The (Unclear) Case for Climate Impacts

An extraordinary op-ed by four climate scientists, headlined “The Science Behind Climate Science,” asserts:

The urgent need to act cannot be overstated. Climate change caused by humans is already affecting our lives and livelihoods “” with extreme storms, unusual floods and droughts, intense heat waves, rising seas and many changes in biological systems “” as climate scientists have projected.

This is nectar to Joe Romm, “problematic” to Roger Pielke, Jr., who has written an email to one of the op-ed authors, asking:

I am unaware of research that shows either detection or attribution of human-caused changes in extreme storms or floods, much less detection or attribution of such changes “affecting lives and livelihoods”. Can you point me to the scientific basis for such claims?

This is really the nub of the big debate over climate change, not whether the science is established, but what are the detectable impacts. I think if it was incontestable that man-made climate change is causing the kind of extreme climatic changes and weather disasters that the op-ed asserts, we would have had a global treaty on carbon emissions by now. But the present-day impacts are not at all clear, though I’m open to persuasion–I really am. Which is why I’m anxious to see the reply that Roger gets.

No one should mistake my skepticism on this matter as an argument for inaction on climate change. As long-time readers of this blog know, I tend to favor decoupling climate change from the larger energy debate. I recognize that to some, this dilutes the “urgency” for action; I just happen to think you can get broader buy-in for decarbonisation with the approach laid out by the Hartwell group.

But it seems that the climate debate will continue to pivot on the contention that man-made climate catastrophe is not only inevitable–if no serious action is taken–but that, in fact, such catastrophe is already upon us. At least that’s how I interpret the Politico op-ed. [Update: A commenter says that I’ve mischaracterized the views of the op-ed authors with my “catastrophe” connotation, and I agree.]

If this is where the policy debate is destined to be decided, then we should vigorously engage it. To that end, I’d like to see Real Climate take up the science behind the assertions made in the Politico op-ed. RC is where controversial matters of climate science are most comprehensively aired out.

Let’s air this one out.

75 Responses to “The (Unclear) Case for Climate Impacts”

  1. JimR says:

    “RC is where controversial matters of climate science are most comprehensively aired out.”
     
    That’s an….. interesting point of view. Personally I would never combine RC and comprehensive in the same sentence. They are more likely to sweeten Romm’s nectar than that to have a comprehensive discussion of a controversial matter in climate science.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    JimR:

    I knew somebody was going to seize on that. Okay, so I recognize that some readers of this blog have issues with RC. Maybe you don’t agree with how I characterized them, but they still tackle the science and often have huge comment threads. Thus, I’d like them to take up this issue.

    Maybe if they do and there’s a “comprehensive” discussion, you’ll change your mind. 🙂

  3. Marlowe Johnson says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you on this one Keith, esp that it would be nice to see an RC post airing the issues.
     
    My own take on it is that what we’re seeing here is similar to the trap that Jones fell into (originally suggested by Linzen I might add) when he agreed that there had been no significant warming since 1995, simply because the time interval was too short to meet the 95% confidence level.
     
    Along the same lines, I’d suggest that there are discernable impacts in terms of “extreme storms, unusual floods and droughts, intense heat waves, rising seas and many changes in biological systems”, most especially wrt the last item in the list. BUT the signal for most of these changes isn’t detectable at the 95% confidence level.

  4. JimR says:

    Keith, comprehensive would be good. But from my experience RC is comes down hard on one side of the issues and therefore I have trouble seeing any of their discussions as comprehensive. It’s possible but unlikely that a Zebra can change it’s stripes and I’ll be interesting to see if RC changes from Gavin’s  “How many times do you need to correct someone’s misperception of a point of science?” to an actual comprehensive discussion.
    By the way, haven’t posted here much lately but I’ve become an avid lurker over the past few months and enjoy the lively discussions your interesting posts create. Thank you.

  5. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe-

    I just think this is truly slippery territory. I know from my own in-depth study of prehistory and drought that assigning a causal link between modern-day droughts and climate change is awfully dicey–to name just one example of a climate change impact often cited.

    Add to that the irony of the term “dust-bowlification” of the Southwest and other regions, often invoked by Joe Romm–since the Dust Bowl was quite a man-made disaster, indeed, but because of bad agricultural practices, combined with a drought.

    JimR:

    Thanks for lurking and posting when you’re inclined. I have to lurk at my own blog sometimes, when there are pressing deadlines, and last week was one of those times.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    Just to clarify a bit on my drought example. I realize that the projections are for climate change to amplify drought’s intensity and also perhaps extend the time frame of an otherwise naturally ocurring drought. I still think that’s tricky to detect, since there is much evidence of multidecandal droughts (of varying magnitudes)  that devastated societies long before AGW.

  7. Keith,

    This is a wg2 issue: Impacts of climate change. RC deals mostly with wg1 issues: The physical climate system, so I’m not so sure if this is their cup of tea.

    Not that I know much about climate impacts either, but I share the feeling that many others have aired recently that the exact nature of the impacts are much more uncertain than the phsyics underlying the climate system.

    The most relevant point about impacts though is what kinds of impacts do we expect see when climate change is left unmitigated? And can we start to see those changes happening? (even if we can’t attribute them with high confidence yet to climate change)

    In addition to Marlowe Johnson’s point, I think the last two items on that list are fairly clear: Sea levels are rising (global avg) and biological systems are changing. The former (a physical response) is probably easier to attribute to climate change than the latter (an ecosystem response).

  8. JamesG says:

    Unless we are supposed to base policy on purely gut feelings then the paragraph would have to be altered to be factually correct…
    The urgent need to act is frequently overstated. Climate change caused by humans, if it exists, is not affecting our lives nor livelihoods “” with normal storms, usual floods and droughts, intense heat waves and equally intense cold waves, normally rising seas and few changes in biological systems; so far either beneficial or benign “” as climate scientists have ignored because they prefer models to real data.

  9. Keith Kloor says:

    Bart (7):

    I’m in agreement on sea level rise and changing of biological systems. As you must know, neither of those are enough to get people concerned enough (though I know many ecologists that are plenty concerned) to make climate change a top tier issue.

    I also know RC’s focus, but I thought the scientific claim in the Politico op-ed was so unambiguous as to warrant their attention. Also, there’s been plenty of side chatter in past threads over there pertaining  to impacts. Why not just take it on, since it’s so central to the debate?

