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UK’s Royal Society wastes everyone’s time with bland, pointless, and confused ‘summary’ of climate science

By Joe Romm  

"UK’s Royal Society wastes everyone’s time with bland, pointless, and confused ‘summary’ of climate science"

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If you didn’t read the 2007 IPCC report — and won’t read the scientific literature since then — there might be a microscopic chance you would gain some value from skimming the Royal Society’s “new short guide to the science of climate change.”

The headline over at the mostly widely read — and most widely discredited — website for spreading pro-pollution, anti-science disinformation, WattsUpWithThat, tells you all you need to know, “The Royal Society’s Toned Down Climate Stance.”  The Brits own anti-sciencer disinformers, Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, brag, “Royal Society Bows To Climate Change Sceptics.”

A long, long time ago on planet Earth, June 2007, to be exact, the UK’s Royal Society (the UK’s national academy of science, “the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence,” founded in 1660), had something called a Royal Society Climate Change Advisory Group, which released a “simple guide” to climate controversies.  It was “an overview of the scientific understanding of climate change aimed at helping non-experts to better understand some of the debates in this complex area of science.  It debunked several standard pieces of disinformation and concluded:

Our scientific understanding of climate change is sufficiently sound to make us highly confident that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. Science moves forward by challenge and debate and this will continue. However, none of the current criticisms of climate science, nor the alternative explanations of global warming are well enough founded to make not taking any action the wise choice. The science clearly points to the need for nations to take urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, as much and as fast as possible, to reduce the more severe aspects of climate change. We must also prepare for the impacts of climate change, some of which are already inevitable.

This document was compiled with the help of the Royal Society Climate Change Advisory Group and other leading experts.

Based on such science-based judgments, the Royal Society would routinely join the other national academies of sciences in calling for deep and rapid reductions in greenhouse gases (see “National Academies call for 50% CO2 cut“).

Heck, as recently as November 2009, the Society signed on to a clear statement of the increasingly dire nature of the science like this:

“The 2007 IPCC Assessment, the most comprehensive and respected analysis of climate change to date, states clearly that without substantial global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions we can likely expect a world of increasing droughts, floods and species loss, of rising seas and displaced human populations. However even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened. The scientific evidence which underpins calls for action at Copenhagen is very strong. Without co-ordinated international action on greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts on climate and civilisation could be severe.

Duh.

But now leap to 2010 and the climate-ravaged planet Eaarth.

Some Royal Society Fellows who apparently don’t know much about climate science objected to these science-based conclusions.  So it decided to review and update its guide.

Now you might think that its new guide would have stronger conclusions, because, as recently as November, the Society itself acknowledged, “since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened.”  Indeed, William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“: New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.”

You’d be wrong.

The new report divides climate science into three areas:

  1. Aspects of climate change on which there is wide agreement
  2. Aspects of climate change where there is a wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion
  3. Aspects that are not well understood.

To give you an idea of how confused this guide is, how confusing this division is, here’s a quiz.  Guess which of the three areas this paragraph comes in:

Volcanic eruptions are examples of a natural climate forcing mechanism. An individual volcanic eruption has its largest effects on the climate for only a few years after the eruption; these effects are dependent on the location, size and type of the eruption.

Yes, the Royal Society asserts that there is a “wide consensus” but not “wide agreement” on volcanoes as a natural climate forcing mechanism with its largest effects lasting only a few years.  I hope that cleared up the tripartite structure for you.

The volcano point is just a trivial matter, but it goes to the heart of this dumbed-down, report-by-committee whose aim isn’t informing the public but seems to be instead not annoying the least common denominator, the anti-science disinformers.

There is some basic science reporting in this paper.  The introduction states plainly:

There is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, including agriculture and deforestation.

The “wide agreement” part makes clear:

When these surface temperatures are averaged over periods of a decade, to removesome of the year-to-year variability, each decade since the 1970s has been clearly warmer (given known uncertainties) than the one immediately preceding it. The decade 2000-2009 was, globally, around 0.15oC warmer than the decade 1990-1999.

But the Royal Society can’t really get past Working Group One of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment, and decides to make the exact same two mistakes for which the IPCC has been widely criticized:  It doesn’t spell out simply and clearly what will happen if we don’t take action to reduce emissions nor does it spell out the plausible worst-case scenario (which is crucial to how individuals and societies actually make major decisions).

