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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 (220)

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.

Not a promising or focused start. Frame it like this and I see it will provoke disputes about the accuracy of science and ignore political implementations. Or vice versa.

For instance the obfuscation continues when Allen is saying alternatives to cap and trade are not being discussed by the collection of people at Copenhagen because

“…the public are kept distracted by a debate over the Medieval Warm Period”

This is just meaningless. That fact there is group-think at shindigs like Copenhagen, wittering on about narrow solutions, has nothing to do with public opinion.

I don’t see how the absence of discussion of alternatives to cap and trade are caused by disputes over the mediaeval period; I can only think Myles Allen merely wanted to distract from both science and policy in one single rhetorical flourish here. If so, then well done.

I still come away seeing Myles Allen clearly wedded to a narrative that sees (hopes for?) some failure of the public to grasp some real power and information and be left in the dark and therefore allowing governments “having” to impose solutions. I think one has to sift between his rhetoric to understand this because he is not very straightforward and possibly confuses himself too. It is not as simple as inevitable evidence of CO2 showing harm makes democracy go.

"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."

“…governments feel justified in taking highly anti-democratic measures to stabilise global temperatures…"

So Allen can see the “inevitability” when a government will become less accountable to its electors and will impose a solution but it is a strange situation that involves resulting effects that *must* have international consequences and so somehow imply there has to be a coming to accord with international agreements (between undemocratic governments) that are unachievable today.
The fact that the failures of agreements today have no causal input from the people of today whether they live in a democracy or not does not seem to have been factored in but somehow still we are inevitably going to have democracy taken away in Allen's eyes.

I think Allen suffers from an unimaginative single track projection of expectation of human development which, like the models of climate, are only allowed to be contemplated to have one path of progress. he doesn't seem willing just to see how it goes, he must control something.

I think we shouldn’t forget Allen said this:

maybe that’s a good thing, because maybe the idea of selling this as something that people were going to deal with as a great collective action enterprise was never going to work, and that actually, the way it’s going, the whole climate change issue will be played out by professionals, largely leaving the public out of the picture.

May 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

OK, I read the ippc thing. Not convinced, there seemed to be a lot of circularity in it. Like, we use models which simulate warming according to our beliefs. When we take the CO2 out, there isn't any warming, therefore our beliefs must be true. Oh, and we are allowed to put the best construction on paleo records. We really know aht temps were like in the past 1300 years. And when there are changes in temp which do not match CO2 variations, there is always an explanation due to volcanos or sulphur particles or indeed magic fairy dust.

In short, models all the way down, proxies all the way back and epicycles when required.

May 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Richard Betts: Great link to the IPCC document. It's worth reading.

I enjoy the bit on "LOSU" level of scientific understanding of various mechanisms and drivers which, paraphrased, means that we know everything except for what we don't know (drat!)

Wouldn't it be a larf if that pretty bar chart on p136 were wrong? If the sun were to govern climate by more than the smidgin shown there, and carbon dioxide hardly at all well (ha-ha) we'd have spent billions of pounds for no good reason and (guffaw) damaged our manufacturing industry.Oops!

May 26, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

In response to Phillip Bratby, Myles Allen (09:06) says:..."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."......

That statement is the absolute crux of the whole global warming debate.

The claim, based on terms such as 'most of' and 'is likely to have' has not been justified scientifically. Yet it has been accepted by MPs and others and is the reason that so much of our national treasure has been wasted on 'decarbonising' projects and has made our electricity so expensive. Cheap electricity is, arguably, the primary driver of growth and thereby job creation. It is therefore imperative that Myles Allen's 'claim' is tested and verified using the scientific method, and the cause and effect demonstrated without ambiguity. Otherwise, when many are already on their knees, we will continue to deprive the British population of progress in the name of a 'claim'.

May 26, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDusty

"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)"

Please Sir, what are the others?

May 26, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

"The data we primarily rely upon is the instrumental temperature record,"

Please Mr Allen, can you explain how any feature of the instrumental temperature record provides any sort of evidence of the human causation of the changes observed?

May 26, 2012 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

Richard Betts,

Thanks for the link to IPCC AR4 Chapter 9.

It says:
"Detection does not imply attribution of the detected change to the assumed cause. ‘Attribution’ of causes of climate change is the process of establishing the most likely causes for the detected change with some defined level of confidence (see Glossary). As noted in the SAR (IPCC, 1996) and the TAR (IPCC, 2001), unequivocal attribution would require controlled experimentation with the climate system. Since that is not possible,..."

...meaning that anyone who attributes it would have to be practicing equivocation...

" practice attribution of anthropogenic climate change is understood to mean demonstration that a detected change is ‘consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing’ and ‘not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings’ (IPCC, 2001)."

It goes on to say:
"The approaches used in detection and attribution research described above cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgement is required to give a calibrated assessment of whether a specific cause is responsible for a given climate change."

So the ultimate evidence climate science is relying on is "expert judgement".

In this case meaning the counting of papers, confirming the consequent, telling a consistent story, and argument from ignorance. But in any case, not from the 20th century temperature record, yes?

