Matt Ridley has written an opinion piece for The Times (not the New York Times, the other one) which is a response to his critics, specifically, to those who openly disagree with him about climate change. Ridley’s commentary is jaw dropping, and for most of you, those who are not of Royal Blood and highly privileged, it is more than a little squirm-inducing. But, putting that aside, Ridley makes a number of assertions, two of which (*) I’d like to address. Other problems with Ridley's approach have been addressed here, by Dana Nuccitelli.
Spoiler alert, he is wrong on both counts.
First, to summarize his arguments, I paraphrase of his commentary in The Times (which is behind a paywall), in bullet point form:
- Since so many people disagree with me, I am probably right.
- I think global warming is real, and mostly man-made.
- I think global warming is not dangerous.
- I think global warming is slow and erratic*, AND will continued to be*.
- That global warming has been slow lately conforms with my lukewarm hypothesis.
- I annoy people.
- I have been called a lot of names.
- My detractors are mainly public employees including scientists and politicians.
- I have lost opportunities because people conspire against me.
- I do other things than write about climate change.
- People do not attack my arguments, they attack my motives. For example, I make money off of coal.
- I really prefer natural gas to coal.
- I have been offered, many times, opportunities to install clean energy technology on my vast land holdings. I have refused every time.
- I used to think climate change is serious, but since it seems to have slowed down, I no longer think so.
- Climate change models are wrong.
- The hockey stick graph has been discredited. (I quickly add that the hockey stick graph has been confirmed again and again. See this. A version of the hockey stick graph is the image at the top of this post.)
- Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have it right. (They don’t; see the links.) The vast majority of the other climate scientists have it wrong.
- Climate change is not settled science. (There is, of course, a scientific consensus on climate change.)
- The IPCC agrees with me.
- Policies to combat climate change are ineffective, expensive, harmful to the poor, and bad for the environment.
- No one had ever effectively addressed my doubts.
- Bob Ward is a poopyface.
Of these assertions, I want to address only two (starred); Ridley has said that global warming has slowed down, and he has said that this slowness will continue in the future. These are both reasonable hypotheses at first glance, and testable. So let us test them. But before we do, I want to point out that they are not really reasonable hypotheses, because the physics are pretty solid on climate change. A real long term slow down in warming would be unexpected, astounding even, given what we know about how the atmosphere works. That alone does not make the ideas impossible, necessarily, but it certainly gives Ridley’s hypotheses a rather steep incline.
First, has global warming slowed down? If it has, Ridley may be on to something (but maybe not). If it has not, then this hypothesis is falsified.
There are several lines of evidence to suggest that global warming has not slowed down. First, we need to acknowledge that “warming” as the term is often used means changes in estimated global surface temperatures based only on measurement of the air near ground level, combined with sea surface temperatures. An excellent primer on how this is done can be found here. Keep that in mind.
Some have suggested that there has been a recent slowdown in global warming, as per this particular measurement. The first thing you need to know is that there are frequent slowdowns in warming in this data, as well as frequent speedups. One way to characterize this is to have a look at the famous Escalator Graph produced some time ago by by Dana Nuccitelli and recently updated.
Now that we understand that the squiggle representing surface temperature … well, squiggles up and down … we can have a longer term look at warming and see if an estimate of the rate of warming for recent years shows a slowdown. Climate Scientist Gavin Schmidt recently tweeted this graphic addressing this very question:
Notice that the trend does in fact drop slightly in upward slope in recent years. Ever. So. Slightly. But, in the end, 2014, which turned out to be the hottest year of the instrumental record so far, is dead on the long term prediction of warming. In other words, rather than warming slowing below the predicted level, it has nearly maintained the predicted level, thus falsifying Ridley’s hypothesis. Don’t expect 2015 do be a big drop in temperature. It is way too early to say anything close to definitive about the year we just started. But, January has been warm and we are expecting El Nino conditions to add heat to the atmosphere this year, so we might expect 2015 to be like 2014, or may be even warmer.
But, yes, there may be a slowing of surface temperature increase, but that is only part of the story. The vast majority of the heat that is added to (or subtracted from) the Earth goes into and out of the deeper ocean, not the atmosphere or sea surface. (See above graphic.) This means that the surface temperatures are a bit like the tail of the dog, where the dog itself is the sea. I wrote about this here. Meanwhile, there is strong evidence that the top 2000 meters or so of the oceans is indeed taking in the extra heat that helps account for a minor slowdown in warming. Here is a link to a recent paper on this, by John Abraham, John Fasullo and Me. And here’s a graph from that paper:
So, Ridley’s first hypothesis, that warming is slow, is falsified.
