Extreme Climate Alarmism Takes Off at The Daily Mail

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Just when you thought it might be safe to go back to reading the papers without climate catastrophism leaping out at you and grabbing you by the throat (Guardian and Independent excepted), along comes the Daily Mail to warn us that London and New York could be under water in just 50 years!

“Most scientists agree that sea levels will rise, but some say it won’t happen for centuries. Now, a new study suggests sea levels will increase several feet over the next 50 years.”

The ‘new’ study turns out to be Hansen et al’s ultra alarmist sea level rise paper published for discussion in July last year. It appears that it has now been accepted and published here.

The author of the Fail article doesn’t know their feet from their metres. According to the actual paper, within 50-150 years, sea level could rise several metres. It’s worse than we thought. Oh my God you think. Why? How? Well, it’s quite simple really. During the last interglacial (the Eemian), sea levels were much higher (6m-9m) and, I quote:

“Eemian sea level is of special interest because Eemian climate was at most 2C warmer than pre-industrial climate, thus at most 1C warmer than today. Indeed, based on multiple data and model sources Masson-Delmotte et al. (2013) suggest that peak Eemian temperature was only a few tenths of a degree warmer than today. The Eemian period thus provides an indication of sea level change that can be expected if global temperature reaches and maintains a level moderately higher than today.”

This is a gross oversimplification which is repeated in the actual paper. It is now generally accepted that mid to high latitude Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the early part of the Eemian were several degrees higher in most areas than they are today. This was due to orbital forcing – increased solar radiation (relative to today) in northern latitudes during summer. A paper very recently published suggests that temperatures in Greenland during the last interglacial peaked at 7C-11C above what they are today. So fairly obviously, the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet contributed at least partly to rising sea levels during the Eemian (which, it must be pointed out, was far from a uniform increase – indeed, sea levels may have risen and then dropped in two or more pulses throughout the entire interglacial.

It may be the case that average global temperatures during the Eemian peaked at no more than 1-2C above the pre-industrial Holocene, but this conclusion seems dubious – quite how one measures average global temperatures over 100,000 years ago with this degree of accuracy, I have no idea. We are not even certain what the actual global mean surface temperature was 150 years ago, let alone 100k!

Hansen’s argument for comparing the Eemian sea level rise(s) with what may happen in the next 50-150 years rests on a complex theory involving rising CO2 and its effect on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which he postulates underwent a collapse in the late Eemian when orbital forcing of Northern latitudes was decreasing and global temperatures were declining:

“Our climate simulations and analysis of paleoclimate oscillations indicate that the Southern Ocean has the leading role in global climate change, with the North Atlantic a supporting actor. The Southern Ocean dominates by controlling ventilation of the deep-ocean CO2 reservoir. . . .
The most important practical implication of this “control knob” analysis is realization that the timescale for ice sheet change in Earth’s natural history has been set by CO2, not by ice physics. . . .
However, sea level rise itself is the single greatest global concern, and it is now broadly accepted that late-Eemian sea level reached 6–9 m, implicating a substantial contribution from Antarctica, at a time when Earth was little warmer than today.”

The problem is, though Eemian sea level estimates may be ‘broadly accepted’ to be 6-9m, they may have been rather less and the relative contribution from Greenland (due to orbital forcing of the ice sheet in summer) may have been rather more, which kind of pours cold water on Hansen’s CO2 alarmism. In this respect, there is an interesting Short Comment on Hansen’s paper from Matt Whipple at Bristol University, some of which I quote below:

“More to the point, Eemian temperature data shows a clear lead in the Antarctic records . . . . . . The maximum Greenland contribution was late Eemian, as shown by multiple modelling studies (e.g. Stone et al., Clim. Past, 2013), and ice core gas content elevation proxy data (NEEM community members, Nature, 2013). Given the timing of both Greenland temperature and ice sheet response, it is most plausible that the second peak in sea level data was sourced from Greenland . . . . . there remains no evidence for Eemian WAIS collapse.”

It’s fair to say that Hansen’s paper has generated a lot of comments from other scientists, many of them not very positive. Credit to ACP for making them public here. Drijfhout of Southampton University comments here. Among other criticisms, he says:

“The Eemian cannot be directly compared to any future climate that we might anticipate.”

