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« A bad bet - Josh 121 | Main | Inaugural Scottish sceptic meet »
Monday
Oct032011

More Climate Change Committee

Remember this? These were some of the impacts expected for various degrees of global warming as described in the Climate Change Committee's report.

Click for full sizeThe source for this table is IPCC WG2 - it's a direct lift from one report to the other. The IPCC report then provides citations for each impact described.

The one near the top - semi-arid/arid areas increase by 5-8% - struck me as interesting. After all, we have heard about the greening of the Sahel, so I was expecting exactly the opposite impact in Africa.

The table in the IPCC report is sourced from this page, which says:

Furthermore, for the same projections, for the same time horizon the area of arid and semi-arid land in Africa could increase by 5-8% (60-90 million hectares). The study shows that wheat production is likely to disappear from Africa by the 2080s.

The citation is not entirely clear, but appears to be Fischer et al 2005, a paper in Phil Trans B, where a similar claim is made:

Under the climate change scenarios considered, and by 2080s, AEZ estimates of arid and dry semi-arid areas in Africa increase by about 5–8%, or 60–90 million hectares.

This in turn cites a paper by the same authors - but unfortunately for the Climate Change Committee it's a non-peer-reviewed article. The title is "Climate Change and Agricultural Vulnerability" and it was written by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. This is a familiar name, but I can't quite recall where I've come across them before.

Here the claim is as follows:

Climate changes, as projected by GCMs for the SRES B2 and A2 emission scenarios in the 2080s, would result in another 580,000 km2 (scenario B2, with a range of 360,000–760,000 km2) and 920,000 km2 (scenario A2, with a range of 850,000–1,025,000km2) of arid and dry semi-arid lands, an increase of 5.4% and 8.5% over current conditions respectively.

Unfortunately that is as far as the trail runs - there is no citation given for the claim. What we can tell, however, is that the claim is based on climate models, and we know already that no climate models have been shown to have any skill at a regional level. I put this to Lord Turner at the RSE and he fully agreed, but said that the uncertainty made action more important not less so.

Wouldn't you love to be the betting shop owner when he walked through the door?

What seems clear to me is that this bit of science is decidedly iffy - certainly it is not fit to inform UK policymaking. I wonder if any of the other impacts in the IPCC table are any more rigorous?

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References (1)

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  • Response
    [Source: Bishop Hill] quoted: Climate changes, as projected by GCMs for the SRES B2 and A2 emission scenarios in the 2080s, would result in another 580,000 km2 (scenario B2, with a range of 360,000–760,000 km2) and 920,000 km2 (scenario A2, with a range of 850,000–1,025,000km2) of arid and dry semi-arid lands, ...

Reader Comments (58)

IIASA.
Links in the top RH corner of that page give you info.

Oct 3, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterView from the Solent

The Institute

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international, independent, and interdisciplinary research institute located near Vienna, Austria in an 18th century Habsburg castle. IIASA’s Strategic Plan for the next decade (2011-2020) calls for problem focused and solution oriented research in three global policy areas:

* Energy and Climate Change
* Food and Water
* Poverty and Equity

Much of IIASA’s research uses systems analysis, which consists of mathematical modeling and analysis tools that emphasize a broad systems view for assessing policy options and their impacts. For more information about the Institute and its research activities, please visit our Web site.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterOxbridge Prat

I've always had difficulty with the IPPC output in that it's clear even to the thickest of us that the warmer parts of the earth, like the tropics are much pleasanter places to live than the northern climes, having, as they do, an abundance of sun and precipitation. Yet we get together 17,000 of the cleverest climate scientists this side of the planet Zog and after years of study they tell us a warming earth will have no benefits whatsoever. You would think, wouldn't you, that at least one politician of would have noted this?

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Haven't time to look for it this morning but I'm pretty sure these claims were comprehensively debunked over on WUWT.

Likely debunkers either Willis Eschenbach or Indur Goklany.

But, without a burning belief in the cAGW religion, I can't imagine anyone with an IQ score higher than their hat size giving any credence whatever to this never ending scaremongering.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Research/LUC/GAEZ/climate%20change%20agri%20vulnerability%20JB-Report.pdf


3.5.2 Wheat
Figure 3.5 shows that with increasing CO2 concentrations when considering all land, production of wheat will increase in the developed nations according to all scenarios. The developing countries, however, face a substantial decrease of wheatproduction potential, consistently according to all scenarios, when considering all land or only current cultivated land.

