Climate activists’ final act, as they move into the last stage of grief

By Larry Kummer. Posted at the Fabius Maximus website.

Summary: Trump’s election, solidifying the Republican’s dominance at all levels of the US government, has disheartened climate activists. A new article in The Atlantic attempts to build support, but only shows the weakness of their beliefs. Perhaps the skeptics have won this round of the climate wars, but only the weather will determine which side is correct.

For 29 years advocates for public policy changes to fight climate change have struggled to convince the US public to support their agenda. They have failed. Polls show it ranks near the bottom of American’s policy priorities, and the increasingly dominant Republican Party has little interest in their recommendations.

It’s taken a while, but it looks like climate activists have worked through the process of accepting their failure. Paul Rosenberg’s January 2 article at Salon and now Meehan Crist’s article at The Atlantic suggest activists are moving into the fourth stage of the Kübler-Ross process, depression — and their leading edge is moving into the final stage of acceptance — and finding new crusades to wage.

Rosenberg’s article is discussed here. Crist’s article is less interesting, mostly just the usual throwing chaff into debate. But it is revealing in its own way. The opening is a classic tactic by climate activists.

“There has been a subtle shift recently in the rhetoric of many conservative pundits and politicians around climate change. For decades, the common refrain has been flat-out denial — either that climate change is not happening, or that any change is not caused by human activity. Which is why viewers might have been surprised to see Tucker Carlson of Fox News nodding along thoughtfully on January 6 as climate scientist Judith Curry, a controversial figure in climate science, explained, ‘Yes it’s warming and yes humans contribute to it. Everybody agrees with that, and I’m in the 98% [of scientists who agree]. It’s when you get down to the details that there’s genuine disagreement.’”

The first point is an outright lie, evident from his failure to cite any examples. Only a tiny fraction of skeptics believe that “climate change is not happening,.” The climate is always changing. As for the second, there is a fringe among climate skeptics who believe that “any change is not caused by human activity.” But the debate for the past 29 years, since James Hansen warned the Senate in 1988, is and has been about how much of the past warming is anthropogenic — and about forecasts of future temperatures. That’s true not just of skeptics (both scientists and laypeople), but among mainstream climate scientists as well. Let’s review the evidence, starting with what Curry said to Tucker Carlson.


CURRY: “…what you’re seeing is this dominant theme of human caused climate change — which is where all of the research is being directed. And far too little funding and effort going to understanding natural climate variability. That’s my concern. …It’s been warming for several hundred years. The key question is how much of the recent warming, say for the last 50 years, has been caused by humans. My interpretation of the evidence is that we really can’t tell, and I don’t see a clearer signal that is caused by humans predominantly.

“…Humans are contributing something, we don’t know how much. From the evidence that I’ve seen, I don’t think that it’s the dominant cause. …It’s warming, humans contribute to it. Everyone agrees with that, I’m in the 90%. It’s when you get down to the details that there is genuine disagreement that is really glossed over in the media.”

The Summary of Policymakers in IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I said “It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”  More relevant to attempts to control CO2 emissions, chapter 10 said “more than half of the observed increase in GMST {global mean surface temperature} from 1951 to 2010 is very likely due to the observed anthropogenic increase in GHG {greenhouse gas} concentrations.”

In a 2012 survey of approximately 6,550 scientists studying climate change, 66% believed that greenhouse gases caused over 50% of this warming. Only 12% believed GHGs caused less than 51% of this warming. Another 10% said “unknown”, 9% said “don’t know”, and 3% said other.  More interestingly, they asked how confident these scientists were in their conclusion that over 51% of the warming resulted from increased GHG: 34% were virtually certain, 32% were extremely certain, 20% said very likely, 8% said likely, Curry clearly holds a minority opinion, but has company among other climate scientists.

But activists such as Crist have good reason to focus on past warming: there is little agreement about forecasts of future warming. That is so important to hide that there are few surveys of scientists about this key point. The dynamics of future warming are the “details” that Crist tries to conceal. Curry explains at her website.

“Our ability to predict the effect of increasing CO2 is very limited.  The IPCC AR5 puts the value of equilibrium climate sensitivity between 1.5 – 4.5 C, with ‘likely’ confidence, implying significant probabilities outside this range.  Referring to this as very limited ability to predict the effect of additional CO2 on climate is not only defensible, but it is in accord with the IPCC’s own conclusion on this.”

After a long discussion of past climate (ignoring the key issues), Crist gives this astonishing quote.

“But according to Maureen Raymo of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, we know why climate changes naturally, and non-human activity can’t explain the rapid changes observed in the past century. “The Ice Ages happen due to subtle changes in the sun-earth distance that unfold over thousands of years, and which can lead to sometimes rapid climate change, when thresholds are crossed.” These cycles are still happening, but “the same factors that cause these huge Ice Age swings could not possibly be invoked to explain the warming we now see.”

Crist does not tell us who says that the same factors causing the “huge Ice Age {temperature} swings” explain the present warming. To say that climate scientists understand the cause of the massive ice ages is irrelevant to explaining the relatively tiny 2% increase since the mid-19th century (CO2 levels increased steeply only after 1950). But Crist’s analysis gets even stranger.


“As Gavin Schmidt, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Principal Investigator for the GISS ModelE Earth System Model, put it, ‘In science, nothing is ever known perfectly. Is there remaining uncertainty in the exact value of gravity? Yes. But to something like the fourth decimal place. It doesn’t matter. So the question is: Is the remaining uncertainty relevant to any policy decision anyone would want to make? And the answer is: no.’ …

“According to Schmidt, ‘To say that science isn’t settled on things people are still researching is totally irrelevant. Does the earth orbit the sun? There’s no substantial ambiguity about the answer to that question, despite the fact that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of scientists working on gravity. There are lots of interesting things about gravity, it’s just that that is not one of them. There are lots of interesting things about climate change, and adaptation, and interactions between air pollution and clouds, but they’re just not relevant to the question, which is: Is what’s going on related to humans? And the answer is: Yes, it is.’”

It is absurd to consider scientists’ understanding of gravity, with their history of remarkable predictions (e.g., the New Horizons space probe’s journey to Pluto and beyond), equivalent to their understanding of climate — with a history of false or unproven predictions. It’s the kind of exaggeration which has produced three decades of failure for climate crusaders.

There is a second level to this. Public policy decisions about climate change — and the massive efforts proposed to fight it — require forecasts of future warming with proven reliability. Equating climate science with gravity is propaganda, not evidence. That Schmidt resorts to such rhetorical tricks shows the weakness of his belief.

Crist concludes with one of the oddest statements I have seen from a climate activist.

“The recent shift in conservative rhetoric exploits legitimate scientific uncertainty that most scientists agree is irrelevant to crafting responsible climate policy. Despite overwhelming evidence, many conservatives are still willing to ignore scientific consensus and stall political action.”

Crist quotes one scientist, and from this concludes that “most scientists agree”. That’s a guess, or a lie, or perhaps “fake news”. As for his last sentence, what is this “scientific consensus” about the need for policy action? Crist does not tell us, let alone give any evidence for it. As with Schmidt’s claims, that these are strongest claims Crist can give for his beliefs show their weakness.

Crist begins by mocking a distinguished scientist, but in 1900 words she presents no rebuttal to Curry’s concerns.

Are activists grieving for their failure?

In December 2015 I wrote that Activists go thru 5 stages of grief for the climate change campaign. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. We all have heard years of denial and anger. There was a brief period of bargaining, with activists attempting to deal with skeptics. Now we are in depression, and for a few — acceptance, as they find new crusades to pursue. Several recent articles support that theory. Crist’s conclusion, citing as his authority that not-a-climate-agency, the US military, show depression and perhaps acceptance.

“In September 2016, carbon-dioxide levels in the air crossed the dreaded 400 ppm threshold, and we are not likely to dip back below that level in our lifetimes. Crossing this red line signals an irrevocable shift toward an increasingly unrecognizable planet. …According to the Pentagon’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, climate change will cause catastrophic changes to Earth’s ecosystems and wreak havoc on human populations, including famine, mass migration, and war. A carbon tax may be too little, too late, …”

Our dysfunctional response to climate change shows the decay of America’s ability to see and respond to our environment. We need a reality-based community. It won’t build itself. It won’t happen soon.

See Curry’s interview. Judge for yourself.

For More Information

For more information about this vital issue see The keys to understanding climate change, see my posts about forecasts of the future world, and especially these posts about the campaign for public policy action to fight climate change — how it went wrong and how it can be fixed…

  1. Ten years after Katrina: let’s learn from those predictions of more & bigger hurricanes.
  2. Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions.
  3. Can the Left adapt to the Trump era? Watch their climate activists for clues.
  4. Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.
  5. The bottom line: How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
  6. Important: Climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.


The “green” left continue to pretend (man made) climate change is the most important issue facing the world. Surveys shows almost no one share their view, and the empirical data clearly prove the lack of support in the real measurements. This mismatch strongly indicate that it’s not science, reality or integrity these activists are worried about .. It’s all about the money.


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