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CLIMATE SCIENCE AND POLITICS December 20, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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Bob Carter, at The Drum (via Jess at Larvatus Prodeo), attempts to rebut Robert Manne’s argument in relation to climate change.

Of course, it not just Robert Manne’s argument. Public policy necessarily relies on the scientists to get the science right.

So in relation to the science the only relevant questions have to do with the scientific evidence and its acceptance by those who publish and research in the field of climate-related research. Robert Manne’s particular expertise is in the area of public policy, including those influences that attempt to shape public opinion and policy implementation, such as the media and special interest groups.

Thus there are two major sets of questions at issue in what Bob Carter has written. What does the science say, and what do the relevant scientists generally accept? What has been the politics of implementation, in particular of influencing public opinion. Implicitly, there is another question: What arguments are therefore relevant?

Bob Carter begins his refutation by engaging in ad hominem to confuse science and politics.I at least remember that Robert Manne observed that if it were the case that 50% of scientists believed that global warming was likely to have significant effects on the habitat and human well being that would be sufficient to entertain an appropriate policy response on the basis of risk management. Instead Carter begins by playing the man, not the argument.

It is appropriate for Bob Carter to argue that an equivalent number (he writes army) of scientists and:

thousands of refereed scientific papers contain information that conflicts with the dangerous human-caused warming hypothesis; nor that even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that it is far more cost-effective to adapt to, rather than to try to prevent, any possible human-caused climate changes.

It is more impressive were it to be that thousands of research papers concluded that the GHG global warming hypothesis was in error. I am not sure it is sound science to use the evidence in the various papers to draw conclusions independently of what has been adduced, or simply, as must often be the case, the evidence suggests we do not know. Secondly, by its nature cost-benefit analysis is accounting process, useful for distinguishing public policy options, but not for understanding the natural world which presumably exists and works independently of dollar values.

Bob Carter then considers the evidence for Global Warming and supplies his refutation. I find these opinion completely boring. His job, were he to take on this mission, is to convince the relevant scientists. No lay person can become a scientist in five minutes. Nonetheless, here is the litany in full:

Average global temperature has risen by 0.7°C in the last 100 years. (Prima facie, perhaps; but (i) the accuracy of the figure is under challenge, a conservative possible error range being 0.7 ± 0.7°C, and (ii) that some warming may have occurred says nothing whatever about the likelihood of human causation).
A further increase of 0.5°C is guaranteed even without further emissions. (Such computer model projections conflict with the fact that no warming has now occurred for the 15 years since 1995 despite an increase of carbon dioxide of 10 per cent – an increase that of itself represents 34 per cent of all the extra carbon dioxide contributed since the start of the industrial revolution. Remembering that the radiative effects of extra carbon dioxide occur at the speed of light, and that both the ocean and the atmosphere are currently cooling, just where is this 0.5°C. of “pipeline” heat supposed to be hiding?).
An increase of 2°C in global temperature above pre-industrial levels will be “dangerous”.(Another fable of Arthurian proportions, the figure being plucked out of the air at a 2005 meeting of the climate faithful in Exeter in response to a belief that “if politicians are to take action, then they need a number”; no sound empirical evidence existed then, nor exists now, that 2°C of warming will be harmful, and indeed from a human perspective any such warming is most likely to be beneficial).
Warming of 7°C is possible by 2100. (Anything is possible, the question is whether it is probable; and the answer is “no”. Such extreme warmings are projected only by unvalidated computer models that conjure future virtual realities, or gedankenwelt; by no stretch of the imagination can such projections be viewed as accurate forecasts; see Carter et al., 2009, Appendix D).
Sea-level rise will displace hundreds of millions of persons from coastal regions. (If global sea-level rise continues at its current, natural rate of about 1.7 mm/yr, then in several thousand years many persons doubtless will be displaced from present coastal locations. But such an occurrence will have nothing to do with human carbon dioxide emissions, the rise being a natural environmental change that humanity will simply have to adapt to, as the Dutch and many others have done for similar rises in the past.
There will be more or more intense droughts, floods, cyclones/hurricanes, heat-waves and forest fires; a melting of Himalayan glaciers; and mass extinctions of species. (Selective computer models may specify so, but empirical evidence stubbornly refuses to endorse such theoretical projections as reality. To date, and despite an intensive research effort, not a single paper exists that demonstrates modern variation in any of these processes to lie outside of their natural range (Carter, 2010, Chapter 6). In reality, variations in all of these processes, including their intermittent extreme manifestations, are part and parcel of the dynamic natural planet on which we happen to live. For as the IPCC itself concluded in 1996: “overall, there is no evidence that extreme weather events, or climate variability, has increased in a global sense, through the twentieth century”.)
Ninety-seven per cent of scientists accept dangerous warming is occurring. (How gullible can you be? Figures such as these are simple fantasy, based on selective or biased studies. In reality, no-one can actually know what “most scientists” think, but there is overwhelming evidence that at least hundreds of accomplished scientists are lined up on all the main sides of the debate. Any idea that “the science is settled” is simply banal).
There exists no plausible alternative theory to explain global warming. (A statement of scientific farce, equivalent in intellectual merit to “the dog ate my homework, Miss”. The statement also grotesquely misrepresents scientific reality.

