Climate Change, Bjorn Lomborg, and why we need more nuclear power.


I’d really urge people to read Bjorn Lomborg more carefully.  He is a very good analyst but unfortunately he’s become a major lightning rod for controversy because people don’t like to hear such well presented views that challenge their sensibilities about global climate change policy.   Thus he’s often branded a “climate denier” when this is ridiculous.

Lomborg should certainly NOT be called a climate change “denier”. First, hose terms simply get people thinking irrationally about the issues, which are about science and policy.    Also because he *agrees* with even the most active activists that climate change is happening and that it poses risks to humanity.    He just feels those risks should be managed rationally in line with the many other challenges faced here on the planet. 

The basic science seems clear: 
* There is global warming – about a degree last century. 
* Most or all of that warming is very likely to be caused by humans via CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. 
* Increasing CO2 emissions, with China and USA leading the pack, will continue to influence the environment both as pollutants and as catalysts of warming.

So, up to here most climate activists and Lomborg would be in total agreement.

However, it’s the NEXT step that matters most in terms of policy, and that’s where I don’t agree at all with most activists.  Based on observations and current science papers, I’m not convinced that we are facing catastrophic environmental damage.   Sea level rise is very small and manageable.   Even the island nations of Tuvalu is actually *increasing* in land mass due to the complex geological patterns there that appear to be swamping out the effects of sea level rise.  

More importantly it’s very clear to me that *even if we are*, people are not willing to make the changes needed to lower C02 enough to matter more than to lower perhaps a few percent of the increased warming. 

Prioritizing our concerns matters because about a billion people are *currently* facing truly catastrophic conditions in terms of poverty and health in poor countries, and curbing C02 (which is expensive), will divert resources and make it harder for those countries to realize the higher standards that come from modern industrialization/globalization. 

Although I strongly believe that the first diversion of resources to fight poverty should come from our bloated defense budget – now topping a staggering 600 billion per year, I don’t want us to turn around and spend billions trying to stem environmental changes that are likely to happen anyway.   Let’s spend that on saving people *now*.

Berkeley Earth Project


The Berkeley Earth Project is a very ambitious attempt to accurately assess the state of “Global Warming” in a very systematic and scientific way, free from the many biases, politics, and advocacy challenges that have arguably plagued the process to date.      Preliminary findings are just out here a bit prematurely, as the director of the project Muller recently testified to the US Congress:  http://berkeleyearth.org/Resources/Muller_Testimony_31_March_2011

Note that the results here are based on 2% sample they are using to validate their methods before they apply that method to the entire set of some 1.6 billion temperature records, a project that they maintain (and I agree) will result in the best measure to date of global temperature change.

Not surprisingly the 2% looks a lot like the temperature record we see from the major measurers of such things – CRU in England and NASA in the USA.     My gut expectation about the final record is that it will reflect a slight decrease in observed warming along with a significant, though modest, increase in the “uncertainty” of such measurements.     Why?   That finding would be very consistent with the fact that most of the climate scientists are doing excellent work that is good and only very slightly compromised by the alarmist bent.   That bent can’t change the data but I think it has inclined those – particularly in Paleodendrochronology – to view questionable assumptions by other scientists too sympathetically.   Sort of a “circling of the wagons” has happened as tree ring science emerged from almost total obscurity to the single most important “climate signal” in the global warming controversies.  The politics and alarmism and advocacy have very unfortunately led to some questionable interpretations and assumptions despite the obvious which are nearly rock solid findings of a global temperature rise over the last century.

Berkeley Earth is a great approach and I’m anxious to see how their transparent and hopefully unimpeachable methodology will shed light on global warming / climate change issues.

P.S.  IMHO  1.there is slight global warming, 2. it’s mostly human caused,  3. it’s not going to hurt much and 4. (most importantly) YOU (and I, and even the most fervent alarmist) are almost completely unwilling to do the things needed to change our warming prospects enough that it would make more than a trivial difference in the scheme of things.    If you travel much via planes or cars, keep your house between 65 and 85 degrees, fail to retrofit much of your life to save energy, etc, etc, etc then you are THE PROBLEM and you are NOT PART OF THE “SOLUTION”.      Sorry, but you won’t change and many of you won’t even build nuclear power plants – part of the no-brainer solution to energy needs.

