15 Jun 2009

The Myth of Economy Versus Environment

By Ben McNeil
Not even the driest conservative will be able to ignore the economic risks of climate change much longer, writes Ben McNeil

Picture a box 120 metres high covering an area the size of Australia. Now fill it full of greenhouse gases. That's how much climate-warming gases humans have spewed into our paper-thin atmosphere since the fossil-fuel-based industrial revolution. That pure high-rise of carbon dioxide (CO2) is now growing by 3 metres each year, and it will double the atmosphere's concentration by the middle part of this century. On current projections, that CO2 high-rise will be over 800 metres high by the end of this century.

Earth's climate has been observed to have warmed by about 0.8°C in the past century. The signs range from an acceleration in Arctic sea-ice and glacier melting to sea-level rise and ocean warming. Changes in the sun's intensity, orbital wobbles of Earth's path around the sun or volcanic activity are all important natural factors that could contribute to the recent warming on Earth. However, if left to those natural factors alone, Earth would have likely cooled over the past 50 years based on the observations of the sun's activity and volcanism. This means that climate scientists are 90 per cent confident that global warming over the past 50 years has been caused by human-induced increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases. Continually pumping tens of billions of tonnes of CO2 into Earth's thin atmosphere has altered (and will continue to alter) the fabric of Earth's climate.

Scientific projections can never be 100 per cent certain. The nature of science involves managing a level of uncertainty. But is the small level of uncertainty a reasonable case for inaction on climate change? A friend's grandmother smoked two packets of cigarettes a day since she was 20 years old and lived until she was 90. Does that mean the scientific link between smoking and cancer is wrong? Of course not, since there are other natural genetic factors that can lower the risk of lung cancer.

For global warming there may indeed be some natural factors that could partially offset the well-known evidence demonstrating greenhouse gases warm the planet. There is a very small chance these factors may play out. Yet from the weight of scientific evidence and observation, we are currently smoking two packets a day, seeing the first signs of cancer, and hoping that the future planet will be healthy. It doesn't really seem like a wise bet to make.

Given that climate change projections are informed by hard science, I thought the case for a pre-emptive strike on carbon emissions was pretty clear. How wrong I was. In 2007, I was in Canberra as a young scientist pushing the scientific case for action and learning very quickly that the government was completely blind to the gravity of potential threats to Australia beyond just the environment. At a high-level meeting in the Cabinet room, as I looked in awe around me, all I could see was a sea of grey hair and suits clustered around the biggest table I had ever seen.

Sitting to my right was the prime minster, John Howard, the minister for education and science, Julie Bishop, the environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the minister for industry, Ian Macfarlane. Scattered among the rest of the Cabinet were the heads of every science, research, technology and education body in Australia. Before my presentation, three of Australia's most influential climate scientists presented an exhaustive report of recommendations on how Australia could actively respond to the emerging climate of change. As I stared down the Cabinet room I wondered why the two most senior government ministers responsible for the economy and foreign policy were not in the room. Where were the treasurer and the foreign minister? It seems for many years the Australian government reflected a broad and dangerous public misconception about combating climate change: that is it has nothing to do with Australia's long-term economic prosperity or national security.

There's an age-old myth that doing good for the environment is bad for the economy. The twin goals of cutting pollution and growing the economy are dominated by this zero-sum game, in which environmental gain must take away from the economy. In Australian cities in the decade between 1991 and 2001, average levels of non-greenhouse pollution from cars, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, were reduced by up to 50 per cent. This cut in pollution occurred despite one-quarter more cars being on the road and Australians driving 30 billion more kilometres each year. Meanwhile, the Australian economy expanded over 40 per cent. There are many such examples of net economic benefits as a result of cleaning up the environment.

Do you remember the debate about the ozone layer? Ozone scientists in the 1980s focused world attention on the issue by measuring a widening hole in the ozone layer. Through more diagnostic research it was found that ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used as refrigerant were the cause. In 1987, the United Nations put forward the Montreal Protocol (that was ratified by nearly all nations), which phased out the use of CFCs in order to repair the damage to the ozone layer. Prior to the Montreal Protocol, no replacement was considered possible for CFCs and the processes like refrigeration and air-conditioning in which they were used. Some politicians, commentators and industry groups predicted massive job losses and economic damage because of the Montreal Protocol, claims that continued after ratification. Somehow, they believed, phasing out CFCs would cause massive economic damage.

