Peer review, they say, is the key. We should only read scientific papers published in serious journals. Such as the recent one by two Norwegian scientists who warned in Nature.com’s Scientific Reports that we had tipped over so many tipping points that we were actually falling. “[We] have identified a point-of-no-return in our climate model ESCIMO—and that it is already behind us…. irrespective of how fast humanity cuts the emissions of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” So there it is. We are on track for devastating warming over the coming centuries even if we eliminate all CO2 emissions by this year. Nonsense you might say, that’s just model-based gobbledegook. But it was good enough for the alarmists at Scientific Reports, “an open-access journal publishing rigorously peer-reviewed research”. Until some other alarmists got alarmed by the fact that if you tell people emission reductions won’t do any good, they might be inclined not to support any more emission reductions. And voila, the paper was withdrawn. Because science.
The two Norwegians said that the trigger for runaway warming was “a cycle of self-sustained melting of the permafrost (caused by methane release), lower surface albedo (caused by melting ice and snow) and higher atmospheric humidity (caused by higher temperatures). This cycle appears to be triggered by global warming of a mere + 0.5 °C above the pre-industrial level.”
Now there’s a fragile balance of nature. If the planet gets just half a degree above those vital, cherished, stable pre-industrial levels, the fifth horseman gallops off and we’re done. Which again seems incompatible with actual knowledge of the past, including the Roman Warm Period and so on.
It’s also incompatible with stimulating people to a wholesome panicky rush to destroy their economies. “In the first simulation reported here, ‘Scenario 1’, we assume that humanity reduces man-made GHG emissions to zero by 2100. In the second simulation, ‘Scenario 2’, we assume that emissions are cut much faster—to zero in 2020. In both cases man-made emissions remain zero thereafter.” Might as well not bother. “In both scenarios the global temperature keeps rising for hundreds of years—to around + 3 °C in 2500—after a temporary decline in this century in conjunction with the decline in man-made emissions (Fig. 1c). The sea level rises monotonically to around + 3 m in 2500 (Fig. 1e).”
So eliminating all fossil fuel use, at a devastating cost, yields … nothing. Well at least the sea rises monotonically. To be fair, they themselves tried to edge away from the obvious conclusion. Thus, “Jørgen Randers, PhD, professor emeritus of climate strategy at BI Norwegian Business School and lead author of the study” told Future Human in an email that the world “should accelerate its effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions (in order to postpone as much as possible the temperature rise) and start developing the technologies for large scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.” OK. You go first. Plant a tree or something.
Seriously, this stuff is silly. What in the past record even of the Holocene, what since the death of Julius Caesar, permits you to conclude that a world half a degree warmer than it was in 1750 must heat inexorably for 500 years? Oh right. A computer model.
The claim that the temperature of the planet was actually stable for thousands of years has been made by such luminaries as Al Gore and John Kerry. And if it were true you’d surely have to think it was so because of powerful self-stabilizing properties in the natural world rather than blind luck. But instead we’re told that it’s both endlessly stable and incredibly fragile and unstable. Despite all the large natural changes we know took place, nothing ever changed until we caused it, and now nothing can stop the changes.
Anyway, there’s the science. Then came the politics. Katharine Hayhoe, climate evangelist, tweeted angrily “I mean - once you smoke one pack of cigarettes, you’re technically past the point of no return in terms of zero lung damage. But you’re not dead yet so taking action at any time (versus not doing it at all) will still yield very beneficial results! Doomerism is what will doom us.” As Eric Worrall noted tartly in response, “It appears that people have to think climate change is enough of a problem to be motivated to act, but if the message is too depressing, supporters could lose interest and lapse into apathy.”
So sure enough, Scientific Reports withdrew the claim. In a press release it said, of all things, that the scary story was based on a computer model and should be checked against… common sense? Evidence? No, of course not. Other computer models. Ones that say we have a decade to act, too late to check common sense and evidence but just enough for a heroic rush into the burning planet based on the settled science.
We’ll pass, thanks.