Do people still care about climate change?


by Guest    
9:49 am - September 20th 2011

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contribution by Climate Sock

In the last two years, we’ve heard repeated claims that people are becoming less worried about climate change. The UEA email release – Climategate – has been blamed, though after trial may well have been innocent.

And despite some attempts to hype up the change in mood, opinion seemed to bounce back to near where it had been before.

So if it wasn’t UEA – or indeed Glaciergate – that changed people’s minds, perhaps it was the cold winters. And so perhaps the next one might do the same.

But on the other hand, maybe it was all down to the economy that had made climate change a relatively low priority.

Indeed perhaps all this is a misdiagnosis of people’s boredom with the argument between two rival camps. Just because they say they’re sick of the argument doesn’t mean they’re not worried about climate change.

Campaigns and politics

So all isn’t lost for climate change campaigners. People would even go along with higher environmental taxes in some situations (not that these are necessarily the answer). But making climate change about cute animals misses the mark, at least in the short term.

But there’s still work to do to show why climate change is a tangible environmental problem, though connecting with worries about an energy shortage doesn’t seem to be the answer.

We’ve seen the need to learn the lessons of professional communications campaigns, as well – perhaps – as from a couple of unexpected NGOs. And above all, campaigners need to avoid letting governments be seen as the only ones dealing with climate change.

Talking of politics, the 2010 election presented some interesting challenges for the major parties. We saw Caroline Lucas elected as a Green MP, and relatively strong prospects for the Greens to win more seats. Though outside Brighton, the last election wasn’t great for them, despite fighting some interesting battles.

In Australia, talking about climate change seems to have become ever more of a contact sport and was kept out of the general election, which yielded more challenges for the Greens. But despite the ferocity, it looks like climate change is still a major worry for Australians.

Energy and energy disasters

It’s been two years of environmental calamities that have caused only minor tremors on the polling charts.

The Gulf of Mexico spill wreaked environmental havoc but hardly revolutionised US attitudes to off-shore drilling. Fukushima also didn’t cause much of a stir in views of nuclear power, at least in the US and UK.

At least the nuclear disaster did remind us how much the nuclear industry like polling (a lot, and they really aren’t afraid to use it). Which is a little odd, because the best their polls ever show is nuclear being grudgingly accepted.

Good polls and bad polls

And the constant backdrop to all the numbers has been the twin frustrations of good polls being badly reported, and bad polls being unquestioningly reported.

Even the good guys sometimes do bad polls, and the way polls are reported can do a lot to fix the problem. But that doesn’t always happen and that’s why there’s still a need for nerds to check the data.

A longer version of this post can be read here.

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Reader comments


I think it is almost certainly the recession that has put the idea of action on climate on the back burner for many people. That perhaps coupled with the colder winters (though they may actually increase in number due to climate change), and a cool summer and dulled perception of it’s importance.

With the recession people have moved that concern up the list of worries and climate change down and who can blame them yet ironically action against climate change is one of the biggest opportunities to stimulate the economy, an opportunity that is currently being mostly missed by this government in my opinion.

I would add to the factors you identify the lack of action or growth in emissions of other major polluters. The Tragedy of the Commons is being played out on a global scale.

Climate Change (MMGW) has become like the well reviewed book you are reading slowly, put down for a while, then decide not to pick it up again because you realise you don’t think much of it.

Let’s face it: It’s lost it’s momentum and people are much happier being irate with tangible enemies such as bankers and politicians instead hypothetical models which might harm their descendants or ‘Johnny Foreigner’ living perilously on the other side of the globe.

Whereas I hate to spoil a good love in – i would like to comment here to represent the many people on the left who feel that for too long our political ‘wing’ has been sapped of intellectual and campaigning energy by the Anthropogenic Global Warming movement – based on a thesis which is as unprovable as it is unfalsifiable. When there are cuts, joblosses and of course the perennial issues of global poverty, inequality and war to worry about, I find it a complete wonder that anyone has time to worry about this abstract thesis.
The above article claims the ‘movement’ has seen the need to ‘learn the lesson of professional communications campaigns’ – on the contrary I would argue that the AGW movement has employed the most slick and successful communications and pressure group strategy of modern times. It is hard to watch a few hours of tv without the notion that the word is going to end being once more parroted – despite a shred of empirical evidence that C02 is the driver of the tiny 0.7 degree temperature rise (questionably) measured over the past century. This despite there being much, much more pressing issues all around for those of a left leaning political conscience – but of course these are always trumped by the timeless threat that it is ‘the end of the world’.
As for fukushima not making waves in the media – really? All I heard was fear of meltdown/radiation in Japan reported for weeks on end – this following the tragic deaths of 20,000 people to drowning, poisoning and cholera. The sum human damage of the fukushima incident was one unfortunate employee receiving a radiation dose equivalent to that one would get from eating a banana a day for a year. This plant performed marvellously in the face of the largest earthquake and tsumami ever recorded in japan – way beyond what its 1970s design was engineered to withstand, and a testament to the safety of nuclear power. No one died, I may note – in the week that four more have been lost to the coal industry. Both issues display the mass irrationality fear and anti-science which sap so much from our polity. I welcome the time when the left is able to get real on both issues and concentrate on real issues once again.
Yours, a rationalist

Kojack,

There is more that enough tangible scientific data for a changing climate even if most people do not yet directly feel it’s effects. This has little to do with ‘hypothetical models’ and it needs to be considered by governments as seriously as they did when the took action on acid train and ozone depletion.

I don’t fear climate change. I do however find the various strategies and increasing costs in an attempt to avoid said change very worrying indeed, (and lets face it even if you exaggerate to the dangers to the point of Goreness, what little impact we can make on it is not worth the cost).

The GW warming debate is flawed on every level.

The UEA study was a great insight into the minds of these people and their flawed moral belief that the ‘ends’ justify the means (and the official enquiry does not prove anything).

Even if you believe that a) temperature levels are going up and that b) CO2 levels, released from fossil fuels are predominantly causing it (rather than being released AFTER a warm period/solar activity), then you have to realise that India and China’s development leading to increasing energy demands will mean that any CO2 agreement between western nations is irrelevant.

Furthermore this crazy idea that transferring more money to the government will stop CO2 levels is also irrational too as well as all the corruption between Al Gore types and big industry.

So, regardless of whether you believe the science to be true or not, the argument is flawed on every other level.

Lazarus re comment 5:

Theank you for your message.

I refer you to elbapo’s comment 4 (which is said far more eloquently than I am able).

Whether you consider there to be sufficient tangible data to support your position it still remains a risk and it doesn’t matter one iota when it is compared to the enormity of disruption caused by the banking collapse and the current political malaise. These are events which effect people directly, generally making them poorer, far less secure and less prone to dwell upon luxuries such as MMGW.

Also the recent downturn in the economy has acted as a general lesson about how fragile economies are and how difficult / impossible it would be to implement much of the proposed burdensome structural changes to the economy without halting economic growth altogether.

9. ManFromClaphamOmnibus

I think Roshan comments indicate one reason why the environmental debate is going nowhere. The notion that the increase in CO2 levels is subject to belief rather than scientific fact is one great reason that Global warming should not be left to a strategy that the voters buy into. Governments should direct the means whereby the effects are mitigated where possible. In this they have totally failed; international agreement continues to be a farce whilst individual Governments have made little progress since issue emerged in the 70′s. Asking people to buy into global warming is pretty much like asking us all to solve the debt crisis. I get it! I think that GW is a fact! Now what do I do???? Actually I’d like to be like Falco except like a lot of people I think the globe will be pretty much wiped out in the not to distant future.

“The notion that the increase in CO2 levels is subject to belief rather than scientific fact”

No one, really no one at all has been disputing the rise in CO2 concentration, only its significance. All the catastrophic scenarios require that CO2, (including other emissions measured as CO2 equivalents), is the only significant driver of climate change and that significant positive feedbacks are involved. It is in these areas that disputes have arisen.

What about pumping sulphur into the stratosphere . There is a highly plausible theory that this might adjust the alleged apocalyptic problem in fact they are testing it now .
Lets say it works and ask these interesting questions about the Green movement
1 Would they be upset if science discovered a cheap and simple solution ?
2 Would they viscerally hate anything that was “meddling with nature “?
3 Would they return to ordinary life or find some other reason for us all to be panicked into returning to the dark ages
4 Can we rely on the endless scientists making a living out of the panic to give such a solution impartial advice?
5 Would the international bodies, the EU , UN et all who use panic to justify a loss of sovereignty be happy to see the problem solved ?

Gives you an idea why some people inastictively distrust the Greenies

@ManFromClaphamOmnibus

Do you realise the irony of your comments?

The debt crisis was created by governments in collusion with banks and their ‘solutions’ only solve the ‘problems’ for the banks at the expense of everyone else. Iceland, where they jailed and did not bail out the bankers has come out of recession (i.e. did what governments should do – enforce the rule of law).

Kojak, elbapo and Roshan

You appear show that you cannot separate the politics from the science. The science is clear and has been for decades. The so called ‘Green House’ effect is well established school boy physics. If you increase the amount of green house gasses in the atmosphere then temperatures will go up. Humanity is doing just that and temperatures are going up according to any credible measurement.

Increasing temperatures will melt ice, will raise sea levels, will alter weather, seasonal norms, flood and drought patterns. To cope living things will alter their ranges if possible or be adversely affected if they can’t. If the greenhouse gas is CO2 ocean acidity will alter affecting ocean ecosystems. There is absolutely nothing controversial about these basic scientific facts. There is growing data showing that all this has started to occur. None of this relies on ‘hypothetical models’.

Although many models are necessarily complicated all they do is take this data, make assumptions that we will continue to increase our emissions and apply the laws of physics. But we don’t need science to take graphs of temperature records, weather extremes, ice loss, etc and continue the trend lines into the future.

The current research, which is the best information we currently have to base any policies on, indicate that the changes that will occur following these trends are predominately bad for all concerned.

That is all the science really concludes. There is no agenda in any of this and anyone who dismisses it is denying the best conclusions we have from science.

Anything else, for example what we should do about it if anything, is just politics. It seems that some posters here think we shouldn’t do anything or adopt a policy to just wait and see – which is fine if based on the known science and most probable outcomes but I get the impression that some are not even accepting that and are therefore not really talking part in the discussion that really needs to be had.

Paul Newman

Pumping sulphur into the stratosphere may reduce warming. It is still very much on the drawing board but may provide a valuable tool to use in future. But it will certainly alter weather patterns so it can’t really be done with out international agreement and aid to countries that end up being adversely affected.

Also it provides no solution for increasing ocean acidification.

They will when the crops don’t grow.

@4. elbapo

Whereas I hate to spoil a good love in – i would like to comment here to represent the many people on the left who feel that for too long our political ‘wing’ has been sapped of intellectual and campaigning energy by the Anthropogenic Global Warming movement – based on a thesis which is as unprovable as it is unfalsifiable. When there are cuts, joblosses and of course the perennial issues of global poverty, inequality and war to worry about, I find it a complete wonder that anyone has time to worry about this abstract thesis.

If this “abstract thesis” backed, incidentally, by a large volume of irrefutable evidence means that large parts of the globe may become uninhabitable, leading potentially to wars, famines and the deaths of billions. Then no, perhaps it is not surprisng that people find time to worry about it.

