Sunday, December 20, 2009

Climategate and Economics

One of the longstanding themes that I have considered is that there has been a fundamental shift of wealth creation from the East to the West. In that spirit, I will wade into an area that would not normally be the subject of an economics blog; the rather contentious subject of 'climate change', or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

Longstanding readers will know that I am an AGW skeptic, as I posted to this effect in my consideration of reform of energy markets in the UK. I return to the subject following reading an article in the Daily Telegraph, which reveals the economic outcome of climate change policy. The article is by Christopher Booker, and describes how a UK steel plant is closing due to subsidies provided by climate change policy:

The real gain to Corus from stopping production at Redcar, however, is the saving it will make on its carbon allowances, allocated by the EU under its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). By ceasing to emit a potential six million tonnes of CO2 a year, Corus will benefit from carbon allowances which could soon, according to European Commission projections, be worth up to £600 million over the three years before current allocations expire.

But this is only half the story. In India, Corus's owner, Tata, plans to increase steel production from 53 million tonnes to 124 million over the same period. By replacing inefficient old plants with new ones which emit only "European levels" of CO2, Tata could claim a further £600 million under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, which is operated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – the organisers of the Copenhagen conference. Under this scheme, organisations in developed countries such as Britain – ranging from electricity supply companies to the NHS – can buy the right to exceed their CO2 allocations from those in developing countries, such as India. The huge but hidden cost of these "carbon permits" will be passed on to all of us, notably through our electricity bills.

The Western world is facing an era of new competition from the rising stars of the East, and the policies that are being developed to fight 'climate change' are a catalyst to the deindustrialisation of the West. It is for this reason that I am wading into the debate, despite the likelihood that I will lose readers that are 'believers'.

I would expect that, as most of my readers are well informed, they will be aware of the 'climategate' scandal, in which emails have been hacked from the Climate Research Unit (CRU). The emails suggest that there has been manipulation of climate research data, a corruption of the academic journal system, and attempts to hide the data used in climate modelling from critics. For those that have not taken a particular interest in the debate over AGW, these may have been a revelation. For those of us who have followed the debate, the hacked emails are simply confirmation of what we already believed; the 'science' has been fixed.

For those in the AGW camp, there have been attempts to minimise the fallout from climategate, with suggestions that, whilst not a good exemplar of science, the incident does not change the underlying reality of AGW. The problem that this argument faces is that climategate has revealed to the world that the evidence for AGW has been the subject of manipulation, and that the science just does not stack up. Of particular importance in this debate is the problem of the (in)famous 'hockey stick' chart of global temperature, and the removal from the chart of the medieval warm period. This is a critical part of the debate. The hockey stick chart shows an unprecedented rise in global temperature over the last century, but the medieval warm period shows that the world temperature was at the same temperature in the medieval period.

The unprecedented warming on the hockey stick chart has been presented as the 'smoking gun' of AGW, and much of the veracity of the AGW argument must rest on this chart. The trouble is that this chart is at the heart of the data manipulation, and this has been revealed by the tireless efforts of Steve McIntyre. A summary of some of the work can be found in an article in the UK's Daily Mail newspaper, which shows how data that contradicts AGW has been hidden. The full details of McIntyre's studies can be found on the Climate Audit website, and I would recommend a long browse if you wish to understand the full argument (it is not an easy read, but worthwhile).

The climategate emails have had further repercussions, such as the publication of a paper by the Russian Institute of Economic Analysis. In the paper, they investigate the use of data by the CRU in climate models, and have found that the CRU cherry picked data in Russia such that they excluded any information which might contradict the AGW thesis. A translation of the paper is provided here, and I would again recommend reading it. It is easy to follow, and the analysis is very clear and convincing.

As one analyst in the Wall Street Journal has suggested, climategate is just the tip of the iceberg, and the full impact has yet to be felt. In particular, the refusal of the AGW proponents to share data, and the destruction of data has become an issue. The following is a quote from the article:

Which leaves researchers free to withhold information selectively from critics, as when CRU director Phil Jones told Australian scientist Warwick Hughes in a 2005 email: "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it."

