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Myles Allen writes

Myles Allen has asked me to post this response to the thread in which we discussed his Communicate 2011 lecture.

I do think it is sad for democracy that so much energy in the debate on climate change has been expended on pseudo-debates about the science, leaving no room for public debate about the policy response. In the run-up to Copenhagen, public discussion of effective alternatives to a global cap-and-trade regime (which I would personally view with as much scepticism as most of the readers of this blog) was remarkably absent. It still is, and it always will be as long as the public are kept distracted by a debate over the Medieval Warm Period, which has only ever featured in one of the lines of evidence for human influence on climate (and not, in my view, a particularly strong one). The data we primarily rely upon is the instrumental temperature record, which, as I explained in the talk, emerged from the CRU e-mail affair pretty much unscathed (and I stand by the assertion that one would not have got this impression from media coverage of the issue).

My fear is that by keeping the public focussed on irrelevancies, you are excluding them from the discussion of what we should do about climate change should the decade-to-decade global warming trend observed since the 1970s continue and turn out, as current evidence suggests, to be largely caused by the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Already, I find people arguing that so much has been invested in the emission cap-and-trade approach that it is too late to consider any alternative. In twenty years time, we may find people arguing that it is too late for any alternative to global geo-engineering, which seems even harder to reconcile with democracy. I believe there are effective alternatives that would represent much less of an intrusion into individual lives and the operation of the economy: for example, — but they aren't going to happen unless we start talking about them.

To be clear, "good for the planet" in the final line of the talk does not, of course, mean "good for us (or our grandchildren)". That is the whole point. I sincerely hope we do not end up in a situation where governments feel justified in taking highly anti-democratic measures to stabilise global temperatures, however effective they might be. I still believe this is a problem we can solve without compromising fundamental democratic principles, but the longer we leave off talking seriously about it, the harder this will be.

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Reader Comments (239)

But where is the evidence that the decade-to-decade global warming trend observed since the 1970s is largely caused by the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations?

He seems to think that the instrumental temperature record is the main line of evidence for human influence on climate. When did Allen give up doing science?

May 26, 2012 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I enjoyed MA's Guardian piece re here

He correctly says that all the tax / cap'n'trade / if we all do a little etc arguments are nonsense in terms of reducing CO2, and that unless we believe in, or want, some super-global dictat, which isn't going to happen, and shouldn't, then the only answer is CCS.

I'm not sure how that solves the problem myself, as it still requires everyone to do it, leaving aside the fact that it doesn't 'work', but there's nothing especially wrong with his arguments that the world is warming from GHG's from fossil fuels and that we might want to do something about it that works, rather than all the solutions provided that don't.

May 26, 2012 at 7:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

I do think it is sad for democracy that so much energy in the debate on climate change has been expended on pseudo-debates about the science

Fair enough I suppose. Given that the science is settled any debate about the science must by definition be "not actually but having the appearance of; pretended; false or spurious; sham". ( definition of pseudo)

May 26, 2012 at 7:55 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

The temperature record may be flawed, but it is the best we have to guide us (as the BEST debacle showed). What the temperature record demonstrates is that global temperatures have been varying up and down on multi-decade-long levels. Critically, it shot up between 1910 and 1950 - and also between 1970 and 2000.

If you look at the carbon dioxide concentration on a graph which doesn't suppress the zero, and which extends back to 280ppm at 1800 (or 1750 or whatever suits you to signal the start of the the industrial era) then you find that between 1910 and 1950 the carbon dioxide concentration barely moved. So the 1910 to 1950 episode was NOT driven by carbon dioxide but by some unknown natural phenomenon.

That is turn means that the 1970-2000 warming could have had a natural component in addition to a carbon-dioxide-driven component. If we assume it was all driven by CO2, then doubling the CO2 would have an effect of around 1 deg C - which is therefore an upper bound. There are, therefore, no grounds for panic about trying to limit the CO2 emissions in the immediate future - we can hasten slowly and more wisely.

I have found that many can follow this line of argument. All it takes is throwing away the Gore graph of CO2 shooting up so fast that you need to follow it on a forklift. Suppression of zero is one of the oldest of the charlatan's tricks. And fossil fuel use only really started to take off post WW2, so there are grounds for believing that the increase in CO2 is indeed driven by our fossil fuel consumption.