Peter Thorne of Maynooth University writes a 32 page rather damning review here. Thorne is definitely not impressed with Hansen of whom he comments that his response to criticism was “unprofessional” and “grossly inappropriate”. Furthermore, he says:

“I expect this kind of thing of my kids. I do not expect this behaviour to be out there in the public domain for all to see amongst leading scientists in the field.”

As for the apocalyptic picture painted, Thorne said it was “marginally more likely than me or you buying a winning Euromillions [lottery] ticket today”.

All in all then, I think we can safely say that London and New York won’t become prime attractions for scuba divers within the lifetime of our children or our grandchildren.

Shame on the Daily Mail for running with this nonsense but they do at least provide some counterpoint to the ridiculous headline and the bulk of the text – from Michael Mann no less:

But others still remain hesitant about the claims made in the draft paper, released last year, and are still on the fence with the final version.

‘Some of the claims in this paper are indeed extraordinary,’ said Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. ‘They conflict with the mainstream understanding of climate change to the point where the standard of proof is quite high.’

Making quite a name for himself is Mann, refuting the more extreme claims of his colleagues – first he co-authors a paper saying the Pause is real, and now this.

19 thoughts on “Extreme Climate Alarmism Takes Off at The Daily Mail

  1. Paradoxically one of the reasons the Daily Mail can be trusted on climate is because they will publish material from both sides. Indeed, the hallmark of an alarmist paper is the complete denial of free speech to anyone who doesn’t toe the party line.

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  2. I think the issue is the way the story is presented. First the rapid meltdown of the poles and the feedbacks associated with freshwater hosing of the MOC at both poles; then mega storms generated by the huge temperature difference and finally a second pulse of devastating ice melt. A mild word of caution from Michael Mann, himself a seasoned ‘shutdown of the Gulf Stream via freshwater hosing’ alarmist, then swiftly on to the Marcott paper warning that sea level and temperature rises will be locked in for 10,000 years. Our only hope? Decarbonise the economy completely by the end of next week.
    If the Mail’s idea of ‘balance’ is to present one or two sceptical global warming articles, followed by a full-blown warmist tour de force, you have to question whether they are more interested in presenting factual stories on the ‘cutting edge’ of climate science, or generating sales with lurid headlines.

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  3. The Mail is a tabloid of course, so everything is exaggerated and sensationalised.
    The main effect of Hansen’s paper will be to make climate science look more ridiculous and to reinforce and increase scepticism, see the comments under the mail article,”climedians”, “codswallop”, “we know you are no longer credible”, “science fiction”, and lots of people drawing attention to previous failed predictions from Hansen and others.

    Climate scientists like Thorne are clearly aware of the damage done by Hansen et al.
    There’s an interesting piece by Megan Darby at Climate Home, normally an enthusiastic mouthpiece for climate alarmist propaganda, where she says
    “Critics accuse prominent climate scientist of unprofessional behaviour and alarmism, in debate over risk of rapid ice sheet melting”.
    At the end, Thorne is quoted as asking
    “does it help or hinder?”

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  4. Thorne too believes society should be acting faster to curb emissions, based on risks that are already well understood. But he questions whether publicising extreme scenarios is helpful.

    “Does this actually confuse, does it cause despair, does it help or hinder? I don’t know whether communicating something like this actually elicits a response that says: let’s do something.”

    Most people reading about Hansen’s dire predictions in the mail and elsewhere will come away with the impression that there really is not much point in doing anything, because we are doomed unless we all become cave dwellers tomorrow. The damage is done. It’s now just a matter of sitting back and waiting for the world to fall apart – so we might as well get on with our lives and try to enjoy the little time we have left.

    No wonder scientists like Peter Thorne are rattled by Hansen’s uber alarmism – it completely removes the sting from their own arguments by raising the alarmist bar so high that the public become psychologically inured to all the lesser rungs below and end up throwing the whole lot onto the garbage heap labelled ‘failed apocalyptic predictions and/or what the hell, we’re doomed anyway’. So perhaps the end is nigh – for climate change alarmism, courtesy of the excesses of climate activists like Hansen, who has abused his position as a scientist, in my opinion, to promote a political agenda and in the process, shot himself, his science and the whole climate change activism lobby in the foot – and the academic community let it happen by publishing this paper and lending credence to its claims. So maybe they’ll limp on to the next disaster, but I think it’s only a matter of time now before Clive James’ ‘Imminent [climate] Catastrophe’ is off the menu for general public consumption.

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  5. But what a grand illustration of how tempting this topic has been for newspapers! A veritable carnival sideshow’s worth of scary images, portentous claims, imaginative graphics – all brought together by a bright-eyed young free-lance keen to make the world a better place.

    In the 19th century they had a more robust view of how to respond to such ‘a plentiful crop of speculation from weather prophets and projectors, and half-instructed meteorologists’. Hat-tip: Steven Goddard (also, for more text from the press cutting quoted see here.

    Hansen is something special, but I fear he will be remembered as a troublemaking obsessive, exploited by sundry power-hungry folks like Senators Wirth and Gore. Hansen has painted himself firmly into a corner with his vivid imaginings, and seems incapable of escape without severe damage to his self-respect. He has a long track record of feeding the press with raw meat, as Steven Goddard has also recalled here. Most recently, he has taken a leading role in pushing young children forward as climate scaremongers, and indeed as plaintiffs in a search for publicity and promotion through an extraordinary legal action in the States.

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  6. it completely removes the sting from their own arguments by raising the alarmist bar so high

    Indeed – difficult to run their favoured headline “it’s worse than we thought” when the last claim was imminent apocalypse…

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  7. Got a little spare time? Try this quiz:

    (1) Who said these things in a book published in April, 2009:

    ‘The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change do for us.’

    ‘Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs.’

    ‘We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise them in support of our projects.’

    ‘These myths transcend the scientific categories of ‘true’ and ‘false’.

    (2) How well do they illuminate the Daily Mail article?

    (3) How well do they illuminate the activities of folks like James Hansen?

    (4) Would Machiavelli have approved?

    For the answer to (1) see the early part of this presentation by Richard Lindzen. (the rest is worth listening to as well!)

    For the answer to (4) see this book review by Bernie Lewin.

    For the answers to (2) and (3), check with your brain and see what it can come up with. But please listen to that presentation, and read that book review first.

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  8. John, I have that book and recognise the distinctive woolly tone!
    Your other questions might form the basis of a future blog post.
    I don’t entirely agree with Lewin’s book review.

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  9. Climate science cannot elicit societal reactions, and sustain them, without ridiculous alarmism.
    Climate science cannot maintain its own scientific credibility with sustained ridiculous alarmism.

    These two forces have always co-existed and there is a fine equilibrium. Hansen was never called out for his nonsense as vociferously at the time of his alarmism in the US Senate in 1988. Now that he’s retired he is a safe target, and for Hansen himself, a safe way to let loose his nonsensical apocalyptic fantasies. It’s like watching an old man pull the tired old magic trick one more time trying to get a reaction. Hansen painted the scenario of a flooded New York many, many years ago. He got nothing but kudos for his schtick all these years.

    For these reasons, I never trust *any* climate scientist making pretenses of rational non-alarmist science. Of course there are exceptions but those are few and far between.

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  10. Paul, I guess you’d win the prize for getting question 1 without needing the link for help! As for my second link, the book review, I will return to it and search for controversial stuff more carefully. The main thing I disagree with so far is the use of the word ‘principle’ in paragraphs 1 & 3, but I shall surely need to do better than that!

    Re the suggestion of a blog post, I agree there is scope for it. I had thought of doing one instead of that comment but I just don’t have time for it just now. If you or anyone else could pick it up and do a post, that would be good. And I might get back up to speed on Lewin’s review in time to add a comment there …

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  11. ‘We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us.’

    Well, yes. Mike Hulme and many others have been doing just this for years and answering the question nicely, thank you very much. The rest of the populace? Not so much. Perhaps he should alight from his ivory tower and go and ask a few people on the streets of Britain the very same question:

    “What can climate change do for you Sir/Madam?”
    “Well, firstly, it could stop pretending to be an urgent problem so I can afford to pay my gas and electricity bills. Oh, and perhaps it could also have a word in the shell-like of our idiot politicians to that effect so that they don’t keep throwing up worse than useless windmills here, there and everywhere.”
    “But . . . . wouldn’t you also like climate change to be an intellectual resource around which your collective and personal identity and projects can form and take shape?”
    “What?”

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  12. Yes, Jaime, very amusing. But I suppose the Vicar of Hulme ( I cannot escape that picture I have of him) does not contemplate asking these questions of the hoi polloi. They are for the anointed (hat-tip Sowell) ones to muse over. No one else.

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  13. Paul, I’m reading it. It’s worse than I thought:

    “The authors basically give up on ice-sheet processes in climate models or even ice sheet models and decide to play what-if with some, in my view, poorly physically justified assumptions.
    It is important to stress that there is therefore no rigourosly physically justified mecanism or basis underlying the posited multi-metre sea-level rise. They basically assume you start off adding one olympic swimming pool today, two tomorrow, four the next day etc. then when they determine they have added enough swimming pools of water they switch it off.”

    Peter Thorne makes it clear at the start that he strongly supports the “absolute right of the journal and its editors to publish any piece using their best judgement upon completion of a proper peer review process.” But from the above comment, it is clear that in Thorne’s view the paper is not just scientifically flawed, it is not even science! So it would appear that the paper should not have been published in a scientific journal, which has worrying implications for the quality of the peer review process in this particular instance and probably generally – though I suspect especially in climate science. Hence Thorne describes the peer review process with regard to this paper as follows:

    “The whole process was as if we had fallen through Alice’s looking glass.”

    The final irony in all this is that Thorne is also a catastrophist who believes that a multi-metre sea level rise from the meltdown of the WAIS is virtually inevitable, but won’t take place for many hundreds of years, rather than within the next 85:

    “That said, West Antarctic is unstable, and we almost certainly have passed a tipping point that will see eventual c.8m rise but the scientific literature generally suggests this shall be a multi-century process.”

    So there’s no going back – we’ve passed the tipping point and London and New York WILL be under water unless future engineers can come up with some pretty spectacular flood barriers!

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  14. It’s almost laughable. After Hansen et al takes a nosedive in the credibility ratings, sea level rise alarmists are straight back at the grindstone to release another paper/report, which also compares the last interglacial with today and throws in the Pliocene too for good measure. This one uses ‘real physics’ and known physical processes in a model which suggests SLR may double in the next 100 years due to Antarctic ice melt. The multi-meter sea level rise is a bit further off (50 feet=17m!!) by 2500, but it will be guaranteed unless we drastically reduce CO2 emissions. So for our children’s children’s children, we must sacrifice our high energy lifestyles right now.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/03/30/oh-noes-model-says-sea-level-rise-from-antarctic-ice-sheet-could-double/

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  15. It seems that climate “science” has turned into the 21st century equivalent of psychiatry, with Freud, Adler, Jung et al arguing each other into supremacy, forming schismatic movements, casting aspersions on rival sects etc.

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  16. The Daily Mail has picked up on this one very quickly as well:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3515699/Sea-levels-expected-rise-TWICE-high-previously-thought-Antarctic-ice-sheet-release-50ft-water-2500.html

    “Previous estimates of global sea level rises may have underestimated the problem by half because they failed to incorporate the full effects of factors including the break-up of ice sheets.

    Scientists claim that earlier predictions about the next 100 years, made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are wrong and the actual rise could be around 5ft (1.5 metres).

    Experts are warning that the oversight could prove disastrous for low lying coastal cities, such as Miami in the US, or Guangzhou in China.”

    So now Miami and Guangzhou are in the firing line as opposed to London and New York!

    “Mechanisms that were previously known about, but never incorporated into a computer model, radically changed the outcome of their projections.”

    “They predict that Antarctica alone could contribute more than one metre of sea-level rise by the year 2100, and greater than 50ft (15 metres) by 2500 if atmospheric emissions continue unabated.”

    So basically, it’s Hansen et al Pt 2, with extra ice physics and ‘only’ 1.5m rise in sea level this century instead of several metres” We’ll scare the buggers somehow.

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