By JOHN SEXTON
Vox published an interesting piece Thursday which actually takes some climate change hysteria being pushed by rival outlet Vice to task. The Vice story was titled “New Report Warns ‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ Within 30 Years.’” The story, which featured an image of a broken statue of liberty standing in water up to her neck, was based on an “analysis” published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, an Australian climate change think tank. It reads in part:
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On our current trajectory, the report warns, “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.”
But Vox, to its credit, points out that even climate change scientists cited the Vice piece as overstated nonsense:
“This is a classic case of a media article over-stating the conclusions and significance of a non-peer reviewed report that itself had already overstated (and indeed misrepresented) peer-reviewed science,” wrote Richard Betts, who chairs the department for climate impact research at the University of Exeter and leads the European Union project that studies the impacts of extreme global warming.
The Breakthrough report does indeed gather claims from other papers, climate leaders, and thinkers. But it selected many of the scariest and most speculative papers and presented them without being clear about how plausible they are.
And some of its most outrageous claims are just wrong. The report argues that if temperatures continue to rise, “fifty-five percent of the global population are subject to more than 20 days a year of lethal heat conditions beyond that which humans can survive.” That’d be terrifying. But Betts points out that this is based on the definition of a “deadly heat wave” from a paper that defined a deadly heat wave as one above a threshold where at least one person is expected to die (based on historical data). And some of the temperatures identified as deadly are as low as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) with high humidity — hot, but not what comes to mind from the phrase “lethal heat conditions beyond what humans can survive.”
“The report’s authors have merely read (or possibly seen without actually reading) a few of the scariest papers they could find, misunderstood (or not read properly) at least one of them, and presented unjustified statements,” Betts added…
I also talked to some researchers who study existential risks, like John Halstead, who studies climate change mitigation at the philanthropic advising group Founders Pledge, and who has a detailed online analysis of all the (strikingly few) climate change papers that address existential risk (his analysis has not been peer-reviewed yet).
Halstead looks into the models of potential temperature increases that Breakthrough’s report highlights. The models show a surprisingly large chance of extreme degrees of warming. Halstead points out that in many papers, this is the result of the simplistic form of statistical modeling used. Other papers have made a convincing case that this form of statistical modeling is an irresponsible way to reason about climate change, and that the dire projections rest on a statistical method that is widely understood to be a bad approach for that question.
In sum, this is hysteria masquerading as science. In the last few paragraphs of the Vox piece, the author notes that Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has been making a big splash by telling people climate change is going to kill us all. That’s true but I find it curious that Vox fails to mention a home-grown climate change extremist who has been getting as much or more attention for predicting our doom. (Side note: You can always identify the strongest conservative argument on any topic Vox is covering. It’s the one they don’t mention.)
That was 2017 but not much has changed since her election to Congress. In January of this year, AOC said, “Millenials and Gen Z and all these folks that came after us are looking up and we’re like ‘The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we going to pay for it?’” She later claimed that was “dry humor” but it’s not the only time she has claimed lives were at stake. In fact, one day after her dry humor comment, she attacked Joe Biden for presenting a moderate approach: “I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need to find a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives.”
Bottom-line, even Vox thinks we should tune out the climate change hysterics who talk as if our future is going to be something out of a Hollywood disaster movie. But they couldn’t quite bring themselves to point out that AOC is frequently one of those hysterics.