Warming in Canada is making temperatures less extreme

Yesterday the BBC broadcast “Climate Change – The Facts”. Jaime Jessop has already posted the first of a promised number of critical commentaries. Alex Cull has already started a transcript. Another here.

At the start the narrator says

What we’re doing right now is we’re so rapidly changing the climate, for the first time in the world’s history people can see the impact of climate change.

Greater storms, greater floods, greater heatwaves, extreme sea-level rise.

This reminds me of Jaime’s article of 4th April – Canada’s Burning and it’s Mostly Because of Humans Says Federal Government Report 

The true headline claim from the Canada’s Climate Change Report 2019 was

Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming.

This observation is since 1948. This is partly because land has warmed faster than the oceans and partly because the greatest warming is in the Arctic. See two graphics I produced last year from the HADCRUT4 data. Note that much of the Canada-US border is at 49N, though Toronto is at 44N.

Canada is land based and much of its area is in the in the Arctic. Being part of a continental land mass, Canada also has extremely cold winters and fairly hot summers. But overall it is cold. Average Canadian temperatures from Berkeley Earth in 2013 were still -3.5C, up from -5.5C in 1900. BE graphic reproduced below.

The question is, does this mean that climate is becoming more extreme? The report on page 127 has a useful table

In Canada as a whole, and in four of the six areas, Winter average temperatures have warmed faster than those in the Summer. The other two have coastal influences, where I would expect the difference between  summer and winter to be less extreme than Canada as a whole. Climate has generally become less extreme.
However, if climate is becoming more extreme as a result of general warming then it this would result in more warm temperature records than cold temperature records to be set in recent decades. From Wikipedia has Lists of extreme temperatures in Canada.

Of the 13 Provinces and Territories, only two have heat records more recent than 1950. That is Nunavut in 1989 and Yukon in 2004. For extreme cold, records are more spread out, with the two most recent in 1972 & 1973.

Wikipedia also has lists of highest & lowest temperatures ever recorded in Canada as a whole. The hottest has duplicates in terms of adjacent places, or the same places on adjacent days. Not surprisingly nearly all are located well inland and close to the US border. The record highest is 45.0 °C on July 5, 1937. The bottom half of the list is of records of 43.3 °C or 110 °F. The three most recent were set in 1949, 1960 and 1961.
The coldest ever recorded in Canada was -63.0 °C on February 3, 1947 at Snag Yukon. The third lowest was −59.4 °C in 1975. On the list are three from this century. −49.8 °C on January 11, 2018, −48.6 °C on December 30, 2017 and −42 °C on December 17, 2013. Eleven of the thirteen provinces and territories are represented in the 31 records on the coldest list, and there is 21.9 °C difference between the top and bottom of the list. Seventy years of Winter warming in Canada have raised average temperatures by 3.3 °C, but the extreme low temperatures are 13 °C higher.

It would seem that the biggest news is of winter warming of 3.3 °C in 70 years has resulted in far less extreme cold, and considerably lower extreme cold temperatures. The more moderate summer warming has not resulted in record heatwaves. The evidence is that Canada’s warming has made temperatures less extreme, contradicting the consensus claims that warming leads to more extremes. In Canada, global warming appears to be causing climate changing for the better. So why is the Canadian Government trying to stop it?

Kevin Marshall

Bogus linking of Cyclone Idai Mozambique to climate change

The news last week was full of reports of the impacts of Cyclone Idai on South-East Africa, particularly on Mozambique. This has inevitably been linked to climate change. Jaime Jessop brings attention to a “Climate Justice” article at the Conversation “Cyclone Idai: rich countries are to blame for disasters like this – here’s how they can make amends“. The article states

It is inevitable that people will connect Idai and climate change. It is always tricky to establish a direct causal link, but thanks to the evidence provided by a number of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including this most recent one from October 2018, we know that climate change is bound to increase the intensity and frequency of storms like Idai. At the very least, this crisis is a harbinger of what is coming.

As Jessop points out, the most recent IPCC SR15 has low confidence in any increase in trends in global cyclone activity, nor in the severity. In term low confidence I interpret to mean that evidence, if available, is highly speculative and/or is contradicted by better evidence. The Conversation article fails to read the evidence. Climate change is not “bound to increase the intensity and frequency of storms like Idai“. Even if that were, Idai is not caused by climate change.

At the BBC Matt McGarth tries to make the climate connection,

While Cyclone Idai is the seventh such major storm of the Indian Ocean season – more than double the average for this time of year – the long-term trend does not support the idea that these type of events are now more frequent.
The interesting thing for the area is that the frequency of tropical cyclones has decreased ever so slightly over the last 70 years,” said Dr Jennifer Fitchett from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa who has studied the question.
Instead, we are getting a much higher frequency of high-intensity storms.
Climate change is also changing a number of factors in the background that are contributing to making the impact of these storms worse.

There is absolutely no doubt that when there is a tropical cyclone like this, then because of climate change the rainfall intensities are higher,” said Dr Friederike Otto, from the University of Oxford, who has carried a number of studies looking at the influence of warming on specific events.
And also because of sea-level rise, the resulting flooding is more intense than it would be without human-induced climate change.

Evidence of more high frequency storms

Dr Jennifer Fitchett enlarges on the change in cyclone activity at the Conversation. In Tropical cyclone Idai: The storm that knew no boundaries she states

Historically, nine storms that had reached tropical cyclone intensity made landfall on Mozambique. A larger number of weaker tropical systems, including tropical storms and depressions affect the region, with a total landfall of all tropical systems of 1.1 per annum.

The link is to an open access article.

Fitchett and Grab 2014 : A 66‐year tropical cyclone record for south‐east Africa: temporal trends in a global context – International Journal of Climatology

Table 1 contains details of historical records for Madagascar and Mozambique. I have summarized the numbers of deaths by year.

The claim of  an increase in severe storms over the last 70 years by Dr Fitchett is evidenced by a glance at this graph. But there are issues. For Mozambique there are no recorded major cyclones between 1956 and 1994, nor for Madagascar between 1959 and 1994. Does this mean that there was major cyclone drought for over thirty-five years?
The history of the two countries suggests reasons for the lack of records other than lack of events to be observed. Historically Mozambique was a lightly-administered Portuguese Colony. There was a War of Independence covering 1964-1974 and following Independence a Civil War 1977-1992. Madagascar became Independent of France in 1960. There was increasing strife, culminating in a socialist-Marxist dictatorship from 1975 to 1993. The dictatorship was largely cut-off from the outside world. 1994 was the first year both countries were clear of the major strife that afflicted them for  decades, so it is hardly surprising this was the first year in decades when the severe impacts of cyclones was reported.
A BBC Report gives colloquial evidence to support the storms being nothing unusual. A video report of Cyclone Idai says it is the strongest winds Mozambique has had in the last ten years.

The evidence of less cyclones, but a claim more high-intensity ones looks like a rejection of objective evidence in favour of sensationalist reporting.

Evidence of Sea Level Rise

The desperation is indicated by mentioning sea level rise, which has risen by a few centimetres in the 50 years. Although centered on the coastal town of Beira, Mozambique, the vast areas impacted also include parts of the land-locked countries of Zimbabwe and Malawi. The nearest point to the sea of either country’s borders appear to be much greater than 150 kilometres. For some perspective, in Britain, the furthest point from the sea is Coton in the Elms at 70 miles or 113km distance.
Singling out one person is maybe unfair. Climate alarmism is a consensus enterprise, which gives primacy to mantras, rather than verification of conjectures with evidence of the natural world. However, the false attribution of sea level rise in the article is by Dr Friederike Otto. One profile I found states:-

Friederike (Fredi) is the Acting Director of the Environmental Change institute and an Associate Professor in the Global Climate Science Programme where she leads several projects understanding the impacts of man-made climate change on natural and social systems with a particular focus on Africa and India.
Her main research interest is on extreme weather events (droughts, heat waves, extreme precipitation), improving and developing methodologies to answer the question ‘whether and to what extent external climate drivers alter the likelihood of extreme weather’. She furthermore investigates the policy implication of this emerging scientific field.
Fredi is co-investigator on the international project World Weather Attribution which aims to provide an assessment of the human-influence on extreme weather in the immediate aftermath of the event occurring.

Dr Otto also featured in Nature last year, for attributing the 2018 Northern European heatwave to climate change. As Jaime Jessop found out, the selective evidence and modelling assumptions to support this attribution was contradicted by looking at the wider data.

Policy Implications

If the real desire is to look at making rational policy decisions to ameliorate the impact of emerging extreme weather events, then it is necessary properly assess the type, severity and geographical extent and likelihood of these impacts. Otherwise resources will be wasted on projects that do not address the issues. That includes only accepting claims made about an emerging impact when they are properly verified by the evidence. Otherwise, climate alarmism will ensure that resources are directed away from making a real difference to the lives of the poorest people.

