Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade

Summary: Despite thirty years of efforts by most of the elite institutions of America, US governments have done little to fight climate change. While a bout of awful weather might panic America into enacting activists’ wish list, as of today this is one of the great political failures of modern American history. It is rich with lessons for when scientists warn of the next disaster. The 21st century will give us more such challenges. Let’s try to do better.

Climate change choices - dreamstime_50990297
ID 50990297 © Kiosea39 | Dreamstime.

The puzzle of the climate change crusade

Since James Hansen brought global warming to the headlines in his 1988 Senate testimony, scientists working for aggressive public policy action have had almost every advantage. They have PR agencies (e.g., the expensive propaganda video by 10:10). They have most of America’s elite institutions supporting them, including government agencies, the news media, academia, foundations, even funding from the energy companies. The majority of scientists in all fields support the program.

The other side, “skeptics”, have some funding from energy companies and conservative groups, with the heavy lifting being done by a small number of scientists and meteorologists, plus volunteer amateurs.

What the Soviet military called the correlation of forces overwhelmingly favored those wanting action. Public policy in America and the West should have gone green many years ago. But America’s governments have done little. Climate change ranks at the bottom of most surveys of what Americans’ see as our greatest challenges? (CEOs, too.) In November, Washington voters decisively defeated an ambitious proposal to fight climate change.

And not just in the USA. Climate change policy toppled Australia’s government. The Yellow Vest protests in France are the death knell for large-scale action in France. What went wrong?

The narrative gives answers

The usual answers use the information deficit model, in which the public’s skepticism about the need for radical action results from a lack of information. Thirty years of providing information at increasing volume and intensity has accomplished nothing. Pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter.

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
— Ancient adage of Alcoholics Anonymous. More about that here.

Others give more complex explanations, such as “Between conflation and denial – the politics of climate expertise in Australia” by Peter Tangney in the Australian Journal of Political Science.

“This paper describes an ongoing tension between alternative uses of expert knowledge that unwittingly combines facts with values in ways that inflame polarised climate change debate. Climate politics indicates a need for experts to disentangle disputed facts from identity-defining group commitments.” {See Curry’s article for more about this paper.}

There are simpler and more powerful explanations for the campaign’s failure. Lessons giving us useful lessons for dealing with future threats.

Lessons learned

Lesson #1: Standards are high for those sounding the alarm

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”
—  A harsh but operationally accurate Roman proverb.

We have seen this played out many times in books and films since the publication of When Worlds Collide in 1932. A group of scientists see a threat. They go to America’s (or the world’s) leaders and state their case, presenting the data for others to examine and answering questions. There are two levels to this process.

First, the basis for the warnings must be evaluated by an interdisciplinary team of experts outside the community sounding the alarm. Climate models are the core of the warning about climate change. They have never been so examined. Perhaps we can end the climate policy wars by a test of the models. Whatever the costs of such reviews and tests, they would be trivial compared to the need to establish public confidence in these models.

Second, questions from the public must be answered. Of course, such warnings are greeted with skepticism. That is natural given the extraordinary nature of the threat and vast commitment of resources needed to fight it. Of course, many of the questions will be foolish or ignorant. Nevertheless, they all must be answered, with the supporting data made publicly available. Whatever the cost of doing so, it is trivial compared to the need.

Scientists seeking to save the world should never say things like this…

“In response to a request for supporting data, Philip Jones, a prominent researcher {U of East Anglia} said ‘We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?’”

– From the testimony of Stephen McIntyre before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (the July 2006 hearings which produced the Wegman Report). Jones has not publicly denied this.

Scientists seeking to save the world should not destroy key records, which are required to be kept and made public. They should not force people to file Freedom of Information requests to get key information. And the response to FOIs should never be like this…

“The {climategate} emails reveal repeated and systematic attempts by him and his colleagues to block FOI requests from climate sceptics who wanted access to emails, documents and data. These moves were not only contrary to the spirit of scientific openness, but according to the government body that administers the FOI act were ‘not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation.’” {The Guardian.}

Steve McIntyre has documented the defensive and self-defeating efforts of climate scientists to keep vital information secret, often violating the disclosure policies of journals, universities, and government funding agencies. To many laypeople these actions by scientists scream “something wrong”.

Yet these were common behaviors by climate scientists to requests for information by both scientists and amateurs. This kind of behavior, more than anything else, provoked skepticism. Rightly or not, this lack of transparency suggested that the scientists sounding the alarm were hiding something.

