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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Anthony Watts sez to wait till it's too late. Are we there yet?

Sou | 5:05 PM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has written about a new paper in Nature Climate Change by Katharine L. Ricke and Ken Caldeira. (In his haste, Anthony doesn't seem to have realised that the article he copied relates to the Nature CC article. )

The paper is about how, because natural variability influences short term weather, people's perceptions of weather can adversely influence policy on climate change. If policy makers depend on people's perceptions rather than hard science, then action to mitigate and adapt to climate change could be delayed, maybe by decades. This would seriously limit society's choices.  It would mean that in future we'd be dealing with very difficult climatic conditions and environmental hazards.  Here is how Katharine Ricke explains it:

The takeaway message is:

There are significant risks associated with allowing local extreme events to drive national and global climate policies.

You can read about the paper at It's a short article so I'll copy it in its entirety:
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence for the impending dangers of human-made climate change, policy decisions leading to substantial emissions reduction have been slow. New work from Carnegie's Katharine Ricke and Ken Caldeira focuses on the intersection between personal and global impacts. They find that even as extreme weather events influence those who experience them to support policy to address climate change, waiting for the majority of people to live through such conditions firsthand could delay meaningful action by decades. Their findings are published by Nature Climate Change.
Nearly every year, extreme weather events such as heat waves and hurricanes spur the discussion of climate change in the media and among politicians. This can create a window of opportunity for those seeking to enact policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But this window of opportunity could be delayed by decades due to the vagaries of weather.
"When support for doing something about climate change is based on personal observations of local weather, policymaking may end up being dictated by the roulette wheel of natural climate variability," says Ricke.
Ricke and Calderia's modeling studies show that within 50 years nearly every country in the world will experience the kind of extreme weather that can be a policy trigger. However, local natural variability in weather means that majority of people in each nation, particularly large countries like China and the United States, could personally experience these extremes for themselves either tomorrow or many years from now. If citizens do not support emissions reductions and other efforts to fight climate change until they experience extreme events firsthand, naturally-driven variations in weather could delay action by decades, Ricke and Caldeira found. They find that sound science should guide policy rather than the vagaries of weather. "Local weather is anecdotal information, but climate change is sound science," Caldeira said. "Good politics can be based on a good anecdote, but good policy needs to be based on sound science."

Wait till the water has reached the ceiling before evacuating, sez Anthony Watts

So what does Anthony Watts think about planning and preparedness in the face of known risks? Well, he effectively advocates to wait until seas have risen two metres and heat waves have forced people to leave large areas of earth and fires have burnt down millions of hectares and cities have run out of water - before taking any action.  He writes (archived here):

Climate Craziness of the Week: don’t wait to ‘feel’ climate change, act now!
From the Carnegie Institution and the department of feelings, quite possibly the dumbest press release about climate I’ve ever seen. basically what they are arguing for is “don’t look at current and past data go with what we tell you” aka trust us, we are paid climate scientists with a model.

Anthony Watts doesn't want to act now. He reckons it's dumb to prepare for known consequences. He wants to wait until it's too late.  He'd never get a job in the insurance business.

From the WUWT comments

Michael Putnam goes even further and suggests we wait for some time after the worst has happened, just to make sure. You know, wait till your house is nothing but a charred mess, just to make sure that the fire won't go out all by itself. He says:
April 25, 2014 at 9:17 pm
Wouldn’t we have to experience “extreme” conditions over several years before those conditions could be reliably associated with a change in climate? Even highly variable temperatures are evidence of nothing changing from previous history. Denken Sie nicht für sich selbst, wird es nur geben Sie Kopfschmerzen

Mac the Knife is convinced that climate science is a hoax says:
April 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm
This is a climate change propaganda and behavior modification paper. It is a study in indoctrination and how to use it to skew public policy. It is already embedded in the ‘millennials generation’. 

Martin C decided to "show them" that the scientific illiterati won't abide nonsense like knowledge and science and says he wrote a shouty comment:
April 25, 2014 at 10:09 pm
I just left this comment. THIS is the type of thing I am trying to, even though it is just one person. Addressing these articles with an ORGANIZATION as Anthony did a poll one might help. But until then, this is what I can do.
YOUR STUPID article of “Climate Change: don’t wait until you can feel it.
Please stop with this “Alarmist Drivel”. A modeling study? Why not take REAL weather data. I have researched the ‘Catastrophic Global Warming issue for a number of years now, and I am tired of the ‘alarmist’ position that so many of yo take. The ‘Extreme weather ‘ you try to refer to IS NOT HAPPENING AT ANY GREATER RATE than it ALWAYS happened. Global average temperatures have been roughly flat for 15+ years, even WITH the increase CO2.
Read Roger Pielke JR. and Roger Pielke Sr. Visit Dr. Judith Curry’s Website. Visit Anthony Watts’ webiste.
You don’t know them? Yeah, I bet you don’t. BUT if you really don’t, then Google them and learn.
Martin C.
Gilbert, AZ 
SAMURAI says he could eat it (excerpt):
April 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm
The desperation of the left is palatable… 

