Climate Catrastophists Counterattack

“The worst-case IPCC projections, or even worse, are being realized,” said Katherine Richardson, co-chair of the Copenhagen Climate Congress. Emissions are soaring, projections of sea level rise are higher than expected, and climate impacts around the world are appearing with increasing frequency, the University of Copenhagen biological oceanographer told delegates in the opening session of the 3-day meeting. Why are the doomsayers suddenly all over the news media? Because of the changing climate—the political climate that is.

Fearing that politicians aren't listening, climate scientists convened an emergency doomfest in Copenhagen in order to get their stories straight. The 2000 conference attendees were just the latest wave of climate change true believers to go on the offensive in recent weeks. The Copenhagen Climate Congress hoped to present their view of world climate science before another set of delegates meets in Copenhagen in December. That meeting of government representatives will try to hammer out a follow on agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Accords, which expire in 2012. “This is our opportunity to get science back on the agenda,” said climate modeler Vicky Pope of the U.K. Met Office. British Member of Parliament Colin Challen, who attended several sessions, said the update was crucial as nations are making plans “on data that's out of date.”


The little Mermaid enjoys the warm Holocene climate.

I would agree with that, what with a number of projections that global warming was going to take a 20-30 year holiday and that melting ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica were far from “unprecedented” calamitous events. With old treaties about to expire, a new administration in Washington and the possibility of governmental changes elsewhere in the developed world, the forces of environmental disaster are taking it to the streets (or at least the conference halls). Eli Kintisch, writing for Science on line, captured the conference scene this way:

Outside the conference center, a 75-m wind turbine reminded delegates of the promise, yet unfulfilled, of sustainable energy. And inside, the organizers definitely felt the wind at their backs. Unlike IPCC, which is affiliated with the United Nations and its member governments, last week's congress answered to no political bosses and, therefore, participants were free to make prescriptive statements at its conclusion. “Inaction is inexcusable” and “weaker [emissions] targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points” were two of the six “messages” that organizers disseminated in a press release. Some scientists, however, felt that those messages suggested a false consensus among participants.

A false consensus? Regarding the prognosis for the climate system, Richardson warned that there's “no good news.” Some scientists criticized the 2007 IPCC report for not sufficiently addressed the loss of the world's ice sheets—it explicitly omitted calculations of the movement of glaciers. University of California Irvine glaciologist Eric Rignot said the accelerating movement of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica would, on the current trajectory, lead to sea level rise of 1 m or more by 2100—flooding coastal residents around the world. Ecologist Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science, gave an update on the behavior of carbon stocks in the soil, permafrost, and plants, a problem the IPCC “underemphasized” in its last report. Field's latest estimate of the amount of carbon in permafrost is 1.7 trillion tons, more than twice the 2007 estimate. That seems pretty consistently gloomy to us. But wait.

Jonathan Bamber, of the University of Bristol, presented the results of new modeling work that showed a complete disintegration of the Greenland sheet would require a 6°C rise in global temperatures, double the conventional wisdom. Not wishing to damage his climate change street cred, and before the audience could react to this rare piece of good news, Bamber quickly added that a 15% loss to the sheet would translate into a 1 m rise in sea level, “a horrendous prospect whichever way you cut it.” Yes, even the good news is horrendous, folks.

Even if the world acts quickly and completely eliminates CO2 emissions in less than 50 years grave calamities await. Modelers from the UK's Met Office presented new data showing that even eliminating world wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 could lead to a loss of up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest. “We thought we didn't need to worry till we got to 3°C of warming,” says climate modeler Vicky Pope. Tim Lenton, an Earth systems scientist from the University of East Anglia, described the change in deforestation as going from “high-impact, low-probability events [to] high-impact, larger probability events.”

If you have even a small amount of optimism left, abstracts of the papers presented at the Copenhagen congress on climate change, “Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions,” are available online. If you have any doubts about the conference attendee's take on the future here is the summation of climatic trends from the final press release:

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

How can all of these reports contradict findings published just last month that said ice loss had reversed in Greenland and that rapid melting and freezing cycles have been common in Antarctica since the great cooling 33.7 mya at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary? Even though for much of Earth's history the climate has been considerably warmer than it is today, these so called experts continue to use terms like “unprecedented,” “irreversible,” and the new favorite “tipping point.” The use of any of these over-hyped terms should be sufficient to have the utterer barred from making public pronouncements for a year.


Source of hot air found in Copenhagen.

Should we take the conferences' message to heart—are we standing on the brink of an ecological precipice? Perhaps a hint can be found in the observation reported in Science: “Attendees said that they appreciated the breadth of climate-related research presented at the meeting, which was much more political than the average scientific conference but far more scientific than a gathering of diplomats.” Chris Field found that the scientists on stage in the final plenary session were overstating the level of support among climate scientists for the scientific validity of the 2°C target. When even the true believers demure perhaps the claims are a bit overstated.

And therein lies the danger for the climate change catastrophists and all the scientists who have been seduced by global warming research funding. With a world in recession, future energy prices uncertain and global temperatures actually falling, cries of impending ecological disaster have lost much of their urgency for the public. The true believers know that they must make sufficient noise to keep politicians' attention focused on their issue or global warming will find itself on the back burner; no publicity, no public outcry, no attention from the politicians and (worst of all) no grant money.

Unfortunately, this means even more lurid tails of pending disaster must be trotted out for public consumption, lest attention wain. Ever shriller, and ever more unbelievable, the claims have become, leading fifty nine additional scientists from around the world to add their names to the US Senate Minority Report of dissenting scientists. This pushes the list total to over 700 skeptical international scientists. Reports continue from around the world that attendees of main stream scientific conferences—those not held for the expressed purpose of promoting the global warming agenda—have increasingly tried to distance themselves from the climate change extremists.

I have always pointed out the lack of scientific weight behind taking headcounts, of either proponents or skeptics. Consensus science surely ranks as one of the worst scams of our time, misleading the public and stifling scientific discourse (or trying to, anyway). While counting scientists on either side of the issue does nothing to answer the scientific questions surrounding climate change, there is a certain satisfaction in watching those who would live by consensus science die by consensus science.

As always, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.