Swiss Lemmings

Guest Post By Willis Eschenbach

Turns out that lemmings have nothing on humans when it comes to following the next guy over the cliff. When I was a kid and I wanted to do something, I’d tell my mom “But mom, the other kids are doing it!” And her reply was invariably “If your friends were jumping off a cliff, do you think you should jump off too?”

Sadly, these days more often than not the answer seems to be “Absolutely, it’s the only way to save the planet!” … here’s the latest.

Swiss voters support climate bill as scientists warn about melting glaciers

June 19, 20233:22 AM ET

By The Associated Press

Matthias Huss, a glaciologist and head of the Swiss measurement network ‘Glamos’, for ETH (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) walks up to the Rhone Glacier near Goms, Switzerland, Friday, June 16, 2023.

Matthias Schrader/AP

BERLIN — A majority of Swiss citizens on Sunday voted in favor of a bill aimed at introducing new climate measures to sharply curb the rich Alpine nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s a translation.

BERLIN — A majority of Swiss citizens on Sunday voted in favor of a bill requiring them to follow the Germans who are jumping off an Alpine cliff …

(In passing, let me say how impressed I am with the composition and the subtle message of the photo of the Swiss glaciologist carrying his Cross on the way to Golgotha … but I digress …)

So let’s look at what the real effects of this Swiss climate bill might be. And rather than guessing about the future climate, let’s examine the past. For the purposes of this discussion, suppose that Switzerland had never emitted a single molecule of CO2.

What difference would that have made to the 2023 temperature?

To get an idea of the scope of the question, here’s the record of the Swiss CO2 emissions since 1850, from the CO2 database maintained by Our World In Data.

Figure 1. Swiss CO2 emissions since 1858.

Looks pretty impressive, right? Emissions peaked in 1973, ran basically flat until about 2010, and have been dropping since then. The Swiss have been successful in reducing their emissions from the peak. What’s not to like?

To answer that question, let’s put Swiss and World CO2 emissions on the same graph. Figure 2 shows that result.

Figure 1. CO2 emissions, Switzerland and the rest of the world, since 1858. Note that this is the exact same Swiss data shown in Figure 1.

Ooogh … the grand Swiss accomplishment doesn’t seem too impressive out here in the real world.

With that as a prelude, let’s answer my question posed above, viz, if Switzerland had never emitted a single molecule of CO2, what difference would that have made to the 2023 temperature?

To do that, we need to calculate how much the atmospheric concentration of CO2 goes up for each gigatonne (109 tonnes) of CO2 emitted. For that, we need to look at the cumulative sum of CO2 emitted versus the atmospheric concentration.

Figure 3. Relationship between atmospheric CO2 and cumulative CO2 emissions.

This relationship allows us to go back to the Swiss emissions data and calculate how much they’ve added to the atmospheric CO2. Once we know that, then per the IPCC figures, a doubling of atmospheric CO2 leads to a 3°C temperature change. Using those relationships, here’s the calculated temperature change from the Swiss emissions since 1858.

Figure 4. Calculated temperature change from Swiss emissions since 1858

Hmmm … call me crazy, but I’m thinking that 0.0037°C is not making much difference to the Swiss glaciers …

As the Swiss know well, the temperature drops with increasing elevation. It’s cold up there because the air cools at a rate of 1°C per 100 meters of additional elevation.

So the total Swiss emission-caused warming since 1858 is about the difference in temperature between your foot and your calf …

I wonder how many Swiss voters would have voted to spend more than 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.357 billion US) for such a pitifully small effect if they had been given this information before the election?

Sigh …

Here on the northern California coast, after endless foggy days, spring has finally arrived. In June. Of course, the grass is growing overtime, so I’m headed out to sharpen the lawnmower blade and do battle with our couple of acres of overgrown fields.

Despite all our sorrows, despite the insanity and corruption of the powers that be … life is good.

My best wishes to you and yours,


PS—Re Lemmings: Yes, I know that the story about the lemmings is just a Disney myth. From the web.

For the 1958 Disney nature film White Wilderness, filmmakers eager for dramatic footage staged a lemming death plunge, pushing dozens of lemmings off a cliff while cameras were rolling. The images—shocking at the time for what they seemed to show about the cruelty of nature and shocking now for what they actually show about the cruelty of humans—convinced several generations of moviegoers that these little rodents do, in fact, possess a bizarre instinct to destroy themselves.

And My Usual: When you comment, please quote the exact words you are discussing. I grow tired of people asking me to defend their misinterpretation of what I wrote. Thanks.

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June 21, 2023 10:13 am

Damn, until I read those last paragraphs I was morphing into Ackchyuaully guy.

John Hultquist
June 21, 2023 10:15 am

 The Swiss are having part of their CO2 emissions outsourced.
The package for the chocolate Toblerone has on it an image of a bear. The outline can be seen centered on the Matterhorn along with the story of moving some of the production to Slovakia.

