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« Lindzen at the Oxford Union - Cartoon Notes by Josh | Main | Air quality »

Lindzen at the Oxford Union

The Lindzen debate at the Oxford Union was, I think, a rather significant moment in the climate debate. One in which sceptic views got a fair hearing in an open debate. Lindzen was to be accompanied by a panel of invited experts consisting of David Rose, Mark Lynas and Myles Allen. Part 1 was an interview of Lindzen with interjections from the panel, while part 2 opened up the debate to the floor.

A few of us sceptics - Josh, Tallbloke, David Holland and others had met up beforehand and I think it's fair to say that we all expected little from the evening. Mehdi Hasan, the left-wing journalist who was to compere the event had been using the d-word a couple of evenings ago and had said he wasn't a neutral. This didn't bode well. In the event he ran through the gamut of "questions you ask sceptics" - denialism, big oil funding and do on - and in a way that was quite aggressive (but not unfairly so), but I think it fair to say that didn't go the way he expected. I should add that Hasan's handling of the Q&A was exemplary.

Lindzen's laid-back style does not make for good TV and I think Hasan and the TV people might have wished for a more flamboyant figure. However, it does lend him an air of authority and many of the barbs from the chair seemed to simply bounce off Lindzen's avuncular force-field.

The debate was very wide-ranging, covering everything from peer review to climate sensitivity to Milankovitch cycles to policy matters and US libel laws. Lindzen certainly knows his stuff and there was nothing that threw him and only a couple of moments when his quiet calm seemed disturbed.

The star of the show, however, was David Rose, whose controlled aggression and moral outrage was combined with great lucidity and an ability to get complex points over in an accessible fashion. This was star in the making stuff. His opponents on the expert panel on the other hand were strangely muted and almost seemed as if they had no stomach for the fight. There was in fact a great deal of agreement on many aspects of the debate - for example, everyone agreed that Hasan's "97% of scientists" line was irrelevant (and as Barry Woods explained later isn't true anyway). Perhaps more importantly, everyone also seemd to agree that current policy choices are foolish, the main differences being over whether emissions reductions are required.

Before I left home I wondered if such a long trip was worth the effort. In the aftermath I am sure that it was.

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Reader Comments (180)

@Simon Anthony

"Activists and commentators are usually far too busy being active and commentating because of the sheer urgency of what needs to be done and talked about, rather than actually taking the time to work out whether anyone knows enough to say what's really going on"

Well put.

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

Myles Allen

The real question, therefore, is whether 4+ degrees is OK. That's what we need to be discussing…

Indeed. I have addressed this very question in two peer-reviewed papers:
1. Is Climate Change the Number One Threat to Humanity? Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 3: 489–508. doi: 10.1002/wcc.194 (2012).

2. Is Climate Change the "Defining Challenge of Our Age"? Energy & Environment 20(3): 279-302 (2009). Available at

The abstract of the first paper states:

This paper challenges claims that global warming outranks other threats facing humanity through the foreseeable future (assumed to be 2085–2100).World Health Organization and British government-sponsored global impact studies indicate that, relative to other factors, global warming’s impact on key determinants of human and environmental well-being should be small through 2085 even under the warmest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario. [N.B. The warmest scenario results in 4 °C increase between 1990 and 2085.] Specifically, over 20 other health risks currently contribute more to death and disease worldwide than global warming. Through 2085, only 13% of mortality from hunger, malaria, and extreme weather events (including coastal flooding from sea level rise) should be from warming. Moreover, warming should reduce future global population at risk of water stress, and pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity (by increasing net biome productivity and decreasing habitat conversion). That warming is not fundamental to human well-being is reinforced by lower bound estimates of net gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This measure adjusts GDP downward to account for damages from warming due to market, health, and environmental impacts, and risk of catastrophe. For both developing and industrialized countries, net GDP per capita—albeit an imperfect surrogate for human well-being—should be (1) double the current US level by 2100 under the warmest scenario, and (2) lowest under the poorest IPCC scenario but highest under the warmest scenario through 2200. The warmest world, being wealthier, should also have greater capacity to address any problem, including warming. Therefore, other problems and, specifically, lowered economic development are greater threats to humanity than global warming. [Italicized note added for explanation.]

In other words, humanity should not only be able to adapt to, but it may well thrive under, an average global temps increase 4 °C above the 1990 level. Of course, if we undertake policies that impoverish and/or reject technological change, all bets are off, even if we don’t have to contend with climate change.

These papers do not consider hypothetical tipping points precisely because they are hypothetical. Read the paper.

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

John Shade (3:28 PM):
According to Simon Anthony above at 12:09 PM, the professors Lindzen and Allen 'agreed that it was likely that doubling of CO2 led to ~1 degree of warming'.

Yet later in the thread, Prof Allen uses +2C per doubling for the sake of an illustration.

