back to article Top British boffin: Time to ditch the climate consensus

Just two years ago, Mike Hulme would have been about the last person you'd expect to hear criticising conventional climate change wisdom. Back then, he was the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, an organisation so revered by environmentalists that it could be mistaken for the academic wing of …

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IT Angle

Interesting article ...

The one issue I would say is that these "cross party" groups are there because if party X declares they will spend Y amount on renewable investment then if party A declares it will scrap the money and claw back the investment nothing changes ... much better that both parties agree that 1/2 Y is the "right" amount and that gets spent and the investment happens.

Similarly if we don't co-orginate environmental policy internationally companies will just manufacture goods in the cheapest place they possibly can and despite, Germany say, having very high environmental standards the same goods will be manufactured somewhere else.

This article makes some very good points, the majority of which I agree with but I think concensus "politics" is still a better way forward.

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Relevance?

Would it even be relevant if it were peer reviewed? Wegman showed that Climate Science peer review is essentially a corrupt little cabal, with scientists reviewing and citing each other's papers in a virtuous circle of back slapping and grant money. There is no independent view given in the review process that would give it any integrity.

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Paris Hilton

No room for dissenters

If you want to raise the hackles of the green weenies, ask them why Mars and Saturn have warmed since the 1970s (when we started tracking these things), and why the sun has warmed over the same time. No, it's still humans causing the earth to heat, that's just a coincidence.

Then ask why Europe and North America have gotten cooler since the peak heat year of 1999, a time when the sun has gone into a serious sunspot minimum. At best, you'll get the sound of crickets chirping. At worst, you are branded a heretic and blasphemer and a tool of the man.

Paris, because for all her faults she's not an ecomentalist.

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Quite Right

This is quite right. Science can give us a good idea of what is most likely to happen, but what to do about it is a political decision.

If we accept that, say, 2 billion people, will be killed by the direct effects of AGW in the next 150 years (figures plucked from the air, but not out of question), then we as a society have to decide whether we want to do anything about it, given that changes to reduce that toll WILL affect our lifestyles now. It's up to our politicians to respond to the national mood on that, even if that means doing nothing because there's not a chance of them getting re-elected if they do anything.

I would like them to take a more active role in trying to persuade people rather than just tell them what to do, but I'm only one.

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Sociologists

At last, a job for all those with sociology degrees to get their teeth into: climate change science! The Register really is clutching at straws, in its attempts to get its anti-GW stance across.

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Anonymous Coward

Perspective

Like so many political band-wagons, it's very easy to lose sight of the original goals and to get lost in the "us vs them" mentality. Another recent example is that of the sort of following that Dawkins got after The God Delusion.

The sensational is what sells newspapers and gets votes, so the media and our politicians are bound to want a simple, bold statement, and not some uncertain probabilistic prediction, with a promise to refine the conclusions over the next few years.

One other point is that scientists live for funding. The more public a particular area of research is, the more likely the peer-review system is going to dole out the cash. Having experienced the research world, I've noticed that often in recent years, a funding request is often successful if there are one of three phrases (or similar) in the title and abstract: "cancer-cure", "nano-tech", or "climate-change", regardless of actually how relevant the research is to those areas.

However, the scientific world, whilst often caught up in all this, always (eventually) ends up at the same place - ie. looking at the facts and questioning them*.

People need to realise that just because the scientists change their minds, doesn't make them less credible.

*ok, so it doesn't always happen particularly quickly.

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Anonymous Coward

@Robinson

Care to venture an alternative to peer review? I agree it has many many flaws, particularly that which you state*, but in the absence of a better system, it's all we have.

*Note that not all reviewers are that conceited and underhand as to agree someone's paper/proposal just so they themselves are favoured, but money does make the research world go round.

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@Andrew Roberts

"figures plucked from the air, but not out of question".

"Not out of the question"? You are kidding, aren't you? It's ridiculous numbers like that that stifle sensible debate (one of the points of the article). As long as we're told it's armageddon (again) people stop thinking rationally about solutions to problems and start acting emotionally (cf Monbiot and his ludicrous call for 96% reduction in CO2).

O

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Nobel prizes

Didn't Tom Lehrer give up satire when Henry Kissinger was given the Nobel Peace Prize?

I think the whole climate change debate is a sign of the infantile manner in which pretty much every argument has to be intensely polarised today. While it was fun for a while in that it enabled media outlets to sell more copy as 'twere, it has shaped politics and societally important science into loud, shouty arguments on the with us or against us level. Mike Hulme seems to espouse neither polar viewpoint and, sadly, will therefore be vilified by both. It's ironic that he is criticising concensus when a somewhat truer concensus would necessarily be away from the 2 extremes and somewhat nearer the middle. To paraphrase the rail announcer, it's the wrong kind of concensus...

