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« Justiciable climate? | Main | Guenier on Sands »

Is good news actually news at all?

Over the weekend there was a minor kerfuffle when the Sunday Times' Jonathan Leake breached the embargo on a press release about the latest GWPF report. Ho hum.

The report itself is by Indur Goklany and is about the benefits of higher carbon dioxide levels - increased crop yields and a general greening of the planet being the principal ones. Richard Betts has been taking a look and has come up with some interesting and some not so interesting points.

For example, he reckons that Goklany is inconsistent, accepting climate model predictions of a reduced threat from water shortages but pointing to the failures of climate models in general. This doesn't seem an unreasonable point to make, although neither do I think it unreasonable of Goklany to point out that even the models, flawed though they may be, are predicting benefits from global warming.

Richard also notes that the IPCC discusses carbon dioxide fertilisation in its reports and reckons Goklany's contribution is therefore not newsworthy.



This is true, but I'm not sure that represents a criticism of Goklany's report. I'm struggling to recall an occasion on which the IPCC has proclaimed the benefits of higher carbon dioxide levels to the general public, so the new report represents a valuable contribution to the public debate, filling in the bits the IPCC didn't want to discuss in public.

I hope Richard welcomes the public gaining a deeper understanding of climate science, both the bad news and the good news.

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Reader Comments (58)

Never having come across the phrase "biogeochemical cycles" before I decided I ought to find out a bit more.
Wikipedia, I discovered, is not you friend! After telling me what these cycles are it goes on to say that they

are currently being studied for the first time as climate change and human impacts are drastically changing the speed, intensity, and balance of these relatively unknown cycles
[Snip - please keep it polite]
1. What observational evidence is there that the "speed, intensity, and balance of these relatively unknown cycles" are being drastically changed?
2. What observational evidence is there that, if this is happening, that it is due to the 0.7°C of warming that has happened over the course of the last 150 years?
3. What evidence is there that any changes are other than natural, not drastic, and not caused by human activity?
And none of it is really relevant anyway. As ATheoK says, the IPCC is as unforthcoming as it can be about the possible benefts of CO2 and it is only CO2 that warmists care about since the object of the exercise is to convince governments to reduce fossil-fuel usage for reasons that have damn-all to do with climate and CO2 is the obvious bogeyman to use.
All else is window dressing or diversionary tactics.

PS If these cycles are "relatively unknown" how can anybody claim that they know what is happening to them and what is causing it?

Oct 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I have snipped a couple of comments for manners. Please desist from this kind of thing. In future I'll delete the whole comment, so please don't waste your time!

Oct 14, 2015 at 10:11 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I believe Betts is not dishonest, just self-deluded like most of the rest of his peer-group. While we appreciate that he complained about Emma Thomson just making stuff up, it doesn't help when he then makes stuff up too. eg. From that Daily Mail article:

"It [climate change] has not been exaggerated – at least not by mainstream science".
Oh really?

"There is already more warming in the pipeline which is unavoidable. Therefore anything projected for the next few years is already unavoidable"
"the changes for the next few years are already locked in"
Sheer and utter conjecture presented as fact!

Until the real extent of natural variation has been properly quantified this time around (rather than assumed to be negligible) then we cannot know any impact of manmade warming. So no climate impact can possibly be 'locked-in' or 'unavoidable' or even necessarily bad. As it happens, thus far there is not a single bad impact from warming (manmade or otherwise) while there are many obvious benefits (one of which is presented in this post). An impacts expert should know this! Sure we have had many worst-case scenarios from inadequate & pessimistic modelling efforts but none have proven remotely credible. That being the case then almost everything ever written about climate change by mainstream science has been an 'exaggeration'!

His agenda with the criticism of Thomson's hysteria was to present a slightly less alarmist message as normal when in fact there is nothing at all alarming about 0.6K/century none of which was in the last 18 years (when the rate of change should have been highest according to the hypothesis).

Climate change is just another 'moral panic' like so many that have emanated from the dogmatic social sciences since the 60's - many of which did real and lasting damage. This particular moral panic has managed to 'lock-in' serious damage to our energy supply and hence to our standard of living. Thomson and her ilk think they have the moral high-ground but that's all too easy to assume when you are affluent enough to avoid any of the consequences of such bad energy policy. Here in the real world we need cheap energy by whatever means and we need our science to be devoid of confirmation bias and petty politics.

Oct 14, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Mr Betts: I am not sure that you understand the majority of the arguments on this site. Yes, most accept that the climate is real, and it can really change, most will acknowledge that it is changing now; most accept (and are grateful) that there has been some global warming over the past 200 years; most accept that this warming could continue; most accept that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing; most accept that CO2 can be shown to be a “greenhouse gas”, so its increased concentration in the atmosphere might increase atmospheric temperatures; most accept that human activity could have some effect upon climate. There is some evidence to support all of these hypotheses.

Where the contention starts is whether or not the increase in CO2 concentrations is solely the result of human activity; whether or not the increasing atmospheric CO2 is having a measurable effect on temperatures; whether or not, if the global temperatures increase, it will necessarily be detrimental to “the planet”, let alone catastrophic; whether or not CO2 is the sole – or at least, principle – driver of climate change; and, finally, whether or not there is anything that humans can do to influence the change of climate in any way whatsoever. There is NO evidence to support any of those claims, so why have they become important to the policies of so many governments, especially as so many of those policies seem to be detrimental to the well-being of the vast majority of the population?

Rising water temperatures, due to global warming, will lead to shifts in freshwater species distributions and worsen water quality problems, especially in those systems experiencing high anthropogenic loading of nutrients (high confidence). Climate change-induced changes in precipitation will substantially alter ecologically important attributes of flow regimes in many rivers and wetlands and exacerbate impacts from human water use in developed river basins (medium confidence).
This is not a conclusion, this is a hypothesis. Having postulated it, it needs to be tested, particularly the negative impacts that are claimed. The only test that is available is to monitor and observe – over several centuries! This is the case for most of the “conclusions” in the Executive Summary, though others could best be described as stating the bleedin’ obvious:
Many plant and animal species have moved their ranges, altered their abundance, and shifted their seasonal activities in response to observed climate change…
Have you heard of migration? For many species, it happens twice a year, as the climate changes through the year.

That the “climate change” for both these scenarios actually is “global warming”, both of them fall flat on their faces, as, despite the rising CO2, there has been no significant global warming for nearly 20 years! Quite why that statement of the bleedin’ obvious cannot be accepted by so many believers is what raises the dander of so many sceptics.

Oct 14, 2015 at 10:47 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

MJ: perhaps the usual Wiki suspect has been at play, here. If the cycles are relatively unknown, how do we know that there has been any change in them, at all? Such logic does seem to be beyond rather too many believers: “We have never seen anything like this before, but we know this is worse than we thought!

Oct 14, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

A strange comment which mentions my name. It is short enough to reproduce here in its entirety:

'John Shade, Martin Brumby

If you think I’m “far more interested in keeping the scary stories going” then I guess you didn’t read the Mail on Sunday a few weeks back!

Oct 13, 2015 at 11:04 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

(1) Not here, nor anywhere else, have I said what he attributes to me there.
(2) Nothing in that Mail on Sunday article refutes anything which I did say in my earlier comment on this thread, although it does somewhat weaken my suggestion there that he is now taking a calmer view of things. It seems instead that he retains the dire stuff, but merely pushes it further into the future. This explains his qualified support for the views of the troubled actress in that article:

Fortunately, while Ms Thompson’s concerns are valid in the longer term, her timing isn’t supported by the science.

Oct 14, 2015 at 1:53 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

@jolly farmer made a comment Oct 12, 2015 at 11:16 PM on unthreaded

Great to see how keen Dr Richard Betts is to engage on this blog.
Thanks, Richard!
Check for the very latest!

Lots on CO2 fertilisation? !!?

Oct 16, 2015 at 6:45 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

THanks @Jolly Farmer, I see he had a big put down of the Emma Thompson story

"Ms Thompson spoke passionately and in no uncertain terms about 4°C warming by the 2030, and stated that “in a few years …. whole swathes of the Earth will become uninhabitable”. These statements do not reflect what the science actually says. (that's a super mild expression to use when someone is misleading by magnitudes)
- Does this matter? What’s the harm in a bit of exaggeration if it’s in a good cause? To my mind, there’s three reasons why it’s a problem.
-Firstly, making wild predictions that don’t come true obviously harms your credibility. ..."
@JF when I checked that link I found no mention CO2 fertilisation or CO2 benefits either.
- Hey but not all stories are in the news list, so maybe there is something hidden away on the individual users posts, but not on The R Betts page.
That seems pretty alarmist to me :
He reposts a Carbon Brief post "With each passing year the scale of the task looms ever larger.* There are very real questions about whether or not the world will be able to stay below the two degree limit."

*(actually No the CO2 figs rise quite slowly, they are still around that 400 fig hyped a while back.)

Oct 16, 2015 at 7:02 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

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