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Climate denier scientists think these 5 arguments will persuade EU and UN leaders

Posted on 11 September 2019 by dana1981

As reported by DeSmogUK, in an effort to derail European Union climate policies and international climate negotiations, hundreds of climate denier scientists have drafted a letter to be sent to leaders of EU and UN institutions. The letter outlines their case for why climate change isn’t an emergency, but it simply reheats several old and stale climate myths.

Although the letter is unlikely to achieve its goal of derailing climate negotiations and policies, since it represents the best case that climate deniers can make against the existence of a climate crisis, it’s worth examining the arguments therein.

Yes, humans are causing global warming

The first argument in the letter asserts that current global warming “is to be expected from the cyclic behavior of the climate system.”

No evidence is provided to support this claim or any other in the letter. In fact, the letter doesn’t even specify which cycle is purportedly responsible for the current global warming. That’s undoubtedly because there isn’t one. Earth’s temperatures are currently warming 20 to 50 times faster than when the planet exits an ice age, for example. No natural cycle can account for the current rapid global warming.

This is not a scientific argument; it’s just hand-waiving and magical thinking that climate scientists ruled out long ago.

Carbon pollution is harmful

The second point in the letter combines two myths:

“There is no proof that anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the major cause of global warming. There is also no scientific evidence that anthropogenic CO2 emissions have a detrimental effect on the quality of life.”

The use of the word “proof” here is a red flag. Science doesn’t operate by proofs; it operates by evidence, and there is overwhelming evidence that carbon pollution is the major cause of global warming. In fact, NASA climate scientists published a study in the prestigious journal Science in 2010 entitled “Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth’s Temperature.” The latest IPCC report concluded with 95% confidence that humans are responsible for most global warming since 1950, and most likely responsible for all of it.

There is also overwhelming scientific evidence that carbon pollution has a detrimental effect on the quality of life through its amplification of extreme weather events like droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes.

Climate models have been remarkably accurate

The third point in the letter argues,

“climate models have many shortcomings and are not remotely plausible as policy tools … they substantially overestimate the recent temperature increase.”

As I demonstrated in my book and in the video below, temperature predictions made by mainstream climate models have been remarkably accurate (unlike those made by deniers). Climate models are certainly among the scientific tools useful for policymaking, although we have enough evidence about the climate change risks we’re already experiencing even setting climate models aside.

Global warming is amplifying extreme weather

The fourth point in the letter begins by denying that carbon pollution is intensifying extreme weather events, and ends with bizarre claims that efforts to curb carbon pollution are detrimental:

“There is also no scientific evidence that higher CO2 levels are intensifying natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and droughts, or making them more frequent. On the other hand, there are many indications that most CO2-mitigation measures in use today have a devastating effect on wildlife (e.g. by wind turbines) and land use (e.g. forest clearance).”

The first claim here is indisputably false. A recent IPCC special report concluded with high confidence that “The frequency and intensity of some extreme weather and climate events have increased as a consequence of global warming and will continue to increase under medium and high emission scenarios,” including droughts and floods. Research has also shown that hotter ocean waters are intensifying the strongest hurricanes.

The second claim is even more absurd. Most low-carbon technologies obviously don’t devastate wildlife. As for wind, a 2009 study found that fossil fuel power kills about 15 times more birds per unit of energy produced than wind turbines. A comprehensive 2014 study concluded that cats kill about 7,000 times more birds per year in the U.S. than wind turbines. And forest clearance obviously isn’t a carbon mitigation measure; reforestation is, however.

We can’t just adapt to climate change

The final point in the letter argues that rather than curbing carbon pollution, we should just adapt to the consequences of climate change:

“There is no climate emergency and therefore no cause for panic and alarm. If better approaches emerge, we will have ample time to reflect and adapt.”

This is akin to arguing that people should continue smoking cigarettes and simply adapt to the health consequences like emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer because better treatments for those diseases may eventually emerge. As any doctor will explain, mitigation (quitting smoking, or in our case, phasing out carbon pollution) must be the first step to minimize the risk of a catastrophic outcome.