Lazarus,
Forgive me for having talked politics on a politics site, but my complaint about the AGW movement is exactly that the whole thing has become so political, and can no longer claim to be scientific. Indeed I was calling for a separation of science and politics – the very thing the AGW movement has sought to consistently blur the lines over for the last three decades.
On your claims – a quick skim read here – nobody has claimed C02 is not a greenhouse gas – just whether the claims of this as a driver have been exaggerated beyond all rationality by interested parties.
And No – increased C02 will not ‘mean temperatures will go up’ – they may mean that the earths albedo is more absorptive of the sun’s heat however there has never been any evidence c02 drives the temperature in the past, or at present either – it is an insulator not a heat source. The debate even amongst the ‘warmers’ is about the effect of feedbacks – not the negligible effect of carbon insulation.
‘To cope all living things will be adversely affected?’ – what evidence do you have for this except blind belief – or perhaps the greenpeace website? Historically warmer conditions have been favourable to all life not least human beings & agriculture – and led to more fertile and stable climactic conditions. It is colder conditions which have been bad for life on earth and humans beings. I could cite but seeing as your into blind faith you will just have to believe me.
As for models, well firstly no proper scientist ever hypothesises upon the real world and then uses a computer simulation to verify their hypothesis – but believe it or not this is the premise on which paper after paper of ‘peer reviewed’ climate science wrests. On top of this (the supposedly conservative) IPCC computer models have spewed out results which have been consistently empirically undermined by the actual global temperatures over the last 15 years, despite increasing C02 levels. I will cite on this one http://bit.ly/qtZ1Be as th results are so plain to see – now ask me if im surprised if people have forgotten about global warming when there has been no measurable warming for a decade and a half.?? – This is no surprise – the complexity of all the variables and feebacks within an entire atmoshphere are so insurmountable that it is an act of huge hubris to attempt to ‘model’ this let alone predict outcomes based on one variable.
Finally , The term ‘Science is clear’ and ‘the science is settled’ is never true of anything in science– such assertions are indeed anathema to real scientists. And most certainly this cannot be claimed of this highly politicised issue – it is only those with an (political?) agenda or an interest who would ever seriously claim this is so.
Now have I separated the science from the politics enough for you?
As for those of you who contemplate purposefully poisoning our atmosphere (or ocean seeding and other crazies) to counteract the effect of a known unknown –I await the disaster movie in a dystopian future where the ecosystem has been f**d by well meaning environmentalists…

@graham – as per my above comment about the nature of sceince – i loved your comment even more than lazarus’s. You may hold an irrefutable beleif but not an irrefutable hypothesis, and i topically refer you to the resignation letter to the American physical Society of of Dr Ivan Glaever http://bit.ly/pdJVVh

Lazarus.. but a small scale adjustment using atmospheric leverage ( and it would be small scale ) is nothing like the doomed mega project to stop the world using fossil fuels and we could dispense with 99.9% of the fellow travellers.
Having established that we need solutions not hair shirts we may proceed rationally on ..whatever it is you think is going to kill us next. Without the global quasi government parasites and guilt sellers
I think the “science is established ” thing is a bit patronising It is also established that smoking gives you cancer, to what extent second hand smoking does is less obvious but the science is equally established….” The science is established” means absolutely nothing .. scientifically speaking .

“And No – increased C02 will not ‘mean temperatures will go up’ – they may mean that the earths albedo is more absorptive of the sun’s heat however there has never been any evidence c02 drives the temperature in the past,”

Albedo usually refers to visible light. CO2 and other greenhouse gases absorb light outside the visible spectrum. The Earth’s albedo can be affected indirectly by CO2 through raised temperatures – for example loss of sea ice, an example of positive feedback. There is ample evidence for the impact of greenhouse gases on climate – why is the Earth 34 c warmer than it should be given our distance from the Sun? How are the Earth’s small orbital changes amplified into Glacials and Interglacials? Why is Venus hotter than Mercury? More CO2 in the atmosphere has to mean more heat is retained. The climate sensitivity to CO2 and other emissions are subject to uncertainty as are the extent of feedbacks, but uncertainty cuts both ways.

Finally, there is a reason postings on WUWT such as the one you link to don’t make it into the scientific literature – because they are invariably unreliable and don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. I prefer not to waste my time on them when there is stuff out there that is in published scientific literature.

Paul A – it was my undrstanding that albedo can be used to refer to a surfaces reflective capacity across the whole light spectrum incuding therefore infrared heat radiation – however , apols if i have used this term incorrectly.
The links to WUWT website were as a result of a quick googling for information and it is coincidence only (albeit a good relfection upon this website) that this ended up being my link to this. As per above – i never have nor will dispute the ‘greenhouse’ effect indeed this a very welcome and necessary precondition of life on this planet. I take issue with the level to which some present this as the driver of present ‘climate change’, the alarmism spread by some over this issue and how this has served to skew politics and political energies away from tangible, solvable (including other environmental) issues.
There are numerous peer reviewed articles which back this up, including four on the albedo affect of cloud formation which have been published in recent weeks.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/aug/24/cloud-formation-study-climate-models
http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=lindzen+and+choi+On+the+Observational+Determination+of+Climate+Sensitivity+and+Its+Implications&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholar
thttp://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/Spencer_Misdiagnos_11.pdf
http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonlinelibrary.wiley.com%2Fdoi%2F10.1002%2Fmet.285%2Fabstract&ei=Eqp4TsDXLcuz8QPQhOmEDQ&usg=AFQjCNHUHR0xcnUktDUjktyGNjbH6WJ2ag&sig2=WMUvMmOMewDHGdSbrZ1agw

The sheer repetitiousness of this non-debate that is acted out every time this topic appears is enough to explain why the general public want nothing to do with it.

I suspect there is a general consciousness that there is an issue, but that it’s confused due to the lies of the denialists.

However this is an issue where governments and the public need to act in concert as the effort required to mitigate AGW is so great. That is why the lies of the denialists are so cynical and insidious.

If there is one area that aptly illustrates the sheer wickedness of the current radical right-wing ideology this is it.

Ah yes Cherub, it’s all the fault of people crazy enough to disagree with you and who have become sceptical, not because of repeated misrepresentation and outright lying on the catastrophist side, but simply because they are evil by nature.

