To me, at least, this past week feels like a Thermidorian Reaction in the climate change scene.
Obviously the first was the release of a new batch of emails. It doesn't show anything nefarious, but I think it does raise questions about how much purported unanimity has been artificially created by IPCC reports, and whether the full state of uncertainty is being communicated. And why are people talking about deleting emails? Why is Ms Kathryn Humphrey from UK's Defra saying the government wants a strong message? She wrote (email 2445):
"I cannot overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the government can give on climate change to help them tell their story.I don't think they're trying to enslave their citizens under a New World Order, but why is a bureaucrat telling scientists what kind of message "they" want? And how are government-funded scientists not supposed to feel pressured by that?
"They want their story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish."
The other thing that gives pause was the Schmittner et al Science paper that finds a lower value for climate sensitivity (2.3 K instead of 3.0 K), and, more importantly, a smaller range of possible warming, especially at the top end.
I'm also tired of the whipsaws. One month one side is buoyed because a journal editor resigns, then the next week the UAH anomaly is lower than last year and if you fit it with a 3rd-order polynomial is shows warming flattening out but don't take it seriously its for your entertainment only. Then climate sensitivity gets lowered and people who routinely disclaim the legitimacy of climate models suddenly find maybe now they're OK. And on and on.
I understand about the scientific difficulty of the problem and its scientific uncertainties. So let them exist and let the researchers keep chipping away at them. It's the world's problem about how to deal with that uncertainty, not theirs.
And I'm really fed-up with dishonest reporting everywhere, especially among bloggers. Some people are very wrapped up in this and, indeed, now have careers and a modicum of fame that depend on their extreme views. I'm not going to even mention some prominent deniers because they're clearly fools who say they will accept the results of a study but then find any reason, however slight, to change their mind. But, for example, Climate Progress didn't even mention this week's Science study, even though commenters there are asking for a reaction. That's just bullshit, particularly from someone who says we could get 10 F warming (5.6 C) by the end of the century and writes completely alarmist crap like this and this.
And from an organization who refuses to reveal who signs their paychecks.
Yesterday a cross-post on Romm's blog by NRDC president Frances Beinecke, about a study on medical costs due to global warming, simply asserts that the six climate events being studied were "climate-change related." There's no proof given. And the study was able to pin down the number of patients affected by these climate-change related events to the nearest integer!
"This group of events resulted in an estimated 1,689 premature deaths, 8,992 hospitalizations, 21,113 emergency room visits, and 734,398 outpatient visits...."Not 21,114 ER visits, or 21,112 ER visits -- an estimate of exactly 21,113.
If it's an estimate why are you giving numbers to five significant digits? And can we please see the error bars on this?
The other thing I'm fed up with are the routine announcements like the IEA's recent 'unless we solve this problem in 5 years we can't avoid dangerous warming.' Who decided 5 C is "dangerous" but 1.9 isn't? Or that if we cut them in 7 years instead of 5 we're screwed? Come on.
Come back to me when you find the 30 thousand billion billion Joules that go missing every year. (And, no, I'm not blaming any scientist for this, because it's a very difficult problem and people are working hard on it and the energy accounting they've already done is amazing. The would-be policy makers need to stop getting ahead of the science.)
Look, we are not going to be cutting much CO2 anything soon. We should, but we won't. We all want to be warm and drive to the coast on the weekends and fly across the country to give talks. And if any of us finds a big pot of oil in our backyard we're going to cash in on it, even if the angel on your shoulder tells you you shouldn't because you will pay later. That's human nature. When I was a kid in western PA there was an abandoned strip mine, and then someone discovered new seams of coal on a nearby neighbor's property, and they sold the mining rights for a lot of money. Millions, it was said. Beautiful woods were stripped off their land and the coal dug up. They smoothed the land back over when they were done, but still it is huge fields where the woods won't return for a hundred years. And back then the first thing my grandfather did was invite the coal company onto his 80-acre farm to look for coal there. He would have sold it too, even though it would have leveled the fantastic woods on his property, too. Who wouldn't?
Anyway, this 2008 email by Jagadish Shukla nailed it pretty well:
It is inconceivable that policymakers will be willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability. Of course, even a hypothetical, perfect model does not guarantee accurate prediction of the future regional climate, but at the very least, our suggestion for action will be based on the best possibleBut it shouldn't be just the modeling community that decides on the necessary accuracy, but the policymakers as well. And maybe everyone.
It is urgently required that the climate modeling community arrive at a consensus on the required accuracy of the climate models to meet the "greater demand for a higher level of policy relevance".
Andrew Revkin wrote a wise thing the other day:
Do I trust climate science? As a living body of intellectual inquiry exploring profoundly complex questions, yes.At the moment I don't know who I trust.
Do I trust all climate scientists, research institutions, funding sources, journals and others involved in this arena to convey the full context of findings and to avoid sometimes stepping beyond the data? I wouldn’t be a journalist if I answered yes.