The burden of proof rests on those warning the world about a danger requiring trillions of dollars to mitigate, and perhaps drastic revisions to – or even abandoning – capitalism (as in Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and “In Fiery Speeches, {Pope} Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism“).

Lesson #2: don’t get tied to activists

Activists latch onto threats for their own purposes. They exaggerate threats, attack those asking questions, and poison the debate. Scientists who treat them as allies must remember the ancient rule that “silence means assent.” Failure to speak when activists misrepresent the science discredits both groups.

For a sad example, look at “the pause.” Starting in 2006 climate scientists noticed a slowing in the rate of atmospheric warming. By 2009 there were peer-reviewed papers about it (e.g., in GRL), and it was an active focus of research (see links to these 29 papers). In 2013 the UK Met Office published a series of papers about the pause, which shifted the frontier of climate science from discussion about the existence of the “pause” to its causes (see links to these 38 papers). Some scientists gave forecasts of its duration (see links to 17 forecasts) – since a pause is, by definition, temporary.

During this period activists wrote scores, or hundreds, of articles not only denying that there was a pause in warming – but mocking as “deniers” people citing the literature about it. For example, see Phil Plait’s articles at Slate here and here. The leaders of climate science remained silent. Even those writing papers about the pause remained silent while activists ignored their work.

While an impressive display of climate scientists’ message discipline, it blasted away their credibility for those who saw the science behind the curtain of propaganda.

Learn from mistakes

Conclusions

“The time for debate has ended”
Marcia McNutt (then editor-in-Chief of Science and now President of the NAS) in “The beyond-two-degree inferno“, an editorial in Science, 3 July 2015.

I agree with McNutt: the public policy debate has ended. A critical mass of the US public has lost confidence in climate science as an institution (i.e., rejecting its warnings). As a result, the US probably will take no substantial steps to prepare for possible future climate change, not even preparing for re-occurrence of past extreme weather. The weather will determine how policy evolves, and eventually prove which side was right.

All that remains is to discuss the lessons we can learn from this debacle so that we can do better in the future. More challenges lie ahead in which we will need scientists to evaluate risks and find the best responses. Let’s hope we do better next time.

Other posts in this series

  1. Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  2. Fix the mistakes that killed the climate change campaign!
  3. Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade.
  4. Climate activists show us why they lose.
  5. Simple steps to prepare for climate change.

For More Information

See the new IPCC report: “Global Warming of 1.5 °C.” SR15 differs from AR15 on one major way: it assume +1.5°C over pre-industrial creates Armageddon. That’s odd, since we are already at 1°C over (much of that is natural warming). To understand the origin of these “red lines” see “The Invention of the Two-Degree Target” in Der Spiegel.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about ways to end the climate wars…

  1. Importantclimate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.
  3. Daniel Davies’ insights about predictions can unlock the climate change debate.
  4. Karl Popper explains how to open the deadlocked climate policy debate.
  5. Paul Krugman talks about economics. Climate scientists can learn from his insights.
  6. Milton Friedman’s advice about restarting the climate policy debate.
  7. A candid climate scientist explains how to fix the debate.
  8. Roger Pielke Jr.: climate science is a grab for power.

Alarmists worked hard to keep you from reading this book.

Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

Alarmists have worked long and hard to discredit Roger Pielke Jr., because he tells us about the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. Things that violate the “narrative” about our imminent doom. They really do not want you to read this book, the revised second edition of …

The Rightful Place of Science:
Disasters & Climate Change
.
By Roger Pielke Jr.

See my review of the first edition. Here is the publisher’s summary …

“After nearly every hurricane, heatwave, drought, or other extreme weather event, commentators rush to link the disaster with climate change. But what does the science say?

“In this fully revised and updated edition of Disasters & Climate Change, renowned political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the climate data to give you the latest science on how climate change is related to extreme weather. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”

57 thoughts on “Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade”

  1. Thanks, Larry.
    A timely article for me. A link to this will be my last entry on the local liberal rag opinion section editorial page; ‘We must act aggressively and immediately on climate change.’
    I doubt any of my foes over there will read it, but that’s the way it always goes. They are heavy on virtue signaling, “do it for our grandchildren”, ignore science and belittle skeptics.
    The alarmists need to find a new cause.

    1. A new cause would let us have six months, maybe even a year before the established fault lines and repetitious remarks and platitudes got stabilized. I’m all for it. Maybe something to do with the oceans?

    2. Definitely something to do with water! ;-)
      It seems that the water just in the Great Lakes has almost 19x the heat capacity of the entire atmosphere… (not counting the phase changes)

    3. From my own limited perspective — a simplified comment (~300 words)

      Facts:
      All humans with observational ability must agree that weather changes, and most with interest in the Earth climate do agree that climate too does change; the weather tend to show cyclicity — i.e. for those living around or beyond the tropics, the weather follows the seasons driven by relative insolation.

