Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How can we persuade politicians to get serious about global warming?

The International Energy Agency reports increased CO2 emissions last year, and it looks unlikely that we can stop the planet heating up by 2*Celsius. Which is bad news, because a 2 degreeincrease is considered to mark the threshold between Bad Things happening to the world climate and Really Bad Things happening instead.

And in other news, we have increasing frequency of extreme weather events worldwide, as predicted by global warming theory.

And as Caroline Lucas points out in an excellent letter in today's Guardian, there is an almost complete lack of political will to do anything meaningful and serious in terms of making the transition to renewable energy, and taking measures to reduce the atmospheric load of CO2.

The lack of will comes from many sources, ranging from straightforward psychological denial, through lobbying by the fossil fuel lobby, to the difficulty of elected politicians making changes to the lifestyle of a largely unconvinced electorate.

And the electorate are unconvinced of the dangers of climate change because of the fantastically successful propaganda exercise by the oil and coal industries, who have managed to persuade gullible and ideologically motivated journalists that global warming is a conspiracy dreamed up by Al Gore and George Soros, in collaboration with Greenpeace and the nuclear fuel lobby in order to make money out of carbon trading.

The fossil lobbies have propagated their theories across the internet with a Hydra of half-truths which grows two more misunderstandings every time one misunderstanding is removed.

Their points can be refuted, but the sceptics always come back with more, because many of them are in active psychological denial, and this is how people with denial behave. Others are driven by fundamental belief in the inviolability of the Free Market, and arguing with them is like trying to tell a Jehovah's Witness about evolution.

I am going to try a different tack. I am going to wade into the climate change skeptic's sites, and ask them what it would take to make them stop believing that man-made climate change is wrong

Because if, as they do, they claim to be scientific, then they must be able to envisage a testable set of circumstances that would persuade them that their theory is wrong. That is how science works. "A theory should be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable".

I'll let you know what happens.  Better still, go find a sceptic - here's one - and ask him or her for yourself.  Better still again, let's get our friends and relations to do it too. These guys are in the process of aiding and abetting the embuggerment of our planet, in particular the lives of our children and grandchildren. They have been spreading doubt over the interweb. Let's take the battle to them.



Here is my letter to the above link. Feel free to copy, amend, and use whenever you find a climate change sceptic.


Dear Benny Peiser  
To be scientific, beliefs must be capable of disproof. I would be genuinely interested to learn what set of observations would cause you to stop believing that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are not going to cause serious climate change in the next 100 years?  
Thank you for taking the trouble to answer this question.  
Sincerely  
Richard Lawson

[update]







To which he replies:

Dear Mr Lawson 
Thank you for your query. 
What makes you think that I have ruled out serious climate change in the next 100 years? 
As far as I am concerned, we simply do not know the extend, magnitude and speed of anthropogenic warming in the next 100 years. I guess we will have to wait for perhaps 20-30 years before we will have a more reliable understanding of the most likely trajectory of a future warming trend. 
Yours sincerely, 
Dr Benny Peiser Director, 
The Global Warming Policy Foundation



To which I reply:


Dear Mr Peiser
From what you have said, your position is that we must wait until 2030-2040 until you are satisfied that action must (or alternatively, need not) be taken.
What changes must emerge in that time scale to convince you that anthropogenic warming is a problem?
Sincerely
Dr Richard Lawson
To which he replied:





Dear Dr Lawson

If we were to experience a decadal warming trend of 0.3 to 0.5 in the next 20-30 years, I would consider global warming to pose a potential long-term problem.

In the absence of such empirical evidence, I don't see any significant
problem for the time being.

In short - the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

With best regards

Benny Peiser

To which I replied:


Dear Dr Peiser

Would a global warming trend of that magnitude be enough to refute your position? What if there were an underlying long term increase in solar output over the next 30 years? You could attribute warming to that. Conversely, if there were a long term solar minimum (another Maunder/Sporer/Woolf/Oort minimum), the decadal trend might be less, but still more than it would have been without increased GHGs, with rapid changes after the minimum.

I am trying to apply the core scientific method to this. Searching for the refutable hypothesis.

Is your hypothesis that the climate sensitivity to CO2 is less than 1.5*C?

If so, the experiment you suggest involves the whole planet, putting it at risk.

I do not need to point out to that an Ethical Committee would be inclined to take a critical view of such an experiment.

There must be some specific experiment or evaluation that could be designed to test or refute your hypothesis?

Thanks for bending your mind to this question.

Sincerely

Richard


[to be continued]

I have also tweeted to @AGW_IS_A_HOAX, Anthony Watts, of the Watts up with that climate denial blog.  So far, no meaningful response. He just replied "Actual Science", trying to evade the question.

[update 15 June]
Still no answer from Dr Peiser. So I have written again. I will not publish his email address, but there is a contact point on www.thegwpf.org if you want to add pressure.


Dear Dr Peiser

Forgive me for pressing you, but this is a very important matter.

Would a decadal warming trend of 0.3-0.5*C over 30 years that magnitude be enough to refute your position? You - or your successors - could attribute that to an underlying long term increase in solar output, if that had happened?

Conversely, if there were a long term solar minimum (another Maunder/Sporer/Woolf/Oort minimum), the decadal trend might be less, but still more than it would have been without increased GHGs, with rapid changes after the minimum.

So an actual global temperature trend would not be conclusive.  We must disaggregate the GHG component from the trend.

We are trying to apply the core scientific method to this. Searching for the refutable hypothesis.

Is your hypothesis that the climate sensitivity to CO2 is less than 1.5*C?


I must also point out that the experiment you suggest in your answer above involves the whole planet.

Any Ethical Committee would be inclined to take a critical view of such an experiment.

There must be some specific experiment or evaluation that could be designed to test or refute your hypothesis.



The correspondence is continued here.

5 comments:

@jessecusack said...

Good luck with that!

I wonder what the populations of China and India think about global warming.

DocRichard said...

I met Asians in 2008 who said the monsoon has totally lost its timing. Completely out of whack.

I gathered a few of the actual changes consistent with global warming theory here: http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/AGWEvidence.htm.

We need a full-on review of all the present changes.

It is all down to pattern recognition, which is a matter of inductive, not deductive, reasoning. That's why the sceptics can keep on skepting ad infinitum.

john said...

I've been watching gw happening since the 80's and find that the strident scepticism of the deniers causes doubt. So I take a look at this; http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_stddev_timeseries.png
and see its still melting, and this after a decade when according to piers corbyn things should have cooled. I gather the sun is getting busy again so I anticipate a rapid deteriation in the predictability and reliability of our historic weather patterns, an ice free arctic and a shift in the northern cold nexus to somewhere west of greenland which will alter atmospheric circulation to conditions something similar to the last ice age. Once politicians start to act we'll know it's too late so good luck.

DocRichard said...

And we learn that Benny Peiser will not shift his position for 20-30 years. The politicians are in tune with him, despite their words.

Last year I reached the gloomy position that we will only see action after the next Great Flood of London or similar. Now I think we have to take the fight to the skeptics.

tthurts said...

That is some farce Doc.

I can't say there is much hope with the sheltered career politicians we have running the show at present. We'd be much better off letting people who know their stuff take control. It's a truly disturbing time to witness the pantomime at present.

I think the movement from our current energy methods will only change, long after the current run of bureaucrats have retired and received their pensions. Possibly when the whole thing s crashing. Until then, all we can do is carry on making noise.

Keep up the good work.