Climate clippings 18

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

China puts climate above reckless growth

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao:

“We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption.”

China’s environment minister on Monday issued an unusually stark warning about the effects of unbridled development on the country’s air, water and soil, saying the nation’s current path could stifle long-term economic growth and feed social instability.

We need them over here to talk to HM Opposition.

The Chinese have plenty to worry about

China in recent years has moved into the world champion position as the worlds top emitter, by a considerable margin:

China emissions 1980-2009

“Rapid growth and reckless roll-outs” are no doubt a fair part of the problem, as is the continued expansion of the use of coal, China’s emphasis on renewable notwithstanding. Ambitions about improving energy intentions in relation to GDP are going nowhere.

So their new-found priority to the environment is not before time.

Models guiding climate policy are “dangerously optimistic”

You’ve heard that climate models are crook at predicting the future before, but perhaps not from a climate scientist saying they are too optimistic. Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at the University of Manchester, UK tells us that:

if we want to aim for a high chance of not exceeding a 2°C increase in global temperature by the end of the century, our energy emissions need to be cut by nearer 10% annually rather than the 2–4% that economists say is possible with a growing economy.

“The output from today’s models is politically palatable,” said Anderson. “The reality is far more depressing, but many scientists are too afraid to stand up and speak out for fear of being ridiculed. Our job is not to be liked but to give a raw and dispassionate assessment of the scale of the challenge faced by the global community.”

You might say he’s signed up to the fierce urgency of now.

Canaries in the mine

There are always plenty of articles reminding us that the climate is changing before our eyes. Here are some:

Owls don’t change colour, of course – it’s hereditary, but with warmer winters in Finland the proportion of brown as against grey owls has increased.

China is running short of wheat

China is a large wheat producer, five times larger than Australia and is largely self-sufficient, but now it is running short.

DROUGHT across five provinces responsible for more than half China’s 100 million tonne wheat crop could trigger a major foray into global markets – including Australia – by a nation which prides itself on being largely self sufficient in wheat.

Shandong Province, which traditionally grows 20 per cent of China’s wheat, is facing its worst drought in 200 years. In other areas the big dry is the worst in 60 years.

It’s not only people that need the wheat:

Wheat is mostly used to feed China’s rapidly expanding pig and poultry sector meat, with domestic supplies supplemented by US corn imports, but with US prices now around $7 a bushel.

The worry is that China has the cash to enter world markets and seriously push up the prices.

Climate Progress looks at food prices

Climate progress has a succinct summary of what is going on:

What is driving up food prices to record levels? As I’ve discussed in CP’s food insecurity series, it’s harvests ruined by extreme weather, coupled with rising oil prices, increasing demand from population growth and changing diets in a global market made all the tighter by unsustainable biofuels policies.

That was then, this is now

In another smart move Victorian Premier Baillieu looks as though he is going to allow the export of brown coal to India, canned by the Brumby Government.

And destroy some prime dairying country in the process.

Greenbox – the country’s first “smart energy retailer”

Greenbox reckon they’ve cracked the business model of how to make money out of customers using less electricity. It’s hard to know exactly what they plan to do, but it seems to involve knowing the cost of energy usage in real time and sourcing the cheapest wholesale energy. Someone is bound to ring you up during the evening news soon to tell you all about it.

Thanks to John D for the heads-up.

Using air to store power

According to the New Scientist the Brits are looking at using air to store intermittent renewable energy.

You just cool it to a liquid form at -190C, then use ambient temperatures to heat it, driving a wind turbine. Simple! The liquid air is known as cryogen.

Unlike pumped-storage hydropower, which requires large reservoirs, the cryogen plants can be located anywhere.

Bulli is the new electric Kombi

Courtesy of a comment by BilB on another thread, I’d like to finish by highlighting the new VW Bulli. This is what it does:

The new ‘Bulli’ concept offers a flexible layout, seating for six, a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery, an 85 kW electric motor with 260 Nm torque,140 km/h (87 mph) top speed and a range of 300 km (186 miles).

84 thoughts on “Climate clippings 18”

  1. Ever worked in China?

    The Officials in Baijing can issue you permits and licences until their hearts content, but then you go to the local officials where you are going to do what you want to do and you ahve to jump through all their hoops and they don’t care what Beijing originated pieces of paper you have.

    I’ll believe that they are concerned about CO2 emmissions when they stop building coal fired power stations.

    I do believe there will be action on pollution (as opposed to CO2 emmissions) as there has been in every country that has developed economically and socially.

  2. Razor, I’ve never been to China, but I’ve heard many times about local officials. Maybe if they execute a few of them…

    On Perth’s hot summers, each to his own. Maybe you should get a job in Dubai or somewhere.

