Carbon Dioxide

Worst-Case 'Climate Porn' Is Counterproductive to Addressing Real Climate Change

"Stop using the worst-case scenario for climate warming as the most likely outcome"

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Predictions of catastrophic climate change by the end of this century are mostly based on a greenhouse gas emissions scenario fetchingly entitled "Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5" (RCP8.5). In RCP8.5, humanity greatly boosts the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by increasing the amount of coal it burns five-fold. This scenario, instead of being treated as a very unlikely worst case, has been frequently described by climate researchers and journalists as a baseline for future emissions and temperature projections. In an email, Breakthrough Institute director of climate and energy Zeke Hausfather observes that the RCP8.5 "emissions scenario has been referred to a 'business as usual' in thousands of published papers."

Consequently, it is not surprising that the climate change literature is replete with studies stoked with RCP8.5 worst-case emissions inputs concluding that business-as-usual ends in a worst-case global temperature apocalypse. For example, journalist David Wallace-Wells relied on RCP8.5 when he warned in his 2019 book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, that "a five-degree increase in temperatures would make parts of the planet unsurvivable."

"Model projections rely on two things to accurately match observations: accurate modeling of climate physics and accurate assumptions around future emissions of CO2 and other factors affecting the climate," explain climate researchers in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. "The best physics‐based model will still be inaccurate if it is driven by future changes in emissions that differ from reality." They report that early climate models, once actual greenhouse gas and aerosol pollution emissions are inputted, have been pretty good at projecting global average temperature trends over the past three decades. This suggests, at least in the models evaluated in that study, that their internal physics are, broadly speaking, correct.

Critics of the RCP8.5 scenario, like climatologist Judith Curry, early on argued that it was being misused by researchers as a business-as-usual baseline to sketch out "horrific visions of the future." Climate policy expert and University of Colorado political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr., is also a fierce critic of using RCP8.5 to generate what he says amounts to "climate porn."

In the current issue of Nature, Hausfather and Glen P. Peters, the research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, urgently appeal to climate researchers to use more realistic emissions scenarios as baselines for the climate change projections to be reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report's (AR6) due in April 2021.

Hausfather and Peters note that researchers have devised 5 Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) outlining various population, technological, and energy trends to use as inputs into the AR6 climate models. Taking into account the more plausible emissions scenarios among the SSPs, they conclude that "assessment of current policies suggests that the world is on course for around 3°C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century." They think that's "still a catastrophic outcome," but it's a long way from 5°C projections based on the worst-case RCP8.5 scenario. Even climate doomster Wallace-Wells recently conceded about the climate future that "it's not as bad as it once looked."

"We must all—from physical scientists and climate-impact modelers to communicators
and policymakers—stop presenting the worst-case scenario as the most likely one. Overstating the likelihood of extreme climate impacts can make mitigation seem harder than it actually is," they write. "This could lead to defeatism, because the problem is perceived as being out of control and unsolvable. Pressingly, it might result in poor planning, whereas a more realistic range of baseline scenarios will strengthen the assessment of climate risk."

Climate porn is not business-as-usual and it's getting in the way of devising real solutions to the climate change that humanity is most likely going to experience in this century.

Disclosure: I have had the pleasure of attending and participating in several Breakthrough Dialogues.

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  1. Rule 34.

    1. Half page maybe.

  2. “a five-degree increase in temperatures would make parts of the planet unsurvivable.”

    Like Antarctica?

    1. Or possible open up hundreds of thousands of acres to farming?

      1. No! You are not allowed to acknowledge that good things may come from Climate Change! Didn’t you get the memo?

      2. Don’t forget that in addition to increasing arable land, it’s also increasing the concentration of CO2 in the air, which improves the availability for plants’ metabolic processes. Given that a lot of the foliage we have these days is effectively CO2 starved because its biochemistry originally evolved for a much higher ppm, it’s reasonable to expect significant gains in crop yields.

        Basically, this stuff about climate-induced famine is rubbish. More food is going to be grown on a warmer Earth than at any point in human history.

