Just in time for Halloween, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released yet another in a 30-year stream of spooky stories: Global Warming of 1.5 Degree Celsius, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Like its five predecessors, it makes terrifying predictions about human-caused climate catastrophes that are always just about to occur, unless governments reduce the level of the harmless trace gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from its current four-hundredths of one percent to the three hundredths it was before industrialization.
Notice that the title chosen by the UN gives the game away. It presents correlation as causation by implying that all the warming since pre-industrial times has been caused by industry. There’s no room here for a natural oscillation back from the well-documented lows of the 1700s, which themselves were rebounds from a higher temperature period in the 1400s. (See this NOAA chart).
So how will the UN engender so much fear that the public will agree to stop using fossil-fueled electricity to halt “climate change?” After all, the phrase in itself is benign and natural. With enough repetition as images of hurricanes play on the screen, however, climate change has come to be short-hand for fossil-fueled, civilization-threatening storms, droughts, and destruction of coastal cities and islands, a dubious hypothesis on which we are hilariously told “the debate is over.”
For years I assigned statistics students to pick any apocalyptic climate claim in the media and trace it back through the UN reports to its genesis in a scientific study. I knew they would discover that these reports are not scientific documents based on the peer review process, but political documents “approved by governments” and intended to scare the public into supporting constraints on the production and use of energy.
A powerful publicity machine magnifies the alarm, bombarding citizens with exaggerations and claims of certainty that are proven wrong as you dig down to their underlying scientific studies:
· Public figures, news editors, and commentators make claims that are more alarmist than what individual IPCC authors say at the release of the report.
· Individual IPCC authors make claims at the release of the report that are more alarmist than what the official press release says.
· The official press release makes claims that are more alarmist than what the report’s summary for policy-makers says.
· The summary for policy-makers makes claims that are more alarmist than the various chapters of the reports.
· The chapters of the report make claims that are more alarmist than the studies they reference in the footnotes.
The studies referenced in the footnotes are often actually peer-reviewed and generally make cautious claims about a possible trend spotted in one or a small number of locations or in a global computer model.
Both types of studies are more speculative than definitive because, as they always acknowledge in the fine print, they are based on highly-uncertain measurements of highly-complex phenomena with many interacting causes, of which warming gasses generated by human activity are only one, and often a minor component.
For governments to make policy on such a hierarchy of exaggeration brings to mind James Madison’s warning: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.”
The serial release of UN reports obscures the fact that the climate catastrophes they predict never occur. As the data contained deep in the bowels of this latest report again acknowledge, Mother Nature is simply not cooperating with the UN There has been no positive trend in hurricanes, floods, and droughts as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.
Even the average global temperature (whose rise is supposed to increase disasters) has barely budged, only rising a third of the amount that has been repeatedly been predicted by the IPCC computer models.
Sea levels, which are very difficult to measure due to human use of land and even to the natural rise and fall of land itself, chugs along at the same inch-per-decade that it has for thousands of years – not the terrifying 10 feet in a century warned about in previous reports. The islands and polar ice that we were repeatedly told would be gone by now are still there, and no closer to destruction.
The UN’s response to its failed predictions is simply to move the goal-posts, and make new dire predictions for some future date – in this case 2030. There is no reason to believe that this speculation will be any more accurate the ones that predicted human-induced climate catastrophes by certain dates, now passed.
But don’t be too frightened: the same governments who authorize the UN reports never take the steps needed to reduce the supposedly horrifying carbon dioxide level. Hidden behind their teeth-chattering fear of fossil fuels is their awareness that oil, gas, and coal have helped bring dramatic improvements in health, welfare, and life expectancy, and that alternative methods of generating power are currently available only at unacceptable economic (and hence political) cost.
Caleb Rossiter, Ph.D., is the director of the American Exceptionalism Media Project, a fellow at The Texas Public Policy Foundation, and a former professor of statistics at American University.