Monday, April 10, 2017

Will we tip or turn? Michael Mann vs thick-as-a-brick Eric Worrall at WUWT

Sou | 4:41 PM Go to the first of 39 comments. Add a comment
Eric Worrall is one of Anthony Watts' frequent guest writers for his climate conspiracy blog wattsupwiththat (WUWT). Eric's practically taken over WUWT this past few months, with Anthony Watts all but disappearing from the scene.

Now Eric isn't all that smart when it comes to climate, which is why his only outlets are right wing nutter and conspiracy websites. He hasn't had an article published in Time, that I'm aware of.

Today Eric showed his lack of critical reading skills once again, and his lack of follow through, and his lack of morals (archived here). He was wanting to disparage one of the world's leading climate scientists, Professor Michael Mann (which is a favourite pastime of climate disinformers. Since they can't dispute the science they try to disparage the scientists.)

Eric's article had the headline: "Michael Mann Adjusts the Climate “Turning Point” Out to 2020" - which was wrong, wrong, wrong. Michael Mann didn't adjust anything, as you'll soon see.

Eric wrote, shifting from turning to tipping:
Professor Michael Mann, inventor of the climate Hockey Stick, has just shamelessly shifted the dreaded climate tipping point to 2020....
And added:
Until recently Mann claimed 2016/17 was a climate tipping point.
First of all, Michael Mann didn't shift any of the myriad climate tipping points (there are lots more than one, but Eric probably doesn't know that). And Eric provided not a scrap of evidence that Dr Mann had ever claimed that 2016/17 was a climate tipping point, (although it quite possibly is for one aspect of climate or another).

Turning not tipping

Neither did Eric bother to read the report to which he referred about the 2020 date. It wasn't about a tipping point it was about a turning point. A turning point for us. A point at which it is hoped that we will turn away from our current path of destruction.

The report is called 2020 The Climate Turning Point. There are a number of authors and contributors, but Professor Mann isn't listed among them. The preface to the report is by Stefan Rahmstorf and Anders Levermann, from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. If you don't have time to read the rest right away, at least read the preface.

Where Eric got his association with Michael Mann was an article in Time, with the headline: "The Single Shining Hope to Stop Climate Change", which Eric either didn't read or didn't understand. Here's an excerpt (my emphasis):
If emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, the world stands very little chance of limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold set by the Paris Agreement, and a temperature limit that many of the world’s most vulnerable communities consider a threshold for survival. We have four years to bend the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions toward a steady decline.

The good news is, we’re already moving in the right direction. Global carbon emissions have plateaued, and are projected to remain flat over the coming years, thanks to China’s widespread economic transformation and the global boom in renewable energy production. The 2020 climate turning point is within reach.
The turning point refers to us turning away from our headlong rush into danger. It refers to bending the emissions curve toward a steady decline. Here is an extract from the introduction to the report, referring to the six revolutions needed to ensure we deliver the 2020 turning point:
Just as the Paris Agreement was a deeply shared endeavor, so delivering on its promise must be too Our success in Paris was not an accident; it was the result of us rallying behind a common strategy, and abandoning resignation for a can-do attitude that accepted this challenge as our own. In this next phase, we will need to come together once again. Delivering these 6 revolutions will not be easy, and we will need to support each other along the way to ensure the transition is just and equitable. But just as we delivered success in Paris, so we can deliver the 2020 climate turning point too. This is our moment. This is our great opportunity. 
The six revolutions described in the report are (my emphasis):
  1. Energy: Renewables outcompete fossil fuels as new electricity sources worldwide
  2. Transport: Zero emissions transport is the preferred form of all new mobility in the world’s major cities and transport routes
  3. Land use: Large-scale deforestation is replaced with large-scale land restoration, and agriculture shifts to earthfriendly practices
  4. Industry: Heavy industry - including iron & steel, cement, chemicals and oil & gas - commits to being Paris compliant
  5. Infrastructure: Cities and states are implementing policies and regulations to fully decarbonize buildings and infrastructure by 2050
  6. Finance: Investment in climate action is beyond USD $1 trillion per year and all financial institutions have a disclosed transition strategy.
We're starting to get there, with emissions reported as being flat for the third year in a row. The next target is to get emissions declining - and to achieve the six revolutions listed above. With Eric Worrall being so silly that he doesn't know if he's tipping or turning, we can't count on him to help us.

This is just another example of how climate disinformers are vile, execrable creatures, who prefer to libel decent men and women rather than help make the world a better place.

They are also quite stupid.

