Once again, the office of Denier-in-Chief (DIC) Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oil) has put out a press release riddled with misstatements. This one has a twist, though: a Valentine’s love letter to denier-eq. Roger Pielke, Jr.
The DIC’s last two releases were notable for their outright lies and distortions [see here and here.]
So it’s no surprise that the DIC’s pre-Valentine’s Day missive is one big disinformation-fest, starting with the headline:
Climate of Change: UK Met Office Issues ‘Blistering Attack on Scientific Colleagues’ For ‘Apocalyptic Climate Predictions’
You will not be surprised to learn that the U.K. Met Office issued no attack on scientific colleagues for “apocalyptic climate predictions.” Dr. Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office did write a column for the U.K.’s Guardian that begins:
News headlines vie for attention and it is easy for scientists to grab this attention by linking climate change to the latest extreme weather event or apocalyptic prediction. But in doing so, the public perception of climate change can be distorted. The reality is that extreme events arise when natural variations in the weather and climate combine with long-term climate change. This message is more difficult to get heard. Scientists and journalists need to find ways to help to make this clear without the wider audience switching off.
That is really all Pope has to say about “apocalyptic predictions.” She doesn’t actually criticize any predictions that I would consider to be apocalyptic.
Indeed, Pope herself is the principal source of the major recent apocalyptic prediction made by climate scientists — ironically in a December article in the Guardian, “Met Office warn of ‘catastrophic’ rise in temperature” (see here):
In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5Â°C by the end of the century.
You want an apocalyptic prediction? Try 5-7Â°C warming this century. So the implication of the DIC’s press release and headline — that Pope thinks the business as usual emissions trajectory the DIC wants to keep us on is not apocalyptic — is quite, quite wrong.
The only prediction she talks about that comes close to being apocalyptic is:
Recent headlines have proclaimed that Arctic summer sea ice has decreased so much in the past few years that it has reached a tipping point and will disappear very quickly. The truth is that there is little evidence to support this.
While Pope is a climate expert and entitled to make her expert opinion, here she is talking on the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which I think is rather more qualified on this subject (see here). In any case, Hadley thinks the Arctic will be ice free later this century on our current emissions path — so I guess it is a case of Apocalypse now versus Apocalypse later.
Pope’s article focuses on the treatment of extreme events by scientists and the media — and on how natural variability around the long-term warming trend complicates the issue. I don’t actually agree with her discussion, but I’ll deal with that in a later post.
The DIC hearts Pielke
The press release then launches into a Valentine for denier-eq. Roger Pielke, Jr:
‘Climate policy collapsing’
This latest warning about global warming alarmism follows the declaration that “the political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing" by University of Colorado Professor Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. on February 7, 2009.
Pielke, Jr., accepts the UN IPCC view of global warming, bluntly called the current carbon trading based policy proposals to address man-made global warming “fictional and fantasy.”
“The political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing. If you are not aware of this fact you will be very soon,” Pielke, Jr., who is in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at University of Colorado, wrote.
Pielke, “accepts the UN IPCC view of global warming,” but, as I’ve shown, he doesn’t actually want to do anything serious about it beyond a laughable [cryable?] “$5 charge on each ton of carbon dioxide produced in the use of fossil fuel energy.”
But Pielke did write a denier’s dream post, “The Collapse of Climate Policy and the Sustainability of Climate Science,” that DIC cites. It opens:
The political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing. If you are not aware of this fact you will be very soon. The collapse is not due to the cold winter in places you may live or see on the news. It is not due to years without an increase in global temperature. It is not due to the overturning of the scientific consensus on the role of human activity in the global climate system.
Huh? If you missed this collapse, you aren’t alone. Some of you may even be aware that both presidential candidates campaigned on climate action and that Obama in particular could not have been clearer — could not be clearer today (see here) — in his desire for strong climate action.
Notice how Pielke cleverly implies that we have had “years without an increase in global temperature” without actually saying that’s what he believes. He is the Denier-eq-In-Chief. Let’s call him the DIC-eq.
It is due to the fact that policy makers and their political advisors (some trained as scientists) can no longer avoid the reality that targets for stabilization such as 450 ppm (or even less realistic targets) are simply not achievable with the approach to climate change that has been at the focus of policy for over a decade. Policies that are obviously fictional and fantasy are frequently subject to a rapid collapse.
Yes, for Pielke, the policies that are our only hope of avoiding 5-7Â°C warming this century are “obviously fictional and fantasy.”
You might think that Pielke would actually identify those policies that obviously fictional and fantasy. But he does not. You already know that Pielke categorically refuses to identify the policies that he would employ to achieve the 450 ppm to 500 ppm target that he himself endorsed on this blog: “We define “acceptable levels” in our Nature paper as 500 ppm (the level focused on by IPCC WG III) and 450 ppm (the level focused on by the EU and implicitly in the FCCC).”
No wonder the DIC loves the DIC-eq. He can be cited as someone who claims to believe the science and the IPCC, but in fact is all but indistinguishable from the DIC himself in terms of policies and positions.
Pielke’s entire analysis is devoid of substance or any specifics, but fundamentally endorses the DIC view:
Has climate science changed since the publication of the IPCC AR4? Not
appreciably. Has the acceptance of the IPCC consensus changed among those who make decisions and advise them? Not at all. Does it matter for current commitments among policy makers whether or not, for example, Antarctica has been warming or cooling? Not at all. Or if, to pick another example, whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse might be 4, 5, or 10 meters in Washington, DC in hundreds of years? Not in the least. Battles over climate science are a side show, increasingly looking like a freak show, observed simply for the spectacle.
You can find a good, popular discussion of this in the new Yale360 article, “As Effects of Warming Grow, IPCC Report is Quickly Dated: Issued less than two years ago, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a voluminous and impressive document. Yet key portions of the report are already out of date, as evidence shows the impacts of warming intensifying from the Arctic to Antarctica.”
For Pielke, climate science is a “side show,” increasingly “a freak show.” For humanity — for the next 50 generations — climate science is our only life-line.
Climate politics is collapsing because of political realities, and not real or perceived changes in how people see the science. As I have often argued, in the ongoing battle between climate scientists and skeptics there will be disproportionate carnage, because the climate scientists have so much more to lose, and not just as individuals, but also for the broader field, which includes many people simply on the sidelines.
Pielke is questioning the integrity of the entire climate science community, accusing them of operating unscientifically, but rather out of some narrow self — and selfish — interest. This is exactly the attack favored by Inhofe (and formerly Michael Crichton).
Climate scientists “have so much more to lose”? This is beyond the pale, even for Pielke and he owes an apology to the community of climate scientists.
Roger: Shame on you. If you are going to smear climate scientists like this, have the decency to name names.
Climate scientists have nothing “to lose” since they aren’t lying, they aren’t spreading disinformation, they aren’t ruining their integrity — as the “skeptics” are. Quite the reverse. What the climate scientists are doing is quite noble, telling unpleasant truths that hold them up to unjustified public scorn from the likes of Pielke and Inhofe.
Every single climate scientist I know is a serious, dedicated scientist whose primary goal in life is to make the most accurate, reproducible observations possible, to develop theories that best fit the data, and to make projections that best fit the data and theory. If they didn’t do that, they couldn’t look themselves in the mirror let alone sustain their careers as scientists.
They have nothing “to lose” from the debate — except from the baseless smears from the likes of Pielke and Inhofe.
Now, as human beings, climate scientists, like the rest of us (along with the next 50 generations), do have much more to lose if people actually listen to non-scientist denier-eqs like Pielke, and the hardcore denier like Inhofe and Morano. We can lose a livable climate.
This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.