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Climate catastrophe due next year

A classic from the Guardian/Observer archives, from February 2004:

The article is so absurd that it hardly needs any commentary. After explaining that Britain will be Siberian by next year according to a suppressed report, it goes on to claim that the ‘findings’ of the report will embarrass the climate-denying president:

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Climate change ‘should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern’, say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network.

An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is ‘plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately’, they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

Later on we are told more details of the catastrophes that will occur by 2020:

Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 ‘catastrophic’ shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated.

Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. ‘This is depressing stuff,’ he said. ‘It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.’

Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. ‘We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,’ he said.

Of course the authors of the report, Randall and Schwartz, aren’t climate scientists. But their report gets the glowing endorsement of two leading UK climate scientists — Sir John Houghton, former boss of the Met Office and IPCC co-chair, and former IPCC chair Bob Watson:

Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office – and the first senior figure to liken the threat of climate change to that of terrorism – said: ‘If the Pentagon is sending out that sort of message, then this is an important document indeed.’

Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon’s dire warnings could no longer be ignored.

‘Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It’s going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush’s single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,’ added Watson.

Hugely embarrassing indeed, but for Watson, not Bush. Why would a senior scientist like Bob Watson say that a report claiming global catastrophe by 2020 is non-wacko and should be taken seriously? Well there’s a hint that politics may be a factor, later on in the article:

So dramatic are the report’s scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush’s stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.

The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid Kerry’s cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed ‘Yoda’ by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defence’s push on ballistic-missile defence.

Is it not rather worrying that the defence of the USA is in the hands of people who produce such garbage?


This Pentagon report was cited in a recent article Climate Change and National Security, Part II: How Big a Threat is the Climate?

The consequences of abrupt, severe warming for national security are obvious in general, if unclear in the specifics. In 2003, the Defense Department asked a contractor to explore such a scenario. The resulting report outlined the offensive and defensive national security strategies countries may adopt if faced with abrupt climate change, and highlighted the increased risk of inter- and intra-state conflict over natural resources and immigration. Although the report may be off in its imagined timeframe (positing abrupt climate change by 2020), the world it conjures is improbable but not outlandish.

This is a bit like the doomsday cults that say that the world is going to end this year, and then when that doesn’t happen, say it’s going to happen next year. Even more comically, a few paragraphs before acknowledging that the 2003 report got it wrong, the article claims that “Scientists can predict the consequences of climate change to 2050 with some measure of certainty”.

That article also provides a link to the Pentagon climate report by Schwartz and Randall, dated October 2003.

By looking at the report, we can see to what extent it is in itself complete nonsense, and to what extent it was misrepresented by the Observer’s journalists. As usual in the game of Climate Chinese Whispers, there’s an element of both. The report starts with a boxed disclaimer, acknowledging that “We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.” The Observer journalists Townsend and Harris quite dishonestly only quote the second half of that sentence.

The report plays a common climate game — we’re not making a prediction, we’re setting out a scenario — but then sets out its scenario like this:

thereby making it very easy for a journalist to accidentally or deliberately interpret it as a prediction.

Where did Schwartz and Randall get all this from? Did they just make it up? At the beginning, they say that they “interviewed leading climate change scientists, conducted additional research, and reviewed several iterations of the scenario with these experts.”

But who were these leading climate scientists? As far as I can see, only one climate scientist is mentioned in the report — notorious fraudster Peter Gleick.

52 thoughts on “Climate catastrophe due next year

  1. The article is so absurd that it hardly needs any commentary.

    OH, YES IT DOES! (It’s the pantomine season, after all.)

    Among those scientists present at the White House talks were Professor John Schellnhuber, former chief environmental adviser to the German government and head of the UK’s leading group of climate scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

    Would that be Hans Joachim (call me Johnny) Schellnuber?

    By 2020 ‘catastrophic’ shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated.

    (coupled with the fact that we hadn’t yet invented writing then, and so the Guardian journalists of the times were incapable of recording the utterly devastating effects of climate change in bringing about “widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations.” Imagine some ur-Monbiot of the Indus valley, all ready with his baked clay tablet, and lacking the means to express his disarray.)

    So dramatic are the report’s scenarios, [Lord Professor Sir Bob] Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush’s stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.

    Which he did, with the results we know.
    And best of all was this message, which is appended to every Guardian article:

    As 2019 begins… we’re asking readers to make a new year contribution in support of The Guardian’s independent journalism… Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders.. This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media..

    l
    like the “spare us a quid for a cuppa tea” which has replaced the Cries of London of happier times:

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  2. Beth: The Roslings providing a crucial reminder that ‘fantasy pessimism’ is much broader than climate. As I called it in August. (The fantasist that triggered this is no longer blessing Twitter with their gloom but Pinker’s point that I’m affirming in the first tweet stands.)