An interesting question. Often, when independents obtain raw temperature data or computer codes, they do uncover flaws, thus advancing climate science—the "sunlight" now shining on CRU's data and codes is doing just that. That's what motivated Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Christopher Horner to request a slew of information from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which has already corrected its temperature records thanks to Mr. McIntyre's probing. Mr. Horner told us he wants "an entire accounting of rolling, relevant data, adjustments, codes, annotations and of course internal discussion about the frequent revisions."

Two years later, the requests are unmet. A NASA spokesman said "We're clearly late, but we are working on it." Probably wise, considering Mr. Horner is set to sue, and two U.S. senators have asked NASA's Inspector General to investigate.

There is also the question of the way in which research that contradicts the 'consensus' has been excluded from academic journals. Patrick Michaels, a former Professor of Environmental Sciences writes of the way in which the views of skeptical scientists have been excluded from the literature, saying:
The result of all this is that our refereed literature has been inestimably damaged, and reputations have been trashed. Mr. Wigley repeatedly tells news reporters not to listen to "skeptics" (or even nonskeptics like me), because they didn't publish enough in the peer-reviewed literature—even as he and his friends sought to make it difficult or impossible to do so.
Again, I would recommend reading the article in full, as it highlights the many manipulations of the journal system. As if this were not bad enough, there has been the doctoring of climate change articles on the Wikipedia website, with William Connolley acting as a gatekeeper on the site to prevent any skeptical arguments appearing, for example preventing the medieval warm period from appearing (see here and here):
All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.
At this stage, you may note that the medieval warm period really is at the heart of the debate. The problem for the AGW proponents is that it just will not disappear. However, as the hockey stick chart's credibility collapses, the AGW proponents are now seeking to shift attention away from the problem. This is from the Financial Times:
Myles Allen, head of climate dynamics at Oxford University, explains: “The reason the hockey stick will only ever play a peripheral role in understanding current climate change is that we don’t know what the drivers of climate were before 1900. For instance, we don’t know what the sun was doing back in 1100.” Cautious scientists prefer to restrict the case for climate change to what we know from instrumental data: temperatures have been rising over the past 120 years; carbon dioxide levels have been increasing; and scientists have established that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causes warming.
It is all rather convenient, is it not? As the credibility of the hockey stick dissolves, the focus shifts to the instrumental readings. However, if the medieval warm period took place before industrialisation, then there is no reason why there should be concern about warming in this century (if there has been any warming).

If you doubt the dogmatism and unreasoned thinking of the AGW proponents, you may wish to read an article which serves to highlight how the thinking of these so called 'scientists' can not be moved. It is not a skeptical article, but shows how data that contradicts the AGW thesis is rejected. A couple of extracts follow:
Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.


One possibility is that the sea has, in fact, warmed and expanded — and scientists are somehow misinterpreting the data from the diving buoys.

But if the aquatic robots are actually telling the right story, that raises a new question: Where is the extra heat all going?

Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says it's probably going back out into space. The Earth has a number of natural thermostats, including clouds, which can either trap heat and turn up the temperature, or reflect sunlight and help cool the planet.

Somewhere, the obvious answer has been lost; the buoys are telling the story accurately, and there has just been no warming.

It is impossible in one short post to fully detail the many and sometimes complex arguments against the AGW thesis. I have instead (I hope) aimed to identify the problem that the 'scientific consensus' is actually based upon fraud and manipulation. I can not prove that AGW does not exist, and can not in a short article present as much detail as would be ideal. What I hope to do is shift some views in light of the economic impacts of the legislation and policy that is being enacted. The article by Christopher Booker just highlights one example of the consequences of the fraud.

The consequences go far further. As the West moves to ever more expensive forms of energy generation, the cost of manufacturing will increase. In my article on energy reform (also read the notes section), I showed why wind farms are an absolutely useless and horrendously expensive method of generating electricity. There are ever more proposals and resource being poured into these kinds of projects. It is resource which, in an increasingly competitive world, that can not be wasted. The West can not afford to follow this path.

I have consistently argued that the West is facing an economic crisis resultant from competition from the East, and that the financial crisis was just a symptom of a deeper problem. In order to face the increased competition, the Western world must become leaner and more competitive. There may have been a time when we could have afforded the senseless cost of the fraud of AGW, but that time is not now.

I can only hope that the revelations of climategate will finally see a bright light finally shine on the fraud of AGW.


  1. I forgot to mention that I posted 2 comments on the Guardian comment is free website highlighting some of the points I have made here. One comment was deleted by moderators on the site, leaving a record of the deletion, and the other was deleted with no record left. There was no bad language, and the subject was 'on topic'. Rather curious, don't you think?

  2. I think that one of the UK's prestigious Royal Societies should endeavour to prosecute those behind the climategate emails.

  3. The problem about 'climate change' is that it used to be called exclusively 'global warming' until the planet stopped warming. That immediately sets alarm bells ringing - this is then compounded by Climategate and the manipulation of data in order to get the right answer.

    These two things alone should make anyone sceptical. Sceptical should mean that that we just reserve judgement until the data can be presented as proven.

    The fact that no one has ever presented the information in a way that can't be challenged also makes one sceptical.

    I am more than happy to reduce dependance on fossil fuels which are finite resources and are invariably supplied by countries which could well hold us to ransom. Energy security makes sense even at a higher cost in the short term.

    What I don't want to be doing is handing over large sums of money to foreign countries and companies on the back of something that is just not proven. Who exactly is policing the use of all this money ?

    I'm not really a conspiracy theorist but the whole Climate Change is beginning to make me think I might be wrong on that !!

  4. So many people invested their personal sense of enlightened moral virtue in AGW and couldn't bear to back away from their self-congratulatory spectacle of campaigning when the facts no longer supported their 'view'.

    A mass religion of sunk costs fallacies backed by confirmation-biased science was never going to end well.

    I too want to see prosecutions, but moreso a continuation and emboldening of skepticism, generally, particularly for those that must now pay 'penance'.

  5. Of course plenty of us have been making all these arguments for years now. Nobody listens.

    The AGW warmists have most of the media in the palm of their hands - and pretty much all the actors and pop stars - and most of the educational establishment.

    Warmists are religious zealots of a new breed and if you speak out of turn or question their mantra you meet a furious and rapid response.

    Debate is not allowed. Dissention is not allowed. You will be branded a 'denier' and hated with a passion. Hardly the discourse of intelligent folk.

  6. Even FOX misleads its viewers on Climate Change when they show multiple smokestacks billowing out steam and try to leave the impression it is all carbon dioxide (plant food) laden smoke. Of course, moisture is the biggest greenhouse gas of all, with clouds, rain and snow trapping heat on the earth left by the sun when it is present, a kind of end-of-the-world scenario that sure beats plant food rising above lighter air to trap heat.

  7. I've got to confess, I'm just a little depressed to see climate change skepticism prevailing on this site.

    I'm no zealot, just reasonably well read and despite the understandable furore over the leaked e-mails, it seems to be clear that the planet, all things considered, is warming. And that carbon emissions are warming it further; and these are primarily man-made (induced).

    However, I genuinely worry that I must be missing something. Because my contemporaries on this site, respectable newspaper columnists etc - intelligent people like I think I am - think it's all a bit of a fraud.

    It bothers me. What am I missing?

    My apologies for my slightly off-topic (it's a more generic) post; but maybe this is a forum I can get some answers on what is one of my favourite must-read sites.


  8. ...the policies that are being developed to fight 'climate change' are a catalyst to the deindustrialisation of the West.

    For me, this post doesn't begin to tell me what advantage there is for the West to willingly go along with, and encourage, the 'con'. Anyone with any degree of perspicacity can see that the scientific arguments for AGW are very dubious, so why are Western leaders so interested in jumping on the bandwagon? I don't see the motive for, say, Gordon Brown to hamstring the UK economy because of AGW.

    (And I don't believe that people like CRU or George Monbiot are members of some global conspiracy, by the way, but are more like 'useful idiots'.)

  9. You're not going to lose me as a reader, but you along with comments do demonstrate how easily you and your average reader can be swayed into a contrarian stance, seduced by the idea of being a rebel and a 'skeptic'.

    Insulting people who disagree with you whilst dogmatically holding any view point is not being a skeptic.

    My skeptical viewpoint on AGW is basically 'this is a hugely complex subject, there are oil companies who happily employ scientists and PR people on one side and anti-science nutjobs (green peace etc) who ALSO happily employ scientists and PR people on the other side. So frankly I don't have a clue.'

