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. Peter Taylor

    It has taken me some time to fully absorb your post (144), so apologies for my delay in responding.

    You make a valid point that the late 20th century warming period is, in itself, much too short to consider all of the known cyclical oscillations, which influence our climate, in the climate models, which are used to analyze this period.

    On top of this, you have the “brief” of IPCC. It is not to analyze natural cyclical factors, but to determine and report the extent of anthropogenic factors on changes in our climate, to investigate the potential secondary impacts of these climate changes on humanity and the environment, and to project what this might mean for the future.

    So it is only natural that IPCC regards the scientific understanding of these natural oscillations as poor, as it has also conceded that its level of scientific understanding of both solar forcing factors and the impact of clouds (which it considers only as “feedbacks” to anthropogenic forcing) to be “low”.

    The Keenlyside et al. conclusion states,
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7191/full/nature06921.html

    by considering both internal natural climate variations and projected future anthropogenic forcing, we make the following forecast: over the next decade, the current Atlantic meridional overturning circulation will weaken to its long-term mean; moreover, North Atlantic SST and European and North American surface temperatures will cool slightly, whereas tropical Pacific SST will remain almost unchanged. Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.

    This is carefully worded, but still presents a real dilemma for the premise that AGW has been the principal driver of late 20th century climate.

    For if these multi-decadal variations in ocean circulation oscillations are strong enough to more than offset a GH warming from record year-to-year increases in atmospheric CO2 today, it is not reasonable to assume that they could just as well have caused essentially all of the observed warming of the multi-decadal late 20th century warming period?

    You do make this point, but more indirectly, by pointing out that the climate models cited by IPCC (back in early 2007 based on studies from 2006 and earlier) in arriving at the conclusion that most of the late 20th century warming has been due to GHGs are limited and out-of-date, because they do not include multi-decadal natural ocean circulation oscillations, which have only really been quantified in 2008 (Keenlyside).

    As you point out, the warm period in Arctic during the 1920s to 1940s, which coincided with the warmer ocean circulation oscillation cycles, further underscores the impact of these cycles on our climate.

    Now to the future: You stated (maybe somewhat tongue-in-cheek)

    if carbon dioxide has the power attributed to it – it will protect us from the worst of the cooling

    I’m afraid the very data you have shown demonstrate clearly that CO2 does not have “the power attributed to it” (at least not to the extent that IPCC has done), so that it will be of little help in dampening the cooling to be expected from these natural factors.

    The ”powers that be” have no interest in bringing attention to all these uncertainties with open debates, especially at this crucial “pre-Copenhagen” time.

    It is far easier to say “the science is settled” and “now is the time for ‘action’ before it is too late” (instead of wasting time on silly, nonproductive debates).

    The media may, strangely, have different interests, here. Debates on controversial issues of general interest and great importance can bring more viewers, increased circulation and ratings, hence profits.

    I was sorry to hear that George Monbiot declined your debate offer, but I still hope you are able to participate in a serious debate, and ideally, that this can occur before the Copenhagen circus opens.

    Max

  2. Peter Taylor: did Monbiot publicly decline your offer of a debate? If so, might we have the reference? In any case, are you able to take part in the debate being organised by the Spectator in London on 12 November?

  3. Hi, haven’t managed to read all the comments but very interesting, what I have read. I’ve tended to be very much on the AGW side.
    For what it’s worth, to me hysteria is what you’d see at Beatles concerts… in my experience people who believe in AGW aren’t hysterical, they’re actually very reflective, thoughtful people.
    I have been, and will continue to point out Peter Taylor’s work to people, what little I know of his work strikes me as very impressive and important; and I don’t expect people to respond unreasonably, it may well sway opinions significantly… I’m certainly doing a rethink. I’ve not read Nigel Lawson or Pilmer and I think it’s regrettable if they’ve been wilfully misrepresented.

    However, I know there are idiots on both sides of the debate and I’m not that surprised by such language, and not really hugely bothered… hope I’ve made some sense.

    Anyway, I’m sure there was much else I was going to say… on the issue of population, this might be worth having a look at
    I’m wary of gapminder (stats and what have you) he seems to not factor in resource depletion, but anyway, see what you think.
    I’m sure this
    http://www.grameen-info.org/
    must be a crucial element.

    sorry if post is a bit confusing, it’s a bit hurried.

  4. Just thought I’d add – seems to me the Gods have an inordinate fondness of irony (and misery). This blog/site is called Harmless sky and Taylor said something about the threat of solar flares (Carrington event?) – okay, I’m not assuming that this site subscribes to that fear but what’s really ironic to my mind is that Monbiot’s mate Jeremy Clarkson did an interesting thing on tv some time back about the vulnerability of computer systems etc… oh dear, what fun!

  5. Peter Martin ~149

    As you know I have great concerns over the Uk’s lack of energy policy and see an enormous gap opening up in the next 5-10 years which the govt hopes (unrealistically) will be filled by renewables.

    The fact is we need to have access to considerable amounts of base power and renewables just can’t deliver at present, other than at the margins.

    My first choice is for suitably equipped coal fired power stations (the UK sits on a vast raft of the stuff) thereby giving us energy security in all senses of the word ( my concern over our energy being vulnerable to unfriendly foreign powers far outweighs my concerns over carbon I am afraid).

