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Science can’t settle what should be done about climate change

The sight of speakers known to dispute the scientific evidence supporting climate change being called to speak at a parliamentary select committee on the latest IPCC report last week has raised certain…

Kiribati: island in danger. United Nations Photo

The sight of speakers known to dispute the scientific evidence supporting climate change being called to speak at a parliamentary select committee on the latest IPCC report last week has raised certain commentators' blood pressure.

Some have gone so far as to claim that the climate change debate in Britain has become “as depressingly unscientific and polarised as it is in the United States”.

I disagree. The debate about climate change needs to become more political, and less scientific. Articulating radically different policy options in response to the risks posed by climate change is a good way of reinvigorating democratic politics.

A paper by John Cook and colleagues published in May 2013 claimed that of the 4,000 peer-reviewed papers they surveyed expressing a position on anthropogenic global warming, “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”. But merely enumerating the strength of consensus around the fact that humans cause climate change is largely irrelevant to the more important business of deciding what to do about it. By putting climate science in the dock, politicians are missing the point.

What matters is not whether the climate is changing (it is); nor whether human actions are to blame (they are, at the very least partly and, quite likely, largely); nor whether future climate change brings additional risks to human or non-human interests (it does). As climate scientist Professor Myles Allen said in evidence to the committee, even the projections of the IPCC’s more prominent critics overlap with the bottom end of the range of climate changes predicted in the IPCC’s published reports.

In the end, the only question that matters is, what are we going to do about it? Scientific consensus is not much help here. Even if one takes the Cook study at face value, then how does a scientific consensus of 97.1% about a fact make policy-making any easier? As Roger Pielke Jr has often remarked in the context of US climate politics, it’s not for a lack of public consensus on the reality of human-caused climate change that climate policy implementation is difficult in the US.

So politics, not science, must take centre stage. As Amanda Machin shows in her recent book, asking climate scientists to forge a consensus around facts with the expectation that decisive political action will naturally follow misunderstands science and politics in equal measure. If democratic politics is to be effective we need more disagreement, not more consensus, about what climate change is really about.

As I have argued elsewhere, the most important questions to be asked about climate change extend well beyond science. Let me suggest four; all of which are more important than the committee’s MPs managed. They are questions which people should and do disagree about and they have no correct answer waiting to be discovered by science.

  • How do we value the future, or in economic terms, at what rate should we discount the future? Many of the arguments about urgent versus delayed interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions revolve around how much less we value future public goods and natural assets relative to their value today. This is a question that clear-thinking people will disagree about.

  • In the governance of climate change what role do we allocate to markets? Many arguments about climate change, as about environmental management more generally, revolve around whether commodifying nature, by pricing environmental “goods” and “services”, is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

  • How do we wish new technologies to be governed, from experimentation and development to deployment? This question might revolve around new or improved low-carbon energy technologies (such as fracking, nuclear power, or hydrogen fuel), the use of genetically modified crops as a means to adapt to changing climate, or proposed climate engineering technologies. Again, these are not questions upon which science, least of all a scientific consensus, can adjudicate.

  • What is the role of national governments as opposed to those played by multilateral treaties or international governing bodies? This requires citizens to reflect on forms of democracy and representation. They are no less important in relation to climate change than they are in relation to state security, immigration or financial regulation.

Any considered response to climate change will need to take a position, implicitly or explicitly, on one or more of these four questions, and others besides. And the percentage of climate science papers that accept humans are causing global warming has little to no bearing on public deliberations about these four questions.

Because the questions about climate change that really matter will not be settled by scientific facts. They entail debates about values and about the forms of political organisation and representation that people believe are desirable. This requires a more vigorous politics that cannot be short-circuited by appeals to science.

This article has been updated to better reflect the views of the author.

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  1. Christopher Wright

    Professor of Organisational Studies at University of Sydney

    I totally agree that the important questions about climate change are what we are going to do about it in terms of policy and politics. Climate science has less to offer in this respect - although having a clearer idea of the extent and intensity of future climate change impacts helps in guiding policy choices (for instance Prof Kevin Anderson's point that we are well on our way to exceed 2 degrees celsius targets means quite radical reductions in emissions will be required!).

    The one problem…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      There is a clear way forward, set out by Oxford Energy Policy Professor Dieter Helm in his book "The Carbon Crunch", also in his online opinion piece at http://e360.yale.edu/feature/forget_kyoto_putting_a_tax_on_carbon_consumption/2590/.

      For further discussion of why the existing Kyoto / EU emphasis on CO2 emission production is flawed, Glen Peters's 'The Conversation' piece, "Carbon as a commodity: a trade in pollution could help clean up dirty economies" helps explain why an emphasis on fossil fuel consumption is of greater value than schemes proposed by diplomats and bankers: https://theconversation.com/carbon-as-a-commodity-a-trade-in-pollution-could-help-clean-up-dirty-economies-22364.

      I'd be interested in your views on these proposals.

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    2. Warren Pearce

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      I think this might be back to front. Surely the reason the science has been squarely focused upon by all concerned is that the IPCC (science) and UNFCCC (policy) have been so closely related?

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    3. Kevin Marshall

      IT Consultant at Engineering

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      Science might point to a very big problem, but it cannot translate that into coherent policy terms. Nor can it weigh that against the effectiveness of policies, nor the harms policies can cause. Economics is central to asking those questions. The key figure that encapsulates the predicted harm of climate change is the social cost of carbon SCC, expressed in tonnes of CO2 equivalent. In 2006 Stern measured this as $85/tCO2. A year later the AR4 SPM stated a range of -$3 to $95/tCO2 from peer reviewed…

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Christopher Wright

      Have you read Professor of the origin of the 2% for starters.
      As I have posted myself, how many climate scientists can accurately predict that humans will ever cause more than nature itself with its various cycles.
      When will the next Ice Age not be coming for instance or can it be said with 100% certainty that Ice Ages are a thing of the past?
      Without those kind of certainties, our planets resources are best to be directed at coping with what we know has a good chance of re-occurring because of known climate patterns, floods and storms etc.

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    1. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Chris Hope

      Chris, what does it mean to say that 'Combining the best information from science, economics and other social sciences should come first'?

      Is the suggestion that 'politics' has been excluded from material/social sciences, and that the interactions between the human and natural worlds can be understood from such a value-free perspective?

      I don't believe it is so easy, and that the job of understanding what 'science says' risks taking a premise as a conclusion if it is not first understood what…

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    2. Chris Hope

      Reader in Policy Modelling at University of Cambridge

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Thanks for your response. My quick comment was only meant to suggest that there are other approaches than relying on 'science' or relying on 'politics' alone.
      Using evidence from models, particularly those that take risks seriously, can inform the debate. If you looked at the link you will see that I treat very little as deterministic. One purpose of the model is to allow exactly the kind of interrogation you suggest. Varying the assumptions is easy and allows the effect on the results to be seen.
      @cwhope

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    3. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Chris Hope

      Thanks Chris,

      I don't think anyone is suggesting that we rely on science or politics alone. As far as I understand your argument, we disagree about the logical priority of political processes and research. I was concerned that your quick comment made too simple a distinction between them.

      Risk-modelling is all well and good, but risk is a political concept. E.g.

      Stern & Smith: “Policy-making is usually about risk management..." http://personal.lse.ac.uk/sternn/123NHS.pdf

      Does evidence from risk-models inform the debate? I guess it does if the debate is about agreed priorities. But it doesn't if the debate is about the role of risk in political debates, which is taken for granted if we imagine risk-modellers to occupy a sphere away from the 'political' world.

      I don't think your models allow for that level of interrogation.

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    4. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to Chris Hope

      Anyone who quotes Roger Pielke shows their bias. He is a joke, both in a scientific and a policy sense.

      Chris, are you a climate change denier or do you accept the evidence that humans are causing large scale climate change?

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  2. Rog Tallbloke

    logged in via Twitter

    "What matters is not whether the climate is changing (it is); nor whether human actions are to blame (they are, at the very least partly and, quite likely, largely)"

    "Quite likely" in the IPCC's 'scientific definition' of the term, means 'we're not really very sure at all'. It's becoming obvious from the IPCC's own downgrading of estimates of future warming and sea level rise that natural variation is a much bigger player in climate change than has been recognised hitherto by the mainstream of…

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    1. In reply to Mike Hansen

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      Thanks for that, Rog Tallbloke.

      Now that the world's suddenly had so much CO2 added to the atmosphere that it is similar to early Pliocene composition, can you give any reason why the world will not now converge on a Pliocene-like climate (average temperatures 2-4 deg C higher than pre-Industrial Holocene, sea levels 10-20 m above Holocene, seasonal arctic ice only, Greenland and Antarctic Peninsula largely ice-free)?

      Great work in your now-axed journal, and even better work that it has been axed.

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    3. Steven Crook

      Programmer and software designer at Currently resting

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      You quote Bob Ward when accusing someone of being "depressingly unscientific"? It's an interesting approach...

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    4. Rog Tallbloke

      IT Manager at University of Leeds

      In reply to David Arthur

      "Great work in your now-axed journal, and even better work that it has been axed"

      I rest my case. Now that Nature itself is proving their hopeless theory wrong, the proponents of the 'trace gas controlled climate' theory are happy to resort to censorship to prevent people becoming aware of other data interpretations which better fit the data.

      Science proceeds through reasoned debate, not appeals to 97% authority or book burning. Shame on you!

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    5. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      "I rest my case. Now that Nature itself is proving their hopeless theory wrong, the proponents of the..."

      Hey, Nature is a respectable journal that would never associate itself with evidence that The Science™ is wrong.

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    6. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      "Now that the world's suddenly had so much CO2 added to the atmosphere that it is similar to early Pliocene composition, can you give any reason why the world will not now converge on a Pliocene-like climate"

      Can you give any reason why that would be a bad thing?

      Note: At current rates of sea level rise it will take thousands of years to hit the 10-20m mark and there is no sign in the data of any acceleration.

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    7. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      Pliocene world might be pleasant, but getting there as rapidly as the world is being driven is far from pleasant.

      Current rates of sea level rise (~1m by 2100) is only the start; sea level rise will be more rapid in the 22nd century, requiring more emergency responses.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      It is not unexpected that you will get your detractors Rog for daring to question that the IPCC and human caused climate change are the ultimate Gods of our lives.
      I myself often state here on TC about natures cycles, having done again in response to this article and usually get severely criticised by the likes of Mike Hansen ( and seem to be a few Mikes about? )for just being prepared to ask questions to the extent I could be forgiven in assuming there is megaphone persuasive attempts at play.
      I have not come across the site you quotye before and I will be sure to have a read of papers there.
      Getting alternate views up is important for it does seem in the past year that CC believers are about in force to attempt ridicule of alternate views and even questioning of beliefs.

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    9. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Perhaps there could be convergence David and even divergence before or after back into another Ice Age.
      Do you know scientifically that neither is possible?
      As for " Great work in your now-axed journal, and even better work that it has been axed. "
      I suppose in a twist of an old saying " The blind could be led by the blind and they would not know just as the leader may not of the followers "

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    10. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Greg North

      Thanks for this, Mr North.

      Based on what we know of CO2 and temperature trends for the last 5 million years, it took >2 million years for the world to go from ~400 to <280 ppm CO2, and thence into Pleistocene glaciation.

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    11. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      "Current rates of sea level rise (~1m by 2100) is only the start; sea level rise will be more rapid in the 22nd century, requiring more emergency responses."

      You are overstating the rate of sea level rise by a factor of 4. The current rate is ~3mm per year and has been stable for centuries. At 3mm per year, sea level rise by 2100 will only be around 261mm. And any claims of acceleration beyond that are baseless speculation.

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    12. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      "The current rate is ~3mm per year" that's about right

      "and has been stable for centuries." That's false: http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/

      Claims of acceleration? Rignot et al "Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise", Geophysical Research Letters, VOL. 38, L05503, doi:10.1029/2011GL046583, 2011, isn't baseless speculation.

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    13. In reply to Mike Hansen

      Comment removed by moderator.

    14. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      Actually, looking at the graph you linked to I was half right.

      Where I was right: Relative to the over all slope and uncertainty, the annual variation is quite small. It is remarkably stable.

      Where I was wrong: You were off by a factor of 8 instead of a factor of 4. The graph shows around 210 mm sea level rise from around 1880 to 2012. That comes to just 1.6mm per year. There are only 87 years left to 2100 for just 138.4mm of remaining sea level rise to 2100. The rate sea level rise would have to accelerate by a factor of 8 to get anywhere near 1m between now and 2100.

      Come back when you can show that kind of acceleration in actual measured sea level rise.

