Have 250.000 Spanish jobs been sacrificed for the folly of saving the planet?

Spain is one of the leading countries in Europe for Renewables. In 2013 output broke new records, with renewables accounting for 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand, with wind and hydroelectric power production increasing by 12% and 16%, respectively on 2012.

This is to the detriment of the Spanish economy for three financial reasons.

First is the huge amount now likely being spent on wind power subsidies. In 2013 output from wind farms was about 54GWh, or 12% higher than the 48.5GWh produced in 2012. Assuming an average subsidy of €54MWh (the rate for onshore wind turbines in the UK) that would be €2.9billion in subsidies.

Second, there is the huge amount now likely being spent on solar power. Spain is home to the massive Anadasol Solar Power Station. The three sections are expected to produce 495GWh per year, which at 38% of capacity seems a tad high. This will have a guaranteed price of €270 per megawatt. In the UK, the wholesale price is about £45 or €60 a megawatt. The excess cost (or subsidy) is therefore €210MWh, or €100million a year. At this rate, the total 8.2GWh produced by photovoltaics would have attracted a subsidy of €1.7bn in subsidies.

The combined estimated subsidy is worth €4.6bn is equivalent to 0.3% of GDP. Total subsidies are likely to be much more.

Third is the disastrous foray in solar panels lead to huge amounts of investments in solar schemes. In 2008 there were an estimated 30,000 jobs supported in the boom years. These jobs disappeared with the bust. With this sudden boom, caused by extremely generous subsidies, the quality of the panels was poor and overpriced. Many investors would not have got their money back even if the subsidies had remained. Now they will be saddled in debt, with no income. These borrowing were often state-backed. According to Bloomberg this fund was €24bn at the end of 2011. If some of this has to be written off, then there could be a material impact on deficit reduction plans, and thus the levels of unemployment. Government backing loss-making projects costs jobs.

This claim can be cross-checked. In the same Bloomberg article the Renewable Energy Producers Association (Asociación de productores de energías renovables or APPA) was quoted as saying that the renewables industry sustains about 110,000 Spanish jobs. In 2011 Verso Economics, a Kirkcaldy-based outfit, wrote a report about the effect of renewables jobs in Scotland and the impact on the wider UK. Whilst the report found that the jobs in renewables were largely neutral with Scotland – one job lost in the wider economy for each gained in renewables – in the wider UK economy for each job gained in Scottish renewables 3.7 jobs were lost in the wider UK economy. (report here, and reported at Caledonian Mercury, BBC and Scottish Sceptic) If this were replicated in Spain, the net impact of 110,000 jobs in renewables would be 400,000 jobs less jobs in the wider Spanish economy. Without renewables more than 250,000 people could be in work, or over 1% of the labor force.

Why I call Spain’s attempt to save the planet a folly, are the same reasons for calling Britain’s attempts a folly. Any emissions reductions in Europe will be more than offset by many times over from the emerging economies elsewhere. In reducing emissions, Spain will increase unemployment and reduce growth. But future generations will still bear over 80% of any consequences of warming than if no rich country did anything. In the current situation, I believe that a lot of Spanish people might object to their country being called “rich” anyway.

Update 20/11/14 – minor editing.

Spending Money on Foreign Aid instead of Renewables

On the Discussion at BishopHill, commentator Raff asked people whether the $1.7 trillion spent so far on renewables should have been spent on foreign aid instead. This is an extended version of my reply.

The money spent on renewables has been net harmful by any measure. It has not only failed to even dent global emissions growth, it will also fail even if the elusive global agreement is reached as the country targets do not stack up. So the people of the emissions-reducing countries will bear both the cost of those policies and practically all the costs of the unabated warming as well. The costs of those policies have been well above anything justified in the likes of the Stern Review. There are plenty of British examples at Bishop Hill of costs being higher than expected and (often) solutions being much less effective than planned from Wind, solar, CCS, power transmission, domestic energy saving etc. Consequences have been to create a new category of poverty and make our energy supplies less secure. In Spain the squandering of money has been proportionately greater and likely made a significant impact of the severity of the economic depression.1

The initial justification for foreign aid came out of the Harrod and Domar growth models. Lack of economic growth was due to lack of investment, and poor countries cannot get finance for that necessary investment. Foreign Aid, by bridging the “financing gap“, would create the desired rate of economic growth. William Easterly looked at 40 years of data in his 2002 book “The Elusive Quest for Growth“. Out of over 80 countries, he could find just one – Tunisia – where foreign aid conformed to the theory. That is where increased aid was followed by increased investment which was followed by increased growth. There were plenty examples of where countries received huge amounts of aid relative to GDP over decades and their economies shrank. Easterly graphically confirmed what the late Peter Bauer said over thirty years ago – “Official aid is more likely to retard development than to promote it.