And so in the “wide consensus” but not “wide agreement” part, here is all they can bring themselves to say in the “Future climate change” section on sea level rise:

45.  Because of the thermal expansion of the ocean, it is very likely that for many centuries the rate of global sea-level rise will be at least as large as the rate of 20 cm per century that has been observed over the past century. Paragraph 49 discusses the additional, but more uncertain, contribution to sea-level rise from the melting of land ice.

Seriously.

The Royal Society one-ups the IPCC decision to punt on SLR by ignoring the entire scientific literature on sea level rise of the past three years, a literature that has created a wide consensus (but continuing debate and discussion) around a SLR estimate this century of 3 to 5 feet (see “Scientists withdraw low-ball estimate of sea level rise “” media are confused and anti-science crowd pounces“).

And so the “Aspects that are not well understood” section merely adds this in paragraph 49:

49.  There is currently insufficient understanding of the enhanced melting and retreat of the ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica to predict exactly how much the rate of sea level rise will increase above that observed in the past century (see paragraph 45) for a given temperature increase.

What precisely is the point of writing this “guide to the science of climate change” if that is all you are going to tell the British public about the threat unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases poses to the country’s vast shorelines?

Based on this report, I doubt that many of the panel members follow the scientific literature in climate science very closely.  Indeed, probably the most embarrassing thing about this report is its essentially non-existent bibliography.  The news release says, “The guide has been prepared by leading international scientists, mostly drawn from the Fellowship of the Society, and it is based on very extensive published scientific work.”

But in place of any footnotes or an actual bibliography, the report has a short page titled “Background reading,” which states in its entirety:

Extensive background references to the scientific literature, and summaries thereof, can be found in the following two documents.

Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007, Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html

Advancing the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2010.
americasclimatechoices.org/panelscience.shtml

That toss off to two other reports’ bibliographies would get your literature review thrown out of any graduate school or science journal.  How are you supposed to have any idea what scientific papers they actually reviewed and base their conclusions on?

The NRC report itself doesn’t draw any final conclusions on SLR by 2100 — see U.S. National Academy of Sciences labels as “settled facts” that “the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.” But the NRC makes up for that by simply summarizing the post-IPCC science (click here).  And then it reproduces this figure (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100“):

http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/SLR-PNAS-pic.gif

It labels this figure “projection of sea level rise from 1990 to 2100, based on IPCC temperature projections for three different GHG scenarios” noting that “these projections are considerably larger than the sea level rise estimates for IPCC AR4, which did not account for potential changes in ice sheet dynamics and are considered conservative.”

So we have the Royal Society citing as one of its two primary sources a report that it basically ignores. That, of course, is precisely why you would flunk any graduate science paper with such a non-bibliography — it allows you to pretend that you are drawing on a large literature, without actually doing it.

Confusingly, the Introduction says, “The impacts of climate change, as distinct from the causes, are not considered here.”  Huh?  Not quite.  What they mean is that the impacts on humans aren’t considered here — but sea level rise is by any definition of the phrase one of the main impacts of climate change.  If they didn’t want to discuss climate change impacts at all, then they should have dropped the entire section on “future climate change.”

The Society is equally unable to explain in simple language what happens to temperatures if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path.  In the wide-consensus-but-not-wide-agreement part, here is all they can bring themselves to say in the “Future climate change” section:

As with almost any attempts to forecast future conditions, projections of future climate change depend on a number of factors. Future emissions due to human activity will depend on social, technological and population changes which cannot be known with confidence. The underlying uncertainties in climate science and the inability to predict precisely the size of future natural climate forcing mechanisms mean that projections must be made which take into account the range of uncertainties across these different areas.

The 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made projections of future changes using a number of possible scenarios of future emissions, based on a diverse range of assumptions. The IPCC’s best estimate was that globally averaged surface temperatures would be between 2.5 – 4.7o C higher by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. The full range of projected temperature increases by 2100 was found to be 1.8 – 7.1oC based on the various scenarios and uncertainties in climate sensitivity.

Even in the extremely unlikely event that there is no further increase in climate forcing, a further warming would be expected to occur as the oceans slowly respond to the existing climate forcing, amounting to a further few tenths of a degree centigrade by the year 2100.

