This essay covers the seven beliefs that are necessary for a Paris Protocol to make sense. The reader is invited to rate the probability of each belief being true. Using their probabilities the reader can then calculate their “Skeptic Score”.
Kyoto Copenhagen Paris Paradigm
The Seven Beliefs Required for Acceptance of the Paris Protocol
Guest essay by David Swinehart
In 1997 a large number of countries meeting in Kyoto, Japan reached an agreement to reduce “greenhouse” gas emissions. The United States signed this agreement along with Australia, Canada, Japan and all of the European Union countries. The after mentioned countries ratified the treaty amongst others. The United States Senate, however, never ratified the treaty, and Canada has since withdrawn. With the treaty set to expire at the end of 2012, an attempt was made to negotiate a replacement in Copenhagen in 2009, but the parties failed to reach a legally binding agreement. In December 2015, another attempt will be made in Paris to negotiate a replacement to the, so called, Kyoto Protocol.
If the United States had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the nation would have been required to reduce its total “greenhouse” gas (GHG) emissions by 6% from its 1990 level during the period 2008 to 2012. As of 2010 the United States had not reduced its total emissions, but rather had increased emissions by about 10% despite a rather large decrease in emissions per capita starting in 2007-2008 caused by the recession. Recent discussions about a new protocol are centered on major countries like the United States reducing total emissions 80% by the year 2050.
The impetus for a treaty to reduce “greenhouse” emissions was a set of beliefs, a paradigm, fostered and promoted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In this article, we will focus only on the essential beliefs, each of which is necessary, for a global treaty to reduce “greenhouse” gas emissions to be a reasonable course of action. Also, we will consider some of the objections to those Beliefs.
As an added bonus, you will have the opportunity to calculate your “Warmist Score”, or more accurately, your adherence to the “Paris Paradigm” (or lack thereof, your “Skeptic Score”).
The following is a set of Beliefs that are espoused by supporters of a Kyoto type treaty. It is also contended that every Belief is necessary and, taken together, sufficient for such a treaty to be acceptable, i.e. the failure of any one of these Beliefs would make such a treaty pointless, but on the contrary if all Beliefs are true, then a Kyoto type treaty would be prudent. Opinions vary and you may feel that one or more Beliefs are not necessary, or perhaps, you may feel that important elements have been omitted. In either case, you are encouraged to make comments.
The Paris Paradigm (a set of seven assertions all of which are necessary to justify a treaty)
1. Unprecedented global warming caused by humans both in rate and magnitude. Since 1850 due to mankind, the earth has warmed faster and to a higher temperature than at any other time in the last 1,000 years, if not longer.
- Accelerating warming. The rate of temperatures increase will accelerate resulting in the period from 1850 to 2100 having an increase in temperature from 2.0° to 4.5°C; or perhaps more.
- Very harmful. This warming has had a significant net harm to the world causing more deaths, economic loss, hurricanes, tornados, droughts, flooding, growth in deserts, increases in malaria, heart attacks, loss of food supply, forced human relocation, wars and deforestation among other harmful effects. The increase in the warming rate mentioned in Belief 2 will cause even greater harm to the world.
- CO2 to blame. The prime cause of all of this is CO2 emissions by humankind.
- Can be controlled. By reducing human emissions of GHG’s (primarily CO2) through a global treaty, warming and its bad effects can be avoided.
- Better than the alternative. The solution will be less harmful than doing nothing or any other proposed solution (adaption or geo-engineering).
- No cheaters. All major emitting countries and regions will comply with the treaty or if they do not, they can be forced into compliance.
What is your Skeptic Score?
To see where you fit on the Warmist/Skeptic scale, fill in the probability of each of the seven Beliefs being true on the blank lines provided in the following table, then multiply all of them together (Click here for a Discussion of Each Belief).
For example, if you were to estimate that each Belief has a 97% change of being correct, the product would be 0.97 multiplied seven times or approximately 0.81. Your Warmist Score would be 81% and you would be a true believer. Your Skeptic Score would be the additive inverse, i.e. 1.0 – 0.81 or 0.19 (19%). (Click here for Skeptic Score Explanation).
Table of Probabilities for the seven Beliefs:
____ Unprecedented global warming caused by humans
____ Accelerating warming
____ Very harmful
____ CO2 to blame
____ Can be controlled
____ Better than the alternative
____ No cheaters
____ Warmist Score (the product of the seven Beliefs). The Skeptic Score is 1.0 – the Warmist Score.
The Seven Beliefs
We will now discuss each of the seven underpinnings of the Paradigm and the reasons that might lead to doubts as to the accuracy of each one. The reader may evaluate the certitude of each assertion and arrive at his/her own probability as to its reliability. There is a place following the discussion of each Belief to write your subjective probability. You can then insert those probabilities into the seven Beliefs table.
1. Unprecedented global warming caused by humans both in rate and magnitude.
The warming since 1850 (165 years ago) is estimated by the Hadley Climate Research Unit to be about 0.79°C, a rate of 0.48°C per century. If this rate were to continue for the next 100 years (to the year 2115), the world would be 0.48 °C warmer than today. Since most of the world experiences a typical daily temperature variation of 6°C or more, this hardly seems threatening.
The key to this Belief is the phrase: “human caused”. If only half the rate is caused by humans, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) would be even less threatening.
But is it an unprecedented rate? Unfortunately, we do not have thermometer data going back 1,000 years, and multi-proxy data filters warming rates because of uncertainties in timing of the different proxies. IPCC uses global land and ocean thermometer data from the Hadley Climate Research Unit (HadCRU) going back to 1850. Using the latest HadCRUT data, the highest 25 year rate ended in March, 2007 with 2.15 °C per century warming rate (the 25 year rate has slowed since then).
However, Berkeley Earth has land only data going back to 1750 showing the period ending in September, 1782 to have the highest 25 year warming rate at 6.55 °C per century. Land data will have higher warming rates than the ocean, so those rates cannot be compared to combined land and sea data. However, it reasonable to assume that the highest 25 year warming rate for combined land and sea data, if it were available, would also end in September, 1782.
HadCRU also maintains the oldest thermometer database, which goes back to 1659. This database is only for Central England and therefore not global. Using yearly data only, the highest 25 year warming period ended in 1716 with a warming rate of 7.16 °C per century. Again, this would suggest the period ending in 1716 to have had the highest 25 year global warming rate.
Together, this makes it highly unlikely that since the year 1659 the highest 25 year global warming rate ended in March, 2007, and even less likely that the highest warming rate in the last 1,000 years ended in 2007.
Unprecedented magnitude? The problem with this argument is the well documented Medieval Warm Period (MWP) (~900 CE to 1300, estimates vary). If MWP was approximately as warm as, or warmer than the present, how can we be sure that the current warming was caused by humans? Of course, the MWP could be strictly due to natural causes and the present warming due strictly to human causes, but if the General Circulation Models (GCM) cannot be used to explain the MWP and the subsequent Little Ice Age (LIA, ~1400 to 1850) then the GCM’s yield a ‘one-off’ answer. They lack confirmation of a ‘control period’ for comparison. Hence, there is no confirmation of their reliability and no confirmation that humans are the cause of the current warming period (CWP).
But didn’t the IPCC deny that there was MWP? Yes, in its 2001 report, it did, but it has subsequently backed off. They made the contention despite over 100 papers confirming the MWP in the oceans as well as all the continents including Antarctica. These papers were authored by more than 800 scientists (see here). IPCC TAR (2001) featured a proxy series produced by Michael E. Mann, et al. (MBH99) which had no MWP or Little Ice Age (LIA). Using numerous proxy data sets, Mann constructed a graph purporting to show a “hockey stick” (uptick in temperatures) at the end of the 20th century. A version of “hockey stick” graph, though prominent in TAR, was conspicuously absent from the two subsequent assessment reports of 2007 and 2013.
The problems with the “hockey stick” are multifold. See discussion by Dr. Ross McKitrick here. It relied on the Sheep Mountain, bristlecone pine tree ring data from the Rocky Mountains. Without bristlecone data there is no “hockey stick” (see top of page 2 of the previous link) and, of course, a small area of the Rocky Mountains does not represent the entire earth.
But even when included, and through a statistical trick, weighting it many times more than other proxies, the composite series “rolls over” (a down tick in temperatures) after 1980 requiring the deletion (“hide the decline”) of the data past that point. See the discussion by Steve McIntyre here and the video by Prof. Richard Muller here. Also, see the updated (2009) Sheep Mountain data here. For a less technical review, see here.
