Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lord Monckton.

Lord Monckton.  It is incredible that he has been on prominent display in denier circles as one of their big best acts. 

Background.  Stewart Brand tells us the scientist he looks to the most on climate science is James Lovelock.  Lovelock tells Brand that he has discovered a "sensible skeptic", Garth Paltridge.  Paltridge has written a book, The Climate Caper.  The book has a Foreword by Monckton.  Yow.   The following is an attachment to an email sent to Brand:

I have never actually looked into why Monckton is controversial and subject to ridicule among climate scientists until now. 

Monckton claims and repeatedly states that the scientists who have published peer reviewed papers on aspects of climate change who believe climate change represents a threat to civilization that civilization should act to mitigate or avoid are lying to make their case. 

I read a presentation Monckton made to a House Committee, and watched a few minutes of a video of a talk by him.  He makes it clear that the group he is talking about is the “IPCC”, then he claims repeatedly that they lie about this, and they lie about that.   “So they will lie and lie and cheat and even when they are caught out they will continue to lie and cheat and lie

I wouldn't bother to study the man for one more second, except for your assertion that Lovelock took the book The Climate Caper by Paltridge seriously.  Paltridge’s book has an introduction written by Monckton. 

Monckton is arguing at such a low level that Lovelock shouldn’t wonder that climate scientists he runs into are appalled now that he is saying he thinks people should pay attention to the arguments of Paltridge.  

As for my own efforts, I considered briefly one presentation Monckton made before the House Committee on Ways and Means March 12 2009

He called CO2 “a harmless and beneficial trace gas that is necessary to all life on Earth and has little effect on its surface temperature”.  He stated:  "Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the air at less than half the rate the UN [ Monckton equates “UN” with “IPCC” ] had imagined. Not one of its games had predicted the rapid global cooling of the past seven years. Sea surface temperatures have fallen for five years. Sea level has not risen for three years, and is predicted to rise by little more than a foot this century. Worldwide hurricane intensity in October 2008 was at its least for 30 years. Global sea ice shows little trend in 30 years. The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are thickening. The Sahara is greening" 

This type of thing, apparently, is typical of what the man comes up with.

Discussion of Monckton and his claim that “CO2 is accumulating in the air at less than half the rate… etc.”, by Dr. John Neilson-Gammon is here

Discussion of Monckton and his claim that there has been anything that could be called “the rapid global cooling of the past seven years”, by Dr. Gavin Schmidt, of NASA G.I.S.S. is here.

Discussion of Monckton and his claim that "global sea ice shows little trend in 30 years", by Dr. Alden Griffith is here on video, (with notes below the video). The site which comes up in discussion where you can see side by side graphic depictions of daily sea ice in the Arctic for any two dates of your choice from 1980 to the present is here.

As for Monckton saying the "Sahara is greening", if this actually is happening or if it happens it would support the theory that he says is not valid, i.e. that said Earth's climate was changing or was going to change rapidly in significant ways. Although a greening of the Sahara would very likely be welcomed by those living around it, the Sahara is the largest source of atmospheric dust in the world and changes to sources of atmospheric dust, because it is an aerosol potentially masking the warming effect that GHGs are dialing in, will have climate impact. (Also see here). How is it possible to believe that a climate change on the scale of greening the Sahara could possibly take place without changes on that scale happening elsewhere on the planet, caused by the same primary forces that caused the Sahara to change?  If the greening of the Sahara was to be offset by desertification elsewhere, such as if the US Southwest was to become Sahara-like, this is exactly the type of rapid change resulting in large scale winners and losers that is very likely to escalate international tension.

George Monbiot is a climate reporter working for The Guardian.  He writes that John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at University of Minnesota, has done a more thorough job of investigating the claims made by Monckton than anyone so far.    Abraham became angry after sitting through a Monckton presentation and decided to put in the time to investigate the sources for and statements Monckton made in that talk.  The presentation is painstakingly detailed.  The presentation is here.  Apparently the Monckton speech that angered Abraham was recorded and exists on Youtube. 

By the way, the Trenberth paper Tracking Earth’s Energy Lovelock says was so influential in “softening” his assessment of the threat of climate change directly contradicts Monckton on two of his points that it happens to discuss, i.e. sea level rise and ice melt. 

Trenberth on sea level rise:  “Since 1992, sea level observations from satellite altimeters at millimeter accuracy have revealed an essentially linear global increase of ~3.2 mm per year, with an enhanced rate of rise during the 1997-1998 El Nino and a brief slowdown in the 2007-2008 La Nina.”

Trenberth on ice melt:  “although some heat has gone into the record breaking loss of Arctic sea ice, and some has undoubtedly contributed to the unprecedented melting of Greenland and Antarctica”….   Monckton says both the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets are thickening. 

