When will accuracy trump ‘balance’ in media climate coverage?

Is the media now the largest remaining impediment rather than aid to an effective public and political response to climate change? If so, how exactly did this come about, and is there anything that can be done to reverse this?

I have argued and will continue to put forward the proposition that the effective, honest and forthright communication of the reality of climate change is probably the most important work anyone, anywhere can be engaged in right now. This came up repeatedly in my recent interview with climatologist, Prof Michael Mann.

He and other top professional scientists have gradually and perhaps grudgingly come to realise that their remaining ‘above the fray’ simply left the field wide open to chancers, industry hacks and attention seekers. In the US, the situation is further complicated by how intensely politicised the science has become. For most Americans, acceptance or denial of the basics of climate science is now as clear a marker of political affiliation as your stance on the three Gs – guns, god and gays.

In Ireland, the situation is nowhere near as polarised, but from my observation, much of the fringe ‘climate contrarianism’, rather than being reflected, is in fact being generated from within the media. Some of this is conscious, but much seems to be related to a toxic amalgam of innate suspicion of ‘consensus’ in tandem with an extremely poor grasp of basic science and of how scientific understanding actually advances.

Go back two weeks, and RTE radio hosted a ‘Late Debate’ on climate change, in which I participated. Also speaking for the 97% scientific consensus was Frank McDonald of the Irish Times. Pitched against us were Eddie (‘The climate is always changing’) Downey of the IFA and Richard Tol, formerly of the ESRI and more recently making a thorough nuisance of himself misrepresenting the IPCC’s work and providing Manna from Heaven for climate deniers everywhere.

If I were being extremely polite, I’d describe Tol as an outlier, a crank and a narcissist who enjoys the limelight above all else. If I were less polite, I’d direct you to Bob Ward of the LSE, who has catalogued in forensic detail the alarming litany of ‘errors’ in Tol’s work. Strangely, Tol’s miscalculations and unfortunate jumbling up of data gleamed from other papers almost invariably lends weight to his central theme, which is to low-ball the risks and hype the costs of addressing climate change. To be fair, Tol has been at this for years, but it’s good to see his modus operandi finally receive the attention he so clearly craves.

However, for the purposes of the Late Debate, Tol was able to pretty much single-handedly swing the framing of the entire discussion from ‘what the holy hell are we going to do to address climate change’ to something of an ‘oh-yes-it-is-oh-no-it’s-not’ parlour game. The presenter lapped this faux controversy up and Eddie from the IFA purred gratefully as Tol went through his well-rehearsed contortions.

Wiser souls would no doubt have not taken the bait, but I’m clearly not that wise, and couldn’t help but wade in swinging, pointing out just how full of crap Tol et al’s 2008 ESRI projections for a never-ending boom in Ireland were, and so, on that basis, anything else he might be offering his ‘expert’ advice on should be treated with caution. And, if that weren’t reason enough to have the asbestos gloves on when handling Tol’s scholarship, this little beauty from his ESRI days in 2009, entitled ‘Why Worry About Climate Change’ will have you reaching for the whiskey and revolver. Rather than rehashing and refuting line by line the rubbish therein, suffice to enjoy instead our idiot savant’s ‘Reference’ list for the article, as follows: Tol et al, Tol, Tol, Tol, Tol, Tol, Tol et al, Tol et al.

Adrian Kelleher in Village magazine did a devastating take-down in 2011 of Tol, his dodgy GWPF friends and his even dodgier neo-liberal utterances (“new religion of climate change”… “fanatics” and “adherents of the Church of Gaia” … “economists have shown that climate change is not the biggest environmental problem in the world, denying people the catastrophe that they crave” etc. etc. etc.).

I’ll leave the last word on Tol to Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, widely regarded as one of the most important books in the last couple of decades. Taleb is a world-renowned expert in risk management and assessment. “Tol is clueless about ruin probabilities. Totally clueless about risk in general…you idiots fail to understand evidence of harm and precautionary warning”, was Taleb’s devastating critique in a spiky Twitter exchange. He said much else besides about Tol too but I’ll let you look those up yourselves.

Trojan investigative work by Bob Ward and others have helped to neutralise Tol, but not before he did serious damage (as was clearly his intent) to the communication and public understanding of the IPCC AR5 report. Meanwhile, RTE’s new Agriculture and Environment Corr, George Lee has confounded those (including this writer) who feared his appointment would be long on economics and agriculture and short on environment.

I met Lee last month, when he dropped out to Dun Laoghaire to record a slot for the evening news on the release of the third and final part of the AR5 report, this one focusing on mitigation. I was impressed to find him fully up to speed and entirely engaged with the sheer gravity of what the IPCC report had to say. And he delivered it straight, no spin, no bull, no Tol.

This run continued the following day, when RTE Drivetime asked me to comment on the AR5 report. (from 02.17–02.25) Anyone who follows presenter Philip Boucher Hayes will be aware that he clearly recognises climate change as the mother and father of all crises. What made this interview unusual was the marked absence of red herrings – the interviewer asked me to set out the scale of the problem as outlined by the IPCC, as well as possible responses, plus an indication of the costs involved in choosing not to respond. The mitigation/adaptation debate is an important one, but the notion that this is an a la carte menu that humanity can dip in an out of if and when it sees fit is bunk, and Boucher Hayes seemed to be well aware of that.

So far, so good. It could not, of course, last. The following morning the Irish Independent carried an unusually ugly, ignorant piece by columnist Ian O’Doherty. I was going to do a line-by-line rebuttal of it, but on re-reading, it’s little more than the babbling of a willy-waving attention-seeker desperate for instant notoriety. The personalised nature of his attacks on Mary Robinson were, however, despicable. O’Doherty is what he is, but more shame on whatever editor actually allowed that stuff into print.

That was Tuesday. The following day, George Hook unearthed another ‘Emeritus Professor’ to wage war on reality, in the form of one Leslie Woodcock, retired from the University of Manchester and now a mainstream peddler of climate conspiracy theories. CO2, Leslie tells us, is “the gas of life”, and global warming is “absolute nonsense”.

Having been on with Hook some weeks ago for an interview in which he appeared open-minded and certainly seemed to take note that there might be something to this whole climate change malarkey, it was just a tad depressing to hear him wheel on Woodcock explain how practicing scientists have “been indoctrinated by the powers that be”. You could almost hear Woodcock’s tin foil hat crinkle as the interview progressed.

“The balance of evidence in this case is that there is no hard evidence to suggest any fluctuations in temperature are actually caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – CO2 is the gas of life…everything grows faster as the temperature goes up, or if CO2 goes up. There’s no evidence at all that anything unusual is happening as a consequence of burning fossil fuels…the small rise in temperatures actually stopped around 15 years ago, temperatures are actually going down right now…”

At this point, George Hook appeared to have twigged that his esteemed guest might be just a little, how shall we say, potty.  One of the hazards with getting the word ‘Professor’ before your name is that, long after you retire, and no matter how hopelessly idiosyncratic or, in Woodcock’s case, totally wrong you are, people in the media will continue to seek out your opinion to “balance” the debate that’s raging in their minds between on the one hand, the largest science collaboration in world history and on the other, a few duffers and blow-hards who love the sound of their own voices and are far beyond caring about being objective, factual or even vaguely scientific.