May 26, 2012 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Iceman Cometh

One reason that debates about "Climategate" matter far beyond the significance of specific scientific issues involved is because the failures of integrity raise profound issues about how "we" (all of us) can entrust so much to climate scientists and associated "advisers" to humankind. The failings of prominent scientists and the utter inability of relevant inquiries and scientific societies to evaluate HONESTLY what went on there means that there is a serious "Crisis of Confidence" and lack of trust about anything climate scientists and their ilk want to tell us. I learned long ago (from close personal acquaintance) not to trust or rely upon anything emitted from the more activist circles including Al Gore and friends over here in the USA. To the extent that climate scientists have failed to provide a rigorous public standard of accuracy in both research and communications they are making it difficult to attain reliable public judgments about what to do next.

The "science as usual, business as usual" attitudes of so many scientists and policy wonks about Climategate and many related issues has shown all who pay attention that WE CAN'T TRUST these people. Period. I will never ever trust the word of anyone who looks at integrity issues of Climategate and shrugs and says "no big deal." Anyone who is not appalled by it doesn't get my respect or my vote.

Here is simply one example of what I have been disturbed by as I've discovered the lack of standards and lack of serious response in scientific and policy establishments to Climategate:

[h/t to "Orson" on the original Myles Allen thread, who linked this review of Pielke, Jr's 2010 book]:

[philosopher Mark Sagoff commenting on Pielke's chapter on Climategate]: "If one were to offer a criticism of this book, it might be to ask why Pielke is shocked, shocked that scientists dissemble to create alarm, to offer themselves as saviors, and to increase their funding. In an informative chapter centering on “Climategate,” the leaking of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit of East Anglia University, Pielke castigates the scientists involved for trying to manipulate the peer-review process of scientific publication “by managing and coordinating reviews of individual papers, by putting pressure on journal editors and editorial boards, by seeking to stack editorial boards with like-minded colleagues,” and so on. Pielke quotes a columnist for the Financial Times who commented on the ho-hum response of the scientific establishment: “It said that this is how science is done in the real world.”"

May 26, 2012 at 8:05 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Perhaps Myles could have a chayt with Jonathan about 'Hide the Decline' ie reconstructions relying on proxies, very dodgy, if proxies diverge from thermometers

Jonathan's thoughts quoted here:

also Myles article in the Guardain received some criticism here (;-))

However, Myles does explain the reality...
but has a different interpretation than others (ie Polluter pays,and the magic of CCS, etc)


"The science is quite clear...."

"....Even if you were, heroically, to reduce your personal carbon footprint to zero for the rest of your lifetime, you would only buy the rest of us a second or two before accumulated carbon emissions were exactly back to where they would have been without your efforts."

May 26, 2012 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Perhaps the greenies can start off by conceding that nuclear and hydro schemes generate electricity without CO2. And that gas can replace coal and reduce CO2 emissions also.
Then the "debate" about how to reduce emissions can get started.

May 26, 2012 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No. 3

OT - Did anyone have the misfortune to hear Chris Mooney's introduction to the Today Programme audience on Friday ?


Scroll down to the 0836 entry - it seems by not being a believer we are going into a dark age and have killed the enlightenment.

May 26, 2012 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

"I sincerely hope we do not end up in a situation where governments feel justified in taking highly anti-democratic measures to stabilise global temperatures,"

Anti democratic measures like forcing useless light bulbs on the public, or increasing energy bills to pay landowners rent for whirly-gigs, or rewriting planning policy, or paying a gaggle of NGOs/Quangos to "manage" their land in accordance with EU climate legislation?

He should get out more.

May 26, 2012 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

A very weak entry in the debate - sorry you have managed to get every kind of discredited argument into a few short paragraphs - "trust the science, its been cleared", "the evidence says we are to blame", "irrelevances" - its all the same as the "science is settled" argument which has been failing since some PR nerd came up with the idea.

