Peter Taylor’s CHILL: a Reassessment of Global Warming Theory is really two books in one. The first part covers the science of climate change in exhaustive detail and provides an alternative to the orthodox view. Taylor, who has impeccable green credentials, describes “the technocratic and communalist approach” in a masterly analysis of how we arrived at this point through “a combination of zealotry which somehow has managed to portray the science as unequivocal when it’s not”. The second part covers policy, politics and remedies.

A main theme of the first part of the book is that we take too linear a view of
climate-trend projections, without recognising past patterns and cycles
which could include future cooling. I am comfortable with that notion, as any observer of history is provided with clear evidence that climate oscillates in numerous
cycles of warm and cold periods.

Readers who believe Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, and who consider the IPCC
climate assessments are factual, unbiased and objective, will not like this
book. As Taylor says: “It is clear to me that IPCC has made such a forthright commitment to the standard (Co2 ) policy model, that it has a biased attitude to new data that does not conform to that model.” And:

“It is striking that a small group of men working behind computer screens created a virtual reality in which the future climate became the enemy of mankind. That original cabal was likely innocent of any underhand motivation and genuinely believed mankind faced a threat and that they would sound the alert and potentially stave off disaster. But sociologists will go a little bit further and look at the social environment that pawned the very concepts of the climate game, many of which we take entirely for granted. For example the notion that humanity itself can be under threat or that the planet might need to be saved. These are very recent notions, at least from a societal perspective, and do not bear closer scientific scrutiny. “

This book is a breath of fresh air in pointing out the numerous contradictions in the orthodox climate science camps that believe themselves uniquely exempt to the notion that they should actually prove their scientific hypotheses – that by altering the climate and doubling Co2 emissions, mankind will cause a rise in temperatures of up to 6 degrees C.
The author clinically examines areas of uncertainty, plain misunderstandings, and assertions in the existing ‘consensus’ by reviewing numerous high quality ‘contrarian’ papers that rarely receive much coverage in the science and popular media, which is obsessed with the notion of anthropogenic global warming. Climate science is a very small world with authors frequently peer reviewing each other’s papers, some of which might be based on their own work in the first place (Google US Congress hearing by Wegman). Also, they often pronounce on subjects of which they have little
knowledge. When talking of Solanki – a leading solar scientist – Taylor comments:

“This is another classic example of senior scientists publishing in the peer
reviewed literature and commenting on issues entirely outside of their field,
such as carbon dioxide and atmospheric physics, without reference to other
entire fields of relevant climatology, seriously compromised by
compartmented approach or political correctness in the face of
‘controversial’ science.”

That Taylor – and many other commentators –  believes that even the IPCC’s
lowest Co2/temperature rise scenario exaggerates its case by at least a
factor of three is amply illustrated, and as the author demonstrates, sea
levels and temperatures have obviously not read the IPCC’s script.

Having demolished what currently passes for peer reviewed and settled
science, Taylor moves on to remedies and the consequences of the politics in
the second part of his book. He argues that we are not doing enough to adapt to
inevitable changes, and that in particular we are vulnerable to the climate
cooling, for which there is no ‘Plan B’ whatsoever. The author believes many
of the actions for mitigating the supposed impacts of warming are counter
productive. He stresses the need to create ‘resilient systems’ to cope with
all eventualities. As the author says in examining the ‘collusion of
interests’ he has identified; “I can see how it works to everyone’s interest
to believe in the scary climate story.”

This excellent but lengthy book deals with a difficult subject and therefore
its structure is especially important to ensure accessibility and achieve
the influence it deserves, but in this there are problems. For example,
omitting the chapter number at the head of each page yet referring to
chapter numbers in the text was irritating, as wer the constant references to
papers placed on the author’s web site. As much of the science is complex
and multi-layered, it cannot be read like a novel at one go, so it would be
useful to provide a chapter summary. Also I felt it was missing a chapter on
the IPCC’s politics, rationale and peer review processes, that would
illustrate how they became part of the ‘collusion of interests’ intent on scaring
everyone to death when really we have far more important things to worry
about. Nevertheless, the book remains essential and provocative reading.

Finally, to extract from the major review of the science in the first part
of the book is not easy, given the volume of material covered. But here is a
dip into the section on ocean cycles (page 131), which illustrates the tone
of the message:

“The oceans play a crucial role in the absorption and dissipation of heat
over decadal and millennial timescales and with distinct cyclic patterns.
These patterns are poorly understood and not replicated in global warming
models, and any conclusions drawn with respect to those models being able to
isolate an anthropogenic global warming signal must be regarded as unproven
and unlikely”.

These are brave words from a career environmentalist who has managed to keep his head when all around him are losing theirs.

CHILL: a Reassessment of Global Warming Theory
Peter Taylor
Clairview Books, 2009, 404 pages
£14.99 Pbk  ISBN  978 1 905570 19 5

[or try  –  TonyN]

For a profile of Peter Taylor follow the link;

421 Responses to “Peter Taylor’s CHILL: an environmentalist’s very cool look at global warming”

  1. Wow!

    I really hope George Monbiot does not find reasons to back out of a debate with Peter Taylor (see 75).

    It could be very interesting.


  2. Max: I suggest you contribute to this thread and add your voice to those trying to persuade the Spectator to do their utmost to get Monbiot and Taylor together (with, inter alia, Plimer and your humble servant (merely in the audience)) at the debate now fixed for Thursday, 12 November at Church House (Parliament Square, Westminster) – see my 7573 on the NS thread.