  3. Just hot wind from the chinese. If they actually acted in a way which reduced emissions then it would be great for us to fall into line but until they do it only serves to damage us if we go off by ourselves (or the other 32 small countries, which combined have no effect of reducing the problem).

  4. @8 – it would still mean bugger all in the end unless China, India and the US get on board.

    Lomborg handed Tony Jones his arse on a plate despite Jones’ best efforts to push the Gaia line. I don’t completely agree with Lomborg’s proposed approach, but it certainly the most reality based one I’ve seen from those who don’t think adaption is the way forward

  5. It is interesting to feed the Bulli data into the requirements for plug-in hybrid:
    40kWh battery gives range of 300 km
    At 100 km/hr the 40kWh is used up in 3 hrs.
    =average power draw of 13.3 kW
    =average power draw of 18 hp
    Installed electric motor size=85 kW
    The Bulli would be a lot more attractive for Australians if it had much smaller batteries and backed up by a small liquid fuel driven generator. Big advantage is it can go now without someone having to spend megabucks on recharging stations.
    Run your average weekly travel pattern for a plug in hybrid. The bulk of the emissions saving comes from having enough battery range to cover the daily commute.

  6. Razor said:

    Lomborg handed Tony Jones his arse on a plate despite Jones’ best efforts to push the Gaia line.

    I heard most of that interview and heard no mention of Gaia. Jones let the games theorist Lomborg get away with saying, unchallenged, that the externality from Co2 was $7 per tonne, when most price it at between 10 and 15 times that.

    It would have been more amusing to see Lomborg debate Stern or Garnaut or someone from the Grattan Institute.

  7. Lomberg is too fond of pushing the “we must do more research” line. It comes across as yet another excuse to procrastinate.
    My observation would be that the price of wind power is dropping rapidly because the rate at which wind power is being installed creates the competitive pressures and incentive to spend money on wind power. Ditto solar PV. Ditto developments to improve the quality of light and reduce the costs of high efficiency light globes now that regulation has made them compulsory.
    Anyone who is following low emission car development would realize that serious development is now occurring in this area as well.

  8. Oh and Lomborg, for a climate scientist and/or economist makes a good looking statistician. However, most of his criticisms are precisely what we say around here on LP: that PV is too costly, too ineffective; that we don’t do enough research.

  9. No, just that what he says about Gaia is irrelevant.

    and misprepresented … not that I’m a fan of Flannery …

  10. Maybe we should create a new logical fallacy for Razor.
    What’s the Latin for argument from irrelevancy?

  11. Fran @13,

    Is Lomborg using a different discount rate, perhaps?

    I can imagine that would make a substantial difference to the environmental cost of today’s emissions, given that the major incremental damage does not occur for 50 years or so.

  12. Actually, Razor, the Gaia hypothesis would I’d have thought be right up your intellectual alley. It posits the view that the entire biosphere behaves like an organism, regulating its own environment over the longer term. Life, in the Gaia hypothesis view, will go on despite the short term damage humans might cause. Eventually, conditions will return to ones more conducive to an expansion of biodiversity. Past catastrophes, in the form of impacts from large extraterrestrial bodies, vulcanism, and climate change, have in the long run receded and life has again expanded. Life itself has accelerated the process of returning to habitable conditions on more than one occasion through biological processes of transpiring oxygen and sequestering carbon, diminishing the albedo of ice etc.

    So we don’t have to worry, in this view, about life itself becoming extinct merely because of global warming caused by our habit of burning the residue of past epochs. How reassuring. And how like your own ‘do nothing, she’ll be right’ view.

    The human species, however, is another thing entirely and the Gaia hypothesis has nothing to say about our survival.

    It’s also worth noting that some dispute the Gaia hypothesis in its optimism. Hansen, who cut his scientific teeth studying the atmosphere of Venus, thinks that a Venusian outcome is possible, and that life could indeed die out. We may be about to undertake the experiment to see who’s right.

  13. Wilful @ 17,

    That’s a fair comment. But Lomborg was really bashing a strawman, as having a carbon price is the exact opposite of what Lomborg was complaining about: eg the Germans wasting money on solar power.

    Obviously Lomborg said what he wanted to say and didn’t let the facts get in the way. Deeply unimpressive.

  14. The elephant in the room here is if you start cutting these emissions by 10% annually as the result of government decree, and if that has an adverse effect on the economy, whoever is responsible will be thrown out on their arse.

    The Chinese government can say what it likes, it doesn’t face any elections anytime soon. But in democracies governments that affect the economy badly get chucked out.

  15. I & U said:

    I can imagine {a substantial discount rate: FB} would make a substantial difference to the environmental cost of today’s emissions, given that the major incremental damage does not occur for 50 years or so.

