Chief Scientist’s arguments for alarmism don’t wash


Models fail

Models fail

Professor Ian Chubb, writing in The Australian, responds to Maurice Newman’s recent articles on climate change. But in my view, he fails to make a case for urgent action. The following two sentences encapsulate Chubb’s approach:

I start in a different place and ask a simple question. We have so far pumped two trillion tonnes of a greenhouse gas, CO2, into our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, at a rate faster than ever before. Why would we presume that it would have no effect?

If the answer were simple, we would know it. So we have to use the evidence we have to assess the impact now; and we have to use the data to build models to estimate what the impact might be in the future.

Firstly, the reference to “two trillion tonnes” is classic misdirection, of which any magician would be proud, since to the lay reader, it sounds like a truly gargantuan amount – and in absolute terms, it is. However, it isn’t until one realises the entire atmosphere has a mass of five quadrillion tonnes (2,500 times Chubb’s figure), that the sleight of hand is exposed.

But rather embarrassingly for a Chief Scientist, even the figure of two trillion tonnes he cites is wrong. The mass of CO2 in the atmosphere today is approximately 3.16 trillion tonnes (591ppm by mass, 400 ppm by volume). Prior to the Industrial Revolution, CO2 accounted for approximately 290ppm by volume in the atmosphere (equivalent to 428ppm by mass), so pre-industrial mass of CO2 would have been 2.3 trillion tonnes – the difference being about 0.9 trillion tonnes. “We” have “pumped” less than half the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere that Chubb claims.

Furthermore, nobody “presumes that it would have no effect”. We acknowledge that CO2 is a greenhouse gas which will cause some degree of warming. Chubb’s rhetorical question sets up a straw man. The question is not if, but how much?

The models that have been built to estimate the impact of this warming in the future have been shown to be significantly overestimating the contribution of CO2. The IPCC’s blinkered approach has ensured that the majority of natural climate drivers (including the Sun) have been ignored, discounted or dismissed. As a result, the sensitivity of CO2 had to be cranked up (by invoking large positive water vapour feedbacks) to enable to models to match the past. Because CO2 continued to increase, the models predicted continually increasing temperature, but real-world measurements are diverging from model predictions and there is no ‘consensus’ on the reason why (see The Cause has seven excuses for The Pause).

None of this is entirely surprising, given the UN’s scapegoating of CO2 as the culprit at least thirty-odd years ago, and IPCC’s remit to investigate ‘human-caused’ warming.

Similar “why would we presume” arguments are put forward in relation to ocean ‘acidification’ (which he correctly labels as ‘less alkaline’) and ocean heat content. The former is not disputed (although the magnitude of its effects might be), but the latter has been dredged up as one of the convenient excuses for the models failing to match observations (see Rapid increase in ocean heat?).

Chubb quotes a Nature article on models:

“Some have argued, in part on the basis of current temperature trends, that climate models tend to overestimate warming … (but) the evidence cuts both ways.” Some seem always to presume the errors only occur in the direction favourable to their argument. Notwithstanding the range, current models point out a direction, and the direction is up.

Looking at the plot above, can you see the evidence ‘cutting both ways’? How many models have underestimated warming? Since 2005, none. And errors at the IPCC are always in the ‘it’s worse than we thought’ direction – despite the fact that statistically, one would expect a fairly even balance both better and worse.

Chubb concludes:

I am sure Maurice Newman and I would agree that much of what should be a debate has turned into “low-grade” and often personalised argument. What it should be is a healthy and constructive discussion based on all the empirical evidence, not bits of it, and with an eye to the implications for our health, wellbeing and prosperity in the longer term.

With ‘denier’ smear-sites like Skeptical Science, RealClimate and Think Progress still around, I won’t be holding my breath.


Full article here:

Surely CO2 is a climate culprit

AFTER his three recent articles on climate change, most recently on Wednesday, in The Australian, it is clear that Maurice Newman and I can agree on a number of things.

We can now agree, for example, that climate change is real, not a myth or a delusion. We can agree that he is not a climate scientist; and we would agree that I am not one either. We would, I think, agree that a “climate” is the result of complex interactions of multiple variables, many of them natural, but I would say not all.

We diverge when it comes to the impact of greenhouse gases. While we agree that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, Newman wrote of “the myth of anthropological climate change” (The Australian Financial Review, September 13, 2013) and suggested that it is one in a list of popular delusions.

