RCP 8.5 to Exterminate Antarctica’s Penguins by 2100!!!

Guest post by David Middleton

From the formerly respectable National Geographic



By Aaron Sidder

Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) have survived in Antarctica for nearly 45,000 years, adapting to glacial expansions and sea ice fluctuations driven by millennia of climatic changes. The penguins remained resilient through these changes, but new research from the University of Delaware suggests that unique 21st-century climates may pose an existential threat to many of the colonies on the Antarctic continent.


Published Wednesday in Scientific Reports, the study, led by oceanographer Megan Cimino, found that up to 60 percent of the current Adélie penguin habitat in Antarctica could be unfit to host colonies by the end of the century.



Believe it or not, I wrote the title of this post before reading past the second paragraph of the article or clicking the link to the Scientific Reports paper.  So, now let’s click the link to see if I have to change the title…





The contribution of climate change to shifts in a species’ geographic distribution is a critical and often unresolved ecological question. Climate change in Antarctica is asymmetric, with cooling in parts of the continent and warming along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) is a circumpolar meso-predator exposed to the full range of Antarctic climate and is undergoing dramatic population shifts coincident with climate change. We used true presence-absence data on Adélie penguin breeding colonies to estimate past and future changes in habitat suitability during the chick-rearing period based on historic satellite observations and future climate model projections. During the contemporary period, declining Adélie penguin populations experienced more years with warm sea surface temperature compared to populations that are increasing. Based on this relationship, we project that one-third of current Adélie penguin colonies, representing ~20% of their current population, may be in decline by 2060. However, climate model projections suggest refugia may exist in continental Antarctica beyond 2099, buffering species-wide declines. Climate change impacts on penguins in the Antarctic will likely be highly site specific based on regional climate trends, and a southward contraction in the range of Adélie penguins is likely over the next century.



Adélie penguin CRHS models show the spatial distribution of novel climate and changes in CRHS compared to historic observations (Fig. 2). All CRHS models performed well (area under the curve (AUC) > 0.85) and confirmed the importance of SST, SIC and bare rock to penguin chick-rearing habitats (see Supplemental Results). In this study, novel climate is SST or SIC outside the range of average SST and SIC observations from 1978–1984 (−2.42 > SST > 1.55 °C, SIC > 95.41%), which corresponds to CRHS model training data (see methods). Interestingly, ~1.5 °C was roughly the warmest SST that increasing Adélie penguin populations experienced throughout the entire satellite record while many decreasing populations experienced SST warmer than this threshold (Supplemental Fig. 1). The WAP experienced the greatest number of novel climate years, with up to seven years of novel climate from 1981–2010 and over 40 years of novel climate using an ensemble of global climate model projections from 2011–2099 (Fig. 2a, see Supplemental Figs 2–9 for individual climate model output and Supplemental Fig. 10 for variability). Marguerite Bay appears to be on a slower warming trajectory compared to the WAP (Fig. 2a), which is also evident in the high-resolution GFDL-CM2.6 projections (Supplemental Fig. 9). While both the WAP and Ross Sea regions have been characterized by high CRHS in the recent past (Fig. 2b), our model projects a substantial decrease in CRHS along the WAP and an increase in CRHS in the Ross Sea over the next century (Fig. 2c). The Cape Adare region, home to the earliest known occupation and the largest Adélie colony4, had no novel climate and high CRHS in the past and future (Fig. 2a,b). CRHS in the Cape Adare region is also projected to increase in the future (Fig. 2c, Supplemental Fig. 11). At Cape Adare, SST is projected to increase from about −1 °C to 0 °C and SIC is projected to decrease from ~20% to ~10% by 2100 (Supplemental Fig. 11), with these changes in SST and SIC shifting towards peak suitability (see response curves, Supplemental Fig. 12). The northeastern Antarctic Peninsula appears to be a more favorable environment than the southwestern Antarctic Peninsula (Fig. 2a,b). From 1981–2010, the South Shetland Islands and the WAP had a similar number of novel climate years and mean CRHS (Fig. 2a,b) but CRHS improved in the South Shetland Islands (Fig. 2c). During this time, the more northerly South Sandwich and South Orkney Islands experienced no years with novel climate, higher mean CRHS and improved CRHS compared to southerly islands and the WAP. Comparing two species distribution modeling approaches and two spatial subsets of the presence-absence data, we found the modeling methods (MaxEnt vs. GAMs) produced similar results but varied more when presence or absence data was incomplete. Model output was most sensitive to incomplete absence data, especially when true presence data was included, perhaps because absence data was missing within a specific environmental niche and Adélie penguins do not occupy all available habitats (Supplemental Results).


