“Ultimately the public will understand that they were being lied to, betrayed”

Professor Michael Mann:

… [W]e will look back with revulsion at those who did the bidding of the fossil fuel industry to try to confuse the public about the reality of this problem. The problem is we don’t have that much time. We can’t wait decades to be able to look back and retrospect and say, “Yes, that was a disinformation effort that clouded the public’s understanding.” We only have a matter of five to ten years to get our fossil fuel emissions under control and, for that reason, it’s especially important that politicians of conscience speak truth to power when it comes to the issue of climate change, that scientists be willing to speak out about this, and that the mainstream media do a far more responsible job, do their job of covering, not the false controversies that certain special interests would like them to be covering, but the actual state of our scientific understanding. And I think many outlets, many mainstream media outlets, have done a disservice to society by playing up the manufactured debate, and playing down the actual state of scientific understanding.

I sometimes wonder whether the Congressional Record or church pulpits, or the breakfast meetings of progressive politicians, or annual town meetings qualify as “mainstream media”. These, too, with the exception of Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the first case, have done little or nothing to treat climate disruption with the seriousness and moral weight it deserves.

To repeat a section of a blog post I wrote some time ago,

“All the good you have done”, said the [prophetic Van] Jones. “all the good you can imagine doing, will be wiped out, wiped out by floods, by fires, by superstorms, if you fail to act now to deal with this crisis that is a gun—a gun—pointed at the head of the future.” New Orleans will not matter. Ground Zero will not matter. Sandy Hook will not matter. Planting roses and flowers, gifts to Burundi and Somalia and Haiti, and neighbirhood trash collections will not matter, because they or their children will die in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, simply because many of us chose fossil fuels as a means of getting to where we wanted to be to make a living, let alone that living itself.

The truth is not personal, it is not relative, it is objective. If one believes in such a personal truth, I say that in the face of the moral challenge, it is irrelevant. The only “truth” that matters when people’s lives are at risk is cold, hard evidence:







These emissions need to be zeroed.

This figure is taken from Figure 1 of Solomon, Plattner, Knutti, and Friedlingstein, 2008, which contains the description:

Fig. 1. Carbon dioxide and global mean climate system changes (relative to preindustrial conditions in 1765) from 1 illustrative model, the Bern 2.5CC EMIC, whose results are comparable to the suite of assessed EMICs (5, 7). Climate system responses are shown for a ramp of CO2 emissions at a rate of 2%/year to peak CO2 values of 450, 550, 650, 750, 850, and 1200 ppmv, followed by zero emissions. The rate of global fossil fuel CO2 emission grew at 1%/year from 1980 to 2000 and 3%/year in the period from 2000 to 2005 (13). Results have been smoothed using an 11-year running mean. The 31-year variation seen in the carbon dioxide time series is introduced by the climatology used to force the terrestrial biosphere model (15). (Top) Falloff of CO2 concentrations following zero emissions after the peak. (Middle) Globally averaged surface warming (degrees Celsius) for these cases (note that this model has an equilibrium climate sensitivity of 3.2 °C for carbon dioxide doubling). Warming over land is expected to be larger than these global averaged values, with the greatest warming expected in the Arctic (5). (Bottom) Sea level rise (meters) from thermal expansion only (not including loss of glaciers, ice caps, or ice sheets).

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This figure is taken from Figure 1 of Tokarska and Zickfeld, 2015 and shows the Earth climate response if emissions are zeroed just prior to 2100 and a geoengineering program for withdrawing CO2 from atmosphere is instituted. The message is that the ecosystem of Earth is stuck with elevated temperatures for millennia irrespective of the intervention. This figure is accompanied by the description:

Figure 1. Time series of global variables for constant cumulative emissions (CCE) simulations. (a) CO2 emission rate (fossil fuel and land use change) (b) atmospheric CO2 concentration; (c) global mean temperature change relative to 1801; (d) thermosteric sea level rise relative to 1801. Scenario names in the legend indicate peak fossil fuel emission rate (in GtC yr−1). RCP 2.6 in panel (a) is shown for reference.

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Note the gap between ocean temperature increases and those on land. Note also that the gap is increasing in size. This is because whatever is argued about the elusive quantity equilibrium climate sensitivity (“ECS”), the following is definitely the case:
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This is taken from Figure 2 of Schmittner, Urban, Shakun, Mahowald, Clark, Bartlein, Mix, Rosell-Melé, 2011. Note that discussions of ECS relative to policy without noting this distinction are pretty silly since most people live on land. ECS2xC on land is pretty severe and has a longer and fatter high-end tail.

I sometimes wonder what the reaction of the public will be to the realization that, as Professor Mann says, “they were being lied to, betrayed”. It may be simply to stop using fossil fuel products. It could be to litigate in class action suits. It could be demanding governments seize fossil fuel assets. Or it could be much worse. Fossil fuel companies ought to think about that.

Update, 15th October 2015

In fact, to those fossil fuel companies, I have some advice from a guy who knows about these kind of things:


Jack Welch, even if his views on wind and solar are, well, mediocre.

Update, 23rd October 2015

Tamino does a recap of an Exxon-Mobil ad from 2000. Here’s an excerpt and see the link for the full advertisement.

Geological evidence indicates that climate and greenhouse gas levels experience significant natural variability for reasons having nothing to do with human activity. Historical records and current scientific evidence show that Europe and North America experienced a medieval warm period one thousand years ago, followed centuries later by a little ice age. The geological record shows even larger changes throughout Earth’s history. Against this backdrop of large poorly understood natural variability, it is impossible for scientists to attribute the recent small surface temperature increase to human causes.

Moreover, computer models relied upon by climate scientists predict that lower atmospheric temperatures will rise as fast as or faster than temperatures at the surface. However, only within the last 20 years have reliable global measurements of temperatures in the lower atmosphere been available through the use of satellite technology. These measurements show little if any warming.

Even less is known about the potential or negative impacts of climate change. In fact, many academic studies and yield experiments have demonstrated that increased levels of carbon dioxide can promote crop and forest growth.

So, while some argue that the science debate is settled and governments should focus only on near-term policies — that is empty rhetoric. Inevitably, future scientific research will help us understand how human actions and natural climate change may affect the world and help determine what actions may be desirable to address the long-term.

Science has given us enough information to know that climate changes may pose long-term risks. Natural variability and human activity may lead to climate change that could be significant perhaps both positive and negative. Consequently, people, companies and governments should take responsible actions now to address the issue.

One essential step is to encourage development of lower-emission technologies to meet our future needs for energy. We’ll next look at the promise of technology and what is being done today.


Yep, that’s FUD alright.

About ecoquant

See https://wordpress.com/view/667-per-cm.net/ Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
This entry was posted in adaptation, Anthropocene, bridge to nowhere, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, citizenship, climate, climate change, climate disruption, denial, disingenuity, dynamical systems, ecology, environment, geophysics, global warming, ignorance, meteorology, physics, Principles of Planetary Climate, rationality, reasonableness, risk, science, selfishness, statistics, Tamino, temporal myopia, the right to know, UU Humanists, zero carbon. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “Ultimately the public will understand that they were being lied to, betrayed”

  1. Pingback: The Koch brothers are afraid, very afraid … and should be | Hypergeometric

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