To the extent that there is some slowing in recent years, it is generally thought that this is a combination of the ocean taking in extra heat, some slowing of warming due to dust put into the atmosphere by a higher than usual amount of volcanic activity (from smaller volcanoes, the ones you don’t really notice unless you live near them), and a current decline in the energy provided by the sun (not to worry, that goes up and down on a regular basis). In that order, probably.
Let me add that even if warming was slower than some preconceived rate, that does not mean that it is not a problem. First, even a slowed down rate of warming suggested by Ridley and others is very fast by long term geological standards, too high to be safe. Second, certain long term effects of warming, such as melting polar ice sheets and causing massive sea level rise, may simply arrive later. But they will still arrive.
Ridley’s second hypothesis, that global warming will be slow in the future, is not testable at this time. The fact that his second hypothesis is based on the first, that future slowness is assumed because of (non-existing) present day slowness, seems to be obviated. But, we can let the hypothesis stand as proposed and untested, if for no other reason than to mitigate Matt Ridley’s whinge. Then, in a few years, we can test it. Ridley is, essentially, predicting that over the next decade or so far more years will fall below a regression line based on recent decades, with fewer and fewer years falling above the line as time marches on. In a few years, let’s check back.
Meanwhile, let’s be sensible and smart and do something about global warming, because it is real. For his part, I hope Matt Ridley stops mining coal out of his own land and allows those other folks to put up a windmill or two. That would be royal.
Very fine: thank you. I love his chief complaint, which he stressed over and over again, and can be paraphrased as: "All of the smart, educated, intelligent people keep telling me I'm wrong!" Even Roy Spencer is smart enough to not mention that fact.
Don't bring Prince Charles in to support your argument- he may believe in AGW, but he also believes in Homeopathy!
You would sacrifice the good in pursuit of the perfect. This is not the time to make such a choice!
Ridley’s second hypothesis, that global warming will be slow in the future, is not testable at this time.
In addition to what you've pointed out about the issue with claiming that it will continue to be slow, what such claims also completely ignore is that it depends on our future emission pathway. If we continue along RCP8.5 we could increase anthropogenic forcings by as much in the next 30-40 years as we've done in the last 120 years. Another 0.85K, or more, by the mid-2040s is not slow!
"I have lost opportunities because people conspire against me."
Is there any person who is a major denier of some branch of science who hasn't made this claim of being a target of persecution?
A funny(?) story about Prince Charles: my son was in London last July for a college study abroad. One of their organized trips found them at a location that was also hosting a wedding at which Charles and Camilla were guests. My son (and others in his group) managed to scurry around the outskirts of the fancy group and take selfies with the royal couple in the background.
Said my son: "Yeah, it was easy. We never even saw any security."
Said to him: "That means they were good at their job. I'm sure they saw you."
"My detractors are mainly public employees"
His failed bank bailed out by the public purse. His House of Lords expenses paid out of the public purse. What an ungrateful cad.
Tamino wrote an invaluable, pedagogical article on the slowdown in January of last year. He clearly demonstrated that the slowdown Ridley takes for granted didn't exist:
Judith Curry seems to have gone even further than Ridley:
“The stadium wave signal predicts that the current pause in global warming could extend into the 2030s," said Wyatt, an independent scientist after having earned her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 2012.
Curry added, "This prediction is in contrast to the recently released IPCC AR5 Report that projects an imminent resumption of the warming, likely to be in the range of a 0.3 to 0.7 degree Celsius rise in global mean surface temperature from 2016 to 2035."
I wonder how Ridley and Curry will react if reality soon proves their predictions to be wrong.
Prince Charles may not be the best example.
We're talking about climate change, KenH, not crazy medicine. Your argument is actually an ad hom fallacy!
"Your argument is actually an ad hom fallacy!". No argument was presented. It was a suggestion that Charles may not be the most appropriate spokesperson or advocate in areas of science. While he may be right on climate science, he is clearly not in medicine. His ideas on homeopathy lead me to question how much he really understands about science and the scientific method. I think a similar quote from someone with a better grounding in science would have been better.
Yes, you said that Prince Charles (or, shall we call him Charles, Prince of Wales) has a position on climate change not worth referencing because of his position on homeopathy. He's the kind of guy who thinks homeopathy is worthwhile, so his other positions are not valid. Classic ad hom.
I see your point that if someone is bad in one area of science they may be bad in other areas, but I actually don't agree with that at all. In fact, that fallacy is exactly what gives us all those physicists who may have won a Nobel for their work in some crazy particle or something being taken as experts on everything they open their mouth about. Science is very big. It is very possible for one person to be good in one area and bad in another.
