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The great climate change fallacy The hysterical headlines are based on an unlikely scenario

Boris thinks we're 5-1 down at half time. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty


November 2, 2021   7 mins

We are “quite literally” in the “last chance saloon,” says Prince Charles. Humanity is “about 5-1 down at half-time,” says Boris Johnson. People will curse this generation of politicians worse than they did that which appeased Hitler, says Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, because they are allowing “a genocide on an infinitely greater scale”.

Are things quite that bad? Well, if you read the headlines, yes: we’re on course for disaster and we don’t seem to be turning. “Business as usual” will lead to a catastrophic collapse of Himalayan glaciers; and devastating heatwaves in the southern United States, according to the New York Times. What’s more, the same newspaper said last week ahead of COP26, “If we continue with business as usual, by the end of the century, it will be too hot to go outside during heat waves in the Middle East and South Asia.”

But all these stories share one thing: they are based on the IPCC’s RCP 8.5 scenario. It’s not an exciting name, but 8.5 is often described as “business as usual”. Hence the headlines.

RCP 8.5 is not business as usual, though; it’s an unlikely worst case. This means a large fraction of the public debate on climate change mitigation is driven by an increasingly implausible scenario, which was unlikely when it was proposed, and is even less so now. The more we focus on this scenario, though, the more pessimistic — and the more hopeless — the situation will seem.

Back in 2007, after the fourth IPCC report was published, climate scientists wanted to create new emissions scenarios, imagining how they might change in the coming decades and what impact they would have on the climate. But while there was a plan to make in-depth scenarios ahead of the fifth report in 2013, scientists would need to start running models for that report as soon as 2010. They needed something that could be used in the meantime.

So four “representative concentration pathways”, RCPs, were developed: RCP 2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.51. They were, roughly speaking, a highly optimistic scenario regarding emissions, two middling scenarios, and a highly pessimistic one. RCP 8.5 was there as a realistic worst case. Even at the time, it was viewed as unlikely. But two unfortunate things confused that picture.

First, of the four RCPs, only 8.5 imagined a world with no climate policy. And second, its authors described it as “a high-emission business as usual scenario” – meaning that it was at the high end of emissions for business as usual, but which was taken to mean in some quarters that high emissions were business as usual.

So RCP 8.5 became synonymous with “business as usual”. There are dozens of studies published every year describing it as such: this one says that “Business-as-usual will lead to super and ultra-extreme heatwaves in the Middle East and North Africa”. It is a mainstream part of climate science.

“The problem isn’t that people study these scenarios,” says Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute. “It’s that they frame them as the most likely outcome in the absence of policy. That was probably never true, but I’m sure it’s not true now.”

Most obviously, we don’t live in a world without climate policies. The Paris protocols commit signatories to goals of keeping warming below 2°C and aiming for below 1.5°C. So “business as usual” is a global effort to reduce emissions.

Second, and most important, the world has changed its energy mix far faster than RCP 8.5 expected. Hausfather points out that “current solar prices are below what the models think they’ll be in 2050”, and coal use has dropped in recent years. In order for emissions to reach what RCP 8.5 imagined, we’d need to increase coal use per capita by about 700% from today’s levels, spectacularly reversing the recent decline.

And this means that the really devastating levels of warming envisioned by RCP 8.5 are even less likely: we’re probably looking at a situation of 3°C warming above pre-industrial levels, compared with the 4°C, 5°C or even 6°C that RCP 8.5 predicts. As Hausfather said in a Nature piece last year, 3°C is still “a catastrophic outcome”, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it used to be.

It’s worth noting that while the emissions that get the world to RCP 8.5 are highly unlikely, the outcomes that 8.5 predicts are still plausible. One of the uncertainties in the climate is the feedbacks. For instance, as the world gets hotter, ice melts. Ice reflects sunshine, while dark earth absorbs it. So the less ice there is, the faster the world warms, reducing ice. That’s a positive feedback system: it tends to accelerate changes.

On the flip side, the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the faster plants grow, and the more they suck from the atmosphere. That’s a negative feedback system, and it tends to moderate changes.

The exact magnitude of the many possible feedback systems in the atmosphere is uncertain. As the Siberian permafrost melts, will it release gigatonnes of CO2? It is possible that even under more optimistic emissions scenarios, the feedback systems will push more carbon into the atmosphere, so we end up with the same CO2 concentrations as we would have done under RCP 8.5. And there’s another layer of uncertainty, which is “climate sensitivity”. It’s not precisely known how much warming a given increase in CO2 concentrations will cause; perhaps even if the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is relatively low, the warming will be greater (although that now looks less likely).

So really bad outcomes are possible even without RCP 8.5-level emissions. We’d have to get “incredibly unlucky” with feedbacks for the world to end up warming that much, says Hausfather, but we can’t eliminate the possibility.

As a result, there’s an ongoing row among academics about whether RCP 8.5 (and its equally pessimistic successor2) should be used at all. Roger Pielke Jr, a professor of public policy and environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, argues that it essentially has no place: that it’s based on an implausible scenario, even if you could end up somewhere similar because of uncertainties elsewhere. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he says.

But Richard Betts, a climate scientist at Exeter University and the Met Office, and one of the authors of the UK government’s climate change risk assessment, argues differently. We need to be aware of the risks of these 4°C worlds that we could – plausibly – still find ourselves in, he says. And there’s been lots of research done on worlds like that, mostly using RCP 8.5.

Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, adds that using extreme scenarios allows modellers to tease out causality in a way that more narrow ones don’t. “It allows you to see non-linearity, allows you to look for thresholds,” he says. “You get a stronger signal to noise ratio.” The actual emission scenarios are less likely, he agrees, but studying them helps us understand the climate system better.

The trouble is that if a journalist sees two graphs in a study, one of a plausible RCP 4.5 world and one of a much more dramatic RCP 8.5 world, they’ll probably want to run the RCP 8.5 graph, “because it’s more impressive,” says Hausfather. “And they’ll say scientists predict this much sea level rise, or this many heat deaths. And it’s not accurate because you’d need to add ‘but only if we burn all our coal or get very unlucky’.”

There’s also a risk that RCP 8.5 will crowd out research into other areas. For instance, Our World in Data’s recent efforts to understand human impacts on biodiversity have been hampered because almost all the research into coral reef collapse has been carried out using RCP 8.5. Predictably enough, all the coral dies in that scenario. But what would coral reefs look like under 2°C of warming, or 3°C? We don’t really know.

(People have got in touch to suggest that recent studies have looked into the other pathways, and they do seem to show severe impacts on coral even at lower concentrations.)

The RCP 8.5 debate is heated. Pielke Jr and Schmidt in particular have a longstanding mutual animosity, and Schmidt feels Pielke Jr has “spent 20 years trying to elbow out scientists from the centre ground” on climate change. So it’s hard for a journalist to get involved without taking sides.

But it’s important, because the more we associate the worst-case scenario with business as usual, the more pessimistic the public debate will be. “It might demotivate people,” says Hausfather. “It’s much easier to see the Paris goals [of no more than 1.5°C warming] as achievable if you know we’re on course for a 3°C world, rather than a 5°C one.”

I disagree with Pielke Jr: RCP 8.5 has its place, because as Betts says, there’s a whole range of research into unlikely but plausible scenarios using it, and if you’re doing risk assessments, you need to look at outcomes that probably won’t happen but which would be disastrous if they did, so you can try to avoid them. At the moment the papers looking at those scenarios all use 8.5.

But on the other hand, if the IPCC puts out RCPs without explicitly saying which are the most likely, then policymakers and journalists will take whichever scenario most suits their needs, whether that’s pretending there’s no problem, or magnifying the problem for the sake of a headline. This isn’t the fault of climate modellers. But no one involved in the IPCC is explicitly saying “RCP 8.5 is pretty unlikely,” and that fateful phrase “business as usual” is still attached to it.

Hausfather has a solution for this: attach explicit percentage likelihoods to the different scenarios – say that RCP 4.5 is 45% probable, or RCP 8.5 is 5% probable. They’d be necessarily subjective but at least it would show that no one thinks they’re all equally likely, or that RCP 8.5 is the course we’re already on. Betts agrees.

