Pielke Jr: Systemic Misuse of Scenarios in Climate Research and Assessment

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Roger Pielke

University of Colorado Boulder

Justin Ritchie

University of British Columbia

Date Written: April 21, 2020


Climate science research and assessments have misused scenarios for more than a decade. Symptoms of this misuse include the treatment of an unrealistic, extreme scenario as the world’s most likely future in the absence of climate policy and the illogical comparison of climate projections across inconsistent global development trajectories.

Reasons why this misuse arose include (a) competing demands for scenarios from users in diverse academic disciplines that ultimately conflated exploratory and policy relevant pathways, (b) the evolving role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which effectively extended its mandate from literature assessment to literature coordination, (c) unforeseen consequences of employing a nuanced temporary approach to scenario development, (d) maintaining research practices that normalize careless use of scenarios in a vacuum of plausibility, and (e) the inherent complexity and technicality of scenarios in model-based research and in support of policy. As a consequence, the climate research community is presently off-track. Attempts to address scenario misuse within the community have thus far not worked.

The result has been the widespread production of myopic or misleading perspectives on future climate change and climate policy. Until reform is implemented, we can expect the production of such perspectives to continue. However, because many aspects of climate change discourse are contingent on scenarios, there is considerable momentum that will make such a course correction difficult and contested – even as efforts to improve scenarios have informed research that will be included in the IPCC 6th Assessment.

Keywords: climate, scenarios, assessment, research integrity

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April 21, 2020 6:08 pm

The whole apple is rotten, including the core.


I suppose the scam began for funding purposes. They needed all the fancy equipment to monitor the Earth, ASAP! Now they have it. Can you guys cut the cr*p now?

Reply to  Zoe Phin
April 22, 2020 9:55 pm

I believe they said after you Zoe.

Nick Schroeder
April 21, 2020 6:14 pm

Still crazy after all these years.

Climate science is not complex, it is as simple as that reflective panel behind a car’s windshield.

Because the albedo/atmosphere reflect 30% of the incoming solar energy the earth is cooler with that albedo/atmosphere than without. Without an atmosphere the earth would receive 30% more kJ/h becoming a barren rock much like the moon, hot^3 on the lit side, cold^3 on the dark.

This observation is easily confirmed by comparisons with the moon as Nikolov, Kramm suggest and UCLA Diviner mission observes. This refutes the RGHE theory which postulates just the opposite, that the earth sans atmosphere would be a -430 F ball of ice or 288 K w/ – 255 K w/o = 33 C cooler. (Rubbish!)

Because of the non-radiative heat transfer processes of the contiguous participating atmospheric molecules, 396 W/m^2 of BB LWIR “extra” energy upwelling from the surface is not possible.

As I demonstrate in the grand science tradition of performing experiments: https://principia-scientific.org/debunking-the-greenhouse-gas-theory-with-a-boiling-water-pot/

Without the 396 W/m^2 upwelling LWIR there is no net 333 W/m^2 “extra” energy for the GHGs to “trap”, “back” radiate or warm anything anywhere.

There is no radiative greenhouse effect and the so-called GHGs do not “warm” the terrestrial surface.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 21, 2020 6:28 pm

Hate to be a bitch, but …

1) Remove the atmosphere, and the higher temperature would force the ocean to evaporate a new one.

2) N&Z et al pressure theory can’t explain planetary bodies that are above BB temperature and do NOT have an atmosphere.

For example:

Nick Schroeder
Reply to  Zoe Phin
April 22, 2020 7:41 am

The assumption is no atmosphere. No atmospheric pressure = no oceans just like the moon. No atmosphere = no water vapor, no clouds, no ice, no snow, no vegetation, no oceans and an albedo much like the moon’s 0.11 and more kJ/h = hotter not colder. The 255 K w/o requires a 30% albedo.

2) Such as?

PV = nRT does not explain the warmth of the atmosphere. Q = U A dT does.

1. The earth is cooler with the atmosphere and associated albedo not warmer.

2. “Extra” LWIR BB energy upwelling from the surface for the GHGs to “trap” and “back” radiate is not possible.

1 + 2 = zero RGHE.

Joseph Campbell
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 22, 2020 8:08 am

Mr. Schroeder: Thanks: “PV = nRT does not explain the warmth of the atmosphere”. It cannot; it is an equation of STATE, not of a process…

“Q = U A dT does” because it describes a PROCESS. The process’ path can be mapped by plotting the state points, in this case, for an ideal gas…

Nick Schroeder
Reply to  Joseph Campbell
April 22, 2020 11:08 am

Same as the insulated walls of house that make it warm inside while cold out – and vice versa. A thermal resistance requires a temperature difference.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 21, 2020 6:31 pm

3) The upwelling radiation is “correct”, but falsely attributed in an upside down fashion:



April 21, 2020 6:57 pm

Hello everyone! Excellent post

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  trevor
April 22, 2020 11:18 am

Except that Zoe and Nick seem to be on the wrong thread. And now Joseph, too.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
April 23, 2020 11:03 am

Zoe is providing examples of bad research.

Nick and Joseph are providing corrections that then get ignored by zoe.

Tom Abbott
April 21, 2020 7:05 pm

From the article: “the climate research community is presently off-track. ”

Very much so. They couldn’t get much farther off-track. They have been going along for 40 years without any evidence to back up their claims about CO2 and the Earth’s atmosphere. Did they ever think that maybe CO2 is not the control knob of the Earth’s weather? Apparently that concept does not register in their minds, even when there is a lack of evidence for 40 years. Not very scientific.

John Gardner
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 21, 2020 9:03 pm

Tom A – you asked: Did they ever think that maybe CO2 is not the control knob of the Earth’s weather?
Of course they don’t – as the old saying goes ‘its hard to convince someone, whose job depends on believing X, that X is not true’.
However, the current COVID crisis might be a unique opportunity to disprove the whole ‘CO2 as the control knob’ meme – global fossil fuel use has dropped off a cliff. If there is not a corresponding drop in atmospheric CO2 measurements these CAGW folk have a lot of explaining to do. Popcorn anyone?

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 22, 2020 4:32 am

Tom Abbott – April 21, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Did they ever think that maybe CO2 is not the control knob of the Earth’s weather?

Probably so, …… but quickly ignored those thoughts because their Federal Grant funding depended on them ignoring said.

April 21, 2020 7:30 pm

“Symptoms of this misuse include the treatment of an unrealistic, extreme scenario as the world’s most likely future in the absence of climate policy and the illogical comparison of climate projections across inconsistent global development trajectories”

That could have to do with the unconventional way in which the statistical property of variance is understood in climate science. Pls see


Joel O'Bryan
April 21, 2020 8:48 pm

Well let me cynically add that RCP8.5 was likely intended as the Honey Pot trap. RCP8.5 lures in grant and tenure needy researchers from a widely diverse range of environmental, biological, and ecological science disciplines to suckle at the teet of the IPCC’s climate corruption.

In a nutshell it’s called, “Jumping on board the climate gravy train and riding that bitch to grant success.”

April 21, 2020 9:27 pm

True and I also think Corona virus effects will be felt immediately, indurstries closing globally. Now the oil is trading at -40 so the production might stop, giving nature space to rejuvenate itself. The ozone layer is better than ever.
In Kenya the rains are very happy and will claim more lives than Corona virus.

Reply to  Peter
April 21, 2020 11:45 pm

“The ozone layer is better than ever”

was it bad?

Mike Dubrasich
April 21, 2020 9:42 pm

The authors are correct but understate the situation. It is not only “climate science” that has misused unrealistic and extreme scenarios with a “vacuum of plausibility”, it is also every other scientific and pseudo-scientific discipline in existence.

You name it, that discipline has gone bat excrement crazy with junk climate scenarios: biology, zoology, botany, geology, geography, hydrology, palaeontology, anthropology, ecology, oceanography, glaciology, meteorology, sociology, economics, archaeology, criminology, epidemiology, virology, geobiolimnoethnoatmosology, and every real and fanciful -ology there is or ever was and some new ones, too.

The entirety of Academia has chug-a-lugged the Koolaid of cr*p climate scenarios, and in the process poisoned itself, all but destroyed science, and sent human knowledge of the world reeling backwards 200 years or more.

Let’s not be coy about the damage done. The world is far stupider today in a big way thanks to hair-on-fire bullaroni emanating from “climate science” which itself is no more a science than astrology or chicken bone tossing.

Look out your porthole. Humanity is hiding from the world, scared to venture out of the cave, beset by superstitious inertia, confused and disoriented — and two decades of harum-scarum quack-science dire reporting from the climate freakout crowd has everything to do with setting that table.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
April 22, 2020 6:22 am

The entirety of Academia has …..” …… morphed into a public funded ‘not-for-profit’ money making business of “selling Diplomas”.