Trenberth as a lead author on the last three IPCC Physical Science Basis reports is one of the scientists Monckton is referring to when he asserts “they will lie and lie and cheat and even when they are caught out they will continue to lie and cheat and lie” 

I don’t understand, after reading this Foreword by Monckton why anyone would recommend a book containing it to anyone else as something they should take seriously. 

James Lovelock calls Garth Paltridge a "sensible skeptic".

Paltridge.  “Sensible”?  NOT

Background:  James Lovelock can’t understand why his climatologist friends are appalled with him.  Lovelock says its “amazing how tribal” they are.  All he’s done is dare “to consort with skeptics”.  Lovelock is saying that Garth Paltridge, author of The Climate Caper is a “sensible skeptic”.  I actually wasted some money buying a copy of this clown Paltridge's book because Brand recommended it.  The following is my letter to Brand:

I spent most of my time in this multi paper response to your Afterword working on understanding what Dr. Kevin Trenberth is up to.  Some of that work was a real pleasure as studying Trenberth gave me new perspective on climate. 

I don’t know how you or Lovelock can possibly imagine that Paltridge fits in to debate at this level.  I can’t agree that he is a “sensible” skeptic.

I could only read the introduction and the first pages of Chapter 1 of The Climate Caper before I found reading Paltridge to be a waste of time.  I opened the book at a few random places after that and read a bit, then went to read the conclusion. 

My thoughts on the few specifics I saw in the few pages I read: 

Paltridge chose Monckton to write his Foreword.  Take a look at that guy.  Monckton is a caricature of a “skeptic”, who makes up data, lies about his qualifications, and argues in ways that could only persuade the ignorant. I assembled a few links and discussed Monckton in a separate attachment. I find it astonishing that anyone who wanted to be taken seriously by anyone would have Monckton write a foreword to their book.

In his introduction, Paltridge writes that the most eminent and respected climate scientists in the world are involved in a “semi-religious crusade” which is “drawing heavily on the capital of scientific reputation that has been so painfully assembled over hundreds of years”, which has led to “the present dangerous state of affairs”, which he is going to try to correct by writing the book.

These are serious charges leveled directly at people who take pride in what they do.  Paltridge isn’t just saying they are wrong, they are menaces to the entire edifice of science.  Their lies and corruption are so awful and so rampant that as a group, they are the worst thing that has happened to science in several hundred years.  It makes me laugh just to write this.

Einstein was a “sensible skeptic”. He had become skeptical of Newton’s theory because he knew of observations that Newton’s theory could not explain – so he wrote a paper that hit physicists like a bombshell. So many couldn’t accept his ideas that he had difficulty landing a university position for some years but there were those such as Planck who understood immediately that there was something big there. Einstein didn’t write that the entire discipline of physics worldwide had become a “semi-religious crusade” etc. He came up with and wrote about his theory that encompassed the existing theory by not only explaining what it explained, but that also opened up a new conception of reality.

I would put it to Lovelock, do you agree with this, i.e. that the most eminent climatologists in the world are not in fact trying to warn civilization of a threat they have come to sincerely believe is real because of their studies, but are actually "manipulating" the climate issue "into the ultimate example of the politically correct" acting as if "the science behind the issue" is "irrelevant"?  This is right out of Paltridge’s Introduction. 

In his email to you, Lovelock says: “my name is now mud in climate science circles for having dared to consort with skeptics. Amazing how tribal scientists are”.

What does he expect his climatologist friends to say when he announces this drivel is “sensible”?  

Paltridge is impugning the motives and reputation of hundreds of distinguished people. You should ask Lovelock about this before you get too much further saying you agree with him about it.

The only reason Paltridge advanced in the few pages I read that would account for this astonishing behavior of so many scientists from all over the world that he says is ongoing, is this, from page 1: “The need to do something about the problem plays to the agendas of virtually all branches of modern social activism".

I am a climate activist since 1988.  The need to do something about this plays to the agenda of no one anywhere except at the fringe until very recently.    

Political forces on the right and the left have been very uncomfortable with any evidence that there is any problem with continued unfettered growth of the human impact on the planetary system in the decades I've observed since I started to debate climate in political circles from1988 to now. The "left" has been relatively accommodating with concerns that don't obviously conflict with endless expansion of the economic system, but everyone has been very reluctant to believe that fossil fuels can be replaced, or even that emissions could be eliminated. They are seen as just too primary to our living standard.

