I think this comes under ‘misinformation’/’disinformation’ and ‘propaganda’.
Talking of the projected rise in temperature to 2100, Attenborough says: “Based on our current trajectory, the various models predict our planet will be somewhere between 3 and 6 degrees hotter.”
The graph the program shows (above) is sourced from the IPCC AR5 SPM. It is a projection of the temperature rise expected according to the RCP 8.5 GHG emissions scenario. Though this scenario is misleadingly labelled “business as usual”, it is anything but; it is very much a nightmarish worst case scenario. In no sense whatsoever can it be described as “our current trajectory”, therefore Attenborough and the BBC are almost certainly deliberately misrepresenting the science in order to mislead the public into thinking that we must urgently reduce emissions now if we are to avoid catastrophic warming.
Firstly, when looking at the RCP scenarios, it is vitally important to realise that they are named after the greenhouse gas forcings (in Watts per square meter) which they will produce by 2100. Thus, rather than being constructed according to projections based around the assessment of likely future global social and economic development, based upon current trends, social and economic development are constructed in such manner as to give the desired forcing in 2100 – in the case of RCP8.5, this being 8.5W/m². This required the scenario designers to make some pretty drastic, even nightmarish assumptions regarding the future of humanity.
Ridley says this of RCP 8.5:
What is more, in the small print describing the assumptions of the “representative concentration pathways”, it [the IPCC] admits that the top of the range will only be reached if sensitivity to carbon dioxide is high (which is doubtful); if world population growth re-accelerates (which is unlikely); if carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans slows down (which is improbable); and if the world economy goes in a very odd direction, giving up gas but increasing coal use tenfold (which is implausible).
A Chemist in Langley says:
What the activists call: “Business as Usual” actually represents the 90thpercentile of the scenarios prepared for the IPCC that involved little change in environmental and economic policies (sometimes referred colloquially as the “no significant action” scenarios). These scenarios represented the worst of the worst where governments and industry did not do anything to improve their lot. As such the no significant action scenarios could only be described as “business as normal” if you happened to be living in 1990 or 1996 when the IPCC prepared its original couple reports. That would be before we had spent 20 or so years learning about climate change; before the Kyoto Protocol and the world-wide drive to renewable energy; before the discovery of tight shale gas and the move away from coal as the primary source of future energy plants in much of North America, Europe and Asia. To put it simply, being at the 90thpercentile of that group put you in pretty impressive company and does not relate to anything that anyone in the real world would actually expects to happen. Rather, in a relative sense as the 90thpercentile of all those earlier estimates, it would be the scenario that comes just below the scenario where Godzilla emerges from the sea to burn Tokyo and the scenario where the atmosphere spontaneously combusts from the endless bursts of Hiroshima-bomb-powered forcings.
A guest author at Judith Curry’s blog writes:
RCP8.5 assumes a nightmarish world even before climate impacts, resulting from substantial changes to long-standing trends. It provides AR5 with an essential worst case scenario necessary for conservative planning.
Unfortunately scientists often inaccurately describe RCP8.5 as the baseline scenario — a future without policy action: “a relatively conservative business as usual case with low income, high population and high energy demand due to only modest improvements in energy intensity” from “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011, This is a material misrepresentation of RCP8.5. Scientists then use RCP8.5 to construct horrific visions of the future. They seldom mention its unlikely assumptions.
If Attenborough’s assertion regarding future warming was an isolated case of poor communication in an otherwise excellent, factual science documentary, one might be forgiven for thinking that it was a script error, an oversight. However, this BBC documentary is replete with half-truths, distortions, misinformation, naked propaganda and outright lies. Therefore it is almost certain that the program set out to deliberately mislead the public about the severity of probable future warming and that Attenborough was probably knowingly complicit in that endeavour (assuming he hasn’t completely lost his marbles and will now read out as fact anything which is put in front of him). That is a very serious breach of trust for a public broadcaster.