    However realistically that is not going to happen at present, so nuclear appears the only viable option. Peter Taylors comments do concern me however, so I read the article you linked to with interest.

    The author is Colin Hunt an enthusiastic advocate for the Canadian nuclear association-this is a list of the letters he was written in support of his industry.
    http://www.cna.ca/english/letters.asp

    This is his latest input from July this year.
    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/07/18/nuclear-showdown-the-cheapest-option.aspx

    So he can hardly be said to be an objective observer. However, like you I would be intrigued to hear what Peter Taylor thinks. Mind you-if we can’t have nuclear I’m perfectly happy with coal :)

    If we can’t have nuclear or coal what are we to do? Some degree of pragmatism is required here.

    Tonyb

  6. Comment:
    Robin Guernier

    I had been told that George M was unlikely to have read my posting and so I emailed him and set out some ideas for a debate – firstly that I gave a short powerpoint presentation of my arguments in Chill, then he and I go head to head on the implications if I was right (he has stated that he relies on the argument-from-authority and so he can’t judge if I am right) and that there would be a seminar format audience with the potential to intervene and challenge any aspect of my presentation’s science and this could include any scientists of his choosing, as well as some of mine (if I could get them to come – as most of the specialists I only know from occasional email contact on issues of science). The whole episode would be open to TV and journalists.

    He was also sent a copy of Chill and invited to review it in the Guardian – in June.

    The exchange was in private email (25th September) but I quoted him on his own blog and here and I don’t think it would be breaching anything vital if I quote from his emailed reply:

    ‘Almost every day someone writes to me, insisting that he has disproved manmade climate change. In the great majority of (perhaps all) cases, these people are cranks, who are unable to provide support for their claims. You are making a huge claim here: that the great majority of climate scientists are wrong about climate science, and you, a non-scientist, are right. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But you offer none that would pass even the most basic scientific test – ie peer review. For your claim even to be worth debating, your “meta analysis” must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal and subject to the scrutiny of other scientists. Do that and then come back to me: I promise you that if you manage to publish it in a decent (ie well-ranked) journal, I will debate with you.’

    Well, of course, one has to have some sympathy for George – who must get regularly harangued by non-believers in what has, indeed, become a religious issue. In his need for a strong fence, however, he fails to see his own lack of consistency – for example, I pointed out that Ian Plimer has no such climate papers to his credit either. And he misconstrued something I had said about not being an academic as meaning I am a non-scientist. In fact, I have been a member of numerous science institutions and societies and am a certified biologist, once a member of the Institute of Biology, the International Society for Radiological Protection, British Nuclear Energy Society, International Union of Radioecologists, (on the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity), British Ecological Society…all of which require a minimal scientific qualification and some experience in a science discipline – I’ve taught in Universities, lectured widely and helped supervise a few MSc and PhD – my book ‘Beyond Conservation’ has been used to design University courses…..I could provide two or three pages of a CV that would show, however lowly, that I could be called a ‘scientist’ – as well as a couple more pages on which organisations have used me as a consultant or advisor – BUT, I don’t think George is interested, otherwise he would have asked.

    He knows I haven’t published a climate paper.

    That is a weakness that he can use as an excuse to avoid debate. He knows I am no time-waster and he knows (unless he is a lot more stupid that I think he is) that my ideas are not novel. I sent him Jackson Davis’s endorsement – in case he didn’t get it from the book-cover and the publisher’s blurb – that is from someone within the UN’s structure and present throughout since 1990 – he helped set it up and wrote the Kyoto Protocol – saying the book was a ‘must read’ for both sides of the debate, and that my questions must be answered – before the ‘truth’ of global warming can be assumed.

    George cannot possibly be so stupid as to not realise that for someone like Jackson Davis to say this, having read the book, that my arguments carry a weight that he would find difficult to answer.

    He is more a politician than a scientist (I don’t know in what he is qualified) and of course debates the issues even though he also has no climate papers to his credit – he simply accepts the UN ‘consensus’ – which I show to be falsely constructed.

    As a politician he knows not to concede credibility – which he would if he debated with me. He is not interested in examining the ‘truth’ because like all believers, he already knows it.

    And actually, the more I realise where he is coming from – the less interested I am in debating with him. I would rather talk to scientists – but also, to have it filmed. Maybe the MetOffice would agree. I could invite them to shoot me down in public – you would think they would jump at the chance!

    Or – I could just let the book’s arguments speak for me. Anyone can follow the arguments and it is fully referenced to the peer-reviewed literature. I am beginning to get emails from people who have done that – and they express their gratitude (including a few professors). That’s as much as a writer can wish for!

    Max:

    On predictions – I will make some for the MetOffice for this coming winter – to see who is right – they expect it to be mild, I think they could be wrong.

    Tempterrain:

    I haven’t had time to follow the nuclear link, but thanks for reminding me. When I did my own review of the issue (which is published) I was of the opinion that nothing could compare to a Chernobyl type accident – Kiev was lucky the wind sent the cloud out over the Pripet marshes for 60 miles where virtually nobody lived. If you draw 60 miles around any British reactor you’ll see why when they created the licensing laws they kept the meltdown scenario secret. Imagine evacuating London for 50 years. What do you compare that with? Sea level rise? If you believe the models – and actually, the cabal that constructed those models and the those that currently push them at policy level are all rabidly pro-nuclear. Coincidentally!