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    15. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      Thanks for that, Mr Slyfield. From Rignot et al (2011) "Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise", Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 38, L05503, doi:10.1029/2011GL046583, we have an estimate of terrestrial ice cap melt contributing 1.3±0.4 mm/yr in 2006 (475±158 Gt ice melt/yr).

      They also estimate acceleration of ice mass loss as 36.3±2 Gt/yr2.

      My extrapolation of these rates to 2100 (starting in 1992) gives a lower estimate of sea level rise due only to ice melt of 535 mm, and a mid-range estimate of 581 mm.

      Extrapolating further, to 2200, gives sea level rise estimates due to ice mass loss of ~2500mm.

      Ice melt would be occurring in lieu of at least some thermal expansion.

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    16. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      "My extrapolation of these rates to 2100 (<strong>starting in 1992</strong>) gives a lower estimate of sea level rise due only to ice melt of 535 mm, and a mid-range estimate of 581 mm."

      The problem with this is that measured Sea Level rise from 1992 to 2012 is only 1/4th the rate that you need for that estimate.

      As to the paper you cite, their estimate of terrestrial ice cap melt has a major problem. Antarctic sea ice extents are at record highs even during SH summer melt season. Any suggestion of a positive contribution to sea level rise from Antarctica defies actual field measurements.

      The output of video games is not data.

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    17. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      Matthew.

      You seem to be rather confused. Why are you conflating terrestrial ice (that IS on land in plain English) with sea ice extent (that ISN'T on land in plain English). And SH sea ice extent isn't at record highs in Summer since SH extent is virtually zero in Summer. The increase in sea ice extent in the Antarctic is occuring in Winter. When the Sun doesn't shine in the Antarctic so the increase in ice extent has very little impact on absorption of solar energy.

      In contrast the decline in Arctic sea ice happens in Summer when the Sun shines a lot! On June 22nd the North Pole receives more sunlight than any other place on Earth.

      And sea ice changes have no effect on sea level. so your last comment is, at best, very unclear.

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    18. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      "The output of video games is not data."

      With respect, Glenn Tamblyn's query of your remarks suggests that the output of Matthew Slyfield is not information.

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    19. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      "The problem with this is that measured Sea Level rise from 1992 to 2012 is only 1/4th the rate that you need for that estimate." No.

      I started with the estimate for 2006 (475±158 Gt ice melt/yr; 1.3±0.4 mm/yr) and back-calculate with acceleration of 36.3±2 Gt/yr2. to estimate that onset of terrestrial ice contributing to sea level rise occurred some time in the 1990's.

      We then add the year's acceleration to the previous melt rate to get each year's melt rate to 2200, and then use the proportionality of 475±158 Gt ice melt/yr to 1.3±0.4 mm sea level rise /yr to estimate year's sea level rise to 2200. Then we add them all together.

      Rough as guts, I agree, but it's a better first approximation than anything we'll ever see from the "it isn't happening" crowd.

      Perhaps you haven't yet grasped the concept of acceleration? You may need to wait until you've got to Year 11.

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    20. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      "Perhaps you haven't yet grasped the concept of acceleration?"

      I understand the concept of acceleration quite well. There just isn't any sign of sea level rise accelerating in the actual measured sea levels.

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    21. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      "There just isn't any sign of sea level rise accelerating in the actual measured sea levels." Err, actually there is - and you've already looked at it: http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/

      Plot clearly shows more rapid sea level rise post -1990 relative to preceding 11 decades.

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    1. Warren Pearce

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Thanks, never seen that before. The main argument of that piece seems to be that because one can identify some common ground between 'luke warmers' and certain conservatives, then they must be wrong?!

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    2. Rog Tallbloke

      IT Manager at University of Leeds

      In reply to Warren Pearce

      I'm sure Prof Hulme wil be impressed by this quote from swivel eyed Clive:

      "In the UK, Mike Hulme, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, has branched out with a peculiar and incoherent argument about science being based on values and ideology.

      The effect of luke-warmers’ contributions has been to sow doubt in the public mind about the credibility of the scientific warnings and the need to respond, just as Exxon-funded think tanks have."

      Lol.

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    3. In reply to Mike Hansen

      Comment removed by moderator.

  3. Barry Woods

    logged in via Twitter

    Ref

    "Some have gone so far as to claim that the climate change debate in Britain has become “as depressingly unscientific and polarised as it is in the United States”.

    the irony here is, that Bob Ward (Granthan Policy director) the author of that article has gone a very long way in being responsible for the polarised debate in the UK, attacks on Montford, Lawson, other sceptics via his institute, the media and writing in the Guardian and Huffington post.

    he is too cynical for words to describe, to try this polarising spin.

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    1. Paul Matthews

      Mathematics lecturer

      In reply to Barry Woods

      Indeed - it seems that some in the climate debate are deliberately trying to create or enhance political polarisation. In fact there is no strong political divide in the UK, as shown by the recent Parliamentary hearing referred to in the Ward article. The chair of the committee, Tim Yeo (Conservative, deselected yesterday) repeatedly tried to confuse and misrepresent the sceptics. There are two more sceptical members of the committee, one Tory (Lilley) and one Labour (Stringer).

      Perhaps there is some projection going on here - some people are themselves so obsessed with the politics that they assume everyone else is?

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Barry Woods

      With all due respect, Monckton, Lawson and the rest of that bunch of charlatans are simply main-chancers who can see a quick buck when it floats past.

      If they were anything more than that, their utterances would be consistent with what we know.

      The sun warms earth with energy, primarily between wavelengths of 0.1 and 4 microns.

      Earth dissipates energy to space, primarily between wavelengths of 4 and 40 microns.

      Greenhouse gases disrupt transmission of the latter, not the former.

      If earth dissipates more energy to space than it receives from the sun, it cools down; if earth dissipates less energy to space than it receives from the sun, it warms up.

      Humans have increased and are continuing to increase the atmosphere's greenhouse gas content, which is unavoidably increasingly disruptive of transmission of energy from earth to space. In other words, it is not even possible that global warming isn't occurring.

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    3. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to David Arthur

      "If earth dissipates more energy to space than it receives from the sun, it cools down; if earth dissipates less energy to space than it receives from the sun, it warms up."

      My understanding of the debates about climate change science is that it does not divide on a question about whether or not CO2 is a greenhouse gas, nor even the degree to which increasing CO2 will warm the atmosphere. The primary debate is about the role of feedback mechanisms, or more precisely, the balance of negative and…

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    4. Rog Tallbloke

      IT Manager at University of Leeds

      In reply to David Arthur

      I always find that when someone starts a comment:

      "With all due respect,"

      What follows is anything but respectful.

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      "With all due respect,"

      What follows is anything but respectful. Correct: the pertinent word there is "due".

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Regardless of all these feedbacks, we know that more CO2 in atmosphere -> warmer world.

      We've already put enough CO2 into the atmosphere for reversion to Pliocene conditions. While that Pliocene-like climate may prove to be pleasant enough, the process of getting there involves relatively high rates of storms, destruction, disruption of agriculture, disease spread, species extinction.

      Newton didn't produce his laws of motion by including every little phenomena in the world around him, but by seeing through to the nub of the situation The dissemblement of reference to a "complex series of debates" neglects the main driving factor. .

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    7. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Paul Matthews

      "some people are themselves so obsessed with the politics that they assume everyone else is? "

      Well put. You just summed up why politicians, in fact the political class generally often do a poor job of running things. They think politics is the central reality of life rather than just some children playing in a sandpit.

      If one wants to study some of the central realities of life one needs to walk out of the Political Science department and across the campus to perhaps the Physics department.

      Its about knowing the difference between what is a central reality and what merely seems to be a central reality in our narrow world-view.

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    1. Barry Woods

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to cindy baxter

      why has no research been done to explain why so many people continue believe the fossil fuel denial machine myth. A simple explanation is they seem to need this to explain their complete failings in the policy arena.

      The reason for the failure is that the political promise are coming close to reality, hard choices (or even radical ones , ref Kevin Anderson) are needed to be delivered now and no government seems willing to do this, not because of any sceptics.

      The same things and problems with delivering energy policy for example (that have been discussed for years) are now being discovered by the politicians themselves..

      ie just because you wish for a green renewable energy future, doesn't mean you can 'make it so' by diktat

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    2. Rog Tallbloke

      IT Manager at University of Leeds

      In reply to cindy baxter

      Cindy, you do know the climate research (CRU) unit at the University of East Anglia was set up with money from Royal Dutch Shell - yes?

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    3. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to cindy baxter

      "the fossil fuel industry has, very successfully for 20 years, funded the debate around climate science."

      You mean like when Shell offered to pay the UEA's Climate Research Unit for a "role in setting the research agenda"? You mean like when Exxon-Mobil flashed its cash at Arizona U, and Professor Jonathan "Peck" Overpeck replied: "I’m quite intrigued by what Exxon-Mobil and the University of Arizona could do together on the climate change front"? You mean like when BP poured millions into carbon-emissions…

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    4. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to cindy baxter

      Shell were also heavily involved in pushing the wind ... bird mincer estates.

      Like everyone other major oil company, they not only profit from wind, but they profit from rising energy prices generally.

      And as a sceptic, I've not had a wage for too many years to count, and don't you think if there were any money for sceptics I would have found it by now?

      I read somewhere that oil companies put something like £500million into Universities.

      The idea we sceptics are paid by oil companies shows how deluded & irrational many of those on the other side are.

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    5. Kata Basis

      Altercation Technician

      In reply to cindy baxter

      It makes me shudder every time I read someone refer to "the science". This phraseology implies some indivisible unchanging entity rather than the reality of the contentious range of views, theories , assumptions and speculations in continual flux that is both the activity and output of scientific endeavors in any topic.

      Moreover, using the definite article (*the* science) also means you assume everyone reading knows exactly what you are referring to. This is clearly inappropriate for referring to anything scientific. It's apropos for theology though.....

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    6. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Barry Woods

      Why has no research been done that actually produced any evidence that a fossil fuel denial machine exists?

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    7. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      "Why has no research been done that actually produced any evidence that a fossil fuel denial machine exists?"

      Because the best-funded industry in human history is doing everything in its mind-blowing power to prevent such research.

      Duh.

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  4. Barry Woods

    logged in via Twitter

    ref:
    "The one problem I have with the above analysis is that the focus on climate science has been a quite deliberate strategy by those seeking to deny or cast doubt on the urgency of the problem"

    do you not even consider the possibility that people merely think that the urgency of the problem, is wrong, hyped up and exaggerated? and are not seeking to deny, or cast doubt at all.

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  5. Rog Tallbloke

    IT Manager at University of Leeds

    Commenter 'TinyCO2' on Bishop Hill summarises Prof Hulme's post thusly:

    'we're refusing to debate, but you have to act now, though we take no responsibility for what you do as a result.'

    Sounds about right, though I might add:

    ' Or how many freezing people needlessly die of cold related diseases in fuel poverty.'

    The number of excess winter deaths increased 25% last year to over 30,000 souls in the UK, God rest them.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      Debate? Debate this:

      The sun warms earth with energy, primarily between wavelengths of 0.1 and 4 microns.

      Earth dissipates energy to space, primarily between wavelengths of 4 and 40 microns.

      Greenhouse gases disrupt transmission of the latter, not the former.

      If earth dissipates more energy to space than it receives from the sun, it cools down; if earth dissipates less energy to space than it receives from the sun, it warms up.

      Humans have increased and are continuing to increase the atmosphere's greenhouse gas content, which is unavoidably increasingly disruptive of transmission of energy from earth to space. In other words, it is not even possible that global warming isn't occurring.

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    2. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      Debate this?

      May I suggest you learn a bit more so we can move onto a subject where there is something to debate!

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    3. Rog Tallbloke

      IT Manager at University of Leeds

      In reply to David Arthur

      The error range on the determination of the Top of atmosphere energy balance is around three times the claimed signal from co2. However we can get some idea of what's going on by comparing CERES flashflux data with ARGO data.

      Indications are that the balance has actually gone negative in recent years between ocean and space. Have a read of this post.

      http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/working-out-where-the-energy-goes-part-2-peter-berenyi/

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      Err, cold weather is exacerbated by global warming: increased Arctic summer warming causes slowing and increase jet stream meandering, which in turn brings polar storms to lower latitudes eg US lower 48.

      Warming kills more people. Get used to it.

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Well, if there's something missing from my knowledge, pelase enlighten me.

      No response from you will imply that what I wrote (that anthropogenic global warming is an inevitable consequence of humanity's perturbation if atmospheric composition) is correct.

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      Just because we have difficulty measuring the effect over the entire world doesn't mean the process isn't occurring.

      There's no need for me to read the blog: accelerated cryosphere mass loss tells us oceans are delivering more heat to high latitudes than in the past.