May 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

All a long way of saying "let's keep this CAGW thing going cos if we don't we have to go back to being low level nerds with no job security on campus"

I can't think why world domination and supreme power could cloud their judgement.

May 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDuncan

I watched the talk and I'll admit, I thought you (Myles Allen) were much more straightforward than I was expecting. I thought it was refreshing that you recognised that climate scientists/reporters/activists over-egging the headlines undermines the credibility of the message.

I do have a big "but" though - essentially I don't think you have grasped the extent to which climate scientists are not trusted in sceptical circles. That may seem unfair to someone who tries to conduct himself with honesty (and the fact that you are here trying to engage people suggests that includes you).

However, you don't need to be a scientist to work out if someone is being honest: you develop that skill as part of everyday life. The fact that so many climate people seem prepared to be disingenuous in support of the climate agenda means that we don't really know how far they will go. And the fact that so many mainstream climate scientists/reporters/activists seem to be unwilling to even acknowledge that there are problems does nothing to help. It is as though the "alarmists" worry that admitting that even one small part of the edifice is flawed - no matter how obvious it is to the rest of us that it is rotten - risks bringing the whole thing down.

How many mainstream climate scientists will admit either to any of the following, or that they might represent problems?

- It is troubling that (as McIntyre & others have said) Mann's methodology gives you a hockey stick even if you feed in random data.

- It is/was disingenuous to produce temperature charts which merge the instrumental record with proxies, without making it clear that the failure of the proxies to agree with the temperature record suggests that the proxies might not be very accurate measures of past temperature.

- It is troubling that Acton told Parliament that UEA still held emails, but UEA later replied to an FOI-type request saying that they did not. UEA then said that what Acton had told Parliament had parliamentary privilege, and therefore could not be used against it in the FOI request.

- Climate scientists/universities did block - and continue to block - FOI-type requests dishonestly. By dishonestly, I mean by saying things which were not true in their reasons for not giving out data. McIntyre documented this extensively pre-Climategate, and universities had always essentially said "not at all, we've given everything we can". One of the most significant aspects of Climategate was that it validated what McIntyre had said by showing those same scientists and universities trying to avoid complying with FOI requests.

- The Heartland strategy document was clearly a fake. Peter Gleick very probably created it. Before he had admitted to being the source of the other documents, he had been identified because of the contents of the fake. The ongoing activist (including the Guardian) efforts to suggest the strategy document might be genuine suggest some people will try to defend the indefensible, in the name of environmentalism.

- The Climategate inquiries were astonishingly weak. They colluded with the UEA to give it a clean bill of health (e.g. asking the UEA which papers to consider and pretending that the list came from the Royal Society, not interviewing the sceptics, not actually asking Jones if he did delete emails as his emails suggested).

- The "97% of climate scientists think we need to take action on climate" argument is dishonest and a statistical sleight of hand.

Until mainstream climate scientists start throwing their dishonest peers under the bus (i.e. acknowledging that there are genuine concerns over integrity), I personally will continue to think that they will defend the indefensible as long as they think it helps their case.

May 26, 2012 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK

It is good of Richard Betts to engage in the discussions here. If all, or even most, climatologists had been completely open in the past and had not tried to suppress criticism (by manipulation of the peer review process) and had been willing to share their data (even with people trying to find something wrong with their theories) then the debate would not have become so politicised.

Climatologists have tended to give the impression that because they are scientists their claims must be true. However not all sciences are like physics. While their may not be a consensus at the cutting edge of physics, e.g. on string theory, there is a huge and well established body of knowledge covering many other topics.

Climatology seems to me to resemble medicine, a field that draws on many other sciences but is not itself a hard science in the way that physics is. Take, for example, the question of whether or not vitamin e helps to prevent heart attacks. This has been argued over for decades and the question still has not been completely resolved. (That is partly because there are several different forms of vitamin e and the ratios between them, as well as the quantities, are probably important).

In my lifetime the consensus in the medical profession on the value of removing tonsils from children suffering repeated attacks of tonsillitis has changed completely and has arguably moved too far in the direction of letting them suffer with the condition. What guarantee do we have that the consensus of opinion among climate scientists will not change significantly in over the next few decades?

May 26, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Re Richard Betts 7:38 "The evidence is explained here".

I went along... look at Antarctica but it seems to be missing.

May 26, 2012 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed


I don't think this is going too well.

Following on HK's post...

The underlying problem is that statements by climate scientists are mistrusted by many people. The principal reason they're mistrusted is that some of the high-profile claims are wrong, not subtly wrong but obviously so. When all the other people in the same field (broadly climate science) let these claims pass without challenge, onlookers such as the contributors to this blog see collusion and conspiracy among all climate scientists.

The particular claims to which I'm referring are those of the "hockey-stick". The science and mathematics underlying this work is badly flawed, so badly that it is essentially worthless.

