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 www.abebooks.co.uk  –  TonyN]

For a profile of Peter Taylor follow the link;

http://www.clairviewbooks.com/pages/viewauthor.php?id_in=29

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

  1. JasonHart

    Is the “burden of proof” on the greenhouse climatologists to “prove” their premise that AGW could present a serious problem (and that we should therefore take draconian measures to avert this problem), or on those who do not accept the scientific basis for this premise?

    I think you’ve got it backward with your statement

    Until you can actively prove them wrong, you have no point

    It is the proponents of the AGW premise that have the burden of proof, not me or anyone else who questions the scientific validity of the premise.

    Just as the solar scientists who are telling us to gear up for a prolonged period of significantly colder weather also have the burden of proof to support their premise.

    As for windmills, I do not particularly like their looks and their economics are horrible even in places like West Texas (as T. Boone Pickens found out), but we do not have much to worry about here in Switzerland; there is not enough wind here.

    Max

  2. Max

    I do not have the time to consider your question at present, but I will reply to it when I get back after the weekend.

    You will remember my tale of woe last year when I went to Cambridge with my son to look at the University as one of his options, and that my car spookily broke down in Arrhenius road and Tynadall drive (or similar) after my querying the validity of their theory on this forum?

    It cost me a fortune to fix, so obviously they were getting their own back…

    Well my son got a place at Cambridge to study physics and we take him up there tomorrow and will get back late Sunday.

    So I will think of the precautionary principle and its relevance to the AGW debate whilst I drive-so if I break the speed limits it will be YOUR fault.

    Jason

    I am rather more ambivalent about land based windmills than perhaps I suggested-they have their time and place. Driving through what can be tedious countryside in Holland I think windmills positively enliven the view. Driving through the heart stoppingly beautiful countryside of mid Wales they-and their likely associated transmission lines- are usually a considerable blot on the landscape.

    They are no solution to our search for a ‘base energy’ supply though and we really should have started looking at our energy supply a decade ago.

    tonyb.

  3. A professional sportsman wakes up one morning and discovers that his arms have fallen off. Naturally, he seeks medical advice about it. His GP gives him a theory and sends him to a specialist who gives a different opinion. The tennis player is not happy with either opinion so he goes to a second specialist who offers yet another opinion – so a third specialist is engaged, then a fourth and finally, a fifth. At this stage he has six different opinions to choose from. He is none the wiser but being a man of action he decides that until all the medical people agree on the reason his arms fell off, he will continue to play professional tennis.

    I don’t think delaying the choice is a very good idea.

    I never thought climate was the enemy, but more like a co-dependent partner. Damned if we fully understand. But mistreat it, and we hurt ourselves.

    Beyond that I have trouble following the argument. You frame it as either/or when the choices are not mutually exclusive. You want accurate forecasts about abatement, yet don’t require them for the cooling hypothesis. I feel you are trying to characterise the debate with up/down instead of spatially unique responses to change, with yes/no instead of how much? For example your terminology:
    Warming/cooling incorrectly refers to a specific effect, ie, rising temperatures
    Warming/cooling incorrectly suggests that the effect is immediate, ie, occurring now
    Warming/cooling incorrectly suggests a temperature that relates to our blood temperature and so, is benign or temperate. For example, if today’s maximum temperature was 25 degrees following yesterday’s high of 21 degrees, we say that it was warmer, but if 43 degrees follows 21 degrees, we do not use the term warmer but rather we say it was hotter.
    Warming/cooling incorrectly suggests that in cold regions (eg, Siberian/Alaskan winters) or hot regions (Australia) the warming effect is beneficial, desirable.
    Warming/cooling incorrectly suggests that the thermometer is the essential equipment to test for this change when actually the thermometer is only useful marginally and indirectly in any investigation of climate change. Heating the planet will cause higher temperatures in the future and at that point the thermometer will show that the climate has already changed. But at that stage we will not need a thermometer to see that the climate has changed and the thermometer is not so much use to test the situation while the change is happening. Of itself, the thermometer is telling us absolutely nothing about the climate. The thermometer is about what is happening NOW. Climate is not about now – and now is usually insignificant in an understanding of climate.

  4. And the statement is not backwards, they have already spent decades providing enough proof that it should be taken seriously. The hypothesis has not been rejected yet, despite considerable effort.