Others will doubtless address some of the details he has raised. I start in a different place and ask a simple question. We have so far pumped two trillion tonnes of a greenhouse gas, CO2, into our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, at a rate faster than ever before. Why would we presume that it would have no effect?

If the answer were simple, we would know it. So we have to use the evidence we have to assess the impact now; and we have to use the data to build models to estimate what the impact might be in the future.

Right now we know that as CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase, so too does the amount of CO2 absorbed by the ocean, with the effect of making the water less alkaline (or more acid). Why would we presume that would have no effect on marine life? We also know that the heat content of the oceans has increased consistently although the rise in atmospheric temperature recently is flatter. Why would we presume no effect on the currents, winds and evaporation, and a subsequent impact on climate? We know the planet is warmer than pre-industrial times. While some might dismiss this as just a few tenths (0.9C) of a degree, I wonder if they’d be as sanguine if their core body temperature increased by the same few tenths of a degree.

There will be regional variations. There are differences even within Australia: temperatures in some regions have increased by 2C over 50 years while others have experienced little or no change. Our average change is 0.7C.

We know that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are important. If there were none, it has been estimated that the global temperature would be around -18C rather than the average near 15C we currently enjoy.

We also know that the relationship between CO2 and temperature is not linear. Uncertainty about the sensitivity of the climate to changing CO2 means models yield different projections. As an editorial in this week’s Nature says: “Some have argued, in part on the basis of current temperature trends, that climate models tend to overestimate warming … (but) the evidence cuts both ways.” Some seem always to presume the errors only occur in the direction favourable to their argument. Notwithstanding the range, current models point out a direction, and the direction is up.

So we know that climate is a complex, complicated matter and that there are multiple variables. Does that mean we don’t use all the information that we have to estimate what might be ahead? Does it mean that we do nothing about one variable over which we have some control – the emission of greenhouse gases? Does it mean that because there are uncertainties, we do nothing?

I am sure Maurice Newman and I would agree that much of what should be a debate has turned into “low-grade” and often personalised argument. What it should be is a healthy and constructive discussion based on all the empirical evidence, not bits of it, and with an eye to the implications for our health, wellbeing and prosperity in the longer term.

Professor Ian Chubb is Australia’s Chief Scientist. (source)

UK: Chief Scientist exits in a blaze of hysteria


Head scratch moment?

Head scratch moment?

Sir John Beddington is the outgoing Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, and, like our own Sir Ian Chubb, appears to take leave of his senses when it comes to climate.

In a final whirlwind of alarmism, Beddington exits stage left, hopefully never to be seen or heard of again. As the Telegraph breathlessly reports:

The world faces decades of turbulent weather even if it takes drastic action to tackle climate change, the Government’s chief scientific adviser said today in a final stark warning as he prepares to step down.

Professor Sir John Beddington said that time lags in the climate system meant that accumulations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now will determine the weather we experience for the next 25 years.

Climate change is already manifesting itself in huge variations in the weather, clearly illustrated by the way Britain experienced both drought and extreme rainfall last year, he said.

The scientist said that the international community’s failure to agree binding targets for cutting carbon emissions meant problems were being stored up for the future.

“They may reach agreement, and they may start to reduce greenhouse gases in the next five years, or it may be a little longer,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But they are still climbing, and when that increase is reversed, we will be left with the weather and the climate for the next 25 years from whenever that happens.”

What’s missing from this picture? Any acknowledgement that there has been a pause in warming which was not expected or predicted by the climate models, despite the headbangers claiming that warming is accelerating.*

Sir Ian Chubb falls into the same trap as Beddington – toeing a politically-correct line rather than responding to the evidence in an impartial, free-thinking manner.

More reaction here:

*They do this by suddenly ignoring global temperatures and, like street magicians, using diversionary techniques to shift focus on to something else

Chubb on ANU: 'no death threats except when journalists picked up the story'


FOI request

The death threat saga has reached parliament, with questions being asked at a Senate Estimates Committee of Prof Ian Chubb, current Chief Scientist, but Vice Chancellor of the ANU until March 2011. Most amazingly, Chubb confirms there were no death threats until the journalists got hold of the story!

The Australian reports that Liberal senator Scott Ryan questioned Chubb, who responded that, in 2010:

A senior member of his staff came to him with concerns from the institution’s climate scientists over emails they had received and said they had also had “a couple of visits from people who had walked in off the street”.