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    7. Rog Tallbloke

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Arthur

      "cold weather is exacerbated by global warming: increased Arctic summer warming causes slowing and increase jet stream meandering"

      'Co2 causes Global warming, global cooling, and even global saminess.'

      Spare us the unfalsifiable junk science please.

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    8. Rog Tallbloke

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Arthur

      You're aware that Antarctic sea ice is at the highest mass since records began? And that the higher latitude southern ocean sea surface has been cooling since the 80's? And that Arctis sea ice mass has increased 50% since last year?

      "There's no need for me to read the blog"

      Averting your eyes from the CERES Flashflux/ARGO analysis doesn't make it go away.

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    9. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      Thanks for that information, Mr Tallbloke.

      In turns, are you aware that Antarctic sea ice is about the only large ice repository in the world that's showing decadeal increase? All the others are decreasing way faster than Antarctic sea ice is increasing.

      At the same time, are you unaware that the major reason for Antarctic sea ice advance is stratification of Antarctic coastal waters? The fresh water is less dense, floats on top of the sea water, freezes at 0 deg C instead of -2 deg C.

      In particular, the fact that the fresh water is floating on top tells us that there's relatively little vertical water exchange.

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    10. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      "Warming kills more people"

      There is zero evidence for this. All of the empirical evidence points the other way.

      "Err, cold weather is exacerbated by global warming"

      BS. Claims like this turn global warming into anti-scientific nonsense. These sorts of claims means that global warming could not be disproved even if we went into a renewed glaciation.

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    11. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      You: "What's missing from your knowledge?"

      Before being able to say that I would need to do a detailed series of checks. This is going to take time, so may I suggest the best course forward would be for us to reach some agreement on private tuition. What price would you suggest?

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    12. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Mr Haseler, how about you just run through your list of climate Denialist memes, and I'll refute them in turn? That should suffice for your "detailed series of checks".

      If you want to shorten the process, have a read of the exchanges between myself and a Mr Jim Inglis among the comments after Erik Gawel & colleagues' 'The Conversation' piece, "Scrapping EU renewable targets after 2020 makes no sense", http://theconversation.com/scrapping-eu-renewable-targets-after-2020-makes-no-sense-22284

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    13. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      Thanks for that, Mr Slyfield: Jaiser et al explain how and why accelerated Arctic warming causes subsequent severe NH winters.

      Jaiser et al. "Impact of sea ice cover changes on the Northern
      Hemisphere atmospheric winter circulation": Tellus A 2012, 64, 11595, DOI: 10.3402/tellusa.v64i0.11595
      http://www.tellusa.net/index.php/tellusa/article/view/11595/html

      Anti-scientific nonsense, Mr Slyfield?

      Regarding another glaciation, last time atmosphere had >400 ppm CO2 was early Pliocene, and it took ~2 million years before there was anything like a glaciation.

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    14. Matthew Slyfield

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      Anti-scientific nonsense, Mr Slyfield?

      Yes.

      "Regarding another glaciation, last time atmosphere had >400 ppm CO2 was early Pliocene, and it took ~2 million years before there was anything like a glaciation."

      IF you look back a little further, CO2 has been greater than 1000ppm during major glaciations.

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    15. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Matthew Slyfield

      Err, we'd be looking back a long way further for that - the Ordovician-Silurian boundary, and periods during the Carboniferous?

      I'm not sure that direct comparison is that straightforward.
      1) Atmosphere was certainly different back then, possibly with higher surface pressure and hence thicker.
      2) Solar insolation would have been slightly lower intensity, much less UV and X-ray.
      3) Different continental disposition, hence different heat redistribution by ocean currents.
      4) Different albedo?

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    16. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      David

      Using the standard formula for calculating past Solar intensity taken from Gough et al 1981 http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/1981SoPh...74...21G/0000028.000.html , page 28 we can look back into the past.

      Solar intensity today is around 1366 W/M^2. Do the standard calculation to convert this to Watts/M^2 of the Earths surface and then allow for albedo reflecting 30% and we get 239 W/M^2 today.

      Past Solar intensity, relative to today can be calculated based on the formula from…

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    17. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      And Arctic Sea Ice Volume (not exactly mass but that is just pedantic) last year was only 71% of what it was in 2009.

      Only 45% of what it was in 1999

      Only 34% of what it was in 1989

      Only 29% of what it was in 1979

      Hmmm... Sure sounds like a trend to me!

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    18. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      While we've got your attention, Glenn, have you a view on Garfinkel et al's "Temperature trends in the tropical upper troposphere and lower stratosphere: Connections with sea surface temperatures and implications for water vapor and ozone". Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 2013; 118 (17): 9658 DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50772, which finds that recent warming in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific 'warm pool' has caused a cooling near the top of the tropical troposphere above, leading to less water vapour entering the stratosphere.

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    19. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      David

      I haven't read that paper but I will look it up.

      Also you might want to look for a paper coming out in Nature Climate Change by Matthew England at UNSW and his colleagues. It is embargoed until Sunday night (US time I presume)

      Some very interesting stuff on Equatorial Trade winds.

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    20. John Samuel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      It is at this point, in the "global ice levels are diminishing debate" that experienced confusionists change the topic or leave the field of play.

      Mind you, they just head over to the next blog and repeat the same nonsense. Their point being, not to educate, but to confuse.

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    21. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Samuel

      I agree with your suspicion about the confusionists. It increasingly does seem as though their aim is to confuse. That's becoming clearer and clearer, I think. It's no longer really tenable to doubt that the confusionist agenda is ultimately one of confusion. It could turn out to be education, but I doubt it. I do think what the confusionists are really out to do is simply confuse people.

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    22. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Samuel

      "Their point being, not to educate, but to confuse."

      Perhaps there's a correspondence between these confusionists and bog-standard neo-liberal True Believers (aka 'running dogs' of corporatism, to borrow a phrase from a dubious source): in both cases, they themselves are hopelessly confused by the disconnect between their beliefs and reality?

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  6. Mike Haseler

    logged in via Facebook

    I've written an extensive reply on my blog <a href="http://scottishsceptic.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/a-reply-to-mike-hulme/">Scottish Sceptic: Reply to Mike Hulme</a>

    To summarise: thanks for trying to move the debate forward. But, science is more than just academia and whilst it is good that academia is beginning to realise it doesn't have all the answers, the answer is not to hand over the problem to a group of largely scientific illiterate politicians. You should realise that science does not stop at the gates of Universities and there are many outside who are very scientifically literate who academics are going to have to learn to trust on this subject.

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    1. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Mike Haseler -- science does not stop at the gates of Universities and there are many outside who are very scientifically literate who academics are going to have to learn to trust on this subject".

      Interesting points on your blog, which reflect some comments I have also made about the difference between 'science as an institution and science as a process'.

      Science's cultural authority sits in contrast to 'a group of largely scientific illiterate politicians'. But in fact there is a bigger…

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    2. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Do you want the five minute answer, the 50minute essay or the 50 year one?

      Stern used a discount rate of 1%. This I think is absurdly low. Typically the treasury use a discount rate of 3%, but Lord Monckton suggested the figure should be as high as 5%.

      However ... I would argue that any form of discount rate is approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Using money as a unit of "value", may be convenient for governments as it is relatively easy to count, but it does have this intrinsic…

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    3. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Thanks Mike.

      All of the above is interesting. But it doesn't explain how science can make the judgements the other Mike says are necessary to progress in the debate.

      Rewriting human history in terms of thermodynamics isn't much help, as cute as the idea (and as ugly as the neologism is), it merely states the obvious. Economies get better at all sorts of things as they develop, mobilising energy resources only one of them.

      I think we should resist 'opposable thumb' theories of social development. Of course primative technologies created possibilities, but they are developments which were made intentionally as such. Turning human agency (back) upside down doesn't produce anything instructive.

      " which would the future prefer ... 10,000 extra hospitals or a a temperature change equivalent to moving perhaps a 1000 miles toward the pole."

      Why not both?

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    4. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Energy is only really useful when its not heat - so suggest it is " thermodynamics" or waste heat shows a lack of understanding.

      The importance is that it removes inflation from the equation. It therefore makes it easier to compare value today with that in the future.

      No idea what your "opposable thumb" theory refers to.

      You are putting the cart before the horse with this comment: "Economies get better at all sorts of things as they develop, mobilising energy resources only one of them…

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    1. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Gleick

      Peter, unlike you I base my views on the evidence, and unlike you I'm currently sitting on more than 5200 response from sceptics so I know what the real position is.

      As such I know you haven't a clue what you are talking about.

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    2. Rog Tallbloke

      IT Manager at University of Leeds

      In reply to Peter Gleick

      On the contrary Peter, it is those who suppress, delete and denigrate the proponents of other (indeed better) interpretations of the data who are in denial of science and the way it shoud be conducted.

      The public sees this clearly, and they are aware of your fraud and unethical behaviour. And that's why you're having so much trouble selling your snake oil.

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    3. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rog Tallbloke

      Come on guys, Peter is entitled to a bit of respect.

      Thanks to him, we know the anti-science movement is prepared to stoop to such methods as wire fraud, phishing and forgery in its desperation to disinform.

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    4. Kata Basis

      Altercation Technician

      In reply to Peter Gleick

      Pete,
      I don't know what it means to "deny the reality" of "the science" (see above my comment on people who use this telling turn of phrase. They're certainly not scientists).

      Being a possible expert on the matter though I was wondering if you could perhaps comment on those who actually seek to fabricate "reality" through such means as creating and distributing completely fabricated memos, especially ones that apparently invoke fear of your mighty self.

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    5. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Peter Gleick

      Could it possibly be, Peter Gleick, that sceptics are confirmed every day in their scepticism, not only by actual developments---but by the apparent fear of exposure and awareness of the fact that their house of cards is collapsing around them, that moves warmists like yourself at your website and blog and the hockey-stick team at their Real Climate blog----to censor out ---dust-bin---send to the 'borehole' or the gulag or whatever---commenters seeking serious answers to important but inconvenient…

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    6. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to helen stream

      "The time is fast coming when the climate scientists and the IPCC who have duped governments around the world with this political shutdown of alternative information and research---this assault on democracy---- will have to be accountable for the massive amounts of funding they insisted on having for their own use , at the expense of keeping innocent and honest people alive---and at the expense of economies of some countries and livelihoods."

      Definitely. There must be a day of reckoning, for science's sake if nothing else.

      As David Roberts once said—though he said it in a 180°-wrong sense—what we need is a sort of www.ClimateNuremberg.com.

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    1. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      Dana - "I don't understand the strawman attack against our consensus paper in this article. "

      O wad some Power the giftie gie us
      To see oursels as ithers see us!
      It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
      An' foolish notion:
      What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
      An' ev'n devotion!

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    2. Michael Parker

      Environment and Energy Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      "Infamous" I think Dana in the sense of widely known but controversial; renowned but dividing.

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    3. Michael Parker

      Environment and Energy Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Burns' suggestion that people reflect on their pretensions is something we could all learn from.

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    4. Michael Parker

      Environment and Energy Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      Keep it topical and not personal please folks. My inbox is full enough without all these off-topic and abuse notifications.

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    5. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      FWIW I don't think this is an English English versus American English thing, I just checked in the OED and there are no definitions of the word there that do not have the same disparaging connotations as far as I can see. I was surprised to see the paper described in that way. I think Prof. Hulme should revise the article to use a more appropriate term.

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    6. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Rob Painting

      If only we could all chose and limit the words our critics were allowed to use in debates.

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    7. Rob Painting

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Read what I wrote. Your trolling is not very inventive.

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    8. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Rob Painting

      I could take offence at the word 'trolling', and ask if it is appropriate for 'The Conversation be encouraging the use of such perjorative{sic} terms?'

      Even if you don't like the word 'infamous', you can move past it.

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    9. Rob Painting

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Clearly The Conversation can't legimately object to perjorative, yet factually correct, terms used in their comments stream if they allow perjorative, and factually unsupported terms, in their arcticles.

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    10. Barry Woods

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      spinning Dana?.. ref supposing 'unintentional'

      Mike Hulme made his feeling very clear about the limitations of the Cook et al '97% paper' to yourself at the Making Science Public blog a few months back..

      Mike Hulme July 25, 2013 at 6:39 am:
      http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2013/07/23/whats-behind-the-battle-of-received-wisdoms/#comment-182401

      "Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the…

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    11. Kata Basis

      Altercation Technician

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      Classic material from our Dana here.

      "not those who are trying to help advance the 'debate' to the point where policy discussion is possible."

      - You mean "the debate" that you continually tell anyone who will listen is over? That's a bit of a problem with invoking 'consensus' and orthodoxy. Isn't it?

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    12. Kata Basis

      Altercation Technician

      In reply to Rob Painting

      Rob, what exactly was it that you contributed to Cook(2013)?

