Climate’s uncertainty principle

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Blog, Climate Etc.

by Garth Paltridge

On the costs and benefits of climate action.

Whether we should do anything now to limit our impact on future climate boils down to an assessment of a relevant cost-benefit ratio. That is, we need to put a dollar number to the cost of doing something now, a dollar number to the benefit thus obtained by the future generations, and a number to a thing called “discount for the future”—this last being the rate at which our concern for the welfare of future generations falls away as we look further and further ahead. Only the first of these numbers can be estimated with any degree of reliability. Suffice it to say, if the climate-change establishment were to have its way with its proposed conversion of the global usage of energy to a usage based solely on renewable energy, the costs of the conversion would be horrifically large. It is extraordinary that such costs can even be contemplated when the numbers for both the future benefit and the discount for the future are little more than abstract guesses.

Assessment of the future benefit is largely based on two types of numerical modelling. First, there are the vast computer models that attempt to forecast the future change in Earth’s climate when atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased as a consequence of the human activity of burning fossil fuel. Second, there are the computer-based economic models which attempt to calculate the economic and social impact of the forecasted change of climate. Reduction of that impact (by reducing the human input of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere) is the “benefit” in the cost-benefit calculations.

Taking the climate change calculations first, it should be emphasized that in order to be really useful, the forecast must necessarily be of the future distribution of climate about the world—on the scale of areas as small as individual nations and regions. Calculating only the global average of such things as the future temperature and rainfall is not useful. The economic models need input data relevant to individual nations, not just the world as a whole.

Which is a bit of a problem. The uncertainty associated with climate prediction derives basically from the turbulent nature of the processes going on within the atmosphere and oceans. Such predictability as there is in turbulent fluids is governed by the size (the “scale”) of the boundaries that contain and limit the size to which random turbulent eddies can grow. Thus reasonably correct forecasts of the average climate of the world might be possible in principle. On the scale of regions (anything much smaller than the scale of the major ocean basins for example) it has yet to be shown that useful long-term climate forecasting is possible even in principle.

To expand on that a little, the forecasts of the global average rise in temperature by the various theoretical models around the world range from about 1 degree to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century—which does little more than support the purely qualitative conclusion from simple physical reasoning that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase the global average temperature above what it would have been otherwise. It does little to resolve the fundamental question as to what fraction of the observed rise in global surface temperature over the last thirty or so years (equivalent to a rise of about 1 degree Celsius per century if one is inclined to believe observations rather than the theory) is attributable to the human-induced increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. There is still a distinct possibility that much of the observed rise in global temperature may be the result of natural (and maybe random) variability of the system.

While the forecasts of future global average climate are not really trustworthy and would probably not be very useful even if they were, the potentially much more useful forecasts of regional climates are perhaps just nonsense. A good example supporting this rather negative view of the matter is the variability of the set of hundred-year forecasts of the average rainfall over Australia. Each forecast was produced by one of the many climate models from around the world. The present-day measured average is about 450 millimetres per year. The forecasts for the next century range from less than 200 mm to more than 1000 mm per year. That sort of thing makes finding a model to support a particular narrative just too easy.

As a consequence, the economic models of the future of regions and nations are highly unreliable if only because their regional and national inputs of forecasted climatic “data” are unreliable. But to make matters vastly worse, the economic models themselves are almost certainly useless over time-scales relevant to climate. Their internal workings are based on statistical relations between economic variables devised for present-day conditions. There is no particular reason why these relations should be valid in the future when the characteristics of society will almost certainly have changed. As Michael Crichton put it: “Our [economic] models just carry the present into the future.” And as Kenneth Galbraith once remarked: “Economic forecasting was invented to make astrology look respectable.”

There is a lot of discussion among academics as to what should be an appropriate “discount for the future” to apply in the cost-benefit calculations associated with human-induced climate change. The discussion quickly becomes incomprehensible to the average person when phrases such as “cross generational wealth transfer” and “intergenerational neutrality” and so on appear in the argument. These are fancy terms supposedly relevant to what is essentially a qualitative concept of fairness to future generations. The concept is so qualitative that there is virtually no hope of getting general agreement as to how much we should spend now so as not to upset the people of the future.

There are two extremes of thought on the matter. At one end there are those who tell us that the present-day view of a benefit for future generations should be discounted at the normal rate associated with business transactions of today. That is, it should be something of the order of 5 to 10 per cent a year. The problem for the academics is that such a discount would ensure virtually no active concern for the welfare of people more than a generation or so ahead, and would effectively wipe out any reason for immediate action on climate. At the other end of the scale, there are those who tell us that the value of future climatic benefit should not be discounted at all—in which case there is an infinite time into the future that should concern us, and “being fair” to that extended future implies that we should not object to spending an unlimited amount of present-day money on the problem.

Academics tie themselves in knots to justify the need for immediate action on climate change. For example, we hear argument that “discounting should not be used for determining our ethical obligations to the future” but that (in the same breath) “we endorse a principle of intergenerational neutrality”—and then we hear guesses of appropriate discount rates of the order (say) of 1.5 per cent a year.

The significant point in this cost-benefit business is that there is virtually no certainty about any of the numbers that are used to calculate either the likely change of climate or the impact of that change on future populations. In essence it is simply assumed that all climate change is bad—that the current climate is the best of all possible climates. Furthermore, there is little or no recognition in most of the scenarios that mankind is very good at adapting to new circumstances. It is more than likely that, if indeed climate change is noticeably “bad”, the future population will adjust to the changed circumstances. If the change is “good”, the population will again adapt and become richer as a consequence. If the change is a mixture of good and bad, the chances are that the adaptive processes will ensure a net improvement in wealth. This for a population which, if history is any guide, and for reasons entirely independent of climate change, will probably be a lot wealthier than we are.

Perhaps the whole idea of being fair to the people of the future should be reversed. Perhaps they can easily afford to owe us something in retrospect.

The bottom line of politically correct thought on the matter—the thought that we must collectively do something drastic now to prevent climate change in the future—is so full of holes that it brings the overall sanity of mankind into question. For what it is worth, one possible theory is that mankind (or at least that fraction of it that has become both over-educated and more delicate as a result of a massive increase of its wealth in recent times) has managed to remove the beliefs of existing religions from its consideration—and now it misses them. As a replacement, it has manufactured a set of beliefs about climate change that can be used to guide and ultimately to control human behaviour. The beliefs are similar to those of the established religions in that they are more or less unprovable in any strict scientific sense.

This essay originally appeared in The Quadrant.

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Thomas Homer
May 7, 2019 10:10 am

“The [CAGW] beliefs are similar to those of the established religions in that they are more or less unprovable in any strict scientific sense.”

So, we have questionable science imploring us to limit atmospheric Carbon Dioxide in direct contrast to actual science showing CO2 is the base of the food chain for Carbon Based Life Forms (all life as we know it), and the conclusion that increasing CO2 from Earth’s current level opens up the Carbon Cycle and supports more life.

CO2 feeds life.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
May 7, 2019 11:16 am

Invariably left out of the cost/benefit analysis is the number of deaths caused by doing something. It is blatantly apparent fossil fuel use has saved hundreds of millions if not billions of lives due to increased food production, timely medical interventions etc.

The question that I’d like answered is how many lives are expected to be lost due to de-carbonization of the Green New Deal? I’m sure that the number will be immediate, calculable and real, rather than an imputed possibility of saving an unknown number of lives 200 years from now.