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Anonymous Coward

Then and Now

I agree with the need to engage climate change issues on all possible levels from all possible sides and think the more ridiculous and outlandish the fringe arguments become the better overall for a universal dialogue. It was the maths averse Winston Churchill who said, "These gentlemen are the opinions upon which I base my facts." I suspect the same principle holds today.

What the article hints at but doesn't expound upon is the dirty little war being waged over relativism as a philosophical and political road map. The issue of relativism in the social sciences and politics today seems to stem from the Standard Model of the early 20th c. which propounded a highly relativist position toward education. The linguist S. Pinker bashed it in his "The Language Instinct" book. Conservative, political parties seemed to have signed on to a relativist position that today is manifesting itself in the U.S. in the struggle the Republicans are slogging through to find a defining philosophy. Interestingly the idea of relativism dates in western history to the pre Socratic philosophers and pre Sophists who developed the early empirical outlook that drove what is referred to as the Ionian Enlightenment. The central tenant then, as perhaps it is today, is that in a relative world all values are relative and thus no overriding moral or religious philosophy is valid or needed. Appearentlly we've come full circle. "It was ever thus." as my dear old grandpa use to say.

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Rob
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Go

@Andrew Roberts

Would be nice if you could substantiate those figures because to be honest if I were a big player/politican/world leader I'd more tempted to let 2 billion people die, it would solve a lot of other issues like power, water, food, space, housing etc.

Actually probably best not to substantiate those figures cause if one of the above reads these posts 2 billion of us are doomed.

Science has been fck'd up for awhile now and the general populace in education now are interested in fast money rather than furthering the human race.

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Dead Vulture

Blurring together two debates?

It seems there are three positions here - global warming isn't happening, global warming is happening but isn't caused by human activities, and global warming is happening and it is being caused by humans. Science can, and has, shown warming happening. That is the scientific consensus, though the cause is more contentious. As with most things in the real world, the likely cause is a mixture of effects from natural causes and from human actions. Really, does it matter who is to blame?

The question is simple: how do we respond? This is the point where science can only give options. From conservational measures like cutting greenhouse gas output to interventionist measures like promoting cloud formation, the decision on what will be done has to be made by politicians. Maybe we will choose to simply ignore warming and deal with the consequences. Maybe we'll go for a huge engineering fix. Maybe we'll all be forced to stop using nonrenewable resources. This is the interesting debate that needs opening up to everyone, not whether warming is happening.

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Happy

Agree strongly

Consensus is not what drives discovery. Unfortunately the "consensus" on climate change has now got us to a point where you can't question anything in the Anthropogenic Climate Change movement without being labelled a heretic. For example, go and read Lomborg. In his books he starts from an assumption that all the hard science in IPCC is true. He then analyses that science to try and figure out the effect on the world. His analysis (which is pretty solid) comes to the conclusion that Global Warming is, on balance, good for the world. He then gets a major character assassination when he hasn't even questioned the core science. He doesn't even question the climate models (which are highly questionable when you look at the core science). Of course on the other side you are allowed to use any rhetoric you wish without a blink. Read the comment from Andrew Roberts above where he plucks a number out of his ass (2 billion people dead in 150 years). There isn't a single peer reviewed paper which gets within multiple orders of magnitude of that figure, yet it is openly thrown into a scientific discussion.

Throughout history a lack of consensus has always been more successful than a consensus. It is why capitalism and democracy have been more successful than socialism or communism. It is how new scientific theories have been developed. Galileo took us out of a consensus opinion on the world. Einstein took us out of a consensus view of the world in 2 areas, both with relativity and with quantum mechanics.

What is problematic about climate science at the moment is that you aren't allowed to question the consensus without being pilloried. That is just wrong. The only way to defend a position in science is open debate. If you are going to use character assassination instead then in the end your position is hurt. That is what climate science is doing.

Following Hulme's own advice, I feel I have to declare my own position. I've read a hell of a lot on climate science and heard plenty of debates both from people in the field and scientists outside the field (astronomers, geologists, engineers, statisticians, etc.). I find many of the positions of the climate change movement to be difficult to support. The fact that the climate change movement character assassinates opponents rather than debates with them reinforces my view that their position lacks substance. As such I am largely on the side of not accepting anthropogenic climate change.