So much for Tuesday and Wednesday, surely the circus would at least take Thursday off? Well, not exactly. Instead, it moved to a huge piece in the unfortunately named ‘Life Science’ page in the Irish Times. The headline was catchy: ‘Galway’s drowned forests show climate change is nothing new’. And yes, they found another retired professor – Michael Williams – to set that over-excitable IPCC crowd straight on, well just about everything.

Williams is a retired geologist, and he just loves climate change. Human evolution “would not even have begun were it not for climate change…not only is climate change inevitable…at present the Earth is cooler, sea levels lower and atmospheric levels of CO2 are less than they have been for most of Earth history”.

Hurrah, everything is hunky dory so! What was all that rubbish a couple of short weeks back about climate change racing out of control and smashing through 2C and on towards 4C by mid-century, bringing in its wake a devastating global extinction event and catapulting Earth systems through one or more tipping points and into a chaotic new phase?

No sweat, says the retired geologist. We’ll, you know, adapt. Maybe by moving the global agricultural systems needed to feed over 7 billion humans, well, somewhere else, c’mon, there must be a couple of vast undiscovered continents we can just up sticks and move to? “Since we are the ultimate in animal adaptation humans must continue to adapt”, Williams sagely advises.

Cynics might well ask what exactly a geologist would know about human adaptive capabilities, over and above, say, the actual experts in human adaptive capability? Who knows, but, like Woodcock, Williams is a Professor and so, at least in some media quarters, that makes him an expert is all manner of things.

So what would the geologist suggest we do next? Who needs the IPCC AR5 report and its 800 authors drawn from the world’s elite of published scientists? Who needs its 2,000 page report drawing on the expertise of 9,200 peer-reviewed studies? Clearly not Prof Williams. The IPCC says that only massive mitigation at a global level can give us any reasonable chance of halting ‘dangerous, irreversible  anthropogenic interference in the global climate systems’.

Bah humbug to all that. “Education and planning for an uncertain future is a substitute for panic and the spending of billions in funds to temporarily defer the inevitable. Instead, why not use the funding and our ingenuity to plan for future environmental changes”? Says Williams. Yes, cynics might well ask what a geologist knows about the “uncertain future” and the implications of “spending billions” over and above, say, the actual experts in planning for both adaptation to and mitigation of climate impacts.

Williams is of course perfectly entitled to his own opinion, however at variance his views are from the international expert consensus. These are obviously personal views, but here’s the thing: they appear on a page called ‘Life Science’, the person offering the idiosyncratic opinions is referred to as Professor. At no time did the writer of the piece, or her editor, interject to point out that Williams’ fascinating tour of paleo-climatology is completely and absolutely irrelevant to the existential conundrum a densely populated, deforested, highly polluted world teeming with billions of humans and in the grip of a mass extinction event faces in the coming decades as a result of sharp increases in global average surface temperatures on a scale and at a rate far beyond the adaptive ability of either humanity or (what’s left of) nature.

Of course, there are those who will argue that it’s not the job of the Irish Times Life Science page to only offer the IPCC ‘side of the story’ (the 97%+ global expert consensus ‘side’). But here’s the thing: this page, to the very best of my understanding, completely ignored the IPCC AR5 report, all three parts of it, in fact. On the other hand, the entirely personal opinions of one retired geologist are worthy of two thirds of a broadsheet spread, with a headline so lurid it even got picked up by RTE’s It Says in the Papers. Deniers everywhere must have been rubbing their hands in glee.

The piece was also just plain sloppy. “For example, the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 reduced global temperatures by over 10 degrees, and it took another five years for climate to return to normal”, Siggins quotes Williams. This is out by a factor of ten. In fairness, when challenged, the writer accepted it as a slip of the pen and the online version has been updated. However, were the “degrees” centigrade or farenheit? There’s a huge difference, but who knows, since the piece (on a Science page!) doesn’t bother saying.

The Irish Times letters page carried two pieces highly critical of this article the following Monday. One, by physicist Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, states that Williams’ views are  “completely at odds with the consensus of climate scientists worldwide…in the first instance, the past climate changes cited by Professor Williams occurred over many thousands of years, allowing plants and animals time to adapt. In addition, these changes occurred at times of low (or no) human populations. The threat we face today is a climate that is changing over decades, not thousands of years, and the likely effects on a densely populated world”.

O’Raifeartaigh added: “It is telling that in his discussion of the ice ages, Professor Williams makes no mention of the critical role greenhouse gases played as an amplifying effect in global warming”. Another thing the good Professor seems to have overlooked is the small detail that the geological record gives us an exquisite view of the effects of sudden climate shifts.

Take the end-Permian era 252 million years ago. This mass extinction event took place in the blink of an eye, at least in geological terms. The whole episode took little more than 100,000 years. The event was triggered by a massive release of carbon. Ocean chemistry went haywire as the water acidified from excess carbon. When it was over, more than 90% of all species alive had been wiped out, and of the surviving species, their numbers were drastically reduced. It took some 10 million years for life on Earth to begin to recover its diversity.

The fossil record faithfully records the five great mass extinction events that have befallen Earth in the last half a billion years. What the sediments reveal is how devastating sudden climatic changes are on the balance of life. The great Ordovician extinction 444 million years ago is – literally – written in stone.

“The change here from black to gray (in the sediment) marks a tipping point, from a habitable sea floor to an uninhabitable one, and one might have seen that in the span of a human lifetime”, Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, a stratigrapher at the University of Leicester tells author Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction (a book I would very strongly recommend to Prof Williams, whose own field of expertise is, well, Sedimentology).

Ironically, the end-Ordovician extinction event was triggered by rapid global cooling. The point is that rapid shifts from the climatic norm – in either direction – are associated over and over again with extinction events. Whether the precipitating cause is a meteor strike, mass volcanic eruption or anthropogenic carbon dumping is ultimately irrelevant. What matters is the rate and magnitude of the disturbance.

As Kolbert sets out so starkly: “Right now, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy”.

Prof Walter Alvarez is a highly decorated earth scientist who became famous for first developing the theory that the (non-avian) dinosaurs were in fact wiped out as a result of a global cooling event triggered by an asteroid impact some 65 million years ago that brought the Cretaceous era to a juddering end Most geologists have heard of Alvarez. I wonder what Prof Williams would make of Alvarez’ observation that the current global crisis of life is being driven not by a speeding asteroid but by “one weedy species…we’re seeing right now that a mass extinction can be caused by human beings”.

Paul Price also had a hard-hitting critique of this Williams interview published in the letters page. Below are the main points he made in a comment appended to the online edition of the Irish Times, which he addressed both to Williams and to writer Lorna Siggins:

 1. Can you point to the exact time frames in which average global temperature changed “by as much as 16 degrees, in time frames as short as decades”? Please state your references.

2. Can you tell us the total average surface temperature change between ice age glacials & interglacials? Surely you know that the difference was only about 4 to 5ºC and the transitions took thousands of years? This compares with humanity’s current track toward a possible 4 to 6ºC change within 200 years (IPCC AR5 WG1). Can you give evidence that this is not an extreme risk?