  5. Comment:
    Jason and Max

    Thank you Max for linking in that policy paper – I could have done with that in writing Chill, as I had not come across any sociological critique of the mitigation case. There was (and still is) an astounding lack of appreciation of the social and environmental impact of mitigation policies and even the cost, as apparently evinced by Stern, is only factored against the overall effect on GDP of the putative warming – arguing it will cost less to mitigate than to accept the unmitigated impact.
    But those costs of mitigation (1-2% of GDP per annum) are largely those of the technology.

    Jason – you compare the holistic overall risk reduction to the more localised adaptative responses and creating resilience – and there would appear no reason not to do both (nobody here is talking of business as usual or doing nothing new – thank goodness!). The problem is that the mitigation solutions proposed-

    * new nuclear build
    * carbon capture from coal and gas stations
    * large scale biofuels for transport
    * large scale biomass for power generation
    * tidal barrages
    * turbine arrays

    all require extremely large sums of money that would leave little for resilience strategies – and the scale of these technologies also detracts from important elements of that resilience, most particular the fostering of community and values other than material. People would live in a soul-less electro-technical landscape dominated by technology owned by large and distant corporations. That was never the idea of ‘green’ alternatives when we were working against centralised bureacratic control and high-risk nuclear technology.

    Now that I am older, I reflect on the reality that coal, gas and nuclear dominate electricity generation – and these are all large centres of production, with a supergrid, run by multinationals. It was a naive dream that renewables would somehow be different and favour community ownership, respect landscape and support biodiversity. Renewable power in the hands of the same unreformed system will be just as destructive – in fact, in the medium term,it will be more certainly destructive and we will not need models to see it.

    Jason: the problem with actively ‘proving’ the prediction wrong before disengaging from mitigation is that science does not work like that. As we have seen, the models have so much ‘variability’ built in, that it would take at least another decade after this next before modellers would accept they have failed. What we have now is a large body of evidence – which I have marshalled in Chill, which shows the models are not reliable. I then argue for a no-regrets strategy – i.e. no expensive and certainly damaging actions until much more has been done of the no-regrets kind (such as efficiency, life-style changes, education on resources and energy use, diet, material goals, etc in order to reduce demand, coupled to technologies that have low impact such as passive-solar housing design, solar cells, solar hot water, micro-generation with fuel cells, heat pumps, CHP, enhanced public transport and a tax system that is neutral to the economy overall but shifts the tax take toward resource users). These policies should be pursued vigorously for a decade. If done so with enough commitment and communication these policies would doubtless affect the world development model (all those who wish to follow our past example, and have the means to do so – Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia; as well as those who wish, but don’t have the money – most of Africa and South America, and a good proportion of India, Brazil and China too!).

    As others point out – the models are not just flawed, there is a very real possibility of global cooling. My own reading is that this is a slow process. In the last decade, the cooling is approximately 0.2 C (depending on what you use as a base-line – AGW would compare this decade’s average with the previous decade and in that case, its still up there – but if you take the peak year of 1998, and look at the trend, then it is down from about 0.6 to 0.4). So it would take three decades to get back to the baseline average of the last century, and another two or three to get 0.5 below that – which is the return of a Little Ice Age in global terms. There would be pockets of much lower than this average – parts of the subtropics were 3 C cooler in the LIA according to some proxy measures.

    There are a few solar scientists who think we may be heading for another LIA, but my reading of the science is that nobody really has a working model of the relation of solar output (of all energy spectrums) to ocean cycles (which determine the planet’s temperature). I would have thought that a good mathematician working with harmonic cycles could analyse past cycles and get a sense of the future, but I also know that the cycles are imprecise and thus the resolution would not be fine enough to predict 50-100 years with any accuracy.

    We are not in a position to predict – in my view, neither warming nor cooling patterns over the next five decades (and certainly not beyond) – so the precautionary approach is to create resilience to change in any direction.

    Where we do need to be careful is in policies that affect food production. DEFRA, for example, having told farmers that it may be 4 C warmer by 2080 in Britain, are not telling them that it might be 0.5 C cooler in the period in-between! So – the last thing farmers should do is plant olives and walnuts now! And the current cooling is not homogenous either – it is strongest in central Canada, Argentina, northern China – with droughts (cooler oceans usually mean less rain) in Australia – these are all major food surplus areas.

    Final comment on population growth: the next billion will be mostly concentrated in the poorer tropics and be very reliant upon food aid – populations with virtually no added potential for industrialisation or any conventional form of economic growth – such as selling land or forests. Current biofuel and sovereign wealth fund policies on buying food producing land will move millions of these people into shanty towns or rural slave-wage labour, making them very vulnerable to world food prices.