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Unhappy

I wish all the mentalists would f**k off

and leave the adults to handle the matter - ie, work out IF there is a problem (it mostly looks like there is), how big the problem is, and how (or whether!) we should go about fixing OR mitigating the problem.

At the moment you've got lunatics on both sides who have various hysterical views - some greenies who believe that unless we revert to the Stone Age NOW, we'll all die and take all life on earth with us, and some lunatics on the right who think that using up all fossil fuels NOW to drive their landships around is a good idea.

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@Richard

OK, I'll take those questions of yours on. Firstly, though, I'm going to ask you why you think 40 years of observations is enough to build an accurate model for global climate change historically?

The Earth (and the rest of the solar system) is heated by The Sun. We, also, get some from our nuclear core which complicates things a bit, but for simplicity we'll go with your assertion that it's the sun wot dun it. Yes if you turn up your bar fire the room will get hotter more quickly and if you turn it down again it heats up less quickly. Assume that this room is not a closed system and can dissipate heat at a certain rate, then, yes, if you turn up the bar fire, it'll get hotter and if you turn it down again the room will slowly cool to a previous thermal equilibrium. Now, what if you change the rate of heat dissipation, up or down, and also can change the rate of heat transfer from the fire? You change the way the room responds to changes in the fire, upsetting the equilibrium and you get a change in climate behaviour that has a cause.

The model we have for climate change (or, as I prefer to think of it, the change in climate change) is based on historical data taken from core samples all over the world going back hundreds of thousands of years, modelling how global climates changed then and applying what we observe today. There is little doubt that human effects on the environment (not just fossil fuel use, I think that's an easy straw man politicians can point at, tax, and look "green") have changed the way the room responds to the fire.

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Wow!

"If we accept that, say, 2 billion people, will be killed by the direct effects of AGW in the next 150 years (figures plucked from the air, but not out of question),"

If you accept that as being "not out of the question", it's only because you've become a credulous and stupified individual unable to separate fiction from reality. Let's say, as a much more reasonable alternative, that putting the breaks on development, particularly in the 3rd world and elsewhere, will kill an order of magnitude more people, through poverty and disease, than any almost imperceptible increasing in atmosphere surface temperature.

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Happy

Hey guys

Just backup the data, and keep the network running will you.

Is anyone qualified to comment on global warming?

If the environmentalists are wrong, nothing happens, except we save some energy and do less damage to the environment.

If the environmentalists are right and we go on as we are, we destroy life on earth.

We live in a one-time system, and no one knows which of the above (if any) is right.

So which kind of error is it better to make?

See you on Mars

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@Onionman

Yes, 2Bn dead is 'not out of the question'. It's not very likely, either.

But, if you'd actually read what Mike Hulme was saying, you'd know that this is one of the problems; scientists can't say '2Bn will die' or '200 will die'. They don't fucking know.

They have an idea of the range, though, and an idea of the probabilities - neither of which Hulme contradicts.

The question is - do you assume that everything's gonna be alright, and do nothing (risking drastic consequences), or do you do everything you can do (risking looking foolish)?

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Nice article.

That is all.

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More Science, Less Politics is Good

Science, not politics, will tell us what is most likely to happen at any given level of continued carbon emissions. Yes, deciding how much it is worth to us to avoid global warming is a political decision. But the danger that, because the costs of doing something to avoid global warming are unpleasant, we will refuse to hear the evidence is something that is very real - as we all should know from experience.

In my opinion, we need to do more to short-circuit the political debate, not less. Instead of people having to make an unpleasant choice between becoming much poorer here, or causing flooding and starvation in the Third World, the government should be announcing a jobs stimulus program of building nuclear power plants right and left so as to cause the shutdown of all the forms of energy production that release carbon.

This way, everyone wins, except the fringe environmentalists who don't like nice, clean, safe nuclear power. Obviously, that lot just wants to weaken our industrial base so that the Russians or somebody can march in and take over. So the right kinds of politics can solve everyone's problems.

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@Phil

You have two rather depressing problems here.

Science is (or rather the scientists involved are) totally clear that global warming is happening, and pretty convinced that humans are the culprits. El Reg disagrees that it's even happening.

And as for how to respond, the answer is equally clear - we won't. Oh sure, individuals will do what they can, within the bounds of what they consider an acceptable lifestyle. But any solution will cost, and will cost globally. And it will have to be enforced. We can't even get the richest, most industrialised nations to enforce basic environmental issues in their own countries - things like not dumping toxic waste (cf. American underfunding of the EPA) or fishing out the oceans (cf. the EU fisheries policy, and French fishermen upset at even those limits). So the chances of a global policy being set up and enforced are basically nil.

