What drives climate change?

Actually, what IS climate change, again?

From page 7 of the leaked Summary for Policymakers from the IPCC WGI Fifth Assessment Report comes this statement about CO2 “driving” climate change (emphasis added):

Natural and anthropogenic drivers cause imbalances in the Earth’s energy budget. The strongest anthropogenic drivers are changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols. These can now be quantified in more detail, but the uncertainties of the forcing associated with aerosols remain high.

Globally, CO2 is the strongest driver of climate change compared to other changes in the atmospheric composition, and changes in surface conditions. Its relative contribution has further increased since the 1980s and by far outweighs the contributions from natural drivers. CO2 concentrations and rates of increase are unprecedented in the last 800,000 years and at least 20,000 years, respectively. Other drivers also influence climate on global and particularly regional scales.

It’s a mere fragment of grit from a mountain of a report, but still curious enough because it raises the definition of the problem, and statements about climate change have no clearer meaning just because we stopped questioning it.

The concept of dangerous human changes to the climate needs examination.

Because if this grit, this myth, this shady creed, dissolved beneath our determined, logical scrutiny, the mountain of a problem it supports would fall.

The report defines “drivers” as adding or subtracting climate system energy. The basic effect of that is to influence lower tropospheric temperature—what we used to call “global warming.”

But warming is a simple, easily understood concept. Replacing it with the infinitely complex “climate change” is so much more disorienting! Keeps the punters in a whirl, Jim.

By the way—don’t mention the sun!

They tell me it’s my birthday and I’m happy to believe them. It’s drinking time. See you later.

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27 Thoughts on “What drives climate change?

  1. Mike Jowsey on 16/12/2012 at 12:00 pm said:

    Happy birthday mate.

  2. Richard C (NZ) on 16/12/2012 at 12:47 pm said:

    What drives climate change?

    “The report defines “drivers” as adding or subtracting climate system energy. The basic effect of that is to influence lower tropospheric temperature”

    Last decade, no change in atmospheric energy (lower tropospheric temperature) i.e. no climate “change”, therefore no “drivers” of any description:-


    # # #

    “It’s drinking time” – Yeah, take break and enjoy it.

  3. Andy on 16/12/2012 at 3:00 pm said:

    They claim that CO2 is the biggest driver of climate, yet in the same report they show a graph that clearly displays no warming over the last decade with a deviation from model predictions.

    Furthermore, they state that the incidence of extreme weather events cannot be attributed to humans.

    See various other blog post for a discussion of these 2 points.

    Happy birthday, too!

    • Clarence on 16/12/2012 at 8:53 pm said:

      Andy – they don’t make that claim. And, as Kevin Trenberth might say, “it’s a travesty that they don’t”.

      Five years ago, the AR4 SFP (approved by Governments on a line-by-line basis) claimed:
      “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

      The “observed increase” was only about 0.4°C. The word-smithed statement would be (barely) defensible if human-sourced GHGs generated 0.21°C – even if most of that was offset by human-caused aerosols.

  4. John Robertson on 16/12/2012 at 3:04 pm said:

    Its like a unicorn, undefined unmeasurable and magic.
    Its taken the CRU emails and a few years of watching the operation of the argument, but there is no science, that claim of science supporting the cause, was a cynical diversionary tactic.
    The pretence of scientific proof that co2 causes the planet to warm and the method by which it becomes dangerous are deliberately unmeasurable and vague.
    A person attempting to use the scientific method to verify climatology ,finds themselves arguing with the mist.
    Hence the lack of archived data, the constantly changing goal posts and the naked hostility of the chosen ones.
    Real scientists are proud to help a beginner see the working of their specialty.
    Look how climatologists greet requests for information.
    Enough said, no science needed, raw politics and religion.
    Climate change is like saying water wet. Its baby talk. Climate always is changing.
    Happy Birthday.

  5. Clarence on 16/12/2012 at 8:35 pm said:

    One item stands out in each of these carefully-worded summary paragraphs regarding attribution:

    1. “The strongest ANTHROPOGENIC drivers are changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols”. (As these two forcings offset one another, uncertainty in one equates to uncertainty in both).

    2. “CO2 is the strongest driver of climate change COMPARED TO other changes in the atmospheric composition, and changes in surface conditions”.

    BUT not the strongest driver compared to solar activity; and ocean currents; and oscillations in the Atlantic and Pacific; and the numerous other factors which influence climate.

    The report seems to be silent on the key issue of whether human CO2 emissions (or other anthropogenic effects) are IMPORTANT drivers of changes in global climate. Perhaps these minor adjustments in atmospheric composition have trivial and insignificant impacts on overall outcomes? Who knows?

    • Niff on 17/12/2012 at 12:16 pm said:

      Absolutely spot on. Weasel words.

      One gets the impression that some of the drafters felt compelled to make it clear that NATURAL and anthropogenic drivers are involved to salve their consciences, but then there is no mention of the elephant in the room (the natural drivers).