The recent IPCC report showed that limiting global warming to the more ambitious 1.5°C Paris target will require nearly halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The report also provided evidence that missing this target would create serious risks of worse food and water insecurity and yet more extreme weather.

Because of the global warming we’ve already locked in, we will have to both mitigate the problem and adapt to some of its consequences. As glaciologist Lonnie Thompson famously said of climate change, “The only question is how much we will mitigate, adapt, and suffer.” The more successful we are in mitigating carbon pollution, the less we’ll be forced to adapt and suffer.

Research has also shown that unmitigated climate change is far costlier than mitigation, potentially by tens of trillions of dollars. And it’s important to look beyond dollar signs and consider the suffering variable in Lonnie Thompson’s equation. Losing one’s home and belongings or loved ones to climate-intensified extreme weather events may have an insignificant impact on the economy, but the associated trauma and suffering come at high psychological costs that are well worth trying to avoid.

In short, this letter represents climate deniers' best case for inaction, and every single claim made therein is bogus.

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Comments 1 to 19:

  1. The same old people making the same old mistakes, probably deliberately. The world will run out of fossil fuels soon enough anyway, leaving no choice but to find other sources of energy. "The U.S. is rapidly approaching the end of economically recoverable coal".

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    Moderator Response:

    [BW] Updated the link

  2. nigelj @ #1

    You link doesn't work.

    But the quoted headline says something different to what you said. I'm pretty sure that what they are saying is that the recovery of fossil fuels will become un-economical long before the world runs out of fossil fuels. In fact, the world will never run out of fossil fuel because some of it is not actually recoverable.

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  3. My link @1 doesn't work, it goes back to this page so its a problem with this website. The full link is:

    It's quite a good article. Probably not what the American Administration wants to hear.

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  4. Billy Joe @1, yeah fair comment and I know that. I was just paraphrasing the general situation, and I threw in a relevant link I came across recently. Didn't have time to really do much more.

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  5. You would think the authors of this letter might feel foolish regurgitating these stale , long debunked myths. But then, I suppose it's difficult to understand what they're paid not to. 

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  6. The OP suggests this silly denialist letter to the EU "represents the best case that climate deniers can make against the existence of a climate crisis." I feel that needs some qualification as it is a small set of denialists who came up with the silly five point 'oh-no-it's-not' rebuttal.

    At the end of January we hear of a large number of academics writing to the Belgian "federal and regional governments." I cannot see the actual letter sent but it did result in swivel-eyed denialists from the Netherlands responding with a point-by-point counter-argument which was quickly translated for the English-speaking deniosphere.

    (The authorship of the denial is given as the Climate Intelligence Foundation which is described as "a new Foundation that is funded by worried wealthy citizens. The Foundation focuses on independent public information. She does that by telling the entire climate story." somewhat similar to the nonsense spouted by the UK's GWPF who make out they are an educational charity (& thus trouser taxpayers money to fund their lies). The odd thing with this authorship for an OP posted 1st Feb 2019 is the Climate Intelligence Foundation (soon gaining the name CLINTEL) was not started until the end of March 2019, according to one of its co-founders. who says in this video that it will be set up "tomorrow" with the launch seemingly a couple of days later.)

    The point-by-point counter-argument of early Feb runs to seven points. The first five of these present identical argument to the silly denialist letter, although the letter has hardened the message a bit. The first five Feb points were -  (1) Climate has always changed with warming from 1850, (2) Calling recent warming 100% anthropogenic is unscientific, (3) There is no discernable trends in floods & droughts & plagues of frogs, (4) Models are hypersensitive to CO2 so any warming CO2 causes will be mild and nature can cool as well as warm. (5) The cost to Belgium & Holland of AGW mitigation is massive for "negligible and immeasurable" gain.