The ~1 degree figure is the expected warming from doubling CO2 in the absence of climatic feedbacks; just prior to your citation, Simon Anthony wrote: In fact Myles stepped away from the details of model predictions and twice fell back on a "no-feedback" argument. The 2 degree figure of Prof Allen includes reactions, such as increased water vapor, etc.

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:54 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Re Myles Allan's comments on the 2C for doubling of CO2 let us remind ourselves that the current estimate is 0.7C temperature increase for CO2 going from 280 to just short of 400ppm. As the scale is Logarithmic a doubling of CO2 is more likely to be 1C as Lintzen suggested. So at a theoretical 1180ppm (if that is even possible) global temperature increase would be unlikely to exceed 2C discounting any negative feedback or other natural changes. If sensitivity is 2C then the increase today should be more like 1.5C and it is not. Those proposing 2C better explain what has caused temperatures to go up by only 0.7 instead of double that.

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnPeter

Having tortured the data to a 0.7C rise in temperature at best and with Dr Spencer's February figure coming in at 0.18 we have the bizaare spectacle of theoretically intelligent men extrapolating a six fold increase from the flimsiest of evidence.
Meanwhile, an untold host of angels have forsaken their pinhead experiment, girded their loins and donned ice skates to gather the souls of the old, infirm and poor unable to afford power in an unseasonably cold Northern Hemisphere.

Mar 9, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterroger

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:02 PM | nTropywins said,

Myles Allen

"The real question, therefore, is whether 4+ degrees is OK."

I beg to differ. The real question is the extent to which the theoretical effects of CO2 are swamped by the myriad other factors that drive climate.

- - - - - - - -

I suggest that ' nTropywins ' has correctly stated the focus on the main science task ahead.

My view is that the essential task at hand for climate science is the behavior of the Total Earth-Atmospheric System to its many components; CO2 being one. The thesis that change in CO2 may not provide a net significant residual change in the TEAS is now open for more objective dialog after that thesis has been discouraged for years by the strident advocates of an 'a priori' claim of alarming AGW by CO2.

A more open and balanced dialog can now happen.

Note: thanks all who attended and commented on the Lindzen talk at Oxford.


Mar 9, 2013 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Prof Allen,
You write of some recent papers of yours which "suggest a climate sensitivity in the region of 2 degrees." I'm assuming that this is the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS); I'm curious what the transient climate response (TCR) is, in your estimation. In some examples of equilibration I've seen, the equilibrium is reached very slowly over centuries. Thus the expected increase in temperature over the medium term -- say until 2100 -- seems more likely to be a function of TCR than ECS.
As other posters have mentioned, the timeframe necessary for the posited quadrupling of pCO2 is measured in centuries, and it seems likely to me that energy production will have changed radically over such a period. My reason for such an opinion is primarily that, as you note, the attainment of such a high level of CO2 requires the combustion of nearly all of the known fossil fuel; as we exhaust the more accessible deposits, its price will naturally tend to increase, providing additional room for alternative technologies to become less expensive than fossil fuels, at which point conversion to those alternatives should occur. The earth will reach "peak CO2" and equilibrium to that CO2 peak will not be reached.

Mar 9, 2013 at 4:31 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

" Is 3 degrees a catastrophe? Perhaps not compared to other problems if/when all FFs have been burnt, and if no reliable substitute has been discovered before then. It seemed a rather weak position for Myles to have fallen back on."

Interesting perspective. Is three degrees safe?

Let's frame this. The best the skeptics have to offer is Lindzen. And Lindzen, like other knowledgeable skeptics admits that we get 1C from a doubling. Burning it all gets us 3C. Comes the question: Is 3C safe or dangerous, or in between?

A few points there. First to the burden of proof. Must the warmist prove it dangerous? or merely risky. Must the skeptic prove it safe, or merely low risk? and who decides the burden of proof, this is no courtroom where the defenders of c02 get to rely on the presumption of innocence.

Suppose your neighbor up the way is dumping something in the stream that feeds your nice little trout pond. You note your fish dying, and he responds, fish have always died, its natural. You note that as long as youve lived there the fish die has never been this bad. He notes a diary from some mideval monk who noted a bigger fish die off. Who must prove the case and what amounts to proof? And to make matters worse he notes that a much bigger farm up the way is dumping more of this stuff in the stream, and suggests that his little bit makes no difference at all. Who owns the air and who has the burden of proof. Not really answerable by science I fear.

But if I had to make the case, I'd make the case that 3C of warming has definite risks and those risks outweigh the benefits. Of course we can do some maths on sea level rise, and do some modelling, but if folks are bound and determined to burn it all those arguments can easily be ignored. Not because they are wrong or unconvincing, but merely because people can be difficult when their interests are at stake. A 3C warming puts us outside the boundary of conditions under which we evolved and adapted to our environment. That should give folks pause. It's not certain that this will be safe. Its not certain that it will be a disaster. I wouldn't say our plan should be to burn it all. One would hope reasonable folks could agree on that. Our plan should not be to burn it all. We should not blindly march to a world of 3C more warming ( that would be 18C) when the last time it was 20C we had alligators at the north pole.