  3. Robin

    I have made a contribution to the Blog mentioned on #75

    As regards the debate in London, I would be interested in going if Taylor, Plimer AND Monbiot agree to debate. Hope you will keep us informed of progress as I don’t tend to follow the Guardian blog.


  4. Robin

    Thanks for link.

    I have also made a contribution on the blog in favor of a Taylor-Monbiot debate.

    Whether or not Plimer joins in is another story, but a straight “one on one” Taylor-Monbiot debate should be interesting to anyone with an interest in the topic of “climate change”, regardless of which side of the AGW debate he/she stands.

    It would be most interesting to those who have not yet made up their minds on this topic.


  5. Tickets to the spectator debate are almost sold out. I’ve just bought my 2.

  6. re Peter Taylor’s challenge to Monbiot on Guardian Environment:
    Taylor’s challenge at 5.04pm, 18th Sep, received 28 readers’ recommendations, making it by far the most popular comment in the latter part of this 1000+ comment thread.
    3 sceptics wrote in supporting the challenge. There must have been over a dozen active warmists commenting on the thread in the four days since the challenge appeared. Only one commented on Taylor’s challenge – to say that a debate was a bad idea.
    The paucity of active support for Taylor’ challenge makes me wonder if many of us “Usual Sceptics” who normally trounce the warmists on Guardian threads haven’t been placed – like me – under “premoderation”, a kind of soft censorship which makes it impossible to take part in debate. Can Manacker or anyone else comment?

  7. geoffchambers

    Having read Peter Taylor’s book, I would guess that he would be a formidable debate partner for George Monbiot.

    He is a bona fide environmentalist of long standing. And he definitely knows his stuff.

    There is no question that Ian Plimer would also have been a strong debate partner. But there were a few notable errors in his book (not counting a handful of “nit picks”, which were beaten to death by the warmer crowd) and he allegedly has ties with Australian mining interests, which the warmers have already used to try to discredit him (and his book).

    Taylor has no such ties. He is as green as they come. And there are no errors in his book that can be used to distract from a debate.

    So the debate could concentrate on the key issues, without getting sidetracked.

    I did try to put a post on the Guardian thread concerning this debate, but it was erased (censored) by the moderator. Dissent from the party line is apparently not welcome.

    This has happened to me on RealClimate, and I have stopped visiting this blog entirely.

    Monbiot would clearly be out of his depth in a debate with Taylor, so I am surprised that he has apparently consented. Let’s see how this plays out. It should be interesting.


  8. Max/Geoff

    I’ve mentioned the Peter Taylor debate offer again on Monbiots latest thread today, so far it’s being ignored, but it’s only been on for 30mins.

  9. Barleysane

    Can you provide a link?


  10. This thread has been a fantastic read and very thought provoking. And thank you to Peter Taylor for taking the time to answer questions here. I really hope your book opens up new and much needed dialog. Every time I see a new article on what our policy makers here in the US want to do to fight climate change, I grit my teeth. I keep thinking that it’s incredibly appropriate that windmills are often shown on AGW materials as they seem to be tilting at them.

  11. AhmNee

    Really good to see you posting here.

    I think what is unusual is that someone with the ‘correct’ credentials is now saying what the rest of us (funded by Exxon/Mobil/The Devil/right wing think tanks etc etc) have also been saying.

    Peters book is a highly intelligent read in as much it not only describes the science but tackles the argueents that the NGo’s and govt agencies make, as Peter Taylor has been involved in their world.

    The mud slinging and accusations aimed at ‘ungreen’ sceptics is truly astonishing as is the pejorative word ‘denier.

    This link to a radio talk by christopher Monckton and a climate scientist illustrates the mountain there is to climb if the ‘credentials’ are wrong (in this case those of Christopher Monckton)

    In the first minunte of the outburst from the climate scientist you will hear the words Nazi, Holocaust,funded by Exxon Mobil used, in what becomes a diatribe which seems to take the host aback.

    Getting a good climate sceptic in front of a good climate scientist warmist seems very problematic. However I think it would very difficult to level the sort of accusations at Peter Taylor that Monckton had to contend with, which should make any debate worthwhile.


  12. Firstly, some specific responses and then to the idea of a debate with George Monbiot:

    manacker: the use of ‘radiative forcing’ as pioneered by the IPCC is a real quagmire – it is impossible to work out what can be compared on this level and IPCC don’t give much guidance, stating that their RF for carbon dioxide is not computed in the same way – yet they give a table for the forcings from a variety of sources, all within impenetrable computer models. Basically, you are right, if you look at the watts/square metre for solar changes (there is a range over a factor of three within the literature and no clear consensus other than one imposed by IPCC’s summarisers), and then for cloud effects (since the satellite data were available) then you find:

    1: the warming from 1900-1950 is explained by the natural variability of solar and oceanic cycles (fundamentally, ‘recovery from the Little Ice Age’ as explained by Akasofu at the International Arctic Research Centre, Fairbanks, Alaska. Try:

    2: the non-warming from 1945-1979 was explained by an assumed cooling effect of industrial aerosols such as sulphur. This was built into the models and when they replicated the trough, it was taken as a validation of the model conforming to atmospheric reality – UNFORTUNATELY – this was wrong, and as far as I know I am the only scientist pointing this out!
    In a series of Science papers in 2005 – referenced in Chill, it was shown that industrial aerosols had only limited impact on land, and could not be responsible for the global level of the cooling. I also checked suplhur emission data (which IPCC did not bother to do) and it shows no real abatement after 1980 as assumed to explain part of the warming – many climate scientists assume that sulphur emissions abated – but they did not do so globally, largely due to China.

