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Belated follow up to Fraser Nelson’s agreement that climate change science consensus is valid

May 8, 2011

Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, backs climate change science consensus!

Dear Fraser,

First of all, apologies for the huge delay in posting this blog, which is a response to your tweets on Thursday (7.4.11). I was genuinely delighted to read your two tweets.

@frasernels says: “wish we cld fight, but I don’t disagree with you on the science 😦 My problem is with the efficacy of the proposed solutions.”

@frasernels says: “my humble role as editor is to encourage debate via brilliant writers. My own views on climate change science are boringly orthodox”

 A week previously you seemed much less certain about the science and wrote: “I’m not yet persuaded. How much is man’s activity contributing to global warming? Is it 20 percent? 80 percent? I haven’t seen a proper paper that attempts to quantify it — perhaps Simon can find me one.”

I suspect that many of your readers will be surprised by your tweets (“I don’t disagree with you on the science” & “My own views on climate change science are boringly orthodox”). Perhaps it was the links I provided in my previous blogpost that helped you clarify your position. Or perhaps you have taken on board some of the points made by Professor Tim Palmer and Sir David King in the Spectator debate.

Whatever the reason, I am now assuming that you would answer Yes to my five previous questions, which essentially means agreement with the consensus on climate change science:

1. Do you agree that increases in CO2 and other greenhouse gases lead to an increase in the global temperature?

2. Do you agree CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased from 280ppmv to 380ppmv (35%) during period of industrialisation?

3. Do you agree that the Earth’s climate has warmed by 0.6 degrees in the last 50 years?

4. Do you agree human contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a major factor in the warming over the last century?

5. Do you agree best scientific predictions estimate further rise of 1.1 to 6 C over 100 yrs based on good (not perfect) models?

I suspect that the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which appears to adopt an anti-consensus attitude, will be disappointed by your acceptance of the scientific consensus. For example, Lord Lawson, one of the GWPF speakers at the Spectator debate, made his anti-consensus views clear in an exchange of letters with the Chief Scientific Advisor Sir John Bedington, which was obtained following a Freedom of Information Request and then published on the Carbon Brief website. This is very much worth reading.

In short, Lord Lawson seems particularly keen to focus on the first decade of the 21st century in order to argue that manmade climate has ended or never happened. He fires off a volley of sub-GCSE criticisms of the climate consensus, which Sir John calmly deals with point by point.

Perhaps Lord Lawson’s obsession with the first decade of the 21st century explains why every page of the GWPF website contains a global temperature graph covering 2001 to 2010. Had the graph been extended to include previous decades then it would have been much more helpful, as pointed out by Sir John: “…in order to assess the impact of greenhouse gases on global temperature, it is necessary to consider the long-term (multi-decadal) trend…. When we consider the record decade by decade…it is clear that even allowing for uncertainties in the observations, that last three decades have each been significantly warmer than the previous one ie the error bars do not overlap.”

Why does the GWPF fixate on just a few years of data when we can look at decades, centuries or millennia of data? GWPF appears to have a “less is more” (or “homeopathic”) approach to data.

Worse still, the GWPF appears to be so ideologically opposed to the climate change consensus that it could not see that the graph that initially peppered its website was, in any case, flawed. Steve Connor in the Independent (3.12.2009) wrote:

But for an organisation set up to expose such data manipulation, it was indeed unfortunate that the logo was itself a travesty of the truth. For a start, it contained at least one obvious error, spotted by Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

The original logo depicted 2003 as having the highest global temperature of that highly selective series of years, which was not the case. Benny Peiser, the director of the new foundation and a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University, admitted that there had been a “small error by our graphical designer”.

Mr Ward also points out that the data used in the logo comes from a dataset compiled by the Met Office and the very same Climatic Research Unit that the foundation criticises for data manipulation. Even the amended version of the logo appears to show that 2006 and 2007 were warmer years than 2004, which is not the case.

“I am surprised that the members of the foundation’s academic advisory council have not been scrutinising the information on the website to ensure it is correct,” Mr Ward said.

It is also odd that the foundation chose to represent just eight years of data, from 2001 to 2008. If it had included 2000, and the latest data on what is known of 2009, then the shape of the logo would look very different – even more so if the past 150 years of data were included.


Anyway, back to the main point of this blog.

Fraser, you made two other points in your tweets.  The first was point was to declare that “…my humble role as editor is to encourage debate via brilliant writers”. I hope you will also aim to discourage contributions by writers who are ideologically driven and who are ill-equipped to deal with difficult scientific issues. At least one of your bloggers raises the sort of criticisms raised by Lord Lawson, and he shows very little insight into the science of climate change.

Your second point was perhaps the more important one. Having accepted the scientific consensus, you say: “My problem is with the efficacy of the proposed solutions.”

In the same way that it was very helpful to pinpoint where you stand on the science (i.e., alongside over 90% of climate scientists), it would be good to clarify where you stand on the solutions and the need for solutions.

Starting from your position (and the consensus position) that the best scientific pre
dictions estimate further rise of 1.1 to 6 C over the next 100 years based on good (not perfect) models, please can you state which of the following statements you agree with?

1. Do you agree that a potential increase in global average temperature of more than 4C by the end of the century cannot be ruled out, and indeed the probability may be as high as 50 per cent, if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise at current rates?

2. Do you agree that the potential economic and social costs of a warming of more than 4C could be so high that they should be avoided, even assuming cost-effective adaptation to some impacts were possible?

3. Do you agree that taking cost-effective action to avoid a temperature rise of more than 4C means reducing global emissions over the next century by at least 50 per cent so that there is a 50 per cent chance of a warming of less than 2C, and thus only a very small chance of a warming of more than 4C?

4. Do you agree with the economic estimates that such reductions in emissions could be achieved at a social and economic cost that would be much less than the potential impacts of unchecked climate change?

5. Do you agree that the best approach to climate change is through evidence-based risk management?

6. Do you agree that one of the main aims of successfully managing the risks of climate change is to limit the probability of reaching so-called tipping points, beyond which very severe impacts would become extremely difficult to stop or reverse, such as melting of the major land-based ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica?


From → Uncategorized

  1. Bishop Hill permalink

    Given that the IPCC’s central prediction of 2degrees/century is on the cusp of being falsified already, I think it’s fair to say that a forecast of 4 degrees per century is well and truly kaput.This being the case, this posting looks a bit like a fairy story.

  2. matthu permalink

    Simon Singh makes the fallacy of equating the idea that Fraser Nelson does not disagree with him on the science as affirmation that he agrees. Is this how the concensus is built up?If I don’t disagree with someone on some theory about which I don’t express any strong view, does that mean I agree with him?I thought Simon’s logic was stronger than that.

  3. jheath permalink

    By agreeing with question 5 I find myself disagreeing with all the others – this is indeed about risk management – which must incorporate the significant uncertainties in the data and all the assumptions, even when I accept the core science. The impacts of the science in temperature alone and inconsequent social and economic welfare are overwhelming.

  4. Douglas J. Keenan permalink

    "it is clear that even allowing for uncertainties in the observations, that last three decades have each been significantly warmer than the previous one"The quoted statement is false. I had a full-page op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal last month which explained the statistics in layman’s terms; see do not know if there has been a significant warming. And that is regardless of the time span.I e-mailed Simon Singh about the piece on April 28th. Hence he is presumably aware that what he is stating is false.

  5. Devil's Kitchen permalink

    <i>"the consensus position) that the best scientific predictions estimate further rise of 1.1 to 6 C over the next 100 years"</i>Look, 6 degrees C over the next 100 years is very likely to cause significant problems: 1.1 degrees C over the next 100 years will cause no significant issues at all.So, Simon Singh: which one do you subscribe to? And how can you possibly apply the same set of questions for such a massive temperature range?I know this may seem presumptuous, but you might want to stick with the fish-in-a-barrel homeopathists and leave wider science alone for a while.DK

  6. omnologos permalink

    With all due respect Mr Singh, I do not think you have understood <a href="">Fraser's comments</a> at all. Not about seeking to be a "<i>voice of calm in the middle of a hysterical debate</i>", not about "<i>real science invites refutation</i>", not about "<i>the orthodoxy produced by intellectual fashions, specialization, and the appeal to authorities is the death of knowledge</i>".So you can tweet <i>Sorry, @frasernels & I agree on science & uncertainties & have moved on</i> even if you two haven’t moved on at all, in the sense that you are still asking questions that make no sense at all given Fraser’s comments. He may say Yes to each item in your new list, and still there would have been no contribution from you on the points Fraser holds most dear.

  7. Anonymous permalink

    How can we expected to take the ‘Consensus’ seriously, while they continue to refuse FOI requests?(To say nothing of the fact that they all admit connections with government, and that government stands to gain massively from the CAGW orthodoxy it finances).

  8. Josh permalink

    My two pennyworth regardsJosh

  9. Ceri Reid permalink

    I find Simon’s latest set of questions as incoherent as his first set. I believe in both cases he is trying to force the reader to a set of conclusions that matches his, with his questions making a watertight argument. He doesn’t seem to realize that the argument is only convincing to those who already believe it. As a skeptic (of things in general, not just CAGW) I find it impossible to ‘know’ whether the temperature has risen to any significant extent; and if it has, what has caused that rise; and whether that rise will continue. Simon’s arguments on this blog entry and his previous ones seem like jesuitical attempts to force people to believe what he believes, despite there being a chasm of doubt separating that belief from real knowledge. He continually puts words into the mouths of those who disagree with him, rather than reading or listening to what they have actually said.I have read and enjoyed Simon’s books in the past, but I am extremely disappointed in both his lack of real, (brave) skepticism and his bullying manner in this debate.

  10. Anonymous permalink

    Yes, the hero of those books does seem to be going downhill.Where previously there was painstaking analysis, we now see just blinkered table-thumping. Perhaps preparing himself for a job in government ?

  11. Lost my respect permalink

    He’s debating with Fraser because he wouldn’t be able to debate successfully with someone who really understands the science (which neither he nor Fraser do).Why don’t you show a bit more courage and open-mindedness and send your questions to a real scientist like Richard Lindzen?Simon, how would you respond to the question "do you agree that it cannot be ruled out that people are being abducted by UFOs?" Your first question has the same fatuous quality, and the same answer, namely, that our best scientific knowledge, and logic, suggest that the proposition is false.What an oaf, I am going to stop recommending his books to my students.

  12. Hengist McStone permalink

    Bishop Hill relies on some blogger called Lucia for his " IPCC’s central prediction of 2degrees/century is on the cusp of being falsified" claim. The IPCC rely on hundreds of UN appointed scientists. I don’t know which will be proved right, but bearing in mind that we are talking high stakes here I’d rather not trust Bishop and Lucia on that one thank you very much.

  13. Anonymous permalink

    Hundred of scientists, yes – but all carefully selected by the same politically financed and politically motivated body – the UN – with an obvious huge vested interest in the outcome.The very same body deeply and unapologetically implicated in data hiding and general science fraud exposed in Climategate.

  14. Hengist McStone permalink

    @Punksta"all carefully selected by the same politically financed and politically motivated body – the UN – with an obvious huge vested interest in the outcome."No, you’ve lost me there. How does the UN have a huge vested interest in the result of IPCC reports? Unless you are referring to the fact that if we get this wrong it might result in the end of life on this planet. But I suspect you aren’t.

  15. Anonymous permalink

    The UN is a body dedicated to world government. It clearly has a vested interest in reports purporting to show a need for world governance, reports it itself organises.It would be naive in the extreme to think this process is objective and honest.

  16. Hengist McStone permalink

    @Punksta " It clearly has a vested " Yes, youre just repeating yourself…That over simplified conspiracy theorising might have some traction if it came from a source with any reliability, but it doesn’t its just your unsubstantiated opinion.

  17. Anonymous permalink

    Oh, the "conspiracy" strawman again – the oddball notion that an organisation working to further its interests implies "conspiracy".Quite the opposute is true, It would require a conspiracy (of integrity, honesty, etc), for the UN to NOT be working in its own interests. And we know from Climategate the the UN’s IPCC are just frauds, so that that really doesn’t fly at all.

  18. Lost my respect permalink

    Simon, I see you have tried to ridicule my previous comment in recent tweets and retweets. Did I say there was was anything wrong with your books? On the contrary! Read my first comment several threads ago. But I am only human and do not like the idea of my students reading your books and assuming that the thorough research and clarity of thinking evident in the books are something you take to every subject, and then finding your postings on climate. Perhaps an overreaction on my part but there are plenty of other books for me to recommend (and as if they buy them anyway, I don’t know why I bother :-().Anyway, it’s now obvious from your tweets that you DO read these comments, which leaves me further unimpressed that your response is to try to ridicule them via Twitter rather than engage here, as several of us were asking you to do on the previous threads. I’d still like an answer to my original question, but as I’m now just finding all this annoying I may not come back here, so apologies in advance if you *do* engage and I then don’t.

  19. Neil Craig permalink

    Well since Simons questions have been asked and answereed lets have another "nelated" try to get him to answer the questions I previously put to him After all if he thinhs sceptics have a dutty to answer their questions so, obviously, does he and other alarmists, yet for some completely inexplicable reason he contiunes to refuse to do so.1 – Do you accept Professor Jones’ acknowledgement that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995?2 – Do you accept that the rise in CO2 has improved crop growth by around 10% & that the consequent influence on world hunger is more beneficial than any currently detectable destructive action of alleged global warming?3 – Do you accept that the Hockey Stick, as originally presented by Mann and the IPCC contained calculations that were inconsistent with good science and that Mann’s refusal to make calculations and algorithms available for checking were inconsistent with scientific principle?4 – Do you accept that many claims from people and organisations on the alarmist side, from Al Gore’s claim that South Sea islands had already been abandoned due to rising sea levels and Pachauri’s claim that any dispute that the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2025 was "voodoo" are wholly, completely and totally untruthful and would have to be openly denounced by anyone on the alarmist side who has any trace of honesty?5 – Do you accept that there are a number of geoengineering solutions which arithmetically can be shown would work (including stratospheric dust, the geritol solution or even just replacing CO2 burning with nuclear power) which would work at a small fraction of the cost of the war against fire, or in the case of nuclear, at negative cost?6 – Do you accept that the refusal of alarmists to denounce fraud on their side, or even its active support or covering up, detracts from the credibility of the entire movement?7 – Of the alleged "consensus" – can you name 2 scientists, out of the roughly 60%, worldwide who are not paid by the state, who support catastrophic warming & if not can you explain how something can be a consensus when no member of a subset of 60% of the alleged consenting, consent?

  20. Neil Craig permalink

    I take it we can accept Simon’s repeated refusal to reply as an acknowledgement that he cannot honestly answer any of these questions, equivalent to the ones he asked sceptics and they easily answered, in any way which would not expose warming catastrophism as not merely in error but totally fraudulent.We will see if if that has any effect on his support of it. Since any fame he has achieved is because of his position with the BBC, which is aware of these facts and has acknowledged that it makes no attempt to maintain the "due balance" which alone validates its Charter on thuis (& most other) subjects I suspect he will continue.

  21. Anonymous permalink

    internet beef o.O

  22. Anonymous permalink

    Good one.keep it up. <a href="">Buy forzest Online</a>

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