It was obvious in the1980s that civilization was in the process of expanding tenfold, as the then developed world of one billion people living at the standard then seen in North America, Europe and Japan was extended out to what the demographers were then saying was an almost certain ten billion people by 2050. What was going to power all this expansion if not fossil fuels? Even if, as you say, its now going to be 8 billion by 2050, that's an eight times expansion of the developed world since 1988. It was daunting for almost everyone to think about where that much energy was going to come from then, if fossil fuels had to be eliminated, and it is daunting now.

I was a voice for climate action in Canada from the late 1980s onwards, and from that vantage point it was obvious there was no political force other than the Green Party that had the slightest interest in even saying they were going to modify their behavior as a result of knowing about the climate problem. And the Greens were too busy shooting themselves in the head or too focused on local or regional issues to face what planetary climate change, or any planetary issue meant for them. I briefly was the nearest thing they had to a leader in the B.C. Green Party, but soon left as my thinking conflicted with people who were busy "saving" some new park "for all future generations", etc.

I found that it was about as hard for Greens as anyone else to face the fact that Western Civilization appeared to be “running out of planet”, to the point where it almost seems inevitable that the shit is going to hit the fan during their lifetimes. Civilization has been heading here since the ancient Greeks wondered what would come of it all as their topsoil disappeared into the sea as they cut their trees down.

Paltridge's case in his first paragraph, Chapter 1, is that climatologists, pre IPCC, would not have wanted and did not expect the issue to be as elevated as it is today and that somehow the IPCC manipulated the issue completely out of proportion as the “ultimate example of the politically correct”. This is complete horseshit.

I was around during these ancient times he is telling lies about. 

I happen to have met and debated with some of the principal scientists and been deeply involved in the climate issue before the IPCC was created.

The Vostok core data was available in the late 1980s. Graphical presentation here. Paltridge clearly wants his readers to believe that scientists then didn't think climate change was that serious of an issue before the IPCC got to work. This is preposterous.

The Toronto Changing Atmosphere conference of 1988, sponsored by Canada, with 400 high level delegates from 40 countries had little difficulty reaching consensus on the wording of the first paragraph in this conference statement (I participated in hammering this out). Take a look at it. Delegates described climate change as a problem "whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war" in their first paragraph. It was not controversial get that sentence in there.

The premise of that conference was to hammer out a consensus statement that was intended for heads of state, and everyone else on the planet. It was four days of, at times, the most intense debate I have ever been involved in.

One outcome of the conference was said to be the impetus to create the IPCC. I argued with Bob Watson, said since to have been a prime mover in the creation of the IPCC, at that Toronto conference over how scientists should conduct themselves as they tried to make Earth's population aware of this issue. The scientists felt they weren't having some big argument among themselves about how serious this issue was. The problem that was seen then was how to get civilization to take what their discipline had discovered seriously.

Hence the IPCC. The thought was that by involving scientists from as many countries as possible it would help out in the inevitable international political negotiations, as any head of state or chief negotiator would know that the most respected climatologists from his own country had been intimately involved in the assessments. People thought it would be more credible to have a broadly international organization come up with an assessment for global negotiators rather than expect everyone to accept what the various science academies such as the US National Academy or the Royal Society in the UK, etc. had to say.

Maybe Lovelock wasn't paying attention to climate in the late 1980s. Paltridge certainly has no idea.

After reading his introduction where he accuses some of the best scientists working today as putting science itself into jeopardy because of their lies and corruption, and seeing my own first hand experience denied by Paltridge in his first argument in his first chapter, i.e. what I’ve been discussing above, I decided the man wasn’t worth reading and skipped along to the conclusion to see what the gibberish would be.  I continue on with this critique.   

Consider:  quoting from Paltridge, The Climate Caper, page 105: “It has not been solidly established, and it is certainly not accepted by the majority of scientists as proven fact”, that “global warming” will be “large enough to be seriously noticeable – let alone large enough to be disastrous”.

For evidence that all the leading scientific organizations in the world, which purport to represent and speak for all scientists, not just climatologists, have accepted the basic case that climate change is proceeding and that the consequences appear to be so serious civilization should do something as drastic as to attempt to decarbonize itself over it, see the two page G8+5 Academies Joint statement   This was signed by the President or leading figure in the top level science organization, i.e. the US National Academy of Sciences and its equivalents, in each member country of the G8, as well as those of China, India, Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa.  It was handed to each head of state attending the G8 meeting held in Japan in 2008. 

Perhaps this isn’t enough countries to convince:  take a look at the report produced by The InterAcademy Council, a creation of “all of the world’s science academies” i.e. "Lighting the Way".  Quoting from the Preface:  "The defining feature of this report by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) is that it was developed by a study panel that brought together experts nominated by over ninety national academies of science around the world".  (Dr. Stephen Chu of the United States chaired this committee.)

Paltridge would have us believe that the science of climate change rests on a very shaky foundation. 

Consider what the US NAS has to say:  quoting from the 2010 US National Academy of Sciences NRC America’s Climate Choices Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change report, Summary, page 1

“…there are still some uncertainties, and there always will be in understanding a complex system like Earth’s climate.  Nevertheless, there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing, and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities.  While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations.  As a result of the growing recognition that climate change is underway and poses serious risks for both human and natural systems…”

Let’s consider who the people are who make up the membership of the National Academy of Sciences.  Quoting from the NAS website:  “election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer”.  You are elected to be a member of the NAS because of your “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research”.  Almost 10% of NAS members hold the Nobel

Paltridge would have us believe that the NAS, arguably the most eminent group of scientists in the world, can’t produce a panel capable of assessing its way out of a wet paper bag. 

Regarding Paltridge’s use of the words “proven fact”:

From the same report, Chapter 1 page 17: “From a philosophical perspective, science never proves anything – in the manner that mathematics or other formal logical systems prove things – because science is fundamentally based on observations.  Any scientific theory is thus, in principle, subject to being refined or overturned by new observations.  In practical terms, however, scientific uncertainties are not all the same.  Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small.  Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts.  This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities

Perhaps all the above is obvious to you, as you know there is a serious effort being mounted by scientists to get the attention of policymakers worldwide to do something.  But how can all of the above be obvious to you, if you tout Paltridge as a “sensible skeptic”?  My mind boggles.  You write as if you have done a serious study of the science, then you come up with the idea of touting this clown’s work. 

I think Lovelock should stop touting this Paltridge and his book and if there is new data, or reinterpreted old data and an argument in it that caused him to change his mind from his very negative pronouncements of recent years, he should point to that data and argument, preferably by finding another source. I have difficulty believing Paltridge came up with original research or an original argument that would invalidate anything of fundamental importance to climatology, but if he has, you and Lovelock would be better off pointing directly to that original research or argument rather than to the insulting and preposterous book this man has produced.

James Lovelock points to Trenberth as he jumps off into the blue

Lovelock misses Trenberth's point.

Background:  Stewart Brand tells us that James Lovelock has changed his views on global warming because of a paper published in Science written by Dr. Kevin Trenberth.  Brand says Lovelock is saying some fairly extraordinary things for a man who was up until recently telling everyone that a catastrophic global warming was irreversible and there was nothing to do except try and enjoy life until the end came.  E.g. Lovelock is now talking as if global warming has slowed mysteriously or even stopped:  “we do not know when the heat will turn on”.  

Lovelock is also, as he says, daring “to consort with skeptics”, i.e. the author of The Climate Caper Garth Paltridge, but that is for another post. 

What I will discuss here is Trenberth’s research and why it seems clear that Lovelock has misunderstood him. What follows is almost identical to the text of an email I sent to Brand:

The paper Lovelock refers to is “Tracking Earth’s Energy[1]  (I’ll henceforth call it Trenberth 2010).   This paper had to be short:  it was a Perspectives piece.  When Trenberth is through discussing ‘energy tracking’ in Trenberth 2010 he refers readers to a more detailed paper he published the previous year entitled “An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's global energy [2], I’ll talk about both.  (I’ll call the earlier paper Trenberth 2009)

You understand Trenberth is eminent.  He’s been a lead author on the science assessment for the last three IPCC reports.  Lovelock doesn’t seem to understand what Trenberth is talking about.

When the deniers were trumpeting that the IPCC was corrupt at the height of “climategate”, one “smoking gun” they were waving around was a sentence from a Trenberth email.  They claimed it meant Trenberth privately admits there is no evidence for global warming. Here’s the big quote:

"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." 

Trenberth posted an online statement in response.  Here’s part of it.  This also explains why he wrote Trenberth 2009 and Trenberth 2010: 

It is amazing to see this particular quote lambasted so often. It stems from a paper I published this year bemoaning our inability to effectively monitor the energy flows associated with short-term climate variability. It is quite clear from the paper that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural variability.

The recently completed ARGO float system is now providing global ocean temperature and other data down to 2000m.  The GRACE satellite system has been observing things like ice sheets as they melt for some time.  The CERES system allows a calculation of how much energy is accumulating in the entire planetary system.  And there has been satellite altimetry since 1992 that is allowing millimeter precision measurement of sea level.  This is just a partial list.  Trenberth is convinced that climate scientists ought to be able to “obtain closure of the energy budget”, i.e. explain a lot more than they have been able to in the past.  But they can’t do it just yet.  Note the word “bemoaning”.  He’s frustrated.   