We've a long way to go yet

By the way, just because emissions are flat doesn't mean atmospheric CO2 has stopped rising. It will keep rising as long as we emit more than can be absorbed. We've a long way to go yet before atmospheric CO2 flattens out. Some people think it's too late to stay below 2C. It's likely we won't be able to stay below 1.5C. There is a lot of adaptation ahead of us from rising seas, heat waves, floods, unlivable land, food production and more. It's going to be tough for us and our children, and theirs - and for all life on Earth.

From the WUWT comments

Mostly I'll let you imagine them. Anthony's blog is now mainly the domain of mindless idiots. For example, despite temperatures rising, extreme events getting worse and more frequent, ice melting, seas rising - all just as predicted by climate science, markl had this thought:
April 9, 2017 at 8:47 pm
Not one/nada/zilch prediction made by the alarmists has been realized. The man in the street knows it. Why doesn’t the media know it? Stupidity or by design? One has to wonder.

One has to wonder at the years of science denial by Anthony Watts and his fans, despite the decades and mountains of evidence. Nuts is one word for it. (There are other words.)

References and further reading

2020 The Climate Turning Point - by  Chloe Revill and Victoria Harris, with lots of eminent contributors and sponsors

Mission2020 home page

The Single Shining Hope to Stop Climate Change - article by Michael E. Mann in Time, 9 April 2017.

HotWhopper articles featuring Eric Worrall.

Photo credit: Penn State University.


  1. From the Time excerpt:
    The good news is, we’re already moving in the right direction. Global carbon emissions have plateaued, and are projected to remain flat over the coming years, thanks to China’s widespread economic transformation and the global boom in renewable energy production. The 2020 climate turning point is within reach."

    This is absolutely untrue.
    In the end, emissions do not matter at all.
    What matters is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    The Keeling Curve is rushing upwards, still like it just about never did.

    Nothing. Else. Counts.

    1. cRR, as you know I've made this point repeatly too. It bears repeating though, and repeating again and again, because it's the carbon in the atmosphere that matters. Nothing else.

    2. The toughest here is that we have to remind our very allies. Exactly those who could count.

    3. I think I understand where you're coming from but I cannot agree that emissions don't matter. Emissions matter hugely. It's emissions that are causing atmospheric CO2 to rise. That and deforestation mainly.

      If emissions didn't matter we wouldn't be in this mess. If we don't reduce emissions enough quickly enough, things will get a whole lot worse very quickly.

      From the preface to the report:

      Because overall global temperature rise depends on cumulative global CO2 emissions, the Paris temperature
      range can be translated, with some uncertainty, into a budget of CO2emissions that are still permissible. This
      is the overall budget for the century and it lies within the range of 150 to 1050 Gt of CO2, based on updated
      numbers from IPCC. At the current global emission level of 39 GtCO2 per year, the lower limit of this range
      would be crossed in less than four years and is thus already unachievable without massive application of
      largely unproven and speculative carbon dioxide removal technologies. Even the CO2 budget corresponding
      to the mid-point of this uncertainty range, 600 GtCO2, is equivalent to only 15 years of current emissions.
      Fig. 2 illustrates three scenarios with this budget and different peaking years for global emissions. It makes
      clear that even if we peak in 2020 reducing emissions to zero within twenty years will be required. By
      assuming a more optimistic budget of 800 Gt this can be stretched to thirty years, but at a significant risk of
      exceeding 2°C warming.

      It is still possible therefore to meet the Paris temperature goals if emissions peak by 2020 at the latest, and
      there are signs to show we are moving in that direction as global CO2 emissions have not increased for the
      past three years. We will need an enormous amount of action and scaled up ambition to harness the current
      momentum in order to travel down the decarbonisation curve at the necessary pace; the window to do that
      is still open.

    4. WRT to emissions and CO2 atmospheric concentrations, I'm still not clear why ppm CO2 is rising as fast as it is if emissions have leveled off.

      For the thread, here's the standard MLO reference.

      Is the return of CO2 to the atmosphere by the carbon cycle maintaining the upward trend?

    5. @Bernard, cRR

      To suggest that Mann does not understand the role of CO2 ppm in the atmosphere is just silly. Of course emissions matter. The argument that we should not rein in our emissions because China is not is still one of the most widely used "skeptic" arguments out there. So pointing out that China appears to have lived up to its Cop21 promise to rein them in is important. Sure, it is only the first step and the real challenge is immense - but this is not about who is the bigger "climatehawk", this about persuading the bulk of society to get on board with carbon mitigation and to cut through the anti-climate science propaganda.

