The year in stoats: 2015

A follow up to the brilliantly successful the year in stoats: 2014. There can be no doubt about the picture of the year:


If you’re looking for a review of the climate-type events of the year then something like ATTP’s will be of use. This is one post per month from me, chosen without specific criteria. There was more science than I expected in the past year, but the march of politics continues inexorably.


* Jan: Greg Craven’s viral climate ‘decision grid’ video
* Feb: Stories from the history of science: the discovery of the stratosphere; although the knockabout comedy with Willie Soon was tempting. No-one cared much when Pachi left.
* Mar: Stoat-tastic of course.
* Apr: Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity? (reprised in June as Laudato Si versus the Ecomodernists and again).


* May: Agricultural land value as a percentage of GDP
* Jun: no review of 2015 would be complete without something about the Death of the pause, a somewhat shameful episode in the history of climatology, distinguished by short-termism, panic, and grubby chasing of cheap papers in Nature.
* Jul: Greek PM drops trousers again; see-also yield curves
* Aug: Me on P. Thorne on Hansen et al.; see-also Hansen et al.: RIP or maybe not

* Sep: Episode IV: The Evil Empire strikes back: Exxon, part n; see-also Peabody and Exxon and carbon tax.
Oct: Force F from outer space
Nov: The UK should not bomb Syria
Dec: Paris Pow Wow Heap Good

2015-08-23 08.19.31


* 2014
* 2013
* 2012
* 2010
* 2009

Other people’s obviously inferior reviews:

* 2015: The year in reviews – Richard Telford

Mini-Eiszeit ab 2030? Forscher prognostizieren eiskalte Winter wie im Mittelalter?

20151229_130609 More of the good ol’ “Ice Age Is Coming” drivel, but this time in Squarehead. Normally I expect them to be more sensible than us. This via Twitter via Eli via NoTruthZone; headlined there as Now It’s Global Cooling! German Weekly Warns Scientists See “Mini Ice Age Coming In Just A Few Years”. At least in the google translated version there’s no clear source, though it does feature [Sami] Solanki, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. I don’t think he’s a nutter. What they quote from him is fairly sane: the solar activity is so complex that no one is able to make a reliable forecast for the next 15 years. That’s only “fairly” sane – see later – but is pure rationality compared to their headline, which is (a) mad and (b) unsupported by any of the text. Some of their text is OK; for example “The ice ages follow different cycles… Some researchers predict [the next ice age] for 2030 – that is untrustworthy”; but “The next ice age has already overdue” is drivel.

The core of their drivel is the very traditional

The time for a new cold spell is ripe. Of this some scientists are convinced. Our current interglacial, the Holocene, began 11,500 years ago. But it seems certain that interglacials last only about 10,000 years before the world for the next 100,000 years is sinking back into hibernation. As long as lasts the longest of the so-called Milankovitch cycles…

It is wrong for three reasons:

1. Interglacials don’t just last 10,000 years,
2. even if you were to prognosticate the end on the current interglacial based on orbital (Milankovitch) forcing, you wouldn’t predict an imminent end,
3. GW forcing outweighs it anyway.

So Solanki is only very slightly sane, because if all he said to them was “The next ice age is determined. It is not clear when” rather than “your text is total drivel” then he’s rubbish. However, one does have to be somewhat cautious about words in the press; for example he isn’t responsible for the Torygraph writing rubbish a decade ago.


* Carbon Dioxide: Our Salvation from a Future Ice Age?

Exxon's Support of a Tax on Carbon: Rhetoric or Reality?

InsideClimateNews (who I’ve been unimpressed with before) via Brian at Eli’s tell us that Exxon may claim to favour a carbon tax, but aren’t exactly enthusiastic about it. Because someone else was saying it, my natural initial reaction was to disagree; but having poked their sources a bit, it looks fairly solid. But not particularly original (see? When you can’t complain by disagreeing with people you can complain that you said it already, instead). I said, in October,

Since 2009, the company has supported a revenue-neutral carbon tax is nice; but I think their “support” has been weak. It is their policy, but they don’t push it hard; they don’t campaign for it.

Did you know that “mustela” probably comes from “mus”, which is “mouse”; for theon [telos] in Greek means ‘long’.

Most interestingly they have a speech by Tillerson from 2013. They even have a link to the relevant text transcribed: As to our advocacy around a carbon tax—I would not support putting a carbon tax in place today…. Of course, we ought to worry about context, so let’s look.