Joseph Campbell
Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
April 22, 2020 7:58 am

Mr. Cogar: GREAT statement!…

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
April 22, 2020 6:39 am

“The entirety of Academia has chug-a-lugged the Koolaid of cr*p climate scenarios, and in the process poisoned itself, all but destroyed science, and sent human knowledge of the world reeling backwards 200 years or more.”

Absolutely right! The Human-Caused Climate Change scam has poisoned the whole of science. We now have astronomy magazine editors promoting CAGW in their publication, and scoffing at the skeptics. This particular editor ought to stick to astronomy. You know who you are.

Ian Coleman
April 22, 2020 4:16 am

When people can say just about anything about the far future without danger of falsification in the present, and when the most rewards accrue to the people with the most dramatic and scary stories, you’re going to get a lot of dramatic and scary stories. I doubt if any of these people really care if anything they say is true.

Political lies are successful, not if the liars who tell them can get people to believe them, but if they can get people to pretend that they believe them. I doubt it anyone in the United States Congress or the U.S. national media seriously believe that Saddam Hussein was intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction and then giving them to terrorists to attack the United States. But everybody could pretend that that was a possibility, and that the absurdly low probability that it could really happen was mooted by the damage that would ensue if it did happen. And I think it’s the same strange calculus that applies to climate change zealots. It is unlikely that global sea level will increase by ten feet (or whatever it is), but it could happen (due to a series of unfortunate events that no one can predict), and therefore we must act as if it is a certainty. That’s the logic at play.

I was amused by Michael Crichton’s disdain for climate alarmism, because his novels and screenplays featured wildly unlikely (if not impossible) scenarios that were grounded in (kind of) real science. He was annoyed that the kind of harmless science fiction he used to entertain people was being told by real scientists to scam people.

Kent Noonan
April 22, 2020 8:43 am

In giving the reasons why the scenarios are misused, you omit the most important one: The desire to produce alarming conclusions mandates starting with the worst possible scenario.

Mike Dubrasich
April 22, 2020 10:42 am

The consequences of mad climate scenarios are not trivial. Here’s a tip of the iceberg example:

In 2005 the Chair of the UW Dept. of Forestry opined to the WA Legislature that Douglas-fir was going extinct due to global warming. The Chair, the top dog!

In early 2006 forest “scientists from UW published a paper extolling the virtues of forest fires:

…early-successional forest habitat–naturally disturbed areas with a full array of legacies (i.e., not subject to post-fire logging) and experiencing natural recovery processes (i.e., not seeded or planted)–are among the scarcest habitat condition in some regions, such as the Pacific Northwest.

In other words, tick brush arising from global warming forest fires was precious and rare.

In late 2006 Fire Ecologists (a phony science if there ever was one) at their 3rd International Fire Ecology & Management Congress issued a Declaration that stated (essentially) that global warming was going to burn all our forests so we should burn them now to get ahead of the curve, with “no regrets”.

The USFS adopted these “global warming” policies and annual national fire acreage jumped from 1 million acres per year to 10 million.

The policies of No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch it Rot have continued ever since, causing the destruction by holocaust of over 100 million acres of forests nationally, the largest megafires in history, the burning of towns and cities, more than a $trillion in cost plus loss, and hundreds of deaths by fire of innocent residents.

All of that was directly due to wildly overstated climate scenarios and their adoption by the “experts” we put in charge of our universities and agencies.

And that’s just the tip of the Hotpocalypse iceberg. Horrifically bad junk climate “science” and attendant junk policies have infected dozens of other real sciences with similar destructive and deadly results

Gary Pearse
April 22, 2020 6:57 pm

“there is considerable momentum that will make such a course correction difficult and contested ” (re- using exaggerated climate scenarios)

Big disconnect here not usually seen in in Roger P jr. essays. With ever greater departure of hysterical climate from reality, even despite efforts put into cooking the temperature records, it won’t be long before the climate industry is even more self evidently wrong and they will have to correct the course, or walk away.

Roger is pretty much the most reasonable of the warming proponents, but he is, indeed, all-in on the meme. He is not a climate scientist and he knows more than most what a hutch of intellectual thugs and schemers make up the core of the clime syndicate so it’s hard to see where he gets his certainty from on future warming. There is a reasonable probability (given the lack of supporting evidence for the consensus case and the chicanery of the syndicate’s unseemly methods), that Roger himself may need a course correction downwards even for his modest warming beliefs.

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