I seem to be spending a lot my time at the moment going “I really can’t be bothered, I’m losing interest, and it’s not worth all the effort” and then making the mistake of visiting, for example, the Global Warming Policy Foundation/Forum website and going “WTF!”. What I found there today was a report called Unhealthy exaggeration, by Indur Goklany, which is claiming that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is exaggerating the impact that climate change will have on human health.
Now, I don’t actually know much – specifically, at least – about how climate change will impact us as a species and would quite like to know more about it. Goklany’s report, however, starts with
Firstly, it uses climate model results that have been shown to run at least three times hotter than empirical reality (0.15oC vs 0.04oC per decade, respectively), despite using 27% lower greenhouse gas forcing.
What, where does this come from? Yes, we’ve had a slowdown in surface warming in the last 10 years or so, and it may be as slow as 0.05oC per decade, but it could still be as high as > 0.1oC per decade (Cowtan & Way, 2013) and the uncertainties, when considering such short time intervals, are really too large to state – with confidence – what the trend actually is. If you consider the last few decades, the trend is around 0.175oC per decade, which is lower than the mean model trend, but only by 20-30%, not by a factor of 3. Also, where does despite using 27% lower greenhouse gas forcing come from? Is he just making stuff up?
The very next paragraph says,
Secondly, it ignores the fact that people and societies are not potted plants; that they will actually take steps to reduce, if not nullify, real or perceived threats to their life, limb and well-being. Thus, if the seas rise around them, heatwaves become more prevalent, or malaria, diarrhoeal disease and hunger spread, they will undertake adaptation measures to protect themselves and reduce, if not eliminate, the adverse consequences.
What, how do we do this? Yes, of course as a species we may be able to take measures to adapt to the adverse consequences of climate change, but it’s not trivial. There are millions, if not billions, of people who live near the coast. The spread of disease is not something you combat with ease (unless you include getting ill and subsequently dying as an adaptation strategy). This just seems like an absurd suggestion. It completely ignores that anthropogenic emissions are changing our climate at a rate that is faster than at any time in human history. Humans have existed during a period of relative climate stability [Edit : Okay, this isn’t quite right H/T Victor. The last 10000 years has been a period of relative stability, but humans – as a species – have been around for more than 100000 years. We do, however, appear to have thrived during this period of relative stability]. The reason we’ve adapted to changes is because, by and large, they’ve been gradual. Yes, we’re a clever species who can adapt to our environment, but that also includes being clever enough to decide that it would be best not to have do so in the first place. I know that some adaptation will be unavoidable, but suggesting that we should simply be aiming to adapt seems nonsensical.
So, as I said above, I would like to know more about the how climate change might impact our lives in the coming decades and centuries, but I doubt I’m going to learn much from someone who writes such nonsense at the beginning of their report, or from an organisation that promotes it. Of course, it is possible that the rest of the report was better than the beginning, but I didn’t bother reading it to find out.