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The Australian Academy of Science: explaining climate change

This is an extract from The Science of Climate Change — Questions and Answers, published by the Australian Academy of Science and distributed to members of parliament, every local government authority in Australia and every Australian high school, in August 2010. Crikey will be running a series of extracts across the week, including canvassing common myths.

To kick things off, an introduction by Kurt Lambeck, president, Australian Academy of Science May 2006 – May 2010:

The science of climate is at the intersection of a number of science disciplines and sub-disciplines. At its heart are physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics — each with their sub-disciplines of atmospheric physics and chemistry, oceanography, hydrology, geology etc — and each of which can be considered as mature within the framework required to discuss climate.

It is at this intersection of the disciplines where uncertainty can and will arise, both because of the yet poorly understood feedbacks between the different components of the climate system and because of the difficulty of bringing these components together into a single descriptive and predictive model.

This would include, for example, the biological consequences of how increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) feeds back into climate and into the climate model, or how the consequences of atmospheric warming on water vapour, cloud cover, ocean warming and circulation feedback can be described and quantified in a coherent and integrated theory.

It is these feedbacks and interactions that make it difficult to realistically quantify the uncertainty in the outputs of climate models at levels that the experimental scientist is usually accustomed to. In a process as intrinsically complex as climate it should not be surprising that the path to understanding is long and arduous.

In many other areas of experimental science the paths to full understanding are equally complex. What makes climate change different is that the consequences are not only potentially global and serious but also that they occur over long time scales (decades to centuries) so that actions need to be contemplated before full understanding is achieved.

These actions themselves are built on economic, social and political models each with their own inherent assumptions and difficulties with data and observations. In the presence of uncertain scientific uncertainty, it should not be surprising that, when it comes to recommendations about how to respond to a threat of climate change, the spectrum of opinions is broad indeed.

The Australian Academy of Science is strongly committed to enhancing public understanding of scientific issues and how these may impact on society and the planet. Through its members and through its National Committees for Science it is able to draw on expertise from across a broad sector of the Australian science community to report on important scientific issues.

This includes climate science. The Academy recognises that decisions on how to respond to climate change will have to be made by our society as a whole. These decisions need to consider the findings of climate change together with many considerations that go beyond the science and must include, amongst others, ethics and equity, economics, risk management and politics. The purpose of this document is to contribute to the public understanding of the state of the science and to attempt to tread a path through the often contradictory public commentary on the science.

It is not a formulation of a policy response but an attempt to improve the public understanding of the science upon which any policy response should be constructed. To this effect the Academy’s Council established two committees to address some of the major questions that are frequently asked about climate change science.

First, an expert Working Group carefully formulated the questions and answers about the science of climate change. This group consists of internationally recognised scientists who have contributed extensively to the underpinning science, including contribution to the successive IPCC assessments.

Seven “big” questions were identified within each of which “lower-level” questions have also been addressed. Second, an Oversight Committee comprehensively reviewed the answers provided to ensure that they are authoritative within the current state of knowledge. This Committee consists of eminent Fellows of the Academy and other experts with both extensive research experience in related fields and in the leadership of climate-related programs and organisations.

While it is important to emphasise that it is not possible to provide definitive answers to many of the questions that are being asked about climate change, it is also important to stress that considerable progress has been made in understanding climate change and why it occurs. The role of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is qualitatively well understood.

It is known that increasing the atmospheric concentration of the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas, CO2, leads to higher mean global surface temperatures. It is known that CO2 has increased very substantially during the last century, to the highest levels seen in the past 800,000 years, and that this increase is primarily of anthropogenic origin. It is also beyond serious question that some CO2 from human activities remains in the atmosphere for a very long time, as is the message that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, an upward trend in global temperature will continue.

The uncertainties in the science do not affect such major conclusions but they will affect the precise timescales or magnitudes of the change and they will affect the global distribution of its impact. It is important therefore that extensive research and rigorous scientific debate continue within the expert scientific community and that the communication of that research to the broader community be effective.

The Academy therefore hopes that this work will provide a firmer basis for understanding the science of climate change and its implications.

The Australian Academy of Science, which represents Australia’s foremost scientists, provides scientific advice to policy makers and promotes excellence in Australian science, has devoted considerable resources to untangling the science of climate change and presenting it in a simple and easily understood format.

The full report can be downloaded here for free.

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  • 1
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The uncertainties in the science do not affect such major conclusions but they will affect the precise timescales or magnitudes of the change and they will affect the global distribution of its impact.”

    Perhaps you should read the Royal Society’s recent warnings about climate “uncertainties” and “chaotic systems”, Kurt.

    From a policy viewpoint, “timescales” and “magnitudes” are critical. Yet projections range from slow and modest to Armageddon.

