Latest Posts

World commits to 3.5 degrees 1

A majority of the world’s nations yesterday signed up to the Copenhagen Accord and filed plans for emissions reductions, scraping over the UN deadline of 31st January for doing so. But the pledged actions fall far short of action needed to prevent global temperatures rising by 2 degrees C – the target adopted in the text of the Accord itself.

Instead, existing actions set the world on course for a 3.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise, according to earlier analysis of pledges carried out by consultancy Ecofys. PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculate that on current projections the world will burn up its allocated carbon budget for the first half of the century by 2034 – 16 years ahead of schedule.

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The Carsonian Revolution

This year, the modern environmental movement turns 40. Earth Day in 1970 marked the first mass environmental protest, and whilst some ecological ideas have a much older pedigree, it is only during the past four decades that they have attracted mainstream attention. As the disappointment of the Copenhagen climate talks sinks in, it is easy to be pessimistic about the future of environmentalism. But I would argue that, taking the longer-term perspective, it is still very much in the ascendant.

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Glaciergate in perspective

The “Glaciergate” story is about a claim in the 2007 IPCC report that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. It turns out that the evidence for this claim was from a speculative comment made by a not-very-prominent glaciologist in New Scientist in 1999. The Times and The Express have gone to town with this story claiming that it undermines the whole of the IPCC.

So, what does it really mean? Read more

Do you believe in climate change? 2

It is an increasingly familiar formula – a climate poll is released, the results are interpreted and analysed, and both sides claim victory. The initial analyses are inevitably the ones that scream ‘controversy’, while more considered accounts emerge at a later date. But while the polls may tell us something about public opinion, what do they tell us about climate change? Read more

ClimateGate & public opinion 5

Following the UEA email hack, it’s become part of the media narrative that opinion is turning against man-made global warming. It’s usually worth checking any such media claim about changes in public opinion that have supposedly occurred following a series of news stories, particularly ‘dramatic revelations’. Read more

ClimateGate: A Briefer 8

In the wake of the “Climategate” affair – the illegal hacking and publication of a huge number of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit – I’ve been trying to put together some “points to remember” on the episode, along with some of the key points of evidence. Below is what I’ve managed to come up with. Owing to the story’s media profile, the volume of material out there is now pretty enormous and somewhat unwieldy. Nevertheless, I hope this at least begins to cover most the bases, and will generally be of some use. Read more

Copenhagen: the post-mortem 2

Following the announcement of the Copenhagen Accord, John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, declared Copenhagen “a crime scene”, with the world leaders who brokered the deal “guilty men and women.” Every crime scene demands a post-mortem, and in this entry, I”ll attempt to file a first report. I”ll warn you now: some scenes may disturb. Read more

Visualising the gap between political and scientific reality.

Keep an eye on the Climate Scoreboard during the next two weeks… Note the dark blue curve in the graphic, this is the probability distribution, it shows the full range of temperature rise the current national emissions proposals would likely give rise to. Currently it’s 2-6 degrees with 3.8 degrees is the most likely outcome (according to their analysis, climate sensitivity etc.).

With my risk managers hat on, it’s hard not to notice that we could go way above 3.8 degrees… it looks like there’s a 5-10% of going over 5 degrees… the sting’s in the tail as they say!

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CRUde Swifthack

For those of you not following the detail of ‘ClimateGate’ here’s a nice video explaining the meaning of the two most cited “conspiracy-proving” emails. Peter Sinclair also wades in with a short video covering the affair.

While this sort of accurate rebuttal is important, it reminds me of something Randy Olson argues in Don’t be such a scientist – that scientists often obsess too much about substance and accuracy, in every sphere they operate in. Olson even suggests that a scientist’s natural response to being called a bastard would be to present their birth certificate as counter evidence! Read more