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« Back on Black | Main | Nature: no scrutiny of the academy »
Wednesday
Nov092011

Dangerous climate change?

This is a slightly edited version of a comment Richard Betts left on the discussion forum. I thought it was quite challenging to much of what we hear about climate change in the mainstream media and therefore worthy of posting here as a header post. (Richard, for anyone visiting for the first time, is head of climate change impacts at the Met Office).

Most climate scientists* do not subscribe to the 2 degrees "Dangerous Climate Change" meme (I know I don't). "Dangerous" is a value judgement, and the relationship between any particular level of global mean temperature rise and impacts on society are fraught with uncertainties, including the nature of regional climate responses and the vulnerability/resilience of society. The most solid evidence for something with serious global implications that might happen at 2 degrees is the possible passing of a key threshold for the Greenland ice sheet, but even then that's the lower limit and also would probably take centuries to take full effect. Other impacts like drought and crop failures are massively uncertain, and while severe negative impacts may occur in some regions, positive impacts may occur in others. While the major negative impacts can't be ruled out, their certainty is wildly over-stated.

While really bad things may happen at 2 degrees, they may very well not happen either - especially in the short term (there may be a committment to longer-term consequences such as ongoing sea level rise that future generations have to deal with, but imminent catastrophe affecting the current generation is far less certain than people make out. We just don't know.

The thing that worries me about the talking-up of doom at 2 degrees is that this could lead to some very bad and expensive decisions in terms of adaptation. It probably is correct that we have about 5 years to achieve a peak and decline of global emissions that give a reasonable probability of staying below 2 degrees, but what happens in 10 years' time when emissions are still rising and we are probably on course for 2 degrees? If the doom scenario is right then it would make sense to prepare to adapt to the massive impacts expected within a few decades, and hence we'd have to start spending billions on new flood defences, water infrastructure and storm shelters, and it would probably also make sense for conservationists to give up on areas of biodiversity that are apparently "committed to extinction" - however all these things do not make sense if the probability of the major impacts is actually quite small.

So while I do agree that climate change is a serious issue and it makes sense to try to avoid committing the planet to long-term changes, creating a sense of urgency by over-stating imminent catastrophe at 2 degrees could paint us into a corner when 2 degrees does become inevitable.


*I prefer to distinguish between "climate scientists" (who are mainly atmospheric physicists) and "climate change scientists" who seem to be just about anyone in science or social science that has decided to see what climate change means for their own particular field of expertise. While many of these folks do have a good grasp of climate science (atmospheric physics) and the uncertainties in attribution of past events and future projections, many sadly do not. "Climate change science" is unfortunately a rather disconnected set of disciplines with some not understanding the others - see the inconsistencies between WG1 and WG2 in IPCC AR4 for example. We are working hard to overcome these barriers but there is a long way to go.

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    - Bishop Hill blog - Dangerous climate change?

Reader Comments (285)

BH

Minor correction, if I may - I'm head of Climate Impacts (not Climate Change Impacts).

This includes impacts/risks arising from natural climate variability as well as anthropogenic climate change.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard -
Are you able to state what you consider to tbe the most recently formulated statement that is regarded to represent the so-called "consensus of opinion"?

I had thought that it was something along the lines of

1) global warming is real (whatever that means)
2) man is having an impact
3) at least some of the impact is likely caused by CO2 emissions

Is there another similarly brief way of expressing the totality of the consensus?

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

RB:
Reasonable and sensible. It is hard to take exception to anything you say, especially "we just don't know" !

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

So we can safely ignore the likes of Prof Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University which is a policy I had already adopted by use of the 'sniff' test.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

I applaud the tentaqtive nature of the conclusions...they seem to be properly sceptical. In the UK, the temperature shifts from 0-C ish to 30C in the course of a year. Detecting a 2C shift in an annual signal that noisy is ....troublesome? The thing is, would anyone even notice it? 2 degrees... But, knowing our luck and the way weather patterns work, we end up with a change of minus 2C and a lot more rain.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Have you seen Prof Kevin Anderson's (Tyndall) 2C is extremely dangerous, is 1C the new 2C ? vid !

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

First many thanks for this Richard and The Bish for picking up on it.

For the first time I get a real feeling of realism about this overly emotive subject.

There should be no place for emotion in science, but we are emotional and therefore not as efficient in our thought processes as we think. We each have our agenda and it clouds our ability to interpret data. This is especially the case when the “weasel” words appear we each apply our own interpretation.