Stop calling me a climate skeptic just because I don’t believe in alarmism!


*scroll DOWN to skip to the summary*

I’m REALLY getting tired of so many friends and family calling me a global warming skeptic because 1. I am NOT a global warming skeptic and 2.  It distracts from the important debate over warming which is how much it will impact our lives.    There are really only two kinds of Global Warming Skeptics.  The first challenge the fact that the earth, on average, has been warming up a bit.   These folks are generally just stupid or stupidly adhering to the rants of people who are stupid, like Glenn Beck.    The earth is, on average over the last century, warming up.      Not much mind you – most estimates put the warming in the range of a degree C over the last century,  but clearly the earth is warming up a bit.

There is a second kind of global warming skeptic who believes that humans are not the cause of the observed warming.    FYI my misguided friends …  I am NOT in that camp either!     However a lot of bright folks are in that camp and are often scientifically challenging the idea that the observed warming of the last century is caused by human generated greenhouse gasses  or “GHCs”.   CO2 is usually cited as the main GHC culprit but there are several others like methane that are likely to play a role in observed warming.   GHCs are considered the main cause of the small observed warming if, like me, you believe the warming is caused by human activity.    So, I’m not THAT kind of skeptic either!   Some excellent skeptical discussion of warming is at  Climate Audit, the smartest of the “skeptic” blogs, and the counterpoint to Real Climate, the smartest of the blogs that discuss the science behind global warming.   Several key players in the Climate Debate post at RealClimate, many are distinuished NASA scientists.    I’d urge caution interpreting information from other places and even from these “very smart” blogs.   The comments at all blogs tend to be much more biased (often to the point of blatant stupidity) than the posts, which even at advocacy blogs are often somewhat informative  if you keep away from the personal or ego-driven junk.

Many blogs in the warming discussion take the form of advocating either for alarmism or skepticism rather than trying to review the science and the logical actions suggested by that science.   I’m particularly not fond of Joe Romm’s ridiculous  “Climate Progress” which is mostly a constant attack on even well-informed skepticism and dissent from the climate alarmist “party line”.   He seems to immediately ban  even well reasoned dissenters from the comments, leaving … a fools pool of alarmist nonsense and political advocacy.     Anthony Watts “Watts Up With That” is, IMHO, smarter and far more balanced than Climate Progress but is still pretty darn “skeptical”, tending to feature information that supports a skeptical view rather than promoting a more balanced perspective.

Summary:   I AM NOT A DAMN Climate SKEPTIC! However I am not worried much about global warming.  It’s impact so far has been trivial and it appears it will remain trivial, especially when we compare the likely impacts with current ongoing catastrophic conditions in much of the developing world, where water, disease, and poverty run rampant.   Let’s fix that stuff first, since we can actually have an impact in that arena, and fast.

P.S.  No, I have NOT changed my view about this, you just weren’t listening …   See?

Climate Change Projected Impacts from IPCC 4


As the climate debates continue we see an interesting – and familiar – pattern.   Even as most now claim to accept the premise that “disaster is looming”, few are willing to take the steps needed to prevent that disaster.    Although in my opinion disaster is NOT looming and many climate claims are either exaggerated or unscientific nonsense, it’s certainly clear that the planet is warming and that we’re going to experience changes – mostly negative – from that warming.

The challenges we may face that are listed below are should help shape efforts to mitigate the negative changes that are coming.   They also should serve as a yardstick of how much the climate alarmists are justified in their concerns about climate catastrophe.   Despite many decades of “global warming alarm” we have seen very few examples of trouble so far unless you attribute to global warming things like the Australian Wildfires (cause: arson) or Hurricane Katrina (cause: nature, faulty dikes).

