My most recent post, “The other end of the spectrum”, which reported on a Tyndall Centre conference, is quite possibly my most read post ever and certainly the most commented on. The post was written following my attendance at the Radical Emissions Reduction Conference, where the word “radical” was, at least by some, interpreted as part of the invitation rather than part of the solution. The flood of blog comments (30+, where 3-5 is my norm) that followed was something of a surprise. What does this say about the state of the climate debate?
The reason for the post was to make the point that the people who frequent the two ends of the climate change discussion aren’t really helping. Rather, there is an apparent delight in throwing rocks at each other (the “sceptic / denier” rock and the “activist / loony socialist” rock to name two), with the group in the middle left to keep their heads down and make some attempt at crafting a solution to the CO2 issue that we have. But as if on cue, many of the 30+ commentators who took the time to read my post and offer their own thoughts, did so by launching a barrage of their own rocks. For the most part I wasn’t the target, rather it was the conference attendees whom I had written about.
Some readers were surprised that I was apparently surprised by the “activist” end of the climate discussion. In reality, it wasn’t the content that was a surprise as I have heard it all before, but I was caught off guard by the concentration of it at a Tyndall Centre meeting hosted by the Royal Society – both institutions that carry considerable weight and credibility here in the UK. Perhaps I had mistakenly put the Tyndall Centre, or at least this part of their work, in the same category of climate research groups that I have more regular exposure to, such as the MIT Joint Program in the USA.
Irrespective of how it came about, the exchange highlights the two ends of the climate discussion, with the rational middle struggling to be heard. The world either seems to have a catastrophe on its hands or the science is a hoax, which when translated to the similarly polarized mitigation discussion becomes a debate about temperature – i.e. we either have to be under 2°C or 4+°C and global downturn will surely follow. Of course 4 doesn’t follow 2 and in any case, neither may be the outcome. For example, the recent Shell Mountains scenario talks about a world in which emissions trend down from the 2030s, reaching near zero by 2100. In this scenario cumulative CO2 emissions from 1750-2100 are 1.25 trillion tonnes carbon, which although not a 2°C trajectory, clearly isn’t 4°C either. Yet this is a plausible view of the future, certainly requiring a strong hand in the application of CCS, but not needing a return to communal agrarian lifestyles as some were hinting at the Royal Society event. The latter notion, not surprisingly, brings a strong rebuke from the so called “deniers”.
Moving past a discussion that is seemingly focused on “hoax or catastrophe” and “<2°C or 4+°C” needs to happen quickly if there is going to be any reasonable attempt to mitigate and eventually contain anthropogenic CO2 emissions. So strong is the rhetoric from both sides that the rational middle has shifted much of its focus to clean and green (efficient use of a broader energy portfolio), which while useful in terms of better managing the global energy outlook, may not result in the necessary downturn in emissions. The Shell Oceans scenario posed this dilemma, where a world undergoing a rapid transition to solar PV (in particular) and implementing enhanced energy efficiency measures driven by higher energy prices, manages to exceed the cumulative emissions of the Mountains case, simply because of the much later arrival of CCS.
One manifestation of this end weighted spectrum of views is the very limited progress in dealing with rising CO2 in the atmosphere. Carbon pricing is struggling to gain widespread acceptance, CCS projects are few and far between and the UNFCCC process now has little to show for years of work. It may be interesting for the Tyndall Centre to hold a Radical Emissions Reduction conference, but if it acts as a catalyst for an even deeper division of views, then it really hasn’t helped anybody.
On that note, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hopefully there is a bit more convergence in 2014.
A more complete inclusion of the whole range of possible outcomes is of course what Integrated Assessment Models have been trying to provide for some years. Maybe it’s time to embrace them more fully in 2014.
Natural climate change has been hiding in plain sight. Simple equation calculates temperatures since before 1900 with 90% accuracy and reasonable estimates since 1610. http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com/. CO2 change had no significant influence. The average global temperature trend is down.
The issues are stark. The IPCC ‘consensus’ is based on claiming the Earth’s surface emits IR energy to the atmosphere at the same rate as a ‘black body’ to a sink at absolute zero. As you trained as a Chemical Engineer, you should know this is stupidity incarnate.
Add in many other mistakes, e.g. the Tyndall experiment has been badly misinterpreted and the team was told this in 1993, and there is no justification of ‘positive feedback’, a model artefact.
What’s more, look at the implied assumption that there is no possibility of IR frequency conversion in the atmosphere and real CO2 climate sensitivity is <0.1K, explaining no atmospheric warming for 17 years, cooling for the past decade.
So, there is no need for CCS or carbon taxes.
“science is a hoax”
The word you are obviously struggling to express, is F-R-A-U-D. Deliberate and criminal fraud on a massive scale, at that.
Karl Denninger (of Market Ticker) analysed the Climategate coding (being he is highly competent in such things) and spotted it, and could see it was criminally fraudulent, straight away.
This is going to end up with lots of handcuffs, jail sentences, and very punitive damages Hone.
Make sure you and Shell aren’t deserving of having them applied to you.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well.
The convergence question for 2014 appears to be whether Gaia begins to converge with the models or the models begin to converge with Gaia’s behavior.
David let me give you the views of someone who did a similar job to yours at Shell about 20 years ago when the CO2 hypothesis first became an issue. I had a generous budget and access to numerous analytical people with PhDs in physics, chemistry and chemical engineering as well as to academics. Having continued to follow the research literature ever since, my conclusions are unchanged:
1. The climate is hugely complex and we know almost nothing about it.
2. The idea that the climate can be modelled and predictions of temperature made, is nonsense.
3. The adverse effects on which papers like the Stern report were based are clearly wrong – tropical storm activity remains at a 40 year low, the health effects such as increases in infectious diseases have been refuted in the peer-reviewed literature, and the 20 year temperature trend has dropped below the lower range of the computer models.
4. Consequently any objective cost-benefit analysis will conclude that adaptation is far preferable to emissions reductions.
5. Nevertheless progress in battery technology and other storage mechanisms, together with advances like algae-to-fuel means that renewables will continue to become cheaper and more practical.
6. The CO2 hypothesis is largely a socio- political issue and should be managed as such. There are huge vested interests driving it – from journalists to bankers to researchers to political anarchists – so your job is safe for a long time.
There is an important, apparently unquestioned, assumption in your post: that rationality lies in the middle. In my opinion, in terms of the usual “denier/activist” debate (please replace these with terms of your own choice) the rational position is well towards the activist end, if it lies on this axis at all
I declare that Romm’s Law has been invoked: He who uses the term “denier” first in the discussion loses. (Google Godwin’s Law for context.)