      Theories:
      It could be observed that CO2 concentration had been in fairly steady decline over the past ~150 million years while the temperature record had not shown following that trend (Scotese/Berner 2001 and Moore 2016).
      Further, good repeatability and fair accuracy of the ice cores analysis show that in the last 420ky (Vostok) glacial/inter-glacial periodicity followed a clear pattern where the concentration of CO2 and CH4 followed the apparently insolation driven temperature cycles.

      Hypothesis:
      The climate of the past few million years seems to follow a more subtle and far more complex variation of the insolation (i.e. Milanković). There are likely more factors and players than just that, but most of the hypothesizing may not yet formed into testable theories.
      Do I believe that the climate scientists know this? Well, they certainly do; however, some chose to deny the above facts and theories and fabricate their own hockey sticks (or “Schtiks”) to bang the clueless politicians and activists into believing their ManBearPig = CAGW…

      Conclusion:
      As for beliefs — I try to not “believe” anything.
      I can observe and form my own opinion or accept hypothesis that do not seem to contradict facts and corresponding theories and, since I have no beliefs to dwell on, nor vested interest in this, I can change my opinion following discoveries of new facts and associated hypothesis and the theories that follow.

      As for the “water factoid” — I thought that SF: “Maybe something to do with the oceans?” could use a bit of “amplification…”

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Jako,

        Never try to write your own complex physical phenomena from first principles. That’s absurd, a fool’s game. I suspect you lack the background knowledge to even attempt it. For example, start with a detailed description of how a TV works – from the studio to the operation of your LCD screen. That’a far easier task.

        Try reading one of the many clear explanations written by experts. There are many of them out there.

    4. Wow!
      I try not to pretend knowing more than I really do and I always ‘try to write my own’ depictions of complex physical phenomena from the underlying principles — recommended!
      As for your mention of starting with a “simple TV” — funny — have you looked at the processing of video data-streams? Principles and operation of sensors, transmission and displays would again seem trivial in comparison, that is, until you get into bit of a detail there…
      And here we go again to the core of my simpleton’s argument — the modeling: the data to be processed in any model of sufficiently complex phenomenon has to be “simplified” — similar in principle to the JPEG (or MPEG) are applied; now, the question is: Would the results be as forgiving as human perception of a digital photo or a TV stream? Still in doubt? Just consider why the many “specialized climate models” are so inept at predicting of ENSO. There one can see that arguing the likely outcomes of the AGW models amounts to no more than arguing the number of angels dancing on a tip of a needle.
      May I rest my case now?

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Jako,

        “As for your mention of starting with a “simple TV” — funny — have you looked at the processing of video data-streams?”

        You totally miss my point. The operation of a TV system is complex, but child-like simple compared to the operation of the global climate system. Which starts with complex solar phenomena (poorly understood) – to the operation of Earth’s magnetic field – to complex upper atmosphere chemistry and mechanical dynamics — down through many layers down to deep ocean circulation patterns (also poorly understood).

        Modeling these strains the computational power of today’s most powerful supercomputers.

        “May I rest my case now?”

        Sure. You’ve demonstrated that you have little understanding of climate science and modern American’s gross over-confidence.

    5. LK: “You’ve demonstrated that YOU have little understanding of climate science…”
      That is an understatement! NOBODY understands the “climate science” enough to whether create a reliable model or give up on the trying to. The coincidental (IMHO futile) wish for proof of AGW via CO2 input doesn’t help either.

  2. There does seem to be low key acceptance in a lot of situations that the RCP 8.5 version of events, to say nothing of RCP 8.5+++ “the Mad Max movies come true and everyone dies”, is not likely. I tripped over this while reading about whether my canned sardine habit is bad for the planet, at https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/optimism-for-fisheries-under-climate-change/ This is ultimately a layman’s explanation of a fairly complex scientific article, and while it does take some pains to repeat the ritual phrases (I think you observed something similar on that Stratfor article about renewable power)

    On the broader topic I don’t know what’s going on either. I think the people who see some kind of dark Marxist plot here greatly overestimate the organizational and strategic competence of their purported foes. I do feel it roots in the same people who felt a need to fight the spread of creationism in schools by… staging debates? Dropping increasingly thick stacks of evidence? When it was clear to me, even as a child, that they were talking past each other with increasingly passionate volume.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      SF,

      “There does seem to be low key acceptance in a lot of situations that the RCP 8.5 version of events, to say nothing of RCP 8.5+++ “the Mad Max movies come true and everyone dies”, is not likely.”

      Like the “hockey stick”, RCP8.5 was useful for a while – and imo will be quietly discarded as the “business as usual” scenario. But people don’t care anymore. Unless the weather gives activists some support, the debate is over – imo.

  3. You seem to be confusing information and rhetoric.

    First you say “Thirty years of providing information at increasing volume and intensity has accomplished nothing.” The you say “Steve McIntyre has documented the defensive and self-defeating efforts of climate scientists to keep vital information secret, often violating the disclosure policies of journals, universities, and government funding agencies.”

    As I see it, what we have been provided with for thirty years is rhetoric; which has contained very little information and several lies.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Bill,

      “You seem to be confusing information and rhetoric.”

      There is no confusion. The first refers to providing information to the public. The second refers to keeping secret the supporting technical information.

      “As I see it, what we have been provided with for thirty years is rhetoric; which has contained very little information and several lies.”

      You appear confused. That is beyond absurd if referring to the work of climate scientists. It is quite true when referring to climate activists.

    2. “There is no confusion. The first refers to providing information to the public. The second refers to keeping secret the supporting technical information.”

      What exactly is “information to the public” if it is not technical? There are plenty of people in the general public with science skills and much of the sceptical analysis has come from them.

      “That is beyond absurd if referring to the work of climate scientists. It is quite true when referring to climate activists.”

      I agree that most of the providers of “information” to the public have been activists, but that is because climate scientists have not been providing information.

      Also, where do you draw the line between climate scientists and activists? There seem to be several people with science qualifications that are behaving as activists.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Bill,

        You must be kidding me. I’m quite sure most readers understand quite well what those phrases mean.

  4. The Big Lesson

    The problem is that when a house of cards such as the idea that mankind can control the climate collapses, the cards remain to do their mischief once more. In the UK we have had for example:
    Salmonella in eggs
    Plastic versus wood in food hygiene
    Listeria
    Mad Cows
    Asbestos
    Satanic abuse in Cleveland (UK)
    Passive smoking
    Unleaded fuel
    DDT
    Millennium bug

    and many more.

    And how about Lord King (one of the supposed senior scientists in the UK) pressing everyone to have diesel cars. He became known as “King Diesel”. Now of course diesel cars are off limits.

    The start is sloppy science, where the work is early stage but is taken up as a cause by someone saying they are scientists and who are looking for fame. They start a media campaign which becomes so fierce that politicians eventually reach a tipping point and start to talk “legislation”. For a superb description of the process and plenty of examples I recommend “Scared to Death” by Booker and North.

    In the end a lot of (not all) the nonsense gets reversed. But when one scare stops, another one starts. I blame (the parents?), no, I blame sloppy science and that science disciplines are not taught as much as they should be. Also 24 hour news channels.

    In the old days if a prophet forecast wrongly, they were stoned to death. A bit excessive but having cost trillions, impoverished billions, and killed millions, perhaps global warming activists should face retribution.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Aldan,

      “The problem is that when a house of cards such as the idea that mankind can control the climate collapses”

      Of course we can. The desire for quick fixes always confounds problem-solving. If we had continued the late 1970s research into alt energy sources at high speed, I doubt we would be talking about CO2 now. If we had re-ignited those programs in 1989, we’d probably have solutions in sight.

      “Now of course diesel cars are off limits.”

      Got to love such silly cherry-picking. Do you always hit on the correct solutions in your life on the first time?

      “In the old days if a prophet forecast wrongly, they were stoned to death.”

      That shows a stunning misunderstanding of how science works. Karl Popper said that successful predictions are the gold standard of science. That means that theories should be phrased as testable statements when possible. While individual scientists have made silly predictions (just like any other group of people), the predictions of the major science agencies have proven to be fairly accurate. Unfortunately, they have been inadequately validated. And most are over too short a time horizon to provide a basis for massive public policy action.

      1. We used to have to state confidence levels that what we were reporting was right. That’s how science is supposed to work. Also if subsequent research and measurement show that predictions are wrong, then the hypothesis gets canned. IPCC models anyone?

        I thought the recent reaction criticism of a paper looking at “warming oceans” was the right one. See Nic Lewis’ analysis of Respplandy et al. Good reaction both sides of the “argument”.

        If you look at some of the e-mails issued this week re Climategate you will see some “science” has moved into advocacy.

      2. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Aidan,

        “We used to have to state confidence levels that what we were reporting was right. ”

        The IPPC’s Working Group I reports are extremely careful to state conclusions with confidence levels.

