The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Empty Kerfuffles

More noise on the climate front this morning.

Somehow Mark Lynas has been roped into a fuss about IPCC by Steve McIntyre. Let me let everyone in on the Rule of McIntyre: no matter what he says, there is vastly less to it than he makes out.

It is true that Pachauri wrote a half-hearted introduction to a Greenpeace position paper in 2008:



and it's true that the Greenpeace scenario, claiming a possibility of nearly 80% renewables by 2050, was included among the scenarios in a recent IPCC report. From the Summary for PolicyMakers:

"More than half of the scenarios show a contribution from RE [renewable energy sources] in excess of a 17% share of primary energy supply in 2030 rising to more than 27% in 2050. The scenarios with the highest RE shares reach approximately 43% in 2030 and 77% in 2050. [10.2, 10.3]"

There also appears to have been an over-optimistic press release somewhere, which I haven't seen. McIntyre concludes not just with the arguable:
The public and policy-makers are starving for independent and authoritative analysis of precisely how much weight can be placed on renewables in the energy future. It expects more from IPCC WG3 than a karaoke version of Greenpeace scenario.

It is totally unacceptable that IPCC should have had a Greenpeace employee as a Lead Author of the critical Chapter 10, that the Greenpeace employee, as an IPCC Lead Author, should (like Michael Mann and Keith Briffa in comparable situations) have been responsible for assessing his own work and that, with such inadequate and non-independent ‘due diligence’, IPCC should have featured the Greenpeace scenario in its press release on renewables.
but no less than
Everyone in IPCC WG3 should be terminated and, if the institution is to continue, it should be re-structured from scratch.
Now, I agree with Lynas that WG 2 and WG 3 are problematic and inauspicious company for the remarkable effort that the WG 1 provides. And press releases for scientific output just really ought to stop altogether. On the other hand, whether Greenpeace itself is in some sense a disreputable outfit as a purveyor of research seems a matter of innuendo rather than established fact to me.

But there is really no sign in any of this that the report or the SPM are tainted or in any way inappropriate.

I'll admit, WUWT-guy Charles-the-Moderator makes an interesting and amusing point:
Contest, I’ll get the ball rolling.

1. We could have a self-sufficient Lunar colony by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

2. Fusion power could generate all the energy the world needs by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

3. AIDS, All Cancers, all infectious disease, and aging could be cured by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

4. Proof of the existence of God could be established by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

5. Proof of the nonexistence of God could be established by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.
Yes, of course. The first two are, most likely, literally true. And the point is, we could get to 100% renewables by 2050 if we decided to. The "cost" is what confuses matters. It seems to me that we don't know how to think on these time scales.

I share Lynas' dismay at the Fukushima disaster's political implications for our future. But to respond by parroting McIntyre is no help.



An even more ludicrous teapot-tempest is the recent publication of speculation that the sun is going into a new Maunder-like minimum. The prospect is being met with nothing short of glee, as if the sun going dim refutes the greenhouse effect somehow.

Of course, the forcing from a dim sun on historical scales is pretty small beer compared to the anthropogenic greenhouse forcing; it's unlikely that this will have any bearing on our climate trajectory. But even if nature decides to complicate our lives with a solar dimming far more severe than anything for which evidence exists, it will only make matters messier.

There is no cancelling out anthropogenic forcing. There is only avoiding it or removing it. Geoengineering by the sun will no more save us than other global-scale geoengineering. There is nothing to celebrate in this news except the opportunity for shallow sarcasm.

All of this is just distraction and posturing. Anything to avoid grappling with the problem, I suppose. Mark Lynas, everybody, please keep your eye on the ball. Distraction is the name of their game.


Image: logo of the Red Herring coffeehouse, Urbana IL

19 comments:

Jon said...

If it weren't for his arrogant "right about everything" schtick, I might feel sorry for James Delingpole that he's significantly younger than say Monckton and Plimer and will probably not be able to retire, let alone die, before everyone in the world realises how wrong he has been about climate change.

Grypo said...

"Let me let everyone in on the Rule of McIntyre: no matter what he says, there is vastly less to it than he makes out."

Not true! Plagiarism is okay, as long as it's a report that "reproduces" his work.

Seriously, though, there should be considerable worry on this because the media is as notoriously bad as McIntyre at putting events in proper perspective, or doing due diligence to get the bottom of the problem. Controversy sells. Why find out the truth when it will just go against sales. Curiosity...nah... the public will eat this one up.

I'm going to sleep for a while. Wake me up when skeptical blogging force has sweat this one off.

Anders Martinsson said...

An other author of chapter 10 is
Wright, Raymond M. Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ)
http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/authors/chapter-10
http://www.pcj.com/dnn/Library/Publications/tabid/78/Default.aspx

McIntyre seems to have missed him. Strange isn't it?

Steve Bloom said...

Jon, consider the possibility that most of their fans know they're wrong but applaud them anyway because of a calculation that first-worlders won't be suffering very soon. The funny weather does make the fans nervous, though.

Steve Bloom said...

In case you weren't aware, Michael, ctm is Mosher's roommate.

dhogaza said...

This story puts the solar minimum in perspective, refreshingly ....

'However, the temperature change associated with any reduction in sunspot activity would likely be minimal and not enough to offset the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming, according to scientists.

"Recent solar 11-year cycles are associated empirically with changes in global surface temperature of 0.1 Celsius," said Judith Lean, a solar physicist with the US Naval Research Laboratory.'

dana1981 said...

