By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
The CBC provided us with an interesting case study in science reporting on Monday as its “community team” blog trumpeted “UN climate change projections made in 1990 ‘coming true.’”
Climate change projections made over two decades ago have stood the test of time, according to a new report published Monday in the journal Nature.
The world is warming at a rate that is consistent with forecasts made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 22 years ago.
Climate scientists from around the world forecasted the global mean temperature trend for a 40-year period, from 1990 to 2030—and at this halfway point the report authors have found the projections “seem accurate” after accounting for natural fluctuations.
These are absolutely all the numbers you are going to get out of this news item. And if you peruse the new assessment of the 1990 IPCC predictions, which was actually published on the Nature Climate Change website, what you find is a more nuanced picture than the CBC’s “They nailed it, no worries” interpretation implies.
David Frame and Dáithí Stone write that the 1990 IPCC report predicted a rise in global mean temperatures of between 0.7 degrees C and 1.5 degrees C by the year 2030; on a linear interpolation, we might have expected half the increase to have occurred by now. The actual observed warming during the past 20 years (almost all of it taking place in the first ten) has been in the vicinity of 0.35 degrees C to 0.39 degrees C, “on the borderline” of the range given in 1990. In other words, the IPCC’s point estimate was high, and the overall warming has been consistent with the outer confidence bounds of their stated prediction, but barely.
Frame and Stone think, with some justification, that this is a pretty good performance given the simplicity of the climate models available at the time. It’s especially good, they think, because the models could not predict what would happen in the economy, or below the planet’s crust. Their story is that the Earth caught a series of lucky breaks despite the substantive failure of greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
The highlighted [IPCC] prediction assumed a business-as-usual scenario of GHG emissions; three other scenarios were considered and in fact Scenario B (which assumed a shift to natural gas, a decrease in the deforestation rate, and implementation of the Montreal Protocol, all independent of global climate negotiations) was closer to the mark as of 2010, especially with respect to methane emissions… Of course, [even these Scenario B] predictions were based on idealized future scenarios that did not foresee the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc industry, or the growth of some Asian economies, so one could argue that the prediction is right for the wrong reasons.
The authors conclude by noting that predicting the future is a lot harder than predicting the past—and, unfortunately, the resolving power of crystal balls has not improved much since 1990.
…the 1990 prediction following [the IPCC's] business-as-usual scenario covered a full 0.4ºC range due solely to uncertainty in the climate sensitivity that has not narrowed substantially so far, whereas a larger range was implied by the examination of further scenarios of emissions and a larger range still should have been considered owing to uncertainty in the evolution of natural forcings and internally generated variability.
Believers in and skeptics of the threat from anthropogenic climate change will both find promising fodder in this paper for conversion into mountains of delicious hay. (Mind the carbon emissions, though.) I’ll resist the temptation to join in that exercise, but it is very clear that the authors’ “Well done” message to the IPCC carries a sizable asterisk. If the CBC is going to report on a scientific paper, why not show some indication somebody has read it?
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 19, 2010 at 1:24 PM - 50 Comments
The American and Canadian administrations are apparently in agreement that the two countries need to harmonize their carbon pricing schemes, but what if, as the likes of Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Kevin Drum and Michael Bloomberg have argued this week, the United States ends up pursuing a carbon tax? Klein says it’s might be the best option.
At this point, the politics of climate change are dismal. But the reality of the budget situation makes new taxes inevitable. Among the few promising routes left for climate hawks is convincing the political system that if we need more taxes, a carbon tax makes more sense than a VAT. Because we will need more taxes. Perhaps the fiscal crunch can do what climate science could not.
Recall here that, despite his warnings that a carbon tax would both “screw everybody” and possibly unravel the country during the 2008 election, the Prime Minister did not entirely dismiss the possibility of such a policy when asked about harmonizing environmental agendas with the United States during 2009 interview.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Barack Obama promised to tackle climate change, but so far Washington has produced only hot air
There are powerful reasons for the Harper government to wait and see what climate change legislation emerges from Washington before embarking on its own. Moving too boldly to put a price on carbon could disadvantage Canadian industry relative to American competitors, as the Prime Minister has pointed out. Moving too timidly could one day trigger taxes against Canadian exports under proposed U.S. legislation that would penalize countries whose carbon regimes are not “at least as stringent as” America’s.
