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« Fool in chief | Main | Fish's water »
Sunday
Jan052014

There must be some misunderstanding

The global warming debate is a tricky subject for leader and op-ed writers and you can always rely on there being some marvellous errors and misunderstandings when these generalists hold forth.

Today, the Sunday Times (£) carries a long opinion piece from Adam Boulton on the rise of the sceptics within the Conservative party. While we've seen hints of such a shift over the last few months, Boulton seems rather more certain than I am that it's a real phenomenon. He's also pretty sure that it's a mistake since swing voters are apparently more likely to be greens. I have no idea if this is true or not.

But as expected, there are plenty of things to take issue with. This is the most toe-curling bit, on the new Sherwood paper and the consensus:

Last week the journal Nature published a paper reporting that the Earth’s climate was more susceptible to carbon dioxide emissions than previously thought, and predicting global temperature could go up by 4C this century. True, as the tireless climate change “realist” Lord Lawson points out, the global temperature so far has not risen as much as some of the direst predictions but, equally, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded last September it was “unequivocal” that global warming was taking place because of human actions. The panel said its view was supported by 97% of scientific research.

As you can see, he has clearly read the press release rather than the paper itself, and has little or no idea of what the paper actually means for estimates of climate sensitivity. As for the bit about the 97%, I think he is just very, very confused.

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Reader Comments (33)

With degrees in English and International Relations and a career in political journalism, he's unlikely to understand the press release, let alone the 'science' behind it, or anything else related to climate changeTM (except the politics of it). I'm sure he doesn't think he's at all confused.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Boulton is usually quite clued up as well and he's certainly not afraid of a confrontation.

It does show how far there is to go if even his understanding of the climate debate is so shallow.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Registered CommenterSimonW

You would think a journalist would be able to write clearly. "Science" covers a vast range of topics and the climate is just one of them. It would be more logical to write that 97% of scientists studying the influence of man-made emissions of CO2 on the climate think that increasing CO2 levels are causing global warming.

I am not sure if the 97% figure is true or not, but I doubt if many people would dispute the fact that most scientists studying CO2 and the climate do so because they think that CO2 is the key to understanding climate change. A climate scientist who did not share that view would probably encounter difficulty in getting an academic job, or a job in a meteorological organisation.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Roy: "I doubt if many people would dispute the fact that most scientists studying CO2 and the climate do so because they think that CO2 is the key to understanding climate change."

Good point, well put, Roy. Kinda like saying that 97% of astronomers believe the universe is BIG.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Roy its not , and does not even make basic mathematical logic given they no idea how many scientists climate or otherwise there is. You simply cannot say what percentage is represented subgroup of a whole group when you no idea of the whole groups size. . The infamous 97% claim is about the same standard of 'validity', as the 9 out of 10 cats prefer whiskers claim .

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

They pretend they have been allowing the other side of the debate to be heard up to this point, don't fall into the trap.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

True, as the tireless climate change “realist” Lord Lawson points out, the global temperature so far has not risen as much as some of the direst predictions

Mr. Boulton apparently doesn't realise that the global temperature so far has not risen as much as some of the mildest predictions

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

"True, as the tireless climate change “realist” Lord Lawson points out, the global temperature so far has not risen as much as some of the direst predictions...."

The direst predictions left the rails of plausibility long ago. What he appears not to realise is that the lawyerly pronouncements of the IPCC are now designed to defend the line of predictions that are at the low end of the spectrum. As reality crosses each line in the sand, they step back and draw another one. A bit like the retreat from Stalingrad.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered Commentermichaelhart

As with most of the population, Adam Boulton doesn't realise that the IPCC 'consensus', based ultimately on Hansen et al's 1981 paper in 'Science', is based on fake science; there is no '-18 deg C' radiative emitter to Space in the upper atmosphere and no credence to the claim of 33 K GHE.

IR to Space from the Earth comes from three zones: the atmospheric window at 15 deg. C, CO2 in the lower stratosphere at -50 deg C and water vapour in the lower atmosphere at about 0 deg C, 2.6 km in temperate climates.

The -18 deg C is the Irradiance-weighted mean of a virtual emitter: it does no exist; there is near zero CO2-AGW!

