A human extinction denier?

Mike Hulme has a new essay that some are promoting on Twitter. He suggests that he is a human extinction denier and objects to the climate emergency narrative. Although I have my own concerns about some of the extreme rhetoric, I found his esssay rather irritating.

Firstly, I think it largely mis-represents the position that he’s criticising. Existential doesn’t necessarily imply the end of the human species. It can refer to other species, some of which seem clearly to be at risk, or to our global civilisation, which some do indeed think is inconsistent with substantial warming.

I also think it falls foul of deficit-model, or linear, thinking. It seems to suggest that there is some logical way to address this issue and that those who promote the existential, or climate emergency, narrative are failing to understand this. I do wish that we could carefully assess all complex situations and then make sensible decisions, but it’s my understanding that this isn’t a realistic way to develop policy. Many factors can influence how we do so, including people promoting extreme narratives.

The essay also highlights that climate change raises a host of ethical, historical and cultural questions that are at most tangentially connected to any scientific findings. This is certainly true, but what it seems to fail to acknowledge is that those he’s criticising may have indeed considered this and that it is these ethical, historical, and cultural issues that have driven them to the position they now hold. People are, of course, free to disagree with their judgements, but why not simply say so, rather than writing something that suggests that your criticism is based on some kind of intellectual authority?

I also think the article produces some rather confused descriptions of our scientific understanding (which is a little odd, given the credentials of the author). For example, it says

Climate prediction science is fundamentally based on probabilistic forecasts which underpin the quantification of risk. There is a range of possible values for future global warming. It is as false scientifically to say that the climate future will be catastrophic as it is to say with certainty that it will be merely lukewarm.

The dominant factor that will determine how much we warm, and hence the impact of the resulting climate change, is how much we emit. I agree that we can’t say that the climate future will be catastrophic, but the more we emit, the more likely it becomes that our climate future will reasonably be described as catastrophic. In a sense this is the key issue; should we limit our emissions in order to reduce the chance that our climate future will be catastrophic?

To suggest that the outcome is simply part of a probabilistic forecast seems to completely ignore that the outcome largely depends on what we choose to do. Much of the climate emergency narrative is motivated by a desire to influence our choices so that we limit our emissions and, hence, ultimately reduce the impact of climate change. Mike Hulme’s essay seemed to completely ignore this pretty basic issue.

I sometimes get the sense that some view this as essentially a binary situation; a world with climate change compared to a world without climate change. It isn’t. It’s a world with a climate that will continue to change while we continue to emit CO2 into the atmosphere. How much it changes depends largely on what we choose to do. Clearly there are many factors that will, and should, influence how we respond to this. The basics are, however, pretty simple – how much we emit will largely determine how much the climate will change and, consequently, will determine the impacts that we, and future generations, will have to learn to deal with.

Even though there are potentially serious consequences to exaggerating the risks and promoting an extreme narrative, there are also potentially serious consequences to delaying addressing climate change. I think there are valid criticisms of the existential/climate emergency narrative, but I didn’t really find Mike Hulme’s critique particularly compelling. Maybe someone can convince me that there’s more depth to it than it seems.

Links:
Am I a denier, a humen extinction denier – Mike Hulme’s essay.
Existential threat? – post I wrote about climate change being an existential threat.
The benefits of acting now, rather than later – post I wrote about the benefits of reducing emissions sooner, rather than later.

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114 Responses to A human extinction denier?

  1. Peter Jacobs had – in my view – quite a good Twitter thread about Mike Hulme’s essay.

  2. Clive Best says:

    To suggest that the outcome is simply part of a probabilistic forecast seems to completely ignore that the outcome largely depends on what we choose to do.

    Let’s try inverting that logic..

    To suggest that the outcome largely depends on what we choose to do seems to completely ignore that the outcome is simply part of a probabilistic forecast.

  3. Clive,
    How does that make any sense? Even given the uncertainty in climate sensitivity, the amount we warm will largely depend on how much we emit. We can influence the outcome – it’s not just going to be drawn from some probability distribution.

  4. Clive Best says:

    The problem is that we can’t quantify what effect any action we take now will have long term. If the danger were known to be critical then we would be forced to take immediate extreme action even in the knowledge that such action will seriously damage human wellbeing short term. However we have no real idea that the situation is yet critical because all climate forecasts are fuzzy.

    That is why it is best to avoid the rhetoric of “emergency” or “crisis” etc until we have a realistic solution.

  5. Clive,

    That is why it is best to avoid the rhetoric of “emergency” or “crisis” etc until we have a realistic solution.

    This is your view. There are others who regard the risks associated with delaying as too great and, hence, think we should aim to reduce emissions sooner, rather than later. You can, of course, disagree with this, as it seems you do. The problem I have with Hulme’s essay is that it seems to ignore that this is one of the key issues and seems to imply that the emergency narrative is based on an emergency being unavoidable, rather than on this narrative being used to promote that we should not be delaying emission reductions.

  6. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    To suggest that the outcome is simply part of a probabilistic forecast seems to completely ignore that the outcome largely depends on what we choose to do.

    This is such an important point, IMO. And it is one which I think is largely overlooked

    Mike Hulme’s essay seemed to completely ignore this pretty basic issue.

    It may be basic, in a sense, but it is an issue that it seems people in general have a very hard time integrating into their approach to risk avoidance.

    The difference between risk/no risk and conditional probability risk is, I think, parallel to something that comes up a lot in the study of how people reason. Conditional probability is a tough nut to crack.

  7. Joshua says:

    Clive –

    The problem is that we can’t quantify what effect any action we take now will have long term.

    That doesn’t have to be a “problem,” IMO it has to be an understanding. It’s only a problem, IMO, if youre stuck in a binary mindset, or predisposed to dismiss risk avoidance of climate change for ideological reasons.

  8. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    The problem I have with Hulme’s essay is that it seems to ignore that this is one of the key issues and seems to imply that the emergency narrative is based on an emergency being unavoidable, rather than on this narrative being used to promote that we should not be delaying emission reductions.

    I will say that’s a bit too either/or, IMO. I think fairly often it’s both presented as unavoidable and as a reason to not delay. Not everyone is as careful as you are about this.

  9. AndyM says:

    We have gone from arguing whether global warming is happening to will the human race will be wiped off the planet? That conjures up the image of the next generation of politicians coming together to argue about who should do what to avoid a global apocalypse – and agreeing on an entirely inadequate response and then reneging on it anyway.

  10. Joshua,

    I think fairly often it’s both presented as unavoidable and as a reason to not delay.

    Yes, there are some who are not very careful. There are others who argue (with some justification) that catastrophic outcomes probably are unavoidable for some. Again, one should be careful about how this is framed. There are also many who push back strongly against the inavoidable narrative. I do think that suggesting that a full blown catastrophe is unavoidable is very unhelpful since it implies that there’s little we can do to avoid this. Countering without discussing the key issue of emission reductions doesn’t seem all that helpful either.

  11. Joshua says:

    Clive –

    If the danger were known to be critical then we would be forced to take immediate extreme action even in the knowledge that such action will seriously damage human wellbeing short term.

    Is there any scenario other than absolutely certain existential threat that would justify a response with uncertain outcomes?

    And it’s interesting that it seems you’re dismissing uncertainty w/r/t “seriously damage human well being.”

    So in the one hand we shouldn’t act unless we’re certain, and in the other hand we shouldn’t act because it’s certain to be catastrophic if we do. I wonder which models prove certain catastrophe from action to mitigate climate change?

    Looks to me like tails I win, heads you lose.

  12. Joshua says:

    . Countering without discussing the key issue of emission reductions doesn’t seem all that helpful either.

    As time goes on, I become more and more convinced that people formulate a position on issues like this based on emotional reactions, and then filter information so as to reinforce that optional response. That Freakonomics podcast I linked downstairs talks about the deficit model inadequacy for dealing with climate change.
    There’s discussion of the importance of perspective-taking, specific to the issue of climate change, which is something that I also am feeling more strongly about over time.

