Our Burning Planet

OUR BURNING PLANET REPORT

Threat Multiplier: The top five climate risks likely to hasten our descent into a hellscape

Illustrative image | Source: Gallo Images / Getty Images / Dino Lloyd
By Kevin Bloom
12 Oct 2020 12

What are the most urgent climate crisis-related risks faced by South Africans in the first half of the 21st century? Commissioned by Daily Maverick, the world-acclaimed scientists at Wits University’s Global Change Institute, together with a panel of 12 experts from various disciplines, have generated a ‘top five’ list of factors that are almost certain to alter the fabric of our society.

In mid-September, around the time that Daily Maverick was signing off on the climate risk report we had commissioned from the Global Change Institute at the University of Witwatersrand, National Geographic ran yet another feature under yet another headline that referenced the end-times nature of the planet’s most urgent predicament.  

“Oregon faces down a ‘once-in-a-generation’ crisis as wildfires rage on,” the headline screamed, before the intro noted that entire towns had been destroyed, with smoke clouds dropping the state’s air quality to near the worst on Earth.

In the feature’s second paragraph, it was pointed out just how relentlessly this once idyllic corner of the US had been battered in 2020.

Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, after a summer of protests over police brutality and racism, Oregon faces a third crisis: wildfire sparked by climate change.”

It was a lot for the mind to assimilate, even for readers who had never visited Oregon, perhaps because the facts as stated had become universal. The intersection of crumbling political systems, societal breakdown, a global pandemic and climate collapse had descended to a new nadir by the second half of 2020, and somehow these onslaughts seemed interlinked.

It was appropriate, then, that the US writer Charles Eisenstein, celebrated for his ability to connect the large dilemmas facing humanity to the more intimate realms of personal agency and psycho-spiritual awareness, should weigh in on the subject. Also in mid-September, Eisenstein published an essay on his website under the title World on Fire, wherein he cogently argued that “the transition to a healed world requires something much deeper than better techniques”.

The Climate Risks We Face

For Eisenstein, the objectification of nature, or the view of nature-as-thing, had created the conditions for the clear-cutting of swathes of the Amazon and the strip-mining of the ocean floor just as surely as the dehumanisation of certain races and ethnic groups had created the conditions for their exploitation and enslavement. As regards the Oregon wildfires themselves, he saw in them a metaphor for our collective rage and helplessness, our sense as a species that our world in 2020 had begun to properly and irreparably fragment.  

“I can’t easily draw a causal connection here,” Eisenstein wrote, “but it seems significant that uncontainable wildfires are contemporaneous with inflammatory rhetoric, heated debates, flaring tempers, burning hatred, seething distrust, and smoldering resentment. Just as dried out, fuel-laden forests burned out of control with a mere spark, so also have our cities burned as the spark of police murders touched the ready fuel of generations of racism; decades of economic decay, and months of Covid confinement.”

Of course, the environmental scientists at the Global Change Institute (GCI) in Johannesburg recognised as among the most accomplished in their respective fields in the world, would have been acutely aware that they could not use such language and imagery in their own assessment of the crisis. But that didn’t change the fact that there were some remarkable similarities between what Eisenstein was getting at in his free-flowing essay and what these scientists were concluding within the tight strictures of their disciplines. 

“Climate change does not happen in a vacuum,” the GCI report warns us in its introductory passages, stating that the crisis acts as a “threat multiplier” by widening a society’s pre-existing systemic and structural cracks. 

In southern Africa particularly, we’re reminded, where endemic poverty and unemployment drives competition for access to basic resources, the rates of rural-urban migration are perennially on the up – according to the United Nations, 77% of South Africans are expected to live in cities by 2050, a 13% rise against the current statistics. But, as the GCI report observes, not only do these estimates discount the “plausibility” that climate change will accelerate the trend, they also ignore the fact that many migrants are unwitting victims of the crisis even now.

Climate refugees are almost certainly already with us,” the report informs us, “even if that is not how the migrants think of their reasons for moving, which invariably involve many factors.”

And so the points of vulnerability to climate change in southern Africa, which run the gamut from corruption to weak economies to ineffective institutions, have led the GCI researchers to identify the “top risks” in their report as clusters of related issues.

In the interests of thoroughness, the list has been collectively scored by 12 experts from various disciplines – both in terms of the likelihood that the risks will materialise, and the consequences if they do. Soon after Daily Maverick commissioned the report from GCI, there was a first round of scoring that identified the 12 most urgent threats. These were then rescored by the experts and clustered into five groups of interrelated climate risks.

