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« Building up to Paris | Main | Green shoots of decay »
Thursday
Feb192015

More numbers

Tamsin Edwards has posted some more details about the Climate by Numbers show at the start of next month. Of particular interest is the official blurb for the show:

In a special film for BBC Four, three mathematicians will explore three key statistics linked to climate change.

In Climate Change by Numbers, Dr Hannah Fry, Prof Norman Fenton and Prof David Spiegelhalter hone in on three numbers that lie at the heart of science’s current struggle to get a handle on the precise processes and impact of climate global climate change.

Prof Norman Fenton said: “My work on this programme has revealed the massive complexity of climate models and the novel challenges this poses for making statistical predictions from them.”

The three numbers are:

  •  0.85 degrees – the amount of warming the planet has undergone since 1880
  • 95% – the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made
  • one trillion tonnes – the cumulative amount of carbon that can be burnt, ever, if the planet is to stay below ‘dangerous levels’ of climate change

All three numbers come from the most recent set of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Prof David Spiegelhalter said: “It’s been eye-opening to find out what these important numbers are actually based on.”

In this programme, the three scientists unpack what the history of these three numbers are; where did they come from? How have they been measured? How confident can we be in their accuracy? In their journeys they drill into the very heart of how science itself works, from data collection, through testing theories and making predictions, giving us a unique perspective  on the past, present and future of our changing climate.

Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor BBC Four, said: “This 75 minute special takes a whole new perspective on the issue of climate change. It puts aside the politics to concentrate on the science. It offers no definitive answers, but it does show the extraordinary achievements and the challenges still facing scientists who are attempting to get a definitive answer to what are perhaps the biggest scientific questions currently facing mankind.”

Executive Producer Jonathan Renouf said: “Who would have thought there’d be a link between the navigation system used to put men on the moon, and the way scientists work out how much the planet is warming up? It’s been great fun to come at climate change from a fresh angle, and discover stories that I don’t think anyone will have heard before.”

This all looks very interesting and could lead to some revealing questions being raised.

One other point of note. Jonathan Renouf was the producer of Earth: Climate Wars.

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Reader Comments (90)

They lost me at "hone in on".

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:25 PM | Registered CommenterMique

A 0.85 rise since the end of the little ice age. Should we be surprised at the rise or concerned the rise is so small?

What is the 'correct ' temperature. That of 1880? 1780? 1680?

Tonyb

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyb

the first - is so what - it has warmed yes - doesn't prove cause, proportions due to man vs natural

the second, well we will see if that figure gets adjusted other the next decade, expert opinion, not evidence as such

the third number is the really contentious one...

But as this (and more) is going to get burnt, we shall wait and see if 'dangerous' happens

Sometimes I think the scientist, etc still have no idea what the issues are.

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

"It’s been great fun to come at climate change from a fresh angle"

This (among other things) makes it sound like its a Climatainment TV Magazine-Style show.

Will Ryan Seacrest be making a guest appearance?

Andrew

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

a clarification?

does that trillion tonnes refer to 2C being dangerous (or 4C or 6C,) what value of surface temp is associated with that 'dangerous'..

let's hope the programme actually specifies what 'dangerous' actually is, specifically, or is that to be left to the viewing publics (sometimes feverish, if you are Greenpeace) imaginations.

If 2C, is 'dangerous' - I presumes, that means, we've had ~0.8, only 1.2C to go?

My expectations of this TV programme are sinking fast, (number 3)

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Executive Producer Jonathan Renouf said: “Who would have thought there’d be a link between the navigation system used to put men on the moon, and the way scientists work out how much the planet is warming up?
Nope, you got me there, Jonathan. The IBM computers in the moon-landers had less computing power than my current tablet computer. Then again, maybe that is the link: the climate computers just don't have enough power.

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Cassian Harrison, with his vest on, says

"It offers no definitive answers..."
but the problem with controversial BBC is that they are not very good at asking the right questions.