But all this doesn’t mean scientists can now explain less than they once could. 

He didn’t write the paper to announce global warming had slowed or stopped.  It hasn’t. 

I asked Trenberth (in November 2010) what he would say now.  He hasn’t changed his views.  He emailed: 

the anthropogenic global warming signature is not large enough to overwhelm natural variability and so the trend from increased GHGs is only clear on time scales of 25 or more years.  We used 25 years in Chapter 3 of IPCC as the lowest trend we provided that was meaningful….  So any pause in sfc T increase from 2000 to 2008 is not unexpected and the first 8 months of this year were the warmest on record and have restored the upward trend.  So there is no evidence of a reduction in trend”

Hansen has a paper “in press”, published online, “Global Surface Temperature Change[3] that says the same thing: 

Of course it is possible to find almost any trend for a limited period via judicious choice of start and end dates of a data set that has high temporal resolution, but that is not a meaningful exercise. Even a more moderate assessment, "the trend in global surface temperature has been nearly flat since the late 1990s despite continuing increases in the forcing due to the sum of the well-mixed greenhouse gases" [ Solomon et al., 2009 [4] ], is not supported by our data. On the contrary, we conclude that there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s.”[5]   

It seems some people think about “the planet” heating up or not, “global warming continuing or not”, and the “temperature”, i.e. the average global surface temperature record going up or down, as if they were all the same thing.  They aren’t.  “The planet” is the entire system, which includes the oceans, the ice, the rocks, the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface, and the entire atmosphere.  “Global warming” can refer to either the surface temperature record or the entire system, depending on who is using the term. 

When Trenberth uses the word “temperature” in the quotes above, or when Hansen says “global warming trend”, they are referring to the average global surface temperature record.  When Lovelock talks about “something slowing the rate of global warming” he is also talking about the surface record.  The fact that he speculates about where in the rest of the system the “missing energy” could be shows that.  But his “sense of alarm” stemmed from what he thought the whole system was doing.  Lovelock seems to understand that the whole system is still heating up.  I.e., his email to you says:  “Earth is warming as expected….”   What reason could he therefore have to “soften” his assessment of how dangerous climate change is? 

There is no reasonable doubt left that the whole system is continuing to heat up.  Trenberth 2009 says:  “global warming is unequivocally happening”.  The National Academy states:  “the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations[6]. 

The long term average global surface temperature trend, as Trenberth and Hansen unequivocally assert, never stopped rising. 

What seems clear is that you or Lovelock or both think “something unknown is slowing global warming”, you and/or him have “softened” your sense of alarm, and now you and Lovelock are touting the work of a quack “sensible skeptic”, Garth Paltridge.   

Paltridge is not credible.  He goes far beyond claiming there never was anything to be concerned about.  He’s saying the people who say otherwise, i.e. the worldwide scientific establishment, are jeopardizing the reputation and enterprise of science itself with their corruption and shoddy work.  This “sensible” man is telling us that the scientists who make up the IPCC are the worst thing that has happened to science in several hundred years. [7] 

I can’t understand why you would describe this man as “sensible”.  Have you actually read his book?  I put some thoughts about Paltridge in a separate paper for you. 

What do I think Trenberth’s research is about?

Trenberth wants to look at every squiggle in the global surface temperature chart and say he knows what is happening.  He wants to be able to describe in real time where all the energy is and where all the accumulating new energy goes.

Trenberth 2009 listed many ways which could explain all or part of why is “the temperature not continuing to go up?” even as energy continued to accumulate in the planetary system.  Trenberth wrote:  “surely we have an adequate system” to verify which explanation is correct, as opposed to the “stock answer” which is “natural variability”.  He was forced to conclude: “we do not”.

He appears to want to banish the phrase “natural variability” from climate discourse in the same way “here be dragons” was banished from maps.  We won’t hear as much about “natural variability” when climate scientists know more.

Trenberth uses “missing energy” the way physicists do.  When things don’t add up they know its time to go back to the drawing board.

Climatologists have never been able to fully explain what is happening to Earth’s climate.  This is not news.  Climatologists freely discuss significant uncertainties, even as they almost unanimously tell civilization it is getting far past time to act based on what is known. 

Consider another of Trenberth’s recent papers: “The Ocean is Warming, Isn’t It?[8] published in Nature one month after the appearance of  Trenberth 2010.  Part of the problem with moving climate science to the new level of understanding Trenberth wants to move it to is that the comprehensive ocean observations have only recently begun.  The way Trenberth puts it:  “observing systems to capitalize on these insights are in their infancy.”

