Overstretching Attribution (Nature Climate Change)

Guest Post by Ira Glickstein

VOL 1 NO 1 of a new journal, Nature Climate Change, arrived in my mailbox today. While clearly in the Warmist camp, it was refreshing to read the first paper Overstretching attribution. It starts off by giving Richard Lindzen credit for being “a bona fide climate scientist who rejects the scientific consensus that current climate warming is largely caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases”. With seeming approval, they quote Lindzen’s pithy comment:

Climate change is the norm. If you want something to worry about, it would be if the climate were static. It would be like a person being dead.

Not only that, they have the audacity to tweak the IPCC a bit:

Is it fruitful … to continue to pursue deconstruction of biological responses into those due to natural or anthropogenic climate change?

The IPCC believes that it is, and advocates an ever-more-detailed approach to attribution. We disagree. We argue that ‘chained-attribution’ assessments from greenhouse gases to climate change to biological change, as called for by the IPCC are largely inappropriate, principally because our understanding of the biological impacts of climate change cannot aspire to the level achieved in physical climate science. This is not simply a matter of further research, for there is no common biological response to a single climate driver, and no simple biological metric analogous to global temperature rise. Each ecosystem, species, or even population can respond differently to climate change, and there are an estimated 30–100 million species. Thus, we are far from being able to achieve realistic coupled climate–biological models, and in an attempt to reach this goal, we risk taking research effort away from the critical issue of adaptation.[My emphasis]

They report the news that the past century or so has seen a modest increase in mean temperatures. They correctly note that many species have adapted by relocating the extreme edges of their habitats polewards by a handful of kilometers per decade. They identify the real issue as “assessing the extent to which observed biological changes are being driven by greenhouse-gas-induced climate change versus natural climate variability.” As for other human effects, such as land use, they even report the good news that the map butterfly (Araschnia levana) has also stretched its habitat equatorwards “contrary to expectations”, apparently due to mowing along roads.

All-in-all, a welcome change in tone by at least one influential part of the Warmist camp.

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40 thoughts on “Overstretching Attribution (Nature Climate Change)

  1. Yes a good tone but for how long will they actually have and allow sceptical views to be published.

  2. A warmist rag displaying vestiges of critical thought. Who knew? Let’s hope the trend continues and doesn’t revert to worse than we thought.

    /cynicism

  3. Precisely. If climate change stops, that would be totally unprecedented, and it’s probably ok to panic. I do not doubt that humans influence climate, but it’s a bit like throwing a stone into a rapid brook, the splash will affect everything downstream, but not explain everything.

  4. Sort of like modern TV panelists: one semi-sane person with 3 hardcore communists on the other side of the debate.

  5. I suspect there’s not been a change in philosophy so much as a growing urge to barf every time they have to read another sappy, trivial, badly-written paper full of implied (or feigned) pity and horror at the (highly unlikely) hypothesized fate of another sub-sub-sub-subspecies: “Unless we act now, by 2035 the Lesser Motley Whooping Snail will be no more, gone, driven from Mother Earth by an unfeeling human master-race and their wicked, CO2-belching vehicles. The possible cancer cure that very likely might have been developed from their highly toxic venom or from their little spleens will never be found. O, the humanity…!”

    I’m starting to feel a bit queasy just writing this. I’d better stop.

  6. Hurry, act now, research is limited.
    Sort of sounds like a liquidation sale on science, does it not?

  7. “They correctly note that many species have adapted by relocating the extreme edges of their habitats polewards by a handful of kilometers per decade.”

    Exactly.

    Just as the air circulation systems shifted poleward during the period of very modest warming:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24228037/

    “From 1979 to 2001, the Northern Hemisphere’s jet stream moved northward on average at a rate of about 1.25 miles a year.”

    I contend that from around 2000 the poleward progression ceased and that since the sun entered a less active period and the PDO went negative the process is now going into reverse.

    There is some valid debate as to whether the true change is in the degree of zonality/meridionality of the jets rather than absolute average latitude but either way things are not now as they were.

    The key point is that the change in air circulation system positioning relative to equator and poles is well manifested in the changes observed from MWP to LIA to date and would also be present in all earlier climate shifts such as the Roman Warm Period, the Dark Ages and the Minoan Warm Period.