"My fear is that by keeping the public focussed on irrelevancies, you are excluding them from the discussion of what we should do about climate change should the decade-to-decade global warming trend observed since the 1970s continue and turn out, as current evidence suggests, to be largely caused by the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations"

When you are about to impose what will become several £tn of taxes and restrictions on us which will in turn move our economy to something like it was in 1750 thus condemning future generations to living standards far below what we have now then I would suggest this is not an irrelevance - its pretty much the total focus of the subject.

This remains a "Theory" and not a "Fact" - if you can't tell the difference between them that I would suggest you step back from proposing policies on those of us who can.

May 26, 2012 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

"To be clear, "good for the planet" in the final line of the talk does not, of course, mean "good for us (or our grandchildren)"."

Hidden in this sentence is the reason why the good professor is suggesting suspension of democracy: he is suffering from Venus Syndrome, the mental ailment that has caused mush loss of credibility to climate science and scientists.

May 26, 2012 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

So, let me see if I've got this straight:

Instead of debating the non-existence of any empirical evidence of a non-existent man-made "cause" of a non-existent problem, we should instead be debating the best way to deal with our non-existent problem, DESPITE the non-existence of any empirical evidence of the non-existent man-made cause of the non-existent problem.

That about cover it?

In high school in the 1960's we were taught that climate went in 25 to 30 warming and cooling cycles, which in turn went in roughly 300 year warming and cooling cycles, as evidenced by the MWP and LIA.

Nothing that HAS happened, appears to BE happening, or is indicated as likely TO happen, suggests anything other than the same old same old as we were taught nearly 50 years ago.

Coming out of the LIA, we've had roughly speaking, warming from 1850 to 1880, cooling from 1880 to 1910. warming from 1910 to 1940, cooling from 1940 to 1970, warming from 1970 to 2000, and now we are back in a cooling cycle.

Further, each warming cycle has been warmer than the previous one as we warmed up from the LIA, and it is now reasonable to postulate we are now at the height of a 300 year warming cycle, and will now move downward in 25 to 30 year cycles to a new LIA.

Climate is cyclical and the cycles are natural. Get over it and go find a new cause celebre.
As I understand it CAGW is dead with the "in" crowd and "sustainable" is the new meme de jour anyway.

Why not give that a go?

May 26, 2012 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered Commentermemoryvault

Good for Myles Allen in responding here. I spotted several 'fantastic' (old-fashioned sense) things in his post, but I won't get back to a keyboard until Monday to see if I can tease them out.

May 26, 2012 at 8:35 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

His muddled thinking is typical of the British phsyche that has plagued industry and government alike since the 50s.

May 26, 2012 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Surely the global temperature record can only tell us something about the effects of increased CO2 on global temperatures if we have some idea of what the temperatures would have done without the increased CO2. And that's where the handle of the hockey stick comes in. It implies that global temps would have flatlined if it wasn't for us meddling kids and our CO2. If there was a MWP then it throws a spanner in the works - a spanner that seems to be visible in the early 20th century temperature rise, as mentioned by The Iceman above.

May 26, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

You sometimes meet people who can talk utter drivel with great fluency and style. I call them 'AI's' - articulate idiots.

The eco-alarmists have superb communication skills. Now that the wheels have fallen off their hypothesis, they berate themselves for 'not communicating more effectively'. This is reminiscent of Comical Ali's vehemence in asserting 'his' truth whilst 'the' truth (in the concrete form of enemy tanks) was there for all to see.

This Myles chappie floats the idea of suspending democracy with great ease, and adds that he hopes it will not be neccessary. But, hey, it's for the greater good, so let's hand over our liberties to experts who know better than we do what's good for us and the plannit.

On his rostrum, backed by his icons, exquisitely lit at just the right camera angle, with his smart military-fashion shirt...... this guy gives me the collywobbles.

May 26, 2012 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

Myles Allen may think that "irrelevancies" such as the debate over the Medieval Warm Period and "pseudo-debates" about the science are a waste of time - but the cover of your book strageticallly located to the right of those comments just should remind him how vitally important for democracy it is to uncover pseudo science.

Does he have a copy?

