Now seems like a good time finally to get to the election of a new head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the supposedly authoritative and certainly unavoidable IPCC of alarmist lore. He’s Jim Skea, a physicist from Scotland, and he has a message for alarmists like, well, António Guterres. Namely to stop ranting and raving in apocalyptic terms like “Humanity has opened the gates of hell.” For instance, Skea says, “If you constantly communicate the message that we are all doomed to extinction, then that paralyses people and prevents them from taking the necessary steps to get a grip on climate change.” We’d prefer if he thought the problem is that the message is false, not that it makes activism harder to sell. But at least he admitted “The world won’t end if it gets more than 1.5 degrees warmer.” And it was high time someone lowered the temperature.
Skea isn’t our new best friend, nor are we his. He thinks that if it gets more than 1.5° warmer “it will be a more dangerous world. Countries will struggle with many problems, there will be social tensions.” To which we say “Och, nay, mon” since on the theory that he’s talking about 1.5° warmer than “preindustrial times”, a phrase alarmists use to refer to 1850 although it actually stretches back a lot further into periods warmer than today (even within the Holocene), then he’s referring to a further increase of 0.4° over today’s conditions. The notion that such a change would cause major upheaval is absurd; if your house got 0.4° warmer nobody would notice. (Our own body temperature changes by that much in its daily cycle.)
Skea also called 1.5C an “incredibly symbolic” target, apparently intending it as praise. But he then insisted that “we should not despair and fall into a state of shock when the world exceeds 1.5 degrees. Every action we take to mitigate climate change helps.”
Again we say och, nay, mon: most climate actions cost far more than any good they could be credited for. And many simply accomplish nothing at all, regardless of how much they cost. Then he claimed “Climate protection is always cheaper and protects people from the dramatic consequences of global warming,” a sentence no economist worth his salt would ever utter. As noted by Bjorn Lomborg, cost-benefit analysis reveals that a great many forms of climate protection are not cheaper, not least because the consequences of warming are not, according to the alarmists’ own models, really that dramatic in most cases.
We could also object that the real problem with despairing over minor temperature changes is that it’s bad science, and worse mental health. And that he favours all the usual trendy remedies from “renewable energies” to carbon capture and storage. But at least he has the semi-economic insight that “People will not switch to bicycles if there are no bike lanes.” And in context of protestors who try to short-circuit democratic processes to force their preferences on the public and just annoy them instead, we welcome his recognition that his goals cannot be reached without “a democratic consensus on how to move, heat or eat in the future”, even if we do not agree that “we have the scientific evidence on our side” so “there is much less need for discussion than 20 years ago”.
We also have reservations about his recent interview calling for politicians to be “ringmasters or ringmistresses” in the fight against global warming. There was a time when politicians were meant to represent the current state of public opinion rather than to crack whips, wave chairs and make us jump through hoops of fire or leap into cages. And we are tempted to make snide remarks about his apparent realization that politics, climate alarmism or both are something of a circus.
Also, we do want to mention that it’s easier to call for reasonable remarks in support of alarmism than to make them. For instance, he said:
“Climate change is happening now. You can see it on your TV screens, you can see even looking out the window, deciding what clothes you need to wear when you go out. All of this was predicted, but perhaps it’s happening more quickly than was anticipated.”
Oh no. Not the settled science that got it all wrong so it must be right again. And if the alarmists are to be believed that it’s now 1.1°C warmer than in 1850, and let’s even say 0.6°C warmer than in 1970, who changes their clothes for half a degree? And weren’t today’s grandmothers wearing miniskirts back in the 1960s?
Oh well. At least he also warned that clowns like Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion may well be “alienating” normal people who he says have an “important” role to play on climate action. Even if they are not, dare we add, “climate scientists”, so apparently he’s admitting everyone has the right to an opinion, as well as the duty to make it an informed one.
So if he manages to make the discussion he doesn’t want to have more civil and fact-driven and less ravings about Satan, he will have done everyone a favour. Now let’s see how his IPCC colleagues, and radical fringe mainstream alarmists, react to this call to keep calm and carry on. Even his insistence that “Even with 1.5 degrees of warming, we will not die out” might set them off. It strikes us as a long-overdue antidote to the Thunbergs, Gores and Guterreses of this world.