Along with reducing the CO2 emissions of the Country, also, the Matterhorn image has to go.
A new image is coming. I hope they keep the bear.  

June 21, 2023 10:18 am

Always enjoy your posts. And you live in a beautiful part of the world. Too bad it’s overrun with … Californians. And 2 of them are my offspring.

June 21, 2023 10:24 am

You say: “It’s cold up there because the air cools at a rate of 1°C per 100 meters of additional elevation.”

I think that is about 40% too high but does not in any way diminish your point.

June 21, 2023 10:31 am

You should the same analysis for CA, OR. And WA. It would spread like wildfire!

Reply to  schmoozer
June 21, 2023 11:11 am

It would spread like wildfire!
Well done

Beta Blocker
Reply to  schmoozer
June 21, 2023 3:25 pm

Let’s do a highly simplistic parametric estimate using comparative populations as the estimate basis:

Per Willis’ analysis, Switzerland with a population of 8.8 million people yields a figure of 0.0037

WA – 7.8 million people
OR – 4.3 million people
CA – 38.9 million people 

WA – (7.8/8.8) (0.0037) ~= 0.003
OR – (4.3/8.8) (0.0037) ~= 0.002
CA – (38.9/8.8) (0.0037) ~= 0.016

It would appear that California has approximately five times more work to do than either Oregon or Washington in order to achieve essentially nothing even measurable in preventing future global warming.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
June 21, 2023 6:43 pm

Thank you for that comparison👍👍👍.
The stupidity of these state governments is mind-blowing.
Wa just enacted a new carbon tax on fuels, making it the most expensive state in the country. Inslee and the legislature should be prosecuted for it.

Reply to  schmoozer
June 22, 2023 3:14 am

“The stupidity of these state governments is mind-blowing.”

Why just State? All “Governments” are stupid.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  schmoozer
June 22, 2023 8:08 am

Jay Inslee isn’t running in 2024. Bob Ferguson, now the state Attorney General, is a radical climate activist and is certain to become governor in 2025.

Operating behind the scenes, Bob Ferguson is the true leader of his party, which now controls all state-level elected positions in Washington State. Ferguson decides what the state legislature’s agenda is on most matters, and Jay Inlsee is essentially his puppet.

Once he is governor, Ferguson is likely to accelerate Washington State’s transition into Net Zero, possibly by directing the state legislature to adopt a climate policy as aggressive as is New York State’s policy, using New York’s 2019 climate act as a model.

This is one more reason why we here in the US Northwest must pay close attention to the writings of Roger Caiazza and Francis Menton as they follow the progression of New York State’s transition into Net Zero.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Beta Blocker
June 22, 2023 9:47 am

There’s nothing wrong with WA, CA, NY & etc. acting as crash test dummies. Their residents keep voting for it. Along with Germany and the UK, real people need morality tales they can tell their grandchildren. Too bad they’ll all be speaking Mandarin.

real bob boder
June 21, 2023 10:33 am


You have .0037 degrees on the graph and .037 degrees in the comments after.

June 21, 2023 10:36 am

The sun’s sinusoidal luminosity variation, with a period of about a decade, has such a small effect on the earth’s energy imbalance that it is difficult to see above random noise. If the sun’s luminosity variation cannot affect the EEI, it’s hard to see how CO2 could.

Reply to  Brock
June 21, 2023 12:00 pm

Completely different mechanisms.

Reply to  MarkW
June 22, 2023 10:42 am

No, not really. Energy is energy. The only difference is the wavelength range. EEI’s insensitivity to incoming energy of any wavelength is indicative of a pretty stable system. There is certainly no indication of any sort of amplification.
By the way, I’m a physicist. I simply look at energy to see what will happen. You can’t heat things without an energy surplus.

June 21, 2023 10:44 am

Willis – we need you back on Twitter. Any word on getting the ban removed.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 22, 2023 5:23 am

Roger that.

Curious George
June 21, 2023 11:02 am

That’s excellent news. We are not more stupid than the Swiss!

Dave Fair
Reply to  Curious George
June 22, 2023 9:49 am

Celebrating a race to the bottom?

Chuck May
June 21, 2023 11:56 am


I became aware of this not too long ago. Won’t 19000 volcanoes add a lot of CO2?

A new study has been published in the journal Earth and Space Science, revealing that high-definition radar satellites have detected over 19,000 undersea volcanoes around the world. This discovery is a major breakthrough in seamount research and gives scientists the most extensive list of seamounts ever created.
19,000 Undersea Volcanoes Discovered by Satellites – GreekReport…

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Chuck May
June 21, 2023 12:31 pm

That isn’t the end of the story. It isn’t a comprehensive survey of all the oceans. In one ‘swell foop’ they nearly doubled the known number of submarine volcanoes. They aren’t done with the job.