  10. thingsbreak says:

    It seems to me that a more straightforward reading of the section highlighted by Roger is that we’re seeing responses from the Earth system “consistent with” projected changes under anthropogenic climate change, rather than a claim based on formal D&A studies. Roger’s dislike for that frame is well known, so I doubt that it will be a satisfactory explanation for him. 🙂
     
    Some papers that cover relevant ground: Modelling the recent evolution of global drought and projections for the 21st century with Hadley Centre climate model (Burke et al. 2006); Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change (Rosenzweig et al. 2008); Frequency of severe storms and global warming (Aumann et al. 2008); Temperature dependence of global precipitation extremes (Liu et al. 2009); Detection and Attribution of Streamflow Timing Changes to Climate Change in the Western United States (Hidalgo et al. 2009); Probabilistic estimates of recent changes in temperature: a multi-scale attribution analysis (Christidis et al. 2009); Anthropogenic forcing dominates sea level rise since 1850 (Jevrejeva et al. 2009); Detection and attribution of climate change: a regional perspective (Stott et al. 2010).

  11. Scott B says:

    Marlowe Johnson:

    Why do you think it’s a trap?  I understand that people took Jones’ quote and misused it for their own ends.  People that have political motives are going to do that with anything they can.  Your not going to convince these people.  The people who’s opinions can be swayed will normally understand this.  People that are knowledgeable of the subject are going to understand that the quote is meaningless.  15 years isn’t enough time to make any conclusions about the climate at all and the best data we have shows warming over longer time scales.  That knowledge will then be past on to the undecided, they’ll be able to choose between knowledgeable opinions and those of political hacks.  In a vacuum, they will usually side with those that are knowledgeable. 

    In comparison, when quotes come out like in Politico, knowledgeable people are going to call out the misinformation.  The political hacks are going to latch on to this and now they don’t have to misuse a quote to point out that climate science is a complete hoax or some other nonsense.  Now the undecided are going to see an area where the political hacks are right and the climate science establishment is overstating things to convince them.  They are feel they are being lied to and be more skeptical of future information from climate scientists.  Plus, some knowledgeable people who were likely predisposed to believe scientists are going to be skeptical.

    This doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  Let’s say someone undecided but hasn’t been following climate science or the controversy.  They hear the Politico quote and think in this case climate scientists are embellishing things.  Next they see Jones’ quote.  Now, they are going to be more apt to buy into the spin being placed on that quote and reinforce their suspicion.  That the Politico quote came from an incoming IPCC head is also going to spark doubt on the whole of climate science.  This person isn’t some denier of science.  They are simply doing what most people do when they make decisions on something they aren’t an expert on.  They take limited amounts of information they can digest to form their opinion.  They aren’t going to take the time to become an expert on the subject.  Once their opinion is formed it is going to be hard to impossible to change it.

  12. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith,
     
    You’re right it a grey area.  Detection and attribution of the kinds of impacts Roger likes to talk about (hurricanes and floods) is messy for a variety of reasons.  In the absence of a time machine, I think the best we can do to help the public understand is to use the loaded dice analogy…

  13. Kooiti Masuda says:

    I do not find the word “catastrophe” in the op-ed, it is not obvious that their outlook of near future is apt to be described by the word (in my sense of the word).  It seems that the connotation of the word is different from one person to another, and representing opinions with that word often makes misunderstanding.  So I think it is better to avoid qualifying the position of James McCarthy et al. using the word.  It is all right if you make your definition of the word very clear and demonstrate that their views come within your definition.

  14. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Impacts – what, where, when and how much? – aren’t central to the debate: they are the only things that matter. For everyone in the world except WG1 researchers, all the rest is just blather.
    I do wish that WG1 types like Real Climate, Tobis and Stoat would wake up to this.  Ditto non-specialist scientolaters such as Skeptical Science, Greenpeace and the British government. Yes, one layer of the science is settled (or near as dammit) but who cares? That’s not the bit that matters.

  15. RickA says:

    #2 Keith:
    Yes RC has huge comment threads – but they filter the comments to only allow through what they approve of.
    It is really a one-sided conversation.
    I have had several mild comments that never came out of moderation over at RC.  For example, this one commenting on the Muir report:
    RickA says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    7 July 2010 at 4:17 PM
    Let us hope that all the scientists in the climate arena will take the recommendations of the Muir report to heart!
    I hope that everybody sees the importance of archiving data, standardizing the metadata for locations, providing enough information as to methods and the data for proper replication, being really descriptive and accurate about figure descriptions and being cooperative with requests, even if they are trying to find fault with the conclusions of a paper. That is just good science.
    The Muir report shows that climate scientists need to step up in these areas.
    I especially hope the scientists take the recommendation to heart about putting uncertainty on a proper statistical footing. A lot of the battle really revolves around statistics, and being rigorous will only help.
    My observation is that a lot of the problems come from trying to persuade (like the WMO and AR documents), rather than merely reporting the science.
    To much spin, in my opinion.
    Anyway ““ good luck with your future work.
    So the stuff over at RC is not comprehensive, in my opinion.

  16. Tom Fuller says:

    First, ScottB, I am wondering who is left as undecided at this point in 2010? For those who are still undecided about climate change, is there anything that could decide them?
     
    Second, I think Pielke Jr. said what needed to be said about the Politico piece.  I think teasing out changes that are due specifically to global warming is… well, fraught.
     

    (From “˜Fire and Ice, Business and Media’) “It was five years before the turn of the century and major media were warning of disastrous climate change. Page six of The New York Times was headlined with the serious concerns of “geologists.” Only the president at the time wasn’t Bill Clinton; it was Grover Cleveland. And the Times wasn’t warning about global warming ““ it was telling readers about the looming dangers of a new ice age. The year was 1895, and it was just one of four different time periods in the last 100 years when major print media predicted an impending climate crisis. Each prediction carried its own elements of doom, saying Canada could be “wiped out” or lower crop yields would mean “billions will die.”
    The same article, found on the website for Business and Media, talks of the New York Times headline reading, “Arctic Findings in Particular Support Theory of Rising Global Temperatures.” But the date was Feb. 15, 1959. Glaciers were melting in Alaska and the “ice in the Arctic ocean is about half as thick as it was in the late nineteenth century.” In 1953 William J. Baxter wrote the book “Today’s Revolution in Weather!” on the warming climate. His studies showed “that the heat zone is moving northward and the winters are getting milder with less snowfall.”
    But it wasn’t just warming that caused changes””cooling of 1 degree “˜trimmed a week to 10 days from the growing seasons’ between the 1940s and 1974, according to Time magazine.

  17. Laursaurus says:

    Did it occur to anyone that we are discussing an op-ed article from a political website?
    I doubt RC will address this opinion piece. That blog discusses only what they want. Suggesting it to them is a sure-fire way to get them to avoid it.
    I’d love to be proven wrong.
    These resurrecting over-the-top scary scenarios on left-leaning websites is not going to work anymore.
    I do like the policies favored in the Hartwell paper, though.

  18. William Newman says:

    Keith Kloor (CAS#2) writes “Maybe if they [RC] do and there’s a ‘comprehensive’ discussion, you’ll change your mind.”

