One of the infuriatingly slippery things about climate change panic is its flexible approach to timing. Some say disaster awaits us decades hence, others that it’s happening now and yet others, believe it or not, that it already hit and we were too dumb to notice. And again, how can one test a theory whose evidence is so unstable?
One video supposedly debunking CDN said we were quite wrong to claim that the crisis was meant to be here now, it was decades in the future. But they are the ones who are wrong. For instance, as we already noted courtesy of Kip Hansen, the CCNow journalist-alarmist-boilerplate service says: “‘The climate emergency is here. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could ‘render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable’.”
Got that? It was here last year, with extreme weather destroying your house. Which in a way is not surprising since it was apparently also here a lot earlier and also destroying your house and the houses of many other people. Two decades ago, now-former Canadian Green Party leader and then-Sierra Club of Canada Executive Director Elizabeth May wrote in Policy Options (December 2002-January 2003), “One of Canada’s most distinguished and conservative scientists, the late Dr. Ken Hare, was the first expert to stake his reputation on the fact that climate change was already upon us.” [Sorry, no link available.] And on Feb. 28, 2003 the Ottawa Citizen informed readers that it was not their imagination, the weather had been terrible for decades thanks to humans: “The economic toll of floods, droughts and other weather-related disasters has increased almost tenfold in the past four decades… The report of the World Water Council, released yesterday, says increasingly rapid and extreme climate changes point to a future of intensified natural disasters that will result in more human and economic misery in many parts of the world unless action is taken.”
Since it was not taken, one shudders to think what we endured between then and now, or how we survived it. Including, to quote Ms. May’s article again, “Sea level rise has begun with noticeable storm surge damage on Canada’s coasts. Extreme drought conditions plague Canada’s prairies. Losses to severe weather events continue to mount. Floods, ice storms, forest fires and drought are all on the rise.” In 2003. Just think of the horror to follow by 2021. Including, as the National Post ominously noted on January 7, 2003, “Officials in the Arctic say global warming has cut hockey season in half in the past two decades and may hinder the future of development of northern hockey stars such as Jordin Tootoo.” Got that? Winter in the Arctic got 50% shorter between 1983 and 2003. Officials say. (The data, on the other hand…)
If we take them seriously, and apparently we were meant to, claims such as this one mean dramatic impacts from climate change were being felt by the 1980s. As did Maclean’s Jan. 13, 2003 “Global warming is forcing species to move… according to two new studies published in Nature…. In some cases, species’ ranges have shifted 100 km or more in recent decades – mainly toward what were cooler areas.” And since it’s meant to keep getting worse, by now we should be getting northern surfing stars or something.
Especially as a week later the Globe & Mail, not to be outdone, thundered that “‘The amount of ice melting from the surface of the Greenland ice sheet broke all known records last year, threatening a rapid rise in sea levels and a return of very cold winters to Britain because of a slowing down in the Gulf Stream,’ reports The Guardian.” And warned of “a very dramatic melting trend in Greenland… in progress since 1979” that also took out “The crops in the mountains of Lesotho” because of early rain, hailstorms and tornadoes, plus frost.” The point here being not global warming bringing frost in Lesotho (located at roughly 29°S and with the national motto "Khotso, Pula, Nala” which means “Peace, Rain, Prosperity” so the rain can’t have been a huge shock), but it doing so 30 years ago. Thus the dramatic, hideous, planet-can’t-cope impact has been with us for, what, three decades now and we missed it? Dawk.
As then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan berated us in a commencement address at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on May 20, 2001: “Imagine melting polar icecaps and rising sea levels, threatening beloved and highly developed coastal areas such as Cape Cod with erosion and storm surges. Imagine a warmer and wetter world in which infectious diseases such as malaria and yellow fever spread more easily. This is not some distant, worst-case scenario. It is tomorrow’s forecast.” Again unsurprising in some sense, since as Bjorn Lomborg notes in False Alarm (pp. 27-28) in 1989 the head of the UN Environment Program said we had three years to “win – or lose – the climate struggle” and apparently we lost… big time. (Although in the interest of quibbling we note that the actual high in Ottawa on May 20, 2001 was 25°C and there were neither hurricanes nor malaria in the forecast.)
Still, you see the big picture, the truthiness of the thing: It’s not happening now, it’s not coming, it’s been here for decades with catastrophic effect we dunces missed. Including, the Ottawa Citizen threw in a month later than the Globe’s strike at Lesotho, a perturbing development from a very different spot: “Red squirrels in the Yukon are getting frisky earlier and earlier … The squirrels’ breeding season has advanced by 18 days over the last 10 years — six days per generation — as their corner of the Yukon gets warmer earlier in the spring” by about “2 Celsius over a 27-year period.” So that’s a warming effect beginning in 1976. And yet both we and the squirrels are just warming up, so to speak.