    There are however many good arguments for improving our energy security and reducing our general consumption. So given these things are an obvious good for other reasons and might help us from this possible threat then they're probably worth doing.

    I'm very much in agreement with Cyinicus on the carbon trading and other EU shenanigans though, they all seem badly thought out and hugely damaging. But from the people who're pissing away our money directly through QE and stimulus it's not exactly a huge surprise they'd screw this up too!

  10. I am pleasantly surprised at the comments so far, which all reflect the high standards of readership of the site.

    There are a couple of points I would like to pick up briefly, although I would ideally respond to all the comments.

    Lemming: I am really not sure why this has come so far, except that people believed the 'science'. Monbiot has had the courage to accept that all is not well. However, for politicians who have invested their reputations, perhaps it is more difficult.

    Bob: The trouble for me here is that I have been looking at this for several years, and it is difficult to summarise my many concerns. However, there is an increasing deluge of material out there on the subject, all of which is indicating that the data has been manipulated. The nature of the problem is that we are completely unsure about whether the world is really warming, and the medieval warm period is an indication that - even if it warming - it is not something to which we are significantly contributing to. To quote the longstanding cliche of skeptics, there were no SUVs around in that period.

    Some recent examples of scientists complaining about the behaviour of AGW proponents can be found here:

    The site for this appears to be a collecting ground for disgruntled scientists that have fallen foul of the 'consensus'. In many cases they have previously expressed concerns, but have been ignored. Perhaps we will all start to listen now?

    General: Energy security is a legitimate concern, as is peak oil. These are factors that should be accounted for in energy policy, but the AGW argument does not provide a foundation for such policy. However, it is worth mentioning that there are indeed other concerns that go beyond AGW.

  11. See my comments about the investment implications of a shifting consensus:

  12. It seems to me that there is a lot of money to be made out of AGW - if banks are able to package greenhouse gas allowances into CDO-like securities. This article is very interesting on the subject:

  13. With CRU data discredited and taken down/blocked/censored from their website, it leaves us with NASA/NOAA/NCDC GROUND based datasets which have legal action pending to release their raw data, emails, programming code, etc. When they fall, this will leave us only with the (UAH) SATELLITE dataset who’s accuracy is within 3 one hundredths of a degree. Ironically, this dataset which is the most accurate of all, is the only dataset that if (linear) graphed starting in January 1998 shows a COOLING trend.
    John Christy and Roy Spencer at the University in Huntsville who collect the satellite data aren’t the shrill types and are not out there with the doom and gloom predictions so they don’t get the press that the media likes to sensationalize.

    In my opinions there is no need for ground/sea based temperature stations, at least not as a primary dataset. If we would have had satellite measurement only, the term AGW would never had existed and we’d saved ourselves billions of dollars and a lot of headaches.

  14. 1st para "..a fundamental shift of wealth creation from the East to the West"

    Shouldn't that be the other way around?

  15. I am really not sure why this has come so far, except that people believed the 'science'.


    Are we sure that our leaders haven't latched desperately onto 'green industry' as the next source of Western-led growth? (with the bonus that we can limit Asian competition directly: from this morning's Telegraph Gordon Brown is drawing up plans for the European Union to become a global warming "policeman", monitoring individual countries' compliance with carbon-cutting targets. ).

    But I also have the fanciful notion that our leaders are beginning to understand that resources (e.g. oil) are running out and that economic growth as we know it cannot continue. The global threat of AGW would have been a brilliant way of persuading people to pay more tax and reduce their standards of living without a fight.

  16. Another thought which occurs is it doesn't really matter what is driving climate change. Everything I've heard suggest man-made or not it's going to cause massive upheaval and economic disruption. However even if it IS man made it's clear that we are not prepared to take the economic hit required to reduce our emissions.

    So, irrespective of what the cause is a geo-engineering solution looks like the best bet not reductions in emissions.

  17. Hi Cynicus, just one question from an AGW agnostic: why do you think this 'fraud' has been perpetrated?

  18. "I am pleasantly surprised at the comments so far, which all reflect the high standards of readership of the site. "
    Hmmm. . . because they largely agree with you.

    This issue exposes the huge problems of human belief: people beliefs are usually not arrived at rationally (inherited from parents, created in opposition to disliked others, groupthink etc), but are then rationalized.