The following comment of yours I find very interesting and could explain why so many alarmist pronuncements are projected upon climate scientists, when maybe they belong elsewhere..

"*I prefer to distinguish between "climate scientists" (who are mainly atmospheric physicists) and "climate change scientists" who seem to be just about anyone in science or social science that has decided to see what climate change means for their own particular field of expertise."

That really should start to get "the little grey cells" working.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:39 PM | matthu

Thanks - yes, to my mind that pretty well captures the bits that virtually everyone who knows about the science can agree on.

Anything beyond that (what the impacts will be, and how we should respond) become highly uncertain and down to value judgements and attitude to risk.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I agree with Richard.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

Richard

You say:

but Mike Jackson is right - most climate scientists* do not subscribe to the 2 degrees "Dangerous Climate Change" meme (I know I don't).

And (emphasis added):

It probably is correct that we have about 5 years to achieve a peak and decline of global emissions that give a reasonable probability of staying below 2 degrees, but what happens in 10 years' time when emissions are still rising and we are probably on course for 2 degrees? If the doom scenario is right then it would make sense to prepare to adapt to the massive impacts expected within a few decades, and hence we'd have to start spending billions on new flood defences, water infrastructure and storm shelters, and it would probably also make sense for conservationists to give up on areas of biodiversity that are apparently "committed to extinction" - however all these things do not make sense if the probability of the major impacts is actually quite small.

There seems to be a disconnect between these statements. What are your views on a >2C increase in GAT, given that you seem to accept that it is probably inevitable?

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

FYI Richard..

I wonder what Richard would make of Prof Kevin Anderson's Video: (Tyndall Centre)

Prof Kevin Anderson:
- 'Climate Change Going Beyond Dangerous' -
...brutal numbers and tenuous hope or cognitive dissonance

The impacts of 2C are much larger that we though of at the time [AR4]

If 2C - dangerous or extremely dangerous
Is 1C - the new 2C
--------------------------------
http://www.slideshare.net/DFID/professor-kevin-anderson-climate-change-going-beyond-dangerous

Whole video worth watching - This seems at odd with Richard's view.
No coincidence that Frack Off has chosen this video in their Climate Chaos section?

http://frack-off.org.uk/fracking-hell/climate-chaos/

FArck Off alos state, with 30 years 2C of temp rise:

"Within 20 or 30 years – well within most people’s lifetime – the atmosphere’s temperature is likely to raise by 2 degrees. Although this was generally considered a “safe” temperature, the events of the past year have shown that the destructive effects of temperature increases are much more serious than most scientists expected. If we carry on at the current rate of increasing emissions, then apocalyptic temperatures are likely to be reached, with much of the Earth becoming uninhabitable and billions of people displaced."

-----------

So is Prof Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre) a respected scientist or someone with an alarnist message being used by activists? He is a director of the Tyndall Centre.. as is Robert Watson and Trevor Davis!

http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/people/directors
http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/people/staff-list-with-pictures

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The conceit is here:

It probably is correct that we have about 5 years to achieve a peak and decline of global emissions that give a reasonable probability of staying below 2 degrees, but what happens in 10 years' time when emissions are still rising and we are probably on course for 2 degrees?

Let me rewrite it for Richard, whose heart seems to be in the right place:

It probably is correct that we have had 30 years of gross exaggeration of our predictive, cause-and-effect skills with regard to the operation of the climate system. There is nevertheless a reasonable probability that this computer-inspired and exploited nonsense will be exposed so that in 5-10 years time we shall be on course for a more rational, considered analysis of what we know and what is mere flighty speculation. Speculation moreover that only the most irresponsible programmer would dare take from his virtual world and allow to be exploited by malevolent schemers in the real one.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

quote and slide above is about 9 mins in...

Prof Kevin Anderson:
- 'Climate Change Going Beyond Dangerous' -
...brutal numbers and tenuous hope or cognitive dissonance

The impacts of 2C are much larger that we though of at the time [AR4]

If 2C - dangerous or extremely dangerous
Is 1C - the new 2C
--------------------------------
http://www.slideshare.net/DFID/professor-kevin-anderson-climate-change-going-beyond-dangerous

------------------------


Richard - Doesn't Prof Kevin 'outrank' you ;-) ;-) ;-)

so who to believe, Frack Off have obvioulsy chosen who they to believe......... under Climate Chaos (Kevin's link)
http://frack-off.org.uk/fracking-hell/climate-chaos/

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Hi Barry

Kevin and I know each other well, and he knows I think this.

