At the center of the corruption of climate science discussed here a highly technical scenario of the future (called Representation Concentration Pathway 8.5 or RCP8.5). Over the past decade this particular scenario has moved from an extreme outlier to the center of climate policy discussions.
According to the New York Times, in November 2012, one month after stepping down from the hedge fund he led, Steyer gathered environmental leaders and Democratic party leaders around the kitchen table at his ranch in Pescadero, California. Among those in attendance were Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, and John Podesta, who had founded the Center for American Progress (CAP) in 2003 to promote progressive causes.
Each of Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson contributed $500,000 to the initial project, which was focused on “making the climate threat feel real, immediate and potentially devastating to the business world.”
For instance, soon after the initial Risky Business report was released in 2014 the Steyer-Bloomberg-Paulson funded work was the basis for 11 talks at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, which is the largest annual gathering of climate researchers. The next step was to get the analyses of the project published in the scientific literature where they could influence subsequent research and serve as the basis for authoritative scientific reviews, such as the U.S. National Climate Assessment. For instance, a 2016 paper published in the prestigious journal Science from the Risky Business project introduced the erroneous notion of moving from one RCP scenario to another via policy, comparing “business as usual” (RCP 8.5) and “strongest emissions mitigation” (RCP 2.6). That paper has subsequently been cited 294 times in other academic studies, according to Google Scholar. Despite the obvious methodological flaw, the paper passed peer review and has received little or no criticism.
Let me be clear about what is going on here. There is no hidden conspiracy, all of this is taking place in plain sight and in public. In fact, what is going on here is absolutely genius. We have a well-funded effort to fundamentally change how climate science is characterized in the academic literature, how that science is reported in the media, and ultimately how political discussions and policy options are shaped.
The corruption of climate science has occurred because some of our most important institutions have let us down. The scientific peer-review process has failed to catch obvious methodological errors in research papers. Leading scientific assessments have ignored conflicts of interest and adopted flawed methods. The media has been selectively incurious as to the impact of big money on climate advocacy.
There are two main reasons for the decrease in weather-related disaster losses as a proportion of GDP.
The first reason is that many types of weather extremes associated with the greatest economic losses – including floods, drought, tornadoes and tropical cyclones (which includes landfalling U.S. hurricanes) – have not increased in frequency or intensity over the long-term.
"A second significant implication of the new perspective on emissions trajectories over the next several decades is that the IPCC is at risk of already being obsolete to the extent that its forthcoming 6th assessment report emphasizes high end emissions scenarios." ...
"Less than a decade ago, conventional wisdom was that coal use would expand dramatically through the 21st century. But just last year IEA suggested that global coal use may have peaked in 2014. In an analysis published last week at Carbon Brief a team of energy analysts argue that, “Global electricity production from coal is on track to fall by around 3% in 2019, the largest drop on record.” Robbie Andrew, a scientist at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, has published data indicating that coal generation for electricity in India is down 2.5% in 2019 from the year before. The new conventional wisdom is that for myriad reasons – climate, air pollution, economics among them — coal is on its way out.
The problem with the extreme “business as usual” scenario of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report is that it is already out of date. For 2020 the scenario wildly overstates emissions, and has been critiqued in the academic literature as a highly unlikely if not impossible future." ...
"The bottom line for today is to understand that a fateful decision by the IPCC to selectively anoint an extreme scenario from among a huge range of possible futures has helped to create the climate apocalypse, a scary but imaginary future."
Pielke Jr. Key Points: "The U.S. has not yet begun its journey towards net-zero carbon dioxide, whether by 2050 or any other year. None of the proposals put forward by Democratic candidates for president are plausible. This battle has yet to be joined."
"Carbon dioxide emissions reductions in the United States since 2005 are largely the result of the displacement of coal, which is very carbon intensive, by natural gas. Consider that U.S. fossil fuel consumption was just about the same in 1999 and 2018, but carbon dioxide emissions were about 550 million metric tonnes more in 1999 than in 2018. This decrease represents the effects of natural gas displacing coal, but not any less reliance on fossil fuels."
"The evidence indicates that none of the increase in renewables deployment has actually replaced any fossil fuel consumption. U.S. fossil fuel consumption has continued to increase. In the decade following the 2009 financial crisis, carbon-free consumption increased by about 75 mtoe, but fossil fuel consumption also increased by about 75 mtoe. The notable addition of renewables to the U.S. energy mix has all been additive – it has not displaced any fossil fuels."
"The United States saw its carbon dioxide emissions drop by almost 14% from 2005 to 2018, as you can see in the figure below, according to data from BP. As a base year for comparison, 2005 is often selected because it was the year in which U.S. carbon dioxide emissions peaked. Over that same time period carbon-free energy– from nuclear, hydro and renewables – increased its role in energy consumption from 11.6% to 15.7%."
"The U.S. experience shows how a focus on emissions can mislead. Even though emissions dropped from 1999 to 2018, the U.S. is no closer to net-zero carbon dioxide because total fossil fuel consumption is unchanged."
"During the Obama administration, fossil fuel consumption dropped by about 100 mtoe, while renewables increased by about 60 mtoe. It might have seemed that carbon-free energy displaced fossil fuels during this period, but again, the overwhelming factor influencing energy outcomes appears to be the 2009 financial crisis."
Dr. Pielke ridicules the study for not including Hurricane Andrew as top destructive storm. "Andrew not in top 20? LOL."
Pielke Jr.: "I should point out that this group published similar bombshell findings about hurricanes in 2012 (Also in PNAS). That study was recently updated by the WMO TC assessment and WMO found that its results did not hold up."
Dr. Pielke's note to Associated Press' Seth Borenstein: