Call it another dispute about the “settled science” of climate change.
According to a report published in Nature Geosciences last week, we have more time than we thought to stop the predicted meltdown of the planet. Not only are climate models way off—“running hot” by overestimating temperature increases—but the warming we were supposed to experience this century hasn’t happened as most climate models anticipated. What’s even more alarming to the climate tribe is that this study, “Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 [degrees Celsius],” is authored by several prominent climate scientists,, many of whom have warned of planetary doom if we don’t cap global warming within the 1.5 C range.
First, some background: Most climate agencies report the world has warmed by about 0.9 C since the late-1800s; climate scientists insist we need dramatic decreases in carbon dioxide emissions to keep the overall temperature increase to 1.5 C (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. This means Mother Earth has about 0.6 C left in her global warming thermometer before we break the glass. The entire raison d’etre for the Paris Climate Accord is to oblige nations immediately to cut carbon emissions so we can keep warming “well below” a 2 C rise over pre-industrial levels.
There have been varying, desperate pleas about how much time we have left to stop global warming. Some scientists lament that we are already past the point of no return. Others, including the former United Nations climate chief, warned in a paper published in June that we only have three years left to stop human-caused global warming and if “emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the temperature goals set in Paris become almost unattainable.”
But this new paper suggests we have about 20 years until we will need a mass conversion to using solar panels and Teslas in order to bring total CO2 emissions to zero (a wholly punitive, unnecessary, and impossible goal.) The conclusion is based on a complicated calculation of how much of a “carbon budget” (total CO2) we have left to burn before we get into the danger zone; according to an editorial that accompanied the paper, “the amount of carbon that humans could emit before Earth warms to that 1.5 C threshold is larger than previously estimated.” Despite howls from the media, Democrats, and climate pimps like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who last week said it was already too late to recover from man-made climate change, the key goal of the Paris Climate Accord is “not yet a geophysical impossibility . . . we have more breathing space than previously thought.”
And that appears to be the main thrust of the Nature paper: to give more scientific cover to the Trump Administration should it choose to stay in the climate pact, even though the president announced on June 1 the United States would withdraw from the Obama-era agreement. There’s been some (alarming) noise in the media recently that the Trump White House might remain in the accord under the right terms: “It provides an important incentive to work to enhance the Paris pledges further, at the first opportunity, if governments are serious about the 1.5 C ambition,” wrote Richard Millar, one of the study’s authors.
But the political motive of the paper took a backseat to its acknowledgement that climate models have been faulty and the much-disputed “pause” in global warming between 2000-2015 actually did occur (this is a highly contentious debate in the climate tribe.) Comments in the media by a few of the study’s authors emboldened the climate-skeptics’ camp. Myles Allen, a University of Oxford geosystems science professor, admitted “we haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming that we see in the models. We haven’t seen that in observations.” University College London professor Michael Grubb really twisted the knife, confessing “when the facts change, I change my mind, as Keyes said.” (Some of the coverage prompted this criticism from two of the scientists, claiming their paper was misrepresented.)
A quick reminder that, reports in British tabloids notwithstanding, climate model projections agree quite well with observed temperatures. pic.twitter.com/7NxGUlBkFu
— Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) September 20, 2017
It is clear in the graph, however, that recorded temperatures from about 2000 to 2015 fall below —and sometimes well below—the models’ midline. The chart also supports a negligible temperature increase during that same timescale. Keep in mind this time period is crucial, as it coincided with the international push to prove anthropogenic global warming and scare us into costly policies to avert a climate crisis. Overreaching climate models were props in that campaign.
Someone may have told Hausfather that his chart wasn’t exactly helping the cause, so he created another chart 12 hours later to show a more garbled version of climate models vs. observed temps:
— Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) September 20, 2017
Hausfather changed the Y-axis in order to show much less discrepancy between the range of climate model projections and temperatures. The first graph has a range of 1.5 C and the second has a range of 4 C. (When I asked him why he changed it, he said it was a “simplified” version of the first graph.) He also extended the timeline from 2020 to 2100 in an effort to justify the Y-axis change, even though the longer timeline is irrelevant to the Nature paper.
Of course, no media coverage of a consequential climate study is complete without a quote from Michael Mann, the ubiquitous and controversial climate scientist from Penn State University. Mann said he is “rather skeptical” of the study and claimed “most studies have underestimated how much carbon was building up in the atmosphere” since the 1880s. Mann insists we need negative emissions technology (the next climate scam and federal subsidy mooch) to avert a 2 C rise by 2100.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next year. The International Panel on Climate Change will issue its “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C” in October 2018. A draft is under expert review right now, so the IPCC refused to comment on the Nature study.
In the interim, the Trump Administration and so-called climate deniers have plenty of reason to continue to challenge the still-unsettled science of human-caused global warming.