Mar 172008


At 10am this morning, the New Statesman finally closed the Mark Lynas thread on their website after 1715 comments had been added over a period of five months. I don’t know whether this constitutes any kind of a record, but gratitude is certainly due to the editor of of the New Statesman for hosting the discussion so patiently and also for publishing articles from Dr David Whitehouse and Mark Lynas that have created so much interest.

This page is now live, and anyone who would like to continue the discussion here is welcome to do so. I have copied the most recent contributions at the New Statesman as the first comment for the sake of convenience. If you want to refer back to either of the original threads, then you can find them here:

Dr David Whitehouse’s article can be found here with all 1289 comments.

Mark Lynas’ attempted refutation can be found here with 1715 comments.

Welcome to Harmless Sky, and happy blogging.

(Click the ‘comments’ link below if the input box does not appear)


10,000 Responses to “Continuation of the New Statesman Whitehouse/Lynas blogs.”

  1. Max:

    Re the IPCC and cloud feedbacks (your 9948), the following extracts from WG I, chapter 8 are relevant:


    “… cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty in climate sensitivity estimates.”

    “ … these feedbacks remain poorly understood.”

    “ … emphasizes the necessity to improve the representation and the evaluation of cloud processes in climate models.”

    “Despite some advances in the understanding of the physical processes that control the cloud response to climate change and in the evaluation of some components of cloud feedbacks in current models, it is not yet possible to assess which of the model estimates of cloud feedback is the most reliable.”


    “A number of diagnostic tests have been proposed since the TAR (see Section 8.6.3), but few of them have been applied to a majority of the models currently in use. Moreover, it is not yet clear which tests are critical for constraining future projections. Consequently, a set of model metrics that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climate change feedbacks and climate sensitivity has yet to be developed.”

  2. This week’s Economist looks at “the science of climate change” – and, at first sight, it appears that the magazine may have softened its alarmist approach. In reality, it hasn’t. Re my 9951 (re uncertainty about cloud feedback) it’s an interesting coincidence that the Editor’s summary (in an email to subscribers – or, in my case, ex-subscribers) reads as follows:

    We reckon that, while recent scandals have encouraged scepticism and huge uncertainties remain—especially around the issue of whether clouds will warm or cool the atmosphere—the chances of a dangerous outcome are still serious enough to justify investing in mitigating climate change.

    [My italics.]

    Not a bad summary of what is quite a detailed overview of the current state of science (article here and “briefing” here). It gives a fairish account of current controversies – but weakly concludes that we’d better take action just in case …

    Quite rightly, commentators are not impressed. One, for example, having noted the Economist assertion, “But the range of possible outcomes is huge, with catastrophe one possibility, and the costs of averting climate change are comparatively small,” says,

    This is a mind-bogglingly stupid statement. The costs are immense, just take a look at some of the calculations. Also, uncertainty means that there is no way of even trying a cost-benefit analysis here. The logical reaction to uncertainty is not blind actionism but more research.


  3. Robin

    Thanks for AR4 WG1 Ch. 8 quotes.

    It is curious (but totally understandable) that IPCC chose to cite model simulations that ALL showed a strong positive feedback from clouds with warming, despite all this admitted uncertainty.

    But, as we know, “science” marches on.

    Since IPCC published the AR4 WG1 report in 2007 (based on 2006 data), several thing have occurred that have helped clear up “the largest source of uncertainty” on the part of IPCC, namely “cloud feedbacks”:

    A breakthrough study by Spencer et al. based on actual physical observations shows that the net SW + LW cloud feedback over the tropics is strongly negative with warming.

    A study by Norris based on a longer-term data set shows that the same is true for the mid-latitudes as well as the tropics.

    A study by Lindzen and Choi shows that measured total LW + SW outgoing radiation over the tropics increases with surface temperature, resulting in a net total negative feedback (total of all feedbacks).

    A superparameterization model study Wyant et al. shows that both SW and LW cloud feedbacks are strongly positive at most latitudes and on global average.

    In effect, AR4 WG1 is out-of-date when it comes to (a) cloud feedbacks and, as a result (b) total net feedbacks and (c) 2xCO2 climate sensitivity.

    What does this all mean?

    After incorporating these corrections to the projections, a doubling of atmospheric CO2 will result in a theoretical GH warming of somewhere under 1°C, rather than 3.2°C, as previously estimated by IPCC in AR4.

    PeterM just hasn’t gotten the word yet (even though it appears that Kevin Trenberth has, calling it a “travesty”).