        1. All that carbon in fossil fuels didn’t just sequester itself…

    2. Yeah, I’ve always wondered what parts those were, given that you can replicate a 5C average temperature increase by moving, on average, about 300 miles south.

      5C is just under 10F which is the width of a single Plant Hardiness Zone. So if you live in Zone 4, the RCP “worst case” scenario means you’ll eventually live in Zone 5. Even if you take away all our evil fossil-fueled air conditioning, I have trouble seeing that as a catastrophic event.

  3. When I lived in NYC, there were these religious guys handling out pamphlets on the subway about the end of the world in a couple of years. When the end didn’t come, they would just revise their dates to the next couple of years. That is what this climate change alarmism is. Mystical apocalyptic religious fantasies that are apparently very attractive to certain types of people.

    1. Trump “the peace prize doesn’t go ofr peace, so I should get it”

      An idiot “THAT MEANS HE THINKS HES THE PEACE PRESIDENT!!!”

      AHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU MAKE IT SO EASY TO CRUSH YOU LOLOLOL AND THEN YOU GET BUTTHURT ABOUT IT AND RUN WHICH IS EVEN BETTER HAHAAHAHAHA

      1. Jfc, take your meds, Tulpa. You are getting worse than Hihn.

        1. Cry more about losing.

        2. Chipper Morning Wood
          January.23.2020 at 9:28 pm
          People who disagree with us have a mental disease! In fact, they are not even truly human!

          I think my favorite way to destroy you is by smacking you so hard that you hypocrite all over yourself.

    2. “Well I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer
      The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”

      1. Another half page.

      2. Well, I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
        But the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert.

  4. They are still lying after half a century.
    Adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan, notable as a Democrat in the administration, urged the administration to initiate a worldwide system of monitoring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, decades before the issue of global warming came to the public’s attention.
    There is widespread agreement that carbon dioxide content will rise 25 percent by 2000, Moynihan wrote in a September 1969 memo.
    “This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit,” he wrote. “This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter.”

    1. He could not even get his science right.

      1. So CO2 wasn’t 3% then?
        Because it’s 4% of the atmosphere now…
        (Or thereabouts; +/- 2%)
        Shit, if something that comprises 1/25th of the atmosphere can cause a catastrophic 7° rise, shouldn’t we be really worried about variations in the other 96%?

        1. Um 400 parts per million is 0.04%, so you are only off by 2 orders of magnitude.

          1. Damn it!
            Of course, that only furthers my point

            And at least I got the numeral right!

        2. CO2 is .04%.

        3. You’re missing a decimal point. 2% CO2 is enough to cause headaches. 4% (40,000 PPM) is at the Immediately Dangerous to Human Life concentration, per the CDC here: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/idlh/124389.html

          The sensor on Mauna Kea (Loa?) currently reads: 414.67 ppm. I’d link, but the comments would get cranky.

  5. “a five-degree increase in temperatures would make parts of the planet unsurvivable.”

    Sure, but wouldn’t it also take some currently unsurvivable parts of the planet and make them survivable?

    1. Cold places would generally warm more, and warm places less, which would probably skew in favor of more survivable area.

      However, there are more people already living in near-unlivable heat than near-livable cold (basically due to high population density in some hot parts of India), so the overall effect isn’t entirely clear.

      My money would be on overall survivability increase (and that’s without factoring in increased survivability of already-survivable cold areas, in which people fairly regularly die from the cold, poor ventilation of heating, etc.), but there is substantial uncertainty.

      1. Of course, in the long-term, total area matters more than contemporary population density, since people can move faster than climate can change.

        1. I think what probably matters even more is the exceedingly poor record of prediction VS outcomes of the people making those claims.
          Not a single person has any real idea what 5 degrees will do, and they’re lying if they claim otherwise. Yet they can’t stop claiming otherwise.

      2. Look at it this way, where is the greatest number and variety of flora and fauna, the arctic or the tropics? Given that the answer is the tropics and by orders magnitude, the claim that a warmer planet would be less inhabitable seems a bit dubious don’t you think?

