Jonathan Porrit: Repositioning the Climate Change Debate

Posted: November 2, 2012 by tallbloke in alarmism, climate, Energy, Measurement, Natural Variation, Nuclear power, Politics, sea ice, Uncertainty

Last night the Leeds Sceptical Climateers (Ian, Susan and myself) attended a panel discussion given by the Earth Sciences department at Leeds University’s beautiful Clothworkers Centenary Hall.

Topping the bill was Jonathan Porrit, the veteran alternative energy and environmental campaigner. Also speaking were “the two Andy’s”, as Porrit referred to them, Professor Andrew Gouldson, and Professor Andrew Shepherd. Their three topics were:   ‘innovation in a low carbon future’, ‘should climate change really be a priority in an age of austerity?’ and ‘is global sea level rise the threat we imagine it to be?’.

The irony of the title shouldn’t be lost on talkshop regulars. Greenpeace holds ancient documents from the Southern Electric Company in the U.S. which mention ‘Repositioning the climate debate as theory rather than fact’. Something Russell Cook wrote about at length in his article on Ross Gelbspan and Al Gore and their campaign to get skeptics excluded from the climate debate.

Little mention of scepticism last night though, and the mainstream position was taken as a given by Porrit and Gouldson in their talks about the macro-economics of the alternative energy world they would like to see the global economies move towards. The mood was slightly downbeat, and Porrit vented his frustration at the latest moves by the UK government away from wind to nuclear power, and made the claim that the U.S. politicians were in the pocket of the big fossil energy industry. Gouldson pretty much relied on the Stern report for his rationale, concluding that a 2% of GDP ‘insurance policy’ was a good buy. Both of their presentations seemed disconnected from current relevance in many ways.

Prof Andrew Shepherd’s talk was far more interesting. It was Andrew Shepherd who introduced John Hirst at his Alumni lecture a few weeks ago. He launched into the science of ice sheets and sea level, mentioning in passing that the work he a 63 other glaciologists had been doing was valid whether global warming has been caused by human or natural causes. Their key finding was encapsulated in this graph.

He pointed out that this shows that Antarctica’s rate of contribution to sea level rise was pretty much linear and not accelerating, and it is Greenland which is the cause for concern as its rate of melt is apparently increasing exponentially, and has contributed a whole 8mm to global sea levels since 1992. His summary of the other matters he discussed is encapsulated in this next slide:

Folllowing the presentations there was half an hour of Q&A which covered some wide ranging issues raised by the audience, none of which I have time to write about just now.

At the end I approached Jonathan Porrit who had said that Europe had invested 47 billion in alternative energy and pointed out to him that the UBS report I had read says the European Union has spent 270 billion propping up the price of carbon, when it could have been directly spent generating jobs and renewing Europe’s aging power generation fleet, thus reducing co2 emissions by 42%. He agreed that carbon markets had failed, but said it was all the fault of the Americans who had insisted in the introduction of carbon markets as the price of their agreement to Kyoto.

I asked Andrew Shepherd why, if Kevin Trenberth’s missing heat was hiding in the ocean, was it not possible that a lot of extra solar derived energy was hiding there too, accumulated during decades of well above average solar activity in the mid to late C20th. He told me I’d need to ask an atmospheric physicist about that. Non-plussed, we left them to it and headed off for our de-brief meeting.

  1. Stephen Richards says:

    Porrit is a nasty piece of communism but a very good orator and that’s is the problem for real scientists. We have not got a voice as eloquent as either the liar in chief Obama or the junior Porrit.

  2. @ Stephen Richards: Politicians and scientists both need to tend — separately, independently — to the fundamental problems in their respective fields. Together, they are just the blind leading the blind, no matter how they try to work it. In other words, “climate policy” is a tyrannous fantasy, and these men are not facing reality, either political or physical truth.

  3. JCrew says:

    A comment yesterday on WUWT presented a possible effective strategy to counter the capabilites of CAGW proponents, such as eloquence and settled science.

    It could be ridicule to AGW short comings. Errors in the leaders, like the ad of Mann in the Penn State University campus publication, and ridicule of past projections of catastrophe that have not come to pass, even slightly.

    At this point it may not be as much a unsettled science issue, but increasingly a tactical media war.