    I’m going to get serious about a meditation practice. I know that probably souls a bit off, but there is some evidence that perhaps it helps to promote perspective-taking. Maybe not a very practical solution for a global-scale issue, however.

  13. Clive Best says:

    Joshua,

    Is there any scenario other than absolutely certain existential threat that would justify a response with uncertain outcomes?

    No I don’t think there really is.

    Think of all the unforeseen mistakes we already have made. Plastic insulation, Hydro-Electric damns, insecticides, fertilisers, Threats to bird & bat life from Wind and Solar. Any action we take has consequences long term.

    Nuclear Energy probably has the best known and least impact.

  14. Clive,
    We do regularly do things that end up doing more harm than good. We also often do things without being certain of the outcome (in fact, I would suggest that this is probably the norm, although the level of certainty will vary). None of this means that we should ignore that there are issues worth addressing. In many cases we will probably need to make decisions before we have certainty.

  15. Clive Best says:

    ATTP,

    Well maybe that is true but we should always avoid over-reacting either to 16 year old girls or to Donald Trump.

  16. KiwiGriff. says:

    That is why it is best to avoid the rhetoric of “emergency” or “crisis” etc until we have a realistic solution.

    This is your idea of risk management? Do not discuses the high side of risk probability when we are examining solutions.
    You only have a one in 103 chance of dying in a car accident so lets not discus wearing a seat belt until we have an accident .
    To evaluate risk you must take into account the entire range of probability.
    Applying a straight trend line to the past thirty years of data from the keeling curve puts us over 4C of warming by the end of this century. That is an indication of our response so far despite thirty years of increasing alarm from the scientific community. At the extreme end climate change is an existential threat to the continuance of humantys organized civilization.
    We are staring at the resolution to the fermi paradox and you do not want to discuss the possibility.

    Well worth a read.
    https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers
    EXISTENTIAL CLIMATE-RELATED SECURITY RISK
    Understanding climate-driven security risks relies on climate impact projections, but much knowledge produced for policymakers is too conservative. Because the risks are now existential, a new approach to climate and security risk assessment is required using scenario analysis.

  17. Joshua says:

    Clive –

    Think of all the unforeseen mistakes we already have made.

    Unforeseen mistakes run in all directions. There are unforeseen mistakes for fossil fuel use, and there will be unforeseen mistakes for continued fossil fuel use.

    It doesn’t seem very practical to me to go through life making decisions on the basis of avoiding unforeseen mistakes – for I think obvious reasons.

    Any action we take has consequences long term.

    As does non-action. Again, that seems to me like a rather weak argument for not taking any action. These are not binary situation – where there are no unforeseen consequences along one path and unforeseen consequences if we take a different path. We are talking about decisions that have to be made under a condition of uncertainty So you estimate the ramifications of conditional probabilities and take your best shot, accordingly.

    I don’t think just dismissing one path because there might be unforeseen consequences to be a very robust process of risk assessment.

    Unfortunately, IMO, the notion of avoiding unforeseen consequences tends to prematurely close off a more robust analysis.

  18. Lancton says:

    My main issue with the extinction narrative is that there will be no way to prove it. I find human extinction to be an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence, I don’t believe any amount of methane bombs or aerosol losses will render us extinct, honestly!

    However, human civilisation is another matter entirely. Something can be a crisis without us facing extinction of the human species. As a species were extremely hardy, reliable and intelligent. Our civilisation? Not so. Four degrees celsius has been regarded as a game changer, so I can’t begin to fathom how much of a change six degrees celsius, or maybe even eight degrees, would be. Is this a realistic warming for this century? Most likely not. Long term in the sense of centuries to millenia? Perhaps. The sooner we act on climate, the sooner we can reduce these risks.

  19. mrkenfabian says:

    Clive, avoiding foreseeable mistakes is basic good practice – and in most careers, professions and positions of trust, is essential. Failure to do so can be considered negligence and potentially legally actionable. Global warming from excessive fossil fuel burning is very foreseeable, with high levels of confidence; that is not some random opinion arrived at by random free choice, but the conclusion from decades of top level science based studies and reports. Which were put together by people who do have codes of conduct and professional standards to uphold. What they put in those reports (having agreed to do) is not a choice for them at all, let alone a free one; the data and reasoning and conclusions have to fit together, and with extensive documentation as well.

    The danger IS known to be critical as well as (and because it is) cumulative and irreversible but you and many others simply choose not to accept that.

    I would note that, as is usual, the dichotomy between action and inaction is reversed – continuing to burn fossil fuels at precipitous climate changing rates is considered ‘inaction’ or (with positive spin) some kind of avoidance of ‘precipitous’ action.

  20. Francis says:

    According to the news, temperatures hit 123 deg F in portions of India over the weekend, and there is already a death toll associated with the heat wave.

    It seems to me that the relatives of the victims may consider that the current climate already presents an existential threat, and that further increases will cause an extinction of their society as they are forced to relocate.

    As our host has ably noted many times, the burdens of climate change will not be borne equally. The US has a temperate climate, a robust power grid and an ag industry so efficient that we can waste about 40% of all food grown/raised annually. The rest of the world is not so lucky and we Americans and Europeans would be well served by a little humility in how we discuss “existential” threats and human extinction.

  21. Mal Adapted says:

    Clive Best:

    Think of all the unforeseen mistakes we already have made. Plastic insulation, Hydro-Electric damns, insecticides, fertilisers, Threats to bird & bat life from Wind and Solar. Any action we take has consequences long term.

    Nuclear Energy probably has the best known and least impact.

    I was going to partially support Clive until I got to “but nuclear!”, and suspected he wasn’t actually asking for support. I’ll merely point out that capping the rise in GMST depends on not doing something that already has long-term consequences: namely, transferring carbon from geologic sequestration to the climatically-active pool, at a rapidly accelerating rate. That entails a transition to a carbon-neutral economy within a few decades, most probably driven by consumer thrift and the profit motive once a realistic carbon price is in place. Failure to decarbonize our economy ensures climate change at a rate sufficient to cause global economic depression, widening regional crop failures, mass displacement of people and escalating armed strife.

    As Francis infers, “adaptation” to the above will be easier for the well-off. Nonetheless one readily envisions even first-world countries afflicted with increasingly severe weather disasters, paying ever-higher food prices, beset by climate refugees, engulfed in civil unrest and/or shooting wars with their neighbors. Those are already going on, of course, but BAU leads to a scale on which none of us is spared, in our prosperity or persons. As for assigning numbers, the current state of attribution science makes at least a low-end estimate possible. Last year the USA, for example, incurred at least $160 billion in damage due to AGW. But what amount of impact would achieve “catastrophic” levels? Shouldn’t we ask that of the families who’ve already lost homes, livelihoods and lives to AGW? Can accelerating global biodiversity loss be commensurated in dollars?

    I’d love to be wrong in my projections, but I’m led to them by an overwhelming preponderance of the verifiable evidence. I’m hoping to make it another 30 years myself, and would gladly start paying an effective carbon tax today. Failing largely complete decarbonization by then, I am deeply saddened by the world my young great-nephew will face, and thankful I have no offspring of my own.

  22. I read that article by Hulme and besides the term “gag me with a spoon” crowding my mind a few times, I was thinking that his guy is an excellent example of spending too much time in his own mindscape and too little time becoming familiar with our actual physical planet as an entity onto itself. He says he see no evidence – I’d suggest perhaps he’s not looking very hard.

    Reading Peter Jacobs was a nice counter weight, KiwiGriff comment and link was also a bit of a reality check
    https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers
    Joshua, mrkenfabian, Francis – honorable mentions :- )

    Then I came across this update on the permafrost situation, which inspired me to stop deleting my comment here and do it: https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/permafrost-melting-1.5119767

    It’s fairly sobering and another reminder why some people can’t help themselves in concluding this climate change ‘thing’ is an extinction event in progress – The actual physical unfolding got nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how our planet operates, and what we’ve been doing to it (which has everything to do with politics and immediate self-interest at every level.) and how that’s changing everything. But, they can’t see past how their bank account is operating.

