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The Carbon Brief Interview: Christiana Figueres

Posted on 23 June 2015 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from the Carbon Brief by Leo Hickman

Christiana Figueres has been the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since July 2010 and was reappointed for a second three-year term in July 2013. Before then, she was a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team at the UNFCCC from 1995-2009. In 1995, she founded the non-profit Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas, based in Washington DC.


On defining success at the Paris climate conference this coming December: "If financial support for developing countries to be able to follow that path [to bring their population out of poverty but to do so in a low-carbon, high-resilient way] is made evident, then I think we have success."

The political possibility of limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5C: "I don't know that it is possible to say right now are we going to end up with 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9C? But it's got to be within that range. There is no doubt that it has to be below 2C."

The legal form of the Paris agreement: "I don't think that the whole agreement is actually going to have the same legal nature [as the Kyoto protocol], but rather there will be several components, key components, that will have different legal nature."

Whether the world could tackle climate change without the UNFCCC: "This has to be done in a way that protects the most vulnerable. That would not occur without the UNFCCC."

How the IPCC can best complement the UNFCCC: "There has been a very clear intent to be more and more guided by science. And you see it in all of the negotiations now that there is much more direct dialogue, in fact, even between the delegates and the scientists, which is a very welcome development."

The usefulness of the IPCC's carbon budgets to the UNFCCC: "I think [they have] brought a sense of realism and a sense of urgency into this discussion."

The challenge of reviewing and aggregating the INDCs [intended nationally determined contributions]: "What we have here is a fruit salad. We have apples, we have pears and we, in fact, even have bananas."

The importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNFCCC: "If we do not address climate change in a timely fashion, we will wipe out all the development gains that have been made in the past 15-20 years. We will wipe that out."

The challenge for the UN of managing these parallel, inter-related processes: "When I first saw it I thought how is this going to be possible, and it is very, very difficult, but...we will remember 2015 as being a very important year in the history of the design of mankind."

On reports that the French will present their own text for a climate deal, if progress at the UNFCCC is slow: "They are not going to come with their own text. This is not a Copenhagen 2.0."


CB: How would you define success in Paris and what are the obstacles to success?

CF: Well, obviously, success is always in the eye of the beholder. So, I'm sure that if you asked 200 people, you'd get 200 different answers. But, from a big picture, what is success? I think success is a guiding framework that will act as a North Star, if you will, for both increasing resilience and decreasing emissions, in an inverse relationship to each other. So that over the next 10-20 years, we can see an economy that is increasingly resilient, because we have more and more investment in resilient infrastructure, and we would also see an economy that is decreasing its greenhouse gases. And the result of that is a global economy that is getting stronger and stronger, particularly in developing countries. So, to me, the heart of the challenge is how do you decouple GDP from GHG? How do you support, in particular, developing countries to continue their growth: to bring their population out of poverty but to do so in a low-carbon, high-resilient way. If that is mapped out in Paris, and if the financial support for developing countries to be able to follow that path is made evident in Paris, then I think we have success.

CB: On that final night in Paris, what do you anticipate to be the issues that are still being discussed and negotiated? What are those key issues?

CF: I think, clearly, one of the very very difficult issues is the financial support for developing countries. Not because we don't know what that is, but because there are challenges in making that evident. And we do have some data that goes into the past from the Standing Committee on Finance. We do have some data as to what the financial support has been from North to South. But that piece, I think, is going to be one of the more complicated ones because there's not necessarily full agreement on definitions of what constitutes what is inside the boundary of what is going to be recognised as financial support, and what is outside. Financial flows occur without necessarily being tagged, just like you can tag a photo now on the internet, right. But that's not the way finance occurs. You can't really tag it - this is climate finance or this is not climate finance. It's much more complicated that that. And increasingly we see blending of instruments, of financial instruments to support the financial cost of any initiative, of any investment. So, it's a much more complex issue than we thought it was at the beginning.

And yet, despite this complexity, we do have to get to the point where developing countries feel comfort that there is going to be enough financial support for them to make this huge technological leap that we are hoping that they are going to make. So, both because of the complexity, but also because there's not a black and white answer to it, it's going to be very much a, well, what is going to be on the table that provides comfort? So it's a little bit hard to pin down and, frankly, it's the developing countries that are going to have to decide, are they comfortable?

