The UN has shocked the climate change community by announcing on the eve of COP27 that it now believes climate change will be only about half as bad as previously thought.
According to from UN Climate Change released on 26 October the world is “on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century”.
The New York Times is equally shocked. In Beyond Catastrophe:, the Times’ leading climate change contributor, David Walker-Wells, muses at length on all the nightmarish fears that have now been banished:
“Just a few years ago, climate projections for this century looked quite apocalyptic, with most scientists warning that continuing “business as usual” would bring the world four or even five degrees Celsius of warming — a change disruptive enough to call forth not only predictions of food crises and heat stress, state conflict and economic strife, but, from some corners, warnings of civilisational collapse and even a sort of human endgame. (Perhaps you’ve had nightmares about each of these and seen premonitions of them in your newsfeed.)”
The same Wallace-Wells authored the much-lauded 2019 book : Life After Warming, described by The Guardian as “an epoch-defining book” and by the NY Times reviewer as “the most terrifying book I have ever read”.
No doubt this alarmed author feels like he has been thrown under a bus by his co-alarmists at the UN. Many others will feel the same, and Roger Pielke Jr (who is mentioned in the article) that “there is a lot of resistance”.
But sustained resistance is futile, as the UN made very clear in its blunt assertion on Davos Radio that “we own the science”. The owner has spoken, and there will be no further argument. The new range of 2–3°C by 2100 is now set in stone.
Why has the UN (and WEF) chosen this particular time to muscle down the extreme hyperbole which has become increasingly hysterical over recent years? Has their massive consumer-research intel finally told them that their long-running terror strategy has become counter-productive?
Wallace-Wells has lost no time in back-pedalling to a more defensive position. Rather tepidly, he welcomes the wonderful news that the apocalypse has been cancelled:
“We’re headed towards a less apocalyptic
future ….We once thought that we were heading one place, a bad place. Now we know that we’re actually headed to
another that looks a whole lot better.
And that is good news
Now, with the world already 1.2 degrees hotter, scientists believe that warming this century will most likely fall .....At four degrees, the impacts of warming appeared overwhelming, but at two degrees, the impacts would not be the whole of our human fate, only the landscape on which a new future will be built.”
But he then rapidly gathers the charred remnants of his former apocalyptic stance. He is bloodied but not bowed. He concludes that life will go on for media doom-casters -
“… already we can say a given heat wave was made 30 times more likely by climate change, or that it was a few degrees hotter than it would have been without climate change, and both would be true. We’ll be able to talk about the contributions of warming to disasters that buckle whole nations, as the recent monsoon flooding in Pakistan has, or about the human contributions to such vulnerability.”
And he turns his attention to adaptation -
“Deaths from natural disasters are not, in fact, growing — , by an astonishing degree, from as much as an average of 500,000 deaths each year a century ago to about 50,000 deaths each year today. But whether those mortality trends would continue in a two-degree world is unclear. The declines have been smaller over the last 50 years, as global warming began to destabilize our weather, and even smaller over the last three decades, as temperature rise became more pronounced and warming pushed the world outside the “Goldilocks” climate range that had governed all of human history. Perhaps this means the world has harvested much of the obvious low-hanging fruit of adaptation.
“Two degrees is a lot better than four degrees,” says the climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, one of those who delivered now-legendary warnings about the risks of warming to the U.S. Senate in 1988. “And one-and-a-half degrees is even better than two degrees. But none of those levels means there’s nothing to do.”
Remarkably, this long and rambling article by David Wallace-Wells contains no apology for his past disinformation - for misleading thousands, perhaps millions, of his readers. His self-indulgent horror stories deprived children of sleep, sapped the will-to-live of millennials, distorted political dialogues worldwide, suppressed energy investment and caused all manner of unnecessary harm. The UN has now exposed that his dystopic predictions were wholly devoid of evidence – and he should have told us that.
Like many bad journalists, DWW obviously preferred to “interview his typewriter” rather than read IPCC Working Group 1 reports. Taking over-full advantage of the unwritten worldwide media pact to support the climate change narrative, he stretched it to outrageous lengths for his own benefit. Now caught out by his own “side”, his credibility is zero. But he does not apologise.
Rather, DWW attempts to credit the UN’s halving of climate fear to a previously unpredicted halving of human-related emissions – to reductions in SUVs, the demise of aviation, the culling of dairy herds, the decimation of coal power – all discovered in the 3.5 year period since his book hit the bestseller lists:
“Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years.”
Renewable price declines?
The UN’s downgraded estimate has nothing to do with sun or wind and everything to do with a large body of scientific work on Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) that extends for over 10 years. Numerous recent research reports, ranging from Otto et al, to Lewis and Curry, , have pointed to an ECS between one and two degrees. Although this burgeoning consensus was questioned by Sherwood et al, – just in time for AR6 – that paper has in turn been challenged by Nicholas Lewis, .
Clearer picture of the energy future?
Even Wallace-Wells has now bowed to the overdue abandonment of the extreme but unreal scenario known as RCP8.5. He says he was convinced by Ritchie and Dowlatabadi which bears the subtitle “Are cases of vastly expanded future coal combustion still plausible?”. Note that this paper was published some two years prior to DWW’s book. There has been much other work on the implausibility of RCP8.5, summarised in Roger Pielke Jr et al, .
Global political mobilization? Focus by world leaders?
The article offers no evidence that the puny efforts of COP1 to COP26 have contributed in any measurable way to the avoidance of the previously-imagined apocalypse. Some credit should probably be given to the voluntary national reductions offered under the Paris Agreement but we know that its could only be a trivial contribution of 0.048°C by 2100.
The UN’s COP27 announcement effectively concedes that there is no “climate emergency”. The extent of the risk is that global temperatures over the next 80 years are expected to rise at around the same barely perceptible average pace as the last 80 years – about 0.017°C per year.
And David Wells-Wallace, a world-leading guru of climate panic, makes it absolutely clear that this UN announcement is a seminal moment in the history of climate change alarm.