The Royal Society has produced a new report to try to maintain the climate scare, providing an update on the last IPCC report (AR5) that came out in 2013. It’s in two parts, a document that summarises their main points in a non-technical way, starting off with “Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time” and a supporting document that includes references to new papers published since AR5. Unsurprisingly, the main message is “it’s worse then we thought”. The authors include several of the familiar “usual suspects” with a solid track record in alarmism and exaggeration, such as Joanna Haigh, Ed Hawkins, Gabriele Hegerl and Brian Hoskins.
The report addresses 13 questions, some of which we have looked into, see below.
Climate Sensitivity (Paul)
The first question explored is How sensitive is global temperature to increasing greenhouse gases?
The summary claims that:
In 2013, the IPCC report stated that a doubling of pre-industrial carbon dioxide concentrations would likely produce a long-term warming effect of 1.5 to 4.5°C; the lowest end of that range now seems less likely.
The article explains what climate sensitivity is, and discusses the different ways of trying to estimate it. It points out that there tends to be a difference between estimates that are based on observations, and estimates that are based on computer models (see if you can guess which method gives the higher values – observations or computer models).
This figure is included, which shows a comparison of observations with models assuming an ECS of 2.1C, 2.8C and 3.7C.
Notice that the observations curve lies below all three of these, suggesting that the climate sensitivity is below 2.1C. Yet the Royal Society document claims that lower values of ECS are less likely. So the report has included a diagram that shows the opposite of what is claimed. Maybe it’s a typo, and the statement should have read “the highest end of that range now seems less likely” (unfortunately not — the section ends with a statement that values below 2C now seem less plausible).
Several recent papers are included in the reference list that look at the question of climate sensitivity.
Recent attempts to diagnose equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) from changes in Earth’s energy budget point toward values at the low end of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)’s likely range (1.5–4.5 K).
Again, this is the opposite of what is claimed in the RS report.
Many recent estimates of ECS based on historic warming yield a reduced probability for large ECS, reduced lower bounds, and most likely values near 2 °C.
Yet again this contradicts the RS report’s claim. Later, the paper points out the discrepancy between observation- and model-based estimates, and comes up with a best-guess of 3C.
Other recent papers cited in the references and the values for ECS that they suggest include:
Bates (2016) – “low and tightly constrained EfCS values, in the neighborhood of 1°C.”
Frolicher et al 2014 – observations 2.0C, models 3.1C
Gregory and Andrews (2016) – “toward the lower end of the likely range of 1.5–4.5 K for equilibrium climate sensitivity in the assessment of [the IPCC]”.
Kummer and Dessler (2014) – 3.0C
Lewis (2016) – best estimate 1.66C, range 0.7C – 3.2C.
Marvel et al (2016) 2.9C
Skeie et al (2014) – best estimate 1.8C, range 0.9C – 3.2C.
In conclusion, there seems to be nothing to support the claims in the RS report that lower values of ECS are now less likely.
Health impacts (Ben)
The twists and turns of lines on charts depicting climate variables has become less and less interesting. Scientists, activists and campaigning journalists have used every increment of any magnitude to claim that doom is upon us for longer than my entire life, and have dismissed each return to the norm as ‘natural variation’, rather than nature punishing academic hyperbole. The only question that remains is why have the proclamations of seemingly august scientific institutions not been their hostages to fortune? Few other public bodies are free to raise the stakes in political games without consequence; they would run out of money, goodwill or standing, and would be ushered away from public life.
The reasons for environmentalism’s endurance are too numerous and off-topic to go through here. What is interesting about the Royal Society’s prognosticating, however, is that it once again allows us to see the ideology of establishment environmentalism at work, smuggled in under cover of scientific prestige.
This is never more evident than in claims about the Nth-order ‘impacts’ of climate change, rather than in pure climate data and model output. That is to say that, between claims that the planet has warmed and what the consequences of that warming might be, so much uncertainty exists but is routinely ignored by the likes of the Royal Society, it brings into stark relief the political presuppositions they are the victims of.
For example, Question 13 of the RS’s new report asks, ‘How will aspects of human health be affected by climate change?’. The answer in summary is entirely bland: “Human health will be affected by climate change in multiple ways, with impacts including those from extreme heat, food availability, and changes in the geographical occurrence of infectious diseases.”
They should say “we don’t know”. Because they don’t know. Instead, they say,
This section considers some new research on a limited subset of these mechanisms: the impacts of changes in exposure to heat stress, increased infectious disease risk, and effects on nutrition. These are clearer now than before AR5. Other impacts, including potentially far-reaching effects mediated through social and economic disruption such as increasing poverty, conflict, and migration are not considered here.
The depth of what the RS does consider poses no risk of drowning in facts or data, much less new ‘science’. They are merely assertions, which offer few links to the literature they draw from, and even less debate.
And there is a debate. The big problem for the climate alarmists such as the authors of the report is that in no other era in human history has the rate of human progress been so rapid as the era of ‘unprecedented global warming’. We would not say that the well-evidenced precipitous decline of infant mortality or the reduced extent of infectious diseases or the increased lifespan of people throughout the world are the consequence of global warming. So why claim that the future climate is creating new, insurmountable risk?
