I ought to be inured to irritation about proposed climate disasters, but I’m not. The World Bank has just issued a report that purports to tell us that we are on track for disaster and must turn aside from our fossil-fuel-burning ways. It says that to do so is not just ecologically responsible, but ‘makes good economic sense’ too. Why it does that, which is surely counter-intuitive, is not plain.
What does the World Bank know about ‘climate change’, you ask. Well, not a lot. But it commissioned this report, which comes with the usual disclaimers, that its accuracy cannot be guaranteed, that it is not the work of the Bank, and that it does not necessarily represent the views of its Board. Who then did the work? A well-known German climate body, The Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, a keen player in climate science orthodoxy. Why did the Bank think that it should enter this field? That is not clear, but the new head of the Bank, Dr Jim Yong Kim, hopes that ‘this report shocks us into action’.
I have written before about the scare-mongering that goes on in this field, and the lack of caution that accompanies it. Jim Yong Kim’s Foreword gets top marks in this hotly contested field. Let me give examples from his Foreword, which is only 700 words or so long.
‘This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.’ Where did this 4 degree Celsius figure come from? Not even the IPCC’s last report proposed this. It is a possibility, of course — almost anything is — but that scientists are ‘nearly unanimously predicting’ it is just rubbish. How could the head of the World Bank put his name to such nonsense?
‘The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.’ I would have thought that this claim simply reverses the obvious one — that it is the poor who have most to lose by being told that they cannot have cheap energy from fossil fuels. And which were the ‘decades of sustainable development’?
‘The science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming’ Science is unequivocal about very little, and the human cause of global warming is not one example. I would think that the correct statement is that human activity is likely to be responsible for some of the warming that seems to have occurred in the last 150 years, but we are unable to distinguish the effects of human activity from ‘natural variability’.
‘major changes are already being observed: global mean warming is 0.8°C above pre industrial levels; oceans have warmed by 0.09°C since the 1950s and are acidifying; sea levels rose by about 20 cm since pre-industrial times and are now rising at 3.2 cm per decade; an exceptional number of extreme heat waves occurred in the last decade; major food crop growing areas are increasingly affected by drought.‘ Each one of these statements is disputable: the data and the arguments on all these measures are equivocal. You would imagine from such a statement that the world was once stable and safe, and has begun to be unstable and unsafe. That is not the case. The earth’s climate is never settled and secure, and what we are observing is not out of the ordinary.
‘We are well aware of the uncertainty that surrounds these scenarios and we know that different scholars and studies sometimes disagree on the degree of risk. But the fact that such scenarios cannot be discarded is sufficient to justify strengthening current climate change policies.’ What can you say about such a claim? The scenarios come from computer modelling, and I would say, about economics as well as about climate, that projections for the end of the century, 88 years from now, should be treated with little more than polite interest.
‘This report is a stark reminder that climate change affects everything.’ What does that mean? It is simply a piece of scare-mongering. What if I said that ‘the price of energy affects everything’? That is much more true, and effects many more people. And the report is not a ‘stark reminder’ of anything.
All in all, this is a lamentable introduction to a report that takes one possibility, and blows it up into a real likelihood, without considering the other possibilities, with the intent of scaring the pants off us. And wait for it: you will soon hear people say, ‘Oh, well if the World Bank says so…’