He says:  “revolutionary progress…  has taken place in ocean observations….  He predicts that “…ocean heat content is likely to become a key indicator of climate change”.  A recent best effort to depict the ocean heat content trend [9]  looks like this:

Here is another graphic [10]  way to look at heat in the ocean, based on IPCC data:

The ocean holds such a gigantic amount of heat compared to the atmosphere, it is the “dog” wagging the atmosphere “tail”. 

Ocean currents moving relatively tiny amounts of ocean heat compared to what’s already in the ocean can have a big impact.  A tiny amount of heat relative to what’s in the ocean is a very large amount of heat relative to what’s in the atmosphere. 

Here’s an example set of pictures of ocean heat scientists can get these days.  This set shows where heat is in the Pacific ocean as ENSO unfolds:

 The ocean heat data (looking down into a slice of the ocean more than 600 feet deep) depicted here came from the TAO moored buoy system that was completed in 1994 to observe ENSO.  The ARGO floats more recently deployed almost everywhere in the global ocean allow observations down to 2000m. 

Almost all attention has, until now, focused on the average global surface temperature chart.  Trenberth thinks this focus is about to move to or at least start to include where most of the heat actually is. Trenberth wants to know where all the heat is. 

He is frustrated because the hour is getting late.  As stated already Trenberth 2009 reiterated the IPCC AR4 conclusion:  “global warming is unequivocally happening”.  He writes of the “failure” by the governments of the world to so much as come up with a plan to deal with it.   He brings up “disruption and loss of life” saying “to plan for and cope with the effects of climate change requires information on what is happening and why”. 

Trenberth 2010 raises an additional concern by referencing Superfreakonomics.  The pop economists who wrote that book aren’t the only ones discussing geoengineering as if it were an option that should be considered on its economic merits because it appears to be cheaper than attempting to stabilize the composition of the atmosphere.  Although Trenberth’s scientific approach assumes that such understanding is possible, he asserts that “such proposals assume understanding” that we do not have.   

The press release announcing Trenberth 2010 said this:  “It is critical to track the buildup of energy in our climate system so that we can understand what is happening and predict our future

Trenberth attached a one page “poster [11]” to his personal communication to me which describes work he has done since publication of  Trenberth 2010:  “We are exploring this in model runs and I attach a poster showing some preliminary results.  The indications there are that the top-of-atmosphere shows warming is occurring at order 1W m-2, during decadal periods when no surface warming occurs.  The upper ocean heat content also falters, some heat is between 250m and 700m but most of it below 700m in the ocean and it relates to Pacific decadal variability.  Whether this applies in the real world or not remains to be seen and how it happens is not yet clear.  But if it is right then indeed the heat is being sequestered and comes back to haunt us in future….   The missing energy does not stay missing for more than about 15 years in the runs we have looked at….

Trenberth explained why things are “not yet clear”:  “the observations are perhaps inadequate, the processing of them can certainly be improved, and the processes and where stuff happens is not understood.”

If an apparently flat-lined average global surface temperature short term trend lulled enough people into believing the planet was no longer heating up, the ultimate driver, the accumulated CO2 and other GHGs, just gets bigger and harder to deal with. The “gain” would be that our fool’s paradise where we pretend this is not happening or is not serious would continue on a bit longer.  There would be a big loss:  the reality of more damage than anyone would ever want to cope with will set in, we will wake up, and we will then discover that the “gain in time” allowed us to turn up the biggest planetary temperature control knob, CO2, even higher.    

A new NOAA study (news report here) (abstract here) found enough heat moving into the deep ocean around Antarctica that the authors say if it were moving into the atmosphere at that rate (a physical impossibility) the atmosphere would be warming an extra 5 degrees F. per decade. 

For another perspective on “missing energy” consider Hansen’s analysis. 

Hansen has been calling attention to uncertainties in climate science and calling for more and better data for years but he uses different concepts.  E.g. whereas Trenberth 2010  asks: “is the warming associated with the latest El Nino a manifestation of the missing energy reappearing?  Hansen points to the same El Nino and says this is heat in the planetary system that is “sloshing about”. 

Hansen illustrated the effect of El Nino in his 2008  Bjerknes Lecture, [12] on page 4.  This chart shows that the two average surface temperature charts depicted, global and low latitude, vary with the sign and strength of El Nino/La Nina a.k.a. ENSO. 

Incidentally, you note that Hansen “deplores our lack of good data on aerosols” in your Afterword.  This is true. 

However, Hansen reiterated in 2008 during this Bjerknes lecture that he is actually more concerned about the oceans:  “The only way we are going to figure this out is to get the right observations.  First of all that means better observations of ocean heat content, including the deep ocean.  Second, we must measure aerosols with the required accuracy….