    Stripped of bureaucratic opacity, your conclusion is (presumably) that impacts are essentially unknown. So we must give observational science time to firm up these impacts. The corollary is that “climate” policy should minimise social/economic/environmental harm.

    So where does that leave the plethora of “climate” schemes recently dumped by Gillard? And isn’t a carbon tax premature?

  • 2
    mattsui
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    This report has been available (freely, it seems) for six months and we’ve never heard of it?
    Has a copy been sent to mr calderwood?

  • 3
    Thomas Lewis
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    So if we adopt a climate change tax, by how many degrees will the earth’s temperature lower?

  • 4
    rossco
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Yes Frank, lets wait until we are absolutely certain that we are about to fall of the cliff before we take any action. Why take any notice of the science experts, after all that noted “expert” Tony Abbott has assured us that climate change is crap. Oh wait on, did he only say that or did he put in writing.

  • 5
    Ian
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    ROSSCO,

    It is futile arguing with the likes of Frank and Thomas who it seems will do anything to throw doubt on the science and to oppose efforts to address the problem. I have to really wonder what motivates them to pursue this course of action. Are they being paid to actively engage in the way they do? Are they desperately poor and terrified that efforts to mitigate climate chaos could threaten their survival? Do they have some sort of fundamentalist faith that gets in the way of clear or rational thinking when their blind faith is called into question? Who knows? I certainly don’t think they will be providing truthful answers anytime soon.

    I am sick of all this crap spewed out by organizations like the Heartland Foundation, The Heritage Foundation and their disciples whose business it is to cast doubt on scientific finding that threaten the profits of their sponsors (the tobacco industry, the fossil fuel energy etc).

    For any person genuinely unsure or skeptical of the science, a bit of time spent reading the Academy’s report or listening to talks by climate scientists available on the internet should help them better grasp the problem. Of course many haven’t got the time or enough interest in the problem to motivate them to do the research. That’s fine so long as they don’t then make judgments based purely on their ignorance of the subject.

  • 6
    D. John Hunwick
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    The argument is not about taking action or not, it is about what action to take. In a situation of uncertainty the obvious acion to take is to reduce CO2 (greenhouse gas) emissions. Even if it turns out that the situatin is not as dire as I believe it is, such action is worth taking anyway as a form of insurance for future generations. A position that halted further construction of coal-fired power stations in Australia, with encouragement for equal new numbers of gas, wind and solar power stations, starting immediately would be eminently reasonable. One does not have to wait for more certainty in the present discussion to support such measure.

  • 7
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    D. John Hunwick is right.

    When is it a bad idea to work for a cleaner less polluted world? When it costs the average Aussie about $300 more a year?

    Why risk the possibility of disaster when disaster is actually one of the real possibilities? Risk management evaluations would all say if the outcome is a catastrophy, then even if the chances of it happening are considered small, IT IS STILL WORTH PREPARING AGAINST IT.

    And here, the risk is huge and the chances of it happening are…. possible… not absolutely certain, but definitely a possibility. It IS therefore, worth working to prevent it. Just like a safety guard on a piece of equipment that might never rip your arm off. But better to be safe than picking up the pieces later.

  • 8
    Rohan
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Frank, you don’t seem to understand that a fundamental aspect about climate projections is that they incorporate probability distribution i.e. “slow and modest” and “Armageddon” occupy the ends of the bell curve while the most likely outcome is halfway between these extremes.

    The centre of the bell curve doesn’t look like fun.

  • 9
    Stevo the Working Twistie
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    God this is getting tiring. Thomas Lewis @ Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 2:48 pm - adoption of a carbon tax in Australia will not reduce global temperatures by a fraction of bugger all in the short term. What it will do is help wean us off carbon-intensive technologies, and provide incentive for the development of cleaner technologies, so when the rest of the work finally wakes up Australia will be in a strong position to profit from our early adoption of those technologies. It’s called forward-thinking, and taking a leadership role. This train is already rolling - we just need to decide whether we travel up front with the engine, or down back in the baggage car.

  • 10
    Scott Grant
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Following up on Rohan’s comment. One of the problems is that a professional scientist, doing their job properly, will emphasise the uncertainty and try to be conservative in their conclusions. Taking that as a starting point, many, many, people think: “Well maybe it’s not that bad.” “They’re probably exaggerating.” “Let’s be cautious until we know more.”

    The problem with this approach is that the projections are as likely to be underestimating the problem as overestimating. From what I have read, we have consistently been tracking along the armageddon side of the bell curve of statistical error. The more we learn, the more it seems that things are worse than previously predicted.

    We have been through this type of dispute before, of course, on issues such as tobacco smoking, acid rain, nuclear winter and ozone depletion. The book “Toxic Sludge Is Good For You” by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton is a good read, as is a more recent book “Merchants Of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

    Tobacco Industry: “We believe any proof developed should be presented fully and objectively to the public and that the public should then be allowed to make its own decisions based on the evidence.” The problem was that the “evidence” was part of an industry campaign designed to confuse. It was, in fact, a criminal conspiracy to commit fraud. In 2006 the industry was found guilty under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations), in part because it was proven that tobacco companies knew the dangers of smoking as early as 1953. (taken from “Merchants Of Doubt”).

  • 11
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    So let me get this clear.
    The models are all pretty wobbly and the “science” is a product of interdisciplinary assumptions,
    so we should take the whole thing on trust right!
    Sounds like religion to me!!

  • 12
    John james
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    It is misleading in the extreme to pretend there is solid scientific consensus on this.
    The behaviour of the East Anglia climate group in the UK is a case in point, with freedom of information requests being denied, data being lost, or falsified, and anyone with a different conclusion being silenced.
    There is no viable non carbon source of energy, save nuclear, that is powering any major city, to any significant extent.
    Look at Gillard and the Greens behaviour. It is a study in point of how the climate change argument is advanced.
    Gillard has blatantly misled the Australian public, hoping that this can be ‘imposed’ on the community, once the Greens assume the balance of power role in the Senate, and the comuunity will have no recourse or comeback. ‘Cynical’ is too good a word for it.
    And this constant talk of impending Armageddon is nonsense. It reminds me of the astronomers who keep calculating the chances of a meteor hitting the Earth and suggesting we…well, move to Mars?

  • 13
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Makes me wonder whether Y2K was a hoax!

  • 14
    gregb
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    No Richard Wilson, that is not clear. You are doing exactly what the author says you SHOULD NOT do. You don’t want to get anything clear. You want to make things as unclear as you possibly can.

  • 15
    gregb
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    @JJ, Climategate - so 2009.

  • 16
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Stevo: I am with you. It is so bloodly boring going over this time and time again. The stooges for the polluting industries will forever keep pretending that we dont need to do anything…. everything if fine. Nothing is changing.

    The people who are just so upset about paying a little more on their power bills bewilder me. Power bills have increased significantly since the privatisation of essential utilities - much more than this one tax will cause… did the same folk protest against privatisation?

    The good thing about this tax is that it should give industry incentive to explore less poluting ways to produce energy. That is a good thing! Very smart people are employed by those industires. They will have back up plans and alternative plans that they can bring in or develop more, once the cost/profit anaylsis proves that an alternative is now a better option.

  • 17
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    @Richard Wilson

    The science says it is not “if” it is “when and how bad”. It says this across many disciplines. It is not religion, it is extrapolation based on experience. The exact opposite in fact.

    Y2K was not a problem because people acted. Just as is you avoid a collision by braking it does not mean that you needn’t have braked.

    It is amazing how blind people are to the actions of the people around them…

  • 18
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    @Rohan:

    Frank, you don’t seem to understand that a fundamental aspect about climate projections is that they incorporate probability distribution”

    Oh yes I do Rohan.

    Lambeck’s statement is a political response to the failure of many silly, short-term climate (and weather) predictions. Think Flannery, Brisbane desal and Adelaide water. He knows (but would never say so publicly) that computer modelling of future climate could bring science itself into disrepute. Climategate gives us a whiff of that- not a vast conspiracy but something much more mundane- something that every academic knows all too well: the tooth and claw struggle to defend your hypothesis, turf, career, status etc. The Royal Society recently put out a statement very similar to Lambeck’s.

    It’s an exercise in arse-covering. But welcome.

    The science (such as it is- still in it’s infancy as I’ve been saying for years and Lambeck is finally admitting) is bedevilled by religious fanatics such as Clive Hamilton, obsessive like Glikson, clowns like Flannery. They in turn produce their opposites, like Lord Planckton (Thatcherite relic), Bolt, Beck et al.

    The ineffable stupidity of the urban professionals who are hold the commanding heights (just) in the climate “debate” will deliver us all into the hands of the hard Right. How often to I have to say it?
    Crikey and the rest of the progressive media have been a disgrace: they’re blind to the political fallout of climate hysteria and militant in preventing serious critical analysis of the cult. You will NEVER see a piece on Crikey which challenges the dominant paradigm.

    As for the Bell Curve and the absurdly wide range of climate impacts- it’s not a bell but the world’s largest pizza. As Lambeck says, no one has a clue what will happen in chaotic climates systems, so there’s no “normal” distribution curve. There’s no distribution at all.

  • 19
    Roquefort Muckraker
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Note to “Dick” Wilson

    It’s all a giant hoax, and you are the target.

  • 20
    Roquefort Muckraker
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, the rest of us will get on with the business of trying to figure out ways to put the climate right.

  • 21
    thegael
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Sounds like religion to me!!
    Richard Wilson

    Yes, the religion of Communist scientists. I know this because Nick Minchen told me and Mr Abbott whispered in my ear that it is all crap. Who would you trust!

  • 22
    Son of foro
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    “The behaviour of the East Anglia climate group in the UK is a case in point…”

    Indeed it is:

    From Reuters, February 2011: U.S. officials on Thursday cleared scientists of charges that they manipulated data about climate change in e-mails that were stolen from a British university in 2009, triggering a climate scandal. The Department of Commerce’s Inspector General conducted the independent review of e-mails taken from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, at the request of Republican Senator James Inhofe, a climate change skeptic.

    From Sciencemag July 2010: The fifth and, so far, most thorough major investigation into the published mails from the University of East Angia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has given the CRU a relatively clean bill of health.

  • 23
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The third rule of politics. Never mount an inquiry unless you can be confident of the outcome.
    That joke of an investigation (my view entirely) is akin to those being run by all the other (in my view) compromised bodies operating in the US - from the FDIC to FDA to the DEA to …well you name it. My forlorn hope is the Justice Department may pull something off for the people but even it may have been nobbled.

    The reason it is called climate change by the way is that it is a truism. The climate changes, we all agree. It gets hotter and it gets colder. Notice no one talks about global warming any more but you can sure as heck bet on the climate changing for whatever reason and there are many.

    Time magazine was forceful in attempting to convince everyone it was getting colder in 1974 and exactly twenty years later they revived their thesis. So, in 2014 they are due to give the Big Freeze another run. By that time the architects of the global climate derivatives scheme will have given up and moved onto leveraging natural gas and uranium. I beklieve that they are the next big things. I can’t wait to watch all the tax exempt foundations and BS think tanks start with their rationalisations and assurances about how we no longer have any choice and must accept the most unstable of all the major elements - uranium as our saviour for the period to 2050, along with natural gas.

    Facing another cold winter here in Oz, following last years coldest winter “in almost forty years” , and Europe and the US’s continuing freeze, is for me further evidence of the randomness of climate and, as best I can gather, no one has yet been able to model randomness.

    In my view the agenda behind this scenario is to create a global indirect tax on the world’s people from which no one can escape and then create a market system which will be nothing more than a massive derivatives bubble which, down the line five to ten years will leave us exactly where we are today but under an even larger quantum of debt. As with Pearl Harbour,Gulf of Tonkin, Y2K, 911, and every other “event” from the 20th century, they are soon forgotten by a stupified public leaving the architects free to move on to the next big opportunity for the very rich to become even richer.

  • 24
    twobob
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    THOMAS LEWIS

    The point of the carbon tax is not to change the climate directly, it is to stimulate investment in low-carbon technology and business processes so that these evolve to a point where they can stand alone as competitors to our current high-emission practices.

    If this is successfully achieved then the potential to decrease our greenhouse emissions is essentially limitless. And if those emissions are impacting our climate (as has been posited) then the answer to your question is that the tax could potentially halt human-induced warming entirely.

    This is not hard to understand for humans with a functioning brain although from your question, which I have seen several times verbatim, I am wondering if you are in fact a parrot?

  • 25
    twobob
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    RICHARD WILSON

    A chemist first discovered the warming effect of CO2 in the 1890s. Do you realise what this means?

    All the scientists in the world have been engaged in a 120 year plot to create a leftwing takeover of the world! Or maybe not!

  • 26
    JamesH
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Frank,

    For years you have been claiming that “The ineffable stupidity of the urban professionals who are hold the commanding heights (just) in the climate “debate” will deliver us all into the hands of the hard Right” and proclaiming that Climate Change will be the Green’s Waterloo. This seems to be your major consistent concern, since your encyclicals on the science constantly prevaricate and attempt to both have your cake and eat it.

    For just as many years, Green votes, and representation, in this country and others, have gone up, and up, and up.

    At what point are you going to admit to the dissonance here? When the Greens are the major opposition party? When they form government? When every single seat is held by a Green? When will you admit that climate change is a legitimate environmental concern?

  • 27
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    @Frank.
    Your view on the Desal plant and climate change is short term to say the least, the desal plant is the plan B of water supply, populations will grow and El Nino will return and the Desal plant will be needed. It’s easy to criticise the timing of it with the benefit of hindsight.
    The one thing that all climate change deniers rely upon in their attacks is an innability to analyse long term trends and often purposefully or otherwise misrepresent short term statistical volatility as a trend correction.
    If consipiracies and motives form the basis of your analysis, then lets analyse their basis:

    Pro Actionists:
    Scientists: You say to protect their egos and their meagre funding (irrelevant since they could be getting funding for some other research if not this)

    Deniers:
    Companies, to protect billions of dollars of capital investment.

