I thought I might comment a bit further on the recent Millar et al. paper, [e]mission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 °C, that I discussed in this post. I’ve found the whole public dialogue about this paper very irritating and rather frustrating.
Anyone with even a moderate understanding of the public climate change debate would have seen how this paper was going to be received by some. Models running too hot; alarmist are wrong again, we’ve got much more time; etc. If your paper isn’t actually addressing models and observations, then maybe it would be best if you don’t suggest that there is a model observation discrepancy (or that models are running too hot). If your conclusion isn’t really that it’s much easier and that we have much more time, maybe your paper shouldn’t be presented in such a way as to make it seem that it is, and that we do. You might argue that the latter is what the paper was suggesting, but given that it’s basically modifying the carbon budget from so small that we can’t possibly achieve this to maybe we can achieve this if we try very hard, that all seems rather moot. Also, there are plenty of arguments as to why their new carbon budget is probably more like a best case scenario, than a robust indication that it really is bigger than we had previously thought.
Of course, if the above are your actual conclusions, then you should present them and defend them. If, however, you have to write two clarifications the day after your paper came out, then maybe you weren’t clear enough in the paper itself. I realise, of course, that it is probably impossible to write a paper that won’t be misinterpreted by some; James Delingpole, for example. However, there’s no reason – that I can see – to make it easy.
I understand that researchers want their work to be published and would like it to be noticed and to have impact; there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s hard to see why your work being promoted in Breitbart, and having to write a clarification days after it’s published, is something to strive for. There are lots of people who spend time clarifying public misconceptions about climate science, and it doesn’t help when a paper is published that appears to be promoting some of them. There may be some circumstances when you might be pleased when people provide opportunites for more work. This is not one of them.
If you would like to read some more detailed comments on the Millar et al. paper, there are some links below.
Is there really still a chance for staying below 1.5oC global warming – Stefan Rahmstorf/Realclimate.
Factcheck: Climate models have not ‘exaggerated’ global warming – Zeke Hausfather/Carbon Brief.
Possible good news about climate change leads to confused coverage – Scott Johnson/arsTECHNICA.
Daily Wire article misunderstands study on carbon budget (along with Fox News, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Breitbart…) – Climate Feedback.