People who believed in anthropogenic global warming still believe in anthropogenic global warming. Witness Mark Hertsgaard’s emotion-laden, semi-apocalyptic vision of his daughter’s overheated future. One wonders why, in the midst of what is supposed to be a scientific assessment, the author feels compelled to wear his heart on his sleeve. What place does moral exhibitionism have in a report about science?
In his words:
And as a father, I felt grief, fear, rage, frustration and, finally, a determination to resist. One emotion I never permit myself, however, is despair. For despair only paralyzes at a time when action is urgently needed.
Hertsgaard takes the recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as gospel truth.
The grief and fear the IPCC report triggered in me stems from a central fact of our climate future: Everyone on earth below the age of 25 is already fated to spend much of their lifetime coping with the hottest temperatures our civilization has ever encountered. The laws of physics and chemistry—above all, the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many decades after being emitted—mean that even if humans stopped all carbon emissions overnight, global temperatures would nevertheless keep rising for at least 30 more years.
Now apply that calculation to the first great human disaster with a scientifically attributable climate fingerprint: the record heat wave that scorched Europe in 2003. It caused 71,499 excess deaths, considerably more than the number of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war. But thanks to the physical momentum of climate change, the record heat of 2003 will be routine before Chiara is my age. By 2050, Europeans will experience summers as hot as 2003 one year out of every two.
Of course, Hertsgaard does not mention that the recently departed winter was, in America the coldest on record. It’s usually not a good idea to read the future into one long, hot summer.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph Christopher Booker begs to differ. Since opposition points of view deserve a full hearing, I offer Booker’s rejoinder to the recent IPCC report on global warming:
When future generations come to look back on the alarm over global warming that seized the world towards the end of the 20th century, much will puzzle them as to how such a scare could have arisen. They will wonder why there was such a panic over a 0.4 per cent rise in global temperatures between 1975 and 1998, when similar rises between 1860 and 1880 and 1910 and 1940 had given no cause for concern. They will see these modest rises as just part of a general warming that began at the start of the 19th century, as the world emerged from the Little Ice Age, when the Earth had grown cooler for 400 years.
They will be struck by the extent to which this scare relied on the projections of computer models, which then proved to be hopelessly wrong when, in the years after 1998, their predicted rise in temperature came virtually to a halt. But in particular they will be amazed by the almost religious reverence accorded to that strange body, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which by then will be recognised as having never really been a scientific body at all, but a political pressure group. It had been set up in the 1980s by a small band of politically persuasive scientists who had become fanatically committed to the belief that, because carbon dioxide levels were rising, global temperatures must inevitably follow; an assumption that the evidence would increasingly show was mistaken.
Five times between 1990 and 2014 the IPCC published three massive volumes of technical reports – another emerged last week – and each time we saw the same pattern. Each was supposedly based on thousands of scientific studies, many funded to find evidence to support the received view that man-made climate change was threatening the world with disaster – hurricanes, floods, droughts, melting ice, rising sea levels and the rest. But each time what caught the headlines was a brief “Summary for Policymakers”, carefully crafted by governments and a few committed scientists to hype up the scare by going much further than was justified by the thousands of pages in the technical reports themselves.
Each time it would emerge just how shamelessly these Summaries had distorted the actual evidence, picking out the scary bits, which themselves often turned out not to have been based on proper science at all. The most glaring example was the IPCC’s 2007 report, which hit the headlines with those wildly alarmist predictions that the Himalayan glaciers might all be gone by 2035; that global warming could halve African crop yields by 2050; that droughts would destroy 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest. Not until 2010 did some of us manage to show that each of these predictions, and many more, came not from genuine scientific studies but from scaremongering propaganda produced by green activists and lobby groups (shown by one exhaustive analysis to make up nearly a third of all the IPCC’s sources).