Perception trumps reality – the IPCC report on the impacts of climate change

Working Group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released the final version of its contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. The WG2 report contains 1,731 pages of text, figures, boxes, footnotes and references, the first 832 of which list every negative impact climate change is having or could conceivably have on the Earth, its physical state, its ecosystems and the people who populate it. I doubt that anyone has ever read it from beginning to end. I certainly haven’t.

But the report’s mind-numbing length hasn’t stopped people from interpreting it the way they think it should be interpreted. And because no one bothered to read the fine print everyone thinks the IPCC is saying that the adverse impacts of human-caused climate change are already being felt:

Rising sea levels threaten every coastline. More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent. More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive. On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees. (Barack Obama)

Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans … ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct. (New York Times)

The record rainfall and storm surges that have brought flooding across the UK are a clear sign that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. (Guardian)

But that isn’t what the IPCC is saying. A single sentence on page 4 of the Summary for Policymakers puts the IPCC’s conclusions in a different perspective:

Attribution of observed impacts in the WGII AR5 generally links responses of natural and human systems to observed climate change, regardless of its cause.

That’s right. Regardless of its cause. Working Group 2 isn’t claiming that these observed impacts are necessarily a result of human activities. They could equally well be the result of natural climate change – the IPCC makes no distinction. And if they are then President Obama, the New York Times, the Guardian and all the others who believe that the adverse impacts of human-caused climate change are already being felt have got it wrong.

The key question here is clearly what fraction of the observed impacts of climate change that the IPCC identifies is human-caused and how much natural. Let’s see if we can put some probabilities on this.

The Working Group 2 report highlights nine specific claims regarding the physical impacts of climate change in Section A-1 of the Summary for Policymakers (I increased the number to ten by dividing one claim into two.) Three are non-specific, irrelevant or unintelligible and are not discussed:

In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.

Differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from non-climatic factors and from multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes. These differences shape differential risks from climate change.

Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty.

The remaining seven are discussed below in order of appearance (note that I’ve removed superfluous wording in some cases in the interests of brevity):

CLAIM 1: Glaciers continue to shrink almost worldwide due to climate change.

Evaluation: The world’s glaciers are unquestionably shrinking overall because of climate change. But is the climate change anthropogenic? One way of checking is to compare glacier behavior with an anthropogenic climate change metric to see whether the two coincide, which they should if one caused the other. Such a comparison is shown on the graphic below, which plots the Oerlemans estimates of global glacier length change since 1700 with the GISS estimates of net anthropogenic radiative forcings since 1880 (earlier values can be assumed to be close to zero if not exactly zero):

Oerlemans glacier shrinkage vs. GISS anthropogenic forcings

And the timing doesn’t match. According to Oerlemans the world’s glaciers began to shrink in the early 1800s but according to GISS anthropogenic forcings didn’t become significant until after 1950 (the ~0.2 watts/sq m of forcing in 1950 would have generated only about 0.1C of warming). Oerlemans’ results also show no sign of acceleration in the shrinkage rate after 1960.

These results imply that something other than human interference initiated the glacier shrinkage and that human interference didn’t make any detectable difference when it finally did become significant. (Glaciologists acknowledge that human activities are not the only contributor to glacier shrinkage, as the following quote from Nature attests: “The widespread idea that glacier retreat is the sole consequence of increased air temperature is overly simplistic. Glaciologists have known for more than 50 years that glaciers are sensitive to a variety of climate variables, not all of which can be attributed to global warming.”)

Conclusion: There is good evidence to suggest that much if not substantially all of the glacier shrinkage over the last 200 years was a result of natural climate change.

(Note: Section A-1, curiously, does not mention either sea level rise or Arctic sea ice retreat. However, the Jevrejeva et al. sea level reconstruction closely tracks the Oerlemans glacier plot with the Y-scale inverted, so the above comments would also apply to sea level rise. The recent retreat of Arctic sea ice is another case where climate change was undoubtedly the cause, but whether the climate change was anthropogenic is again open to question, and the ice lost in the Arctic was largely offset globally by ice gained in the Antarctic anyway.)

CLAIM 2: Many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges ….. in response to ongoing climate change. See Figure SPM.2B

Evaluation: Here is Figure SPM.2B:

Figure SPM.2B: Average rates of change in distribution (km per decade) for marine taxonomic groups based on observations over 1900–2010. Positive distribution changes are consistent with warming (moving into previously cooler waters, generally poleward). The number of responses analyzed is given within parentheses for each category.

Multiplying the distribution change rates by the 11-decade 1900-2010 interval of measurement gives total shifts of a few hundred kilometers for most taxa but over 1,000 km for zooplankton and around 5,000 km for phytoplankton. If this latter estimate is correct then the phytoplankton that now inhabit the temperate and sub-polar oceans must have migrated there from the tropical oceans over the course of the last 100 or so years, surviving a 15-20C water temperature decrease on the way.

Conclusion: The observations are suspect.

CLAIM 3: While only a few recent species extinctions have been attributed as yet to climate change natural global climate change at rates slower than current anthropogenic climate change caused significant ecosystem shifts and species extinctions during the past millions of years.

Evaluation: None of the species extinction attributions stands up to scrutiny. There is still no proven instance of a species extinction caused by anthropogenic climate change. Section of the WG2 report, “Observed global extinctions”, acknowledges this:

Most extinctions over the last several centuries have been attributed to habitat loss, overexploitation, pollution, or invasive species, and these are the most important current drivers of extinctions. Of the more than 800 global extinctions documented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature only 20 have been tenuously linked to recent climate change.

Buried somewhere in the text of the report there may be evidence to support the claim that extinctions millions of years ago occurred when the climate was changing more slowly than it is now, but paleotemperature records that go back this far don’t provide enough detail to tell us how rapidly the global climate was changing on the century-scale, and paleotemperature records that go back thousands of years, such as the GISP2 ice core record, suggest that climate was changing at least as fast as it is now in the late Pleistocene:

Rapid late Pleistocene temperature changes in the GISP2 record

Conclusion: Climate change, human-caused or natural, fast or slow, has so far caused zero species extinctions.

CLAIM 4: Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts. See Figure SPM.2C.

Evaluation: Here is Figure SPM.2C:

Figure SPM.2C: Summary of estimated impacts of observed climate changes on yields over 1960–2013 for four major crops in temperate and tropical regions, with the number of data points analyzed given within parentheses for each category.

And here is actual world grain production over the 50-year period when human-caused climate change was allegedly cutting crop yields by up to two percent a decade:

Conclusion: Any overall negative impact that climate change, human-caused or natural, might be having on crop yields is being swamped by positive impacts from other factors, one of which is presumably higher atmospheric CO2.

CLAIM 5: Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.

Evaluation: This statement implies that climate change has increased the severity and frequency of extreme weather events but doesn’t overtly claim that it has, which is good because the Working Group 1 report concluded that it hasn’t. According to this summary of key statements on extreme weather events compiled by Roger Pielke Jr. WG1 in fact failed to identify robust trends in any extreme weather events:

• “Overall, the most robust global changes in climate extremes are seen in measures of daily temperature, including to some extent, heat waves. Precipitation extremes also appear to be increasing, but there is large spatial variability”
• “There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century”
• “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin”
• “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale”
• “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems”
• “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950”
• “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low”

Conclusion: Climate change, human-caused or natural, has to date caused no significant increases in the intensity or frequency of extreme weather events.

CLAIM 6: At present the worldwide burden of human ill-health from climate change is relatively small … and is not well quantified. However, there has been increased heat-related mortality and decreased cold-related mortality in some regions as a result of warming.

Evaluation: The World Health Organization publishes occasional reports purporting to demonstrate that climate change is killing/will kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, but the WG2 report correctly describes these and other similar studies as “not well quantified”. On the question of climate change causing increased heat-related mortality and decreased cold-related mortality it’s generally accepted that cold kills more people than heat, so:

Conclusion: Global warming is good for you.

CLAIM 7. Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change.

Evaluation: Violent conflict increases vulnerability to everything.

Conclusion: Quoted from Section 12.5 of the WG2: “Several studies examine the relationship between short-term warming and armed conflict. Some of these find a weak relationship, some find no relationship, and collectively the research does not conclude that there is a strong positive relationship between warming and armed conflict.”

That completes the review of the claims listed in section A-1 of the Summary for Policymakers. The report does, however, briefly discuss ocean acidification on page 47 of the Technical Summary, concluding as follows:

Few field observations to date demonstrate biological responses attributable to anthropogenic ocean acidification.

And that concludes the investigation. There is no good evidence linking human activities to any of the observed impacts of climate change listed in the Summary for Policymakers of the WG2 report.

Obama et al. indeed seem to have got it wrong.

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66 Responses to Perception trumps reality – the IPCC report on the impacts of climate change

  1. Hickory says:

    Of course there is no way to know with certainty what the causes of climate variability, and changes in the variability, are.
    Nonetheless, there is a strong probability that human “endeavors” have reached the point that we can even alter the climate. And if we do, its very unlikely to be in our favor.
    Looking back over the long run climate records, the climate has undergone huge and fairly rapid gyrations- much more rapid than most had realized until data collected over the past 3-4 decades was collected and analyzed.
    These normal, massive gyrations put our species at huge risk for a massive die off, and when you add the big chemistry experiment that humanity is undertaking to the mix, we are probably just enhancing and speeding up the next gyration.
    How fast can your tribe migrate? What will happen at the waters edge, at the barbed border, at the empty food market?
    Enjoy the pleasant days that you are lucky to have.

  2. Hickory says:

    I just wanted to add a thought here- if you are hoping to find proof in the presence of anthropomorphic climate change, or proof refuting it, well then you are likely on a fools errand.
    At least in any meaningful time frame that is.
    If you could look back in a couple hundred thousand years a trend may be evident, but until then its just a lot of small bits of data (background noise with huge number of factors).
    By the time an effect is obvious, it will be far too late to change a policy or to downsize the population gracefully. And that is why all of the adults in the room are left speculating- because there is no absolute knowledge on this.
    So, do we keep the foot on the gas pedal to the floor, or do we ease off and coast for awhile until we think we can see around the bend?

    • A C Osborn says:

      “foot on the gas pedal to the floor”, it is called progress and lifts billions out of Poverty.

      • Hickory says:

        And it can also be seen as grossly overgrowing your resource base- things like energy and food. If you knowingly overgrow your base you are asking for big trouble (regardless of the issue of climate instability).
        Europe has about 1% of the “proved” reserves of global fuel liquids, and it won’t be able to afford to buy the deficit. Its going to be cold and hungry.

  3. Willem Post says:


    The normalized glacier length graph is in accordance with the Little Ice Age having its coldest point in the late 1700s. Times were tough, short cold summers, meager crops, people, 90% on the land, were hungry. Revolutions in France 1788 and in the US 1776.

  4. Hickory says:

    True indeed Willem, and that cold spell was just a small and relatively short gyration in the big scheme of things. It wasn’t that long ago that a huge ice sheet extended down from the arctic all the way to Pennsylvania.

  5. Javier says:

    Since we are damaging our planet and the species that it contains in so many demonstrable ways, it does bother me a lot that we have decided to focus all our energy and resources at great expense in fighting one that cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt. We are letting all our guilty habits continue unchecked yet we are going against one whose criminal conduct we can’t prove.

    There must be an explanation for this, but it escapes me.

  6. bobski2014 says:

    For some meaningful anecdotal observations about Alpine Glacier shrinkage you can do worse than read “Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 by the famous English alpinist Edward Whymper.
    The local alpine peasant/guides talk frequently of the way the glaciers had been receding for centuries prior to that date.
    You only have to visit the Argentiere glacier near Chamonix, to be able to observe where it used to be, compared to today. The shrinkage is vastly more than could possibly be attributed to about 150 years of slowly increasing CO2. Same thing applies to all the glaciers in the European Alps.
    It would appear that mere empirical evidence no longer carries any value in the face of carefully selected computer generated scenarios. What is the CO2 content of cow-dung? Perhaps alpine peasants used to burn very large quantities of it.

  7. Euan Mearns says:

    Great post Roger. Lets begin with glaciers and ice sheets melting.

    1) We are in an inter-glacial. Glaciers and ice sheets melt in inter-glacials. There is something seriously wrong with anyone who believes that ice melting in interglacials is somehow anomalous. There are of course bumps in history. Probably no Alpine ice during Roman times. Glacier advances during the LIA etc. But if you develop a view of invariant Holocene climate like the IPCC have done, then obviously every little bump becomes a warming event.

    2) You do not actually need on-going warming to melt ice. All you need is an event that moves the equilibrium. Take a meter cubed block of ice in a cold store and set the temperature to 2˚C. The ice will begin to melt slowly. But it will simply melt slowly without turning up the heat any more.