    Heck even insects are disappearing at a horrifying rate. But, I can image the Hulmes of the world are thinking great, hate them bugs, good riddance, me I’m terrified of the ‘Cascading Consequences’ that loosing those little pests promises. And so on and so forth.

  23. Unfortunately the bigger thing Hulmes was hinting at seemed to me – how best to motivate people to take an interest and do something.

    I’m starting to think that’s a lost cause no matter what rhetorical, PR approach one takes. Simply because, ‘I got mine and ain’t letting go’ seems to be the primal human imperative. Well that and, “I want more!”

    So when the pretending ends regarding our rosy manageable future – because the cascading consequences have overwhelmed our dreamy optimistic complacency – what then?

  24. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Is there any scenario other than absolutely certain existential threat that would justify a response with uncertain outcomes?

    No I don’t think there really is.”

    I think that is one of the least rational things I have seen written about climate change for a long time. That is a bit like refusing a relatively minor operation (which has a small, but non-negligible risk) unless you were absolutely certain that the disease would kill you. No hip replacements then?

  25. dikranmarsupial says:

    The think I didn’t like about the article was that it was complaining about rhetoric, whilst being itself filled with divisive rhetoric, for instance by asking if he was an “extinction denier” (which by his own definition of denier, he clearly isn’t).

  26. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Think of all the unforeseen mistakes we already have made.”

    what, like basing our economy on rapid exploitation of fossil fuels without consideration of the negative consequences?

    Oh, hang on, they were not really unforeseen, were they?

  27. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I sometimes get the sense that some view this as essentially a binary situation; a world with climate change compared to a world without climate change.”

    I think that is very much the problem, it’s either catastrophe or it is no problem at all, but perhaps that is because we only see the more extreme activists on both sides, because the media don’t find moderates entertaining enough?

  28. Snape says:

    I like to use NOAA’s “Climate at a Glance” to see how global warming might affect a specific location, comparing trends and records already observed to what the future might hold. Here’s a look at Chicago:
    The summer months in Chicago, June – August, have been warming at 0.22C/decade since 1958. The global average for the same time frame is 0.15C/decade. That’s a ratio of about 1.5/1
    Assuming the ratio holds, we could expect a 4C rise globally would equate to a 6C rise in Chicago.

    So compare the potential new normal, a full + 6.0 C warmer than today’s average summer, to the summer of 1995, which was record hot and considered a scorcher – but only had an anomaly of +2.5 C.

    For more perspective:
    “On July 13, 1995, Chicago’s high temperature for the day reached 104 degrees. Twenty years ago this week, Chicago was gripped by one of the city’s worst natural disasters: a scorching heat wave that claimed more than 700 victims, mostly the poor, elderly and others on society’s margins.Jul 15, 2015”
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-heat-wave-20-years-later-met-20150715-story,amp.html

    *1958 – 2018 was not cherry picked, rather the longest time period available.

  29. izen says:

    Consider the case of patient CB.
    Since their youth they have consumed a diet with enough calories to cause a gain in weight of 20kg or just over 3 stone.
    This puts them just outside what science considers the normal range and they are suffering occasional minor health problems associated with this weight increase.

    However the recommendation that they now make significant changes to their dietary intake is rejected because the predictions that further weight-gain is inevitable with the same diet and this will lead to a much greater risk of further health problems is rejected.
    Because, they contend, the weight gain is at the low end of what might be expected from their excess intake, and the predictions of further increased health problems are ‘very’ uncertain. They reject the high probability that there is a roughly linear relationship between diet, weight gain and health problems, and maintain that it is entirely reasonable to continue their present behaviour as it might have no significant long term consequences.
    And anyway, they have enough money (or live in a society with free medical care) to afford diabetic treatment if that does become necessary.

  30. izen says:

    Patient CB approving cites ‘Dr’ Hume for pointing out that predictions of an early death from their weight gain are uncertain and possibly alarmist.

  31. Dikranmarsupial writes, “I think that is very much the problem, it’s either catastrophe or it is no problem at all, but perhaps that is because we only see the more extreme activists on both sides, because the media don’t find moderates entertaining enough?”

    When yet another discussion about catastrophe and the supposed sins of those resisting that description fails to include the IPCC’s projections of human impacts, the discussion is not starting, continuing or ending at any place useful.

    For the IPCC’s projections are for moderate impacts.

  32. Tom,

    For the IPCC’s projections are for moderate impacts.

    You keep saying this, but it’s simply not true. You also never seem to acknowledge that the IPCC explicitly does not judge the seriousness of an impact. It simply presents the impacts, the risks, and what we might do to manage such risks. Society gets to decide how to describe such a scenario. Using the IPCC to validate your lack of concern is logically inconcistent. You can, of course, be unconcerned, but the idea that the IPCC agrees with you is bizarrre (it takes no formal position).

    The seriousness of the impacts almost certainly depends on how much we warm. We’re currently heading from something between 3C and 4C (assuming slow feedbacks don’t amplify this too much). The IPCC clearly does not say that the impact of 4C of warming would be moderate. Take Asia, for example. There’s a very high risk of heat related mortality with little scope for adaptation.

  33. ATTP, first, thank you for at least using and referring to the IPCC report on impacts of climate change. I imagine the rest of our conversation would consist of individual interpretation.

    I look at the examples you provide for Asia and I do not see catastrophe, even if they all happen together. Perhaps you do. To me it looks as I have always described climate impacts–messy, dangerous for some (especially the poor), difficult for most. Expensive to remediate, a clear call for mitigation. Clearly, those impacts as listed do not constitute a catastrophic outcome.

    But when an article published today states that ‘climate change could pose existential threat to humanity by 2050 (https://abcnews.go.com/US/climate-change-end-human-civilization-2050-tank-report/story?id=63476644), it is simply untrue.

    Mike Hulme is doing the climate community a service by reminding us all that headlines in the media are not often accurate.

  34. Tom,
    That seems to be the key issue. You seem to think that a scenario where we do something that increases the risk of hear related mortality with little chance for adaptation isn’t something we’d regard as a catastrophe. Many people, however, disagree. I think the human extinction narrative is potentially damaging, but mostly because it could lead us to give up and, hence, lead to more severe impacts than if we regarded this as something we can actually do something about.

    A point for you to ponder is that even if we could deal with the impacts of 4C of warming, maybe we should consider doing things that maximise our chances of not having to do so.

  35. ATTP, I think you correctly identify my position on increased risk of heat mortality in Asia. I do not consider it catastrophic. I do consider it a threat to human welfare, one well worth trying to prevent.

    Nonetheless, the emissions you state are required to bring increased heat mortality about will in part consist of the electricity needed to combat heat mortality through air conditioning, etc. If equatorial countries do not increase incomes enough to afford air conditioning, there will simply not be the level of emissions to get to your (outlier) postulation of 4C temperature rise.

    “Daikin India MD and CEO Kanwaljeet Jawa looks at this season as “very promising” for the residential AC segment and believes that fundamentals are in place and intact.

    “The industry is poised at an inflection penetration of 7-8 per cent, and I see it exploding over 10 per cent. The developed nations like Japan, the US, Australia and China are all above 90 per cent penetration. India has a huge potential. I predict the industry growing at 14-15 per cent during FY2019-20,” he added. (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/cons-products/durables/ac-makers-expect-a-double-digit-sales-growth-this-summer/articleshow/68764512.cms?from=mdr)

    Building resilience as an adaptation strategy is fraught. Activists fear that money spent on adaptation will be subtracted from whatever total is available to address climate change and that mitigation should always be first priority. But Indians, Chinese, Indonesians, Malaysians et al will be voting with their pocketbooks and using their own money to protect themselves and their families.