        1. It’s active nihilism.
          Not the belief in nothing, but the abject desire for it.
          Collective buddhism, without the meditation or spirituality.
          “Man would sooner will nothing than not will at all”

      3. Given that humans evolved to live in tropical conditions (note the need for clothing basically everywhere else), there are essentially no people currently living in “near-unlivable heat”.

        There are several places which are unlivably dry but about the only unlivably hot places on planet Earth are volcanic calderas and Death Valley.

    2. The key thing to note is that we’ve stopped talking about timeframes.

      Few have ever seriously suggested, to my knowledge, that a 5 degree increase in GMT over, say, 1,000 years would be any problem at all.

      The original ‘consensus’ study from whence we got the famous 97% also contained the broad consensus that if GMT rose by 3 degree Celsius over one century that that could cause catastrophically chaotic climate events.

      3 degrees Celsius over two centuries is nothing anyone has ever really been worried about.

      And it seems this can’t be repeated enough since it gets completely lost in the reporting: the hot parts of the planet are not getting hotter. The uninhabitably frozen parts of the planet are thawing.

      1. And it seems this can’t be repeated enough since it gets completely lost in the reporting: the hot parts of the planet are not getting hotter. The uninhabitably frozen parts of the planet are thawing.

        That should be repeated but isn’t. It isn’t because there is no way to turn that into anything but a good news story.

      2. Oh and the dry places are getting wetter. The long term outlook, with climate change is for the northern prairie states to have more moisture. My county, on average, gets 14 inches a rain a year. We produce a lot of staple crops, but at a lower efficiency then wetter climates. We also produce a lot of beef, but require approximately 20-25 acres to support a cow-calf pair for a year. Last year we had 24 inches of rain and are predicted to have an above average wet year this year. Wheat production was 10-25% greater per acre, albeit the wet late summer and early fall hindered harvest and reduced quality as a result (but the farmers will learn to adjust to this if it remains an issue). Additionally standing forage production and hay production was 25-50% greater for most of the area, compared to average. Increased moisture and humidity will contribute to greater degrees of plant disease and weather damage, but again these are easier to address then lack of water. Occasional droughts will remain an issue, because of dominant weather patterns and it is unlikely we will ever achieve precipitation levels like those experienced in the eastern US. Overall, this will be a benefit for local farmers and ranchers, once they learn to compensate for conditions that they are not used to (they already are seeking methods to do such and extension is working on providing more resources to assist them).

        1. The total area of greenery has increased by 14% since 1993. Warmer temperatures (if they actually occur), but more importantly, more CO2 will greatly increase plant growth. So we will be able to feed more people, more cows, chickens, and pigs, and have more forests and green spaces for vacations and tourism. What’s not to like?

        2. A much more serious problem is what happens if the models are all wrong (as they likely are) and we do NOT get warming and instead we go into a cooling phase. Lower plant growth, more demand for energy to heat homes, etc. THAT is the real potential catastrophe.

          But AGW religious fanatics, including Ron, never stop to consider that problem. We should all hope to Zod that global warming is real despite the likelihood (and evidence) that it is not. See John Christy’s work at NASA’s Huntsville AL lab and the satellite data for proof.

        3. Sorry, I have to disagree with you. The climate change models are widely divergent on their predictions of precipitation. The complete lack of convergence means that even the most enthusiastic climate change advocates have no idea whether precipitation will go up or down either globally or at any regional scale.

          I’ve read quite a number of the studies attempting to make such predictions. About the only thing they have in common is their noticable lack of citations to the contradictory studies. Choosing not to advertise that you might be wrong is acceptable business practice and basically required for politicians but it is antithetical to proper scientific discipline.

