Another climate scientist speaks out against the hysteria

Summary: Provoked by the hysteria of climate activists, More climate scientists are speaking out against them. Listening to scientists is the only way to a better future, steering between the Scylla and Charybdis of passivity and panicky irrationality. This essay by Cliff Mass is a good place to start.

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The Real Climate Debate

 By Cliff Mass at the Weather and Climate Blog.

The real climate debate is not between “believers” and “deniers,”
and not between Republicans and Democrats.

The real debate is certainly not over whether global warming, spurred by increasing greenhouse gases, is a serious problem that must be addressed. Both sides of the real climate debate agree on that. The real debate is between two groups:

(1)  A confident, non-political group that believes technology, informed investments, rational decision making, and the use of the best scientific information will lead to a solution of the global warming issue. An optimistic group that sees global warming as a technical problem with technical solutions. I will refer to these folks as the ACT group: Apolitical – Confident – Technical.

(2)  A group, mainly on the political left, that is highly partisan, anxious and often despairing, self-righteous, big on blame and social justice, and willing to attack those that disagree with them. They often distort the truth when it serves their interests. They also see social change as necessary for dealing with global warming, requiring the very reorganization of society. I call these folks the ASP group: Anxious – Social-Justice – Partisan.

There is no better way to see the profound difference between these two groups than to watch a video of the testimony of young activists at the recent House Hearing on Climate Change, which included Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin, Vic Barrett, and Benji Backer.

Jamie Margolin of Seattle {17 years old, see Wikipedia} talked about an apocalyptic future, with “corporations making billions” while they destroy the future of her generation. Of feeling fear and despair. Of a planet where the natural environment is undergoing collapse, where only a few years are left before we pass the point of no return, and where only a massive political shift can fix things, including the Green New Deal. Watch her testimony to see what I mean.

Compare Ms. Margolin’s testimony to that of University of Washington senior Benji Backer {no Wikipedia entry for him}. Mr. Backer, leader of the American Conservation Coalition, a conservative/moderate group of young people supporting action to protect the environment, approaches the problem in a radically different way. Instead of despair, there is optimism, recommending more scientific and technical research, a bipartisan attack on the problem, a rejection of an apocalyptic future, the building of new energy industries with potential benefits for the American economy, and a dedication to follow the science and not political expediency. Read his testimony, or watch it.

Both Ms. Margolin and Mr. Backer care deeply about the environment and want effective measures to deal with global warming. Both their approaches and attitudes could not be more different. We also see the difference between an optimistic ACT group and the despairing ASP folks here in Seattle.

CleanTech Alliance Logo

On one hand, there is the Clean Tech Alliance, which brings together technology companies, university researchers, and the business community to develop and apply the technologies that will produce the carbon-free future we look for. Headed by Tom Ranken, the Alliance does a lot, including a highly informative breakfast series where you can learn about fusion power, new battery technologies, the future of solid waste recycling, and much more. Non-political, optimistic, and exciting. These are clearly members of the ACT group.

350 Seattle Banner

In contrast, there is Seattle’s 350.org group. They are into climate strikes, staging protests (like their recent blockade of a branch of Seattle Chase Bank), trying to muzzle climate scientists they don’t like, advocating political solutions to greenhouse warming (Green New Deal), pushing divestment of energy companies, and even a Pledge of Resistance to stop energy exports by whatever means necessary. Their “science” page has many extreme and unfounded claims regarding global warming impacts, like a sea level rise of 10 feet in as little as 50 years. An ASP group all the way.

Pledge of Resistance

I should note that the Seattle 350.org group and their “allies” oppose the proposed Tacoma Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Facility that will help replace the extraordinarily dirty “bunker fuel” used in ships traversing Puget Sound. LNG will also reduce carbon emissions. Scientists and regulators at the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency support the LNG facility. But facts and protection of the health of Puget Sound residents are not priorities for highly politicized groups like 350.org.

Carbon Washington

A good example of the differences between the ACT and ASP folks is found in Washington State’s recent carbon initiatives.

Initiative 732 was backed by Carbon Washington, a non-political group whose bi-partisan proposal would have increased the price of carbon fuels but was revenue neutral, giving all the funds collected back to the citizens of the State. Carefully designed and impactful. The work of an ACT group all the way.

