Normally I don't offer a guest posting to people who have contributed to Watt's site.
But I did take on Alberto Z Comendador at some length in Medium, and he has asked to continue the conversation. His response was too long for a Blogger comment, so I agreed to post it. Also he seems rather polite for a Wattsian, and indeed given my approach to him seems rather open-minded. Also his counterarguments here show that he has been thinking about the problem - agree or otherwise these comments are not shallow or ideological.
Perhaps one can hope against hope for some meaningful communication, or at least some exchange of opinions that doesn't descend into rudeness.
I encourage anyone participating to take special care to be polite in this case. I will moderate this thread rather fiercely, though as usual, not necessarily quickly, with my apologies to all for delay in removing ad hominem attacks and polarizing rhetorical flourishes.
Correspondents are reminded that Blogger doesn't allow editing of comments - it's either all or nothing. Please speak as if you were debating with a cousin at Thanksgiving dinner at your grandmother's house, and drop the sneering before you post, or your effort may be in vain.
Hi, first of all thanks for letting me post here.
So it's not like I disagree with the points. It's just that I don't think they really matter.
1) '2 degrees C is claimed to be “Thermageddon”'
It's true that mainstream climate scientists usually steer clear of doomsday rhetoric (well maybe Hansen is an exception but he's sort of retired). This doesn't really matter, in my view, because the people striking deals do engage in this sort of thing.
500 days to avoid climate chaos. You can find plenty of similar statements from Kerry, Figueres, etc. So it's not like this stuff comes only from Bill McKibben and his ilk.
And not even this Fabius gentleman explicitly said 2ºC = disaster. The proposition sounds ridiculous when phrased that way. But many alarmists (because that's the only way to describe Fabius, Kerry and others) engage in a sleight of hand to IMPLY that, in fact, 2ºC or a similar temperature rise is equivalent to some sort of mega-catastrophe.
Think about it: what happens if a deal isn't hammered out in COP21? Well it could be done in COP22, or 23, by which time CO2 concentrations will have risen, uhm, 8ppm? That is to say, 2%. How much additional warming does that 'lock in'?
Now, it's true that depending on the ECS one chooses to believe, CO2 concentrations could in a couple decades reach concentrations that would make a rise of 2ºC (or a similar figure) inevitable, unless massive emission reductions are implemented soon. So it's true that this may indeed be the last chance to remain within one of these targets... but when people say something like 'we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos' and in fact they mean 'we have 500 days to avoid 2ºC', or 1.9ºC, or 2.3ºC or whatever similar number, the only conclusion one can draw is that the speaker is making an equivalence between 'climate chaos' and said temperature rise.
Like I said, they don't state it explicitly but the implication is there. Somehow, 'we have 500 days to avoid 2ºC' doesn't quite cut it, because anyone who has any idea of the numbers involved knows there isn't anything special about this ‘tipping point’ – the deal could simply be signed 0.2ºC later.
At the end of this post I will revisit this exercise, to find out just how much 'urgency' there has been in the issue since Exxon ‘discovered’ climate change in 1977.
2) 'Impacts of a Given Warming are implied Instantaneous'
True that many of the impacts may simply be taking longer and thus haven't been detected/analyzed yet, but what can one do when talking about this? Other than adding the caveat that 'bad stuff may just take longer to happen'.
3) 'Damage is Implied to be Linear with Temperature Change'
Not really. I actually 100% with what you wrote here - obviously temperature increases (or decreases) don't work linearly, just like beer, or eggs or exercise don't benefit/harm you linearly. Actually this might be one of the few points of certainty: a very large change in temps will be harmful, no matter the sign. 30ºC up would be devastating, and 30ºC down would kill us all. Or nearly all.
My point is that 1ºC is a small change. Perhaps an additional degree is 10 times more harmful, or perhaps the first degree is actually beneficial while the second is harmful (in which case the 'x times more harmful' comparison doesn't make sense). My point was simply that, given the lack of evidence that this first 1C rise (over 130 years) has actually caused a lot of damage, one should not be especially worried about one degree more.
4) 'IPCC (AR5) Report is implied Contemporaneous with 1 C global warming'
Since the news started with Met Office I checked HadCRUT. Not much happening - temps were high in the 2010 El Niño, then went down, then went to a record high in the 2015 El Niño. So I don't see how this affects the overall picture – perhaps by 2010 temp rise had been 0.9C instead of 1C, and it will go down to 0.9C again with La Niña, then 0.95C or whatever. Not much to write about.