    Companies and politicians to defend the legitamacy of their past actions.

    Retirees, to protect their booming mining share portfolios.

    Coalition, to stop any significant political progress from being achieved by a Labor Government.

    Media Commentators, to build careers - Andrew Bolt case and point.

    Some Media Companies, to push their well reported long term political agenda’s i.e The Australian. To promote controversy which sells news papers (it would be pretty boring if every week they could only report more scientific findings which have all said virtually the same thing over the last decade)

    If you believe there’s a conspiracy theory then look no further than the climate deniers/vested interest groups.

  • 28
    gregb
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Richard Wilson is a concern troll. “Be careful lefties, you’ll deliver us into the hands of the hard right”. WHAT EVER.

  • 29
    Rohan
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    @Frank

    We agree on one thing, being the spectacular failure of AGW proponents in prosecuting a political case for action.

    But as far as I’m concerned there’s little evidence that that this failure has as much to do with the damage inflicted by intemperate statements like those you mention (which I don’t deny) as it does with the success of statements associating simplistic notions of ‘doubt’ and ‘confusion’ with climate science, combined with fundamental human laziness and selfishness.

    Regarding your final paragraph - “it’s not a bell”, “there’s no distribution at all” - these are pure unsubstantiated assertions. Lambeck’s article explains perfectly well why there are large variations in climate predictions. Yet you inexplicably fabricate that such predictions are an unbound free-for-all.

  • 30
    birdsnewworld
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    The science of climate is at the intersection of a number of science disciplines and sub-disciplines. At its heart are physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics — each with their sub-disciplines of atmospheric physics and chemistry, oceanography, hydrology, geology etc —”

    This is why its irrational to pull the wool over peoples eyes with credentialism. Since no-one is a specialist in all these subjects no-one can pull rank. Logic is at a premium here and the case for the global warming is irrational all the way through, not excluding the economics of it.

    Funnily enough the fellow who is most convincing on the economics front is now probably Barry Brook. He made a superb showing on the ABC not long ago. When he absorbed the economics of things he seems to have systematically looked into alternative energy and showed that nuclear energy was fundamentally sound once the capital costs were amortized. Not long ago he had some wild-eyed ideas about solar and he also was a terrible CO2-bedwetter of the worst kind. But now he seems to have really got to the bottom of the alternative fuels question. Any article of his is bound to be an asset to Crikey. Plus he’s now respectful of the people in the other camp unlike others on the (more than negligible) AGW side. More of Barry and less of Clive is the answer. When Barry is talking I’m listening.

  • 31
    birdsnewworld
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    We agree on one thing, being the spectacular failure of AGW proponents in prosecuting a political case for action.”

    Rohan they don’t have a scientific case either. They ignore the role of electrical energy coming from space weather. They ignore the fact that water vapor production has a negative effect on heat content and so they erroneously consider water vapor to be a positive feedback when it can only be that under special circumstances. They ignore the fact that CO2 can block incoming as well as outgoing joules. And that joule for joule the former has to be much much more important than the latter.

    They are not really conducting science in any sense of the word. They don’t take responsibility for other peoples bad science and merely hand it on as if they were placing their role as bureaucrats over their role of scientists. They have not and will not justify the very high figures they place on the role of backradiation. The magnitude of the backradiation effect is simply unknown. The only thing that is known is that it is far smaller than any mainstream estimate since the estimate for the totality of the greenhouse effect is placed there on a “god of gaps” basis.

    While estimates for a straight doubling of CO2 are quoted on a by-partisan basis at 1 degrees F ……. scandalously rounded up to 1 degrees C …… While these estimates would be reasonable were it the case that backradiation was responsible for the entirety of the temperature anomaly we know for a fact that backradiation is not responsible for all of this.

    The whole things a shambles. And I will take anyone on in a debate on the logic of this matter.

  • 32
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    @birdsnewworld
    If you will take anyone on with the science then I’d suggest you try a blog which scientists frequent or perhaps submit your “scientific findings” to a scientific journal rather than take on lay people.
    The same goes for the economics of the issue, a suitable place for a debate might be John Quiggins site where real economists state their views, which by the way is 100% for all for a carbon tax.

  • 33
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    @Rohan
    “@Frank.
    Your view on the Desal plant and climate change is short term to say the least, the desal plant is the plan B of water supply, populations will grow and El Nino will return and the Desal plant will be needed.”

    The hysteria about permadought we endured in the last drought has been replaced with “more floods” plus drought. But no one knows if rainfall averages will change, let alone where they might change. Or why.

