Saturday, December 22, 2012

Met Office forecasts show something wrong

The Met Office forecast of annual global temperatures for 2013 was published yesterday.  History suggests it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The problem is not that the Met Office is a long way out.  Rather it consistently forecasts a warmer year than the figures eventually show.  They have overshot in 12 out of the 13 years between 1999 and 2011.  By the 31st December this year that will almost certainly be 13 years out of 14.  Here are the figures:

Year   Forecast  Actual
1999  ...0.38    ...0.26
2000  ...0.41    ...0.24
2001  ...0.47    ...0.40
2002  ...0.47    ...0.46
2003  ...0.55    ...0.46
2004  ...0.50    ...0.43
2005  ...0.51    ...0.47
2006  ...0.45    ...0.43
2007  ...0.54    ...0.40
2008  ...0.37    ...0.31
2009  ...>0.40  . .0.44
2010  ...0.58    ...0.50
2011  ...0.44   ....0.35
2012     0.48   ....0.45 (Jan-Oct)
2013     0.57    ...

It is not clear why the Met Office make their annual forecast given that it is so consistently flawed.  However, it may be in order to get these headlines year after year:
"UK's Met Office sees 2013 as likely to be one of the warmest on record".
Certainly the recorded annual temperatures are higher this century than for most years of the 20th century.  But the trend from today back in time - where there has been no statistically significant warming - now stretches back for 16 years.  Although comparatively high temperatures temperatures have been sustained, that is in contrast to the expectations contained in the four IPPC assessment reports which have all indicated with a 90% certainty that temperatures would by now have risen steeply.  The contrast is all the sharper given the steady rise in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

There is something wrong in the models and forecasts.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

United Nations and Scottish Widows in Edinburgh

The Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP), based in Edinburgh, is one of Europe's largest asset management companies and part of Lloyds Banking Group.  It manages investments worth £142bn.

The United Nations has an finance initiative under its Environment Programme (UNEP) establishing and encouraging observance of principles of responsible investment (UNPRI).

Both these organisations are brought together in Dr Craig Mackenzie, who is both Head of Sustainability at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and chair of the UN PRI reporting framework Technical Committee.  Craig was one of the presenters at the first UNPRI event in Edinburgh which I attended last month.  One area on which he focussed was the danger of climate change disaster.

His presentation included an image showing the 2090-99 projection of Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI - it is the last of the maps in the four below).  Under the heading 'An even bigger tragedy?', and with extra highlighting of the severe drought colours, I considered his presentation both speculative and melodramatic.  By the time he had finished his presentation he had also conjured with the word 'disaster' and I concluded that he wanted to jolt us investors into more radical action to prevent climate change.

There followed a discussion of the barriers to more effective action to prevent dangerous climate change and the discussion identified decision takers, IE politicians, as being a particular problem.  Being the only politician in the room I was asked point blank what needed to be done to get them (us) to act.

I suggested that decision takers were not likely to be impressed by a speculative projection of what might happen 80-90 years in the future as in the PDSI image. Dr Mackenzie's image referenced a paper in Nature Climate Change which seemed to me to be counter to another peer reviewed paper in Nature.  The latter, more recent, paper seems to suggest that the PDSI may suffer from a rather serious calculation error.

What happened next, however, was more interesting.  At the coffee break I offered to explain myself to Dr Mackenzie.  I could hardly believe my ears when he talked about sceptics in the same breath as flat earthers.

But there was more.  I suggested that there were many impeccably qualified climate scientists, such as Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, who were sceptical of the position Dr Mackenzie had articulated.  His response was that Lindzen has been proved wrong on every point by peer reviewed papers!   He also presented the old saw that sceptics were regarded as wrong by 97% of climate scientists.  He seemed totally unaware of the weaknesses (or even the claims) of the particular piece of research from which that claim had arisen.

There was much else which separated us and I offered to engage with further evidence.  A brief ensuing correspondence, in which I gave sources and reasons for my position, only served to confirm my suspicion that, beyond headline claims, Dr Mackenzie is not very well informed on climate change issues.  In particular, he is ill informed about the arguments and positions of those he seeks to demonise with the terms 'outlier' and 'flat earthers'.

I know Scottish Widows Investment Partnership has some very competent investment managers.  I am sure the Head of Sustainability is better informed in other areas than he is about climate change - and how to persuade decision takers in relation to climate change.

I trust our investments with SWIP are safe.