    Robin:

    On the Spectator debate…..I have to be careful with my resources and tend to only go where I am invited – that way I am assured that I will have an opportunity to be heard – there is nothing worse than trying to intercede from the floor when nobody knows who you are and they have paid to see someone else. That said, I have just received Plimer’s book for review and at first glance, it looks a well-argued and scholarly work, not at all the polemic it has been painted, and I would love to meet him, whatever his appeal to the right-wing media (where I have very limited appeal, since for me, ‘business as usual’ is not an option).

    Meanwhile – as I expected and wrote in my book, El Nino is fading, and La Nina would normally follow – if She does, then the temperature could fall below the long-term average by the Spring of 2010. Cosmic rays are up 20%. I haven’t seen the last two years cloud data – anybody know?

  7. Peter Taylor:

    Re Monbiot, I thought your proposed debate format very generous. But, although I sympathise with him re the many “cranks” who write to him, I thought his reply to you both ungracious and revealing. From his perspective, it would I’m sure be an error to, as you say, concede credibility: he is, like too many AGW proponents, a believer and non-believers are, to them, by definition misguided. I can see why you’re interest in debating with him is fading. A pity though.

    Re the Spectator, I wholly understand your wish to be there by invitation. Hmm … I wonder how that might be arranged?

  8. Peter Martin
    re my #155

    Peter Taylor makes a good point about the potenial severity of the risk of nuclear.

    You seem to believe in the precautionary principle as far as AGW goes, therefore logically you must apply the same criteria to nuclear risk. Surely on that basis you must agree nuclear is a non starter?

    tonyb

  9. TonyB

    I don’t think you understand what the precautionary principle is. It doesn’t mean that you do nothing because there is a finite risk to doing something.

    This article sums up the point I’m making pretty well.

    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

    Well worth a read. How many people know that coal fired power stations emit more radioactivity than coal stations?

    Peter Taylor,

    It seems that you are back to saying that nuclear power is dangerous for reasons that are too complicated to explain properly. So where is this report of yours? Is it on the net?

  10. I find myself amazed at both how quickly this thread is expanding and the quality of discourse seen here. I’ve been visiting sites on both sides of the debate (once heard that for a man to claim true knowledge on an issue, he should be able to argue for either side with equal facility) for years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of open mindedness to consider the opposed viewpoint nor this level of civility maintained past the first couple of posts. Even when it looked like the exchanges were going to turn nasty, things recovered and I think are still maintaining civil discourse.

    I’m endevoring to catch up but a question that may expose my lack of education on the debate. So I do hope you’ll forgive me if I attempt to get that education with your assistance.

    JasonHart is talking about prevention principal and if you don’t mind, Jason, you seem more reasonable and less prone to hyperbole than most I’ve spoken with who believe in the ‘danger’ from global warming. What are the risks we’re talking about? From watching the IQsquared debate I got the impression that the largest concern was property damage from rising ocean waters. With both Gavin Schmidt and Brenda Ekwurzel talking about flooded basements in Manhattan. If the melting of the polar ice and rising water level is the largest concern and as Peter Taylor says, “Another favourite climate belief was overturned when Pope (I add- head of climate research at the MetOffice ) warned the conference that the dramatic Arctic loss in recent summers was partly a product of natural cycles rather than global warming, Preliminary reports suggest there has been much less melting this year than in 2007 or 2008.” Would this not show the ice melt and ocean rise as unconnected to AGW, doesn’t it?

    One major concern it appears we all share here is the effect climate alterations have in any direction have on food crop production. My understanding, however, is that in a more CO2 rich atmosphere, plantlife thrives.
    http://www.co2science.org/data/plant_growth/plantgrowth.php

    Weather patterns being another concern has been addressed by Richard Lindzen on multiple occasions saying that in a warmer world the variability of weather outside of the tropics is much decreased.

    The actual repercussions should AGW be true has always been somewhat elusive as far as I could ascertain. Perhaps someone would be so kind as to clarify what I’ve obviously missed.

    There’s also something I’ve always meant to ask. In all the discussion of the rise in temperature I’ve never heard anyone address it, maybe because it’s a silly idea and I just don’t know enough about it to realize it. :) We’ve talked about solar effect on the earth’s temperature but has anyone looked at whether that could be exacerbated by the weakening of the earth’s magnetic field? Or is this such a slow process as to be a non-issue? I was just curious if it was ever even considered. If the earth’s magnetic lines are affected by the force of the solar wind and the solar plasma at the heliopause is nearer the earth’s upper atmosphere surely there must be some change in the radiated heat? I’m fascinated by the idea of a geomagnetic flip and what effect that would have on our planet/climate/technology.

  11. I wonder if George Monbiot’s faith in peer-review (For your claim even to be worth debating, your “meta analysis” must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal) has been affected by Steve McIntyre’s discovery that the widely peer-reviewed hockey-stick was fabricated?

    My guess is not, as to accept the new evidence, he would have to reconsider his own beliefs, which will doubtless instead become more entrenched, at least until Casa Monbiot is enveloped in snow for six months.

    WRT debate, I’m pretty sure he’s playing it like Tony ‘Macavity’ Blair, who always claimed to be up for a TV debate at election time, but always managed to arrange it so that he was unavailable.

