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« What should scientists tell the public? | Main | What's in the papers? »

Hulme on the IPCC

Mike Hulme has done a podcast on the Fifth Assessment Report, which is published at the website of his new employer, King's College London and is embedded below. There is a measure of common ground, although in Hulme's view the difficulties with the science don't seem to obviate a demand for policy responses to it. This makes it hard to to determine if the science is leading to demands for policy responses or whether it is merely an excuse for them.

 (H/T Alan)

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Reader Comments (22)

Very interesting. I have always found Professor Hulme to be very realistic and objective in his analysis. You could paraphrase his article thus: We do not know why the hiatus has occurred.
World poverty needs to be alleviated - this is a good excuse
Action should by led by the taxpayers of rich countries
Fossil fuels need to be replaced but we do not have a clue how.
The science is not settled but very interesting.
Politicians are fixated on CO2.

Sep 30, 2013 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

".... although in Hulme's view the difficulties with the science don't seem to obviate a demand for policy responses to it."

Haven't listened it yet (I'm in transit), but if this is really what he said then he definitely is one of those who thinks safety is in walking both side of the streets. He is trying to catch the eye of those in power for some plumb appointment, like that of a UK climate science supremo, if he could.

Sep 30, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

He's after a plum job in the EU. He is singing from the EU tune "It doesn't matter if we don't understand the science or if it is wrong, we must act on CO2 emissions".

Sep 30, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It's always been an excuse. Here we have it, loud and clear, from the IPCC.

I've written to my (zealot warmer) MP, David Heath, to ask him if he is aware of this, and what his reaction is to it.

He hasn't replied. He's happy that the science is just a cover up.

Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection, says the German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated. – Ottmar Edenhofer

For those who may not know, Ottmar Edenhofer is the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III.

Sep 30, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Neat summary, Trefor Jones, thank you for it. Feeble thinking captured in a few sentences. The harm being caused to the world's poorest people by the climate craziness is perhaps at its most immediate in the bio-fuel amplification of starvation rates. It is perhaps at its most material, and more devastating in the medium term, when it comes to the active discouragement of the cheapest energy sources which are often going to be coal, oil, and gas. And possibly worst of all in the longer term, is the implicit and sometimes explicit rubbishing of industrial progress, coupled with deliberate scaremongering to push compliance with whatever 'sustainable development' is held to mean by the pushers. For me it means 'suppressed development' and the deliberate inhibition of discovery and invention by individuals in exchange for some mindless, groupthink of 'what is to be permitted'. The scheming and deviousness of the IPCC might seem like the fooling of spoilt brats in a playground compared to what an IPSD (intergovernmental panel on sustainable development) might get up do.

Sep 30, 2013 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Listening to that, my feeling is that scientists should stick to the science, and not try to blur the issue by discussing political issues - particularly when the validity of the science seems to be in tatters!

Sep 30, 2013 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Bailey

This is vintage hulme. His apparent lack of insight on exactly the contradiction you point to is scary. It is in the very title of his book. It is like the post-normal analysis to which he is aligned, an ultra version of a general malaise on the left, where the moral high ground provides no opportunity to see the contradiction. Because I have seen first hand the damage this blindness hath rort, I find it hard to support any sympathy with what I see as a very dangerous mental attitude to science, to politics and to one's opponents in a policy debate.

See why I think hulme should not be encouraged here:

Sep 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBerniel

World poverty needs to be alleviated - this is a good excuse

This sounds identical to the Hedegaard Maneuver

Let’s say that scientists several decades from now said, 'We were wrong, it’s not about climate’, would it not in any case have been good to do many of the things you have to do to combat climate change?”

Sod the science, redistribute the wealth anyway. And no arguing.

Sep 30, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

I see we move from dogma to Climate Pragmatism. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Sep 30, 2013 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

For years it has been clear to me that AGW is a social movement that masks itself in science-sounding words.
This SPM and justifications of the sort Mike Hulme offers are striking evidence of this.
The IPCC is not a science body. It is a political group.Their own report shal we say, denies the science to push the politics.

Sep 30, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

“We actually have been calling for a different framework for thinking about climate policy that isn’t dependant on climate science getting the numbers right or getting the precision correct. In our framework we call it climate pragmatism….”

“But given how much is not known, and the surprises we have seen in the last 10 years, coat-tailing climate policy onto climate science is actually not a good strategy. It leads to delay, prevarication and inertia.”

This is gob-smacking stuff and echoes Connie Hedegaard's comments that EU policy on climate change is right even if the science was wrong.

Sep 30, 2013 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonMcD

I'm warming to Mike Hulme, if only because he really seem to irritate Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science/Guardian fame)

Dana: "I’m just going to ignore Prof. Hulme’s consensus comment, other than to say it really doesn’t make sense."

ref Dr Warren Pearce'e article:

My comment:

Mike Hulme's:
"Barry – two excellent observations here. Until the last few years, global surface air T was *the* iconic index to reveal human influence on the system – and of course the global policy goal is terms of global T. As temperature flattened, attention moved first to Arctic sea-ice and now, also, it seems to ocean heat content. In today’s Independent for example of 4 graphs included the one of global T was missing. Unthinkable that this would have happened 6 or 12 yrs ago.