    Clever advertisements like the NRO against Mann may be an important tactic to employ.

  4. Stephen Richards says:

    JCrew says:

    November 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    You have got it !! Fight fire with fire.

  5. Stephen Richards says:

    harrydhuffman (@harrydhuffman) says:

    November 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Sadly you are right but we have to fight that problem. As I wrote recently, 97% of people in the UK and Europe are uneducated, non cynical, unquestioning sheeple. You only get to them in the most simple and basic manner ; publicity.

  6. oldbrew says:

    ‘a whole 8mm to global sea levels since 1992’ – wow. What was the error range on that exactly?

    We seem to be faced with a whole industry here trying to make mountains out of molehills for a living 🙂

  7. Chuckles says:

    ‘should climate change really be a priority in an age of austerity?’
    and ‘is global sea level rise the threat we imagine it to be?’.

    That would be ‘No’, and ‘No’ then.

  8. Zeke says:

    “The mood was slightly downbeat, and Porrit vented his frustration at the latest moves by the UK government away from wind to nuclear power, and made the claim that the U.S. politicians were in the pocket of the big fossil energy industry.”

    No. No absolutely not. He’s not even trying.

    I pay the fossil fuel industry, voluntarily, for the power that I need to accomplish what I please and travel where I wish at a price I can afford. They provide that power, and make a profit of roughly .09 per 1.00. There’s your horrors and foulness for you.

    And it is the so-called scientists and politicians in the UK who are under the thrall of big worthless wind, which perpetrates price volatility, intermittent supply, constraint payments, subsidies, and other outrages on the public by legislative fiat.

    Here is what the UKs real propeller heads are saying:

  9. suricat says:


    “He told me I’d need to ask an atmospheric physicist about that.”


    I’m not surprised your party left “Non-plussed”! Where was the guy coming from? I think this is a good example of the lack of ‘cross discipline’ requirement in the knowledge base for a ‘climate scientist/investigator’. After all is said and done, Trenberth thinks his ‘missing heat’ is somewhere in the oceans with the icebergs.

    Best regards, Ray.

  10. Thanks Zeke, I like Nigel Farage. I wish we had him in our parliament in Australia. There is a senator Barnaby Joyce but he is no where near as well informed or spoken. I have downloaded a couple of videos with him speaking. He makes one smile even if you do not like his politics or agree with all the points he has put forward.

  11. Zeke says:

    Joyce seems like a good man, fighting the carbon tax.

  12. oldbrew says:

    Re Trenberth’s missing heat, the man himself has said (Jan. 2012):

    “The discrepancies among [upper-ocean heat content data sets] remain huge. We MUST do better” [last para]

    Shouldn’t the ARGO buoy data be able to resolve this?

  13. tallbloke says:

    I think the ARGO system has suffered from confirmation bias a la Trenberth “the data are surely wrong”. There was much talk about ‘faulty’ buoys (showing “too much” cooling) a few years ago. Then the Nov 2011 ‘adjustment’ which turned a falling trend into a rising one for the 2003-2009 data.

    Falling OHC is pretty much fatal to the AGW meme:

  14. oldbrew says:

    Falling OHC should show up in changes to El Niño/La Niña at some point – maybe already.

    The Australian Met. Bureau reports [17 Oct.]:

    ‘This reduction in the likelihood of an El Niño event in 2012 is consistent with an easing in the strength of the warming signal over previous months.’

  15. oldbrew says:

    Footnote to last comment – buried in the BoM website is this nugget;

    ‘during October the coolest anomalies have been found in the eastern Pacific, where water is now more than 3 °C cooler than usual.’

  16. tallbloke says:

    Yeah, here’s what happened to the pacific Warm Pool earlier this year.

  17. Michael Hart says:

    I, too, have received many documents from the US Southern Electric, detailed evidence of continuous, affordable electricity from nuclear power stations that provided me with light, hot showers, warmth, and a lot more coolth from the air conditioning when needed (the latter being much of the year).

  18. Entropic man says:


    “‘a whole 8mm to global sea levels since 1992′ – wow. What was the error range on that exactly?”