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    13. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      Dana, this Hulme guy is devolving into a Curryite waffler. The other denier rabble that are posting here are just looking for some sort of validation from the WUWT circlejerk.

      While they waffle, the arctic is looking....weird...

      http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

      And the "spring melt" has started in Alaska...

      http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=83032

      "The combination of heat and rain has caused Alaska’s rivers to swell and brighten with sediment, creating satellite views reminiscent of spring and summer runoff. On January 25, 2014, the Aqua satellite collected this image of sediment flowing into the Gulf of Alaska from numerous rivers along the state’s southeastern coast."

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    14. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      Dana Nuccitelli...

      What the 'consensus' has done , and was obviously intended to do, right from the start, is to suppress dissent and debate and attempt to head off any alternative research---to put back in their boxes anyone----even world-respected scientists---who had different views and different theories to put forward.

      We've been told for years that the consensus had been formed---the science was 'in'----it was 'done' or 'over'---that it was indisputable decades ago.

      We've been through…

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    15. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to helen stream

      You seem to be suggesting Dana is complicit in a dishonest and dishonorable movement. Do you think he'll understand that's a criticism?

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    16. In reply to Paul Wigton

      Comment removed by moderator.

    17. In reply to Brad Keyes

      Comment removed by moderator.

    18. In reply to Brad Keyes

      Comment removed by moderator.

    19. In reply to Peter Lang

      Comment removed by moderator.

  7. Gavin Cawley

    Lecturer

    Prof. Hulme wrote "Even if one takes the Cook study at face value, then how does a scientific consensus of 97.1% about a fact make policy-making any easier?"

    The answer to this question is pretty straightforward. While the lack of a scientific concensus is used as an argument for inaction in the political debate, there is value in demonstrating that this political argument is incorrect, and to do that you need evidence, which Cook et al (and others) provide.

    Call me old fasioned, but I would much rather policy was based on evidence than bogus arguments such as "there is no concensus".

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    1. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Gavin - "Call me old fasioned, but I would much rather policy was based on evidence than bogus arguments such as "there is no concensus"."

      One criticism of the consensus is that it means less as it encompasses more people. For example, as many, and the discussion above have observed -- though the authors of the 97% paper deny it -- the consensus encompasses putative 'climate sceptics'. The broader debate about the consequences of the consensus confuse its object. So positions which actually are consistent with the broader consensus are dismissed as rejecting the proposition that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

      The consensus, in that respect, obscures the evidence, and reduces the debate about it to a pantomime.

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    2. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Actually I disagree, while the 97% does include some climate skeptics, the 97% relates to the content of the papers they wrote, not their statements made in the public or political debate. There are very few peer reviewed papers that explicitly argue that climate change is not largely anthropogenic. The reason for this is that there is little solid evidence to support that position.

      If the lack of an existence of a concensus was not being used as a reason for a lack of political action, there…

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    3. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "the 97% relates to the content of the papers they wrote, not their statements made in the public or political debate."

      The debate then suffers from the problem that the putative counter-position to the (poorly defined) consensus isn't at all defined. This is exactly the point I made above. E.g.:

      "The reason for this is that there is little solid evidence to support that position."

      What position?

      And again, e.g:

      "maintream scientific opinion is pretty solid on the idea that climate…

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    4. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      " Continuing to repeat this false characterization (that the 97% consensus is just that CO2 is a greenhouse gas) doesn't make it any less untrue."

      Perhaps I should have been more precise here. The claim that the debate divides on whether or not CO2 is a greenhouse has is typically (and often) made, but is not the claim of your 97% paper.

      However, the 97% paper's categories are poorly defined, and attempt to reduce a complex debate into terms that are almost as cartoonish, and inadequate to the task. That is, however, a debate we have already rehearsed.

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    5. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Ben Pile wrote: ""The reason for this is that there is little solid evidence to support that position."

      What position? "

      it was stated quite explicitly in the preceding sentence:

      "There are very few peer reviewed papers that explicitly argue that climate change is not largely anthropogenic. The reason for this is that there is little solid evidence to support that position."

      Arguing about the subject of the concensus means is a continuation of the pantomime. Lets move on to something more fruitful.

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    6. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "it was stated quite explicitly in the preceding sentence:"

      But it doesn't divide sceptics from their counterparts. That is the point of asking 'what position', and observing the same in the statement:

      "maintream scientific opinion is pretty solid on the idea that climate change is largely anthropogenic"

      These positions are ambiguous. Sceptics that we can see the authors of the 97% survey disagreeing with include themselves within that definition, for instance. Thus, the definition of 'consensus' is too broad.

      "Arguing about the subject of the concensus means is a continuation of the pantomime. Lets move on to something more fruitful."

      I hate to point out that you can't even spell 'consensus', much less define it. If we can't talk about the consensus with precision, then it really isn't a scientific idea, much less the issue that divides different perspectives in a debate.

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    7. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Ben Pile

      sorry Ben, that is just the sort of fillibustering I mentioned earlier, you obviously are enjoying the pantomime. Common sense ought to be enough for most people to be able to work out what "climate change is largely anthropogenic" means, the ambiguity is negligible.

      Pointing out my spelling mistakes is blatant trolling, I've been discussing climate on blogs long enough not to be deflected by that sort of behaviour and I suspect most people reading this blog will recognise it for what it is.

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    8. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      @Gavin Cawley

      "Common sense ought to be enough for most people to be able to work out what "climate change is largely anthropogenic" means, the ambiguity is negligible."

      I agree that statement of consensus is unambiguous, but the trouble is that unambiguous statements like yours have not been tested outside forums like this AFAIK.

      For example, in Dana Nuccitelli's paper, the largest proportion that made up the consensus consisted of scientists accepting this statement described their paper.

      "Implicit Endorsement: paper implies humans are causing global warming. E.g., research assumes greenhouse gases cause warming without explicitly stating humans are the cause."

      Do you agree this is not equivalent to what you think is the consensus?

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    9. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "sorry Ben, that is just the sort of fillibustering I mentioned earlier, "

      It's quite simple:

      SCIENCE: "X is Y"
      DENIAL: "X is not Y".

      If it turns out that the putative deniers of a scientific proposition - X - in fact agree with the proposition, then the deniers are not deniers.

      This is not filibustering. It is essential. If you cannot supply a definition of the consensus, such that we can use it do identify assent to and dissent from it, then the "science" is manifestly not at the heart of debates about the climate.

      Moreover, the refusal to supply a definition of the consensus demonstrates my point that the consensus lacking an object (X) allows infamous participants in the climate debate to make it up as they go along.

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    10. Dana Nuccitelli

      Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Leopard Basement, that's a mischaracterization of our research on several levels.

      1) You only list one subdivision of the implicit endorsement category and suggest that's the consensus position. No.

      2) This also ignores the fact that the implicit rejections category also included papers that minimize the human influence on global warming.

      3) This also ignores the categories explicitly quantifying the human contribution to global warming.

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    11. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Leopard Basement, I think it is reasonable to say that there is a concensus that greenhouse gasses cause warming and that humans are the cause and there is also a concensus that climate change is largley anthropogenic. These are different questions, but are you really suggesting that there is not a concensus on both?

      As to the implicit endoresement, in scientific papers there is generally no need to explicitly endorse ideas that are well accepted by the research community unless that idea is the focus of the paper. Most papers on climate change are not on the topic of attribution, so you would only expect implicit endorsement. At the end of the day only 0.7% of papers explicitly reject AGW, so even if you only include papers that explicitly state a position you are going to find it hard to argue against the existence of a concensus.

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    12. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "Most papers on climate change are not on the topic of attribution, so you would only expect implicit endorsement."

      You can be part of the consensus without having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it. This is remarkable. An actual 'consensus without an object'; an endless series of facsimile of facsimiles of nothing at all. The consensus is formed, literally, by deciding it exists without considering its existence, and making a gesture to that effect.

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    13. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Ben Pile wrote "You can be part of the consensus without having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it. "

      Portraying the authors of papers on climate change that are concerned with topics other than attribution (of which I am one) as "not having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it" is cheap rhetoric. Most scientists working on climate will have thought pretty deeply about the question of attribution, even if they work on other areas of climatology. If you have to uncharitably misrepresent scientists in this way to make a point, it merely illustrates the paucity of your position.

      At the end of the day, only 0.7% of papers explicitly reject AGW, which shows that there is a pretty good consensus on that question.

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    14. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      @Dana Nuccitelli

      "1) You only list one subdivision of the implicit endorsement category and suggest that's the consensus position. No."

      I only needed that one single category to illustrate the fact your paper's headline 97% consensus figure's described here:

      "97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings"

      ...does not hold for a simple definition of consensus across the whole 97% proportion of climate scientists; in both self rated, and abstract rated groups.

      The quoted…

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    15. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "Portraying the authors of papers on climate change that are concerned with topics other than attribution (of which I am one) as "not having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it" is cheap rhetoric."

      It's not a statement about authors. It's a statement about the inadequacy of the definition of the consensus.

      "Most scientists working on climate will have thought pretty deeply about the question of attribution..."

      But the possibility remains that they have not. In fact, I encounter…

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    16. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Ben Pile wrote "You can be part of the consensus without having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it. "

      Ben Pile wrote "It's not a statement about authors. It's a statement about the inadequacy of the definition of the consensus."

      I don't think anybody is fooled by that, it was very clearly a statement about the authors and what they had thought about and what they had not.

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    17. Ben Pile

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "I don't think anybody is fooled by that, it was very clearly a statement about the authors and what they had thought about and what they had not."

      A statement about the definition of the consensus: "You can be part of the consensus..."

      A statement about the membership of the consensus: "Members of the consensus are..."

      Gavin seems very keen to moralise about positions held in this debate. This suggest that there is more going on here than differences about scientific propositions.

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    18. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Ben Pile

      Ben Pile wrote "You can be part of the consensus without having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it. "

      Ben Pile wrote "A statement about the definition of the consensus: "You can be part of the consensus..."

      The part of the sentence that you left out was "...without having thought about it beyond deciding to reproduce it", which shows that it was "very clearly a statement about the authors and what they had thought about and what they had not.", as I said. It is generally a bad…

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    19. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Gavin, I used to be a campaigner for wind - or at least I campaigned for jobs in the UK wind industry and took it for granted that global warming was a problem.

      I just assumed that somewhere someone had done the basic science that proved it to be true and therefore I personally had no need to check it.

      Eventually after I realised that those who were pushing the scare were actually part of well funded campaign groups and those who were questioning their assertions were almost ALL individuals…

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    20. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Mike Haseler wrote "has there been a free and fair debate on the science?"

      yes, look in the science journals, that is where the science is "debated", not on blogs.

      It is interesting you raise Prof. Salby as an example as the scientific argument that he is currently promoting is very easily shown to be incorrect, yet seems to recieve an inordinate amount of attention in the blogsphere. The reason Salby's arguments have not appeared in the journals is simply because they can't get past peer…

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    21. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      And I would add to Gavin's comment.

      And that debate has gone on for decades!

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    22. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      "the climate has not warmed recently"

      There is no statistically significant slowdown in the rate of global warming for the past 40 years, so how can you claim that the climate has not warmed recently?

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    23. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      Dana Nuccitelli

      Why do you insist on using the term 'anthropogenic' or 'human-caused' instead of CO2-induced global warming which is what this is supposed to be all about.

      It is CO2 that you're demanding we desist from emitting, isn't it?

      It is CO2 that you would go to the lengths of burying alongside our precious aquifers?

      Switching to an all-encompassing term as you do, is just another fudge , because you know the science of CO2-induced global warming is crumbling around you.

      'Anthropogenic…

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    24. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to helen stream

      Suffer much from Morton's Demon, Helen?

      You sound as if all your marching orders come directly from the Flying Monkeys©, not to mention the majority of your assertions are simple semantic games, which obfuscate what the science really knows, and that is, the current warming is MORE than 100% our fault, that the world has *incontrovertibly* warmed ever since the Industrial Revolution began, and nothing--as in NOTHING--else can explain that increase in heat, other than anthropogenic causes. You…

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    25. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Paul Wigton

      Ignoring your slurs typical of warmists ..

      Your whole post is about CO2 and that's fine, but almost nothing about the central question ---whether the sensitivity of climate to a doubling of CO2 is as high as has been thought and anywhere near as high as used in the models.

      If the sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is low, then we will have little CO2-induced global warming.

      Much of the recent research finds a lower sensitivity level, as James Annan has pointed out in the following comments…

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    26. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to helen stream

      Excellent comment. The estimates of climate sensitivity, ECS and TCR, are both coming down as is clear from reading between the lines in AR5 (eg they Avoiided giving a best estimate this time because it is significantly lower than in AR4).

