What the IPCC couldn’t tell us this year

By all accounts, the IPCC’s report this year was its starkest warning yet about the risks we face from climate change. What they couldn’t tell us, despite almost everyone in the room being aware of it, was that more up to date research was available showing that the climate is changing faster than all their models and scenarios had shown in the past. The problem is that in order to reach a consensus on the research, only scientific research that is at least a year old is considered, so everyone has time to read it, review it and argue its merits. That means the February 2007 report was based on research no more recent than 2005.

Perhaps the sceptics are on to something when they complain that the models are poor and imprecise and that the IPCC has a strong political element. It is the imprecision of the models and the political interference at the table that means the message is horribly watered down. The scientific evidence is continuously mounting that the IPCC is forever under predicting the anthropogenic contribution to climate change. Jim Hansen calls this problem ‘scientific reticence’.

If you want a great collection and commentary on the latest wave of climate research, particularly as regards Arctic Sea ice and Greenland, download The Big Melt, Lessons from the Arctic Summer of 2007. I’d be tempted to call the authors alarmist, except that they’re quoting the IPCC scientist’s peer reviewed literature, not making stuff up on the fly the way so many sceptics do.

46 Comments Posted

  1. ># BluePeter Says:
    >December 2nd, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    >Are you saying no deal was done?

    I can’t prove there wasn’t, but I understand the Green MPs have declared they don’t do deals between different policy areas.

  2. Kyoto is the first step on a long road. Whatever shape post-Kyoto arrangements take, they will inevitably include a great deal of the Kyoto framework.

    We have to mitigate and adapt. We have to adapt to the change that’s inevitable – in the pipeline – and do something to limit the future change. Adapting without mitigating is taking a huge bet that the full impact of global warming will be relatively minor. I don’t fancy the odds, because I have read the reports…

  3. >>IPCC’s working group 2 report

    As others have noted, if you really do believe that, then why support Kyoto? Reducing C02 would not happen quickly enough to make any difference, so we should skip directly to plan B.

    Whatever that is….

  4. Not necessarily an apocalypse, no, but very rough times for our civilisation unless we do the smart thing and try to conserve the ecosystems and resources upon which we depend.

    As for the impacts, you could do worse than read the summary for policymakers of the IPCC’s working group 2 report. It makes sobering reading, and as frog points out, is based on a conservative view of likely change.

  5. In some areas there will be more desert, in other areas there will be more rain.

    Are you suggesting an apocalypse? Given that scientists can’t agree on what is happening, why it is happening, and what, exactly, we can’t expect, and when, I’ll take assertions with a large grain of salt.

  6. Sorry BluePeter, but while man may be good at adapting to different climates, ecosystems and the biosphere aren’t – and that’s because of the current rate of change. It’s 20 times faster than the most recent “fast” change – when the world warmed up after the last ice age. That was 5C in about 5,000 years – roughly 0.01C every ten years. The current rate is 0.2C per decade. Human’s can move, plan, see danger coming. The rest of the biosphere can’t.

  7. >>technological solution to climate change

    I remain unconvinced man is changing the climate to significant degree. If s/he is, and if the projections are correct, then there is no point pursuing Kyoto. We should be moving straight to adaptive, defensive measures.

    >>I am very pessimistic

    I’m optimistic. We didn’t get this far without being good at adaptation.

  8. BluePeter: You write:

    “A better alternative for most New Zealanders is not a train, and it never will be. There aren’t enough of us, and we’re too spread out. A better alternative is a car that doesn’t run on imported petrol.”

    You may well be right that a better alternative is a car that does not run on petrol. Many people think technology will dig us out of the environmental problems which are facing the Earth. I sincerely hope they are right, but personally, I am very pessimistic about the human species capacity to solve these issues (which doesn’t mean I advocate doing nothing!)

    The questions I would like to ask are:

    1) Is it even possible for a technological solution to climate change to be able to be implemented quickly enough? Sure, people can say we can change to solar, wind (maybe even nuclear power), but all these take time and resources to build. Can it be done in time?

    2) Even if it is possible to implement a technological solution, is there enough political motivation to implement the solution (on a global basis)?

  9. Mouldwarp: “it is looking as if 2007 is going to be the coolest year since the turn of this century”

    ah so what’s your reference for that?