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commentersteven mosher

Myles Allen :

I was deeply embarrassed to be associated with Hasan's ad hominem attacks on Dick Lindzen, in particular his going on about speaker fees and airline tickets. I thought this was going to be a discussion of climate science, and most of it seemed to be, as ever, about people and politics. As I hope I made clear when I had the chance, these were completely irrelevant to the discussion (and nothing he brought up seemed in any way exceptionable anyway) and that kind of attempt at personalising everything is just what is preventing a sensible discussion.

Not sure that there has ever been any 'sensible discussion'. Which I see as the core of the problem. In the end there has been no guarantee' that 'Green' is the way to combat 'climate change' even assuming one takes IPCC worst case scenario's as gospel.

If you want a real reason why 'scientific evidence' , from whatever source, seems to fall on deaf ears it is because I simply don't believe in 'Green'. That is to suggest that I would rather face a future of a 5C anomaly than have my future designed by 'Big Green'.

Interesting that Anthony (WUWT) posted a video under the banner "A bridge in the climate debate – How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change." Well we can all bet our Mortgage that 'Big Green' will resist those ideas on account of 'cattle' are a human construct and dead landscapes are also a human construct. The answer for 'Green' will be to figure out how to discredit those individuals promoting 'the idea' (funded by big beef) and to ensure that they are never funded by Government.

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Steven Mosher, I have already asked this of Myles.
How long do you think it will take the world to burn all the Fossil Fuels to achieve the 3 degrees C warming?
Do you think world's science, understanding and power generation will be the same after that amount of time, especially considering the changes of the last 100 years?

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

Steve Mosher

You claim, "But if I had to make the case, I'd make the case that 3C of warming has definite risks and those risks outweigh the benefits."

But where's your risk analysis?

I have provided a risk analysis for 4C, and it seems we would be better off despite any climate change through 2200 at least, if you believe climate change impacts analyses built on GCM results.

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Professor Lindzen's response to the notion that fossil fuel industries are funding sceptics was to point out that the fossil fuel industry in fact has gone out of its way to support climate change alarm. One such example he gave was the Exxonmobil funding of Stanford University to the tune of $100million to research climate change. I know there are many other examples from looking into this myself.

His also said that the three things most important to the fossil fuel industry in terms of climate change are:

- knowing what the future regulations will be;
- that there will be a level playing field;
- that they can pass costs onto the customer and increase profits.

It's a good comment considering what is happening right now in the UK. For example, the conversion of the enormous Drax powerstation from coal to biomass (importing trees from the USA) in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to meet EU targets. Hoovering up a near 100% renewables subsidy in the process thank you very much -with electricty users picking up the bill. To produce the equivalent amount of power, it will cost Drax up to 3 times more to use biomass rather than coal. This being the start of the phasing out of coal by making it prohibitively expensive though a carbon tax to be introduced in the next few weeks. Could we be left with a country producing tiny amounts of incredibly expensive electricity? I wonder what that would be like?

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterwormthatturned

"when the last time it was 20C we had alligators at the north pole."

And it managed that all on its own. Which is why we should get rich and adapt to whatever comes. The Alligators moved to Florida and they aren't even rich at all.

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Wow, Goklany versus Mosher. Bring it on!

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:32 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

@steven mosher

Ok - let's examine some options ...

You, and the IPCC, are right and we shouldn't gamble with our '15u future'...

Does that necessitate a 'Green' future or could we look at other options?

You, and the IPCC, are wrong and CO2 doesn't control climate (low sensitivity) ....

Does that necessitate a 'Green' future or could we look at other options?

You, and the IPCC, are partially correct and CO2 plays an important, but not exclusive, roll in climate ....

Does that necessitate a 'Green' future or could we look at other options?

I can see a pattern forming here.

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

I note the childish way alarmists use the word 'we'.

They say they want to discuss the 'science', and in the next breath fly off into wooly-minded speculation about the future, complete with feeble analogies.

History has surely shown that by far the gravest threat to humanity is the kind of people who bleat about 'climate change'.

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

"I was deeply embarrassed to be associated with Hasan's ad hominem attacks on Dick Lindzen, in particular his going on about speaker fees and airline tickets. I thought this was going to be a discussion of climate science, and most of it seemed to be, as ever, about people and politics. As I hope I made clear when I had the chance, these were completely irrelevant to the discussion (and nothing he brought up seemed in any way exceptionable anyway) and that kind of attempt at personalising everything is just what is preventing a sensible discussion. I am very sorry that a visitor to Oxford was treated in this way.