    On one level, I applaud the efforts of science institutions and governments (and now the green lobby groups) to get together and tackle these global issues – but on another level, the further removed these people are in a global bureaucracy from the land and communities they want to serve, the more technocratic and ultimately damaging their solutions appear to be.

  6. Peter,

    Well said. I think this discussion is getting to the root of the issue and is highlighting practical solutions which are not getting the attention they deserve.

    We are, however, still in disagreement about the confidence of the science. Having not read your book, I will bow out of the discussion until I am up to date/leave it to those who are better qualified.

    I really hope you get to debate George. I feel there will be two issues:

    • The confidence of the science, which leads to judgments about the desirability of mitigation. I do not think it will be helpful to clash conclusions without really delving into the reasons you have come to them, which requires a focused and technical debate. This can’t be a point scoring match, as each issue has to be woven into the final conclusion and appreciated in respect to the ‘big picture’.
    • The no-regrets strategy. I don’t think there are any good arguments against this proposal, so the question becomes one of priorities. Assuming George comes to completely different conclusions on the first argument, he has to concede the wisdom of the second, at least to some degree. You are guaranteed a win. The problem is that if George is right, then it is not a ‘no-regrets’ solution (and that terminology shouldn’t be used). I explained above how I would rather be safe than sorry, but this judgment (and yours) relies on the conclusions from the first argument.

    It all rests on the technical details and their impact on the question “how much to mitigate/how much to strengthen resilience?”

    Even if you end up being completely wrong on every technical detail (not even suggesting you are) you still have a valid argument to advance. I think the whole process will give perspective to what is becoming a very focused debate. Good luck.

  7. Comment:
    Jason,

    to take your second point first: I see no-regrets strategies as beneficial whatever way the climate moves, and hence whether or not the science is reliable – and in fact, given the very long time scale over which you have to wait before mitigation lowers the risk level and the very high levels of risk that will certainly increase in the medium term – say three decades, the most sensible use of resources is for adaptation and lowering of demand (though this has economic consequences);

    On the issue of confidence in the science – from my recent experiences, this has little to do with decision makers and lobbyists having any real knowledge of the science – their confidence lies instead in the ‘authority’ of science institutions (e.g. the UN’s panel, the Royal Society, US National Academy, etc).

    I, myself, had no reason to doubt the basic science of global warming until I actually looked at it closely – beginning around five years ago. Though in 1996 I was advising government agencies that predictive models of the impact of global warming in the UK were then next to useless and even dangerously misleading because they predicted a smoothly linear increase in temperatures to 2080 – when as an ecologist with some knowledge of ocean systems, I knew that even in a warming world, the North Atlantic could cool drastically.

    This is what has been called ‘the argument from authority’ – where several people – for example, in response to my articles on climate in the journal ECOS (British Association of Nature Conservationists), have said they cannot judge whether my arguments are sound and feel they have to rely upon the authority of those who present the orthodox line.

    As any environmentalist ought to be aware, this is dangerous territory! But memories are either very short, or those who make this argument are deeply conservative (and tend not to read their own history). I would challenge anyone to look at the histories of nuclear risks (accidents, meltdowns, radwaste disposal, routine discharges and the radiobiology of low-level radiation, e.g. X-rays), acid rain, organochlorines, PCBs, Mercury, lead in petrol, CFCs (the release of, in millions of tonnes, to the atmosphere before the ozone hole manifest!) and find any point at which the ‘authorities’ were correct in the science or LED any kind of action to change things. The most honourable exceptions have been UK Royal Commissions and the American Physical Society on nuclear risks.

    So how come – all of a sudden, the UN, EU, Royal Society, Tony Blair, Government Chief Science Advisors – and after a lot of post-2001 lobbying, the worlds combined science academies (there was much dissent in the US and Russia until about 2004), all speak with one voice and are regarded as right by FOE, Greenpeace, WWF, RSPB, Oxfam, Christian Aid and all….none of whom have instigated their own ‘critical review’ of the science? I attempt to answer this in several chapters of Chill – and call it a ‘collusion’ of interests. In whose interest is it to challenge authority and critically review the science? That takes time (it has taken me three years) and resources (mine were very very limited – had I been in any way dependent on any of those authorities, I would not have been able to do so financially).

    However, I do appreciate that for many laypeople and even perhaps the majority of scientists, their only option has been to accept the argument from authority. Now they have the option of reading my book – and as Prof Jackson Davis states in his endorsement, the questions I raise on the science must be answered ‘before global warming can be accepted as truth’ – and he has been a party to the UN climate convention since its inception, having been the drafting author of the Kyoto Protocol.

