Is the IPCC report ‘News’?

For a couple of hours this was the headline at the BBC News Web Site. By the evening it was the fourth story after a 'Tax Break for Married Couples'.

For a couple of hours this was the headline at the BBC News Web Site. By the evening it was the fourth story after a ‘Tax Break for Married Couples’.

Why do I find myself unmoved by the release of the fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? Because despite the epic scale of the report, on my quick perusal of the summary, I see nothing ‘new’.

And the BBC seems to concur. Although it made the lead story on the BBC web site for a couple of hours, it was down to fourth position by the evening and made only the third story on the television news. At least it was ahead of the inane story about why ballet dancers don’t get dizzy. [Aside: since when was that considered ‘News’?].

One aspect of the news did make me smile. Because of the ‘pause’ in rise of the average air temperature above the land surfaces of the Earth, sceptics are now saying that our understanding of climate change must be fundamentally flawed. This made me smile because while the ‘temperature curve’ was rising the sceptics were arguing that the data could not be relied upon. Now that it has slowed down, the data is all of a sudden more trustworthy!

But levity aside  the report is grim. It reads like a list of battle casualties where new intelligence reveals that those previously listed as ‘missing in action’ are now confirmed as ‘fatalities’ or ‘injured’. The report list each casualty detailing our state of knowledge of the extent of their injury. I have included a couple of snippets below.

So the report is as clear as it can be, but it leaves one basic question unasked, and of course unanswered:

What are we going to do about all this?

Snippets

  • The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.

  • CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions.

  • The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification

  • Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence)

  • Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.

  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence). 

  • The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m

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11 Responses to “Is the IPCC report ‘News’?”

  1. rogerthesurf Says:

    AGW [anthropogenic global warming] might be deservedly on its knees but it is but a smoke screen.

    The real danger is Agenda 21 which wants to institute all the things that AGW threatened us with and more. The only thing is that its more subtle – it is creeping into our society as we speak.

    In my country it is in our legislation, local government and education.
    Take a look at my blog which shows how our government has very kindly used the devastating earthquakes which hit my city as an excuse to dispossess people of their homes and property in order to build an Agenda21 compliant city where our proud city once stood. http://www.thedemiseofchristchurch.com

    But its not just my country, its world wide! Try searching your local government’s website for the words “Agenda 21″ and “ICLEI” and tell me I’m not wrong.

    Cheers

    Roger

    http://www.thedemiseofchristchurch.com

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Roger

      AGW is not ‘on its knees’ it is all but confirmed. I sympathise with residents of Christchuch – it must be tough even for those not directly damaged. But Climate change is like a slow earthquake and affects us all.

      M

  2. rogerthesurf Says:

    M,

    I hope you take the time to visit my blog.

    I respect your belief in AGW but maybe there are important things

    you have not considered.

    For your information, the proposed remedy for AGW is so

    expensive that it will break our economies. As an economist I warn

    you this is a very serious thing and if the “remedy” is fully

    implemented we will see the effects as people starve around us

    and of course you and I will most likely join them.

    In fact, what is happening in my country and around the world with Agenda 21, appears to be the first installment on this price.

    If AGW was a fact, maybe this will be a reasonable price, but it would be even more cataclysmic if we killed our populations and destroyed our civilisation only to find out that we had made a terrible mistake.

    Because of this terrible cost, it stands to reason that the evidence for AGW needs to be of the very highest quality.

    Unfortunately this evidence has yet to reach this quality. Apart from the increasing dissatisfaction with the quality of the IPCC reports, the reliance of modeling and the so called “hiatus” of warming there never has been evidence of sufficient quality.

    Of course evidence of this quality is difficult to produce – however if the IPCC could show that the current warming, (if it exists), is somehow different from the many previous warmings, of which CO2 cannot have played a part, the quality of the evidence may well become sufficient.
    Therefore, until that time comes, we would be extremely foolish to destroy the livelihoods of us and our descendants by acting upon such insufficient evidence.

    Trust you can see where I am coming from.

    Cheers

    Roger

    http://www.thedemiseofchristchurch.com

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Roger. Thanks for that.