May 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrankSW

Just in response to the opening comment by Philip Bratby: the instrumental temperature record is indeed the main data we rely on in support of the claim that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is likely to have been caused by the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. It is not the only data, of course, nor is it sufficient in itself. But it is the most important single piece of evidence -- if the 2000s had turned out to be as cool or cooler than the 1980s (which would have been a perfectly reasonable hypothesis at the beginning of the decade if the 1970-2000 warming were just a natural fluctuation), then we would be looking much harder for alternative explanations for everything else we are seeing. But they didn't. Of course, it is still possible that the 2010s will prove cooler than the 1990s (particularly if we get another large volcano -- but even through natural variability) even in the presence of an anthropogenic warming trend: hence no attribution statement is "unequivocal". Attribution will always be about quantifying the odds on competing hypotheses, which is what we do.

It is important to understand that we use physics, and not just correlations of timeseries, in quantifying the greenhouse contribution. The instrumental record does not support a 1K climate sensitivity (the IceMan comment) -- it might be just consistent with a 1K sensitivity, but that would be right at the low end of a very generous uncertainty range that would also encompass much higher values. Most likely estimates come out between 2 and 3K.

May 26, 2012 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterMyles Allen

I recall reading a link, posted here in the past year, that the warmist PR strategy is to write and speak as if the science is settled even if it is not. My recollection is that this advice came from Enterra (?) c 2006. This does indeed appear to be the line taken here and elsewhere. It frames the debate on to ground of their choosing. The volume has been turned up over the past 6 months to a year or so to condition the public for the conclusions of the forthcoming Rio conference. Expect to hear much more along these lines.

May 26, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

My understanding of MA's position,based on the lecture we saw and this piece:-

1. I am a climate scientist and only we climate scientists are equipped to understand the intricacies of climate science.

2. I'm not however willing to debate any science with non climate scientists - since we climate scientists have decided the issue to our own satisfaction.

3. Any attempts to debate climate science with us climate scientists are therefore "pseudo debates', "distractions" and "irrelevancies".

4. Factual evidence which has emerged to demonstrate that we climate scientists have been dishonest and deceptive in our work must be ignored since it really means something entirely different.

4. Since there are rather a lot of us climate scientists now, and we don't need to spend any more time on the science, we will expend our considerable public resources on involving ourselves in matters of public policy; including politics, economics, international relations, public health, large scale civil engineering, transport and quality of life - despite being entirely unqualified to speak in these areas.

May 26, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I'm, for instance, also interested in "numbers":

For example another article in Nature (Zeeya Merali: "Computational science: ...Error", October 2010, doi:10.1038/467775a) began its narrative on Climategate I:

"When hackers... [...and so forth along the myths in the "published" literature - September 2011] [...] Harry [...was/is somewhat irrelevant? - Question by September 2011]..."

John Graham-Cumming commented that article -- and, Yes, a lot of people could have watched also, and for themselves, what John saw (

"True enough that the messy code from CRU wasn't shown to compromise any of their scientific results. None of the enquiries into "ClimateGate" examined the CRU code."

What can we, the public, know about that (time and again 'adjusted') code(s)/modules?

Further questions, so far (One specific question to one of Dr PJ's "grid boxes"-temperature-emails (CG II) may/will follow later): Do we agree that the second leak, Climategate II, requires obviously more changes to the IPCC/processes/data/numbers, in fact, rapidly, in unprecedented speed?

Did or will you cover CG II, Dr Allen? (CG II hasn't been covered, e.g., by the German Main Stream Media, at all (no Newspaper or TV station reported)! CG II didn't bother the "quality media" in Germnoey.)

May 26, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

" "good for the planet" in the final line of the talk does not, of course, mean "good for us (or our grandchildren)" "

Ah. One of those.

May 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Response to Brent Hargreaves: Please read what I am saying. Not all climate scientists are closet Stalinists. Many of us are just as concerned as you are with the statist direction of climate change policy. This is the debate we need to have: how can we deal with climate change, if (as the evidence suggests) it indeed turns out to be real, without compromising individual liberty? By simply hoping, Pollyanna-like, that the whole problem will just go away, you risk excluding yourselves from the policy debate.

I am genuinely interested in the views of the writers on this blog (including Andrew Montford's) on this issue. Please can we try to keep this thread to this question.

