or being rained out. In the hypothetical scenario where greenhouse gas emission ceases, so too do sulfate emissions. A rather serious omission by Matthew & Weaver in my book. And, of course, sea level rise doesn’t stop either. Once the great polar ice sheets are committed to disintegration (and a tipping point may have already been passed) there’s no way of stopping multi-metre rises over coming centuries.

              Of course these modeled future scenarios have a lot of unrealistic assumptions too – the most glaring is the land-based carbon sink. The carbon cycle models implicitly assume that the carbon fertilization effect will be large – yet there seems to be little evidence for this in the real world. Worse the models also simply assume that other limiting nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus will be freely available to plants in huge quantities. That does not even remotely resemble the real world. Carbon uptake by terrestrial sources appears to be going into tropical forest re-growth, and the re-growth of large forests in Russia & China, not carbon fertilization – how fat do people think trees and other vegetation can grow anyway? Large uncertainty over this, for sure, but that’s what the latest research indicates.

              And yes, I’m aware of the FACE trials, but an omission in reporting the results is that carbon fertilization only occurs in young trees – clearly they have a lot of growing to do and carbon fertilization can speed this process. Mature forests on the other hand – nada.

              Given your comments to date David I’ve come to the realization that we’ve probably been a bit unfair to Tim Groser – he doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation because it hasn’t been adequately explained to him.

            5. Whaddya wanna bet that business as usual delivers us a “decarbonised” economy in 50-100 years? Purely posed as a race between the technical ingenuity of extractive industries, decreasing accessibility of fossil fuel sources, and genius of alternative energy boffins to deliver cheap solar, nuclear, and biofuel options? I think the odds are on.
              Meanwhile I am astonished by the hubris of these people who just walk away from a 2 degree global temperature rise as if it were a sunny morning in Seatoun Heights, or wherever they keep their apartments. We are talking about an experiment that is being conducted on the entire planet.
              But, yes, David Frame’s contribution has been helpful, insofar as it revealed his decision to not see this as a moral issue. I would love to know who he turns to for “sage advice”.

            6. Well said DW.

              I can just imagine the health sector following the precedent set by the CCRI. Patients will be sent home and told they are fine no matter what the affliction, or whatever their physiological indicators suggest. No you don’t need a triple by-pass as it is too expensive, and frankly it would be too much of an inconvenient intervention. Take a few aspirin and you’ll be fine, come back in five years. Just think how much tax-payers dollars we could save if we adopted that model.

              My impression was that Martin Manning, David’s predecessor conveyed a much more urgent need for action, but clearly his callings were ignored. So I assume that the level of influence that can be exterted by the CCRI is minimal.

              Personally we should be pushing for a grass roots revolution, simply waiting for people in positions of responsibility to rock the boat is not going to happen any time soon.

            7. ““The fact that we can be reasonably certain of a 2 degree warming at his point in time”

              Again, this is untrue. Climate change commitment (fixing today’s concentrations) amounts to about 1.3C above pre-industrial according to Matthew and Weaver 2010. ”

              It’s interesting that you refer to the thought experiment by Matthew and Weaver, and consider that this justifies your confidence that global warming will stay within 2 degrees. I wish I had your confidence, but actually that important piece of science, does exactly the opposite for me – for the following reasons:
              In their thought experiment, Matthew and Weaver made two fundamental but necessary assumptions:
              Firstly, they assumed that human based Greenhouse emissions would cease overnight. No more coal fired power stations, the oil would stop flowing, and all forms of transportation would cease. You need to make that assumption if you want to work out how much warming is already in the pipeline.
              Secondly, they assumed that GHG, notably CO2, would be sequestered rather rapidly. I’m not knowledgable enough on this topic to make any serious call on this assumption, but it is obvious that it is one which lends itself to some debate.
              So noting these two assumptions, particularly the first, and the resulting conclusion of their thought experiment; one can only say that if a miracle were to happen tomorrow, and the world went cold turkey on carbon, the VERY LEAST we could expect is a 1.3 degree warming.
              Of course such an outcome will not happen except in an intervention by God (miracle). Or as Jim S puts it – a large meteor were to hit the earth.
              Therefore, we must conclude that the current concentration of GHGs will, at the very least, remain at their present levels (levels that have already been identified as raising global temperatures by 2 degrees). Furthermore, these levels will increase because no government (and certainly not NZ’s) has the gumption to take anything but the most insignificant steps to tackle the problem.
              A more “realistic” scenario for GHG to remain at 2 degree levels would have global GHG emissions peaking now, and a 3.7% reduction per annum. Every year we delay, the reduction targets increase exponentially until by 2020 we would need to reduce GHG emissions by 9% per annum to limit warming to 2 degrees.
              I say “realistically” because it’s not going to happen. Governments can’t even shift themselves to take even the most rudimentary measures to decarbonise the economy. “Growth” is paramount, and a reduction of even 3.7% would have a significant effect on the balance sheet, and we can’t have that. The waffle, typified by Groser, indicates that politicians haven’t the slightest idea of the risks they are taking, and anyway it’s all too difficult and better to leave the problem to someone else. Unfortunately, your soothing article in 2009 only supports their stance of not taking any significant steps towards mitigation. Indeed the very first acts of this current administration were to remove some simple and minor steps initiated by the previous government towards decarbonising the economy!
              So that is why I, like many others, remain pessimistic that little or no action will be taken, that GHG emissions will continue to accumulate, and that 2 degrees of warming is already a given, and the only question remains – “just how much more are we prepared to go?”

          3. Tony July 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm
            The Telegraph article you cite was from 2009. Since then, Betts and the staff at the Met Office in Exeter have been “engaging with sceptics” in blogs and have invited Andrew Montford down to talk to them about the Hockey Stick affair.

            You can read whatever you want into this, of course.

  7. Hello David Frame,
    Thats some quite interesting comments you are making that seem to be defending Tim Groser (Please correct me if I have the wrong impression).
    I am assuming you are the David Frame the new Director of the VUW Climate Change Research Institute?
    And not another David Frame.
    Is that correct?

    1. Well, I certainly hope David Frame’s reading of the peer-reviewed scientific literature is a lot more recent than the now five-years old 2007 IPCC assessment.

    2. Yes, I’m the Dave Frame at Vic. I’m not specifically “defending Groser.”** I do think that the position successive Govts and MFAT staff have taken over the years is pretty sensible, as I’ve said in NZ before:

      **I’m not into the whole partisan politics thing, and it’s a real disappointment how partisan public debate in NZ seems to have become in the last dozen or so years.

      1. Sorry – non sequitor alert – the article in the Herald doesn’t defend NZ policy, it argues against strong unilateral action by NZ. I do think NZ policy has been pretty reasonable, and major departures from it would likely bring more costs than benefits.

        1. Dave the argument you put forward above, and in the article to which you link, is the same argument put forward by all governments, and it is the argument that will ultimately see the demise of humanity. “Not me first”, sounds sensible in the short term – but (as you well know) the fossil Carbon released into the atmosphere today, will still be there thousands of years hence, and mankind is emitting more of it year by year. You say Climate Change is a slow process, but I and many others are not so convinced. We have already had approx 0.8 degrees of warming and there is more in the pipeline. We are already quickly approaching the 450 ppm C equivalents prescribed by the IPCC as the absolute maximum, to limit warming to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Many respected climatologists suggest that that value is too high and that we have already surpassed our climate Carbon budget.
          Taking personal responsibility for ones “carbon footprint” is all well and good, but the only way Carbon emissions can be brought under control in any meaningful way, is by concerted action taken by governments world wide. This they are simply failing to do – to the detriment of us all. Mealy mouthed platitudes by academics simply wont do.

          1. Even if we shut down the entire NZ economy tomorrow, and euthanized the population, our effect on the 0.1% of CO2 emissions that NZ contributes would probably not even be measurable.

            Dave Frame’s comments seem quite reasonable to me and probably speak to a lot of the broader public than the doom-mongers who are predicting the end of the world.

          2. “Mealy mouthed platitudes by academics simply wont do.”

            Sigh. None of what I’m saying is actually very controversial.
            I’m making points about strategy that have been made for years among people who actually study game theory and international negotiation. [See Environment and Statecraft by Scott Barrett, for instance.] My reading of the scale of climate science is mainstream, too – as I say, there’s a range of views in the literature, which suggest the problem is more or less acute. I think there is huge agreement that climate change is a serious issue, where costs of emissions promise to outweigh benefits. I agree we need concerted govt action. I just don’t see *any* evidence here of an argument for why New Zealand – rather than Qatar, Singapore, the United States or Luxembourg – ought to lead. That was what I was arguing in my first post before things kind of headed off into the weeds here. Even if things were really acute, what good would it do for New Zealand to bear high costs if no one else is?

            1. Ideally one would adopt a long-term view. The record-breaking heat in the US is certainly changing public opinion, and this will only grow in the next 3-4 years if, as is long overdue, all that heat lurking in the ocean is released to the atmosphere.

              At some point within the next decade public opinion will likely grow to such an extent that society will demand their governments take action to limit carbon emissions. When that happens New Zealand will fare very poorly in international trade – we are heavily dependant on fossil fuels and are situated at the ends of the Earth (so-to-speak). We might become pariahs of international trade unless we can convince buyers that we aren’t contributing to the ongoing climate carnage.

              It would sure be a refreshing change if we (NZ) had people in positions of influence that were fully conversant with the science, and were willing to take the necessary steps to effect positive change. The constant hand-wringing, and dog-ate-my-homework excuses, just won’t do.

            2. “Even if things were really acute, what good would it do for New Zealand to bear high costs if no one else is?”

              Because at the end of the day, and we are now approaching midnight, someone has to go first. Furthermore, NZ is well placed to actually do something positive, and not hurt too much. By pursuing a line of “business as usual” it all becomes far too hard.

  8. Running scared again, Andy? As always, when faced with an inconvenient truth, you deniers dissemble, distract and obfuscate.

    Unable to find another warming event of such rapidity in the paleoclimate record, you go off on some tangent about “graphs” and “the IPCC”, which are irrelevant to the point I am making.

    Clearly, you are little more than a shallow propagandist and a (paid-for?) provocateur.

    1. You are confusing, or trying to confuse me, with the difference between long term geological timescale temperature fluctuations and short term climatic variability.

      If you are so keen on ice core data for paleoclimatic reconstructions, what does Law Dome show us and why was it left out of Gergis et al?

      1. Spare us the rapid attempts at subject change, Andy.

        Either come up with a paleoclimatic variation as fast as the one we are forcing with our CO2 emissions, or admit that the current rate of change in the Earth’s climate is, as far as we know, greater than any since the K-T impact 65 million years ago.

        AFAIK, the PETM is the only such event, and it happened one-tenth as fast as today.

        Here’s a useful article:

  9. Speaking of the CCRI at VUW, I see one of its missions is to:

    “Contribute significantly and constructively to public debates about climate change.”

    The CCRI reminds me of this:

    In my view we don’t need debate particularly if it involves an academic institution downplaying the risks when there is supposedly a research gap. We need immediate and positive action, and as Thomas has pointed out there are plenty of observations already that should be ringing alarm bells.

    1. Good-o. I’m not downplaying risks. I’m reminding you of what the legitimate diversity of expert opinion, and pointing out that climate change science is, on the whole, not catastrophist.

      As for this bit: “we don’t need debate […] We need immediate and positive action[.]” In liberal democracies, if we don’t have debate about the nature of our actions, we have no mandate for action.

      I’m not against action on climate change. On the contrary, I think it’s really important to decarbonise the global economy over the next 50-100 years. So I agree action is important. What we’re talking about here is the scale of that action, its timing, and its distributional aspects. Just so we’re clear.

      1. On the contrary, I think it’s really important to decarbonise the global economy over the next 50-100 years

        The climate horse will have truly bolted by then David.

  10. Thanks Dave,

    The excerpt you quote from the paper of Willis is a little misleading. A better summary is here:

    The authors are quite clear that the future of global biodiversity is bleak if you take into consideration habitat loss as well. Not everyone agrees with Willis either with regard the impact of climate change in isolation e.g. the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds disagree.

