"It beggars the imagination that an expert committee can launch a public statement about climate change that is so partial in its arguments and so out of date in its science.
The New Zealand
Climate Science Coalition
Hon Secretary, Terry Dunleavy MBE, 14A Bayview Road, Hauraki, North Shore City 0622
Phone (09) 486 3859 - Mobile 0274 836688 - Email -
14 July 2008
COALITION'S RESPONSE TO ROYAL SOCIETY’S “CLIMATE REPORT”
Responding to what it termed “controversy” and “possible confusion among the public” about global warming, the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) last week released a summary statement regarding dangerous human-caused climate change.
The statement was written by the Society’s “expert committee on climate”, whose previous attempts to arrive at a common position foundered against divisions of opinion within the committee - which reinforces the reality that the science of global warming is yet far from clear or “settled”. It also illustrates the silliness of trying to impose on the public authoritative views about a complex, unsettled science matter that is still subject to deep and genuine controversy.
That the Society’s expert climate committee is now able to essay a consensus view reflects changes in its membership. It remains untested, however, how accurately the views that the present committee espouses reflect science reality; and unknown to what degree the views are shared by Society members, for it appears that neither Fellows nor Members were canvassed in arriving at the statement.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Six of the seven members of the expert committee carry the conflict of interest that they work for institutions that garner research funds to investigate the human influence on global warming.
On top of which, the committee is unrepresentative: five members are from Wellington and two from Hamilton; five members are employed by NIWA, one member works within a global change research institute and one is associated with “carboNZero” - which is a “greenhouse gas emissions management and reduction scheme offering optional mitigation strategies through the provision of credible and verified offsets or carbon credits”. Incredibly, the committee contains not a single palaeoclimatologist or geologist, nor persons drawn from the research agencies other than NIWA that include climate change within their purview, nor any independent climate scientist rationalists. Finally, the Chairman of the committee – through senior positions that he holds at NIWA and within the IPCC - also advises government on climate change through these two other main channels from which it receives advice.
To say that neither the Royal Society nor the government has undertaken due diligence on the advice that they are receiving on global warming from their “experts” is, therefore, an understatement. There is clearly one hymn, and advice is welcome only from those who sing it.
In view of such manifest conflicts, it is not surprising to discover that the RSNZ statement on climate change is both biased and inadequate. This, of course, explains its attraction to the Green Party, who described it as clarifying “the links between climate change, increased greenhouse gases and increased emissions from human activity” and “therefore welcome reassurance to the public”. Needless to say, the statement does no such thing, but instead attempts to provide reinforcement to the public global warming hysteria that last week’s Wall Street Journal referred to as a “sick-souled religion”.
The RSNZ statement commences with the bald, and wrong, statement that “The globe is warming, because of increasing greenhouse gas emissions”.
Instead, and though warming might theoretically have been expected, it is by no means certain that the globe has warmed recently at all. True, the ground thermometer-based temperature indices show a rise since 1979, but looked at over a longer time period, using measurements made by weather balloon radiosondes since 1958, no overall warming is apparent. Because the ground temperature record is affected by a contaminating urban heat island effect, it is entirely unclear as to how much of the trend it displays since 1979 represents real global warming. In addition, high quality satellite temperature records demonstrate that cooling has been underway since at least 2002.
The committee reinforces the second part of its opening sentence by going on to say that “Most of the observed global warming over the past 50 years is very likely to be due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere”. Later we read: “Greenhouse gases warm the lower atmosphere by allowing sunlight to reach the Earth’s surface but trapping some of the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth. Human activities have increased the concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide since the mid-1700s. More than half of the carbon dioxide concentration increase has occurred since 1970”.
These incomplete synopses ignore the embarrassing fact that no demonstrated warming has occurred since 1958, over which time carbon dioxide emissions have increased by about 20%.
The committee’s treatment of the climatic effect of carbon dioxide is completely inadequate because it ignores, first, that the last few million years of earth history represent conditions of carbon dioxide starvation compared with earlier times (when levels were up to 10 times or more higher than today). Second, the committee also ignores the well known fact that incremental additions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere successively cause less and less warming, in declining logarithmic fashion, such that the completion of a doubling of carbon dioxide from the pre-industrial level will now cause just a few tenths of a degree of additional warming. In view of these matters - and other recent papers on climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide forcing that the committee ignores - and even should one wish to admit the suspect surface thermometer measurements as indicating warming since 1979, neither strong expectation nor direct evidence exists that the “warming” must have resulted from human greenhouse gases.
Similar inadequacies and oversimplifications beset the committee’s representations of the climatic effects of solar variations, water vapour and aerosols. For example, they ignore: (i) the fact that the sun affects earth’s climate in ways other than by visible radiation, in particular by the emission of charged particles and magnetic fields; (ii) that recent measurements show atmospheric water vapour to be decreasing, not increasing; and (iii) that whereas light-coloured aerosols cause cooling (by reflection of solar energy), dark-coloured aerosols cause warming (through absorption), the balance of these two effects being unknown, as is their partitioning between human and natural origin.
In discussion of the natural factors that cause climate variation, the RSNZ committee recognizes that “Climate has always varied, over timescales of decades, centuries and millennia. Until recently these variations have had only natural causes including changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the shape of the Earth’s orbit, the energy output from the sun, dust from volcanic emissions, and heat exchanges between the atmosphere and the ocean (such as El Niño”.
Indeed. That climate has always varied is the reason that the correct null hypothesis is that any changes that we observe today are due to natural climatic variation unless and until direct evidence is available for human forcing. The additional hypothesis that human forcings might now be of a magnitude to be modulating natural forcings is an interesting possibility that has been explored thoroughly since about 1990. Despite the expenditure of $50-100 billion dollars since on climate change research, and the efforts of thousands of skilled scientists, no direct evidence of a global human effect has transpired.
Next, the Committee asserts that “even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols were held constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming trend would be expected for at least several decades, due mainly to the slow response of the oceans”.
Wrong again, as judged against empirical data. Despite the modelled expectation that they should warm, the oceans, like the atmosphere, are currently cooling, and the long term ocean changes that we observe now on scales of decades to centuries probably reflect climate signals transferred into the ocean long ago. Fluctuations in ocean upwelling rate and other heat transfers are what is presumed to lie behind climatically important multi-decadal climatic oscillations like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation.
Continuing in virtually reality mode, the Committee next concludes that “Additional increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, and resulting changes in climate, will occur over coming decades unless concerted international action is taken to substantially reduce emissions. Impacts will vary regionally but, aggregated and discounted to the present, they are very likely to impose net annual economic costs which will increase over time as global temperatures increase”. More details of typical projected (not predicted) changes that the Committee expects are provided in the last part of the statement, drawn from the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report.
These assertions are entirely rooted in a belief in the projections of unvalidated computer modelling, are unsubstantiated, and fly completely in the face of current and likely near future planetary cooling. Idle speculation such as this has no place in the public discussion, or for use in environmental planning, even if it has come out of an expensive super-computer and least of all when it is presented by an organisation that is, or should be, dedicated to rigorous, evidential scientific standards.
FACTS AT LAST
The middle section of the RSNZ report moves away from speculative computer projections to discuss factual data - a welcome acknowledgement that sound science must, in the end, be based upon observation and experiment.
Matters discussed include the rising rate of greenhouse gas emissions since 1750; that current atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest in the last few hundred thousand years, due largely to human inputs which have caused extra water vapour and warming again; that global air temperature has risen almost one degree since 1906; rising global sea-level in the 20th century; that recent annual air temperatures are higher than they have been for 50, 500 or 1300 years; that the years 1998 and 2005 are the two warmest since 1850; that some mountain glaciers are shrinking; that Arctic sea ice is decreasing; that peak spring river flows are occurring 1-2 weeks earlier than hitherto in some places; average ocean temperature has warmed since 1961; that the pH of the ocean is becoming less alkaline; and that greenhouse gases are a more important forcing agent of climate change than “solar output”.
The detailed comments about several of these statements are manipulated to be deceptive, if not incorrect. For example, late 20th century temperatures were indeed relatively warm, but they also fell well within previous natural bounds; and as Arctic sea ice declines, the area of sea ice around Antarctica reached a record high last winter and the South Pole has cooled by more than a degree since 1950; and if the oceans have warmed since 1961 (though a recent paper suggests that the data are inadequate to say), they are also known to have cooled since 2002.
Such details aside, the key point is that none of this circumstantial information - whether selective, manipulated or correct - necessarily tells you anything about global climate change. A legitimate reaction to all of the matters raised, therefore, is “so what?”. We demonstrably live on a dynamic planet, and the long list of environmental changes presented by the RSNZ climate committee comprises a splendid illustration of that fact. Change is not only what climate does; it is also what everything else in Earth’s lithosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and oceans do, and that on a whole variety of time scales.
It is precisely for this reason that the null hypothesis regarding observed environmental changes is that they are natural until it can be shown otherwise. The Royal Society committee, like Mr Al Gore and the IPCC before them, fails to consider this essential point, and at the same time provides no direct evidence for “unnatural”, human-forced environmental change at the global scale.
This matter is reinforced by a recent report on climate change released by the Prime Minister of India. After discussing examples of environmental change throughout India, including the widely alleged melting of Himalayan glaciers, the report states that “No firm link between the documented [environmental] changes described below and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet been established”. This is exactly the opposite conclusion to that of the IPCC, in view of which it is remarkable that IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri described the report as a “good policy document” that needs to be implemented.
It beggars the imagination that an expert committee can launch a public statement about climate change that is so partial in its arguments and so out of date in its science. In particular, the statement makes no mention of three critical facts:
(i) that the best available extended atmospheric temperature record (based on weather balloon radiosonde measurements) shows no warming since 1958;
(ii) that all global temperature indices show cooling since at least 2002; and
(iii) that the quiet period between solar cycles 23 and 24 continues to extend, pointing to greater near-future cooling as it does so.
Perhaps the best that can be said about the Royal Society’s committee is that the list of responses to climate change that it recommends contains some sensible measures that would improve energy efficiency or resource security. For it is indeed in the public interest to plan for better insulated (and naturally cooled) houses, more efficient appliances and manufacturing, and the use of a diversity of cost-effective energy sources. On the other hand, there is a strange failure to mention nuclear power, and an apparent desire to encourage still the use of environmentally and socially destructive biofuels. These points aside, however, the “no-regrets” measures that are suggested by the Royal Society towards the more cost-efficient use of energy will surely proceed – and that irrespective of whether future climate should cool or warm.
Members of New Zealand Climate Committee
List correct at 09/07/08
Dr DS Wratt crsnz (Chair), NIWA Wellington, PO Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, WELLINGTON Phone: 04 386
0588 Fax: 04 386 0574 Email: d.wratt at niwa.co.nz
Dr JA Hall mrsnz, NIWA, PO Box 11 115, HAMILTON Phone: (07) 856 1709 Fax: (07) 856 0151
Email: j.hall at niwa.co.nz
Dr WA Matthews , 13 Kabul St, Khandallah, WELLINGTON Phone: 04 4791741 Fax: 04 4791742
Email: wa.matthews at gmail.com
Dr Brett Mullan , NIWA, PO Box 14 901, Kilbirnie, WELLINGTON Phone: 04 386-0508 Fax: 04 386-
2153 Email: b.mullan at niwa.cri.nz
Dr Jim Renwick mrsnz, NIWA Wellington, PO Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, WELLINGTON Phone: (04) 386
0343 Fax: (04) 386 2153 Email: j.renwick at niwa.co.nz
Dr PJH Sutton, NIWA, P O Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, WELLINGTON Phone: 04-386 0386 Fax: 04-386
2153 Email: p.sutton at niwa.co.nz
Assoc Prof R Warrick, International Global Change Institute, The University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105,
HAMILTON Phone: (07) 8384276 Fax: (07) 8384289 Email: r.warrick at waikato.ac.nz
Dr SA Weaver , School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, WELLINGTON
Phone: 04 463 5392 Fax: 04 463 5186 Email: sean.weaver at vuw.ac.nz