Climate change & 1998

The Garnaut report is out and climate change is back on the agenda. And Clive Hamilton and John Quiggin have been back to their usual game of vilifying people they disagree with as “denialists” and “delusionists”. They say the debate is over. I disagree.

I’m not an AGW-alarmist. But I’m not an AGW-denialist. I’m a sceptic… which means that I’m not quick to accept the story from any side. Some people seem to have a strong faith that the end of the world is nigh. Others seem to have a strong faith that nothing is happening and it’s all a leftist joke.

I don’t have faith (an opinion based on something other than reason) but I do have beliefs. Based on my reading of the science, I believe that human-induced global warming is a potential danger. But I also think that this danger has been blown out of proportion, that we should be very careful about introducing new government programs, and the debate has become so political that few people honestly consider the arguments of the “other side”.

I want to quickly mention one example where I think both sides have put politics before truth — and that is the issue of “no warming since 1998”. This is commonly said by AGW-sceptics and often dismissed as a distortion by AGW-proponents. Both have a point.

First, here is a graph of the temperatures over the past 30 years as provided by Climate Audit.

Temperature trends

1998 was hot. At the time, some AGW-proponents used this as evidence of global warming. Since then, temperatures have gone back to a more usual range. Some AGW-sceptics have used this as evidence that global warming has ended. Neither point is appropriate.

However, the AGW-sceptics do have a point that there hasn’t been much recent warming. If they said “no warming since 2002” then they would be on much stronger ground. AGW-proponents would accurately say that it’s too soon to conclude anything about this non-warming… and AGW-sceptics would accurately say that it’s worth watching carefully with an open-mind.

This is what would happen in an open and honest debate. But instead the two groups often talk straight past each other… looking only for evidence that supports their side… and looking for any reason to dismiss what the other side is saying.

So my plea is this. For AGW-sceptics… please start using 2002 as your base year, not 1998. For AGW-proponents… please consider the recent non-warming with an open mind and hope that perhaps things might not be so bad.

107 thoughts on “Climate change & 1998

  1. “I believe that human-induced global warming is a potential danger”

    That is good. It means you’re not a denialist (who believe there is no danger from AGW, or just benefits), but there actually aren’t that many around who properly fit that description, and AGW enthusiasts throw it around as a dismissive insult far too freely.

    “But I also think that this danger has been blown out of proportion”

    That’s fair, if you’re thinking about the alarmists. But there’s a variety of opinion on the level of danger AGW presents, as well as a wide range of probabilities for various detrimental outcomes. My own position is that we should insure ourselves (if possible) against low-probability but high-consequence outcomes, within reason.

    And lest your readers be led astray, that graph is not ‘temperatures’ but a graph of the temperature anomaly – how much the monthly temp varies from a baseline. If warming wasn’t happening, it should oscillate around the 0.0 line. Instead, it’s consistently above it. I’ll also say that you could have picked the second graph on Climate Audit, which shows even more warming. And if you click through to the link to the data, down the bottom it says “DECADAL TREND= 0.131 0.199 0.064” – that is, for the last 30 years, it’s been getting warmer.

    Lastly, sceptics should not heed your advice to use 2002 as a starting point for the cooling, because it strengthens the alarmist rebuttal that over such a short period of time (6 years) any dip could be just noise.

  2. Don’t you think that the fact that you’re posting this on a political blog, many of whose readers (wrongly IMHO) believe that accepting the findings of science would be devastating to your and their shared political position, rather undermines your credibility?

    There’s a name for choosing your factual beliefs on the basis of what you would like to be true, and that name is “delusion”.

  3. “accepting the findings of science would be devastating to your and their shared political position”

    Easy there, Professor. The relevant political position is that government action should be a last resort that is subject to rigorous cost/benefit analysis. Science never has and never could be “devastating” to libertarianism. If dealing with AGW means collective action is necessary, so be it. It’s just that, given the dangers of precipitous government action, libertarians set the bar high. Nothing delusional about that.

  4. John Quiggin you post about AGW all of the time and the byline for your blog is “Commentary on Australian & world events from a social-democratic perspective”. Does this mean you’re going to stop posting about it too?

  5. Much of the public, media, and political dialogue is indeed ideologically motivated. But the peer-reviewed scientific literature, by and large, is not. In the public, media, and political dialogue the issue is a debate; in the peer-reviewed scientific literature it’s not. Of course there are opinions (in the scientific literature) which disagree, but they’re outnumbered by a landslide.

    The “second” graph on ClimateAudit (as Jarrah refers to it in his 1st comment) is the satellite estimate of lower-troposphere temperature according to the way it’s processed by the team of analysts at RSS (Remote Sensing Systems). The “first” graph (reproduced here) is the satellite estimate of lower-troposphere temperature according to the way it’s processed by UAH (University of Alabama at Huntsville). Neither is a direct measurement, because satellites don’t measure the temperature in the lower troposphere (the lowest part of earth’s atmosphere), they measure it in higher layers. Those aren’t the only teams doing such analysis; there are also estimates from the U. of Washington and U. of Maryland, both of which show much more warming than either the RSS or UAH estimates. You can find out more about their results here.

    So you should bear in mind that neither choice is an actual temperature *measurement*; they’re both extrapolations from measurements of higher atmospheric layers. You should also bear in mind that neither is an estimate of *surface* temperature, but for lower-troposphere temperature.

    In my opinion, a more accurate representation of surface temperature is given by actual thermometer measurements taken at the surface. These are organized (and averages for the entire globe computed) by many different organizations, but the two most prominent are GISS (NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and HadCRU (the Hadley Center/Climate Research Unit associated with the U.K. Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia); some would also consider NCDC (the National Climate Data Center) to be among the leaders. You can view a comparison of their results here.

    The suggestion to “start using 2002 as your base year” might be good advice for a propagandist, but it’s bad advice if you want to know how climate may be changing. The present trend in global average temperature is about 0.02 deg.C/yr, but the “scatter” (standard deviation due to random fluctuations of the climate system) is about 0.1 deg.C. Since the “range” of random variation is usually about 4 times the scatter, the range of natural variation in annual temperature (about 0.4 deg.C) is 20 times larger than the annual trend. The point is, for short time spans the “noise” is a lot larger than the “signal” so you can’t really tell which way the system is trending; you need longer time spans to know. For a more complete explanation, look here.