Scientific Reports

It appears that the penguins are doomed by cumulative “novel climate years.”  How did the authors calculate future “novel climate years”?

RCP 8.5, of course!  The paper even cites Deconto & Pollard.

Figure 4 from the paper…


Figure 4. Location map of Adélie penguin colonies and bare rock locations. Each line represents the mean of all colonies in that sector colored by the climate model used for the projection. Satellite observations of novel climate are in red from 1981–2010, IPCC models (RCP 8.5) from 2006–2099 and GFDL-CM2.6 from year 1–79 where atmospheric CO2 increases by 1% per year and atmospheric CO2 doubles at year 70 in the model simulation. The IPCC ensemble mean shows the average trend for all IPCC models in a sector (not including GFDL-CM2.6). See Supplemental Figs 13–20 for individual models. The map was produced in R version 3.1.3 (www.r-project.org).

From the supplemental information



Maybe some Red State AG’s can investigate this.  Alarmist nonsense based on bad science fiction (RCP 8.5) must qualify as fraud.

Fraud must be proved by showing that the defendant’s actions involved five separate elements: (1) a false statement of a material fact,(2) knowledge on the part of the defendant that the statement is untrue, (3) intent on the part of the defendant to deceive the alleged victim, (4) justifiable reliance by the alleged victim on the statement, and (5) injury to the alleged victim as a result.

The Free Dictionary



RCP 8.5: The “Mother of all” Junk Climate Science
RCP 8.5, Part Deux: “The stuff nightmares are made from.”
Oh Noes!!! Sea Level Rise to Double… Again!

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Addendum: RCP 8.5 Explained

RCP 8.5 = Relative Concentration Pathway 8.5

From RCP 8.5, Part Deux: “The stuff nightmares are made from.”

In most, if not all, catastrophic AGW papers, RCP 8.5 (or an equivalent) is invoked as a “business as usual scenario.”  A recent example can be found here.  The peer-reviewed paper said, “Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100.”  This was translated by journalists into, “Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions are not cut.”

There is a world of difference between “has the potential to” and “are expected to,” particularly when the “potential” is based on an insanely unrealistic scenario.

The Stuff Nightmares Are Made From

Dr. Judith Curry has a very thoughtful discussion of RCP 8.5, “the stuff nightmares are made from,” on her Climate Etc. blog


In AR5 four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) describe scenarios for future emissions, concentrations, and land-use, ending with radiative forcing levels of 2.6, 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5 W/m2 by 2100. Strong mitigation policies result in a low forcing level (RCP2.6). Two medium stabilization scenarios lead to intermediate outcomes: (RCP4.5, RCP6.0).

IPCC's AR5: 4 RCPs

RCP8.5 gets the most attention. It assumes the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions. For more about the RCPs see “The representative concentration pathways: an overview” by Detlef P. van Vuuren et al, Climatic Change, Nov 2011.

RCP8.5 assumes a nightmarish world even before climate impacts, resulting from substantial changes to long-standing trends. It provides AR5 with an essential worst case scenario necessary for conservative planning.