And let's be honest, rich countries are going to be the last to feel the pain. They can always afford more concrete flood defences. It's not quite the same in Bangladesh, but then that's the point - no government really cares about people outside their country. Hell, even inside their country there's a limited amount of caring.

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The 4 Positions

@ Phil Bennett: There aren't three positions, there are four:

1) global warming isn't happening

2) global warming is happening but isn't caused by human activities

3) global warming is happening and it is being caused by humans.

4) global warming is happening and this current phase is both natural AND is being caused by humans

I'm a 4-ist, and also believe humanity has adapted to climate change in the past, and will do so again. The facts are that global warming cannot be stopped, and that it will bring gains and losses. In the meantime, I like to sit back and watch the angry, emotional, desperate shouting and slanging matches. I especially like the way "denier" has become the new heresy. I even read a suggestion recently that AGW "deniers" should be classified as morally equivalent to holocaust deniers, and prevented from publicly state their views. What tremendous fun!

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@Hey guys

"If the environmentalists are wrong, nothing happens, except we save some energy and do less damage to the environment"

If only that were true. The 'environmentalists' have the politicians in their pocket, however, and are throwing their weight about, so we have lunacy of 'carbon credits', taxation of anything to do with CO2 (e.g. vehicle duty) and energy police with thermal imaging cameras coming to your neighbourhood RSN.

CO2 accounts for 0.03% of the atmosphere and our contribution is 3% of that. Do you really think that's warming the planet more than the sun? As it happens, the sun is very quiet right now, and the world has been cooling for ten years, but that doesn't make the headlines somehow...

Read this for balance - the next scare will be another ice-age!

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/04/natgeo-sun-oddly-quiet-hints-at-next-little-ice-age/

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g e
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Not so much 'don't you dare disagree with my theory'...

As I have a huge government grant propping this all up and I want it to come in next year so DO NOT INTERFERE

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Graham Bartlett's Talking Points

Your script tells you to say:

"Science is (or rather the scientists involved are) totally clear that global warming is happening"

Scientists like the Met Office? They acknowledge no net warming this century. It's 2009 now. Many scientists think there's nothing here that isn't consistent with natural post-1850 warming and some are worried about a new long term period of cooling. Which means more problems for humanity than a degree or two of warming.

Oh dear. That's not in your script, is it?

"El Reg disagrees that it's even happening."

The Reg may be useless a lot of the time but they have one eye on the data. You need a new script.

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Anonymous Coward

RE:Hey guys

The main problem with your assertion is that you are assuming negative consequences are only attached to the option of doing nothing.

In order to "save energy and do less damage to the environment" changes will have to be made. These changes will have negative repercussions which may, or may not outweigh the benefits. No-one knows if the changes we are expected to make will actually make any difference in the long term.

If catastrophic destruction by AGW is simply postponed by a few years / decades / centuries / millennia then it makes no real difference*, the planet is still gone**. It might be a different bunch of people that get to see the end of the world but it is still the end of the world.

But, assume that we can prevent global warming by cutting emissions etc. etc. then there are a few important factors that need to be taken into consideration:

(1) we still need power. You might want to go back to living in a cave but I don't. More importantly I like to have power in things like hospitals.

(2) we still need transport. Especially those people in hard to reach places

(3) research focussed into reducing emissions will necessarily deprive research from other areas, arguably including healthcare / disease prevention etc.

(4) We would all have to go Nuclear. This has its own problems, not least the atomic bomb making possibilities It would be ironic if the steps taken to save the planet allowed a fundamentalist religious nutjob to make a bomb and destroy the world.

So, if we did as the AGW doomsayers are telling us (and remember they don't actually _know_ that doing what they say will help) people will die because of it, by diseases that haven't been cured, lack of hospital care because there are fewer hospitals further away with less transport and poorer roads, through hypothermia in winter and hyperthermia in summer and many other causes.

So what number do we put on the additional deaths? 1? 100? 1000? 2 billion? 20 billion? I certainly have absolutely no idea, but surely the most important question regarding climate change is "will more people suffer and die by doing what is necessary than by doing nothing?"

*unless it is staved off until after we can all leave and go terraform someplace else. But this is not really a resolution, if it was we would be better off putting resources into space travel and planet forming rather than being green.

**Your assumption that AGW will destroy the planet is flawed. It might destroy all the higher orders of life, but in that case, once the environment stabilised evolution would just re-populate the planet with Humans 2.0 to start over again.

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Coat

Authority of Science

"protesters who are hiding behind the authority of science"

Protesters in general are NOT 'hiding' behind science.