As a result, the Canadian government has been closely monitoring the progress of climate change legislation and regulatory initiatives in the United States with an eye to copying whatever they turn out to be, an approach dubbed “harmonization.” But watching the U.S. Congress wrangle with climate change is enough to leave anyone cross-eyed.
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 5:10 PM - 20 Comments
That the boycott is useless is a given. But is it also unethical?
That the boycott is useless is a given. But is it also unethical?
That’s the claim that Chris Macdonald argues for at his Business Ethics blog. As Chris (and others) have pointed out, BP is no longer in the retail gasoline business. Almost all its outlets are privately run operations, not all of which sell exclusively BP gasoline. Other stations sell BP gasoline under different brand names, and besides, there aren’t many other companies out there that are ethically much better than BP. So, the boycott will hurt innocent small business owners, and not hurt the target at all. Sounds like a bad idea to me.
So how can you hurt BP, if that’s what you feel inclined to do? The best, and probably only, thing to do is radically reduce your fossil fuel consumption. Sell your car, buy a smaller house, stop flying, and so on. Alternatively (or should I say, in addition) you can redirect that anger to something positive — give money or time to one of the organizations working to mitigate the effects of the spill. Ultimately, the only serious solution will be a collective one, that keeps a lot more fossil fuel in the ground where it belongs. Might be time to sign up for the local chapter of Canadians for a Big Fat Carbon Tax.
Meanwhile, on a mostly unrelated topic, I’m having a contest over at my other blog. Entries more than welcome.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 13, 2009 at 10:35 AM - 115 Comments
National Post, November 5. Mild-mannered, absolutely. But Environment Minister Jim Prentice wants the world to know he’ll be no boy scout when crucial climate change talks convene in Copenhagen a month from today … In the end, it’s almost a guarantee that no matter what happens, Canada will be vilified on the world stage as an energy superpower that abandoned the Kyoto Accord and isn’t shouldering its share of carbon reductions. ”Well, if the price of having strong, capable, tough negotiators at the table is being singled out and given ‘fossil of the year’ awards, then so be it. Bring it on,” Mr. Prentice told me, doing his best impression of not being a boy scout.
National Post, November 12. As the most middle-of-the-road federal cabinet minister, Jim Prentice was never apprehensive about appearing on CBC. But the environment minister turned down an invitation to appear Friday morning on CBC radio’s flagship show The Current for a very good reason: a hostile host. That would be David Suzuki, the wildly successful environmental crusader and perennial alarm-ringer, who has seen the end of the world coming under a variety of climate change scenarios … What bothers Minister Prentice’s people is how they’re being asked to appear on a national current affairs show where the host would be an obvious antagonist.
By Alex Shimo - Friday, November 7, 2008 at 3:01 PM - 1 Comment
In one of his election promises, Obama said he would implement a cap-and-trade policy…
In one of his election promises, Obama said he would implement a cap-and-trade policy on emissions. This can be an efficient way of cutting carbon, but it can also lead to real problems, depending on the details of how it is done. If Obama is really going to implement a cap and trade policy, he should learn from Europe’s mistakes. Continue…
By Alex Shimo - Monday, November 3, 2008 at 11:53 AM - 3 Comments
In its first ever policy paper on climate change, China has admitted that its…
In its first ever policy paper on climate change, China has admitted that its carbon emissions are now equal to those of the United States. (Well, they are actually a little more, but let’s not quibble).
Beijing now acknowledged the environmental problem. “Extreme climate phenomena, such as high temperatures, heavy precipitation and severe droughts, have increased in frequency and intensity,” the paper says.
Unfortunately China is unlikely to take any real action in the near future because lifting people out of poverty remains the top priority. China depends on coal, and “the coal-dominated energy mix cannot be substantially changed in the near future.”
Looking ahead, China would consider switching to alternative energy, but only if developed countries help out. China’s top climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, said Beijing would consider limits on its worst polluting industries if rich nations handed over the technology to help clean them up. Developed nations should commit 0.7 per cent of their GDP to helping developing countries fight climate change, he says.
By Alex Shimo - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 5:13 PM - 0 Comments
Thank you to every one who posted comments – almost every one took the…
Thank you to every one who posted comments – almost every one took the time to write thoughtful and well-researched criticism.
I’d like to address the comment from that “Canada’s 2.3% of global emisions” don’t actually matter “in respect to the fate of the planet.” As a small country, it is quite easy to feel irrelevant, especially when you’re stuck next to an elephantine super power. However, Canada Continue…