I have a lot of exposure to this as a paleoanthropologist. Time after time after time I see a person who is a valid and respected scientist in some field decide to write a book. They decide the book has to begin with some gratuitous historical background, reaching back into early human evolution, narrating the human story through speciation events, the origin of agriculture, the metal ages, etc., somehow linked to their book's topic.
They then proceed to totally ruin prehistory and history with ideas that are just as bad vis-a-vis human evolution, archaeology, etc. as homeopath is to medicine (but maybe less harmful when applied IRL).
I strongly recommend against using a person's understanding or lack there of in one area of science as an indicator of their knowledge in another area, without careful consideration and more information!
Anyway, his position is not about climate science per se, but rather,a bout policy and denialism.
Excellent article here - shared. Thanks Greg Laden.
Can't say I've ever really heard of Matt Ridley before now.
When it comes to ad hominem fallacies I think the Heartland institute takes the cake as seen here :
(The youtube clip there like all in that series is well worth watching and well done.)
Not a huge fan of the British royal family or Prince Charles but really complaining about a brief reference to him and something relevant - and I think true - that he's said on this matter is pretty petty and missing the point.
Off topic but whilst we're talking Prince Charlie :
Prince Charles (or, shall we call him Charles, Prince of Wales)
Is one of those actually better than the other really?
Not a great aristocrat speaking but I do know that (unless something big happens before which seems increasingly unlikely) one day in the future we'll likely call him King Charles III - and he'll become the head of state here in Australia (and I think also Canada, Aotearoa /New Zealand and definitely Britain) based on him being born into a certain hyper-privileged family of hereditary rulers. The same Germanic dynastic family that in the past gave us such luminaries as the German Kaiser who started and lost World War One and the last Russian Tsar.
For some reason as an Aussie and someone who think leaders should earn high office based on merit not birth and that an Aussie should be the ultimate head of state for Australians, this kinda annoys me.
Admittedly the Windsor (Nee Gotha-Saxe-Coburg) clan today are merely very symbolic heads of state holding almost zero actual power and being little more than tourist attractions and "celebrities" for tabloid soap operas but still.
Yes, you should know! he is your future King!!!
It would be much more cool, though, to be Charles, Prince of Whales.
@ ^ Greg laden : Yep. Certainly beats being prince of wails!
Oh & to quote Monty Python - I never voted for him!
Prince Charles has been unexpectedly good on climate change and wildlife conservation ("Charles, Prince of Whales"). We should be generous enough to acknowledge that.
Re. the rather ridiculous Ridley:
Last year a couple of papers independently established that human caused warming was increasingly overwhelming the influence of natural variability and aerosol cooling, making future pauses in global warming less likely:
“Using a climate model that overrides tropical wind stress anomalies with observations for 1958–2012, we show that decadal-mean anomalies of global SAT referenced to the period 1961–1990 are changed by 0.11, 0.13 and ?0.11 °C in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, respectively, without variation in human-induced radiative forcing. They account for about 47%, 38% and 27% of the respective temperature change...
Results indicate that inherent decadal climate variability contributes considerably to the observed global-mean SAT time series, but that its influence on decadal-mean SAT has gradually decreased relative to the rising anthropogenic warming signal.”
“Hiatus periods are identified in three categories: (i) those due to volcanic eruptions, (ii) those associated with negative phases of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), and (iii) those affected by anthropogenically released aerosols in the mid- twentieth century. The likelihood of future hiatus periods is found to be sensitive to the rate of change of anthropogenic forcing. Under high rates of greenhouse gas emissions there is little chance of a hiatus decade occurring beyond 2030, even in the event of a large volcanic eruption.”
Similarly, as Matt Ridley's scientific value decreases, his entertainment value increases. No pause in sight.
I'm wondering whether it would make more sense to analyze Ridley rather than his arguments. As far as I can see, he has an extremely exaggerated view of his own importance, and the unwillingness of others to recognize his worth leads to feelings of persecution.
Is there a doctor in the house?
Moreover, Ridley's an incarnation of the denialism that arises when evidence threatens profit. An And Then There's Physics comment
quotes George Monbiot:
“...whenever a conflict arose between his scientific training and the interests of business, he would discard the science. Ignoring hundreds of scientific papers which came to the opposite conclusion, and drawing instead on material presented by a business lobby group called the Institute of Economic Affairs, he argued that global temperatures have scarcely increased, so we should stop worrying about climate change(4). He suggested that elephants should be hunted for their ivory(5), planning laws should be scrapped(6), recycling should be stopped(7), bosses should be free to choose whether or not their workers contract repetitive strain injury(8) and companies, rather than governments, should be allowed to decide whether or not the food they sell is safe.(9) He raged against taxes, subsidies, bail-outs and government regulation. Bureaucracy, he argued, is “a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world … governments do not run countries, they parasitise them.”(10)”
(For an interesting parallel, see Paul Krugman's column from yesterday, Hating Good Government.)