    However it is an erratic and irregular process that takes centuries to produce the full range of potential regional climate consequences which inter alia include substantial climate regime shifts over the northern continental mid latitudes where the effects are amplified by the global land mass distribution.

  8. ” principally because our understanding of the biological impacts of climate change cannot aspire to the level achieved in physical climate science”

    This isn’t sarcasm???

  9. All species alive today have lived through warmer and colder climates than we are living through today. They were able to do this because they adapted. Adaptation means that your species survives which is what we are actually here for to ensure the survival of your own genes and therefore the survival of the human species as a whole.

  10. “They correctly note that many species have adapted by relocating the extreme edges of their habitats polewards by a handful of kilometers per decade.”
    I’m especially pleased to see this in black and white from a publication which is, as you say, in the “warmist” camp.
    One of the biggest scares perpetrated in recent years has been “the threat to our wildlife” and the belief that we in danger of “losing” a large number of species — usually the cuddly ones — because their habitat is under pressure. Certainly several of the “animal welfare” organisations (I use the phrase advisedly) have hung advertising campaigns and appeals on that particular peg. As I believe have some deluded scientists.
    As both a bird-watcher and gardener I have seen plenty of evidence of northward movement of both flora and fauna. So far I have seen little, if any, evidence of a contraction at the southern end of the range.
    It’s nice to see a science journal agreeing.

  11. So, they say:

    “We argue that ‘chained-attribution’ assessments from greenhouse gases to climate change to biological change, as called for by the IPCC are largely inappropriate, principally because our understanding of the biological impacts of climate change cannot aspire to the level achieved in physical climate science. This is not simply a matter of further research, for there is no common biological response to a single climate driver, and no simple biological metric analogous to global temperature rise. Each ecosystem, species, or even population can respond differently to climate change, and there are an estimated 30–100 million species. Thus, we are far from being able to achieve realistic coupled climate–biological models, and in an attempt to reach this goal, we risk taking research effort away from the critical issue of adaptation.”

    For years I have been pointing out – including on WUWT – that the climate system is the most complex known. Indeed, it has more interacting components (e.g. biological organisms) than a human brain’s interacting components (e.g. neurones).

    Nobody claims an ability to construct a predictive model of a human brain, but some people assert that they have constructed predictive models of the more complex climate system. And there are people who accept those ridiculous assertions that climate models have useful predictive skill.

    It is good to see that ‘Nature Climate Change’ is willing to consider the blindingly obvious.

    Richard

  12. “Poleward” shifts of insects cannot be attributed to changes in their distribution. Parmesans claims are based on observational biases (both Parmesan 1996 and Parmesan et al 1999). In temperate regions insects frequencies increases on average during warm summers decreases during cold summers. When the network of observators decreases towards north there will be a more complete coverage of the species in the south than in the north. During warm summers this difference will be smaller because a even small number of observators will see more species in the North when they are abundant. Parmesan got her articles published in Nature because she said that there was a northshift in distribution beacuse of global warming. At the same time my conclusions where immediately rejected both in Nature and Science in 1999. Nature even rejected in 2001 an article where I showed that Parmesan had fabricated the Finnish data.

    Finnish Museum of Natural History

  13. I believe that 99.99% of all animals that ever lived on this earth have become extinct. This is the fault of Man or Nature or is Man part of Nature.

  14. While reading this post these exact two points struck me, as already noted by others:

    Sandy Rham says:
    April 23, 2011 at 12:33 am
    ” principally because our understanding of the biological impacts of climate change cannot aspire to the level achieved in physical climate science”
    This isn’t sarcasm???

    AND

    janama says:
    April 23, 2011 at 12:37 am
    another wolf in sheep’s clothing

  15. Wow! Almost fell off my chair. Maybe this is a watershed shift by Nature. Could it be they are returning to objectivity and the scientific approach?

  16. Ira,

    There has been a great deal of money to shape science into a conclusion that is publishable.

