May 31, 2014

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

There's a lot of shopping days left until Christmas comes around again, but nonetheless I've been watching a pantomime. You can watch it too if you like. Here's a video recording of Thursday's United States Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing that purportedly examined "The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process". I don't usually spend my time avidly watching committee meetings on the other side of the Atlantic, but this one was of great interest to me because a fortnight ago I spent a couple of days at Exeter University listening to a long list of scientists expounding about how they took part in the "IPCC process", and their resulting conclusions.

Thursday's proceedings in Washington DC started with committee chairman Representative Lamar Smith (R. Texas) reading a pre-prepared statement which began as follows:

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released three working group reports on climate science – focused on physical sciences, impacts and adaptation, and mitigation. These documents make up the Fifth Assessment Report.

Similarly, the White House recently rolled out its National Climate Assessment, which takes a closer look at climate change and policy in the U.S. Both the IPCC and the White House’s documents appear to be designed to spread fear and alarm and provide cover for previously determined government policies. The reports give the Obama Administration an excuse to control more of the lives of the American people.

The IPCC’s goal is an international climate treaty that redistributes wealth among nations. The Administration’s goal is to impose greenhouse gas regulations, which will stifle economic growth and lead to hundreds of thousands of fewer jobs each year.

On the heels of these catastrophic predictions, the President plans to announce next Monday his most costly climate regulations – new climate standards for power plants.

Can I take it that you get the general drift by now? Nearing the end of his presentation Representative Smith went on to say that:

The President and others often claim that 97 percent of scientists believe that global warming is primarily driven by human activity. However, the study they cite has been debunked.

While the majority of scientists surveyed may think humans contribute something to climate change, and I would agree, only 1 percent said that humans cause most of the warming. So the President has misrepresented the study’s results.

We should focus on good science, rather than politically correct science. The facts should determine which climate policy options the U.S. and world considers.

After the hearing a press release reiterated Lamar Smith's comments reproduced above, and added:

A distinguished panel of experts involved in the IPCC and National Climate Assessment process unanimously stated that the science of climate change is “not settled,” as the President and others often state unequivocally.

To begin our own forensic analysis of what was actually said, here are all four of the distinguished expert witnesses, sat in their respective hot seats:

The expert witnesses during their "IPCC interrogation" in Washington DC

The expert witnesses during their "IPCC interrogation" in Washington DC

Now I do agree with Lamar that "humans contribute something to climate change" and that "facts should determine which climate policy options the U.S. and world considers" so let us examine some facts together. One of the witnesses called to present evidence to the committee was Richard Tol, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex. During the question and answer session after all the pre-prepared statements had been read out Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R. California) asked:

Is this 97% of all scientists believe that global warming, global climate change, is a result of human activity – Is that accurate or inaccurate, from what you see from other scientists, and from what you know?

In his reply Prof. Tol said, amongst other things, that:

It is pretty clear that most of the science agrees that climate change is real and most likely human made, but this 97 per cent is essentially pulled from thin air – it’s not based on any credible research whatsoever.

A bit later one of the other witnesses, Dr. Daniel Botkin, interjected to add that:

What a scientist finds out is science. What a scientist says is opinion. Science is not a consensus activity. Science is innovative and invention and discovery.

All of which may help to explain why Professor Peter Cox had this to say in Exeter recently, in a presentation to the general public entitled "IPCC: building on the 'miracle' of consensus.":

You can see the slides associated with Peter's talk by starting the video of the complete session at around 21:35, or you can download them here.

To quote Prof. Cox:

Some people are concerned about this. How could we possibly come to a consensus? Is it that we are all kind of "herded" by Thomas [Stocker]? Scientists are like cats, we are not herdable, ask any University! We don't like to agree, in fact we are motivated by not agreeing, so how could we possibly get to the point where we can agree? Is it the Intergovernmental Panel of Cat Control?

The Intergovernmental Panel of Cat Control thought experiment

The Intergovernmental Panel of Cat Control thought experiment

No it's not! Part of the reason we agree is because some of it's obvious. It's been obvious for a long time… We are more and more sure about the obvious.

Quod erat demonstrandum?

P.S. Some alternative interpretations of last week's United States Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing are now available at:

Motherboard – The House Science Committee Spent Today in a Climate Change Denial Echo Chamber

io9 – The House Science Committee Declares The IPCC Report Is Not Science

DeSmogBlog – Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors'

HotWhopper – Daniel Botkin obediently tells denier Republicans what they want to hear, but who is he?

Skeptical Science – Republican witness admits the expert consensus on human-caused global warming is real

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Comments on The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change »

May 31, 2014

Muminek @ 1:10 pm

could you be more specific about your personal opinion? what is your point of view?

Jim @ 2:48 pm

How long have you got Muminek? Episode 1!

I agree with Prof. Tol that "It is pretty clear that most of the science agrees that climate change is real and most likely human made".

I agree with Profs Botkin and Cox that "Science is not a consensus activity".

Although I have yet to report in detail on this aspect of the Transformational Climate Science conference, it seems to me that the IPCC process would indeed benefit from reform of some sort. However I disagree with Congressman Smith's apparent view that the politicians "sex up" the science. It seems to me that in fact they "water it down" instead.

Is that enough for you to be going on with for the moment?

Yirgach @ 7:51 pm

I would agree that there is an "agenda" on climate change.