Still you do make an excellent exemplar for the tediousness of this business.

@ Falco

Zzzz

If anyone browsing and unfamiliar with the usual arguments was tempted to grant any validity to the points raised by elbapo, they are covered in great detail here:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/01/uncertainty-noise-and-the-art-of-model-data-comparison/

What it shows is exactly what anyone should expect: the trends over such short periods are variable; sometimes small, sometimes large, sometimes negative – depending on which year you start with. The mean of all the 8 year trends is close to the long term trend (0.19ºC/decade), but the standard deviation is almost as large (0.17ºC/decade), implying that a trend would have to be either >0.5ºC/decade or much more negative (< -0.2ºC/decade) for it to obviously fall outside the distribution. Thus comparing short trends has very little power to distinguish between alternate expectations.

To put it another way, if the data was so unambiguous it was impossible to lie about it, there would already be deserts in Surrey and vineyards on Greenland.

Soru – I respect the work of those realclimate and your opinion. I would like it known that I was an avid reader/beleiver in such sites myself for many years – and i still count myself as an environmentalist. In that capacity i became dissapionted by all the oxygen used up by this debatable issue – when there are issues with no debate around them getting largely ignored (like species extinction or industrial land poinsoning let alone all the political stuff). Eventually I became dissilusioned with the inflationary rhetoric, academic bullying and suppression used by the whole ‘climate community’ against their opponents and started to see that thier evidence is as selective as anyone elses. All of which i see a consistent with the behaviour of a paradigm being undermined and defended by those with an interest in its maintainence (a la Thomas Kuhn). I encourage everybody to read around and make their own minds up. But it is no surprise to me that people are getting fed up with this. Over and out.

27. Robin Levett

@Falco, elbapo, Kojak:

You’re entitled to your own beliefs; you aren’t entitled to your own facts.

We’ve known for well over a century that:

– Most sunlight reaches the surface of the Earth at or near visible wavelengths;
– The Earth, being cooler than the Sun, then re-radiates at a longer wavelength – ie at IR wavelengths
– CO2 (as other greenhouse gasses) is transparent to visible light;
– CO2 is not transparent to longer wavelength IR; it absorbs and re-radiates it, in all directions;
– the net effect of the above propositions is that energy is retained in the Earth system longer than it would be in the absence of CO2
– energy retained in such a system is held as heat energy
– this leads to a higher global equilibrium temperature (by c30K) than would pertain in the absence of CO2

We know that we have dug up and burned a massive amount of fossil carbon. That carbon had been taken out of the carbon cycle by its fossilisation as oil, gas and coal.

We know that that the carbon content of the atmosphere has increased over the period we have been burning fossil fuels.

We know that the carbon we have burned is more than enough to account for the increase in atmospheric CO2; and acidification of the oceans gives a clue as to where the rest has gone. That raises another problem; as ocean temperatures increase, they will be unable to retain the absorbed CO2 and will start outgassing CO2 – as happened in the past during the exits from ice-ages, where the initial warming appears to have been an effect of Milankovitch orbital changes.

We know that the increase does indeed represent fossil carbon, because of the isotope ratio; fossil fuel has essentially no radiocarbon, whose half-life is measured in tens of thousands of years, while fossil fuels have been buried for hundreds of millions of years.

All that being known, it would be astonishing if the Earth’s temperature were not increasing. As it happens, our thermometers show that it has been; as does the Arctic.

There is however a lot of inertia in the system; it will take tens of years for the system to reach a new equilibrium, so temperatures will continue to rise.

Given all that, the burden is on the deniers to explain why temperatures will not increase if we continue to push the system away from equilibrium.

Re: Those denialists,

It’s amazing that they have a very special kind of perspicacity that reveals a huge international conspiracy of scientists and environmentalists, yet somehow misses the vested interests behind the denial movement.

Hey guys, here’s some stuff from some fellow travellers. You must be proud!
http://photobucket.com/images/dinosaur+jesus/

when there are issues with no debate around them getting largely ignored (like species extinction or industrial land poinsoning let alone all the political stuff).

Give it time. If those areas have less debate, it is mostly because noone has focused the effort required to create one.

There is enough wiggle room on the scientific definition of a species, or what counts as a poison, to allow anyone sufficiently motivated to create material that makes the case that none of things are worth worrying about either. Countering that would require an endless amount of time and effort to identify and document the gaps in the logic.

As an exercise, there is a theory called _radiation homesis_, that low-dose radiation is not merely not dangerous, but actively beneficial. First couple of websites google found promoting that theory are:

http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/inthorm.html

http://www.radpro.com/641luckey.pdf

Just think how much work it would be to go over all those links and paper references, and debunk them one by one, without making any of the three fatal errors that will cause you to lose the argument ( rudeness, technical tedium or over-simplification). And by the time you have done the first 20, another 10 have popped up and are being chain-emailed around.

Might as well just give up, let the power company enrich the water with uranium dust, and move onto something less controversial. Just make sure your new campaign topic is either never going to be implemented, or is something noone with any money has any reason to object to.

30. Northern Worker

Do people still care about climate change? No.

People have noticed two things. That even if the man-made global warming theory is right, and it might be, nothing this tiny country does will make any difference. (Tell me, exactly what fall in global temperature will happen if the UK meets its obligations and exactly by when?)

The other thing is energy bills. In these hard times, people know full well that energy bills are going up partly because of the coalitions policies about green energy. We are not stupid.

31. Leon Wolfson

People are not dumb. They realise what “green” energy (i.e. funding renewable obligation generators) means for their energy bills, at a time when they just can’t afford it.

Monbiot is right – we should go nuclear.

I am sure that awareness of the consequences of global warming remain in people’s minds but perhaps people are thinking differently, or in some cases thinking more rigorously.

The climate change lobby, established in the 1990s when we in the UK and the west thought that we were rich, proffered energy and lifestyle policies on that basis. Developing nations thought differently, but they aren’t rich, of course. Now that we have woken up to the fact that we were mortgaged to the hilt (but still rich), perceptions have changed.

The biggest awakening is that we can’t afford to buy renewable energy that costs more in the long run than energy from traditional sources. In the long run for traditional energy sources, I include the mitigation costs for environmental damage. I don’t know how you can put a cost on the loss of low lying islands, but sadly they will disappear whatever we do. When people lose their homes, we need a human response to that problem. Waffling on about CO2 emissions won’t make a blind bit of difference because some communities are already doomed.

I agree absolutely that the west needs to invest in renewable energy research. Research increases human knowledge which is never a bad thing; but we have to acknowledge that early generations of renewable energy sources are, frankly, going to be crap for Northern Europeans. The Shetland Islands have little sunlight and too much (invariable) wind for a turbine. So we invest in research, and we do not piss away money on ventures for which there is no economic advantage. I believe that there will be a solution for Shetland and for Scunthorpe, but it isn’t here now.

Times have changed, although you would not perceive that if your sole source of information was Chris Huhne. The UK should and will invest in reliable, consistent, cheap, renewable energy resources. That is what eventually will happen when the technology makes it happen. Huhne is a complete knob if he thinks that electricity consumers (ie you) should indirectly pay three or four times the going rate for electricity provided by a micro-provider who cannot guarantee regular supply.

[Disclaimer: I am not 100% convinced by anthropomorphic global warming arguments. I accept that the climate is changing and wish that more people would think about the communities who will be affected. And gas and oil are too useful to squander.]

33. Leon Wolfson

@30 – We cannot rely on future pie-in-the-sky technologies. Especially when there is a proven low-carbon solution today, which has relatively low running costs, and which there is a reasonable extension with many other benefits which should be commercially viable within a decade or so at the current rate of research.

That’s nuclear power, and the thorium cycle, respectively.

Arguing with Cherub – suddenly realise: tinyurl.com/38evrhs

Perhaps if you acknowledge the odd criticism about some very poor science it would be possible to make some progress.

35. douglas clark

Ré Leon Woolfson @ 31,

Or, more realistically, the hydrogen generating bugs.

@33 – Firstly, commercial viability remains to be determined, and secondly it’s probably a long time before they can possibly come to market at scale. There’s also the issue of how to get enough biomass for them without affecting crop prices.

We should be building the nuclear plants today.

sad to say that I think more people have died from minng coal than from running a nuclear reactor this year, even after yukishima. Mining coal is a risky business. Running a reactor is not, because of the safeguards. And if greenies think that running a turbine offshore is risk-free, ask them to repair a rotor during a North Sea or North Atlantic gail…how many would be prepared to climb up 200 metres in 90 mph winds to repair a rotor?

@13

Posted a reply, but was not accepted for some reason.

Listen: the science is far from accepted (asking the IPCC is a bit like the Manchester United supporters club renaming themselves football club supporters organisation and then asking them who the best team is). In fact, a 31,000 petition from academics denouncing global warming is reported today.

The upper echelons of people involved are rotten, seek to profit hugely from this climate change and lie when it suits them (UEA etc, Al Gore, General Electric will make money from this, Pauchauri etc.).

Even if CO2 levels have a role to play, massive wealth transfers do not reduce CO2 and certainly de-industrialisation is not the way to go.

39. So Much For Subtlety

27. Robin Levett

You’re entitled to your own beliefs; you aren’t entitled to your own facts.

Indeed. But that works both ways.

We’ve known for well over a century that:

– The Earth, being cooler than the Sun, then re-radiates at a longer wavelength – ie at IR wavelengths

Sorry but what? What has the sun got to do with it?

– CO2 (as other greenhouse gasses) is transparent to visible light;

No. Not all Greenhouse gases are transparent to visible light. Even CO2 isn’t in the right circumstances, but those do not commonly occur in our atmosphere. However the main Greenhouse gas – water – is very definitely not transparent to visible light in a wide range of conditions, which are commonly found in our atmosphere. Anyone who doubts this can go outside and look up. The chances of it being a clear day in Britain are small.

– the net effect of the above propositions is that energy is retained in the Earth system longer than it would be in the absence of CO2

Taken in isolation, yes. But CO2 is not a major Greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is one of many. The main one is water. The other thing you are ignoring is that those clouds do play a major role. Quite what no one knows, but even the New Scientist admits that shipping cools the planet because of contrails as do airplanes. So it is likely to be important.

- this leads to a higher global equilibrium temperature (by c30K) than would pertain in the absence of CO2

Most of that 30 K is caused by water, not by CO2. The estimates are that a doubling of CO2 levels would mean another 1 or 2 K. Not another 30.

We know that the carbon we have burned is more than enough to account for the increase in atmospheric CO2; and acidification of the oceans gives a clue as to where the rest has gone.

There has been no significant acidification.

All that being known, it would be astonishing if the Earth’s temperature were not increasing. As it happens, our thermometers show that it has been; as does the Arctic.

Except that for all intents and purposes, the Earth’s temperature has not been rising. We only have good data since the 1970s and they show little more than normal fluctuations.

There is however a lot of inertia in the system; it will take tens of years for the system to reach a new equilibrium, so temperatures will continue to rise.

They are not rising now so it is unlikely they will continue to rise in the future.

Given all that, the burden is on the deniers to explain why temperatures will not increase if we continue to push the system away from equilibrium.

No it is not. You claim something stupid, you need to defend it. The Earth is not in an equilibrium and if it is, we are not pushing it away from it. There simply is no good reason to think we have a problem. The Earth has been around for a long time. It has had much much higher CO2 levels. It has been warmer, it has been colder. It is still here. It is not going to go away, and we are not going to be even remotely inconvenienced if the temperature rises another 1 or 2 K.