    The non-warming is now regarded as a natural effect – and it coincides with the cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (cool Pacific from 1940-1979 and warm from 1979-2006).

    3. If you look at the satellite data from 1983 onwards – as I did to check my assumptions about cloud thinning – you find an excess of short-wave radiation to the surface of the planet (70% ocean) – this ‘radiative forcing’ is 4-5 times the RF for carbon dioxide over the same period. The data can be accessed at NASA, GISS, FD data – sorry don’t have the exact link to hand, but a google should find it. There are many papers in the literature that confirm this (I reference half-a-dozen), as well as a recent recalibration by NASA (they would wouldn’t they!) that is not yet universally agreed. An independent check using ‘earthshine’ as a reference for albedo by the Big Bear Solar Observatory comes to much the same proportion of solar versus CO2 ‘forcing’ (note that cloud thinning is not regarded as a forcing of the system, even though it produces enhanced watts per square metre at the surface – rather it is classified as ‘feedback’ (the modellers assume this is freedback from CO2 warming – but this is not explicitly quantified in the models) – NASA specialist Takmeng Wong discusses this as late as 2008, stating that natural forces OR AGW could be at work (or both, of course) but there is no proven way to discriminate:

    I make the point in Chill, that if AGW is correct and the majority of the warming from 1980-2000 is AGW, then natural cycles would not have the power to overwhelm the signal – if on the other hand, natural power is dominant (e.g. 80/20) then when the ocean cycles turn, global temperatures will fall. That is what happened in 2001, when Earth’s albedo rose and ocean warming stopped. It also confirms that the warming signal was mainly natural in the first place as it coincided with warm cycles in the PDO (and also in the Atlantic).

    On solar links – the oceans integrate the heat from the sun (via absorbed short-wavelength radiation) and this comes in ‘pulses’ during the normal solar cycle. Contrary to AGW dogma, the sun had an increasing pulse from cycles 20,21 and 22, and lower in 23. The solar pulse is held in the top 200 metres and then redistributed by complex currents. In the northern hemisphere the warm water collects in two major gyres, whereas in the southern, it is gradually dissipated in the circumpolar current. Westerly winds redistribute the heat landward. The work of Gilbert Compo at the Climate Diagnostics Centre at the University of Colorado (in association with NOAA scientists) shows that when data and models are thoroughly examined, virtually all land-warming is due to transfer of this heat from the sea, leaving little room for the carbon greenhouse effect.

    I would like to see a real debate about these science issues. My impression of IPCC is that it simply covers its own ass and plays down all the new data.

    Peter Geany: thanks for your comments on transport – I would like to see the government do a detailed analysis of what the gains of stricter speed limits would be – but from your comments, perhaps not as much as I had thought!

    Tempterrain: not so easy for me to cut-and-paste because I don’t get all my info from the web – often it is drawn from actually reading papers, or I have downloaded something over the years but not kept the URL. A bit old-fashioned I know, but I try to spend as little time in front of my screen as I can!

    On a bet – I am just not a betting man! At least not with money. In this debate I have staked my reputation and also put in three years almost full-time research at my own expense. If I am proven wrong, then I will not worry – my commitment is to the environment, community and scientific truth – and all of these require someone somewhere to make a stake and risk being wrong. In fact – I have been at the forefront of several critical science issues – six at least (low level radiation hazards/acid rain/toxics in the marine environment/radwaste disposal/nuclear reactor accidents) and been proven right. In three of these cases, I, and a few others, were up against the UN and EU bureacracies and all the major science institutions.

    That doesn’t mean I am right now – just that I don’t waste my time and I have a good analytical mind.

  13. TonyB:

    The severity of the name-calling is a remarkable feature of the debate. The ‘denialist’ tag causes me to reflect: the name-callers are themselves in total denial that the science could be at fault – something that the scientists themselves, with few exceptions, would not do. It is anti-science! They are also in denial of the very real history of environmental modelling. Actually, the computer modelling fraternity are also to blame here – they very seldom teach their students about the failures, or when models were believed and real data discarded.

    We are dealing with an unprecedented situation – one in which most scientists will keep their heads down, whatever they think of the reliability of the models. That may of course be part of the strategy – to create an atmosphere of ridicule and hatred – but i doubt it is conscious. I think it is simply an unconscious response borne of a kind of arrogance among supposed ecologists/science managers/institutions who see this as their big play for global influence. I used to think the world would be a lot better off if ecologists managed it – rather than economists and bankers – but this debate has shown me the dark side of ‘green’ and I have found it profoundly disappointing.

  14. Peter Taylor 88

    I first started blooging about 5 years ago and quickly acquired a pseudonym because of all the vitriol that was heaped on a sceptic (or ‘denier’)

    The name calling and abuse was astonishing to me and I initially thought those doing it were 18 year olds. However in due course I realised the worst were environmentalists and climate scientists-sometimes professors.

    I think we get a flavour of that in the radio interview I linked to above. The guy is messianic-green has certainly become a religion


  15. Peter Taylor

    Many thanks for your post (87). It clears up a lot of points.