    RC is often accused of mismoderation. You seem to want to treat this accusation a sort of free-floating dueling-opinions unknowable unknown. Perhaps you might want to spend 5 minutes investigating the possibility for yourself? E.g., skim the first 50 comments allowed through moderation <a href=”http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-muir-russell-report/”>here</a>. Are you really impressed by moderation where 2 of the 3 criticisms worthy of being allowed into the discussion are (a sentence fragment from) RC#9 and the entirety of RC#22 (“LOL I stopped reading at ‘thorough'”)? The third criticism allowed through, RC#46, does looks like actual criticism that a reasonable moderator might let through for non-strawman purposes, though I wonder whether it’s really the strongest coherent criticism received among the first fifty, especially since canned sources of criticism like Pearce’s article existed. Amusingly, a fourth comment, RC#47, does actually link to the article by Pearce by presenting it as a loyally rah-rah-RC criticism of a general pattern of accentuating the negative. (The moderator might not have clicked through to find the tension between RC’s general “surprisingly thorough … rigour and honesty of the CRU scientists is not in doubt” judgment and Pearce’s specific points like “never asked Jones or his colleagues whether they had actually done this [deleted email]” …)

    It seems to me that such a pattern is hard to explain unless critics really are correct when they accuse RC moderators of intentionally letting weak criticisms through so that they can entertain themselves by refuting to them, while censoring more serious criticisms. And under such a partisan moderation policy, huge isn’t ‘comprehensive,’ and the result is a ‘discussion’ only in the sense that a revival meeting is a ‘discussion’.

    Of course, past performance is not a reliable guide to future behavior, so perhaps RC will choose to allow a more comprehensive discussion of an article on the science of this op-ed.

    (I am also grimly amused by the irony of dhogaza-on-RC cynically predicting in RC#42 “you’ll be quoted-mined, I’m sure”. Quote mining can indeed be used to distort opponents’ positions, as dhogaza-on-CAS argues <a href=”http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/07/01/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/#comment-10007″>here</a> (though without giving references for his “said … repeatedly”). But rather as with lex talionis, bad though quote mining can be, in various real conflicts people do much worse. IMHO, the IPCC controversy would have a less creepy, disgusting tone if advocates like dhogaza-on-CAS held themselves to the minimal standard of mining an actual quote to justify a <a href=”http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/07/01/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/#comment-9911″>claim</a> like “Lindzen is on record as saying he doesn’t believe in what might be labeled ‘catastrophic tobacco smoking’.  He suggests that the risks are greatly exaggerated to the point where they can be ignored.”)

  19. Keith, you wrote

    “neither of those are enough to get people concerned enough”

    Indeed, for many they aren’t, probably because the effects are too far out in the future to get people worried today. Same as for smoking: That it increases your health risks decades down the road is for many not a big factor in deciding to smoke or not (though that seems to have changed a bit).

    From a blog post I ead a while ago:

    “The problem is that it’s not our problem”

    Exactly.

  20. Keith Kloor says:

    Laurasuraus (17):

    That this op-ed appeared in a widely read political website is the first thing that occurred to me. However, you are wrong in characterizing Politico as left-leaning. Hardly. In fact, some of their critics have accused Politico of having a conservative agenda.

    William (18), this probably won’t dissuade you, but here’s an explanation of RC’s comment policy, courtesy of Bart Verheggen, which I just read in a thread over at Jeff ID’s site:

    …That’s not why RC clips comments either: They clip to avoid discussions from being derailed by noise (e.g. long refuted talking points or insinuations of wrongdoing). The problem is, their idea of noise is not the same as your idea of noise.

    Anyway, speaking of derailment, I’d like to try to keep the focus of this thread on climate impacts.

  21. William Newman says:

    Keith Kloor (#20), OK, and thanks for the pointer to Bart Verheggen’s explanation.

  22. Keith Kloor says:

    Kooiti (13)

    You make a good point. I shouldn’t have ascribed “catastrophe” to that passage, since that is not what they meant. I think what turned my head is that first line–that AGW is “already affecting our lives and livelihoods…”  I just don’t see any evidence of that and kinkda ran with it to conclude that the point of the op-ed is to leave the impression that climate doom is around the corner. I’ll think about how I can change the wording in my post.

    TB (10), thanks for the cites, but next time could you please include links, for those that might want to follow up and read.

  23. Tom Fuller says:

    Treelines have moved and migratory patterns have changed. But that has happened throughout history, long before industrialization. Infestations have ravaged forests–again, long history of that.
     
    3 mm of sea level rise is very small. Humanity has adjusted to larger sea level rises–just look around the Mediterranean and city relocations.
     
    What may happen in the future is really undefined–I can’t say I’m happy with the skill of GCMs, but it’s absurd to think that there will be no effects from future warming. But I really don’t see present effects of global warming.  The four horsemen have always been with us–and previous times were labeled ‘Optimums’ for a reason.

  24. thingsbreak says:

    @22
    kkloor, Sure- I just wanted to make sure I avoided the spam filter. I will repost with links.

  25. Keith Kloor says:

    Of relevance, regarding sea level rise, this study, from scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is just out.

  26. William Newman says:

    thingsbreak (#10) writes “It seems to me that a more straightforward reading of the section highlighted by Roger is that we’re seeing responses from the Earth system “consistent with” projected changes under anthropogenic climate change, rather than a claim based on formal D&A studies.”

    Really? Would you think that was the straightforward reading if a pro-animal-sacrifice op-ed claimed “The urgent need to act cannot be overstated. Economic changes caused by our failure to ritually sacrifice are already affecting our lives and livelihoods with extreme unemployment, unusual banking instability, …” and it turned out that the authors couldn’t back up the “is already” part by establishing a causal relationship, but only by showing that current fluctuations in unemployment and banking instability are “consistent with” their long-term projections of how ritual karmic decline at the current rate will become a clear problem by the second half of this century?

    Also, if that’s the straightforward reading, then wouldn’t the “cannot be overstated” passage become rather silly? In your reading, it is obvious how to overstate it: to do so, one need merely write explicitly what we (in our inability to follow your straightforward interpretation) read them as writing.

  27. Tom Fuller says:

    I wish the NSF had seen fit to show how much SLR the tropical pool has experienced. Not a number to be seen…

  28. JimR says:

    Keith,
     
    “¦That’s not why RC clips comments either: They clip to avoid discussions from being derailed by noise (e.g. long refuted talking points or insinuations of wrongdoing). The problem is, their idea of noise is not the same as your idea of noise.”

    That is a strange defense for RC. On the issue of Judith Curry we saw long comment threads with many insinuations of wrongdoing. It didn’t seem to matter what the commenters said about her, they were allowed. That didn’t seem to bother the moderators at RC a bit. And there are years of examples of this type of behavior.


