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 RCPs each describe one path to achieving these rates of forcing. The papers describing the RCP’s clearly state their assumptions, allowing us to assess their likelihood and consider specific ways to prevent them. Unfortunately most papers using the RCPs (usually RCP8.5) to warn us of coming climate catastrophes do not do so. This means their discussion of the need to prevent those emissions are unfounded, as are their recommendations of ways to do so.  {Updated text.}

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.

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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…

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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:

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Preparing for the future: should we be precautionary or proactionary?

Summary: We face so many shockwaves — potentially high-impact events, usually estimated at low probability over years or decades (global warming being the exception). How do we assess the danger and decide how much of our scarce resources to allocate for prevention and mitigation of each? Today we look at two ways to assess these risks so that we can prepare better than we do today (easy since we almost nothing today).


Supernovas are bad news if within 50 lightyears of us.



  1. Solution: the Proactionary Principle
  2. Preparing for Shockwaves
  3. For More Information


(1) A new solution: the Proactionary Principle

Excerpts from Max More’s website, Version 1.2, 29 July 2005. Please read the full description and analysis there. It was written by Max More, based in large part on Extropy Institute’s Vital Progress Summit I, 2004 and the Keynote statements and Summit participants.

(a) Summary

People’s freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even critical, to humanity. This implies a range of responsibilities for those considering whether and how to develop, deploy, or restrict new technologies. Assess risks and opportunities using an objective, open, and comprehensive, yet simple decision process based on science rather than collective emotional reactions. Account for the costs of restrictions and lost opportunities as fully as direct effects. Favor measures that are proportionate to the probability and magnitude of impacts, and that have the highest payoff relative to their costs. Give a high priority to people’s freedom to learn, innovate, and advance.

(b) Principle Against Progress

The precautionary principle appears to have originated with the German principle of Vorsorgeprinzip. No single formulation of the principle has been universally adopted. Variations exist between influential formulations, such as those involved in the North-Sea conferences from 1984 to 1995, as well as those expressed in the Rio Declaration of 1992 and the UN Framework Climate Convention of 1992. All versions do have in common three elements:

  1. The possibility of harm to humans or the environment, resulting from a technology or activity;
  2. scientific uncertainty regarding cause-effect relationships; and
  3. the justifiability of taking precautionary measures.

According to the popular and relatively clear version found in The Wingspread Declaration (1999), the precautionary principle states that:

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Fierce words about those “wacky professional climate change deniers”

Summary:  Adversity tests one’s character.  As the global temperature pause continues into its second decade, we can learn much the reaction from the reaction of laypeople committed to belief in a coming climate catastrophe.

Lies do not help the Earth

Lies do not help the Earth



  1. Fierce words from Slate about climate change
  2. The truth is out there
  3. Key things to remember about global warming!
  4. For More Information
  5. A sad photo of a polar bear floating away

This is another in our long series about our leaders’ — Left and Right — discovery that we are easily led by propaganda. When we change so this is no longer true, then reform will become possible for America.

(1)  Fierce words from Slate’s voice about climate change

Debunking the Denial: ’16 Years of No Global Warming’”, Phil Plait (bio here), Slate, 3 December 2012 — Opening:

Oh, those wacky professional climate change deniers! Once again, they’ve banded together a passel of people, 90% of whom aren’t even climatologists, and had them sign a nearly fact-free opinion piece in the Financial Post, claiming global warming isn’t real. It’s an astonishing example of nonsense so ridiculous I would run out of synonyms for “bilge” before adequately describing it.

The Op-Ed is directed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who has recently, and thankfully, been vocal about the looming environmental catastrophe of global warming. The deniers’ letter takes him to task for this, but doesn’t come within a glancing blow of reality.

The letter itself is based on a single claim. So let’s be clear: If that claim is wrong, so is the rest of the letter.Guess what? That claim is wrong. So blatantly wrong, in fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone could write it with a straight face. It says: “The U.K. Met Office recently released data showing that there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years.”

This is simply, completely, and utterly false.

Here we have a man whose gods have failed him. A core element of his faith appears false, leaving him no recourse but to denounce those who reveal this unpleasant truth to the world. A thousand words would be insufficient to deconstruct the lies and misrepresentation in Plait’s article.  Most obviously, the letter does not claim that “global warming is not real”, let alone deny that climate changes.

(2)  The truth is out there

Going to the core of his message — despite Plait’s hysterical denials, all the major temperature datasets show the pause in warming.  Many major climate scientists have discussed the pause. Its causes and implications are actively debated in the peer-reviewed literature.  For links see:

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How can we save the world from climate change?