There’s a risk that climate sceptics will leap on ideas like this, and say that climate scientists have systematically overstated the risk of climate change; Betts says that this already happens. But climate change is an unhedgeable risk, and we need to pay attention to even unlikely outcomes if they’re very bad, in the same way that you wouldn’t play Russian roulette even if it’s only a 17% chance of death. Besides, even the less dramatic 3°C worlds involve dangerous levels of sea level rise, heat waves, and millions of unnecessary deaths a year. You’d think that’d be worrying enough.

Every week, people see headlines, based on RCP 8.5 scenarios, that say things like three billion people could face “near-unliveable conditions” by 2070. Understandably, people are rattled; and some are even saying they’re not having children. People are more scared than they need to be.

Climate change is extremely bad. But we’re not in the “last chance saloon”, if that means that we face some inevitable catastrophe, or 5-1 down and facing ruinous defeat; and the politicians at COP26 are not guilty of facilitating a worse genocide than Hitler’s. Archbishop Welby apologised for that. But it’s an understandable mistake if he’s always being told that “business as usual” means a march to doom.

FOOTNOTES
  1.  The numbers refer to the amount of “radiative forcing”: that is, the change to the Earth’s energy balance, in watts per metre squared. So under RCP 6.0, each square metre of the earth’s surface would absorb six more watts of energy than it would lose to space, relative to pre-industrial times.
  2.  In the latest IPCC report, the RCPs have been replaced with something else, called SSPs. Only one of the new SSPs, SSP5, is compatible with RCP 8.5. Research using both is combined into a scenario called SSP5-8.5. I’m going to refer to RCPs throughout, for simplicity.

Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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David George
David George
2 years ago

Modelling chaos systems, such as climate (or virus pathogens) is, and has proven to be, inherently wildly inaccurate. We simply don’t understand the unknown and unpredictable feedbacks as the article points out.
One of the big ones is atmospheric moisture vapour, the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect. One theory says warming (from any cause) will result in more moisture vapour (more ability to hold vapour and more evaporation) thus more warming. The obvious problem with that is that moisture vapour creates clouds, natures sun umbrella, therefore less warming. The attempts at quantifying this paradox have failed, so the modelling just makes assumptions.
It wouldn’t matter so much but it’s assumptions like this that form the basis for planned upheavals in the complex web that sustains humanity. Upheavals that could have disastrous consequences; like trying to feed the world without fossil fueled agriculture and transport and no viable, scalable technology to replace it.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  David George

It certainly needs to be put in proportion. For example although we have to move to electricity (largely produced by renewal energy), our decision-makers cannot guarantee an uninterrupted flow of electricity that will fuel all the houses, cars, offices, hospital equipment, social facilities and technological devices which are part of the world the young expect to continue living in. We badly need an assessment of what will be needed and how it will be delivered.
In fact we need a dose of reality!

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

We don’t ‘have to move to electricity’. That’s a choice.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

Yeah, Based on false assumptions in my opinion.

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  David George

It’s actually worse than that. The word “chaotic” is applied to non-linear systems precisely because as Poincaré showed, long-term prediction of such systems is impossible, even when all the equations are known, if there is any inaccuracy in the initial conditions used in the model. The known unknowns are enough to derail such models, and for things as complex as the Earth’s atmosphere, there are also the unknown unknowns. (A posthumous hat tip to SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, probably the only bureaucrat in the last three centuries to understand that the work of governance might involve epistemological issues.)

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

You misunderstand how Non-linear systems such as the climate work. You have failed to understand the difference between initial-value problems, and boundary value problems. Climate is the latter. Even in chaotic NLD systems you still get attractors.

D Hockley
D Hockley
2 years ago

Whilst not wrong, your comment, as is, adds nothing to the discussion.
Please elaborate.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
2 years ago

If one adds the words ‘open ended’ and thus get ‘climate is an open ended chaotic system’ one can see the magnitude of the modelling problem, to informing responsible public policy and communications.

And open to multiple persuasion agendas and interests as we see daily in the media and political arenas

At the research paper level, the IPCC reports contain good science. It’s the IPCC political take outs and scenario summarising which leads to the mischief

In the longer runs, the evidencing of good science will come through with greater certainty and clarity about the knowns.

The worry is the imposition in the meantime of shallowly informed but very intrusive public policies on the dynamics of the economy and its unmatched contribution to human need and freedom

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  David George

You make the mistake of assuming that clouds create warming. If they do anything they act as a sunshade which we all know when a cloud comes over on a sunny day. They also remove latent heat by surface evaporation. But the biggest error in your assumption is that there are only two ways know to physics by temperature can be increased. One is by the release of thermal energy and this is only from the sun. The second is by doing work and gravity does work by compressing the atmosphere – this is the real greenhouse effect but it is no a name any physicist would ever use.

David George
David George
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

No, I do understand, hence the use of the term “natures sunshade”. I gave the cloud/moisture vapour issue, one of many unknown feedbacks, as a simple example of the manifold problems in “climate science”.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  David George

We know that ecological degradation has three key drivers, yet we still have our feet full down on the accelerator pedal for every one of these drivers. We have no imagination beyond growth economics. We need a global aspiration for IPAT Degrowth, urgently and voluntarily Petition · Ask the UN to ratify a ‘United Aspiration’ to inspire an altruistic Anthropocene · Change.org

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

If you want to lift people out of poverty, that’s economic growth…

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

What if our economic growth causes emissions that result in your island being flooded and uninhabitable?

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

Then people move. The great human strength is adaptability. A volcano covers parts of an island – we say bad luck and help them because we recognise change and risk are inevitable. As we did, on purpose, in vast numbers for the construction of hydroelectric plants – green batteries – stasis isn’t an option.

Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
2 years ago

Like we were all told was going to happen to the Maldives?

Ian Morris
Ian Morris
2 years ago
Reply to  Fennie Strange

Let’s hear it for the Maldives. We have been told since the sixties they are soon going to be flooded, but have not succumbed yet. Keep going lads

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago

They don’t and they won’t.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

That’s only a what if. Economics is not a what if.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago

Why is this comment voted down? I know it’s only five, but humanity behaves like lemmings possibly, but with selfishness in a large part of individuals, and possibly the majority. The numbers of people living today have been allowed since the pause in the ice age. This will be returning at some stage, or maybe not yet, but billions of people will find it hard to survive. Rapid global warming will eliminate everybody and most other life forms. But so what? This is the way of things. Don’t people read about the history of the planet. We are microbes on the surface with an inflated view of our importance. We will end at some stage.

Last edited 2 years ago by George Stone
Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago
Reply to  George Stone

‘Rapid global warming will eliminate everybody and most other life forms.’ Evidence? Or at least a chain of reasoning?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

It won’t happen. It cannot happen according to scripture. A lot will happen according to scripture but not total elimination. Global Warming appears to be mass delusion to me.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  George Stone

I wonder where you get these thoughts from? Probably what you have been reading and believing no doubt. Planet earth is in good health except for pollution. I refuse to be led by someone’s inner reasonings. Seedtime and harvest will continue until He comes and the earth will still be populated then. I refuse to fear over a what if.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
2 years ago

Ok, you start.

D Hockley
D Hockley
2 years ago

Oh, good grief….what nonsensical and tired rubbish.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  D Hockley

I agree. It is a lot of nonsense. The real danger is the government taking precautions in a way that damages the econonomy, our competiveness and the cost of living. There are pleny of countries that will step into the breach while we mess around with wind power. We live in a competitive world. If you take your eye of that we will drift downwards closer to a third world country. Let’s hope someone in power comes up with some common sense, which isn’t so common in our day.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Conrad
Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 years ago
Reply to  David George

Chaotic systems are impossible to model as no matter how close the inputs the outputs can’t be estimated with a linear approximation. But that only refers to the elements that are chaotic. Like a dripping tap. The exact time of the next drop cannot be precisely estimated. However the flow rate is still half a glass an hour….I would be more concerned with their models of weather, not because they are trying to model a chaotic variable, but that they have a interest in the results to show that they need to continue the work, forever.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bret Larson
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

We need every possible disaster facing the world to be assigned a RCP 8.5 equivalent number.

1) Sea rise floods all the coastal cities
2) A.I. decides we are basically cockroaches and wipes us out (Elon Musk says this is the greatest danger facing humanity)
3) China invades Taiwan, we shoot down some aircraft so they use their hyper-sonic Nukes and wipe out the West.
4) A Pandemic of some gain of function viruses escape from a Wet Market in some obscure Chinese town and has a 15% mortality rather than covid-19’s 0.3%. Boris, Biden, and the EU lockdown till we all starve in the dark.
5) Meteor the size of the Isle of Man hits Australia and the cloud blocks out the sun for 5 years
6) The Yellowstone Mega Volcano (this is a real thing) erupts and blocks out the sun.
7) Turns out the Metaverse is so addictive no one who tries it goes to work anymore and we all starve
8) Solar flare kills the entire electrical grid and we all starve. (one of this scale hit the world’s telegraph grid before the West had an electrical grid and it lit up all the telegraph lines – it was Massive, enough it would have fried the modern worlds transmission lines, transformers, and computer chips.)
and on and on – why just have Climate Change as our sole fear when there are all kinds of other disasters waiting… And all of them are about as costly and unlikely to work as fighting climate change…. we need another 8 Grettas….

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Aye, we’re all doomed! (That’s a British joke, apologies to those who don’t know it).

Last edited 2 years ago by Lee Jones
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Lee Jones

Come back Fraser Bailey all is forgiven.

A reference to a pre-subscription Unherd contributor with a remarkably similar outlook on life to his namesake private Fraser.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Iain Scott Shore
Iain Scott Shore
2 years ago
Reply to  Lee Jones

Thank you, Private Fraser!

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Lee Jones

Why is ‘we’re all doomed’ a joke?

Mike Taylor
Mike Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  George Stone

You need to have watched Dad’s Army. Must be said with a Scotch accent.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Taylor

I know the connection, and it was funny, the first time one heard it, in about 1970. I only speak with a scotch accent when I am drinking whisky!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Don’t forget the Precautionary Principle, which was made up to keep ecofascists in their jobs. It states that anything bad you can think of, however unlikely, must be prepared for regardless of cost or likelihood.
So we need to start building mile-thick concrete domes over every city in case of asteroids. Otherwise the planet’s doomed.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Or we have to plan for the most extreme rise in the global temperature and also plan for the next ice age at the same time

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Karen Arnold

I don’t think we will be around to even see a rise of 3% in the climate. I think it is all totally rediculous and wasting the short life we have on earth.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I agree!

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

What’s a 3% rise in the climate????

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Karen Arnold

Actually, that’s probably the correct response: forget mitigation and throw all the money at water projects to move water from areas prone to flooding to drought-prone areas and agricultural research to get high-yield food crops that will grow in hotter, drier; hotter, wetter; colder, drier; and colder, wetter conditions than we now use for agriculture.
(BTW the Atlantic conveyor has slowed, so the next Ice Age could really be just around the corner, global warming notwithstanding.)

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  Karen Arnold

Ice ages are essentially impossible given current GHG forcing. There’s lots of work on this.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Yeah, there would be.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

Such as? A big change since the cold 70s, when serious,scientists ( pace the Guardian) were forecasting the new Ice Age. See CEI web site for an interesting list of ice age predictions. We have no idea what has caused the Ice Ages, but interglacial episodes have been much shorter than cold episodes, for some two million years.

Last edited 2 years ago by Anna Bramwell
S B
S B
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Urban sarcophagus construction would serve the needs of the many.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“How dare you!!” ….Greta

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

…declared the Grinch’s spawn…

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Her dad’s sperm was definitely substandard.

Susan Lundie
Susan Lundie
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You forgot to mention that we may be due for a switching of the earth’s magnetic poles which scientists speculate may have last occurred around the time neanderthals disappeared, and no one knows what that will do to our high tech infrastructure.

Last edited 2 years ago by Susan Lundie
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Susan Lundie

Human beings are so lost in their imagination. If it relied on them we are finished. But thank God there is life apart from global warming. I have been out all morning and it is freezing.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Susan Lundie

.. and we are due to the “moon wobble”, which will bring floods to many coastal areas. I bet it will be blamed on Climate “Crisis” as was the recent Volcanic outbreak on the Spanish island La Palma by a journalist on a BBC news show. Thought I couldn’t trust my ears.
Also maybe I am naive, but looking at the chart of about 4.6 billion of years of Climate Change since the birth of the Earth, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere didn’t necessarily match the temperatures. Also why was life possible for many creatures 100 million years ago without ice poles and glaciers.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I cannot believe the craziness that’s going on about global warming. The winners are likely to be China and India who will become the industrial giants of the world whilst we bury our heads and try and change the climate. He’s got the whole world in His hands as the song goes. The west will fall because of the erosion of our christian faith not because of climate change or Covid.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

‘A.I. decides we are basically cockroaches and wipes us out (Elon Musk says this is the greatest danger facing humanity)’. He is right about far more than he is wrong. I hope he’s wrong, but he probably isn’t in this case.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Less Grettas you mean.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
2 years ago

I would be interested to know what Tom thinks of the work of William Nordhaus, who according to Bjørn Lomborg estimates the costs of a 3 degree warmer world is a 3-5% reduction in global GDP, but that is from a predicted growth of 450-600% by the end of this century.

This certainly does not sound catastrophic and would explain why the actions of many of the worlds governments are currently indicating that this is path we are heading down.

As Lomborg often points out, poverty is far more deadly than environmental disasters and in fact magnifies the vulnerability of these societies to them. Given this why should the world not pursue the path of least resistance for the energy transition, balancing economic growth against emission reductions, unless Nordhaus and Lomborg are dangerously wrong in their prediction?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I would be interested to know what Tom thinks of the work of William Nordhaus

Tom thinks that anyone who disputes ecofascist orthodoxy should be ignored.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

As a Christian I have big doubts about the narrative. The bible shows that God hedges in the sea so that it doesn’t go over the land. Also when Jesus comes back the the earth will be populated with many nations. That’s enough for me.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I don’t share your faith but I do share your doubts about how it is possible for the Archbishop of Canterbury to buy into apocalyptic climate change.
One of the commonest assertions is that it will cause floods, but the Lord promised after The Flood never to inundate the Earth again. These propositions can only be reconciled by arguing that, technically, it’s man not God who’s doing it this time. If that’s God’s get-out clause, it makes Him sound like a mere American lawyer.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I do share your lack of enthusiasm for the current Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as agree that we were promised no more destruction by flood. However, living as I do in Northern California, I’m acutely aware that Himself went on to say, “…the Fire, next time.” (I hope I’m not so anthropocentric as to think man can do much more than worsen, or mitigate, the real changes, which all come from the nature of our solar system.)

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

‘As a Christian….’ has replaced Ronald Reagan’s ‘Im from the government and Im here to help’.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Lomborg overlooks the fact that money is not edible, it always originates in the exploitation of natural resources. Without healthy soil and reliable rainfall we shall soon be seeing crop failures and all our money will become worthless. All the pledges agreed at COP26 will never be fulfilled because climate and ecological collapse will ensure that all our money rapidly devalues. There is only one planet which can support life right now and we are daily escalating the speed with which we are destroying what remains of a once healthy ecological balance. Ecological overshoot – Wikipedia

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
2 years ago

And you overlook that money is a measure of availability of resources. Food shortages and starvation cripple economies and reduce GDP, a starving world is not a richer one. The projections that Lomborg is working with account for the impact on food supply climate change will have but more importantly, the effects that agriculture adaptation will have in negating this damage. You’ll have to find another straw man to attack.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matthew Powell
Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Another 8.5 scenario I suppose is that the general population starts to think there’s a lot of ‘crying wolf’ going on from politicians and media, to try and control us through fear and then we ignore the doomsaying. The attempts at social manipulation through fear over Covid modelling may contribute to this.
The best ways of controlling emissions I have read seem to be relegated because they don’t lend themselves to emotive memes and campaigns, or like nuclear energy have been demonised. Why is hydrogen energy being sidelined at COP? What about soil-regenerative farming and the contribution of animal grazing to carbon capture? How about population control by eradicating poverty which reduces emissions and improves environmental care? Why do politicians just pick winners like electric cars? Are we judged too thick to think for ourselves?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Politicians think we are too stupid to see through hyperbolic journalism – and react accordingly.
if the scientific community adopted the convention of having a % probability in the name of scenarios – then the journalistic dishonesty – and unfair mistrust of many scientists would diminish.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

There are certainly some stupid politicians, but I suspect there are many more who use the hyperbole for their own short term goals (getting or keeping in power, consolidating their career) – that’s how politics works.
You could also argue that short term goals has led us to where we are… Long term goals (like building a cathedral in the Middle Ages) only hold in a comparatively stable world.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I prefer the term ‘apocalyptic journalism’. When adults are expressing distress after being exposed to such scenarios, I think ‘apocalyptic’ is apropos.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Trust has hit a new low with Big Pharma, Scientists and even governments. For me Boris has now lost the plot with his craziness about global warming. That is going to cost us dearly, if it hasn’t already, with the petrol prices etc. How are we going to to eat with no plants which thrive on CO2?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I think the IPPC reports do that, but nobody reads them.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Some winners there (nuclear power), some intriguing ideas (regenerative farming?), some unlikely ones (reducing poverty is good, but richer people produce more greenhouse gases).

One clear misfit: hydrogen. Hydrogen has to be produced, either by burning coal or by consuming electricity. It is not an energy source, but an energy transport medium, like electricity, and converting electricity or coal to hydrogen is an inefficient way of using that energy. The Economist had a special on that recently. Hydrogen (they said) would be a useful low-CO2 replacement fuel in a number of important niches (aviation, heavy trucks and trains, shipping, steel-making, …), but ‘hydrogen energy’ is not a solution (and the name is misleading).

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

That is what seems to be happening. We are told what is good for us so you get the jab or you will be sidelined and you will put up with the great cost of dealing with global warming when most of us don’t even believe in it.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

How about we just accept the Earth is finite and embrace Degrowth economics? Petition · Ask the UN to ratify a ‘United Aspiration’ to inspire an altruistic Anthropocene · Change.org

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
2 years ago

I was doing a part time MSc about 20 yrs ago. A fellow student asked if I intended to do a PhD. He said, if so, I should submit a proposal to study global warming (as was). I said ‘I’m a psychologist’. He said ‘it doesn’t matter; you’ll get your proposal accepted and will probably get funding too’. I thought him strange. He obviously knew something I didn’t, and probably went on to produce some of the ‘seek and ye shall find’ guff that has mushroomed ever since.

Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

There is a massive climate “justice” industrial machine – universities, NGOs, think tanks etc. So many universities offer post graduate courses in “climate change policy” or some other made up nonsense to dim-witted humanities graduates. I’m not saying all humanities grads are dim-witted by any means buy the type who apply for a climate change policy postgrad generally are.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

A cursory glance into the drivers behind warmism reveals they are not scientists or even technologists, but far left agitators and former communists who’s dreams died with the USSR and China’s move to open markets. So no wonder they are liars. What is rather odd is their useful idiots are not the usual swivel eyed trots but grifters like Johnson and dimwits like princes Charles & William. I suppose the question is how long will the public put up with their lies about climate considering its changed less than 1 degree in the last 120 years? Not for ever I’m sure. Also the cant and hypocracy they mix with their lies leads more and more people to look into the facts, including that of the last 600m years approx 400m have been warmer than today and 200m colder.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Idiotic view. Of course there are scientists behind this. There are also people who have jumped on the bandwagon and who (very often) haven’t a clue about the science, but the basic physics and impacts studies have been worked out by physicists, earth scientists etc over the past century or so.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

The admission requirement to study for a BSc in environmental Sciences at UEA is BBB, “including one from Geography, Geology, Maths, Economics, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science or Physics“.
In 2021, 69.6% of Geography A-Level candidates achieved this.
To study this subject at UEA, therefore, you can get in even if you’e in the bottom third of the Geography class.
These are the type of thickoes who inhabit the climate science “academy”.
I worry for them when this is all exposed. Their degrees will be worthless and they are really rather thick. Perhaps, to head off the social disaster of all these climate science graduates going on the dole, it will be simpler to carry on pretending indefinitely that catastrophic climate change is happening? I mean, when some ecofascist whack job says that storms and droughts are getting worse, nobody has personally experienced it and nobody ever challenges it.
It seems like if it doesn’t exist we’re going to have to keep inventing it.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well the last group of colleagues I’ve been working with include: one with a PhD in particle physics (works on climate sensitivity at Exeter); one with a PhD in physics (works at Bristol on hydrological modeling; one at King’s with a PhD in theoretical physics who works on sea level change; and a PhD mathematician at Oxford who works with me on attribution.
Thickos?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Ecofascist activists.
All the intelligent people I know think climate change is a neo-Marxist crock. I’ll take their view over a bunch of lying activists every time.

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
2 years ago

Maybe not entirely thick. They will have noticed that (a) since Tony Blair raised the number of students to 50% of school levers there has been a significant cohort of university students who are below average intelligence. Hence all the “Environmental Science”, “Gender Studies”, “White Supremacy in Football” etc. courses.

And (b) remember that the 3rd rate Polytechics that were boosted up to be “Universities” were and still are staffed up often with third rate “Professors” and Deputy Assistant Professors and Senior Lecturers, many of whom would have struggled to get a lab-assistant’s job in the 1960s.

They will, however, have been just bright enough to suss out that the only way to obtain and keep their academic posts and progress is to provide what our Beloved Leaders have chosen and decreed to be “The Settled Science”

So long as they are aware that they are required to provide their finest policy based evidence making, the more fraudulent and scary the better, they will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Brumby
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

In Ireland you can get get into an Irish University postgraduate course in “Climate Change policy” or some other ridiculous nonsense with a degree in English literature. While there are reputable scientists who are say climate is warming as a result of human activity, there are many more low IQ individuals working in the climate justice industrial complex- NGOs, universities, think tanks, governments etc with backgrounds in humanities, social science, political science etc. The latter don’t have the intellectual ability nor curiosity to question the former, nor interrogate the evidence.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

And yet in the 1960 s and 1970 s these physicists, earth scientists, etc, forecast an imminent ice age, extrapolating from those cold decades. Let the Guardian claim till it it blue in the face that this never happened. Not only do I and others over 65 remember it, but several sites have popped up quoting the predictions made in scientific journals.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Agree 100% The real crisis is pollution by plastic waste and a scarcity of efficient energy – nuclear energy pushed aside. The intention is clear: push poverty downwards to install global socialism.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

It appears that way to me also. I don’t mind them having their delusions about global warming unless they force their conclusions on us in monetary terms. Marxism is the real danger though. Living under that will change global warming rhetoric into the good old days.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

I hope you are right. I think Charles and Boris have now lost their marbles by believing a lie. I expect it from Prince Charles as he attends the World Economic Forum under Charles Schwab. I had more hope for Johnson. Alas my confidence has now gone after the global warming rhetoric. Him and Biden keep saying “Build Back Better” repeating Charles Schwab’s mantra. I cannot judge William as I haven’t heard anything untoward from his lips as yet.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Conrad
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Klaus.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

One of the problems of dealing with the uncertain prediction of climate change outcomes and its effect on mankind is similar to the predictions of death totals from COVID. That is that calculations of worst case scenarios if nothing is done produce dramatic figures but they are never properly balanced by calculations of deaths arising from the proposed remedies. Unfortunately, neither scientists nor politicians really think with statistic logicality.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

There’s a risk that climate sceptics will leap on ideas like this, and say that climate scientists have systematically overstated the risk of climate change

I love how, even though this article concedes that climate change sceptics are entirely right, Tom absolutely cannot bring himself to admit it. Even though climate “science” is ecofascist lunacy, it must be preserved, and its homicidal neuroses appeased at all costs. The most important duty is not to be honest, but to defeat the ideological foe.
Tom’s bang on message as always. Even though the loony out-there scenario won’t happen, it still might happen.
This is a further example of Stephen Schneider’s admission that you can really only sell the ecofascist narrative by lying about it. Ecofascists hate climate change sceptics not because sceptics are wrong but because they’re right.
The race grievance industry is equally dishonest. Whenever some piece of statistics or science comes out that shows Asians really are more likely to support terrorism, or really are raping white children on an industrial scale, or that blacks really do have lower IQs, up will pop someone like Tom to argue that we must suppress it. We can’t put out there anything “racists” might seize on, especially nothing that shows they might actually have a point.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago

A good and educational article. Still, there seem to be a few internal contradictions:

no one involved in the IPCC is explicitly saying “RCP 8.5 is pretty unlikely,” and that fateful phrase “business as usual” is still attached to it … the IPCC puts out RCPs without explicitly saying which are the most likely …. This isn’t the fault of climate modellers.