On the science side, I'm happy to accept that studies comparing simple models with observations of the recent record, of which several have been published recently, suggest a climate sensitivity in the region of 2 degrees (although this isn't the only line of evidence). But even a two degree sensitivity, if we do decide to burn all available fossil carbon, which would take concentrations well over 1000ppm, would be more than enough for 4+ degrees of warming. The real question, therefore, is whether 4+ degrees is OK. That's what we need to be discussing, and unfortunately, because once again it was side-tracked onto irrelevancies, the debate didn't go there.

Mar 9, 2013 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMyles Allen"

Well stated Myles.

The first twist on the 4C increase is; will anybody be able to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that CO2 caused any specific part of the 4C warming? Strict observations for proof, skip the models BS. This isn't naysaying, it's agreement only with a caveat; show absolute proof that CO2 warms reality as it does in theory. Until then, CO2 is one of a myriad of proposed very poorly understood natural factors and is far overshadowed by H2O and natural processes.

Given we are in a rebound of warming in between ice ages, warming is a natural progression and there is historical evidence that mankind has passed through warmer phases.

If earth starts a decline back into ice age conditions, I suspect even if we are unable to prove CO2's exact contribution to warm we'll want every fraction.

If instead this warming interlude continues, mankind should take advantage of every increase. According to history man has suffered in every cool spell and prospered every warm phase. Whichever, adapting over time is easier that managing climate by throwing money at every enviro nut who claims they can reduce CO2. Standard business rules will define successful energy technologies, not people in charge with conflicts of interest spending our taxes to insider benefit.

Technically, many(most?) of us questioners accept CO2 as a warming factor. The issue to me at least is firm repeatable proof exactly what part CO2 plays, every day, every year, every century. That and my instinctive nature to dig in my heels when people get shrill and loud instead of courteous and logical.

Thank you for posting your thoughts here Myles!

Steve Mosher:
I'd like to raise trout too! Raising dead trout is a bummer; well if they can't raise trout then they'd better switch to a warm water fish that deals with warmer water. Crappie are better tasting then trout and they will rise to a fly, sometimes... I might've forgotten to mention that deep water stays cool in the depths and all that remains is aeration to keep it oxygenated. I'd like to put in some shaded deep runs with a limestone gravel bed instead of a shallow pond open to the sun.

And all those folks who can't raise corn or wheat and raise rye or oats instead; I guess they'll have to just have to grow the more profitable stuff.

One thing is certain; species that get too dependent (physically or emotionally) to certain specific foods either must go to where those foods are or.... c'est la vie; adapt or pack it in.

Maybe I'll get to go fishing for bonefish on the Virginia coast!

Mar 9, 2013 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

If/when the TV recording is broadcast I will be interested to hear opinions about the editing.

Mar 9, 2013 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Mar 9, 2013 at 5:13 PM | Indur M. Goklany said,

&Steve Mosher

You claim, "But if I had to make the case, I'd make the case that 3C of warming has definite risks and those risks outweigh the benefits."

But where's your risk analysis?

I have provided a risk analysis for 4C, and it seems we would be better off despite any climate change through 2200 at least, if you believe climate change impacts analyses built on GCM results.

- - - - - - - -

Indur M. Goklany,

First, when your book 'The Improving State of the World' came out I bought and enjoyed it. A sequel? => I hope. : )

Second, Mosher may be one of those with 'a priori' certainty that there must be a problem with man's CO2 and may be one of those who look upon differing critical views as having a lower epistemological status. After all there are some rather famous views in the history of philosophy that have dualistic / dichotomous epistemologies. They claim that one of their two epistemologies is a higher / truer epistemology which they think 'reflects' knowledge of reality more than their other claimed epistemology based only in secular / earthly principles.

I think it is problematic to pursue climate science rationally with those dualistic element in the dialog.


Mar 9, 2013 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

John Whitman -
Having engaged with Steven Mosher elsewhere, I take issue with your characterisation above. He is definitely not of the tribe which foresees doom from fossil fuel. Indeed, he wrote above, "But if I had to make the case, I'd make the case that 3C of warming has definite risks and those risks outweigh the benefits...It's not certain that this will be safe. It's not certain that it will be a disaster."

Mar 9, 2013 at 6:52 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

"The best the skeptics have to offer is Lindzen."

No. The best this skeptic has to offer is that the observations are not supporting the myriad predictions of catastrophe.

Mar 9, 2013 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

If the alarmists had not existed, we could have had a sensible policy debate about how to prioritise research into new energy technologies, to be introduced as and when available and economical, over a prolonged period. This would have satisfied those who believe climate sensitivity is 1 or even 2 degrees, and would have led to a burst of funded research into fusion, advanced fission, high-efficiency solar, with a bit for assorted exotica.

Instead, because of estimates of 3 degrees plus, and claims of "game over for the climate in [n] years" we've had hundreds of billions wasted on ineffective and useless wind and low-efficiency solar, because those were the only technologies that the Greens would allow, and because of the alarmist-induced panic (represented by the 2008 'Climate' Act) of 'do everything right now, even if it makes no sense'.