But the ASP folks were unhappy. There was no money for their climate justice and political initiatives, so they opposed it, and were joined by Governor Inslee and the environmental left. Unforgivable, nasty attacks were made on Carbon Washington leadership by the ASP folks. 732 lost {59% to 42% on the November 2016 ballot.}.

The ASP collective decided it was their turn, so they created a Frankenstein carbon initiative (Initiative 1631), with a lowered (less effective) carbon fee, but one in which climate justice groups and political allies on the left would have control, and were hardwired for much of the funds. The main advertising line of the 1631 ads: catastrophe was around the corner and the big oil companies were to blame. 1631 was an election day disaster, losing by 13 points, and the ASP folks have probably killed any hope for an effective carbon tax/fee in our state.

NO on 1631

What about the media?

Much of the “mainstream” media parrot the message of the ASP side. The Seattle Times is a great case in point, with headlines of massive heat-related deaths (750 die per event!) and catastrophic wildfire seasons that have no basis in good science. There are plenty of others, such as the LA Times and the NY Times. There are some major media outlets that are more balanced, such as the Wall Street Journal.

A major issue for the media is the hollowing out of science reporting, with most climate stories being handled by general reporters with neither the time, background, or inclination to get beyond parroting the press releases of activist groups or evaluating the claims of speculative research papers. It has gotten so bad that a recent headline story in the Seattle Times discussed the wrong gas: carbon monoxide instead of carbon dioxide.

Seattle Heat Waves

A Religious Movement.

In many ways, the ASP group appears to be a religious movement, not unlike the many millennialist movements of the past. As other groups in the past, they predict an apocalyptic future (including fire and brimstone!) and that one must “believe” in their viewpoint or be rejected as a “denier.” The ASP folks have a holy viewpoint that comes from authority. They claim their views are based on the views of 97% of scientists. {Editor’s note: see the consensus of climate scientists.} There is no debate allowed, the science is “settled.” Sounds like religious dogma.

The ASP movement describes a world that is teetering on the edge, with mankind’s days numbers – 10 or 12 years according to several of their leading prophets – unless immediate steps are taken. They constantly repeat that the threat is existential.

They believe it is ok to distort the truth to get folks “to do the right thing.” The ASP group has well defined “enemies” that represent true evil (e.g., Trump, Republicans, Big Oil, the Koch Brothers) and they support attacking and silencing those they disagree with (my past blog gives you some documented examples of such behavior). ASP has their priests (Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Michael Mann) and even young saints (Greta Thunberg).

As in many such movements, members are guided to act in approved and enlightened ways, but the leadership does not need to follow the rules (e.g., many ASP “leaders” have huge carbon footprints from flying). Importantly, ASP sees their work going much further than a technical fix for technical problem, but as a social justice movement that will change the very organization of society.

Disturbingly, the ASP folks are against key technologies that could really make a difference, such as nuclear power, and are relatively uninterested in working on adaptation and resilience to climate change. Many do not support dealing with our forests in a rational way (e.g., restoration with thinning and prescribed burning) but would rather blame it all on global warming.

The End is Near

Effects of the ASP movement.

By pushing a highly political agenda the ASP movement is undermining bipartisan efforts. But nothing important will be done unless both sides of the aisle are involved. ASP folks love to say that the Republicans are unwilling to deal with climate change, which is a totally unfair claim. I have talked to leading WA Republicans, like Bill Bryant and Rob McKenna. They acknowledge the seriousness of global warming and the need to act. In my talks in highly Republican eastern Washington, growers and others accept the problem and want to work on solutions. Under a Republican U.S. Congress, funding for climate research has been protected and increased.

But partisan attacks by the ASP group are a way to promote their group’s cohesion and tell about the “evil” of the other side. Calling others names is not an effective way to secure their cooperation.

A problem for the ASP group is that their message is so dark, pessimistic and depressing that it tends to turn others off. And it has terrible psychological effects on its adherents and those that listen. It creates fear, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, despair, and rage. There are even classes on dealing with eco-anxiety and climate grief. Greta Thunberg said that the worry ruined her childhood.

And yes, there is President Trump. Much of what he says on climate change is simply nonsensical, and quite frankly he is not part of the debate. Republicans in Congress do not follow his lead. But he is a convenient foil for the ASP folks, who use him for their own purposes.