    Yes but unfortunately the lead time between the required foreclosure action and the irreversible incremental damage renders that entirely moot. If you are tied to a railway track and a train will pass your position in ten minutes with a one minute margin for error, if you figure that the damage will not happen for ten minutes and you can wear your losses then … I’d say your “discount rate” is simply a way of avoiding thinking about your imminent destruction. You simply have to do whatever is needed to free yourself at minimum cost in those ten, and possibly nine minutes or you’re dead or seriously maimed.

  16. Lomberg clearly doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation, the implications of delayed action or the whole ‘remaining carbon budget’ approach so I tend not to take much notice of him.

    He seems to think we can afford to doddle along and get it done some time in the next half century.

    Epic fail!

  17. Hal @ 23, I think you’ve got Gaia pretty right. It is really earth system science with the addition of a goal – that the whole thing works to create conditions for the perpetuation of life.

    I’d suggest that the earth system has largely operated that way since the last snowball earth event and the evolution of complex life really got under way. But there is no reason why it should continue to do so and I’d suggest Lovelock knows it. He talks about Gaia getting tired.

    It’s really a metaphor which inevitably confuses as well as elucidates.

    Flannery, in his book Here on Earth, uses the concept appropriately, IMHO.

  18. Brian

    Can you please provide a link to a previous discussion on LP ,about global population growth and its affects ( if there was one) and solutions, more to the point.?

    To my way of thinking , that is the main underlying driver of almost all of the problems we face.

    I would love to read the read comment and opinions on that subject.
    If you would be so kind

  19. CRAIGY, by plugging “global population growth” into the handy dandy search box at the right-hand top of the banner area, I got this results page:

    Scrolling down it I found several candidates. Since I would have to go and read every single one to find out just exactly how relevant it is, I’ve left that for you to do yourself.

    Google also returns an array of results on “global population growth” around the web, many of which might be very useful for you as background reading.

  20. Thank you tigtog
    The handy dandy search box it is.
    Iv’e Googled much,but being a lazy sod, i thought i could use Brians brain to direct me to a tread that most suited his idea of “quality thread”.Therefore, my request directed toward him, rather than ” Hey does anyone know of an LP thread that addresses etc”
    Thanks again.

  21. That Downfall video fails on a couple of levels.

    Firstly political: not content with equating Gillard with Gaddafi, the denialist-inactivists are now trying to equate Gillard with Hitler. That’s a Godwin.

    Secondly, the video-makers show they simply do not comprehend the English language, when they say that CO2 is a poison. I noticed denialists started making this error after the US Congress passed a resolution calling CO2 a pollutant. Apparently denialists think that the word “pollutant” means poison. It doesn’t. The effect of CO2 on the human body is simply not a part of climate science.

    Denialists think they are oh so clever, but really most of them are just plain stupid.

  22. Good work Lefty E but there are a tad few more people in China and India and, wow, couldn’t we make a significant impact on that 1.5% contribution. Get serious, it needs a bit more than us and a handful of other countries to make some half baked effort.

  23. Thanks Brian. I agree with you that the metaphor both confuses and elucidates. Partly I think the trouble has been Lovelock’s whimsical use of an archaic deity, with an existing mythology, leading to its association with animism and pantheism in the public mind. If he’d called it the Terrestrial Environmental Biophilism Hypothesis or something equally bland then blog commenters mightn’t think it’s synonymous with hippies and crystals.

  24. PuzzledCat.

    There are nearly 200 individual nation states on this planet. Each has a 0.5% stake in eliminating the Climate Change Threat. If each state takes your attitude that “0.5% is so small what impact can we have” then nothing will happen and we all perish. That attitude is infantile and should be totally beneath the dignity of mature responsible governments.

  25. China puts climate above reckless growth

    Most of Wen Jiabao’s speech seems directed at conventional pollutants and resources, with only passing mention of CO2.

    Don’t get your hopes too high that much is going to change on the CO2 front.

  26. I’m going to drop names, but had a chance to ask Lovelock a couple of years ago whether he considered the Gaia hypothesis a metaphor or a real property of the Earth system.

    He was equivocal in his answer, but his last two books show clearly that he thinks the property aspect is real.

    He is truly a giant of 20th century science, making great discoveries in chemistry, physics and systems, mainly at the applied end.

    The problem is that Gaia is not falsifiable within the timescales we need to manage the risks that Lovelock discusses in his books. The risk are real – the Gaia response is arguable. I’m not convinced about Gaia but …

    It looks a lot like Pascal’s Wager, except that the wager is between big risks and catastrophic outcomes for humans at the planetary scale with the evolutionary clock being re-set.

    Fans of Ayn Rand think “Gaia shrugged”.