    1. I also found it strange that IPCC had relegated “natural radiative forcing factors” (they only list the sun here) to less than 10% of the RF attributed to CO2 (1750 to today), by limiting the solar impact to measurable direct solar irradiance alone. This despite several studies by solar experts, which show that the level of solar activity in the 20th century was unusual for at least several thousand years and which provide empirical data that demonstrate that over half of the observed 20th century warming can be attributed to changes in solar activity. IPCC does concede that its “level of scientific understanding” of solar forcing factors is “low”, so one should go elsewhere to find answers on this topic. The IPCC handling of clouds is also strange (despite their very strong impact on our climate, they are only considered as “feedbacks” to the anthropogenic drivers rather than as climate forcing factors in their own right), but again IPCC concedes that “cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty”, so one should look for other sources of reliable data on clouds.

    2. The anthropogenic aerosol rationalization for the mid-century cooling also seemed a bit contrived to me. I checked out the global sulfur emissions record (as you did) and found that there was no scientific basis for the anthropogenic aerosol hypothesis. In addition, the geographical extent of the emissions did not correlate at all with the global cooling supposedly attributed to it.

    3. When the Met Office recently explained that “natural variability” (i.e. “natural climate forcing factors”) was more than offsetting the GH effect of record increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (i.e. not only offsetting a calculated and predicted theoretical GH warming of 0.2°C per decade, but resulting in a net cooling of 0.1°C since 2000), I asked myself the same logical question you have also raised: if these natural forcing factors are so strong today, why could they not have been the cause for the 1750-2000 warming in the first place? It appears that the Met Office was unaware of what they were really saying when they made this statement.

    Now to the debate with George Monbiot: I sincerely hope it does take place. It should be of interest to everyone who is on either side of the ongoing scientific and political debate surrounding the AGW question, especially to those who have not yet made up their minds and are looking for answers.

    To your exchange with TonyB on the name-calling and vitriol being heaped on “non-believers” of the AGW credo, I have witnessed this as well. And it comes not only from anonymous bloggers who are hiding behind some contrived “nom de plume”, but even from some of the scientists (or computer programmers) who moderate blog sites (or their alter egos). “Ad hom” attacks are frequently used as a smokescreen to divert or distract from any rational discussion of the open scientific questions.

    The fact that I have not witnessed this behavior at all by those on the other side of the debate confirms my suspicion that AGW has become a sort of fundamentalist religion for many, which must be defended against all attacks using all possible means.

    Despite its many scientific weaknesses, the AGW juggernaut has a lot of political momentum right now. I believe that rational and well presented books like yours (plus the likely continuation of a slightly cooler cycle over the next several years) will eventually stop this momentum in the minds of most of the population, thereby bringing the end to the AGW hysteria and a return to more rational thinking.

    But maybe I am an optimist.


  16. Tonyb

    link to the thread

    Though be warned (admittedly i may be over reacting here), they seem to be starting to adopt a realclimate type moderation policy.

  17. Peter Taylor;

    I usually stay away from Bloggers, but this debate seems to have risen above the usual white noise. Thank you for taking the time to engage with your audience. I sincerely hope you get to debate George Monbiot , in general I am a fan of his but each issue ultimately stands alone.
    First let me weight in on the ‘denier’ charge. I first stumbled upon it in this debate and feel the term is not uniformly used or understood. A denier rejects an idea outright, where as a sceptic does/does not accept an idea but keeps a critical but open mind to change that conclusion based on evidence. I feel that debate against man made climate change has all too often been taken over by deniers, frustrating argument to the stage that sceptics disregard them. I fully stand by the charge of ‘climate change denier’ and believe it in necessary on occasions, but it is not relevant for all ‘climate change sceptics’ and (at least in your case) is indiscriminately swung at any opposition out of intellectual laziness. It is also not a one sided phenomenon. The trend is swinging, as sceptics who have not rejected the idea become lazy and believe the debate is over. Reading the discussion flowing out of Monbiot vs. Plimer there is no lack of ‘deniers’ and ‘believers’ and neither do the debate any favours. It’s like having an argument with a brick wall with a poster stuck to it, no matter how right you are or how loud you scream it’s not going to change. It’s best to figure that out quickly.

    You seem like a man of action, so I hope the debate focuses on the way forward. I think the two of you are in agreement that business as usual is not a desirable outcome, so the question becomes: which direction?
    I have some questions I would love to know your thoughts on. I do not expect references but assume some basic facts that hopefully the two of you agree on; that the climate has changed and will continue to do so, but that man’s influence on climate is unknown (and may either be weak (80/20) or strong (20/80)) and natural drivers are poorly understood and in some cases impossible to predict;

    1. Are environmental accounting measures are worth the effort? Carbon trading relies on accurate data on the physical by products of activities, but can this data collection be justified on other grounds than pollution trading, such as the right of communities to know what substances are being released locally and to inform decision making?

    2. From post #12: Other than carbon taxes, what energy demand reduction schemes do you have in mind?

    3. Reducing carbon emissions will lower man made influence on climate change, either by a small or large amount, and even reducing them to zero will not insulate against all climatic movements. The gamble is a very big one, so do you think the precautionary principle is useful in this case and that effort should be spent trying to reduce the level of risk, or would that effort be better spent building resilience to possible future climate changes, at whatever level that may be? Can there be a compromise?

    These are weighted questions, as I’m trying to test my own understanding. To me the best choices for action are:

    • Immediately take action to move beyond coal and oil as energy sources (for energy availability/security, pollution and geo-political reasons as well as climate change). The best choice available seems to be a carbon tax.

    • Continue rigorous research into the influence of greenhouse gases on climate change.

    • Build social-ecological resilience to climate changes.

