Alarm about alarmism

by Judith Curry

The climate change debate has entered what we might call the “Campfire Phase”, in which the goal is to tell the scariest story. – Oren Cass (twitter)

David Wallace-Wells has a recent cover story in NYMagazine:  The Uninhabitable Earth.  Subtitle: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.  The article has generated a firestorm of controversy and debate.

In terms of what is technically wrong with the NYMag article, Andy Revkin pretty much sums it up perfectly with this tweet:

Scariest stuff isn’t worst-case science; it’s bad fit of & time scales with indiv. & collective human risk/response traits.

Apart from the predictable takedowns by the AGW ‘unconvinced,’ there has been substantial resistance to the NYMag article from elements of what is usually regarded as the ‘alarmed’ contingent:

  • Mann et al. in WaPo: and ECOWatch: Such rhetoric is in many ways as pernicious as outright climate change denial, for it leads us down the same path of inaction.
  • Climate FeedbackSixteen scientists analyzed the article and estimated its overall scientific credibility to be ‘low’.  A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: , , .
  • Chris Mooney in WaPo: Scientists challenge story about ‘uninhabitable Earth’
  • Ars Technica:  In both the popular and academic press, scientists argue against worst cases

If this reaction seems surprising to you, you are not the only ones surprised:

Ryan Maue (twitter): Privately more than one journalist told me they were afraid to push back against the NY Mag climate horrors piece.

IMO, the most interesting articles are those that defend development and discussion of worst case scenarios:

A few other articles with interesting points:

Fabius MaximusAfter 30 years of failure to gain support of the US public for massive public policy measures to fight climate change, climate activists now double down on the tactics that have failed them for so long. This post explains why it will not work. Nor should it. Instead they should trust the IPCC and science, showing both the good and bad news.

SF ChronicleIf you honestly believe that climate change will end all life on Earth (it won’t) or lead to some dystopian hell, what policies wouldn’t you endorse to stop it?

Consensus enforcement in the Age of Trump

So, what is going with Mann et al. in trashing the alarming NYMag article?

I saw many such ‘alarmed’ articles (perhaps not as comprehensive) in the Age of Obama, spouting alarmist predictions and concerns.  Further, the White House seemed to encourage this, as evidenced by the web site and the statements of Science Advisor John Holdren.  I never saw any push-back on this from the consensus-enforcing scientific establishment.

In the Age of Trump, alarmism clearly doesn’t influence the policy makers; the best that consensus-enforcing scientific establishment can hope for is to enforce the not very scary IPCC consensus.

And why does this matter to them? Surely this consensus enforcement is antithetical to the scientific process and progress.   It seems to be all about ‘action’ — presumably as defined by the Paris Agreement.  According to Mann et al., too much alarm makes people give up on attempting ‘action.’  Never mind that the proposed actions will have a small impact on the climate (even if you believe the climate models) during the 21st century.

Others disagree, such as Weizmann and Wagner (e.g. Climate Shock), who push the alarming ‘fat tail’ argument as the rationale for ‘action’ (greater uncertainty increases the urgency for action).

Well, I suspect that neither approach will spur ‘action’ — what is needed are new technologies.  Until then, people, corporations and nations will pursue their short-term economic well being.

Deep Uncertainty

In understanding climate change risk, and deciding on the ‘if’ and ‘what’ of ‘action’,  we need to acknowledge that we don’t know how the climate of the 21st century will play out (Deep Uncertainty, folks).  Four possibilities:

  1. It is possible that human-caused climate change will be swamped by much larger natural climate variability.
  2. It is possible/plausible  that the sensitivity of the climate is on the low end of the IPCC envelope (1.0-1.5C), with a slow creep of warming superimposed on much larger natural variability.
  3. It is possible/plausible that the IPCC projections are actually correct (right for the wrong reasons; too much wrong with the climate models for much credibility, IMO).
  4. It is possible that AGW and natural variability could conspire to cause catastrophic outcomes

We can’t put probabilities on these possible scenarios, the uncertainties are too deep.  We can speculate as to the relative likelihoods of these scenarios, but we don’t know, and there will be widespread disagreement.  The negotiated IPCC consensus notwithstanding, I don’t regard #3 as any more likely than #2.  There are some that regard #1 as the most likely outcome.  Apart from advocacy groups hyping alarm, there has not been much serious attention paid to #4.

The IPCC consensus enforcers focus on #3.  #2 is the lukewarm position.  Michael Mann seems to regard consideration of #1, #2, #4 as ‘pernicious.’

I regard consideration of #1, #2, #4 as absolutely essential for both furthering scientific understanding and for understanding the risks from climate change. #2 gets a fair amount of play from the lukewarmer community (see especially Pat Michael’s book).

#1 and #4 are arguably the most interesting from the perspective of science, and also in terms of understanding the risks.   Elements of natural climate variability are active areas of research; what is missing is a synthesis and assessment (something I’ve proposed for red team).

That leaves #4 as not having any serious scientific focus, beyond dystopian articles by journalists and cli-fi novels (and fat tail speculations by economists).  #4 deserves some serious scientific attention.

A few additional tweets from Joseph Makjut:

  • This isnt about scaring people into action or not but thinking hard about what climate change might look like and who it might hurt.
  • Likewise, we should interrogate the scenarios where climate change is rather benign. What-up lukewarmers!?!
  • Keeping multiple versions of the future world in your head is hard, but wisdom comes from considering them all.

Back to ‘action.’  The Weitzmann fat tail argument says greater uncertainty increases the urgency of ‘action’ (Taleb is a fan of this argument).  I’ve discussed the problems with this argument previously:

The point is this.  Climate variability and change (whatever the direction or cause) has socioeconomic impacts, and it is useful to ponder the possibilities, independently of ‘action’ on CO2 emissions.

The plausible worst case scenario

Joe Romm states the issue perfectly:

Thus, the question remains: what is a plausible worst-case scenario for climate change this century?

Back in the day when Joe Romm and I were buddies(!), we discussed extensively the plausible worst cast scenarios.  In fact, these were the subject of his book Hell and High Water.

I discussed the creation of worst case scenarios in these posts:

Based on everything that I’ve seen, it is very difficult to conclude that human-caused climate change is potentially a ‘ruin’ problem on the timescale of the 21st century.  But climate change is interesting and important, independently of whether AGW is the dominant factor or not.

To make progress on this, we need to better understand climate shifts and abrupt climate change.  Even though we can’t predict solar variability and volcanic eruptions, we need to consider a range of scenarios of these, not just a replica of the 20th century.  We need to much better understand multi-decadal to millennial oscillations in the ocean.

My understanding of the climate system is that external forcing projects onto the modes of internal variability.  How might these conspire to cause abrupt climate change in the 21st century?

With regards to plausible worst case scenarios, I’ve proposed the idea of a modal falsification test of specific worst case scenarios, that may be generated by climate models, inferred from historical data, or created as what-if scenarios.  The modal falsification challenge is to attempt to falsify these extreme scenarios based on background knowledge (e.g historical climate change, physical limitations).  If a scenario survives the falsification test, then it remains as a possible scenario. ‘Plausibility’ requires another layer of assessment and judgement. (It would be interesting to go back through Romm’s book to assess the plausibility 10 years post publication).

Note, this strategy is very different from the manufacture of mythical fat tails from pdfs (much loved by economists and statisticians) that simply do not exist given the level and types of uncertainties.  However the fat tail approach and generation of plausible worst case scenarios that I propose share a common concern to understand the risk from the ‘worst case.’

One interesting case of plausible worst case scenario generation is provided by Jim Hansen, see this lengthy recent interview with Hansen in the NYMag.

So, assume that we generate a range of worst case future scenarios for the 21st century, ranging from #1 (including the potential for abrupt climate change purely from natural variability), through a range of sensitivities to human caused climate change, to #4 a conspiracy of human caused climate change and natural variability to cause very large climate change.  And then reject the scenarios that can be falsified based on our background knowledge. Then what?

Well, then we are still faced with assessing the issue of whether the changed climate is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and for whom and where.  Not to mention the complexity of a political debate on how we might respond to any of this.

The bottom line is that the simple story pushed by the consensus enforcers of a simple climate problem and a simple energy solution is a goldilocks fairy tale.  Given that their careers have been invested in this fairy tale, its little wonder that they regard anything other than their enforced consensus as ‘pernicious.’


201 responses to “Alarm about alarmism

  1. Pingback: Alarm about alarmism – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. I’d replace “deep uncertainty” with “haven’t got a clue,” as a motto suggesting dropping the whole thing.

    • David Springer


      Coronal Mass Ejection on the scale of 1859 Carrington Event is more concerning and more likely possibility. So is a super-volcano eruption. Or significant asteroid strike. Or global thermonuclear war. Or artificial intelligence run amok. Or “gray goo” from runaway nano-technology.

      All these things deserve more attention than so-called climate change.