BBD

Not sure what the disconnect is, can you elaborate? I thought it was all consistent.

My views on a >2C increase in temperature are that we don't know what the impacts will be, but whatever they are they will probably get larger the more the world warms (with the added complication of natural variability on top of the long-term trend of AGW of course).

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Thank you, Richard (and Tamsin).

At least we have a consensus statement that probably most readers of this blog would also agree on. We somehow manage to get distracted when others attach the consensus tag to much more alarmist statements.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Hi Barry

If I may be so bold, I don't think Kevin "outranks" me because I'm now a Prof too!

:-)

However neither of us really think about "rank" - scientific arguments should be on their own merit, not the job title of the person making them.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard whilst I am appreciative of more realism than I have experienced before.

Do you really believe that if you had a free hand i.e. everybody in the world took the actions that your models prescribe that you can control the temperature of this planet?

Because if you drill down is that not what you are saying?

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

So what do you think of his 1C - and extremely dangerous 2C...

Lest we forget, Prof Kevin Anderson, representing the Tyndall centre, stood alogside Caroline Lucas (Green Leader and MP) with the 'HOme Front Announcement, which endorses Carbon Rationing (TEQ's)

Crossed the line to Activist!?
http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/20-01-2011-new-home-front-launch.html
http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/reports/the_new_home_front_FINAL.pdf

Prof Kevin Anderson:
"At a time of abject failure to curtail emissions, the New Home Front offers a refreshing and essential read for all those with the courage to think differently about climate change."

http://www.carolinelucas.com/cl/media/the-new-home-front-uk-needs-a-war-footing-on-energy-and-climate-crisis.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/8165769/Cancun-climate-change-summit-scientists-call-for-rationing-in-developed-world.html

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

scientific arguments should be on their own merit, not the job title of the person making them

Fighting words.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

I can agree with Richards statement, apart from the 5 year time span comment. Where exactly did the critical 2 degree threshold come from in the first place?

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

'outrank' was a joke.. but maybe not how the media see it..

Prof Kevin Anderson, stood alongside Caroline Lucas (an elected Green politician) - promoting a New Home Front'

and from the video, considers !C to be the new "C and extremely dangerous..
in the video, he says it is worse tha we though AR4...

So who is the media to believe, who is the public and politicians to believe and most importantly who get the most publicity?

And hads Kevin crossded the limne form scientists (ie As I consider Richard) to activist?

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Hi Green Sand

Climate models don't prescribe any actions by people, they use assumptions / scenarios of future emissions and land cover change as inputs, and the long-term character of the simulated weather responds to that (whilst variability also emerges naturally from the equations).

But no I don't think we can "control the temperature of this planet". We probably could make large changes less likely if we made very substantial cuts in global emissions - but the response of the climate system is complex and hard to predict, and other factors affect the climate too of course, so "control" is not an appropriate word.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I agree with Richard Betts that there is nothing special or particularly alarming about a global warming of 2K.

I would add that it is perhaps physically impossible and certainly politically infeasible to meet this target. See http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eneco.2009.10.013

Our dear leaders have thus set their successors up for failure. That is good politics but bad policy.

The worrying thing is of course that when the 2K warming comes to pass (e.g., when you move from Dublin to Brighton) and nothing terribly bad happens, people lose confidence -- not just in the likes of Kevin Anderson, but in all experts.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard

Not sure what the disconnect is, can you elaborate? I thought it was all consistent.

I'm puzzled: treating >2C as non-doom is properly scientifically cautious. Acknowledging that above 2C looks likely is being realistic.

So why the focus on ~2C?

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

My apologies - Richard Betts

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Hi Barry

I disagree with Kevin's view on 2C and 1C.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

It gets worse.

I'm puzzled: treating LESS THAN 2C as non-doom is properly scientifically cautious. Acknowledging that above 2C looks likely is being realistic.

Apologies now to both Richards.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

@Rob Burton
There is disagreement about the origin of the 2K target.