Unfortunately scientists often inaccurately describe RCP8.5 as the baseline scenario — a future without policy action: “a relatively conservative business as usual case with low income, high population and high energy demand due to only modest improvements in energy intensity” from “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011, This is a material misrepresentation of RCP8.5. Scientists then use RCP8.5 to constructhorrific visions of the future. They seldom mention its unlikely assumptions.

“Scientists then use RCP8.5 to construct horrific visions of the future.”  Why would “scientists” feel compelled “to construct horrific visions of the future”?  Furthermore, why would they so often describe these “horrific visions of the future” as baseline, expected or “business as usual” scenarios?

Based on a real world “business as usual” emissions scenario, with natural gas displacing oil at its current pace and no carbon tax, I come up with a CO2 right about inline with RCP 6.0, “a mitigation scenario, meaning it includes explicit steps to combat greenhouse gas emissions (in this case, through a carbon tax)“.


Then I took my real world “business as usual” relative concentration pathway and applied three reasonable climate sensitivities to it: 0.5, 1.5 and 2.5 °C per doubling of atmospheric CO2, starting at 280 ppmv (TCR 0.5, TCR 1.5 and TCR 2.5).  HadCRUT4, referenced to 1850-1879 is clearly tracking very close to TCR 1.5…



Since it is generally assumed that at least half of the warming since 1850 was natural, the actual climate sensitivity would have to be significantly lower than 1.5 °C per doubling.  Therefore, RCP 8.5 should never be described as “business as usual,” “expected” or a “baseline case.”  Since its assumptions are mind mindbogglingly unrealistic, it shouldn’t be used in any serious publication.  It is bad science fiction.




71 thoughts on “RCP 8.5 to Exterminate Antarctica’s Penguins by 2100!!!

  1. If I were a gambling man I would bet the house on the Antarctic getting a whole lot colder in the near future ! These “Grubers” really need to be charged with yelling “Fire” in a theater !

    • If you ask me it’s just what the penguins get for putting all their eggs in one basket.

    • It is very clear that the computer program is going to cause these penguins to become extinct, NOT climate warming, cooling, or change. In order to protect themselves, the penguins need to take a refresher course in the Law of Survival – Adapt or Die. It is a pass/fail course.

  2. It is amazing such crap keeps getting published. Journal editors are now propagandists who publish all sorts of unfounded speculation if it suggests death by climate change. Adelies have doubled in numbers over the past few decades. Unlike Emperor penguins, too much ice causes Adelies to abandon breeding colonies. Journals pushed the same BS suggesting extinct emperors by 2100 as discussed in http://landscapesandcycles.net/resilient-emperor-penguin.html

    • Jim,

      The crazy thing is that Cimino et al. state the following…

      On geologic timescales, Adélie penguin populations were positively affected by warming and negatively affected by cooling2,3,4 but the rapid response of penguin populations to multi-decadal warming events (similar to population shifts from 1980–2010, Fig. 1) cannot be assessed in the geologic record because of its coarse temporal frequency.

      The only actual evidence indicates that “Adélie penguin populations were positively affected by warming and negatively affected by cooling.”

    • The Hockey Team proudly announces a successful completion of a redefinition of the “peer review”.

    • We have to ban these damnable GCMs, before someone uses them again. If only ONE science paper is saved, wouldn’t it be worth it?

      But GCMs don’t kill science, people using GCMs kill science.

  3. Daleks, I knew the Daleks would figure into this at some point.
    Remember, Dalek is an anagram of Kaled.
    Now we find out that RCP 8.5 is another plot by Davros himself.
    We all live on Skaro now.

  4. I’m not sure where your points begin and end, but a reasonable search of Penguins would find the following:
    1) Penguins are not uniquely polar — there are many tropical species of penguins.
    2) The main threat to penguins is overfishing of their food source.
    3) Tropical penguin species are in far more danger than polar species. The obvious reason being that their food source is being depleted faster than the polar food sources.