Plates 3.13a and 3.13b present respectively a map showing suitability distribution of wheat for the reference climate and a map showing changes to this distribution for the HadCM3-A1FI 2080s scenario. The wheat crop is strongly affected by changes in temperature regime, which is reflected in a clear shift to higher latitudes in the Northern hemisphere. On the other hand, wheat is virtually disappearing from Africa and suitability is decreasing in parts of the USA, large portions of Europe and South Asia, the Southern part of East Asia, and the Northern part of the wheat-growing areas of Brazil and Paraguay.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Donna Laframboise on the right -> has some good new articles about our friends at the IPCC.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

IPCC - The study shows that wheat production is 'likely' to disappear from Africa by the 2080s.

IIASA - On the other hand, wheat is 'virtually' disappearing from Africa.

There is a huge difference between 'likely' and 'virtually' when dealing with modelled scenarios.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The study shows that I will 'likely' win the lottery in 2025. If not, nobody will ever remember the forecast.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi

IIASA, must have been short of a few bob, a good way to raise eyebrows - peddle some doom laden scenario and throw in AGW as the reason - can't fail.

You could gather a bunch of school children together in a GCSE geography lesson and after explaining a few basic facts, you then asked them; "what if?"

You could come up with a similar chart.

BBB............. as do, attempting to ascertain regional variation by mathematical modelling of a chaotic climate system.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan

Public policy is based on well-meaning ignoramuses listening to a broken telephone...I am not sure if we're at a point where we learn nothing from Golgafrincham's history, or are making it ourselves.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Presumably "virtually" is a reference to the virtual reality world created by the GCM's? The play on language and linguistic interpretations is key to most cAGW statements, arguments, and scares. Politicians and general public need the difference between the two worlds explained.

Oct 3, 2011 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

I think the "virtual" vs. "likely" is a dead end. The original report doesn't deal in conditionals, merely analyses the modelling results. I interpret their use of "wheat is virtually disappearing from Africa" in context as expressing that very little land remains suitable for wheat cultivation [in the results of the various modelling scenarios]. The IPCC usage of "likely" instead is trying to express a certain reservation as to the modelling results. Although, as the Bishop points out above, and others (notably Dr Pielke Snr) express, climate models have not been shown to have any skill in regional prediction, so "likely" is likely an overstatement of the reliability of such projections.

Oct 3, 2011 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

The key here is that physical science has been suborned by sociology (which, it seems clear, is the favored "science" of the "Victimized" Left); in climate science, indeed, it has not only been suborned, it has been euthanized. I wouldn't doubt, that connection is where the current dogmatic belief in naive physical models among earth- and life-scientists originated. As an unreconstructed physicist, I am famous (in my own mind) for having failed sociology 101 in college -- over 40 years ago -- on account of which I sometimes have to suppress feelings of pride in that accomplishment above all others (just for a moment or two, now and then). So more than most, I am aware of the evil that has been long afoot in the world of science (never mind that afoot in the wider world).

Oct 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

After reading Lord Turners response I wondered if it could be termed CCA - Classic Cognitive Arrogance, it seems such a fitting term.

Oct 3, 2011 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

In a sane world you might not want to grow wheat in much of Africa anyway - maize is a far more productive alternative, since its C4 carbon fixation pathway gives it a huge competitive advantage over C3 wheat in warm environments - it's more efficient in drought, high temperatures and both N and (least usefully) CO2 limitation. "No more wheat in Africa by 2080" is perhaps analogous to fearmongering that Morris Marinas will be replaced someday by VW Tourneos which have twice the carrying capacity and use a quarter of the energy in doing so.

Not very scary.

At All.

Oct 3, 2011 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

I put this to Lord Turner at the RSE and he fully agreed, but said that the uncertainty made action more important not less so.

I see. Lord Turner is in fact a genius. The future is uncertain and uncertainties cause fear. You can remove the uncertainty and the fear by setting policy to ensure we are poor, cold and hungry but apparently happy. And with that the uncertainty is gone.

Oct 3, 2011 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

As perhaps an indication of the reliability of regional forecasts, look again at the IIASA report at the root of it all. Consider Figure 2.4, which shows the sensitivity of temperature and precipitation as a function of CO2 concentration. Panel (c) looks at the "developing world". For precipitation under a global temperature increase of 2 deg C, the four models project respectively, -3%, -1%, +3% and +5% precipitation changes (rounded off to the nearest % by eye).

Oct 3, 2011 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Richard Betts is a co-author of this study* which tries to evaluate the shorter-term impacts on agriculture out to 2050.