The uncertainty in the predicted warming as a result of human activity over the next twodecades is smaller, the range being 0.2 to 0.4oC per decade.

Are you informed yet?

You’d never know from this report that the British have one of the top climate centers in the world, which has done a much better job of spelling out what’s to come — see Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 9-13°F warming by 2100 on current emissions path.  Dr. Vicky Pope, head of climate change predictions at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, wrote in the UK Times in December 2008 that

In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5°C by the end of the century.

It may be “a worst-case scenario” in a world that listens to scientists and makes mitigation a priority, but on planet Eaarth, even the Met[eorological] Office (part of the Defence Ministry) understands it is better described as the “business-as-usual” case.

You could replace the entire Royal Society guide with that one chart and it would be a net improvement in useful information delivered to the public

Their findings match recent work from MIT (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).

Again, this isn’t even the worst-case according to the Met Office (see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon”).

UPDATE:  In rereading the guide, I  notice that this climate science summary does not see fit to devote a single sentence to one of the best pieces of evidence that humans are changing the climate now and are poised to utterly devastate it in the future — the consequences of pouring an endless stream of carbon dioxide into the oceans (see Nature Geoscience: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred and Geological Society: Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown “by end of century”).

You won’t be surprised that this bland, pointless report has a bland, pointless set of “Concluding Remarks”:

There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that has taken place over the last half century. This warming trend is expected to continue as are changes in precipitation over the long term in many regions. Further and more rapid increases in sea level are likely which will have profound implications for coastal communities and ecosystems.

It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, but careful estimates of potential changes and associated uncertainties have been made. Scientists continue to work to narrow these areas of uncertainty. Uncertainty can work both ways, since the changes and their impacts may be either smaller or larger than those projected.

Like many important decisions, policy choices about climate change have to be made in the absence of perfect knowledge. Even if the remaining uncertainties were substantially resolved, the wide variety of interests, cultures and beliefs in society would make consensus about such choices difficult to achieve. However, the potential impacts of climate change are sufficiently serious that important decisions will need to be made. Climate science – including the substantial body of knowledge that is already well established, and the results of future research – is the essential basis for future climate projections and planning, and must be a vital component of public reasoning in this complex and challenging area.

Sad.

Thankfully, even leading conservative politicians in the UK appear more informed on the science — and more blunt about the dangers of inaction — than the Royal Society, so this report is as irrelevant as it is pointless (see UK’s conservative Foreign Secretary: “You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security…. The time to act is now”).

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39 Responses to UK’s Royal Society wastes everyone’s time with bland, pointless, and confused ‘summary’ of climate science

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Sorry OT, just noticed this!

    Please can you all consider to put your books up on iTunes? I just started with this stuff and all i could find are 2 books from Lovelock :)

  2. MarkB says:

    The Royal Society of the United Kingdom has not changed its concurring stance. According to the Telegraph, “The most prestigious group of scientists in the country was forced to act after fellows complained that doubts over man made global warming were not being communicated to the public.”[26] In May 2010, it announced that it “is presently drafting a new public facing document on climate change, to provide an updated status report on the science in an easily accessible form, also addressing the levels of certainty of key components.”[27] The society says that it is three years since the last such document was published and that, after an extensive process of debate and review,[28][29] it hopes to publish the new document in the summer.[27] The review had been planned for some time but “was given ‘added impetus by concerns raised by a small group of fellows’” who “complained that so far the message has not reflected the uncertainty in the debate.”[26] The society has stated that “this is not the same as saying that the climate science itself is in error – no Fellows have expressed such a view to the RS”.[27]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

    So the consensus statement is being watered down by a small group, much like any lowest-common-denominator consensus.

    What are their definitions of “wide agreement” and “wide consensus”? Seems like the same thing to me.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    While at suggesting stuff, Joe you might find this service interesting
    http://flattr.com/

  4. Peter Bellin says:

    The categorization of confidence levels reminds me of the Bush era terrorist threat levels of green amber red. Useless information that gave the public no useful information on how to react to the threat.

    Excellent discussion, thank you.

  5. MapleLeaf says:

    I’ve said it before, but I give up. I feel so bad for my children and their children.

    Mark @2, good post. Thanks for clarifying.

