Final thoughts for 2009: Looking at deep time

Written By: - Date published: 5:03 pm, December 31st, 2009 - 62 comments
Categories: climate change, science - Tags:

Well it is the end of 2009. So here are some final thoughts on the implications of the political shifts in the climate change debates this year. It has been marked from my viewpoint of an irreverable shift from arguing with CCDs (climate change deniers) to CCSs (climate change skeptics) which on the whole has been beneficial to the debate.

Of course what CCSs1 fail to understand is exactly how dependent on a stable climate our world technology is. Just look at the effects of a fairly minor storm5 had in the richest country around New Orleans when a hurricane took a unexpected turn and smashed the levees. They US barely avoided a major loss of life, had massive property damage, and food crops over a wide area. It then affected the price of insurance worldwide.

Now imagine similar weather happening in one of the most populous and poorest countries in the world like Bangladesh. Then imagine many of these events happening every year across different locations worldwide. That is the type of climate change that the scientists are envisaging happening down the near term time stream.

Sure the climate has changed in the past, just as the mantra of the CCDs (at least those who accept a deep time past) keep proclaiming. Every person who has trained in the earth sciences (like myself) is keenly aware of this and far more so than those proclaiming this ‘revelation’. Much of the discipline (and many others) is involved in examining those paleoclimatic changes and their effects. It is irritating seeing the repetitious chanting of this mantra by the people who depend more on faith than understanding the implications for our ancestors and our future.

There is a short viewpoint article on the BBC site “Climate and humans: the long view” by Clive Findlayson, an anthropologist looking at paleoclimatic shifts and the extinction of the Neanderthals in Europe.

But if we were to use the deep history of this planet as our yardstick, the unusual thing would be for our climate to remain immutable.

Earth’s climate has always been in flux and the last 10,000 years, which in relative terms have been fairly stable, are not the rule.

In those 10,000 years we have gone from hunter-gatherers to farmers, industrialists and travellers in cyberspace, seemingly safe within the cocooned illusion that climatic stability was the way of the world.

Anyone who looks into deep time is aware of how hard it is to predict the precise effects of climate change. Surprising effects happen, even when viewed from a perspective of knowledge of other deep time climate changes.

We should be under no illusion as to the effects of global warming, natural or man-made. It will change the face of the planet even though we don’t really know where, when or how, in any kind of detail.

But natural climate change has altered the face of the planet many times before, and in far more dramatic ways. Even the rate of change expected today is not outside the limits of natural change.

The 40-odd thousand years leading up to the last Ice Age included countless wild and sharp climatic oscillations that would have provided the most sensational of world headlines had our Neanderthal cousins had satellite television, mobile phones or internet.

Anyone who has looked at the paleoclimatic record of the last glacial2 in the 40 odd million years our current ice age is aware of the extremities that our ancestors and their extinct cousins have had, and which shaped our current form and cultures.

The difference with this one, and we should be open and honest about it, is that it will affect millions of people. Our own history, and that of our Neanderthal cousins and our predecessors, has been shaped by climate change and luck.

Our population was so small that being in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time, really mattered.

The Neanderthals, who had been so successful in Europe for much longer than we have been around, vanished because of too much global cooling.

The entire energy budget that humans are capable of controlling is but a few minutes of the annual energy budget that drives our climate. We have inadvertently managed to get into a position where we are temporarily3 changing the climate of the world. However, to me it merely looks like we are still arguing about wrong things. If it isn’t corrected we will wind up in our ancestors position of being brought to the brink of extinction in remnant populations.

The point is that modern day humans are accustomed to thinking of themselves as a species that shapes the world rather than being shaped by it. We can level mountains. But our powers are limited – we can’t stop famines when the rains don’t arrive on time for sustained periods. Under those circumstance we revert to the starvation and warfare of our ancestors – complicated by our increased abilities to increase the speed of diebacks with modern weaponary

Our technological civilization is based on a pyramid of technologies. The base of which is our technical innovation of agriculture. However this is a technology that has never seen severe climate change. Historically minor changes in climate patterns like the regional mini glacials, mini interglacials, and shifts in rainfall that have happened in the recent 10k years have caused civilizations to fall into disarray of warfare, disease, and starvation causing rapid drops in local human populations to a sustainable level.

The same fragilities and dependence on stable climate patterns still exist in our civilization. We are essentially in the same position as the extinct Neanderthals with respect to climate change, unable to adapt to its effects. But because we are causing the current climate problem, we are also capable of reversing it if we act early enough.

CCSs like our current government, are currently trying to debate ‘adaption’ rather than ‘mitigation’. But that is not an option. We will have to do both, because the climate changes are already going to be irreversibly severe worldwide – almost regardless what we do in the short-term. Because of the increasing interdependence of the world economies, the process of diebacks to sustainable levels will not confine themselves to discrete areas. Humans are not known for dying quietly, they tend to take others with them. The current proliferation of nuclear weapon4 capabilities mean that they can probably take a great many of us.

The later that effective6 mitigation (reducing and reversing greenhouse gas emissions) happens – the higher the costs will be for both adaption, mitigation, and consequential costs.

On that cheerful thought, I’m about to turn my mind off, and get ready for what will hopefully be a better new year.

1: I’ve given up on the CCDs (climate change deniers) because they are clearly not contributing to any debate apart from those of faith. The CCSs at least look at the evidence. Their usual trait is to say that it won’t be as severe as to require some paradigm shifts in the way that our technologies operates.

2: Pleeze! The slow continental drift of Antarctica into the polar regions about 70 million years ago has been causing rapid regional glacial and inter-glacial events for the last 40 million years. Essentially having a fridge move into the south polar region has been accentuating the normal cyclic solar and orbital changes ever since. I’d have thought by now that even anthropologists would have picked up on the implications of continental drift and the resulting shifts in terminology.

3: In any normal geological framework, the current effects of our efforts to turn Earths climate into that of Venus are doomed to failure. There simply aren’t enough fossil stores of carbon to do this over the long-term, even if you exclude the atmosphere stripping effects of our over-sized lunar sister. As soon as we are unable to sustain the effort any more, probably because humans or their current technological civilization go extinct, the planet will revert quickly (in geological terms). In a few thousands of years, you wouldn’t be able to see that we had any effect at all.

4: Of course there is a very fast terraforming tool at our disposal. Nuclear weapons being used against almost any ground target are a pretty good way of throwing particulate matter into the troposphere/stratosphere – the nuclear winter effect. This is the same effect, albeit less efficient, as having large volcanic effects. There will probably be an increased likelihood of warfare when societies get stressed from the effects of climate change. Not to mention the increased tensions from having greenhouse ‘cheaters’ in the international community. It becomes more a case of when this will happen than if. It seems like a policy made for demagogues.

Some of the studies done since the idea was postulated in the 1970’s would make this deeply attractive to nations deeply affected by climate change to use against nations emitting the gases causing it. Having your populations dying already would fundamentally shift the doctrines of MAD that have partially constrained the use of nuclear weapons for the last 60 years.

5: It was pretty damn minor when you look at other regions of the world. When you look what at the energy levels of hurricanes in the Caribbean, or especially cyclones in the more open Pacific, Katrina was at least partially dissipated by the islands and shallower seas by the time it hit the US coastline. Of course it didn’t seem that way to the people who remained in New Orleans because their systems weren’t set up to handle that level of energy dissipation.

6: Look at Nationals Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for how ineffective a scheme can be. Bad as Labours version was, what national came up with was a travesty.. Nationals version is like slapping a white dress over a pregnancy and getting everyone at the ceremony to pretend that a white dress with no waistline means a virgin is going to have a night she will never forget7.

7: And you can blame Lyn for that comment. She was explaining the anatomy of wedding dresses and their waistlines.8

8: And blame Terry Prachett for the extended footnotes. I damn well hope that his medical condition doesn’t slow him down too much writing those witty books with their intensely funny footnotes.

62 comments on “Final thoughts for 2009: Looking at deep time”

  1. Zorr 1

    Iprent, a very well written look back over the year in an encompassing way. I would just say one thing here though with the fact that I am getting tired of those (in all areas) labelling themselves as “skeptics”. It is the first requirement of any scientist that they maintain an open and inquiring mind (a skeptical mind if you will) but I have too often found that those labelling themselves with the word “skeptic” to be ill-informed, arguing from an emotive standpoint, as immutable as any religious dogmatic believer or denialist out there and as liable to give me a headache. Often I just find that they hold whatever opinion they do out of a desire to be paid attention to and/or be Devils Advocate.

    Anyway, enjoy your New Year. May stupid people all be taken by the Rapture (sometime in January from memory this time, isn’t it?).

    • Lew 1.1

      Zorr, yes — they employ ‘skeptic’ to mean ‘I’m entitled to believe what I like’. Well, yes — but that doesn’t make you a skeptic.

      L

      • Zorr 1.1.1

        Good point there Lew. The problem for me being the seemingly large amount of people who use it to mean that… ^_~

  2. Mac1 2

    Thanks for a thoughtful post for the new year and decade, lprent. I will now repair to my patio to see the new year in with a good glass of an eponymous single malt to contemplate the year that has been and the year to come- which is where your post comes in.
    As for the deniers and sceptics- have faith that truth and light prevail, but keep acting on it. I appreciate and enjoy your work, wit and wisdom. To another decade at least…….Slainte mhaith.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Just recently an article was posted that stated the supposed major skeptical arguments with respect to AGW, and supposedly refuted them. I pointed out that the arguments put forward on the skeptical side were in fact strawman arguments, and that the article was merely attempting to knock over these strawman arguments rather than attempt to deal with the true arguments on the skeptical side.

    Well, here is a link to an article that points out my points much more eloquently. This article points out seven common strawman misconceptions and what the correct skeptical position on these is. I would be interested to see a post on this site that actually deals with the true skeptical position held by skeptical scientists.

    http://sppiblog.org/news/scientific-american%E2%80%99s-climate-lies

    • Zorr 3.1

      A couple of things to point out there tsmith.

      First of all, trying to defend James Inhofe from his own stupidity is the very definition of pushing shit up hill.

      Secondly, all the “skeptic positions” that Scientific American published are all arguments that I have heard from both CCS’s and CCDers on a regular basis. If you choose to align yourself on that side of the argument, be prepared to defend an indefensible position every single time another big name goes and puts their foot in it. If we have to put up with defending the Climategate “scandal”, you have to put up with trying to defend complete and utter morons.

      Happy New Year and may the Rapture take you… ^_~

    • NickS 3.2

      From The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

      Ah-hahahahahahahahaha….

      /smirk

      Yes, because Monckton is actually trustworthy when it comes to climate science and not a basket case conspiracy theorist to whom scientific thinking is truly a foreign country:
      http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/global_warming/monckton/
      http://hot-topic.co.nz/tag/monckton/
      http://www.realclimate.org/wiki/index.php?title=Christopher_Monckton

      Basically, using Monckton for talking about issues in climate change is a bit like using Michael Behe et al to talk about issues in evolutionary biology, i.e. a bad idea, since these people really f*cking idea about the subject they claim to have authority on.

      Which means I’m not even going to bother reading it, due to wishing to save my brain cells from the horrors of burning, /head-desk inducing stupidity.

      And really, perhaps it might be better for you to go and read the latest IPCC etc reports and “read” them, then go to google scholar and look at the literature more in depth, out each paper in context and partake in this wonderfully fun thing called “learning”. In which you might actually even learn some of the basics of scientific thinking.

  4. Andrei 4

    Where to start with this?

    Take this

    Just look at the effects of a fairly minor storm had in the richest country around New Orleans when a hurricane took a unexpected turn and smashed the levees. They US barely avoided a major loss of life, had massive property damage, and food crops over a wide area. It then affected the price of insurance worldwide.

    Katrina was far from a “minor storm” as you put it.

    And the brunt of it was not born by New Orleans but but Gulf Port and Biloxi in Missippi.

    Indeed after the storm had passed headlines from New Orleans read “We have dodged a bullet” – famous last words written just before the Levees failed.

    But there is nothing new in large Atlantic Hurricanes – the city of Indianola, then a major Texan port was abandoned after twice being struck with large loss of life in the late 19th century. And as a result Galveston prospered as the major Texan Port.

    But in 1900 Galveston was hit – indeed the Galveston Hurricane is to this day the single biggest natural disaster to ever hit the United States with well in excess of 10,000 dead.

    Instead of whining the good people of Galveston and Texas learned from the disaster, rebuilt and built a sea wall to protect the city, which it has thus far.

    And that is the point – nobody can stop Atlantic hurricanes or even accurately predict where the will make landfall until just before they do. All anybody can do is take precautions and have contingency plans.

    Thus when Katrina hit Gulf Port the loss of life was relatively small even though the town was smashed. And after it passed the people immediately picked themselves up and began rebuilding.

    In New Orleans the people passively looked to their Local City Government, instead of doing it for themselves. And the Local Government passively looked to the State Government in Baton Rouge who in turn looked to the Federal Government nearly 1000 miles away in Washington.

    What a mess huh

    Anybody who thinks Big Government can control the weather or the climate needs their head read IMHO.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    Nick “Which means I’m not even going to bother reading it, due to wishing to save my brain cells from the horrors of burning, /head-desk inducing stupidity.”

    “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” Paul Simon “the Boxer”.

    If you want to argue against the skeptical position, then the proper way to do it is to argue against the very strongest aspects of the skeptical position, not the weakest as Scientific American has done. Rather than arguing by character assassination, why not actually read what the strongest skeptical arguments are, as set out in that article, and then see if you can debunk those, instead of cherry-picking easy targets.

    • NickS 5.1

      lolwut?

      Rather than arguing by character assassination, why not actually read what the strongest skeptical arguments are, as set out in that article, and then see if you can debunk those, instead of cherry-picking easy targets.

      Except it’s not character assassination if the charges made are true, and since science relies on trust, as in trusting that a particular person has read and knows the science they’re claiming expertise on, and it is seen that they really have no idea about the subject area and propensity to bullshit, then it’s rather rational to ignore their claims. Particularly if you’re not an expert.

      And it is fairly clear that Monckton is not a valid source for criticisms about the current state of climate science, and has a long and sordid history of producing fallacious arguments, thus meaning under the above schema, I can safely, rationally ignore what he says. Much as I do with anything that comes out of William Dembski’s mouth on information theory and evolution, or Peter Duesberg on HIV and AIDS. That is unless I can be bothered examining their claims, for purposes of /cluebatting

      And why can I do this? It’s because science just fucking works, as in it’s self-correcting enough that real issues are picked up on and dealt with to produce a picture of empirical phenomena which (probably) fits reality. Which means in general, it’s rational to accept scientific findings (published in the correct journal for a paper’s given subject matter), until new evidence comes to light within the literature that over-rides previous claims. i.e. give me published papers, that show issues with climate science, rather than opinion pieces from a well known crank.

      It would also help, if you made use of google scholar to check citations of a given paper for any criticisms levelled at it, along with actually checking out the journal it’s published in.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      If it’s got Monckton in it then it doesn’t have any sceptical arguments in it never mind strong ones. this isn’t character assassination as you’d like to believe as Monckton’s arguments have been shot down in flames before. There’s no point in even engaging with him or anyone who uses his “arguments” because we know for a fact that they’re arguing from belief and delusion and not from any actual physical evidence.

    • quenchino 5.3

      Yes and that Paul SImon line cuts both ways.

      The point being that the article you link to is just an article, an unreferenced collection of unsupported assertions. It’s not science, because what is missing is:

      1. Any original data or research.

      2. Any references.

      3. Any testable predictions or attempts to determine how robustly the data supports them.

      4. Any hint of refereeing or peer-review. (Even comments are turned off.)

      5. It does have numerous internal inconsistencies and undergrad howlers that do tend to rather undermine it’s credibility.

      No Mr Smithfield, Monckton’s article is not science, it is an opinion piece written in a rhetorical bombastic style in order that non-experts in the field can read and believe… if they are determined to.

  6. Andrei 6

    Actually Scientists are supposed to be Skeptical – its what makes science work.

    • lprent 6.1

      Yep, scientists are skeptical – it is part of the training.

      But what is notable about CCDs and to a lesser extent CCSs is how credulous they are. They tend to dig out something and repeat it ad infinitum, even after the skeptical scientists shoot it down.

      Perhaps you should notice when the skeptical scientists across a whole discipline start agreeing.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    Mark “Except it’s not character assassination if the charges made are true”

    Mark, you still don’t seem to get it. The person is irrelevant to the strength of an argument. I don’t really care WHO says something. I am much more interested in WHAT they have to say. Perhaps if you started taking a similar approach, you might actually learn something.

  8. Andrei 8

    The same fragilities and dependence on stable climate patterns still exist in our civilization. We are essentially in the same position as the extinct Neanderthals with respect to climate change, unable to adapt to its effects. But because we are causing the current climate problem, we are also capable of reversing it if we act early enough.

    We are no more capable of changing the future course of the climate than the Neanderthals were.

    You bring up hurricane Katrina – a “fairly minor storm“. No it was category 5 before landfall and just under Category 4 when it made landfall. That is not minor!

    Nor did it directly hit New Orleans – in fact Gulf Port and Biloxi Mississippi bore the brunt.

    Indeed after the storm had passed the headlines in New Orleans read “We have dodged a bullet”, Ironic really the levees were failing as the papers went to press.

    In Gulf Port and Biloxi the people looked after themselves and even though their towns were smashed got on with it and recovered.

    In New Orleans the people looked to the City Government and the City Government looked to the State Government in Baton Rouge who in their turn Looked to the Federal Government in Washington nearly 1000 miles away who did their best while the local officials (the people on the ground) panicked and pointed fingers while the city flooded.

    Gulf Port and Biloxi got back up and running quite quickly because the locals took responsibility – in Louisiana they didn’t because the local people sat back and whined expecting “BIG GOVERNMENT” to fix it for them. And BIG GOVERNMENT will fail every time.

    Nor is there anything new about Atlantic Hurricanes.

    The city of Indianola Texas was a major port in the 19th century but was abandoned after it was flattened twice in quick succession by hurricanes in the later part of the century.

    Galveston profited from this and became the biggest Port in Texas – but it too was demolished by a Hurricane in 1900. This event is still the largest natural disaster to ever strike the United States in terms of death toll – over 10,000 dead and the city gone!

    But the good people of Galveston and Texas rebuilt it and learning from that catastrophe built a seawall that has thus far prevented a repeat of that disaster.

    And if you think that Big Government whether it be in the form of the UN, the US Congress can do anything to stop hurricanes – well I have news for you.

    For goodness sake the Mayor of New Orleans could not even manage to get the cities bus fleet moved from out of the way of the advancing waters – let alone have the savvy to use it to evacuate people to higher ground – and this is the type of person you would gladly entrust to control the weather? Luckily it isn’t possible to do this – which is a small mercy.

    • lprent 8.1

      I’d suggest that you have a look at the energy levels in the pacific cyclones. But also have a look at some of the storms that hit the Caribbean islands. The deaths rates of those in history and over the last few decades make the effects in the coastal US look minor.

      Have a look at this

      The 1970 Bhola cyclone is the deadliest tropical cyclone on record, killing more than 300,000 people[98] and potentially as many as 1 million[99] after striking the densely populated Ganges Delta region of Bangladesh on 13 November 1970. Its powerful storm surge was responsible for the high death toll.[98] The North Indian cyclone basin has historically been the deadliest basin.[76][100] Elsewhere, Typhoon Nina killed nearly 100,000 in China in 1975 due to a 100-year flood that caused 62 dams including the Banqiao Dam to fail.[101] The Great Hurricane of 1780 is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, killing about 22,000 people in the Lesser Antilles.[102] A tropical cyclone does need not be particularly strong to cause memorable damage, primarily if the deaths are from rainfall or mudslides. Tropical Storm Thelma in November 1991 killed thousands in the Philippines,[103] while in 1982, the unnamed tropical depression that eventually became Hurricane Paul killed around 1,000 people in Central America.[104]

      The most intense storm on record was Typhoon Tip in the northwestern Pacific Ocean in 1979, which reached a minimum pressure of 870 mbar (25.69 inHg) and maximum sustained wind speeds of 165 knots (85 m/s) or 190 miles per hour (310 km/h).[112] Tip, however, does not solely hold the record for fastest sustained winds in a cyclone. Typhoon Keith in the Pacific and Hurricanes Camille and Allen in the North Atlantic currently share this record with Tip.[113] Camille was the only storm to actually strike land while at that intensity, making it, with 165 knots (85 m/s) or 190 miles per hour (310 km/h) sustained winds and 183 knots (94 m/s) or 210 miles per hour (340 km/h) gusts, the strongest tropical cyclone on record at landfall.[114] Typhoon Nancy in 1961 had recorded wind speeds of 185 knots (95 m/s) or 215 miles per hour (346 km/h), but recent research indicates that wind speeds from the 1940s to the 1960s were gauged too high, and this is no longer considered the storm with the highest wind speeds on record.[91] Similarly, a surface-level gust caused by Typhoon Paka on Guam was recorded at 205 knots (105 m/s) or 235 miles per hour (378 km/h). Had it been confirmed, it would be the strongest non-tornadic wind ever recorded on the Earth’s surface, but the reading had to be discarded since the anemometer was damaged by the storm.[115]

      In addition to being the most intense tropical cyclone on record, Tip was the largest cyclone on record, with tropical storm-force winds 2,170 kilometres (1,350 mi) in diameter. The smallest storm on record, Tropical Storm Marco, formed during October 2008, and made landfall in Veracruz.[116]

      Hurricane John is the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, lasting 31 days in 1994. Before the advent of satellite imagery in 1961, however, many tropical cyclones were underestimated in their durations.[117] John is the second longest-tracked tropical cyclone in the Northern Hemisphere on record, behind Typhoon Ophelia of 1960, which had a path of 8,500 miles (12,500 km). Reliable data for Southern Hemisphere cyclones is unavailable.[118]

      Perhaps you should indulge yourself and acquire a sense of perspective for the new year.

      • Andrei 8.1.1

        How big was the Great Hurricane of 1780?

        Who knows they didn’t have satellites or meteorological equipment back then to record such things.

        But it sure killed a lot of people over a very wide area and what is known about it is that it was the deadliest hurricane ever

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      Wah wah, BIG GOVERNMENT, waaaah

      Except that the reason New Orleans wasn’t cleaned up was because of the corruption of business and administration. It’s corruption that’s the problem – not government.

      I suspect that it didn’t help that New Orleans is below sea level even when there isn’t a storm surge. Why would anyone even want to clean the place up knowing that it’s just going to happen again?

  9. jaymam 9

    If you are going to call people names, “CCDs (climate change deniers)”, “CCSs (climate change skeptics)”, what would the “POCAGW” (proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming) like to be called, since that is a bit long?

    Is “climate alarmists” OK? I am prepared to be called a “climate sceptic”.
    Note that the sceptics are not arguing about Global Warming, just about the catastrophic anthropogenic part.

    • lprent 9.1

      Yes, they also don’t provide any evidence apart from wishful thinking. Indeed your ‘statement’ didn’t even bother to postulate an alternate theory so I could shoot it down. Probably wise if you wish to keep your faith. Not so wise if you want your grandkids to have healthy kids themselves.

      The carbon isotope signatures of atmospheric carbon are very clear about where the carbon is coming from and has been for over 30 years. The physics of scattering are pretty basic and so is the heat retention of IR inside the atmosphere.

      The climate runs on energy, so climate change is inevitable. The only questions for the last 30 years has been estimating how much and how soon. The answers have been a history of more than was previously expected and sooner than we’d like.

      Live with it and start figuring out if our civilization can cope with it.

      • jaymam 9.1.1

        You didn’t answer my question lprent.
        Are you happy to be called a “climate alarmist’ or do you and your cabal prefer a different name? The name needs to be short and meaningful.
        “Warmist” is not meaningful.
        “Proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” is meaningful but too long.

        • Bill 9.1.1.1

          Since science is an exercise of enquiry and enquiry is driven by scepticism, I’d suggest that a climate septic would be a more appropriate label for the likes of you jayman…..full of shit and rather unpleasant being the spelling out of it.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.2

          I’d go with realist in relation to CCDs delusional.

        • lprent 9.1.1.3

          Try Climate Change Realist (CCR).

          Over the last 30 years, I’ve looked at the theories, numbers and evidence. It has steadily been getting worse. Then I look at the CCDs and CCSs, who appear to be largely consulting their own navels for their ‘evidence’, looking at what they’d like to happen rather than what is happening.

          How about learning to grow up and look at the world as it is? The mantra of “its not going to happen” or “it is not going to be as bad as that” is simply stupid. It is pretty basic physics that it will happen.

          How how about answering my question? Have you got any ideas and evidence supporting your position – or is it just navel fluff (as I suspect)..

          One of the annoying traits of CCDs is they have this habit of attacking theories without putting up alternative theories. I suspect that most of the reason is that they have some parental divine intervention hangups that they’d prefer not to discuss.

          • jaymam 9.1.1.3.1

            I’m not a climate change denier, I’m a sceptic, as all scientists should be. I like to check all the facts because it’s hard to trust what I see in the media. I don’t know of any climate change deniers – I doubt that there are any. They can be igored for sure.

            I don’t believe that there is catastrophic climate change occurring now or will in the near future. To support my theory I have been looking at raw data from weather stations. That is the only data that can be trusted, since climate scientists have been “adjusting” temperature data for years, so you can’t believe anything the CRU and IPCC or NIWA say.

            The data I’ve seen shows that temperatures have remained roughly constant at each site for the last hundred years or more. Some sites go down a bit, some go up a bit. There is definitely no “hockey stick” effect, so that is a lie for sure.

            Have you looked at raw unchanged temperature data? Nothing else can be believed.

            • Zorr 9.1.1.3.1.1

              LMAO

              And thusly you have actually labeled yourself a CCDer…

              Sorry, but too funny. You just pulled a whole bunch of CCD arguments out of your ass and labelled them as your sceptical position.

              Congratulations on sinking your own ship.

              • jaymam

                I believe that natural climate change has been occurring but not catastrophic climate change. Therefore we don’t have to worry about it, certainly not right now. Attempting to reduce CO2 will achieve nothing except to wreck the world economy.

              • lprent

                Yeah, so figure out how to formulate a testable theory. Then get someone to test it.

                Without that, what you are saying to me is that you are simply acting on faith. That is the response, as I pointed out in the post, of someone denying the largely tested BASIC science because you prefer not to learn enough to be able argue.

            • lprent 9.1.1.3.1.2

              If you knew anything about science you’d understand why ‘raw’ data without adjustments for instrumental variations and position is ALWAYS meaningless.

              Unadjusted data is totally unreliable. At the vary least you need the calibration data for the instruments, and that should be updated reasonably frequently. It would be unusual for ‘raw’ data that comes pre-adjusted for that, if only because you need to be able to backfit the adjustment for older data, after a calibration if made.

              In the case of climate stations I guess you’re one of the scientific illiterates who spliced data from multiple different weather stations together. Those stations from different periods were using different instruments and different locations. This will always lead to bad interpretation. Which is what the idiots from CSC (??) did. Was that you?

              That was one of the most spectacular bits of idiocy I’ve ever seen even an amateur do. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on Hot-Topic.

              • jaymam

                I said “raw unchanged temperature data”, so of course I have not “spliced data from multiple different weather stations together”.
                There are plenty of weather stations around the world monitored by competent scientists. The raw data that I have checked has a consistent temperature over the whole period, with small ups and downs as one would expect but no major upward or downward trend. There is no hockey stick trend, which has been the biggest scientific fraud since Piltdown Man.

                I’m not a member of any group except for the Labour Party. You guys at The Standard are embarrassing yourselves by believing the lies put out by the IPCC and not checking the science yourselves.

                • lprent

                  Which stations? There are bugger all that have long continuous records. Offhand I can’t think of a single weather station that has been continuously active with the same equipment and location for more than about 20 years – ie where you could possibly use ‘raw’ data. It is hard to detect a significant trend in anywhere but the the Arctic or the Antarctica peninsula in that period, and neither has such a raw continuous data log for instrumentation or location.

                  I couldn’t really give a shit which parties you’ve joined. What I’m looking at is your science not your politics. I’ve been pushing Labour for decades – a lot of inertia there as well. I did an earth sciences degree and I’ve been looking at the science for over 30 years. I check the figures and more importantly the conformance to evidence to theories.

                  Basically I suspect that you are simply a bullshitting CCD and are really just trying to cover how little you understand.

                  • jaymam

                    lprent, you say “I check the figures”.
                    Tell me the temperature figures for a weather station that you have checked, that show catastrophic warming. I have not found any yet.

                    • quenchino

                      It’s you making the claim jayman. Let’s see it.

                    • lprent

                      I think that you are missing the point. There are none. Catastrophic temperate changes are what we are trying to prevent – it is not what is currently trying to be proven. You don’t understand that? You appear to have a very ‘loose’ view of the theories you’re trying to disprove.

                      However, just to help out someone struggling with the science, look in stations in the Antarctica Peninsula and above the Arctic circle. Those are the most sensitive areas in the world for climate changes. You will typically find between changes between 2.5C and 5C upwards in those regions in those areas over the last 50 years. Everywhere else is within the range of normal variability. It is to prevent a 2-4C average increase over the next century worldwide that we’re trying to prevent.

                      I have no idea about where to get raw data for those, probably NOAA would be the best bet. I tend to trust the scientists. So it is your problem to disprove their data.

                      But as I strongly suspect you’re a bullshitter and have bugger all abilities in maths, I’d suspect that you’re incapable of doing so.

                    • Andrei []

                      Catastrophic temperate changes are what we are trying to prevent

                      There is no compelling reason to assume there are going to be catastrophic temperature changes in the next hundred years.

                      For all anyone knows a little warming may be beneficial to humanity, in fact going on historical precedent that might even be likely.

                      But then again we might get cooling which might be detrimental to humanity again going on historical precident

                      What is certain is that overall one or the other will occur – its one of the perils we have to live with on a planet with chaotic atmospheric systems.

                      And another fact of life when dealing with chaotic systems is their intrinsic unpredictability.

                      Just ask the British Met office who predicted a mild winter for 2009-2010 only a couple of months later to encounter the coldest Northern Hemisphere winter in decades.

                      And our Summer aint been to flash thus far either – not bad for the 4th hottest year on record or whatever was claimed for it by the self same British Met service just before the Copenhagen save the Planet love-in

                    • quenchino []

                      And another fact of life when dealing with chaotic systems is their intrinsic unpredictability.

                      All the more reason not to frack with them while they are in a relatively stable state.

                      Just ask the British Met office who predicted a mild winter for 2009-2010 only a couple of months later to encounter the coldest Northern Hemisphere winter in decades.

                      When a coin is tossed once you have no better than a 50% chance of guessing the outcome correctly. In fact each time the coin is tossed you have exactly the same chance of guessing correctly.

                      But if you toss the coin 1000 times you can predict quite accurately that about 500 of the tosses will be heads.

                      The situation with a stochastic system such as the climate, is somewhat different, the data for one is much more complex to model… but the underlying idea is the same. The more historic data you have and the longer the period over which you make your prediction … the more accurate it will be.

                      The generally accepted timeframe to distinguish weather from climate is 30 years. For a more detailed discussion.

                    • lprent []

                      For all anyone knows a little warming may be beneficial to humanity, in fact going on historical precedent that might even be likely.

                      Ummmm I think that rapid climate change is far more likely to cause a failure in regional farming systems and therefore cause famines. For instance have a look at exactly how dependent the Indian subcontinent is on the monsoon. Then figure out how many millions of people will die when it moves further into the indian ocean.

                      For that matter as the corn and grain growing belt in the US/Canada moves northwards into the poorer soils (it takes hundreds of years to build soils).

                      But I guess if you don’t mind killing billions of people first, it may be useful in a few centuries. You really need to acquire some perspective.

                      Incidentally you’re confusing weather with climate again…..

                    • Andrei []

                      Ummmm I think that rapid climate change is far more likely to cause a failure in regional farming systems and therefore cause famines. For instance have a look at exactly how dependent the Indian subcontinent is on the monsoon. Then figure out how many millions of people will die when it moves further into the indian ocean.

                      Why so pessimistic? The climate hasn’t changed in any real detectable manner in the past 100 years – sure we can see local changes some of which can be ascribed to known regimes e.g PDO which flip states chaotically and appear to have done so of millenia

                      Incidentally you’re confusing weather with climate again

                      Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get – Edward Norton Lorenz, the Father of Chaos Theory

                    • quenchino []

                      Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get

                      Again you persist in the elementary error of confusing two different things. Climate is weather averaged over a long period…. at least 30 years.

                      Returning to the coin tossing example; it should be obvious that while it is difficult to predict the outcome of any 1 toss, it is easy to predict the outcome of 1000.

                      This is what averaging (or more technically, smoothing) does, it takes noisy, imperfect data (and most real-life data is), strips out the distracting information and exposes the relevant underlying behaviour.

                      If you wanted to determine if the coin you were tossing was fake or not ( ie it actually had two heads and no tail, and you were not allowed to examine it directly)… a single toss would be of no use to you. Nor would 2 tosses. By the time you got to 20 you might be pretty suspicious. By the time you got to 1000 tosses you would be convinced about the behaviour of this fake coin to a very high degree.

                      (But never of course absolutely certain… just one toss that landed tails would mean that your hypothesis that is had only two heads was wrong. However the chances of a real coin being tossed heads only 999 times in a row is infintesimally small. Statistics is the branch of mathematics that puts precise numbers around all of this and a working knowledge of it is the entry price that everyone pays to the climate change debate.)

                      Climate is essentially the aggregate of lots of weather events. A single weather event is by itself difficult to predict, but the sum total of lots of them is easy. Even within a single year it is easy to predict that summer will be warmer than winter…even if the Tararuas were dusted with snow on the last day of December.

                    • lprent []

                      Why so pessimistic?

                      Because quite minor regional changes in climate in the past have quite massive changes in population within recorded history.

                      For instance, the desertification of the romans grain bowl in northern africa. The dustbowl in the US in the 30’s, the ungreening of greenland, the changes in climate in south america at various periods, etc. In recent history, the climate shifts in Ethiopia and the Sudan causing famines, shifts in the indian subcontinent monsoons, etc

                      Societies break easily when the underpinning of a stable climate breaks.

                      What happens when these things start happening on a world wide level? I don’t think that our societies can stand change at that level of rapidity – even if we are able to maintain at what looks like a minimal level of 2C over this century.

                    • gitmo []

                      “I have no idea about where to get raw data for those, probably NOAA would be the best bet. I tend to trust the scientists. So it is your problem to disprove their data.”

                      Here you go

                      http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_300001.shtml

                    • lprent []

                      Good site. Not particularly useful though because it is inside the austrailian area of antarticia. The circum-Antarctica air stream (? can’t remember the technical name for it) is outside of that. The only reason we haven’t been seeing much change in that area is because the it is like a recirculating air-conditioning system – keeps the main continental area of Antarctica pretty damn cold. All hell will break loose if that jetstream shifts.

                      If you look at the polar projection of antarticia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Location_Antarctica.svg Mowson is over by aussie

                      The peninsula is the bit sticking up towards south america.

                      It is claimed by the UK, Chile and Argentina. But I think that there are only permanent UK bases there..

                      Have a look at this to get the locations of interest.
                      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/eb/AntarcticaTemps_1957-2006.jpg/230px-AntarcticaTemps_1957-2006.jpg

                    • gitmo []

                      You should consider this as well

                      “The temperature record for Antarctica goes back to the 1950s. The record consists of data from a sparse network, with relatively few stations reporting data for more than a few decades. Antarctica as a continent is somewhat specific in its recent temperature history, for unlike all other continents, it has warmed very little over the past half-century. Indeed, from 1965 onwards it has even cooled slightly. At least four comprehensive studies were conducted in recent years,[2][3][4] collecting temperature data over Antarctica for the period since the 1950s until the 2000s. All of these studies have found slight warming in the earliest portion of the record (circa 19571965). Since the mid-1960s, all major studies have reported cooling over most of Antarctica. The only place that exhibits strong warming for the entire record is the Antarctic Peninsula, which amounts to 0.5% of the land mass of Antarctica.
                      In a paper published in the journal Nature in 2002, Doran et al reported overall cooling over Antarctica. This study concludes there has been “a net cooling on the Antarctic continent between 1966 and 2000, particularly during summer and autumn.'[2]”

                      2 a b Doran, Peter T.; Priscu, John C.; Lyons, W. Berry; Walsh, Andrew G.; Fountain; McKnight, Diane M. (31 January 2002). “Antarctic climate cooling and terrestrial ecosystem response”. Nature 415 (6871): 51720. doi:10.1038/nature710.
                      3 a b Steig, E.J.; Schneider, D.P.; Rutherford, S.D.; Mann, M.E.; Comiso, J.C.; Shindell, D.T. (2009). “Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year”. Nature 457: 45962. doi:10.1038/nature07669.
                      4 a b Monaghan, A. J.; Bromwich, D. H.; Chapman, W.; Comiso, J. C. (2008). “Recent variability and trends of Antarctic near-surface temperature”. J. Geophys. Res. 113: D04105. doi:10.1029/2007JD009094.

                      Bottom line is it’s all rather complex and still the subject of some debate.

                    • lprent []

                      gitmo: Yeah I know that, however I was talking about the Antarctica Peninsula, which is quite different. On average it has been warming about 0.5C per decade since they started doing robust measurements in the 1960’s. There is no debate about that.

                      The rest of Antarctica is thankfully still in the fridge. There is no debate about that. What is in debate is how long it will stay in the fridge. The measurements of recent mass-wasting in the west antarticia ice sheet aren’t promising. However with a bit of luck the East Antarctica sheet will persist this century.

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Peninsula

                      The Antarctic Peninsula is a part of the world that is experiencing extraordinary warming.[7] Each decade for the last five, average temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by half a degree Celsius.[8] Ice mass loss on the peninsula occurred at a rate of 60 billion tonnes in 2006,[9] with the greatest change occurring in the northern tip of the peninsula.[10] Seven ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated or disintegrated in the last two decades.[7] According to a study by the British Antarctic Survey, glaciers on the peninsula are not only retreating but also increasing their flow rate as a result of increased buoyancy in the lower parts of the glaciers.[11] Professor David Vaughan has described the disintegration of the Wilkins Ice Shelf as the latest evidence of rapid warming in the area.[12] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been unable to determine the greatest potential effect on sea level rise that glaciers in the region may cause.[11]

                      Frankly you’re daft trying to draw conclusions for a whole continent without looking at it regionally.

                    • gitmo []

                      The British Survey is also a good summary and avoids any bombast or insupportable claims.

                      http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/bas_research/science/climate/antarctic_peninsula.php

                    • lprent []

                      Umm there are a stations from quite a few countries these days. Pity they don’t list the start dates and durations. That’d help in digging out the relevant records.

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Peninsula#Research_stations

                    • jaymam []

                      lprent, you said “I check the figures’. I asked you for a weather station that you have checked. You suggest Antarctica Peninsula and above the Arctic circle (not exactly typical in the world I’d say).

                      Then you say: “I have no idea about where to get raw data for those, probably NOAA would be the best bet.”

                      So you don’t “check the figures” after all. You merely have “faith” in what some scientists say, without checking the facts. Climategate has shown that your scientists are fibbers.

                    • quenchino []

                      Climategate has shown that your scientists are fibbers.

                      Where? Produce an example.

                    • lprent []

                      Jayman: As I said – if you want to disprove a theory, then you have to do some frigging work.

                      I told you the two places where you can see detectable tempature changes happening. Look them up. I’ve given you enough hints.

                      Are you lazy or thick?

              • quenchino

                The raw data that I have checked has a consistent temperature over the whole period, with small ups and downs as one would expect but no major upward or downward trend.

                What data?

                How many stations?

                What period?

                If you really have found no trend in the instrumental data, how do you think that this elementary matter has been missed by everyone else?

                There is no hockey stick trend, which has been the biggest scientific fraud since Piltdown Man

                Can you tell us why you think it is a fraud?

                Besides the ‘hockey stick trend’ is derived from a period far long than any instrumental weather station record, so it’s not surprising you didn’t find any evidence of it.

                Just out of interest I’m looking at the Godley Glacier right now on Google Earth. The terminal lake is nowadays a full 5-7km further up the valley than it was when I tramped down it 32 years ago. (As are most other glaciers in the world.) Another sort of evidence.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    The term Climate Change Denier is logically inaccurate. It implies that such people believe the climate remains constant, which is clearly not the case.

    • Pascal's bookie 10.1

      Nah.

      Logic necessarily takes account of the context and definitions for the propositions involved. Much of philosophy is about clearly expressing what the terms mean.

      What is meant by “Climate Change” within the context of the discussion is well understood, just as deniers of evolution don’t deny that things can change over time, or holocaust deniers don’t deny that holocausts can occur.

      Pretending that a commonly held definition actually means something else is just wanking into the pot.

  11. Andrei 11

    Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get

    Again you persist in the elementary error of confusing two different things. Climate is weather averaged over a long period . at least 30 years.

    Nope that is a quote from Edward Lorenz – perhaps the most noted meteorologist of the 20th century.

    Returning to the coin tossing example; it should be obvious that while it is difficult to predict the outcome of any 1 toss, it is easy to predict the outcome of 1000.

    Wrong my friend, you are guilty of the gamblers fallacy – what is predictable is that as the number of tosses increase the ratio of the number of heads to the number of tosses tends toward 0.5.

    However if you are betting on coin tosses what counts is the difference between the number of heads tossed (you win) and the number of tails tossed (you lose) and this tends to grow as the number of tosses increase.

    In fact after 1000 tosses to see exactly 500 heads and 500 tails is an unlikely outcome.

    You can work it out using the Binomial distribution, i cant be bothered but from memory it is around 25 chances in 1000. .

    Question why has this comment ended up here – it was a reply to Quenchino

  12. quenchino 12

    @Andrei from upthread.

    Wrong my friend, you are guilty of the gamblers fallacy what is predictable is that as the number of tosses increase the ratio of the number of heads to the number of tosses tends toward 0.5.

    Which is precisely what I was saying. Nothing at all to do with the gamblers fallacy. Total misdirection.

    In fact after 1000 tosses to see exactly 500 heads and 500 tails is an unlikely outcome.

    Which is precisely what I did NOT say. I didn’t say was that the number of heads would be exactly 500, but of course the probabilty is that it will be close to that number. Another misdirection.

    However if you are betting on coin tosses what counts is the difference between the number of heads tossed (you win) and the number of tails tossed (you lose) and this tends to grow as the number of tosses increase.

    Another misdirection… I’m not gambling on the coin tosses, simply making a prediction about the expected value.

    For an unbiased coin there is a good apriori mechanism to explain why it is 0.5. But for a biased coin the value will be different, and to experimentally determine it with confidence requires a large number of tosses. One toss is useless.

    As one weather event is useless in making any prediction about climate.

    Nope that is a quote from Edward Lorenz perhaps the most noted meteorologist of the 20th century.

    Who would probably be laughing his head off at the risible way you have twisted his words to mean the exact opposite of what he intended.

    • Andrei 12.1

      That is pure hokum originating from the people who bought us the hokey stick.

      A piece of hand waving to overcome the difficulty presented to their models by the Lorenz’s demonstration of the limitations of computer models based on non linear differential equations in making meaningful long term predictions.

      The expected value for the number of heads tossed in a series of 1000 tosses is 500.

      In the real world if you toss a “fair” coin 1000 times it is not at all likely that exactly 500 heads will appear – indeed there is a finite (1/2 raised to the power of 1000) probability no heads will appear.

      And in the real world it is what happens not what the expected value is which ultimately counts.

      • quenchino 12.1.1

        That is pure hokum originating from the people who bought us the hokey stick. The funny part is you really have no idea what the technical issues were and how they were resolved ages ago … all you are doing is repeating a lie.

        In the real world if you toss a “fair’ coin 1000 times it is not at all likely that exactly 500 heads will appear indeed there is a finite (1/2 raised to the power of 1000) probability no heads will appear.

        More misdirection. Really it is all you do. You are pretending that I said something and then you make a big show of attacking it.

        All I have said is that the expected value is 500 and of course in reality the actual value will probably be close to this. That is all I have said, but you continue to misrepresent what I am saying. And you know you are.

        What you are doing is what you always do, twist and pervert.

        And in the real world it is what happens not what the expected value is which ultimately counts.

        And in the real world a prediction of 500 and an actual result within +/- 20 or so of this would be perfectly normal. So what is your point, apart from flailing about as usual?

        • Armchair Critic 12.1.1.1

          There is no point, he’s flailing about quenchino.
          As I see it, there is:
          a 68% probability that the value will be between 484 and 516
          a 95% probability that the value will be between 468 and 532

  13. Andrei 13

    Because quite minor regional changes in climate in the past have quite massive changes in population within recorded history.

    True enough – and industrialization played no part in these things.

    And unquestionably they will happen again – but that doesn’t mean anybody can tell us where and when. Nor does it mean they can be avoided, all we can do is rise to meet the challenges when they come up, or not as the case may be (as it appears happened to the settlers in Greenland who seem to have just vanished).

    Truthfully the single minded focus on GHGs and the concept that controlling the emission of these can prevent future catastrophes seems to me absurd .

    Nobody predicted the boxing day Tsunami, now did they even though in a sense it was predictable. 500,000 people died. Things like this will come out of left field during the next 100 years, bound too. All de-industrialization will achieve will be to limit our ability to respond.

    Look at this http://farm1.static.flickr.com/4/4207135_1bd8e91e63.jpg. It is the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship better equipped and with greater capacity than most New Zealand hospitals sailing into Banda Aceh after the Tsunami to help the sick and the suffering by providing well equipped medical facilities on the ground. That is what can be done but it takes industrial civilizations to do it.

    Another comment displaced in random fashion – why?
    .

    [lprent: Not sure. Just ran a fix through the database and checked the current versions of plugins etc installed. Everything looks ok, but the threading replies aren’t working correctly on a couple of posts. Something to look at tommorrow. ]

    • Bill 13.1

      Another comment displaced in random fashion why?

      Who knows? Somebody said the universe was like a big string singlet….interconnectivity of everything, so maybe your comments are not dissimilar to the phenomena of weather and climate? Maybe there is a mix of short term unpredictability and longer term certitude… the long term trend shows and allows us to predict with (more or less) certainty that you will ‘talk’ shite. What we don’t know and cannot predict however is exactly where and when your next piece of shite will land or precisely how it will be expressed.

    • lprent 13.2

      True enough and industrialization played no part in these things.
      Yep.

      And unquestionably they will happen again but that doesn’t mean anybody can tell us where and when.
      Yep, although we’re getting better at climate prediction.

      However it is pretty easy to predict what the effect of rapidly pushing extra CO2 into the atmosphere overlaid on top of the background effects is. We get a rapid (in geological terms) rise in tempatures. The risk is that we have no idea of how and where the effects will manifest.

      It is the USNS Mercy
      What happens when you need fleets of these for something like massive storm surge flooding or drought on the Bangladesh delta. Somehow I don’t think that ‘industrial’ civilization can help much when vast quantities of food for tens of millions of people are required there, and in Africa at the same time. CO2 and industrialization doesn’t help to create food. Get a sense of proportion….

      We don’t need to deindustrialize. What we need to do is to start reducing the dependence of industrialization on fossil fuels. That is going to have to happen anyway over the next 20-30 years as liquid fossil fuels become more expensive to extract (or manufacture). As the price goes up, we’ll be shifting to different power sources. May as well start now…

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