#13 Astrostevo - It is annoying here too - every time one of their family comes to Canada we pick up the tab. Gosh I wish I could travel the world on someone else's dime. For awhile there I thought we were starting to get past this nonsense then a right wing evolution denying fundy got elected PM here and he's a gung ho royalist. /sigh
Reminded of this:
*My life has a clear sense of purpose.
*I have discovered a satisfying life purpose.
*I generally feel that what I do in my life is valuable and worthwhile.
*My daily life is full of things that are interesting to me.
*To me, the things I do are all worthwhile.
*I value my activities a lot.
*I have lots of reasons for living.
Your claim that the point about Prince Charles's views on homeopathy is ad hominem is idiotic and wrong. You used the PC quote as an argument from authority. It's no fallacy to point out that, given his other views on scientific issues, he isn't one.
How is it an argument from authority? It is an example of a world leader speaking truth to lies about climate change. It is not an argument about climate change at all. See my remarks above about how a person can be wrong in one are of science policy and not in another.
Matt Ridley's land holdings may be vast, but his arguments are merely half-vast.
Likewise the UK tech blog - The Register - as always has an interesting view of Friday's results - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/19/no_scientific_consensus_on_2014…
They see "reasonable skeptics." They are a decade behind in their thinking.
So what exactly is Ridley's "lukewarmist" prediction of warming? Something below the bounds of the IPCC's range? That if we follow the A1F1 emissions scenario, the warming will be less than 2.4C by 2100? ( http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/spmsspm-projections… )
The uncertainty in the IPCC's reports are enough to accommodate a 0.24C/decade rise even under the most aggressive emissions scenario. Is Ridley saying he has evidence it must be less?
gah, The Register and its constant reference to 'boffins' and its bone-stupid clickbait headlines has to be one of the most annoying media sites out there, 'tech' or otherwise. Some time ago I set my google news feed to hide articles from them.
Simple Explanation for the Pause in Global Warming
There is a simple explanation for the pause in global warming, and it depends on the Greenhouse Gas Effect. Energy emitted from the surface of the Earth is absorbed by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and so causes a rise in temperature of the Earth. The principal gases are carbon dioxide and water vapour. However, in the pre-industrial period there was so much carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere that nearly all the emitted energy was absorbed, and so no further temperature rise occurred.
A little detail is now required. The energy emitted by the Earth’s surface is in the form of little “wave packets” of infrared light called “photons”. The energy of each photon depends upon the infrared wavelength, and a whole range of wavelengths are involved.
The ability of a greenhouse gas to absorb these photons is dependent upon the particular gas itself (eg carbon dioxide or water vapour), and the ability of each type of molecule of that gas. This absorption ability is called the “absorption cross-section” of a molecule of a particular gas for infrared radiation of a particular wavelength. Values for absorption cross-sections can be found in the “HITRAN” data
kept by the University of Harvard. (http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/hitran/)
The absorption of a particular gas for a range of wavelengths can be seen in an absorption spectrum such as http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/EnergyBalance/page7.php .
For carbon dioxide, the principal absorption occurs over wavelengths around 15 microns, with more at around 4 microns. However, there is very little shown in a small range of a few microns in the 5 to 12 micron range. This is known as the “window” through which infrared can largely escape to space. Although fairly close to the 15 micron peak for CO2, nevertheless the absorption cross-sections in this window are too small for absorption to be seen, and no such cross-sections are even shown in the data. It has been assumed that absorption does exist here, but at very low values.
This scenario was all very well with carbon dioxide concentrations as they were
before global warming became noticeable, but with continually increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, there gradually became enough gas present, in spite of the very low absorption cross-sections, for some additional absorption, and consequent warming, to occur. This has been apparent from about 1960 onwards, and has continued until about 1998, when the “pause” started.
It is suggested that by 1998 the continual increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached a value where all the emitted radiation in the “window” was being absorbed, and so further addition of carbon dioxide could not absorb any more.
Hence, we have a pause in global warming, which is likely to continue unless some even smaller cross-sections are discovered.
A E Banner
That is not the explanation that climate scientists think applies.
A lot of idiotic comments about an idiotic article
A lot of idiotic comments about an idiotic article
Thank you for another one.
I don’t think KenH is commenting on Prince Charles’s expertise in climate science or medicine. I believe that he is referring to Charles’s ability as a well educated layman to assess if there is a scientific consensus in a particular scientific field and if so what it is. I think that the scientific consensus is very strong in climate science but even stronger within the medical science community that homeopathy is bunk! In my view this shows that Charles’s ability to determine scientific consensus is roughly that of a stopped clock – occasionally correct but not to be relied on.
Greg, I think you are only proving Ridley's point about people attacking him while actually agreeing with him!
Remember this: "Spoiler alert, he is wrong on both counts."
"First, has global warming slowed down? If it has, Ridley may be on to something (but maybe not). If it has not, then this hypothesis is falsified."
"Notice that the trend does in fact drop slightly in upward slope in recent years. "
"rather than warming slowing below the predicted level, it has nearly maintained the predicted level..."
What!? This is like saying rather than the cup being half empty it is actually half full. It's the same thing! You can't argue with someone when you are both actually in agreement.
"...thus falsifying Ridley’s hypothesis"
No! Really? See above, it is actually failing to reject Ridley's hypothesis. The slowdown may not be significant, but it is there, thus has global warming slowed down? Slightly. Hardly falsifies his hypothesis does it?
Nearly maintaining a predicted level (but just falling short) = slowing below the predicted level.
"But, yes, there may be a slowing of surface temperature increase"
"The vast majority of the heat that is added to (or subtracted from) the Earth goes into and out of the deeper ocean, not the atmosphere or sea surface."
"there is strong evidence that the top 2000 meters or so of the oceans is indeed taking in the extra heat that helps account for a minor slowdown in warming."
Wait, what minor slowdown??? Oh, wait you actually have a paper on this!
"Let me add that even if warming was slower than some preconceived rate, that does not mean that it is not a problem."
This is an admission that Ridley's first hypothesis is correct, you give up trying to claim it isn't and instead claim that even if it is correct it still makes global warming important.
"Ridley is, essentially, predicting that over the next decade or so far more years will fall below a regression line based on recent decades"
Like you showed in the above graph? So Ridley's first hypothesis is actually supported by the information you present in this article and his second would be supported if the trend you identify here continues into the future.
Your best hope of Ridley being wrong with his second hypothesis is if the current situation is a short term blip, his best hope of being correct is if this isn't a blip but a long term trend. So its blip v trend...
Let's go back to the start of this article "Spoiler alert, he is wrong on both counts." - but he isn't - his first hypothesis is supported and we all agree you can't test his second. So in terms of this sentence you are the one who is wrong!
Let's get one thing clear, there is a slow down, everyone on both sides of the argument has to acknowledge that, because it is clear empirically. Whether it lasts or not is the only important issue, but there is no way of telling at this point. Ideas about an acceleration of warming into the future are being pushed into the margins of forecasts because as the slowdown continues the forecasts, using the most current data, must start from a lower point and with a shallower slope.
A shallower slope: one final point - re the gif. Look carefully at the last two frames, there are some green data points added on when the red line is added, that weren't there when the blue steps were shown. Points which mean the red line is steeper than it would have been.
This is incredibly annoying because it looks like there is some hocus pocus going on when surely there isn't. But the gif itself is important because it sends the message that the long term must be viewed with one straight line. If the warming is not at a constant speed then a straight line is not a best-fit line, it should be curved, when you fit such a line you see the Goddard chart - the one showing a recent slowing. If the slowdown is not a blip then curved best fit lines will explain more and more of the data over time, and then the shape of the curve will be of interest - is it upward sloping or downward sloping? Well the current position seems quite clear...
Matthew, when you put together the air, SST, and the sea, there is ZERO SLOWDOWN IN WARMING.
Dr Ridley claimed that his writings inspire others to write about what he wrote. To illustrate his point, Ken Rice, Greg Laden and Dana Nuccitelli write about Ridley’s writings.
Dr Ridley claimed that there have been more attempts on his character than on his arguments. To underline his point, Pitchfork Anonymous smears his name.
Anyone who points out the irony of all this receives the same treatment.
the only point I was making is that Prince Charles isn't the best advert for Climate Science. He is right in what he says on Climate Change, but some may use his Homeopathy interest to try and undermine the validity of his other arguments.
Put it this way, in support of Climate Science, I would quote you or Gavin Schmidt before quoting the First in Line to the Throne !
Richard, the tactic of inoculating oneself from criticism by noting that one is criticized isn't very effective, it turns out!
Enough already with the bitching about Prince Charles, ok? It's noise obscuring signal now.