Now, from what you say, your current view is that the hockey stick doesn't provide strong evidence of human influence of climate so you may already be heading this way. In any case, if I could make a suggestion: that you and a number of equally influential climate scientists spent some time analysing the hockey stick work, including Steve McIntyre's critiques, and then publicly stated just what a shoddy piece of work it is (I'm confident that, as a fair-minded man, you could reach no other conclusion).

If you did that, then at a stroke you'd show that you and your colleagues wanted to do good science rather than get your own way by any available means. Then I, and I expect many others, would be much more inclined to listen more carefully to your other arguments.

May 26, 2012 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Anthony

All we need from scientists is an honest assessment/description of the scientific status quo. We neither need nor should we take any notice of their unsolicited opinion about what action we should take in respect of that scientific assessment. Basically, as they say in the classics, when we want the pig, we'll rattle the bucket. If that sounds harsh, so be it, but there has been nothing in the mainstream climate science opinion to date to inspire any confidence in the quality of political advice on offer from that quarter.

In other words, Myles Allen and others of that ilk should not purport to cast judgment on the nature or quality of the debate. Essentially, it's none of their business. Their role is finished when they have provided their advice about the state of the science. The rest is politics, and in that they get exactly the same as everyone else - one vote.

May 26, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterMique

Hi Myles,

You mention the importance of the instrumental record in attributing climate change, but I think changes over longer time-scales (100s and 1000s of years) are also very important, particularly in explaining the nature and magnitude of natural variations. Without such an explanation, it becomes harder to accept attribution based on the 20th century record. 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 1:23 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

"stabilising climate" are the words of a madman, subsumed by hubris. You have to be mad to even think that climate can be stabilised. Perhaps the central attribute of climate is that IT IS NOT STABLE. Given that, it is not possible to have any sort of meaningful dialogue with the likes of Allen. He is yet another Climate Jihadi. Everything he writes above says "the science is settled". Only by fanatics. Only for fanatics. And Prof. Allen's sly remarks about democracy simply say "if we have to take it away from you, we will". Rather like those people my father and mother's generation risked their lives to crush them

May 26, 2012 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Richard Betts (May 26, 2012 at 10:49 AM) referred Phillip Bratby to IPCC WG1-Ch.9 for an explanation of how the evidence is used to attribute global warming to anthropogenic causes and so validate CAGW theory.

My concern with this reference is that it seems to use models to 'explain' the behavior of empirical measurements but openly admits that the "Some processes and feedbacks might be poorly represented or missing, particularly in simple and many intermediate complexity models. Summary of Observational Constraints for Climate Sensitivity Structural uncertainties in the models, for example, in the representation of cloud feedback processes (Chapter 8) or the physics of ocean mixing, will affect results for climate sensitivity and are very difficult to quantify."

Such candid statements should be applauded and, indeed, some further digging reveals more detailed and equally candid statements... What Explains the Current Spread in Models’ Climate Sensitivity Estimates?
Using feedback parameters from Figure 8.14, it can be estimated that in the presence of water vapour, lapse rate and surface albedo feedbacks, but in the absence of cloud feedbacks, current GCMs would predict a climate sensitivity (±1 standard deviation) of roughly 1.9°C ± 0.15°C (ignoring spread from radiative forcing differences). The mean and standard deviation of climate sensitivity estimates derived from current GCMs are larger (3.2°C ± 0.7°C) essentially because the GCMs all predict a positive cloud feedback (Figure 8.14) but strongly disagree on its magnitude. Clouds
In the current climate, clouds exert a cooling effect on climate (the global mean CRF is negative). In response to global warming, the cooling effect of clouds on climate might be enhanced or weakened, thereby producing a radiative feedback to climate warming.

Therefore, cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty in climate sensitivity estimates. Understanding of the physical processes involved in cloud feedbacks
The sign of the climate change radiative feedback associated with the combined effects of dynamical and temperature changes on extratropical clouds is still unknown.

The role of polar cloud feedbacks in climate sensitivity has been emphasized by Holland and Bitz (2003) and Vavrus (2004). However, these feedbacks remain poorly understood. Conclusion on cloud feedbacks
Despite some advances in the understanding of the physical processes that control the cloud response to climate change and in the evaluation of some components of cloud feedbacks in current models, it is not yet possible to assess which of the model estimates of cloud feedback is the most reliable.
8.6.4 How to Assess Our Relative Confidence in Feedbacks Simulated by Different Models?
A number of diagnostic tests have been proposed since the TAR (see Section 8.6.3), but few of them have been applied to a majority of the models currently in use. Moreover, it is not yet clear which tests are critical for constraining future projections. Consequently, a set of model metrics that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climate change feedbacks and climate sensitivity has yet to be developed.

My conclusion is that IPCC AR$ WG1 openly admits that the fundamental method for attribution (i.e. the models) may well be seriously flawed because it has either missed or poorly estimated one of its most influential component (i.e. the effect of clouds). However, what puzzles/frustrates me most is the way that this major caveat seems to have been ignored by those who built upon or 'interpreted' this work.