        “if subsequent research and measurement show that predictions are wrong, then the hypothesis gets canned”

        The models used in the IPCC reports have not been proven “wrong”, even over the short time horizons since run.

        “If you look at some of the e-mails issued this week re Climategate you will see some “science” has moved into advocacy.”

        Science has been advocacy since before the 19th century. Because it is done by people, not robots. Stephen Jay Gould’s books provide many fun examples of this.

      3. Oh, also,
        How much CO2 do you think is down to man and how much down to biomass and oceans. We produce very little. So we are talking of a very small percentage (single figures) of 4% of 1% controlling the climate.

        Bring on King Canute!
        Actually King Canute never really thought he could control the waves, but his dumb followers did.

      4. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Aidan,

        “How much CO2 do you think is down to man and how much down to biomass and oceans.”

        No need for amateur guesses. See the papers of the Global Carbon Budget. Each cycle gets more accurate.

        “We produce very little.”

        Obviously enough to warm the atmosphere. No climate scientists disputes that. The question is how much of past warming is anthropogenic (there are other greenhouse gases), and what are likely future emissions, and what will be there effects.

        “Actually King Canute never really thought he could control the waves, but his dumb followers did.”

        You’re trolling us with aggressive ignorance. Please stop.

  5. Larry,
    Thanks for your well-researched lessons. I thought of a couple more.

    Lesson #3: Walk the walk
    Some of the voices with the most media attention advocate leading low-carbon (impoverished) lifestyles, while flying in private jets and living in multiple, large estates. One spokesman for the movement that I am aware of, advocates foregoing having children, but has five himself. Likewise, you would expect that climate conferences would be the first to adopt web-based technologies.

    People notice when those who speak loudest have the courage of their convictions and live it out. The rest they interpret as hypocrisy.

    Lesson #4: Be careful with claims and predictions
    The media has done a great disservice to the science. The public is unaware of the differences between the RCPs, the different models and the spectrum of the opinions of climate scientists. They only hear “climate scientists say…”

    They read that droughts will be never-ending right before it rains or that snow will be a thing of the past. They have read about sea ice disappearing in the Arctic any day now for years. Any serious weather event is blamed in part on climate change. You have documented some of the extreme claims based on RCP 8.5 on this site. The average person can’t distinguish between those claims (which are reported seriously) and any of the others. When the rains, cold or snows come just as they always have, average people stop taking the reports seriously.

    1. Lesson #5: Don’t have a history of wrong prophecies
      This applies to your ‘alarmists’ point, they have been poisoning public opinion for a long time. I’m retired and media has been telling about armageddon for all my life, one debunked and they find the next one. Just some of the worst examples from Germany:
      In 1973 we were told crude oil reserves would be used up by the year 2000 (Ölkrise), in the eighties we were told that woods would be dying and gone by the year 2000 (Waldsterben). Didn’t happen of cause, in 2018 we still use crude oil and have lots of woods in Germany. By the way, in 1999 they told us most computers would fail at midnight of new years eve. No electricity, no water supply, the whole infrastructur would fail. Emergency generators were sold out. Of cause nothing happened at all. The flavor of this year is still bees going extinct and people starving because of the decrease of fruit production. All of these were sold as being backed up by science. People have been programmed by alarmists not to believe any prophecies anymore.

      The percentage of people understanding scientific studies is low, and not many are even able to put in the effort for every ‘armageddon’ pushed by media. That would be a full time job and people need to make a living. So it’s the media they go with and rather sooner than later they learn that media armageddons are not to be believed.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Hugo,

        “This applies to your ‘alarmists’ point, ”

        I’ve written scores of posts about Leftists’ false alarms. And the false alarms by right-wingers. They are cousins under the skin, quite similar in their behavior.

    2. Larry
      It’s not only false alarms, media representation has given science a bad rep in the public, no alarmists even needed. Look for instance at food recommendations, they change almost every year and all of them are ‘scientific’. Same goes with health, lifestyle, weight issues…

      It’s not right wingers ore the left, it’s all of the media. There is no scale of importance, everything they present is a sientific breakthrough or life threatening. They live by attention, not truth. If people buy it, they become alarmists themselves. Part of growing up is to learn to ignore it and attend to things that matter to you direcly.

      And that is where the real problem starts, people ignore the alarmist threats in the far future but not their loss of comfort and money in todays measures attending future threats. It’s not that they don’t care, they have learnt not to be very critical of ‘science’ in the media.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Hugo,

        None of the things you mention – about scientists or the media – are new. They were just as common in Jonathan Swift’s day (some are mocked in Gulliver’s Travels). Scientists are just people. Journalists are trying to earn a living giving readers what they want to read (doing otherwise is rapid career death).