Aren’t these sentences in opposition? The article seems to be saying that yes, it’s actually the fault of the climate modellers, because despite the enormous importance of the IPCC reports and the years that go into producing them they managed to describe RCP 8.5 in an ambiguous way that’s very open to mis-interpretation, which is then exactly what happened, and they aren’t fixing it?
Also:

Our World in Data’s recent efforts to understand human impacts on biodiversity have been hampered because almost all the research into coral reef collapse has been carried out using RCP 8.5 ….. climate sceptics will leap on ideas like this, and say that climate scientists have systematically overstated the risk of climate change

Again, this seems to be in contradiction. It’s quite shocking to learn that basically all research into coral reef collapse is based on a ludicrous scenario that the authors themselves know isn’t going to happen. How is this not describable as scientists over-stating the risk of climate change? Surely that’s exactly what it is, thus vindicating the climate skeptics?
I don’t know. I feel like this article is basically saying the gist of what climate skeptics are saying was right all along – the science is exaggerated, and the scientists themselves seem remarkably blasé about that. Well, some at least. Props to Hausfather for being concerned about it, and props to Chivers/Unherd for actually being willing to write about the debate. It makes me realize how incredibly unusual it is for ‘normal’ journalists to expose the details. Yet the outcome is that I feel we need to hear far more from “anti-climatology” skeptics than we currently do.

Last edited 2 years ago by Norman Powers
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Nothing much in the press about the increase of the Great Barrier Reef recently. For anybody who is interested in the view of an opponent to all this apocalyptic talk should read Patrick Moore’s new book. He is very concerned about the environment, but also exposes the Grand Father and Saint of BBC’s Nature Films of blatant lies and misleading statements. But D. Attenborough got the big platform at COP26 and no journalist dares to asked him uncomfortable questions, because it would offend his huge fan base.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago

Psge 198 – “An outright lie” and no reply from our national treasure (no caps intended). From what I hear from Oz he is very wrong sbout the GBR as well and if it wasn’t for their problems with the pandemic someone from ‘Downunder’ would have confonted him in Glasgow.

Last edited 2 years ago by Doug Pingel
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

Amazingly, this whole topic is so complex that you almost can’t believe anything you read. The complexity is in the modelling and then the interpretation which follows. I wouldn’t expect Boris or his followers to understand anything. So they are going with the worst case scenario and queuing for selfies with Greta. Not an unexpected behaviour.

I conclude that there is no answer. Only the future will tell whether we were right or wrong. But surely, for other reasons, we can’t have a future based on gas from Russia and oil from the Middle East. Perhaps this whole climate thing will drive us in the right direction by accident.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I agree. We are never going to be able to bring an end to fossil fuels, it isn’t possible, there are too many aspects of our lives that depend on them. Renewables are never going to be able to replace them. Maybe a few lifetimes down the road some more progress will be made but one thing that can be done now is stopping deforestation. If Costa Rica can do it so can everyone else. Brazil was on the right track until the current president took power, now its verging on catastrophe.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

There are straightforward answers to climate change challenges available to us – some of which we will no doubt take – but sadly even an infinite number of summits would not rid the world of disingenuous journalists.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
2 years ago

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
H.L. Mencken
He wrote this a long time ago but it seems appropriate today.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Dunno about “first”. Mencken said that in 1918. Orwell didn’t write that until 1948 or 49. (And Julia didn’t say it until 1984.)

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Interesting Tony, I didn’t know that. It hence seems HLM may have been an influence on GO. The latter sets out in 1984 that to make the populace accept a hierarchy in which they’re at the bottom, there has to be a perpetual crisis that clearly requires the expertise of those at the top.
In his novel, it’s an endless war that might not even be happening, but which destroys all wealth and keeps the proles permanently stupefied by fear and poverty. In our day, it’s cli-sci which has the same aims.
At some point it will become clear empirically that it is all nonsense, but there will certainly be some other bit of monkeyshine lined up to replace it. My money’s on ocean acidification because, if anything, it offers even better scope than CO2 for bamboozling the rubes. In 20 years Tom Chivers will be writing articles saying OK, climate change was never really going to happen, but we should carry on reducing CO2 anyway because will nobody think of the coral [or whatever updated problem].
No matter what the problem, to the left the solution is always to impoverish and immiserate the West.

Robert Afia
Robert Afia
2 years ago

Why do we never see any assessment of the alternative of MITIGATION of the effects of global warming? Eg more flood defences to combat rising sea levels. I did see a video by an Australian scientist who said that mitigation costs would be 1/15th the cost of achieving Net Zero.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago

Our narcissistic nature. People used to blame bad weather as punishment from the gods or God for a crime. Mankind in the past has always tried to explain the weather as being controlled by a higher spirit that watches over us and judges us, using the weather and many other instruments to punish us when we misbehave. This is very narcissistic, because everything is always about us, no influences other than ours can be the cause of a disaster.
The same could be said today, we drive our cars to work and thus are to blame by default when the weather seems to get worse. This is no less narcissistic, and attractive to many, because it is easier to blame ourselves than to admit that we may not be able to influence the climate as much as we would like. The fact that we happen to be in a warming trend and in an interglacial period doesn’t matter. It just sounds so good to blame us, even if warmer weather has benefits.
My question is, what is the right temperature for this planet? Doesn’t anybody know? I mean, we had CO2 levels of well over 2000 ppm 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic period. Since then, CO2 levels have declined, reaching just over 180 ppm during the last ice age. If we drop below 150 ppm, plant life on the planet will die off. And don’t forget that the next ice age is not too far away. I’d like to know what people at higher latitudes will do when the ice covers the planet again? I guess that’s not up for discussion since we won’t have a planet to live on by then? Pure bollocks.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

The issue is not what is the right temperature for the planet, that has varied enormously over vast time scales and it is still here. The question is the rate of change. Are humans changing the climate at a rate that is faster than the rate at which humans can adapt to that change?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

No.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago

For those who like to learn a little about CO2
https://www.ric-communications.ch/projekte/simple-science-1
The world of CO2
Infographics can be helpful, in making things simple to understand. CO2 is a complex topic with a lot of information and statistics. These simple step by step charts should help to give you an idea of CO2’s importance. Without CO2, plants wouldn’t be able to live on this planet. Just remember, that if CO2 falls below 150 ppm, all plant life would cease to exist.
– N° 1 Earth’s atmospheric composition
– N° 2 Natural sources of CO2 emissions
– N° 3 Global anthropogenic CO2 emissions
– N° 4 CO2 – Carbon dioxide molecule
– N° 5 The global carbon cycle
– N° 6 Carbon and plant respiration
– N° 7 Plant categories and abundance (C3, C4 & CAM Plants)
– N° 8 Photosynthesis, the C3 vs C4 gap
– N° 9 Plant respiration and CO2
– N° 10 The logarithmic temperature rise of higher CO2 levels.
– N° 11 Earth’s atmospheric composition in relationship to CO2
– N° 12 Human respiration and CO2 concentrations.
– N° 13 600 million years of temperature change and atmospheric CO2
– N° 14 The composition of the human body
https://www.ric-communications.ch/projekte/simple-science-2

Last edited 2 years ago by Raymond Inauen
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

When i’m discussing (Arguing?) with Climate Change zealots I keep the CO2 150ppm as an end stop. It’s surprising (or maybe not) to find out that the CO2 reduction brigade don’t know that simple fact

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

It’s no surprise that most people don’t know any basics on CO2. How should they if no basics are being show or said across the spectrum. It’s hard to talk people out off what they believe, even when presented with facts. It then will turn into an argument because you question the belief with facts. It’s frustrating to say the least. That during the last ice age the CO2 levels where at about 180 ppm seems to be of little concern. That every new ice age keeps drawing more CO2 out of the atmosphere is something that should be of even greater concern.
Some historical charts on the history of CO2 with references.
https://www.ric-communications.ch/projekte/simple-science-2

Last edited 2 years ago by Raymond Inauen
Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago

OKay so there’s a range of scenarios that show warming, but at different rates. If we are actually curently on a slower path then hallelujah, we have more time to prepare. That doesn’t obviate the need to prepare.
If we are on a faster path, well anyway the planet can cope, as it has done many times in the past couple of billion years. Sure some large mammals will go extinct, but evolution will work to repopulate the planet with better adapted species.
The Planet itself is not at risk.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

Presumably, you include humans in the “large mammals” category?