3. Do you think, as IPCC WG2 do, that climate change beyond adaptation limits for many regional human and ecological systems is possible by the end of this century, if radical mitigation of emissions is not undertaken quickly?

4. Are your cherry-picked, misleading, out of context factoids actually representative of your own ‘business-as-usual’ values to attempt to deny the best assessment we have of climate science as given by the IPCC. They state that business as usual is not tenable:

“Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” IPCC AR5 WG1 p19

5. Are you really as clueless about climate science as you appear to be? Why do you apparently disrespect climate science and climate scientists to allow yourself to speak in such a misleading way from your position as a geologist non-climate-expert?

These are serious charges, and we look forward to Prof Williams or the Irish Times addressing them in detail.

I’d like to add one or two more myself:

Dear Irish Times ‘Life Science’ page, can you remind us exactly how much space you dedicated to covering publication of the three main releases of the IPCC’s blockbuster AR5 report in recent months? (hint: somewhere between ‘very little’ and ‘none at all’). Given that the IPCC is the largest scientific collaboration in the world, and only publishes its Assessment reports every seven years or so, in what way would you consider this to not be worthy of extensive coverage on a page ostensibly dedicated to science and the public understanding of science?

The editor of this section caused quite a stir last July with a front page ‘news’ story entitled: ‘Sun’s bizarre activity may trigger another ice age’. Denier website Wattsupwiththat and UK denier think tank, the GWPF both liked this story – a lot. So much, in fact, it’s now in their online ‘news’ archives.

Given that this flies in the face of just about everything we know about climate change, small wonder it made the front page. Too bad, perhaps, it was simply untrue, as Prof Barry McMullin carefully unpicked here and, far more publicly embarrassingly for the paper, the UK Guardian savaged the report here. As unfortunate coincidence would have it, another stalwart of the same Life Science page is (yet) another retired professor, William Reville of UCC, a man who brings startling levels of academic rigour to his occasional forays into environmental science: “many leading greens seem to be Marxists” or DDT “poses no health hazards” and my personal favourite: “The green movement believes in God, or more precisely, a Goddess called Gaia”, etcetera etcetera.

Meanwhile, back to the Williams interview. Here, I have to agree with the comments Paul Price made in his letter to the Irish Times: “(Williams’) unscientific cherry-picking of a series of geologic and ice age climate facts created a highly misleading picture that is entirely irrelevant to the mitigation and adaptation decisions required by us now… ‘Opinion’ pieces by non-experts may be acceptable for politics or entertainment but on a matter of science, and one of such grave import for all our futures, knowledgeable, critical reporting is required…. it is the responsibility of The Irish Times and its reporters to have sufficient critical and fact checking ability to avoid supplying the public with badly misleading information on climate change, just as would be expected in reporting vaccination for example.

“At the very least reporters should read the IPCC report summaries. Climate change affects all our futures, therefore our media need to work much harder and contact climate scientists for help when writing climate stories to ensure accuracy. Otherwise journalism betrays our trust in this pivotal decade.”

Surely, after five full IPCC reports and countless thousands of peer-reviewed papers over the last two decades or so, that’s not too much to ask?

The Irish Times delivered its response to the challenge thrown down by O’Raifeartaigh and Price, in a manner of speaking, by running two letters from out and out climate change deniers a couple of days later, including a serial denier, David Whitehead, associated with a Flat Earther grouping calling itself Turn 180. Its stated aim: ‘is to inform the Irish public that Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant, nor is it the cause of Global Warming’ (yawn).

Whitehead wasted no time in labelling people who do not share his anti-science views as “shrill, hysterical…ignorant”. Another letter writer chimed in: “the thought police are on the warpath again – a lone voice queries the popular assertion of “climate change” and is condemned in tones reminiscent of Animal Farm… I find myself wondering whether “global warming” might not simply be the latest iteration of atavistic superstition.”

In the interest of yet more ‘balance’, further responses from both Price and O’Raifeartaigh were published a couple of days later…and so the merry-go-round spun on and on. A letter drawn up by An Taisce’s newly formed climate change committee (disclosure: I’m a member) and signed jointly by Barry McMullin and James Nix was submitted but, sadly, not published. It was headed: ‘Honesty and integrity in climate science reporting’.

Among the points it addressed were:

“To maintain trust, and to properly serve the society that sustains them, our public media need to embrace their responsibility to reflect honestly and accurately the overwhelming scientific consensus on the core findings of climate science and the scale and urgency of the human predicament this science describes. The status of this scientific consensus must be clearly distinguished from mere shared opinion, ideology or, worst of all, “groupthink” – indeed, it is the very opposite.

“Consensus among a large, diverse and distributed group of scientific experts is achieved only through the most intense, prolonged, severe and transparent processes of critical review, experiment and argument, all directed with the explicit aim of uncovering any conceivable weakness or error. Science does not and cannot deliver unambiguous or definitive “truth” on any issue – it is always open to new challenge, refinement or correction: but it is the very best approach yet discovered to identifying and eliminating error.”

The letter concluded by urging Ireland’s Paper of Record to follow the lead of the Los Angeles Times and Sydney Morning Herald among other media who have recently introduced explicit policies to refuse to give oxygen to deliberate misrepresentation of climate science. In a nutshell, that means refusing to run material that promotes demonstrable falsehoods, such as Whitehead’s letter. Maybe it’s reading too much into the decision of the paper not to publish this considered official response from An Taisce, but it does suggest the paper may not yet ready to fully take on board its own Editor’s Statement, which includes the following: “Above all else, we commit ourselves to accuracy; the most essential test of our profession”.

More broadly, quite how you overcome the mindset among some in journalism that gleefully showcases irrelevant contrarianism in a way that is clearly designed to dent public confidence in the reliability of climate science and the need to take urgent, far-reaching actions to avert disaster is perhaps another day’s work.

Trying to unpick media coverage on a moving point like climate change is a tricky and thankless pursuit, and yet it remains critically important. It’s only by calling our media to account, over and over again, that we can hope to see any progress, however slight, in the accurate communication of climate science. After all, it’s not like our lives don’t depend on it.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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  • thegasmancometh
  • deirdre joyce

    This ‘information divide’ on the public/media acceptance of environmental problems (incl. climate change) has been identified by the Annals of American Science (ANNAS) see: Figure 2 [in] Aronson et al. (2010) The road to sustainability must bridge three great divides.

  • Peter Walsh

    Great analysis as usual!
    You may have seen news during week of Lloyd’s report on adapting risk strategies to climate change. This is Thursday’s Guardian report:

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/may/08/lloyds-insurer-account-climate-change-extreme-weather-losses

    Also BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Thursday a very good, short interview with Trevor Maynard of Lloyd’s at 02:46:56 – 02:49:44 here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042ldyn

    -this is available for 5 more days.

