Climate Uncertainty & Risk: the presentation

From Climate Etc.

by Judith Curry

A 20 minute presentation on Climate & Uncertainty and Risk (including some content from my forthcoming book)

This was presented at the ICCC Conference.  Here is a link to my complete presentation with audio [presentation].  Lindzen and McKitrick also gave excellent presentations in this session (I assume the presentations will be made available online in a few days).

Most of this material will be familiar from previous blog posts, here is the text of my presentation with some images.

What we know, versus what we don’t and cannot know

Even people that don’t know much about climate science have heard that 97% of climate scientists agree.  But exactly what do they agree on?  Not nearly as much as is portrayed in the media.  Everyone agrees that:

  • Surface temperatures have increased since 1880
  • Humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and
  • Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases have a warming effect on the planet

However, there is disagreement on the most consequential issues:

  • How much of the recent warming has been caused by humans
  • How much the planet will warm in the 21st century
  • Whether warming is ‘dangerous’
  • And how we should respond to the warming, to improve human well being

The first two points are in the realm of science, requiring logical arguments, model simulations and expert judgment to assess “whether” and “how much.” The issue of “dangerous” is an issue of societal values, about which science has little to say. Whether reducing CO2 emissions will improve human wellbeing is an issue of economics and technology. This is also contingent on the relative importance of natural climate variability versus human-caused global warming for the 21st century.

Nevertheless, we are endlessly fed the trope that 97% of climate scientists agree that warming is dangerous and that science demands urgent reductions in CO2 emissions.

Why do scientists disagree?

The most fundamental source of disagreement regarding the theory of human-caused climate change is natural climate variability. Why do climate scientists disagree on the relative importance of natural versus human-caused climate change? The historical data is sparse and inadequate, particularly in the oceans. There’s disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence, notably the value of global climate model simulations and paleoclimate reconstructions. There’s also disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence. And finally, there’s little acknowledgement that some climate processes are poorly understood or even unknown.

Science works just fine when there is more than one hypothesis to explain something. In fact, disagreement spurs scientific progress through creative tension and efforts to resolve the disagreement.

Perils of consensus

In the 1990’s the IPCC made a fateful decision to formulate their reports around consensus. The IPCC arguably adopted a “speaking consensus to power” approach that sees uncertainty and dissent as problematic and attempts to mediate these into a consensus. The speaking consensus to power strategy acknowledges that available knowledge is inconclusive and uses consensus as a proxy for truth. The consensus to power strategy reflects a specific vision of how politics deals with scientific uncertainties.

The IPCC’s manufacture of consensus has done incalculable harm to climate science and the policy making that is informed by climate science.

  • An explicit consensus building processes has enforced overconfidence and belief polarization.
  • Consensus beliefs are serving as agents in their own confirmation
  • Dismissal of skepticism has been detrimental to scientific progress
  • Overreliance on expert judgment has motivated shortcuts in reasoning and hidden biases
  • Narrow framing of the climate change problem has provided a basis for neglecting research in certain areas

Framing the climate problem

So, how did we come to the point where we’re alleged to have a future crisis on our hands, but the primary solution of rapid global emissions reductions is deemed to be impossible?  The source of this conundrum is that we have mischaracterized climate change as a tame problem, with a simple solution.

The climate change problem is framed as being caused by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which can be solved by eliminating fossil fuel emissions.  Both the problem and solution are included in a single frame.  This framing dominates the UN negotiations on climate change.

The framing on the right addresses climate change as a complex, wicked problem.  This framing shows two separate frames, one associated with the causes of climate change and the other associated with solutions that can help reduce vulnerability to climate change.  The larger frame on the right also includes natural causes for climate change such as the sun, volcanoes and slow circulations in the ocean. This framing is provisional, acknowledging that our understanding is incomplete and that there may be unknown processes influencing climate change.

The frame on the left is about controlling the climate, whereas the frame on the right is about understanding the climate.  Further, the framing on the right acknowledges the futility of control. Solutions on the right focus on managing the basic human necessities of energy, water and food. Economic development supports these necessities while reducing our vulnerability to weather and climate extremes.

My own understanding of climate change and human well being is squarely in the framing on the right.

The  Climate crisis isn’t what it used to be

The climate “crisis” isn’t what it used to be. Circa 2013 with publication of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, the extreme emissions scenario RCP8.5 was regarded as the business-as-usual emissions scenario, with expected warming of 4 to 5 oC by 2100. Now there is growing acceptance that RCP8.5 is implausible, and RCP4.5 is arguably the current business-as-usual emissions scenario according to recent reports issued by the COP 26 and 27. Only a few years ago, an emissions trajectory that followed RCP4.5 with 2 to 3 oC warming was regarded as climate policy success. As limiting warming to 2 oC seems to be in reach, the goal posts were moved in 2018 to reduce the warming target to 1.5 oC.

Climate catastrophe rhetoric now seems linked to extreme weather events. For nearly all of these events, it is difficult to identify any role for human-caused climate change in increasing either their intensity or frequency.

Misperception of climate risk

The main stream media is currently awash with articles from prominent journalists on how the global warming threat is less than we thought.  The rationale for continuing to increase the alarm is that the impacts are worse than we thought, specifically with regards to extreme weather.  Attributing extreme weather and climate events to global warming is now the primary motivation for the rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

This rationale commits the logical fallacy of conflation.  There are two separate risk categories for climate change.  The first is impacts of the slow creep of global warming on sea level rise, contribution to regional water shortages and hypothesized tipping points.  The second is extreme weather events and interannual climate variability, which has little if anything to do with global warming.

The proposed management strategy for both risk categories is to eliminate CO2 emissions.  This strategy may have some incremental benefits in the 22nd century, but will not help with the emergency risks associated with extreme weather events.  The appropriate way to deal with the emergency risks is fundamentally regional, through economic development and vulnerability reduction.

The urgency of addressing emergency risk is being used to motivate the urgency of reducing the incremental risk from emissions.  Ironicallly, attempts to reduce emissions are exacerbating energy poverty and unreliability, which is increasing emergency risk.

One would logically think that if warming is less than we thought but impacts are worse, that the priorities would shift from CO2 mitigation towards development and adaptation.  However, that hasn’t been the case.

Perceptions of risk

How did we come to the point where the world’s leaders and much of the global population think that we urgently need to reduce fossil fuel emissions in order to prevent bad weather?

Not only have we misperceived the climate risk, but politicians and the media have played on our psychological fears of certain type risks to amp up the alarm.

Psychologist Paul Slovic describes a suite of psychological characteristics that make risks feel more or less frightening, relative to the actual facts. In each of the risk pairs on the left half of the slide, the second risk factor in bold is perceived to make the risk worse than it actually is.

For example, risks that are common, self-controlled and voluntary, such as driving, generate the least public apprehension. Risks that are rare and imposed and lack potential upside, like terrorism, invoke the most dread.

Activist communicators emphasize the manmade aspects of climate change, the unfair burden of risks on undeveloped countries and poor people, and the more immediate risks of severe weather events. The recent occurrence of infrequent events such as a hurricane or flood produces elevated perceptions of the risk of low probability events. This then translate into perceptions of overall climate change risk.

The cultural theory of risk proposes that our views on risk are filtered through culturalworld views about how society should operate.   Our perceptions of climate risk have been cleverly manipulated by propagandists.

Even if the initial harm from climate change is small, the social risk is being greatly amplified by the collective responses and irrational behaviors of individuals. The response to climate risk, driven by alarmism and “extinction” rhetoric, has arguably crossed the threshold to actually increasing the social risk associated with climate change, including increasing risks from energy poverty.

We have mischaracterized climate risk

Leading risk scientists and philosophers, who don’t have a particular dog in the climate fight, have expressed their concerns about how all this has evolved and where it is headed.

Norwegian risk scientist Terje Aven has this to say:

“The current thinking and approaches have been shown to lack scientific rigor, the consequence being that climate change risk and uncertainties are poorly presented. The climate change field needs to strengthen its risk science basis, to improve the current situation.”

Philosopher Thomas Well has this to say:

“The global climate change debate has gone badly wrong. Many mainstream environmentalists are arguing for the wrong actions and for the wrong reasons, and so long as they continue to do so, they put all our futures in jeopardy.”

Mixing politics and science

One of the reasons that the global climate change debate has gone badly wrong is that we have created problems at the interface between climate science and policy making.

Encroachment of politics into socially-relevant science is unavoidable.  Problems arise from many sources, and scientists, policy makers and the media are all culpable.

Climate science is far from the only area of science that has been politicized.  Others include COVID19, gender studies, and genetically modified food. Cancel culture is alive and well in the sciences, where scientists that disagree with an interpretation that supports desired policy objectives are ostracized, with some even losing their jobs.

Wicked science

The wickedness of the climate problem is related to the duality of science and politics in the face of an exceedingly complex problem.  There are two common but inappropriate ways of mixing science and politics.

The first is scientizing policy, which deals with intractable political conflict by transforming the political issues into scientific ones.  The problem with this is that science is not designed to answer questions about how the world ought to be, which is the domain of politics. The second is politicization of science, whereby scientific research is influenced or manipulated in support of a political agenda. We have seen both of these inappropriate ways of mixing science and politics in dealing with climate change and also the pandemic.

There’s a third way, which is known as wicked science. Wicked science is tailored to the dual scientific and political natures of wicked societal problems.   Wicked science uses approaches from complexity science and systems thinking in a context that engages with decision makers and other stakeholders.

Wicked science requires a transdisciplinary approach that treats uncertainty as of paramount importance.  Effective use of wicked science requires that policy makers acknowledge that control is limited and the future is unknown.   Effective politics provides room for dissent and disagreement about policy options, and includes a broad range of stakeholders.

Climate Uncertainty and Risk – the book

I have a new book that is in press, entitled Climate Uncertainty and Risk.  The subtitle for the book is rethinking the climate change problem, the risks we are facing, and how we can respond.

This book encompasses my own philosophy for navigating the wicked problem of climate change. As such, this book provides a single slice through the wicked terrain. By acknowledging uncertainties in the context of better risk management and decision-making frameworks, in combination with techno-optimism, there is a broad path forward for humanity to thrive in the 21st century.

JC note:  Quick update on my book.  Currently in copyediting and indexing phase.  New and improved cover (check it out in my presentation slides).  Update on paperback edition: will be published simultaneously with hardcover edition.

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February 26, 2023 6:18 am

“The global climate change debate has gone badly wrong.” 
Not only wrong but dangerously out of proportion in demands of alarmists, with both implicit and explicit support of almost if not all democratic countries governments.
Simply, the monstrosity has become too large, fail or succeed.
The consequences are going to be serious, since the protagonists of the new ‘global quasi religion’ would not take any possible defeat lying down. 

Phillip Bratby
Reply to  vuk
February 26, 2023 7:23 am

I must have missed the debate – there has been none in the UK. The MSM and politicians don’t allow debate because the science has been settled for over a decade and if you disagree, then you are a ” climate denier”.

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
February 26, 2023 9:24 am


Climate Howler Global Whiner:
“We’re all going to fry unless you do what we say without question.”

Climate Realist:
“We’re not going to die, and why can’t I ask questions?”

Climate Howler
“You are science denier!”

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 6:32 am

Everyone keeps talking about the dangers of climate change. Obviously, I’m an idiot because I don’t see any. We have been talking about climate change for more than 40 years, but what dangers have increased? There has been no increase in the frequency or severity of droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, or other severe weather events. There may have been a slight increase in the rate of sea level rise, but the level has been rising at 13 inches per century for more than 30 years. That rate of rise can easily be managed by simple mitigation measures.

If the frequency and/or severity of droughts, hurricanes etc. had been slowing increasing over the past 40 years, then you could make that argument that as these trends continue it will become catastrophic. But these trends have been stable. When do they start to increase?

Where is the catastrophe? There is absolutely no evidence that any weather event or any climate activity is headed for a catastrophe. When do we start seeing evidence of a catastrophic trend? When?

Reply to  Aetiuz
February 26, 2023 9:25 am

Nut Zero has the potential to be a catastrophe

The actual climate is wonderful

William Howard
February 26, 2023 6:35 am

Not to mention that since the vast majority (I see reports as high as 97%) of the CO2 in the atmosphere is naturally occurring which we can’t do much about, means that the amount we are removing by net zero is minuscule and doesn’t change the composition of the atmosphere one bit – so it defies all common sense to believe that by somehow removing a tiny, minuscule (something like 1 one hundredth of 1% of the atmosphere) amount of CO2 from the atmosphere will magically solve all climate and weather issues – God must be shaking his head at all the useful idiots here on earth

Reply to  William Howard
February 26, 2023 8:00 am

William, the increase of 2 ppm per year of CO2 works out to be about 1/2 of mankind’s yearly emissions. So the increase of CO2 from 280 to 410 ppm is mostly human-caused in origin. There isn’t much dispute on those numbers, but whether an increase from 3 molecules in 10,000 to 4 molecules in 10,000 is significant enough to focus significant efforts of humanity upon is the problem.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  DMacKenzie
February 26, 2023 8:44 am

The oceans have not warmed and expelled more CO2?

Reply to  Steve Keohane
February 26, 2023 9:29 am

The oceans aborb slightly less CO2 because they are warmer — perhaps 15ppm to 25ppm less than they would have absorbed with no change in temperature rather than a +1 degree C. increase.

Nature is still a net CO2 absorber

Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 10:02 am

Kindly provide everyone with the precise number of volcanoes/vents and fissures on the oceans seabeds and under ice sheets, including their precise emissions, then I’ll consider your proposition that nature is a net CO2 absorber.

Reply to  HotScot
February 26, 2023 10:48 am

CO2 emissions from 1850 to 2023 were in the +200ppm to +300ppm range

Actual CO2 was up about +140ppm

Therefore, the ENTIRE +140ppm CO2 increase since 1850 can be 100% attributed to manmade CO2 emissions, less some of those manmade CO2 emissions absorbed by nature (oceans, land and plants).

I explained this simply so even a 12 year old child would understand. Go find a 12 year old child to explain it to you.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 3:12 pm

How do you know that most of the CO2 from a fossil fuel electricity station goes on a voyage that passes far-away Mauna Loa?
Why can you dismiss that much of such CO2 is taken up locally by biota and water and never makes it to Mauna Loa?
How do you explain the large global effort to emphasise CO2 at ML, while burying the massive data from CO2 analysis from places closer to the ground, where most of us live? Why cancel the work of Beck and others, that has much evidence of paths of CO2 that don’t turn up at ML?
We cannot progress in science by cancelling valid data and pretending that we should use only data that suits our causes. Geoff S

Reply to  sherro01
February 27, 2023 2:32 am

The measurements of CO2 in prior centuries using 80.000 Pettenkofer titrimetric process measurements were reasonably accurate but were not properly sited to create a global average. Too often measurements in urban areas and those are meaningless for creating a global average CO2 statistic.

No valid data were cancelled. You are barking up the wrong tree. Of all the climate data currently available, the CO2 level since 1958 is likely to be the most accurate. More accurate than average temperature statistics. Your questions are puzzling.

CO2 is well distributed in the atmosphere, with seasonal variations.

The Hawaii CO2 measurements are valid for a global average. CO2 measurements are made by two independent CO2 monitoring programs (NOAA and Scripps) at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, about 3400 meters above sea level.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  DMacKenzie
February 26, 2023 9:27 am

100% manmade CO2 increased the CO2 from 280ppm to 420ppm

Nature (oceans, land and plants remain a CO2 absorber)

Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 10:02 am

Bollox. Usual drivel from you.

Reply to  HotScot
February 26, 2023 10:50 am

The usual insults from you in response to known climate science.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
February 26, 2023 9:59 am

So the increase of CO2 from 280 to 410 ppm is mostly human-caused in origin.

Absolute bollox.

Atmospheric CO2 has been in the thousands of ppm in the past. How did that happen without humans?

Furthermore, until mankind can establish the precise number of volcanoes/fissures/vents etc. on the worlds ocean seabeds and beneath ice sheets, expelling a variety of gasses, then we can never reliably assess what contributes to increased atmospheric CO2.

Reply to  HotScot
February 26, 2023 11:08 am

How did that happen without humans?
It did happen without humans,
so why would you care?

The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s early atmosphere decreased because it was used by plants and algae for photosynthesis, dissolved in the oceans, and formed fossil fuels underground.
“For the Late Triassic and earlier Jurassic (approximately 237-174 million years ago), scientists found zero evidence of polar glacial ice sheets in fossil records — likely a result of carbon dioxide levels that may have reached as high as 6,000 parts per million.

A “greenhouse Earth” is a period during which no continental glaciers exist anywhere on the planet.[6] Additionally, the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (such as water vapor and methane) are high, and sea surface temperatures (SSTs) range from 28 °C (82.4 °F) in the tropics to 0 °C (32 °F) in the polar regions.[7] Earth has been in a greenhouse state for about 85% of its history.”

Today’s tropical sea temperature is about 75 °F.
75 degrees F. holds more CO2 than 82.4 degrees C. did during a greenhouse age. That’s why atmospheric CO2 is lower now compared with when the tropical sea temperature was 82.4 degrees C. and held less dissolved CO2

Today’s polar region sea temperature is about 28.8 degrees F, compared with 32 degrees F. in a greenhouse age. That’s why atmospheric CO2 is lower now compared with when the tropical sea temperature was 32 degrees C. and held less dissolved CO2.

“Earth is now in an icehouse state, and ice sheets are present in both poles simultaneously.[6] Climatic proxies indicate that greenhouse gas concentrations tend to lower during an icehouse Earth.[13] Similarly, global temperatures are also lower under Icehouse conditions.[14] Earth then fluctuates between glacial and interglacial periods, and the size and the distribution of continental ice sheets fluctuate dramatically”
Greenhouse and icehouse Earth – Wikipedia

The Real Engineer
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 27, 2023 2:53 am

I am unable to follow you ideas because of evidence (which you ignore). You admit CO2 of 6000 ppm in the Carboniferous period, and it is likely the Earth was a little warmer at that time. We have fossils of the plant types found then, and they do not vary significantly from those found today, so it is reasonable to assume that today’s plants would not be damaged in a significant way by CO2 at 6000 ppm or any consequent temperature increase. Therefore please explain why you think a possible increase of 2 or 3 degrees is going to bring the end of the World. Surely such is impossible, in the face of actual science?

Reply to  The Real Engineer
February 27, 2023 7:42 am

You just struck out twice. I should not reply because you are a dishonest person. But I do not want people like you putting words into my mouth — a fraudulent misrepresentation of my comments — with the sole, devious purpose of claiming I was wrong.

You accused me of ignoring evidence and did not say what evidence I ignored. Strikeout one.

You falsely claimed that I think “a possible increase of 2 or 3 degrees is going to bring the end of the World”. That is a lie. Strikeout two.

I have never said that, or anything resembling that statement, in my 25 years of following climate science. How dare you misrepresent my comments.

In fact, since the late 1990s I have advocated for 750pm to 1500ppm CO2 in the troposphere to better fuel C3 plants, which evolved with an average CO2 level of about 1000ppm. That means I expect NO DAMAGE to humans from increasing CO2 levels, simply because CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas above 400ppm. So, in conclusion: Up your nose with a rubber hose.
That is an Ad Hominem Argument

William Howard
Reply to  William Howard
February 26, 2023 8:22 am

As Dennis Prager likes to say – so what – the amount in the atmosphere from fossil fuels is still minuscule and couldn’t have any effect on anything – every day each human emits 2 lbs of CO2, not to mention trillions of breathing animals – increases in world population are probably a bigger reason for any increases – but – so what

Reply to  William Howard
February 26, 2023 9:32 am

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from manmade CO2 emissions is about 33% and that increase from 280ppm to 420ppm (_50%) very likely caused some global warming simply because CO2 is a proven greenhouse gas and a +50% increase is not small potatoes. Obviously not much warming and no one was harmed,

The ankle biters will soon be here to claim ‘you can’t prove CO2 did anything, therefore we claim it did nothing’. They are boozers and three-time losers.

Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 10:26 am

simply because CO2 is a proven greenhouse gas

Amongst every other environmental consideration, you accept the overly simplistic proposition that man made CO2 is the culprit of warming.

The “ankle biters” on here are mostly entirely receptive to the proposition that atmospheric CO2 may cause some warming, but then most are familiar with Happer’s work which informs us that it’s effects are logarithmic and have probably declined to largely inconsequential.

Your juvenile condemnation of anyone who doesn’t agree with you is pathetic.

Reply to  HotScot
February 26, 2023 11:13 am

Your insults are pathetic. You read my comments in spite of the fact that you don’t like them, misinterpret them, and then personally insult me, HotSpud.

CO2 increases impede Earth’s ability to cool itself. I never said how much warming CO2 caused because that number is unknown. It is also harmless. Based on lab experiments more CO2 always causes some amount of warming. That does not contradict Happer’s work at all. You are a CO2 denier.

Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 7:59 pm

CO2 decreases Earth’s ability to cool itself, not increases.

Reply to  William Howard
February 26, 2023 11:16 am

I like Dennis Prager a lot because he says leftists ruin everything they touch. During the recent blackout here in Michigan I listened to Prager on my transistor radio for several hours..

… But the amount of CO2 humans and animals exhale is irrelevant.
Indeed, a growing animal is basically a machine that converts plants into flesh. So, since all the carbon dioxide we exhale originated in carbon dioxide captured by plants during photosynthesis, we are not disturbing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by breathing.

February 26, 2023 7:42 am

What a pity that the author did not first correct the 97% consensus fable.

Reply to  cuddywhiffer
February 26, 2023 9:35 am

There is a 97% consensus that CO2 is a greenhouse gas — probably a 99% consensus. The 97% surveys spin the results to claim 97% means 97% of scientists support the IPCC predictions of climate doom., which is a lie. A 2022 survey done by libertarians found that 59% of scientists do believe in CAGW, WHICH IS 59 PERCENTAGE POINTS TOO MANY.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 10:28 am

The 97% surveys spin the results to claim 97% means 97% of scientists support the IPCC predictions of climate doom.,

What “surveys” (plural) are you referring to – specifically?

Reply to  HotScot
February 26, 2023 11:29 am

There are four of them. I wrote four articles about them a long time ago but can’t find them. They are all baloney anyway.

Sometimes just reading abstracts of carefully selected studies as if that’s the same as reading the whole study.
Misinterpreting the studies.
For example I have read about 300 CO2 enrichment plant growth studies and recommended one page summaries of 8 of them today (link below) . For each study the authors examine plant growth with higher CO2 levels. But the 97% surveys tend to claim the plant studies MUST agree with the IPCC simply because they “believe” in higher COI2 levels in the future. Which is nonsense.
Honest Climate Science and Energy: The best climate science and energy articles I read today, February 26, 2023

The 97% surveys tend to completely Ignore skeptic scientists.

But the worst problem was wording the questions so that if you think humans have any effect on the climate, no matter how small, you become categorized as a CAGW & IPCC believer.

So when I answer the survey questions honestly, I become part of the 97% even though believe CO2 is beneficial for plants, and is so harmless for humans that I advocate for 750ppm to 1500ppm CO2 in the atmosphere to better fuel C3 plants. Yet I’m still in the 97%. Meaning the surveys are baloney. … But they were done by leftists, so we knew that anyway.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Mark BLR
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 27, 2023 5:33 am

The 97% surveys spin the results to claim 97% means 97% of scientists support the IPCC predictions of climate doom …

No, it is the media, both “mainstream” and “social”, that do the spinning.

The original “97% survey” was Doran and Zimmerman (2009).

That paper gave the questions posed, and the overall response rate, as :

This brief report addresses the two primary questions of the survey, which contained up to nine questions (the full study is given by Kendall Zimmerman [2008]):

1. When compared with pre-­1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

With 3146 individuals completing the survey, the participant response rate for the survey was 30.7%. This is a typical response rate for Web-­based surveys [Cook et al., 2000; Kaplowitz et al., 2004].

NB : They never define, or quantify, what “significant” actually means in this context.

They reported the results as follows :

Results show that overall, 90% of participants answered “risen” to question 1 and 82% answered yes to question 2.

In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-­reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2.

The actual survey simply “reported” the numbers.

It was the media headlines, written by journalists and newspaper editors, that “reported” to the general public that :
“97% of scientists agree that global warming is human-caused and dangerous

They went from a total of 3146 responders to the answers given by just 77 “experts”, a now standard variant of the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy.

– – – – –

PS : Attached is a screenshot from the Cook et al (2013) paper.

They accurately “reported” that 32.6% of all the abstracts they “analysed” actually explicitly endorsed their variant of “the AGW consensus”, but that 66.4% expressed “No AGW position”.

They also “reported” that 97.1% of a specific subset of those papers, the ones that expressed a definite “position”, fell into the “Endorse AGW” camp.

Do you remember the media headlines at the time ?

Reply to  Mark BLR
February 27, 2023 7:52 am

The 97% was cherry picked from a small subset of papers.

I do not believe anyone with knowledge actually read the papers. Just the abstracts. Bad methodology.

Nor were papers and authors selected without bias.

The word significantly is not defined for a reason — to confuse respondents.

I think manmade causes of climate change could have been significant, or minor, in the past 40 years, so I had to answer yes.

The authors of the surveys used improperly worded questions and failed to correct media claims about what their surveys showed.

In my opinion the people conducting the surveys started with a conclusion that at least 90% to 95% of scientists supported the IPCC consensus and worked to find or exceed that percentage.

Not that science is based on a popularity survey.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Mark Luhman
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 27, 2023 8:45 pm

The real question is why 100% don’t believe the climate is changing. it is and it always has. The real question is how much it’s changing and which way and in what time period. Lastly why. If you tell me you know it is mostly due to CO2 I will tell you you are a hack. Our measurement of climate change are in the error bar range. Our understand why CO2 increases and decreased past and present are only guesses.

Joseph Zorzin
February 26, 2023 8:03 am

“How did we come to the point where the world’s leaders and much of the global population think that we urgently need to reduce fossil fuel emissions in order to prevent bad weather?”

I dunno- I seriously doubt that “much of the global population” thinks that. I bet most give this subject hardly any thought at all- too busy having a life.

Otherwise, I like this article very much. I just watched her discussion with Jordan Peterson.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Zorzin
John Hultquist
February 26, 2023 8:38 am

 Wicked Science is an Australian television series, which debuted on 24 February 2004. The series focuses on . . .

February 26, 2023 9:06 am

I stopped reading after this phrase at the beginning of a sentence:
“The climate change problem … ”

I can not take an author seriously after reading that phrase.

There is no climate problem.

The current climate is wonderful and has been getting better since the coldest decade of the Maunder Minimum period — the 1690s.

The global warming from 1975 to 2015 made the climate better, with more moderate temperatures in colder nations, mainly in the six coldest months of the year and mainly at TMIN.

A continuation of the 1975 to 2015 pattern and timing of warming would be further good news.

The lack of global warming in the 2015 to 2023 period (UAH data), in spite of the largest 8 years increase of CO2, was disappointing. I hope the warming resumes.

Adding CO2 to the atmosphere accelerates C3 plant growth and that means more food for humans and animals.

In my 25 years of climate science and energy reading, I have never found a climate problem, except one: People who falsely claim there is a climate problem.

Based on climate proxy reconstructions, I believe the current climate is the best climate in at least 5,000 years, since the Holocene Climate Optimum ended. What climate problem?

The climate of our planet does not get much better than this for humans, animals and plants. The only climate problem is people claiming there is a climate problem, refusing to debate their beliefs, and imposing their expensive, infeasible Nut Zero panic reaction to a non-existent climate problem.

Ms. Curry’s problem is she frequently talks about a climate problem in her articles, but never even attempts to define what that mysterious problem is. She seems to imply that something bad could happen, at some unspecified time in the future, but we don’t know what it will be. That’s not science, in my opinion. It’s claptrap. And that’s why I never recommend a J. Curry article to others.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 10:36 am

When you put your mind to it you can produce some reasonable post’s.

So why continually descend to childish taunts and insults, including having a puerile rant at Charles Rotter some time ago?

Reply to  HotScot
February 26, 2023 11:35 am

What mind? You mistake my humor for a puerile rant. That is common because I am a graduate of the Lame School of Comedy. I have given Charles a hard time before and didn’t get censored, so why not do it again, once a year — maybe I entertained him? Thank you for the complement, but it was more fun when we were taunting and insulting each other, HotSpud.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 12:31 pm

Keep reading, Richard. Stop with the arrogance. It is a “problem” in the classic sense.

Kids go to math class. Teacher introduces the next concept and provides examples of how to implement the concept. At the end of class, teacher assigns the class to work the odd or even problems at the end of the section as overnight homework.

Understanding climate and the appropriate policy response, if any, are problems to be solved. Will we warm or cool? What magnitude? How fast? Will it be a net benefit or harm? Can we even know with any confidence? Should we mitigate rising greenhouse gases, or is it unnecessary? If so, by what means? How fast? Should we instead rank climate as a low and slow risk (if any) and redirect research and funding toward existing, known hazards that pose greater harms and that have plausible, affordable solutions (e.g., energy poverty; sanitation; disease prevention and control, water supply, etc. – the Bjorn Lomborg approach).

Climate aside, the real and urgent problem is the rapid drift toward regressive, soft totalitarianism and the loss of freedom and liberty as endowed by our Creator. Suppression of ideas and speech; “cancel culture”; abuse of power; abandonment of truth and ethics. The CAGW narrative is merely one manifestation. Throw in Diversity, Inclusion & Equity (DIE), Environment, Social & Governance (ESG), gender confusion, divisiveness (race, sex, ethnicity), sexual perversion, child sacrifice (abortion), and religious persecution, and you have a toxic, deadly formula that threatens to destroy Western culture.

Reply to  pflashgordon
February 26, 2023 8:12 pm

Ignoring your opening insults, an internet tradition that says more about you than about me, you ask a lot of questions and provide no answers. But you miss the most obvious questions:

Is there a climate problem?

Can the future climate be predicted?

Why should money and labor hours be spent investigating a climate problem with no evidence it exists?

Won’t alternative uses for that mainly wasted climate-related money and labor hours provide more benefit for humanity?

How about helping the one billion people with no electricity, or intermittent electricity?

“Climate aside, the real and urgent problem is the rapid drift toward regressive, soft totalitarianism and the loss of freedom and liberty as endowed by our Creator.”

That’s the real problem. Climate scaremongering is a tool to reach that goal of totalitarianism. I’m not into the Creator angle, as an atheist, and I wouldn’t call totalitarianism “soft”. But people deserve as much freedom as possible, while reality is moving swiftly in the opposite direction.

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 1:42 pm

She like all climate scientists needs a climate problem to study. There’s not much money in studying non-problems. I don’t have a problem with $billions being wasted on searching for an elusive climate problem. It’s the $trillions wasted on wind and solar, an unworkable solution for a non-existent problem.

Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
February 26, 2023 8:18 pm

Spending many billions of dollars searching for a climate problem strongly implies there is a climate problem to be found and encourages predictions of a coming climate problem.

Scientists want to be published, so if being paid to find a climate problem, they will find problems, whether they are real problems (unlikely), or imaginary problems (so far 100% of climate predictions).

Money can direct and corrupts science.

And then we get Nut Zero, which will be a big problem.

Reply to  Richard Greene
February 26, 2023 5:32 pm

“I stopped reading after this phrase at the beginning of a sentence:
“The climate change problem … ”
I can not take an author seriously after reading that phrase.

There is no climate problem.”

Climate is certainly a problem in many locations in the world, where floods, cyclones, extreme heat and/or extreme cold occur on a fairly regular basis which can slowly change over long periods of several decades.

The problem of ‘climate change’ that Judith Curry is referring to, is the problem due to many scientists and politicians attributing every extreme weather event to a change in climate, and deluding themselves and the public that a reduction in our CO2 emissions will solve the problem, when it will likely do the opposite and create other problems such as increased poverty and increased damage from extreme weather events.

We have the technology to protect ourselves from such extreme events, but not the required energy to implement the technology if we stop using fossil fuels.

Reply to  Vincent
February 26, 2023 8:29 pm

Climate is certainly a problem in many locations in the world.

But floods and cyclones are weather events, not climate

Landfalling US hurricanes have been in a decreasing trend since the 1800s

Pacific Ocean cyclones near Japan have been in a decreasing trend since at least the 1950s

Extreme cold has been less likely since 1975, except in Antarctica

The 1975 to 2015 global warming has not caused many new TMAX records in the world — mainly new TMIN records.

The climate is not perfect at every location in the world and never will be.

But the overall climate of our planet is about as good as it gets

Ms. Curry consistently writes about a climate problem.
There is no problem with the actual global climate.

The belief that there is a climate problem is ruining climate science, which should be about better understanding PAST and PRESENT climate changes, based on data.

Instead, climate science is mainly wrong predictions of the FUTURE climate, with no data.

Peta of Newark
February 26, 2023 9:14 am

Just to sum up what a train-wreck (ferry sinking) it is….

Quote:”One said: “You just don’t order ships without consulting with the port?”

Reply to  Peta of Newark
February 26, 2023 10:44 am

Forkin eejits.

Get Woke – Go Broke.

Ron Long
February 26, 2023 9:23 am

If humans are adding CO2 to the atmosphere why did the increase continue during the covid pandemia world-wide slowdown? Additional CO2 added to the atmosphere, by whatever mechanism, is only a theory that causes increased atmospheric temperature, where is the scientific proof of this theory (important because of forcings and feedbacks associated with various atmospheric gases)? and the biggee: if 40 meters higher and 140 meters lower sea level, compared to current, as a marker of the temperature state of the earth, where is a valid signal of variance against natural variation? Sure, Judith Curry is a fairly reasonable person, but she is not entitled to invent scientific facts.

Reply to  Ron Long
February 26, 2023 11:41 am

The entire planet did not stop moving for three months during the 2020 lockdowns — just the stupid nations.

If there was no increase of CO2 emissions since 1850, the average temperature today would be either higher or lower than in 1850. Not that we really know what the 1850 average temperature was !

With a CO2 increase the average since 1850 was more likely to be higher than lower. So what?

Judith’s problem is claiming the climate is a problem. She seems like a nice person and features some good writers on her website, such as The Planning Engineer.

February 26, 2023 12:20 pm

“In physical science a first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”
— Lord Kelvin

February 26, 2023 1:30 pm

I have always struggled with Judith Curry. I could never figure out why, her views make sense to me, I can’t find fault with them. So what is my problem? Reading her presentation it finally dawned on me what my problem is. It’s like watching a movie, the man and woman are on the verge of finally kissing but it never quite happens. You know they both want to kiss but somehow it is not to be. What is keeping me on the edge of my seat, on pins and needles is that I want her to say what is obvious, the climate alarmists are liars and cheats and we shouldn’t listen to a thing they say. We need to stop all this nonsense and move on. I’m afraid Judith is too kind a creature to satisfy my need to trash these knuckledraggers.

Reply to  Bob
February 26, 2023 8:33 pm

I want her to say what is obvious, the climate alarmists are liars and cheats and we shouldn’t listen to a thing they say

You got it right !
I just want Curry to say there is no climate problem and predictions of a climate problem have been wrong since 1979.

I’m afraid she has a private business which causes a financial conflict of interest — such definitive climate statements will not be forthcoming. She also writes like a Ph.D. I prefer writing like a 16 year-old would.

February 26, 2023 5:13 pm

If we’re talking risk, the real risk isn’t global warming, it’s global nuclear annihilation.

Reply to  nailheadtom
February 26, 2023 8:35 pm

Risk of death is 100%

Eating right and exercising doesn’t lower the odds.

A proxy war with Russia with Biden in charge is scary.