Summary: Today we continue our year-end speculations. Here we look at the steps necessary to save the world from the effects of CO2-caused climate change.

Preparing for shockwaves!

Preparing for shockwaves!

The often-hysterical tone of much commentary about shockwaves — low probability, high impact scenarios — makes me wonder about these people’s sincerity. How much of their comments reflect genuine fear, how much is entertainment? How many of the people warning of shockwaves do so for personal business interests, or perhaps because these build support for pubic policy measures they seek for other reasons?

Consider climate change. If the IPCC high-end forecasts are correct, only drastic cuts in humanity’s carbon emissions can prevent severe climate change. Many laypeople (ie, non-scientists) loudly proclaim their concern, often exaggerating the state of current research — focusing on that which feeds their fears, ignoring or denigrating that which does not.

The solutions commonly advocated fuel skepticism about their motives. High taxes (eg, carbon taxes) and a massive increase in government regulation of the economy — both long-standing goals of the Left.

Instead, let’s run the problem the other way. What measures would people advocate who are sincerely concerned about CO2-caused warming — and the resulting climate change? Let’s list the most obvious ones.

GRACE satellites at work

GRACE satellites at work

  1. Expansion of climate science research
  2. Nuclear Power
  3. Mitigation measures

(1) Expansion of climate science research

Right or wrong, a large fraction of the world’s people do not believe that global warming poses an imminent threat to them. As has been amply documented in the IPCC reports and elsewhere, there remains a large number of uncertainties about Earth’s past climate, climate dynamics, and forecasts of future climate. The obvious response is greater funding. Here are two areas of great need.

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The IPCC gets better. Climate alarmists freak out.

Summary: The IPCC is the only organization of its kind today, and so the best that we have to deal with the critical problem of climate change (with warming now starting its third century). The leaked draft of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) shows that they’re improving in response to criticism. Here we look at a prominent activist’s reaction (not what you might expect), and some areas in which the IPCC needs more reform.

Other posts in this series about second order draft (SOD) of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

Truth changes the world


  1. About the Intergovernmental Panel
    ….. on Climate Change (IPCC)
  2. About the leak of the AR5
  3. About the Draft AR5
  4. Update: comments about the leak
  5. Joe Romm blows his top
  6. Suggestions for the future
  7. For More Information

(1) About the IPCC

The IPCC has always had difficulty managing its dual mission: report the state of climate science and advocate for public policy action to mitigate effects of rising CO2. One of their best critics, Monckton of Brenchley, describes the results in the opening to his review of AR5:

The IPCC’s credibility has already been damaged by its premature adoption and subsequent hasty abandonment of the now-discredited “hockey-stick” graph as its logo; by its rewriting its Second Assessment Report after submission of the scientists’ final draft, to state the opposite of their finding that no discernible human influence on climate is detectable; by its declaration that all Himalayan ice would be gone in 25 years {see this summary}; and by its use of a dishonest statistical technique in 2007 falsely to suggest that the rate of global warming is accelerating.

Even more telling are critics showing systematic misstating by IPCC authors of the climate science literature (eg, chapter lead authors often showcasing their own work and ignoring their critics). While just business as usual in academic science, the IPCC should not tolerable this when writing the foundation for high-stakes and high-cost public policy. It shows a lack of internal controls at the IPCC, and weakens their credibility — which is their greatest asset.

For more about the IPCC’s weaknesses:

(2) About the leak of the Draft AR5

Alex Rawls leaked the draft of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), bringing sunlight to the IPCC’s secretive workings. He deserves our applause. The IPCC releases its advice for policy-makers long before the science summaries which are its foundation, which makes review and response impossible. Such behavior, that of propagandists, diminishes their credibility. Rawls has forced the IPCC to defend its draft report before policy-makers (and the news media) get its prescriptions.

Update:  Climate Scientist Judith Curry comments on the leak (she is chair of the School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology):

The leak of the SOD {second order draft of AR5} was a good thing; the IPCC still has the opportunity to do a much better job, and the wider discussion in the blogosphere and even the mainstream media places pressure on the IPCC authors to consider these issues; they can’t sweep them under the rug as in previous reports.

(3)   The Draft AR5

What about the AR5 draft? We’ll wait for expert reviews. My impression (FWIW) is that AR5 is a great improvement, in many ways, over their previous work. The IPCC is defending its franchise and learning from experience, both commendable qualities. To see one piece of AR5 read The IPCC sees the pause in global warming!, 18 December 2012.

Also see this honest graphic about one of the potential climate game changers: release of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas). How well have IPCC’s models forecast actual results?

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