Dada

Quite some time ago I re wrote the Dada article on wiki to be more in the spirit of the movement. It didn’t last long. My thoughts were irrestistably drawn to that when I saw a can climate count global How lay on skeptic’s view warming (“thanks” R) at WUWT; here I present a translation that makes more sense than the original, a sort of anti-Dadaist art, if you will.

A a a a a a a a a agitated alarmists am an an And and and any apart apple apple argue ask at back bodies Bowring but But by call Cambridge can can century change Christopher climate climate climatology dare dare day denier discovery distance does drop each England enquire It experience expert explodes field force from global global global global Grantham Gravitation greatest greet have have he He head him How I I I I I I I I I in in in in in in invalidates inversely is is is is is is is is Isaac Isaac Isaac’s it it It It Law law lay Let Lincolnshire living looking looks Lucasian made man masses Mathematics me mind models my my Newton Newton no nobody nonentity nonsense Nonsense Nonsense of of of of of of of of of often on on or other out path period point predicted Professor proportional proportional Putting question quite Really rebuttal recent refute renowned repel replies respectable respond response How return right runaway say says science scientist see seventeen seventeenth Short simply Sir Sir Sir Sir sitting skeptics smiles square standard steady story sunny take temperatures that that that that the the the the the the the the the the the the their their their there this to to to to to to to tree tree two under universe University us warming warming warming What what What When which who wig with with with with wonderful world wrong wrong year you you your

Weasels ripped my flesh, again

wrmf Andy Skuce has an SKS article (with which I largely agree) disagreeing with a previous article that Myles Allen wrote for the Mail in May 2013. And now MA has an article in the Graun saying similar things. At Wotts, Rachel has an article approving of MA’s piece; Wotts himself seems rather more dubious, and I’m with him.

MA does say some things with which I agree (e.g. if you suppose that the annual UN climate talks will save us, forget it. I met a delegate at the last talks in Doha in December who told me he had just watched a two-hour debate that culminated in placing square brackets around a semi-colon). But in his frustration with that process, he flails about and settles on something that won’t work. Its almost as though he is using a (non-applicable) process of elimination: we carefully examine X, Y and Z: none of those solve our problem, so lets do W, which we’ll carefully avoid examining.

The current-context for this is the rather confused state of the UK’s “green” policies: a few years ago, the govt of the day decided it would be a wizzard wheeze to dump a pile of costs (for home insulation, solar-panel subsidies, and the like) on fuel bills. But this wasn’t heavily advertised. The thinking (I’m guessing) was that any subsequent rise in prices could be blamed on the fuel providers. Alas, now that times are tight and people are whinging about their fuel bills, the energy companies have decided it would be a wizzard wheeze to blame all their price increases on the govt-imposed surcharges. The debate around this is hopelessly muddled and the details are not terribly relevant. But the Key Insight I take from this is that trying to hide taxes – imposed, perhaps, for good reasons – isn’t a good idea. Because people will eventually find them, and there will be little or no support for them. You have to build the support upfront. Which can only be done if they aren’t hidden.

I think MA’s fundamental point (this is from May, but I don’t think its changed) is:

Subsidising wind turbines and cutting down on your own carbon footprint might mean we burn through the vast quantity of carbon contained in the planet’s fossil fuels a little slower. But it won’t make any difference if we burn it in the end… There’s been a lot of talk about ‘unburnable carbon’ – the carbon we shouldn’t burn if we are to keep global temperature rises below 2C. A catchy phrase, but can we really tell the citizens of India of 2080 not to touch their coal?… If you’re using fossil carbon to drive a car or fly a plane, you just have to pay someone else to bury CO2 for you.

Which I parse as: if carbon taxes (etc.) just mean you burn the carbon slower, you have the same problem. Therefore, we need CCS.

We need to distinguish two viewpoints here, which I’ll call “taxing” vs “prohibition”. I was going to call them the more natural names “economic” vs “scientific”, but if I did that you’d naturally assume the “scientific” one was correct, whereas its just a label (like “skeptic”, which in the GW debate actually means “credulous”).