May 26, 2012 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Philip Bratby has it right. How can we look at a *single* temperature record and conclude that it has warmed? Warmed, in comparison to what? You need two temperature series to say one is running warmer than the other.

Which is why we either (a) compare current temperatures to model predictions, or, (b) compare current temperatures to those in the recent past (i.e., MWP etc). The MWP is thus important in discussions of present-day anthropogenic climate change.

Myles Allen rejects the discussion of the MWP. Why? But fine anyway?

What is left to us? Comparison of current temperatures compared to modeled predictions where the CO2 is removed. This is exactly what Myles alludes to in his reply to Bratby:

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. ... It is important to understand that we use physics, and not just correlations of timeseries, ...

When we compare current temperatures (by which I mean temperatures from 1950s onwards) to model outputs, what we are carrying out is a form of circular argument. Models and their output validity is first established by matching output to reality (global temperatures). Say we put everything we understand of the physics into a model but it produces global temps unlike what is observed during a given time period. What would we do? Tweak it, nudge it, find out if a piece of the physics is still unaccounted for, and finally 'parameterize' it until its output matches. At that point, the model is therefore valid compared to real temperatures.

How do we turn right around and take another output of the same model, but run with reduced CO2 levels, take it to be the standard and compare it with real temperatures to make a statement about real temperatures?

Model outputs surely can serve as a component of predictive science. We produce outputs, see that they match reality several times, we assume the modelling process has adequately captured all parts of underlying mechanistics that produce similar patterns in reality. But paleoclimates cannot be modelled with enough resolution in order to be able to predict temperatures at the multidecadal scale - which is what is required in the IPCC context. This is because the gold standard - a record of real temperature confidently resolved at the multidecadal scale - does not exist. Real temperatures confidently resolved at the annual scale (to three decimals apparently) do exist for the present-day period (by which I mean 20th century). But this is the same period for model validation as well, and therefore cannot be dragged in for comparison.

Put in other words, what we lack is out-of-sample experimentation.

May 26, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Roy (1 PM): You see similarities between medicine and climatology in arriving at proofs; that physics is a harder science and more clear-cut. That's a good point, and your perspective makes one less likely to dismiss anything which isn't 'hard science' as being soft, unreliable, fake.

I earlier challenged Myles to state some falsifiability criteria for his AGW hypothesis (so far no reply). Is this challenge, would you say, unfair?

I'd be verypleased if one day a Mann or a Jones or an Allen would write, "Whilst I am today convinced that AGW is real, if the 1998 peak isn't exceeded by my 99th birthday I will consider AGW refuted." Their present reluctance to accept any falsification criteria is a tactic of quackery.

May 26, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

I agree with Allen that too much effort is spent arguing about science as a proxy for discussing policy. However I do have to disagree that this situation is due to skeptics. In my experience over the past 20 years the loudest voices seeking to shout down informed discussions of policy have come from those calling most loudly for action, including many scientists.

Allen writes: "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."

He might ask why that was so, given that there have been a number of academics (including many of my close colleagues) making such a case for alternative perspectives in public ...

When Allen closes his comment hinting at a trade off between action and democracy he is one step closer to understanding the answer to that question.

May 26, 2012 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Pielke Jr.

Perhaps Professor Allen could do well to listen more carefully to one of his erstwhile Oxfordian colleagues;

"I hope that as a scholar I leave my political baggage at the library or archive or lecture room door because it seems to me that these questions are much too important to be approached in a partisan way."

Niall Feguson, Economist, 2006.

May 26, 2012 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSir Digby CS

Setting aside the argument of whether or not the science is settled on temperature rise and its cause, why should we care whether a "climate scientist" tells us that we need to stabilize temperatures at a certain temperature figure. We know that humans, plants and animals live from the arctic to tropics to deserts. Llife thrived when it was very much warmer and survived when it was much colder and in CO2 ranges from less than present to much higher. What training do most of these people have to tell us what the optimum climate should be. Why is their opinion on that question any more credible than yours or mine?

My understanding is that most of the warming would be in the high latitudes and in winter. Living in a higher latitude myself I wouldn't mind some (or even a lot) winter warming.

May 26, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn K

Thanks to Myles for his comment. I think he is right to say that there is too much emphasis on the science and not enough on the politics of the debate. However, I believe he is mistaken in believing - as he seems to - that the two are so easily delineated. As Rhoda suggests in the comment on May 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM, there is a lot of circularity in the IPCC's assessment, and this seems to reflect many presuppositions of environmentalism, especially about the likely 'impacts' of climate change. In other words, in assessing impacts, a great deal of research seems to presuppose that the sensitivity of climate to CO2 is equivalent to the sensitivity of society (or anything) to climate, and that thus, (put bluntly) you can simply plug your warming scenarios into your model of impacts, and the parameters of your policy-making options are settled. It seems to me that the parameters are there before the science even begins. 'Alarmism' is the premise not the conclusion of climate institutions and climate politics, which the IPCC is locked into.

