|The Week That Was
June 11, 2005
New on the Web: A sober and realistic analysis from an IPCC
supporter who has come to question some of its conclusions. Hans von Storch
and colleagues discuss the special problems
of climate science and the overselling of the threat of GH warming.
This week has been dominated by British PM Tony Blair's visit to Washington on June 7 and the release of a statement by the Royal Society (London) and other national academies of sciences on the "threat of global warming" and the need for immediate action. It was reported by the BBC (Item #1) and AP (Item #2).
But this blatantly politically motivated statement is also scientifically flawed. (See Items # 3,4,5 and 6).
While it gained support from the usual GW cheerleaders and even the more conservative Financial Times (Item #7), their emphasis and reliance on a non-existent scientific consensus is badly misplaced (Item #8).
In any case, the whole matter backfired. As discussed by Bronwen Maddox in The Times, Blair did not achieve his objective -- and that could and should have been predicted. Another fallout of this sorry affair: The academies, including the US National Academy of Sciences, have jeopardized their traditional role of providing unbiased advice on science - and on science only.
Meanwhile, the German edition of the Financial Times reported (Item #9) that Angela Merkel, likely to become chancellor if her Conservative party sweeps into power in the forthcoming elections, has serious doubts about the UN-Kyoto Protocol and promises a radical change in energy policy.
Here a voice from a European colleague: "I am pleased to see that Bush isn't going wobbly. Europe should thank him for that! Europe is in a mess and economically in steep decline. The last thing we need is higher energy prices. Angela Merkel has finally understood..."
SEPP comments: And so has Tony Blair See his remarks at the World
Economic Forum, reported in TWTW of April 2, 2005 (and Item #8).
Finally, heavy snows block mountain passes in Austria and Croatia
-- IN JUNE!! - and Somalia just had its first recorded snow fall.
BBC NEWS World The science academies of the world's leading nations have urged their governments to take prompt action to combat possible climate change. They have agreed that all countries could and should take cost-effective action to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
The statement was released on Wednesday by the academies of the G8 nations, including the UK's Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. It was signed by scientists from 11 countries, including China and India.
The academies are making their voices heard ahead of July's G8 meeting in Scotland, where the British Prime Minister has promised to put climate change high on the agenda.
Their statement read: "It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. Action taken now to reduce significantly the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lessen the magnitude and rate of climate change."
Lord May, the current President of the UK's Royal Society, added: "It is clear that world leaders, including the G8, can no longer use uncertainty about aspects of climate change as an excuse for not taking urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions."
He called US policy "misguided" and noted that crucial to the international acceptance of the statement was the fact that leading scientists from three of the world's biggest developing world emitters China, India and Brazil had also signed it.
But the statement was immediately rejected by the prominent American global warming sceptic Professor Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project based in Arlington, Virginia. He told the BBC News there was no firm evidence of global warming. He claimed the data was contradictory and there was no consensus within the scientific community.
He said: "There is simply no consensus. That's a myth. Even if there were a warming, it's a question of how much. Obviously, the greenhouse effect is real; the problem is the data do not show a significant warming since 1940."
In turn, Stephen Cox, executive secretary of the Royal Society, said contrarians such as Professor Singer were increasingly becoming isolated, and pointed to Tuesday's comments by George Bush as evidence that the White House, too, was shifting its position.
"If one listened very carefully to what President Bush said last night at his press conference, it appears to me there has been a change and that President Bush has accepted implicitly that there is a problem and has accepted therefore the advice of his own academy, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, who themselves signed this statement, that there is a really serious problem as far as climate change is concerned."
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/4616431.stm
LONDON, England (AP) -- Science academies of the G-8 countries joined Tuesday in a call for prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and warning that delays will be costly.
Lord May, president of Britain's Royal Society, said in releasing the statement that U.S. President George W. Bush's policy on climate change was "misguided" and ignored scientific evidence.
The statement published by the science academies of Britain, France, Russia, Germany, the U.S., Japan, Italy and Canada, along with those of Brazil, China and India, called on G-8 countries to "identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reductions in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
The statement called on the G-8 nations to "recognize that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost."
The statement was released as British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with Bush in Washington. Blair has made action on climate change, along with aid to Africa, his priorities for the July G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
"It is clear that world leaders, including the G-8, can no longer use uncertainty about aspects of climate change as an excuse for not taking urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions," Lord May said.
He noted that the statement was endorsed by science academies of Brazil, China and India -- nations "who are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the developing world."