  27. CRAIGY @ 32, I don’t think we’ve ever had a post exactly on global population growth and its affects. Of the ones tigtog turned up I thought my Cribb on the future of food was a pretty good post, but it’s not bang on what you want. We’ve done a few around immigration, asylum seekers etc but not population on a global scale as I remember.

    puzzled cat @ 36, BilB is right, we all need to put in. Rudd wanted us in a leadership role, but Gillard is positioning us as also-rans, definitely not out in front.

    Roger @ 40, thanks for the insight. A lot of Lovelock’s work is little known and under-appreciated, I think.

  28. We all have catalytic converters on our cars because California dug its heels in and insisted that cars sold in California had to meet tight emission standards so LA wouldn’t disappear behind the car caused smog. So quite small countries can make a difference by being innovative.
    Australia might make a big difference by demonstrating that there are much smarter ways of driving down emissions than putting a price on carbon.

  29. @38, it’s a bit like the attitude that my rubbish chucked on the side of the road is insignificant; unfortunately when 20 million people take that attitude, the place is drowning in rubbish.

    As people in my parents’ generation used to say every little helps.

  30. That’s the attitude of a child, PC. Id settle for a half-baked effort from us, incidentally – we’re way behind India and China on a CO2 price (ours is $1.70, India’s is $5, China’s $14).

    We have 1.5% of emissions with .03% of the population, Frankly, we suck. And its not good enough. If India and China emitted at our per capita rate, we’d already be choking on gas.

    Australia’s response will also have a disproportionate impact on that of the US, with 20% of world emissions.

  31. Lefty E, true to name, thinks it’s all about equal shares.

    No, it’s about total pollution/total environmental damage.

    It’s sheer lunacy to allow some nations a reduced AGW/CO2 culpability because they breed more or faster than others.

    It’s like saying the noisy neighbour with ten kids is less culpable that the noisy neighbour with two.

  32. Peter E,

    You argue that nations have responsibilities that absolve personal responsibilities? China as a big emitter is more culpable than Australia?

    Nations are political entities, and have different shares of the atmosphere over time. An average Australian in their lifetime, emitting at current rates will see 1465 tonnes of C02 in the atmosphere at current life expectancy. The same number for China is 358 tonnes, the same number for India is 89 tonnes.

    On these figures, that makes one Australian equivalent to 4 Chinese or 18 Indians, or nationally, Australia’s lifetime emissions at current rates are equivalent to 7% of China’s emissions and 31% of India’s. Australia’s current total emissions (2007) CO2-only are 6% of China’s and 23% of India’s.

    Who has the largest capacity to cut emissions on a per capita basis?

    So if you’re going to talk about noisy kids, that makes the Australian kid the noisiest, most-selfish, shit-brained little brat on the block.

    If your politics allow you to justify that, I feel both pity and contempt for you.

    Have just finished reading the Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes and Conway) and am as mad as hell.

  33. Roger: Naomi Oreskes is brilliant – just goes to show that not all geologists are bone-headed denialists like Plimer. I really enjoyed Merchants of Doubt, but it’s pretty hard to keep one’s blood below boiling point when you watch some of the crap that comes out about climate science. She’s also written some really good papers about science and how it _should_ public policy as well. Unfortunately the scientists are generally too cautious to take on the rabid skeptics.

    The other issue with scientists is that they refuse to ‘debate’ with anyone who takes leave of reality in such a blatant fashion, probably because (a) anyone who refuses to look at facts objectively is seen as a pseudo-Grahame Bird in scientific circles, and (b) it’s a waste of time in most cases because you have no common ground from which to start a debate. If you can’t even agree on an observational basis for discussing the science then you’ve killed the debate before it starts. Unfortunately the public doesn’t see this, they just see two ‘experts’, and when one of them refuses to talk to the other then it looks like a win for the skeptics.

  34. Jess @47. Guess what my undergrad was.

    On a more serious note, Climate Scientists Australia have decided not to debate denialists because the latter do not argue using science and it very quickly gets into he said – she said. As Twain said – a lie can get halfway round the world before the truth can get its boots on.
    It gives denial a legitimacy it does not deserve.

    I do think we scientists need to go at pseudoscience though, big time. The amount of air and webspace the ABC, for instance, gives to utter crap that has been scientifically disproven is very upsetting. I mean, why would you have Bob Carter on AM to talk temperature?

    Why don’t they give child molesters, Holocaust deniers, and the smoking doesn’t cause cancer crew rebuttal space for ‘balance’?

    This is a full-on conflict, with immense consequences, and those with ethics have a different set of ‘weapons’ if you like, to fight with. Integrity is the best thing that science has going for it, so that is an area that cannot be risked to win a fight.

    The climate policy debate should be about governance, not the science. Oreskes and Conway describe how science has been undermined for that very purpose, very effectively. The book is so much more comprehensive than her talk, as good as it was.

