Updated 7 October 2010:
"...while claiming 'strong evidence' exists that warming has been caused 'largely by human activity', it acknowledges that the size of future
temperature increases and other aspects of climate change are 'still
subject to uncertainty' and that the attribution of forced climate
change to particular causes is 'not straight forward'" - Des Moore BSc, of Melbourne..
Original post :30 September 2010: Britain’s leading scientific institution has been forced to rewrite its guide to climate change and admit that there is greater uncertainty about future temperature increases than it had previously suggested. --Ben Webster, The Times.
Download the guide (PDF) here
Opening closed minds
by Des Moore
October 6, 2010
The end of scientific consensus
The Royal Society, which is Britain’s top dog in science (indeed many scientists would say the world), has just published a report signalling the end of claims of a consensus by some climate scientists and some governments that the world faces dangerous warming unless governments act quickly to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
The report, Climate Change: a summary of the science, points out that climate change “continues to be the subject of intensive scientific research and public debate” and divides the existing state of knowledge into three categories – science that is well established, where there is wide consensus but continuing debate, and where there remains substantial uncertainty.
In the latter category, for example, the acknowledgment that the uptake of CO2 by the land and oceans is “very poorly understood” is tantamount to saying that it is not possible to predict with any confidence the future concentration levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It certainly leaves open the possibility that the uptake of CO2 by land and oceans will be considerably higher than the extreme 25% rate projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (it is currently 50%). If that happened it would mean that concentrations of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) would reach supposedly dangerous levels at a significantly later date than the alarmists are predicting - and temperatures would rise less.
Further, while claiming “strong evidence” exists that warming has been caused “largely by human activity”, it acknowledges that the size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change are “still subject to uncertainty” and that the attribution of forced climate change to particular causes is “not straight forward”. Remarkably, the report also accepts that since 1910 increases in temperature have occurred in only two periods – from 1910 to 1940 and from 1975 to around 2000 – that is, for only about half of the last century. Although the usual scientific explanation of the warming thesis is that temperature increases are caused by increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, the Royal Society report provides no explanation of why the increase in CO2 concentrations during most of the century did not result in continuing temperature increases.
However, perhaps the most devastating statement for alarmists is that “It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future”. This leaves in doubt what policy should be adopted, and when, to reduce emissions. The report’s acceptance that uncertainty exists about the effect clouds have on temperatures is one important reason for delaying action. Another is the acknowledgement of poor scientific understanding in various other areas, such as the likely extent of reductions in ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica from any further temperature increases. Yet another is the admission that “there is little confidence” in projections by models of climate change in regions, including Western Europe. This also suggests that predictions of worsening drought conditions in the Murray Darling Basin have no scientific basis.
The report’s conclusion on possible increases in sea levels also implies only scanty science supports what may happen there. The main statement is that “it is very likely that for many centuries the rate of global sea level rise will be at least as large as the rate of 20 centimetres per century that has been observed over the past century”. Such an increase would constitute little or no threat by comparison with many of the scares promulgated in various quarters in recent years, including by our CSIRO. It effectively lowers the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change upper estimate of a 59 cms rise by 2100 and certainly challenges the need for the restrictions on property development which government authorities have started to impose around Australia’s coast lines.
The contrast with the conclusions drawn from the 2007 report of the IPCC is marked. The IPCC not only claimed that warming is “very likely” due to human activity (which suggests a 90 per cent certainty) but its temperature projections have been widely interpreted as requiring policy action to counter likely increases of 2.4-4.5C degrees by 2100, with a so-called tipping point of 2 degrees by 2050 beyond which further temperatures increases would not be reversible. The Royal Society report, however, offers no temperature ranges, no tipping point, is (as noted) uncertain about the possible extent of increases in temperatures and, beyond saying that climate change has “significant implications”, it offers no assessment of its possible impacts. While it does claim that temperatures in the decade 2000-2009 were globally around 0.15C higher than in the decade 1990-1989, analysis of the changes since 2000 shows no statistically significant increase.
Where to now? At Copenhagen it will be recalled that some world leaders attempted to secure an agreement for early action to start reducing emissions on a global basis. Media reports are now suggesting any agreement will not occur at the next meeting, scheduled for Cancun in Mexico next month, and is being set for South Africa next year.
