Why Lord Lawson is wrong

A detailed rebuttal of the ridiculous Lord Lawson, a man competely wrong, wrong, wrong, just plain wrong on climate change.

The former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson – who has argued that “green is the new red” – writes today in The Times that the Copenhagen summit should fail.

He says:

“Mr Brown’s Copenhagen objective will, happily, not be achieved.”

His article is riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods.

Here is our point-by-point rebuttal:

1) “The Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.”

Kyoto does not expire in 2012, we merely reach the end of the current so-called “commitment period”.

It is perfectly feasible that the parties signed up to Kyoto would agree to continue into another “commitment period” with fresh agreements – indeed, that is the position that more than one hundred developing countries including China aspire towards.

2) “There is a strong moral argument (to keep emitting) … for the developing world, the overriding priority has to be the fastest feasible rate of economic development, which means, inter alia, using the cheapest available form of energy: carbon-based energy.”

This is actually quite sick if you reflect upon what he’s saying for a minute.

• Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum research shows 300,000 people die each year from climate impacts.

• The Pentagon warns of the risk of “endemic warfare”.

• The Lancet describes climate change as the “biggest health threat”.

• A study in Nature Journal suggests a million species face extinction from climate change.

But Lawson thinks there’s a “moral argument” to keep emitting. Make up your own mind.

3) “I have no idea whether the majority scientific view (and it is far from a consensus) is correct.”

Is it worth gracing this line with a rebuttal?

There are thousands of publically available peer-reviewed scientific papers reflecting there is a real consensus.

Indeed, this is the view of The Royal Society, the US Academy of Sciences, the IPCC, the Met Office, the Tyndall Centre and NASA.

In contrast, point us to a peer reviewed scientific paper that rejects the man-made CO2 link?

Indeed, what would constitute a consensus in Lord Lawson’s eyes?

4) “So far this century there has been no further warming at all.”

Here’s a good graph that shows a clear trend upwards over this century.

There’s more along these lines from NASA here.

These evidence available via these links shows this line from Lawson is straight out wrong:

The eight warmest years in the 150 global temperature record are, according to the Hadley Center, in order, 1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2007. It’s a fact that this is the hottest decade in recorded history.

All of this said, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explains on this post:

“The first point to make (and indeed the first point we always make) is that the climate system has enormous amounts of variability on day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year and decade-to-decade periods. Much of this variability (once you account for the diurnal cycle and the seasons) is apparently chaotic and unrelated to any external factor – it is the weather.”

The climate scientists over at realclimate.org also explain here some of the misconceptions around recent trends in global temperatures.

5) “A warmer climate brings benefits as well as disadvantages. Even if there is a net disadvantage, which is uncertain, it is far less than the economic cost (let alone the human cost) of decarbonisation.”

Just this month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published findings arguing climate inaction will cost the world $500 billion a year.

Famously, the Stern Review found that the cost of stopping climate change, and of taking action earlier, would easily outweigh the cost of letting the crisis unfold.

There’s a good intro to climate economics here.

One US survey detailed here approached the 289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years. About half, 144, responded, and 75 per cent agreed or strongly agreed on the “value” of greenhouse-gas controls.

In short, Lawson is alone with only Bjorn Lomborg in taking this sort of line. Lomborg’s argument gets taken on here.

6) “By adapting to any warming that may occur over the next century, we can pocket the benefits and greatly reduce the disadvantages, at a cost that is far less than the cost of global decarbonisation — even if that could be achieved.”

Tell that to Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Anyone else going to miss those one million species less than they’ll miss coal burning and 4x4s?

7) “The scientific basis for global warming projections is now under scrutiny as never before. The principal source of these projections is produced by a small group of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), affiliated to the University of East Anglia.”

See this earlier post on Left Foot Forward.

Also, it is worth noting that it is completely misleading to say the CRU is the “principal source” of projections on climate science. There are equivalent climate research departments in Universities around the world, as well as in other institutions such as NASA. The CRU is merely one.