Not only is the “Climate Justice” movement singling out a few countries to pay compensation for damages without evidence of damage caused, they are also helping to ensure that resources are directed away from making a real difference to the lives of the poorest people.

Kevin Marshall

Example of dogmatic pseudo-science on coral reef bleaching

I have already posted twice on coral reefs, but skirted round the article on Coral Alarmism by Geoff Price at his own blog on April 2nd 2018, reposted at ATTP eleven months later. By reposting this article Prof Ken Rice has shown how derisory is the evidence for global warming being the cause of increasing coral bleaching. 

Checking the sources that Price gives for (a) evidence of global warming (b) media sources of coral bleaching reveal there is no unambiguous underlying evidence to make a persuasive case  linking of one with the other. Further. the major peer review paper that Price cites finds that changes in severe coral bleaching events are not explained by global warming.

Evidence of global warming related to coral reefs

The first issue I want to deal with is the evidence that Price presents for the increase in coral bleaching being due to global warming.

Price first states the dogma

In our window of time here and on our watch, we’re observing the unfolding collapse of global coral reef cover – the largest living structures on the planet, relatively priceless in terms of human and economic value, and stunningly beautiful – due to human-induced stresses, now most prominently from human-caused global anthropogenic (greenhouse) warming of the oceans.

The claim of human induced warming is not backed up by any evidence.  That global average temperatures have been rising for well over a century  does not mean that this was human-induced. It could be natural or just some random cyclical cycle in a chaotic complex system, or some combination of all three. The evidence of warming oceans is the NOAA data of estimated increase in ocean heat content from 1960. There are a number of things wrong with this approach. The data period is only from 1960; heat stress in corals is from the amount of temperature rise; and the data is for 0-700m down, whilst most corals reside just a few meters below the surface. A much better measure is the sea surface temperature data records, which measures temperature just below the surface.

Below is the HADCRUT4 land and ocean anomalies temperature anomalies that I charted last year.

 

 

Crucially, the HADSST3 ocean warming data shows a similar global average temperature increase in the early twentieth century as the post 1975 warming. Both were about 0.5C, a value likely much less than the seasonal sea surface temperature change. Also, the rise in GHG gases – especially of CO2 – is much more post 1950 than from 1800 to 1940. The data does not support the idea that all warming is human-caused, unless global warming is caused by Mother Gaia anticipating the rise in CO2 levels.

Even then, then rise in global sea surface temperatures is not an indication of warming in a particular area. The Great Barrier Reef, for instance has shown little or no warming since 1980. From my previous post, observed major bleaching events do not correspond to any rise in warming, or any increase in extreme temperatures.

Media Sources do not support hypothesis

Even if Geoff Price cannot provide proper evidence of the rise in average temperatures that coral reefs are experiencing, at least he could provide credible scientific evidence of the link between warming and increase in coral bleaching. Price states

Some articles in major media break through, e.g. Global Warming’s Toll on Coral Reefs: As if They’re ‘Ravaged by War’, though the impact on public awareness and policy action remains low. The impact is global including the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Japan, the South PacificHawaii, the Florida keys, and Belize.

Rather than presenting empirical evidence, or at least scientific articles, relating increased coral reef bleaching to global warming, Price bizarrely “quotes” from various media sources. To show how bizzare, I have made some notes of the sources,

As if “Ravaged by War”

The “Ravaged by War” article in the New York Times of Jan 4 2018. At the start of the article is stated “large-scale coral bleaching events……were virtually unheard-of before the 1980s“, whereas later on is stated ”before 1982-3, mass bleaching events across wide areas were nonexistent.”  The perceived lack of bleaching before the 1980s is changed into a fact. The lack of perception is due to lack of wide-scale research. But even 1982-3 as the first year of reporting of mass bleaching is contradicted by Figure 1c in Glynn 1993, reference 3 in the Hughes et al 2018 paper that prompted the NYT article. 1978 and 1979 have far more recorded mass coral mortalities than 1982 and 1993.

Evidence of global bleaching

The link is to a page of high quality pictures of coral bleaching from around the world. The rise of digital photography, and the increase in the numbers of people diving reefs with cameras in the last twenty years is evidence observation bias not of real increase. In the past, lack of wide-scale human perception does not mean the issue was not there.

Great Barrier Reef Bleaching

From the UK Independent April 20 2016 is the headline “Great Barrier Reef: Half of natural wonder is ‘dead or dying’ and it is on the brink of extinction, scientists say“.

The event is partly being caused by the strong El Nino weather system that has swept across the world in the last year. But global warming is the underlying cause, say scientists, and so the bleaching and death is likely to continue.

“We’ve never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before. In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once,” said Professor Terry Hughes, conveyor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, 

The claim that global warming is the underlying cause of the bleaching is not attributed to any one person, or group. Prof Terry Hughes only makes a statement about the current state of affairs not being observed before, not that, in reality, it is unprecedented. Again a difference between perceptions and underlying reality.

Japan

The Japanese study is from an environmentalist website Down to Earth on January 13 2017. It states

Experts have, for quite a while now, believed that corals are among the most susceptible organisms to climate change. In fact, the world has already lost 30-40 per cent of its total documented coral cover.

According to the ministry’s estimate, 70 per cent of the Sekisei lagoon in Okinawa had been killed due to bleaching, which occurs when unusually warm water forces coral to expel the algae living in their tissues. Unless water temperatures quickly return to normal, the coral eventually dies from lack of nutrition.

Based on the survey done on 35 locations in Japan’s southernmost reaches from November to December 2016, the ministry observed that the plight of the reef has become “extremely serious” in recent years.

According to a Japanese media, the dead coral has now turned dark brown and is now covered with algae. It also revealed that the average sea surface temperature between June and August 2016 in the southern part of the Okinawa island chain was 30.1°C—one to two degrees warmer than usual. According to the Japan meteorological agency, it was also the highest average temperature since records began in 1982.

There is no link to the original source and from the statement the article is probably relying on media sources in English. Therefore there is no way of verifying whether the claims are due to warming. I would assume that the authors, like myself, do not speak Japanese, and the script is incomprehensible to them. Further, the article highlights just one of 35 locations in the Japanese study. This should be a signal that the cause of that extreme example of coral bleaching is more than just extreme temperatures.

Searching “Sekisei Lagoon” I come up with lots of returns, mostly about Coral bleaching. There was one is a short 2017 article at the Japanese Ministry of Environment website, and sponsored by them. The second paragraph states

(C)orals in the (Sekisei) Lagoon have extensively diminished since park designation because of various reasons: terrestrial runoffs of red clay and wastewater; coral bleaching due to high water temperatures; and outbreaks of the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci). Initial efforts have been made to reduce terrestrial runoffs to help the natural recovery of coral ecosystem health. Studies on coral distribution and techniques for reef rehabilitation are also in progress.

It is does not look like global warming in the sole cause of the excessive coral bleaching in Sekisei Lagoon. It is also local human factors and a large predator. A little research of crown-of-thorns starfish reveals that sudden increases in populations are poorly understood and that it is also found on the Great Barrier Reef. Acanthaster planci has a number of predators, the lack of which might indicate reasons for the outbreaks.

Other Media Sources

The South Pacific source is a blog post from March 2016 on American Samoan Reefs, a small part of the total extent of islands across the vast region. It is about coral bleaching being on hold, but there is an alert due to recent abnormally high temperatures. If bleaching did follow it would have been due to the El Nino event, which caused abnormally high average temperatures globally.

The Hawaii source, does not give a link to the peer reviewed article on which it is based. Looking at the article, it is (a) based on surveys in 2014 and 2015, but with no data on historical events (b) claims that elevated temperatures were present in Hawaii, (but does not show that the global average temperature were not elevated (c) provides no evidence of comparative surveys in the past to show the issue has got worst. In the first sentence of the introduction it is implied that the entire 0.9 °C in average SSTs is due to rise in GHGs, a totally unsupportable statement. Peer J’s boasted rapid peer review process has failed to pick up on this,

The Florida Keys reference is a Washington Post article of June 25 2017 about how loss of the coral reefs through temperature rise will impact on tourism. It assumes that temperature rise is the sole course of coral reef loss.

Finally the Belize article a New York Times opinion piece from July 6 2017, about a researcher visiting the coral reefs. There is no data provided for either local warming or trends in bleaching.

Hughes et al 2018

The major scientific article that Price refers to is

Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8048 . (Hughes et al 2018) 

Unusually this paper is open access. I quite like the attempt to reduce the observation bias when they state

Here we compiled de novo the history of recurrent bleaching from 1980 to 2016 for 100 globally distributed coral reef locations in 54 countries using a standardized protocol to examine patterns in the timing, recurrence, and intensity of bleaching episodes, including the latest global bleaching event from 2015 to 2016.

This does not eliminate the observation bias, but will certainly lesson the bias. They then make the observation

Since 1980, 58% of severe bleaching events have been recorded during four strong El Niño periods (1982–1983, 1997–1998, 2009–2010, and 2015–2016) (Fig. 2A), with the remaining 42% occurring during hot summers in other ENSO phases.

Considering that 2017 was also a severe bleaching events and global average temperatures were higher than in the 2015 El Nino year and in 2018, not to state it is an El Nino year is a maybe a bit dubious. Even so, on this basis El Nino free years are runs of 13, 10 and 4. This is not unlike the statement in the abstract

The median return time between pairs of severe bleaching events has diminished steadily since 1980 and is now only 6 years.

The paper makes no direct claims about the increase in observed coral bleaching being related to global warming. But This is because the data does not show this. Supplementary data figure 4 tests the relationship between the number of severe coral bleaching events per location and warming at that location across four regions.

For Australia R2 = 0.0001. That is zero. Better results can be achieved from two random unrelated data sets.
The best relationship is for the West Atlantic – mostly the Caribbean. That is R2 = 0.0939. The downward slope implies a negative relationship.  But still less than 10% of the variation in severe bleaching events is explained by rising temperatures.

Figure 2A of the Supplementary materials I also find interesting in the context of Jaime Jessop’s contention that coral bleaching is related to El Ninos.

Note that this is cumulative recorded severe bleaching events. The relative size of individual years is from the increase in that year.
For Australasia, the three standout years are 1998, 2010 and 2016/2017. These are El Nino years, confirming Jaime’s hypothesus.
For the West Atlantic there were also an unusual number of severe bleaching events in 1995 and 2005. No El Ninos there, but 2005 saw a record number of hurricanes in the area, and 1995 also saw an unusually high number including Hurricane Andrew, the last category 5 to make landfall in the USA. Although excess heat might be the principal cause of stress in coral reefs, I am sure they might also get stressed by severe storms, with the accompanying storm surges.
If severe storms can lead to bleaching there is a problem with observation of bleaching. From Heron et al 2016 we learn that since the 1990s satellites have made twice-weekly recording of surface temperatures are 0.5 degree grids (about 50km), then comparing with the SST data to detect unusual runs of DHWs. Since 2015, a new product was launched with just 5km grids. It is then left to some intrepid scientists to go out in a boat, dive down and take samples. If severe storms do not have unusually high temperatures, then there will be no alerts of bleaching, so unless there are other attempts to observe, this will not be picked up, or could be picked up a short while later after an episode of unusual warming. Before the 1990s, there was no such over-all detection system, and likely much less researchers. Many of the bleaching events occurring before 1990 may not have been picked up, or if they were, there may have been less ability to define that events as major.

Concluding Comments

By re-posting a dogmatic article ATTP has done a service to climate scepticism. Laying out a very bad, but well-referenced, case for global warming causing increased coral reef bleaching shows the inadequacies of that case. Where long periods of data collated on a consistent basis is used there is no correlation. Further, increasing observed frequency of bleaching events since is mostly due El Nino events being closer together, whilst the increase in observed bleaching can be accounted for by the greatly improved methods of detection and the resources put into observing, which are many times what they were a few decades ago.

Geoff Price’s method of presenting the opinions of others, rather than focusing on the underlying data that supports the conjecture, is something in common with ATTP and others of the climate community. When checked, the fail to connect with any underlying reality.

There is a rider to be made. The case for global warming is very poor by the traditional scientific methods of confronting conjectures with evidence of the natural world, and letting such evidence being the ultimate arbiter of that conjecture. From the consensus viewpoint popular today it is collective opinion that is the arbiter. The above is from the former point of view, which means from the latter view this is misinformation.

Is increasing Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching related to climate change or observation bias?

In the previous post I looked at whether the claimed increase in coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef was down to global average temperature rise. I concluded that this was not the case as the GBR has not warmed, or at least not warmed as much as the global temperatures. Here I look further at the data.
The first thing to state is that I recognize that heat stress can occur in corals. Blogger Geoff Price (in post at his own blog on April 2nd 2018, reposted at ATTP eleven months later) stated

(B)leaching via thermal stress is lab reproducible and uncontroversial. If you’re curious, see Jones et al 1998, “Temperature-induced bleaching of corals begins with impairment of the CO2 fixation mechanism in zooxanthellae”.

I am curious. The abstract of Jones et al 1998 states

The early effects of heat stress on the photosynthesis of symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae) within the tissues of a reef‐building coral were examined using pulse‐amplitude‐modulated (PAM) chlorophyll fluorescence and photorespirometry. Exposure of Stylophora pistillata to 33 and 34 °C for 4 h resulted in ……….Quantum yield decreased to a greater extent on the illuminated surfaces of coral branches than on lower (shaded) surfaces, and also when high irradiance intensities were combined with elevated temperature (33 °C as opposed to 28 °C). …..

If I am reading this right. the coral was exposed to a temperature increase of 5-6 °C for a period of 4 hours. I can appreciate that the coral would suffer from this sudden change in temperature. Most waterborne creatures would be become distressed if the water temperature was increased rapidly. How much before it would  seriously stress them might vary, but it is not a serious of tests I would like to carry out. But is there evidence of increasing heat stress causing increasing coral bleaching in the real world? That is, has there been both a rise in coral bleaching and a rise in these heat stress conditions? Clearly there will be seasonal changes in water temperature, even though in the tropics it might not be as large as, say, around the coast of the UK. Also, many over the corals migrate up and down the reef, so they could be tolerant of a range of temperatures. Whether worsening climate conditions have exacerbated heat stress conditions to such an extent that increased coral bleaching has occurred will only be confirmed by confronting the conjectures with the empirical data.


Rise in instances of coral bleaching

I went looking for long-term data that coral bleaching is on the increase and came across and early example. 

P. W. Glynn: Coral reef bleaching: Ecological perspectives. Coral Reefs 12, 1–17 (1993). doi:10.1007/BF00303779

From the introduction

Mass coral mortalities in contemporary coral reef ecosystems have been reported in all major reef provinces since the 1870s (Stoddart 1969; Johannes 1975; Endean 1976; Pearson 1981; Brown 1987; Coffroth et al. 1990). Why, then, should the coral reef bleaching and mortality events of the 1980s command great concern? Probably, in large part, because the frequency and scale of bleaching disturbances are unprecedented in the scientific literature.

One such example of observed bleaching is graphed in Glynn’s paper as Figure 1 c

But have coral bleaching events actually risen, or have the observations risen? That is in the past were there less observed bleaching events due to much less bleaching events or much less observations? Since the 1990s have observations of bleaching events increased further due to far more researchers leaving their families the safe climates of temperate countries to endure the perils of diving in waters warmer than a swimming pool? It is only by accurately estimating the observational impact that it is possible to estimate the real impact.
This reminds me of the recent IPPR report, widely discussed including by me, at cliscep and at notalotofpeopleknowthat (e.g. here and here). Extreme claims were lifted a report by billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham, which stated

Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold

The primary reason was the increase in the number of observations. Grantham mistook increasing recorded observations in a database with real world increases, than embellished the increase in the data to make that appear much more significant. The IPPR then lifted the false perception and the BBC’s Roger Harrabin copied the sentence into his report. The reality is that many extreme weather events occurred prior to the conscientious worldwide cataloguing of them from the 1980s. Just because disasters were not observed and reported to a centralized body did not mean they did not exist.
With respect to catastrophic events in the underlying EM-DAT database it is possible to have some perspective on whether the frequency of reports of disasters are related to increase in actual disasters by looking at the number of deaths. Despite the number of reports going up, the total deaths have gone down. Compared to 1900-1949 in the current decade to mid-2018 “Climate” disaster deaths are down 84%, but reported “Climate” disasters are 65 times more frequent.
I am curious to know how it is one might estimate the real quantity of reported instances of coral bleaching from this data. It would certainly be a lot less than the graph above shows.


Have temperatures increased?

In the previous post I looked at temperature trends in the Great Barrier Reef. There are two main sources that suggest that, contrary to the world as a whole, GBR average temperatures have not increased, or increased much less than the global average. This was shown on the NASA Giss map comparing Jan-2019 with the 1951-1980 average and for two HADSST3 ocean data 5ox5o gridcells. For the latter I only charted the temperature anomaly for two gridcells which are at the North and middle of the GBR. I have updated this chart to include the gridcell 150-155oE / 20-25oS at the southern end of the GBR.

There is an increase in warming trend post 2000, influenced particularly by 2001 and 2003. This is not replicated further north. This is in agreement with the Gistemp map of temperature trends in the previous post, where the Southern end of the GBR showed moderate warming.


Has climate change still impacted on global warming?

However, there is still an issue. If any real, but unknown, increase in coral bleaching has occurred it could still be due to sudden increases in surface sea temperatures, something more in accordance with the test in the lab.
Blogger ATTP (aka Professor Ken Rice) called attention to a recent paper in a comment at cliscep

The link is to a pre-publication copy, without the graphics or supplementary data, to

Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals – Hughes et al Nature 2017

The abstract states


The distinctive geographic footprints of recurrent bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998, 2002 and 2016 were determined by the spatial pattern of sea temperatures in each year.


So in 2002 the GBR had a localized mass bleaching episode, but did not share in the 2010 pan-tropical events of Rice’s quote. The spatial patterns, and the criteria used are explained.

Explaining spatial patterns
The severity and distinctive geographic footprints of bleaching in each of the three years can be explained by differences in the magnitude and spatial distribution of sea-surface temperature anomalies (Fig. 1a, b and Extended Data Table 1). In each year, 61-63% of reefs experienced four or more Degree Heating Weeks (DHW, oC-weeks). In 1998, heat stress was relatively constrained, ranging from 1-8 DHWs (Fig. 1c). In 2002, the distribution of DHW was broader, and 14% of reefs encountered 8-10 DHWs. In 2016, the spectrum of DHWs expanded further still, with 31% of reefs experiencing 8-16 DHWs (Fig. 1c). The largest heat stress occurred in the northern 1000 km-long section of the Great Barrier Reef. Consequently, the geographic pattern of severe bleaching in 2016 matched the strong north-south gradient in heat stress. In contrast, in 1998 and 2002, heat stress extremes and severe bleaching were both prominent further south (Fig. 1a, b).

For clarification:-

Degree Heating Week (DHW) The NOAA satellite-derived Degree Heating Week (DHW) is an experimental product designed to indicate the accumulated thermal stress that coral reefs experience. A DHW is equivalent to one week of sea surface temperature 1 deg C above the expected summertime maximum.

That is, rather than the long-term temperature rise in global temperatures causing the alleged increase in coral bleaching, it is the human-caused global warming changing the climate by a more indirect means of making extreme heat events more frequent. This seems a bit of a tall stretch. However, the “Degree Heating Week” can be corroborated by the gridcell monthly HADSST3 ocean temperature data for the summer months if both the measures are data are accurate estimates of the underlying data. A paper published last December in Nature Climate Change (also with lead author Prof Terry Hughes) highlighted 1998, 2002, 2016 & 2017 as being major years of coral bleaching. Eco Watch has a short video of maps from the paper showing the locations of bleaching event locations, showing much more observed events in 2016 and 2017 than in 1998 and 2002.

From the 2017 paper any extreme temperature anomalies should be most marked in 2016 across all areas of the GBR. 2002 should be less significant and predominantly in the south. 1998 should be a weaker version of 2002.
Further, if summer extreme temperatures are the cause of heat stress in corals, then 1998, 2002, 2016 & 2017 should have warm summer months.
For gridcells 145-150oE / 10-15oS and 150-155oE / 20-25oS respectively representing the northerly and summer extents of the Great Barrier Reef, I have extracted the January February and March anomalies since 1970, then circled the years 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017. Shown the average of the three summer months.

In the North of the GBR, 2016 and 2017 were unusually warm, whilst 2002 was a cool summer and 1998 was not unusual. This is consistent with the papers findings. But 2004 and 2010 were warm years without bleaching.
In the South of the GBR 1998 was exceptionally warm in February. This might suggest an anomalous reading. 2002 was cooler than average and 2016 and 2017 about average.
Also note, that in the North of the GBR summer temperatures appear to be a few tenths of a degree higher from the late 1990s than in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the South there appears to be no such increase. This is the reverse of what was found for the annual average temperatures and the reverse of where the most serious coral bleaching has occurred.
On this basis the monthly summer temperature anomalies do not seem to correspond to the levels of coral bleaching. A further check is to look at the change in the anomaly from the previous month. If sea surface temperatures increase rapidly in summer, this may be the cause of heat stress as much as absolute magnitude above the long-term average.

In the North of the GBR the February 1998 anomaly was almost a degree higher than the January anomaly. This is nothing exceptional in the record. 2002, 2016 & 2017 do not stand out at all.

In the South of the GBR, the changes in anomaly from one month to the next are much greater than in the North of the GBR. February 1998 stands out. It could be due to problems in the data. 2002, 2016 and 2017 are unexceptional years. There also appears to be less volatility post 2000 contradicting any belief in climate getting more extreme. I believe it could be an indication that data quality has improved.

Conclusions

Overall, the conjecture that global warming is resulting in increased coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reeg directly through rising average temperatures, or indirectly through greater volatility in temperature data, is not supported by the HADSST3 surface temperature data from either the North or South of the reef. This does not necessarily mean that there is not a growing problem of heat stress, or though this seems the most likely conclusion. Alternative explanations could be that the sea surface temperature anomaly is inadequate or that other gridcells show something different.
Which brings us back to the problem identified above. How much of the observed increase in coral bleaching is down to real increases in coral bleaching and how much is down to increased observations? In all areas of climate, there is a crucial difference between our perceptions based on limited data and the underlying reality.

Kevin Marshall

Empirical evidence contradicts theory that coral bleaching of Great Barrier Reef is a result of Global Warming

At Cliscep, Jaime Jessop looks at Coral Reefs again. She quotes from

Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8048 . (Hughes et al 2018) 

The first line is 

The average surface temperature of Earth has risen by close to 1°C as of the 1880s (1), and global temperatures in 2015 and 2016 were the warmest since instrumental record keeping began in the 19th century.

The surface temperature consists of two parts, land and ocean data. HADCRUT4 data since 1850 is as follows.

Recent land warming is significantly greater than ocean warming. Further, in the last 50 years the warming in the tropics was slightly  less than the global average, with the greatest warming being north of the tropics. Below is a split of the HADCRUT4 data into eight bands of latitude that I compiled last year. 

NASA GISS have maps showing trends across the globe. The default is to compare the most recent month with the 1951-1980 average.

The largest coral reef on the planet is the Great Barrier Reef off the North West Coast of Australia. From the map the warming is -0.2 to 0.2 °C. By implication, Hughes et al are claiming that coral bleaching in the Southern Hemisphere is being caused not by local average surface temperature rise but by a global average heavily influenced by land-based northern hemisphere temperature rise.

However, this is only a modeled estimate of trends. Although local data trends for the sea is not readily available, Berkeley Earth does provide trends for towns on the coastline adjacent to the GBR. I have copied the trends for Cairns and Rockhampton, one located in the middle section of the GBR, the other at the Southern tip.

Cairns, in the middle of the GBR, has no warming since 1980, whilst Rockhampton has nearer the global average and no warming trend from 1998 to 2013. This is consistent with the NASA GISS map.

BE are extremely thorough, providing the sites which make up the trend, with the distance from the location. The raw data reveals a more complex picture. For Townsville (one-third of the way from Cairns to Rockhampton) the station list is here. Looking at the list, many of the temperature data sets are of short duration, have poor quality data (e.g. Burdekin Shire Council 4875), or have breaks in the data (e.g. Ayr, Burdekin Shire Council 4876). Another issue with respect to the Great Barrier Reef is that many are inland, so might not be a good proxy for sea surface temperatures. However, there are a couple of stations that can be picked out with long records and near the coast.
Cardwell Post Office 152368 had peak temperatures in the 1970s and cooling since. Relative to other stations, BE’s algorithms estimated there was a station bias of over 0.5°C in the 1970s.

Cairns Airport 152392 (with data since 1908, twenty years before planes first flew from the site! ) has cooling in the 1930s and warming from 1940 to the late 1950s. The opposite of the global averages. There are no station bias adjustments until 1950, showing that this is typical of the regional expectation. Recent warming is confined to 1980s and a little post 2000.

These results are confined to the land. I have found two sites on the GBR that have give a similar picture. Lihou Reef (17.117 S 152.002 E) and Marion Reef (19.090 S 152.386 E). Both for fairly short periods and the quality of the data is poor, which is not surprising considering the locations. But neither show any warming trend since the 1980’s whereas the faint grey line of the global land data does show a warming trend.

The actual temperature data of the GBR indicates that not only are average temperatures not a cause of GBR bleaching, but that calculated global average temperature trends are not replicated on the North East Australian coast. With respect to the world’s largest coral reef, increase incoral bleaching is not empirically linked to any increase in average global temperatures.

UPDATE 11/03/19 – 20:10

Following a comment by Paul Matthews, I have found the sea surface temperature data by location. The HADSST3 data is available in 5o by 5o gridcells. From data that I downloaded last year I have extracted the gridcells for 145-150oE/10-15oS and 145-150oE/15-20oS which cover most of the Great Barrier Reef, plus a large area besides. I have charted the annual averages alongside the HADCRUT4 global and HADSST3 ocean anomalies.

Ocean surface temperatures for the Great Barrier Reef show no warming trend at all, whilst the global averages show a quite distinct warming trend. What is more important, if the coral bleaching is related to sudden increases in sea temperatures then it is the much more massive increases in local data that are important, not the global average. To test whether increases in temperatures are behind bleaching events requires looking for anomalous summer months in the data. Another post is required.     

The context of Jaime Jessop’s Cliscep article

After multiple comments at a blogpost by Jaime Jesssop in early January 2018 Geoff M Price wrote a post at his own blog “On Coal Alarmism” on 2nd April 2018. ATTP re-posted 11 months later on 5th March 2019. Personally I find the post, along with many of the comments, a pseudo-scientific and discriminatory attack piece. That may be the subject of another post.

Kevin Marshall

Two false claims on climate change by the IPPR

An IPPR report  This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown published yesterday, withing a few hours received criticism from Paul Homewood at notalotofpeopleknowthat, Paul Matthews at cliscep and Andrew Montford at The GWPF.  has is based on an April 2018 paper by billionaire Jeremy Grantham. Two major issues, that I want cover in this post are contained in a passage on page 13.

Climate Change : Average global surface temperature increases have accelerated, from an average of 0.007 °C per year from 1900–1950 to 0.025 °C from 1998–2016 (Grantham 2018). ……. Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold (GMO analysis of EM-DAT 2018).

These two items are lifted from an April 2018 paper The Race of Our Lives Revisited by British investor Jeremy Grantham CBE. I will deal with each in turn.

Warming acceleration

The claim concerning how warming has accelerated comes from Exhibit 2 of The Race of Our Lives Revisited.

The claimed Gistemp trends are as follows

1900 to 1958  – 0.007 °C/year

1958 to 2016  – 0.015 °C/year

1998 to 2016  – 0.025 °C/year

Using the Skeptical Science trend calculator for Gistemp I get the following figures.

1900 to 1958  – 0.066 ±0.024 °C/decade

1958 to 2016  – 0.150 ±0.022 °C/decade

1998 to 2016  – 0.139 ±0.112 °C/decade

That is odd. Warming rates seem to be slightly lower for 1998-2016 compared to 1958-2016, not higher. This is how Grantham may have derived the incorrect 1998-2016 figure.

For 1998-2016 the range of uncertainty is 0.003 to 0.025 °C/year.

It would appear that the 1900 to 1958 & 1958 to 2016 warming rates are as from the trend calculator, whilst the 1998 to 2016 warming rate of 0.025 °C/year is at the top end of the 2σ uncertainty range.

Credit for spotting this plausible explanation should go to Mike Jackson.

Increase in climate-related disasters since 1950

The IPPR report states

Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold

Exhibit 7 of The Race of Our Lives Revisited.

The 15 times “Floods” increase is for 2001-2017 compared to 1950-1966.
The 20 times “Extreme Temperature Events” increase is for 1996-2017 compared to 1950-1972.
The 7 times “Wildfires” increase is for 1984-2017 compared to 1950-1983.

Am I alone in thinking there is something a bit odd in the statement about being from 1950? Grantham is comparing different time periods, yet IPPR make it appear the starting point is from a single year?

But is the increase in the data replicated in reality?

Last year I downloaded all the EM-DAT – The International Disasters Database – from 1900 to the present day. Their disaster types I have classified into four categories.

Over 40% are the “climate”-related disaster types from Grantham’s analysis. Note that this lists the number of “occurrences” in a year. If, within a country in a year there is more than one occurrence of a disaster type, they are lumped together.

I have split the number of occurrences by the four categories by decade. The 2010s is only for 8.5 years.

Climate” disasters have increased in the database. Allowing for 8.5 years in the current decade, compared to 1900-1949, “Climate” disasters are 65 times more frequent. Similarly epidemics are 47 times more frequent, geological events 16 times and “other” disasters 34 times.

Is this based on reality, or just vastly improved reporting of disasters from the 1980s? The real impacts are indicated by the numbers of reports deaths. 

The number of reported disaster deaths has decreased massively compared to the early twentieth century in all four categories, despite the number of reported disasters increasing many times. Allowing for 8.5 years in the current decade, compared to 1900-1949, “Climate” disaster deaths are down 84%. Similarly epidemic deaths are down by 98% and”other” disasters down by 97%. Geological disaster deaths are, however, up by 27%. The reported 272,431 deaths in the 2010s that I have classified under “Geology” includes the estimated 222,570 estimated deaths in the 2010 Haitian Earthquake.

If one looks at the death rate per reported occurrence, “Climate” disaster death rates have declined by 97.7% between 1900-1949 and the 2010s. Due to the increase in reporting, and the more than doubling of the world population, this decline is most likely understated. 

The Rôle of Progressives in Climate Mitigation

The IPPR describes itself as The Progressive Policy Think Tank. From the evidence of the two issues above they have not actually thought about what they are saying. Rather they have just copied the highly misleading data from Jeremy Grantham. There appears to be no real climate crisis emerging when one examines the available data properly. The death rate from extreme weather related events has declined by at least 97.7% between the first half of the twentieth century  and the current decade. This is a very important point for policy. Humans have adapted to the current climate conditions, just have they have reduced the impact of infectious diseases and are increasingly adapting to the impacts of earthquakes and tsunamis. If the climate becomes more extreme, or sea level rise accelerates significantly humans will adapt as well.

There is a curious symmetry here between the perceived catastrophic problem and the perceived efficacy of the solution. That for governments to reduce global emissions to zero. The theory is that rising human emissions, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, are going to cause dangerous climate change. Global emissions involve 7600 million people in nearly 200 countries. Whatever the UK does, with less than 1% of the global population and less than 1% of global emissions makes no difference to global emissions.

Globally, there are two major reasons that reducing global emissions will fail.

First is that developing countries, with 80%+ of the global population and 65% of emissions, are specifically exempted from any obligation to reduce their emissions. (see Paris Agreement Articles 2.1(a), 2.2 and 4.1) Based on the evidence of the UNEP Emissions GAP Report 2018, and from the COP24 Katowizce meeting in December, there is no change of heart in prospect.

Second is that the reserves of fossil fuels, both proven and estimated, are both considerable and spread over many countries. Reducing global emissions to zero in a generation would mean leaving in the ground fossil fuels that provide a significant part of government revenue in countries such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan. Keeping some fossil fuels in the ground in the UK, Canada, Australia or the United States will increase the global prices and thus the production elsewhere.

The IPPR is promoting is costly and ideological policies in the UK, that will have virtually zero benefits for future generations in terms of climate catastrophes averted. In my book such policies are both regressive and authoritarian, based on failing to understand to the distinction between the real very marginal impacts of policy and the theoretical total impacts.

If IPPR, or even the climate academics, gave proper thought to the issue, then they would conclude the correct response will be to more accurately predict the type, timing, magnitude and location of future climate catastrophes. This information will help people on the ground adapt to those circumstances. In the absence of that information, the best way of adapting to changing climate is the same way as people have been able to adapt to extreme events, whether weather or geological. That is through sustained long-term economic growth, in the initial stages promoted by cheap and reliable energy sources. If there is a real environmental breakdown on its way, the Progressives, with their false claims and exaggerations, will be best kept well away from the scene. Their ideological beliefs render them incapable of getting a rounded perspective on the issues and the damage their policies will cause.

Kevin Marshall

Increasing Extreme Weather Events?

Over at Cliscep, Ben Pile posted Misleading Figures Behind the New Climate Economy. Ben looked at the figures behind the recent New Climate Economy Report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which claims to be

… a major international initiative to examine how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change. The Commission comprises former heads of government and finance ministers and leaders in the fields of economics and business, and was commissioned by seven countries – Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom – as an independent initiative to report to the international community.

In this post I will briefly look at Figure 1 from the report, re-posted by Ben Pile.

Fig 1 – Global Occurrences of Extreme Weather Events from New Economy Climate Report

Clearly these graphs seem to demonstrate a rapidly worsening situation. However, I am also aware of a report a few years ago authored by Indur Goklany, and published by The Global Warming Policy Foundation  – GLOBAL DEATH TOLL FROM EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS DECLINING

Figure 2 : From Goklany 2010 – Global Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events, 1900–2008. Source: Goklany (2009), based on EM-DAT (2009), McEvedy and Jones (1978), and WRI (2009).

 

Note that The International Disaster Database is EM-DAT. The website is here to check. Clearly these show two very different pictures of events. The climate consensus (or climate alarmist) position is that climate change is getting much worse. The climate sceptic (or climate denier) position is that is that human-caused climate change is somewhat exaggerated. Is one side outright lying, or is their some truth in both sides?

Indur Goklany recognizes the issue in his report. His Figure 2, I reproduce as figure 3.

Figure 3: Average Number of Extreme Weather Events per Year by Decade, 1900–2008.  Source: Goklany (2009), based on EM-DAT (2009).

I am from a management accounting background. That means that I check my figures. This evening I registered at the EM-DAT website and downloaded the figures to verify the data. The website looks at all sorts of disaster information, not just climate information. It collates

Figure 4 : No of Climatic Occurrences per decade from EM-DAT. Note that 2010-2016 pro rata is similar to 2000-2009

The updated figures through to 2016 show that pro rata, in the current decade occurrences if climate-related events as similar to the last decade. If one is concerned about the human impacts, deaths are more relevant.

Figure 5 : No of Climatic Deaths per decade from EM-DAT. Note that 2010-2016 pro rata is similar to 2000-2009

This shows unprecedented flood deaths in the 1930s. Of the 163218 flood deaths in 6 occurrences, 142000 were due to a flood in China in 1935. Wikipedia’s Ten deadliest natural disasters since 1900 lists at No.8 1935 Yangtze river flood, with 145000 dead. At No.1 is 1931 China floods with 1-4 million deaths. EM-DAT has not registered this disaster.

The decade 1970-1979 was extreme for deaths from storms. 300000 deaths were due to a Bangladesh storm in 1970. Wikipedia’s Ten deadliest natural disasters since 1900 lists at No.2 1970 Bhola cyclone, with ≥500,000.

The decade 1990-1999 had a high flood death toll. Bangladesh 1991 stands out with 138987 dead. Wikipedia No.10 is 1991 Bangladesh cyclone with 138866 dead.

In the decade 2000-2009 EM-DAT records the Myanmar Storm of 2008 with 138366 dead. If Wikipedia had a top 11 deadliest natural disasters since 1900, then Cyclone Nargis of 2 May 2008 could have made the list. From the BBC, with 200000 estimated dead, it would have qualified. But from the Red Cross 84500 Cyclone Nargis may have not made the top 20.

This leaves a clear issue of data. The International Disaster Database will accept occurrences of disasters according to clear criteria. For the past 20-30 years disasters have been clearly recorded. The build-up of a tropical cylone / hurricane is monitored by satellites and film crews are on hand to televise across the world pictures of damaged buildings, dead bodies, and victims lamenting the loss of homes. As I write Hurricane Florence is about to pound the Carolinas, and evacuations have been ordered. The Bhola Cyclone of 1970 was no doubt more ferocious and impacted on a far greater number of people. But the primary reason for the extreme deaths in 1970 Bangladesh was lack of warning and a lack of evacuation places. Even in the Wizard of Oz, based on 1930s United States, in a Tornado most families had a storm cellar. In the extreme poverty of 1970 Bangladesh there was nothing. Now, after decades of moderate growth and some rudimentary warning systems, it is unlikely that a similar storm would cause even a tenth of the death toll.

Even more significant, is that even if (as I hope) Hurricane Florence causes no deaths and limited property damage, it will be sufficiently documented to qualify for an entry on the International Disaster Database. But the quality of evidence for the 1931 China Floods, occurring in a civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang forces, would be insufficient to qualify for entry. This is why one must be circumspect in interpreting this sort of data over periods when the quality and availability of data varies significantly. The issue I have is not with EM-DAT, but those who misinterpret the data for an ideological purpose.

Kevin Marshall

Changing a binary climate argument into understanding the issues

Last month Geoff Chambers posted “Who’s Binary, Us or Them? Being at cliscep the question was naturally about whether sceptics or alarmists were binary in their thinking. It reminded me about something that went viral on youtube a few year’s ago. Greg Craven’s The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See.

To his credit, Greg Craven in introducing both that human-caused climate change can have a trivial impact recognize that mitigating climate (taking action) is costly. But for the purposes of his decision grid he side-steps these issues to have binary positions on both. The decision is thus based on the belief that the likely consequences (costs) of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming then the likely consequences (costs) of taking action. A more sophisticated statement of this was from a report commissioned in the UK to justify the draconian climate action of the type Greg Craven is advocating. Sir Nicholas (now Lord) Stern’s report of 2006 (In the Executive Summary) had the two concepts of the warming and policy costs separated when it claimed

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.

Craven has merely simplified the issue and made it more binary. But Stern has the same binary choice. It is a choice between taking costly action, or suffering the much greater possible consequences.  I will look at the policy issue first.

Action on Climate Change

The alleged cause of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is (CAGW) is human greenhouse gas emissions. It is not just some people’s emissions that must be reduced, but the aggregate emissions of all 7.6 billion people on the planet. Action on climate change (i.e. reducing GHG emissions to near zero) must therefore include all of the countries in which those people live. The UNFCCC, in the run-up to COP21 Paris 2015, invited countries to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Most did so before COP21, and as at June 2018, 165 INDCs have been submitted, representing 192 countries and 96.4% of global emissions. The UNFCCC has made them available to read. So these intentions will be sufficient “action” to remove the risk of CAGW? Prior to COP21, the UNFCCC produced a Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs. (The link no longer works, but the main document is here.) They produced a graphic that I have shown on multiple occasions of the gap between policy intentions on the desired policy goals. A more recent graphic is from the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2017, published last October and

Figure 3 : Emissions GAP estimates from the UNEP Emissions GAP Report 2017

In either policy scenario, emissions are likely to be slightly higher in 2030 than now and increasing, whilst the policy objective is for emissions to be substantially lower than today and and decreasing rapidly. Even with policy proposals fully implemented global emissions will be at least 25% more, and possibly greater than 50%, above the desired policy objectives. Thus, even if proposed policies achieve their objective, in Greg Craven’s terms we are left with pretty much all the possible risks of CAGW, whilst incurring some costs. But the “we” is for 7.6 billion people in nearly 200 countries. But the real costs are being incurred by very few countries. For the United Kingdom, with the Climate Change Act 2018 is placing huge costs on the British people, but future generations of Britain’s will achieve very little or zero benefits.

Most people in the world live in poorer countries that will do nothing significant to constrain emissions growth if it that conflicts with economic growth or other more immediate policy objectives. In terms of the some of the most populous developing countries, it is quite clear that achieving the policy objectives will leave emissions considerably higher than today. For instance, China‘s main aims of peaking CO2 emissions around 2030 and lowering carbon emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 by 60-65% compared to 2005 by 2020 could be achieved with emissions in 2030 20-50% higher than in 2017. India has a lesser but similar target of reducing emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 by 30-35% compared to 2005 by 2020. If the ambitious economic growth targets are achieve, emissions could double in 15 years, and still be increasing past the middle of the century. Emissions in Bangladesh and Pakistan could both more than double by 2030, and continue increasing for decades after.

Within these four countries are over 40% of the global population. Many other countries are also likely to have emissions increasing for decades to come, particularly in Asia and Africa. Yet without them changing course global emissions will not fall.

There is another group of countries that are have vested interests in obstructing emission reduction policies. That is those who are major suppliers of fossil fuels. In a letter to Nature in 2015, McGlade and Ekins (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions. The estimated that to constrain warming to 2C, 75% of proven reserves, and any future proven reserves would need to be left in the ground. Using figures from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016 I produced a rough split by major country.

Figure 4 : Fossil fuel Reserves by country, expressed in terms of potential CO2 Emissions

Activists point to the reserves in the rich countries having to be left in the ground. But in the USA, Australia, Canada and Germany production of fossil fuels is not a major part of the economy. Ceasing production would be harmful but not devastating. One major comparison is between the USA and Russia. Gas and crude oil production are similar volumes in both countries. But, the nominal GDP of the US is more than ten times that of Russia. The production of both countries in 2016 was about 550 million tonnes or 3900 million barrels. At $70 a barrel that is around $275bn, equivalent to 1.3% of America’s GDP and 16% of Russia’s. In gas, prices vary, being very low in the highly competitive USA, and highly variable for Russian supply, with major supplier Gazprom acting as a discriminating monopolist. But America’s revenue is likely to be less than 1% of GDP and Russia’s equivalent to 10-15%. There is even greater dependency in the countries of the Middle East. In terms of achieve emissions targets, what is trying to be achieved is the elimination of the major source of the countries economic prosperity in a generation, with year-on-year contractions in fossil fuel sales volumes.

I propose that there are two distinct groups of countries that appear to have a lot lose from a global contraction in GHG emissions to near zero. There are the developing countries who would have to reduce long-term economic growth and the major fossil fuel-dependent countries, who would lose the very foundation of their economic output in a generation. From the evidence of the INDC submissions, there is now no possibility of these countries being convinced to embrace major economic self-harm in the time scales required. The emissions targets are not going to be met. The emissions gap will not be closed to any appreciable degree.

This leaves Greg Craven’s binary decision option of taking action, or not, as irrelevant. As taking action by a country will not eliminate the risk of CAGW, pursuing aggressive climate mitigation policies will impose net harms wherever they implemented. Further, it is not the climate activists who are making the decisions, but policy-makers countries themselves. If the activists believe that others should follow another path, it is them that must make the case. To win over the policy-makers they should have sought to understand their perspectives of those countries, then persuade them to accept their more enlightened outlook. The INDCs show that the climate activists gave failed in this mission. Until such time, when activists talk about the what “we” are doing to change the climate, or what “we” ought to be doing, they are not speaking about

But the activists have won over the United Nations, those who work for many Governments and they dominate academia. For most countries, this puts political leaders in a quandary. To maintain good diplomatic relations with other countries, and to appear as movers on a world stage they create the appearance of taking significant action on climate change for the outside world. On the other hand they are serving their countries through minimizing the real harms that imposing the policies would create. Any “realities” of climate change have become largely irrelevant to climate mitigation policies.

The Risks of Climate Apocalypse

Greg Craven recognized a major issue with his original video. In the shouting match over global warming who should you believe? In How it all Ends (which was followed up by further videos and a book) Craven believes he has the answer.

Figure 5 : Greg Craven’s “How it all Ends”

It was pointed out that the logic behind the grid is bogus. As in Devil’s advocate guise Craven says at 3:50

Wouldn’t that grid argue for action against any possible threat, no matter how costly the action or how ridiculous the threat? Even giant mutant space hamsters? It is better to go broke building a load of rodent traps than risk the possibility of being hamster chow. So this grid is useless.

His answer is to get a sense of how likely the possibility of global warming being TRUE or FALSE is. Given that science is always uncertain, and there are divided opinions.

The trick is not to look at what individual scientists are saying, but instead to look at what the professional organisations are saying. The more prestigious they are, the more weight you can give their statements, because they have got huge reputations to uphold and they don’t want to say something that later makes them look foolish. 

Craven points to the “two most respected in the world“. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Back in 2007 they had “both issued big statements calling for action, now, on global warming“.  The crucial question from scientists (that is people will a demonstrable expert understanding of the natural world) is not for political advocacy, but whether their statements say their is a risk of climate apocalypse. These two bodies still have statements on climate change.

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) says

There are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. The US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society produced a booklet, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (download here), intended to be a brief, readable reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information on the some of the questions that continue to be asked. The booklet discusses the evidence that the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.

Further climate change is inevitable; if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred so far. There remains a range of estimates of the magnitude and regional expression of future change, but increases in the extremes of climate that can adversely affect natural ecosystems and human activities and infrastructure are expected.

Note, this is conjunction with the Royal Society, which is arguably is (or was) the most prestigious  scientific organisation of them all. It is what not said that is as important as what is actually said. They are saying that there is a an expectation that extremes of climate could get worse. There is nothing that solely backs up the climate apocalypse, but a range of possibilities, including changes somewhat trivial on a global scale. The statement endorses a spectrum of possible positions that undermines the binary TRUE /FALSE position on decision-making.

The RS/NAS booklet has no estimates of the scale of possible climate catastrophism to be avoided. Point 19 is the closest.

Are disaster scenarios about tipping points like ‘turning off the Gulf Stream’ and release of methane from the Arctic a cause for concern?

The summary answer is

Such high-risk changes are considered unlikely in this century, but are by definition hard to predict. Scientists are therefore continuing to study the possibility of such tipping points beyond which we risk large and abrupt changes.

This appears not to support Stern’s contention that unmitigated climate change will costs at least 5% of global GDP by 2100. Another context of the back-tracking on potential catastrophism is to to compare with  Lenton et al 2008 – Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system. Below is a map showing the the various elements considered.

Figure 6 : Fig 1 of Lenton et al 2008, with explanatory note.

Of the 14 possible tipping elements discussed, only one makes it into the booklet six years later. Surely if the other 13 were still credible more would have been included in booklet, and less on documenting trivial historical changes.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has a video

Figure 7 : AAAS “What We Know – Consensus Sense” video

 

It starts with the 97% Consensus claims. After asking the listener on how many,  Marshall Sheppard, Prof of Geography at Univ of Georgia states.

The reality is that 97% of scientists are pretty darn certain that humans are contributing to the climate change that we are seeing right now and we better do something about it to soon.

There are two key papers that claimed a 97% consensus. Doran and Zimmerman 2009 asked two questions,

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

The second of these two responses was answered in the affirmative by 77 of 79 climate scientists. This was reduced from 3146 responses received. Read the original to find out why it was reduced.

Dave Burton has links to a number of sources on these studies. A relevant quote on Doran and Zimmerman is from the late Bob Carter

Both the questions that you report from Doran’s study are (scientifically) meaningless because they ask what people “think”. Science is not about opinion but about factual or experimental testing of hypotheses – in this case the hypothesis that dangerous global warming is caused by human carbon dioxide emissions.

The abstract to Cook et al. 2013 begins

We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. 

Expressing a position does not mean a belief. It could be an assumption. The papers were not necessarily by scientists, but merely authors of academic papers that involved the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. Jose Duarte listed some of the papers that were included in the survey, along with looking at some that were left out.

Neither paper asked a question concerning belief in future climate catastrophism. Sheppard does not make clear the scale of climate change trends from the norm, so the human-caused element could be insignificant. The 97% consensus does not include the policy claims.

The booklet is also misleading as well in the scale of changes. For instance on sea-level rise it states.

Over the past two decades, sea levels have risen almost twice as fast as the average during the twentieth century.

You will get that if you compare the tide gauge data with the two decades of satellite data. The question is whether those two sets of data are accurate. As individual tide gauges do not tend to show acceleration, and others cannot find statistically significant acceleration, the claim seems not to be supported.

At around 4.15 in the consensus video AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says

America’s leaders should stop debating the reality of climate change and start deciding the best solutions. Our What we Know report makes clear that climate change threatens us at every level. We can reduce the risk of global warming to protect out people, businesses and communities from harm. At every level from our personal and community health, our economy and our future as a global leader.  Understanding and managing climate change risks is an urgent problem. 

The statement is about combating the potential risks from CAGW. The global part of global warming is significant for policy. The United States share of global emissions is around 13% of global emissions. That share has been falling as America’s emissions have been falling why the global aggregate emissions have been rising. The INDC submission for the United States aimed as getting US emissions in 2025 at 26-28% of 2005 levels, with a large part of that reduction already “achieved” when the report was published. The actual policy difference is likely to be less than 1% of global emissions. So any reduction in risks with respect to climate change seems to be tenuous. A consensus of the best scientific minds should have been able to work this out for themselves.

The NAAS does not give a collective expert opinion on climate catastrophism. This is shown by the inability to distinguish between banal opinions and empirical evidence for a big problem. This is carried over into policy advocacy, where they fail to distinguish between the United States and the world as a whole.

Conclusions

Greg Laden’s decision-making grid is inapplicable to real world decision-making. The decision whether to take action or not is not a unitary one, but needs to be taken at country level. Different countries will have different perspectives on the importance of taking action on climate change relative to other issues. In the real world, the proposals for action are available. In aggregate they will not “solve” the potential risk of climate apocalypse. Whatever the actual scale of CAGW, countries who pursue expensive climate mitigation policies are likely to make their own people worse off than if they did nothing at all.

Laden’s grid assumes that the costs of the climate apocalypse are potentially far greater than the costs of action, no matter how huge. He tries to cut through the arguments by getting the opinions from the leading scientific societies. To put it mildly, they do not currently provide strong scientific evidence for a potentially catastrophic problem. The NAS / Royal Society suggest a range of possible climate change outcomes, with only vague evidence for potentially catastrophic scenarios. It does not seem to back the huge potential costs of unmitigated climate change in the Stern Review. The NAAAS seems to provide vague banal opinions to support political advocacy rather than rigorous analysis based on empirical evidence that one would expect from the scientific community.

It would appear that the binary thinking on both the “science” and on “policy” leads to a dead end, and is leading to net harmful public policy.

What are the alternatives to binary thinking on climate change?

My purpose in looking at Greg Laden’s decision grid is not to destroy an alternative perspective, but to understand where the flaws are for better alternatives. As a former, slightly manic, beancounter, I would (like the Stern Review  and William Nordhaus) look at translating potential CAGW into costs. But then weight it according to a discount rate, and the strength of the evidence. In terms of policy I would similarly look at the likely expected costs of the implemented policies, against the actual expected harms foregone. As I have tried to lay out above, the costs of policy and indeed the potential costs of climate change are largely subjective. Further, those implementing policies might be boxed in by other priorities and various interest groups jostling for position.

But what of the expert scientist who can see the impending on-coming catastrophes to which I am blind and to which climate mitigation will be useless? It is to endeavor to pin down the where, when, type and magnitude of potential changes to climate. With this information ordinary people can adjust their plans. The challenge for those who believe there are real problems is to focus on the data from the natural world and away from inbuilt biases of the climate community. But the most difficult part is from such methods they may lose their beliefs, status and friends.

First is to obtain some perspective. In terms of the science, it is worth looking at the broad range of  different perspectives on the Philosophy of Science. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the subject is long, but very up to date. In the conclusions, the references to Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s views on what sets science apart seems to be a way out of consensus studies.

Second, is to develop strategies to move away from partisan positions with simple principles, or contrasts, that other areas use. In Fundamentals that Climate Science Ignores I list some of these.

Third, in terms of policy, it is worthwhile having a theoretical framework in which to analyze the problems. After looking at Greg Craven’s video’s in 2010, I developed a graphical analysis that will be familiar to people who have studied Marshallian Supply and Demand curves of Hicksian IS-LM. It is very rough at the edges, but armed with it you will not fall in the trap of thinking like the AAAS that US policy will stop US-based climate change.

Fourth, is to look from other perspectives. Appreciate that other people might have other perspectives that you can learn from. Or alternatively they may have entrenched positions which, although you might disagree with, are powerless to overturn. It should then be possible to orientate yourself, whether as an individual or as part of a group, towards aims that are achievable.

Kevin Marshall

Thomas Fuller on polar-bear-gate at Cliscep

This is an extended version of a comment made at Thomas Fuller’s cliscep article Okay, just one more post on polar-bear-gate… I promise…

There are three things highlighted in the post and the comments that illustrate the Polar Bear smear paper as being a rich resource towards understanding the worst of climate alarmism.

First is from Alan Kendall @ 28 Dec 17 at 9:35 am

But what Harvey et al. ignores is that Susan Crockford meticulously quotes from the “approved canon of polar bear research” and exhorts her readers to read it (making an offer to provide copies of papers difficult to obtain). She provides an entree into that canon- an entree obviously used by many and probably to the fury of polar bear “experts”.

This is spot on about Susan Crockford, and, in my opinion, what proper academics should be aiming at. To assess an area where widely different perspectives are possible, I was taught that it is necessary to read and evaluate the original documents. Climate alarmists in general, and this paper in particular, evaluate in relation collective opinion as opposed to more objective criteria. In the paper, “science” is about support for a partly fictional consensus, “denial” is seeking to undermine that fiction. On polar bears this is clearly stated in relation to the two groups of blogs.

We found a clear separation between the 45 science-based blogs and the 45 science-denier blogs. The two groups took diametrically opposite positions on the “scientific uncertainty” frame—specifically regarding the threats posed by AGW to polar bears and their Arctic-ice habitat. Scientific blogs provided convincing evidence that AGW poses a threat to both, whereas most denier blogs did not.

A key element is to frame statements in terms of polar extremes.

Second, is the extremely selective use of the data (or selective analysis methods) to enable the desired conclusion to be reached. Thomas Fuller has clearly pointed out in the article and restated in the comments with respect to WUWT, the following.

Harvey and his 13 co-authors state that WUWT overwhelmingly links to Crockford. I have shown that this is not the case.

Selective use of data (or selective analysis methods) is common on climate alarmism. For instance

  • The original MBH 98 Hockey-Stick graph used out-of-date temperature series, or tree-ring proxies such as at Gaspe in Canada, that were not replicated by later samples.
  • Other temperature reconstructions. Remember Keith Briffa’s Yamal reconstruction, which relied on one tree for the post-1990 reconstructions? (see here and here)
  • Lewandowsky et al “Moon Hoax” paper. Just 10 out of 1145 survey respondents supported the “NASA faked the Moon Landings” conspiracy theory. Of these just 2 dogmatically rejected “climate”. These two faked/scam/rogue respondents 860 & 889 supported every conspiracy theory, underpinning many of the correlations.
  • Smoothing out the pause in warming in Risbey, Lewandowsky et al 2014 “Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase”. In The Lewandowsky Smooth, I replicated the key features of the temperature graph in Excel, showing how no warming for a decade in Hadcrut4 was made to appear as if there was hardly a cessation of warming.

Third, is to frame the argument in terms of polar extremes. Richard S J Tol @ 28 Dec 17 at 7:13 am

And somehow the information in those 83 posts was turned into a short sequence of zeros and ones.

Not only one many issues is there a vast number of intermediate positions possible (the middle ground), there are other dimensions. One is the strength of evidential support for a particular perspective. There could be little or no persuasive evidence. Another is whether there is support for alternative perspectives. For instance, although sea ice data is lacking for the early twentieth-century warming, average temperature data is available for the Arctic. NASA Gistemp (despite its clear biases) has estimates for 64N-90N.

The temperature data seems to clearly indicate that all of the decline in Arctic sea ice from 1979 is unlikely to be attributed to AGW. From the 1880s to 1940 there was a similar magnitude of Arctic warming as from 1979 t0 2010 with cooling in between. Yet the rate of increase in GHG levels was greater from greater in 1975-2010 than 1945-1975, which was in turn greater than the period decades before.

Kevin Marshall

 

How the “greater 50% of warming since 1950 is human caused” claim is deeply flawed

Over at Cliscep, Jaime Jessop has rather jokingly raised a central claim of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, after someone on Twitter had accused her of not being a real person.

So here’s the deal: Michael Tobis convinces me, on here, that the IPCC attribution statement is scientifically sound and it is beyond reasonable doubt that more than half of the warming post 1950 is indeed caused by emissions, and I will post a photo verifying my actual existence as a real person.

The Report states (AR5 WG1 Ch10 Page 869)

It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in GMST from 1951 to 2010.

This extremely likely is at the 95% confidence interval and includes all human causes. The more specific quote on human greenhouse gas emissions is from page 878, section “10.2.4 Single-Step and Multi-Step Attribution and the Role of the Null Hypothesis

Attribution results are typically expressed in terms of conventional ‘frequentist’ confidence intervals or results of hypothesis tests: when it is reported that the response to anthropogenic GHG increase is very likely greater than half the total observed warming, it means that the null hypothesis that the GHG-induced warming is less than half the total can be rejected with the data available at the 10% significance level.

It is a much more circumspect message than the “<a href=”http://stocker IPCC 2013″ target=”_blank”>human influence on the climate system is clear</a>” announcements of WG1 four years ago.  In describing attribution studies, the section states

Overall conclusions can only be as robust as the least certain link in the multi-step procedure.

There are a number of candidates for “least certain link” in terms of empirical estimates. In general, if the estimates are made with reference to the other estimates, or biased by theory/beliefs, then the statistical test is invalidated. This includes the surface temperature data.

Further, if the models have been optimised to fit the surface temperature data, then the >50% is an absolute maximum, whilst the real figure, based on perfect information, is likely to be less than that.

Most of all are the possibilities of unknown unknowns. For, instance, the suggestion that non-human causes could explain pretty much all the post-1950 warming can be inferred from some paleoclimate studies. This reconstruction Greenland ice core (graphic climate4you) shows warming around as great, or greater, than the current warming in the distant past. The timing of a warm cycle is not too far out either.

In the context of Jaime’s challenge, there is more than reasonable doubt in the IPCC attribution statement, even if a statistical confidence of 90% (GHG emissions) or 95% (all human causes) were acceptable as persuasive evidence.

There is a further problem with the statement. Human greenhouse gas emissions are meant to account for all the current warming, not just over 50%. If the full impact of a doubling is CO2 is eventually 3C of warming, then from that the 1960-2010 CO2 rise from 317ppm to 390ppm alone will eventually be 0.9C of warming. Possibly 1.2C of warming from all sources. This graphic from AR5 WG1 Ch10 shows the issues.

The orange line of anthropogenic forcing accounts for nearly 100% of all the measured warming post-1960 of around 0.8C – shown by the large dots. Yet this is about 60% of the warming in from GHG rises if a doubling of CO2 will produce 3C of warming. The issue is with the cluster of dots at the right of the graph, representing the pause, or slow down in warming around the turn of the century. I have produced a couple of charts that illustrate the problem.

In the first graph, the long term impact on temperatures of the CO2 rise from 2003-2012 is 2.5 times that from 1953-1962. Similarly, from the second graph, the long term impact on temperatures of the CO2 rise from 2000-2009 is 2.6 times that from 1950-1959. It is a darn funny lagged response if the rate of temperature rise can significantly slow down when the alleged dominant element causing them to rise accelerates. It could be explained by rising GHG emissions being a minor element in temperature rise, with natural factors both causing some of the warming in the 1976-1998 period, then reversing, causing cooling, in the last few years.

Kevin Marshall