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

Amen.
But you are missing the point. Never mind that the earth has survived all this time, we need to act right now! Listen to Greta! Otherwise, my green investment portfolio will not offer me a comfortable retirement.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

I have the very simple solution to all of this!
Let’s pick a day where all the people in the Southern hemisphere of the globe jump up and down for precisely 32 seconds. This will most assuredly cause the globe to move away from the sun by exactly 2.75 feet, which will ensure global cooling takes place.
Seriously, God Himself must be chuckling at man’s feeble attempts to alter global weather patterns.

PB Storyman
PB Storyman
2 years ago

As a former simulationist, I can state [what used to be] the “Modeler’s creed”: “All models are wrong, some models are useful”. Since the former is correct, we need to constantly challenge our inputs and outputs. Since the latter is also correct, we should constantly learn, update, and reconstruct.
Models are, at their core, made up of two things: Data and assumptions. When (not if) either or both are wrong, the outputs of the model are also wrong. Furthermore, models often require “validation and verification”, which commonly tests old data and assumptions against the current, known state. The better a model is at predicting the current state using old inputs, the better it should be at predicting future states. Yet, even this is difficult since the future we need to predict may be radically different from the current state and the inputs themselves are inherently insanely complex.
What the world desperately needs is the objectivity to challenge and learn. With Pres. Biden pushed by the American political radical left and many American conservatives pushed in the opposite direction, objectivity takes a back seat to political power and the related corporate money interests. Thus, my fear is that we will forget the challenging and learning steps in favor of convenient, though perhaps radically incorrect, answers.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  PB Storyman

Models are, at their core, made up

you could have stopped there

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
2 years ago

As Paul Homewood pointed out on his blog yesterday (supported by data from the Met Office), 1921 was consistently warmer than 2021 (one of many years in the past for which this is true).

I don’t suppose he’ll get to present that information at the COP, though.

Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 years ago

Prince Charles, a 70 odd year old man using the language of a spoilt hysterical teenager – “quite literally”. I can’t take the climate justice crowd seriously at all.
My father was a meteorologist, he had no time for these clowns back in the 1980s and 1990s when they were peddling doom back then. I don’t know what he would say now about the evidence for climate change, given the expansion in population, commercialised agriculture, air travel, booming economies in China and India etc since then.
But there is a smell of neo Malthusian bullshit off most of the hysteria. Observe what people do, not what they claim other people should do. That’s usually a pretty good indication of what they actually believe about the evidence. One thing is very clear though, we will see the biggest corporate land grab the world has ever seen over the coming years and it’s not going to be pretty.

Last edited 2 years ago by Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

I wonder at what point the political establishment of the UK runs into financial and electoral reality.
Dead men walking seems to be an appropriate term to describe these people.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

Not a bad article from Tom Chivers, but it still doesn’t fully explain how daft the RCP 8.5 scenario actually is. It’s true that the really big daft assumption is that we’d for some reason revert to coal for most of our primary energy, yes, and this is inexplicable: not merely something that we don’t need to do under any circumstances, but a huge reversal of an already-established trend away from coal use.

But there’s more to RCP 8.5, such as that population growth stops levelling off, as it presently is, and goes into the same sort of growth we’ve seen in the 20th century. This might just be plausible if, somehow, we destroy wealth creation and reverse the prosperity trend that is pulling developing nations out of poverty, but the problem is that RCP 8.5 does also assume that global GDP/capita in 2100 is three times the present level, which is self-contradictory.

A further problem is that RCP 8.5 assumes that there is a collapse in global trade and that innovation comes to a halt. This odd prediction, perversely, might actually come to pass, except that the most likely means by which such a tragedy might come about would be the more batshit crazy ideas coming from the internationalist Green agenda: the degrowth nonsense that presently serves only to expose how ignorant many Green activists are.

In short, RCP 8.5 is not merely a very unlikely scenario, it is a scenario that isn’t even logically self-consistent.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Anton van der Merwe
Anton van der Merwe
2 years ago

Another area where the consequences of global warming are reported in a misleading way is the effect of extreme temperatures. Ten times as many people die of extreme cold each year than die of extreme heat. Consequently warming over the past 20 years has resulted in FEWER lives lost from extreme temperatures. Of course energy poverty is what kills people from extreme temperatures so the best way to save lives is to make energy cheaper.

Last edited 2 years ago by Anton van der Merwe
Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

Thank you, UnHerd. You’ve done it again.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

I cannot stress just how little I care about climate change. They’ve exaggerated, and outright lied, too many times for me to take them seriously anymore.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  David Batlle

You should care about the politics though. It’ll have your freedom, wealth and rights off us all if it’s not stopped.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

Anyone familiar with flying will know extra oxygen is needed for any length of time over 10,000 feet. (An ejection seat,using a barostat, does not release its pilot until it falls to this height to prevent hypoxia.) In a jet the air is pressurised to c. 800 hecto pascals to maintain oxygen levels without assistance.) Dry air is 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen. The remaining 1% is made of Argon, 99% and trace gases of which CO2 makes up 0.041%, 41 ppm, at current levels.It can be argued that ‘up there’ there is not enough of any gas to sustain animal or plant life for any length of time except some high flying geese which are adapted to use O2 efficiently for a limited time. There are no trees on the top of Everest.
Also there is no ‘layer’, no bands of diffused CO2 floating about like Ozone. Yes it is mixed with the rest but it is heavier than Oxygen and more likely to settle downwards to lower levels where the planet’s natural systems make use of it.
Earth has been at 1000 ppm in history and ice was down to the Pyrenees in the Ice Age where limited plant growth provided no CO2 to ‘warm up’ the planet and melt the ice.
No mention is made of the Milankovitch Cycle where the Earth, in eliptical orbit, is further from the Sun sometimes.
The temperate zone climate changes four times a year between extremes of -20° and 30° so 1.5° doesn’t seem a big deal and it has not changed this century.
If the planet is indeed warming then I suggest we look elsewhere but I doubt we can control water vapour or methane. It would seem we have identified the wrong boguey man.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago

This climate change madness is clearly the direct descendant of millenarianism. A thousand years ago in a christianizing Europe, the end of times was expected, and a lot of people got very worried. The moment passed, and life carried on. The same now, except, the nature worshippers now have the upper hand in matters of religion. They also have social media and international organisations with plenty of money for absurd studies. Could we have a study please on the politics of “climate change”.
It originated in 1970s far left west German politics- a rediscovery of Hitler’s back to the buttercups movement. It was basically an expression of German nature worship. In the late 1980s, as Soviet socialism imploded, it was wielded out as Plan B. It is a central tyent in the long march being undertaken through our institutions.

h w
h w
2 years ago

If they took a 10-90% pay cut, and used public transit, Charles and the rest of these mega-conference attendees, as well as all the PhD researchers and commentators on this issue, would have more credibility. It is largely purchasing power that enables enviro-damaging over-consumption of fossil fuels and everything else.

Last edited 2 years ago by h w
Marek Nowicki
Marek Nowicki
2 years ago

Ai any of these “models/scenarios” (notice that you use word scenarios…like movie scenario) are back validated? Or just effect of burocratic “massaging” of the data?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Marek Nowicki

It’s not bureaucrats doing the intermediate “massaging” it’s the ‘Scientists’ themselves, often behaving in a most unscientific manner.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

I’m not sure it’s that simple: the process by which Assessment Reports are published by the IPCC is that the main report’s publication is delayed by about 6 months while the Summary for Policymakers is written and released. This is the report that gets all the media attention and which drives national policy, and a depressing trend has emerged in which the more alarming predictions made in the Summary for Policymakers may not actually appear in the scientific report and therefore cannot be justified based upon the science.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Marek Nowicki

And the climate modellers are just making their pitch.

Tim D
Tim D
2 years ago

Psychology and Sociology that are dependent on Rate Distibutions [Non-Experimental] is not Science, so those results are not Scientific any more than the virtual brain thoughts of a Freudian therapist is any more real than your own experiences.

The problem with meta-data/big data reports is they are not controlled, introducing errors of significance that cannot be quantified. Studies on collected data are not experiments, they are studies and should be relegated to the interesting-not-definitive not the veto that keeps changing with the collective fads.

Statistics on percentages are poorly reproducible because they mix many heterogenous factors all at once that have to be explained away. Often comforting, and often completely an in-accurate conclusion.

P-values are great under the condition that the Null Hypothesis is TRUE, not so much for knowing that it is FALSE. The Null condenses 4 variables (2 means and 2 Standard Deviations for 2 Distributions) into one on unimodal variable that is misunderstood as bi-modal- “null hypothesis is not violated by statistics on the data”. My paper on the Statistics of the Women’s Health Initiative NIH Study tries to make theses points.

Tom Chivers new book is co-written with brother David, an Economist. I will not read the book, which one review cited as a “book about statistics for non-statisticians. The deceit is that one can interpret statistics on the cheap, without bothering to learn and use them. I might offer a more relevant book about the misuse of quantitative Big Data by Nate Silver (the signal and the noise).

The authors arguments would be more easily understood if he adhered to the first rule of mathematics and science – define your variables. I have no clue what
IPCC or RCP 8.5 mean as context for my support for to stop polluting our world with toxic compounds that do not need to be produced. Science is not one thing- it is incorporating every relevant thing.

My appreciation to David George for putting Climate Studies in perspective and mentioning a huge issue water vapor. Another is Particulate Matter. As to mixing up Science with Politics, some of the Politicians need to be muted.

D Hockley
D Hockley
2 years ago

Holy smoke……Put spectacles on me and colour me ginger….Tom Chivers has actually written a piece worth reading…. and one that is…..almost…..(scientifically) not totally wrong.

However,

Climate change is happening, has happened and will happen.
We do not live in a steady state universe.

To suggest that mankind is responsible for that change is as idiotic as:
´´Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.´´

It thus comes as no surprise that the religious wheel of human hubris has been spun yet again.

Lynchings, witch hunts and the total abandonment of the scientific method await.

Last edited 2 years ago by D Hockley
John Burnett
John Burnett
2 years ago

The Govt needs to maintain the UK power supply. They have refused Shell’s application to develop the Shetland field. They have failed to purchase small nuclear plants from Rolls Royce. (These could be sited on MOD sites for security.)
They want everyone to have electric cars and do not have a policy to provide adequate power without the new burden to the grid.

Ken Moss
Ken Moss
2 years ago

I’ve been around since WW2 and I’ve seen far more predictions than actual happenings. A new ice age predicted by satellites, ozone depletion, acid rain, oil gone by the 90s, oceans dead by the 70s, food rationing by the 80s, snow is now a thing of the past, then along came Al Gore. Now we have computer models and AI telling us of the ensuing doom. By definition AI is artificial and therefore not intelligent at all, it’s programmers feeding the hungry with machine learning fairness (MLF)
The biggest problems facing this world is overpopulation and consumerism, cure that and many of the other problems will disappear.
I posted this on youtube and it was taken down by “Our Fact Checkers” and therin is another massive problem I’m sure everyone is aware of.

Steven Farrall
Steven Farrall
2 years ago

” Ice reflects sunshine, while dark earth absorbs it. So the less ice there is, the faster the world warms, reducing ice. That’s a positive feedback system: it tends to accelerate changes.” On the other clouds also reflect sunlight and on average the Earth has between 2/3 and 3/4 cloud cover all the time…reflecting that sunlight…

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

They all use analogies to because they haven’t a clue about any physics and are unable to string a sentence together containing actual physics and they don’t even know the utter nonsense physics created by climate scientists. If they knew any physics they would be telling everybody to go home and stop worrying because there is no man made climate crisis and there never will be.

Richard Lord
Richard Lord
2 years ago

I’m tired of arguing scientists and tired of modellers. All are more interested in their own public profile and gaining work / funds for their institutions.

Of course we should strive for a better and sustainable life. However, human nature is what it is and won’t change. Mother nature will do as she will do and overcome our difficulties or wipe us out.

Politicians and the great and the good never solve anything. Depressing but true.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
2 years ago

Climate has become just as annoying as Covid-19. Fed up with the lies and the profiteering by sanctimonious liars. One would expect that the nineteenth century novellist made all those bigot characters so ridiculous that they would never show their face again. Instead our life is swamped with hypocrites trying to steal your last penny. I have the feeling I am living in 1786 France.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
2 years ago

Life in my youth was so much simpler and easier. In the 1950s we had The Bomb and Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and the Doomsday Bomb, and it was truly mad. But we got through it without destroying either ourselves or the planet. We just got on with our lives while governments came to their senses. One thing that helped was that people in general had more trust in both politicians and science. We were also blessed that the superpowers were rational people and didn’t want to commit suicide. Since then rationality has dived almost out of sight and irrationality has multiplied, aided and abetted by the internet. What to do now? I can’t answer that sadly. A world populated by irrational people is simply unpredictable.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

The thing I noticed most about the article was the discussion about the use of RCP 8.5. Global Warming “scientists” know that RCP 8.5 is very unlikely. It would require a 700% increase in coal use. However, they still use it. Real scientists would admit that a 700% increase in coal use is very unlikely to happen, unless governments outlaw fracking for natural gas. Granted the Biden Administration has acted to curtail a lot of fracking, and coal use is rising, just not by 700%.
So what’s the reason to continue to use RCP 8.5. There are two reasons. 1. Climate deniers might say there’s not a big problem without the scary RCP 8.5 model results. 2. Modelers in other areas, like coral reef death, have spendt a lot of time studing the conditions of RCP 8.5 and would have to start over if it was dropped.
There’s no science in either reason. The first reason is strictly politics. The second reason is like a drunk looking for his missing glasses where the light is better, rather than where he might actually have dropped them.
Global warming “scientists” ain’t real scientists. They’re politicians drunk with power.

Gerard McGlynn
Gerard McGlynn
2 years ago

Whether or not the Planet is heating up or not, the two elephants in the room are too many people using up all forms of resource, and the failure of previous and current generations to harness fusion power ! Sea water as fuel anyone ? What happened to AEI’s “SCEPTRE” project started almost 60 years ago ?

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerard McGlynn

Fusion remains ~40 years in the future, as it always has

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerard McGlynn

Paul Ehrlich rides again, Malthus lives!
Always wrong so far. Ratio of food to mouths higher now than it’s ever been. Global population set to peak later this century.
Some people just don’t like humans.

James Davidson
James Davidson
2 years ago

The concept of “global warming greenhouse gases” is impossible for two reasons. The first is the Second Law of Thermodynamics” which states that heat will only flow down a temperature gradient, from a warmer body to a colder body. This is in everybody’s experience: we don’t sit in front of an open fridge door to warm ourselves up! The second reason is called the Adiabatic Lapse Rate. As we ascend from the surface of the Earth, the air temperature drops 3C for every thousand feet gain in altitude. Again, this in in anybody’s experience who has flown in a commercial airliner. We have all experienced the bit when, after takeoff, the Captain comes on the Public Address to welcome you aboard and tells you, among other things, that the temperature outside the cabin windows is -55C. Have you ever wondered how that happens? Einstein told us that a gravitating body curves spacetime. As we ascend from the surface of the Earth, we are going up a gravity well and space is expanding. As a parcel of warm air rises from the surface of the Earth it expands, because space is expanding. Heat is a conserved quantity, meaning it can neither be created or destroyed, so, as the heat is spread over a larger volume, the temperature drops by, as I have said, a not inconsiderable 3C per thousand feet. Since the air aloft is ALWAYS colder than the surface of the Earth, a planet warming greenhouse gas is impossible.
.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  James Davidson

Says someone who doesn’t understand the greenhouse effect!
The bit about the Second Law of Thermodynamics is especially silly. Do you wear a coat outside when it’s cold? According to you, a coat can’t heat you up because it’s at a lower T than your body!
The rest of your post is just wrong. Lapse rates are need for the GHE (along with Stefan Bolzman laws, Wien’s Law, Clausious Clapeyron etc). Read up on it.