  6. As I said earlier in an email message, where are the illustrations? If this report is meant for the interested public and policy-makers, there needs to be plenty of easily readable graphics such as the MetOffice image that JR posted above.

    A picture is worth a thousand words after all.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Dis

    gust

    ing.

  8. Ken Hendrickson says:

    Near the end, you say “Note the Met Office figure is ‘just’ warming from 1990 levels. You need to add another 0.5°C or so if you want to know total warming from preindustrial levels.”

    But according to the chart footnotes, it’s the emissions that are since 1990, temperature increases are since pre-industrial levels already.

    Best wishes

    [JR: Thanks for catching that. Second time I did that. It's the MIT rise that is compared to 1980-1999 levels.]

  9. adelady says:

    To me this looks like a classic case of Freudenberg and Muselli’s ‘Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge’ at work.

    The Royal Society may not have changed its substantive position, but its public position is now restated in a way that is less ‘challenging’ to those who want the science to go away.

  10. William P says:

    This is ironic in that the dean of earth scientists, James Lovelock, is a member of the highly prestigious Royal Society.

    Lovelock views global warming as the most sinister and certain threat to mankind.

    I wonder what Lovelock thinks about his organization’s backsliding.

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    Bear #339 and The Bear-A-Tones on California Prop #23

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8EZRSivRDY

    For some reason U-Tube isn’t processing the high quality version of this.
    This one is rather grainy .

  12. Robert says:

    The RS is mostly funded by industry, via the goverment.

    http://royalsociety.org/How-our-money-is-spent/

    “The Royal Society receives approximately £45 million per year from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as Parliamentary Grant-In-Aid (PGA). A further £8-10 million of funding is received every year from private donations and industry.”

    At the end of the report there is a list of contributers. Reading between the lines it looks as if the report has been “got at” by certain pro-business interests, notably Sir Alan Rudge who is one of the contributers. This is what he wrote in April 2010:

    “Not only is CO2/Climate Change legislation a burden for industry at a time when the UK needs to grow its industrial base, but it represents an impending disaster for heavy energy users. While it is extremely unlikely that the UK will meet these targets, the political decisions resulting from attempting to do so are likely to be very damaging to industry and the economy and are unlikely to be compensated by competitive opportunities in new low-carbon industries.

    The scale and negative impact of these carbon-reduction impositions should provide a healthy stimulus for the engineering profession to draw breath and examine more carefully the evidence for anthropogenic CO2 as the principle forcing factor for climate change. In view of the economic penalties involved it beholds us to weigh up the level of threat and the uncertainties involved.”

    http://www.thegwpf.org/opinion-pros-a-cons/882-alan-rudge-co2-and-climate-change-the-impact-upon-industry-and-the-uk-economy.html

    In various reports and interviews it is noted that the report was toned down to make it acceptable to certain fellows in the RS.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9046000/9046709.stm

    Special interests are alive and well in the UK as well as the US. We are just a bit more subtle about it!

  13. Jeff Huggins says:

    Should I Stay or Should I Go?

    The DISintegration of Human Wisdom

    Unfortunately, as abysmal and ambiguous and confusing and unhelpful as this Royal Society report seems to be, and as intellectually shallow as it seems to be, it’s not at all irrelevant. It’s not irrelevant for a number of very real reasons: First of all, deniers and delayers will selectively quote it and frame it in ways that set us all — and science itself — backwards by months or years. Secondly, it will make the task harder. Thirdly, many of us are actually quite “conservative”, not in a political sense but in this sort of sense: In order to get up the nerve and verve and courage and so forth to hit the streets and “push for” solutions, we do need, and benefit from, strong and clear wording on the part of the world’s most recognized scientific bodies. When a major scientific body writes such a shoddy and unclear report, it not only does science a disservice, and it not only does the human language (the ideal of clear writing and communication) a disservice, but it also does a disservice to moral and to our positive change efforts.

    The task is hard enough as it is, and when the Royal Society issues a “blah” and unclear report, outdated by several years, it harms the whole thing and is not at all irrelevant.

    For example, 10/10/10 is coming up. Although I know better, and will not not go to 10/10/10 because of this wishy-washy stuff from the Royal Society, nevertheless “it hurts”. Things like this make me wonder: Should I stay or should I go? If the Royal Society is going to write such apparently shoddy stuff, why should I go and dig ditches or build fences or carry signs on 10/10/10? Here, I know the answer to that question, but things like this DO decrease my energy level and morale.

