Things I thought were obvious – part 2

I know this is a little old, but Judith Curry had a post a week or so ago about whether or not climate change is a ruin problem. I wasn’t wanting to discuss it detail, but there was something in particular that struck me. After highlighting an excerpt about the scientific method and the precautionary principle, Judith comments

This clarifies the conflict between ‘lukewarmers’, who seem mainly data driven and don’t see danger (in favor of risk management), versus alarmists who argue for the PP to avoid possible catastrophe or ruin (as inferred from climate model simulations).

To me this seems obviously wrong and is – to a certain extent – one of the main issues with the whole debate about climate change. Risk management is defined as

the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks ….. followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events … or to maximize the realization of opportunities.

A major issue with the Lukewarmer position – in my opinion – is that it assumes that climate sensitivity will probably be low, that the risks are small (as highlighted by Judith’s comment that they “don’t see danger”), that we have plenty of time, and that we shouldn’t do anything that they regard as too drastic. You just need to read Matt Ridley’s articles to see this in action. That, however, is not risk management; it’s risk dismissal.

Similarly, suggesting that alarmists are arguing for the Precautionary Principle (PP) to avoid catastrophe and ruin also seems – broadly speaking – wrong. There may be some extreme examples, but the PP is far too simplistic to be any kind of realistic policy option. Most of what I read is people pointing out that there are risks associated with climate change, that we should take these risks seriously, and that we should be aiming to minimise these risks. It seems far closer to actual risk management than the Lukewarmer position, which seems to simply be a bury your head in the sand form of optimism.

Since I’m talking about things I thought were obvious, I’ve spent some time on Bishop-Hill recently trying to point out that there is one thing about climate science that is virtually certain: the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s is pre-dominantly anthropogenic. Given that I keep getting told that there is really noone who disputes the basics of mainstream climate science, and that the real dispute is about the details, I was surprised by how many disagreed with me and how few (well, none) supported me. Okay, that’s not quite true; I wasn’t really surprised.

Additionally, it was taking place on a Discussion Thread titled “Are climate scientists scientific?”. The answer that most gave was, of course, “no”. That they did so while making some of the most unscientific arguments that I’ve ever seen, and while disputing what many would regard as a scientific truth, was not seen as remotely ironic. I tried to stick with a very simple message: that if you want to be taken seriously, you really should consider accepting what experts regard as virtually certain. I did, however, eventually make the mistake of trying to explain why it was virtually certain, which then resulted in me being challenged to somehow prove that ocean pH was really reducing. What I’d done was make the mistake of assuming that what I thought was obvious would also be obvious to a group who regularly comment on a site that focuses on climate science.

I realise that this post has rambled slightly, but I guess my broad point was how do you have genuine dialogue if people hold views that are not only discrepant, but in which one group appears to not even acknowledge the position that they really hold. It’s hard to see how dialogue is possible if people maintain that they hold what is a sensible position (Lukewarmers are in favour of risk management, there are few who dispute the basic of mainstream climate science) while it being patently obvious that they do not.

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172 Responses to Things I thought were obvious – part 2

  1. Richard says:

    It seems highly disingenuous of Curry to claim that lukewarmers are interested in a risk management rather than PP approach. If that was the case, the IPCC reports would be much briefer. The reason they are not is precisely to try to quantify probabilities of causative effects and the impacts if they arise. To be truly interested in risk management requires proactive and meticulous attention to causes and impacts, and cumulative costs of all forms. Yet, they seem to want the IPCC to cease business and not investigate these matters. That is not risk management, it is an ostrich like failure to properly engage with the risks, whose consequences are already being felt (so some risks are already moving into the realm of issues).

  2. Richard,
    Yes, exactly. My generous interpretation is that Judith thinks that “Risk management” means that you manage the events once they’ve happened. That, however, is not how the term “risk management” is normally defined.

  3. Rachel M says:

    I realise that this post has rambled slightly, but I guess my broad point was how do you have genuine dialogue if people hold views that are not only discrepant, but in which one group appears to not even acknowledge the position that they really hold.

    You can’t. That’s not even what I would call fun. It’s like arguing with people who are convinced the MMR vaccine causes autism. I know Skeptics don’t like that comparison but it’s no different in my view. They’re both groups of people who reject science for their crackpot views.

    I had a brief Twitter conversation with Shub on Saturday about your last post in which I tried to point out that >0.05 is not the same thing as =0.05. I don’t need to check with a mathematician to see that they’re not the same thing but I did anyway, mostly because mathematicians have a very logical mind, and >0.05 is indeed different to =0.05. I can’t believe I’m even writing this or that I even bothered. But Shub and Matt Ridley will never acknowledge it for reasons that I don’t understand. It left me feeling intensely frustrated and as though I had wasted some of my life. I’m not going to bother with them again. Or at least, I will try not to. I’m sure it’s no different at BH.

    As for risk management, having lived in NZ it’s fairly obvious to me that we mitigate risks even when the risk of something bad happening is remote. We should be doing the same with climate change. That we are not is because our politicians don’t have any balls.

  4. Rachel,

    It left me feeling intensely frustrated and as though I had wasted some of my life.

    That’s how I feel quite a lot of the time 🙂

    I do find this whole risk management issue interesting because we do live in societies that are risk averse and yet we’re happily ignoring some very serious potential risks.

  5. Szilard says:

    Just don’t understand why you would include yrself in the (surely?) very small number of people who care about what a collection of pub-bores say on a BH discussion thread??

  6. Szilard,
    I don’t understand it either. Unrealistic sense of optimism, a way of reminding myself that it really is a waste of time, an attempt to actually engage, stupidity, some combination of all of them? I really don’t know. I have realised that when it gets to the stage where they’re criticising your ability to do your actual job – by linking to your CV and mocking it – and attempting psycho-analysis, it’s time to give up.

    In fact, it does seem like an illustration of why more scientists don’t engage and why – if you do – being pseudonymous might be best. I don’t really care that a group of people who appear not to understand basic science are mocking my CV and what I do professionally, but it isn’t the greatest experience in the world. Would be much easier to simply not put yourself in that position in the first place.

  7. Szilard,
    Actually, there is kind of a reason I’ve tried this. The one thing that I regard as so obvious that anyone who wants to be taken seriously should accept, is that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic. If people can’t accept this, then there’s no point in discussing anything else. So, partly, I quite like trying to point this out, and partly I like illustrating that there are still some who don’t accept this. That commenters on BH can makes such claims without being challenged, reflects poorly on that site, and making that obvious is – IMO – a good thing to do. If the media are going to interview the host of a site that does not challenge those who make clearly incorrect claims, then it seems worthwhile pointing out that they may have chosen someone who really doesn’t understand this topic particularly well. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t include him, but does suggest that they should be careful as to how they introduce him and should clarify why they’ve chosen to include him. “We couldn’t find an actual expert who disputes much of mainstream science, so we decided to interview Andrew Montford instead”.

  8. Rachel M says:

    Yes, I’ve got bicycle insurance in case I careen into a parked Audi when out cycling but the likelihood of this happening is fairly low and the consequences, if I didn’t have insurance, not particularly bad. It’s just money and we could afford it anyway.

    The consequences of climate change, by contrast, are very serious. These include changing weather patterns which will affect our food supply. There are also dire health impacts through the spread of insects that carry disease into new geographical areas. Not to mention that the human body can’t survive extended periods in wet bulb temperates > 35C. Then there’s sea level rise, species extinctions, and ocean acidification. It’s also worth mentioning that many of these consequences are likely under business as usual.

  9. I think the answer to that question lies in the old ‘Sun Tzu’ quote, Szilard: “know thy enemy”. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sun_Tzu

    ‘War’ may be seen as an exaggeration but it’s a good metaphor for the battle for the hearts and minds of the general public, being undertaken here between those trying to prevent a potential for a human-caused climate disaster, and those trying to sweep the evidence under the carpet.

    Turning to the ‘lukewarmers’: has anyone ever read the opinions of one who hasn’t got a vested interest in the fossil-fuelled status quo?

  10. john,

    Turning to the ‘lukewarmers’: has anyone ever read the opinions of one who hasn’t got a vested interest in the fossil-fuelled status quo?

    I don’t know. What seems more common is an ideologial bias towards libertarianism. I’m not convinced that the motivation is a desire for some kind of fossil-fuelled status quo. It seems more like an aversion to any kind of regulation or UN-style global agreement. Of course, that’s just my view and I certainly haven’t done any kind of thorough study. What I do know is that I’ve yet to find one who’s response to the question “what if climate sensitivity is not low” isn’t essentially “it don’t believe that it can be high” – or some variant of that.

  11. Yvan Dutil says:

    Personnally when facing a skeptics, I often ask this question «Can you explain me why CO2 is such an important greenhouse gas with a concentration fo only 400 ppm». This obvious if you understand the basics science of the problem, but the answer cannot be found on a skeptics web site.

    Last time I tried that, the [edit: guy] answered that global warming was not a scientific quetsion but a political one.

  12. MMM says:

    I also use doubting the anthropogenic involvement in the rise of CO2 as a good indicator of wackiness. Of course, I can point to links on Judith Curry’s site, WUWT (including this week), Roy Spencer’s site, etc all raising questions about alternative explanations. At least Curry & Spencer appear to have dropped that line of reasoning, and Watts always claims that he just hosts these things but doesn’t necessarily believe in them… but still, I find it gives me more confidence that it isn’t that the climate-centrists have blinders on and are missing some important argument when the people who are trying to poke holes in the consensus are flailing so pitifully.

    -MMM

  13. MMM says:

    ps. Yeah, Curry’s framing of the “lukewarmer” vs. “alarmist” (or, as I would call them, climate-centrists” is… confused. I think there is a lot of uncertainty about the optimal level of mitigation, but I am pretty sure that our current level is insufficient. My approach to determining said optimal level is an expected-value approach. The only way that PP would come into my calculations would be that I do have a non-linear utility function which weights civilization-ending disasters more heavily – but I think that the probability that climate-change will lead to a civilization-ending disaster is low enough that even with the non-linear weight, it isn’t a major part of my decision calculus.

    -MMM

  14. David Blake says:

    [Mod : I was going to simply point out that you were playing the ref again, but given how you’ve chosen to end your comment you should probably assume that you are indeed banned.]

  15. MMM,

    The only way that PP would come into my calculations would be that I do have a non-linear utility function which weights civilization-ending disasters more heavily

    Yes, that’s kind of my thinking too. One could invoke the PP to suggest that we should avoid a pathway that has a non-negligible chance of more than 5oC (for example – make it a bigger number if you wish) of warming by 2100. However, that would essentially simply be saying “let’s not follow a particularly high emission pathway”. Any sensible policy discussion would be much more nuanced than simply a “let’s avoid” narrative, and more along the lines of a genuine risk management process.

  16. harrytwinotter says:

    My observation in the bloggersphere is the Precautionary Principle is used when there is no evidence for harm (eg genetically modified food) and Risk Management is used when there is evidence for harm (eg Anthropogenic Global Warming).

    I can’t take Dr Curry seriously anymore, she just appears to be creating distractions.

  17. Rachel M says:

    David Blake: I deleted your comments so perhaps you should call me a cunt instead?

  18. Willard says:

    > If people can’t accept [AGW], then there’s no point in discussing anything else.

    There’s nothing special about accepting AGW or not, AT. It only indicates that the exchange will get nowhere interesting to you. It also indicates persistence, which is a good thing in itself, but perhaps not for repeated conversations. Once you got the persisting memos, there is little to discuss. In fact, trying to discuss only becomes a way for the discussants to persist in their persistence.

    The same applies to the lukewarm gambit, or for that matter just about anything. Something is missing from these exchanges to make them conversations. The main ingredient, in my opinion, is the acknowledgement of what the otter says. Otherwise, it’s tough to state formal conditions for conversations. It’s a bit like pornography: you recognize it when you see it. When it feels like a comedy of menace:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comedy_of_menace

    chances are it will only be an exchange. Persisting in seeking conversations with ClimateBall players is not a good idea, unless one us interested in comedy of menace. Otherwise, it’s a negative experience. This is why I call these exchanges, not conversations.

    ***

    To the lack of interest we can add the lack of incentive. There’s little to gain in trying to seek for something contrarians need more than the establishment. The caravan will move on, whether they like it or not. Running out the clock will in the end play against them.

    This is why MT says the ball is the press:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/922165590

    While I disagree that there is one and only one ball and that it is ze ball, he does have a point The press represents the financial interests that AGW disrupts. This is what distinguishes Lord Coal from the Lomborg Collective. For everything else, the playbook is mostly the same:

    contrarianmatrix.wordpress.com

  19. Joshua says:

    It doesn’t seem to me that there’s anywhere to go in a discussion where Judith

    (1) flat out ignores any of the many, many “skeptics” who don’t accept the basic physics of a GHE from ACO2,

    (2) refers to those she agrees with as science-based as if being science-based were exclusive to them (despite that many who don the “lukewarmer” label have a superficial understanding of the science and that many other “lukewarmers,” as Anders points out, base their arguments on flat out dismissing a significant % of the existing scientific analysis), and

    (3) calls anyone who remains an “alarmist” – irrespective of their views and w/o defining what being “alarmist’ means in this context.

    Hard to for me to see how such an approach is anything other than a mixture of confirmation bias, an unscientific approach to defining terms, argument by assertion, and appeal to self-authority. I suppose that might be an argument from incredulity on my part? Willard?

    I first started reading Judith’s blog because I heard her on the radio talking about the influence of tribalism on (climate) scientists. I thought the topic was interesting because I find it interesting to examine how bias affects opinion-formation. But It seems to me that over time, Judith’s approach to “bridge-building” is becoming ever more divisive and counterproductive, and ironically ever more reflective of the kind of tribalism that she (rightfully, IMO) spoke out against. The excerpt Anders quoted is, IMO, pretty much pure tribalism.

  20. Rachel,
    It’s alright, I’ll take it. Someone’s just called me a twat on Bishop-Hill, so there’s a bit of theme going. Apparently, it’s because I chose to be anonymous and then decided to post behind my uni credentials, which is rather odd since the only people who associate me with my institution are others who then typically use that to either mock me, or complain about the fact that they’re paying the salary of someone as stupid, and unscientific, as I am . Rather odd, that, since I’m pretty sure I’m being paid by my uni, not by a group of anonymous people who frequent “skeptic” climate science blogs.

  21. Willard says:

    Your incredulity is substantiated with lots of experiences, Joshua. Compare with what happens when you’re discussing with John Carpenter or recently Mark Bofill. Judy only reacts to talking points that could help her political campaign.

  22. Willard,

    There’s nothing special about accepting AGW or not, AT. It only indicates that the exchange will get nowhere interesting to you.

    Yes, I was in the middle of drafting some kind of post about how the online climate debate never ceases to amaze. I find it frustrating, but I can see why others find it fascinating.

    The main ingredient, in my opinion, is the acknowledgement of what the otter says.

    Yes, that’s probably right. I was trying – on another BH thread – to get some to point out where I was arguing for the death of millions. Apparently I am, but noone could quite pinpoint where I had done so.

  23. Rachel M says:

    I couldn’t care less about being called a cunt 🙂 It really doesn’t bother me. We could have a competition about who has been called the worst names, like the Yorkshire men

  24. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP wrote: “The one thing that I regard as so obvious that anyone who wants to be taken seriously should accept, is that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic. If people can’t accept this, then there’s no point in discussing anything else.”

    Indeed, I even went to the trouble of writing a peer-reviewed comment paper (http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ef200914u) explaining why one such argument is incorrect and setting out why we can be sure that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is indeed anthropogenic. I had hoped that a peer-reviewed journal article explaining why it was wrong would be useful in stopping such arguments being promulgated repeatedly on climate blogs, as it does neither side of the debate any good. All it does is make the skeptics who promulgate it look silly and wastes the time of those with a mainstream position who end up explaining it yet again. The debate would benefit from an acceptance on both sides that the rise in CO2 being anthropogenic so that we could move onto more interesting topics. It’s not just me that thinks this, so does Fred Singer (http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/02/climate_deniers_are_giving_us_skeptics_a_bad_name.html). And yet the climate skeptic blogs (they know who they are ;o) STILL repeating the myth every now and again (Prof. Salby being the most recent source of re-ignition). There was a time when I thought it would be a useful activity to visit skeptic blogs to discuss this topic, but no longer. I do applaud the attempts made by Ferdinand Engelbeen though, especially the calm and polite manner that he is able to maintain, which I find extremely impressive.

  25. Joshua says:

    ==> “Compare with what happens when you’re discussing with John Carpenter or recently Mark Bofill. Judy only reacts to talking points that could help her political campaign.”

    Acknowledging that Judith’s approach has likely shifted over time, I’d be curious to see an analysis of whether at this point she meaningfully engages with people who have perspectives differing from hers.

    We could base an analysis of the suggestions we’ve seen her post w/r/t practices of meaningful engagement.

    There is a problematic element there, as it would be unfair to evaluate her participation based on engagement with those who don’t apply such practices themselves when engaging her. Any exchanges with people who call her stupid or ignorant or biased by financial interest would have to be eliminated – which would account for quite a bit.

    But it seems to me that with a consistent application of Judith’s taxonomy as a starting definition of terms, no meaningful engagement would be possible; it rests on subjective terminological distinctions fused with a big-assed ad hom.

  26. Willard says:

    > I was trying – on another BH thread – to get some to point out where I was arguing for the death of millions. Apparently I am, but noone could quite pinpoint where I had done so.

    Just like I am trying to make Shub acknowledge the first blog rule: “your blog, your rule.” I still am. The only thing he accepted is that moderation is sometimes required.

    It only took 60 comments.

    ***

    I would have told you immediately why you are willing to kill millions of starving babies: you are against Grrrowth. Only if you are for Grrrowth can you think of the children:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_of_the_children

    Grrrowth is real. It is the only reality that is real. It’s the true thrueness. All the truthiness in the world follows from Grrrowth.

    You’re welcome.

  27. Joshua,
    I have quite enjoyed commenting on Judith’s blog. It’s been better than I was expecting and Judith does engage a little. There are certainly blogs that are far worse and – apart from a few snarky interactions – it’s been moderately pleasant.

  28. Willard says:

    > Any exchanges with people who call her stupid or ignorant or biased by financial interest would have to be eliminated – which would account for quite a bit.

    I agree, but then consider. Moderating it takes time. Keeping it chums freedom fighters, which gets more eyeballs. Mobilizing a guard helps in note serious time. Even Big Dave has a useful role to play in the niche, Moshpit is cleaning his swimming pool, and Don Don looks tired.

    When it gets too threatening, like when Bart R became more direct in questioning her competency, moderation becomes routine.

  29. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “I have quite enjoyed commenting on Judith’s blog…and Judith does engage a little.”

    Fair enough.

    I will point out, however, that there’s a wide space between uniform application of Lovejoy’s Law (h/t willard) as you might see at BH or elsewhere …and meaningful exchange.

    From a theoretical standpoint, I don’t see how there could be meaningful exchange if we’re using Judith’s taxonomy: (To repeat, which means that we Ignore the vast majority of “skeptics,” use tautological reasoning to define “lukewarmerism” to exclude anyone that isn’t science based, and lump everyone else under “alarmism”), but…

    …in the non-theoretical world, we don’t have to assume that Judith, or anyone else, is consistent in always sticking with that taxonomy (i.e., it could just be a rhetorical tactic rather than a conscious, underlying strategy)

    And we could say that creating a forum where meaningful exchange can take place is directly attributable to Judith’s approach to meaningful exchange.

    That all said, I would say that if we are using the amount of meaningful exchange that takes place at Judith’s as a measuring stick, it’s probably more a reflection of the sad state of affairs generally (in other words, a product of comparing to places like BH) than a statement of a real-world positive impact. For example, Lovejoy’s Law is a favored approach for many of Judith’s “denizens” also.

  30. toby52 says:

    This book, which I only read recently, seems to me entirely apposite to the climate change and risk management problems.

    http://www.amazon.com/Drift-into-Failure-Sidney-Dekker/dp/1409422216

    While pursuing success in a dynamic, complex environment with limited resources and multiple goal conflicts, a succession of small, everyday decisions eventually produced breakdowns on a massive scale.

    Climate disasters, or large meteorological ones, are inevitable in other words..

  31. Eli Rabett says:

    How many times does Eli have to shout that those clowns need to be called LUCKWARMERS, cause them and us are going to have to be mighty lucky to escape only with scratches and bruises from what we have aimed at ourselves.

  32. Eli Rabett says:

    In an argument with a taxi driver, he called Eli the name that Rachel mentions. Eli called him a taxi driver back. That confused him.

  33. Joshua,

    I would say that if we are using the amount of meaningful exchange that takes place at Judith’s as a measuring stick, it’s probably more a reflection of the sad state of affairs generally (in other words, a product of comparing to places like BH) than a statement of a real-world positive impact.

    Yes, that’s – sadly – probably roughly the case.

    Eli,
    Luckwarmers seems quite appropriate. I shall have to remember to use that in future.

  34. Steven Mosher says:

    Turning to the ‘lukewarmers’: has anyone ever read the opinions of one who hasn’t got a vested interest in the fossil-fuelled status quo?

    ########.
    Yes.
    The sooner we in the West end our use coal the better.
    The sooner we help China move away from coal the
    Better.

  35. dikran,

    There was a time when I thought it would be a useful activity to visit skeptic blogs to discuss this topic, but no longer.

    Yes, I agree, but I seem to forget every now and again.

    I do applaud the attempts made by Ferdinand Engelbeen though, especially the calm and polite manner that he is able to maintain, which I find extremely impressive.

    Well, you seem pretty good at it yourself when you do get involved. I find it a constant struggle.

  36. Kevin says:

    I really don’t think think this is a good example of obvious. You cant say the opinion that alarmist’s arguing for a PP approach is _obviously_ wrong. I read blogs and papers from both sides. A large amount of the concern is generated by the ‘we have to change or something really bad will happen’. This sounds like a PP approach to me. Clearly not everyone who is concerned about climate change or CO2 holds an extreme view but more than enough do, and especially the media message, to make ‘obvious’ inaccurate.

  37. David Sanger says:

    I live in California where the risk of a major earthquake in the next years is significant. Even so local and state authorities are not nearly as well prepared for a disaster as they could be (compared, say, to in Japan).

    The problem however would be considerably more difficult if there were a loud contingent of earthquake deniers who were convinced that plate tectonics was a worldwide liberal hoax designed to increase taxes and pad the pockets of the construction industry. Plus there’s a “pause” which they think proves their point.

  38. Kevin,

    You cant say the opinion that alarmist’s arguing for a PP approach is _obviously_ wrong.

    I didn’t, actually. My obvious was more that the Lukewarmer approach is very obviously not a risk management approach and that I see more of a risk management approach from those that Judith would regard as alarmists, than I see it from those that self-identify as Lukewarmers.

    A large amount of the concern is generated by the ‘we have to change or something really bad will happen’.

    I’m sure you can find an example of someone who has said this, but I suspect that you’re doing what many seem to do, which is to interpret “something bad might happen” as “something bad will happen”.

    There are two points that I think are worth stessing. What happens in the future will depend on what choices we make. The risk of something bad/severe happening depends on what pathway we choose to follow and increases the more we increase our emissions. Also, climate change is likely irreversible on human timescales. So, there are risks and – IMO – we should consider them.

    There is also – IMO – a vast difference between arguing that we should avoid following an emission pathway that carries a lot of potential risk, and a truly PP approach, which would be “stop everything now”. How we follow a less risky pathway isn’t obvious, but it seems obvious – to me at least – that we should be considering the risks associated with the various possible future pathways.

  39. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I find it a constant struggle” me too, a struggle that seems more difficult to motivate as time goes on, I’d rather spend my energy on something more productive.

  40. mwgrant says:

    “…the PP is far too simplistic to be any kind of realistic policy option.”

    Yes, but examination of the ways in which it is viewed as simplistic by different parties may be illuminating for all parties if approached with open minds.

    ——-
    “Most of what I read is people pointing out that there are risks associated with climate change, that we should take these risks seriously, and that we should be aiming to minimise these risks.”

    All alternative solutions (including no action, mitigation, adaptation,…) entail risks that need to be thoroughly characterized and compared.

    Also the fact that there are competing interests suggests that there are significant winners and losers with each alternative complicates how risks are perceived by different parties. It is fair and practical to ask the implementation question, “what is ‘to minimise’?”

    ——-
    “It [the precautionary principle] seems far closer to actual risk management…”

    Not close enough…worse than a spherical cow–it is more the cow as a point object.

    ——-
    …”than the Lukewarmer position, which seems to simply be a bury your head in the sand form of optimism.”

    While I generally consider this attribution much too simple and too categorical there are many times when I too sense some of what is expressed. Is it optimism or is it simply the result of a failure to adequately take time into account? If one accepts that there a risk from climate change then by most accounts the clock comes into play. Furthermore, the risk from climate change is real in that the same uncertainty that admits argument against an event necessarily admits argument for that event. The event exists at least in that context. Time-frame is a key constraint on climate change risks as formulated and the decisions clocks are always running. That should in itself quench any optimism or open eyes to a real constraint on decision-making.

  41. mwgrant,

    All alternative solutions (including no action, mitigation, adaptation,…) entail risks that need to be thoroughly characterized and compared.

    Yes, of course, but that doesn’t change my point.

    It [the precautionary principle] seems far closer to actual risk management…”

    You need to read that paragraph again. The “it” referred to what I see being presented by those Judith would regard as alarmists, not to the PP. My point was that I don’t see many arguing for the PP specifically. I’m not suggesting that the PP is far closer to actual risk management – I don’t think it is. I’m suggesting that those that Judith probably regard as alarmists seem to present arguments that are closer to risk management than what I see from those who regard themselves as Lukewarmers.

  42. mwgrant says:

    ATTP,

    Thanks for the clarification. Here my comments were intended not to counter your points but to expand on them and/or add my perspective. I appreciate the posting on the topic.

  43. mwgrant,
    No problem, thanks.

  44. John L says:

    “This clarifies the conflict between ‘lukewarmers’, who seem mainly data driven and don’t see danger (in favor of risk management), versus alarmists who argue for the PP to avoid possible catastrophe or ruin (as inferred from climate model simulations).”

    This is so silly in several ways. If you gonna say something about the future, you need some kind of non-trivial model. Of course. So anybody worth listen too uses a model. And GCM:s are also developed from and evaluated with all kinds of data.

    Perhaps people who are “lukewarmers” simply tend to not understand the basics of science? Like people who claim “According to observations, climate sensitivity is low!” based only on energy balance models and then don’t realize that they are using a very simplified model of the climate, and that you have to check that its assumptions really apply without bias etc.

  45. John L.,

    Perhaps people who are “lukewarmers” simply tend to not understand the basics of science?

    Yes, that is certainly my impression. There seem to be many who will make strong statements about how science does/should work that appears completely at odds with how it actually work. There is certainly a theme that somehow data can tell you something, without requiring any form of model. What people don’t realise is that any analysis of data that is meant to represent something in the real world, requires some kind of model.

  46. Joseph says:

    “Skeptic” Blogs: Where bad ideas go to be reinforced..

  47. Magma says:

    “This clarifies the conflict between ‘lukewarmers’, who seem mainly data driven”

    Whew. I’m glad that’s settled. And from an unimpeachable, disinterested source no less.

  48. dana1981 says:

    “Lukewarmers” are of course only “data driven” when the data supports their desired conclusion – namely that AGW doesn’t pose as large of a risk as the rest of the data suggests.

    And if “lukewarmers” were really interested in risk management, they would vociferously support taking at least some action to mitigate risks associated with climate change. For example by taking the basic step of putting a price on carbon emissions to eliminate that economic externality. I can’t recall seeing supposed “lukewarmers” like Judith Curry, Matt Ridley, Andrew Montford, etc. ever support any sort of policy that would have any significant effect in terms of slowing global warming. Mostly they just seem to suggest that we have nothing to worry about, which implies that we need take no action. Which would of course be a massive risk management failure.

  49. Eli Rabett says:

    Which is why they are luckwarmers, because they believe things will not get hot, but turn out just right. Please folks, get with the program. Luckwarmers.

  50. Re: “has anyone ever read the opinions of one who hasn’t got a vested interest in the fossil-fuelled status quo?”

    Actually, in this I was (perhaps over-simplistically) including those with Libertarian ideals, all of whom seem to think that the market is sacrosanct and can be left to solve any climate problems, as and when they occur. Of course, the issue is that by the time the impacts of climate change become obvious to ‘the market’, it will be too late for them to be reversed. It’s this aspect of climate science—the logical deduction that ‘the market’ is not fit for the purpose of limiting climate impacts—that is the reason for their denial. And they adopt the lukewarmer position because it provides those wanting to maintain the status quo the best chance of not being shown up for being anti-science.

    But while playing the lukewarmer card when necessary, they also have no qualms about encouraging the spread of denial propaganda when they can get away with it to help achieve delay. To them this is definitely a propaganda battle.

  51. izen says:

    Part of the problem is the unwillingness of some who are engaged with climate policy to reject the science. The denial of the anthropogenic source of rising CO2 is a good marker for the more extreme fringe of this group. But the range of responses from outright rejection to subtle distortion of the science is largely an effect, not the cause of the point of view held. That is why arguing about the validity of the science is ultimately futile, however enjoyable it may be in the moment.

    And it may persuade others, and should persuade the poster, to refine and consider their position.

    But the underlying problem that makes such discussions unresolved is embodied in the comment made by a skeptic that the climate debate was not scientific, it was political.
    This is what makes Dr Curry’s arguments unconvincing to one audience, but a legitimate critique to another.

    To vastly simplify and polarize what are undoubtedly complex and multidimensional shades of grey; One side is using the concept of top-down control, central planning and the whole ideological concept that human society can be directed towards a goal by designing current actions to achieve the desired ends. Its an Enlightenment idea that reach its ‘peak’ in the Marxist analysis. It accepts uncritically that the future can be foreseen in a way that makes it meaningful to plan present political government actions on those predictions. It is rooted in the proven concept that utility emerges from understanding and designing systems that exploit that understanding. At least on the small scale….

    The other ‘side’ use much of the language of the enlightenment/Marxist worldview, inevitable as it is the current conceptual paradigm in politics. But they do not really accept the underlying premises. The future is NOT predictable in ways that make it legitimate to impose central planning, the history of attempts to run a society on those lines are warnings of the folly. A bit like eugenics in biology. The world-view of the ‘skeptic’ is one in which history shows that reactive adaptation is how societies best progress. The ‘invisible hand’ of self-interest will generate the optimal response to the actual conditions far more efficiently than any consensus of experts projecting the future and then a bigger committee of interest groups deciding what behavior the general population must be constrained to follow.

    This is one reason why mitigation is so rarely discussed by skeptics, and then only as a dirty word. The concept itself contains the implicit assumptions that the future is meaningfully determinable and government actions can be legitimated as responses to those theoretical futures. For many the historical examples of authoritarian excess associated with such ideological positions is enough to make them reject any such arguments for any degree of mitigation outright.

    Dr Curry is using the term ‘Precautionary Principle’ as a label for the POV or mindset that thinks it is possible to model the future, and that central government control is an appropriate response to those modeled futures. And contrasting it with the data driven lukewarmers who hold the responsible, sensible position that the best we can do is react, adapting to the observed situation. Uncertain speculation about the future is largely meaningless. Except when it is used to justify a political, authoritarian, transformation of how civilisation is ordered.

  52. Meow says:

    I do find this whole risk management issue interesting because we do live in societies that are risk averse and yet we’re happily ignoring some very serious potential risks.

    Yes. For example, the contrast hardly could be greater between the treatment of the risk of terrorism and the risk of detrimental AGW. VP Cheney once said:

    If there’s even a 1 percent chance that WMD have landed in the hands of terrorists, we need to treat it as a certainty.

    That treatment included, of course, waging war in Iraq — at a cost of more than 100,000 lives and nearly 2 trillion dollars. But somehow it’s verboten to do anything significant about the much greater than 1% chance of severe climate change. As a matter of rational risk management, it doesn’t compute. Alas, as a matter of a certain kind of politics, it computes all too well.

  53. MMM says:

    Also, the luckwarmers use the PP too: only, they are worried about the implications of climate policy for the economy, rather than the implications of climate change…

  54. MMM,
    Good point. There’s a good deal of alarmism about the economic implications of acting that rarely gets pointed out. It’s true that there is a balance between the risks associated with the economic decisions we might make and the risks associated with climate change. I do think, however, that they aren’t quite as symmetric as some might think. There is – I would argue – more than one possible economic model and it is possible to change what we value in order to adapt to economic changes that may take place (we could choose to use public transport more, for example). Our values, however, will have no influence on physical climatology.

  55. Meow says:

    Also, the luckwarmers use the PP too: only, they are worried about the implications of climate policy for the economy, rather than the implications of climate change…

    Yes. And it is then legitimate to ask what science supports their economic alarmism. Do they have reliable models of the economy? How do we know how reliable they are? How do they contend with uncertainty? With chaotic effects that arise from the many nonlinear interactions between economic participants? How do they distinguish forced effects from internal variability? What is the applicability of paleoeconomics to modern economics? And so forth and so on.

  56. Eli Rabett says:

    Izen,

    It is neither responsible, nor sensible to claim that best we can do is react, adapting to the observed situation because the change is separated from the cause by decades. By the time the world has adapted to the current situation, the future many decades down the road is locked in.

    1. Adaptation responds to current losses.
    2. Mitigation responds to future losses
    3. Adaptation plus future costs is more expensive than mitigation,
    4. Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.

    With regard to efficient, elegant and economical climate change policies, the Bunny recommends picking one.

    So yes, it is a difficult problem. Stephan Gardiner put this well in “Climate Change, A Perfect Moral Storm”

    In conclusion, the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself

  57. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli on Grrroowth as Chaunce the Gardener visits Senator Inhofe

    Senator Inhofe: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Marc, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temperature incentives?
    [Long pause]

    Chance the Gardiner: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

    Senator Inhofe: In the garden.

    Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, grrrroowth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

    Senator Inhofe: Spring and summer.

    Chance the Gardener: Yes.

    Senator Inhofe: Then fall and winter.

    Chance the Gardener: Yes.

    Marc Morano: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the predictions of science.

    Senator Inhofe: Yes! There will be grrrrrowth in the spring!

    Marc Morano: Hmm!

    Chance the Gardener: Hmm!

    Senator Inhofe: Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
    [Marc Morano applauds]

    Senator Inhofe: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

  58. How many times does Eli have to shout that those clowns need to be called LUCKWARMERS, cause them and us are going to have to be mighty lucky to escape only with scratches and bruises from what we have aimed at ourselves.

    Hee-hee. It’s amusing to see old hares result to ad homs.

    Eli, if you’re searching for accurate descriptions of lukewarmers, you only need the word accurate:

    MODEL: 4.2C/century, (through 2100), IPCC5 (RCP8.5)
    MODEL: 4.0C/century, (through 2100), IPCC4 ‘High Scenario’
    MODEL: 3.2C/century ( since 1979 ), Hansen A
    MODEL: 2.8C/century ( since 1979 ), Hansen B
    MODEL: 2.0C/century, (‘next few decades’), IPCC4
    MODEL: 1.9C/century ( since 1979 ), Hansen C
    MODEL: 1.8C/century, (through 2100), IPCC4 ‘Low Scenario’
    ———————————————————————
    Observed: 1.6C/century (since 1979), NASA GISS
    Observed: 1.5C/century (since 1979), NCDC
    Observed: 1.4C/century (since 1979), UAH MSU LT
    Observed: 1.3C/century (since 1979), RSS MSU LT
    Observed: 1.3C/century (since 1979), RATPAC-B 850 millibars
    Observed: 1.2C/century (since 1979), RATPAC-B 500 millibars

    MODEL: 1.0C/century, (through 2100), IPCC5 (RCP2.6)
    Observed: 1.0C/century, (since 1979), RATPAC-B 300 millibars
    Observed: 0.8C/century (since 1979 ), RSS MSU MT
    Observed: 0.5C/century (since 1979 ), UAH MSU MT

    ATTP doesn’t like it because it includes the 21st century forecast trends ( in addition to the bolded text forecast trends of last century ). True enough, but for those trends to verify, there must be acceleration of warming, which is neither observed, nor, given forcing rates, is there any physical basis.

    Further than the low rates of warming, most of the other anxiously imagined effects ( storminess, tropical cyclones, drought ) are not observed. That’s because they never had a sound basis in atmospheric physics.

    Those that are in denial of lukewarming are in denial of reality.

  59. Steven Mosher says:

    “Actually, in this I was (perhaps over-simplistically) including those with Libertarian ideals, all of whom seem to think that the market is sacrosanct and can be left to solve any climate problems, as and when they occur. ”

    1. I’m a Libertarian.
    2. I’m a lukewarmer.
    3. The market is not sacrosanct.
    4. Market based solutions have their place.

    “all of whom”. A good idea in some cases is to make an argument about an actual piece of writing, rather than making statements about “all of whom”.

    “Of course, the issue is that by the time the impacts of climate change become obvious to ‘the market’, it will be too late for them to be reversed. It’s this aspect of climate science—the logical deduction that ‘the market’ is not fit for the purpose of limiting climate impacts—that is the reason for their denial. And they adopt the lukewarmer position because it provides those wanting to maintain the status quo the best chance of not being shown up for being anti-science.”

    1. speculations about motives is a fun game.
    2. a logical deduction would be nice to see.

    But while playing the lukewarmer card when necessary, they also have no qualms about encouraging the spread of denial propaganda when they can get away with it to help achieve delay. To them this is definitely a propaganda battle.

    1. Strangely I have gotten as much heat from denialists as I have from folks who are noluckwarmers.

  60. Steven Mosher says:

    “And if “lukewarmers” were really interested in risk management, they would vociferously support taking at least some action to mitigate risks associated with climate change. ”

    1. We vociferously endorse rapid expansion of nuclear.
    2. Some of us endorse raid action against black carbon
    3. Some of us endorse rapid moves to gas as a bridging fuel
    4. Some of us endorse ending Fossil fuel subsidies.
    5. Some of us endorse rapid action on adaptation for warming that is already in the pipeline
    6. Some of us support revenue neutral carbon taxes.
    7. Some of us support taxes that are tied to observational metrics.

  61. Turbulent,
    I really don’t have much of a clue as to your point. The recently observed trends are different to the projected trends for the 21st century. Sure, so what? We haven’t yet observed definitive, statistically significant changes in TCs, droughts? Hmm, I’m not sure that is completely true.

  62. Steven,
    It really seems as though you are trying to redefine Lukewarming to basically be the mainstream position. I appreciate that there are some self-professed Lukewarmers who propose what you suggest, but they seem few and far between and seem to be self-identifying with something that may not be quite the right descriptor.

  63. Rob Nicholls says:

    Steven Mosher, I was just wondering what you would make of some of the comments about lukewarmers (and libertarians)…thanks for answering me before I asked.

  64. Turbulent,
    I really don’t have much of a clue as to your point. The recently observed trends are different to the projected trends for the 21st century. Sure, so what? We haven’t yet observed definitive, statistically significant changes in TCs, droughts? Hmm, I’m not sure that is completely true.

    ATTP, the trends are ALL lower than predicted. They’re lukewarm.
    What physical basis do you have for believing warming trends will accelerate?

  65. We haven’t yet observed definitive, statistically significant changes in TCs, droughts? Hmm, I’m not sure that is completely true.

    No significant trend in Accumulated Cyclone Energy.
    No significant trend in US Palmer Drought Severity Index or in global satellite vegetation stress indices.

    This stands to reason.

    Precipitation is the most significant factor regarding droughts, and precipitation is governed by variations in the general circulation for which global temperature is not a term

    Tropical cyclones are enabled by convective cells, but this convection is part of ‘conditional instability’ which is ubiquitous in the tropics already, requiring only the condition of low level convergence to result in convection. In forecasting land based thunderstorms, there is even a consideration of ‘cannibalistic’ convection, wherein if instability rises too high, numerous small convective cells will consume the energy that might have fueled a more intense single storm were the atmosphere not as unstable.

    In any event, storms, droughts, and tropical cyclones all are multi-factoral phenomena which occur largely independent of global average temperature.

  66. Turbulent,

    What physical basis do you have for believing warming trends will accelerate?

    Well, if we emit as much in the next 50 years as we have in the last 120 years, it should accelerate. The change in forcing will be about the same. The time interval will be much smaller. That’s physics.

    Sorry, but the rest of you comment is simply someone who is extremely certain that something isn’t possible and that it all makes sense to them. I have better things to do than engage in such a discussion. I always find it amazing how certain some can be despite a continuous inistence that everyone else presents their caveats and provides actual evidence.

  67. BBD says:

    @Turbulent Lucifer

    Why are you using GISS Model II (Hansen ABC)? It was extremely crude and is now completely obsolete.

    You can’t use observations since 1979 to make strong claims about temperature evolution to 2100. Natural variability plays too large a part over a few decades for such extrapolations. Also forcing from GHGs has increased since 1979 and is continuing to increase.

  68. BBD says:

    Turbulent L

    There’s a useful post by Tamino that examines the predictive skill of Hansen ABC.

  69. izen says:

    @-Turbulent Eddie
    “In any event, storms, droughts, and tropical cyclones all are multi-factoral phenomena which occur largely independent of global average temperature.”

    Wrong.
    In fact the opposite is true.
    The variations in past droughts and storms is evident in the historical archaeological and paleoclimate record. The incidence of droughts storms and floods is written in the records and sediments from the last glacial maximum, the Younger Dryas and before.

    That storms, droughts and tropical cyclones are multifactorial makes the possible responses non-linear to changes in the underlying energy regime. It does not ensure the stability of the independence of these systems from the observed increased water vapour content, or the changing gradients in temperature both vertically and horizontally in the atmosphere.

    But perhaps you can make a comparison.
    The risk to our way of life from terrorism and political/religious conflict in the ME is used to justify certain expensive (in money and life) government actions. Is that response justified by the ongoing and potential future threats?
    If the threat from climate change is the lessor of the threats, what do you think about the idea of divesting from fossil fuels because they are financing the terrorist threat, and providing a prize to be fought over.

    Would CO2 mitigation by the large scale replacement of oil with alternatives be acceptable and cost effective (cheaper than the last Iraqi war!) as a means of minimising the terrorist fallout and political violence that will emerge from the clash of Islamic orthodoxies?

  70. BBD says:

    Steven Mosher

    1. We vociferously endorse rapid expansion of nuclear.

    I’ve never yet encountered a lukewarmer who vociferously endorses the parallel rapid expansion of renewables. They may exist, of course. But they are not apparently vociferous. All the lukewarmers I have encountered are fairly antipathetic to expansion of renewables.

    Why do you think this is?

  71. Willard says:

    > This stands to reason.

  72. Brandon Gates says:

    Turbulent Eddie,

    Those that are in denial of lukewarming are in denial of reality.

    Post hoc positioning such as this is one of the luckwarmer attributes being critiqued here. Stern-gazing chips on a millrace certainly don’t risk the embarrassment of being wrong, but wise punters don’t want to find out if the thing flows into the proverbial creek. We tend to want to use the paddle while we’re still able to grip it.

  73. Well, if we emit as much in the next 50 years as we have in the last 120 years, it should accelerate. The change in forcing will be about the same. The time interval will be much smaller. That’s physics.

    It’s possible, of course, and most of the slow down in forcing was from the big slowdown from CFCs and Methane, but no sign of acceleration of forcing is observed:

  74. Turbulent,

    It’s possible, of course, and most of the slow down in forcing was from the big slowdown from CFCs and Methane, but no sign of acceleration of forcing is observed:

    If the developed world decides not to find alternatives to fossil fuels and wants to maintain the per-capita energy use that it has currently, and the developing world wants to increase it’s per capita energy use through fossil fuels, how can it not accelerate?

    This seems to be the crucial point. If we wish to maintain standards in the developed world and improve standards in the developing world, it requires increasing energy use. How we do this is surely the crucial issue with respect to climate change? Even your graph shows a scenario in which we increase anthropogenic forcings by something close to 0.1Wm-2/year.

    I’ve seen this kind of argument before. Somehow we can have continued global economic growth while following a low emission pathway and without actually thinking very hard about how to provide energy using something other than fossil fuels. How does this work? Magic?

    You also seem to think that extrapolation is somehow a valid model?

  75. Willard says:

    > wise punters don’t want to find out if the thing flows into the proverbial creek

  76. semyorka says:

    One of the best questions I have found on the issue is to ask the skeptic\ luke warmer to list the relevant text books they have read on the topic. I am sure McIntyre\Mosher etc will have a list but for the most part the answer is silence.

    “You did not have to be as clever as Einstein to explain why Newton was correct, you did to explain where he was wrong”. Its easy to say a science is wrong. Its a world away harder to show why.

  77. Eli Rabett says:

    Hansen 1988 had a ECS of 4.2 or so, something Hansen pretty soon admitted was too high, but also pointed out that it didn’t make a damns worth difference because trends over a few decades are not very sensitive to effective ECS.

  78. John L says:

    @ATTP,

    “Steven,
    It really seems as though you are trying to redefine Lukewarming to basically be the mainstream position”

    That is actually very logical as Lukewarming seems to mostly be a way to appear a bit mainstream to get credibility and then use that to ignore some fitting subset of the evidence 🙂

    BTW, great humor from Gavin Schmidt:

  79. Tony Duncan says:

    The issue here is that climate change has become just another political issue to be argued, so any opinion, if presented forcefully, is acceptable. Climate change is a scam, so everyone willing to accept that as likely feels that they can understand all the science they need to.
    I understand basic principles of science, but I would never argue with Spencer or Christy about specific scientific issue.
    what if fascinating to me is that I argue with people way more knowledgeable than me, such as Curry, and they so often use irrational arguments, and totally ignore ridiculous points made by others “supporting” their viewpoint and almost never correct them. n this blog and most “warmist” ones if a person says that sea level rise will be 20 Ft in a century, that person is quickly corrected. that level of ignorance is rarely corrected sites opposed to action on climate change.

  80. matt says:

    “The one thing that I regard as so obvious that anyone who wants to be taken seriously should accept, is that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic. If people can’t accept this, then there’s no point in discussing anything else.”

    Yep. And would add there is no point discussing anything else with those that describe such matters as interesting, like blogger JC (not to be confused with published scientist JC).

  81. BBD says:

    Turbulent L

    It’s possible, of course, and most of the slow down in forcing was from the big slowdown from CFCs and Methane,

    So why quote Hansen ABC as ‘evidence’ that ‘the models’ over-predict warming from CO2? I should have mentioned that GISS Model II had a sensitivity of ~4.2C – Eli filled that gap.

  82. Jim Lovejoy says:

    Turbulent L

    You listed a bunch of projections from the mainstream of climate science.

    Please do the same from those you characterize as ‘accurate’.

  83. Steven Mosher says:

    “I’ve never yet encountered a lukewarmer who vociferously endorses the parallel rapid expansion of renewables. They may exist, of course. But they are not apparently vociferous. All the lukewarmers I have encountered are fairly antipathetic to expansion of renewables.

    Why do you think this is?”

    #################################33

    you dont get out much.

  84. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven,
    It really seems as though you are trying to redefine Lukewarming to basically be the mainstream position. I appreciate that there are some self-professed Lukewarmers who propose what you suggest, but they seem few and far between and seem to be self-identifying with something that may not be quite the right descriptor.”

    Redefine?

    On the contrary, they are refining what I laid out first. herding cats is tough business.

    Of course of every skeptic would believe the same thing
    and every lukewarmer would believe the same thing
    and every supporter of the consensus would believe whatever that is,
    then we could actually use labels effectively.

  85. BBD says:

    Where are they, Steven?

    You can list your own examples, since I don’t get out enough.

  86. Steven Mosher says:

    ““I’ve never yet encountered a lukewarmer who vociferously endorses the parallel rapid expansion of renewables. They may exist, of course. But they are not apparently vociferous. All the lukewarmers I have encountered are fairly antipathetic to expansion of renewables.

    Why do you think this is?”

    I forgot.. I bet if you ask around you will find plenty of lukewarmers in support of expanding Hydro,
    last time I looked that was renewable..

    To be fair I dont think you will find many of us in support of Wind.. Solar? it depends.
    Looking at the technology curves on Solar.. best bet would be spend more on R&D and less on
    subsidies.

    Looking at the score card.. the differences between the union of lukewarmer positions and
    “consensus” positions is not in the core science.

    basically, the anti science anti nuke people are the biggest problem. I’m with hansen and Watts on that. strangebedfellows.

  87. Joshua says:

    steven –

    1. We vociferously endorse rapid expansion of nuclear.
    2. Some of us endorse raid action against black carbon
    3. Some of us endorse rapid moves to gas as a bridging fuel
    4. Some of us endorse ending Fossil fuel subsidies.
    5. Some of us endorse rapid action on adaptation for warming that is already in the pipeline
    6. Some of us support revenue neutral carbon taxes.
    7. Some of us support taxes that are tied to observational metrics.

    Now that’s an interesting comment.

    So let’s note that the only thing that we could actually know from that description about any particular individual to be a “lukewarmer,” is that they would endorse rapid expansion of nuclear. That criterion might hold true when people are talking about their views in some theoretical context, but when the rubber hits the road, my guess is there are many a self-described “lukewarmer” who would vociferously oppose the federal funding and centralized energy policies that would arguably be needed in the real world to roll out nuclear power in a substantial manner in anything like the near term).

    I’d say that with that if we go with list, the term “lukewarmer” would require a completely new perspective on the give-and-take in the Climate Wars. For example, Hansen and Watts could both wear “Team Lukewarmer” T-shirts.

    Once again, this goes back to one of the most fundamental requirements of meaningful dialog – an agreement on terminology as a starting point. People use these terms as if they have been coherently defined in some manner, but in fact there is no agreement about terms. The terms become just rhetoric and tribal weaponry – like Judith’s self-serving description of “lukewarmers” and her use of the label “alarmist.”

  88. Joshua says:

    ==> ” I’m with hansen and Watts on that. strangebedfellows.”

    heh.

    Posted as I was writing my 11:33….For example, Hansen and Watts could both wear “Team Lukewarmer” T-shirts.

  89. BBD says:

    Steven M

    best bet would be spend more on R&D and less on
    subsidies.

    I don’t like regressive taxes either but that is a policy argument. The raw energy argument is simple and well-established: at best, if we go hard at it, 30% renewables, 30% nuclear in the global electricity generation mix by mid-century. The nuke-boosters can no more do without the renewables than vice-versa. Unless sensitivity is so low that palaeoclimate needs a major re-think.

  90. Meow says:

    To be fair I dont think you will find many of us in support of Wind.

    Why not?

  91. izen says:

    @-Steven Mosher
    “Looking at the technology curves on Solar.. best bet would be spend more on R&D and less on subsidies.”

    That starts with the premise that R&D and subsidies are separate distinguishable things that can be implemented by government dictact. With predictable outcomes amenable to cost/benefit analysis.

    At present governments are considering the options of increased R&D and subsidies as a means of propping up their fossil fuel industries that are in danger of becoming stranded assets. The uk in regard to the North sea oil and Australia with regard to its coal mines are both faced with the prospect that a combination of lower demand and rising extraction costs could cause the local industry to decline or get ‘mothballed’. To act to protect this future source of wealth both governments are looking at tax breaks for the ongoing business and long term development of cheaper exploitation methods.

    This is part of the adherence to the status quo that is an element of the lukewarmer position. Because governments know what has worked in the past they are willing and encouraged by powerful interests to perpetuate those policies, rather than switch to a new set of priorities in the light of scientific knowledge.

  92. anoilman says:

    Actually if you look at the support for Nuclear it smacks of a Lomborgian Gambit. Namely many folks of the denial stripe demand it as the sole easy solution. But in reality, no one wants it, so we should just keep doing what we used to do.

    Complaints about unsightly wind or solar got nothing on nuclear. Talk about NIMBY effect. No one wants a nuclear reactor out their back window. (On the plus side if you can see it glow, you’ll be dead very soon.)

    And risk. Whoa! Risk. Why is it that nuclear reactors aren’t insured and built with private financing? Matt Ridley’s bank aside… banks and insurance companies don’t loose money. They won’t touch nuclear. I wonder why? What’s so squiffy with the numbers that governments are required to subsidize and build them? Why are they under insured?

    Renewables are showing up as being easy to deploy in various scales from big to small to roof top. Current costs and negotiated prices for renewable energy is currently comparable to nuclear. But get this… their costs are going down, while nuclear is on the rise.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station

    Meanwhile I leave you all with this ad for a new cologne for people who like to save money;

  93. If the developed world decides not to find alternatives to fossil fuels and wants to maintain the per-capita energy use that it has currently, and the developing world wants to increase it’s per capita energy use through fossil fuels, how can it not accelerate?

    It is precisely the developed world wherein CO2 emissions are falling.
    See the blue and green curves, down over the past 25 years:

    Even the top line ( all nations ) exhibits an inflection point around 2001, concave up before then,
    concave down afterward.

    And even China appears to be slacking:

    That’s according to these folks and Greenpeas.

    Why are so many nations decreasing CO2 emissions? What do they share in common?

    Well, they all seem to be the economically developed nations and that confers
    1.) falling population 2.) ageing popultion 3.) economic development which has squeezed out costs so energy efficiency pays, and 4.) technology to enhance energy use.

    You have to be old to appreciate how much more efficient things are today than even the 1979 date. I bought a new TV the other day and being an earth ( and cost ) concious consumer, I looked up the energy use to discover nearly all televisions use negligible energy. They used to have so much waste heat they started house fires.

    A third of a century ago, an 8bit computer with a cathode ray terminal had a 200 Watt power supply. Today we carry multi cpu 64 bit processors with precision graphics and world connectivity in our pockets.

    Of course, once this technology reaches its logical conclusion and obviates all the inefficient carbon based units ( humanoids ) then I’ll sign up with you guys.

    But for now, the weather’s fine. Think I’ll sit in the back yard with an IPA.

  94. Hansen 1988 had a ECS of 4.2 or so, something Hansen pretty soon admitted was too high, but also pointed out that it didn’t make a damns worth difference because trends over a few decades are not very sensitive to effective ECS.

    Great – we’ve falsified Hansen or at least all the Hansen scenarios are falsified.
    Now, part of that is the fact that emissions are lower than Hansen thought,
    but since 1979, trends are less than even Hansen C – the one where CO2 emissions went to zero
    in 2000!

    Trouble is, for observation deniers, there are no validated scenarios, only falsified.

    The IPCC authors understand this ( as do all good meteorologists ) – if you must forecast, forecast often. The IPCC likes to reset the clock with each report so nobody’s held to account.

    Now, warming deniers are wrong too – clearly there’s been warming, and that’s consistent with GHGs, but Lukewarmers are winning.

  95. Brandon Gates says:

    Willard,

    If the bungee wasn’t wrapped around everyone’s ankles, I’d say that is a damn fine experimental protocol.

  96. Brandon Gates says:

    Turbulent Eddie,

    Now, warming deniers are wrong too – clearly there’s been warming, and that’s consistent with GHGs, but Lukewarmers are winning.

    Please produce evidence that you correctly called the ball somewhere between, oh 1988 and 1997. Thanks.

  97. Willard says:

    > But for now, the weather’s fine.

  98. jsam says:

    If the purpose of the game is to delude one’s self convincingly the lukewarmers are winning. True.

  99. anoilman says:

    Turbulent Eddie: You’re wrong on so many points its hard to figure out where to start. You neglected one critical aspect of declining carbon emissions in the developed world. Renewables are cheaper and easier to roll out than any form of energy.

    There has never been a ‘reset’ on the global warming clock. Ever. We start it at 1950. Please define this ‘reset’ you speak of.

    All IPCC reports have been correct. They waffle a little over temperature rise, nothing has been seen outside of our error margins.

    I think you’re clear proof that;

  100. Richard says:

    A risk is something that might happen (2 deg with some probability close to 1, 3 deg with a lower probability, Etc.). An issue is something that is happening e.g. This glacier. That was atoll advancing until relatively recently and is now in rapid retreat. At some point, the model argument becomes an irritating distraction from reality … http://climate.nasa.gov/state_of_flux#Qori-Kalis-930px-80-v2.jpg (although without the models we lose an essential tool for dong the sensitivity. Analysis that is an essential tool in doing risk management)

  101. Turbulent,
    Well, at least you’re illustrating the point of my post. A simple description for the Lukewarmer position (well, apart from the variant described by Mosher) would be “so far, so good”.

  102. Nathan says:

    Surely ‘Lukewarmer’ is no more than a marketing term. Especially when people link it to Libertarianism or whatever.

    I remember asking Mosher to define the term Lukewarmer over at Lucia’s blog several years ago and he came up with a very strange definition that included:
    ECS <1.5 (I think it was 1.5)
    free access to data and code

    Now the first seems like a 'reasonable' Lukewarmer aspect, but the second (and a bunch I can't recall) seemed entirely irrelevent…

  103. For a couple of weeks I have spent very little time reading blogs and still less to contribute. I have read Judith’s post that builds on the Taleb et al paper that I haven’t read (so far).

    My impression is that Judith interprets most points very differently from what the authors probably have in mind, but in a way that might perhaps be defended (although just barely, if at all).

    Taleb seems to draw a line between the precautionary principle and risk management based on two factors:

    – The severity of the worst outcome being considered
    – The possibility of making the analysis quantitative without recourse to highly uncertain assumptions.

    According to this division PP is reserved to cases where the likelihood of the worst outcome cannot be estimated with reasonable accuracy, but it’s consequences are so severe that it should have an important role in decision-making in spite of that.

    In practice it’s very difficult to tell, when and how the precautionary principle should be applied. That depends on answers to questions like:

    1) Is the likelihood of the outcomes considered so low that they can be left aside in all decision-making?

    2) Can we affect significantly the likelihood or severity of the risks by any decision possible in practice?

    3) Is the combination of likelihood and severity really such that PP is the right choice rather than quantitative risk analysis and risk management based on that?

    The discussion of earlier threads here has revealed in my view clearly that Richard Tol bases his approach on negative answer to the third question. That seems to be also the attitude of Judith. When that’s taken as the guiding principle, we are led to apply such economic analyses that are internally consistent and capable of giving well defined answers (within the limits of their applicability). The problem is that this approach excludes phenomena that cannot be quantified and it excludes also models, whose structure makes them badly defined due to factors like a low discount rate relative to rate of growth.

    In other words: We get well defined quantitative results only, when we exclude everything that would justify very strong prompt action. In reality we have only two consistent possibilities (excluding the view that whole issue is a hoax):

    (i) We trust in quantitative analysis, and conclude that global warming is not an extreme threat, but rather a manageable problem, not worse that many other problems.

    (ii) We consider all quantitative analyses inadequate, but think on more qualitative basis that climate change is a serious threat, and that precautionary principle applies.

    Accepting the second view does not, by itself, tell what should be done in practice, and this is a further major problem. Even in this case quantitative considerations should be applied as far as possible, but accepting that some very important issues cannot be quantified well enough.

    My problems are related to these issues. I do not think that we can rely on the benign outcomes of the well behaved quantitative analyses, but I think also that making good policy decisions requires some quantitative support. The question is, how we can build up such quantitative support for practical decisions, when traditional quantitative approaches are far too limited.

    Taleb and his coworkers are probably discussing similar problems, but my impression is that they are not much closer to a real answer.

  104. Pekka,

    We get well defined quantitative results only, when we exclude everything that would justify very strong prompt action.

    Hmmm, yes, that’s probably about right. Assume that everything behaves in a sensible linear fashion, that there will be no sudden shocks. This is fine if people present this by saying “if we assume that there will be no sudden shocks…..”. However, many seem to interpret such work as implying that there will be no sudden shocks, rather than the results only applying if that happens to be the case.

    I do not think that we can rely on the benign outcomes of the well behaved quantitative analyses, but I think also that making good policy decisions requires some quantitative support.

    I agree. The problem – as I see it – is that those who present this work are insufficiently clear about the limitations. Quantifying things is clearly a good thing, but the assumptions and limitations should be made clear. If they were, I think it would be easier. Of course, we also have to consider that many of our political leaders are perfectly happy with these types of analyses as they probably confirm their existing biases.

  105. In quantitative analyses the largest negative contributions come either from
    – the most severe effects, whose likelihoods and quantified severities are extremely difficult to estimate even within a factor of ten, or from
    – long term effects that grow very large, when the discount rate is very low, and depend so sensitively on the exact value of the discount rate (and extremely difficult to quantify effects of far future) that the outcome is virtually undefined.

    Well defined results are obtained, when the discount rate and other assumptions make the relatively near future dominate the outcome.

  106. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Well defined results are obtained, when the discount rate and other assumptions make the relatively near future dominate the outcome.”

    The more focused on short term self-interest we are, the less we will care about the long term negative consequences of short term gains, and the future is always less certain than the present, so that is a fairly trivial truth. The problem is that we can’t choose our discount rates in the interests of well defined results or in favour of a desired course of (in)action; that would hardly be rational. So what do we do? We hedge our bets (i.e. we give some weight to both risk analysis and the precautionary principle and err to a degree on the side of caution).

  107. I was just reading some of Bjorn Lomborg’s testimony to the senate which seems to be arguing that if we use a higher discount rate, everything looks much more positive. Well, yes, by definition. We, however, don’t get to choose the actual discount rate.

  108. Deciding properly on the discount rate is difficult enough, but that’s the easy part of long term comparisons. It’s far more difficult to determine the amounts that should be discounted, when we wish to compare the ultimate advantages of two different policy choices taking into account very long term influences.

  109. Pekka,

    It’s far more difficult to determine the amounts that should be discounted, when we wish to compare the ultimate advantages of two different policy choices taking into account very long term influences.

    Yes, but that almost never seems to be done. Lomborg’s piece – to which I link above – compares some kind of policy cost with an estimate of future damages. However, it’s not clear what this policy cost is since it would seem that the correct comparision is between the different policy options, not the cost of one possible policy option with the damages due to one possible future pathway.

  110. Willard says:

    > Is the combination of likelihood and severity really such that PP is the right choice rather than quantitative risk analysis and risk management based on that?

    One does not preclude the other, since the PP belongs to the inference, not the analysis.

    On that thread at Judy’s, I underlined two points. First, Mr. T goes rogue – he’s not lukewarm anymore. Second, even if Denizens disregard estimating the cost of the false negative market, reinsurers won’t.

  111. counters says:

    TurbulentEddie,

    There is nothing stopping you from either re-running Hansen’s model with updated forcing scenarios that actually reflect what happened in the 1990’s and 2000’s, or taking a modern model (like the CESM), and running it with either the Hansen scenarios or the actual observed forcings. Of course, the reality is that we do this latter exercise as frequently as a PhD student drinks coffee.

  112. JCH says:

    I take Taleb to be saying if, as a result of human choices, there is a possibility you wake up with an earth that is unfriendly to western civilization, then the odds of that happening have to be zero. Judy thinks the odds are low (there is no evidence the odds are zero ’cause there are at least 10 denizens at CE who smarter than Taleb who could come up with no evidence the odds are zero), so she’s perfectly willing to put a bullet in gun with 10, 100, 1000, whatever chambers, spin it, and put it to her head and pull the trigger.

    This recklessness appears to be imbecilic to Taleb.

  113. dikranmarsupial says:

    Pekka wrote “It’s far more difficult to determine the amounts that should be discounted,” agreed; this is where the precautionary principle comes in. If the future loss is uncertain and *potentially* severe then the onus should be on those wanting to pursue a course of action likely to provoke severe but distant outcomes to show that they won’t happen or to provide the resources for adaption. I can’t prove that I won’t cause a road traffic accident in the coming year, the chances of this happening are fairly low*, but I am required to take out an insurance policy to cover the likely consequences should this actually happen. This is the precautionary principle in practice, and society has found it to be generally a good thing in this particular example. It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me to either choose a course of action likely to avoid potentially severe long term losses (i.e. mitigation) or to take out some insurance (i.e. investing in preparation for adaption) or a combination of both. The uncertainty certainly doesn’t support BAU.

    * happily my insurers seem to agree with that assessment, judging by the premium ;o)

  114. JCH,
    I agree, I find it very odd. How many chambers would a revolver need to have before you’d decide to play Russian Roulette, rather than make some changes to how you live your life? Of course, there are risks on the other side too, but I would argue that we have more control over how we respond to economic changes, than to irreversible changes in our climate.

    I guess the subtlety is that there will always be risks and some may be catastrophic. Many we probably can’t predict or do much about. Climate change, however, increases these risks and it is something that we can choose to do something about.

  115. Joshua says:

    As I said in the thread at Judith’s – her arguments seems to be that adaptation and anti-fragility are compatible if not more or less synonymous. As near as I can tell, that would be a fundamentally flawed reading of Taleb (I’d be happy to stand corrected if someone can explain why it would be otherwise).

    It is not at all uncommon for Judith to take all manner of theoretical arguments and twist them so as to confirm her biases – in a notably unskeptical manner.

  116. Joshua says:

    Sorry – please substitute “resilience” for “adaptation” in my 2:06 comment.

    From Judith:

    “JC comment: This is an argument for dealing with the risk via increasing resilience and anti-fragility.”

    and

    “JC comment: in the climate change debate, I interpret this statement as arguing to increase resilience and anti-fragility.”

    From Wikipedia

    As Taleb explains in his book, antifragility is fundamentally different from the concepts of resiliency (i.e. the ability to recover from failure) and robustness (that is, the ability to resist failure).

  117. mwgrant says:

    Hi Pekka,

    “My problems are related to these issues. I do not think that we can rely on the benign outcomes of the well behaved quantitative analyses, but I think also that making good policy decisions requires some quantitative support. The question is, how we can build up such quantitative support for practical decisions, when traditional quantitative approaches are far too limited.”

    IMO this perspective is too restrictive. Sometimes a decision just lacks good quantitative support but has to be made anyway in light of existing constraints, e.g., time-frame, finances, quantification, etc. We do that all of the time. The essence of any decision is uncertainty (including ignorance). The idea is to thoroughly characterize your decision including constraints to the point of clarity and once that is accomplished to make the best decision under those constraints. As always there are no guarantees on outcome.

    [To be clear my comment is an observation about the messy nature of decision-making, and is not a clarion call to precipitous ‘climate change’ action. :O)]

  118. Joseph says:

    when we wish to compare the ultimate advantages of two different policy choices taking into account very long term influences.

    I realize that this a climate related blog, but when considering energy policy options, we shouldn’t just focus on the consequences of climate change (which are more long term) but issues such as energy security (e.g relying on imports) and other negative externalities related to fossil fuel consumption (e.g. pollution). I think if you consider it comprehensively there is a persuasive case that can be made we should move away from fossil fuels now even with the uncertainty associated with climate impacts and discount rates.

  119. Joseph,

    we shouldn’t just focus on the consequences of climate change (which are more long term) but issues such as energy security (e.g relying on imports) and other negative externalities related to fossil fuel consumption (e.g. pollution).

    I agree, and I do find it odd that this argument isn’t presented more often. There seem to be many positives to moving away from fossil fuels that aren’t simply related to addressing climate change. Of course, nothing is ever simple, but you’d think we’d want to at least consider all of these factors.

  120. anoilman says:

    You know… all these arguments over ‘doing something’ are quickly becoming moot. Renewables are showing themselves to be cheaper and easier to roll out. Hinkley C is is really quite the poster child for nuclear and its issues;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station#Economics

    Nuclear… strike price £92.50 per MWh, indexed to inflation. (At 2% inflation, what does that look like in 30-40 years?) Solar PV is £110.. fixed. So solar is clearly way way way cheaper, and a smarter investment.


  121. There seem to be many positives to moving away from fossil fuels that aren’t simply related to addressing climate change.

    The Precautionary Principle is a get-me-to-a-fainting-couch sounding argument. One loses with that rationale as you end up appearing fearful and tentative. Better is to apply the much more aggressive and forward-thinking No Regrets Policy.

    Look at the facts…. fossil fuel supplies are dwindling as it is, so we better switch out to other energy options. We will have absolutely no regrets, because even if it is only a slow decline in supplies, we can use the switch-over period to fight against climate change as rationale (and reduce air pollution, too),

  122. Meow says:

    To be fair I dont think you will find many of us in support of Wind.

    Once again, why not?

  123. Joseph said:


    I think if you consider it comprehensively there is a persuasive case that can be made we should move away from fossil fuels now even with the uncertainty associated with climate impacts and discount rates.

    Yes, that’s known as the No Regrets policy, which was formulated around 1980. Thanks for recognizing the concept, but shame that few like to use this rationale in everyday discussion.
    .

  124. Eli Rabett says:

    No regrets was fine in the 80s and 90s but we have (or rapidly are) running out of no regrets room.

    Pekka, thanks for a great off topic comment. The conversation was going no where.

  125. Eli Rabett says:

    As to the precautionary principle Curry and Taleb. Curry’s argument depends on her knowing exactly the climate sensitivity AND the width of the distribution. The fact is that she has no clue, that the mode is disputed as is the width of the distribution and, as Taleb points out, if you don’e know the mode you have no clue about the wings and the wings kill.

  126. Although, to be fair, Judith did say this

    Hegerl correctly states that we cannot reliably set an upper limit particularly for ECS until we address nonlinearities and structural model problems.

    which is something I’ve been – unsuccessfully – trying to get Nic Lewis to acknowledge for a while now. Of course, the reason he hasn’t done so may be because he’s decided to no longer talk to me, rather than because he’s unwilling to acknowledge it 🙂

  127. Meow says:

    ATTP: That sounds like progress of a sort toward acknowledging that uncertainty in the magnitude of future warming and the responses to that warming is not an argument for inaction, because the probability that things could be better is no greater than the probability that they could be worse.

  128. Meow,
    That would – IMO – be the obvious interpretation. I’m not convinced it would be Judith who may well conclude that it means that we need to be more certain before doing anything.

  129. JCH says:

    I don’t know if Taleb has ever discussed discount rates, but based on what he writes, I think his discount rate for 2100 would exceedingly close to zero.

    Taleb has no problem, really, with severe economic consequences as long as the perps take a perp walk.


  130. No regrets was fine in the 80s and 90s but we have (or rapidly are) running out of no regrets room.

    #WHUT the ?

    Reget-based decision making is also part of the system engineering design process lexicon. It prescribes one way decisions get made. The precautionary principle is more akin to a safety margin and doesn’t get to the crux of how a decision is made.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22regret%22+optimization+engineering&as_ylo=2015

    No regrets is another way of setting up an design optimization problem and minimizing the regrets. The design for safety margin would be one of the criteria factored in.

    This is my work wheel-house, but apparently to those outside of system engineering it is not so blindingly obvious 🙂

  131. Willard says:

    > No regrets is another way of setting up an design optimization problem and minimizing the regrets.

    How to save a minute RTFR by armwaving to low-hanging fruits:

    No regrets options are by definition GHG emissions reduction options that have negative net costs, because they generate direct or indirect benefits that are large enough to offset the costs of implementing the options. The costs and benefits included in the assessment, in principle, are all internal and external impacts of the options. External costs arise when markets fail to provide a link between those who create the “externality and those affected by it; more generally, when property rights for the relevant resources are not well defined. External costs can relate to environmental side-impacts, and distortions in markets for labour, land, energy resources, and various other areas. By convention, the benefits in an assessment of GHG emissions reduction costs do not include the impacts associated with avoided climate change damages. A broader definition could include the idea that a no regrets policy would, in hindsight, not preclude (e.g., by introducing lock-in effects or irreversibilities) even more beneficial outcomes, but this is not taken up in the mitigation literature. The no regret concept has, in practice, been used differently in costing studies, and has in most cases not included all the external costs and implementation costs associated with a given policy strategy.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg3/index.php?idp=292

    Economists and physicists may not be alone in the minimization of other disciplines.

  132. Joshua says:

    I’m still hoping that someone could describe how they’d envision “anti-fragility” as it could play out in policies implemented to address the potential risks posed by continued BAU in ACO2 emissions.

    What would a system – that increases in capability, resilience, or robustness as a result of significant climate change – look like?

    “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

    What policies would result in a system that “gets better” with higher sea levels, or with increases in GMATs at a rate from sensitivity at the higher ends of he “best estimate” range?

    How do you design an “anti-fragile” system (let alone a more “resilient” system) if you think that the risks of climate change are too uncertain to substantiate policy-development?

    I’m with mwgrant:

    Sometimes a decision just lacks good quantitative support but has to be made anyway in light of existing constraints, …

    This is about decision-making in the face of uncertainty, and much of what I see are people wrangling about what should be done from overly-certain perspectives (e.g., that the risks definitely justify mitigation or that the risks of “economic suicide” definitely preclude mitigation).

  133. Andrew dodds says:

    @aom –

    Hinckley point C is a poster child for bad reactor design and awful politics.

    Of course, compared to fully backed up renewables, even HPC looks cheap..

  134. BBD says:

    Yes, Dinorwigs don’t come cheap, do they?

  135. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: “Of course, compared to fully backed up renewables, even HPC looks cheap..”

    You do understand that nuclear needs to be fully backed up as well, don’t you? Oh, and in 35 years, that’s when you get the ‘other bill’ for your nuclear plant. Decommissioning is now a minimum of a few billion. Not cheap.

    And then there’s that pesky issue of you wanting to sign a blank check. The price of Hinkley’s electricity will at least double by then, but that assumes you have a good economy and stable inflation rate. I’m not a gambling man, but I assume you are.

    In any case, there’s no reason not to to hit 30% penetration for renewables such as solar. Solar produces when electricity is used most, during the day. Industry is the biggest consumer of electricity, but mostly when people are at work.

    As for battery backups, they are coming and cheap. What’s remarkable is that renewable energy is in the right ball park for price without any market share.

  136. BBD says:

    AOM

    You do understand that nuclear needs to be fully backed up as well, don’t you?

    Yes, but not to such an extent as wind and solar. There’s a useful discussion of this in MacKay.

  137. Battery backups help in short-term variability. Here in Finland the most important variability by far is the seasonal variability and batteries are worthless for that. Elsewhere the situation may be quite different, and the relative competitiveness of solar power varies by a big factor, certainly at least a factor of five, perhaps closer to ten.

  138. BBD says:

    AOM

    Solar produces when electricity is used most, during the day.

    Well, that may depend on where you are. In the UK, peak demand is about 6pm, weekdays.

  139. Andrew dodds says:

    @aom –

    Nuclear should give you 85 % capacity factor, independent between reactors. Wind gives you up to 40% with significant correlation. Solar is seasonal, at least according to my direct measurements. This is not the same problem, and you really should already know that.

    And yes – as much renewable energy as possible. Every rooftop. Serious offshore wind. We need it. But we also need nuclear, because without it you are making life impossible.

  140. Some of the Bishops pub bores have returned to their pubs to mount an attack on agnotology .
    perhaps John Mashey should look in .

  141. Zeke Hausfather says:

    This reminds me of an old effort to find common ground in the climate debate that I embarked on back in 2010: http://rankexploits.com/musings/2011/agreeing/

  142. Brandon Gates says:

    Eli,

    The conversation was going no where.

    BAU via FUD. It’s possible to set a course without a rudder, but only when the crew manning the sheets are already proficient at doing it with a functioning helm, and the deadweight aboard aren’t chaotically swirling around the cockpit like Tasmanian Devils with their arses on fire.

    Just as well things are back on tack … I was nearly out of peanuts.

  143. Rob Nicholls says:

    Apologies for my ignorance but I’m puzzled by “discounting”. AGW under BAU could cause significant species extinction (maybe even more than 50%; I don’t believe a mass-extinction can be reliably entirely ruled out, please by all means set me straight on this), and severe disruption to agriculture. We may be lucky and the effects may not be so bad, but I don’t see how it’s possible to incorporate the possibility of such dire consequences into equations which involve discounting rates, utility, costs and benefits etc. (I’m not saying that economic analyses can’t be useful but they seem inherently rather limited).

    I’m guessing there are a number of approaches to discounting, but I strongly disagree with this approach: “The decision of how much to spend now to avert climate changes hinges on assessing how much it is worth to us now to prevent…future damage.” (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/discounting-future-cost-climate-change). I would think that basic ethics should dictate that we should rapidly move away from fossil fuel burning, as it could quite plausibly lead to significant extinctions and plausibly severely threaten the well-being of future generations, particularly as alternatives to BAU are readily available (especially to richer nations). Are we really so egocentric that we think this is about “what it’s worth to us”? I am hoping that economics (and our civilisation in general) has more to offer than this.

  144. JCH says:

    The grAPeS are sour at Climate Etc.

  145. Joshua says:

    ==> “The grAPeS are sour at Climate Etc.”

    Reminds me of when Anthony endorsed BEST’s process until they reached conclusions he didn’t like.

  146. JCH says:

    When DEVASTATING got devastated it just was not going to be a good day for the stadium wave.

    Maybe tomorrow.

  147. Brandon Gates says:

    Web,

    The Precautionary Principle is a get-me-to-a-fainting-couch sounding argument.

    True enough, but it’s out there, which means it ain’t going away. Not that I think it should, I find it a perfectly rational risk management strategy. Since we’re talking about messaging, “No regrets” also sounds negative. Shamelessly cribbing from Willard, folks want Grrrrowth. Sell that. I call it “proactive adaptation” when I’m feeling snarky, which is most of the time. On that note, “mitigation” and “carbon tax” need to die a horrible death. Rebrand. It worked for ValueJet cum AirTran well enough to get absorbed by Southwest. Perhaps an unfortunate analogy, but it is truthful to my view that the politics of AGW are the sort of slow-mo trainwreck from which one wants to look away were it not for morbid fascination and a liberal(‘s) dose of shadenfreude.

    So. MORE positive messages with near term benefits of the sort which appeal to Everyman’s checking balance. LESS heartstring-tugging billboards of arctic megafauna teetering on ice cubes — THAT target audience has already been sold.

    Most of the time — that is, those rare times when the audience isn’t so hostile and I’m not snarking in frustration — I push Job$, Job$, Job$. Lotsa construction work goes into building a nuclear power plant, digging a geothermal well, installing solar panels, erecting a windmill. Public funds dug the Panama Canal, built the Interstate Highway system, modernized the South via the TVA. With deference to our UK-based host, wave the damn flag: We’re Americans, WE did those things with our own blood sweat and tears, NOT just because some venal three-piece-suit-wearing legislator in DC threw OPM fished out of the pork barrel at it.

    Not often, but just often enough for me to keep at it, that plays. It may help that it’s not just an act, it’s how I genuinely feel. If only the shitheads on The Hill would get the memo and remember how to do politics: compromise if favourable, horse-trade when possible, lock everyone in a private cellphone-free room and crack skulls when all else fails. If mostly what you’re doing is roasting the other guy’s bollocks on Twitter, you’ve lost.

    Someone, anyone, tell me I’m missing something here.

  148. Brandon Gates says:

    BBD,

    In the UK, peak demand is about 6pm, weekdays.

    Here I was thinking Brits ran on chips and pints of bitter alone.

  149. Eli Rabett says:

    Pekka: Battery backups help in short-term variability. Here in Finland the most important variability by far is the seasonal variability and batteries are worthless for that.

    Wind?

  150. anoilman says:

    BBD: I also haven’t taken into account all the electric heat in the UK.

    Andrew dodds says:
    April 7, 2015 at 8:21 pm
    @aom –
    Solar is seasonal, at least according to my direct measurements. This is not the same problem, and you really should already know that.

    I do know this. I’ve designed solar equipment to work in very dim places. (We needed a big battery.)

    When you build a solar powered system you build it bigger to suit low points in supply. This factor is already calculated in the cost of solar. Along with fade, wear and tear, and lifetime replacement of components.

    I’m in Canada, and I pay about $0.18 per kwh for (coal) electricity, and solar PV on Battery sufficient to drop me off grid is $0.35 per kwh over 13 years. After they’ve been paid off, the solar cells are still good for another 7+ years. By then their peak capacity should be down 10-20%.

  151. Zeke,

    The greenhouse effect is real. Yes, we agree.

    Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Yes, we agree.

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing.Yes, though at a rate that is less lower than the B1 scenario rate. And the rate of removal from the atmosphere has increased to a current 2.5 ppm per year.

    Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are increasing. Yes, but there is deceleration in the rate of global emissions. Emissions from nearly all the developed nations are decresing.
    And there is evidence that emissions from China are now decreasing as well.

    The majority of the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations since pre-industrial times is due to anthropogenic emissions Yes, we agree.

    A doubling of carbon dioxide, holding everything else equal, would lead to a global average surface temperature increase of about 1 C. You can run radiative models to demonstrate this, but that is for a motionless atmosphere, and not through out. If you take an atmosphere, double the CO2, the upper levels of the troposphere cool while most of the radiative forcing acts in the lower half of the troposphere. This implies a decrease in static stability and an increase in the energy transfer effectiveness of a unit volume of convective transfer. I understand where the 1C comes from and agree for a motionless atmosphere, that’s consistent. But the real atmosphere moves and with it goes energy.

    Stocks of atmospheric carbon have a relatively long lifetime. See the removal rate. The first 2.5ppm are gone in a year. While any individual molecule of atmospheric carbon remains in the atmosphere for only a few years on average, the growth limitations of sinks means that the stock will not decline quickly should emissions stop increasing.
    I don’t think that’s correct. There doesn’t appear to be a ‘growth limitation’ of sinks. The higher the CO2 concentration, the greater the gradient into deep water formation and that’s what we see – CO2 removal has grown and continues to grow:

    Water vapor primarily acts as a feedback rather than a forcing in the climate system due to its short atmospheric residence time and the limitation to absolute humidity at a given temperature for saturated air. Science of Doom covers this rather well. Pointing out that water vapor is Earth’s dominant greenhouse gas does not minimize the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide.
    As a corollary to 3., a warmer world will have an atmosphere with more water vapor. This will tend to enhance the greenhouse effect, though the situation is complicated by the difficulty in both projecting changes in cloud formation and determining the radiative forcing effect of clouds.

    I took a look at what radiative result would occur from doubling CO2, warming uniformly by 2.4C, and humidifying so as to maintain constant relative humidity. The result seems to imply instability. Humidifying the atmosphere does, of course, increase the opacity of the lower troposphere. But, it decreases the radiative forcing of the upper troposphere. Cooling over warming is a good recipe for exchange. It is not at all clear that the upper troposphere will humidify or what the resulting energy exchange will be in such a situation.

    Direct solar forcing has played a relatively minor role in the last four decades, as TSI has been flat-to-modestly-decreasing during that period.
    TSI has not varied much. But solar forcing is more than TSI!
    Quick, to a tenth of a percent, what is earth albedo today, and how has it varied over time? Nobody knows because the measurments are so coarse. There’s not necssarily a good reason to expect changes, but when the uncertainty of the measurement is more than a doubling of CO2, you cannot say with certatinty what role direct solar forcing ( the absorbed part ) has played.

    Climate sensitivity is somewhere between 1.5 C and 4.5 C for a doubling of carbon dioxide, due to feedbacks (primarily water vapor) in the climate system.
    We agree – barely.
    Here is correlation of the satellite era surface temps with NOAA greenhouse gas index:

    1.58C per nominal forcing of a CO2 doubling ( including a third century’s feedbacks ).

    Land and ocean temperature measurements over the past century are largely accurate at a global level, though there are some regions that have limited data, especially toward the earlier part of the century. That said, factors like UHI, instrument change, siting issue, and other data quality issues could potentially change the global trend modestly.

    Indirect solar forcing is not particularly significant in recent decades. While the role of cosmic rays in cloud formation is interesting and deserving or more study, the lack of a trend and large uncertainty in modalities precludes it being a major player in modern warming.
    Albedo again.

    Recent warming is unprecedented over the past millennium.
    The 1910-1945 warming rate is very close ( within a few tenths of a degree C per century ) to the 1975-present warming.

    But it begs the question of all of this – to what end?
    The warming rates are demonstrably at the low end of projections.
    There are benefits to increased CO2.
    There are benefits to warmer temperatures, although they may never materialize because the warming is so slight compared to synoptic, diurnal, and annual change.

    One thing I’m 100% certain of, you will only find temperature in the Primitive Equations in the equation of state, all other equations involve derrivatives, not temperature. There’s a lot of hand waving, but no physics for many of the claimed effects of warming.

    I agree with much of what you put forth, particularly for a static atmosphere. But the dynamics do matter.

  152. Tom Curtis says:

    Rob Nichols, there are at least three bases for a discount rate. One, is the “pure rate of time preference”, ie, an acknowledgement that we typically prefer instant gratification to delayed gratification. This preference varies with individuals, and should be irrelevant for decision making for policy makers, at least across generations.

    A second represents a measure of uncertainty. If we have the option of receiving the same value now, or in fifty years we will typically prefer it now on the basis that we may not be here in fifty years. That is, independent of our preference for immediate gratification we should have a preference for money now relative to money in the future weighted by our probability of surviving into that future. Again, for policy makers on inter-generational issues, this should be irrelevant.

    Finally, a measure of discounting can be justified based on the fact that if we invest money now, we can expect a return in the future. The idea is that the cost of a future impost now is equal to the amount we would need to invest now to generate the value of the future impost when it comes due. So, the cost of climate change in 2100 is not the damages done then, but the amount we would need to invest now to cover the damages in 2100.

    The last is a reasonable measure in some ways. Certainly it is not immoral. However, the discount rates used for such discounting are typically equivalent to the average rate of return on investment over the recent past. By using such rates, it is implicitly assumed that climate change will not result in significant reductions in the rate of return (unless we include such reductions in the costs, which is not done SFAIK).

  153. Willard says:

    I point at this:

    > There are benefits to increased CO2.

    And I point at this:

    > Nobody knows because the measurments are so coarse.

    That is all.

  154. Turbulent Eddie,

    #WHUT the ? is wrong with you, especially when you say this:


    And the rate of removal from the atmosphere has increased to a current 2.5 ppm per year.

    No one will read past this point.

    And really now, aren’t you just a sokpupet of the Lucifer character? He claims that he made that NOAA chart that you are displaying, and so that either you and him are the same character, or you suffer from talking point bulletitis and are unable to think for yourself.

    Evidence: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/some-thoughts-on-internal-variability/#comment-49694

    Please don’t take us for rubes. That’s what WUWT and Climate Etc is for.

  155. Turbulent,

    And the rate of removal from the atmosphere has increased to a current 2.5 ppm per year.

    If the oceans/biosphere were not absorbing any of our emissions, then it is true that atmospheric concentrations would be rising at close to 5ppm per year, rather than 2.5ppm per year. However, this does not mean that if we stopped emitting it would start falling at 2.5ppm per year. It would takes 100s/1000s of years to return to pre-industrial levels.

  156. Rob Nicholls says:

    Tom Curtis, Thanks for your comments on discounting, I suspected there was more to it than what it’s worth to us to prevent future damage.

    It still seems impossible to me to put a meaningful monetary value on things like significant, or massive, species loss, or the collapse of agricultural systems, though. A while back, Pekka said “In reality we have only two consistent possibilities (excluding the view that whole issue is a hoax)…” I missed that earlier, but have re-read a bit more carefully now, and it’s helpful to me to see Pekka’s description of the limitations of different approaches.

  157. BBD says:

    Turbulent Lucifer

    And the rate of removal from the atmosphere has increased to a current 2.5 ppm per year.

    See what ATTP wrote above. Sequestration of CO2 into biogeochemical sinks takes a looooong time. Meanwhile, the stuff just cycles between atmosphere and surface/ocean.

    It’s called the carbon cycle for a reason.

  158. BBD says:

    AOM

    When you build a solar powered system you build it bigger to suit low points in supply.

    In the UK, we call this ‘winter’. We’re gonna need a bigger boat country. 🙂

    More numbers from MacKay. A *very* important distinction is made between personal domestic electricity use and total UK energy consumption (p. 40; emphasis as original):

    The conclusion so far: covering your south-facing roof at home with photovoltaics may provide enough juice to cover quite a big chunk of your personal average electricity consumption; but roofs are not big enough to make a huge dent in our total energy consumption. To do more with PV, we need to step down to terra firma.

  159. snarkrates says:

    I think that the mistake we often make is assuming the denialati and lukewarmers are a monolith. They aren’t. Their motivations and their technical sophistication run the gamut from the lowest of the low on up. I find it useful to classify them according to logical fallacy. Argument from consequences is a favorite, but even then there are distinctions. We have environmentalists who oppose the science because maintaining a global infrastructure in the face of these threats could threaten the environment or may require nuclear power. We have development advocates who fear development will take a back seat to mitigating climate change. We have libertarians who distrust government, but who cannot envision a solution that doesn’t require strong governmental action. We have technological optimists who don’t want humanity distracted from what they believe is a glorious trajectory of technological advance. Finally, there are the opportunists in it for the money and the clowns who simply view this as a way of tormenting the science nerds just like they did back in high school.

    The thing is that there is only one way to be right, while there are infinitely many ways to be wrong.

  160. John Hartz says:

    John Cook’s rebuttal to Richard Tol’s recent op-ed has now been posted on the Australian. Here’s the url:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/the-unscientific-way-of-climate-denial/story-e6frg6zo-1227294787531

    Needless to say, the comment thread is infested with cuckoo birds from Deniersville.

  161. anoilman says:

    BBD, Andrew Dodds: Oh, I’ve been reading, and;

  162. BBD says:

    AOM

    People who read references don’t get cones of shame, dude! They get better informed.

  163. pbjamm says:

    I could not access the article in the Australian but I think this is the same one:
    http://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-australian/20150408/282046210613543/TextView

  164. Tom Curtis says:

    Rob Nichols, I have to say that Pekka’s comment lays out the situation exceptionally well. The only thing I would add to it is that sensible policy in that situation would be to start immediately the sort of policy action recommended both by the quantitative approach and the PP approach while we gather more information. That, at a minimum, includes a moderate Carbon price ($10-$50 per tonne) that is made revenue neutral by a fee and dividend structure. That way, if 15 years down the track we find the quantitative approaches have been seriously underestimating costs, we are at least on the path of reducing emissions rather than beyond the point of no return. By the same token, if in 15 years we find the quantitative analyses to be accurate, we have not taken precipitate action likely to harm the economy. Indeed, when we factor in such factors as energy security, and the medical cost of carbon pollution, we have probably pursued a beneficial policy independent of issues relating to global warming (while having gone beyond what are usually called “no regrets” policies).

  165. Rob Nicholls says:

    Thanks Tom Curtis, this is useful and much appreciated.

  166. angech2014 says:

    Meow says: April 7, 2015 at 4:25 pm
    ” To be fair I don’t think you will find many of us in support of Wind. Once again, why not?”
    Simple answer is reliability and storage of power produced by wind.
    As you already know.
    Wind power cannot be easily stored at the moment and if it is not available another source of energy is required [mandated one would say].
    Other sources cannot be fired up immediately.
    No problems with concept of using wind energy myself.
    Just the problems with storage and reliability.
    Hope this helps.

  167. angech2014 says:

    snarkrates says: April 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm
    “The thing is that there is only one way to be right, while there are infinitely many ways to be wrong”. not according to Schrodinger,
    Also see, if the way to be right is only one of an infinite number of ways to be wrong , then your statement is/must be assuredly wrong.

  168. angech2014 says:

    ATTP
    “my broad point was how do you have genuine dialog if people hold views that are not only discrepant, but in which one group appears to not even acknowledge the position that they really hold”
    Genuine dialog needs the people involved to have respect for the people on the other side despite their holding views you disagree with.
    It also requires the small possibility that some of their views may be valid which means some of “our” opposite views may be invalid and need to be recognized as such.
    I see no questioning of views tolerated at most sites, If anyone steps out of line the views expressed are condemned without any leeway.
    Inconsistencies are ignored and swept under the carpet.
    Extreme views which start off agreeing with “our” views but magnify them are tolerated rather than challenged.
    Steven said “I’m with hansen and Watts on that. strange bedfellows”.
    Even stranger would be you and Joshua and BBD in with Mosher, Judy and Monckton.
    [Covers eyes aghast].
    But the sad fact is we are all working together to try and “improve the world” over the same issue.
    Some of us [myself included] have [in the heat of the moment] said things hurtful to others in making our points of view and trust in dialog has been broken almost to the point of non repair.
    Keep trying is the only answer.

  169. Meow says:

    @angech2014: Intermittency is a legitimate criticism of wind power (and solar power). However, it is just another imperfection that needs to be worked around, and does not justify the original “lukewarmer”‘s position of non-support for wind power. Indeed, since wind speed is often uncorrelated with solar flux, wind power can complement solar power. Oddly, the “lukewarmer” conditionally supported solar power, though without describing the conditions.

  170. JCH says:

    The alarmists in Texas are Republican wind-power fanatics: Bush cowboys from Sweetwater and Lubbock.

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