  4. Robin

    Sorry. There is a “typo” in my last post.

    The sentence on the Wyant et al. study should read:

    A superparameterization model study Wyant et al. shows that both SW and LW cloud feedbacks are strongly negative at most latitudes and on global average


  5. Thanks Max.

    I’d be interested in your views on the Economist briefing (see 9952). There’s lot there – on clouds it says,

    However, there are so far no compelling data on how clouds are affecting warming in fact, as opposed to in models. Ray Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at the University of Chicago who generally has a strong way with sceptics, is happy to agree that there might be processes by which clouds rein in, rather than exaggerate, greenhouse-warming effects, but adds that, so far, few have been suggested in any way that makes sense.

    Dr Lindzen and a colleague suggested a plausible mechanism in 2001. They proposed that tropical clouds in an atmosphere with more greenhouse gas might dry out neighbouring parts of the sky, making them more transparent to outgoing infra-red. The evidence Dr Lindzen brought to bear in support of this was criticised in ways convincing enough to discourage other scientists from taking the idea further. A subsequent paper by Dr Lindzen on observations that would be compatible with his ideas about low sensitivity has also suffered significant criticisms, and he accepts many of them. But having taken them on board has not, he thinks, invalidated his line of research.

  6. TonyB

    The 1976 Fluor Magazine article, “Do We Face an Ice Age?”, was written by Peter Craigmoe.

    There is a retired writer, now in his 70s, with that name (also using the pen name Peter van Wyk), who lives in California (Google).

    It is a rather unusual name (not Craigmore), and the age seems to fit, so probably this is the same guy.

    Whether he still remembers the article he wrote more than 30 years ago is another question.

    At any rate, his article seems to confirm data from other sources indicating that climate scientists of the time were seriously concerned about the measured global cooling and the possible consequences this could have, primarily on our planet’s ability to provide enough food to feed the 4 billion or so inhabitants at the time if things got much colder.

    Many of these “concerned scientists” at the time have since passed away, but a few (like Stephen Schneider and George Kukla) are still around: Schneider is now a “warming” alarmist, but Kukla still fears a new ice age.


  7. Robin

    I am talking from memory now, and will have to check to make sure, but Pierrehumbert’s studies were based on the LW (or “greenhouse”) component (as was Lindzen’s “infrared iris” postulation).

    The recent observations seem to show that increased SW reflection from increased low-level clouds with warming plays a major part in the total radiative balance.

    I’ll check this in more detail and get back to you later.


  8. Max

    This seems to be the guy-If so I’ll contact him.


  9. Robin

    Did a bit of checking.

    Ray Pierrehumbert is cited four times in AR4 WG1 Ch. 8 (Climate Models and their Evaluation) regarding the impact of water vapor and clouds.

    In studies I have seen, he argues against a “natural thermostat” effect from clouds by using paleo-climate examples (Cretaceous + PETM warming). [A personal opinion: if one has to rely on paleo-climate examples to support a point concerning today’s climate, this suggests that the point is not supported by empirical data from today’s observations.]

    [Note: It now seems that even Kevin Trenberth accepts the “natural thermostat” postulation, based on the latest observations.]

    In a 2008 paper Pierrehumbert agrees that there is a lot of uncertainty concerning the role of clouds.

    He was involved in a scientific dispute with Roger Pielke who argued that a part of the impact from clouds could be non-feedback natural variability caused by internal radiative forcing, as suggested by Spencer/Braswell. Pierrehumbert took the stand (on RealClimate) that the cloud impact is purely from feedback to higher temperature caused by greenhouse warming, and not from natural variability. Pielke rebutted Pierrehumbert’s claim, and it looked to me that Pielke made sense in his argument that natural variability cannot be ruled out.

    I believe Bob_FJ has exchanged posts with Pierrehumbert on the RC site.

    Now to the Economist article. It presents “both sides” of the story, albeit giving the “pro-AGW” side a bit more weight.

    Where the article goes completely off the track (and into the ditch, as far as I am concerned) is in the final paragraph:

    Using the IPCC’s assessment of probabilities, the sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide of less than 1.5ºC in such a scenario has perhaps one chance in ten of being correct. But if the IPCC were underestimating things by a factor of five or so, that would still leave only a 50:50 chance of such a desirable outcome. The fact that the uncertainties allow you to construct a relatively benign future does not allow you to ignore futures in which climate change is large, and in some of which it is very dangerous indeed. The doubters are right that uncertainties are rife in climate science. They are wrong when they present that as a reason for inaction.