    Not to keep harping on RC, but you probably have a better chance of getting Romm to have a comprehensive discussion without the heavy hand of moderation than RC. For the many of us that have followed climate blogs since the inception of RC these excuses don’t cut it. Perhaps despite the impressive credentials of those at RC you should consider them as militant as Romm or Deltoid or other such sites where the changes of an actual discussion with more than one point of view allowed are statistically zero.



  29. GaryM says:

    Is there really anything new in this article?  A single new argument, statement, suggestion?  Anything?
    1.  “Today, a large body of evidence has been collected to support the broad scientific understanding that global climate warming, as evident these last few decades, is unprecedented for the past 1000 years “” and this change is due to human activities. ” (emphasis added)
    ie. no MWP, and forget uncertainty as to causation or degree (“this change,” not some or all of this change)
    2.  “This conclusion is based on decades of rigorous research by thousands of scientists and endorsed by all of the world’s major national science academies.” (emphasis added)
    ie. the “consensus” tells us so.
    3.  “The urgent need to act cannot be overstated. Climate change caused by humans is already affecting our lives and livelihoods “” with extreme storms, unusual floods and droughts, intense heat waves, rising seas and many changes in biological systems “” as climate scientists have projected.” (emphasis added)
    ie. climate is weather, if it favors the ‘consensus;’ the need to act is now (unless you want to redefine the word urgent); and the effects are already catastrophic (unless you don’t consider this litany of man caused horrors to be catastrophic)
    4. (and my favorite) “… we seem stalled “” despite an increasingly clear picture of what human-induced global warming is doing to our planet. (emphasis added)
    ie. we are more certain now than we were before the revelation of the defects in the hockey stick, “hide the decline,” other errors the IPCC’s AR4, etc. etc….nothing to see here folks, move along to discussing how we are going to save the world…

    I don’t see how this is different from any other comment from climate change advocates at Real Climate, this blog or anywhere else.  Admit we are right on the existence of the problem, its severity, and its certainty, then we will deign to discuss with you what the government should do to fix it.

    The only difference is that this is dressed up for public consumption, and was posted on a website that gets wide viewing by the general public (with hopes it will be repeated in the MSM).
     
    But hey, it was signed by FOUR climate scientists.
     
     

  30. Judith Curry says:

    The interesting thing to my mind is that I have not hitherto come across this level of advocacy from these particular scientists, and in the case of Hurrell I am unaware of any previous advocacy activities

  31. thingsbreak says:

    @23 Tom Fuller
    previous times were labeled “˜Optimums’ for a reason.
     
    Yes, though apparently not for the reason you believe given the context of your statement. It’s usage 2 rather than 1 in Merriam Webster, as an example. This is why the term is generally interchangeable with “thermal maximum“. See also altithermal in this NOAA Paleoclimate glossary.
     
    Additionally, the first part of your post appears to be a non sequitur. The existence of prior non-anthropogenic changes does not preclude anthropogenically-driven changes from being disruptive enough to warrant avoiding them.

  32. thingsbreak says:

    Some papers that cover relevant ground: Modelling the recent evolution of global drought and projections for the 21st century with Hadley Centre climate model (Burke et al. 2006); Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change (Rosenzweig et al. 2008); Frequency of severe storms and global warming (Aumann et al. 2008); Temperature dependence of global precipitation extremes (Liu et al. 2009); Detection and Attribution of Streamflow Timing Changes to Climate Change in the Western United States (Hidalgo et al. 2009); Probabilistic estimates of recent changes in temperature: a multi-scale attribution analysis (Christidis et al. 2009); Anthropogenic forcing dominates sea level rise since 1850 (Jevrejeva et al. 2009); Detection and attribution of climate change: a regional perspective (Stott et al. 2010).

  33. AK says:

    @Tom Fuller #16
     
    First, ScottB, I am wondering who is left as undecided at this point in 2010? For those who are still undecided about climate change, is there anything that could decide them?
     
    I’ll answer that…  I am.  First, I’m not at all convinced that “global warming” exists as anything but a momentary situation in a random variation.  (OTOH I’m not convinced that it doesn’t, either.)  Second, I’m not convinced that there’s really an increase to the potential for damage in storms over the last decade, as opposed to increased vulnerability due to increased population and building in vulnerable areas.  (OTOH I’m not convinced that there isn’t.)  I’m not convinced that any proposed “global warming” is actually a consequence of increased GHG levels, although it does seem plausible.  I’m not convinced that the increased carbon dioxide levels are actually the result of pouring it into the air:  Amazon deforestation might well be responsible, for instance.  (For that matter, although it’s a little far-fetched, ecological changes in the ocean’s plankton make-up due to overfishing can’t be entirely ruled out, ditto for many other causes.)
     
    But I’m pretty sure (not certain) that pouring the amounts of fossil carbon into the into the biosphere that we are will eventually push it across some “tipping point” that we won’t like.  It’s also perfectly plausible (IMO, and IMO just about as likely) that the effect of GHG’s themselves could produce more sever tropical storms (and even substantial changes to the temperate frontal systems) without the intermediary of higher temperatures, either regionally or globally averaged.
     
    A substantial catastrophic (in the mathematical sense) change to the global climate could certainly take place without any change to the temperature averaged annually and globally.  Changes like this have happened many times in the past (e.g. MCO, LIA), and I see no reason to expect them to stop, even if we were to reverse the GHG content tomorrow.
     
    AFAIK year-to-year climate (weather?) variability was much greater during the “ice ages”, and it’s not impossible that the supposed greater violence of tropical storms, if real, is part of the onset of the next one.  (It’s even been proposed that the “Greenhouse effect” has been masking the onset of the next ice age, which otherwise would be upon us.)
     
    What the proponents of “urgent action” don’t understand is the almost universally conservative nature of human societies when faced by threats.  This, IMO, is fully justified by the equally great risk of crashing the economy in a way that would make our current problem look like part of the golden age.
     
    The denial (cognitive dissonance) exhibited by most “urgent action” proponents in this regard is, IMO, just as reprehensible as that exhibited by those who refuse to accept the “greenhouse effect”.
     
    IMO you won’t get general buy-in for an agreement that action is needed on carbon dioxide until you include the imperative that the economy not be fiddled with in any drastic way.
     
    If proponents of “urgent action” want to get something accomplished, they need to come up with solutions that:

    Don’t make fantasy assumptions such as that China and the rest of the undeveloped world are going to stop their crash expansion of fossil fuel burning.
    Don’t make fantasy assumptions that people in the developed world are going to give up their high-energy life-style.
    Don’t make fantasy assumptions that “renewable” energy sources such as agro-fuel and wind power can meet energy needs that fossil fuels are already barely managing to meet.
    Don’t rely on people doing “green” stuff on their own.

    More feasible short/medium term, IMO, is Concentrating Solar Power, of which several types already exist.  To compete with fossil fuels, it would require very high subsidies, for which I propose (as I have before) the following:
     
    Create a modest tax on fossil carbon, starting out at perhaps 5-10% of the cost of digging it out of the ground, and allocate all of the proceeds to non-fossil sources of energy, regardless of type.  The amount of the subsidy should be equal (per kW·h) without reference to who, where, or how it’s generated.  The tax should be committed, from the beginning, to rise annually (per kW·h) until it becomes prohibitive in perhaps 30 years.
     
    At the beginning, this subsidy would produce huge profits for the early adopters, as well as expectations of very high profits for investors.  (The greater the confidence that the tax and subsidy would actually follow the points I mentioned above, the larger the initial investments would be.)  Hopefully (!), once the technology matures, and becomes large enough to take advantage of major economies of scale, it will be able to compete with, and replace, fossil carbon.
     
    Don’t bother with subsidies for investors or research, that just turns into boondoggles.  Let the market do it, along with the pressure on oil companies to convert their current advantage into the new technology.
     
    As for remediation (ie carbon capture), it could be allowed to offset equivalent amounts of fossil carbon, exempting it from the tax.  (Of course, if the captured carbon was elemental, or in the form of charcoal, it could simply be sold as non-fossil fuel itself, replacing digging up of fossil carbon.)
     
    Regarding catastrophic change to the climate, that should be planned for independently of action on fossil carbon.  After all, it’s unlikely (IMO) that any solution to the “carbon problem” will be instituted soon enough to prevent some catastrophic changes to the biosphere.  And, we are doing a variety of other things to our biosphere that also have a high probability of producing such a change.  Finally, if the recent few megayears are any indication, we’re probably headed into another ice age, with a major increase in year-on-year variation as well as other major climate changes.
     
    The most important item here is to decouple the majority of the world’s agriculture from dependence on dependable local climates.  Although it’s a huge project, the conversion of most agriculture (other than luxury specialties) to an enclosed factory system, dependent primarily on energy (and atmospheric carbon dioxide) could probably be done on a decadal time frame (say 50 years).  Although a simple tax/subsidy system of the sort mentioned above probably wouldn’t work, I suspect something could be worked out.  Of course, the energy requirements would probably require space-based solar power (it would certainly be easier) and both projects would likely require major governmental input and oversight.  OTOH, such projects could be done by independent nations, unlike the carbon solution which would probably have to be coordinated on a world-wide basis.

  34. Bob Koss says:

    KK #25
    The sea level study you linked pertains only to the Indian Ocean and is the result of a modeling exercise. As they didn’t even attach any figures to the rise, it appears the only relevance they attach to it, is to announce they completed the exercise.
    They even state.
    “Global sea-level patterns are not geographically uniform,” says NCAR scientist Gerald Meehl, a co-author of the paper. “Sea-level rise in some areas correlates with sea-level fall in other areas.”
     
    What might be of relevance is a comparison of SLR over since circa 1900. I suspect you won’t find much difference in the recent rate of rise compared with times in the earlier portion of the record.
    Perhaps someone has a link to global sea level over that period?

  35. Paul Callander says:

    Sorry, Real Climate is not where “the most controversial aspects of climate change are most comprehensively aired out”. RC is an advocate site that airs only one side of the issues.

  36. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @32 thanks for the links TT, very informative.
     
    @30, Judy would you care to offer some additional thoughts (e.g. does this make you reconsider you’re own decisions regarding ‘to advocate or not’?).  Is there something that they are aware of that you are not, or have they simply swallowed the alarmist koolaid?

  37. William Newman says:

    Does anyone have a source or sources for predictions corresponding to the op-ed’s “as climate scientists have projected”? I looked some time ago (more than a year ago, I think) at old IPCC reports, trying to find predictions which could be sharply distinguished from lukewarmer-style broad uncertain predictions. I came away somewhat frustrated — I did find some general predictions, but I was left with a grouchy impression that the IPCC position wasn’t very falsifiable. It might help some of us old-fashioned knuckle-dragging types be less grouchy about  being scolded for estimating the forcing too low or the error bars too wide if, now that IPCC people have had the science settled for some years, they would embrace the habit of committing themselves to various sharp predictions which distinguish their position from ours. E.g., “observable X will fall in the interval [Y,Z] with 90% probability,” where the interval is significantly smaller than a naive lukewarmer analysis would be able to give, and the commitment is sufficiently unambiguous and public that the credibility of the IPCC consensus would be unambiguously destroyed if, say, only 16/29 of such predictions come true. It would be particularly helpful in this particular case if the “as climate scientists have projected” in the op-ed corresponded to such reasonably-falsifiable predictions committed to years ago which have since come true.

    (And incidentally, thanks thingsbreak (#32) for the recent attribution papers; it’s nice to have convenient links to help ground this discussion in finished publications.)

  38. thingsbreak says:

    @34 Bob Koss:
    What might be of relevance is a comparison of SLR over since circa 1900. I suspect you won’t find much difference in the recent rate of rise compared with times in the earlier portion of the record.
    Perhaps someone has a link to global sea level over that period?

     
    An Anomalous Recent Acceleration of Global Sea Level Rise (Merrifield et al. 2009):
    Tide gauge data are used to estimate trends in global sea level for the period from 1955 to 2007. Linear trends over 15-yr segments are computed for each tide gauge record, averaged over latitude bands, and combined to form an area-weighted global mean trend. The uncertainty of the global trend is specified as a sampling error plus a random vertical land motion component, but land motion corrections do not change the results. The average global sea level trend for the time segments centered on 1962″“90 is 1.560.5 mm yr21 (standard error), in agreement with previous estimates of late twentieth-century sea level rise. After 1990, the global trend increases to the most recent rate of 3.2 6 0.4 mm yr21, matching estimates obtained from satellite altimetry. The acceleration is distinct from decadal variations in global sea level that have been reported in previous studies. Increased rates in the tropical and southern oceans primarily account for the acceleration. The timing of the global acceleration corresponds to similar sea level trend changes associated with upper ocean heat content and ice melt.
     
    And references therein, particularly Church and White 2006.

  39. HaroldW says:

    @27 William Newman:
    As for storms & floods, the IPCC view can be found at FAQ3.3 in http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter3.pdf .
    Dr Pielke Jr claims this view is incorrect. See his post on the Politico article at http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/07/here-we-go-again.html
    and the related post on tropical cyclones at
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/02/updated-wmo-consensus-perspective-on.html
    Dr Pielke Jr compares the IPCC view with his own work at
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/10/shameful-article-review-and-update.html
    So one can certainly back up the “climate scientists have projected” statement by citing the IPCC report and its references; one can equally cite Dr Pielke Jr:<blockquote>I am unaware of research that shows either detection or attribution of human-caused changes in extreme storms or floods, much less detection or attribution of such changes “affecting lives and livelihoods”.</blockquote>
    I know which viewpoint I consider more reliable. [Hint: it’s not the IPCC.]
    And yes, I agree with the observation that the IPCC steers away, and I think deliberately so, from directly falsifiable statements. Partly that is a result of the inherent variability of the global climatic system — for example, what if e.g. Katla blew up mightily, disturbing the climate noticeably as Pinatubo did in the early 90s? Hence their use of the word “projection” rather than “prediction.” But I think it goes beyond that, in that the inter-connectedness of the various climatic components precludes positing strong, definite laws as in, e.g., astronomy. Because of that, there are significant uncertainties in the strength of the various causal mechanisms proposed, and thus all of those caveats that one finds in the detailed sections of the report.