So what actually eventuated when the world embraced the Montreal Protocol and banned CFC production? The chemical industry quickly found an alternative compound to CFCs for use in refrigerators and air-conditioners that caused much less damage to the ozone layer. It's been estimated that by the year 2060, the CFC ban will result in 1.5 million fewer melanomas, 19 million fewer non-melanoma skin cancers and 130 million fewer cataracts. Many of those lives saved from skin cancer will be Australian.

Avoided ultraviolet radiation damage to agriculture, fisheries and materials is estimated to amount to US$460 billion. The direct cost of phasing out CFCs was US$235 billion between 1987 and 2006. So if you count just the financial costs of implementing the Montreal Protocol, it sounds like a lot. But even not allowing for the massive health and productivity benefits, there was a net $US230 billion saving to the global economy by introducing the Protocol. The cost of inaction exceeded the cost of action.

Since 2001, the new breed of Australian conservative leaders has sung the age-old myth that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will "wreck" the economy or have a "devastating impact" on it. But what is the counter-factual to this assertion? That is: what's the economic impact of allowing dangerous climate change?

Nicholas Stern, a former World Bank chief economist, warned of the massive economic risk of failing to combat climate change in his 2006 report to the British Parliament. Stern concluded that failing to limit climate change could cost the world economy between 5 and 20 per cent of gross global income this century — a figure equivalent to the combined effect of the past two world wars and the Great Depression.

A similar question only just starting to be discussed in Australia is: what are the economic consequences for Australia if we don't slow climate change? How important to us is it for Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef to exist in 50 years time? What are the economic implications of running the Murray-Darling basin completely dry and fitting every city with billion-dollar desalination plants? What are the climate impacts for our agriculture and exports?

The answers to some of these questions can be estimated through economic models. For example, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) has modeled the potential impact on Australian agriculture from temperature rises, rainfall changes and weather extremes associated with climate change. ABARE found that, in terms of agricultural production, Australia will be one of the worst affected regions by climate change. Australian wheat, beef, dairy and sugar production could decline by up to 20 per cent by mid-century. It also estimated that Australian agricultural exports could plummet by up to 80 per cent.

The CSIRO predicts rapidly declining snowfall in the Alpine region, while the risk to the Great Barrier Reef through warming-induced coral bleaching and/or ocean acidification is very real. Along with a sea-level rise eating away Kakadu National Park, there is a great economic risk to the $22 billion a year Australian tourism market so dependent on these national treasures.

Professor Ross Garnaut, the well-respected Australian economist, estimates that climate change could cost the Australian economy up to 5 per cent of GDP this century, with an associated cut in real wages of up to 8 per cent. The Garnaut Climate Change Review, commissioned by the Labor Government, has finally broadened the scope of climate change and energy policy to be at the heart of Australia's long-term economic prosperity — where it should be. Other nations have long understood the importance of
environmental sustainability for economic prosperity. In 2005, the situation was captured eloquently in a speech by Gordon Brown, back when he was Britain's chancellor of the exchequer:

"Environmental issues — including climate change — have traditionally been placed in a category separate from the economy and from economic policy. But this is no longer tenable. Across a range of environmental issues — from soil erosion to the depletion of marine stocks, from water scarcity to air pollution — it is clear now not just that economic activity is their cause, but that these problems in themselves threaten future economic activity and growth."

There is a strong moral and intergenerational imperative to combat climate change. But even the driest of economic conservatives can't ignore the economic risks associated with climate change. After my Canberra experience I realised that compelling scientific, environmental or moral arguments aren't strong enough to force the change needed to solve this problem. Without an economic awakening, the changes needed to cushion the blow to Australia's future prosperity will never be realised.

This is an edited extract from The Clean Industrial Revolution: Growing Australian Prosperity in a Greenhouse Age by Ben McNeil (Allen & Unwin: 2009).

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danielsydney
Posted Monday, June 15, 2009 - 14:12

Ben, I don't think you've been reading much on the Piers Akerman blogs and the likes of Bolt. They are still Climate change deniers. Its pathetic.

lambofchrist
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 14:59

Sounds to me like Rudd, Swan and Wong are too, given the bend-over-backwards attitude they are taking on behalf of industry and 'the economy' so far.

CC&S has become the new mantra, to go with 'jobs, jobs, jobs' (at any cost).

We are led by dunces who have an eye on votes and donations alone.

The purpose of 'power' seems to have eluded them.

All of them that is, in all the major political parties.