    The $20 billion Vic desal plant may never be used. Very expensive insurance. Nothing against insurance, but why did we need the 2nd biggest in the world? Climate Clown Flannery was pushing Brisbane to build a desal plant a couple of years ago…

    The $1 billion north-south pipe has been mothballed.

    This is policy driven by climate millenarianism.

    Of course we need to prepare for both floods and droughts, but not like this.

  • 34
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The one thing that all climate change deniers rely upon in their attacks is an innability to analyse long term trends and often purposefully or otherwise misrepresent short term statistical volatility as a trend correction.”

    Remarkable statement Shane. Lambeck makes it perfectly clear that long-term climate trends are at present virtually impossible to forecast. They may always be- in the words of the Royal Society, climate systems are “chaotic”.

    But both deniers and millenarians continue to predict climate like Nostradamuses…

    And both routinely misrepresent weather (or regional climate) as “proving” their case.

  • 35
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Shane: “If you believe there’s a conspiracy theory then look no further than the climate deniers/vested interest groups.”

    I don’t. You apparently do.

    Of course there are vested interests. Almost all deniers (as opposed to sceptics) are Right wing. Their vested interest is political. The idiocy of climate millenarianism and attendant policy mess is a big stick with which to beat progressives.

    As for capitalists, as I said earlier they are prostitutes in suits: if they can make money out of something, they’ll do whatever’s necessary. If they see juicy subsidies in climate policies, they’ll sound like Bob Brown. Look at BP’s advertising. If they can get away with it, they’ll continue doing what they’ve always done as well. If they get 300% more for useless wind power than FF, they’ll wax eloquent about “green” energy. While expanding coal.

    And you seem to have no idea how a scientific paradigm works: careers, degrees, status…all depend on serving the orthodoxy. Just ask yourself what your opinion would be of an AGW sceptic scientist getting a plum climate job….

  • 36
    birdsnewworld
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I suggest you keep your suggestions to yourself if you are not interested in the science. I suggest that its people like you, get in the way of resolving this matter.

    What was your point? Why did you talk to me in the first place? You are supposed to have a point when you make a post. Points are good. Its good to have a point. Don’t leave home without one.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    It is known that increasing the atmospheric concentration of the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas, CO2, leads to higher mean global surface temperatures. It is known that CO2 has increased very substantially during the last century, to the highest levels seen in the past 800,000 years, and that this increase is primarily of anthropogenic origin. It is also beyond serious question that some CO2 from human activities remains in the atmosphere for a very long time, as is the message that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, an upward trend in global temperature will continue.”

    Now this statement is almost entirely in error. Kurt has no such knowledge. And Kurt will not be justifying this statement in open debate.

  • 37
    birdsnewworld
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Shane look at this:

    A chemist first discovered the warming effect of CO2 in the 1890s. Do you realise what this means?…….”

    Look isn’t that terrible Shane. He’s talking about the science? And on a blog that you reckon is just too ignorant to deal with it. Where was your gutless suggestion then? Note too Professor Kurt. Oh the humanity. Talking about the science on a blog that you think does not have the smarts for it.

    Your condescension has been noted. If you cannot understand a reasoned argument in science you ought not be clogging up the debate.

  • 38
    tinman_au
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    My take-a-way from that is the issue/uncertainty/argument is “when”, not “if”, global warming will be enough to impact significantly on society. From my reading on it all so far, the science behind the mechanics of it seems pretty solid, they just need to work out the specifics on the timing of things and the exact quantities.

    If someone tells you there’s lead in the water you drink do you argue about the exact quantity, what’s a toxic level over x period of time and just keep drinking it, or do you fix the source of the problem as soon as possible?

  • 39
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 4 March 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    @JamesH
    “For just as many years, Green votes, and representation, in this country and others, have gone up, and up, and up.”

    The predicted apotheosis of the Greens (now over a year ago, on sites like Crikey and in the minds of people like Hamilton, who lost in Higgins) didn’t happen. Little changed in the general election. The Greens one won low-postcode Reps seat. Against two discredited major parties.

    All I’m saying is that it’s unlikely the Greens will get a much higher % in future. 10/12% is about their mark. Disillusionment with both climate “science” and “climate” policy suggests the attraction of the millenarian Greens will be limited.

    If you have a different prognosis- say so.

  • 40
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    @Frank.
    “And you seem to have no idea how a scientific paradigm works: careers, degrees, status…all depend on serving the orthodoxy. Just ask yourself what your opinion would be of an AGW sceptic scientist getting a plum climate job….”

    Actaully Franks it’s obvious you have no idea how scientists work, they are the most sceptical people in society and they don’t make assertions based on belief or gut feelings, they first identify a question, then hypothesise a theory, they then try and find supporting evidence for this theory which is then presented with full transparency to the whole scientific community, at this point hundreds of fellow scientists spend 7 days a week trying to pick those theories apart, it is only once the theory has past the most rigorous of processes than it becomes an accepted principle.
    Oh and once it’s become an accepted principle a small percentage of unqualified bloggers with far too much time on their hands lie, mislead and try and generally discredit the scientists for their own personal gain.

  • 41
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    One other point as a previous comment pointed out we have to wonder why skeptics/deniers/coallition members, what ever you call yourselves these days spend so much time in every blog post trying to convince people of inaction?
    It seems ridiculous that you would exert so much effort to save a couple of hundred dollars a year on your tax bill (that’s if you are working which I doubt), if you simply got a job or did the quivalent over time that you spend blogging you would be miles ahead, risk free.

  • 42
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Shane:

    your perception of how science actually works is naive.

    read the Climategate emails for a quick intro to the real world. Or ask any academic.

    Shane goes: “It seems ridiculous that you would exert so much effort to save a couple of hundred dollars a year on your tax bill”

    Too silly for a comment really Shane. Except to say I’ve got far better things to do than slum around in Crikey comments. But there’s a lot at stake. The climate cult needs to be stopped, and I can’t see many people on the green Left (like me) who are willing to stand up to intimidation from the Left.

  • 43
    Captain Planet
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    @ Frank Campbell,

    I was wondering how you had managed to get through so many posts without compulsively expleting,

    The Greens have reached their high water mark”

    Climate Cult”

    Millenarians”

    and of course, the ubiquitous “Savonarolas”.

    I see you finally succumbed to the temptation to almost all of these at 10:40 on Friday.

    How about a “Savonarola” or three?

    Go on. You know you want to.

  • 44
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    This carbon dioxide tax is nothing more a tax on the air we breathe!

    When those who decide where they want to take the world in the next fifty years sat down in the 1960’s at one of their annual three day meets, they were looking for more effective ways of taxing the population, particularly given the problems attached to direct taxation, not the least being its unconstitutionality in certain countries. Some bright spark suggested they might start taxing life’s essentials - the air we breathe and the water we drink. The challenge of course was how to win the public over to what on the face of it would be seen as a denial of basic human rights – you know tyranny. Yet here we are today looking down the gun barrel of a tax on air with water sure to follow, assuming the waterways aren’t sold to some totalitarian government with interests in this country in the meantime.

    What started as a joke was made reality when someone looking for a tidy grant revived those articles about carbon dioxide and global warming from that Swedish physicist, whatzisname, Arrhenius I think who, pre 1900, calculated that doubling the natural carbon dioxide greenhouse effect caused by combustion of fossil fuels would raise the surface temperature around 5 degrees. Whoa!

    There is evidence that the first 30 years of the 20th century warmed quite rapidly and speculation was put about that this could have been the product of man’s activities. But after 1933 or thereabouts temperatures began to decline and by 1974 we were being warned about an impending ice age. Read an earlier post. In this instance some scientists were arguing that reduced solar radiation due to dust particles was mitigating the greenhouse effect and thus potentially a cooling was upon us. (See next segment)

  • 45
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Well the powers that be thought it was worth a go. All you need is a group of people who can have a vested interest manufactured through funding, a few compliant foundations and think tanks you already fund, the prospect of first class travel and a minute of fame for all those prepared to do whatever was needed to garner the outcomes needed and in comes the era of the cult a double century of scientific advance disappears and without a trace. Even phlogiston had more going for it than this lot.

    Then the computer models came on stream in the late 70’s. The first generation models were heralding a warming of 4 degrees for a doubling of C02. By 1990 there were five well worn climate computer models receiving the bulk of citations with a doubling of C02 forecasted to increase temperatures between 3.2 and 4.2 degrees. Not quite of the order of our 19th century Swedish Physics professor but still a scary number.

    These computer models formed the basis of the first UN consensus. The First Scientific Assessment was published in 1990 and it stated “When the latest atmospheric models are run with the present concentrations of greenhouse gases, their simulation of climate is generally realistic on large scales”. In other words the models were representing actual emissions fairly accurately.

    However, a subsequent study calculated that the models predicted that the earth’s mean temperature should have risen 1.3 – 2.6 degrees Centigrade as a result of the changes in greenhouse gases.

    However, observed surface warming cited in Houghton, Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change (1996) showed that since the late 19th century the rise in surface temperature has been only about 0.6 degrees and as a result critics argued there had to be a drastic reduction in the forecasted outcomes based on the models.
    Work from NASA scientists Spencer and Christy (Science, 247), admittedly over an 11 year period, backed up this by showing no evidence of any warming from satellite readings 1979-1990. In addition to satellites, weather balloons had shown if anything a slightly negative trend 1979-1997 despite pronounced areas of warming over Central Asia in contrast to cooling in every other area.