      • For once some polite and sensible comments from D Springer.

        I’d agree will all of that.

      • The difference is that catastrophic agw-ists believe that there is a knob that can be dialled which will avert catastrophe. No such knobs exist for volcanos or asteroids.

      • David Springer

        Climategrog – was the insult really necessary? Try to be better person than that.

  3. empirical evidence for AGW rests on correlations between cumulative emissions and climate variables. These correlations are spurious.

    the idea that changes in atmos co2 are related to emissions is without empirical support

    agw is a nothing-burger

    • “These correlations are spurious.”

      Exactly, just about any variable of anything has a finite trend up or down and thus can be “correlated” to CO2 on inter-decadal scales.

      That does not prove or even suggest anything useful since there is a very high probability that it is meaningless, spurious similarity of neither being non stationary.

      Since most things are “non stationary” that does not inform us at all about causation.

  4. Great coverage. I saw this recently as well debunking the mass extinction scare. –

  5. Typo: change “it” to “it’s” in:
    “and it useful to ponder “

  6. Curious George

    “Hansen began his career studying Venus, which was once a very Earth-like planet with plenty of life-supporting water before runaway climate change rapidly transformed it into an arid and uninhabitable sphere enveloped in an unbreathable gas.” Any facts supporting this, anybody?

    • No one has any evidence of the “geological” history of Venus. It is wild speculation based on assumptions about how the solar system was created.

      Much of this gets passed off as science when it is little more than like when archaeologists spin a massive web of fantasy of blood thirsty virgin sacrifices to appease angry gods of early civilisations based on a few bumps in the ground and a pointy looking bit of stone they found.

      If you want to know why Venus is a sulphurous fireball planet, try first explaining why its rotational axis is off by almost 90 degrees and a day is nearly the same as a year down there.

      Whatever did that to a planet almost certainly destroyed what kind of an atmosphere it had prior to that event .

    • Well, there is the ratio of deuterium to single proton hydrogen to consider.

      And solar brightening.

      And where do you think all that CO2 came from?

  7. With respect. Seems to me the whole “climate-change” issue boils down to the elite stroking their own egos and lining their pockets at the expense of everyone else, particularly the poor. Strikes me the issue displays a basic dismal characteristics of socialism: force everyone to contribute to a cause that is essentially a belief and if anyone objects, terrorize them.

    Deep-six the whole scheme. Rely on the forces of the marketplace to produce innovations that better the lot of all through the wiser (and more cost effective) use of energy.

  8. After reading Hansen and his efforts I get the feeling that it stirs up a lot of political fervor but gets no closer to change. He will have wasted his whole life and career for nothing. Changes will occur but it will be driven by economics just like everything else. He also made a mistake going against big green, Paris and Obama.

  9. You wrote

    That leaves #4 as not having any serious scientific focus, beyond dystopian articles by journalists and cli-fi novels (and fat tail speculations by economists). #4 deserves some serious scientific attention.

    I think you meant “#1 deserves some serious scientific attention”?

  10. “It is possible/plausible that the IPCC projections are actually correct (right for the wrong reasons; too much wrong with the climate models for much credibility, IMO).”

    I don’t believe this is a useful framing of the IPCC reports. I assume this means “that the models used by the IPCC accurately predict how Earth’s temperature will change given specified GHG emissions.”

    Which is an important issue, of course. But it conflates with a larger question as to which scenario we will follow, described in terms of forcings: RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6, and RCP8.5.

    RCP2.6 is wonderful for any likely sensitivity of the climate. RCP8.5 is horrific for any likely sensitivity of the climate. The public policy debate needs a better understanding of these choices. The relentless focus on the worst case — RCP8.5 — makes today’s public policy debate as case of garbage-in and garbage out.

    No wonder so many people have tuned out, and rank climate change so low as a public policy priority. That is what’s wrong with the focus on worst case scenarios.

    • The climate models are not fit for the purpose of projecting 21st climate change. Most climate modelers would even admit that.

      Apart from the issues of not being able to predict future solar variability, volcanic eruptions and ocean oscillations, climate models aren’t all that credible re sensitivity to CO2 emission scenarios, they are generally running too hot.

      • Nailed it !!!

      • Dr. Curry,

        “The climate models are not fit for the purpose of projecting 21st climate change. Most climate modelers would even admit that.”

        Let’s put them in front of Congress under oath. When they tell that to the people of the world, the climate policy debate will be transformed. Radically, irreversibly.

        Even a weak statement of that — less than a strong defense of models’ utility – would be big news.

      • Hi Judy. Where have you seen climate modellers admit their models are not fit to project 21st century climate? There is, as you know, a huge effort to make regional projections (predictions).

        Roger Sr

      • For a start, see Lenny Smith’s presentation at my UK-US workshop:

        There are many other examples, no time to dig up.

        Re regional projections/predictions, the inadequacy of climate models in this regard is even discussed in the IPCC AR5.

      • If the models are running hot, so is the actual data over the last 60 years. Taking the temperature change of 0.9 C and the CO2 change from 315 ppm to 405 ppm, we get nearly 2.5 C per doubling, which is twice this so-called lukewarmer value. Their value dangerously underpredicts the last 60 years warming by 50%, and is not as fit for purpose as the observationally derived effective transient rate 2.5 C per doubling that includes all factors but is dominated by GHG increases.
        The observations.

      • If Professor Smith testifies before Congress, get him a translator. His articles are impenetrable. His 6 Feb 2014 presentation might be genius, but deserves a chapter in Edward Tufte’s next book as a contender for “worst powerpoint presentation, ever.”

        But his some of conclusions are clear and bold. Such as this:

        “…Given the acknowledged systematic, shared shortcomings in all current climate models, treating model outputs as decision relevant projections can be significantly misleading. In extrapolatory situations, such as projections of future climate change impacts, there is little reason to expect that postprocessing of model outputs can correct for the consequences of such errors. This casts doubt on our ability, today, to make trustworthy, high-resolution probabilistic projections out to the end of this century.”


      • Dr. Curry:

        I reiterate my prior suggestion: Have the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce, issue Requests For Proposals (RFP) for private entity analysis of IPCC climate models.

        The work must be accomplished before IPCC AR6 and its climate model “projections” are finalized by the CMIP6 process. That process is described in:

        A discussion of this idea may prove fruitful when discussing the Red Team concept.

        Dave Fair

      • David Springer

        Judith your response to Pielke defending your statement “most modelers would admit that” was entirely lacking in substance. Try again or admit it was hyperbole.

      • Uh, I’m busy. I’ll see if i have time later tonite.

      • The models are a complex assembly of initial-value, non-linear partial differential equations attempting to determine climate impacts on vast time scales while involving vast spaces (the planet). The equations may or may not properly reflect the chaotic nature of thr climate. The input variables may or may not be proper. There is no way to ascertain whether or not meaningful solutions are even possible.

        In the engineering world, we struggle to obtain computer solutions to far less complex systems on much smaller time scales and involving significantly smaller spaces. Along comes a bunch of characters who think they can accurately model the climate for an entire planet dozens of years into the future in response to minor increases in a trace gas. Give me a break.

        The models are not fit for the purposes of determining the climate in the distant future. Mathematical fact. Dr. Curry has it exactly correct.

      • Gee, Springer, did you forget to ask her to fix you a sandwich and a beer?

    • So many people forget the great Reagan build up against the soviets. The worst case scenario was absurd. The threat assessment and projections were unscientific alarmism.
      Those two drove the unverifiable war modelling and modelling used to design military systems.

      • Steven,

        “So many people forget the great Reagan build up against the soviets. The worst case scenario was absurd.”

        That’s an important point to remember!

        Also important to remember that this fraud resulted from a “Red Team” exercise, the infamous “Team B” project. For details see A Red Team to end the climate wars: fun but likely to fail..

      • Curious George

        So many people forget that the great Reagan build up worked. It defeated the enemy without a single shot being fired.

      • Don Monfort

        The Soviets said they would bury us and they had the means to do it. We were supposed to believe that they were just kidding? WTF kind of scientific assessment would lead you to think we did not face an existential threat, Steven? You didn’t participate in the Cold War and the hot proxy wars. You were a little technical guy with no practical knowledge about WTF was going on in the trenches. You don’t know doo doo from shinola about it.

      • David Springer

        Hopefully you’re not forgetting that absurd alarmism with regard to the red menace led to absurd science programs such as Star Wars which led to the Soviet Union going bankrupt trying to keep up in a climate (pun intended) of deep uncertainty regarding a low probability outcome of the US acquiring indefensible first strike capability.

        In the climate change case it’s the rest of the world trying to drive the United States into bankruptcy. I’m not falling for it and neither should any other thoughtful intelligent informed US citizen.

      • @DavidSpringer

        Thankfully President Trump has refused to fall for it too, and has done something practical about it.