    As for “please consider the recent non-warming with an open mind,” I prefer not only to keep an open mind, but to reject conclusions which are contradicted by rigorous statistical analysis. Episodes of non-warming even when the long-term trend continues, aren’t just possible — they’re inevitable — if it *didn’t* happen I’d know that the data were fautly. The shorter the time span studied, the more likely this is to happen. It’s a sign either of folly or dishonesty, for anyone to use such a brief episode to characterize the trend in global temperature. It’s like a cancer victim saying “I feel a little better today than I did yesterday, so my cancer must be in cured.” m a mathematician specializing in the statistical analysis of time series, and I’ve analyzed the data in depth. There’s no evidence at all — yet — that global warming has stopped.

    What troubles me most about the “debate” is how many people have strong opinions who really don’t know what they’re talking about. Read this.

  6. Really Quiggin? Would you like to “denounce” Svensmark immediately, and call out CERN as “delusionists” who “choose factual beliefs”? In my opinion we don’t know enough to act yet and any Government action so far has not passed a reliable cost benefits test.

    Is this like your WorkChoices testimony when you gave evidence “not as an economist”?

  7. And lest your readers be led astray, that graph is not ‘temperatures’ but a graph of the temperature anomaly – how much the monthly temp varies from a baseline. If warming wasn’t happening, it should oscillate around the 0.0 line. Instead, it’s consistently above it.

    Jarrah,

    You are right that it is temperature anomoly not temperature. Another way to graph the information would be in absoluted temperature. The only scale that would make any sense for such a graph would be the Kelvin scale. And if you put the Kelvin Scale on the left hand axis and choose 0 Kelvin as your baseline then we would be looking at a set of flat lines. Something quite boring.

    Also if the temperature is consistently above the base line then we have had warming relative only to the baseline. However we can’t read much into that unless we know how the baseline was decided on in the first place. If the height of the graph in the latter half of the period is higher relative to the earlier half of the period then we have warming over the period irrespective of where the baseline is. On first glance I would say that the period displayed does show a slight warming trend for both the northern hemisphere as well as globally.

  8. On this issue I don’t have much skepticism that the right government policy could reduce emissions reasonably effectively. My skepticism is based almostly entirely around the science. I have almost zero doubt that a revenue neutral carbon tax applied to energy usage, and which replaces the existing array of fuel taxes would be a useful reform. I’d vote for it even if the earth was undergoing a modest cool trend. In terms of the reform agenda the AGW proponents like John Quiggin could have me on their policy bandwagon if they formulated their policy the right way. However John seems to have me pegged as a delusionist and seems to think that delusionists should not be given any consideration in terms of formulating a policy response.

    So in summary:-

    1. Skeptical about the scientific fact of AGW – yes.
    2. Skeptical about a broadly based, revenue neutral carbon tax that replaces fuel tax – most certainly not.
    3. Skeptical about our ability to innovate low emission solutions over time – most certainly not.

    What annoys me about the whole debate is that both sides are inclined towards symbolism. Most of the advocates of action would howl if it involved lower taxes on petrol (even with higher taxes on coal produced electricity which produces more emissions per Joule). Whilst many of the critics of action seem to hate any possible reform that is associated with climate change concern.

  9. When determining whether or not temperature is changing, the choice of baseline is irrelevant. We don’t estimate changes by whether or not the temperature anomaly is positive or negative, precisely because the “zero point” is arbitary; we apply trend analysis, usually done by linear regression.

    For the UAH lower-troposphere temperature plotted here, the global trend is warming at 0.013 deg.C/yr, the NH trend is warming at 0.020 deg.C/yr, and both results are strongly “statistically significant” (meaning they’re not just due to the random noise in the climate system).

    For both the SH and the tropics the trend is warming at 0.006 deg.C/yr, but neither result is statistically significant. This doesn’t mean it isn’t warming (or cooling, for that matter), it just means that we can’t say with confidence that the rate of change is non-zero.

    The “usual” evaluation of statistical significance of a trend analysis indicates that the SH and Tropical warming *are* significant. But these data exhibit a phenomenon called “autocorrelation.” The *random fluctuations* of the climate system aren’t all independent of each other, instead nearby (in time) values tend to be similar. This tends to exaggerate the trend estimated from randomness alone, so it gives us a false sense of significance. However, autocorrelation can be corrected for in trend analysis; doing so shows that the SH and Tropical trends are not significant, they could be just random fluctuations.

    By the way, these graphs are *not* of lower-troposphere temperature estimates from UAH, they’re “12-month running means” of lower-troposphere temperature from UAH. Each plotted value is the average of 12 values; this is done to “smooth” the plot, because the noise in the data is large enough that if you plot the data unsmoothed it’s very “choppy” which makes it harder to see the overall pattern. Running means will smooth the plot, but they also exaggerate the autocorrelation of the data, so trend analysis should be based on the plain old data (which is how I computed the trend rates), not on running means.

    And it’s important to remember: 1, these are not satellite *measurements* of lower-troposphere temperature, they’re approximations based on satellite measurements of other layers of the atmosphere; 2, UAH is only one of *many* analyses of satellite data to estimate lower-troposphere temperature, and *all* the others show more warming; 3, lower-troposphere temperature is not surface temperature.

  10. Autocorrelation?

    Why not test if temps are non-stationary and then estimate a regression of temps based on human CO2 output with an unrestricted error correction model?

  11. Regressing temperature against CO2 alone is a fool’s errand. CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) is only *one* climate forcing among many. There are also changes in solar output (slight), atmospheric aerosols (both from volcanic eruptions and industrial activity), albedo (net reflectivity of the earth) which changes due to varying snow, ice, and cloud cover and land use by humanity, even changes in earth’s orbit which alter the amount and distribution of incoming solar energy (although orbital changes are too slow to have much impact on timescales of a century or less).

    The right thing to do is to regress temperature against *total climate forcing*. This has been done, and the match is so good it gives powerful evidence that we’ve identified the most important forcings, estimated their values reasonably well, and we understand the physics of how they operate with sufficient confidence to conclude that global warming is really happening, and that it’s due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.

    Those who wish to continue discussion of the *science* should visit my blog.

  12. G’day,

    Look, I just have a simple question. How many degrees cooler will Australia be after emission trading is introduced? Numbers please.

    ta

    Ralph

  13. This will be my last comment about the science here, those who wish to ask more questions can do so on my blog.

    I don’t know how emissions trading will affect temperature. But the really sad news is that even if we could wave a magic wand and halt all greenhouse gas emissions *now*, temperature will still increase. It takes several decades for the climate system to “equilibrate” to its present climate forcing, so we’ve got warming “in the pipeline” from greenhouse gases we’ve emitted already.

    If we magically stop all emissions now, we may see another 0.6 deg.C global average temperature increase. If we continue with “business as usual,” we’re likely to see 2 or 3 deg.C warming this century — maybe more. That’s 20 to 30 times faster than the warming rate during a rapid deglaciation (what most people think of as “ending an ice age”).

    We no longer have a choice between “good” and “bad.” Our choice is between “bad” and “disastrous.”

  14. G’day,

    Well does anyone know how many degrees cooler Australia will be after emission trading is introduced in Australia? Thats the issue here. I’m sure going to know the effect of emission trading on me- money out of my pocket. So I want to know how cooler we will be, a number I can check on a thermometer. I think its reasonable to have an expected result from a public policy thats going to cost us billions each year.

    ta

    Ralph

  15. For data based on surface measurements see here which shows temperature trends at various time scales the most recent of which use surface measurements.

    Also see the Wikipedia article on Satellite temperature measurements. Can someone explain why the data here show a clear upward trend (the one Hansen et al. refer to) will the Climate Audit graph does not?

  16. Professor Quiggin’s favourite past-time appears to be accusing his opponents of being ideological while himself letting his soft-socialist biases show. He seems surprised, and indeed genuinely ignorant, of the fact that libertarians depend on cost-benefit analysis rather than mindless ideology.

    I’m still waiting for JQ’s comprehsive demolition of Julian Simon’s economic (not scientific) thesis, as outlined in his book The Ultimate Resource 2. The bits about population growth and technological change are accepted by many mainstream economists and are relevant to the GW debate.

    I’ve tried my best to take Professor Quiggin seriously, however his third-rate work (the flaws in which have been pointed out by the Productivity Commission), in addition to the snarky tone on his blog, leaves much to be desired.

    I have noticed a tendency for the social sciences to be driven by developments in America – they lead, we follow. Australia is a backwater of economics and politics; there are better researchers at American universities (who don’t owe their cushy jobs to taxpayers) who need to be debunked if libertarians want to see Australia adopt a rational response to climate change.

    There are at least a dozen things that do not involve more government bureaucracy that should be attempted first before moving on to carbon taxes or carbon trading.

  17. BTW, I’ve never heard of Climate Audit (the source of the graph used in this post) and find nothing on its website to help me evaluate it as a credible source of scientific (or any other kind of) information. Can anyone help out?

  18. Opps, just found Steven McIntyre’s bio on the Climate Audit website which provides a link to http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/trc.html. Steve’s not a scientist of any sort. The other author of that site is Ross McKitrick a member of the Marshall Institute which “received its first-ever grant from a corporate foundation– the Exxon Education Foundation” and also not a scientist.

    Temujin, you should be ashamed of yourself for posting a link to such drivel, using it in a blog post, and wasting the time of serious people.

  19. Exhibit A of why people are skeptical of climate science. Any time contrary evidence is mentioned I see an attack of the source and not the substance. Not real scientists? Well then their evidence must be easy to debunk! Shills for Exxon? Well then their evidence must be easy to debunk!

    You can attack the source until the cows come home but it’s not going to make anyone any more convinced that you are right. In fact your are harming your causes credibility by doing this very unsciency thing.

  20. steve is a statician so his background often suits where his critiques are coming from.

  21. Trinifar: “statisticians are not scientists”

    You do realise statistics is a branch of mathematics, and mathematics is the foundation of all other sciences?

    What a silly comment. We’ll ignore it. We know you usually have something intelligent to say.

    Tamino: Recent physics papers suggest that human forcing only contributes 30-50% of the 1 degree of warming we have now.

    I know that you need a multivariate regression. So what is the relationship like with good time series methods such as an UECM? Does it reveal 1 degree of forcing due to human activity or 0.3 of a degree of warming?

    That would significantly change the costs and benefits of mitigation. Which wouldn’t matter because I simply don’t believe Australia can convince China, India and Africa to cut back on carbon.

  22. Re: #22 (Mark Hill)

    You quote me as saying “Recent physics papers suggest that human forcing only contributes 30-50% of the 1 degree of warming we have now.”

    I never said any such thing. You owe this blog a correction, and you owe me an apology.

  23. Trinifer — the graphs are accurate. The fact that the graph was done by a statistician is not a reason to automatically dismiss it. If you don’t want to look at the facts, that’s your decision… but then you probably won’t have much to add to the debate.

    JohnQ — I can’t see how posting my views on a blog I started will undermine my credibility. I don’t think that most readers of this blog believe that AGW would devastate libertarianism. And I can’t see the relevance of your final sentence… unless you’re accusing me of being delusional.

  24. Jarrah – I’m not sure if you properly understand the graphs. The baseline does not change. It is an average of temperatures as measured in the 1970s. If the temperature stays consistently at +0.1 then there is no warming. And I see no reason why I should choose the second graph from Climate Audit. The first graph clearly showed my point – that 1998 was not a normal year.

    I am perfectly aware of the warming trend in last three decades of the late 20th century (and the cooling trend before that, and the warming trend before that). But it is also true and interesting that temperatures have not continued up in recent years.

    Finally, I didn’t say sceptics should say there has been cooling since 2002. Just that there hasn’t been warming. And AGW-proponents would be correct to say that it might be noise. It might be. But it’s worth watching.

  25. tamino — I think you’ll find the trend has been 0.13 degrees warming per decade, not the 0.013 that you mention. And I’m not sure that Mark is quoting you. I think he’s making his own point.

    Back to the point of my post: I wonder if AGW-proponents would like to take this moment to accept the recent non-warming is interesting, and gives us some hope that co2 emissions are not a major driver of recent temperature changes.

    And on the other side, AGW-sceptics might like to accept that they should not be using 1998 as a base year from which to claim “no-warming”.

  26. Temujin, please note that all the trend rates I stated have units attached: “deg.C/yr”. And 0.013 deg.C/yr is equivalent to 0.13 deg.C/decade.

    You’re probably right that Mark is making his own statement rather than implying that he’s quoting me. If so, then his reference to “recent physics papers” isn’t exactly easy to investigate, is it? Perhaps he’s referring to the work of Scafetta & West, which in my opinion (and that of most climate scientists) is bogus.

  27. If they said “no warming since 2002″ then they would be on much stronger ground.

    Why is 2002 so sacred?

  28. And I’m not sure that Mark is quoting you. I think he’s making his own point. that is the impression I got also.

    sending me dyslexic. You forgot one Terje.

  29. Ben: Exhibit A of why people are skeptical of climate science. Any time contrary evidence is mentioned I see an attack of the source and not the substance.

    Well, turns out, as with science of any sort, credibility and disclosure are rather big issues.

    Real climate scientists have responded to these guys (M&M et al.) several times: June 2005, February 2007, and just six months ago in December 2007.

    In the interest of honest and open debate, that should have been in the main post above along with the qualifications (or lack thereof) of Cimate Audit.

  30. No I certainly wasn’t quoting you.

    “In my opinion, this work is bogus”.

    This shuts down discussion. No one is questioning the science, just the relative degree to which the various forcings make up the 1 degree change.

    There are a few basic questions I have about mitigation policies in general:

    1. How did the IPCC determine with “90% certainty” that antrhopogenic CO2 caused the 1 degree change?

    2. Is there a view on what each forcing did for that 1 degree of warming?

    3. Since mitigation has passed no rigourous cost benefits test yet, why act?

    4. If we act, why engage in industry policy and a trading system which is likened to a quota whereas a tax is like a more efficient tariff system?

    5. There seems to be an implicit assumption that there will be no adaptation if we do nothing but adaptation is key to mitigation working. Is this a fair criticism?

    Somehow all four of these questions cause indignation, even though they are in the realms of orthodox climate science and economics.

    I actually take exception to Garnaut’s claim about agricultural losses in the Murray Darling. His report contends that we will lose 92% of production. Australia uses one sixth of artesian water based on old estimates which have actually doubled, and this does not include shallow aquifiers and groundwater in river systems. Shallow water is quite large in some areas such as the Great Artesian Basin and underground rivers carry five times as much as surface flows.

    I can’t see those losses in 92 years time with those water resources and adaptation with or without mitigation.

  31. How did the IPCC determine with “90% certainty” that antrhopogenic CO2 caused the 1 degree change?

    The short answer is that they didn’t.

  32. The media coverage of this aspect has been shocking bad (but to be fair, it is a semi-hard to explain concept).

    The IPCC view is that there is a >90% prob that the overall human influence is one of warming with a forcing of about 1.6 Wm-2.

    This often gets summarised (in the media) that there is a 90% prop that CO2 is the villain.

  33. Something else to think about- The Weekend Australian had an item taken from The Wall Street Journal, on page 24. The person speaking notes that a German Greens group is making the claim that even though there will be a 10-year cooling trend, Global warming is still real!
    What Chutzpah! Cooling proves Warming! Global Warming is a religion! All you need is faith!
    (And I am very interested in the scientific evidence that 1998 was a ‘peak’ year. Another interest of mine is Edgar Cayce, and one of his prophecies was that 1998 would be a pivotal year. I was expecting more volcanoes and earthquakes, but I won’t grumble.)

  34. Sukrit:
    There are at least a dozen things that do not involve more government bureaucracy that should be attempted first before moving on to carbon taxes or carbon trading.

    Yes yes yes, priorities are all well and good, but more importantly; How can a politician win votes and look like he is doing something if he doesn’t do something which creates new bureaucracy !?!

  35. Is it true that whilst Arctic Ice is thinning, the Antarctic has more ice? Where can we find facts about these points?

  36. Nick, follow the links I left in comment #30. Those guys do a smashing good job of conveying science to lay people without being condescending about it, and the address the kinds of questions you are asking.

    Strangely, there’s no evil plot to spin the science by the climate scientists, neither are they naive about what they are doing.

  37. The Weekend Australian had an item taken from The Wall Street Journal, on page 24. The person speaking notes that a German Greens group is making the claim that even though there will be a 10-year cooling trend, Global warming is still real!

    The editors of the Australian and Weekend Australian know jack shit about climate change and it shows badly.

    The claims that they are referring to is a modelling study on future warming. In a nutshell some GCM’s show that there may be a cooling period in the near future followed by future warming. I suspect that their result is more due limitations in their GCM setup, but who knows. However, it is important to note that they are not inconsistent with current theory.

  38. Really Quiggin? Would you like to “denounce” Svensmark immediately, and call out CERN as “delusionists” who “choose factual beliefs”?

    I’m happy to “denounce” Svensmark. The statistical manipulations in some of his papers are a complete joke.

    It is, however, important to note that CERN has NOT played a role in producing these poor papers. If you want to suggest that CERN or it’s researchers believe the same as Svensmark, perhaps you should find evidence to support this, rather than simply asserting this slander.

  39. I don’t understand your appeal for subtlety and nuance. Has there been a hotter year since 1998 ?

    Yes. Tamino’s analysis of the recent GISS temperature trends is a useful starting point.

  40. Temujin, I didn’t misread the graphs. I was responding to this line in your post:

    “Since then, temperatures have gone back to a more usual range.”

    The normal range is the baseline, by definition, and clearly it has not “gone back” to that. You are right though that it’s about warming not continuing, rather than cooling. And it’s definitely worth watching. But it will take more than what is plausibly just noise in the data to convince me that warming won’t continue. The preponderance of evidence is simply too great to believe otherwise. Evidence of warming having stopped will have to get much better and much more extensive before it starts even equalling the evidence that the trend is for more warming to come, let alone start being the more likely scenario.

    Mark, you may be right about Garnaut and possible loss of agriculture output, I haven’t read the report and I haven’t read any proper analysis of it yet. But if you are claiming he made a basic error, I do wonder how likely that is.

  41. Re: #36 (Jono)

    Different estimates give different answers to the question “Which year is hottest in the instrumental record?” The Hadley Center records it as 1998, but both NASA GISS and the National Climate Data Center analyses indicate that 2005 is the hottest year on record. I did a comparison of all three data sets here.

    Re: #39 (nicholas gray)

    You can get information about Arctic and Antarctic sea ice area and concentration from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and up-to-date graphics from Cryosphere Today. Older data (before the advent of satellite observations) are archived at the Hadley Centre for Climate Change Research.
    I posted on the topic here.

  42. Jarrah,

    Local knowledge is one thing you can never discount and you can make a seemingly safe and sensible assumption without it.

    Water is something I have dealt with professionally and have personal (perhaps future) interests in.

    Garnaut may have made the correct analysis with the right assumptions. Such an outcome seems incredulous given actual water resources. I’ll have to knuckle down and read the whole bloody thing. That’s why I’m still fairly neutral.

    To be honest we can’t analyse Garnaut, he isn’t finished yet. His views are fairly nuanced if you listen to him.

    I still think a cap and trade is inferior to a carbon tax with after tax income compensation.

    Ken – contention over graphs means it is time more powerful analysis was used. Graphs are not necessarily the best tool of noting salient features of the data either.

  43. Jarrah — a quick glance at the graph shows a fairly usual range of temps near zero (+/- 0.5), and one really obvious deviation from that norm. I think it’s prefectly fair for me to point out that the 1998 result is out-of-the-ordinary… while noting that the subsequent temperatures have not jumped around as drastically.

    I have not denied a warming trend. I agree with Terje (and disagree with Trinifir) that the above graphs do show a (moderate) warming trend since 1970.

    Given current knowledge, co2 seems like it’s one of the reasons. But our knowledge of the various forcings and the feedback mechanisms is incomplete, so we should remain modest about our certainty that co2 is the prime driver that warming.

    And when contrary evidence starts to trickle in… we should remember our modesty and consider (with hope) the possibility that there is no major co2 problem. A sceptical mind should always be willing to change their minds in the face of new information.

    I’ve said several times that the recent non-warming may simply be noise. I’m not claiming anything except that the non-warming is interesting and might indicate a problem with the mainstream theory if it continues. I eagerly await more information.

    Jono — the reason not to use 1998 as a base year is that it is misleading. If you are intentionally using misleading information, then people will not listen to you. And why throw away your credibility when there is another perfectly good point to make (“no warming since 2002”)?

  44. does anyone else find it interesting that ClimateAudit links to RealClimate but RealClimate doesn’t link to ClimateAudit? there seems to be continual discussions going on between the blogs with Steve posting something on CA and then someone replying on RC or vice versa. i would have thought linking from one to the other would be doing your readers a big favour.

  45. Goodie, a Quiggin thread.

    let me get this straight. Is this the same Professor Quiggin who opposed almost every single major economic reform of the 80’s and 90’s?

    Is this the same professor Quiggin who turned up to a senate inquiry on Workchoices giving evidence “not as economist”….( as a male stripper perhaps?).

    Is the the same Quiggin who wrote that astonishing book, “Jobs For All” in 1994 arguing that the only way out of deep unemployment was though massive doses of government spending to fund “people services”(wonderful timing incidentally).

    this is the dude calling people delusionists?

    I know the best form of defense is attack, but this is bringing the strategy to an entirely new level.

    You’d almost cry if it wasn’t so funny.

    Professor, before we can continue with the issue of AGW could we at least get an apology for all those other things you raised that turned out to be wrong as that would be a nice gesture on your part.

  46. John Quiggin you post about AGW all of the time and the byline for your blog is “Commentary on Australian & world events from a social-democratic perspective”. Does this mean you’re going to stop posting about it too?

    John, Ben has asked a perfectly reasonable question. Does this mean that you will never offer “opinions” from a “social democratic” perspective? Ever?

    Does it mean we’ll see you as an eager LDP candidate in 10?

    By the way john, you’re recent defense of Whitlam was truly horrible. Perhaps your worst post ever. But don’t let me stop you.

  47. JC will hate me for this, but I’m going to semi-defend John Quiggin.

    I don’t think JQ was claiming people shouldn’t post about climate change from a political blog. I think he was saying that some readers here believe that AGW is a direct threat to libertarian philosophy… and the existence of those people somehow mean that I lose credibility by posting here.

    Having defended JQ against the original complaint… I should add that I think his actual point doesn’t make any sense at all.

    And please leave Whitlam (and other topics) for another place. If you really want to spark a new debate JC, feel free to write a post and we’ll put it on the ALS blog.

  48. Thanks John, I may write a piece about that.

    I don’t think JQ was claiming people shouldn’t post about climate change from a political blog. I think he was saying that some readers here believe that AGW is a direct threat to libertarian philosophy… and the existence of those people somehow mean that I lose credibility by posting here.

    Thanks for clarifying that, John but I wasn’t critical of the professor’s view. I neither surprised nor concerned what he thinks about libertarians.

    My point was that the professor is critical of people not holding his views on climate science when he has basically been wrong on almost every major economic reform in the latter part of last century, offered evidence about free labor markets ” not as an economist” and wrote a book about the need to materially raise government spending to reduce unemployment. Maybe he wants people to support him on the broken clock theory 🙂 Who knows how the professor thinks.

    Furthermore if the professor refers to people as delusionists and denialists about AGW I would be interested to hear how he squares his own circles in the area of economics: area the professor is supposedly an expert worth what he wrote and the evidence available.

    I actually do think Co2 is a problem by the way, however I hold my nose when I look at the people on that side of the fence for obvious reasons.

    Oh, I recall the professor was once in favor of a carbon tax later a cap and trade and then again silently changed personal quota.

    Perhaps the professor could explain what happened here to change his mind, as I haven’t seen how his train of thinking has progressed. It would be interesting to hear it: very interesting in fact.

  49. This is also one of the professors frequent commentors at his site.

    Ian Gould wrote this:
    The underlying motivation of the denialists is quite simple.

    They are fascists.

    Perhaps the professor could lead with a comment on what he thinks about this comment. Does he agree with Ian?

  50. Oh dear. The lynch mob at Quiggin’s blog is getting more and more feral every time he unleashes them. Nearly as bad as Lambert’s mob. Unfortunately I think he will achieve his goal of driving away sceptic commentators… which will just re-enforce the group-think and making mature dialogue more difficult.

    But that’s his business. And I don’t want this discussion to become about Quiggin. Whatever his virtues or vices, they should be discussed in a different forum unless they’re related to the topic immediately at hand.

    So — does any AGW-proponents or AGW-sceptic want to take me up on my offer with regards to 1998 and recent non-warming?

  51. yes perhaps 1998 isn’t as good a starting point compared to 2002. What I find to be astonishing is that CO2 hasn’t really seen a material increase over the past decade with China and India coming into play, yet global temp has hardly reacted. This must/should be a pretty big let down for the alarmists.

    The problem I see is that AGW is no longer falsifiable because of the way the alarmist argument has been put forward.

    Look at people like Ken Miles. Miles claims he is a scientist yet it seems there is no skeptical proposition he would ever entertain even if it was sound. It seems to me that the argument is no longer based on scientific reasoning but it has taken a religious aspect to it.

    People’s reputations are now trounced if they don’t follow the party line. Skeptics are denounced as fascists and in some cases compared to holocaust deniers.

    Private funding is looked upon as somehow tainted while government funding is seen to be blight free. The professor is an instigator in this sort of behavior.

  52. Pingback: Random dot points « Chapter 5

  53. JC: i think increased CO2 will lead to increased warming but i think they’ve overstated the sensitivity. it is easy to say CO2 will lead to increased forcing but it is much harder to figure out how large the feedbacks are and what sign they will have.

    here is a video that gives a quick summary:

  54. Andrew Revkin just wrote about on this topic on DotEarth. See here.

    Sure looks like a AGW is just a cold hard scientific fact, just like evolution and gravity.

  55. Trinifar — I agree. The outstanding science question is, as superdonk suggests, the size of the effect. The mainstream position is most likely… but there are some who think that the impact of co2 will be greater or lesser than the mainstream position. There are feedback mechanisms we still don’t understand fully. There are other (non-co2) forcings that we still don’t understand fully.

    Of course, this is only half the story.

    Other issues that make sceptics pause before rushing into action are (1) views about future technological progress; (2) views about the potential impacts (positive/negative) of warmer temperatures; (3) views about the human ability to adapt to warmer temperatures; and (4) views about the effectiveness of government policy in response to climate chnage.

    It is not suprising that some people at a libertarian blog question the ability of government to effectively and efficiently combat such an issue. But personally I think it is point (1) above that most clearly distinguishes me from most people worried about AGW.

    The cost of alternative energies has been steadily decreasing relative to coal-energy and there are a number of promising technologies out there that may make this whole debate look weird for future generations looking back. Perhaps similar to today’s generation looking back on the supposed crisis of too much horse shit pilling up on the streets during the horse-and-buggy era.

  56. I’m okay in rushing to action as long as it is sensible action. I have no significant problem with a revenue neutral carbon tax on energy usage if it reduces the tax burden on petrol by broadening the tax base, or if it entails across the board cuts to income tax. I’m an AGW skeptic on the science however I have no real problem with the right type of reform as an AGW insurance policy because the right type of reform can be positive in a broader economic sense. Moving the tax burden away from labour and more toward energy would be a good reform.

    One of my concern with an emissions trading scheme is that retail prices of electricity will now contain a high price risk premium. There will be a net transfer of wealth from ordinary people towards the actuarial sophisticates. Given the current political sensititity towards daily swings in petrol prices I would have thought that the government would be more keen to adopt a price system that was more predictable.

  57. Because 2002 wasn’t an outlier, and since 2002 it hasn’t warmed.

    My reading of the graph shows a steady warming trend up until 2002, and then a plateau. If you want to talk about a non-warming period, then you shouldn’t include a period (1999-2002) where it still looks like there is a warming trend.

  58. Well, as a first-time visitor here, I see a lot that has nothing to do with Libertarians, and very little Libertarian philosophy. Surely anything to do with global warming would be done on a voluntary basis by those concerned, and others could ignore it as they wish. With a Libertarian Govt there would be no taxes, so no carbon trading. Libertarians are against Govt-imposed CO2 taxes by their very philosophy, and recognise that change (including climate change) is opportuity to any entrepreneur.

  59. A good point:

    A problem is a chance for an entrepreneur to exploit and solve.

    Note the fledgling iron seeding industry. This captured CO2 in the ocean and regenerated ecologically dead fisheries.

    However, a few weeks ago, nations agreed to a UN moratorium on the practice. Now it is effectvely illegal.

    Entrepreneurs come up with a solution and the UN and member States ban it.

    Making the tax system more efficient is a second best alternative.

  60. “Making the tax system more efficent..”

    I’m sorry, but making the tax system VOLUNTARY is the best alternative!

  61. I never argued against that. Did you even read the part where I mentioned iron seeding and the UN? Or were you being flippant when you mentioned entrepreneurs?

  62. I agree wholeheartedly with you about the entrepreneurs, the are always Man’s salvation. But Libz would not have a system where a Govt could hold a gun to the heads of it’s citizens, so voluntary tax, not more efficient tax.

    After all, if their policies are so unpopular that people will not voluntarily put money up, then they shouldn’t be in Govt! They should be selling their carbon credits on the freemarket, for people to buy or refuse as the want.

  63. Look at people like Ken Miles. Miles claims he is a scientist yet it seems there is no skeptical proposition he would ever entertain even if it was sound. It seems to me that the argument is no longer based on scientific reasoning but it has taken a religious aspect to it.

    JC, once again, you should learn to read or do at least some elementary research before mouthing off. I’ve defended and praised skeptical scientists when they do science (ie. perform research and publish in journals). What I won’t roll over accept is the fraud, cherrypicking, misrepresentation and other bullshit that seems to hand in hand with being a global warming skeptic.

  64. Temujin – You haven’t finished. All you did is paste a few graphs. Now interpret them.

    If 2002 should be used as a base year, explain why.

    If 1998 should not be used as a base year, and is “misleading”, explain why.

    Based on the small anount of information given, why should I understand that it is misleading to say “1998 is the hottest year” ??? ?

  65. Jono, some meteorologists claim that 1934 was hotter than 1998! I don’t have weather charts handy, but if 1934 was hotter than 1998, we need to rethink the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere, since humans weren’t as polluting then (less poeple, less machinery, Asia mainly unindustrialised, etc.).

  66. Nick, 1934 was marginally warmer than 1998 in the 48 US states only. Globally it wasn’t the warmest year. Unfortunately, the bolded section frequently goes missing.

  67. So, Ken, can you point us to GLOBAL charts of world weather? And, even though it was confined to the US, what caused that high patch?
    And, as an aside, the snow fields of Mt Hotham are reporting good snowfalls this week, and one of the locals thinks this might be colder-than-average year. (See
    ninemsn today, and look at the ‘cold-snap’ news item.) I was briefly worried that the failure of the snow this year was a Sign of Things To Come! Apparently not.

  68. @Temujin, #59

    It is not surprising that some people at a libertarian blog question the ability of government to effectively and efficiently combat such an issue. But personally I think it is point (1) [views about future technological progress] above that most clearly distinguishes me from most people worried about AGW.

    I’m glad we have a bit of common ground. I too question the ability of governments to address AGW although in my case it is not because I think governments are inherently bad at everything. One thing they got right was the Montreal Protocol to address depletion of the ozone layer. That has been (and continues to be) a stellar performance by governments in conjunction with technology innovators and in the face of a strong initial opposition of the business sector which cried “you’ll kill off economic growth and destroy businesses” — neither of which happened. See here for highlights of the Montreal Protocol timeline.

    With the right incentives I think technology innovators can make a huge contribution to mitigate AGW. I just don’t see those incentives appearing without government interventions like a carbon tax along with transfers of capital and knowledge to developing countries, but I do understand that any government intervention is seen as a negative by many (most? nearly all?) libertarian capitalists.

    I don’t see how free markets alone could have (or ever would have) addressed the ozone depletion problem, and AGW is a far larger and more complex conundrum. I think many people are AGW skeptics only because they don’t like the solution (some amount of government intervention). Oddly that turns the whole notion of skepticism on its head since science is skepticism in its purest form.

    Having been a technologist for my whole career I’m skeptical about how much we can expect from technology. It’s not a panacea. Nuclear fusion is a notorious example, a technology that’s continually projected to be viable in 30 years, and each year that projection is renewed with a new start-date. It’s always 30 years years out (and attracts no private funding). I fear carbon sequestration is like that. Funding was just yanked from a large scale demonstration project.

    Not many want to think about a world running on solar energy (wind and waves being forms of solar). To the free marketeers worried about such an outcome, I can only say, “Think about the amazing business opportunities!”

  69. Trinifar – As a concept I’m sure that most people are very receptive to a world powered by solar. The devil is in the detail.

  70. Ken Miles says:

    JC, once again, you should learn to read or do at least some elementary research before mouthing off. I’ve defended and praised skeptical scientists when they do science (ie. perform research and publish in journals). What I won’t roll over accept is the fraud, cherrypicking, misrepresentation and other bullshit that seems to hand in hand with being a global warming skeptic.

    Fair enough Ken. Would it be too much to ask you for a link showing where you have ever praised sceptical scientists ” when they do science”? I would just like to see it.

    Terje says:
    John Quiggin has launched a discussion about Emissions Trading versus Carbon Taxes. He prefers the former.

    Interesting. The professor was once in favor of a carbon tax with income tax set offs.

    Recently he was in favor of personal quota.

    It’s like sitting mid court at the net watching a fast moving tennis match when it comes to the professor and his opinions. He does nuance very well.

  71. Fair enough Ken. Would it be too much to ask you for a link showing where you have ever praised sceptical scientists ” when they do science”? I would just like to see it.

    This is from a Catallaxy comment:

    I strongly support skeptics who make scientific arguments (there are a handful who I’ll detail below). I’m also not worried when scientists keep on working on theory which has strong evidence against it, as long as don’t present it in the public domain as proven fact. However, I get really annoyed when they undertake outright deception (such as Pat Michaels).

    Richard Lindzen has done a lot of work on climate and deserves credit for it. If you ignore his media statements and only look at his scientific work, then he comes out looking good.

    I don’t mind Steve McIntyre, despite him way overplaying the significance of his work and hanging around a cesspool of idiots. His co-worker Ross McKitrick, OTOH, pretty much embodies everything that is wrong with the climate skeptics.

    I have a lot of respect for the skeptic John Christy who has done a lot of work determining tropospheric temperature trends. While many of his initial conclusions turned out to be wrong (this doesn’t worry me in the least, a honesty argued incorrect hypothesis is a credit to science), he does much of his arguing in the scientific press. His co-worker, Roy Spencer, OTOH, pretty much embodies everything that is wrong with the climate skeptics.

    If I think for a bit longer, I can probably come up with a few more.
    http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=2539&cp=40#comment-19293

    Ironically, I was replying to you.

  72. Never saw it, ken.

    So, you don’t mind Lindzen’s “work” but not when he dares to speak. LOl.

    Shorter Ken:

    A silent sceptic is a very good sceptic?

    Lets compare Jim Hansen (the climate giant) who now publicly says people ought to be slammed in jail if they don’t follow the party line.

    You respect Christy more than Tim Lambert Australia’s eminent climate scientist does?

    You disagree with Lambert’s comment?

    http://timlambert.org/index.php?s=john+Christy&submit=Search

    Christy, of course, spent years denying that global warming was happening because of his analysis of satellite data that showed no warming.

  73. Never saw it, ken.

    You replied to it.

    So, you don’t mind Lindzen’s “work” but not when he dares to speak. LOl.

    Shorter Ken:

    A silent sceptic is a very good sceptic?

    No. Stop making shit up.

    Lindzen’s public utterings of frequently very poor quality.

    You disagree with Lambert’s comment?

    Tim’s comment is correct. Christy’s comment (assuming that he was quoted correctly) was pretty poor. But Christy’s scientific publications are fine.

  74. You replied to it.

    No I didn’t. ” Stop making shit up” Ken.

    Lindzen’s public utterings of frequently very poor quality.

    So my comment still holds.

    Tim’s comment is correct. Christy’s comment (assuming that he was quoted correctly) was pretty poor. But Christy’s scientific publications are fine.

    No it’s not. The eminent climate scientist’s comment is NOT correct by your standards. If (as you maintained) you respect his work he is not a “denier” (denying) the science if he believed his work was right at the time. This makes Lambert’s assertion wrong by your own standard. Face up to the fact, Ken and stop being a “denialist”.

  75. Thanks for reminding me why it’s completely useless to talk with you.

    No I didn’t. ” Stop making shit up” Ken.

    JC, could you get any more stupider? The comment directly after mine is a) made by you and b) refers to one of the people mentioned by me for me for the first time on the thread and c) makes a half arsed attempt to defend his reputation. Surely you don’t think that the rest of this blog’s readers possesses the ability to make obvious connections.

    As for Christy, I’ll try to spell this out so that even somebody with read comprehensive as poor as you can understand. I respect the scientific work that Christy does and publishes in scientific journals. This doesn’t mean that I 100% endorse every statement that Christy has made. Far from it. The statement of Christy’s that Tim criticised wasn’t published in a scientific journal. It was, as Tim pointed out, incorrect. I agree with Tim, the statement was obviously BS (which should be apparent to anyone capable of objective thought), but this doesn’t mean that Christy’s scientific work is garbage. That can stand or fall on its own merits.

  76. That’s the trouble with you Ken. You immediately think most people are stupider than you which is a huge ask. That comment wasn’t a reply to yours. It was in continuation of the thread . Hence relying on you about much more difficult subjects such as AGW becomes problematic.

    What’s amusing is that you had to go back 17 months to find yourself “praising” sceptics despite the fact that you make web comments almost every hour 🙂

    I agree with Tim, the statement was obviously BS (which should be apparent to anyone capable of objective thought), but this doesn’t mean that Christy’s scientific work is garbage. That can stand or fall on its own merits.

    Tim , the eminent climate scientist refers to Chrisy as denying the science. Denying the science means what it means especially in the context of the word was used.It’s meant to denigrate.

    You either agree with him- that Christy is denying the science- or you don’t. He may be wrong but that isn’t the point is it? So was Christy denying the science as the eminent climate scientist was implying or wasn’t he?

    A simple yes or no is fine.

  77. Ken:

    One more thing you glanced over…..

    You agree with Jim Hansen that ” deniers” ought to be tried for crimes against humanity?

    Again, a simply yes or no is fine.

  78. Terje,

    As a concept I’m sure that most people are very receptive to a world powered by solar. The devil is in the detail.

    How true. If you think about a world without fossil fuels and nuclear and only solar, wind, waves and the like for power (take this only as a hypothetical), you end up with something very different than, but not necessarily inferior to, what we have today.

  79. Yet there is opposition to these. Apparently these make “micro climates” and this is bad.

    Never worry that virtually all human activity creates a micro climate or creates an artifical habitat.

  80. Trinifar — I agree that the government has done good before, and will probably do good again. I think a moderate revenue-neutral carbon tax might be a step in the right direction.

    kp — some people will admire your libertarian purity, but this is blog open to all sorts of libertarians, including moderates, pragmatists, classical liberals, utilitarian libertarians etc. It is not true that a libertarian must be a deontelogical minarchist (as you seem to be). For example, I am a utilitarian anarchist who pragmatically promotes moderate libertarianism & competitive federalism.

    Welcome to the blog and I hope you comment more often, but debates about being a “better” or “purer” libertarian aren’t particularly valuable in my opinion. And if you’re not willing to debate the utilitarian angle (ie could a policy have a net benefit), then most of your debates are going to be fairly short.

  81. Mark – where is there opposition?

    I can see some downside with solar updraft towers but it relates mostly to the fact that you can see them from nearly 200km away because they would be so tall. However if they are located in remote locations (like a lot of coal fired power plants) the number of people visually impacted is quite small.

  82. TerjeP, do they come in pretty colours, and are they safe for kidlings? The public wants to know! (The public wants wind-power without windmills, also, but democracies are not about logic, but about finding ways to give the public what it wants!)

  83. I was watching some program on the Commie channel last night with Tony Jones hosting. It was a question an answer setup. I have to say that if the questions were any indication what the average Australian knows about climate change etc. it is really scary. It was basically leftist inspired drivel.

    On the panel was a totally stupid woman representing the Green party who was about as impressive as 3 day old road kill. She proposed that we must become a low carbon nation with wind and solar. The woman was a complete moron. It amazes me how the Greens get such a free ride with policies that make absolutely no sense.

  84. I think wise libertarians will always read ‘The Australian’. The gem in today’s paper is on page 14, called “No smoking hot spot”. The Author is David Evans, who says he is the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) used to measure our compliance with Kyoto. When he started, in 1999, he thought it likely that warming was real, and carbon was going to be found guilty. Now, he has changed his mind.
    Satellite observations show cooling since 2001, back to about 1980 levels.
    He hopes that the Libs, at least, will react sanely to the news, and announce policies that don’t wreck the Australian economy.

  85. Yes, that was a real smack in the face for the Climate Alarmists. Now, looking at the mess that Keynesian economists have made over the last 50years and realising that the current Govt Chief Alarmist is an economist.. Who will you believe?

  86. Evans has been shown to make several errors by Lambert. Battle of the statistician programmers! 🙂

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