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« The mind-boggling coincidence hypothesis | Main | Catastrophe risk »

Bovver boys in pinstripes

The big news today has been the publication of a joint Royal Society/US National Academy position statement on climate change. With my speaking engagement this morning, I haven't had much time to look at it but my initial impression is that it's not as bad as some of the nonsense these two organisations were putting out ten years ago.

That said, the headline message is clearly written with alarmist public relations in mind:

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate.

And in many ways, the report is just as bad as the bad old days when Bob Ward issued wild statements purporting to rebut sceptic arguments. It's just that now the bovver boy approach to climate change is all dressed up in a pinstripe suit with shiny shoes and a tie pin. The reason I say this is that it still seems to be set out as a series of rebuttals of peripheral arguments rather than addressing the core concerns over mainstream climate science. For example, you will search the report for the word “sensitivity” in vain, and you learn only that how much warming we might get is an ongoing area of debate. Likewise, while you learn that clouds are a big uncertainty, we are assured that all the models agree that net feedbacks are positive. It goes without saying that aerosols are airily brushed aside, without even a hint that the model estimate of their effect diverges wildly from empirically based estimates.

The project background statement says this:

The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, with their similar missions to promote the use of science to benefit society and to inform critical policy debates, offer this new publication as a key reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative answers about the current state of climate change science. The publication makes clear what is well established, where consensus is growing, and where there is still uncertainty.

I would say that this statement is untrue.

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Reader Comments (38)

"I would say that this statement is untrue."

Judith Curry agrees with you, saying "However, the stated goal was to make clear what is well established, where consensus is growing, and where there is still uncertainty. In this, they failed."

There is a live webcast session taking place right now.

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

"now the bovver boy approach to climate change is all dressed up in a pinstripe suit with shiny shoes and a tie pin."

What a picture!

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

On the Royal Society's website under History it points out that:

'The Royal Society's motto 'Nullius in verba' roughly translates as 'take nobody's word for it'. It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.'

Where in this context are 'the facts determined by experiment'? Aren't they just theories?

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilhippos

At the beginning, they cite multiple lines of evidence. They seem to have difficulty listing the lines, however, and I think we should help them out. So I'll start with a few and encourage people to add more. At the end, perhaps we could have a composite list to send them.
1) Al Gore says so
2) Bob Ward says so
3) Greenpeace says so
4) David Cameron says so
5) ...

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeP

As will probably be necessary to point out for a long time to come, an open discussion about the "cause of the pause" has now actually commenced.

Which is strange, because the 'consensus' was previously busy establishing certainty in the media that the pause didn't even exist. Where were [the leaders of] these two learned societies then?

Go figure.

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I only have to read that carbon dioxide traps heat to know the rest of it is not based on physics.

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Is there any way whereby they could be challenged to a debate? Obviously they can ignore a challenge from a bunch of bloggers and they have evaded the rope-a-dope plan of the GWPF. Any other routes to a debate in a neutral venue?

Feb 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

"Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate."

It's taken some time but the morph from 'global warming' to 'climate change' has finally gone mainstream. The next little subtlety seems to be the removal of the permissive 'might' from warmist statements. Their arrogance knows no bounds when they can say so definitively that 'humans are changing the climate', rather than adding some kind of permissive qualification that 'humans might be changing [some of it]'.

Furthermore, we are left to guess what is meant by 'lines of evidence'. Models, anyone?

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:06 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

The dog ate my homework.

Volcanoes ate the global warming.

Wind caused the extra sea ice in Antarctica (but we won't attempt to prove it or prove the wind in the Arctic never changes either)

What a joke ... a very corrupt, sick, expensive joke,

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

MikeP: 5) Ed (ban-climate-change-deniers-from-working-in-government) Miliband says 'or else'

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:10 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

"The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences" are making untrue statements about AGW - business as usual then!

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

"Lines of evidence" seems to be a new terminology when the temperatures aren't going up.

Yes we know the temperatures aren't rising but there are other multiple lines of evidence that the humans are changing the climate"

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustAnotherPoster

They might want to peruse the bbc website

Aerosol problem has been 'licked' and they cool the planet...THE BBC said this!

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Where in this context are 'the facts determined by experiment'? Aren't they just theories?
Feb 27, 2014 at 3:43 PM Philhippos

No, they are not even theories (in the way the word is used in science). They are hypotheses.

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

"we are assured that all the models agree that net feedbacks are positive"

So all the models that were programmed with the assumption that feedbacks were positive are actually showing positive feedbacks. Well that's good enough for me.

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

They're talking out of their aerosols?

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

Did Ward write it?

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The headlilne should be:
"Climate Alarmism Is One Of The Tragic Opportunity Costs Of Our Time".
There, much clearer.

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time."

I think it _will_ be seen as one of the defining issues of our time.

It will become evident that the world is not going to self destruct in a burning viscious circle of climate feedback. In time people will wonder what all the money has been wasted on.

This will lead to a drive for more openness is research data and an overhaul of 'peer review'.

In 10 years anyone mentioning 'Carbon Footprint' will be laughed out of the room.


Feb 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Interesting that I have only ever heard the phrase "carbon footprint" once in real life.

This was an ultra-green friend proposing that we should spend about an hour completely dismantling 4 bikes so we could fit 4 people and their bikes in *one* car to drive to the start of a bike ride. When I pointed out that we would have to spend time at the other end re-assembling the bikes then do the whole thing again after the ride he voted for convenience and we went in 2 cars.

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

This is great! Can we get email addresses of RS members, and find out exactly which members of the RS are prepared to stand up, be counted, and put their signature to this document?