    Having worked closely with me at the UN for over a decade, Jackson Davis has no problem with my credentials and does not ask whether I have published in the peer-reviewed literature.

    This is why George Monbiot has just turned down the offer of a debate with me – though he says that once my ‘novel’ ideas are published in an appropriately respectable journal, we promises he will debate. Otherwise, he cannot tell whether he would be wasting his valuable time dealing with a crank.

    My publishers sent him a courtesy copy of the book in June, inviting a Guardian review. He has not read it, and Jackson Davis’s endorsement on the cover was not authority enough to cause him to risk wasting time.

    He presumably read Plimer’s book ‘Heaven and Earth’ – which I have not yet seen, though ECOS have requested a review copy and I will review it there. It was badly mauled by a climate policy expert in the Times – and Monbiot claims it is full of schoolboy howlers. I don’t think Chill would be quite so easily dismissed – in fact, I know it cannot, because I had Jackson Davis, a lifelong warrior on behalf of the Pacific nations at the UN, go over it before publication – he had previously accepted the science without question (or detailed review).

    So – whilst I have to respect Monbiot’s desire not to waste further time – and I know he has to rely also entirely upon the argument from authority, I also suspect that as a political animal (in the broadest policy sense) Monbiot will not give away any acknowledgement that I have legitimate points to make.

    This is then ultimately the more subtle danger of the climate orthodoxy – a regime develops, with powerful vested interests (industrial, financial, media, lobbyists, campaign groups as well as politicians seeking advantage) against any self-critical assessment. In this environment, the truth that should underlie science becomes endangered. It will ultimately prevail – even if only as a result of new data, rather than a critical review of the current models.

  8. Jason Hart

    (By mistake this got posted on the other thread)

    I liked your tennis player story.

    Here is another version:

    A professional sportsman wakes up one morning with both arms asleep, after having had a very vivid dream in which his arms have fallen off. This dream and sensation repeat themselves several times. Naturally, he seeks advice about this strange dream: will it really come true? His GP gives him a theory and sends him to a specialist who makes a few tests and gives a different opinion. The tennis player is not happy with either opinion so he goes to a second specialist who offers yet another opinion – so a third and fourth specialist are engaged. The specialists cannot agree on a diagnosis and tell him there is nothing to worry about just now, but there are a few serious diseases affecting the arms that are impossible to diagnose in the early stages. This does not give him much comfort, as the dream and sensation continue to occur. Finally he decides to go to a fortuneteller. After hearing the tennis player’s dream, this lady flips a few cards, deals them out and flips them again, then finally gazes for a long time into her crystal ball. She then tells him she sees a vision of him, in the middle of a tennis match, when both his arms fall off, just before a set point According to her crystal ball prediction (or projection, as she prefers to call it), this will very likely happen to him if he does not take the draconian mitigating step of giving up playing tennis immediately. Being a basically fearful and timid man, he decides that this prediction must be true, since he has also dreamed it so often, so he gives up playing professional tennis and becomes a waiter in a three-star restaurant.

    Like your story, mine has a bitter-sweet ending. It is also about as applicable to the current discussion on the precautionary principle as your story.

    I think the key argument against the precautionary principle is that the draconian effort and resources it will require will be distracted from some other, less virtual but more real, problems of today (see the Goklany paper I cited earlier).

    In a world of unlimited wealth, one could consider chasing virtual hobgoblins with massive resources. We do not live in such a world, so we need to make choices and thus require more evidence than just questionable model outputs of future disaster to support the postulation that these virtual hobgoblins are real.

    The creators of this hobgoblin do not get an automatic “free pass”, simply because the disaster they predict is so horrible that “it cannot be allowed to happen”. That is a cheap shot, Jason.

    The “burden of proof” of the reality is upon those making the claim of the future disaster, not upon those who are rationally skeptical of this claim.

    And that is actually the key point here (which neither “tennis story” really addresses).

    Max

  9. Blog 26 Sep Peter Taylor

    Your response to Jason Hart in support of the “no regrets” strategy and other topics is very interesting to others on this thread.

    I am very sorry to read that George Monbiot has declined a debate with you. It would have been interesting and enlightening.

    Your transition from basically accepting the science of global warming to gradually becoming more skeptical after looking at it more closely follows a path that I and many others have experienced, including some, who have become well-known in the process, such as Anthony Watts, who has stated on his WUWT blog:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/03/27/

    To me, a person who has at one time been fully engaged in the belief that CO2 was indeed the root cause of the global warming problem … I later changed my thinking when I learned more about the science involved and found it to be lacking

    Many of our detractors (the firm believers in the AGW premise) tell us that our underlying motivation for becoming a “climate change denier” must be primarily “political” and not based on a rationally skeptical evaluation of the science supporting the premise. But this reasoning is flawed as the argument is based on the inability (or unwillingness) to accept that someone who disagrees with the “opinion of the orthodoxy” on AGW could possibly do so on the basis of the weakness of the science supporting this opinion.

    The logic appears to flow as follows: The premise (that AGW is a potentially serious threat, caused principally by human CO2 emissions) is unequivocal and beyond doubt (because most scientists and scientific organizations support it), therefore the science and climate model outputs supporting this premise are valid, therefore anyone who rejects the validity of the premise must be doing so for other than scientific reasons.

    This reasoning follows a similar pattern found in religious fundamentalists, only there it is the Bible or perceived “word of God” himself that provide the validation of the belief rather than the climate model outputs or the authority of blanket endorsements by venerable scientific organizations.

    A side point. After having read your book and then gone back through it (rationally skeptically) in some detail, I am convinced that the “nit pickers” or others who try to discover errors or glitches will have a very hard time. It appears that your “peer review” process worked very well.

    Max

  10. Max: I saw your 108 on the other thread and commented there. But, as you point out above, both analogies are flawed: the real point is burden of proof. It’s absurd to insist on global action in support of an unverified hypothesis. Here’s what I said:

    Even in a world of unlimited wealth it would be foolish to chase virtual hobgoblins if doing so had deleterious consequences. And, of course, action to overcome the dangerous AGW hobgoblin has many such consequences – as Peter Taylor has shown, threats to landscape, wildlife, biodiversity, community and human values. But, of course, where wealth is limited, you must add the misery resulting from imposing further damage on an already weakened economy thereby increasing our inability to cope with threats from a naturally changing climate and making countless people vulnerable to increased poverty and famine. That’s why the Precautionary Principle is positively dangerous.

  11. In my experience, the precautionary principle is usually invoked when a potentially hazardous action is proposed (e.g. when approving new drugs), and the precaution is to hold fire until more evidence is accrued.

    Offhand, I can’t think of a situation that involves large-scale action based on a contentious hypothesis, when waiting for more evidence would not be the precautionary position.

    This is perhaps a long way of saying that the PP is (or should be) a tool for the sceptics, not the warmists. Curious how delay (so often a weapon of the bureaucrat) is so resisted by the politicians in this case.

  12. Now I remember why I didn’t bother with bloggers. It is my fault; I should have read the book before posting. Alas I was trying to figure out if it was worth the time or not. I have found Peter’s comments insightful and relevant. The rest of you drag his name in the mud with simple errors and flawed reasoning.

    Manacker,

    I’m sorry you missed the point of the story; it was only about the wisdom of delaying action in the face of multiple opinions. I did not mean to imply that the debate is as clear as whether or not arms have fallen off or not.

    James P,

    You’ve got the timeline mixed up. In this case the drug has already been approved, so ‘holding fire’ means recalling the drug (GHG mitigation).

    I could go on, but I feel it truly is a waste of time.

    Peter,

    The ‘confidence in authority’ point is a good one, but I now feel I need to back up my comments so I’m not unfairly stereotyped by the rest. My conclusions about climate change came from a half year study two years ago into the scientific backing of claims made in the media, reviewed by a climatic modeller and a geologist with a hard on for the “it’s all the sun” hypothesis. Not current or comprehensive, but it was honest and independent. I found numerous flaws on both sides. It covered cycles in the sun’s output, and from memory the consensus was that they have played a major role in shaping climate in the recent (centuries) past. The real debate was in to what speed and degree greenhouse gasses (for the rest, it’s more than just co2) could cause change. The conclusion was that the speed of changes (natural and man-made) would be a lot slower that the media (read: Al Gore) make it out. The degree was uncertain, but the confidence band centred on decently worrying changes and did not rule out massive changes, which for risk management is an important finding, especially when the possibility of turning points is considered.

    I have trouble with the severity of the consequences of your cooling prediction, mostly as if true I would expect it to be slow. We are also at a warmer position now, so natural environments have a buffer space that they have been used to for the last few centuries. I probably am biased in that view by my location, which has seen dropping food production due to high temperatures, drought and changes in the seasonal distribution of rainfall. I hope they will be covered in the book, or if not that I can give a proper account of my understanding so we can debate it. I do not expect a reply now.

