Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Glacial George | Main | WWF denies it has infiltrated IPCC »

Snippets from the BMJ conference

A few days back, I mentioned the BMJ conference on the purported links between climate change, security and health. Videos of some of the talks have been posted up on YouTube and I've spent some time going through them.

The discussions were not recorded, but there were still was some surprising (or perhaps not so surprising stuff) in the lectures.

  • Prof Sir Andy Haines, the head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reported that the social cost of carbon (the externality in other words) has been estimated in some recent papers to be $1000/tonne, a figure Richard Tol, a specialist in the area, describes as "complete nonsense". Sir Andy has kindly pointed me to the source for this figure - a discussion paper by Ackerman and Stanton of the Stockholm Environment Institute. I think it's fair to say that the paper's upping of the cost of carbon from $21/tonne to $1000 and higher is fairly jawdropping. I think this is what climatologists call "the power of models".
  • Prof Hugh Montgomery, director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, described a fence being built between India and Bangladesh, alleging that this was being done to deal with the threat of climate refugees. Why would you build a fence now to deal with a problem you think will only affect you decades into the future, I wondered? I asked the geographer Bob Bradnock - a Bangladesh specialist - about Prof Montgomery's idea. This was his reply
  • The plan to build a fence between Bangladesh and India has a long history. When Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971 some 10 million refugees fled across the border 'temporarily'. Most went back, but there has been a long term significant influx of Bangladeshi migrants into India. The building of a fence was planned to prevent this flow, and in its inception and building had nothing to do with the anticipated effects of climate change. It is true that pressure on resources has grown greatly in Bangladesh, despite great increases in agricultural productivity over the last thirty years, because population has also grown fast, doubling over the last thirty years or so. The idea that the fence was constructed to prevent climate induiced migration is completely without foundation, even though today some Indians use threatened climate change as an ex post facto justification

  • Jon Snow the newsreader said that the media has "lost faith in climate change" - it won't cover global warming any longer because of Climategate. He speaks of the "war fought by the opponents of the belief in climate change"; "we are in a bad state", he says. (here from about 2min). "We" is an interesting choice of pronoun.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (39)

Jon Snow's choivce of 'we' is interesting..

He seems to be right about editors/programme makers...Did you see this article by an environmental journalist, bemoaning editors, 'gatekeeping ' (the irony')etc...


"Where did all the climate change stories go? "The [programmers] are against it because it loses ratings," says a senior BBC journalist. "The wave [of public interest] has gone. There is climate change fatigue. That is why I am not [reporting] it now."

It's the editors, stupid
Probably the most important reaction to the UEA hacking for journalists was in their own newsrooms, among their own editors who are the gatekeepers controlling if your work appears and how prominently. While some UK surveys show no dramatic loss of credibility for climate scientists with the public, here's how some senior journalists described what it was like in their newsrooms after hacking:

"dirty looks"
"sense of betrayal"

thought we'd "gone native"

"you told me the science was settled - and it isn't!"

"Climate-gate was extremely damaging in many ways. It gave the impression that journalists had been duped. I think in the end it was mountains out of mole-hills but it looked really bad," said a print journalist.


"Another UK broadcast journalist said he was warned that putting climate change on prime time would risk losing a million viewers."

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

When they talk of fences between India and Bangladesh, what they are missing is that they have already built a massive great wall between "us" and "them". What's more, it seems to be getting bigger every day

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

I lost interest as soon as the "Baby Polar Bears" were mentioned!

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Why was Jon Snow at the BMJ conference? Has he medical qualifications?

I have been to many scientific conferences over the years, and I cannot recall one conference that had a journalist speaking.

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

what so there is proof that this was a hack and not a release then? great where can I see this finding and who did it come from ?

Oct 24, 2011 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermat

What happened to the police investigation into the "hacking" of CRU emails? After almost two years it seems to have been kicked into the long grass. Does anybody know?