To my embarrassment, I still haven't done more than skim through it, so I will just quote from the conclusion.

The authors begin their review of the literature with this:

A comprehensive, internally consistent assessment of all potential direct and indirect effects of climate change on agricultural productivity has not yet been carried out.

And conclude with this (emphasis added):

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and climate change have a number of implications for agricultural productivity, but the aggregate impact of these is not yet known and indeed many such impacts and their interactions have not yet been reliably quantified, especially at the global scale. An increase in mean temperature can be confidently expected, but the impacts on productivity may depend more on the magnitude and timing of extreme temperatures. Mean sea-level rise can also be confidently expected, which could eventually result in the loss of agricultural land through permanent inundation, but the impacts of temporary flooding through storm surges may be large although less predictable.

Freshwater availability is critical, but predictability of precipitation is highly uncertain and there is an added problem of lack of clarity on the relevant metric for drought—some studies including IPCC consider metrics based on local precipitation and temperature such as the Palmer Drought Severity Index, but this does not include all relevant factors. Agricultural impacts in some regions may arise from climate changes in other regions, owing to the dependency on rivers fed by precipitation, snowmelt and glaciers some distance away. Drought may also be offset to some extent by an increased efficiency of water use by plants under higher CO2 concentrations, although the impact of this again is uncertain especially at large scales. The climate models used here project an increase in annual mean soil moisture availability and run-off in many regions, but nevertheless across most agricultural areas there is a projected increase in the time spent under drought as defined in terms of soil moisture.

Moreover, even the sign of crop yield projections is uncertain as this depends critically on the strength of CO2 fertilization and also O3 damage. Few studies have assessed the response of crop yields to CO2 fertilization and O3 pollution under actual growing conditions, and consequently model projections are poorly constrained. Indirect effects of climate change through pests and diseases have been studied locally but a global assessment is not yet available. Overall, it does not appear to be possible at the present time to provide a robust assessment of the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on global-scale agricultural productivity.

My rather hurried take on this is: there will be winners and losers, but likely more of the latter the warmer it gets.

Hopefully RB will join the thread and provide expert commentary. My apologies to Richard if in my haste I have misunderstood this paper's essence.

Oct 3, 2011 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Watching George Osbourne's speech he mentioned how fuel rises are affecting us bla bla bla, i thought he was about to make a big policy announcement, i paraphrase "we will do no more or no less then other European countries in fighting co2" Wow

Oct 3, 2011 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCmdocker

Note that none of these so-called "projections" assume any form of adaptation whatsoever. No use of different varieties better suited to altered climate, no switch to better-suited crops, no increase in irrigation. It's the same with "heat related deaths" - seems that there'll be no increase in the use of air-conditioning or building insulation, and the elderly and infirm will wander about bareheaded in the mid-day sun, perhaps meeting the occasional mad dog or Englishman before expiring of heat-stroke.

Oct 3, 2011 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMostlyHarmless

Last night I watched the first part of Ken Burn's latest history documentary on PBS on the American tele. It was about Prohibition in the US and how it came to pass. Very interesting, and very much like the activities of the Warmists. First, there was the lunatic fringe holding prayer meeting and then Carrie Nation's direct assault tactics. This failed.

However, in time the Anti Saloon League was formed and this group focused on the marginal voter. That would be the swing vote in many elections which typically have only a four or five point spread. So by organizing and getting perhaps 2 or 3 % of the voters to sign up to the prohibition dogma, they were able to swing one election after another to the candidate that they wanted (i.e. swore to vote for prohibition, regardless of any other issues) .

It seemed to me that the current political structure we are dealing with is caused by the same dynamics -- those in favor of the Green agenda are simply better organized --- just like the Bolsheviks. It is also interesting that the Anti Saloon League was well financed and very tightly organized -- and even had their cadre of trolls to do their bidding.

If you have a chance to see this show, I highly recommend it, particularly if you keep in mind the current political situation.

Oct 3, 2011 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

BBD - the report you cite makes it all seem moot....lots of mays and mights. Maybe the area of ground available for agriculture might change and maybe the current bread-baskets might be more liable to drought. It does seem that water management/conservation will be crucial, especially in places that currently do not manage water well - eg the UK (as compared with the Netherlands) - or at present are over-exploiting their water reserves - Spain etc. Without more localised modelling, conclusions that lead to mitigating actions look hard to reach. I suspect there are many things that can be done to mitigate the effects, but you have to know what you are trying to mitigate against.

