Climate Despair

I normally search Google News for stories about climate change. Today I wish I hadn’t.

Knowledge@Wharton, a website sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, has a story today titled ‘The Climate Change Tipping Point: How Should Businesses React?‘ It is based on James Hansen’s recent foray into igniting food fights with his paper published in the Discussion section of the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion Journal.

The story has no advice for businesses at all. It just discusses the wilder claims in the Hansen paper. It has quotes shouting out “If you look at what [the IPCC] predicted [in 2000] for 2020 in terms of greenhouse gas emission, in terms of impact on the planet — the worst-case scenario is already happening….”

and “We may wake up … in 2025, 2030 and see rapid sea level rise — that’s what people have been fearing for years, because they don’t have the time to adapt.”

and “We’re not talking about an increase of sea level by a few feet; we’re talking about a large number — five, 10, 20 meters — basically two, three, four, five floors.”

None of which are predicted by mainstream science, which used to include James Hansen.

It’s dispiriting to see science ignored. It’s worse when you realize that it isn’t just Wharton–Rolling Stone has  a piece titled “The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here“. SBS has a story titled “Is anywhere on Earth safe from climate change?

In all, the search for “Climate Change Hansen” on Google News returns 42,300 results.

Hansen’s claims are not based on mainstream science. Rather, they come from his nightmares. Hansen as much as admits this in a piece he wrote for Huffington Post titled “Disastrous Sea Level Rise Is An Issue For Today’s Public–Not Next Millenium’s.” Hansen writes, “Did you read any of the recent papers that concluded ice sheets may be disintegrating and might cause large sea level rise in 200-900 years? The time needed for ice sheets to respond to climate change is uncertain, and there are proponents for time scales covering a huge range. However, 200-900 years should cause a scientist to scratch his head. If it is uncertain by an order of magnitude or more, why not 100-1000? Where does the 200-900 precision come from?

Why the peculiar 900 years instead of the logical 1000? Probably because nobody cares about matters 1000 years in the future (they may not care about 900, but 200-900 does not seem like infinity). A scientist knowing that sea level is a problem does not want the reader to dismiss it.”

The ice Hansen is worried about is mostly the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, particularly the Pine Island Glacier. It has been predicted to fail since the 1930s due to mechanical stresses, not global warming and scientists think that it will take about 200 years to have an impact on sea level. The ice cap in Greenland would take a minimum of 3,000 years to lose half its volume. The Eastern Ice Sheet in Antarctica would take even longer than that to impact sea levels.

But the sheer volume of the hysteria caused by Hansen’s ill-advised paper, meant no doubt to provide fodder for the climate concerned in Paris, is dispiriting. How can misinformation be countered on that scale?

It’s like we’re watching a cheesy disaster movie from the 70s.


Maybe sane people could counter with an appropriate satire?


Look. Disasters are serious. I am currently living in Taipei. Some time in the next 12 hours Typhoon Soudelor is expected to pass over my house. It is thought that it might strengthen as it approaches. 3 people in Taiwan have already been swept out to sea by the storm.

But the people here, unlike the hysterics agitating about 5 meters of sea level rise by 2020, are doing what we need to do. Sandbagging, laying in water and batteries for flashlights, tying things down. We are not accusing someone of creating this storm. We are not advocating that windows be permanently removed from buildings, nor that we start living in caves.

Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t have enough problems. Forcing his nightmares on us might be therapy for him. It’s leading to a real disaster for us–if we choose to believe him.

18 responses to “Climate Despair

  1. Tom, Good luck and stay safe. Serious tropical cyclones are no fun. You will probably be without power and internet and cell phone, so best wishes and oddly enough, enjoy the adventure.

  2. Tom, also wishing safety for you and all your neighbors.

    You wrote, “The ice cap in Greenland would take a minimum of 3,000 years to lose half its volume.” That seems eminently sensible — do you have a source, by the way? — but take a look, if you dare, at the responses to question MGIS in Kriegler et al. (2009). According to their “expert elicitation” methodology, there is a probability of >20% that there will be “a largely ice-free” Greenland by 2200 even under a low-warming scenario (<2 K increase in global average surface temperature from 2000 to 2200). And very likely (~80%) by 2200 for a high-warming scenario (4-8 K increase; think RCP8.5).

    • Harold,
      Greenland has survived with lots of ice under warmer climatic excursions.
      One way that is useful when considering the doom scenarios being so profitably churned out by the climate hype industry is to consider how fundie preachers and writers compete with scenarios “proving” their interpretation of the Revelation of St. John. They compete with making scarier scenarios that are nearly always conjectures based on popular current events anxieties.
      The AGW social madness (rebranded as “climate change”) creates its own science sounding scary scenarios that the hypesters can further embellish.
      Think of Hansen and his anti-science rants, or Mr. Obama and his illiterate drivel about Hawaii as examples.

    • Thanks Harold. I do have that sourced, but I’ll have to look it up. I will check out Kriegler and responses shortly.

  3. Hey, I decided to write about the same topic in my blog.

    Regarding the ice free Greenland I need to check snowfall over the next 50 years to make my own non expert elicitation.

    Hurricane tip: if it’s not too late try to trim tree branches to reduce their drag. When I was a kid in Cuba we trimmed everything, cut the banana trees at ground level (a banana tree isn’t a real tree, it’s modified leaves and grows right back).

    • Hmm. Guess I shouldn’t have wasted time trimming what’s left of my hair. We don’t have banana trees in the yard. But our patio furniture may go all Mary Poppins if I tied the knots wrong.

  4. I glanced at Kriegler et al. I used to do surveys like these at work to populate decision analysis trees. The experts I consulted didn’t share the same education or background, so I graphed the statistics every which way to see if a particular group was skewing the answers.

    I found that seniority tended to have an influence. Amazingly, the most senior experts were optimists. I also segregated them according to the advantage I thought they would get in their career if we went in a given direction, and found they were indeed smart enough to give answers which would eventually lead to positive outcomes for them (even if the organization as a whole went belly up). I wrestled with this topic for a while, and eventually presented the report with a figure discussing the problem in words, in a general fashion.

    The study concluded we were headed in the wrong direction, and we had boxed ourselves in so much we had to pull back, make severe budget changes, and try to run in a different direction, which eventually led us to nodes where decisions had positive risk weighted answers.

    I’m not about to review that paper unless I get paid. And I would need to quiz the authors for about a month before I could come close to believing anything. But the method itself is fine as long as the experts are properly selected, and they aren’t allowed to cook their answers.

    • Regarding “cooking their answers”… James Annan made this comment regarding a participant in another survey: “Interestingly, one of them stated quite openly in a meeting I attended a few years ago that he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises (i.e. exaggerating the probability of high sensitivity) in order to help motivate political action.”
      That said, there’s no evidence that any of the 13 respondents to that question in Kriegler et al. were answering other than forthrightly. However, two other respondents indicated that 200 years was too short a time period, and as far as I can tell, their answers were simply dropped from the authors’ calculation of probability.

      A quick calculation indicates that to melt all of the GIS would require about 50 years of a 1 Wm-2 energy imbalance, with the entire global imbalance somehow concentrated into the ice sheet (as opposed to heating up the ocean). Dahl-Jensen et al. (2013) indicates an incomplete melting after 6000 years of the Eemian with a local temperature about 8 K higher than current. All of which convinces me that the conclusions of Kriegler et al. regarding Greenland are implausible.

      • HaroldW,
        I arrived at the “implausible” conclusion (waaay too diplomatic an adjective) for any study claiming the GIS is going anywhere in the next several thousands of years by a fairly straight forward analysis:
        The GIS is apparently millions of years old.
        It has been hotter during that period than now.
        The Arctic has been more ice free during that time than now.
        The GIS has endured it all.
        Therefore Kriegler and the other papers claiming something apocalyptic is going to happen are not credible at all. (calling them full of schitt is more like accurate)

      • My approach was simply to discuss the potential flaw with management. A subset of our work was to identify the data needed to reduce risk.

        In this case I would budget for a ten year effort to acquire 20 full cores penetrating through the full ice section, and 50 meters into the ground below. The data can be used to understand if the ice melted or not, will be quite conclusive if tied to seismic and radar data acquisition.

        The locations should be mixed, some in areas where the ice flows, some in areas where it’s locked because the exit point is narrow. I believe the program will cost about $200 million, which is worth it, as it should deliver a pretty conclusive data set.

  5. Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t have enough problems.

    Actually, Hansen’s problem is that like all Left-wingers, he doesn’t believe in human nature.

    The more alarmist drivel he emits about silly amounts of sea level rise, the more sceptics he produces, because most of the population at large is utterly unconvinced – and getting more so – by all the alarmist claptrap. You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to have noticed that in around three decades, not a single one of the catastrophists’ alarmist predictions has come to pass, no noticeable sea level rise, no increase in hurricanes – very much the opposite, in fact – Great Britain hasn’t changed into Spain – the list is endless.

    So exponentially increasing levels of hysteria are met with considerable scepticism.

    That’s human nature you see, a property that the Left obstinately refuse to acknowledge, despite massive and increasing evidence that they are entirely deluded.

  6. Brief update for those concerned. My wife and I are okay so far. The eye of Typhoon Soudelor passed overhead about an hour ago. Still very heavy rain and strong winds. No real damage to report from our rented apartment, but we have the bucket brigade going to deal with minor leaks. We’re wringing towels instead of our hands.

    It’s an impressive phenomenon and we’re quite lucky. The mountains in Taiwan got an incredible 4 feet of rain overnight. I think at one point we got five inches in about an hour–I saw that reported, but am wondering if it’s accurate.

    • Tom,
      Thanks for the update. That is great news about your personal situation.
      Wringing towels instead of one’s hands is a positive indicator.
      My bet is there was 5 cms. of rain in an hour. Two inches an hour is a tremendous, flood causing dangerous rain.
      A rule of thumb my family on the Gulf Coast spoke about is that wet storms are often not as powerful as drier storms.

    • Thanks for the update Thomas, take care!

  7. Sadly the alarmist drumbeat is only likely to increase as the Paris Climate Summit approaches.

    I keep hoping that someone in the main stream media will have the temerity to point out that the emperor is quite naked. Hansen has just swathed him in another illusory gossamer robe.

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