    Also, things like this underscore the need for the ethical and human arguments to be better conveyed along with the scientific factors. In other words, we will forever be plagued by scientists discussing — often in ambiguous ways — the various degrees of uncertainty and so forth, in ways that are often unclear to those who don’t understand science or scientists. But, of course, a key ethical and human point is that, when the risks are so large, the notion of “imperfect knowledge” does not reduce the need for action. In most ways, when the risks are this large, uncertainty actually increases the wisdom of taking action. So, and importantly, the ethical and human and common-sense arguments have to take a greater share of the front stage of discussion, especially if places like the Royal Society are going to issue such confused and confusing reports.

    For the same reasons, we need to shift more focus to ACTION. We can forever be tied up with the advances and setbacks associated with well written scientific reports and poorly written ones, even as they all still underscore the reality of the problem. So, along with giving more of the stage to the ethical and human arguments, we need to give more of the stage — and literally the streets — to responsible ACTION. Dabbling in poorly written scientific reports does nothing but SAP my morale and allow time to pass. IF a report comes out that credibly says that “we don’t have a problem”, THEN let me know so I can make sure to stop my climate concerns and activities. I don’t want to be telling people that we have a problem if we don’t. I value credibility. But until then, I’m starting to feel, it doesn’t help me to realize that scientific organizations are issuing poorly conceived reports.

    Kierkegaard was right in thinking that the most important human activity is decision-making, and that it’s through the choices we make that we create our lives and become ourselves — and define ourselves. Marx was also right — on at least one count anyhow — when he said that the philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.

    Decisions and action. They are becoming increasingly important.

    This whole Royal Society thing has set me back. Until reading this, the Royal Society and the Beatles and Shakespeare were at or near the top of my list of things respected. The Beatles and Shakespeare are still up there, but the Royal Society has just dropped a rung or two, if your (Joe) assessment of this report is correct.

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  14. MapleLeaf says:

    Sorry to be OT, but why oh why has this story

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/09/29/wegman-gate-alert-congress-and-the-media/

    received a paltry 30 comments? Hopefully the page view are orders of magnitude higher than that!

    I guess we’d make a bunch of lousy tea baggers….
    Come on people, please make your voice heard!

    [JR: I don't think 30 is bad. The subject is a tad abstruse.]

  15. MapleLeaf says:

    Scott, I agree re the absence of graphics in the Royal Society’s document, especially in 2010! Maybe they need to take a page from John Cook’s handbook on the science of global warming?

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/A-Scientific-Guide-to-the-Skeptics-Handbook.html

  16. Andy says:

    Sea level rise and much of global warming’s consequences are simply too great and severe a change for many climate scientists; actually I’ll say most scientists, to comprehend. Part of the problem is the partition of expertise. Part is the feeling that to be caught out coming down on the wrong side of a hypothesis is, for a research scientist, the same as waking up and finding they’ve just sleep-walked naked through Times Square.

    I’ve found that only very well rounded scientists, aka naturalists, such as Bill McKibben or E.O. Wilson really get what a disaster this is for our humanity and the earth. Are they alarmists? No, just better informed.

  17. mike roddy says:

    Big committees trend toward equivocal statements even without the fetid breath of industry, but corruption is a more likely influence here. Splitting the difference, and throwing little bones to what is little more than ignorant hysteria, just shows you that Britain has the same problem that we do- behind the scenes pressure from the oil and coal industries.

    All the Royal Society had to do was clearly express what the data says. Substituting “serious” sounding codicils is a game that is not fooling the kind of people who read this blog.

    As usual, you clarified this by actually referencing the data, Joe. Thanks.

  18. toby says:

    I find myself disagreeing with Joe for the first time.

    I realize the denialosphere is spinning this like crazy, but I do not see where the Royal Society has backslid on the evidence for climate change.

    But is is a straw in the wind that the science of climate change will receive wider acceptance but “politicization” and “activism” will be attacked. It will be declared heretical to be “alarmist” e.g. propose a carbon tax.

    Just a new front in the fight – but in a lot of ways it is the denialists who are gathering their wagons in a circle.