    As for George’s peer review comment: My guess is that your claims are too specific for a generalist such as himself, and he’s trying to get more informed people in the relevant fields to debate for him. I’m afraid that if you want to be taken seriously by the world, you’ll have to engage with the accepted method for establishing credibility, as flawed as you may see it.

    I feel I have made my position clear, and you yours. I will continue the conversation once I have read the book and followed it up. I also doubt I will use the same medium.

  13. JasonHart

    Yes. The discussion was interesting, but Peter Taylor’s book is even more so, as I am sure you will agree once you have read it.

    Your allegorical “tennis player” tale was “about the wisdom of delaying action in the face of multiple opinions”, while mine was about the wisdom of rushing into precipitous action on the basis of questionable predictions.

    So, yes, they both had something to do with the Precautionary Principle, just as seen from two different viewpoints.

    Cheers.

    Max

  14. Jason

    In this case the drug has already been approved

    Not what I said, although I daresay there are a few that should never have been released. The same applies to approval of foodstuffs – aspartame (aka. Nutrasweet) was conspicuously not approved by the FDA, until Donald Rumsfeld got involved and the precautionary principle was abandoned.

    In any case, I wasn’t trying to make a major point – simply that the PP is more usually honoured by restraint than action.

    WRT your own studies, I am not clear if your conclusion of “decently worrying changes” identifies them as predominantly man-made or natural. The required responses are rather different.

  15. JasonHart reur 112, please pardon me for butting in on your comment to Peter Taylor:

    “…I probably am biased in that view by my location, which has seen dropping food production due to high temperatures, drought and changes in the seasonal distribution of rainfall…”

    When you seize on recent reports of the following tenor, relating to certain regions:

    * Worst drought ever
    * Worst floods for 100 years
    * Worst dust storm for 75 years
    * Worst ever Arctic ice melt. (well, since satellite observation began anyway)
    * Worst bushfires in memory

    It can be enlightening to check the actual history and consider any regional variations. For instance, taking the first item, there has been recent dire talk of unprecedented drought in the Murray-Darling river basin in Oz. However, study of the following images gives a rather different story.

    http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/BOM%20to%202005%20rainfall.JPG

    http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/Dry%20Murray%201914%20blog3.JPG

    And, for brevity, taking but the last item, I quote; Peshtigo Fire (Wikipedia):

    “…The October 8, 1871 Peshtigo Fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, is the conflagration that caused the most deaths by fire in United States history.[1] Having occurred on the same day as the more infamous Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire is mostly forgotten. On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fires, the cities of Holland, and Manistee, Michigan, across Lake Michigan, also burned, and the same fate befell Port Huron at the southern end of Lake Huron…

    Firestorm:
    On the day of the fire, a cold front moved in from the west, bringing strong winds that fanned smaller fires and escalated them to massive proportions.[2] By the time it was over, 1,875 square miles (4,850 km² or 1.2 million acres) of forest had been consumed, an area approximately twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. Some sources list 1.5 million acres (6,000 km²) burned. Twelve communities were destroyed. An accurate death toll has never been determined since local population records were destroyed in the fire. Between 1,200 and 2,500 people are thought to have lost their lives. The 1873 Report to the Wisconsin Legislature listed 1182 names of deceased or missing residents. Peshtigo had an estimated 1,700 residents before the fire. More than 350 bodies were buried in a mass grave,[3] primarily because so many had died that no one remained alive who could identify many of them.
    The fire was so intense it jumped several miles over the waters of Green Bay and burned parts of the Door Peninsula, as well as jumping the Peshtigo River itself to burn on both sides of the inlet town. Surviving witnesses reported that the firestorm generated a tornado that threw rail cars and houses into the air. Many of the survivors of the firestorm escaped the flames by immersing themselves in the Peshtigo River, wells, or other nearby bodies of water. Some drowned or boiled alive while doing so…”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The abandonment of the great Khmer city civilization of Angkor about 500 years ago has been attributed to climate change. (monsoonal pattern).
    Keeping it brief, these of many such examples clearly have no connection with increasing levels of CO2

  16. Sorry, Re my 115:
    Missing description for photo=

    The Murray River at Riversdale in 1914.