      The second point is even more careful to obfuscate the unsaid other changes in conditions by defining the boundaries of the discussion.

      What on earth is going on that they think this nonsense can be extrapolated into climate alarm?

  6. Hilary writes of a similar vein.

    “Where is the scare in AR5?”


  7. Richard C (NZ) on 17/12/2012 at 9:53 am said:

    >”By the way—don’t mention the sun!”

    Much about the unmentionable here:-

    Alec Rawls responds to Steven Sherwood: “The professor is inverting the scientific method”



    The first sentence here, citing unspecified “empirical relationships” between cosmogenic isotopes (a proxy for solar activity) and “some aspects of the climate system” is the only reference in the entire report to the massive evidence for a solar driver of climate. Not a word about the magnitude of the correlations found, nothing about how these correlations are much too strong to possibly be explained by the slight variance in solar irradiance alone, and almost nothing (“many”) about the sheer volume of studies that have found these correlations. And that’s it: one oblique sentence, then the report jumps immediately to looking at the evidence for one proposed mechanism by which solar amplification might be occurring [GCR].

  8. Richard C (NZ) on 17/12/2012 at 12:28 pm said:

    Curiously – among confused commentary and WUWT comments – Dana Nuccitelli is closer to the state-of-play is than he probably realizes:-


    “Solar activity has been nearly flat and slightly decreasing in recent decades, meaning that if GCRs do amplify solar influences on climate, they are amplifying a cooling effect”.

    Could be rewritten:-

    Solar activity has been nearly flat in recent decades [think Rawls boiling water pot analogy] and slightly decreasing in the last decade, meaning that if GCRs or some other amplifying mechanism [Rawls point to the IPCC] do amplify solar influences on climate, they are amplifying a cooling effect.

    Dana – as evidenced by his use of the following GISTEMP plot in the post – just cannot see the situation developing right before his eyes (hidden in plain sight):-


    The CR plot is not definitive either BTW but the CR situation is not my point.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/12/2012 at 2:35 pm said:

      If Nuccitelli could dispense with his 11 year centred (or lagged, not sure what he used) moving average of a land-based temperature series (GISTEMP) and instead applied a running average (drops data at the beginning of the series not the end) or polynomial to an ocean-based series e.g. HadSST2/3 and I think GISS SST too, he might be able to reconcile what he sees as a flaw in Alec Rawls reasoning.

      As David Stockwell observes (page 12):-

      “Changes in ocean temperatures lead land temperatures by one year, indicative of an
      ocean-controlled system”


      In other wards, the ocean is a leading indicator of what will happen in the atmosphere so why not concentrate on it (and on the different parts of it)?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/12/2012 at 3:28 pm said:

      “land-based” is the wrong description. GISTEMP is land-ocean, the SST component as follows:-

      “The current analysis is now based on the adjusted GHCN v3 data for the data over land. The ocean data are still based on Hadley Center’s HadISST1 and Reynold’s OISST based on satellite measurements”


      The difference between land-only and ocean-only is stark e.g. NCDC land-only (ENSO activity disappears):-


      NCDC ocean-only:-


      The radiosondes (HadAT2) capture ENSO activity best of all on the other hand:-


      A good proxy for UAH/RSS back to 1958 too.

  9. Richard C (NZ) on 17/12/2012 at 12:33 pm said:

    By David Stockwell’s accumulation theory (H/t cohenite reminder):-

    “…the 20th century temperature rise can be explained by the accumulation of an above average solar forcing of 0.1 W/m2 in the ocean over the period”


    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/12/2012 at 4:16 pm said:

      Stockwell explains what Alec Rawls has been banging on about and what the likes of Foster and Rahmstorf don’t/wont understand (Marsh and Svensmark guilty of removing ENSO too I note). From page 3:-

      “Natural and modeled systems contain a mix of fast and slow equilibrating components. They have a crucial di fference. If fast, then continued forcing at the same average level does not cause any additional warming; forcing is directly related to response. If slow, constant high levels can cause ongoing warming until equilibrium is reached. In the slow case, the forcing cannot be directly related to the response….”

      In addition, page 20 (sic):-

      The accumulation theory does not ignore added forcing, such as interactions between solar emanations and the Earth’s magnetic fi eld such as modifi cation of cloud albedo by high-energy particles Svensmark [2007]. Rather, the accumulation theory de fines the basic functioning of the system, while indirect solar eff ects, cloud albedo variations, and aerosols only serve to change the intensity of radiative inputs to the system.

      And page 31:-

      Geothermal heating in the deep ocean would have the highest intrinsic gain, due to reduced losses.

      On GCM’s, page 32/33 (CMIP3/AR4):-

      Most GCMs differ substantially from the natural AR value, but some GCMs are better than others. Models that showed reasonable agreement were NCAR1, NCAR2, MIROC3, MRI, and MIUB. Others may be less useful as test-beds of the natural system. These results indicate a subset of models will be more realistic, and a consensus of models will give inferior results.