CB: The IPCC says that on current emission trends the world will use up the carbon budget for 1.5C in under a decade. Is 1.5C still politically possible?

CF: You know, it's very interesting because the 1.5C and 2C came out of Copenhagen and most of the thinking and planning and policy design that has occurred since then has been targeting keeping us under 2C, so below 2C. And it's only until recently that there has been a renewed concern around that, to find out is the 2C actually going to be appropriate, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable populations. Or should there be a ratcheting down to the 1.5C? It remains to be seen and is very much of a conversation right now.I actually think that it's going to be very, very difficult for countries to commit to a specific temperature today because there are many, many factors that are going to affect that. I think what is absolutely critical is to set the destination, the intent, the collective intent throughout several decades of where we want to come. And, frankly, it should be about reaching an ecological balance that we no longer have, which is the balance between those emissions that we will have to put out because they're unavoidable and the natural absorptive capacity of the planet. If we can reach that balance by the second half of the century, then we will have obtained the ultimate objective. And then we will be within that range of temperature. I don't know that it is possible to say right now are we going to end up with 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9C? But it's got to be within that range. There is no doubt that it has to be below 2C. How much below 2C - and it's very obvious that lower temperatures provide more security and more safety. That is unquestioned.

CB: Treaty, protocol, legal instrument, outcome of legal force: does the legal form of the text matter, and what level of bindingness should the agreement have?

CF: If you ask governments about that question I don't think that they would be able to answer that in one phrase. Because I think, contrary to the Kyoto protocol, this legal instrument that is being built here will not have one level of legal bindingness - and it's interesting that you already use that word because it's a word that we've actually created, it doesn't really exist. But the fact that we're already using that word, already denotes that we're understanding that there is a much more nuanced consideration of legal nature of the different components of the text. So, once we have a Paris agreement, which will be accompanied by decisions that provide the modalities and procedures, but once we have a Paris agreement I don't think that the whole agreement is actually going to have the same legal nature, but rather there will be several components, key components, that will have different legal nature. So, a much more complex situation than we had under the Kyoto Protocol.

CB: We've got the papal encyclical, the divestment movement, the growth of renewables, early evidence, as you've said, that emissions can be now decoupling from economic growth... Given external events, could the world tackle climate change without the UNFCCC?

CF: I think it is - first of all, it is already tackling climate change, right. Because you see already capital beginning to shift. Very, very interesting announcements from systemically important financial institutions, even just lately, that are really beginning to shift. You see capital decisions, or investment decisions, lending decisions, in the multilateral development banks already beginning to shift. So you see both public and private capital shifting, and that is exactly what needs to happen here in order to change the economy. Now, if you ask me would that capital have shifted without a UNFCCC process? Maybe - but not now. I think what the UNFCCC process does, and has to continue to do, is basically two components. First, to raise the voice of urgency. Because the transformation in the energy sector is one that I believe would happen anyway under normal market forces, because if you look at the evolution of the history of fuels, we would be moving toward more renewable energy anyway. But this is not about obeying the timing of the market, or even the timing of development of technology. This is about obeying the timing of science. So the UNFCCC, one of the very important things that this process has to do, is to raise the voice of urgency. There is only a small window in time that will allow us to tackle climate change. And the second part that I think is absolutely critical, and very unique to the UNFCCC process, in addition to the urgency, is the fact that this has to be done in a way that not only responds to the forces of the market and the development of technology, but this has to be done in a way that protects the most vulnerable. That would not occur without the UNFCCC.So, those two components are key and they do lead to a different outcome. An outcome that is much more directed by the moral imperative and the scientific urgency.

CB: On the point of scientific urgency, on the IPCC... Should it play a formal role in reviewing the INDCs [as was proposed by the previous chair of the IPCC] or any related UNFCCC assessments after Paris?

Well, that's definitely going to be for governments to decide how they want to review the INDCs. But to ask the IPCC to do that doesn't seem to me to make too much sense because the IPCC, what they do is they review literature that has already been published, scientific literature. And so they do a review of that literature. And so, if the IPCC were to do that, it would be a completely different mandate, completely different area that they would move into, because the INDCs is not about scientific research. The INDCs is about economic policies and economic legislation, energy legislation, land-use legislation, or policy or measures or initiatives. A completely different field to what the IPCC has. So I'm guessing that once countries decide that they want to review the INDCs, that would probably be much more a review within the UNFCCC process, similar to, you know, the process that is currently underway - multilateral assessments of the ICAsIARs. Governments have already created this internal informal review process that is currently underway and that can be built on.

