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Climate Change – the Missing Facts

TL;DR David Attenborough’s “Climate Change – the Facts” was unbalanced. It failed to mention twelve key facts. It also failed to interview experts whose views on energy policy have, rightly, been informed by these facts.

In its pre-prepared defence of the programme, already used as a stock response to at least three complaints we know of, the BBC has said:

Climate Change – the Facts represented the work of a wide range of scientists from the UK and US, as well as other countries, demonstrating the scale and scope of scientific endeavour and thinking around this complex subject.

Inevitably in a 60 minute programme there were some subject areas which could not be addressed in greater detail or which we did not feature.

We agree that the subject is complex and that 60 minutes isn’t long to cover it. But we strongly disagree that the programme presented the work of a “wide range” of scientists – or indeed of economists and engineers, whose input is equally or more valid in some areas. That no doubt helps to explain why some key facts were completely missed by the programme.

Here are twelve missing facts and, in the process, a number of people who would have helped make sense of them, ensuring the programme was more balanced.

1. Trade-offs

There was no mention of trade-offs in the programme, by Attenborough or anyone else, but it is a fact that they abound in the science, engineering and economics of energy, as we seek to make sense of, and respond to, what we are learning about climate change.

Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science who trained as a geologist, was quoted as follows:

There are many reasons we haven’t acted on climate change. Science is definitely part of the story. The science is complicated.

We agree that the science is complicated. We strongly disagree that “we haven’t acted”. $1.5 trillion a year is a lot of money. The issue is whether the actions taken since man-made global warming came to prominence as an idea, in 1988, have made sense. That depends on whether we’ve been smart enough to make the right trade-offs, based on all the available facts. The following sections give some food for thought on that.

A bit later in the programme Oreskes also said:

It’s actually not that complicated. We need to shift our energy system away from fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases and towards renewable energies that don’t.

We disagree that this part of the problem is “not that complicated”. The choices at every stage are extremely complex, especially when we take into account the impact on the poorest on the planet. This was expressed powerfully by Bill Gates late last year:

Gates considers those who say the proposed transition to a low carbon economy is easy a worse block to progress even than “climate denial”. We’d argue the denier label has been misleading at best but, in everything else, in a total of three minutes, Gates is streets ahead of anyone in Attenborough’s sixty minutes. So the BBC should have used Bill Gates. Or perhaps got him to present the programme.

2. Deaths from extreme weather events

Bjorn Lomborg tweeted about this in January:

He’s right. This is fact, not speculation. It needs a lot of explaining. But Climate Change – the Facts didn’t mention it. It would have benefited from the input of Lomborg, an economist, on all related trade-offs.

3. Deaths from indoor air pollution

Max Roser wrote this in 2015:

Indoor air pollution is by far the biggest environmental problem of the world. Every year, 4.3 million people die due to the exposure to household air pollution caused by indoor open fire. To bring this in perspective: This is 45-times the number of the global annual deaths from natural catastrophes … And much more than twice the number of people dying because of AIDS (1.5 million in 2013). It is probably the most unreported of the world’s big problems.

But the world’s biggest environmental problem was something else not mentioned by Climate Change – the Facts. How is it relevant? Once the poor have reliable 24-hour electricity these agonising deaths, many of them of young children, are eliminated. Which sets up vitally important trade-offs with all the other things we may wish to achieve with energy policy.

4. Global greening

The distinguished English-born physicist Freeman Dyson said the following in a conversation with filmmaker Marijn Poels in 2016:

Dyson: Roughly speaking there are two totally different things going on in the natural world. It’s the carbon dioxide in the climate that everybody talks about and there are the ecological effects of carbon dioxide which have nothing to do with climate. Which nobody talks about. They are totally separate and different.

In the case of the climate effects. This is a very complicated set of problems. We don’t understand climate, climate is very complicated and we are only beginning to understand what the effects of carbon dioxide may be. They’re maybe good or they’re maybe bad. But it’s not clear.

But if you look at the non climate effects of carbon dioxide, there is evidence they are very strong. They are easy to observe, easy to measure. They are overwhelmingly beneficial.

Poels: Can you give me an example?

Dyson: The carbon dioxide directly enables the growth of all kinds of plants. So more carbon dioxide means it is good for the wildlife, it’s good for the forests and it’s good for food, for the agriculture all over the world. It saves huge numbers of people from starving. The effects are out of all proportion more serious than the effects of carbon dioxide on climate. And that’s what’s never being said in public.

Poels: So what you are saying is that due to carbon dioxide the world is actually getting greener?

Dyson: Yes, it is getting greener, that is measurable.

Poels: And it has been measured?

Dyson: Yes.

But Climate Change – the Facts didn’t mention global greening. (And since Dyson spoke to Poels the news has got even better, with Australian researchers finding that plants are using water more efficiently because of the additional CO2.) This major, measurable benefit of increased atmospheric CO2 needs to play its part in all our energy thinking. Dyson would have been an ideal person to help the programme with this.

5. Fracking and nuclear power

In The Times on Monday 29th April the recently resigned UK commissioner for shale gas, Natascha Engel, wrote

Glueing yourselves to a government building, staging die-ins at Waitrose — these might get climate change to the top of the agenda, but they do nothing to reduce carbon emissions. Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg are clearly passionate about one of the most important issues facing us today, but that does not mean we must condone their methods or agree with their recommendations.

In fact, both are preventing us from dealing with the very thing they say they care so much about. Greta’s plea “to feel the fear I feel every day” and yes, “to panic” because “the house is on fire”, is a recipe for paralysis. Saying that the planet is burning and that mass starvation is at hand can only be counterproductive. Such terrors instils in children a fear of the future and will do nothing to motivate our inventors to find real solutions. But it will hustle politicians into bad decisions — almost certainly to make things worse.

In the past, hasty policy has had us driving now-discredited diesel cars. We are felling tropical forests to make space for palm oil to provide biofuel. We are burning “renewable” wood pellets that are significantly more carbon emitting than the coal they displaced. Now the government, in response to environmental pressure, has instituted a de facto ban on fracking. A temporary regulation has become permanent, requiring fracking to cease for 18 hours every time a micro-tremor is triggered, even though it is essentially imperceptible on the surface.

As the sometime commissioner for shale gas (I resigned over the weekend) it became clear to me that fracking was the only way to reduce our carbon emissions at any sort of scale. Properly regulated, the process is as safe as any other drilling industry. Over a million wells have been fracked in the US in 20 years with no reliable evidence of systemic health problems or pollution. More important, fracking is an essential element in any transition to a renewable future. The scale of that ambition is not generally recognised. If asked, people tend to say about a third of our energy is currently supplied by wind and solar. The real answer is less than 5 per cent.

So disregard the fact that wind and solar need fossil fuel power to back them up in times of calm and cloud — renewables currently provide a negligible amount of energy required. Getting from 5 per cent to 100 per cent renewable energy requires a transition strategy. Fracked gas with half the emissions of coal is the solution to that. If environmental groups really cared about reducing carbon emissions quickly, they would be fracking’s biggest supporters.

But Climate Change – the Facts didn’t mention fracking. It barely mentioned the role of nuclear power, which generates no carbon emissions from electricity generation, though it introduces other challenges. A combination of Natascha Engel and environmentalist Michael Shellenberger would have shed light on relevant facts and resulting trade-offs. Here, for example, Shellenberger challenges one of the BBC’s chosen experts with the views of another:

We suspect that deep divisions within the ranks of climate scientists like Hansen, and within the green movement, on these real-world “solutions” – and there is no single solution to any of this, only difficult trade-offs – made them unwelcome subjects to explore for the makers of Climate Change – the Facts. There should have been no such self-censorship.

6. Failed predictions

Since the 1980s there have been dozens of failed climate predictions, mostly from those urging radical emission reduction. (For example, this one, this one and this one.) The programme should have given some examples and asked contributors to explain them. Such basic journalism would foster humility and caution as complex trade-offs are being considered for the future. But that opportunity, like many, was missed.

7. How unrealistic “business as usual” is

The RCP8.5 emissions scenario also wasn’t mentioned. Jaime Jessop has explained how much this extreme case distorts future projections in the peer-reviewed literature. Jaime cites Matt Ridley, another informed thinker whose inclusion would have considerably widened what the BBC humorously called the “wide range” of its experts.

8. The “wide range” of climate sensitivity since the 1970s

It’s astonishing that Climate Change – the Facts didn’t mention climate sensitivity, central to the ongoing scientific debate about man’s impact on climate. For those not familiar with the subject, Nic Lewis gave a useful summary of the latest research in March. But one fact about the “official science” in this area is worth highlighting here:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the range of climate sensitivity to likely be between 1.5 and 4.5°C in its Fifth Assessment Report, thus encompassing an uncertainty that has not narrowed since the early assessments of climate sensitivity in the 1970s.

A massive uncertainty at the heart of the science that hasn’t narrowed, officially, for over forty years, despite the research carried out during that period. That should be front-page news by now. Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry and Nic Lewis would have been key scientists to discuss this puzzle and the centrality of sensitivity to the debate. But the programme didn’t mention climate sensitivity. There’s no excuse for that in 60 minutes.

9. A drastic narrowing in the implied damage function

Unlike an unchanging range of climate sensitivity, the change of global target from 2°C to 1.5°C warming, from pre-industrial levels, announced as part of the Paris climate summit in 2015, would seem to imply radical progress in another area of climate science and economics: the study of climate impacts. Given we have already reached 1°C warming, counting from the Little Ice Age in the 18th century, the effective target in 2019 has suddenly been halved to 0.5°C. But this change was not mentioned, nor the obvious question about the reliability of impact studies it raises, given such a major moving of the goalposts only a few years ago.

10. Emissions by China and India

Robin Guenier wrote this in a comment in the Spectator in April:

There’s something else the programme didn’t tell you.

Since the key UN Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, global greenhouse gas emissions have increased from 22.5 billion tons per annum to 37 billion tons today – i.e. by over 60%. And it’s the developing countries, and especially major emerging economies such as China, India and South Korea and major OPEC countries, that are overwhelmingly responsible for that continuing increase. Yet they seem unconcerned about it – prioritising instead economic development and poverty eradication. Yet, together with two developed countries (Russia and Japan) that also don’t seem interested in reducing their emissions, they are responsible for about 75% of global emissions. They therefore effectively control the trajectory of human emissions – currently one of continuing growth.

That is by far the greatest obstacle to emission reduction. Yet, despite saying that we face “global catastrophe” if emissions are not reduced urgently, Attenborough didn’t even mention it.

Or as a commenter on this blog put it on 2nd May:

If the government were able to make the UK carbon neutral TOMORROW, China would put [a year’s worth of our] CO2 back into the atmosphere in just 10 DAYS.

Inclusion of Robin Guenier as an expert, albeit a less well-known one than Bill Gates, would have increased both the facts and balance of the BBC’s presentation.

11. The other 75% of emissions

Guenier points out that the countries he is concerned about, led by China, are responsible for about 75% of global emissions. This is a big problem for those advocating a low carbon world because these countries appear to have no intention of reducing their emissions. But Bill Gates also points out that only 25% of emissions have to do with the generation of electricity. Renewables are simply not capable of making steel, producing pesticides or powering a supertanker. In the programme, Attenborough mentions the same 25% but not the even greater challenge of the remaining 75%. It would have been simple to admit this snag in a couple of additional sentences. Gates himself looks to energy expert Vaclav Smil in this area and in others. Another key voice missing from Climate Change – the Facts.

12. The unpredictable history of technology

Much of the case for renewables depends on an assumed future breakthrough in battery technology. But technology breakthroughs in history have been both highly beneficial and unpredictable. They don’t happen to order, especially the order of governments. Michael Kelly, the Prince Philip Professor of Technology at Cambridge, made this vital point in a wide-ranging and fact-filled article in 2015 entitled For Climate Alarmism, The Poor Pay The Price. We know we don’t know as much about the history of technology as Professor Kelly. Nor, we assume, do the technical advisers of Climate Change – the Facts. It would have expanded the pool of expertise further to have included him.

46 thoughts on “Climate Change – the Missing Facts

  1. As a note to other regular commenters: the style and tone of this post may seem different from others on Cliscep. It’s my best shot at something to open up the debate around the BBC’s flagship programme for the as-yet unconvinced. I have frankly been disturbed by recent opinion polls on the climate/energy issue after Attenborough, the visit of Greta Thunberg and the antics of Extinction Rebellion. I wanted to find the right way to show the limitations of the programme without exhibiting too much temper! Please let me know if you think I got close. (The ‘we’ throughout is the group of Cliscep editors, with whom this has been shared and discussed for a day or two.)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Richard,

    I think you have made a damn good job of achieving the right tone. The problem, however, is that there is so much that needs to be said. Any reasonably concise list is bound to leave out much that could be added. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to repeat the exercise with twelve other conveniently overlooked facts. And then another twelve…

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  3. Nice summary Richard of 12 very important missing facts from ‘Climate – Change the Facts’ which would have provided much needed perspetive. As I keep saying, the entire program was one misleading ‘fact’ after another, crafted with the specific intention of creating unjustifiable alarm and thereby assisting the implementation of crazy and virtually ineffective mitigation policies in the UK.

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  4. India’s east coast has just suffered its worst cyclone for twenty years, killing eight people (though this figure may increase of course.) A similar cyclone twenty years ago killed over 10,000. This time the authorities were better prepared, moving a million people out of wooden huts on the coast into concrete buildings. They weren’t shifted in electric cars. Electricity supplies are disrupted, but wind turbines and solar panels attached to the palm thatched roofs of their homes wouldn’t have been much use in 150 mph winds.

    India, along with three quarters of the rest of the world, is gradually approaching the standards of health and safety we have attained, using the same methods. Attenborough and Thunberg want to stop them.

    Congratulations Richard on the article. I wonder how to get Gove &co to read it?

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  5. The UN is due to release a major report on biodiversity soon. The so called ‘sixth mass extnction’ aka the ‘nature crisis’ is about to be elevated to the status of and conflated with the ‘climate crisis’ in what seems to me, a breathtakingly dishonest and unbelievably hypocritical global propaganda exercise which of course will draw in all the usual suspects to help propagate the new improved catastrophe myth. Analysing the ‘missing facts’ in this case is going to be even more of a challenge, but it has to be done at least to provide a counter-narrative to the environmental steam roller train which seems intent on flattening inconvenient facts, science, rationality and basic logic in its path to policy.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/03/climate-crisis-is-about-to-put-humanity-at-risk-un-scientists-warn

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  6. Richard, I think the tone is spot on. Plus a big benefit is that none of these points, with the arguable exception of 9 as some may claim that the state of impact studies in recent times is much improved, challenges the output mainstream science. Hence none is ‘denier’ material that in theory could be dismissed by simply citing ‘denial’ of said output. In practice, cultural climatism is strong enough to foster a blind rejection of Lomborg and others raising such questions as ‘deniers’ anyhow, but at least the hypocrisy of that position is much more obvious. I think 7 would once have been challengeable too, but there seems to be (reluctant) acceptance of this more recently; I read somewhere that 8.5 will be de-emphasised in AR6.

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  7. The only change I would make is to link every one of your points to known, virtually unchallengable experts. When you have done this, your argument is so much the stronger. The BBC, if they wish to rebut your point would not only have to argue the facts, but also experts whose views your points are based.

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  8. An excellent contribution to the pleasingly prompt and perspicacious criticisms of this disgraceful programme. Disgraceful especially for Attenborough who has beclowned himself over CO2. Disgraceful, but just ‘business as usual’ for the BBC.

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  9. Thanks to everyone for the kind words but I’ll start with Andy! I think you make perceptive points about both 7 and 9. It may be that people would try to argue that impact studies have improved. The fact though is incontrovertible. The change of goalposts to just 0.5°C more warming is an event that needs to be highlighted and questioned in much more detail than I could here. It is also exactly what’s led to the “We all die unless we do something in 12 years” ridiculousness of XR. Well, the 0.5°C combined with use of the upper part of the sensitivity range from GCM models unconstrained by real-world data. Suspicious? Me? Never.

    Jaime is dead right about the extinction push as well. I salute all her work on this sorry beclowning of a once-good presenter.

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  10. Richard,

    The only criticism I would make of your fine article is the use of ‘pre-prepared’, since only one pre-prefix is actually required. But don’t you worry about me. My colleagues at work always said I was a pedantic ‘c**t’.

    As for the impact analysis issue, I take Andy’s point but I think you’re quite right to suspect that there isn’t really a scientific advancement behind the new safety target. In truth, it is just a politically motivated ploy to pre-pre-empt a possible reduction in the ECS best-estimate. How else would one explain so much concern over the possibility that we might soon see temperatures that haven’t been seen since medieval times? And we all know how badly it turned out for them!

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  11. Thanks Richard, that’s very thorough, though as already mentioned above, there are plenty of other things that could have been included.

    For example, you mention the IPCC. None of the so-called scientists in the programme did (ironically the only person who did was Nigel Lawson). One of the most relevant missing IPCC facts is that floods and storms are not increasing, contrary to the false claims made by Maslin and Mann, and implied by the imagery throughout.

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  12. Brilliant.
    Even the moderates you quote blow holes in the alarmist claptrap the BBC serves ad nauseum.
    Attenborough looks shabbier and shabbier.
    Unfortunately, is there anyone who can present this now that the UK is under Greta the Great’s rule and is in a state of “climate emergency’?

    Liked by 3 people

  13. John R: You remind me of the software engineer who once said to a friend of mine “I’m not a pedant in the strict sense of the term.” But I appreciated your pre-pre-emptive self-deprecation. I’ll pre-pretend to overlook your wounding criticism.

    In response to John’s earlier comment, and to Alan’s, it’s worth restating my purpose: to show that the Climate Change – The Facts was unbalanced and to show it in a way that has the best chance of persuading what I’ve called the as-yet unconvinced. If any such people ever read it. Not to show that the programme was very unbalanced and I am very angry about it. (You are free to guess how true those statements are.) And not to try to show that it was anything but a triumph of clarity and fairness to those already committed in their minds to the truth of man-made climate catastrophe.

    This assumes by the way that what the opinion polls show this week may be different in three months time.

    My twelve facts were far from the only possible ones. I’d like to think they weren’t just a random selection of John’s possible 36 (or 48 etc.) either. And though I started with the idea of a 1-to-1 mapping between missing facts and missing experts I soon dropped that as too much of a straightjacket. Of course, Alan’s right that more really authoritative experts backing up my implicit claim that each fact was an important omission would have been helpful. But I’m pretty happy all the same with my final expert list: Gates, Lomborg, Dyson, Engel, Shellenberger, Ridley, Lindzen, Curry, Lewis, Guenier, Smil, Kelly. Twelve, as it happens. I hadn’t counted them till now.

    (My biggest problem was section 9. Who could I point to as an expert on climate impacts I really trust? Richard Tol? Richard Betts? I felt I didn’t want to commit on that. Sorry, fellow Richards.)

    The other crucial point is that the twelve facts aren’t links in a chain of reasoning; the weakest is not the measure of the strength of the whole. Missing out only a few would in my view have made the programme unbalanced. The first four, say. But take your pick on that. It should be enough to open up discussion. In a rational world.

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  14. Richard, that’s a first-rate piece of work. Thank you and the others who contributed. The reference to well-known figures is a sound approach. They cannot be – or at least should not be – dismissed as oiks.

    Next step? To get wider attention for this and other worthy rebuttals, such as those of Jaime and Paul Homewood to name just two. This is a challenge, particularly in the face of the hydra-headed juggernaut (to mangle two idioms of evil, crushing destruction) of alarmist propaganda.

    A couple of suggestions:
    Apart from publishing its own material, does the GWPF use press releases? Perhaps get Benny Peiser to coordinate this, using your piece and others.
    David Rose of the Mail has already published on this; perhaps he could use this as a source for a further piece.

    Jaime is right: the juggernaut seems to be getting larger and more threatening, and does need to be stopped.

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  15. Extinction Rebellion needs to be confronted with the fact that there is no extinction threat. So they have nothing to rebel against, except perhaps grossly exaggerated science fiction fairy tales that are scaring children.

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  16. The BBC has just declared a ‘nature emergency’ ahead of a major UN report on biodiversity due to be released later today.

    “Governments have focused on climate change far more than they have focused on loss of biodiversity or land degradation,” IPBES’ chairman, Prof Sir Bob Watson, told the BBC.

    I’ve been saying for years that the obsession with climate change has wastefully diverted huge resources into the ineffective and often downright fraudulent attempt to ‘stop climate change’ when such resources could have been used to protect local environments and manage species declines.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48104037

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  17. Thunberg, as an instrument of the climate alarmist anti-capitalist Green Blob, desperately wants her fans to believe that there is no such thing as climate change anymore; it’s a climate crisis which is actually a full blown ecological crisis. See how this works? Millennials are stupid enough to be sucked into the scam and politicians are crafty enough and unscrupulous enough – politicians like Gove – to make political capital from the deliberate conflation of issues.

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  18. Jaime: I spotted that piece by Roger Harrabin pretty much as it went up on the BBC site yesterday, by chance. I once spoke to Bob Watson coming out of the debate between Steve McIntyre, George Monbiot and others in London in July 2010 in the aftermath of Climategate. Unprompted by me he told me our main concern about climate ‘mitigation’ should be its negative impact on the poor. I had no idea of his new role, after heading up the IPCC, after speaking to me! And here was Harrabin quoting Watson in 2019 that too much attention has been paid, relatively, to climate. Or to put it another way, show me the climate crisis on Lomborg’s amazing graph. (With credit to Indur Goklani and WUWT from whom I first learned of this time series over seven years ago. I should have said that already.)

    It’s obvious what they’re trying to do. Why was my first example of a failed prediction one from UNEP in 1982? They’ve always been trying to do the same thing. Watson’s words are for me a sign of weakness. We are called Climate Scepticism and they are now trying to row back from Climate. Some of us (like me) don’t know so much about the science of Extinctions. Without being able to come up with the numbers I did know about this part though:

    The assessments aren’t yet complete, and we don’t even know exactly how many animals, fungi and plants are on the planet. Estimates range from about two million species to approximately one trillion, but most experts go for around 11 million species or fewer.

    The wide range of climate sensitivity has just met its match!

    Greta wasn’t around to be alarmed by the 1982 prediction – and to become wiser afterwards. I think they’re overplaying their hand.

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  19. Richard, they definitely have overplayed their hand now that they are having to row back on the climate emergency to declare an equally important ‘nature emergency’ which, because the world has been obsessed with global warming for 40 years, has been given scant attention. They’re using exactly the same tactics to hype the putative ‘extinction crisis’ too:

    “Scientists believe the Earth is being driven towards a “mass extinction event” – only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

    “There is now overwhelming evidence that we are losing the planet’s species at an alarming speed,” Prof Alexandre Antonelli, the director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told BBC News.

    The last time we had a similar situation was about 66 million years ago, which was caused by an asteroid hitting Earth, he said, though this time, “humans are the ones to blame”.

    Current extinction rates are about 1,000 times higher than before humans came along, and future rates are likely to about 10,000 times higher, according to estimates.”

    ‘Scientists believe’, ‘overwhelming evidence’, extinction rates ‘unprecedented’ in the last 66 million years. Before even bothering to delve into the details, I can almost guarantee that these statements are complete BS.

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  20. Brilliantly done Richard.

    “The change of goalposts to just 0.5°C more warming is an event that needs to be highlighted and questioned in much more detail than I could here.”

    This is not so much a change of goal posts, as a move back towards where the goal posts were claimed to be in 1990.

    In 1986 the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), who had co-sponsored the Villach Conference in 1985, (http://what-when-how.com/global-warming/villach-conference-global-warming/) formed the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases (AGGG), a small “international” committee with “responsibility for assessing the available scientific information about the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the likely impact.”

    In 1990 the AGGG calculated what level of climate change our planet could tolerate, (as if they would know), also referred to as “environmental limits.” These levels and limits were summarized in the document, “Responding to Climate Change: Tools For Policy Development,” published by the Stockholm Environment Institute.

    They warned that a global temperature increase “beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.” A temperature increase of 2ºC was viewed as “an upper limit beyond which the risks of grave damage to ecosystems, and of non-linear responses, are expected to increase rapidly.”

    As we already have at least 1 degree, I am waiting for the sky to fall in.

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  21. John Bishop:

    Richard, that’s a first-rate piece of work. Thank you and the others who contributed.

    Thanks indeed to my fellow editors, especially Geoff (who originally said it was the missing facts that most mattered), Paul (who pointed me to Robin Guenier’s comment) and Jaime (who added that lovely factlet about plants using water more efficiently as a surprise consequence of more CO2). Oh yes, and outside the editor clan, Alan for correcting me (without knowing it) on Naomi Oreskes’ training and practical experience as a geologist.

    Paul’s point about the IPCC not even being mentioned, apart from what Nigel Lawson is shown as saying, is not only ironic but damning. We will I’m sure be coming back to that. In this post I wanted to keep my presentation of the extreme events fact as simple as possible. I repeat, to all those who have presented alarmist climate scenarios “Show me the climate crisis on this graph”. (Meaning Lomborg’s derived from the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database averaged for each decade from 1920. Bless him for his courage in standing for truth in such a warped world.) I may well do a further post on this narrow point – the strange combination of facts 2 and 9, in effect.

    Dennis: Thank you for the encouragement and further discussion of troublesome fact 9. I don’t mind Tol being an economist. Some of my best friends etc. I don’t get the history here. But it is very helpful to have more on it. Nic Lewis I do trust on this but I didn’t want to mention him in successive sections.

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  22. There’s been one critic on Twitter who I’ve only just spotted – because he replied to @cliscep.

    I’m still trying to be polite!

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  23. Richard:

    “I don’t get the history here.” The history is what is driving the present. They always wanted the draconian action that “1 degree” would bring, but by getting 2 degrees accepted in 1996 by the EU, (Schellnhuber always claimed it as “his”, even though it first appeared in 1975, from another economist, Bill Nordhaus), it was easier to peg back to 1.5 deg.

    There is nothing new in anything they come up with, everything is re-packaged. For example, David Attenborough produced an earlier version of his “Climate Falsehoods” back in 2006:

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/its-serious-attenborough-says-stop-climate-change-3hvxz0gkqsx

    “This week we shall see a different Attenborough. He goes critical, assuming the mantle of a wrathful prophet as he enters the battle for the planet against climate change. “I was very sceptical,” he admits. His outlook changed when climatologists showed him graphs linking the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with rising temperatures.

    The result of his conversion is a two-part BBC1 documentary…as part of the corporation’s Climate Chaos season, in which he looks at the future impact of global warming and discovers what steps can save the planet from dramatic change.”

    It was all about “the grandchildren” again, as with James Hansen and a parallel with the use of children again now.

    “Attenborough discovered a compelling reason for sounding the alarm. “How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew about this and I did nothing?”

    The reporter amusingly asked Attenborough about a description of him (in 2006) as the most trusted man in Britain after Rolf Harris. “The label sends him into a paroxysm of laughter that leaves him gasping: “Quite so . . . thank you . . . I don’t think I need to say any more.”

    Also re-packaged, is the “extinction crisis”: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/earth-faces-catastrophic-loss-of-species-5329887.html 20 July 2006

    “Life on earth is facing a major crisis with thousands of species threatened with imminent extinction – a global emergency demanding urgent action. This is the view of 19 of the world’s most eminent biodiversity specialists, who have called on governments to establish a political framework to save the planet.

    Scientists estimate that the current rate at which species are becoming extinct is between 100 and 1,000
    times greater than the normal “background” extinction rate – and say this is all due to human activity.

    The call for action comes from some of the most distinguished scientists in the field, such as Georgina Mace of the UK Institute of Zoology; Peter Raven, the head of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, and Robert Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank.

    Anne Larigauderie, executive director of Diversitas, a Paris-based conservation group, said that the situation was now so grave that an international body with direct links with global leaders was essential.”

    Diversitas was another group-think eco-catastrophe outfit with Paul Ehrlich on its advisory board. Its founding sponsors were UNESCO), the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and the International Union of Biological Science (IUBS)

    The money quote:
    “The scientists believe that a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could help governments to tackle the continuing loss of species.”

    Watson is now strategic director at the Tyndall Centre: https://tyndall.ac.uk/people/robert-watson. He became Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser in July 2007, after leaving the World Bank. He was Director of the Science Division and Chief Scientist for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth at NASA in the Clinton-Gore White House.

    He was IPCC chair before Pachauri and at Kyoto in 1997 was claiming “the science is settled”. (Gummer was also at Kyoto, as was John Prescott. You need politicians on board to get what you want).

    Watson was Gore’s favourite scientist and at his World Bank leaving party, Jack Gibbons, Watson’s former boss at the White House, read aloud a letter written to Watson by Al Gore. He called Watson his “hero of the planet,” commended him on his incredible career and contributions, and congratulated 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. https://web.archive.org/web/20070818002755/http://info.worldbank.org/etools/BSPAN/PresentationView.asp?PID=2129&EID=963

    On Oct. 30, 2006, Gordon Brown released the Stern Review. He also announced that he had “hired” Gore to “advise the British government on climate change.”

    On 15th March 2007, Al Gore was in London. He wrote on his blog: “I had some really interesting and productive meetings in London this week — discussing the climate crisis with the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who is widely expected to be the next Prime Minister when Tony Blair retires.

    Chancellor Brown has introduced a package of binding CO2 reductions in the United Kingdom that represent real leadership. The same day I met with the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, and 80 of his fellow Tory Members of Parliament.

    They were unanimous in their determination to propose meaningful solutions to the climate crisis. There has been a revolution in British politics, with the two largest parties now wholeheartedly committed to CO2 reductions and international leadership to solve the climate crisis.”

    5 July 2007 – International climate change expert, Professor Robert Watson, is Defra’s new Chief Scientific Adviser.

    The rest, as they say, is history…

    Like

  24. Dennis:

    “I don’t get the history here.” The history is what is driving the present. They always wanted the draconian action that “1 degree” would bring, but by getting 2 degrees accepted in 1996 by the EU, (Schellnhuber always claimed it as “his”, even though it first appeared in 1975, from another economist, Bill Nordhaus), it was easier to peg back to 1.5 deg.

    Yep, thanks for pursuing this. But there was I believe another, new influence by 2015: the work of Bjorn Stevens on aerosols and Lewis et al on real-world data, including Stevens, plus simple energy models, pointing to low climate sensitivity. Mother Nature was saying that things were less urgent than we’d thought, in other words. Only a corresponding shift from 2C to 1.5C could keep the ‘last chance saloon’ narratives going. But there’s also how the Integrated Assessment Models – DICE, PAGE and Richard Tol’s FUND – depend on the output of GCMs. Too much of a black box for me at this moment. Some of those things weren’t around in their current form in 1990, let alone 1975.

    The result of his conversion is a two-part BBC1 documentary…

    I remembered the ‘conversion’ but not the year. 2006. Sad. Anyway, all helpful, thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. The Twitter debate remains in the foothills, with base camp a remote prospect. But we live in hope.

    Like

  26. Ben Pile wrote about aerosols in 2008: http://www.climate-resistance.org/2008/05

    The whole ratcheting up of the scare campaign, with the various new actors brought onto the scene, such as St Greta and XR, helped along by Attenborough and the media, is aimed at the Paris Agreement in 2020. It also occupies opponents with the task of refuting the claims:
    https://www.c2es.org/content/paris-climate-agreement-qa/

    “Because the Paris Agreement is to apply post-2020, the first formal stocktake under the agreement will not take place until 2023. But under a decision accompanying the agreement, parties will jumpstart the five-year cycle with a “facilitative dialogue” on collective progress in 2018, and the submission by 2020 of NDCs running through 2030.”

    Figuers in 2017:
    https://www.nature.com/news/three-years-to-safeguard-our-climate-1.22201
    “The year 2020 is crucially important for another reason, one that has more to do with physics than politics. When it comes to climate, timing is everything. According to an April report (prepared by Carbon Tracker in London, the Climate Action Tracker consortium, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut), should emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the temperature goals set in Paris become almost unattainable. The UN Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed in 2015 would also be at grave risk.

    That’s why we launched Mission 2020 — a collaborative campaign to raise ambition and action across key sectors to bend the greenhouse-gas emissions curve downwards by 2020 (www.mission2020.global).

    Then the litany, which must be accepted by politicians in order to get global legislation:

    “After roughly 1°C of global warming driven by human activity, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already losing mass at an increasing rate. Summer sea ice is disappearing in the Arctic and coral reefs are dying from heat stress — entire ecosystems are starting to collapse. The social impacts of climate change from intensified heatwaves, droughts and sea-level rise are inexorable and affect the poorest and weakest first.”

    Kyoto failed, Copenhagen failed, they are seeking third time lucky. If Claire Perry is successful, we may get the 2020 COP in the UK. I just had this in a reply from my Conservative MP, who met with XR protestors in London. I had challenged why Perry and Gove had met with XR.

    “…the UK has surpassed the progress of any other industrialised country to reduce emissions and is firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80%. I was very pleased with the leadership role that the UK played at the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris in 2015 and whilst our record is not perfect, I believe the UK is a world leader in taking climate change seriously and will continue to do so.”

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’ve been pointing to this post a few times on Twitter in the last week but I think tonight has provided the most interesting context and ensuing mini-debates.

    As background, I greatly admire ‘factual feminist’ Christina Hoff Sommers and was glad to pick up that the celebrated gay columnist Andrew Sullivan is now questioning trans activism in sports. But I groaned at the equivalence of the two ‘denials’ apparently endorsed by both writers. Here’s how it’s played out so far:

    Like

  28. (important caveat- I’m 6 days post partum so my ability to pick up or explain nuance is limited)
    Richard: “correct tone for as-yet-unconvinced… if anyone reads it” well you have at least one not-yet-unconvinced reading bits of this blog now. I found it because I’m trying to break my blog echo chamber. I’m no climate sceptic but I know enough to know there’s a lot I don’t know and the issues are complicated. From my view, the tone was generally helpful and done useful points raised. One thing that puzzled me was stating the omission that most emissions are coming from countries like China and India. You seemed to suggest that because they’re not making an effort, we shouldn’t either, or their lack of concern suggests it isn’t really a big deal. True, the programme could have stated that, but it is hardly a reason for us not to do anything – they have a responsibility to do their bit, but we don’t have to wait.
    Sadly, your helpful explanatory tone was somewhat undone by one of the comments “millennials are stupid”. I’m a millennial and a comment like that suggests to me that the speaker is not actually really interested in explaining things to me. If I’m stupid, you have already judged me as beneath you, and unable to grasp the concepts you are discussing, so why should I bother? I’d suggest it is not a strategy for promoting your viewpoint, unless you do not think 20-38year olds need to be convinced of your view.
    As stated, am currently rather occupied with a newborn, so may not be able to reply in a particularly timely manner.

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  29. My Father’s Child:

    I’d suggest it is not a strategy for promoting your viewpoint, unless you do not think 20-38year olds need to be convinced of your view.

    Thank you for all of this – and congratulations on your new arrival!

    We most definitely think 20-38year olds need to be convinced – not of our view, because we don’t have a single view, as it says here – but of the need to think hard and question ‘authority’ in this area.

    I believe it was important to mention the scale of China and India’s emissions because that affects the practicality of global emissions reduction.

    Thank you for taking the time to give us this feedback. Much appreciated.

    Like

  30. MFC,

    Welcome to the blog. We always welcome alternative voices here, because echo chambers are never healthy.

    I believe it is my comment you are referring to re. millennials being stupid, which you actually truncated, thereby subtly altering the meaning. I did not say “millennials are stupid”, I said:

    “Thunberg, as an instrument of the climate alarmist anti-capitalist Green Blob, desperately wants her fans to believe that there is no such thing as climate change anymore; it’s a climate crisis which is actually a full blown ecological crisis. See how this works? Millennials are stupid enough to be sucked into the scam.”

    I’m not well known for my laid-back tone on this blog and yes, this does imply that a majority of the millennials who worship the ground which Thunberg walks on, plus those who populate the activist ranks of XR, are stupid enough to believe the alarmist pseudoscientific nonsense masquerading as the ‘climate crisis’. I would never say “millennials are stupid” because, quite obviously, many are not. More accurately, I should have said, “millennials are stupid enough and/or brainwashed enough to be sucked into this scam”.

    You’re right in a sense that I am not really interested in explaining things to you, but for the wrong reasons. I’m only really interested in trying to expose the full facts behind climate change, the science of and the supposed mitigation of. I’m interested in exposing the lies and the half truths and the propaganda which often masquerade as ‘the science’ of climate change, the supposed impacts of a climate altered by humans and the supposed solutions to the ‘climate crisis’. As you are not stupid and indeed I would guess intelligent, I would not presume to have to explain much at all to you, as you are perfectly capable of making up your own mind when presented with the fuller picture.

    Like

  31. My Father’s Child:

    I was surprised that CliScep had seen and then published my Spectator comment and, to say the least, flattered that I should be sharing the stage with Bill Gates. But I was also surprised that you should have interpreted my comment as a call for the West to do nothing or as an indication that the rest of the world’s lack of concern suggested that the issue is not a big deal.

    I’ve had another look at my comment. And I cannot see even a suggestion that I believe either of those things. I don’t.

    PS: congratulations on the baby.

    Like

  32. I reread comment number 10/11 containing a quote of your piece, Robin. Maybe you can point out where in the article above it claims that *you* “call for the West to do nothing” or that *you* think it indicates that the “world’s lack of concern suggested that the issue is not a big deal”. It is clear to me, especially taking into account the quote below yours, that it is your *data* that is being referred to, not that you claim any of that.

    Like

  33. Farage’s response to Marr’s stupid and unsophisticated question on global warming was on the ball. He replied:

    “I believe that if we decide in this country to tax ourselves to the hilt, to put hundreds of thousands of people out of work in manufacturing industries, given that we produce less than 2 per cent of global CO2, that isn’t terribly intelligent.”

    Unilateral action which inflicts self-harm for very little practical gain is seldom very intelligent. An intelligent response would be to switch from coal to fracked gas, look again at nuclear options (NOT Hinckley C), abandon all ludicrous biomass schemes and drastically cut public subsidies for renewables. Our economy would still grow and UK GHG emissions would continue to decline, but more slowly. When China, India, Russia, the Middle East etc. signal their seriousness about reducing their ever growing emissions – which constitute the vast majority of growth in global GHGs – by actually curtailing the growth of those emissions, then maybe the UK can do a bit more, but not until. Simple.

    Oh, and lastly, but not leastly, repeal the 2008 Climate Change Act and disband the Climate Change Committee headed by Mr Finger-In-The-Renewables-Pie John Selwyn Gummer aka Lord Deben.

    Like

  34. Richard

    May I belatedly add my thanks for this piece of work – I’m not long back from holiday, and am just catching up with my favourite sites.

    Like

  35. Richard makes many excellent points. The most important from a policy perspective is “1. Trade-offs“. At a top level, this is a trade-off between the known costs of policy against the possible much greater costs of unmitigated climate change. This is the main argument of the Stern Review. There is a fundamental error in this thinking of the policy proponents, illustrated when Naomi Oreskes says “there are many reasons we haven’t acted on climate change“. The we refers to all 7.6 billion people in around 200 countries, but the policy advocates are just targeting policy in a few countries. Whilst Bill Gates is correct in highlighting India as not wanting – nor should be obliged – to sacrifice increasing living standards by cutting carbon emissions, the problem is that the UN specifically admits this argument as valid. They are thus exempt from any obligation to constraining their emissions. This has been the case for all developing countries from the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed at Rio, through to the present day. The problem is that these “exempt” countries have collectively accounted for all the emissions growth since then. The Global Carbon Project usefully divides CO2 emissions from fossil fuels into Kyoto Exempt countries and other countries. I have produced a graph showing the divide from 1973 to 2017.

    From 1990 to 2017 global emissions increased by 52% to 36758 MtCO2. Emissions in “exempt” countries increased by 196% to 21,717 MtCO2 and in “other” countries declined by 12% to 13,025 MtCO2. Much of the emissions decline was due to factors other than policy. At the same time, much of the money spent on policy has not been cost-effective, and some policies have failed to reduce net emissions at all.
    So when climate alarmists are saying what “we” ought to be doing, they are actually advocating policy that is net harmful to the countries that implement them. Further, there is little or no effort from advocates to improve policy effectiveness.

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  36. Thanks, Mark and Manic. (Sounds like a good band.) Hope your holiday refreshed the parts that climate austerity would not have reached Mark.

    I was already thinking about that ‘we’, very much, Kevin, since writing the piece. So, not for the first time, our thoughts seem to cohere. But I’m only here really to ask a question about Dr Hayhoe. Bye for now.

    Like

  37. Thanks, Richard. It was a good holiday in western Scotland, but my plans to climb the Rum Cuillin were stymied by fresh snow down to 1,800′, which made me think better of it. Fresh snow. Down to 1,800′. In the second week in May. Weather, not global warming, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Robin,
    Too bad you didn’t suggest doing nothing.
    Compared to the costs and results of climate consensus inspired policies, doing nothing about “climate change” would be brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. you cite viners snow prediction as a failed prediction. he never published anything.
    and the science says nothing like his quote

    Like

  40. Steve. But he sure tried indoctrinating my students with the “true message” (also incorporating the demise of snow prediction).

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  41. Mosh,

    Actually Prof Viner said that snowfall would become increasingly rare and he paraphrased this with the immortal quote that ‘children just won’t know what snow is’. He went on to say that heavy snowfall events would “return occasionally”, resulting in chaos. The following 15 years did not bear out his prediction. Meanwhile, the science *does* back up what he said in 2000. UKCP18 predicts warmer, wetter winters.

    Since 2000, winters have got slightly warmer:

    But not much wetter:

    Meanwhile, British children still know what snow is, from personal experience, not via the internet. Algerian kids also know what snow is!

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  42. The fundamental problem with all of these anecdotes (not facts necessarily to be accurate) is that the fault is placed on fossil fuels. This is at best a misnomer. We have no idea exactly what process creates what are lumped into the term. The science says the old fossil fuel concept is dated, at least and poorly understood at best. This knocks a good deal of the argument into a cocked hat – another dated concept.

    Like

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