Act in haste. We will have decades of costly repentence.

If the debate allows people on both sides to feel towards a lower climate sensitivity, that will have been a start towards a more sensible approach. Politics permitting, which it probably won't.

I happen to think CS ~ 1 degree, but at least we'd have fusion rather than farcical, futile wind.

Mar 9, 2013 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered Commentercui bono

cui bono: correct on every point, imho. The aim of some (such as those determined to use the term 'denier') has been to cause unnecessary division. Whoever stirs up such a thing is up to no good, as history makes clear.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Whoever discusses climate science as though there were some one-to-one, linear, direct relationship between 'carbon' and X numbers of 'C', don't know what they are talking about.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Registered Commentershub

@ steven mosher

And Lindzen, like other knowledgeable skeptics admits that we get 1C from a doubling. Burning it all gets us 3C. Comes the question: Is 3C safe or dangerous, or in between?

That question doesn't come quite yet though.

Before it comes the question of whether we will actually burn it all. To know that you must know energy price over the next 100 years, global population over the next 100 years, and you must also k ow what the key technological innovations will be.

When you have good answers to those you can decide whether burning it all is likely.

For what it's worth, predicting the price of energy is not an intellectually respectable pursuit and there's nobody who does it.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

I am honoured by your praise, Bish: thank you. It is nice to be appreciated. How much of the debate survives the TV edit, we will have to see.

However, I agree that this was a potentially significant evening, and I see confirmation in this from Myles Allen's post here. I've already sent him (a while ago) a personal email thanking him for his decency and honesty in trying to head off Mehdi Hasan's trashy, ill-informed, attacks on Richard Lindzen. But what I found really encouraging about the whole thing was the degree of - excuse the word! - consensus which emerged between myself, Myles and Mark Lynas. It is obvious we disagree strongly about important aspects of the climate field. But we dealt with this as grown ups, and, more important, we were unanimous that current policy approaches to global warming are, to use Lindzen's terms, futile and symbolic. Maybe there is a way forward in which both sides of the debate can start to explore such common ground and its implications, and thus influence policy makers and politicians to drop the approaches which are merely impoverishing us while exporting both jobs and emissions.

I hope I'm not being naive, but Myles's saying here that it looks like the climate sensitivity is in the order of 2 degrees seems to me to be hugely significant. Yes, if we burn all the fossil fuel available we may still be looking at a 4 degree temperature rise. But a 2 degree sensitivity gives us a lot more time to figure out how to head this off without resorting to panic, hyperbole and wind farms.

If I'm not being naive, all I can say to Lord Deben, Tim Yeo and their greedy Green industrial complex cronies is: be afraid. Be very afraid.

PS: I posted this on Tara's blog, correcting her mendacious claim about me:

"Tara, I did not say that global warming stopped 16 years ago. I said that there has been no statistically significant increase in temperature in this period, and that this is leading scientists to revise their estimates of the climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide. It is fine for us to disagree, but not fine for you to misrepresent me in order to make a cheap point. By the way, I work for the Mail on Sunday, not the Daily Mail."

Many hours later, this is still "awaiting moderation". I regret to say that if she is a friend of Bob Ward, who evidently wished that the event had not taken place at all, I am not surprised.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Rose


A 3C warming puts us outside the boundary of conditions under which we evolved and adapted to our environment.

I'm an amature here, but ....

Are you saying you disagree with the assertions that the warming takes place primarily at the poles with little to no warming in the tropics?

... or ...

Are you saying you don't subscribe to the Out of Africa Theory?

Just curious.

Mar 9, 2013 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Hilde

David Rose: Thank you both for speaking the truth and for being willing to discuss sensible compromise with those who have finally stepped off their high-horses. I think you're right: Deben, Yeo and co have good reason to be afraid. I hope Tara has the integrity to post your correction. I agree that she won't easily find such traits from following the likes of Bob Ward. Such terrible examples matter. So, happily, does yours.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:09 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Lindzen calls the current policies 'futile and symbolic'.

And though this is true, I prefer even better Steve McIntyre's description of them as 'acts of petty virtue'


Nonetheless we should also not forget that - however futile they are - some people are making shedloads of very easy money from them.

And even if we can persuade everybody else that the gestures are completely pointless, the beneficiaries and their wallets will not be lightly parted.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Hi David
How about a short interview for Watts up With That about the positive aspects, (because I would agree there are/were many) or maybe just a chat?

If you have lost my contact details - Andrew has them,or tweet me @barryjwoods and we can go from their

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Consider a world three degrees cooler than now, and one three degrees warmer. Which is more likely?

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

David Rose

amazing who you bump into at Bishop's place on a Saturday night. I did not attend the event in Oxford but by all accounts you came out of it with a lot of plaudits. So keep up the good work, sir.

I would guess that you do the blogs regularly in which case you will have seen the piece by Allan Savory at WUWT referred to in a couple of places up stream here. Sort of thing the readers of the Mail on Sunday might be interested in? Who knows!

Perhaps the surprising thing about the video is that it was recorded in 2009. It would be interesting to see how things have moved on since then.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenternTropywins

It's interesting to see how big/small the real disagreements are. Everyone who's so far commented on this thread agrees that, in the absence of other effects, CO2 increases temperature at a rate proportional to the logarithm of its concentration. A range of answers to the questions:

1: What's the temperature increase for (say) a doubling of CO2 concentration?

2: At what rate will CO2 concentration rise?

Answers to Q1 range from 0.7 degrees (based on historical correlation) through ~1 degree (Lindzen) to 2 degrees (Myles' opinion, based on models including feedbacks). No one has suggested that it has no effect. No one suggested 10 degrees. Recent papers, influenced by temperature stability over the past ~15 years, have tended to reduce the estimated temperature increase. This indicates that the climate scientists making these estimates are not impervious to empirical evidence. Ditto the MO with their recently revised temperature "projections".

Now the practical significance of the answer to Q1 depends in part on the answer to Q2. Again there are differences. Myles' view is that CO2 concentrations will increase to over 1000 ppm (say 3x current levels) within ~50 years. Others suggest up to 200 years.

It's interesting to look at some numbers. There seems to be ball-park agreement on these from various sites but if I've got anything grossly wrong, please correct.

Cumulative CO2 emissions to date: 5.5 x 10^11 tonnes
Current USA annual per capita emissions of CO2: 18 tonnes (roughly constant for ~20 years)
Global annual CO2 emissions at USA per capita rate: 1.26 x 10^11 tonnes (assume population of 7 billion)

So if everyone moved to current (and fairly stable) USA consumption, the CO2 added in ~4 years would roughly equal today's cumulative CO2 emissions.

Currently Chinese per capita emissions are about a third of USA levels. China's level doubled in the 7 years from 2002 to 2009 ("best" figures I can quickly get). Naively extrapolating, China might match current USA emissions in less than 30 years. The rest of the currently developing world may not be far behind.

At that point, cumulative CO2 emissions will be ~5 x current levels (and so concentrations will be ~6x pre-industrial level, 3x current levels, approximating today's concentration as ~50:50, base:added). Assuming everyone stabilises at current USA levels (and population doesn't increase much), every subsequent 4 year period means an increase in cumulative levels of approx today's cumulative level.

So (all very rough) assuming 1 degree per doubling of CO2 concentration, in ~30 years, temperatures will have risen by a total of ~2.6 degrees since pre-industrial levels. If emissions are stable at that point, the following 32 years will see a further ~degree, 64 for the next degree and so on.

So I'd say that Myles' estimate for the increase in CO2 concentration may not be far wrong - may be conservative - and, with a fairly uncontroversial sensitivity (1 degree per doubling of CO2 concentration, no feedback) a temperature rise of a total of ~3 degrees in 30 years is reasonable.

Lots of assumptions but none obviously (at least to a quick check) grossly wrong, although I could easily have missed a factor of 2 (or 10) here or there. Corrections and improvements welcomed.

It does seem as though one doesn't have to be a Chicken Little to plan for 3 degrees of temp increase within the next generation. Three degrees in 30 years, by which time the world's economy will be at least 4x larger than it is today (if much less, the increase in CO2 will be much less). My estimates might be out but I don't think they're badly so. To avoid such an increase in temps either a miracle or a disaster happens. It seems irrational to rely on either: without needing catastrophic predictions, realistic policy makers should plan for such a future.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Anthony

Steven Mosher says

'A 3C warming puts us outside the boundary of conditions under which we evolved and adapted to our environment'

I'm never very convinced by this argument.

Assuming that the current theory that humans first evolved in East Africa is true, we have been moving away from those homelands for the bast part of 200,000 years and have been so successful at adapting to new environments that an initial population measured in the few dozens has spread to be over 7,000,000,000 in 10,000 generations.

And teh environments we've adapted to are hugely diverse..cold, high thin air places like the Himalayas. Hot, damp, stifling ones in the Tropics. The ice of Alaska and Siberia. The windswept sea-beaten isles of the South Atlantic.

Humans have not shown experimentally that they suffer from the theoretical problems that alarmists would like to have us believe.

And I think it is also true to say that the 'climate scientists have said that a temperature rise above two degrees is unsafe' idea is based on nothing more concrete than this very flimsy argument. If anybody can come up with a better one, then I'd be pleased to hear it.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Simon, my wrong number alarms are going off. Without checking the methodology, do you think we can add around 10ppm per annum when we currently emit four but add two? How many years before we can even mine/drill fossils that fast?

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda


Humans have not shown experimentally that they suffer from the theoretical problems that alarmists would like to have us believe.

Nicely put. I've just seen why it's so important to reduce the population of humans. Less adverse data. Everything now makes sense.

Mar 9, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Solar and wind are in their antiquities, and nuclear in its infancy. How odd then that CAGW proponents seek the future for energy up a dead-end street as China and India use nuclear technology we developed over 50 years ago to achieve a massive program of thorium reactors. The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are the future, and wind and solar are the toys in the attic.

Mar 9, 2013 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Combs

This is a valuable thread, thanks to many. I have come to review as many of these debates and discussions as I reasonably can, from the standpoint of a citizen non-scientist trying to make sense of various policy proposals and implications.

Start from Lindzen's point on which many (of varying views) can agree, that policies to date (and most which are realistically proposed) are symbolic, ineffective, indeed worthless for solving any supposed grand climate crisis.

I propose a moratorium on policy for 5 or 10 years while we do as much fresh rigorous science as possible.

Most arguments proceed as though we as the human race need to settle all relevant policy for 100 years, right now.

No we do not, and we don't know enough.

Unless it really is the extreme and imminent global emergency that some claim (though few with any evident sincerity or persuasive evidence), let's call a cease fire in the climate wars and do more study. No, we do not need to judge today the global impacts of burning all or even nearly all fossil fuels.

Wake me up in 5 or 10 years, let's review all the new studies then, and the world will be in a better position to make decisions.

[yes, I am we'll aware that decisions are made all the time about investments and new energy infrastructure, etc., decisions which put us further along one path or another.... We cannot postpone every large policy decision, I'm saying more that "if there is not clearly such an extreme and imminent emergency then LET'S NOT PANIC.....]

Mar 9, 2013 at 10:25 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil


'Most arguments proceed as though we as the human race need to settle all relevant policy for 100 years, right now'

Wind is the most fickle commodity we have. Here one minute, gone the next - as any sailor will testify.

And so it is essential that the subsidies associated with it are harvested to the maximum amount in the shortest possible time. One day one might wake up and find that they have gone forever.....

Hence the dash for wind. The sure and certain knowledge that the Golden Goose will one day die..that the pot at the end of the rainbow is not infinite. And that eventually even the politicians will notice and be forced to let the gravy train grind to a halt......................

Mar 9, 2013 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

" would be interested to hear what Mark Lynas had to say - what with him recently jumping off the anti-GM bus "

He must have discovered the secret desk top drawer papers showing us the safety/advantages of gm crops that the producers have forgotten to find since the old "gm crops are the same as normal crops so we dont need no damn science" canard was played years ago.
GM "science"makes CAGW proxy games look ethical and rigorous..but thank god the gm science is settled meme is alive. :)

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

It would appear to be that to be accepted in mainstream climate science it is de rigueur to demonstrate negative impacts directly caused by CO2 fossil fuel emissions. It seems heretic and suicidal under the present policy-relevant grant system to do otherwise, hence sceptic academics tend to be confined to the emeritus fireproof demographic and the odd persecuted recalcitrants.

The debate always returns to the putative CO2 induced warming. CO2 is consequently demonised, branded a pollutant that must be prevented, sequestered, captured, buried, countered, banned or (wait for it) taxed. And yet on a geochronological scale the Quaternary Glacial Era has been an interlude of exceptional CO2 impoverishment in terms of plant physiology. It is well established that plant vigour and crop yield is substantially increased by higher ambient atmospheric CO2. With pressures of world population growth, there is seemingly a major serendipitous benefit of CO2 emissions. Why is this rarely or never admitted in public debate? One would be forgiven for concluding that it is too inconvenient for the ideological narrative.

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:33 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

In similar vein to nTropywins & MikeB, the real question is "does CO2 cause any warming at all, let alone x deg per doubling?" Whilst I admire Lindzen for his coolness under provocation (I was at the Cambridge event last Wed when he was insulted by Lord Deben), I do think he needs to apply scientific scepticism to his assumption/acceptance that CO2 will cause some warming.

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon


"even a two degree sensitivity, if we do decide to burn all available fossil carbon, which would take concentrations well over 1000ppm, would be more than enough for 4+ degrees of warming. The real question, therefore, is whether 4+ degrees is OK."

2°C is real progress, so the first need is for IPCC to adopt it. Then we need agreement on the ppm level required to produce 4°C and an estimate of when that would occur (about 2300AD is my guess). Then we can start to consider whether that rate of warming would do more harm than good.

Clearly, this reconstituted debate will eliminate the faux urgency that characterised its parent. We'll need to decide how much of each fossil fuel is really recoverable and the order in which it is produced (presumably coal will be last?). And we'd need to be fairly sure that mankind won't move off to some different form of energy within the next hundred years or so – a truly heroic assumption.

Whether an eventual 4°C of AGW is a net benefit will depend upon what's happening amongst "natural variations". If we are into the early stages of the next glaciation (as the new hockey-stick paper suggests), then a 4°C offset is obviously all good. All the recent evidence is that the hydrostatic cycle provides a natural thermostat, and it will be essential to form a view on the extent of this effect.