    On another thread we conversed about automated technology replacing farmers in areas most affected by temperature rise. See: https://nebraska.tv/news/ntvs-grow/future-of-farming-is-now-as-driverless-tractor-plants-crops-in-nebraska

  36. dikranmarsupial says:

    “For the IPCC’s projections are for moderate impacts.”

    Funnily enough, I am a big fan of referring to the IPCC in such matters. However the IPCC projections are not for moderate impacts. The WG1 report is about the scientific basis, and as ATTP mentions, does not address impacts.

    This seems predict an 8C temperature change (and not to rule out 12C) by 2300. I’d be interested to see your reasoning why that would only have “moderate impacts”.

  37. Sean Carroll has a good mindscape podcast episode (6) where he talks about probabilities and risk,

    essentially humanity is comfortable with 0%, 50% and 100% – everything else filtered out

  38. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I look at the examples you provide for Asia and I do not see catastrophe, even if they all happen together.”

    I think that may be a problem with perspective. I doubt whether Bangladeshis would readily agree, for example.

  39. Tom,

    If equatorial countries do not increase incomes enough to afford air conditioning, there will simply not be the level of emissions to get to your (outlier) postulation of 4C temperature rise.

    I think you’re ignoring the uncertainties. Even if we simply maintain current emission levels, there will be a non-negligible chance of warming by more than 3C. Also, consider Nordhaus’s optimal pathway below. It is projected to lead to about 3.5C of warming by 2100, but requires not much increase in emissions over the next two decades, emissions peaking by about 2020, and then having them drop until 2100. It seems clear that keeping warming below 4C is going to require some kind of action that will cause emissions to peak, and then decline, reasonably soon. So, even if you think 3-4C is not going to be reasonably described as catastrophic, it still seems that you should be willing to consider actions that will cause emissions to reduce.

  40. ATTP, I believe I have frequently and almost stridently advocated expenditures and actions in support of both mitigation and adaptation. Do I have to paste in the list again? Carbon tax, check. Subsidies for renewables, check. Funding for research, check. Etc., etc.,

    Just because I look at the IPCC report on impacts and fail to see catastrophe doesn’t mean I am against vigorous efforts to prevent and/or remediate the impacts they do project.

    I have noticed in conversations with blog commenters and bloggers like yourself that once you have pigeonholed me as a denier or whatever, it really doesn’t matter what I write.

    From 2013:

    I’ve said it often enough, but I’ll repeat what I think we should do while waiting for clarity regarding sensitivity and other unresolved issues with the science:

    1. Tax CO2 at a starting rate of $12/ton and revisit the rate every 10 years, adjusting the rate to reflect changes in CO2 concentrations and a pre-agreed metric for climate change that has occurred in the interim.
    2. Spend a global total of $100 billion for the transfer of technology to the developing world for the purpose of reducing the impact of development technologies, in hopes that they can leapfrog one or two generations of energy development.
    3. Commit to spending over the course of this century on moving roads inland, removing permission for construction on threatened coasts and flood plains. The EPA found that this would cost about $400 billion for the United States about 20 years ago–adjust for inflation. But that’s a one-time cost.
    4. Continue Steven Chu’s investment strategy for reducing costs in renewable energy, storage and transmission. Continue with ARPA-E at full funding. We may have another Solyndra–probably will, in fact. But we may also have another Tesla, which didn’t technically come from that program, but serves as an inspiration.
    5. Encourage the U.S. EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from large emitters.
    6. Accelerate permitting for new nuclear power plants to maintain nuclear power’s percentage of electricity at 20% in the U.S.
    7. Uprate existing hydroelectric plants to take advantage of advances in turbine technology.
    8. Mandate uptake of GPS within the air traffic control infrastructure and controlled and one-step descent on landing.
    9. Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
    10. Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.
    11. Support introduction of charging stations for electric vehicles.
    12. Force existing coal power plants to meet best available technology standards or close.

  41. Chubbs says:

    Looks like most poor tropical farmers will have solar panels long before they are running remote controlled tractors.

    https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6443/836

  42. izen says:

    @-tf2
    “For the IPCC’s projections are for moderate impacts.”

    We have been round this before.
    The IPCC SPM only describes outcomes, and that vaguely, the political editing has carefully excluded any descriptive term of the severity, seriousness, and magnitude of the impacts.

  43. izen says:

    @-tf2
    When faced with fire, flood and famine people either die or move.
    We are already seeing this effect with the migration of millions from Africa Asia and South America.
    The politically neutered SPM concedes;-

    “Climate change over the 21st century is projected to increase displacement of people (medium evidence, high agreement). Displacement risk increases when populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, in both rural and urban areas, particularly in developing countries with low income”

    But the ‘leader of the free world’ response is one that failed 2500 years ago in China.
    “Build a wall !”

  44. Izen, I can make no excuses for the poor state of leadership in the U.S. Trump is a tragedy and not just for the climate and not just for immigration.

    You have made the argument before that the SPM is more conservative than the document it summarizes. I’m sure you’re aware that the skeptic community feels exactly the opposite–that the summaries go far beyond the reports. As a lukewarmer I take it on an item by item basis. What exactly in the Summary for Policymakers do you think understates what is in the report?

  45. izen says:

    @-tf2
    “What exactly in the Summary for Policymakers do you think understates what is in the report?”

    I will recycle the example I used before.
    It can be instructive to compare how the SPM uses more words to be less informative, more ambiguous and whatever the opposite of alarmists is, to frame its content compared to the technical summary.

    SPM-
    “Large-scale singular events:With increasing warming, some physical systems or ecosystems may be at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes. Risks associated with such tipping points become moderate between 0–1°C additional warming, due to early warning signs that both warm-water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts (medium confidence). Risks increase disproportionately as temperature increases between 1–2°C additional warming and become high above 3°C, due to the potential for a large and irreversible sea level rise from ice sheet loss. For sustained warming greater than some threshold, near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet would occur over a millennium or more,contributing up to 7 m of global mean sea level rise.”

    TS-
    ” Risks of large-scale singular events such as ice sheet disintegration, methane release from clathrates, and onset of long-term droughts in areas such as southwest North America [19.6, Box 26-1;WGI AR5 12.4, 12.5, 13.4], as well as regime shifts in ecosystems and substantial species loss [4.3, 19.6], are higher with increased warming. Sustained warming greater than some threshold would lead to the near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet over a millennium or more,causing a global mean sea level rise of up to 7 m (high confidence); current estimates indicate that the threshold is greater than about 1°C (low confidence) but less than about 4°C (medium confidence) global mean warming”

  46. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I have noticed in conversations with blog commenters and bloggers like yourself that once you have pigeonholed me as a denier or whatever, it really doesn’t matter what I write.”

    What is it with people seemingly wanting to be labelled as deniers? It’s almost as if it were a rhetorical device.

  47. Jeffh says:

    Professor Hume is a human geographer and not an ecologist. In my opinion this undermines his ability to accurately gauge the true scale of the predicament. But let me, writing as a population ecologist, put this into a broader context. Climate change is one, albeit major, anthropogenic stressor on complex adaptive systems. Humans are assaulting nature in multiple ways, ultimately simplifying them and reducing their capacity to support life in a manner that we know. We are slashing and burning our way across the biosphere, and biodiversity is in a full scale retreat. The loss of approximately 60% of genetic diversity of natural populations of species over the past 50 years should be absolutely terrifying. Populations of once common birds, amphibians, fish, insects and other taxa are in freefall. I was in Ontario, Canada last month – I left there to live in Europe 35 years ago – and once abundant birds that I formerly saw in large numbers like Eastern Meadowlarks, Bobolinks and Purple Martins are gone. This is of course the tip of an iceberg. We are witnessing to an emerging ecological armageddon. Where in Hume’s narrative does biodiversity as working parts of our ecological life support systems factor in? He doesn’t even pay lip service to it in his essay.