The Bottom Line.

Progress on climate change is undermined by the efforts of the highly vocal, partisan, and ineffective ASP group. They are standing in the way of bipartisan action on climate change, efforts to fix our forests, and the use of essential technologies. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

In contrast to the ASP folks, the ACT group generally tries to stay out of the public eye, quietly completing the work needed to develop the technologies and infrastructure that will allow us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In the end, they will save us. That is, if the ASP folks don’t get in their way.

—————————————-

Cliff Mass

About Cliff Mass

Cliff Mass is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the U of Washington, and leads their Mesoscale Analytics and Forecasting Group. See his home page at the U Washington websitehis Wikipedia entry. and his website. He is the author of The Weather of the Pacific Northwest.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon.

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 especially these …

  1. Importantclimate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. Focusing on worst-case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  3. The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
  4. Roger Pielke Jr.: the politics of unlikely climate scenarios.
  5. A look at the workings of Climate Propaganda Inc.
  6. Scary but fake news about the National Climate Assessment.
  7. Did the IPCC predict a climate apocalypse? No.
  8. Sad but important truths from an eminent climate scientist.

Activists don’t want you to read these books

Some unexpected good news about polar bears: The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened by Susan Crockford (2019).

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., professor for the Center for Science and Policy Research at U of CO – Boulder (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

 

16 thoughts on “Another climate scientist speaks out against the hysteria”

  1. You’ve gotten very bleak lately on this issue. I miss your once frequent postings about the “pause” in global warming. It must have dozens upon dozens of articles on the importance of the pause that you posted over the years. You raised my hopes that the pause would be followed by a decrease so that we could all relax again. What finally happened, did the temperature go up, down, did the pause continue?

    1. Gloucon,

      “I miss your once frequent postings about the “pause” in global warming”

      The pause ended, as pauses do, with the 2016 El Nino. It is not yet clear what happens next – other than that the world will continue warming. As usual in science, the question is “how fast?” See the trend.

      The significance of the “pause” was that it pointed to weaknesses in the current paradigm. If we get another pause (multi-year plateau), this would be evidence of a “ocean store and release” mechanism. More important, it gave us time to formulate a rational strategy – both in research and public policy. We squandered that time, of course.

      “You raised my hopes that the pause would be followed by a decrease”

      There was never any basis for such a belief. Only a microscopic fraction of climate scientists (a distant fringe) believe that is plausible.

  2. Good to see realism winning over crazy.
    Still, don’t forget to demand that if trillions are to be spent, demand an independent cost/benefit analysis, and a guarantee that every billion will affect global temperatures with an established fraction of a degree Fahrenheit/Celsius.
    Or save your money.

    1. Hysteria. This is the sober conclusion of every science academy in the world. Alarmists,? yes. False alarm? No.

      A List of Scientific Organizations That Hold the Position That Climate Change Has Been Caused by Human Action and is Serious.
      There are no exceptions.

      Note: This complete consensus is not itself evidence, but it is the evidence that has led to a complete consensus.

      {list omited}

      1. Jan,

        “A List of Scientific Organizations That Hold the Position That Climate Change Has Been Caused by Human Action and is Serious.”

        You obviously didn’t read the article, yet post a long “rebuttal” against it. That’s sad, for what it says about you. Professor Mass talks about the response to the serious problem of climate change. Let’s replay the tape. The article has many passages like these.

        “They {Republicans he spoke with} acknowledge the seriousness of global warming and the need to act. In my talks in highly Republican eastern Washington, growers and others accept the problem and want to work on solutions. Under a Republican U.S. Congress, funding for climate research has been protected and increased. But partisan attacks by the ASP group are a way to promote their group’s cohesion and tell about the “evil” of the other side. Calling others names is not an effective way to secure their cooperation. …

        “Progress on climate change is undermined by the efforts of the highly vocal, partisan, and ineffective ASP group. They are standing in the way of bipartisan action on climate change, efforts to fix our forests, and the use of essential technologies. They are part of the problem, not the solution. In contrast to the ASP folks, the ACT group generally tries to stay out of the public eye, quietly completing the work needed to develop the technologies and infrastructure that will allow us to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

        When speaking about the ASP group, some of the people blocking effective policy action, he’s speaking about you.

