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Discussion > Are All Betts Off For Climate Science Funding?

Richard Betts, late of this diocese, and I, have just had an interesting discussion on Twitter about the decision of CSIRO to cut 350 climate science jobs. Naturally Richard thought that this was a retrograde step akin to firing the plumber who’d just told you there was a leak in your home. Of course his analogy is wrong in the case of climate change. First of all our “plumbers” are telling us we will have a leak in the future unless we turn off the water. Then there’s the problem of them not being “plumbers” at all in the sense that they don’t have the skills to fix the leak, or prevent one happening in the future. Their expertise, such as it is, is in looking at the pipework and predicting its future state.


@richardabetts @Brereton_N We're told the world's going to hell in a hand basket. We believe you, now we should pay engineers to find fix.

@GerryMorrow You, a Bishop Hill regular, says "We believe you"? Now *that's* what @Cartoonsbyjosh would call a "keeper"! ;) @Brereton_N.

@richardabetts @Cartoonsbyjosh @Brereton_N I do, so cli sci work is done and we shld spend the money, on practical, engineering research.

@GerryMorrow What sort of engineering solutions do you suggest should be researched? @Cartoonsbyjosh @Brereton_N

@richardabetts @Cartoonsbyjosh @Brereton_N Generation of cheap reliable none/low CO2 emitting, high efficiency (80%+) electricity.

@GerryMorrow Totally agree that's needed. Can we invent & deploy before we're committed to big climate changes? @Cartoonsbyjosh @Brereton_N.

Let’s get the “believe” word out of the way first. I believe the climate scientists are sincere in their belief that the world is warming. I believe that too. I believe the climate scientists are sincere in their belief that there will be problems caused by this warming. I don’t know about that because that’s the sort of belief that indicates one’s personality type. Fear of the future is as part of being a human being as is being tall, some of us are and some of us aren’t. I, and I suspect most people on this blog, fall into the not fearing for the future category. As did Thomas MacAuly:

"On what principle is it, that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?"

Thomas MacAuly

However, the alarmists have the high ground, so for me, as when dealing with Mrs. geronimo, who wouldn’t know where the low ground was, it is better to concede the point and try to salvage something useful from the situation.

So my proposal is that we drastically reduce climate change research funding and use the money saved to instigate research into low/no CO2 emitting electricity generation systems that are cheap to the consumer and aren’t intermittent.

Richard’s repost is positive but he points to the obvious flaw, which is how could they be developed and deployed before some tipping points are reached. Well the obvious flaw to him at least.

It isn’t obvious to me that the current solutions will work. The widespread deployment of CO2 free electricity generating systems based on windmills and solar doesn’t look remotely feasible over any time scale. Could be wrong, but they’re neither useful, nor economical in solving the problem of CO2 emissions.

Nor are the Indians, Chinese and myriad other developing nations going to adopt expensive, intermittent, wind and solar in sufficient time to avert the imagined catastrophes.

So, as the Irish saying goes, “A winks as good as a nod to a blind horse”, neither solution will solve the problem, but moving our money from the “scary story” factory that climate change science has become, into researching something that would ultimately benefit human beings seems the obvious choice to me.

Feb 8, 2016 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

If you argue that we should simply fund research into low/no CO2 technology then you're arguing for a largely mitigation-based approach. I think Richard's point (and he can correct me if I'm wrong) is that some of what we will have to do in future is adapt. Things like sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns,..... It's important, therefore, to have some idea of what level of adaptation is required and that would require funding research that will be able to address this issue. Even in a mitigation-based scenario you have timescale issues. For example, how fast should we be deploying low/no CO2 technology?

Feb 8, 2016 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I'm not suggesting all funding cease for climate science. I'm saying we need to accept what the scientists are telling us, and thank them for their contribution but now pass the ball onto those who will give us acceptable solutions to our problems. Significant sea level rises will only occur is there are massive melts of the Antarctic, or Greenland sheets, neither is likely to happen in timescales short of millennia, and talking of either is definitely coming from the Scary Story Factory.

