Climate scientists expect political failure

The Guardian has two stories about a poll they conducted of the people who attended the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

Almost nine out of 10 climate scientists do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will succeed, a Guardian poll reveals today. An average rise of 4-5C by the end of this century is more likely, they say, given soaring carbon emissions and political constraints. ...

The poll asked the experts whether the 2C target could still be achieved, and whether they thought that it would be met: 60% of respondents argued that, in theory, it was still technically and economically possible to meet the target, which represents an average global warming of 2C since the industrial revolution.

Many scientists are reluctant to admit publicly that the 2C target is unrealistic, and several warned that simply raising the subject was sensitive. One said: "Telling people that x% people think it can't be done would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Great things can only be achieved by everyone believing it can be done ... Churchill didn't stand around saying most people think we will lose the war. He said we will fight it on the beaches." ...

Some of those surveyed who said the 2C target would be met confessed they did so more out of hope rather than belief. "As a mother of young children I choose to believe this, and work hard toward it," one said.

"This optimism is not primarily due to scientific facts, but to hope," said another.

None of this suggests to me that we should give up on mitigation -- even if we fail to meet the 2°C goal we are still much better off trying to adapt to 3°C than to 5°C.

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"we are still much better off trying to adapt to 3°C than to 5°C."

Of course that assumes that we wont hit tipping points with 3°C of warming that will push us to 5°C. Still you are probably right, given the alternatives.

Well, if there's a bonus 2 degrees in the system somewhere, then 2 degrees of mitigation could be the difference between 5° of warming (catastrophic) and 7° of warming (Lovelock scenario).

"This optimism is not primarily due to scientific facts, but to hope," said another.

Nothing wrong with that...

"we are still much better off trying to adapt to 3°C than to 5°C."

Nothing wrong with adaptation. But mitigation with a global 2-3°C effect (2 instead of 4-5 degrees)? We are already 0.8°C up. Another 1.2°C up (=2.0°C)would be at the lower end of the IPCC spectrum, and 0.5°C is still supposed to be in the pipeline with current levels of greenhouse gases? So nothing has changed with this propaganda poll.

I agree with you and probably 90% of climate scientists on this one: Never ever will we be able to have an influence on global temperature of 2-3°C by the end of the century, which would depend on our mitigation efforts henceforth.

I notice something when I read inactivist claims like Climatepatrol's (although this is not directed at him individually, just his movement stagnation).

Fundamentally, resisting any form of mitigation whatsoever until it's too late and saying "see, we were right, mitigation's pointless" is an awful lot like the tactics of the hedge fund manager -- that is, wagering that a stock price will go down, using money gained from selling millions in that stock. Both serve no purpose except to gratify the person doing the sabotage, and both have collateral damage with everyone else invested in what they're sabotaging (in ways typical of individualist Ayn Rand thinking, denying there is such a thing as the public or the commons).

Given how it took a financial system meltdown to raise populist outrage at the hedge fundies, pointing out the sheer immorality of the procedure, I'm not optimistic about what it will take to rally the public against the inactivists.

My personal opinion is that we (and humanity) are going to lose. The deniers will win public opinion. Nothing will be done in time. 21st century agriculture will collapse, and with it, advanced civilization. It will take a while to revert to a medieval standard of living, but it will happen, and the first effects are already being felt now--ask the Australians. Within our lifetime we will see news stands no longer offering junk food, fast food places closing down, and groceries rationed.

One could blame Exxon-Mobile and Consolidated Coal, and believe me, I do. But they had an easy job of it, I believe, because humans just aren't wired to think in the ways needed to prevent a crisis. Our pattern is to wait until the crisis happens and then do something. We react, we don't prevent. We don't take the path that avoids the lion; we take the wrong path and then run like hell when we spot a lion. And sometimes the lion outruns us.

There are 15 times more True scientists who deplore the silly remarks of GIEC. Who takes into account science today?
Il y a 15 fois plus de Vrais scientifiques qui déplorent les âneries du GIEC. Qui tient compte de la science aujourd'hui ?

I don't think that was actually humorix, I think it was his evil twin moronix.

"15 times more True scientists who deplore the silly remarks of GIEC"

Granted he is only off by a factor of about 20, so he is much smarter than the average denialist troll.

I have just finished writing a paper titled "Gone With the Wind:
The Death of Global Warming March 8th â April 11th, 2009 - RIP"

In it I maintain that global warming is a Meme that took seven years to build and less than two months to die because it existed only in the mind of the true-believers. (Y2K took three years to buid and only one day to die.)

I would be pleased to email a copy to anyone who asks. My email address is grovesbr-at-optusnet.com.au (-at- = @ of course.)

Trolls are welcome but anyone who uses the word "Creationist" instead of discussing the paper will be sent a review of Ian Plimer's new book 'Heaven and Earth' instead.

