Panicking about climate change? See the rest of the story.

Summary: Contrast alarmists’ “news” about the climate with the estimates produced by real scientists. This is the first step to breaking the public policy gridlock that prevents us from preparing for the inevitable repeat of past weather, let alone climate change.

Heating the world


What do liberals read about climate change in the daily links at Naked Capitalism? (It is useful resource, which I read every day.)

Oct 10 – Michael Mann: We Are Even Closer To Climate Disaster Than IPCC Predicts. Interview at Real News.

Oct 13 – Climate Change Sea Level Rise Will Be Worse Than Imagined at Rolling Stone.

Oct 14 – Why Catastrophic Climate Change is Probably Inevitable Now – “How Capitalism Torched the Planet by Imploding Into Fascism.” By umair haque at Eudaimonia and Co. “Well worth a read.”

Oct 15 – UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That. At New York Magazine.

Oct 16 – Dangerous Rapidly Intensifying Landfalling Hurricanes Like Michael and Harvey May Grow More Common at Weather Underground.

Oct 17 – Climate Change Might Double the Cost of a Beer at Wired.

Oct 17 – Mammals cannot evolve fast enough to escape current extinction crisis at ScienceDaily. ” :-( “

Oct 18 – Retired admiral says climate-change research may mean ‘our survival’ at Stars and Stripes.

Oct 18 – We’re just beginning to understand the toll climate change takes on mental health at Grist.

Most of these claims are debatable. Some are by over-the-top alarmists. None of these articles provide a balanced view of the current state of climate science. A steady diet of this propaganda produces a form of learned ignorance: a conviction that the world is doomed unless extreme measures are taken, and people who disagree are just stupid. {Just as conservative websites give equally one-sided and extreme views about debt, etc. This shows the common nature of Americans, the same across political tribes.}

To hear the rest of the story, turn to climate scientist Judith Curry. See climate science news that would shock the readers of NC and other liberal websites.

Climate uncertainty monster: What’s the worst case?

By Judith Curry at Climate Etc, 11 October 2018

Summary: On possibilities, known neglecteds, and the vicious positive feedback loop between scientific assessment and policy making that has created a climate Frankenstein.

I have prepared a new talk that I presented yesterday at Rand Corp. …My complete presentation can be downloaded [Rand uncertainty]. This post focuses on the new material.

Scientists are saying the 1.5 degree climate report pulled punches, downplaying real risks facing humanity in next few decades, including feedback loops that could cause ‘chaos’ beyond human control.

To my mind, if the scientists really wanted to communicate the risk from future climate change, they should at least articulate the worst possible case (heck, was anyone scared by that 4″ of extra sea level rise?). Emphasis on POSSIBLE. The possible worst case puts upper bounds on what could happen, based upon our current background knowledge. The exercise of trying to articulate the worst case illuminates many things about our understanding (or lack thereof) and the uncertainties. A side effect of such an exercise would be to lop of the ‘fat tails’ that economists/statisticians are so fond of manufacturing. And finally the worst case does have a role in policy making (but not as the expected case).

My recent paper “Climate uncertainty and risk” assessed the epistemic status of climate models, and described their role in generating possible future scenarios. I introduced the “possibilistic” approach to scenario generation, including the value of scientific speculation on policy-relevant aspects of plausible, high-impact scenarios, even though we can neither model them realistically nor provide a precise estimate of their probability.

How to evaluate whether a scenario is possible or impossible?

A series of papers by Gregor Betz {see his bio and publications} provide some insights, below is my take on how to approach this for future climate scenarios based upon my reading of Betz and other philosophers working on this problem. Click slides to enlarge.

Possibility Verification by Gregor Betz

I categorize climate models here as (un)verified possibilities, there is a debate in the philosophy of science literature on this topic. The argument is that some climate models may be regarded as producing verified possibilities for some variables (e.g. temperature).

How Much Confidence in Climate Models

Maybe I will accept that a few models produce useful temperature forecasts, provided that they also produce accurate ocean oscillations when initialized. But that is about as far as I would go towards claiming that climate model simulations are ‘verified’.

An interesting aside regarding the ‘tribes’ in the climate debate, in context of possibility verification:

  • Lukewarmers: focus on the verified possibilities
  • Consensus/IPCC types: focus on the unverified possibilities generated by climate models.
  • Alarmists: focus on impossible scenarios and/or borderline impossible as ‘expected’ scenarios, or worthy of justifying precautionary avoidance of emitting CO2.

This diagram provides a visual that distinguishes the various classes of possibilities, including the impossible and irrelevant. While verified possibilities have higher epistemic status than the unverified possibilities, all of these possibilities are potentially important for decision makers.

Classifying Possibilities

The orange triangle illustrates a specific vulnerability assessment, whereby only a fraction of the scenarios are relevant to the decision at hand, and the most relevant ones are unverified possibilities and even the impossible ones. Clarifying what is impossible versus what is not is important to decision makers, and the classification provides important information about uncertainty.

Let’s apply these ideas to interpreting the various estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity {ECS}. The AR5 likely value is 1.5 to 4.5 C, which has has not budged since the 1979 Charney report. The most significant statement in the AR5, which is included in a footnote in the SPM: “No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.”

The big disagreement is between the CMIP5 model range (values between 2.1 and 4.7 C) and the historical observations using an energy balance model. While Lewis and Curry (2015) was not included in the AR5, it provides the most objective comparison of this approach with the CMIP5 models since it used the same forcing and time period: “The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 forcing and heat uptake estimates” in Climate Dynamics, August 2015 – gated, open copy here.

