Doomed Planet

Tim Flannery’s Latest Climate Triumph

Congrats to paleontologist Dr Tim Flannery for new international recognition in the peer-reviewed global climate literature. Dr Flannery is head of Australia’s Climate Council, a Fellow of the deep-green Australian Academy of Science, and previously federal Labor’s Climate Commissioner on a modest $180,000 a year for a three-day week. Now his credentials have been further burnished, having just been prominently cited in a peer-reviewed paper in the International Journal of Global Warming this week. The paper is itself extolled in a press release from the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Timbo, congratulations!

I thought I’d have to pay $US40 for the full paper – not that I’d grudge it for Tim – but chanced on a copy here. It’s by David C. Rode and Paul S. Fischbeck, both professors at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’re heavy hitters in the maths/engineering world of operations research, and believe in the orthodox human-caused catastrophic warming hypothesis. One of Professor Fischbeck’s earliest papers was as the co-author of “Risk Management for the Tiles of the Space Shuttle” (1994). That appeared midway between the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. Co-professor David Rode has been an energy/electricity policy researcher for 20 years.

The paper’s title is “Apocalypse Now? Communicating extreme forecasts”. The authors are fed up with their climate mates dogmatically forecasting climate doom. Moreover, these forecasts typically lack uncertainty bands, which are the essence of real science. The professors complain that the dud doomism by 2000, 2020, 2030 or whenever generates disrepute and mockery of real scientists:

Recent evidence has also suggested that certain commonly accepted scientific predictions may indeed be exaggerated.

Rode and Fischbeck collected 79 “apocalyptic” disaster projections since 1970. They found that, in 48 cases, the predicted disaster dates have passed into history and it seems no doom occurred. The other 31 predictions are still in the future. As the authors say, “The apocalypse is always about 20 years out.” For example, the father of global warming scares, James Hansen, and fake Nobel Prize winner Michael Mann have catastrophic predictions maturing in the 2030s, although their forecasts for earlier dooms were all duds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already had one forecast of cataclysm fail but it has more cataclysms on the cab rank for 2029 and 2050, the paper says.

The authors warn that crying wolf undermines trust in the underlying science. But they say that it’s likely that their own warnings against exaggeration will be ignored, because

making sensational predictions of the doom of humanity, while scientifically dubious, has still proven tempting for those wishing to grab headlines.

So where does our Dr Tim fit in all this? Well he’s cited no fewer than three times by the study for his climate armageddons. No, make that four because his unlamented former Climate Commission is also cited. The only other forecasters to crack four mentions are scientist/agitator James Hansen and the IPCC itself.

Paul Ehrlich, who forecast that England would be underwater from rising seas by 2000, gets three guernseys.[1] So does loopy monarch-to-be Charles, Prince of Wales.

The other 70-odd doom specialists cited include six-mansion-owning tycoon Al Gore, the late sex-harassing grub and 13-year IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, ex-UN climate tear-jerker Christiana “Tinkerbell” Figueres, Joe Biden’s far-left muse Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and my least-impressive journo-turned-climate-guru mate David Spratt.[2] As his other pal, Potsdam climate wunderkind Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has put it,

It is all the more important to listen to non-mainstream voices [namely Spratt] who do understand the issues and are less hesitant to cry wolf. Unfortunately for us, the wolf may already be in the house.

I also spotted Democrat Senator Tim Wirth on the list. Wirth organised for James Hansen’s 1988 testimony about global warming to be on Washington’s hottest day and also sabotaged the air-conditioning of the hearing rooms to make everyone sweat for the TV cameras. Yet another climate clown cited is Cambridge physics professor Peter Wadhams, who has never given up predicting an ice-free Arctic even when his earlier predictions (like, by 2015) failed miserably.[3]

A few spectacularly cracked forecasts are cited, such as this one by former catastrophist James Lovelock, Fellow of the Royal Society and developer of the Gaia Hypothesis, “Before this (21st) century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.” Lovelock is not wholly green these days, much to greenies’ chagrin.[4]

Other than Flannery, Australian sources given dishonorable mentions are the Academy of Science’s Frank Fenner, who was a great virologist but an over-the-top climate hysteric; and our very own former Chief Scientist Penny Sackett, famous for her prediction in 2004 that the world had only five years left to avoid disastrous global warming. Reading from the authors’ table, we find Flannery predictions dating from 2004 (for 2054), 2008 (for an immediate tipping point), and 2009 (for 2029). All his forecasts involve alarms about it being “too late to act” at that date to save the planet.