In both constraining CO2 emissions and Foreign Aid the evidence shows that the pursuit of these policies is not just useless, but possibly net harmful. An analogy could be made with a doctor who continues to pursue courses of treatment when the evidence shows that the treatment not only does not work, but has known and harmful side effects. In medicine it is accepted that new treatments should be rigorously tested, and results challenged, before being applied. But a challenge to that doctor’s opinion would be a challenge to his expert authority and moral integrity. In constraining CO2 emissions and promoting foreign aid it is even more so.

Notes

  1. The rationale behind this claim is explored in a separate posting.

Kevin Marshall

The Climate Policy Issue Crystallized

There is a huge amount of nonsense made about how the rich industrialized countries need to cut carbon emissions to save the world from catastrophic global warming. Just about every climate activist group is gearing up to Paris 2015 where at last they feel that world agreement will be reach on restraining the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Barak Obama will be pushing for a monumental deal in the dying days of his Presidency. There is a graphic that points out, whatever agreement is signed attempts to cut global emissions will be a monumental failure. It comes from the blandly named “Trends in global CO2 emissions: 2013 report” from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. In the interactive presentation, there is a comparison between the industrialised countries in 1990 and 2012.


In over two decades the emissions of the industrialised countries have fallen slightly, almost entirely due to the large falls in emission in the ex-Warsaw Pact countries consequent on the collapse in the energy-inefficient communist system. In the countries formerly known as the “First World” the emissions have stayed roughly the same. It is the developing countries that account for more than 100% of the emissions increase since 1990. Two-thirds of the entire increase is accounted for by China where in less than a generation emissions quadrupled. Yet still China has half the emissions per capita of United States, Australia or Canada. It emissions growth will slow and stop in the next couple of decades, not because population will peak, or because of any agreement to stop emissions growth. China’s emissions will peak, like with other developed countries, as heavy industry shifts abroad and the country becomes more energy efficient. In the next 30-40 years India is likely to contribute more towards global emissions growth than China. But the “remaining developing countries” is the real elephant in the room. It includes 1050 million people in Africa (excluding South Africa); 185m in South America (excluding Brazil); 182m in Pakistan; 167m in Bangladesh, 98m in Philippines and 90m in Vietnam. The is over 2000 million people, or 30% of the global population that do not currently register on the global emissions scale, but by mid-century could have emissions equivalent to half of the 1990 global emissions. To the end of the century most of the global population increase will be in these countries. As half the countries of the world are in this group any attempt to undermine their potential economic growth through capping emissions would derail any chance of a global agreement.

Hattip Michel of trustyetverify

Kevin Marshall

Ivanpah 392MW Solar Plant a green energy failure even at the planning stage

The Hockey Schtick blog specializes in summarizing scientific papers that have a sceptical leaning. A couple of days ago it posted about the World’s largest solar energy plant applying for a $539million federal grant to help pay off a $1.5 billion federal loan. The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG. Google can certainly afford to bear these loses. At the end of 2013 its accounts state that it had Cash, Cash Equivalents & Marketable Securities of $58,717million, $10,000million than the year before.

Technologically the Ivanpah plant sounds impressive. Problem is that in it’s first year of operation it produced one quarter of the projected electricity. As a minor consequence, it was projected to scorch 1,000 birds a year. Instead it is 28,000 in the first year. A three minute summary is at Fox News.

But even at the planning stage there was either no proper business plan presented, or at least no proper scrutiny like a bank would do when making a loan. 1065,000 MWh annually from a 392 MW nameplate is a planned output of 31% of capacity. Even accepting that figure, a $2bn investment with a 20 year payback (zero discount rate) is still nearly $100 MWh. A 10 year payback is much more reasonable. Add maintenance and operating costs easily gets to $200 MWh. A small utility company in Wisconsin buys in extra electricity for $30 MWh. So the planned cost was 6-7 times the wholesale price of electricity.

Maybe this was justified in saving the planet?

The AR4 synthesis report of 2007* said that peer-reviewed estimates of the social costs of carbon from averaged on 2005 $12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2). If we take the bold assumption that the theoretic output of this plant would entirely replace the electricity from a typical coal-fired power station producing 900kg of CO2 per MWh, then the saving is $190t/CO2, or double the very top-end 2005 estimate, or 15 times the average estimate. For some reason, the Social Cost of Carbon is missing from the

Suppose the US was “really serious” about doing its bit to save the planet and tried to cut its CO2 emissions by 80%. In round figures, in 2013 that was 5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (source CDIAC). Using similar schemes, it would cost $760bn a year or 5% of 2013 GDP of $16.8trn. Remember, that is if similar schemes are successful. The Ivanpah solar plant does not look like a success.

 

* For some reason, the Social Cost of Carbon is missing from the AR5 Synthesis Report published on November 1st. I would guess the reason that it has fallen out of favour is that the marginal abatement costs are much larger than the highest estimates, and the cost of doing nothing per tonne of CO2 are about zero.

Kevin Marshall

BBC understates Cost of Climate Policy by 45 to 50 times

The UNIPCC has just finished a major meeting in Copenhagen to put finalize the wording of their AR5 Synthesis Report. BBC News Environment correspondent Matt McGrath said

The IPCC says that the cost of taking action to keep the rise in temperature under 2 degrees C over the next 76 years will cost about 0.06% of GDP every year.

Over the same period, world GDP is expected to grow at least 300%

The figure of 0.06% of GDP (strictly Gross World Product) seemed a bit low. So I looked up the source of this quote.

The Synthesis Report states on pages 116-117

Estimates of the aggregate economic costs of mitigation vary widely depending on methodologies and assumptions, but increase with the stringency of mitigation (high confidence). Scenarios in which all countries of the world begin mitigation immediately, in which there is a single global carbon price, and in which all key technologies are available, have been used as a cost-effective benchmark for estimating macroeconomic mitigation costs. (Figure 3.4). Under these assumptions, mitigation scenarios that are likely to limit warming to below 2 °C through the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels entail losses in global consumption —not including benefits of reduced climate change (3.2) as well as co-benefits and adverse side-effects of mitigation (3.5, 4.3) — of 1% to 4% (median: 1.7%) in 2030, 2% to 6% (median: 3.4%) in 2050, and 3% to 11% (median: 4.8%) in 2100, relative to consumption in baseline scenarios that grows anywhere from 300% to more than 900% over the century. These numbers correspond to an annualized reduction of consumption growth by 0.04 to 0.14 (median: 0.06) percentage points over the century relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6% and 3% per year.

Matt McGarth (or a press officer) has wrongly assumed that 0.06% of GDP is the reduction in output, whereas the Synthesis Report talks about a reduction in growth rate. At any rate of growth, the impact of .06% reduction in growth rates will mean output in 2100 will be 4.8% lower. We can put a monetary impact on this through to 2090. The World Bank estimates global output was $74,910 billion in 2013. To keep the figures simple I will assume that 2014 will be $75,000 bn. The figures are below for 2090.

With 1.94% growth global output in 2090 will be $323,038bn, about $14,774bn less than if there was 2% growth. Cumulatively a 0.06% reduction in growth would be $369,901bn. But a cost of 0.06% each year of global output, with 2% growth is a mere $8,087bn. Misstatement of the UNIPCC’s position understates the cumulative cost by 45.7 times.

Similarly, with 2.94% growth global output in 2090 will be $678,356bn, about $30,716bn less than if there was 3% growth. Cumulatively a 0.06% reduction in growth would be $644,144bn. But a cost of 0.06% each year of global output, with 3% growth is a mere $13,107bn. Misstatement of the UNIPCC’s position understates the cumulative cost by 49.1 times.

The BBC or the UNIPCC needs to issue a correction. The UNIPCC have at last recognized that policy will effect economic growth. It is way too low, particularly for the high-policy countries who are put at an economic disadvantage relative to those countries without policies. Now they need to also look at the additional estimated costs of low carbon energy, along with the hidden costs of regulation and failed policies.

Thanks to Joanne Nova for highlighting the quote.

Kevin Marshall

Britain’s Folly in Attempting to Save the World from Global Warming

Last week in the House of Lords1 Viscount Ridley asked Baroness Verma, a minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, about the hiatus in global warming. Lord Ridley asked Lady Verma

Would you give us the opinion of your scientific advisers as to when this hiatus is likely to end.

Lady Verma replied

It may have slowed down, but that is a good thing. It could well be that some of the measures we are taking today is helping that to occur.

I already commented at Bishop Hill – repeated by James Delingpole

From 1990 to 2013 global emissions increased by 61%. Of that increase, 67% was from China & India. This is not surprising as they were both growing fast from a low base, and combined contain nearly 40% of global population. The UK, with less than 1% of global population managed to decrease its emissions by 19%. In doing so, they managed to offset nearly 1.2% of the combined increase in China & India.

However this is not the full story, particularly with respect to understanding future emissions growth. Here I extend the analysis of the CDIAC data set2 to give a more comprehensive picture. CDIAC (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre) have estimates of CO2 emissions in tonnes of carbon equivalent for all countries from 1960 to 2013. These I have split out the countries of India, China and UK. The rest I have lumped into three groups – The major developed ACEJU countries3, the Ex-Warsaw Pact countries4 and ROW5 (Rest of the World). For emissions I have taken the baseline year of 1990, the latest year of 2013 and then forecast emissions for 20206.

The major developed economies have virtually unchanged, although, along with the UK the proportion of global emissions has fallen from 45% to 28% between 1990 and 2013 and are forecasted to fall further to 23% of global emissions even without aggressive emission reduction policies.

The collapse of communism meant the collective emissions of the Ex-Warsaw Pact countries fell by 44% between 1988 and 1999. That in 2020 emissions levels will still be around 20% lower, even though the economies will be far richer, is due to the inefficiencies of the Communist system.

China and India had most of the emissions growth between 1990 and 2013, there emissions growing by 300% and 250% respectively. That growth was equivalent to 16 times the UK emissions in 1990. By 2020 China and India’s emissions growth over 30 years is likely to have cancelled out the UK’s 30% reduction 78 times over. That forecast emissions increase from 1990 to 2020 is also a third larger than the combined 1990 emissions of the major rich countries.

Finally there is the ROW countries, nearly half the World’s population now live and where emissions increased by 130% between 1990 and 2013.

To put these figures in context, we need to look at population figures, which are available from the World Bank7.

The big CO2 emitters in 1990 were the First and Second World countries. Over two-thirds of global emissions were produced by a quarter of the population. Those same countries now produce 40% of global emissions and have 20% of the global population. The population has grown, but only by 10%. In some of the countries it is already falling. China’s population grew by 20%, India’s by 44% and the Rest of the World by 55%, giving a global population growth of 35%. Looking at CO2 emissions in tonnes per capita puts the CO2 emissions problem into perspective.

China started from an extremely low base in terms of emissions per capita. It is unlikely to exceed the rich world’s 1990 emissions per capita in the next 10 years. However, due to slower population growth and its current stage of development, it is unlikely to be the major source of emissions growth through to 2050. It is likely to be overtaken by India, who in turn will be overtaken by the rest of the world before the end of the century. Unless very cheap non-CO2 emitting sources of energy are developed, global emissions will continue to grow. That emissions growth will be the result of genuine economic growth that will see grinding poverty disappear from every country that embraces the modern world.

The UK with less than 1% of the world’s population will continue to have no impact at all despite all the hype of having the World’s “greenest” energy policies. Even if the scariest scenarios of Lord Stern’s nightmares are true, there is absolutely no reason to continue with policies that are pushing ever greater numbers into fuel poverty and jeopardizing security of energy supply. The future impacts will be just the same, but with current policy, Britons will meet that future poorer than without. The British Government is like a doctor that prescribes useless medicine in the knowledge that it has nasty side effects. Most would agree that a GP who did that to a patient should be struck off, even if it were one patient in hundreds.

For the people who still genuinely believe that increasing CO2 emissions will cause catastrophic climate change there are two causes of action. First is to find a plentiful source of non-polluting energy where the full costs are less than coal, but just as reliable. There is genuine pollution from coal in the form of smog, so everyone should be in support of this. Shale gas, then thorium nuclear reactors might be a ways forward in the next few decades. Second is to far more accurately predict the catastrophic consequences of global warming, so adaptation can be made at minimal cost and waste of resources. Every prediction of short term catastrophe (e.g. worsening hurricanes) or a worsening situation (e.g. accelerating sea level rise) has proved to be false, hence the reliance on noisy publicists and political activists that discourage learning from past mistakes.

 

Please note that first time comments are moderated. I welcome debate. Please use the comments as a point of contact, with a request not to publish.

Kevin Marshall

Notes

  1. As reported by James Delingpole at Brietbart. Also reported at The Daily Mail, Bishop Hill, and Not a Lot of People Know That here and here.
  2. CDIAC is the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. The 2014 Budget 1.0 contains estimates of CO2 emissions in tonnes of carbon equivalent for all countries from 1960 to 2013. I have converted the figures to tonnes of CO2.
  3. Australia, Canada, EU (the Western European 15, less UK), Japan and USA. This is most of what used to be called “First World”.
  4. This includes the former USSR countries, plus Eastern Europe. I have added in North Korea, Yugoslavia and Cuba.
  5. By definition this includes Central and South America, Africa, Middle East and South East Asia.
  6. Britain has committed to reduce its emissions by 30% of 1990 levels by 2020. China has pledged to “Reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 40–45% by 2020 compared to the 2005 level”. I assume 8% GDP growth and achieving a full 45% reduction, which is achievable. Similarly India has pledged to Reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 20–25% by 2020 compared to the 2005 level. Although it is unlikely to be achieved, based on emissions growth from 2005-2013, I have a assumed 7% GDP growth and achieving a minimum 20% reduction. For the other countries I have assumed half the emissions change from 1999-2013. This is likely to be an underestimate, as many other economies are growing emissions are a fast annual rate. For them this assumes a much reduced growth rate. Also many developed economies, particularly in Southern European showed sharp drops in emissions along with GDP in the credit crunch. They are now emerging, so should be expected to have higher emission growth rates.
  7. The 2020 population figures are assuming that each country’s population will change in the next seven years by the same number that it did in the previous seven. As world population growth in slowing, this might be a reasonable estimate. The result is a population increase of 550 million to 7,675 million.

UNIPCC Risk Management Process

Thanks to Tom0Mason for pointing out the following graphic SPM.3 at from the UNIPCC AR5 WGII report.

He states

Within the documentation (page 9 of the full report) is Figure SPM.3 | Climate-change adaptation as an iterative risk management process with multiple feedbacks. People and knowledge shape the process and its outcomes. [Figure 2-1]

This graphic implies that the UN has the ability to tell governments what to do. You all voted for that didn’t you?

Yes the UN minions have set themselves up as identifiers of risk, assessors of risk, establishers of decision-making criteria, and implementers decision and then they’ll monitor you compliance.

I am not sure that I entirely agree. The UNIPCC might have set themselves up as telling governments what to do, but they only partially heed what they claim in the chart, and governments even less so. For instance on “scoping“, the identification of risks and vulnerabilities is only partially followed through. In AR4 the UNIPCC scrapped around for every possible risk they could find, and then embellished them. They later admitted the Himalayan glaciers were fabricated, but there was nothing on similar fabrications for crop failures in Africa or for the collapse of the Amazon Rainforest. Nor was there an admission that claims of increasing hurricane activity were unsupported; or that the vanishing snows of Kilimanjaro were not from rising temperatures . The process of scoping should include categorizing risks according to magnitude, likelihood and the quality of the evidence. But no such critical evaluation takes place.

Implementation is a loop of

Implement Decision Monitor Review and Learn

In practice (with the UK as an example) implementation is accompanied by an enforcing agency whose monitoring consists of justifying the policy, with no independent audits of the success of the policy, nor identifying any adverse consequences. As a result the reviews to not learn from mistakes, nor how to improve the quality of policy, nor how to take into account new evidence, nor to consider the increasing evidence that the optimal policy is to do nothing.

Kevin Marshall


Theconsensusproject – unskeptical misinformation on Global Warming

Summary

Following the publication of a survey finding a 97% consensus on global warming in the peer-reviewed literature the team at “skepticalscience.com” launched theconsensusproject.com website. Here I evaluate the claims using two of website owner John Cook’s own terms. First, that “genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth”. Second is that misinformation is highly damaging to democratic societies, and reducing its effects a difficult and complex challenge.

Applying these standards, I find that

  • The 97% consensus paper is very weak evidence to back global warming. Stronger evidence, such as predictive skill and increasing refinement of the human-caused warming hypothesis, are entirely lacking.
  • The claim that “warming is human caused” has been contradicted at the Sks website. Statements about catastrophic consequences are unsupported.
  • The prediction of 8oF of warming this century without policy is contradicted by the UNIPCC reference.
  • The prediction of 4oF of warming with policy fails to state this is contingent on successful implementation by all countires.
  • The costs of unmitigated warming and the costs of policy and residual warming are from cherry-picking from two 2005 sources. Neither source makes the total claim. The claims of the Stern Review, and its critics, are ignored.

Overall, by his own standards, John Cook’s Consensus Project website is a source of extreme unskeptical misinformation.

 

Introduction

Last year, following the successful publication of their study on “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature“, the team at skepticalscience.com (Sks) created the spinoff website theconsensusproject.com.

I could set some standards of evaluation of my own. But the best way to evaluate this website is by Sks owner and leader, John Cook’s, own standards.

First, he has a rather odd definition of what skeptic. In an opinion piece in 2011 Cook stated:-

Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.

This definition might be totally at odds with the world’s greatest dictionary in any language, but it is the standard Cook sets.

Also Cook co-wrote a short opinion pamphlet with Stephan Lewandowsky called The Debunking Handbook. It begins

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

Cook fully believes that accuracy is hugely important. Therefore we should see evidence great care in ensuring the accuracy of anything that he or his followers promote.

 

The Scientific Consensus

The first page is based on the paper

Cooks definition of a skeptic considering “all the evidence” is technically not breached. With over abstracts 12,000 papers evaluated it is a lot of evidence. The problem is nicely explained by Andrew Montford in the GWPF note “FRAUD, BIAS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS – The 97% ‘consensus’ and its critics“.

The formulation ‘that humans are causing global warming’ could have two different meanings. A ‘deep’ consensus reading would take it as all or most of the warming is caused by humans. A ‘shallow’ consensus reading would imply only that some unspecified proportion of the warming observed is attributable to mankind.

It is the shallow consensus that the paper followed, as found by a leaked email from John Cook that Montford quotes.

Okay, so we’ve ruled out a definition of AGW being ‘any amount of human influence’ or ‘more than 50% human influence’. We’re basically going with Ari’s porno approach (I probably should stop calling it that) which is AGW= ‘humans are causing global warming’. e.g. – no specific quantification which is the only way we can do it considering the breadth of papers we’re surveying.

There is another aspect. A similar methodology applied to social science papers produced in the USSR would probably produce an overwhelming consensus supporting the statement “communism is superior to capitalism”. Most papers would now be considered worthless.

There is another aspect is the quality of that evidence. Surveying the abstracts of peer-reviewed papers is a very roundabout way of taking an opinion poll. It is basically some people’s opinions of others implied opinions from short statements on tangentially related issues. In legal terms it is an extreme form of hearsay.

More important still is whether as a true “skeptic” all the evidence (or at least the most important parts) has been considered. Where is the actual evidence that humans cause significant warming? That is beyond the weak correlation between rising greenhouse gas levels and rising average temperatures. Where is the evidence that the huge numbers of climate scientists have understanding of their subject, demonstrated by track record of successful short predictions and increasing refinement of the human-caused warming hypothesis? Where is the evidence that they are true scientists following in the traditions of Newton, Einstein, Curie and Feynman, and not the followers of Comte, Marx and Freud? If John Cook is a true “skeptic”, and is presenting the most substantial evidence, then climate catastrophism is finished. But if Cook leaves out much better evidence then his survey is misinformation, undermining the case for necessary action.

 

Causes of global warming

The next page is headed.

There is no exclusion of other causes of the global warming since around 1800. But, with respect to the early twentieth century warming Dana Nuccitelli said

CO2 and the Sun played the largest roles in the early century warming, but other factors played a part as well.

However, there is no clear way of sorting out the contribution of the relative components. The statement “the causes of global warming are clear” is false.

On the same page there is this.

This is a series of truth statements about the full-blown catastrophic anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. Regardless of the strength of the evidence in support it is still a hypothesis. One could treat some scientific hypotheses as being essentially truth statements, such as that “smoking causes lung cancer” and “HIV causes AIDS”, as they are so very strongly-supported by the multiple lines of evidence1. There is no scientific evidence provided to substantiate the claim that global warming is harmful, just the shallow 97% consensus belief that humans cause some warming.

This core “global warming is harmful” statement is clear misinformation. It is extremely unskeptical, as it is arrived at by not considering any evidence.

 

Predictions and Policy

The final page is in three parts – warming prediction without policy; warming prediction with policy; and the benefits and costs of policy.

Warming prediction without policy

The source info for the prediction of 8oF (4.4oC) warming by 2100 without policy is from the 2007 UNIPCC AR4 report. It is now seven years out of date. The relevant table linked to is this:-

There are a whole range of estimates here, all with uncertainty bands. The highest has a best estimate of 4.0oC or 7.2oF. They seem to have taken the highest best estimate and rounded up. But this scenario is strictly for the temperature change at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999. This is for a 105 year period, against an 87 year period on the graph. Pro-rata the best estimate for A1F1 scenario is 3.3oC or 6oF.

But a genuine “skeptic” considers all the evidence, not cherry-picks the evidence which suit their arguments. If there is a best estimate to be chosen, which one of the various models should it be? In other areas of science, when faced with a number of models to use for future predictions the one chosen is the one that performs best. Leading climatologist, Dr Roy Spencer, has provided us with such a comparison. Last year he ran 73 of the latest climate CIMP5 models. Compared to actual data every single one was running too hot.

A best estimate on the basis of all the evidence would be somewhere between zero and 1.1oC, the lowest figure available from any of the climate models. To claim a higher figure than the best estimate of the most extreme of the models is not only dismissing reality, but denying the scientific consensus.

But maybe this hiatus in warming of the last 16-26 years is just an anomaly? There are at possibly 52 explanations of this hiatus, with more coming along all the time. However, given that they allow for natural factors and/or undermine the case for climate models accurately describing climate, the case for a single extreme prediction of warming to 2100 is further undermined. To maintain that 8oF of warming is – by Cook’s own definition – an extreme case of climate denial.

Warming prediction with policy

If the 8oF of predicted human-caused warming is extreme, then a policy that successfully halves that potential warming is not 4oF, but half of whatever the accurate prediction would be. But there are further problems. To be successful, that policy involves every major Government of developed countries reducing emissions by 80% (least including USA, Russia, EU, and Japan) by around 2050, and every other major country (at least including Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Ukraine) constraining emissions at current levels for ever. To get all countries to sign-up to such a policy combatting global warming over all other commitments is near impossible. Then take a look at the world map in 1925-1930 and see if you could reasonably have expected those Governments to have signed commitments binding on the Governments of 1945, let alone today. To omit policy considerations is an act of gross naivety, and clear misinformation.

The benefits and costs of policy

The benefits and costs of policy is the realm of economics, not of climatology. Here Cook’s definition of skeptic does not apply. There is no consensus in economics. However, there are general principles that are applied, or at least were applied when I studied the subject in the 1980s.

  • Modelled projections are contingent on assumptions, and are adjusted for new data.
  • Any competent student must be aware of the latest developments in the field.
  • Evaluation of competing theories is by comparing and contrasting.
  • If you are referencing a paper in support of your arguments, at least check that it does just that.

The graphic claims that the “total costs by 2100” of action are $10 trillion, as against $20 trillion of inaction. The costs of action are made up of more limited damages costs. There are two sources for this claim, both from 2005. The first is from “The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change”, a report commissioned by the EU. In the Executive Summary is stated:-

Given that €1.00 ≈ $1.20, the costs of inaction are $89 trillion and of reducing to 550ppm CO2 equivalent (the often quoted crucial level of 2-3 degrees of warming from a doubling of CO2 levels above pre-industrial levels) $38 trillion, the costs do not add up. However, the average of 43 and 32 is 37.5, or about half of 74. This gives the halving of total costs.