Allen's concern that climate change will occur, forcing governments into undemocratic action is naive; the desire for political institutions, based on the necessity of survival, and above the control of democracy or national sovereignty precedes the IPCC, the UNFCCC process, and even 'unequivocal evidence' that 'climate change is happening'. This is not a conspiracy theory, it's a matter of record. It's in UN documents, such as the Brundtland report and resolutions formed at conferences, such Stockholm and Rio; it's in the reports of the and arguments published by think tanks and organisations that lobbied, informed, or were otherwise instrumental in the creation of those political institutions.

May 26, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

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

Myles, that sounds a bit patronising to me. There are other theories to explain the temperature. I'm sure Svensmark uses physics for his theory too.

May 26, 2012 at 10:49 AM | Richard Betts
"Hi Phillip The evidence is explained here.
Please read it!

Richard, you are quoting a document on Bishop Hill of all places that has the Mannian hockey stick all over it. Therefore I think it lacks a lot of credibility with many readers here. I'm not sure why you keep supporting the hockey stick, especially when you say it is outside your expertise area.


May 26, 2012 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

"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)."

Myles, so will you concede the point that the MWP was about a degree warmer on average than today? You might not think that fact is important but I think it raises many question marks about the CO2 warming theory.

May 26, 2012 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

MYles does seem very naive about the politics and more importantly the economics of climate policies..

Myles:"On the contrary, the solution is perfectly simple. Anyone who extracts fossil carbon out of the ground should be obliged to put a fraction of that carbon back underground in the form of "sequestered" (buried) CO2."

Actually what is obvious is a lack of understanding of economics and engineering to me
and dare i say global politics..

China and India will not do this because of added costs, the technology has never worked on the scale required. lots of money has been thrown at CCS and nothing has been achieved, nor is it likely to in the next ten years.

So when Myles says, 'should be obliged' how exactly is anyone going to make that happen. If the UK/EU were to do it. Industry would relocate to where the costs were lower and do it there, so job losses and no reduction..

Will the USA ever 'force' China to 'oblige' (sanctions or something else?) will the EU force USA to 'oblige'..Germany is currently building more coal fired power stations, Poland depends on coal, there are concernes there about loss of industry, jobs and economic recession..

And NO, personal carbon footprints do matter - WHEN it is the carbon footprint of those that are preaching climate change..

Try an analogy, rich bankers saying we should all cut our salaries by 10%...

So when carbon capture does not happen, and people want electricity at a reasonable cost, who will be enforcing the 'should be obliged'

May 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Dr Betts

Would you (or, indeed, Prof Allen) care to respond to Dave Salt (May 26, 2012 at 1:49 PM)?
Are both of you still so certain when your sacred scriptures are not?
Trillions ($ or £, it mattereth not) certain?
Suspension of democracy certain?

May 26, 2012 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterEvil Denier

It's good to see Myles Allen engaging in the discussion.
But it is interesting that he seems to have no understanding of the issues or of the viewpoint of most of the sceptics. To paraphrase one of the climategate emails, if he wants to learn why people don't believe climate scientists, why doesn't he just go and talk to Jonathan Jones?

He claims that the MWP is irrelevant. He also claims that the 20th century temperature record is the main evidence for AGW. Does he not understand that if similar ups and downs have occurred naturally in previous centuries, then there is nothing unusual going on and the 20th century temperature record is no evidence for anything?

May 26, 2012 at 5:12 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

As if the climate question could be summed up by HadCRUT... That alone shows Professor Allen is sorely mistaken and his credibility in climatology severely altered. As for doing "good for the planet", Professor Allen should goggle search and see how the green economy is now pervasive, forcefully imposed, how those who invested billions are expecting their reward sooner than later, with the selling discourse effectively based on that post modern line of science that he represents so well, bypassing science. Myles Allen wants science to be bypassed and move to policies. In that he is a good little totalitarian. Pouah!

May 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomRude

Two points about Myles Allen's response. First there still seem to be strong doubts about the accuracy of the temperature record. Ross Mckitrick and his co-authors have shown a very suspicious relationship between regional land surface temperature trends and socio-economic variables, controlling for various climate variables - most recently in the journal of Economic and Social Measurement 2010. Schmidt,s 2009 IJOC article allegedly refuting these results was undermined by his misinterpretation of his own results. The review process looks like another climatology own goal - including a very weak review from Phil Jones. And plenty of doubt remains about sea surface temperatures. I speak as one who has worked in an official statistical agency. I think the global temperature measurements are being taken too seriously.
Secondly there is the question of good faith. As others have said the hockey stick has been demonstrated to be wrong. Moreover the failure to disclose the clearly flawed method used in the original work{decentred "principal components"} is at least academic malpractice. It's the failure to call this out, say it does not matter anyway etc that undermine confidence in other climatology work.

May 26, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered Commentermikep

In his comment of 26 May, 9:06 am Dr. Allen wrote: "It is important to understand that we use physics, and not just correlations of timeseries, in quantifying the greenhouse contribution." Would the good Dr. Allen care to ask the good Dr. Michael Mann about Dr. Mann's inverted Tiljander data series? The magnitude of a correlation coefficient may be insensitive to upright versus inverted data, the underlying physics isn't.