    There is a glut of bad science on both sides, and propaganda. Although agnostic on this issue myself, I regard this article as heartfelt propaganda (in the same Monbiot's work is) because the author already had his conclusions before investigating the issue. Even the most intelligent humans are all too good at confirming their own biases.

    CE's stance on global warming is fairly predictable as right-libertarian, as beliefs seem to cluster, just as we can predict that the majority of left-libertarians believe that AGW is a real and present danger.

  19. while AGW is still up in the air in my mind, and although i believe if it exists, there are good arguements in favor of it, one thing that can be denied is The History of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Earth

  20. UK pointed the finger of blame at China for blocking progress at the summit in Copenhagen. Brown played a major part in a desperate attempt to get a legally binding deal at copenhagen, his interest is not in cleanining up the planet, the publication of e-mails and documents leaked from one of the worlds leading climate research institutions tell an all but to familiar story, the public might not be able to describe fluid dynamics using mathematics but are quite able to recognise deliberate untruthfulness and ambiguity when they see it, suprisingly China seems to see it this way also.

  21. Warming or cooling what does it matter ? If as you have been saying for so long, the western economies are on the point of collapse, then surely no one will be able to afford any of the above "solutions" .
    Does anyone really believe, if the U.S dollar or the UK pound collapses - with all the social unrest that will result, that Mr Obama or Mr Brown will then go to their people and ask for some more money for climate change measures ? I don't think so.....Even they aren't that daft. I say : roll on the collapse, it could be our only way out !!

    John C.

  22. Surely the real problem is too difficult. Anyone who really thinks about the problem is too frightened to address it. James Lovelock says the unspeakable but is ignored. The crisis is not one of CO2 or methane or flurocarbons but one of overpopulation. The distractions such as Copenhagen are comfortable and manageable. The real problem is not.

    None of us can really face the reality of rapid population reduction. Simple wars are not destructive enough.

    I will now go back to just reading the interesting posts on my favourite blog.

  23. Lord Sidcup: It is not the agreement that prompted my comment, but the polite and reasonable disagreement. e.g. no use of the word 'denier' etc.

    You are wrong about right wing libertarian clusters. I started my cynicism about AGW when looking at a stopped windmill. I realised that, if that was the 'solution', how can we be sure about the problem. Then started reading. Essentially, you are accusing me of 'groupthink', which seems to ignore the history of this blog.

    Chris: You are quite right about the phrase being the wrong way round. I would change it, but make it a principle to never change a post once published. It is too easy to rewrite history on these blogs, so I leave it all on - warts and all.

    Thanks for the many other comments and links. Again, thanks for the consistently intelligent responses.

  24. The problem is barely to do with CO2 or slight warming, that's just a convenience.

    The problem is we are shitting up our planet, the seas ecosystems are collapsing, jungles and forests are getting stripped and desertified. Our rivers and lakes are so polluted nothing can live in them.

    There are two main issues we are ignoring, there's too many people and we are not spending any money on R&D for Fusion.

  25. I'd recommend viewing this AGU presentation by Richard Alley, presented to the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco last week:

    cynicus, if your grasp on the science of climate change is so lacking, why should we trust any of your prognostications?

  26. NASA data fyi:

    I didn't really think there was a problem with the climate until I saw this:

    Holy crap - has that been furtled by the pesky East Anglians or are we heading for hell in a handcart?

    I'm sure we'll be fine as long as we don't expect more than a billion people to live on the planet...

  27. To Bob earlier who was wondering why pockets of scepticism prevail:

    I wonder if you, yourself, have ever been involved in processing raw data of some kind to produce a 'presentation' to someone controlling the purse strings of funding? On a few occasions I have been in the position of gathering large amounts of 'multi-dimensional' data from remote sensors and trying to show if it is possible to detect certain events through patterns in the data. From my experience, the following is true:

    (1) Some data are more troublesome than others. Very tempting to leave them out, but the declared set of data still has the appearance of completeness. The reader of the report has no way of knowing that you have discarded data.
    (2) A solution or 'model' can appear very robust until you add more to the data set, then it falls apart quite distressingly. It is tempting to avoid adding the new data.
    (3) It is very easy to produce an impressive result without 'cheating' as such. Declare what you have done openly as though it is the only obvious solution, and the reader cannot spot the omissions, fudges etc. without completely repeating the work.
    (4) What you say you have done, and what your software does may be different, simply because of a simple mistake.
    (5) When funding is in the offing, it is very tempting to create a positive preliminary report and not worry too much about the lack of robustness (if you are even aware of it yourself). In engineering you know that the problems may show up in the future but it is tempting to make your superiors happy today and worry about that later. It occurs to me that in climatology you will never be 'found out' as such.
    (6) If you have an extra subjective dimension such as 'correction' of historical weather station results, tree ring proxies etc. my instinct is that that the final result could easily be complete fiction.

    I had all these suspicions before the UEA emails, and they merely confirmed my sceptical view.

    Of course there is anecdotal evidence of ice melting etc. but AGW proponents use the argument that the Mediaeval Warm Period was merely a local occurrence and the rest of the world was actually getting colder. I don't see why this doesn't apply to any 'evidence' that we apparently see with our own eyes, such as polar bears perched on melting ice, and so on.

  28. Stop talking about stuff you know nowt about. Stopped windmills? No global warming? Co2 doesn't matter?

  29. Just thinking about my earlier comment, it was just an elaborate way of saying

    "It takes one to know one"

  30. In a few dacades time the whole AGW fiasco will come to be seen as a millennial mass delusion. A modern day version of the perennial religious 'The end of the world is nigh' prediction. In 50 years time temperatures will be nowhere near what they are predicted to be by the Warmists, and reality will trump their belief system just as it has for all the religious nutjobs who came before.

  31. Even if global climate change was overstated/mistaken/a hoax/a conspiracy, we still face major problems with energy security, rising energy prices and increasing the acidity (decreasing alkalinity) of the oceans. Hence there are several good reasons to reduce energy use (through efficiency), moving to other power generation methods and generally decarbonise our economy. Many of these measures actually save us money in the medium to long term. So the initial steps to counter Climate Change, should be taken anyway.

  32. Research showed that 'climate deniers' are more likely to be male, over the age of 40 and to the right of centre in their politics. Anyone? ;)

    I think some folk should stick to politics and not dabble in science, when even disregarding the dodgy behaviour of some scientists, the overwhelming majority can show that the evidence is in favour of it being man-made.

    And perhaps you'd like to point out to your readers how many of the anti-mand made climate change scientists have received funding by the large oil companies - who understandably are keen to rubbish the science...

  33. For the best rebukes of AGW Look up Lord Monckton on Youtube.

    I am convinced its a cynical way of keeping the West ahead of the emerging markets, whilst similtaneously allowing certain individiuals and/or groups to become enormously wealthy.

  34. Cynicus,

    As always with these kind of debates, it seems people are pretty quick to lose sight of what it is they are actually 'skeptical' of.

    Rather than dismissing the whole theoretical process of "AGW", it makes more sense for 'skeptics' to ask themselves questions along the following lines:

    - Do I believe that Carbon atoms exist?
    - Do I believe that Carbon atoms exist with great abundance in fossil fuels, e.g. oil, coal?
    - Do I believe that human beings have been burning vast quantities of fossil fuels in the last century?
    - Do I believe that when Carbon bonds are broken the released Carbon atoms form bonds with other atoms - most significantly Oxygen?
    - Do I believe that human activity (i.e. burning fossil fuels) is creating greater levels of CO2 in the planet's atmosphere?
    - Do I believe CO2 is a 'greenhouse gas', i.e. a gas that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range?
    - Do I believe that plants and trees absorb CO2?
    - Do I believe that human beings have been destroying vast areas of the rainforest in the past century?
    - Do I believe that destroying plant and tree life is likely to decrease that amount of CO2 absorbed?
    - Do I believe that this increased proportion of CO2 is likely to have an effect on the Earth's climate?

    Calling yourself an 'AGW skeptic' is, to my way of thinking at least, a cop-out: it's a meaningless shorthanded away of avoiding the ridicule that would come with saying, for example, "I am a Carbon skeptic", or, "I am a skeptic of the basic principles of Chemisty".

