The problem of definitions

http://climate.columbia.edu/blog/ defines “abrupt climate change” as:

A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.

apparently oblivious to the problem that they have just declared that no abrupt climate changes occurred pre-humans. Indeed they have just declared that the D-O cycles are not known to be abrupt changes, since we don’t know that they caused any substantial disruption to humans.

Bit of a shame, since I’m sure they *mean* well.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeremy
    2008/12/19

    There’s a way of reading “causes X” where it’s anaphoric for “causes X (under certain conditions)”. Like this: “Shooting a gun causes death.” That’s clearly anaphoric for this: “Shooting a gun at a vital organ causes death.” Well, that’s maybe not the greatest example, but you get the idea. I’m sure they meant “causes disruption to human systems (when there are human systems around) and to natural systems”. Still, they should be more precise; you’re right about that.

  2. #2 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/19

    Eli is sure you read the three paragraphs immediately below the one you quoted

    Climate changes that do not involve rapid changes from one state to another can also be abrupt when considered from this human perspective.

    Why do we care? A crucial consideration for climate change is the rate at which change occurs. One relevant rate is by comparison to the speed at which human societies or biological systems can react. It is easier to respond to sea level rise over a period of centuries than over a decade.

    Abrupt climate change has occurred in the absence of human perturbation to the planet, but in today’s world, societies would be extremely vulnerable to rapid changes such as those seen in the past. There is an added concern that anthropogenic forcing might trigger an abrupt change.

    [I didn't, but does it matter? We all know what they meant to say (I may well disagree with what they really mean, as being to human-centered, but thats another matter) - my (minor) point was that they've got it wrong -W]

  3. #3 Jeremy
    2008/12/19

    errr. . . “anaphoric” isn’t the right word there.

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    2008/12/20

    “The term abrupt climate change arose in the study of past climate. …. For this report, abrupt climate change is defined instead as ….”

    Well, they’re ruling out any rapid disruption of natural systems that occurs without disturbing human systems, eh?

    It’s a political statement — a “humans are apart from nature and bleep-the-Polar-bears” criterion.

    Else you’ll have those damned ecologists saying rapid changes occuring in the plankton community are cause for taking action. If plankton paid taxes and voted, they’d be human and deserve attention in this kind of report too.

  5. #5 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/20

    Eli did not realize that Stoat was a reader of Climate Cabala. Pray tell what did they hide between the lines and how did they get it wrong?

  6. #6 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/20

    On second thought RTFR. This goes deeper than it appears we have dug

  7. #7 thingsbreak
    2008/12/21

    On my first read through, the “for what we’re concerned with” was implied and I didn’t have an issue with it. Rereading it with your complaint in mind, it seems to be quite a reach to suggest that the subjectivity isn’t in the context.

    Surely there are actual gaffes compared to this that have arisen in various summaries/guides that have sprung up post-AR4 to highlight?

    Compared to Lomborg [e.g. here], this is flawless.

    [Lomborg always looks on the sunny side. But as regards hurricanes, he is entirely correct. As regards hunger, ditto, as far as I can tell (we've been doing that here just recntly). What that he said do you regard as objectively wrong? -W]

  8. #8 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/21

    Over what time frame?

    [Wot, over wot time frame? -W]

  9. #9 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    Sea levels, for starters.

    “(actually we’ve seen a sea-level fall during the past two years[1]). The UN expects about a 30cm sea-level rise during this century[2], about what we saw during the past 150 years.”

    1. Sea levels fell the past two years?
    2. The UN (presumably IPCC) doesn’t “expect” this – it specifically acknowledges it cannot account for contributions from ice sheets.

