Citizen Action Monitor

How ignorance of the physics of climate science could compromise our very survival

Mainstream media and online environmental sources rarely explain the complicated science of climate change — They keep things simple.

No 2369 Posted by fw, September 7, 2018

“It would be easy to dwell on the severe impacts of extreme weather events of 2017 — droughts, wildfires, hurricanes. Or one could focus on the unprecedented thawing of the Arctic and the accelerating warming of the oceans. But on the flip side of this is the growing awareness by governments, world leaders and the public in general that we are in the fight of our lives. We now understand that we must solve climate change or perish. Fortunately, there are signs of climate change progress. The year 2017 held ups and downs in the fight for climate solutions. But as we look forward to 2018, we’ve collected some incredible climate wins to celebrate and inspire as we continue to work for a sustainable future.”Below2C

On January 10, 2018, an article, titled Ten Signs of Climate Change Progress, appeared in the online website Below2C. (It was originally published by the US-based website The Climate Reality Project.)

Following the opening paragraph, copied above, the article went on to identify ten positive signs of climate progress:

  1. Over 1 Million Americans Say #IAmStillIn
  2. Indonesia Unveils Plan For 1,000 Eco-Mosques by 2020
  3. More Than 200,000 Marched For Climate, Justice and Jobs
  4. More Cities Around The World Are Committed To Climate Action
  5. Google Reached 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Nine US States Joined To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  7. Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Said Leave Environmental Protection Alone
  8. The World Bank Group, ING, and Insurance Giant AXA Are Divesting From Fossil Fuels
  9. India and the UK Nixed Plans for New Coal-Fired Power Plants
  10. Climate Reality Trained 3,000 Climate Reality Leader Activists in 2017

In the Comments section below the article, a reader noted: “It’s good to read some good news on climate. Thanks for this”, to which Rolly Montpellier replied: “There is good news on climate. We just need the courage to believe that we can fight the future and win.”

Rolly is a dedicated climate advocate and blogger. He’s a member of 350.Org (Ottawa), Climate Reality Canada and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Canada). Rolly’s primary goal is to raise awareness about climate change and influence our politicians to take pressing action on pricing carbon and kick-starting our transition to a clean energy platform by 2050. He has a BA in geography, political science and urban planning.

I’m a subscriber to Below2C’s newsletter and have found many good articles from his website. But to “fight the future and win” will require more than the unintentionally misleading “good news” content of Below2C’s Jan. 10, 2018 article on Climate Change Progress.  I was so disappointed with the piece that I posted the following response in Below2C’s Comments section —


Anyone who believes, as Rolly apparently does, that “There is good news on climate” has not been reading recent posts by Tim Garrett, a distinguished professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah. His CV, as of 2016, lists 86 refereed publications and 44 invited presentations. Of note, Tim has a B.Sc. Honours, (1992) from the University of Waterloo.

Rob Mielcarski, the publisher and editor of the website un-Denial, often features Barrett’s physics-based contributions. Rob says this about Garrett: “Tim Garrett is the most important and least recognized physicist in the world, having explained and quantified the relationship between energy consumption and economic wealth.” High praise indeed. And Rob should know. He’s no academic slouch himself: a former high-tech exec. he has an honors M.A.Sc. Electrical Engineering degree from UBC.

After skimming a couple of Garrett’s papers, one reason he might be the “least recognized physicist in the world” (especially to us mere mortals) is that his writing style is typically populated with concepts and formulae from the field of physics, which poses a formidable cognitive challenge to the untutored.

More to the point, there is a risk that even Garrett’s more comprehensible conclusions may be “lost in translation”. Consider, for example, this passage:

“Right now, energy consumption is continuing to grow rapidly, sustaining an ever larger GWP [Gross World Product]. But it is not the rate of energy consumption that supports the GWP, but the rate of growth of energy consumption that supports the GWP. This important distinction is flat out frightening. The implication is that if we cease to grow energy and raw material consumption globally, then the global economy must collapse. But if we don’t cease to grow energy consumption and raw material consumption then we still collapse due to climate change and environmental destruction.” (Source: By Tim Garrett: The Global Economy, Heat Engines, and Economic Collapse.)

Or this one:

“Sure, maybe renewables do not leave behind carbon dioxide in quite the same way as fossil fuels, but the energy they do provide helps contribute to our seemingly unstoppable conversion of matter from the environment into the matter that composes civilization. So, even if sunlight and wind is seemingly infinite, our planet Earth is not. Any short-term material gain of ours is a loss for the world around us. Renewables only accelerate this process.” (Source: Are renewables our salvation? July 2, 2018.

Sorry if I rained on anyone’s parade. But environmental organizations, in particular, and news outlets, in general, must make more of an effort to grasp the scientifically-based evidence of climate change if we are to have any hope of holding our wilfully scientifically illiterate politicians to account for ill-informed decisions that could compromise our very survival.

So please, no more of this type of misleading “good news on climate.”

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