Mitigation of problems is likely to be a lot more productive and less costly than trying to stop the warming, which would be hard to do even if we had the resolve to do it.  And of course we do NOT have the resolve to mitigate CO2 in more than very modest and largely inconsequential ways.   This should be pretty darn obvious to all by now given that even those who claim they are willing to make the needed lifestyle changes to mitigate CO2 are not making those changes, such as advocating for massive nuclear power deployment, cutting personal energy use by 80% or so, etc.

So, let’s actually do something productive by addressing water shortages *NOW* when they will do a lot more good than in the future.   Millions are currently in peril from human and natural catastrophic conditions in many areas – especially in the developing world.  Why fret over conditions that might threaten us in 2100 when we can easily mitigate water and crop shortages RIGHT NOW.   Let’s get to work people!

Examples of some projected impacts for different regions are given in Table SPM.2.

Africa
  • By 2020, between 75 and 250 million of people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.
  • By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.
  • Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations. The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5 to 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).scenarios (TS).
  • By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8% of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate
Asia
  • By the 2050s, freshwater availability in Central, South,East and South-East Asia, particularly in large river basins, is projected to decrease.
  • Coastal areas, especially heavily populated megadelta regions in South, East and South-East Asia, will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and, in some megadeltas, flooding from the rivers.
  • Climate change is projected to compound the pressures on natural resources and the environment associated with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and economic development.
  • Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diarrhoeal disease primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise in East, South and South-East Asia due to projected changes in the hydrological cycle.
Australia and New Zealand
  • By 2020, significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur in some ecologically rich sites, including the
  • Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics.
  • By 2030, water security problems are projected to intensify in southern and eastern Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and some eastern regions.
  • By 2030, production from agriculture and forestry is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increased drought and fire. However, in New Zealand, initial benefits are projected in some other regions.
  • By 2050, ongoing coastal development and population growth in some areas of Australia and New Zealand are projected to exacerbate risks from sea level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding.
Europe
  • Climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in Europe’s natural resources and assets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods and more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea level rise).
  • Mountainous areas will face glacier retreat, reduced snow cover and winter tourism, and extensive species losses (in some areas up to 60% under high emissions scenarios by 2080).
  • In southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity.
  • Climate change is also projected to increase the health risks due to heat waves and the frequency of wildfires.
Latin America
  • By mid-century, increases in temperature and associated decreases in soil water are projected to lead to gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia. Semi-arid vegetation will tend to be replaced by arid-land vegetation.
  • There is a risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction in many areas of tropical Latin America.
  • Productivity of some important crops is projected to decrease and livestock productivity to decline, with adverse consequences for food security. In temperate zones, soybean yields are projected to increase. Overall, the number of people at risk of hunger is projected to increase (TS; medium confidence).
  • Changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantly affect water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation.
North America
  • Warming in western mountains is projected to cause decreased snowpack, more winter flooding and reduced summer flows, exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources.
  • In the early decades of the century, moderate climate change is projected to increase aggregate yields of rain-fed agriculture by 5 to 20%, but with important variability among regions. Major challenges are projected for crops that are near the warm end of their suitable range or which depend on highly utilised water resources.
  • Cities that currently experience heat waves are expected to be further challenged by an increased number, intensity and duration of heat waves during the course of the century, with potential for adverse health impacts.
  • Coastal communities and habitats will be increasingly stressed by climate change impacts interacting with development and pollution.
Polar Regions
  • The main projected biophysical effects are reductions in thickness and extent of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice, and changes in natural ecosystems with detrimental effects on many organisms including migratory birds, mammals and higher predators.
  • For human communities in the Arctic, impacts, particularly those resulting from changing snow and ice conditions, are projected to be mixed.
  • Detrimental impacts would include those on infrastructure and traditional indigenous ways of life.
  • In both polar regions, specific ecosystems and habitats are projected to be vulnerable, as climatic barriers to species invasions are lowered.
Small Islands
  • Sea level rise is expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihood of island communities.
  • Deterioration in coastal conditions, for example through erosion of beaches and coral bleaching, is expected to affect local resources.
  • By mid-century, climate change is expected to reduce water resources in many small islands, e.g. in the Caribbean and Pacific, to the point where they become insufficient to meet demand during low-rainfall periods.
  • With higher temperatures, increased invasion by non-native species is expected to occur, particularly on mid- and high-latitude islands.

