By Matt Patterson, August 18, 2021
On August 9th, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report addressing “the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change…” authored by hundreds of climate scientists from around the world.[i] The 1300-page report, which the U.N. Secretary-General called a “code red for humanity,”[ii] provides a grim, apocalyptic outlook on the future of the climate. The report determined that “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land” and “many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”[iii] The fire-and-brimstone report has already been cited by Biden Administration officials and the media as evidence of the need for rapid, radical changes to the energy sector and daily life to combat climate change. The Atlantic makes this point very clear:
Climate change has arrived, in other words, and it will keep getting worse until humanity reduces its greenhouse-gas pollution to zero, which can be accomplished only by dethroning oil, coal, and gas as the central energy sources powering the global economy. But the speed of that transition matters—and preventing every last ton of carbon pollution, and averting every additional tenth of a degree of warming, will not only lessen the harm over the next few decades, but resound for centuries and even millennia to come.[iv]
There are, however, several key points that the IPCC and climate activists fail to acknowledge. The first is that the IPCC has routinely backtracked on claims made in the previous five assessments, after using faulty models and making claims that did not come to fruition.[v] Additionally, this sixth climate assessment offers little new evidence for a climate apocalypse and, as The Wall Street Journal points out, some of it is less dire than the previous report.[vi] Finally, even if we are to accept that human influence has contributed to changes in the climate (which few people deny), there is little to no evidence that the change warrants an immediate up-ending of the economy and energy industry.
Since its creation in 1988, IPCC climate assessments have relied heavily on modeling from scientists to determine the effects of climate change on the environment and to make predictions on “likely outcomes” if action is or is not taken to combat such changes. For years, these models and predictions have been routinely criticized by members of the scientific community as either inaccurate at best, or false and misleading at worst. As Marlo Lewis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) points out, “Like previous IPCC reports, AR6 [sixth climate assessment report] relies on inflated emission baseline scenarios [RCP8.5 model] and overheated climate models.”[vii] The IPCC has admitted that the likelihood of climate scenarios such as the RCP8.5 is low and no longer qualifies as a “no policy” scenario (meaning no action taken) as the majority of countries do have climate policies. However, as CEI explains, “IPCC references RCP8.5 1,359 times–more often than any other scenario.”[viii] Furthermore, the models used for the sixth climate assessment show a higher average of climate sensitivity than models used in the fifth assessment, which were already inaccurate, “projecting nearly three times as much warming” than actually observed.[TA1] [ix] In other words, if the IPCC were your local news weather forecaster, they would have been fired a long time ago. Keep in mind that errors in previous IPCC reports have been pointed out, prompting IPCC to conduct reviews over the predictions that have been made.[x] Not to mention the outrageous claims made in the past by climate activists such as Al Gore, who in 2008 warned that “the entire North polar ice cap would be gone in five years” (they are still there).[xi] These inconvenient truths [TA2] have not stopped the IPCC from continuing their fearmongering and prognosticating. Instead, they continue to rely on elected officials and the media to vigorously defend their claims and call out any contrary evidence as “science denial.”
The report also offers toned-down rhetoric on “disaster scenarios” that are often used as low-hanging fruit for individuals or groups that point to the IPCC report as reason to radically change the daily lives of citizens and rapidly implement extreme climate policy. The Wall Street Journal explains this aspect of the report concisely:
The report also downplays some of the disaster scenarios you read about. It has “low confidence” that the Antarctic sea ice will melt. It says it is likely that tropical cyclones have increased around the world, but there is “low confidence in long-term (multi-decadal to centennial) trends in the frequency of all-category tropical cyclones.” Keep that in mind when the next hurricane becomes proof in the press of climate catastrophe.[xii]
This change in outlook is not new for the IPCC. When the fifth climate assessment was released in 2013, it was reported that there was a rise of 0.89 degrees Celsius in global temperature from 1901 to 2012. However, using the IPCC’s own updated climate sensitivity calculation, the rise in temperature was actually 0.39 degrees Celsius, 20 percent lower than the value from the fourth assessment. The Cato Institute asserts that, “In other words, the latest observations reported by the IPCC proves that the climate seems to be less sensitive to changes in the greenhouse gas increases than the previous IPCC report indicated.”[xiii]
So why, then, is the IPCC report so adamantly quoted and used as evidence by elected officials and the media? The answer is simple: to scare the public into radical climate policy submission. The New York Times editorial board, in an article titled, “Finding the Will to Stave Off a Darker Future,” wrote that, in order to save the climate, there must be “in policy terms, a rapid shift away from fossil fuels; big investments in wind, solar and nuclear power; a rebuilt electric grid; more efficient homes and buildings — in short, a wholly different energy delivery system.”[xiv]Radical policy change is the goal. Al Gore said as much in a 2018 interview with PBS regarding the IPCC’s interim report: “The language the IPCC used in presenting it was torqued up a little bit, appropriately. How do they get the attention of policymakers around the world?”[xv]
Even with the “torqued up” rhetoric surrounding climate change, the climate proposals touted by progressives would be disastrous for the economy and would provide little significant change on climate. If climate activists were honest about the need to reduce emissions, then nuclear energy and additional investments in natural gas (which has already lowered emissions through the transition from coal) would be at the top of the policy agenda. Instead, progressive policy focuses on eradicating fossil fuels and providing enormous subsidies to wind and solar energy, with almost no evidence of improvement to the climate.[xvi] The economy and our daily lives should not be radically changed due to faulty models and trumped-up rhetoric from fearmongering climate evangelists.