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Denial and Alarmism in the Near-Term Extinction and Collapse Debate

Guest article by Alastair McIntosh,  honorary professor in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. This is an excerpt from his new book, Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being

cover art for Riders on the StormMostly, we only know what we think we know about climate science because of the climate science. I have had many run-ins with denialists, contrarians or climate change dismissives as they are variously called. Over the past two years especially, concern has also moved to the other end of the spectrum, to alarmism. Both ends, while the latter has been more thinly tapered, can represent forms of denial. In this abridged adaptation I will start with denialism, but round on the more recent friendly fire on science that has emerged in alarmism.

Climate change dismissives

One of my more peculiar run-ins with a dismissive voice was through an online debate in 2010 that ECOS, the journal of the British Association of Nature Conservationists, organised between me and an English wildlife ecologist, Peter Taylor. Taylor’s 2009 book, Chill, argued that far from living in a world that’s heating up, ‘the period 2002–07 marks a turning point, then glaciers will begin to grow and ice mass begin to accumulate again, thus levelling off the sea level rises’. He saw the cold winter of 2008–9 as heralding the coming ice age(1). Being an ecologist, this made him a hero of climate change denialism, an avid convert from the other church; and for a time, Chill ranked as number one in Amazon UK’s bestselling league for ‘global warming’.

Invariably I have found myself asking of such figures, who have no credibly peer-reviewed publications in climate science: what makes them think that they know better than experts with a reputation worth not losing? I also ask myself what drives their attitudes. Often, these are a class of people heavily invested in consumerist lifestyles. Their material markers of identity and prestige, and their masks of distraction from what is challenging in life may be at stake. Some just don’t care. I define consumerism as consumption that is in excess of what is needed for a dignified sufficiency of living. However, a handful of the most effective dismissives don’t fit obvious characterisation, being more altruistic in holding their position. Peter Taylor is one such, and my late friend the botanist and TV celebrity Professor David Bellamy was another. Taylor concedes that the heavy impact of climate mitigation measures on nature and landscapes – terrestrial wind farms in particular – has influenced his views. Bellamy, likewise.

At the time of our ECOS exchange, Taylor praised it, saying: ‘I know of no other consistent debate on this important issue.’ Not having been in touch for years, I dropped him a line while writing this book. I asked: given that his forecast ‘chill’ has not materialised, did he think that it was coming yet, for all that? His reply was characteristically warm and cheerful. It left my question feeling almost mean-spirited. He made no reference back to his previous predictions. Instead, to my astonishment, he wrote of ‘record warmth – just as we could expect’, that the current warm period ‘may have two or three centuries to run’, and the next ice age is not just around the corner but ‘three to four hundred years away’(2). It seemed that the denial had full astern gone retrograde. I scratched my head and gave a weary nod to all those hours spent on the ECOS great debate.

Heavy ad hominem artillery

Other run-ins have had a less avuncular if, paradoxically, a more jaunty feel to them. The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is Britain’s foremost ‘climate sceptic’ lobby group. Set up by Lord (Nigel) Lawson of Blaby, Mrs Thatcher’s former chancellor of the exchequer, its website is literally a ‘dark’ web in its presenting colour scheme. Its board comprises a formidable array of heavyweight political figures, contrarian scientists and erstwhile captains of commerce, the media and the civil service. To see power at work – elevated, concentrated and networked – go no further than to take a look online, and gape(3). Most such lobby bodies no longer say that global warming isn’t happening. Instead, they’ll take issue with abstruse elements of the scientific data, with the extrapolated rate of heating, with the attribution of its causes or with the expected impact and anticipated costs – not least the ‘socialist’ taxation and regulatory implications – of actually doing something.

Lord Lawson refuses to disclose the sources of the GWPF’s funding, conceding only that he relies on friends who ‘tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent than the average person’(4). Since 2017 its deputy-director has been Andrew Montford, a chemist by original training, turned chartered accountant(5). My encounter with Montford came in 2010 when The Scottish Review of Books asked me to review his investigative work, The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science, which claims to be a ‘demolition of the veracity’ of Michael Mann’s hockey stick curve(6). Like Taylor’s Chill a year earlier, the book quickly achieved cult status amongst climate change deniers. I concluded that at best it might help to keep already-overstretched scientists on their toes. At worst, it was a yapping terrier worrying the bull, one that cripples action, potentially costing lives and livelihoods(7).

Montford runs a blog from which, under the pseudonym of ‘Bishop Hill’, he lampoons the high priests (as he sees them) of climate science and all such hooey as green taxes, subsidies, legislation and self-righteous preaching from the likes of, well, yours faithfully. His Grace, as his congregation deferentially refer to him, responded to my piece with two blogs that had me tossed into the dungeons of the Inquisition for heretical impertinence, an abomination unto the sensibilities of the Lord. A crusade was launched, a jihad ensued, and fusillades were fired from keyboards poised in every corner of his parish. In all, some 150 comments linger as remaining landmines on the good bishop’s website.

‘He is an enemy of the people and the state and is declared anathema,’ said one. I took the humour as a badge of office. Even better, said another: ‘Deploy heavy ad hominem artillery to characterize [him] as a coprophagic protocranial.’ Verily, it’s a sorry day when a literary reviewer has to go and look up even simple dictionary words. ‘Adopt a lordly disdain and ignore him.’ ‘He and his eco-chums are in it for the money.’ ‘Another one of these weird Highlanders who seem to dominate Scotland.’ ‘Alastair, just keep tossing off your caber.’ ‘Yer Grace, show no quarter, none will be given.’ ‘He deserves a kicking.’(8)

I came out of such a Punch and Judy show well able to brush off the laugh. But it was all right for me. I make use of climate science coming from an early background of just a general earth sciences degree. I pitch no claim to be a climate scientist. Others, at the heart of science – whether Mann in the USA, or the English scientists such as Phil Jones caught up at the heart of ‘Climategate’ at the University of East Anglia – suffer for their work. No quarter is the order of their day.

Alarmism, doomism and Roger Hallam

What most scientists had not foreseen with an eye so fixated on the artillery of denialism, was the sustained and one would presume well-intentioned misuse of science from the other end of the spectrum, by those who do accept the reality of climate change. When Extinction Rebellion began in England, it conveyed a sense of being witnesses to the cascade of plant and animal extinctions that are escalating around the world as many habitats become less habitable. There is no scientific quibble with that. However, the narrative soon escalated to human death on a massive and imminent scale. As the prominent co-founder Roger Hallam saw it, the burning question had become: ‘How do we avoid extinction?’

