One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Why don’t climate scientists tell the truth?

Date Published:

While part of the problem is like with the boy who cried wolf people are not listening, the recent revelation that the planet will most likely reach +1.5°C by 2026-2027 makes it seem very likely climate scientists are also being very guarded with how much of the truth they are prepared to reveal.

It is not that climate scientists are lying, but what is being said tends to be so heavily qualified that people are able to read whatever they want into what is being said.

The “religious environmentalists” are hearing that we must all suffer for the planet, the politicians are hearing that “we are on-track with our climate commitments” and those reliant on profits and taxes from the oil and gas industry are hearing that “we have until 2050”.

What is needed to get a clear enough picture of where things stand for action to be appropriate to the risk?

Yes, few are listening, but we need better communicators.

Even I predicted around the time of COP26 that there would be +1.5°C by 2026 or 2027, and if even I could predict this then most definitely so could most climate scientists.

Yet the first announcement I am aware of by anyone official that +1.5°C was coming soon was from weather services.

No one was questioning the position voiced by spokespeople going into COP26 of “this is the last chance to avoid +1.5°C” when clearly that ship had sailed. Given the most urgent plans were for 2030, and the main discussion was about 2050, nothing was coming out of COP26 was ever going to prevent +1.5°C if it was coming prior to 2030.

It is not like events between 2021 and 2023 have revealed surprises or resulted in unexpected unpredictable warming. In fact, a run of La Niña years made rises in temperature less apparent, and it is upcoming flip back to El Niño that will yield the first +1.5°C years, because the underlying temperature conditions have risen since the previous El Niño years.

Even though COP26 in Glasgow was promoted as the last chance to prevent +1.5 degrees warming, no significant event at COP26 was ever going to change much before 2050. There was the Glasgow protocol with things like a small number of countries committing to end sales of ICE vehicles by 2040… which takes 20 years to have full impact.

Then at COP27 the main argument was about damages for past contributions to climate change without even a focus on stopping climate change.

Still emissions keep rising, and if climate change is more than just an inconvenience, the world needs messaging that will cut through lead to than just more of the 27 COP conferences so far that have failed to slow the rise in emissions.

A Communication Issue?

The announcement of +1.5 came from the “weathermen”, and not climate scientists.

In its annual climate update, the WMO said that between 2023 and 2027, there is now a 66% chance that the planet’s temperature will climb above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels for at least one year.

‘Sounding the alarm’: World on track to breach a critical warming threshold in the next five years

The WMO is the “World Meteorological Organization” and instead of the prediction of the first year of +1.5°C coming as part of a climate prediction, it now so close it comes as a weather forecast.

While is sounds potentially uncertain and sounds like possibly only temporary, that is mostly because that is the nature of weather forecasts. The climate data, that Earth is currently absorbing more heat every year than is being radiated, means each year the same set of circumstances would mean a hotter year than last time. While after 2026-2027 years under +1.5°C may still happen, they would have to be years that would have been very cold years previously. From 2026-2027, below +1.5°C years will be outlier cold years.

The final 6th cycle IPCC Report:

In March 2023, the final 6th cycle report was released, but it seemed to attract little media attention. IPCC Report history:

  • 1990 First report.
  • 1995 Second report.
  • 2001 Third report
  • 2007 Fourth report
  • 2014 Fifth report.
  • 2023 Sixth report.

There will be no further report until after 2030, by which time most likely, +1.5°C will have already been reached. It is a long report, but the PDF can be downloaded and read. It does say that +1.5°C and even +2.0°C are unavoidable, but only “sometime this century”. There is no mention of the risk of +1.5°C during the 2020s decade. Nor a prediction of when +2.0°C would occur, despite any realistic projection would conclude this would most be recorded by 2035. Here is a quite good video commentary on what the report does say, but I am still perplexed by what it does not say.

“Disastrous weather”, “climate change” or “global warming”?

Perhaps even the labelling is a reflection of the problem.

The first label was “Global Warming”. “Lets go somewhere warm”. Warm is generally seen as a positive, and the term “warm” is used when heat is desirable. Given that the people of most developed nations people holiday where it is warm and feel the cold more often than extreme heat, this sounded like a holiday. Does global warming of +1, +2 or even +3 degrees does not sound like a huge or even unwelcome amount of warming?

The next, and still current label became “climate change”.

Have none of those on the team for creating the name ever wanted to go on holiday to a place with a climate that is a change from what they usually experience? How does this convey “this is not a good thing?” Ever heard: “a change is as good as a holiday”? Were people afraid to use a negative term or did the marketing for big oil get involved or something.

The reality is “disastrous weather” might be a clearer name. Disastrous weather events are the key consequence events of rising CO2 for most people so far. The percentage of the world’s population who have been in disaster areas or have family or friends in disaster areas is far greater than those fearing even +2.0°C rise in temperatures or the small level of sea-level rises predicted this century.

Sea levels and understatement.

“We are looking at meters of sea level rise, probably tens of meters. And then look at the elevation of New York City, Boston, Miami, Amsterdam. Look at India and Africa – most global population centers are near sea level.”

Long-lost Greenland ice core suggests potential for disastrous sea level rise

To be continued………

This is in the news section as it is a work in progress not yet at webpaper level.

I am reminded of the story of how Bill Gates was skeptical whether the project to eradicate polio were bold enough to ask for the money they really needed. as to how much funding was required to solve the problem, and instead were given by the team asking for the maximum they thought would tackling

the distractions– covid – russi — china.

The Arctic may be sea ice-free in summer by the 2030s, new study warns


  • 2023 May 20: First draft

Table of Contents


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