Feb 8, 2016 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I didn't say significant. There will be areas that will have to respond to, for example, sea level rise, whether it's deemed significant or not. Having some idea of whether you're planning for 0.2m, or 0.5m can have a big impact on what you actually do.


I'm saying we need to accept what the scientists are telling us, and thank them for their contribution but now pass the ball onto those who will give us acceptable solutions to our problems.

I agree with the principle that much of what we should be focussing on solutions. I don't think, however, that that requires completely destroying a major research area at a major national facility.

Feb 8, 2016 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I believe the climate scientists are sincere in their belief that the world is warming.

Yes, I agree but that brings up a full discussion in itself. What category does that belief fall into?

1. The world has warmed but is currently in a 'hiatus' period.
2. The world has warmed continuously since the 1850's.
3. The world has warmed naturally from a cold period with little effect from mans emissions.
4. The world has warmed from a cold period with a noticeable effect from mans emissions.
5. The world would not have warmed from the cold period apart from mans emissions.

The views each hold upon the topic will be as wide as the scientific view and this discussion has been repeated over the last twenty years without conclusion.... Unless you take the political angle which seems to be the 'one option' now and brush all the debate to one side so that you can focus on applying policy.

This must be tackled before a 'tipping point' is reached, evidenced by model projections that have no reliability against actual data but indicate a necessity to do 'something' now.

That something would be the master plan to save the world which I for one thought had been decided for us by the political elite and was surprised to find out that it wasn't 'credible'. Which is why climate scientists are still the No1 go to guys when the bat emblem shines on the clouds above Gotham city and shouldn't be released from their duty as in the Australian situation.

So where as the majority of people on blogs of this nature are not yet convinced of the need for policy to mitigate climate change some scientists have moved way past that and are now petitioning for the responsibility of setting the policy because they don't believe the duly elected politicians can achieve a credible plan. Purely a twitter conversation though, no connection to official policy or thoughts of setting the direction of debate for UK ministers.....

Feb 8, 2016 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

So 350 jobs is about $20million annually. That can doubtless fund a bit of research into alternative generating technology and in a place like Zimbabwe, it would be a big deal. But in an economy half the size of the UK's it is about 1/1000 percent of GDP - peanuts. The government probably spends more on taxis in a year.

Feb 8, 2016 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

"I don't think, however, that that requires completely destroying a major research area at a major national facility." Neither do I, but there's too much money sloshing around in climate science for it's own good. Of course I doubt anyone in climate science would agree with me.

Back to the analogy, we don't need pay people to tell us our plumbing will deteriorate if we don't do something about it. We need to do something about it. So even if you don't believe the plumbing will cause future problems it's better to spend the money on researching for cheaper, more resilient plumbing systems. Then, if the pipework prognosticators are wrong we'll still have spent our money on something useful.

Employing bright enthusiastic people to produce "Scary Stories" so we will follow a political agenda set by environmentalists isn't useful. Let's put the money to better use.

LB. The arguments can be taken at a lot of different levels. Personally I don't believe any of the scare stories simply because scaring people about the future so they'll do as you wish is as old as the hills. The first known case of it came in the bible when Moses went to the top of the mountain and returned with a set of rules that had to be followed in order to avoid the wrath of God.

According to the scientists if we don't give up burning fossil fuels we're going to destroy the world. The world's politicians have bought into it. They believe that 97% of scientist have bought into it. Contra views are are all but banned from the MSM, countries are carpeted with windmills, and solar farms. Our children and grandchildren are indoctrinated in schools to believe humans are ruining the planet, and amid all this there is no real effort being made to design new, cheap, CO2 free, or near free, electricity generating systems, which is odd.

We could carry on the arguments, but basically we're stymied, not by the weight of evidence, there isn't any conclusive evidence so the fall back position is "uncertainty" is OK in science. But this isn't "science" as we know it it's more like a "social science", so let's accept what the environmentalists/scientists are telling us about the future and move our money from frightening the children to getting some new systems to take the scare away.

It's only an idea.

Feb 8, 2016 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Thanks Raff you always bring something to the table with your mature observations.

Feb 8, 2016 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

On the other hand, your understanding of climate scientists and what they do might just be woefully poor, as illustrated by this comment


Employing bright enthusiastic people to produce "Scary Stories" so we will follow a political agenda set by environmentalists isn't useful.

Did you consider that possibility?

Feb 8, 2016 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Well how much do you think they spend on taxis every year, geronimo?

Feb 8, 2016 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Raff,
DEFRA spends about £50 million annually on mitigation and adaptation.

According to the GWPF which, unless you come up with contrary information, I'm prepared to believe, the UK will have invested £85 billion in the 10 years to 2021. More than half — about £47.6 billion — will have gone on funding green levies, such as subsidies for wind farms, added to consumer fuel bills. A further £17 billion will have been spent by government departments and quangos.

Apparently we're funding of “low carbon” agriculture in Colombia at a cost of £15 million alone,

The EU’s commissioner for climate action said that a fifth of the EU’s £805 billion budget from 2014 to 2020 would go on “climate-related spending”.

Taxi fares, aye that'll be right.

Feb 8, 2016 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Employing bright enthusiastic people to produce "Scary Stories" so we will follow a political agenda set by environmentalists isn't useful. Let's put the money to better use.

Feb 8, 2016 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Yup.
Nail, hammer.
Hammer, nail.

But I'll admit my own bias, in that I always found it difficult to work on a problem (practical or theoretical) if I couldn't see a useful endpoint.

Theoreticians are a very necessary part of science advancement, but they need to be grounded in reality before they are given funds to wander off. Especially when they come back and say we need to discard all of the industrial development that brought them to this enlightened state.

Most of the climate twaddle doesn't even come close to half-decent science. And that which does is significantly motivated by people using the new excuse to do what they they were already doing. The same thing happened a few years ago when many Chemists, Physicists, Material Scientists, etcetera used the theme of "nano-technology" to continue doing Chemistry, Physics and Material Science, etcetera.

It can be a hard search for funding, and not many poor researchers will get recognition, but everything should be justified on its merits. When everything is blamed on global warming then we are simply back to square one with everyone lobbying for their discipline because they can link it to global-warming.

Feb 8, 2016 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Sandy, as I said, next to the figures you just quoted, the $20million saved by closing down climate research is peanuts. I've seen people here saying they want such research done properly or professionally or some such, so how does closing it down entirely fit? And they probably do spend more on taxi fares.

Feb 8, 2016 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Raff,
We're really talking about changing the direction of Climate Research, in fact if the science is settled no further research is required? So all the effort which involves how the climate is going to change can be dropped, as can any research into what happens as the climate changes we know that too. So as we're going to let nature do what it wants unhindered then we also know how to cope with that. So, for example, no new building of any kind lower than 150' above (current) sea level. By this action we should be able to shave 10-20% off the billions spent on Climate Change, or divert it into building houses on what are now sheep rearing hill farms.

About half the 80 Climate related PhD projects currently available in the UK can be canned and the money used to research more pressing problems like Zika, or energy efficient taxis helping to reduce taxi fares.

Feb 9, 2016 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

On the other hand, your understanding of climate scientists and what they do might just be woefully poor, as illustrated by this comment


Employing bright enthusiastic people to produce "Scary Stories" so we will follow a political agenda set by environmentalists isn't useful.

Did you consider that possibility?

Yes I did, that's what they do. I'm not impugning their integrity, I am assuming they're doing their best. But apparently almost to a man and woman they believe they can foretell the future in the face of their lamentable performance in forecasting future temperature rises.

Richard Betts is on twitter today talking about sea level rises and how scary they'll be if we continue to warm the world. The last time the world warmed by 6C (the very top of the IPCC range) after the Younger-Dyas event, sea-levels went up 110 metres over a 6000 year period. What's that in millimetres per year? 18mm? Or if you prefer between 8 and 9 inches. When asked Richard admits that if sea level rises it will be over millennia. Only the press don't ask, they just put out scare stories of 7 metre sea level rises.

It's the classic Malthusian mistake of taking two variables from a complex multi-variable system, extrapolating them, and then saying that's what the future looks like. I don't know whether they're right or wrong, and never will, but I'm saying they're right, so we don't need them scaring the public anymore, we need to put a programme in place to get some scientific/engineering know how into building cheap, reliable electricity generating systems. There is nothing climate science can do to add to the debate now they've made their forecasts. Unless continued research leads them to change their minds. I doubt they'd want that to happen.

Feb 9, 2016 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


that's what they do.

No, it's not what they do. They do research. The goal is to understand our climate, past, present in future. How it has changed, and how it might change in future, given various scenarios. That you don't understand this, does not make it not true. They do not do it so that we will follow a political agenda of any kind. Suggesting that they do is highly insulting. That people like Richard Betts actually spend some time engaging with people who will say such things speaks highly to his basic decency. I wish I could say the same for those who are regular contributors to this site, but I can't.

Feb 9, 2016 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

...and Then There's Physics, That is an ideal. But it is not the reality.

Tom Karl's use of inferior sea temperature samples to remove the hiatus is proof of that.

Or look at Myles Allen's bid for TV celebrity status with his 10°C prediction (or projection if you think jargon helps).

The reason climate science is treated with a contempt that real science avoids is because of the bias inherent in the field. There is a reason Climatology is not respected. There is a reason it has made no progress in thirty years (look at the uncertainties in the "projections" - they haven't reduced despite more research than any non-military field has ever had).

This bias is caused by that incredible level of funding. That level of funding which is provided because climate change is considered to be an urgent problem.
This funding - and most careers in environmental journalism / climatology - would disappear if the threat was considered to be low or easy to adapt to.

So that is not researched.

Feb 9, 2016 at 12:40 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

The goal is to understand our climate, past, present in future. How it has changed, and how it might change in future, given various scenarios. That you don't understand this, does not make it not true.

Here's what they do:

"Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks."

"Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise.

"Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development."

"Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts."

Pretty scary to me, and not one thing is going to get better if the world warms. I'd say they were scare stories, why say the oceans are getting more acidic when they're not acidic at all, so it's impossible to make them more acidic. I suppose "less alkaline" doesn't scare enough.

Now we know all this is going to happen with high confidence why would we want to keep on ploughing money into climate change research (I don't recollect anyone in the climate science community coming out and saying the science wasn't settled when Miliband Minor was spouting on about it), so let's divert some of it to the solution and get fund the scientists and engineers who are best able to provide a low cost, reliable, electrical generating systems. Why not?

Feb 9, 2016 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


why say the oceans are getting more acidic when they're not acidic at all

For the same reason why it's possible to say it's getting warmer without it actually being warm.


so let's divert some of it to the solution and get fund the scientists and engineers who are best able to provide a low cost, reliable, electrical generating systems. Why not?

Firstly because the amount of money spent on climate science research is probably too small to really make any difference. Secondly, because of all the people with whom you probably associate (like the host of this science denial site) who do their utmost to undermine the research that is presented. Thirdly, because it just seems like a fundamentally cynical attempt to undermine a research area because what it's presenting is inconvenient.

Feb 9, 2016 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

What a nasty bit of goods you are Rice.

The amount of money spent on climate research is in the $Bns worldwide. Did you think I was talking about the Met Office budget?

Feb 9, 2016 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


What a nasty bit of goods you are Rice.

I'd avoided saying the same to you. I probably shouldn't have. I have no doubt you don't like what I say. That's not a reason why I shouldn't say it. You could try thinking about this for a while, or you could continue associating with science denial and whining when people point out that you're mostly talking crap.


The amount of money spent on climate research is in the $Bns worldwide. Did you think I was talking about the Met Office budget?

Really? What are you including? Every satellite that collects data? How much can we cut before we don't even have weather reports anymore?

Feb 9, 2016 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP

If you had black paint and white paint then adding a dash of white paint to the black would not lead to it being whiter.

Feb 10, 2016 at 6:43 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Rice

Really? What are you including? Every satellite that collects data? How much can we cut before we don't even have weather reports anymore?

The difference between weather and climate

"Weather and climate are different; climate predictions do not need weather detail."

Feb 13, 2016 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterclipe