The British political establishment seems to be moving more towards climate change denial, which is worse than the previous stance of acknowledging the problem while doing virtually nothing to address it?

My, what a long title. But its a quote from RN in a comment on my IPCC 5th Assessment Review post.

And since this butts head on into something I’ve been thinking for a while, but not said, I’ll write it down. Don’t call me too bitter or cynical, please. And just for the moment, don’t demand references either – this is all stream of thought.

So: for a number of years now, starting at some unknown point – possibly around Cameroon’s ridiculous dancing-with-huskies moment, but most likely more nebulous and earlier – the British political scene went soppy green. Windmills sprouted, solar panels were subsidised, and commitments made – and even passed into law – to decarbonise the economy, with no apparent thought to the cost. I was baffled. Not only were people speaking some of the right words, sometimes even in the right order and at the right times, they were making what appeared to be hard commitments. But what they weren’t really doing was making it clear who was going to pay for it all, which I found worrying. That is, in the end, the acid test. Which we failed.

For when “hard” times came – and, having wandered today around the heart of Cambridge Christmas shopping, those times are really not very hard at all – suddenly even rather minor pledges to pay started to look expensive and the pols started backing off. The most obvious sign of this is the “green levy” or whatever its called, put on fuel bills to pay for the likes of rooftop solar panels. We got some solar panels but I was never really clear who was paying the bills – the money comes from the power companies (or will, when we get round to finishing off the forms) – but obviously these companies aren’t going to give away money for free. I had assumed it was govt (i.e., our tax) money being recycled, somehow. But no! it turns out to be a levy on everyone’s energy bills. And when bills are going up and the supposedly-reticent-and-stuff-upper-lip-but-actually-as-whiney-as-everyone-else Brits see increased fuel bills (presuambly at least some people do read their fuel bills) and ask “why are they going up” and the govt shamelessly tries to blame it on evil fuel companies, then naturally the companies fight back and throw mud in the water with “no! its your green levy wot did it” and suddenly govt support just melts away.

Get to the point

Anyway, back to my point: during the “long” boom up to, whenever, 2007, when we all felt rich and expansive, the public said they wanted greenery and the pols said “yeah!” But it was shallow. No-one thought much about the cost – well, economist types thought about costs, but economists are dull so who’s going to listen to them? Certainly no-one cool.

Public opinion wasn’t prepared for costs-vs-benefits, and suddenly costs matter again. The pols bow to the wind. In a way I’m pleased – the previous policy consensus smacked rather too much of fairyland. It was untested by any real opposition. The opposition now is facile and unthinking, if they’re dumb enough to think that attacking the IPCC is a good idea. But if the good guys can’t beat off idiots like that, how are they going to cope against competent opponents that are sane enough to look at the weak spots, rather than the strong points?


Minister to admit failure on key climate change emissions target – me 2006.

The Magnificent Disinformation Engine

A better title for this post would be “cite your sources” but I need to mirror The Magnificent Climate Heat Engine at WUWT. Guess what? Just a few days after totally missing the importance of heat transport within the climate system WE has finally noticed it. WE read my posts, of course, because several people pointed him at them in the WUWT comments, although he was careful not to engage with those. So he’s managed to learn something from me, which is good, but doesn’t have the basic honesty to acknowledge that, which is effectively plagiarism, which is expected.

Naturally, he doesn’t link this back to his previous post, because to do that would be to point out that his new discovery has totally destroyed his previous, which would be embarrassing. It will be interesting to see if any of the commentators there are both awake and bold.

Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change?

Well, of course, this is trivially true, in the sense that $0 is “up to $1bn” and the report doesn’t suggest that it could be more than $1bn. I got this from the Graun which continues to irritate by pointlessly and stupidly failing to link to the original study. I assume they do this because, like the mediaeval church, they regard themselves as gatekeepers and priests of knowledge: we should only be allowed their interpretation, and not see the original for ourselves. But enough ranting.

There’s a note at the bottom which says This headline on this article was amended on 21 December 2013 to reflect that not all the $1bn referred to will have funded climate change work and indeed, this is the rub. The ~$1bn refers to total funding of a group of think-tanky stuff. But how much of that actually went into anti-GW-science? As far as I can see, the study doesn’t even attempt to address this question. Instead it looks at How are these organizations financially maintained? which is indeed interesting, but different. Note in passing that is Q2 in the paper. Q1 is What is the climate change counter-movement? to which the answer turns out to be entities that engage in any of a a wide variety of activities opposing any legislative attempts to enact mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions. Which is interesting, because if you were to regard cap-n-trade as a “mandatory restriction” but carbon taxes as not, then you could argue that I’m part of the CCCM! W00t, way to go.

Incidentally, I should point out that I’m confused by some of the figures, and I think the Graun is too. They say

The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle’s study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort… AEI was by far the top recipient of such funds, receiving 16% of total funding over the eight years, or $86.7m.

