Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Is Environment Secretary Owen Paterson a lukewarmer? Can he justify himself?

Owen Paterson, the new Secretary of State for the Environment is a critic of wind turbine technology, an opponent of energy subsidies, and brother in law to Matt Ridley, a climate science sceptic.

We have to assume that Owen has the odd dinner party conversation with Ridley, and that he has absorbed some of his thinking.

Ridley describes himself as a "lukewarmer". He accepts that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and therefore that a doubling of CO2 levels will cause a temperature increase of 1.2*C, but he believes that climate sensitivity is low.

On his blog, we find that Ridley tries to establish his position in classic manner, not by trying to substantiate his hypothesis, but by attacking a detail of the IPCC's presentation.

Forster and Gregory 2006 estimated that doubled CO2 would produce an additional ~1.25*C rise due to positive feedbacks. The IPCC applied Bayesian probability methods to this, which brought the increase nearer to 1.5*C.

He deduces that this finding lends "strong support" to his "lukewarm" (no climate sensitivity) hypothesis.

It does no such thing. It may or may not support the case that the IPCC is sometimes naive in the way it presents its case, but it does not support the low sensitivity case.

To recap what I have said many times in this blog, to substantiate their hypothesis, lukewarmers have to do the following:

  • Apply low CS values to the calculations that have been made of past temperature changes, whether paleontological or recent changes, and show that they can account for the changes.
  • Show that all the climate models which need a CS of ~3*C are wholly wrong, and why.
  • Show that the net changes by known feedbacks, both short term (water vapour, cloud, ice albedo, and lapse rate) and longer term (methane releases from soil and ocean, CO2 releases from soil and ocean), are not positive.
This is what the "lukewarmers" need to do to support their hypothesis. 
This they have not done. 
The incoming Environment Secretary should be challenged make clear what his position is. 
Is he a lukewarmer, and if so, how does he justify his position intellectually and politically?

PS: Ridley sets out his views about CS in 2010  here.

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