BBC Radio: Overselling Climate Change

On Thursday, April 20, the BBC has a show on Overselling Climate Change. BBC radio attended the NAS Panel and taped lengthy portions of it, as well as interviewing me, Hughes and others. It will be interesting to get their take on it. The title of the show seems pretty unusual in a BBC context. Can you get BBC radio 4 on the internet?

52 Comments

  1. L Nettles
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 7:46 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Looks like you probally can get this on the internet

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/

  2. PHEaston
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 7:55 AM | Permalink | Reply

    You can listen to Radio 4 live on the internet, and can often re-listen to programmes upto 24 hours after broadcast. The programme description – which I repeat below – is like a breath of fresh air! What will be interesting is their conclusions, if any:

    “Simon Cox reports on how scientists are becoming worried by the quality of research used to back up the most extreme climate predictions.

    Every week we are assailed by scare stories about the climate. Malaria in Africa, hurricanes in Florida, even the death of frogs in Latin America – all are being linked to global warming. But does the science behind these claims really stand up, or are the risks of climate change being oversold to win the battle for influence?”

  3. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 8:53 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Clearly this BBC Radio show is not from the BBC News environment correspondents.

    Stark warning of climate change does not have a reporter’s name.
    Richard Black’s Stark warning over climate change has only one side.
    Artic heads into warmer future has no name and only alarmist opinions.

  4. John G. Bell
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thursday 20 April

    The Battle For Influence — Overselling Climate Change? Ep1/3

    8.00-8.30pm BBC RADIO 4

    The impact of climate change is big news with new and disturbing predictions emerging every week. Recently, malarial outbreaks in Africa, hurricanes in Florida, houses falling into the sea in Norfolk and even the death of frogs in Latin America have all been linked to global warming.

    This new series asks whether all the science behind the claims stands up to scrutiny, or if the risks of climate change are being oversold.

    Some scientists looking at climate change are becoming worried by the quality of research used to back up the most extreme climate predictions, for example forecasts of 11°C temperature increases and rises in sea level of over 37 feet.

    In the first programme in a new run of the Sony Award-nominated The Battle For Influence, Simon Cox asks scientists to explain their research and qualify their predictions.

    Producer/Richard Vadon, Editor/Nicola Meyrick

    BBC News Publicity

  5. jae
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “The Battle for Influence” I like that topic, because it really explains a lot of what is going on in climatology (and elsewhere!).

  6. John A
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Clearly the BBC will then claim some sort of “balance” by having this one radio programme while pumping out alarm on all channels including the web.

    I’m not falling for it. The BBC has shown flagrent disregard for its own charter, let alone been one of the chief cheerleaders for environmental apocalypse.

  7. Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 2:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Well, the usual BBC suspects are probably on their vacations – how else could this have happened? :-)

  8. JEM
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 3:50 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #7:

    Well, the usual BBC suspects are probably on their vacations – how else could this have happened?

    Not at BBC TV News over the last few days, they were not.

    (These descriptions are all paraphrased by me.)

    Friday 14th: First Item: Stark Warning of Climate Change — the British Government’s Chief ‘Scientist’ (my quote marks) says a 3C temp rise is inevitable in the 21st century, so it must be true.

    Saturday 15th: First Item: Britain now ‘eating the planet’ — we are running out of our own resources and wrecking the planet by importing resources from the rest of the world. Not exactly AGW, but it’s all part of the same mind-set.*

    Sunday 16th: First Item: Nuclear enegy won’t sort the energy problem; only renewables can do that — say a group of back-bench MPs, and of course they are all expert power engineers…

    The situation is getting quite ridiculous. Has the BBC no concept of the damage they are doing to their own reputation as a credibile news-disseminating organisation?

    It is worth noting that no other broadcast or print news channel in the UK led with these stories on any of these three days. Some of the stories were mentioned briefly, well down in the pecking order.

    But on each day, the BBC kept them at number one all day long.

    *As a matter of historical fact, Britain has been a net importer of food since the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the population grew as the industrial revolution took hold — almost 200 years ago. But to the BBC, it seems this is headline news.

  9. Thomas Bolger
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 3:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I complained to the BBC about their blaming erosion of the East coast of England on the rise in sea level when it is actually caused by Longshore Drift and the failure to maintain groynes.
    I got an aknowlegement, but otherwise, no reply

  10. Pat Frank
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 5:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #’s 7-9 About 10-12 years ago I had a conervsation with an intelligent woman who was a reporter and well-connected to environmental groups. She said then that scientists were too cautious and conservative about making definite conclusions, and that we should go ahead with schemes to reduce fossil fuel burning, etc., because of global warming.

    I pointed out to her that if one doesn’t know something, one cannot claim to know it anyway. When scientists are cautious, it’s because they actually don’t know, and respect their own ignorance. She insisted on her claims. I repeated that if one doesn’t know, then in fact one doesn’t know, and it could be foolish (if not disasterous) to proceed as though one knew. At the end of it all, she got very angry and stalked off. After that she avoided my company.

    In short, far too many people don’t understand what it means to know or to not know. They think they can anticipate future knowledge; i.e., claiming to know without actually knowing. There is another area of human experience where this sort of thinking is endemic, but the Steve M./John A. spam filter looks for that word. It has something to do with revelation.

    In any case, BBC reporters likely suffer from the self-delusion of knowing what they in fact do not know and, as regards global warming, feel very pious about it. Piety is an interesting phenomenon. It is both self-justifying and actively prevents exposure to further, possibly chastening, information. There is almost an evolutionary ecology of piety.

    Finally, I suspect that even scientists like Jim Hansen and John Houghton suffer from the mental error of precocious knowing. They are betting they know the answer without having the theory or the data to actually know the answer. They likely do know that they feel fully correct in their stance (piety). Their professional standing is now dependent on being right, because they’ve been so public and so definite about their views. I therefore think that they, like so much modern dendroclimo, cherry pick what they choose to call confirming data. It all really seems to fit Irving Langmuir’s definition of pathological science.

  11. Jim Erlandson
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 5:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    We’ll see what BBC says this week. In the meantime, this should be interesting to readers here.
    Going Nuclear — a Green Makes the Case

    Thirty years on, my [Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace] views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.

  12. tas
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 7:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re # 10 about definite conclusions and “knowing” and consequences for action:

    This comment raises two issues:
    1) The fact that scientists often frustrate policy-makers or activists by qualifying their comments in probabilistic terms (exactly what it means to “know” something)
    2) The fact that we cope in all areas of life with the need to act in the face of uncertainty.

    Focusing here just on the second point, we must realize that we don’t always think it is wise to do nothing simply because we don’t have certain knowledge. For example, I am fairly sure that I won’t get ill or injured on my next overseas trip, but I am going to take out insurance nevertheless. Indeed, if I go somewhere where the risks are PERCEIVED (as opposed to proved) to be higher, then I will take out a more expensive policy.

    Other examples that are commonly used:
    - You see your kid not doing as well as you like at school and you pay for a tutor or more expensive school without knowing that there will be a positive effect.
    - Your doctor says you have a disease that may progress to dire consequences. Most, but maybe not all, medical experts suspect that treatment X helps delay/reduce consequences; all experts suggest additional tests and monitoring. So you take what X and tests you can afford – the mix is a reflection of your aversion to the disease and ability to pay.

    In the case of climate science, whether you personally like it or not, the prevailing view of experts is that change is occurring and that negative impacts are likely to dominate (with grades of uncertainty). And in just the same way as the medical example, a mix of actions is deemed wise – “treatment” (carbon reductions), “monitoring/tests” (continued scientific study), and “living with the disease symptoms” (adapting to some inescapable changes).

    The mix is a policy question for society as a whole and it is part of the reason why this is a contentious issue. It is also made worse by the fact that the “treatment” and “symptoms” affect different groups in society to a different extent. This tension and the inherent uncertainty however, cannot be used to argue that “no action without certainty” is a prudent approach.

  13. ET SidViscous
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 8:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    But you forget to address the most important issue.

    To use your example.

    ” Indeed, if I go somewhere where the risks are PERCEIVED (as opposed to proved) to be higher, then I will take out a more expensive policy.”

    Let’s assume you have to take this trip, you can’t avoid it (as we have to go into the future, we can’t stop time). So now your on the way to the trip, and you have to take out your insurance. Your agent says “Sure we can sell you insurance for two weeks in Bastastitan (fictional name), that will be 3 million dollars.”

    3 Million dollars you say!?!?! That’s pretty expensive. Possibly I could take a few hundred thousand, take some extra vaccinations, some reserve travelers checks in case a flight gets cancelled. etc. etc. etc.

    So instead of the 3 million dollars in insurance, which you hope will take care of everything, instead you spend two hundred thousand dollars to protect yourself to some of the possible adversities, and for those things that you can’t solve, you spend money dealing with the problem (say you can’t get a flight out, you’ve got the travelers checks for a hotel).

    A long way of me saying. Rather than spending extremely large amounts of money trying to control a complex coupled chaotic system by fiddling along the edges, instead you spend a lot less money adapting to the changes. In this particular case (climate change) since NO ONE knows what all the positives and negatives are (While much time is spent on the negatives, how come no one looks at positives. Longer growing season, less money for snow removal etc. etc etc. not that I’m saying any of those things will happen). Rather than completely devastating our economy, maybe we could spend significantly less money in preparing to deal with these POSSIBLE changes.

    If they don’t come to pass, then we’ve got money in the bank.

  14. tas
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 8:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Indeed – you illustrate that final choice of mix of actions is a policy question (informed by the best available science, however uncertain). Your preferred mix of actions will differ from mine and the process for society is to get the best projections possible, figure out what can and can’t be done in other areas over various timeframes and move forward with course corrections as more becomes known. Hopefully this occurrs in a framework that acts not in your or my own short term or self interest, but with the broadest possible public interest.

    Also, there are some actions that might widely be regarded as worthwile in all scenarios – cleaner renewable and ultimately cheaper energy…greater self sufficiency…

  15. Paul Penrose
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 8:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re: #12
    What do you do with a 60-90% chance of something happening? That’s a pretty wide margin. What if that’s a SWAG? Now do you trust the same people to make billion dollar recomendations?

  16. Greg F
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 8:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    RE:12

    In the case of climate science, whether you personally like it or not, the prevailing view of experts is that change is occurring and that negative impacts are likely to dominate (with grades of uncertainty).

    I must have missed the poll of “climate scientist’ that made that determination. Could you point me to it?

  17. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 8:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Tas, I certainly have never said or argued that “certainty” is a criterion for making decisions. I think that this is a straw man at this site anyway. People have to make decisions with limited information all the time. As I’ve said on many occasions, if I were a politician and forced to make a decision in the next 10 seconds, I would certainly be guided by the consensus as expressed by official organizations. Having said that, my interests in this are scientific and I see no reason why the details should not be probed with a fine-tooth comb. The only policy that I;ve advocated is that climate scientists, for a variety of reasons, should archive their data in meticulous detail on a timely basis.

    From the sample of studies that I’ve examined in detail i.e. the multiproxy climate reconstructions, I’m very unimpressed both with the quality of the studies and the lack of any due diligence on them. There are problems with the other studies as well as MBH.

  18. ET SidViscous
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 9:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “The only policy that I;ve advocated is that climate scientists, for a variety of reasons, should archive their data in meticulous detail on a timely basis.”

    If all your building blocks are good, and if the design is fair, the building will be good.

    If the quality of the building blocks are unknown, and poor, doesn’t matter how good the design is, you’ll have a heap of rubble.

    Certainty definitely is not the criteria, but having the best information possible (Jeff knows we’ve paid for it), is key to developing a good plan (or for sure, determining the need for any plan). Without the basic knowledge being stellar, we end up with a heap of rubble and a bunch of people standing about calling lawyers and insurance agents.

  19. Pat Frank
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 9:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #12,13 Your analogies miss the point entirely tas, as Sid got right. Both of your examples amount to choosing palliations, with which tactic no one disagrees no matter their stand on the A-part of GW.

    A more accurate analogy in terms of your #1, with respect to the usual AGW assertions, would be if the doctor said the reason your boy is doing poorly, according to consensus opinion (not according to hard theory and experiment), is that he hasn’t enough of the proper brain cells. I.e., the doctor is claiming a physically causal basis for the condition in the absence of a good medical/neurological theory. He then offers a fix involving a speculative operation utilizing chimpanzee stem cells — an obviously dangerous procedure for which there is no good precedent and that would involve a long-term and painful recovery — all the while warning that without it your boy is certainly doomed to be a low-grade moron. Would you go for it? After all, you want to do something.

    The prevailing view of the experts is indeed that climate change is occurring — this is trivially true. Climate has never not changed. It is not the prevailing view, however, that human-produced CO2 is surely causing the change. That is merely the most loudly and ubiquitously asserted view, and the view speciously implied in the TAR SPM. If you read the body of the TAR you’ll find that the prevailing view of the scientists themselves is that the uncertainties are too great to allow a conclusion about CO2 causality. Reading the current scientific literature does not reveal any reason to change in that position (We’ll see what the 4AR says. I’m betting that the SPM will proclaim greater certainty than the TAR, while the body of the report will not).

    AGW fans are asserting a CO2 causality that physical theory, as represented by the GCMs, cannot sustain. That means no one knows. In the absence of knowledge, to blindly do something may as well make things worse as better. The fix they are proposing is not palliating negative outcomes, which is the rational approach, but instead arguing for a radical attack on energy production. Indeed with their typical and concommittant opposition to nuclear power they are proposing a radical attack on energy use itself, and the general prosperity energy provides. Without that energy available to us, we won’t be able to engineer a palliation for anything.

    Meanwhile, the known effects of increased atmospheric CO2 so far have been the observed greening of at least North America, the enhanced volumes of at least some rivers due to lower water needs by vegetation, and a small decrease in surface pH in at least some parts of the ocean. Ice sheet melting, Arctic sea ice extent, West Antarctic temperatures, pervasively assigned to increased atmospheric CO2 are in fact not attributable to CO2 by any rigorously predictive climate theory.

  20. ET SidViscous
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 9:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    More importantly, coming up with the plan first then finding the data (and wiggling it to meet the plan)…

    Well, all I can say is you end up with a diesel Citoren 2CV, with no windows, 4 reverse gears and two forward, and a hand crank to start it.

    Rubbish.

  21. ET SidViscous
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 9:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “all the while warning that without it your boy is certainly doomed to be a low-grade moron. ”

    Hey he could still find work in various scientific endeavors.

    In deference to Steve I will refrain from actually naming them, and leave that as a silent exercise for the reader.

  22. Paul
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 9:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    RE #12 -

    What if the doctor has an in with the pharmacutical company? And, it’s in his interest to see to it that you get the “proper” treatment? Of course, all the data says that you’ll be better off with his suggested treatment.

    The point is that those who are promoting AGW all seem to have a horse in the race, whether it be political, economic, both or some other reason. They all say “we know enough” to know we’re sick.

    What the “skeptics” are saying is that we may not even be sick…we don’t know. And, often, treating something the WRONG way is worse than doing nothing. This doesn’t mean that moving away from a hydrocarbon economy and energy towards something else isn’t good on it’s own merits, but does say that the two need to be decoupled. Just as a good varied diet is good for everyone, that doesn’t mean that it’s coupled to some disease–sure, there’s a relationship, but the cause-effect one is more often not there than it actually is there.

    One side is saying “we’re informed enough” for policy decisions, the other side is saying “we’re not informed enough, yet.” And this doesn’t even get into the dicussion about what are the correct policy decisions (of which there’s more than plenty to argue about).

  23. tas
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 9:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #19:
    If you don’t accept AGW, then clearly you have a different position on the mix of actions (not) required. We obviously differ on this point, and while I disagree with your reading of the science and TAR, I respect your right to hold your own opinion.

    If it were a matter of your OWN risk, then you would be entitled to select your mix of actions accordingly, and in a free society, you will continue to be able to do much of what you personally want (buy high-carbon energy or whatever). But even if AGW is purely hypothetical, climate change is a collective risk and in a (hopefully rational) democratic society, it is going to be a collective decision/response that weighs the evidence and determines the overall mix of actions. In a democracy, you and I have to both accept that collective approach to questions like this; we just both hope that the decisions are based on the best evidence (SM’s articulated motive).

    And as noted in #14, this is not a once-off decision but a process where this mix of actions can be altered to suit. If you are right about AGW then it will become known and we may just have some benefits from cleaner energy from politically stable regions and yet be able to relax our position on carbon. If others are right, then we will have bought some valuable extra breathing space in the face of very great problems.

  24. ET SidViscous
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Tas

    I’ll say this. While I may disagree with you, you are one of the more reasonable people on the “opposing” side of this issue that I’ve ever run across.

    I’d argue some of your points, but for the most part if the decion makers on this issue were more like you we could find a reasonable starting position.

  25. Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #12 I don’t think we fail to understand that we need to make choices and act in the face of uncertainty. But to fairly make such choices the level of uncertainty and the gravity of the unchecked result must be assessed. It is only then that it can be determined if the cost to modify human conduct is reasonable.

    The problem with global warming is that the general reporting is seldom about the level of certainty. It is presented only as a certainty, and the dangers are also a certainty. It is reportedly caused solely by release of human induced co2. The arctic/antarctic ice is melting, the seas are rising, Peter Hearnden’s farm is getting warmer, the frogs are dying, hurricanes are more intense, and we will all suffer mightily.

  26. Paul
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In a democracy, you and I have to both accept that collective approach to questions like this; we just both hope that the decisions are based on the best evidence (SM’s articulated motive).

    Hmmm…that poses a few problems. For instance, the US isn’t really a democracy, it’s a republic (arguably, a democratic form of government, but not a democracy. The rest of the world’s governments range from more democratic to completely undemocratic. We also know that some of the least democractic countries are the “worst offenders” or quickly becoming so (China to top the list). So how “we” (whatever that means) come to a “democratic” solution is problematic at best.

    The second problem is that “best evidence” isn’t really very good right now. Spend enough time on this blog, digging into the science and statistics, and you’ll see that there really isn’t much “evidence.” There’s a strong desire to find evidence, but there really isn’t a lot of it. Not only that, but there appears to be real effort to hide evidence, attack the messenger rather than debate the science, and avoid answering some pretty serious hard questions. The TAR itself is filled with caveats about the science, yet nobody wants to go there…

  27. Steve Bloom
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #19: Sorry, but I think it’s already been widely reported that the AR4 is going to “nearly certain” (i.e., >99%) that GW has anthropogenic causes. This will not be attributed entirely to CO2, as there are other anthropogenic GHGs and forcings (in particular land use changes), but it seems clear enough that CO2 will be tagged as the major factor.

  28. Steve Bloom
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

    BTW, many of the outlier claims mentioned above have been debunked on RealClimate. Not all of the claims are outliers; e.g., the hurricane stuff, which seems more like a matter of the consensus (on the hurricane-GW connection) shifting. Anybody reading the recent RC hurricane threads would have seen some very interesting comments by some of the leading scientists in the field.

  29. Steve Bloom
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 10:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #27: Correction, I think the term is “virtually certain.”

  30. nanny_govt_sucks
    Posted Apr 17, 2006 at 11:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “it seems clear enough that CO2 will be tagged as the major factor.”

    And do you buy into this Steve B? Even though only poor correlational evidence has been shown that CO2 concentrations and global temps are related?

  31. JEM
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Latest from BBC TV News:

    This morning, the headline news is that “leading scientists” say Chernobyl caused not 5,000 but 100,000 deaths, so clearly building new nuclear power stations would be an environmental disaster.

    Way down in among the “small print”, it turns out the so-called “leading scientists” are actually Greenpeace.

    (I’ve long expressed the view that anyone who is both a strong believer in AGW and yet opposed to nuclear power is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land… or at least is a technical illiterate.)

  32. Tom Brogle
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 1:40 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve Bloom
    Why dont you give up, you lost the last argument. I for one will be glad to see the back of you

  33. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 1:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #31, actually, JEM, the headline (BBC News front page) is “Chernobyl figures ‘to low’” and the FIRST word of the next para ‘Greenpeace’. But, hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of your spin.

    It’s clear, even in the article, that the figures are from an environmental charity and that charity is Greenpeace. Btw, it’s clear how much you like and respect such groups.

  34. James Lane
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 2:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Greenpeace is a charity?

  35. John A
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 3:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Greenpeace is a charity?

    It is in the UK.

  36. JEM
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 3:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #33:

    Re #31, actually, JEM, the headline (BBC News front page) is “Chernobyl figures “to low’” and the FIRST word of the next para “Greenpeace’. But, hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of your spin.

    That may be what they say on their news website.

    It is NOT what the BBC said (and continues to say) on TV news here in the UK this morning. There it is just “leading scientists”, as I said above. It took a visit to their site to learn that these “leading scientists” are actually Greenpeace. Which is an interesting comment on the BBC world-view in itself.

    The notion that Greenpeace is a charity or consists of (or even just employs) “leading scientists” is an interesting comment on yours.

    You should get out of the backwoods and visit the real world more often, Peter. Don’t be so wooden!

    (BTW, do you pass the acid test of seriousness about AGW: do you believe nuclear power is the only serious answer or not?)

  37. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 4:17 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #36. Humm, well if we’re talking on the net and you use the words ‘Way down in among the “small print”‘, then I think it’s reasonable to think you mean the BBC website. But, OK, I don’t watch morning sofa TV news, it may be your real world it’s not mine. Re nuclear power, I’d accept existing capacity being replaced, but I don’t think it’s the only answer, you have to be open to other solutions.

  38. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 4:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #35. I think you’re partly wrong about this. The ‘Greenpeace Environmental Trust’ certainly is a charity, Greenpeace Ltd isn’t.

  39. JEM
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 4:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #37:

    Re nuclear power, I’d accept existing capacity being replaced, but I don’t think it’s the only answer, you have to be open to other solutions.

    That’s kinda worrying, Peter: I find myself agreeing with you. (g)

    What I should have said earlier is not that nuclear is the only serious answer, but that no serious answer is possible without nuclear being an important part of it. Sorry.

    In the AGW context this presupposes there is an AGW problem to worry about, which of course I am not convinced about.

    On the other hand, I do believe that moving away from a hydrocarbon-burning energy economy would be a very smart thing to do anyway, for other reasons. One of my particular objections to the AGW bandwagon is that when it gets blown out of the water, as I am increasingly certain will happen one fine day, sooner or later, the whole move to non-hydrocarbons will have been so tainted the net result will be worse than if AGW had never been dredged up.

    Aesop described this effect in the story of the boy who cried “wolf’.

  40. Jim Erlandson
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 5:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

    With respect to uncertainty and using statistics to predict the future you may want to learn about … “Knightian uncertainty, a term derived from the economist Frank Knight who wrote in the 1920s that with any major technological change it becomes hard to know its impact but a lot of people speculate on what they believe it will be.”
    From the recently maligned but still useful Wikipedia:

    Knight invented the notion of what has come to be called Knightian uncertainty, where he made a distinction between “risk” and uncertainty. He argued that situations with risk were those where decision making was made faced with unknown outcomes but known ex-ante probability distributions. He argued that these situations, where decision making rules such as maximising expected utility can be applied, differ in a deep way from those where the probability distribution of a random outcome is unknown.

    Also, the paper “Dicing with the Unknown”

    There are many things that I am uncertain about, says Tony O’Hagan. Some are merely unknown to me and others are unknowable.

    The earth’s temperature history may be unknowable at a resolution useful in the current studies of possible anthropogeic sources of climate change. But that shouldn’t prevent us from making reasonable decisions using the information we have. Which is what Steve M. has been saying.

  41. Louis Hissink
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 6:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #40

    Jim,

    Your last paragraph is interesting – especially the leading sentence “The earth’s temperature history may be unknowable at a resolution useful in the current studies of possible anthropogeic sources of climate change.”

    What do you mean by that sentence?

    My own interpretation of your comment is that the earth has temperature fluctuations which we, using existing technology, cannot measure.

    If we cannot measure something, then scientifically we don’t have an issue.

    Philosophically we might have a problem, but that isn’t science.

    As a practising exploration geologist, if we cannot measure it, it don’t exist until it can be. Until it can be, which is in the future, it therefore does not exist. Hence if the temperature aggregations of the weather stations of the earth show variations less than the instrumental precision of the gadgets deployed to measure those temperatures, then we have no warming, nor cooling, nor stasis of temperature – science is dictated by the data.

    Religion obeys the dictates of the theories.

  42. JEM
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 6:55 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re#40:

    There are many things that I am uncertain about, says Tony O’Hagan. Some are merely unknown to me and others are unknowable.

    But was this before or after Donald Rumsfeld?

    “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

  43. Paul
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 7:17 AM | Permalink | Reply

    RE #27,28 -

    e #19: Sorry, but I think it’s already been widely reported that the AR4 is going to “nearly certain” (i.e., >99%) that GW has anthropogenic causes. This will not be attributed entirely to CO2, as there are other anthropogenic GHGs and forcings (in particular land use changes), but it seems clear enough that CO2 will be tagged as the major factor.

    Your quote implies that people are working hard to remove the “uncertainties.” Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be less “Mannian” than before. Most AGW won’t acknowledge the very real and relevant work of Steve M.–they’ve “moved on.” Since they haven’t corrected their previous work I don’t trust that their new work is going to be any more robust.

    Steve B. you are placing your faith people who I don’t think deserve it (actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever had the faith in them–something always has been suspect about their motivations). All of your posts indicate a strong faith in those who put together the AR4 (and I would think the IPCC as a whole).

    I don’t think that the AR4 is going to be any more robust than anything the IPCC has put out before. Why? Because it’s the same people.

  44. Louis Hissink
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 7:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It might be useful here to state some facts:

    M1 Mass of earth’s atmosphere is ~ 5.3E18 Kgs
    M2 Mass of earth is ~ 6E24 Kgs
    M3 Mass of humans (9 billion) is ~ 7E11 Kgs (assuming 75Kg mean mass per human)

    Paraphrasing Yoda “The power of M3 is Mighty”

    The problem is whether the flea (M3) drives the earth, or something else: the scientific evidence points to “ELSE”

  45. krghou
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 8:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Here is a link to a climate modeling effort that didn’t give the “right” answer and had to be restarted.

    The link isn’t showing in the preview so here it is as text:
    http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=31073

  46. Louis Hissink
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 8:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    # 45

    At least your source realises when it first fails, try again.

    Otherwise known as the scientific method.

  47. ET SidViscous
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 8:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Odd seeing an article quoted that’s written by someone I’ve spent many a time getting fall down drunk with.

    In one particular instance did fall down when a chair (That I suspect was 100 years old) collapsed.

    krghou: I also write for that site under the pen-name McFeelme Johnson. very infrequently though.

  48. Jim Erlandson
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 8:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #41: We don’t need to invoke Schoedinger’s cat.

    My own interpretation of your comment is that the earth has temperature fluctuations which we, using existing technology, cannot measure.

    Replace “has” with “had” and you’ve got it.

    … if the temperature aggregations of the weather stations of the earth show variations less than the instrumental precision of the gadgets deployed to measure those temperatures, then we have no warming, nor cooling, nor stasis of temperature

    Neither warming nor cooling therefore you have stasis defined by the ability of the method to measure temperature.

    And while we’re on it, the method for reducing the “earth’s temperature” to a single number or time series is as fascinating as historical proxies (A Global Merged Land Air and Sea Surface Temperature Reconstruction Based on Historical Observations (1880-1997)).

  49. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 20, 2006 at 6:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This is on at 8 pm in England, 3 pm in Eastern time zone. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/thebattleforinfluence/pip/abkim/

  50. fFreddy
    Posted Apr 20, 2006 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    And a web site article here

  51. fFreddy
    Posted Apr 20, 2006 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Oooh, which actually has a link to here. Jolly good.

  52. nanny_govt_sucks
    Posted Apr 20, 2006 at 2:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    A Load of Hot Air?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4923504.stm
    “Hardly a day goes by without a new dire warning about climate change. But some claims are more extreme than others, giving rise to fears that the problem is being oversold and damaging the issue. ”

    Listen to Radio 4′s Overselling Climate Change
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/help/3681938.stm

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