    3) As you mention in your post, glacier dynamics are fairly well understood from a mass balance perspective. More mass needs to be added in winter than is removed in summer. This can have as much to do with the amount of snow fall as anything else. It does not require a change in the mean annual temperature in the Alps, simply a lot more snow falling in winter time which may even correlate with milder winters.

    • Hi Euan:

      Here are a couple of graphs.

      The first one, which I put together some years ago (it predates the 2011 Huff paper on this subject, incidentally), shows how glacier retreat in the Alps in the 20th century was controlled by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (note the data are smoothed). Glaciers receded rapidly during the “warm” phase of the AMO (wet USA, dry Europe) and a lot less rapidly – some of them even began to advance again – during the “cold” phase (wet Europe, dry USA).

      The second shows Oerlemans’ regional glacier length data. When did the LIA peak in your neighborhood? 😉

      • Whoops. Forgot to mention that the blue line on the first graph is the glaciers and the pink line the AMO

      • Euan Mearns says:

        So I have to wait a few decades more to get really good skiing in the Alps again 🙁 What controls the AMO? And what does % retreating mean? And how does all this link to solar geomagnetism?

        • In a few decades you’ll be past skiing anyway 😉

          What controls the AMO? One theory is that it’s the orbital periods of Saturn and Jupiter.

          If you have 100 glaciers and 50 of them are retreating then you have 50% retreating.

          How does all this link to solar geomagnetism? No idea.

  8. Euan Mearns says:

    Let’s continue with SMP.2b. I reached same conclusion as you did before reading your prose. I find it hard to believe they can get away with publishing dross like this, should really make time to check report to see exactly what they say. I thought Phytoplankton were pretty ubiquitous throughout the oceans, and today they are certainly abundant at high latitude, especially in the N Pacific where nutrient rich, cold water upwells from the depths, also leading to “acidification”. How on Earth can a ubiquitous group like this be deemed to migrate over 400 km towards higher latitude per decade?

    And the chart is deemed to represent 1900 to 2010. What is the data from 1900 based on? Do they have fossil records? Or were the Victorians out there recording all this?

    • Working Group 2 got caught with its pants down in the IPCC 2007 AR4 report when it was found to have made use of a non-peer-reviewed study from the WWF which claimed that the Himalayan glaciers would all be gone by 2035. This episode became known as “Glaciergate”. Maybe we now have “Phytogate.”

  9. marchesarosa says:

    Sorry for being off-topic, Euan, but could you please write a post about the E.on decision to split its energy interests and hive off the thermal generation? The Guardian is spinning the story as Renewables win – Fossil Fuels lose. I am sure there is more to it than this and who better than you to explain it. Thank you.

    • Aslangeo says:

      Looks similar to the British Gas story

      for those who don’t know British Gas was Britain’s privatised gas supply utility, with a significant E&P, Power generation and LNG arm which was split into two companies in 1997.

      The renewables, distribution and customer sales branch will be similar to Centrica – although they always had other businesses and have since evolved into a mini old British Gas with and E&P arm – but this outfit also kind of reminds me of ENRON (before the financial engineering)

      The fossil fuel arm (E&P and thermal power stations) – this would look at the so called gas chain – i.e from drill bit to burner tip, including LNG and coal

      The new company will be the most capital investment heavy part of the business with a lot of physical assets while the remaining EON would be asset light.

      The rationale for this may well be that the two businesses require different skills and mindsets, and would be more successful independent

      EON’s presentation is at

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’m not sure I understand enough about this to write a post. It actually flies in the face of what should be common sense, but we live in a world where common sense is last in the merit order. A good sensible policy would be to require renewables generators to provide their own balancing capacity, and the mix that EoN has achieves that. So lets break it up. The Guardian may be right. The way the market is rigged, onshore wind will make money, thermal generation not. Combined, you have a company that makes no money. And splitting in two gives you a bit that makes money in the rigged market and a bit that will make losses but is still essential to have – call in Government to bail out mess they have created?

    • ducdorleans says:

      Ill timed !

      Eon was tired of coming in second, since renewables have the high ground atm … It is difficult out there to make a profit, as a traditional … If you then do not have the necessary reserves to sit that one out, you have to make a decision, and hope for the best … but, again, I think , ill timed and/or wrong …

      The big money in renewables was about a decade ago … Fernand Huts in Belgium (look it up) scored big … NMBS (our ex-British Rail) scored big … but those times are gone … for the simple reason that all the money is gone…

      Most probably, all the “traditional” power companies got their timing a bit wrong .. They thought this whole scam would not have lasted this long … (as probably lots of us have ) … but Governments, as they are not spending their own money, can go on longer than you, the taxpayer, can stay solvent ..

      But in the end, because something that is not rational nor economical cannot go on forever, truth, reason, science, logic will always prevail … EDF, with their guaranteed – but way too high -price at Hinckley Point is, imho, a sign of what the future will bring for the traditional Power co’s …

      IF they keep their cool, and have some reserves …

  10. John Williams says:

    Great post — perhaps one day some of this might sink in with policy makers, especially when they consider the escalating costs of the current EU renewables policies. But on the other hand wearing the hair shirt that we humans are responsible for natural catastrophes seems to have become an organised religion — and we know what happens to apostates.

  11. Conor says:

    Really interesting post, thanks. It’s not really that different to what the IPCC has put into their summary for policy makers. The extreme weather and climate events table gives an assessment of the likelihood of human activity having caused various climate phenomenon and the confidence levels are generally “more likely than not”, which sounds pretty low.

    Fyi, in claim 4 you say “two percent per year” when it should be “per decade”.

    (Thanks. Fixed)

  12. Raff says:

    I don’t understand your motivation in writing this when you seem to have no expertise in any of the areas you highlight. Neither have you read the report much beyond the summary and I think it probable that you haven’t read more than a few bits and pieces from the hundreds of referenced papers written by people who study the various components of the report their whole working lives. Yet you can confidently write things like “The observations are suspect” when I would expect a normal reader just to think “I don’t understand”. For example, does it suggest anywhere in the report that phytoplankton have been moving polewards at the same rate for 110 years, as you boldly assume when you ridicule your own calculated migration over the period? You don’t give the impression that you know how to measure a shift in phytoplankton distribution (maybe look up blooms).

    As for Euan’s “Probably no Alpine ice during Roman times”, that is a long period. How do you explain Ötzi not having rotted or blown away?

    • Raff:

      You seem to be incapable of writing anything in a polite and inoffensive manner. You are now on the moderation list.