    (These five from February are pretty-much the same as the five in the silly denialist letter of August. The February version adds (6) AGW mitigation is not more cost-effective than doing nothing, (7) They mix up a clean environment, which all agree with, with AGW mitigation.)

    So the grand denialist message is no more than a knee-jerk response to a letter from Belgian academics supporting stronger action on AGW. That it has folk like Richard Lindzen signing-up to it when he disagrees with parts of it is presumably more a mark of solidarity than a mark of wholehearted agreement.

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  7. BillyJoe, there is the link and more info about end of fossil fuels

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  8. No informed person would consider your comments on cost of adaptation as “science.”  Your source of info is a 2015 article in The Guardian (journalists), who in turn rely on bankers who do not reveal their methods.

    Nordhaus, who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change, advocates a target of 3C of warming. 

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  9. Looking like the same old army of "scientists" touting the same old shyte...

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  10. markpittsusa,

    I hope you do not continue to believe that your claims about Nordhaus are 'unchallengeable'.

    It appears you have not read, or maybe did not understand, the responses I have presented to your earlier presentations of Nordhaus as 'The correct evaluator of the acceptability of current day humans benefiting through actions that are unsustainable and are also detrimental to future generations'.

    As a minimum, please develop a more nuanced understanding of the differences between the evaluations performed by the likes of Stern and Nordhaus.

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  11. markpittsusa @8

    "Nordhaus, who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change, advocates a target of 3C of warming."

    And plenty of nobel prize winners have got things wrong over the years. You are engaging in the fallacy of the Argument from authority. "An argument from authority (argumentum ab auctoritate), also called an appeal to authority, or argumentum ad verecundiam, is a form of defeasible argument in which a claimed authority's support is used as evidence for an argument's conclusion." 

    Many robust and well informed accurate criticisms have been made of Nordhaus views on the economics of climate change, for example here.

    Briefly stated, there are many things Nordaus simply omits form his calculations and he makes over optimstic assumptions about economic growth, just for starters.

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  12. One thing that stands out in the denialists letter is they hammer their 'claim' that natural cycles are behind the recent warming trend, and the letter does it in several different ways, for exampe in the first two points they make. Imho this is their key lever for creating doubt used throughout the denialosphere because if they can convince the public "something else is  responsible" (or could be responsible), they dont need other arguments too much. It's using a scapegoat just as certain politicians do on various other matters. Therefore its really important to shoot down this argument and make it the number one priority.

    In that respect the response made in the article is good, but rather wordy and rhetorical. If we challenge the denialists, its important to get the message across very succinctly and clearly that scientists have looked in extreme depth at all the natural cimate cycles, such as sunspots and ocean cycles and they have been in neutral or cooling phases for the past 50 years so cannot adequately explain the warming trend, while the increasing greenhouse effect does.

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  13. nigelj@11,

    One of the most grossly inaccurate assumptions made by the likes of Nordhaus is the belief that perceptions of prosperity and success that are based on unsustainable actions harmful to the future of humanity (not just fossil fuels), can continue and improve.

    GDP per-capita has increased significantly yet desperate-poverty still exists. And one of the twisted stories about poverty is that a self-sufficient farm family is counted as being in poverty, but a city slum-exister earning $3 a day is not in poverty. And any perceptions of poverty reduction that are the result of fossil fuel use are likely not sustainable.

    Humanity's economic history cannot be continued. Resource depletion and accumulating negative impacts require corrective constraints on economic activity. What has been developed is already recognized as unsustainable. It is like a Stock Market or Housing Market bubble. It is destined toward a Pop and Correction.

    And if it is dealt with like past bubbles (just letting things get sorted out in the business and political marketplaces of popularity and profit), the expected result is a bigger more harmful boom than necessary and massive resistance to the corrections required to minimize how harmful the system is in(to) the future.

