Thanks, Colorado Springs Gazette, for Warning of the Dangers of “Climate Change Catastrophism”

The editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette published an article describing the harm being caused by “climate change catastrophism,” the constant repetition of woefully overstated claims about the risk of climate change. The story cites a recent letter published in the peer reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in which a team of international scientists urge their fellow researchers to avoid exaggerating the likely impacts of climate change, warning it may be contributing to mental health problems, particularly among young people. This represents a much more balanced and practical position, avoiding sensationalist claims and focusing on a realistic assessment of the state of climate knowledge.

The Colorado Springs Gazette article, titled “Boulder scientists warn of ‘climate change catastrophism,’” says “[e]nough with climate-change scare tactics. They hurt people, possibly more than they will suffer from climate change.” They cite a letter published in PNAS under the title “Catastrophic climate risks should be neither understated nor overstated,” penned by climate scientists Matthew G. Burgess, Roger Pielke Jr., and Justin Ritchie.

The Colorado Springs Gazette writes:

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists warn of too much focus by the scientific community on unlikely worst-case scenarios — including imminent extinction of human life — rather than more plausible outcomes that fall between Armageddon on one extreme and “no worries” on the other. Alarmism, they explain, leads to impossible goals of ending all fossil fuel consumption by mid-century, social disarray, and mental health problems.

The letter itself takes aim at a specific paper in PNAS, “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios,” which says catastrophic, extinction-level climate scenarios need to be explored more in scientific literature. Burgess and his co-authors argue that there is already significant overemphasis on the “catastrophic” predictions and modelling.

From the letter:

“Kemp et al. note that recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports emphasize sub-2 °C scenarios. Simultaneously, IPCC reports also overemphasize catastrophic scenarios, as does broader discourse. For example, the cataclysmic Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) and Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 5-8.5 (SSP5-8.5) scenarios—now widely considered implausible—account for roughly half of the scenario mentions in recent IPCC Assessment Reports’ impacts (Working Group II) sections, similar to underlying scientific literature.”

This is consistent with what many scientists, like those cited at Climate Realism, have warned. RCP8.5 and similarly high emissions scenarios are unrealistic, likely impossible. Unfortunately, despite its implausibility, RCP8.5 is widely used in climate science and climate policy literature to promote extreme climate change disaster scenarios that are not supported by the data. The goal being to spur world governments into an extreme and immediate, “great reset,” of global economic and political systems.

The letter’s authors correctly point out that “[o]veremphasized apocalyptic futures can be used to support despotism and rashness.”

They continue:

For example, catastrophic and ultimately inaccurate overpopulation scenarios in the 1960s and 1970s contributed to several countries adopting forced sterilization and abortion programs, including China’s one-child policy, which caused up to 100 million coerced abortions, disproportionately of girls.

The authors also cite the recent banning of synthetic fertilizers—a long supported policy goal of environmentalists and climate alarmists—in Sri Lanka, which led to a food crisis that Climate Realism covered, here.

Climate alarmists exaggerate the rate of recent warming and the risks of extreme weather to motivate radical political actions. The editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette and the PNAS should be thanked for making this point. The Earth’s climate does change, and will continue to do so, and it is wise to meet this change with realistic mitigation efforts. An overcorrection imposed by world governments, like banning fossil fuels, is likely to cause far more harm and destruction than climate change itself.

Linnea Lueken
Linnea Lueken
Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While she was an intern with The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a Heartland Institute Policy Brief "Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracturing."

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