  • Contrapunctus

    All this sounds a bit too frantic. No one wants to pollute and destroy the planet and most people are now very conscious of the urgent need to protect and respect the environment, but a lot of people too are beginning to have a strong gut feeling that the carbon tax and the current big push on Climate Change is being generated as part of the agenda of politicians, big business and other powerful vested interests worldwide.
    Top scientists have contributed to different sections of the IPCC work, but many (well some who are brave or independent enough to do so) have stated that the final draft and gathering of materials for consensus has always been the work not of the scientists but of the IPCC ‘Policy Makers’ division.
    Richard Lindzen’s (IPCC & MIT professor) calm and lucidity in debate is more convincing than the often bullying attitude of climate change crusaders. The models he says (calmly) are just not reliable enough to give the kind of certainty that is claimed by the current propaganda consensus. There is agreement among scientists that a small amount of warming has taken place over the last century (that’s proven, but most of it took place before C02 levels really began to increase, pre 1945) and this could continue, but there is no ‘proof’ that further catastrophic warming is ‘definitely’ going to take place. The scare tactics are wearing thin especially when they can be shown to be based on less than rigorous scientific proof. There is a lot of ‘woo’ among the CC deniers on the Internet, I agree, but unfortunately there is an equal amount of ‘unprovable ‘woo’ indulgence’ in the Climate Change activist’s camp and this encourages people to use their intelligence and make up their own minds about climate change. The fact that you would want the media to stifle all dissent and debate on this issue, will only further alienate potential CC believers.

  • johngibbons

    Thanks Peter, will follow up the links you provided. Interesting to see the insurance industry waking up to climate change as a game changer for risk assessment. JG

  • johngibbons

    Hadn’t seen these, but will look them up, thanks for dropping by, and thanks for posting the link. JG

  • johngibbons

    Do you have any links to the above Deirdre, would be good if you could post them up here. JG

  • johngibbons

    Contrapunctus, when you’re reduced to quoting Lindzen to buttress an argument, that’s a sure sign you’ve got nothing much to say. “Climate change crusaders…propaganda consensus…scare tactics are wearing thin…” If you actually believe that, well best of luck. As a matter of interest, have you actually visited http://www.ipcc.ch and read the Summary For Policymakers for yourself, or do you prefer motivated contrarians to do your thinking for you? As for my wanting the media to ‘stifle all dissent and debate’, what I called for was debate informed by peer-reviewed science, not ideological tat peddled by Lindzen and his fellow libertarian denialists. JG

  • Contrapunctus

    ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’ Orwell.

  • Contrapunctus

    The hubris ‘you’ exhibit in referring to my being ”reduced” when quoting Lindzen (a real specialist of the first calibre) is astonishing! And yes, I have tried to read the ‘unreadable text’ to which you refer (unread by most politicians I’m sure) the ‘summary for policy makers’ with all its ‘high confidence/medium confidence’ sickening bureaucratic jargon. If this is the best guys in the CC lobby can come up with, then better for the ’cause’ that such ”gobbeltygook” remains out of reach for all intelligent members of the populace.

  • johngibbons

    “Richard Lindzen is one of the approximately 3 percent of climate scientists who believe the human influence on global warming is relatively small (though Lindzen is now retired, no longer doing scientific research). More importantly, he’s been wrong about nearly every major climate argument he’s made over the past two decades. Lindzen is arguably the climate scientist who’s been the wrongest, longest.”

    http://climatecrocks.com/2014/01/13/puffing-lindzen/

    Sorry you find the ‘sickening bureaucratic jargon’ of actual science less enjoyable than the GOP talking points produced by Lindzen and regurgitated by Sarah Palin et al. But science doesn’t care whether you like it or even agree with it, since fact is not subject to opinion. I wonder who the “guys in the CC lobby” are, exactly? In fact, I wonder who YOU are, and why you hide behind a pseudonym.

    Almost every other poster here is identified by name, including the author. Trolls, in my experience, prefer the cloak of anonymity. Do feel free to prove me wrong and say exactly who you are and what you angle is. JG

  • johngibbons

    Nice quote. Your guy Richard Lindzen does quite a bit of PR work, delivering talks to the ‘faithful’ in right wing groups like the Heartland Institute, for instance. I hear it pays a whole lot better than actually carrying out original scientific research or, in Lindzen’s case, carrying out research and having it thrashed, over and over again, by your professional peers as being simply wrong. Maybe that’s why he sticks to the public relations these days! JG

  • Ruairí Weldon

    John, Your confidence in peer-reviewed climate science is not universally shared and certainly not by James Delingpole when he wrote in the Telegraph (13-1-2010) under the heading….’How Climategate killed ‘peer-review’ ‘and I quote.’As seen in the leaked emails,many within the climate establishment were interrelated and working together to ensure their message on global warming wasn’t diluted.There were even desires to redefine the peer-review literature to punish journals that published skeptic’s papers’.
    You also used the word ‘informed’ in relation to peer-reviewed science, which brings to mind those quite recent times when the bishops allowed their catholic flock to vote with their consciences,so long as they were ‘informed consciences’.There was no doubt about who would be doing the informing.Or to put it another way,anyone who disagrees with the I.P.C.C. must be misinformed,or at least must be having bad climate thoughts,and probably in need of complete reeducation on all climate matters.

  • johngibbons

    Ruairi, you pick an interesting character with whom to make your point. I first saw James Delingpole when being interviewed on a BBC documentary by Nobel laureate Prof Paul Nurse, president of the UK’s pre-eminent science academy, the Royal Society.

    Nurse asked Delingpole, very politely, where he got his information about climate change. The response: “It’s not my job to sit down and read, ah, ah, ah, peer reviewed papers, because I simply haven’t go the time or the scientific expertise. What I rely on is people who have got the time and the expertise to do it…I am an interpreter of interpretations”. In Ireland, interpreters of interpretations are generally known more simply as bullshit artists.

    Delingpole is product of the elitist Oxbridge debating society circle, a polemicist who uses a given topic to score points, but with zero interest in and even less understanding of the complex physical science he constantly calls into question – and far too lazy and arrogant to even bother reading the Executive Summaries of the reports and papers he dismisses so blithely.

    He is journalism’s answer to a certain kind of taxi driver – full of bile and rage, keen to sound off on his strongly held but poorly argued beliefs, and totally intolerant of any dissent. Delingpole’s belief that all scientists are shysters who’d do anything for a few quid reflects, I would suggest, his own ethical framework, not theirs.

    Anyone who understands anything at all about the scientific method will be aware that it has evolved over the last two or three centuries as by far the most effective system of advancing human understanding. Its strength is not that it pretends (like religions) to have all the answers, but rather, it demands evidence, solid empirical evidence, be presented to support every hypothesis. The bolder the hypothesis, the greater the demand for evidence to support it.

    Without the rigours of the scientific method, the internet, global telecommunications, 99% of modern medicine and a host of other ‘everyday’ miracles upon which we all depend would simply never have evolved. In going into a response in this depth, I’m assuming you have an open mind and are simply mistaken to have placed any confidence or trust whatever in the opinions of James Delingpole (whom even the Daily Telegraph have had to get rid of, so odious were his writings).

    To reject out of hand a powerful consensus position shared by 97% of the world’s publishing climate scientists and 100% of the world’s science academies on a critical scientific finding with implications for all of life on Earth is a pretty high-risk strategy on your part. What if, after all, the experts are right and the ex-Telegraph blogger is the liar? You might come to regret placing so much stock in a buffoon.

    I may of course be totally incorrect in my assumption that you are approaching this argument with an open mind and are prepared to be persuaded by the evidence and the balance of probabilities; doubtless you’ll set me straight if this is not the case.