    6. @BBD

      There are a few possibilities

      1. The obvious - the estimates could be wrong and underestimating global emissions.

      Glen Peters discusses the issues here - see the section "Should we trust Chinese data?"

      2. If the estimates are correct, then global emissions have plateaued not fallen so a massive amount of CO2 is still going into the atmosphere. It will require emissions cuts of 80-90% to stop the atmospheric ppm from rising.


      3. There is also an El Nino impact which reduces tropical land carbon uptake.


      I appreciate that you have probably read these references but they may be useful for other readers trying to understand this issue.

    7. Could be all the above. If emissions are flat and the sinks are still able to take up as big a proportion as they have in the past, then the increase in atmospheric CO2 would continue to be as high each year as it was in the first year of the plateau, all else being equal.

    8. "WRT to emissions and CO2 atmospheric concentrations, I'm still not clear why ppm CO2 is rising as fast as it is if emissions have leveled off."

      Sou, I think the sinks are dying.
      At some point they could actually become sources (stress out a buffered system and negative feedbacks become positive).
      The Keeling Curve still bends upward.

      "To suggest that Mann does not understand the role of CO2 ppm in the atmosphere is just silly."
      That it would indeed be. So that is not what I wished to suggest.
      I wanted to warn against false hope given by concentrating on emissions without paying attention to the single fundamental thing in play which is CO2 (and other GHG's) rising.

      "If we don't reduce emissions enough quickly enough, things will get a whole lot worse very quickly."
      It is probably clear how I define 'quickly enough'. In fact, the phrase is likely to be meaningless already.

      You need to anticipate the possibility that instantaneous total emission reduction may not see the Keeling Curve fall anymore (and it CERTAINLY will not during our lifetimes).

    9. It's fine to dream about a falling Keeling curve, but the first job is to stop atmospheric CO2 from increasing. We will mainly do that by reducing emissions and restoring vegetation, to a point where it levels off.

      That's what the report is about - the how!

      If enough people don't recognise how we can achieve this, then it will be much more difficult to do.

      Watching the sky is all well and good. Doing something that will change it is the more difficult and critical part.

    10. The how is clear. Quit emissions right now. Alas for one of the largest single emittors: shipping; alas for economy everywhere.

      So this will not happen.
      That is, economies will implode and emissions will reduce; Syria shows how. This is the near future, which may be cut short a bit too, since this is the nuclear age.

    11. Alas, alack. You cannot change a reliance on fossil fuels that was more than a century in the making instantaneously therefore you are completely helpless to do anything at all ever to change the next century.

      It must be very frustrating and depressing being so helpless and ineffectual as a person. I feel for you.

    12. But, jgnfld, Paradise 2.0 is just around the corner - and I rejoice.

      Look at these happy developments: http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/04/10/opinion/atmospheric-co2-levels-accelerate-upwards-smashing-records .

      "he scientists also pointed out that 2016 "was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater." Those last five years also broke a new record by exceeding +2.5 ppm per year for the first time."

      I was Cassandra become Nemesis become Reality; I am helpless for I need no help!

    13. MikeH, Sou, thank you.

      When I get into arguments, sorry, discussions about the required speed and depth of decarbonisation, I need to keep this in mind. People forget - or never fully understood - just how urgent and how huge a task this really is. Some even believe it can be left to the markets to sort out. It's terrifying, really.

    14. To add a couple of thoughts. As well as adding huge amounts of greenhouse gases to the air each year, whether emissions are rising, flat or falling (not just CO2), there is the issue of for how long the sinks will continue to mop up the same proportion (not amount, but *proportion* of waste CO2).

      As the world gets hotter, the tendency of the warmer oceans to expel more CO2 than they absorb will probably increase. At the moment, they are able to absorb more because the partial pressure is so high because we keep adding more CO2. If we weren't constantly adding more CO2 to the air, oceans would be a net source, not a sink (as now), when they get warmer. (That's likely why in an El Nino year, atmospheric CO2 tends to take a leap upward, as MikeH said above.)

    15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    16. "To suggest that Mann does not understand the role of CO2 ppm in the atmosphere is just silly."

      It would be silly. So it's a very good thing that neither I nor cRR suggested that.

      I'll repeat my comment. What matters to the planet is how much CO₂ there is in the atmosphere. Currently, despite our efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions, the rate of increase of atmospheric CO₂ is accelerating. Not zero, not even linearly increasing, but accelerating:


      That's the bottom line.