The staff member expressed a desire to have the climate scientists moved from their then-location, Professor Chubb said. “We looked at what we could do and we moved them. Senator, we did not make a fanfare, we did not go public. We simply moved them and got on with our business,” 

Basically they were given swipe card access. So does this incident refer to the “kangaroo cull” incident, or another? He goes on to confirm he never read the emails:

They were at least abusive but let me be clear . . . I didn’t read the emails. I trusted the man who came to me, he was a senior member of the staff and he represented concerns of the staff to me,” Professor Chubb said.

Yes, it has been accepted all along that the emails were offensive. However, Chubb saves the best until last:

“For the record, there were no alleged death threats except when journalists picked up the story.”

So is this a media beat up? Can we now assume that this means that during Chubb’s watch as Vice Chancellor, which ended in March 2011 with the appointment of Ian Young, there were no death threats to climate scientists at ANU? If so, why are the ANU still insisting, through the ABC correction, that they did, in fact, receive such threats?

The window during which such threats must have been received is closing rapidly, and is now restricted to the period March – June 2011. I am still awaiting a response to the questions I sent to the ANU’s media office on Friday, seeking clarification.

Time, I think, for the ANU to finally come clean on this mess.

Full Australian article here.

Ian Chubb: "warmest decade we have ever had on this planet"


Politics, not science

Don’t forget, Ian Chubb is Australia’s Chief Scientist, but he appears to have obtained his understanding of climate from the back of a cornflake packet (or a WWF campaign leaflet, otherwise known as the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report), given some of his quotes in the Joint Select Committee hearing yesterday. It’s really quite embarrassing.

Here are a few examples:

  • “I think there does need to be a recognition that the evidence of science is suggesting that we will have changed weather patterns and extreme weather events with much greater frequency than we have at the moment.”
  • “I have read the literature that says that a lot of work is being done in a lot of countries to try and get stabilisation [at 550ppm CO2], yes, and that there are a lot of countries now taking action, on the basis of the scientific evidence, to reduce their emissions.”
  • “The argument at the moment is that there will be, for example, much more intense cyclones and whatever they are called in the Northern Hemisphere, and more intense rain and flooding.” 
  • “With respect to this cooling stuff, I have seen the claim, but the evidence that I have seen is that the last decade has been the warmest decade that we have ever had on this planet, so I do not know what this cooling stuff means.”
  • “So I think where the modelling is at the moment makes it is quite clear that, for example, you do not get the Arctic ice melt just by natural events. You cannot reproduce it through modelling if you just factor in natural events, but if you factor in human activity then you get what is happening and you get the reduction.
  • “The latest information I have seen shows that the CO2 levels are high and that the rate of accumulation is accelerating. The scientists who study this would argue that it is getting to the point where something has to be done quickly in order to cap them at least and start to have them decrease over a sensible period of time. You could easily argue that it is urgent and that something needs to be done because of the high level presently and the accelerating accumulation presently. We do need to do something.”

Extreme weather events? Warmest decade we have ever had on this planet? “Ever had”? We need to “do something”? Am I listening to a scientist or a spokesperson for Greenpeace? Sadly, Prof Chubb has fully bought into the alarmist line, and is now clearly on the bandwagon of advocating urgent action. This is politics, not science.

You can read the whole transcript in a PDF here.

UPDATE: The bizarre “warmest we have ever had on the planet” quote is going viral, with Tom Nelson and Steven Goddard reporting it so far…

UPDATE 2: The ABC swallows it all whole, and, as usual, plugging the alarmist line, and reporting these comments without an ounce of critical thought. Listen here (if you dare)

Quote of the Day: Ian Chubb


Unsceptical?

Professor Chubb is the Australian Chief Scientist, and has made a few appearances on ACM in his brief time in the job (see here, here and here). Given his comments today, it is apparent that there is little hope of any improvement in the level of debate on climate change in Australia.

Displaying an astonishing lack of proper scientific scepticism and a misplaced faith in the projections of computer models, Prof Chubb has completely bought into the warmist line at a Parliamentary inquiry, recycling the tired old “more respect for scientists” argument (somehow managing to ignore calls for sceptics to be gassed or tattooed, naturally) and raising yet again the non-existent death threats at ANU (FOI request still pending on that one).

So here’s the Quote of the Day:

Professor Chubb was dismissive of arguments that the changes can be attributed to natural events.

“For example, you don’t get the Arctic ice melt just by natural events. You can’t reproduce it through modelling if you just factor in natural events. But if you factor in human activity, then you get what’s happening and you get the reduction,” he said.

So let’s get this straight, because an incomplete and flaky climate model fails to predict the degree of arctic ice melt from natural causes, it has to be all man-made?

How about the alternative? The models suck. Geez.

Read it here.

A challenge to the Chief Scientist


Peter Ridd

Professor Peter Ridd makes the excellent point that if no funding is made available to sceptics wishing to challenge the consensus on dangerous AGW, then it is like a court case without a defence. The defence is there to test, on an adversarial basis, the case put forward by the prosecution by means of questioning the evidence, cross-examination and forensic inquiry.

However, the alarmists don’t want that. They want to shut down debate crying that the science is settled (or “Guilty! Hang him!” to continue the analogy), and for everyone simply to trust what they are saying. What court in the land would accept the word of the prosecution on trust? Similarly, the claims of the alarmists must be subjected to equally rigorous scrutiny, similarly funded out of public money, in order to put them properly to the test.

It is a very powerful argument indeed, and Professor Ridd has put it directly to Ian Chubb:

Dear Prof Chubb,

I wish to support A/Prof Franks comments in his email to you on 30th June.

In addition I would like to add that it is evident that the scientific systems needs considerable modification if we can have faith in some of the conclusions about the big environmental issues of our time such as Greenhouse, the supposed demise of the Great Barrier Reef and such like. I have no faith that both sides of the arguments on these issues are being funded. This comes partly out of personal experience. It is not enough to rely upon peer review and hope for impartiality of scientists. We need to spend money to try to prove that the case against CO2 is flawed. That may seem strange but, if this debate was a court case against the criminal CO2, the conviction by the court (mostly the IPCC etc) would be thrown out on appeal because no resources have been expended mounting a defence of CO2. Can you imagine a court case without a counsel for the defence – a person whose sole aim is to destroy the prosecution case. We need an organisation to do this for CO2. If after spending considerable resources on such a defence it still looks like CO2 is guilty, then I at least would be satisfied about the conventional wisdom on this issue. Presently I have as much faith in science as I did in the Police system in Queensland in the 1980’s before sweeping reforms cleaned it up.

You may feel that the present systems in science make it reliable, but the fact that scientist like me, with a better than average record, in addition to a growing number of the educated and uneducated public have lost faith in science and scientists means that something has to be done to regain confidence. And bashing people like Stewart Franks will do nothing to that end even though he can be pretty brutal at times.

If you have time, I have written more on what I think needs to be done about the systems of science at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11455

I would be very grateful if you could at least contemplate this issue further.

Peter

Prof. Peter Ridd
HOD Physics
James Cook University
Townsville

Thanks to Bolta.

Quote of the Day: Ian Chubb


Quote of the Day

Ian Chubb is our Chief Scientist, and once again he indicates his belief that science is about counting heads, ignoring the hundreds of peer-reviewed papers that challenge that consensus, ignoring the fact that the IPCC ignores those papers, and looking away when something doesn’t fit with your pre-conceived views:

“After the work of very many scientists over more than 50 years, the views on climate change have converged to the point where the evidence has moved from possible to beyond reasonable doubt. But do we do nothing because of the mockers or because some scientists disagree, or because some others sit on the side and shout but don’t put their ideas into the scientific literature?

The quintessence of the debate about climate science should be based on the scientific evidence at hand.  Science is contestable; scientists are natural skeptics and highly trained critics.  They constantly evaluate and revise.  But sooner or later, prevailing views will converge after scrutiny and challenge. Some call that a consensus; not a contrived view but a majority view. After the work of scientists from multiple disciplinary backgrounds the lines of evidence on climate change have converged to support a high degree of confidence that climate is changing and that human activity is a primary cause.”

But there is no scrutiny or challenge to the cosy little coterie of warmist scientists – sceptics are silenced, excluded and ostracised, and their work (peer-reviewed or otherwise) totally overlooked. You can’t have it both ways. One failed prediction is enough to invalidate a model or a hypothesis, except in climate science, that is.

I repeat, it is not the realists that wish to turn our economy upside down to appease Gaia. For that to be justified, we need more than this.

Read it here.

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