    I wouldn’t get too relaxed. The overall rate from 1993 to 2009 was 3.3 +/- 0.4mm/yr. (Nicholl + Cazenove, Science 328, 1517-1520) and accelerating.
    Prof. Shepherd’s data give 0.6mm/yr from Greenland and Antarctica. The rest is coming from glaciers, groundwater extraction and thermal expansion. Trenberth’s “missing heat” may not be showing on the ARGO network, but it may still be showing indirectly in thermal expansion.

  19. Michael Hart says:

    I note with sadness that Earth Sciences/Geology etc is now subsumed into the “Faculty of Environment” at Leeds University. Maths, Physics, Chemistry are in the Faculty of Physical Sciences.
    There is a separate Faculty of Biological Sciences.

    A sign of the times, perhaps. Just like the BBC, where much that is non-science “Environment” gets to piggy-back on Science proper.

  20. oldbrew says:

    Entropic says: ‘Trenberth’s “missing heat” may not be showing on the ARGO network, but it may still be showing indirectly in thermal expansion’

    ‘Thermal’ expansion must by definition be due to heating so why wouldn’t the ARGO network record that?

  21. Entropic man says:


    Tallbloke’s November 3 12.57 comment describes a problem with the ARGO bouys underrreading temperature, with Trenberth feeling the need to add a positive connection to the data. The mismatch between the temperature and thermal expansion data may be why he felt it necessary.

    [Reply] thermal expansion “data” comes from satellite altimetry. A 50mm rise in 20 years with an error of +/- 75mm. The data is calibrated to the theory, not anything measurable. – TB

  22. Entropic man says:

    Just brainstorming.

    Consider a column of seawater 1M on a side and 700M high . ( I choose 700M as the depth to which mixing usually occurs.)
    The coefficient of expansion of water is 250*10^-6 K^-1 at 293K (20C).

    A temperature rise from 20C to 21C would cause the volume of the column to increase by 0.175M, with a rise in water level of 0.175 M/C or 175mm/C.


    There has been a measured rise in sea temperature of about 1C since the 1870s.

    That is an average warming rate for the century of 0.008C/yr.


    Subtract the 0.6mm/yr due to current Antarctic and Greenland melting from the 3.3mm/yr total and you get 2.7mm/yr. Assuming that this is all due to thermal expansion, it implies a rise in global sea temperature of 2.7/175 = 0.015C/yr.


    The thermal expansion figures imply a warming rate for the upper 700M of 0.015C which is almost double the 0.008C/yr measured from Challenger to ARGO.

    The most likely explainations? ARGO is underrreading and underestimating the warming rate, and/or a lot of heat is warming the deep ocean, below the 700M line, and adding a big increment to the sea level rise.

    [Reply] The rise rate ws around 3mm/yr in the 90’s according to altimetry. This has fallen to round 2.3mm/yr since 2003 for the model. ENVISAT was lower, and showed a FALL IN GLOBAL SEA LEVEL from 2007 until it failed in 2012. – TB

  23. oldbrew says:

    Here NOAA claims that since 1992 satellites have accurately measured 3 millimetres of sea level rise per year. They then offer a movie showing the effects of a 150 metre (!) rise. Comical.

  24. Entropic man says:

    Is this the Colorado data you referred to? Still looks to be rising.

    [Reply] Read what I wrote!

  25. oldbrew says:

    It seems NASA has already admitted its satellite data for sea levels is inaccurate. A new satellite is planned to try and fix the known problems.

  26. I’m embarrassed and need to get my eyes checked. I somehow missed seeing the “Repositioning” headline of this blog back in November, which would have led me to the very nice mention of my work in the 3rd paragraph. Thanks!!

    Remember, friends, skeptics efforts to tell the public how the AGW debate is anything but settled is admirable. In a general sense, they try to reposition – arguably, re-frame the narrative – away from the premise that AGW has been settled from the start. But when that specific phrase is turned against skeptics in a direct comparison to a top-down tobacco industry directive without a shred of proof that the phrase is any sort of industry directive of the fossil fuel industry, that’s where we see the harm of the phrase.

    And here is Gore’s own comparison from pages 356-7 his 2010 “Our Choice” book: It’s the very same comparison he made just before the 1 hr 13 minute point of his “An Inconvenient Truth” movie. There is no doubt about the intentions of the tobacco memo. There is a sea of red flags surrounding the other one, including his own role in promulgating the phrase as proof of skeptics’ guilt.