Two Contrasting Protests on Climate Change

Yesterday marked two protests related to climate change. One in central London by a group of climate extremists baying for more stringent climate policies. The other right across France demanding the removal of a small additional tax on fuel.

The Climate Extremists

Yesterday a group calling themselves !EXTINCTION REBELLION! had a series of protests around London, including blocking off five major bridges. They have a long history, having been founded almost three weeks ago on Halloween. Their aims are quite clear from a mercifully short video.

It is based on “science“.

The Crux

Even without the other ecological drivers of mass species extinction, natural resource exhaustion and growing human population pressure, human-caused (anthropogenic) climate breakdown alone is enough to wipe out the human species by the end of this century, if governments do not immediately begin to reverse their extractivismand ‘growth’ -based economic policies.

This is why the Extinction Rebellion campaign has at its core a group of activists who are prepared to go to prison for peaceful civil disobedience, to get the necessary media coverage for long enough to leverage the government and the public into war-level mobilisation mode.

When you repeatedly come across the figure of 2 degrees i.e. limiting global warming to 2 degrees, think of what happens to a human body when it experiences a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees.

The recent IPCC SR1.5 was the product of two and a half years trying to come up with scary stories to frighten governments into action. Two examples of the scary headlines from the SPM.

Temperature extremes on land are projected to warm more than GMST (high confidence): extreme hot days in mid-latitudes warm by up to about 3°C at global warming of 1.5°C and about 4°C at 2°C, and extreme cold nights in high latitudes warm by up to about 4.5°C at 1.5°C and about 6°C at 2°C (high confidence). The number of hot days is projected to increase in
most land regions, with highest increases in the tropics (high confidence).

By 2100, global mean sea level rise is projected to be around 0.1 metre lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared to 2°C (medium confidence).

In Britain we will be wiped out by a few 20°C+ hot nights and extra sea level rise of four inches. Maybe we could listen to the 40% of the global population that lives in the tropics.

The “science” section includes this quote from Bill McKibben.

What those numbers mean is quite simple. This industry has announced…in promises to shareholders, that they are determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet’s atmosphere can begin to absorb.

This is not science, but blinkered ideology. Why blinkered? Try going to the CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017 Appendix 1 – Cumulative emissions 1988-2015 %. Below are the top 10.

If the !XR! really believe in the climate apocalypse, shouldn’t they be protesting outside the Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Indian Embassies, and inciting rebellion in those countries? Or are they just climate totalitarians trying to wreck the well-being of the British people?

The Carbon Tax Revolt

On the same day in France there were massive nationwide protests after the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol. This lead to the formation of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement that have organised at least 630 protests nationwide. From the website I grabbed the a screenshot map of the protest locations.

These protests became far from peaceful, as frustrated drivers tried to push their way through the protesters. The BBC reports one person killed and 227 killed. The BBC also reports that the 200,000+ protesters are backed by about 75% of the French public.

Yet !EXTINCTION REBELLION! should be supporting the Macron

Lessons for the Climate Extremists

Protests in a single country will not work. Protests in many countries will not work either, as people have other priorities. Further, it is too late to convince countries to sign up to massive cuts in emissions. That opportunity was missed in 1992, when “developing” countries were exempted from any obligation to constrain there emissions. Those countries, with at least 80% of the global population and up to two-thirds of global emissions have shown no inclination to change course. The protests in France show how even very small changes can lead to massive protests. In the UK fuel prices are not raised due to political unpopularity.

If such extremists still believe they are correct in their prophesies, and I am in denial, there are a number of strategies that they can legitimately use to evangelize.

  • Let contrary ideas to their own be evaluated on same unemotive level playing field as their own. In the past on hearing reports of court cases of heinous crimes, I have been convinced more by the daft excuses of the defendant than the prosecution’s evidence.  Alternatively, the overturned terrorist convictions in the 1970s of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six undermined belief in the Rule of Law.  So too with the false climate alarmism undermines my belief in scientific evidence.
  • Rather than accept whatever “science” that the supports alarmism is put out, seek to clarify the likelihood, type, extent, location and timing of coming catastrophes. That way, people can better adapt to changing conditions. The problem here is that predictions of doom are most likely false prophesies.
  • Supporting and encouraging Governments where they are encountering popular opposition. Why were !XR! not in France supporting President Macron? He not only supports the ban on fracking (with maybe 80% of Europe’s frackable gas reserves), but also have banned any fossil fuel extraction on French soil. After all !XR! believe this is a WW2 type emergency. Winston Churchill swallowed his loathing of the Bolsheviks to extinguish the Nazi Empire. Is climate not important enough to seek allies and give them some encouragement in time of need?

Climate alarmists will not accept what I say, as this would threaten their world views. They have plenty of others to fall back on for reassurance, but in reality they are just supporting policies that are net harmful.

Kevin Marshall

IPCC SR1.5 – Notes on Calculations and Assumptions

Given that my previous post was about failing to reconcile the emissions estimates for 1.5°C and 2.0°C of warming in the IPCC fifth assessment report (AR5), I was intrigued to see how the new IPCC “special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” would fare. However, that will have to wait for another post, as first there are some “refinements” from AR5 in how results are obtained. From my analysis they would appear that key figures on temperatures and climate sensitivities are highly contrived.

Isn’t 1.5°C of warming already built in? 

Chapter 1 Page 24

Expert judgement based on the available evidence (including model simulations, radiative forcing and climate sensitivity) suggests that if all anthropogenic emissions were reduced to zero immediately, any further warming beyond the 1°C already experienced would likely be less than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades, and also likely less than 0.5°C on a century timescale.

This basically states that if all emissions were stopped now there is more than a 50% chance that warming would not exceed 1.5°C. But using previous assumptions 1.5°C should be already be built in. 

If ECS = 3.0 (as in AR5) then that implies the net effect of all GHGs and all aerosols is less than 396 ppm, despite CO2 on its own in September 2018 being 405.5 ppm (1.6°C of eventual warming). Further, in 2011 the impact of all GHGs combined was equivalent to 430 ppm, or an extra 40 ppm more than CO2 on its own. On that basis we are at the around 445 ppm or fractionally about the 2.0°C warming level. However, in AR5 it was assumed (based on vague estimates) that the negative human impacts of aerosols exactly offset the addition of other GHGs (e.g. methane) so that only CO2 is considered. Even then based on ECS = 3.0 without further emissions 1.5°C will be eventually reached.

But ECS has been lowered.

From Chapter 1 Annex Page 11

…Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) of 2.7°C and Transient Climate Response (TCR) of 1.6°C and other parameters as given in Millar et al. (2017).

This raises the CO2-eq level to achieve 1.5°C of warming by 15-16 ppm from 396ppm and the CO2-eq level to achieve 2.0°C by 23-24 ppm from 444 ppm. Mauna Loa CO2 levels in September averaged 405.5 ppm. With ECS = 2.7 this is equivalent to just 1.44°C of eventual warming compared to 1.60°C  when ECS = 3.0. What is more significant is that if ECS were 2.8 eventual warming of 1.50°C would be in the pipeline sometime before the end of the year. ECS = 2.7 is the highest ECS that us currently compatible with the statement made above if CO2 alone is taken into account. Consider this in the light of 2013 AR5 WG1 SPM, which stated on page 16

Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C

And in a footnote on the same page.

No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.

 In AR5 they chose ECS = 3.0 as it was in the middle of the range. A range unchanged since the Charney Report of 1979. I am not aware of any that establishes ECS is a range that would justify ECS = 2.7 that is not contradicted by other research. For instance Lewis and Curry 2018 gives a median estimate for ECS of 1.66.

Transient Climate Response (TCR)

But how does the Transient Climate Response (TCR) of 1.6°C fit into this? Some context can be had from the very start of the Summary for Policy-Makers SPM-4

A1.1. Reflecting the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) for the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C (likely between 0.75°C and 0.99°C)

With TCR = 1.6°C for a doubling of CO2 levels what is the warming generated from a rise in CO2 levels from 280 to 400.83 ppm? That is a rise in CO2 levels from pre-industrial times to the average level in 2015. I calculate it to be 0.83°C. Make TCR = 1.7°C and that increases to 0.88°C. It is effectively assuming that both 100% of the rise in average temperatures in over 150 years is due to CO2 alone (consistent with AR5), and there has been no movement whatsoever from the short-term Transient Climate Response to the long-term Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. However, if TCR is a variable figure derived from a calculation from revealed warming and CO2 rise, it becomes meaningless nonsense unless you can clearly demonstrate the other assumptions are robust. That is (1) 100% of past warming was due to human emissions (2) the impact of GHGs other than CO2 are effectively cancelled out by aerosols etc. (3) natural factors are net zero (4) the average temperature data anomaly is without any systematic biases. For instance, when measured CO2 levels were about 390ppm, the AR5 WG3 SPM stated in the last sentence on page 8

For comparison, the CO2-eq concentration in 2011 is estimated to be 430 ppm (uncertainty range 340 to 520 ppm)

It seems a pretty shaky foundation to the assumption that negative impact of aerosols (with uncertainties) will offset the combined impact of other GHG increases.

Summary and Concluding Comments

On the estimates of climate sensitivity, it appears to be set so that the IPCC can still claim that if emissions stopped tomorrow then there would be a greater than 50% chance of 1.5°C warming never been exceeded. The ECS value of 2.7°C is set at the maximum value, given the assumptions. But ceteris paribus, this will not hold if

  • One waits 3 years and CO2 levels continue increasing at a rate of the last few years.
  • ECS is slightly higher but still well within the accepted range of estimates. Indeed if ECS = 3.0, as in AR5 and AR4 in 2007, then 1.5C of warming was exceeded 5 years ago.
  • The impact of all GHGs together is slightly more than the offsetting impacts of other aerosols.
  • 0.06°C, or more, of the observed rise on temperature since 1850 is not due to GHG emissions.

Then there is the Transient Climate Response (TCR) which appears to be little more than taking the historical temperature change, assuming all of is down to human GHG emissions, and calculating a figure. Including rises in CO2 a century or more ago is hardly transient.

Based on my calculations, the results are highly contrived. They appear as a very fine balance between getting the maximum values for human-caused warming possible and not admitting that 1.5°C or even 2°C is already passed. There is a huge combination of empirical assumptions that are as equally valid as the ones used in the SR1.5 that go one way or the other. Rather than being a robust case, empirically it is highly improbable one.

Finally there is a conundrum here. I have calculated that if ECS = 2.7 and the starting level of CO2 is 280 ppm, then in round numbers, 1.5°C of warming results from CO2 levels of 412 ppm and 2.0°C of warming results from CO2 levels of 468 ppm. With CO2 levels in September 2018 at 406 ppm for 2.0°C of warming requires a rise in CO2 ten times greater than for 1.5°C of warming. So how can the IPCC claim that it is only about twice the amount of emissions? In my previous post I could not find an explanation, even though the emissions numbers reconciled with both past data and future emissions to generate 2.0°C of warming given certain assumptions. In the next I hope to provide an answer, which fits the figures quite closely, but looks pretty embarrassing.

Kevin Marshall