    I’m current following a field that is unpublishable as it steps on many toes.
    Following ACTUAL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE as to why ocean salt deposits are in many places in this world. This can ONLY happen if the oceans were much, much higher and is losing water through water vapor to space.
    Very much like how Mars lost it’s water, just we had much more of it.
    Salt deposits can give a time line of carbon dating as many trapped marine life are present.
    Answers many questions from the massive amount of sand to compression of porous rocks by oceanic weight.

  17. Sounds like they’re taking the Lomborg line: Catastrophic warming is incurable, therefore we need to focus on preserving a few scraps of the world for a few minutes before the inevitable holocaust.

    They’re still nowhere near science, nowhere near asking “is this hypothesis justified?”

  18. Sorry, I’m not buying. It sounds like the funding for “what happens to wildlife when it warms up” papers is drying up, so they’re laying the groundwork for a new category: distinguishing natural and man-made warming.

    I’m guessing the eventual thrust will be, “nature can adapt to natural changes, but not to man-made changes.”

    That will give them cover to acknowledge that some warming is natural, which is extremely hard for them to admit right now and that’s hurting their cause.

  19. My theory is they’re just exorcising their skeptical demons as early as possible just to get that out of the way. More advocacy science on the way. Hope I’m wrong.

  20. Robertvdl says: I believe that 99.99% of all animals that ever lived on this earth have become extinct.

    As I understand it, 99.999999….% of all animals that have ever lived on this Earth have become dead.

  21. Maybe this is a bit of honey to make the medicine more palatable. Nature says “xyz” but hey, they gave us the overstretching attribution article so they must be a reasonably balanced mag. That or they are using this Nature “light” as a pilot tug to steer the big ship away from climate-fantasy polluted waters.

  22. And there could be two publications, one for pro global warming subscribers and one for those who don’t buy it. Maybe not but it would be good business.

    TV producers start a series often with conservative scenes to get the interest of the public then after a few shows revert to the liberal crap trap.

  23. How long will it take for the editors to buckle under pressure from warmists to print only the warmist agenda? Time will tell. However, it is very refreshing to see anything in print, on line, or on the tube that is even-handed. It seems everyone (except those who read this blog) has an agenda that does not include balanced reporting and analysis.

  24. Maybe they are getting a little alarmed about the recent spate of climate predictions that didn’t work out and are actually thinking about how their papers will be viewed 20 years from now.

  25. The next debate will then be related to “adaptation”. Instead of passive adaptation, you will see evidence of aggressive adaptation. And by that I mean there will be the usual attempt to control individuals and corporations by imposing adaptations rules, regulations, and edicts. Under our current politically correct regimes, adaptation will be the next level of taxation. Same tune, different title.

  26. “Kelvin Vaughan says:
    April 23, 2011 at 11:30 am
    Is AGW responsible for Muslims moving polewards as well?”

    Of course. They didn’t bother us much during the LIA did they? At that time the Christians were moving equatorward and displacing the Moors who had moved up from Africa to Europe during the MWP.

    Note too that the Vikings moved down from Scandinavia to the British Isles during the cooler Dark Ages and the Roman northward expansion was during the Roman Warm Period.

    So that wasn’t a daft question after all.

  27. Pamela Gray says:
    April 23, 2011 at 9:53 am
    “The next debate will then be related to “adaptation”. Instead of passive adaptation, you will see evidence of aggressive adaptation. And by that I mean there will be the usual attempt to control individuals and corporations by imposing adaptations rules, regulations, and edicts. Under our current politically correct regimes, adaptation will be the next level of taxation. Same tune, different title.”

    Pamela,

    Dr. Tenberth noted in a recent speech- “Instead , we must recognize that while there is considerable merit in slowing the pace of climate change, and we should work to reduce emissions, it is also essential that much stronger steps be taken to plan for and adapt to the change that is surely coming. How we cope with the challenges ahead and build more resiliency in our system, are major questions that should be higher on the agenda.”

    So, yes it looks like we get some focus on adaption rules in the future. What we should prepare for- I guess that depends on what EXACTLY we expect to happen in a distinct location…………

  28. Pamela Gray says:
    April 23, 2011 at 9:53 am
    The next debate will then be related to “adaptation”. Instead of passive adaptation, you will see evidence of aggressive adaptation. And by that I mean there will be the usual attempt to control individuals and corporations by imposing adaptations rules, regulations, and edicts. Under our current politically correct regimes, adaptation will be the next level of taxation. Same tune, different title.