    The odd thing is that rational, central planning, the world environmental overlord that fightens the bejeezuz out of the free market fundies, is a solution that doesn’t work either. The ‘messy’ solutions of markets, regulation and learning by doing with global oversight needs to be developed as quickly as possible. This actually requires taking up a diverse set of political solutions, rather than any strict right/left divisions of old. I think Turnbull, for one, understands that. Probably Combet, too. That doesn’t mean a political compromise between one approach (the single-solution fallacy), it means a diversity of approaches.

  35. “No, it’s about total pollution/total environmental damage. ”

    Which is about historical emissions, Peter E, since its stays in the atmosphere,but I suspect you wont be able to follow us up that slightly more complex path.

    On another note: the conservative kneejerk to assume keeping technology and production the way it is now will be economically the best option, has almost always been proved wrong.

    WE will lose out economically if we dont innovate. Nothing could be surer.(Mind you, I like that you have that attitude, it means Ill make more money relative to you, but that how Darwin planned it I guess :0)

  36. Ive been trying to think of ways to dumb down the logic of collective action for RWDBs, and here’s what I came up with:

    “why should my suburb help pay for police when our residents only commit 2% of the overall crime”?

    Answer: because the system benefits all.

    Surely anyone can get that.

  37. If we feed the trolls, they will grow. If we ignore the trolls, they will grow. What is the solution? I think there is a third way, and that is to understand and expose them as right-wing ideologues and narcissists. John Quiggin is probably the most advanced on this score. Tim Flannery would come a close second, and Tim Lambert would be up there too. And what about our own Roger Jones?

    I would like to see Quiggin on the ABC, maybe The Drum, or even Q and A, sharing his insights on the psychological aspects of denialism. Flannery has already appeared on a special on ABCNews24 talking about the non-scientific aspects of denialism.

    Q and A is probably the ABC’s most blatant demonstration of its phony concept of “balance.” It would be funny if Quiggin were to appear on Q and A and expose the very programme he was on for its bias towards denialism.

    I don’t see really why the ABC should have any objection to having Quiggin on. Naomi Oreskes appeared on the ABC on Lateline a few months ago when she was out here touring. I would like to see the objectivity and real balance shown on Lateline flow across to Q and A.

  38. @ Roger – it’s nice to have other earth scientists around the place. 🙂 I hadn’t made the link between posts on LP and your blog – sorry!

    I was chatting to others in my research group about this the other day and we were wondering why most ‘scientific’ denialists (that we could think of anyway) come from either meteorology, engineering and geology. We came to the conclusion that it’s because people in these fields have just enough scientific knowledge to be dangerous but not enough to really understand the complex systems that drive processes on earth (particularly engineers who don’t really do science any more than an accountant does economics, but that’s another gripe of mine for another day). Fortunately these are the people who are most likely to be swayed by scientific arguments, if you can get them to shut up on the ‘I know everything because I’m a scientist’ line. But they do a lot of damage when the general public just see ‘experts’ disagreeing with experts.

    I agree that the multi-party-multi-line-of-attack solutions are the ones which are most likely to work, and least likely to have unintended consequences. That’s why I worry about the ‘golden bullets’ proposed by the current parliament. I’d love to see Turnbull and Combet work on a ‘bipartisan’ solution tho.

  39. Roger @50: I have a technical background and have been following the climate science/action story for a long time. (And am 99% sure that Brian’s views on the urgent need to act now are spot on.) However, the science is complicated and not particularly suited for a Q&A style debate. There are too many factors impacting particular parts of the world, to many positive feed back loops etc. We are still learning and uncovering things we never thought of before.
    To make matters worse a lot of the conclusions depend on sophisticated models that would take a lot of work to understand, let alone evaluate.
    As I have said before the scientific debate is a distraction. The important lie is the exaggeration of what it will cost to make serious reductions in the level of emissions.

  40. @ Silkworm: I agree – scientific debate should _not_ be on Q&A. That’s just an excuse for denialists to start Gish galloping. Scientific debate proceeds best through written mediums, where responses can be carefully considered. It also has the benefit that debaters cannot change their positions at a later stage.

    @ John D I partially agree – some of the scientific debate is a distraction, and certainly all of the debate that takes place in the public arena is a distraction. But I disagree with this statement:

    To make matters worse a lot of the conclusions depend on sophisticated models that would take a lot of work to understand, let alone evaluate.

    The models that I see are based on fluid physics that has been undisputed for at least a century. Many of these models are used by BOM to predict weather as well, and we trust those fairly well.

    And certainly the modellers I know have backed up their modelling claims either by direct observation, or using analogue models in the laboratory in rotating tanks etc. So it’s not really like the models are some kind of abstract object unrelated to physical processes – they form part of a vast network of science that is very difficult to undermine.