      You make one important point that is often missed, but there is one other point on which you have a very odd perspective.

      Firstly you are right: the cost of ‘de-carbonising’ is enormous. Burning carbon in all its forms brings us phenomenal benefits and underpins all non-agrarian cultures. A rapid increase in the cost of energy or a reduction in its supply would bring about economic ruin that would destroy our ability to do anything about GW even if we chose to. This is an important point and in the classes I teach I suggest the ‘do nothing’ option as a possible positive choice (cf Bjorn Lomborg in the Sceptical Environmentalist).

      However you are wrong on the science. Not everything is understood, but it is pretty clear that emitting carbon not only brings great benefits, but also has a down side. The physics of its action in the atmosphere is more complex than the simple models imply, but even the advanced models don’t differ very much from the simple models in their predicted outcome: adding CO2 affects the radiative forcing on Earth. In fact it would be remarkable if it were otherwise! How could adding significant amounts of an infrared-active gas >not< affect the climate!?

      So given what we know, what should we do. Is ‘nothing’ really our best response? I don’t think so. I think it is perfectly feasible over a prolonged period to burn less carbon and move to a world where we use energy more sustainably.

      One small additional point: You cannot logically argue that the explanation of the ‘hiatus’ is unsatisfactory and simultaneously that the temperature record is unreliable i.e. (say ‘if it [warming] exists’). I have looked at the temperature data and it is pretty carefully treated from end to end and the warming signal is very clear. The hiatus arises from the prolonged (and unexplained) La Nina phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation. We don’t know what causes the switch in phase, but when or if it switches, the air temperature above the land surfaces of the Earth will warm again.

      All the best

      Michael

  3. rogerthesurf Says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for your comment.

    If you wish to believe in AGW that’s fine with me.
    However I suggest that you do some serious study on what a “model” is.
    I am familiar with modeling and I can tell you that a model is only useful for gaining more information about a hypothesis. If the hypothesis is not proven, the results from the model, while perhaps being interesting, do not enhance the validity of the hypothesis in any way.
    If the results of the hypothesis calculated for a period some time in the future, we may get a suggestion, but climate models have failed dismally even there.

    Observations of the current weather are also interesting, but unless a connection between the climate and anthropogenic CO2 can be proven, observations are simply just that – observations.
    I have never claimed that the temperature record is hopelessly unreliable, but the explanations for the observations, (considering that they are simply mere hypothesis’) cannot carry any significant weight.

    Thus if you take a rigorous scientific view of the evidence of AGW, which would include checking IPCC sources etc. (which I have been doing for the last 4 years), you will find there is no empirical proof of any connection between CO2 and Global Warming. All the IPCC has ever come up with is a correlation between AGW and CO2 in the atmosphere. As you no doubt are aware from your studies of statistics, you will be aware that a mere correlation can never be considered proof – and to top it all, the actual correlation was never particularly significant and appears to be getting worse as the years slip by.

    Initially my comment was to invite you to read my blog at http://www.thedemiseofchristchurch.com which does not describe the devastation from the earthquakes, but does describe the misery caused by the bureaucracy which is controlling the so called “rebuild”. As they are apparently not worried about the citizens of our city, but instead wish to build, (by first of all knocking down every building – damaged or undamaged -and expropriating the land from the private owners), a new “sustainable” city.
    To do this in the name of “sustainability” anyway is a laugh because the resources needed to do this will delay any net sustainability gains for at least 50 years.

    If you wish to see the “proof” of AGW discussed, please visit my other blog at http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com
    Please check out the long list of links to academic papers etc. (which you will find on the right hand side), to see further scientific support for what I say.

    Cheers

    Roger

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Roger

      What do you think is the effect of the 35 billion tonnes a year of carbon dioxide that we put in the atmosphere?

      Do you really think it has no effect at all?

