Just kidding. Sure they can. In fact they can be worse than wrong, they can be completely misleading. According to a literature review by American climate scientist Roger Pielke Jr., nearly 17,000 scientific studies have been published using RCP8.5, a bogus over-the-top emission scenario that is known to be hopelessly exaggerated, and which makes impossible assertions about future CO2 levels. Pielke Jr.’s conclusions have been backed up by another recently-published study which says, well, we’ll just quote the title and you’ll get the point: “IPCC baseline scenarios have over-projected CO2 emissions and economic growth”. The scenarios have been projecting far too much warming, the doom and gloom scenarios are known to be wrong, and a growing number of experts are blowing the whistle. Will the problem be fixed soon? Don’t count on it, says Pielke Jr.
Writing in a recent commentary piece which surveys his own and others’ new work, Pielke Jr. laments the “unstoppable momentum” of climate science research, noting that “momentum can be hard to change, even when obvious and significant flaws are identified.” Which is the case here. Actual global CO2 emissions are about to bust out below the low end of the IPCC scenario range, reflecting a longstanding trend that pre-dates the COVID recession. The geniuses who developed global economic and energy scenarios which were fed into the world’s climate models a decade ago got them utterly wrong. They projected too many people, too much economic activity using too much coal, and too much CO2 going into the air. Even their supposed “low end” scenario - the one we were told we need draconian policy measures to achieve - was still higher than reality. And their medium- and high- end scenarios were in another world altogether.
Pielke Jr. notes “Evidence is now undeniable that the basis for a significant amount of [climate] research has become untethered from the real world. The issue now is what to do about it.” And yet in the policy world, the only issue people want to talk about is what to do about emissions, based on the universal fear that we are on track for an RCP8.5-level catastrophe. We doubt many policy makers have any idea of how badly they have been misled. And Pielke Jr. is not optimistic that the research community plans to do anything about it, because too many scientists have published too many studies and no one wants to volunteer to retract their work.
So the 17,000-high pile of studies will continue to grow, as will the headlines that feed on them, and the bad policy choices that flow from the headlines will keep coming. And the scientists who know better will do nothing to stop it from happening (with the exception of a commendable and courageous few). That’s where you, dear reader, come in. Check out our video on the RP8.5 Cheat. Read our blog posts on the subject. And start sending this material to people in your social and work circles, and to the politicians who need to hear it. Eventually the truth needs to come out, preferably before we have done irreparable harm to our economy through misinformed policy choices.
How do we get off this ridiculous ride?
Jim Steele in his book Landscapes and Cycles makes the same sort of points in how science diverges from reality. One piece of lazy, incorrect science becomes the basis for the next, years after the original study was shown to be in gross error it continues to be cited as supporting evidence for a current paper, or the starting point for the new paper.
Let's hope the truth comes out, not just for our economy but also for our environment. I desperately hope the madness will stop before thousands of sq km are covered in ghastly wind and solar farms.