  3. ACT- count me in! Ecomodernism is the only way forward. People like Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus are the ones worth listening to.
    As for the “pause” mentioned in the comments, Prof. Curry believes we should have another one in the future. It’s not going to be a linear process.

    1. Matthew,

      I doubt that there are many climate scientists who believe that we won’t have another pause – ie, decadal period of flattish temperatures – eventually. The question is, as usual, their frequence and duration. Here’s one explanation: “Reconciling the signal and noise of atmospheric warming on decadal timescales“ by Roger N. Jones and James H. Ricketts in Earth System Dynamics, March 2017 — Abstract…

      “Interactions between externally forced and internally generated climate variations on decadal timescales is a major determinant of changing climate risk. Severe testing is applied to observed global and regional surface and satellite temperatures and modelled surface temperatures to determine whether these interactions are independent, as in the traditional signal-to-noise model, or whether they interact, resulting in step-like warming. This model indicates that in situ warming of the atmosphere does not occur; instead, a store-and-release mechanism from the ocean to the atmosphere is proposed. It is physically plausible and theoretically sound. The presence of step-like – rather than gradual – warming is important information for characterising and managing future climate risk.”

      The pause became an interesting example of how the public climate science debate runs – with activists denying the science (ie, that many scientists were studying it) and the Right declaring that it was not a pause – but a stop. As usual, both were wrong. That’s why the public policy debate is gridlocked between these two groups of loons.

  4. Larry,

    I need to do more reading on store-and-release mechanism. Very interesting.

    The ASP folks overplayed their hand in my opinion. Especially this year. People are getting tired with apocalyptic dogmatism and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see a stronger pushback.
    What will the “end of days” crowd say if Trump gets re-elected? They amplified their message so much that there’s no more room to move any further. Unless AOC will start eating baby’s :-)

  5. You are right that it is vital to engage with what scientists are actually saying, rather than the exaggerations of climate activists. These exaggerations plug in to certain religious elements of Western culture, which is not only apocalyptic, but seeks to avoid the apocalypse through the self-punishment of sinners. In a startling rebuke to the whiggish idea of progress, activists who wish to close down the carbon economy can be compared with 14th century peasants who hoped to avoid the plague by practising self-flagellation. The only difference is that the modern flagellants want to reduce your carbon footprint, not their own.

    The ideas of the ASPs are equally constrained by human frailty. They predict that disaster will strike in a comprehensible timescale, say 10 to 15 years, and plead for immediate action. By the time that the predicted disaster fails to materialise, its predictors have fallen silent (we don’t hear much from Al Gore these days), and another generation of activists predicts disaster, once again in 10 to 15 years.

    In fact, the science does not predict a disaster, only a slow change in climate that will cause increasing inconvenience and expense as the decades progress. Top of the list of both inconvenience and expense is the predicted rise in sea level of two feet by 2100 AD. Many large cities lie close to sea level; and whether we move people to higher ground, or improve sea defences, the cost will be enormous.

    The increases in sea level and temperature are already unstoppable; but we have some control over how extreme “peak warming” will be. It will be cost-effective for governments to spend on this project over the next 50 years, rather than to deal with the costs and other consequences of warming as they occur.

    Electricity generation appears to be in good shape: in India, it is less expensive to add new capacity in solar power than in coal-fired power stations. This is the result of decades of research and development, combined with many years of government subsidies for new “green” capacity in developed countries. The article below makes the case for similar subsidies in other areas in which “greening” is not as advanced as it is for electricity generation:

    https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/15/how-to-decarbonize-america-and-the-world/

    I do not share the author’s enthusiasm for the “Green New Deal”, but he is right to point out that entire economic sectors – agriculture, iron smelting, cement manufacture – create large emissions of greenhouse gases, and will continue to do so without R&D and government financial support. Judging by the progress made with electricity generation, the greening of these sectors will take several decades, if it is possible at all – and this is one reason why global warming is unstoppable.

    The real climate debate is not between “believers” and “deniers”.

    I would go even further than this. The “real” climate debate is among scientists who are nearly all in the “ACT” camp, but have differences of opinion.

    In the world of politics, media, public opinion, and voting, other views abound. The “ASP” group are prominent; but deniers are still out there, partly because denial is funded by the fossil fuel industries.