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

KNR

The infamous 97% claim is about the same standard of 'validity', as the 9 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas claim
The Whiskas claim is based on proper markert research, using a representative panel of cat owners properly weighted by age sex class, and region. Unlike the case of the measurement of global temperatures, the panel is not arbitrarily reduced by 90% without explanation; results from regions not covered by the survey are not “infilled” from other regions; and past results are not changed decades later without explanation.
The petfood industry is a serious business, and failure to abide by these rules will result in people being sacked.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:26 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Cats will be placed in charge of the serfs in the future. It is obvious that they are smarter and better protected than hoi polloi.
=============

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The very fact that there's so many papers / studies / claims across a diverse range of climate issues claiming that things are suddenly 'worse than previously thought' demonstrates the fallibility of previously-held 'settled' positions.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

It may be satisfying to have a pop at Boulton, but he's a busy man and I'm sure the anti case could be put to him by someone authoritative in simple English on one side of an A4 page.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page
Jan 5, 2014 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterChaveratti

"He's also pretty sure that it's a mistake since swing voters are apparently more likely to be greens. I have no idea if this is true or not." From what I've heard, the bills for green energy have started to show up and you really don't know someone's commitment to a cause until you see what kind of money they are willing to contribute to it. There has been a lot of finger pointing but if "green" starts taking too much of the family budget, you'll start losing independent swing voters quickly.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean

The problem with many journalists is that they seriously believe that they are either already masters of any given subject or, given a couple of minutes, can master it to a greater extent than someone who has studied the subject for years.
An Oxbridge education exponentially amplifies this belief.
Hence the dogmatic, forceful articles on matters about which they obviously know FA even compared to the layperson who has taken even the mildest interest.
Fortunately the internet allows this ignorance to be instantly exposed. This sort of journalist hates comments below their articles but of course their objections will be couched in terms of naughty commentators being rude to them.

Also the idea that seriously green CAGW-believing floating voters would bypass the Green Party, the Lib Dems or Labour to vote Tory in any significant numbers at all is absurd. An anti-CAGW stance from the Tories would be far more likely to scoop up disenfranchised voters or even those who would never otherwise vote for them.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

I have spent 2 days struggling with the Sherwood et al. paper.

My conclusion is that it is deeply flawed because It set outs to prove what it apparently assumed from the start - namely that high sensitivity models are correct and low sensitivity models are wrong. To get this result they went through various contortions in data selection - see Sherwood Forest for details.

The paper is based on an assertion that increased circulation in the troposphere leads to less tropical low clouds. Data selection has been chosen to make it appear this is backed up in data from just one month of selected satellite data. A good paper should allow others to validate the results. However this paper is obtuse and does not provide sufficient details to reproduce their results. We are instead supposed to accept their result ( ECS >4C) as an act of faith.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

I recently met up with a bunch of colleagues from about 15 years ago. All of them had chemistry or chemical engineering degrees. None of them is any more green than average as far as I know. When the topic touched on climate change and I expressed my sceptical views they looked at me in disbelief.

The conversation didn't last long because they clearly thought I was completely bonkers. However it lasted long enough for me to detect that they simply believed all the news presented by the BBC and newspapers and all the alarmist claims made by the Government, the scientific establishment and environmentalists. Why wouldn't they believe in all of it? The BBC for example, is on a brainwashing mission by getting the message across in the news, documentaries, drama and even in programmes for children.

They didn't know (or believe) that the Antarctic was approaching record ice levels or that global warming had stalled for 17 years. As I look back on my own lack of interest a number of years ago, I was just the same, I had no reason to doubt what everyone else believed and I was not interested enough to think about it deeply.

What started me off as a sceptic was when I overheard someone mention carbon dioxide leading to temperature rise and his friend replied that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lags temperature and does not lead it. I knew all about gas solubility and knew his friend was right. This made me take more notice of the subject and my next thought was that the earth had a history of entering ice ages then warming again to get out of them. All the talk of unprecedented catastrophic warming didn't ring true. I read a Christopher Booker article in which he referenced WUWT. After a few visits there I became a confirmed sceptic. That was a year or so before Climategate.

Clearly, we sceptics need to get our message into the public domain. The evidence that the models are flawed, the existence of the warming hiatus, the fact that extreme weather is not confirmed by the data and so on.

