Local bodies deserve better than an outdated guess

coastal erosion

NZCSC chairman Barry Brill has suggested to Environment Waikato that its Regional Policy Statement (RPS) should not be influenced by the climate change ‘Guidance Manuals’ (here and here) issued by the Ministry for the Environment in early 2008. Like the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (4AR), their recommendations have been overtaken by recent scientific papers and data. His submission notes that modelled projections of 21st century warming rely upon two components – emission volumes and climate sensitivity. Here is his comment regarding future CO2-e tonnages – or, in other words, emission volumes.

1. The IPCC Report (2007)

In 1998, the IPCC commissioned consultants – economists, futurists, statisticians, demographers, etc. – to establish story-lines of how the world might develop over the following century. This group eventually brought out a detailed book, the “Special Report on Emissions Scenarios” (“SRES”) of 40 diverse story-lines, any of which might conceivably capture the emissions profile of the 21st century.

Trenberth says the IPCC itself has no view as to the correctness of the Scenarios: “They are intended to cover a range of possible self consistent “story lines” that then provide decision makers with information about which paths might be more desirable… There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess.”

These Scenarios are divided into the four families described on page 118 of the Manual. Six are selected as representative.

Emissions growth is driven by global population, economic output, energy intensity and fuel choice. In 2005, an all-party Select Committee of the UK House of Lords conducted a public enquiry into “The Economics of Climate Change”. Its unanimous report made some important findings, including:

“it seems wrong to attach equal credibility to the scenarios in general – and we believe the IPCC is now working on this issue.”


“We received a significant amount of evidence on the realism of the IPCC emissions scenarios:
· They may not be consistent with trends over the past 25 years. Total emissions are indeed increasing, but the rates of increase have slowed significantly, as has the carbon-intensity of the world economy.
· They are not capturing recent experience in their short term projections.
· There is an urgent need for a wholesale reappraisal of the emissions scenario exercise.”

The following table (from 4AR SPM3 page 13) shows the temperatures and sea levels at 2100 in each of the Selected Scenarios.

ScenarioCO2-e (ppm)Temp Range (°C)Most LikelySea Level Range (cm)Most Likely
B14501.1 - 2.91.8°18 - 3828cm
B26001.4 - 3.82.4°20 - 4329cm
A1T600+1.4 - 3.82.4°20 - 4530cm
A1B7501.7 - 4.42.8°21 - 4832cm
A29502.0 - 5.43.4°23 - 5134cm
A1F112502.4 - 6.44.0°26 - 5939cm
Mean7701.7 - 4.42.7°21 - 4732cm

2: Recent Information

A2 assumes that world population will grow to 15 billion, and still rising, by the end of the 21st century. In 2012, nobody believes this, and the Scenario should be omitted. The UN Population Division’s Bayesian model currently suggests that we are heading for a global peak of 9-10 million by 2070, followed by an uncertain but progressive reduction.

The A1F1 scenario assumes no technology changes in 100 years and an ever-increasing proportion of global energy being met by coal-burning, rather than natural gas or nuclear fuels. In 1998, nothing was known of 21st-century technologies that were about to make vast reserves of shale gas available to China, USA, India, Poland and many other countries. In 2010, the US Energy Department’s report on the massive world reserves of recoverable shale gas and shale oil, caused The Economist to react with a cover entitled “This Changes Everything!”

The SRES assumed that the 21st century would see no material change in the availability or price of fossil fuels – and no climate policies. We now know that these assumptions were wrong. In 1998-2000, the price of oil was in the vicinity of $14 per barrel while, in 2012, the price exceeds $100 per barrel.

It must be emphasised that multi-decade forecasts are almost invariably wrong. A striking illustration is provided by the “Annual Energy Outlook” published by the US Government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which predicted in 2004 that US carbon emission levels would rise by 37% between 2005 and 2025. In a January 2012 update, the EIA now estimates that US CO2 emissions in 2025 will be 6% lower than they were in 2005. Not only the quantity, but even the sign, has changed dramatically in just a few years.