The Lewis/Curry estimates are arguably corroborated possibilities, since they are based directly on historical observational data, linked together by a simple energy balance model. It has been argued that LC underestimate values on the high end, and neglect the very slow feedbacks. True, but the same holds for the CMIP5 models, so this remains a valid comparison.

Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity - IPCC

Where to set the borderline impossible range? The IPCC AR5 put a 90% limit at 6 C. None of the ECS values cited in the AR5 extend much beyond 6 C, although in the AR4 many long tails were cited, apparently extending beyond 10 C. Hence in my diagram I put a range of 6-10 C as borderline impossible based on information from the AR4/AR5.

JC’s perspective.

We have an anchor on the lower bound — the no-feedback climate sensitivity, which is nominally ~1 C (sorry, skydragons). The latest Lewis/Curry values are reported here over the very likely range (5-95%). I regard this as our current best estimate of observationally based ECS values, and regard these as corroborated possibilities.

Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity - JC

I accept the possibility that Lewis/Curry is too low on the upper range, and agree that it could be as high as 3.5C. And I’ll even bow to peer/consensus pressure and put an upper limit of the v likely range as 4.5 C. I think values of 6-10 C are impossible, and I would personally define the borderline impossible region as 4.5 – 6 C. Yes we can disagree on this one, and I would like to see lots more consideration of this upper bound issue. But the defenders of the high ECS values are more focused on trying to convince that ECS can’t be below 2 C.

But can we shake hands and agree that values above 10C are impossible?

Now consider the perspective of economists on equilibrium climate sensitivity. The IPCC AR5 WGIII report based all of its calculations on the assumption that ECS = 3 C, based on the IPCC AR4 WGI Report. Seems like the AR5 WGI folks forgot to give WGIII the memo that there was no longer a preferred ECS value.

Subsequent to the AR5 Report, economists became more sophisticated and began using the ensemble of CMIP5 simulations. One problem is that the CMIP5 models don’t cover the bottom 30% of the IPCC AR5 likely range for ECS.

Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity - Economists

The situation didn’t get really bad until economists start creating PDFs {probability density function} of ECS. Based on the AR4 assessment, the US Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon fitted a distribution that had 5% of the values greater than 7.16 C. Weitzmann (2008) fitted a distribution 0.05% > 11C, and 0.01% >20C. While these probabilities seem small, they happen to dominate the calculation of the social cost of carbon (low probability, high impact events). [see Worst case scenario versus fat tail]. These large values of ECS (nominally beyond 6C and certainly beyond 10 C) are arguably impossible based upon our background knowledge.

For equilibrium climate sensitivity, we have no basis for developing a PDF – no mean, and a weakly defended upper bound. Statistically-manufactured ‘fat tails’, with arguably impossible values of climate sensitivity are driving the social cost of carbon. Instead, effort should be focused on identifying the possible or plausible worst case, that can’t be falsified based on our background knowledge. [see also Climate sensitivity: lopping off the fat tail]

About the rising seas.

The issue of sea level rise provides a good illustration of how to assess the various scenarios and the challenges of identifying the possible worst case scenario. This slide summarizes expert assessments from the IPCC AR4 (2007), IPCC AR5 (2013), the US Climate Science Special Report (CSSR 2017), and the NOAA Sea Level Rise Scenarios Report (2017). Also included is a range of worst case estimates (from sea level rise acceleration or not).

Global Sea Level Rise 2100 - experts

With all these expert assessments, the issue becomes ‘which experts?’ We have the international and national assessments, with a limited number of experts for each that were selected by whatever mechanism. Then we have expert testimony from individual witnesses that were selected by politicians or lawyers having an agenda.

In this context, the expert elicitation reported by Horton et al. (2014) is significant, which considered expert judgement from 90 scientists publishing on the topic of sea level rise: “Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300” in Quaternary Science Reviews, 15 January 2014 (gated, open copy here).

Also, a warming of 4.5 C is arguably the worst case for 21st century temperature increase (actually I suspect this is an impossible amount of warming for the 21st century, but lets keep it for the sake of argument here). So should we regard Horton’s ‘likely’ SLR of 0.7 to 1.2 m for 4.5 C warming as the the ‘likely’ worst case scenario? The Horton paper gives 0.5 to 1.5 as the very likely range (5 to 95%). These values are much lower than the range 1.6 to 3 m (and don’t even overlap).

There is obviously some fuzziness and different ways of thinking about the worst case scenario for SLR by 2100. Different perspectives are good, but 0.7 to 3 m is a heck of a range for the borderline worst case.

JC’s perspective on sea level rise circa 2100.

The corroborated possibilities, from rates of sea level rise in the historical record, are 0.3 m and less.

The values from the IPCC AR4, which were widely criticized for NOT including glacier dynamics, are actually verified possibilities (contingent on a specified temperature change) – focused on what we know, based on straightforward theoretical considerations (e.g. thermal expansion) and processes for which we have defensible empirical relations.

Once you start including ice dynamics and the potential collapse of ice sheets, we are in the land of unverified possibilities.

Global Sea Level Rise 2100 - JC

I regard anything beyond 3 m as impossible, with the territory between 1.6 m and 3.0 m as the disputed borderline impossible region. I would like to see another expert elicitation study along the lines of Horton that focused on the worst case scenario. I would also like to see more analysis of the different types of reasoning that are used in creation of a worst case scenario.

