Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category
Time to stop hiding behind warming trends
By Roger Jones, Victoria University
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, has reportedly acknowledged to Graham Lloyd of The Australian, that there is a “17-year pause in global temperature rises”, a fact that apparently has been suppressed in Australia. Dr Pauchauri endorses debate, saying that people had a right to question the science, whatever their motivations.
But according to Lloyd, Pachauri’s views contrast with arguments in Australia that views outside the orthodox position of approved climate scientists should be left unreported.
Am I an “approved” climate scientist? because I don’t hold that view, nor do I know any who does. What we would like, though, is for science to be reported as science and for opinion to be reported as opinion. And for all reporting to be accurate.
Lloyd makes this claim: unlike in Britain, there has been little publicity in Australia given to recent acknowledgement by peak climate-science bodies in Britain and the US of what has been a 17-year pause in global warming. Britain’s Met Office has revised down its forecast for a global temperature rise, predicting no further increase to 2017, which would extend the pause to 21 years.
This is the Met Office’s latest five-year forecast shown below. Skeptical Science reports the Met Office saying: the latest decadal prediction suggests that global temperatures over the next five years are likely to be a little lower than predicted from the previous prediction issued in December 2011. We’re in the midst of a period of La Niñas, which have a slight cooling effect, as do rising sulphate emissions in Asia. But look at the blue line – do my eyes deceive me? Is it level with the previous black line? It’s warmer? Perhaps Lloyd’s computer has a tilt to the right that makes increases look level.
The Met Office predicts record global mean temperature over the next five years – now that’s news.
News Corporation sells roughly 70% of the newspapers in metropolitan Australia, and its readers are subject to this kind of fudging on a regular basis. It’s no wonder some “approved” scientists are frustrated.
But that’s not the only thing that frustrates me. It is also time to challenge what Lloyd calls the orthodox position of climate science.
Climatology needs to stop hiding behind long-term trends and explain what is in plain sight, and why variations in the rate of warming might be important. I’m working with colleagues at the moment on a National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility project called Valuing Adaptation to Rapid Change and we’re looking at the economics of rapid change. Non-linear behaviour in climate driving extreme events has the potential to really hurt us.
The first thing to bear in mind is that a trend line is a model. A warming trend is not a theory of how climate changes. If a complex, non-linear system fails to follow a trend, look at the model to see whether it represents the theory sufficiently well.
In a nutshell, the theory says greenhouse gases act like a blanket, trapping heat near the surface. This creates a radiation imbalance at the top of the atmosphere. The earth system warms to return this balance by increasing the heat escaping from the top of the atmosphere so that energy out equals energy in. This is a slow process, taking centuries, because the ocean has to warm sufficiently to support a hotter atmosphere. The scientific confidence in this aspect of climatology is extremely high. A simple trend line is sufficient to measure this process.
But on decadal time scales, the trend-line model fails. Most of the heat trapped in the earth system goes into the oceans. The top 700m of ocean increased in heat content from 3 x 1022 Joules in 1997 to 10 x 1022 Joules in 2010, in a highly non-linear manner, due to mixing rates between the surface and deep ocean. The atmosphere holds as much heat as the top 3m of ocean, about 0.4% of the heat content above. Why on earth then, with highly non-linear processes in the ocean, would we expect a gradual warming trend in the atmosphere?
A paper I published last year shows that most of Australia’s warming occurred in two episodes, one in the late 1960s to early 1970s, when south west WA rainfall also decreased, and the other in 1997-98. The other finding was that most of this warming was anthropogenic. On decadal timescales, step and trend is a much better model for explaining warming than simple trends.
To me, the graph above makes perfect sense: mild trends separated by an instantaneous rise of about 0.3°C. By ignoring non-linearity and projecting future climate change as simple trends, orthodox science is doing us a great disservice. We have not yet woken up to the recent non-linear increases in heatwaves and fire danger in Australia let alone planning for more such changes in the future. The same goes for floods.
It’s time to stop defending orthodox science by hiding behind simple trends and come to grips with the fundamental non-linearity of climate change. That’s the risk we need to mitigate, adapting to changes that can’t be avoided.
Roger Jones receives funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. He is affiliated with Climate Scientists Australia and the IPCC.
Interesting ice-core temperature results from James Ross Island on the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) that points to recent and rapid warming that is unusual and of concern (sourced from Crikey who find its unusual nature alarming). The Australian reports (via Graeme Lloyd) that while unusual, the warming is not unprecedented relative to natural variation. Lloyd also includes a quote that is neither in the paper or the press release, and a bogus assertion arising from a misunderstanding of the purpose of the research. I have enquired from the authors if they were the source of Lloyd’s quote. Update – they have replied: see below.