24 Responses to “Why Lord Lawson is wrong”

  1. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: Why Lord Lawson is wrong on climate change: http://is.gd/51Zvd <— The true face of the Tories on the environment

  2. Wes Streeting

    Oh dear, wrong on economy and wrong on climate change. Is Lord Lawson good at anything? http://is.gd/51Zvd

  3. Michael Lewis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Why Lord Lawson is wrong on climate change: http://is.gd/51Zvd … he was wrong on the economy too .. messed it up big time

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Typical, mislead by blag and bluster.

    All of the stuff above may be correct.

    Not one single item in it proves (man made) CO2 causes global warming…

    …no one disputes the temperature, just the reasons for it.

  5. Bry Lipscombe

    RT @wesstreeting: Oh dear, wrong on economy and wrong on climate change. Is Lord Lawson good at anything? http://is.gd/51Zvd

  6. Forlornehope

    Please be careful when you write on this subject. One of the standard arguments of the contrarians is to pick a short period of a few years and claim that “global warming has stopped”. The trend over the few years of this century proves neither one thing nor the other. The fact that it contains the eight warmest years in the last 150, as you correctly point out, is much more significant.

  7. Anon E Mouse

    Forlonehope – You say “Be careful what you write?”

    Is that the same as censorship? Manipulate the data?

    PAH

  8. Kate Williams

    RT @leftfootfwd: Why Lord Lawson is wrong on climate change: http://is.gd/51Zvd

  9. Gapboy

    RT @wesstreeting: wrong on economy and wrong on climate change. Is Lord Lawson good at anything? http://is.gd/51Zvd <losing weight! X

  10. Alex

    Lord Lawson taken apart on climate change. Question is, is it really worth debating people like this? http://bit.ly/5mjSjR

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Told you they were fiddling the data.

    Forget the emails. Anyone who writes computer programs in a high level language, such as C, puts in comments to remind themselves of what the code is dong and to allow future programmers to make changes to the code.

    There are two files normally generated, a “Source Code” file (where the comments are) and the compiled file or “Object” (.obj) file or .asm file.

    (I’m a 1980’s Z80 man so this may be dated but you get the point)

    The file, after compiling, has the comments and other stuff removed and it is basically (no pun there) the “computer code” for the machine to run on.

    So the climate change programmer has left his comments here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/22/cru-emails-may-be-open-to-interpretation-but-commented-code-by-the-programmer-tells-the-real-story/

    Personally since they don’t include the effects of the sun I can’t take the data seriously but I’m surprised that this terrific blog, being progressive as it claims, hasn’t picked up on this.

  12. Albert M. Bankment

    Remember the scientific certainty in the 60s that the world would be starving by the turn of the century. Recall the utter conviction during the mid-80s that AIDS was going to kill millions in the western world, because we were all vulnerable. Bear in mind the confident forecasts, a few years later, that CJD would claim 500,000 victims in the UK (currently <150). Consider that the current scare statistic is that we are going to run out of water, despite the planet being a 'closed system'. Finally, do not forget that Michael Mann's supposedly authoritative "hockey-stick graph", a vital part of the foundations for standing-up the anthropogenic global warming orthodoxy, has been shown to be unsupported by the data and utterly wrong.

    Then reflect that scientists have a tendency to regard their size of their research budgets as (and I hope that those who tend towards a female identity will forgive this) a quantifiable virility symbol, a willy-waving totem of their value on and to the planet. The planet may or may not be warming. This warming may or may not be part of a cycle, and it may or may not be progressive. It may or may not be anthropogenic. Surely we should be allowed to consider all the evidence, uncorrupted by the preconceptions and prejudices of either lobby. Not to prejudge, there does appear to be some worrying prima facie evidence that data has been manipulated to support the stance of the 'Ultras'. I'm not a global-warming denier, but I am a sceptic; not least because I believe that – in the face of ruthless and bigoted certainty, which seeks to stifle debate – informed scepticism is the only possible stance for the reasonably-educated human who takes an informed interest in global affairs and the future of our species.

    I have found Prof. Ian Plimer's book, Heaven & Earth, to be a fun- and fact-packed counterbalance to the self-righteous hysteria of "we're all dooooomed" prigs, who may well be working to their own self-interested agenda.

  13. Tim Worstall

    “This is actually quite sick if you reflect upon what he’s saying for a minute.”

    It is? Gosh.

    And there I was thinking that there are millions, if not tens of millions, who die each year of poverty. So what Lawson is saying is that we should have more development (development means wealth creation, wealth creation is the solution to poverty) so that those tens of millions do not die even if the cost is that those hundreds of thousands do die from climate change.

    I don’t know which scales you use to weigh human lives but around where I come from more saved is better.

  14. Richard Blogger

    Anon E Mouse.

    The code you mention is Prolog, not C. In the leaked archive about half the code is Prolog, half is Fortran. This is very irritating to me as a C/C++ programmer (who has strayed into Java and C#…) since it makes the code more of an effort to read. I am surprised that they use Prolog and Fortran (I thought that Fortran had died years ago, certainly I have never seen it used in the commercial world), I would have thought that they would use Java.

    As a contractor I used to have access (legitimately) to the source code for Windows. The comments in their code were quite interesting, explaining better what the routines did than the official documentation. But I have to admit that some of the comments were a bit, umm, “salty”. This caused a bit of a furore a few years back when some of the code was leaked, but it was also one reason why Microsoft is not keen on making its code open source, because they don’t want the effort to clean up comments.

    Anyway, I digress. When you develop an algorithm you go through many stages, and in some cases you may find that the algorithm works with some of the dataset but not all. So you document this and have another try. The comment that I assume you are referring to (that the algorithm does not work for data after 1960) is an interesting one. However, you have to realise that the post-1960 has to be manipulated is because after 1960 the source of the data became contaminated. (See this article on liberalconspiracy.org). Basically, acid rain in the 60s and 70s affected tree ring data and so before tree ring data could be used a correction had to be made to this data. This is the “manipulation” mentioned. There is nothing sinister. I am sure that there is a mention of this in the papers published by CRU, but the deniers much prefer to look for conspiracies than to read real science.

    Frankly there has been nothing of importance that has come from the CRU leaks (other than, to a geek like me, that they are using two horrible languages for their modelling – I would have used a far more modern language).

  15. Scott B

    Richard, acid rain didn’t just appear during the 60s. It’s been around since the Industrial Revolution. So why does the divergence problem occur only after the 60s? More general, how can tree rings be validly used as a direct 1:1 temperature proxy? Everything I’ve read leads me to believe that tree ring growth is affected more by precipitation than temperature. Also, if acid rain was the explanation, shouldn’t we see divergence in almost all tree ring records worldwide and be able to adjust for the change caused?

    There’s no smoking gun of fraudulent data manipulation that I’ve seen. I’ll be interested to see what people who know those programming languages find when they dissect the code. I’ll be more interested when the sites used to create HADCRUT are revealed since the steady removal of ground stations over time appears sketchy. I believe the efforts to avoid FOIA requests and suggestions of gaming the peer review process are the extremely important items in these e-mails though. I don’t understand why people on all sides of the debate are not calling for far more openness. There is no reason that the code used to create our global temperature indexes, past temperature reconstructions, and climate models shouldn’t be open to the public. This isn’t a proprietary product to sell like Windows. Yes, some people will use the data incorrectly or even dishonestly to “prove” their point. That’s happening now anyway. This hiding of data is only going to make people skeptical who’s support is needed to push through climate reforms.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Richard Blogger – I wasn’t saying it was ‘C’ just that it was a high level language that included comments.

    I bow to your greater knowledge of modern programming languages although I can still “load the accumulator” in Z80 the stuff I did is simple compared to C++ etc (it was also 20 years ago as well!)

    My point was to ignore the emails, that’s just a smokescreen to me and read these comments but Richard in any event we are mere ‘pimples’ on this planet so I sleep easy.

    Have a good one dude.