    At the end of the 1990’s, notwithstanding the histrionics of Clinton, Gore and Hansen and other champions of Mother Earth, none of the three global measures of lower atmospheric and surface temperature showed any warming as per the 1995 IPCC report based on satellite, weather balloon and surface readings. The IPCC commented that either as a result it was not going to warm up as much as previously forecast or something is hiding the warming. Guess which option was taken up. Yep, in an effort to keep the merry go round spinning, all those living off the global warming tit including the necessary shills, dupes (useful idiots a la Lenin) and political puppets opted for the latter. Mind you in the process, somewhere along the way they decided to call it climate change rather than global warming just in case they were faced with climate reversal. Time magazine had already gone off twice between 1974 and 1995 with the Ice Age lead.

    The “something hiding the warming was supposedly the increase in sulphates but that did not seem to explain the results for the Southern hemisphere. Oops!

    The failure of the GCMs (general computer models on climate change) to reliably predict the quantum of warming are well known. The newer models tend to depict a more sober assessment of likely changes. The result is that we constantly hear the term “climate change” rather than global warming and the word carbon which sounds like nasty black particles covering the sky rather than air i.e. carbon dioxide. And whenever the rain comes or the wind blows it is attributed as an omen of impending climate change. They are treating us like we are primitive man with no grasp of science, logic and reason Well I guess they have that part right he says cynically.” But my friends its absolute “bollocks”. You are being conned. A “mark” who is nothing more than the victim of a “work”.
    Is see the entire program degenerating into what appears to be purposeful misleading of the public by scheduling photo ops at times of the season when ice is melting or temperatures are highest

    It may be arguable that moderate and largely benign climate change has taken place as a result of human activity but models touted by the IPCC that predict dramatic changes including those on which this entire farce has been built are in my view and that of many others dramatically off the mark.

    It has also been shown that the warming isn’t being hidden by aerosols. The reality is the effects have been estimated but it is hard to get a grant if you can’t show something more than a trivial effect. (Final to follow)

  • 46
    Richard Wilson
    Posted Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    The preponderance of warming in the coldest air masses gives credence to the proposition that there has been some human influence on climate but the changes appear small and affect the coldest air which should have by now spelled the end of the climate change scare but not if you have a big global tax on air in the offing and a bunch of compliant puppet politicians globally to strake their careers on convincing the public that it is a big deal. The data I have discussed call into questions the joke proposals of Kyoto and the other talk fests since 1997. The cost for reducing emissions will belt the heck out of most economies for a long time. You cannot change energy systems in six months. It takes years to make changes yet taxes start immediately.

    Given that climate change is not proceeding at such a pace might it not be wiser to save this enormous expenditure for ultimate investment in energy technology of the future, rather than embarking on a mad taxathon to meet a crisis that doesn’t exist.

    Fortunately the public isn’t buying the program and, like a jury in which the members may not be fully au fait with the intricacies of the trial, knows a liar when it hears one. I mean people feel in their gut that the whole thing is a “work” (carnival term for a con).

  • 47
    Ian
    Posted Monday, 7 March 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Captain Planet,

    The best way to deal with people like Frank and Richard is to ignore them . They are not posting on this matter to engage in serious evidence-based debate at all but simply to cast doubt on the science etc to further their own vested interests or ideologies.

    I have no doubt these people only subscribe to news services like Crikey in order to pick up on articles such as this and then inundate them with their ridiculous ideological, well-scripted pseudo arguments to throw a spanner into any meaningful discussions.

    I think Shane has already picked up on this but it seems worthwhile to say it again.

  • 48
    thermophysics
    Posted Friday, 11 March 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    agw has not been proven, it is therefore not a law of science and remains debatable and subject to scrutiny. agw does however break the second law of thermodynamics by claiming co2 can ‘trap’ heat and then claim it can force/direct that heat to the earths surface, which is already heated. epic fail.

  • 49
    Captain Planet
    Posted Saturday, 12 March 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    @ Thermophysics,

    There is no such thing as a “law” of science.

    No Scientific theory is ever “proven”. Theories are either disproved or supported, never proven.

    Epic Fail, hey. Save the lowest common denominator crap for youtube please.

  • 50
    danr
    Posted Saturday, 12 March 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    No Scientific theory is ever “proven”.

    The problem with uneducated people is that they grasp onto stuff from the net and wont let go.

    There is a lot of science that is so basic that it is effectively “LAW” or “PROVEN”.

    Climate change science does not come into this category.

    Look under science fiction. Dewey Decimal Classification* …… Science fiction - 808.838.

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