"The current U.S. policy on climate change is misguided," May added.
"The Bush administration has consistently refused to accept the advice of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The NAS concluded in 1992 that, 'Despite the great uncertainties, greenhouse warming is a potential threat sufficient to justify action now,' by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
"Getting the U.S. onboard is critical because of the sheer amount of greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for. For example, the Royal Society calculated that the 13 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. between 1990 and 2002 is already bigger than the overall cut achieved if all the other parties to the Kyoto Protocol reach their targets."
The statement signed by the academies said evidence of global warming included "direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems."
The statement called on G-8 leaders and others to:
"Acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing."
"Launch an international study to help set emission targets to avoid unacceptable impacts.
"Identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
"Work with developing nations to build their scientific and technological capacity.
"Take a lead in developing and deploying clean energy technologies.
"Mobilize the science and technology community to enhance research and development. ***********************************************************
The Statement released by several national academies of sciences on June 7, 2005 is a politically motivated document and scientifically flawed.
The politics is blatantly obvious: the release date coincides with Prime Minister Blair's visit to Washington and his meeting with President Bush.
As the convenor of the G8 meeting in July in Scotland, Blair has already announced his two priorities: Global Warming and Africa. The Times (May 20, 2005) reports: "On climate change, Mr Blair has set three targets for Britain's [G8] presidency: to secure an agreement on the basic science; provide the foundation for further action; and to speed up measures needed to meet the threat of climate change. Other key topics will include counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and the Middle East." [Emphasis added].
We will make no further comments on the politics and strange choice of priorities except to note the memorable claim by Mr Blair's science adviser Sir David King that Global Warming presents a greater threat than terrorism.
But is there really a Global Warming? The Statement simply regurgitates the contentious conclusions of the IPCC report of 2001, which have been disputed by credible scientists. The so-called "scientific consensus" is pure fiction.
The claimed warming for the 20th century occurred mainly before 1940 when greenhouse-gas levels had not increased much. Since 1940, there has been a 35-year-long cooling trend -- and not much warming in the past quarter-century, according to global data from weather satellites.
To estimate temperatures for the year 2100, the Statement relies on conflicting answers -- 1.4 to 5.8 degC -- from several climate models. These differ by 400 percent; yet none of them have been validated against observations. Meanwhile, an extrapolation of the satellite data gives at most a fraction of a degree rise for the 21st century.
The IPCC claims to be able to reproduce the temperature history of the 20th century; but with the use of a number of adjustable parameters this becomes simply a curve-fitting exercise. The IPCC further claims that the 20th century was the warmest in the past 1000 years; but this myth is based on a seriously flawed publication. The IPCC also claims that sea levels will rise by up to nearly a meter by 2100; but every indication is that they will continue to rise inexorably - and much less -- as they have for nearly 20,000 years -- since the peak of the last ice age.
There is little left then of the "threat" of Global Warming.
So what do the academies want? What's all the hue and cry about? While
their Statement calls for G8 statesmen to "acknowledge the threat
of climate change," many of their recommendations are quite innocuous
and recognize the need for adaptation to inevitable future climate changes
from all sources, including natural causes. After clearing away a lot
of verbiage about "leadership," "mobilizing the scientific
community," "assisting developing nations," etc. etc.,
the action recommendation boils down to "identify cost-effective
steps" for energy conservation. Who can disagree with that? For once,
a real consensus.
S Fred Singer 6/7/2005
On June 7, 2005, a joint statement on climate change was issued by the national science academies of the G8 countries (the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the United States) along with China, India and Brazil. The statement pushed two primary points, 1) that climate change (as defined as human-induced alterations to the composition of the atmosphere) is real, and 2) something needs to be done about it.
The first point is not sufficient to justify the second.
The science academies proclaim "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action." This is akin to saying, "after years of careful study we have compiled enough scientific evidence to conclude that the sky is blue. Now we must do something about it." Obviously the call for action does not follow from the conclusion.
What is missing is the scientific assessment of the potential threat. Without the threat assessment, a simple scientific finding on its own doesn't warrant any change of action, no matter how scientifically groundbreaking it might be. For instance, how are our daily lives changed because of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity-arguably one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in our history? Virtually not at all. So unless the finding has an implication that impacts us in some way, we are not likely to change our actions.