May 26, 2012 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterReed Coray

If nothing else, democracy is learning to take 'no' for an answer. Regardless of how great a need is felt to be, our modern world insists that it can only be met to the mutual benefit of those negotiating it.

Anyone frustrated by this - for example, a person who refuses the accept 'no' as an answer to his need and for whom negotiation remains an intolerable obstacle - might seek to undermine the democratic process by reestablishing a 'belief' into the space organised around it.

If 'belief' is to act 'as if' an object - or event - is true (in the absence of any usable evidence that it is so), we can see that acting 'as if' AGW is true is to act differently to if it is false. If the difference is between 'negotiation with' or 'subjugation of' the other party to a need, we can begin to see the magnetic attraction of acting 'as if' AGW is true for anyone who struggles with 'no' as an answer.

Myles Allen, of course, is well on his way down this road. He has already limited the objects up for 'debate' to a rock or a hard place. In his own mind, at least, the subjugation of others (and their needs) to an 'as if' cuckooland has already taken place. And who says religion is dead?

May 26, 2012 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

May 26, 2012 at 5:32 PM mikep

"First there still seem to be strong doubts about the accuracy of the temperature record"

There are issues in the temperature record that certainly are puzzling. We are being introduced to the MO's latest, HadCRUT4, required to address the "Arctic Issue"

“Global-average annual temperature forecast”

At the bottom of the page is:-

"Figure 3: The difference in coverage of land surface temperature data between 1990-1999 and 2005-2010. Blue squares are common coverage. Orange squares are areas where we had data in the 90s but don't have now and the few pale green areas are those where we have data now, but didn't in the 90s. The largest difference is over Canada."

Why did the MO no longer have the Canadian land surface temperature data? I am not aware of any of the stations being closed? If they were taken out of HadCRUT3 why? There must have been a reason, possibly a good scientific one. Just the same as there must be a sound reason to put them back?

May 26, 2012 at 5:58 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Richard Betts
I followed your request and got as far as 9.1.3 - The Basis from which We Begin - and read this:

The first IPCC Assessment Report (IPCC, 1990) contained little observational evidence of a detectable anthropogenic influence on climate. However, six years later the IPCC Working Group I SAR (IPCC, 1996) concluded that ‘the balance of evidence’ suggested there had been a ‘discernible’ human influence on the climate of the 20th century.
I didn't see any mention of Dr Santer's role in "re-writing" (to put it politely) the original report after it had been approved in order to make it fit the meme. Why would that be?

May 26, 2012 at 6:17 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Myles Allen says:

"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)."

1. If the MWP were warmer than today (and I think there is good evidence it was) then this demonstrates that in the absence of a rise in CO2 that the natural climate variability exceeds the modest temperature rise of the last 30 years. That is why Mann had to "get rid of the MWP".
2. With regard to the temperature record, Phil Jones is on record as saying that the slope and duration of temperature rises in pre-1970's parts of the record have the same statistical significance as those post 1975. Those previous changes were natural and could not have been caused by CO2
3. The temprature record on which Myles Allen places so much emphasis is (a) constantly being tinkered with, with older temperture data being adjusted downwards and (b) it appears (from GHCN at least) that the general temperature increase seen in the record since about 1910 is about 40% attributable to adjustments which increase the slope upwards. What mechanism could require a consistent upward adjustment to temp records? The only systematic adjustment over time that I can think of is UHI, but that has the wrong sign.
4. All the very clever models are very poor predictors and even Gavin has to revise his models and as a result they just got worse.
5. All the models assume a small CO2 effect and a large positive feedback from water vapour. The large postivie feedback from water vapour is unproven and there is considerable eveidence that suggests it may be a negative feedback. Common sense would suggest this too, as well as even a feeble knowledge of geology and CO2 changes in earlier parts of earths history.

Any one of these points is sufficient to cast doubt on the AGW-CO2 theory. Attempting to sweep these objections aside and pretend the science is settled is actually patronising and offensive for those of out here with relevent scientific expertise and experience. Thats why we are not persuaded by the arguments. We are intelligent people and the evidence presented is not convincing. Furthermore the Climategate emails have exposed the suspected unethocal and (in the case of Yamal) possibly fraudulent behaviour by some scientists presenting results that are clearly contradicted by stronger evidence. If the MWP was warmer than today then I see no reason to be worried by a slight warming, whether caused by CO2 or not. I am far more concerned about a possible cooling period which would have potentially dreadful consequences for food production.

May 26, 2012 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Funny how we never heard this chorus from the CAGW crowd about how unimportant the MWP and dendro in general is to the argument before they were caught fiddling it.

The word has obviously gone out - play down the MWP and the HS at every opportunity, because we can't explain away what was done and it's really bad for the Cause.

