Congrats to paleontologist Dr Tim Flannery for new international recognition in the peer-reviewed global climate literature. Dr Flannery is head of Australia’s Climate Council, a Fellow of the deep-green Australian Academy of Science, and previously federal Labor’s Climate Commissioner on a modest $180,000 a year for a three-day week. Now his credentials have been further burnished, having just been prominently cited in a peer-reviewed paper in the International Journal of Global Warmingthis week. The paper is itself extolled in a press release from the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Timbo, congratulations!
I thought I’d have to pay $US40 for the full paper – not that I’d grudge it for Tim – but chanced on a copy here. It’s by David C. Rode and Paul S. Fischbeck, both professors at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’re heavy hitters in the maths/engineering world of operations research, and believe in the orthodox human-caused catastrophic warming hypothesis. One of Professor Fischbeck’s earliest papers was as the co-author of “Risk Management for the Tiles of the Space Shuttle” (1994). That appeared midway between the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. Co-professor David Rode has been an energy/electricity policy researcher for 20 years.
The paper’s title is “Apocalypse Now? Communicating extreme forecasts”. The authors are fed up with their climate mates dogmatically forecasting climate doom. Moreover, these forecasts typically lack uncertainty bands, which are the essence of real science. The professors complain that the dud doomism by 2000, 2020, 2030 or whenever generates disrepute and mockery of real scientists:
Recent evidence has also suggested that certain commonly accepted scientific predictions may indeed be exaggerated.
Rode and Fischbeck collected 79 “apocalyptic” disaster projections since 1970. They found that, in 48 cases, the predicted disaster dates have passed into history and it seems no doom occurred. The other 31 predictions are still in the future. As the authors say, “The apocalypse is always about 20 years out.” For example, the father of global warming scares, James Hansen, and fake Nobel Prize winner Michael Mann have catastrophic predictions maturing in the 2030s, although their forecasts for earlier dooms were all duds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already had one forecast of cataclysm fail but it has more cataclysms on the cab rank for 2029 and 2050, the paper says.
The authors warn that crying wolf undermines trust in the underlying science. But they say that it’s likely that their own warnings against exaggeration will be ignored, because
making sensational predictions of the doom of humanity, while scientifically dubious, has still proven tempting for those wishing to grab headlines.
So where does our Dr Tim fit in all this? Well he’s cited no fewer than three times by the study for his climate armageddons. No, make that four because his unlamented former Climate Commission is also cited. The only other forecasters to crack four mentions are scientist/agitator James Hansen and the IPCC itself.
Paul Ehrlich, who forecast that England would be underwater from rising seas by 2000, gets three guernseys. So does loopy monarch-to-be Charles, Prince of Wales.
The other 70-odd doom specialists cited include six-mansion-owning tycoon Al Gore, the late sex-harassing grub and 13-year IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, ex-UN climate tear-jerker Christiana “Tinkerbell” Figueres, Joe Biden’s far-left muse Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and my least-impressive journo-turned-climate-guru mate David Spratt. As his other pal, Potsdam climate wunderkind Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has put it,
It is all the more important to listen to non-mainstream voices [namely Spratt] who do understand the issues and are less hesitant to cry wolf. Unfortunately for us, the wolf may already be in the house.
I also spotted Democrat Senator Tim Wirth on the list. Wirth organised for James Hansen’s 1988 testimony about global warming to be on Washington’s hottest day and also sabotaged the air-conditioning of the hearing rooms to make everyone sweat for the TV cameras. Yet another climate clown cited is Cambridge physics professor Peter Wadhams, who has never given up predicting an ice-free Arctic even when his earlier predictions (like, by 2015) failed miserably.
A few spectacularly cracked forecasts are cited, such as this one by former catastrophist James Lovelock, Fellow of the Royal Society and developer of the Gaia Hypothesis, “Before this (21st) century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.” Lovelock is not wholly green these days, much to greenies’ chagrin.
Other than Flannery, Australian sources given dishonorable mentions are the Academy of Science’s Frank Fenner, who was a great virologist but an over-the-top climate hysteric; and our very own former Chief Scientist Penny Sackett, famous for her prediction in 2004 that the world had only five years left to avoid disastrous global warming. Reading from the authors’ table, we find Flannery predictions dating from 2004 (for 2054), 2008 (for an immediate tipping point), and 2009 (for 2029). All his forecasts involve alarms about it being “too late to act” at that date to save the planet.
The paper’s authors check to see if their cited doom-criers would be alive when their forecast dates arrive. Flannery was born in 1956 so when his furthest-out apocalypse arrives, he’ll be 98 and either enjoying his vindication or explaining through toothless gums how he was misquoted.
Flannery’s copious earnings from warmist campaigning have financed a home “with environmental features at Coba Point on the Hawkesbury River, accessible only by boat.” Given the Hawkesbury floods last month, the boat must have had a good workout. In 2005 Flannery was forecasting “permanent drought” for NSW: “If the computer models are right, then drought conditions will become permanent in eastern Australia … Water is going to be in short supply across the eastern states.” His other famous quote is about “the rain that comes won’t fill our dams” but being Perth born, I most love his forecasts about climate change turning Perth into a ghost city. (Perth median house price last year, $790,000).
Getting back to the Rode and Fischbeck paper, they’re warmist believers and their critiques are more in sorrow than anger. They want doom-forecasting to be
# more nuanced and with uncertainty bars
# progressive in the sense of a series of short-term ‘building block’ forecasts leading to the long-term doom date, enabling frequent checks on forecasters’ accuracy. This will “better motivate a public acceptance of climate science that has been plagued with growing scepticism,” they write.
# less group-think among climate communicators, such as always picking round-number dates like 2030, 2050 and 2100.
The paper begins with a delightful quote from climate scientist Greta Thunberg (then 17):
I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do, but don’t worry – it’s fine – I’ve done this before and I can assure you: it doesn’t lead to anything.
They also quote an aphorism (attributed to Carl Sagan) that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence’ and re-work it as “extraordinary predictions require extraordinary caution in communication.” They also note that doom forecasting is generally not done in a spirit of objective inquiry but to jab the authorities into action to shut down fossil fuels and destroy coal-fired power or whatever. For example, the lead-ups (should that be leads-up, by the way?) to the Copenhagen (2009) and Paris climate summits (2015) saw a surge in doom crying, serving
as focal points for the issuance of apocalyptic forecasts. For these ‘must act’ forecasts, the intent may not be literal, but emphatic, in order to encourage a belief in fear over rational scientific discourse. These apocalyptic forecasts may be issued specifically to apply political pressure to policymakers to take action on the meetings’ agendas.
Our shoals of environment reporters get beautifully slapped down. We learn that the reporters are mostly innocent of knowledge about uncertainties in science, and gravitate to quoting doom-criers who emphasise certainty that their disasters will arrive. (The Australian’s Graham Lloyd always an honorable exception).
Doulton and Brown (2009) performed a study of UK newspaper articles on climate change between 1997 and 2007 and found that ‘potential catastrophe’ was the most common discourse in news coverage, concluding that the media were prone to ‘attention cycles’ that tended to be self-amplifying, and led to the news provoking a ‘rising sense of impending catastrophe’ from climate. This type and frequency of media coverage tends toward sensationalism and an increased (but unjustified) certainty in reporting.
The authors say a study of newspaper articles on climate change in six countries showed that ‘disastrous consequences’ was the most common frame in the stories, while references to risk or likelihood was the least common frame.
Much of the media operates with an express intent to do what Taubes (1997) refers to as ‘consciousness-raising’. In doing so, the media tends to sensationalise the consequences and suppress references to uncertainty in reporting apocalyptic climate-related forecasts…When the presentation of risks is ‘sensationalised’ through the media, non-scientists are apt to perceive a risk as a greater, more immediate threat.