Climate Catastrophism: Scientists vs. Activists

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, I notice that there appears to be a difference between what scientists say about the impacts of climate change and what activists, bloggers and NGOs say.

Most of the cataclysmic Voice of Doom rants come from the self-proclaimed activists. As it’s eye-catching stuff to read about catastrophe, the media covers the activist proclamations eagerly, in the same way teenagers eat up horror movies.

Apart from scientists like Michael Mann and Michael Tobis, the scientific community is far more restrained. (Although once they’ve drunk the Kool-aide, those few scientists can be just as umm. unrestrained… as the activists. Tobis once wrote, “It is because the f***ing survival of the f***ing planet is at f***ing stake” in response to Steve Mosher trying to make peace with him. Michael Mann doesn’t swear as much but even so, “If we are going to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change impacts, we have to be ramping down our carbon emissions dramatically in the years ahead.”

More typically, scientists write in carefully couched language: “These impacts pose challenges to infrastructure, businesses, and communities, particularly in countries already struggling to meet the basic food, water, shelter, and security needs of their citizens.”

Now, this shouldn’t be very surprising. People become activists because they are very concerned about something. Otherwise, why be an activist?

And it’s been apparent for a long time. One of the first and biggest confabulations about climate change is that ‘97% of the scientists are convinced that climate change is real, that humans are the cause and that it poses a very real danger.’

Probably more than 97% of scientists are convinced that climate change is real (both in the broad sense and in the narrow instance of warming since 1945). And probably almost as many believe that humans have caused half or more of the warming since 1945–certainly Bart Verheggen’s survey found that 66% did.

But that last part–that it poses a very real danger–that comes straight from the activists, not science. Activists add that in on their own.

Prince Charles, who believes strongly in homeopathic medicine and has a butler give him his toothbrush pre-loaded with toothpaste every morning, believes that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is very real. He said, ““The best projections tell us that we have less than 100 months to alter our behaviour before we risk catastrophic climate change.” Not only do the best projections not say that, no projections at all say that.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is far more sanguine, writing about ’26 Key Risks’ that taken together do not spell catastrophe, but more an expensive pain in the butt for the developed world and a sad delay in development for poorer countries around the globe.

Look–I get that activists will say stupid things, and not just about climate change. They’re evidently predisposed by nature to worry excessively and perhaps that prevents them from taking a better perspective on things. For them, AGW perhaps really means ‘Anthropomorphic Global Warming’ (h/t to hunter for that one).

But the rest of us should be clear that catastrophe is not part of anthropogenic global warming. It is not predicted by science. It is invented by activists.

For me the real question is why do scientists let the activists get away with this? It doesn’t help science at all. It certainly doesn’t help guide policy. And when combined with the activists’ very real hatred for those opposing them, it contributes to the paralysis that they’re hoping to end in Paris next month.

1A - Prophets of Doom


12 responses to “Climate Catastrophism: Scientists vs. Activists

  1. Tom, read the bilge the head of NOAA is using as the list of excuses as to why they will not cooperate with normal Congressional oversight and get back to us about the big distinction between hype from scientists and hype from activists.

  2. You first have to define a climate scientist because a lot of fields have been bolted on to the small core that actually studies the effect of CO2 on the climate. Too often researchers with no climate expertise (eg frog researcher) get lumped together with those that do, and even those who are experts on say rainfall might not know much about the most likely temperature rise.

    I’m not sure that most climate scientists know what the official line is, any more than most activists do. I think many of them think that fields other than their own are predicting catastrophe. Too often the dramatic pre findings conclusion gets trumpeted but the post research results are un-scary so never make the headlines. Unless you go looking, the good news never replaces the bad prediction. Eg Julia Slingo warned that early signs in Met Office research was indicating a clear link with flooding. That made the headlines and was used to rebut sceptics who said that the IPCC report concluded no clear link. The final results showed no link for most cases and I doubt the other events were strong links, just as in 2005 it looked like there was a correlation between warming and hurricanes. Now, that link looks unlikely or at least too small to observe. How many are aware of the changing situation? Are scientists as vulnerable to the alarmist press release as anyone else?

  3. “Voice of Doom… Prophets of Doom”

    Why not tip out hats to Ms Orwell herself, Naomi Oreskes, and call them Merchants of Doom?

  4. By the way please tell us more about that awesome photo of the city in the fog.

  5. I decided you needed a dose of humor:

    “Secret recording of “The Guardian” editor and reporter”

    “The following is a partial transcript of a security agency recording made at The Guardian newspaper offices in Manchester. It was in a hard drive lifted from the MI6 by a guy who works for the Polish Weather Service.

    Transcript Part 1. Voices identified as Jaime Demelon, editor (JD) and Scott “the Napster” Barret (Napster) a freelance journalist. ”

    (There’s more)…

  6. Tom,
    Speaking of waiting, please respond to the direct quotes, in proper context, from leading climate scientists speaking in agreement and promotion of the idea of climate catastrophe.
    How does those statements from Hansen, Mann, the leaders of the IPCC combine, etc. etc. etc. reconcile with your position that the serious scientists are speaking of moderation?

  7. My question was not as clear as it should have been. I apologize. The point you raise is this:
    How dare the scientists you claim are more moderate maintain their silence and acquiesce to the political hacks, extremists, etc. who are dominating the public discussion on this issue?

    • Hunter has a good point, although I don’t care for his way of stating it. The relative lack of extreme statements in the scientific literature probably says more about the conventions of scientific publishing than about the opinions of the authors. But the scientists know what is said by the activists and picked up by the press, and the overwhelmingly remain silents. At best, they are ducking their responsibility; at worst, they have no problem with the catastrophist statements. After all, silence implies consent.

      • Mike M,
        I am not satisfied with the way the question was framed either.
        Please feel free to reframe it to sound the way you think would be better.

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