Letter to Sir Mark Walport putting a question to the Government’s Sci-Tech Committee

Posted: April 16, 2013 by tallbloke in Analysis, data, government, Natural Variation

On Twitter this morning, I was delighted to see the government’s new chief advisor, Sir Mark Walport, asking the public for questions to put to the Science and Technology Committee. This is a refreshing change from the imperious attitude adopted by the previous incumbent, Sir John Beddington.

UPDATE 18-4-2013
I don’t know whether my missive had any impact or not, but Sir Mark is making noises which are music to my ears:

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sir-mark

Dear Sir Mark,

Thank you for making yourself accessible to the public and for inviting questions to be put to the Science and Technology Committee.

I am one of the UK’s more prominent ‘sceptical’ climate bloggers (No.2 for site traffic not far behind Andrew Montford’s ‘Bishop Hill’).
My degree is in History and Philosophy of science, and I’m also a qualified mechanical engineer.

My question for the S&T committee is this:

Since it is now evident to anyone making an impartial assessment of the current level of uncertainty in the institutionally entrenched climate science paradigm that the question of the dominance of carbon dioxide as a climate forcing is very much an open one, how wide does the government intend to open the public purse to pay for the construction of ‘carbon capture and storage’ infrastructure, when it is clear from the most rudimentary cost benefit analysis that this is pure tokenism, even accepting the IPCC’s own figures on the thermal effectiveness of extra airborne CO2?

I have an additional question for your own consideration as a scientist:

If the negative phases of natural variations are sufficiently geo-effective in the 21st century to cancel the alleged effect of extra airborne co2 on surface temperature, how much did their positive phases contribute to the warming of the late 20th century?

To help you decide, I include a reconstruction I have made of the last 150 years of global ocean surface temperature. The upper panel shows the constituent forcings. The lower panel shows the match between the combination of forcings and the state of the art SST temperature record from Hadley. The correlation has a Pearson R^2 value of 0.9. I have added some notes of explanation below the figure.

sst-model

Notes.

ssnc – norm represents the geo-temperature effect of changing solar activity levels, including the (probably cloud cover) amplification discovered by Prof Nir Shaviv in his Journal of Geophysical Research paper ‘Using the oceans as a calorimeter’. It consists of a cumulative integration of the sunspot number departing from the 350 year average as a proxy for ocean heat content (The long term average coincides with a phenomenologically determined value at which the oceans neither gain nor lose heat content. It is necessary to integrate the SSN since the oceans have a large thermal inertia. For this reason, a simplistic perusal of the falling maximum amplitudes of solar cycles since 1960 is not an adequate justification for the assumption that the Sun cannot be responsible for around 0.15C of the late C20th increase in global surface temperature.

AMO – norm represents the detrended SST of the northern Atlantic ocean. The Northern Pacific follows a similar cyclic trend, and the magnitude of the contribution of this global oceanic oscillation is estimated at around 0.2C for the 1970-2005 period

Ln – co2 represents the logarithmically bound contribution of CO2. The airborne CO2 fraction is partly temperature driven so the internal feedback has to be accounted for in estimating its contribution of around 0.25C over the C20th.

SOI – norm is the sea level pressure difference between Darwin and Tahiti used by CSIRO to estimate the El Nino Southern Oscillation. Its contribution to decadal variation is estimated to be in the region of 0.1C.

I don’t expect to be able to single handedly convince the mainstream climate science establishment that they have made some fundamental errors in assessing the relative contributions of internal and external drivers of the climate system, but I hope your fresh pair of eyes and attuned sense of uncertainty assessment will make a valuable contribution to both the scientific and policy debates. I’ll leave you with a quote from Prof Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of east Anglia:

We don’t fully understand how to input things like changes in the oceans, and because we don’t fully understand it you could say that natural variability is now working to suppress the warming. We don’t know what natural variability is doing.

I hope you will recall this quote to mind whenever you hear statements of conviction concerning climate science, and when you look at the error bars provided on climate model output.

Thank you for your time, please acknowledge personal receipt of this communication so I know I haven’t been ‘filtered out’. If you would like a copy of the spreadsheet of my model to test or modify, please feel free to request it.

Yours sincerely

Roger ‘tallbloke’ Tattersall
BA(Hons)Hist/Phil Sci. Mech Eng.

Comments
  1. tallbloke says:

    I see UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom is sticking it to the Eurocrats on the issue of ‘the standstill’
    http://www.ukipmeps.org/articles_644_Man-made-global-warming-hypothesis-dead-in-the-water—Godfrey-Bloom.html

  2. Kon Dealer says:

    Well done!

  3. A C Osborn says:

    Will you update us if you get a response from Sir Mark?

  4. tallbloke says:

    ACO: I doubt he will do more than acknowledge receipt, but that’s a start.

  5. hunter says:

    Good questions can lead to good things. Your questions are quite good.

  6. PaulM says:

    On a closely related point, the Science and Technology Committee is asking for written evidence relating to public understanding of climate science, by a deadline of Monday 22nd, see

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-committee/news/130228-climate-change-new-inquiry/

  7. tallbloke says:

    UPDATE 18-4-2013
    I don’t know whether my missive had any impact or not, but Sir Mark is making noises which are music to my ears:

    #Walport on #WatO: Climate change undeniable but affordable energy “essential”. Less bullish on clean energy than #Beddington.

    — roger harrabin (@RHarrabin) April 18, 2013

    My response:

  8. Caught him on World at 1, seems to be keen to move the science and policy apart. Underlined that governments have other concerns to consider, not just the science.

  9. […] not so much a shot across the bows of Greenpeace as a gesture towards a box of limpet mines. Maybe my missive really did hit it’s mark, or maybe Sir Mark was already alive to the Climate and Solar […]

  10. oldbrew says:

    ‘If the negative phases of natural variations are sufficiently geo-effective in the 21st century to cancel the alleged effect of extra airborne co2 on surface temperature, how much did their positive phases contribute to the warming of the late 20th century?’

    That’s the one the fanatics always duck. Their non-falsifiable anti-science is doomed.