One possible way to look at it is to calculate the direct increase in food production since the 1920’s.

Reply to  Shoshin
May 7, 2019 2:42 pm

Cost – benefit does not necessarily have to be made in “dollar numbers”. That is sickeningly mercantile inhuman perspective to take as a starting point. It also implies the need ( and desirability ) of expressing every tree or human life in terms of some kind of accountant’s beans.

How do you put a “dollar number” on a human life, do you assess its contribution to GDP, or amount of credit “wealth” it will allow a banking institution to create on its ledger? Does that mean a life in California is worth more than a life in Africa ?

Or maybe some Malthusian greeny will want to rate human life as a negative on the balance sheet, since all human life is a “cancer” on the face of the Earth.

A more sensible and humane approach would be like Bjorn Lomberg’s work, looking at what can be done immediately with the insane kinds of money being suggested for “fighting climate”.

Reply to  Greg
May 7, 2019 4:23 pm

It really amazes me how some people get so bent out of shape emotionally over a perfectly normal accounting technique.

It’s almost as if they are looking for a reason, any reason, to reject the conclusions.

Reply to  MarkW
May 8, 2019 2:04 am

I’m not interested in even evaluating the conclusions since I don’t accept the method.

I questioned the need ( and desirability ) of expressing every tree or human life in terms of “dollar numbers”.

Apparently you do not have any counter argument to that so you start the ad hom and assuming motivations game.

Reply to  Greg
May 7, 2019 5:13 pm

RE: Greg

Wow. Word Salad and cognitive dissonance all rolled up into one exemplary package. Sweet!

If money is so beneath contempt to the AGW alarmists, why do they always demand more of it?

Reply to  Shoshin
May 8, 2019 2:09 am

Another one with no meaningful criticism or counter argument. Assertions of Word Salad and cognitive dissonance without any explanation and idiotic assumptions about how I’m an AGW alarmist because I criticise evaluating lives in terms of dollar-numbers.

Life must be so sweet and simple in your black and white , left/right world. Sorry, I’m sure I’ve lost you already. Never mind.

Reply to  Shoshin
May 9, 2019 7:51 am

Re: Greg

My criticism is quite plain: Climate Alarmists demand someone else’s dollars to “fix” the environment while decrying, demeaning and bullying anyone who questions whether those dollars will produce a measurable and meaningful result.

Alinsky rules mixed in with crybaby economics. What could possibly go wrong?

Reply to  Greg
May 8, 2019 6:56 am

You contradict yourself. How can you possibly use Lomberg’s approach if you do not work out the value of what you are doing there as well – using dollars? how can you know what is wasted and what is worthwhile without accounting for what you are doing?

And dollars are just an accounting convention, not at all what you claim – you might as well complain about using numbers. Dollars represent important things like resources, which are finite and often can only be used for one thing at a time – a person’s labour for example.

Reply to  Shoshin
May 7, 2019 2:43 pm


Charles Higley
Reply to  Thomas Homer
May 7, 2019 12:21 pm

Why do any cost-benefit analysis when CO2 cannot and does not warm the climate, having no effect on anything but a positive effect plants and photosynthesis?

Any policy based on decreasing emissions of CO2 is patently worthless. Policy to be more efficient and saving energy is fine but to focus on emissions is just wrong.

They should admit that their goals are a totalitarian one-world socialist government and see if the people will buy into it and let their lives be enslaved. It will be a hard sell. Claiming that we should do these policies because they want power and money is not a good strategy, so they lie and prevaricate about their goals.

There is not downside to CO2 and trying to calculate the benefits is a waste of time—we should just enjoy them.

Ronald Havelock
Reply to  Charles Higley
May 7, 2019 1:21 pm

Higgle, your first two paragraphs are right on. I agree strongly 100%. Then in your third paragraph you launch into your own right wing paranoiac fantasy. That’s not helpful. This is not a right-left thing. It’s rational science versus fanatic greenism. Al Gore and his fellow travelers are not liberals. They are Luddites, wanting take us back to their fantasy Garden of Eden. Liberals seek to improve society through constructive and cooperative problem solving based on real science, where applicable, but always in a democratic (small ‘d’) context.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Ronald Havelock
May 7, 2019 2:16 pm

The modern left are not liberals, they are simply leftists.
They are in fact highly illiberal.

My feelings on these two comments are that it is unscientific to claim that CO2 has no effect on the global climate regime or on the average surface temp. The most that can be said with any sort of scientific certainty is that the evidence is slim either way, and points to an effect on the low end of most estimates.
Claiming that you know for sure there is no effect is as bad, IMO, as claiming that the effects are huge and bound to be catastrophic.
What there is no evidence for, is that warming is harmful to life, or dangerous to humans, or any problem at all, given the current climate regimes and what we know for sure is true based on direct observations.
The next thing I want to disagree with is the assertion that this is not a left-right thing, and there is no globalist movement that seeks to grab power, or the one that there is no socialist plan to do the same.
Calling this paranoid delusions is indicative of some sort of blindness that I find inexplicable.
Plainly there is a clear left right divide, with the left buying into CAGW and the right being more able to resist being conned by such nonsense.
There are a complex set of factors at play, and among them are lust for power, greed for money, and a heaping helping of basic ignorance and stupidity.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
May 20, 2019 8:01 am

Nicholas McG

I find that it is more accurate to characterize the “modern left” as libertine, not liberal. What are marketed as “liberal views”, what with all the excessive focus on sports, sex and food invading the legislative sphere, serve libertine goals.

a person, especially a man, who behaves without moral principles or a sense of responsibility, especially in sexual matters.

philanderer · ladies’ man · playboy · rake · roué · loose-liver · Don Juan · Lothario · Casanova · Romeo · lecher · seducer · womanizer · adulterer · debauchee · sensualist · voluptuary · hedonist · profligate · wanton · reprobate · degenerate · stud · skirt-chaser · ladykiller · lech · wolf · rip · blood · gay dog · fornicator

a person who rejects accepted opinions in matters of religion; a freethinker.

characterized by a disregard of morality, especially in sexual matters.
“his more libertine impulses”

licentious · lustful · libidinous · lecherous · lascivious · lubricious · dissolute · dissipated · debauched · immoral · wanton · shameless · degenerate · depraved · debased · profligate · promiscuous · unchaste · lewd · prurient · salacious · indecent · immodest · impure · carnal · intemperate · abandoned · unrestrained · unprincipled · reprobate · rakish · decadent · sensual · voluptuary · hedonistic · loose · fast · goatish · randy · horny · raunchy · concupiscent · lickerish

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Ronald Havelock
May 7, 2019 2:30 pm

The problem with your complaint about Charles’ third paragraph is this: he is right. No right-wing paranoia. Not a fantasy. The main ringleaders at the UN have even admitted it on multiple occasions.

Reply to  Ronald Havelock
May 7, 2019 2:51 pm

We have quotes where they have declared that socialism is their goal.

As to your belief that socialists want only puppies and unicorns all I have to say is that by their works, you shall know them.
It doesn’t matter what people want, or even say that they want. It’s what they do that matters.

BTW, I’ve never met a socialist who was willing to work with others. They usually demand that everyone do as they say, then get petulant when others disagree with them. Once they get actual power, they then proceed to destroy those who disagree with them.

Conservatives didn’t push speech codes, socialists did.
Conservatives didn’t demand that companies fire anyone who didn’t follow the party line, socialists did.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Ronald Havelock
May 7, 2019 8:30 pm

Sorry Ronald, but not really helpful to dismiss Higgle’s well documented statements of fact by then going into a fantasy land of how kind (small L) liberals actually are coupled with a deflection about Luddites.