    I agree with your point about debate and mandates. I guess my point is it depends on how you frame the debate. The debate should no longer be about whether action is required, but what major policy initiatives are required to avert disaster. You haven’t as far as I can see proposed a worthwhile solution, just dubious reasons for procrastination.

    I agree with Thomas, you can look at the paleoclimate record and show that species adapted but you have to put that in context. At no point in history have the world’s species been dependent on a massive agricultural harvest from all corners of the globe. A drop in grain yields in the USA due to drought has already impacted the price of grains. Do we really want to tempt fate and determine just how bad could it get?

  11. I think Dave’s stance is a very dangerous one, especially from his position.

    For starters any uncertainty in how bad it will get goes both ways.

    Yes there is hope that for many people a 5 Deg world will be one they could adapt to. Perhaps NZ is one of those places where – unless you live within the the affected zones of rising sea levels – a decent survival is very well possible. But this is besides the point.

    For perhaps a third of Humanity the outlook is rather different and research is making this clear. If you live in areas already stretched for fresh water or where the survival depends much closer than here on harvests from marginal production areas, then your survival will depend on the good will of neighbor countries who voluntarily let hundreds of millions of people share their bit, which at that point also will be stretched to the limit. NZ no doubt will be required to carry our share in the climate refugee disaster. Will we take 5 million, 10 million? In Europe on the same area already some 50 million people live today, even before they soak up additional tens of million climate refugees in the future.

    Further the CO2 pulse into the Oceans may well herald very nasty changes and there is growing evidence of potentially catastrophic changes to the bottom (and thereby to the lot!) of the food chain.

    A 5 Deg warmer world is one we can not afford to test! At least not voluntarily. A much better approach would be to urgently de-carbonize our energy technology. It comes with the added benefit that we need to do so anyway. And any nation jumping on that bandwagon early will clearly be in a position to lead.

    Those who create diversions of the mind by wondering if the coming fall over the cliff will break just the legs or perhaps just one side of the hip only are misguided in assuming how we would cope with the consequences of that. And when I look at my children I fail to understand how anybody could wish us to undergo that experiment with their future….. just because we wonder weather they would do sort of all right perhaps with a few limbs missing so that we can carry on as we were, heightening their inevitable coming fall, just for a few more decades of burning the last of the oil……. without an ambulance at the bottom…..

    1. Hi all,
      I can recommend the McKibben article. It is quite long but it frames the situation in a novel way (to me). Make a cup of tea, have a read and then pass it on.

      It also goes some way to answering the question as to why NZ should lead the world to decarbonise.

      It will be cheaper.

      Once the world finally wakes up and realises that we can’t burn all the oil that the oil companies have in discovered reserves their share prices will tank and the world will go into recession. Add to this a few more droughts pushing the grain prices up and the world economy is likely to be looking very sick indeed. Infrastructure spending to move to a decarbonised economy will suddenly become incredibly expensive, so since we (mostly) agree that something needs to be done sometime, why not do it now while we can still afford to and the spending will be less?

      I would be interested on Prof. Frame’s take on this if he is still reading.

      1. NZ already has over 70% of its stationary energy generated by renewables (mostly hydro, then geothermal). Aren’t we already “leading the world” in many respects?

  12. It’s quite heartening that CCRI aims to encourage debate about climate change science and policy. I’m sure the main source of the extreme polarisation within the Australian and New Zealand polities is that people have never been given the opportunity to hear opposing viewpoints or to exercise their own reasoning faculties.

    The notion of dangerous human-caused warming was dumped on the population along with the stricture that “the debate is over”. Their only option has been to take it or leave it. They’ve done so in accordance with their various world-views with about 25% each in the camps of (a) no problem (b) not a major issue (c) a significant risk (d) a major crisis. Only the fourth group would tolerate their government sacrificing the country’s strategic interests for no apparent gain but pour encourager des autres.

    There is a real difficulty with kindling an informed or quasi-intelligent debate at this stage. Most media have lost interest in anything except repetition of the mantra. Most people don’t want anything more done while they wait to see if it becomes measurably warmer over the next 2-3 years.

    Dave, can I enquire if you were at the Hartwell meeting last year? Does that paper more or less reflect your approach? Do you agree with the thrust (which one?) of Mike Hulme’s book? Or the Breakthrough Institute?

  13. All of these references to warming of 5°C leave the impressions that the higher reaches of the SRES possibilities have morphed into probabilities.

    Here is an opinion (from Prof Andy Dessler at A&M) that mainstream science has settled in the range of 2.4-2.9°C:

    “Shmittner et al’s conclusion about the climate sensitivity (2.4°C) is pretty consistent with what most climate scientists think …. My sense is that most scientists consider the very high end of the sensitivity range (greater than 4°C) to be pretty unlikely (although it cannot be ruled out), and the most likely value for climate sensitivity is around, probably slightly below, 3°C.”

    1. Climate sensitivity is defined as the (relatively short term) response of the climate system to a doubling of CO2 over preindustrial levels. Where we’re heading later in this century depends on the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that depends on what we burn, chop down, or otherwise cause to be emitted. That could be well over doubling, especially if large scale carbon cycle feedbacks kick in.

      In other words, sensitivity != warming expected.

  14. My wife thinks I shouldn’t let some of this go unchallenged, and I’m inclined to agree.

    @George: “David Frame’s contribution has been helpful, insofar as it revealed his decision to not see this as a moral issue.”
    I do see climate change as fundamentally a moral issue. Pollution externality problems are always moral issues. But I think you mischaracterise important details of the moral dimensions of the problem when you compare climate change to assualt or theft. The section I pointed you to in the Jameison paper makes the case that climate change has a different moral texture than, say, theft. The fundamental reasons to act on climate change *are* moral. But this doesn’t mean obligations arising from climate change trump necessarily competing duties, or that responses that might be appropriate when confronting theft or assault are appropriate here. In terms of who I “turn to for sage advice”, I’ve found the works of Simon Caney, Dale Jamieson, Ed Page and Steve Gardiner especially useful in terms of helping me think about the ethical dimensions of climate change. It’s not my core area, obviously (I only have an undergraduate philosophy degree) but it’s an area I think is fundamental to the problem, and I really enjoy interacting with ethicists about climate (and other stuff).