As for Australia, the statement by new Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, that the government accepts “mainstream economic thinking” now raises the question – well, given the Society’s report what is the mainstream? The terms of reference of the committee established to examine how to introduce a carbon price must surely be changed to examine whether and when any price might be implemented.
The report by the Royal Society, members of which are highly qualified scientists, is a response to complaints by a small group that the Society’s claim of a consensus was untenable and contrary to science itself. The report suggests a review in Australia that included the sceptical scientists here would produce a similar outcome.
Des Moore, Director, Institute for Private Enterprise, has a BSc degree from London University
Royal Society Bows To Climate Change Sceptics
The Times, 30 September 2010
Britain’s leading scientific institution has been forced to rewrite its guide to climate change and admit that there is greater uncertainty about future temperature increases than it had previously suggested.
The Royal Society is publishing a new document today after a rebellion by more than 40 of its fellows who questioned mankind’s contribution to rising temperatures.
Climate change: a summary of the science states that “some uncertainties are unlikely ever to be significantly reduced”. Unlike Climate change controversies, a simple guide — the document it replaces — it avoids making predictions about the impact of climate change and refrains from advising governments about how they should respond.
The new guide says: “The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty.”
The Royal Society even appears to criticise scientists who have made predictions about heatwaves and rising sea levels. It now says: “There is little confidence in specific projections of future regional climate change, except at continental scales.”
It adds: “It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future.
“There remains the possibility that hitherto unknown aspects of the climate and climate change could emerge and lead to significant modifications in our understanding.”
The working group that produced the new guide took advice from two Royal Society fellows who have links to the climate-sceptic think-tank founded by Lord Lawson of Blaby.
Professor Anthony Kelly and Sir Alan Rudge are members of the academic advisory council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. They were among 43 fellows who signed a petition sent to Lord Rees, the society’s president, asking for its statement on climate change to be rewritten to take more account of questions raised by sceptics.
Professor John Pethica, the society’s vice-president and chairman of the working group that wrote the document, said the guide stated clearly that there was “strong evidence” that the warming of the Earth over the past half-century had been caused largely by human activity.
Meanwhile, the Government is planning an exercise to test how England and Wales would cope with severe flooding caused by climate change. Exercise Watermark will take place in March and test emergency services and communities on a range of scenarios that could occur.
The Times, 30 September 2010
GWPF Welcomes Royal Society's Toned Down Climate Stance
The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 30 September 2010
LONDON, 30 September - The Global Warming Policy Foundation has welcomed the Royal Society's decision to revise and tone down its position on climate change. Its new climate guide is an improvement on their more alarmist 2007 pamphlet which caused an internal rebellion by more than 40 fellows of the Society and triggered a review and subsequent revisions.
The former publication gave the misleading impression that the 'science is settled' - the new guide accepts that important questions remain open and uncertainties unresolved. "The Royal Society now also agrees with the GWPF that the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years," said Dr Benny Peiser, the Director of the GWPF.
Dr David Whitehouse, the science editor of the GWPF said: "The biggest failing of the new guide is that it dismisses temperature data prior to 1850 as limited and leaves it at that. It would cast a whole new light on today's warming if the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period and the Bronze Age Warm Period were as warm as today, possiblity even warmer than today. A thorough discussion of the growing empirical evidence for the global existence of the Medieval Warm Period and its implications would have been a valuable addition to the new report."
In their old guide, the Royal Society demanded that governments should take "urgent steps" to cut CO2 emissions "as much and as fast as possible." This political activism has now been replaced by a more sober assessment of the scientific evidence and ongoing climate debates.
"If this voice of moderation had been the Royal Society's position all along, its message to Government would have been more restrained and Britain's unilateral climate policy would not be out of sync with the rest of the world," Dr Peiser said.
3) Climate change: A Summary of the Science
The Royal Society, 30 September 2010
Climate change continues to be a subject of intense public and political debate. Because of the level of interest in the topic the Royal Society has produced a new guide to the science of climate change. The guide summarises the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers, highlighting the areas where the science is well established, where there is still some debate, and where substantial uncertainties remain.
The document was prepared by a working group chaired by Professor John Pethica, Vice President of the Royal Society and was approved by the Royal Society Council.