Most of the CO2 will get dissolved into the water, especially the for the deeper volcanoes. However, besides releasing CO2, they also release heat into the water, both as higher than average geothermal gradients, and with hydrothermal fluids associated with Black Smokers.

June 21, 2023 12:01 pm

” Yes, I know that the story about the lemmings is just a Disney myth.”

Well, actually I think it may be a myth that it was a Disney myth. The idea was around before Disney cemented it with a fake film sequence.

I also think it may not be entirely a myth. They don’t engage in suicide pacts, but they might jump of cliffs and drown during times of overpopulation. They just don’t do it intentionally.

Reply to  Bellman
June 21, 2023 12:11 pm

Well, today it’s walrus jumping off a cliff. Not Disney this time as far as I am aware.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 21, 2023 1:02 pm

Try David Attenborough’s breathless Netflix documentary Willis, which showed Walruses hurling themselves off a cliff en mass. Yes, it actually showed them exhibiting a group suicide pact because – Climate Change.

It wasn’t until some time later we discover they were being pushed, by other walruses fleeing from Poly Bears. An inconvenient fact caught on camera but selectively and deliberately edited out.

Now we know. Poly Bears are Climate Change.

Cunning buggers.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  HotScot
June 22, 2023 1:48 am

Others would say: white supremacy at work …

Reply to  Eric Vieira
June 22, 2023 8:28 am


Reply to  HotScot
June 24, 2023 4:46 am

“by other walruses fleeing from Poly Bears”

Word from observers admitted that the team of Attenborough’s photographers were using drones to help herd the walruses over the cliff edge.

Large walruses tend to be unafraid of polar bears.
Polar bears are usually looking to cull out a youngster or pup for their dining.
Young adult polar bears must often learn for themselves that adult walruses are not big seals.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 21, 2023 3:02 pm

Possibly that’s it. I can find a number of references to lemmings drowning before the Disney film, but so far nothing actually saying they jumped of cliffs to do it. Maybe that was the element that Disney added.

But the descriptions I’ve seen from before Disney do suggest they go in straight lines towards the sea, including going up mountains, and ignoring easier routes. So I can see why people might have though they are jumping of cliffs, especially when combined with the idea of a deliberate mass suicide.

Reply to  Bellman
June 22, 2023 5:29 am

Searching through Google books I did find this from 1896:

But the countless and still-increasing numbers prove their own destruction. Soon the lean tundra ceases to afford employment enough for their greedy teeth. Famine threatens, perhaps actually sets in. The anxious animals crowd together and begin their march. Hundreds join with hundreds, thousands with other thousands: the troops become swarms, the swarms armies. They travel in a definite direction, at first following old tracks, but soon striking out new ones; in unending files-defying all computation—they hasten onwards; over the cliffs they plunge into the water. Thousands fall victims to want and hunger; the army behind streams on over their corpses; hundreds of thousands are drowned in the water, or are shattered at the foot of the cliffs; the remainder speed on; other hundreds and thousands fall victims to the voracity of Arctic and red foxes, wolves and gluttons, rough legged buzzards and ravens, owls and skuas which have followed them; the survivors pay no heed.

From North Pole to Equator: Studies of Wild Life and Scenes in Many LandsBy Alfred Edmund Brehm

And from the early 20th century there are a number of snippets either referring to lemmings proverbially plunging of cliffs or committing suicide. E.g. from 1942

They are like lemmings , tiny thinkers who from large groups and rush headlong over cliffs . Rash actions lead little thinkers to unfortunate ends , for who knows what is beyond those cliffs ? But then , our Commissioners have spoken ?

North Carolina Libraries, Volumes 38-39
So, I’m sticking with my point, I don’t think Disney can be accused of inventing the myth, if it is such. Just perpetuating and reinforcing it.

Mumbles McGuirck
June 21, 2023 12:17 pm

Funny that this is posted today. Tonight, for one night only….

Bob Johnston
June 21, 2023 12:21 pm

I already knew that trying to reduce CO2 emissions is pointless… the main takeaway is finding out was for just how long the folks at Disney have been evil.

Rud Istvan
June 21, 2023 12:32 pm

The same analysis would produce a similar result for Germany’s Energiewende or UKs Net Zero. Irrelevant compared to China and India, who won’t play.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 22, 2023 10:00 am

Rud, cheer on Germany and the UK; the world needs crash test dummies. The sooner they are destitute the sooner we (U.S.) will run the climate hustlers out on rails. I don’t know if we can still use tar and feathers, though, as beautiful as the idea is.

June 21, 2023 1:19 pm

Forgive the the voters, they know not what they do.

June 21, 2023 2:36 pm

There’s truth in this. Little known fact is that yodelling produces 47% more CO2 than regular singing, plus additional heat, and the process of making lederhosen adds an additional 30% more CO2 to the atmosphere on top of the usual.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  scadsobees
June 22, 2023 1:50 am

You forgot to mention all the electricity that’s needed to bore all those holes in the Swiss cheese …

michael hart
June 21, 2023 3:20 pm

I can sympathize a little bit with Swiss voters. As the owners of possibly the most beautiful country in the world, they know that flowing rivers of ice are part of the image.

Cuckoo Clocks aside, I also learned in my youth that they also used to pay farmers to keep those cutsy cows with cowbells close to the roads because it helped the tourism industry.

Given the prowess of their railway engineering feats, I’m sure they could also pump some water uphill to keep the glaciers topped up.

nb. Alpine passes are still revealing Romain remains as some ice fields retreat to levels last seen by, well, the Romans. Where Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants is still unsettled.

Reply to  michael hart
June 22, 2023 1:23 am

Michael, if you look up the voting for the citizen initiated referendum that approved the climate law you will find they have optional voting and that only 42% voted. The law was approved by 59% of the 42%. So only about 25% of citizen eligible approved the law. In Australia voting is compulsory. At the last election Greens got 10-25% of the total vote. More than half of these are activists. Other socialist inclined parties got about 33% of the first preferential vote. Maybe half of these are activists. It is likely in the Swiss vote nearly all who voted for were activists. Please remember Herr H was voted in to be chancellor on something like 33% of the vote in which many were threatened to not vote.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  cementafriend
June 22, 2023 1:57 am

The main problem is: Politicians don’t even have to take responsibility for their actions, since they can say they have “popular support”. Another problem common to Germany and Switzerland: mainstream media is heavily biased towards Government positions. Opposing arguments get rolled over by the official propaganda.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  michael hart
June 22, 2023 2:06 am

I was very enthusiastic about the Swiss popular vote as an advanced form of Democracy.
But that only works, if one has unbiased information and open discussions about the issues that are being voted on. This has been seriously missing for the last decade or so. Overton’s window has been really applied here with success.

June 21, 2023 4:21 pm

Great comment on the photo’s messaging, Charles. I’m guessing he talked about it over dinner.

June 21, 2023 6:15 pm

What is the accuracy of the most common temperature sensor being used today by the climate industry? I doubt is it accurate to 0.001-degrees.

June 21, 2023 7:07 pm

It is madness.

June 22, 2023 12:54 am

50% of humanity is dumber than the median dumb :

  • they all live in Dumbland,
  • the other 50% are mostly Chinese, African and Indian people who don’t give a sh!t about the climate clown show.

It’s with great pleasure and pride that I welcome the Swiss to Dumbland.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  Petit-Barde
June 22, 2023 2:00 am

It’s also one of the “Top” countries on the WEF’s list .. there’s a reason for that …
An extension of WEF’s slogan: You’ll be dumb and you’ll be happy !

Reply to  Petit-Barde
June 22, 2023 3:31 am

Not “dumb” = bereft of speech. Use Dumm = stupid.

June 22, 2023 3:51 am

Yes, glaciers are receding and sea levels are rising. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
But there’s a tiny, tiny problem. According to the peer reviewed science, modern global glacier retreat and sea level rise started in the 19th century. According to two studies, both started at almost precisely 1820, almost as if a switch had been thrown at the end of the Little Ice Age. After this, glacier retreat and sea level rise proceeded at a remarkably constant rate until the present. Glaciers were retreating and sea levels were rising at the same rate during the Boer war as they are today.

Clearly this had nothing at all to do with CO2 emissions. And cutting CO2 emissions will have no effect on the glaciers. And, as Willis showed, cutting Swiss emissions will have an effect on the global temperature that is so tiny as to be completely unmeasurable.

When will this madness stop?

June 22, 2023 8:12 am

We should not forget last January, when Klaus Schwab and hundreds of self-proclaimed elites of the World Economic Forum jetted themselves to the tiny ski resort at Davos (Switzerland) to tell the rest of us “deplorable” peons what we “must” do to save the planet (or more likely, to make them richer).

Davos is relatively isolated from any urban centers (about 80 miles from Zurich), with only three mountain roads leading in and out (to the SW, NE, and SE respectively), so all attendees must fly into Zurich, then burn lots of fossil fuels to drive up the mountain roads to get there. Their food must be trucked up from the valley below, and more fossil fuels must be burned to keep their hotel rooms warm in January.

Then, after burning lots of fossil fuels and emitting thousands of tons of CO2 in order to isolate themselves from the rest of us in the middle of winter, these self-proclaimed “experts” have the gall to tell the rest of us what we may and may not use for food and fuel.

What if the rest of us dare to disagree?

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