    I find that most lay-skeptics have no real scientific background and therefore don't understand that a) almost all academic science shows some signs of bad science when money is thrown at it (a look into the Cancer Research industry can show this) but this does not invalidate the whole field of research (Cancer does exist, a cure may be found), b) science is not about closing the book on any issue, and AGW is never going to be 'proven' in a way that would satisfy many of these skeptics.

    As a final note I find that any article that continually and unequivocally refers to AGW as a 'fraud', and that talks about what 'the West can afford' with no qualification for what the West may actually owe, to be extremely cynical in the most negative sense of that word.


  35. Tiberius:

    You are right that there is no reason to dismiss all of the science of AGW. You are right that CO2 will impact upon the climate, at least to some degree. The critical question is to what degree.

    The problem that we are confronted with is as follows:

    - the scientists involved in AGW research have used models and data that they have withheld from other researchers and scientists, and have not given them information on their 'adjustments' to temperature data. Why?
    - the scientists involved in AGW have sought to manipulate the peer review process. Why?
    - In presenting results, scientists have buried data that calls into question their conclusions. Why?
    - the scientists involved in AGW research have thrown away data (as one wag put it, sorry, the dog ate my data). Why?

    If they are so confident in their AGW thesis, why has this been the case. I have offered many links and quotes that have shown concerns about the data. For example, the Russian report on temperatures. One of the papers rejected in the peer review process has similar concerns for Siberia:

    There is more similar 'dodgy data'. Take this example from New Zealand:

    If you read these links, you will find a pattern that is familiar to others who have sought the data and methodology used for global temperature records. If you look at their research you will find that they have found that the raw data contradicts the warming found by others. They just want to know how data suggesting no warming became data showing warming. This seems reasonable. Read their paper.

    This is who they are:

    Ah, but they are in the pay of 'big oil' etc. This seems the answer to everything. However, it is apparent they are just a group of concerned scientists and concerned laymen.

    General: One commentator suggested I 'know nowt'. I have been following this for a long, long time. I do not know all the science, as this area covers many disciplines. However, I have taken the trouble to read on temperature reconstructions, and the skeptical scientists fill in many other gaps. I have conducted my own research in a different area of study, and have therefore (as all researchers should) studied the philosophy of science.

    My own research established that a theory was founded on nothing more than a series of errors made by earlier researchers (and some blatant distortion of earlier research).

    General 2: Thanks for the many comments overall.

    I will leave this subject here.

  36. I remember hearing about a scientist who had been working on a theory for many years and attended the presentation of a paper by one of his rivals. The rival scientist's paper systematically disproved the first scientist's theory through weight of evidence and at the end of the presentation the first scientist said to his rival "Thankyou Sir, for although my own theory that I have worked on for many years is shown to be wrong, you have advanced our science considerably.". This prompted a spontaneous standing ovation from the assembled attendees.

    Whether this event really happened or not, isn't important. It is a story that sends a tingle down the spine of anybody who truly believes in science. As more evidence is collected, theories that looked perfectly reasonable at the start, no longer fit with reality. Good science modifies or discards theories to make the theory match the evidence. Bad science coerces the data to fit the theory.

    [Where I refer to AGW below, I mean harmful AGW that requires action. I think few would argue that humans have no effect (urban heat haze etc.) but the question is whether the 'signal' of AGW is significant above the 'noise' of natural variations.]

    AGW is a theory. People use the term "scientific fact" where the evidence is so overwhelming (large volume, many difference sources, reliable sources) that further evidence would likely refine rather than challenge the theory - even so-called "scientific fact" is still a theory.

    We often hear the words "AGW is scientific fact" or a phrase that particularly rings alarm bells for me: "The debate is over". Another favourite is "The vast majority of mainstream scientists agree...". If AGW is to be called scientific fact then there must exist a body of evidence that is truly overwhelming. For example, why do I believe Darwin's theory of evolution? because there is a vast body of evidence collected over hundreds of years from several sources (fossils, DNA, selective breeding) that has continually reinforced the validity of the theory. Why is it easy for me to find tons of evidence of evolution but really difficult to find any evidence of AGW?

    Even if we discard the term scientific fact and go to the lowest confidence level that could justify action: "AGW theory is probably right", we would still expect a reasonable level of evidence to support that claim. Otherwise, why is it any more legitimate than Bertrand Russell's Celestial Teapot?