His 2019 manifesto, Common Sense for the 21st Century(9), was written in his own name but widely hailed as representing the views of Extinction Rebellion and heavily promoted by the organisation’s London HQ. Referencing his claim to ‘one recent scientific opinion’, he warns of 6 to 7 billion people dead as a result of climate change ‘within the next generation or two’. The paper cited as his authority in the footnotes makes no such claim(10). It is purely Hallam’s extrapolation of a 5°C world, given what Common Sense calls ‘the central role of methane in a climate emergency . . . with the system spiralling out of our control and the likelihood of global collapse within a decade or two’. He reiterated the mass dieback claim in a BBC News interview feature, trenchantly insisting: ‘I am talking about the slaughter, death and starvation of 6 billion people this century – that’s what the science predicts.’(11)

Climate Feedback, a website more used to taking on deniers than alarmists, invited an expert panel to give their opinions on this prediction. The responses ranged from ‘an illustration of a worst-case scenario’ to ‘wild speculation’. Ken Caldeira, senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, put it bluntly: ‘I know of no climate model simulation or analysis in the quality peer-reviewed literature that provides any indication’ that there is a substantial probability, above zero, of 6 billion deaths this century.(12)

Jem Bendell and ‘Deep Adaptation’

Meanwhile, a variation of the theme was coming in from Jem Bendell, a business school professor at the University of Cumbria in the north of England. An expert in digital currencies, his staff web page playfully describes how it earned him the moniker ‘Professor Bitcoin’(13). Bendell’s contribution to Extinction Rebellion’s manifesto, This is Not a Drill, tells that he ‘grieved how I may not grow old’(14). The manifesto thesis for which he is now known, Deep Adaptation, anticipates ‘inevitable near-term social collapse due to climate change’ resulting in ‘probable catastrophe and possible extinction’(15). This, as he wrote on his blog, could be expected ‘in many, perhaps most, countries of the world . . . within 10 years’(16). He spelt out both the imminence and what it would look like in a roundup of where he considered the climate science stood as of 2018.

‘But when I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbours for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.’(17)

Deep Adaptation was originally an academic paper that had failed peer review for lack of scholarly rigour. Bendell posted it to the web in 2018, achieving an astonishing half a million downloads within the first year. Part of his rationale leans on what he describes as ‘data published by scientists from the Arctic News’. However, Arctic News is no scholarly tome. It is a blog site that, amidst lurid illustrations, invokes the methane bomb and projects a possible global temperature rise of 10°C, by 2026, based on ‘adjusted NASA data’ heralding the ‘mass extinction of man’(18). Again, the pushback comes from within the scientific community itself. A journalist asked Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s leading climate experts what he made of Bendell’s paper. Schmidt said, and further pressed the point on his Twitter account, that it mixes ‘both valid points and unjustified statements throughout’, but is ‘not based on anything real’(19).

In a 2019 blog, Bendell responded to criticisms of his slant on the science. He describes his grief at having chosen not to have children, partly because they are ‘the greatest contribution to carbon emissions that you could make’ and partly out of ‘the realization of the world they will have to live and die within’. He concludes that in future he will not be replying to, but rather, stepping away from, such controversies around his scientific claims to focus instead on building up the community around Deep Adaptation(20), the activities of which include workshops, trainings, residencies in Bali, and an annual retreat at a yoga centre in Greece to ‘support peaceful empowered surrender to our predicament, where action can arise from an engaged love of humanity and nature, rather than redundant stories of worth and purpose’(21).

However, within a year of his withdrawal from scientific debate, he wrote a further blog having requested Schmidt to render his criticism specific. Schmidt obliged, providing a raft of reproofs including his assessment that Deep Adaptation’s take on Arctic methane was ‘totally misleading’, and that its pitch on runaway climate change was ‘nonsense’. The professor, whose day job was to teach ‘a sustainability-themed MBA programme’, was unwilling to concede any significant ground to NASA’s top climate scientist. Digging in his heels, the blog concluded: ‘I have identified two minor corrections and two clarifications I will make on the paper. However, none of those are material to the situation we are in and none of the main points are revoked.’(22)

Shortly afterwards, BBC News ran a feature that profiled Bendell and his most ardent ‘followers’ as ‘climate doomers’. It quoted Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford, as saying that he considers Deep Adaptation to display ‘the level of science of the anti-vax campaign’(23). In counterpoint, it also cited Will Steffen, a retired scientist who had served on the Australian Climate Commission, suggesting that Bendell may be ‘ahead of the game in warning us about what we might need to prepare for’. The pity of it all is that Bendell’s core agenda – about the need for resilience, relinquishment, restoration, and recently he has added reconciliation – is both necessary and inspiring. That is why he has gathered such a following amongst people who are hungry for deeper meaning. We need people like him and Hallam who, at their most effective, and if they discipline themselves to the settled science, can take an overview of things, drawing out what most matters, contextualising it and presenting it to the public in ways more digestible than the raw IPCC reports. There is for each of us so much that is good and right to do anyway, without having to overreach our fields of expertise, conflate climate change with other causes and play fast and loose with signs seen in the sky.

Arctic News, McPherson and doomsday 2026

Meanwhile, Arctic News’ chosen doomsday date of 2026 doubles as the apocalyptic year of choice of Guy McPherson, a retired professor of evolutionary and resource ecology at the University of Arizona, and Bendell’s referenced source in Deep Adaptation where discussing fears of an ‘inevitable methane release . . . leading to the extinction of the human race’(24). McPherson, in turn and in a way that starts to feel rather circular, references his claims back to material from Arctic News, as well as to extrapolation from a range of scientific papers and other sources that, he says, ‘even 10-year-olds understand . . . and [that] Wikipedia accepts [as] the evidence for near-term human extinction’. The phrase used there, Near Term Human Extinction, has gathered a considerable ecopopulist cult following, complete with the social media hashtag #NTHE and online mental health support groups for the depressed and suicidal. The professor crisply reiterated and summed up his position in an interview given in 2018: ‘Specifically, I predict that there will be no humans on Earth by 2026, based on projections of near-term planetary temperature rise and the demise of myriad species that support our own existence.’(25)

His website, Nature Bats Last, prominently offers suicide advice on its home page [Ed. which we are not linking to]. While advising against such a move, he counsels that it can nevertheless ‘be a thoughtful decision’, and with this endorsement he bizarrely links to the post-mortem website of Martin Manley of Kansas, who intricately blogged the preparations for his own departure by self-inflicted gunshot in a parking lot(26). For those who believe in the severity and particularly the imminence of their prognostications, such alarmism arguably crosses over into the realm of fantasy. If conflated with reality, this risks its own potentially tragic consequences.

Breakdown to break through?

There are other sides to the position that I have taken here against alarmism. An activist friend put it to me that what Bendell’s work does is that it pushes a point to make a point. It usefully brings people to the state of breakdown, from where they can break through into the new social norms that are demanded by deep adaptation. It also expresses the precautionary principle. My view, is that if a case can’t be made without it being over-egged, either the case is not valid or those to whom it is being pitched are being spun. Exaggeration or invoking fear and panic only entrenches positions and sets up a backlash. The unembellished science is quite bad enough to be good enough.

I get people coming up at my talks, or sending in an email, then being disappointed when I tell them that I only partly buy into the fears stimulated by prominent alarmists. Because I say I’m sticking to consensus science – even knowing that it can never be bang up to date and that its expression will be sure but probably cautious – I suspect they sometimes think that I’m the denier. A climate model researcher in Sweden dropped me a line, saying that he gets the same disappointed reactions, adding that ‘some teenagers are distraught on this, so the alarmism of such actors is taking a heavy and unjustifiable psychological toll on others.’ Those who work with young people warn of the consequences of growing ‘climate anxiety’(27).

None of this is to suggest that what is happening to the planet ought not provoke anxiety. I said to the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, that I often find myself racked between the deniers and the alarmists, trying to hold on to the humanity of both, recognising their fears or differing priorities, and yet insisting on consensus science. She answered, ‘It is a narrow and lonely place so it’s great to have company!’(28). Michael Mann concurs. He sees ‘doomism and despair’ that exceeds the science as being ‘extremely destructive and extremely influential’. It has built up ‘a huge number of followers and it has been exploited and co-opted by the forces of denial and delay’. ‘Good scientists aren’t alarmists,’ he insists. ‘Our message may be – and in fact is – alarming . . . The distinction is so very, very critical and cannot be brushed under the rug.’(30)

Neither Hayhoe nor Mann are the kind of scientists who take distance from campaigning as ‘climate advocates’, as the former puts it. Both openly support and encourage protest that rests on a firm evidence base. In April 2019, they were amongst the twenty-two lead authors of a letter to Science, headed ‘Concerns of young protesters are justified.’ Along with more than 3,000 other experts who added their names as co-signatories, it stated: ‘We call for our colleagues across all disciplines and from the entire world to support these young climate protesters. We declare: Their concerns are justified and supported by the best available science.’

The tension, then, is not between science and protest. The tension is between science and multiplying up its extreme ends of likelihood in ways that are tantamount to pseudoscience: ‘If the worst imaginable happens it is this. And if the worst of that happens, it is this.’ The ancient Celts were justified in their greatest fear that the sky would fall in. The asteroid may be on its way right now. But real science balances up the probabilities.

Millennialism or future possibilities?

Like denialism, alarmism distorts our temporal horizons of what is possible. As the veteran Greenpeace campaigner Chris Rose suggests, its ‘gloom picking’ leads to ‘solutions denial’ that ramps up ‘climate grief’ that exploits the poorly informed(31). In their panic, many of its key proponents advocate potentially disastrous fixes, the magic bullet of geoengineering especially, and that, in the form of solar radiation modification. I agree with those who say: ‘There isn’t enough time.’ And yet, the opposite of one great truth is very often another great truth. As an Arabic proverb puts it: ‘Haste is the key to sorrow.’ If our politics are deep green, we must pay attention to the fact that, already, nativist forms of ecofascism have drawn blood on growing alt-right fringes of drawbridge environmentalism. The ‘Unabomber’ and the Christchurch mosque gunman both appealed to certain types of ‘green’ narrative in their manifestos(32).

All this is why I walk along the ridge of Katharine Hayhoe’s ‘narrow and lonely place’. To over-egg the cake is like those terrorist alerts that remain forever high. Alarmists who extrapolate beyond sound evidence may be right, but if so, by the wrong process. The upside, is that they may perversely hit it lucky and warn of something of which others had been too cautious. The downside, is that in the long run they undermine the very principles of truth that they purport to speak.

Alarmism feeds upon the natural fears and decent trust of the understandably uninformed. It allows the enemies of climate action to paint climate science as the domain of wacky prophets and their followers, who have to keep on revising upwards their forecast date of doomsday. It draws those who have been caught up in such thinking into the cognitive dissonance reduction of looking for, and in a strange way maybe even hoping, that the signs on which they have staked so much are being fulfilled. This chimera of narratorial control affords an illusory sense of agency, and perhaps prestige, to individuals who may lack the humility, or be too captivated by their personal fears, to accept the limitations of their knowing as well as the wider ambiguities of emergent knowledge. Where pronounced, such alarmism can echo a ‘conspiracy mentality’ zeal, such as the philosopher Quassim Cassam characterises in figures who might be ‘quick to denounce mainstream academia for rejecting their theories [yet] crave academic respectability … and trumpet their PhDs, whatever their subject.’(33)

Moreover, in an age of perhaps renewed spiritual searching this can pander to climate change millennialism in a ‘phony holy’ cultic psychology. Certainly, it might correctly second guess the future. But if so, probably only as an artifact of flawed or grandiose reasoning. More probably, it will merely escalate the psychological defensive mechanisms used to maintain ‘cognitive consistency’, and these, much as Festinger and colleagues memorably described in their 1950s doomsday study, When Prophecy Fails.(34)

The only remedy is that in our understandable despair and burning yearning for change, we must keep head engaged, as well as heart and hand. We have no mandate to collapse the possibilities of the future, to contract and restrict our latitude for agency and action. Climate change denial is a waste of time. But climate change alarmism is a theft of time.

  1. Peter Taylor, Chill: A reassessment of global warming theory, Clairview, East Sussex, 2009, pp. 232, 268–9, 301. The ECOS debate in 2010 has since been lost in a website revamp. I retain the email thread.
  2. Emails from Peter Taylor drawn upon here are 31 October 2010 and 18–19 November 2019.
  3. Board of Trustees’, Global Warming Policy Foundation, 3 February 2020.
  4. Bob Ward, ‘Secret funding of climate sceptics is not restricted to the US’, The Guardian, 15 February 2013.
  5. Andrew W. Montford’, Desmog, 2017.
  6. Montford, A.W., published by Stacey International, London, 2010. See also Tamino, ‘The Montford Delusion’, RealClimate, 22 July 2010.
  7. Alastair McIntosh, ‘Review of The Hockey Stick Illusion’, Scottish Review of Books, 6:3, August 2010.
  8. Bishop Hill, ‘Scottish Review of Books’, 14 August 2010; and ‘Did he read it?’ 17 August 2010.
  9. Roger Hallam, Common Sense for the 21st Century, PDF version 0.3.
  10. Xu paper used by Hallam: Yangyang Xu and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, ‘Well below 2°C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes’, PNAS, 114:39, 2017, pp. 10,315–23.
  11. BBC News, Roger Hallam interviewed by Stephen Sackur, BBC HardTalk, 17 August 2019.
  12. Scott Johnson (ed.), ‘Prediction by Extinction Rebellion’s Roger Hallam that climate change will kill 6 billion people by 2100 is unsupported’, Climate Feedback, 22 August 2019.
  13. University of Cumbria, ‘Professor Jem Bendell, PhD’, Institute for Leadership Sustainability, Business.
  14. Jem Bendell, ‘Doom and Bloom: Adapting to Collapse’, This is Not a Drill, op. cit., pp. 73–7.
  15. Jem Bendell, Deep Adaptation: a Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, IFLAS Occasional Paper 2 (Postscript: The link to the original 27 July 2018 version of the paper on this landing site, the version from which I have quoted, was taken down and replaced with a Revised 2nd Edition on 27 July 2020. The original can still be accessed online. The new version came a fortnight after a challenging and much-remarked upon criticism of the science of Deep Adaptation from three scientist members of Extinction Rebellion: Thomas Nicholas, Galen Hall and Colleen Schmidt, ‘The faulty science, doomism and flawed conclusions of Deep Adaptation’, Open Democracy, 14 July 2020. Amongst the changes made, are that a section about Arctic methane has been removed, meaning that Arctic News is no longer cited within the body text although it remains in the references. Most revealing is a welcome change made in the abstract. The original opened: ‘The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable near term social collapse due to climate change.’ The revised, shifts from a statement of fact to one of opinion (my italics): ‘The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of what I believe to be an inevitable near-term societal collapse due to climate change.’ Bendell has pushed back strongly against the Open Democracy critique, commencing with his riposte: ‘Letter to Deep Adaptation Advocate Volunteers about Misrepresentation of the Agenda and Movement‘, Professor Jem Bendell blog, 15 July 2020. An extensive debate followed on Twitter, for example, multiple threads down from Tom Nicholas).
  16. Jem Bendell, ‘A Year of Deep Adaptation’, Professor Jem Bendell blog, 7 July 2019. This is also the source of the half-million downloads statistic. Note that the coronavirus is not (in any obvious way) caused by climate change.
  17. Jem Bendell, ‘A Summary of Some Climate Science in 2018’, Professor Jem Bendell blog, 22 March 2018.
  18. Arctic News page linked by Bendell: Sam Carana, ‘Warning Climate Warning!! Alert: Signs of Extinction’, Arctic News, 3 March 2018. I’ve also cited from pages linked thereto. A number of the writers featured in Arctic News, including John Nissen, were associated a decade ago with AMEG, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.
  19. Mann and Schmidt, Twitter thread, 22 November 2019. Schmidt, first quote in the tweet, second in the Nafeez Ahmed Vice article linked by Mann to whom Schmidt was responding.
  20. Jem Bendell, ‘Responding to Green Positivity Critiques of Deep Adaptation’, Resilience, 15 April 2019.
  21. Deep Adaptation Retreat with Jem Bendell and Katie Karr: Inner resilience for tending a sacred unravelling’, Kalikalos Holistic Network, 2020. Also, with comments at the bottom around the dilemmas of flying to such a location in 2018 retreat) and (2019 retreat).
  22. Jem Bendell: ‘The Worst Argument to Try to Win: Response to Criticism of the Climate Science in Deep Adaptation’, Professor Jem Bendell blog, 27 February 2020.
  23. Jack Hunter, ‘The “climate doomers” preparing for society to fall apart’, BBC News, 16 March 2020.
  24. Bendell, Deep Adaptation, op. cit., with citation to Guy McPherson’s ‘Climate Change Summary and Update’, Nature Bats Last, update 2 August 2016.
  25. Rajani Kanth, ‘On Imminent Human Extinction: [Guy McPherson] Interviewed by Rajani Kanth’, Nature Bats Last, 12 October 2018. Also, Guy McPherson, Twitter, 25 September 2019: (tweet now unavailable, account now deleted).
  26. Guy McPherson, ‘Contemplating Suicide? Please Read This’, Nature Bats Last, 8 July 2014.
  27. Matthew Taylor and Jessica Murray, ‘“Overwhelming and terrifying”: the rise of climate anxiety’, The Guardian, 10 February 2020.
  28. Katharine Hayhoe, Twitter, 19 December 2019.
  29. Michael Mann (on Guy McPherson), Twitter, 13 August 2019.
  30. Michael Mann, Twitter, 16 February 2019:
  31. Chris Rose, ‘Tragedy or Scandal? Strategies Of GT, XR and the New Climate Movement’, Three Worlds blog, 13 February 2020. Full paper.
  32. Likewise, the debate around green Nazism. See Franz-Josef Brüggemeier, Marc Cioc and Thomas Zeller (eds), How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich, Ohio University Press, 2005.
  33. Quassim Cassam, Conspiracy Theories, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2019, p. 25.
  34. Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken & Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World, Harper, New York, 1964.

205 Responses to “Denial and Alarmism in the Near-Term Extinction and Collapse Debate”

  1. 101
    Mal Adapted says:

    Bill Henderson:

    Soft climate denial is another term for a form of society-wide denial that severely limits mitigation policy (similar to Kari Norgaard’s implicatory denial or Jonathan Rowson’s stealth denial). Below is a link to and introduction to Michael Hoexter’s original essay from 2016. Why haven’t we been more successful at mitigation? Why are we still blocked from effective mitigation even as we conceive of climate as an emergency? Is the political science too alarming?

    Living in the Web of Soft Climate Denial
    Posted on September 7, 2016 by Devin Smith | 12 Comments

    Michael Hoexter, Ph.D.


    1. Conventional “Hard” Climate Denial
    2. A Web of Soft Climate Denial
    3. The Foundations of Soft Climate Denial in Economics
    4. Settling on Neoliberal, “Market-Based” Carbon Gradualism
    5. Soft Climate Denial, Fossil Fuels, and the Hedonic Self

    Thank you, Bill, that blog post was worth reading. It’s true: those of us here who aren’t hard denialists are soft denialists. There are degrees of soft denial as well. I, for one, enjoy all the benefits of carbon-powered economic development, even in my paltry efforts to reduce my footprint. I haven’t gone wholly off the grid yet (you wouldn’t be hearing from me if I had ;^D), so you’ll get no virtue signaling* from me. OTOH, I’m self-aggrandizing enough to declare I’ve forsworn fatherhood (hardly a sacrifice, TBH), therefore my ecological footprint (the I in “I=PAT”) goes away upon my death (P=0). Anyone with living copies of their genes must account for not only their own footprint, but their descendants’ unto the nth generation. That makes me better’n you. Kidding! Existentially we’re all mediocre, and natural selection a game, in which the only reward for winning is to stay in the game. And quitting just means losing 8^|.

    Seriously, Shirley: any collective action to reduce emissions in the US will be taken within “the system”, corrupt though we may believe that to be. Non-violent direct action, even at legal risk, has a place in any savvy political strategy. Realistically, however, it’s a matter of getting out the vote. Collective national decarbonization will not be accomplished by coup d’etat or armed insurrection. Our government has an effective monopoly on force, largely with the support of an armed citizenry including military veterans, nor can it be easily decapitated. Tom Clancy wrote fiction, you know.

    We know markets are real, OTOH. My policy preference is for the “visible hand” of government to internalize some fraction of the marginal climate-change costs of fossil carbon directly in its market price, as with a national carbon fee and dividend. If it’s done correctly (admittedly a big if), the gubmint won’t git none, no one will benefit inequitably, and we’ll watch the “invisible hand” of consumer thrift and the profit motive build out the carbon-neutral global economy with alacrity. When “alternative” (potentially incl. nuclear) energy is cheaper without subsidies than fossil carbon with climate change internalized, the mission of halting the rise of atmospheric carbon is half accomplished. As a soft (i.e. consequentialist) libertarian, I’m willing to give up the liberty to socialize my private climate-change costs. I’m not necessarily opposed to other collective actions, such as including meat in the carbon fee, outright bans on destroying primary and secondary forests, or whatever else you think will get through Congress and the SCOTUS. I’m only opposed to cities on fire and blood in the streets, before I’m convinced the time has come! Sitting at the apex of privilege, I can live with with incremental decarbonization during this century, but I sure hope to see it well underway by 2050, if I live that long. My hopes, of course, don’t register with the universe. I can still wish for an effective blue plurality this November, can’t I? Gotta start somewhere.

    * Virtue signaling shouldn’t be disparaged if it inspires competitive virtue in others. IMHO, that’s part of the appeal of carbon fee and dividend: “type A” consumers are additionally motivated to use less fossil carbon, in order to ‘win’ the net-benefit game ;^).

  2. 102
    Mr. Know It All says:

    Speaking of alarmism, who noticed the many people who did not evacuate for hurricane Laura, the much-touted “unsurvivable” hurricane predicted to have 20-30 foot storm surges.

    After all the gloom and doom alarmist headlines, there were no 20 foot storm surges, and the loss of life was very small amongst those who rode it out. My condolences to the families of the few who did not survive.

    Here in the great Pacific Northwest USA, we’ve enjoyed a very pleasant, sunny, and mostly below average temperature summer this year. I did make it to the coast – no evidence of sea level rise.

  3. 103
    jgnfld says:


    Re. “real science”…engineering is NOT real science. You forgive me, but you are fooling yourself if you think so.

    Engineers often assert they know/practice “real science”. They are most often mistaken. This is a well known phenomenon.

    This does not preclude an engineer from practicing “real” science. It’s simply an observation that engineering is simply not science.

  4. 104

    KIA, #102–

    Please read and educate yourself:

    Especially this bit:

    Because a surge can move in so quickly and is historically so deadly, storm surge warnings display what’s called the “reasonable worst-case scenario.”

    “It’s intentionally not the average. It’s the worst outcome,” says Brian McNoldy, a meteorologist at the University of Miami.

    There are a number of variables that go into modeling what the storm surge might be: the size of the storm itself, the intensity of its winds, the speed at which it’s moving, and even the shape of the ocean floor influences how much water will be pushed onto land.

    Researchers at the National Hurricane Center are continuously tweaking those variables in the days before the storm, changing the possible wind speeds, for example, to calculate different outcomes. Were they to run 100 different scenarios, explains McNoldy, an average of the worst ten outcomes would be issued as the storm surge warning. Anecdotally, the storm surge seen in parts of Texas and Louisiana seems to have been lower than the worst-case scenario predicted. But in order to get a final read on what the surge really was, and how accurate the predictions really were, researchers will need data from NOAA and the U.S. Geological Society tidal stations in the region. That will be collected over the coming weeks.

    Using “the worst outcome” is the precautionary principle in action. People need and want–and, frankly, deserve–to know how bad it is reasonably likely to get–not just what the mostly likely outcome is.

    As to fatalities, we need to wait a bit to find out how many folks actually died. As of today, most roads in Cameron Parish were reportedly still blocked, so checking on casualties has basically only just started. I devoutly hope there won’t be many more, but we’ll have to wait to find out. And, unfortunately, if anybody did get taken by storm surge, it’s quite possible the body will never be recovered. I noted that there are quite a few places in the video where all that’s left of structures is the foundation pad.

    And then there’s the question about how many didn’t die, precisely because they heeded those intentionally ‘alarmist’ messages. I hope that nice lady at the Anchors Up Grill got out OK–she sold us a couple of her “world-famous kickin’ shrimp po’ boys” on that January day in 2017, when 87% of the folks in Cameron Parish were presumably just as pleased with their new president as they could possibly be. We didn’t talk politics, though.

    But this morning, the Weather Channel brought me not one but two views of her ‘concession stand’ fore-building, sitting right out in a traffic lane on Highway 27. Can’t imagine the canopy survived; likely it’s scattered in pieces, right across the parish. But maybe the main building made it; it was pretty well elevated as I recall. I hope so.

  5. 105
    nigelj says:

    Karsten V. Johansen @100

    “All this was and still is, about oil and via that: world power…..It’s simply: the oiligarchy army.”

    This is a good point, and should really be added to the definition of what motivates at least some of the denialist politicians and their corporate cheer leaders in the larger nations. The neo conservative variety of politicians.

  6. 106
    Piotr says:

    Robert L. Bradley Jr. (1) “Here is my take on climate alarmists resisting the tag ‘alarmist’”

    Is it the same take you took on the alarmists not sharing your and Kenneth Lay’s views about Enron? How did that work out for you?

    “Robert L. Bradley Jr. […] spent nearly 20 years in the business world, including 16 years at Enron, where for the last seven years he was corporate director for public policy analysis and speechwriter for Kenneth L. Lay.”

    See also:
    “People remain the problem to the congregation of the Church of Climate”

    “The rejection the Paris climate agreements is really the liberation of 7.5 billion people from a dangerous, anti-human, anti-progress agenda.”
    Robert L. Bradley Jr.

  7. 107
    Mr. Know It All says:

    92 – BPL
    From your link “preview”:

    Timur Kuran suggests that making precise predictions about revolutions is not possible now and may never be possible, due to empirical problems with observing preferences and the complexities of…”

    80 – BPL
    “You keep citing this lie. She never said it….”

    Yes, it was 12 years, and yes, she said it. Victor is correct, and thank you Victor for that video – I had forgotten that Beto said it also, but he said so many stupid things it’s hard to remember all of them:

    Alarmism: it’s a thing.

  8. 108
    Mr. Know It All says:

    100 – KVJ
    Holy cow, too many errors in your comment made it hard to read, but I struggled thru it and read your “virtue signalling” that merely proves you need to see a shrink about your TDS. It may be incurable in your case – my condolences to you and your family.

    We began expanding industrial production via FFs, in what, the 1700s or early 1800s, long before the ~1896 paper on carbonic acid. Or maybe it was earlier when people burned coal in Europe because they’d decimated their forests for fire wood. Your claim that those who used FFs were immoral or not wise is laughable, as is your entire post.

    Tell us more about how FFs do not increase our productivity. Try a thought experiment, and tell us what the world would look like today had we not used FFs for the past 150+ years. Inquiring minds want to know. We’ll wait.

  9. 109
    Mr. Know It All says:

    103 – jgnfld
    “This does not preclude an engineer from practicing “real” science. It’s simply an observation that engineering is simply not science.”

    Without engineering NO science would be done today. You depend on tools and machines created by engineers to do your “science”, much of which has devolved to politically correct crap.

  10. 110
    David B. Benson says:

    Mr. Know It All @102 — Ask the oystermen about SLR in Washington state.

  11. 111
  12. 112
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    #101 Mal Adapted: I agree with you concerning carbon fee and dividend being a very realistic solution to the gradual, accelerating liquidation of fossil fuel dependancy. Here in Norway I have been working together with a growing number of people for now over eight years to spread the idea of this solution.

    Unfortunately the experience is, that especially all the “lukewarmers”, or as I call them: greenwashers (who in my experience are the very reason we are now in deep shit, they have been and are the effective oiligarchy army) are very good at looking through any attempt whatsoever to do anything effective about the matter, they spot it immidiately. Which shows their hand: they are, as most “politicians” nowadays, only in it for the money. Capitalism has long ago become a form of collective autism.

    The reason I don’t think mankind will come to any solution of the climate and environment crises is that what we call capitalism seems to be simply the quintessence of mankind. It’s far too easy to overlook the fact that the difference between a locust plague and mankind almost solely lies in the scale of the destruction. Nothing so far in history points to any other conclusion except for socalled “optimism”, which is just another word for ignorance of all facts that don’t fit the eternal growth illusion: capitalism’s ideology. Of course the laws of nature will put a brutal end to this silliness, they are already in full swing. There may be water on Mars, but there seems to be only tiny and vaning amounts of intelligent life here on earth. Of course life on earth will survive us, just as it has survived other catastrophes. Hopefully some really intelligent lifeforms will develop here or somewhere else.

    #108 Mr. KIA: my sincerest apologies for my clumsy norwegian version of your native tongue, of course it’s only my fault that I wasn’t born at the holy center of the world. I should have been wise enough to chose otherwise in time before my birth. Imperialist expressions are as always very charming, and I thank you deeply for your elegant contributions.

    Your ability to read seems to lack a bit, though. At least what I mean by “falling into a trap” is not that one does that intentionally, consciously. I don’t think the historical/biological reasons for the development of capitalism was any kind of teleology. Maybe more the first law of the universe: if anything can go wrong, it will. Also known as the second main thesis of thermodynamics. Excuses if this don’t fit your taste of humour.

  13. 113
    MA Rodger says:

    Mr Know It All @108 & @109,
    Surely within these RealClimate comment threads which you pollute with your chirpy nonsense, the “virtue signalling” and the TDS (presumably you mean ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’) is down to you.
    And note that your own comment @108 is far too riven with logical error and inconsistency for you to be forgetting Matthew 7:3.

    Had you actually “struggled thru” the comment @108 as you claim you did and if you properly understood it, you would know it does not deride the likes of Abraham Derby for finding uses of FF beyond heating & cooking. It derided those who ignore the established findings of climate science and fail to set a course towards a FF-free world. Thus your posed question is nought but more of your TDS-fuelled “virtue signalling.”

    So rather than wait for an answer as you say you do @108, perhaps you should be re-visiting your comment @109. Between the coarse language, there is potentially a sensible comment lurking in there. Do note the ‘strap line’ of RealClimate and also the topic under discussion in this thread. So what do you actually mean when you assert @109 that ‘much of “your science” has degenerated into politically correct crap”? What science do you refer to?

  14. 114
    Killian says:

    86 nigelj:

    Killian @85

    “Yet another lie: I have been outspoken about the NTHE idiots. On these fora.”

    I haven’t seen it. And you provide not evidence. Please provide a link back to such a comment.


    And there’s a search function, idiot. And, who TF are you to demand anything? STFU.

  15. 115
    William B Jackson says:

    KIA even the name is a misnomer…that’s all we need to know!

  16. 116
    nigelj says:

    Killian @114, you make the assertion, you need to provide the evidence.

  17. 117
    nigelj says:

    Killian @114, and I didn’t even read the comments on this website 10 years ago, so how could I have seen your old comment, if you made it? You make the most bizarre statements and accusations.

  18. 118
    nigelj says:

    Karsten V. Johansen @112, Mr KIA does not understand subtlety. There’s a great deal he doesn’t understand!

  19. 119
    Radge Havers says:

    Alastair McIntosh @ 93

    Thank you for your thoughtful replies. They are giving me things to think about.

    On your 3rd point, I will say that I’m probably not as dogmatic as I may have sounded when it comes to how nice (or not) to be with some people on some issues.

    As I see it, in a given situation how one approaches a subject depends on the one hand on who your target audience is, and on the other who you are. In other words, I’m not a climate scientist and would definitely not recommend that scientists say the kinds of rough things that I let come out of my mouth. Just saying that who is talking and to whom matters, and that what’s appropriate in one situation may not be so in another. In other other words, there’s room in the world for many different voices.

    How well the social context is evaluated is another matter.

  20. 120

    V 95: that does not make her [AOC] any less clueless.

    BPL: Coming from Victor, this is priceless.

  21. 121

    KIA: I did make it to the coast – no evidence of sea level rise.

    BPL: Really? You measured the tidal gauges across the globe over many decades? Or did you use satellite altimetry?

  22. 122

    KIA 109: Without engineering NO science would be done today.

    BPL: You have no idea what “science” means, do you?

  23. 123
    zebra says:

    #103 jgnfld,

    “This does not preclude an engineer from practicing “real” science. It’s simply an observation that engineering is simply not science.”

    So here’s a question:

    At some point in the history of homo…sapiens, whatever,…there were individuals who figured out how to do things. Obvious examples would be modifying (optimizing) stone and wooden tools and weapons to maximize effectiveness, transforming “dirt” into durable and useful forms (ceramics and glass), and extracting what we now call elements, and combining them into useful forms (metallurgy), from otherwise unremarkable compounds present in the environment.

    Were those lice-ridden individuals, with life expectancies of 35 years, and bad teeth, “engineers” or “scientists”?

    Just curious. To me, these were fellow-travellers, who had to do the same stuff I have done, however we label them. What’s the difference that you see?

  24. 124
    Piotr says:

    Killian (85): “Yet another lie: I have been outspoken about the NTHE idiots. On these fora.”

    nigelj (86): I haven’t seen it. And you provide not evidence. Please provide a link back to such a comment.

    Killian (114): Liar

    Strong claims demand unequivocal proofs. “Liar” is as strong as they get. To clarify – Nigel is a “liar”, because …. you know better than him which your posts he read and which he didn’t, or he is a “liar” by saying that you didn’t provide evidence for your claim (which you didn’t)?

    Killian: And there’s a search function, idiot.

    Hmm I typed “NTHE” – of the 4 hits,, one is this thread, one is by Thomas, and there are … 2 posts by you. Out of how many hundreds? thousands? of your posts on RC? Just asking to establish what you mean by …”outspoken”.
    Of course not being fluent in your body of work here, I might have chosen suboptimal keywords. Now, who would the person who best knows what you wrote here over the years, therefore knows the best keywords? See also the next point:

    Killian: And, who TF are you to demand anything? STFU.

    So you are saying that the onus of proof of YOUR claims is on the …reader?

    Final point – writing “who TF are you” and “STFU” does not prove that you are above this kind of “arguments”, but merely you are coy about it. If you mean to say: “who THE FUCK are you?” and “Shut The Fuck Up”, then say what you mean.
    “Never be ashamed of who you are” (Oldman 1997)

    Oldman, Gary, 1997. (time: 1-20 sec)

  25. 125
    Mr. Know It All says:

    112 – Karsten V. Johansen
    I apologize for criticizing your writing – did not know it was not your native language. I had lapsed into the brave keyboard-warrior mode of trying to fit in with everyone else and be as caustic an a$$hole as possible. Many comments seem like they are trying to win that prize, but I knew I could not hold a candle to many of the smart a$$es commenting here. ;)

    105 – nigelj
    Make sure you have an alternative to FFs for food production to allow for: planting, fertilizing, applying pesticides, harvesting, transporting, processing, packaging, transporting again, maintaining suitable storage conditions, etc before you pull the plug on FFs. Wouldn’t want ya to go hungry. ;)

  26. 126
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    Correcting myself #112: Surely I don’t mean to say that we as a species are doomed with certainty, but just that by now things look very bleak indeed. Listening to Trumps gobbledegook certainly don’t lift your spirits om behalf of homo sapiens.

    I mean, things like these make even the noble Don Quijote look very sane:

    As I have written here before: the media cacaphony machine is a huge obstacle today to almost any kind of enlightened democratic decisionmaking. When profitmaximization dominates everything, what you get is mainly crackpottery. The market “mechanism” makes only chaos when it comes to scientific knowlegde, because the market is what we i physics terminology call a metastable system: every instability is selfsustaining, like a coin on the edge or an electric waterboiler which does not switch off until the water has boiled away and the kitchen burned down to the ground.

  27. 127
    Victor says:

    KIA: I did make it to the coast – no evidence of sea level rise.

    BPL: Really? You measured the tidal gauges across the globe over many decades? Or did you use satellite altimetry?

    V: I presume he did not. However, J. T. Fasullo, a respected climate scientist, and his associates did. And found sea level rise to have decreased:

    “Global mean sea level rise estimated from satellite altimetry provides a strong constraint on climate variability and change and is expected to accelerate as the rates of both ocean warming and cryospheric mass loss increase over time. In stark contrast to this expectation however, current altimeter products show the rate of sea level rise to have decreased from the first to second decades of the altimeter era. Here, a combined analysis of altimeter data and specially designed climate model simulations shows the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo to likely have masked the acceleration that would have otherwise occurred.” ( )

    Note the phrase “would have otherwise occurred.” In other words there was NO acceleration in sea level rise observed from altimeter readings. Whether that evidence can be explained away on the basis of some POSSIBLE external influence or not is beside the point. The FACT remains that they found evidence of deceleration, NOT the expected acceleration.

  28. 128
    Mr. Know It All says:

    121 – BPL
    “… You measured the tidal gauges across the globe over many decades? Or did you use satellite altimetry?”

    It is impossible to measure a sea level rise of, for example, 2 or 3 mm because all land on earth including that above and below the ocean surface is moving up and down, and there is no way to tell how much it is moving because there is no fixed point of reference. Also, satellite orbits decay, thermal layers in the atmosphere distort signals, etc. Nobody knows what the sea level is doing. There are sea shells on tops of mountains all over the world.

  29. 129
    Mr. Know It All says:

    126 – KV Johansen
    “….I mean, things like these make even the noble Don Quijote look very sane:”

    How about these:


  30. 130
    José M. Sousa says:

    As for the consensus science of the IPCC and alarmism, I find this article from James Hansen quite illuminating: «Scientific reticence and sea level rise»

  31. 131
    jgnfld says:

    @123 zebra

    Differences between science and engineering? Briefly–not trying to hijack–the difference is simple: Engineers build things for self/others. Scientists describe nature acceptably to skeptical, trained peers. Different ends. Different methods. Different mind-sets. Often different personality types.

    End of discussion in this thread.

  32. 132
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Actually, probably the best distinctions between science and engineering come from Richard Hamming:

    “In science if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it.
    In engineering if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it.
    Of course, you seldom, if ever, see either pure state.”


    “Science is concerned with what is possible while engineering is concerned with choosing, from among the many possible ways, one that meets a number of often poorly stated economic and practical objectives.”

    Science is really concerned with developing a reliable understanding of a phenomenon. Such an understanding is a prerequisite for doing engineering, but science is not the only way to achieve it–trial and error works as well.

    Science is just the quickest and most reliable way of developing deep understanding. And really, it is a modern invention. Noted philosopher and royal embezzler Francis Bacon came remarkably close to the modern scientific method in Novum Organum (1620), but the method has continued to develop, becoming more collaborative and more interconnected. In Bacon’s time there probably weren’t enough scientists to really do science. However, by the time of Newton, Hooke, Leibniz, Huygens and Halley, you had the Royal Society (1660) and the French Academy(1666)–science was already an international endeavor. Up to Bacon, you had “natural philosophers”. After the founding of scientific societies, people were doing science in a way scientists today would recognize.

    Prior to

  33. 133
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Were those lice-ridden individuals, with life expectancies of 35 years, and bad teeth, “engineers” or “scientists”?”
    When they were banging rocks together to see what happened, they were scientists.
    When they were banging rocks together (knapping) in a particular way, to see how sharp an edge they could achieve, they were applied scientists.
    When they were banging rocks together to make the second sharp piece of rock like the first, they were engineers.
    When they traded a sharp piece of rock to someone else for a woven basket, they were economists.
    The rest is history. Although, given the fineness and delicacy of some knapped tools, it was also herstory.

  34. 134
    Russell says:

    RC’s resident Ignoramus Maximus says;

    “it is impossible to measure a sea level rise.. because all land on earth including that above and below the ocean surface is moving up and down, and there is no way to tell how much it is moving because there is no fixed point of reference. ”

    What part of geoid, gravity gradiometer and GPS doesn’t KIA understand ?

    They’ve all been undergoing decimal place per decade refinement since the late 20th century.

  35. 135
    nigelj says:

    Ray Ladbury @132, interesting comments, but isn’t it simpler in that science is about understanding how the world works, and engineering is about design? These are two different thought processes, although engineering benefits from science, and science benefits from engineering.

  36. 136
    MA Rodger says:

    José M. Sousa @130,
    You don’t actually explain what it is about the Hansen ‘article’ that you find “quite illuminating.”
    The ‘article’ you reference is Hansen (2007) ‘Scientific reticence and sea level rise’ which addresses the absence of accelerated Ice Sheet contributions to Sea Level Rise in the IPCC AR4, this absence because the dynamics was not well understood. At the time, the resulting underestimation in the IPCC’s SLR projections was well known with literature attempting to bound an upper limit to 2100 SLR and usually giving figures of 1.2m SLR under BAU, double the upper limit of ranges provided by AR4.

    Of course, things have moved on since that time. IPCC AR5 shows ranges with upper limits of 2100 SLR under BAU significantly higher than AR4, but at 0.82m still considered a pulled-punch. The literature identifying the upper bounds of 2100 SLR have also increased their estimates. And from 2007 onward Hansen would soon be espousing multi-metre SLR by 2100 as being realistic (the basis of his argument initially buried in his 2009 book ‘Storms of my Grandchildren’ and eventually set out in the discussion paper Hansen et al (2015) ‘Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms’).

  37. 137

    Victor evinces an inability to read:

    V 127: V: I presume he did not. However, J. T. Fasullo, a respected climate scientist, and his associates did. And found sea level rise to have decreased:
    “Global mean sea level rise estimated from satellite altimetry provides a strong constraint on climate variability and change and is expected to accelerate as the rates of both ocean warming and cryospheric mass loss increase over time. In stark contrast to this expectation however, current altimeter products show the rate of sea level rise to have decreased from the first to second decades of the altimeter era….”

    BPL: I leave it to those who CAN read to see where Victor made his mistake.

  38. 138

    KIA 128: It is impossible to measure a sea level rise of, for example, 2 or 3 mm because all land on earth including that above and below the ocean surface is moving up and down, and there is no way to tell how much it is moving because there is no fixed point of reference.

    BPL: And KIA knows nothing about how tidal gauges or satellite altimetry works, either. Is anyone surprised?

  39. 139
    William B Jackson says:

    I was going to respond to Mr KIA’ latest nonsense when I realized it was almost impossible to do so in the face of: “Comment policy. Please note that if your comment repeats a point you have already made, or is abusive, or is the nth comment you have posted in a very short amount of time, please reflect on the whether you are using your time online to maximum efficiency. Thanks.” There is nothing truthful to be said about the above noted’s posts that does not meet those tenets! Hopefully I can be more creative in the face of his future asinine comments.
    With hopes of a future better day.
    William B Jackson

  40. 140

    #134, Russell–

    What part of geoid, gravity gradiometer and GPS doesn’t KIA understand ?

    Uh, all of them?

  41. 141
    MartinJB says:

    Victor (@137] repeats his comments about SLR. Repeated nonsense gets a repeated reply:

    Victor makes a big deal about Fasullo et. al. 2016 which somewhat arbitrarily compares SLR in the first two decades of the altimeter record, while ignoring the data showing notably faster SLR afterwards. He also, in his usual way, dismisses the author’s mention of the influence of Pinatubo (I mean, how DARE scientists incorporate more than one causal factor at a time!).

    Fortunately, we have more substantial research that looks at a more complete range of altimeter data in Nerem et. al. 2018 ( They calculate acceleration of the unadjusted GMSL data of about 0.10mm y^-2. So, that is, to be clear, an acceleration of SLR. That acceleration is slightly higher once you incorporate an adjustment for Pinatubo (0.12mm y^-2). The nerve, of those scientists taking additional factors into account. But they don’t stop there. They note that ENSO also impacts SLR, so they adjust for that too. You ready? After that adjustment the acceleration falls to 0.08mm y^-2.

    So, we can dismiss yet another of Victor’s attempts to distort the science.

  42. 142
    Al Bundy says:

    Scientists and engineers? You guys left out inventors.
    Engineering does not require any “new thought”. Inventing does. An engineer who is capable of “new thought” is quite valuable to a scientist or an inventor.

    And yes, plenty of inventors have engineering degrees. But creativity is not required to obtain an engineering degree. A patent is another matter.

  43. 143
    José M. Sousa says:

    MA Rodger

    This, for instance:

    «It was not obvious who was right on the science, but
    it seemed to me, and I believe to most scientists, that the
    scientists preaching caution and downplaying the dangers of
    climate change fared better in receipt of research funding»

    and this

    «I believe there is a pressure on scientists to be
    conservative. Papers are accepted for publication more
    readily if they do not push too far and are larded with
    caveats. Caveats are essential to science, being born in
    skepticism, which is essential to the process of investigation
    and verification. But there is a question of degree. A tendency
    for ‘gradualism’ as new evidence comes to light may be illsuited
    for communication, when an issue with a short time fuse
    is concerned.»

  44. 144
    zebra says:

    Ray Ladbury and Brian Dodge,

    Good answers.

    For me, the science-y end of the spectrum is characterized by the emphasis on abstraction, and pursuit of underlying principles. I suspect the prehistoric development of more complex language played a key role in that…chicken-egg?, of course.

    (Ray, this is why I would expect a scientist to be keen on doing thought experiments, but you seem to have given up on the discussion we were having on FR.)

    Brian, interesting point about gender. Even if you think about ‘traditional’ observed division-of-labor roles in various cultures, like women doing the gathering and cooking, those activities require the same process of discernment and development as you describe. Maybe more so.

  45. 145
    José M. Sousa says:

    If this is not wrong, it´s one more sign that the IPCC is lacking in its mission.

  46. 146
    José M. Sousa says:

    Another iluminating article:

    «Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?»

    «However, the available evidence suggests that scientists have in fact been conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change. In particular, we discuss recent studies showing that at least some of the key attributes of global warming from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases have been under-predicted, particularly in IPCC assessments of the physical science, by Working Group I.»

  47. 147
    Al Bundy says:

    Mal: Anyone with living copies of their genes must account for not only their own footprint, but their descendants’ unto the nth generation. That makes me
    AB: unable to get a date?

  48. 148
    Al Bundy says:

    “The rejection the Paris climate agreements is really the liberation of 7.5 billion people from a dangerous, anti-human, anti-progress agenda.”
    Robert L. Bradley Jr.

    It’s amazing how scum are usually so self-unaware. “I received millions of stolen, uh, EARNED dollars so God obviously approves of everything we did at Enron.”

  49. 149
    Al Bundy says:

    Kia: Try a thought experiment, and tell us what the world would look like today had we not used FFs for the past 150+ years.

    AB: wind, solar, biofuels, and nuclear would be widespread. Disease would decline drastically. Economic output would be far higher since we wouldn’t be held back by fossilized thinking.
    The world’s population would be far lower, meaning that each person would have access to far larger quantities of resources.
    It’s hard to imagine a single negative consequence.

  50. 150
    Al Bundy says:

    Mal: Existentially we’re all mediocre
    AB: “We”, Kimosabe?