    To me there is not enough evidence to counter the prediction that man made influence on climate change will be strong, which evokes the precautionary principle and the idea that we should make a serious effort to stop it. If the evidence points to weak influence, then the carbon price can be dropped accordingly. If that is the case, then all the action already taken would still be desirable. The final point accepts the unpredictability of the climate and is often forgotten, but does not discredit the first point.
    This all assumes that everything works; that the IPCC isn’t a closed community; that local planning doesn’t destroy enough habitats for wind farms to erode resilience of local populations.

    I guess my final question becomes: is the whole carbon trading system a bad idea, or does the problem lie in the functioning of specific areas that support it (IPCC, renewable energy planning etc.)?

  18. Jason Hart: Thank you for staying with this blog – which has been refreshing in its courtesy and thoughtfulness – because your questions demonstrate the real value of this form of communication.

    On the whole ‘denier’ and ‘sceptics’ language – I prefer the longstanding word ‘critic’ and long ago (between 1978-1992) I directed a small group who developed the concepts and practice of ‘critical review’. We cut our teeth in public inquiries and parliamentary commissions and took many lessons from forensic lawyers. So much of what was really hazardous development was licensed by apparent reference to science – out job was to critically examine that science.

    That said – I developed a healthy respect for ‘street wisdom’ – people who could sense untruth or when they were being scammed – but had no evidence to refer to.

    In your comments on the ‘way forward’ you get to the nub of it – especially with regard to the Precautionary Principle (I deal with the evolution of that principle in Chill, as I was heavily involved in getting it written in to international conventions).

    Yes – the climate is changing, as indeed it always has done – in cycles. The really odd thing about modern climate science is the number of fields where the scientists avoid using the term cycle (perhaps its a male-world thing!). What is really different now is that humanity is much more vulnerable to these cyclic changes. Just in the time of the most recent north-pacific cycle, from 1977-2007, the global population has doubled from 3 to 6 billion, agricultural production has just managed to keep pace, but water and soil resources have become stretched – there are no more tricks in the box, and within the next 15 years, another billion mouths will be added. 67 countries received food aid last year, and for the first time on record, the World Food Programme ran out of money because the prices were so high.

    So – yes, we are more vulnerable than ever and the crucial period lies within the next decade.

    Even if the IPCC models are correct, and even if we got emissions down by 50% by 2030 (a very tall order) then none of this will affect what the climate does in the next decade or two. Indeed, IF the IPCC model is right and all of the post-1950 warming is due to the carbon emissions, then we are guaranteed more climate instability for two or three decades simply from the past emissions.

    One question we need to ask the people at Copenhagen is precisely when the CURRENT risk factor becomes lessened by the actions they propose – that time is way beyond the turn of the century.

    So – why make it worse? Of course, who would risk it if there were an easy alternative route! The Precautionary Principle only got accepted with a subsidiary clause relating to what is economically practical. This is a crucial issue. Any amount of safety can be built into a system by spending money – and that resource is always limited, not least by the value of alternative expenditure (e.g. on hospitals).

    That leads us into the thorny territory of risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis (for example as in the Stern report), where you can easily scew the analysis to get the figures you want.

    Given these uncertainties – on your question 1) on environmental accounting – yes, knowing what you are dealing with in terms of accounted emissions and resource use is always the first step – an audit (always remembering some important things cannot be quantified). And when communities can do this – as for example users of a watershed where pollution is an issue, the results of audits and responsible action have been astounding (catchment-based clubs of industries reducing their discharges).

    2) on tax or trade – so far, carbon trading has been a license to pollute, a windfall for many companies, a boon to banks and brokers, and is widely agreed to have had virtually no impact on emissions – and that is why it is preferred by Obama’s administration and the EU.

    The only effective emission reduction agent has been the price of fossil fuel. So a carbon tax at source is the logical choice – except….all modern economists regard inflation as the great Satan – and as far as I can see, you need a large tax to be effective and that has the same effect as inflation – it is seen as damaging to the economy. Catch 22. If you are a small, rich, well-educated country with no fuel-poverty underclass, like Denmark, you can afford 20% renewable electricity at 300% of UK prices (inclusive of 50% government tax which subsidises the renewables industry). Otherwise, renewables are a pipe dream. They cannot be expanded beyond 20% without a huge economic penalty. This is a very large area of ‘denial’ in the green alliance – by which I mean, a refusal to look at it. The renewable figures don’t add up beyond 20% – and even then we are only talking electricity – roughly one-third of energy demand, and with the 300% cost (political suicide in Britain with one-third the population on some kind of benefit, and three million households in or close to fuel-poverty).

    I doubt anywhere in the EU could get beyond 5% renewables in the liquid fuel category (petrol, diesel) – again the costs are 2-3 times fossil, and there simply is not the land available without huge dietary changes. 20% would be my limit, assuming there was massive shifts in diet and the costs could be borne.

    Most biomass burning and solar cells are 5-10x the current cost of fossil fuels.

    That is the ‘greens’ have thrown nuclear power a lifeline – and government has always favoured it. But again – its only electricity, and not cheap either – plus, it takes a decade to build.

    3) emissions policy – my view is to allow the rising price of fossil fuels to drive the innovation and demand reduction markets, and for strict efficiency regulations to be brought in ahead of what is called the technology-cycle – the normal renewal cycle of capital equipment. Industry responds well to advance notice of regulation and it often does not cost extra if done at the design stages. The worst policy is arbitrary targets with percentages and deadlines that bear no relation to this cycle – it looks good for the lobbyists and politicians, but it brings greater cost to industry and the consumer, both of whom then seek ‘least cost’ solutions (for example, mega-turbines on the most exposed places).