The worst case scenario for sea level rise is having very tangible applications NOW in adaptation planning, siting of power plants, and in lawsuits. This is a hot and timely topic, not to mention important. A key topic in the discussion at Rand was how decision makers perceive and use ‘worst case’ scenario information. One challenge is to avoid having the worst case become anchored as the ‘expected’ case.

Framing the issue of 21st century climate change and sea level rise.

I don’t think Donald Rumsfeld, in his famous unknown taxonomy, included the category of ‘unknown knowns’. Unknown knowns, sometimes referred to as ‘known neglecteds,’ refer to known processes or effects that are neglected for some reason.

Climate science has made a massive framing error, in terms of framing future climate change as being solely driven by CO2 emissions. The known neglecteds listed below are colored blue for an expected cooling effect over the 21st century, and red for an expected warming effect.

Framing Error

Much effort has been expended in imagining future black swan events associated with human caused climate change. At this point, human caused climate change and its dire possible impacts are so ubiquitous in the literature and public discussion that I now regard human-caused climate change as a ‘white swan.’ The white swan is frankly a bit of a ‘rubber ducky’, but nevertheless so many alarming scenarios have been tossed out there, that it is pretty unimaginable that a climate surprise caused by CO2 emissions that has not been imagined.

The black swans related to climate change are associated with natural climate variability. There is much room for the unexpected to occur, especially for the ‘CO2 as climate control knob’ crowd.

Black versus White Swans

Existing climate models do not allow exploration of all possibilities that are compatible with our knowledge of the basic way the climate system actually behaves. Some of these unexplored possibilities may turn out to be real ones.

Scientific speculation on plausible, high-impact scenarios is needed, particularly including the known neglecteds.

Alternative Scenario Generation Methods

Is all this categorization of uncertainty merely academic, the equivalent of angels dancing on the end of a pin? The level of uncertainty, and the relevant physical processes (controllable or uncontrollable) are key elements in selecting the appropriate decision-analytic framework.

Controllability of the climate (the CO2 control knob) is something that has been been implicitly assumed in all this. Perhaps on millennial time scales climate is controlled by CO2 (but on those time scales CO2 is a feedback as well as a forcing). On the time scale of the 21st century anything feasible that we do to reduce CO2 emissions is unlikely to have much of an impact on the climate even if you believe the climate model simulations (see Lomborg)

Optimal control and cost/benefit analysis, which are used in evaluating the social cost of carbon, assume statistical uncertainty and that the climate is controllable — two seriously unsupported assumptions.

Scenario planning, adaptive management and robustness/resilience/antifragility strategies are much better suited to conditions of scenario/deep uncertainty and a climate that is uncontrollable.

Decision - anslytic frameworks

How did we land in this situation of such a serious science-policy mismatch? Well, in the early days (late 1980s – early 1990’s) international policy makers put the policy cart before the scientific cart, with a focus on CO2 and dangerous climate change. This focus led climate scientists to make a serious framing error, by focusing only on CO2-driven climate change. In a drive to remain relevant to the policy process, the scientists focused on building consensus and reducing uncertainties. The also began providing probabilities – even though these were unjustified by the scientific knowledge base, there was a perception that policy makers wanted this. And this led to fat tails and cost benefit analyses that are all but meaningless (no matter who they give Nobel prizes to).

Oversimplification - Alarmism

The end result is oversimplification of both the science and policies, with positive feedback between the two that has created a climate alarm monster.

This Frankenstein has been created from framing errors, characterization of deep uncertainty with probabilities, and the statistical manufacture of fat tails.

Creation of a climate Frankenstein

“Monster creation” triggered a memory of a post I wrote in 2010: Heresy and the Creation of Monsters. Yikes I was feisty back then (getting mellow in my old age).


The bottom line: my conclusions from Dr. Curry’s analysis

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (of Berkeley Earth), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

The public policy gridlock about climate change has left us unprepared for the inevitable repeat of past weather. This year the people of Puerto Rico paid for our folly. Next time the cost in blood and money might be even larger. Hysteria produced by three decades of propaganda – one-sided flows of extremely biased information about climate change – has helped produce this gridlock.

Judith Curry

About Judith Curry

Judith Curry recently retired as a Professor of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is now President and co-owner of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech, she served on the faculties of the University of Colorado, Penn State University and Purdue University.

She has served on the NASA Advisory Council Earth Science Subcommittee, the DOE Biological and Environmental Science Advisory Committee, the National Academies Climate Research Committee, and Space Studies Board, and the NOAA Climate Working Group.

She is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. Her views on climate change are best summarized by her Congressional testimony: Policy Relevant Climate Issues in Context, April 2013.

Follow Dr. Curry on Twitter at @curryja. Learn about her firm, CFAN, at their website.

For More Information

See the new IPCC report: “Global Warming of 1.5 °C.” SR15 differs from AR15 on one major way: it assume +1.5°C over pre-industrial creates Armageddon. That’s odd, since we are already at 1°C over (much of that is natural warming). To understand the origin of these “red lines” see “The Invention of the Two-Degree Target” in Der Spiegel.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about the climate wars…

  1. Importantclimate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. Surprising news about trend of America’s temperature and precipitation.
  3. Alabama debunks the Times’ story about our warming world.
  4. About those headlines of the past century about global cooling….
  5. The facts about the 1970′s Global Cooling scare.
  6. Start of another swing of the media narrative – to global cooling?
  7. Global Cooling returns to the news, another instructive lesson about America.
  8. Did NASA and NOAA dramatically alter US climate history to exaggerate global warming? – Spoiler: no.
  9. The climate wars get exciting. Government conspiracy! Shattered warming records! Global cooling!
  10. Have the climate skeptics jumped the shark, taking the path to irrelevance?