Brent Groves

By Brenton R Groves (not verified) on 14 Apr 2009 #permalink

Of course that assumes that we wont hit tipping points with 3°C of warming that will push us to 5°C

What on earth does this even mean?

I'm going to assume that by 3C you mean 550 ppm (ignoring CO2 resulting from feedbacks in the carbon cycle), or 2x CO2. (Because Charney sensitivity is commonly estimated at about 3C) That you mean something like: "Of course that assumes that we wont hit tipping points with 550 ppm that will push us to 5°C"

But that's seriously wrong. If 550 ppm results in 5C warming - 800 ppm (3x CO2) might well result in 7C or 8C warming. More is always worse, tipping points or no.

In it I maintain that global warming is a Meme that took seven years to build and less than two months to die because it existed only in the mind of the true-believers.

Sounds great! I'll trade you for a copy of my recent paper, in which I maintain that everyone is stupid but me. I expect it to earn me the Nobel Prize, at the very least.

I'd like to see a graph of CO2(in atmosphere in ppm) vs 'expected' temperature rise. Any one out there got the most recent one? or are all these figures just being pulled from a hat at random ....."2°C goal we are still much better off trying to adapt to 3°C than to 5°C".

Do temperatures fall if we can reduce CO2? It all seems so very simple and here's me thinking that our climate is complex and controlled by numerous variables.

"It will take a while to revert to a medieval standard of living, but it will happen, and the first effects are already being felt now--ask the Australians"

Yes BPL we are all living in the stone age in Australia and really loving it! We have recently seen several major power failures in Sydney in preparation for our transition to renewables because when this occurs we will only get electricity when the sun shines or the wind blows.

I have already started saving up a pile of round stones to use for wheels - these will be in huge demand when we are no longer permitted to drive cars. I'm looking forward to long evenings around the campfire with my grandchildren after a hard day hunting on the prairie.

You are so lucky living outside Australia where you dont have to look forward to an emmissions trading tax which will kill most manufacturing and extractive industries and will almost certainly hasten our way to a 'new' stone aqe.

Lank:

Yep, climate science is so complex that it can be settled by a single graph!

Mit der Dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens.

Let's work the problem, guys. Failure is not an option.

Pessimism, optimism, and picking particular numbers from the projections are sideshows.

Our tools are efficiency, renewables, and conservation. Let's keep working the problem.

By Mark Shapiro (not verified) on 15 Apr 2009 #permalink

It would be interesting to get some of the journalists to go interview scientists in other areas.

Those trying to bring back the American Chestnut
Those working on nutrition in public school programs
Those working on public health on antibiotic resistance
Those working on influenza

There's a long list. I think it'd be surprising to most people without a science background just how much could be being saved, could be being done, and how much isn't being done.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 15 Apr 2009 #permalink

Tim,

A few (in)convenient facts you missed out of your post.

The Guardian contacted all 1756 people who registered to attend the recent Copenhagen sciencefest. 261(15%)responded. Of these 200(11%)were researchers in climate science 'and related fields' 84 said they thought the temperature rise would reach 3-4C by the end of the century. That is 5% of the people who attended Copenhagen.

Wow!

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrew... good point and I'm sure that many of these 5% would change thier minds if they read today's Australian which contain some excellent comments on Antarctica where 90 per cent of the planets ice and 80 per cent of our fresh water is stored.

Australiaâs leading Antarctica ice scientist claims that there is no evidence of significant change in the mass of ice shelves in east Antarctica nor any indication that its ice cap is melting. "Ice core drilling near Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m."
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25349683-601,00.html

Hey Tim .... An interesting development in SW Queensland where an inland lake is forming in central Australia in what experts describe as the best in 20 years. As waters accumulate from flooded northern rivers hundreds of thousands of water birds are turning the dessert into a tropical wetland oasis.

Much of the Diamantina Shire, a huge area of 96,000 square kilometres has been under water at some time this wet season, with up to 300mm of rain falling over several weeks and storms continuing.
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25349685-30417,00.ht…

Is this caused by increasing CO2 and AGW? â if so maybe we should bring it on!

Finally.... a good news story caused by global warming... rain....floods....birdlife...printed in THE AUSTRALIAN too
Cue the war on science #153

Lank's talking point gets debunked, and in reply he blithely proceeds to his next talking point.

No doubt he's proclaiming VICTORY!!! even as I write this.

Lank:

I'm sure that many of these 5% would change thier minds if they read today's Australian

So after reading the Australian they would realize the game is up and they would have to renounce their part in the great global warming conspiracy. Sure Lank, sure.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I have just finished writing a paper called "Killfile me now."

Thanks, very informative.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 19 Apr 2009 #permalink