'Every year climate science seems to get less sure until I want to shout 'Just vanish back into obscurity until you've got a handle on this mess! Go on, go to your room and don't come out till your predictions last longer than it takes the ink to dry on them." '
Jun 29, 2013 'TinyCO2' commenting at Bishop Hill
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Why Would You Believe This ? (6 of 8): 'The truth is the worst will probably not happen in our lifetime. But it will happen in our children's lifetime. And it will happen big time during their children's lifetimes.'
'The truth is the worst will probably not happen in our lifetime. But it will happen in our children's lifetime. And it will happen big time during their children's lifetimes.'
I'll not dwell on the 'worst' somehow becoming 'not the worst' a generation later. I guess they mean 'the worst so far', and want to convey the horror of 'things' just getting worse and worse. But I do want to dwell on the confidence in the assertions, the 'it will happen' and the 'it will happen big time'.
The truth is we are not in a position to make such confident claims. Our knowledge is patchy. Our computer models are recognised as inadequate for such forecasts, even by their builders. They prefer to use the term 'projections' instead, but that is merely playing with words, a 'game' exploited successfully by those who facilitated and did the final edits of IPCC summary reports for policy makers, perhaps anxious that those policy makers (who partook in some editing of the reports, see (2)), be not too distracted by the primitive condition of climate science.
I make my counter-case in four chunks below.
(i) Some of the assertions underpinning the climate models are simplistic, speculative, and wrong.
The application of a 'greenhouse effect' which does not explain why greenhouses get hot, the use of radiation budgets which seem to defy the laws of thermodynamics by displaying a relatively cool body (the troposphere) transferring heat to a relatively warm one (the Earth's surface) , and the insertion of a speculative feedback mechanism involving water vapour. Previous posts in this series have materials relevant to this.
'The scientific method requires that a scientific hypothesis be judged by its ability to produce correct predictions. The scientific hypothesis of human-caused climate change has failed this test of science. To paraphrase the eloquent statement of Professor Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics, it does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.'
In the 2001 report they [the IPCC] said, “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that long-term prediction of future climate state is not possible.” James Lovelock, Gaia hypothesis speculator said, “It’s almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think that we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it’s wrong to do it.” Kevin Trenberth, IPCC author and CRU associate said, “It’s very clear we do not have a climate observing system… This may be a shock to many people who assume that we do know adequately what’s going on with the climate, but we don’t.”
More leads on the limitations of climate models can be found by using the tag 'model_limitations' at: http://delicious.com/ClimateLessons
(ii) The forecasting methodologies, or rather lack of them, deployed to raise alarm are grossly unsatisfactory.
Experts in forecasting methodology, Green and Armstrong have this to say:
'The IPCC WG1 Report was regarded as providing the most credible long-term forecasts of global average temperatures by 31 of the 51 scientists and others involved in forecasting climate change who responded to our survey. We found no references in the 1056-page Report to the primary sources of information on forecasting methods despite the fact these are conveniently available in books, articles, and websites. We audited the forecasting processes described in Chapter 8 of the IPCCs WG1 Report to assess the extent to which they complied with forecasting principles. We found enough information to make judgments on 89 out of a total of 140 forecasting principles. The forecasting procedures that were described violated 72 principles.
Many of the violations were, by themselves, critical. The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In effect, they were the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing. Research on forecasting has shown that experts predictions are not useful in situations involving uncertainly and complexity. We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.'
(iii) Many of the IPCC-projected temperatures over the next 100 years might be troublesome, may not be unprecedented, and could be mainly beneficial.
In which case, even for those naive enought to believe these forecasts, there is no need for alarm, only the sensible anticipation of challenges. In particular, we can prepare schoolchildren, rather than scare schoolchildren. A popular article mentioning some of the benefits of a warmer climate is to be found here: (6). More on benefits, with further links here: (7). It should be noted that warmer air temperatures of a few degrees on average will not raise air temperatures over the major icecaps and glaciers above freezing - they may in fact grow due to increased snowfall according to some warming scenarios. The headline-generating scare of massive rises in sea-level is probably one of the least credible of all the assertions of the doomsters.
(iv) A cooler world would present enormously larger problems and challenges than a warmer one.
Yet this possibility is apparently dismissed by the IPCC, despite the strong evidence from the historical records that a new glaciation will arrive due course to end our rather pleasantly warm interglacial period, and that there are good reasons to take seriously the possibility of a briefer cooling spell over the next 20 to 30 years. The assurance with which assertions are made about warming has served to weaken our ability to deal with cooling, for example by wasting money on extravagant and unreliable energy sources instead of building more coal and nuclear power stations, and encouraging research in both technologies. A website dedicated to cooling, with many links on the topic, is here: (8).
The confidence in climate predictions is misplaced. The alarms about warming are over the top. Cooling is a far bigger concern. But note the phrase ‘the worst will probably not happened in our lifetime’. This has immense value in freeing the proponent from having to produce convincing evidence. ‘The worst is yet to come!’ they can cry without fear of refutation. Like the High Street placard bearers sometimes seen in cartoons and in reality, with their ‘The End of the World is Nigh’ warnings, they can if they wish define‘Nigh’ to mean '50 to 100 years from now’ and continue their pacing without fear of contradiction. But while we'd chuckle at their harmless eccentricity, the IPCC has found a more sophisticated way of doing the same thing, and has been taken so seriously by many governments that they are threatening to devastate their own economies in response, and of course harm the physical and mental wellbeings of their citizens on the way.
(1) First of a series of related posts: http://climatelessons.blogspot.com/2010/06/schools-low-carbon-day-concerned.html
(2) A peek into part of the preparation of Summary Reports: http://www.iisd.ca/vol12/enb12319e.html
(5) The Green & Armstrong paper quoted can be downloaded from here: http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26&Itemid=129