The paper’s authors check to see if their cited doom-criers would be alive when their forecast dates arrive. Flannery was born in 1956 so when his furthest-out apocalypse arrives, he’ll be 98 and either enjoying his vindication or explaining through toothless gums how he was misquoted.

Flannery’s copious earnings from warmist campaigning have financed a home “with environmental features at Coba Point on the Hawkesbury River, accessible only by boat.” Given the Hawkesbury  floods last month, the boat must have had a good workout. In 2005 Flannery was forecasting “permanent drought” for NSW: “If the computer models are right, then drought conditions will become permanent in eastern Australia … Water is going to be in short supply across the eastern states.” His other famous quote is about “the rain that comes won’t fill our dams” but being Perth born, I most love his forecasts about climate change turning Perth into a ghost city. (Perth median house price last year, $790,000).

Getting back to the Rode and Fischbeck paper, they’re warmist believers and their critiques are more in sorrow than anger. They want doom-forecasting to be

# more nuanced and with uncertainty bars

# progressive in the sense of a series of short-term ‘building block’ forecasts leading to the long-term doom date, enabling frequent checks on forecasters’ accuracy. This will “better motivate a public acceptance of climate science that has been plagued with growing scepticism,” they write.

# less group-think among climate communicators, such as always picking round-number dates like 2030, 2050 and 2100.

The paper begins with a delightful quote from climate scientist Greta Thunberg (then 17):

I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do, but don’t worry – it’s fine – I’ve done this before and I can assure you: it doesn’t lead to anything.

They also quote an aphorism (attributed to Carl Sagan) that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence’ and re-work it as “extraordinary predictions require extraordinary caution in communication.” They also note that doom forecasting is generally not done in a spirit of objective inquiry but to jab the authorities into action to shut down fossil fuels and destroy coal-fired power or whatever. For example, the lead-ups (should that be leads-up, by the way?) to the Copenhagen (2009) and Paris climate summits (2015) saw a surge in doom crying, serving

as focal points for the issuance of apocalyptic forecasts. For these ‘must act’ forecasts, the intent may not be literal, but emphatic, in order to encourage a belief in fear over rational scientific discourse. These apocalyptic forecasts may be issued specifically to apply political pressure to policymakers to take action on the meetings’ agendas.

Our shoals of environment reporters get beautifully slapped down. We learn that the reporters are mostly innocent of knowledge about uncertainties in science, and gravitate to quoting doom-criers who emphasise certainty that their disasters will arrive.[5] (The Australian’s Graham Lloyd always an honorable exception).

Doulton and Brown (2009) performed a study of UK newspaper articles on climate change between 1997 and 2007 and found that ‘potential catastrophe’ was the most common discourse in news coverage, concluding that the media were prone to ‘attention cycles’ that tended to be self-amplifying, and led to the news provoking a ‘rising sense of impending catastrophe’ from climate. This type and frequency of media coverage tends toward sensationalism and an increased (but unjustified) certainty in reporting.

The authors say a study of newspaper articles on climate change in six countries showed that ‘disastrous consequences’ was the most common frame in the stories, while references to risk or likelihood was the least common frame.

Much of the media operates with an express intent to do what Taubes (1997) refers to as ‘consciousness-raising’. In doing so, the media tends to sensationalise the consequences and suppress references to uncertainty in reporting apocalyptic climate-related forecasts…When the presentation of risks is ‘sensationalised’ through the media, non-scientists are apt to perceive a risk as a greater, more immediate threat.