Alarmists worked hard to keep you from reading this book.

Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

Alarmists have worked long and hard to discredit Roger Pielke Jr.’s, because he tells us about the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. Things that violate the “narrative” about our imminent doom.

They really do not want you to read the revised second edition of The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change. See my review of the first edition. Here is the publisher’s summary …

“After nearly every hurricane, heatwave, drought, or other extreme weather event, commentators rush to link the disaster with climate change. But what does the science say?

“In this fully revised and updated edition of Disasters & Climate Change, renowned political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the climate data to give you the latest science on how climate change is related to extreme weather. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”

40 thoughts on “Panicking about climate change? See the rest of the story.”

  1. Larry Kummer, Editor

    Stand by for comments which focus on trivia
    and totally ignore the point of the post!

    Comment threads show how ignorance about climate change results from reading the news.

    Five, four, three, …

  2. “Climate genocide is coming – no, it’s worse!”

    Lord have mercy, at some point they’re going to have to start defining the nuance between Double Genocide and Triple Genocide. The term, like “fascism,” “liberal,” “neoliberal,” “neoconservative,” “statist” and “communism,” seems to be extended beyond all practical meaning other than “bad.”

  3. Bangladesh is racing to massively boost its power-generation capacity, adding 11,600 megawatts to reach 24,000 megawatts by 2021.
    GE Report (Source)

    CoalSwarm published a report on September 26 warning that 259 gigawatts of coal power capacity – equivalent to the entire coal power fleet of the United States – is being built in China despite government policies restricting new builds.

    This blog reported last month that China was building 46 gigawatts of coal power that had been shelved or suspended, and which was discovered by CoalSwarm through an analysis of satellite imagery.

    The new estimate by CoalSwarm takes the 46 gigawatts found by satellite imagery and adds other projects in the pre-construction/construction phase, as well as 57 gigawatts of shelved projects that seem likely to go online in the near future.

    Professor Yuan Jiahai of North China Electric Power University told chinadialogue that China loosened its restrictions on new coal-fired power construction in five provinces earlier this year. He is confident that China can keep its total coal power capacity within the 1100-gigawatt ceiling announced in the 13th Five-Year Plan, which runs through to 2020.

    However, China’s coal power capacity already stands at 993 gigawatts, leading CoalSwarm to warn that the sector’s resurgence is wildly out of line with the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to limiting the average global temperature rise from climate change by 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.
    China Dialogue (Source)

    Why don’t Liberal discuss this?

    We never hear about this in Australia, only that we cannot have a new power station from clean(ish) black coal in Australia, while even Germany is building a dirty brown coal power station.

    It is just one sided on the solution, it is as if our Generals only idea to have peace were to order his own army to shoot themselves in the foot.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Just a Guy,

      Those exciting estimates of Chinese coal additions have a record of being somewhere between frequently and usually wrong. Like most estimates of China mineral consumption. For example, I’ve for 15 years I’ve read thrilling articles about Chinese copper consumption, speculation, and hoarding — often by world-class experts, usually wrong.

      The most common ignored variable with coal is retirement of China’s old, dirty power plants. Their air pollution over major cities is horrific, and creating major dissension.

      From another perspective – China’s GDP has been running under 7% since 2014. They have massive power capacity coming online from other sources (e.g., nukes, renewables). Belief that they are overbuilding power generation several-fold is the usual “too bad they’re not as smart as us” that has characterized western analysis of Asian nations for over a century.

    2. “Why don’t Liberal discuss this?”

      Oh they do. Believe me, they do! I’ve had about a half-dozen real-life conversations about how nothing we do matters because China — really you can just stop the sentence there, because the ending just auto-populates like a Google search.

    3. Larry, don’t we also need evidence of retirements, if there are any? The Coalswarm piece didn’t seem to mention it. Though it seems pretty well researched otherwise.

      Unless there is hard evidence that retirements are high and thus net additions are low, its just hopeful speculation of the sort we often see in Green accounts of Chinese emission activity and plans. One more to add to the list:

      — they are only doing it to export
      — they are only catching up with Western historical emissions
      — their per capita emissions are lower (they are actually at EU levels)
      — they are installing lots of wind and solar (so what?)

      And now there is another, this time on coal generating capacity:

      — The addition in the specified ;projects is balanced by unspecified retirements

      Believe it when we see it.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        “don’t we also need evidence of retirements, if there are any?”

        This “story” has been repeated every year for 5. Afterwards the reporting agencies see only small increases in China’s coal consumption. But the stories are always good for headlines. People’s credulity always astonishes me. As for your list of reason for Chinese building power plants.

        — they are only doing it to export — Electricity isn’t a big export product, for obvious reasons.
        — they are only catching up with Western historical emissions — Too silly to deserve comment.
        — their per capita emissions are lower (they are actually at EU levels) — Irrelevant.
        — they are installing lots of wind and solar (so what?) — That’s relevant because they only need new power to accommodate new demand, which is limited.