I think it came out of the German Scientific Advisory Council for the Environment. See http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2005.12.003 Here's the relevant passage:
"The Scientific Advisory Council Global Environmental Change of the (German) Federal Government (WBGU) issued a number of reports on climate change, in which it recommends targets as well. WBGU (1995) is the first in the series. Climate policy targets rest on two principles: (1) safeguarding creation and (2) avoidance of unreasonable costs (WBGU, 1995, p. 7). The first principle is a peculiar one for a scientific council of a secular government. It is made operational by looking at the temperature variation in recent geological history, in which it was never warmer than 16.1 °C. Adding an arbitrary 0.5 °C and assuming that the current global annual mean surface air temperature is 15.3 °C, this leads to a maximum allowed warming of 1.3 °C relative to 1995, which roughly corresponds to 2.0 °C relative to pre-industrial times. The reasoning behind this is thin: WBGU (1995, p. 8) simply states that drastic ecological impacts could be expected if more warming were to happen.

The second principle rests on monetised impact estimates. WBGU (1995, p. 8) states, without further reason, that impacts of 5% of GDP are just tolerable. It quotes the estimates of Pearce et al. (1996), who conclude that a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would damage global welfare by the equivalent of a loss of 1–2% of GDP. WBGU (1995, p. 8) continues that this is an underestimate as extreme weather events and synergies between impacts are excluded, and arbitrarily increases the impact to 5% of GDP. Although the studies surveyed in Pearce et al. (1996) pay scant attention to the rate of climate change, WBGU (1995) concludes from this that the global mean temperature should not exceed 0.2 °C per decade."

The WBGU target was the only one around, so everybody else adopted it.

Other people disagree with my history, arguing that the 2K target was first suggested at Bellagio in 1986, and that the WBGU only reinforced this target.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Hi BBD

The focus on 2 degrees wasn't mine - this all started with the discussion on the IEA report which was framed in terms of how long we've got left for global emissions to peak if we wish to stay below 2 degrees.

Their estimate of this is roughly consistent with other modelling studies, at least in terms of when the estimated chances of staying below 2 degrees fall below about 50% (but with a large uncertainty range), but this doesn't imply that there is anything special about 2 degrees itself.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Professor Betts: Thank you for your opinion; I agree, with few reservations. Always good to see some clear and rational input.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Hi Richard

Thanks for the response. I think the parlance, not going to check back as to whether you agree with or not, is that we need to limit the increase to 2 deg C. To limit anything you have to control it. There is no other way, we can get into semantics about the words, well others can I am passed that.

To put it another way, if I ensure a level of "future emissions and land cover change as inputs" that your models say meet temperature status quo. What range of temperatures will there be over the next century?

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Ricahrd Tol: - I agree

"The worrying thing is of course that when the 2K warming comes to pass (e.g., when you move from Dublin to Brighton) and nothing terribly bad happens, people lose confidence -- not just in the likes of Kevin Anderson, but in all experts."

Richard tweeted something like this a while back, about environmentalists ie 'if' 2 degree happens and nothing too bad or benign happens, what do they do/say..

Paraphrased from memory..

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

New Scientist said a couple of weeks ago - Climate Change special:

We Know: 1C will cause 20Metre of sea level rise, and then expressed an opinion about 2C...

of course they neglected to put in any timescale!...The 'implied message' implication from context was within 100 years, but of course this is not correct.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I recall reading an interview in Der Spiegel Online with leading German climatologist ( Schellnhuber). He said he "invented" the 2C figure in response to German politicians sayimng all the science was too complicated for the average voter so they needed a short " sound bite" type statement. Schellnhuber acknowledged there was no scientific basis for the figure. This was all before Copenhagen.
If the quotes in the interview are correct then it just shows how if something repeated often enough then ---you know the rest.

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

http://www.newscientist.com/special/climate-knowns-unknowns

"Studies of past climate indicate each 1 °C rise in the global mean temperature eventually leads to a 20-metre rise in sea level"

Still waiting for last centuries ((0.9C rise in temp) 18 metres of sea level rise....
leaving out timescale shows how awful science reporting is these days...

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

@Richard Tol
"I agree with Richard Betts that there is nothing special or particularly alarming about a global warming of 2K.
...
Our dear leaders have thus set their successors up for failure. That is good politics but bad policy."

Richard, which leaders do you mean? After a quick check the 2 degrees appears to be a recommendation of the independent climate change committee to the UK government. They also say that 4 degrees is definitely bad which appears to be something like going from Dublin to Lyons for the summer months.

http://www.theccc.org.uk/pdfs/Interim%20report%20letter%20to%20DECC%20SofS.pdf

"The Committee’s judgement, on the basis of the IPCC AR4 report, is that adverse human welfare consequences are likely to increase significantly if global temperature rises more than 2°C relative to pre-industrial temperatures, and that if a 4°C rise were reached, extreme consequences potentially beyond our ability to adapt would arise..."

