back to article McIntyre: Climate policy crippled by pointless feel-good gestures

Leading climate blogger Steve McIntyre says policy makers are failing to prepare the public for climate change and have become obsessed with "petty acts of virtuous behaviour" instead. He also told The Register that computer scientists should form "tiger teams" to produce engineering-grade analysis of climate models, to counter …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Asked by climate scientist Richard Betts of the Met Office, an IPCC author"

    Considering the Met Offices inability to accurately predict what the weather will be doing tomorrow, I sure as hell ain't gonna trust anything they spew about climate change.

    1. TheUglyAmerican

      You are confusing weather with climate. They are not the same thing.

      1. Marshalltown


        While the distinction between weather and climate has become a common place, it is worth remembering that climate is an _inferred_ property of long-term weather patterns. When someone asserts that there is a "climate trend," they are making that assertion based upon an analysis of weather data. It is actually reasonable to argue that climate is nothing BUT weather. Arguing that CO2 will affect the "climate" is really simply saying that it will alter the day-to-day patterns of the weather in some fashion and to some degree. Arguing that atmospheric CO2 will affect the "global" climate assumes many points of information that have not been proven or are at best equivocally supported. Is H2O a source for heating or cooling for instance. Or could it be both? How would that be modeled?

        As the article pointed out, models are only as good as our understanding. While we might well understand the individual lawsof radiative physics and thermodynamics that rule the system, how those rules interact and what emergent properties that may ensue from those interactions in a complex system are where the entire situation gets all boggy, "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike" or not.

      2. SoaG

        Confusing weather and climate?

        No, he's recognizing that an individual not competent at making short term predictions about weather is probably not an individual capable of producing reliable long term predictions using far fewer known quantities, many more variables and vastly more unknown quantities and feedbacks.

        Like a grade schooler struggling to add fractions will probably not give you the right answer to a calculus problem.

        If he can't do the (comparatively) simple, he's got no business attempting the more complex.

        1. vagabondo

          Re: Confusing weather and climate?

          > long term predictions

          That is still weather, not climate.

          The OP seems to be suggesting that anyone working for the Met Office cannot be trusted to have a useful opinion on anything, because he does not find their short-term weather forecasts useful.

          And what has that to do with the price of fish?

      3. ChilliKwok

        @ UglyAmerican

        When it's hot we're told it's man made global warming. When it's cold we're told it's just weather or maybe ' climate disruption' caused by man. When there's a drought we're told it's man-made climate change. A flood? Another extreme caused by man-made climate change. Is there any natural weather phenomenon that these money grubbing scaremongerers don't blame on man-made CO2? Time to face facts buddy: global average temperatures have't increased this century. Your religion is dying.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Casino owners and bookies don't know the result but I don't see them losing money.

    3. Doug Bostrom

      Oh, so tired...

      It's summer in England. Tomorrow is likely to be warmer than a day in January. Can you say >exactly< what the temperature tomorrow will be? Because you can't, does that mean you also can't make a reasonable case it'll likely be colder in January?

      Please, come up with something more original.

    4. DR_UK

      Met Office scientist

      Kudos to Richard Betts for being there and engaging with people who disagree with him.

  2. Steve Crook
    Thumb Up

    A modern hero.

    Steve McIntyre is a remarkable man doing a remarkable job. I hope that one day he'll receive the widespread recognition that he deserves for the time and effort he's put into his examination of paleo-climate research and demonstrating how shoddily *some* of it had been done.

    As was mentioned in the article, he's not some sort of denier, but he does want to see the science done properly and openly. Which, I'd have thought would be what everyone would want....

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: A modern hero.

      "...he's not some sort of denier..."

      It depends how you define 'denier'. The word was initially used in climate science, not to refer to someone who refuses to listen to evidence, but to anyone who did not believe in the IPCC/NOAA/NISS standard hypothesis - in other words, that catastrophic warming driven entirely by CO2 concentrations would shortly engulf mankind.

      Steve McIntyre IS a 'denier' according to the latter definition - even though his position is scrupulously correct in simply pointing out the egregious errors (amounting to fraud) in the current hypothesis. Simply to ask for data is enough to be labeled a 'denier'.

      Incidentally, Steve McIntyre has now spent a fair proportion of his life fighting for the proper application of the scientific method against overwhelming establishment abuse, smears and rejection. I reckon that , for someone who has defended science in this manner, a Nobel prize is the least we could offer him...