  17. JasonHart, given your claims above, here is some more stuff for you, (you are apparently a resident of Oz), to consider, per:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/climate/change/20090105.shtml

    EXTRACT: Annual Australian Climate Statement 2008 (from Oz BOM), Issued 5th January 2009
    Overview:
    The mean annual temperature across Australia for 2008 was the 14th warmest on record (0.41°C above normal).
    A warm year was recorded in most regions, apart from Queensland, northeast New South Wales and the Kimberley (Western Australia).
    Above average annual rainfall was recorded across the Top End, eastern Queensland, northeast New South Wales and far west parts of Western Australia. Rainfall was average to below average in the remainder of the country.
    Low rainfall over the southern Murray Darling Basin during 2008 further exacerbated the long dry spell in this region.

    There are undefined regional variations, in the overview above, such as within the huge Murray-Darling basin, but, consider this broader image:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/climate/change/20090105raingraph08.gif

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    You also implied that climate change has adversely affected food cropping in Oz. I guess what you really mean is that there have been regional effects, but how about you look at the bigger picture @
    http://www.asxnewbie.com/Commodities/Wheat/big-wheat-crop-in-prospect-low-wheat-price-reality.html

    EXTRACT 16 September 2009:
    “…There’s more than a touch of irony in the news that while Australia’s forthcoming wheat harvest is looking better with the possibility of the best exports tonnage for four years, world prices are now at two years lows and could fall further as the second largest crop on record around the world is forecast…”

  18. Bob FJ

    Your various graphs are very pertinent bearing in mind the news this morning regarding fresh information on the ‘hockey stick.’

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/09/27/quote-of-the-week-20-ding-dong-the-stick-is-dead/#comment-194392

    Your material covers the period from 1900 onwards, during which we are told we have experienced ‘unprecedented’ high temperatures and disasters (unprecedented to those whose knowledge of history seems to start in 1979 with satellites).

    The link above needs to be read in conjunction with knowledge of the global temperatures to 1850, as devised by Phil Jones at CRU and which forms the basis for IPCC material (data which he has refused to release and now appears to have been ‘lost’)

    I often describe here how they are constructed (a few dozen unreliable stations worldwide that continually change in number and location). On this -and James Hansens equally flawed version from 1880- the IPCC and Michael Mann have built a spurious data set which is tacked onto the equally manufactured data of historic temperature record.

    The hockey stick ‘smooths’ out past temperature variations to make it consistent with the story concerning a stable co2 record which man has recently broken. That temperatures were both substantially higher and lower than today despite co2 being (allegedly) at a constant 280ppm, makes it difficult to claim that our input to rising co2 levels are the overwhelming cause of rising temperatures.

    The hockey stick is starting to take on some of the aspects concerning the fabricated material for ‘Piltdown man.’

    tonyb

  19. You guys are awesome; it’s like scratching a mozzie bite. You just can’t help yourself.

    Manacker,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I didn’t think you’d try to make a point that everyone had already agreed on (about responding to information, not the information itself) and actually had something new to say.

    James P,

    I was talking about the metaphor, and yes it is unusual to have it evoked in this sequence.
    As for the study, the worrying changes where man made. The natural decrease in forcing was far outweighed by the new influence of greenhouse gases.

    BobFJ,

    I never said it was due to climate change. I haven’t seen anyone make a convincing case that any regional change is due to climate change. I think focusing on such immediate changes in weather when the whole concept is about trends is foolish. You haven’t even bothered to listen, but have jumped straight into a pathetic answer to a question no one asked. The balls you have using an old graph from a blog to tell farmers that they are really wrong: there’s plenty of water around. You are even contradicting Peter by saying that food production is doing fine!

    I love your response anyway. “They aren’t the worst, there has been worse”. If someone tried to counter the argument that they where a horrible human being by pointing out even more horrible human beings in history, you’d probably see through the technique.

    We are having trouble because we have weakened our ecosystem’s resilience through agricultural practices which were never designed for our environment. The hydrological balance has been disrupted, leaving production vulnerable to other stressors. You assume rainfall over the whole of the country means water flowing to where it’s used. See:
    http://www.mdba.gov.au/system/files/Drought-update-August-2009.pdf

    And please read past the “well above the historic minimum” line, as I know you’ll find some way to find solace in it. You guys are amateurs, relying on simple logic to explain complex phenomenon. Thinking annual rainfall (or global average temperatures) is good for explaining anything properly is like trying to paint a picture with a hammer. You can do it, but it’ll be ugly. You skim over “undefined regional variations” and miss the point that the rains increasing in the north and decreasing in the south (where the food is grown).

    The tastiest bit is that you ‘critical thinkers’ don’t bother to check any of this detritus, but you pat it on the back and ask excitedly for more. I mean come on? The hockey stick is dead? They stopped publishing that thing years ago. Tree rings are used for historic temperatures, which track pretty well between the two. The discrepancy is in recent times, which…

    Wait.

    Sorry, I just thought that over. Look at that black line! Oh shit! These guys: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/1000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png are all lying to us! It’s in the trees people! It’s been getting colder for the last 50 years! How did we not notice?

  20. JasonHart

    Let’s back up, rather than scratching mosquito bites..

    You came with a (rather contrived) allegorical story about a “disarmed” tennis player to show that precautionary action even when the supporting data are in conflict is better than inaction.

    I countered with another (also contrived) story of a tennis player who feared losing his arms who then took (the wrong) precipitous action, based on a doubtful prediction that he would lose his arms unless he took this action.

    Your point (I believe) was that, even if we are not certain that AGW is a serious threat, we should still take (massive) precautionary action, because the predicted disaster (if the predictions are correct) would be so disruptive that we cannot afford not to act.

    This is basically a negative philosophy, Jason.

    It applies well for the release of a new drug (assuming the drug is not a single, new cure for a disease from which thousands of people die annually and the negative side effects are not life threatening).

    My more positive approach is that we do not know that the climate model predictions are real that AGW could represent a serious future problem, and, until we have a better understanding of the real potential threat from AGW (if it even exists at all), we should better wait and improve our knowledge, especially now that it appears to be cooling, rather than warming, and prepare adaptation plans for either warming or cooling.

    Two different views, neither of which has anything to do with your strange waffle:

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I didn’t think you’d try to make a point that everyone had already agreed on (about responding to information, not the information itself) and actually had something new to say

    Can you explain this? It is rather convoluted and does not tell me much about our earlier exchange.

    Max

  21. Max,

    The story was interested in how we respond to the information at hand. Peter and I have already come to a consensus on how the PP should be used.

    My disagreement is on the information. I am certain enough to take action (you can never be 100%), you are not. Both actions are appropriate based on those understandings, which was already agreed. It is not ‘negative’ and ‘positive’. It is a disagreement on conclusions that have taken years to come to, so it would be foolish to try change them without careful consideration of all the complex factors.

  22. Jason:

    If I have understood your “delaying the choice” allegory correctly, you are advocating the Precautionary Principle (i.e. that action should be taken now “just in case” the dangerous AGW hypothesis turns out to be valid) is understandable – but flawed: it might be acceptable if emission restriction had no deleterious consequences.

    But it does: (leaving aside damage to wildlife and landscape) partly by inflicting yet further damage on our already shattered Western economies and hence on the global economy and the developing world – but especially because of the pain it would bring to the third world. More expensive energy (an inevitable consequence of CO2 restriction) would mean that even more already desperately poor people would be unable to access clean water, fresh food, better health care (cold storage for medicines), better education, etc, etc … Almost everything they need would cost more.

    How many Africans should we allow to die for the sake of a committee’s unsubstantiated guess?

  23. Robin,

    Not flawed, just another thing to be considered. It is not a light choice, which is why all the world leaders are getting together for it. When’s the last time that happened properly?

    Max,

    I’m starting to wonder if we have a clash of values or something. I think there’s more to the argument we’re not picking up on. Maybe attitudes to risk? Could I be cautious, you daring?
    If all the climate models are nothing better than clairvoyants (one told my girlfriend of five years she’s not going to ever have a serious relationship and will be messed around by alcoholic gamblers yesterday, so I have a vested interest in not believing it), then I still have a niggling feeling that digging up carbon slowly removed from the cycle and releasing it very quickly into the atmosphere is a bad idea. It’s not a justification for the mitigation currently proposed, but do you get that feeling?
    If not, how can you be so sure that nothing we do will make any difference and natural forcings will continue to act in exactly the same way?

  24. No, Jason, I think my post comprehensively demonstrates that your advocacy of the PP is indeed flawed. That’s why the world’s leaders are in disarray. For example, although China and India will, for good diplomatic reasons, express concern about “climate change”, in truth they are not interested in jeopardising their growing economic power or in abandoning their poverty stricken millions.

  25. Robin,

    I think you don’t understand the precautionary principle. It is method that can be applied to every decision, the choice of whether to or not is based on if it is practical. You are saying that in this case it is not practical. That is a fair opinion, I am not saying you are wrong, just that you are not explaining yourself with accurate terminology.

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