The Gordian knot of climate modelling

Australian climate scientists have built a computer simulation model to predict sea level rises in a variety of scenarios.

The headline result is a 1.32m rise in mean global sea levels by 2100, if no further progress is made in reducing CO2 emissions.

One of the more frustrating aspects of climate science is the dearth of rational, respectful discussion of predictions such as this. Climate Change has become a hugely-polarising subject, where either side of the debate shout into their respective echo chambers.

To even ask the questions we will pose below is to risk being labeled “anti science” or the deliberately provocative “denier” (provocative because we all know the only other instance that noun is regularly used).

We will pose some questions nonetheless, if for no other reason than to have it on record in the WayBackMachine that there were some who were somewhat sceptical of the accuracy of the computer models.

Questions which might be interesting to learn the answers to;

1. This latest computer model makes a prediction of sea level rises based on the computer models of other climate scientists which predict global temperature rises. Therefore to accept the 1.32m computer prediction, one must also completely accept the results of the other computer model. What has been the track record of the methodology employed by that computer model compared with observations?

2. What has been the long term trend of sea rises (or falls) and is there precedent for such a rapid rise as predicted by the computer model? If so, did this rise precede or follow a rise in atmospheric CO2?

3. What was the observed impact to life on the planet during this previous period of rising sea levels?

4. The conclusion of the report is that a 1.32m sea rise is probable by 2100 if no further improvements are made to reducing global CO2 emissions. Given that the majority of people who are alive today may not be alive by 2100, which is the more logical course of action; hobbling the global economy, particularly nations transitioning from mainly agrarian economic models and thus slowing the rate of relief from desperate poverty for their populations, OR planning for a gradual transition of populations from low-lying coasts?

Bill’s Opinion

To accept the narrative that we must deliberately slow economic growth to protect the environment requires us to believe several, increasingly unlikely propositions in serial, namely;

1. That the climate is changing.

2. That this climate change is predominately due to an increase in atmospheric CO2.

3. The climate change will be catastrophic for the planet.

4. That, by halting or severely reducing CO2 emissions, the change to the climate can be halted or retarded to a “safe” level.

5. That this halting of emissions can be achieved by governmental policy.

6. That, despite no historical evidence of any similar agreement and implementation ever occurring before in human history, enough global consensus will be achieved that the previous 5 statements are correct and what the precise mitigating action should be.

Anyone familiar with betting parlance will understand that what we’ve just described above is an accumulator. They will also know why these don’t pay out very often.

3 Replies to “The Gordian knot of climate modelling”

  1. Indeed.

    What impresses me most about the climate change industry is that they have managed to infect (or intimidate) some of the very largest institutions into aligning with their worldview. What is most impressive from my small window on the world, is that many of these institutions have at their disposal large numbers of highly competent quantitative analysts (well, competent), adept at building and or interpreting models for all sorts of risks. I do acknowledge they get their core job wrong from time to time (GFC anyone?).

    Does the CEO of a major bank turnaround to his/her quant. team and ask “Hey you, Poindexter, I am about to make some short and long term decisions based on these model outcomes, that have been published by people whose ongoing employment is predicated on their model predictions raising sufficient alarm to justify ongoing funding being available?
    Care to engage on a nerd to nerd basis, perhaps a quick chat, an invitation to share the model for review?”.

    No, instead, they rush out their latest sustainability/green initiative from their tragically progressive marketing department/Head of Sustainability, possibly to ensure no bearded hipster chains himself to a branch door for the afternoon, wailing about climate change making it so hot, and lack of access to single origin espresso.

    Or, they do ask the quant. team, and never talk about the results.

    1. I would think the corporate acceptance of the religion of climate change is likely explained by the threat of being a target of activists. Far easier to go along with the vocal consensus and frantically virtue signal rather than take a more sceptical position and risk public condemnation.

  2. That is clearly what is driving their position. But these people otherwise eschew laziness (or at least say they do).

    But there are large businesses taking risk that can clearly be increased (or decreased) should human induced global warming be a thing (or just climate change generally). And they have the means at their disposal to investigate some of the basis for this risk.

    Some of the more sophisticated entities (possibly insurers, not domestic focussed building societies/major banks) may be assessing some of this risk, and making public announcements that please activists, while positioning their business the other way.

    This stance will have changed when you see the Head of ESG/Sustainability report to the Head of Risk rather than Investor Relations/Marketing/Corporate Affairs, or the position disappear entirely and the activities be assumed by the Risk teams. The reporting lines tell me that the risk teams either don’t believe in it, or it is too far in the future too matter to anyone but the people who manage reputational risk. There is no mistake though, it is driving strategy, just not with a traditional risk focus.

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