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Green Sand

If future emissions and land cover change were zero then we'd expect a further warming of global temperatures by a few tenths of a degree (in the multi-decadal average) while the planet continued to respond to the changes we've already exerted. There'd also be natural variability of (probably) up to a couple/few tenths of a degree around that, on timescales of years to decades. Major natural forcings such as very large volcanos could have a larger impact if they happened - as of course could something huge like a meteorite strike!!

That's speaking globally though. Variability is larger more locally.

Signing off now - got early start tomorrow.... thanks for the discussion everyone!

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richards Betts and Tol.

This is a very strange thread.

This from RT exemplifies it:

The worrying thing is of course that when the 2K warming comes to pass (e.g., when you move from Dublin to Brighton) and nothing terribly bad happens, people lose confidence -- not just in the likes of Kevin Anderson, but in all experts.

So a 2C increase in average global temperature is just a hop from Dublin to Brighton. Well, that's a relief.

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Richard Betts Nov 10, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Thanks Richard, have a good day tomorrow. I will probably need all of it to comprehend:-

"If future emissions and land cover change were zero then we'd expect a further warming of global temperatures by a few tenths of a degree (in the multi-decadal average) while the planet continued to respond to the changes we've already exerted. There'd also be natural variability of (probably) up to a couple/few tenths of a degree around that, on timescales of years to decades."

Good night

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

9 Nov: Reuters: Nina Chestney: UPDATE 2-Warming limit risk if no climate action by 2017-IEA
World on ‘dangerous track’ to 6 degree rise if no climate deal
Renewables from non-hydro seen rising to 15 pct by 2035 (Adds estimate of low-CO2 tech cost, subsidies, reaction)
Additional low-carbon technology and energy efficiency investment to 2035 would need to total $15.2 trillion to limit warming to two degrees — out of a total energy supply investment of $36.5 trillion, the report said…
"By simply redirecting all the fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy programs the 2 billion poor people would have access to energy not only by 2030, but within this decade," says Sven Teske, senior energy expert Greenpeace International...
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/09/climate-iea-idUSL6E7M93CI20111109

of course, Reuters would not bother to mention Teske's role as an IPCC lead author, would they?

July 2011: WUWT: A blunder of staggering proportions by the IPCC
Steve McIntyre discovered the issue and writes this conclusion:
It is totally unacceptable that IPCC should have had a Greenpeace employee (Sven Teske) as a Lead Author of the critical Chapter 10, that the Greenpeace employee, as an IPCC Lead Author, should (like Michael Mann and Keith Briffa in comparable situations) have been responsible for assessing his own work and that, with such inadequate and non-independent ‘due diligence’, IPCC should have featured the Greenpeace scenario in its press release on renewables...
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/16/a-blunder-of-staggering-proportions-by-the-ipcc/


http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/16/a-blunder-of-staggering-proportions-by-the-ipcc/

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Could Richard Betts post his comments where they might have some effect? e.g. at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/09/fossil-fuel-infrastructure-climate-change
where Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, is quoted as saying:

"The door is closing. I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."

It’s bad enough that Mr Birol confuses minimum with maximum. But then the Guardian explains Mr Birol’s statement thus:

“Climate scientists estimate that global warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels marks the limit of safety, beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible”

basing their claim on this article by science correspondent Alok Jha:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/18/copenhagen-five-climate-scenarios
which in turn is based on information from the Met Office, the Stern Report, and Mark Lynas.

If the Guardian made a claim “based on information from Geoff Chambers, Nostradamus, and Chris Huhne” I’d complain. Why doesn’t the Met Office?

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Nice post.

Nov 10, 2011 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Richard,

I applaud your focus on the uncertainties.

However, the entire CAGW edifice is built upon the reliability, or otherwise, of the land surface temperature record derived from minimum and maximum temperatures from 1850/1870.

That is the core uncertainty.

I recently posted here an analysis that throws serious doubt on both the accuracy of this min/max derived record and whether the warming can be attributed to GHGs.

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/11/4/australian-temperatures.html

My question to you is, why hasn't climate science performed an alternate derivation of global temperatures using superior time based temperature data?