    Addendum: I’ve found I made a note of what Abi Wilkinson had tweeted (on 2nd August 2018):

    It’s so clear how the dual, terrifying trends of climate change and a rising far right are going to intersect in the future. A lot of people are going to have to migrate as certain parts of the world become uninhabitable. I don’t know how anyone can be complacent about the future. The present is already nightmarish enough.

    As I googled Abi just now I realised how young this Corbyn-supporting journalist is. The ridiculous reporting by The Guardian in 2004, exposed by Paul, and its ilk, has had its effect on too many such tender minds.

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  3. Been a lo-ong history of pessimism in the western world and given the premature deaths, plagues, famine recorded from the Dark Ages on, there’s been reason for concern. But thanks to ol’ King Coal , steam power and ingenuity in farming techniques, the last recorded climate- induced famine in the West was in Finland/North Sweden in 1860.

    But still the pessimists make claim that famine is just around the corner. From The Reverend Mr Pessimist, Thomas Malthus in late 1800’s on through the 19th and 20th centuries, ye doomsayers, William Crooks President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, economist John Maynard Keynes, Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb,’ the Club of Rome ‘Limits of Growth,’ and so it goes on, doom by Co2 warming, famine and by way of man’s guilt, our evil human nature, especially them white males.

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  4. This is merely the very well worn ‘Day After Tomorrow’ scenario where accelerated warming of the polar regions eventually melts enough glacial ice, releasing sufficient quantities of fresh water to drastically slow down or stop the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic – the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. It hit the headlines in 2015 when Mann and others published their research claiming that AMOC had slowed abruptly and significantly since 1975:

    “A 2015 study hypothesized that fresh water, which increased in the northern Atlantic by more than 4,500 cubic miles (19,000 km3) between 1961 and 1995, weakened the deep water formation of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, particularly after 1975. The circulation has slowed between 15 and 20 percent in the 20th century, an anomaly unprecedented over the last millennium, which suggests it is not due to natural variability. The scientists hypothesized that this could explain why, in 2014, a specific patch in the middle of the North Atlantic was the coldest on record since 1880 while global temperatures everywhere else were increasing. The study suggested that the unusual cooling of this region could be due to a weakening of the global conveyor that is already occurring. (It seems to have made a partial recovery since 1990.)

    Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University, one of the study’s authors, noted that if the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation were to totally collapse over the next few decades, it would change ocean circulation patterns, influence the food chain, and negatively impact fish populations. We would not return to very cold conditions, however, because the oceans have taken up so much heat.”

    There was also another study along similar lines published early that year:

    “Another 2015 study that modeled a hypothetical slowdown or collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation concluded that a collapse could result in widespread cooling throughout the North Atlantic and Europe (though this would be somewhat mitigated by global warming), increased sea ice in the North Atlantic, changes in tropical precipitation patterns, stronger North Atlantic storms, reduced precipitation and river flow as well as reduced crop productivity in Europe. These effects would impact many regions around the globe.”

    https://phys.org/news/2017-06-climate-gulf-stream.html

    It’s a perennial favourite among catastrophists: warming causes abrupt cooling. But, as usual, it has little basis in fact. Yes, 8200 years ago, massive ice melt probably did cause AMOC to slow or halt abruptly in the North Atlantic, causing widespread changes in circulation patterns, mega droughts in some areas and floods in others. But, at the time, there was a lot more ice in northern regions to melt, coming just a few thousand years after the end of the last major glaciation. Hence a lot more fresh water. There just isn’t that amount of fresh water anymore – virtually none in lower latitudes – unless Greenland were to suddenly melt down, which doesn’t look like much of a prospect at the moment! The 8.2K event was one of several North Atlantic cold events which have occurred throughout the Holocene, and was probably the last which could be traced directly to massive input of freshwater to the North Atlantic. The 4.2K event, which caused similar widespread cooling in Eurasia and North America and climate disruption across the globe, brought down civilisations at the time and is the basis for defining the most recent geological epoch, the Meghalayan. CO2 did not cause it, nor did ice caps melting; one hypothesis is that it was caused by a slowdown in solar activity. By 2020, some scientists are predicting that the Sun will enter a super grand solar minimum, but I’m sure this is merely coincidence and nothing to worry about. Global warming will save us lucky North Americans and Europeans, offsetting the natural cooling, so they say..

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  5. Thanks for reminding us of that article.
    I recall when it came out.
    I confidently guessed that the collapse of such a specific set of predictions would help kill off the social madness of climate obsession.
    Boy was I wrong.
    However analyzing the article it is interesting to see a few things.
    One is that the predictions did not come from the Pentagon but from a private advisor who obviously went crazy, but not crazy enough to be locked up.
    Another factor is Schellnhuber.
    This is the wormtongue “advisor” who played such a huge role in the Pope’s ridiculous book on the environment.
    Schellnhuber, like Gleick or Lewandowsky, shows up to deliver deceptive advice and gets caught but never held to count.
    How come a media so willing to deconstruct some be so unwilling to even mildly question such obvious targets?

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  6. Hunter,

    “How come a media so willing to deconstruct some be so unwilling to even mildly question such obvious targets?”

    Belief, bias, ‘the greater good’, and avoidance of stigma (especially the black spot, aka the ‘denier’ label). Imagine in say 1890 a well known bishop and a successful scientist (who led by Darwin’s ideas, is a new atheist) identically involved in a financial scandal, or some other actual crime or major moral slip. Given the overwhelming strength of religious / church support still at the time, which one’s misdemeanours are most likely to be swept under the carpet ‘for the greater good’ while they continue their career, and which one is most likely to be mercilessly denounced and dismissed? (indeed well into our modern era churchmen have escaped justice for very bad actions). And this is for issues that society considers to be major failings of some kind, not merely getting a prediction wrong, which is neither a crime or considered a moral issue (nor should it be). So regarding such predictions, it is far easier still for bias to play out and protect from challenge those whose dates were no doubt just ‘a little too early’. Emotive conviction can be very powerful in respect of disabling reason / objectivity, and the widespread narrative of catastrophe (including from many high authority sources) is itself evidence of such conviction having gained a major presence in society.

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  7. Andy,

    In your opinion, is this Pentagon report an example of a climate catastrophe narrative?

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  8. Are we (like the Observer) supposed to be taking this seriously? Were the US Military taking any of it seriously? The US military commission all sorts of studies to investigate threats of various probabilities. At one wasted time in my life I reviewed different decommisioned evaluations of peak oil – which the military were extremely serious about. Much of this “research” is to cover bases, to ensure the military don’t get blindsided.
    Gosh they’ll be staring at goats next and prepared to pass silently through solid walls!

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  9. John,

    I haven’t read the report, and only the press coverage snippets included above. But I think from those that it appears to fail the test for a full on certainty of imminent global catastrophe, due to various caveats. As Paul notes they ‘have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible’, which nevertheless widens the door for further progress of bias across society (or had it remained secret, at least societal functions) as contexts evolve, and indeed the emotive content will overrule the objective content longer term. The catastrophe narrative (aka a high certainty of imminent [decades] global catastrophe), is emergent, hence one would also expect a sea of similar but wider ranging narratives from which it emerged. And much more traction of the full-on variant with more (and more higher) authorities these days, does not mean the end of other variants, or indeed strong bias in many folks that is nevertheless not full belief in global catastrophe (absent action). However, individual contributors might still have been pushing the full monty (Schellnuber is mentioned above, and he is in my big list of catastrophe narrative propagators as mentioned in previous threads). And I think as Hunter implies there’s plenty here that but for current widespread bias / convictions would likely be called out, especially in the (presumably journalist) extrapolation; but indeed many leaders are now indicating higher certainty (absent action) than in this report.

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  10. Andy,

    Thanks for your response. I just wanted to make sure that you and I were still in full disagreement regarding the criteria required to qualify as a catastrophe narrative. As you quite rightly point out, the report only speaks of plausibility and potential, and yet the very fact that the posited impacts would have been a catastrophe (should they have come to pass) was reason enough for hysteria to ensue. If a narrative calls upon action that is predicated upon the plausibility of, or potential for, catastrophe, that is enough to make it a catastrophe narrative in my books, but that is where you and I clearly differ in how we choose to use the expression.

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  11. It won’t be all bad in 2020, though:
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/oct/28/sciencenews.energy

    “The air is cleaner, public transport is much better, and because of congestion charges and home working traffic jams are becoming a distant memory.”

    However, Tuvalu will have disappeared under rising seas in 2017, and Pacific-islander refugees will be helping out with the groceries.

    And: “The clampdown on preservatives in food and high oil prices mean that sending fresh food long distances is prohibitively expensive. The family keep chickens to have a supply of fresh eggs and grow vegetables because so much imported food is now an expensive luxury. The warmer climate means melons can be grown outdoors, although it also has led to a malaria scare in nearby Tunbridge Wells.”

    Not “Siberian”, then?

    “Large parts of central Africa are becoming uninhabitable because of climate change. The sea is encroaching on many low lying coastal areas causing a huge refugee crisis.”

    Also, we’ll be “travelling by train to eastern Europe for holidays on the Black Sea coast because air travel is so expensive”.

    The typical house of 2020 will have windmills and solar panels (natch). It will have a meter that “checks whether the family has exceeded its greenhouse gas allowance”.

    The typical employee will be working from home and have a phone attached to his head that is “operated by electricity generated by his brain” (Thankfully, I should be exempt, not sure if my poor brain cells could generate sufficient wattage. Years of reading the Guardian have taken their toll).

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  12. Here’s an entertaining 1994 article about GBN, the cult-like scenario-generating consultancy co-founded by Peter Schwartz:

    https://www.wired.com/1994/11/gbn/

    Some surprising names: Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Peter Coyote, Stewart Brand…

    Plus someone whose name itself is a bit surprising: Pierre Wack. It seems that GBN owed its existence to Wack, who was a Yoda-like (wot, again?) scenarios guru who employed several GBN founders at Shell.

    That article briefly mentions Bill Calvin. As it happens, Calvin was Schwartz’s original source for the notion that climate change could soon cause an abrupt and catastrophic thermohaline collapse. From Schwartz’s ‘The Long Boom’, published in 1999, four years before GBN got the Pentagon contract to write ‘An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario’:

    William Calvin, a professor [of neuroscience] at the University of Washington who has researched the linkage between evolution and climate change, speculates that global warming will actually quickly boomerang back into a far more catastrophic global cooling, which will bring on another Ice Age. The way that would work is that global warming could trigger melts of northern ice that flush freshwater into the oceans, changing the flow of warm ocean currents. Those currents have been warming Europe and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but their absence could plunge the North into permanent cold.

    Perhaps the nine climatologists Schwartz said he consulted when preparing the Pentagon report weren’t actually climatologists.

    Several actual climatologists pooh-poohed the 2003 report (and dumped even harder on The Observer’s coverage of it) but that didn’t deter Schwartz, who was then reckoned to be one of the world’s leading riskologists. In 2006 he was still plugging the notion of an imminent thermohaline collapse leading to catastrophic global cooling – and still not naming the climatologists who had, he said, helped him devise that scenario scientifically:

    web.archive.org/web/20101113070146/http://fora.tv/fora/fora_transcript_pdf.php?cid=379

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  13. John,

    …plus as you rightly pointed out too and we agreed a few threads back, variants co-exist and both main contenders plus more will provide emotive drive (up to those that fade into the reality constraints). And outside of specifically ‘CAGW’ there is no strongly established labels of variants anyhow, though within or strongly associated with that acronym, the domain understanding is much more established.

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  15. Jaime, there was literature about a THC shutdown but I doubt that any of it said it could could happen by 2020 and plunge the whole of the northern hemisphere into a new ice age.

    Here’s THC bigwig Wally Broecker discussing the Pentagon report in 2004:

    https://www.earthfiles.com/2004/02/27/abrupt-climate-change-scenario-from-a-pentagon-commissioned-report/

    Plenty of doom in there but he reckoned the report had overdone it and that some aspects of it were ‘outlandish’.

    An article in The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Schwartz saying that he and Randall had consulted ‘about nine prominent climatologists’. I reckon the ‘about nine’ were members of GBN’s private newsgroup, which seems to have been what they used to develop their scenarios.

    If ‘about nine’ meant eight then the prominent climatologists might have been William Calvin, Peter Gleick, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Stewart Brand, Francis Fukuyama, Peter Coyote and Brian Eno.

    If ‘about nine’ meant seven, drop Peter Coyote. (Sorry, Peter.) If it meant ten, add Bruce Sterling and William Gibson.

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  16. Consider the full boxed item at the front of the report.

    The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable – to push the boundaries of current research on climate change so we may better understand the potential implications on United States national security.
    We have interviewed leading climate change scientists, conducted additional research, and reviewed several iterations of the scenario with these experts. The scientists support this project, but caution that the scenario depicted is extreme in two fundamental ways. First, they suggest the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few regions, rather than on globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the event may be considerably smaller.
    We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.

    This is a straightforward warning, from the authors, about its credibility about the likelihood, extent and magnitude of the problem.
    The “report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall”. One reason advisers become influential is that the recipients of the advice can ask questions and receive straight answers. This means that Andrew Marshall would have not just received the Schwartz and Randall report in the post, but would have had them present the findings and answer questions. With this warning at the front of the report the two guys likely got a very unfriendly grilling. One line of questioning would be along the lines of asking why, after years of being told that global warming was a problem, the authors are now saying that massive cooling could be a much bigger, though less likely, problem.

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  17. I would like readers to consider a couple of reasons why the Pentagon had rejected the Report.
    The first is that they were part of a neo-con administration. Just as people accept nonsense that agrees with their beliefs, they will reject nonsense that disagrees with their beliefs. Climate alarmists are especially gullible in respect of acceptance of nonesense, then get a tad upset when this is pointed out to them.
    The second and related reason is the date when the report was published in October 2003. This was just seven months after the invasion of Iraq. That invasion was partly justified on the belief that (despite Saddam Hussein’s assurances to the contrary and the lack of any evidence from UN inspectors on the ground) that there still existed of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Another reason was to fulfillment of the US Iraq Liberation Act 1998, which aimed at removing Hussein from power. By October is was quite clear to the Pentagon that the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction crap and that removal of a tyrant had not resulted in liberation. After having recently supported dodgy analysis, the Pentagon were not going to further damage their credibility.

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  18. MB,

    “Just as people accept nonsense that agrees with their beliefs, they will reject nonsense that disagrees with their beliefs.”

    Unfortunately, if their cultural beliefs are strong enough, they will also reject (or at least resist) sense that disagrees with their beliefs.

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  19. Manic 11.07pm, yes, at the top of the report there was a straightforward warning about its credibility. But the Observer journalists made no mention of this, no mention that it was ‘pushing the boundaries’ or ‘extreme’, deliberately misleading readers.

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  20. Paul,

    Yes, it is odd how blind some people can be to the predicate. All too often with the ‘If…Then happenstance’ proposition it is the happenstance that gets all the attention, particularly when journalists are involved and where the spectre of happenstance can sell newspapers. ‘If’ is such a small word to be bothered with nowadays.

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  21. “But their report gets the glowing endorsement of two leading UK climate scientists — Sir John Houghton, former boss of the Met Office and IPCC co-chair, and former IPCC chair Bob Watson:”

    Sir John Houghton, Climate Evangelist, wrote this piece before Copenhagen COP in 2009:
    http://www.jri.org.uk/brief/Briefing_18_Joseph_JTH.pdf

    He compared the “current climate crisis” (2009) to the biblical story of Joseph in Egypt and his preparation for 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine.

    “What is the particular message of the story to us today? We face a climate crisis of enormous magnitude and proportions, not local but global, not of 7 years duration but lasting indefinitely.

    Information about it has not come through dreams but through science. Many hundreds of scientists representing the world scientific community have got together, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the necessary climate forecast and to propose to governments what needs to be done.”

    “Pharoah and Joseph had 7 YEARS. So have we…2016”

    Professor Sir Bob Watson:
    Currently Director of Strategic Development for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. This is from the Defra announcement at the time, July 2007.

    “International climate change expert is Defra’s new Chief Scientific Adviser”
    “Prior to joining the World Bank, Dr Watson was Associate Director for Environment in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President in the [Clinton-Gore] White House. Prior to joining the White House, Dr Watson was Director of the Science Division and Chief Scientist for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth at NASA.”

    He is one of Al Gore’s favourite scientists. He was appointed to the new job not long after after the sudden announcement that founding Tyndall Director, Mike Hulme, was leaving for ” a year’s sabbatical”.

    Watson’s World Bank leaving party is on Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20070818002755/http://info.worldbank.org/etools/BSPAN/PresentationView.asp?PID=2129&EID=963

    “Jack Gibbons, Watson’s former boss at the White House, read aloud a letter written to Watson by Al Gore. In this letter, Gore calls Watson his “hero of the planet,” commends him on his incredible career and contributions, and congratulates him on his new jobs.

    Gibbons also spoke about the challenges facing scientists whose scientific evidence is often viewed not as strict science but as efforts to steer policy.”

    Professor Hulme, founder of Tyndall and early author of many doom scenarios, had seriously gone off message in a hara kiri BBC piece:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6115644.stm 4 November 2006
    “….over the last few years a new environmental phenomenon has been constructed in this country – the phenomenon of “catastrophic” climate change.

    Some recent examples of the catastrophists include Tony Blair, who a few weeks back warned in an open letter to EU head of states: “We have a window of only 10-15 years to take the steps we need to avoid crossing a catastrophic tipping point.”

    The Exeter conference of February 2005 on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” served the government’s purposes of softening-up the G8 Gleneagles summit through a frenzied week of “climate change is worse than we thought” news reporting and group-think.

    (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4234467.stm)

    By stage-managing the new language of catastrophe, the conference itself became a tipping point in the way that climate change is discussed in public.”

    Bye Bye, Professor Hulme…

    Within a few months of Watson taking over, he was talking of 4 degrees of temperature rise: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/aug/06/climatechange.scienceofclimatechange

    “Defra’s chief adviser says we need strategy to adapt to potential catastrophic increase:
    Professor Bob Watson said the country should plan for the effects of a 4C global average rise on pre-industrial levels.”

    Hulme was right, that was a pivotal period in getting catastrophe into the conversation. Elementary, I suppose.

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  22. More on the ‘warming causes cold’ idea here. Severe cold episodes caused by polar vortex incursions into the mid-latitudes are getting embarrassing for warmists, so they’ve come up with the theory – with precious little empirical evidence to support it – that loss of polar ice causes a slower and more wavy jet stream, which in turn produces more frequent extreme weather: heatwaves in summer and frigid cold in winter.

    https://climatechangedispatch.com/nytimes-polar-vortex-global-warming/?fbclid=IwAR06R_ctzB2rkZN7Ahn95dZ1Eb94egc43tHhcUWHFOfHo_LdRIs3sWWlCCs

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  23. I suspect that some of the people asked to provide info for the new Pentagon climate change report Paul links to didn’t take it very seriously. For example, this almost treeless US Navy airbase on a tiny island in the Florida Keys…

    http://www.google.com/maps/@24.5745418,-81.6957949,14z

    …is slated as somewhere with a new potential wildfire problem within the next 20 years.

    The US Navy was the only branch to say that wildfires might become a new problem. It was asked about threats at 18 of its facilities and ticked wildfires as a new potential threat for seven of them (only two of which have significant stands of timber nearby: a submarine base and a suburb for Navy personnel).

    Then there’s the accountants. All three of DFAS’s offices, all based in cities, are slated as moving from not having a current drought problem to having a potential drought problem within 20 years. A coded appeal for more money?

    The new Pentagon reports’s appendices have yes/no answers about whether five vulnerabilities associated with climate change will be a potential threat at 79 US military bases/offices/whatevers within 20 years.

    Only 19 of the 395 boxes indicate a new potential threat and few of those new potential threats are credible. Apart from the examples already given, there’s the two airports on the edge of the Rockies that are worried about new drought and the one next door worried about new recurrent flooding.

    The whole thing looks like tick-box bollocks.

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  24. I think they were a bit out in their timings, the grand solar minimum will really kick in around the year 2030, with total social collapse in 2032.

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  26. Andy West @ 9:17 am
    Unfortunately, with respect to climate change, there appears to be no concerted effort to eliminate bias like there are in other fields. Indeed “consensus” science is an attempt to go in the other direction, eliminating perspectives other than their own.
    Economics is another field where biases can play a role. But since the nineteenth century there has been a strong effort to at least lesson the biases and make the statements as scientific and value-free as possible. Based principally on this understanding back in 2013 I wrote a piece Fundamentals that Climate Science Ignores.
    They were a series of principles to apply than can at least eliminate a lot of false alarmism and pseudo-science. These include
    – Distinguishing positive from normative statements
    – Defining the boundaries of the subject
    – Recognizing open versus closed question
    – Necessary and sufficient conditions
    – Trivial v non-trivial statements
    – False positives and false negatives
    – Relevancy and significance
    – Underdetermination thesis ( the idea that any body of evidence can be explained by any number of mutually incompatible theories)
    – The Null Hypothesis
    The one item of missed out from economics is to always state your assumptions. Within climate science this would significantly increase the length of your average paper.

    In 2017 at WUWT, John Ridgeway published did a much longer piece along similar lines – Playing the Cognitive Game – The Climate Skeptic’s Guide to Cognitive Biases.

    Like

  27. MB:

    The enterprise of science has been since its arisal, and still is, highly fragile to undermining by culture, whether writ small (some group-think) or large (major entanglement with, or even triggering of, a big cultural entity). Which branch or related branches are entangled at what eras in history and how deeply the bias runs and for how long, is a matter of what issues are important to societies at the time that science happens to expose or impact them in some major way. And the fact that a discipline achieves good cultural distancing in one era doesn’t mean it is necessarily safe as time goes forward; this area may uncover more potentially challenging facts and indeed society will evolve to value (and conflict upon) different issues too. I’d regard climate science as a major victim of this undermining at the moment, but even writ much much smaller the effect managed to pretty much nobble the tectonic plate theory for about 50 years, now one of the most major principles in the field 0: The barriers of wrongly supported but dominant consensuses have almost been the rule rather than the exception in the historic development of medicine, though fortunately science tends to chip away constantly and hence wins the long game (albeit it could be generations sometimes!) Even in current times for instance, the consensus on saturated fats is collapsing after a 50 year dominance, despite repeated (but unsuccessful) attempts over decades to point out that the science supporting it was flawed. Cultural bias seems present as a stable of other biases, or perhaps enables these, hence all the protections laid in for said biases will indeed help protect, yet by the same token if protection is weak, the science is far more vulnerable, as you imply. One of the problems is that cultural bias also disables objectivity right down at the level of brain architecture, so application / policing of the protections themselves can potentially be subverted; it is after all an extremely strong bias that even in the modern world, can have millions of perfectly normal and intelligent folks, believing in fairy stories. And actually regarding the religious fairy stories, still the majority of the world’s population in fact.

    See ‘the entanglement of science’ section in the link below for some ways in which science gets entangled with culture: https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/20/innate-skepticism/

    Thanks for the link, read Paul’s excellent article at the time 🙂

    Like

  28. MB,

    Everything that Andy has said within this thread regarding the cultural influences on science is relevant and correct. However, the extent to which a given culture compromises the integrity of a given scientific discipline depends upon several factors. The one that impresses me the most (and one that I feel is particularly germane to climate science) is the degree to which the full scientific methodological arsenal is available to the practitioners concerned. In this day and age, climate science does not exist to determine exactly how the climate works; it exists to gain sufficient understanding to evaluate risk, and thereby support policies for risk management action. As such it is a so-called ‘post-normal science’, in which the traditions of objectivity associated with the full scientific method are willingly relaxed. I don’t object to the pragmatism that lies behind post-normal science, but I do object to those who sell climate science as a science in its finest tradition, when clearly the imperatives of timely policy-making mean that it cannot possibly be.

    The day that climate scientists stop calling climate model ensembles ‘mathematical experiments’ will be a moment of epiphany. But no such epiphany will happen because climate science is already too laden down with the value judgements that inevitably accompany post-normal science, and the first of those judgements is that thy shalt not question the validity of post-normal science.

    P.S. Thanks for the free plug. I’m glad you liked the article, it was certainly fun to write.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. “…read Paul’s excellent article at the time…”

    Aggghhh, *John’s* excellent article. I’m going senile already ):

    “But no such epiphany will happen…”

    Agree this is highly unlikely. I think that science will self-correct, eventually, but probably slowly / incrementally, and the culture will likely pivot / morph rather than crash.

    I think it’s helpful to think of ‘post-normal science’ as though it were written: ‘post, normal-science’, which helps to emphasise that all normal science should happen first (as far as I recall Ravitz noted this in an essay somewhere), and it is what happens afterwards when that has run out of steam due to as yet unresolved uncertainties or complexities, but it is considered still necessary to do something, based on some framework. But I’m not sure that in the climate case, even the ‘normal science’ did actually occur properly first anyhow. Notwithstanding that the mainstream science doesn’t support a certainty of catastrophe, there are what should have been many ‘normal’ science papers at the input end which appear to be have been severely hobbled by bias towards a strong GW case, with various concepts / maths simply not questioned enough if they happened to conform to the ‘desired’ result. For instance per McIntyre’s many investigations, or the very recent ones of Nick Lewis on SL rise papers. Hence the net cumulative output of this systemic bias, in turn, may have very much strengthened the case that there was a strong necessity to engage PNS anyhow, which then per…

    ‘…thy shalt not question the validity of post-normal science’

    …provides a formal umbrella as an extra protection behind which many past and present issues can hide.

    Like

  30. Professor Mike Hulme on Post-normal science in 2007, in a critique of Singer and Avery- “Global Warming, every 1500 years”:
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/mar/14/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange

    “Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science.

    But to proffer such insights, scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence. If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking and reveal fully the values and beliefs they bring to their scientific activity.”

    Liked by 2 people

  31. The reporting on the secret report is disingenuous. The Pentagon is not in the business of doing weather predictions. I know because I work there. Most of us here think it;s entirely BS, but we don’t get to decide what to do.

    What actually happened is that they were ordered to do an analysis of the effects of global warming. So the analysts ASSUME that there is warming and do a “what if” analysis, i.e. if the warming happens as predicted, how would that affect the USA.

    So the Pentagon is not saying that warming will happen. They are saying, “if the predictions are true, this is what the effect on defense will be.”

    Liked by 3 people

  32. DA,

    I’ve always appreciated Professor Hulme’s candid appraisal of climate science. It is he who is on record as saying:

    “…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.”

    And indeed it does!

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #345 | Watts Up With That?

  34. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #345 |

  35. Pingback: Bản tin khí hậu và năng lượng hàng tuần # 345 – VnTechNews

  36. I have found an older and much bigger example of exaggerated alarmism.

    In 1959, physicist Edward Teller delivered the first warning of the dangers of global warming to the petroleum industry, at a symposium held at Columbia University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the industry. Teller described the need to find energy sources other than fossil fuels to mitigate these dangers, stating, “a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”

    That quote is from an Amicus Brief recently submitted to a court case in California. Authors are some academic experts, two of which get the occasional mention at cliscep.

    https://manicbeancounter.com/2019/02/03/climate-alarmism-from-edward-teller-in-1959/

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I find that such a helpful reminder Kevin. (Well, I think it’s a reminder. I have a pattern within my Wiki notes called Learn or Relearn, shortened to LoR, for when I can’t remember which one it is!) Teller’s alarmism on the effect of CO2 might also help explain how a young(er) Freeman Dyson was looking into it at Oak Ridge well before Hansen got spooky before Congress and all that.