      • Hickory says:

        I have my own theory. Euan selects data to support his view that humans aren’t contributing to climate change because he is deathly afraid that if the human contribution to climate change is acknowledged, then his energy security and ability to keep warm, fed and under lights will be threatened.

        I get that, and I would be afraid too. Energy insecurity ( and climate change) is extremely threatening.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Climate Change is very very frightening, try reading some history to see just how frightening it can be.
          However CAGW does not exist, so is only frightening to children and those who do not understand climate history.
          Would you like to supply some real data that contradicts what Euan has written?
          It must not include anything from Computer Models, the UN, the WWF or any other Green NGO, but real factual data with values.

          • A C Osborn says:

            PS, the OP is by Roger Andrews, not Euan, but the same thing applies.
            Not that either of them need me to fight their battles for them.

    • ducdorleans says:

      How do you explain Ötzi being buried there in the first place ?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Figure 8 The Bond stack compared with CO2 from ice cores and Mauna Loa and a number of historical episodes. Skara Brae is a famous Neolithic archaeological site on the Orkney Islands that overlaps with the warm period between Bond cycles 4 and 3. RWP = the Roman Warm Period maps out as an extended anomalous warm period that is perhaps also picked out as a blip on the LR04 benthic stack (Figure 4). Deterioration of climate as NW Europe descended into the Dark Ages (DA) cold period may have contributed to the fall of The Roman Empire. The down pointing arrows mark the expedition of Eric the Red to found Viking settlements in southern Greenland (985 AD) and the loss of the Greenland Knarr in 1380 AD that marked the end of the Greenland settlements. The habitation of Greenland by the Vikings corresponded with the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) that gave way to The Little Ice Age (LIA) and ultimately the Modern Warm Period.

      Probably no Alpine ice during Roman times

      I guess that was poorly put. Should have said less Alpine ice in Roman Times. Otzi is an interesting example who appears on the chart above. Obviously proves there has been ice continually since he got caught at that particular location. Doesn’t prevent glacier length fluctuating significantly in between. Caught in a blizzard in the Alps during one of the Holocene cold periods as defined by ice rafted debris in the N Atlantic (Bond cycles). The Bond cycles are analogous to the DO cycles seen in Greenland ice cores.

      Raff, from now your comments will be held for moderation. You don’t seem to understand some of the basic principles deployed in comment moderation on this site. If Roger (and I) have mis read and mis represented what the IPCC said then we definitely want to know about it! That is achieved by you explaining quite clearly what the IPCC actually meant, how the data was gathered and how we have mis understood a chart that appears to quite clearly show phytoplankton migrating at a rate of over 400 km / decade towards cooler conditions.

      • Raff says:

        Euan, the report is quoting a *current* rate of phytoplankton movement northwards. Your analysis is like me noticing that my 50m swim times are currently deteriorating by 2s/year on average and, following your lead, fitting a linear model to this back into the past. I estimate that 30 years ago I was so fast that I finished swimming 50m even before starting. This is clearly nonsense, so I must throw away my assumption of a liner model, not the current estimation of my rate of physical decline. You, on the other hand, take the current rate of northward movement of plankton, fit a linear model to estimate the origin 110 years ago and, finding that this produces nonsense, discard not the model but the data. It could of course be that a linear model is the correct choice and that the data really is incorrect, but you supply no evidence to support that. Your skepticism is reserved solely for the quality of the data not for the suitability of your linear model.

        Apparently the onus is on me to read the report and the research in your stead and to show that your model is wrong, rather than on you to read it before selecting a more representative model. It is your blog, so I can’t complain about that. If I have time I will. But for a well respected blog on energy matters to take that approach to a unrelated subject on which it has no apparent expertise is surprising. That is why I asked about motivation. It is not obvious to me that the scientists advising the IPCC and writing the report are incompetent or that they have ulterior motives that would cause them to distort what their research shows. You seem to think otherwise and I don’t understand why.

        Also, nitpicking your picture, the Roman Empire seems to start several hundred years too early, and Ötzi seems misplaced. Wiki quotes a range between 3359 and 3105 BC which puts him somewhere between your arrow and the bottom of the near-vertical slope of your curve. Not that it matters much.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Raff, it would take me hours to reply properly to all of your points. And since there is one of me and hundreds of you, it is impossible for me to do that. Especially since this is Roger’s post. We do not have a model. The IPCC get hundreds of millions of $. Figure SPM 2B is a shocking mess. Roger and I are both geologists. I certainly took undergraduate courses on palaeontology, extinction of species and paleo environments. I’m sure Roger did too.

          From Wikipedia:

          Rome had begun expanding shortly after the founding of the Republic in the 6th century BC

          That is 2600 years before the year 2000, which as far as I can eyeball, is where I have it.

          As for Otzi, I don’t have an axe to grind, it might make more sense that he set out during a quiescent period. But it is not my vertical line. It is a line from a paper published in nature by a group working at the Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory in NY – kind of like MIT for geologists.

          But what is your point? Do you believe that Alpine glaciers have been totally static for the last 10,000 years – like the IPCC would have us believe? Or do you believe that they fluctuate? And if you follow the data you find they fluctuate in rhythm with solar geomagentic activity.

          • Raff says:

            Euan/Roger I am but one. You are two. Of course you have a model – a linear one: “Multiplying the distribution change rates by the 11-decade 1900-2010 interval of measurement …”. It doesn’t need to be computerised to make it a model, just like my swimming model above. You assumed linear behaviour and when, with the available data, that gives a nonsense result you doubt the data and not your own assumption of linearity.

            Ötzi and “quiescent” periods – I read in Wiki that “Most Bond events do not have a clear climate signal”, so how do you determine “quiescence”?

            “Alpine glaciers have been totally static for the last 10,000 years” – it would be idiotic to believe that. “like the IPCC would have us believe” – where does the IPCC make that claim? But claiming fluctuation according to solar activity seems, shall we say, speculative: “The mechanism by which active solar magnetic activity causes warming remains speculative”.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Ötzi and “quiescent” periods – I read in Wiki that “Most Bond events do not have a clear climate signal”, so how do you determine “quiescence”?

            Climate science has evolved to equate global average surface temperature with climate change. You try to measure the former and if it is not changing you assume the latter is not changing either. While in fact, at certain latitudes, with changes to the jet stream, climate can be changing “everywhere”, but with little impact on globally averaged surface temperatures. During the Little Ice Age, NW Europe got colder and snowier. Other areas became warmer, some drier, some wetter. Climate change everywhere, all the time.

            Most Bond events do not have a clear climate signal

            I’m afraid the climate change community has done what they can to write the evidence for the Little Ice Age out of the history record and then claim there is no clear evidence for Bond Events.

          • Raff: Could you please answer a simple question for me? How far have the phytoplankton moved since 1900?

          • Raff says:

            Roger, it is not a “simple question”. As I think I made clear, it is not reasonable to assume without good evidence that population migration has been linear over 110 years. So taking the current estimated rate and extrapolating back to 1900 is invalid. So I can’t answer your question. Can you?

          • Raff:

            In an attempt to answer your question I went back through section 6 of the WG2 report, “Ocean systems”, to see if I could find any backup for the numbers shown in SPM Figure 2.B. I did word searches for “phytoplankton”, “decade”, “kilometer” and “km”. These are the only numbers I came up with:

            In the waters around the UK, during a period of warming between 1976 and 2005, the seasonal timing of biological events of all major marine taxonomic groups (plant/phytoplankton, invertebrate and vertebrates) advanced, on average, by 0.31 to 0.43 days/year.

            The Figure 2 caption linked to Figures 7-2, 18-3, and MB-2, so I checked on them too. Figures 7-2 and 18-3 provided no information and I couldn’t find Figure MB-2 (there is no section “MB” in the WG2 report).

            You ask why ignoramuses like Euan and I question the conclusions of hundreds of scientists who have already forgotten more about phytoplankton than we are ever going to know. Well, this is why.

            While I was going through Section 6 I also pulled out all the excerpts that related in any way to phytoplankton migration and attach them below. I draw your attention to one specific statement: undersampling of ocean phenomena in time and space limits our current ability to assess present states, to distinguish effects of anthropogenic change from natural variability, and to project future changes.

            Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS, 1997–2010), and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS-AQUA, 2002 to the present); McClain, 2009)provide estimates of chlorophyll concentrations (a proxy for phytoplankton stocks and net primary production (NPP); Sections 6.2.1, 6.3.4; Saba etal., 2011). Total chlorophyll cannot be measured from space; therefore,the near-surface value (approximately one optical depth) is extrapolated to whole water-column chlorophyll based on vertical distribution using region-specific algorithms. Large uncertainties persist, as these estimates reflect both phytoplankton stocks and their physiological status(Dierssen, 2010; Behrenfeld, 2011). The approximately 15-year archived time series of SeaWiFS is too short to reveal trends over time and their causes. It is an example for the general issue that undersampling of ocean phenomena in time and space limits our current ability to assess present states, to distinguish effects of anthropogenic change from natural variability, and to project future changes (Henson et al., 2010; Beaulieu et al., 2013; Box CC-PP).

            In response to transient warming, phytoplankton distribution in the North Atlantic shifted poleward by hundreds of kilometers per decade since the 1950s. Phenology of plankton in the North Atlantic was also affected, with differences in sensitivity between groups (high confidence; Section; Box 6-1). Coccolithophore blooms (Emilianiahuxleyi) in the Bering Sea were reported for the first time during the period 1997–2000, probably in response to a 4°C warming, combined with a shallower mixed layer depth, higher light levels and low zooplankton grazing (Merico et al., 2004). Loss of multi-year Arctic sea ice has had a profound effect on the diversity, structure, and function of the epipelagic microbial assemblage (i.e., found in the layer into which enough light penetrates for photosynthesis) (Comeau et al.,2011), and further warming is likely to have even greater impacts on the food web and on ecosystem services (medium confidence). Warming may also have caused the southward range extension of coccolithophores in the Southern Ocean in the 2000s (Cubillos et al.,2007). However, further experimental and field observations (Giovannoni and Vergin, 2012) are required to validate model projections (Taucherand Oschlies, 2011) of differential responses to warming by different microorganisms.

            Long-term observations (Sections 6.1.2, encompassing the pelagic Northeast Atlantic over a 50-year period and longer(Figures 6-8, 6-9) show changes in the seasonal abundance of phytoplankton, rapid northerly displacements of temperate and subtropical zooplankton (e.g., calanoid copepods) and phytoplankton (e.g., dinoflagellates and diatoms), and the resulting changes in the ecosystem functioning and productivity (high confidence; Edwards et al., 2001; Beaugrand et al., 2002; Edwards and Richardson,2004).

            Most climate change scenarios foresee a shift or expansion of the ranges of many species of plankton, fish, and invertebrates toward higher latitudes, by tens of kilometers per decade, contributing to changes in species richness and altered community composition.

            Limits of distribution ranges of 1066 exploited species are projected to undergo shifts by a median of around 50 km per decade to higher latitudes by 2050 relative to 2000 under the SRES A1B (≈RCP6.0) scenario (Cheung et al., 2009).

          • Euan Mearns says:

            undersampling of ocean phenomena in time and space limits our current ability to assess present states, to distinguish effects of anthropogenic change from natural variability, and to project future changes.

            Which in normal speak means that back in time we do not have the data to know what is was like back then and hence to know if what we are observing today is anomalous or not. And that is all they needed to write in their report. Two lines instead of a gazilion pages!

          • Raff says:

            Roger, MB-2 is in the cross-chapter boxes section of graphics. It adds little to the SPM image.

            I didn’t call you an ignoramus, I said you seem to have no expertise in any of the areas you highlight. I’m certain that you are knowledgable about many things, but ocean ecology is probably not one of them. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in questioning the report. One might for example look at MB-2 and think that the values quoted for phytoplankton are outliers when plotted against the other nine taxa illustrated. One might look at the “number of observations” for phytoplankton (3) and remark that even without extensive domain knowledge it would be reasonable to think that the result is perhaps not as robust as the others, where more plentiful observations are quoted.

            What is not, in my opinion, justifiable is to write off the whole section on distribution shifts as you did:

            “CLAIM 2: Many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges ….. in response to ongoing climate change. See Figure SPM.2B

            Conclusion: The observations are suspect.”

            on the basis that extrapolating one of the ten taxa back over a century produces a nonsense result.

            This is why I said that I don’t understand your motivation in writing this article. I am no wiser now.

          • Euan: What it means in normal speak is: guys, we admit we really don’t know what’s going on but you’ll never get to read about it in the Summary for Policymakers.

  13. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, off topic, but a “fun” item from Geoff Lean in the Telegraph.
    Deluded or what?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      🙂 Chinese coal production has been nothing short of a miracle. Most of it from underground mines, one day its production must peak – I thought that would have happened years ago. The Chinese obviously think it will peak in 6 years now, and will be replaced with nuclear power.

  14. Hickory says:

    One thing that we can probably all agree on is that we are conducting a massive science experiment- on ourselves and the biosphere. I’m not talking about the meteoric rise in CO2 concentrations, rather I’m referring to the bigger issue of population and food supply.
    The vast majority of the human food supply now comes from intensive agriculture, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel input. For example the yield of corn in Illinois from 1860-1930 ranged between 20-40 bushels/acre. Recently the average has topped 180, and some farms have achieved 220 bu/acre. Tremendous! But the vast majority of the gains in yield are attributable to the input of fossil fuel energy in some form- fertilizer, herbicides, machine plowing, harvesting, irrigation, etc. Even the remarkable advances in corn breeding over the past hundred years would not go so far if not planted in fields that have been “optimized” with fossil fuel inputs.

    And along with this incredible increase in the food supply has come the growth of the human population from about 2 to over 7 billion mouths. Coincidentally this has come about during a time with remarkably stable and warm temperatures-
    Here is a graph illustrating that point-

    We are making a huge error to assume the brief time of favorable temperatures over the last 10,000 years is the norm, rather all the evidence of past climate gyration point to just the opposite (regardless of the CO2 experiment). Looking at the data (and through the eyes of a university trained agronomist), I make the following predictions (high probability guessing about the future)-
    1. Even if the fossil fuel the input to agriculture can remain stable over time, the inherent variability in climate will result in a massive human die-off at some point (don’t ask when). If our population was much smaller and well dispersed the effects would not be so catastrophic.
    2. If over time, the fossil fuel inputs to agriculture are curtailed due to regulation, cost, or actual scarcity, then the crop yields that support the 7+ billion will drop in direct correlation to decrease in inputs. The only real factor that could counterbalance this to some degree is human labor- I’m talking shovels and pulling potatoes by hand.
    3. If indeed human activity destabilizes the climate much, it will only exacerbate the fragile balance of food supply and population demand.

    I would also point out that there is no greater factor than hunger when it comes to the occurrence of revolutions, mass migrations, and chaos in human history.

    Here I submit a big question-
    With all this in mind, and all the uncertainties regarding the true nature of our planet, should we just ignore the issue of CO2, and rather focus all of our collective energies on achieving rapid and profound reduction in human population (hopefully in some gradual and non-violent way)?

    I know how I would answer the question, what about you?

    • A C Osborn says:

      First of all you have made an assumption that I disagree with.
      The world’s food is produced by a fairly small area of the earth, power generation would allow greening and more areas for food production, especially in Africa where it is needed most. A large part of current growth is wasted on Green initiatives like ethanol etc.
      The second point is that quite a large proportion of the food grown today actually goes to waste, cut out that waste and also distribute it more fairly and added to my first point your “starvation scenario” will not occur. Especially with increased Greening from increased CO2 to help.

      Where your starvation scenario comes in is when it gets very cold and it becomes much harder to grow crops, so humans beware an Ice Age, but CO2 can even help there.

      • Hickory says:

        I’m talking real world here.
        All of the worlds class I, class II, and most of its class III farmland is already farmed, or under concrete.
        Sure, less waste and eating lower on the food chain will help, but certainly not a game changer.

  15. Tim E. says:

    More finds from retreating Swiss Glaciers:

    Stone Age trade routes yield spectacular finds on alpine pass – clothes, weapons and devices also from Roman time and the Middle Ages

    Holger Kroker scientist of the archaeological service Berne found among other things a Roman booklet (garb latch):
    In the hot summer of 2003 two wanderers from the Swiss Thun did not trust their eyes. They stood at the edge of an icefield at the Schnidejoch above Lenk, when they discovered a birchbark arrow-quiver. A dating with the archaeological service of the canton Berne showed that the birchbark is nearly 5000 years old. Meanwhile the Bernese archaeologist searched the area thoroughly and found some evidence for a much-used connection between that Bernese upper country and north Italy. The glacier between the today’s ski place Lenk in the north and Sitten, the principal place in the canton Wallis, had released pieces of find from four different epochs. For the archaeologists, the discovery is of comparable importance to Oetzi, the South Tirol glacier corpse.

  16. I propose an idea. Let us put together a dictatorial style government that controls all aspects of life including where you work, eat, drink, live and die based on some tenuous as best scientific results. I wonder what Richard Feynman would say to this?

  17. Bill Butler says:

    The author of the article is willfully misconstruing information.

    Glacier mass and length will respond to whatever climate forces are present.

    The decline in glacier size up to 50 years ago was a result of an increase in total solar irradiance from the low point that occurred in the Maunder Minimum. Since the mid 1950s, solar irradiance has been decreasing – especially over the last 2 decades. See chart at:

    The decrease in total irradiance during the last few decades should have cooled the earth had there been no anthropogenic forcing. Instead the earth has continued to warm.

    The World Glacier Monitoring Service

    “The moraines from the Little Ice Age mark maximum Holocene glacier extents in many mountain ranges. From these positions, glaciers around the world show a centennial trend of ice wastage which has been accelerating since the mid 1980s.”

    Note the phrase: “ice wastage which has been accelerating since the mid 1980s.”

    The quote is from page 25, “Global Glacier Changes: facts and figures” report published by the World Glacier Monitoring Service.

    An up to date chart showing the acceleration in glacier loss over the last two decades can be seen at:
    World Glacier Monitoring Service

    – SNIP –
    Moderator note: Constructive criticism is welcome on this blog but not offensive statements containing the “D” word

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The author of the article is willfully misconstruing information.

      That’s quite a serious allegation – what evidence do you have to back it up? What is it about climate concerned / Greens that makes you incapable of decent public conduct? It’s a social disease.

      Any way setting that aside, thanks for the information and links. Whilst you may want to believe that glacier wastage is caused by an increase in TSI of between 1 and 2 W / m2 I don’t think the physics backs that up. I believe its more likely to do with changes to spectral output of the Sun that impacts tropopause, jet stream and climatic patterns ± the possibility of changes to the cosmic ray flux that is also being impacted by the rapidly declining magnetic field strength of the Earth.

      Interesting plots of glacier mass balance – wasn’t aware of this, and a good data source. I do find it curious that the acceleration takes place around 2000, especially since there has been no global warming since then. I would want to see local temperature and snow fall data before drawing any conclusions.

      I agree that with the “quiet Sun” that we may have expected the approach of colder conditions with for example bitter winters in North America 😉 I would accept that CO2 et al may be keeping us a little warmer than we otherwise should be right now. And if that is the case we are incredibly fortunate.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Eaun, Bill doesn’t believe that there has been no global warming since 1998, I quote him “One of the false claims that Global Warming Deniers have been making in recent years is that “Global Warming Stopped in 1998”. As per usual, this claim is another deliberate GWD falsehood that can be easily debunked by looking at the actual observations.”

        Your Forum has been attracting a lot of attention over the last year, so you and Roger are obviously doing something right. LOL

        Another insulting quote from Bill
        “Global Warming Deniers misrepresent the scientific facts of Global Warming / Climate Change in multiple ways. The misrepresentations can take the form of paid political propaganda, ignorance, outright lies, etc. The people responsible for these misrepresentations can vary from “think tanks” and lobbyists that are financed by large corporations down to ignorant individuals.
        So which category do you fall in to?

      • Willful manipulator says:

        This is too good to pass up.

        “The acceleration in glacier loss over the last two decades” coincides with the beginning of the warming pause. Bill Butler has got it exactly backwards.

        He’s clearly qualified to be an IPCC lead author.

    • Raff says:

      It is a strong allegation – to be wilful requires that the author *knew* he was misconstruing things. That seems unprovable so I would not go so far. It seems more likely to me that Euan and Roger are just writing with unjustifiable certainty about things of which they know very little. For me to feel able write something with as little equivocation as the conclusion,“There is good evidence to suggest that much if not substantially all of the glacier shrinkage over the last 200 years was a result of natural climate change”, I’d want to be sure I had more evidence than a single graph from a single paper. I’d be worried that standardised information about glacial changes dates only from 1894, two-thirds of the way along your printed graph; that the number of records available globally was low until well into the 20th century; and that scientists studying the subject (every day and every year) say climate change is accelerating glacial retreat. And I’d be mortified if I found out later that there is a UN glacier monitoring service that I didn’t even know about.

      I assume their problem to be a lack of exposure to climate science. The blogroll here on the subject contains founts of disinformation such as WUWT (a rich source of unintentional humour) and not a single non-sceptical source, such as Science of Doom, Real Climate, Skeptical Science or perhaps Tamino. If their only view of science is through a political filter they will end up with a highly coloured view of it.

      Euan you said earlier, “Do you believe that Alpine glaciers have been totally static for the last 10,000 years – like the IPCC would have us believe?” You have yet to say where, exactly, the IPCC claims this. I have seen such statements in other sceptic forums, maybe they are your source: unless you can show where the IPCC claims this, it seems confirmation of my hypothesis about your limited sources of information.

      Roger, you said “Bill Butler has got it exactly backwards.”. Again your lack of equivocation bothers me. You might, of course, be exactly right. But climate change is caused by an accumulation of energy and that energy can cause surface or ocean temperature changes or ice sheet and glacial losses or weather events and so on – or a combination of some or all of them. For you to be right that Bill “got it exactly backward”, you’d need to show that whatever “pause” there might have been in the near surface warming has been accompanied by a pause in energy accumulation by all other means. Can you do that? Or does your statement again display unjustified certainty?

      • It seems more likely to me that Euan and Roger are just writing with unjustifiable certainty about things of which they know very little

        You still haven’t gotten the point. This has absolutely nothing to do with how much Euan and I know about “things”. We could equally well be talking about meteorites on Mars or widgets in Waziristan. What it has to do with is the objective, truthful and unbiased reporting of results, which is something I do happen to know a lot about because I spent many years verifying client’s claims against their data as a mining consultant.

        Taking the phytoplankton case as an example. The IPCC presents a graph in the Summary for Policymakers – which is all the average policymaker is going to read – that contains a glaring outlier data point showing phytoplankton migrating poleward at the frightening rate of 500km/decade. Now a data point with that much potential impact on the casual reader has to be backed up by evidence, but none is to be found anywhere in the text of the report. Nor is any mention made of the large uncertainties inherent in estimating rates of species migration, which to the credit of at least the Section authors are freely acknowledged in the text.

        If I had made a similar claim in the introduction to a mining prospectus without supplying any backup evidence and while also failing to note all the uncertainties I would have had the Securities and Exchange Commission knocking on my door in short order. The IPCC, however, can get away with this sort of thing because it has no regulatory agency riding herd on it – more’s the pity.

        Incidentally, this will be my last word on this subject.

  18. Euan Mearns says:

    Raff says;

    It seems more likely to me that Euan and Roger are just writing with unjustifiable certainty about things of which they know very little.

    and Raff says

    But climate change is caused by an accumulation of energy and that energy can cause surface or ocean temperature changes or ice sheet and glacial losses or weather events and so on – or a combination of some or all of them.

    There’s no doubt about that then 😉

    If you check the blog roll you will see Real Climate there – you are struggling to be right about anything. And also Clive Best – who I think is head and shoulders above all others.

    Roger’s main source for this post was the IPCC. If you check back through most of our climate posts we are normally interpreting data from first principles – its just that the principles we apply are different to the climate science community. We look at data and try to work out what it really means. Climate science starts with the premise that CO2 is the cause of everything and the “science” is all about inventing processes to link observations to the conclusion that is already drawn before the work is begun. I think the only climate blog I commonly reference is Clive Best. I have a copy of Houghton’s book on my desk, but quite frankly Clive’s work is head and shoulders above it.

    I will have a blockbuster of a post on Friday on the Vostok ice core which is where the great CO2 lie began.

    • Hickory says:

      There are over 100 points of data strongly indicating that the earth is indeed flat.
      There is anecdotal evidence that “God” exists.
      I prefer thin crust pizza.

        • Hickory says:

          Hi Euan,
          I first want to say I very much appreciate all the work you put into this very informative site, since I think it is critical for all to be aware of energy issues.
          I consider this discussion of climate change to be a side show, but I know it is closely related, particularly when governments are enacting regulations and pricing policies.

          The two links you provide above are good examples of a practice employed both both polar camps on this issue- that is trying to draw conclusions about climate trend (and causality) based on short term data. To be relevant, I believe that data needs to be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands years old- unless we are limiting ourselves to a discussion short term effects and events.

          When it comes to short term climate variability and causality, I will fall back to a prior statement I made -“it is a fools errand” (no personal attack intended). There are just too many variables in play to accurately model short term climate effects/events – from sunspots to CO2, from deforestation to interglacial periodicity, from ocean currents to jet stream gyrations, you name it.

          While we continue to collect data and try to it analyze impartially, what we do for, say, the next 50 years?
          1) Ignore the possibility of human induced climate change and business as usual
          2) Acknowledge the possibility of human induced climate change and business as usual
          3) Acknowledge the possibility of human induced climate change and put the brakes on economic activity through taxes, sanctions and embargoes (on coal transport)
          4) Either Ignore or Acknowledge the possibility of human induced climate change, and enact policies to manage the shift from primarily fossil fuel to a more diversified mix of energy with the goal of economically surviving fossil fuel depletion, in as thoughtful and rapid a manner as we can muster.
          5) Lots of room here for options, but lets quit arguing like stupid boys and be constructive, eh?
          Poor people will burn low grade coal rather than freeze or starve, or they will go down fighting.

          Lastly, my personal belief is that the carrying capacity of the earth is well below 2 billion. How do we get there without genocide.

          • I’d be interested to know where the well below two billion max estimate comes from.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            So this is an excellent and valued comment Hickory. I will cut to the quick;

            Lastly, my personal belief is that the carrying capacity of the earth is well below 2 billion. How do we get there without genocide.

            I met the late Al Bartlett once and took a picture of him together with Charles Hall. I think he knew who I was. 150,000 unique visits per day at the Oil Drum brought certain fame. But was he right? The old analogy of bacteria doubling and not knowing their fate. Far too many people have assumed that WE are at that tipping point where more population will kill us all.

            I agree entirely on a number of points 1) population growth underpins most of the environmental problems out there, 2) it would be nice if there were fewer people. But my current view is that population is following a logistic – responding to resource and other pressures – and will peak this century and then fall. This will create a whole new set of problems for humanity as dwindling numbers of young have to look after growing numbers of old. The pensions Ponzi will be among the first things to fail.

            Speculating about population is even more futile than speculating about climate. But what we need to focus on is making a few correct / good choices today. In the past we made lots and lots of small choices, normally in the dark. And the ones that worked won through. Today we are trying to model the whole world and use that to shape the future choices we make. Right now, my view is that the wrong people, applying false logic (which is an oxymoron) are making a lot of very bad choices for humanity.

    • Raff says:

      I missed the Real Climate link – I guess I saw what I wanted to see 😉 I’ve not read Clive Best, maybe I should. In what way is he head and shoulders over Science of Doom (who seems very good to me)?

      I think you are wrong to say that “Climate science starts with the premise that CO2 is the cause of everything “. I imagine most would agree that the sun is the “cause” of everything useful on earth. That is why the sun has been studied so much and why we know so much about its spectrum and the response of the atmosphere to solar and terrestrial radiation. The greenhouse effects of water vapour are almost certainly regarded as critical to life on earth, those of CO2 although less important have also been recognised for a century or more.

      So your unlikely claim that scientists think “CO2 is the cause of everything” seems as unsubstantiated as your earlier unbelievable claim that “the IPCC would have us believe” that “Alpine glaciers have been totally static for the last 10,000 years”. Since you and Roger rely so much on the IPCC you should have no trouble tracking down where exactly the IPCC claim that. I’ve asked you to do so several times and yet you can’t or won’t. What conclusion should readers draw?

      Roger said earlier of the phytoplankton graphic, “If I had made a similar claim in the introduction to a mining prospectus without supplying any backup evidence…”. But the Summary for Policymakers contains many, many, references. Are they not “backup evidence”? I wonder whether you would get to keep your job for very long if in introducing a mining prospectus you presented just the evidence that favoured your proposal and ignored the preponderance of evidence and expert opinion that opposed it. I think you’d be thrown out of the door before you could finish your presentation.

      That will hopefully be the last I say on the thread too.

  19. patmcguinness says:

    This was quite a substantive report!

    When I got to this .. “Any overall negative impact that climate change, human-caused or natural, might be having on crop yields is being swamped by positive impacts from other factors, one of which is presumably higher atmospheric CO2.”

    One reason you know that the IPCC has an ‘agenda’ rather than just the honest truth, is how
    they express only negative consequences and de-emphasize or ignore positive ones regarding CO2. They do their best to minimize or deflect how beneficial CO2 fertilization can be.
    And by the time the sausage gets turned into media reports and political statements, the plain fact that CO2 fertilization effect is significant, beneficial and having a positive effect, especially in greening up arid / desert areas, is completely gone.

  20. Ron Swenson says:

    One hypothesis worth considering in this debate is that the IPCC members have woefully underestimated the looming impacts of anthropogenic climate change, perhaps motivated by fear of attacks by “reasonable” folks just like us who are intent upon picking fights over important issues which can’t be resolved on the basis of what anyone knows for sure. I have no confidence in anyone for example who might claim they know enough about the physics of the Greenland ice sheet to state that all or part of it will or won’t slide into the ocean by year x, y or z.

    Since that very possibility exists within a finite time frame, if even at low probability, the rigorous removal of coastal nuclear power plants and their radioactive contents comes quickly to the top of the list of necessary collective human endeavors (presuming we agree that survival is a high priority).

    Furthermore, as has been referenced above, there will come a day soon enough when humanity will run short of oil / gas / coal / uranium. Those who prepare in advance for that eventuality will fare better than those who ignore the compelling evidence.

    Against that backdrop, there is only one course of action — getting off fossil fuels and nuclear power on a very aggressive schedule. In tandem, converting just about everything to electricity is pretty much a given. Those who prepare early by switching to renewable electricity sources (and high efficiency devices) will be well served.

    Getting off fossil fuels is inexorable; this community hasn’t stopped pounding the Oil Drum. The rationale _might_ or might not have to do with anthropogenic or extreme “natural” climate change, but the outcome would be the same either way. Electricity has brought humanity a better way of life; it is the essence of modern civilization. Just as urban dwellers have abandoned campfires in the kitchen, so we will abandon combustion on the streets and in our factories, mines and farms. Furthermore, working within this fundamental framework, we won’t have to be experts in glaciers, meteorology, geology or phytoplankton to discern and execute a prudent course of action.

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  22. DACrea says:

    Yes, and if you look at the “long run” of recent world history for the last few million years, you will realize the earth has been “frozen” about 3/4ths of the time, and we are DAMN LUCKY to be living in a “warm spell”. Thank your lucky stars the earth MIGHT be warming a bit, because we are over-due for a “BIG FREEZE” again.

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