This is the shortcoming of the joint science academies' statement. There is no threat assessment. The reason that there is no threat assessment is that there is no scientific consensus on what the threat level is-or at least one that could be agreed upon by the 11 signatories. The best that they could come up with was a smattering of climate changes that even they admit could be either beneficial or detrimental depending on their degree, timing, or location. "The projected changes in climate will have both beneficial and adverse effects at the regional level, for example on water resources, agriculture, natural ecosystems and human health. The larger and faster the changes in climate, the more likely it is that adverse effects will dominate."
As to what the likely changes in climate are going to be, the joint academies defer to the IPCC 2001 report and parrot "the average global surface temperatures will continue to increase to between 1.4 centigrade degrees and 5.8 centigrade degrees above 1990 levels, by 2100." This is of no use to anybody. The low end of this range represents a change that may be more beneficial than adverse, while the upper end of this range represents a situation that may prove to be more adverse than beneficial. Without some sort of scientific guidance-guidance that is absent from the statement of the joint academies-the finding alone, that "climate change is real" does not justify "taking prompt action."
The fact of the matter is that there does exist a growing body of scientific evidence that the climate changes in the coming decades will be modest and proceed at a rate that will lie somewhere near the low end of the IPCC projected temperature range. For instance, NASA's James Hansen-a leading climate change scientist-has analyzed trends in the emissions of greenhouse gases and concluded, in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that the IPCC warming scenarios "includes CO2 growth rates that we contend are unrealistically large." Based upon current trends in greenhouse gas emissions and the rate of atmospheric composition changes, Hansen argues that the future rate of global warming "can be predicted much more accurately than generally realized." Hansen predicts that for the next 50 years, the earth will experience a warming rate of 0.15 ± 0.05ºC per decade leading to a warming of 0.75 ± 0.25ºC. This is near the low end of the IPCC's range of warming rates. A similar conclusion is reached by studying the behavior of climate models. In aggregate, climate models project that the earth warms at a linear (constant) rate when greenhouse gases are increasingly added to the atmosphere. However, the models differ on what the actual warming rate is, but here, observations can help out. Observations of the earth's temperature show that during the past 30 years or so, a constant warming rate has been established having a value about 0.17ºC per decade. If the collection of the world's climate models is correct in form, then this established warming rate should be our best guidance as to what to expect in the future. A warming rate of 0.17ºC per decade corroborates Hansen's findings and further supports the low end of the IPCC projected warming range as the most likely course into the future.
Having established a future temperature rise near the low end of the IPCC projected range, then, according to the joint statement, there is less likelihood that the impacts will be adverse and in many regions they may prove beneficial. If this is the case, should the joint academies still push corrective actions? What if these actions reverse some the benefits? In the United States for example, the 20th century has seen an increase in precipitation of about 10 percent. In today's world where water resources are becoming more and more precious, are we willing to give back this extra water if it turns out to be related to global warming?
Obviously, the justification for action is far from clear.
That the national academies are pressing for action when the consequences
of such actions are far from being well understood is a clear indication
(along with the timing of the release of the statement-a month before
the next meeting of the G8) that the national academies have stepped beyond
the boundaries of science and into the arena of politics. This is a slippery
slope, because once the national science academies have taken a policy
position, they can no longer be considered an honest broker of scientific
fact, but instead, simply another advocacy group. And that's exactly what
this joint statement represents-an advocacy piece which selectively ignores
large portions of the overall scientific understanding of climate change
and its impacts in an effort to push for legislative action to limit greenhouse
gas emissions. In actuality, when all the evidence is accounted for, such
actions are far from justified.
The statement, co-signed by the national academies of the G8 nations plus China, Brazil and India, not only lays out uncontroversial scientific findings such the increase in carbon dioxide levels since 1750 and the warming of the earth by 0.6C over the last century, but goes beyond that to demand urgent policy action. This is an unfortunate development. By urging political action, the scientists are either attempting to assert that their knowledge of this issue trumps other political considerations and dictates that certain actions must be taken -- a view that is incompatible with democracy -- or are knowingly engaging in the democratic political process as policy advocates. Either view speaks badly of the academies' judgment.
This is because science academies enjoy their prestige and privileged position due to the assumption that policy makers can turn to them for advice on scientific issues. That means that, if a policy maker were to ask an academy for advice on global warming, it should respond with a summary of the state of the problem, a due warning as to the uncertainties inherent in the summary and perhaps a range of options, if requested, for actions that might be taken to mitigate the potential problem. It goes beyond its remit if it says that action must be taken, if it says that certain actions must be taken, and if it outlines a strategy for taking the actions, for those would not be advice, but advocacy.
The national academies have committed all three of these sins of advocacy. It is akin to an academy being asked about an outbreak of foot and mouth disease and advocating a cull of all potentially infected animals now, without also suggesting that a vaccination strategy could be progressively employed. By taking such a bold advocacy position, the academies have taken on the role of an environmental advocacy group. That is at the very least damaging to and at worst a significant distortion of the position of science in relation to public policy.
For, it has to be asked, what were the academies trying to achieve? The timing of the release - coincident with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to discuss global warming with President Bush in advance of the G8 summit -- seems clearly aimed at altering US policy. The President said, standing beside Mr. Blair, that, "I've always said [global warming is] a serious long-term issue that needs to be dealt with." He therefore acknowledges the threat of climate change as the academies demand. It is only the President's policies that the academies can object to.
The President has made it clear that he is not going to accept targets for greenhouse gas emissions, as the academies implicitly demand. They should realize why, when they talk about "cost-effective" steps. The injection of this one ounce of economic sense into the debate reveals why the academies' charge was doomed. Rational nations will not take action if the costs of the action outweigh the benefits. There is no doubt that simple emissions caps will bring severe economic hardship to the world's leading economies, which will make the entire world poorer. A poorer world is a less healthy world. Emissions reduction of the amount the academies seem to want now would literally impoverish the world.
This is all rather a gamble when one considers that even the academies admit considerable uncertainty over how much the world is going to warm, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimating increases of between 1.4 and 5.8 C over the next century. To be frank, this is an unacceptably vague basis on which to take the actions recommended. It is not unreasonable for the President to say, "Easier to solve a problem when you know a lot about it" when the margin of error of predictions is some 400 percent. Increasing our knowledge over how much the world is likely to warm will, to use the academies' phrasing, "enable nations to avoid economic impacts deemed unacceptable."
The scientists also point out that delayed action may incur a greater cost. The reverse is, of course, also true. Expenditure now for benefits in the future means foregoing potentially long-lasting benefits that can be bought now. Eradicating malaria now, for instance, would be a much better use of the world's money than spending large amounts to slightly reduce its incidence in the future by indirect means.
The academies' statement is not going to change any of this. Only better information about likely (not possible) effects than we have at present will change minds. That is why the statement represents the high-water mark of climate alarmism. The statement is strongly worded. Yet if this is the best that advocates of urgent greenhouse gas emissions limitation can do, they stand no chance of changing the current Administration's mind.
For that matter, the Europeans may well be thinking again. Tony Blair, who needs some sort of agreement to announce at the G8 meeting, will almost certainly make all the concessions to America, rather than the other way round. European nations like Spain who are suddenly realizing that meeting their Kyoto targets will involve real hardship, are almost certain to miss them, contributing to the EU as a whole missing its collective target. In Germany, Angela Merkel, likely to be the country's next chancellor, has questioned the value of the Kyoto protocol and stated that she wants to reduce the eco-tax and energy prices. Climate alarmists can hope for no relief from Europe.
The scientists should retire from the battlefield now. They have picked
the wrong fight at the wrong time. Their intervention has done nothing
to alter the political landscape except confirm that it is economists,
not scientists, who are the most important figures in deciding whether
anything will be done now about global warming. The alarmists will fight
on, as Lee did after Gettysburg for two more years, but barring unforeseen
political events, their war is lost.
Sir - As someone whom the philosopher David Hume would have called a "mitigated", or moderate, sceptic, I am concerned about Tony Blair's G8 tinkering with climate (News, June 8).
In Britain, global warming is a faith. Here the science is legitimised by the myth. This is something that even our august Royal Society has failed to grasp. Too many of us believe we are making an independent scientific assessment, when, in reality, we have subsumed Hume-scepticism to the demands of faith.
The sceptic has to distinguish global warming from climate change.
Climate change has to be broken down into three questions: "Is climate changing and in what direction?" "Are humans influencing climate change, and to what degree?" And: "Are humans able to manage climate change predictably by adjusting one or two factors out of the thousands involved?"
The most fundamental question is: "Can humans manipulate climate predictably?" Or, more scientifically: "Will cutting carbon dioxide emissions at the margin produce a linear, predictable change in climate?" The answer is "No".
In so complex a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system as climate, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something.
This is the cautious science; the rest is dogma.
And what "better" climate will Mr Blair produce? Doing something might lead to worse. Moreover, consensus is not science. Consensus would have entrenched eugenics.
At present, this basic question has been lost in the clamour "to
do something at all costs" and to damn those who doubt we can.
The warning could hardly be clearer. The science academies of the G8 nations, including the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK's Royal Society, along with their counterparts in China, India and Brazil, have stated unequivocally that the scientific evidence about man-made climate change is now clear enough for there to be no further excuses about the urgent need for cost-effective steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientific consensus, in other words, has hardened. Global warming is happening. A primary cause is carbon dioxide emissions. Human agency is at the base of it all. The urgent need is to reduce the causes and prepare for the consequences of climate change. While our climate system is too complex to square away some conflicting data, these uncertainties no longer furnish an alibi for inaction.
There is, however, one hold-out, and unfortunately it is to be found in the White House where - in spite of the unprecedented statement by the G8 scientists ahead of next month's Gleneagles summit - George W. Bush, the US president, insists we still do not know enough about this literally world-changing phenomenon.
The originally esoteric notion that carbon dioxide emissions have a greenhouse effect on the atmosphere has been around since the 19th century. But in the past decade, and above all the past year, hard evidence has emerged about global warming's effects on the Arctic, the Antarctic and the oceans. Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased from 280 parts per million in 1750, before the industrial revolution, to more than 375ppm now, causing the observable rise in average temperatures.
One need not share the sense of impending cataclysm pumped out from the green fringes of this debate to realise that the mainstream has moved in their direction - exposing the remaining sceptics as an extremist rearguard.
The news that White House officials with no scientific training have been editing administration climate studies to downplay or even eliminate the link between fossil fuel emissions and global warming reinforces this impression. This practice looks analogous to the way some in the Bush administration tried to tailor intelligence to fit their preconceived theses on Iraq. But reality is not so easily refuted.
The US has shown by, for example, its measures against pollution that it can trailblaze on environmental issues. The NAS has led on climate change. It is now time that the administration acknowledged that climate change is a global phenomenon in which it has a duty to cease obfuscating and show leadership. Tony Blair, as current British steward of both the G8 and, from next month, the European Union, is right to insist on the importance of global warming.
Of course we must resolve the uncertainties of this phenomenon. But what
the scientists are telling us clearly is that we already have the duty
The claimed scientific consensus simply does not exist. There is not even agreement on whether there is significant ongoing climate warming; the existing data are conflicting, according to a study by the US National Academy of Sciences. A recently published claim of such a consensus (Science 3 Dec. 2004) has now been exposed as a piece of sloppy research -- and this is a kind interpretation.
There is no point to bashing the White House. Even Mr Blair does not believe in the existence of a consensus. Here from his Davos speech, 26 January 2005:
"So it would be true to say the evidence [on anthropogenic global
warming] is still disputed. It would be wrong to say that the evidence
of danger is not clearly and persuasively advocated by a very large number
of entirely independent and compelling voices. They are the majority.
The majority is not always right; but they deserve to be listened
to. However, behind the dispute over science is another concern. Political
leaders worry they are being asked to take unacceptable falls in economic
growth and living standards to tackle climate change. My view is that
if we put forward, as a solution to climate change, something which involves
drastic cuts in growth or standards of living, it matters not how justified
it is, it simply won't be agreed to." (Emphases added)
Angela Merkel, the chancellor candidate of Germany's conservative party, announced a radical change in Germany's energy policy in the event of an election victory. She plans to significantly ease restrictions on power station operators and the energy industry.
"There will be significant corrections, if we receive the confidence of the popular vote", Merkel said on Wednesday in Berlin. The high energy prices have became a "growth risk" for the German economy. Among other things, Merkel promised to reduce the burden posed by the eco-tax.
The boss of the CDU wants to correct substantial projects of the red-green energy policy on emission trading, nuclear energy, climate change and the promotion of renewable energies. Above all, the operators of coal and nuclear power stations would profit most from such changes.
In addition, Merkel plans to scrutinise the targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions set by the Kyoto Protocol: "We need a Kyoto plus." The US, who do not want to limit their emissions, would have to be included. According to Merkel, the red-green plans for stricter targets of the emission trade starting from 2008 would be also changed. Only Germany and Great Britain have committed themselves to lower their greenhouse gas output in this context. This, however, represents a competitive disadvantage. "National politics are not the correct answer to globalisation and global challenges," said Merkel with view of CO2 emissions in developing countries....