    [JR: The RS didn't backslide on evidence for climate change, and, yes, the disinformers spread disinformation, so we can generally discount what they say. But the RS wrote a weaker document on the basis of stronger science. That is sad, not even counting the generally confusing nature of the piece or its lack of a serious bibliography.]

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    ” Men argue , nature acts ”

    Voltaire

  20. Wit'sEnd says:

    On the other hand, the 1010 campaign is anything BUT bland! (Gore alert – and I don’t mean Al)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5I_FyEJoDfk

  21. Mark says:

    I think the facts are there if you look for them, ignoring the Sceptics spin. The statement below hit me between the eyes

    “The uncertainty in the predicted warming as a result of human activity
    over the next two decades is smaller, the range being 0.2 to 0.4C per decade.”

    So the Society points out that we will see as much as 50 to 100% of the warming that has occurred since 1850 in the next two decades.

  22. Richard Brenne says:

    American shot-putter Ralph Rose held the American flag straight-armed at the head of the U.S. athletes during the opening ceremony of the 1908 Olympics, refusing to dip his flag to England’s King Edward VII as all the other flag-bearers had done and when asked about it said “This flag dips for no earthly king.” Climate change and sea level rise dip for no Royal Society dips.

    The Royal Society needs to grow a pair and tell the truth, just as the Royal Family needs to try an outcross.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Here’s another scary set numbers …….
    Climax, Colorado set a new record yesterday, 70.0 F – 21.1 C.
    The old one was 63 F – 17.2 C.
    Climax is located on Fremont Pass at 11,360 feet (3465 meters).

    CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado set one as well 81 F , beating the old one by 5 F degrees.
    The Butte is 9,375 feet (2,860 m).

    Given that these were set after a string of numbers like this for the last 5 days, and at these altitudes, and the last week of September.

    Scary.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records.php?ts=daily&elem=maxt&month=9&day=30&year=2010&sts=US&submitted=Get+Records#recs

  24. NeilT says:

    @15, hard to find graphics which show such a benign picture as the RS are trying to portray. Unless you source them from the same place as WUWT. Which the RS can’t do. They will go as far as playing down the threat, they won’t go to outright lying as they’ll be called on it.

    @22 Bob,

    I experienced something I’d never seen before in Scotland back in January. We were having one of our worst winters in living memory and I was driving back down the A9 to FIFE. On the open level it dropped to -17C I looked because I was driving in a T shirt and had to move my arm from the window, it hurt.

    Anyway, the A9 goes through the drumochter pass. We clmibed from around 600ft to 1,500ft and dropped again to 300ft when over the pass.

    What got me was the temperature gradient. It was -17C at 600ft, -2C at 1,500 ft (the summit of the pass) and -15 at 300ft on the other side.

    Not what I would have expected.

  25. Robert says:

    Joe, My comment #12 may have got lost in the fog of moderation delay but it is an important story that you should follow up. I spent an hour digging around and “following the money” and it is quite obvious that the RS report was knobbled by Sir Alan Rudge.

    Also, bear in mind that the Conservative government are about to wield a large axe to budgets right across the public sector. The RS must be worried that their £48m government funding will be dumped, particularly if they rock the business boat.

  26. John Mason says:

    #24 NeilT,

    Sounds like you drove up through a temperature-inversion. The air at the top of Drumochter had the regional ambient, synoptic-scale temperature. Below in the valley was stagnant cold air trapped beneath. It would only start mixing-out if the wind got up a bit.

    Cheers – John

  27. caerbannog says:


    Colorado Bob says:
    October 1, 2010 at 4:35 am

    Here’s another scary set numbers …….
    Climax, Colorado set a new record yesterday, 70.0 F – 21.1 C.
    The old one was 63 F – 17.2 C.
    Climax is located on Fremont Pass at 11,360 feet (3465 meters).

    CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado set one as well 81 F , beating the old one by 5 F degrees.
    The Butte is 9,375 feet (2,860 m).

    Given that these were set after a string of numbers like this for the last 5 days, and at these altitudes, and the last week of September.

    I’ve been in Denver visiting family. It’s been tickling 90F here during my visit (can’t feel too bad — I missed the 106+ heat-wave in my home-town of San Diego). We went out to Vail a couple of days ago — early Fall, 7000+ feet elevation in the Rockies, and it was just too warm. Felt like 80 or so — at Vail in late September.

