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The carrot-and-skeptic principle

19 Aug 2020 | News Roundup

Climate alarmism has a certain fondness for the only-a-decade-to-act trope because it makes things seem sufficiently urgent that we must brush aside awkward questions and act now, without making the situation seem so bleak that there’s no point in acting. But it looks silly when it turns out the decade is fastened to your forehead like the proverbial carrot dangling before a donkey, so no matter where you turn, or go, it’s the same distance ahead luring you on (see for instance our new “Prophets of Doom“ video.) But even if media outlets obligingly trot along year after year and fail to learn any of that fabled journalistic skepticism, those who say the world will end at midnight do lose credibility with the public around the time the sun boringly rises again. And so we commend researchers at Ohio State University for saying Greenland’s glaciers are doomed, it’s too late to act. Not for being right. But for following the logic of their argument forthrightly and giving us a firm, testable deadline so when the day comes and goes and Greenland is still frozen, the news media may finally begin to tire of the stick… or schtick.

At some point if we’re going to die we’d better do it and move on. So we’re sort of happy that the World Meteorological Organization says, based on data from the UK’s Met Office, we could get the dreaded 1.5°C temperature increase over pre-industrial times as early as 2025. But we all know that in 2025 they will have something else to say.

Just as back in July 2009 Prince Charles said we had just 96 months to save the planet from catastrophe and to give credit where due he was counting down in real time. In March of that year he had said 100 and by July four had passed. He stuck to his guns for a while. But when they overheated he bailed, in 2015, resetting the clock to 35 years, or roughly the time he might expect to inherit the throne. But by 2019 it was back to 18 months.

Which brings us back circuitously to Greenland, whose fate prompted a slick little Weather Network video. As we have discussed previously, the situation there has more or less returned to normal after a warm 2010. And of course glaciers have been retreating around the world since the early 19th century for reasons that cannot be linked to CO2 except by undignified mental contortions. (For the most part alarmists simply ignore this datum because it does not fit their pet theory.) But those glaciers have got to go and, rather than being coy about a series of mysterious tipping points at some unspecified date, the press release about the study hits hard and straight.

“Nearly 40 years of satellite data from Greenland shows that glaciers on the island have shrunk so much that even if global warming were to stop today, the ice sheet would continue shrinking. The finding, published today, Aug. 13, in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, means that Greenland’s glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the oceans from glaciers.”

As a result we are of course doomed. “Shrinking glaciers in Greenland are a problem for the entire planet. The ice that melts or breaks off from Greenland’s ice sheets ends up in the Atlantic Ocean–and, eventually, all of the world’s oceans. Ice from Greenland is a leading contributor to sea level rise–last year, enough ice melted or broke off from the Greenland ice sheet to cause the oceans to rise by 2.2 millimeters in just two months.” At this point we cannot resist quoting Bjorn Lomborg’s False Alarm: “Rising sea levels get a huge amount of attention in the media, and they are often portrayed as uncharted territory for humanity. In fact, sea levels have risen about a foot over the past 150 years. Around the world, when you ask anyone what important events happened over that century and a half, they will talk about wars, medical breakthroughs that saved lives, perhaps the moon landing. But they won’t tell you that rising sea levels were a big deal. Why? Because we adapted to them by protecting our coastlines.” But the big point here is this tendency of the urgent deadlines to retreat as we approach like some desert mirage.

Or in this case not. According to the press release, it’s now too late to act but we should anyway. “The new findings are bleak, but King [lead author Michalea King of Ohio State’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center] said there are silver linings. ‘It’s always a positive thing to learn more about glacier environments, because we can only improve our predictions for how rapidly things will change in the future,’ she said. ‘And that can only help us with adaptation and mitigation strategies. The more we know, the better we can prepare.”

So the idea here is to gain further information. Which we will, as soon as we see whether in fact the Greenland ice sheet melts soon or not. Awkwardly it seems not to be doing so. Instead it just gained a spectacular amount of mass at a time of year when it’s normally melting.

One comment on “The carrot-and-skeptic principle”

  1. My friend Stewart tells me he moved from Wallington to the IoW because the Thames valley may flood someday...
    He is sixty-ish, overweight, and will be lucky to last another twenty years! Houses on IoW are cheaper than in Wallington, because there is only road access by ferry! He is also worried that the Thames Barrier is not going to last until its design life of 2070.
    Just like the invisible and unverifiable two millimetres sea level rise caused by the recent surge of meltwater from Greenland....just as it gained back 4Gt of snow!

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