So, how concerned should we be about the results? From the press release:
Results published this week (Nature paywall) by a team of polar scientists from Britain, Australia and France adds a new dimension to our understanding of Antarctic Peninsula climate change and the likely causes of the break-up of its ice shelves. Read the rest of this entry »
The following article was written for an online publication but never made it out the door. It describes the recent Victorian Centre of Climate Change Adaptation Research Annual Forum. It seems a pity to waste, so here it is. Co-written with a colleague, Celeste Young.
When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change started researching adaptation in the early 1990s, the relationship between science and policy was viewed differently to how it is today. The IPCC’s brief was to offer policy-relevant, not policy-prescriptive advice. Policymakers would take scientist’s findings on climate change and impacts and develop adaptation policy to manage those impacts. These findings were contained in a report handed over from the science to the policy community every five years or so.
Times have changed. Adaptation scholars looked at this methodology (automatic download of pdf) and said “IPCC, You’re doin’ it wrong!” Adaptation is a social process. The focus has therefore shifted from getting better predictions out of science to getting a better understanding of decision-making under climate change. Sure, adaptation needs information on how the climate may change but adaptation decisions are made using information from many other sources; such as “what changes are we seeing in markets, policy, society and the environment?” And, most importantly, “what are the goals of people doing adaptation?”
The Age cartoonist John Spooner returned to climate policy this weekend. I won’t have go at Spooner as I did after last weekend’s effort but I will discuss his theme. Spooner maintains that the carbon tax and GST double up, giving the example of a little boy with his lawyer trying to avoid a shopkeeper double taxing his chocolate. What Spooner is doing here – to put a generous point on it – is to reflect what many people are thinking.
So how realistic is this scenario? On Friday, the Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet and the assistant treasurer David Bradbury issued a joint statement that GST does not apply to the $23 per tonne price of permits. This avoids double taxation where GST is charged on GST (which they shouldn’t be anyway). Where permits are given free, the prices will not be carried through, limiting its effect. I can’t see however, that GST won’t be levied on general goods and services as reported here. But these numbers will be comparatively small. Read the rest of this entry »
John Spooner, cartoonist for The Age has fired his latest salvo in his war on climate policy in yesterday’s (7-7-2012) paper. It mentions me so I feel obliged to provide a response. J’accuse Spooner of being a propagandist.
Yep, that’s me down by the *. Quoted as measuring Australia’s policy impact as being 0.0038°C in 2100. Which would happen if Australia was to reduce its emissions by 5% from 2000 by 2020 and maintain that until 2100. But is this cartoon an accurate and amusing reflection of the conversation Gillard would have with her imaginary friend? Well yes, until the fourth panel. Then it falls away — and that’s worth a bit of scrutiny. And he gets IPCC wrong. What is the IPPC? Read the rest of this entry »
Last week at the Climate Adaptation in Action 2012 Conference my colleague Celeste Young won the poster prize with her poster Communicating Adaptation Effectively. It’s good to see a poster on communication that, well — communicates.
This is a seriously good poster. It’s clear, full of useful points and provides a framework for communication. Certainly worth having as a prompt when project planning or engaging in communication activities. The poster itself and handout can be downloaded below. It can also be applied to pretty much any environmental or planning issue.
Communicating Adaptation Effectively by Celeste Young is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Young, C. (2012) Communicating Adaptation Effectively. Proceedings Climate Adaptation in Action 2012 – NCCARF Conference, Melbourne June 26-29, 2012.
Thanks all for your comments to the last post, which didn’t really explain my absence, but now the world hasn’t ended…
Thinking about it, there were a few reasons as to why this blog went a bit quiet. A short list, then you can bother me to give further updates on some of these matters, because they are of interest.
- Early May was taken up with the writing and submission of the IPCC Working Group II First Order Draft. A frantic few weeks as the coauthors of the chapter Foundations of Decision-making worked hard to get a complete draft. The report is now in review and if readers are feeling a bit expertised, instructions for registering can be found here.
- Then straight to Den Haag, The Netherlands for a meeting on the new emission scenarios process, specifically on the shared socio-economic pathways that are being developed. These will contribute to new scenarios involving climate, social and economic change for modelling by research groups around the world. The topic was how to linked the needs of integrated assessment modelling with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability research. A summary presentation given to the UNFCCC by meeting organiser Tom Kram just afterwards can be found here (pdf).
- A week back to catch up with a few things, then off the Adaptation Futures conference in Tucson Arizona. Second international conference after the one on the Gold Coast two years ago. The research is slowly becoming more developed as research and implementation are becoming more closely linked. I spoke on what non-linear climate change means for adaptation and hired a road bike for the week, climbing this big mountain (except I rode from the centre of town, not the foot of the climb). Turned out it was maybe Tucson’s hottest day ever measured. Have a few pics of the Sonora Desert that I’ll upload when there’s a bit of spare time.
- Then back in Australia, attended a design charrette in Sea Lake, northern Victoria as we talked adaptation with the locals. A really interesting 24 hours – the locals have been really resilient over time but are still suffering loss of population due to underlying economic drivers. Capacity building in local government is a key issue. Telling stories about climate giving a “deep” history of change over time is much better to feed into discussion than presenting facts and figures (though it’s good to have them in publications to give away).
- Gave a talk on 19 June on the Ecology of the City, for a series of talkes hosted by Geoff Lacey at the Augustine Centre in Hawthorne on sustainability. Another “deep history” of Melbourne as a meeting place, from geology and biodiversity, to people and climate.
- Still back in town, wrote a context paper on adaptation and industry with Celeste Young in preparation for the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research annual forum Monday June 25, which was closely followed by the NCCARF national conference Climate Adaptation in Action 2012. This conference was also pretty big showcasing the work that’s going on in Australia, where research and practise are also coming closer together, though there’s a way to go. At both events we showed that it’s possible to have fun and engage serious topics, with a hypothetical orgnaised by the Environmental Defenders Office and hosted by Rob Gell on the Monday (I was a green developer in 2032) and an intelligent squared debate on Wednesday set up by Kate Auty, Commissioner of Sustainability for Victoria. The latter on science policy got into a number of issues that are exercising state of the art research, but in an entertaining manner. Down with boring panels, I say.
- Next week is the 41st Australian Conference of Economists here at Victoria University. I’m on a boring panel on climate change which will be a little less boring as I castigate economists for not communicating their discipline effectively, especially when it comes to the economics of climate change.
Can post presentations from these events and will put up links when the conference material becomes public. Of course, I need to produce and bury a huge amount of compost to offset those flights (beyond the offsets I’ve already purchased), but that amount of travelling is not normal for me – I’m usually on a bike, not in a plane. Got a lung infection on the way back from the States that required a tonne of antibiotics – not blaiming my trashing of my immune system due to climbing big mountains, though. So that’s why no posts for a bit – better now: good to be back on the bike.
I’m sure I did not change her mind, but I hope she saw that not all sceptics are mad, bad and dangerous; that there remains a lively scientific debate about the drivers of climate change; and that scaremongering about global warming is backfiring on the warmists.
He goes on to say that of Lomborg’s cornucopian solution:
Lomborg instead advocates significant global investment in green energy research and development in order to make green energy so cheap that everyone will want it.
Now, that I can support. If there is to be any common ground between sceptics and warmists, this surely must be it. Let’s work to make green energy a realistic, affordable alternative, instead of stupidly trying to make conventional energy so incredibly expensive that we will stop using it.
Welcome to the live blog for I Can Change Your Mind About … Climate on ABC1 from 8:30 pm AEST. From the show’s blurb:
Separated by a generation, and divided by their beliefs, two passionate, intelligent and successful Australians go on a journey of mutual discovery to see if they can change each other’s minds about the most divisive issue in Australia today: climate change.
It’s a pity we don’t have cards for climate change bingo to mark off squares for “It hasn’t warmed since 1998″, “scientists are only in it for the grant money”, “the temperature record cannot be believed” and so on. Likewise, I don’t recommend drinking games. You’ll be on your ear by 9. Read the rest of this entry »
Tonight the ABC is broadcasting the battle between science and belief in the minds of ex Senator Nick Minchin and Australian Yoof Coalition founder Anna Rose. This will be followed up by a Q&A on climate change (yep, another one) with panelists
- Rebecca Huntley - social researcher and writer
- Nick Minchin - Former Liberal Minister
- Anna Rose - founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition
- Clive Palmer - mining magnate
- Dr Megan Clark - Chief Executive of the CSIRO
Oh goody – not a climate change scientist amongst them, though there will be a few in the audience.
I’m going to live blog the show here.
Stefan Lewandowsky and colleagues will be doing an expert live blog here: http://myresearchspace.grs.uwa.edu.au/events/icanchange and tweeting under the hashtag #qandascientists
Clive Hamilton at Crikey has already concluded that by framing it as a debate, the ABC has handed a win to the doubters. The picture below showing that the largest poll group on the ABC site is dismissive of climate change shows the site is being gamed. My inside intelligence says the program is pretty interesting.
If you want to have fun in my sandpit, come along and join the fun here online and with the TV on from 8:30 Eastern Australian Standard Time.