Science Fiction: 'Climate Vulnerability Monitor Report' Released

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.”