Global Warming – what’s to come?


Today’s report on the IPCC “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” suggests that although the science is now clear, the politics are getting in the way of the credibility of the IPCC and climate science in general.   Unfortunately in my view we are not debating the important items about warming, which relate not so much to the science (that proves there is warming and suggests strongly that it’s caused by humans), but relate to whether we can do anything about this and how dangerous the warming will be for humanity.    In my view there is little to do now regardless of how dangerous the warming is to humanity, but it’s also unlikely the dangers are anything like they have been advertised by many in the activist community.

So I’m hoping to explore each of the following talking points in the coming months:

Climate change Impacts from NATURE CONSERVANCY:

It should be clear to everybody that the earth has warmed a bit over the past century – most scientists believe about  0.8 degrees.     It’s also *fairly* clear now that humans are almost certainly responsible for most of that warming, although there is more intelligent criticism of that idea than many believe   (climateaudit.org is the best source for the “smart skeptic” POV).

But far more relevant that those two issues are the following two issues:

1.   How will this affect us?

2.  What can we do about warming?

…. to be continued …

Climate Science Scandal – will Paleo Dendrochronology survive?


For new readers please NOTE  that I am NOT a climate skeptic, I am just wondering why groupthink seems so pervasive in the climate science community, especially over at the key climate blog RealClimate .

Update: Two very thoughtful and balanced pieces written – by climate scientist Judy Curry – and by Peter Kelemen at Popular Mechanics .

Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take on this.

Here are the infamous hacked emails.

There’s a remarkable development today on the climate front [thanks to Glenn for the link in the earlier post].   A huge amount of climate data, including some remarkable emails between scientists, have been hacked from the University of Anglia in England.   These mails and data may shed some light on some of the more contentious points in climate science.

The odd methods and math seem especially conspicuous in tree ring studies of climate trends.   Called Paleo Dendrochronology, these studies are VERY often used either alone or with other data in climate studies and often are used alone or with other data to make the case that global climate change is potentially catastrophic.

The best scientific work critical of global warming science seems to focus mostly  on attacking this weakest link – or should I say the weakest rings – over at ClimateAudit.org.

Here is a great balanced view at UK Guardian of the story so far:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/20/climate-sceptics-hackers-leaked-emails

A critical view of the implications of this data is here at ClimateAudit

A sympathetic view is here at RealClimate where   I tried to post I posted this comment and I appreciate the good sportsmanship of them letting it through moderation.   When they do allow me to post this type of comment I wonder if I’ve been too hard on them for what seems like censorship, but possibly could be the crappy posting system they have over there where moderation, timestamps, and other factors seem to confuse everybody.

Somebody naively wondered why there are so few comments on this post. IMO the answer is that RealClimate is effectively content-censored to a large degree for conformance with the prevailing ideas here.

Uninformed dissenters are sometimes let in so the comment crew can bash them around, but reasoned dissenters are usually banned outright. Many don’t bother trying to post here for that very reason.

Gavin in the interest of transparency would you at least roughly estimate how many of the comments have been moderated out for this post? I would guess 95% have been zapped.

<i>[RealClimate wrote]  Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem” </i>

Could you give a few examples? I searched right here at Realclimate for uses of that term they tend to relate to “trickery”, not good science.

More climate updates:   Here’s the Copenhagen Diagnosis,  an excellent summary of the latest climate science  since the last big IPCC report.    For the record I do think this does suffer from the prevailing “somewhat alarmist” tone in some of the interpretations of the research.   For example a key observation is the current pause in warming noted by satellite measures, and this is given short shrift here.