Paul Stevens
February 27, 2023 4:50 am

Wow. The preprint price on Canadian Amazon is almost $150.00. Probably worth it, but I think I will wait for some time beyond June 2023 to buy it.

Norman Page
February 27, 2023 12:56 pm

Judith.  The IPCC and UNFCCC post- modern science establishment’s “consensus” is that a modelled future increase in CO2 levels is the main threat to human civilization. This is an egregious error of scientific judgement. The length of time used in making the models is much too small . The system response time of chief current interest is clearly Millennial .Forecasts at this time scale are blindingly obvious by simple inspection.. The shorter the time scale the more “wicked ” the problem.
 A Millennial Solar ” Activity” Peak in 1991 correlates with the Millennial Temperature Peak at 2003/4 with a 12/13 year delay because of the thermal inertia of the oceans. Since that turning point Earth has entered a general cooling trend which will last for the next 700+/- years.
See Figs 1,2,3,4 at and quotes from
“3 The Millennial Temperature Cycle Peak.
 Short term deviations from the solar activity and temperature cycles are driven by ENSO events and volcanic activity.

&nbspcomment image

Fig 2 Correlation of the last 5 Oulu neutron cycles and trends with the Hadsst3 temperature     trends and the 300 mb Specific Humidity. ( 8,9 )     

The Oulu Cosmic Ray count in Fig.2C shows the decrease in solar activity since the 1991/92 Millennial Solar Activity Turning Point and peak There is a significant secular drop to a lower solar activity base level post 2007+/- and a new solar activity minimum late in 2009. In Figure 2 short term temperature spikes are colored orange and are closely correlated to El Ninos. The hadsst3gl temperature anomaly at 2037 is forecast to be + 0.05. 
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is .058% by weight. That is one 1,720th of the whole. It is inconceivable thermodynamically that such a tiny tail could wag so big a dog. There is no anthropogenic CO2 caused climate crisis……………………………………..
“2. Climate – Basic Science.
Earth’s climate is the result of resonances and beats between the phases of natural cyclic processes of varying wavelengths and amplitudes. At all scales, including the scale of the solar planetary system, sub-sets of oscillating systems develop synchronous behaviors which then produce changing patterns of periodicities in time and space in the emergent temperature data. The periodicities pertinent to current estimates of future global temperature change fall into two main categories:
a) The orbital long wave Milankovitch eccentricity, obliquity and precession cycles. These control the glacial and interglacial periodicities and the amplitudes of the corresponding global temperature cycles.
b) Solar activity cycles with multi-millennial, millennial, centennial and decadal time scales.
The most prominent solar activity and temperature cycles are : Schwab-11+/-years ; Hale-22 +/-years ; 3 x the Jupiter/Saturn lap cycle 60 years +/- :; Gleissberg 88+/- ; de Vries – 210 years+/-; Millennial- 960-1020 +/-. ………………………
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is .058% by weight. That is one 1,720th of the whole. It is inconceivable thermodynamically that such a tiny tail could wag so big a dog. There is no anthropogenic CO2 caused climate crisis……………………………………..
Stallinga 2020 (14) concludes: ” The atmosphere is close to thermodynamic equilibrium and based on that we……… find that the alleged greenhouse effect cannot explain the empirical data—orders of magnitude are missing. ……Henry’s Law—outgassing of oceans—easily can explain all observed phenomena.” CO2 levels follow temperature changes. CO2 is the dependent variable and there is no calculable consistent relationship between the two. The uncertainties and wide range of out-comes of model calculations of climate radiative forcing (RF) arise from the improbable basic assumption that anthropogenic CO2 is the major controller of global temperatures.
 Miskolczi 2014 (15) in “The greenhouse effect and the Infrared Radiative Structure of the Earth’s Atmosphere “says “The stability and natural fluctuations of the global average surface temperature of the heterogeneous system are ultimately determined by the phase changes of water.”
 AleksanderZhitomirskiy 2022,(16) says:
“The molar heat capacities of the main greenhouse and non-greenhouse gases are of the same order of magnitude. Given the low concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, their contribution to temperature change is below the measurement error. It seems that the role of various gases in the absorption of heat by the atmosphere is determined not by the ability of the gas to absorb infrared radiation, but by its heat capacity and concentration. ” 
Zaichun Zhul et al 2016 (17) in Greening of the Earth and its drivers report “a persistent and widespread increase of growing season integrated Leaf Area Index (greening) over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated area from 1982 – 2009. ………. C02 fertilization effects explain 70% of the observed greening trend.”
 Policies which limit CO2 emissions or even worse sequester CO2 in quixotic CCS green-washing schemes would decrease agricultural food production and are antithetical to the goals of feeding the increasing population and bringing people out of poverty.
 The tropical rain forests and tropical oceans are the main source of the atmosphere’s water vapor and the rainfall essential to life and agriculture on land. Potable and agricultural water supplies are now stretched to their limits in many areas because of the differing national demographics of global population increase. Temperature limits and Net Zero CO2 targets as set in the Paris Accords to ameliorate future temperatures are completely useless when formulating policies relative to adaptation to the actual real world problems. These require more local inputs for particular regional ecosystems delineated by coastlines, major river basins and mountain range limited intra-continental divides.”

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