This is a guess post by VTG
Judith Curry has posted a short summary(1) of her recent talk sponsored by the George Marshall Institute, attempting to put the case for adaptation rather than mitigation. In the somewhat tortured semantics of climate policy, adaptation is reducing the impact of climate change by changing infrastructure, land use and other means whereas mitigation is avoiding climate change through reducing emissions.
In my opinion the article is a breathtaking dash through personal hypocrisy, factual inaccuracy and political rhetoric.
To date, Judith Curry has argued strongly and consistently for scientists to avoid advocacy(2). Being sponsored by the George Marshall Institute, with its history of anti-science advocacy is arguably in direct contradiction to this, and the article itself is clear advocacy for not following mitigation policies. Hypocrisy is a strong charge, but is impossible to avoid here.
Worse yet, Prof Curry gets her facts wrong, claiming that global temperatures have not risen since 1998(3). This is untrue; both the surface temperature indexes from NASA and the Met office in fact show a rising trend since 1998. Those familiar with the climate debate will also, of course, recognise 1998 as a famously record-breaking hot year. In using it as her start point, Prof Curry is engaging in egregious cherry picking – using only the data which suits her case. In the context of a piece intended for general public rather than scientific experts, it’s very hard to interpret this as a statement made in good faith. Prof Curry has previously reacted strongly against being labelled a disinformer, but a clearer example of disinformation could not be wished for.
As part of her focus on the easy messaging of the “hiatus”, where surface temperatures have risen less steeply for the last few years, rhetorical tricks follow. Prof Curry claims that CO2 is expected to dominate on decadal timescales, and that there is a vigorous scientific debate on the anthropogenic nature of late 20th century warming. Neither is true. Anthropogenic warming was never claimed to overwhelm natural variation on short timescales, and there is a strong scientific consensus on the anthropogenic source of 20th century warming. Both these false claims are, however, excellent means to give a misleading impression of uncertainty.
For me, though, the worst part of the article is its shortsighted vision and moral bankruptcy. Impacts are waved away as a late 21st century concern and better adapted to regionally. By the late 21st century it will, of course, already be too late to avoid damaging change. And morally, those regions most affected are the same regions least able to adapt, the poorest countries condemned to radical change by actions benefiting the richest countries on earth. This is a shameless call to narrow self-interest.
It’s worth remembering what scale of impacts we’re talking about. Under the “business as usual” no mitigation pathway RCP8.5, global temperatures are forecast to rise between 2.5 to 7.8 degrees from preindustrial (4). Even the midpoint of this range would be genuinely catastrophic; the top end would be a cataclysm for the Earth’s ability to support a human civilisation and current biodiversity.
Professor Curry advocates unwise policy based on false claims and bankrupt morals. Reducing carbon emissions is technically feasible, economically viable and has an unanswerable moral case. World leaders should follow the scientific consensus reported by the scientists of the IPCC in its recent AR5 report, not the isolated few voices sponsored by politically motivated disinformation campaigns.
climate scientists should avoid advocacy related to public policy related to climate science research findings.
At the heart of the recent scientific debate on climate change is the ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in global warming – the period since 1998 during which global average surface temperatures have not increased.
– This is simply false. Of the two main surface temperature indices (Hadcrut4, GISS) both show a positive trend 1998-2013. Of the satellite series which measure tropospheric temperature, UAH shows positive and RSS negative
– As well as being false, this is transparent attempt to cherry pick a record-breaking hot year and walk down the up escalator
(4) AR5 WG3 Table SPM1