As Trenberth said on NPR just before Trenberth 2010 came out:  “I suspect we’ll be able to put this together with a little bit more perspective and further analysis.  But what this does is highlight some of the issues and send people back to the drawing board.  NPR interviewer Richard Harris summed up:  “Trenberth and Willis agree that a few mild years have no effect on the long-term trend of global warming. But they still have things to learn about how our planet copes with the heat.”

In any case, what does refining our understanding at Trenberth’s level of detail have to do with debate about whether civilization should take climate change seriously and limit emissions of GHGs?  There has been enough solid information to act for more than twenty years. 

It was said in 1988 by many climatologists that 95% of their colleagues had come to the view it was time to tell civilization to take action.  Consider the first paragraph of the final statement of the Changing Atmosphere conference held that year in Toronto.  Almost 400 delegates from 40 countries, including some of the leading climatologists in the world, worked on the statement for 4 days.  I was one of the delegates.  This paragraph was not controversial. 

Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.  The Earth’s atmosphere is being changed at an unprecedented rate by pollutants resulting from human activities, inefficient and wasteful fossil fuel use and the effects of rapid population growth in many regions.  These changes represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe.

You know many scientists now say things are bleak. 

Ramanathan published recently saying that preventing “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, the objective of the 1992 UNFCC  convention that was signed by the first President Bush and ratified by the US Senate, is “most likelynot possible now.  He bases his analysis on points not in dispute that appear in the IPCC AR4. 

Everyone knows about Hansen.  Hansen writes in “Target atmospheric CO2, Where should humanity aim?” that paleoclimate studies show that an ice free planet, i.e. 260 feet of sea level rise, may already be “in the pipeline” for our descendants unless we or they are successful in removing some CO2 from the atmosphere after stabilizing its composition.  He notes that humans are moving fossil carbon into the atmosphere many hundreds to ten thousand times faster than natural forces did in the past. 

There have always been uncertainties in the science, but it is not as uncertain as you seem to think.  When you said in Vancouver, that there is a 1/6 (your Russian roulette analogy) possibility that climate may end up not changing at all because of feedbacks canceling each other out this goes against what Earth’s climate history, i.e. paleoclimate, has to tell us. 

Paleoclimate data has all the feedbacks in. If you want to see the results of a “model” run that includes clouds, aerosols, GAIA, “unknown stabilizing factors” in climate dynamics, the kitchen sink, and whatever, look at paleoclimate.

When the level of CO2 goes up the planet warms. 

How could turning up the biggest control knob of the climate change of the past at a rate hundreds to ten thousand times faster than any change of the past possibly result in a one in six chance of having no effect? 

Dr. Richard Alley presented an overview of how the science of paleoclimate and CO2 has evolved into what is known now in his Bjerknes Lecture, (video here) and concluded:

 If higher CO2 warms, the Earth's climate history makes sense.  If CO2 doesn't warm we have to explain why the physicists are stupid and we also have no way to explain what happened.  And it’s really that simple.  We don't have any plausible alternative to that at this point”.    

The next chart shows that in terms of geological time, what is happening now is an instantaneous increase in CO2.  CO2 is the blue line.  The red line is planetary temperature over the last 420 thousand years.  The high points of planetary temperature are interglacial periods, the lows are ice ages.  Today is to the left, 420,000 years ago is to the right:

Similar data has been available since 1987.  The CO2 accumulation since the industrial revolution began shows as the thicker blue line going straight up because the few hundred years it has taken is on a timeline of 420,000 years long. 

I don’t know where people get the idea that dialing in even 350 ppm at this rate is “safe”, or that continuing on to 550 ppm and beyond might be “sensible”.  I was calling for stabilization and return to the preindustrial 280 ppm CO2 as far back as 1988  [13].  Many with policy experience say it is already impossible to avoid hitting 450 ppm.  Rowland believes civilization will experience what happens at 1000 ppm.

Every highest level national science organization on the planet is stating the science is solid enough that action must be taken now because lags in the climate system and the length of time it will take to reduce emissions mean time is quickly running out.  [ e.g.: here is what the national science academy of every country in the G8, plus India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico, all signed.  It was handed to every head of state attending the G8 meeting in Japan.]

Not one of these highest level science academies issued a retraction as a result of Trenberth’s paper, because of “climategate”, because Paltridge published a book, because a few mistakes were found in thousands of pages of IPCC reports, because many mainstream media journalists in the wake of “climategate” are saying they regret they didn’t engage ‘credible’ skeptics earlier, or for any other reason.  Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences in the US has stated that after all, “our understanding is undiminished”. 
PS.  You were saying in Vancouver that Lovelock believes GAIA stabilizes things after Earth loses its ability to support most people alive today.  You say in your book:  “Earth will be fine, no matter what; so will life”, which sounds similar to Lovelock’s view.  Hopefully, this will prove to be true. 

