The “climate risk denial” label


The surge in views of a couple days ago came from both sides of the debate. The post was apparently shared by skeptics as well as alarmists, but of course different things were emphasized. The skeptical side linked the post itself. The alarmist side picked just one of the things that Tol said (agreed, it was not smart thing to say), ignoring all the rest.

When following a link from the WordPress Dashboard, I landed on an alarmist blog and found the link to my post in the comments section. There was also a interesting reaction: the question why someone found it necessary to put a link to a “climate risk denial” article? That “climate risk denial” article being my post of course.

I must admit that I am really amazed with the many ridiculous ways “denial” is being labeled. I heard many of those before, like “climate denier” (how can one deny climate!?!?), “science denier” (as far as I know, skeptics don’t deny science), “climate change denier” (strange, skeptics believe in climate change, not in the way that alarmists believe though) or “global warming denier” (most skeptics believe that temperatures have risen). The current “climate risk denier” label was however new to me.

Problem with that label is that climate risks are not denied in the article. Personally I don’t deny that the climate imposes some risks. There have always been risk involving the climate. History tells us that this is not exactly new. Even the linked article acknowledged that there are risks involved with for example sea level rise, but that these could be countered by developed nations like the Netherlands and that therefor it was better to solve poverty (making people economically better so they are better prepared in case catastrophic events do occur), than to try to drastically limit emissions in the hope that this will stabilize the climate. In my opinion, it boils down to how certain or uncertain we think we are of the effects of our additional CO2 emissions in the complex, coupled, chaotic system that is our climate.

There is a way to make sense of this “climate risk denial” label. Just substitute “climate risk” by “catastrophic anthropogenic climate change risk” and, well, my post and the article it is based on, are guilty as charged.

I personally don’t think the post was a “climate risk denial article”. It doesn’t deny that there is a risk, but it doesn’t agree that we know that the risk is high. In that regard I think this label is no better than the other ones that also don’t cover what they try to describe.

3 thoughts on “The “climate risk denial” label

  1. mpcraig

    What I’ve always wondered is how they are going to quantify the mitigations that climate policies are supposed to provide. When you identify a problem and propose and implement a solution, there’s usually a way of seeing if you are getting positive results. That way you can either modify the solution to make it better or abandon it as a failure and either try something else of re-examine if you identified the problem correctly in the first place.

    I see none of this being discussed with the exception of limiting warming to 2C (or 1.5C depending on who you ask). But even then, what do achieving this limit mean with regard to climate (or weather more likely)?

    And how are we going to know if nature has any impact on achieving or not achieving such a limit? So many questions, yet the the train is going ahead full steam anyways with very little discussion of any of these questions.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      That is an excellent question. I also wondered about that many times before. My guess is that such a feedback system will be impossible to implement, because the positive effects of our current policies are only expected somewhere in the (far) future. Nobody expects emissions to decrease any time soon and (if assumed that CO2 is really the driver) then the consequences of our emissions will still continue to last for a while after peak emission is reached.


    2. poitsplace

      Its impossible because they have never figured out what the actual climate sensitivity is. As it stands, the IPCC’s stance on sensitivity is that its “likely” (66% probability) between 1.5C and 4.5C. Basically, in their opinion and from the limited information they have on the climate system, they think there’s a good chance probability lies within 1.5C and 4.5C.

      Its kind of like that quote from The Naked Gun “Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that.” The reality of the climate issue is this…100% of the consequences…are wild, poorly supported speculation, and its essentially certain that many of them are wrong. Actual human history implies a warmer world is better for humans and life in general.

      The costs of mitigating it are absurd, with all real-world attempts at implementing them indicating that the actual costs are far higher than was expected…and INCREASING in cost/complexity as use of renewables increases. On the other hand, adaptation takes generations…and with such high upkeep on the world anyway, most of the structures will be due for repairs, upgrades, or replacement anyway by 2100…which means their adaptation costs, if any, will be a part of normal maintenance.

      So its impossible to really know how much it will mitigate or how much that really saves.



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