Unless the voters become more aware of the issues, the whole climate scare could skew the next election and condemn us to the folly and terrible consequence of the current energy policy, or worse.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Well I for one welcome our new Prog Rock references, two in a row, indeed. Fish (sorta), followed by "There must be some misunderstanding". Though whether Genesis were still truly Prog by then is another matter.

Cheer yourselves up and catch the Steve Hackett Genesis Revisted tour. It is absolutely superb.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

There must be some kind of mistake.

(That was another sneaky Genesis reference, right?)

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterThrog

Land of Confusion sums it up rather well (apologies for all non-Genesis geeks).

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Schrodinger has the truth of this situation right there.
His friends (and he himself in the past) suffer from what the theologians call invincible ignorance. They live out their lives in their own environment with no reason to suppose that others are less honest than they are and that what those charged with preaching the gospel (as opposed to researching it) are saying is the truth.
Beyond that circle are those — politicians, reporters, scientific bodies — who are at best culpably ignorant. Either they benefit from the global warming meme and so choose not to investigate it too closely or for other reasons have declined to take serious steps to investigate the sceptics' case.
The worst, of course, are the liars. The exist also in the media and in politics but mainly in the enviro-activism field where their plausibility and the message they strive to convey, as opposed to the reality that would flow from heeding that message or even the truthfulness of that message itself, is enough to keep the culpably ignorant from asking too many questions and the invincibly ignorant in the dark.
There are signs that some of the erstwhile culpably ignorant are starting to have pangs of conscience. Unfortunately today's announcement by Scottish Power of a 3.3% reduction in energy bills on the back of reduced green levies is just the sort of excuse that the ignorant of both persuasions need to pull the comfort blanket round their ears and go back to sleep.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:34 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A politician is giving a speech denoucing the previous regieme. Cruel and unjust policies were enacted causing much hardship of the people. The former leader developed a cult of personality and busily hounded out dissenters.

A heckler shouts from the audience, "Where were you when all this was happening?".

"Who said that?", says the politician.

Silence descends over the crowd. A pin is heard to drop.

The politician leans forward over the lectern and jabbing a finger towards the audience, growls, "That's where I was!".

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterManniac

Well >97% of oncologists believe that smoking causes cancer, but all cancers are not caused by tobacco smoke. It is very easy to believe that some fraction of the observed warming over the last 150 years or so has been caused by human activity, including raising atmospheric CO2 levels, without buying into Thermogeddon.
However, like the abortion debate in the US, at present their is a binary; you either accept that 2x[CO2] causes a catastrophic outcome or you deny that atmospheric CO2 can thermalize outgoing IR radiation.
Screw them. 2x[CO2] will give a modes warming >1 and <2, and the effects will be generally beneficial to the biosphere and humanity.

Jan 5, 2014 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocMartyn

S's Cat wrote:

quote
Clearly, we sceptics need to get our message into the public domain. The evidence that the models are flawed, the existence of the warming hiatus, the fact that extreme weather is not confirmed by the data and so on.

Unless the voters become more aware of the issues, the whole climate scare could skew the next election and condemn us to the folly and terrible consequence of the current energy policy, or worse.
unquote

If you look on my Facebook page you'll meet the Chihuahua of Doom, my attempt to educate Suffolk County Council about the folly of the renewable energy targets.

I can't say it went well. The idea that Suffolk's contribution to AGW was less than the temperature difference between the head and foot of a chihuahua did not compute.

Slowly, slowly. One of the Independent's got it.

JF

Jan 5, 2014 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

The science here is not important - it's just the same dreary parade of errors and fatuousness. The important thing about this post is the author's assessment of the state of opinion arising in significant new quarters of the main political parties. To me, it is closely connected to Chris Huhne's recent Guardian article:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/29/poorer-countries-climate-change-case

which came up on Judith Curry's site, where the discussion was largely, predictably and unproductively diverted to science/data spats.

Huhne supposes the following hypothetical blackmail: countries allegedly damaged by the previous emissions of wealthy industrialised nations might well bring economic havoc to those 'offenders' by suing the pants off them - UNLESS the 'offenders' continue to go full pelt for all the green measures dreamed up by Huhne and his friends, as a way of demonstrating their utter commitment to making amends for the future.