      But climate sensitivity is only the beginning of the issues. The other critical parameters for policy analysis and decision analysis are:

      2. If the damage function is low then CO2 and global warming are net good up to a much higher temperature than the…

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  8. David Malcolm Carson

    logged in via Facebook

    Very good point. The "science" is such a red herring from the start anyways. Everyone who professes to favor environmental regulation because of "climate change" would have the exact same opinion on virtually everything even if climate change were not an issue. And the same is true in the reverse for those who are against environmental regulation -- that is to say, even if it were 100% true that climate change is a serious threat, they would oppose environmental regulations. So why don't we argue about what's really at stake -- environmental regulation -- instead of pretending to argue about "the science"?

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    1. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Malcolm Carson

      I'm a sceptic, I was also part of an environmental campaign to save our local peat moss. (http://www.kirkintilloch-herald.co.uk/news/local-headlines/we-don-t-want-scrum-thing-to-happen-to-beauty-spot-insist-campaigners-1-2314238)

      If you read WUWT, you will also see that Anthony Watts has a soft spot for the environment.

      Being for the science on climate and against the unscientific catastrophic narrative does not affect my views on the environment.

      Indeed, part of the reason I spoke out so…

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  9. Comment removed by moderator.

  10. Glenn Tamblyn

    logged in via Facebook

    Mike Hulme said:

    'it’s not for a lack of public consensus on the reality of human-caused climate change that climate policy implementation is difficult in the US.'

    This is actually the nub of the issue and where Mike is wrong. Lack of PUBLIC consensus around the reality of human-caused climate change is a central aspect of the situation in the US and to a lesser extent elsewhere.

    Is there strong consensus amongst the scientific community about its reality? Yes.

    Is there an understanding…

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  11. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    One question that science is yet to be able to answer is the role that natural climate cycles will have in developing climate of the future and which is to be the greater power, nature or humans?
    The lives any of us have will have seen some extraordinary events seen as acts of nature, events that could hardly have been predicted in their scope even if we can expect low lying lands to be subject to flooding and low lying coastal land to be inundated by various events of nature.
    To expect politicians…

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    1. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andy Skuce

      Andy, when I went to the Royal Society meeting on climate late 2012, I was surprised to find most climate modellers agreed with the sceptic view that the climate models did not work.

      That is the real consensus. The climate has so far proven to be incapable of being predicted.

      From that it is a fairly trivial observation that as those climate models include the very best of what is known about the climate, what we know about the climate isn't enough to predict its future course.

      This is a very basic principle of science. Models are created and they are tested against real data, and no matter how much "consensus" there is that some theory is correct, if that theory does not match the real data, then it is what the data says that takes precedence and not any consensus.

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    2. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      "Andy, when I went to the Royal Society meeting on climate late 2012, I was surprised to find most climate modellers agreed with the sceptic view that the climate models did not work."

      Name names please, otherwise I am calling BS.

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  12. david leitch
    david leitch is a Friend of The Conversation.

    research analyst

    Work on the consequences of climate change is at a very early level. Any review of the "Social Cost of Carbon" which is the most advanced theoretical construct for measuring "cost" will show that both the structure of the equation and the parameter values are complete guesses.

    The articles in Journal of Economic Literature, September 2013 presented three contrasting views on the Social Cost of Carbon. They are worth a read for people interested in the topic.

    In my view the science of climate change is well settled, but the theories, and proof of theories about the consequences and ability to adapt is anything but settled. I'm a fan of decarbonising the world but if you look at the contribution that coal and gas and cement make to global GDP, its clear that the costs of decarbonising are very extensive.

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    1. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to david leitch

      David, when I went from science at University into engineering, one of the hardest transformations was giving up the nice tidy hard certainties of what I had been taught as science, and learning about the messy real world real scientists in engineering face day after day.

      When your company relies on you to make a time-critical decision, you have little choice but to use all the tools and techniques and knowledge to make the best decision EVEN THOUGH "the parameter values are complete guesses…

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    2. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to david leitch

      "...the costs of decarbonising are very extensive."

      Indeed: according to most financial experts, something on the order of 3% to 5% of world GDP for the next 50 years. Guess to hazard a shot of the cost of BAU, if we do NOT decarbonise?

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    1. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ian Alexander

      I prefer not to use the word "denier". Instead I say "those who cannot yet see the pause".

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    2. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Yep, the tinfoil brigade are out in force... Scottish Septic...disgracing the Scottish people...

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    3. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      What 'pause' Mike?
      Ocean heat content - still rising, over 2.5 * 10^22 joules last year
      Sea level - still rising
      Ice - still melting
      Surface Air temperatures (SAT) in the Southern hemisphere - still rising
      SATs in the Tropics - still rising
      SATs in the Northern Hemisphere in Summer - still rising
      SATs in the Northern Hemisphere in Spring - still rising
      SATs in the Northern Hemisphere in Autumn - still rising a little
      SATs in the Northern Hemisphere in Winter - falling a little recently. That must be it

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    4. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Or, "those willfully blind to the DATA." You're a dismissive, first and last.

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    5. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      Glenn Tamblyn

      This pause.....

      Real Climate:

      “Almost all CMIP5 historical simulations do not reproduce the observed recent warming hiatus. There is medium confidence that the GMST trend difference between models and observations during 1998–2012 is to a substantial degree caused by internal variability, with possible contributions from forcing error and some CMIP5 models overestimating the response to increasing greenhouse-gas forcing.”

      IPCC...

      “The rate of warming over the past 15…

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to helen stream

      "IPCC...

      “The rate of warming over the past 15 years (0.05 degrees per decade) ... is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (0.12 degrees per decade)”."

      And that warming over the past 15 years is not statistically significantly different from the rate since 1951 or even since 1974 when the rate has been higher.

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    7. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      Glenn Tamblyn

      The fact that OHC and sea levels are rising a little isn't the point ---the rise must be accelerating if it's due to global warming and they are not accelerating.

      Phil Jones of CRU has admitted on YouTube, that the climate scientists have adjusted the OHC upwards to bring it into line with land surface temperatures and the UHI effect---a deliberate fudge.

      Climate scientists have to answer to the world for that, instead of whining about sceptics not believing the 'science…

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    8. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to helen stream

      Helen

      OHC is totally the point when we look at the implications of the magnitude of the warming.

      And rising sea levels are a direct indicator of warming. If sea level is rising this can only be because of 2 factors - melting ice adding water to the ocean and melting of the ice requires more heat, Or Thermal expansion of the sea water causing sea level rise, again requiring extra heat - warming.

      Your comment that rise needs to be accelerating to be due to global warming is wrong. acceleration…

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    9. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      Glenn Tamblyn...

      You say...
      'Your comment that rise needs to be accelerating to be due to global warming is wrong. acceleration of sea level rise is an indication of an acceleration in the warming rate. If the warming rate were constant sea level rise would occur at a constant rate.'

      But the point is warmists claim that we are experiencing not the slight warming that most sceptics accept as the earth emerges from the LIA, but catastrophic global warming---as Steffen reiterated just last…

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    1. Dana Nuccitelli

      Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Ian Alexander

      Thanks, I think my post there is quite relevant to this one. Much of my response to Hulme's comments there is applicable here.

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  13. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this article, Dr Hulme.

    So "Science can’t settle what should be done about climate change"? I disagree:

    1) Science tells us that the earth's climate has evolved to the Pleistocene state (unpleasantly cold glacial periods; atmospheric CO2 ~200 ppm) interspersed with benign warm periods (atmospheric CO2 ~280-300 ppm).

    2) Because human civilisation developed in, and is adapted to, the climate conditions defined by atmospheric CO2 ~280-300 ppm, we perturb that atmospheric CO2…

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    1. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      Name me any instance where increases in CO2 in a warm period has resulted in additional warming.

      (You don't need to answer because we all know there is no evidence that increased CO2 in a warm period will lead to further warming)

      It is therefore far more likely that the climate is unconditionally stable for a rise in CO2 in warm period than that any increase will lead to "catastrophic" or even "runaway" warming.

      Such ideas are about as absurd as you can get.

      If on the other hand, mankind were reducing the level of CO2 you might just have a point - but you aren't (yet) pushing that scare.

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    2. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      Mike Haseler writes "Name me any instance where increases in CO2 in a warm period has resulted in additional warming."

      How about the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum?

      If you read the IPCC report, you will find that the likely outcome of increasing CO2 is not "catastrophic", and very few scientists would argue that "runaway" warming is plausible. That is just hyperbole, and the use of such straw men does not advance the discussion of climate change one iota. Instead stick to what the science actually says, the IPCC report is a good guide to the mainstream position, and if you think that someone is "pushing a scare" then there are few better responses than pointing out that their view is not shared by the IPCC.

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    3. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      The Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 55 million years ago. Temperatures were 4-6 Deg C warmer than today. Then a major release of CO2 and Methane caused temperatures to climb another 4-6 degrees. A major ocean acidification event occurred, an anoxic event in the deep ocean and a smaller mass extinction event.

      There isn't anything special or magical about our current climate Mike. Temperatures can be warmer or colder than today. It all depends on the driving factors including CO2.

      So, 'It is therefore far more likely that...'. Exactly how do you estimate this 'likelihood' Mike? How did you do that calculation? Wet your finger and stick it up in the air?

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      "Name me any instance where increases in CO2 in a warm period has resulted in additional warming." okay.

      Industrial era (Anthropocene) 1750 - present

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    5. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to Mike Haseler

      "(You don't need to answer because we all know there is no evidence that increased CO2 in a warm period will lead to further warming)"

      No, you and your fellow dismissives "know" that: The rest of the real scientists (as evidenced by the Koch-funded BEST study, of ~1.6 billion pieces of data) actually KNOW you're incorrect.

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  14. Gavin Cawley

    Lecturer

    Having read Prof. Hulmes book on "why we disagree about climate change", I agree with much of what he writes. However I fundamentally disagree with his conclusion that science cannot solve the problem of climate change. Clearly it can, as it can tell us the likely consequences of various courses of action (or inaction). That is the basic requirement for rational decision making. The problem is that we as a species are not sufficiently rational and too focussed on short term self-interest to be…

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  15. helen stream

    teacher

    Is your distancing of the discussion from the science, just another way of trying to force acceptance of the dodgy 'consensus'---just as surely as John Cook's 97% claims?

    It seems so, because in posing your questions on the politics, the underlying assumption we're obviously expected to make is that there's catastrophic warming---that it's proceeding unabated---that it's not just 'human-caused', but caused by CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.

    This is just another way of saying 'the science…

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  16. John Sayers

    Designer

    I wonder how many posters here actually watched the whole committee investigation and listened to the statements they were given.

    The alarmists were first and they stated that the warming was continuing, (no it is not), that extreme weather events were increasing, (no they aren't). We must do something about it urgently by reducing emissions. (no we shouldn't.)

    The Skeptics on the other hand said there was nothing to worry about as the climate changes were well within the bounds of natural variation and the best action was to do nothing because we don't know what affect doing something would have on the climate anyway. And Donna added that the IPCC was corrupt and manipulated by politicians and should be dismantled.

    I agreed with the Skeptics.

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    1. Dana Nuccitelli

      Environmental Scientist

      In reply to John Sayers

      You agreed with the skeptics because they told you what you wanted to hear. The "alarmists" (a.k.a. realists) were correct and their positions are supported by scientific evidence.

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    2. John Sayers

      Designer

      In reply to Dana Nuccitelli

      No the realists, as you call them, aren't supported by scientific empirical evidence, only the projections of flawed computer models and their own fantasies.

      The realists as you call them were saying - the oceans are warming - No they are not according to Argo bouys - the sea rise is accelerating - no it's not, it's slowing - the ice caps are melting - yes and no, antarctic extend was a record last winter, arctic ice is still reducing slightly, ocean acidification is increasing, depends where…

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    3. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Sayers

      'the oceans are warming - No they are not according to Argo bouys'

      Nope, sorry, you got that TOTALLY wrong. Ocean heat content from NODC here: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/ (make sure you select graph number 2)

      Still rising, around 2.5 * 10^22 joules last year - that's around 12 Hiroshima bombs per second.

      And you do understand the difference between 'ice caps' - ice on land, and sea ice don't you. The main ice loss, land ice is still continuing. Hasn't slowed at all. And the increase in sea ice in Antarctica is still much less than the than the losses seen in Arctic sea ice over the last 3 decades

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    4. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to John Sayers

      "the warming was continuing, (no it is not)"

      How do you know it is not continuing when there is no statistically significant decline in the rate of warming since 1974?

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    5. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to John Sayers

      It's an easy thing, to agree with the pseudo-skeptics: they use NO data, and their findings are tasty to those not familiar with science.