    By arbitrarily assuming that IPCC are underestimating uncertainties by a factor of five or so, the authors comes up with a 50:50 chance of warming of less than 1.5ºC with a doubling of CO2, therefore no reason for inaction. Had they assumed that IPCC are underestimating uncertainties by a factor of ten, the chance of warming of less than 1.5ºC would have been 100%, and there would be absolutely no reason for action.

    The 2xCO2 GH impact assumed by IPCC, based on model simulations, is 3.2ºC. As Economist points out, 1.3ºC of this is attributable to the assumed strongly positive feedback from clouds.

    We are expected to reach 560 ppmv atmospheric CO2 concentration by year 2100. Today we are at around 390 ppmv, so that would be an increase of 1.44.

    More recent studies based on actual physical observations (instead of simply model simulations) show us that the feedback from clouds is, in actual fact, strongly negative, so that the corrected 2xCO2 impact is below 1ºC. [Note that this is not based on dicey paleo-climate reconstructions, but on actually observed data from today.]

    If we use a 2xCO2 GH impact of 1ºC, the warming from today to year 2100 at 1.44xCO2 would be 0.5ºC.

    Even if we use the exaggerated IPCC 2xCO2 GH impact of 3.2ºC, we only arrive at warming of 1.6ºC by year 2100.

    In addition, the past nine years have shown us that our planet is cooling despite record increase in CO2, demonstrating that the model simulations are worthless for projecting future climate.

    This tells us that the chance of 2xCO2 warming exceeding 1.5ºC is as good as zero, as is the need for action.

    Economist spoiled what appeared to be a well-researched and only slightly one-sided article by adding on a ridiculous opinion and call for action based on a flawed pseudo-statistical analysis and some bogus data. Too bad.


  10. TonyB

    You mention that “history was rewritten” on the mid-century cooling.

    Just comparing the temperature chart in the Newsweek article back in the 1970s (data from National Climate Research Center) with the latest NCDC record for the same period shows a striking difference.

    The older record shows an anomaly (1883 = 0) of 0.85°F in 1944, dropping around 0.25°F by the 1970s, with a linear rate of cooling of about 0.11°C per decade over the entire period.

    The latest record for this period shows a much slower linear cooling rate of less than 0.01°C per decade.

    It appears that the difference results primarily from lowering the 1940s highs, rather than raising the 1970s lows.

    This explains why scientists were concerned about the cooling at the time (they certainly would not have worried much about a linear cooling rate of less than 0.01°C per decade, but a rate 11 times that fast would have been alarming).

    Just goes to show how history can be rewritten to suit the message one wants to sell.


  11. Max This composite chart is interesting taken from WUWT
    together with the comment;


    “Here is a chart Phil Jones presented at a conference at NCAR last summer. It shows the different temperature reconstructions made by various climatologists/meteorologists over time [most names you would have heard of before].

    I don’t know if it has been Jones’ed and it is just a curiousity I guess.

  12. This is an interesting talk by Bill Gates on the technology of moving towards zero CO2 emissions.

    It also illustrates that it is necessary to differentiate right wing and reactionary political elements from other more enlightened sections of the ruling classes. I think we can all agree that Bill Gates qualifies in this respect!

  13. PeterM

    Interesting talk by Gates.

    He has embraced the politically correct “mainstream” viewpoint on CO2 causing threatening climate change. And, starting with that premise, he comes up with logical, well-thought-out suggestions for solving the problem he has conjured up with his starting premise.

    Has nothing to do with right-wing or reactionary politics, though, just one (very rich) philanthropic layman’s opinion.


  14. Max,

    Wouldn’t you agree that Bill Gates is being ‘scientifically correct’ rather than ‘politically correct’?

    Are his opinions totally seperated from his politics? I just guessing but would I be right in saying that he’d often be described as part of an “American liberal elite”?

    Too smart, maybe, to be able to embrace James Inhofe or Sarah Palin’s idea of American values?

    I’m not sure if there is a correlation with IQ but there is some suggestion that this might be the case.

  15. PeterM

    You ask:

    Wouldn’t you agree that Bill Gates is being ’scientifically correct’ rather than ‘politically correct’?

    Not at all. I doubt if he has spent much time truly investigating the “science” behind “dangerous AGW premise” very thoroughly, but in his position as a senior business leader he more than likely knows what is “politically correct” (having had his own run-ins with anti-trust bureaucrats in the past). Maybe he even sees a business opportunity in the AGW scare, so that AGW could be “economically correct” for him, as it has been for Al Gore. Who knows?