  40. HaroldW says:

    oops, #39 is directed at #37 William Newman, not #27 as posted.

  41. Bob Koss says:

    thingsbreak #38
    Thanks for the links. I couldn’t access the first link, but the conclusion in the second one seems rather insignificant over a 100 year time span.
    They say.
    “If this acceleration was maintained through the 21st century, sea level in 2100 would be 310 ± 30 mm higher than in 1990, overlapping with the central range of projections in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report”
     
    Using fear of sea level rise as a talking point seems be an insult to the intelligence and ability of people to move when appropriate.

  42. Tim Lambert says:

    JimR says: “Deltoid or other such sites where the changes of an actual discussion with more than one point of view allowed are statistically zero.”
    What you write isn’t just false, but is easily seen to be false by anyone who reads comments there.

  43. thingsbreak says:

    @41 Bob Koss:
    I couldn’t access the first link
     
    Try here.
     
    the conclusion in the second one seems rather insignificant over a 100 year time span
     
    A foot of SLR results in an incredible (exponential) increase in storm surge risk for coastal cities like New York. And of course we’re looking at the possibility of meter or more SLR over multidecadal-to-centennial timescales if emissions grow unchecked.
     
    Using fear of sea level rise as a talking point seems be an insult to the intelligence and ability of people to move when appropriate.
     
    I’m not really sure where you’re coming from on this comment. The threat of unchecked emissions growth in terms of SLR and resulting increased storm surges seems self-evident to me. Perhaps you could elaborate on why you believe it has little meaning to you?

  44. Tom Fuller says:

    thingsbreak, I don’t want to step in front of Mr. Koss, but my answer to your question would be that we have extensive and well-tested methods for dealing with storm surge that don’t require the global change many activists call for.
     
    As sea level rise is possibly the area of most concern to the general public, and as there seems to have been some resistance to characterizing its probable impact as ‘oh, about a foot over the next century,’ the frustration of some seems a bit understandable.

  45. Tom Fuller says:

    Just to amplify my previous remarks, I have no doubt that surges will be expensive–especially in places like New York and other seaside cities. Expensive, long-lasting, and a real pain in the butt.
     
    But it will not in any way resemble the flooded city scenario so lovingly laid out by the Hansenists. And this is the crux of the matter.
     
    For more than ten years we have been, well, flooded with scenarios of total destruction. Then examination shows that the effects of global warming will be ‘merely’ expensive and difficult. Time after time with point after point. The past five years have seen the erosion of a carefully manufactured picture of a disaster movie.
     
    And this is why people are turning away from this issue. It is why they don’t react to the latest scare story. Their reaction is appropriate.
     
    It will be exceedingly difficult to rebuild public support to take the necessary actions to prepare for what climate change actually will put on our plates. It is the fault of the Hansenists, and I for one am not going to forget.

  46. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Burke et al (#32)  is interesting. It was an early attempt at using a coupled model to capture historical global drought trends. Having done this to its satisfaction, it then tentatively projected future trends. Activists and the press got very excited about the second bit, so excited that common sense went out of the window. There was talk of genocide and of the Earth catching fire. Several newspapers said that half of the Earth’s surface was doomed to drought (so much for sea-level rise). Their more sober rivals opted for 120% of all land.

    There wasn’t so much excitement when two of the authors did a follow-up study in 2008 and reduced their estimate of the area that’ll be in drought in 2100 from 50% of all land to about 15%. Indeed it wasn’t mentioned in the press at all. But then, unlike its predecessor, that study hadn’t been launched with a lot of razzmatazz at the Conservative Party’s annual conference.

    The scientific press was also much more excited about the first Burke et al study – fifteen times more excited, if you believe citation-counts. This disparity must be partly because the first study appeared in no less than eight chapters of the IPCC’s 2007 report. Five of those appearances were very last-minute affairs. Burke et al didn’t appear in any first- or second-order drafts for WG2 and wasn’t mentioned by any WG2 reviewers but all of a sudden there it was in five of WG2’s finished chapters. Is that allowed?
    (‘Projected changes in drought occurrence under future global
    warming’ etc. by Sheffield and Wood, 2008, looks useful on global drought trends. Not paywalled.)

  47. thingsbreak says:

    @44 Tom Fuller:
     
    my answer to your question would be that we have extensive and well-tested methods for dealing with storm surge that don’t require the global change many activists call for.
     
    There are fixes that can be applied to virtually any consequence of unchecked emissions growth in isolation. The question is in aggregate, which- the cost of mitigation plus adaptation vs. moving-target-adaptation vs. no preventative measures – is the optimal course of action given the economic and biogeophysical consequences of each.
     
    it will not in any way resemble the flooded city scenario so lovingly laid out by the Hansenists. And this is the crux of the matter.
     
    In terms of unchecked emissions and ice sheet decay, what did Hansen get wrong from your perspective? I’m not aware of him making indefensible statements in either the literature or the press, though I have seen plenty of misrepresentations of what he’s written.
     
    For more than ten years we have been, well, flooded with scenarios of total destruction.
     
    Careful. That looks an awful lot like the makings of a straw man.
     
    Then examination shows that the effects of global warming will be “˜merely’ expensive and difficult.

     
    “Expensive and difficult” vs. “destruction” is just a matter of perspective, is it not? There are those who would consider the virtual elimination of biodiversity, rare environments, abandoning of low-lying cities, etc. perfectly acceptable costs for a larger percentage of growth in global GDP.


    Time after time with point after point. The past five years have seen the erosion of a carefully manufactured picture of a disaster movie.
     
    With all due respect, that’s bare assertion on your part. In terms of impacts, the past five years have, if anything, seen increased pessimism about SLR, GrIS/WAIS melting, etc.
     
    this is why people are turning away from this issue. It is why they don’t react to the latest scare story.
     
    The public’s concern about climate change as a long term issue that needs to be addressed is still quite high. Its recent diminished importance as an immediate issue in the Anglophone press and polling reflect more on the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and local cold weather than they do on support for resolving the problem or a downgrading of the risk faced.
     
    It is the fault of the Hansenists, and I for one am not going to forget.
     