Oct 3, 2011 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Pollute me more! the
The plants shout out and dance about.
Animals chew cud.
===========

Oct 3, 2011 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Does Lord Turner possess any of that quality called judgement? To any sane person, surely, uncertainty makes action less necessary, not more? However, since Lord T is part od the 'political elite'hahahaha, what more need one say?

Oct 3, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Capital P, and one less 'the'.

Numbers limited to fingers and toes,
All I got is Meta Foes.
=============

Oct 3, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Now that we are at the point where the claims of the small group of scientists at the centre of the climate change alarmism have been shown to be so much bunkum, their political proponents are retreating to the argument that prudent risk management demands action, even if the risk is far less likely that previously claimed. This is, to use a medical analogy, the same as the doctor saying that the rask on your leg demands a prudent amputation. Mitigating actions are not prudent if the cost and impact are greater than the likely outcome of the risk itself.

Oct 3, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKiwiwit

If the West wins "the War on Terror" will we have to fight a new war, "the War on CO2"?

Oct 3, 2011 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Oct 3, 2011 at 3:49 PM | BBD

Thanks for the link to our paper (which was definitely peer-reviewed - by no less than 5 reviewers, if I remember correctly!).

Uncertainties in regional climate change are only one part of the equation - there are also large uncertainties in how a given regional climate change translates into impacts, especially since there are many factors not taken into consideration. Most studies only consider effects of local climate changes on rain-fed croplands, but about 40% of global food production comes from irrigated lands, many of which are fed by rivers fed by rain hundreds or even thousands of km away. So production in, say, the Nile delta depends on rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands and all the evaporation from the Nile on its way down. All very complicated! Also many studies only consider only changes in mean climate, not extremes. Another key unknown is how strong CO2 effects on plant physiology and crop yield are, and whether this saturates at higher CO2 concentrations (anyone know of any good studies on this by the way - I'm talking about CO2 above 550 ppm, which seems to be where many experimental studies stop.)

The bottom line is indeed that there are probably positive and negative impacts acting together, and which way the balance will tip depends on lots of factors and will vary from place to place. So it's all down to one's attitude to risk - do we assume that because we're not certain that it will be bad, we can ignore it until we know better, or do we assume that until we're certain that it's OK we should hedge our bets (that's a policy decision not a scientific one).

Clearly reducing vulnerability (through adaptation) is probably as important as reducing the likelihood of the physical hazard (through mitigation) - and indeed adaptation will be more effective in the near-term anyway because even drastic emissions reductions will take time to feed through into actual reductions in climate impact relative to a non-mitigated climate.

So we shouldn't be under the illusion that we can rapidly increase food security in Africa through emissions reductions - that may be part of the equation in the long-term, but in the short term it's much more about being more resilient to climate change and variability, arising from whatever cause, anthropogenic or natural.

Oct 3, 2011 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

@BBD

My rather hurried take on this is: there will be winners and losers, but likely more of the latter the warmer it gets.

How can you say that when the paper says nobody knows?

You're not Lord Turner are you?

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Billy - the warmer it gets, as the expected catastrophes refuse to happen there will be a lot of losers indeed.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Modelling is interesting, but it’s not particularly informative.

As Murphy understood, reality usually turns out different from expectations. Humans are very adaptable. We can eat almost anything. So whether we base our bread on wheat, barley or beans, we will simply adapt and use whatever food grows in the area, or whatever food we can trade for a commodity. Food is easy to grow, somewhere.

I believe, rather than focusing on the food consequences of a modelled temperature increase. Turn the science around from being model focused to be outcome observation focused, i.e.: What are the real historical consequences of the earth having raised 0.6 degrees over the last century in this or that area. I think the results of that test would be that technology and trade have had far more impact than the temperature increase.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

The Sahel only appears to become greener. If we take aerosols into account the area is in reality rapidly spiraling toward a bone dry desert. In fact, once aerosol forcing has been taken into account thus enabling us to isolate the true climate signal, the observations are further evidence of climate model skill.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterpax

Richard B: I think I recall that many commercial plant growers use CO2 concentrations up to 1000ppm? In which case there would certainly be data, but not necessarily in the academic sphere.

You're right to say the issue has more to do with policy than science. I'd go a little further and say that short term addressing of food security can only be marginally (if at all) affected by 'resiliance to climate change' and far more effect would come from addressing political corruption, incompetence and greed.

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

I am tending to side with Freeman Dyson in thinking that availability of water is the elephant in the wardrobe...

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Richard Betts

Thanks for the link to our paper (which was definitely peer-reviewed - by no less than 5 reviewers, if I remember correctly!).