James Davidson
James Davidson
2 years ago

Greenhouses, and coats, don’t work by controlling radiation. They both work by controlling convection. How, exactly, is the lapse rate associated with the greenhouse effect?

David McCobb
David McCobb
2 years ago

The problem with most of this article and many of the comments seems to be the assumptions that are being made from the beginning.
I have studied this for about as long as Prince Charles and all I can find are massive scientific contradictions in that the so-called ‘greenhouse effect,’ is contrary to the first and second laws of thermodynamics.
Here is a link to a discussion between a climate activist and a physicist, the latter who explains clearly, within the first 10 minutes or so, why the ‘greenhouse effect’ cannot work in the real world. If he is right, and I think he is, then most of this article and the rest of this discussion, is meaningless.
https://climateofsophistry.com/2020/10/30/this-is-why-they-wont-debate-me/
David

John Lee
John Lee
2 years ago

This 3% global warming. When is that from? Now, last week, last century, when.
Where is it measured and by whom?
When is it measured, is it an average throughout the year, in which case we cannot know whether it has gone up this year, or is it done on a rolling weekly or daily basis which given the vagaries of the weather is almost meaningless.
Does any ordinary citizen know the answer to any of these questions or are we simply to rely on the same scientists that cannot agree with each other.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  John Lee

There are tons upon tons of resources on this. Look up NOAA GISS temperature charts or HadCrut4 or UAH temperature anomalies (satellite era) and then read the methodologies. It’s all well laid out and discussed and available to anyone interested including all the statistical complexities about dealing with geography, locations, instrument differences, observation time, seasonality, interpolation.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  John Lee

S Koonin’s book is good,clear and no jargon.

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

I couldn’t digest that!
All those block letters and figures muddled me.
Uptake – likely reasonable.
Maybe nicely (with colours) graph the figures in readable projection categories. If that makes sense!

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

A study published in 2020 says that the Roman Warm Period was 2 degrees C warmer than it is today. There were vineyards in Roman Britain, according to historical records. These facts might lead you to believe that even the predicted man-made global warming of the alarmists might not be the disaster they say it will be. After all, the Roman Empire flourished during a period of warm weather which allowed great agricultural productivity and a rise in population around the Mediterranean Sea. Wouldn’t Britons like to buy locally sourced wine?

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
2 years ago

Last paragraph: “Climate change is extremely bad.” Is it? Always? Isn’t it more like a ‘some winners, some losers’ type of thing? Haven’t humans (and other animals) always adapted and survived? And that in times without access to the burgeoning technologies we have now. But credit to M Chivers for pointing out that media and political debate is based on worst-case scenarios.

Earl King
Earl King
2 years ago

We all know CO2 levels have been higher, it is also good to understand that without a large asteroid hitting earth humans would not likely be here. Dinos ruled prior to that event. Think not? Sharks and crocs have been around a very long time.
Anyway for me it is the coral bleaching. CO2 in salt water makes an acid which is what is happening to our reefs. Most the excess CO2 is stored in the oceans..It is likely no ocean life = no human life. Along with warmer waters that will produce Cat 5 Hurricanes. Anyway, I agree with the author. Using worst case makes it seem hopeless rather than achievable goals that are easy and won’t disrupt the economic lives of global citizens. Instead of coal plants we should be sending our excess Nat Gas to China…It is a start….Sadly, nutty enviros will not allow that. Leaving China to burn more coal. Cutting ones nose off to spite the face.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

The simplistic coral damage arguments proposed via the climate change agenda are mostly nonsense. Firstly there are two effects claimed not one: there’s the ocean acidification effect through higher dissolved CO2, and there’s the ocean surface warning that results from a warmer atmosphere.

On the first issue, the acid created by dissolving CO2 in water is carbonic acid, which is a weak acid and which in any case reacts with bases to form the same carbonates from which coral is constructed anyway. Coral, in short, is constructed via a process that relies on the presence of dissolved CO2.

On the second, warming waters, though real enough, don’t pose much of a threat to the Great Barrier Reef (the example always cited in the alarmist literature), because it runs 2000 miles north/south. The north end thrives in warm tropical seas, while the south end thrives in cold temperate waters. There’s at least a 6ºC difference and the coral doesn’t mind at all.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

The Sixth Mass Extinction is well underway. The COVID pandemic is a symptom of ecological collapse. For 50 years we have been exceeding the ability of our eco-systems to regenerate the natural resources that we use at the speed that we are using them. The wiki item on ecological overshoot references several research paper that forecast collapse of our population from starvation and resource wars, and collapse of our economy. We ignore these predictions at our peril, we are already paying the price of such folly with COVID.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

Historical claims of doom and over-population are common through history, but time and time again have proved to be wrong. Anyone claiming “This time it is different” needs to have a thorough understanding of all the previous times it wasn’t, before demanding hairshirts and penance.
For instance, if there is an extinction underway, where are the bodies? In fact the earth is greening. The by-product of higher CO2, increased temperatures, and by resulting evaporation, increased water in the atmosphere, is growth. Less ice means more vegetation, more insects, more birds and so on through the food chain. If Siberia permafrost melts, it doesn’t become a void of mud, it becomes grasslands, trees and inhabitable. Life has a voracious appetite and ability to conquer all niches. Change, but not catastrophe.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

Forecasts are so seldom right. See Paul Ehrlich.

Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
2 years ago

Oh Barbara, “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death you right to say it” – as Voltaire did NOT say.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago

RCP8.5 might be unlikely in terms of radiative forcing (the 8.5 bit) but the temperature response might be. In other words, we can get an 8.5-type temperature rise at 6.0 levels of RF if climate sensitivity is higher than we thought. And the latest model projections (CMIP6) do tend to show this, compared with those used in the last IPCC report (back in 2013).
I’m also not so sanguine about ‘tipping points’ and rapid feedbacks. While the models are poor at resolving these things, we do know that they occurred in the past, especially during deglaciation.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

How fortunate that the right thing to do turns out to be exactly what you’d like to happen!
I think we need a balancing view, as neutral as yours, from the Saudi oil minister.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago

There is a good talk here about climate sensitivity by one of the very few anti-alarmist climate scientists. He’s self taught and works outside the academic system, so he can more easily have alternative views. He goes through a lot of the scientific detail about climate sensitivity calculations and argues that the CMIP models systematically over-estimate it.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Well Nic accepts the physics of the GHG. He just argues for low sensitivity (I guess he would call himself a lukewarmer). However, very low S is ruled out by the palaeo record (how could we have large-scale climate change in the past if the climate was insensitive to forcings?).

Also, low S is essentially ruled out by contemporary data. Warming is around 1.1C with 411ppm so the idea that we might get to 550ppm and only 1C is ridiculous (these are the figures suggested by a number of sceptics). Current warming has falsified their predictions!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Don’t be silly. You have no idea what the average global temperature is, never mind what it has been. Literally not a clue.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

The latest model projections do not “show” anything, they make predictions that must be tested against observations. And the observations keep proving that the estimates for climate sensitivity to CO2 levels are considerably overstated. This mistake has never been corrected because if it was, the case for dangerous climate change would disappear entirely.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I didn’t mention ‘latest model projections’.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

We haven’t lived through a Mass Extinction event before now. Greenhouse gases are just a distraction. COVID is the start of our exit march.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago

Seek help Barbara.

Saul D
Saul D