  4. Larry: “China’s GDP has been running under 7% since 2014. They have massive power capacity coming online from other sources (e.g., nukes, renewables). ”

    GDP is not measured in %, so no doubt you meant to say GDP growth.

    China’s new nukes will be very useful but renewables are more problematic. Much of the renewables capacity in china is not connected to the grid and probably never will be. But since China produces and exports large volumes of wind and solar generation hardware, it must put on a show of utilising these “green” energy sources to encourage more foreign customers to sign up.

    China (local governments) is indeed building new coal power plant capacity. There is a difference between the financial incentives of local governments to build them vs. the public relations incentives of the central PRC government to put on a show of shifting exclusively to zero carbon energy sources.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “Much of the renewables capacity in china is not connected to the grid and probably never will be.”

      What is your evidence for that?

      “China (local governments) is indeed building new coal power plant capacity.”

      It’s not binary, yes or no. The question is how much are they building, and what is the net change in generation after closing of old plants.

      “GDP is not measured in %, so no doubt you meant to say GDP growth.”

      I doubt there was anyone over the age of 8 who did not understand what I wrote.

    2. “But since China produces and exports large volumes of wind and solar generation hardware, it must put on a show of utilising these “green” energy sources to encourage more foreign customers to sign up.”

      I don’t understand the reasoning here. The Chinese are building massive amounts of solar power installations, not some potemkin research plot or whatever. If this was purely makework they could just (continue to) build large-scale public works. If this was to trick foreigners they could probably just bribe people directly.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        I agree. Let’s see if Rengard produces any evidence for that astonishing claim.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        From the article: “Wind curtailment rates stood at 8.7%, down 5 percentage points on the year, while solar curtailment also fell 3.2 percentage points to 3.6% during the first half.”

        That’s hardly a serious problem. They are running a multi-decade program to manage some of the fastest growth rates ever seen in an industrial nation – ever. There can only be a surplus or shortage of power. A surplus is better.

    3. Larry / SF
      There are major issues in China with their wind build. It is in places that aren’t connected to the grid and is poor quality plant.

      The operation of connected wind farms is already causing significant grid problems in China (as well as elsewhere). I have just got back from a power industry conference where they showed large synchronous condensers being installed in China to try to stabilize the voltage and increase the inertia. In places like South Australia and Scotland, wind is being dispatched off, because of the inherent instability it causes.
      The generation data that should be looked at should never be installed capacity, but actual generation (GWh). In that regard, the new coal stations which are being built close to the load centres (I would put in the links but it is likely to trigger the spam filters), as opposed to far away like wind is, are going to be run. Keeping the lights on always trumps feelgood policies.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Chris and SF,

        This level of detail about China has hijacked the thread. And ignores the point of this post. China isn’t even mentioned in the post. I should have shut this thread down immediately.

        “There are major issues in China with their wind build.”

        Of course there are problems. China is attempting an extremely large project, building a power grid for a rapidly industrializing nation why modernizing a dirty and antiquated existing grid.

    4. @Chris: The NYT article appears to describe a large wind farm which is not well connected to the Chinese electrical grid (which I imagine is embryonic compared to that of the USA or Europe, or even Russia). If the wind power isn’t connected to the grid, how is it creating voltage problems?

  5. With all respect, I have a M.Sc in Economics, teaching mostly the Master unit in Economics for the M.Sc and M.B.A. at a regional Australian University, most of the classes are Asian, and of vastly superior Mathematical standard than Western Students, and their Lecturer.

    Both my youngest children are tutored by an Asian Student, who has a vastly better grasp of Maths than the Western teachers they have in school, both superior knowledge and understanding, developed from much superior teaching system in China.

    I have never and will never say “stupid Asians”, they are better educated than us in too many areas.

    I have between 80 and 90% of my classes undertaken by Asians, many want permanent residence because of the pollution, coal is a major energy source in Asia and will continue to be for a while.

    Use a search engine to check the earth’s known Yellow Cake material, it isn’t that huge for a real replacement of coal.

    I was saying, Asia is building coal power stations, at a quicker rate than they are retired – not hay they are dumb – but that is simple fact. We, in Australia export huge volumes of coal – I assume you do not think they are stockpiling it, but actually burn it.

    Pollution is an issue, balanced against needed growth to repay the huge investment. They are much smarter than us, we borrow to consume and can’t often repay a la 2008, they borrow to invest – the difference between consumption borrowing and investment is simple economics. Westerners have lots of rusting barbecue pits and the Chinese have factories.

    Coal is a major energy source in Asia and the Indian sub-continent and the use of coal there dwarfs what we would save in even a shift to 100% renewable. We hear renewable, renewable; in 2016 I believe China built coal power stations that emit more CO2 than all of Australia in several years.

    I was not say dumb Asians, if climate change is not a real issue, continuing with coal at lower unit electric prices would be the smarter thing.

    As to who is smarter, there are to many variables, maths scores, who exports and who imports would suggest them, the pollution and its effects on life expectancy would suggest the West, if we can’t repay the deficit without too greater fall in living standards and so on. When the investments in the Emerging Markets (EM) collapse with rising interest rates we will see “who is swimming naked”. There are lots of factors and our banks will be caught without their trunks when the tide goes out and the investing in EM causes another crisis.

    As an ex Sub-Director in Sakura Bank, I know Asians are very smart and hard working.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Just a guy,

      “We, in Australia export huge volumes of coal – I assume you do not think they are stockpiling it, but actually burn it.”