I'm with you on the WG3 report, mt. I'm having a hard time seeing what the controversy is about, other than McIntyre and Lynas apparently disliking Greenpeace. As you say, aren't Greenpeace members allowed to perform research too?

Heck, there have been several studies concluding that we could meet 100% of global energy demands with renewable sources by 2050 (i.e. Jacobson and Delucchi from just wind, water, and solar). 77% isn't even that aggressive.

Lynas didn't raise any concrete criticisms of the report, either. Totally overblown reactions if you ask me.

hengist mcstone said...

I certainly don't know who should and who shouldn't be serving on the IPCC but it's a question providing easy meat for the deny-o-sphere.
FWIW Ive started a sourcewatch called Skeptical and Industrial IPCC Contributors
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Skeptical_and_Industrial_IPCC_Contributors

Andy S said...

I'm sympathetic to Lynas's take on this. This is an attack on the integrity and impartiality of the process at the IPCC. You can't just respond to an attack like this by saying that the outcome was OK. You have to either say that the IPCC status quo is fine or accept the criticism and admit that the existing process needs to be fixed.

I also think it's a tactical error to respond to McIntyre's ad hominem case against Teske with a tu quoque attack on McIntyre. That's just choosing to fight on his turf.

Yeah, the facts are still on our side. But they have always been on our side and look how ineffective we have been in the political battle, especially in N America.

Dan Olner said...

Andy S: "Yeah, the facts are still on our side. But they have always been on our side and look how ineffective we have been in the political battle, especially in N America."

Exactly. The first thing the Lynas article made me think of was the 20:20 'exploding kids' video - an absolute gift to our opponents, something which would have been obvious to anyone who's had dealings with them. The video was only innocuous if you'd failed to understand what's actually happening.

My worry is that the same thing seems to apply with this IPCC story: given everything that's happened, how can an understanding of the political opposition... oh, now I write it like that, I wonder: am I saying the IPCC needs to define itself against its political opponents? That would make it politicised by default. But surely it's possible to *not be completely naive?*

Gotta go sit in a corner now and rub fibreglass into my head.

Lou Grinzo said...

Steve: I have no doubt that you're right and some deniers give themselves permission to do their thing because it won't eat them personally. Just another flavor of greed.

In general, I think of the deniersphere as exhibiting and arising from a confluence of motivations:

For the greedy, it's money, and there's no such thing as winning too much.

For the ideologues, it's a religion, so they Must Win.

For the rank and file, it's a sport, so the battle is more fun than actually winning, and they don't see the consequences of playing the game.

EliRabett said...

Once more you fall into Fritz Haber's fallacy, that the anti-semites were going to give him and his a pass because they recognized his contributions to the nation. WGII and WGIII are now about where WGI was in 1990 because people are getting around to the stuff This is science bucky.

Mark Buckner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nawagadj said...

A little off the topic.

There's an 'in-your-eye' from Judith for you Michael.

Judy has got her 'italian flag' into a journal, apparently.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, I hope she makes more sense than she did in her blog piece. A reference, please?

nawagadj said...

"For more on the italian flag, see my in press paper in Climatic Change
http://judithcurry.com/2011/03/24/reasoning-about-climate-uncertainty-draft/

Good enough for Climatic Change, not good enough for Annan, Tobis and Stoat. You be the judge."

Michael Tobis said...

Curry mentions the flag in a cursory literature review and does not repeat or defend her elementary mistakes:

===

An influence diagram is a generalization of a Bayesian Network that represents the relationships and interactions between a series of propositions or evidence (Spiegelhalter, 1986). Cui and Blockley (1990) introduce interval probability three-valued logic into an influence diagram with an explicit role for uncertainties (the so-called “Italian flag”) that recognizes that evidence may be incomplete or inconsistent, of uncertain quality or meaning. Combination of evidence proceeds generally as a Bayesian combination, but combinations of evidence are modified by the factors of sufficiency, dependence and necessity. Practical applications to the propagation of evidence using interval probability theory are described by Bowden (2004) and Egan (2005).

An application of influence diagrams and interval probability theory to a climate relevant problem is described by Hall et al. (2006), regarding a study commissioned by the UK Government that sought to establish the extent to which very severe floods in the UK in October–November 2000 were attributable to climate change. Hall et al. used influence diagrams to represent the evidential reasoning and uncertainties in responding to this question. Three alternative approaches to the mathematization of uncertainty in influence were compared, including Bayesian belief networks and two interval probably methods (Interval Probability Theory and Support Logic Programming). Hall et al. argue that “ interval probabilities represent ambiguity and ignorance in a more satisfactory manner than the conventional Bayesian alternative . . . and are attractive in being able to represent in a straightforward way legitimate imprecision in our ability to estimate probabilities.”
===

Whether this is a useful review will have to await examination of the references which I didn't see provided.

But on its face either she has abandoned her self-contradictory exposition for this paper or the reviewers have got rid of it. Which, either way, is a good thing.

Dan Olner said...

Reading Romm on this, it occurs to me: wouldn't it be a much better idea for the IPCC to restrict itself to the physics and to the best science we can manage on impacts, rather than solutions?

I'm a believer in the merits of *trying* to maintain a positive/normative distinction, and the further one gets into solutions, the more there are going to be as many solutions as there are political viewpoints. Shouldn't the IPCC keep a clear line between itself and that world?

Hank Roberts said...

> ... restrict itself to the
> physics and to the best science
> we can manage on impacts, rather
> than solutions?

No: http://inesap.org/node/106

Seriously, read it through carefully and think about the quotations before decrying the notion that physicists have learned they have good reasons to always think about solutions.