Non-Partisan Mann on Heat

The Guardian has an interview with Michael Mann claiming that

A second Trump term would be ‘game over’ for the climate, says top scientist. Michael Mann, one of the world’s most eminent climate experts, says Earth’s future ‘is in the hands of American citizens’

The article is not by one of the Guardian’s dozen or so environment correspondents, but by Mark Hertsgaard,the executive director of Covering Climate Now, “.. a collaboration of 400-plus news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. The Guardian is the lead partner of CCN.”

Michael Mann, one of the most eminent climate scientists in the world, believes averting climate catastrophe on a global scale would be “essentially impossible” if Donald Trump is re-elected. […] None of Mann’s 200-plus scientific papers is more famous than the so-called “hockey stick study”, which Nature published on Earth Day of 1998. With two co-authors, Mann demonstrated that global temperature had been trending downward for the previous one thousand years. Graphed, this line was the long handle of the hockey stick, which surged abruptly upwards in about 1950 – represented by the blade of the stick – to make the 1990s the warmest decade in “at least the last millennium”.

Actually, no. It surged upward from about 1900, at the time that Mann’s average global temperature record begins in 1902. This conveniently eliminates the thermometer-based record of rising temperatures for the previous two centuries, which would reveal that Mann’s claim that his proxies faithfully reproduce global temperatures is bogus. (There are other reasons, too complicated to go into here. See McIntyre and Montford passim.)

In 1999, Mann became an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, where he was targeted by the climate denier crowd… He received death threats, he says, and had emails stolen..

“The future of this planet is now in the hands of American citizens,” he says. “It’s up to us. The way we end this national and global nightmare is by coming out and voting for optimism over pessimism, for hope and justice and progress over fear and malice and superstition. This is a Tolkienesque battle between good and evil, and Sauron needs to be defeated on election day here in the United States.”

Just in case you might think Professor Mann might be exaggerating a bit, the article helpfully links to another statement from a top climate scientist, Sir David King, who said back in 2006: “Even if all CO2 emissions were halted overnight, global temperatures would keep rising and heatwaves, droughts, storms and other impacts would keep intensifying “for about 25 to 30 years.” According to Professor Mann, we now know, thanks to the settled science, that Sir David was wrong, as 

..the actual lag between halting CO2 emissions and halting temperature rise is not 25 to 30 years, he explains, but “more like three to five years”. This is “a dramatic change in our understanding” of the climate system that gives humans “more agency”, says Mann. Rather than being locked into decades of inexorably rising temperatures, humans can turn down the heat almost immediately by slashing emissions promptly. “Our destiny is determined by our behavior,” says Mann, a fact he finds “empowering”.

Mann denies that it’s a partisan statement to say that four more years of Trump would mean “game over” for the climate.

“It is a political statement… But it isn’t partisan… It’s also a scientific statement. Two years ago this month, scientists with the IPCC published a landmark study, Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees, which found that humanity had to cut heat-trapping emissions roughly by half by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. Headlines warned we had “12 years to save the planet”. Those 12 years are now 10. Except more than two years have been lost, because in that time, the Trump administration has prevented the world’s biggest economy from making “the dramatic reductions that were necessary to keep us on that path” of halving emissions by 2030. So now the incline is steeper. It’s no longer 5% [reductions] a year for the next 10 years. It’s more like seven and a half per cent. Four more years of relative inaction, of flat emissions, means that four years from now that number might be closer to 15% a year, and that may be, although not physically impossible, societally impossible… it just may not be economically possible or socially viable to do it that [fast].”

The logic is implacable. If you’ve got to get X gigatons of CO2 reductions in Y years’ time, and then you do nothing for y years, the rate at which you have to reduce goes up (shall we say “exponentially?” Go on. Everybody does, even government scientists who’ve presumably done GCSE maths) .. a lot. 

It’s another hockey stick!

In fact, every time you draw a graph (of projected sea level rise, or ice melt, or temperature rise, or money to be disbursed to the developing world to avert disaster) with a fixed point higher some time in the future, and it flatlines for the first few years, you’re going to need a steeper rise in the time that remains. Steeper and steeper and steeper… 

Hockey sticks are nature’s punishment for procrastination. 

And it doesn’t just work for climate science. That 300,000-word novel you were going to write this year at the rate of a thousand words a day – after nine months of mending the shed roof and bleating about masks on Twitter, you’re going to have to get a move on! And the Guardian’s plan to break even after thirty years of catastrophic loss-making by adding 100,000 readers a month on-line to attract the big American advertisers? Urgent methods are needed. 

Which is why the Guardian has launched Covering Climate Now, their umpteenth climate initiative, following Climate Countdown, the Rapid Response Team, the 97%, and a dozen others over the past twenty years, all to boost their coverage of climate matters, so inadequately covered by their regular team of environment and science correspondents.

Covering Climate Now is: “a global collaboration of more than 400 news outlets committed to transforming news coverage of the defining story of our time.”

Their site lists their 400 outlets,  all sworn to publish exactly the same information, with the same commentary, in the best tradition of the press of the Free World.

The press section seems a bit meagre at first glance. The Southampton Press and the Daily Hampshire Gazette are both American, (nothing there on sea level rise on the Solent then) as is the Nome Nugget. They’ve got some of the best European centre left publications on board, like Il Fatto Quottidiano, La Repubblica and Libération. It’s amazing to me how these civilised, intelligent (though misguided) journals, normally so suspicious of the imperialist designs of Anglo Saxon culture, kowtow to a toe rag like the Graun. There are other big names like the Daily Mirror, San Francisco Chronicle, Asahi Shimbun, Times of India and the Straits Times. (And the Canadian l’Aurore Boréale, if their journalist hasn’t been eaten by a polar bear.)

The “Magazines, Journals and Digital News” section is packed with fascinating titles. Alongside Bird Watching, Hatch Magazine and Living Bird, there’s Asparagus Magazine, Green Queen, and Loveland Magazine (surely some mistake?) Less enticing titles include News and Guts, Sludge, Stuff, Silica Magazine, O Magma and Croakey Health Media.

And do remind me to take a shufti at Pine Tree Watch and Passive House Building.

And of course there’s Scientific American, Nature, Physics World, the Ecologist and the Conversation.

Under “Institutions” is a small but select number of Universities, including Boston, Princeton, Yale, Columbia and Bournemouth (that’s Bournemouth, England) and that Trots’ odd sock, Left Foot Forward. (In an institution is where they belong, but it’s surprising to find them committing themselves voluntarily.)

A surprising omission is NATO, that independent left wing media organisation, whose latest media contribution on the subject of climate change can be found here:

(thanks to Ben Pile)

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via Climate Scepticism

October 3, 2020 at 04:10PM

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