  3. John Sager

    "If resources are limited, then expenditures on acts of petty virtue - that may make microscope changes, that have no impact on climate - should be put under the microscope to see if they make best use of social resources compared to adaptation"

    Solid common sense. This is essentially what some so-called sceptics have been saying for years, including Nigel Lawson in his book, and AFAIR, Bjørn Lomborg. Sadly Gordon Brown, together with much of the HoC, completely failed to grasp this, and so we're stuck with the millstone of the Climate Change Act 2008.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      I think you'll find that Tony Blair was adamant that the Carbon reduction target was for *all* UK energy use, not just electricity generation.

      He wanted a really *big* line in the sand.

      The fact that he was leaving office, would have *no* involvement in making it happen and it would stuff Gordon Brown's entire time in office (however long that would be) were not his problem.

      Stick it on the list with ID cards and the Data Communications Act V 1.0.

  4. Schultz Silver badge

    pointless feel-good gestures

    I can't believe I agree with a sentence, and even the title of an Orlowski article on climate change. But the comment about pointless feel-good gestures does resonate. 10% Bioethanol in my car doesn't significantly change the environmental impact of my car and the abundance of solar cells in Germany also doesn't inspire too much hope. (If we would donate the corresponding money to Spain or Greece, we might have the double-good feeling of saving the environment while relieving an economic collapse!)

    Oil and coal will be burned while it's easily available. If we want to accelerate the transition to other forms of energy, we should tax the fuels to make them more expensive -- and leave it to the market to think about alternatives.

    Too bad about the alpine glaciers though. No matter what you like to believe about hockey sticks, they just vanish.

    1. Fibbles

      Re: pointless feel-good gestures

      "Oil and coal will be burned while it's easily available. If we want to accelerate the transition to other forms of energy, we should tax the fuels to make them more expensive -- and leave it to the market to think about alternatives."

      You want to make the poor even poorer by dramatically increasing energy prices? How about we take all the money we waste on wind-farm and solar panel subsidies and invest it into research of genuine high energy, low carbon tech. If it's cheaper than fossil fuels (which will only increase in price) good old capitalism will sort out the transition without any extra taxes.

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Treading a dangerous line

      If you have regularly read Climate Audit then you will already know Steve's opinion on policy makers and the IPCC. He has never said anything else.

    2. Steve Crook

      Re: Treading a dangerous line

      He didn't say the IPCC were right, but that as they're the only game in town, we have to assume they're right when we come to make political decisions. It doesn't mean we shouldn't bust a nut to sort out the problems with the way the IPCC is organised and run, and with the data that much of the research is based on.

      He did also point out that having climate scientists recommend *how* we should mitigate climate change is daft as well. The asteroid analogy was appropriate.

      Plenty of people (me included) look at the stance taken by Hansen and a number of other high profile scientists and wonder just how much we can trust what they're saying given their fairly radical commitment to anthropogenic CO2 as being responsible for everything..

      I think historians will look back on Hansen and friends and judge that they actually did their cause more harm than good, and how much like an end of days cult the whole thing became...

      1. david 12

        Re: judge that they actually did their cause more harm than good

        Here is Vic, Aus, we were told by all three levels of Government - Federal, State, Local - that our drought was caused by climate change, that it would never end, and that Aus was particularly vulnerable to climate change.

        Many people believed them.

        Now that the drought has ended, many people no longer believe that it will never end, and by association, no longer believe anything much about climate change.

        The only comfort the climatoligists should find is that once bitten twice shy: people who don't believe anything much about climate change don't believe in it's abscence either.

  6. BillG

    Isn't this the same group of Climate "scientists" that refused to let anyone else look at their data?

    WHERE is the raw data that pretends to prove global warming? What do these fakers think they are doing?

  7. David Pollard

    "A tiger team ... for around £20 million"

    I wonder who might be available to head up such a programme?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "A tiger team ... for around £20 million"

      By implication you are saying Steve wants the job heading up this tiger team and a cut of the £20m.

      Perhaps you could point to a reference that would indicate Steve's interest in such a position.

  8. Mikel
    IT Angle

    Enhanced Geothermal is cheaper than coal

    It's CO2 free, local, safe baseload power with no fuel wastes, toxic wastes or proliferation issues. Some places can't benefit from it, but there is no reason not to start building it out everywhere that has the geothermal resources.

