IPCC Rebellion

Image by Li-An Lim.

It’s 35 years since formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “to advance scientific knowledge about climate change caused by human activities.” Subsequently, COP21 at Paris ‘15 warned the world not to exceed 1.5°C, and worst case, not to exceed 2.0°C above pre-industrial or risk lasting damage to crucial life supporting ecosystems, ultimately leading to some level of an extinction event.

Following three decades of IPCC failures to convince nation/states to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, which increase more and more each year, a high-ranking group of rebellious climate scientists claim the IPCC’s upper temperature limits of 1.5°C to 2.0°C are too high, misleading, dangerous, disruptive to sound policy, and demanding of change.

These scientists have published a rousing 74-page Preprint (meaning, not peer reviewed): Bad Science and Good Intentions Prevent Effective Climate Action (aka: Bad Science and Good Intentions).

They argue that Paris ‘15 temperature limitations are not only too high but will be exceeded. You can count on it. Moreover, they claim surprisingly few experts are challenging current IPCC mitigation strategies which are fundamentally flawed in the face of a dangerous climate overshoot that’s already underway and rapidly getting out of hand. This trip to the cliff’s edge, in part, is the result of inappropriate IPCC strategies.

Indeed, the failure of IPCC models is highlighted in the Bad Science and Good Intentions Abstract: “This article posits that selective science communication and unrealistically optimistic assumptions are obscuring the reality that greenhouse gas emissions reduction and carbon dioxide removal will not curtail climate change in the 21st Century.”

That statement goes to the heart of a consensus narrative that depends upon carbon removal/reduction technologies to bail us out of the biggest jam in human history, especially in the face of a powerful climate overshoot accelerating so rapidly that the consequences routinely qualify for TV Breaking News, massive floods, massive droughts, massive wildfires, massive storms. Everything climate related has become “massive” beckoning a revival of Noah’s Ark.

Unprecedented climate events one after another have convinced these rebellious scientists that we do not have enough time for slo-mo approaches to a disruptive, capricious climate system, for example, NASA says the Amazon Rainforest doesn’t have enough time between drought sequences to recover. This is unprecedented and a frightful leading indicator of a dangerously volatile climate system. (Source: Amazon Rainforest is Drying Out. How Much More Abuse Can It Take? DownToEarth, June 29, 2020).

Of deeper concern, NASA’s GRACE satellite system has detected an Amazon in tenuous condition in an unprecedented state of breakdown with large areas of the Amazon classified as “Deep Red Zones” of severely constrained water levels. Alas, rainforests are at the heart and soul of life on Earth.

“About 20% of the Amazon rainforest is deforested, and 40% is degraded — which means trees are still standing, but their health has faded and they are prone to fire and drought.” (Source: The Amazon’s Record-Setting Drought: How Bad Will It Be? Nature, November 14, 2023)

“The level of the Rio Negro is dropping by 1 meter (3 feet) every three days, something that has never been recorded before.” (Source: Amazon Drought Cuts River Traffic, Leaves Communities Without Water and Supplies, Mongabay, October 2023)

According to Bad Science and Good Intentions, rapid planet cooling measures must be employed as soon as possible to slow down an indiscriminate global climate system. The threats cannot be ignored any longer, for example, a recent study shows Antarctica undergoing “polar amplification,” with direct evidence of disturbing warming well beyond anything contemplated by the IPCC, as the icy continent is heating up by 50% per decade over climate models. (Source: Ice Cores Reveal Antarctica is Warming Twice as Fast as Global Average, CarbonBrief, September 13, 2023)

The Antarctic study is a shocker to climate scientists and speaks to the necessity of taking immediate action to adopt planetary cooling measures strongly recommended in Bad Science and Good Intentions. The Antarctic ice core study anticipates “dire consequences for the low-lying lands… further warning of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, even in one of the most remote parts of the world.”

A motivating factor behind Bad Science and Good Intentions is a consensus narrative that’s certain to fail. It’s misdirected because there is little solid evidence supporting commonly accepted assertions that “GHG (greenhouse gases) reduction and removal” will work. In other words, speculative assumptions about “carbon removal and carbon reduction” may be nothing more than a Trojan Horse for far worse climate disaster scenarios, similar to global warming’s recent jarring disruption of Europe’s commercial rivers, the Danube, Rhine, Po, Rhone, and Loire nearly drying up in the summer of 2022 because global warming has been running in-excess of 2.0°C in the EU for some time now, impeding commercial barge traffic and threatening failure of nuclear power operations, especially France’s 56 operating reactors. For the first time in 40 years, France became a net importer of electricity because of structural repairs combined with low and too warm river water necessary for nuclear cooling purposes.

All of which begs an obvious concern: What happens globally at 2.0°C, which renowned climate scientist James Hansen claims is on track for the 2030s. This is decades ahead of IPCC expectations. Hansen’s latest paper: How We Know that Global Warming is Accelerating and that the Goal of the Paris Agreement is Dead, Earth Institute, Columbia University, November 10, 2023, goes into detail about the factual evidence and clearly states: “Within less than a decade, we must expect 0.4×0.25×4°C = 0.4°C additional warming. Given global warming of 0.95C in 2010, the warming by 2030 will be about 0.95°C + 2×0.18°C + 0.4°C = 1.71°C. Global warming of 2°C will be reached by the late 2030s.”

Accordingly, the authors of Bad Science and Good Intentions suggest global cooling is urgently needed t0 counter the rapid onset of global warming, which is certain to blindside policymakers.