If they won't sign, or dodge/evade/avoid. Err... why? The science is settled. The science is ," more certain than ever." The RS has spoken.

Feb 27, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Mike P.

The renowned scientist, intellectual and former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said so. (that's when I thought I had better take a closer look at the science)

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpen

Bit off topic but in addition to the bird mincing turbines, yes I am a birder, the latest Google solar array SW of Las Vegas which directs radiance at a boiler installed on top of a massive tower is busily frying desert bird species. I don't expect our RSPB to have taken much notice of that either.

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJRM Wheel

I find this terribly depressing.

At a time when climate scientists are frantically scrabbling about looking for explanations to retain the last shreds of credibility of their failed climate models and the IPCC have started to back peddle their alarmist scenarios, we have the perceived guardians of scientific integrity bring out a shoddy political statement that the science is more certain than ever.

Do the Fellows of this society have no shame?

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The expected changes in climate are based on our understanding of how greenhouse gases trap heat.

This is the key sentence for me. Without the ability of greenhouse gases to trap heat, then they are saying there is no climate change. I'd love for them to give me an explanation of their understanding of how greenhouse gases trap heat. I guess I'll have to wait a long time.

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip Bratby: Great spot! G*d help us if they find a way to stop CO^2 'trapping heat' 'cos the climate would be stuck at whatever phase change it was on then. Anyone for permanent cold?

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:17 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

@Martin A 4:19
No, they are not even theories (in the way the word is used in science). They are hypotheses.

I'd call them conjectures.

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterVftS

Phillip Bratby, since you feel the need to repeat your problem with the how "greenhouse gases trap heat", could you elucidate (briefly) on what the problem is?

I hope you aren't a member of the Slayer fraternity who doubt basic physics.

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk


"how greenhouse gases trap heat"

The Sage of Truro (Zed) claims that this is demonstrable in a school lab, although I suspect that may involve a bell jar with over 2000 times the atmospheric concentration of CO2, some wobbly lights and an uncalibrated thermometer...

Feb 27, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The point is that the heat is not trapped in any meaningful way, the supposed two watts per square metre are no more trapped than the first 344 watts. They are free to go. They radiate to space just like the rest of the heat. It is an open system and it is not subject to a zero-sum analysis.

In my own naive evaluation, who is to say the 'extra heat' doesn't radiate between 3am and 3.10am every morning? It would only affect temperature minima in the early hours. Hardly catastrophic.

Feb 27, 2014 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

If the Fellows are happy with this, fine. They will be judged in due course.

If they believe, as I do, that the RS does not speak with their full confidence, then they should speak out now. The RS deliberately speaks to reassure policymakers that the science is more certain than ever. I see no evidence to support their claim.

If events show that the RS have got this badly wrong, then the Fellows will have been judged to support this stance taken in the name of the RS. Speak now or be sued later.

Feb 27, 2014 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Can I suggest that the better equipped contributors to BH (of which there are many) carry out an analysis of the answers given in the Q&A section on the RS site and indicate to what extent they agree or disagree with those answers (with reasons where there is disagreement). I for one would find this of great value and I am sure others would also.

Feb 27, 2014 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterTC

steveta_uk: I think rhoda has answered for me. Given that oxygen and nitrogen are poor emitters of infra-red, it is those two gases that could be said (but not by me) to 'trap heat'. The greenhouse gases are the ones radiating energy to space and so are dissipating, rather than trapping, the heat that exists in the atmosphere.

Feb 27, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

'ullo John, got a new Model?<\a>

Feb 28, 2014 at 6:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce Hoult

The headline is 97% accurate. Only the word "not" is missing.

Feb 28, 2014 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Is Bob Ward required to release Grantham Investment Prospectus each time he speaks to the media?

Feb 28, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

'Greenhouse gases trap heat...'

Only, I suggest, if there is a greenhouse over them...

Feb 28, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

If there are Fellows who disagree, such as Freeman Dyson it is time they found a backbone. It is obvious that Fellow are academically bright but many appear to have weak characters. I would suggest that what we have in western society is the result of having it very easy since the late 1950s. Most of the ruling class come from the middle and upper middle class, who with the end of National Service, have been able to avoid any physical and mental hardship. Consequently, those attending good schools and universities , who have worked at their studies have been able to enjoy a level of comfort and freedom from hardship , perhaps unknown in human history. Consequently, very few of the ruling class have had their mettle( spirit tested) and now it shows.
If one looks at Classical Greece and Rome it was recognised that anyone who wished to govern had to have served the country in the army or navy.
Below are quotes from C S lewis
Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
If one looks at the obituary columns over the last 20 years there have been countless examples of men and women in their teens and early 20s risking their lives in wars. Goeoffrey Wellum was pilot at 18 and Squadron Leader at 21, other were Lt Colonels in the special forces at 24.
I suggest most most upper middle class academics have followed the second C S lewis quotation where the demand for rigorous collection and analysis of environmental data has been has been allowed to slowly decline in order to enable people to keep on publishing papers in order to climb the academic ladder. My experience of most academics is that they are invertebrates and they become easily dominated by anyone who has slightly more backbone, drive and verbal aggression. If one looks at many at many arts, humanities and social science faculties since the late 1960s they have become dominated by a relatively few verbally aggressive left wing people .
If the reputation of science and engineering is to be saved then it is time academics demanded rigorous collection and analysis of data and face down all those who call them "Deniers". The reality is that all those who use the word " Denier " are trying to recreate The Inquisition.

Feb 28, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

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