Significantly, he appears to be implying openly that it is politic to follow such policies regardless of whether you believe in their justification or effectiveness. Neither does he make any claim that nations pursuing 'redress' need actually believe in Culpable AGW in order to succeed in putting a very big spanner into the works.

The important point here is Mr Huhne's implicit assumption informing both the nature of his plea and its target. He believes there is indeed a strong emerging political counter-current which threatens to blow much of the green wheeler-dealering off the rails.

If there is one thing that a vainglorious moral coward is good at, it is assessing the opinions of those around him - lacking a moral compass of his own, he is entirely dependent on the quality of his political antennae for his very survival. We can therefore have a high level of trust in Mr Huhne's opinion here.

He is here simply trying to herd politicians by appealing to the moral weakness and fearfulness which he may feel still links him to them. Our own task is therefore, to counter this bullying by reassuring those same politicians that it is feasible, as well as desirable, to start dismantling what has now been dubbed the Climate-Industrial complex. I like that term, but can't just now recall who coined it. Does anyone know?

Stuart B

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commentersab

sab

Bjorn Lomborg had a Wall Street Journal opinion piece under the banner of that title in May 2009, but I dont know if the phrase was his mint coinage.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB124286145192740987

Whoever it was, its an obvious wordplay on the Military-Industrial Complex featuring in Eisenhowers famous Farewell Address to the Nation.

Jan 5, 2014 at 9:34 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

After the acquittal of the Kingnorth Greenpeace six, Huhne's (ironic) warning of potential climate related litigation is a palpable risk. I would have little faith in the competence of the legal profession to adjudicate wisely.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:06 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Rather than folks with Green sentiments being the real swing voters, I think the Labour Party have probably got it right that people are more concerned about the cost of living. That is why they are so keen to pass the blame onto energy companies for energy price rises. If more people were to believe that global warming is a trivial or non-existent problem then they would turn on those politicians who had so keenly believed in the opposite. Similarly, if people found out that policies were totally ineffective and badly mismanaged, resulting in increasing bills, then there would be similar mistrust.

Jan 6, 2014 at 12:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

"He's also pretty sure that it's a mistake since swing voters are apparently more likely to be greens. I have no idea if this is true or not."

From what I've heard, the bills for green energy have started to show up and you really don't know someone's commitment to a cause until you see what kind of money they are willing to contribute to it.

I think this is key. Swing voters are likely to be proud of their independence, and are likely as a result to be willing to say they are "green". But what people say they are, and what they are very different. (Have you ever met a person who admits they are a bully by nature?)

Cameron will know that ditching the Green image would gain probably two UKIP votes for every Blue-Green lost.

But what the Green tinge brings to the Tories is not Green voters -- that would clearly be futile. What it does is sell the party as "caring" and "modern", Losing the Green would alienate those who worry about the Conservatives being the angry party.

In order for the Tories to lose their Green policies, they need to have something else warm and fuzzy to replace it. Clearly not economic policy, immigration, EU, or "law and order" as their base wouldn't stand for that. Nor gay rights, feminism etc. The problem is that the Tories are the angry conservative party.

In NZ our Tory equivalent, the National Party, doesn't have this problem because they aren't fed by a core of staunchly socially conservatives. They can be liberal on social issues, or at least let them slide, if they want. So they don't need the Greenery to look cool and funky.

Jan 6, 2014 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Quite clearly Mr Boulton enjoys a good laugh ,I am sure that he is more than sophisticated enough to realise that the 4C increase is codswallop, but with a twinkle in his eye, can run up a flag and see who salutes!
Perhaps he is having a private bet with the PM as to who can piss off the most people on the "green crap" v "CAGW" front?
I was annoyed until I got the joke.
It is his editor who should be taken to task for allowing unsubstantiated nonsense to be written.

Jan 6, 2014 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Hurley

I normally have a reasonably high regard for Adam Boulton when he is assessing and dissecting POLITICAL matters.
However - as has been said above, on the (tired) subject of climate change he clearly has accepted the Sherwood paper and associated press releases at face value.
Not his finest hour..

Jan 6, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

pharos

thank you for that ref - I had only recently heard of the CIC, but it did seem a neat summarisation of what otherwise takes paragraphs to elaborate - a proper meme in fact...

Stuart B

Jan 6, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered Commentersab

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