However, that view may prove to be a myth not supported by science:  Hansen thinks whatever Lovelock means by GAIA can be killed.  Hansen said, of GAIA, in his Bjerknes Lecture : “A nice idea, but it doesn’t work”.  He said in his lecture that he thinks it is possible for the oceans to boil away and for Earth to never have life again.  He isn’t saying his model predicts that:  “Our model blows up before the oceans boil”. 

What he does say:  “…perhaps runaway conditions could occur with added forcing as small as 10 – 20 W/m2.”  “There may have been times in the Earth’s history when CO2 was as high as 4000 ppm without causing a runaway greenhouse effect.  But the solar irradiance was less at that time.  What is different about the human made forcing is the rapidity at which we are increasing it, on the time scale of a century or a few centuries….  In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance…. If we also burn all the tar sands and tar shale… I think it is a dead certainty”. 

He is concerned that the rapid buildup of CO2 will release the methane from clathrates. 

The 420,000 year timeline looks like this if CO2 is drawn up to the 4000 ppm level Hansen is describing:

This is based on the same Vostok core data as the graphic above.  The line going straight up is CO2 from the beginning of the industrial revolution to some time maybe 100 or 200 years from now if Hansen’s nightmare comes true. 

Note this scale shows that relatively miniscule variations in CO2 caused transitions as large as the ice ages and interglacials. 

“Sensible skeptics” would have us believe that nothing out of the ordinary will happen to that red line representing planetary surface temperature as a result of that blue line going straight up.

 In the next graphic what I’m trying to show is that temperature follows CO2 up from zero ppm, then as CO2 ranges from about 180 to 280 ppm there are the ice ages and interglacial periods.  I ask you the question as to what will happen as CO2 relatively instantly moves to 550 ppm.  The horizontal red line is where physicists say the planet would be with no GHG in the atmosphere, i.e. minus 18 degrees C. 

The “sensible skeptics” if Paltridge is an example, tell us this means nothing.  CO2 has no relationship to planetary temperature, the physicists are stupid, the climatologists are corrupt morons who are the worst thing that has happened to science in several hundred years, feedbacks might cancel each other out, there was a Medieval Stupid Period, someone broke a Hockey Stick, the planetary system will magically cooperate because civilization can’t be bothered to deal with this, whatever the gibberish is, in any case, nothing much is going to happen.

One more point:  Lovelock’s “sensible skeptic” Paltridge tells us, as his first argument in The Climate Caper, starting right from the first paragraph in Chapter 1, that when the IPCC was first created, it took an issue that “a lot of scientists” weren’t particularly worried about, i.e. who actually thought at the time (1988) that the “concern was already past its peak” and blew it up into a “semi-religious crusade” by “manipulating” the climate science issue “into the ultimate example of the politically correct” by acting as if the “science behind the issue” is “irrelevant”.  Trenberth, as a three time IPCC lead author on the IPCC scientific assessment side is, therefore, one of these scientists. 

Paltridge would have us believe Trenberth is a menace to the ongoing credibility of science itself as he continues on with his work. 

How can Lovelock point to Paltridge and call him “sensible” while pointing to Trenberth for his insight?  It is incredible that Lovelock thinks it is “amazing how tribal scientists are” as they reject him now that he is touting Paltridge. 

[1] Trenberth, K. Tracking Earth’s Energy, Science, 16 April 2010 Vol 328 p 316-317
[2] Trenberth, K. An Imperative for climate change planning:  tracking Earth’s global energy, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2009, 1:19-27
[3] Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, Mki. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., in press, page 21
[4] Solomon, et. al. Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of Global Warming, Science, 5 March 2010, pp. 1219 - 1223
[5] Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, Mki. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., in press, page 21
[6] Advancing the Science of Climate Change, The National Academies Press, Summary, page 1
[7] Garth Paltridge, The Climate Caper, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2010, page 10
[8] Kevin Trenberth, The ocean is warming, isn’t it?, Nature Vol 465 May 2010, page 304
[11] Meehl, Arblaster, Fasullo, Hu, and Trenberth, Decadal Variability of globally averaged surface air temperatures:  Where does the heat go when the trend is flat?  NCAR “poster” one page paper.  Attached to personal communication to me.
[12] James Hansen, Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Energy Policy and Intergenerational Justice. Slides and notes for Bjerknes Lecture given Dec. 17 at the American Geophysical Union, San Francisco
[13] In political debate in British Columbia and Canada.  I got the Green Party in B.C. to adopt this goal as written policy sometime in 1989.