Friday, December 11, 2009

The way forward

Imagine the data reconstruction post-CRU undermines the current consensus. Would political action to curb GHG emissions be doomed? Some fear, some hope so.

Roger Pielke Jr. has addressed the problem on his blog.

I recommend you read it in full. You will also see where I stand on this ;-)
Here is the teaser:
one needs to know only two things about the science of climate change to begin asking whether accelerating decarbonization of the economy might be worth doing:

* Carbon dioxide has an influence on the climate system.
* This influence might well be negative for things many people care about.

That is it. An actual decision to accelerate decarbonization and at what rate will depend on many other things, like costs and benefits of particular actions unrelated to climate and technological alternatives. In this post I am going to further explain my views, based on an interesting question posed in that earlier thread. What would my position be if it were to be shown, hypothetically, that the global average surface temperature was not warming at all, or in fact even cooling (over any relevant time period)? Would I then change my views on the importance of decarbonizing the global energy system?

And the answer is ... no!


MikeR said...

Begging pardon, but this post makes me very nervous. We are talking about an incredibly massive makeover of the world economy. That has the potential to kill many people in many different ways. Poverty kills people too.
You are describing it as if there's only an upside, so we ought to "play it safe". Doesn't seem safe to me.

Stan said...

Strange. I read Roger every day and I thought this post was the silliest post he's ever written. The logic is terrible.

Anonymous said...

Why not organize a global petition to demand real transparency of data and calculations on the climate ?
Transparency International exists for financial corruption (, why not for climate which is a common good ?

Reiner Grundmann said...

you should be a bit more specific

Reiner Grundmann said...

Well, who is being 'silly' here? Or, to be more specific, what is silly in Roger;s post?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Anonymous (which of the 'anonymouses' is this?):
Normally it is the nature of the scientific enterprise to have data transparency. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large you will find a wealth of data and calculations. This is the problem for policy makers, they want a clear message. And so the IPCC was invented, which was supposed to evaluate exisitng research findings. The IPCC soon started to create a 'story line' and this had also an effect on the peer review process, ie research was evaluated in terms of 'fitting with the story line'. This seems to be one of the more troubling findings of the CRU emails.

Richard Tol said...

It's more involved.

In the beginning, there was the scientific literature. As a new organization, the IPCC merely synthesized.

The IPCC created a consensus against which new papers were judged. (So far we agree.)

The IPCC also created a demand for papers that otherwise would not have been written -- for instance, on runs of GCMs.

The IPCC limited the scope of papers. For instance, it is hard to publish a paper on the impacts of climate change that is not based on the IPCC SRES scenarios.

The IPCC has also organized workshops and special issues to help particular papers get into the peer-reviewed literature.

Some of this legitimate, but not all.

Reiner Grundmann said...

I agree with your description of the process and the silent extension of the IPCC's 'remit'. Note that this is not covered by its official function.

On balance, the IPCC has been counterproductive. It was ill conceived to set it up in the first place.

Richard Tol said...

I'm not sure that I agree. I found AR1 and particularly AR2 very helpful. The IPCC was set-up in a different time. Its founders were not far-sighted enough to anticipate the politicisation, let alone build safeguards.

It's now time to clean out the stables.

Reiner Grundmann said...

the IPCC was set up in the aftermath of the ozone CFC story and the success of the Montreal Protocol. It was built on the premiss that too many different research findings would confuse policy makers and the public. Therefore, one authoraritive body had to be established that would pronounce on the science. Maybe you found it helpful, and I would agree that it played an important role in agenda setting. However, the birth defect so to speak was to mix the science with politics. It is the interGOVERNMENTAL panel, not the international scientific panel on cc.

BTW: as I show in my book, Montreal was not successful because of a unified scientific assessment, let alone consensus.

Richard Tol said...

Agreed on Montreal.

LRTAP/Sofia Protocol/acidification was another model for the IPCC.

It does not matter too much when the IPCC got off the rails. Off the rails it is.