The salaried Rode and Fischbeck produce memes and insights that climate sceptics like Anthony Watts and Joanne Nova have long provided for free. Namely, that the IPCC and orthodox climate scientists might make respectably cautious forecasts, but the media’s idiots beat up the stories to boost their disaster narrative. Why then do the orthodox scientists never demand or issue corrections? (To me, it’s obvious that the orthodox scientists don’t care because (a) they get the fame and (b) they inwardly agree with the media’s agenda). Now, the new paper’s professors say,

The authors of the forthcoming Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC should be encouraged to tone down ‘deadline-ism’ Forecasters should make an effort to influence the interpretation of their forecasts; for example, by correcting media reporting of them. The sequential releases of the IPCC’s Assessment Reports, for example, should consider calling out particularly erroneous or incomplete interpretations of statements from previous Assessment Reports.

The authors also swipe the desperate attempts by warmist propaganda outfits like the Climate Council to link climate forecasts with horses of the apocalypse like floods, bushfires, storms, and hot and cold days or weeks.

Extreme caution should be used in extrapolating from forecasts of climate events (e.g., temperature or CO2 levels) to their social and physical consequences (famine, flooding, etc.) without the careful modelling of mitigation and adaptation efforts and other feedback mechanisms. While there have been notable successes in predicting certain climate characteristics, such as surface temperature (Smith et al., 2019), the ability to tie such predictions to quantitative forecasts of consequences is more limited.

 The authors do betray occasional glimpses of humor:

Each study of apocalyptic prediction shares one common element: as far as we can tell, the apocalypse has not actually occurred (yet). What Festinger et al. noted, however, was that receipt of disconfirming evidence (the apocalypse not occurring as scheduled), did not diminish belief in the prediction. Rather, it tended to strengthen it – at least for a time.

In their academic obtuseness, Rode and Fischbeck don’t understand that sceptics have built the coffin for climate scaremongering and their own peer-reviewed paper hammers down the lid on it. Thanks, guys!

Tony Thomas’s new book, Come To Think Of It – essays to tickle the brain, is available here as a book ($34.95) or an e-book ($14.95)

 

[1] In 1969 Ehrlich was predicting disastrous global famine by 1975 that would require compulsory birth control via sterilising agents in food and water. He forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation in the Eighties, and that the US population would decline by 1999 to 22.6 million.[14] Today’s US population is 330 million. Another Ehrlich climate forecast, from 1971: “If I were a gambler, I would take even-money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

[2] Spratt is described as “policy analyst”. That’s also what I am, if you stretch the definition to cover both of us. David Spratt is research director for the Melbourne-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration and co-author of the book Climate Code Red: The Case for Emergency Action (Scribe, 2008).

[3] Wadhams has given his name to a measure of Arctic catastrophism, e.g. ‘Currently the ice area is well over 4 Wadhams (1 million sq kilometers) thick. A reader suggested using “Wadhams” as a unit for sea ice area in order to honor Peter Wadhams’s spectacularly failed prediction of an ice free Arctic by now.’

[4] Lovelock: “I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.”

[5]It will come as no surprise that a headline of ‘humanity doomed in ten years’ will get more prominence than a headline of “negative event of unknown severity might occur in the next ten to one hundred years.”

 

23 comments
  • Tony Tea

    The most absurd thing about the exaggerations is that so many people trumpet them and fight bitter arguments over them. “Doom date is certain! How can you not accept the science is settled? You’ve got your head in the sand. We’ve only got so long to act.” Are these massive numbers of people incapable of taking a step back and analysing what they believe? What’s driving their certainty? I’m like most “skeptics” I suppose, who believe the climate is changing, but we’re not sure why or even how much, wind and solar are suboptimal tech, and exaggerations are poisoning science with partisan politics (politics being the art of exaggeration). What gives?!?

  • ChrisPer

    Study the depth of mal-investment of capital caused by climate alarmism.
    Energy cross-subsidies are creating a grid that costs more and does less with hugely multiplied risks to the businesses and lives that depend on energy.. That huge investment could get clean water throughout the third world or fund comfortable retirements for a LOT of private sector employees.
    No fear for public sector employees retirements, they make the value creators pay for them!

  • Doubting Thomas

    Sssshhhhhhhhh, You’ll wake the troll, 🙂

  • talewis

    Another great article by Tony Thomas!

  • Alice Thermopolis

    Thanks, Tony. Well done.
    Add Body Count to your list. Written by another journo, Paddy Manning.
    It won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction this year.
    The book “puts a human face on the lives impacted by our worsening climate crisis.”