Oct 24, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Snow ( a phenomenon we were led to believe would be foreign to our shores by now :-) ) looks and sounds like a man who is just pissing in the wind...and that he knows it. Gotta be there to earn his fee, but no conviction or passion. Going through the motions only.

Oct 24, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Twitter does not allow one to say much more than "complete nonsense".

Andy Haines cites this paper: The paper is under review. There is also a recent survey paper: Pre-print access here: It is odd that Haines cites an unpublished paper when a published survey is available.

In their paper, Ackerman and Stanton do four things. Their starting point is the DICE model, an old and venerable model developed by Bill Nordhaus of Yale. They make four changes:
1. Replace the central estimate of the climate sensitivity with its 95%ile. They do this without accounting for the relative probabilities of the central and tail estimates.
2. Replace Nordhaus' peer-reviewed estimate of the impact of climate change with Hanemann's unpublished estimate.
3. Replace Nordhaus' impact function with Weitzman's impact function. Both functions have been peer-reviewed. (Their reference list is out of date.) Both functions extrapolate far beyond the empirical evidence, but where Nordhaus uses a quadratic function to extrapolate, Weitzman uses the seventh power. That is pure speculation. For an exercise in data-constrained extrapolation, see (paper under review)
4. Lower the discount rate. Ackerman and Stanton (2011) use a constant rate of consumption discounting, even though Ramsey (1928) shows that is incorrect: the rate of utility discounting should be constant. Ackerman and Stanton use two discount rates. 3% is low compared to what governments, people, and companies typically do. 1.5% is very low; in fact, following the Ramsey rule, it implies that future, yet unborn but richer people are more important than today's.

If you make all four changes, then the social cost of carbon (the estimate of what the carbon tax/price should be) goes up from $28/tCO2 (a few cents per litre of gasoline) to $983/tCO2.

This results is mathematically true. If you change the assumptions, you get different results. The question, however, is whether there is a good reason to change the assumptions. As outlined above, I do not think so. Hence "complete nonsense".

Oct 24, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Its worth remember that being an expert in one area give you no better status in another are than anyone else . These individuals have show that issue perfectly in that their comments make no sense give the actual facts their claims not standing up to any investigation .

Oct 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Maybe being an expert would suggest that one understands what is required to be an expert, something less likely to be understood by someone who is not expert in anything.

But then you need the time required to build up the knowledge in an alien area and the time to consider the import of what you have reviewed, and resolve the inconsistencies and disputes. Likely the expert in another field can do this more expeditiously, but building an expertise in an alien field must still require years.

Oct 24, 2011 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Don't worry Mr Snow, if you join WWF and adopt a polar bear, they will give you a nice fluffy toy to cuddle!
Wow a fluffy toy
It clearly will suit his mentality.

Oct 24, 2011 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadtheSailor

It is clear that the authors are much taken in by Weitzman's catastrophic fat tail paradigm. Everything seems to follow from that.

Interestingly, the authors quote Roe and Baker, 2007:

This crucial parameter, which measures the pace of global warming, remains uncertain, and there are reasons to believe thats ignificant uncertainty about climate sensitivity is inescapable

Oct 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Has anyone ever costed out the benefits to human health of fossil fuel?

Oct 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Of course the Stockholm Environment Institute is another ultra true believer activist outfit.

A bit like Greenpiss but without the robust science.


Oct 24, 2011 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

By 2014, as fuel cost rise and temperature plummets in winter, the death toll from expensive energy will start to rise to level which will become a national scandal.

The outgoing minority conservative government will announce an electoral pact with UKIP. one of whose main clauses will be a promise to use the nationalised shale gas industry to guarantee there will be no more 10s of 1000s of deaths of the vulnerable old and young.

Chris Huhne, the new leader of the Socialist EU party will bow to the inevitable and accept the post of EU ambassador to Greece. David Cameron will be spending his third month at the Elizabeth Murdoch clinic for depressed political failures being treated with Colombian marching powder to restart the delusions.

