|The Week That Was
Feb. 5, 2005
1. New on the Web: A summary of Fred Singer's talk at the APOCALYPSE NO! Conference organized by The Scientific Alliance at the Royal Institution in London on Jan 27, 2005. The full report will be available on their website at http://www.scientific-alliance.org
But if you are really curious, be advised that the co-chairs were Stephen Byers, a one-time minister in the Labour government, and US Senator Olympia Snowe. The rest of the panel had comparable competence in climate matters. Their scientific advisor -- yes, we must not neglect the science even though it's all settled! - was none other than Rajendra Pachauri, an engineer who has no perceptible competence in climate science either. Yes, he does chair the UN-IPCC, a testimony to the politics of the IPCC process. If anything, his obvious partisanship on global warming disqualifies the upcoming IPCC Assessment report.
On the other hand, it's nice to learn of the conclusions of the IPCC
report of 2007 before it is even written. For additional comments, see
the excellent essay by Iain Murray (item #7).
Dr. Vincent Gray in his New Zealand Climate Newsletter has the perfect
way of wrapping up the situation (item #8). Jarl Ahlbeck (Finland) sent
me his straightforward calculation, based on the warming that has been
observed so far (item #9). We agree that the most warming to be expected
by 2100 is around 0.5 to 1.0 C - detectable but not threatening. On the
contrary, this global average value translates to a warming mainly during
winter nights at high latitudes - not to be despised. And with agriculture
benefiting from higher CO2 levels and more rain, life should become a
International symposium on the stabilisation of greenhouse gases
Report of the Steering Committee, 3 Feb 2005
The IPCC 3rd Assessment Report (2001) (TAR) reviewed in depth all the scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of climate change. It concluded that there was strong evidence that climate change due to human emissions of greenhouse gases was already occurring and that future emissions of greenhouse gases were likely to raise global temperatures by between 1.4 and 5.8C during this century, with a wide range of impacts on the natural world and human society.
The conference, building on the TAR assessment, considered 3 scientific questions related to stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels which would avoid dangerous anthropogenic climate change. These were:
1. For different levels of climate change, what are the key impacts for different regions and sectors and for the world as a whole?
2. What would such levels of climate change imply in terms of greenhouse gas stabilisation concentrations and emission pathways required to achieve such levels?
3. What options are there for achieving stabilisation of greenhouse gases at different stabilisation concentrations in the atmosphere, taking into account costs and uncertainties?
1. Assessment of Impacts
Compared with the TAR there is greater clarity and reduced uncertainty
about the impacts of climate change across a wide range of systems, sectors
and societies. In many cases the risks are more serious than previously
thought. As noted in the TAR, changes up to 1 C may be beneficial for
a few regions and sectors such as agriculture in mid to high latitudes.
A number of new impacts were identified that are potentially disturbing.
A number of critical temperature levels and rates of change relative to pre-industrial times were noted. These vary for the globe, specific regions and sensitive ecosystems. For example a regional increase above present of 2.7 C (this would be associated with a global temperature rise of about 1.5C) may be a threshold that triggers melting of the Greenland ice-cap, while an increase in global temperatures of about 1 C is likely to lead to extensive coral bleaching. In general, surveys of the literature suggest increasing damage if the globe warms from about 1 to 3 C. Serious risk of large scale, irreversible system disruption, such as changes to the thermohaline circulation, reversal of the land carbon sink and possible destabilisation of the Antarctic ice sheets is more likely above 3 C. Such levels are well within the range of climate change projections for the century. In this context, some felt that it would be useful to agree upon a set of critical thresholds that we should aim not to cross. Others noted it would be difficult to objectively choose such a level.
The impacts of climate change are already being observed in a variety of sectors Ecosystems are already showing the effects of climate change. Changes to polar ice and glaciers and rainfall regimes have already occurred. While consistent with model projections the links to anthropogenic climate change need to be investigated further.
Many climate impacts, particularly the most damaging ones, will be associated with an increased frequency or intensity of extreme events. This is an important area for further work since many studies do not explicitly take into account the effects of extremes, although it is known that such extremes pose significant risks to human well being. The heat-wave that affected Europe in 2003 is a prime example.
Adaptive capacity is highly important to determining the potential future
critical or dangerous effects of climate change. In some sectors and systems
this capacity may be sufficient to delay or avoid much potential damage,
though in others it is quite limited.
2. Climate sensitivity and emission pathways
It is possible to decouple the issue of choice of levels from consideration of the question of what is dangerous. The conference thus explored the emission pathways associated with different greenhouse gas stabilisation levels and different global temperature limits. It is helpful to take into account uncertainty in the sensitivity of the climate system to greenhouse forcing by presenting pathways in probabilistic terms. There is evidence that the sensitivity is now likely to be higher than quoted in the TAR, however further observations may constrain the range.
There is a range of emission pathways that could be followed theoretically to avoid different temperature levels. Probability analysis provides a quantitative estimate of the risk that a particular temperature level would not be exceeded. For example, limiting warming to a 2 C increase with a relatively high certainty requires the equivalent concentration of CO2 to stay below 400 ppm. Conversely if less certainty was required concentrations could rise to 550 ppm equivalent. In many cases this would mean that concentrations would peak before stabilising, though whether this could be achieved practically was not considered.
Different models suggest that delaying action would require greater action later for the same temperature target and that even a delay of 5 years could be significant. If action to reduce emissions is delayed by 20 years, rates of emission reduction may need to be 3 to 7 times greater to meet the same temperature target.
