There is a r4 prog on Running the rule over Stern’s numbers tonigh (8 pm). Apparently I get my 5 mins of fame at some point during it, we shall have to see.

Update:

Well, I was indeed there, for rather longer than I expected. I particularly liked the bit where I say “the A2 scenario, this, err red line here…”. If you listen carefully you can hear me laughing gently as I say it. Roll on my TV appearence.

Apart from that, I think this is a good prog: it airs the arguments against Stern I’ve given here and others have elsewhere, but within the context of the IPCC position rather than the insane-septic position. Stern gets a chance to talk back, but didn’t sound very convincing to me: it just amounted to “I’m right”. And of course he isn’t, ha ha.

I forgot to mention the best part of all this: that my so-called rival James Annan got snipped out of the report. I bet he tried to talk about complicated things like climate sensitivity.

Comments

  1. #1 SteveF
    2007/01/25

    Note that the beeb has a link to this fine blog (and Eli’s). Fame beckons……

    Speaking of which, I believe that my arse was featured on BBC Look East last Friday as part of an exciting feature on mammoths. I’m so proud.

  2. #2 Douglas Coker
    2007/01/25

    Oh dear William. I’ve just listened to “The Investigation” on BBC Radio 4. It dealt with the Stern Review and I fear you’ve been suckered into contributing to a programme designed to sow doubt about the dangers of global warming.

    Simon Cox, I thought, exhibited a very strong bias in his commentary, choice of contributors and the manner in which he framed the content of the programme. He asserted Stern was biased and had chosen worst case scenarios but Cox was shameless in his use of economics assumptions, for instance, with regard to discounting. And, where Stern can be criticised, did Cox deal with Stern’s argument that global warming clearly shows a “market failure”? I didn’t hear it.

    Further did Cox deal with the CO2e ppm debate in which Mark Lynas and others have argued that Stern is seriously complacent about the dangers we face if we get to 550 ppm CO2e? Again no mention.

    And then Cox did not challenge Hulme when he said FAR (4AR) will not deal with tipping pints. I find it difficult to believe that none of these sections (from the IPPC website) http://www.ipcc.ch/activity/wg2outlines.pdf will mention tipping points. OK maybe some other scientific term will be used but is Hulme being disingenuous here? And is Cox colluding in this?

    Hulme was unchallenged when he claimed IPPC FAR will disagree with Stern. Will there be a follow up to systematically assess this prediction or will the assertion be left floating in the ether for denialists to pick over?

    I could go on but I think this Radio 4 programme was really poor. Cox seemed to have an agenda, cherry picked his way through the information available, framed it all to suit his purposes, failed to question those he agreed with and overall did us a disservice. And you know I’m not surprised. Here is information about a previous programme Cox put together;
    ———————————————————–
    Overselling Climate Change
    Thursday 20 April 2006 20:00-20:30 (Radio 4 FM)
    Simon Cox reports on how scientists are becoming worried by the quality of research used to back up the most extreme climate predictions.

    Every week we are assailed by scare stories about the climate. Malaria in Africa, hurricanes in Florida, even the death of frogs in Latin America – all are being linked to global warming. But does the science behind these claims really stand up, or are the risks of climate change being oversold to win the battle for influence?
    ———————————————————–

    I think it would be useful for you to reflect on all this and be a bit more media savvy next time the BBC call you … unless, that is, you agree with Cox’s bias!!!

    Douglas Coker

    [As I've said in the update, I thought it was a good programme. I can't think of anything in it I disagreed with (other than Stern saying "oh course I'm right"). You talk about cherry picking but I'm not sure which points you mean. "but Cox was shameless in his use of economics assumptions, for instance, with regard to discounting" - that wasn't the main point of the programme, though it is the main error in Stern (the science errors are smaller). Pretty well everyone agrees that Sterns discount rates are wrong. And Stern was given the chance to say he was right.

    If GW is "market failure" thats *not the point of this prog* which was about Sterns erring-on-the-bad-side.

    All indications are that we *will* get to 550e ppmv. There is currently no good evidence that this will be a disaster. If ML things otherwise, he is welcome to his opinion, but hasn't convinced me. But even if we accept this, you are arguing for a revision of the cost models for a given T rise - not for believing in higher T or higher CO2 scenarios.

    As to tipping pints, I really do hope the AR4 will deal with this, but I fear it won't. As for tipping points, I'm with RC -W]

  3. #3 rv
    2007/01/25

    Douglas

    You might be interested in Mark Lynas’ review of the overselling climate change programme.

    “I had a few emails today telling me to listen to a programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this evening asking whether climate change is now being over-hyped by the media, so when 8pm came around I duly poured myself a stiff drink and prepared for the worst. Read the news story on the BBC website and you’ll quickly see why I was so worried (you can also listen again to the audio). “We are bombarded by stories warning us that global warming is out of control,” the presenter, Simon Cox, writes. “Why do the stories that reach the public focus only on the most frightening climate change scenarios?” On it goes, making liberal use of the familiar terms – ‘alarmist’, ‘hyped’ and so on.

    Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I found myself agreeing with some of the programme, rather than flying into a rage as I had expected. I think it is true that media coverage exaggerates the worst-case outcomes of scientific research, and that scientists and others now routinely ascribe disasters to climate change when any causal link is far from proven. So what? you might ask. Well, crying wolf undermines public confidence in science and the expertise scientists claim (justifiably, in the main) to represent.”

  4. #4 James Annan
    2007/01/25

    my arse was featured on BBC Look East last Friday as part of an exciting feature on mammoths

    Is an elephant’s not hairy enough?

    :-)

  5. #5 Douglas Coker
    2007/01/26

    Re RV’s comment. I guess you are the RV who produced both programmes. Good to see you participating in the debate. I’ve re-read ALL of Mark’s comments on the previous programme and my contribution to that debate. It’s here http://www.marklynas.org/2006/4/20/is-the-media-overselling-climate-change for all to see.

    Much hinges on how serious 3 degrees C and the attendant ppm turn out to be. I’m of the view that it is quite appropriate to use the term “emergency”. I think I’m right in saying William does not agree with this (see below somewhere).

    I’m detecting some saying … what’s all the fuss about. Global warming is not going to be so bad. Maybe these folk are tired, or have adopted a kind of world weary cynicism. Maybe they just don’t see things very politically and have a rather narrow perspective on science and it’s place in the wider scheme of things.

    I’d remind all that they are citizens and therefore have responsibilities.

    Douglas Coker

    [What you are saying is orthogonal to the points I was trying to make. Whether or not 3 oC is an emergency is not for me to judge: and whether it is or not *doesn't* justify Stern exaggerating the likely temperature response, or picking high-end CO2 scenarios.

    Unless you are arguing that (a) T changes will be about IPCC mid-range (b) nonetheless the *effects* of these T changes will be worse than expected (c) you can't convince people of "b", so (d) you need to exaggereate the likely T changes in order to make people pay attention? I don't think thats a good idea at all. -W]

  6. #6 Luboš Motl
    2007/01/27

    It must be annoying for an alarmist like William to see an exaggerated caricature of himself. A mirror that shows him how pathetic his thinking really is. Do you see the texts of Douglas Coker above, William? This is you, just a little bit more focused version of you.

    Deeply held religious beliefs based on scientifically absurd notions such as 3C rise in our lifetime or 3C being an “emergency” and all these incredibly dumb things. You’re doing all the same errors in thinking as Douglas Coker does, you only do them by 40% less frequently.

  7. #7 charlesH
    2007/01/27

    I really feel comfortable with Lubos’ perspective. He is clearly very intelligent and educated, has no ties to “evil oil” or eco religion, nor is he trolling for GW grants.

    Please keep it up Lubos. I have a physics undergraduate degree so I can appreciate much of what you say regarding climate science. However, when it comes to particle physics or string theory you are way over my head.

    thx, again.

    PS I also enjoy reading William’s blog. At least he is not as crazy as many in the eco religion. I admire him for drawing a line beyond which he will not go.

  8. #8 Thomas Bewick
    2010/06/08

    I also listened to that programme on Radio 4 some time ago. Like most popular media programmes, the Radio 4 programme was utter rubbish. As I recall, Tol gave his “amusing” low grading of the Review. Hardly insightful analysis.

    Your implicit argument that Stern is “wrong” completely misunderstands the Stern report. The whole purpose of choosing the A2 scenario is that it might reflect the worst possible outcome of climate change. This is used by Stern to illustrate what could happen if the world chooses to pursue a high-carbon development path.

    RealClimate and your analysis of the Stern Review have similar flaws, and neglect the whole purpose of choosing A2. This is not surprising since RealClimate and your blog are not written by experts in decision analysis and mitigation. It is ironic that you and RealClimate often report on misrepresentations of science in your fields of expertise, but then make similar mistakes when talking about things that you are not expert in.

    A similar situation to the one with choosing A2 is the choice of climate sensitivity. From a risk management perspective, it is vitally important that scientific understanding of the sensitivity does not place a limit on its upper bound. To say that high estimates are “wrong” is similar in its ignorance of risk as Lindzen’s attitude is toward his low senstivity estimate.

    It is understandable to concentrate on worst-case outcomes from a risk management perspective. It is analogous to thinking about what might happen should your house burn down when buying insurance. Stern’s analysis points to the potential largest risks of climate change versus the costs of acting to reduce these risks.