40. So Much For Subtlety

37. diogenes

sad to say that I think more people have died from minng coal than from running a nuclear reactor this year, even after yukishima. Mining coal is a risky business.

Given zero people died from nuclear power this year, Fukushima killing no one at all, that is not a difficult bet. Welsh mines killed more people this year. Yet the Germans are not going to be closing down their coal industry.

And if greenies think that running a turbine offshore is risk-free, ask them to repair a rotor during a North Sea or North Atlantic gail…how many would be prepared to climb up 200 metres in 90 mph winds to repair a rotor?

Falls are a major source of industrial deaths in the West. Virtually all forms of renewable energy require people to go up on ladders and do dangerous things, like clean solar panels. We can expect a reasonable death toll from such activities. Yet somehow for Greens someone killed by radiation is more dead than someone who falls. I wonder if the widows care?

41. So Much For Subtlety

13. Lazarus

The science is clear and has been for decades. The so called ‘Green House’ effect is well established school boy physics. If you increase the amount of green house gasses in the atmosphere then temperatures will go up. Humanity is doing just that and temperatures are going up according to any credible measurement.

No. The world is vastly more complex than the High School science lab. We do not know that increasing Greenhouse gases will make the temperature go up. And in fact they have conspicuously failed to do so in the last 100 years as far as we can tell. It is true that the effects of more water or more CO2 are easily shown in the Lab but in the real world the system is vastly more complex. So it does not necessarily work that way.

Increasing temperatures will melt ice, will raise sea levels, will alter weather, seasonal norms, flood and drought patterns. To cope living things will alter their ranges if possible or be adversely affected if they can’t.

If temperatures increase. Which they are not. But it may do these things. And they may be bad. Or they may be good. We don’t know yet.

Although many models are necessarily complicated all they do is take this data, make assumptions that we will continue to increase our emissions and apply the laws of physics. But we don’t need science to take graphs of temperature records, weather extremes, ice loss, etc and continue the trend lines into the future.

No they do not. We do not understand the physics. The physics is so complicated that it is unlikely we will ever understand the physics. Thus the models do not represent the physics but a gross dumbing down of the physics, or to put it more simply, they reflect the prejudices of their programmers. We don’t need science for those things but if we did make those graphs we would find that temperatures are not going up, the weather is no more extreme, ice loss is not unusual and is not taking place most places and so on. Projecting those into the future is dangerous and pointless without proper understanding.

The current research, which is the best information we currently have to base any policies on, indicate that the changes that will occur following these trends are predominately bad for all concerned.

No it is not. There is no real current research on these effects and the impacts will be mixed at best. Probably, in the short term anyway, positive.

That is all the science really concludes. There is no agenda in any of this and anyone who dismisses it is denying the best conclusions we have from science.

Except the science is not saying that.

14. Lazarus

Pumping sulphur into the stratosphere may reduce warming. It is still very much on the drawing board but may provide a valuable tool to use in future. But it will certainly alter weather patterns so it can’t really be done with out international agreement and aid to countries that end up being adversely affected.

Yeah, bet we’re all sorry we listened to the Greens and did something about acid rain aren’t we? Turns out it was probably keeping us cool. But it can and will be done without international agreement. China is doing it right now with their coal fired power stations. Nor do we have any obligation to aid anyone.

Also it provides no solution for increasing ocean acidification.

Which is yet to be shown to be a problem. Or even exist.

15. Marty Mcfly

They will when the crops don’t grow.

They will when the Avenging Angel of the Lord wields his flaming sword on all true sinners as well. I would take bets that the aforesaid Angel is a bigger risk than crops not growing. In the meantime, more CO2 will mean higher crop yields.

42. Leon Wolfson

@38 – Sure, “only” 98% of climate scientists agree.

Incidentally, only about 96% of biologists agree with evolution.

If 31,000 Christians submitted a petition against Evolution, under your reasoning…

@39 – Only good data since the 70′s? Really? 1850 for ground-based records, and proxy data is also high informative. High-atmosphere testing, which has indeed only been giving good samples since the 70′s, has indicated a rise between +0.14C and +0.2C, depending on the dataset.

I find without surprise that you deny basically every piece of science done in the last few hundred years, based on your gross misunderstandings of the evidence.

(“In the meantime, more CO2 will mean higher crop yields.” – Another typical example of junk science. This is quite untrue for C4 crops which show no change in yield, such as maize and sorghum, while only moderate effects are shown for C3 crops such as rice, wheat and soybeans. Meanwhile, elevated CO2 levels will contribute to climate disruption which will *lower* yields in many current growing areas. And Ozone levels, which are toxic to plants, have risen alongside CO2 levels…)

43. So Much For Subtlety

42. Leon Wolfson

Sure, “only” 98% of climate scientists agree.

That simply is not true. MMGW comes in a variety of forms. 98% of climate scientists *might* agree on a very weak formulation – that CO2 is a Greenhouse gas, that we are increasing levels in the atmosphere and all other things being equal this may have an impact on the climate – but there is no way that anywhere near that number would agree on a strong formulation – that we are having a negative impact and the feedbacks are likely to be positive.

Only good data since the 70?s? Really? 1850 for ground-based records, and proxy data is also high informative. High-atmosphere testing, which has indeed only been giving good samples since the 70?s, has indicated a rise between +0.14C and +0.2C, depending on the dataset.

Only since the 1970s. We have ground based records for some parts of the world (ie the UK and Ireland mainly) since the 1850s. But not enough to make any sensible claims. Especially as the measuring equipment was so primitive. But still, if you like ground measurements, then you have to accept that half the hottest years on record were in the 1930s. I can live with that.

Proxy data is high informative – it shows the basic dishonesty of the warmists. This is the “hide the decline” problem. As most of the proxies do not show any global warming they had to be carefully massaged until they did.

I find without surprise that you deny basically every piece of science done in the last few hundred years, based on your gross misunderstandings of the evidence.