  41. @ Lefty E
    [I suspect you wont be able to follow us up that slightly more complex path]

    And I suspect, the complexity is all in your imagination, Lefty E.The path you want us to follow you is, up the garden path.

    Funny your little cue card link only started measures in 1850, when we’ve been burning coal and charcoal and deforesting the land & draining swamps for 1000’s of years!

    I’m all for innovation–and all for cleaning up our act.
    Why just today I heard an interesting, and encouraging bit about innovation/R&D on The Science Show

    But guess who was doing it?
    And guess, who, will be doing practicality all the such innovation?

    I‘m not for it –but I’m not for bankrolling the breeding habits of the rest of the world.
    @ Roger Jones
    [Have just finished reading the Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes and Conway) and am as mad as hell.]
    Right emotion but wrong metaphor — mad as a march hare would have been more appropriate.

    I’ve also read Merchants of Doubt –it was the biggest load of twaddle.It reminded me of the sort of material that the faithful read after religious service.
    It’s chief purpose being to re-assure the faithful that they are on the true path and the non-believers are in the pay of Satan (or worse, big industry!)

    Now down to your little stats problem:
    You blind yourself by talking of “averages”. Indian and China ( and others) only look less dirty because
    beneath every Chinese/Indian/or other middle class shopaholic there lies 10,000 serfs living hand to mouth.
    The amount of pollution their nation emits is far, far great than Australia ever will.

    PS: Australia should cut pollution too – but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse by the lefties to fund their new world order.

  42. Jess: I was talking about the problem of communicating the details to people with little relevant scientific knowledge. The fluid mechanics may have been established for some time but I am not sure how good the models are on tipping points and positive feedback.

  43. Peter E,

    if you can’t tell science from pseusoscience and distinguish reliable history from unreliable history, that’s not my problem.

    And re averages – you’re starting to Gish – try this instead, it’s got a better beat.

  44. John D @ 56,

    in one way I agree with you – it is complex. I’d take that as science communicated as science. There are a few books that do it pretty well. Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warming – a History is one good example.

    Most people get information as narrative. Museums do science narrative pretty well. But in the Museum it's not threatening and people have gone there voluntarily (except those dragooned on school and family outings).

    What science communication doesn't have a handle on is contested narrative. When a narrative is contested any special knowledge, i.e., gained through expert means, becomes part of a contest, the means used to construct that narrative becomes irrelevant. Expertise disappears in a puff of smoke!

    This is a post-modern problem where cognitive science, social science and the humanities all have a role. Otherwise you're left with 'shit happens'. Thanks for the response – thinking about it helped make the issue a little clearer. I'm considering engaging in some semantic research with colleagues about narratives, and I think for science, contested narratives is an issue it has not really engaged with.

  45. Brian it was a climate progress link that got most of its material from the Arctic sea ice news. The comments on weather patterns and ice thickness were interesting:

    Ice motion

    Typically during a negative AO phase, weather patterns favor the retention of thick ice in the central Arctic and Canada basin, where it can better survive the summer. The negative AO also typically leads to a stronger Beaufort Gyre, which helps move ice from the western to eastern Arctic. There the ice thickens, ridging and rafting against the Siberian coast.

    Last winter, the AO was in its most negative phase since at least 1951. However, slight differences from the typical AO pattern in the location of the sea level pressure anomalies had a significant impact on how the ice moved within and out of the Arctic Basin. During winter 2009 to 2010 the peak pressure anomalies were shifted towards the Barents and Kara seas, which helped transport ice from the Canadian Arctic towards the southern Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Since some of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic is found north of the Canadian Archipelago, this atmospheric pattern ended up further depleting the Arctic of its store of old, thick ice as that old ice melted during summer in these southerly locations.

    This winter also saw a relatively strong negative AO index during December and January. However, as we discussed in our January 5, 2011 post, the positive sea level pressure anomalies were centered near Iceland. This led to a more extensive anticyclonic (clockwise) transport pattern than last winter. This may help keep a more extensive distribution of multiyear ice cover as summer approaches.

    It sounds like ice extent may not be as low this summer?

  46. Good point JohnD@60, I am glad you brought it up, as I have similar concerns. In particular, Jesses view on the understanding of models illustrates the potential for a lack of understanding on either side.

    I’ll give you an applied example, as you may know the FNQ is under a severe weather warning at present. Now for more than a week or so most relevant weather models where all over the place. However, some of the more reliable ones where showing the development of a low, on and off at first, that seemed to indicate that something may be up in the middle of the Coral Sea and sure enough today we have a situation where BoM seems to flag that some major event will be on somewhere up this way either dumping 300mm in 24hrs or may develop into a cat 2-3 cyclone midweek sometime. Now my first point is most models have limitations. Weather models temporal accuracy stops after about 3-4 days. Some are better at indicating major episodes others better at spatial aspects. Which brings me to my second point, models take experienced operators to calibrate, run and interpret them successfully, just like any sophisticated measuring instrument. Anyone that uses a radar or fish locator seriously for example, knows that.

