Catastrophe is always on the Horizon

The IPCC just released its last assessment report dealing with mitigation.  Like the two previously released work group reports, the latest also sounds the alarm bell that catastrophe is just around the corner unless dramatic action is taken soon.  The latest report calls for a 40% reduction in emissions from 2010 levels by 2050.

With a straight face, the chair of Work Group III said, “There is a clear message from science: to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”  According to the scientist who wrote the report greenhouse gas emission must be dropped by 40% to 70% from 2010 levels by 2050 and near zero in 2100.

This call for dramatic action is a flight of fancy.  In the case of the US, emissions of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas would have to be reduced from 5.6 billion tons to about 3.4 billion.  The last time that US emissions were that low was 1846 when the population was under 20 million and life expectancy was less than 40 years.  In the 1840s there a few large cities with most people living in rural areas.  It was also a time a great migration west by wagon train.

Without some new unknown energy source that magically is developed and made commercially viable in a few decades there is no way that a 40% emission reduction could be contemplated or achieved.  For the IPCC to publish what is clearly nonsense is irresponsible and further tarnishes its reputation.

Predictions of climate doom have been regularly made since Al Gore, environmentalists, and scientists feeding at the federal trough concluded that they prospered by selling gloom and doom.  These predictions are like the horizon.  They recede as we approach them.

More fundamentally, predictions of doom are not based on sound science.  They are based on computer models that reflect some science and a lot of professional judgments and assumptions.  Since the end of the Little Ice age, we have had a doubling of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and the global temperature has only increased 0.8 degrees C.  Since the effect of additional emission is logarithmic and not linear, additional emissions have a declining effect.

Over the past 17 years the globe’s temperature has not conformed with model projections which just keep increasing.  Unless science determines that climate sensitivity is much greater than currently believed and the lower troposphere begins to warm, the predictions of doom in 15 or so years will just be more hucksterism.

There are only two things about climate that are certain.  First, it has always changed and always will.  Second, our talents and technology should be focused on making sure that we are resilient enough to adapt to whatever climate future that we experience.


This article appeared on the FuelFix weblog at

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