  • Tony Allwright

    John, can you provide a link for RTE’s ‘Late Debate’ on climate change to which you refer.

  • Ruairí Weldon

    John,while I readily accept and concur with(as any reasonable skeptic would) the 97% consensus claim that mankind causes some global warming,it would take a mighty consensus to convince me that 97%of the world’s climate scientists agree that mankind’s CO2 emissions is causing and will cause catastrophic warming in the coming decades.One would expect that such a massive majority of highly skilled scientists,operating under a rigorous peer-review and scientific methodology,supported by Government and U.N. finances and the availability of the most sophisticated computer technology,should have been able to get their dire global warming projections over the last two decades at least marginally correct.The empirical evidence of the temperature record tells us that the global warming hypothesis has dismally failed,as there has been no statistically significant global warming for the last 17.5 years,(a fact substantiated by the British Met Office).After such a failure,it is not at all surprising that the alarmist school of thought would prefer that we forget all about their man-made warming claims and worry instead about man-made climate change and man-made climate disruption,which covers just about any and every weather event on the planet.Skeptics readily appreciate that climate changes periodically,but they would have major difficulties attributing the causes of such changes to mankind.
    While it is generally accepted that emissions generated by mankind cause some warming of the climate,and the fact that this warming has not been detected in the last 17.5 years,would lead me to conclude that some more powerful forcing is at work which has overtaken the human warming.Last winter’s weather extremes would also lead me to research the climate records of the past looking for similar weather events.James A Marusek’s( on Intrernet) A Chronological Listing of Early Weather Events has this to say about the first quarter of 1817….’severe damage to new breakwater at Plymouth….severe storms in England….hurricane in Ireland….Oxford so flooded that it becomes an island…severe snowy weather in U.S.A. causing Potomac to freeze over at Alexandria’.The similarities so far between both years are fairly obvious and may be excellent indicators as to what we may expect during a Grand Solar Minimum.There are a great many practical actions which Governments should take to prevent and allay the worst effects of extreme weather events,but wasting funds on trying to change the climate is the height of folly and definitely not recommended.

  • Tony Allwright

    The good news is that you have been name-checked by Mark Steyn – you cannot buy that kind of publicity.

    The not-so-good news is that he doesn’t exactly flatter you.
    http://www.steynonline.com/6336/village-idiot

  • johngibbons

    Au contraire, Tony! I’d be positively horrified if a drooling GOP toe-rag like Steyn had anything good to say about me. To borrow a line from FDR back in 1936 (also referring to fascists, as it happens): “They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred”

  • Tony Allwright

    More good and bad news for John this morning from Steyn:
    “Six Degrees of Warmerization”
    http://www.steynonline.com/6342/six-degrees-of-warmerization

    I don’t think you will ever live down your percentarisation of temperature rises – not once but twice! Talk about anti-science!

    Just for the record, if you want to express as a percentage a temperature rise from 14½°C to 18½°C, it is not “over 25%”. You have to relate the temperatures to absolute zero, ie -273°C. Thus the increase, in terms of Celsius degrees above absolute zero, is actually from 287½° to 291½°, or just 1.4%.

    John, you are “anti-science” by a factor or 17! We will remember that.

  • johngibbons

    Tony, pardon my clumsiness. It was unscientific of me to use Zero C in that way, and I acknowledged as much when someone brought this up a couple of years ago with me online. However, relating temperatures to absolute zero is, for all intents and purposes, absolutely meaningless, at least to anyone other than a scientist, and I write for a lay audience, not a scientific one. So, while my translation was undoubtedly clumsy, it’s probably a lot LESS meaningless to the average reader than a phrase like: “287½° to 291½°, or just 1.4%”.

    But, have fun with it anyhow. When you say “We will remember that”. Who is the ominous-sounding “we” you refer to? Would it be your Pro-Lifer or your rabid anti-climate science friends? (From your Twitt account: “Are we so wrapped up in the global warm-mongering cult that we slavishly bow to every AGW scheme however hare-brained?”)

  • Tony Allwright

    Have I really understood you correctly, John?

    Relating temperatures to absolute zero is … meaningless … for a lay audience“.

    So while your “translation” [?] was “clumsy” [ie anti-science] it was “less meaningless” to tell your readers the temperature rise was “over 25%“, rather than the truth, being 1.4%.

    Telling lies to people – effectively your own customers – because you think they’re ignorant and can’t handle the truth does not seem a very honourable approach.

    As for the “we“, you will realise that I am a member of the vast international anti-global-warming conspiracy whose only objective is to destroy every aspect of the environment, until we take over the world.

  • johngibbons

    Tough choices Tony. Between newspaper and magazine articles and blog posts, I’ve written well north of half a million words on environmental issues over the last seven years. Along the way, I undoubtedly made some mistakes; considering the deadline pressure under which much is written, it would be quite remarkable if every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed during that entire period.

    Let’s compare and contrast my mathematical clumsiness with a major ignoramus-grade howler, such as representing the entire canon of physical science around climate change as a “global warm-mongering cult”. I would rather be a poor mathematician than a blinkered ideologue – any day.

    You’ve come here to gloat and jeer. You have absolutely nothing to say about the substantive issues under discussion. Like Steyn, you prefer sneering and jeering to engaging and debating. Just in case you’re interested, maybe you could apply your fine engineering training to working out the probability of the RCP 8.5 scenario (known as business-as-usual) playing out this century.

    To refresh you, this scenario sees average surface temperatures rising by 4–6+C (from their current c.14.5C) this century, with some scenarios showing 4C of additional heating having been added by 2050 – 36 years’ hence. We could play a game called: “Let’s find a clever way of expressing the difference between 14.5C average surface temperature and, say, 19.5C adverse surface temperature”. Using your Absolute Zero method, you could probably shrug and say “meh, another 5-6C, no big deal”.

    Except of course that is one gigantic lie. Dramatic temperature increases on that time scale take us headlong into a guaranteed Global Mass Extinction Event. I find it impossible to imagine you are so ignorant as to not realise that. So, if you’d like to discuss the existential threat the BAU that people like you, Steyn et al. are so busy promoting, I’d be happy to engage. I doubt it somehow. I am left assuming that you have reached that most blissful age where you know you won’t be around to personally reap the whirlwind and you either have no children/grandchildren or simply couldn’t care less what happens to them after you’re gone.

    Either way, pretty sad, desperate stuff Tony. If you actually do want to discuss the substantive issues here, I’m happy to facilitate. But any more of your sneering and Steyn-boostering and I’ll be hitting the ‘Spam’ button. JG

  • Alec Stuart

    I can tell by the manner in which you respond to comments, even serious ones, which dispute your position that this one will not be received well. But…once more into the breech, good sir?

    First, I see that you are really big into this whole “97% consensus” thing. I find it interesting that I never see other fields of science talk this way. You never hear astronomers talk about Newtonian gravity being the settled consensus, or chemists shouting down any detractor of the periodic table with cries of “Consensus! Get it, derp!” As though the periodic table represents our final understanding of the arrangement of the elements and will never need updating as our knowledge makes gains.

    Never mind that the whole notion of this “consensus” in climate science may have been, if you’ll pardon a pun, Cooked in from the beginning. Populartechnology.net has posted e-mails from John Cook’s Skeptical Science website concerning what Cook calls “The Consensus Project” or TCP. The e-mails, from early 2012, reveal the huge promotional campaign Cook was rolling out to publicize the consensus study — before he had even done the study. It is also evident from the e-mails that Cook knew he was cooking the data to reach a preconceived conclusion. In his “Introduction to TCP” e-mail of January 19, 2012, Cook explains to team members:

    It’s essential that the public understands that there’s a scientific consensus on AGW [anthropogenic (man-made) global warming]. So Jim Powell, Dana and I have been working on something over the last few months that we hope will have a game changing impact on the public perception of consensus. Basically, we hope to establish that not only is there a consensus, there is a strengthening consensus. Deniers like to portray the myth that the consensus is crumbling, that the tide is turning.

    Right from the get-go, it is apparent that Cook is planning to cook up a “game changing” study that will prove the “scientific consensus” he wants the public to accept. Typical of Cook and activists of his ilk is their use of “deniers” when referring to their opposition, an attempt to smear scientists who hold different opinions by equating them with Nazi holocaust deniers. It is hardly the mark of professional civility and collegiality one expects from true scientists.

    Cook’s “Introduction” admits that “TCP is basically an update and expansion of Naomi Oreskes’ survey of the peer-reviewed literature with deeper analysis.” That is an interesting admission, since the 2004 Oreskes study — which was the original source for the 97 percent claim — was exposed for the same methodological flaws. Dr. Benny Peiser, a social science professor at John Moores University and visiting fellow at the University of Buckingham, eviscerated the Oreskes study, pointing out that Oreskes had falsified the so-called consensus by her faulty selection criteria in choosing papers to include in her survey.

    Or how about this one:

    I anticipate there will be around 6000 “neutral” papers. So what I was thinking of doing next was a public crowd sourcing project where the public are given the list of neutral papers and links to the full paper — if they find evidence of an endorsement, they submit it to SkS (Skeptical Science)…. Thus over time, we would gradually process the 6000 neutral papers, converting many of them to endorsement papers — and make regular announcements like “hey the consensus just went from 99.75% to 99.8%, here are the latest papers with quotes.”

    In his “Introduction to TCP,” Cook acknowledges that probably only half of the 12,000 papers they’ve selected will either explicitly or implicitly endorse AGW alarmism. But over time, he expects online volunteers to “process” many of the 6,000 non-endorsement papers, “converting” them into endorsements!

    Cook went on to sketch out an entire promotional campaign utilizing press releases, major media programs, booklets, Kindle/iBooks, blogs, etc. “We beat the consensus drum often and regularly and make SkS the home of the perceived strengthening consensus,” Cook advised.

    At least one of the members of his team seems to have recognized that Cook had the emphasis all backwards. Ari Jokimäki responded:

    I have to say that I find this planning of huge marketing strategies somewhat strange when we don’t even have our results in and the research subject is not that revolutionary either (just summarizing existing research).

    Oh the humanity! Seriously though, I don’t know if you are even aware just how corrupt the whole Consensus Project (Cook’s title, not mine) was. You obviously believe that humanity would be best served by spending billions (or trillions?) of dollars to mitigate “climate change.” All I ask is that you stop with this “97% consensus” thing. It’s a sham. The study behind it is a sham, and the study it was based on was a sham. If there is a consensus at all, it isn’t clear that it is anything close to 97%

    And the way things are looking after the Climategate and SkS scandals percolate, this whole “peer review” concept (at least as climate science is concerned) has basically become an echo chamber where “skeptical” papers need not apply. Prof Lennart Bengtsson (a man whose contributions to climate science have taken place over a 50 year career and dwarfs anything that Dr. Michael Mann can claim) and Judith Curry can attest to the kind bullies that the climate change industry has bred.

    It seems to me as a lay person with scientific interests that a group of people are more interested in protecting their taxpayer grant money than advancing the cause of science.

  • johngibbons

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh dear, the conspiracy is spreading. That dastardly Cook seems to have secretly enlisted the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, the UK Royal Society, their French, Russian, German, Australian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. etc equivalents into this gigantic ol’ hoax of yours. He must be very clever indeed. How inconvenient that of the 2,259 peer-reviewed articles relating to climate change published worldwide between November 2012 and December 2013 by 9,136 specialist authors, a sum total of ONE author rejected anthropogenic global warming. Oh the humanity!

    The AAAS report, entitled ‘What We Know’ concluded: “The world is at growing risk of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes”. The AAAS is one of the world’s pre-eminent academies. ““As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do, but we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.”

    “The rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades,”

    Only a true idiot wearing a blindfold and with his fingers jammed in both ears would read this quality of expert evidence and reject it out of hand in favour of squalid little conspiracy theories pedalled by energy industry funded ‘think tanks’ and reheated on denialist websites and happily republished by legions of stooges tapping away merrily on their keypads and feeling awfully clever indeed that they’ve outfoxed all those corrupt scientists aboard their ocean-going luxury yachts living the high life on research grants.

    Your opening point is an interesting one. Why, you ask, don’t we have raging controversies over other areas along the scientific frontier? Good question. I wonder if that’s because what’s unique about climate science is that its findings call into question the ‘right’ of the trillion-dollar global energy industry to continue dumping its waste products free of charge into the atmosphere and oceans without severe negative consequences.

    Don’t like the message? Hell, it’s a lot cheaper to shoot the messenger than to actually try to clean up the mess. I’m guessing you DON’T work for this industry, which makes it all the more risible your enthusiasm to ensure they go on continuing to destroy our shared environment for their narrow, short-term profit. No wonder you find it more comforting to retreat into conspiracy theorising than to face the unvarnished facts.

    Do yourself a favour. Forget about what blogs (including this one) on either side of the ‘argument’ have to say, and instead, spend some time reading, first hand, what the actual experts (try Nasa Climate Change, the AAAS and the UK Royal Society for openers) have to say. Then, and only then, decide if you’re still happy with your peddling peddling faux scandals and propping up of straw men.

  • johngibbons

    Tony Allwright and UKIP’s fascist Nigel Farage: Soul-mates. Nuff said.

  • Tony Allwright

    Is this meant to smear me, John? That I would support Nigel Farage in his quest to extricate the UK from the EU? ;-) BTW, calling him a fascist (or a racist) does not make him into one.

  • johngibbons

    I think you’ve smeared yourself here Tony, in your online fawning over the odious racist Farage. This took all of 3 minutes to unearth. I wonder what an hour’s online research might yield? And there was me thinking my reputation was the one being thrashed here! If I may borrow your own phrase: “I don’t think you will ever live down your consorting with ‘Nigel’ and shielding him from “unhinged haters”.

    Nice try at passing yourself off a reasonable, rational bloke, Tony, sorry it was so short-lived.

  • Tony Allwright

    Hi John,

    Your response raises three issues:

    • The temperature percentage mistake,
    • the very existence of global warming, and
    • if it does exist the optimum way to spend money.

    Firstly, I fully accept that your original claim that a temperature rise from 14½°C to 18½°C is “over 25%”, rather than the correct figure of 1.4%, was a mistake. By the way, the 1.4% is not the result of what you call my “Absolute Zero method” but a scientific and mathematical truth, just as 2+2 = 4 is not “my” equation but a universal truth.

    Notwithstanding pedantry, however, for you to then defend your “over 25%”in this thread by effectively saying that your readers are too ignorant to understand 1.4%, is not only deeply patronising, but suggests that your real reason is that 1.4% (“no big deal”) is insufficiently scary to raise the climate alarm. Therefore it had to be multiplied by over seventeen.

    Secondly, a projected rise of 4-6°C from 14.5°C would indeed be catastrophic for many parts of the world, but how reliable is the estimate? Up to now, the Global Warming Cult has been unimpressive in its efforts at modelling the complexity of the global climate over centuries and linking it to atmospheric concentrations of CO2. Consider, for example:

    • Your buddy Michael Mann’s hockey stick has deliberately been doctored to iron out any data that contradicts the narrative (such as the Mediaeval Warm Period) and to ignore the unreliability of tree rings as a predictor of temperatures over past century or so.

    • Ocean temperatures rises have actually followed CO2 rises, not the other way round, in other words CO2 cannot be the cause. The reason is simply that warmer water releases more CO2 from solution.

    • Since 1997 there has been, according to actual measurements and despite computer models to the contrary, no global warming at all despite a 10% rise in CO2 levels.

    • Weather forecasting is notoriously imprecise despite barely looking a month ahead. What confidence does that give for climate forecasts decades or a century ahead?

    Moreover, the GWC persistently emphasises the negative effect of anthropogenic global warming (rising sea-levels, desertification of fertile lands etc) while ignoring the beneficial effects (eg fewer deaths through cold; better crop yields in temperate and cold climates due to the extra warmth and higher CO2). This is dishonest.

    So how catastrophic will a lack of anti-global warming measures really be?

    Thirdly, the GWC – though it usually claims its concern is primarily the betterment and safeguarding of poor people (the rich can look after themselves) – never seems to consider alternative methods of spending other people’s money other than through reducing CO2 emissions.

    The Kyoto Protocol was just the first serious international undertaking to reduce CO2 emissions and was moreover considered but the first step in a long process. Yet if successfully implemented world-wide, Kyoto would merely defer – not eliminate – a global temperature rise of 1.9°C in a hundred years’ time by … six years [Refs 1, 2, 3].

    The annual cost of this ineffective deferral would be $100 billion for a century [4], ie ten trillion dollars.

    The question therefore is whether Kyoto is the best use of such a vast sum. According to Kofi Annan (when UN boss) and the World Bank, just 2% of this would provide all humanity with clean drinking water and sanitation and thereby avoid 2 million deaths per year in the third world [5, 6].

    If poor people in the developing world were actually asked (as if!), do you think they would opt for sanitation today or six year’s deferral for their great grand-children?

    The GWC never seems consider such options for the optimum use of other people’s money, so zealous is it to promulgate the one true global warm-mongering faith.

    • Ref 1 : T M Wigley, 1998, “The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate Implications“, Geophysical Research Letters 25(13):2, 285-8

    • Ref 2 : Richard Benedick, 1998, “How workable is the Kyoto Protocol?“, Weathervane,

    http://www.weathervane.rff.org/pop/pop5/benedick.html

    • Ref 3 : Science magazine, 19 Dec 1997, Section 1, p10

    • Ref 4 : John Weyant and Jennifer Hill, 1999, “Introduction and Overview“, The Energy Journal, Kyoto Special Issue : xxxiii-xxxiv, BEA 2001b-c

    • Ref 5 : Kofi Annan, 2000, “Progress Made in Providing Safe Water Supply and Sanitation for all During the 1990s – Report of the Secretary-General“, p5, UN Economic and Social Council, Commission on Sustainable Development, 8th session;

    http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N00/347/73/PDF/N0034773.pdf?OpenElement

    • Ref 6 : World Bank, 1994, “World Development Report 1994 – Investing in Health”, Oxford University Press

    I think at the very least, the GWC should justify why money should be spent on trying to avoid warming rather than mitigating its effects.

    Finally, feel free to spamify me if you wish. I have copies of everything I need. And I am sure that by now you will be checking out Mark Steyn yourself without any help from me …

  • Tony Allwright

    Hi John,

    Your response raises three issues:

    • The temperature percentage mistake,
    • the very existence of global warming, and
    • if it does exist the optimum way to spend money.

    Firstly, I fully accept that your original claim that a temperature rise from 14½°C to 18½°C is “over 25%”, rather than the correct figure of 1.4%, was a mistake. By the way, the 1.4% is not the result of what you call my “Absolute Zero method” but a scientific and mathematical truth, just as 2+2 = 4 is not “my” equation but a universal truth.

    Notwithstanding pedantry, however, for you to then defend your “over 25%”in this thread by effectively saying that your readers are too ignorant to understand 1.4%, is not only deeply patronising, but suggests that your real reason is that 1.4% (“no big deal”) is insufficiently dramatic to raise the climate alarm. Therefore it had to be multiplied by over seventeen.

    Secondly, a projected rise of 4-6°C from 14.5°C would indeed be catastrophic for many parts of the world, but how reliable is the estimate? Up to now, the Global Warming Cult has been unimpressive in its efforts at modelling the complexity of the global climate over centuries and linking it to atmospheric concentrations of CO2. Examples:

    • Your buddy Michael Mann’s hockey stick has deliberately been doctored to iron out any data that contradicts the narrative (such as the Mediaeval Warm Period) and to ignore the unreliability of tree rings as a predictor of temperatures over past century or so.

    • Ocean temperatures rises have actually followed CO2 rises, not the other way round, in other words CO2 cannot be the cause. The reason is simply that warmer water releases more CO2 from solution.

    • Since 1997 there has been, according to actual measurements and despite computer models to the contrary, no global warming at all despite a 10% rise in CO2 levels.

    • Weather forecasting is notoriously imprecise despite barely looking a month ahead. What confidence does that give for forecasts decades or a century ahead?

    Moreover, the GWC persistently emphasises the negative effect of anthropogenic global warming (rising sea-levels, desertification of fertile lands etc) while ignoring the beneficial effects (eg fewer deaths through cold; better crop yields in temperate and cold climates due to the extra warmth and higher CO2). This is dishonest.

    So how catastrophic will a lack of anti-global warming measures really be?

    Thirdly, the GWC – though it usually claims its concern is primarily the betterment and safeguarding of poor people (the rich can look after themselves) – never seems to consider alternative methods of spending other people’s money other than through reducing CO2 emissions.

    The Kyoto Protocol was just the first serious international undertaking to reduce CO2 emissions and was moreover considered but the first step in a long process. Yet if successfully implemented world-wide, it would merely defer – not eliminate – a global temperature rise of 1.9°C in a hundred years’ time by … six years [Refs 1, 2, 3].

    The annual cost of this deferral would be $100 billion for a century [4], ie ten trillion dollars.

    The question therefore is whether Kyoto is the best use of such a vast sum. According to Kofi Annan and the World Bank, just 2% of this would provide all humanity with clean drinking water and sanitation and thereby avoid 2 million deaths per year in the third world [5, 6].

    If poor people in the developing world were actually asked (as if!), do you think they would opt for sanitation today or six year’s deferral for their great grand-children?