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  21. Owens

    What Lawson sais is right.
    The globe is warming and everyone is talking about one degree heating. To think of the Mass of our earth and if the temperature rises this must be a matter of billions of calores( or BThUs ) to raise it a degree. There is only one heat source people consider the suns rays on CO2. CO2, SO2, NO2 all are let into the atmosphere by animals,and below cloud level return to earth with rain, vegetation at night and by us burning combustable materials, Vegitation absorbs heat of the sun the greatest contributor of heat on the planet, and we have cut down 1/4 the vegitation that used to cover the planet. There is a law called the conservation of heat which saya that the planet keeps heat locked in the atmosphere , so we have an imbalance in the Global Heat Balance , there is more hearing than cooling , hence the Globe is heating. Now A Naturalm Phenomenon, the rotation of the globe , the surface of the worlds landmass is travelling at 600 miles an hour and any Circular activity induces Centrifugal force. Air and Water are fluids and by this force hot travels to the polar regions and cold being denser , so heavier goes toward the equator.
    In Britain the gulf stream of water is from the Gulf of Florida,and has a huge effect on us. The hot air also from the gulf also travells toward the North pole. There is the Jet stream 30000 feet above us which is like air ” left behind” as is smoke from a burning object on the move. This is disrupted by the hot air from the tropics and in summer gives our unseasonal summers of excessive rainfall.{Hot wet air hitting a cold jetstream and dropping lots of rain, on us.}Polar air goes toward the equatir in the Winter of each hemisphere, hence Harmatan in Arabia and the NE Monsoon in India. We do not yet have the right interpretation as to why the planet is warming, but it is NOT CO2 below cloud level.

  22. Owens

    What Lawson sais is right.
    The globe is warming and everyone is talking about one degree heating. To think of the Mass of our earth and if the temperature rises this must be a matter of billions of calores( or BThUs ) to raise it a degree. There is only one heat source people consider the suns rays on CO2. CO2, SO2, NO2 all are let into the atmosphere by animals,and below cloud level return to earth with rain, vegetation at night and by us burning combustable materials, Vegitation absorbs heat of the sun the greatest contributor of heat on the planet, and we have cut down 1/4 the vegitation that used to cover the planet. There is a law called the conservation of heat which saya that the planet keeps heat locked in the atmosphere , so we have an imbalance in the Global Heat Balance , there is more heating than cooling , hence the Globe is heating. Now A Naturalm Phenomenon, the rotation of the globe , the surface of the worlds landmass is travelling at 600 miles an hour and any Circular activity induces Centrifugal force. Air and Water are fluids and by this force hot travels to the polar regions and cold being denser , so heavier goes toward the equator.
    In Britain the gulf stream of water is from the Gulf of Florida,and has a huge effect on us. The hot air also from the gulf also travells toward the North pole. There is the Jet stream 30000 feet above us which is like air ” left behind” as is smoke from a burning object on the move. This is disrupted by the hot air from the tropics and in summer gives our unseasonal summers of excessive rainfall.{Hot wet air hitting a cold jetstream and dropping lots of rain, on us.}Polar air goes toward the equator in the Winter of each hemisphere, hence Harmatan in Arabia and the NE Monsoon in India. We do not yet have the right interpretation as to why the planet is warming, but it is NOT CO2 below cloud level.

    There is too much nonsence spoken about this matter, and hysteria is widespread. It is generated by the same people who make Nanny Laws.

  23. fjezierski

    Dear Owens

    To be taken seriously, you really must learn a little spelling and grammar

  24. Guy_in_Kingston

    Learn History….In the 1920’s it was global warming….Oceans would rise and everything would become extince. In the 1970’s it was Global Cooling…..”We’re approaching an iceage and were all going to die. We need Government intervention to save the World. In the 1990’s it’s global Warming…..AGAIN…Now it’s Climate change. Some people just don’t learn from history.

    C02 causes “Climate change”…..LOL C02 is what makes life possible….it what allows trees, animals and Us to live. In greenhouses people have “C02 generators”…they burn propane or natural gas to creat C02. It what makes things grow. There are giant C02 Generators outside national Parks because they make the forrest grow thicker and Greener, They allow the animals to thrive……but don’t tell the Climate change fools, who crave more governement control.”

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