Contrary to A1F1 assumptions, energy intensity is dropping worldwide, and at a spectacular rate.

Over 6 years have passed since “urgent” reappraisal was recommended by the House of Lords, and 12 years since the scenarios were invented. Energy intensity and female fertility have fallen further, oil and gas prices have rocketed, and there has been a long global recession.

For the 5AR due in 2013/14, the SRES are to be entirely replaced by four new models called Representative Concentration Pathways (“RCPs”). These do not pretend to be anything other than pure speculation.

Certainty Assessment:
· Re A2 and A1F1 scenarios: 10%.
· Other scenarios: 50%.

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17 Thoughts on “Local bodies deserve better than an outdated guess

  1. Within about 24 hours there will be a new paper Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics at http://principia-scientific.org/

    In over 6,000 words it covers a wide range of reasons why carbon dioxide can have no warming effect and only a slight cooling effect.

    This is only the sixth paper to be accepted by this organisation (and the first by an Australian) which is dedicated to the truth in science.

  2. Richard C (NZ) on 13/03/2012 at 8:31 am said:

    “We now know that these assumptions were wrong”

    The footnote to all the world’s major boondoggles, two stark examples at present being the NSW (Kurnell) and Victoria (Wonthaggi) desalination plants.

    The RCP scenarios are not an SRES “replacement” that I am aware of. RCP is a formally evolved selection of parameters for the models from which to produce SRES “projections”. As this 2007 report states “…we identified a set of RCPs from the published literature”

    Towards New Scenarios for Analysis of
    Emissions, Climate Change, Impacts,
    and Response Stategies

    IPCC Expert Meeting Report

    19–21 September, 2007


    The RCP database options are the model basis of the SRES options.

    The IPCC, CMIP, PCMDI etc specify model parameters for simulation runs using the RCP database i.e. they hardwire warming in the models by process of circular reasoning and a fallacious assumption that warming follows progressively increasing emission levels, variations of the guesses of which are enshrined in the RCP database.

    RCP Database Version 2.0.5 About


    CMIP5 – Modeling Info – Forcing Data


    Note the conspicuous absence of natural cycles, oscillations etc except for the lonely (and relatively minor) TSI.

    Fallacy => Assumption => Circular Reasoning – that’s how it works folks.

  3. PeterM on 13/03/2012 at 1:05 pm said:

    Sadly these regional policy statements are not attracting much attention. My local region, like the others I imagine, has hidden away in the PLAN under Sustainable Futures a Climate Change Constraints Report. Much attention and money seems to be invested in these reports which highlight some future climate catastrophe. Ten minutes on google earth will make evident the real tsunami catastrophe facing all those lovely homes built right on the sea shore. Nick Smith has been warned that the ETS is based on false information but professes to be an expert on risk analysis and insists that the government view is in the best interests of NZ.

  4. val majkus on 13/03/2012 at 6:05 pm said:

    and in relation to Australia check out Ken Stewart’s new post


    for temperature enthusiasts:

    So, we know when adjustments were made, how big they were, and how the need for them was identified- all of this anyone could find from an analysis of the data and from Torok’s thesis. The only new information supplied was the station metadata and the adjustments since Torokand Nichols’s paper (1996).

    However, the critical information is missing:
    » NO explanation for the size of the adjustments;
    » NO criteria for thresholds for any objective test, diurnal range, anomaly detect, or median tests;
    » NO lists of neighbouring non-urban sites;
    » NO reference temperature sets.

    I shall now examine each site in turn, examining the adjustments and their reasons, with reference to the supporting metadata now supplied.

