At the end of this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to release the first part of its 5th Assessment Report, which will cover the science behind the climate change issue. Arguably this is the most important part of the whole 5th Assessment process in that it lays out the foundation for all that is to follow. It is also the foundation document for government policy approaches on climate, UNFCCC collective action and public perception and understanding of the climate issue.
Early versions of the report have been widely leaked and discussed at length on line and in recent weeks more and more media stories have been appearing arguing the pros and cons of the current scientific process. Claims of errors abound, such as this story in the UK Daily Express. Much attention is being paid to the recent “hiatus” in global temperatures, even as CO2 levels continue to rise. This is claimed by some as grounds for dismissing the entire warming hypothesis. Unfortunately such calls trivialize a complex issue and simply seek to shed doubt on a global issue that needs continued attention.
As the 5th Assessment Report arrives, we shouldn’t forget that the role that CO2 plays in regulating the temperature of the planet has been well understood for over a century, the physics and chemistry that governs the behaviour of our atmosphere has been developed, built on and refined over the decades and that the impact of a shift in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been highlighted for more than 50 years. It’s only in the last few years as the crunch point approaches, that on-line amateurs have decided they have a valid voice in a complex area of science and therefore ought to be listened to.
Just to review a very few of the key landmarks in 120 years of careful thought, observation and analysis;
Arrhenius in 1896 – he was an early pioneer in establishing the link between atmospheric CO2 and temperature;
Keeling in the late 1950’s established that global CO2 levels were rising sharply;
The White House – the Johnson Administration recognised the CO2 issue in 1965;
James Hansen in 1988 alerting the US Congress to the issue;
Allen et. al. in 2009 defining in very clear terms how CO2 is accumulating and what the limits are;
One of the keys to public acceptance and understanding of the IPCC report will be the way in which the media report on it. As noted above, in recent weeks there has been considerable press focus on the surface temperature “hiatus”, ranging from thoughtful discussion to questionable journalism – i.e. “actually we’re cooling, claim scientists”. Earlier this week, one of Britain’s leading news organizations chose to do a preview of the Friday release of the IPCC report on the main evening television news. They explained the issue quite well, but then offered two contrasting views of the science. One was an interview with a leading UK climate scientist who is also a contributing author to the IPCC report, the other was with a blogger who lacks credible credentials and objectivity on the issue.
My take on all this is that the IPCC have a difficult time in front of them and current media practices, even from mainstream outlets, won’t really help. The public could well be left more confused than ever, despite a very clear warning in the form of the 5th Assessment Report.
The problem is the obsession journalists have with ‘balance’ ie if they put one view they have to put a contrary one as well. This is all very well and good with politics but doesn’t work with science. It would help if fossil fuel companies stopped funding vocal deniers and right wing think tanks putting out anti-climate change propaganda. Also by continuing to explore for yet more fossil fuels companies like Shell give mixed messages to the public. We can’t afford to burn the fossil fuel reserves we already know about so why are we looking for more? I see you’ve posted the picture of James Hansen testifying to Congress. You know he told them (in 1988) that we’d have a big problem in 50 years time and they told him to come back in 49 years?
When the tobacco industry was faced with an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that their products were harmful to health, they recruited messaging experts. The strategy was simple and clear: Doubt is your product. As long as the public doubts that the science is settled, they will not listen. This strategy worked for about 20-30 years, but ultimately, it failed. History is now repeating itself with climate change, and doubt has been systematically sown for the last 25 years that the science is settled. This has worked to neutralize the mainstream media and political leadership. But a majority of everyone else has stopped believing in “doubt” and started trusting the scientific consensus. This message now needs to be repeated ad nauseum for our policitical leadership and if the media will not listen, the message of scientific consensus must be hammered into business leadership, who will then be motivated by self-preservation and survival. The global insurance industry understands this, and their unified voice will be effective.
I chuckled when I saw the picture of the Wirth/Hansen warm hearing room “trick”.
“Ah, the tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
It is interesting to go back to Hansen’s projections from that presentation and compare them with the “adjusted” surface temperature anomalies. It would appear that the current anomalies are below Hansen’s projection assuming a cessation of CO2 emissions, though the current CO2 emissions are far higher and growing rapidly.
I should also have noted that Arrhenius observations, while they get us to AGW, do not get us to CAGW That takes sensitivities and feedbacks, which today exist only as “SWAGS”.
It is interesting to note that we do not know the ideal global average surface temperature, or the ideal atmospheric CO2 concentration. We do not even know the actual global average surface temperature, because of the questionable accuracy of the data and the even more questionable validity of the “adjustments” made to the data. That is the primary reason why the focus of the climate science community is on the anomaly, which itself is only accurate if there are no changes in the environments around the measuring instruments, which has demonstrably not been the case.
