Tag Archives: Moving goalposts

More doom stories from The Guardian

This is the follow-up of on previous post in which I discussed a Guardian article of October 2006, claiming that we only had ten years to save the planet “from mankind”. This was only one article in a string of others that I found having the same structure: number of time left to save the world/planet.

Fast forward two years.

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Ten years to save the planet from mankind?

When researching previous post, I came across the article in the Guardian on James Hansen stating that “Obama had only four years to halt devastating climate change”. When I finished that post, I wondered how many other similar claims (in the form of “number of years/months to save the planet/world”) were there in Guardian articles.

As expected there were more than the one I accidentally bumped into. This post will be about the first article I found, there will be a follow-up post on the others.

That first article that I found is titled “Ten years to save the planet from mankind“, written by Gaby Hinsliff and published on 29 Oct 2006. Its subject is the Stern report that was published a day later (it is striking how the Guardian succeeds to know what is in a report before it is published). It was initially not really clear what the “from mankind” in the title is about.

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Doom prediction amnesia

One of the things that became abundantly clear in a previous post is how incredibly easy it is replace past failed predictions by a brand new one, even when incompatible with the failed prediction. There was the example of a Belgian activist who in 2008 claimed that we only had ten year left to avert tipping points by limiting the temperature increase to 2 °C, but in 2018 -when we horribly failed to reach that target- he made a new prediction that we now had another ten years to prevent tipping points by limiting the temperature increase to … 1.5 °C.

In that post, I also noticed the similarity between this prediction and the prediction by Andrew Simms and his onehundredmonths campaign. Both claimed that 2 °C had to be averted otherwise we were in for tipping points, pointed to the authority of the IPCC to justify their claim, both started their campaign roughly at the same time (2008), both had a hard deadline in the near future for this to happen (100 months for Simms, 10 years for Balthazar). The deadlines expired without reaching the goal in both cases and both adopted a new target: limiting to 1.5 °C temperature increase, basically forgetting about their previous claim. Simms learned his lesson and didn’t propose a new deadline anymore. Balthazar apparently wasn’t that smart and adopted another, rather close-by, target date (2030). I wonder what new claim he will make when his current prediction will not materialize (odds are that it will not materialize, because his claim is not substantiated by the report he claims it is based on).

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(Another) ten years to prevent disaster?

Today is the 11 year anniversary of a four minute, super alarmist, clip called the The Big Ask (Dutch ahead). It was produced as an incentive for our politicians to “act now” on climate change. Central point of the clip is the tipping point when reaching a 2°C temperature increase threshold (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

The Big Ask 20191126: two degrees

If the temperature keeps rising, two degrees warmer at a certain moment, then it happens: then the planet starts to warm itself up, faster and faster and faster. That’s what they call the tipping point. Then we can not do anything anymore. Then it is totally out of our hands, say the professors. But they also say this: we now have between four and ten years to ensure that we do not reach that turning point.

The mathematically gifted among us will be able to confirm that 2008 + 10 = 2018, bringing the deadline that the problem could be fixed to (November) 2018. Meaning, already behind us.

The director of that clip appeared in a current affairs program of December 16, 2018, just beyond that deadline and, remarkably, this is what he said about the tipping point (translated from Dutch):

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