        What is new in the climate change policy wars is the scale of unwise behavior by science-related institutions. There are probably precedents (there are always precedents), but I can’t think of any. On the other hand, this one of the largest (by many metrics) program of public education ever attempted by them. Perhaps the largest. So getting it wrong is not a surprise. Learning from this failure is, however, less excusable.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Hugo,

        That is an interesting and provocative article. Thanks for posting it!

        How do you see it applying to the debate about the best public policy response to climate change?

  6. SF,

    “A new cause would let us have six months, maybe even a year before the established fault lines and repetitious remarks and platitudes got stabilized. I’m all for it. Maybe something to do with the oceans?”

    I wouldn’t bet on a break anytime soon from the alarmists I deal with in the internet trenches.
    Larry may be right about the debate in the scientific community but when the Pope of Global Warming preaches a “Climate Crisis”, Mann’s hockey stick is still around, the NYT’s, WaPo, cable news at el exaggerating RCP8.5. Horror stories from the Sierra Club, National Geographic, Citizen’s Climate Lobby at el… we still have a problem.
    Then again, Trump has turned the tide in our favor anyway so why try explaining facts to a liberal any longer. Runaway AGW is what I’m referring to.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Ron,

      “I wouldn’t bet on a break anytime soon from the alarmists”

      I agree. I said that they had lost, as of today. Not that they had given up. Nobody, scientists or alarmists, have given up. Nor should they. They have been defeated by the weather. All they needed was a bout of severe weather to panic Americans. Instead they got the temperature pause, the hurricane pause, low N. American tornadoes, and short droughts in the SW (vs. the giants of the past). Bad luck. They’ve invested so much in the campaign that it is rational to wait for the weather to change. It will, eventually. Their command of the institutional high ground gives them endurance.

      They only need win once.

      More interesting is activists and scientists (overlapping categories) refusal to learn from experience. This is a defining characteristic of modern Americans (see the military’s conduct of our wars for even more amazing examples). There are so many potentially game changing things they can do (I mention one in this post). But they prefer to double down on losing methods, like a drunk at the craps table. Pitiful to watch.

      Plus, skeptics are giving themselves airs for their incompetent marketing. Pitiful to watch.

      “Trump has turned the tide in our favor anyway”

      That’s too funny to comment on. Public opinion is the key factor, dwarfing all others.

  7. Hi Larry,

    “I agree with McNutt: the public policy debate has ended. A critical mass of the US public has lost confidence in climate science as an institution (i.e., rejecting its warnings). As a result, the US probably will take no substantial steps to prepare for possible future climate change, not even preparing for re-occurrence of past extreme weather. The weather will determine how policy evolves, and eventually prove which side was right.”

    I agree with your analysis of the public debate. But in Europe, I think that the climate change debate has also fueled a relatively large, but relatively low-key move by governments to “climate-proof” (in the current jargon) cities and key infrastructures. There is lots of information available on this, e.g. https://base-adaptation.eu/base-adaptation-inspiration-book-23-european-cases-climate-change-adaptation, which gets lost in all the noise from the activists.

    I’ve been involved in a few of these projects. They’re low-cost, involve government technicians and private “stakeholders” as well as scientists, focus on relatively cheap and practical “no-regrets” solutions – i.e. those that also address present-day extreme weather, and normally take RCP4.5 as a likely scenario. The measures which are implemented are tested and improved upon. Costlier adaptation measures are assessed in terms of which degree of future climate change might trigger their need, and “held in reserve” for if/when they’re needed.

    Climate activists may have helped raise awareness of climate risks and move governments toward climate-proofing at start, but now I think they’re a big hindrance. For example, when we open climate adaptation discussions to the public, we always have the noisy activists demanding more action or whatever and drowning out any sane discussion. I don’t think that this will prevent the work we’re doing in Europe, because governments have been made aware that there are cheap solutions to improve climate resilience, with demonstrated benefits for their constituents; so now we talk about “mainstreaming”, i.e. making climate-proofing just another component of the land-use planning process. But, speaking as a scientist and technician, all the activism is extremely annoying.

    “The Yellow Vest protests in France are the death knell for large-scale action in France.”

    Interestingly, last Saturday many Yellow Vest protesters joined the March for Climate which was ongoing at the same time (possibly because they were authorized marches). There were some efforts by climate activists to tag along the Yellow Vest movement (France24 has some news on this in English). I don’t think they’ll succeed.

  8. Larry,

    “But they prefer to double down on losing methods, like a drunk at the craps table. Pitiful to watch.”
    That’s better than my last line.

    “Public opinion is the key factor, dwarfing all others.”
    Easier said than done and starting to know where you’re coming from, I think.

  9. “Nobody is driven in to war by ignorance, and no one who thinks he will gain anything from it is deterred by fear.”
    – Hermocrates

    Larry Kummer: “They only need win once.”

    My opinion of why activists will not give up.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      John,

      I don’t understand why you consider politics to be war. They are different phenomenon.

    2. Sorry that I was unclear, but activists themselves refer to the challenge of climate change in war terms. I thought the comment carrying the analogy onward as humorous.

  10. Another part of the problem is that the measures the activists advocate are, in terms of their own theory, ineffective in addressing the proposed problem. Paris, for instance, even if implemented, would not make any impression on the alleged problem because it does not reduce emissions enough.

    In addition, the activists don’t argue for measures which really would reduce emissions enough according to their theories. i would mention two. China will have to reduce its tonnage by 70% or so. No one calls for that. And the world will have to stop using internal combustion engines. The activists do not call for that either. Build wind farms, install solar, sign up to Paris. But none of this will make enough difference to emissions to solve the alleged problem.

    This is a real factor in destroying credibility.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      henrik,

      I don’t understand this “call for” stuff. What is the point of doing that? Does “calling for” things make them more likely to happen? “World Peace!” “Free Love!” “Chicks for Free!” Is the world better now?

      That’s not how public policy works.

    2. ” And the world will have to stop using internal combustion engines.”

      Why is that? We have come a long way since the first anti-pollution device, the PCV valve.
      I can speak with some authority on this. I spent the majority of my working life diagnosing and repairing emission controls on motor vehicles at the dealer level, mostly Ford L/M products. Today’s IC engines are a modern miracle.

      EPA: “History of Reducing Air Pollution from Transportation in the United States

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Ron,

        ”And the world will have to stop using internal combustion engines.”

        it might come to that if climate sensitivity to CO2 (warming resulting from a doubling of CO2 levels) is on the high end of estimates, AND global economic growth in underdeveloped nations continues at good levels, AND we don’t find alternatives. I don’t have an opinion on the first. I hope for the second. I have faith we will find alternatives. But good risk planning means that we need to be aware of worst case scenarios – and take action if they become likely.

        “Today’s IC engines are a modern miracle.’

        Nice but not relevant.

  11. Larry,

    “it might come to that if climate sensitivity to CO2 (warming resulting from a doubling of CO2 levels) is on the high end of estimates, AND global economic growth in underdeveloped nations continues at good levels, AND we don’t find alternatives. I don’t have an opinion on the first. I hope for the second. I have faith we will find alternatives. But good risk planning means that we need to be aware of worst case scenarios – and take action if they become likely.”

    I’m good with all that but I’m not aware of anything on the horizon to replace the IC engine, in time maybe. It won’t be an EV in it’s present form. I’d buy a Tesla if I could afford one but not to save the planet. Those things are quick with high torque and spin. Range on a charge and toxic batteries are a drawback.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Ron,

      “but I’m not aware of anything on the horizon to replace the IC engine”

      That sounds pretty binary. To mention just one, several National Academy of Sciences studies have predicted that electric vehicles almost certainly will slowly replace IC engines in many applications – as their capital cost drops and storage improves. For one example, much urban use is highly suited for electrics. My wife has not driven 100 mines in a day for 30 years. Delivery vehicles, also.

      Looking out a decade or two, we can’t reliably predict what tech will bring.

  12. Larry,

    “That sounds pretty binary. To mention just one, several National Academy of Sciences studies have predicted that electric vehicles almost certainly will slowly replace IC engines in many applications – as their capital cost drops and storage improves. For one example, much urban use is highly suited for electrics. My wife has not driven 100 mines in a day for 30 years. Delivery vehicles, also.”

    Ev’s have their place but another 200PPM of CO2 in the future may not even be a problem. Temp does not follow CO2.
    In the IC engine emission control trenches, we try to keep under control HC, CO, and NOx. Unburned gas, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides.
    CO2 never entered the picture in the good old days.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Ron,

      “Ev’s have their place but another 200PPM of CO2 in the future may not even be a problem.”

      Please re-read what I said. There’s not much point to discussion in comments if you ignore what I say.

      “Temp does not follow CO2.”

      Tell me when you get your Nobel Prize.