    [Thanks for telling me, its better than having me guess. Yes, he is wrong about sea level fall. Its a fairly trivial point, except that it shows how he always biases towards the sunny side (as I said). He doesn't really accept the IPCC view, no matter how much he may pretend to (as I said). "Expect" is just nitpicking: its the central value (I assume; I haven't bothered check) and there is nothing very unreasonable about using it as such -W]

  10. #10 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/22

    One of the consequential ones is that the second Copenhagen thing used different discount rates to evaluate costs and benefits of spending money on various things. For most issues they used 3 and 6 percent and then ignored the 6 in their comparative evaluation. For climate change they used 5 sliding into 4. Look at Kare Fog’s web page for links. Does someone want to ask Yohe who wrote the climate change discussion paper for the CC why he set the rates where he did and whether he still believes that these are appropriate (btw, simply writing a paper with a certain discount rate is not inappropriate, comparing costs of actions with different discount rates is).

    That friend Stoat, is dishonesty you can believe in. FYI time frame means do you want to go back to 1998 or so for examples or not. Well?

    [I'm sure there are any number of things that L has said that are wrong. But I meant, in the piece that TB linked to, so your timeframe is short -W]

  11. #11 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    He’s also done the “it hasn’t warmed in 10 years” crap.

    [Not in the piece you link to. I'm not desperately interested in defending L against all comers, since as I say I think he is wrong about things. But if you're going to quote him, could you provide a link? Especially if you're going to accuse him of deliberate graft -W]

    That isn’t “sunny”, that’s deliberate graft, no different than what Tim Ball and the rest engage in. Lomborg puts on a reasonable face when confronted by people in the field, but when left to his own devices, he is no different than any other denier/delayer.

  12. #12 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    [Not in the piece you link to. I'm not desperately interested in defending L against all comers, since as I say I think he is wrong about things. But if you're going to quote him, could you provide a link? Especially if you're going to accuse him of deliberate graft -W]

    Lomborg, just a few months back [July], when it was demonstrably false:

    It is hard to keep up the climate panic as reality diverges from the alarmist predictions more than ever before: the global temperature has not risen over the past ten years

    That is indistinguishable from other denialists’ rubbish. I really don’t understand why people treat Lomborg as if he is even remotely serious- read the entire link, especially his shrill protestations against the “inquisition” he is being so persecuted by as he hops from conference to conference.

    What else could his motivation be for claiming that sea levels haven’t been rising, that temperatures haven’t been getting warmer, lying about what Hansen and Lynas have said, etc. when it’s all so demonstrably false?

    [I do wish he wouldn't do that, as its all so unnecessary. He (correctly) demolishes Gore and Hansens over-inflated implications, but then some sort of stupid momentum carries him on too far onto the denialism side. His claims of a 2-year dea level far were probably correct when made, by some kind of measure - ceratinly you can get date-to-date falls by cherry picking periods on that graph, and quite possibly you can get 2 year falling trends too. But thats just stupidity, or denialism if you prefer.

    You, yes, Lomborg is wrong, in what I would regard as a fairly minor way. Gore and Hansen are wrong in a major way. I look forward to you calling them to task for it -W]

  13. #13 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    yes, Lomborg is wrong, in what I would regard as a fairly minor way

    Using his position (which he deliberately engineered) as a “rational” actor to repeat the following denier talking points does not constitute a “minor” wrong, from my perspective:

    - it hasn’t warmed in ten years
    - sea levels have not increased
    - James Hansen, Mark Lynas and others have called for the trial of those who merely disagree with them
    - the possibility of multimeter sea level rise is only a “scare story”
    - it is simply wrong to say that storms are growing stronger every hurricane season

    [Don't get carried away. Everyone seems to want to veer off into the wings, leaving no-one in the rational middleground. It *is* wrong to say that storms are growing stronger every season (who is making this claim?). Hansen *has* made calls for trials, which are easy to misrepresent (I've no idea what Lynas has said - has he been echoing Hansen?). L hasn't said that SL hasn't increased - he has said that it has fallen over the past 2 years. And I'm sure he could find you the figures to prove that he is correct. The point is not that he is wrong, but that he is focussing on the wrong thing -W]

    You seem to believe that this is all accidental somehow- he isn’t deliberately lying, he is merely “sunny”. It isn’t really his conscious decision to spread disinformation, “some sort of stupid momentum carries him on too far onto the denialism side” – what a delightfully passive frame for it! ;)

    [Well, this is all a matter of (mis)interpretation of words. Gore has been deliberately misleading over the time frame for 5m SLR, and you haven't called him on it. Why not? -W]

    Lomborg’s game is quite obvious. The only unexpected thing about it is that some are still willing to defend him.

    Gore and Hansen are wrong in a major way. I look forward to you calling them to task for it

    Gore has made some errors, but I’m not sure which if any are particularly “major”- the lack of timescales/context when talking about multimeter SLR? I’d also like to wait on criticizing Hansen until I am clear on what he is and is not actually saying- he leaves many thoughts unfinished in some of his writings, as we’re discussing in the other thread. Are you referring here to 6C equilibrium sensitivity?

    [This looks to me like you're not scrutinising "your" side as closely as you're looking at the opposition. Why not? Because they are the good guys? -W]

  14. #14 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/22

    Right now Lomborg’s schtick depends on two things. First using higher discount rates for climate change problems vs. other things. That isn’t deliberate graft? even when it allows you to say that the action which you assigned the higher rate is costs more for less bang than the other ones?

    Second restricting the time horizon. We know that if we are lucky the really serious stuff comes at the end of the century and further on, so discounting by nature favors BAU strongly. The other things have more evenly distributed costs so spending now has a bigger payoff. Unfortunately, to meet the larger costs of climate change at the end of the century, we have to take action NOW, because actions taken then will be ineffective. There IS gambling going on here.

    TB pointed out some other examples in the piece he linked to and you waved them away.

    [Oh dear, no matter how much I say I don't agree with L, clearly I'm now tarred as a defender of evil. Oh well, I suppose I'll just have to live with my new reputation.

    As to discount rates... as I recall, Stern only manages to get his numbers to work out by using implausibly low discount rates. And the economists can't really agree what the correct rate, or even the correct theory is. Nonetheless I find "using higher discount rates for climate change problems vs. other things" surprising, so if you'll provide a suitable reference I'll look it up -W]

  15. #15 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    It *is* wrong to say that storms are growing stronger every season (who is making this claim?).

    Elsner, Kossin & Jagger; Aumann & Teixeira.

    [Errrm... you posted the first, to draw my attention for fig 1a, in order to falsify your own claim? Please, don't be so opaque. If you mean, there is a long-term trend towards higher wind speeds over X years superimposed on a large interannual variability, then say so. Don't say "storms are getting stronger every season", because they very clearly aren't -W]

    Hansen *has* made calls for trials, which are easy to misrepresent (I’ve no idea what Lynas has said – has he been echoing Hansen?)

    Lomborg:

    Increasingly, alarmists claim that we should not be allowed to hear such facts [referring to the alleged lack of sea level rise and his mischaracterization of IPCC SLR projections]. In June, Hansen proclaimed that people who spread “disinformation” about global warming – CEOs, politicians, in fact anyone who doesn’t follow Hansen’s narrow definition of the “truth” – should literally be tried for crimes against humanity.

    The second bolded portion is pure fiction on Lomborg’s part.

    100%. Made. Up.

    [Like your claim about storms? No, it isn't 100% made up. Its taking an existing point and running with it. Just like you did. Except when L does it, he's evil in your eyes -W]

    Hansen:

    Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including disguised funding to shape school textbook discussions.

    CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.

    [repeating myself] He certainly wasn’t speaking about the AR4 estimates of sea-level increase or anyone who merely disagreed with him. This statement was not made out of nowhere- the evidence of intentional disinformation campaigns on behalf of energy and industry groups is incredibly well-documented. Hansen is clearly speaking about persons knowingly engaging in deception for profit at the expense of the public good, which (regardless of one’s feeling about what such persons’ legal fate should be) is a far cry from Lomborg’s claim that Hansen wants no one to “hear such facts” as the IPCC AR4 projection of sea-level increase or the past two years of sea-level satellite data. This is deliberate deception on Lomborg’s part.

    More Lomborg:

    Campaigner Mark Lynas envisions Nuremberg-style “international criminal tribunals” against those who dare to challenge the climate dogma. Clearly, this column places me at risk of incarceration by Hansen & Co.

    What Lynas actually said:

    I wonder how future juries might view the actions of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who, in full knowledge of the realities of climate change, continue to preach their gospel of denial in the service of Big Oil dollars. I wonder what sentences judges might hand down at future international criminal tribunals on those who will be partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths from starvation, famine and disease in decades ahead.

    [again, repeating myself here]Like Hansen, Lynas is not calling for the punishment of free speech or science that comes to conclusions somewhat different than the consensus, he specifically is talking about those who run the same kind of interference that the tobacco companies’ pocket scientists ran to keep the public in the dark about the true dangers of smoking. The question is, why doesn’t Lomborg ever reproduce the quotes he references in their entirety, and in proper context? Why does he pretend that Hansen and Lynas could be speaking about him unless he is knowingly engaging in the disinformation they are truly condemning?

    L hasn’t said that SL hasn’t increased – he has said that it has fallen over the past 2 years.

    Which is not only wrong, but would be statistically and climatologically meaningless in terms of SLR trends even if it weren’t wrong. It’s no different than pretending that the La Nina of 2008 is somehow meaningful in terms of climate or the overall warming trend, something that Lomborg has done as well, no better than Anthony Watts.

    [Oh dear. I'm really wondering what the point of talking here might be. L's claim of SL fall over 2 years is defensible. I hope you can at least agree that there are points, 2 years apart, beween which sea level has fallen. We both agree it has no real relevance to the scientific debate or evidence -W]

    Lomborg: [global T] has declined precipitously in the last year and a half

    This is completely meaningless and is just further repetition of denialist BS.

    The point is not that he is wrong, but that he is focussing on the wrong thing

    The point is that he is deliberately “focusing on the wrong thing” in order to undermine the perceived the severity of the problem. It isn’t accidental that he repeats these red herrings, it’s deliberate.

    [Yes, I know. Endlessly repeating his mistakes doesn't make his non-mistakes any falser -W]

    The whole thrust of his argument is that we shouldn’t cap carbon because it isn’t that urgent of a problem and besides it’s not as bad as the eggheads say because of X data point, so we should just fund R&D instead.

    Oh dear, no matter how much I say I don’t agree with L, clearly I’m now tarred as a defender of evil. Oh well, I suppose I’ll just have to live with my new reputation

    I just don’t see why were are being so credulous. Nothing he’s doing is a “mistake” or an accident. It’s all quite transparent and all quite intentional.

    I have no problem criticizing Gore and Hansen. Gore should have been more clear about the timescales of ice shelf collapse. I said it two and half years ago when the movie came out. Again, were you talking about 6C equilibrium WRT Hansen?

    [If you'll provide a link to what you said, I'll read it. But "should have been more clear about the timescales" is very weak. You're happy enough to accuse L of being deliberately misleading: will you agree that Gore was, too?

    I don't know what you mean by "were you talking about 6C equilibrium WRT Hansen?" -W]

  16. #16 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/22

    No we are not tagging you.

    You do need however to look at the latest stuff from Anthoff Tol and Yohe which considerably moves the social cost of carbon up close, $200 to what Stern had $300 (with a somewhat different choice of parameters. The discussion has shifted since Weitzmann pointed out that risk aversion was an inherent part of policy. IEHO a lot of this was implicit in the original Stern report but hidden.
    http://sadielou.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/wp252.pdf

    [Thats interesting, especially coming from Tol, who has no reason to love Stern. But... its still just another number -W]

    as to the other things, you need to go here
    http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/Default.aspx?ID=1148
    and read the various position papers

    If you want a gliss, Kare Fog provides one
    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/CopCons2008.htm

    [Too unspecific; I'm unlikely to find the time to read all those papers -W]

  17. #17 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    It *is* wrong to say that storms are growing stronger every season (who is making this claim?).

    Elsner, Kossin & Jagger; Aumann & Teixeira.

    Hansen *has* made calls for trials, which are easy to misrepresent (I’ve no idea what Lynas has said – has he been echoing Hansen?)

    Lomborg:

    Increasingly, alarmists claim that we should not be allowed to hear such facts [referring to the alleged lack of sea level rise and his mischaracterization of IPCC SLR projections]. In June, Hansen proclaimed that people who spread “disinformation” about global warming – CEOs, politicians, in fact anyone who doesn’t follow Hansen’s narrow definition of the “truth” – should literally be tried for crimes against humanity.

    The second bolded portion is pure fiction on Lomborg’s part.

    100%. Made. Up.

    Hansen:

    Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including disguised funding to shape school textbook discussions.

    CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.

    [repeating myself] He certainly wasn’t speaking about the AR4 estimates of sea-level increase or anyone who merely disagreed with him. This statement was not made out of nowhere- the evidence of intentional disinformation campaigns on behalf of energy and industry groups is incredibly well-documented. Hansen is clearly speaking about persons knowingly engaging in deception for profit at the expense of the public good, which (regardless of one’s feeling about what such persons’ legal fate should be) is a far cry from Lomborg’s claim that Hansen wants no one to “hear such facts” as the IPCC AR4 projection of sea-level increase or the past two years of sea-level satellite data. This is deliberate deception on Lomborg’s part.

    More Lomborg:

    Campaigner Mark Lynas envisions Nuremberg-style “international criminal tribunals” against those who dare to challenge the climate dogma. Clearly, this column places me at risk of incarceration by Hansen & Co.

    What Lynas actually said:

    I wonder how future juries might view the actions of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who, in full knowledge of the realities of climate change, continue to preach their gospel of denial in the service of Big Oil dollars. I wonder what sentences judges might hand down at future international criminal tribunals on those who will be partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths from starvation, famine and disease in decades ahead.

    [again, repeating myself here]Like Hansen, Lynas is not calling for the punishment of free speech or science that comes to conclusions somewhat different than the consensus, he specifically is talking about those who run the same kind of interference that the tobacco companies’ pocket scientists ran to keep the public in the dark about the true dangers of smoking. The question is, why doesn’t Lomborg ever reproduce the quotes he references in their entirety, and in proper context? Why does he pretend that Hansen and Lynas could be speaking about him unless he is knowingly engaging in the disinformation they are truly condemning?

    L hasn’t said that SL hasn’t increased – he has said that it has fallen over the past 2 years.

    Which is not only wrong, but would be statistically and climatologically meaningless in terms of SLR trends even if it weren’t wrong. It’s no different than pretending that the La Nina of 2008 is somehow meaningful in terms of climate or the overall warming trend, something that Lomborg has done as well, no better than Anthony Watts.

    Lomborg: [global T] has declined precipitously in the last year and a half

    This is completely meaningless and is just further repetition of denialist BS.

    The point is not that he is wrong, but that he is focussing on the wrong thing

    The point is that he is deliberately “focusing on the wrong thing” in order to undermine the perceived the severity of the problem. It isn’t accidental that he repeats these red herrings, it’s deliberate. The whole thrust of his argument is that we shouldn’t cap carbon because it isn’t that urgent of a problem and besides it’s not as bad as the eggheads say because of X data point, so we should just fund R&D instead.

    Oh dear, no matter how much I say I don’t agree with L, clearly I’m now tarred as a defender of evil. Oh well, I suppose I’ll just have to live with my new reputation

    I just don’t see why you are being so credulous. Nothing he’s doing is a “mistake” or an accident. It’s all quite transparent and all quite intentional.

    I have no problem criticizing Gore and Hansen. Gore should have been clearer about the timescales of ice shelf collapse. I said it two and half years ago when the movie came out. Again, were you talking about 6C equilibrium WRT Hansen?

  18. #18 thingsbreak
    2008/12/22

    Apparently the context of the storms issue wasn’t clear-

    Obama said, “storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season”. I suppose there are two ways of reading that- that storms are growing stronger over time vs. growing stronger monotonically. Lomborg chose to frame it as the latter: “it is simply wrong to say that storms are growing stronger every hurricane season.” My contention was not that storms were growing stronger monotonically, but that Lomborg was once again mischaracterizing the issue in order to bat down a strawman. Clearly there is evidence that storms are growing stronger as time and warming progress, so there really isn’t anything “simply wrong” about what Obama said. There is certainly room for criticism and discussion of context, but that isn’t what Lomborg is interested in- not here, not with SLR, not with T, etc.

    [This is just you excusing your side and holding the Enemy to a higher standard. It *is* simply false to assert that "storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season", taking the words literally, and the paper you referred to provides the evidence for that. I'm sure there are lots of bad things that Lomborg has said, but if I were you I relly wouldn't try to fight this one -W]

    Like your claim about storms? No, it isn’t 100% made up. Its taking an existing point and running with it. Just like you did. Except when L does it, he’s evil in your eyes -W

    That wasn’t *my* claim, that was a rebuttal that storm intensity over time could be “simply” dismissed. And “evil”? Really? There are plenty of words I could use to describe Lomborg, but “evil” affords him a stature he certainly has no claim upon, no matter how much he revels in the idea of being demonized by “alarmists”.

    I suppose that Lomborg’s outright mendacity about who Hansen was talking about (in Hansen’s words “CEOs of fossil energy companies” engaged in misleading the public; in Lomborg’s “anyone who doesn’t follow Hansen’s narrow definition of the ‘truth’”) happened to Lomborg somehow rather than something he is responsible for? Perhaps Hansen was… asking for it? ;)

    L’s claim of SL fall over 2 years is defensible… We both agree it has no real relevance to the scientific debate or evidence -W

    I don’t believe that “technically accurate” and “defensible” are necessarily the same things at all times. For me, acknowledging the second part of your statement makes it hard to agree with the first. Same with latching on to the La Nina as though it were evidence of anything meaningful. If Lomborg is making a technically accurate claim in order to give a false impression, I do not consider it “defensible”, no. And I do not consider it defensible if/when Gore or Hansen does it either.

    [I'll just note here that you haven't accepted yet that L's quote may well the technically true. Do you? Please avoid vagueness -W]

    If you’ll provide a link to what you said, I’ll read it.

    I didn’t write a blog post about it, but then I wasn’t blogging two and a half years ago. I have been thinking about doing a write up about it now in light of some recent publications, and if I do, I won’t be shy in critiquing what is incorrect or “technically correct” but advancing a false impression.

    [You've forgotten to respond to "You're happy enough to accuse L of being deliberately misleading: will you agree that Gore was, too?" -W]

    I don’t know what you mean by “were you talking about 6C equilibrium WRT Hansen?”

    Were you talking about 6 degree C equilibrium sensitivity with regards to (WRT) your reference to Hansen in my comment at 2:19 PM? In short, what has Hansen done that is dishonest in the “major” sense vs. Lomborg’s “minor” habit of repeatedly advancing long-debunked denier talking points in order to argue against capping emissions?

    [Hansen has given the impression that 6 oC lcimate sensitivity is relevant to the future -W]

  19. #19 Eli Rabett
    2008/12/24

    Tol and Yohe have been seriously moving their positions over the past year or two driven by Stern and validated by Weitzmann’s observation, which you will recall, was anticipated about a decade ago by Michael Tobis.

    To me at least they are now in the uncomfortable position of reconciling their previous positions with current understanding. This requires saying that Stern was right for the wrong reasons. Tol is an interesting fellow. It is hard to decide exactly where he sits geographically let alone philosophically.

    The Kare Fog page, is about a page of reading. It is a gliss, not a paper. Sometime between consuming the cup of good cheer and the fried wind (you folk are doing a roast, yes?) take a look. The papers are admittedly longer but Eli is not doing a Pielke.