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« A philosopher on Climategate | Main | Guardian flip flops on hacking »
Tuesday
Jul122011

Beddington's baloney 

Sir John Beddington has published a new report that addresses "International Dimensions of Climate Change". The lead author team includes BH regular Richard Betts.

The headlines are going to be grabbed by the reports call for climate disasters overseas to be used as a lever for introduction of unpopular policy measures in the UK:

The onset of more severe climate impacts overseas may also open up temporary opportunities, or ‘policy windows’. These would allow legislators the licence to take specific bold actions which they ordinarily believe would not otherwise be possible or politically acceptable...

Given that individual weather events cannot be linked to climate change, this does make the report look (a) very political and (b) highly unscientific, but there is in fact much more in the report with which to take issue. For example, this is paragraph 2 of the Executive Summary:

Climate change is expected to act as a ‘risk multiplier’, interacting with other trends. It is likely to make it even more difficult to address poverty, disease, and food and water  insecurity. In particular, rising temperatures and changing patterns of precipitation may affect the availability of food (including crops and livestock) and water, leading to more hunger and increased volatility in food prices, and heightened regional tensions, affecting international stability and security. An increased frequency of extreme weather events may adversely affect human health, disrupt the flow of natural resources and commodities, and threaten global infrastructure for transport and energy. Moreover, the inherent uncertainty of these various impacts is likely to increase risks significantly in the business and financial sectors.

I find this hard to equate with my knowledge of climate projections. If the world is going to get (a) warmer and (b) wetter then the impacts are most likely to be rather benign. In what way can there therefore be an expectation that things will get worse? And where are the expressions of uncertainty?

But again, it's the invoking of extreme weather that catches the eye. Here's what the IPCC had to say on the subject:

A synthesis of the model results to date indicates that, for a future warmer climate, coarse-resolution models show few consistent changes in tropical cyclones, with results dependent on the model, although those models do show a consistent increase in precipitation intensity in future storms. Higher-resolution models that more credibly simulate tropical cyclones project some consistent increase in peak wind intensities, but a more consistent projected increase in mean and peak precipitation intensities in future tropical cyclones. There is also a less certain possibility of a decrease in the number of relatively weak tropical cyclones, increased numbers of intense tropical cyclones and a global decrease in total numbers of tropical cyclones.

When we read the IPCC's words, the use of extreme weather as a bogeyman by Sir John and his team looks highly incongruous. There is certainly no sense of the uncertainties being portrayed to the reader, which is odd given that Sir John Beddington was one of those who criticised "some scientists" for exaggerating the effects of global warming.

The report is clearly going to provide a great deal of entertainment. Please, however, resist the temptation to rant or make rash accusations.

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Reader Comments (117)

Life's too short to read the garbage in this report. I wonder how much it has cost UK taxpayers? We are all doomed if this is based on the best "sciience" that the UK can produce or evaluate.

It says:

Chapter 2 provides background on the evidence for climate change.

Yet again, I cannot find the evidence. It seems to be:
There is a robust and diverse body of scientific evidence which suggests that the global climatic changes observed over the past 50 years are largely attributable to human activities, predominantly through the burning of fossil fuels, land use changes and agricultural practices, all of which increase atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs)9. Inherent natural variability in the climate system, variations in solar irradiance and volcanic activity are other factors which influence climatic conditions over a range of timescales. However, assessments of their relative influences over the past century conclude that natural factors alone cannot account for the observed warming, particularly in the latter half of the century.

and
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that most of the observed changes in global average temperatures since the middle of the 20th century are very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.

Still no evidence provided, just the usual opinion and appeal to authority.

In the meantime I shall continue to stock up on food and fuel.

Jul 12, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I am hoping that Juliar of Oz crashes the whole AGW caravan into the Wall of Common Sense & creates the game changing event that her "Carbon Pollution" tax seems to herald. Listen to Andrew Bolt on MTR1377 this morning & the interview with Tony Abbott.

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/mtr_today_july_12/

Jul 12, 2011 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

Beddington and the Huhnatic must be sharing scriptwriters, except that the Huhnatic goes much further and sees 'climate change' leading to wars and strife over water. If a warming world is going to be enjoying marginally more precipitation, I cannot imagine where these two are getting their scary scenarios from.
Considering the number of excellent studies that have shown the flat trends in rainfall and other climactic parameters, Beddington's and Huhne's disgraceful scaremongering are about as far removed from objective uses of science as can be imagined.

Jul 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Beddington is in direct line of descent from John Houghton and Steohen Schneider in the appeal to weather catastrophes to motivate and justify political action.

Jul 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

Yes, I found "The onset of more severe climate impacts" to be a very telling phrase indeed.

Either the author expects extreme weather events out of the usual pattern within the next few years, or he's advocating saying there are such events whether there are or aren't. I don't see how else to take it.

If the former, this appears to be the only area of climate psyence in which uncertainty is accepted, because it's so damn handy. "There's 100% certainty about the psyence, but there is 100% uncertainty about the real world observations predicted by the psyence. So although the climate is definitely getting worse, there is definitely no specific example of how, when and where it's got worse."

The reasoning seems exactly like the reasoning behind miracles. Saints definitely exist; saints do miracles; but we can't predict any specific miracle, we can only claim certain events in the past were miracles. The basis for the existence of saints is a claim from authority.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

J4R: Anybody who has read a bit of history knows that extreme weather events of every imaginable type have already happened; and happened quite often. How do the psyentists distinguish natural extreme events from those I have caused by taking my car out of the garage?

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Its not exactly a new approach , but jumping on the back off poorly named extreme weathers events , poorly name becasue their not 'extreme' as being usual for the planet over any reasonable time base , is something that there may be seen more off. As the predictions 'of doom' and the models continue to fail to reflect reality.

Let see what other type of people in history have used weather events as sings of the 'future doom' , well for one those that tend to see the hand of god in such revelations.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Bish

Thanks for your comments.

First a small correction. I was a member of the "Lead Expert Group", which is an advisory body - I was not actually an author. I don't write this kind of thing, too close to being policy prescriptive - my role is to make sure it's consistent with the science. (I remain policy neutral)

And to be honest I am happy with it from a scientific perspective. You will note that the report uses the language of uncertainty when discussing projected future changes, and makes clear that there are large uncertainties. Indeed please note the box "A word of caution" on page 18 - the authors specifically say "this report conveys the threats and opportunities to the UK from particular outcomes related to climate change, but does not attempt to assess the likelihood of such events. This is in a red box all by itself on a single page, I don't think it could be any clearer.

Also please note that the report discusses opportunities arising from climate change, not just threats.

And finally I don't think you should assume that this report is all about motivating emissions reductions - it isn't. In fact it is largely about adaptation - it explicitly states that we are probably committed to further ongoing climate change irrespective of any action to reduce emissions, and hence the UK needs to consider how to respond to that inevitable change. It points out that we are strongly affected by what happens overseas, through financial systems, trade, international development responsibilies etc, and so need to take this into account as part of the wider package of risk assessment. Just because we can't be certain about future climate change, it doesn't mean we shouldn't start thinking about minimising risk, or planning to exploit opportunities.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

He's one of the public school educated elite who have infested the English Establishment.

He's not even a scientist: his first degree was in Economics.

Population biology is numbers and spreadsheets, not science.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered Commenteralistair

Richard

Thanks for this. A couple of questions:

How can the report have any policy relevance if there is no assessment of the likelihoods?

Can you comment on my critique of Beddington's comments on extreme weather events.

Jul 12, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I imagine that all words of caution and uncertainty will be completely ignored by the lobbysists and the politicians.
Thus the scientists get used again, to give scientific weight to a report with a poltical/policy agenda, all caveats removed.

"These would allow legislators the licence to take specific bold actions which they ordinarily believe would not otherwise be possible or politically acceptable..."

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Richard

And also how can you assess whether to spend money taking advantages of the opportunities if you have no idea of whether the likelihoods?

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:06 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Beddington fails on so many levels. This is criminal scaremongering for someone in such a responsible position. This is an abuse of science, not use of science.

As for Huhne.. words fail me, except perhaps that he lives up to my worst expectations.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

Thank you Richard, but what policymakers get to read the box on page 18? They read the executive summary and jump to conclusions about 2degC and tipping points. Where are the warnings about adapting to the next Little Ice Age or worse? All it is concerned about is "Directions for the UK in a Warming World". It is dangerous to ignore the more serious consequences of a cooling world. I'd much prefer a warming world.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Not so fast Richard Betts:

Beddington says (first sentence)

"This Report has identified for the first time how international climate change is likely to affect the UK"

One cannot identify how likely international climate change is going to affect the UK if there is no assessment of the likelihood of such events. Just read Beddington's introductory sentence again:

"This Report has identified for the first time how international climate change is likely to affect the UK"

You can bury all the caveats you like in the report (the 'word of caution' is not in the executive summary) but Policy makers reading Beddington's introduction and the executive summary are going to believe that the executive summary is the report's summary of "how international climate change IS LIKELY to affect the UK". Because that's what Beddington says. And, after all, we have to believe him, don't we?

So, is Beddington's statement a true one: does this report IDENTIFY how climate change IS LIKELY to affect the UK?

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

I was inclined to allow the report to be filed in my 'may look at one day' file pile, but Richard Betts makes it sound much more interesting, so I shall read it, and compare the detail content with the summary and press releases.

I hope that in any discussion on adaptation consideration is given to vulnerable people freezing over the coming winter and eyebrows are raised at the continuing rise in profits of energy companies. Once these things have been properly considered and taken note of, then our elders and betters can return to their port and stilton.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Agree with BH. Without estimates of future likelihood all scenarios appear equally likely and we end up spending gigantic amounts of money inefficiently and needlessly for events which will almost never come to pass.

What we need is an estimate of likelihood and cost of mitigation/adaption so that policy makers can plan and decide between alternative courses of action.

Such a report should also reflect the fact that many of the changes could be beneficial - more heat in the high latitudes is good for humans and for plant and crop growth. More rainfall is also good.

So we should offset the downside by adding in the effect of the positives.

Otherwise all we have is scaremongering.

This report is therefore useless.

It is simply a list of all of the things that could go wrong.

If I was to apply the same approach to my life, I would never get out of bed.

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Bloggsworth

Richard Betts, thank you or your contributions over here, and specificaly in answer to this particular post.

If as you say there is no real science in this piece, then what is it apart from scaremongering and spin?

If you take the scaremongering and spin ot of AGW, how much science are you actually left with to prove the theory?

Rising sea levels,no. More hurricanes, no. More drought, no. More flooding, no. Rising lobal temperatures, not recently.

The only tangible things we have to fear, are the policies of the scaremongers and PR spinners

Jul 12, 2011 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Bish

I think policymakers frequently have to work with risks of unquantifiable probability - eg: terrorist attack. If the probability is non-zero but the impact potentially high then a responsible advisor will make people aware. (And similarly a responsible advisor will not attempt to give probabilities when this is not possible).

Decision-makers and their advisors are often stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they don't consider risks, even of low or unquantifiable probability, and then the worst happens, it's "why weren't we warned?" ! But if they do hedge their bets, and nothing happens, it's "crying wolf". This is exactly what I mean when I say there is a need for more rational discussion and recognition of the uncertainties by both "sides". But this is also why it is fine for you to challenge this report - hopefully it is laid out in such a way that you can examine the reasons behind what they've written and check it's pedigree.

On extremes, they say "An increased frequency of extreme weather events may adversely affect" and I think this is consistent with IPCC when you consider the full range of extremes. You've focussed on storms, but there's also heatwaves, droughts, wildfire etc. And as you quoted, precipitation is expected to come in more intense events.

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Betts: you say "I think policymakers frequently have to work with risks of unquantifiable probability"

Well, the report is written for policymakers, and Beddington's introduction is aimed at policymakers. So, any chance of an answer to my question? Do you consider Beddington's statement to be true, i.e. that the report actually identifies how climate change IS LIKELY to affect the UK?

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

@Richard Betts

'I think policymakers frequently have to work with risks of unquantifiable probability - eg: terrorist attack. If the probability is non-zero but the impact potentially high then a responsible advisor will make people aware. (And similarly a responsible advisor will not attempt to give probabilities when this is not possible)'

Strange then that only yesterday the Home Secretary announced that the level of terrorist threat to the UK had been reduced from 'severe' to 'substantial'. This advice from the 'Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) and was based on the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as "capability, intent and timescale".

So here we have responsible advisers making semi-quantitative assessments of a high-impact risk and the government taking notice. Are they irresponsible? misguided? or do they just have supernatural powers compared with the average climatologist?

If they can do it, why can't you guys? Surely not because you think that such an analysis might be challenged?

Full report from Auntie here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14111281

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

ScientistForTruth

I think they are using "likely" figuratively here. I routinely advise people against the use of the word "likely" as it has probabilistic connotations. However it often seems to be used more figuratively. Next time I will work even harder to discourage use of that term!

I still think they've done a great job though.

Golf Charley: sorry if you think it's scaremongering. Personally I think it should be reassuring, to some extent anyway, that policynakers are thinking ahead like this. I don't think the report is saying "we're doomed", it's just saying there are things on the horizon that we need to think about how we can deal with them, in order to minimise negative impacts and maximise positive ones.

I think that in this discussion we have established one of the key distinctions between the two "sides" of the climate change dialogue - whether the response to uncertainty is "consider future risks / opportunities" or "don't consider acting until we're more certain". I suspect it may be possible for two people to have the same view on the likelihood of AGW having an impact, but still come down on different sides in terms of what to do with this!

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Betts
I come back to my hobby horse. I keep asking when someone is going to provide me with some empirical evidence that CO2 is going to (or even has the capacity to) do the things that it is being accused of.
I am taking that one step further and asking when any of these terrible things are going to happen and on what scientific basis (as opposed to computer-based guesswork) these predictions are being made.
Remember, we have been subjected to 20+ years of scaremongering about the climate and if any of the scenarios that we have been assured are likely to, or very likely to, or possible, or just even might come to pass then we ought to have been seeing some of them start to happen by now, don't you think?
So where are they?
Beddington's report is just another step along the theoretical doomsday road. "If we don't mend our ways then at some point in the future after I'm dead so you can't blame me when it doesn't happen there will be extreme floods/droughts/storms/heatwaves/snowfall/ record high temperatures/possibly record low temperatures."
I believe there will be extreme floods/droughts/storms/heatwaves/snowfall/ record high temperatures/possibly record low temperatures but then haven't there always been? Where is the evidence that the next 100 years will be different from the last several thousand?

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Latimer Alder

Because there was only a relatively small amount of taxpayers' money available for the project so it could not have been done as extensively as some would have liked. I'd have loved to spend 3 years producing a full quantitative or semi-quantitative analysis, but that wasn't possible, and the literature basis to make quantitative or semi-quantitative statements without such a study simply doesn't exist!

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

The number of people in 'climate communication' and 'climate policy' taking the vulture-approach (as opposed to a hawk or a dove approach) is increasing by the day. They even openly declare: 'next time when a handlful of you die from any bad weather, we are going to blame it one the climate and ram through our unpopular, ill-concieved measures'.

I recently examined a gathering of climate communication and public relations professionals - based in the United States and Canada - who came to the same conclusion as Beddington does. These are from the Desmog group and the David Suzuki Foundation - both influential groups in the Canadian debate, and certainly beyond.

Why are natural disasters linked to climate change? Answers from a public relations convention

Quoting from their conference report:

“Moments of distress and disaster provide the best opportunity to change minds, a condition that advertisers and marketers have known for decades.”

We also know there will be extreme weather, hurricanes, droughts, food shortages, melting ice caps, calving glaciers, species extinctions and other indicators of a climate run amok.

Why are we not planning our communications response now, before the next inevitable crisis strikes? Instead, we reinvent the wheel each time, on the fly, with limited impact

There is more stuff like this in the report (!).

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

OT-announcement of reader interest. Science journalist David Appell -- who has written for SciAm and The Guardian, a sort of junior Chis Mooney -- has decided to join the fray and ask skeptics naive questions. For instance, defending Michael Mann. SEE comments here, discussing a recent skeptics AGW intro by Fred Singer:
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/07/global-warming-a-primer.php

David blogs here:
http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2007/12/amazons-kindle.html

Perhaps you can assist in his "Road to Damscus" beginnings, like Mark Lynas and others have undergone.

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

PS "The Hockey Stick Illusion" rightly gets multiple rec's for Davis Appell to catch up!

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

David Appell's blog
http://davidappell.blogspot.com/
SORRY.

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

Let me get this straight. Sir John Beddington is.... Chief Scientific Adviser to Her Majesty's Government...?

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Dr. Betts -
Having read only the Executive Summary, I must agree that this report appears only to accentuate the negative. For example, "Global average temperatures rose by approximately 0.7°C over the 20th century, and climate model projections, under a range of representative scenarios, suggest that by 2040 the world could have warmed by around 2°C relative to the pre-industrial baseline." As the average temperature rise has been on the order of 0.15 °C / decade, projections of a rise of 1.3 °C over the next 3 decades seem unduly pessimistic.

Further, the opportunities which you cite as a balance to the risks, do not seem to include any of the benefits of a warmer clime. In fact, the primary opportunity is political: "There will be opportunities for the UK to influence on the global stage, by playing a leading political role."

No, it does not strike me as a balanced view. I'm happy to agree with "strategies to adapt to a warming world will be essential," but little else.

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

From a very quick and superficial scan of the document Richard, I would comment that there is very little discussion of the benefits of any climate change, other than the opportunities for the UK to throw more money at the climate change industry. It does concede that the (likely!) actual effect physically on the UK will be minimal, but goes to town on how changes elsewhere in the world will affect us negatively. Why no discussion on the positive implications? (Apart that is from the (re)opening of the North West Passage as a commercial shipping route).

Why concentrate only on perceived negatives?

Good news! -there are no polar bear pictures, though there is a picture of broken ice on page 20 from which I suppose we are to assume the bears starved and drowned :)

Jul 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Richard Betts. I am not sugesting you are involved with the scaremongering, but what is left that is "science" when you remove the messages of doom?

Where is there any evidence that it will be worse than we thought, when none of the IPCC predictions are coming true? Why can't someone have the nerve to say "maybe we over egged this one"?

From Schneider in the 70's via Hansen, Gore, Houghton, Beddington et al, it is all exaggerated doom

This paper is nothing more than a piece of political spin, and they did not even manage to choose a good week to release it.

Richard, that is why I see it as scaremongering. Have you seen some of the stuff being used to "educate" children, done in the name of science?

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

The mere fact that Richard Betts has 'answered' some of the points laid out in this blog suggests to me that there may ..might ..most likely be...possibly.. on balance .. maybe......(add the rest)...a recognition that the warmanistas may.. might ..most likely be...possibly.. on balance .. maybe be a tad....be .over the top with their prognostications and that some of the more astute are rearraging the deckchairs away from the life boats..

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Richard Betts "I think they are using "likely" figuratively here. I routinely advise people against the use of the word "likely" as it has probabilistic connotations. However it often seems to be used more figuratively. Next time I will work even harder to discourage use of that term!"

That, Sir, is an appalling get-out, which does you no credit. So you are saying that the word 'likely', in the foreword by the Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government, and Head of the Government Office for Science has got nothing to do with likelihood, or whether something is probable. Since you routinely advise people against the use of the word 'likely', it's might strange that such an exalted personage as Sir John should be indulging in such a 'figurative' expression.

By denoting it as 'figurative' you are stating that it is not literal. So, when Sir John states that "This Report has identified for the first time how international climate change is likely to affect the UK", we are not supposed to take him literally? A man who is Chief Scientific Adviser to the government.

Just taking what Wikipedia says about that (to which we all have access)

"Literal and figurative language is a distinction in traditional systems for analyzing language. Literal language refers to words that do not deviate from their defined meaning. Figurative language refers to words, and groups of words, that exaggerate or alter the usual meanings of the component words...In traditional analysis, words in literal expressions denote what they mean according to common or dictionary usage, while the words in figurative expressions connote—they add layers of meaning...Figurative language departs from literal meaning to achieve a special effect or meaning."

Since you consider that the statement by Sir John that "This Report has identified for the first time how international climate change is likely to affect the UK" is not to be taken literally, can you please help us poor readers to identify (1) how we should know that Sir John is not to be taken literally (since he does not seem to be using any recognizable figures of speech), (2) what Sir John actually means by this phrase (since we can't take him literally), i.e. what 'special effect or meaning' Sir John is getting at, (3) how a reader could possibly know what Sir John means and what figure of speech he is actually using simply by reading what he writes, and (4) what other things in Sir John's writing that have the appearance of being literal statements are to be interpreted as figurative language (and please supply the meanings as well).

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Richard Betts, perhaps I have missed something, but your very reasonable explanation of the report does not fit the scenarios that Beddington derives from it. The only conclusion I can come to is that Beddington is either looking at a different report from the one you were involved with or (and I consider this the more likely) he is not being honest and is painting scary word-pictures divorced from the science and born of his deep faith in and his surety of the coming climate disasters.
And I must take issue with your wish that you could have spent much more time working up a more complete report - why could all of the available science not fit into the report at its current length?

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Richard,
You seem like a very reasonable person. You do not seem to be a fear monger or a supporter of the apocalyptic visions that so many in the AGW community depend on.
Do you see yourself as a bell weather opening a frontier of reasonableness for the AGW community, or are you facing estrangement from AGW believers?

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Hunter
+1

gc

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

The precautionary principle is a two-edged sword. When one proposes taking certain actions to protect the public from potential harm, one must also consider the potential negative impacts of these actions. I find the latter assessments particularly lacking in regards to the climate change champions. For example: biofuels. Did not the proponents of this action consider the possibility that its implementation would lead to substantial rises in food prices and thereby negatively impact world starvation and poverty?

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrcrinum

It is traditionally far easier for the BBC etc to lie about conditions abroad because we don't live there and thus cannot se what rubbish it is.Thus they can blame Australian floods and fires on global warming when in fact it is ecofascitspreventing land river and brushwood management.

A more extreme version of this is Hansen coming up with figures that say though the globe is cooling in places where people live the net warming in places where they don't and there are few measuring stations outpaces it.

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

This talk of literal and figurative brings Schopenhauer to mind. He points out that religious texts are initially claimed to have literal truth, and are so presented for consumption by the multitude. Once the inherent absurdities of the literal reading are pointed out, the claim of literal truth is reduced to a claim of allegorical truth.

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr Slop

Richard Betts, many, many, thanks for your contributions here.

Just one question - Could you please explain why it was decided not to include "A word of caution" in the "Executive Summary"?

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

So, does Beddington have any qualification in science? Do we know if he passed A-level physics? Could he state Newton's laws?

WIth his degree in economics he epitomises the latest pseudoscience where conjecture is the end of the road. In the good old days words such as "suggests that", "indicates" and "may" were the first steps towards hard proof and universal laws.

However did we allow the commanding heights of the scientific establishment fall into the hands of wishy washy wafflers?

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

In a previous career I used to write sales proposals for high-value (often bespoke) capital equipment for medium and large corporates. The lawyers would never allow us to make any definite predictions of any realisable benefits (in case of subsequent dispute) so we had to content ourselves with 'might', 'may', 'could', 'can contribute to' and such weasel words. I can write parpagraphs like that in my sleep

Beddington;s report has been written in exactly the same way. All is possible..but nothing definite. And as other commentators have indicated, all the (non)-predictions are about bad things. Climate change (if it happens) is a universally Bad Thing in Beddington's world.

But I guess the good thing is that we needn't worry any more about sea levels

'By 2100, under the medium emissions scenario, projections suggest that the average sea level rise will be between 0.23m and 0.43m, with extremes of over 0.6m projected by two models'

Even the worst case suggests less than two feet rise in sea level in 90 years. And most likely around one foot. An average British housebrick, laid conventionally with mortar, is three inches deep. We need therefore to lay one course of bricks every 25 years in our sea walls Or do four at a time and kill the job for 100 years. Surely within our capabilities...especially as the Olympci infrastructure projects come to an end!

This whole report just seems to be an assemblage of 'experts' getting to together to flog their own hobby horses with some attempt to glue the parts together into a 'coherent narrative'. But even they must admit that there is no coherent narrative. They could have saved their breath by saying just

'Be prepared for change'

which surely our Lords and Masters should have been anyway. At least those who were in the Cubs, Brownies, Guides or Scouts should have been.

Jul 12, 2011 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Richard Betts @ 12.06 PM

I think policymakers frequently have to work with risks of unquantifiable probability

Now when I was involved in risk assesments, we defined risk as the product of the probability of an event multipied by the consequences of th event. So how can we have "risks of unquantifiable probability”?

Jul 12, 2011 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Green Sand

Not sure, but I guess it might have been because they thought the language of the exec summary was sufficiently caveated with "may" etc to make it obvious that the statement were not meant to be firm or even probabilistic predictions (although I do admit that "likely" was used twice, both times in the 2nd paragraph)

Jul 12, 2011 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I am sure Richard is not responsible for the add-ons in the policy side but going by his definition of 'Likely' as used in the policy section the following is true.

Her Majesty's Government believes it is Likely that with the purchase of 2 lucky dips Breath of Fresh Air will win the Euro Millions Draw this evening.

Jul 12, 2011 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

The observational record shows - No Hot-Spot - No AGW - No arguement - Simples!

Jul 12, 2011 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

So Beddington writes "News of the World's Climate Change" and caveats it with the admission that it probably hasn't yet, however we need to bankrupt the economy just in case something happens, that might be really scary, though he is not particularly confident what it might be?

This is not science, whatever his job description might say

Jul 12, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Richard, like the others here I am extremely pleased that you have chosen to take us on in our own backyard. It makes for more sensible debate than some of the verbal high-fives that one can read on some web sites every time a sceptic argument seems to have won the day.
I must take issue with your reply to Green Sand. I have a lifetime of writing and persuading behind me and believe me, if an executive summary says 'may', the tabloid press and the sheeple will read 'will'. If it says 'likely' they will read 'certain'. The only exception is in phrases such as "likely to improve" which the tabloids will render as "an outside chance of improving" and "may get better" which will end up as "probably won't get better".
No lies; just distortions. Bad news sells papers and people appear to be conditioned to believe that things will always get worse.
This summary (as I am sure Beddington is well aware, and if he isn't his PR cronies will have told him) reinforces the negatives that we are already conditioned to accept. And as for ministers, he knows as any good Permanent Secretary knows that they only every read the summary -- 'the Janet and John bit', as Sir Humphrey called it.
Sorry, but there it is!

Jul 12, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

last nite aljazeera ran a news ticker all nite saying, in effect, climate change tol hit UK hard, while also doing a half-hour program on the terrible drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

10 July: Video: Aljazeera Inside Story: Africa’s drought: Is weather or war to blame
As up to 12 million people face famine, we ask what has caused the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in 60 years?
Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, discusses with guests: Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a climate policy analyst; Aly Khan Satchu, a financial analyst and CEO of Rich Investments; and Alan Tomlinson, the emergency programme co-ordinator at Care International.
http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2011/07/201171185829495562.html

Wysham was utterly cynical in her endless repetition that climate change was the cause and the Dems want to do something while the deniers don't. the Care International spokesman had terrible trouble trying to explain the many causes of the current catastrophe, such as high grain and other food prices, rising fuel price, continuing conflict in Somalia where most of the refugees come from, etc.
in fact, most of the refugees in the kenyan camps have been there for years but, for some reason, thousands of new arrivals are also being kept at Dabaab Camp, while there's a completely empty camp just 10 miles away. whilst the Kenyan Govt is being blamed for not opening the camp, the MSM is certainly playing climate politics even with this human tragedy.

11 July:Video: BBC: East Africa drought: Kenya's empty refugee camp
The head of the United Nations refugee agency has urged Kenya to open its Ifo II camp to refugees escaping drought and war in Somalia.
The Kenyan government has so far refused to authorise completion of the camp, which has room for up to 40,000 people, over fears it would encourage refugees to stay in the country permanently.
The new facility is close to the Dadaab camp, which has been overwhelmed by the recent influx.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14113811

the Beddington report would appear to be straight-out politics, more fake evidence for why trillions need to be spent or grabbed in the name of CAGW.

11 July: BBC: Climate change effects overseas 'matter to UK'
The Foresight report says UK authorities must look beyond the effects on these shores.
Rising temperatures could bring poverty, disease, food and water shortages that damage international business and finance, the report warns.
But there could be opportunities for UK expertise in low-carbon technologies.
The authors of the report, examining the international dimensions of climate change for the UK government, say Britain must plan ahead for uncertain times.
Climate change-related problems could threaten international peace and security, they warn, and fluctuating global temperatures could disrupt the flow of natural resources and commodities...
Even the insurance industry could prosper as business tries to offset future risks, it says
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14101473

11 July: eGovMonitor: UK: Report Highlights New Challenges To The UK From International Climate Change
Source: Department For Business, Innovation And Skills
Climate change impacts from abroad could affect the UK more than climate change at home according to a report, published today by Foresight, the Government’s futures think tank.
The report ‘International Dimensions of Climate Change’ shows that the UK will be vulnerable to adverse impacts from climate change abroad...
UK firms managed worldwide assets of £1.2 trillion in 2008, and the failure to accurately assess their level of exposure to climate change effects may result in these assets being insufficiently insured or protected...
Business and financial opportunities for key sectors of the UK economy, either where there are recognised strengths in engineering, in insurance and in climate forecasting or where new opportunities are generated because of the need to reduce emissions or adapt to climate change. They include a wide range of green technologies, particularly in the energy sector, such as carbon capture and storage, and new forms of financing for the green economy. The global environmental and low-carbon market was estimated to be £3.2 trillion in 2008/09 with a predicted 4% growth rate to 2013/14, with the UK forecast to achieve up to 3.9% growth in these areas by 2016.
Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and the project’s director said:
“Our world is getting warmer, and the UK’s extensive international economic, political and cultural ties mean that the UK is at increasing risk from impacts of climate change overseas. The UK must not respond by becoming insular but instead broaden its international reach to tackle climate change. This report is designed to help Government consider how these impacts will be felt here in the UK so we can better prepare and adapt for the future.”
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, said:
“As John Beddington’s report recognises, the effects of climate change extend beyond environmental concerns into geo-political considerations...
This shorter type of Foresight project examined how climate change impacts in other parts of the world could affect the UK. It has identified a broad range of risks to the UK from international climate change, in the areas of: global governance; foreign policy and national security; financial services; physical resources and commodities; overseas infrastructure; health and behaviour.
The project’s evidence base will inform the UK's first Climate Change Risk Assessment (as required by law through the 2008 Climate Change Act) to ensure that the Government’s policy on adaptation to climate change takes appropriate account of international impacts. The Assessment will be published in January 2012.
The project is co-sponsored by Defra and DECC, and FCO who will use the report to inform their wider international agenda on climate change.
http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/42759

worth reading all the following. it's a money grab from every angle, and anyone who imagines the UN or anyone else is planning to help the poorer countries, who can't be blamed for believing the CAGW spin they hear day in, day out, is sadly mistaken:

27 June: WDM: Developing country groups slam UK’s climate loans
Community leaders in countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Mozambique and Yemen have written to British cabinet ministers Chris Huhne and Andrew Mitchell rejecting the loans the UK is providing to their countries to help them cope with climate change...
http://www.wdm.org.uk/climate-change/developing-country-groups-slam-uk%E2%80%99s-climate-loans

Jul 12, 2011 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

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