Most of them are actually saying that more and more scientific research is strongly suggesting human activity could be to blame for or at least exaggerating the effects of global warming, and even if its only a *likelihood* that this is true and that behaviourial change could reverse or even reduce the global warming effect then we need to get on the case pretty urgently to stand a chance of securing our kids future on this planet.

The fact is that global warming is happening, and whatever the actual root cause its going to put humanity right in the sh*t in the very near future with the global population density we now support.

You would think that regardless of whether we are the root cause or merely a contributor to it, that humanity as a whole would be looking to secure its future given the conditions it is fairly certain to face ... but no, most of humanity is busy saying 'wasn't us guv' and getting on with business of making money no matter what the cost.

... mines the one with the deeds to a self sufficient small-holding located on high ground in the pocket.

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DT
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GW is a side issue.

"Stuart Blackman is a science writer and co-editor of the Climate Resistance blog."

So, not a denier, just "challenging the consensus".

Kinda like an Inteligent Design fan saying "I'm not a creationist, I'm just challenging the consensus of evolution".(!!!) Attempts to pre-empt such an analogy in your article, does nothing to reduce its pertinance.

Besides; MMGW is small potatoes compared to the real issue; an energy gap between supply and demand as carbon fuel is depleted. I'll happily ignore MMGW, take it right out the equation, deny it completely, and can still built a highly cogent argument in favour of a number of policies on a long term, economic, social and indeed moral basis. If the greens are wrong, and lets hope they are; most "green" policies still provide better long term benefits; less dependence on fossil fuels, preserved biodiversity, sustainable food production, fewer wars over resources, and ultimately a better standard of living. Dependancy on foriegn oil and gas from volatile countries? Industrially pooping where we eat? Emptying the larder? It doesn’t take a scientist or an environmentalist to realise these are bad ideas, does it? Abandoning concensus is a patently stupid idea, getting major players on board at an early stage is key to approaching a major transitional event like peak oil. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Not wanting everyone to "revert to the stone age" is the whole point of getting behind alterative, efficient tech and making best use of current resource.

Even if the scientific consensus on GW was the exact opposite of present; why wouldn't we hedge our bets, given reduced carbon dependency and sets us in good stead for the transition? That finite resources are being depleted isn't an "if" argument like MMGW, it's undebatable. It's a "when" event and the global implications are clear. MMGW or not, the policy of “carry on regardless” will in the long run, mess us up in numerous other ways.

Personal consumption isn't an inalienable right which overrides all other concerns, and the liberty of businesses to turn profit doesn't override the wider societal interest. Heck, there's even folk who disingenuously deny and resist change as a terrible inconvienience, whilst secretly betting on dying before any of these problems materialise!

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

My belief is that global warming seems to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and is likely to be man made given the sudden rapid rise since industry took hold. But that all the suggestions made so far is unlikely to have any significant effect.

I, for one, have become more than a little fed up with the holier-than-thou brigade who object to us refusing to wear their hair shirts, and trying to portray anyone who doesn't embrace all the life degrading changes they support in order that they can feel good about themselves, as some kind of selfish outcast.

The only way one can tackle this problem, assuming we can, is a) to limit the population of the planet to a level that those remaining can lead a decent standard of life without deleting resources at an unsustainable rate, and messing up the ecosystem with their waste products. And b) finding a new source of power sufficient to cover our industry's needs, that doesn't cause the problems we are presently seeing. Long term goals unfortunately but there again the problem took a relatively long term to surface. Until those happen we just have to put up with the consequences of having not understood the consequences of having more than two offspring in the past, and showing no sense of responsibility now that, that problem is crystal clear.

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Time to Ditch the Spin and Distortion

It seems to me that the professor mixes up objective observations (science) with subjective interpretations (ideology, religion) and expects the latter to override the former when convenient. That he brings up the "dodgy dossier" - a classic case of political interference distorting the best information available to decision-makers - as an instance of science (or, rather, the evidence) "overselling itself" either reveals a certain level of dishonesty or that he is playing in the little league when it comes to interpreting and discussing political behaviour.

"Hulme’s Christian beliefs might be a further invitation to ad hominem responses."

Is this the Sarah Palin school of politics again? Identify where someone goes off the deep end and it's that cheap shot of debating: no, not "ad hominem" attacks, but the continuous usage of the term by people who are out of their depth. That, and people taking any label which they gladly apply to themselves and using it as some kind of exemption from further scrutiny: if someone rubs their Christian beliefs in everyone's faces and meets criticism of their position on some topic, then accusing people of being anti-Christian or anti-faith is the "get out of further debate" card that gets played.

Quite how Christian beliefs should colour the dire consequences of climate change remains to be seen: some evangelists are aghast at the damage being done to the planet (they take it as some kind of offence to their deity); others presumably expect Jesus to show up and hit the undo button. Maybe there's sense in sticking to the facts after all.

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Anonymous Coward

Friends of the Earth?

I love the name 'Friends of the Earth' nothing more dramatically highlights that they are in fact NOT friends of the Earth.

If they were they would realise that the Earth doesn't care a jot for the amusing little apes that cover it today. It wasn't concerned when it got hit by a meteorite and it wasn't converned when the dinosaurs got wiped out. It wasn't concerned when the mammals came to ascendancy and it won't be concerned when we are gone. It will just go on until it is consumed by the Sun.

This point seems to be lost on the Friends of The Earth. They are more concerned with preserving humans and the status quo. They are nothing more thana self preservation society. They should be called 'Frends of the Human'.

Let the planet warm, let the climate change. The price to pay will only be the extinction of our species (along with a few others) - so what. In the eyes of the Earth that's a trivial event.

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Boffin

Re: Friends of the Earth?

You've got the wrong site - you're normally being quoted on http://ifyoulikeitsomuchwhydontyougolivethere.com/. Meanwhile, the "green" agenda isn't actually green at all - I've seen it, it's written on white paper. Lies!

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3x2

Oh dear ..

(...) they need to be opened up to other disciplines, from the arts and humanities, for example (...)

I can't really see what this has brought to the debate other than more smoke and mirrors. It has become politically charged precisely because everyone else has jumped on board.

The key issue concerns positive feedbacks in the climate system without which it is a non problem. "The Geopolitical Implications of Gender in Anthropogenic Global Warming" adds nothing to the core debate other than further polarisation and confusion.

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Anonymous Coward

Data?

@Paul M

I think your script is the one with a few pages missing. I find this statement from the met in 2008:

"Over the last ten years, global temperatures have warmed more slowly than the long-term trend. But this does not mean that global warming has slowed down or even stopped. It is entirely consistent with our understanding of natural fluctuations of the climate within a trend of continued long-term warming. "

And:

"These longer-term analyses have shown that current warming is being caused mainly by human emissions of greenhouse gases"

And their climate projections page (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/science/projections/):

"Despite the uncertainties, all models show that the Earth will warm in the next century, with a consistent geographical pattern."

So whilst you and El Reg have one eye on the data, said data would appear infantile wall-based shit smears.

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Heart

Better living with the Greens?

@DT

"If the greens are wrong, and lets hope they are; most "green" policies still provide better long term benefits; less dependence on fossil fuels, preserved biodiversity, sustainable food production, fewer wars over resources, and ultimately a better standard of living."

You are joking, right?

Green policies are explicitly anti-growth and anti-wealth. And we're supposed to be happy with it.

In the words of George Monbiot:

"It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves."

No sane citizenry has ever voted for this.

Or ever will.

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Joke

Tombo

The earth is flat. We have a consensus, so fuck you.

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The folly of consensus

True Believers in AGW keep telling us that "there's a consensus now, the debate is over." Alas, that's not how science works because the universe doesn't care what we think is happening, it just does what it's going to do no matter what we expect. Only politics works like that, and that should tell you what AGW is all about: political power.

Not only does the self-proclaimed consensus stifle honest debate and an impartial examination of what's really happening, it's based on a flawed methodology. All of the High Priests keep pointing to computer models, but they neglect to tell you one very important fact: if you give one of those programs data showing what the climate was like twenty years ago and let it run, it won't come up with what's happening now. Not one of them. And yet, these models that demonstrably can't predict the present are expected to predict the future with 100% accuracy. More and more facts are coming out every year that contradict the Gospel of AGW, but the True Believers just change their tune to make those facts "proof." If it's hotter in the summer, that's AGW, if it's colder in the winter, well, that's AGW too. By now, in the sense of Popper, AGW is meaningless because if you listen to the fanatics, there's nothing that can happen that they can't explain as being caused by it.

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Politics as usual.

The planet has been both a good deal warmer and a good deal cooler than today in the last 20,000 years. Currently, if you eyeball the raw data, we seem to be tending a trifle cooler than we were ten years ago.

BUT, and here's the important bit, nobody, and I mean NOBODY! knows why.

Making changes in what we are doing without understanding the mechanism involved is just as likely to make matters worse as to to make things better (whatever "better" means, considering we don't really know what is happening).

As a scientist, in my opinion we should put aside all the back-biting & arguing, and try to figure out what is happening BEFORE making gross changes.

But that wouldn't make good headlines. Nor research dollars.

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@Paul M

re: The Met office: You seem to fall into the trap of mixing up weather and climate. Nine years is weather, climate is longer term. To make it more simple - Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

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Max
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@DT @AC

Keep moving those goal posts!

BTW AC, there is a "scientific" way to fix your problem that seems outside the scope of your political and non scientific talking points.

Perhaps moving heavy industry off the surface of the planet would work? If you're concerned about the extinction of the species there are a hell of a lot more obvious risks that the retarded debate of whether we can manipulate and repeat the GIGO problem with climate models in the same way we've done with the financial models. After all, in order for the species to survive, we need to leave earth. Seeing as the Sun will go poof someday, destroying the fracking planet completely.

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Stop

Less belief please.

"For Hulme, for open debate to be possible, there must be a recognition on all sides that we all bring a host of values, beliefs and influences to the table..."

"To hide behind the dubious precision of scientific numbers, and not actually expose one’s own ideologies or beliefs or values and judgements..."

What good is the boneheaded ability to cling to a particular set of ideas in the face of an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary? People probably do recognize what he's trying to "bring to the table", which is why they don't give a damn about his opinions. Personally, I don't debate with idiots, preschool infants, or religious people; I've found there really isn't any point.

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Bah

Makes a change for the mob to be citing peer-reviewed (or not) science rather than God Swill, Catholic Dogma or any of the reasons used to - I dunno - justify torture, claim the air in post 9/11 NY was "safe", shoot doctors outside clinics and gosh knows whatall else.

I've seen the Athabasca Glacier and I know why *I* think the Earth needs our help. But that's all right. UEA is sitting on what used to be a port town. Once the tide rises and engulfs Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Beccles Diss and all points East I'm sure he'll be reveiwing the science to see what the hell can be done to save the UK lowlands.

I hope they did the much-needed (but oft-delayed in the late 70s) maintenance on the raised walkways at UEA. They might very well be the only way short of a canoe of getting from EAS to the Sainsbury center in future years.

:o)

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Linux

Consensus or not?

I suspect the writer's concern with consensus is that the science is not as black and white as the political consensus - i.e. politics is not reflecting reality.

My personal concern with "consensus" is that it appears to be the only people are willing to do things. Intolerance is the rule and all opposition is shouted down and drowned out. This is both an unpleasant social development and it removes that most important element of science, the ability to challenge conventional wisdom. I would much rather university professors who have doubts over AGW receive funding for their research from independent sources than have the oil companies be the only ones willing to stump up the cash for the investigation.

As for how someone's espousal of Christianity might influence their policy on this, it might prevent general nuttiness. Humans are caretakers of the earth and its resources, not its owners. They have a responsibility to look after it and not to consume or horde its resources excessively to the detriment of others. That has many implications which might affect policies from CO2 emissions to taxes and development aid.

Tux, one of the natural wonders of the world.

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@Fraser

" e: The Met office: You seem to fall into the trap of mixing up weather and climate. Nine years is weather, climate is longer term. To make it more simple - Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get."

ohs noes, the weather vs. climate hair splittling talking point.

So climate is weather sampled over time over an "area" (The boundaries of which aren't all that clear) The problem is, how much time? 5 years, 50 ? 1000? The AGW cheerleading crowd frequently sites short term changes as evidence of global climate change (as small as 1 year of hurricane activity ) When other folks bring up the fact that there's been no net warming in 10 years, that's just mere weather and not climate.

So 1 year = Climate change if the pattern fits the narrative

10 years = Mere weather, because the pattern doesn't fit the narrative.

As you probably gather, the weather vs. climate thing is really an arbitrary and heuristic distinction which is used as a lazy argument to refute skeptics who point out the obvious fact that our ability to predict weather isn't so good, and that that same problem might also apply to the far future climate predictions.

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Boffin

@AC 13:44

"Consensus is not what drives discovery."

But scientific consensus is what validates discovery, you don't appear to understand this crucial part of the functioning of science. In science maverick opinions come up regularly, most of them wrong. How does one separate the ones that are wrong (e.g. phlogiston, spontaneous generation, Lamarckian inheritance) from those that aren't (e.g. plate tectonics, the existence of black holes, quantum theory)? The scientific mavericks argue their case with the other scientists in the field (who, in turn, argue back) and everyone looks for more data to bolster their case then, eventually, the preponderance of evidence will be so strong on one side or the other that a CONSENSUS will emerge on who was right.