To whit,

"One trillion tonnes – the cumulative amount of carbon that can be burnt, ever, if the planet is to stay below ‘dangerous levels’ of climate change"

The question itself appears to assume a lot that can be disagreed with. I guess I will see whether they approach this with an 'inquiring mind'. But, despite the honourable Tamsin Edwards' assurances, I am not too hopeful. In this matter the BBC has already spent all of their bankable trust as far as I am concerned.

Feb 19, 2015 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Even if the 95% certainty were real then this is not enough to destroy the world economy. Would you cross the street if you knew you had a one in twenty chance of being run over?

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterNiels

Yeah, Renouf also produced "Meltdown". Of course, we don't know for sure until we see it, but I have little or no confidence in the producer. It doesn't bode well.

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

Oh yes and how could we forget his contribution to climategate, where he goes to great lengths to explain how Briffa should give Paul Rose his road to Damascus moment:

http://www.ecowho.com/foia.php?file=1683.txt

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

...extraordinary achievements...

Politically? Turning manure into gold.
Scientifically? Turning gold into manure.

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:26 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

The "95% certainty" is based on an opinion of climate scientists. Given that AGW has been around for over 25 years, what is the track record of this consensus of experts in their subject?
Has warming accelerated in since 1998 following the acceleration in the rate of increase in human emissions?
Have hurricanes increased following Katrina?
Have Arctic sea ice levels continued to decrease following the low of Sept 2007?
Have we crossed any of the tipping points of the climate system - or even moved towards them - following the Lenton et al 2007 Paper. (http://www.pnas.org/content/105/6/1786.long)
Have crops yields been falling in Africa, or has snow become less in the UK, or has polar ice melt been accelerating or has disease been on the increase?
If any of these has failed to come about, then the opinions of the climate experts is not a proxy for probabilistic odds based on the re-occurrence of events that frequently happened in the past.

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Of those three numbers, how many could be regarded as "facts"?

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Scrase

The truthfulness of the program will depend on the starting premise and context.

I'm personally just fed up of being browbeaten by the hidden agenda merchants. I'd rather trust a used car salesman than some of the so called "experts"

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton


95% – the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made

Which is not the same as the


95% – the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made

The first is based upon opinion whilst the second would have to be based upon science.

Feb 19, 2015 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

If you took 100 climate modellers out of their air condioned offices, and sent them to work for a year, n tents, half in Siberia, and half in the Sahara, they would conclude with 100% confidence, that air conditioning was easier to work in, and more predictable.

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

If the challenges are novel in 2015, most of the work done since 1989 is little more than child play

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:08 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Mike Singleton, don't be so rude about car salesman. At least they are honest about earning more money out of making big numbers seem reasonable.

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Maybe they should be investigating the magic number "ECS"....

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJit

0.85 degrees – the amount of warming the planet has undergone since 1880, firstly its meaningless to claim there is such a thing as 'average' temperature for the planet and secondly has ever in climate 'science; great claims are not back up with good let alone great evidenced. You may be able to get two decimal place accuracy now, but in 1880 no chance .


95% – the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made a number that was not based on any rational basis but effectively pulled out of hat because the IPCC 'needed' to claim this level

one trillion tonnes – the cumulative amount of carbon that can be burnt, ever, if the planet is to stay below ‘dangerous levels’ of climate change, a number based on mode based speculation and guess work for those advocating AGW .

In short all three values have series issues of creditability , some actual have no real meaning . And the chances of the BBC mentioning this are ?
Well its fair to say that the infamous 28 meeting did not set the pro AGW direction of the BBC it merely reinforced what was already there . So it may fair to say snowball in hells chance and we can expect a another attempt to soft soap the issue with the line , although there may be some very 'minor issues' these numbers still prove its worse than we thought and climate 'scientists' are god like in their actions.

Taken advice form the BBC on AGW is like taken advice form the BNP a race relations .