If all that hard work eventually leads to a reasoned view that net disbenifits would result if AGW produced 4°C over a long period – then we need to come back to the vexed question of sensitivity. Why should we believe that the scientists/modellers who've been immovable from 3°C since 1979 have now got it right?

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAustralis

"The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently increasing at a linear rate of about 2ppm (parts per million). At this rate of increase it is going to take 200 years to double the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from the present level of 400ppm to 800ppm."

Mar 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM | MikeB

Your assumption that the short term linear trend will extend indefinately depends on three assumptions which may not be valid.

1) That the increase is linear and not geometric. The data is not precise enough to distinguish between them as yet.

2) That the currently operating carbon sinks are able to absorb 55% of our emissions indefinately without saturating.

3) That the positive feedback interaction seen between increasing temperature and increasing CO2 in the warming stage of interstadials will not take place in our situation.

Mar 10, 2013 at 12:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"The real question, therefore, is whether 4+ degrees is OK. That's what we need to be discussing…"

It's a good question, but very hard to answer. You need to know what the local changes would be - the global average is a meaningless number. And fluid flow being chaotic, the answer probably isn't a simple linear function of temperature.

But to the extent that temperature tells you anything, in many cases it's a fairly easy experiment. Simply find somewhere else in the world where the climate is about 4 C warmer, and go take a look. I reckon over most of the temperate regions, moving a few hundred miles closer to the equator would do it. (e.g. Birmingham to Bristol is about 2 C. You probably need to go to France to see 4 C.)

Mar 10, 2013 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

The sure and certain knowledge that the Golden Goose will one day die..that the pot at the end of the rainbow is not infinite. And that eventually even the politicians will notice and be forced to let the gravy train grind to a halt......................

Mar 9, 2013 at 10:34 PM | Latimer Alder

Alas, Mr Adler, that applies to our whole civilization, not just energy subsidies.

Mar 10, 2013 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

When I was a lad I was exposed to a hell-fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher, via my membership of a Boys Brigade troop within cycling range and based at the our town's Baptist Tabernacle. The preacher was quite disturbing and seemed to get some sort of pleasure from scaring early teenage boys who were impelled to attend Church Parade, but I rarely think of him some 65 years on, until I read comments such as those made by Entropic Man.
Increasing the supply of plant food is, in my view, likely to be of benefit to the world's poor and in my experience, I have found it much easier to do what I generally do on an ordinary working day if the outside temperature is somewhere around 25 C rather than somewhere around freezing.
Additional CO2 produced by whatever means seems to have more than one upside, which is rarely mentioned by the perennially gloomy.

Mar 10, 2013 at 4:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

re: Mark Lynas

Interesting article about his own intellectual evolution, mostly about his views on GM crops and nuclear energy, but some mention of how he thinks the anti-nuclear movement has inadvertently increased CO2 emissions:

Mark Lynas: truth, treachery, and GM food

"A critical fracture between Lynas and his movement occurred after London's 2000 May Day riots, which he helped organise. A branch of McDonald's was attacked, a statue of Winston Churchill was given a grass Mohican, and the Cenotaph was graffitied. At a meeting of key individuals in a north London pub that followed "everyone was saying: 'This is great'," he remembers. "'We've shown the corporate media!'" Lynas, however, didn't agree. "I thought it was a disaster. Everything we'd been trying to achieve was undermined by all the violence and window smashing. It just alienated people. I thought I'd be honest about it. Everyone looked at me in complete horror, shock and contempt." How did that feel? "Deeply hostile, and deeply limiting, actually. Tolerance and open-mindedness were qualities that people paid lip service to but were not really valued. That was one of the last meetings I went to."

Mar 10, 2013 at 4:37 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Is warming of a few degrees ok? I live in Finland where it's easy to see what a warming of a few degrees C means. A lot of people voluntarily move from Lapland to Helsinki. That inflicts a very fast warming of 5-6 C on the poor souls. And they can cope easily.

I live in central Finland. Is my location optimal? Do I see people from Helsinki envious of our temperatures? No, not at all.

Do I see people in southern Sweden envious of Finnish temperatures? No, not at all.

Do I see people in Central Europe suffering because their climate is so much hotter than our in Finland? No, not that either. There are no huge crowds of people eager to move up north.

If any farmer in Scandinavia could choose the location of their farm, they would all choose a warmer location where crop yilds have always been vastly bigger.

It's completely irrational to be scared of 2 C of warming over 100 years. We have had several periods of 3-4 C of warming within a few years and no harm was done. Why would that kind of warming over 100 years cause problems?

Mar 10, 2013 at 9:06 AM | Registered CommenterVieras

Skiphil: Fantastic timing of that Guardian piece on Lynas. Thank you very much for drawing it to my (our) attention.

Mar 10, 2013 at 9:43 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

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