      And it's obvious to anyone who considers it, that the implications are grim. We absolutely cannot afford to be accelerating. We should not be linearly increasing CO₂, and we should not even have a plateau in atmospheric CO₂ increase. We should be drawing down, but we are nowhere near that place.

      Until we are, there is really no good news.

    17. Maybe it was me being accused then, though I can't think why. (A misread of the article, perhaps?)

    18. Sou

      Agreed. The effects of temperature on the carbon cycle are big potential problems. As I understand it, the terrestrial and ocean sinks shift from net sinks to net sources as GAT increases. And waiting in the dark for their time, clathrates and permafrost.

    19. Clathrates and permafrost are clearing their throats. Their curtain is about to rise...

  2. As Eric does read HotWhopper we can look forward to him "clarifying" his position.

    1. :)

      Eric doesn't normally clarify in the comments here at HW. He more commonly introduces a red herring to distract IIRC.

  3. The election of Trump might be considered the tipping point.

    Meanwhile, here in the UK it seems our genius politicians think it a good idea to sacrifice the planet to try and compensate for their stupidity in triggering Brexit.

  4. Of course, the UK can now expect to get good trade deals with the US as well, now that they're committed to trashing the planet for quick cash too - at the expense of future generations.

    Yankee ex-pat of 40 years, weeping for my former country.

    1. I'm weeping for my former country (UK) and I haven't even left. It got taken away by a troupe of greedy clowns. And hardly anyone saw it coming.

    2. Perhaps we are supposed to take comfort from May's vision of the UK as a "great global trading nation". Although in roughly two years from now we are going to be a "great global trading nation" with fewer trade deals in place than North Korea: so it is easy to see how that is going to work out.

    3. They don't call it 'right wing lunacy' for nothing.

  5. If I understand some comments above, some readers are confused as to how atmospheric CO2 concentration can keep rising even though emissions have peaked. If I misunderstand what people were questioning, please ignore the rest of this comment.

    Emissions have been rising for most of the last century. This means that every year, more CO2 was injected into the atmosphere that had been emitted the year before. Think of it as a credit card balance. Last year you charged, say, $900 on your credit card. The year before that, you charged $800. This year, you charged an additional $1000. So every year, the amount you charge is increasing. This is comparable to increasing emissions.

    Let's say that every year, you payoff a portion of your credit card balance, but you never pay it all off. Two years ago, you sent $200 to the credit card company (after charging $800, which left you a balance in that first year of $600). This is an analogy to the Earth's ecosystem, which can remove some CO2 from the atmosphere, but it is limited in the amount it can remove. we added more CO2 in a year than could be taken out; atmospheric CO2 increased.

    Last year, you again sent $200--after charging $900--so you added $700 to your balance that year, on top of the balance of $600 for the year before, meaning you owed $1300 at the end of last year.

    This year, you again paid off $200, but remember you charged $1000, so your balance increased by another $800. You now owe $1300 + $800 = $2100.

    The balance you owe the credit card keeps going up, year after year, and rather rapidly. This is comparable to the atmospheric CO2 concentration increasing. Our emissions have been increasing every year, but the amount of CO2 that can be removed from the atmosphere is still very low.

    Now let's say your annual credit card purchases peak. You stop increasing the annual charge amount. This year, you charged $1000. Next year, you don't charge more than you did this year. You charge the same amount. So next year your purchases (emissions) don't go up. You still purchase (emit) the same amount you did this year. Next you you again put anther $1000 onto your credit card.

    And next year, you again send $200 to the credit card in an effort to reduce your debt. It doesn't help much; your debt still increases by $800, even though the amount of your annual purchases have peaked. Each year, if nothing changes, your debt will increase by $800, even though your purchases have peaked.

    The year after, the same thing happens; you again purchase $1000 on your card, and pay ff $200, and your debt increases by yet another $800.

    In order to stop increasing atmospheric CO2, we have to not only stop increasing emissions--we have to reduce emissions. We must reduce annual emissions to a level at or below the level that the ecosystem can process out of the atmosphere.

  6. I am afraid that DC left off the interest rate. All the feedbacks of the liberation of greenhouse gases from the arctic tundra and ocean methane clathrates.


    1. The Very Reverend Jebediah HypotenuseApril 12, 2017 at 11:53 PM

      Agree, B from E.

      But perhaps the 'interest rate' analogy could, in retrospect, be a little too weak and uniformitarian.

      If global ocean circulation patterns change and the ocean ecology subsequently collapses, and there is continuing destabilization of the Greenland and Antarctic icesheets, having an un-insured house-fire, followed by a biblical-level flood, in the middle of a Northern Canadian winter might be a more appropriate analogy.