Oct 24, 2011 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

By 2014, as fuel cost rise and temperature plummets in winter, the death toll from expensive energy will start to rise to level which will become a national scandal.

Oct 24, 2011 at 12:49 PM | mydogsgotnonose

Expensive maybe...but that assumes you can get energy. As the turbines freeze up will rationing be kicking in? Now that would be a visible scandal. The deaths can be explained away by some nice adjusted stats showing it is quite normal. Not being able to watch Sky footie on the TV is another matter.

Oct 24, 2011 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterArgusfreak

Climate science is a stupid fad, like planking or hula-hoops, which will disappear once the Lefties find a new cause to interfere in people's lives, but the damage it can do before it blows away like a dried-up chicken turd is considerable.

Let's hope the politicians feel the cold wind of adverse public opinion very soon.

[BH adds: Can you please try to raise the tone of your comments]

Oct 24, 2011 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Climate science is a stupid fad, like planking or hula-hoops

Except it has lasted 30 years, with the evidence growing stronger year on year . . .

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterScots Renewables

> Except it has lasted 30 years, with the evidence growing stronger year on year . . .

Curious. I though the evidence was getting weaker. What evidence are you referring to?

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

@scots renewables

Perhaps you will be the one who can tell me what we know about the science of climate now that we didn't know twenty years ago. Just the top five important things will do. Ten would be great.

Because I have the sneaking suspicion that the answer is really 'not very much at all'. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there have been important breakthroughs that I have missed.

Fire away.

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

This thread like most others on this and other blogs is a discussion about political or scientific claims by one side of the argument or the other, the AGW fanatics or the noble pragmatists who inhabit this site. I am intellectually and spiritually totally in support of the kind of people who write here and on the message they want governments around the world to "get".
However I now think we are all fighting the wrong battle and the battle we are fighting is currently unwinnable and probably will be for a thousand years.
Scientists in every field of research are looking for total understanding of their subject and progress step by step towards that end result. In some sciences each incremental discovery (step) is instantly valuable; a new genetic understanding gives us a treatment for one form of cancer. Instantly we can save more lives even though the end game of understanding everything about the human body and mind is still far far away.
In other areas of science each incremental discovery is indeed a step along the road but in terms of making any difference today it is useless. Climate science falls into this category.
For me the objective is to destroy the argument which blames human activity for dangerous warming and which therefore demands that we act now to decarbonise our economy.
There is an irrefutable economic argument against this course of action but people who believe they are saving the planet do not care about anything so mundane as economics.
So back to the science. The people who read and write here seem to be intelligent and in some cases very highly qualified in the sciences that relate to climate studies so let me ask you all a question.
In your own field of science what % of total understanding of everything in your field, does the human race currently understand? 20%, 10%, 1% or less than 1%?
It would not surprise me if the answer was less than 1%.
Lets be really generous (and idiotic) and accept that scientists understand 90% of the factors that influence our climate and lets assume that in total there are only 10 factors. If scientists agree that there is 1 factor influencing climate that they dont understand then they can nor predict climate. That factor could be huge or tiny, it could be constant or cyclic, it could be warming or cooling and it has to be understood to make any predictions useful.
The truth is that there are no scientists on either side of this argument who know enough about climate to make any meaningful predictions about future climate.
This should be our argument when trying to bring governments to their senses and halt the economically suicidal policies currently being persued.

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

I recently came across a forewarning of the medical establishment playing this trick.

The organisation is cloaking so taking it at face value is unwise. I'm not even sure the body itself knows what it has done and is doing.

Try this

Which is deeply involved and implicated with AGW. Lot of history.

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered Commentercog

Scots Renewables said

"Except it has lasted 30 years"

Oh dear we are not doing our homework laddie. Climate Science has been around longer than that!
30 years ago it was an established science with well known scientists (Hubert Lamb, Leona Libby, etc).publishing what became standard texts, It has fallen into disrepute by the infiltration of CAGW adherents.

"with the evidence growing stronger year on year . . ." you wish. It is falling apart since many of the pronouncements by the CAGW proponents just do not stack up to the evidence.

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadtheSailor

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

Scots Renewables, Dung (I think), Latimer Adler and Terry S


Surely in the last umpteen years we have learnt a thing or two.

But have we not also learnt that there are a host more things that we do not know?

Oct 24, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Pursued

Oct 24, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung


"a host more things that we do not know"

Would those be known unknowns or unknown unknowns? :-)

Oct 24, 2011 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

j ferguson the funny thing is if you were to suggest a mathematician or physicist could give expert advice in the medical area these same people would think your joking , initials after you name give no god like powers of understanding . You can be an expert in one area but as rubbish as anyone else in another .
The difference can be your academic qualifications can blind you to the fact that no matter how much you may no about one thing, that does not mean you know a lot about another , that is what Montgomery problem was they stepped out of area of expertise and fall flat on their face because as a 'medical expert ' they did not feel the need to do the basic research on the politics.

Oct 24, 2011 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

If that mathematician was a statistician, then his advice could be very pertimant indeed. Awful lot of dodgey stats in medicine.

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

Richard Tol
Thanks for taking the time to post that explanation, it was very informative.

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

"In your own field of science what % of total understanding of everything in your field"

Didn't Godel argue that our knowledge would always be limited (Incompleteness Theorem)

For me as a professional scientist, the more I learn the less I know. So I would answer your question as being <1%

Oct 24, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadtheSailor

OT - but more and more people are getting wise to the BEST "fake sceptic" routine.

Nigel Calder has it sussed:-

Oct 24, 2011 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Re: Dung's question about what % of understanding we have in any field.
At a National Monument in Arizona where centuries-old Indian ruins are excavated, visitors have asked rangers, "How many undiscovered ruins are there around here?"

Maybe the answer is the same as for "How many unknown climate factors are there?"

Oct 24, 2011 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Bob

In this context I especially like the name "Jon Snow", considering this is also the exact spelling of a major character's name in George RR Martin's popular fantasy novels / HBO TV Series "The Game of Thrones", the tagline for which is "Winter is Coming." In the story the character leads the defence against the terrors arising from the north as a long and brutal winter descends upon the land...

Oct 24, 2011 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHT

Oct 24, 2011 at 5:18 PM | James P

In climate science, as Cinbad says for his branch of science <1% is known, of the other 99% most will be unkown unkowns (You don't know what you don't know).

Oct 24, 2011 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered Commentersandy

If we know less than 1% of all there is to know about Climate Science, what is the point (in terms of convincing governments to change their policies) in disputing odd bits of science that the two sides of the argument do not agree on.
Why are we not trying to impress on the government the fact that anyone who claims to know enough to predict our climate is making bogus claims?


I got a hard back 1st edition of the latest G R R Martin book in the series :)

Oct 24, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Scots R
"Except it has lasted 30 years, with the evidence growing stronger year on year . . ."

'Bit like UFO's then innit?

Oct 24, 2011 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

go to one can explain how any of the stones arrived the small tribes spared enough effort to drag the stones there, let alone erect them... The Stonehenge experience is an exercise in sheer pyronnism - we know nothing about this place.

Oct 24, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Eddy but only for medical statistics , not for anything else in the area and even then there may be statistical approaches which are a oddity of the area . In other words how much you can know about another subject depends on the amount of common ground that subject has with what you already know . The training for medicine has no common ground with climate science beyond an idea of the requirements of the scientific approach which has we have seen repeatedly is something climate science does badly.

So ironically those in medicine may have actual higher standards and can fall victim to amusing these standard are shared, and so in effect add validation to to claims , by climate science. 'We don't do that so I am sure others would not' , is a classic problem .

Oct 25, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR


Thanks for the pugwash link - most illuminating. The other commentators here are not seeing the bigger picture.

Oct 25, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDuncan

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>