    @dappledwater- “people like yourself […] are well behind the latest scientific research and its rather dire implications”. Odd claim to make given that you have no data on my reading habits. Here’s who I am and what I’ve published recently: . Readers can make up their own minds about my familiarity with the research literature by reading those papers.

    @Thomas “For anybody who things adaptation to a 5deg warmer world will be quite doable”
    I haven’t seen anyone here argue in favour of a +5C world. I’ve argued for decarbonisation over the next 50-100 years, a position entirely compatible with those who argue for 50% global emissions reductions by 2050, a fairly common 2050 target. [It’s not the end-game, since cumulative emissions, rather than emissions in any given year, are the primary determinant of peak warming.]

    On constant commitment warming:
    @dappledwater: “Yes, if one excludes the rather large & rapid warming that will occur when sulfate pollution is no longer pumped into the atmosphere, then sure it won’t warm as much”
    @macro: “In their thought experiment, Matthew and Weaver made two fundamental but necessary assumptions [etc]”
    Yes constant commitment warming is an abstraction, but the point is that existing atmospheric concentrations do not amount to a commitment to more than 2C, which I thought was the implication of at least one poster. There is emissions headroom for a 2C target, even if it isn’t very big. As for the sulphates issue, there’s an open accounting question there – they *could* have removed the sulphates and kept the short-lived positive forcings, but that’s a bit dodgy – it’s making sure all the short-lived positive numbers are fixed and enduring while setting all the negative numbers to zero; not sure that’s a fair and accurate picture of the state of the totality of anthropogenic influence on climate. I think what they did was reasonable (and Tom Wigley before them) – it’s a measure of committed warming to the atmosphere as it actually is. It is an abstraction, but it’s a useful one. People could argue about it, but that argument is best had in the peer-reviewed literature, I think – if you feel strongly, go for it.

    More positively: @Australis – thanks. I haven’t been invovled with the Hartwell process, but I find quite a lot to like in what they’re doing. I think the approach Myles Allen and I have been talking about is broadly consistent with Roger Pielke’s suggestions outlined in The Climate Fix, and with other hotelling-like structures suggested elsewhere. I’m a big fan of the work Mike Hulme has done in raising the importance of value pluralism (more on that later). Mike summarised our relationship pretty well at the end of a talk he invited me to give recently at UEA when he said “I really like about 80% of what Dave said, but strongly disagree with the other 20%.” I think I’m much more focussed on technology than he is, and he’s probably a bit more optimistic about the politics of it all, and much more sanguine about bundling climate and international development than I am. Other policy-relevant scholarship on mitigation I really like includes, especially, David Victor and Scott Barrett. I think their stuff is really important for anyone who really wants to understand mitigation agreement prospects.

    Thomas wrote: “I think Dave’s stance is a very dangerous one, especially from his position.”
    Macro wrote: “It is a highly dangerous game we are playing, and it is behooven on all who supposedly understand the science, and the situation we are now in, to be shouting as loudly as they can and as often as they can, to anyone who will hear, that things cannot continue to go on in the usual way.”

    Well… we need to emit less fossil carbon. But I disagree that it’s a duty of people in my position to “be shouting as loudly as they can and as often as they can”. This is for several reasons: (1) the climate change debate is not short of shouting, and the marginal benefits of more shouting are low; (2) it is short of sound, sober interdisciplinary analysis, both in terms of social responses to climate change and in terms of how we might best structure future mitigation deals; (3) I appreciate the fact that people care about jobs like mine, and I feel it’s a privilege to have this job. But I’m uncomfortable with the implication that only people with certain attitudes to risks or politics may occupy jobs like mine. That’s a fairly authoritarian view of university appointments. (4) Climate change really is a complex subject. We all know bits of the problem, but the problem is too big for anyone’s expertise to be complete. I know about some bits of the problem, but not others. (Do I know the odds of solar power, wind power or geothermal power under-cutting the price of coal power in Kazakhstan in the 2040s? No.) One of the problems with climate scientists shouting loudly is that we have a bad habit of thinking the science is the hard bit and the policy is easy (and fits amazingly well with our pre-existing political beliefs). Many of the scientists who do a lot of shouting are not obviously well-qualified to shout about policy – a point made very frequently by real policy makers over a beer. (5) The things I might shout about might not to be to your tastes: eg
    “What do we want?”
    “More trade liberalisation coupled with carrot and stick approaches to non-Annex countries’ energy policies”
    “When do we want it?”
    “Fairly soon – preferably as part of the Doha round.”
    Your views about trade liberalisation might be different from mine, so you might want to reply. If the terms of the debate get set in soundbytes or shouty tones then the debate never gets very nuanced. That’s counterproductive. (6) If I were to shout about the climate science alone, I’d just be repeating the same thing over and over again really loudly. Anyone who has ever parented a toddler knows how fun that is.

    ++The main point+++
    Most of the actual substance of what people have been raising on this thread turns on attitudes to risk. Two people can read the same paper and take away different messages because of the way the paper intersects with other beliefs they have. X can read an article about an issue (trade liberalisation, welfare reform, climate change) and perceive it differently from Y; ie reasonable minds may disagree. The gap in the climate science/policy market that I see is in trying to break the problem down in ways that work for different communities who have different perceptions of risk and different attitudes to the 4 well-beings (or however else you want to describe the things people value).

