Skeptic shift by Republican hopefuls

  • 31 May 2011, 17:00
  • Neil

We are rapidly approaching a US presidential election year. The race to prevent dangerous climate change is on. And so the rest of the world has a greater stake in the battle to lead the world's largest economy and second highest CO2 emitter than ever before.

The contest for the Republican nomination is becoming heated with no clear frontrunner emerging and climate change has become a touchstone issue.

In the past few weeks US voters have witnessed back-peddling among Republican hopefuls who are trying frantically to distance themselves from previous statements and policies aimed at averting climate change. This shift reflects changes in public opinion - particularly amongst conservative voters.

The collective retreat to skepticism in recent years seen in the US has occured partially as a result of conservative, often industry-linked, lobbies and funders who are also gearing up for the 2012 campaign [pdf].

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Abraham strikes again

  • 27 May 2011, 17:00
  • Neil

John Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, Minnesota, received worldwide attention for his debunking reply to misrepresentations of climate science by Lord Monckton.

Now, Abraham has given scientists everywhere a master-class in dealing with hostile media. America's Radio News interviewed Abraham in response to the recent tornado devastation in parts of the USA. (h/t Crock of the Week)


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Climate science communicated; job done? Maybe not.

  • 25 May 2011, 15:00
  • Robin

"Another week", writes Joe Romm, of the influential American blog Climate Progress, "another group of leading scientists pleading with humanity to stop the self-destruction of modern human civilization as we know it ASAP."

Romm is referring to the release of a new report by the Australian Climate Commission, entitled "The Critical Decade". The Commission was set up to

"inform Australia's approach to addressing climate change and help build the consensus required to move to a competitive, low pollution Australian economy."

This aim is fairly anodyne-sounding - but the reality is anything but. Climate change in Australia is big politics. Last week MPs from the opposition Liberal party slated their ex-leader Malcolm Turnbull for speaking out against his party's position on climate change. Turnbull was turfed out of the leadership for supporting a carbon tax in 2009.

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David Rose's climate science - half truths and bias

  • 24 May 2011, 14:00
  • Verity

David Rose, writing in the Mail on Sunday over the weekend, criticised the science behind the government's decision on carbon budgets, which committed the UK to halving emissions of carbon dioxide by 2025.

This isn't the first time that Rose has written about climate science.  A piece he wrote for the Mail in December 2010, entitled "What happened to the 'warmest year on record': The truth is global warming has halted" was eviscerated by the Guardian columnist George Monbiot, using scientific references provided by the Climate Science Rapid Response Team.

With that in mind, we took a look at his claims in last Sunday's article….

Rose starts by taking issue with both the 2008 Climate Act and Chris Huhne's statement that cutting emissions of greenhouse gases would protect the climate, saying:

 "Underlying them both is an assumption that remains widespread - at least in the Westminster policy-making bubble - that the science of man-made global warming is 'settled'….Good scientists detest that phrase, pointing out that science is never 'settled' but rather an ongoing process of testing, refinement and rethinking."

It is true that the scientific process relies on testing, refinement and rethinking - this  is the process by which climate science has progressed. Since Arrhenius first calculated the potential effect of changing CO2 on climate in 1896, the theory has been rigorously tested. A century of subsequent research has not disproved the theory, and no plausible hypotheses have been proposed which can account for the overall warming trend over the past 50 years. There is a mass of evidence indicating that the globe is warming, with significant impacts on physical and biological systems around the world. This is why 97 out of 100 of climate researchers are convinced by anthropogenic climate change.

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Can we trust climate models?

  • 24 May 2011, 09:00
  • Verity

Computer models are widely used within climate science. Models allow scientists to simulate experiments that it would be impossible to run in reality - particularly projecting future climate change under different emissions scenarios. These projections have demonstrated the importance of the actions taken today on our future climate, with implications for the decisions that society takes now about climate policy.

Many climate skeptics have however criticised computer models, arguing that they are unreliable or that they have been pre-programmed to come up with specific results. Physicist Freeman Dyson recently argued in the Independent that:

"…computer models are very good at solving the equations of fluid dynamics but very bad at describing the real world. The real world is full of things like clouds and vegetation and soil and dust which the models describe very poorly."

So what are climate models? And just how trustworthy are they?

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Lord Turnbull's GWPF briefing paper 'The really inconvenient truth' suffers from basic factual innaccuracies

  • 19 May 2011, 14:00
  • Tim

Andrew Turnbull's recent briefing paper [PDF] for the Global Warming Policy Foundation,The Real Inconvenient Truth or "It Ain't Necessarily So" has made a small splash in the press this week.

Timed to coincide with the government decision on the Committee on Climate Change's carbon budget recommendations, Turnbull himself summarised the paper on the pages of the Telegraph, and James Delingpole lauded it in a blog for the same paper.

The 15 page briefing paper discusses the IPCC's assessment of climate science and the UK policy response. In the Foreword, Lord Lawson praises Turnbull's work as a 'dispassionate but devastating critique', and a 'measured verdict'.

But how reliable are its conclusions? Sadly, they are not reliable at all. Below are a few examples of where Turnbull gets things badly wrong, and one example of questionable quotation.

• The "Hockey Stick"

On the IPCC's assessment of historical temperatures, Turnbull writes that "[i]n its Third Assessment (2003), the IPCC compared its view to an ice hockey stick."

In fact, though the graph that has come to be known as the "hockey stick" - because of its largely flat shape, with an upward curve at one end - was included, a search of the IPCC website reveals that the words "hockey stick" feature nowhere in the Third Assessment Report. The Report was also published in 2001 - not, as Turnbull states, 2003.

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A hot April or a cold winter don’t tell us much about climate change

  • 18 May 2011, 12:37
  • Verity

© Noiseburst

The Met office have provisionally put April as the hottest in the UK since records began. The month was also unusually dry, and with the warm, dry weather continuing into May, forecasters suggest that it is set to continue, prompting Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, to voice concerns over the impacts of water stress on British crop production.

So what has caused the warm, dry weather? According to a BBC Weather Centre Spokesperson, it's persistant high pressure systems which have dominated the weather pattern over the past months. High pressure 'blocks' the weather pattern, keeping it locked in place.

When high pressure blocking systems disrupt more typical weather patterns, it can have dramatic effects. When blocking systems prevent rain-bearing weather fronts from the Atlantic reaching Britain, this tends to lead to warm, dry weather - and heatwaves. Heatwaves over Europe in 2003 and over Russia in 2010 resulted from similar types of blocking high systems.

How abnormal is this, and should we be drawing direct links to the climate changing? Not yet, according to Dr Peter Stott - head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office - who points out:

"The difficulty comes in attributing variability and changes in blocking activity and this is a subject of current active research, and it may well be the case that studies find that there is no evidence for changes in blocking frequency."

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Missing migrants?

  • 16 May 2011, 17:00
  • Neil

Where are all the climate refugees we were promised? That seems to have been the question  concerning much of the climate skeptic blogosphere over the past few weeks, and the debate was been picked up by the  New Scientist and BBC Radio 4's popular statistics programme More Or Less.

It began with a piece by Gavin Atkins for Asian Correspondent, titled What happened to the climate refugees? Atkins pointed to a  map, made by newspaper Le Monde Diplomatiqueand hosted on the United Nations Environment Programme's website, which showed the geographical distribution of likely climate impacts was shown. The map stated 'Climate refugees will mainly come from developing countries, where the effect of climate change comes on top of poverty and war.'

Atkins  compared the map with census data for the areas highlighted at being of risk of climate impacts, showing that in some of the areas highlighted on the map, populations were increasing. Atkins wrote:

"… a very cursory look at the first available evidence seems to show that the places identified by the UNEP as most at risk of having climate refugees are not only not losing people, they are actually among the fastest growing regions in the world."


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Is the CRU the 'principal source' of climate change projections?

  • 16 May 2011, 12:00
  • Robin

In the wake of the illegal hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia, climate skeptics criticised the global temperature records jointly held by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at UEA with the UK Met Office - arguing that the evidence that temperatures are rising is therefore unreliable.

As has been profiled both on Skeptical Science and at Carbon Brief, there are three principal surface temperature datasets, of which the CRU/Met Office hold just one. Temperature datasets are just one (important) part of our scientific understanding of climate change.

Despite this, some climate skeptics claim that scientists at the CRU or Met Office are responsible for the majority of projections about what climate change will look like in the future.

This is typified by this quote from the founder of the UK climate sceptic think-tank the GWPF, Lord Nigel Lawson:

"the scientific basis for global warming projections is now under scrutiny as never before. The principal source of these projections is produced by a small group of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), affiliated to the University of East Anglia." 

Skeptics like to suggest that climate projections depends entirely on the institution that they're currently attacking. It's a technique to allow them to smear the whole of climate science with the failings - real or imagined - of just one group.

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Political tension in the Arctic ratchets up as sea ice melts

  • 13 May 2011, 12:53
  • Christian

According to a report on Newsnight last night, political tensions around the issue of access to the Arctic's resources have seen a 'tremendous heightening' recently, as the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice makes accessing the oil and gas in the region into a realistic prospect. 

Newsnight sourced their report from leaked Wikileaks cables which showed diplomats from different countries tussling over potential access to the Arctic resource.

Bbc newsnight arctic

Click to watch the Newsnight report from 32 minutes.

Tom Burke, of the consultancy E3G and an advisor to the Foreign Office, noted that the rapidly changing conditions in the region were beginning to have an impact on the politics of the region:

What's made a difference in the Arctic is that the speed with which the ice is declining is much faster then people thought it would be a few years ago, so there's a real scramble going on for resources, a kind of mini version of the scramble for Africa in the 19th beginning to happen…everyone who thinks they've got a chance to get at those resources wants to get in there and stake their claim, so there s a tremendous heightening of political tensions around this issue.

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