Low climate sensitivity : Heretical implications

The blink monkey

The wilfully blind monkey. From Kevin Anderson’s “Climate change going beyond dangerous – Brutal numbers and tenuous hope”

Let us suppose for the moment the climate works according to the ‘sensitivity-forcing’ paradigm.

Consider the effect of sensitivity on the 2C threshold used in international climate negotiations. If the climate orthodoxy wishes to initiate policy action against climate change, sensitivity needs to be high. But if sensitivity is too high political action is impossible.

Richard Tol pointed out a while back, a strict 2C target would mean “build[ing] 4,000 new nuclear power plants before 2030” and “convinc[ing] China and India not just to stop building coal-fired power plants, but to abandon” built ones. As Kevin Anderson puts it, ‘pointless despair’ is the end-result.

https://twitter.com/shubclimate/status/525356647032451072

Almost as a throwaway Tol stated that the 2C target could be accommodated if climate sensitivity were low.

https://twitter.com/shubclimate/status/525356185868705793

To date, numbers for climate sensitivity and low sensitivity are not exactly in play in the domain of policy. The activists keep policymakers cooped up in the pressure-cooker of possible catastrophe, feeding them simple numbers like ‘2C’, ‘350’ and so forth.

But with global temperatures not going up rapidly, what if they awaken to the low numbers?

I am not sure climate negotiations has considered the meaning of this yet. They could finally stop, in the words of David Roberts, blowing lots of smoke up a lot of asses, and craft treaties that comply with ‘the science’. What a relief that could be. The treaty obligations need not be a guaranteed drag on economies. Developing countries can scale back on ‘renewable’ energy subsidy-gobbling monsters, developing economies can build large-scale coal plants, and island nations can adapt knowing they are not going to drown two days later.

https://twitter.com/shubclimate/status/525604795764060160

In other words, low climate sensitivity would mean Lomborg. It would be a consensus the world can agree to.

The above must sound fantastical. Climate activists do not operate in a world where they would let a little science get in their way.

As far-fatched as it sounds, the real heretical implications lie in the climate debate itself. Outside the unreal charade of emission negotiations, low sensitivity would mean blowing smoke up asses would get increasingly difficult. If and when low-sensitivity estimates are accepted it will not be, as ATTP dreamily imagines, that skeptics and lukewarmists finally accepted the logic of climate alarmists. The outcome would rather be the opposite: the ground would shift toward skeptics and the Lindzen/Curry/Lewis school. It would be Joe ‘Dustbowl’ Romm left looking crazy, if that was possible.

https://twitter.com/shubclimate/status/525384797355802626

With Tamsin Edwards’ latest article in the Guardian, the radical implication finally dawns on ATTP:

So, I think it’s unfortunate that Tamsin appears to have framed it in this way, as it – IMO – adds undue legitimacy to the Lukewarmer position, and largely misrepresents the alternative.

Nuccitelli rubs his eyes, he cannot believe what he sees:

… by putting ‘lukewarmers’ in the middle of her imagined spectrum, between deniers and mainstream climate scientists, she made them seem like the moderate middle ground. … She’s shifting the Overton window to put ‘Lukewarmers’ in the middle of the spectrum when actually they’re on the low (overly optimistic) end.

That’s right, Nuccitelli. If the world (ever) grasps implications of low sensitivity, it’ll be the alarmists who get pushed out the Overton Window. Believe me, it will be easy doing it to doom-mongers and 10:10 video makers who cannot get simple things straight.

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7 comments

  1. willard (@nevaudit)

    > If the world (ever) grasps implications of low sensitivity, it’ll be the alarmists who get pushed out the Overton Window.

    Pending clarification on “the world grasps implications of low sensitivity” and “alarmists,” low sensitivity is still the lowest bound justified disingeniousness can buy, which means that the IPCC’s report still provides the middle ground.

    As a marketing ploy to exploit an anchoring effect, the lukewarm gambit, albeit a bit jejune, makes sense. As a way to respond to risk, it is barely rational. You don’t bet under just because it’s sexier.

    Also, a low sensitivity implies that the MWP is a myth, which means that the Serengeti strategy for the last ten years might backfire.

  2. Shub Niggurath

    Willard, what you have failed to grasp is the IPCC’s ‘middle ground’ is not a consequence of scientific inquiry but a byproduct of product of a ‘risk’ exercise. Even if were completely ignorant of climatic forces, had poor knowledge of paleoclimate and had no sophisticated climate models, we/the IPCC would come up with a similar range. Why? Because the upper bounds cannot be ignored.

    This is not science, it is religion. It is precaution.

    Another thing you fail to realise: all betting has costs and betting over has enormous costs. We are at a stage where the costs of high betting have become irreconcilable on paper. Willingness to place huge bets on faraway futures is only a measure one’s current prosperity levels. The world as a whole is not prosperous enough to withstand self-inflicted impoverishment on a scale sufficient enough to ‘save the future’.

  3. Willard

    > all betting has costs and betting over has enormous costs.

    As if betting under had no cost or was guaranteed to cost less. Perhaps you ought to ask reinsurers, traders or Poker players about that one. They are usually quite good at dispelling this thinking habit. Their livelihood depends on respecting expectancy.

    Preaching may not be an optimal way to monologue against dogmastism, Shub.

  4. Shub Niggurath

    You are not meditating enough on this matter. I am not asking anyone to adopt a particular strategy or attitude toward risk.

    There isn’t infinite energy, even within the UNFCCC free-champagne world, to keep on pressing on year after year with nothing to show. If the negotiators stumble upon some way of saving face they will take it. Right now, they are well close to running out of options. No one wants a Copenhagen-style blowout. Negotiators have suddenly learned the virtues of ‘one step at a time, let’s take what we get’. Lima is the perfect example. From the activist side the 2C figure was forced into the UN text, I believe at Durban. This 2C figure has already spawned numerous contradictions in scientific advice that include magical entities like negative emissions. Something has to give.

    Either countries accept the farcical concept of negative emissions, or, industrial countries shut down industry and agriculture on a scale enough to collapse and affect emissions, or, countries use low sensitivity and the pause to argue for less stringent, watered down soup emission cuts and kick the problem into the long grass, or the talks entirely collapse.

  5. Willard

    > I am not asking anyone to adopt a particular strategy or attitude toward risk.

    There are hints right here:

    [L]ow climate sensitivity would mean Lomborg. It would be a consensus the world can agree to.

    I don’t think you can argue that “Lomborg,” in that sentence, does not imply a strategy.

    Surprise me.

    ***

    The related attitude is usually called optimism:

    The Rational Optimist will do for economics what Genome did for genomics and will show that the answer to our problems, imagined or real, is to keep on doing what we’ve been doing for 10,000 years — to keep on changing.

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/

    (No, rationality is not an attitude, and “rational optimism” as used by Matt King Coal, barely makes sense.)

    The lukewarm gambit is at best a marketing ploy and you, dear Shub, are not well placed to appeal to any objective standpoint with your “less stringent, watered down soup emission cuts and kick the problem into the long grass.” There’s a conflation between objectivity and libertarianism. Considering that libertarianism barely makes sense, the conflation may be suboptimal.

    You’re defending facile laissez-faire fantasies. Own it.

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