Monday, March 29, 2010

The State of Play on Climate

An interview in the Guardian with James Lovelock; according to Wikipedia, famous for the "Gaia hypothesis," and known as an environmentalist as well as an independent scientist. H/t Bishop Hill.

Lovelock says he has more friends on the "warming" side than on the skeptical side, and he has not even read the CRU e-mails. "I felt reluctant to pry." He thinks the dramatic increase in man-made CO2 is likely to have some dramatic consequences--although they may take time to play out. He is not exactly pre-disposed to criticize the warmists.

This makes it all the more striking that he thinks skeptics have been doing a lot of good lately.

We do need scepticism about the predictions about what will happen to the climate in 50 years, or whatever. It's almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it's wrong to do it.

Why in particular has skepticism been needed recently?

I remember when the Americans sent up a satellite to measure ozone and it started saying that a hole was developing over the South Pole. But the damn fool scientists were so mad on the models that they said the satellite must have a fault. We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they're not complete models. They're based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don't take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don't see how they can accurately predict the climate.

The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they're scared stiff of the fact that they don't really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show. We haven't got the physics worked out yet. One of the chiefs once said to me that he agreed that they should include the biology in their models, but he said they hadn't got the physics right yet and it would be five years before they do. So why on earth are the politicians spending a fortune of our money when we can least afford it on doing things to prevent events 50 years from now? They've employed scientists to tell them what they want to hear. The Germans and the Danes are making a fortune out of renewable energy. I'm puzzled why politicians are not a bit more pragmatic about all this.

If wind turbines really worked, I wouldn't object to them. To hell with the aesthetics, we might need them to save ourselves. But they don't work – the Germans have admitted it. It's like the [EU] Common Agricultural Policy which led to corruption and inefficiencies.

I don't know enough abut carbon trading, but I suspect that it is basically a scam. The whole thing is not very sensible. We have this crazy idea that we are setting an example to the world. What we're doing is trying to make money out of the world by selling them renewable gadgetry and green ideas. It might be worthy from the national interest, but it is moonshine if you think what the Chinese and Indians are doing [in terms of emissions].

Of course, he repeats pieties that place him with the warmists, but this is still pretty remarkable stuff. One nice touch:

If you look back on climate history it sometimes took anything up to 1,000 years before a change in one of the variables kicked in and had an effect.

And if the temperature gets dramatically warmer in 1,000 years, and man-made CO2 is found to be behind it, won't the skeptics look silly?

On climate scientists themselves admitting that they don't understand the fundamentals of global climate, see here.

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