 ***

At the top of the pile, perhaps unsurprisingly, is what the GCI report has termed “food insecurity and the viability of the agricultural sector”. These have been identified as a pair of related risks, with the likelihood of food insecurity deemed as “expected” in the medium term and the consequences for South Africa and the broader region scored as “severe to catastrophic”. The likelihood of failures in the agricultural sector, by contrast, have been deemed “frequent to expected” and the consequences “severe”.

What separates these two factors is that while the first looks at “inadequate household and community nutrition due to local, regional or global failures in crop and livestock production”, the second is concerned with the “non-viability of regionally important agriculture-based activities, both subsistence and commercial”. What they have in common is that they are both subject to the increasing prevalence of “hot, empty skies” – or, more specifically, the fact that “everyday life for South Africans… has translated to more intense heat waves and more extremely hot days in the past decade than ever before”.

Consequently, if there is one overriding factor that’s inherent to this dual risk, it can be summarised in the following paragraph:    

“At least 5.6 million southern Africans are undernourished, without even considering the impact of Covid-19… This number includes the effects of an inherently marginal and varying climate, the climate change experienced already, land degradation, governance failures and other socio-economic malfunctions. This number is set to almost double by 2030 if we don’t change our ways.”

With rainfall expected to “decline and become more variable”, according to the report, “and temperatures in southern Africa to increase at double the global rate”, the country’s “once-suitable regions for farming will shift or even disappear”. Less local food supply will translate into higher prices, which will then translate into South Africa needing to import way more food than it does at present – and while imports may appear the most obvious solution, this assumes that food is readily available from the country’s trade partners. 

“In the case of global food shortages,” the report explains, “which seem likely, entities prioritise their own needs over trade.”

From the impact of extreme climate events such as flood and drought on food stability, to food accessibility (most of us are dependent on shops and markets), to the nutritional value of food, the “solutions towards zero hunger” are as obvious as they run counter to the current distribution models. 

Small-scale farming ranks highly in the GCI’s list of solutions, as does investment in affordable and adaptive agriculture and the minimisation of waste. But without rainfall and sufficient irrigation, crop yields even if the necessary movement is made from maize to more heat-resistant breeds are almost certain to decline. Which brings up the second of the top five climate risks: “Shortages of clean water.”   

In this cluster, the likelihood is ranked as “expected” and the consequences as “substantial to severe”. It is “somewhat unusual”, the report states, that climate change will render South Africa warmer and drier, “since most of the world will get wetter as it gets warmer”. The guaranteed result, unfortunately, will be persistent, multiyear droughts.

“This implies increasing water security risks to eastern South Africa,” the GCI scientists note, “and in particular to the Gauteng province. This province, the industrial heartland of South Africa, is dependent on the eastern ‘mega dams’, and interbasin transfers (including across national boundaries) for its water security. Under climate change, multiyear droughts may bring a ‘day zero’ type drought to the Gauteng province, with far-reaching socioeconomic implications.”

And yet, the report continues, it is not necessarily “about going thirsty” our global water supplies, which can never technically run out, just become “less and less fit for use”. With the collapse of municipal and district water sources, sewage disposal, industrial production and (as above) irrigated agriculture all take a direct hit. Further, while water scarcity compromises power supply in the entire region for example, hydroelectric power from the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams on the Zambezi are already affected” – the impact is felt most acutely in low-income urban populations, where there are no alternatives.

The adaptive solutions to water scarcity, the report concludes, are not all that different to the solutions to food shortages – they involve a reduction in demand, increased recycling and the elimination of waste. That said, while the South African Water Law of 1996 is “internationally admired”, the vested interests continue to take advantage.

For instance (and most egregiously), irrigated agriculture still consumes nearly two-thirds of the national water supply. 

*** 

“A badly handled transition to low-carbon energy.”

This, the third in the list of top five clusters, is where the GCI scientists move squarely into the realm of the political economy. At the beginning of 2020, they note, more than 7 million people were unemployed in South Africa; a further 3 million people, mostly women, have lost their jobs because of Covid-19. 

“It has thus never been more important to plan for the transition away from coal, in a way that minimises job losses and protects incomes and livelihoods in South Africa and the region. This is what is meant by a ‘just transition’: fair not only to those immediately negatively impacted, but also to the rest of the economy and workforce, now and in the future, and to the health of the planet.”