    If we don’t find a way to reconcile the currently unsustainable, rapaciously destructive,mutant form of capitalism – neolioberalism – with something altogether more humane and environmentally friendly, then the future for mankind is bleak. It may not mean our short-term extinction, but for the remaining survivors life will be grim. Of course, human extinction is inevitable in time, but we seem to be doing everything to hasten its arrival. It is a form of collective madness.

  48. izen says:

    @-tf2
    Just to highlight the differences if they are not immediately obvious…

    ” SOME physical systems or ecosystems MAY BE at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes…. Risks increase disproportionately as temperature increases between 1–2°C additional warming and become high above 3°C,
    (capitols added, implying that the disproportionate risk is for a rise ABOVE 3C)
    … For sustained warming greater than some threshold, near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet would occur over a millennium or more,contributing up to 7 m of global mean sea level rise.”
    (Unlike the TS the threshold is left undefined…)

  49. KiwiGriff. says:

    Here is a historic quote that sums up thomaswfuller2 ‘s position.
    “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”.
    They can air condition their mud huts and strap one on the bullock to plow the field.
    Along those lines the USA farming community could presently use a few submarines to plant their crops.

    We need to move the overton window towards reality.
    To do so requires more mainstream voices promulgating the high side of risk to counter those who down play the chance of any impacts. For too long voices like those of lomborg and Pielke have pulled the discourse towards the low side of probability. Time is not on our side, we can not continue to postpone confronting the problem with another thirty years of empty talk.

  50. Izen, I confess I don’t see much difference between the two passages. But as what I have read since the publication of both documents paints a far more optimistic picture of reality, I think a more conservative approach is appropriate.

    It appears from the literature that monotonic warming would have to continue for 3 millenia to melt half the Greenland ice sheet. Clathrate methane release has been decisively dismissed by, among others, Gavin Schmitt.

    The return of sustained drought in the U.S. Southwest is probably inevitable and has been forecast for more than a century, long before concerns about human contributions to climate change were part of the conversation. It would be a return to, not a departure from, the normal state of affairs.

    I hope you can find a better example. I am concerned about large scale changes to storm frequency and intensity in the upper latitudes. I am concerned about high volume precipitation events. I am concerned about the drying out of the mountain ranges bordering on tropical rain forests. And obviously, I monitor sea level rise and GAT the way a heart attack survivor checks his pulse and respiration more or less continuously.

    But clathrates? The GIS? Nope.

  51. izen says:

    @-tf2
    “It appears from the literature that monotonic warming would have to continue for 3 millenia to melt half the Greenland ice sheet.”

    Your reading skills need work, or it is motivated misunderstanding.
    The literature as reported in the IPCC is that the threshold after which most of the Greenland ice-cap would melt is probably over 1C (already reached) but below 4C.
    Further warming is not required, and it is likely that even some cooling would not reverse the process as it represents a threshold/tipping point where the lower altitude of the ice-cap and reduced sea buttressing at the glacial exits would ensure the process continues.
    It also projects a near complete loss (not half) of the ice cap with 7m rise over 3 millennia, although more than half of the Greenland ice-cap that accumulated during the last glacial age melted during the Holocene maximum ~9000 years ago in considerably less time.

  52. JCH says:

    America’s food belt is ‘greening’:

    So much so there is apparently no point in planting all the fields in Iowa:

  53. izen says:

    Iowa corn planting may be reduced by … problems.

    perhaps rice is the answer ?

  54. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    Sad to see that you’re still going with the same rhetorical tricks w/r//t “catastrophe.” Hopefully, one day you’ll get past it.

    Meanwhile….

    Izen, I can make no excuses for the poor state of leadership in the U.S. Trump is a tragedy and not just for the climate and not just for immigration.

    I really don’t see why you think there’s a problem with Trump w/r/t climate. He just made a statement that sums up the “lukewarmer” position pretty perfectly:

    “I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,”

    Dude’s a stone cold lukewarmer. Not a “denier,” – as he believes “there’s a change in the weather.”

    And there’s also this – straight out of the lukewarmer playbook:

    “Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”

    Stone cold lukewarmer

  55. Joshua says:

    JCH –

    I’m guessing there’s nothing new for you here, and my impression is that the connection to AGW is speculative… but nonetheless, this is pretty noteworthy.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/2019/06/04/after-biblical-spring-this-is-week-that-could-break-corn-belt/?utm_term=.03ed173d0f90

  56. russellseitz says:

    Testifying to the US Congress today, Office of Naval Intelligence official Jeff Ringhausen, warned :

    “Nearly all of Russia’s armed forces are focused on expansion in the Arctic,”

    All of Russia’s naval stations are 20 meters above sea level, others that once stood along river coastlines have been pushed further back into bedrock, meaning Russia’s naval bases are largely poised to go “unaffected” from climate change.

    “They welcome it,” Ringhausen said.

    An ice-free Arctic would make construction, operation and even weaponization of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline much easier for Russia too, he added.

    “The pipeline in the Baltic allows Russia to manipulate gas in Europe without effecting the European trade routes. They could punish Poland, Ukraine, and others without ever punishing places like Germany,” he said.

    https://www.courthousenews.com/house-tackles-nat-sec-implications-of-climate-manipulation/

  57. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    perhaps rice is the answer ?

    My financial advisor sees strong futures in submarine tractors and drought-resistant hydroponic potatoes.

    “They welcome it,” Ringhausen said.

    So does Mike Pompeo.

    America First.

  58. KiwiGriff. says:

    “It appears from the literature that monotonic warming would have to continue for 3 millenia to melt half the Greenland ice sheet.”

    The rate of monotonic warming for the globe is presently about 0.2C a year.
    For the polar region it is far higher.
    3,000 times 0.2C gives a temperature rise of 600C.
    With “monotonic warming” Earth’s temperatures will surpass those at the surface of Venus .
    I suppose we can look on the bright side. Sea level rise will not be an issue.
    There will be no oceans left let alone ice sheets.

  59. JCH says:

    Iowa will never become totally extinct. Worst case: Minnesota, land of 10,001 lakes.

  60. Lancton says:

    KiwiGriff, the current rate of warming is approximately 0.2 degrees celsius per decade. And if we were going into some kind of Venusian runaway we would have likely done so during the Permian or PETM, although I’m assuming that may have just been a joke or such from your side.

    Thomaswfuller2, methane release from clathrates has not been dismissed. We KNOW that methane clathrates are releasing methane, the question remains how much and over what timespan, and how much is even reaching the atmosphere. Currently we know that a lot of methane that gets released is dissolved within the watercolumn.

    What Schmidt has spoken out against is the risk of catastrophic and widespread release. Most evidence is pointing towards a more chronic, long term release. Though we know certain areas (ESAS, primarily) has field researchers worried with the potential of an abrupt, large release it’s hard to see how this is truly quantified or even how likely it is.

  61. mrkenfabian says:

    KiwiGriff – that should be 0.02C per year. Not that +60C would be good for the planet or human civilisation. Hot enough for summer highs to exceed 100C on land? Not that the state of knowledge of Earth’s climate system and it’s processes – for those of us who accept that there is a good and soundly based understanding of how the climate system works – appears to allow ‘monotonic warming for 3 millennia’ to be possible.

    I suppose refusing to accept that body of knowledge as valid allows people to believe anything else they like, such as the ‘ever widening fan of uncertainty’ used so glibly by Jordon Peterson and others (Franks? Curry? I have no interest in tracking down who or when) to suggest we know too little about actual climate processes and their physical limitations to even predict that there will be any warming at all.

    I look at agriculture in Australia and see too many ways that even a ‘mere’ one more degree C can make it unviable across large regions – being only barely viable now. Take it to 4 or 5 degrees and I think the ‘ever widening fan of uncertainty’ will struggle to encompass sustainable agriculture as we know it.

