With the IPCC’s latest report and three decades of last-chance warnings clogging the recycling bins, why’s everyone still just sitting there? Well, in an article in The Hill, a publication apparently devoted to balanced far left coverage of the world as seen from Capitol Hill in Washington, Stuart Mackintosh claims that, well, you’re an idiot. “The climate change problem is so large and so all-consuming we can fail to get our collective hands and minds around it.” Yeah. That or all the false alarms.
Ah but nay. Instead, Mackintosh says, “The timescale is so long we fail to plan properly. Too often we look backward for lessons when the probability of severe weather events such as fires in California, Siberia, Australia, or hurricanes and typhoons are increasing in severity and number rather than remaining the same year-to-year. We look at past averages for solace even though this gives us the wrong probability for severe climate-related events. Perhaps most worryingly of all, we fail almost completely to account for epoch-shifting tipping points.”
It’s always nice to read an article about how much smarter the author is than we fools. But it is of course also possible that “we” don’t get our “collective… minds around it” because (a) we do not have such a thing, being people not ants, and (b) the actual evidence isn’t there. The end of winter, for instance, has not come about. In fact there’s been no net warming for seven years and five months now, which seems a long time for a collapsing roof to be suspended in midair.
Also, if the “timescale is so long” it’s not an urgent crisis, now is it? And it’s just silly to object to our looking backwards to see if there were fewer wildfires in the past than there are now; how else would you tell? (See “A Historian Looks At Climate Change“ yet again.) And then there’s our failure to account for epoch-shifting tipping points. Because what these are, so far as one can tell, are places where trends not in existence suddenly go berserk. And by definition it’s hard to find that kind of evidence.
We are not being flippant here. On the contrary, a very major problem with any sort of climate science is that because the environment is “non-linear”, that is, so complex as to be sensitively dependent on initial conditions and hence “transcomputable”, it’s not just liable to have tipping points but liable to hit them suddenly without any discernible warning, and for any cause large or small. For instance the end of the last glaciation; no model can predict it even after it happened and we have a lot of data. Nor can anyone then predict the sudden reversal of warming in the “Younger Dryas” nor the sudden reversal of the reversal.
Which doesn’t deter Mackintosh from saying “I can see the climate changing and so can you” including that the leaves near his Blue Ridge cabin used to fall by October 31 but are now still there in December. Which is all the evidence we need, notwithstanding that the NASA temperature record for nearby Rugby TN shows the region has been cooling since the 1920s. Still, not only can he see the climate changing, he can see a silent majority on his side despite obtuse politicians who apparently haven’t heard of climate: “What we need now is for politicians to catch up with the worried majority, who sense climate change is underway and results are increasingly dangerous.” And why not, since he’s a Visiting Fellow in the Newcastle University Politics Department, located someone incongruously in the “School of Geography, Politics and Sociology” the combination of which disciplines into one cannot have helped any of them. And he sees tipping points coming at us thick and fast: “interlinked tipping points such as the end of summer Arctic Ice, melting of the world’s Alpine glaciers, the slowing and halting of the Gulf Stream, the loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet, the dieback of the Amazon rainforest, or the collapse of the West Antarctic ‘Doomsday’ glacier.” Or none of the above. Indeed, he dares make an actual prediction: “if you live in California you know next year’s fires will be as bad or worse.” And we shall see if they are.
Don't just sit there, undo something!
Why bother to have regular IPCC reports at all? Why not just issue a one-page document every now and then entitled "Summary for Really Dumb Policymakers" which just says "it's worse than we thought", and then gives suitable extracts from The Book of Revelations.
But if the Gulf Stream stops, then the Northern Hemisphere freezes again and back into an Ice Age. Solves itself no? And perhaps this is a bigger problem than the current small amount of warming?