      But saying “China imports LOTSA coal” is not relevant to the point under discussion here. Which is if China is grossly over-building power plants, based on estimates of intent and construction.

      Chinese coal imports are volatile, but have been only slowly increasing since 2013-14 (Bloomberg) — despite the usual hysterical “China building a zillion coal plants” that gets headlines each year.

  6. My point was not China is over building power stations or Bangladesh or even India and Pakistan, they are developing fast and they have the right to do so.

    In that context and in a context of an article writing about the effects of CO2 being overplayed, I was saying what the West does is now less important to the global effects.

    China is using less coal and iron, as the global economy in the manufacturing East is just finding it harder to export and the next round of competition with Vietnam and Cambodia starting to really industrialise is happening fast. My son works for a US company in Ireland, they are closing the Chinese main factory and moving to Vietnam, labour costs are 50% lower and the pollution tax they pay in Vietnam 75% less that of China, plus they will not have to pay business rates for the first five years. This now is a real shift in manufacturing, CO2 intensive low value added manufacturing is moving out of China and being replaced with higher end and services, which use less energy.

    I actually think new clean high tech coal should be a part of an Australian energy answer, as it is in Germany with Polish coal.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Just a Guy,

      “what the West does is now less important to the global effects.”

      That’s often said. It is quite wrong. The West’s current decarbonization — shift of the power grid to renewables, shift from gasoline & diesel to natural gas & electric, and continued increase of energy efficiency — is an important factor.

      Over a longer time horizon, the West’s R&D might — might — prove decisive. For example, fusion: The bright light of fusion might burn away climate doomsters’ fears.

  7. Agreed about decarbonising, too often associated with de-industrialising.

    Yes, the West’s investment in alternatives could feed thorough to the global carbon situation, but so could the West building state of the art coal stations that could possible involve cutting edge technology to minimise CO2 / MW.

    I had an engineer doing an MBA in one group and he said we could cut 5 -20% off the carbon dioxide per MW, from power stations almost immediately. Build huge solar reflector towers to pre heat the water before it enters the power station, coal or gas. It was his Engineering Masters thesis, but NIMBYism was too hard to over come and Government not keen to fund the research and trials.

    Fusion article interesting, thank you.

  8. My understanding of the Chinese plant (I work with a couple of power engineers who grew up in China and came West for education) is that they have closed a lot of the really old CHP plants. Some date back to the Great Leap Forward. The generation is being replaced by HELE ultra-supercritical kit. Same coal burn, a lot more GWh and a lot cleaner air.
    And JAG – you understood wrong – the “renewable” preheaters won’t do that. They would just replace existing preheaters And what happens when they want to generate at night or in winter – like 70% of the time?

  9. Editor
    You are right that there has been some threadjacking. However, the Climate Change “solutions” are almost all around energy policy and switch away from fossil fuels without there being a cheap, reliable alternative. That and the Western World expected to make large changes to reduce emissions, while other countries like China and India have no constraints. The population at large won’t buy into such a biased agenda.
    There is an anti-Western, socialist, world government dogma pervading a lot of the alarmist statements. This is especially so when they use the RC8.5 as the base case to do their doom predictions. Or say the IPCC (the actual science is really only in WG1) is too conservative. That seems to be why they have the ridiculous sea level rise scenarios – an attempt to scare the voters.
    The fact that previous predictions haven’t eventuated does not seem to register in the proponent’s consciousness. That is why all hurricanes and other natural disasters now seem to be caused by climate change. Science and the data has been dropped from the menu to focus on emotions. It is why people like the Pielkes and Ms Curry are the new heretics as they want to actually use the science.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      (1) “the Climate Change “solutions” are almost all around energy policy ”

      First, that is not correct. The ones that get media attention tend to be the politically useful ones — involving political power. But the long-term effective solutions will almost certainly be, imo, as they have been in the past, based on progress in science and engineering.

      Second, this post is about the science. Policy prescriptions are a different subject. Conflating them causes nothing but confusion. Worse, policy tends to get the public’s attention — ignorant attention, since too little attention is paid to the science. That’s Curry’s message here. The comments here show the validity of her point.

      (2) “The fact that previous predictions haven’t eventuated”

      Individual scientists make predictions, often bold ones. That’s the essence of science, with successful predictions (esp “severe” ones, in Popper’s words) are the gold standard of proof. Most predictions will prove false. That does not mean that the mainstream of science in that field is false or unreliable.

      We have the IPCC Working Group I (the physical basis) and the major (western) climate agencies to show the US public what is the current mainstream (often called, misleadingly, the “consensus”) in climate science. I am unaware of any formal predictions by them which haven’t “eventuated.”

  10. Editor
    I should have taken more care with the wording. I did not mean that the IPCC made predictions,Agreeing with you, I don’t think they have in previous main reports. I meant it was a lot of the activists, including leading scientists with their scare scenarios.
    With regards the decarbonization, this was also referring to the alarmists’ statements. As you wrote in the main post “Alarmists: focus on impossible scenarios and/or borderline impossible as ‘expected’ scenarios, or worthy of justifying precautionary avoidance of emitting CO2.” I agree with that. However,most of the world’s CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels for energy, so the avoidance is an energy policy .
    From my reading of Nic Lewis’s analysis of the recent IPCC special report SR15 the push for the carbon budget means that the IPCC is now wanting to set energy policy, albeit by indirect means.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Observing that alarmists make exaggerated predictions is like saying that water is wet. That’s what they do. More interesting is why a society chooses to listen to such fringes, and take them seriously. When it happens occasionally, it is a problem but just an aberration of a healthy society.