    4) where real expenditure is required is in building the ‘resilience’ you highlight – it is the crucial issue – and it is relevant immediately – this next decade is where the big risks are coming – for certain, irrespective of models of the future – and we don’t know it will be a cooling or warming world – new models suggest cooling – which is just as bad if not worse than warming because the world food surplus is in the northern hemisphere!

    And yes – IPCC is a ‘closed’ group not only because its scientists are essentially chosen by governments (carefully vetted for the party-line)but also because the secretariat have made prior judgements and commitments on that science.

    Where I would disagree with you is that we wait on evidence that the IPCC analysis is weak – I have concluded that since 2001, that evidence is now plain to see (except by the IPCC) and that we need to change course toward resilience. Less than one-tenth of 1% is now spent on resilience to environmental stress, compared to that spent on supply side technology or ineffective carbon trading. Sadly, once governments grasp the importance of ‘adaptation’ they are likely to fund sea defences – just when the evidence shows sea-level rise is faltering and was natural anyway!

  19. Peter Taylor

    Great questions from Jason Hart and a very interesting reply.

    There is a very big elephant in the room that we are all averting our eyes from. Over Population.

    There ARE limits to growth that are probably predicated on the numbers who wish to use the resources, rather than the paucity of resources themselves. The UK is over crowded and we-the people not our government-can plainly see the strains of a population greatly swollen in recent years by immigration.

    What is happening in this country is mirrored in many others-or will be in the next twenty years.Those from the second and third world will all want what we have got-a high standard of living- so the numbers consuming a ‘high’ level of resources-such as carbon,food, water etc-will rise exponentially as countries develop.

    Ironically of course, as countries industrialise their inhabitants tend to have smaller families.

    In this country we will have 75 million people in the next thirty years or so, which is probably 40 million more than the numbers this country can accept as being sustainable. We are seeing the inherent contradictions of this policy surfacing with such as the Thames Gateway where ultimately 40-80000 houses will be built much of it on a flood plain (which is there for a good reason!) The govt knows the inherent problems of building so many houses in such a vulnerable place (think the potential for a New Orleans disaster) but still continue as it is part of their policy to encourage growth (whilst mouthing green policies)-yet at the same time they expect ever more people to use ever fewer resoures, as exemplified by the unrealistic co2 emissions targets-impossible with 60 million people, a complete fantasy with 75 million.

    Since I was young it has been said the worlds population will stabilise then decrease, but it never does.

    What to do? Limiting population in any overt way is anathema to a free society. but I can’t help feeling that unless we accept this as one of the key policies we need to pursue -perhaps by encouraging industrialisation-that all talk of using our resources in a more responsible manner rings hollow, and there will be a series of ecological disasters. energy related or otherwise.

    As you say our society is vulnerable to natural forces with 6 billion-surely even more so with 9 and 10 and 11….


  20. Hi Peter Taylor,
    Many thanks your involvement above!
    I’ve not YET read your book, but am interested to know if it includes reference to the typical Earth Energy Budget diagrams such as the following from NOAA:

    One issue that interests me is the portrayal of Evapo-Transpiration (E-T) or Latent Heat Flux, at around 50% of the heat loss from the surface. (NASA Earth Observatory give it as 52%).
    You mention above various matters relating to water vapour and cloud feedbacks, and I’ve seen plenty of mention of these elsewhere. However, I’ve seen nothing on potential change to E-T, whereas a simplistic hypothesis is that if there is increased water vapour, then surely one could at least opine that there must be increased E-T. Thus there would seem to be a negative offset to the popular water vapour positive feedback. Furthermore because the implied (so-called global average!) E-T is the greatest cooling effect, even a small change to it would surely be significant, and would appear to be part of an amazingly complex natural “thermostat”. I guess there is less known about it than there is about clouds!

    I raised this topic over at RealClimate and there were some puerile responses including some from Gavin Schmidt, before I was excommunicated.

    BTW, the Keil & Trenberth 1997 version as used by the IPCC has apparently added a great deal of confusion about the difference between HEAT and EMR (long wave radiation from the surface), but that is another story.

  21. Tony B,

    It sounds like you accept that there is no issue with the UK’s level of resource consumption, but that you also accept that it is not possible for everyone to share that level. There’s a contradiction there which can be solved either by; not sharing (no immigration) or by lowering the level of resource use.

    Peter Taylor,

    Well said, and apologies that I have not read the book yet. I agree on almost every point, but let me distil the argument again to try and highlight our disagreements and why we hold them.

    Vulnerability – Human population has exploded and will continue to in the immediate future, which puts pressure on every resource based activity (food production, pollution, spatial arrangement, energy sources etc.). Civilisation’s ability to manage resources is more vulnerable than ever.

    Response – In terms of response, the next decade is the most reasonable time horizon to consider. Nothing we do in this time will affect climate in this period, but may make a small or large difference beyond that.
    The question comes down to a trade-off and whether the Copenhagen proposals are “practical” (I left out economically, as CB analysis attempts to convert all considerations into a comparable monetary unit, which I do not think is appropriate when the debate covers such a large area and long time horizon). This territory is indeed thorny.