Einstein's theory of Relativity, to use one of your examples, only became an accepted part of Physics when his prediction of the effects of the Sun's gravity on starlight was confirmed so convincingly that the Physics community came to a consensus that it was correct. As far as quantum theory goes, Einstein's contribution (for which he won his Nobel Prize) was not in the formulation of quantum, but as a contributor to the then-emerging consensus in favor of quantum theory. Specifically, Einstein pointed out that the hither-to mysterious photo electric effect could be easily explained by assuming the quantization of energy states of the electrons involved (the work function).

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Anonymous Coward

GW a distraction from the energy crisis

No matter whether or not man-made emissions of CO2 are a cause of global warming or not: the real issue is that as a species we are utterly dependent on fossil fuels for our energy needs. These will run out, you may dispute how many years are left but it is a finite number. Removing this dependency on oil, coal and gas is necessary for long-term energy security - and would nullify a significant portion of man-made CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately this realistically means more nuclear power - renewable energy sources just aren't reliable enough to base a nation's power supply on. The stupid science-denying green lobbies of Greenpeace et al have successfully demonised this in the eyes of the public that this is impossible to sell. It's much easier to sell shitty little wind turbines sticking off your house while at the same time nuclear plants are being decommissioned with more use of natural gas power stations as a consequence. Our politicians are cowards for not trying to convince the public of the change that is needed and the public are idiots for not trying to understand the long term mess we are all in.

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re: The 4 Positions

Having spent some time trying to understand things from a data driven perspective, I tend to be a 4-ist too although I might modify that to being a 5-ist:

5-ism: We're doing something, so is nature, but what we're doing might not be mainly because of CO2.

Sure. we're doing something, but how much and is it within Mothar Nature's/Gaia's capability to compensate. Apparently around 95% of the carbon cycling through out atmosphere is just natural carbon cycle processes and just 5% are due to us. It only needs a slight change in Mother Nature to make a difference and soak it up.

A lot of what we're doing to the planet is through other mechanisms (land use for cities and agriculture, landfills, changing water flows,...).

Blaming global warming for every possible ill is not only wrong, it is also lazy science. If you are worried about frogs, polar bears or anything else then just link them to global warming and QED they're under threat.

Unfortunately this laziness also slams the door shut on other lines of research (eg. blaming pesticides or swampland drainage).

Often it is a toss up as to how we impact the planet. We can reduce fossil fuel usage by covering New Mexico in algae farms. The obsession with global warming makes it very difficult to have rational discussions about trade offs: Is it better to save the polar bears by building infrastructure in the desert that wipes out the desert dwellers? Is a coyote less valuable than a polar bear?

Here in NZ tuatara are apparently under threat from global warming. Unless we fix global warming the tuatara are doomed because a 4degree change in temperature will destroy their breeding. What a shame. These guys have been around since dinosaur times and we're going to kill them with a 4 degree temperature change. C'mon people: surely if they've survived countless ice ages, meteorites and other happenings that have caused all kinds of extinctions they can survive 4 degrees.

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@Greg

"But scientific consensus is what validates discovery, you don't appear to understand this crucial part of the functioning of science."

Not 100% correct:

The ability to repeat the results using methods and materials is what vaildates discovery. You prove or disprove the theory based on experimentation and oberservation." This is how you separate the quacks from the real deal. you don't get that from a bullying and well funded, well connected Anglo- American clique who routinely fails to provide the data to properly analyze their "science".

If consensus was the primary driver of science it would be little different than the consensus of astrologers, psychics, and the much derided "religious" types.

The actual applicability of climate models is dubious at best which means that they are pretty worthless at this point. They Say La Nina, But we get El Nino.... and all of a sudden ENSO is no longer climate, but weather... <rolls eyes>

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@Max

It's not hair splitting, it's is an extremely important point. Anyone who says a single incident is proof of climate change is mistaken, regardless of which side of the argument they are on.

Egypt has just had one of the hottest winters in living memory, is that evidence for climate change? No, it's weather.

In the UK we've had several of the worst summers in living memory, is that evidence for climate change? No, it's weather.

There has been a general trend for the last few decades for average temperatures to rise, is that weather? No it is climate change. (What causes that is another matter.)

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Lomborg

I checked out the Lomborg case on wikipedia. His book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, was found to be full of errors by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty. The ruling was later overturned by a higher body, on the basis that the book wasn't a scientific publication anyway.

Lomborg has quite a lot of influence, even though as a political scientist he doesn't know shit about climate change.

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