      • David Springer

        Yup. And for the first time in my life I donated money and hundreds of hours of my time to a political candidate other than myself. #MAGA

      • Actually Don, Springer has a point. The US viewed the USSR as this behemoth capable of overrunning Europe in a matter of weeks. The response was to design tactical nukes all the way up to the Pershing missile system. As for the war games, NATO commanders were rather shocked at how fast a conventional conflict in Europe when nuclear, a matter of hours and days into the start of the game. I suspect it was due to over estimating the capabilities of the Warsaw Pact.

        Then there is the history of how the US developed its strategic nuclear arsenal and war fighting policy through the concept of bootstrapping.

  11. Pingback: Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work. – Fabius Maximus website

  12. I skimmed through the NYMag article. Hansen says that fracking is doubling down on fossil fuels, whereas it has been chiefly responsible for the reduction in US emissions, not only of CO2 but also of partculate matter. More evidence that he’s out of touch with reality.

  13. I think that to the four points under deep uncertainty should be added a fifth. Natural variability causing a dangerous shift to the climate.

  14. #2 is not the Lukewarm position judith.
    As I laid out in 2009 the Luke warm position is this.
    More than 50% of the pdf for ECS lies below 3c and above 1.5c.

    Since then Luck warmists who believe there is some magical negative. Feedback or magical internal variability hitherto unseen have hijacked term.

    • Sorry, you don’t define lukewarmerism.

      • Steven Mosher

        When no one else had the vision to layout out a quantifiable definition of the position I laid it out.

        People loved the term and of course misused it for its marketing appeal.

        History. Don’t be a denier.

      • Steven,

        I applaud you attempt to provide a specific definition for one of the many almost meaningless terms that dominate the lay debate about climate change. This lack of rigor has made it a “wilderness of mirrors” at best, something like Alice’s Wonderland at worst.

        The American people are smart, and most have largely tuned out.

      • Steven,

        I recommend your next definition be “denier”. As in your statement “Don’t be a denier.”

        What does that mean?

      • At least Steve is a lukewarmer defining his position. Far bettter than the boxes others try to put us in–See ATTP, Eli Rabett, ad nauseum.

        I think Steve is overly sensitive to people adopting the lukewarmer label without to o much exploration. I think Steve’s definition is a good first sort. Whatever elegant definition we come up with later probably won’t exclude anybody that agrees with Steve and probably won’t include too many who disagree with him.

      • A lukewarmer is not one that says 100% attribution is very unlikely when this is the central estimate of the IPCC. That 100% is the question where it leans more towards denial.

      • Steven Mosher

        “I recommend your next definition be “denier”. As in your statement “Don’t be a denier.”

        What does that mean?”

        It;s pretty simple. Long before it was fashionable to be a Luke warmer, it was discussed at Lucia’s. The challenge put to me was

        “What is a Lukewarmer?” SPECIFICALLY.

        David Smith actually coined the term on Climate audit and disappeared and Tom Fuller and I were the only folks using the term with any regularity or effect. So, when challenged there was really only one person willing and capable to lay out a coherent position.

        A position on the science that is consistent with the IPCC positions,
        that also does not make any unwarranted leaps to policy positions that
        are strickly speaking not a deterministic function of science.

        I would think that anyone who wants to understand the term ( as Lucia did ) would study or ask about it’s origins and early use. Who coined the term and who was willing to defend it as a position. To be sure the origin of a term does not determine the meaning. Yes language changes as a result of subsequent use and social pressure.

        I’m fighting that change because I think the original position I laid out for Lukewarmers is more tenable than the Overly confident assertion that

        “the climate is really complex and things are really uncertain, BUT
        we know ECS is between 1 and 1,5.”

        That version of “Lukewarmer” is just skeptics stealing a cooler name.

      • Steven,

        Thank you for the background on “lukewarmer.” I found it useful!

        But its opens with my request for a definition of “denier” — a tease, but you didn’t give an answer.

      • I would say a “denier” is one who thinks 100% attribution is almost impossible to impossible. They reverse the IPCC statement that most likely 100% of the warming has been from anthropogenic causes to being unlikely. I think this is a fairly precise definition because it is relative to the IPCC phrasing below. Some people aren’t complete deniers to the extent that they think 100% is possible.
        “The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” AR5 SPM D.3.

      • Mosh: “When no one else had the vision to layout out a quantifiable definition of the position I laid it out.”

        Shame you did not have the vision to register the word as a registered trade mark too.

        As it is you DONT own and it on don’t get to tell everyone else how it is defined.

    • David Springer

      Steven you’re not a player in this debate. Just stop. It appears pathetic to outside observers when you pretend anyone of any consequence pays attention to anything you have to say.

  15. I would suggest a further worst case scenario, perhaps #4b:

    What if in addition (sufficiently) cheap renewable energy doesn’t materialize?
    Should we draw down our stocks of energetic resources big time in a wager it does? (Even if this mightn’t move the needle anyway?)

    I don’t remember this to be discussed much by alarmists.

  16. It’s just the other face of the Uncertainty Monster. Some want to say, “we can’t be certain about this, or this, so why worry?”. Other’s say “we can’t be certain, so very bad things could happen”. It’s the natural consequence of inflating uncertainty. Mann et al are saying, don’t do that.

    • So, lets be certain, and implement costly policies based on this certainty, even if the policies have a high likelihood of not working or even causing harm. It’s difficult to inflate uncertainty regarding the climate system and socioeconomic impacts and responses, with a whole frontier of unknowns.

      And finally, I’m not talking about actions, I’m talking about the climate system and how it might evolve in the 21st century. We pretty much have no idea, the IPCC has presented just one set of scenarios based on emissions using tuned climate models that seem to be running too hot.

      • The policies are not costly, except to the fossil fuel industry. What they lose is actually very lucrative for other modern energy/fuel-related industries and in GDP terms these offset. The skeptics only see the downside from their one-sided fossil fuel perspective. Because of rapid advances, those energy forms are not even going to be price competitive in the coming decades according to some projections, and may even die a natural death because the effort of extracting them becomes not worth it. Either way they need replacing for affordable energy through 2100. From the climate perspective, the sooner the better, but it will happen anyway.

      • yes lets let technology and the markets determine the evolution of energy systems. In the meantime, lets not thwart this progress with regulations and subsidies propping up inadequate and old renewable energy technologies

      • This is where the national governments can spur the right kind of development through incentives, rewards, public-private partnerships, loans, investments, and they should, considering the importance of this happening sooner rather than later.

      • Curious George

        National governments are always right. Especially when they “spur the right kind of development” by subsidizing products, not development.

      • CG, I disagree. It is better to subsidize development than products, unless those products are essential items like food and maybe wind turbines and solar panels. Supporting R&D leads to technology that can compete in global markets and in generally good for the national industries. Even Trump as part of his G20 statement recognized the value of American industry in the global clean energy market, so hopefully he will help it if his words meant anything.

      • Jim D:

        “It is better to subsidize development than products, unless those products are essential items like food and maybe wind turbines and solar panels.”

        I think the Federal government and my state government are subsidizing wind and solar products. We can bet on research success or subsidize the lack of product success. The way wind and solar become essential is if there is a job to do, and they can do it. If we agree there is a job to do, the 2 C target or maybe a 3 C target, can they do it? At 2% of global energy production after over a decade of effort, maybe they can’t. The transportation and home heating sectors are going to be tough to solve with wind and solar. We could redo each and every house and replace each automobile with something we haven’t invented yet. We could build more light rail and concentrate people in smaller areas, I mean isn’t sprawl causing climate change? We need to downsize. Take public transportation. The rednecks are going to love this.

      • Ragnaar, currently wind and solar are at 6% globally. Even a moderate growth rate of 10% per year gets this to 20% by 2030. I think it is growing faster. Some countries (India, France, Norway) are going towards electric cars fairly aggressively. That, in combination with renewable energy, alleviates your redneck problem as well as pollution in urban areas. Oil companies are paying attention to this trend.

      • Jim D:
        Charitably, wind and solar is 2% of global energy production.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Jim D,
        The domestic cost of electricity here in Aust is 3 X what it could be with 1990s BAU (approx) because of climate change policy.
        I would call that a costly policy.
        Further, the intermittency and cost of renewables is driving heavy industry away. That is also costly to this economy.
        Further, the standard of science has been dropping as more is spent on climate change topics. Innovation and invention in diverse fields have dropped, when in my younger days Aust was a world leader. That is costly.
        Let me count the ways. Geoff.

      • David Springer

        Jim D

        “Alternative” energy that costs more than fossil fuel inescapably falls under the broken window fallacy.

        Destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is not a net benefit to society.

        The window being broken is fossil fuel. The money spent on more expensive alternative energy sources and associated employment is not a net benefit.