First up Luddites were not anti technology, or even, in a broad sense, anti progress. They were anti-progress that directly affected their day jobs. Technology had developed a way into turning a very labour intensive job into a very machine intensive process that was going to evolutionise (revolution is a very misapplied word) the entire industry. The small cottage industries were about to be made completely redundant and the people involved decided that they were not just going to calmly accept having their jobs taken away from them. Remember this is the 19th century. There was no MSM who could help them transition into a new career by suggesting they learn to code* and welfare was very different from what you would expect today. The cottage weavers were basically being pushed into a lose/lose situation and reacted in a destructive manner.

It was the 19th century. It was a different time. It was not, in our more advanced eyes, fair.

History however doesn’t have to be ‘fair’. History is what it is. What is more important is that society does not bind themselves completely to the past and is willing to evolve to be change and meet the new social expectations.

As for (small L) liberals believing in constructive and cooperative problem solving based on real science, well, very funny. Could do with a few puns but otherwise? Nice joke.

Let us look at the difference between a Progressive and a Conservative and how they deal with problems. Progressives believe the system is broken and problems must be fixed by upsetting the established status. Conservatives believe the system is fine, we are just doing something wrong.

Let us explain that further using a sporting example. Let us use cricket just to annoy everyone in North America. Let us say that it was considered by followers of the game that too many runs were now being scored backwards of square, batsmen were now regularly getting massive scores and problem problem problem.

Now a progressive would say that the game needed to change and the best method would be to revise the rules and change the fielding restrictions for players behind square.

A conservative would look at the same problem and tell their bowlers to stop bowling rubbish down the leg side and giving away easy runs.

This is the difference between Progressives and Conservatives. Conservatives make changes to improve the way they deep with the current situation. Progressives can’t deal with the current situation and want to change the entire situation until they can. A conservative might look at a wheel and decide it is cost effective to put in better bearings to reduce wear and resistance. A progressive would ask us why we are still using something as outdated as the wheel which was invented 1000s of years ago.

They will then point out how wheels squash small animals and how we need to transition to a hover board based society and, despite the fact hover boards don’t current exist or work, demand governments invest in hover board companies, casually forgetting at all times to mention their hover board connections.

The other thing to remember about progressives is they NEED control in order to function. Remember, progressives believe the system is broken. Progressives desire for the system to be changed. And if market forces won’t change the system, what are you going to do? Get governments to regulate it, and the higher the government level the better.

Sorry Ronald, but progressives want to change the world in their image, and having decided that the silent majority was never going to agree with them, want to change the world by force. Climate Change is ALL about controlling the world. Not understanding this motivational force is not understanding Climate Change.

* In retrospect maybe a bad example. Power looms could in fact be coded… We digress.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Charles Higley
May 7, 2019 2:07 pm

Easy! Cost of reducing CO2 emissions is massive. Benefit is negative! The idiots driving the bus are the same ones who think less work and higher taxes is the best way to improve the economy.

Fred Hubler
May 7, 2019 10:10 am

The uncertainty principle has to be applied both ways. How certain can we be that anything we do today will solve the problem. What if we squander $100 trillion and gain little or nothing in the future when those resources could have been used to solve real problems today?

Jon Salmi
Reply to  Fred Hubler
May 7, 2019 11:27 am

Spending a huge fortune on GW/CC today for a tiny change in climate is just exactly what would harm future generations. As Fred said it could be used to solve real problems today and that would translate to a better life tomorrow for future generations.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Jon Salmi
May 7, 2019 2:40 pm

It is not even for a tiny change in climate tomorrow, it is a purely suppositional and very dubious effect on anything related to “the climate” tomorrow.
And there is no such thing as “the climate”.

Reply to  Jon Salmi
May 9, 2019 10:52 pm

To Fred and Jon what you both say is what Bjorn Lomborg also says for which he gets dubbed “climate denier ” and excluded from Australian universities by “free speech loving Australian academics ” (Sarc)

Al Miller
Reply to  Fred Hubler
May 7, 2019 11:31 am

Fred is precisely right! The onus is on the fanatics who want to literally turn the western world on it’s ear to show that there is some scientific basis for it, and that cannot be the extreme scenario (8.5) every time due to it’s unlikelihood of coming to fruition. It’s way past time to have a grown up debate about all these items without the hysteria. It’s also way past time , in my opinion, that we moved on to solve some real problems that the money squandered on Climate Change could be used for to create good, as opposed to gaining political power over the populace.

Bryan A
Reply to  Al Miller
May 7, 2019 12:33 pm

The problem with having a Grown Up Debate over the issues is that the spokspeople on the Pro AGW camp’s side still needs to Grow-Up a little more.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Fred Hubler
May 7, 2019 1:45 pm

“How certain can we be that anything we do today will solve the problem.”
And which problem is that?
As far as I can tell, and as far as any rational and reality based analysis can determine, there is no downside to warming, or to increased CO2.
As well as little reason to think that CO2 is the thermostatic control knob of the atmosphere.
Every single one of the supposed disasters that are presently occurring due to “climate change” or global warming, are fake, made up, wildly exaggerated, mere assertions, breathless hyperventilating, mistaken attribution, or just plain wrong.

There is no increase in storminess, or droughts, or heat waves, no decrease in crop yields, or living space, no places drowning due to human caused ocean rise, no unfolding disaster due to melting ice…
In most if not all of these matters, the opposite is what is in fact occurring.
And all of this is glaringly obvious to anyone who looks at facts and data instead of headlines and hype and the ranting of misinformed brainwashed children.
So I ask again…what problem?

You are letting the people who are foisting this nonsense rule your thoughts and our conversations by even allowing that any problem exists.
There is no problem with the weather that has not always and will always exist, completely outside of human control.
Everything is exactly as it has always been.
There is no place, and no phenomena happening, that is in any way outside of the natural range of such.

Reply to  Fred Hubler
May 8, 2019 7:02 am

Which is one of the reason why the arguments about discount rates are wrong.

There is uncertainty – risk – in doing anything. In this case, the risks are that (i) what we do doesn’t work and (ii) we didn’t need to do it. Both are real, substantial risks.

If you have real, substantial risks, you CANNOT use low discount rates. Discount rates exist to help us to choose how to use finite resources. A low or zero discount rate does not do that and so is useless. That implies that what you are talking about doing is not an economic choice. That is actually the argument many Alarmists are making, but via discount rates rather than explicitly.

A proper analysis of discount rates tries to udnerstand the level of risks and the opportunity costs. In this case, we could employ more doctors and cure river blindness say or we cold employ more engineers and try and capture carbon from the atmosphere. One is low risk, one higher risk. One has a low discount rate, the other a high discount rate.

Reply to  Fred Hubler
May 8, 2019 7:25 am

“What if we squander $100 trillion and gain little or nothing in the future ”

Rest assured that $100 trillion will not be wasted, it will be handed to those closest to the money system first, and then distributed to their friends and relations next. It will probably achieve little or nothing of any real relevance, and when government is involved it usually makes a problem worse and permanent (War on Drugs, anyone?), but rest assured that those with their noses in the trough will become fat beyond the dreams of corpulence.

May 7, 2019 11:07 am

There is a problem with that discussion in that applies fairness not only across time with generation but across the globe at each point in time. Human rights and all that junk is now removed from the Paris rulebook, and countries are simply encouraged to do as much as they can in the spirit of being a good citizen.

It means cost benefit analysis can only really done on a country by country basis you can not globalize it. When you do Intergenerational calcs for some countries you are going to find a number of them are better off doing nothing pocketing the GDP and paying for it when it happens. Won’t make them popular as good world citizens but it will be a fact.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  LdB
May 7, 2019 1:45 pm

When what happens?

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
May 7, 2019 5:03 pm

Like any cost best analysis is based on a prediction of a future. Whether that scenario is real or not under consideration. You can for example do a cost analysis of a war with Russia, you don’t need to consider the likelyhood to do such an analysis.

May 7, 2019 11:12 am

“the purely qualitative conclusion from simple physical reasoning that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase the global average temperature above what it would have been otherwise”

Or perhaps this ‘simple reasoning’ is based on fundamentaly flawed assumptions…

If we increase the emissivity of the atmosphere (by replacing o2 with h20 and co2) we increase the amount of IR emitted at any given temp.

This will cool the atmosphere more effeciently, not less….

May 7, 2019 11:18 am

…as long as they can con “us” into believing in the “we” part…..

comment image

M Courtney
May 7, 2019 11:31 am

The problem for the academics is that such a discount would ensure virtually no active concern for the welfare of people more than a generation or so ahead, and would effectively wipe out any reason for immediate action on climate.

How is this a problem?

It’s been the policy of every society since pre-history. And it’s worked so far.
This is what humans do.

William Astley
May 7, 2019 11:31 am

There is no need to model atmospheric CO2 vs Temperature as humans did not cause the rise in atmospheric CO2.

If humans did not cause the rise in atmospheric CO2, the rise in atmospheric CO2 did not cause the temperature rise.

There are a dozen independent observations and analysis results that support the assertion humans caused no more than roughly 5% of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2.

There are a dozen different independent observations that show the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 did not cause the rise in temperature.

The phase relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature

Empirical observations indicate that changes in temperature generally are driving changes in atmospheric CO2, and not the other way around.

Summing up, our analysis suggests that changes in atmospheric CO2 appear to occur largely independently of changes in anthropogene emissions.

A similar conclusion was reached by Bacastow (1976), suggesting a coupling between atmospheric CO2 and the Southern Oscillation. However, by this we have not demonstrated that CO2 released by burning fossil fuels is without influence on the amount of atmospheric CO2, but merely that the effect is small compared to the effect of other processes. Our previous analyses suggest that such other more important effects are related to temperature, and with ocean surface temperature near or south of the Equator pointing itself out as being of special importance for changes in the global amount of atmospheric CO2


The modern relation between temperature and CO2 is qualitatively identical to that demonstrated by ice cores for the Quaternary glacial– interglacial transitions (Mudelsee, 2001; Caillon et al., 2003), although the modern time lag between temperature and CO2 is considerably shorter. However, this is presumably reflecting the much coarser time resolution provided by ice cores, displaying only changes on a multi-decadal scale. This is partly due to sampling resolution, partlydue to gas diffusionwithin the ice that averages out any surface temperature variability shorter than a fewdecades (Severinghaus et al., 1998).

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  William Astley
May 7, 2019 2:38 pm

You may be right William, but your analysis looks to me like confirmation bias to an extreme degree.
Being certain of something for which conflicting or insufficient evidence exists is simply not logically justified.

William Astley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
May 8, 2019 5:55 pm


This problem is simpler than you think. We have made a geological error at the level of concepts.

What is missing is presenting the observations along with some pictures. This is something (solving the problem) that a high school physics class could easily solve with a few hints.

This is like the discovery of America not the discovery of general relativity.

We are just following an idea which the late UK Astronomer Thomas Gold explained in his book along with 50 geological observations that support the Russian/Ukraine theory on the origin of water and hydrocarbons on the earth that he included in his book.

The second part of the puzzle was provided by a geologist David Pratt provides geological observations that show that geologists are missing a force to move the tectonic plates and that there are strange fractures along all mid-ocean ridges that require a tube like force at near the ridges edge to create.

The observations speak for themselves, they are physical observations, not equations or graphs.

R Shearer
Reply to  William Astley
May 7, 2019 6:52 pm

There is no question that combustion of fossil fuels produces CO2. In fact, the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 is less than the amount of our emissions. Even though these emissions are a small fraction of natural fluxes, attributing the atmospheric increase of CO2 to our emissions seems reasonable.

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 7, 2019 11:32 am

“There is still a distinct possibility that much of the observed rise in global temperature may be the result of natural (and maybe random) variability of the system.”

In the 1970s we poured out cooling causing pollutants such as SO2 to such an extent environmentalists went nuts about “acid rain”. They caused smog – which we know reflects sunlight and we know that they had most effect in the areas which saw the most warming (like Arctic) so, not only did the timing of the post global cooling warming fit, but even the geographical distribution of the warming had the signature of the pollutant.

Not only could natural variation have caused the warming but manmade change (caused by environmentalists) may also have been responsible for warming. In addition – in the 1970s we also saw the widespread increase of jet-airliners causing vapour cloud trails. And as the grounding during 911 showed, these also had a warming affect on the climate.

So, let’s not kid ourselves about CO2. The evidence for it having any effect is very slim and the only reasonable prediction that anyone can make is that based on the science of ~1C per doubling of CO2.

And that is well within the region where it is generally agreed that warming will be beneficial. Which means that the cost benefit says we should CAUSE MORE CO2 to be emitted.

Bryan A
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 7, 2019 12:39 pm

Sounds like a great experiment…
Ban ALL air traffic above 20,000′ (no vapor trails) and see how the temperature reacts
Ban ALL private multi engine jets

Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 7, 2019 3:31 pm

On the other hand aircraft flying and releasing GHG:s above the tropopause cause net cooling.

May 7, 2019 11:37 am

The concept of a discount rate is absurd on its face, but what I never see in the discussion is the cost of money rate. Most of the western world is in debt. Spending more money NOW requires borrowing. Which has an interest rate. Call it 5% for fun.

$1 Trillion @ 5% per year (compounded) for 50 years….
$11.47 Trillion

That’s what we would be burdening future generations with for something that may or may not happen, that may or may not be harmful, which may or may not be easily adapted to. That’s insane.

Think of the children!

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 7, 2019 1:59 pm

Well, on the other side of the ledger, the money is not borrowed from space aliens, and the interest being paid to Lizard Men from planet Zlorch.
The money is “borrowed” from ourselves, and that is where the interest goes.
All of these massive national debts will almost surely be wiped out by monetizing them via money printing, declared null and void due to bankruptcy, wars, conquest, etc, or simply become insignificant due to economic growth.
Do not get me wrong…any money spent on a fake problem is almost surely a 100% waste, but looking at the balance sheets of people 50-100 years hence makes as much sense as thinking we can solve future problems by taxing ourselves into oblivion while we freeze and starve in poverty.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
May 7, 2019 2:33 pm

Quite true. It is the loss of human capital that is truly appalling.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 7, 2019 2:54 pm

Just because you don’t understand something is not evidence that something is absurd.
BTW, the cost of borrowing is the discount rate.

Reply to  MarkW
May 7, 2019 9:17 pm

Just got to take a shot at me every time I comment? Whatever it is that I’ve done to p*ss you off, perhaps you could tell me what it is?