Notwithstanding the conclusions of the various IPCC reports and other scientific sources that have both preceded them and followed them, not to mention the conclusions and research of most governmental bodies, including CSIRO, Global Warming is not happening because Bob Carter says so.

But here is an alternative view, from CSIRO scientists:

He then goes on with an impressive, and suitably irrelevant ad hominem. However, Bob Carter does present his scientific argument:

The scientifically preferable null hypothesis regarding observed modern climate change (because it is the simplest consistent with the known facts) is that it has a natural causation unless and until factual evidence indicates otherwise (Carter, 2010, p.144). Literally tens of thousands of scientific papers describe facts that are consistent with this null hypothesis; in contrast, not a single credible paper yet provides factual information that substantively conflicts with it.

Since there is no problem, do nothing. And yet he does not fully and logically address the issue. So what, for example, is the major sets of scientific evidence that global warming is occurring. So what then is causing it? Natural causation is a large assumption, although admittedly there would be reason to assume that a degree of stochastic variation would be due to natural causes. It is a strange fact that science was successfully undertaken before statistics were developed. I recall that Einstein published the Theory of Relativity in 1905. I was prepared to believe the observations regarding smoking causing cancer before the relationship was confirmed by the relevant statistics. What reason do published scientists, other than himself, have for accepting the connection between the net increase in atmospheric green house gases and global warming. Why is the Artic ice cap shrinking.

The scientific consensus is critical to public policy. Adaptation may be necessary for public policy, that is necessarily global in its implication. If the causes for warming are anthropogenic a number of positive measures become possible to undertake, perhaps including geo-engineering. The alternative is sit here and cook. For those that come after that would be catastrophic on many levels, as well as profoundly immoral and short-sighted.

What do you think? I don’t claim any expertise, scientific or political – although I do know what “to legitimize” means, so do the Israelis.

ELSEWHERE:

At Real Science, Mark Boslough reports on the Santa Fe conference that included scientists with different takes on the AGW issue. It does not seem to have got anywhere.

Postscript:

It seems to me the obvious thing to do would be subject the Bob Carter’s “null hypothesis” of climate change created by “natural” causes into various climate models, if only to compare one model with another.

Here is a concise summary of the state of play from Wikipedia:

Attribution of recent climate change is the effort to scientifically ascertain mechanisms responsible for recent changes observed in the Earth’s climate. The effort has focused on changes observed during the period of instrumental temperature record, when records are most reliable; particularly on the last 50 years, when human activity has grown fastest and observations of the troposphere have become available. The dominant mechanisms (to which recent climate change has been attributed) are the result of human activity. They are:[1]

  • increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases
  • global changes to land surface, such as deforestation
  • increasing atmospheric concentrations of aerosols.

There are also natural mechanisms for variation including climate oscillations, changes in solar activity, variations in the Earth’s orbit, and volcanic activity.
Attribution of recent change to anthropogenic forcing is based on the following facts:

  • The observed change is not consistent with natural variability.
  • Known natural forcings would, if anything, be negative over this period.
  • Known anthropogenic forcings are consistent with the observed response.
  • The pattern of the observed change is consistent with the anthropogenic forcing.

(These terms, forcing and feedback are explained in the article)

Roy W Spencer in 2009 suggested that the climate models were too sensitive and therefore their forecasts were in error.

NASA Science News addresses the issues of uncertainty and modelling concluding the best we can do is rely on the scientific consensus – the judgment of experts.

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