        In order for the broken window fallacy to not apply one needs to demonstrate that more destruction occurs by continuing to use fossil fuels than not using them. Too few people believe that CO2 emission from fossil fuel is a net economic negative when all the benefits of affordable energy, fertilization of the atmosphere, and warming in higher latitudes where warming is welcome (cold and ice and short growing seasons are not beneficial to life).

      • Fossil fuels are getting harder to extract and worse to the environment, and more pricey as a result. Their projected trends are only in bad directions for the rest of the 21st century. We need alternatives to take over and as soon as possible.

      • I emphatically disagree with the government subsidizing development activities. Such government led efforts inevitably become nothing more than corrupt, crony-capitalism, wth government institutions (e.g. DOE) also lining their own pockets. Further, government bureaucrats are incapable of picking marketplace winners and losers. The reason is pretty simple, the bureaucrats generally have never made a living in the competitive world and exist only by using other people’s money with virtually no accountability.

        Better model: let venture capitalists write-off investments in development activities. The marketplace will quickly winnow out the good from the bad.

        This is not an idle and non-affected philosophy. My firm is in the technology development arena and we use our own money.

      • Nick and Judith ==> As for action, let me remind you of the work of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University and the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland — recently published as the book The Rightful Place of Science: CLIMATE PRAGMATISM.

        Taking these No Regrets, Win-Win actions that solve real problems for real people, raising standards of living which in turn raises societal resilience to weather and climate impacts is a great policy direction that we can all get help move along.

        Let the Red Team help sort out the uncertainties and direct further research where needed to resolve those that can be resolved.

      • David Springer

        Natural gas is inexpensive and plentiful thanks to hydro-fracturing extraction technology. Coal too is inexpensive and plentiful. Light sweet crude price has plummeted since 2014 and is likely to remain in the affordable $50/bbl range for quite some time as the US finishes becoming energy independent and ups its exports to keep OPEC in check going forward.

      • As usual, Jim D hasn’t got a clue. There is an article in WSJ that looks at the predictions for all electric vehicles and puts some numbers to it. Without taxpayer subsidies, electric vehicles need oil to be at $300 a barrel to be cost comparable to ICE vehicles at the current kW hour cost from batteries ($273).

        This is not an argument against subsidies. It simply points out that the overly simplistic reasoning and lines of argument Jim D throws out on a frequent basis are not worth the energy it takes to put them on the internet.

    • Curious George

      The Sun will not rise tomorrow unless Aztecs sacrifice a human being.

      What certainty do you ascribe to that belief?

    • But why can’t we say: “We can’t be certain about this, or this, because there are too many unknowns, so let’s try to reduce the number of unknowns.”
      I prefer that to saying: : “We can’t be certain about this, or this, so let’s all run around like chickens with their heads cut off in the hope we might stumble on doing something to help the situation.”

      • Clean and renewable energy and fuel efficiency have other benefits anyway, so why not?

      • Yes, but let’s be pragmatic about this. Let’s solve the storage issue and the life cycle management issues first before we jump into the deep end of the pool.

      • They have natural gas as a stop-gap backup until storage takes over. This also saves natural gas which is a very limited resource. Imagine the changes needed to our home-heating systems if natural gas starts to run out. Renewables preserve that, and spread its effect over a longer time making it less harmful to climate.

      • Curious George

        Jim D, I love your picture. Let’s take the points:
        – Energy independence – false
        – Preserve rainforests – false (they need CO2)
        – Sustainability – false
        – Green jobs – true, and plenty of them
        – Livable cities – how??
        – Renewables – is it a stutter?
        – Clean water, air – we have them already
        – Healthy children – maybe; needs work
        – Etc, etc – that’s the main argument.
        More children die from cold than from heat. Your benefits are mostly hype.

      • Having a ‘stop-gap’ backup doesn’t address the storage issue. As far as the other points you make, I’ll just quote Niels Bohr:

        Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

      • Does ‘It’s a Wonderful Life include the energy poverty deaths?’

      • willb01, yes, using natural gas as a backup may go on for a considerable time if better solutions are not found, but even if so, that is a dramatic reduction from using it as a primary energy source, so I would not mind that. What matters is emission rates.

      • ordvic, that is just your version of alarmism. It will be a disaster. The poor won’t be able to afford natural gas heating anymore or gas for their cars anymore. Is that a scenario you think will happen?

      • afonzarelli

        “What matters is emission rates.”

        NO THEY DON’T…

        What matters is the atmospheric CO2 growth-rate. AND it’s been tied to temperature since the inception of the MLO data set.

      • Jim D:

        Another German company with public support and most likely not denying climate change, declares insolvency. My long distant cousins are smart but they don’t seem to be improving things.

        “It tells us the story of megalomania, ignorance, cockiness and blindness of the future” and that it is an example of “the state interfering with competition – and distorting it” to the point where “companies are hampered and the power of innovation is weakened”

        Wind and solar has been rolled out. It’s been given advantages like mandates and tax breaks. Spending the money this way, blocks it from being spent another way. Suppose I wanted to make electricity more expensive and less reliable. I’d do what we’ve done with wind and solar via governments. Once built, they burden the grid and drive out other more reliable sources. Base load coal and nuclear is less valuable because of the increased swings in generation caused be the wind and the Sun. Wind and solar drive out the cheap, proven and realiable.

      • fonzie, your graph points out the well known fact that the global carbon sink is less effective in warmer years. However it stays as a sink and the source is anthropogenic because in each year CO2 increases by about 40-50% of the emissions in that year, and CO2 in the ocean is increasing too, of course.

      • Germany are being very ambitious going to renewables without nuclear. I don’t think it is a good choice. We’ll see how it goes. Japan might be doing something similar. France have a lot of nuclear and can export energy to neighbors in need. Their plan is to reduce nuclear as renewables come more online. Britain at least have not ruled out nuclear even if it is difficult to expand there for political reasons.

      • afonzarelli

        i never said that the rise wasn’t anthropogenic. Just that the rise is tied to temperature (and has been that way for well over half a century). It doesn’t matter what the emission rates are; the atmospheric growth rate is (for whatever reason) tied to temperature…

      • Not tied to temperature, only modulated by it. You get the background trend anyway regardless of what the annual temperature is.

      • David Springer

        It’s not creating a better world and that’s the problem. It’s depriving those nations in deep poverty the natural resources that have lifted the industrialized world out of poverty.

        Climate alarmists aren’t just wrong they’re evil.

      • DS, those “natural resources” are already too expensive for them. How do you plan to change that situation? Subsidies? Loans? Giving gas and oil away?

      • Jim D:

        It sounds like you may not be against nuclear. Common ground. Germany is saving the planet, ignoring Hansen and then saving it from nuclear instead. This alliance: The right will go for nuclear, just have Trump make sure most Republican politicians do. Gain enough Democrats to support nuclear.

        If the problem is to be addressed certain people are going to have to be dropped by the Democrats. Anti-nuclear, anti-fracking, anti-natural gas pipelines and anti-powerlines. Demonstrated seriousness would be nice.

      • afonzarelli

        “You get the background trend anyway regardless of what the annual temperature is.”

        Not so, Jimbo… If that were the case there would be no reason for the growth rate to be tracking with temperature. The above graph shows why the correlation with emissions is spurious. Without the step rises in the growth rate circa 1980 & 2000 (that correlate with the well known step rises in temperature), you would have no “background trend”. You can hand wave all you want, but that won’t demonstrate that emission rates have any impact on the atmospheric carbon growth rate…

      • Being pro-nuclear doesn’t mean every country in the world should do it. Care is needed. It is a limited solution. Republicans would not go for it because of backers in the oil industry and links to oil, coal and gas states. They just don’t have the clout where it matters and where fracking and pipelines already have a head start with this administration. Nuclear faces an uphill struggle on both sides of the Congress, while the fossil fuels wheels are highly greased at this point. This is exactly the wrong direction.

      • fonzie, take a look at this and explain. It shows accumulated emissions along with the accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 levels only started rising fast as emissions rates started rising fast. As I said, what matters is emission rates, and this plot shows how much. Also the relative scale of the rise is important. Emissions are about double the atmospheric increase because the other half is absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

      • “CO2 levels only started rising fast as emissions rates started rising fast.”

        One could just as easily argue that co2 levels started rising fast as the temperature anomaly has risen higher…

      • fonzie, emission rates increased tenfold between the early 20th century and now. Added CO2 rates in the atmosphere have also increased tenfold in the same time. Emission rates are what matters for CO2 increase rates. If emissions stopped, CO2 would flatten off.

      • Jim D:

        I there many countries that are considered Western, that are fine having nuclear. These countries use huge amounts of energy. You have the Republicans not supporting nuclear because of big oil. I suppose it has something to do with cheap natural gas.

        “President Obama Gets It: Fracking Is Awesome”

        “Claim: Says Hillary Clinton supported and continues to “support fracking.”
        Claimed by: Bernie Sanders
        Fact check by PolitiFact: Mostly True”

        We don’t need to be cynical. Nuclear gives us our best chance and will work with or without climate change. Do we agree on the benefits of alliances?