Well, 16% of $7bn is $1.1bn, not $86m. And dividing it by 8 doesn’t help either. I didn’t bother track down the disparity, but I think its related to identifiably sourced income – some is hidden. No matter: I’m going to use American Enterprise Institute (AEI; annual budget about $38m) as an example. First off, there are some obvious not-climate related spending items: the Prez, Arthur Brooks, gets a stonking $0.6m. We can assume that he isn’t dumb enough to spend his own good money on denialism. Cheney gets $150k, incidentally. OK, so that’s trivia. But if I look at [[American Enterprise Institute]] I see an awful lot that clearly isn’t about global warming.

One of the things it does point to is this shocking publication “Climate Change: Caps vs. Taxes” by Kenneth P. Green, Steven F. Hayward, Kevin A. Hassett, Posted: Friday, June 1, 2007, ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY OUTLOOK, AEI Online. This shameful document… errrm, pretty well says exactly what I’ve been saying recently about carbon taxes. There’s a teensy paragraph with token flings against GW but most of it says: if you want to do it, do it via carbon taxes not cap-n-trade. So of the fairly smallish fraction of AEI effort that goes into GW related stuff, not all of it is anti-GW.

There is something in the paper that gets somewhere near this problem: they say, in attempting to define the CCCM:

To develop a comprehensive roster of CCCM organizations for this study, a two-step process was used. First, a consolidated list of all of the organizations identified in prior studies was created. These organizations were then individually examined to identify those that had a substantive focus on climate change. This process identified 118 CCCM organizations.

There’s an ill-defined word in there: “substantive”. What does it mean, in this context? Clearly, it doesn’t mean “a majority of effort spent on”. There’s no doubt that the AEI are currently producing some GW denialism nowadays; but what I’m less convinced by is that its a major part of their operation.

So, while I’m sure there are indeed evil folk funding climate change denial, I don’t think the headline of “up to $1bn” is supported by their evidence. They could have written “up to a completely undetermined amount” but that wouldn’t be a very good headline. Has anyone got pointers to better studies, or is anyone prepared to wade through the supplementary material to sort the wheat from the chaff?

Note, BTW, that there’s no need for the “up to $1bn” headline. Nature World News chose to headline it “Organizations Bankrolling Climate Change Denial Revealed in New Study” which is far more supportable.

[Aaaaannddd: we’re in. Only published 10 seconds ago and already google hit #3. I never knew I was such a thought leader.]

[Update: is Andy Revkin reporting Brulle sayin “You may have seen the Guardian article on my paper: I have written to the newspaper complaining about this headline. I believe it is misleading. I have been very clear all along that my research addresses the total funding that these organizations have, not what they spent on climate activities… (and which, to be Just, came to me via WUWT).]

Climate science is interesting and fun

Having mocked the Watties I thought I’d read on, and see what they had to say lower down. And what I’ve realised is that there is some interesting climatology there, which they’ve totally missed.

Here’s the most easily understood picture:

Its CERES Top-Of-Atmosphere (TOA) radiation balance plotted against surface temperature, for ocean-only grid points. I’m not desperately familiar with CERES, but lets take it literally, as radiation inbalance, averaged over a year. Fine. What do we expect to see?

[At this point, I recommend you to stop reading for a while, and see if you can work out what you would expect to see: what relationship do you expect to see, pointwise, between surface temperature and TOA radiation balance?

Back now? Good. Onwards:]

Knowing the good old “atmospheric heat engine” type analogy, we expect to see an excess of incoming radiation in the tropics (with heat transported to the poles by the atmosphere, not shown in this pic of course (but its fig 3 in this pdf)) and then an excess of outgoing radiation at the poles. Which is to say, the tropics are colder than you’d expect, from incoming radiation alone; and the poles are warmer than you’d expect.

And this is exactly what you do see: there’s a positive balance for warm temperatures, and a negative balance for cold temperatures. There’s a fair degree of scatter, of course, because the planet is far from simple; the land-ocean differences and mountains and vegetation differences all complicate the atmospheric circulation. Still, you see the basic picture. And its relatively simple, because we’re looking at ocean-only. Note that there’s a major complication over the tropics from the ITCZ, and from the sub-solar point changing over the year, so I think you’d expect the “slope” to be less there.

Now lets look at land and ocean:

This is, of course, the same picture as before but with land points added; and not all the points are see-through. The main difference is a pile of points on land below the freezing point of seawater. These, interestingly, go “backwards” – the colder it gets, the smaller the radiative inbalance. Those parts are pretty well all over Antarctica – there isn’t much of the world that can get annual average temperatures less than -20 oC – and they’re strongly over-weighted in the picture, because the dots are on a 1×1 grid – so they get a far bigger visual impression than the area they cover. The reason for the “reverse slope” is (I think) simply that there’s less radiation about at lower temperatures: less in, less out; so while the “relative” inbalance would be even greater for these points, the absolute inbalance declines.

So there’s interesting stuff to be seen in these datasets. Interesting, but basic: none of this is new, and you’d find it in textbooks if you looked, I’m sure. The shame is that the septics are so keen to find their fantasies that they can’t see the interesting reality.

Update: Tim F gets some of the way; but WE totally misses the point. SM gets a different piece, but again WE misses the point.


* Heating Imbalances from the NASA Earth Observatory
* My post inspires a Christmas puzzle! – in Dutch, but google does a great job on it.