The second is from the German Institute for Economic Research. They state:-

If climate policy measures are not introduced, global climate change damages amounting to up to 20 trillion US dollars can be expected in the year 2100.

This gives the $20 trillion.

The costs of an active climate protection policy implemented today would reach globally around 430 billion US dollars in 2050 and around 3 trillion US dollars in 2100.

This gives the low policy costs of combatting global warming.

It is only by this arbitrary sampling of figures from the two papers that the websites figures can be established. But there is a problem in reconciling the two papers. The first paper has cumulative figures up to 2100. The shorthand for this is “total costs by 2100“. The $20 trillion figure is an estimate for the year 2100. The statement about the policy costs confirms this. This confusion leads the policy costs to be less than 0.1% of global output, instead of around 1% or more.

Further the figures are contradicted by the Stern Review of 2006, which was widely quoted in the UNIPCC AR4. In the summary of conclusions, Stern stated.

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

The benefit/cost ratio is dramatically different. Tol and Yohe provided a criticism of Stern, showing he used the most extreme estimates available. A much fuller criticism is provided by Peter Lilley in 2012. The upshot is that even with a single prediction of the amount and effects of warming, there is a huge range of cost impacts. Cook is truly out of his depth when stating single outcomes. What is worse is that the costs and effectiveness of policy to greenhouse emissions is far greater than benefit-cost analyses allow.

 

Conclusion

To take all the evidence into account and to present the conclusions in a way that clearly presents the information available, are extremely high standards to adhere to. But theconsensusproject.com does not just fail to get close to these benchmarks, it does the opposite. It totally fails to consider all the evidence. Even the sources it cites are grossly misinterpreted. The conclusion that I draw is that the benchmarks that Cook and the skepticalscience.com team have set are just weapons to shut down opponents, leaving the field clear for their shallow, dogmatic and unsubstantiated beliefs.

Kevin Marshall

 

Notes

  1. The evidence for “smoking causes lung cancer” I discuss here. The evidence for “HIV causes AIDS” is very ably considered by the AIDS charity AVERT at this page. AVERT is an international HIV and AIDS charity, based in the UK, working to avert HIV and AIDS worldwide, through education, treatment and care. – See more here.
  2. Jose Duarte has examples here.

How Skeptical Science maintains the 97% Consensus fallacy

Richard Tol has at last published a rebuttal of the Cook et al 97% consensus paper. So naturally Skeptical Science, run by John Cook publishes a rebuttal by Dana Nuccitelli. It is cross-posted at the Guardian Climate Consensus – the 97%, that is authored by Dana Nuccitelli. I strongly believe in comparing and contrasting different points of view, and winning an argument on its merits. Here are some techniques that Dana1981 employ that go counter to my view. That is discouraging the reader from looking at the other side by failing to link to opposing views, denigrating the opponents, and distorting the arguments.

Refusing to acknowledge the opponents credentials

Dana says

…… economist and Global Warming Policy Foundation advisor Richard Tol

These are extracts from Tol’s own biography, with my underlines

Richard S.J. Tol is a Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Sussex and the Professor of the Economics of Climate Change…. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Formerly, he was a Research Professor (in), Dublin, the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University …..He has had visiting appointments at ……. University of Victoria, British Colombia (&)University College London, and at the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of Economics…….. He is ranked among the top 100 economists in the world, and has over 200 publications in learned journals (with 100+ co-authors), 3 books, 5 major reports, 37 book chapters, and many minor publications. He specialises in the economics of energy, environment, and climate, and is interested in integrated assessment modelling. He is an editor for Energy Economics, and an associate editor of economics the e-journal. He is advisor and referee of national and international policy and research. He is an author (contributing, lead, principal and convening) of Working Groups I, II and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…..

Dana and Cook can’t even get close – so they hide it.

Refusing to link the Global Warming Policy Foundation

There is a link to the words. It goes to a desmogblog article which begins with the words

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a United Kingdom think tank founded by climate change denialist Nigel Lawson.

The description is the GWPF’s website is

We are an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity which, while open-minded on the contested science of global warming, is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated.

Failing to allow reader to understand the alternative view for themselves

The Guardian does not link to Tol’s article. The SkS article links to the peer-reviewed paper, which costs $19.95. Bishop Hill blog also links you to Tol’s own blog, where he discusses in layman’s terms the article. There is also a 3 minute presentation video, created by the paper’s publishers, where Tol explains the findings.

Distorted evidence on data access

Dana says

The crux of Tol’s paper is that he would have conducted a survey of the climate literature in a slightly different way than our approach. He’s certainly welcome to do just that – as soon as we published our paper, we also launched a webpage to make it as easy as possible for anyone to read the same scientific abstracts that we looked at and test the consensus for themselves.

Tol says

So I asked for the data to run some tests myself. I got a fraction, and over the course of the next four months I got a bit more – but still less than half of all data are available for inspection. Now Cook’s university is sending legal threats to a researcher who found yet another chunk of data.

The Mystery, threatened, researcher

The researcher is Brandon Shollenberger.

Dana says

In addition to making several basic errors, Tol cited numerous denialist and GWPF blog posts, including several about material stolen from our team’s private discussion forum during a hacking.

Brandon gives a description of how obtained the data at “wanna be hackers?“. It was not hacking, in the sense of by-passing passwords and other security, but following the links left around on unprotected sites. What is more, he used similar methods to those used before to get access to a “secret” discussion forum. This forum included some disturbing Photoshop images, including this one of John Cook, complete with insignia of the Sks website.

A glowing endorsement of counter critiques

Dana says

An anonymous individual has also published an elegant analysis
showing that Tol’s method will decrease the consensus no matter what data are put into it. In other words, his 91% consensus result is an artifact of his flawed methodology.

So it must be right then, and also the last word?

Failing to look at the counter-counter critique

Dana, like other fellow believers, does not look at the rebuttal.

Bishop Hill says

This has prompted a remarkable rapid response from an anonymous author here, which says that Tol has it all wrong. If I understand it correctly, Tol has corrected Cook’s results. The critic claims to have worked back from Tol’s results to what should have been Cook’s original results and got a nonsense result, thus demonstrating that Tol’s method is nonsense.

Tol’s reply today equally quickfire and says that his critic, who he has dubbed “Junior” has not used the correct data at all.

Junior did not reconstruct the [matrix] T that I used. This is unfortunate as my T is online…

Junior thus made an error and blamed it on me.

Demonstration of climate science as a belief system

This is my personal view, not of Tol’s, nor of Sks.

Tol in his short presentation, includes this slide as a better categorization of the reviewed papers.

My take on these figures is that 8% give an explicit endorsement, and two-thirds take no position. Taking out the 7970 with no position gives 98.0%. Looking at just those 1010 that take an explicit position gives a “97.6% consensus”.

I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, but I would declare as bunkum any similar survey that scanned New Testament theology peer-reviewed journals to demonstrate the divinity of Christ from the position taken by the authors. People study theology because they are fellow Christians. Atheists or agnostics reject it out of hand. Many scholars are employed by theological colleges, that exit to train people for ministry. Theological journals would be unlikely to accept articles that openly questioned the central tenets of Christianity. If they did many seminaries (but not many Universities) would not subscribe to the publication. In the case of climatology, publishing a paper openly critical of climatology gets a similar reaction to publishing views that some gay people might be so out of choice, rather than discovering their true nature, or that Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is not dissimilar to Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland in 1938.

The lack of disagreement and the reactions to objections, I would interpret as “climate science” being an alternative belief system. People with a superior understanding of their subject area have nothing to fear from allowing comparison with alternative and inferior views.

 Kevin Marshall

 

 

Understanding the role of Peer Review

In “Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, were not peer reviewed“, Jo Nova questions whether peer review is valid at all. I think the answer is somewhat more nuanced. This is an extended version of a comment made.

Before dismissing peer review, we should ask are the boundaries of peer review. That is what peer review can achieve and what it cannot.

Proper peer review should check that the thesis of paper is original and properly references other works in the field. It should also make sure that the claims made are coherent, not demonstrably false, have a reason (or reasons) for originality, and all assumptions are clearly stated. It might also check to ensure that certain ethical boundaries are not breached. There is more basic checking, like that of an editor.

Peer review cannot determine if the following criteria are valid:-

(1) The ultimate truth. Make sure that the claims made are the last word on the subject. That is the thesis will never be falsified, contradicted, or supplanted by more general theories.

(2) The best to date. Determine that the thesis is superior to what is already available. There is a place for literature reviews to compare and contrast the existing body of knowledge.(i)

(3) That every point is correct, or every assumption known and stated.

(4) That every conjecture that the paper is built upon is correct, or every assumption is valid. Certain stated hypotheses or conjectures might be themselves based upon other conjectures. Assumptions might be accepted, but be false or exclude other, contradictory but quite valid, lines of enquiry.

(5) That a paper is hugely significant, or of little consequence.

(6) That a paper is of outstanding quality, against mediocre.

(7) That the absence of, superior, contradictory views in the academic literature is not a demonstration of the truth or quality of a research program.

Academic study is a combination of building on the work of that has gone before, whilst noticing the empirical or logical gaps and anomalies. It can be quite valid to making conjectures upon conjectures, as long as you do not lose sight that the falsification of a root conjecture will partially or completely undermine every piece of work built upon it.(ii) In climatology the vast majority of papers are built upon looking at the consequences of the catastrophic warming hypothesis. Falsifying CAGW will mean entire research programs will be null and void. That includes many studies in other areas such as economics and public-policy making.

 

Notes

  1. For instance, the Journal of Economic Literature has long-performed this service in economics.
  2. Until Andrew Wiles proved Fermat’s last theorem, large areas of mathematical proofs relied upon a conjecture. Watch the video here.
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