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Jonathan Renouf has a lot of previous on using the BBC as an alarmist platform

He wasn't just the chief producer on Climate Wars but also produced the equally biased & naff Meltdown: A Global Warming Journey.

He has also co-authored with Naomi Oreskes a highly misleading atricle on Jason!. Remember Oreskes was a consultant on Climate Wars!!!!!!!!

"Today the scientific argument about the broad principles of what we are doing to the Earth's climate is over. By releasing huge quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere we are warming the world"

Thursday, 18 September 2008
*JASON AND THE SECRET CLIMATE CHANGE WAR
From the Sunday Times

However, there was a correction to the article later!

With this pedigree of alarmism do not hold your breath, this will be the typical BBC propaganda!

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Ah, the "numbers or policy racket", odds so stacked they tried hard to get Capone on that score, eventually spawned The RICO Act!

Now, using equally skewed numbers it is promoted by government organisations:-

Climate Bingo!

But then again, my folks enjoy another more cost effective and succinct version:-

Climate Bingo

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:32 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

They picked the wrong first two numbers. The key number are how much of the ~0.8C is anthropogenic ( maybe half?), and how much natural. Second, what is the climate TCR/ECS. What will the climate response be, how fast if maybe 1.3/1.7 instead of iPCC 1.8/3. Program is likely a setup. Trillion tons sounds scarey until you look at how many hundreds of gigatons of carbon dioxide cycle naturally each year between land, ocean, and atmosphere. Estimaytes on NASA's website.

Feb 19, 2015 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

The most important number is 30. Without it, there would be no climate to change, it wouldn't exist.

Feb 20, 2015 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

"95% – the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made" equates to 19/1 that half the warming isn't man made.

I like a good bet and that is the bet of the century. I would say it is odds-on that half isn't man made.

TerryS is spot on. And it is the gap between their (erroneous) opinions and the science (data) that would provide the profit.

Of course there is no real way of knowing the true proportion so the alarmists can hide behind that and carry on their merry way.

I so wish I'd found a way to profit from their confident wrongness and take them on. But everything is too vague, there's no way to pin them down with a provable outcome.

Feb 20, 2015 at 12:04 AM | Registered CommenterSimonW

Is the programme going to consider the amount of warming identified from 1880 to1980, recorded before the first IPCC report, and the amount of warming identified from 1880 to 1980 identified in the latest IPCC report, and examine man's influence on identifying different temperatures over the same period?

Obviously thermometers made today are better at recording temperatures from over 100 years ago

Perhaps these are some of the eye opening numbers we can expect to see examined, along with others from IPCC peer reviewed science.

Feb 20, 2015 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Attempting to predict climate using GCMs is a nonsense and it's only use is as a large scale job creation exercise, at which it is magnificently successful. The evidence points to the major driver of climate being the Sun. No one knows what the Sun is going to do next week, next month or next year and I'm betting we'll never know in advance. Even the current solar cycle is behaving strangely. The whole climate modelling business is an exercise in utter futility as a result of the manifest unpredictability of the large fusion reactor sitting up there above our heads that drives the climate of this and all the other planets.

Feb 20, 2015 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

Presumably 'recent warming' means since 1970 or so. Satellite records show warming since 1970 at a rate of about 1.0 to 1.4 degree C per century. Half of that would be 0.7 deg C per century. If the human race, by dint of great sacrifices, can hold down our CO2 emissions a bit, maybe we could reduce man-made global warming by 0.1 deg per century. How many trillions of dollars is that worth?

Feb 20, 2015 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid in Cal

Heh, the 0.85 degrees C temperature rise has been all beneficial, as will any future man aided rise. The 95% confidence in attribution is hilarious, so controversial as attribution is. Trillion tons to dangerous? Depends upon the sensitivity, currently undetected, and rate of rise, neither of which appear to threaten man, by man's hand.

So what've they got? A busted flush? Flourish the fourflusher's blushing embarrassment.
===================

Feb 20, 2015 at 1:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

"Prof Norman Fenton said: “My work on this programme has revealed the massive complexity of climate models and the novel challenges this poses for making statistical predictions from them.”'

No the stats is easy; 'It's worse then we thought' is the statistical analysis.

Feb 20, 2015 at 1:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocMartyn

I must object to the concept that there is a maximum amount of carbon the can be burned, ever, to presumably not exceed the 2 degree temperature rise deemed to be safe. My understanding is that the annual rise of carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa is about a half percent of the current 400 ppm, = 2 ppm. But when estimates are made of worldwide total emission from carbon burning, it's about twice as much, = 4 ppm. So only half is staying in the atmosphere, the other half is absorbed by plants, the oceans, some eventually incorporated in coral, animal skeletons, sea shells, and not returned to the atmosphere for a really long time. So if we stop adding any CO2 to the atmosphere suddenly, these processes with still operate, and remove 2 ppm CO2 each year, gradually lowering the CO2 component of the atmosphere. Therefore, if mankind reduces carbon burning to about half the current amount annually, carbon dioxide should stay at about 400 ppm "forever".

Feb 20, 2015 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterMayor of Venus

“They picked the wrong first two numbers. The key number are how much of the ~0.8C is anthropogenic ( maybe half?), and how much natural” Rud Istvan 11:36 PM
===========================
Proxies, for what they are worth, show CO2 began to rise around 1880 but human emissions could not have been a significant factor before around 1945 - 50.
http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/trends/emis/graphics/global.total.jpg

Feb 20, 2015 at 2:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

The correct answer is 42.
Now, what was the question?

Feb 20, 2015 at 2:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

This sounds like aversion therapy straight out of 'A Clockwork Orange'. Tie an intelligent individual to a seat, make them watch this twisted idiocy and they will never watch another telly programme again. The very sight of a television will turn them into a quivering, irrational wreck.

Probably funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

Feb 20, 2015 at 3:06 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Since satellites have emerged as the dominant means of measurement, temperature has not increased. The countless means of fiddling both the current and historical NUMBERS have disappeared like snow off a dyke.

RIP global warming, hello climate change.

Feb 20, 2015 at 3:16 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Ding-a-ling #3 has a logical fallacy "one trillion tonnes – the cumulative amount of carbon that can be burnt, EVER, if the planet is to stay below ‘dangerous levels’ of climate change"
- Hmm CO2 may well persist much longer in the atmosphere than methane, but no one says it persists for ever. . So the prog makers should of expressed a time period.

And Bizarrely - When I searched on "CO2 persists for" not only did I get a mass of varying answers, but instead of saying "we don't know" each one expressed certainty for their chosen figure : 10s of years, about 100, 125, 200, hundreds of years, millenia (SkS)

Feb 20, 2015 at 3:37 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

95% of climate models failed to predict 'the hiatus'.

The 5% that did, did so by luck not judgement.

Feb 20, 2015 at 3:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Golf Charlie,

You are correct, my comment does come over as insulting to used car salesmen and I apologize wholeheartedly.

Perhaps the climate "experts" should study at the feet of the rust bucket sales specialists, they at least are able to support their families without relying on tax breaks, subsidies or other government largesse. Whilst they do tend to empty the pockets of the average taxpayer at least the customer places themselves in that position voluntarily and has options and most importantly has something to show for their expenditure, not just a bunch of very expensive, useless bits and bytes and endless conjecture and posturing.

I really am starting to find this ceaseless "re-positioning of Armageddon" boring. It's a bit like watching a second rate movie, one wishes one had never started watching it and regrets the wasted time but one does just have to see it through to a likely very predictable anti-clima(c)tic end.

Feb 20, 2015 at 4:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

The key number are how much of the ~0.8C is anthropogenic ( maybe half?)
Feb 19, 2015 at 11:36 PM Rud Istvan

Since the end of the LIA there has been ~0.8C warming. IPCC says that anthropogenic forcing may be responsible for half of the warming of the second half of the 20th century. So is that ~0.2C?, ~0.25C?, ~0.3C?

