A Potty Peer making money off future misery.

Written By: - Date published: 12:10 pm, January 9th, 2010 - 70 comments
Categories: climate change, humour, scoundrels - Tags:

Gareth over at Hot-Topic has written a delightful post “Popgun for hire: A$20,000 detailing one person who is making money off climate change. No it isn’t the scientists. It is our favorite Potty Peer – Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.

Some of the CCDs have been saying that there is a “climate change industry” and that money is the reason for scienctists focusing on the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. Well that is simply crap pushed by people who’d prefer to see conspiracies rather than reality.

Well, apparently the looney lord has been touring the world talking to credulous fools for cash.

Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, the man who put the pier in peer review, is on his way to Australia at the end of January to make ‘a barnstorming three-week lecture-tour‘ designed to reassure audiences in major cities that ‘‘Global Warming’ is Not a Global Crisis‘. His fee? A$20,000 (£11,000), plus all flights and hotel accommodation for himself and his wife. The speaking tour, organised with the assistance of Australia’s Climate Sceptics Party, is expected to cost around A$100,000.

It looks like some quiet donor(s) have coughed up the cash. What would really interest me is the same as Gareth

Monckton, of course, will only receive A$20,000 for his Aussie excursion — a mere pittance when a cursory check suggests that he usually charges at least £8,000 (A$14,400) for a single speaking engagement. Clearly Aussie sceptics drive a hard bargain. Two mysteries remain. Given the relatively recent plea for funds, who stepped up to the plate to support the tour? And why have New Zealand’s cranks not jumped at the chance of bringing the potty peer over here?

Those are the interesting political questions. Also bearing in mind the 50 to 200 million people who are likely to be require relocation or be strongly affected by even the IPCCs conservative projections in the next 40 years; you’d have to say that the looney lord is making a living off future misery. Delays caused by increasing political inertia by the denialist industry will inevitably make those future disasters worse than they need to be.

While he is probably the most extreme of the denialist money-making industry, and its resident comedian, there are a rather lot of other self-proclaimed ‘experts floating around the speaker circuit. What is noticeable is the few of the ‘scientists’ amongst them are managing to do peer-reviewed research in reputable scientific journals. Indeed, some of them are veterans from the long avoidance of responsibility by tobacco companies with their history of PR driven ‘research’ for the purposes of tobacco politics.

Anyway, for your entertainment. Here are some of the previous works from here and on Hot Topic about the potty peer.

Reader of these pages will remember him from such posts as Climate Change: Looney Tunes from Lord Monckton and Climate Change: The Looney Lord Responds. He is also mentioned in Book review of the insane and Flogging our future. In short he is one of the prophets of the flat earth society climate change deniers and skeptics as he tries to pass himself off as some kind of ‘expert’ on climate change. Which he is clearly not – read Climate Change: Looney Tunes from Lord Monckton to find out how much of a pssuedo-scientific charlatan tool he is.

[For really deep background refer to: Monckton & The Case Of The Missing Curry, Mycroft Mockton Makes Mischief, and Something Potty In The State Of Denmark]

70 comments on “A Potty Peer making money off future misery.”

  1. gitmo 1

    Monckton and Al Gore different sides of the same coin.

  2. I would say that of the two Al Gore and his oil scum mates definitely win in the let’s earn from future misery stakes.

    But then they also say that there is a 911 truth industry making millionaires out of the truth movement leaders. LOL.

  3. Argh, what’s with the purgatory thing already?????

  4. winston smith 4

    that’d be the same Al Gore who was set to charge US$1200 a handshake with admirers at Copenhagen.

    Being a warmist means never having to say you’re sorry.

  5. Andrei 5

    $AU20,000 for a three week speaking tour is small change. Hell Bill Clinton Charges $US100,000+ for just one speaking engagement.

    Why don’t you approach AL Gore for a speaking tour of New Zealand on the perils of climate Change and find out how much he would charge? Hmmm. Try offering him $20,000 for even one speaking engagement and see where it gets you.

  6. Really isn’t the point.

    There has been a holier than thou attitude from the CCDs. I was just interested in a case of troughing.

    • Andrei 6.1

      You consider being paid for a public speaking tour “troughing”?

      There would be a least a months actual work for Lord Monckton involved in doing this tour – a month he could use for something else. Like I said its peanuts compared to what high profile Public Speakers can command.

      And when it comes down to it the money will all come from people who are happy to go and hear him speak and will voluntarily without coercion hand it over – unlike the money we all had to fork out to pay for the people who went to the Copenhagen gabfest whether we wanted to or not.

  7. KiwiGirl 7

    Good god, lprent.
    You don’t still believe in Global warming, do you?
    What rock have you been hiding under?

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Global warming isn’t working too well in the UK, Europe, the US etc at the moment. A fairly substantial part of the world is in a fridge at the moment. I wonder if that is what it looked like during the ice-age.

    Perhaps Svalgaard is right.


    This could be the beginning of a period of extreme cooling, which would be a lot more damaging than warming, as the evidence in a large part of the world at the moment would suggest.

    Looking at the temperature graphs, they seem to be getting very toppy, with the technical “head and shoulders” pattern evident, a technical indicator of a leg-down in the offing.

    • lprent 8.1

      You’re confusing weather with climate change….

      It is a question of timescales and geographical scales. Climate is measured in decades and across broad regions.

      Weather is where you have statistical variations.

      How about learning the difference so I don’t have to keep reminding you.

      • tsmithfield 8.1.1

        Whether what is happening at the moment is “weather” or the beginning of a new trend is something that neither you or I know. I did say “could be” which makes it clear that I was only suggesting the possibility.

        I think there is a lot of similarity in applying technical analysis to temperature charts as in financial ones. In the stock market, for instance, there is fundamental analysis and technical analysis. Fundamental analysis holds that it is necessary to understand the factors contributing to the direction of prices. Technical analysis holds that everything contributing to prices is already factored into the pricing by the market, hence it is only necessary to analyse the charts. Technical analysis holds that the system is simply too complex to understand all the relevant factors.

        In a similar way, you have agreed on occasions that there is a huge amount unknown about the science when it comes to climate sensitivity. Hence, a technical approach to temperature charts may be more appropriate. Indeed, even AGW alarmists take this approach.

        If the temperature charts are analysed, it is clear that the trend has flattened off over recent times. If I wasn’t aware of what type of chart I was looking at, I would say that the left shoulder is the Elninio of 1998. This has yet to be exceeded to confirm the trend up. Until then, just looking at this as a chart without considering its application, I would consider that the pattern suggets a leg down is the most likely scenario from here.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    Further to my comment above, I was slightly inaccurate. On the temperature charts, the 1998 Elninio would be the “head” not the left shoulder as stated above. The “head” failure to exceed the “head” is often a precursor to a leg down.


  10. outofbed 10

    “Here in Yerevan, Armenia, it was +18C last week. Same time two years ago? -27C.”

  11. outofbed 11

    “Goose Bay in Labrador is normally -25ºC at this time of year. A couple of days ago temperatures were hovering round 0ºC — a full 25 degrees warmer than normal!”

  12. tsmithfield 13

    Just look at the chart people.


    It is clear from the chart that the typical head and shoulders pattern is present that is indicative of a change in trend direction, as I pointed out above. Don’t get too surprised or worked up if this is the case. I can’t remember where I read it, but it has been suggested by some AGW proponents that the world may experience 15 years or so of cooling before resuming the warming trend.

    I guess we will find out in time how deep and prolonged any dip might be. Remember, the current climate we experience is a relative anomoly, and that iceages have been the norm in our history.

    Perhaps all the C02 we are pouring into the atmosphere might actually reduce the intensity of a coming ice-age.

    • blacksand 13.1

      so, umm, what do you make of all the previous heads? There’s a few of them, isn’t there. Do you notice that there’s a wee trend there? Just a hint – as you move forward in time, the heads tend to be a bit higher then most that preceded them. Did you notice that the heads following the ’98 spike are above those before it? What about the troughs, notice anything there?

  13. tsmithfield 14

    BTW, thanks outofbed for that chart from Australia. It looks like head and shoulders are forming on that as well. A good example of head and shoulders on that chart is 1930-1950 where the head and shoulders pattern can clearly be seen prior to a trend down.

    • Macro 14.1

      “A good example of head and shoulders on that chart is 1930-1950 where the head and shoulders pattern can clearly be seen prior to a trend down.”
      the 1950-1970’s global “cooling” was due to atmospheric smog caused by dirty coal fires power stations and boilers . Clean Air acts cleared the smog and temperatures – like prices after the lifting of a price freeze – up they go again.

      You only see what you want to see.

  14. Rex Widerstrom 15

    Small point I know, but:

    the man who put the pier in peer review

    WTF? That would have been a great line if not for the illiteracy of the writer.

    • Gareth 15.1

      The joke may not be obvious for the uninitiated. Monckton wouldn’t know real peer review if beaten around the head with a long pointy structure often found in places called Brighton.

      • felix 15.1.1

        I think Rex is pointing out that you’ve used “pier” (which means a wharf) where you probably intended “peer” (meaning a member of the peerage).

        You should amend it immediately as apart from that it’s brilliant.

        • Gareth

          No, I meant pier (because I know what it means).

          • Rex Widerstrom

            I think the technical term for that is probably a “nested pun”, akin to a subroutine in programming.

            There’s a point when humour passes into obscurity. I think you passed it several kilometres back 😛

  15. lprent 16

    I always remember my finance lecturer pointing out the deficencies of charting during my MBA. He described it as sometimes useful when you understand the drivers. To just use it without the drivers was like divination looking at animal entrails. In all of the various bits of work with the finance industry since, I have observed this to be largely correct.

    Looks to me like you are demonstrating it again.
    The climate models are built from the drivers outwards. They use empirical factors where the drivers are not clear based on observations. They incorporate new information when it becomes available. Just because you don’t understand them doesn’t mean that they don’t work.

    You don’t have to drop to simplistic entrail reading. Just learn the science.

    • grumpy 16.1

      Oh fuck, you’ve got an MBA – that explains a lot.

      • Rex Widerstrom 16.1.1

        Heh heh. I have to admit that was my first thought too… concurrent with “But I thought he only studied useful stuff like programming and earth science” 😀

        • lprent

          I never actually completed a qualification in compsci. It was pretty boring even in 3rd year courses, and there was an interesting and well-paid contract available…

          The work has been pretty continuous for the last 20 years and I’ve never had an opportunity to get bored.

  16. tsmithfield 17

    Iprent “I always remember my finance lecturer pointing out the deficencies of charting during my MBA. He described it as sometimes useful when you understand the drivers.”

    Yes. That is the difference between fundamental analysis and technical analysis. However, it is difficult to understand all the fundamentals in a highly chaotic system. I fully accept that humans are having an effect on climate. However, there are also other factors at work that on occasions may intensify or mitigate the human impact. For instance, you know about Henrik Svensmark and his work on cosmic rays and cloud formation.


    His theories are going through experimental testing at the moment. I know his ideas are fairly controversial and have been found wanting in some aspects. However, I think that will always be the case in a chaotic system where all contributors to a given effect are not known.

    The technical approach to chart analysis doesn’t even bother to try to understand the contributors to an effect due to the complexity of interactions and unknown variables in the system that could be contributing to the effect. Therefore, technical analysis limits itself to studying the patterns of the charts. Personally, I think a lot of it is rubbish. However, the head and shoulders pattern is a very common and fairly reliable pattern for predicting a trend change that shows up a lot in charts.

    On the basis of the chart I pointed to earlier, I think the most likely trend is down. That doesn’t necessarilly mean the trend will be extreme or lengthly, Only that is is likely to change direction for a bit. Even within an AGW paradigm, this concept is not particularly unexpected.

    How far and how deep it goes, who knows.

  17. Kay 18

    Rather than spend so much bringing the potty peer to Australia, the climate sceptics could have invited NZ’s own Rodney Hide to pop over. Since he is trimming his travels to avoid perks criticism he would probably appreciate some other than the NZ Government paying for an overseas trip. I’m sure the Aussies would be happy to pay for his girlfriend too. Rodney has told people he studied climate impacts at university, and as a Minister in the ACT/ National Government he must be a credible witness for the Aussies.

  18. tsmithfield 19

    Iprent, further to my previous post, here is a link that examines the recent rolling over of the temperature chart in more detail.




    What is worrying is the recent increasing steepness of the decline according to all the charts on that link. This is what would be expected in a trend reversal as the trend rolls over and intensifies in the opposite direction.

    I actually hope you are right about global warming because global cooling is something that will be far worse for humanity if recent experience in Europe etc is anything to go by. Imagine how food production would be affected if what we are seeing in Europe at the moment becomes the norm.

    • quenchino 19.1

      Both those links are to charts made by lying scum who cherry pick 1998 and 2009 as their start and end points.

      With noisy data any spin artist can attempt this elementary type of deception…but it takes a determined sort of fool to fall for it repeatedly.

    • lprent 19.2

      Your period is too short for analyzing climate. It is a chaotic system with many effects acting against each other. In particular your data is inside a single sunspot cycle which is the dominant effect.

      The minimum meaningful period to look at climate is at least 3 sunspot cycles starting and ending at the same point. Even that isn’t particularly relevant because the sunspot cycles have different intensities within a statistical range.

      Basically the only effective measure is for the 50 years for which we have reasonably accurate data covering most of the globe – ie from about 1960. The earliest date you could really use is the GeoPhysical year in ?1957? At that point the methods of measurement were standardized and there was an effort to get a reasonably complete coverage worldwide.

  19. gingercrush 20

    Hooray repeat of 2009. Climate Change is/not real.

  20. tsmithfield 21

    quenchino: “Both those links are to charts made by lying scum who cherry pick 1998 and 2009 as their start and end points”.

    You obviously didn’t look too carefully at the second link because the comment is made:

    “Now that the 1998 El Nino is disappearing off the 10 year scale, things are looking a bit different”

    Anyway, a visual eyeball of the charts clearly shows that the trend has flattened off and is starting to decrease rapidly in the last several years. The point is that there is evidence to suggest that the next temperature move could well be down.

  21. tsmithfield 22

    Anyway, if you don’t like those charts, heres that one from Wikipedia again. The rounding off of the chart at the top is very obvious.


  22. Jenny 23

    Spooky, or what?

    In the movie the Day After Tomorrow, the premise for the movie was that Global warming had interrupted the gulf stream, which acts as a global heat pump transferring warmth from the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere.

    One of the most startling digitally altered images was of a view of the countries of the Northern hemisphere all coated in white as seen from the International Space Station by astronauts marooned their by the disaster.

    Check this out, it is a real image.


  23. quenchino 24

    And looking at your satellite data chart ts, I can also see ’rounding off’ between 1975 and 1985, again between 1985 and 1993. It’s noisy data you are looking at and your ‘eyeball science’ is fooling you into seeing what you want to see.

    If you want me to stop making uncivil comments read this. Tamino is a professional statistician and analyses time series data for a living…

  24. tsmithfield 25

    Quenchino: “And looking at your satellite data I can also see ’rounding off’ between 1975 and 1985, again between 1985 and 1993.”

    Even strong AGW proponents agree that the last decade has not been warming. From the hacked e-mails Dr Trenberth wrote “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,’

    So, it is not really seriously debated that the temperature has ceased rising for a period. All I am saying is that this possibly indicates a change in trend towards a period of cooling. I am not saying that there is actually a cooling trend at present.

    • quenchino 25.1

      “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,’

      I know you’ve got that line tattooed on your arse, and I know it’s not fair … but here is the full context:

      2) Kevin Trenberth, researcher at NCAR, said in an email: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” Trenberth did not say (or intend to say) that he doubted the manmade character of recent global warming.

      Climate scientists understand the long-term upward trend in the surface temperature of the earth: it’s because of global warming, due to the enhanced greenhouse effect arising from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

      What climate scientists do not fully understand are the short-term fluctuations above and below the long-term trend. As part of those fluctuations, energy is transferred between different parts of the earth’s climate system: glaciers, polar ice, the deep ocean, etc. Trenberth asks why the January 2008 temperature was unusually low. “Was it because a lot of heat went into melting Arctic sea ice or parts of Greenland and Antarctica, and other glaciers?” Currently we just can’t say.

      To reiterate: the oft-cited email does not mean Trenberth is doubting the reality of global warming or the manmade cause of global warming. Those concern the long-term trend. Instead, Trenberth was bemoaning the lack of accurate measurements of the energy flows that accompany the short-term fluctuations (“natural variability”).

      The email by Kevin Trenberth doesn’t say anything that is not also said in a published article by Trenberth, which is available online.


      Even strong AGW proponents agree that the last decade has not been warming.

      If you were able to understand the mathematics of the data you would know why a mere decade of data is not enough to make a statement with statistical confidence

      Tamino concludes:

      That does not mean that there’s been no warming trend in those 15 years — or in the last 10, or 9, or 8, or 7, or 6 years, or three and a half days. It only means that the trend cannot be established with statistical signficance. Of course, it’s another common denialist theme that “there’s been no warming.’ This too is a fool’s argument; any such claims are only statements about the noise, not about the trend. It’s the trend that matters, and is cause for great concern, and there’s no evidence at all that the trend has reversed, or even slowed.

  25. prism 26

    The man who put the pee in peer review!
    Sounds like jolly old Bertie Wooster’s cousin, the black sheep of the family wot!

  26. tsmithfield 27

    Quenchino, I don’t know why you’re so against the possibility that the world could be entering a cooling cycle. Even strong proponents of AGW accept that we could be in for an extended period of cooling, perhaps up to 30 years due to natural ocean cycles.


    • quenchino 27.1

      I don’t know why you’re so against the possibility that the world could be entering a cooling cycle

      So what. It could equally be about to enter a massive warming period too. In the medium term anything is possible… but it doesn’t take away the fact that rising CO2 levels ultimately, in the longer term, commit the planet to a warming we are ill-prepared to cope with.

  27. burt 28


    Have you seen this?

    Al Gore’s $100 Million Makeover

    A l Gore is a funny guy. And, for his $175,000 speaking fee, he tells this story: after leaving the White House and heading back to Tennessee sans motorcade…

    That was in 2007, I’m surprised you didn’t post outrage about the level of his fees at that time.

    • lprent 28.1

      I didn’t even comment about the scale of fees in this case. What I commented on was that he was demanding a fee. That means he is making a living out of climate change.

      It is a frequent claim by denialists that the only reason that climate change has been raised by earth scientists as a issue is so they can get more research grants (which is patently absurd).

      I was simply pointing out a denialist who says that is the case about scientists (as well as everyone else on the other side of the debate), is doing exactly what he is ranting about.

      It is the hypocrisy I found interesting. It also gave me an opportunity to consolidate local links about the clown in a post.

      Incidentally I can’t see where I expressed outrage – I guess you just read things that way. Must be hard to have such and excitable nature.

  28. tsmithfield 29

    quenchino “I know you’ve got that line tattooed on your arse, and I know it’s not fair but here is the full context”

    And I agree. There has been no statistical evidence of warming for the last decade. If there was statistical evidence of warming prior to that, and now that statistical evidence has disappeared, that is the same as saying the trend is leveling off, which is what I have been saying. I don’t know why you want to argue this point. We appear to be in agreement.

    I also agree with you that human activity has had an effect on warming our environment. You appear to agree with me that it is possible for there to at least be a short-term reversal of the warming trend.

    If you read back through my posts on this topic, you will find that I am arguing that human warming activity is superimposed on much grander temperature trends, and that human activity may not be enough to over-ride those long-term trends.

    Here are several links for you.

    There is a chart approx one third down the page. See where we are in the long-term glacial trend at the moment. What is due to happen next, according to that chart? If human-induced warming has prevented the world from lapsing back into 100000 years as a ball of ice, might that not actually be a good thing? Imagine what effect the current European cold-snap might have on food production etc if it was sustained long-term.

    Here is a link to an article by climate scientists that supports this view. According to this article, human activity may have put off the next ice age by several thousand years.


    But what if there are other factors at play that may mean the world is lapsing back into an iceage quicker than what is anticipated? Here is an interesting article to that effect.


    Here is a wiki link that looks at research by Svensmark that is currently being experimentally tested in the CERN project.


    Svensmarks ideas are controversial. He might not be right about everything. But that does not mean his is not right about anything.

    Perhaps our C02 producing activities have inadvertantly forestalled the next iceage. Or perhaps we are about to enter the next iceage anyway, and human C02 producing activity may moderate the effect so the iceage is less cold than it otherwise would have been. Who knows, we may eventually be pumping C02 hand over fist into the atmosphere to ward off the cold for the sake of human survival. 100000 years is a long time to be cold.

  29. tsmithfield 30

    Sorry, I realized I cocked up the order of some of my links above. Hopefully you should be able to work it out.

    • quenchino 30.1

      . I don’t know why you want to argue this point. We appear to be in agreement.

      No we are not. Maybe it’s all the ‘technical analysis’ you’ve been exposed to in trading stocks, because you just don’t seem to grasp the underlying reality here.

      No-one for instance would argue that just because last night was colder than it is now in the daytime… that this is evidence of CO2 driving temperatures up. For a start, the time period of the comparison is completely mismatched. CO2 levels will indeed have increased some minute amount overnight, but not enough to have influenced anything. For a second, there is a well-understood mechanism (the earth rotating every 24 hrs) that is the generally understood driver of why daytimes are warmer than nightimes. But note carefully, the stochasitic variability of weather on a day to day basis still does not mean that EVERY daytime will be necessarily warmer than EVERY nightime. The noise in the data is larger than the diurnal signal we are concerned with.

      The same applies to seasons. We understand why summer will generally be warmer than winter, and why increasing CO2 levels have nothing to do with it. But note carefully, the stochasitic variability of weather on a day to day basis still does not mean that EVERY day in summer will be necessarily warmer than EVERY day in winter. The noise in the data is larger than the annual signal we are concerned with.

      Even if the 24 hr rotation of the planet, and the tilt of the rotational axis were the ONLY factors driving the climate, we would still not expect the weather in one year to be exactly repeated the next… or indeed any other year. What we would expect is that daytimes would probably be warmer than nightimes and summers to be probably warmer than winters…on average. Weather is what is called ‘stochaistic process’…one whose behavior is non-deterministic, in that system’s next state is determined both by the process’s predictable actions and by a random element.

      The interesting part is deciding what is predictable and what is random… and their relative contributions. Usually the predictable component is called ‘signal’ and the random part is discarded as ‘noise’. If the noise component is large compared to the signal part… this becomes a non-trivial exercise. It’s like trying to listen to a radio program barely audible under a mountain of hiss, pops and rumbling.

      Deciding that the earth’s 24 hr rotation is the reason why daytimes are usually warmer than nightimes is easy… for three reasons. The first reason is that we have a LOT of historic data to examine and this makes the statistics easy. The second is that the the rising of the sun a is pretty large signal ccmpared to the noise and again makes the statistics easy. (The third reason is that there are no oil and coal companies with a vested interest in convincing us otherwise.)

      The same reasoning applies to the seasons. The signal is very strong and the amount of data we have is very large. There is no doubt that the axial tilt is the reason for seasons.

      Once we get beyond a single year however we run into several problems. One is that the signals become much smaller compared to the noise, the other is that compared to the relative shortness of technical civilisation… we have much less data to work with. Rising CO2 levels are a relatively small ‘signal’ buried under a lot other short-term ‘noise’, but over time will accumulate into a major driver. This means that ‘eyeballing’ the data is no longer a reliable means of extracting the signal from the noise. Worse still humans are very bad at thinking in time scales much larger than our lifetimes. We have to use mathematical methods, if we don’t we fool ourselves into seeing things in it that just are not there. Cyclic…Probably not.

  30. tsmithfield 31

    So, do you think the trend for ice-ages is cyclic or not?

    The chart I pointed to using plankton proxies certainly suggests a cyclical nature to ice-ages.


    Also, plenty of other authorites point to the cyclical nature of ice-ages. An interesting point from the graph in that link is the tendency for ice coverage to be steadily reducing during the warm periods.

    I actually agree that humans activity is causing warming. However, I think the longer term cycles could overwhelm the human effect, especially if Svensmark’s theories are shown as likely correct. Experimental evidence in this respect from the CERN particle accelerator should be interesting. Did you have a look at those links I pointed to?

    • quenchino 31.1

      Well of course it’s obvious Ice Ages are cyclic.. when you look at a chart that presents the smoothed data over a million years or so. The plankton proxy data is useful, but it’s time resolution period is quite long, probably in the order of many hundreds years, so it inherently smooths out large noisy variations shorter than that… and makes the Ice Age signal you are looking for obvious on the chart.

      But you have to remember that humans living at any one point in the last million years would have had no sense that they were in a cooling or a warming period… it would have all just been ‘weather’ to them. (And even armed with lots of maths, science and technology us modern humans still seem to have trouble making the distinction.)

      The Milankovitch cycles that are the known prime driver of Ice Ages cause a fairly small variation in solar irradiation, but the resulting change in temperature is dramatic because the cumulative variation in radiation persists for a very long period of time. In addition the change in temperature is linked in a CO2 driven positive feedback mechanism then amplifies the effect. This is why you should be worried when humans go changing CO2 levels… the dramatic cyclic nature of the Ice Ages are in themselves evidence of what will happen.

      However, I think the longer term cycles could overwhelm the human effect, especially if Svensmark’s theories are shown as likely correct.

      Well that is possibility… but how statistically probable is that? What we do know, and agree on, is that business as usual with CO2 will inexorably drive the planet towards a warmer condition within a few centuries. What you are now gambling on is some entirely speculative, barely supported theory that has been widely criticised here and here hoping that both the magnitude and timescales of this speculative cooling mechanism will nicely cancel out the predicted warming? Frankly the odds are long…

    • lprent 31.2

      The ice ages aren’t cyclic. In the last billion years, there have been relatively few of them. They usually happen when a continent or part of one moves into a polar region.

      The current ice age started about 70 million years ago when what is now Antarctica started to move into the south polar region. The icecap got extensive enough to allow glacials about 40 million years ago.

      There are a number of cycles that can increase or decrease the propensity towards glacials or interglacials. These include solar, orbital, and magma plumes (ie a propensity towards volcanic activity as well as driving continental drift). These are all slow cycles apart from the sunspot cycles. They are insufficient to explain the rapid warming over the last 50 years in polar or near polar regions, even if they could explain minor warming in other regions.

      If you want to find a alternate explanation – then it has to cover the observed warming in the Antarctica Peninsula and the northern polar region. To date alternate explanation has been sufficient to explain that. Those are the areas that are most sensitive to overall energy retention in the atmosphere and oceans.

      Glacials are inevitably regional. If you look at the geological record, you will find glacials in one region and not in another at the same time period. This means that the regional factors tend to be more important for regional climate.. The most extreme example of this is the sensitivity of Europe and Northern America to the Gulf Stream starting and stopping causing glacials around the northern Atlantic.

      However when you have both near-polar regions warming at the same time over decades, then it isn’t a regional warming. Especially when there is no evidence over the last 50 years of significant changes in air or ocean currents.

      So when you going to learn enough earth science to even use the correct names for events? Perhaps you should do some research then at least your musings might start making some sense.

      I’m aware that you’re in love with charts at present. But the charting of the geological record was being looked at more than 50 years ago, and hasn’t given much insight over the last 30 years.

      • quenchino 31.2.1

        Me thinks we should have another read of :Ice Ages.

        This is the kind of trap we fall into when for the sake of blogbrevity we fail to rigorously define our terms. Certainly Ice Ages are not inherently cyclic over deep time, but within the last 3.5 million years or so there have been regular cyclic changes in global temperatures at 41kyr and 100kyr intervals.

        As usual with earth science.. the reality is always more complex than everyone likes to hope it is.

  31. tsmithfield 32

    Interesting stuff.

    Here is a Wiki link that includes a chart with a smoothed 5 year average line. This removes a lot of noise from the trend.


    It is clear on a five year average basis that temperatures have been rounded off. Also, the last three data points, not included in the five year trend, suggest that this rounding might be continuing.

    If you look back across the chart, every time there has been this degree of rounding of the five year smoothed average, there has been a leg down. While previous reversals have not affected the overall trend, I think there is a fairly high likelihood of another pullback as has occurred since 1980, and a moderate likelihood of a stronger correction as occurred from 1900-1910 or 1942-1950.

    I have to agree that going by “the trend is your friend” a complete reversal into an ice-age is probably a longshot, although not impossible.

  32. quenchino 33

    It is clear on a five year average basis that temperatures have been rounded off.

    The trap is in the maths. Again Tamino shows us where: Dangerous Curves.

    In particular what he shows is that curve fitting to noisy data is not at all straightforward…especially at the ends of the time series. Simple moving average filters (trigonometric filters) are especially prone to this misleading behaviour. Scroll down until you get to Tamino’s favourite filter.. Lowess Smoothing that is a more modern technique.. and far less prone to bad behaviour.

    Sorry if this is a little math heavy… but it is the entry price we have to pay in this debate. There really is no avoiding it.

    I have to agree that going by “the trend is your friend’ a complete reversal into an ice-age is probably a longshot, although not impossible.

    As lprent points out above, there have only been five actual major Ice Ages, going back into deep time (one billion year), and they are not are not at all cyclic What you are really referring to are the terms ‘glacial’ and ‘inter-glacial’. These refer to the smaller cyclic variations within the current Quaternary Ice Age that we are still in.

    Within that context it is thought that the next cooler ‘glacial’ period is around 15 kyr away… far longer than the century timescale that is relevant to AGW and it’s impact on our civilisation.

  33. tsmithfield 34

    I think you are losing yourself in the technicalities a bit. If you read that article, the author is assessing the goodness of fit by eyeballing it to the unsmoothed data and correcting until the fit looks good.

    Looking at the graph I pointed too, I think the fit does look good. Tamino seems to assess goodness of fit on a similar basis. I think, on an eyeballing basis, the fitted line looks fairly good on the chart I refered to as well. Afterall, this is a Wiki article. I think it is safe to assume that there have been a number of iterations and corrections to the graph to get to this point, so I think it is fairly safe to trust the result.

    If we get only two more points of relatively low temperature to complete the next data set, then the smoothed line on the fitted curve on Wiki is going to show a fairly dramatic step down. Given that there will be a lot of weather stations around the world taking fairly major hits for a month or two given the amount of snow and ice around at the moment, I think this year will show as quite low, so the probability of a down leg on a five year smoothed basis seems fairly strong.

    I wouldn’t get too excited about it being a trend down though until amount of movement down was greater than any other movement down on the chart. Thus, I would want to see a move down of more than .2 of a degree before I could start to think about a change in trend on a serious basis.

  34. quenchino 35

    I think you are losing yourself in the technicalities a bit.

    Nope… the technicalities is all. There is no avoiding them.

    And because google is our friend, I found this link, which is non-climate page primarily about a Lowess Filter function for Excel… but scrolling down I found that the author has done some work for us and applied the filter to Global Temperature Data from NASA.

    The resulting charts confirm Tamino’s results rather nicely, ie no ’rounding off’.

  35. quenchino 36

    Looking at the graph I pointed too, I think the fit does look good.

    Read Dangerous Curves again. What Tamino is saying is that just because a smoothing filter gives what looks like a good eyeball fit … does not necessarily mean that it actually explains anything.

    Tamino’s point is that the type of function (linear, polynomial, sinusoidal and so on) that underlies the chosen filter… will determine how it behaves at the boundaries. And unfortunately for the purpose of trying to understand AGW temperature trends… it is the boundary at the present date which is the region we are most interested in… and exactly where most simple filters give misleading answers.

  36. quenchino 37

    Given that there will be a lot of weather stations around the world taking fairly major hits for a month or two given the amount of snow and ice around at the moment, I think this year will show as quite low, so the probability of a down leg on a five year smoothed basis seems fairly strong.

    The current low temperatures in Europe are being matched by high ones in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere…related to yet another climate variable called the ‘Arctic Oscillation’. It’s nothing to do with CO2 and the last month or so this index has been almost off the bottom of the chart.

    Frigid polar air is largely isolated from the temperate regions by strong circumpolar winds that keep it in place. When this AO index goes low, these winds move about dramatically, allowing the arctic and temperate regions to mix far more than usual.

  37. Gareth 38

    Since Open Mind is being referred to: here’s another recent post by Tamino in which he demonstrates that the temperature data from the last decade is entirely consistent with a continuing upward trend — Riddle me this.

  38. tsmithfield 39

    quenchino, that first link with the exel program only serves to demonstrate that as more data points are included in each fitting calculation, the line becomes smoother, and only dominant trends show up. However, such fitting calculations, by necessity, become progressively more reliant on historical data and less useful for predicting future trends as more data points are included.

    In contrast, too fewer data points in each calculation means a greater likelihood of picking up noise. That is why I made the point about not getting too excited about minor fluctions, and that a move downwards of around .2 of a degree would be needed before the direction of the major trend could be seriously questioned.

    The wiki graph was probably not that useful because it did not have many data points, relying on annualised data. If it had used monthly data the calculations would have been more useful. One such indicator that is very useful for picking trend reversals and avoiding “fake-outs” is the parabolic SAR indicator:


    One thing that cannot be questioned is that the world has definitely been getting warmer.

    Whether we are likely to get a reversal in world temperatures depends largely on the actual sensitivity of the climate to human emissions. This is the great unknown at the moment. If the sensitivity is high, then the trend will probably keep going up for the foreseeable future. If the sensitivity is low, then by definition, a substantial part of the previous warming will have been due to natural factors, and thus a change in those natural factors could have a substantial effect on reducing temperature.

    What is needed is some good technical indicators. One very good indicator for picking up likely future

  39. lprent 40

    Surprisingly good discussion. I’ve been peeking at the links while increasing the caffiene levels in Bulls. iPhones are excellent for reading comments – but this mobile theme badly needs a reply button.

    However I have to say that the nearly-a-hangover makes the reading a bit of a strain. I suspect that the drive to Auckland will be in hour hops.

    It is all young labour and clare currans fault. The wine just appeared. And it was fun watching the crazy dancing. However I should have headed to bed earlier.

  40. quenchino 41

    quenchino, that first link with the exel program only serves to demonstrate that as more data points are included in each fitting calculation, the line becomes smoother, and only dominant trends show up.

    Almost. I can see where you are coming from. Lets assume we are filtering a bunch of noisy data points in a time series. What determines the smoothness of the resulting curve is the parameter we choose for the filter. For instance if we are using a simple moving average filter, then obviously the period of the moving average is critical… ie the appearance of the result is determined by whether we choose a 5, 10 or 30 year period.

    All filters have similar parameters that are chosen to reject the noise we want to discard, and reveal the underlying signal that we are interested in. This is a crucial point. You have to choose filter parameters that makes sense in terms of the signal you are trying to extract. There is no point for instance in trying to find a seasonal timescale variation… if you apply a 1000 year filter to the data. The signal you are looking for will be smoothed out of existence. Equally if you apply a 5 year filter to a process with an underlying 1000 year driver… the signal you are looking for will be hidden under noise.

    By contrast including more data points does not necessarily change the shape of the curve, rather it increases your confidence in it’s accuracy.

    However, such fitting calculations, by necessity, become progressively more reliant on historical data and less useful for predicting future trends as more data points are included.

    True but still misses the point. Absolutely if you apply a 30 year filter to an historic time series, no-one would project the resulting curve into the future and pretend that it predicts for instance…tommorrow’s weather. (Or indeed anything else other than a smoothed trend over the next 30 years.)

    The technical and political challenge with AGW is that the driver (human induced CO2 changes) have a timescale in the order of a century or so, which is why we usually apply 15 -30 year filters. But from a human political perspective this is very slow and we are apt to get bored or imagine that we can procrastinate doing something about it, so we get tempted to try apply filters with much less smoothing… and wonder why we get misleading results.

    As for ‘technical analysis’… I accept that you know a lot about how it applies to making bets on various markets, and that at one level it makes sense as both markets and climate are complex, hard to predict systems … but I’m far from convinced that the mechanisms which drive planetary climate can be satisfactorily modelled as millions of ‘rational actors’ all intent on maximising their personal self-interest.

  41. tsmithfield 42

    Interesting discussion.

    I don’t know that we are actually that far apart. I certainly agree that the main warming trend is very strong and will take a major departure from this to indicate that the trend has changed.

    I am genuinely unsure how much is due to human influence and how much is due to natural variables, but am open to being convinced either way. I tend to enjoy taking a contrarian stance in debates. However, that would overstate the degree to which I lean in the contrarian direction.

    So far as technical analysis is concerned, I think the parabolic SAR is a useful tool for picking up changes in any trend. I don’t think it matters with this indicator if the data is from humans or from natural variables.

    There are some indicators I don’t think would be appropriate for the climate change debate; for instance mean-reverting indicators such as Bollinger Bands, or indicators that make assumptions about overbought or oversold conditions..

    • lprent 42.1

      I am genuinely unsure how much is due to human influence and how much is due to natural variables, but am open to being convinced either way.

      You probably just need to look at the basic evidence steps from long ago.

      The key to understanding that is to look at the isotopic ratios in atmospheric carbon. That provides a signature for carbon that has been recently exposed to ‘heavy’ radiation within the last few hundred years in the atmosphere and surface, and carbon that has been locked up for millions of years in rock protection. It is clear the the ‘extra’ CO2 in the atmosphere has been coming from fossil sources from that – and has been for more than 30 years – it was in my geochem texts in 1980.

      Same for visible light energy getting dissipated to infrared, and the trapping routes for infra-red out of the atmosphere.

      The insolation energy levels are reasonably well known from the 70s (you really can only do them from orbit). Same for the heat escaping the atmosphere.

      But basically we’re seeing rapid changes in climate especially in the near polar regions that are the most sensitive to energy changes. They have been sustained for 50 years. There is no natural process that we know that could do that.

      I’d suggest charting the Antarctica Peninsula temperatures. You’ll be able to look at run-away growth of about 0.5C per decade for the last 5 decades…..

  42. quenchino 43

    Great discussion… and had me re-reading a few sources. This stuff is not easy. I’m just an ordinary geeky sort of dude and I’ve had to do a lot of reading over time to keep up with this.

    Tamino is my hero. Mathematicians are the princes of the modern world, but so few of them can convey their magic to the rest of us clunkerbrains in the way that he can. Not all of his material is about climate, sometimes he just does math stuff like PCA analysis, Bayesian statistics, filters, error probabilities, central limit theorem and much more…

    And if it turns out you are right about an upcoming period of cooling ts… you will likely see Tamino post a statistically rigorous proof of this on Open Mind before anyone else.:-)

  43. lprent 44

    National park.

    One thing you’re probably overlooking doing the charting using financial techniques.

    An underlying assumption is that markets are ‘rational’ in that prices are reflecting the actual value of something. Ignoring that the people making markets frequently aren’t, that isn’t the case when you’re looking at natural processes. There are a lot of paths for extra energy to dissipate – some of which can take long times before the energy reappears.

    One of those for example is the storage of heat in polar deep currents. Eventually these reemerge up around the tropics where a slightly higher tempature will result in a reduced ability to suck up tropical heat. I suspect we are short of information on how much heat is going into those energy transfers

  44. tsmithfield 45

    Iprent “One thing you’re probably overlooking doing the charting using financial techniques.

    An underlying assumption is that markets are ‘rational’ in that prices are reflecting the actual value of something”

    Not really. I would only advocate using techniques that are valid for charts generally. There are a lot of indicators out there that clearly are only applicable to financial charts. I would not advocate broadening the use of those ones.

    BTW, one of the reasons I am skeptical about the temperature going up indefinitely is that increased temperatures may activate processes that reverse the temperature. For instance, Jenny pointed to the gulf stream being interrupted as a possible mechanism that could achieve this that has been theorised about for awhile. Also, increased C02 might result in increased vegetation which could have the effect of sinking more carbon.

    To use a financial analogy, there are an awful lot of people on the global warming side of the trade at the moment. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if nature turns around and surprises us all.

    • lprent 45.1

      Ummm you really really need to get rid of the idea of global warming as an effect. Global warming is a cause (more energy retention), it is not the effect (climate change).

      One of the specific triggers for a increased energy climate effect may be to have some regions get significantly colder. There are several arguments about why the gulf stream periodically turns off and on. One of those involves increased temperatures on the lower US east coast, and a higher fresh water runoff. This dilutes the gulf stream and therefore stops the it (a major driver for the gulf stream is apparently the difference in salinity between the tropics and the polar areas).

      Turn off the gulf stream, and the glaciers crank over the landscape in Northern Europe and to a lesser extent North Americia. So global warming can cause a regional climate change towards colder. The rest of the world continues on average to warm up because the heat in the gulf stream is dissipated closer to the tropics.

      There are all sorts of similar effects in different regions. Like the effects of monsoons around the Indian subcontinent.

      Basically anyone who uses “Global Warming” is generally regarded as a CCD. They are confabulating a cause with the effects and thereby demonstrating they don’t understand the scientific issue at all.

      Just at present they will tell you that the current low temperatures in the upper northern hemisphere this year ‘prove’ that global warming isn’t happening. Personally if I was living there I’d be having a close look at why the polar air wasn’t as confined to the polar regions as it is normally. It could be a unexpected regional climate shift or simple statistical outlier. I’d also be measuring the gulf stream a lot. In both cases it could be a climate change due to global warming or it could be a simple variation.

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