    How many less fortunate people will suffer horribly, and how many undeserving more fortunate people will become even more fortunate, is all a matter of the objectives of the developed socioeconomic-political systems. Currently those systems are not governed by the objective of improving awareness and understanding to achieve a sustainable improving future for humanity. And any evaluation based on the fairy-tale that the Developed Systems are Good (like the Nordhaus evaluation) is destined to be unsustainable, no matter how precise or complete they are regarding the 'cost considerations' in the evaluation.

    The expectation of continued economic success from a starting point of a massive amount of unsustainable and harmful economic activity is very unrealistic.

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  14. The bogus claims from these hundred+ climate denier scientists ..Is it too simplistic/harmful to name and shame in a BIG way these  2% ...

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  15. If?

    “If the predictions of Nordhaus’s Damage Function were true, then everyone—including Climate Change Believers (CCBs)—should just relax. An 8.5 percent fall in GDP is twice as bad as the “Great Recession”, as Americans call the 2008 crisis, which reduced real GDP by 4.2% peak to trough. But that happened in just under two years, so the annual decline in GDP was a very noticeable 2%. The 8.5% decline that Nordhaus predicts from a 6 degree increase in average global temperature (here CCDs will have to pretend that AGW is real) would take 130 years if nothing were done to attenuate Climate Change, according to Nordhaus’s model (see Figure 1). Spread over more than a century, that 8.5% fall would mean a decline in GDP growth of less than 0.1% per year. At the accuracy with which change in GDP is measured, that’s little better than rounding error. We should all just sit back and enjoy the extra warmth.”

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  16. Postkey @15

    “If the predictions of Nordhaus’s Damage Function were true, then everyone—including Climate Change Believers (CCBs)—should just relax. The 8.5% decline that Nordhaus predicts from a 6 degree increase in average global temperature (here CCDs will have to pretend that AGW is real) would take 130 years if nothing were done to attenuate Climate Change...We should all just sit back and enjoy the extra warmth.”

    ROFL. Noble words, but have you ever done any research into the reliability of economists predictions of gdp? Maybe even a simple google search? Economic predictions of this sort have proven to be virtually worthless, because economics is based on absurd assumptions about human behaviour.

    Economists can't even predict gdp growth reliably a decade ahead much less in a century due to climate impacts. Economists can't see the next recession coming and 99% of them didn't see the GFC coming, by way of a simple example of their uselessness. In fact economists have a terrible record at predicting anything as below:


    Therefore humanity can take no comfort from anything Norduas says on economic growth. All we can say for sure is the impact of climate change on economic growth won't be good, and could be catastrophic. Nordhaus totally ignores the very real possibility of run away climate change that leads to disruption so severe that our civilisation and its institutions and economic systems collapses entirely, taking any economic growth down with them, and / or refugee crises totally destabilise the system.

    It's also important to consider that economic growth is only one small part of what climate change does to the economy, one that totally ignores specific yet crucial effects like disease and food security. You can have reasonable economic growth, but be facing dire problems in critical areas.

    Instead it is better to look at impacts a changing climate would have on the economy from a more holistic and wholistic and science based perspective as below:

    Economists have some use for analysing costs, but Nordhaus makes a total mess of this, refer the link I posted @11. Many assumptions are made and many problems are ignored or have token costs awarded to them. How can we even put a price on species loss?

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  17. Sorry but deniers don't need to persuade leaders. See climate action tracker, it tells everything.

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  18. Impressive letter coming from 500 "scientists"! There are 14 "ambassadors" signing the letter so let's have a look. Richard Lindzen? OK, he's a scientist though of course one that has been wrong repeatedly. Now HERE's a name that stands out; "The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, United Kingdom". Yes indeed, the bug-eyed man who is literally nuts is one of their "ambassadors." That's more than enough for me to dismiss the entire thing without even attempting an analysis.

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  19. Alex Maycock tweeted about the background of the „ambassadors“ for the letter. Here is the link to list of tweets via the thread reader app:

    Climate Feedback also reviewed the letter and gave it an overall rating of very low:

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