Stern Warnings

Sir Nicholas Professor Lord Stern has had articles and interviews in the Guardian,  Independent, Telegraph and Observer this week, warning that the forthcoming IPCC report is wrong

According to this article

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/24/lord-stern-climate-change-risks

signed by the Press Association, Stern:

“…warned that scientific projections and economic predictions were underestimating the risks of global warming. While scientists recognised some potential impacts such as the melting of permafrost, which would release powerful greenhouse gas methane, could be very damaging, they were left out of models because they were hard to quantify.”

The article goes on to say:

“The IPCC assessment showed a dangerous underlying trend, based on laws of physics known for 200 years” 

and then quotes Stern as follows:

Stern said: “It would be extraordinary and unscientific to argue on the basis of 200 years of evidence that you’re confident that the risks are small.

“Those who would have us delay have to argue they’re confident the risks are small. It would be an astonishing statement to make in light of all this evidence.

He added: “It would be absurd to say you are confident that the risks are small.”

On the first quote:

If scientists leave dangerous stuff out of their models simply because they are unable to quantify it, presumably they are leaving other stuff out of their models which they are also unable to quantify, such as the effects of clouds, water vapour, the sun, the moon and the rest of the universe, i.e. everything except greenhouse gases. This suggests to me a logical flaw at the heart of the process. Try and spot it if you can.

The second quote talks about a “trend based on the laws of physics”. This is nonsense of course. Any trend in temperature or anything else can only be based on empirical data. Did Stern really say that?

The third quote is directly attributed to Stern, something that the Press Association wouldn’t do (would they?) unless he actually uttered those words. 

His first sentence only makes sense if you replace the words “on the basis of” with “in the face of” or “in contradiction with” or some such. As it stands it’s incoherent. Corrected as I suggest, it’s simply false, because based on a false premise.

But what ‘s interesting is the way he apparently repeats the same incoherent nonsense three times, in true Lewis Carroll fashion:

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

What I tell you three times is true.”

Stern’s Snark is a Boojum, of course. But unfortunately there’s no sign that Sir Nicholas the Lord Professor is going to “softly and silently vanish away”. 

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2 Responses to Stern Warnings

  1. Dodgy Geezer says:

    ..extraordinary and unscientific to argue on the basis of 200 years of evidence that you’re confident that the risks are small…

    Hmm. And yet it is completely valid to argue on the basis of 20 years of evidence that the risks are high. I feel a simple calculation coming on…..

    20 years of high risk obviously trumps 200 years of low risk. So there must be an ‘activist sensitivity’ augmenting the risk analysis: the value being approximately 200/20, or 10x. Stern’s attitude only makes sense if this is factored in. I therefore suggest that all figures presented by the AGW supporters are reduced to 10% of their initial value, in order to allow for this corrective factor….

  2. He was on Newsnight last night. See picture of Paxo’s face in response on my latest blogpost.

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