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Media cannot deal with the climate truth: Holman W. Jenkins, JR


After 41 years of making a fuzzy and unsatisfactory estimate of how much warming could result from doubling atmospheric CO2, the world referee in climate science has finally offered the first real improvement in the history of modern climate science.

According to five previous UN assessments and its predecessor, the 1979 Charney Report, what is likely the worst case scenario was a 4.5 degree Celsius increase. This resulted from the averaging of the results of inconsistent computer climate simulations, of which the IPCC only knew one thing: They could not all be correct and perhaps none was correct.

Using real data, the new report now says the worst case scenario is a 4 degree increase. More importantly, catastrophic results above 5 degrees are now viewed as very unlikely with much more confidence than before.

In another departure, the UN body is now saying that the dire emissions scenario it has been promoting for two decades should be viewed as highly unlikely, with more plausible projections being at least a third lower.

The report also notes that the full effects of these emissions will not show themselves until decades or even a century later, as the press never does. The likely worst case effect of a doubling of CO2 could end up being 4 degrees, but the best estimate of the “transient climate response” this century is about 2.7 degrees, or 1.6 degrees on top of the warming since the beginning of the industry .

You might not want this on your least favorite planet, but compare it to media coverage of the U.S. climate rating in 2018, which put a 6.1-degree rise in temperature as an almost self-evident conclusion.

No, the new report is not a reason not to worry about climate change on the unlikely basis that your previous level of concern was based on actual science. But when you’ve bought the media hype, it’s time to relax a little.

The words most frequently cited in the press were not found in the UN report or in its executive summary. It was claims by two UN officials that the report heralded a “code red for humanity” and, even more insignificantly, that “no one is safe from a warming planet”.

In reality, no creature makes the whole planet their home, but rather chooses the zones that it finds most balanced. Even with technological help, humanity is present on 20% of the earth’s land surface, and it is thin. As in the past, the boundaries of this presence will shift in response to a changing climate.

Now, however, the press and impresarios of climate science know each other too well, so there are plenty of scripted idiots out there. This week’s massive rainstorm in the northeast has been reflexively described as a consequence of climate change. It doesn’t matter that there has always been heavy rains and that climate policy cannot be a solution for a New York drainage system that cannot withstand a five-year storm, let alone a 100-year storm.

Or take the US government claim that July was the hottest month on record. Not mentioned in any news report I could find, the margin of error in this measurement was ten times the supposed difference from the previously claimed hottest month of July 2016.

Imagine if the news industry could still recognize news. If the latest in a 40-year series of climate projections differ from their predecessors in that temperature changes and emissions are not as bad as previously projected, this would be news. That is, to media that are not tied to the senseless assumption that climate science can only produce a series of ever worse discoveries.

Our climate fluctuates under many influences, but one factor that overwhelms everyone else is the increase in the number of people and their valuable property being placed in the way of extreme weather conditions, a policy encouraged behavior. Even so, human willingness has advanced faster than climate change or even human willingness to build. As Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado Boulder patiently pointed out, your chances of dying from extreme weather conditions have dropped dramatically throughout the period of the increasing human climate impact.

At least so far, these advances have been possible without climate policy aid, unless one considers fracking, which has led to a decrease in total US emissions, as climate policy. Since mankind has been shown not to stop climate change by banning fossil fuels and even then would likely have been worse off, let this be your good news of the day.

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