      When it happens a lot, that is a symptom of a sick society. Such as Weimar Germany, and America today.

    2. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I’ve responded to most of the 55 thousand plus comments on the FM website during its 12 years of operation. Few – very few – respond to a dialog as well as you. If we had a top tier of commenters, in terms of dialog and precision, you would be in it!

    3. Larry
      Thank you. I will try to keep my comments on track to justify the praise.
      The problem seems to be that people no longer use news to challenge them or expand their horizons. They are settled into tribes and expect the opinionated comment that passes for news to confirm their prejudices. Anything that goes against their views is “fake news”. Whether the media has caused this, or is just responding to the market, I don’t know.
      The problem with the climate change is that the activists have hijacked the science to push their own agenda. And the media don’t call their truthiness out. You look at any alarmist prediction. They invariably work into the piece that they are an IPCC author or reviewer or the like. This is a deliberate tactic to give their statement often unjustified authority (and I haven’t seen the IPCC complain, so they are somewhat complicit). Often the person has absolutely no relevant scientific background. However, this authoritative stamp doesn’t happen to the lukewarmers like the Pielkes, Spenser or Curry. All of them are a lot more qualified to talk on the science. Their statements are a lot more measured. Maybe that is the problem – talking sense doesn’t sell copy, but scare tactics do.
      The number of people who believe climate change is a real issue is diminishing – at least in the published polls by disinterested organisations I have seen. The alarmist prediction failures are queering the pitch for much of the sensible information that WG1 compiles. And it is also discrediting the science. The problems around issues like GMOs or Roundup or vaccines are due in some part to the distrust around activist science. That is a real concern.

  11. I am not a scientist and last studied science in college.

    No solution is going to be perfect, solar doesn’t work at night and is less efficient in the winter with shorter hours of sunlight.

    I should also have taken care to to write solar does not work at night and Winnebago should have written cruise control does not mean you can leave the drivers seat and go and make a coffee, not at least safely.

    I have solar cells on my roof, 4.25 Kw capacity, with low energy lighting, double building standards minimum insulation requirements and low energy white goods, the most cost effective low energy replacements bought each time I make a replacement purchase. We have a household with 4 people using the same number of KW/hrs as the average one person household (it is on our electricity bill). Solar subsidy was high when we installed solar, it paid for itself in three year and I sold the carbon credits at $40/T on the Government run carbon credit website.

    What I have done at the household level is of course what a wise nation does at the national level, as power plants age and become less efficient, they are replaced with new more efficient ones with lower running costs.

    There no doubt in my mind coal will be the main energy generating source globally for at least the next couple of decades, whatever the West does. As such, I often wonder if the West would not be better to continue with Coal power and devote resources to efficiency measures, especially those that can be retrospectively installed to help reduce global pollution to a greater degree than going alternatives in the West.

    There is the argument that going alternative will lead the technological way, which can be copied and mass produced to lower costs this is an equally valid answer.

    In the end a cost benefit analysis must be made on latest technological expectations and a decision made, this is why it is easy at a household level and hard in the political arena.

    The level of debate on even this site, so clearly demonstrates why so many words are spilled with so few results.


    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Just a guy,

      “No solution is going to be perfect,”

      I don’t know what that means, or why it is a meaningful statement. The replacements for whale oil were not “perfect”, but produced a far better world.

      “What I have done at the household level is of course what a wise nation does at the national level”

      That’s quite false. Almost always in economics individual solutions are not optimal at the national level. The classic example is saving. “The paradox of saving” is that it is good for you to save more, but national income drops if we all save more. If we all save enough, we’re in a depression.

      You cannot do R&D to develop new energy sources. But American – and the West – can do so.

      “In the end a cost benefit analysis must be made on latest technological expectations and a decision made, this is why it is easy at a household level and hard in the political arena”

      Not even remotely true.

  12. By saying “even this site” , was referring to a smaller site, but with an above average level of debate.

    At a national level the pages and pages of submission would be just crazy.

    Larry, thanks for hosting a site with this level of debate. Even teaching post grads the way a climate debate goes, when externalises and carbon pricing are taught is, well, Interesting to say the least.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Just a Guy,

      Thank you for the feedback, always appreciated no matter if positive or negative.

      My personal evaluation of the FM website project is that it failed. My coauthors agree, for most no long bother writing for the public. We’re not interested in providing entertainment for the outer party, the goal of most websites (the proles and underclass don’t read, the inner party and bourgeoisie don’t need to). Appealing to the tribes of Left and Right is the way to get clicks, telling them what they want to hear – crude simple morality tales, boos for the bad guys and cheers for the angels.

      We thought the FM website would provide a forum for clasing values, perspectives about things on the edge of the known, and visions of the future. But the comments show that ~90% of this is discussion of matters that should be solved by consulting Wikipedia or the Britannica. America can no longer see the world except thru cloudy ideological filters.

      My personal goal – I wrote the masthead – was that the FM website serve as a kind of committee of correspondence, to help find ways to reform America. That was a maximum goal, and has proved quite delusional. Discussions about reform are met with various forms of surrender and defeatism, often highly intellectual (even abstract).

      I am lost, and have no idea how to proceed. So I continue running the same lemonade stand, hoping for inspiration to strike someday, in some form. Meanwhile the sky darkens. My twitter feed – carefully selected sources whom I respect, reads like a feed from a madhouse – a dark version of wonderland or Oz. Weimerica approaches.