The other point is about the spread betting on the climate sensitivity. If there is now no agreement amongst scientists across lines of evidence it is a great illustration of the futility of relying on consensus claims to coerce the population (cf. Cook et al and the 97% claim). In 2007 there *was* agreement on this crucial index of human influence; in 2013 this is *no* agreement. Was the 2007 agreement premature? Not necessarily – but science often works this way – it doesn’t progress in a straight line towards the truth, but meanders around not quite knowing where it is going to end up. This seems the case of the climate sensitivity – and also the high end of the SL rise scenarios.

I’m glad to see these remarks of dissensus in AR5. I’ll be looking out for more of them on Monday. Dissensus in science, as much as consensus, is of great public value.


Dana's reply:

and my reply:

Dana was ignoring Pielke jnr aswell on twitter the other day (much to Roger's amusement)

Sep 30, 2013 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Hulme is sometimes more clear when speaking than in his books. As in here:
"ROWLATT: For Professor Mike Hulme there is no doubt that the fear climate change provokes provides environmentalists with an opportunity to drive forward their much wider political agenda.

HULME: Some of the deep green movement would buy into this - that actually climate change is the best opportunity that we have got in order to get our political goal of a more egalitarian, localist, less consumer driven society onto the table. And we’ve seen over 40 or 50 years different tactics I suppose from some of these deep greens, eco-socialists if you like, to drive forward this idea and climate change is the latest and is an opportunity.

ROWLATT: You make it sound quite cynical - using climate change as a tactical device. It’s almost as if climate change is a sort of convenient truth.

HULME: I think all campaigning organisations, whether in civil society or whether in politics, will use agendas in order to further their particular goals. Whether you admire those other goals or not is a separate set of questions, but it seems to me this is the way in which climate change has emerged over the last 5 or 10 years "
The rest of it, linked from here:
is a hoot. Bursting with self-righteous angst the faux-greens are keen to tell us their real world-improvement agenda and then they have the cheek to say skeptics are all conspiracy theorists:

Hulme seems to be just an amused observer now that funding is no longer an overriding issue. In the climategate emails though he seemed as mad and bad as the rest of the science-for-arts-sake crowd.

Sep 30, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Maybe Connie Hedegaard, the intelligent creationist and the EU Commissioner for climate doomsday cult, might help him out. Hulme is on the same wavelength as that god fearing twerp:

"My work is as Director of the national centre for climate change research, a job which requires me to translate my Christian belief about stewardship of God’s planet into research and action."

I've said this before and I'm saying it again. The issue of climate change would not have become such a religious issue without the involvement of all those god-fearing twerps. Climate Change is a religious issue for religious twerps who are crying out for some flood or doomsday to cleanse the world, and this remains the case so far for IPCC.

Sep 30, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Wealth is created by doing things more efficiently. Wealth is destroyed by doing things less efficiently. Generating electricity by renewables is hugely inefficient and therefor is destroying enormous amounts of wealth on a worldwide scale. The redistribution, such as it is, is from the poor to the rich. Anyone who was truly interested in redistributing wealth would firstly ensure that the chosen mechanism did not destroy wealth and secondly might think in terms of the redistribution being from the rich to the poor.

Sep 30, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

That's a very fine essay at the link given by Berniel (Sep 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM). Tour de force.

Sep 30, 2013 at 2:04 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

sHx, what seems to me the real problem with people like Ms Hedegaard lies in her saying ..."translate my Christian belief about stewardship .....etcetc" except her interpretation of orthodox teaching about stewardship is so widely off the mark as to be heathen, positively pagan. All Christians, and plenty of other sane people, are up for good stewardship of the Earth. But not for a moment do many of us agree with Hedegarrds nut-job nostrums. Its only in the mind of fanatics like her that good stewardship entails global redistribution, windmills all over the place, a semi-nazi fantasy about back to the soil etc etc etc, all pushed through on a fabric made up of half-truths about rising temps, rising sea levels and more frequent 'extreme' weather.

Sep 30, 2013 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

The obvious weakness in the case that Hulme seeks to make is that he admits there are many unknowns about climate but seems to think that controlling CO2 emissions is a necessary policy response. He says that coal gas and oil are unsustainable (but not over what time period). As a bald statement who could disagree but we are being told by others that we have only used half a trillion of the 3-4 trillion tons of CO2 producing fuels available to us. On the face of it, and given new fossil fuels are being found all the time, fossil fuels would appear to be capable of providing the energy that mankind needs over the next hundred years or so whilst more efficient means of producing energy are developed. And this brings me back to the point I made earlier, we need to find more efficient ways of producing energy, not the less efficient renewables that have been foisted upon us.

So, having now listened to our learned friend (only just got a good broadband connection) I think he and I are not that far apart.

Sep 30, 2013 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead


"he really seem to irritate Dana Nuccitelli"

That's not too difficult, though, is it? Still, a point in his favour, nonetheless...

Sep 30, 2013 at 3:02 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Hulme does his "I am a deep thinker. Pay attention. On one hand xxx, on the other hand yyy" thing again.

He's a shape-shifting, pompous prat who is expert, as sHx said, at walking both sides of the street and crossing from one side to the other when it suits him.

Oct 1, 2013 at 7:58 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

At least he admits that the existing solar/wind technologies aren't up to the job - but he nonetheless would not dispute the government policies that force these useless technologies onto us.

Oct 1, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave

Thanks Dave, you have proved sHx and my points in a nutshell.

Oct 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

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