The likelihood of the transition going awry is “expected”, the report states, with the consequences being “substantial to severe”. It’s a given in terms of the international movement away from coal-based energy, with global climate protests driving the exit decisions of financial institutions and the coal companies themselves, that tens of thousands of jobs will be lost in South Africa – the loss of coal export revenues alone, according to GCI’s sources, will run as high as R1.2-trillion by 2035. 

Still, while new wind and solar power plants will create jobs, the result won’t be a “direct trade-off with the jobs lost in the fossil fuel sector”. The scientists offer a coherent explanation here: not only will most of the green energy jobs require higher-skilled workers, they will also “most likely be located” in the Northern Cape and North West provinces, where many of the renewable energy plants will be set up.

As for Mpumalanga, which will be hardest hit by the decimation of the coal industry, retrenched workers will either need to upskill and relocate – which “may not be feasible” given that most of them come from low-income households – or they will need to migrate to the cities in search of alternative work.

Touching again on the “threat multiplier” dilemma, the report points out that the incoming migrants will further overwhelm “housing, healthcare and other public services”, with many ending up in informal settlements.

The solution, as articulated in the plan delivered by the Congress of South African Trade Unions earlier this year, is for “Eskom, government, coal mining companies and social actors, including trade unions and environmental NGOs… to collaborate, rather than confront each other”.  

But plans demand implementation, and nowhere will the reaction times of authorities be more critical than in the fourth cluster: “Heat stress is a killer.” 

“All warm-bodied organisms have a core body temperature of around 37°C,” the GCI scientists note, “and there is apparently no way to change this reality. As the air temperature approaches this number, we find it harder and harder to stay cool – especially if the air is humid and windless, we are in the sun, and if we are short of clean water to replace our perspiration.” 

Heat stress mainly affects two groups of people, they add, those who do physical work outdoors and the elderly. “In other words, the health of millions of people in southern Africa is at stake on days of extreme heat.” 

Also, not only does heat stress lead directly to a loss of productivity in South Africa, that loss is estimated at 5% it exacerbates inequality between countries, and between population groups within countries. 

The solutions, where they exist, involve structural transformation of rural economies, adaptation of clothing and equipment at the workplace level, adjustments in working hours, green spaces in cities and highly functional early warning systems. Perhaps because these interventions can only have a limited impact, the report scores heat stress as “expected” with the consequences “severe”.

*** 

The final cluster, though, is where we see the most profound confluence of the work of writers like Eisenstein and environmental scientists like those at GCI.

“Disrupted ecosystems and loss of biodiversity,” is what the fifth threat has been termed, with the likelihood ranked as “frequent” and (again) the consequences “severe”.   

“It’s like trying to put a key into a lock that keeps on moving,” the report informs us about our attempts to protect the “climate niches” into which all species on Earth have evolved to fit. “As the species get out of step with one another, the ecosystem starts to fall apart. This opens gaps for ‘weedy’ species to move in. The stability of the ecosystem, and the stream of benefits it provides to humans, is compromised.”

In South Africa, one of only 10 “megadiverse” countries on Earth, the changing climate is expected to destroy “a very large fraction” of our biological diversity. This will have a knock-on effect that extends to the provision of food and clean water (as described in the first two clusters above), the regulation of pests and diseases, as well as the regulation of the climate itself. 

The proposed solutions here are vague at best. “Unlike minerals,” we are told, “[our biological riches] never run out if properly managed. Part of that management is protecting them from climate change, and helping them to adapt to the changes that cannot be avoided.”

Of course, the GCI scientists can’t be blamed for such vagueness. A reconstituted attitude to nature that involves “enchantment” and “reverence”, which Eisenstein proposes can’t be measured in a lab. Then again, the report does mention “the cultural and psychological benefits we derive from a much-loved and familiar natural landscape”.

Put another way, if more of our ecosystems are obliterated to make way for more mines and Special Economic Zones, if we fail to see how our inflammatory rhetoric mirrors the various conflagrations in the natural world, if we don’t back up our legal and environmental holding actions with the type of inner transformation that only psycho-spiritual work can bring, we are destined for a hellscape of untold proportions. 

On this point, the poets and scientists seem to agree. DM       

In a live webinar on Thursday, 15 October at 12h00, Daily Maverick’s Kevin Bloom, along with GCI’s Prof Bob Scholes, a systems ecologist whose work is cited by environmental scientists across the globe, and Makoma Lekalakala, recipient of the world’s foremost award for grassroots environmental activism, will be drilling into the findings.