And the very existence of state governments compounds matters... there are many steps we need to take before we will resolve this issue, so many the end may come before the beginning of the 'new direction' has been found.

ecoeng
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 16:30

Of course Ben is dead right. Climate Change stresses economies badly. And as our forebears knew so well from each glacial cycle they survived (no doubt under a pile of furs): cold = dry.

"For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.

There was midsummer snow not just in Norway and the Cairngorms, but even in Saudi Arabia. At least in the southern hemisphere it is winter, but snowfalls in New Zealand and Australia have been abnormal. There have been frosts in Brazil, elsewhere in South America they have had prolonged droughts, while in China they have had to cope with abnormal rain and freak hailstorms, which in one province killed 20 people.

None of this has given much cheer to farmers. In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya - used in animal feed and in many processed foods - are expected to fall to a 32-year low.

In China, the world's largest wheat grower, they have been battling against the atrocious weather to bring in the harvest. (In one province they even fired chemical shells into the clouds to turn freezing hailstones into rain.) In north-west China drought has devastated crops with a plague of pests and blight. In countries such as Argentina and Brazil droughts have caused such havoc that a veteran US grain expert said last week: "In 43 years I've never seen anything like the decline we're looking at in South America."

In Europe, the weather has been a factor in well-below average predicted crop yields in eastern Europe and Ukraine. In Britain this year's oilseed rape crop is likely to be 30 per cent below its 2008 level. And although it may be too early to predict a repeat of last year's food shortage, which provoked riots from west Africa to Egypt and Yemen, it seems possible that world food stocks may next year again be under severe strain, threatening to repeat the steep rises which, in 2008, saw prices double what they had been two years before.

There are obviously various reasons for this concern as to whether the world can continue to feed itself, but one of them is undoubtedly the downturn in world temperatures, which has brought more cold and snow since 2007 than we have known for decades.

Three factors are vital to crops: the light and warmth of the sun, adequate rainfall and the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis. As we are constantly reminded, we still have plenty of that nasty, polluting CO2, which the politicians are so keen to get rid of. But there is not much they can do about the sunshine or the rainfall.

It is now more than 200 years since the great astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When the latter were few in number, he noted, the climate turned colder and drier, crop yields fell and wheat prices rose. In the past two years, sunspot activity has dropped to its lowest point for a century. One of our biggest worries is that our politicians are so fixated on the idea that CO2 is causing global warming that most of them haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, with all the implications that has for whether we get enough to eat.

It is appropriate that another contributory factor to the world's food shortage should be the millions of acres of farmland now being switched from food crops to biofuels, to stop the world warming, Last year even the experts of the European Commission admitted that, to meet the EU's biofuel targets, we will eventually need almost all the food-growing land in Europe. But that didn't persuade them to change their policy. They would rather we starved than did that. And the EU, we must always remember, is now our government - the one most of us didn't vote for last week."

Copyright 2009, The Sunday Telegraph

rowena
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 18:07

People are waking up to the economic imperatives. For one thing the GFC has demonstrated that affordability is relative, and that when it comes to the crunch, the taxpayer is the lender of last resort whether we like it or not. When push comes to shove, the public bails out the "entrepreneurs", so their doomsaying of Hanrahan looks like transparent self-interest and is sounding a bit pathetic. It's actually in our hands. We should get with the program and revolutionise our priorities and means of production to clean and green in line with the rest of the world who are having a similar revelation no doubt.

salamander
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 21:30

Nothing makes us more significant as humans than our ability to solve problems. The CFC crisis is an example of something that had to be solved, and it was.

As long as politicians continue to bury their heads in the sand about climate change, they will continue to miss the opportunities that arise.

Australia has produced excellent technology that could have helped our nation to a better, cleaner future. But as it is invented, it leaves our shores only to return as expensive products developed by others, because politicians are only listening to one side of the story.

How much did the coal lobby promise Rudd in return for this blanket protection of the industry?

IBerlin
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 22:41

Your hopes that Gordon Brown and other world leaders would solve the financial crisis and global warming through a series of "green New Deals" are fading faster than solar power on a rainy day.

The vast bulk of new public spending announced in global economic stimuli is largely "business as usual", with major cash injections being directed towards banks and car companies rather than renewable energy firms.

The air in recent weeks has been thick with the sound of "green" schemes dropping off the corporate agenda at top firms. And despite a barrage of green rhetoric, Gordon Brown's Britain has only committed £1.5bn to sustainability as part of its £25bn reflationary package.

