Denial of Catastrophic Dangers
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"The question now is whether we can avoid catastrophic human interference in the climate system." John Holdren 2008
With greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric GHG concentrations increasing faster than ever why is it that only James Hansen has stated we are in a state of planetary emergency?
The global warming fossil fuel denial campaign
The despicable dangerous climate change denial campaign started up over twenty years ago by the US fossil fuel corporations carries right on filling the media with lies and deceptions. Though the fossil fuel conspiracy is well documented (Wikipedia, Desmog and intelligent people are no longer fooled, it seems nothing will stop them. This page is about another kind of denial - of catastrophic climate change.
The science denial of catastrophic global climate change
Why does the genuine scientific community not warn the world we are far past dangerous interference wit the climate system and facing climate catastrophe (John Holdren 2006). Why do the real scientists not support James Hansen's planetary emergency public warning (2008 and 2012 following the two big drops in Arctic sea ice). The scientific community support the 1996 EU 2C policy target more than ever. Only James Hansen said several years ago 2C is planetary disaster and has published that 1C is the danger limit- as is obviously the case with all the climate change global disasters at today's 0.8C. Amongst the reasons for the general scientific avoidance of catastrophic climate change is no doubt the
vile personal intimidation of leading scientists by the global warming denial campaign. But James Hansen speaks and it would be much easier for him and for scientists in general to speak out like him, if he had the support of other leading climate change scientists.
There is a problem with the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which was set up in 1988 with high hopes that this unique combined scientist and policy maker world organization would preside over the conversion of greenhouse gas polluting energy production to a new age of renewable energies- ans save the planet from global climate catastrophe. Over this time the IPCC has become not just just a climate policy panel for governments but the authoritative voice of science on climate change. For all other science and society issues the National Academies and Royal Societies issue assessments for governments and public.
As is now well known the IPCC is extremely conservative in its global climate change assessments, and on the other hand, it tends to be too optimistic in its projections of temperature increase and capacity for mitigation.
The IPCC terms of reference as interpreted are extraordinary. "The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy."
However the IPCC assessment is not comprehensive because it does not even define what dangerous climate interference is, some worst dangers are not assessed, it does not include essential aspects of risk, and it makes no recommendations. Under its economist Chair DR R Pachauri the IPCC has not stated what a danger limit for warming or atmospheric greenhouse gases is. The IPCC has strayed along way from the original intention. The climate scientists in general follow the constraints of the IPCC. They say that scientists cannot define what dangerous climate change (or disastrous or catastrophic) is because they claim that is 'value judgement' that science cannot make. That is not true, and danger is quantified in science by risk.
The media reported the 2007 IPCC 4th assessment as indicating we were headed for a highly dangerous 3C warming (by 2100). in fact what we should have been told was we are headed for a total warming of at least 13C, and we still have humanity and all life headed for an end of the world warming of 13C.
Since the fourth 2007 IPCC assessment the underestimating of the impacts now happening and down playing the future impacts has got much worse.
The IPCC is a unique scientific organization in that policy maker members of the Panel have input and some control over the published assessments. It is also unique in that the science is determined by negotiation and consensus amongst first the scientists and then the policy makers and scientists. The result is the IPCC assessments tell us what all the scientists and all the policy makers (representing the world governments) agree on which is useful. However it does not tell us how bad impacts could be (the greatest risks), which is what we need to know most of all.
As James Hansen has said (video lecture 2007) we need another science assessment that is not compromised by the IPCC terms of reference and by policy makers. "The IPCC is doing a commendable job, but we need something more. Given the reticence that the IPCC necessarily exhibits, there need to be supplementary mechanisms. The onus, it seems to me, falls on us scientists as a community."
In 2007 James Hansen was lead author of a paper on the scientitifc reticence regarding the over conservative reporting and conclusions of climate change science. "I believe there is a pressure on scientists to be conservative. Papers are
accepted for publication more readily if they do not push too far and are larded
with caveats. Caveats are essential to science, being born in skepticism, which
is essential to the process of investigation and verification. But there is a
question of degree. A tendency for `gradualism' as new evidence comes to light
may be ill-suited for communication, when an issue with a short time fuse is
concerned. ... Almost four decades ago Eipper (1970), in a section of his paper titled `The Scientist's Role', provided cogent advice and wisdom about the responsibility of scientists to warn the public about the potential consequences of human activities. Eipper recognized sources of scientific reticence, but he concluded that scientists should not shrink from exercising their rights as citizens and responsibilities as scientists. Climate change adds additional imperative to Eipper's thesis, which was developed with reference to traditional air and water pollution. Positive climate feedbacks and global warming already `in the pipeline' due to climate system inertia together yield the possibility of climate `tipping points' (Hansen et al 2006b, 2007), such that large additional climate change and climate impacts are possible with little additional human-made forcing. Such a system demands early warnings and forces the concerned scientist to abandon the comfort of waiting for incontrovertible confirmations."
With the fifth IPCC assessment (2013) the IPCC has become openly biased on future energy, assuming that the world has to remain dependent and dominated by fossil fuel energy with a paltry increase in clean zero carbon energy's share of the world energy supply.
This became know by an extraordinary June 2013 Guardian article by Oxford climate professor Myles Allen, Climate Change: Let's Bury the CO2 Problem. "We can't stop fossil fuels being burned: but we can easily act now to capture and store carbon with CCS (carbon capture storage) technology." After many years and large government investments CCS has not delivered. It started as a coal industry boondoggle and at best is a false hope that we can keep polluting the atmosphere and get away with it. The article was challenged (e.g. A Miss by Myles: Why Professor Allen is wrong). It turns out that Professor Allen was just reporting or promoting the latest IPCC assessment scenarios.