    The climate research literature has always been amenable to a range of interpretations and policy options/prescriptions, depending on your attitudes to technology, social change, international relations, domestic politics, economics, prospects for human health, ethics, international development & poverty alleviation and population growth, just to name a few key aspects. There is no single reading that is necessarily implied by the literature. This is where I think value pluralism is really vital. In a democracy, political supremacy is never complete, because we have the wonderful ability to “throw the bums out”. Democracy is self-correcting, which (I think) is why the liberal democracies were pretty much the only political regimes not to explode/experience complete structural revolution across the incredibly stressful 20th century. A central feature of democracy is that political constestability is inherent. There is no “final victory” of a single ideology. Instead, what you expect is something like the action in a football league – this team has a stint, then that team get the upper hand, then some upstart team comes from nowhere, etc. Big teams can wither and die if they get isolated by history (and that’s a danger I emphasise to people who argue for inaction on climate change). But new teams need more than the evanescent thrill of the new to have a sustained and lasting impact. They (in football and politics) need enduring support, and that’s achieved by broadening and/or deepening their appeal. Shouty academics of the sort Macro argues for are the equivalent of a football team’s “Ultras” – they have a role to play, no question. But it’s not the one I choose. I’m interested in trying to think about what sorts of policies a large and permanent majority might go for, and it’s that position that underpins my thinking on the policy dimensions of climate change.

    Anyhow… That’s a lot of words. In an email to Gareth I listed a bunch of things I don’t like about talking about science on blogs. The one I forgot to mention is the time you spend on it. I’ve lost the morning to this in IPCC submission deadline week, and it’s not even PBRF-able. Please do not tell the dean. But I hope this was vaguely useful to at least a few readers, even if just to give a bit of context – if anyone wants to get in touch or get a copy of any of my papers, please feel free –

    1. I’m glad that you are not the shouting type Prof Frame, and I can also recommend “The Climate Fix”.

      I found this book worthwhile because it contains numbers, lots of them

      This is what we need, in my view. We need more numbers, more cool-headed rational analysis, and less woolly hand-wringing.

      Thanks again.

  15. David Frame – “Odd claim to make given that you have no data on my reading habits

    I’m referring to your comments made thus far in in this thread. Perhaps all carefully chosen to trivialize the potential dangers which lie ahead.

    Readers can make up their own minds about my familiarity with the research literature by reading those papers”

    Yes, I understand the problem here – your expertise has nothing whatsoever to with biology or ecology, only the abstract. Somewhat problematic in appreciating the full extent of global warming and its impacts. Indeed, earlier in this thread you stated:

    “On the contrary, I think it’s really important to decarbonise the global economy over the next 50-100 years”

    And yet mid-century, through a lethal cocktail of ocean acidification & mass coral bleaching, coral reefs the world over will be well on their way to extinction – at least that’s what the scientific research indicates (not unanimously, of course) .

    We have a pretty good idea that this is possible because coral reefs have repeatedly gone extinct through the last several hundred million years – all connected to intervals when global atmospheric CO2 increased abruptly.

    What about adaptation? One only needs to look at the poorly-developed coral reefs of the eastern tropical Pacific to realize that adaptation sufficient to stave off collapse is unlikely. Here the coral are subjected to intense upwelling of acidified water during La Nina, and abnormally hot sea surface temperatures during El Nino. During an El Nino-driven bleaching event in the 1980’s 95% of coral reefs were killed and have yet to recover.

    That’s probably a glimpse of the future, with business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions. Yes, I realize the total amount of CO2 released during ancient extinction events was much larger, but the rate of acidification today far outstrips those extinction events. Ocean acidification, (and by implication warming too) is progressing at a speed never seen on Earth in the last 300 million years. This is a problem when one considers that abrupt changes are occurring today within the lifetime of some species, i.e some are already doomed due to extinction debt.

    That’s what I mean about the climate horse having already bolted, and that’s just one example. What about heatwaves, spreading aridity in sub-tropical dry zones, agriculture, sea level rise?

    “But I disagree that it’s a duty of people in my position to “be shouting as loudly as they can and as often as they can”.

    It is your duty to be well-enough acquainted with the scientific evidence, all of it, not just your little corner, to calmly and assuredly lay out the facts to politicians. No one is going to listen to a shouter, because you come across as unhinged when the people you are trying to warn don’t have the foggiest idea of what lies up ahead. Rather than the guy running around shouting “The ship is sinking!, The ship is sinking!”, maybe you can be the guy who calmly suggests taking positive action. Not that it would probably make much difference – I have no expectation that politicians will lead us out of the current mess.

    No, I expect the consequences of fossil fuel use will start to hit hard and fast in the next 5-10 years and the public will demand action. It is already too late to prevent some calamities, but it is never too late to act.

    You should check back here in a couple of years David, and we can see whose assessment of the peer-reviewed literature more closely resembles reality. I would like that.

    1. “Yes, I understand the problem here – your expertise has nothing whatsoever to with biology or ecology, only the abstract.”

      Another way of descrbing it is that the biologists/ecologists are like the veritable troops on the ground and best qualified to observe and understand the effects of even subtle climate changes. That would make Tim Groser more like a General Melchett and Dave resembling a Captain Darling with AndyS as the blindly idealistic Edwardian twit Lieutenant George. Some of us see the big push to 450ppm about as sensible as charging into range of a German machine gun nest.

  16. A quick question re methane – Dave, what do you mean by:

    It’s overly pessimistic to redenominate methane (for instance) forcing as though it were much more permanent (ie CO2).

    Sure, methane lasts only 12 years or so in the atmosphere, but it then oxidises to CO2, which lasts much longer. Why downplay the role of methane as a source of atmospheric CO2?

    Similarly, I have heard, from a prominent green activist, that NZ’s methane emissions from agriculture are of less concern than our CO2 emissions – am I missing something here?

    1. Rob, where does the methane from agricultural emissions come from?

      Grass grows as a result of photosynthesis that takes CO2 and water from the atmosphere. The cows belch out methane (CH4) that then reacts with the OH radical in the atmosphere after a period of around 10-12 years, which then forms CO2 and water.

      In other words, it is a closed cycle.In the absence of inputs from fertilisers etc, there is no net change in greenhouse gas concentrations for a given fixed herd size.

      The only case for concern over agricultural emissions is the concept of Global Warming Potential (GWP) which according to the IPCC is a figure of 21 or thereabouts.i.e methane has 21 times the warming potential of CO2 However, the calculations of this seem rather obscure to me and others have calculated that the figure is around 7 or 8.