    Firstly I disagree with you method of comparing current costs (eg. “Most biomass burning and solar cells are 5-10x the current cost of fossil fuels.”) as it assumes fossil fuels do not create any damage, which is represented by the proposed taxes. This is understandable as your conclusion is that the potential damage (risk) is negligible compared to alternatives, but it is jumping the gun and applying the conclusion to the justification. If you are right, then the carbon price should drop to zero anyway. This is a more rigorous (and costly!) method of achieving the same result, which needs to be remembered.

    In terms of a carbon trading; yes it has many flaws, but if done correctly it can have a sizable impact on emissions with much less impact than a straight tax. I come from Australia, and our policy is a woeful leftover from the 1990’s that does not actually require reductions in co2-e. That said we have some of the best potential for renewable energy and should be able to make over 20%, but only with penalties for cheap, abundant and (damaging) coal. I’d rather try to fix a system that has been taken over by lobbyists and leaches than throw it away. You assume prices will rise, which I agree with for oil (which there are no good alternatives) but not coal (which is the main culprit with possible alternatives, even if they need a little help). You also have faith in the market, which to date has been slow at best to respond. This is fine if the time horizon available is long, but not if it is short. Once again the conclusion effects the justification.

    Efficiency regulation is definitely a good idea and needs to be clear and given in advance. In fact the cloudiness of carbon trading policy is possibly its biggest problem.
    As for liquid biomass, it is currently a fool’s salvation and should be treated with extreme caution.

    I wholeheartedly agree that more attention needs to be spent on building resilience. I cannot stress this point enough. It is the best method of dealing with the vulnerability listed above. I disagree that the attention should completely replace attention towards greenhouse gas reduction. They should be complementary, as the swing is currently towards climate change this naturally means moving funding to resilience.

    Back to the “practicality” of the Copenhagen proposal: It concerns choices today which will not have an impact until later, however those impacts may be very large; especially as the larger they get the more unpredictable the whole system becomes as there may be feedback loops and tipping points. It is a poorly understood risk, but it could be catastrophic. My view on gambling is to never risk anything I can’t afford to lose. As such the risks involved with not mitigating are unacceptable. I hope someone can confidently quantify those risks, however I do not believe you can confidently tell the world “don’t bother, it’s all going to be fine” based on some flaws in the current science.

    To summarise:

    • Thinking greenhouse gas mitigation will reduce risk in the next decade is foolhardy and draws attention away from real solutions in resilience building. This should consider warming and cooling.

    • Copenhagen relies on the precautionary principle and is probably the biggest risk reduction strategy in history. It concludes that it is practical based on the IPCC’s understanding of the risks.

    • You conclude that it is not practical, as the IPCC’s understanding of the risks is biased upwards.

    Due to my risk aversion, I will side with Copenhagen until it can be confidently proven wrong (not weak). I do not see the issue as focusing on one or the other, but at what compromise between the two. The attitudes toward risk are a personal judgement, and should be the real argument before Copenhagen. The science is an ongoing battle and will inform that debate.

    Well done in highlighting an important issue which has been overlooked and good luck with furthering your research. I hope it makes it to the IPCC and beyond for rigorous debate.

  22. Jason Hart

    Your comment about vulnerability seems to suggest you have the same concerns as me, in as much population size affects resource depletion. It is surely a given that resource depletion depends on the number of people doing the depleting in the first place, as well as the amount of resources each uses?

    Man is always going to utilise the Earths resources (whether responsibly or irresponsibly) and there is no use our trying to return the planet to some Garden of Eden state. It will not be possible with 9 billion people, but becomes a slightly more achievable matter with 6 billion or 4 Billion.

    China is supposed to have ‘saved’ 400 million from being born using pretty draconian measures. I do not favour that sort of intevention, but from my own observations in the developing world am inclined to think that industrialisation (however you want to define it) will cut the population growth, as better standards of living generally lead to a smaller population in that society. The trick is then in ensuring the wealth created does not mean each newly wealthy person uses a profligate amount of finite resources.

    (we then need to define profligate!)

    On a global basis I am merely making the mathematical point that the burgeoning population will want the same standards as the first world currently enjoys. If at present 1 bilion people out of the world population of 6 billion ‘enjoy’ first world quality of life (as it is currently measured) the situation will become very much exacerbated when say 4 billion also enjoy that quality of life, when there are 9 billion of us.

    I do not want to lower my standard of living and accept the rest of the world will want to catch up with where I currently am. Solutions?

    1) Resource sharing i.e EVERYONE has less?

    2) Expanding the existing resources? (which will likely have serious ecological repercussions.

    3) Finding new resources-such as alternative energy? Yes, but that will also have repercussions, such as windmills on fine stretches of countryside with associated transmission lines- whilst not really resolving the problem as the supply fails if the wind doesn’t blow.

    4) Lower the population? Already discussed above

    5) Using less? Yes, but there is a finite floor to our usage, and taking 10% less each will be overwhelmed by 4 times as many of us wanting our share.

    As regards energy-which is at the heart of a lot of the debate-personally I favoured nuclear, but after reading Peters comments on the subject I am rather more ambivalent.

    However, the plain truth is that we need considerable additional sources of base power in this country within 10 years to supply our needs and dealt with this in an earlier email.

    I favour wave energy-after all we are an island-but we are very far away from that being a reality. I do not support the idea of deliberately ‘expensive’ energy, there are too many ‘energy poor’ people already, and expensive energy impacts on every aspect of our lives.

    Life is full of conundrums and compromises and I think the debate is years behind where it should be.