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    6. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris O'Neill

      IPCC...

      “The rate of warming over the past 15 years (0.05 degrees per decade) ... is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (0.12 degrees per decade)”.

      Tung & Zhou[2] reported that the “underlying net anthropogenic warming rate has been steady since 1910 at 0.07-0.08°C/decade, with superimposed AMO-related ups and downs ..”. The sharply increased CO2 concentrations of recent decades has not caused warming to accelerate, as was predicted by the models.

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    7. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to helen stream

      “underlying net anthropogenic warming rate has been steady since 1910 at 0.07-0.08°C/decade"

      This cannot possibly be true as stated because the net anthropogenic forcing growth rate since 1910 has not been steady.

      "The sharply increased CO2 concentrations of recent decades"

      As I pointed out elsewhere:

      Average CO2 level in 1990: 354ppm
      CO2 level now: 397ppm

      Is a 12% increase in 23 years your idea of a "sharp increase"?

      "has not caused warming to accelerate, as was predicted by the models"

      The IPCC AR4 report says the models lead them to expect about 0.2 deg C/decade of warming for the following two decades. This is what has happened since 1974 (0.172±0.036 deg C/decade) and there has been no statistically significant departure from this trend.

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  17. Randy Trenton

    logged in via Facebook

    We are not terribly far away when those who are currently the "realists" are officially the "deniers", as it becomes more obvious who the realists actually are. Sadly this might give a black mark to environmentalism or science itself, I fear the backslide to this we might face.

    "Infamous" clearly fits. I am baffled how it got published.

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  18. Robin Guenier

    Retired private & public sector CEO

    Mike Hulme has a point. It would undoubtedly be a relief to stop bickering about the science and to focus on policy. That might be tricky however if, having stopped discussion of the science, we were left without a clear guide as to the objectives of policy. Yet discussing that would inevitably lead back to the science.

    We could avoid the dilemma by focusing on current policies and considering whether they were likely to achieve policymakers’ intentions. Many would welcome that. But it’s probably…

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    1. Paul Matthews

      Mathematics lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      This comment thread shows that Mike Hulme and Robin Guenier are right about the pointlessness of bickering about the details of the science. The same tired arguments about sea level and ice that have been repeated several times daily on blogs and comment threads for the last few years are regurgitated above to no avail. Likewise the arguments about claims of 97% consensus.

      With the failure of Copenhagen and subsequent climate jamborees to achieve any kind of meaningful agreement, and the continued rise in scepticism (as shown for example by the recent Yale poll), it's clear that the "decisive political action" desired by some activists is not going to happen. It is time that climate activists faced up to this reality and started focussing on more achievable goals, where widespread agreement is more likely, such as the development of safe, reliable nuclear power, or improving flood defences.

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    2. Mike Hulme

      Professor of Climate and Culture at King's College London

      In reply to Paul Matthews

      Fully agree with Paul here. The time cries out for a more pragmatic approach to a wider range of smaller scale but achievable policy goals around energy use/technology, air quality and weather risk management -- which have a range of welfare benefits but which do not have 'saving the planet' or 'stopping global warming at 2 degrees' as their driving rationale. The former will be hard enough, without invoking the latter utopian ideals. The wars over climate science only feed a destructive form of politics - better invest our time in disagreeing and arguing-out the things that really shape policy, i.e., the sorts of questions I refer to in my commentary.

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    3. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Agree with you and Paul. I was dismayed to note how this thread had itself descended into a perfect illustration of the pro/anti bickering that has been going on for years and is quite obviously going nowhere. Yet the world is moving on, politicians (essentially in the EU) are locally imposing expensive and potentially dangerous on us, yet at a global level it’s now obvious that, for good or ill, there will be no agreement to radically reduce GHG emissions. The only logical approach now must be, as you say, to invest our time in challenging and discussing local policies - but to do so in the light of global reality, not some utopian dreamland.

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    4. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Prof. Hulme "The wars over climate science only feed a destructive form of politics"

      I agree. However, the current political debate still includes those who would argue against any action on the grounds of a lack of scientific concensus, and this is a hurdle to us making any practical progress. It is obvious that you don't think we should gather evidence to demonstrate that such a concensus actually exists, which is fine, but then you need to explain what the constructive response actually is to this particular political argument.

      Please explain exactly how you would prevent practical progress being stifled by the political argument that we should do nothing because there is no scientific concensus.

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    5. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      You may have missed the point Gavin. It’s this:

      The harsh reality is that GHG emissions will continue their inexorable rise – and there’s no action we (the West) can take to change that. Therefore, we (essentially the EU) should stop bickering about the science (including, for example, arguments about consensus) and face up to that reality. We need a fresh approach to politics – one that enables us, in the light of practical global reality, to discuss and evolve achievable policies tailored to people’s needs.

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    6. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin, my post has precisely nothing to do with science, it is to do with the political debate. Loke Prof. Hulme I would very much like the political debate to move on to the sort of socio-economic problems Prof. Hulmes mentions (I have read his book and agree with much that it contains). However it is not enought just to know where you want the debate to go, you need to have a method to get there, you need to be pragmatic.

      Now, we could end the discussion of the science by one side unilaterally…

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    7. Mike Hulme

      Professor of Climate and Culture at King's College London

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Gavin, You are still framing 'climate policies' in terms of (the strength of) evidence that humans are changing world climates and that we can somehow stop this. What is needed is a different policy strategy, as outlined by the Hartwell Group and the Breakthrough Institute. It is about developing local/regional environmental/welfare policies (justified for an eclectic set of reasons) that have (some limited) climate co-benefits, rather than trying to push through climate policies justified by their hope to stop (slow) climate change from happening. At the headline level these are about: improving local air quality; better coping with weather dangers; and driving forward energy technology innovation. You don't need to defend the '97.1% climate science consensus' (I'm not saying it can't be defended) in order to drive such policy forward if you change your line of reasoning.

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    8. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Prof. Hulme, just to be clear, it seems to me that you are suggesting that we should let arguments against taking direct action on climate change go essentially unopposed and not take any measures that are directly justified on the grounds that they will mitigate against climate change. Instead we should look at smaller projects justified in other ways that will mitigate against climate change merley as a by-product?

      I can see that the latter approach will be easier to implement, but I am very doubtful that it would be effective in addressing climate change as a by-product (either by mitigation or adaption). Dealing with climate change is likely to be a substantial practical problem, and it is difficult to see how addressing it indirectly makes the technical/economic task any easier. There is no point in taking an easily implemented, but ineffective approach, so for me to be a supporter of this approach, I would need good evidence that it would be effective.

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    9. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      OK, Gavin, let’s consider the politics.

      In the 1970s, when the West was overwhelmingly powerful, Western environmentalists tried to impose their beliefs on what was then called “the third world”. Not unreasonably – keen to escape poverty and ambitious for economic and political growth – the third world rejected this. So a new concept, “sustainable development”, was evolved to accommodate their wishes. To put it simply, it meant that, whereas Western nations might accept environmental constraints…

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    10. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin, O.K. lets say that emissions will go unabated and action to limit CO2 emissions will have no effect (I disagree that it is a fact, but I can put that to one side for now) and so we have to concentrate on adaption.

      What is your evidence that the initiatives that Prof. Hulme suggests, which have climate change adaption co-benefits, would be more effective than initiatives that are directly geared towards preparation for adaption to climate change?

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    11. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Gavin: I mentioned Professor Hulme's suggested initiatives only as examples. I wholly agree that measures for direct adaptation could also be most important. And I’d like to see, for example, more focus on R&D aimed at developing practical and cost effective sources of renewable energy. But I believe our overall priority should be on strengthening the UK's resilience by improving the health and capability of our economy.

      Now tell me why you disagree with my contention that, because global emissions will continue unabated, mitigation by the EU is no longer an important issue.

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    12. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin This is my point, if Prof Hulme wants us to change the form of the debate, it is incubent upon him to provide evidence that his proposed approach will be workable and effective. The fact that you cannot provide such evidence is indicative of a gap in Prof. Hulmes argument that needs to be filled. I rather doubt his ideas will get much traction until they are.

      The problem with your approach of giving overall priority to the UK's resillience is that it does nothing to improve the adaption to climate change in other countries, for which we in the developed world are primarily responsible.

      As to mitigation efforts by the EU. If you think that efforts to curb emissions are pointless, would you say that we should rapidly exploit fossil fuels to maximise economic growth (before they are exploited by everybody else)? I am just asking this to clarify your position.

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    13. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin wrote "I wholly agree that measures for direct adaptation could also be most important."

      O.K. so then a politician comes along and argues that there is no need to waste money on projects to support direct adaption to climate change because there is no scientific concensus that climate change is worth adapting to.

      We both agree that this kind of project is a good idea, so how do you prevent this strategy from being used preventing direct adaption projects going ahead, just like it is being used to scupper mitigation policies?

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    14. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Gavin: but my basic point, which I suggest I’ve spelled out plainly, is that the approach you seem to advocate – the mitigation of GHG emissions by the EU – is itself neither workable nor effective. If that’s true, there’s obviously no point in adopting it and we have no choice but to identify and discuss other approaches. The precise details of how we’d implement them and how we’d cope with the many problems that would inevitably arise (such as your “no scientific consensus” claim) would be for later consideration.

      But you said you didn’t agree with my basic point and I asked you to explain why. Until you’ve done so there’s plainly little point in moving on to consideration of other approaches.

      So, as I said before, please tell me why you disagree with my contention that, because global emissions will continue unabated, mitigation by the EU is no longer an important issue. Thanks.

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    15. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin, I haven't actually advocated any particular policy, in general or specifically with respect to the limits on CO2 by the EU. The only discussion of that specific question was because you brought it up. The point that I am making is that if Prof Hulme (or anybody else) has a different approach then I am all for it, PROVIDED there is evidence that it will be practicable and effective. So far, neither you nor Prof. Hulme have provided any evidence to suggest that such approaches are either…

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    16. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      OK Gavin let’s start again. Go back to my original post. Read it – and note, in particular, my concluding statement:

      “Yes, Mike Hulme is right: a focus on policy and politics is needed. But the only rational approach now is to determine our (the West’s) optimum course in a world where we are rapidly losing influence, where emissions will rise and where our trying to prevent that from happening is pointless.”

      My position is simple: let’s stop the fruitless bickering about the science (and debating…

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    17. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin, I have answered your question, please answer mine, which is directly relevant.

      You say that mitigation is pointless, O.K., that leaves adaption, which we both seem to agree is important. So when a politician argues that there is no need to waste money on preparing for adaption because there is no scientific concensus, what will be your response? How will you prevent that argument from being used to prevent work on adaption that you yourself suggest will be important?

      BTW I find it…

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    18. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Well, first you’ve only vaguely answered my question: where’s the evidence supporting your position? The so-called “developing” economies are emitting GHGs at an extraordinary rate. For example, they’ve probably now just about equalled the developed world’s total emissions since the Industrial Revolution. As a result, CO2 levels are now 61% higher than they were in 1990, the Kyoto baseline. That’s today’s reality – starkly confirmed by the most recent UNEP report. Even if it were true that “there…

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    19. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      Robin Guenier wrote "My response to your unlikely and hypothetical question would be to ignore him."

      Allowing an opponent to use an incorrect but effective argument go unopposed is obviously no solution to the problem, as it would be simply conceding defeat and would mean efforts to prepare for adaption (which we both seem to agree would be a good idea) would be scupperred or at least substantially compromised. It is also by no means unlikely that this situation would arise, as demonstrated by…

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    20. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Gavin: I assume you mean that my “opponent” would be claiming that there’s no scientific consensus (note spelling) that further GHG emissions would be dangerous and therefore must be curtailed. If so, he’d be right as evidenced by my submission to the Select Committee – there is no evidence of such a consensus. But I’d still ignore him. I’d ignore him because I’m unaware of anyone who disputes (1) that the climate changes and (2) severe weather (whether or not caused by climate change) can be extremely…

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    21. Mike Haseler

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Mike, I think most sane people can agree the climate models have not been exactly wonderful and predicting climate. We could argue till the cows come home what might happen in 100 years, and barring a medical miracle, none of us will ever know.

      But we do know we can predict the climate/weather at a regional level, perhaps weeks, perhaps months in advance, and that kind of forecast could potentially save millions of lives.

      I hope you would agree, that if we did improve the regional forecasts…

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    22. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robin Guenier

      "And that’s the trouble: too many people find debating (bickering) such details interesting and enjoyable (witness this thread) and, as a result, fail to understand – or even see – the bigger picture."