      • For renewables, the problem is massive. On an industrial scale, batteries are problematic. There are several issues with batteries as a storage solution:
        1. Battery chemistries and related environmental impacts during production and disposal/recycling.
        2. Battery reliability for non industrialized locations and the associated supply chain/availability problems. See 1.
        3. Local versus industrial scale use? Power at the home, versus giant battery based energy storage plants. See 1.
        4. Energy density versus safety. Some chemistries are safer than others, relatively. See 1.
        5. Battery maintenance in non industrialized locations.

        Alternative storage solutions are not necessarily any better. Hybridized storage may be practical at the industrial scale, but may be impractical at the small scale.

        Mechanical energy storage has been proposed in the past, and gas pressure storage systems are currently under development in some geologically suitable areas. However, these industrial scale approaches are not suitable for large segments of the worls’s population.

        For renewables, the storage problem is the big elephant in the room.

      • Ragnaar, natural gas is fine to the extent it doesn’t cause earthquakes or methane leaks which are downsides to me. However, the reserves are large and a lot needs to be left in the ground, or it should be used very slowly because by itself it can cause 2 C of additional warming if used by 2100. By that time it could globally run out if used at the current rate and if I have my numbers about reserves and consumption right.

      • Allan, a solution that I have suggested here before is already pretty much technically feasible, which is home battery storage where you download your energy into home batteries at peak renewable production times and use them later. Gone would be the days of immediate blackouts from downed power lines too, because these batteries could store several days. You would probably have three batteries, one in use, one charging and one charged and spare. Occasionally a service would come around and swap old batteries out. These batteries would be similar to current high-end electric car batteries. Mass production would reduce the cost.

      • “Emission rates are what matters for CO2 increase rates.”

        Jim D’ Nile is not a river in Egypt…

        The increases in the carbon growth rate only come with temperature increases. It’s been that way during the entire length of the instrumental record. And now you’ve seen it and you are d’nying it. Look, you may well be correct that the increases would not come without human emissions, but that doesn’t mean that the increases would be there without changes in temperature either. (about the former we don’t actually know, about the latter we most certainly do) How do you explain that the growth rate increased in the late 70s coincident with temperature as well as the early 2000s? You can’t. So at this point you’re just flat out lying. You’re cherry picking your data and you expect public policy to foolishly follow along. If the future is anything like the past half century, then the paris accord would have ZERO impact on atmospheric carbon growth…

      • fonzie, changes occur both up and down with temperature. During the Ice Ages CO2 only changed with temperature because there were no emissions, and this is well known. The thing that is different now is that we have added emissions every year so the change is upwards and doesn’t even go down in cooler years. It still goes up. Go figure.

      • David Springer

        One of the poorest nations on the planet is Myanmar (Burma). It is rich in oil and natural gas. Now that they have a democracy in place would you deny them the right to lift their people out of poverty by exploiting those sources of energy?

      • DS, countries like Myanmar have emissions per capita of a fraction of the global average. The Paris accord does not ask them to reduce emissions. In fact they can increase as long as the carbon intensity stays reasonable. This is what applies to China and India too who have to make sure CO2 grows less than their GDP to make substantial reductions in carbon intensity by 2030.

      • the issue is that development funds for countries in Africa, Myanmar etc. are not forthcoming for fossil fuel power plants

      • My take. They can’t afford to buy fossil fuels, otherwise they would have done that by now. If some like Myanmar have those resources why not use them and sell them to buy what they need? Those that don’t have resources can’t afford to import them, as fossil fuel prices are already too high for them and only going up unless demand in developed countries dramatically drops due to the Paris efforts, which would be their only hope for affording them down the road.

      • Tons of coal also in Africa. the issue is not buying fossil fuels, but funds to build power plants and grid

      • That would be such a step into the19th century. Coal mines instead of solar? They can do better than that and are surely aware that advanced countries are moving away from coal now. If they go that way, the coal-happy RCP scenarios gets closer, and I think they know that everyone’s coal needs to be left in the ground for their own benefit. Also ask yourself why they have not done this already. It’s not that cheap, and their people can’t afford or don’t need power over transmission lines. Their income is 5% of that in the developed world, so coal-produced power would be a luxury item. Big disconnect.

      • Developing an industrial economy requires full time grid electricity. Are you really telling africa they can’t have grid electricity to develop industry?

      • They can do it like the other modern countries are. They don’t have to start with the mistake of coal.

      • The only coal in Africa appears to be in South Africa, and I would consider that to be a developed country.

      • JimD, You seem to dismiss the need to do something about energy poverty. It does not just happen in underdeveloped countries it happens in industrial countries including the US. Your ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ world has no meaning or import for them. Yes I agree that gas is not the long term solution but it is certainly relevant now.

        For industrial countries I think nuclear is the only solution right now. For underdeveloped countries you could be right about renewables but I don’t think it’s a good track record. The only reason I say that is they won’t need a grid or industrial capacity. If they got renewables could they afford it? They will need modern appliances to make use of it and have and infrastructure to maintain renewable generation. The only way they make that transition is for it to become economically viable not dependent on foreign or government subsidies. I don’t know if we’ll really actually ever see that.

        I was watching a show about evolution and they showed some people that were importing salt across the desert by camel. They had done so for generations. They were building stick huts for housing their children near the salt lake. They seemed perfectly happy in an environment that most of us would find intolerable. Do they need energy? Perhaps not. Will they get it anyway? I doubt it.

      • ordvic, the Paris accord includes funds to help these countries both develop clean energy and adapt to climate change. Plus, very importantly, renewables can be downscaled to local needs. You can have local solar farms or wind turbines and not need a major power plant and transmission infrastructure across the country. In remote areas renewables are the way to go. This parallels how phone and TV systems spread across those countries, not with landlines and cables, but with wireless and satellite. They can jump to modern technologies that are more suitable anyway.

      • =={ the issue is that development funds for countries in Africa, Myanmar etc. are not forthcoming for fossil fuel power plants ==}

        So what are you doing to help convince your buds in the Trump admin to get going with providing that funding?

        I’m sure that won’t be a heavy lift. Trump supporters are so heavily invested in that kind of thing.

        Seems to me that using your influence there would be more productive in addressing your concerns than throwing around pejoratives like “alarmist.”

      • JimD, I agree wholeheartedly with what you say and perhaps renewables would work. The Paris accord required trillions of dollars from the US to start such programs that could very possibly fail. Like I say some poor people in poor nations are perfectly happy without energy. Those efforts will not effect the emissions problem anyway. It just meant the US taking in the behind again.

        For the industrial nations poor right now gas and oil is what they can afford. Renewables will remain a pie dream for them. Go nuclear is what industrial nations need. Trump supports all energy and wants cheap energy for the poor. It.makes more sense to me than wasting trillions on energy with such a terrible track record and on nations who seem to live perfectly well without energy.

      • Joshua,

        I went through the comments and found only one reference to ‘alarmists’ and that was JimD saying that that was my version of alarmism regarding energy poverty

        Perhaps instead of accusing JC of using pejoratives you should stick to your argument of the futility of building grids and power plants in Africa.

        It would make sense in Africa in areas of potential industrialization or current industrial areas. I don’t think the US needs to get involved

        Their economies will evolve (or not)
        with or without US help. No reason to waste a lot of money on that companies will do it for us.

      • Jim D:

        They could have wind and solar without a grid. We don’t have much of that in the United States. If it made sense, it would be in the process of happening. The cost of the batteries so far is preventing that. This is with the 30% solar tax credit and some states exempting solar purchases from sales and annual property taxes.

      • Ragnaar, when you already have a grid, there is less incentive to live off the grid, but some people and communities do look forwards to that, especially with ideas like solar cities or the power wall. When you don’t have a grid and can generate renewable energy locally, why build a grid and transport it in from somewhere else? It is a different question when you start from scratch. As I mentioned, these countries developed phone systems and internet around wireless and TV around satellite to avoid the need for grids. Modern technology makes these methods more viable.

      • Jim D:

        I’d have to say it’s more expensive off the grid. Conventional is more affordable. One can do more good for more people with it. So we approach it two ways. Build out from densely populated areas with conventional. Renewables for the sticks. Then work on connecting them.

    • It’s hard to tell exactly what Mann et al are saying. What is clear is that they are viewing this through a political lense and basing responses on their political “effect.” In other words, managing the message is not a scientific activity. It’s a political activity. Given Mann’s history of what can most charitably be characterized as shooting from the lip, I would apply a high discount to future utterances until a new track record is established.

      In terms of “inflating uncertainty” my view is that the history of most fields involving modeling chaotic dynamical systems is a tendency to “minimize uncertainty.” I can prove it in the field of turbulent high Reynolds’ number CFD and its very easy to prove for anyone with experience and code access. The reasons for this are obvious. People who run codes careers are dependent on showing that they have unusual skill in generating accurate answers. Thus there is a natural tendency to run the code until the answer agrees with the data and attribute all the hundreds of previous attempts to “using the wrong inputs, griding, and knob settings.”

    • Jim D, my (admittedly back of the envelope) calculations show me that a price tag of $23 trillion is what we need to get renewables where you want them to be (powering everything but air transportation, essentially). The price tag drops by half if we do it with nuclear.

      Both of those are a bit pricey. Maybe I dropped a decimal point somewhere… but I did the math more than once.

      • Doesn’t this mostly contribute to GDP by paying people and buying products? It is not a loss by any means. With climate change there are definable losses, but with switching to a different energy economy, it is not clear what the net is. We also spend trillions less on fossil fuels for example.

      • We also, arguably, avoid massive costs associated with the use of fossil fuels that don’t apply to alternative energy supply pathways (i.e., pollution, atmospheric particulates, environmental degradation, enriching autocrats and oligarchs and theocrats and dictators and despots and tyrants that make money off of oil). Surely, there would be costs directly associated with alternative energy sources, and the opportunity costs in the form of positive externalities lost are important to consider. But confident conclusions about costs that don’t account for externalities aren’t even worth the expense of purchasing the envelopes (or napkins) for writing down the calculations.

        The more interesting question, IMO, is how people approach these issues in the face of the uncertainties. Unfortunately (IMO), all too often it is by being satisfied by reaching answers that align with conformation biases and ideological presuppositions.

      • Jim D, cleaning up after a disaster also contributes to GDP. Doesn’t mean we want more disasters.

        I want solar to take over the world–I really do. But it’s just crazy to say that renewables will be cheaper than oil and gas by this date and then talk up how many solar jobs are being created.

        I want an effective unemployment rate of zero–I really do. But jobs are a cost of doing business when we look at it from a distance, evaluating one business or type of business against another.

  17. I am just trying to learn something about models:

    Are models in current use for assessing outcomes due to greenhouse gases like CO2, have runs that show cooling? That these model runs are discarded because they are not considered plausible?

    • Actually, the huge ensemble run by climate (Myles Allen et al) did show some cooling simulations. There are hundreds of little decisions make in climate models related to parameterizations (that aren’t physics). parameter choices that lead to a simulation outside of ‘expectations’ get discarded.

  18. I for one do not think contemplating ‘worst case’ scenarios is useful. No way to define worst. Closet monster imagination can always devise something worse, as the criticized article occaisioning this post nicely illustrates. And, usually a black swan wasn’t contemplated at all before it arrives. That’s why it is black.
    OTH, the increasing shrillness of warmunists further erodes their credibility. They made some big indelible predictions between 1998 (hockeystick) and 2007 (AR4). And have to cope now with big failures of those predictions. Truns out the science wasn’t settled. Except for the now cooled 2015-16 El Nino blip, no meaningful temperature rise this century, a period comprising about 35% of the increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1958. No acceleration in sea level rise. No disappearance of summer Arctic sea ice. And so on.

    • well, the point of the exercise is the scary scenarios that get rejected (falsified). I regard going through this exercise as very useful, potentially eliminates a lot of alarmism and mythical fat tails.

      • Isn’t a fast “return to normal” from a strong El Niño one indication, if not an evidence, that positive feedbacks of the atmospheric climate system to sudden warming (originated in this case from the Pacific) are not demonstrated (thus falsified)? The same applying on a sudden cooling forcing after a large volcanic eruption followed by a “return to normal” within a couple of years.
        Couldn’t we describe the climate system as homeostatic?
        (and we would not need to wait a multiple of 30 years to have a clue).

    • “shrillness of warmunists”
      Talk of “warmunists” is shrill.

      • The term was first used by former Czech president Vaclav Klaus in his 2007 book Blue Planet in Green Chains. I find his metaphoric analogy apt.

  19. Don’t worry: according Limits to Growth update, the workd will plunge in a never ending recession anytime now, so all dangerous CO2 emissions will stop.

    Funny, however, that that scenario is not part of the IPCC scenario suite, so it is not considered likely at all. The source for all climate “problems” at the end of this century is caused by billions of healthy and wealthy people: no wealth, no climate problem. But wealthy people are far more resilient to natural disasters.

    • Hans,

      “according Limits to Growth update, the workd will plunge in a never ending recession anytime now”

      From Limits to Growth, Chapter 2: The Limits to Exponential Growth (red emphasis added):

      “… The earth’s crust contains vast amounts of these raw materials which man has learned to mine and transform into useful things. However vast those amounts may be, they are not infinite. Now that we have seen how suddenly an exponentially growing quantity approaches a fixed upper limit, the following statement should not come as a surprise: Given present resource consumption rates and the projected increase in these rates, the great majority of the currently important nonrenewable resources will be extremely costly 100 years from now.

  20. The Right Climate Stuff group looked at this as if it was a problem faced by the space program they had served so well with their expertise. By using as much empirical data as they could reasonably verify they devised a method to calculate an upper bound on transient climate sensitivity and found it to be 1.8C. With their approach the “fat tails” are only in the probabilities of the effects. I personally think their upper bound is far above the real factor but speculation of 4.5 C or more is pointless if their work is valid as I think it is.

  21. Did you hear the one about a Democrat who ran for president predicted 11 years ago that, “Unless we take drastic measures the world would reach a point of no return within 10 years,” and the Republican who won the election figured the Democrat may have tipped a few too many and refused to sign the Kyoto agreement?

  22. The NY Magazine article is not nearly as alarmist as Steven Hawking, who said, “Trump’s action [withdrawal from the Paris Accord] could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.”

    There was less response to Hawking than to NYMag, from what I could see.

  23. Pingback: A los alarmistas del clima no les interesa saber (ciencia) sino actuar (política) |

  24. The good thing is that NYMag has listened to the scientific criticisms and not dismissed them, and has posted an annotated version with additional references and comments from the scientists in the Climate Feedback link.

    • Jim,

      Thanks for flagging that. Stand by for many many more over the top predictions of climate doom! The NYMag article opens with what is most important to them — and their fellow journalists. Fear still sells.

      “We published ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ on Sunday night, and the response since has been extraordinary — both in volume (it is already the most-read article in New York Magazine’s history) and in kind.

      Science be damned. What counts in the real world are clicks, and the advertising dollars that flow from them. Keyboards are humming across America right now to tell us about the very certain death to everybody coming very soon.

    • This shows that the fast-response team acts in both directions. Where the science doesn’t support an alarmist statement in the media, they point it out, and in a way that is noticed. Not a peep from the skeptics, or maybe they have a slow-response team who are still working on it.

      • Jim D.

        “Where the science doesn’t support an alarmist statement in the media, they point it out, and in a way that is noticed. ”

        Let’s look at the NYMag response that “notices” the criticism of their one-sided article (which consists largely of exaggerations and misrepresentations).

        “Since the article was published, we have made four corrections and adjustments, which are noted in the annotations (as well as at the end of the original version). They are all minor, and none affects the central project of the story: to apply the best science we have today to the median and high-end “business-as-usual” warming projections produced by the U.N.’s “gold standard” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

        That’s especially rich since the author admits in a later article that “Personally, I don’t think we’re doomed, just facing down a very big challenge.” But scaring people gets so many clicks, and it’s a Noble Lie.

        Slow clap.

      • The point is it was called out where it didn’t reflect the science. It was ironic that when they referred to the temperature warming twice as fast since 1998 as previously thought, they were referring to the RSS correction, which was an odd way to phrase that because few believed the RSS was the gold standard for global warming anyway, only some skeptics. So, yes, the article cherry picked there and needed to be called out on it.

      • Jim D.

        “The point is it was called out where it didn’t reflect the science.”

        It does not “reflect” the science, any more than would a reflection of you that had the left half of it erased. It gave only almarist theory without any attempt to put it in perspective.

        You would call that a distorted portrait. You would be correct.

        Also, the author uses “business as usual” to describe RCP8.5 — which assumes drastic changes in trends for population, GDP, and technology growth. That makes it a good worse-case scenario but the opposite of a “business as usual” scenario.

        It is propaganda.

        “maybe they have a slow-response team who are still working on it.”

        Because all the money is on the alarmist side.

      • It helps to be able to refer to publications when refuting statements, so that is what the Climate Feedback group were doing. The NyMag article misrepresented publications in several ways, so this is how science operates to keep a common basis, i.e. that which has passed peer review. The skeptics will have none of this type of debate from published literature, of course, because they don’t believe in any of what is quoted, so this is not for them.

      • Hi there,
        I’m a
        with this,

        “If empirical data won’t
        match the models, we don’t
        go with the data, add-justments
        must be made for raisons d’etat.
        Sometimes public policy ver-suss
        inconn-venient data requires
        ‘the noble lie’, homogenizing
        for the public good, i.e, ‘noble
        ends,’ – so it’s okay.”

        H/t Plato & Al Gore.

  25. The military use ‘actionable intelligence ‘ to guide decisions. It strikes me that the most bandied about term, global mean surface temperature change, is not ‘actionable’ at all.

    So calls for action or laments of inaction are not based on observation, science, or reason.

  26. Speaking as an analytic philosopher, the concept of “worst case scenario” is hopelessly confused, empty in fact. For every scenario there is a worse one, so there is no worst one. We could try “worst believable, or plausible, or reasonably likely, or possible, or etc., scenario.” But there is no agreement on these so again the concept is empty. But then, words without meaning support endless discussion. That is their attraction.

    • The critical point that i raise is scenario falsification based on background knowledge. Most of what is in the NYMag piece would not pass this falsification text.

      • David Wojick

        How do you falsify a mere possibility? I do not see how this is possible. Falsifiablilty is about reality, not possibility. As I said, this is basically a conceptual confusion.

      • Here is a scenario: the temperature will increase by 100F in 5 years. Is that plausible? Can you figure out a way to falsify it based on your understanding of climate history and basic physics?

    • Steven Mosher

      “For every scenario there is a worse one, so there is no worst one. ”

      Im guessing you stopped reading analytic philosophy

  27. What climate change?
    Name one.
    It appeasers to be a little warmer on average.
    It might be difficult to scare people about 2050 when they’re already scared about next week.
    Worrying about ‘climate change’ is a neurotic affliction of the comfortable.

  28. If the government funded as much research into the adverse impact of future cooling, as it does on future warming, the scientific literature would look very different than it does today. Policy driven funding directs science. Think about it.

  29. The NY Mag piece is what I would expect from an author making fun of alarmists who isn’t good at parody; they try too hard and it’s too absurd to even be funny.

    I wonder if they aren’t actually trying to vaccinate people against climate alarm.

  30. Without exception, when I have traced an alarmist article there has always been a plausible alternative explanation to the phenomenon. The recent hype about the iceberg breaking away from the Larsen Ice Shelf is just the latest example of the science being ignored in favor of scare stories. Never mind that glaciologists say it has happened for thousands of years. And never mind that one larger had broken off in 1956. The important thing is to use every example of natural variability to seal the case that it is a result of AGW. Gore wasted no time in using this iceberg to do that very thing.

    But alarmism is not new. Predictions of the Maldives and NYC being underwater by now were made in 1988, along with a UN representative suggesting that temperatures would be 7 degrees hotter by 2019. It is not 7 degrees warmer, the Maldives have not been swept away and Lower Manhattan is not sleeping with the fishes.

    Even in the early 1900s scientists have seen indications of a warming world. In 1903 they had traced the recession of Greenland glaciers for the previous 50 years. There was concern about the polar icepack in 1958 when an estimate was made that it was 40% thinner than 50 years earlier.

    Every occurrence seems to be validation of AGW, without any thought to what might have happened in the past. One of the quotes above spoke of famine as a possibility. In China there were an estimated 9.5 million deaths due to famine over the period of 1877 and 1878. An Australian newspaper ran a story in 1868 listing the nearly annual droughts and floods since 1789. Numerous accounts in 1896 spoke of heat waves in Australia with temperatures over 120 degrees covering much of the country, including Gundabooka with 25 straight days of temperatures between 107 and 128, and dead fish in the rivers due to water having been evaporated.

    In 1934 a meteorologist opined that world wide droughts were not more serious nor frequent, but the Associated Press was more efficient in carrying the stories. Closer to home in Michigan, there were 332 deaths from a heat wave over a five day period in 1936.

    I can only imagine what the NYT would be saying today about hundreds of deaths in one of the states that Trump carried. It would be Trump’s fault.

  31. “Back in the day when Joe Romm and I were buddies”
    is certainly a real revelation. I am confident Mr Romm doesn’t want to be reminded of it, though it could explain a lot of his hatred towards the host – no true believer likes an apostate.

  32. Interesting that the assumption that any climate change will be a bad thing has not even been considered. Hands up all those who would not welcome a warmer world with or without more CO2 in the atmosphere.

    The impact of alarmism is worse than we thought!

  33. Lost in all this is the notion that eventually fossil fuels will become scarce and that WILL be a ruin scenerio. Good governance going forward should be about finding alternate sources of energy and maximizing energy efficiency. Bad governance would be about tying future energy policy to the fortune of agw theory. AGW is not dead yet, but, even now, the will to act on climate change has virtually collapsed. (paris was a paper tiger from the get go and didn’t even need trump to see its demise, just ask hansen) The backlash to AGW may ultimately have a negative impact on energy policy as we head into the future…

  34. What’s funny is that 99 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate ― all but two ― are Christian and every one of them believe in the book of Revelations which claims, without a single supporting piece of scientific data, that Armageddon will happen in the future.
    Most of the bad stuff that will happen due to man made climate change won’t affect humans unless the biosphere shifts out of equilibrium. Humans are changing the chemical composition of the air, oceans and land and CO2 is only one of hundreds of chemical compounds we are injecting into the planet. Is there any evidence the food web is doing better in the Anthropocene? If you are going to claim that CO2 is causing a greening of the planet then why are the oxygen levels in the air and water dropping?

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  36. The usual suspect is carpet bombing another thread with the same old tedious bull–snip–. Day after day, year after year.

    • I agree. It’s really tiresome.

    • Don, it’s called “cotton bombing”… (☺)

      Peter, “It’s really tiresome.” That’s the point(!) These people who do this sort of stuff do it expressly to wear you out. Think of it as a nietzsche sort of power trip that they employ to vanquish the opposition. Climate change isn’t really about climate change, no, it’s about power vs power. (it’s about being big mann on campus!) So, folks like yourself who approach this debate ought do so with that foremost in their minds. I do, and as a consequence i never find it “tiresome”…

  37. Judith wrote: It is possible/plausible that the sensitivity of the climate is on the low end of the IPCC envelope (1.0-1.5C), with a slow creep of warming superimposed on much larger natural variability.

    Is there a fundamental inconsistency here? Based on Lewis and Curry (2014) and other work with EBMs, it appears impossible for natural variability to have contributed more than half of warming. That would mean that ECS was 0.8 K or less, and you have already specified that ECS is greater than 1! I would like to see you defend this position in a red team – blue team exercise.

    When you calculate natural variability by subtracting observed warming from the warming hindcast by a model with an ECS of 4, then natural variability can be half or more of warming.

    Almost by definition, EBMs assume that all warming is anthropogenically- or naturally-forced. And you get roughly the same ECS for many time periods, proving this assumption isn’t seriously wrong.

    Or perhaps there is something I am missing.

  38. Others disagree, such as Weizmann and Wagner (e.g. Climate Shock), who push the alarming ‘fat tail’ argument as the rationale for ‘action’ (greater uncertainty increases the urgency for action).

    Well, I suspect that neither approach will spur ‘action’ — what is needed are new technologies.

    No!. We have the technologies to cut emissions (whether or not doing so would actually be beneficial is another question!) And better technologies can and will develop if we remove the government imposed impediments that are preventing progress. Development and rollout of nuclear power has been blocked for 50 years (see Figure 5 here: ). Nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity. The fuel is effectively unlimited. The potential cost reductions are huge (it would now be 90% cheaper than it is if the pre-1970’s learning rates had continued). And, potentially it can provide all the world’s energy needs effectively indefinitely (including the transport fuels we use now).

  39. So, assume that we generate a range of worst case future scenarios for the 21st century, ranging from #1 (including the potential for abrupt climate change purely from natural variability), through a range of sensitivities to human caused climate change, to #4 a conspiracy of human caused climate change and natural variability to cause very large climate change. And then reject the scenarios that can be falsified based on our background knowledge. Then what?

    I agree some credible researchers and research groups should be doing brainstorming exercises of worst case scenarios. But the amount of funding for this needs to be justified by credible evidence the threat is real. I do not see that credible evidence to support this exists.

    To be credibility, the researchers and research groups looking at worst case scenarios would need do the same for all threats, not just climate change. And all threats need to be treated with equivalent funding, effort and competence. Examples of other threats are: nuclear, and biological warfare, plagues of infectious, deadly diseases, cyber warfare that cuts off our energy supplies, etc. What effort and funding is being put into tackling these other threats. How much funding is being spent on dealing with these other threats compared with climate change worst case #4?

  40. Wolf! Wolf!


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  42. >’…the best that consensus-enforcing scientific establishment can hope for is to enforce the not very scary IPCC consensus.
    And why does this matter to them?’

    This assumes a rational reason. Yet when uncertainty dominates and cultural competition takes over, and while many thousands of rational people indeed contribute, what occurs is a function of emergence (natural selection of narratives), not rationality. The scientific community are now only a small part of the social process that they triggered. The same process sustains religions. This process is blind; it cannot ‘know’ that the short-term gains and new recruits from enhanced alarmism may be exceeded by long term damage to the cause. There is lag in the system, so only as social inertia plays its course and selection (potentially) swings to more moderate plays, will this be seen in the messaging. The age of Trump is still new and selection criteria are still shifting. Racheted alarmism may not even get toned down, if globally (i.e. not just in the US), this still results in the most possible influence (so then money / support / infra-structure / adherents, which all sustain the narrative), despite it will also generate yet more polarization and yet more opposition (which is not a factor in blind selection). I.e. the alarmist narratives could retain the highest selection value. Indeed their emotive hot buttons are difficult to beat and cultures that have hit upon great hot-button formulas do not die easily.

    >’Apart from advocacy groups hyping alarm, there has not been much serious attention paid to #4′

    Yet it is not just advocacy groups who are hyping alarm. Practically the entire Western authority matrix from presidents and prime ministers on downwards have for decades touted the complete certainty of imminent climate catastrophe, in pretty much the most urgent and emotive terms possible. This is far and away the dominant message the public has heard, AND all the scientists and politicians and policy makers etc. embedded within that public, who over very many years are now main influencers in all those functions themselves, hence further fueling the above process.

    Scientific evidence that reduces or removes uncertainty acts as a brake on the above process, albeit only if it is heard. Some rational researched bounds on worst-case scenarios may hence be helpful. Yet already the *certainty* of imminent climate calamity is not supported by orthodox science in any case, despite this certainty has been at the heart of authority messaging to the public for many years. So will any newly researched worst-case bounds achieve a better impact? The dominant narrative is currently in charge, not science. Sad to say, but calling out that narrative with Trumpian style politics will likely provide far more beneficial correction to straying science and policy, than anything coming from science itself. Would red team considerations and Mann criticizing alarmism ever have happened without the juggernought of Trumpism crashing through the US political system?

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  44. Judith,

    I think you miss another likely scenario, where natural variablility, benefits of global warming and CO2, and coincident technological developments have conspired to give a false sense of security and develop fragile economies, civil infrastructure, and culture which can’t handle a likely reversion to the mean.

  45. I did a double take, I thought the first quotes attribute was Orwell. It comes from an Orwellian predisposition to it all I suppose.

  46. stevefitzpatrick

    Nothing has changed since the late Stephen Schneider called for scary stories and exaggerations to “capture the public imagination”. Climate science is a prfoundly dishonest political enterprise; perhaps well intentioned (in a malthusian/green/corrupt sense), but dishonest just the same. The crazy article in NY Magazine, and the feeble disclaimers from a handful of climate scientists doesn’t change any of it.

  47. Just watched yet another documentary on drilling sediment cores in the Antarctic, Andrill.
    The mandatory “warming and its all our fault” line inevitably comes up. The scientists and technicians down there don’t seem to have any other possible idea in the heads so deep is the AGW meme.
    To me the worst and most likely Climate catastrophe is not warming but the impending decent into Little Ice Age conditions which with a quietening sun seems wholly likely this century next century or this millennium.
    Maybe as soon as next decade. Some of the signs seem to be already there.
    That could be a true climate catastrophe.
    But no-one ever seems to ever think that the question should be mentioned.
    I don’t believe that all those diligent guys down South are not that unheeding of the opposing alternative, which does not bode well for our future.
    According to ice core records, the last millennium 1000AD – 2000AD has been the coldest millennium of our current Holocene interglacial.
    But it seems that, driven by the need to continually support the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming thesis / religion Climate scientists and Climate alarmists examine the temperature record at too fine a scale, weather event by weather event, month by month, year by year.
    Our current, warm, congenial Holocene interglacial has been the enabler of mankind’s civilisation for the last 10,000 years, spanning from mankind’s earliest farming to recent technology.
    Viewing the Holocene interglacial is much more fruitful, on a century by century and on a millennial perspective.
    Each of the notable high points in the Holocene temperature record, (Holocene Climate Optimum – Minoan – Roman – Medieval – Modern), have been progressively colder than the previous high point.
    The ice core record from Greenland for its first 7-8000 years, the early Holocene, shows, virtually flat temperatures, an average drop of only ~0.007 °C per millennium, including its high point known as the “climate optimum”.
    But the more recent Holocene, since a “tipping point” at around 1000BC, 3000 years ago, has seen temperature fall at about 20 times that earlier rate at about 0.14 °C per millennium .
    The Holocene interglacial is already 10 – 11,000 years old and judging from the length of previous interglacial periods, the Holocene epoch should be drawing to its close: in this century, the next century or this millennium.
    Nonetheless, the slight beneficial warming at the end of the 20th century to a Modern high point has been transmuted by Climate alarmists into the “Great Man-made Global Warming Scare”.
    The recent warming since the end of the Little Ice Age has been wholly beneficial when compared to the devastating impacts arising from the relatively minor cooling of the Little Ice Age, which include:
    • decolonisation of Greenland
    • Black death
    • French revolution promoted by crop failures and famine
    • the failures of the Inca and Angkor Wat civilisations
    • etc., etc.
    As global temperatures, after a short spurt at the end of the last century, have already been showing stagnation or cooling over the last nineteen years or more, the world should now fear the real and detrimental effects of cooling, rather than being hysterical about limited, beneficial or probably now non-existent further warming.
    Warmer times are times of success and prosperity for man-kind and for the biosphere. For example during the Roman warm period the climate was warmer and wetter so that the Northern Sahara was the breadbasket of the Roman empire.
    But the coming end of the present Holocene interglacial will eventually again result in a mile high ice sheet over much of the Northern hemisphere.
    As the Holocene epoch is already about 11,000 years old, the reversion to a true ice age is becoming overdue.
    That reversion to Ice Age conditions will be the real climate catastrophe.
    With the present reducing Solar activity, significantly reduced temperatures, at least to the level of another Little Ice Age are predicted quite soon, later in this century.
    Whether the present impending cooling will really lead on to a new glacial ice age or not is still in question.

    This point is more fully illustrated here:

  48. EdHoskins,

    Excellent comment. Thank you. I wonder why more wise people don’t make such comments. Are they all scared spitless for their carriers and families?

    Our current, warm, congenial Holocene interglacial has been the enabler of mankind’s civilisation for the last 10,000 years, spanning from mankind’s earliest farming to recent technology.

    Yes, and the trend is the warmer the better.

    Viewing the Holocene interglacial is much more fruitful, on a century by century and on a millennial perspective.
    Each of the notable high points in the Holocene temperature record, (Holocene Climate Optimum – Minoan – Roman – Medieval – Modern), have been progressively colder than the previous high point.

    The trend is even more obvious if we look at the last 50 million years.

    Also notice we are in about the severest icehouse phase the planet has experienced since animal life began. The average temperature for this period was 7 C warmer than now, according to Scotese (2016). Arguably, the optimum temperature for life on Earth. So, what is the evidence to support the belief that global warming would be harmful. It looks to me as if humanity and the environment would benefit from as much global warming as we can have.

    • peter

      plenty of people make such comments as those excellent ones by ed, but the trouble is they tend to be bloggers or otherwise on the sidelines, as the ‘co2 is catastrophic meme’ is so deeply ingrained by now and is of course backed up by models, so they must be right!


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  52. If there is a basis for climate alarmism, it is this.

    Here is a letter sent to and published in the Australian (a newspaper) on Monday July 17, 2017:

    “Life in a cold climate.

    Mornings have been bitterly cold lately. Intrigued by her silence, I checked on my wife on Saturday to see if she was alright. I found her sitting in her office, her head covered to the eyebrows by the hood of a thick jumper. I immediately felt ashamed, sad and angry.

    With the price of electricity going through the roof, little essentials that were making our lives comfortable in our old age have been turned off, starting with the heater.

    What’s happening? Instead of providing us with cheap and reliable energy, governments are presiding over the sale of our gas to nations that provide their people with cheap and reliable electricity.

    We now turn off all lights, my wife spends her evenings reading under a heavy blanket and I watch the Tour de France in the dark, rugged up in an old sleeping bag. As I ponder on our predicament, I recall that in the 1970’s when I migrated here, all I could hear was that I had arrived in the lucky country. But we don’t say that anymore. Bitterness has replaced happiness, shame has replaced pride, sadness has replaced joy. My wife is cold. I am cold.”

    Jean-Pierre Zajac, Uhima Beach, NSW.

  53. Judith, you mention historical data and there is a lot of it, e.g. the books by Brian Fagan and others. You don’t even have to go far back in time. Just take the variability jotted down by scores of people covering the middle ages. climate has varied through out history and there is nothing new that would call for new ideas. Natural variability is a fact and what people do today to climate is just a triviality. My views are based on ideas presented by people like Svensmark, Shaviv etc Lets stick to what science and old documents of reality – CO2 is not to be blamed.

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