“Maurice Strong, first director of UNEP, said (Wood. 1990) and 1992 in Rio: ‘Isn’t the only hope for this planet the total collapse of industrial civilisation? Is it not our responsibility to ensure that this collapse happens?’ ” [1]

“Prof. Dr H. Stephen Schneider, lead author in Working Group II of the IPCC (said in 1989): ‘For these reasons we have to announce terrifying scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements with no mention of any doubts whatever which we might have. In order to attract attention, we need dramatic statements leaving no doubt about what is said. Every one of us researchers must decide how far he would want to be honest rather than effective.’ ” [1]
Research funds promptly flowed to those ‘researchers’ resulting in what must be the largest example of pure Lysenkoism ever, considering the combined multibillion-dollar research and public relations funds to achieve an unprecedented Gleichschaltung of this manufactured consensus in politics and the media. [2]

As Schopenhauer wrote: “There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is generally adopted.” But the Brothers Grimm also wrote their “Die Sonne bringt es an den Tag” which idiomatically translates to “Truth will out”. [3] [4]

To leave no doubt, in an interview published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on 14 November 2010, Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, said “The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War…. one must say clearly that de facto we redistribute the world's wealth by climate policy…. One has to rid oneself of the illusion that international climate politics have anything to do with environmental concerns.”

When further prompted by Bernhard Pötter, the interviewer: „So far, when discussing foreign aid, people usually equate it with charity“, Edenhofer replied: „That will change immediately as soon as global emission rights are distributed. …“

Estimates of the carbon trading market were reported by Joanne Nova quoting Commissioner Bart Chilton, head of the energy and environmental markets advisory committee of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) with his prediction that “I can see carbon trading being a $2 trillion market,” which other quoted sources describe as “the largest commodity market in the world.” [2] ibid.

Edenhofer continued: “…When that happens on a per capita basis, then Africa is the big winner, and large sums will flow there. This has enormous consequences for foreign aid policy. And, of course, the question arises whether these countries would at all be capable of using so much money wisely.“ [5]

June 1, 2014

Jim @ 8:09 am

Hi Yirgach,

That's a long cut/paste job, so perhaps I might put Muminek's question to you? Could you be more specific about your personal opinion?

I'll add a question of my own if I may. What's the difference between politics, economics and physics?

June 2, 2014

Susan Anderson @ 1:18 am

Great job Jim. It is worrying that "watered down" is translated as "sexed up". And the travesty that is our House of Representatives has been observed to lack curiosity about the possibility that they might be wrong in the face of overwhelming evidence.

For people who think we are not in serious trouble, I do wish they'd look around them and notice the overwhelming and chaotic acceleration of climate consequences. They seem to have no idea how dangerous this is. They cite this and that in great detail, but seem unwilling to look at the big picture and listen to real expertise. There's a lot of fake expertise about, but proportionately it requires a highly selective preference for fringe material to refuse to look at anything else.

Mike Hohmann @ 9:03 am

Has anyone noticed that there is not a single Climate model in existence? Consider:

And for the surreal inanity driving energy and financial policies, The Economist in its Science and Technology section, no less, writes:

Jim @ 9:21 am

@Mike (and @Yirgach) – If any more cut/paste/links along those lines appear with no or ludicrous explanations they will be "snipped".

In refutation of your first point, here's a climate model I personally run on a bunch of Raspberry Pis, amongst other things:

Regarding your second, the article is only available to subscribers, of which fortunately I am one. Your point is what? That politicians interfere with the science in some way?

Mike Hohmann @ 5:45 pm

Hi Jim, a couple of comments above (Yirgach)I saw you complaining about long cut and paste entries, so I thought I better avoid that. These days clicking on a link takes only a split second to get directly to a more complex explanation where required. Similarly the Economist link. If on a quick glance it is of no interest, another mouseclick gets you back to where you were in another split second. As to climate model I mean, of course, Climate Change Model as in e.g. playing in/out medieval warm period into little ice age and back to now again. Can your model do that? Anyhow, only that kind of model IMHO would show what drives CLIMATE, as against WEATHER or computer games fiddled to give desired answers.

Jim @ 8:09 pm

Hi Mike,

I'm afraid that either cut/paste or a bare link on its own means very little, however quickly you can get there and back. Providing some sort of context would be useful. An explanation of how the material relates to the topic under discussion would help for example, as would an indication of which bits you agree with and which bits you don't. I suppose if you wrote what you link to you agree with it though!

I rather doubt that PlaSim can do what you suggest. It's "a medium complexity and resolution" model. That doesn't mean it's useless though. It's great as an educational tool, for experimenting with "what if?" ideas.

Getting back to the topic under discussion. The US Committee on Science, Space, and Technology were supposedly discussing "The UN IPCC Process", although in actual fact they devoted a lot of time to debating the "97% consensus". How do your links relate to any of that?

June 9, 2014

Muminek @ 10:30 am

I read the interview in Zuricher Zeitung with Ottmar Edenhofer in the original German (see the post by Yirgach).
I have to say that those quotes are somewhat misleading, when taken out of the whole text/context. One has to read the whole article before using those quotes in an objectively correct way.

Susan Anderson @ 3:59 pm

For those questioning models, I think Gavin Schmidt's talk, "The Emergent Patterns of Climate Change" is very useful:

It covers a lot of the ambiguities and why we have to deal with them rather than going elsewhere.

[I've embedded the video for you - Jim]

February 23, 2015

BBC Radio 4 Swallows Booker’s Bait | The Great White Con @ 5:58 pm

[...] link below. Here's a prescient "Tweet" of mine to United States Representative Dana Rohrabacher: Haven't you seen the videos @DanaRohrabacher? Ever thought of penning an op-ed in a UK [...]

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