As part of the relentless climate propaganda in the run-up to COP 26, the BBC website today had on its front page an articlei headed “How will climate change affect your area?” Click on the link, and the heading changes to “What will climate change look like near me”. I suppose that is a subtly different question.

Read on, and we learn that this is a collaborative effort between the BBC and the UK Met Office. It’s an interactive webpage, inasmuch as readers are able to enter their postcode, then the website will attempt to scare you with what your climate will turn into under a couple of different scenarios (2C of global warming or 4C of global warming). In addition you can use buttons on the webpage to change the season from summer to winter and vice versa. Intrigued, I entered a local postcode to discover what the BBC and the Met Office want me to think the future holds, climatically speaking.

Temperature

Here I’m told:

The hottest summer day of the past 30 years near you was 29.7C.

I am then informed:

If global average temperatures increase 2C above pre-industrial levels, the hottest summer day could be about 31.6C. If global temperatures rise by 4C, it could be about 35.3C.

That itself is intriguing. If world temperatures climb by 2C, my local temperature could rise by 1.9C; but if world temperatures rise by 4C, my local temperature could rise by 5.6C. No explanation for these discrepancies is proffered.

By contrast:

The warmest winter day of the past 30 years near you was 16.7C. If global average temperatures increase 2C above pre-industrial levels, the warmest winter day could be about 17.2C. If global temperatures rise by 4C, it could be about 18C.

I’m content to accept that a worldwide rise of temperatures by 2C might lift winter temperatures here by only 0.5C, and that a worldwide temperature rise of 4C might lift temperatures here in the winter by only 1.3C, but an explanation would be nice. It would also help if they talked about minimum winter temperatures, and the benefits to be felt from the coldest days being a little less cold. Unfortunately, this information is not included.

There follows a general explanation about how summers are getting hotter, but this piqued my interest:

The average daytime temperature in the UK in summer currently ranges from about 14C in northern Scotland to 22C in southern England.

But summers have been getting warmer, with four of the 10 hottest summers recorded in the past two decades.

First, I notice that they have moved from scaring us with tales of all the records being in the last few years, to advising that four of the ten hottest UK summers were recorded in the past two decades – which means that six of the ten hottest UK summers occurred more than 20 years ago. Put like that, it doesn’t seem particularly dramatic.

Rainfall

Next the interactive page deals with rainfall. Given that the Lake District is a rather wet place (the wettest place in England is regularly said to be Seathwaite in Borrowdale, a few miles south of Keswick) it might be nicer if rainfall levels reduced a bit. And that’s what we’re promised, at least in the summer.

In the past 30 years, there were 13 rainy days on average per month in summer. If global average temperatures rise by 2C, this could be 12 days per month. At a 4C rise it could be about 11 days.

Terrifying. But the terrifying news doesn’t end there:

In the past 30 years, there were 15 rainy days on average per month in winter. At both 2C and 4C rises, the number of rainy days per month could be roughly the same.

OK, that tells me how many wet days I can expect. How about the amount of rain to be expected:

On the wettest summer day of the past 30 years, 70mm of rain fell in your area. At a 2C rise, this could be about 74mm. And at a 4C rise, it could be about 67mm, which is 4% less than now.

Forgive me for not quaking in my shoes. The winter scenario is slightly more concerning, but only if we assume a 4C worldwide temperature rise, which I don’t think anyone seriously believes to be likely:

On the wettest winter day of the past 30 years, 72mm of rain fell in your area. At a 2C rise, this could be about 75mm. And a 4C rise, it could be about 85mm, which is 19% more than now.

Not content with inserting a vanishingly unlikely scenario into the interactive page (a 4C increase in worldwide temperatures), the BBC then rounds up the percentage increase from 18.055% to 19%. It’s a small and pedantic point, but surely the only honest thing to do when rounding 18.055% is to round it to the nearest whole number: 18%, not 19%.

Leaving that quibble aside, we are then told, in general terms, regarding the UK as a whole:

The exact amount of change in rainfall at 2C global warming will vary across the country. Most places could have slightly wetter winters than in the 20th Century.

If global average temperatures were to rise by 4C, more than half the country could see at least 10% more rain over the winter months.

Even accepting the propaganda at face value, none of that seems particularly alarming to me. But obviously I should be alarmed. Read on:

Many scientists are concerned.

“I think it’s really frightening,” says Dr Lizzie Kendon, a senior Met Office scientist. “It’s just a wake-up call really as to what we’re talking about here.”

The small print

Keep reading, and we learn:

Twelve different versions of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre climate model were used in calculating the UKCP Regional (12km) projections using a high emissions gas scenario (RCP8.5).

As we here know, RCP8.5 is an extreme outlier, but now it’s routinely being presented as the basis for assumptions. Read on again:

If no interventions are taken, global average temperatures could rise by up to 4C by 2100. This high-emissions future is highlighted in the most recent Evidence Report for the UK’s Climate Change Risk Assessmentii (CCRA) as possible, if less likely.

At current rates of global emissions, the world is on a pathway somewhere between 2C and 4C.

So, we also have to rely on a 2017 report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). I don’t blame the BBC and the Met Office for relying on that – the CCC is the Committee that advises the Government, after all. Read the report, however, and we find that they have over-egged the pudding. What the notoriously alarmist CCC actually says in its 2017 Report regarding the likelihood of a 4C temperature rise worldwide is this (under the heading “Key Messages” on page 2:

Global emissions would need to peak soon and then decline rapidly for the Paris Agreement goals to be feasible. Even in this scenario the uncertain sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases means there would remain at least a small chance of 4°C or more of warming by 2100.

Here I go being a pedant again, but the CCC’s “at least a small chance” is in anybody’s book significantly less forceful than the BBC’s “possible, if less likely”. I would argue that the honest and objective way of reporting that statement would be, at best “possible, albeit very unlikely.

Opportunities

It is also, I think, worth bearing in mind that the CCC’s 2017 Report very properly examined not just climate change risks, but opportunities too. Obviously, four years later, now that George Monbiot has established that discussion of climate change benefits is no longer allowed, I couldn’t expect the BBC to mention any of this. However, just for once, let’s end with some good news. Here’s what the CCC’s 2017 Report has to say (at page 3) on the subject:

Milder winters should reduce the costs of heating homes and other buildings, helping to alleviate fuel poverty and reduce the number of winter deaths from cold. However, cold weather is expected to remain a significant cause of death and more action is needed to address the poor thermal performance of housing if this opportunity is to be realised.

UK agriculture and forestry may be able to increase production with warmer weather and longer growing seasons. Whilst uncertain, some crops and tree species may also benefit from increased CO2 fertilisation. To realise this opportunity, the stewardship of important natural resources needs to be improved to prevent the availability of water and quality of soils constraining output. Farmers may also need advice to help them improve and adapt farm systems and exploit new markets.

Economic opportunities for UK businesses may arise from an increase in demand for adaptation related goods and services. The UK has relevant expertise in architecture and construction, finance and investment, business risk management, and water and environmental conservation. UK tourism and outdoor activity may also increase. Businesses can be expected to respond to market signals and develop new products and services in these areas.

Why we can trust the BBC? I think not.

i https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-d6338d9f-8789-4bc2-b6d7-3691c0e7d138

ii https://d423d1558e1d71897434.b-cdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/UK-CCRA-2017-Synthesis-Report-Committee-on-Climate-Change.pdf

10 Comments

  1. RCP8.5 => balderdash

    (implies in maths notation)

    “the uncertain sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases”

    you don’t say.

    why is it still so uncertain? why no progress since Charney in 1979?

    let’s say Curry and Lewis are right about sensitivity – and I’m sure they are, more or less.

    how much time does that buy us?

    Like

  2. Good news? Milder winters may mean that Tarquin and Callista may never get to see, feel and experience real snow… (and those expensive toboggans we bought them would be so much firewood, oops, recyclable materiel… )

    Like

  3. A reasonable person might wonder whether the famous educational materials lately removed from the BBC actually had their genesis in material taken from the CCC’s 2017 report. Now, if Cliscep was not Cliscep but the Institute of Awkward Questions, funded by a mischievous billionaire, our staff would probably have noticed this straight away, complained to 26 different people and organisations, and our spokesperson would have appeared on the BBC by now to make the point. And we would have made a tweet about it that 3 people would have read.

    It would be troubling to know that statements made by our gov’t’s most alarmist official advisory body are now denierish enough to warrant banishment from the world’s most rusted state broadcaster (sic).

    Those of us who enjoy forming headwear out of aluminium foil might wonder whether the 2017 report is due to be memory holed in favour of a “more realistic” appraisal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jit, the problem is knowing where to look for information. We do this in our spare time without payment. There are thousands of full-time paid climate worriers in Foundations, trusts, think tanks and lobby groups all over the world, with significantly greater resources than we have.

    I suspect that a few people at the BBC knew that the 2017 report contained that information, and it would have given them a great argument to use in response to Monbiot’s demands. Instead they caved in with alacrity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the post Mark.

    “Twelve different versions of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre climate model were used in calculating the UKCP Regional (12km) projections using a high emissions gas scenario (RCP8.5).”

    Iv’e often wondered why the BEEB doesn’t do a doc on the supercomputer climate model simulations & how they are created & run !!!

    have I missed it ?

    Like

  6. Thank you Mark for this fascinating post. I enjoyed reading it in conjunction with your earlier post about the measures proposed to reduce carbon emissions. There is a huge disconnect between the relatively trivial projected negative impacts you unearthed and wholesale changes to society that are supposedly required to reduce the minor impacts.
    The world is a big place and somewhere in the world there is always going to be an extreme event occurring. 20 years ago we wouldn’t have known about some events until days later. Now they all happen with near real-time broadcasting and people get the impression that the frequency of extreme events is significantly increasing.

    “I think it’s really frightening,” says Dr Lizzie Kendon, a senior Met Office scientist. “It’s just a wake-up call really as to what we’re talking about here.

    I doubt she bothered to go through the same exercise that you did.

    Like

  7. Potentilla, the 24 hour news, smartphone recording ability etc have definitely changed perspectives. Take this BBC report for example about the recent storm in the SE of England:

    “Storm Evert: Strong winds and heavy rain cause disruption”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-58022839

    The bit that caught my eye was this:

    “Some campsites had relocated guests to try to protect them against the elements, while others were prompted to pack up and leave.

    Alice Cresswell and her family, who had come to Perranporth from London, were forced to spend the night in the car after their tent was destroyed.

    “It’s been a stressful night. We’ve been in the car all night, cold,” she told the BBC.

    “We had to escape the tent because it collapsed in the early hours of the morning.

    “It was really scary – it was shaking a lot. We just weren’t prepared for it.””

    My wife reliably informs me that 40+ years ago she and friends were summer camping on the coast of the NE of England when a storm hit, shredded the tents, and they spent the night sleeping in cars. 30 or so years ago I had a similar summer experience on the Isle of Skye and I spent the night sleeping in a toilet block. Neither of us were interviewed by the BBC. We didn’t put it down to climate change – we put it down to experience.

    df hunter: “Iv’e often wondered why the BEEB doesn’t do a doc on the supercomputer climate model simulations & how they are created & run !!!

    have I missed it ?”

    Well, if you have, so have I. I don’t think we’ll see it any time soon. It’s so much easier to report about people whose tents collapsed during a storm.

    Like

  8. “First, I notice that they have moved from scaring us with tales of all the records being in the last few years, to advising that four of the ten hottest UK summers were recorded in the past two decades – which means that six of the ten hottest UK summers occurred more than 20 years ago. Put like that, it doesn’t seem particularly dramatic.”

    Context is so inconn-venient.

    Liked by 1 person

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