No I don’t and, of course, you have no idea, and do not have the basic skills to judge.

Another typical example of junk science. This is quite untrue for C4 crops which show no change in yield, such as maize and sorghum, while only moderate effects are shown for C3 crops such as rice, wheat and soybeans. Meanwhile, elevated CO2 levels will contribute to climate disruption which will *lower* yields in many current growing areas. And Ozone levels, which are toxic to plants, have risen alongside CO2 levels…

You know, if you insist on spouting on subjects you know nothing, you are going to look stupid. It is not untrue for C4 crops. C4 crops show less of an increase but they show an increase nonetheless. Don’t take my words for it, ask the US government:

http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/34722/1/IND87009844.pdf

Or this guy:

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/CO2plants.htm

He points out that doubling of CO2 leads to a 41% increase in biomass of C3 plants but only 22% for C4 plants.

So you are wrong aren’t you?

As for “moderate” effects, that is a pretty nice effect, 41%. Quite a nice crop increase in fact. But even if it is lower, the point remains that plants will grow more. CO2 is one of the things that is lacking in the environment and increasing it will increase their yields.

You may hope that storms will be more frequent and this will save your idiotic hopes of global disaster but there is no reason to think it is true or that they will.

So the bottom line remains, I was right. Even nicer than that, most of our food comes from C3 plants and so we stand to gain. Poor McDonalds, which gets most of its sugars from C4 Maize, may suffer but I doubt it. I don’t care either.

44. Robin Levett

@SMFS #39:

Bit of a Gish gallop to deal with here, so I’ll just pick out a few of the problems.

Sorry but what? What has the sun got to do with it?

It’s that big yellow ball in the sky that is the ultimate source fo the energy that drives pretty much all of the Earth’s systems – including climate,weather, and life.

No. Not all Greenhouse gases are transparent to visible light. Even CO2 isn’t in the right circumstances, but those do not commonly occur in our atmosphere. However the main Greenhouse gas – water – is very definitely not transparent to visible light in a wide range of conditions, which are commonly found in our atmosphere. Anyone who doubts this can go outside and look up. The chances of it being a clear day in Britain are small.

Oh, dear. Repeat after me: “Clouds are not composed of water vapour. They are composed of liquid (or even solid) water condensed around condensation nuclei.”

Water vapour is a gas; it is pretty much transparent to visible light.

Clouds are actually a very visible demonstration that pumping water vapour into an atmosphere without raising the temperature of that atmosphere will simply cause rain; the quantity of water vapour in an atmosphere tends to an equilibrium dictated by the temperature of the atmosphere. Any excess falls out, as rain. Other greenhouse gases – such as CO2 – by affecting the temperature of the atmosphere increase the amount of water vapour the atmosphere can hold. Hence clouds are a demonstration that water vapour is a feedback, not a forcing.

Except that for all intents and purposes, the Earth’s temperature has not been rising. We only have good data since the 1970s and they show little more than normal fluctuations.

If that were true (and it is most emphatically not) why have nine of the hottest ten years occurred since 2000? Why have we not seen any year since 1976 falling below the average for the 20th century?

And why has the Arctic minimum summer sea ice area dropped so much? Between 1979 and 1997, summer ice area varied between 4.4 and 5.5m sq km; since 1998, only one year (2001) has crept into that range (at 4.5); the other years vary between 2.9 and 4.3, with the last 5 years (2007-2011) all between 2.9 and 3.4m sq km.

45. Robin Levett

@Roshan #38:

In fact, a 31,000 petition from academics denouncing global warming is reported today.

It’s been reported every day since 1997; but I’d prefer to take my climatology from the literature written by people practising climatology, not medicine.

As I have said previously (mostly):

1) IPCC does not equal a majority of global climate experts
2) Science is based on reproducible and demonstratable facts not concensus
3) The upper echelons of the climate change movement are corrupt
4) Their proposals would do little to reduce CO2 anyway

With regards to 3) the issue is when the issue is still not proven (and particularly when you compare the government money that goes into it), the benefit of doubt will always go against those who are untrustworthy. But also, like I keep on saying wealth transfers do not drop CO2.

You see, the point is that, even if you believe CO2 causes warming (or is it change now), anyone with integrity would have to cringe with the movement that has sprung up over this.

47. douglas clark

Roshan,

There are folk that claim to be scientists that think you are wrong.

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/

Perhaps you could spend the next hundred years or so arguing on there and getting flattened every day and every year.

Just saying.

You, sir are a controversialist and an idiot.

Prove me wrong.

Argue your points on Deltoid or Real Climate and bring your bruises back here.

It is pretty obvious that you won’t, ’cause you are just another fly bye politics graduate….

elbapo
“Forgive me for having talked politics on a politics site”

There is nothing to forgive. My observation is that you can’t separate the two confirmed by the statement;

“the whole thing has become so political, and can no longer claim to be scientific.”

There is simply the science which should not be confused with any policy claiming to be based on it.

“ nobody has claimed C02 is not a greenhouse gas – just whether the claims of this as a driver have been exaggerated beyond all rationality by interested parties.”

This can only be investigated by scientific research. It doesn’t matter what any interested party says the academies of science issued a ‘Joint science academies’ statement;
http://www.nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf
Are you qualified to disagree with their assessment?

“And No – increased C02 will not ‘mean temperatures will go up’”

Yes it does, the basic physics confirms it. You seem to be hoping that some ‘special physics’ exist that make it behave differently and you may be right but in all probability increased greenhouse gases will (has and continues to) cause warming.

“‘To cope all living things will be adversely affected?’ – what evidence do you have for this except blind belief “

Well firstly you misquote me , why? – you did put it in quotes but I actually said “To cope living things will alter their ranges if possible or be adversely affected if they can’t.”