And it looks certain that Barack Obama's solar and clean technology is struggling to convince Congress that his green plans will build wealth instead of destroy it.

Still plenty of unconvinced 'dry conservatives.'

EarnestLee
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 22:58

Even if this article were fact there if nothing any Australian can do about the consequences except to prepare for them(and discover how to make a fortune on the new market for carbon.)

Anonymous (not verified)
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 23:55

The Myth of Economy Versus Environment
By Ben McNeil

<em>Given that climate change projections are informed by 'hard science'...</em>

Hmmm Ben

What 'hard science' is that - exactly?

Is that the 'hard science' used in the best statistical, actuarial and quantitative sciences?

Isn't that EXACTLY the same 'hard science' used by the very best, of the very best of the world’s actuarial scientists?

Since the time of the 1987 Montreal CFC protocol, and before, the biggest investment banks and the richest asset managers have spent countless billions of dollars ensuring that they held the answers to all quantifiable and quantitative risk. To guarantee this they employed legions of the worlds very best.

Whereas at the same time relatively minuscule and somewhat parsimonious sums have been granted to a few academic meteorology departments about the planet. Some departments that even remotely understood the science of risk quantification - but then only by some frail iota?

Hasn't the 'hard science' recently been proven to be woefully inadequate in pricing the risk in the structuring of asset prices – and that inadequacy has lead to the inexorable collapse of the international financial system to function on its own - without the massive intervention of those of an obsolete mindset and mind of an outdated 1920's.

The evidence slowly emerging is that it is not the actuarial and quantitative scientists in error - they consistently and persistently 'got it right'. What is wrong is that the mathematics and statistics they employed is being shown to be at fault. Their conventional paradigm for that that applies when things go wrong - failed. That failure reveals and hopefully leads to a new avenue of understanding. In the meantime some intense head scratching is going on and doubtless perspectives and understanding will change...those errors to the method and understanding of the 'hard science' will likely be rectified over the next decade?

Perhaps ‘planet we’ really ought try attract some real scientists to the sector – for what the current meteorology mind nymphs do say – tends to be rather alarming? As a first step – it is important that the meteorologists immediately understand that the ‘hard science’ is wrong…

Is meteorology immune from the 'hard science’ or otherwise is it governed by another math that is cabbalistic and arcane to its own end?

dunno4sure¿

rowena
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 03:13

"The evidence slowly emerging is that it is not the actuarial and quantitative scientists in error - they consistently and persistently ‘got it right’. What is wrong is that the mathematics and statistics they employed is being shown to be at fault."

This does not make sense to me. It is more likely the other way around. Maths and stats are tools. It is surely the assumptions made in the application of "mathematics and statistics" that are likely to be incorrect, if anything. A model or theory is an application of maths and stats, building on basic assumptions or axioms, and having testable consequences. The model, and hence the scientist who adopts it, can be wrong if the model's predictions fail, but the maths is not wrong unless computational errors are made inadvertently, but such errors are not intrinsic to the model.

As for meteorology and climate science, I wouldn't put them in the same basket as economics. It seems to me that climate scientists are closer to their data than economists who have to factor many more assumptions into their models than physical scientists owing to the greater uncertainties still inherent in many economic variables. Economic models are also less amenable to direct and timely testing in the real world.

Anonymous (not verified)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 11:26

howdy rowena

The mathematical and statistical models generally accepted to be true, and repeatedly tested, over time, seemed to be true - yet have ultimately failed!

This perhaps, some form of overview http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KE20Dj02.html

And yes, the thinking was that the models were validly inclusive, and perhaps even shown to be so by their/those very own models - hence no intrinsic error was ever to be suspected.

Yet when the likes of Taleb or Mandelbrot, raised concerns the entire conventional mathematics and statistics architecture and actuarial institution sought to vilify them.

For who could choose to argue against the profound answers of so many multitudes of grand Nobel Laureates?

In respect to the <em>closeness to the data of meteorologists.</em>

Hmmm... good point.

I'd submit that the measurement of meteorological data is devilish in the extreme. There are millions of geological points about, above and below the earths surface that have never been gauged for a host of impacts that could cloud the global warming debate – and not simply gauges of temperature. The Co<sub>2</sub> levels one amongst a host of other very significant factors. (By way of a facetious example - As Ben so rightly points out the ozone layer was addressed and apparently closed - and perhaps its that closure that is a penultimate cause of global warming.)

(Who knows?)