I assume by CAGW you mean “catastrophic”?? I guess it all depends on your interpretation. I have always thought that many of the dire predictions of severe floods, storms, droughts and various other acts of God were questionable and part of a very different political agenda, but that isn’t to say that nothing will change. It seems to me that the one aspect of all this that could have a profound impact is the one that gets the least attention, sea level rise. This is probably because it will play out over the next millennium rather than the next decade, but it could well be catastrophic given that we have built so much infrastructure at one particular level (which happens to be the one that was there at the time). Sea level has the potential to move by metres with small changes in temperature, not the millimetres we talk about now. This could be the super slow motion train wreck that many cities will have to face up to.
Yes, I meant “catastrophic”. Arrhenius does not get you a “hockey stick”, but rather a logarithmic curve describing the progressively declining influence of increasing CO2 concentrations.
Building along the coasts is about the same as building in a flood plain. You KNOW that the land in question has been underwater before; and, that it will likely be underwater again, eventually.
However, the Dutch have taught us not only that the damage can be avoided, but also that land can be reclaimed from the sea. That is hardly an inexpensive enterprise, but it might be less expensive than reducing GHG emissions to zero, which appears to be the alternative, though it is rarely discussed.
We would be well advised to continue and expand RD&D on technologies which could effectively and economically replace fossil fuel use or eliminate CO2 emissions; and, to reduce funding of “commercial” installations of technology which is “not ready for prime time”.
David – I think you are being very harsh on Andrew Montford, who as well as a respected blogger, is an accomplished and knowledgeable author on climate science and its many foibles.
FYI if you look at the detail of what was said in the IPCC’s AR5 (and not the Summary for Policy Makers which is a largely non-scientific exercise for creating scary headlines) you find that the IPCC has quietly removed the C from the CAGW (as well as any trace of Michael Mann’s discredited hockeystick for that matter). As for the scary scenarios, I suggest you take a look at the table which was in a post AR5 presentation given at the Royal Society by Matt Collins, and read this excellent summary of the meeting:
Man-made climate change, if it is happening, is happening very slowly, and is not much to worry about, and indeed is a net benefit up to 2C, as I note Matt Ridley has also been saying in the Spectator today – http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9057151/carry-on-warming/
Time for a little rethink on the alarmism?
“It’s only in the last few years as the crunch point approaches, that on-line amateurs have decided they have a valid voice in a complex area of science and therefore ought to be listened to.”
You are quite right we amateurs have no voice in this issue. But I will remind you that we, and I include you, have no right to challenge the only real authority on this issue. Which is, as I am sure you will have gleaned from your training, is the actual observational data.
From this post It appears that you somehow feel qualified to challenge the actual observational data? Could you please explain how you have transposed from homo sapiens to homo superbus?
For someone in the pay of Big Oil Mr. Hone, you are quick to criticise but slow to accept the evidence of the real scientific research.
How dare you complain about anyone giving a perfectly valid and reasonable viewpoint whilst supporting what many see as criminally skewed and false conclusions drawn from badly flawed models.
Whenever a group excludes any other viewpoint with such extreme zeal, then it is a certainty that they have something to hide.
Climate science, and the enthusiastic and vocal supporters they have recruited have a great deal to hide, and a great deal to learn.
Fortunately, after nearly seventeen years of negligible climate change, the game is close to up for you and your disciples.
Oh dear oh dear. I think you will find that physics has moved on a tad since Arrhenius in 1896. Us amateur physics bloggers with our PhDs (and not funded by big oil) prefer to look at the evidence rather than a historical hypothesis, long since disproven, and unvalidated computer models which cannot predict anything with any accuracy.
Follow the money, not the consensus.
“a blogger who lacks credible credentials and objectivity on the issue”
How credible is ragenda Pachauri?
How credible is BOB Ward?
How credible is Al Gore?
Where are the positive feedbacks which are required to support your fantasy?
Saying “if sea levels rise” is ridiculous, you might just as well speculate on any of
a thousand IFS.
Forget the GCMs and go outside and look at what is really happening. I think you will
find that there is little to be concerned about.
… The public could well be left more confused than ever, despite a very clear warning in the form of the 5th Assessment Report….
What ever you can say about AR5, you can’t say it’s clear. It appears to have been intentionally made impossible to follow – witness that graph showing the failure of models to match reality.
As a member of the public, what stands out from that report is a clear attempt to confuse the issue. Members of the public may not be experienced in statistics and PCA, but we can readily spot when we are being sold a pup. Delving into the guts of the report, we find that all the earlier scary predictions have been shown to be wrong, and weasel words are extensively used to create the appearance of danger, whilst actually saying nothing at all.
It seems to me that the report is primarily intended, not to inform the public, but to allow those who currently earn their living by pushing what increasingly looks like an expensive scam to continue in their parasitic posts for a little longer…
David, you say “the role that CO2 plays in regulating the temperature of the planet has been well understood for over a century”, this seems to contradict your earlier statement that the hiatus is a “complex issue”. If CO2 is well understood, then why is the hiatus complex, and why did climate science not predict it?
In addition, if CO2’s role in the atmosphere “has been well understood for over a century” then
a) why is such an organization as the IPCC needed?
b) why is the IPCC only 95% sure of AGW?