      In any case, you shouldn’t be concerned that methane decomposes to CO2 because the methane came from the CO2 in the atmosphere in the first place.

        1. Not so. The herd (in stock units) has remained at steady levels since the turn of the millennium. And emissions per unit of product has dropped 1.3% pa over the past 20 years.

          (Report of ETS Review Panel 2011 p45)

          1. According to NZ Dairy Stats, the number of herds has been falling while the total number of cows has increased. Total cow numbers in 2000-1, 3.48 million, in 2010-11, 4.52 million – a 30% increase. Pretty explosive, I’d argue.


      1. Hi Andy,

        “In other words, it is a closed cycle.In the absence of inputs from fertilisers etc, there is no net change in greenhouse gas concentrations for a given fixed herd size.”

        Not quite – the methane concentrations will go up, for a time, and this does have a heating effect associated with it.

        “The only case for concern over agricultural emissions is the concept of Global Warming Potential (GWP) which according to the IPCC is a figure of 21 or thereabouts.i.e methane has 21 times the warming potential of CO2 However, the calculations of this seem rather obscure to me and others have calculated that the figure is around 7 or 8.”

        See the papes I mentioned in response to Rob – Particularly (perhaps?)the Shine 2005/2007 papers where they come up with global temperature potentials (GTP) which have a lower number for methane because they consider the effect on temperature at some point in the future, rather than time-integrated radiative forcing (on which GWP is based).

        1. Hi Dave
          What I meant was, there will be no net change in GHG for a fixed herd size once the system has reached equilibrium after the decade or so lifetime that methane has in the atmosphere.

          Thanks for the references; this is a subject that has been of interest to me for a while now.

    2. Hi Rob,

      It’s that taking today’s forcing and then redenominating everything as CO2 has the effect of taking short-lived, high amplitude forcings, retaining the amplitude of the forcing, but giving them the lifetime of CO2. It’s a problem that arises from trying to compare diverse gases on a single scale – you end up redenominating a flow as a stock. There are a whole bunch of scientifically reasonable ways of trying to make this sort of comparison, but two of them that get a lot of airtime are a GWP-based comparison between emissions (CO2-equivalent emissions – used in KP reporting, for instance) and equivalent CO2 concentrations where you take the forcing from a non-CO2 gas and pretend it were from CO2. The idea of using radiative forcing as the physical variable for comparison was somewhat ad hoc – that seemed a reasonable place to start based on prior experience with ozone-depletion. But this practice has been critiqued for years (see refs below). More recently, Keith Shine’s work on global temperature potentials has rekindled debate. [I particuarly recommend his excellent Clim. Change editorial – see 2009 ref below.]
      See, for instance, :
      The radiative forcing bits of any of the IPCC reports, but especially the 1990 report where they kind of introduce it.
      Wigley, T.M.L. 1998 The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and climate implications. Geophysical Research Letters, 25, 2285-2288
      O’Neill BC (2000) The jury is still out on global warming potentials. Clim Change 44:427–443
      Manne, A.S., and R.G. Richels 2001 An alternative approach to establishing trade-offs among greenhouse gases. Nature, 410, 675-677
      Shine, K. P. 2009 The global warming potential: the need for an interdisciplinary retrial. Climatic Change 96, 467–472.
      Shackley S, Wynne B (1997) Global warming potentials: ambiguity or precision as an aid to policy. Climate Research 8:89–106
      Shine KP, Fuglestvedt JS, Hailemariam K, Stuber N (2005) Alternatives to the global warming potential for comparing climate impacts of emissions of greenhouse gases. Climatic Change 68:281–302
      Some of these are science papers and some are much more interdisciplinary. It’s a lively area at the moment… UNFCCC had a metrics meeting in Bonn on 3/4 April this year, a couple of weeks after the IPCC WGIII meeting here in Wellington.

      “Similarly, I have heard, from a prominent green activist, that NZ’s methane emissions from agriculture are of less concern than our CO2 emissions – am I missing something here?”

      It’s that the C in the agricultural methane is already active in the carbon cycle. It’s true that it has a warming effect while it is methane. But I think many folks are getting more concerned about new C atoms coming from the fossil reservoir rather than the recycling that goes on within the biosphere. When your colleague says “of less concern” that’s an indication that it’s largely a question of priorities (hence policy, rather than science). I pretty much agree with your colleague, both for scientific reasons and for policy reasons, but that’s a judgement call (and a long-ish story).

  17. In regards to Methane and Cows… The real issue is probably that of change of land use. Conversion of forest areas that might be considered a biological carbon sink into non-sinks with an added warming component via Methane (i.e. conversion of forests into ruminant grazing land) would probably need to be factored in the methane question and in the case of NZ will have both scientific and policy handles…
    The Gorilla in the room regarding Methane of cause are the long time carbon stores of the arctic permafrost and quite possibly eventually also methane clathrates…

      1. Ngai Tahu have made a start on chopping down the Balmoral Forest, with the intention of creating up to 9,000 hectares of new dairy farm. State Highway 7 passes through what’s left of it immediately after crossing the Hurunui River on the way to Culverden. That’s just one example.

          1. We need to change the magnitude and possibly the sign on the time derivative of the sum of our emissions. NZ without humans is a straw man silly comment which I had hoped you had grown out of by now. Ending senseless forest to grazing conversions would be one sensible step we could negotiate.

            1. Then tell that to China, they are the ones with the emissions spiralling upwards. Ours are relatively static and completely trivial in comparison.

            2. Think Globally, act Locally! This here is the realm of our responsibility and our primary focus must be on getting our policies right. Then we can talk about negotiating with our partners overseas.

            3. Presumably forests such as Balmoral are working forests that would be logged for timber products. Ngai Tahu have made a business decision that dairy is more profitable on this land, as they have made a business decision to subdivide a lot of land in Christchurch for new housing.

              I would be more concerned if native beech forests were being clear-felled to make way for dairy, but I don’t see this happening. We actually have a lot of forests in NZ as a drive along the West Coast of the South Island will tell you.

              I am not actually a big fan of big dairy factory farms and the clearing of the shelterbelts, but I think we can separate out our own personal views of farming practices from the issues around methane emissions from ruminants.