The discount rate is for calculating bills of exchange. If you pay for future bills by spending now from cash on hand, you get a different result than if you have to borrow to pay those same bills. Pointing out that there is a cost to borrowing, or a cost in terms of cuts to other spending, is obscured by fancy discussions about discount rates to make it all seem like it is come abstract discussion with no pain involved. The money has to come from somewhere. More taxes, spending cuts, or borrowing.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 8, 2019 7:06 am

No, it’s a brilliant invention that helps make our economies better.

And discount rates INCLUDE the cost of debt – the typical discount rate is the Weighted Average Cost of Capital, which is the cost of equity and the cost of debt. The point being that a project that retunrs a positive figure after using that discount rate repays the capital invested and the cost of that capital – including the debt, i.e. the interest.

Reply to  Phoenix44
May 8, 2019 11:00 am

We can’t even predict the interest rate more than a few months out anymore than we can predict weather a few days out. We can’t predict the pace of technology change, nor the entrance of disruptive new technologies, nor what the economy will look like in 50 years (anymore than we can say what he climate will look like in 50 years). The entire exercise is brilliant only in that it provides the absurd with a cloak of legitimacy it does not deserve. It is a magical formula that supports the spending of money now predicated on the benefits that may or may not exist 50 years hence.

But I can predict the cost of borrowing $1 trillion at 5% compounded annually. That’d just math.

So cease with the absurd notion that everything else can be predicted and reduced to a “discount rate” that has any basis in reality.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 8, 2019 3:08 pm

David, I sometimes despair over the state of economic studies today. As you point out qualitative studies based on one assumption (i.e. CO2 bad) are worthless. These kinds of studies simply ignore that other options exist – e.g. adaptation. It may be far more efficient to adapt to any climate changes than to try and change the climate. This would be true based either on money costs or human costs. This goes back to the criticisms Freeman Dyson has leveled against the AGW religionists, namely that their studies and models are not holistic at all. They simply ignore the overall environment in order to focus on a specific agenda.

When I was in long range planning for a major telephone company we always had multiple projects vying for limited capital dollars every year. We would take each project and do all kinds of sensitivity analyses. Things like interest rates, depreciation rates, and the business environment are always cyclical. We would not only vary peaks and valleys of each but also the periods of each cycle. We would vary asset lives and maintenance costs in the same manner. Those projects that showed a high impact from things like interest rates would drop down the list. Those projects that showed little impact would rise up. Then you could allocate the available capital dollars.

The economics of global warming, if it actually exists, should be studied in the same manner. All kinds of projects to ameliorate the impacts should be developed and analyzed using sensitivity runs for costs. Then the projects can be ranked and funded. It may be far cheaper to relocate people over a century than to try and move to 100% wind and solar.

This *can* be done. But it can’t be done by those with an agenda to push. Agendas simply go hand-in-hand with willful ignorance.

Michael S. Kelly LS BSA, Ret
Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 8, 2019 7:09 pm

“I believe in making the world safe
for our children,
but not for our children’s children,
because I don’t think children
should be having sex.”

Jack Handey

Jim Butts
May 7, 2019 11:38 am

Global warming is a good thing. Increasing CO2 is a good thing. Decreasing CO2 is a bad thing. Any reasonable analysis would show that decreasing CO2 would be a really bad thing.

May 7, 2019 11:44 am

For those who espouse only “costs” for global warming, they are obviously easy to ignore. Or course there have to be benefits of warming too. For every acre or hectare loss of ice-bound habitat in the polar regions that supposedly benefits polar bears or penguins, there is a corresponding and opposite gain of habitat for animals and plants that like it warmer.

Practically speaking, even for individual species, there will still be winners and losers. For every acre or hectare of corals that get killed off by too much warm water in the equatorial regions, there is another acre or hectare of corals that will survive nicely in waters further north or south that do not support corals today.

So maybe instead of people getting into airplanes and spewing all that carbon into the atmosphere to go diving in Grand Cayman, someday they can simply drive over to Cape Cod and get the same experience there instead.

Or, when it comes to sea level rise, here in my home state of Florida, if sea level rose another six feet, there may be a lot of pissed off beachfront landowners who lose the value of their extremely expensive property … but then offsetting them, the folks a mile or two inland will find themselves living on the beach and their property will then be worth about 25 times more than it is worth today.

For every change, there are winners and losers. There is no such thing as current perfection for all, there is only current condition, and winners and losers.

One can get tied up in gazillions of knots trying to figure out who all the losers and winners will be and the total net gain or loss to those future denizens of our earth. It’s really all pointles, if not zero.

The one thing that we can say with complete confidence is that when the next glaciation period begins, most of the humans now on earth, and their successors, will be losers. There will be a far smaller biosphere, with far more constrained habitable portions of our planet, and our ability to feed ourselves from a vastly smaller agricultural base will undoubtedly result in mass extinction events throughout most of what is today habitable.

Jim Butts
May 7, 2019 11:49 am

If global warming is occurring, that is a net good thing. Increasing CO2 is a good thing for life on earth. Reducing CO2 would be a really bad thing.

Gary Pearse
May 7, 2019 11:50 am

Garth, even you have accepted a large part of the “progressive” argument by couching cost benefit in the idea that (difficult as it my be) the task is to find what expenditures now equate to value of benefits in the distant future. You ignore what unequivocal benefits today elevated carbon and a degree of warming have brought: bumper crops (doublef and more) on less land, plus 20% increase in forest cover and more in “leafing out” on the globe notably including arid regions.

Now its argued with some sort of whack-a-moley reasoning that this “Great Greening” is bad after decades of arguing shrinking habitat from carbon “pollution” and heating is reducing diversity and populations of species. They even push planting trees to offset carbon footprint of the green jetsetters. And all the while the carbon “pollution” from f fuels is planting trees on a scale that dwarfs any effort of ours (there are 3 trillion trees on the planet, headig fir four trillion soon).Given the virtually intractable figures needed to evaluate an economically sensible approach to climate policy, we should at least create a cost benefit figure that we can measure in the present with considerable accuracy. We are in enormously better shape today than we were in pre-industrial times. Any argument about that??

May 7, 2019 11:55 am

Notably an extrauniversal God replaced by secular incentive-seeking mortal gods. That said, local and regional development, reasonable environmental protection policies, and pro-native policies (e.g. emigration reform) now. As for religion or moral philosophy, judge a philosophy by its principles.

Ron Long
May 7, 2019 11:57 am

Climates Uncertainty Principle? Here’s some certainty for you: the planet we call Earth is about five million years into an Ice Age, with both intra-and-inter glacial phases, and is somewhere near the end of a cyclic inter-glacial. Milankovich Cycles? Sun cycles? Whatever. Along comes the AGW crowd and they believe we have stumbled on a trick to stop or stall the onset of the next intra-glacial cycle, simply by raising atmospheric CO2 level from 250 to 400 parts per million? We were much higher than 400 ppm CO2 when we slid into this Ice Age, so this theory looks like a nonstarter. Nuclear power anyone?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Ron Long
May 7, 2019 2:06 pm


Jim Gorman
Reply to  Ron Long
May 7, 2019 5:16 pm

What is the benefit of delaying the next ice age by one year? How many people would die each year as the temps drop say 1 degree per year? Is this also a cost?

michael hart
May 7, 2019 12:02 pm

But to make matters vastly worse, the economic models themselves are almost certainly useless over time-scales relevant to climate.

Captures it in a nutshell. Humans change faster than climate.

Even if the bad predictions are correct (and almost every thing indicates they are not), humans are still better off making themselves less poor first, and then ‘fixing’ the environment. History has shown this to be the best approach for several reasons.