Register here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/239/6v220uov 

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All Comments 12

  • Please DM! Why are the “top 5 risks” not highlighted at the beginning of this article (or indeed at all)? Why should readers, especially those of the “broad” daily newsletter in which the article was included, have to wade through all the waffle to get to the points indicated in the headline?

  • Lots of hand-wringing. No Solutions. The Comments section only allows me space for three, and then only very briefly.
    Concern over the Rural Urban Migration is such 1970s thinking. A number of planners have realised that it is FAR easier to house people, educate people, provide them with clinics, power, water and JOBS in cities (20,000 and upwards) rather than scattered over the countryside.
    Regenerative Agriculture that repairs our Soils, can do much to (a) sequester surplus CO2 in the soil (b) make our soils more resilient to droughts or floods holding more water in the actual soil (c) make them better able to hold onto nutrients, keeping them more fertile and (d) Alley Cropping (in all it’s guises) can help cool a micro-climate more amenable to the growing crops AND the Agricultural Workers.
    Finally, making ALL manufactured goods fully REPAIRABLE will go a long way to creating more jobs. These jobs will have the advantage that the workers will learn skills by doing. Seek out the video of a Mercedes assembly plant – there is hardly a worker in sight. It probably takes as many man-hours to repair a broken window winder on a robot built car, than it took to build the entire car!
    Sincerely, Bruce Danckwerts, CHOMA, Zambia

  • Well said at outset Brahm! Wits is my Alma Mater (Ph.D Physics) and I am ashamed of this naïve excessively wordy and non relevant diatribe from the GCI Twelve. I am a scientist, not a belief propagator using words like “will render” not based on facts well established with respect to rainfall, drought, storms, polar bears, nutrition, jobs, heat stress, and diversity. I was amused by the comment that as result of a diminishing diversity we would be replaced by “weedy species” which are deliberately anti evolutionary jargon knowing the adaptive capabilities of nature. (Referring to Thermodynamics and Entropy?) To quote…. The GCI cannot be blamed for vagueness”. That alone defines this as non-scientific cloudy crystal ball reading. Get with the facts relating to climate change taking place and accept the increased [productivity of growing food world wide as a result of the increased biologically essential CO2 in the atmosphere and the greening of the planet (see NASA). Forget the popularity stakes and start to talk scientifically where I can do my best to try to help you.
    .

    • Hi Don, I see here https://www.polity.org.za/article/cause-of-global-warming-remains-unknown-energy-professor-2015-08-31 that you are retired Prof from Wits, possibly sponsored by the Fossil Fuel Foundation. Perhaps you can let us know what the cummulative CO2 load is from all fossil fuel burning since the start of the industrial revolution and see if you can match it with the increase in ppm during that time? It will show there has been zero reabsorption, only accummulation. Then maybe you can refer to the science of Fourier through to Hansen to explain how the greenhouse effect works and how it correlates exactly with the predicted temperature rise on the Earth’s surface since pre-industrial times, and how the accummulated CO2 will continue to warm the planet even when CO2 emissions are brought to net zero? Then you may want to comment on how raised surface temperatures force more water to evaporate into the atmosphere, causing more surface drying (droughts) interspersed with more severe downpours (floods). Your single comment about how good CO2 is for agriculture is misleading; while some plants may grow faster in artifical conditions with elevated CO2, for most plants in the outdoors the CO2 is a killer as it acidifies the soil, the oceans, the rivers, affecting all the life that evolved at 300ppm and is now trying to cope with 416ppm. You may feel some loyalty to the fossil fuel industry but the time has come to move on. You may enjoy this from 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxyeHGIpLjA

      • Dear Neil, Given the space I would easily answer all of your aspertions having followed Climate Science (broad ranging) and given my first talk on it 25 years ago. (You immediately express your prejudice in mentioning fossil fuels backing without knowing me! I happen to be an International Nuclear Physicist on a global basis having left Wits as a Professor in 1976! I am not for sale and do not appreciate your aspertion which is typically green cheap skate attacking the man and not the science).

