Climate cobblers

During the second Test of Australia’s current tour of India, in Hyderabad (which, I am delighted to report, the Aussies lost by an innings and 130-odd runs), one of the Australian commentators wondered aloud why Hotspot wasn’t part of DRS. There are two answers: the infra-red imaging takes too long to put together; and the owners of the technology don’t allow it to be used in certain countries, for fear that someone might nick it. I was surprised and disappointed that a cricketing professional didn’t know that, and inevitably I asked myself what else he might not know about the game he’s paid to talk about.

The comparison came to mind when I read the first paragraph of this Guardian article:

The chances of the world holding temperature rises to 2C – the level of global warming considered “safe” by scientists – appear to be fading fast with US scientists reporting the second-greatest annual rise in COemissions in 2012.

Firstly, the chances of holding temperature rises to 2C are nil and the journalist, John Vidal, ought to know that. An MIT study, first carried out in 2003 and updated in 2009, concludes that by the end of the century temperatures will have risen by at least 3.5° (95% probability) and possibly by as much as 6°. The scientist quoted in the article is no better: “The prospects of keeping climate change below that [two-degree goal] are fading away.” No they’re not, you fool, they disappeared long ago! Do keep up.

Secondly, no level of global warming is considered “safe” by scientists, at least not by climate scientists. We shall know more about this when the European Communities’ FP7 project IMPACT2C comes home in two and a half years’ time. In the meantime, Mark Lynas (author of several books on the subject, most recently The God Species) sums up the different scenarios succinctly here.

Basically we don’t know what the impact will be. Even the present level of warming (about 1°C) has set in motion global mechanisms the impact of which will take years or (if we’re lucky) decades to kick in. The only safe assumption is that things will be worse than we think. Much worse.

Don’t-rock-the-boat articles like this not only do no good, they are positively harmful. More insidious than the climate change deniers, they come under “urgency deniers” and ultimately they’re just as bad, if not worse.

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