      I'm no genius and I have no trouble seeing the bigger picture. Which is: "CO2 levels are now 61% higher than they were in 1990, the Kyoto baseline"... and the climate is not "worse" in any detectable sense. So the sooner we snap out of this fatuous climate delirium the sooner we can invest billions of dollars in science that actually matters.

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    23. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Mike

      That's a very sly way of reassuring Gavin that he shouldn't worry, because the CAGW mission has already been accomplished---the propaganda has 'taken'---the smears and slurs have worked---the plebs are primed and now , so that with the house of cards collapsing, you can all 'move on' to getting what you want without having to defend the 'science'.

      You can all slither over from alarmist lies and deceptions to taking credit now for the reviled 'direct action' policies of the true realists…

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    24. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Mike Hulme

      Vital elements are missing from your preferred scenario.

      Where do you stand then , on the on-going claims by prominent warmist scientists who continue the alarmism----the cries that we've only got a short time frame [ it varies] in which to decarbonise, or it will be too late---sentiments gravely expounded just last week by Will Steffen, speaking for our recently-sacked now crowd-funded Climate Change Commission?

      What you're proposing is the very much maligned and ridiculed…

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    25. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Mike,

      If you (and Robin) agree with Paul then that's a tacit admission that you don't expect nature to provide decisive evidence of dangerous AGW any time soon. Any alarmist who loses hope of a scientific triumph is, in effect, acknowledging that the climate itself is not going to help the alarmist cause. If they were sincere in their belief in dangerous AGW, then they'd be very confident that the scientific case for it was only going to get stronger and stronger. (Which we all know it won't.)

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    26. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      "CO2 levels are now 61% higher than they were in 1990"

      Average CO2 level in 1990: 354ppm
      CO2 level now: 397ppm

      Last time I checked, 397 was about 12% higher than 354, but who am I to argue with Brad Keys.

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    27. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      "Now, we could end the discussion of the science by one side unilaterally stopping talking about the science. For instance we could stop having studies to determine what the scientific concensus [sic] is. However, does anybody really think that the other "side" in the debate would then stop claiming that no action was necessary as there was no concensus [sic]?"

      Anyone who bases decisions regarding action on the existence of a "concensus" is a scientific illiterate who doesn't even know that a consensus is not "science." Opinion is not evidence. For anything. Whatsoever.

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    28. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "Last time I checked, 397 was about 12% higher than 354, but who am I to argue with Brad Keys."

      Yeah, I found Robin's figure a little suspicious, but I don't let myself get too skeptical about anything that doesn't threaten my gas-guzzling, 2nd-Amendment worshipping, free-market ideologue lifestyle. BAU, baby! BAU!

      Oh, and Chris—last time I checked my surname had 5 letters in it.

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    29. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      "I don't let myself get too skeptical"

      OK, so you didn't have your point. Admission accepted.

      "my surname had 5 letters in it"

      Who cares.

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    30. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Yeah, no, I totally understand, Chris—4, 5, what's the difference between a couple of math genii like you and me, eh?

      "Who cares."

      Full stop, question mark—like I said, what's the difference between a couple of grammar genii?

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    31. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      "I'm no genius"

      No, you're a genius.

      "Full stop, question mark"

      Who cares.

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    32. Robin Guenier

      Retired private & public sector CEO

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      I was referring, Brad (and Chris), to levels of annual emission in the same sense that this extract from a commentary on Kyoto Protocol targets refers to them:

      "These targets, which range from –8% to +10%, represent either an outright cut in emissions levels for industralised countries, or a lower level increase from current levels compared to an expected 'business as usual' scenario for less developed countries ... On average, these commitments represent a reduction of 5.2% below 1990 levels."

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    33. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      I believe you're right, Brad.

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    34. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      Brad, if the majority of the electorate were scientifically litterate and actively looked into the science of climate change, you would have a point. However the reality is that this is not the case, which is why claiming there is a lack of a consensus is effective rhetoric for those who would oppose action on climate change (as nobody *wants* to forgo the benefits of fossil fuel use, most will be only too happy to have a reason to do nothing). If it were not for the fact that this argument is…

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    35. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      >”Brad, if the majority of the electorate were scientifically litterate and actively looked into the science of climate change, you would have a point.”

      Gavin, if the majority of climate scientists, academics, and CAGW activists were economically litterate and actively looked into the costs and benefits of the climate mitigation policies proposed by these activists, they’d stop pushing for them and argue for policies that are rational (unless, of course they have other motives) . That is the…

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    36. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      *I* am not pushing for any particular policy, merely that the process for arriving at a policy is rational and based on evidence (scientific and economic). Scientists should make sure the scientific evidence is presented to the public correctly, the economists should make sure the economic considerations are presented correctly. Thus I am against the use of the argument "there is no consensus on the science of climate change" as a means to oppose a particular line of policy, simply because the argument is incorrect. Now if you want to oppose that line of policy because of sound economic evidence, that would be another matter altogether. It is the use of bogus scientific arguments in place of valid economic arguments that I object to.

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  19. Leopard Basement

    Carnivore

    "The now infamous paper by John Cook and colleagues published in May 2013 claimed that of the 4,000 peer-reviewed papers they surveyed expressing a position on anthropogenic global warming, “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”. "

    I think I agree to some extent that the adjective "infamous"may be a bit too strong here, and I would offer that a milder interpretation of the near synonym "Notorious" would be more applicable. As stated here:

    - no·to·ri·ous…

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    1. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Holy crap. Boasting about the President's illiterate, alarmist tweet without correcting it takes the SS kidz' climate honesty to a new level.

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  20. Barry Woods

    logged in via Twitter

    With reference to Gavin Cawley's discussion Ben PIle (who is clearly a 'sceptic') earlier about the 97% paper:

    As it developed at no point does Gavin reveal to a more casual reader (perhaps assumed that the reader would know?), that he is a regular author and contributor of the Skeptical Science blog, so would not perhaps be perceived as an un-neutral party, to a casual reader, As Cook et al (has 8 authors that are regular Skeptical Science contributors. incl Cook the founder, Dana & Rob)
    I…

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    1. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Barry Woods

      The ironic thing is that Barry posted earlier on this thread without revealing that he is an occasional author at Watts Up With That (until just now); would he previously "not perhaps be perceived as an un-neutral party, to a casual reader"?

      As it happens ad-hominems of this nature are mere rhetoric, what actually matters is the correctness of the arguments made, so I don't actually care whether Barry is neutral or not or for whom he has written articles, all that matters is the content of his…

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    2. Barry Woods

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      Hi Gavin, you clearly knew who I am, and the others you mentioned were and vice versa.

      The difference between us, is that a contributor to SkS, there is a connection between you and Cook's paper.

      After reading for a while, I realised (by the moderators comments) that a casual reader might have no clue who, not just yourself who anybody was. whilst readers of the article would see Ben Pile, myself others you mention were clearly 'sceptics' and sceptical to Cook et al, where as perhaps you…

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    3. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Barry Woods

      No, actually I didn't know who you are until I clicked on the link you provided that said who you were, largely becuase it is completely unimportant and has no bearing whatsoever on whether your arguments are correct. It is a pity that discussions of climate can't seem to stick to the content of the arguments, we might actually make a bit more progress that way.

      The reason I didn't make a point of mentioning that I have a connection with SkS is that I don't see it as being of any importance whatsoever…

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    4. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      >"The ironic thing is that Barry posted earlier on this thread without revealing that he is an occasional author at Watts Up With That ...

      As it happens ad-hominems of this nature are mere rhetoric"

      Isn't that rather hypocritical of you? I didn't know until you admitted it now that you are a contributor to the alarmist site SkS, an unadulterated doomsayers' advocacy site. Now I can fully appreciate the context of your comments.

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    5. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      The source of an argument *is* irrelevant, what matters is the content of the argument. if you think there is something wrong with the *content* of my comments, then please do reply to them and I'd be happy to discuss them with you. However if you just want to engage in ad-hominems and hyperbolic name calling, then sorry, life is too short.

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  21. Eli Rabett

    logged in via Facebook

    That little thing at the bottom of the article

    "This article has been updated to better reflect the views of the author."

    Prof. Hulme may be of two minds but then why is he wasting our time?

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    1. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      Your anguish about the adjective "infamous" being applied to the Cook et al paper couldn't have taken up too much of your time surely? ;)

      Though I think "infamous" was bit strong myself, I didn't find it detracted from the rest of the piece.

      That edit seems to have appeared soon after my comment here suggesting discussing that point.

      https://theconversation.com/science-cant-settle-what-should-be-done-about-climate-change-22727#comment_306516

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    2. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Andy Skuce

      @Andy Skuce

      "[S]ince there is no way of knowing what was changed in the original article or why it was changed, the ensuing "conversation" now makes little sense."

      I agree, a detailed and full explanation of *any* changes on *any* published article is a real necessity .

      For the record, at the time of this comment, the full extent of any changes in the above article are:

      "The now infamous paper ..."

      has been changed to

      "A paper ..."

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    3. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      @Gavin Cawley

      "They deleted the word that made it an offensive and unjustified insult then? Good."

      I agree. While it didn't bother me I can imagine to some people that Hulme's use of the word when used without further explanation could seem gratuitous.

      I think the limitations, and then subsequent media exploitation, of the Cook paper could have been explored more critically in the context of this article. For example as I outlined in my comment above...

      https://theconversation.com/science-cant-settle-what-should-be-done-about-climate-change-22727#comment_306516

      ... but Hulme didn't commit himself to doing that here beyond the implications of the adjective. So the removal makes practical sense on that score.

      I certainly wouldn't assume the edit is an attempt at an apology as Andy Skuce seems to think.

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    4. Gavin Cawley

      Lecturer

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      It wasn't Prof Hulme's use of the word, see his blog (http://www.mikehulme.org/):

      (7 February) Correction! The wording change in the 3rd paragraph of my commentary at The Conversation, made on Friday 7 February, returns the text back to my original as submitted to the editor. The editorial changes made to my submitted text were later approved by me, but hastily, and I did not give due thought to the implication of the editorial introduction of the phrase ‘now infamous’ to describe the 2013 Cook et al. paper. I do not think that is a good description of that particular study – controversial perhaps, but not infamous. I apologise for this oversight on my part.

      I have to say that I was rather surprised by the use of the word, given the impression of Prof. Hulme I got from his book, the above seems much more in character (and to his credit).

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    5. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Gavin Cawley

      @Gavin Cawley

      Thanks for that. Well it does seem some apology is required, although exactly from whom to who has me scratching my head!

      I haven't read his book but remembered his earlier comment about the 97% paper on the University of Nottingham blog which included:

      "Cook et al. study is hopelessly confused as well as being largely irrelevant..."

      So that, combined with my own assessment of Cook et al, left me unsurprised with the adjective ;)

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    6. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Further to my last comment, and in light of the edit, I had to check and find the July 23, 2013 UoN web page (not sure if links allowed) where Hulme first commented on Cook et al.

      I think it is worth reiterating what Hulme said there - his last known stated stance on the Cook et al paper was:

      "Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level…

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    7. Mike Hulme

      Professor of Climate and Culture at King's College London

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Leopard - no I haven't changed my view in any significant way, but my essay on The Conversation was not about the Cook et al. study - I simply used the 97.1% number to illustrate my argument. It is perhaps a 'controversial' study, but not an 'infamous' one.

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "public understanding of the climate issue"

      Is there such a thing as public understanding of the climate issue?

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    9. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      @Chris O'Neill"

      You ask (me?)

      "Is there such a thing as public understanding of the climate issue?"

      Dunno myself mate. Who said "public understanding of the climate issue" ?

      Not me - I feel sure ;)

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Andy Skuce

      "If I understand the purpose of this site correctly, it is to bring some journalistic clarity to academic communication. This piece is a fail by that standard and for that we should blame the editor, not Hulme."

      Judging by the free flow of disinformation and outright spam in a lot of the comments at "The Conversation", one wonders what the purpose of this site is.

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    11. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      @Chris O'Neill

      "Judging by the free flow of disinformation and outright spam in a lot of the comments at "The Conversation", one wonders what the purpose of this site is."

      This is your second comment on this page.

      Your first one was addressed to me and which I answered.

      You didn't acknowledge my answer.

      I have to ask you in a semi-ironic way...

      What purpose have your comments here?

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    12. Eli Rabett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Hulme

      Now Eli has been around this issue for a long long time, even back to USENET and ARPANET, and it is a common tic tac to attack the scientists while claiming to accept the science. The obvious goal is to discredit the science, but in a deniable way.

      The fact is that there is strong agreement, some might call it a consensus, among those who study climate science that the IPCC has it pretty right, although it is perhaps a little more conservative than most would think. This agreement IS strong evidence that there is a consensus on the basic contention that people ARE changing the climate in a way that is almost certainly dangerous.