  12. AhmNee

    I will reply in greater detail to your post later, but wanted to confirm your understanding of co2 as a plant food (whatever its other properties may be) is correct.

    Studies place increase in plant mass as up to 10% but this relies on other conditions such as warmth and moisture. There is no doubt that a greatly expanding population will receive considerable help from rising co2 levels as it will provide the means to grow more plants to feed them.

    This beneficial aspect has been recognised for many years including by Arrhenius,Roger Revelle and GS Callendar. In commercial greenhouses concentrations of up to 1500ppm are regularly introduced as a stimulus to plants.

    So in purely growing terms increased co2 is good -but what the practical and desirable limit is in the atmosphere I am not sure has been properly quantified.

    This leaves aside any arguements of course as to the allegedly detrimental affects on our climate/temperatures through increasing its atmospheric concentration.

    tonyb

  13. Apologies if this is a re-post. My email doesn’t work here anymore. Hope you guys didn’t try to block me.

    Manacker,

    Post 141 Q1. See Post 119. It also answers Q2, though I am not as confident as the post makes it look, the study was awhile ago and I don’t remember the details as well as needed to make a strong statement. Looking at some of the source material again they didn’t include solar wind, solar magnetism or UV changes.

    James P,

    Yes. If you have a sample of one it is very easy to do a distribution in your head. Bit of a stretch of terminology but the logic is the same.

    Peter,

    In terms of the IPCC disregarding other data. I may be showing my naiveté, but I thought their whole process was to try and understand the whole system so the one component could be better understood? They’ve become ‘the authority’ on how climate works as the meta-studies they completed are unprecedented. When the hockey stick was disproved, it was dropped. There are countless cases when new information was taken in and forecasts revaluated. If it wasn’t then the 1990 report would read the same as the 2007. I’ll clear it up myself, just thought it deserved mentioning as I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that.

    ‘Of far greater value (I have argued) is for positional science (e.g. AGW stance) to be subjected to critical review by a forensic team that have a powerful motivation to question and find fault. This is closer to a legal inquiry or parliamentary commission.’
    Definitely. Best way to test anything, even if it can be unpleasant. Test the null!

    AhmNee,

    Always a good idea. I’m honestly surprised no one here has linked http://www.nipccreport.org/ yet. I wonder why?

    Excellent question. My understanding of predicted sea level changes, even the most extreme ones, is that they will be slow. Buildings require maintenance and don’t last that long without effort, so we can abandon and move if need be. As for more co2=more plants. It really depends on what is limiting plant growth. I’m used to water being the primary limiting factor, so if there’s more CO2 it makes no difference at all. That’s not always the case. I wouldn’t trust Richard Lindzen as far as I can kick him, but I trust a colleague who chases extreme storms who does not think that the worst predictions of climate change mean more intense/frequent storms.

    There is no lack of environmental alarmists (desertification in 70-80’s, deforestation around 1997, even Al Gore had as many errors and exaggerations as The Great Global Warming Swindle). You’ll notice that most of the predictions are personally tailored. “Your basement will flood”, “storms will break your house”, “you will get hot and sweaty”. These are tailored to use fear as a motivator, which arguably (not by me) is acceptable if the ends justify the means. This technique has been used a lot to unite people, especially using fear of the ‘other’. I think the struggle was described perfectly in Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”, which is as relevant today as it was for the Cold War. This technique is not restricted to one side of the argument, as Robin can show you. TonyB rightly recognises that I am not motivated by fear, but by a normative view that says we should take responsibility for all our actions and do the “right thing”. That’s why I frame the problem as risk management; it is the rational alternative to fear.
    Climate change (I still refuse to use AGW) is unique in several ways. It is global. The scale of “global” is hard for people to imagine, as it affects everything. Billions of small changes add up very quickly. It is non-uniform, so every change has to be individually identified for targeted adaption. The system is non-linear. This may be good news when the response is logarithmic, bad news when it is exponential. Both types (and more) interact in the climate. Past observations of the past tell us there are tipping points, where feedback loops take over and dramatically alter the climate’s state (see how quickly ice ages came and went). I am concerned primarily for ecosystem functioning, which is intricately related to the basic foundations of human wellbeing; food, water, air, timber etc. These are generally regarded as problem for the poor, which will undoubtedly suffer most, but that is because the rich can buy the poor’s resources (The Irish potato famine was not caused by a lack of potatoes, but a lack of money to buy them). The main threat if when ecosystems flip to a new state due to multiple stressors. Climate change can cause several stresses (Coral reefs are vulnerable to temperature, acidity and direct CO2 levels, which reduce their ability to grow). I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a coral reef flip to an algae forest, but it’s not pretty. We can hedge out bets and increase ecosystem resilience, but we haven’t done a very good job to date, especially as the majority of environmental stressors are manmade. When major flips in ecosystems and climate have taken place in the past, life has always come back. People will adapt, but the level of extinction (death) each time has been high. These processes are also slow when considered by individual humans; we will not experience the majority of the effects. The argument has shifted to the present because that’s what people relate to. After decades of the long term argument, people like Al Gore realised average people will only take it seriously if you drive the message home to the individual. As the half the population are below average intelligence, it had to be simplified.

    Ethical? Debatable.

    Does it ruin the argument? No, but only if people look past the tripe and see the real issue.

  14. Peter

    How many people know that coal fired power stations emit more radioactivity than coal stations?

    I know which would emit more if struck by a missile or suicide pilot…

  15. test

    New Guy as ME!

  16. Working fine. Problem’s on my end.

  17. New Guy

    You wrote (163):

    In terms of the IPCC disregarding other data. I may be showing my naiveté, but I thought their whole process was to try and understand the whole system so the one component could be better understood? They’ve become ‘the authority’ on how climate works as the meta-studies they completed are unprecedented. When the hockey stick was disproved, it was dropped. There are countless cases when new information was taken in and forecasts revaluated. If it wasn’t then the 1990 report would read the same as the 2007.

    Whether IPCC “disregards other data” is a moot point.

    I believe IPCC has done a good job of investigating anthropogenic climate forcing factors.

    At the same time I believe IPCC has been very weak in investigating solar forcing factors. It only lists direct solar irradiation as the sole “natural forcing factor”, and it is relegated to a very insignificant impact. IPCC does not consider the cosmic ray / cloud connection, the climate impacts of UV changes or of solar magnetism. IPCC does concede that its “level of scientific understanding” of solar forcing is “low”.

    IPCC also considers clouds only as “feedbacks” to anthropogenic forcing (rather than as an important climate forcing factor on their own). The climate models IPCC cites all assume strongly positive feedback from clouds with warming (more recent observational data show this feedback to be strongly negative, instead). But again, clouds are not IPCC’s specialty and it readily conceded, “cloud feedbacks remain the greatest source of uncertainty”.

    You state:

    “When the hockey stick was disproved, it was dropped.”

    This is not really true. In 1991 it enjoyed “star status” and was prominently displayed in the SPM report (with future temperature projections “grafted” on in a great display of chartmanship, showing the temperatures “shooting off the chart” in an alarming fashion after being flat for centuries.

    The discredited hockey stick did not make it into the latest SPM report, but it is still there, in all its glory, in Chapter 6, as one of the paleoclimate studies supporting the IPCC claim that “the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years”.

    IPCC does update its reports, of course, but it appears that it concentrates on the anthropogenic factors almost to the complete exclusion of natural factors.

    But this should not come as a surprise, since its brief is to evaluate the anthropogenic factors that may be influencing our climate, to project how these will influence our climate in the future and to estimate the secondary effects that this might have on our society and our environment.

    This is becoming all the more evident today, as we are seeing that natural forcing factors, which were not even considered important by IPCC as little as 3 years ago (a.k.a. “natural variability”) have more than offset the record increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration to cause the current 21st century cooling.

    IPCC is a good source for anthropogenic forcing factors (except for the exaggerated net “feedback” climate model assumptions, which have been shown to be wrong by subsequent actual physical observations), but I would not look to IPCC for explanation of non-anthropogenic climate forcing factors. As it has conceded, this is not really its strength.

    Max

  18. Peter Martin

    To your point that coal-fired power plants emit more radioactive waste products than nuclear power plants during normal operations, see:
    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

    Most of the radioactive waste material from coal combustion is in the ash, which is mostly kept out of the atmosphere with modern fly ash collectors, so this is really not emitted to the atmosphere. But as the article points out, the ash has to be disposed of somewhere and (because regulations on ash disposal are fairly lax, as far as its radioactive content is concerned) a lot of this ends up in the environment just the same.

    I have seen no studies showing that this is harmful to human beings, however.

    The “Chernobyl factor” is still there in peoples’ minds for nuclear energy. True, there were not the large numbers of deaths that were originally feared (but as Peter Taylor wrote, we may just have been lucky that the wind was blowing away from major populated areas). The IAEA and WHO attributed fewer than 50 deaths directly to the disaster, with the possibility that an added 4,000 people could eventually die from exposure to radiation (Greenpeace puts this latter figure at 250,000, but this is probably grossly exaggerated), but maybe Peter Taylor has more information on this.
    The biggest difference is that no one builds Chernobyl-type plants anymore today. The containment housings are designed to withstand any eventuality (those at one of the first large nuclear plants in northern Germany built in the late 1960s were designed to withstand a direct hit from a crashing Starfighter jet). This does not make them fully immune to a potential terrorist attack, however.

    “Three mile island” was largely a “non-event” that got played up by the media as an “almost disaster” and was used later by the anti-nuclear lobby in the USA to stop new nuclear power plant construction. Today there are still claims that more radiation was released than previously believed, but the nuclear industry has repeatedly stated that there were no deaths attributable to the incident. Maybe Peter Taylor has more information on this, as well.

    The French have an excellent safety record, and are generating over 70% of their needs from nuclear plants.

    So, while there are still major concerns about the spent fuel reprocessing or disposal problem, nuclear power generation is probably as safe as any other form of power generation (when the mining operations are included).

    I would be interested in Peter Taylor’s thoughts on this, as he has spent some time thinking about these things.

    His point is that a nuclear plant “disaster” (as remote as the odds might be) could have such horrible long-lasting results (if located near a major population center) that it “cannot be allowed to happen” at any cost (the “precautionary principal” at work). By comparison, a coal-fired plant cannot cause a disaster at such a major scale, so it is an acceptable alternate.

    The second point I read was that super-sized central nuclear plants tied together with massive grids are not able to compete economically with smaller, decentralized fossil fuel plants. This is a totally different issue, and I think only valid if the waste heat from the smaller decentralized plants can be used locally.

    But we have a dilemma.

    Our governments (except that in France) do not want to rely heavily on new nuclear plant construction for political reasons. Some have even mandated their phase-out.

    These same governments do not want to build any more fossil fuel-fired plants either, again for political reasons (to reduce carbon emissions).

    The alternate technologies (renewable sources, such as wind and solar) are (a) physically unable to cover the growing electrical power demand (even with reduced growth due to improved user efficiency and energy conservation measures) and (b) far too expensive and unreliable to compete economically, even if they were able to fill the gap. To think otherwise is truly sticking one’s head in the sand.

    At some point (very soon) these governments will have to decide between what they may consider to be two bad choices: more nuclear or more fossil fuel-fired power plants.

    Unfortunately, this will probably be a fear-based decision, so they will have to apply the “precautionary principle” to choose the “lesser of two evils”.

    I am personally not afraid that either choice will be harmful to us (or future generations) so that the decision should be made based on the long-term economics and security of fuel supply rather than fear, of course making sure that neither alternate brings any real harm to our environment by building in all the ecological and safety features to ensure this.

    But, again, I would welcome Peter Taylor’s thoughts on this.

    Max

  19. New Guy

    Correction

    To the hockey stick I should have written that it enjoyed “star status” in 2001 (not 1991).

    Max

  20. New Guy

    You wrote:

    Does it (all the fear-mongering and hype) ruin the argument? No, but only if people look past the tripe and see the real issue.

    I believe Peter Taylor has identified the real underlying issue in his book.

    It is quite simply that the scientific support is weak for the premise that AGW (or ACC, if you prefer) is a serious potential problem, caused principally by human CO2 emissions.

    The recent warming is indisputable, as are its impacts on summer sea ice extent, mountain glaciers retreating, increase in sea levels, coral reef deterioration and possibly other observed changes.

    But, as Peter Taylor points out uite convincingly, the scientific case that this is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is very much up in the air, as there have been many natural factors influencing our climate.

    The most recent cooling, occurring when we have record increases in atmospheric CO2 and now being attributed to “natural” factors, raises further doubt about human GHGs as the driver of the recent warming.

    Peter Taylor also discusses the politics and the collusion of multi-billion dollar interests as issues, but I believe that these are very much secondary to the basic scientific issue.

    This is, indeed, the real issue.

    And this is where the evidence is showing more and more that the science supporting the AGW premise is weak.

    Max

  21. Comment:
    Max

    The comparison of radioactive emissions from a coal station – the worst of which is probably polonium-210, with the ‘normal’ operation of a nuclear station is only a small part of the picture. To fully compare you need the look at the whole fuel cycle – from mining to electric generation and then waste disposal and assess things on a per Watt generated basis.

    Even then there are multiple choices for an index of harm – health damage, accidents at work, genetic damage, age range of those affected, paid workers with insurance cover and unsuspecting members of the public offsite, transboundary pollution (neighbouring non-nuclear countries exposed to risks they would not choose)…………..much scope for biased choices! Nuclear generating plant in normal operation are pretty clean – but not so the uranium mining and tailings ponds and their impact on indigenous communities or the waste disposal operations (a lot cleaner now than in the 1970s – and I had a hand in that clean-up).

    Do you pick data from best modern practice and assume it will prevail in the future? Or do you look to the dirty past of illegal dumping, excessive discharges, accidents and leaks?

    On Chernobyl: yes, 50 immediate deaths (agonising slow deaths to emergency service personnel) and 4000 IAEA estimate (forget WHO, they rubberstamp the assessment). I spent over 10 years criticising the IAEA at the UN for their biases – they are the only industrialbody that have UN agency status and special laws dealing with their toxic legacies – and they fixed the dose levels and assessed the toxicity studies and licensed everything from dumping (now outlawed – my work in 1985), reactor design (including TMI and Chernobyl), reprocessing (now prevented by law in Germany – again, I worked on that) and deep disposal – oh, and connected to their panels and committees, the X-raying of pregnant women and the opposition to new data that suggested it was not a good idea.

    So – they would not be my first choice for estimating the consequences of Chernobyl! Somewhere between 4000-250,000 is the spread, depending upon which dose-effect relationship you choose, which pathways, which organs you consider sensitive (with age ranges, foetal vulnerability etc) and for how long into the future you track the contamination.

    But as I have said – and in the science literature, the extent of land contamination and need for evacuation and cessation of economic activity also needs to be considered (it had not been, by any laws or cba analysis)- and that is why the Ukraine was ‘lucky’ with the wind – otherwise Kiev would be a ghost town today and for another 50 or 100 years.

    On German reactors: yes, they have a containment – a concrete reinforced secondary pressure vessel (as did Three Mile Island) – and as we argued in the licensing process – it would not withstand a hit from a jumbo jet. We were laughed at then, but not since 9/11.

    The same protection also pertains (or rather doesn’t) at the French reprocessing plant in Normandy. It carries over 100x the volatile radioactivity of Chernobyl – as does Sellafield.

