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Science Fiction: ‘Climate Vulnerability Monitor Report’ Released

This irresponsible report does not belong anywhere near policy planners.

by
Tom Harris

Bio

September 29, 2012 - 12:00 am

On Wednesday, the 2012 “Climate Vulnerability Monitor – a Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet“ was released to great fanfare in New York City. Conducted by the DARA group, a non-governmental organization based in Europe, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the 331-page report forecasts death and destruction on a scale normally reserved for science fiction.

Media covering the report printed extraordinary headlines. Per US News & World Report: “Report: 100 Million Could Die From Climate Change By 2030.”

The Manila Bulletin headlined an Agence France-Presse newswire article: “Climate Change Choking World Economy — Report.”

Businessweek announced: “Climate Change Reducing Global GDP by $1.2 Trillion.”

Only a few questioned whether the report made any sense. Calling it “a triumph for public relations,” statistician Bjorn Lomborg — director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Denmark — showed how the report’s handling of “climate change deaths, economic costs, and the costs of ‘action versus inaction’” is nonsense.

However, even Lomborg accepts the climate change science underlying the report. This is a serious mistake. Science misunderstandings continue to drive the climate scare, and lead to exaggerated reports such as the “Monitor.” While humans undoubtedly have some impact on climate, especially at regional levels due to the “urban heat island” effect, preventing climate from changing on a global basis is science fiction.

Like most documents of its kind, the “Climate Vulnerability Monitor” is based on the assumption that climate science is sufficiently mature that we conclusively know:

  1. It will get dangerously warmer over the century due to humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases;
  2. Extreme weather events will increase for the same reason;
  3. Glaciers and other ice cover will melt precipitously and sea level rise will accelerate quickly;
  4. Climate change during the 20th century was mostly caused by the carbon dioxide emissions of developed countries who are therefore “guilty” of causing the world’s climate problems;
  5. The vast majority of scientists who study the causes of global climate change agree with the “Climate Vulnerability Monitor” position.

None of these are valid assumptions. For example: while some scientists give the sort of confident, absolute statements included in the “Monitor” report, other scientists say the exact opposite — namely that we are headed for a period of the far more dangerous global cooling, no matter what humanity does. The majority of experts in the field likely – no one has yet conducted a meaningful survey — support the sensible position that we do not know the future of global climate, and that we cannot make meaningful forecasts until there are major advances in the basic science.

The report’s most dangerous section contained their recommendations to “communicators and the media.” From the subsection, titled “Promote awareness on risks as opportunities”:

Take a stand. … Time is running out and the stakes are tremendous, if not incalculable.

Interestingly, they did feel comfortable calculating “the stakes” elsewhere in the report, advising communicators and the media that “it is no longer credible that mitigation of climate change will lead to reduced economic growth.”

Also from the section:

If a low carbon transition is not engineered within the decade, the consequences will be dire regardless of the ultimate magnitude since they involve irreversible damage: the extinction of whole species, and thousands upon thousands of human lives lost.

Well, no. It is all about the “ultimate magnitude” of the changes forecast. A one degree warming over the next century (the amount of change cited by many experts as most likely) would be inconsequential. A ten-degree change would obviously be catastrophic. Of course, species extinction has been continuing since the origin of life. Of all the species that ever existed on the planet, 99.99% are now extinct.

The section took the claims a step further:

In worst case, not solving the climate change could render large areas of the planet unsuitable for human existence outdoors. The injustices, environmental irresponsibility and inhumanity are simply staggering.

The conclusion to the section is ominous, raising the specter of future Nuremberg-like trials for those who do not support the climate scare:

Despite the complexity of the topic, ignorance is no excuse for inaction, and indifference can be tied to complicity. With this report, there is now a comprehensive current-day economic justification for action in addition to the human, ethical, environmental and rights-based arguments already in wide circulation. Civil society groups, communicators and people of all kinds in positions of public influence or authority within their communities, whether in faith based groups, municipal or educational establishments, should find no further obstacles to taking a stand to tackling climate change.

The report ironically then advises communicators and the media to “question received wisdom.”

Natural climate change has affected societies throughout history, and the lack of preparedness for change ended some civilizations tragically. Consequently, the authors of the new report are right to promote preparation and adaptation to climate change. But climate change does not happen in only one direction, and we cannot halt it no matter what we do. The “Climate Vulnerability Monitor” should not be used as a basis for policy planning.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).
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