5) 'Statistical Analyses are presumed Instantaneous'
They are not instantaneous, but in the US temp records go back to the XIX century. So do hurricane, tornado, and precipitation/flood records. So in fact the records on weather events are among the longest-running in the whole climate field. It's not like satellite temps or CO2 concentrations which have only been known for a few decades.
This issue reminds of a comment Willis Eschenbach made about solar-inspired theories of climate change in WUWT.
More or less it read: people have been looking for a correlation between the sun and stuff on Earth for 200 years... if it was there, wouldn’t we have found it already?
In the case of warming, there are several variables (temperature itself, moisture, pressure) and one can slice the data in pretty much infinite ways. Something similar happens with solar-related stuff, as anyone looking for a ‘connection’ can choose among TSI, hotspots, the 11-year cycle, cosmic rays, whatever – and then you can choose from different datasets and slice and dice the numbers. These things are then theorized to cause reduced cloud cover… or something about the sea level… or something about temperature itself… or anything else, really.
When you have a big number of ‘factors’ that can correlate to an infinite number of things happening (‘increased tornado activity in Norway during autumn months’), of course you are going to find something. It would be astonishing if nothing correlated with anything else. And now, I won’t pretend I understand the stats involved, but anybody reading a discussion can guess who talks straight and who talks dodgy… and I can tell that after every Willis article dissecting a paper solar-induced weather, the authors of said papers either don’t show up at all or offer only hand-waving responses.
So this non-scientist thinks warming-induced bad weather is in a similar situation to the solar-induced kind. Of course one cannot totally close the door on a hypothesis. Perhaps people have been crunching the temperature-vs-weather-disaster numbers the wrong way all this time and there is in fact a connection... but the evidence in that direction isn't strong.
6) 'CO2 is presumed to be on Trial'
So this is probably the only point where we disagree. You say: 'the questions we should be asking ourselves are at about what level our monkeying with [the effect of CO2] is risky. And so far, the vast predominance of evidence is that we are near this point'. Then you cite the corresponding IPCC chapters.
Let me be honest, I have read chunks of climate papers here and there, but I don't follow the issue in nearly enough detail to talk about that (and I haven't read the IPCC stuff beyond the SPM). So I would prefer to shut up on this point, though I would be grateful if you could summarize what these chapters have found that is so concerning... and
I know it's a complex issue, but if the IPCC's conclusions on extreme weather can be summarized, I suppose this can as well.
7) 'Absence of Proof is conflated with Proof of Absence'
True, but again, other than adding the caveat that 'X may well have happened – it's just that we cannot prove it', what can one say?
Absence of proof is not proof of absence... nor is it a reason to do anything in particular.
8) About 'Thermageddon', well, some in the climate debate are in fact alarmists who spin every single storm as a 'fingerprint' of the damage we're doing to Mother Nature. I don't think there is a conspiracy, but I do find it ridiculous – hence the term.
Does this mean I'm mocking anyone who is concerned by global warming, wants to reduce GHG emissions, etc? No.
Going back to the 'Exxon knew' issue, one of the 'smoking guns' is a presentation somebody made at the company in 1977. Now, you'll be asking what the hell does this have to do with your article, as you didn't even mention this.
Let's do a thought experiment. Suppose that upon seeing this massively speculative, handwaving presentation with temperature projections that turned out to be massively wrong, Exxon execs have a change of heart and decide to give up on oil and gas. After doing so they convince the rest of the world to give up on fossil fuels altogether or nearly so, and emissions are reduced to a nadir - just enough to offset CO2 concentration declines, thus leaving us with 330ppm nowadays, just like in 1977 or so. Forget for a second that if we cannot get rid of fossil fuels now, and it would have been a tad more difficult in 1977 due to the price of batteries and solar panels and all.
Today we're at 400ppm, so the increase has been 21%, or 28% logarithmically. With ECS of 2ºC (most recent studies are around that figure), these 38 years have 'locked in' an additional... 0.56C.
So it looks like giving up on fossil fuels 38 years ago wouldn’t have changed things that much, and waiting a decade to sign that climate deal isn’t going to hurt much either. I’ll tell John Kerry if I see him.
And sorry if some of my tweets seemed offensive. Things can sound very brusque in twitter.