    So much for the Lodgepoles (many of which are already dead and dying). The aspens will probably be next (they are already going tits-up in Arizona and Utah).

    Visited RMNP three years ago — just the east side. Little or no sign of beetle-killed lodgepoles then (and I was *looking*). Fast-forward three years, and the lodgepoles (especially on the south-facing slopes) are dropping like flies. It’s been a *huge* change, and in just three short years! As for the west side of RMNP — well, that’s just *ugly*.

  28. Wit'sEnd says:

    Wow, looks like some pressure was brought to bear on 1010 because they took the video down already – however, I found another copy which can be viewed here:
    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/10/no-pressure.html at least until they remove that one!

  29. John Mason says:

    Gail #28,

    According to a larger-than-usual number of commentators over at the Guardian, this film apparently means the laws of physics can from now on be gleefully ignored by all and sundry. I’ve tried to add some rationality, but you know what it’s like when they are on a roll!

    The Pythonesque approach would have been far better employed using the Gumby theme, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pzr6wk7FVXE

    Cheers – John

  30. Bob Ashworth says:

    Politically this could take the steam out of some of the UK sceptics arguments. They are not in the same league (in fact several leagues below)those in the GOP/Teapotty party. Lawson is a stuffed shirt and likes to grandstand and now he feels he has won some sort of victory.

    I say let him have his “victory”. It doesn’t change the science and as we saw from the post quoting William Haigh, the UK coalition government are truly on-board as are most politicians in the UK. Monckton is a fringe freak who gets little coverage for his views.

    The major downside is that dis-informers will use this as some sort of evidence that there are doubts about the science.

  31. Bob Ashworth says:

    I think the 10:10 film is wonderful. It’s a brave attempt at something controversial to grab attention, get publicity and kick-start a debate. Let’s hope it works.

  32. Peter Sergienko says:

    I saw that this report had been issued yesterday afternoon. I immediately followed the links to the report itself thinking that it might be helpful to our 10/10/10 project team. I literally had difficulty staying awake reading it. Perhaps worse than the timid and incomplete approach to the science, the report is a communications disaster. It provides nothing of use to lay people. Scientists must team with the best available communications experts to get the message out effectively. The information is far too important not to take this extra step.

  33. Wit'sEnd says:

    Bob, personally I thought it was quite funny, but I can see where it would alienate many people. My critique of it is quite different. I think the entire notion of reducing one’s carbon footprint by 10% is a muddled concept. There are people with such enormous footprints that reducing by 10% would barely require they change a thing – and others who already have a much smaller footprint that lowering it by 10% could represent much greater sacrifice.

    I think a better approach would be to ration fuel. Everybody gets the same amount, no matter how rich they are. To really address the perils of climate change, a huge and global paradigm shift in the mode of social justice will be required anyway – so why not?

    Someone mentioned a terrific sign held aloft at Copenhagen – System Change Not Climate Change.

    Anything less and no one, at any latitude or income level, will be spared horrific consequences.

  34. Robert says:

    Inverse – thanks for the Daily Mail link. This newspaper used to be out and out sceptic but has recently changed sides (I’m pleased to say). They also pickup up the influence from Sir Alan Rudge that I highlighted in my comment #12:

    “Professor Anthony Kelly and Sir Alan Rudge are both members of an academic board that advises a climate change sceptic think-tank called the Global Warming Policy Foundation.”

    The Royal Society should be ashamed of letting non-scientific members water down and distort the contents in the interests of business. The report masquerades as a summary of climate science when it is quite clearly something else.

  35. John Mason says:

    Look how the GWPF’s Benny Peiser spins this (Daily Mail article linked in #35):

    “The Royal Society now also agrees with the GWPF that the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years.”

    Having read the report myself I think he must be suffering from hallucinations!

