Response to World Climate Report-“Highlights of the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change”-Where I Agree and Disagree

As those of you who follow my links in the blogroll may know, WCR has just recently added commentary on the ICCC. They tend to hold a “moderate” skeptical view which excepts that warming is happening, due to man, and will continue, but doesn’t see the warming as dangerous. Well, they are certainly entitled to believe all those things. I don’t believe the second point is determinable with the confidence they describe. As such, I would like to comment on their commentary. Here’s a sampling:

There are both good and bad aspects of the recent growth in the popularity of the skeptical viewpoint. The good is that more and more attention is being drawn to the serious science issues of the day—climate sensitivity, climate feedbacks, and local/regional vs. global change. Bad is that more and more attention is also being heaped upon likable but scientifically illogical takes on things—that humans aren’t responsible for the observed atmospheric increases of carbon dioxide, that the enhanced greenhouse effect won’t warm the climate, or that natural factors can explain a large majority of recent warming. Since these last items tend to take the issue of a human impact on the climate off the table, they are much loved by politicians (and others) fighting to keep CO2-restricting legislation off the books. Unfortunately, they are wrong.

I don’t know who died and made Pat Michaels et al. the deciding voice on whether natural factors can mostly explain warming, but in point of fact, it is they who are wrong-wrong in unequivocally attributing most warming to human climate forcings. In order to believe that human beings activities are primarily responsible for warming, you need to discount the possibility of recent positive solar trends, ignore the possibility of internal variability (such as PDO and other oscillations, deny any solar amplifying factors, and handwave your way through mountains of uncertainty. Considering that they highlight Goldenberg’s and Spencer’s talks, in which both mention their skepticism of anthropogenic causality (and in Spencer’s case, provides evidence for the role of the PDO), I can only conclude that they dismiss these ideas out of political expediency-in other words, the sin they allege the people putting forth these ideas are guilty of-because if you want to be taken seriously by the MSM’s and official scientists, you must toe the line and believe that, as the IPCC says “Most of the warming since 1950 is very likely due to observed increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”-something which even scientists who think that humans dominate recent changes don’t all believe. There were many presentations they missed-many offering up evidence for significant natural factors in climate change. I’m going to comment on those later, but for now, just know that a) The presentations have shown that attribution of warming to man is far from unequivocal-there is no justification for saying that the presenters who say so are “wrong” and b) They are right that this point is mostly irrelevant for policy.

EDIT: Chip Knappenberger has cleared up what he meant, and we more or less agree, actually:

http://masterresource.org/?p=1445&cpage=1#comment-699

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Response to World Climate Report-“Highlights of the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change”-Where I Agree and Disagree

  1. Andrew,

    I was at Spencer’s talk in NYC, and have discussed with Roy about the PDO on other occasions. I agree that the PDO has an important role to play in climate variability, but, and this is a big BUT, it is unclear to me how Roy gets the PDO–which is quasi-cyclical (without along-term trend), to produce a long-term temperature rise, the likes which has been observed. Again, I agree that in the positive PDO phase global temperatures are higher than in the negative phase, but I don’t see why they should just keep on getting higher overall…in other words, the cold PDO phases don’t (at least over the 20th century) wipe out all the warming from the warm phase. If the PDO has switched back to a negative phase (and there are some indications that is has), I, personally, would expect it to slow (or even halt) the overall warming trend for a while, but not offset all of the warming from 1977-1998 (or any other end year of your choosing). To me, anthropogenic greenhouse enhancement is responsible for the slow, long-term rise, with PDO acting for periods of several decades, to slow, or even, speed-up that rate of rise. So, while I agree with Roy that the PDO has an important role to play in the earth’s temperature variability, I don’t agree that it explains the majority of the temperature rise during the past half century or so.

    -Chip

  2. timetochooseagain

    Hm, well, I’m not sure that I agree entirely with the idea either. It seems reasonable to me that GHG’s and other anthropogenic forcings would increasingly dominate the long term trend (although I have my doubts-for one thing, natural variability and even some anthropogenic forcings are not really understood that well, so their role is up in the air).

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