Climate emergency?

IMG_20191109_115841 Is the "climate emergency" fluff worth worrying about? I've been fairly dismissive in the past. But ATTP worries Another example of why I find myself confused by what some economic analyses seem to imply (modest impacts) and what many scientists appear to be suggesting (untold suffering) - Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’. And the source for this is World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R Moomaw; BioScience, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088;
Published: 05 November 2019. Their history appears dodgy (see last week's Declaration of the First World Climate Conference, Geneva 1979) but what of their bold and brave
Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.
which doesn't depend on them getting any history right. What of "An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis (IPCC 2018)" where that last is a link to the "1.5 oC" report; but perhaps I can just look at the headline statements. These, obviously, don't support a literal use of "untold suffering". The IPCC just doesn't use that kind of language. So their ability to quote the IPCC is as dodgy as their history. They continue Most public discussions on climate change are based on global surface temperature only which I think is untrue; one hears lots about flooding, drought, sea ice and storms. What I think they mean is "a temperature rise of (globally) 2 oC may not seem like much but it is really", but that's different; if they want to say that, they should.

Next up is Profoundly troubling signs from human activities include sustained increases in both human and ruminant livestock populations, per capita meat production, world gross domestic product... the number of air passengers carried... but they're wrong. these things are all in themselves good, not bad. They may well have bad consequences (more flying emits more CO2) but the things themselves are good (more people is better, for the people concerned; see-also Derek Parfit, Ex-Philosopher). And Especially disturbing are concurrent trends in the vital signs of climatic impacts... Three abundant atmospheric GHGs (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide) continue to increase. This is wrong too: these GHGs are not the signs of climate impacts; we wouldn't care about them much were it not for the consequences of their increases; they are the cause of climate impacts, not their signs.

They then discuss - well, it's all far too abbreviated to be considered discussion; "mention" would be better - some things that really are impacts: SLR, ocean acidification, area burnt, "extreme weather and associated damage costs". But to say that latter is increasing, without mentioning that most of the increase is due to increased value at risk due to developement, just isn't honest. Tropical forests are somewhat threatened by GW, but far more by idiots cutting them down.

Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament is largely true, and alas people including Ripple et al. have failed to learn anything from all that failure. The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected - no, I don't think that's true. At that point I got bored and started skipping, ending at transformative change, with social and economic justice for all which is the kind of statist regulatory approach that shows they've learn nothing from all their failures.

[Pic: the back wall of Christ's, seen from Waterstones.]


* The 'no regrets' approach to preparing for global climate change by Bruce Yandle
* The Economics of Pleasure and Pain by Bryan Caplan; part 2, The Economics of Antipathy and Stereotyping
Science is a messy process - ATTP
Smile: Life In Modern America Is Actually Very Good


Nathan said...

"more people is better, for the people concerned"

This is a strange statement...
It's largely meaningless, as if they didn't exist no one would care.

William M. Connolley said...

You might try reading my examination of Parfit's similar thought experiment. I don't think the statement is strange at all. But if you prefer, you an have "more people is better, for the other people" since it makes life more interesting: more books, art, science, whatevs.

David B. Benson said...

No, WMC, just more crowded.

Nathan said...

"more people is better, for the other people"

Ummm sometimes? But not always...
I suppose it means you're winning in a selfish gene kind of way...

and this thought experiment about whether people who don't exist would prefer to exist is strange.

"But if you imaging yourself as a randomly selected one of the 100 or 200 billion, facing a 93-in-100 or 193-in-200 chance of being rubbed out in the transition to a present-day-Earth-population world, it is very easy to see that you might prefer the over-populated world."

Because they don't exist. AND we don't miss them. Or do you miss the billions who possibly could have existed in the past, but don't.

Tom said...

Well, we're a fifth of the way through the century. Time to revisit and re-evaluate projections, anyone? SLR? GAT? Impacts on agriculture? Droughts? Floods?ECS? TCR? RCP 8.5? 6.0?

Without having gone in depth into most of those, it seems to me (as of course it would) that Lukewarmism has lapped the field. With the obvious caveat that the race is not yet run.

William M. Connolley said...

> Time to revisit and re-evaluate projections, anyone? SLR?

The IPCC did this just recently. The answer was dull.

Andy Mitchell said...

"Lukewarmism has lapped the field..." I'd think this was a Poe but the poster is a serial offender. Historically, predictions of major climate disasters all seemed to be in terms of 2050 or thereabouts. So either I just took a nap of 30 years or so without realising it or bad things seem to be happening earlier than predicted.

William M. Connolley said...

We're pretty short on major climate disasters. Which ones are you thinking of? Perhaps specifically, if you can, which of those things "historically" predicted for 2050 (refs please) do you think have already happened?

Tom said...

Mr. Mitchell, like WMC I'm eager to hear about climate consequences happening in advance. I used to post a State of the Climate at my old and tattered weblog every year. I think the last one I did was in 2015 and I was unable to find much if any evidence that climate disaster was upon us. The exception was flooding, but it seemed fairly clear that increased damages due to flooding was due more to more people inhabiting delta regions and clumsy diversions of watercourses than to climate change. The last couple of years have seen some bad floods, I know, but I think they may stick in my mind because they occurred in high-media regions and hence dominated the airwaves and internet.

I'm sensitive to being over optimistic as such stalwarts as Eli Rabett, willard and others have taken to calling us 'luckwarmers.' So please enlighten me.

Nathan said...

I doubt this was predicted for 2050 or anything, but my opinion is this is a 'major climate disaster'


Tamino gives a good account of why this is cliamet related


And if you run the satellite images in this link you can see the magnitude of the fires.


Tom said...

How is this tragedy in any way linked to human contributions (real, not to be disputed) to the climate change we have experienced to date?

As Tamino writes, "Yes, there’s more news of wildfires on the rampage, bringing fear and destruction, made worse by many things including climate change. But the latest isn’t from California; it’s happening in Australia and especially hard hit is the territory of New South Wales. Yes, a lot of things are making wildfire/bushfire worse in California/Australia. Nobody denies that. One of those things is climate change. Those who deny that, are climate deniers."

And later.... "But precipitation alone isn’t the whole story, and there’s no real trend in precipitation anyway."

David B. Benson said...

Climate Emergency?

Tom said...

Mr. Benson, that article talks about predicted future threats to child health and safety. I thought we were discussing the present.

I believe this statement is not supported by current science: "A kid born today has an average global life expectancy of 71 years so that brings them to 2090. That means that kid will experience a 4C world," Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown, told AFP."

Andy Mitchell said...

"Climatic changes already are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually."


That's not a disaster? The incident at Hillsborough is called a disaster with 96 deaths. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_disaster Should we downgrade Hillsborough to the Hillsborough Inconvenience?

William M. Connolley said...

> https://tamino.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/gagging-climate-change-experts-from-speaking-in-the-middle-of-a-bushfire-disaster-is-a-new-low-from-this-government/

But where's the analysis tying the fires to GW? There isn't even an analysis saying "there are more fires this year than expected". Tamino (correctly) notes the connection between fires and dryness, notes that it has been a bit dry recently, but rather pointedly *doesn't* do any trend analysis of dryness.

> https://www.who.int/heli/risks/climate/climatechange/en/

The lead map tells all. Those aren't deaths from climate, those are deaths from crap govt.

Nathan said...

"notes that it has been a bit dry recently, but rather pointedly *doesn't* do any trend analysis of dryness."

well, driest on record...

And hottest on record...

Both key predictions for this part of Australia based on climate modelling.

"there are more fires this year than expected".

Well, this is plainly obvious as it isn't even summer yet.
Bushfires are also rare in this area (though not so the last few years).

"but rather pointedly *doesn't* do any trend analysis of dryness"
pointedly? that's simply tyour interpretation.
There are really only a few factors that influence bushfires; dryness, heat, and wind.

What I am more curious about is what would you declare a 'catastrophe' that is caused by climate change. I doubt you would be able to provide a definition. This game is just a whack-a-mole where you define things away.

In the end I suppose it's a bit like asking to know if your cancer was caused by smoking. Nigh on impossible if your question is poorly framed.
BUT we can say smoking causes cancer and we can't certainly say that the dryness and heat this year made the fires catastrophic. And we can certainly link the heat and dryness to global warming in the same way.

And certainly the fire departments fighting these fires have. In fact they requested urgent meetings with the Govt back in April... But as we know Climate Change can't be proved to cause anything so we don't need to make plans...

Nathan said...

I should add that the 'trend' in dryness is not important. If it stayed dry everything would die and then there'd be little to burn. what you need is a normal (in this area it is wet) year followed by a dry year. That way you get lots of understorey growth that makes for good fuel.

William M. Connolley said...

> pointedly? that's simply your interpretation.

No; it's important. You can't declare any one year - or any couple of years - caused by GW without some kind of evidence. One obvious piece of evidence would be that it was part of a long-term trend. But, Tamino doens't say so, and eyeballing his graph doesn't suggest it. Skipping over important facts like this just because they don't fit your world view isn't good.

> I should add that the 'trend' in dryness is not important

I don't think that's really true; but if your hypothesis is an increase in variability then you're welcome to provide evidence for that; you could consider suggesting it to Tamino for analysis. If you're thinking in terms of understory and California then you probably need to include changes in forest management practice.

> Both key predictions for this part of Australia based on climate modelling

My recollection is that predictions of drying from GW from GCMs are very uncertain, especially at the regional scale.

> what would you declare a 'catastrophe' that is caused by climate change

This is a fair question. Although the actual question is more about "climate emergency". It might be worth a longer post on this, but in the broad terms, something like agricultural productivity going down - in absolute terms - rather than up; or human mortality increasing rather than decreasing; or drops in GDP.

Nathan said...

"No; it's important. You can't declare any one year - or any couple of years - caused by GW without some kind of evidence."

I would suggest this is actually impossible to prove - as per my smoking example.

"Skipping over important facts like this just because they don't fit your world view isn't good."
? You claim they're important not me. My claim is the 'no-trend' in dryness is not important

so, you could start with this summary.


Outlines the state of play in 2007.

and this from the report in 2009

It downloads CSIRO Submission 09/355 Bushfires in Australia

"In the FFDI the factors included are: a measure of the soil dryness (seasonal rainfall deficit), the amount of last rainfall, and the time since last rainfall which are used to determine the percentage of fine litter fuel on the forest floor available for combustion known as the Drought Factor, the air temperature and
relative humidity (used to determine the moisture content of the fine fuel) and wind speed."

You need rain to create the fine litter

And their projections :
"Changes in future fire weather risk depend on projected changes in temperature, humidity, rainfall and wind. A modelling study conducted by the Bushfire CRC, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO (Lucas et al. 2007) found that the simulated annual-average number of days with ‘Extreme’ fire danger increases by 5-25% by 2020 relative to 1990, for a low rate of global warming. For a high rate of global warming, the number of ‘Extreme’ days increases by 15-65% by 2020. By 2050, the number of ‘Extreme’ days increases by 10-50% for low global warming and by 100-300% for high global warming.

And Here:
"This variability and trend reflects the rainfall and temperature values used to drive
the model (Fig 2) and our assumptions linking litter dynamics to climate. As noted above,
this relationship is an over-simplification. However, a similar relationship of declining litter
load with lower rainfall and increasing temperature has also been observed in a space-fortime study (Williams et al., 2009) and at a long term monitoring site in NSW (Penman and
York, 2010)."

William M. Connolley said...

> http://royalcommission.vic.gov.au/getdoc/c71b6858-c387-41c0-8a89-b351460eba68/TEN.056.001.0001.pdf

Ah, interesting. Did you read it? It appears to disprove your hypothesis: "The winter and spring rains allow fuel growth, while the dry summers allow fire danger to build". Your "annual" model was too primitive; you need to consider seasons.

Nathan said...

This doc outlines the risk category for various hazard loads

You can see that the growth of this vegetation would require rain the previous season (or couple of years before).
It's smaller vegetation that feeds the fire.
You then get very hot dry conditions for a season and this all dies and dries out

Tamino also had an assessment comparing the previous years rainfall in California to wildfires.


And before you bring up hazard reduction burning, yes, we do that in Australia - a lot. Our hazard reductions burns are typically on a 7 year cycle (well here in Western Australia we aim for seven years) but it depends on the dryness during the burn-off season. We can't do hazard reduction burns in Summer, so we have a month or so either before or after Summer to do as much as we can.

That being said the growth of that understorey is a lot faster than the burn-off cycle. So if there is good rains the year before you can accumulate a lot of litter.

Nathan said...

"Ah, interesting. Did you read it? It appears to disprove your hypothesis: "The winter and spring rains allow fuel growth, while the dry summers allow fire danger to build". Your "annual" model was too primitive; you need to consider seasons."

Anyway if you want rainfall trends - try here:

That's to Nov 2019

Als look here:

The region that is on fire had high rainfall in 2017

Moderate last year

And Very dry the last year


I don't see how this disproves my hypothesis (and it's not actually mine).
I said rain leads to understorey growth... So....

the 'annual' model... are you talking about the data Tamino presented?

TN said...

Thank you Connolley. Your blog seems always to be a haven of reason.

Something launched the blogosphere and media to a slight spin (the NYT article?) and momentarily a layman here was dumbfounded.

David B. Benson said...

Only seems. WMC has his blind spots.

Nathan said...

Is this a climate emergency yet?


The fires have been going on for about a month now...

It's pretty bloody hot here, even for Australia...
Hot and dry... Good conditions for fire...
and the climate predictions for Southern Australia were for hot and dry with extra fire.

Is this a climate emergency?

William M. Connolley said...

I don't know. Is it a climate emergency or a weather emergency? What do the statistics look like>

Nathan said...

" Is it a climate emergency or a weather emergency? "

This isn't a very good question... It will always be weather - and weather is a subset of climate... so it will also be climate.

Can you tell me which cigarette caused the cancer?

High risk fire weather days are increasing in southern Australia.

That's up to 2017 - this year is worse than those previous

Not sure if this is worth anything...

Many more in recent decades - and this is despite increased preparedness and equipment.

William M. Connolley said...

I disagree; it's the obvious correct question, and if you can't answer it you'll get nowhere.

As to cigarettes: if you had, say, an increase in cancer incidence but no increase in fags, then it would be odd to blame the fags.

Fire risk days do indeed show up as red / deep red on that pic. But (unless I've missed it) there aren't any stats of actual fires on that page.


From their table of numbers, it's probably increasing, but without some kind of proper analysis it's hard to be sure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfires_in_Australia#Climate_change is rather weak.

William M. Connolley said...

But to return to your original question: if fire in Oz is indeed increasing, due to GW, then we return to the question of whether it is an emergency or not. You'd better hope not I guess, because GW isn't about to reverse and will continue for decades at the very least.

Tom said...

Instead of asking which cigarette caused the cancer, it might be instructive to ask which cigarette caused the brushfire.