    If 2007 was a really cold year how come the Arctic sea ice lost 20% of its mass this year?

  10. No worries Gerrit.

    Yep theres definately challenges in front of us, especially if the predicted Peak Oil and its consequences do come to pass.

    Do I know for certain that it is going to happen? Not really, because our society thrives on scarcity of information and the uncertainty that it brings as both uncertainty and scarcity are highly profitable in the “marketplace” as there are far too often people who are only too willing to exploit that.

    Theres hope though with many community led initiatives being developed all over the world, but we don’t hear about them, because of our useless MSM. Thank Al Gore for the internet!

    http://www3.iclei.org/localstrategies/summary/curitiba2.html
    http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2007/11/03/the_peer_to_peer_manifesto.htm

  11. ># BluePeter Says:
    >December 2nd, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    >>official Labour Party policy

    >Why did Labour have to be whipped to support it?

    Because not all Labour MPs agree with Labour Party policy. Labour MPs frequently have to be whipped to support government bills, too.

  12. >Mouldwarp Says:
    >December 2nd, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    >For a start, there is no correlation over the last 100 years between CO2 levels and temperature (whereas the correlation between rising temperature and solar acitivity is very noteworthy);

    If either of those statements were true, you might have a point. Unfortunately, neither is true. There is a reasonably close correlation between rising carbon dioxide levels and rising temperatures over most of the last century, the main exception being the 1940s. I don’t understand all the reasons for that exception, but nobody is claiming that carbon dioxide levels is the only thing that has any effect on temperature. AGW deniers who are better informed than you generally attribute the correlation to the temperature increase causing the carbon dioxide increase.

    There have been satellites in orbit measuring solar radiation continuously since 1977. Their measurements do not show an increase over that time period, even though most of the temperature increase on Earth has been over that period.

  13. What a surprise. Yet another posting observing some sort of climate change being wheeled out as if it somehow automatically supports your anthropogenic warming theory.

    Of course it does nothing of the kind.

    The climate is *always* changing. Gushing reports such as this about the various aspects of climate change could have been generated anytime in the last 10,000 years (or any time in the history of the planet, for that matter).

    It is evidence of precisely nothing.

    The truth is that what evidence exists directly contradicts your AGW theory.

    For a start, there is no correlation over the last 100 years between CO2 levels and temperature (whereas the correlation between rising temperature and solar acitivity is very noteworthy); and the temperature for the best part of the last decade has been stable when your theory insists it should have been rising.

    In fact, it is looking as if 2007 is going to be the coolest year since the turn of this century – and just when the sun appears to be entering a period of lower activity. Funny that.

  14. How about a policy wiki? The software is free from the Wikipedia Foundation.

    It would be nice to have all the research and ideas in one, easily accesible place. For all policy initiatives.

  15. Thanks for those links Sleepy.

    In one sense I’m actually looking forward to the post oil age. Plenty of personal challenges and achievements to be had. Something this industrial age has to a large extend smothered.

    Romantic in me would be running a coastal trading scow between communities.

    One issue that most futurist are reluctant to address though is the question of law and order. Local communities are going to have to address those in isolation as there wont be an overarching national police and justice system.

    My viking blood may return to type (tongue in cheek) so instead of a trader may become a raider.

    The communities will have to have a functioning and funded plan to deal with law and order.

  16. Gerrit

    “The comments and ideas flow when we can discuss what action can be taken on climate change. If as Stuey says we are beyond the tipping point then forward looking change implementation would be more advantages.”

    I discovered an interesting and viable initiative started up by people in Totnam UK, thats attempting to transition their community to a post-Peak Oil world and is forming the basis of similar initiatives world-wide, including New Zealand.
    http://transitiontowns.org/
    http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/

    I’m actually compiling a submission that I hope to make to my local community association at the moment on Peak Oil, the coming financial collapse and their consequences.

  17. ># BluePeter Says:
    >December 1st, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    >I suspect the deal was sealed on s59, BB.

    why would the greens have to do a deal to get Labour to support the repeal of section 59, when the repeal of section 59 was already official Labour Party policy?

  18. frog,

    yep, more positive posts required. Too many recently are in the all doom and gloom camp.

    Had enough social engineering, EFB, anti-National, look our Greens parliamentary team is great, ones.

    The comments and ideas flow when we can discuss what action can be taken on climate change. If as Stuey says we are beyond the tipping point then forward looking change implementation would be more advantages.

    May I suggest regular reading at the http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/
    for some ideas on where we are going as a people.

  19. Kiore

    “Perhaps FrogBlog could give a detailed analysis of why the Greens support it, and a rebuttal of the arguments against it”

    Whatever the justification Frog/Toad/ Russ or others feel for the EFB it is too late for that now, I am deadly serious when I say that this (coupled with the S59 bill) will be the millstone that drags the Greens down.

    You guys know as well as I do that right wing NZ (or middle NZ for that matter) does not often march, when you get 6000 people marching against this bill then you can be sure that there are tens of thousands more who are against the bill and will make their voices heard on election day.

    The only party that could get away wtih doing a U turn on this bill are the Greens, the public want to vote for you, the public are looking for a reason to keep you guys in the house but if you keep supporting this then you will be grouped in with Labour, that is one blood bath you do not want to be anywhere near.

  20. I am starting to move in BB’s direction regrding the EFB. I can understand the intent of the bill is laudable, but it does seem as if it is just putting too much power into the hands of the incumbants. Perhaps FrogBlog could give a detailed analysis of why the Greens support it, and a rebuttal of the arguments against it.

  21. BB – Not sure why your commentt got automatically moderated? Anyway, more good luck than management that I logged in this morning.

    Gerrit – point taken. Would you like to see more postings here of that ilk? Policy type debates and the like? The Greens do background pages like that all the time. Should more of them get linked into from here?

  22. Nick

    Given that Labour are going to suffer one of the all time thrashings at the next election I would have thought that it would be in the Greens interest to get as far away as possible from them.

    It is vital for the future of the Greens that they move very quickly to distance themselves from Labour, perhaps a term or two on the cross benches will be the price they have to pay but siding with Labour through the next election will be a fatal mistake.

    If I were a Green strategist the first thing I would do (well the second actually after the banning of caged animal farming) would be to distance the party from Labour as quickly as I could, sure the prospect of being in the house with a National led govt might not be what the hard left of the party want but it is better than having no parliamentary representation at all.

    The Greens could then wait for the inevitable election cycle to turn and hopefully by then a more sane and less corrupt Labour party will be something that they can work with.

    The hard truth is that unless they move away from this Labour govt they are finished, despite my dislike of the Green party social policy I think our parliament would be a far worse place without the likes of Jeanette, Sue K and dare I say it Nandoor.

  23. Stuey,

    Thanks for that link. Thats more like proper Green party policy.

    How came we havent even seen a mention of that policy statement here on this blog? ( I can understand the MSM not being interested).

    Would gain a lot more votes than the social engineering and EFB stuff the Greens have been shouting about lately.

    More importantly it is a positive statement of action rather than the scaremonger blog postings such as the one heading these comments.

  24. When you sell out BB, it costs a heavy price to buy back. The greens have already sold out to Mike Williams, and if they pull out of the deal he will make sure they pay.

  25. 6000 people marched against the EFB today, are you sure you guys want to keep supporting this piece of legislation?

    If the Greens pull their support they will cruise back into Parliament next year with increased numbers, keep supporting it and you will disappear.

    It REALLY is that simple

  26. Has anyone investigated using the smaller mini-buses as shuttle buses around hubs for the more conventional bigger buses (such as shopping malls)?

    Here in Christchurch, several shopping malls are already served by two or more bus services, e.g. Hornby, Halswell, New Brighton all on the outskirts, and pretty much all of the malls closer to the city centre.

    Shuttle buses could deliver commuters closer to their homes and an on-demand pick up service is not out of the question. Many car trips are to the local mall, so this would be a direct alternative, and it would act as a feeder for the conventional buses, reducing the walking distances and making them a more attractive alternative.

    Trevor.

  27. david beckham comes to wellington and our freakin airforce gives the guy a ‘fly past’ …using HOW much fuel ?? what th … !!!!

  28. I didn’t read the whole thing. Just the conclusion and skimmed the highlights. I had a horrible feeling that if I read it all I would be really worried!
    I know about the difference with Antarctica, that is why I asked.
    Sea levels don’t rise from arctic melt but do from antarctic as well.
    If that is exceeding predictions by as much I think I’ll start building a concrete bunker on top of a hill.

  29. Emerald – there is a small but interesting section in that report about the West Antarctic ice sheet. It is vulnerable not only for the same reasons as Greenland, but because the ‘land’ is below sea level and the ice shelf that protects the main sheet is subject to the warming waters of the southern ocean. However, for whatever reason, the Antarctic is considered more stable from a climate standpoint than the Arctic, and will suffer less of an ‘albedo flip’ than the north because its a real land mass, not a frozen ocean that goes from a heat reflective white to an absorbing blue when the ice melts.

    If you’ve taken the time to read that paper, I’ll be posting the link to the second part of the three part series next week. Just in time for Bali.

  30. Gerrit: “carbon trading scam is a waste of time”.

    Yes. Were you aware that the Greens have reservations about it too.

    “The Green Party has never believed a full emissions trading scheme is a sensible way for New Zealand to go at this stage. We believe it will get bogged down in the politics of allocation and is hugely complex to administer … Our policy since 1993 was a [simple] carbon charge.”

    Jeanette’s background paper has some suggestions for improving and simplifying the scheme.
    http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/other11217.html

  31. Where public transport is bloody good it gets used.
    Where it is crap – not.
    Does anybody think that the clowns in local and nat. govt. in NZ can build a bloody good public transport system?

    That arctic report is very scary.
    Anybody seen anything similar from the Antarctic?
    You have to wonder if any amount of reduction in emission is going to make much diference.

  32. The Tube is a “viable” mode of transport in London simply because the roads are so clogged, especially at rush hour. It’s the fastest way home in many cases.

    But New Zealand is not London.

    We have ample space and few people. If we had more decent roads, we could never fill them to saturation point.

    I find those who block roading developments, particularly Transmission Gully, highly annoying. They are prepared to put their baseless imported ideology ahead of solving problems, seemingly because they have a religious hatred of cars.

    I will take great pleasure in voting them out.

  33. Public transport (the London Tube for instance) is a cultural thing, when you grow up with it or have no other option then of course it will be used by a large number of people.

    There is no way that you will force/encourage/tempt Kiwi’s onto public transport without a) adding huge punitive taxes on fuel or b) making it illegal to drive to a destination that is also serviced by public transport.

    Kiwi’s are by nature a laid back race of people and will not take well to having their leisure time ruled by a public transport schedule.

  34. “It seems we are past the tipping point already.”

    Good, that means the carbon trading scam is a waste of time and we can look at real time solutions at emission containment and correction.

  35. I believe frogs reference was:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QYNpS7SI7k

    Meanwhile, that PDF frog linked to with the latest science on climate change is pretty horrifying reading.

    It seems the sceptics (non-pejorative use this time!) were right, the uncertainties in the climate models are so large that we can’t have much confidence in the models. Unfortunately the models err on the conservative side not the other way around – climate change is much more advanced, much quicker, and heading towards much higher rises in temp and sea level than the models suggest.

    the “Arctic is now irreversibly headed to total summer sea ice loss very quickly and way beyond the expectation of the IPCC whose Arctic scenarios are no longer credible, and of most scientists’ views only two-to-three years ago. It is an instance of the nonlinearity in climate systems that should reinforce the need for strict adherence to the precautionary principle in assessing what is likely to constitute dangerous human interference, and how we should respond in constructing emission scenarios and policies to avoid it.”

    look at the two graphs at the top of page 8. It seems we are past the tipping point already.

  36. frog, If trains removed half the commuters from our urban roads the maximum saving in annual maintenance costs would be ten million dollars. However, as you rightly point, rail would only be better than buses in Auckland and Wellington, thus the maximum saving would be less than five million, which is less than the cost of contructing a km of railway track or buying a single Citadis light rail trainset.

    San Francisco has not experienced little or no pressure to build more roads since it built BART. Nor have New York, London, Paris, Washington, Chicago or Atlalnta since they built their rail systems. And don’t forget that congestion reduction was the number one reason London and New York built their subway systems.

    Can you provide us with links to the academic research debunking the myth about railways and urban densities? All the research I have been able to find indicates that rail needs to service population densities greater than 25 people per acre to be profitable. Lightrail needs more than 20 but buses only need 8. The latter figure is certainly consistent with Christchurch if Metro services average a 50% subsidy. None of these studies looked at services using minibuses but it looks like they could make a profit in a qurter acre paradise and possibly be more environmentally friendly than big buses off-peak.

    What percentage of public susbsidy (crown contribution) currently goes to roads? Unfortunately the crown contribution only goes to Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga and Wellington. So the percentage of public subsidy currently going to roads elsewhere in New Zealand can only be 0%. Less than two-thirds of the road user’s contribution goes to road works, one-fifth goes to road policing and safety advertising. Almost the same amount goes to PT but some of that presumably comes from the crown contribution.

    The NLTP has a simple flow chart showing the amount contributed from each source of revenue and allocated to each output class. Unfortunately is doesn’t provide an output class breakdown of the crown’s contribution to the four regional LTP’s that receive this extraordinary funding.

    On a slightly different note, how come we had much higher rates of traffic growth in the decades when we needed foreign currency to buy a new car than in the decades since that requirement was abolished? It seems to defy economic theory.

  37. And I would argue, BluePeter, that your economies of scale argument is a myth, at least where Auckland and Wellington are concerned. That is what the research in Perth showed. Cities with less density and overall population, as well as a linear spread, can have a highly successful and profitable rail network, for commuters. This doesn’t make roads obsolete, just much less crowded and cheaper to maintain, with little or no pressure to build more. When you remove or reduce the ridiculously high subsidies to roads and cars in our societies, their use just goes down, not away entirely.

    If the Parliament sees fit to pass Jeanette’s latest bill, it will simply redress the absurd percentage of public subsidy going to roads, not eliminate it.

  38. I used to live in London, and took the Tube everywhere. I liked the Tube.

    I’m not discounting trains.

    I’m saying that New Zealand is not going to be served well by trains. It is better served by cars, because the economies of scale do not work, except in densely populated areas.

    Londoners commute by train. They do not do their groceries, cart the family and the dog, shop at Ikea, or do the school run, by train.

  39. I take your point XYY, but like stuey, I’m caught up in the vernacular. Apologies to all those legitimate sceptics out there. Oh, there I go again. Is there any such thing as an illegitimate sceptic? 😉

    As for trains BluePeter, you are perpetuating a myth about trains in NZ that has been debunked not only by academic research, but the living proof of the Perth transit system, which was rebuilt because of that research and has very similar geographic and population issues to Auckland. Have a shop around YouTube for the Auckland, City of Cars series. The Auckland and Wellington regions, where ‘most’ NZers live, are both served by rail networks that could do an awful lot more for the masses and both are enjoying a renaissance.

  40. That’s your problem. It is also your solution.

    People aren’t going to wear hair shirts. Promote better alternatives, don’t take things away when you do not need to.

    A better alternative for most New Zealanders is not a train, and it never will be. There aren’t enough of us, and we’re too spread out. A better alternative is a car that doesn’t run on imported petrol. We may eventually live in higher density environments, but that won’t happen overnight.

    I know the ascetic philosophy plays well with the base. But it doesn’t resonate with anyone else.

  41. That’s a very good point XYY, but once a word is in popular usage there is really no going back, it’s like hackers are offended when hacker is used for ‘computer criminal’ and they try to get people to use ‘cracker’ for the pejorative word, but to no avail.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker

    Also, AGW-denial is unfortunately not that fringe (in the general public), and I wouldn’t say it was (political) ideology (or economic self-interest) that drives (all of) them. There seems to be a be a large number of “Top Gear fans” who actively and angrily deny AGW and I would say that the main reason is that they don’t want their happy motoring, excess consumption lifestyles to end and so they attack the message and the messenger.

  42. Frog

    Those who reject well-established science (like AGW) in favour of fringe notions should not be described as ‘sceptics’ — it’s an insult to those in the sceptical community. After all, you wouldn’t say ‘evolution sceptic’ or ‘germ theory of disease sceptic’, would you?

    Perhaps the term ‘fringe theorist’ or ‘ideology-driven doubter’ would be more appropriate.

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