  18. On Policy versus Physics….
    David Frame brought the aspect of Policy into the debate. Rightly so. It is through Policy that we have the potential to affect the future path of things obviously.
    But so far it would seem that much of the debate around Policy has been about Peter pays Paul type deals where in the end no change whatsoever has been enacted towards changing the global situation of the Physics of the debate. No hand waving and jargon juggling in the halls of politics will change the course of the warming planet unless we actually reduce our CO2 and other GW gas emissions and significantly so. So far most Policy talk is one of shifting the burden of that around like a moderately warm potato while not actually culling the size of the emissions. This I will think will change.

    However if the public perception was that we have two to three generations (@25 years a generation) to change our ways then not one thing will change now. Yet we all know that with massive systems and their equivalent inertia the early push generates the best result for the bug! Any procrastination will cost us dearly as the resulting delays in decarbonization will inevitably call for a much steeper input into the controls of the system later.

    I appreciate David’s thoughtful comments here but I maintain that the direction they are hinting towards (let’s take a slow approach at this, we have three generations to do this) is going to slow our response down significantly if it was embodied into Policy. People are shouting about this because it would seem that the Policy making end of the schtick simply has not gotten it yet! Humanity as such has a huge inertia to change things we depend so much on as our fossil fuel habit, and adding to that inertia are the vested business interests of the fossil fuel lobby. We do not need to add to that some well meaning ‘academic inertia’ that allows policy makers to turn off the agenda!

    1. let’s take a slow approach at this, we have three generations to do this

      Well, we probably won’t have to wait long – El Nino appears to be on the way. It will be interesting to see how the precipitation anomalies pan out. The northern regions could be in for some rather epic drought this coming summer – as the equatorial winds shut down and ocean heat accumulates in the central/eastern tropical Pacific. Global warming is expected to drive greater ENSO precipitation anomalies for many (but not all) regions of the Earth, but the trends of the last few years seem far greater than those modeled. We’ll soon see if it’s a phase, or perhaps the continuation of a trend.

      Also expect another major drought in the Amazon if El Nino coincides with anomalously warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean – as the shift in the Walker Circulation (Pacific), combined with the northward migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (Atlantic) starve the Amazon Basin of moisture. For historical context; note that these extreme droughts only one-a-century over the last several thousand years, but now we’ve seen 2 in the last 7 years alone – which is somewhat consistent with studies that model the die-back of the Amazon rainforest.

      Then, of course there’s mass coral bleaching which is typically associated with greater-than-normal sea surface temperatures over summer. Even though places, such as the Great Barrier Reef, have had a long respite from bleaching – due to a recent predominance of La Nina and a fortuitous solar dimming of the Southern Hemisphere, this won’t likely last much longer. Coral live near their thermal limit – and the oceans have built-up a lot of heat over these recent La Nina years. Mass coral bleaching will return with a vengeance, and the some, if this is an El Nino-dominant phase we are heading into.

      Monster floods, freak heatwaves, ecosystems teetering on the brink of collapse; all-in-all rather interesting times we live in. The “take it slowly” approach will soon receive the derision it so richly deserves.

  19. Climate Dice: Not sure if we mentioned Hansen’s Climate Dice paper here already but Hansen there concludes:

    If global warming approaches 3°C by the end of the century, it is estimated that 21-52% of the species on Earth will be committed to extinction.

    In my books this is certainly catastrophic and would mandate urgent action and not the “take it more slowly” approach promoted by David.
    If there is a reasonable likelihood that Hansen is correct – and it would be in my mind upon the doubters to prove him wrong beyond reasonable doubt – then the implications of our continuing lack of decisive intervention are morally unacceptable.

    The paper is here:

  20. Reading this debate, I am also disturbed at David Frame’s relaxed approach to levels of risk of catastrophe that in any other context would not be at all acceptable.

    As this thread notes, warming is already 1.3 degrees, the Copenhagen accord talks about dangerous change at 1.5 to 2 degrees. There are reputable calculations that the current rate of emissions make a 3-4 degree rise quite possible, and I have yet to see any paper suggesting that 5 degrees of warning might be less dangerous.

    Transfer his reasoning to say, the risk of a building totally collapsing in an earthquake (as opposed to being badly damaged but remaining upright). I think I read him right that he would not move people out (ie yell fire) without having some more data on whether having floor slabs fall on you might be survivable.

    I think that objectors to David (and the government) on this thread are quite rightly terse with him because they are not sure that he is properly weighing up the risk of deadly consequences if he is wrong, against the risk of an unnecessary economic downturn if he is right.

    1. So how are you going to achieve these levels of emissions cuts? I don’t think either myself or Dave Frame would hesitate to hit the “Off button” on emissions if one were available, but there isn’t one.

      Roger Pielke Jr’s book The Climate Fix (which was alluded to above thread) looks at various policy options and concludes that for most countries, their targets and policies are not going to work.

      1. NZ can achieve a 6% overall or a 13% of Farm emissions reduction almost overnight if farmers were “incentivised” by a proper ETS in which “polluters” were properly held accountable for their GHG emissions. As with all things there are some “low hanging fruit” which could be easily managed by all. Smaller applications of some urea in spring for instance, would not only cut overall emissions, and N run-off into waterways, but would also improve stock health – one of NZ dirty little secrets. But when dairying is all about the almighty dollar and squeezing the last cent out of each cow, who is going to care when the external costs do not have to be met?

  21. I must admit that stories like this:

    make me lose patience with the she’ll be right mate crowd. Equatorial glaciers are fast disappearing in many regions, and many people and ecosystems are heavily dependent on them for fresh clean water. This is just one example of a looming humanitarian crisis. It’s very easy to be a skeptic when you are shrouded in cotton wool like most of us in NZ. I’d be surprised if there were many people in La Paz who are skeptics.

