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How to lie without lying
How the There Is No Climate Emergency document misleads
A document from the so-called Global Climate Intelligence Group with 1609 signatories titled World Climate Declaration: There Is No Climate Emergency has been making the rounds. Naturally, more publications on the right are praising it, while outlets on the left are ignoring it. I see it as an opportunity to demonstrate how carefully chosen words may be used to mislead or, if deliberate, to lie.
The document isn’t new
We should start by stating that this material isn't brand new. This article, a response to the document, appeared in Euro News a year ago, when there were just 1200 signatures. It appears that barely 400 more individuals signed it a year later. Regarding the signatures, this post has already made several insightful points:
One of the signatories is Ivar Giaever, a joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1973 for work on superconductors. However, he has never published any work on climate science.
When looking closer at the list of signatories, there are precisely 1,107, including six people who are dead. Less than 1% of the names listed describe themselves as climatologists or climate scientists.
One can scan the list even with an additional 400 or so signatures and see that very few of the signatories have any background even related to climate science. The sad thing is that, given the magnitude of the world's population, they managed to collect only 1600+ signatures. This paper is outdated—it has been in existence since at least 2019 with nothing new to say—and shouldn't be taken seriously. Nevertheless, some of the deceptions are worth exposing. Recognize the work that goes into debunking before we continue. This is a tactic in and of itself because it takes a lot longer to disprove a claim than it does to support it. Let's begin.
Although they don't explicitly state it, the aim of their declaration appears to be to completely reject climate change. World Climate Declaration: There Is No Climate Emergency is the title. First off, the World Climate Declaration seems quite significant. Is this a statement from a global organization or a declaration regarding the state of the world's climate? It isn't clear, and one can easily give the document more significance than it deserves. But, given that it has signatures from numerous nations, I think technically speaking it is a "world body."
More information is provided in the second part of the title, There Is No Climate Emergency. The statement does not say there is no climate change or warming occurring. There is far too much evidence to say that (see my Three Trends of Climate Change) so the water is muddied by saying there is no climate emergency. Does this phrase, no climate emergency, imply that nothing will happen or that some awful things will occur but they will not constitute an emergency? Who knows, but do know that the title was chosen purposefully.
Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of their policy measures
This is, for the most part, a reasonable assertion. Simple to agree with, which can make it easier for people to accept the rest of the argument. However, they sneak the words "and exaggerations" in. Let's be less political (of course this whole document is political in nature), discuss the unknowns, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis, sure. Let's go through each of the six headers now, and I'll try to briefly highlight the main issues without getting to technical.
Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
The geological archive reveals that Earth’s climate has varied as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm phases. The Little Ice Age ended as recently as 1850. Therefore, it is no surprise that we now are experiencing a period of warming.
The phrase “anthropogenic factors cause warming” appears in the title. It's interesting that they acknowledge this. The first two sentences are accurate, but then they want you to think that our current global warming is a result of coming out of the Little Ice Age. Figure 1 demonstrates the absurdity of this argument. I'll note that one fact that is frequently forgotten is that not only is the earth warming, but the rate at which it is doing so is unprecedented. Notice how steep the temperature increase is at the end of the graph.
Warming is far slower than predicted
Real Climate has been publishing updated model evaluations on their page comparing climate model projections to observations. Figure 2 is the most recent graph, which was updated in January 2023. The four colored lines, which represent various measurements of the earth's temperature, are all quite close together, as they should be. The vertical dotted line represents the beginning of the past forecasted temperature range. All actual temperatures stay in the 95% projection interval (one light blue dot is an exception), and while one might say they are on the low end of the interval (so technically, the title of this section is true), the last few years are more in the middle (I’m not sure the There Is No Emergency Document has been updated; they might want to do that). In any case, this projection for the average world temperature is quite amazing. It's incorrect to argue that the climate models are wrong or that climate scientists are incompetent, but of course there's always room for improvement.
Climate policy relies on inadequate models
See above. The models are pretty good.
CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
CO2 is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth. More CO2 is favorable for nature, greening our planet. Additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also profitable for agriculture, increasing the yields of crops worldwide.
All of this seems conceivable, and if only CO2 levels changed, it might even be true. But a crucial point is that increased CO2 results in increased heat. An in-depth explanation can be found in an older Yale Climate Connections article (these claims about global warming aren't new) More CO2 in the atmosphere hurts key plants and crops more than it helps.
To conduct a more “real world” experiment, other studies have given plants extra CO2 plus an increase in temperature. In these conditions, many plants and crops grew poorly. In most cases, the boost from CO2 was overwhelmed by the hotter conditions. These experiments demonstrate that the myth of CO2 fertilization is false, and peer-reviewed reports find that major crops like wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans will become less productive as the world heats up.
Global warming has not increased natural disasters
There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent. However, there is ample evidence that CO2-mitigation measures are as damaging as they are costly.
This sentence's key phrase is "no statistical evidence." Back in the day, the tobacco industry used to claim that there was no evidence linking smoking to cancer. Technically, this was and is true. We are unable to conduct a controlled experiment since doing so would require gathering several thousand people and randomly allocating half of them to smoke two packs every day. That is how one would establish causation. Because, well, ethics, it has never been done. To intentionally mislead people, the tobacco firms carefully constructed their statement.
Let's start by acknowledging that the climate reports are predictions of what will occur and that most of the worst is still to come. So, yes, statistical proof is lacking, but it will exist when we look back, say, a century from now. For instance, warming will actually make hurricanes stronger. It's easy to understand why. The warmth of the ocean provides energy for hurricanes. A hurricane has more energy to draw upon if the ocean is warmer. In addition, warmer air has more moisture, so we should anticipate heavier rainfall during hurricanes. This is really basic science, and the misdirection in this paragraph is the “no statistical evidence” statement.
Climate policy must respect scientific and economic realities
There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050. Go for adaptation instead of mitigation; adaptation works whatever the causes are.
Ok, if there is no climate emergency, why do we have to adapt to anything? And then the final paragraph (all caps theirs):
OUR ADVICE TO THE EUROPEAN LEADERS IS THAT SCIENCE SHOULD STRIVE FOR A SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE CLIMATE SYSTEM, WHILE POLITICS SHOULD FOCUS ON MINIMIZING POTENTIAL CLIMATE DAMAGE BY PRIORITIZING ADAPTATION STRATEGIES BASED ON PROVEN AND AFFORDABLE TECHNOLOGIES.
So, I guess there will actually be climate damage, just not enough to warrant an emergency? Do not let this document mislead you. It is intentionally crafted to mislead and, despite its attempts to appear rational, obviously promotes a climate denialist goal.
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I am critical of the climate activists (see Stop with the climate catastrophizing) and question some of the strategies and plans (see We can’t just stop oil) but warming is happening, will happen, and the consequences are not good. The only question now is how much the plant will warm. 1.5 °C? 2.0 °C? 2.5 °C? More? Since we know this will happen, we should be talking about adaptation. At the same time, any warming that can be kept at bay is a good thing (see We must adapt to climate change and reduce CO2). So, yes, reducing CO2 is a good thing; it just isn’t that simple. This isn’t an either-or situation.
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Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.