Pamela Gray
May 7, 2019 12:21 pm

It is going to get very cold. Eventually. Start planning for that one. Warm is good. Life thrives. So while we are thriving, figure out a way to grow food in a world that is too cold to grow food in the Northern Hemisphere.

May 7, 2019 12:23 pm

The uncertainty associated with climate prediction derives basically from the turbulent nature of the processes going on within the atmosphere and oceans.

Probably not. When Lorenz stumbled over chaos theory, the models he was working on didn’t account for turbulence.

The climate system is chaotic even without turbulence.

A simple energy budget such as that proposed by Monckton et al. is probably as valid as the finite element models. After all, if I want to know the current in a wire, I do not calculate the position of each and every electron.

George Hebbard
May 7, 2019 12:35 pm

The concept of IRR (Internal Rate of Return) for any of the presently
proffered “solutions” is intuitively NEGATIVE. AOC possible is a little weak in economics, and this may escape her….but the congressional budget office ought to do the calculations. However, they depend on deciding
1) If we are still warming out of the Maunder Minimum…
2) or, a Dalton Minimum is approaching…
3) or we only have 12 (10) years left until the end of civilization. I pick #1.
Question for the audience:
We have been through this time after time, the great Cathedrals were build from extra cash from a agriculturally warm period in Europe and England,
The Great Pyramids were built during an agriculturally strong period on the Nile
If (2, agriculture is going or is about to go to pot. So,
what is the average time in Prehistory that it took to get out of one of the many dips like the Little Ice Age? Is 1) likely the answer?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  George Hebbard
May 7, 2019 2:24 pm

Ah yes, the CBO!
We all know their stellar track record regarding past calculations, so we ought to all trust that they will get this right too?
*rolls the eyes*
They have almost never been correct about anything.

kevin kilty
May 7, 2019 12:41 pm

…the rate at which our concern for the welfare of future generations falls away as we look further and further ahead….

This mis-states the idea. It has nothing to do with “concern for welfare”, but with our sense of uncertainty, inflation, risk, and other intangibles. Let me relate a pertinent story. Just after WWI, when radium was in great demand and commanded a very high price, some bright fellowed learned the dump of the old silver mine at Lusk, Wyoming contained a lot of yellow rocks. The yellow was carnotite, which contained radium salts as accessory mineral. He obtained a lease to the dump and began sending railroad cars to Denver for processing.

When the lessors found out what was afoot they immediately got a judge to issue an injunction preventing any more sales of ore until a lawsuit could be settled on the question of ownership. It took seven years to settle the suit, and by then the dump was worthless as higher grade ores in the Belgian Congo were brought online. Discounting is a way of paying for just such contingencies among many others.

Steve O
May 7, 2019 12:43 pm

“… and a number to a thing called “discount for the future”—this last being the rate at which our concern for the welfare of future generations falls away as we look further and further ahead”

I’m going to disagree that that’s what the discount rate represents. The discount rate is more like an exchange rate between today’s money and tomorrow’s money. A dollar in the future is worth less than a dollar today because a dollar today is expected to earn an investment return over time. It has nothing to do with concern for future generations.

The intergenerational nonsense is just that — nonsense. Simply make your decisions as if you’re going to live forever. In that case, the discount rate used in business decisions is appropriate. Since the discount rate reflects the riskiness (uncertainty of benefits) inherent in a project, and since the potential returns on climate mitigation projects are so sketchy, a relatively high discount rate should be applied.

This argues that we should hold off on large expenditures until we know more.

Reply to  Steve O
May 8, 2019 7:11 am

Yes, pretty much it in a nutshell. The “zero” nutters ignore opportunity cost, that we could do something else with the resources the money represents. We could train more doctors and cure malaria or we could train more engineers and solve carbon capture. We can’t do both because each person has to be one or the other, not both. So we need a way to compare the two projects. If one is less risky than the other, we use different discount rates. Spending money now on climate change is not zero risk and it is not zero cost.

May 7, 2019 12:50 pm

“To expand on that a little, the forecasts of the global average rise in temperature by the various theoretical models around the world range from about 1 degree to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century—which does little more than support the purely qualitative conclusion from simple physical reasoning that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase the global average temperature above what it would have been otherwise. “
The problem is that it DOES NOT follow from “simple physical reasoning” that an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to an increase in temperature. Gas temperature is not related to its ability to absorb IR radiation (this absorption changes the energy of vibrational and rotational energy levels of molecules). Gas temperature is determined by the change in the kinetic energy of the translational motion of molecules. The main components of air are nitrogen and oxygen, which do not absorb IR radiation, but absorb HEAT, as well as “greenhouse gases”, depending on their HEAT CAPACITY.
There is no theoretical dependence of air temperature on carbon dioxide concentration. Empirical (logarithmic) dependence is based on a set of data on the average air temperature and carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere in a certain period. In other words, this rеlation obviously ignores numerous factors affecting temperature. Any theoretical models based on this relation, in principle, cannot give correct predictions.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  aleks
May 7, 2019 2:28 pm

Well said.
Anyone who thinks that calculating global temperature regimes, let alone the average global temp, whatever that is, and believes that it is a matter of “simple physics”, is simply an ignoramus.
Ignorant of Earth history, ignorant of the complexities of the atmosphere, and ignorant of vast bodies of knowledge and reasoning and data.

Tim Gorman
May 7, 2019 1:04 pm

“Thus reasonably correct forecasts of the average climate of the world might be possible in principle. On the scale of regions (anything much smaller than the scale of the major ocean basins for example) it has yet to be shown that useful long-term climate forecasting is possible even in principle.”

How do you get a forecast of the average climate of the world if you can’t do accurate regional forecasts? It can be argued that the only way to get to an accurate average climate of the world is by combining accurate regional forecasts of climate. Anything else is pretty much guesswork when it comes to the average climate for the globe!

May 7, 2019 1:35 pm

Computers cannot model the climate. There is no credible global temperature. Climate alarmism is silly nonsense.

William Astley
May 7, 2019 1:43 pm

The cult of CAGW are one thought (and really, really believe that one thought is correct) on climate, and hence ignore the piles and piles of observations that support the assertion that the increase in atmospheric CO2 did not cause the warming in the last 30 years.

The warming in the last 30 years was regional, with the majority of the warming occurring at high latitude regions with almost twice as much warming in the high latitude Northern hemisphere. The pattern of warming in the last 30 years is not what the IPCC general circulation models (GCM) predict.

This high latitude warming is the same pattern of warming as is found in the paleo climatic record.

The IPCC’s general circulation models predict global warming with the most warming occurring in the tropics and predict that the most amount of warming should occur in the tropical troposphere at 5 km. The IPCC GCM AGW regional and tropospheric warming did not occur.

The high latitude warming abruptly stopped roughly 20 years ago. That is the pause or the cult of CAGW’s theory is incorrect observation.