First 30 minutes of the video: intro and speech (heavy on “energy is good for jobs and prosperity and pays lots of taxes” type stuff). Questions at end.
Question (man with no tie, you can tell he’s a hippie): GW is one of the great moral questions of our time, but Exxon is notorious for backing denial; yet company website acks that its a critical problem; and back a carbon tax.
Reply: its a serious problem, a risk management problem; blurred bit about science; pushes collaboration with MIT; manage in two ways: mitigate, e.g. energy efficiency, gas-for-coal, CAFE; with minimum effect on economic performance so as to not destroy economy. But what if none of my mitigation steps make any difference? What if it turns out to be happening for reasons I don’t understand? [WMC: this is hard to parse and at best ambiguous; but he is in question-answering] Then, adaptation. [WMC: he seems to have skipped straight from energy efficiency to adaptation, without pausing at carbon taxes. Lots of hand-waving, literally. Then we’re at the text from the transcript.]

So, the text of the transcript is very slightly lacking context, but not to any significant degree. He really does say that he wouldn’t support carbon taxes now; he comes close to saying that they put forward carbon taxes because they’d prefer them to cap-n-trade; he’s pretty close to saying only a global carbon tax would suit him.

Incidentally, I’m impressed by the sensibleness and seriousness of the session.


“little bride” is sweet, and the piece led me to schöntierlein. Which also tells me it comes from “Dér. de bel*; suff. -ette*”, so maybe “small pretty thing” is right. Meanwhile, the etymology of feles is unknown, but maybe “cognate with Welsh bele ‎(“marten”)”.


* The EU’s method of dealing with climate change always was insane – Timmy at AS, but also declares the ASI’s undying support for a carbon tax.

Clear proof that Tim Ball is not a scientist

12342308_925804084135927_2797038756846899098_n Tim Ball has a quasi-incoherent piece over at WUWT (I know, I know, but it was a grey Sunday afternoon) explaining why the nutters lost the dogma hearing. I’m a bit surprised that he’s prepared to admit they lost, but I was more amused by his excuses; and perhaps the piece is more an excuse to write about himself than anything else. Anyway, as he puts it:

In a debate between a scientist and anyone else the scientist inevitably loses because it becomes about emotions, especially the exploitation of fear

He’s forgotten that a moment earlier he wrote:

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party in Canada… agreed to a debate with me… I know I won the debate

I think we can be fairly sure that EM isn’t a scientist. Therefore, following TB’s own logic we can clearly see that he can’t be a scientist, otherwise he’d have lost.

User:William M. Connolley/The science is settled

1069947_10153830474903200_1629067627529165609_n User:William M. Connolley/The science is settled is a copy that I made of a wiki article that got deleted. I think I’d stick now largely with what I said then, 8th February 2007: Keep: its not the worlds greatest page, but its useful. Lee Vonces vote is a good example of the reason for keeping it: the page as it stands is substantially correct, but if it wasn’t there the opposite misinformation would accumulate. Unfortunately, since the article was deleted, it’s history isn’t conveniently available. You may take it for granted that it was something of a war-in-progress when removed, but a fairly stable war if I recall correctly. I was reminded of this page by the ever-active JM, who found a link to it at I’m puzzled why they link to it; it doesn’t say what they want it to say; but perhaps they read it rather carelessly. You may also like Gavin’s take, also puzzlingly linked.

What happens if I look for “the science is settled” eight years later? My second hit is which says Al Gore declared that “the science is settled” and he was right. Yet, if you follow the link, what you actually find is The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers. Carbon-dioxide emissions… – which is not a direct quote of Gore. My top hit is which is actually about something slightly different; it is addressing Climate Myth… The science isn’t settled. And in reply, it is careful to avoid stating that the science is settled. The rhetorical trickery (to make it plain) is this: “is the science settled?” ask the denialists. Answer “no” and they go “aha! See! Even you lot don’t believe it”. Answer “yes” and they go “aha! It can’t be science then! Science never deals with absolutes.” Answer: “this question can’t easily be answered simply without being misleading; we see that global temperature…” and those listening have fallen asleep and believe you’re being evasive. This is just tedious, which characterises much of denialism.

There are then a number of really rather uninteresting hits before – aha – we strike gold with Climate change: the science is settled by VV. He even links to my preserved wiki page. VV is happy to say “the science is settled” – provided you understand by that he means a simplified; cut down view. But he’s also happy to provide the details, if required.

For convenience, I’ll inline a cut-n-pasted version of the article below; so you have to excuse any formatting infelicities.

“The science is settled” is a slogan attributed by opponents of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming theory to supporters notably in the Clinton administration. There are no known examples of its use outside the skeptic press, though some of the statements that were made have similar implications. The slogan itself has therefore become a detail in thepolitical debate.

Use as a rhetorical tool[edit]

The phrase is vague, and people who use it may not elaborate what exactly is settled. Certain aspects of climate change are widely accepted: that human actions have increased the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, for example. Other aspects—the exact degree of climate change to be expected within the next century, if any—are not settled. In between are issues such as how much the earth has warmed recently and how much of this is due to human activity.