    The GWC never seems consider such options for the optimum use of other people’s money, so zealous is it to promulgate the one true global warm-mongering faith.

    • Ref 1 : T M Wigley, 1998, “The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate Implications“, Geophysical Research Letters 25(13):2, 285-8
    • Ref 2 : Richard Benedick, 1998, “How workable is the Kyoto Protocol?“, Weathervane,
    http://www.weathervane.rff.org/pop/pop5/benedick.html
    • Ref 3 : Science magazine, 19 Dec 1997, Section 1, p10
    • Ref 4 : John Weyant and Jennifer Hill, 1999, “Introduction and Overview“, The Energy Journal, Kyoto Special Issue : xxxiii-xxxiv, BEA 2001b-c
    • Ref 5 : Kofi Annan, 2000, “Progress Made in Providing Safe Water Supply and Sanitation for all During the 1990s – Report of the Secretary-General“, p5, UN Economic and Social Council, Commission on Sustainable Development, 8th session;
    http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N00/347/73/PDF/N0034773.pdf?OpenElement
    • Ref 6 : World Bank, 1994, “World Development Report 1994 – Investing in Health”, Oxford University Press

    I think at the very least, the GWC should justify why money should be spent on trying to avoid warming rather than mitigating its effects.

    Finally, feel free to spamify me if you wish. I have copies of everything I need. And I am sure that by now you will be checking out Mark Steyn yourself without any help from me …

  • johngibbons

    Ha bloody ha. Poor, ever more desperate Tony, friend of Farage and Steyn, is now reduced to pasting in crooked graphics from the Daily Fail! Tony, here’s an idea: why don’t you take your Flat Earther circus elsewhere? Can I recommend the UKIP website, or maybe the Daily Fail? They are just full of superannuated blow-hards huffing and puffing about foreigners, crooked scientists, women’s rights, etc. etc.

    You’ll be among friends there and will be sure to get the notice you so clearly crave. Over and out!

  • Tyson

    Instead of name calling John, would you be interested in debating his points, especially #3, I would be really interested to see what your reply would be. Thanks.

    Tyson

  • johngibbons

    Am always interested in debating, but do like to know who I’m debating with. Your email address gives no clue as to your identity, in fact it’s notably obscure. So, let’s start with a question: who are you, Tyson? Once I know who I’m talking to, I’m happy to engage.

  • Tony Allwright

    If you don’t like the chart, John, why don’t you provide data that prove it is wrong? Data that show the world has been heating up since 1997? Merely disliking the Daily Mail/Fail doesn’t invalidate its (and C3 Headlines’) curves.

  • johngibbons

    Tony, which part of ‘Over and out’ didn’t you understand? Why don’t you go whining to your UKIP/Tea Party friends about how your “free speech” has been curtailed by those commie warmists? Any annoyance you may be detecting here is aimed not at you, but at myself, for wasting quite a bit of time treating you as someone interested in or capable of rational argument and engagement. My bad. Won’t happen again.

  • Tyson

    I am by no means an expert on any thing to do with climate science, but just a regular Joe trying to do research to make an informed decision. So far I find both sides very entrenched and unwilling to listen or rationally debate. A lot of namecalling and finger pointing happens in my opinion.
    I landed on your blog after reading material associated to your prior “percentage of warming” comments. After reading through your post and reading some of the comments, Tony Allwright’s post with his three issues, and especially his comments about what would be a better use our money considering our current state, piqued my interest. Instead of resorting to ad hominem arguments, would you comment on what I consider to be a valid point?

  • Alec Stuart

    I notice that Mr. Gibbons has not replied to this reasonable post even after 11 days. I find that very telling.

  • Contrapunctus

    I would appreciate your comment on the following points John.

    1. For the past 16 years, there has been no significant increase in surface temperature. There is a growing discrepancy between observations and climate model projections. Observations since 2011 have fallen below the 90% envelope of climate model projections.

    2.The IPCC does not have a confident explanation for this hiatus in warming.

    3. There is growing evidence of decreased climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxideconcentrations.

    4. The IPCC 5th assessment report has lowered its surface temperature projection relative to the model projections for the period 2016-2036.

    Thanks – Seamus O Brien (contrapunctus)

  • johngibbons

    Seamus, let me take these in turn: (1 & 2) I see this is copy-and-paste from ‘testimony’ by climate denier Judith Curry. This is known as the ‘warming hiatus’ myth. The IPCC AR5, WG1 deals with – and dismisses this – in its physical science report. Briefly, energy is continuing to accumulate in the (largely closed) Earth system, and the global energy imbalance continues to grow. Why does your source pick 16 years, not, say, 10 years or 20 years? Simple, because 1998 featured the most intense El Nino event of the 20th century.

    As you know, El Nino episodes transfer heat from the oceans to the atmosphere, leading to unusually high atmospheric temperatures, as occurred in 1998. There have been zero El Nino years since then (though 2014 is 80% likely to be such a year). In fact, since 1999, there have been several La Nina years. As you no doubt also know, this is the reverse, ie. the oceans draw down heat from the atmosphere, leading to a slight atmospheric cooling. These are the normal ‘weather’ variations that climate models allow for, but can never definitively say which year will one or the other occur.

    To recap: 93% of all heating as a result of anthropogenic CO2 ends up in the world’s oceans. Only a tiny percentage drives atmospheric heating. Any honest appraisal will tell you this (as the IPCC does, for example), but dishonest and misleading pseudo-experts, such as Curry, instead of publishing their “evidence” in the peer reviewed journals so it can be professionally scrutinised by professional colleagues, instead show up in the media or working for energy companies or the Republican Party in the US pedalling myths and half-truths about ‘warming slowdowns’.

    If the 1,600 page WG1 report complied by 259 of the world’s leading climate specialists isn’t convincing enough for you, you may want instead to ask why you would choose to disbelieve the published experts in favour of one or two (non-publishing) contrarians. You may simply have a very limited understanding of how scientific understanding progresses, or you may be cherry-picking ‘evidence’ to support the conclusion that you personally favour. For further reading, I’d recommend:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm

    Even better, try reading the WR1 report itself, its findings are boiled down into 19 ‘Headline statements’ which you can read at the link below. Don’t take my word for this, and for pete’s sake, stay off the denier blogs and websites. Do yourself a huge favour and listen to the frickin’ ACTUAL EXPERTS!

    http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WG1AR5_Headlines.pdf

    For (3 & 4), see above. Hope this helps.

  • johngibbons

    Alec, I hope you find my detailed reply above helpful. Looking forward to topping and tailing the next consignment of red herrings.

  • Contrapunctus

    Thanks John. I’ll be okay now. The skepticalscience page you recommended is definitely more interesting than the 2013 summary. I did find some serious food for thought there. For instance, it hadn’t registered with me that an average global increase of even 1 degree could mask more extreme temperature changes in various regions and seasons.. There are many interesting skeptical comments too on the site, but the conversation seems to have stopped in 2010.

  • johngibbons

    Cheers Seamus, glad you found the response and links useful. Having operated this site since late 2007, I can say confidently that It’s rarer than hen’s teeth that someone lands here questioning the science who is skeptical in the true sense of the word, i.e. has bona fide questions and is looking to see where, on balance, the truth lies. I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to engage with open-minded posters. JG