But I'd submit that the measurement of the data, or the selection of valid, or relevant data - for either discipline - is in relation to the method of 'hard science' not the point at issue.

What is of issue - is that 'we' (humanity) still do not currently have the capability or skill set to validly and appropriately discern the preponderous data sets of vast random occurrences/variables

We'd like to think we do - but we don't!

---------------------------------------------------------------------

If that be the case, one is reminded of Nongquase, the famous cattle killing dreamer of the Xhosa people (Nelson Mandela's tribe) whose foolhardy predictions, predilections and proscriptions lead to the decimation of her people by widespread famine and starvation!

Dare we seek to kill the Ozzie coal mines and miners - while they are the lifeblood to our small and fragile nation?

As always...

Dunno4sure

ecoeng
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 11:26

Rowena I think you are mistaken about the degree to which "....climate scientists are closer to their data than economists..." for the following reasons:

We live in a world of ample water with an ample supply of Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN), both natural and anthropogenic. The source of CCN is in very large part biogenic, emitted by land plants and oceanic cyanobacteria. The total biomass of these naturally increases in proportion to atmospheric CO2. This has been observed and is proven.

This implies there is no reason whatsoever why the present balance of Short Wave (SW) insolation of the planet and Long Wave IR (LW) Outward Leaving Radiation (OLR) should not be maintained by the mutual adjustment of e.g. fractions of absorbed SW, Latent Heat (from Evapotranspiration) and Sensible Heat (Dry Thermals) which contribute to OLR over at least an albedo (reflectivity) range from about 0.25 - 0.35. It is presently 0.31.

This means, by definition, that unless the rise in atmospheric CO2 were somehow to drive global average albedos significantly below 0.25 (a point at which global average cloud cover were to fall below about 46%) it can be shown that is unlikely that mean global surface temperatures could rise even above about 289.1 K (surface emission ~407 W/m^2; presently 396 W/m^2).

Above an albedo of ~0.35 the planet would actually experience net cooling due to proportionately decreased SW surface insolation and proportionately increased global significance of LW IR derived from the tops of (precipitating or icing) clouds which escapes through the top of the atmosphere (TOA).

At present, most high cloud occurs in the 5 deg N - 5 Deg S extra-tropical band. Any effect of increasing CO2 on atmospheric specific humidity will be ineffectual as a source of forcing if at the same time it leads to increased cloudiness, decreased surface SW insolation and increased width of the extra-tropical high cloud band hence increased realization of latent heat in the atmosphere and of the absolute amount escaping TOA.

The fraction of Latent Heat escaping TOA cannot go down with increasing Latent Heat as this fraction is largely geometrically controlled by the average height of extra-tropical cumulus clouds.

For it to not increase proportionately would require a significant reduction in the average height of cumulus cloud. This is not predicted and there is no good reason why it should.

Fully coupled Global Climate Models (GCMs) are still markedly poor at the simulation of clouds, including high altitude extra-tropical cumulus and oceanic low level cloudiness and its extent. Thus we are not even able to accurately predict albedo over specific, not iced-over, regions of the planet!

Oceanic cyanobacteria (blue green algae) have been around for at least 2.8 Gyr, land plants at least 425 My, and atmospheric CO2 levels have been many times to levels far higher than exist now (or will exist if most fossil carbon resources are consumed by mankind).

IMHO it beggars all imagination that we should somehow assume that modern climate scientists are operating in a milieu of a sufficiently subtle understanding of this highly complex, and very old, global climate system that they can provide us all with adequate certainty of prediction (or as they like to coyly put it - 'projection').

IMHO our real understanding of the true sensitivity of CO2 (i.e the degree to which surface temperatures will rise per doubling of atmospheric CO2 level) is still very poor and is highly likely to be, so far, a significant overestimate.

rowena
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 18:44

Ecoeng, I did not say that climate science could currently explain all climate phenomena. But your catalogue of specific data from the real world is evidence of the plethora of complex and detailed observations that many scientists would agree require accounting for in any comprehensive theory of climate. And they are working on accounting for them.

I doubt that a similar list of observations could be compiled that economists would agree required accounting for by any comprehensive theory of economics. There are just too many variables, and too many theories, and not enough specific testable predictions. If they can't predict what will happen under specified conditions, they haven't been collecting enough of the right data, whatever that may be. To take a popular example, economists don't know whether a "stimulus package" will work - they make an "educated guess". And then they don't know whether or not it has worked, or whether any changes observed might have occurred anyway for different reasons. I think it would be fair to say economists are in a rather tenuous relationship with their "data".