      Ain’t THAT the truth?

  10. This short video explains in simple terms some of Svensmark’s and Shaviv’s theories on the sun, cosmic rays, and climate


  11. Mike Jowsey on 19/12/2012 at 8:32 am said:

    Another AR5 reviewer (Forrest M. Mims III) breaks ranks publicly (I think this makes 3 now).

    His point is that a new study on global water vapour shows no up or down trend, in contradiction of (GCM) models which assume water vapour will increase with CO2 concentrations, but this study shows that it has not. His PDF review is interesting reading – an excerpt:

    ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF INCLUDING MENTION OF THE NVAP-M PAPER AND ITS FIG. 4C IN AR5: Positive feedback of water vapor (enhanced evaporation due to warming induced by GHGs) is key to GCMs. This key fact is why the new NVAP-M paper should be discussed and cited in AR5. While the original NVAP work was criticized, this should be considered in light of published problems with all the major global water studies (see, for example, Trenberth, K. E.; Fusillo, J; Smith, L. Trends and variability in column-integrated water vapor. Climate Dynamics 2005, 24 (7-8), 741–758). The 2012 NVAP-M study is a significant improvement and expansion over the original study. It is also the most comprehensive, multi-sourced atmospheric water vapor study to date, for NVAP-M uses data from quality-controlled upper air radiosonde soundings; SSM/I, HIRS, AIRS satellite soundings; and GPS stations. Note that HIRS retrieves the vertical profile of water vapor over land. A timeline of instruments used for the 2012 NVAP-M paper is at ftp://ftp.agu.org/apend/gl/2012GL052094. In conclusion, the initial 2012 NVAP-M paper well deserves discussion and citation in AR5. The citation is: Thomas H. Vonder Haar, Janice L. Bytheway and John M. Forsythe. Weather and climate analyses using improved global water vapor observations. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L15802, 6 PP., 2012. doi:10.1029/2012GL052094. Disclaimer: I do not know and have never met any of the NVAP team. I received one brief e-mail from a member of the team in response to a question about when the 2012 paper would be published.

    links: WUWT Story: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/14/another-ipcc-ar5-reviewer-speaks-out-no-trend-in-global-water-vapor/
    Reviewer comments pdf: http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/mims_ipcc_ar5_sod_review.pdf

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/12/2012 at 6:39 pm said:

      >”His PDF review is interesting reading”

      Sure is. My impression is of a battle of wills for what should be divulged vs what some would prefer to be left unsaid.

      As with previous assessments, it is what is unsaid that is just as important as what is said in WGI at least. Even then, much of what is said in WGI is diluted to a virtual unsaid status so as not to impinge on the “unequivocal anthropogenic” narrative.

      A major “unsaid” example is that of the citation of Agee 2012 to support dismissal of GCR on trend. But Agee cautions more than once that a GCR effect may not be detectable due to the uncertainty in cloud datasets (unsaid). Other correlations e.g. Marsh & Svensmark 2004 (unsaid, and there are others)) use different datasets and the correlation breakdown in Agee and other WGI citations is not present (unsaid).

      Apparently Monckton has compiled a compendium of around 450 papers (probably gleaned from Poptech and NIPCC) that the SOD has overlooked. I suspect that a good number of those are solar-centric.

  12. There is a very interesting and technical discussion by Nic Lewis on his calculations of equilibrium climate sensitivity – using the IPCC techniques and terminology – in which he calculates a value around 1.75 deg C


    This was also used as a basis for Matt Ridley’s article in the WSJ

    • Judith Curry has a favourable response to the Nic Lewis article

      and concludes

      JC summary: The leak of the SOD was a good thing; the IPCC still has the opportunity to do a much better job, and the wider discussion in the blogosphere and even the mainstream media places pressure on the IPCC authors to consider these issues; they can’t sweep them under the rug as in previous reports.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/12/2012 at 5:52 pm said:

      >”…climate model derived values of cloud forcing should be taken with a grain of salt. Empirically based determinations of cloud forcing are needed”

      Well yes. Running into the same problem as with GCR effect detection though. The cloud datasets may not be (no where near from what I can gather) up to the task (Agee 2012).

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/12/2012 at 9:19 pm said:

      Slightly lighter going perhaps by following Nic Lewis’ link to Graeme Stephens’ GEWEX presentation (at least there’s pictures):-

      ‘Earth observations and moist processes’


      Looks almost understandable and probably a worthwhile read (scathing of models at first glance) but perhaps should be in conjunction with Stephens et al 2012. Have to admit I’m struggling to keep up with these developments.

  13. Alexander K on 20/12/2012 at 8:24 am said:

    I am constantly in a state of surprise at the degree of untruth that can be told by being economical with what is known to be true. Alex Rawls has done truth a huge service, in my view.
    Meanwhile, defending the indefensible (see Nuccatelli’s latest effort) goes on as if these revelations had not happened.

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