    So it comes with no surprise then, that most of the old hands over at Weatherzone or some Meteorologists tend to be a tad skeptical when it comes to models as well as major events, such as AGW projected by such. Further, it does not help with singling out certain sciences as more skeptical than others in giving the public confidence into the method of science.

    RogerJ, whilst Narrative approaches are very insightful into the interpretive aspects of AGW within individuals and population, it does not necessarily give you any tools for individual or social change. I have to come to the view, that the ‘human problem’ with AGW is akin the problem of legal/illegal drug addiction. There are considerable theoretical frameworks available as well as plenty of applied research in the bio-psycho-social side of drug addiction.

  47. OOTZ: The sort of models that are used to predict short term behaviour may be quite different to those used for longer term or larger scale predictions. For example,if you had a snapshot of the turbulent flow around an object moving through the air your might be able to use basic fluid dynamics to extrapolate for a very short amount of time. But since turbulent flow is so unstable the predictions would become ridiculous in a very short time. But this doesn’t stop quite accurate predictions being made of the speed and trajectory of the object over much longer timespans using a different method of prediction.

    What I am trying to say is that just because the models used to predict short term weather lose accuracy over a few days this doesn’t mean that the cannot be effective models for making much longer term predictions.

  48. John, Climate models also have difficulties with attributing extreme events. There are limited observational data to start with, insufficient testing of climate model simulations of extremes, and (so far) limited assessment of model projections. .

    It is worthwhile to read the last few paras in the executive summary this report.

    Further, many public misconception lie in the heart of how these models are setup. For example not many people on the street would know the relevant difference between a physics-based model and a statistical model and which one is mainly used in climate modeling.

    In general, I would suspect, it is very difficult for the average jo/ette to ascertain what the accuracy or margin of error are of climate models as well as what real tangible risks their predictions represent.

  49. These posts … don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

    Well actually they do because LP is a top-down web 1.0 media organisation with no glasnost.

  50. harleymc, it’s always good to meet someone who knows what you are doing better than you do.

    I try to keep the average entry in these posts to less than 100 words. Within that limit I try to give the sense of the article so that the reader gets something from it without following the link.

    It would be quite possible to do a short entry in Climate clippings followed later by a longer post with more exposition and links. It doesn’t happen much because of the constraints of time.

  51. Roger @ 64, a couple of years ago my wife and I visited a maritime museum in Vancouver with my brother and his wife. My sister-in-law asked me whether the science was right in a global warming display they had there. It wasn’t, not all of it, the main problem being that they followed the IPCC AR4 story on sea level change simplistically and literally.

    It occurred to me that they were adopting a line that they could easily defend by an appeal to authority.

  52. Ootz @67,

    I take your point on narratives but it’s complex. Risk perception and the reasons fuelling those perceptions form a key driver – which is why the get-out clause in my last para @64. But narratives are a crucial medium for communication and one will tend to latch onto those that re-affirm one’s own world view.

    One area where research has helped in assessing the problem of communication is through exploring small world networks. People get their essential advice though a very small network (I recall a study done on Tony Blair somewhere), that closely resemble those networks of addiction. The whole small-world network thing.

    But the broadcast of messages through the media travels into those narratives. People gain expertise in a subject. In the past few years, some have become experts in climate denial by reading the relevant blogs and papers like The Australian. They are then in a position to pass on that expertise, which is why zombie science – the same denial memes – keep cropping up again and again. It’s the same thing Quiggin wrote about in Zombie Economics. Usually those nodes in the network are very good communicators: they do the eye contact thing, speak confidently and self effacingly. That is how one becomes an expert on climate change without doing any science.

    But a lot of it comes back to stories around the campfire, so is a social legacy of being human. Fascinating stuff.

  53. Harleymc:

    Well actually they do because LP is a top-down web 1.0 media organisation…

    Wow, we’re a “media organisation?” Where’s my badge?

    …with no glasnost.

    In the LP Soviet, the blogs read you!

    John D:

    It sounds like ice extent may not be as low this summer?

    Ermmm, John D, haven’t you seen this?

  54. Hi guys, sorry I’m rather late to the party with my responses. All the happening discussion seems to occur on Saturday nights! 🙂

    Ootz @ 67. I agree with what you’ve said here, and I can fully see where the ‘old hands’ might have problems. But I think that your example highlights what I was trying to get at better than what I said earlier.