    I don’t tar Teller with the sins of later alarmists by the way. He was just being a physicist and thinking big and quite possibly wrong, just like Einstein over quantum non-locality. As you point out, the hilarity is that his predictions have resoundingly not been fulfilled. I envy the lawyer who has to argue back against Oreskes and co.

    Like

  38. And this, from 1974:

    “The most dangerous effect of the global cooling trend has been the change in atmospheric circulation and rainfall. The change centers on the behaviour of the circumpolar vortex . . . . .

    The deeper wave over the US for example, is believed responsible for recent cold winters in the West and mild ones in the East.”

    LOL. Global cooling causes polar vortex winters/global warming causes polar vortex winters.

    History is not kind to climate alarmists.

    http://www.pennsylvaniacrier.com/filemgmt_data/files/Ominous%20Changes%20in%20the%20Worlds%20Weather.pdf

    Like

  39. Richard & Jaime, [with a few typo edits by the former!]
    Teller’s claims were quoted a part of a legal briefing paper put into a case where an oil company is being sued for damages by four Californian Counties.
    The section where this claim about Teller was made is sub-headed.

    Defendants had early knowledge that fossil fuel
    products were causing an increase in atmospheric
    CO2 concentrations, and that this increase could
    result in “catastrophic” consequences.

    The question that needs to be asked was Teller’s claim “knowledge” to the defendants of the potential “catastrophic” consequences or a ridiculous false prophesy? In the context of the time, and on the basis of
    (a) any basic sense of proportion by the defendants
    (b) then current projections of the impact of a 10% rise in CO2 levels on temperature and thus the icecaps
    (c) subsequent projections of sea level rise and
    (d) empirical evidence available within a few years after the claim
    The defendants would not taken Teller’s comments as false prophesies using these rather conventional ways of assessing statements. However, Naomi Oreskes has a different view of what counts of knowledge. This from an afterword to the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt – Conway and Oreskes. (hattip Brad Keyes – at Joanne Nova’s blog last year)

    I assume that for Oreskes, Lewandowsky & Co. Teller was part of the “fellowship of experts” so the oil company executives should have accepted this as knowledge.

    On the other hand, claims about a coming ice age are rejected by the current “fellowship of experts” so anyone who makes reference to them is being dishonest.

    The Conway & Oreskes statement neither allows people drawing their own conclusions based on the evidence, nor acknowledging that people need to be persuaded of knowledge claims by the evidence, both for and against that claim. In scientific matters the conventional way is to ultimately leave the decision to the evidence from the natural world.

    For Conway & Oreskes, where the evidence differs from the opinion of the “fellowship of experts”, it is an act of dishonesty to go with the evidence. My understanding of criminal law is that they tend to be of the view that where opinion disagrees with the physical evidence, they have a strong bias in favour of the latter. Further, they may take the view that to maintain an opinion, and ignore evidence that conflicts with that opinion, is an act of dishonesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Manic:

    For Conway & Oreskes, where the evidence differs from the opinion of the “fellowship of experts”, it is an act of dishonesty to go with the evidence. My understanding of criminal law is that they tend to be of the view that where opinion disagrees with the physical evidence, they have a strong bias in favour of the latter. Further, they may take the view that to maintain an opinion, and ignore evidence that conflicts with that opinion, is an act of dishonesty.

    We rest our case, m’lud.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Oh no, more unsettled science! Modeled declines in AMOC due to freshwater ‘hosing’ assume that the main reduction in deep water formation takes place in the Labrador Sea, between Greenland and Canada. It turns out that, for 21 months of observations at least, the vast majority of the variability in AMOC unexpectedly took place in the shallower, saltier Nordic Sea to the east, casting doubt on the models which predict a 21st century AMOC slowdown due to global warming.

    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/climate-change-might-not-slow-ocean-circulation-much-thought

    Like

  42. I agree!

    As a former USAF Weather Officer with my hands in practical application not pie-in-the-sky Theory!

    There has been no ‘hockey stick’ spike in the temperatures as Al Ghoul so incompetently predicted!

    Polar bears and their cubs have been floating on ice sheets for centuries you hear!?

    Cow flatulence is a major contributor to the problem. Maybe GasX is needed!

    The city ‘heat island’ effect could been eliminated if we were to paint building tops white or plant flowers and trees you see!

    Climate change has been going on for 4.5 billion years!

    And the Sun? Well it is warming up I fear!

    But no! Always blame on the Man!

    The climate change we really need is to eliminate the foggy-brained idiots who rag about global warming and climate change with little of consequence between their ears!

    I think this may be my next post!

    Like

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