    The opinion of other economists is quite reckless in their attitude towards risk, e.g., Gollier, Nordhaus, Neumeyer. They live in some kind of wonderful dreamland where everyone in the future will be well-off. They do this by reading off income levels from the IPCC scenarios. This type of analysis is quite preposterous has no credibility whatsoever.

    Anyone with any sense would recognize that an appropriate response to uncertainty with monetized impacts would be to look at the non-monetized impacts as well, like health impacts and impacts on agriculture. This is what Stern did. Anyone who bothers to read the IPCC report would recognize that this is their approach as well.

    The substantive criticisms of the Review mainly relate to ethical choices. Economists, including Stern, are in no position to prescribe a “correct” answer to these problems. Stern has his own opinion on the matter, and other economists have different opinions. It does not make sense to describe these opinions as being right or wrong. They are instead choices, which you can either agree or disagree with.

    [I have no objection to Stern considering worst-possible cases; but if so they need to be clearly labelled as such. But if you're attempting a cost-benefit analysis, you need to be balanceing against *expected* costs, not worst-possible.

    From a risk management perspective, it is vitally important that scientific understanding of the sensitivity does not place a limit on its upper bound. - this is incomprehensible to me. You are saying that no matter how certain we are that there is an upper bound, we should not impose any limit? -W]

  9. #9 Thomas Bewick
    2010/06/10

    “[I have no objection to Stern considering worst-possible cases; but if so they need to be clearly labelled as such. But if you're attempting a cost-benefit analysis, you need to be balanceing against *expected* costs, not worst-possible." - W

    To be honest, I'm under the impression that you haven't read the Stern Review or publications related to it. A worst-case catastrophic scenario is included in the Review. It would, however, be wrong to suggest that Stern was pessimistic. This is how I read your criticisms of the Review, i.e., that Stern compared the costs of policy against the worst-possible scenario.

    As I stated earlier, the policy recommendation that Stern made was intended to reflect an insurance policy against "business-as-usual" (BAU) climate change. You pay 1% of GDP to reduce the risk of costs of 5-20% GDP equivalent. My impression is that you are interpreting this as a traditional cost-benefit analysis, which it isn't.

    The cost-benefit analysis of the Stern's mitigation recommendation is contained in Chapter 13 of the Review. Stern does not do his own modeling of marginal costs and benefits, but instead reviews the literature on existing estimates for different stabilization scenarios. His view is that existing estimates for marginal costs and benefits do not properly reflect the risks of climate change.

    To reiterate the points I raised in my last post, I find it extremely irritating that there is a misunderstanding that the Review is pessimistic. For example:

    "Well, I was indeed there, for rather longer than I expected. I particularly liked the bit where I say "the A2 scenario, this, err red line here...". If you listen carefully you can hear me laughing gently as I say it. Roll on my TV appearence." - W

    Stern chose A2 as a business-as-usual scenario. If the Radio 4 programme had done its job properly, they would have asked a specialist on mitigation to comment on a BAU emissions path. MIT's integrated assessment (1) for BAU produces a similar temperature range to Stern's, as does the Met Office's modeling (2). Stern's BAU path appears similar, at least superficially, to that suggested in the IEA's World Energy Perspectives 2006 (3):

    "Since the 2006 edition of Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP), global CO2 emissions and oil demand have increased steadily. At 7% above our previous outlook, today’s best estimates under our “business-as-usual” Baseline scenario foreshadow a 70% increase in oil demand by 2050 and a 130% rise in CO2 emissions. That is, in the absence of policy change and major supply constraints. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a rise in CO2 emissions of such magnitude could raise global average temperatures by 6°C (eventual stabilisation level), perhaps more. The consequences would be significant change in all aspects of life and irreversible change in the natural environment."

    "From a risk management perspective, it is vitally important that scientific understanding of the sensitivity does not place a limit on its upper bound. - this is incomprehensible to me. You are saying that no matter how certain we are that there is an upper bound, we should not impose any limit?" -W

    I mixed up "does not" and "has not". The sentence should read: "it is vitally important that scientific understanding of the sensitivity has not placed a limit on its upper bound." Obviously if science were to place an upper bound on the sensitivity, it would be a good thing.

    References:

    (1) Sokolov, A.P. et al. (2009). "Probabilistic Forecast for 21st Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (without Policy) and Climate Parameters". Journal of Climate 22 (19): 5175–5204. doi:10.1175/2009JCLI2863.1. http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F2009JCLI2863.1
    (2) Pope, V. (2008). "Met Office: The scientific evidence for early action on climate change". Met Office website. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/policymakers/action/evidence.html
    (3) http://www.iea.org/publications/free_new_Desc.asp?PUBS_ID=2078

    [Yes I read the thing, though not all of it. I'm puzzled by your Stern chose A2 as a business-as-usual scenario - he should not have. A2 is a very pessimistic scenario -W]

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