  23. Why the precautionary principle is flawed.

    Proponents of the premise that AGW is a potentially serious threat, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, have invoked the “precautionary principle” to justify a policy of aggressive greenhouse gas (primarily CO2) controls to mitigate against anthropogenic global warming.

    The proposed measures are justified based on computer model outputs and assumptions, which tell us that the global average temperature might increase by 1.8° to over 6°C by 2100, due to anthropogenic greenhouse warming (AGW).

    The principle states that even if we are not certain that there will really be a major disruption caused by AGW, we should nevertheless mitigate against this possibility, because the impact (on society, the environment, etc.) of this disruption would be so great that it cannot be allowed to happen.

    Yet there are signs that the predictions on which the premise is based are flawed.

    Since January 2001, there has been no global warming, but cooling instead, despite all-time record increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Natural factors are cited as the underlying reason for this cooling.

    The sun is currently very inactive; this minimum activity has now lasted around 19 months as the transition from solar cycle 23 to cycle 24 is being dragged out.

    Solar scientists predict that we are entering a prolonged period of natural cooling, in direct opposition to the AGW predictions of a return to significant warming.

    As evidenced by past periods of significant cooling in our history, a major global cooling (by 1° to 3°C) would be far more destructive to our planet and our society than an equivalent amount of warming.

    We have no “Plan B” in place for what to do if the solar scientists are really right, as opposed to the greenhouse climatologists.

    Not only do we not have an alternate plan for the case that there will be global cooling rather than global warming, but we have not made an assessment of the costs and risks of imposing the precautionary principle.

    A study has been made on this subject:

    To quote from the abstract of this report:

    GHG emission reduction requirements that go beyond secular improvements in technology and elimination of unjustified energy subsidies could retard economic development, leading to greater hunger, poorer health, and higher mortality, especially in developing countries. Moreover, higher oil and gas prices would reduce food availability and would also retard switching from solid fuels to more environmentally benign fuels for heating and cooking in households of the developing world. Indoor air pollution resulting from current heating and cooking practices in these nations is a major source of premature deaths.

    A truly precautionary principle argues, instead, for focusing on solving current problems that may be aggravated by climate change, and on increasing society’s adaptability and decreasing its vulnerability to environmental problems in general and climate change in particular. These could be achieved by bolstering the mutually-reinforcing forces of technological change, economic growth, and trade. Moreover, enhancing adaptability and reducing vulnerability will raise the thresholds at which greenhouse gas concentrations could become “dangerous.”

    This study was published in 2000, before the current global cooling started, before the current period of minimum activity of the sun and prior to the publication of many of the recent papers by solar scientists, predicting a longer-term cooling of our planet.

    Its conclusions should be even more valid today than when it was published.


    Any comments from TonyB or Jason Hart?

  24. Tony B,

    Not a very fun argument is it. You are right and it is a conundrum. I think education is definitely the best method of birth control, especially of women. Education is hard when you don’t have the free time that industrialisation brings. My comment on lower resource use was in echo of Peter’s comment “and work out a new development model that is not consumption based (for the ‘developing world’)” extended to the developed world as well.


    The precautionary principle says that if you’re not sure, expect the worst and plan for it.

    ‘Yet there are signs that the predictions on which the premise is based are flawed.’

    Until you can actively prove them wrong, you have no point. A few anecdotal observations explain little when we are talking about climate, which is an abstraction from long term statistical data.

    Your paper prefers reducing vulnerability to risk to reducing overall risk. It is a very anthropocentric view that seems to forget about the links between social and ecological systems, so that if you look after the people everything will be fine. Reducing overall risk is a holistic approach, where as reducing vulnerability is localised. I agreed earlier that reducing vulnerability is important, but I disagree that it means we shouldn’t bother about reducing overall risk. The two are complementary.

    It’s like decking your car out with 100 airbags, then driving like a lunatic because your vulnerability has been reduced to nothing. A balanced approach considers speed and airbags.

    I should probably add that I like windmills; I have fond memories of lazily watching them pass over the rolling German fields while catching a train. Last I was in the UK I stayed on a farm where I was excitedly shown the new locations chosen for wind farms, even if they weren’t happy with the consultation process. I especially remember some kind of power station on the drive South from Edinburgh whose stack and plume of smog was visible for 100’s of km around and looked far worse than a bunch of white rotors. Just an opinion based on aesthetics, each to their own.

  25. JasonHart

    Sorry, I believe you have missed the point here.

    One (large) group of well-funded “greenhouse climatologists” tell us that their models are predicting serious global warming from AGW over the next century, and that this warming is likely to cause major disruptions and possible human suffering, based on their model predictions and expert analysis.

    Another (smaller) group of not-so-well-funded solar scientists tell us we are headed for a significantly cooler period, and that this cooling is likely to cause major crop losses, loss of arable land and famine, based on past historical experience during another much colder period.

    Both are warning us that “climate is the enemy”, as Peter Taylor has remarked. But is it really?

    So the precautionary principle has a basic dilemma to deal with.

    Should we do everything possible to avoid more greenhouse warming (and figure out exactly how much GH warming we will really avert by doing this and how much it will cost us) or should we gear up for another Little Ice Age by figuring out how to develop colder climate crops, better irrigation methods for new desert areas caused by the cooling, etc.?

    Or should we first make sure that one of these groups of “experts” really has a more credible story than the other group, and get ready for adaptation measures for either case, keeping in mind that climate is not really our enemy, nor are we certain that we are able to control our climate?

    That is the dilemma we face.


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