    1. I’m reading Christian Parenti’s ‘Tropic of Chaos’ at the moment, where he discusses the ‘catastrophic convergence’ of climate, neoliberalism, neo-communalism, and the permanent counter-insurgency state. Just imagine the situation when the glaciers located in disputed territory controlled by India that provide the bulk of Pakistan’s water are similarly depleted…

  22. I have been following this thread for the last few days and feel compelled to comment. I am a first time commentor. At the time Kyoto was signed I agreed that the world was warming and carbon dioide was the culprit. But since then many things have caused me to reassess my view and I now believe that mankind is not responsible for significant climate change.

    I believe there has been warming over the last century or two. Prior to that was the Little Ice Age and we needed to emerge from that if humanity was to thrive.

    Many people make a big thing of the people who die in heat waves. Don’t get me wrong. It is sad. But vastly more people die each year from cold than heat, in spite of the fact that the population of the world is crowded into the warmest parts. In Northern Romania people live in conditions where the winter temperauture is negative all day, every day in the middle of winter. Can we begrudge them wanting some global warming?

    The proponents of the need for climate change action rarely ever concede that positives of further warming. There will be less deaths as I noted above. Parts of the world that are now too cold to grow food will become productive. Here in NZ most (all?) farming areas are constrained in their production by the winter temperatures. A warmer climate will allow more food to be grown, not less.

    There is an unspoken assumption that a warmer climate is a drier climate. Not so. One of the driest places on earth is the Dry Valley in Antarctica.

    Many have commented on the curerent drought in the US as being the sign of things to come under global warming. Not so. The US was drier in 1934 than now by a long shot.

      1. Yeah; that one never gets old.

        I recently encountered a loud, abrasive young anti-AGW inactivist, part of a small group crashing a climate rally, who announced that he was a former campaigner with The Wilderness Society who had subsequently seen the light. Now, I know the local branch of TWS well, and have done for many years, and his squirming as this became obvious to him as I pressed him for details of his invented involvement was most entertaining.

        If there’s any chance – unlikely – that Neil is sincerely deluded, here’s a couple of top tips –

        One: don’t mention Al Gore. He, while an enthusiastic and capable campaigner, is of no consequence to the scientific debate, and is merely a disturbingly fetishized hate-figure for the lunatic Right in the US and elsewhere. I’ve never even seen his movie!

        Two: do some bloody reading! Somewhere other than the handful of far-Right blogs which have apparently been your sole information source to date.

        Three: try to develop some logical consistency. Either CO2 can initiate warming of the climate – even if not by much, according to your chum-bucket sources – or it cannot. You can’t say ‘CO2 rise only follows warming’ and ‘anyway, a doubling will only raise the temperature one degree’ (not to mention then claiming the world is going to cool anyway!) Well, you can, and many of your fellow-travellers do, but the contradiction makes you all ridiculous.

        Four: don’t pretend to be things you’re not.

  23. Many people seem to overlook the fact that the earth warms first, then carbon dioixide levels rise. Al Gore was wrong to claim that carbon dioxide leads the warming.

    The effect of carbon dioxide is also overstated. it is not a striaght line relationship with each extra part having the same effect as the last. There is some debate about the relationship with some saying most of the warming occurs with the first ten parts per million. Others have a higher amount. But its is fairly well accepted that going from 270 to 540 parts per million will add about one more degree of warming. On this basis it is hard to see how we can get anywhere near 5 degrees of warming.
    The only way the IPCC gets this is from positive feedbacks that are built into their models. But there is little if any evidence of these feedbacks occurring. It is now conceded by even the University of East Anglia and the British Met Office that there has been no significant warming for 15 years. They also concede there is unlikely to be any significant warming for the next decade or two. This means the gloabal temperature is now tracking below all the IPCC models including the one that had no new emissions after 2000. It has been so for most of the last five years. This is clear evidence that the IPCC models are exaggearted and clear evidence that there won’t be two degrees of warmiong any time soon. That means there is no need to hit the panic button.

    In fact there is a growing body of opinion that the world will actually cool in the next two decades. That will have far more serious ramifications for humanity than any warming. I am not a gamblimg perosn, but if I had to put money on net warmimg or cooling in the next twenty years I would hands down go for coolling.

    1. “Neil”… ‘I am a first time commentor’…. how about you take your worn out sock puppet for a walk somewhere else. This is not a great place for your copy and past troll droppings.

    2. Oop – got as far as ‘Al Gore’ and the alert siren went off… time for a quick scan; ‘there is a growing body of opinion that the world will actually cool in the next two decades’ – yeah, sure there is; ‘its is fairly well accepted that going from 270 to 540 parts per million will add about one more degree of warming’ – yeah, sure it is.

      What you’ve swallowed and are now regurgitating is called Denialist chum. It’s what keeps your side of the argument going. Let me guess; you also did half a days ‘research’ on all this via Google? And you were shocked, shocked? That one even works with Nobel Prize winners! (fortunately not many…)

      Thus far all you’ve managed to prove is your credulity. I’m going to assume English is not your first language, so you’re getting a pass on pointing out the illiteracy.

      PS, Everyone accepts that ‘it is not a striaght line relationship’, so you’ve got yourself a Straw Man to boot!

    1. Interesting, I like “nice” articles from “nice” Clive Hamilton, the man who thinks that Richard Lindzen is a “well-known denier” and yet characterizes Roger Pielke Jr as a “Luke Warmer”.

      It’s getting confusing with all these terms. If you accept the basic Greenhouse Theory but have papers in the published peer review literature suggesting that negative feedbacks predominate, you are a “denier”. if you are a policy wonk who accepts the basic greenhouse theory and suggests a pragmatic approach to GHG mitigation using numbers and rational analysis you are a “lukewarmer”, yet if you scream from the rooftops that the end is nigh, and there is nothing we can do about it, we are all going to die, then you are a “public intellectual”, as Clive Hamilton has been described.

      1. Miss taking your pills this morning, andy?

        I particularly enjoyed the reference to Hulme’s ‘peculiar and incoherent argument’, as I’ve always been irritated by the loudly-trumpeted yet trivial claims of the ‘Post-Normal Science’ brigade; just as a I have been by that other famous ‘Post’ – Modernism – I might add, whose tenets similarly strike me as either utterly inane or perversely – and probably deliberately – obscurantist.

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