  13. “Please re-read what I said. There’s not much point to discussion in comments if you ignore what I say.”

    I did, I didn’t ignore what you said…Having a bad day?

    Temp does not follow CO2.

    “Tell me when you get your Nobel Prize.”

    I trust this will meet with your approval as a source; https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/11/does-co2-correlate-with-temperature-history-a-look-at-multiple-timescales-in-the-context-of-the-shakun-et-al-paper/

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Ron,

      No, it doesn’t. There are few if any climate scientists who do not believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or that it is capable of raising the Earth’s temperature. The debate among scientists is about the sensitivity of the climate to CO2 and the likely paths of future emissions.

      The sad thing is that US public policy is locked between denialists and activists. Science deniers on both sides, just in different forms. Good-bye.

  14. Larry,
    Interesting article and analysis. I’ve earlier seen your probing essays at Climate, Etc. and also by visiting your site. I’ve always found Judith Curry the most thoughtful climate scientist.
    Like you, finding your Republican party moved away from you and its own foundational philosophy, I find my Democratic party has done the same. Never a party loyalist, I’m more a moderate and pragmatist. I also teach an OLLI course in climate science which emphasizes the data, so have been very unhappy with the science being co-opted by political narratives- the green activists and their often equally ideological opponents.

    In trying to make sense of the mess and nastiness of politics (including climate science) and be less depressed by it all, I’ve recently found some reason for optimism from Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” and the funny and sobering video “How not to be ignorant about the world” by Hans and Ola Rosling –

    https://youtu.be/Sm5xF-UYgdg

    Are you finding any optimism from these sources or from several other pretty well informed non-climate scientists like Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris who have substantial followers?

    Doug Allen

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Douglas,

      FWIW, here are some answers to your questions.

      I follow mainstream climate science to some extent, and rely on climate scientists such as Roger Pielke (Jr and Sr) and Judith Curry for interpretation. I don’t know why so many believe that amateur guessing is more informative.

      The Working Group I reports of the IPCC are excellent. Their Summary for Policy-makers provide all that (or more than) most non-scientists want to know, clearly stated. Ditto with the NOAA website. They are probably over-confident in their conclusions, as is almost all expert analysis (in every field). That’s human nature.

      People believe that today’s circumstances are unusual because we live in the now, amnesiac about the past. It makes us easier to manipulate.

      Science is politicised because it is conducted by human beings. Stephen Jay Gould’s books give fun examples of this from the past.

      Politics is nasty because the stakes are often so high. Current levels are mild compared with those in America’s past. See Joanne Freeman’s new book The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War. That’s what polarized and nasty politics looks like!

  15. Larry,
    Yes, I have read Judith Curry’s web pages since day one and have Roger Pielke Jr’s books and read his climate blog before he abandoned it when his professorship was threatened. They and “lukewarmers” like them have been demonized as deniers by by celebrity climatologists like Michael Mann, activists like Bill McKibben, and their followers, including most of the media. With them pretty much silenced (so far as liberal media reporting) that’s why I think it’s hopeful that some new voices like Jordan Peterson, with followings, are studying what he calls the complete mess of politicalized climate science.

    And most definitely, the IPCC working group assessments have been mostly good science, but the IPCC Summary for Policymakers that journalists and laymen actually read is anything but.
    BTW, I just finished Jon Meacham’s “American Lion” so am familiar with political realism! You’re right! That doesn’t mean I’m not depressed by the political landscape that is becoming more and more like the Sunni-Shia split every year and less like the loyal opposition that my conservative Republican father called the Democrats.

  16. Pingback: Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade | Watts Up With That?

  17. for you larry

    In his 1974 Nobel Prize lecture, economist F.A. Hayek warned his profession against the dangers of what he called “the pretense of knowledge.” Our society, he noted, is so much more complex than we can even comprehend, and essential pieces of knowledge about it are dispersed among millions of individuals. Hayek urged economists and social scientists to maintain humility about the limits of their own knowledge, and to resist the intoxication that comes with the heady authority of “expertise” used to experiment with and control the populations that these “experts” believe need guidance.

  18. for u larry

    In his 1974 Nobel Prize lecture, economist F.A. Hayek warned his profession against the dangers of what he called “the pretense of knowledge.” Our society, he noted, is so much more complex than we can even comprehend, and essential pieces of knowledge about it are dispersed among millions of individuals. Hayek urged economists and social scientists to maintain humility about the limits of their own knowledge, and to resist the intoxication that comes with the heady authority of “expertise” used to experiment with and control the populations that these “experts” believe need guidance.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: