The big climate news is obviously the long awaited IPCC AR6. Or more precisely the Working Group 1 full report “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” (the rest of the “Sixth Assessment Report” will arrive in instalments into 2022) which said exactly what you’d expect and generated exactly the news stories and statements by politician-activists that you’d expect. Basically “Journalists say scientists say world ends soon because evil humans want stuff.” Not that they’d read it, of course; at 3,949 pages it’s not the sort of document you breeze through by deadline time. Fortunately as a symptom of the unwholesome symbiosis between climate science, activism and lurid journalism, but we repeat ourselves, the IPCC now conveniently offers not just a “Summary for Policymakers“ of the scary stuff but a “Download Headline Statements” link. (The American Association for the Advancement of Science put out a similar idiotic journalist’s guide to facile doomsaying, showing how far the corruption of inquiry has spread.) And the IPCC’s Headlines tell us, predictably, that the projections on everything have gotten worse from ECS to drought and flooding, and the settled science has settled further. But anyway what do the details matter? The planet is on fire and we’re all going to die unless we embrace socialism. And very possibly even if we do. And we all saw it coming.
It really is a problem that any intelligent observer of the debate, skeptical or credulous, could basically have written the report or at least the summary without all the tedious mucking about with expert panels and committee review. Indeed, the day before the report one of the self-appointed Guardians of the Galaxy, Kate Marvel, tweeted that “The IPCC report is coming out tomorrow. As a climate scientist, I’d like you to know: I don’t have hope. I have something better: certainty. We know exactly what’s causing climate change. We can absolutely 1) avoid the worst and 2) build a better world in the process.”
The New York Times’ “Climate Fwd.” took the same predictable shut-up-and-swelter tone: “Over the three decades that scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been issuing major reports about the state of the climate, they’ve gradually expressed more certainty about what is happening and why. The latest report by the panel, which is convened by the United Nations, is the most certain yet. The more than 200 scientists involved, who perused thousands of climate studies, dispensed with even the slightest doubt that Earth’s climate is changing and that humans are the cause of it, through emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.”
If we know exactly what’s happening and what to do about it, and already did, as they were certainly telling us a year ago and still seem to be, then what’s this report for? What was worth waiting seven years for, spending all this money on, and delaying action not least by having all the experts engaged in this elaborate bureaucratic exercise instead of on the front lines of policy? What do we know now that we didn’t before, either about what’s happening or what to do? Has anyone changed their tune even slightly?
To be fair we too are going to say more or less what you’d expect. Starting with the fact that the IPCC is not, as journalists and politicians pretend, a scientific body. It’s a governmental body. Not just because its members are chosen by governments rather than their scientific colleagues. Because its “Summary for Policymakers” is edited by the very same policymakers or their aides and appointees to whom it is ostensibly addressed, before being released. And of course it says they must have more money and power or we’re all doomed. As it has in every edition since 1990.
OK, there’s one significant change. But not in a good way. The WG1 papers are meant to be about physical science. But this one is full of policy prescriptions. The appetite grows with the eating. Even the press release (included as part of the “Outreach Materials“ included in the revealing massive propaganda operation around the report) clearly indicates, it’s about the activism, from the headline “Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying – IPCC” to the recommendation that “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.” And it quotes IPCC chair Hoesung Lee that “The innovations in this report, and advances in climate science that it reflects, provide an invaluable input into climate negotiations and decision-making.” Fortunately, the release continues, “The report also shows that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate.” And it quotes WG1 Co-chair Panmao Zhai” that “Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate.”
In a way the alarmists are trapped by their own rhetoric. You can only say “We have just a decade to save the planet” so many times before people start thinking you have an irrational obsession. You need to start counting down to five years, then three, then finally to say “Oops, we forgot to save the planet”. And in fact, as Bjorn Lomborg reminds us, Maurice Strong said we had just a decade back in 1972 (the problem was different then, but the solution was the same). But Prince Charles generously doled out 100 months in… 2009. How time flies when you’re having apocalypse.
Can it really be a decade since Rolling Stone did a cover story on “the end of Australia”? Why yes. As Judith Schwartz wrote in Cows Save the Planet back in 2013 (p. 32), when it seemed fresh and alarming not repetitive and ritualistic, that noted science journal featured “a nightmarish piece that portrayed the countries struggle with heat, droughts, fires and floods, dying reefs, and parched riverbeds as a harbinger of the ravages that climate change has in store for the rest of the world.” Zzzzzzzzzz.
The fact is that you can just cut and paste from previous climate rhetoric. It’s like Groundhog Day. For instance, one commentator weighed in as follows:
“Everyone’s got similar stories these days. The heat waves are hotter, the hurricanes heavier, the lack of snow more lacking. The extreme and unusual – what weather pros call ‘hundred-year events,’ meaning that they come along but once a century – are now extreme yet usual. … In news reports about extreme weather events it’s become de rigeur for the reporter to ask some highly credentialed authority, in that blithe tone of offhand curiosity we tend to favor in our newscasters, ‘whether this [fill-in-the-blank: heatwave, rash of tornadoes, relentless wildfire season] is a consequence of global warming.’ And the expert – no doubt mindful of the job-threatening controversy that could erupt upon connecting too many dots – will say something along the lines of, ‘Well, of course it is hard to attribute any particular occurrence to global warming but the statistics are showing a clear trend toward intensified storms/warming/instability that is consistent with the model of global climate change.’”
Who, when and on what evidence? Actually it’s Schwartz again back in 2013 (p. 75).
Still, give AR6 WG1 credit for trying to get the thrill back. Among the “Headlines” offered up for the convenience of journalistic peddlers of second-hand panic, the problem isn’t just that “Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered.” Apparently “Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.” But such rhetoric avoids the Scylla of complacency only to be sucked into the Charybdis of despair because if it’s really true, we’re cooked, probably through boiling, no matter what we do. Might as well party like it’s 1999.
“Climate Fwd.” basically said yes, we missed the bus: “the scientists then delivered some grim news. Humans, they wrote in the report, made public on Monday, have poured so much of these gases into the atmosphere over the last century-plus that no matter what happens now, the world will keep warming until at least until 2050, reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, the ambitious limit that was a goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, well before that, perhaps even by the end of this decade. The report detailed what that will mean: For the next 30 years or longer, there will be more, hotter heat waves, longer and more intense droughts, and more episodes of heavy downpours that result in flooding.”
Which many newspapers argued had already happened. For instance “A rise of 1.5C is generally seen as the most that humanity could cope with without suffering widespread economic and social upheaval. The 1.1C warming already recorded has been enough to unleash disastrous weather…. Further warming could mean that in some places, people could die just from going outside.”
This claim is rather peculiar from a scientific basis. Never mind the idea that warming beyond 1.1C could cause people to die just from going outside. Where is it “generally seen” that a rise of 1.5C is the most humanity can cope with? The last IPCC report, a mere 8 years ago, said warming of up to 3.0C is not likely to cause much if any overall harm at all. Economists have long argued that limiting warming to 1.5C would do far more harm than good. And Canada supposedly warmed 1.7C from 1948 to 2016 not only without “widespread economic and social upheaval “ but while growing and becoming prosperous.
It gets worse. Item B.1 in the Headlines for Instant Alarmism section also said “Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.” But hang on. If the miserable weather is irreversible for centuries, nay millennia, but we can change the temperature within decades, then how hot it is can’t be an important aspect of bad weather or indeed of warming. Unless, of course, the idea is that even a total warming since Victorian times of under 1.5C will still be catastrophic. But that attempt to salvage something from the logical shipwreck is a cement life-preserver, since it says the climate is unbearably fragile, almost unfit to sustain life, a position that cannot be reconciled with what we know about past warmings including in the Holocene Climatic Optimum, to say nothing of the Eemian. (Which they don’t; neither these terms appears in the text of the report though the Eemian does appear in a number of footnote paper titles and Holocene Climatic Optimum is in the footnotes exactly once. Though to our pleasant surprise there were 138 references to the Eocene.)
At least Twitter did correct its handy “Here’s what you need to know” claim that “UN scientists found that temperatures on Earth will rise by about 1.5C in around two decades.” The real claim, itself dubious, was that within two decades it would have risen by that much since the 19th century. Who, indeed, will guard these guardians? (In this case, since you ask, it was Alex Epstein.) Oh and again credit where due: In its latest AR the IPCC has a process for reporting their errors to them. And we might start with their belief that temperature has risen by 1.07C since 1850, just one of many absurdities highlighted by Fritz Vahrenholt. Along with jacking up ECS from its previous 1.5-4.5 range, itself likely too high, to 2-5 with strong confidence that it’s between 2.5 and 4. Which of course means that efforts to rein in models that even Gavin Schmidt had only two weeks ago called “insanely scary – and wrong” will fail, as the models necessarily throw in endless ad hoc factors to prevent temperature from racing off the scale in both directions, overheating the future and overcooling the past.
This matter is no joke. For twenty years now we’ve been told, nay browbeaten, with claims that the science is settled. Year after year, decade after decade, we’ve been given model projections and told the debate is over. And now they admit that, in fact, the models were out of control and getting worse. (And yes, we told you so.) But if so, if the models don’t work even when their creators, like Dr. Frankenstein late in the novel, are racing after them trying to stop them from running amok, what exactly is all this hoohah based on?
Note that it wasn’t just temperature. Even their projections of greenhouse gas emissions, a crucial causal input at least inside the models, were no good. Particularly the noxious RCP8.5. Now it seems they have abandoned RCP for SSP. But again, like an addict desperate to satisfy a craving, the SSP will make it worse not better. The IPCC, and much both of the chattering classes and polite society, cannot now admit there’s no climate crisis because they’ve invested their credibility and moral worth in it for so long, so loudly and so intolerantly.
Which brings us to the most important point. In the end, in the climate debate, the issue is not what some organization whose lucrative raison d’être is that there’s a looming man-made crisis says with repetitive, grating shrillness on the question of whether there’s a looming man-made crisis. It’s whether ordinary people look out the window and see one. For instance a CDN supporter notes on Facebook that “Here in Belgium, “experts” predicted a hot dry 2021 summer back in may. Courtesy of climate change as you would expect. It is the 5th coldest and wettest since 1833 and still climbing as more rain is predicted. But now the rain is of course due... to climate change.”
For technical reasons we can’t link to that post, and of course anecdote is not evidence. Either way, we might add. But Belgium certainly did have a very cold spring and people notice that sort of stuff. As older ones, at least, notice that Britain’s landmark really stinky hot summer was… in 1976. And Tony Heller repeatedly points out that the incidence of severe heat waves in the United States has fallen erratically but steadily for some 90 years now, while a new study says there has been “no temporal trend” in the frequency of compound weather disasters in Australia since 1966.
Meanwhile the NDP raved on that “While the Liberals drag their feet, Canadians have to endure the deadly and catastrophic impacts of the climate emergency. In the past months alone, Canadians have struggled with record heat waves, droughts, flooding and other extreme weather conditions. Lives have been lost, homes have been destroyed, and livelihoods endangered by the climate emergency.” Bosh.
It matters whether those who take the data seriously see apparent evidence of ominous trends, of course. And if you like that kind of thing, Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph just published a major paper saying the way the IPCC attributes climate change to greenhouse gases is mathematical nonsense, on which we will say more next week. And plenty of other technical critiques of the Report, including its new and not improved hockey stick widely reprinted in otherwise reputable newspapers that once again gives the business to the Little Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period, Dark Age cooling and Roman Warm Period, are also available from technical analysts who actually did comb through AR6 with commendable speed and precision.
Of course the alarmists hope that it’s the “Code Red” shrieking that will carry the day. But the real issue is that year after year, decade after decade, the warnings get shriller, like the addict needing more and more of a drug to “chase the dragon” of that first blissful high. But the weather just stays weather.