Tag Archives: climate catastrophe

Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions

Summary: Scientists and journalists bombard us with news about the coming climate catastrophe, described as certain unless we drastically change our economy. This has plunged many into despair. The hidden key to these forecasts is RCP8.5, the worst case scenario of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report — often erroneously described as the “business as usual” scenario. Understanding this misuse of science reveals the weak basis of the most dire warnings (which set the mood at the Paris Conference), and helps explain why the US public assigns a low priority to fighting climate change despite the intense decades-long publicity campaign.

“We’re going to become extinct. Whatever we do now is too late.”
— Frank Fenner (Prof emeritus in microbiology at the Australian National U); Wikipedia describes his great accomplishments), an interview in The Australian, 10 June 2010.

Climate nightmares

In the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report four scenarios describe future emissions, concentrations, and land-use. They are Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), the inputs to climate models that generate the IPCC’s projections. Strong mitigation policies lead to a low forcing level of 2.6 W/m2 by 2100 (RCP2.6). Two medium stabilization scenarios lead to intermediate outcomes in RCP4.5 and RCP6.0.

RCP8.5 gets the most attention, with its bold and dark assumptions (details here). It is a useful and important scenario, a warning of what might happen if the 21st century goes badly. It should spur us to act. Unfortunately, “despite not being explicitly designed as business as usual or mitigation scenarios” RCP8.5 has often been misrepresented as the “business as usual” scenario — becoming the basis for hundreds of predictions about our certain doom from climate change.

The result of this (part of a decade-long campaign) is widespread despair among climate scientists and more broadly, among Leftists. This misuse of RCP8.5 is a triumph of propaganda, but polls show its ineffectiveness (with climate change ranking at or near the bottom of public policy concerns). Yet each month brings more of the same.

What future does RCP8.5 describe?

“In 2002, as I edited a book about global climate change, I concluded we had set events in motion that would cause our own extinction, probably by 2030. I mourned for months …”
— “Apocalypse or extinction?” by Guy McPherson (Prof Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology, U AZ), Oct 2009.

The papers describing the RCP’s clearly state their assumptions, unlike most of those that follow them. RCP8.5 describes a bleak scenario, a hot and dark world in 2100 (since it’s powered by coal, perhaps literally dark) — even before considering the effects of climate change. Below are the key points, with graphs from “The representative concentration pathways: an overview” by Detlef P. van Vuuren et al in Climatic Change, Nov 2011.

RCP8.5 assumes breaks in long-term trends for population growth and technological change, the opposite of the usual base case for planning. See this post for a more detailed look at it.

Continue reading

Occupy & Tea Party are alike, both saving America through cosplay

Summary: Collective action is democracy in action, unrestrained by the machinery of the formal political parties. Does the surge in political action of the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party Movement represent a new morning for America, appropriate at the start of a new millennium. Or are these peasants’ protests, venting steam while the 1% build a New America?

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
— Not every movement is a revolution, although you often do time in jail.

Captain America visits the Tea Party

Cosplay as political activism: too much fun?


  1. The Surge of Activism
  2. What we are. What we need to be.
  3. Conclusions
  4. For More Information
  5. The Boston Tea Party was not cosplay


(1) The Surge of Activism

As a result of our increasing affluence and leisure time, plus more retirees, America has more activists than at most times in our history. Americans dedicated to making things better, often taking to the streets.

Some address tangible, local problems. Service clubs: saving stray animals, helping youth, cleaning up parks, organizing unions, etc. Some work to save the nation, like the Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street. Those of the first type are serious, shown not just by the time and money they devote to their projects — but to their results.

What about the second type? It’s a difficult question to answer. How do we measure seriousness of people in political groups, outside the organized political parties? Especially those formed to transform the nation, rather than the limited political platform of established parties?

We can only guess at such things, but we can compare movements like Occupy and the Tea Party with past organizations. Consider the Revolutionary-era Committees of Correspondence, the abolitionist movement, building unions, the suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam anti-war campaigns. What common elements that distinguish these very different groups, making them effective? Perhaps their…

Continue reading

The IPCC rebukes the climate doomsters. Will we listen?

Summary:  One of the major themes of the FM website is that The End of The World Will Not Occur as Scheduled.  Publication of the new IPCC report sparked yet another round of doomsterism, quite unrelated to its contents. Today we look at the IPCC’s description of the climate science consensus. They warn about the future, but not of an imminent apocalypse. Sometimes the news media explain this well; sometimes they feature doomsters without mentioning the consensus. Here we look at the IPCC report for guidance. It’s quite clear. The consequences of failure to convert to non-carbon-based energy sources will be severe for the second half of the 21st century; but we have time if we start now (which we should do anyway, for sound environmental and economic reasons).

World in our Hands

The world in our Hands



  1. Excerpts from the Summary: the bottom line
  2. Expressing confidence and probabilities in AR5
  3. How much warming during the next two decades?
  4. About the “pause” or “hiatus”
  5. Important things to remember about global warming!
  6. For More Information

(1)  Excerpts from the Summary: the bottom line

This posts discusses the report of  Working Group I, part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: The Physical Science Basis: Chapter 11: Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability. This is a draft, because the IPCC adjusts the scientists’ work to conform to the politicians’ desires (political logical always overrides scientific evidence).

This chapter assesses the scientific literature describing expectations for near-term climate (present through mid-century). Unless otherwise stated, “near-term” change and the projected changes below are for the period 2016–2035 relative to the reference period 198 6–2005. …

The projected change in global mean surface air temperature will likely be in the range 0.3–0.7°C (medium confidence). …

It is more likely than not that the mean global mean surface air temperature for the period 2016–2035 will be more than 1°C (1.8°F) above the mean for 1850–1900, and very unlikely that it will be more than 1.5°C (2.7°F) above the 1850-1900 mean (medium confidence).

(2)  Expressing confidence and probabilities in AR5

What makes the IPCC’s work science, not religion or organized ignorance, is that they state their conclusions in terms of uncertainty (comments to the climate posts on the FM website show how discovering this freaks out activists). From footnotes 1 and 2:

The level of confidence is expressed using five qualifiers: very low, low, medium, high, and very high.

In this Report the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or a result:

Continue reading