May 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterMyles Allen

@myles allen

'It is important to understand that we use physics, and not just correlations of timeseries, in quantifying the greenhouse contribution'

Remind me, please, of the physics you use? With its experimental verification.

May 26, 2012 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Prof Allen, as I understand it, physics is used to explain positive (higher sensitivity), negative (lower sensitivity) and zero (~1.2 deg sensitivity) feedback. Which physics explanation is correct and what actual measurements support it?

May 26, 2012 at 9:18 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

The public is kept distracted by the Hockeystick debate only because climate scientists continue to defend it, or avoid the topic. The correct way to deal with it would have been for all the unsound results to be withdrawn, for the scientific establishment to find out how and then take measures to ensure it couldn't happen again, and for scientists to be rigorous in only using what they consider to be good, solid evidence. They tell me there is lots of it. This shouldn't be so hard.

The current temperature record didn't escape unscathed from ClimateGate. The UHI issue is affected by the Wang-Jones-Keenan affair - Tom Wigley's emails on the subject are particularly significant. And Harry's 'read me' gives an insight into how the databases of current climate are maintained, I'm not entirely sure if CRU TS2.1 feeds into CRUTEM - I've heard conflicting versions on that - but CRU TS2.1 is cited and plotted in AR4 as current climate.

If climate scientists want to stop getting battered with ClimateGate, they need to show how they have dealt with the issues raised. Did Wang and Jones fabricate results? Show us the evidence that they didn't, or issue a correction. Have you hired a team of software engineers to fix the CRU TS database yet? Show us the documentation, the bugfixes, the test results that validate it. Explain how such work got past the peer review process without being detected, and show that you have now fixed the process. Explain how the situation arose such that people were allowed to block scepticism from getting published, and show you have fixed the process. And then show us how with the process fixed, the evidence is still solid.

It's good tactics and it's good science. You disarm the sceptics, depriving them of their strongest weapons. You build a new case without any of the weaknesses of the old, stronger and more convincing by its transparent quality. And this is how science is supposed to work. You detect and discard the errors.

It's mystifying to many of us why you don't, unless it is that you find you can't. That is what people will assume.

As for policy options in case it all turns out to be true, there's another that hasn't been put on the table. That is that in the face of an uncertain future, we do nothing yet, but build up resources and resiliency ready to jump when it becomes obvious where we need to go. We carry on with business as usual for the next forty to fifty years, transition to alternative power sources then when it becomes cheaper to do so, and adapt to whatever changes in climate happen as they happen, as we've been adapting to changes in climate for the last 50,000 years. We have technology now.

Or if you're going to declare an undemocratic emergency, then announce tomorrow that we're going to build a thousand new nuclear reactors in the centres of big cities over the next two decades, no planning permission, no protests, no delays during construction, no compensation if it goes pop. No argument. Because that's what we ought to do if we really believed one word of the apocalyptic predictions.

The basis of democracy is that each faction uses argument and evidence to persuade the majority that they are right. That gives science a big advantage, or ought to, because the scientific method properly applied is the most powerful and most convincing method we have for doing exactly that. If it's not working, it's because you're doing it wrong.

May 26, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

I didn't notice, in any of the above comments, any concern about the feasibility or economics of CCS. Then there's the obvious point that if we do follow this line, but others don't, eg the developing economies, who produce more of this dangerous gas anyway, then we're just killing off our own economy for nothing.

May 26, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan_UK

The link is to a paywalled article. Richard Betts recently tweeted an article he had published -
but paywalled. I tweeted him about this ("I hate tweets to paywalled stuff") and he apologised and said
they (several authors) would make it available publicly as well. Well that would be nice but I am not
holding my breath. Frequently it is a condition of publication that you cede copyright.

If this debate is important and the public needs to be informed why do we continue to get publication
behind paywalls? Why can't the main protagonists who have no personal need of the kudos of a high
status journals like "Nature Geoscience" simply make their work accessible ?

Presently we have one more "business as usual" scenario.

May 26, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterpeter2108

The political response? I vote for 'Let's see what happens and adapt to it.' No disaster will befall. No prospect of the ensured disasters of geo-engineering or killing the modern era of growth and prosperity. We can adapt to anything, that is what we do, our specialty.

May 26, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Dr Allen, what makes you think that carbon sequestration has any viable future at all? Even if western countries were prepared to wear the additional costs of an effective method (yet to be found, as far as I know), it is odds on that China and India won't bother with it. Why not just go with nuclear a la Roger Pielke Jr and even Bryony Worthington (thorium reactors). At least that's a proven technology, and is less likely to cause economic havoc. Or better yet just forget about the whole CAGW shemozzle and find something more productive to research.

May 26, 2012 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Myles Allen writes:...Rhoda gives a precis: Nice little democracy you have here, shame if anything were to happen to it.

May 26, 2012 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Myles Allen @ 9.06 am

"- if the 2000s had turned out to be as cool or cooler than the 1980s (which would have been a perfectly reasonable hypothesis at the beginning of the decade if the 1970-2000 warming were just a natural fluctuation) . . ."

What a load of unmitigated, unscientific crap.

The ONLY thing that needed to be demonstrated in the 2000's to support natural 25 to 30 years cycles of warming and cooling was for the warming trend from the 1970's to 2000 to stop and begin a gradual decline. And that appears to be exactly what we are getting.

There was and is absolutely NO scientific reason to believe that temperatures would suddenly fall off a cliff to 1980's levels to "prove" anything. Indeed if they had both warmist and sceptic alike would have genuinely had something to worry about.

Be honest sir, your statements rely on neither science nor observation: you are spouting rubbish, and you're making it up as you go along.

May 26, 2012 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered Commentermemoryvault

Myles Allen,

"Please can we try to keep this thread to this question."

Um... most of the people here are pretty sceptical that AGW is going to be much of a problem. But you don't want to talk about that. You want them to discuss with you what to do about this terrible problem.

I'm not sure that works.

May 26, 2012 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Isn't it fairly obvious that Dr Allen is going to be dishonest with the facts of climategate, and pretty much everything associated with climate science? I mean, there has been no trend in gloabl warming in the instrument temperture record for the past 14 years, yet he keeps pretending that there is. The man's future, income and livelihood all depend on keeping this gravy train on the rails and running smoothly. He's banked his entire scientific credibility on it. Of course, all of this means he is suffering from chronic confirmation bias whenever he's involved in research, as he has to keep the 'scare' going or his future disappears. Science funded by the public is really a big problem. As it creates this very problem. Oh for the gentleman scientists of the 19th century. True intellectual giants who sought truth and truth alone.

[Snip. Unnecessary rudeness.}

May 26, 2012 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterDJ

I agree with peter2108. I'm sick and tired of scientists citing pay-walled papers as if they mean something.

In this case the premise on which the paper is built looks wrong to me. The abstract says "The risk of dangerous long-term consequences of anthropogenic interference in the climate system is principally determined by the total cumulative emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere and not by the rate of emissions in any given year or political commitment period". Well, if you accept the premise that natural sources of CO2 are unchanging (and I don't, by the way) the total cumulative emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere would appear on the face of it to be almost *entirely* dependent on the rising rate of (human) emissions during the present political [Kyoto] commitment period. So my initial response is 'hogwash'.

Of course, I might not have understood the paper properly. I'm probably very, very wrong. I've based my opinion on a four sentence abstract.

May 26, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterFalcon

Several people have queried the viability of CCS.

CCS is the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century perpetual motion machine.

At an industrial level (eg a fossil-fueled power station) it is simply not possible to remove CO2 at the rate is produced. And that's before we even start to think of how to dispose of it.

At an industrial level (eg a fossil-fueled power station) it is simply not possible to remove CO2 in the quantity it is produced for any given energy output, without expending a greater quantity of energy than was produced in the first place. And that's before we even start to think of how to dispose of it.

At an industrial level (eg a fossil-fueled power station) it is simply not possible to sequester CO2 in the quantity it is produced, at the rate it is produced.

At an industrial level (eg a fossil-fueled power station) it is simply not possible to sequester CO2 in the quantity it is produced without expending more energy than was produced by burning the fossil fuel in the first place.

May 26, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermemoryvault

"... the instrumental temperature record is indeed the main data we rely on ..."

The bleeding chunk above, admittedly slightly out of context, highlights to me one of the main problems. In my view, that length of time is totally insignificant when talking climate. The geologists have a much better understanding.

If you plot the temperature of the planet on two sheets of A4 the last millimeter covers 10 million years. The thickness of the paper would cover one million years. A thousand years is, therefore, one thousandth of the thickness of a piece of paper.

Then you try to argue that a few points somewhere in that space that is too small to see will have profound implications.

Why not use the rest of the data in the other 4.5 billion years. It is all there: higher CO2, lower CO2, higher temperature and lower temperature etc.

May 26, 2012 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

"Not all climate scientists are closet Stalinists"

You only need one Stalin.

May 26, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

I have seen more in newspapers and on TV about 'policy response' than about 'the science'. Wind turbines and solar panels with their effect of increasing electricity bills being the most obvious policy response debated by the media.

Why does Myles Allen believe that any public debates about climate science are 'pseudo-debates'? Is it that he considers the public are too stupid to understand the science and therefore should simply accept what they are told by people like himself and Dr Mann and the CRU without question?

As climatology is multidisciplinary all the various specialities and data collection cannot be done by a single person or team. Obviously the people who collect and analyse cores from bristlecone pines are not those collecting sea level data from satellites and they both rely on computer modelers. So although the knowledge of the climate comes from many and varied sources, the data and theories/hypotheses about climate change from the many differing disciplines have to be verified individually.

The work here and on other sites which question the individual conclusions of the various climatology disciplines is healthy scientific scepticism. It is not "keeping the public focussed on irrelevancies" but looking at the individual claims of climatology and seeing if they can be verified. As so many of the blatant claims of climatology have been found to be wrong (Yamal hockey stick, sea level rise, Himalayan glaciers disapearing, Arctic ice disapearing) thinking people are disinclined to accept that the increase in carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is causing rapid heating of the planet.

May 26, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermfo

"stabilise global temperatures"

Given that the climate and consequently temperature of the Earth has been in a constant state of change for around 4.6 billion years, and for most of that time has been warmer than today, I have three questions:

1. What makes you think it should be stable?

2. What is the correct temperature at which to stabilise it?

3. Do you think we have sufficient understanding of, and power over, the atmosphere/hydrosphere/biosphere/geosphere/sun to control the temperature in any way?

May 26, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanet, Scottish Borders

Ok so lets talk about what to do, and forget the fact that many think we still need to talk about whether we even have a problem.

Can we talk about the very high likelihood that whatever we do, however much we spend, however much statist interference there is with personal freedoms, we will make absolutely no difference, or a difference that is so negligible it is essentially zero, to the climate or to the amount of CO2 in it. The ONLY known result of policy seems to be to make a very small number of already wealthy people incredibly rich and to ramp up political control of the population.

May 26, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterRB


If you want to see the full paper, email one of the authors who will happily send you a PDF. Always works for me.

May 26, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Registered CommenterQ

Hi Myles,

You mention the importance of the instrumental record in attributing climate change, but I think many people would also point to the importance of changes over longer time-scales (100s and 1000s of years), particularly in understanding the nature and magnitude of natural variations.

Will this in mind, can I ask you to consider answering a question I originally put to Richard Betts (Apr 10, 2012 at 8:01 AM on this thread).

My question was prompted by this paper, which draws the following conclusions,

1/ At time scales longer than 10/30 years (the climate regime), the magnitude of observed temperature fluctuations increases with increasing scale.
2/ GCMs tested by the authors do not reproduce the observed scaling behaviour when unforced.
3/ With the partial exception of ECHO-G, forced runs of the tested GCMs are not much different.

Here again is the question I asked Richard:-

A/ What are the physical effects suspected by the MO of causing the scaling behaviour observed within the climate regime?
B/ Do the MO models incorporate simulations of these physical effects?
C/ Do the MO models reproduce the observed climate regime scaling behaviour?

Many thanks.

May 26, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Richens

James Evans writes: "most of the people here are pretty sceptical that AGW is going to be much of a problem. But you don't want to talk about that. You want them to discuss with you what to do about this terrible problem.

I'm not sure that works."