Brad wrote to Ken Caldeira (but not Katharine Ricke for some reason), explaining that Dr Caldeira "doesn't know nuffin'" and, irrelevantly, that Brad is struggling to make ends meet. He says:
April 25, 2014 at 11:24 pm
Sent Caldeira an email about the futility of his position. Will be interesting to see his response.
Sorry Ken but your latest report won’t fly.
Try doing some actual research for yourself and stop spouting what your grant-money providers dictate.
Sound science would tell you that all the hype about “extreme weather” is purely BS.
At what point in your life will you take a stand that differs with your salary? I took that step in 2005 when I shut down my MEP design office, and have had an uphill battle since. I live paycheck-to-paycheck, trying to make people understand that simple resource conservation matters, on an economical basis.
We have no control over our climate…
Brad Weaver, PE
Northwest Energy Consulting
(206) 910-9783 

Katharine L. Ricke, Ken Caldeira. Natural climate variability and future climate policy. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (5): 333 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2186


  1. That does not surprise me about Willard Watts because he professes to believe in "lukewarmism". What really "scares" me is when the CEO of the largest oil corporation in the world, EXXON-MOBILE states we all will just have to adapt!
    Rex Tillerson is an engineer by trade and knowns science and has some of the best scientists working for him at EXXON-MOBILE. He has access to the IPCC and has publicly stated that if we "move around crops" and make "policy decisions" (in another words the government foots the expense) in regard to "rising sea levels".
    So, "leadership" really knows "whats" going to happen and seems hellbent on us taking it on the chin. Now Rex Tillerson need not worry, his very rich and getting old. So all this adapting won't affect his lifestyle.

  2. The way former head of meteorology for the US Navy David Titley describes the problem will resonate for a lot of people:

    "There's only a once-in-a-mortgage probability of you being affected."

    Adm. Titley's personal history around climate change is quite interesting. He started from "it's unlikely and why should I care" but once he was requested by brass with even more scrambled eggs on their caps to provide scenario analysis spanning more than a half century, like a true skeptic he examined the evidence, changing his attitude in the process.

    From a recent interview:

    "The parallels between the political decisions regarding climate change we have made and the decisions that led Europe to World War One are striking – and sobering. The decisions made in 1914 reflected political policies pursued for short-term gains and benefits, coupled with institutional hubris, and a failure to imagine and understand the risks or to learn from recent history."

  3. "Wait till the water has reached the ceiling before evacuating"

    A couple I know who lived in Pascagoula, MS did that—or tried to—during hurricane Katrina. They watched the water come up their street, then up to their front door before twigging that things might possibly get seriously bad, by which time it was too late to leave.

    Even when water was coming into the garage, they maintained their denial and did not move computers, family pictures, etc. to the attic, which is where they ended up standing in water to their ankles, waiting for the waters to recede.

    My friends are not stupid people, just fundamentally human in their inability to conceive of a threat beyond anything in their experience. They had lived on the Gulf Coast all their lives and weathered many a hurricane. How could this one flood their house to the roof when they lived miles from the beach? It never happened before!

    How can a climate we've lived in for ten thousand years change into something that topples our civilization? Unthinkable! Let's just wait. Everything will be fine—probably.

    1. A perennial favourite which is simply too aposite to ignore:

  4. Let alone water coming up to the ceiling, it only takes a 1/2" of water inside a house to make it at least temporarily unfit for purpose. Depending on the homeowner's circumstances, a mere 1/2" of water might spell a permanent change of domicile, quite possibly a permanent downward step in living arrangements.

    Let's say that of the 13' storm surge entering homes during the Sandy event only 6" or a paltry 3% of the surge was due to climate problems. How many homes were made at least temporarily useless by just 3% of the surge?

    Some 650,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed by Sandy, in New York and New Jersey. So being even more conservative and saying that only 3" of Sandy's surge could be attributed to recent SLR alone we end up w/~10,000 housing units affected.

    Little numbers colliding with very large numbers can produce disastrous outcomes.

  5. OMG...I nearly spit my protein drink out my nose!

    "The desperation of the left is palatable… "

    Similar to a comment on WUWT some time ago, where some wag called it "anthropomorphic climate change."

    Thanks, Sou, for doing what I don't have the stomach for: keeping track of the insanity at WTFiUWT! I am only commenting as A. Nony Mous because I cannot yet grok how your sing-in's work!

    -Harry Wiggs

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