Thanks for responding. Just quickly, I don't know why you think I suggested that your paper wasn't peer-reviewed?

Uncertainties in regional climate change are only one part of the equation - there are also large uncertainties in how a given regional climate change translates into impacts [...] I'm talking about CO2 above 550 ppm, which seems to be where many experimental studies stop.)

Agreed whole paragraph.

Clearly reducing vulnerability (through adaptation) is probably as important as reducing the likelihood of the physical hazard (through mitigation) - and indeed adaptation will be more effective in the near-term anyway because even drastic emissions reductions will take time to feed through into actual reductions in climate impact relative to a non-mitigated climate.

Yup.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Oct 3, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Kiwiwit

This is, to use a medical analogy, the same as the doctor saying that the rask on your leg demands a prudent amputation. Mitigating actions are not prudent if the cost and impact are greater than the likely outcome of the risk itself.

The medical analogy I like to use is diabetes controlled by insulin. Someone with diabetes needs to stop their blood glucose going too high after they've eaten, so they inject an amount of insulin which, ideally, is calculated to counteract the quantity of carbohydrate that they've eaten. Not enough insulin = blood sugar goes too high (bad in the long term as it leads to diabetic complications), but not enough insulin = blood sugar goes too low (bad in the short-term as it leads to hypoglycaemia and possibly unconsciousness). So it's a balancing act - the mitigating action is good if done to the right amount, but bad if done too much.

So what happens if you don't know how much insulin you need to balance your food (a common occurrence unless you are a nutritional expert). Well you have to have an educated guess, and weigh up the relative risks of under-estimating or over-estimating. Do you underestimate the insulin and risk high blood sugar (long term complications) or overestimate and risk low blood sugar (short-term medical emergency)?

In practice you give your insulin dose then test your blood sugar later to see how you are getting on, and make further adjustments if necessary.

It's all about decision-making in the face of uncertainty - one that lots of people have to make every day. I doubt if many people with diabetes take no action at all just because they can't perfectly predict how much their blood sugar will rise after a meal.

Of course, they need to be diagnosed with diabetes in the first place - lots of people don't know they've got it until it really starts to have a major impact with obvious symptoms, possibly resulting in emergency hospital admission, whereas earlier diagnosis before major symptoms emerge could have prevented that.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

BBD

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you'd said my paper was not peer-reviewed - I only mentioned that because BH mentions a non-peer reviewed paper in his post, and I also have peer-review on the brain because of my conversation with Lord Beaverbrook and hro001 over on the "Writing and Reviewing IPCC AR5" discussion thread!

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

diogenes

I am tending to side with Freeman Dyson in thinking that availability of water is the elephant in the wardrobe...

Balancing projected urban growth vs agricultural water demand looks tricky now. Any wobbles and the elephant in the wardrobe comes out to play.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Cumbrian Lad

Thanks for reminding me about commercial plant growers - maybe I'm looking in the wrong place by focussing on academic literature! I'll look into that.

The things you mention can themselves be major factors in a society being more or less resilient to hazardous weather and climate variability, although I agree that's not the only reason to reduce them! So addressing corruption, incompetence and greed simply because it's a good thing to do should also, hopefully, make societies less vulnerable to weather and climate.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

BBD

and it is a real worry...I look at the "success" of the Uk government and water companies in meeting demand for water - and let's face it there is no prima facie reason why the UK should require annual hosepipe bans. And then I look at the water pressure on Spain and Italy and how they survive...just about (warming, or rather DRYING will screw them large style). I just know that those countries will solve the problems and that Cameron and Milliband and various greenies will fail the test. The fact remains that it is easier to build a non-productive windmill -or non-sustainable offshore turbine farm - in the UK than it is to create a water-distribution system.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

diogenes

The fact remains that it is easier to build a non-productive windmill -or non-sustainable offshore turbine farm - in the UK than it is to create a water-distribution system.

Certainly. Nuclear powered desalination is of course off the table if the Greens continue to propel energy policy.

Oct 3, 2011 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

inform UK policymaking -

water problem in the UK (south)
build canals, north to south, job done, why not?

Oct 4, 2011 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

dougieh

Sorry, should have been clearer - I'm not suggesting nuclear desalination projects for the UK.

Oct 4, 2011 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

dougieh

we have known that this would solve the problems for a longtime....and yet the problem is not solved and distribution problems could easily worsen. No northern politician would dare to assent to building a reservoir and canal to help the south...