There is a large body of evidence showing this happening – perhaps you are just ignorant of it. Butterflies, (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v399/n6736/abs/399579a0.html), toads etc, (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2001.0150041175.x/full), are already changing their ranges due to warming weather (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_climate_change_on_terrestrial_animals#Range_Shifts). Mountain animals are moving up slopes (http://www.cct.or.cr/publicaciones/Pounds-Fogden-Campbell-Nature-398-1999.pdf). But some species of plants and animals either have nowhere to go or cannot move fast enough.

“or perhaps the greenpeace website?”

I take this as a personal ad hom. Having to suggest someone who accepts science, which you seem to want to wish away as untrue, must be an environmentalist says a lot more about your lack of critical thinking that it does about me.

“Historically warmer conditions have been favourable to all life not least human beings & agriculture – and led to more fertile and stable climactic conditions. It is colder conditions which have been bad for life on earth and humans beings. I could cite but seeing as your into blind faith you will just have to believe me.”

Oh dear we do seem to be getting the usually myths. Have you any actual research to support that this will happen with a continued warming trend? Some evidence that animals and plants can adapt? That the research suggesting agricultural yields will fall in many areas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_and_agriculture) and extinctions will occur, (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v427/n6970/abs/nature02121.html), is flawed?

“As for models,…”

And you cite a right wing blog as evidence? Models are used in every branch of science as tools. They will always be wrong but in all likelihood they will be correct within a known error range. Your blog (which strangely is more to do with US right wing politics than published science) is very misleading. The model projections were based on assumptions like the rate of CO2 rise, industrialisation and how much volcanic activity would occur. When this model uses the actual figures now known for that period it is well within its own stated uncertainties. This blog shows the results (I don’t like using blogs but this is quicker than providing the references it uses and explaining it all); http://www.skepticalscience.com/lessons-from-past-climate-predictions-ipcc-far.html

But modelling only accounts for a fraction of the research that underpins the science as my other links show.

“Finally , The term ‘Science is clear’ and ‘the science is settled’ is never true of anything in science– such assertions are indeed anathema to real scientists.”

And who said that about climate change? I have been trying to find out, (http://lazarus-on.blogspot.com/2011/07/there-is-no-consensus-yeah-i-know.html), so if you can tell me who made these claims and was qualified enough to speak on behalf of a whole branch of science I’d love to know.

“Now have I separated the science from the politics enough for you?”

Using right wing blogs to try to make scientific claims? – you think?

Paul Newman
“ but a small scale adjustment using atmospheric leverage ( and it would be small scale ) is nothing like the doomed mega project to stop the world using fossil fuels and we could dispense with 99.9% of the fellow travellers.”

What doomed mega project? This is the worst kind of scaremongering. You suggest it is one choice or the other, a false dichotomy, but no one (except a few sandal wearing tree huggers perhaps) is going to accept anything that will restrict travel to even a small degree.

“The science is established” means absolutely nothing .. scientifically speaking .”

Actually, in my opinion, it means the most qualified in the scientific community has judged the matter and the conclusion of this expert opinion formed on the theories and evidence has concluded …

Perhaps they are wrong but if you are making any rational decision or policy what better measure do you have?

So Much For Subtlety

“The world is vastly more complex than the High School science lab.”
Of course it is, that is why there is scientific uncertainty but there is no known physical mechanism that suggest it wont work exactly the same way in the environment.

“in fact they have conspicuously failed to do so in the last 100 years as far as we can tell.”

Who is ‘we’ and what ‘fact’. There is now a clear warming fingerprint from increased Co2 emissions. Ignore it if it goes against your beliefs but don’t expect rational people to believe it.

I was going to respond more but you claimed again that temperatures have not increased so clearly you are either not intellectually equipped to discuss the science involved (and I don’t mean that to sound rude, apologies if you feel it does) or you are in denial of the large body of supporting research strongly suggesting your are in error.

People care about climate change but they are skeptical about it being used as a means to tax ordinary people whilst big companies are allowed to polloute.

52. Robin Levett

@Roshan #45:

As I have said previously (mostly):

1) IPCC does not equal a majority of global climate experts
2) Science is based on reproducible and demonstratable facts not concensus
3) The upper echelons of the climate change movement are corrupt
4) Their proposals would do little to reduce CO2 anyway

With regards to 3) the issue is when the issue is still not proven (and particularly when you compare the government money that goes into it), the benefit of doubt will always go against those who are untrustworthy.

1) Meaningless; the IPCC is an organisation that synthesises the scientific literature. It doesn’t claim to be, or to represent, the “majority of global climate experts”.

However, as has been demonstrated beyond a peradventure, the scientific literature speaks with one voice on the broad outlines; and the IPCC reports do represent the consensus of evidence.

2) Indeed; so what’s the point of the “31,000 academics”?

3) Really? Any evidence of that? To set against the evidence of fossil-fuel interests funding the denialists?

4) Which proposals? The fact that governments have belatedly and reluctantly signed on to the scientific (evidential) consensus doesn’t mean that they are going to do everything that is actually necessary to avert possible disaster until their noses are well and truly up against it. The problem we have is that then will be too late.

This comment on your part seems to be equivalent to the statement “I’m going to hit the wall whether or not I brake, so I may as well keep the accelerator nailed to the floor”; only in that light is it an argument against action.

53. Leon Wolfson

The IPCC have certainly been political.

They’ve, every time, got things wrong because of government pressure. They’ve consistently UNDERESTIMATED the degree of climate change. There is a story, but it’s quite different from the one the denialists are playing.

Go figure.

@ leon Wolfson. Whatever you say: http://bit.ly/qtZ1Be

@SMFS #43:

But still, if you like ground measurements, then you have to accept that half the hottest years on record were in the 1930s.

Cite?

@elbapo #54:

Why go back to the 1990 report? Why not check the current state of the science?

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/01/2010-updates-to-model-data-comparisons/


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Do people still care about climate change? http://t.co/7U5b7no0

  2. Bill Dishington

    Do people still care about climate change? http://t.co/7U5b7no0





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