          1. In my job, I interact with NOAA quite a bit, and the next decade forecast is for our area to get wetter, this has been consistent for the 5 years I have been in this job. The previous decade trend, with the exception of 2017 (a flash drought) has been consistently wetter (though there is quite a bit of noise). The biggest change has been when the rains have come, shifting later in the summer, and cold weather occurring later in the winter, than has been the historic norms. Now it is possible that this is a short lived trend and we may be swinging more towards dryer weather in the near future, but at current our soil saturation was 90+% in November, as opposed to a historic average of <65%. Current stream flow is 90-100% of capacity, even with Ft. Peck and Garrison Dam's open to reduce flow. Generally, entering winter this is below 35% flow. Since January 1, at my ranch, we received 0.30 inches of precipitation (liquid). January is generally a dry month, historically speaking. There is some worry that we may be looking at a 2011 event, albeit Rocky Mountain snow storage isn't yet near levels of 2010-2011, where the Missouri floods were well above historic levels.

  6. If the worst case scenarios are not true, then there is no reason to worry about it much less engage in the kind of drastic action these people want. Why do they lie? Because they have to lie.

    It is cute that Bailey thinks they could ever make their case without lying and exaggerating.

    1. Bailey is a religious kook

      1. And a sexist.

  7. I fully agree. Climate change is happening, but Chicken Little messaging just drives people away. Constant claims of imminent catastrophe aren’t helping the “cause”, it’s just fueling the climate change denialism.

    The reason so many Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians don’t believe climate change is happening, is because the media is hell bent on framing it as a progressive Democrat position. According to the narrative, believing that climate change is real necessitates being a lefty and voting Democrat. And worryworts can’t figure out why they’re turning off everyone on the right. Well duh!

    Stop it with the catastrophism and maybe you can get some perspective change.

    1. Yes guy, the climate changes.

      Is that supposed to be some kind of revelation?

    2. If there is no imminent catastrophe, then what justification is there to take action to avoid it? Okay, the world will get warmer. So what? We can adapt to that as it does.

      1. No John, some people in Tonga will have to move a foot inland, you really are heartless if you can’t see how that’s a catastrophe.

  8. (Climate porn)……. “could lead to defeatism”…….

    No, it seems to be leading to skepticism and mockery, as it should. The true believers are more shrill than ever. I don’t see “defeatism” as a problem within the cult.

    Haha. I do like the term “climate porn” tho. My coworkers are engaging in impeachment porn right now on their computers. They’ll get back to climate porn next week or whenever.

    1. I don’t see “defeatism” as a problem within the cult.

      Maybe not, but my daughter gets exposed to a lot of this stuff from her peers, and despite my efforts so far she’s convinced that the world is ending and that there’s nothing we can do.

      That’s the danger these people run from the perspective of their agenda – the people they’re trying to scare (i.e. the children) are despairing and saying “why bother?”

      1. Teaching AGW in the schools is child abuse. We may as well teach them about space aliens killing Grandma and raping the dog (or vice versa).

      2. “Maybe not, but my daughter gets exposed to a lot of this stuff from her peers, and despite my efforts so far she’s convinced”

        Think of all the children this applied to about whatever idea your teachers forwarded when you were in school, then think about how worthwhile everyone eventually decided that info was.

        1. Think of all the children this applied to about whatever idea your teachers forwarded when you were in school, then think about how worthwhile everyone eventually decided that info was.

          Exactly. I feel sad for her now that she feels that way, but I think it’s going to be temporary.

    1. For those that don’t click through, here’s the list of predictions made back in 2001:

      1. Canadians will experience longer and more intense heat waves
      2. Air pollution will get worse
      3. Sea levels on the coast of BC will rise by 30cm by 2050 (we’re now 20 years towards that 50 year prediction) or ~6m per decade.
      4. Crop yields will decline due to increased drought
      5. More frequent forest fires
      6. Water levels in the St. Lawrence seaway will fall by 1.25 meters (metres) this century

      Remember, all of these predictions were based on the fact that “the science was settled”

      1. No long term trend in more intense heatwaves has been experienced.
      2. Heat-related air pollution as either been steady or declining over the prior 20 years.
      3. Sea levels while rising slightly up through the 1970s have hardly risen at all or been steady and in some locations has been dropping.
      4. Total crop yields have gone up over 60% since 2001.
      5. Forest fires have been trending downward since 2001
      6. Water levels should already have dropped 25cm by 2020. Observed water levels fluctuate, but are well above what the government predicted in 2001.

  9. Everybody who actually cares about global warming has been demanding nuclear power for the last thirty years (the issue having made it into the public consciousness with the 1988 North American Drought).

    The rest aren’t being counterproductive, because they don’t actually want to do anything about it. They simply find global warming/climate change/whatever they name it next a convenient excuse for continuing late 1960s environmentalist hysteria and opposition to the existence of industrial capitalism in the face of an otherwise-improving environment.

  10. This is a refreshing change from the usual argument-by-hyperbole of climate alarmists. Probably the most sound, reasonable column I’ve read here in a few days.

  11. “Climate porn is not business-as-usual…”

    Yes, it is, follow the money. Doom, gloom, and an impending apocalypse will bring in funding more than predictions of a cheery future where we muddle through.

  12. It’s getting hotter – CLIMATE CHANGE!!!
    It’s getting colder (polar vortex) – CLIMATE CHANGE!!!
    It’s a drought – CLIMATE CHANGE!!!
    Too much rainfall – CLIMATE CHANGE!!!
    Extreme weather – CLIMATE CHANGE!!!
    Nice weather – There are fires in Australia/The Amazon and Typhoons hitting China – CLIMATE CHANGE!!!

    In short, EVERY SINGLE WEATHER PHENOMENON is used by the alarmists to confirm AGW/Climate Change. It cannot be falsified, so it is nothing but DOGMA.

    The AGW cronies will destroy free markets and will rob us of our liberties if they have their way. They already control the mainstream media and academia and have frightened our children into thinking the most prosperous era of human existence EVER is a prelude to mass extinction.

    Maddening and sad.

  13. “How Daare yooou!”
    /Greta

  14. Stupid — Claiming the exact same thing “will” be true over and over and over again for 100+ years and never acknowledging that NONE!!, ABSOLUTELY NONE!!! of those predictions has ever developed into pin-head of truth.

    After over 100 years of the ECO-SCAMS claimed and folded and the billions wasted on it; it’s utterly flooring to see people still biting.

    I think its time for me to start that get-rich-fast Ponzi scheme that will make you(or I mean me) a Billionaire in 12-years…. Join in and send me your dollar a week to SAVE the PLANET “guaranteed” and a Billion dollar retirement. After lifting all that money and never doing a thing ( like the weather ) I’ll just keep making faulty claims for eternity!!! I mean after all – apparently people really are surprisingly “that stupid”.

      1. Yawn:

        Click here http://MyScientificStudy.com

        “Being a nuclear physicist and holding multiple ‘commi’ degree’s I warn ALL of you that nuclear radiation is killing everyone EVERYWHERE!!! Just count all the number of reasons I’m right..

        AND DON’T YOU DARE OPEN THE DOOR, LOOK OUTSIDE AND SAY B.S….. DON’T YOU DARE QUESTION MY FORECASTING ABILITIES. DON’T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT THE ALMOST EVERYONE SURVIVING!!!

        YOU NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST DENIER!!! Just send me more money so I can fix this disaster…. /s

        …..When other people start doing your thinking for you and you believe them even when opening your own front door would prove otherwise.

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  16. The base assumption of the article concerns the goals of watermelons; Bailey assumes they wish to mitigate climate change.
    I’m pretty sure climate change is merely the latest ‘market failure’; the latest excuse by the watermelons to institute central planning after every other excuse has been shown to be bullshit.

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  19. Raw untampered and unvarnished data show a slight overall decrease in temperatures using the same thermometers that have been working since 1900. Surely Bailey knows how to download the datasets and graph them. There is free Python code at realclimatescience dot com that does all that. Climate apocalypse is another variation of the orbiting teapot conundrum, as wrong as race suicide, radioactive mutation into zombies and claims that marijuana makes people leap off of skyscrapers.

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