  62. You mean something like, stop obsessing over minor uncertainties and focus on conveying the known certainties? Which certainly tell us enough.

  63. So far as communicating with people, leaders, politicians that is.
    Not talking about the exacting science experts are doing. Keep on keeping on you guys and gals.

  64. KiwiGriff. says:

    Well spotted and I withdraw that comment .
    (note to self. Have your morning coffee before you comment it could save future embarrassment )

  65. Willard says:

    Our ClimateBall days are coming to an end:

  66. Steven Mosher says:

    Tom.

    let the boys cry wolf.

    They NEED to rack up some more policy fiascos as they run around in a panic.

    we both know there is a wolf.

    err maybe just a beagle.

  67. izen says:

    @-SM
    Even Beagles bite. (and can get rabies)

  68. Steven Mosher says:

    Cry beagle for me

  69. David B. Benson says:

    The ignorati are to be ignored.

    A play on recent slang together with Italian.

  70. BBD says:

    Wolf? The IPCC forecasts temperature rises, even under business as usual (no efforts to control emissions) up until 2100, after which they [sic] anticipate a decline, in line with falling world population and improved decarbonisation. But temperatures would have to rise until the year 3000 to melt the ice in Greenland, because most of the ice sits in a basin like ice cream in a bowl. So, yes, if the ice in Greenland melts, sea levels will rise six meters. But nobody, including the people who wrote the story, believes that’s going to happen. They are writing things they know to be false with the express purpose of scaring you.

    We could cite numerous other examples, and we’re sure many will. But when believers wonder why support is declining for global warming policies, this is one of the reasons. Your leaders have cried wolf once too often.

    Climategate: The Crutape Letters (p.184) – Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller (2010)

  71. Joshua says:

    They are writing things they know to be false with the express purpose of scaring you.

    I loves me some irony.

  72. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    They are writing things they know to be false with the express purpose of scaring you.

    Which is, of course, completely different from writing things that are known to be false with the express purpose of making money.

    “It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies,”Climategate: The Crutape Letters” has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ in large, friendly letters on the cover.”

    Steven and Tom will always be hoopy froods, sporting peril-sensitive sunglasses, who really know where their towels are.

  73. But temperatures would have to rise until the year 3000 to melt the ice in Greenland, because most of the ice sits in a basin like ice cream in a bowl.

    False.

  74. “Another way to estimate the durability of Greenland’s ice is to look to the distant past. Ice cores and marine sediments show that dozens of cyclic natural warmings have punctuated the last 2 to 3 million years without totally deglaciating the poles. The one before the last ice age, the Eemian Interglacial, kept Arctic summers several degrees warmer than now between 130,000 and 117,000 years ago, but at least half of Greenland remained glaciated even after 13,000 years of Eemian heating.” https://www.fastcompany.com/1678611/how-long-can-greenlands-ice-cap-survive

    Curt Stager IS AN ECOLOGIST, PALEOCLIMATOLOGIST, AND SCIENCE JOURNALIST WITH A PH.D. IN BIOLOGY AND GEOLOGY FROM DUKE UNIVERSITY (1985)

    Sorry about the all caps. Came with the territory.

  75. Some mighty big cracks in that bowl.

  76. I’m curious, I can understand how the GOP* clowns glibly dismiss every concern and caution – (An aside, consider the evolution of this public PR game – It’s gone from “No Global Warming” to “No Catastrophe” and now we’re talking “NO Human Extinction” – WTF Or as Spock would say fascinating. Or as I would say, the Human Mindscape is an incredible thing to behold.)

    What I don’t understand is how highly informed people can dismiss such concerns so off handedly. We have without a doubt radically altered our globe’s geophysical conditions. A look through ancient history reveals that such huge alterations have huge consequences. The fossil records shows us such radical regime changes always produced radical destruction and alteration of what ever thrived within the old geophysical regime.

    Okay no extinction in the next hundred years, where’s that leaves us as the world continues warming and the atmosphere and oceans continuing getting more hostile, at the shorelines and within it – Impacting everything down to the most fundamental microscopic foundations of the web of life – or ‘food web’ to the Human Mindscape.

    There isn’t one facet of our planet’s microbiota and everything up from there that isn’t being impacted. Why do so few seem to appreciate that our wonderful cities and technology are an ever so tiny golden tip on top of a hung pyramid – Without that pyramid, there’s nothing

    I mean it took four billion years before the foundation of complex life was assembled. From there it took half a billion years before the foundation for humanity got assembled. Consider the cornucopia of resources that we’re gobbling up as fast as possible. Now this manmade global warming with all it’s cascading consequences, much falling under the category of unknown unknowns”** is here, it’s long term and people have to spend their irreplaceable time arguing over an article by a guy that reflects not the slightest appreciation for life’s complexities and dependences, all he knows is the public dialogue. But, that’s just hot air Hulme.

    This isn’t a movie, this is the physical Earth we’ve grown to know and love that is just starting to be torn apart, but with increasing tempo. The cascading consequences we’ve initiated and pushed will continue for millennia – and people are still thinking in terms of all we knew in our recent past.

    * yes it’s all political – but that’s got nothing to do with down to Earth Physical Reality.
    ** such as, it turns out tundra thaw can cause upheavals that expose large areas of deeply buried permanent frost that were always thought to be save for centuries.

    Given my biased observations, seems the vast majority pass uncertainties (and surprises) seem to wind up falling into the bad news variety. Am I mistaken?

  77. Joshua says:

    Rev –

    Which is, of course, completely different from writing things that are known to be false with the express purpose of making money.

    I actually think they were maybe more interested in “scaring people,” in a sense, than making money. They are still writing comments in blogs to warn people about the dangers of activists in the climate science community – with obviously no expectation of monetary remuneration.

    I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re acting out of concern – a benefit of the doubt they’d hopefully be willing to extend to those that disagree with their view on the evidence of anthropogenic climate change.

    I’ll even give the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t making any arguments they know to be false – a benefit of the doubt they obviously are not willing to extend to some of those who disagree with them about the evidenceof anthropogenic climate change (apparently they have mastered the art of mind-reading).

  78. Steven Mosher says:

    Rev
    can you please panic for me?
    thanks

  79. Joshua says:

    CC –

    I’m curious, I can understand how the GOP* clowns glibly dismiss every concern and caution…

    […]

    What I don’t understand is how highly informed people can dismiss such concerns so off handedly.

    I’m not sure how you’re drawing a line of distinction between GOP clowns and highly informed people. IOW, There are some highly informed Republicans who dismiss those concerns.

    But more than that, I think there’s quite a bit of evidence that a large % of people don’t reach conclusions on topics like this starting from a dispassionate evaluation of the evidence. It seems that most people form an ideological or emotional connection to one position of the other, and then filter their evaluation of the evidence so as to reinforce their initial orientation.

    I’d suggest that incredulity is not a particularly effective approach for evaluating the problem at hand.

  80. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    How do you define panic?

  81. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Willard:

    Our ClimateBall days are coming to an end:..

    With all due respect, sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.

  82. Tom,
    Did you miss the end of the article

    Despite the relatively slow pace of polar deglaciation, the choice we face today remains clear. If we switch to non-fossil fuels within the next several decades, a fair bit of Arctic ice will likely survive, perhaps along with polar bears and other ice-dependent species. But if we blaze through our remaining fossil fuel reserves, we’ll de-ice the polar regions, submerge huge stretches of coast, and cover low-lying islands for thousands of years to come.

  83. russellseitz says:

    “if we blaze through our remaining fossil fuel reserves, we’ll de-ice the polar regions, submerge huge stretches of coast, and cover low-lying islands for thousands of years to come.”

    In Jorge Luis Borges lost tale , King Canute Plays Climateball, the monarch orders his throne moved from Winchester to East Anglia, and commands Dogger Bank to surface and pay 5,000 years of danegeld in arrears.

  84. izen says:

    @-tf2
    “the Eemian Interglacial, kept Arctic summers several degrees warmer than now between 130,000 and 117,000 years ago, but at least half of Greenland remained glaciated even after 13,000 years of Eemian heating.”

    This assertion seems to be made without any reference to supporting evidence.
    There is a very pretty reconstruction of the Greenland ice cap derived from radar scans from aircraft made by NASA which shows that around half of the ice cap has accumulated during the Holocene. under that is the ice cap that had developed during the last ice age had shrunk from whatever extent it then had to about half the present mass of the current ice cap during the rapid warming/melt that started with the 1A pulse around 14,000 years ago.

    The residual Eemian ice that survived the last warm interstadial period is the red portion in the video linked below. This may indicate just how little ice will remain when further melting occurs.
    It appears to be confined to a restricted region in the north of the basin and is obviously NUCH less than half the mass of the current ice cap.

    https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-data-peers-into-greenlands-ice-sheet

  85. BBD says:

    Tom, you need to look at the Eemian sea level budget again: ~2m from GrIS, at least 4m from WAIS. Pointing to the GrIS as evidence for low potential for relatively rapid SLR over coming centuries is incorrect and might be considered misleading.

  86. Snape says:

    SLR is just a side issue. Most people, Sheldon as an example. can’t see why 3 or 4 degrees hotter would be such a big deal. Scientists and the media therefore highlight SLR, which presents a powerful visual, “OMG, New York will get swamped”. So yeah, it’s something of a scare tactic.

    The much bigger issues, pointed out by JeffH and others, are harder to understand and get overlooked. Plants and animals don’t have air conditioning. They have not adapted to the kinds of extremes resulting from 4C warming.

    Australia’s record heat in January (+2.91C) would represent a significant cool down from the new normal. A heat wave on top of a +4C starting point? Catastrophic.

    Also overlooked, 4C global warming would equate to 6C over land, where people actually live.

    The sparsely populated northern latitudes, Russia, Canada, etc., might do OK. The rest of the world will likely consider SLR the least of their worries.

  87. BBD says:

    @Snape

    Yes, I’d agree, with the additional emphasis on the growing threat to food security over the next few decades as being one of the most worrying near-term climate impacts. I just wanted to point out that Steven hasn’t changed his tune in nearly a decade – despite his desire to appear more ‘on-side’ these days – and Tom is misrepresenting the drivers of Eemian SLR and ignoring the likely much faster onset of future SLR driven by ice sheet dynamics in the WAIS and EAIS rather than the GrIS.

  88. Willard says:

    > With all due respect, sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.

    I will not go down without a fight:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/estragon-and-the-expert

  89. Snape says:

    For those that missed it:

    “Caldeira, like others proposing this piffle, need to stay in their lane. If the temperature rises this rapidly in this blink of a geological eye, then we, along with 80% or more of the planet’s species are finished. When the great dying occurred at the Permian-Triassic interface, vanquishing between 75% and 90% of biodiversity across the biosphere, the temperature rose an estimated 8 degrees C over around 100 centuries. A 4 degree C rise over 2 centuries is a rate of warming 20-30 times faster than that. At that rate of warming regions would experience months some 10-15 degrees above normal. Ecosystems would implode and be obliterated. The services they provide that sustain us would be vanquished. Virtually every vertebrate species on Earth would disappear, along with most plants and many invertebrates. I cannot say in strong enough language what the planet will look like. It will be hell for sure. What is clear to me from reading a good proportion of the comments on this thread is that people are oblivious to our dependence on the complex adaptive systems that permit us to exist and to persist.”

    -Jeffh

  90. russellseitz says:

    Izen, the evolutionary news of the week is a apleontology paper suggesting the arctic crocodiles of the Eocene were hot blooded exotherms.

  91. BBD says:

    Izen, the evolutionary news of the week is a apleontology paper suggesting the arctic crocodiles of the Eocene were hot blooded exotherms.

    Which is to miss the point raised by JeffH (+ Snape) about the inability of ecosystems to cope with exceptionally rapid environmental change. It is not the absolute magnitude of warming, but rather the rapidity of warming (and ocean pH shift) which outpaces species’ ability to adapt or migrate and so disrupts food webs and triggers spiraling rates of extinction.

  92. ” But if we blaze through our remaining fossil fuel reserves”

    There’s a number floating around pushed by a watchdog org called Global Witness that ~$5 trillion will be invested in fossil fuel exploration in the coming years.

    https://phys.org/news/2019-04-tn-fuel-exploration-incompatible-climate.html

    Considering that 1.36 trillion barrels of oil have been consumed so far, it will be interesting to see exactly how all this money can be spent on exploration.

    At one time oil was a wealth-producing commodity, but now that it is being significantly depleted, it has become a wealth-consuming commodity.

  93. izen says:

    @-tf2
    “paleontology paper suggesting the arctic crocodiles of the Eocene were hot blooded ectotherms.”

    I can’t find any very recent paper on this, do you have a link?

    But the presence of fauna and flora within the arctic circle that indicates a warm climate is well established for more than one period in the Earth’s history.

    http://sites.coloradocollege.edu/hfricke/wp-content/blogs.dir/81/files/2012/10/Seasonal-variability-in-Arctic-temperatures.pdf

    This relates to the post PETM period ~52m yrs ago.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13430732_Evidence_for_Extreme_Climatic_Warmth_from_Late_Cretaceous_Arctic_Vertebrates

    This ~ 90m yrs ago.

    While the position of land was different with implications for ocean circulation, this evidence for a year round warm arctic, even when dark for 3 months of the year, suggests there is a climate ‘tipping point’ where polar ice becomes nonviable and the ocean temperatures reach a level where in the Northern polar region at least, a significant shift in the climate regime occurs.
    AFAIK this has not been modelled successfully, and the mechanism by which this can happen is not yet understood.

  94. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “It is not the absolute magnitude of warming, but rather the rapidity of warming (and ocean pH shift) which outpaces species’ ability to adapt or migrate and so disrupts food webs and triggers spiraling rates of extinction.”

    I am somewhat more sanguine about the prospect of an extinction event than may be justified.
    All past major extinction events are followed by a significant increase in biodiversity. Timescale obviously matter in this situation, but evolutionary adaption can be rapid, at least on geological timescales.
    I accept that a dramatic simplification of the ecology would severely disrupt our current agricultural infrastructure, and undoubtedly lead to widespread famine.
    But AFAIK there is limited evidence that extinction events are accompanied by an equally massive drop in biological productivity. The ecology may simplify for several millennia with a much reduced biodiversity, but except in the case of widespread ocean anoxia the photosynthetic/biological output indicated by various isotope ratios shows only small shifts.

    True that a much reduced population may be reduced to eating jellyfish and algae, but as a mode of human extinction it may be less threatening than suggested. It would certainly destroy the current social and economic systems.
    But our increasing ability to help a new ecology develop with genetic engineering would at least put us on the next steps towards a mature control of the biosphere in which we live instead of being puppets of the partially domesticated, but largely wild one that dominates our options at present.

  95. ATTP, no, I did not miss the end of the article. As I advocate replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, I wonder why you ask?

  96. Tom,
    Well, I’m trying to work out why you highlighted the bit you did. Sea level rise doesn’t require the loss of the entire Greenland ice sheet. Losing even part of it could cause significant sea level rise.

  97. Chubbs says:

    Not sure what Tom is advocating, Its going to take a Greta-like emergency effort to land in the Eemian.

  98. BBD says:

    Indeed, and as any fule kno, Eemian sea levels were >6m higher than they are now…

    But Izen may be right. We need to learn lessons from the digital economy and disrupt ecology, show it who’s boss and Make Humanity Great Again. And Take Back Control.