    As to his “politics”, I have no notions what they might be. Nor is it relevant.

    Gates is undoubtedly very intelligent. This does not make his personal opinion on AGW any more valid than that of James Inhofe, who has probably spent more time investigating this particular topic. I’d say Gates knows more about software and running a business, though.

    The correlation with IQ and opinion on AGW does not hold, Peter. I’d say that Richard Lindzen is a lot more intelligent than Al Gore.

    Wouldn’t you?

    Lindzen also knows a whole lot more about what makes our planet’s climate work than either Gates or Gore (or his fellow Nobel Prize winner, Pachauri). Right?


  16. The thing about correlation is that you can’t just compare one data point with another. You’d have to include people like Sarah Palin in your side of the argument but you’d probably think that was unfair!

    Are you going to tell me that her politics have nothing to do with her opinions on AGW? And that she’s studied the IPCC reports and read thousands of scientific papers but in her learned opinion there is no evidence of any anthropogenic involvement?

    PS I hear Obama managed to get his health vote through! Are you guys going to switch to AGW now or are you going to tell me that it is a totally different group of people who disagree with him on the two issues?

  17. TonyN,

    There has been a few odd looking posts recently, well even more odd looking than the usual “its all a hoax” stuff, on different threads.

    You might want to click on the links embedded in the posters’ names and decide if you’re being spammed.

  18. Peter #9967 is completely right.

    (Surely the only time this has been said here without a negative word somewhere in that sentence :) )

    There have been some strange posts in various of the threads, which this site is normally pretty clear of.


  19. Peter:

    I’ve been away from my computer for most of the weekend. These are a type of spam that has been turning up more and more frequently over the last few weeks. At the moment the filter seems not to be able to catch them although it’s nailed nearly 45,000 others so far. There’s a new version and I might try that if the problem persists, but the old one has got pretty good at not spamming legitimate comments from regular contributors.

    While we are on the subject of extraneous comments, now would probably be a good time to say that I do not, REPEAT NOT, want discussion of the Obama health bill here.


    Please see this comment about the imminent termination of this thread:

    Changes to the New Statesman thread

  21. PeterM/Max:

    I’d be interested in your comments on this article by Barry Brill (a NZ politician and lawyer) from the online version of the Australian periodical Quadrant. Entitled “End-phase of the Climate Wars?”, it goes carefully through arguments deployed by Max and by me in debate with Peter over much of the past two years. But, tellingly, Brill does this in the light of the BBC‘s Roger Harrabin’s recent interview of Professor Phil Jones.

    I liked the opening paragraph:

    The gap between these two schools [alarmists and sceptics] has never yawned as widely as media reports often suggest. Both agree that climate is always changing, that we have recently been in a warming period (with tiny temperature changes), that “greenhouse theory” has some validity, and that human activities are capable of impacting climate. The core dispute lies in the detection and attribution of ‘anthropogenic global warming’ (AGW) …

    And the closing paragraph:

    The controversy continues. But with the imprimatur of Phil Jones to the key fact that recent warming is not unusual, the debate will never be the same. The two sides are edging closer to a common set of facts; and it surely cannot be too much longer before common conclusions are drawn from those facts.

  22. TonyN #9970

    That seems senbsible but I wonder if it might be possible to include say the last two pages of comments as generally our posts tend to refer back tio things that have happened here in the very recent past. It would be useful to retain this reference point.

    Thanks for the provision of this thread-is it a record which needs to be recorded as such somewhere?


  23. tonyb:

    I’ll probably move the most recent 100 or so comments to the new thread.

    If there is a longer thread, I haven’t heard of it. What is certain is that there are well over a million words on the thread.

  24. TonyN

    You deserve great credit for picking up the thread in the first place let alone maintaining it, so I just wondered if you could get some free publicity by notifying other blogs/the relevant media.


  25. Robin,

    The Harrabin/Jones interview has been subjected to change by “Chinese whispers” on the denialist blogosphere.

    For instance I can’t see the phrase “..warming is not unusual”. Maybe you can help me out there.

    Also there is seems to be an implicit assumption, in many reports, that earlier warming periods such as the one of 1910 -1940 was 100% natural. The controversy around many hockey stick type graphs usually centres on the so-called medieval warm period. However the ‘blade’ of the hockey stick on the graphs always starts before 1900.

    CO2 emissions will have had some effect but the effects of changing land use, for agriculture and forestry, shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Its always going back to the actual interview to read what was said rather than what someone else claims was said:

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

© 2011 Harmless Sky Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha