Climate Changers

Plus some quotes on climate change from the most cited authors

By Rick Jelliffe
December 7, 2009 | Comments: 2

It has been fun reading through various climate change material, pro and anti, in the last week, so I made some colorful commemorative graphics. [Update: See also my earlier blogs on Climategate: thoughts on the Coffs Harbour floods and Climategate and XML. Please put any comments on Climategate in the first, not here.]

If you listen to some of them, you may get the idea that the world is like this, a spectrum many noisy, plucky Deniers and prideful Anthropogenic Global Warming theorists and not much in between:

Deniers versus Fabulists

However there is of course a much wider range of views:

The outright deniers who say there is definitely no climate change: this is a group which seems to have remarkably few actual professional published climate scientists (actually, I couldn't find any in the evening it took to write this, but that is not indicative of anything.) A sciency sub tribe says while there may be a blip, but it will be offset by other processes such as plants growing faster, though apparently not enough.

Those who are either not convinced about the facts or doubt sciences ability to tell us these things, who I am calling the 'know-nothings', with my knack for tact, though many would merely call them sceptics. However, it seems that many so-called sceptics have made up their minds and are deniers. (By the way, I don't buy the argument that using the term denier belittles the Holocaust: that seems to be scraping the barrel.)

Then there are those who say there probably is climate change, but it is mostly natural. A study showed that this is a view found in scientists with an extremely long-term view, in particular some geologists. It does not inspire confidence when the academics wheeled out in favour of some viewpoint turn out to be from a different discipline.

I have drawn this group with the cheery sun, because sun-spot enthusiasts are in this group. There is a half tribe that says we are not experiencing global warming but global cooling, and these tend to be here: I think most of the global warming advocates are happy to admit that there may be odd and surprising local or global effects (such as the build up of ice in one part of the Antarctic even as it is crumbling over the sea, which I see is now attributed to what is left of the ozone hole.)


In the right side, in the magenta, we find various views that agree that we are having man-made climate change. These seem to range from people who believe that it is mainly caused by CO2 (the CRU line), to people who believe that other greenhouse gases or processes (such as deforestationand aerosols) are important too (the Pielke Sr view), to people who think it is probably a mix of natural and man-made.

However, it seems that almost all published professional climate scientists are in this magenta group, with most of them on the CO2 or Complex side. The denier and sceptics and all-natural decriers think this is evidence that the academic system is stacked, but (if you let me stick on my Mandy Rice-Davies wig) they would, wouldn't they? Looking through various well-known deniers' blogs, I was rather struck at how commonly they selectively quote experts, reliably making a big deal out of what seems very little. I don't think the scatter-gun approach helps their cause.

What is interesting to me is that each of these positions have pretty clear policy ramifications: if you are Know-Nothing, the appropriate policy is Do-Nothing: invest in more studies perhaps, but don't base any policy on it. If you think CO2 is by far the most important thing, then carbon schemes are the only game in town.

Policy from spectrum

Where am I on this ill-coloured spectrum?

I am not a climate change denier, because it doesn't fit with what I see, and because they seem to attract ranting hicks.

I am not a know-nothing, because AGW clearly has a consensus in the professional climate scientists, and I would not presume to know enough about their science to disbelieve them.

I am not a natural-cause devotee, because the last time we had this much CO2 was 15 million years ago, the seashells tell us, and we were still swinging from the trees at that stage; that a sudden boost in CO2 happens at the same time as man is pumping out so much into the atmosphere and changing the landscape so much seems a bit much to be a coincidence.

So of the three options for the man-made causes of climate change, I am not in a position to judge, as a layman. I don't think I have to. But I do want as much be done as possible in Copenhagen, even if it just means politicians setting goals initially, even if it is too late, and even if the approach taken is suboptimal. The greenhouse gas theory is credible, the carbon theory is credible, and I don't know that they need to be mutually exclusive from a policy viewpoint: at least address CO2 and at least put deforestation on the agenda.

What do the Climate Scientists say?

Finally here are some interesting quotes from well-known climate scientists (or climate policy experts). Note that the first two don't follow the "primarily CO2" theory and have been very critical of Prof Jones and CRU: I am in no position to judge whether they have been marginalized. But I don't see any comfort for the climate deniers or the know-nothings:

Hans von Storch curses both houses:

"One group is speaking of a last opportunity to avoid catastrophe, a last chance, rebuilding economy and society; ... A cartel making sure that key decisions and assessments are consistent with the group's view. ...

"The other group knows that all this talk about anthropogenic climate change and its dire consequences is false, a hoax; ...

"When the science is necessarily uncertain - because of the complexity of the issues, and not because scientists are stupid - and when society is concerned and considers the implementation of significant measures, then science becomes post-normal. ... Then it is no longer the accuracy, the solid scientific basis of knowledge claims, but the acceptance among the public, media and decision makers, which is required.

"To support society in its decision making, science needs to do a cold, an impassionate analysis about the options - all options. About mitigation in the form of reducing emissions, mitigation in the form of global and local geo-engineering (e.g., un-doing urban warming) and ubiquitous adaptation to the risks of present and of in future changing climate.

Roger Pielke Sr:
The role of added carbon dioxide as a major contributor in climate change has been firmly established. However, as you know I have questioned its relative role and our ability to accurately predict its longer-term effects. But that it has an effect is clear. ...

Policies focused on controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases are justified for many reasons beyond the climatic effect of CO2, so I want to be clear that the science questions are not necessarily directly translatable into policy implications. But one implication of my own work and that of others is clear -- however successful we are in reducing emissions, a significant problem of human-caused climate change will remain as the other equally or even more important major contributors to climate change are not addressed by emissions reductions.

F Stuart Chapin (most cited author in climate change research)

The native Alaskans] have been finding that changes in climate are tremendously affecting their life on the land," Chapin says. "They probably were more aware of large-scale ecological change in Alaska than ecologists were until the last few years. ...

There is an important disconnect in Alaska in the sense that the major causes of climate change are concentrated at lower latitudes because that's where the people, the technology, and the power base are. The major impacts of climate change are at high latitude, so there is no feedback from high-latitude consequences to low-latitude behavior. ...

Chapin believes humans can adapt to climate warming. "There's hundreds of ways to make things better, and there's no one way to do it. Ideally, all of these approaches need to be undertaken in concert, rather than as a piecemeal patchwork approach to global change. These represent a spectrum of win-win solutions and trade-offs to address the serious consequences of what people are doing to the life support system of the planet," he says.

Camille Parmesan (second most cited author in climate change research)

"As soon as I started to see what an impact climate change was having on wild species and documenting wild species going extinct," Parmesan says, she began to think about how the species might be saved. Short of the world's governments paying heed and cutting greenhouse gas emissions sharply to enable Earth to cool down, she and a few others began pondering alternative actions in particular, human assistance. She sees assisted migration, as the concept has come to be called, as the only hope to save at least some species though certainly only a small minority of those in peril.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (third most cited author in climate change research)

Increasing carbon dioxide levels above 450 ppm will cause coral-dominated reef ecosystems to disappear. ... Stabilization at 450 ppm will require deep and immediate cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, such that emissions need to be in decline globally within 10 years time.

And the fourth most cited author? That is Prof. Jones, the target of the Climategate attacks.

A. Town Peterson (fifth most cited author in climate change research)

Climate change over the next 50 years will throw delicate ecosystems off balance, reduce the geographical range of many species and bring new predators and prey together, scientists said yesterday.

Fewer species than expected will become extinct but their distribution could be radically different in the years to come which will have unpredictable results for humans.

"This is important because the modifications affecting our climate are like a big experiment the world is doing without knowing what's going to happen," said A. Townsend Peterson, of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center.

Townsend and his Kansas colleagues and scientists in Mexico and California produced a new model of climate change based on an analysis of its impact on more than 1,800 species of mammals, birds and butterflies in Mexico. (2002 press)

Peter Cox (sixth most cited author in climate change research)

(ESI) What, in your opinion, needs to be done to mitigate global warming?

(Cox) Everything. The use of fossil fuels is so pervasive in our modern lifestyles that it is a great challenge for us to wean ourselves off these without compromising economic development. As a result, I think we have to hit the problem with everything we have (carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, nuclear power, and perhaps even consider developing emergency climate engineering options).

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Your article is seriously out-of-date. You quote the public statement of prominent AGW advocates. Their private remarks, as revealed in the Climategate emails and files, are far more interesting.

Those emails reveal that the actual temperature data is so ambiguous and conflicting, that the top scientists at one of the leading centers of AGW debated how to tweak their data to give the results they wanted. The emails also include discussions about destroying data rather than allowing critics of AGW to study it as well as their efforts to silence critics and prevent them from publishing their research.

Think of them as the Nixon Tapes of global warming, and you'll realize just how significant they are.

Mike: Which of those experts I quoted was in Climategate emails? I quoted them because they are objectively at the top of their professions by the measure of citations.

In any case, what someone vents to a colleague is their private business. To read too much into unguarded, contingent, spontaneous, informal private exchanges is pathetic.

Take the supposed case that an attempt was made to subvert peer review by keeping references to two papers out of a publication: as Nature records, in fact, the papers were referenced.

Stick to what they actually did, what the numbers actually are, what the models actually say, what the work practices actually are, not this kind of shrill beat-up. Is the climate sceptics and deniers' case really so weak that it has to resort to "he doesn't give us the respect we deserve" and "he said he didn't like the papers I like" and "he didn't draw the graph the way I like"?

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