    It’s ‘a climate emergency tour de force,” declares Dr Bob Brown

    For Ross Garnaut, “it’s “a brilliant exposition of why we must deal with the climate problem now.’

    ‘Climate change kills. … Through the accounts of people who have lost so much, Paddy Manning drives home the deeply personal impact of climate change. Governments continue to ignore the impact on climate change on human health at OUR peril. The future of our planet and our future generations depends on everyone playing their part, today.’ Professor Kerryn Phelps

    When in doubt, blame it on the “climate change’ bogeyman.

  • ianl

    Apocalypse-Now-IJGW.pdf, Rode and Fischbeck, 2021.
    It does seem to be a serious attempt at inserting some honesty into the MSM preference for quoting clowns. This despite constant failure for all activist predictions containing (or not) any actual detail.

    Even this extremely modest attempt at reclaiming testable virtue will fall unlamented into the thorns of the memory hole. How can one be so certain ? While it is published in a peer-reviewed “Climate Journal” with a paywall, it has quickly surfaced for free on the JunkScience website (as Tony Thomas has noted). Why ? In order to inject it with incurable academic leprosy, of course.

    Even this paper, a mere fig-leaf of honesty, is seen as such a threat it must be quickly flushed into the unlit catacombs of academic sewage.

  • Michael

    The large number of extreme and failed predictions – crying wolf – is undermining trust in the science. It’s hard to believe that the promoters of these end-of-the-world-is-nigh scare stories don’t get that. Unless they are just riding the apocalyptic wave to fame and fortune, and don’t much care much what they trash in the process.

  • Harry Lee

    Yes, the climate sham/scam/hysteria is bad.
    And it occurs in the greater context of the marxist power-lusters destroying the entire edifice of empirical-logical engagement with Reality-
    -a modality that until recent decades was one of the most significant human achievements.
    The marxist-inspired forces are close to achieving the full and final enslavement of the White striving productive classes.
    If you aim to enslave the Ordinary Peoples, then you dumb-down the education systems while pretending it’s to establish fairness and equality, use the news/opinon media to propagandise on behalf of anti-Westernism, and have the legal system endorse violent criminality by releasing as many convicted violent people, including killers/rapists of children, just as soon as is feasible, and you promote people of Identity while demonising Competence.
    And that is where we are, right now, in Reality.
    All of this has been put in place by marxist/deconstructionist Whites with great assistance from the Chinese, Muslims and Black African elites who see themselves feasting on the carcass of Western Civ.
    The incoming ALP-union-Greenist government will likely make it all official.

  • RB

    Believe it Michael or accept they are liars and are purposely twisting reality to suit their own agenda be it personal wealth or moral preening.
    They are the worst of the worst generally speaking, only slightly above journo’s for their lack of integrity.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    I’ve long referred to Flannery as the Worst Prognosticator on Earth. Good to have it confirmed based on a thorough review by experts.

  • Peter Marriott

    Terrific piece Tony, keep up the good work.

  • Helmond

    I get it that there is a positive relationship between the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the average atmospheric temperature, other things being equal. The science is settled on that.

    I have done many searches for an equation which can be used to predict future global temperatures. I can find simple equations with only one variable, namely CO2 concentration, but nothing that seems adequate. How about solar radiation? Is that constant? Probably not. Other relevant variables? I don’t know, but there must surely be some.

    On a forum in the Scientific American I once asked to see an equation with a reasonable number of variables and was greeted with a tirade of abuse. Draw your own conclusions about SA contributors, but I did expect better.

    What is clear is that there is a correlation between global temperature and CO2 concentration, but whilst interesting, does not establish cause and effect or a direct relationship.

    When the likes of Tim Flannery are making various predictions about future temperatures, they are either just making up numbers or, at best, using simple correlations. If guesses then deplorable, if correlations then naive.

    But the science is settled, they say. I say bulldust.

    Even if the doomsayers turn out to be right, we humans are a fairly a
    adaptable lot. We got through an ice age, which must have been tough. We would probably survive the worst of the predictions regarding global warming. I’m optimistic.

  • Harry Lee

    Helmond -No.
    The evidence -going back millions of years by way of methods of geology- is not consistent with the claim that high levels of carbon dioxide result in temperature increase.
    (NB: The phrase “the science is settled” is a BS non-scientific phrase that is used by destructive anti-Westernist fantasists like Obama and all the peoples of the Greens, the ALP, the ABC, SBS and all the similar ignorant/deluded/hysterical/malicious peoples in 90% of the commercial media, the school systems, the universities, and almost of the public services who seek to wipe out free enterprise and the individual freedoms and competencies that make wealth creation possible. If they know it or not.)

  • en passant

    My Global Warming soul is for sale for 90% of the money paid to the Flim-Flan Man

  • Alistair

    Helmond
    Its worth remembering that three and a half billion years ago the atmospheric CO2 levels were around 700,000 ppm (70%) and yet pillow lavas attest to liquid water on the surface. If you add that data point to your correlation between atmospheric CO2 and surface temperature I think you’ll find that the science is far from settled.

  • Harry Lee

    This climate sham/scam/hysteria is just one manifestation of the challenges that the West, including Australia, fails to deal with.
    Material abundance combined with individual freedom and rights/no responsibilities -on offer only in the West- has produced a majority of people who are anti-empirical/anti-logical /fake-virtuous and indolent, ignorant and ungrateful for their easy/costless livestyles -that exist only in the West.
    The majority will never pay for themselves -parasites in perpetuity.
    But is there ten percent of the populace who are willing to devote their lives to saving the joint?

  • Geoff Sherrington

    That AAS report by the usual suspects claims peer review by 6 named scientists, of whom 3 can claim to be researching climate. Those 3 have committed a breach of scientific etiquette by reviewing and passing, among the 450+ references, 15 papers of their own. To what dismal depths can climate research descend?
    Geoff S

  • Tony Thomas

    Well spotted Geoff. Would you believe, yesterday (without knowledge of your comment) I created a table of the AAS report authors and reviewers checking how many of their own works were cited in the report. Top scores were 10-15 per person. Forcing myself to read through 80 pages of agitprop sludge was a genuine ordeal. Watch this space…

  • Helmond

    I did say the science is settled. Then I said bull dust. A touch of irony that maybe a reader or two missed.

    I have to take issue with Alistair who cites some prehistoric CO2 concentration figures as a stone cold fact. It’s some reseacher’s estimate based on some shakey assumptions. Maybe right, but maybe not.

    Anyway, current thinking, so far as I can assess, is the the atmosphere on the planet Venus is largely CO2. The surface temperature, so they say, is enough to melt lead. Either this is bulldust or there is little relationship between CO2 concentration and golbal temperature. Closer to the sun, sure, but tell me CO2 is not a factor.

    I am not saying that an increasing concentration of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere is placing us on a road to disaster. Seems doubtful. Anyway, us humans are adaptable. I’m optimistic.

    But if we do all fry in a man-made hell, I won’t be around to care.

  • Harry Lee

    But where is the actual, practical fightback against the anti-empiricists and their anti-free enterprise/Big Statist puppeteers?
    Any ideas about how to encourage large numbers of realists to set up several thousand self-organising, self-funding cells?
    It’ll take a couple million volunteers to make way against our enemies.
    Anyone up for it?

  • PeterPetrum

    Helmand – temperature is also dependent on atmospheric pressure, that is why here at the top of the Blue Mountains at about 3000ft the temperature is about 7degC less than at sea level, on average. Thus the temperature on the surface of Venus has more to do with the atmospheric pressure (many times that here on earth) than with CO2 levels. Temperatures of Venus’ atmosphere at various levels has shown that, if you rise through the atmosphere until the pressure is similar to ours at sea level, temperatures are about the same as our tropics.

  • Helmond

    PeterPetrum

    Maybe the surface temperature on Venus is entirely due to surface atmospheric pressure.

    The best estimates that I can find suggest that the atmosphere of Venus is about 96.5 percent CO2. Also, its mass is apparently over 90 times that of Earth’s, hence the surface pressure.

    So, yes, I get the relevance of pressure. You write “more to do with the atmospheric than with CO2”, so are you conceding the CO2 might be relevant, if not all that important?

  • whitelaughter

    A very useful article. Am bookmarking for future reference.

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