Terence Corcoran: Here are the signs of hope Gretas so desperate for that show therell be no climate apocalypse
In the dying days of the two-week United Nations’ 25th Congress of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid, a meeting described as Kafkaesque in one report, Time magazine Newsmaker of the Year Greta Thunberg said she and her Extinction Rebellion cohorts are “desperate for any sign of hope.” Well, here are two big signs of hope for today’s youth: The latest carbon emissions data and forecasts suggest the UN’s climate catastrophe scenarios are way off the mark.
Thirty years ago, when Time’s apocalyptarian editors declared Earth as Planet of the Year for 1988, they warned of the global environmental meltdown to come. Oceans will rise, deserts will grow, and human existence will be threatened. According to computer projections, claimed Time in late 1988, “the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere could drive up the planet’s average temperature 3 F to 9 F by the middle of the next century.”
Not happening. That temperature disaster (equal to an increase of 3 and 5 C) has been officially postponed at least 50 years. “If the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5 degrees C by the end of the century,” the head of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its 2018 report.
But even that scaled-back WMO temperature outlook is not going to happen. Recent commentary from two climate researchers demonstrate that alarmism about rising temperatures and global environmental disaster are not justified for two reasons. First, the worst-case scenarios that are the basis for the constant barrage of catastrophic warnings from the UN and others have little or no basis in real science. Second, the latest global carbon emissions projections suggest the world is already well on the road to holding the world temperature increase down to manageable non-catastrophic levels.
In a recent Forbes commentary, University of Colorado scientist Roger Pielke Jr. documented how UN officials at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) developed extreme carbon scenarios that were used to create dangerously high temperature projections. The IPCC’s most alarming outlook, a “business as usual” scenario, assumed that global carbon emissions would reach 80 billion tons a year by the end of the century. As Pielke writes, with that scenario, “The apocalypse had been scheduled.” Pielke outlines how the extreme became the official scenario. Instead of producing a range of possible emissions scenarios as it had in the past, the IPCC’s 2013 assessment report began focusing on one scenario, almost a worst-case outlook, that became the launch pad for sensational conclusions promoted by journalists, politicians and activists. “Decisions made within the IPCC have contributed to the apocalyptic turn in discussions of climate, moving us away from constructive discussions, scaring children and contributing to overheated rhetoric.”
Importantly, the apocalyptic outcome of the worst-case scenario — brought on by 80 billion tons of carbon emissions annually at the end of this century — continue to be broadcast even though there is ample evidence that the 80 billion projection is totally out of line with current trends. The scenario, says Pielke, “wildly overstates” even current emissions and portrays a future that is “highly unlikely if not impossible.”
Another researcher, Justin Ritchie at the University of British Columbia, recently produced a graphic demonstration of the extreme divergence between the IPCC’s apocalyptic scenarios and the latest trends in carbon emissions. Instead of tracking toward 80 billion tons any time soon, the International Energy Agency plots current emissions at less than 35 million tonnes and more or less flat-lining through to 2040. Ritchie, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, plotted the IEA data on his Twitter feed showing that carbon emissions appear stable and non-catastrophic.
The current trend in carbon emissions supports a dramatically non-apocalyptic outcome through to the end of the century. While the worst-case IPCC scenario implies temperature increases of +4 C, the trend plotted by the IEA suggests much lower increases. In an interview, Ritchie said the IEA scenario “put us heading toward 2.2-2.6 C warming by 2100. Another way of framing it is an additional 1.3-1.6 C from now.”
An end-of-century increase of 1.3-1.6 C would still be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement, but it is “well outside the range of what most would consider catastrophic — more in a range of potentially manageable.” Ritchie, in a 2017 research paper, noted systemic errors and other problems behind the IPCC worst-case scenario, including use of data that failed to predict recent shifts in energy use that moved earlier coal trend lines downward.
Ritchie supports Pielke’s argument that “we are heading for a long plateau” in global carbon emissions. If the IEA is right, said Ritchie, “before the middle of the century we are not off track the Paris Agreement goals.” Beyond 2050 will depend on the trajectory of emissions in the second half of the century.
Pielke concluded his ground-breaking Forbes commentary with a note on the importance of understanding how “a fateful decision by the IPCC to selectively anoint an extreme scenario from among a huge range of possible futures has helped to create the climate apocalypse, a scary but imaginary future.”
This imaginary future continued to dominate the COP25 meeting in Madrid over the past two weeks, motivating the language used by journalists, politicians and bureaucrats — and filling Greta and others with hopelessness. Pielke and Ritchie offer more than signs of hope. There will be no apocalypse.