EarnestLee
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 21:29

Rowena,
I always thought economics quite straight forward. It concerns what is happenning to the money supply and the impact of available credit.

If prople want to concentrate on incidentals and develop formulae for prediction then this is simply is a fad for that time which may divert attention away from the essence. And if your investment proposal is dealing with the future and the buyers are nervous give them a "risk assessment" and buy some insurance.

The only insurance Australia can obtain if global warming is correst is to develop a conservation and presevation plan for God-given rainfall!

Anonymous (not verified)
Posted Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 10:21

Howdy Rowena

There are broad areas of economics that are unanswerable, for as so often, the answers sought are based on disparate assumption from the outset yet become questions implicit in, and most often lost in, the debate.

Economists sadly pass each other by, upon the well worn cobbled paths in the courtyards of our economy. Some pursuant the sunshine in the forecourt, others bow to the sanctity of the portico.

Economics however, is rarely, if at all the focus of those mathematicians, actuaries, and statisticians who would quantify risk. The availability of the data they pursue and examine is all 'ex post' - much as the many and various analog probes used by meteorologists.

There is little difference ...

dunno4sure¿

denise
Posted Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 12:24

You yourself say 'scientific projections can never be 100% correct' and yet according to you scientific information about rapidly increasing levels of CO2 means the globe should be getting incremently warmer each year in relation to those rising CO2 levels.
But instead we are actually getting colder winters and average summer temperatures that DO NOT correlate to a rise in overall global temperatures.
Sure we are still clearing land by chopping down valuable trees that absorb CO2 and this is raising some summer local tempertaures to a degree.
But the rate of increase in CO2 DOES NOT statistically relate to an overall rise in global temperatures and could in fact be contributing to colder winter temperatures in some places.

thinkinginadelaide
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 - 20:34

Ok so just a few thoughts, putting my slightly rusty maths hat on, as has been pointed out ad nauseum climate is a non linear dynamic system (its complicated), and as such you have to make assumptions as to what you will get out when you model it. Now eco as an engineer you know yourself that non-linearity occurs just about everywhere, friction for example .. however we've developed nice neat equations that give figures of reasonable accuracy and then you add a factor of safety and so we can design a break that will stop your bike, car whatever .. lovely. Also there are failure rate calculations you can do to work out if a machine will break down. Now when you work out your safety factor or calculate failure rate you take into account the context, if its a bridge design or the aforesaid vehicle breaks then one would expect your safety factor would be appropriately high. Ok so for you I would ask if you where doing a failure rate calculation on being right or wrong on human climate change, what level of confidence would you use for your data?
get back to us?

thinkinginadelaide
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 - 20:51

Now Denise,
Consider

But instead we are actually getting colder winters and average summer temperatures that DO NOT correlate to a rise in overall global temperatures.

as i said above this is a NON LINEAR SYSTEM inputs lead to outputs but working out HOW .. isn't straight forward so on the one hand off the top of my head i would first obtain detailed data to see if your statement is true, you would also have to consider that the climate includes everything water temp, wind temp, wind speed, air density and makeup, cloud density and abundance, water density and flow rates, topology of the globe to within a set volume and at a particular height and or depth, percentage .. etc. etc. etc. each of which will have to be interpreted as a equation which may or may not have a analytical solution.

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/26946 is intresting

as to why the winters here are colder? my guess would be as we add co2 to the atmosphere where essentially adding more energy hence the highs and lows or amplitude of the system will increase. As to why the earth overall isn't heating in a predictable way? I'd assume it was because a lot of ice/water is being heated/melted somewhere .. or perhaps an air current is/has been shifted?

as ive said its all non-linear cheers

thinkinginadelaide
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 - 21:04

Denko,
Bens argument would seem to be that actually doing something to control climate change would actually provide benefits to the economy in your example and statement

If that be the case, one is reminded of Nongquase, the famous cattle killing dreamer of the Xhosa people (Nelson Mandela’s tribe) whose foolhardy predictions, predilections and proscriptions lead to the decimation of her people by widespread famine and starvation!

Dare we seek to kill the Ozzie coal mines and miners - while they are the lifeblood to our small and fragile nation?

you would seem to be reiterating the fear that, change = bad?
but also consider height above sea level of your home? if your going to be worrying about things ..
cheers

thinkinginadelaide
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 - 21:05

opps brake .. bad typing also obviously for those who know about non-linearity i was just filling in a few gaps