David Staples: The thinking women's guide to climate change: No emergency, no need for alarm

“This obsession with wind and solar, we’re going to come to a reckoning pretty soon because it’s just not going to work,” Curry said

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The Earth is slowly warming, partly due to carbon dioxide emissions. This will have some negative impacts and push humanity to adapt. But climate change isn’t the dreaded emergency that some alarmist activists and politicians would have you believe.

This is the message from an important and credible group of climate scientists, including climatologist Judith A. Curry, who has testified before U.S. Congress more than 10 times.

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Curry provides what I see as the thinking woman’s guide to climate uncertainty. Her new book, Climate Uncertainty and Risk: Rethinking Our Response, came out in June. I interviewed her just before then.

If you are wondering about her credentials, Curry got her Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from the University of Chicago in 1982. Her thesis was on clouds and Arctic sea ice. She worked as a professor for decades and was chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology from 2002 to 2014.

In the 1990s, Curry became concerned with activist scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was created to provide advice to policymakers on climate science.

The first IPCC report in 1990 rightly talked about the uncertainties around climate science, Curry said. But that quickly changed. Curry felt activist scientists at the IPCC were letting their politics drive their scientific conclusions, leading them to too much certainty when it came to making doom-and-gloom consensus statements around climate change.

It became more difficult for a scientist to get grants if they failed to go along with that same narrative, Curry said. “The activists were starting to play games with editorial boards so it was harder to get papers published in prestige journals. The academics who were interested in promoting their careers jumped on board. The academics who put personal and professional integrity first weren’t so quick to do that and they became marginalized.”

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I ask Curry about the much-repeated statement that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree on climate change.

The extent of any agreement is greatly over-stated, Curry said. The 97 per cent figure comes out of activist research, she said, that did not ask climate scientists their views, but drew conclusions from their research.

“What all scientists agree on is fairly limited — that the temperatures have been increasing, humans emit carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide has infra-red emissions spectra that helps warm the planet. Beyond that, on the most consequential issues, there’s significant disagreement as to what has caused the warming over the past century, what the climate of the 21st century looks like, whether warming is dangerous and whether restricting fossil fuel usage is going to promote human well-being in the 21st century.”

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Those who push climate crisis narratives want political power, Curry said, but this has fractured the environmental movement, with grassroots green activists now fighting the installation of wind and solar farms. The climate crisis crowd, meanwhile, pushes solar and wind, even as these power systems cause environmental degradation and weaken the electricity grid while jacking up prices for consumers, she said.

I ask her about one common phenomenon — whenever there’s a major fire, hurricane or weather event, news reports and activists immediately point the finger at climate change.

Curry said she rolls her eyes when she sees this, noting that we have good records of extreme weather events in North America dating back to the 1800s, and the weather was far more extreme at other times.

“In 1930 and ’40s, the weather and climate was horrendous, the biggest droughts, the biggest heat waves, the biggest hurricanes and on and on and on, the biggest fires in the 1930s. The first half of the 20th century really had worse weather than what we’ve seen in the last two decades so, with that context, it’s very difficult to blame anything recent on global warming.”

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In 1861 and 1862, for example, she points out central California was under 10 feet of water for months due to huge rain events, which happen about once every 200 years.

“We’re in a period of pretty moderate weather,” she said.

This isn’t to say fossil fuel use has no impact on extreme weather events. In a major heat wave, for example, she said it might raise the temperature one degree. “It’s a difference, but not a defining one.”

As for the future, Curry said the United Nations has now backed off its most alarmist prediction of as much as an 8.5 degree temperature rise by the end of the century. It now says global warming will cause a rise of about 2.5 degrees, with about half of this amount already having occurred, leaving a rise of 1.3 degrees still to come in the next eight decades.

“This is something that is a slow creep. We can slowly normalize what we’re doing.”

With nuclear power and new technology and design for cities and infrastructure, we can adapt to rising temperatures, but not if we tear down our power grid.

“This obsession with wind and solar, we’re going to come to a reckoning pretty soon because it’s just not going to work,” Curry said.

“I’m tremendously optimistic about the future, assuming that our politicians don’t manage to destroy our energy infrastructure. To me that’s the biggest risk we face right now.”

Some wise words here, I’ll suggest.

I wonder if the Trudeau Liberals are listening. If not, we’ve got a major fight on our hands fending off their aggressive and reckless decarbonization plans.

But, if we accept Curry’s expert opinion, it’s a fight worth having.

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