There are many things about the science of global climate change that are made needlessly hard (or impossible) for the public to understand. One is that the science as it presented is all complex computer models. The other is climate change scenarios. People were just beginning to understand the SRES scenarios of the science from 1995 to 2007 when the scientists changed them. Now we have the RCP (Representative Concentration Pathways) scenarios. These are possible ways by which the world could stabilize the global temperature at a particular amount of heat energy in thew climate system. Significantly all the RCP scenarios are supposed to include climate change policy unlike the SRES scenarios none of which included policy. It is therefore incredible that all the new RCP scenarios are fossil fuel energy dominant with clean zero carbon energy of only 4-6% of the energy mix at 2100.
The new RCP best case scenario IPCC at first sight looks good.
It peaks before 2100 at a maximum warming of between 1.5 and 2C, after
which it declines to approach 1C by 2300. The atmospheric CO2 concentration
peaks at 450ppm declines and is near 350ppm by 2300. The carbon emissions
start to decline without delay reaching zero in about 50 years and then going
below zero with CO2 being extracted or drawn down from the air.
One would expect that the only way to achieve the best case RCP 2.6 is by
a rapid replacement of fossil fuel energy with clean zero carbon energies,
that we have known for a long time is perfectly feasible. The planet has enough
clean zero carbon energy potential to replace all fossil fuel energy potentials many
times over. It is feasible to extract some CO2 from the air but obviously this would
be a limited amount and so far as we know would not be permanent. Incredibly
this is not the case. It is totally impossible for a fossil fuel economy to result in a stabilized temperature let along a temperature little higher than today's. IPCC has worked a miracle or rather a magical deception by pretending that carbon capture and storage can get us to zero carbon emissions while burning lots more fossil fuels.
In 2013 the expert dangerous climate change downplaying situation had become so disturbing that four North American scientists had paper published saying that climate scientists in general by way of the IPCC "are biased not toward alarmism but rather the reverse: toward cautious estimates" (Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama? K. Bryssea,
N. Oreskesb, J. O’Reilyc, M. Oppenheimer). Climate science, the paper correctly said, had become biased towards reporting climate change science so as not to be alarming. No doubt the denial campaign constantly accusing people of being chicken little climate alarmists had influenced the climate scientists (as intended).
Climate media had picked up on the great danger of the expert climate change conservative bias - downplaying the climate science. "Special Report: IPCC, assessing climate risks, consistently underestimates. Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world's most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent, say a growing number of studies on the topic (Daily Climate). We're underestimating what it means for the future and what we should be planning for" - Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Eight examples of where the IPCC has missed the mark on its predictions and projections. Below is our extra information.
Emissions - higher than the mid range scenarios that IPCC
science assumed and climate science generally still applies. "We really
haven't explored a world in which the emissions growth rate is as rapid as we
have actually seen happen," IPCC scientist Chris Fields said. This is odd as the
world and national economies make constantly greater economic growth a
overriding policy rule.
increase In 2007 the media reported concern that the IPCC
assessment showed we could be at 3C warmer by 2100, when in fact since 2005
were on the IPCC worst scenario (A1FI) headed to 4.5C and up to
a possible 6.9C by 2100.
The IPCC always projected that the Arctic summer ice cover was safe at
least until 2050 or well beyond 2100. Even now the IPCC says the summer ice is
good to 2050. It is on track to disappear by 2015 says Arctic expert Prof Peter
Thawing Arctic Tundra In
2007, IPCC reported with “high confidence” that “methane emissions from tundra…
and permafrost have accelerated in the past two decades, and are likely to
accelerate further.” However, the IPCC still omits the Arctic carbon
feedback from its global warming projections.
There are many potential tipping points Siberian permafrost being one.
The IPCC has been silent on tipping points.
Extreme weather events.
The most damaging climate change impact to human populations and their crops is extreme weather events, and it is pretty clear they are on the increase world wide.
A 2012 PNAS study Perception of climate change led by James Hansen, concluded that rapid climate change over the past 30 years has loaded the dice in favor of extreme weather. The chance of extreme summer heat is now 13 percent higher than in 1980, the report found. Record heat waves seen by Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010, and Texas in 2011 would not have happened without human-caused global warming, it concluded.
Also in 2012 the IPCC published a special report on Risks of Extreme Events and
Disasters. This report was indecisive and confusing on the issue. For example, "Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios5
generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these
signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over
this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes
over this time frame is uncertain. For projected changes by the end of the 21st
century, either model uncertainty or uncertainties associated with emissions
scenarios used becomes dominant, depending on the extreme."
There was no recommendation that increased extreme events demanded reduction of emissions, while recommendations on adaptation were made. Clearly if we don't stop emissions adaptation to increasing weather extremes, though necessary to try, will be futile.
IPCC scientist and Pennsylvania State University professor of meteorology Michael Mann, who was not involved in the March IPCC report, said the IPCC missed an opportunity to provide politicians with a clear picture of the extent of the climate crisis. "Many scientists felt that report erred by underplaying the degree of confidence in the linkage between climate change and certain types of severe weather, including heat wave severity, heavy precipitation and drought, and hurricane intensity,” he said. (Daily Climate)