Wrong, Washington Post, ‘Less Warming,’ Won’t Result in Greater Climate Disasters

It isn’t often that we here at Climate Realism run across an article that is so erroneous and egregious that it earns the title of “Not even wrong,” but Scott Dance of The Washington Post (WaPo) has managed to do just that with his article: A new climate reality: Less warming, but worse impacts on the planet

The phrase used in science “not even wrong,” as defined by WikiPedia “…is often used to describe pseudoscience or bad science. It describes an argument or explanation that purports to be scientific but uses faulty reasoning or speculative premises…”

There are a plethora of false claims and faulty reasoning in Dance’s article. For brevity’s sake this rebuttal focuses only on the two most prominent ones.

First, the main headline and sub-headline:

A new climate reality: Less warming, but worse impacts on the planet

The most severe climate change scenarios now appear less likely, but extremes are nonetheless poised to overwhelm societies, scientists say

Since global warming a.k.a. climate change became an item covered by the media, the message has been unanimous in saying more warming equals worse future impacts, yet now we are expected to believe that with less future warming, we’ll have even worse impacts than before.

What Dance failed to mention was the fact the future climate impact scenarios are based on computer model projections, that is Representative Carbon Pathways (RCP), as shown below in Figure 1, which show temperature rise projections in accordance with how much carbon dioxide is in Earth’s atmosphere.

Figure 1. RCP climate model scenarios. Image Credit: Neil Craik, University of Waterloo.

Based on computer models, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says increased concentrations of carbon dioxde are expected to:

These changes will impact our food supply, water resources, infrastructure, ecosystems, and even our own health.

The message is clear according to media pundits and government backed climate science; increased concentrations of carbon dioxide will be dire for future the planet.

Dance glosses over a critical point. The RCP8.5 worst-case scenario seen in red in Figure 1, has long been the accepted poster child for future climate doom. But, and here’s the rub – it has been discredited as being impossible by climate science itself.

From the January 2020 article in the prestigious science journal, Nature:

Happily — and that’s a word we climatologists rarely get to use — the world imagined in RCP8.5 is one that, in our view, becomes increasingly implausible with every passing year. Emission pathways to get to RCP8.5 generally require an unprecedented fivefold increase in coal use by the end of the century, an amount larger than some estimates of recoverable coal reserves.

Translation: even if we burned all the coal on the planet, we couldn’t get the doomy future impacts RCP8.5 predicts.

Yet Dance suggests that ditching the worst-case climate model will somehow result in greater future impact due to warming. This is absurd, implying that Dance is lying to save the climate narrative. Why? Because if intelligent people realize the future isn’t as doom-laden as they have been told, they might not care about climate any more.

The second egregious point in the WaPo article has to do with a quote from an even more off-the-rails scientist from Switzerland:

“People are already dying of climate change right now,” said Sonia Seneviratne, a professor at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland. “We have started to see events at near-zero probability of happening without human-induced climate change.”

People are dying due to climate change? Really? Where? When is the last time you saw a coroner’s report citing “Cause of death: climate change” or a news headline saying climate change had killed somebody?

The best retort to this sort of nonsense is scientific data. People like Seneviratne seem to believe that every weather event is now the same as climate, when in fact there’s no connection between the two at all. In Climate at a Glance: Deaths from Extreme Weather, actual science disproves Seneviratne’s claim:

  • Extreme weather events are often attributed to climate change, but weather and climate are not the same thing.
  • Real-world data show no significant increase in extreme weather over the past 100 years.
  • Existing data show many extreme weather events have declined significantly during the recent period of modest warming, and deaths from extreme weather events have declined dramatically.

But the real debunking of future doom comes in a peer reviewed scientific paper by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg. In that paper, Lomborg shows that, even as the Earth has warmed, deaths resulting from climate related events have fallen to a historic low, and now nearly approach zero. See Figure 2, below. Climate Realism has discussed this fact in multiple posts, here, here, and here for example.

Figure 2. The graph demonstrates a vast improvement in human mortality related to all extreme weather events over a 100-year span from 1920 to 2021. Source: Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, data from International Disaster Database published in ScienceDirect.

Real world data shows that there has been no increase in drought, or heatwaves; no increase in flooding; no increase in tropical cyclones and hurricanes; no increase in winter storms; and no increase in thunderstorms or tornadoes, or associated hail, lightning, and extreme winds from thunderstorms.

This and the ability to warn people about, mitigate, and have quick emergency responses in the aftermath of extreme weather events, is why deaths from so-called climate related weather disasters have actually plummeted. Clearly, Seneviratne’s view of a death-filled future driven by climate change is not just wrong, but wildly wrong.

Unfortunately, that’s the sort of nonsense we get from the media and researchers who’ve substituted political science and activism for the scientific method. They embrace the worst-case scenarios as factual, even though there’s no science or data to support it. They live in a doomsday fantasy world of their own making.

Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website wattsupwiththat.com.

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  1. I take issue with the phrases “climate-related events” and “climate-related deaths”. The events are weather or weather-related.

    The listed causes of death are weather events, with the exception of wildfires.

    The only relationship is: Climate = Sum of weather over time.

  2. Keep data-based realities in the forefront of presentations and don’t forget to ask the climate warmers about DATA they are using to reach their “shaky” conclusions! We should all sit back and wait to see what the sunspot cycles will bring to our doorstep.


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