The risk of infectious disease, and malnutrition are first-order effects of poverty. They are not first, second, or third effects of global warming. The Royal Society, however, say this:
Dengue accounts for about 390 million infections annually. The two main mosquito vector species are affected by multiple drivers including climate change. Several modelling studies since 2013 have confirmed that climate change would cause dengue to expand into areas at the edge of current distribution ranges. One study suggests that the population exposure to the main vector (as well as other diseases spread by mosquitoes) would increase by 8 – 12% due to climate change alone, amplifying the larger increase in exposure caused by population growth.
They used to say the same about malaria, which is carried by the mosquito also. Dengue is of course a nasty disease. Untreated, it will kill half of people in whom infection develops into hemorrhagic fever. But when treated, between 95 and 98% of people who develop dengue hemorrhagic fever survive. Fewer than 1% of people with infections die.
Those of us who remember when malaria was the climate alarmist’s favourite disease can remember the debate also hinged on the claim that climate change would push the mosquito and its own parasite into new territory. This, argued the evil deniers, misconceived the dynamics of the organism and society’s ability to respond. Malaria had once been common even with the Arctic circle. Thus, though it may well be the case that climate change could alter the range of the mosquito species that carry dengue (and other diseases), history gives us clear lessons in controlling them and the disease.
Moreover, estimating anthropogenic influence on the range of the mosquito is as absurd as the notion that climate change makes it a new problem or new risk. Dengue fever was a problem facing humans, no matter its range before or after any degree of climate change, which can increase spontaneously, just as climate change can be spontaneous, as can diseases and organisms that carry them develop past ecological niches that seemingly confine them. Is mitigating climate change for the sake of preventing 8-12% of dengue cases a more pressing concern than developing a vaccine or eradication programme that could abolish 390 million cases per year from the face of the planet?
The scientists at the Royal Society reveal that they have completely backwards priorities. This is ideology, pure and simple. Most people in the regions most affected by dengue would like motor and jet travel, and a vaccine. The priorities of the Royal Society, however, would seem to stand in their way.
The next entirely unsupported claim in the report is that
The complex influence of climate change on health via nutrition is illustrated by a modelling study which projected that by 2050, climate change will lead to per person reductions of about 3% in global food availability compared to a reference scenario, together with an important reduction in fruit and vegetable consumption. These declines are estimated to lead to a net increase of about 500,000 deaths annually.
Which modelling study? Which “reference scenario”? We are once again faced with the claims of scientists, who have made the same claims since 1972. Their models indicated then the same future. We should surely be dead by now. But since the 1960s, agricultural productivity and yield boomed, and prices plummeted. The problem for producers in developing economies has rarely been ‘environmental’ as much as economic. Whereas in the USA, marketable value can easily be added to food crops by mechanisation, this has been much harder for producers in poorer economies, who are further excluded from wealthier, mostly Western markets. The poorer producer is competing with the richer producer, his farm machinery, and the roads, schools, hospitals, factories and economic infrastructure and advanced markets he can access. Meanwhile, entire torrents of green activists are at work, encouraging… forcing, in fact… ‘sustainability’ on producers in developing economies, to ‘protect’ their ‘pastoral’ lifestyles.
If slight changes in climate can be compared to ‘reference scenarios’ to produce body counts, then the modes of production emphasised by green activists and their acquiescent scientists can too. Let us put our fingers in the air and estimate how many deaths we can credit them with. I would suggest that the greatest blame for distorting global political priorities away from the 9 million people who it is claimed currently die each year from hunger lies with the environmental movement. It is they who misconstrue the condition of those people as ‘environmental’ rather than economic or social.
It is ideological to presuppose in the ‘reference sample’ precisely what is claimed to have been found by comparing it with the output of the model not contaminated by climate change. It is ideological, pure and simple, because the agents in both samples – virtual producers – would have made different decisions had they been credited with the slightest common sense. Studies of the kind that the RS bases its own claims on conceive of producers as dumb agents, whereas in developed economies, farmers make decisions based on many factors, including markets, weather and climate, and their own interests. And it is ideological to claim that 500,000 deaths in the future are inevitable, to use them as puppets in some kind of grim morality play.
The same abuse of future statistical corpses continues in the Royal Society’s concern for people living on a very slightly warmer planet…
… recent work shows that, even with global warming of only 1.5°C and midrange population growth, over 350 million more people could be exposed to hazardous levels of heat by 2050 in cities such as Lagos and Shanghai. Another new study identified a threshold in air temperature and relative humidity beyond which increased deaths occur. Around 30% of the world’s population is currently exposed, for at least 20 days a year, to conditions exceeding this threshold. By 2100, this percentage is projected to increase to around 48% under an intermediate emission pathway (RCP 4.5) and around 74% under high emissions pathway (RCP8.5) (see Figure). Social adaptation could reduce exposure to these conditions, but would not affect their occurrence.
The last point is key here. ‘Social adaptation’ is climate-activist- scientist euphemism for ‘becoming wealthier’. Poor people in the West – in London, Paris, New York – died when it was hot, but housing and sanitation were not adequate. As economies developed, so did the standards of living. The heat of summer in New York is insufferable, but almost every apartment has been retrofitted with air- conditioning – units that fit into the old window frames of buildings that were erected before such a thing could have been imagined. In other parts of the same country, you can step out of your air- conditioned home into an air-conditioned car and drive to an air-conditioned workplace or shopping mall.
But such a future for the world’s poorest is as inconceivable to the Royal Society today as it was to the New Yorker architects of a century (or more) ago. This is ideology. It is to presuppose other people’s interests from the scientists limited imagination, and to forcefully argue to impose those limits. The means to protect people – especially the old, young and infirm – from heat are as well understood and within our means as the means to protect people from cold. These choices are only problematised by the distorted worldview that the likes of the Royal Society possess. Wealth is a problem for them because it is the answer to almost all problems, which leaves them redundant as an institution that long ago recognised it as such, but abandoned it in its own search for authority.
The promise of science is no longer prosperity, but the mere avoidance of catastrophe. With sufficient wealth, the problems emphasised (and in fact, mostly imagined) by the faux-scientists at the Royal Society become trivial at worst: a vaccination here, an air-conditioning unit there, investment in farm machinery, yonder. They are decisions that can be made by individuals, families, communities, and properly-constituted domestic (i.e. regional and national) public health agencies, but which are decisions that have been stolen by scientists who have very little to offer the world beyond the cheap disaster B-movie plots they elevate themselves with. Their bullshit science ‘detects’ problems in the future – a slight decrease in agricultural productivity here, a slight increase in the range of a disease vector there, and slightly more hot days – but rule out the agency of anyone experiencing those problems. This is ideology, through and through.
The ‘new’ science offered by the Royal Society has not overcome the ideological presuppositions of political environmentalism. Until the influence of that ideology has been recognised, understood, and excluded, no sense can be made of any study that claims to have measured the relationship between climate change and diseases, agricultural productivity and excess heat.
Is decreasing Arctic sea ice causing colder Northern Hemisphere winters? (Jaime)
RS asks (Question 5):
Decreasing Arctic sea ice – is there any influence on the weather in middle latitudes?
The impetus appears to be the rather concerning cooling trend observed in winters in Eurasia and North America.
Despite the long-term average increase in surface temperature at high-latitudes, there has been a wintertime cooling trend both in eastern North America and in central Eurasia over the last 25 years including a number of extremely cold winters (e.g. 2009/10 in northern Eurasia and 2014 in eastern North America).
You can’t have cooling at the same time as global GHG warming – unless the cooling is somehow due to the warming. Hence Jennifer Francis’ much publicised hypothesis about Arctic sea ice loss causing changes in the jet stream which in turn cause colder northern hemisphere winters. It was an attractive hypothesis, for obvious reasons, but it was also quite heavily criticised at the time.
Undeterred, scientists pushed on, keen to demonstrate a causal link between sea ice loss and cold winters. Hence the Royal Society says:
There has been considerable use of computer models to investigate possible influences of Arctic warming on regional mid-latitude weather, and some theoretical, but conflicting, mechanisms have been proposed. If the weather systems stayed the same, enhanced Arctic warming would mean that the cold air blowing into middle latitudes from Arctic regions would be less cold. However, there is some evidence from models that regional decreases in sea ice, such as in the Barents-Kara Sea (north of Finland and western Russia), can interact with the regional weather systems to increase the likelihood of very cold winter weather in Central Asia, as has been more prevalent since 1990. The nature and strength of linkages between Arctic sea ice loss and mid latitude weather is a focus of considerable current research.
Computer modeling again. The attempt to make reality fit with global warming virtual reality. The problem is, attempts so far have not been too successful. The references provided by the RS themselves are hardly reassuring – roughly half actually contradict the hypothesis of sea-ice loss causing changes in mid-latitude weather patterns.
There are other theories as to why winters are getting colder, but these are not mentioned by the RS, presumably because they don’t fit the narrative ‘warming causes cooling’. For instance, RAPID (Southampton University) identified a very significant slowing in AMOC during the very cold winter of 2009/10, coincident also with a very negative winter NAO. The RAPID monitoring team also observed a general declining trend in AMOC from the early 21st century onwards. There is a wealth of research (e.g. here) connecting negative winter NAO (and cold European winters) with low solar activity, but the Royal Society ignores all of it in favour of trying to shoehorn puzzling observations into the dominant consensus theory of climate change.
Thus it appears that this section serves the sole purpose of highlighting ongoing research aimed at trying to explain a northern hemisphere winter cooling trend in terms of the observed decline in Arctic sea ice. Less a case then of “What have we learnt since the IPCC 5th Assessment Report?”, more a case of “How do we fit the inconvenient observation that winters have been cooling into our global warming theory?” Answer: You can’t very easily, but hey, don’t let that stop you going off on one.