    Cheers – John

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m with Robert #s 12 and 35. The presence of denialist businessmen like Rudge and denialist pseudo-scientists like Kelly in the committee that prepared this travesty is an outrage, but a typical one. We must first note the usual moral cowardice displayed by the members of the Royal Society,that produced no-one prepared to stand up to the bullying and thuggery undoubtedly involved (both being Standard Operating Procedures in business). Then there is the ubiquitous disaster of the years of Rightwing political dominance when every public institution has been politicised by Rightwing apparatchiki and business thugs being imposed on them,plus reliance on private money to fund operations. In Australia CSIRO, the premier science institution was so shamelessly stacked under the Howard regime, that it ended up with a Chief Scientists who held the post part-time, the rest of this attention being applied to his job at Rio Tinto, one of the leading lights of the local coal industry and international coal trade. The creature in question,of course, loudly denied the possibility of a ‘perceived’ (a favourite weasel word for the Right)’conflict of interest’, the simple assertion of an inherently laughably fraudulent position being another Rightwing tactic, never ever questioned by the media.
    Not satisfied with this dumbed down,dishonest, business dictated tripe, the BBC, which becomes more Murdochian in its Rightwing ideological orthodoxy by the day, interviewed a Royal Society apparatchik in typically aggressive denialist fashion. While the poor dupe repeated that the science was unchanged, that anthropogenic climate change was real, he was hectored incessantly to admit that the ‘sceptics’ had been vindicated, which remains the BBC’s position,out of ideological loyalty to the Right,its apparatchiki, after decades of political selection, being as pure a representation of Rightwing ideology as the rest of the media.

  37. Doug Bostrom says:

    Given the general level of treatment of this RS report, it seems geared to a lay audience. In light of that, what surprises me is how it commits an all-too-common error of omission by repeatedly referring to “uncertainty” without carefully explaining the meaning of the term when it is employed in scientific communications.

    This a pretty astounding oversight given that confusion over the meaning of the term “uncertainty” is a hurdle for the public when it comes to understanding science. Uncertainty is a didactic challenge we’ve known of for decades, has a particularly high profile when it comes to discussing climate change and in fact has been manipulated and exploited for rhetorical purposes by various entities interested in policy outcomes related to climate change.

    Disagreement over communicating uncertainty was the impetus for an update to the RS report yet the report entirely fails to address uncertainty as a key topic.

    Motivation for a redo hinged essentially on a perceived process problem with the first report, namely that the first report conveyed an exaggerated sense of risk. Beyond causative mechanisms, risk is about probability. Our ability to judge the probability of risk from climate change is rooted in the uncertainty of scientific findings having to do with climate change. Conveying a useful understanding of the risk we’re exposed to by climate change thus absolutely requires a proper explanation of what uncertainty means in the scientific sense. By failing to accomplish this first and arguably most important task, the RS report fails to improve on the first attempt.

    Regardless of one’s stance on climate change, as a communications tool this report is a failure right out of the gate when it comes to helping readers from the general public understand the significance of the scientific findings it covers.

  38. The following 3 posts Sep 17, were in the Guardian after the Lord Lawson Skeptic think tank GWPF had funded the critical Andrew Montford review of UEA inquiries..

    So a mysterious denier organization, probably funded by the usual psychopathic fossil-fuel corporations (just like all the others) doesn’t like the reviews and commissioned it’s own kangaroo court, which–wow and gee whiz–came up with one they really liked.
    I’m blown away.
    So where’s proof of incompetence, corruption and conspiracy? Nowhere as usual. Pretty much par for the course for deniers: whining, nit-picking, petty bickering and arguing the toss.One is entitled to
    wonder if they’d be so obsessed if they weren’t being paid so much

    Oh, for an end to the climate wars. Lord Lawsons sceptic think tank has offered its take on whether the inquiries into the University of East Anglia (UEA) emails did their job adequately. But for all its sharp – and in many cases justified – rejoinders to the official inquiries, its report is likely to be ignored in some quarters for its brazen hypocrisy.

    Here is the problem. Critics of the official inquiries have remorselessly attacked the fact that no out-and-out climate sceptics were on the inquiry teams. Now they have produced their own review of the reviews. But guess what. The author is a man whose views about climategate were well-known in advance….

    And none of the team put up by his sponsors, Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), to review Andrew Montford’s review of the reviews could be described as an outsider, let alone a sympathiser with the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU)….. ( Guardian)

    and finally the best one..

    There is no hypocrisy. The Montford report does not claim to be balanced or independent, like the so-called..independent.. climate change email review did.
    Of course Montfords review is biased. It has to be to balance the bias of the others. If the others had done a proper job, there would be no need for his counterbalancing report

    .