      Except - the nearest habitable house is about 4.5 light-years away. And you have no car.

    2. Yes, Bert, exactly right. In addition to the amount charged on our CO2 Balance credit card, there is the interest which is added due to feedback loops. Good point, and great way to extend the analogy.

      And Rev Hypotenouse, you add yet another excellent extension. Before long, the bank will begin to garnish wages, repossess everything, and throw us into debtors' prison--none of which will eliminate the debt. In fact, they'll charge us for the cost of our prosecution and confinement.

    3. And the cost of the bullets with which to execute us...

    4. "Before long, the bank will begin to..."

      To complete the analogy you would have to have a number of fake websites set up by the banking industry to tell us this wasn't happening, it happens naturally all the time, it is good for us, and if you try and prevent it you are hurting poor people.

      Which brings us full circle.

  7. The Very Reverend Jebediah HypotenuseApril 13, 2017 at 2:42 AM

    Of course eventually the banking system will be unable to collect on enough accounts for its own continued existence - because all of their debtors are on the same planet. Any productive assets it has will be completely overwhelmed by stranded ones.

    Piracy and feudalism will become very popular again...

    And some folks think that the collapse of the US housing bubble in 2008 represented a 'crisis'.

    1. The Very Reverend Jebediah HypotenuseApril 13, 2017 at 3:31 AM

      This was recently posted by John Hartz over at ATTP's place... I encourage everyone here to read it.

      Atmospheric CO2 levels accelerate upwards, smashing records
      by Barry Saxifrage, National Observer, Apr 10, 2017

      Bottom line:
      "If humanity is making climate progress, someone forgot to tell the atmosphere about it."

    2. That's a good article:

      1. Fossil fuel CO2 might be increasing. The IEA numbers might be wrong. They rely on nations to accurately report their fossil fuel use. Not all of them do, especially when it comes to burning their own coal supplies. In fact, the lack of a system to accurately verify national CO2 claims was a key issue in the Paris Climate Accord discussions. The worry is that as nations face increasing pressure and scrutiny around their CO2, the incentives to cook the books will increase. Incorrect accounting of just one percent globally could switch the storyline from "hopeful plateau" to "continuing acceleration". The IEA devotes two chapters of their "CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion" report to the various issues impacting data accuracy.

      2. Humans might be increasing CO2 emissions from other sectors. Roughly a quarter of the CO2 released by humans comes from non-energy sources not covered in the EIA numbers. These include land use changes, agriculture, deforestation, fugitive emissions, industrial processes, solvents and waste. We could be increasing CO2 from these.

      3. Climate change might be increasing CO2 emissions. Increases in wildfires, droughts, melting permafrost — as well as changes to plankton and oceans — can all cause sustained increases in CO2 emissions. And climate change is affecting all of these. Perhaps some of these changes are underway.

      4. The oceans and biosphere might be absorbing less of our CO2. Much of the CO2 humans release gets taken up by the oceans (ocean acidification) and the biosphere (increased plant growth). Some climate models predict these "CO2 sinks" will lose their ability to keep up. If that is starting to happen, then dumping the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere will result in increasing amounts staying there.

      Unfortunately we don't have good enough measurements to say what the mix of these factors is. However, what we can accurately measure is the CO2 level in our atmosphere. That's the CO2 number we have to stop from rising because it is what drives global warming, climate changes and ocean acidification. Sadly, it's also the CO2 number that shows no sign of slowing down yet.

    3. Not in that list: from what I understand, El Nino releases CO2 whereas La Nina sucks it up.

      CO2 emissions from energy have plateaued, which means they're at record high, which means every year should be about the record increase in CO2 concentration even if all else is equal. Throw in an El Nino and you'll see a more-than-record increase, even without any surprises.

      We need to get anthropogenic emissions to fall to net negative. Having them stop increasing does form a nice first milestone to faintly cheer.

      I hope we cheer every time they fall from whatever arbitrary level (1990 or 2005 or the peak, who cares) by some round-number ratio in some favoured number system, and let's choose as many number systems as possible. That way, we can get it into the news as often as possible.

      In fact, let's report the carbon intensity and the carbon emissions of our economy on the nightly news during the business segment, hopefully in the first page of silly and useless up/down numbers with the Dow and the local stock exchange and the local exchange rate. Let's put a big tacky green arrow next to it when it improves and a red arrow when it doesn't.

      Whatever nonsense we need for people to take this seriously, let's do it.


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