May 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

During the entire 4500 years of written human history there has never been one single day, hour or even minute when the entire human race has agreed on anything or acted in concert. Given that this is the nature of humanity and that such concepts as "setting an example" and "leading the way" are purely philosophical not practical propositions why does Myles Allen think for one minute that democracy has any bearing on whether action is or is not taken. As one country cripples it's own industry with pointless, obsessive regulation of non problems other countries simply step into the breech and take the trade off them. As Europe throws its workers to the lions the Chinese mop up the pieces and take their work. As America's EPA cripples it's own power plants and the California Hippies strangle the life out of their economy the developing world will happily take the business from them. There will be no reduction in overall world industrial emissions simply a shift from one area to another. If Myles was genuine about his concern he would applaud the increase in gas fracking in America as this has already reduced his personal demon CO2 emissions as cheap gas overtakes coal. If he was genuine he would laud the advances in nuclear technology and stand against the greeny fear mongers who cannot acknowledge a successful, safe industry when they see it. He would wear the Westinghouse AP100 T-shirt with pride. If he had the slightest intention of looking at temperature change rationally he would look at the vast areas of Northern Stepps that could come into productive use with only a moderate increase of a couple of degrees or so. But no . What he wants is the destruction of Western Democracy. The self- flagellating Liberal mindset that all technology is evil, that humanity is not a natural species like any other, that somehow we can all rise up together to overthrow the nasty industrialists that have provided him with the life and the platform to spout his nonsense. That we should now be ruled by the all knowing all seeing government of pseudo science is beyond stupidity. He has had his vote and that is it. He has wasted it on an imaginary scenario of world agreement, and action. It is what we, in the trade, call, pissing it up against the wall.

May 26, 2012 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDisko Troop

I also think that the Prof Allen might start to convert some of us to his brand of science by giving complete and convincing answers to Janet’s simple questions made at May 26, 2012 at 10:10 AM. He admits that the temperature record of the last 50 years is the main reason why he, personally, claims AGW to be true. By stating this he conveniently leaves out the controversial reconstructions of temperature when there were no modern thermometer readings available, but doesn’t it also prevent him claiming that the recent increases have been unprecedented. It says nothing about the cause either.

I once attended a lecture by a numerical mathematician who had been a consultant to the developers of one of the climate model programs. He said that for the vertical velocity component not one single significant figure was correct.

This is interesting. Surely it is the vertical velocity which carries air volumes to an altitude from which heat can be dumped into space by radiation. If this calculation is so inaccurate then it is no wonder to me that the effect of a small perturbation to it which might derive from an increment in CO2 concentration simply cannot be assessed with any confidence at all (if indeed the AGW hypothesis is actually correct, which seems to be in some doubt).

In the real (dynamically stable) atmosphere I would expect there to be an automatic compensating response to any extra low altitude heating and if the programs do not show this I would first make absolutely certain that the programs have been properly verified, in both the numerics and the physics. The task is certainly very difficult but these programs are still very crude as well. They cannot forecast weather a few days in advance and the implication that errors can cancel almost exactly over a multi-decadal calculation is just not credible. There can be no correlation between numerical or modelling error and true small scale temporal climate variability.

The apparent fears come exclusively from the output of these tentative, experimental computer programs. There is not even an iota of a hint of a catastrophe in the climate variability that we have actually experienced over the life of the AGW conjecture.

May 26, 2012 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Well

"He also claims that the 20th century temperature record is the main evidence for AGW."

I think many of the IPCC scientists still believe that the Hockey Stick accurately represents past climate, and that therefore 20th century changes cannot be the result of natural variations. Like the skeptics, I look at the more modern reconstructions and the various analyses, and can see no reason whatsoever to think that the past and the present are really any different. I think the IPCC scientists would be likely get their points across more effectively if they addressed seriously the inconsistencies between the Hockey Stick and other more modern reconstructions.

May 26, 2012 at 7:33 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Let us assume, for the sake of deliberation, that Myles Allen had a Damascene conversion one fine day. After all, he would not be unique.

Would his tenure be secure? Would his research grants be forthcoming? Would his papers be published? Would his academic status be jeopardised? Would invitations to conferences, lectures, conventions, climate advocacy events etc still materialise?

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax, " said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! "

May 26, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I find it extraordinary that so few of the senior warmists who deign to post on sceptic blogs such as the Bish's have bothered to research their audience or its opinions & concerns.

Here we have Myles Allen getting that all wrong, whilst over at TallBloke we have Connor from Greenpeace:

appearing quite genuine in his/her belief that he/her is talking to "Big Oil-fiunded" shills about a subject about which "97% of all climate scientists" have long ago reached a consensus.

Beyond lazy, and ultimately hugely depressing.

May 26, 2012 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterjerrym

The work of Steve McIntyre and Richard Montford has a great deal of credibility with many of us.

For mainstream climate scientists to rise to the same level in our esteem a hood place to start would be here:

Read and list the main claims of these two plus the key "climategate" e-mails and systematically state where they are in agreement with the above and where not, provide a reasoned rebuttal in a forum where free debate is permitted.

We find the often repeated claim that this material from amateurs is not worth looking at to be insulting and offensive. The arrogant refusal to deal with it does main stream climate scientists no favour.