  5. Nick on 13/03/2012 at 9:06 pm said:

    From Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change by Hanson and Sato (2011)


    “IPCC projections did not include contributions from ice sheet melt, on the grounds that we do not understand ice sheet physics well enough. That is reasonable, but if ice sheets pose the danger of sea level rise far exceeding other mechanisms, then it deserves to be front and center in communication with policymakers. Given the near impossibility of getting policymakers to consider far future effects, the practical question then becomes: how much can ice sheets contribute to sea level rise on the time scale of a century?

    Rahmstorf (2007) made an important contribution to the sea level discussion by pointing out that even a linear relation between global temperature and the rate of sea level rise, calibrated with 20th century data, implies a 21st sea level rise of about a meter, given expected global warming for BAU greenhouse gas emissions. Vermeer and Rahmstorf (2009) extended Rahmstorf’s semi-empirical approach by adding a rapid response term, projecting sea level rise by 2100 of 0.75-1.9 m for the full range of IPCC climate scenarios. Grinsted et al. (2010) fit a 4- parameter linear response equation to temperature and sea level data for the past 2000 years, projecting a sea level rise of 0.9-1.3 m by 2100 for a middle IPCC scenario (A1B). These projections are typically a factor of 3-4 larger than the IPCC (2007) estimates, and thus they altered perceptions about the potential magnitude of human-caused sea level change.”

    • Richard C (NZ) on 14/03/2012 at 8:06 am said:

      Boretti, A., 2012: Is there any support in the long term tide gauge data to the claims that parts of Sydney will be swamped by rising sea levels?,

      Coast. Eng., doi:10.1016/j.coastaleng.2012.01.006.


      “The government of Australia is supporting the statement that sea levels are rising faster than ever before as a result of increased carbon dioxide emissions. Consequent to this, low-lying coastal areas, where the majority of Australians are concentrated, have been declared at risk of sea level inundations. Maps with 0.5, 0.8 and 1.1 m sea level rise have been proposed for Sydney, the major Australian city. However, long term tide gauges, recording sea levels worldwide, as well as along the coastline of Australia, and within the bay of Sydney, do not show any sign of accelerating sea level rises at present time.”

      The conclusion reads

      “Consideration of the measured data recorded over a significant period of time shows that the sea levels are raising weakly without any acceleration component.

      The worldwide average tide gauge result obtained considering all the data included in the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level data base show a modest sea level rise and about zero acceleration.

      The Fort Denison, Sydney tide gauge result shows the same modest sea level rise and about zero acceleration in perfect agreement with the worldwide result.

      The Fremantle tide gauge result, the only other tide gauge operational in Australia over more than a century, shows the same modest sea level rise and about zero acceleration in perfect agreement with the worldwide result and the result of Sydney.

      The other tide gauges operational along the coastline of Australia over shorter time scales of 30 to 40 years on average also show the lack of any acceleration component in the rate of rise of sea levels.

      The most likely rise of sea level in the bay of Sydney by 2100 is therefore more likely less than the 50 mm measured so far over the last 100 years rather than the metre predicted by some models.”

      Given that observed temperatures are even now well outside the 1-sigma envelope:


      And that Scafetta’s Empirical Cycle Model is is beating the pants off the CO2-driven Models of the activist/advocacy science of the UN’s IPCC, I think we can put the predictions of Hansen, Sato and Rahmstorf in perspective Nick.

      Dr. Nicola Scafetta rebuts criticism of his model here:-


    • Willem de Lange on 14/03/2012 at 1:12 pm said:

      Also see
      Alberto A., Boretti. 2012. “Short Term Comparison of Climate Model Predictions and Satellite Altimeter Measurements of Sea Levels.” Coastal Engineering 60 (0) (February): 319–322. doi:10.1016/j.coastaleng.2011.10.005.