    You can blame whoever you like for whatever you like. I hope you’ll excuse the rest of us for finding this sort of attitude misplaced and unfortunate.

  48. thingsbreak says:

    Oh, and the increasing domestic partisan divide on the issue, i.e. self-identified conservatives, Republicans, etc. and right-leaning independents make up most of the movement in the polls showing a lessening of concern/increase in skepticism.

  49. Barry Woods says:

    42#

    JimR says: “Deltoid or other such sites where the changes of an actual discussion with more than one point of view allowed are statistically zero.”
    What you write isn’t just false, but is easily seen to be false by anyone who reads comments there.
    —————————————————-

    Hi Tim
    I followed a link from realclimate to deltoid, the one with  reviews of the Guardian Climategate debate.  I thought I’d put my lukewarm view of it onto your comments, I was in the second row.
    My first post did not work.. I’ve just put a different one on, with a link to the full audio of the meeting.
    Could you check, I’m not in a spam filter?

  50. JamesG says:

    Great list of papers of much sound and fury signifying that bad stuff should really be happening by now. Not so much comparison with the reality of 100 years of flat or declining trends in those selfsafe extreme events.
     
    I like the idea that sea level rise has been due to humans for the last 200 years (so we staved off the ice age too then?).  Of course you have to make sweeping assumptions about natural variability there, but nevertheless you’d think we’d have seen some kind of increase in storm surges already. As it is, hurricane activity is at its lowest in a century – and Elsner and Jagger can link it with statistical significance to the solar cycle. However remember that the only robust (ie above a 50/50 shot) result from Knutsons hurricane modeling was that there would be fewer hurricanes. Never heard about that much did we? – in stark contrast to the hullaballoo about the 50/50 chance of stronger storms. Neither do we hear too much about warming reducing, all other things being equal, the likelihood of future storms in the first place owing to probable drops in potential differences.
     
    Maybe we should include these likely reductions of storms in risk calculations. And maybe we should manage to notice at the same time the greening planet, the sahara shrinking and Bangladesh gaining land.
     

  51. dhogaza says:

    William Newman:
     
    “the IPCC controversy would have a less creepy, disgusting tone if advocates like dhogaza-on-CAS held themselves to the minimal standard of mining an actual quote to justify a <a href=”http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/07/01/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/#comment-9911″³>claim</a> like “Lindzen is on record as saying he doesn’t believe in what might be labeled “˜catastrophic tobacco smoking’.  He suggests that the risks are greatly exaggerated to the point where they can be ignored.””

    OK, William, where’s the quote mine?  (I didn’t quote Lindzen directly, but paraphrased him.)

    I did leave out the bit about the journalist pointing out that Lindzen pooh-poohed the danger of smoking during the interview while smoking a cigarette.

    And what about my statement contains a “disgusting tone”?

    Lindzen doesn’t hide his beliefs regarding cigarette smoking.  He has made sure people know of them.

  52. laursaurus says:

    Obama smokes, too. If a simple appreciation for the health risks was sufficient to quit, almost nobody would continue smoking. Picking on someone struggling with an addiction is a red-herring, ad hom argument.
    Look at how many people post comments drunk or require several beers in order to “discuss” science.

  53. Not to pile on RealClimate, but here’s an odd, slightly creepy bit from my own experience:
    Some time ago, a number of volunteers at Climate Audit, including myself, compiled a glossary of Climate Science acronyms, and posted it to
    http://climateaudit101.wikispot.org/Glossary_of_Acronyms
     
    About this time, RC posted a list of acronym sites, I happened to see it, and sent in ours. It disappeared into moderation limbo, apparently because Climate Audit was mentioned, and RC had a policy of never linking to CA — petty, but well-documented.
     
    Some time later, RC apparently relented and posted the link, only to remove it again some unknown time later. It still shows up as a “Google ghost” link, and if someone is really curious I can probably find it again. Very odd, self-destructive behavior.
     
    Peter D. Tillman
    Consulting Geologist, Arizona and New Mexico (USA)
     
     

  54. Bob Koss says:

    thingsbreak #43

    Ok. I’ll elaborate somewhat on my thought process.

    Sea level has been slowly rising since the last ice age and won’t be stopped by our puny abilities. Ma nature controls that. To attach any word similar to “catastrophic” to a one foot rise over the next hundred years is to ignore the reality of the long experience humanity has with living next to the sea.

    Coast dwellers tend to maintain what they assess to be a reasonable defensive position for foreseeable conditions. Some of the means used are dikes, levees, or distance. Structures of all types start deteriorating from the minute they are completed. Over time, rational people frequently reassess whether to do maintenance, change usage, or abandon areas to the sea. People failing to do such reassessments I consider Darwin Award candidates.

    Only sudden rare events cause mass casualties and destruction. That, and incompetent allocation of resources. i.e. Those in N.O. responsible for billions in funds allocated for levee maintenance which they did not used for that purpose. Proper maintenance would have prevented such destruction.

    If, when someone mentions the devastation caused by a minor additional increase in storm surge due to sea level rise, an image of a city being engulfed by a giant wave pops into your head, you might want to consider the possibility you have been successfully brainwashed.  

    Tom:
    I agree the hyperbole conjured up by the descriptions given of sea level rise only increases the public’s suspicion they are being conned.

  55. Pascvaks says:

    Not to pile on RealClimate, BUT…

    My two cents – RC has shot itself in the foot (and head) too many times over the last few years.  Someone else needs to step into the void they have created for themselves – I nominate a site that has excellent credibility, and appeals to people with more than two brain cells to rub together,  ta – da….***Collide-A-Scape.Com”””
    PS- RC has seen it’s best days.

  56. thingsbreak says:

    @54 Bob Koss:
    Sea level has been slowly rising since the last ice age
     
    This is untrue. SLR due to the melting of the last glacial maximum had basically flattened out by the mid-Holocene (~5 kya).
     
    and won’t be stopped by our puny abilities. Ma nature controls that.
     
    Please see Anthropogenic forcing dominates sea level rise since 1850 (Jevrejeva et al. 2009) and How Much More Global Warming and Sea Level  Rise? (Meehl et al. 2005).
     
    To attach any word similar to “catastrophic” to a one foot rise over the next hundred years is to ignore the reality of the long experience humanity has with living next to the sea.
     
    Catastrophic is of course a relative term. I don’t recall using it myself in this discussion- are you referring to some specific instance of usage? Additionally, past instances of human-SLR interaction aren’t necessarily good analogs for the present and future due to the huge increase in “permanent” coastal habitation and infrastructure- i.e. it would be trivial for a hunter-gatherer tribe to retreat from rising sea level whereas the same cannot be said for the city of Miami.
     
    If, when someone mentions the devastation caused by a minor additional increase in storm surge due to sea level rise, an image of a city being engulfed by a giant wave pops into your head
     
    I don’t follow.