The legendary 97% of climate scientists are sorely misguided if they really believe that the hockey team's highly influential work is so "robust" that it needs no challenge and that the behaviour pattern documented by climategate is so inconsequential that it can simply be swept under the carpet.

May 26, 2012 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Andrew Montford actually.....

May 26, 2012 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

This is only the second time, to my knowledge, that Myles Allen has dipped his toe into the acerbic maelstrom of the blogosphere. What happened first time round is recounted here:

Perhaps it's not surprising that he's waited so long before trying again.

May 26, 2012 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

This is only the second time, to my knowledge, that Myles Allen has dipped his toe into the acerbic maelstrom of the blogosphere. What happened first time round is recounted here:

Perhaps it's not surprising that he's waited so long before trying again.

May 26, 2012 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

Andrew indeed. How embarrassing from a guy who has an autographed copy of "The Hockey Stick Illusion!"

My lame excuse is that I normally refer (and defer) to him as "His Eminence!"

My post lost further impact by having a typo - "hood" s/b "good!"

May 26, 2012 at 9:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Kim Pile summarised Myles Allen "Thanks to Myles for his comment. I think he is right to say that there is too much emphasis on the science and not enough on the politics of the debate."

If the science is wrong then the politics is irrelevent. Myles is simply pushing another variant of the "these are not the droids you are looking for" genre.

Phillip Bratby, Shub and Political Junkie (apart from the Richard Montford of course!) have summarised the objections to Myles Allen's take on this pretty well. We are not fools, we are intelligent people and we are very easy to convince if you show the results and the workings and all the data you discarded to reach your conclusion and explain why so others that we have trust incan also replicate what you did. They do this in many other areas of science and medicine so why not in climate science?

Read the Hockey Stick Illusion or simply review the Steig09/RyanO (RyanO was brilliant in the online rebuttal of Steig - I still have his graphic on my wall and use it for explaining why Steig09 should be withdrawn), Yamal, Tiljander MBH98 or any of many other articles at ClimateAudit or elsewhere to understand why there is so much distrust in the proclamations of "Climate Scientists". I once commented (when they let it though the censorship) at RealClimate that when I read in MM03 that Michael Mann's MBH98 algorithm produced a Hockey Stick from red noise I knew that Mcintyre/McKitrick were right and Mann wrong. Gavin (or someone) made a sarcastic reply about how I could know this. Well its because I have the necessary scientific training and expertise in the area. McIntyre writes in English and presents his workings, his data, his assumptions and his code. Mann writes in treacle and hides what he did and changes his story. Mann is a Charlatan, and he has many accomplices amongst the temperature reconstruction crowd. Without the Hockey Stick in IPCC 2001 Tony Blair etc could not have stood up and proclaimed the 1990's to be the hottest decade for a millenium. Now Myles Allen seems to use a variant of Tony Blairs approach - it doesn't matter if they are wrong, we simply have to "move on".

Does this matter? You bet it does. And standing up to the proclamations of people like Myles Allen who want to sweep criticism aside and keep people "on message" is what continues to keep me fired up and fighting for the truth. On the previous Myles Allen thread someone got it right - he's Rimmer from Red Dwarf. I also suspect Michael Mann thinks he's Holly with an IQ of 6,000, not realising this is equivalent to 6,000 PE teachers or 12,000 car park attendants and that it is actually satire.

May 26, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

I have to say I find the mere contemplation of mandatory sequestration an utter repugnance, a totalitarian obscenity. Like compulsory sterilization. Eisenhower's famous Farewell Address writ large.

May 26, 2012 at 9:43 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Consensus climate science says;

(Ks x fs) + (aCO2 x feedback) = average temperature

Ks is the solar output constant (which is variable, but that can be ignored).
fs is solar feedback (which is always 1)
aCO2 is anthropogenic CO2 guesstimate (as total sources and sinks are not well understood).
feedback is the product of the computation (because they've hung their hat on it).
average temperature is a proxy for energy content ( if we could measure it accurately and not have to keep adjusting it).

And Dr. Allen, (Physics and Philosophy) suggests policy based on this computation should be kept from the public domain and decided by experts behind closed doors.

May 26, 2012 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Quoted from Eisenhower's famous final address:

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present - and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite."

Eisenhower's words were almost prophetic and describe AGW perfectly. And don't the words "the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop" seem somehow apt as a description of Steve McIntyre, or other bloggers such as RyanO, JeffID etc?

May 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

May 26, 2012 at 12:31 PM HK

"However, you don't need to be a scientist to work out if someone is being honest: you develop that skill as part of everyday life. "

How apt.

And many regular commenters here have both that skill and background and experience in physics/chemistry/maths/statistics/engineering far surpassing many "climate scientists".

So they can not only see through the circular arguments, the firm belief there is evidence where in reality there is none, the conviction that climate models have been validated and their output is evidence, and so on.

They can also recognise that the dishonesty in "climate science" is so ingrained that it has become entirely invisible to its practitioners

May 26, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

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