  5. I guess it can’t be fraud since element “(2) knowledge on the part of the defendant that the statement is untrue” is missing. I would guess these idiots actually believe that RCP8.5 is an understatement. It’s hard to accuse some one of evil intent when just plain stupidity and incompetence provide the simplest explanation.

    • Hey Joe! ” It’s hard to accuse some one of evil intent when just plain stupidity and incompetence provide the simplest explanation.”

      I would respectfully disagree with you. Remember that in this case the people involved are supposed to be experts with credentials, years of training, and expert knowledge.

      Consider this: if you have a heart attack and I (who am NOT a physician) ask you a few questions and then tell you, “it’s probably just heart burn. Take some bicarb and walk it off” it is probably just a case of stupidity on my part. After all, I make no claims to expertise, and I have no special training. On the other hand, if you have a heart attack and go to the local emergency room for treatment, and the Doctors there tell you the same thing, they cannot claim stupidity as a defense. They are experts in medical matters. They are either lying about their level of competence or they are lying about your diagnosis. “Oops!” is not an option for them.

      • “…the people involved are supposed to be experts…”

        Jason, the “supposed to be” is the limiting phrase in that statement. Just because some one has a freshly minted degree in ‘Climate Science’ doesn’t mean they know dip …. about the subject they are discussing. Besides, the so called “scientists” in that whole damned area of pseudo science haven’t the foggiest idea what it takes to model a complex system, much less verify it. They all seem to have the childish belief that anything that comes out of a computer can be taken as unerring fact. So, being just another dumb engineer, I’ll stick with the “stupidity and incompetence” explanation.

  6. Penguins = the new poley bears for the Climatists. Since those didn’t work out too well.

    • And penguins won’t work out well for them either as this species has seen a bit of a boom of late.

      Polar Bear and Penguin facts make me think of a joke “feed the poor in povertistan” video where the poor unfed children are the main image pulling at the heartstrings while some western celeb lays on the guilt trip only to have some kid with a pizza and a hamburger walk by behind and wave at the camera. (Add some director yelling “Cut! Cut!, who let the kid into the snack table?! They’re supposed to look starved here!”)

  7. Climate change in Antarctica is asymmetric, with cooling in parts of the continent and warming along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) is a circumpolar meso-predator exposed to the full range of Antarctic climate and is undergoing dramatic population shifts coincident with climate change.

    Yes, and IS war on NH western civilization is asymmetric like Hell.

    Will we lose Antarctica with all that penguins to sustainable fundamentalism. Biggest challenge evvah.

    • I guess you didn’t read the article, since it refers to Adelie penguins only. The authors are aware of the habitat of the Adelies and note the proximity of bare rock to the colonies.

  8. I would surmise that penguins have adapted to cold in Antarctica not because they need cold but because the ice-mass is predator free inland. The -60C temperatures and 200km/h winds Emperor penguins face while roosting would welcome a degree or two of warming and save them valuable body fat.

  9. Based on a real world “business as usual” emissions scenario, with natural gas displacing oil at its current pace and no carbon tax, I come up with a CO2 right about inline with RCP 6.0,

    Did you mean to say “coal” here instead of “oil”?

    • No. If coal was displaced by gas, the curve would drop down toward RCP 4.5.

      The only trend in the actual data is of natural gas displacing oil as a primary energy source…

  10. RCP8.5 is truly the “gift that keeps on giving” for climate activists.

    See this ever-growing list of papers (with links) describing nightmarish results based on RCP8.5. Very few mention its unlikely assumptions. Most describe it as either the “business as usual scenario” or just “the future.”

    RCP 8.5 is useful as a kind of “worst case” scenario. The IPCC’s AR5 presents it in a straight-forward fashion. It’s characterized by scientists speaking on their own and in papers.

    This is worse, imo, than what Exxon is accused (falsely) of doing.