  6. It is fine essay by Mass, and his characterization of the ‘ASP’ tendency is spot on, it does indeed have many, perhaps most, of the markers of hysterical apocalyptic movements of the past.

    The thing I would take issue with in it is an absence, one almost always found in US (and UK) writings about this subject, an explicit acknowledgement of the global scale of emissions, and the relatively small contribution of the US (or UK) to either the total or to the increases.

    So the piece says:

    SP folks love to say that the Republicans are unwilling to deal with climate change, which is a totally unfair claim. I have talked to leading WA Republicans, like Bill Bryant and Rob McKenna. They acknowledge the seriousness of global warming and the need to act. In my talks in highly Republican eastern Washington, growers and others accept the problem and want to work on solutions. Under a Republican U.S. Congress, funding for climate research has been protected and increased.

    There can be no rational need for growers in Eastern Washington to ‘work on solutions’ because there are none, for them. Nothing they do can make the slightest difference to the global total of emissions or its growth. Similarly, the idea that Republicans acknowledge the ‘need to act’. If by ‘act’ is meant to persuade China and India to reduce their emissions, that would certainly be effective in lowering the global total of emissions. But if what is meant is installing more wind and solar in the US, that will have zero effect.

    Recently even the Guardian has started to admit that for the UK to reduce its emissions from 450 million tons or so downwards, while China and India etc increase by that much every year, will have no measurable effect.

    People who advocate ‘action’ by a given country should always be made to say what it is, and how much of a reduction in global emissions it will lead to, starting from a world in which the global total is 37 billion tons and rising, and the US contribution to that is around 5 billion. The question is, suppose the enraged were to get what they claim they want, and the US were to vanish as an emitter within 10 years, while the rest of the world continues on its present path, we would end up with a global total of what?

    Probably close to 40 billion tons. So, why does this make sense? It might make sense as part of a global program which will reduce total emissions to 10 billion or so, but that is not on the table, and everyone needs to stop pretending that it is. The only thing on the table is rising global emissions, regardless of what the US and especially the UK do. The only sensible question is what local policy to pursue in the light of that, and it is not going to consist of reducing local emissions.

    My own prediction of the course of climate hysteria is that it will parallel the events described and analyzed in ‘When Prophecy Fails’ by Festinger.

    The movement at a grass roots level is becoming more extreme, the predictions more apocalyptic, more definite, more near term, and uttered with increasing certainty. At the same time the leadership which started the thing is getting more and more nervous as they see the disaster of a crash and general public ridicule owing to nothing much having happened. But the movement will have got out of their control, as it has already.

    The predicted disaster will fail to materialize, and the result will be an increase in belief at a grass roots level, increased and more ferocious denunciation of unbelievers, until finally it dies out over a period of years or maybe in this case decades.

    The wave of hysteria is cresting at the moment. I would guess it has another five years or so to run, but its only a guess.

  7. El origen de todos los males está en haberse equivocado en que causa el CALENTAMIENTO. Lo bueno es que TODOS están de acuerdo en que el CALENTAMIENTO ES REAL y que hay que buscar la manera de que no nos afecte mucho. LO MEJOR, está por “lanzarse” un novedoso SISTEMA para generar Energía Eléctrica ABUNDANTE Y BARATA,no produce gases de efecto invernadero,no contamina,no afecta a nada ni a nadie,no le afecta la sequía ni las inundaciones y puede funcionar las 24 horas,los 365 días del año; es EXTRAORDINARIO. Y no se preocupen por la SUBIDA DEL NIVEL DEL MAR, tenemos una SOLUCIÓN SIMPLE para evitarlo.

    From Google Translate

    The origin of all evils is in being wrong in what causes the WARMING. The good thing is that EVERYONE agrees that the WARMING IS REAL and that we have to find a way that does not affect us much. THE BEST, is about to “launch” a new SYSTEM to generate ABUNDANT AND CHEAP Electric Power, does not produce greenhouse gases, does not pollute, does not affect anything or anyone, does not affect drought or floods and can operate 24 hours a day. hours, 365 days a year; it’s extraordinary. And don’t worry about RISING THE SEA LEVEL, we have a SIMPLE SOLUTION to avoid it.

  8. Pingback: Another climate scientist speaks out against the hysteria – Fabius Maximus website – Has everyone lost their mind?

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