Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Hadley update

I've still not seen much that's caused me to substantially update my priors:
  • Greenhouse gases should, in theory, increase temperatures
  • Solar output also affects temperatures but that's downplayed because it detracts from the "it's all our fault" message
  • The "consensus" is overly politicized: strong funding incentives to push public messages beyond what the science can support
  • I have a hard time believing that it makes more sense to impose costs on ourselves now than to wait a couple decades to see how the science develops and whether technological fixes can emerge, potentially using prizes to incentivize things.
  • Future people will be richer than us, so imposing costs on ourselves to benefit future generations is highly regressive. It is better to impose a cost on future generations when the present discounted value of that cost is less than the present costs of avoiding imposing that cost (disagreeing with Cowen here on discounting's applicability across generations).
  • The very most we should be doing is imposing a small carbon tax that can be ramped up quickly should things look more desperate later on.

Ambrosini notes a fair number of folks whose reactions to the Hadley hack have been similar to mine. Maybe I've just been relatively nonplussed because I never had particularly high expectations of the scientific consensus. The folks who viewed the climate scientists as some kind of messiahs will be disappointed. Take George Monbiot (HT: Volokh)
It's no use pretending this isn't a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.

Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.
Monbiot goes on to note that only a small fraction of evidence has been discredited by the hack.

Megan McCardle gets this one right:
I'd say that the charge that climate skeptics "are not published in peer reviewed journals" just lost most of its power as an argument against the skeptics.
Biggest surprise so far for me: still absolutely nothing about it on the Hadley Center's website, almost a week later. They note that they're running from the emergency server, which apparently doesn't back up very often: the temperature data now available is half a year out of date (truncates at March). I wonder how much damage the hack did to their servers and what was lost.

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