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Tony Jones lets Bill McKibben get away with barking nonsense “Really one degree is utter catastrophe”

Posted By Joanne Nova On May 24, 2013 @ 3:35 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Here are the questions Tony Jones could have asked if only he or his billion-dollar organization had the time to use the Internet. Is he a journalist or an activist pretending to be one?

And how much does Jones get paid by the taxpayer for allowing McKibben a free pass to say things that are easily shown to be false? The ABC wants to keep that a secret. It wants your money, but not your opinion.

The full transcript is on the ABC site, I’ve selected parts below. (My cost to the taxpayer: $0).

ABC Lateline

“Stop investing in carbon intense industries”

TONY JONES: Let’s start with the statement most frequently used by climate change sceptics: the planet has stopped warming since 1998 and started to cool, actually cool, since 2003. True or false?

[Tony Jones is offering a blatantly false position for McKibben to knock over.... skeptics most frequently point out that there has been no significant warming  (there are 350 million google results for that compared to 10 million for global cooling since 2003). The UK Met office, and the head of the IPCC say the same thing. The issue that matters is the "pause" that the models didn't predict.  In 2008 NOAA said that pauses of 15 years or more didn’t fit with climate simulations (so if it went longer, we would know models are wrong). The umpire here is awarding a free kick to start the game.  - Jo]

BILL MCKIBBEN: Completely false. The data is unfortunately abundantly clear here. Not only is the air temperature continuing to go up, but a whole slew of studies in recent months have shown that in fact the rate of warming in the oceans is accelerating….

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  Bill, you say air temperatures are still warming  but records from all five major datasets show no significant warming for a decade and a half. That’s RSS, UAH, Hadley in the UK, NCDC in the US, and NASA GISS. Even the UK Met Office and Rajendra Pachauri agree.*

And when you talk about the ocean, isn’t it true that the new ARGO system which started in 2003, and finally measures ocean temperatures accurately for the first time, has not found much warming at all, indeed it’s found nothing like what the models predicted it would find, and the small amount that has occurred could be statistical noise. And there is, in this short record, no sign of acceleration even though China has been pouring out record levels of CO2.

The warming of the oceans is nothing like the predictions of the models. (With the priviso here, that the error bars are so large they’re practically marked in “white”). The models are exaggerating.

BILL MCKIBBEN:  …We’ve barely – we’re not even quite raised the temperature a degree so far and look what we’ve done. I mean, 80 per cent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic is now missing, the oceans are 30 per cent more acidic than they were 40 years ago, and because warm air holds more water vapour than cold, we’ve loaded the dice for drought and for flood which y’all in Australia have seen more than your share of in recent years.

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  Yet Antarctic sea ice has hit record highs. Ocean pH measurements are even more uncertain that ones on ocean temperature. A “30%” range on a logarithmic scale is not as significant as it sounds, especially when ocean pH varies naturally by that much each day in some places, and many corals and fish seem quite capable of adapting.  As far as drought and flood go, Australia has always had both, there were waves of 50-plus temperatures right across Australia in the 1800′s. Most climate scientists admit there is no concrete evidence at all that current floods and droughts or storms are on the increase, let alone that it’s caused by CO2?

What caused these 50+ days in the 1800′s? Not CO2.

TONY JONES: Let’s just look at that figure though. 1998 was pretty much the planet’s hottest year, at least some argue that it was, since accurate temperature recordings were done. It appears there was a spike in that year, a spike in the temperature and since then temperatures have actually gone down?

BILL MCKIBBEN: No, temperatures haven’t gone down. The last decade was the warmest by far on record. 1998 was a very strong El Nino year and so it set a new record, a record we’ve now broken twice by small margins, but in general the pace of climate change continues unabated….

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  But when all the major land databases don’t show any warming, and the ocean warming is too small to be sure it is significant, what are basing your “unabated” claim on?

TONY JONES: Is the clear picture that you’re painting, was that muddied somewhat by the new research from the team of Global Change researchers published this week in Nature Geoscience that the rate of global warming is actually slowing…

BILL MCKIBBEN: It’s hopeful news in that they say the odds of warming at the very upper end of the scale are less than some had feared. Let’s hope that’s true. It really would be one of the first breaks we’ve caught from physics, but as they say in the thing – in their paper, it makes no difference to the plight of the planet. Two degrees where we’re going to clearly go well past on our current path is utter catastrophe. Really one degree is utter catastrophe. How many more summers do you really want like the one you just had?

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  But one degree is hardly an utter catastrophe, surely? Don’t many studies show that more people die in cold waves than in heat waves? Cold is deadly.  One millenia ago, people in Europe coped with temperatures that were very much like today’s but without modern machinery, electronics, cars, or airconditioning.

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  (part II): And speaking of that hot angry summer we just had, isn’t it true that the University of Huntsville Alabama satellite records tell a completely different story, suggesting that this summer Australian  temperatures were not unusual at all? The BOM results are based on a black box method that is unpublished and rely on averaging temperatures across thousands of square kilometers. Satellites cover the entire continent day and night.

UAH Satellite records cover the entire continent day and night and show the summer of 2013 was very ordinary.

TONY JONES: Yeah, I suppose if you say “caught a break from science”, does that actually give us more time to get our acts together as a planet and for the countries around the world to actually seek some sort of unified action? …

BILL MCKIBBEN: No, it doesn’t give us any more time. We’re still under the gun. What it does do I think is allow those who are working on these issues some reason for a little bitta hope. Frankly, the level of despair has been enormous and correctly so; we’re losing this fight….

(Jones does weakly ok on this, but could have done so much better…)

TONY JONES: Yeah, I mean, I guess the point is you say yourself “do the math” and the question arise out this new research is: has the math changed?

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  Bill, if the warming is delayed significantly, and the Nature paper was suggesting the effect was 30% less than previous best estimates, the math has changed. Maths where 2 = 3 isn’t appropriate here, surely? If we have more time, that must make a big difference to decisions we make now. We have time to get the research right before we act.

BILL MCKIBBEN: No, I don’t think the math’s really changed at all. What we were saying when we did that – and this is math that’s been validated by the World Bank and the International Energy Agency and lots of others – what we were saying was that the fossil fuel companies have in their reserves five times as much carbon as would be necessary to take us past two degrees. So it’s not even close. It’s not like we’re in some place, as we would say in this country, in the same ballpark. These companies, their business plan is by any measure not compatible with a working future for this planet. Once you know that math, and it comes from a team of financial analysts in the UK about a year ago – once you know it then you know that if we don’t make big changes soon, the end of this story is essentially written. Our job is to rewrite it, and, you know, we’re beginning to build that movement in Australia and around the world that can stand up to the richest industry we’ve ever seen.

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED: Bill,  you demonize them, but coal power produces the cheapest and most reliable electricity in this country. Is it realistic to ask people to go without electricity to avoid a global temperature rise that is measured in one-hundreths of a degree?

As for the size of the coal industry — globally the renewables investment industry reached a quarter of a trillion dollars,  carbon trading reached 176 billion dollars annual turnover. Government subsidies for renewables reached $70 billion annually.  These are industries that depend almost entirely on the idea that CO2 is dangerous, and subsidies from bureaucrats. Don’t these vested interests have influence too?

TONY JONES: Let’s move on because you – and really it’s on that topic – you’ve been campaigning hard for educational and religious institutions, for city and state governments and other institutions that, as you say, serve the public good, to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. Stop. To disinvest. Take their money out if they are investing in them. How many companies have actually done that, have taken your advice?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Well, we have a list of 200 companies that we’d like people to divest from, the biggest carbon reserves in the world. So far, early days, but a wide variety of American institutions have begun to divest. Five colleges and universities so far, 10 city governments including Seattle and San Francisco. Yesterday came news that the cemetery of the City of Santa Monica in California had decided to divest its holdings, so even the dead are getting in on this act. In Australia, I was remarkably cheered to see that the Uniting Church in a big part of the country had decided to sell its coal stocks. I think that’s a brave move in a country where coal barons are as powerful as they are there.

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED: If Australia produces less coal, won’t China just buy its coal from Indonesia or Russia instead, pushing up the price of coal? And won’t it be the poorest people in the world who will suffer the most? Aren’t you helping to hurt those who already face grinding poverty? [And when McGibben counters that climate change "will hurt them more than unaffordable electricity", Jones could bring us back to the fact that the models appear to be wrong, the only warming he can find is statistically insignificant and highly uncertain in the deep ocean, so how sure are we really that the projections are right? Skeptics have been asking for three years for evidence that the assumptions the models are based on are correct, and you still can't provide any?]

TONY JONES: The new boss of the Australian Coal Association, Nikki Williams, gave a speech in Sydney last night in which he bitterly complained that some of the country’s most successful and profitable businesses, particularly their own coal industry, were being targeted by activists like yourself and that the climate change debate has spawned, as she called it, a new morality of industrial sabotage, extremism hiding behind laudable green goals. Do you think she might have had you in mind?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Perhaps, although I’m afraid I’m not a very confident saboteur. Our only monkey wrench we want to throw in the works is this mathematical one, this scientific one…

WHAT TONY JONES COULD HAVE ASKED:  Bill, you’re asking people to punish a key productive industry in Australia, one providing funds for the government and shareholders, jobs for thousands, and a product we all need. There is no reliable alternative source of baseload power here unless we look at nuclear energy. If you succeed it may well hurt the poorest of the poor in the world more than it will help them. That’s a serious risk. And yet you make out you are only tossing “maths” and “science” in to the system, and it’s a math where 2 = 3 and we make major sacrifices to change the worlds temperature by a fraction of a degree if that?

* McKibben claims “air temperature (is) continuing to go up”.  However, four of the five air temperature datasets show weak non-significant cooling averaging 0.04C per decade since January 2003 (RSS, HadCrut4, GISTEMP, and NCDC). Throw UAH into the mix, and the average cooling trend from the big five is only 0.02C per decade, well below the basic one-sigma significance level of 0.05C. But air temperature certainly isn’t “continuing to go up”.


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