You Ought to Have a Look: Lukewarming the News

Scientific American, which is quite reliably alarmed by the prospects of climate change, showed signs of moderation this week in an article highlighting the work of the ecomodernists. The ecomodernists acknowledge that man-made climate change is occurring, but believe humans are already (and will continue) decoupling their well-being from environmental destruction—meaning every day that passes, human flourishing requires less pollution and resources. Though not libertarians, they are spot-on in regards to climate change being a minor overlay in a world increasingly insulated from the vagaries of nature due to market forces. The piece, titled Should We Chill Out about Global Warming?, is answered with an unqualified YES! from those of us at the Center for the Study of Science.

One of their ecomodernist peers, journalist Will Boisvert, recently pondered in a piece, “How bad will climate change be?” He has a voluminous response that’s worth a read, which he quickly summarizes as “Not very.” He went on to note what many of us have been saying for years—as long as there has been capital for innovation and civil order, we’ve been adapting to climate change, and will continue to do so. Boisvert neatly skewers horseman after horseman of the apocalypse—drought, hunger and heat, and notes our increasingly clean and efficient energy technology.

In a similar vein, Nature Communications published an article by Yousuke Sato (and coauthors) from Nagoya University, showing the controversial “indirect cooling effect” of particulates that often go in the air along with carbon dioxide is much smaller than what’s in the climate models. The models are generally tuned with these aerosols to match the climate history of the 20th century, where a large warming occurs before much carbon dioxide is emitted, followed by a slight cooling for several decades as emissions ramped up. Because the aerosol cooling is large, the warming they counter must be huge—which is why in recent decades the models predict so much more warming in the lower atmosphere than is being observed.

The largest projections of future warming are driven by an emissions scenario we recently debunked, known as RCP 8.5. We noted that researchers at the University of British Columbia recently found there is simply not enough coal (recoverable or otherwise) to make these outcomes physically possible. In the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass takes a similar look at the failure of worst-case scenarios to account for human ingenuity and adaptation—calling them “laughably bad economics.” It’s based on a detailed report you can download here.

With these recent developments in science, economics, and popular perception of climate outcomes, we’re hoping the Trump Administration will take the reins of the Fourth National Climate Assessment—which was largely written in the last administration—and steer it back onto a realistic course. It’s getting ready for publication, and we submitted extensive suggestions on how to make it more accurately represent the best and newest science.