  99. Dave_Geologist says:

    Do you have a link to those hot-blooded Arctic crocodiles russell? It seems very improbable to me. Indirect inference from histology is still hotly debated for dinosaurs, after decades of research and thousands of samples. I’ve certainly never heard of it, and if someone did publish, it would go into the faster-than-light-neutrinos category. Apart from anything else, there’s no evolutionary driver for a large, largely aquatic animal to evolve endothermy. The water is its thermal regulator. Crocodiles haven’t changed their body plan and presumably habits since the Jurassic. Crocodiles at the Pole would be proof of liquid water, which in places currently tens of degrees below zero is all you need to know it was a helluva lot hotter. Dinosaurs are a different matter. They have to cope with land temperature fluctuations. Assuming food resources are rare in winter, ectothermy and the ability to last months on one meal would be a selective advantage.

  100. Dave_Geologist says:

    izen, the basics are understood of how you get from an ice-free to an ice Arctic. You have hysteresis or a bifurcation whereby once you’ve lost the ice, you need to go well below pre-industrial to re-initiate Arctic freezing. matching the details is no doubt hard, because you need to incorporate slow Earth Systems feedbacks, and it need so be a very long run, which are competing priorities as they both dramatically increase CPU cycles. See here, for example: Bifurcations leading to summer Arctic sea ice loss. The difficulty is that to make the model tractable, you have to make is simple and so failure to initiate a bifurcation may be due to missing or inadequately represented feedbacks, for example clouds in that treatment.

  101. Jeffh says:

    Izen, you are correct. But you seem to miss one important point. Our survival as a species depends on an array of conditions emerging from natural systems. These conditions – services – emege over variable scales of space and time as a result of a stupendous array of interactions among individuals, species and communities. As we continue to simplify the planet biologically, we push ourselves closer to extinction. Indeed, nothing whatsoever guarantees our long-term survival. No species depends on or utilizes more of nature than we do. It takes remarkable hubris to suggest that we alone are impervious to the threat of extinction. Au contraire.

  102. Jeffh says:

    …and as an addendum it is folly to suggest for an instant that we possess the knowledge and technology to genetically engineer entire ecosystems. For heaven’s sake, we barely understand how ecosystems evolve, assemble and function, and you are talking about creating a ‘new ecology’ through genetic engineering that will help us to control the biosphere? I am sorry but this is utter nonsense. You won’t find a single qualified ecoligist who would make such a flippant claim, and I am one of them. The primary objective should be to conserve what we have, and not blindly believe that we can play God with complex adaptive systems.

  103. Jeffh says:

    Oops ecologist…. typing too fast here…

  104. Let me bring this back to Mike Hulme. I spent yesterday doing a dissection of his May 27th article. He seems to me a perfect example of someone who hasn’t learned of any distinction between his mindscape and the physical reality we inhabit.
    This morning walking my dog I read his Jan 25, 2018 “We Get the Weather We Deserve” – that thing ratcheted up my MF needle a few clicks and left my head spinning and happy I’ll be doing outside chores today so I can get away from him and touch a little reality again.
    I mean fundamentally Hulme writes as though he sees no difference between science and religion. It’s crazy.

    My question how does a guy that and the sort of utter crazy-making mishmash of sentences become a big deal that has others talking?

    Oh yeah: Mike Hulme gets lost in his Mindscape. An examination.
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2019/06/mike-hulme-lost-in-mindscape.html

  105. Jeffh, that’s about the best most succinct summary I’ve read. I’ll unashamedly appropriate some of it. Thank you.

  106. Dave_Geologist says:

    Interestingly izen, you can actually (at least in models) induce a snowball bifurcation on the present-day Earth, but you have to switch off the Sun for 15 years. Before out host splutters over his keyboard, they propose doing it by blocking out the sun during a Large Igneous Province eruption or following a giant asteroid impact.

    I doubt if the LIP is geodynamically possible. It didn’t happen at the End Permian Great Dying, although there have been recent suggestions of a brief glacial event before the warming, and didn’t happen at end-Ordovician, which has a well documented glacial-hothouse pair interpreted as dust and aerosols raining out then CO2 taking over. It was only a polar glaciation though, and as it was not long after the earlier snowballs, the transition between a snowball-possible solar irradiance and a snowball-impossible one probably lay between those dates, at least for normal LIPs. It would have to be the mother of all LIPs, and I’m not sure you could move enough heat around fast enough when it’s driven primarily by convection in very viscous materials. Of course all our crops would die due to the acid rain and darkness, and we wouldn’t live to see the snowball. There would be so much CO2 you’d probably have a fairly fast recovery to a hothouse once the lights came on.

    Chixculub didn’t do it despite hitting an aerosol-rich target, so we’d presumably be looking at something orders of magnitude larger. Perhaps enough to punch through the lithosphere and make its own LIP. We’d be dead even sooner either way. The sky would be radiating like an arc furnace and everything would burn. It might even get hot enough to burn the charcoal, which again would generate lots of CO2 and probably a very brief snowball.

    Present-day and ice-covered equilibrium states in a comprehensive climate model.

  107. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli is rather fond of his description of Hulme’s piece: An old man’s moral corruption

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2019/06/mike-hulme-goes-hippie-punching.html

  108. Willard says:

    What MikeH would need is a Champion, as he professes in the emails.

    A Hulmean Champion, just what contrarians got.

  109. @Joshua, June 6, 2019 at 5:28 pm – “I’d suggest that incredulity is not a particularly effective approach for evaluating the problem at hand.”

    How about exasperation, … and perhaps a little tempered rage? (that’s if the problem is beating the rhetorical crazy-making of the contrarian crowd)

    @ Willard, I think it’s the notion of Truth and Honesty that needs a real Champion these days. 😉

    As for me, reading Mike Hulme stuff, really pissed me off, steaming even, and my goal is to harness that sort of emotion into a rational constructive response. Thus, those ridiculous essays served as vehicles for two pretty decent, if unorthodox, reviews for my collection.

    Mike Hulme’s Tenacious Grip on Physical Reality. An examination.
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2019/06/mikehulme-tenacious-grip-on-reality.html

    Mike Hulme gets lost in his Mindscape. An examination.
    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2019/06/mike-hulme-lost-in-mindscape.html

    Now I got it out of my system and perhaps I can get around to finishing about a half dozen half finished chores around here. Cheers.

  110. mrkenfabian says:

    It does sound like an attempt by Hulme to force a science based understanding of climate change into the much less alarming category of a religious belief, where it has no qualitative difference from any other such belief and is thus detached from any real world physical ’cause and effect’ – detaching it from science – making those who take it seriously merely unthinking followers of a cult religion? Australians got that line from the now disgraced Arch-Bishop George Pell, telling Australian Catholics that emissions reductions is the modern equivalent of making sacrifices to appease heathen Gods.

    I suspect that, like Pell and others, the bottom line remains a refusal to accept that there is any human responsibility, which requires they not accept the science as valid; and if the problem is presumed to not be real then it takes something much bigger and much more sinister than mere scientific incompetence to sustain the level of ‘hysteria’ that real science getting it right is generating. Extremist left ideology out to wreck free enterprise or a hippie ‘nature’ cult infecting and upsetting ordinary people? Anything but a real problem around basic responsibility and accountability for our actions – with solutions that are entirely compatible with free enterprise, democracy and the rule of law. And with solutions that are far less economically damaging than the consequences of continuing failure to address the problem.

  111. Guess, my question would by,
    and why do we accept such a status quo – why can’t such utterances be vigorously attacked from many fronts,
    for the intellectual fraud and crime against humanity that it is ? ? ?

  112. CC’s manifesto 😉

    We The People of the United States have a moral, ethical right – along with a pragmatic need – to learn what scientists have learned about this planet’s biosphere and climate engine without constant dishonest crossfire.

    We should not tolerate serious scientists always being drown out by amoral, ruthless and frankly ignorant arguments – that an astoundingly ruthless GOP PR factory repeats over and over again, without ever learning a damned thing from the evidence in front of all of us.

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