CB: But could the IPCC perhaps better complement the UNFCCC's process by having, say, five-year cycles instead of six-to-seven-year assessment cycles? Is the timing correct at the moment, or helpful to the UNFCCC?

CF: You know, that has been discussed for quite a while because I think if you look at the history of the evolution of policy, I think the policy of climate change has been on a trajectory of quicker response to science. I think we were very, very far behind when this convention was adopted and I think there is a very clear intent now on the part of governments of being more responsive to science in a quicker way. Not that anyone thinks that we are quick, OK. But there has been a very clear intent to be more and more guided by science. And you see it in all of the negotiations now that there is much more direct dialogue, in fact, even between the delegates and the scientists, which is a very welcome development. Now, on the cycles, there has also been a question about that. But I have to tell you that there is also a discussion about the cycles of the conference of the parties, which are currently occurring once every year and some of the governments are interested in saying, "Well, after Paris is that still going to be necessary?" Or, because we move into an implementation phase, and that is stronger implementation than we have now, should we actually have the conference of the parties every two years? So the cycles, they are working independently of each other. I believe that what we will see before we see a tandem of cycles, I think we will see more and more dovetailing of the content rather than of the cycles. I think we shall see more and more influence of the science on policy, and vice versa, so that relationship between policy and science I think is one that will be strengthened in its content. Cycles, perhaps, not being as critical.

CB: Has the introduction of carbon budgets, that working group one of the IPCC gave us back at the end of 2013, been helpful to this process? Has it been constructive?

CF: Well, I think what it has done is reminded everyone that we do have planetary boundaries. That we're not here working with limitless resources. So, the concept of boundaries is very, very helpful and has worked in tandem with the sense of urgency. That is why we have a sense of urgency, because we only have a limited budget. And it is a budget for the rest of the history of mankind. This is not a budget for the next ten years, for the next hundred, or for the next thousand. That is the budget that we have for the rest of the history of mankind. That is a daunting concept to even begin to incorporate into decision-making. So, in that sense, I think it has brought a sense of realism and a sense of urgency into this discussion.

CB: Given the difficulty over the comparability of methodologies, baselines, emissions data, etc, how meaningful and accurate can the formal review of the INDCS later this year truly be?

CF: There is not going to be a formal review of the INDCs later this year. What are you referring to?

CB: I thought in Lima there was an agreement to, when the INDCs have come in by the point of September, that there would be a formal assessment of whether and how they add up, that would take place around October...

CF: OK, thank you. Let's separate two things. The countries themselves have actually volunteered to present their INDCs in an informal way to each other, because it has actually proven to be quite helpful to have a session in which there can be questions of clarification. What is your assumption behind this number? How are you going to make sure that this policy goes into effect?, etc, etc. That has actually been quite helpful and quite a few of the countries that have presented INDCs - in fact, I think all with the exception of two - every country has actually had this presentation of their INDCs and a questioning period. That's been very, very helpful, but that's an informal... I wouldn't even call it a review. It's sort of a presentation, with questions and answer. Different to that, is the request from parties to the secretariat specifically, not to each other, to write a synthesis report on the aggregate. So the secretariat will be aggregating all the INDCs that we have by then and we will be doing a report on the aggregate impact. So we will not go into each INDC, specifically and individually, but rather it will be the aggregation of it. What we will do is an analysis of the characteristics. For example, we will say so many INDCs are based only on mitigation, so many have mitigation and adaptation concerns. We may be looking into the different sectors that are presented in the INDCs. We may be looking at which of the INDCs have conditional components. We will be looking much more at trends and the aggregate impact of the INDCs, rather than into the INDCs of specific countries.

CB: But you've already said that of the INDCs that have come in already it looks like they don't add up, or aggregate, to deliver 2C...

CF: Completely clear.

CB: But that aggregating process in October, is it established yet which body will do that?

CF: We will in the secretariat.

CB: So it won't be, say, UNEP? You're going to that that internally. OK. But that is going to be challenging because of the apples and pears comparisons between the ways that certain countries have delivered their INDCs against certain baselines, etc...

CF: Which is exactly why we are going to say what we have here is a fruit salad. We have apples, we have pears and we, in fact, even have bananas. So that is our responsibility to lay bare the diversity in the approaches of the INDCs. At the same time, I can already tell you that if you put the numbers together of the INDCs we already know that that first set - because remember it's only the first set of INDCs that will be on the table this year - do not get us to 2C. And certainly not to stay under 2C. And most definitely not to get us to 1.5C. We already know that and everybody knows that. We don't have to wait for any eureka moment in Paris to know that. And I've often told the press, please don't come to Paris and all of a sudden discover that all the INDCs don't put us on 2C because we already know that. And the governments know that also. That is why there is a very, very important part of the Paris agreement that truly reflects the reality here which is that first set of INDCs is the first contribution, but it is not the last. It is the first step along a journey. And what is important in Paris is certainly to welcome and receive these INDCs, unknown exactly how that is going to occur, but certainly there has to be a conceptual receptacle, if you will, built to receive all of these INDCs. But also, just as importantly as receiving the INDCs and acknowledging them, is to chart the long-term pathway.

The long-term pathway of emissions projections that is actually going to get us to global peaking within the next 10 years, says science, and then down to this ecological balance that I'm talking about, which some people call carbon neutrality, some people call it zero-net, for the second half of the century. That is what science is telling us is the only trajectory that is going to keep us under 2C. And Paris needs to look at both the very short-term, which is the pre-2020 emissions, the medium-term, which is the INDCs, but also the long-term, because Paris is not an agreement for five years. Paris, according to most countries that are negotiating and building this, is an agreement, a structure that is going to be accompanying us and guiding emissions for, perhaps, the next couple of decades.

CB: In September we have the Sustainable Development Goals coming up and they currently include a climate goal and an energy-related goal. How do you keep the UNFCCC and the SDG processes complimentary and so they don't tread on each other. How is that managed and what are the risks, or opportunities even?

CF: You know, the ironic part about that it is only at the level of the processes that these two things are running in a parallel, complementary way. At the level of countries, there is no difference. I was recently in Egypt and Egypt is very interested, as is Morocco - two countries that are in the front of my mind right now - very interested in moving very quickly into increasing substantially the presence of renewable energy in their energy matrix. Now when Morocco or Egypt, or any other country, do that, when they get those investments, when they put more and more renewables online, is that sustainable development, or is that an answer to climate change? Frankly, it's both. From a Moroccan or Egyptian perspective, what they're doing is increasing their energy security and decreasing their dependency of the import of fossil fuels. So, if you want to say that is to do with sustainable development, well, yes, but it also has to do with helping climate change. It's both. From a country's perspective, those two things are inextricably linked. Thank heavens, because that is the reality.

Now, fortunately, or unfortunately, whatever way you want to look at it, there are two processes in the United Nations. Governments have created two processes for these two things for very understandable reasons and that is that the SDGs represent and aspiration of society say, "What kind of society do we want to have in 20-30 years? What are the characteristics of that society?" It's an aspirational, visioning exercise, with metrics, which is good. In the climate convention, this is treaty bind. This is a legal text-producing process. What is agreed here is legally-binding. It is legally binding, certainly domestically and, when they agree to it, also internationally. So it's a very different legal nature and here we measure according to increasing resilience and decrease in greenhouse gases, which are very specific metrics. Under the SDGs, they have different metrics for the different things. But they are two legally and procedurally two different issues, or two different processes that are very, very complimentary of each other and, from the countries' point of view, are not to be divided. Fortunately, because that is what really counts. That is what really counts. And the other thing that one has to understand, is that, from the global perspective, from the planetary perspective, forget about the UN now in its infinite wisdom of two processes, they also completely go hand-in-hand for the following very specific reason. If we do not address climate change in a timely fashion, we will wipe out all the development gains that have been made in the past 15-20 years. We will wipe that out.  We will severely threaten any further development and growth, particularly in developing countries. And we will condemn the populations that are most vulnerable in every country, but particularly the populations where vulnerability is shared by all citizens, we are condemning them doubly, because they are already vulnerable and we would be condemning them to huge impacts from which they may not recover. So, the fact is from a planetary perspective, these two things are completely linked. From the countries' perspective, they 're linked.

It's only within the UN process that these two, for approach reasons and for practicality, have been separated. But it's, frankly, an artificial - perhaps helpful - but nonetheless an artificial separation.

CB: I'm just thinking of the tightness of the two moments. So you've got September in New York for the SDGs and climate and energy being solidified, or negotiated within that. And then often with the very same negotiating teams, certainly from the developing countries, then arriving in Paris, or even in October in Bonn, with good or bad will, depending how it turned out in New York. I'm just wondering how you manage that in this process.

CF: Good or bad will. And exhaustion, in addition. [Laughs]

CB: I'm just thinking of the timescales. They are very tight.

CF: They are very, very tight. But this didn't just happen by surprise. We knew that this was coming. [Amina] Mohammed in New York, my counterpart over there, we actually did sit down a couple of years ago and look at the 2015 calendar and made sure that all these wonderful delegations - and, as you say, there are some very small delegations that have both responsibilities and it's a very crazy, crazy year for them - so we did make sure that we wouldn't be in session at the same time. We also made sure that the first part of the year was more intense on the SDG side than it is on the climate side and the second part of the year is going to be more intense on the climate side than it is on the SDG side. So we did work that out ahead of time in the planning because we knew there was going to be this crunch and particularly difficult for small countries. That doesn't mean that it is not exhausting, right. These people are incredibly courageous that they keep on going from one to the other. And it's physically exhausting even if they are doing just one. Now, from a planetary perspective, you know, I look down at the earth as though I was the atmosphere here, from a planetary perspective, it's actually very wise. If we all survive 2015's exhaustion, which we must, it actually makes a lot of sense because these two things being so intertwined and so mutually impacting each other, it is best that they're looked at conceptually as if they are one package. In their infinite wisdom, the governments decided that 2015 would be the deadline for both processes which, you know, when I first saw it I thought how is this going to be possible, and it is very, very difficult, but you can see that it makes sense because it does mean that we will remember 2015 as being a very important year in the history of the design of mankind.

CB: Finally, one last question: the French presidency have said they are willing to come forward with a text if progress here is too slow. Would that be constructive and welcome from your point of view?

CF: Well, I must say that that was a very unfortunate interpretation of what the French presidency has said. And they have clarified I don't know how many times. What they are saying is that a) they remain neutral in guiding this process and they are committed to encouraging and shepherding this process to the end. And b) that they are committed to the work that is being done by governments currently under the guidance of the co-chairs - and you see them here working very, very hard supporting the work of the co-chairs. They are not going to come with their own text. This is not a Copenhagen 2.0. They are not going to come with their own text. There is a natural evolution in the process of the text that is, at some points in time, very, very worked by the governments themselves. Sometimes the governments ask the co-chairs for help and the co-chairs then put a paper that doesn't have any status in front of governments for them to consider, then it goes back. There is naturally evolution and in the end, there will be the expectation of guidance from the presidency. That is not new. That is a very natural evolution of a negotiation. But guidance from the president once we get to Paris is very different from saying they will put a text on the table that they have invented from nowhere. That is not the case.

CB: OK, thank you very much for your time.

CF: Thank you.

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. The 2C limit has already been exceeded in the north Pacific according to a recent peer-reviewed paper. Climatologists have missed ocean warming and concentrated instead on the trivial atmospheric 7%.

    The paper shows 3C the North Pacific reached in 2013-15: No winter surfing at Tofino, Vancouver this past winter.
    The warm water melts ice from beneath (basal icemelt).
    The result is net cooling from large ocean warming. Hence the talk of a hiatus.
    The authors report double exponential greenhouse gas accumulation and ice melt.
    I had never heard of this doubling fractional growth in halving increments.
    It is alarming if true.
    I hope they are wrong but centuries of daily data suggest otherwise.

    The paper is online:

    Matthews, J. Brian, 2015, Isle of Man, Galapagos and sunspot data show net cooling hid double exponential ocean warming danger: +3°C in 2014, +4°C likely by 2016, Journal of Advances in Physics, 9(2), 2355-2371, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2201.6169,

    The prediction of 4C by 2016 will be easily testable.
    There is not way to stop it if true.

    It would be worth erring on the side of caution and taking this seriously.
    It suggests the Paris Conference will need to take much more urgent decisions.

    PS The author was a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and Royal Geographical Society in 1963 and is a 50 year American Geophysical Union Gold Award Scientist.
    It seems to be well founded.

    1 1
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Link activated.

  2. Micawber @1, I quote from the abstract:

    "Time-poor scientists, stripped of their intellectual property rights, under rewarded, poorly educated, and ruthlessly exploited by growth-obsessed commercial interests, missed catastrophic global warming and multiple extreme consequences. Climate scientists abandoned classical physics and Newton-Hooke field verification in favor of unverified beliefs, models, and apps. Climate studies confuse heat with temperature, do not include basal icemelt, density temperature-salinity function, Clausius-Clapeyron evaporation exponential skin temperature function, asymmetric brineheat sequestration, solar and tidal pumping, infra-red GHG heat trap, vertical tropical cells, freshwater warm pools; or wind-driven surface currents at 3 percent of windspeed. Climate model mistaken assumptions lead to the absurd conclusion that evaporation in the Labrador Sea at midnight in midwinter is greater than at the midday Equator."

    That sort of rant is not found in scientific articles.  Nor are the claims true.  Given that the journal of publication mimics the name of a high impact physics journal to which it has no association, only publishes for a fee (and hence is reasonably described as a vanity press), has editorial board members with dubious or no academic affiliation (I particularly like 4 and 5), and its publisher (Council of Innovative Research) is listed on Beall's list of predatory journals, and given that the author published no papers from 1991-2011 (since when the majority of his publications have been in predatory press), I would take this article with a very large grain of salt.

    2 1
  3. I see absolutely no physics in the rant of Tom Curtis. He attacks the messenger (the journal) not the message. Could he please enlighten us as to which of the quoted physics is wrong?
    "Climate studies confuse heat with temperature, do not include basal icemelt, density temperature-salinity function, Clausius-Clapeyron evaporation exponential skin temperature function, asymmetric brineheat sequestration, solar and tidal pumping, infra-red GHG heat trap, vertical tropical cells, freshwater warm pools; or wind-driven surface currents at 3 percent of windspeed."
    The author claims that pan evaporation over land is used instead of the correct Clausius-Clapeyron evaporation at the air-sea interface. He claims that a recent paper using the wrong evaporation shows uniform evaporation night and day at the equator. Is he wrong?
    What are your qualifications for being so dismissive? Are you qualified to make such as a sweeping dismissal?
    As I understand it, the author used what you call the vanity press because the journals in which he formerly published now charge him to see his own papers That includes Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research and the Quartley Journal of The Royal Meteorologicial Society. Doesn't that make them the predatory press?
    I think the point he makes is that this predatory press is not open to people like him with over 50 years experience and a very wide and deep physics background. Richard Smith of Imperial College is referenced as establishing the damage done by unethical predatory science publishing business. As I understand it, ResearchGate was founded to give free open access for genuine researchers without paywalls.
    I'm puzzled as to why the claim that the author did not publish after 30 years should have any relevance. Perhaps he retired. Does it mean he forgot all he knew? Just what is the meaning of this rant? It is certainly not scientific discussion.
    Scientific method depends on verification of theories by experimental evidence. The paper uses centuries of daily data. Where is your evidence to the contrary?
    Please would you post which physics is wrong in the above quote together with the experimental verification field data.

    SkepticalScience has always attacked people who make claims but cannot substantiate them. There are far too many armchair critics and far too few who actually go into the field and get real data. If you cannot do that then take it seriously. What have you to lose?
    After all, the north Pacific is already widely reported to be +3C which is 50% more than the supposed target limit of +2C. Do you dispute this?
    Please let readers look into the claims in the paper. The author says that well-founded trends suggest it will be +4C by 2016.
    What if he is right and you are wrong? You'll soon find out who was fiddling while Rome burns as the author suggests.
    It would be better if it were sooner rather than later. Please let us know the secure physical basis for dismissing the findings of this paper. I hope you can do this. If not we really do have a serious crisis.

    0 1
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The angry and argumentative tone of your comment is not welcome here. Please do not use it into your future posts.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  4. Micawber - I was a little more perturbed by these quite unprofessional statements in the abstract:

    "Corporate governance degraded physics teaching in only 60 years. Individual discovery and data collection was lost. [...] Skeptics, politicians, statisticians, those with stakes in the status quo, and established research censors obstructing scientific progress squabble in ignorance while the globe burns." 

    Seriously? This is a rant. And the questionable physics involved in statements like the following certainly doesn't help:

    "All ocean near-surface gyre currents harmonize with sunspot cycles. Net cooling by polar icemelt masks catastrophic exponential ocean warming and icemelt. [...] We use only experimental groundtruth from high quality coastal ocean timeseries data without the imposition of statistical or model re-processing" (emphasis added)

    "...double-exponential..."  (???)

    No, gyres are not harmonized with sunspots, no, coastal only data is insufficient, and no, you cannot avoid statistical evaluation of your data. Double-exponential functions [ A^(bx) ] grow faster than factorials - but there is absolutely no evidence of such rates of growth in climate systems. Nor any physical justification thereof. 

    This is clearly a heartfelt paper, but given even a quick perusal  it fails to meet my personal criteria for statistically meaningful data, for avoidance of scientific howlers, for actual peer review, and overall histrionics. 

    Beware confirmation bias - even if a paper's conclusions and message resonate with your own, you need to apply appropriate skepticism to the work. 

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  5. Micawber...  One small point here on this comment: "After all, the north Pacific is already widely reported to be +3C which is 50% more than the supposed target limit of +2C. Do you dispute this?" 

    The 2C limit is a reference to global average temperature. A rise of 2C in the global average would be inclusive of less than 2C near the equator and much more than 2C in the Arctic. Saying that the north Pacific is already +3C has no bearning on the 2C limit (other than its relative contribution to the global average).

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  6. Evidently Micawber @3 does not know the meaning of the word "rant".

    Nor does he know the role of peer review in science.  Peer review is a means whereby published papers are screened by a panel of people with relevant expertise to see that they do not contain any obvious fraud, unphysical assumptions or blunders of analysis.  Normally peer reviewers are helpful, and will try to point out ways in which the paper can be improved, but the fact that a paper has been peer reviewed is only an imprimature of those three basic criteria.  That means of course, that peer reviewed papers can contain fraud, unphysical assumptions or blunders of analysis but they will not be obvious frauds, unphysical assumptions or blunders.  At least, they will not be obvious if the peer reviewed process worked.

    Given this low standard of the imprimature of peer review, you have to wonder what it says about a paper when they seek to avoid proper peer review, either by publication in a low impact journal with no history of publication in the field, or as in this case by publication in a "journal" whose business model requires not properly peer reviewing papers as doing so will reduce the number of publication fees recieved.  The reasonable assumption is that if a paper is not published with proper peer review, in the author's estimate it would not pass peer review, and hence (at least subconsiously) in the author's estimate it contains fraud or unphysical assumptions or outright blunders of analysis.  

    And Matthew's 2015 includes blunders applenty.  Blunder's such as treating a warming trend dating back only to Oct 2013 as being somehow representative of climate change (ie of change in long term statistical averages), or of treating purely regional temperature anomalies as being indicative of crossing global target temperature levels.  Or blunders (at best) such as saying climate models "confuse heat with temperature",  or do not include "density temperature-salinity function[s]", "Clausius-Clapeyron evaporation", "vertical tropical cells" or "wind-driven surface currents".  Even more astounding as a blunder is the claim that climate studies do not include the "infra-red GHG heat trap", ie, the greenhouse effect.  

    These examples are just from the abstract alone.  I pointed out that Matthew's claims about what was and was not included in climate studies were false without specifically enumerating them.  Indeed, while I have expanded on that, I have still not enumerated them as there are plenty more in the body of the paper, some as astonishing as the claim that "Climate studies ... do not include ...[the] infra-red GHG heat trap".  But once a paper starts claiming that climate studies ignore the greenhouse effect, do we really need to take it seriously anymore? 

    Micawber evidently thinks so but the world is too full of crackpot ideas to trouble ourselve wading through them in hopes of finding a gem of wisdom.  I don't have enough time to read peer reviewed science as it is.  Nobody does!  So I am not going to lose that time in the hopes that somebody who accuses climate scientists of ignoring the greenhouse effect may also have said something sensible.

    So, when Micawber asks me "What are your qualifications for being so dismissive?", the answer is very simple.  I have a brain, and I use it!  It would be nice if he did likewise.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please keep it civil!

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