The “taxing” viewpoint is that if a thing is bad (like CO2 emissions) we should discourage it by a tax in order to pay for the bad effects [* sigh. See below]. That doesn’t apply to all bad things – e.g. murder – but it does work for things where the chief problem is uninternalised externalities: or, in plainer words, emitting CO2 is free: someone else will pay the costs. There is very little disagreement that the “standard economic response” to this is taxes, in order to reflect those externalities. There is, of course, plenty of disagreement about what the level of those taxes should be, whether this is really fair, is it politically feasible, and so on.

The “prohibition” viewpoint, which I often see from science-types like MA, is to decide that CO2 is damaging, and some (semi-arbitrary) level like 2 oC should be a limit, and then effectively prohibit exceeding this limit. Coming back to MA’s fundamental point, that fits in as “we’re going to exceed the carbon emissions for 2 oC, so we need to bury the excess carbon”.

The “taxes” reply to that is: “but the costs we’re imposing by taxation are those costs that are calculated as the damage; we’re trading costs against benefits. If we imposed your solution, the overall costs would be higher”. And the prohibition reply (if they reply at all, MA doesn’t) is something like “but you can’t reduce everything to money”.

I’ve argued, before, that we should not try to solve GW as an issue of morality.

MA, in the Graun, frequently talks of solve the problem of climate change as though we’re all agreed what the “problem” is. But we’re not, and writing it in this shorthand disguises a lot. In this case, it disguises MA’s assumption that 2 oC (or something) is a limit. It isn’t. There is no real justification for that rather arbitrary number. MA doesn’t engage with the “taxes” viewpoint at all: all he does is state that it won’t “sovle climate change”. I’m sure that’s what he believes, but he needs to clearly say exactly why; and to do that, he’s going to need to understand what his “neoliberal colleagues” are saying.

[* From above: I “paraphrased” uninternalised externalities, which is correct, into in order to pay for the bad effects which is wrong (or at least, Timmy says so in comment 3, and he’s probably right). This happens often when people talk about things they don’t fully understand.]

Refs

* CCS implies over-regulation as I’ve said before.
* The world will one day adopt a carbon tax—but only after exhausting all the alternatives
* Quick Recap of COP19 from a Geoengineering Perspective from Geoengineering Politics

Mann vs Muller

Michael Mann has an article in the HuffPo, Something Is Rotten at the New York Times. He’s complaining about the ill-informed views of Koch Brothers-funded climate change contrarian Richard Muller which is language that would normally put me off. But in this case I looked, and Muller’s A Pause, Not an End, to Warming does seem rather objectionable.

Some of it is just a mixed bag:

My analysis is different. Berkeley Earth, a team of scientists I helped establish, found that the average land temperature had risen 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 250 years. Solar variability didn’t match the pattern; greenhouse gases did.

That’s him blowing his trouser trumpet. As everyone knows, the major feature of BEST was that it was boring. In the sense that it produced the same answers as everyone else. Muller’s implication that “Solar variability didn’t match the pattern; greenhouse gases did” is a result from his stuff is just drivel. But, at least he does acknowledge it as a result.

But it gets worse:

As for the recent plateau, I predicted it, back in 2004. Well, not exactly.

No, not at all. What Muller “predicted” was Suppose… future measurements in the years 2005-2015 show a clear and distinct global cooling trend. (It could happen.) He didn’t predict anything, he merely made a supposition; and the thing he supposed hasn’t happened. Apparently, to him, “that’s close enough” (if a clear cooling trend is close enough to a pause, then a clear warming trend must be close enough to a pause, so by Muller’s own logic he has nothing to write about).