Feb 20, 2015 at 5:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Temperature measurements no longer matter. No further research is needed. As One Trillion Tonnes of CO2 is a magic number and one that can be incremented regardless of temperature or reality: the focus is now on the new doomsday One Trillion Tonnes of CO2 countdown clock.

It is a much simpler propaganda solution.

All that needs to be done now is pursue the end goal of rationing & charging premiums to developed countries for emitting CO2 to finance the planned massive United Nations oversight infrastructure.

Feb 20, 2015 at 5:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

My work on this programme has revealed the massive complexity of climate models and the novel challenges this poses for making statistical predictions from them.

Once they are dealing with models they are no longer doing science.

Feb 20, 2015 at 6:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterTruthseeker

I know, with 97.7% certainty, that any change in climate will prove beneficial to some segment of Life on Earth.

(p.s, "No matter how absolutely certain you are, about anything, you might be wrong.")

Feb 20, 2015 at 6:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterSlywolfe

Paul in Sweden:
they said one trillion tonnes of CARBON. Take them at their word, assume they know what they are talking about - I know that is a big ask - but they can't really complain.

So that gives us about 100 years to go at the current rate of emission. (109 years based on 2010 figures). We will need a maximum of 15 years before the whole scare becomes laughable.

Feb 20, 2015 at 6:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

When you consider that the natural range of absolute temperature on the earth is around 110-120C (coldest recorded to warmest) talking about a 0.85C rise and a 2C change as catastrophic is rather like discussing the eternal significance of the pimple on the bum of a flea's flea.

Feb 20, 2015 at 6:27 AM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

On 'More or Less" Prof David Spiegelhalter is usually very reliable, for a statistician. It will be interesting to see how he makes an opinion of 95% certainty into something statistical in nature.

Feb 20, 2015 at 6:42 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The number I would have wanted them to explain is 0.67. That is the fraction of the energy flux which warms the surface of the earth that comes from greenhouse gases. I would love them to explain why the sun is only responsible for 0.33 of the energy flux we receive (as the IPCC, the Met Office etc all claim).

Feb 20, 2015 at 6:57 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Paul in Sweden:
they said one trillion tonnes of CARBON. Take them at their word, assume they know what they are talking about - I know that is a big ask - but they can't really complain.

So that gives us about 100 years to go at the current rate of emission. (109 years based on 2010 figures). We will need a maximum of 15 years before the whole scare becomes laughable.
Feb 20, 2015 at 6:25 AM | Graeme No.3

Sounds like a lot of fun can be had with the 'CARBON' people by teasing them about how much more of an envelope we have since we are only calculating the weight of the carbon in the CO2.

Feb 20, 2015 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

"95% – the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made"
//////////////////////

What is meant by "recent"? eg., say last 60 years? Manmade CO2 emissions were modest prior to 1950 so this would be a reasonable interpretation of the expression "recent".

How much warming has there been these past 60 years? According to Hadcrut4, about 0.4degC.
See, for example: http://woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1952/to:2014 (the anomaly has risen from ~0degC to +0.4degC during this period).

If half of that is anthropogenic, it means that there has only been some 0.2degC of manmade warming these past 60 years.

Feb 20, 2015 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Proposition: That the warming that occurred between 1970 and 2000 was caused by the same thing that caused the very similar warming between 1910 and 1945.

You need to know that we don't know what caused the 1910-45 warming. It certainly wasn't CO2 according to the IPCC.

Now disprove the proposition. You can't

Now justify the 95%. You can't.

QED

Feb 20, 2015 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

“It’s been eye-opening"
It is indeed eye-opening to see what the 95% number is (or rather isn't) based on. I hope that's what Spiegelhalter means.
But the fact that he claims this number is "important" is not encouraging.

Feb 20, 2015 at 8:55 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

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