Of course, there is nothing magical about 1,000 years. Other candidates for periods since the end of the last Ice Age (~10,000 BP) that are warmer than the present are: the Roman Warm Period (~2,100 BP), the Minoan Warm Period (~3,400 BP) and the Holocene Optimum(s) (intervals between ~9,000 and ~5,000 BP) (see comparison graph here). Indeed for the vast majority of time since life began to flourish in the Cambrian Age, the earth has been hotter than the present time.
Estimate your probability that Belief 1 is correct _______.
2. Accelerating warming?
IPCC produced a graph presumably showing global warming rates on the increase (see Figure 1). The graph uses a well known trick. In any length of a rugose (noisy in appearance) data set, one will encounter short portions steeper (flatter or of opposite sign) than the length as a whole. If the steeper portion happens to be at the end of the data set, it will appear that the rate of change is accelerating when it is just the rugosity of the data. For example, the HadCRUT4 data series ending June, 1913 had 50, 25 and 15 year cooling rates of -0.42, -0.83 and -1.70 °C per century respectively. There was no predictive power in observing that cooling rates were strengthening. In fact, the world warmed after that, to about the year 1940, when it began to cool again.
The warming rate since 1998 has been essentially flat, so IPCC has decided not to update their Figure 1 in their last report. Apparently a slowdown in the short term warming rate has no predictive power. Only increases in short term warming rates have predictive power.
Figure 1. Global Mean Temperature from the IPCC AR4. All periods end in 2005 (source here)
When comparing warming rates, the lengths of the data sets should be held equal to prevent the filtering effect of longer lengths. Considering all series of 25 year in 154 year record of HadCRUT4 data, the maximum rate of warming ended in the month of February, 2007. It has slowed down since then, and since 1998, whether using HadCRUT4, NOAA, NASA, BEST, UAH or RSS data, there has been little warming. RSS data even shows some cooling. In fact, Ross McKitrick has indicated in a 2014 paper (see here) that the data demonstrates a statistically “trendless interval of a 19 years duration at the end of the HadCRUT4 surface temperature series, and of 16 – 26 years in the lower troposphere [UAH and RSS]”. The HadCRUT4 data also shows the warming rate for the last half the twentieth century slowing down compared to the first half.
Trend calculations for rugose data have no predictive power. To make predictions, one needs a model. The GCM’s are not up to the task and the failures have been well documented. Knappenberger and Michaels have shown (see here) that an average of 108 models have over predicted the rate of warming every year for the last 16 years straight and “the observed rise is nearly 66 percent less than climate model projections.”
Regional estimates for the GCM’s are even worse. Dr. Roy Spencer posted a graph comparing climate models to observations (four balloon and two satellite data sets) for the Topical Mid-Troposphere (see Figure 2). Even the model with the least rate of warming is well over the observed rate (for a spaghetti plot of the same, see here).
Figure 2. Tropical Mid-Troposphere 20S-20N 73 CMIP-5 Models and Observations Linear Trend 1979-2012 (source here)
The failure here is especially damaging to AGW theory as positive feedback due to increases in water vapor should have been the strongest in the tropical upper troposphere. Its absence there removes the “heart” of positive feedback mechanism on which AGW theory relies.
CO2 was estimated to be about 285 ppm in 1850 using Law Dome data (see here) and about 400 ppm in 2014 using Mauna Loa Observatory data. This implies that we would be approximately 40% of the way to doubling it. We have warmed about 0.79 °C since 1850 according to HadCRUT4 data. At the present rate CO2 should double from 1850 levels in about the year 2100 (to make your own estimate NOAA data here) implying another 1.2 °C raise by then, if the effect of CO2 is linear. If the effect of CO2 is logarithmic, temperatures would raise only about another 0.8°C by 2100. In addition, the previous calculation assumes that all warming over the past 165 years was due to CO2. If that is not the case, the implied warming will be proportionally less.
Estimate your probability that Belief 2 is correct _______.
3. Very harmful.
The case that global warming has caused a net harm to the world is very hard to make. Since 1950, life expectancy worldwide at birth has risen from about 47 years to about 75 years (see here). There is approximately twice the number of deaths from excessive cold weather than excessive heat (see table 4 Cumulative U.S. Deaths here). The world per capita GDP grew from 884 dollars in 1870 to 7,814 dollars in 2010 (see Historical Statistics of the World Economy: 1-2008 AD, Maddison Project, Excel sheet here, website here). Increased temperature would reduce heating costs, but that would have only a trivial effect on GDP.
Food production per capita index has grown from about 78 in 1961 to about 105 in 2005 (see here). It is possible that the increase in temperature since 1961 has been partially responsible for increases in food production with an increase in the growing season length, but the temperature increase was so small as to have had little effect on this. The increase in atmospheric CO2 probably helped much more with agricultural production (see video here) than the small increase in temperature.
A much more important reason than temperature for the good numbers in life expectancy, GDP and food production is the use of fossil fuels to power transportation, electricity, farm and life saving equipment.
The IPCC warned of increased extreme weather events and increases in diseases such as malaria. However, there has been no trend in normalized hurricane damages, frequency of landfall or intensity since 1900 (see here). It has been over 9 years since the last major hurricane hit the USA on Oct. 24, 2005 (Wilma) – the longest spell on record without a major hurricane. Flooding has not increased in the United States over records of 85 to 127 years. There has been a decline in tornado devastation in the US, see here. Dr. David Legates testified: “…droughts in the United States are more frequent and more intense during colder periods.” AGU published a report: “Elevated carbon dioxide making arid regions greener” (also see video). Malaria – The World Health Organization said: “Increased prevention and control measures have led to a reduction in malaria mortality rates by 47% globally since 2000 and by 54% in the WHO African Region.” Worldwide death rates due to extreme weather have decline 97.9% since the 1920’s (see Figure 3).
Figure 3. Global Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events, 1900-2008 (source here)
If the increased global temperature had the potential of hurting us in some way, we are doing an excellent job of adaption and hiding any negative effects.
Estimate your probability that Belief 3 is correct _______.
4. CO2 to blame.
The Treaty’s solution to the “problem” does not include any other aspect than to limit GHG’s primarily from the reduction of CO2 from fossil fuel use. If the AGW is due to land use changes, changes in aerosols or changes in stratospheric ozone, by ignoring these, the treaty will fail to accomplish its goal. Likewise, if natural causes such as galactic cosmic rays, ocean turnover (AMO, PDO, etc.), and chaotic variations in cloud cover, etc., are important, the treaty will be ineffectual.
Methane is also a GHG, but has a small effect in relation to CO2, because of its minuscule amount in the atmosphere, and IPCC has been particularly poor at predicting its growth (see Figure 4). General Circulation Models using the IPCC predicted methane growth will over estimate global warming.
Figure 4. IPCC Modeled Grow in Methane vs. Observed (source here)
From 1010 to 1850 (which includes the MWP and LIA), CO2 levels varied by -5.6 to 4.3 from a mean value of 280.9 ppm according to Law Dome data. GCM’s which rely primarily on changes in CO2 have no chance of explaining the MWP or the LIA. Therefore, they lack important natural factors that influence the climate.
We have already seen some of the failures of the GCM’s with heavy reliance on CO2 to predict global average temperature and middle troposphere temperature (see discussion of Belief 2). They are also notably inaccurate in predicting regional temperature trends using CO2 (see Figure 5).
Figure 5. Modeled vs. Observed Global Surface Temperature Anomaly Trends. (Deg C/Year) 1880-2012. Map Contour Range = -0.025 to +0.025 Deg C/Year. Trend Maps Available from KNMI Climate Explorer (source here)
If the warming since 1850, or more importantly any future warming, it is caused mostly by natural variation or human causes other than GHG’s, then the treaty’s solution will not work.
Estimate your probability that Belief 4 is correct _______.
5. Can be controlled.
The contemplated treaty would regulate greenhouse gas emissions, mostly CO2 emissions. Here we will assume Belief 4 to be correct (that CO2 is the primary cause of warming) and also that there will be substantial compliance with the treaty (see Belief 7).
If this is the case, how long will it take a treaty to change atmospheric CO2 content? Humans are not the only contributor to CO2 in the atmosphere (nor the primary contributor, nor is CO2 the primary greenhouse gas (see Figures 6a and 6b). Antarctic ice cores would suggest that CO2 levels were rather constant until the 20th century, but plant stomata reconstructions suggest otherwise (see here and here) and 19th century laboratory measurements are highly varied (see here).
Some people estimate that we are already past a “tipping point”. If that is the case, wouldn’t it be better to concentrate our efforts on adaption?
If major CO2 producers (China, United States, India or Russia) or regions with high population grow (Africa or South America) do not enter into the Treaty, it is likely the CO2 reduced in those participating countries will just be offset by increases in the non-participating countries especially CO2 associated with manufacturing.
The question then becomes: can a treaty limit CO2 emissions and if so, will controlling CO2 emissions by a treaty control global temperatures?
Estimate your probability that Belief 5 is correct _______.
6. Better than the alternative.
The “0.8°C warming since 1880 is moderate, non-alarming, and coincides with dramatic improvements in life expectancy, health, and per capita income, and dramatic reductions in mortality related to extreme weather” (see here and Figure 7).
Figure 7. Global Progress, 1 A.D.-2009 A.D. (as indicated by trends in word population, gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy, and carbon dioxide [CO2] emissions from fossil fuels) (source here)
By estimates (based on IPCC accepted data), it is 50 times more costly to reduce CO2 emissions than to adapt to global warming, see website here or the following video.
Dr. Richard Tol, lead author for several IPCC Assessment Reports including the last one, has estimated that up to a 1°C additional increase in global temperatures would be beneficial to the world economy and a 2°C increase would be neutral (see Figure 8).
Figure 8. Fourteen Estimates of the Global Economic Impact of Climate Change (source here)
At the same time that current technology such as windmills, solar panels and electric cars has been proven to be ineffective in reducing CO2, even when given large subsidies, and with European governments such as Germany and Spain abandoning these subsidies, it is contended that no future technology, such as CO2 capture or solar radiation management (see here) will be feasible in the next 50 to 100 years. It is also contended that there is a “moral hazard” to such solutions at the same time ignoring any moral hazard in the fact that “[a]round 1.2 billion people worldwide—roughly the population of India—are still living without access to electricity with most concentrated in Africa and Asia. Another 2.8 billion rely on wood or other biomass for cooking and heating, resulting in indoor and outdoor air pollution attributable for 4.3 million deaths each year”. (From the World Bank, see here).
Estimate your probability that Belief 6 is correct _______.
7. No cheaters.
Canada and Australia have backed away from capping CO2 emissions, and even Germany recently abandoned its stringent targets for reduction.
Currently, China is the leading emitter of CO2 followed by the United States (see Figure 9). India is currently in third place, but both India and China have higher growth rates of emissions than the United States. Russia’s emissions are close to those of India.
Figure 9. 2008 Global CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion and some Industrial Processes (source here)
President Obama has negotiated an agreement with China in which China will aim to cap its CO2 emission by around 2030 if allowed to continue with its emissions growth until then, if in return the United States will cut its emission by more than a quarter by 2025 (see here). India, with half of its population without access to electricity, was not willing to agree even to the generous terms offered to China when Obama recently visited there.
The continent of Africa with the highest population growth in the world suffers the same lack of electricity as India, and South America, also with a high population growth, is only somewhat better off. Countries such as Brazil and Peru, currently with rather low CO2 emissions per capita have very strong growth rates in CO2 emissions (see more here).
The question is: can we rely on countries such as China, Russia, and African and South American autocracies to adhere to their commitments?
Estimate your probability that Belief 7 is correct _______.
Your Skeptic Score
As you may have guessed, your Warmist Score roughly corresponds to your estimate of the probability that a Kyoto type treaty is a good idea. A score of 0.00 makes you a skeptic’s skeptic and 1.00 makes you a believer’s believer.
Note: if you feel that anyone of the listed Beliefs is not necessary to support a treaty, simply assign a value of 1.00 to that Belief. That will effectively remove it from consideration.
Note for the statistically literate: You may not feel that every one of the Beliefs is independent of the other. If you do, feel free to use Bayesian inference to update your probabilities.
For the rest of us, if A and B are related, so that if A happens, B is more likely to happen, then the probability of both happening is more likely than simply taking the product of probability A and probability B considered separately. Since we are dealing with subjective probabilities here, and human nature being what it is, one will most likely over estimate the probability of B, having been prejudiced by having already considered A and thereby compensate somewhat for non-independent probabilities.
In any event, the score is only a crude estimate of where you fall on the Warmist/Skeptic scale.
David Swinehart has a BS in physics and MS in geophysics and 45 years experience as an exploration (oil and gas) geophysicist. He is currently semiretired.