But the bit where it really gets silly is:

If we mistakenly took the hockey stick seriously — that is, if we believed that natural fluctuations in climate are small…

which makes no sense at all. Muller was suckered by the septics waay back, and in 2004 wrote Global Warming Bombshell: A prime piece of evidence linking human activity to climate change turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. That was wrong then, and wrong now, but Muller is clinging to it. Not only is the fundamental point of his 2004 piece wrong, but the conclusion he pulls from nowhere – that the Hockey Stick implies natural fluctuations are small – is drivel too.

[Update: just to make that last point more clearly: what Muller is burbling about is the “the [MBH] Hockey Stick shows less variability than other reconstructions” idea. See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_graph. And there is truth to that. But there is no truth to the idea that the Hockey Stick in any way contradicts decadal-scale fluctuations; indeed its obvious from the graph that Muller displays in his 2004 piece that these exists. So I really don’t understand what he’s been smoking.]

Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions?

That’s what the Graun says.

Timmy says Complete and total bollocks here. Or, if you prefer a more measured version he says Fossil Fuel Companies Do Not Cause Carbon Emissions, We Consumers Do.

Timmy is right. The Graun is wrong.

The Graun says

Climate change experts said the data set was the most ambitious effort so far to hold individual carbon producers, rather than governments, to account.

But it isn’t. Its an attempt to shift the blame off us lot so we can all relax and spew out yet more CO2 and say “oh no, its not our fault, look, the Graun says its all the fault of those nasty fossil fuel companies over there”.

[Update: the paper is Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010 (as you expect from the pile-of-poo referencing standards of a newspaper, the Graun doesn’t provide a link: they want you to read their words, not the original source). It says (my bold) The purpose of this analysis is to understand those historic emissions as a factual matter, to invite consideration of their possible relevance to public policy, and to lay the possible groundwork for apportioning responsibility for climate change to the entities that provided the hydrocarbon products to the global economy. And later While not disputing the logic of the UNFCCC, the analysis presented here suggests a somewhat different, and perhaps useful, way to consider responsibility for climate change

So its clear to me that the Graun has no distorted their words: “Dick” Heede really is talking bollocks; he hasn’t been misrepresented.]

Refs

* It won’t be long before the victims of climate change make the west pay, Chris Huhne.

Downtime / Uptime

Dscn1358-w-umbrella [Update: and we’re back]

ScienceBlogs is migrating to a new server / service, so I’m told. This will occur on “Wednesday”.

Please look on the main ScienceBlogs page for more details. You should avoid posting any comments that you care deeply about until then; or at least, make sure you take a backup.

I’ve noticed recently that I don’t always get emails about comments received; hopefully the move will resolve that.

Data Canny Wow (anag.)

Ha ha, fooled you. I don’t really have much to say about Cowtan and Way. Various people have said just about everything there is to say already; VV has a nice post dissecting JC’s failure; to which I commented

> The main serious critical voice seems to be Judith Curry at Climate Etc

I think you’re being overly generous here, if by “critical” you mean “careful reasoned analysis”. I get the strong impression that she hadn’t really read the paper. I think she skimmed it well enough to put up a few quibbles, and you’ve discussed those. But as the comments by C+W show, her comments are shallow and in many cases are answered by the paper itself.

Even those quibbles are too weak to justify her “doesn’t add anything” sneer; that’s really rather pathetic of her. She isn’t brave enough to reject it, she’s not inclined to accept it, so she’s trying on an elder-statesman like distain. Which is what her followers want, and its good enough to get her quoted. But as a logical argument, its nothing but hole.

The other thing to say is that what C+W has done is in a sense obvious; and anyone could have done it. Well, not quite, because they did it carefully. NS has a cut-down version that is really rather similar, but probably without the original wouldn’t have been convincing. Most climatologists wouldn’t have done it at all, because the “pause” stuff is hard to take seriously in scientific terms; but it does make good PR (I’m not dissing C+W as PR-hunters, BTW. What they did makes sense, at the time they did it). The “pause” is shaping up to be the “but the satellites show coolingde nos jours. Don’t laugh; it used to be dead exciting; you could hardly talk to a septic without them talking about the satellite record.

Refs

* Mind the Gap!