Crying Wolf about Climate


Matt Gurney: Climate scientists: It won’t matter if you’re right in the end if no one believes you 

The Earth may be getting warmer, but climate scientists need to tone down the alarmism.
Dean Bicknell/Postmedia News filesThe Earth may be getting warmer, but climate scientists need to tone down the alarmism.

Like anyone else, there are things I’m qualified to speak on with some authority, but most things are outside my field of expertise. One thing I’m certainly not qualified to judge is whether the Earth is gradually getting warmer, and if it is, whether mankind is responsible. I just don’t have the educational tools and breadth of experience to make an informed judgment there, and the overwhelming majority of humanity is going to be in the same boat. Call us the climate change agnostics — our minds are open, but we’re not sold yet.

Climate agency accused of cooling on global warming as new report lowers predicted temperature increase 

As it prepares to present its first report in six years to the world’s governments, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has lowered the range of predicted global warming by half a degree celsius, leading to accusations of a climb-down from earlier, more dire forecasts.

The subtle drop, which suggests a doubling of atmospheric carbon would increase mean global temperatures by between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees celsius, rather than the earlier range of between 2 and 4.5 degrees, is included in a confidential summary for policymakers obtained by the National Post.

There is a broad agreement among countries, derived largely from the IPCC, that warming must be kept lower than 2 degrees in order to avert the most serious consequences. This latest range is the first to suggest that threshold might not be crossed.

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But I can say this — the notion that human industrial activity is causing our planet to warm up is completely plausible. Even if the exact process and likely outcome of such warming remains to be seen, most reasonable people would probably agree with the following declaration: That human industrial activity does release unintended byproducts in sufficient quantities to alter the planet’s atmosphere, and such alterations could potentially change the planet’s natural weather patterns and processes. That’s not a hard thing to accept.

But ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm, those most loudly warning mankind of the dangers of human-induced climate change need to take a step back and consider their tactics. They may be right that we’re heating up the Earth and that will eventually be catastrophic. But repeated false claims have had the effect of turning a lot of people, including my fellow agnostics and I, into climate change cynics, if not yet outright skeptics.

Again, to avoid the inevitable accusations of denialism, the theory of climate change as typically expressed is entirely plausible. It may be happening. But it is not happening in the way we were told that it would. As noted by David Rose in Britain’s The Daily Mail, the latest IPCC report, leaked early to the press, shows several important climbdowns from previous estimates issued in 2007. These climbdowns include, but are not limited to: a revision of the estimated rate of warming from .2 degrees C per decade to just .12 C, so basically half, and an admission that the computer models used may have exaggerated global warming; an acknowledgment that the Earth has not warmed in a statistically significant way since 1997, again, in direct contrast to what the models had projected; Antarctic sea ice levels have increased, once again defying the models; and a previous prediction of more numerous and more powerful hurricanes has been proven simply and incontrovertibly wrong.

Some go from this to simply declaring that the entire notion of man-made global warming is completely bogus, a fraud perpetrated on mankind by environmentalist Chicken Littles. Such a huge leap isn’t necessary. The alarmists, as they’re termed, undoubtedly meant well. They no doubt believed everything their vaunted computer models were telling them, and convinced that global catastrophe is imminent, did their best to sound the alarm. But at a certain point, it must be gently and respectfully pointed out that a lot of what was predicted has conspicuously failed to occur. It is not unreasonable for climate agnostics to ask why that’s the case, and to wonder what else the majority of the world’s climate scientists have been wrong about.

The irony, of course, is that it’s entirely possible that 100 years from now, virtually everything that was predicted to occur will have occurred, and mankind will be living on a very different, generally less hospitable, planet. With the benefit of hindsight, the variance between projections and reality seen over the last 20 years or so may seem like small beer. But in the here and now, it’s getting increasingly difficult even for those who know little about climate science to take anything the experts say without a heaping spoonful of salt.People like me, without any particular expertise but an open mind and an overall interest in civilization not collapsing, have been told that climate change would manifest obvious effects in the short term and devastating ones in the long term. But the obvious, short-term effects are MIA. If the experts were wrong about that, why should we believe they’re right about long term?

Alarmism, once proven to be bogus, destroys credibility just as effectively as it sells papers and motivates politicians

The lesson here isn’t that global warming isn’t happening or that we’re not the cause. I’m still not qualified to rule on that point. But I am qualified to offer a small piece of advice to climate change experts who sincerely believe it is happening, that we’re the cause and that it will be devastating: You need to make your case better, without the alarmism that can be so quickly proven wrong. Yes, alarmism sells, and it’s hard to get the media’s attention without it.But alarmism, once proven to be bogus, destroys credibility just as effectively as it sells papers and motivates politicians. I would not invest my money with someone who got the stock market as wrong as the IPCC has gotten Earth’s climate wrong since 2007.

It won’t do anyone — including, incidentally, humanity as a whole — any good if scientists are right about the long run but cry wolf one too many times in the near term.

National Post

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