    It seems that the AGW theory is lacking in any supporting evidence. There was the original set of ice core data that got people excited about the theory because it was measured across a statistically significant length of time and showed a strong correlation between CO2 and temperature but there wasn't enough detail to show causation (i.e. that CO2 causes temperature rise rather than just moving with it) so new samples were taken at a finer resolution and this showed that the opposite was true (that CO2 changes occur about 800 years after temperature changes - so CO2 changes can not *cause* temperature changes).

    Science is not an opinion poll. It rests entirely on weight of evidence. The problem is that activists will argue that we can't wait for evidence to be collected in case it turns out that we could have done something to prevent the terrible consequences. Let's take that argument to its logical conclusion: I can postulate any number of theories for how we could all perish in an end-of-world scenario - why pick AGW over my theories? If we try and prevent the outcomes predicted by all those theories (AGW included) then we would spend all our effort on futile objectives rather than solving the world's real problems.

    We need to select how we use our limited resources based on sound evidence. From what I have seen, I would say there is more evidence that CO2 reduction initiatives will cause more harm to us than CO2 output.

  37. I've taken time to consider the (typically) quality opinions and facts here regarding this important issue; it has certainly helped to further my thinking. In my own high-level (but hopefully salient) way, I have come to the following conclusions:

    1. Whatever the subject, there will usually be an agenda of sorts: personal, business or political. It's the human way.

    2. Therefore, to get closer to the truth/facts/likelyhood on a given issue, the 'weight of evidence', or consensus, should be regarded.

    (I'm reminded of a poster in the 80s that, on one side, listed organisations that thought smoking was harmful - it was a long list.

    On the other side, organisations that thought smoking wasn't harmful were listed. There was just the one - FOREST - which happened to be supported by the tobacco companies! Just to illustrate.

    3. Global warming induced by CO2 is just one symptom of the 'big problem' which includes: increasing overpopulation, ongoing destruction of rainforests, acidation of the seas, ecosystem loss etc.

    4. Reaching a 'tipping point' (i.e. when human intervention - despite best efforts - will not deal with the problem) in any of these areas will turn out to be catastrophic.

    5. I believe we are heading slowly (but surely) towards a tipping point because it seems to me things are getting progressively worse in all these areas. Tackling these problems head on could be helped by high-level hard decision making, but as Copenhagen demonstrated, agendas get in the way. Which takes me (sadly) back to point 1.

    And that's as far as my thinking goes.

    On a separate note, I wish happy holidays to you Cynicus and all correspondents.


  38. As the skeptics have noted, it's the degree of global warming that is uncertain. On some climate models, it will actually get significantly colder in the Northern part of the hemisphere ,40 degrees latitude and up, if the gulf stream is disrupted. This is why global warming is now called "climate change". It's an acknowledgement, by honest scientists and politicans, that the Earth's weather systems are extremely complex and therefore it's difficult to predict exactly how increased CO2 levels will affect every area on Earth. Some areas may not necessarily get warmer or colder, they might just get drier. There's plenty scientists don't understand because there's missing data for all possible factors that influence climate. For example, in the Little Ice Age that happened a few centuries ago, scientists don't know what the sun's activity was like at that time. However, there's a conclusion that can be reached by observing evolution for the last several million years. For the last several million years, the Earth's climate has been cool... subtropical at least. This would explain the disappearence of large reptiles, the dinosaurs, from inhabiting most of the land. Reptiles need extremely warm weather to get big as the dinosaurs did. When dinosaurs roamed the global climate was extremely warm...and that has not been the case for several million years. Climate ususally changes slowly enough for life to adapt. A lot of reptiles died off, but the smaller ones survived. At the current rate that mankind is changing the atmospheric composition of the air and acidifying the ocean, basically messing around with ecosystems they couldn't be bothered to at least understand, life can't adapt fast enough. The problem with global warming skeptics is that they also tend to be skeptics of science in general. They think Man can do no wrong to the planet. They're the kind of people who tend believe if man overworks a piece of farmland in Africa or North Korea to the point it becomes a desert, it's because God wills it. They tend to find refuge in religious fundementalism. I can't tell you how many people you can find anywhere in America who have a habit of imappropriately quoting the Bible when they are encounter a piece of news but can't understand how a food chain works or...accept overpopulation as a problem.


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