    • It’s certainly a “gift that keeps on giving” to me… Since I enjoy ripping it apart so much… ;)

      RCP 8.5 literally is analogous to “shouting fire in a crowded theater.”

      • “RCP8.5 assumes a nightmarish world even before climate impacts …” (Dr. Judith Curry).
        As the global average temperature continues well below IPCC projections, the IPCC failure is not due to unlikely population or technology assumptions etc. but because ‘the science’ is fundamentally wrong, which they will never admit, viz. natural climate variation and other factors are essentially ignored and RCP 8.5 (BAU although they are trying to distance themselves from that designation) represents a temperature projection based on an assumed climate sensitivity which is at least double what can be inferred empirically.

    • That looks like a processing error. Are you sure that isn’t using the satellite with the bad channel? You don’t usually see a gain in ice area in June in the northern hemisphere. I would be very skeptical of that chart until I had a chance to look at the ice images and eyeball estimate it myself. If it really did suddenly freeze up like that I would be deeply worried. 2.5 million square kilometers added ice in May-June doesn’t seem credible.

      • Apparently the poster was unable to read the following which was prominently displayed (bright red) by those graphs!
        “Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Sounder (SSMIS) on the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F-17 satellite that provides passive microwave brightness temperatures (and derived Arctic and Antarctic sea ice products) has been providing spurious data since beginning of April. Working on resolving problem or replacing this data source.”

  11. Again, a biological model built over a climate model. If you have not validated the climate model, do not use its output as an input for your model.

    This is so silly since their climate theory states that higher CO2 concentrations will warm the Earth. and what is happening in continental Antarctica is that CO2 is rising, but temperatures are dropping. You may think that this little contradiction may raise any doubt about the setting of their experiment, sorry, their model.

    One wonders how many models did they run, and in how many of them the population of the penguins drops, and in how many of them the population rises.

  12. “have survived in Antarctica for nearly 45,000 years, adapting to glacial expansions and sea ice fluctuations driven by millennia of climatic changes”
    What an ego. 45,000 years of climate change and Suddenly—Whap! Fossil fuel burning by humans in the last 50 years (or whatever interval is being used at the moment) is destroying the climate and the penquins are doomed. This must be the ultimate human ego trip.

    • NatGeo headline:

      Antarctica Could Lose Most of Its Penguins to Climate Change

      “Reduced by a third” is not “most.”

      Since it’s a bogus model doing the exterminating, the numbers don’t really matter.

  13. Figure 4: a picture of the cute penguins is included for any media outlet that did not get the media packet, with plenty of pics of the adorable but tragically doomed little tuxedos.

  14. Is there a potential that the poor flightless birds who can swim for weeks may be migrating from colder places to warmer places? Maybe they are liberal birds and just want to stay and die!

  15. Lol well yah cause they keep having to move away from the scientists who put junk on them that makes their lifespan shorter. Poor penguins are being studied to death. They should adopt the other hemispheres polar bear attitude and eat the scientists… they would be much better off.

  16. Where is Dr. Svalgaard? What about this absolutely shoddy science based on IPCC crap? He attacks Dr. Ball, but not a peep on the very thing Dr. Ball has been talking about since the IPCC’s inception. Very telling. No?

  17. RCP8.5 assumes we get to 1000 to 1400ppm. This is such a ridiculous assumption that it’s obvious they put it in to show lines that go up very high to scare people. That’s the only reason 8.5 exists. If they leave out 8.5 from their analysis and the most realistic assesment of tcr under 1.5 then the maximum temp gain by 2100 is under 1.5C. Hardly scary. With 1->1.5C the sea level rise is dramatically less and all the other consequences. In fact, a reanalysis of the effects might show it to be positive. So, they need RCP8.5 to have scary lines. It’s impossible to achieve RCP8.5. Solar power cost is coming down dramatically every year. By the year 2100 CO2 levels may be below todays levels not 3 times todays

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