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.
German climate website: "Within the last few years, over 50 papers have been added to our compilation of scientific studies that find the climate’s sensitivity to doubled CO2 (280 ppm to 560 ppm) ranges from <0 to 1°C. When no quantification is provided, words like 'negligible' are used to describe CO2’s effect on the climate. The list has now reached 106 scientific papers."
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."
Michael Shellenberger: "Part of what inspired me to write that column is that I am concerned by the rising eco-anxiety among young people. My daughter is 14 years old. While she herself is not scared, in part because I have explained the science to her, she told me many of her peers are." ...
"I wanted to know what Extinction Rebellion was basing its apocalyptic claims upon, and so I interviewed its main spokesperson, Sarah Lunnon...“It’s not Sarah Lunnon saying billions of people are going to die,” Lunnon told me. ”The science is saying we’re headed to 4 degrees warming and people like Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Center and Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research are saying that such a temperature rise is incompatible with civilized life....
Has anyone, I asked, done a study of what happens to food production at 4 degrees warming? “That’s a good question,” said Rockström, who is an agronomist. “I must admit I have not seen a study. It seems like such an interesting and important question.” In fact, scientists, including two of Rockström’s colleagues at the Potsdam Institute, recently modeled food production.Their main finding was that climate change policies are more likely to hurt food production and worsen rural poverty than climate change itself, even at 4 to 5 degrees warming. The “climate policies” the authors refer to are ones that would make energy more expensive and result in more bioenergy (the burning of biofuels and biomass), which would increase land scarcity and drive up food costs..."
"In other words, the problems from sea level rise that Oppenheimer is calling “unmanageable” are situations like the ones that already occur, such as in the days following Hurricane Katrina, where societies become temporarily difficult to manage. (Katrina killed over 1,800)." ...
"But it’s clear that there is simply no science that supports claims that rising sea levels threaten civilization much less the apocalypse." ...
"Several people asked me about climate “tipping points,” such as the collapse of ice sheets from Antarctica and Greenland, the escape of methane gas from melting tundra, the slowing of circulation in the Atlantic ocean, and the drying out and burning up of the Amazon. In response I pointed out that nowhere does IPCC predict any of those things would be catastrophic to human civilization much less apocalyptic.
If the Greenland ice sheet were to completely disintegrate, sea levels would rise by seven meters, but over a 1,000-year period. Even if temperatures rose 6° Celsius, the Greenland ice sheet would lose just 10% of its volume over 400 to 500 years."
I was surprised to be asked whether some amount of exaggeration about climate change wasn’t necessary to grab people’s attention. My response was, “Not if journalists and scientists hope for any trust with the public.” I asked Jeffrey how she would answer such a question. “Raising awareness of an issue is important,” she said, “but there’s a difference between raising awareness and telling children younger than myself that they might not grow up. Climate fear-mongering has become very child-aimed. I see a lot of mental health issues and fatalism.”