20. The forecasts of the “climate models” are diverging more and more from the observations.

1. The Mean Global Temperature has been stable since 1997, despite a continuous increase of the CO2 content of the air: how could one say that the increase of the CO2content of the air is the cause of the increase of the temperature? (discussion: p. 4)

14. The observed outgoing longwave emission (or thermal infrared) of the globe is increasing, contrary to what models say on a would-be “radiative imbalance”; the “blanket” effect of CO2 or CH4 “greenhouse gases” is not seen. (discussion:p. 29)

9. The “hot spot” in the inter-tropical high troposphere is, according to all “models” and to the IPCC reports, the indubitable proof of the water vapour feedback amplification of the warming: it has not been observed and does not exist. (discussion: p. 20)

10. The water vapour content of the air has been roughly constant since more than 50 years but the humidity of the upper layers of the troposphere has been decreasing: the IPCC foretold the opposite to assert its “positive water vapour feedback” with increasing CO2. The observed “feedback” is negative. (discussion: p.22)

If I were looking for climate model defects, there are far more interesting and more damning ones around. For example, no climate model run for the IPCC AR4 (c. 2006) was able to reproduce the losses of Arctic sea ice that had been observed in recent decades (and which have continued accelerating since). No model, to my knowledge, produces the large asymmetry in warming between the north and south poles observed since 1980.

Models underpredict the observed poleward shifts of the atmospheric circulation and climate zones by about a factor of three over this same period (Allen et al. 2012); cannot explain the warmings at high latitudes indicated by paleaoclimate data in past warm climates such as the Pliocene (Fedorov et al. 2013); appear to underpredict observed trends in the hydrological cycle (Wentz et al. 2007, Min et al. 2011) and in their simulated climatologies tend to produce rain that is too frequent, too light, and on land falls at the wrong time of day (Stephens et al. 2010).

Finally, the tropical oceans are not warming as much as the land areas, or as much as predicted by most models, and this may be the root cause of why the recent warming of the tropical atmosphere is slower than predicted by most models (there is a nice series of posts about this on Isaac Held’s blog). What makes the “hot spot” more important than these other discrepancies which, in many cases, are supported by more convincing evidence? Is it because the “missing hot spot” can be spun into a tale of model exaggeration, whereas all the other problems suggest the opposite problem?

Steve O
Reply to  William Astley
May 8, 2019 6:01 am

Logically, models which are proven to be fundamentally wrong and incapable of prediction should be withdrawn. However, common scientific practice is to leave the bad model (or incorrect theory) in place until something else can replace it.

a happy little debunker
May 7, 2019 2:13 pm

During our current Australian election cycle, our extremed alarmist opposition leader is incapable of costing his global warming policies, because (he claims) you cannot consider the policy costings without considering the cost of inaction.

Yet, he makes no attempt to actually cost inaction.

He wants a blank cheque – sensible Australians are apprehensive – unfortunately, we seem to be in the minority!

Craig from Oz
Reply to  a happy little debunker
May 7, 2019 11:10 pm

Bill (the political person in question) is also a person who regularly displays an public image of ‘idiot’.

Back in the day when his side was in power and Gillard was PM he was being interviewed on television on some topic. Immigration I believe, but open to correction.

The interview went pretty much literally like this.

– Mr Shorten, what is your view on the topic?
– I agree with the Prime Minister.
– On which part of what she said?
– Oh all of it.
(awkward pause)
– So you don’t know what she has most recently said?
– No, but I agree with it.

He is… interesting.

As part of this election he also apparently recently came up with the following gem of wisdom;

“If you really think there is a cost to taking action on climate change, then why have 2 million Australian households already invested in solar?”

If anyone can translate that into something that actually makes sense I will buy them beer.

May 7, 2019 4:25 pm

As usual both the original article and the comments are of great interest.
However as I keep saying go back to the key card in this whole Global
warming, come climate change, come extreme weather, come acid rain and sea, come anything else frightful that they can dream up.

So what do we know about CO2. First it is not a pollutant, its not a solid, i.e. bits of coal flying through the air, Hi.

We do know that it CO2 accepts energy from the Sun, and that contrary to the Greens theory it does not store heat energy, but re-radiates it.

But and this is most important, the effect re. possible heating, is that it is logarithmic that after the first 150 pip that its warming effect rapidly decreases, so by the time we get to say 500 pip there is almost no heating resulting from any further increase.

So what is wrong with it, well we know that its natures fertilizer, and that all life on Earth totally depends on it, so what is there to not like about it. ?
Accept that the whole matter of Global warming come climate etc. is just a giant sized fairy tale, who’s long term goal is to force a form of World Government onto the Western nations, plus this nonsense dreamed up by the mostly African nations that because we in the West were prepared against great opposition from forces such as the church and others who liked thing just as they were, to force change in our society and via the Industrial revolution improve our way of living.

So now we are being told that because of our previous sinful ways we must pay vast sums of money to those nations who’s societies were not so prepared to work hard and change things.

Nature has always changed, and always will. So by becoming wealthier we can have the money needed to repair any damage that nature all by itself, no help from us, will cause to happen.

This Earth of ours is doing just fine, so let it be and lets enjoy it. As for the Green mob mob, there are plenty of islands around for them to carry out their “Brave New World”” ideas on. Only if their way is clearly far better than ours should we pay any attention to them.


Tim Gorman
Reply to  Michael
May 8, 2019 5:27 am

Michael: “We do know that it CO2 accepts energy from the Sun, and that contrary to the Greens theory it does not store heat energy, but re-radiates it.”

It’s not quite that simple. When a CO2 molecule absorbs a photon of IR it’s vibrational energy increases, i.e. it becomes more energetic. If that molecule “hits” another molecule before it radiates the excess heat away it can transfer that kinetic energy to the second molecule instead of radiating. It then depends on what the second molecule, e.g. O2 or H2O, does with that additional energy as far as the atmosphere is concerned.

Curious George
May 7, 2019 5:53 pm

According to Dr. Richard Tol (, this exercise has been running for 25 years. Can we compare 1999 predictions with 2018 data?

May 7, 2019 6:08 pm

Costs and benefits are fun, but only after you’ve answered the question: By what authority do you propose to use force against innocent human beings? As a child would put it, “Who made you the boss of me?” There are some answers to this question (otherwise there could be no legitimate government) but the question needs to be answered, and I don’t see any attempt among the would-be totalitarians to address it.

Donald Kasper
May 7, 2019 6:42 pm

“Whether we should do anything now to limit our impact on future climate boils down to an assessment of a relevant cost-benefit ratio.” No it doesn’t. First we don’t know what the climate is doing because we don’t have enough coverage on the planet to know. Second, we don’t have competent regional coverage to know variations. Third, single numbers to represent the planet have no real world meaning to anything going on. Fourth, the instrumentation has changed constantly, so we don’t have any cross-correlation to know if we can use each of them in the same data set. Lastly, the instrument and observational methodology errors and changes are so great, we have not observed any real changes in climate so far above those error levels. We see people studying noise and looking for a trend while saying how smart they are.

May 7, 2019 9:35 pm

Judging by the comments thus far, it seems that passing the ‘Prevent CAGW’ hat around in this crowd would be pointless. My hands would remain tightly in my pockets, too.

Craig from Oz
May 7, 2019 11:19 pm

The problem with this article is it skims over the base argument – Is Global Warming(tm) actually real?

Here we are debating taking action on Global Warming(tm) and if this is actually going to be a long term assistance after a short period of pain, or a long period of pain after a short period of pain, but we have skimmed over the start argument.

This sort of debate is like saying “If we assume you actually did the murder, then do you think we should lock you up for life, attempt to reform you, or bring back the death penalty for your sins”, and then narrowing discussion down to an easier to explain debate between “Life imprisonment vs Death Penalty”.

All very moral and ethical and important, but completely avoiding the basic core problem that no one has actually been murdered and there is no guilt or innocence when then isn’t actually any crime.

Attempting to discuss the affects of Global Warming(tm) is pure whimsy unless it is firmly established that Global Warming(tm) even exists.

May 8, 2019 12:06 am

Dr. Judith Curry is a good climatologist, but she is clearly not an economist.

In the opening paragraph she falls for one of the lies the left is using: “discount for the future” is NOT the rate at which our concern for the welfare of future generations falls away as we look further and further ahead. The point is that if one invests resources now, we expect a larger payback in the future. Would you pay into a pension fund that only promised to return you contributions decades from now, with no interest?

Aiming to increase the total of human wealth is exhibiting concern for future generations not a reduction in concern for them.

The left are pushing the lie about what discount rate is because they want policies that do not make economic sense.

May 8, 2019 6:11 am

The Global Warming Mantra in a nutshell: I am certain the return on our huge investment will turn positive… some time after my retirement.

May 8, 2019 5:17 pm

Whilst my explanation a to how CO2 actually works may not be 100 %
perfect, is it or is it not true that the fact is that past say 500 pip of CO2 will not by itself add any more heat to any other gas. re. the logerithmic effect.

Anyway cores from drilling appear to show that the CO2 level has been way past 500 pip the past , with no ill effects. So CO2 is not a problem, and never has been.

Its just a fairy tale spun by those of a certain political thinking, who are of the belief that only a form of World Government, with of course them in charge, will fix what they consider to be the problems.


Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 5:35 am

This entire article should be discarded as it is based on two fundamental mistakes.
First, It assumes the damage from global warming will be borne by future generations.
Second it assumes taking action today has a high cost, negating to account for the economic gain from transiting to a non carbon economy.

Let’s address the first point:

Global warming is here now; it is more prevalent in certain regions. The most severe warming is in the Arctic. That warming causes significant changes in the jet streams, resulting in many weather anomalies in the north hemisphere. Increase in forest fires on the West Coast of North America and in Europe, extreme heat waves in Europe, to name a few. The warming and acidification of the ocean also contribute to losses in marine life and bio diversity (some from corral bleaching). Increase in strong hurricanes (twelve of the sixteen most destructive hurricanes in US history occurred this century.

On the second point,
Renewable energy has created more jobs in the US than coal and oil exploitation in the past few years.
The cost of solar is now lower than coal. In Australia, a mix of solar and wind is cheaper and more reliable than coal or natural gas, thanks to the implementation of industrial size storage batteries.

Reply to  Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 8:05 am

No. Not true. Good press releases though, but not true.

Gilles Fecteau
Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 9, 2019 11:27 am

What do you think is not true?

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 3:18 pm

West coast fires are *NOT* due to global warming. They are due to mismanagement of the land, trees, and undergrowth. The fires are directly MAN MADE.

Extreme heat waves have been happening in Europe forever. They are not more prevalent today.

Fred Hubler
Reply to  Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 7:03 pm

In fact, the Camp Fire in California that destroyed so many homes was caused by the failure of a PG&E transformer and made much worse by mismanagement of the forest. California is so heavily invested in wind and solar that they occasionally have to pay Arizona to take excess electricity when the output of wind or solar changes suddenly and base load generation can not be reduced fast enough. Given that, how do we know that the transformer failure wasn’t caused by a sudden over voltage condition as happened at an airport in Denmark a few years ago?

Fred Hubler
Reply to  Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 8:47 am

How is it that renewable energy can create more jobs and reduce the cost of energy except through massive government subsidies? Jobs are not a benefit of a policy, but a cost. Do the cost figures you refer to in your 2nd point include the cost of battery storage? Why does Australia have the highest electricity costs in the world?

Gilles Fecteau
Reply to  Fred Hubler
May 9, 2019 12:19 pm

If you think massive government subsidies are bad; why are they allowed for oil and gas ( $4.6 billion per year). Wind and solar are thriving in Europe without subsidies. see:
I never said that renewable would cost less. I said it creates more jobs. For a free market economy to function, people need the ability to spend. That mean having jobs. Higher cost the result in the concentration of wealth into few is bad for the economy, but cost that generate large number of jobs is good.
When considering the cost to the country of burning hydrocarbon, you should include the remedial cost from increase weather events.

Fred Hubler
Reply to  Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 2:06 pm

If it weren’t for Australia Germany and Denmark would have the highest electricity rates in the world, and weather is not becoming more extreme.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Meteorological Society in 2011, IPCC author Laurens Bouwer states that increased monetary losses (due to extreme weather) are due to increased development and the increased value of property at risk rather than to extreme weather becoming more frequent or more severe. He went on to advocate the use of climate model forecasts of extreme weather to raise climate change awareness, rather than actual historical weather data, because the actual data shows weather is not becoming more extreme.
In 2014, Warren Buffett claimed that climate change has not affected Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance business, and that they have not changed the way they forecast losses.
Roger Pielke Jr.’s compilation of extreme weather data shows there has been a slight decline in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather since about 1950. He is derided by many for not being a climate scientist even though his data is drawn from government records and is not contradicted in any way by the IPCC Special Report on Extremes (IPCC SREX 2012). Near the end of Congressional testimony in March 2017, climate scientist Michael Mann did not refute Piekle’s claims, saying only that they were obsolete, even though Pielke had updated them for the hearings, and then changed the subject to attribution (i.e. how much of the severity of a particular extreme weather event can be attributed to global warming). Dr. Roger Pielke Jr’s written testimony for March 2017 Congressional hearing on climate is here:
A video of the Congressional committee hearing is here:
The period between hurricane Wilma in 2005 and hurricane Harvey in 2017 was the longest stretch in recorded history with no category 3 or greater hurricanes making landfall in the US.
For the first time since record keeping began in 1950 there were no category EF4 or EF5 tornadoes in the US In 2018.

Fred Hubler
Reply to  Gilles Fecteau
May 9, 2019 2:12 pm

Federal subsidies for wind and solar on a per unit of energy basis are a moving target, and they have declined in recent years. I can’t find a more recent report on this, but in 2013 federal electric subsidies for solar were $213 per MWh, and for wind they were $35 per MWh while for coal, gas and oil they were less than $1 per MWh. See the last figure in this link.

The federal transferable tax credit for wind power is currently $24 per MWh.

Dan Tauke
May 9, 2019 8:53 am

Judith lays out a compelling argument for all the uncertainties involved, but ultimately we need tools to address the uncertainties or we risk allowing intuition, bias and logical failures to rule the day. One concept here that is used both for forecasting uncertainties as well as business case uncertainties – or differences of opinion (such as discount rate) is a Monte Carlo type analysis. Isolate all of the key assumptions for both the climate forecast (including regional forecasts if they have significant impact on costs) and the business case, and then assign not just point values to them but distribution curves which reflect the amount of uncertainty for each assumption. Once this is done, the Monte Carlo analysis would run 10,000 or so simulations with each simulation randomly (within the boundaries of the distribution curves) pick a value for each assumption and calculate the climate forecast costs, benefits and resulting ROI and plot them for the audience. This method allows people to see the RANGE of possible outcomes, and it also shows WHICH ASSUMPTIONS are the biggest drivers of the outcome so one can focus the debate around the 5 or 10 main assumptions. Then scientists or politicians can argue about the distribution curves for those assumptions, and re-run the model in an iterative fashion. Over time, as science reduces the uncertainty for an assumption, the distribution curve can be tightened and it can be re-run. Complicated, maybe, but necessary imho if we are to get anywhere with these decisions.

Farmer Ch E retired
May 9, 2019 4:00 pm

great post – thanks

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