    1. Nev Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Enhanced Geothermal is cheaper than coal

      Greens have come out against enhanced geothermal as it uses similar tech to shale gas extraction.

      i.e. "fracking"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Enhanced Geothermal is cheaper than coal

      This is really location - dependent, it's all to do with the underlying geology, in many instances you have to drill deep, which is costly. In addition to this the water that's used to generate steam picks up dissolved minerals which end up forming scaling. It isn't particularly sustainable either, as it leads to localised cooling, and it's difficult to determine the amount of energy you can extract because you can't work out when it's going to run out. It seems like an obvious solution but it doesn't come without its problems. Although if you're in Iceland or New Zealand (ie on fault zones) it makes pretty good sense.

  9. itzman

    No chance of a $20m tiger team...

    ..when you can make that 100x much in a year out of AGW scares and renewable energy...

    No one anywhere NEAR the driving seat wants the truth about climate change. Scare stories are far too profitable.

  10. Turtle

    Cleaning Out The Augean Stables.

    "...policy makers should accept the base IPCC scenarios. Why believe a word [the IPCC] says, asked several questioners? 'Until it mends its ways, policy makers are stuck with it,' said McIntyre."

    This is not persuasive reasoning. If the IPCC is so bad - and it is - then you'd have to assume that policy built on the IPCC studies would be wrong - in the sense of being ineffective if not actually harmful - too. The idea that thoroughly corrupted research will lead to effective policy is not encouraging.

    One can only think that McIntyre is hoping that there will be some effort to clean out the Augean stables of the IPCC. Personally, I can not see that happening. And you know, even if this were to happen, I would have no confidence in the replacement organization unless it reached conclusions opposite of those the IPCC now fabricates. And I doubt that I am alone in this: I would expect that if the replacement organization were to completely refute the IPCC fabrications, then those people who currently support the IPCC will consider the *new* conclusions to be fraudulent - thereby giving each side in the debate an authority to support and a conflicting authority to call "mercenary, venal, dishonest, driven by ideology and self-interest, etc etc".

    I do not see how the solution to the problem of basing public policy on research conditioned by the political motivation of the participants in the IPCC is going to be found in the formation of another panel just as easily accused of having a political agenda.

    1. James Smith 3
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cleaning Out The Augean Stables.

      It's perfectly reasonable for the policy makers to follow the advice of the IPCC. When making decisions about something you're not an expert, it makes sense to take the advice of the experts in the field. Without the relevant scientific knowledge the policy makers cannot question the advice of the IPCC, so must take it as truth. In this way the IPCC effectively defines policy with its conclusions. This is dangerous if the report isn't entirely unbiased, as some claim.

      You're right that forming another panel isn't the way to go. It would be really obvious political maneuver in an attempt to change the result of the science. Science is supposed to be the driver of policy, not the other way around, but it shouldn't seek to define that policy - that's the job of politics. The real answer is for the current panel to be more transparent and amenable to criticism. There is evidence that what makes up the IPCC report isn't entirely unbiased. They don't appear to mind where the results come from as long as it looks like the right answer and keeps the report "on message". (See GlacierGate for a good example). I think that the attempts by members of the IPCC to define policy rather than just present an honest picture of the science is a great deal of what Climate Audit is all about.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What people seem to not realise is that policy makers have no reason to do anything about the climate. After all they won´t be in office when the effects are seen. No democratic country will be able to take any effective measures to change anything on the long term. That is why there are all those feel-good projects. So that policy makers can stand before their pet project and get a nice picture. In short we are doomed. Well provided that CO2 is going to be a problem.

  12. Doug Bostrom

    Simple is best

    "Simple methods are all that is required to extract signals. If you have to use methods that are trickier than that - then in the hands of inexperienced or opportunistic scientists you can get results don't make a whole lot of sense."

    Yeah. If you happen to have a bird's-eye view of the Arctic and you see that year-on-year ice in the Arctic is diminishing, you simply conclude that ice there is melting because the Arctic is getting warmer. No need to resort to tortured cycles of ice expansion, retreat, etc.

    Ice melts when it warms above 0. Doesn't get any simpler.

    1. StuartMcL

      Re: Simple is best

      But why is it warming above 0?


      Decadal period changes in ocean currents moving warmer water into the area or moving the ice to lower latitudes where the water is warmer and it is exposed to the sun for longer?

      Changes in cloud cover/ insolation?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simple is best

      Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C (28.8 °F).

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Doomed? pah

    The basic problem is that so called 'green energy' (god how that term makes me want to puke) is for the image of the commisioning politician only

    "Vote for me, I care about the planet.. I built this wind mill to power the community"

    Sadly said community goes powerless for 30% of the year unless you build a dirty great big gas power station to back it up.