The same paper added within weeks, on Feb. 25 2003, that “researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute have compiled the information [from Willem Barentz’ journal from his fatal 1596 voyage], along with writings and charts from hundreds of other explorers, whale hunters, and shippers, and added it to modern satellite data to come up with a 500-year record of sea ice in the European Arctic…. In all, the Norwegian Polar Institute compiled 6,000 charts from 1553 to 2002, covering the area around Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Northern Russia…. In the past 135 years, the sea ice has retreated by about 33 per cent, said Lynn Rosentrater, a climate change scientist at World Wildlife Fund, which helped to fund the project.” So it’s not the last 50 years, it’s the last 135 or more and can’t be our fault, right?
Wanna bet? It’s all our blundering hacking away at nature, if you believe Brian Fagan’s The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850, which claims (p. 147) that “Tens of thousands of farm workers immigrated to North America, to Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand during the nineteenth century, where hard work and land for the taking would make them farmers in their own right. The massive land clearance that resulted had a significant effect on the carbon dioxide levels of the atmosphere and was a major factor in the global warming that began in the late-nineteenth century.”
All these quotations raise the obvious question that, a reader reminds us, Anthony Watts asked back in 2014: “When Did Anthropogenic Global Warming Begin?” And it’s extremely important partly because the nasty slur “deniers” implies that climate alarmist skeptics are, in addition to being Nazis, also unaware that climate changes constantly. Whereas in fact it is our awareness that it does that makes us dubious about the claim that most or all of recent warming is man-made. And very suspicious of science that won’t let us test cause against effect because of a very slippery attitude toward both.
Thus in 2014 Watts wrote that “There appears to be some confusion as to when humans might have begun to influence ‘Earth’s Temperature’. For example, ‘Global warming is the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past century primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels.’ NASA Earth Observatory ‘Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.’… However, there is not compelling evidence that anthropogenic CO2 was sufficient to influence Earth’s temperatures prior to 1950.”
This point is very significant. At least if you take science seriously. Because if the planet has been warming since 1850, but man-made GHGs only became even potentially important in 1950, then what explains the previous 100 years? Again it’s pretty suspicious to say the trend continued uninterruptedly but the cause totally switched, like a relay race in which nature, exhausted, passed the baton or possibly à la Road Runner cartoons the lit stick of dynamite to the captains of industry just as Eisenhower took office.
As Watts also notes, indeed quotes alarmist Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia’s “Climategate” Climate Research Unit, from a BBC interview in 2010, “As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different.” So what plausible scientific ground exists for all this yelling about CO2 and doom? What is the argument that two statistically identical warming trends in one century had dramatically different causes?
If you’re one of those people who says warming isn’t a word referring to temperature, well, Willis Eschenbach rightly asks to be told “Where Is The ‘Climate Emergency’?” Climate-related deaths per million people plunged in the 20th century, and there has been no increase in extreme weather (according to the IPCC among others, we might add). And yet as Eric Worrall notes, the World Meteorological Organization, no less, blares at us that “Extreme weather combined with COVID-19 in a double blow for millions of people in 2020. However, the pandemic-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts, according to a new report compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and an extensive network of partners. The report on the State of the Global Climate 2020 documents indicators of the climate system, including greenhouse gas concentrations, increasing land and ocean temperatures, sea level rise, melting ice and glacier retreat and extreme weather. It also highlights impacts on socio-economic development, migration and displacement, food security and land and marine ecosystems.” So there’s the business about disaster hitting and us being too dumb to notice.
Meanwhile from that noted home of peer-reviewed science Rolling Stone, we learn courtesy of an author with an MFA from Columbia that “For the past 10,000 years, virtually the entire stretch of human civilization, people have lived in what scientists call “a Goldilocks climate” — not too hot, not too cold, just right. Now, our luck is running out. The industrialized nations of the world are dumping 34 billion tons or so of carbon into the atmosphere every year, which is roughly 10 times faster than Mother Nature ever did on her own, even during past mass extinction events. As a result, global temperatures have risen 1.2 C since we began burning coal, and the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. The Earth’s temperature is rising faster today than at any time since the end of the last ice age, 11,300 years ago. We are pushing ourselves out of a Goldilocks climate and into something entirely different — quite literally, a different world than humans have ever lived in before.”
The Goldilocks climate happens to include every zone from the frozen poles to the steamy tropics so it’s unclear which is the “just right” part. But never mind. The crisis is here. Now. We’re all going to die. In fact we probably already have died, since that press release quotes the UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres that “The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet.” Already too costly. A phrase meaning we must all be dead, bankrupt, or some such thing on the smoking remains of the Earth. Or that the SG, who was famously up to his knees in that overwrought Time cover, quickly did get in way over his head.