      So when Eli reads an article which says the science is not relevant, that evidence of strong agreement among scientists is not important, and nary a word about the economic and political forces trying to discredit the scientific basis of the consensus, what is a poor bunny to think about the author and his intentions?

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    13. Eli Rabett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Do you deny that there is an overwhelming consensus about those who study climate and climate related issues that humans are negatively affection the climate by emitting greenhouse gases? Do you want to argue about whether that is 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, or 99 percent of the scientists?

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    14. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      "Do you deny that there is an overwhelming consensus about those who study climate and climate related issues that humans are negatively affection [sic] the climate by emitting greenhouse gases?"

      Let me save Leopard the trouble and say that I deny it. But only because it's silly. "Negatively affecting the climate"? Well no—emissions are not making the climate "net worse" in any sense in which such a word can be understood in such a context, are they?, and you don't even need to be a climate expert to know they're not, though it surely helps. So I'd be highly surprised if there were any kind of overwhelming majority opinion among experts to that effect.

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    15. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      "and it is a common tic tac [sic] to attack the scientists while claiming to accept the science. The obvious goal is to discredit the science, but in a deniable way."

      Or... even more sinister... <b>to deny the science, but in a credible way!</b> Muhahaha.

      Funny how things that aren't even true are considered not only true but "obvious" to some people.

      By the way, "the science"? "The scientists"? This language is so facile, it's puerile. Adults will be aware that "the" science is of heterogeneous calibre, roughly reflecting that of the individual scientists responsible for its respective components.

      Duh.

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    16. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "I have positive affection for the climate :)"

      Not me. It's brought us nothing but dumbness and expensiveness ever since scientists discovered it. Let's burn down the observatory so this can never happen again.

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    17. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      "Do you deny that there is an overwhelming consensus about those who study climate and climate related issues .."

      This is weird thing to ask.

      Is the consensus a scientifically thing to be shown or not!

      If you have paid any attention to my comments on this page you will see I think it hasn't been shown scientifically or otherwise.

      "Do you want to argue about whether that is 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, or 99 percent of the scientists? "

      Lots of choice there.

      I love this kind of choice.

      From where I stand (and I suspect not just deniers but any human you will try this on) you will only get questions back...

      I.e The concepts that live in your head will be questioned by any reasonable person..

      are you willing to accept what any reasonable person could possibly say to you?

      Or do you prefer taunting you repository of well known enemies?

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    18. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      "Do you want to argue about whether that is 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, or 99 percent of the scientists?"

      No.

      No I don't.

      I'm sorry.

      I realise now.

      It's 97

      I, er, sorry..

      well

      I love you big brother.

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    19. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "I realise now. It's 97 I, er, sorry.. well I love you big brother."

      Really? There's less climate now because of AGHGs, according to 97 percent of experts? I doubt that, Leopard. Most experts would probably agree with me: that climate has increased, if anything. (More's the pity.)

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    20. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      @Brad Keyes

      "Really? There's less climate now because of AGHGs, according to 97 percent of experts? I doubt that, Leopard. Most experts would probably agree with me: that climate has increased, if anything. (More's the pity.)"

      Look, don't try and confuse me with your clever words.

      Personally I realise and accept now that 97% of scientists say something consistent about the climate.

      What that is exactly is not for the likes of you and me to question, or particularly know, let alone understand.

      And whatever physically happens in the future of the Earths climate we must just accept that whatever these brave 97% have said in the past about Earths climate was right.

      It is all very clear to me now.

      Why don't you accept this.

      Come brother...

      Look at the light ... join us :)

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    21. Eli Rabett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Yeah, unless you have made a serious study of something it pays to rely on the consensus of experts, which is a serious indicator of agreed science. Of course, you can believe that you know better, but unless you convince the experts you are Ludwig Plutonium in drag.

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    22. Eli Rabett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      And, of course, that is why there are IPCC working groups, NRC, and RS committees who look at all that stuff and issue reports to the scientists, the public and policy makers. Then of course there are people like Brad. Good luck with that.

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    23. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "Who said "public understanding of the climate issue" ?

      You could always try looking up the person you quoted.

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    24. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "You didn't acknowledge my answer?"

      Sorree. I didn't realize that my life revolves around acknowledging your answers.

      Once again, my apologies.

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    25. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      "Well, whoop dee doo. and who are you? "

      I'm Brad. Brad Keyes.

      As, I think, my name indicates. I don't see the need for a pseudonym, Mr Rabett.

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    26. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      Riiiiight, and we can be ONE HUNDRED per cent sure Brad Keyes is your real name....give it the F up! Whether or not someone uses an alias on the Internet has *absolutely* no bearing whatsoever on their logical processes: I think Eli--well-known by his real name--has established those processes quite well, without us all knowing 'his real name.' What is it about dismissives that compels you to focus like lasers on an alias, rather than the robust-to-2-sigma science?

      Oh wait......

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    27. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Hulme said:

      >""Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister should cite it. It offers a similar depiction of the world into categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to that adopted in Anderegg et al.’s 2010 equally poor study in PNAS: dividing publishing climate scientists into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?"

      I agree 100% with this statement. Furthermore the study was complete nonsense by a well known CAGW alarmists and politically motivated activist. It has been discredited and anyone still referring to it is ignorant of that or not interested in the truth.

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    28. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Paul Wigton

      "Riiiiight, and we can be ONE HUNDRED per cent sure Brad Keyes is your real name...."

      Rubbish. Of course not. You can only be NINETY SEVEN percent sure. The obvious and reasonable course of action, then, is to spend another several dozen billion dollars of taxpayers' money trying to close the uncertainty gap. You know, the way proper scientists would do.

      In the meantime believe nothing, suspect everything and never stop speculating.

      After all, if there's anything we know about online discussion…

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    29. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      "...it pays to rely on the consensus of experts"

      "Of course, you can believe that you know better, ..."

      Know better than what?

      I know an "expert" at measuring consensus has told us that the President of the US has look at his work and agreed he showed that a consensus of 97% of "experts" say that climate change is dangerous.

      Without claiming to be Ludwig Plutonium in drag I merely read the work in question and found that it says no such thing.

      I.e. I know better now.

      Am I wrong to "know better" like this?

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    30. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "I merely read the work in question and found that it says no such thing. I.e. I know better now.

      Am I wrong to "know better" like this? "

      That's a dangerous path my friend.

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    31. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      Note that "Josh" (real name Eli) said:

      "Yeah, unless you have made a serious study of something it pays to rely on the consensus of experts"

      ... where "made a serious study of" apparently means "read," and "experts" = "the kidz who handle Obama's tweeting duties for him."

      Good ol' "Josh."

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    32. Leopard Basement

      Carnivore

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      ""the kidz who handle Obama's tweeting duties for him."

      You may be right but I am willing to believe that President Obama personally endorsed that tweet. Adds a certain frisson to the implications ;)

      Also worth bearing in mind that Dana Nuccitelli, John Cook's co-author on the 97% consensus paper, conceded the incorrectness of the Presidents tweet in a comment at the Guardian:

      "It's not precisely correct but it didn't concern me. That's a relatively minor mistake and they got it right in…

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    33. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Leopard Basement

      "Remember, these are the guys who spend most their time claiming that others are engaging in misinformation. ;)"

      Be fair. They're engaged in disinformation, which is totally different.

      :-D

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    34. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      That pony has bolted Eli.

      We used to have a lot of trust in experts, when experts had integrity---- but your CAGW collective has changed all that, and trust in experts and science will never be the same again.

      'Experts' don't carry the same cache with the advent of agenda-driven climate science---and Hulme's post-normal social science .

      The question is how is your 'agreed science' arrived at?

      How many good scientists had to be kicked out of the way and trampled on ---how many careers…

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    35. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      Eli...

      Isn't it true that the 97.1% is 97.1 % of the 4014 accepted for assessment who agreed , not specifically with the consensus on CAGW, but with the vague wording specifically designed to be impossible for anyone to disagree with ---namely that there is some warming and that humans are responsible for some of it---- Cook et al extrapolated that to a claim that 97.1% of scientists agree with the CAGW consensus.

      Is it not true that the research was designed to get a good number by making…

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    36. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Eli Rabett

      Eli...

      Is it possible, do you think, that the 'strong agreement/consensus you are so proud of, encompasses only a small section of the science community , and has been achieved at the expense of science itself?

      Exactly when did this consensus first manifest---because climate scientists tell us it was formed decades ago.

      We've been told for many years now that the science was 'over'---'settled'---'in'---even before much of the research was done---while clouds had hardly been studied at all---and…

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    37. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to helen stream

      Helen,

      We need far more teachers like you - think clearly, write clearly, appropriately sceptical. Excellent.

      How can we get the teaching profession and academia up to your standard of competence and integrity?

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    38. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to helen stream

      "The IPCC and these scientists who desperately try to keep the world alarmed for their own purposes , are engaged in contrivance and deception..."

      Project much, helen?

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  22. Bart Verheggen

    logged in via Twitter

    Hulme's main point is one I strongly agree with:

    In the end, the only question that matters [for the public debate about climate change] is, what are we going to do about it?

    The part where I disagree with Hulme is where he argues that showing the existence of a scientific consensus on the above (it is warming; it’s due to us; it’s bad news) somehow stands in the way of getting society to discuss that most important question. I think the opposite is true. It is the continuous doubt about the…

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    1. Brad Keyes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Bart Verheggen

      "In the end, the only question that matters [for the public debate about climate change] is, what are we going to do about it?"

      Nothing.

      What SHOULD we do about it? That depends on The Science™. Which you don't want to discuss for some reason.

      "The part where I disagree with Hulme is where he argues that showing the existence of a scientific consensus on the above (it is warming; it’s due to us; it’s bad news)"

      It is warming—It's due to us—It's bad news!

      Who are you, John Cook? Congratulations—you…

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    2. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Brad Keyes

      >"What SHOULD we do about it? That depends on The Science™. "

      Wrong!. It depends on the damage function, the amount the world can and will decarbonise with no regrets, the damages that the wrong policies will do to human well-being, the economics, the cost-benefit analyses, the policies that can succeed and deliver beneftis that exceed costs for the world over the long term in the real world of international diplomacy, trade and conflicts over time scales of 100 years.

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    3. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Bart Verheggen

      Bart Verheggan....

      So it appears that what you and Mike Hulme are saying is...

      ---- 'the science of catastrophic CO2-induced global warming hasn't worked out too well for us

      ----CO2 rises inexorably while the earth stubbornly refuses to comply with our models

      ---we can't find the 'missing heat'

      ---Trenberth says it's in the deep oceans but can't demonstrate how it got there

      ---we know black carbon is causing a large part of the Arctic melt, but we don't want to go there, because…

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  23. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    Good post. [I've come late to this thread] I agree with the thrust of the post and with the questions. I'd ask the below question (which I've asked many times before and it is invariably ducked, dodged, avoided, re-framed, or the discussion is diverted to other things the person would prefer to discuss):

    Q. Can anyone point to any authoritative analyses that evaluate the probability that the mitigation policies proposed by their advocates would succeed in delivering the claimed benefits?

    The question is about the probability of success in the real world given the real world diplomacy, trade, conflict, international and domestics economics and politics, etc.

    The expected benefits must be clearly specified in terms of climate damages avoided. They must be measurable benefits (of climate damages avoided) and the dates by which those benefits would be realised.

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    1. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Yes: of the many sources and tomes speaking to this question--WorldWatch Institute has a raft of them--is Gwynne Dyer's book, "Climate Wars: The Fight For Survival As The World Overheats."

      It's about as simple an answer to your question as can be easily sourced. There ARE no easy answers, only least bad ones. and the time to implement them is rapidly running out, and dismissives, such as we've seen in this thread, throwing their feces on the science, IS part and parcel of why time is running out.

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    2. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Paul Wigton

      You didn't understand the question.

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    3. Paul Wigton

      Geologist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      You stated this..

      "Q. Can anyone point to any authoritative analyses that evaluate the probability that the mitigation policies proposed by their advocates would succeed in delivering the claimed benefits?

      The question is about the probability of success in the real world given the real world diplomacy, trade, conflict, international and domestics economics and politics, etc."

      I answered with a very clear source in which you can find the answer....now, if you lack the personal integrity yo actually *look* at the data, and from that lack, you don't understand the answer, that is most decidedly *not* my problem.

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    4. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Paul Wigton

      Don't start the nonsense about personal integrity, especially since you clearly haven't showed the personal, intellectual or professional integrity to try to understand or answer the question. If you don't understand the question you should ask for clarification, not practice obfuscation. If you felt the reference you provided supported your assertion, you'd provide an summary that is relevant to answering the question.

      Your silly answer is like saying "Go read IPCC, I'm sure you'll find the answer in there somewhere".

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