Opponents of global warming theory have said: “There is an idea among the public that ‘the science is settled.'”[1] “How many times have we heard from Al Gore and assorted European politicians that ‘the science is settled’ on global warming?”[2] “We are assured that ‘the science is settled.'”[3][clarification needed]

Uses of the slogan, or things somewhat like it[edit]

Clinton and Gore[edit]

In 1997, United States President Bill Clinton said:

  • “The science is clear and compelling. We humans are changing the global climate.” (source: article)
  • “First, I am convinced that the science is solid, saying the that climate is warming at a more rapid rate, that this is due in large measure to a dramatic increase in the volume of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, and that nobody knows exactly what the consequences are going to be or when they’re going to be manifest, but, on balance, it won’t be all that long and they won’t be good.”
  • U.S. Vice President Al Gore at same event, in response to question “And the administration accepts that fact that that debate [about effect by humans] is over.”: “Yes, sir. Yes, sir. On that one point, yes, sir.”

Robert Watson[edit]

According to Sovereignty International, in 1997 Robert Watson:

was asked in a press briefing about the growing number of climate scientists who challenge the conclusions of the UN that man-induced global warming is real and promises cataclysmic consequences. Watson responded by denigrating all dissenting scientists as pawns of the fossil fuel industry. “The science is settled” he said, and “we’re not going to reopen it here.” [6]

Some GWT supporters suggest the quote is a fabrication, noting that the organization quoting Watson is involved in promoting “global warming skepticism”. No other records of the press briefing have been produced.

Tim Wirth[edit]

  • On June 3, 1997, GWT opponent S. Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) debated Bert Bolin, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. During the debate, Singer projected on a screen a quote allegedly from Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth saying that global warming science was “settled.” Bolin responded by questioning whether Wirth had been correctly quoted: “I think Tim Wirth, if quoted correctly, that he doesn’t mean what you implied he meant. I’ve spoken to him, I know he doesn’t mean it.” [7] SEPP subsequently publicized this statement by Bolin in a news release claiming that Bolin “took issue with the statement by Tim Wirth,” prompting Bolin to complain that SEPP had misinterpreted his remark. [8]
  • On July 31, 1997, In the Senate record, in comments about Senate Resolution 98 (the Byrd-Hagel Resolution) Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) said: “While it is true that Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth said that `the science is settled,’ it is clear that there is not a broad scientific consensus that human activities are causing global warming.” At the same meeting, Dr. Santer said: “Even the Chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Bert Bolin, says that the science is not settled. When told that Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth had said the science was settled, Dr. Bolin replied: `I’ve spoken to [Tim Wirth], I know he doesn’t mean it.'” (Congressional Record 1997, page S8626)
  • On June 28, 1998, global warming skeptic Patrick Michaels revived SEPP’s claim, stating that during the months leading up to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, Wirth had “repeatedly declared that ‘the science is settled.'” [9] However, this column by Michaels was written more than six months following the meetings at which the Kyoto Protocol, was drafted, which suggests that Michaels was probably paraphrasing loosely rather than quoting Wirth’s words verbatim.

Stu Eizenstat[edit]

  • The Global Climate Coalition, an organization created by the fossil fuel industry to oppose action on global warming, complained in November 1998, “Undersecretary Eizenstat repeated the Clinton administration’s shopworn claims: the science is settled and recent weather is proof that global warming is upon us.” [10] However, the GCC did not claim that this paraphrase of Eizenstat’s alleged remarks was an exact quote.
  • A press release [11] from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which describes itself as “a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government” and, which strongly opposes the Kyoto treaty, claims that “US lead global warming negotiator Stu Eizenstat misled the press at a November 10 press briefing. He announced that the ‘science is settled’, parroting Vice President Al Gore’s favorite non-truth, and went as far as to refuse to answer a reporter’s question about the science.”

Dr Kurt M. Cuffey[edit]

  • “Mounting evidence has forced an end to any serious scientific debate on whether humans are causing global warming. This is an event of historical significance, but one obscured from public view by the arcane technical literature and the noise generated by perpetual partisans….
But now, after this summer of 2005, the serious scientific debate about global warming has ended. There is now no reasonable doubt that atmospheric pollution is causing global warming, and this warming is strong enough to have serious consequences in the next century” [1]

John Quiggin, economist[edit]

  • “There’s no longer any serious debate among climate scientists about either the reality of global warming or about the fact that its substantially caused by human activity…” [2]

David Milliband, UK Environment Minister[edit]

  • “I think that the scientific debate has now closed on global warming, and the popular debate is closing as well”[3]

Camilla Cavendish[edit]

  • “The science debate is effectively over. The Stern review means that the economic debate is all but over. Only the political debate is left…”[4]


See also[edit]