    Safety record of the French: look up the CEC report of the incident at Cap La Hague in 1979 when they lost electric power to the site for several hours – only an engineer can explain how close they came to losing control of the site and what the consequences would have been – much of western Europe would be uninhabitable today. Then consider how many other incidents you have not heard about! And where you could go to find out!

    And at TMI- a non-disaster, yes! But the secondary pressure vessel – do you know how close it was tested to its design capacity by the explosions as hydrogen was released from the melting core? Engineers will tell you it was very close.

    And Britain’s reactors: only one has a secondary containment vessel – Sizewell B. have they ever been close to losing it? How would you know? The Nuclear Inspectorate reports are secret. Check out Hinckley Point, 1976, loss of heat sink incident – if you can find anything! Or the flooding of Hunterston’s core with seawater….can’t remember the date of that faulty valve incident, nor Heysham’s construction scandal when chemcrete (a filler) was used instead of concrete when pouring the pressure vessel- all nicely sorted in the end by the Inspectorate, thank goodness.

    The safety of nuclear power depends upon top level design, manufacturing to that design, quality control, correct maintenance, surveillance of operatives, site protection from terrorists and of course, the absence of people doing stupid unlicensed things (as at Chernobyl). You can’t asses that from readily available data and academic studies on ideal ‘normal’ running operations.

    As for the ‘gap’ in energy supplies….it is obvious what will happen – it is called having no real energy policy (the norm in the UK) and letting the market sort it out. Right now, the gap will be and can only be filled by gas and to a lesser extent coal (with filters, not carbon reduction which is not yet required by EU law) – and gas stations are being built. Nuclear stations cannot be built fast enough to fill the gap (nor can wind turbines), even if they got instant planning permission and the new designs were waved through – which they won’t be.

    If there is a shortage of supply, the price will go up and demand will be reduced.

    That won’t stop the potential for black-outs as the system becomes stretched – but I imagine coal stations will be mothballed rather than decommissioned and that the EU will agree an emergency use clause.

    The most robust system over the next 40 years is a decentralised microgeneration grid (fuel cells using gas) for the domestic and small industrial/commercial sectors combined with passive solar, super insulation, solar cells and heat pumps to cut demand on that grid.
    It won’t be cheap, but the technology is available, much of it British, and it will employ a lot of small businesses. Yes, we will be vulnerable to overseas gas suppliers – but the world is like that and that also has a premium – people work harder to stay friends.

    If the carbon issue really bites, then big centralised users will move overseas to where they can use hydro (e.g. aluminium companies decamping to Iceland), or where the emission permits exist (India, Brazil, Russia, China etc). This has already happened in the UK and most of industrial Europe.

    The ‘gap’ should be seen as a powerful incentive – but sadly, nothing much is being done – the British way is to muddle through!

  22. Nick #153

    Your link opened to a home page with a wide variety of stories. Was there a particular one you wanted to reference?

    tonyb

  23. Max said

    “Our governments (except that in France) do not want to rely heavily on new nuclear plant construction for political reasons. Some have even mandated their phase-out.

    These same governments do not want to build any more fossil fuel-fired plants either, again for political reasons (to reduce carbon emissions).

    The alternate technologies (renewable sources, such as wind and solar) are (a) physically unable to cover the growing electrical power demand (even with reduced growth due to improved user efficiency and energy conservation measures) and (b) far too expensive and unreliable to compete economically, even if they were able to fill the gap. To think otherwise is truly sticking one’s head in the sand.

    At some point (very soon) these governments will have to decide between what they may consider to be two bad choices: more nuclear or more fossil fuel-fired power plants.

    Unfortunately, this will probably be a fear-based decision, so they will have to apply the “precautionary principle” to choose the “lesser of two evils”.

    ***
    Max is right. We have limited choice in the provision of the power stations needed to supply our ‘base’ power-by that I mean the facilities to generate the bulk of our power needs-

    Sure, renewables have an increasing role over the next few decades, bit it will remain relatively minor. But what could be done and what will be done with renewables are two separate issues (and each country will have their own solution)

    In the case of Europe we are in the embryonic stages of a ‘super grid’ stretching from Norway to North africa to Turkey on the basis that if the sun or wind does’t shine in one place, it will in another- and other power can be generated from conventional sources and ‘shared.’

    The plain unvarnished truth is that as far as the UK goes we will run into increasingly severe power shortages in 5 to 10 years. The govt is throwing everything at wind power-for the simple reason it is by far the most advanced of the renewables (in the UK circumstances) although it has many problems aesthetic and practical. High pressures in winter in the UK mean no wind and cold weather which is a major drawback to relying on this power source. This drawback can be slightly mitigated by placing installations offshore (where wind is a little more reliable) but this then presents considerable technological problems.

    We need replacement ‘base’ power- as our existing base power supply is progressively closed down for a variety of reasons. Base power means at present;

    Gas (currently mostly from Norway but Russia will be increasingly used),
    Coal (we have lots of our own,
    Oil (increasingly from unfriendly powers) Nuclear.

    Take your choice. I favour the notion of energy security-I think it far more likely that an unfriendly power will turn off our tap (with catastrophic consequences) than that AGW will cause catastrophic warming.

    Consequently I favour coal-with suitable pollution controls-as building coal fired power stations is highy developed and we have plenty of the raw material.