    My suspicion is that they are falling for a type of ‘my way or the highway’ thinking. Because they only use a certain type of scientific reasoning, with a certain set of assumptions, they assume that those assumptions can be carried over into an analysis of how climate scientists use weather models. Obviously those assumptions are different, and the results are interpreted differently also, but that doesn’t make them less valid. When you say

    Weather model’s temporal accuracy stops after about 3-4 days.

    I see this as an unfinished sentence. What accuracy, and to what degree? We can still make useful statements about future events, but just with less certainty. I don’t think a climate modeller claims to be able to resolve individual hurricanes, but that doesn’t stop them from being able to make statements about what mean conditions are like.

    I also suspect this feeds into Rogers comment (@ 73) about networks and how we receive information. If all you ever talk to are meteorologists then when are you ever going to see the other side of the story.

    PS: Sorry for trolling certain sectors of science. Perhaps certain personality types might be a better bet. I was thinking about people like (soon to be ex-)Sen. Fielding, who claims that his engineering degree makes him a master scientist. I do have friends who were engineers, and meteorologists and now do climate science. I was basing the differences off their experiences in those fields.

  55. I’ve posted a long, wonkish piece on Merchants of Doubt, and some of reflections based on the above discussion.

    Ootz, cyclone spin-up is notoriously unstable, but other systems are getting 7-day skill. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that the final forecast is still being made by a meteorologist but the model has been added to the old synoptic chart as a tool. I’m happy for one, that expert intuition remains as part of the skill base.

    But as JohnD and Jess say, the weather and climate uncertainties in the models are different, although both exist. I’m doing some work at the moment on how climate projections are analysed because I think it’s not being done right. Might show some examples soon, time permitting.

  56. Peter E and Razor show how challenging it is to get conservatives to think new thoughts, especially about China. While Razor is ranting on about how China’s low carbon developments are a myth, the British government is acknowledging that China far outstrips the West in these developments. Maybe the British government is too leftist for Razor’s tastes?

    And Peter E is still ranting on about China’s “breeding habits.” That would be the China of the one child policy, would it, Peter E? Haven’t updated your stereotype of China since 1970? Way to contribute to the debate…

  57. Yes Sg, and the idea that “we shouldn’t move ahead of of out competitors!” has somehow survived them comprehensively moving ahead of us.

    Some mouth-yapper from the Business Council of Australia was making this ‘point’ the other day when the journo reminded him the countries he’d just mentioned had higher CO2 prices than us, and therefore his argument might appear completely wrong to anyone who, like, knew stuff. He just said “no, not at all” and continued on the same line. Like that was good enough.

    Which just goes to show its all about a generalised discursive culture war now; facts and policies are almost irrelevant to politics.

  58. Thanks RogerJ and Jess, yeah look no argument here from me, just wanted to aid public perception around issues with climate models. Thought these needed to be fleshed out some what to honor their complexity and aspects of their known unknowns. It appears the discussion on science side is based solely on what we do know on the various aspect of AGW. However, rarely we take time to acknowledge what we don’t know. Thus RogerJ, look forward to see examples re your skeptical perusal of climate projection analysis.

    However, I tend to agree with LeftyE in his summary, see above comment. It all has ended up in one of those awfully polarised situations where AGW has become a very emotional and existential challenging issue, but on a global scale. A pervasive issue that spreads its tentacle throughout most over our aspects of living, which makes it too an extremely complex issue.

    Thus, as I mentioned above comment, we need soon more than just an understanding of the narrative or discourse. What we need is a circuit breaker and responsible people starting to make decisions. Short little steps to great sweeping commitments towards an ethical and common future of all things we have learned to cherish. For such thing to happen we can only hope we have the leaders amongst us, who can take up that responsibility despite the hubris.

  59. Mercurius @74: My copied quote came from the bottom of the link you gave. The comment re ice extent this northern summer was a John D guess based on the expected increase in the area of older ice at the start of the melting season.

  60. News from China:

    China’s leaders have announced at the annual session of parliament that the country will take major steps to combat climate change.

    Premier Wen Jiabao says

    during the next five years the proportion of non fossil fuels in the country’s energy consumption should reach 11.4 percent, and that carbon emissions per unit of GDP should be reduced by 17 per cent.

    Premier Wen has also pledged to increase China’s forest cover by 22 per cent.

    All this can be achieved, he says, while maintaining economic growth of seven per cent over the next five years.

  61. LE, seems to me they are not convinced at all. Danny Price was just adding up their numbers and compared the Coalition approach to the CPRS. We can be sure that whatever comes up as a result of the climate committee’s deliberations it will be better than the CPRS.

    Greg Evans of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry didn’t offer an opinion as an economist, just the Chamber’s discredited line of ‘let’s not get ahead of the action internationally’.

Comments are closed.