A scientific critique of the two-degree climate change target

A scientific critique of the two-degree climate change target (Reto Knutti, Joeri Rogelj, Jan Sedláček & Erich M. Fischer; Nature Geoscience (2015) doi:10.1038/ngeo2595): sounds like a good idea, and vair topical. Since its short, I’ll nick the abstract in full:

The world’s governments agreed to limit global mean temperature change to below 2 °C compared with pre-industrial levels in the years following the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen. This 2 °C warming target is perceived by the public as a universally accepted goal, identified by scientists as a safe limit that avoids dangerous climate change. This perception is incorrect: no scientific assessment has clearly justified or defended the 2 °C target as a safe level of warming, and indeed, this is not a problem that science alone can address. We argue that global temperature is the best climate target quantity, but it is unclear what level can be considered safe. The 2 °C target is useful for anchoring discussions, but has been ineffective in triggering the required emission reductions; debates on considering a lower target are strongly at odds with the current real-world level of action. These debates are moot, however, as the decisions that need to be taken now to limit warming to 1.5 or 2 °C are very similar. We need to agree how to start, not where to end mitigation.

I’ve bolded the important bits that people always forget.

[I haven’t read the paper itself, of course, because it is paywalled. Ah, but AFS found it:

Paris climate pact sinks coal stocks, lifts renewable energy?

peabody The Graun said In the aftermath of the Paris agreement, shares in coal firms plunged rapidly. Peabody, the world’s largest coal firm, saw stock values drop 12.6%, while Consol Energy holdings was down by 3.3%. That’s interesting; one of the things I wondered about the Paris pow-wow was how the markets might take it. But this being economics in the Graun it needs checking; the linked article Paris climate pact sinks coal stocks, lifts renewable energy seems to fit, but we should look closer. See my image.

This is a stock in long-term decline, possibly because of the impacts of GW, but not because of anything that happened this week. On that scale, you can’t even see the “rapid plunge”. Console also seems to be in long-term decline, though not by so much. If you look at the week-view you can see a drop on Monday; but you can also see a bigger gain the previous Thursday.


* Climate deal: Carbon dated? FT: ​Pilita Clark in Paris: “Paris accord will not solve global warming but may spur renewable energy funding and hit fossil fuels”. But its wurbly.
* And then there was one. So, one more to go – Brian at Eli’s on Arch Coal bankruptcy.

Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/Log/2015 October 16

An update to the exciting Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/Log/2015 October 6. In which I noted a pile of folk such as Nir Shaviv‎ moving from category “Climate change skeptics (scientists)” to “Climate change deniers (scientists)”.

After that happened, some people pointed out that wasn’t quite right; and it was debated, and the result was to “delete” the category. So the net result is that a whole pile of people, e.g., Jan Veizer loses the “[[Category:Climate change skeptics (scientists)]]”. Which is probably a fair result.

Methane cracking in molten tin

12191076_995452183853048_333731833144786227_n Via the Economist (probably paywalled; Karlsruhe Institute of Technology PR will do as well): the idea is that instead of steam methane forming to produce hydrogen and CO2, you crack methane directly to hydrogen and carbon. The advantage is no CO2 to dispose of; instead you have carbon, which presumably has uses.

From their PR:

experimental reactor that could demonstrate the potential of methane cracking and overcome previous obstacles [carbon clogging and low conversion rates]. The starting point is a novel reactor design, as proposed by Carlo Rubbia and based on liquid metal technology. Fine methane bubbles are injected at the bottom of a column filled with molten tin. The cracking reaction happens when these bubbles rise to the surface of the liquid metal. Carbon separates on the surface of the bubbles and is deposited as a powder at the top end of the reactor when they disintegrate. This idea was put to the test during a series of experimental campaigns that ran from late 2012 to the spring of 2015 in KIT’s KALLA (KArlsruhe Liquid Metal LAboratory). Researchers were able to evaluate different parameters and options, such as temperature, construction materials and residence time. The final design is a 1.2-metre-high device made of a combination of quartz and stainless steel, which uses both pure tin and a packed bed structure consisting of pieces of quartz. “In the most recent experiments in April 2015, our reactor operated without interruptions for two weeks, producing hydrogen with a 78% conversion rate at temperatures of 1200°C. In particular the continuous operation is a decisive component of the kind of reliability that would be needed for an industrial-scale reactor” said Professor Thomas Wetzel, head of the KALLA laboratory at KIT. The innovative reactor is resistant to corrosion, and clogging is avoided because the microgranular carbon powder produced can be easily separated…

So, all very jolly, and perhaps it can be made to work. Clearly by not burning the carbon you’re losing part of the energy of the methane; and you have to supply heat for the cracking; though it did seem to me that might be naturally combined with a solar plant. Funnily enough, Rubbia has worked on that, too.