    Nuclear? This was an obvious choice but Peter has given me cause for thought.

    Oil? Energy security concerns and (with coal) co2 concerns which realistically make it difficult to select

    Gas. Same as oil as regards security.

    We need SOMETHING however. Any of the new bloggers here read the Guardian? What is Monbiots solution? This is not a snide question-but how does he suggest we get out of the hole we have dug ourselves caused through a decade of inaction?

    Mind you if I were prime Minister ( I hear there may be a vacancy soon) as well as building coal fired power stations I would heavily promote wave/tidal power (currently twenty years behind wind) and put in a huge effort on micro generation.

    In that respect I fully agree with Peter Taylor who said;

    “The most robust system over the next 40 years is a decentralised microgeneration grid (fuel cells using gas) for the domestic and small industrial/commercial sectors combined with passive solar, super insulation, solar cells and heat pumps to cut demand on that grid.
    It won’t be cheap, but the technology is available, much of it British, and it will employ a lot of small businesses.”

    I would like to believe his follow on comment;

    “Yes, we will be vulnerable to overseas gas suppliers – but the world is like that and that also has a premium – people work harder to stay friends”

    But the world isn’t like that for the most part. Those who have control of energy (and water) will become increasingly powerful. I would rather vote for those with their fingers on my throat than rely on a bizarre mix of unfriendly dictators and ‘friendly’ countries who will put their own citizens first, when push comes to shove.

    tonyb

  24. tonyb
    Yes, that link was a bit mangled but seems to work, I ought to have been more specific – I was mainly referring to the Miracle of Bangladesh especially as the drop in population, according to him, isn’t due to urbanisation.
    Okay, as to how relevant that is on the global scale I know not – but seems like some cause for optimism. And the micro credit link, that, I take it, was fairly self explanatory.

    P Taylor
    And actually, the more I realise where he is coming from – the less interested I am in debating with him. I would rather talk to scientists – but also, to have it filmed. Maybe the MetOffice would agree. I could invite them to shoot me down in public – you would think they would jump at the chance!

    That sounds like a good idea, it seems exataordinary to me that someone of your experience/credentials doesn’t have greater platform. What about Newsnight? I’m sure you’ve thought about it, would that be any good? As is probably quite obvious, I don’t really know how these things work – I’m basically no-one.

  25. JasonHart – Thank you for your response.

    I know I’m a layman and I have no illusions about being anything more than what I am. Still, I always enjoyed science and physics in school. I’m not college educated but I’m intelligent enough to grasp the basic science behind most things and science has always ‘made sense’ to me. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been against the alarmism of AGW. Which in some cases has been to my detriment. I live in Madison, WI and we’re a pretty liberal college town. I’ve got some very gung ho friends on the climate bandwagon. The science in support of AGW just never seemed to make sense to me and made less and less sense the more I looked into it.

    The first thing that caught my attention was the doom and gloom associated with AGW. Then the explanations just didn’t make sense to me. And that’s when I started reading more about climate. Because when hit over the head with the ‘consensus’ I wanted to know if my skepticism was justified.

    At first the only real voice of dissent I could find was Richard Lindzen. Now, I can accept you find Mr. Lindzen less than credible. A lot of people seem to. What I don’t understand exactly is … why? When I first looked up his credentials I was struck by 2 things. One was his extensive qualifications as a climate scientist and the other was that he developed/helped develop some of the science that AGW relies on to track climate change. I know that the AGW crowd has attacked his funding ad nauseum. But I’ve never really heard his science refuted. And if looked at from the flip side, couldn’t a lot of the funding of AGW scientists be similarly discredited as being biased toward AGW?

    One thing that I always understood was that our earth’s climate and weather is comprised of incredibly complex systems that were not entirely understood. Which is why it struck me as incredulous that we suddenly knew enough about it that we could predict what would happen next year much less decades down the road with any real accuracy.

    Now, I admit I’m probably irrationally biased against Al Gore. I think the guy is a complete doorknob. But I remember thinking some of the graphs in Inconvienent Truth didn’t exactly show what we were being told it did. I was impressed with the Global Warming Swindle but I wasn’t completely taken by it as I recognized some of the exaggerated leaps they took as well. What I was more impressed with were who these people who were speaking out against AGW were. Members of the IPCC and people who, if they marched to the AGW beat, would could be called the fathers of the movement such as Nigel Lawson.

    I also read the complaint of Professor Wunch. And while he was correct to say the program made it look like he was saying the ocean was the largest contributor of CO2 so human CO2 was a drop in the bucket, he also decried the extreemism on both sides and was of the opinion that more study was needed. Which to me was another point that showed that the science was nowhere near settled.

    I’m very eager to read Peter’s Book. Which is en route to me as we speak along with Christoper Hitchens ‘God is not Great’. On a side note. You may be pleased to know, Peter, that while ‘Chill’ could only be found on Amazon.co.uk when I first stopped by here, it is now available for order on the US site as well.

    To summarize I’ve simply been amazed that we’re being corraled into a place where we have to take action against an event that may or may not take place in the future based on science that is incomplete at best. To the best of my estimation, if we take a just in case approach we might as well start preparing huge underground bunkers for the world’s population in case of a near earth object strike. We don’t know for certain one will happen or when but the science is more sound.

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