There's a great deal of bad feeling in the Great Debate, and Myles should be congratulated for leaving his comfort zone and facing us sceptics.

I truly cannot figure out whether he and his fellows (a) Genuinely believe in AGW; genuinely believe they can extrapolate the 1975-1998 TWWP or (b) Know full well that it's a flimsy hoax but have such a vested interest in spinning it out.

I tend toward (a). The Dan Gardner book 'Future Babble' is littered with examples of well-meaning highly-educated apparently-rational prophets who scare the bejaysus out of everybody. (And it's a travesty that these people NEVER issue a public apology afterwards. There's nary an 'oops!') Gardner makes a sound case that our precious rationality is a stagecoach bouncing along behind the runaway horses of instinct, gut-feeling, tunnel vision and peer group pressure.

Scientific method has been massively successful over the centuries in sorting sheep from goats, so why is it that climatography has been granted immunity from it???

Professor, if you are a physicist tell us your falsifiability criteria for AGW.

(P.S. TWWP = the teeny weeny warming period which sparked this global warming silliness.)

May 26, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

Janet, Scottish Borders @ 10.10 am

Good points Janet, but let us take it one step further.

"2. What is the correct temperature at which to stabilise it?"

The good professor also has to tell us "when" and "where".

For instance "stabilising" "climate" where it is now would appear to condemn Europe to endless bitterly cold winters.
On the other hand, winding things back to the mid 2000's and stabilising them there would seem certain to condemn Australia to permanent drought.

So, which should we be aiming for? A freezing death for those in fuel poverty in the NH, or slow starvation for those reliant on Australia's wheat, rice and corn exports?

Perhaps the good professor can offer some guidance . . . .

But I'm not holding my breath.

May 26, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermemoryvault

Even if we go along with Prof Allen's "the science is settled" argument, so it becomes a public policy debate, the problem is that none of the ideas on offer are any good - rackets like carbon credits, windmills, socialistic world government schemes, exercises in middle class impoversihment etc etc. Fine, lets have a public policy debate but please lets have some decent ideas. Its the lack of decent ideas which dispose people to disbelieve the whole thing. And this links back into the clim-sci whine about it all being a 'communication' issue, and that big oil beasts drown out their sensible voices. Wrong. Good ideas are easily communicated. Crap ones need a lot of PR whizzery. Selling public policy to people means putting icing on the cake. Make it nice. No-one is ever going to vote for "Let me make your life worse" and also they will disbelieve the analysis (notwithstanding their inability to understand it anyway) that their lives need to be made worse.

May 26, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

"It is not the only data, of course, nor is it sufficient in itself. But it is the most important single piece of evidence -- if the 2000s had turned out to be as cool or cooler than the 1980s (which would have been a perfectly reasonable hypothesis at the beginning of the decade if the 1970-2000 warming were just a natural fluctuation),"

If Myles Allen is prepared to put a ridiculous statement like this into print then he deserves the contempt that is coming his way.

Is he really a scientist?

May 26, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterDisko Troop

May 26, 2012 at 7:38 AM | Phillip Bratby

But where is the evidence that the decade-to-decade global warming trend observed since the 1970s is largely caused by the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations?

Hi Phillip

The evidence is explained here.

Please read it!



May 26, 2012 at 10:49 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

The guy is right though...the longer we leave talking seriously about Mann Made Global Warming (tm), the harder it will become to address any of the very real short comings of the catastrophiliacs.


May 26, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Ricard Betts: Please, not more generalised references to the IPCC!

I give many public talks, and I usually start by saying "I am a physicist". I shall have to change that in the future, because I wouldn't want to be associated with Myles Allen's brand of physics. I will start by saying "I am a physicist of the old school, taught physics in the era of Richard P Feynman". In those days, if the evidence didn't agree with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis was junked. Feynman warned us about cargo cult science, as practised by the likes of Myles Allen. In this brand of carg cult science, it is the evidence that doesn't support the hypothesis that is junked, not the hypothesis. In his physics, correlation equals causation and evidence is either cherry-picked to fit the hypothesis or adjusted to fit the hypothesis. I despair about modern science that allows this cargo cult science to have become the mainstream.

May 26, 2012 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

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