    2. @Larry: I certainly can’t tell you what you ought or ought not to do, but I have found the entire project stimulating and thought provoking. I read most of the articles even if I have mostly commented on the climate change ones.I can’t say I agree (especially with your guests) but I try to give them a fair hearing.

      If I had any good solutions I would try to share them; sometimes I think the problem loops back to social media.

      I also apologize for digressing onto Chinese wind farms up thread.

  13. We could debate for ages.

    The paradox of savings is true, but let us use getting an education or working hard, but even the paradox of savings isn’t so straight forward, don’t Asians save at high rates and have high growth rates.

    I have taught Keynes, I don’t agree with it all, I save 10-15% of income, if we all did the same, then we would have less welfare payments and less bankruptcy, possibly, but yes less “conspicuous consumption”. We would have a different economy, smaller cars and houses, less retail shops and so on, better in some ways and worse in others.

    Whale oil is a good example, but we replaced lead in petrol with a bromide compound, levels of bromides are now an issue, diesel produces less CO2/km, but is has health issues with air quality, especially in built up areas. Choice is often the least bad, in some areas, which energy source does the least damage, is there a perfect energy source now? Natural gas is less CO2 than coal, still has CO2. CO2 is created in making solar cells, do they save that much CO2 after all the production and transport CO2. Choice is the most efficient production, transport and installation available now. There is no perfect solution, it is the best available at the time, opportunity cost.

    Hell I have been married twice, both my ex wife and I would say that wasn’t a perfect match, but it seemed the best option at the time!! Opportunity cost of leaving was the highest cost I ever had, but the perceived benefits were higher.

    If we don’t do a CBA and decide on the best energy source and then sell it to the public and actually build it, how do we decide. It is opportunity cost, balancing source of fuel, costs, …

    Take heart I think it is a website that has legs, but your call.

  14. This article is interesting
    They seem to think that the reason why the alarmist message isn’t getting across is just poor communication. They also seem to believe they should address the holes sceptics find in their arguments. If the denizens of Climate Etc are anything to go by, the counterfactual could be that there are a lot of well educated people out there like engineers and geologists understand the science and doubt the alarmism. The article sort of admits this. That could mean they don’t doubt the science, just the advocacy and alarmism — the lukewarmers.

  15. First comment here, so perhaps a bit of mercy may be in order. Have followed FM off and on for about a year now, enjoy the posts and commentary, and find it to be one of the better sites for discussion.

    With regard to the post at hand, I admit to a degree of personal uncertainty as to the real predictive value of any of the climate models under discussion, though I certainly understand the desire to consult the auguries in planning for the future. One has to admit one’s limitations, and the higher maths involved in model assessment are beyond me, at least at this point.

    My basic question is about the nature of the current carbon pulse. Since at least Arrhenius it seems reasonably proven science that CO2 warms the atmosphere, and it also seems reasonably proven CO2 rises and falls over time naturally, the issue being whether this particular perturbation is worthy of concern.

    Though one could certainly argue the point, and argued it is, it seems from observation the pulse may be having an effect which, without need of complex models, is noticeable and, well, heading in the wrong direction from a civilization point of view. Who knows how quickly, and to what extent, but the trend is what seems of concern. Generally speaking 1 degree C is thrown around as a fair number for the increase over whatever pre-industrial start you would like to choose. With that single degree rise, corresponding to some untold amount of retained heat, the polar ice caps have very noticeably decreased in volume.

    Under any of the potential futures, am I wrong in assuming one would need to actually decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? Even if the current level were to be maintained, isn’t it too high already? Variability, yes, but melting vast amounts of ice seems highly problematic, with very large centers of civilization placed along long stretches of coast all around the globe, and many other civilization centers dependent on glacial ice for drinking water and irrigation.

    Is there something faulty in the way I’m looking at this?

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      (1) “it seems from observation the pulse may be having an effect which”

      What effect? The IPCC sees only increased heat and, with less certainty, small changes in precipitation.

      (2) “Who knows how quickly, and to what extent, but the trend is what seems of concern”

      There is no trend in the sense of changes linked with time (as a child grows bigger with age). CO2 is increasing, but that’s a result of complex factors – whose future is difficult to predict. That’s why the IPCC does not make predictions. The IPCC’s AR5 described scenarios (RCPs), each of which has prediction of future CO2 (with, if the models are correct, a prediction of temp).

      (3) “Even if the current level were to be maintained, isn’t it too high already? …”

      Why do you say that? Most forms of extreme weather have not substantially changed. Crop yields are at high levels.

      (4) “melting vast amounts of ice seems highly problematic,”

      What is the anthropogenic effect?

      There is little clear evidence of Antarctic melting, other than on the peninsula. In the north polar region, ice has been melting since the Little Ice Age ended in the early 19th C (during the LIA, the ice pack encircled Iceland and sometimes reached Scotland).

      Sea levels have been rising for a long time. Despite the hysteria, there is no consensus that the rate of increase has accelerated. Details here.

      (5) “Is there something faulty in the way I’m looking at this?”

      My guess is that you are conflating current conditions — which are fine by almost every measure — with predictions of future conditions. The future could be great or horrible, depending on many factors – most of which are difficult to predict. Hence the debate about the best public policy response.

  16. Pingback: Confessions d'un climatologue : Confessions d'un climatologue – Formation Site internet

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