Nov 10, 2011 at 1:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Bradley

For those interested , the Spiegel Online article I referred to earlier about the invention of the 2 C target

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,686697-8,00.html

Nov 10, 2011 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

You guys know the background behind the '5 years' thing right?

Now that Kyoto is well and truly dead (as in, it wont be resurrected in Durban or anytime soon), Russia has allegedly used this window to urge postponement of the birth of the 'son of Kyoto' to 2018 or even 2020.

The AR5 report will be out in 2013/2014. Russia wants 2013+5 = 2018. All said and done, a fresh dose of energy and enthusiasm needs to be injected (like papaverine) to re-erect the flagging climate movement and what better than a new deadline, moderately well into the future (to allow some breathing room) that prevents a catastrophic collapse, and accommodates things like Russia.

That is why, at once, all the heavy breathing about 'five years'. We have only five years (to save the world), every five years. 1998, 2005, 2007, 2011,...

A group of small island states accused countries such as Russia and Japan on Thursday of trying to delay a new international agreement until 2018 or 2020.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/03/us-eu-climate-idUSTRE7A27AA20111103

Nov 10, 2011 at 2:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying...

... We've got five years, what a surprise
We've got five years, stuck on my eyes
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that's all we've got
Five years
Five years
Five years
Five years

Seriously, this is great news. Five years is a very short timescale, and with luck all CO2 emission targets will be exceeded, and the planet will continue to cool irrespective. The idiot politicians and activist scientists will be shown to have been the gullible fools they are, and we can then put a stop to all the bio-fuel bollocks and bird death prayer wheels, and get on with real environmental problems like habitat loss, pollution by heavy metals and over-fishing...

p.s. I like the Dublin => Brighton analogy, but somehow prefer the idea of Thurso => Edinburgh. Anyone who has climbed the Waverley Steps will know that anyone who suggests that Edinburgh is dangerously warm is seriously deranged. We always used to joke that rather than the Athens of the North, the city was more like the Reykjavik of the South, and referred to a certain campus on the western edge of the city as Ice Station Zero.

Nov 10, 2011 at 4:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Richard

Thank you very much for your thoughtful and open post. While there is still much room for disagreement over the magnitude of CO2 induced warming, it is refreshing to read a mainstream climate scientist who recognizes that there is no straight line of reasoning between a possible (or even probable) few degrees of warming, and the kind of crippling measures advocated by many other mainstream scientists.

Having said that, it is very clear that your views are not representative of the consensus viewpoint. Prominent activist scientists such as Hansen, Mann, Jones and Karl are far more vocal, and their apocalyptic message far better known, than the moderate concern you express here. Unfortunately, I do not think you can claim to speak for most, or even many, of your fellow IPCC lead authors.

Nov 10, 2011 at 5:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

Richard Betts

a true breath of fresh air from someone who many would view as part of the establishment. I like in particular the distinction you draw between climate scientists and climate change scientists. Unfortunately it is the latter who seem to make most noise and seem to be pulling the political strings. Can you please ensure that your team are heard in the places that matter. Climate science needs a champion. You could be that man!


As an aside I do not think it is possible to take the temperature of a body as large as the earth and get a measurement to within 1 or 2 degrees C. Where the orifice are we supposed to stick the thermometer? Seriously, as a 'climate scientist' do you not regard the whole notion of global mean surface temperature as somewhat non-scientific?

Thanks for your input here. You have earned a lot of brownie points

Dolphinhead

Nov 10, 2011 at 5:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

The Guardian article really is a regurgitation of all the usual alarmist climate droppings -- it's part of their "run-up to Durban" series, which is appearing, ever more shrilly, several times a week.

Nov 10, 2011 at 6:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Also remind everyone about:

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/is-there-agreement-amongst-climate-scientists-on-the-ipcc-ar4-wg1-by-brown-et-al-2008/

and

http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2010/09/clisci-survey-results-documented.html

Worth reading the responses to the questions by Alex Harvey (#11) in the klimazwiebel piece and the linked B,A&P article and B&vS survey.

Ponder the answers at the beginning of the B&vS survey (#3-10). It often seems as though the most vocal scientific critics of the IPCC have 30 or more years experience and >100 papers under their belts. Nonetheless, I do also recall seeing Lindzen comment along the lines that he thought WG1 was not all that bad!

Nov 10, 2011 at 6:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

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