Not only is the IPCC’s model insufficient to do the job, but even if and when they try: “IPCC models now indicate that CDR (carbon dioxide removal) must be coupled with NZE (net zero emissions) to reduce total atmospheric GHG concentrations. Present estimated costs of this removal are $100 to $200 per tonne of CO2. With estimates of how much CO2 must be removed every year ranging from 5-16 Gt per year, this represents a multi-trillion dollar per year unfunded problem that the world’s nations will have to manage,” according to Bad Science and Good Intentions.

In the final analysis, that model is probably a moot point because of (1) overwhelming scale (2) overwhelming costs, and (3) a very suspect history of carbon removal effectiveness, for example: “CCS (carbon capture and storage) is ‘a mature technology that’s failed,’ according to Bruce Robertson, an energy finance analyst who has studied the top projects globally. ‘Companies are spending billions of dollars on these plants and they’re not working to their metrics.” (Bloomberg News, Oct.23, 2023)

The IPCC is out in left field, out of touch, and thus unintentionally serving as an enabler of more climate disasters, for example, according to the IPCC’s Best-Case analysis: “If the world bands together to slash emissions immediately, the world can avoid the most catastrophic version of the climate crisis.” That statement is best left unsaid for numerous reasons, including its implied message of near certainty of catastrophic failure, which is a counter-productive suggestion, regardless of what happens.

After all, here’s the real world, which hasn’t changed in a lifetime: “In the year to July 2023, the capacity of oil-and gas-fired power stations under development around the world grew by 90GW (13%), reaching a total of 783GW, according to the latest figures from GEM’s Oil and Gas Plant Tracker. Projects ‘under development’ are those that have been announced or are in the pre-construction and construction phases but are not yet operating. If they are all built, these projects would grow the capacity of the global oil and gas power fleet by a third, at an estimate cost of $611bn in capital expenditure.” (Source: Plans for New Oil and Gas Power Plants Have Grown by 13% in 2023, Carbon Brief, Sept. 20, 2023).

Really! It’ll grow fossil fuel power plants by a third! Which is in addition to billions of funding for new oil and gas production, and just for good measure, $7 trillion in government subsidies, a new record set last year (Source: IMF). See: Governments Plan Massive Expansion of Fossil Fuel Production Despite Climate Crisis, UN Warns, August 11, 2023.

Yet, 2030 is widely earmarked to be a turning point, when major carbon emissions are to be drastically cut by 50% and critical to meet IPCC net zero emissions by 2050.

Oops, emissions are headed in the wrong direction, by a long shot, going up, up, up, not down. They’ll cut through the 2030 dateline like a hot knife thru butter. Fossil fuel capital spending plans guarantee massive emissions well beyond 2030.They’re spending billions upon more billions for future production. That’s reality.

With a sense of relief, there’s good news to be found in Bad Science and Good Intentions: “Catastrophe is not inevitable; it will only occur if we fail to develop and deploy safe, realistic mitigation strategies. These will require the application of rapid climate cooling measures to reduce risks during the long time it will take to decarbonize the global economy and restore a safe, stable climate. The main obstacle to considering climate interventions beyond emissions reduction and CDR is the opposition of many well-meaning scientists and environmentalists to further investigating and potentially deploying climate cooling measures and technologies.”

According to Bad Science and Good Intentions: “The Paris Agreement has created confusion through a political focus on maximum acceptable temperatures and reducing GHG emissions, rather than on the need to stabilize the climate through eliminating the Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI)—the difference between the amount of the sun’s energy arriving at the Earth and the amount returning to space. GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are limiting the amount of the sun’s energy that returns to space… NZE (net zero emissions) alone or coupled with CDR (carbon dioxide removal) will not restore EEI or prevent temperatures and sea levels from rising to ever more dangerous levels.”

Energy imbalance or sunlight in versus sunlight out is currently running at a rate of 1.36 W/mas of the 2020s decade. That is double the 2005-2015 rate of 0.71 W/m2 (Source: James Hansen, Global Warming is Accelerating. Why? Will We Fly Blind? September 14, 2023). W/m2 is watts per square meter. Accordingly, there’s more energy coming in (absorbed sunlight) than energy going out (heat radiated to space). Doubling within only a decade is beyond belief and forebodingly bad news, as bad as it gets. It’s not surprising that Hansen expects a very early arrival of 2.0°C above pre-industrial, which will crush many life support ecosystems. As previously mentioned herein, the EU at 2.0°C nearly destroyed navigable waterways. Global and European Temperatures, European Environment Agency, June 29, 2023

And, this: According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, 75% of Spain’s land is battling climatic conditions that could lead to desertification.

There is considerable debate surrounding climate intervention, i.e., artificially cooling the planet or sometimes referred to as geo-engineering. But, according to Bad Science and Good Intentions, it’s the only way to stem the tide of ongoing global warming in time to take bolder steps, as the transition to net zero emissions will take decades whilst global warming is not in a waiting mode.

Regarding reams upon reams of incisive debate “for/against climate intervention” in the public domain, it’s interesting to note that humankind has been intervening in the climate system via industrial-driven emissions, inclusive of transport, for more than a century. That’s the cause of today’s handwringing. What then does that suggest about proposals for intervention to cool the planet?

Bad Science and Good Intentions is a tour de force of essential perspective and solid information on humanity’s most challenging days ahead, and what to do about it. Read it, study it, share it, it’s an extremely valuable resource.

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.