IPCC scientists outline a harrowing summary of climate impacts already hurting people and species. The Guardian says it is clear that not enough is being done to head off a climate disaster. Up to 14% of species on land face extinction if the temperature rises another 0.3°C. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres describes the abdication of leadership by world powers as “criminal”.
Welcome to the latest IPCC report, painting its usual grim picture of future ecological and societal disaster, and claiming to provide “scientific evidence” for all its key findings. In its summary for policymakers, it notes that “human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability”. Furthermore, the report says with “high confidence” that if the temperature rises more than 0.35°C, it would cause “unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans”. In fact, since about 1800 the global temperature has risen about 1.1°C, seemingly without catastrophic consequences.
So back in the real world, it is ‘Spot the Scientist’ among the 330 listed authors of the latest IPCC report. The Daily Sceptic took a sample consisting of all the British authors listed down to number 120. This is what we found.
The first to appear is Mike Morecroft who runs ‘climate change’ at the Government body, Natural England. Professor Camille Parmesan holds the National Aquarium Chair in Understanding Oceans and Human Health at Plymouth University. Jeff Price works at the University of East Anglia, and holds a PhD in animal psychology. Marie-Fanny Racault has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of East Anglia. According to her web page, she is a Biological Oceanographer whose PhD was in Environmental Science. She returned to UEA in November last year, “to take the lead on the next stage of developments on the ecosystem component of the PlankTOM model series”.
The Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office, Professor Richard Betts, does actually have a degree in physics. Nevertheless, in January his organisation promoted a climate impacts report that warned of future societal collapse and armed gangs roaming a U.K. ravaged by climate change. Philip Thornton works for CGIAR, a non-profit food researcher and has a BA in agriculture. James Morison is described as a “senior climate change scientist” at the Forestry Commission. Mark Pelling is a Geography Professor at King’s College, while Richard Dawson is a Professor of Earth Systems Engineering at Newcastle University. Vanessa Castan Broto is a Professor of Climate Urbanism, having joined Sheffield University in 2017 following her appointment as a Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Dr. Helen Adams is a senior lecturer at King’s College in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. Her PhD concentrated on the “role of the environment in migration decision-making in rural Peru”. It was the BBC that said the IPCC scientists had outlined a “harrowing” summary of climate impact. It quoted Dr. Adams saying it was “really, really clear” that things are bad, “but actually the future depends on us, not the climate”.
The final two scientists/authors are Emily Boyd, a Professor of Sustainability at Lund University in Sweden, where she is also described as a “leading social scientist”, and Lindsay Stringer, another Geography Professor, this time at York.
The definition of science is obviously somewhat elastic these days and geography departments have been successful in reinventing themselves under names such as Earth Sciences. Nevertheless, the lack of involvement from ‘pure’ scientists – people who study chemistry and physics – is noteworthy. Ultimately all the speculative disaster prose arises from the hypothesis that humans are causing the climate to change by burning fossil fuel and creating extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The effect of CO2 is hotly disputed in atmospheric science circles, although much of the debate is ignored under the ‘settled’ science agenda. In fact, there is not yet one single, peer-reviewed science paper that proves conclusively that humans cause all or most global warming. Nobody knows how much the atmosphere warms if CO2 levels are doubled. Climate model guesses range from 1-6°C.
Meanwhile, much of the disaster prose that is endlessly recycled has been debunked. Coral reefs are not doomed – it seems the Great Barrier Reef has rarely been in better health; Pacific islands are increasing in size; the oceans are not turning into an acid bath. Declaring a climate emergency and basing all the warnings on something called global warming is starting to wear thin. Global temperature rises started running out of steam two decades ago. In fact, according to accurate satellite data, they haven’t budged for the last 88 months. No plausible link between temperature and CO2 has been established in the current, historical or geological record.
Professor Roger Pielke from the University of Colorado has been a long time critic of the politicisation of science. His initial view is that the latest UN report “is more heavily weighted to implausible scenarios than any previous IPCC assessment”. In particular, he notes that RCP8.5 accounts for 57% of scenario mentions. According to Pielke, this alone accounts for the apocalyptic tone and conclusions throughout the report.
RCP stands for Representative Concentration Pathways. There are four pathways and the worst case RCP8.5 assumes an improbable rise in global temperature of 5°C in less than 80 years. “Remarkably, RCP8.5 is characterised in the report as a ‘business as usual future’,” said Pielke. “In reality, RCP4.5 [quoted in only 17.5% of scenario mentions] is currently thought of as an upper bound trajectory under current or stated policies, and RCP8.5 is implausible,” he added.
The climate writer Paul Homewood has spent years debunking many of the disaster tall tales. In characteristic blunt fashion, he notes that the IPCC, “relies heavily on studies written by grant-funded activist scientists. Many of these are easily debunked and they are usually based on very dodgy computer models”.
Finally comes news of a possible climate research strike. According to a recent paper from Bruce Glavovic: “Given the urgency and criticality of climate change, we argue the time has come for scientists to agree to a moratorium on climate change research as a means to first expose, then renegotiate, the broken science-society contract.” Glavovic is a Professor at the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University in New Zealand. Sometimes, a job title does not require any further comment.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic‘s Environment Editor.