      Abstract reads
      Climate models (http://climatecommission.govspace.gov.au/files/2011/05/4108-CC-Science-Update-PRINT-CHANGES.pdf, 2011; http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_synthesis_report.htm, 2011; Rahmstorf, 2007, 2010) calculate that temperatures are increasing globally and sea level rises are increasing due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. More recent predictions (http://climatecommission.govspace.gov.au/files/2011/05/4108-CC-Science-Update-PRINT-CHANGES.pdf, 2011; Rahmstorf, 2007, 2010) have forecast that sea level rises by 2100 will be higher than the 2007 projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_synthesis_report.htm, 2011), with projected sea level rises increasing from 18–59 cm to 100 cm. In this brief communication, the predictions of Rahmstorf (2007) are validated against the experimental evidence over a 20-year period. The University of Colorado Sea Level satellite monitoring shows that the rate of rise of the sea level is not only well below the values computed in http://climatecommission.govspace.gov.au/files/2011/05/4108-CC-Science-Update-PRINT-CHANGES.pdf (2011) and Rahmstorf (2007, 2010), but actually reducing rather than increasing (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/, 2011b; 10,11). These results suggest that sea level predictions based solely on the presumed temperature evolution may fail to accurately predict the long-term sea levels at the end of the century.

      Also see
      Holgate, S., S. Jevrejeva, et al. (2007). “Comment on “A Semi-Empirical Approach to Projecting Future Sea-Level Rise”.” Science 317(5846): 1866-1866.
      Schmith, T., S. Johansen, et al. (2007). “Comment on “A Semi-Empirical Approach to Projecting Future Sea-Level Rise”.” Science 317(5846): 1866-1866.
      Rahmstorf, S. (2007). “Response to Comments on “A Semi-Empirical Approach to Projecting Future Sea-Level Rise”.” Science 317(5846): 1866-1866.

      After which it seems that the 2007 model wasn’t that great, so it became …
      Vermeer, M. and S. Rahmstorf (2009). “Global sea level linked to global temperature.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(51): 21527-21532.

      Still work in progress …

    • Richard C (NZ) on 14/03/2012 at 3:55 pm said:

      “Global sea level linked to global temperature” but which way does cause and effect work?

      You CAN’T say atm temps warmed the ocean conductively because on average global ocean temps are about 3 C warmer than atm and ocean leads atm (or atm lags ocean) and you CAN’T say atm temps warmed the ocean radiatively because DLR is an ineffective heating agent.

      You CAN’T say DLR acts as an insulator at the skin layer inhibiting heat escape by conduction because DLR only penetrates 10 microns and besides, the radiative and evaporative processes still work..

      You CAN however say ocean temps warmed the atm conductively, radiatively and evaporatively.

      So what warmed the ocean if it wasn’t DLR? I’m betting on solar and geo sources of heat because there ain’t no other.

      And “the loss of 4.3 Trillion tonnes of melting ice in 8 years” has been laid to rest at Hot Topic:-

      # 4.3 trillion tonne 8 yr ice melt is 0.013% of total ice sheet mass

      # At this rate 0.14% of the ice sheets will be gone by 2100

      # Adding about 132mm to sea level

      # If the ice melt component to total sea level rise ratio of the 18.5mm rise over the 8 yr period is 12 : 18.5 and the ice melt contribution to sea level rise over the next 88 yrs is 132mm at the study period rate, total sea level rise by 2100 will be 203mm or 20.3 cm

      # IPCC Scenario B1 (least case) * Sea level rise likely range [18 to 38 cm]

      That doesn’t leave much room for anything scary to happen anthropogenically.

    • Bob D on 14/03/2012 at 8:52 am said:

      Some people will, of course, believe anything. It’s always good to go back to the actual data, and not just treat the various models as automatically valid.

      Here is a useful graphic that I put together last year when the RSNZ made similar ludicrous claims. I’ve updated it, and we’re currently tracking along on the IPCC’s lowest estimate, which was never very daring anyway.

      Now, does anyone really think these sea level rise claims are likely? VM09 predicts even greater rise (0.75-1.9m!) than the RSNZ . Over the last decade sea level rise has been sluggish at best. And yet we’re expected to believe that the rate will suddenly jump from around 1-2mm/yr to about 11mm/yr?! Which is what will be necessary (starting tomorrow) to reach 1m by 2100 (only 88 years to go!).