3. Technological options
The IEA World Energy Outlook 2004 predicts that CO2 emissions will increase by 63% over 2002 levels by 2030. This is generally consistent with the IPCC emission scenarios, published in 2000. This means that the world will, in the absence of urgent and strenuous mitigation actions in the next 20 years, almost certainly be committed to a temperature rise of between about 0.5 C and 2 C by 2050. Such changes will require significant investment in energy infrastructure, which will have a lifetime of several decades.
Technological options for reducing emissions over the long term already exist and significant reductions can be attained, using a portfolio of options and the costs are likely to be smaller than previously considered.
Sustainable development strategies make low-level stabilisation easier. There are no magic bullets; a portfolio of options is needed and excluding any options will increase costs; multi-gas strategies, emission trading, optimal timing and strong technology development, diffusion and trading are all required to keep costs of low-level stabilisation relatively low. Conceptually, the challenges could be broken down into discrete wedges, covering for example energy efficiency, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.
Limiting climate change to 2 deg C implies stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of all greenhouse gases. The CO2 concentration must not exceed 500ppmv, if the climate sensitivity is 2.5 deg C. Global emissions would need to peak in 2020 and decline to 3.1 GtC/year by 2095. Inclusion of technological learning in models reduces the projected costs of reductions by over half.
Globalization and market forces will drive the developing countries to follow the same pattern practiced by the developed countries. However energy-efficiency improvements under the present market system are not enough to offset increases in demand caused by economic growth. Efficiency improvements and alternative supplies such as nuclear and renewables are of priority for developing countries to join the effort of stabilization.
An underlying theme was the extent to which it might be possible to identify an optimum response, avoiding both dangerous impacts and unacceptable mitigation costs. Major investment is needed now in both mitigation and adaptation. The first is essential to minimise future impacts and the latter is essential to cope with impacts which cannot be avoided in the near to medium term.
One of the most highly charged topics preoccupying the governments of the world is to be thrashed out at a UK conference starting on Feb. 1.
"Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change," a three-day meeting at the Met Office in Exeter. The participants, more than 200 in all, will try to agree how to define what is a danger level, and what it should be. This, they hope, will lead to a better understanding of methods the world can employ to avoid catastrophic warming.
The conference, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was announced last September by the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It will try to answer three questions:
* for different levels of climate change what are the key impacts, for
different regions and sectors, and for the world as a whole?
The secretary of the steering committee that has organised the conference is Dr Geoff Jenkins, a veteran of 30 years' work at the Met Office. He told the BBC News website: "The UN climate convention calls on countries to act to prevent 'dangerous anthropogenic (human-caused) interference with the climate system' from the build-up of greenhouse gases.
"So the conference will be aiming to identify what's dangerous and what that implies for greenhouse emissions, though without specifying any actual numbers.
"It'll look at the impacts for different levels of warming, but it's very unlikely to say, for example, that a rise of 2C is the limit, so we shouldn't let atmospheric carbon concentrations rise beyond 450 parts per million (ppm)."
A number of the papers to be presented deal with areas where science is far from certain about what will happen but remains apprehensive - high-impact low-probability events, as they are known.
Examples include the possible melting of the Greenland ice sheet, disruption to ocean circulation, and the fate of methane hydrates - lumps of frozen methane on the seabed, which could conceivably thaw and accelerate the warming process.
The European Union has said global average temperature should not rise more than 2C above its present level in order to avoid damaging climate change.
One paper, Emission Implications Of Long-term Climate Targets, says carbon dioxide concentrations will have to be stabilised at 450 ppm or lower to achieve a 50% certainty of reaching the EU target.
They are already at almost 380 ppm, up from about 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution, and have recently been rising at two ppm annually.
Another paper, Tropical Forests And Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, says the forests may become "a mega-source of carbon", leading to atmospheric concentrations reaching 980 ppm by 2100, or even higher.
Dr Jenkins said: "The big problem is the uncertainties. But the science is hardening up quite a lot, and it's come on by leaps and bounds since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change first met in 1988. "There's been enormous progress in observations, in our understanding of the processes and our modelling of them - they've all moved on brilliantly. "The more you understand, though, the more you realise how much you don't understand. In some areas our ignorance is woeful."
Dr Jenkins said the evidence pointed to the likelihood of a temperature
rise of about 3C by 2100.
The risks from global warming are more serious than previously thought, a major climate conference has concluded.
In its final report, the committee which organised the UK Met Office meeting said the impacts of climate change were already being felt. But the communiqué held back from declaring precisely what was meant by a "dangerous" level of warming.
The conference in Exeter, in southwest England, was called "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change". It was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair, and was intended to give a scientific context to Britain's efforts to make the climate issue a central feature of its Group of Eight (G8) and EU Presidencies this year.
Although the committee refrained from defining "dangerous", it did emphasise the scale and nature of the warming threat it said was already apparent. "The impacts of climate change are already being observed," the communiqué said.
The European Union had previously suggested trying to limit any rise in average global temperatures to 2C, but Dr Bill Hare, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, who presented the conference with a worldwide survey of global impacts, said even this rise was too much.
"You know, I think the European target is really an upper limit, actually - I think the science is showing that that may even be too high in the long term," he told the BBC News website. "I think we have to keep temperatures below that level, otherwise we risk really major changes."
Good and bad
A rise of 2 C, according to research presented here, would mean the displacement of millions of people from their homes, a fall in the productivity of farmland, widespread devastation of coral reefs and other vulnerable ecosystems, and melting of the Greenland ice cap.
But keeping the temperature rise below 2C will mean adopting a wide range of measures - as the committee puts it, there is "no magic bullet".
Energy efficiency, emissions trading, and new technology must all be used, they said, and quickly -- the costs of preventing climate change rise the longer action is delayed, they argued.
It some respect, the final communiqué went further than the last United Nations' benchmark report on the nature of global warming, issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001.
"In many cases, the risks are more serious than previously thought. As noted in the Third Assessment Report, changes up to 1C may be beneficial for a few regions and sectors, such as agriculture in the mid to high latitudes.
And the chair of the Exeter steering committee, Dennis Tirpak, who co-ordinates climate change activities at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), added: "We hope politicians will now begin to rethink where we're going on this issue. "What we're trying to provide is a snapshot of the evidence - and we have accumulated a body of evidence that we're going to need both adaptation and mitigation."
The UK government has welcomed the report. Mrs Beckett said it underlined the need for urgent international action. Ministers will now take its conclusions to meetings with governments of the G8 group of nations due later this year, where their major task will be to persuade the United States to join the "international consensus".
"Science on its own cannot give us the answer to the question of
how much climate change is too much," she said. "What it can
do, however, is set out the consequences of allowing different degrees
of climate change to continue in order to guide the choices that we must
I have just returned from the most depressing conference I have ever attended. After two days of relentless barrage of doom and gloom predictions at the Met Office conference on "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change" I decided that enough is enough.
The unmitigated exposure to prophecies of imminent ice ages, looming hell fire, mass starvation, mega-droughts, global epidemics and mass extinction is an experience I would not recommend to anyone with a thin-skinned disposition (although the news media couldn't get enough of it). But such was the spectacle of pending disaster that anyone who dared - or was allowed - to question whether the sky is really about to fall on us (and there were at least half a dozen of moderate anti-alarmists present), was branded a "usual suspect", a slur hurled against Andrei Illarionov (Putin's economic adviser) by the IPCC's Martin Parry.
As you would have thought of a Government-choreographed summit, some of the results of the meeting were announced a day before its start by Margaret Beckett, the UK's Environment Secretary. When I arrived at my hotel on the eve of the conference, a front page story of the local newspaper ("GLOBAL WARNING") had already given away much of the outcome of the meeting:
"Speaking at a regional climate change conference in Exeter this evening (31 Jan), Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stressed the South West would not be immune from experiencing the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels coupled with a likely increase in storms will threaten the South West's long coastline if climate change is left unchecked..."
Thus, the stage was set for a carefully stage-managed conference that provided a forum for one worst-case disaster scenario after another. Any hesitation or incredulity about claims that the effects of a warming world will unavoidably be catastrophic were discarded or ridiculed. Professor Paul Reiter (Pasteur Institute in Paris and Harvard University) was lucky to be allowed into the conference after four separate applications had been either lost or not processed by the conference organisers.
One of the key questions the conference attempted to address is whether or not the meeting could come to an agreement about the threshold for "dangerous" climate change. The proposals ranged from 2 degrees C which was promoted by the WWF (oh yes, green campaigners were allowed to present their political views) to more moderate suggestions. Even more difficulties emerged when the issue of a CO2 threshold was discussed. Here the proposals ranged from the IPPR's 400 ppmv limit to a generous 700 ppmv limit. It soon turned out that *any* such threshold would be completely random and rather meaningless.
One of the most interesting and least alarmist presentations was that by Professor Yuri Izrael, the chief climatologist at the Russian Academy of Science. In his talk (http://www.stabilisation2005.com/16_Yu_A_Izrael.pdf), he pointed out the potentially gigantic economic cost of any attempts to "stabilise" the world's climate: "Stabilization is not free for the world community. Economic analysis of stabilization scenarios using, in particular, 1000, 750, 650, 550 and 450 ppmv of CO2 as stabilization levels show that this may cost up to 18 trillions $US of 1992." Applying a cost-benefit analysis to the potential damage as a result of increasing temperatures evaluated against the cost of CO2 stabilisation, Professor Izrael proposed moderate limits for CO2 concentration and surface temperature for the 21th century:
a) CO2 concentration should not exceed 550 - 700 ppmv; b) A rise in surface temperature should be less than 2.5°C for the globe and less than 4°C for the Arctic; c) Global mitigation costs should not exceed 10 - 20% of the increase in global GDP; d) Sea level rise should be less than 1 m.
The Russian scientist was immediately and disrespectfully admonished by the chair and former IPCC chief Sir John Houghton for being far too optimistic. Such a moderate proposal was ridiculous since it was "incompatible with IPCC policy". Clearly, the Met Office meeting was setting the tone for the next IPCC report.
It was deeply upsetting to witness the ill-mannered and discourteous way in which both Professor Izrael and Dr Illarionov were mocked during the debates by many delegates and IPCC officials. There was a time when British scientists were known for their polite and gentlemanly conduct. None of these good old traditions were visible at the Met Office. Instead, the apocalyptic frenzy and fear mongering brought out the worst from a large number of the knighted and commoners alike.
In a rather ironic twist to the UK debates (which brings to mind the words "the pot calling the kettle black"), the contemptible smear campaign against scientists who participated in the recent "Apocalypse No" meeting at the Royal Institution suddenly appears in a radically different light. While Sir David King, the UK Government's chief scientist, accused climate sceptics of being "professional lobbyists" for the oil industry, he announced today that the Government intends to increase subsidies for nuclear power plants and introduce even more tax breaks for fossil fuel industries that are prepared to sequester their carbon emissions.
"Sir David disclosed that the Government was considering giving
oil companies tax breaks to encourage them to pump carbon dioxide into
North Sea oil and gas wells, where it would cause no damage to the atmosphere."
Although nobody knows "whether carbon sequestration is feasible",
it may be "a way of using coal reserves all over the world."
Far from punishing the fossil fuel industries, as environmentalists are demanding from Tony Blair in the run-up to the General Elections in May this year, the British Government is using the much slated "fear-factor" to win back lost voters and to justify additional state subsidies for the big energy companies. It's a mockery not lost on Greenpeace and other environmental campaigners who no longer trust that the apocalyptically hot air released at the Met Office conference will translate into any significant reduction of CO2 emissions.
Yet in spite of these political shenanigans, the key message emerging from the Met Office conference seems absolutely clear to me: the debate has now been pressed forward from a discussion about the science of climate change to the prediction of global catastrophe. Evidently, the next IPCC report will be far more alarmist than any of its antecedents. IPCC chairman, Dr Pachauri, who opened the Met Office conference together with Margaret Beckett, stressed only two weeks ago: "The world has already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and immediate and very deep cuts in the pollution are needed if humanity is to survive." The apprehension of looming disaster was the general mood of fretfulness and despair at the Exeter conference.
Most of this anxiety is not lost on the media that is completely unrestrained in the use of doomsday imagery and biblical language: "potential triggers for runaway climate change", "climate Armageddon" "notional doomsdays" and "the apocalyptic side to global warming" are phrases that are now widely used by news outlets when covering global warming (Discovery Channel, 2 Feb.; <http://dsc.discovery.com/news/afp/20050131/climatetrigger.html>).
I return from this meeting with a determination not to give in to this doom-laden mood but to maintain my confident view of humankind that has been capable of coping with whatever nature has thrown at us for millions of year.
Benny Peiser, Liverpool University
The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already.
The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world - and it is remarkably brief. In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached.
The report, Meeting The Climate Challenge, is aimed at policymakers in every country, from national leaders down. It has been timed to coincide with Tony Blair's promised efforts to advance climate change policy in 2005 as chairman of both the G8 group of rich countries and the European Union.
And it breaks new ground by putting a figure - for the first time in such a high-level document - on the danger point of global warming, that is, the temperature rise beyond which the world would be irretrievably committed to disastrous changes. These could include widespread agricultural failure, water shortages and major droughts, increased disease, sea-level rise and the death of forests - with the added possibility of abrupt catastrophic events such as "runaway" global warming, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, or the switching-off of the Gulf Stream.
The report says this point will be two degrees centigrade above the average world temperature prevailing in 1750 before the industrial revolution, when human activities - mainly the production of waste gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which retain the sun's heat in the atmosphere - first started to affect the climate. But it points out that global average temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees since then, with more rises already in the pipeline - so the world has little more than a single degree of temperature latitude before the crucial point is reached.
More ominously still, it assesses the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere after which the two-degree rise will become inevitable, and says it will be 400 parts per million by volume (ppm) of CO2.
The current level is 379ppm, and rising by more than 2ppm annually - so it is likely that the vital 400ppm threshold will be crossed in just 10 years' time, or even less (although the two-degree temperature rise might take longer to come into effect).
"There is an ecological time bomb ticking away," said Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary, who co-chaired the task force that produced the report with the US Republican senator Olympia Snowe. It was assembled by the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK, the Centre for American Progress in the US, and The Australia Institute. The group's chief scientific adviser is Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report urges all the G8 countries to agree to generate a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and to double their research spending on low-carbon energy technologies by 2010. It also calls on the G8 to form a climate group with leading developing nations such as India and China, which have big and growing CO2 emissions.
"What this underscores is that it's what we invest in now and in the next 20 years that will deliver a stable climate, not what we do in the middle of the century or later," said Tom Burke, a former government adviser on green issues who now advises business.
The report starkly spells out the likely consequences of exceeding the threshold. "Beyond the 2 degrees C level, the risks to human societies and ecosystems grow significantly," it says.
"It is likely, for example, that average-temperature increases larger than this will entail substantial agricultural losses, greatly increased numbers of people at risk of water shortages, and widespread adverse health impacts. [They] could also imperil a very high proportion of the world's coral reefs and cause irreversible damage to important terrestrial ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest."
It goes on: "Above the 2 degrees level, the risks of abrupt, accelerated,
or runaway climate change also increase. The possibilities include reaching
climatic tipping points leading, for example, to the loss of the West
Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets (which, between them, could raise sea
level more than 10 metres over the space of a few centuries), the shutdown
of the thermohaline ocean circulation (and, with it, the Gulf Stream),
and the transformation of the planet's forests and soils from a net sink
of carbon to a net source of carbon."
"Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told an international conference attended
by 114 governments in Mauritius this month that he personally believes
that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and
"very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive"."
Sir, Why should we pay any attention to a lurid report on forthcoming climate disasters (The Independent 24 Jan), prepared by a group of politicians with no perceptible climate competence? Their sole "scientific" luminary is an engineer who has never done any original climate research. His UN panel, charged with supplying independent advice, has yet to produce its report. It will hardly be unbiased.
Just one example: Common sense (and science) tell us that warming increases evaporation from the world's oceans and therefore rain. So much for their forecast of global drought! Best to ignore the rest of this truly weird report.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is supposed to act as the world's honest broker on global warming issues, is now hopelessly compromised. One prominent scientist resigned in protest at one of its lead authors associating him with scientifically unsupported assertions. One of the world's most prominent economists judiciously terms the panel's handling of economic data as "at fault" and questions how representative of current economic thought the panel is. Most recently, IPCC Chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri publicly endorsed a particular policy agenda that contradicts the IPCC's role as "policy relevant but not policy prescriptive." Dr. Pachauri shows no sign of even considering this institutional conflict of interest. The IPCC clearly needs a new leader who is willing to tackle these problems, or what credibility it retains will disappear into the ether.
The resignation of Chris Landsea, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one of the world's top hurricane experts, rocked the IPCC in January. Dr. Landsea's hand was forced by two factors: actions by Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research -- who is the lead author of the IPCC's research climate change observations -- and Dr. Pachauri's reaction to Dr. Landsea's complaints about those actions. At a news conference last October, Dr. Trenberth said that global warming had made last year's hurricane season worse. This view is contrary to the scientific consensus, represented by Dr. Landsea, that, "all previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin." As Dr. Landsea noted, "none of the participants in that press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor were they reporting on any new work in the field."
Dr. Landsea was concerned that a prominent IPCC figure, introduced at the conference as such, should be promoting a view directly contradicted by IPCC research. But the IPCC leadership dismissed his complaints out of hand, claiming variously that Dr. Trenberth had been misquoted -- which Dr. Landsea's investigations showed was not the case -- or that he was accurately reflecting IPCC science -- which he clearly was not. To Dr. Landsea, this suggested that the IPCC process had become "both motivated by pre-conceived agendas and scientifically unsound" and led directly to his resignation.
Meanwhile, in Britain, Professor David Henderson, formerly Chief Economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, testified before the House of Lords on the inadequacies of the IPCC's models. He and Ian Castles, former Head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, analyzed the IPCC process and found a fundamental error in its economic projections, which are vital to projections of future temperature increases due to human activity. He pointed out two severe deficiencies.
First, the IPCC and its former Chairman, Sir John Houghton, had claimed that their economic analysis had been meticulously reviewed and cleared "the highest possible hurdles." Professor Henderson commented,
"But sections of the Report which deal with topics in my own area of interest make what many economists and economic statisticians would regard as basic errors; and in doing so, they have shown a lack of awareness of relevant and well known published sources. I would add that the same is true of documents issued through the IPCC process more recently, and also of material published not long ago by one of the IPCC's two parent agencies, the United Nations Environmental Programme. I believe that in its treatment of economic issues the IPCC process, including the intergovernmental reviews that Sir John Houghton referred to, is neither professionally watertight nor professionally representative."
Secondly, he argued that the IPCC has become a self-contained process, to which its member governments give undue weight. As he put it,
"As to the economic aspects of its work, I hold that the IPCC should not be viewed as a professionally representative and authoritative source; and I have come to feel similar doubts and concerns about aspects other than the economic one. In particular, I share the concern voiced not long ago by a leading Australian climate scientist, Dr John Zillman, who was for many years a member of the IPCC Bureau. Zillman has expressed the view that the Panel has now become 'cast more in the model of supporting than informing policy development.'"
Dr. Pachauri, by publicly associating himself with one particular set of policy options, validates Professor Henderson's latter concern. Most recently, he served as scientific adviser to a study by avowedly leftist advocacy groups that puts forth assertions that the IPCC's science does not support, such as the idea that a temperature rise of 2°C constitutes "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate. Indeed, Dr. Pachauri has a history of endorsing advocacy. He provided a foreword to an alarmist report from the United Kingdom's New Economics Foundation and told Reuters that he hoped the next IPCC report, due in 2007, would "produce a much stronger message" for the world. While there is, of course, nothing wrong with policy advocacy per se, Dr. Pachauri's actions are clearly incompatible with his role as chairman of an allegedly policy-neutral body.
These recent events demonstrate that the IPCC has, at the very least, severe institutional problems. The organization's culture appears to have deviated substantially from its mission, which is to act as honest broker over the vast gamut of evidence relating to climate and human and natural effects upon it. When its leader publicly associates himself with one particular viewpoint, he has clearly abandoned any pretense of neutrality.
The IPCC is on the verge of losing that substantial credibility it yet
possesses. If anything useful is to be salvaged from the IPCC process,
Dr. Pachauri has to go and the organization needs to reinvent itself free
from the biases and self-affirmation exercises that currently plague it.
If Dr. Pachauri really wants to be the honest broker, he should do the
honest thing and resign.
Excerpt from New Zealand Climate Letter by Dr Vincent Gray
Models incorporate a large number of "parameters" for climate properties and mathematical equations and use them to calculate an average climate and its changes. Both the parameters and the equations contain uncertainties whose quantitative values are mostly unknown. The choice of which parameter or equation to use is purely arbitrary. left to the judgement of the modellist. It is therefore hardly surprising, then, that the results from different models are very different.
The models are classified according to the figure they obtain for the equilibrium global temperature change caused by a doubling the concentration of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This quantity is called the "Climate Sensitivity". In order to predict future climate there needs to be in addition, an estimate of how long it is going to take for the carbon dioxide concentration to double.
The early modellists tried to come up with a "range" for the climate sensitivity from different models, and eventually, by a "show of hands" decided on a low figure of 1.5°C and a higher figure of 4.5°C. These figures were confirmed through all the subsequent IPCC reports and were the basis of "projection" of future temperature change, when incorporated with "scenarios" of the future increases in carbon dioxide. "Climate Change" 2001" was able to use highly unlikely scenarios, such as a belief that Rwanda and Mali would equal the GNP per head of the USA, or that coal consumption would rise eleven times, to "project" a global temperature rise by 2100 of between 1.4°C and 5.8°C.
The "range" of "climate sensitivity" accepted by the IPCC was always just guesswork, with no scientific basis, since none of the model parameters and equations had a scientifically established uncertainty level. This applied particularly to the "feedbacks" of water vapour and clouds. On page 555 of IPCC's "Climate Change 2001" is the following passage:
"The range.....is 1.4 to 5.8°C. Note that this is not the extreme range of possibilities, for two reasons. First, forcing uncertainties have not been considered, second, some models have effective climate sensitivities outside the range"
So you can get almost any upper range you want. Not mentioned is that you can also go down. Page 334 of "Climate Change 2001" has the passage
"The largest estimates of negative forcing due to the warm-cloud indirect effect may approach or exceed the positive forcing due to long-lived greenhouse gases"
Thus a model could be devised where the temperature falls with increasing carbon dioxide, but nobody seems to want to do this..
In this situation we have the latest letter in "Nature" by sixteen authors (Vol453, pages 403-406, 2005), headed by D A Stainforth, which attempts to give a wider range of "Climate Sensitivity" from a "multi-thousand-member grand ensemble of climate simulations using 90,000 participants from 140 countries using personal computers. They chose three possible values for six parameters, and ran the Hadley (UK Met Office) model for different perturbation mixes.
They ended up with a bigger range for "Climate Sensitivity" than the previous guess. They got six results that were negative, but they found an excuse for rejecting these because of "known limitations with the use of a simplified ocean". After these had been thrown out, they were left with a range of "climate sensitivity" from 1.9°C to 11.5°C. Of course, the press emphasised the possibility of 11.5°C rise.
The authors threaten us with an extension of the exercise to even more "perturbed" parameters, but so far, they don't seem to want to use different basic models or different model equations. These should give us even higher values, and maybe some low ones they can't explain away.
The authors, frankly, state ""experts are known to underestimate uncertainty even in straightforward elicitation exercises where the import of the question is clear" and "we cannot provide an objective probability density function for simulated climate sensitivity"
The study thus proves what some of us have known all along; that computer models cannot at present predict the future climate at all.
The current rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about
0.43% a year, so at the present rate it will double over the 2000 value
by 2230, so we have a long time to wait to check up on Stainforth et al..
We ought to be running on nuclear energy by then.
We should not confuse the word "possibility" with "probability" as some people do when they compare different simulated results with each other. Everything is possible, but probability has a mathematical definition and should not be used when comparing simulated results. These reported (Nature, 27 Jan 2005) values of 1.9 to11.5 deg C warming are possibilities, computerized speculations, nothing else. Also: Let's not to talk about percent possibilities. All possibilities are 100% possible.
But of course, a kind of reality check can be made very easily: Say that half of the observed 20th century warming of 0.8 deg is due to greenhouse gases (CO2 increase from 280 to-370 ppm) and half is due to increased sun activity. As the relation is logarithmic, 0.4 deg=k*ln(370/280), giving k=1.435. For 2*CO2 (560 ppm), an additional warming of 1.435*ln(560/370) =0.59 deg C could be expected. This is a speculation as good as any produced by a computer climate entertainment program.
In fact, 0.59 deg may be an overprediction as the observed warming has
been partly caused by CFCs and CH4. As we know, the atmospheric concentration
of CFC has decreased, and there is no more increase in CH4. This means
that the k-value for CO2 should be lower than 1.435.
The conference was organised by The Scientific Alliance, an independent group of scientists, without taxpayer funding. It was a nostalgic treat in these days of Government regulated research, to be among people who were driven by their dedication to science and truth.
The celebrity opening spot was occupied by David Bellamy, who provided a tour d'horizon of the absurdities of the modern world, with a machine gun delivery that left some of the foreign participants gasping. His main theme was that carbon dioxide was a wholly beneficial compound essential to life on earth and could no way be treated as a pollutant.
Session one was devoted to the question Is Global Warming Cause for Alarm? It featured the urbane presence of Professors Lindzen and Singer from the USA, such a delightful contrast with the hysteria of much of modern debate. Lindzen explained that we have developed a population that, if told the sky is blue, flies into a panic, and illustrated how this was done. A major method, familiar from the IPCC, involved the non-representative executive summary. One fifteen page report to the US president was preceded by a ten page summary. He dealt with the claims derived from computer models and gave examples of tuning, in which there were so many adjustable parameters that it was just an exercise in curve fitting. His conclusion was that the likelihood that the Hadley models were correct, with all those adjustable parameters, was zero. He finished with an entertaining account of the dozens of contradictions in public statements.
Fred Singer, whose recent experience of global warming had been to leave a home under four feet of snow, also commented on the computer models, particularly the current ones in the news that utilised spare capacity in computers around the world. A local headline that day was 11°C rise. This was the extreme obtained by having so many adjustable parameters. He then went on to the Kyoto protocol, which according to the IPCC would deliver a one fiftieth of a degree temperature reduction. Many of his illustrations, in fact, came from the IPCC report, with page numbers; though not, of course, from the executive summary. Relevant to the IPCC claim that models can fit the observed global mean temperatures, there was a nice quotation from John von Neumann: "with four parameters I can fit an elephant and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk."
In session two the topic was Will Global Warming have a Catastrophic Impact? Nils-Axel Morner presented a most entertaining physical comic turn, but one laced with observations on the real world. His message, supported by research in the Maldives (Indian Ocean), graphs, tables, photographs and ancient mariner's anecdotes, was that there is no sea level rise going on.
Benny Peiser's contribution was, perhaps, the most disturbing. He went back through history identifying past examples of alarmist dogmatism (even Edmond Halley was forced to recant his disbelief in the end of the world). On past form there are bound to be witch hunts. As did other contributors, he singled out Tony Blair as one who is riding a tiger. He tries to appease the extreme greens with token windmills that destroy the visual environment, but comes under attack from zealots whose aim is economic depression and who will be satisfied with nothing less.
There was a lively discussion. The tragic-comic case of windmill-plagued northern Europe was to the fore, with electricity that cannot be given away when the wind blows and is priceless when it doesn't, while standby power-stations emit carbon dioxide for no energy output at all.
A main topic of discussion was censorship. It was raised by Jonathan
Leake, who was clearly sceptical about claims repeated throughout the
conference. It was coupled with the other main theme - the refutation
of the existence of a "consensus " about climate change.
The climate change denial lobby - funded by the US oil industry - has now moved to the UK, warns Bob May ----January 27, 2005 The Guardian
During the 1990s, parts of the US oil industry funded - through the so-called Global Climate Coalition (GCC) - a lobby of professional sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The GCC was "deactivated" in 2001, once President Bush made it clear he intended to reject the Kyoto protocol. But the denial lobby is still active, and today it arrives in London.
The UK has become a target because the government has made climate change a focus of its G8 presidency this year. A key player in this decision is chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who became public enemy number one for the denial lobby when he described climate change as a bigger threat than terrorism.
In December, a UK-based group, the Scientific Alliance, teamed up with the George C Marshall Institute, a body headed by the chairman emeritus of the GCC, William O'Keefe, to publish a document with the innocuous title Climate Issues & Questions. It plays up the uncertainties surrounding climate change science, playing down the likely impact that it will have.
It contrasts starkly with the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's most reliable source of information on the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. In its last major report in 2001, the IPCC adopted an evidence-based approach to climate change and considered uncertainties on impact. It concluded that "overall, climate change is projected to increase threats to human health, particularly in lower income populations, predominantly within tropical/subtropical countries", and that "the projected rate and magnitude of warming and sea-level rise can be lessened by reducing greenhouse gas emissions". More than 2,000 of the world's leading climate experts were involved in compiling the report - the most authoritative scientific assessment to date.
But today, the Scientific Alliance is holding a forum for members of the US and UK denial lobby to challenge the case for acting on the findings of the IPCC. The intention appears to be to get its retaliation in first before a meeting of climate change experts next week at the Hadley Centre, at which Sir David King will take part.
Possibly more worrying is how much prominence their views are receiving in the UK media. The Daily Telegraph bizarrely used an anonymous leader on the tsunami in Asia to question the value of cutting emissions: "Whether or not this would have the effects claimed by ecologists - and the science is inconclusive - any gain would be insignificant next to the changes in temperature caused by forces outside our control."
But the Daily Mail seems keenest to board the well-oiled bandwagon. Fresh from its now discredited campaign against MMR, it has run six opinion pieces over the last year questioning the science of climate change. David Bellamy and columnist Melanie Phillips have perhaps predictably joined in, but more surprising has been the conversion of Michael Hanlon, the paper's science editor.
Last week, Hanlon cited Michael Crichton's research for his new novel as a further indication that climate change science is a con. The theme of Crichton's story is that environmentalists exaggerate the threat from climate change and eventually trigger its extreme effects themselves.
It demonstrates the flakiness of the Hanlon case that he should need to rely on a sci-fi writer who has previously warned of the dangers of bringing dinosaurs back to life and of nano-robots turning the world into grey goo. All entertaining scare stories, all complete nonsense.
So there we have it. On one hand we have the IPCC, the rest of the world's major scientific organisations, and the government's chief scientific adviser, all pointing to the need to cut emissions. On the other we have a small band of sceptics, including lobbyists funded by the US oil industry, a sci-fi writer, and the Daily Mail, who deny the scientists are right. It is reminiscent of the tobacco lobby's attempts to persuade us that smoking does not cause lung cancer. There is no danger this lobby will influence the scientists. But they don't need to. It is the influence on the media that is so poisonous.
In a lecture at the Royal Society last week, Jared Diamond drew attention to populations, such as those on Easter Island, who denied they were having a catastrophic impact on the environment and were eventually wiped out, a phenomenon he called "ecocide". It's time for those living in denial of the evidence about the impacts of climate change to take note.
Lord May of Oxford is president of the Royal Society and was chief
scientific adviser to the government 1995-2000
Sir, Having been privileged over a period of several decades to attend
innumerable national and international conferences and to take evidence
on subjects which range from the economic to the technological and scientific,
I make the immodest claim that I can distinguish between those who speak
with outstanding and obvious authority and impartiality (such as Sir Herman
Bondi) and those who are incapable of concealing the axe which they are
grinding on behalf of a doctrine, institution or ill-concealed vested
interest (such as Arthur Scargill or those representing Greenpeace).
HUMANS may have unwittingly saved themselves from a looming ice age by interfering with the Earth's climate, according to a new study. The findings from a team of American climate experts suggest that were it not for greenhouse gases produced by humans, the world would be well on the way to a frozen Armageddon.
Scientists have traditionally viewed the relative stability of the Earth's climate since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago as being due to natural causes, but there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years. What stopped it has been the activity of humans, both ancient and modern, argue the scientists.
Over the last 8,000 years carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have gradually risen, when previous trends indicated that it should have dropped. Methane, another greenhouse gas, had also increased instead of fallen. These unexpected trends could be explained by massive early deforestation in Eurasia, rice farming in Asia, the introduction of livestock, and the burning of wood and plant material, all of which led to an outpouring of greenhouse emissions.
The researchers, led by William Ruddiman from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, used a climate model to test what would happen if these greenhouse gases were reduced to their "natural" level. They wrote in the journal, Quaternary Science Reviews: "In the absence of anthropogenic contributions, global climate is almost 2C cooler than today and roughly one-third of the way toward full glacial temperatures."
At the peak of the last ice age 97% of Canada was covered by ice. The research showed that without the human contribution to global warming, Baffin Island would today be in a condition of "incipient glaciation". "Portions of Labrador and Hudson Bay would also have moved very close to such a state had greenhouse gas concentrations followed natural trends," said the scientists. The experiment had probably underestimated the amount of ice that would exist today in north-east Canada without human interference, they said.
Anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: "If the research findings are correct, a radical change in the perception of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be required. "Instead of driving us to the brink of environmental disaster, human intervention and technology progress will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age."
In a word: it's the certainty with which the case for manmade global warming has been presented. Furthermore, anyone who dares to question that level of certainty is immediately marginalized.
Perhaps the favourite personal attack on those scientists who dare to present alternative studies is to suggest that they represent the vested interests of industry as if many of the most prominent proponents of global warming aren't part of an even bigger global warming money machine.
Since 1998 the Canadian government has spent $4 billion working on a climate change plan. I'll leave aside questionable value for that money and instead let the amount spent remind you that global warming is big business.
It is big business for multi-million-dollar corporate environmental groups who have used global warming as the centerpiece for never-ending donor campaigns. Global warming is a multi-billion-dollar business for research scientists and for United Nations bureaucrats. The list goes on, but given that there's literally tens of billions of dollars available for proponents of man-made global warming, spare me the drivel about vested interests when it comes to scientists questioning the global warming mantra.
While in the past literally thousands of scientists, meteorologists and researchers from other fields have gone on record as questioning the scientific basis for the cause-and-effect relationship between humanity and global warming, my bet is that recent events might finally get those who see the global warming debate as a scientific exercise (and not one of faith), to stop and take notice.
Respected hurricane researcher Chris Landsea resigned last week from the world's most prominent climate-change research effort, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stating that the scientific basis of the group's work had become too politicized. Specifically Landsea was dismayed that the spokesperson for the IPCC, Kevin Trenberth, had held a news conference linking the 2004 hurricane season in the Atlantic to global warming -- when in fact there was no scientific evidence to support the statement. Mr. Landsea went so far as to say that Trenberth's statements were "so far outside current understanding" that he doubted that the IPCC could remain unbiased.
More damning to those who present the global warming case with such certainty is the research by Canadians Ross McKitrick and Stephen McIntyre published this week in the well respected journal Geophysical Research Letters. In it they convincingly question the methodology behind researcher Michael Mann's famous hockey stick graph, which shows a dramatic upswing in global temperatures starting about 100 years ago.
Though Mann's work is cited more often than any other by proponents of
global warming, no one had ever bothered to test his methodology until
now. As Rob van Dorland of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
stated, "It is strange that the climate reconstruction of Mann has
passed both peer review rounds of the IPCC without anyone ever really
having checked it." Well, now McKitrick and McIntyre have and the
suggestion of scientific certainty regarding man-made global warming is
more deceiving than ever. Of course that won't derail the multi-billion-dollar
I have been a member of the American Chemical Society for more than 40 years and have generally enjoyed and valued C&EN for its informative and objective reporting.
However, on the issue of global warming, your reporting has been rather one-sided, particularly regarding the issue of the effects of slightly increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere. You have placed an appalling amount of blind faith in the predictions of computer models, which, in the humble opinion of many scientists, are at best rough extrapolations of just a few observations. As a scientist, you know how dangerous it is to extrapolate from observed short-term trends in the case of highly complex, interactive, multivariable systems.
What really got me upset was the Insights piece "An Urgent Plea On Global Warming" by Bette Hileman (C&EN, June 28, 2004, page 44). The worst part of this totally one-sided article was the photograph of a woman holding a child and being up to her waist in flood waters in Bangladesh during the monsoon season. Much of that country is flooded every year between June and September from monsoon rains, and this has been the case for thousands of years. I believe that Hileman's kind of reporting does a disservice to the whole field of climate research.
Much is being made of the fact that there seems to be an increased melting of ice in Greenland and in the glaciers of the Alps. However, to blame this on the slight rise in CO2 in the atmosphere during the past few decades is debatable. Recently, National Aeronautics & Space Administration scientists have found that much of this increased melting may be due to dust settling on the icy surfaces, significantly intensifying energy absorption from the sun at the expense of energy reflection. Also, it is a well-documented historical fact that Greenland's coastlines were ice-free and covered with grass and other vegetation about 900 years ago, when the Vikings actually had a number of permanent settlements there.
In addition, serious scientists have shown that, about 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, global temperatures were at least about 3 to 5 °C warmer than today. At that time, there were no automobiles or caloric power plants to spew CO2 into the atmosphere.
All this means that other important factors unrelated to human activities have overriding effects; for example, the long-term effect of changes in sunspot activity. These changes have been well documented and show a reasonable correlation with long-term average temperature variations. They may have been responsible for the "little ice age" that lasted from about 1400 well into the 1800s.
My main complaint here is that your magazine has not devoted sufficient space to present a fair and balanced view of the issues involved in global warming.
There is another thing to consider: Suppose there is a gradual global warming effect caused by a combination of effects, say 1 to 2 °C over 100 to 200 years. Would that necessarily be bad? I say that there is at least an even chance that the effect would actually be beneficial. Just think of Siberia or northern Canada being more like Pennsylvania or New York state. Wouldn't be so bad at all.
Another important angle: The warming that has been observed in the past couple of decades has mainly been a slight rise in nighttime temperature, not in daytime peaks. From a human comfort standpoint, there has been no significant change at all.
Just for the record, I am all for cleaning up emissions of "bad" gases, such as NOx, SO2, and CO. But CO2, in small quantities, is not a bad gas. On the contrary, as we know from high school chemistry, CO2 is essential for photosynthesis of carbohydrates such as starch and cellulose. Without CO2, there would be no grass, no trees, no bushes, no wheat, and no corn. It is that simple and that fundamental. Several well-controlled experiments have shown that plants grow better when the atmosphere is enriched in CO2.
The basic chemistry is CO2 + H2O + light à CH2O + O2. As this basic equation shows, for every mole of CO2 converted to carbohydrates, we get 1 mole of oxygen, which definitely improves the atmosphere and which we need to breathe.
My plea to you, as editor-in-chief of C&EN, is to present both sides of this ongoing controversy whenever the subject comes up.
Oswald R. Bergmann, Wilmington, Del.