    Which costs money

    And emits CO2 too

    So lets cut out all this CO2 green energy bollocks and say this

    Global temps are going up, CO2 concentrations are going up, therefore the UK government has decided to reduce CO2 emissions by

    1 Building nuclear power stations

    2. mandating greater fuel efficency from car manufacturers

    3, mandating less power and water use from domestic appliance manufacturers

    Sadly this will cost money, but will enable the UK to meet its emission targets and set us as a leading example to the world of how a low carbon economy should be run.

    But the ideal world of mine will not happen as the payback time on these projects is greater than the 4 yr election

    cycle we are locked into.. plus most politicians wouldn't know their arse from their elbow without a civil servant or focus group to tell them

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Doomed? pah

      "Sadly said community goes powerless for 30% of the year unless you build a dirty great big gas power station to back it up."

      It's worse than that. 30% is the design *target* that offshore wind turbines are expected to cover. It's 70% *not* covered by the turbines.

      1 seems to be sort of happening.

      You might try to get UK water companies (well the UK arms of the French and German multinational groups that actually own *most* of the UK water industry) to try to stop wasting as much water per household as they supply to the household (IE 50% lost in leaks).

      I think that would require OFWAT to grow a pair and the *poor* water companies might not make so much profit.

  14. jason 7

    So the gist of that first page is......

    1. Doesn't matter what we do as long as China continues to exist and grow.

    2. No one has the balls to tell China that it can't do the same as we have been doing for the past 70 years.


    I will stick to my three minute showers in the morning though.

    1. Turtle

      Re: So the gist of that first page is......

      "2. No one has the military capability to force China to stop doing what we have been doing for the past 70 years."

      Fixed it for you.

      : )

  15. markr555

    Geographical stupidity - tssk!

    "The entire rationale of policy in US and Europe has been to ignore what's happening in China and India and hope that petty acts of virtuous behaviour in both countries will cure the problem,"

    Any man who thinks that Europe is a country is hard to listen to on anything else!!

  16. bert_fe

    Oh really!

    Could someone point me to Steve McIntyre's refereed scientific papers in reputable journals. I am afraid that hearsay on blogs just does not cut it! Could the scientifically illiterate commenters who laud his expertise please explain why they cannot! Thanks.


    1. DR_UK

      Re: Oh really!

      What is your point exactly?

      Here are two:

      O’Donnell, Ryan, Nicholas Lewis, Steve McIntyre, Jeff Condon, 2011: Improved Methods for PCA-Based Reconstructions: Case Study Using the Steig et al. (2009) Antarctic Temperature Reconstruction. J. Climate, 24, 2099–2115. doi:

      Hockey sticks, principal components and spurious significance. Stephen McIntyre, Ross McKitrick. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L03710, 5 PP., 2005 doi:10.1029/2004GL021750

  17. Mips

    "cheaper-than-coal low-carbon energy"

    Which is precisely? Well no one knows, not even the politicians who seem to know everything.

    One thing is sure: that coal base technology is cheap and the only way to make anything cheaper is to make coal more expensive. Yes! Tax carbon.

    The only snag with this is that it will increase the price of production (note I said price not cost). And that will knock a countries trading position compared to other countries with untaxed energy costs. Could we do this unilaterally? Yes, but we need to have in place energy tax on imports and rebates on exports. To some this might look like an old fashioned trade war; as our trade balance is so poor this might not be a bad thing.

    When it comes to saving the world, who is going to blink first?

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: "cheaper-than-coal low-carbon energy"

      Oil is already starting to get expensive, pretty much of its own accord; and coal is going to do the same thing sooner or later. Renewables are generally getting cheaper, or at least, not getting more expensive at the same rate as fossil fuels.

      Of course, there might be a tiny problem with simply waiting for things to fix themselves .....

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Roman times it was warm enough to grow grapes near Hadrians wall, in Victorian times it was cold enough for the Thames to freeze.

    Each volcano eruption kicks out more plantfood(CO2) than mankind has released in it's history

    Carbon credits are just a way of redistributing the non-elites wealth

  19. Turtle

    Very very ominous for AGW believers.

    Here is a link to an article from yesterday's (20/VIII/2012) New York Times. It will be very interesting to see what kind of plans and policies AGW supporters will propose to deal with the matter (and if it will be possible for them to come up with any kind of even semi-realistic plan at all.)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Very very ominous for AGW believers.

      Japan govt offices at 28c (86F)?

      I've done course at 24c and found myself nodding off. I cannot imagine it at that temperature.

      I'll note that humidity can make a *big* difference. I found outside in Phoenix AZ quite bearable because it ws so dry.

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