      When will this happen Nick? Shouldn’t sea level rise have been accelerating instead of decelerating over the past decade? Haven’t they been predicting acceleration since 1988? At what point do the models say it will kick in? Isn’t it true that the projected sea level rise was a direct result of the projected warming, and hasn’t that warming been conspicuous by its absence for the past decade? Which models predicted the lack of warming, and hence the lack of sea level rise acceleration? Is it a travesty that they can’t work out where the heat went?

      I would suggest that someone is deluded, and I don’t think it’s the sceptics.

  6. Andy on 14/03/2012 at 7:30 am said:

    I live by the sea, (or did) and my house was taken out by the Feb 22nd earthquake.
    It would seem a bigger risk in NZ than any hypothetical projection of sea level rise.

  7. Richard C (NZ) on 14/03/2012 at 5:18 pm said:


    Model predictions in the early days showed considerable wobble as more and more factors were taken into account, but in recent years they have become remarkably stable – the fit to past observations remains very good and it is this fit that gives the basis for future predictions.

    I want to explore why there is a debate and its implications about this. But suffice to say that the scientific community has accepted the weight of evidence that anthropogenic climate change is highly probable and that at some time in the not too distant future it will have significant impact on the planet’s biota. This is a consensus view of every significant scientific body that has examined the question. True, there remain uncertainties as to how fast warming will occur and to what degree, and there also remain many technical questions. The general view, however, is that sometime in the next 50 years the mean global temperature will rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius. The result will be a significant change in ecosystems and the physical landscape.

    But this view has been widely debated, dominating both domestic and international politics for the past decade. The question has to be why has this debate been so vociferous and why has it meant that we face the risk of a tragedy of the commons. It is of course a classic case of post-normal science where the facts are uncertain; it is a matter of high urgency for action, for if the scientific consensus is correct the action is overdue; it is certainly of high public interest; the stakes could not be higher; and yet there is a problem.



    Gluckman sees himself in the role of Pielke’s “honest broker”. I see him in the role of parrot.

    [snip vivid ad hom]

    • Australis on 15/03/2012 at 12:26 pm said:

      It’s difficult to discern the meat of Gluckman’s argument beneath his flowery and rambling style. But one clear theme emerges:

      1. The public has grown to trust scientific disciplines over centuries of “linear science” based on Baconian and Popperian principles.

      2. Linear science doesn’t work for complex chaotic non-linear climate issues. But, as policymakers demand that scientists say something, they turn to “post normal science”.

      3. This new approach is inextricably bound up with values. They “determine the importance of the gaps left by the evidence”. The values of the scientists decide how much uncertainty is acceptable.

      4. Climate change is the only data-based science that presumes to predict the future. This is another departure from well-trusted linear science.

      5. How can the public be brought to accept this new post normal science? Why does climate change invoke such vociferous debate?

      Gluckman claims that he always carefully divides the hard science from the values. In fact, of course, he does no such thing.

    • Andy on 16/03/2012 at 8:03 am said:

      Does Gluckman actually know anything about climate science? When I heard him interviewed by Paul Holmes a while back, he came across as pretty lightweight.

  8. PeterM on 15/03/2012 at 9:18 pm said:

    “Even if climate change impacts happen more gradually, recent studies have argued that as many
    as one million plant and animal species could be rendered extinct due to the effects of global
    warming by 2050. A recent report by the world’s largest reinsurance company, Swiss Re, predicted
    that in 10 years the economic cost of disasters like floods, frosts, and famines caused by global
    warming could reach $150 billion annually. Accelerating the development of a portfolio of new
    technologies could stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, enhance global energy security, and
    eradicate energy poverty.”
    This is from an IPENZ paper on sustainable energy 2004. Is this really what NZ civil engineers accept? Do they really think that climate warming change will cause catastrophic floods, frosts and famines?

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