  57. kdk33 says:

    Nice to see focus on the real issue: how CO2 emission might affect humanity.

    We can’t know if CO2 emmission are dangerous until we have a pretty accurate accounting of the severity and likelihood of specific dangers and benefits (there will be both).  These can then be compared with mitigation costs (adaptation and prevention).  Only then can sensible policy be formulated.
    If CO2 has affected climate such that it is altering our lives and livelihoods, strange I don’t know anyone who’s noticed.  Even stranger I would need to consult the peer reviewed literature to know.

  58. Eli Rabett says:

    Let us return to an important point.  It is pretty clear that if you look at direct costs TO DATE, climate related disasters have not increased or only increased slightly (these are big numbers so slightly is still a bunch of dough).
     
    On the other hand, enormous amounts of money have been spent of hardening buildings and infrastructure to handle these disasters, and in earlier warming systems to track and predict them, which in turn, reduces the amount of damage substantially.
     
    Thus, contrary to Roger Pielke Jr’s claim, and by his own admission of not including these costs, the rational person must conclude that the total, direct and indirect cost, of dealing with climate disasters has increased dramatically.

  59. kdk33 says:

    Eli,

    When you say climate related do you really mean CO2 related. 
    Moneys have been invested in seawalls, levys, better building standards, early warning systems, etc.  But these are to mitigate the effects of climatic events that occur regardless of CO2.

    Are you claiming that costs to date to mitigate CO2 induced climate change are dramatic?

  60. Eli Rabett says:

    The relationship between climate related disasters and increases in greenhouse gases is dealt with by such eminences as Webster, Curry and Trenberth.  In the case of hurricanes, the latest consensus is that they will increase driven by greenhouse gas increases.  That, as they say is a slightly different issue than that of whether the costs of weather related disasters have been increasing, which is dealt with by such eminences as Evan Mills and Peter Hoeppe.
     
    It’s sort of the difference between WGI and WGII

  61. kdk33 says:

    Eli,

    Thanks, that helps.  Can I get a bit more clarification. 

    It seems a lot of investment to date has been to harden property against weather.  So, Indianola was wiped out twice, Galveston once; now we build sea walls and dikes and etc. etc.   But those costs shouldn’t be counted as costs of CO2 induced climate change, should they? 

    Is it commonly claimed that we have already incurred much costs as a result of the CO2 induced part of climate – costs we wouldn’t have incurred otherwise?  If so, how many dollars are we talking about?

  62. Hank Roberts says:

    KDK writes:
    > strange I don’t know anyone who’s noticed.
    > Even stranger I would need to consult the peer
    > reviewed literature to know.

    Statistics 101 will teach you how people learned to notice things using math. It’s a powerful tool, but you have to know it exists and how to use it before you believe it teaches anything.

  63. kdk33 says:

    Hank,

    So what does this thing called math tell you. 

    That we, to date, have spent considerable money on the CO2 induced portion of climate – money we wouln’t have spent otherwise?  If so, how much?

    I’m asking a rather simple question.  Are you able to provide an answer?

  64. Banjoman0 says:

    Isn’t that the point that should be discussed?  Whether this money is really being spent on CO2 induced changes or for some other reason?  And is this the best use of the money, or are there better alternatives? (Okay, 2 points.)

  65. Banjoman0 says:

    <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holocene_Sea_Level.png”>Sea level rise.</a>
    Based on the last few thousand years, I’m not sure I see anything exceptional.

  66. willard says:

    Hank,
     
    Since you’re at answering simple questions, I have two for you:
     
    1. Is there an odd number of blades of grass is there in your yard?
     
    2.  Does God exist?
     
    Thank you for your time, and the URL:
    http://urbanleadpoisoning.com

  67. kdk33 says:

    So, I take it, it isn’t clear that, to date, CO2 induced climate change has cost anything.  Claims about “affected our lives and lifetyles”, and “costs have increased dramatically” are then unfounded.

    So, it’s fair to say: we’ve been emitting CO2 for most of a century, and there have been no measurable costs.  So the catastrophe exists only in forecasts – which could be right or wrong, but that’s another story.

    BTW, hardening and early warning systems are not COSTS they are INVESTMENTS – that payoff by minimizing the costs of weather events. 

  68. JimR says:

    Eli, can you really believe it’s reasonable to add to the cost of disaster impacts monies spent by cost benefit analysis for normal natural disasters? As I understand the latest stance on hurricanes (anyone feel free to correct me) is that they may become more intense in a warmer world later in the century and the effect on frequency is still uncertain.  Regardless hurricanes have plagued coastal communities throughout human history and as coastal populations grow more money is spent (worldwide) on better infrastructure and warning systems. This spending isn’t in reaction to climate impacts or CO2 induced climate change but is part of the ever present battle between mankind and the elements. Perhaps you are working just a bit too creatively in your attempts to prove Roger is wrong?

  69. Eli Rabett says:

    Jim, Eli is asking a slightly different question, which is what has been the TOTAL cost of weather related disasters over time.  Given that the direct cost is ~constant, maybe slightly increasing, and the indirect cost is increasing then the cost of dealing with weather related disasters has been increasing.
    What has caused that increase is a slightly different question, but there is a reasonable case to be made that increases in greenhouse gases has played a significant role.

  70. JimR says:

    Eli, I can understand your wanting to add in the indirect costs such as the cost of prevention and adaptation to the cost of weather related disasters. However as kdk33 pointed out much of this money is in the form of investments which should reduce loss of life and property. If we are looking for an increase in climate disaster related costs and it’s not increasing, well adding infrastructure investments to inflate the figure doesn’t make for a compelling argument.

  71. kdk33 says:

    A hard home on the coast costs twice as much as a not-hard home, but is half as likely to be destroyed in a storm.  A storm hits, not-hard homes are destroyed with twice the frequency of hard homes, but their value is half; the total losses among hard homes is about the same as among not hard homes.

    The New Orleans sea wall prevented economic damage for years.  Eventually it was overcome. The cost of rebuilding the seawall is reflected in the economic loss.

    So, mitigation investments reduce the fraction of coastal property destroyed in a storm while increasing the value of property that is destroyed.  There’s probably an (over-idealized) argument that if mitigation investments are perfectly rational, their actuarial value is zero.

    Pielke also claims the no-trend trend is consistent with the no-trend trend in storm landfall and intensity.

  72. Banjoman0 says:

    Not to quibble, but the New Orleans sea wall was not what was overcome.  I don’t know if that weakens or strengthens your point.

  73. kdk33 says:

    Benjoman0,

    Conceeded.  levees. 

    It is probably also releveant that hurricane deaths have declined considerably.

  74. Eli Rabett says:

    Early and accurate notification and evacuation because our tracking systems have been upgraded.

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