    Exactly. It’s a fallback position for the enviro-statists. If they can’t frighten enough legislators and governments into draconian measures to prevent the imaginary ‘climate change’ catastrophe by regulating and taxing everything ‘carbon’, then they’ll wail that we need just as many rules and regulations in order to ‘adapt’ to the oncoming disaster.

    Either way, they have to keep insisting that the sky really will fall. It’s up to the rest of us to tell Chicken Little to go home and forget about it.

    /Mr Lynn

  29. There is a profound political point worth considering in all the hoohah about climate change and adaptation.

    The issue is not that we are contributing to the speed or scale of climate change.

    The real issue is that the exponentional growth of human populations, life expectancies and general prosperity since the industrial revolution have also exponentially increased the sensitivity of human societies to climate changes (whether natural or not) to a degree that adaptation is no longer a realistic proposition.

    Climate changes on the scale of those seen from MWP to LIA to date will cause worldwide devastation whatever we now try to do.

    As the global population increases towards the anticipated mid 21st century peak of 9 billion and our societies become increasingly sophisticated and energy dependent then the risks can only increase.

    Thus there is heavy pressure to try to mitigate even natural climate changes and in support of that proposal it must initially to be asserted that we are capable of affecting climate in the first place.

    That is why the mere idea of AGW has acquired such a hold. The actual evidence is not a significant factor.

    Accepting that we can have a significant effect on climate changes allows the power hungry elites to entertain the illusion that when the next sizeable natural climate shift occurs then there is something we can do, or should have done, about it.

    Of course it helps that when the natural shifts inevitably occur and the unavoidable consequences unfold then the power hungry elites will then have someone to blame so that they can maintain control.

    That someone will naturally be the masses whose only ‘crime’ was to try to improve their lives by hard work and enterprise.

    The logic is not recognised at a conscious level but it lies there in the background motivating and feeding the emotional content of AGW alarmism.

  30. At the end of the day, as any good geologist will tell you, there is not a shred of evidence in the geological record to support the cornerstone of AGW dogma that a slight rise in global temperature – for whatever reason – will trigger major temperature rises due to the feedback effect from increased amounts of clouds – if temperatures rise this obviously means more evaporation, so logic suggests that should mean more clouds.

    The geological record is barren of such instances, so why should it happen now?

    Recognition of this inconvenient fact is the grand heresy of the alarmist AGW cult, which refuses to believe that the modest rise in global temperatures over the past century is almost all down to natural climate cycles.

  31. The Idsos have shown that only the Northern (poleward) boundary shifts with climate change. The equatorial boundary remains about the same. This is from their video Carbon Dioxide and the “Climate Crisis” Avoiding Plant and Aminal Extinctions.”
    You vcan buy your own copy from them at CO2Science.org.

    To those who care about the well-being of plants and animals, I recommend all their videos.

  32. P Gosselin says:

    “Wow! Almost fell off my chair. Maybe this is a watershed shift by Nature.”

    No such luck, my friend. I just got my copy of Vol. 1, No. 1 of Nature Runaway Global Warming Climate Change. They’ve toned down the red faced, spittle flecked arm-waving – leaving that job to the True Believers who post at RealClimate, Climate Progress, Skeptical Pseudo-Science, etc., while NCC pretends to be practically scientific skeptics. But of course they’re not, they’re the same bunch of gravy train alarmists that run Nature.

    What gives them away are their actual articles, with titles such as: “Climate Change Hits Home,” “Time To Try Carbon Labeling,” “It Isn’t Easy Being Green,” “The Case For Adaptation Funding,” “Sourcing The Sceptic,” “Climate Health, Agricultural and Economic Impacts of Tighter Vehicle Emission Standards,” and of course the book review: “HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years.

    When the Berlin Wall came down, lots of Pravda editors and writers were out of a job. Looks like they finally found a new home.

  33. Thanks for the comments!

    I remain optimistic that the mainstream science journals will eventially slide from their current Warmist orientation to something closer to a LukeWarmer stance.

    PREDICTION: Within five years, Nature Climate Change will be renamed Natural Climate Change :^)

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