Oct 4, 2011 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Richard Betts says "I doubt if many people with diabetes take no action at all.."

But the results of under/over using insulin are well known medically, and by the user. The result of a slight "average" warming of the world (which is supposed to affect colder areas at night the most) is not known. A lot of catastrophe forecasting, but I see little common knowledge/sence applied.

Oct 4, 2011 at 1:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Richard Betts - your comment reminded me of something I recently mentioned at Judith Curry's blog. And it's all about being able to handle uncertainties, with their own sets of cautions, rather than simply acknowledge them.

Before the recent L'Aquila earthquake in central Italy, a local technician/researcher un-orthodoxically came up with the prediction that a strong quake would hit nearby. This sounds all very promising apart from the fact that, had people been evacuated according to that prediction, they would have been moved exactly towards what was to become the epicentre of the actual earthquake. It's like the old saying, better remain ignorant than become half-knowledgeable.

And so for climate change actions might be needed, but very, very, very carefully thought about. Otherwise, like William McMaster Murdoch, we might be making our situation (iceberg, floods, diabetes) get worse.

Oct 4, 2011 at 1:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

@Richard Betts
I find your insulin analogy very intriguing and, in particular, am drawn to your statement:-
"In practice you give your insulin dose then test your blood sugar later to see how you are getting on, and make further adjustments if necessary"
WRT to cAGW, I see a metaphorical connection between Insulin and CO2 and another, inversely, between Blood Sugar Level and Global Average Temperature (GAT).
If increasing insulin gave rise to decreasing or stationary BSL how would medical science interpret the results? Would it be that of a Climate Science consensus that seemingly ignores the recent disconnect between rising injections of CO2 and the stubborn refusal of GAT to shift significantly upwards?
I suspect that no medically-aware practitioner would ignore the physical data and would rethink the patients ailment and treatment out of Hippocratic principles, legal defence against malpractise or both.
As to making further adjustments if necessary then that's what a good doctor would do. In climate science that's what a modeller should do and, if necessary, be prepared to overturn earlier diagnoses if subsequent data dictates.
That's why I worry about Trenberths missing heat, absence of "Hot Spot", statistical inventiveness, splicing of instrumental with paleo data, the outright dismissal of significant Solar influences, the re-writing of climate history to exclude previously accepted chronicling. Just to mention some that spring to mind.
I have little doubt that Climate modelling will, as it matures, provide us with much insight into the workings of our planet and that yourself and similarly minded colleagues will play a major role with this understanding.
Stimulus, response, observation and modification is at the heart of your analogy. I'm saddened that so many in your field of study eschew the observation and modification bit!
With respect
Roy

Oct 4, 2011 at 2:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Correction. For decreasing or stationary (Insulin) read increasing or stationary (BSL)

Oct 4, 2011 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Dear Richard

Climate scientists are always fond of medical analogies.

Medical analogies are useless in the climate change debate.

In medicine, the action-reaction/push-pull of hypothesis generation and validation by reality occurs in real-time and in short timescales. If a doctor administers a false treatment, he, and the patient, will face its consequences soon.

Doctors work to get and keep a license to practice. In practical terms, this license translates to a permission to fiddle with patient physiologies and and a willingness to go to jail if things go wrong.

Climate scientists don't have a license to fiddle with planetary physiology; nor are they willing to take responsibility if things go wrong. Nor can do so, even if they wanted to.

Climate scientists (and any scientists) are not professionals. They are not practitioners. Those who apply knowledge (as opposed to those who create them), take upon themselves to abide by a code, and be legally responsible for their actions (doctors, lawyers, engineers et al). Scientists don't.

Oct 4, 2011 at 3:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Dear Richard

In Medicine, the disease and the cures have been evaluated documented, tested and approved for years in real time situations. When medicines do';t work or cause side effects, immediate recourses are available, again documented, tested and validated. If the treatment doesn't work as shown by evidence, the treatment is stopped. In short, diabetes and insulin treatment is a proven treatment with sold empirical evidence

In climate science, none of the models are proven, validated and empirically tested. Their usefullness in projections / predictions whatever one wants to call them, is zero. The empirical evidence has falsified AGW theory. Yet, the climate science community refuse to accept this and continue to prescribe solutions and treatments based on the same failed theory and failed models, blithely skimming over empirical evidence.

So please don't compare medicine with climate science as climate science as of today is light years away from reality. The problem with climate science is the rogue bunch of scientists allied with politicians who have hijacked the process for political gains and personal power, fame and enrichment.

Oct 4, 2011 at 3:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenter

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