      M

  4. rogerthesurf Says:

    Michael,

    Your statement has no scientific merit at all.
    You are obviously a victim of some propaganda which has given you some sensational numbers.
    First of all if you are going to state an exact amount you had best name your source.
    Secondly you should put it in context. i.e. percentage of the total atmosphere. FYI 180 ppmv still needs specialised equipment to measure it because it is actually so small.
    Thirdly you should perhaps compare it with the amount of water in the atmosphere which is the main cause of greenhouse energy retention in our atmosphere.

    But I have some empirical data for its benefits though.

    A scientist untainted by the AGW lobby would say that a concentration of about 1,000ppmv would be beneficial to life on earth, this being the concentration that Glass House growers prefer, http://api.ning.com/files/X-APctmkiwvgEI5fT6iiGjWFvKNX*cWuzeO4qmDVbgA_/Greenhouses.CarbonDioxideInGreenhouses.pdf
    Our exhaled breath is about 4500ppmv http://www.biotopics.co.uk/humans/inhaledexhaled.html
    Up to 5000ppmv is acceptable for work places (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.).
    Up to 3000ppmv for residences (Canadian exposure guideline for residential buildings)”
    Medical oxygen has between 10,000 ppmv and 20,000 ppmv in it.
    http://www.bocsds.com/uk/sds/medical/10_carbondioxide_oxygen.pdf
    http://www.bocsds.com/uk/sds/medical/10_carbondioxide_oxygen.pdf

    Currently our atmosphere has about 380 ppmv in it.

    Furthermore, some scientists credit the extra CO2 in our atmosphere as the reason for our increased food production.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090209205202.htm

    Note I quote my sources.

    Cheers

    Roger

  5. protonsforbreakfast Says:

    Roger

    I didn’t make a statement, I asked a question which you didn’t answer.

    Do you really think that the 35 billion tonnes a year of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere has no effect at all? It would be truly extraordinary if that were so, given that it is an infrared-active gas.

    But is that what you assert?

    If it is what you assert, please say so.
    If it isn’t, please tell me whether you think more CO2 will cause warming or cooling?

    Logically it has to be one of these answers.

    Regarding the array of facts you sent:

    >Currently our atmosphere has about 380 ppmv in it.
    No. Currently the concentration is around 395 ppmv.

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

    All the best

    Michael

  6. rogerthesurf Says:

    I thought my answer was perfectly clear.

    Your numbers, of which you do not state the source, are given out of context and therefore you are being sensational.
    The 380 or 395 ppmv is still miniscule and while there may be a slight warning from anthropogenic CO2, it is unlikely to be measurable, and nor can it ever be distinguished from natural variation.
    It is not known whether CO2 triggers a positive or negative effect on the amount of H2O in the atmosphere, but the lack of warming compared with the predictions suggests that it is at least neutral.
    The benefits of carbon dioxide out weigh any detriments.
    The increase in fertility caused by the heightened level of CO2 is what is feeding us now and preventing a Malthusian collapse.
    The level of CO2 could go as high as 10,000 ppmv without directly harming life on earth.

    If the CO2 level fell as low as 150 ppmv or below, all life on earth would cease.

    There are many environmental problems that affect the world we live in today, but CO2 is not one of them.

    References for all these statements may be found on my blog at http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com or in my previous comment.

    You are advised to look into any numbers which you pick up from propagandists and propagandist literature before you believe anything.

    Cheers

    Roger

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Ok

      Your answers are now clear. You consider that CO2 emissions have essentially no significant effect on global climate.

      That’s a clear answer, for which my thanks, but it puts you in a significant minority.

      The evidence from ice cores is that carbon dioxide has a significant effect on climate with changes on the order of 100 ppmv from 180 ppmv to 280 ppmv corresponding to changes in global temperature on the order of 5 to 10 degrees Celsius. Do you not think this data is relevant?

      M

      On 01/10/2013 12:14 am, “Protons for Breakfast Blog”

  7. rogerthesurf Says:

    I have a number of papers on this subject on my blog at http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.doc which obviously have not visited yet.
    I am not aware that CO2 levels preceding temperature change are recorded in any academic paper.
    Notwithstanding the fact that consensus is never proof of anything, as for your assertion that I am in a minority, you had better come up with some evidence for that as well.

    Cheers

    Roger

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