        Back 25 years ago I warned and lectured about CO2 and GHG effects and the danger of global warming. Well by 2007 it became apparent with “Climategate”, “hockey sticks”, and similar games playing that the factual evidence showed a different set of drivers of climate, 8 in all of which GHG happen to be but one but with solar related impacts being most dominant). Your comments are all highly contestable coming from the media literature sources that I recognise, while I refer to true scientific origins such as NASA (including their GISS devious manipulations of data) as well as NOAA (and their games in transition from UNHCN to currently modified temperature data), and all other such formal Institutes while recognising the charlatans, including academics, who bank on UN grants for continuing the mass deception and their survival. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair,

        I recognise your frustration and trust that you soon come to recognise that this is a scam similar to that embarrassing grand scam of the UN on Oil for Food Movement twenty years ago. I am a member of the International CLINTEL group of 900 International Scientists (4 from RSA) and would refer you to the just released report “World Climate Declaration” for your general edification.
        https://clintel.org/world-climate-declaration/
        I recommend that you review also the extreme financial implications for the world if you were to follow supporting, without deep scientific interrogation, this UN driven IPCC scam.

        • Dear Neil, At outset I would let you know that I was a colleague and close friend of the late Prof Philip Lloyd in your reference to 2015. He resigned from being a Lead Author of the IPCC in 2008 in seeing the internal demise of scientific integrity and joined the newly formed scientific NIPCC. (Non-Governmental International PCC) with many similarly disenchanted colleagues. This was launched to be distinct from the IPCC (Intergovernmental PCC) that is politically based and not scientifically.
          I would recommend you to watch my YouTube presentation on “Conflict in Climate Change” in 2015 https://youtu.be/qkQvqyuAPhI
          being an Invited Public Presentation at the Annual S. A. Institute of Physics Meeting in Port Elizabeth which in spite of being five years old will provide you with a solid insight into the science as at that time which has just been further consolidated and confirmed.
          Please when you enter other topics such as Anthropology and the origin of life do your homework as the Jurassic period ancestors and tertiary paleocene when mammals were first cocestors had CO2 levels of ~ 2 000 p.p.m. (Not 300 p.p.m.!!) The true origin of cellular life goes back to Cambrian times where the CO2 level was 6 000 p.p.m.. The Triassic period also had temperatures 2 to 3 degrees higher than now when the Planet was green and life flourished. If only we could get back to that. I recommend that you also recognise the role of Milankovic cycles on Climate and the demise of Neanderthal man some 30 000 years ago in the extreme cold of glaciation conditions that we have recently (12 000 years) come out of. The current Holocene that we are in had its peak temperature some 6000 years ago and we have cooled ever since. This including the several ~ 2 degree 1000 year oscillation such as the Roman Warm period and the Medieval Warm Period and now the Current Warm Period a degree colder than 2 000 years ago. This with years in between of colder climatic conditions known as the Cold Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age when millions died.
          You do realise that CO2 is a life support essence which on dropping to below 160 p.p.m. brings the end to all life forms. We were close to that recently at 220 p.p.m.
          With the current entry with an extremely quiet sun into a Grand Solar Minimum we could well be heading back into cooling down to a typically Dalton Cold period and hopefully not as far as a Maunder Minimum Little Ice Age of 400 years ago when it was several degrees lower than at present.

          • Thanks for that Don. So do you think it is a good thing that the surface of the planet is warming in line with the rise in atmospheric CO2; that the atmosphere is carrying more water vapour (GHG) than ever since record began; that the soil is melting in the tundra, releasing CH4 (GHG) that has been locked away for millenia; that the oceans are acidifying and reducing the ability of plankton to multiply and feed the rest of the marine ecosystem; that the Arctic has lost almost half of its summer ice cover, and its albedo, in the past 20 years; that alternating droughts and floods are making many places in Asia and Africa uninhabitable; that wild fires are increasingly taking out natural and farmed forests that have dried out for the first time (Mt Kilimanjaro most recently); that Day Zero is becoming part of the lexicon of water management; that wildlife has all but disappeared in many areas of the world (N Cape, for example, but on a bigger scale in Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and so on)? If you think these are a good thing then you may be an excellent scientist, but I’m afraid that is all you are. If you think these things are a bad thing, for whatever reason, and you accept the causal link between burning fossil fuels and all the above, then doesn’t it make sense to try and do something about it? Maybe there are other factors at play, but this is one which we control and we can do something about. The economic cost of transitioning to a renewable energy source is peanuts compared to the cost of not; the direct cost per kW from renewables is lower than from fossil fuels, so there’s no argument there, and the indirect cost, through existential GHG production from fossil fuels puts the question out of its misery. Your position that ‘we have been here before’ is correct, but it didn’t turn out particularly well during the last 5 great extinctions either, and in this case, where we are the cause, we still have a chance to do something to prevent the worst of it. Maybe we only get to +2C, though we are on course for 4.3C as things stand. I suppose the big question that we can both agree on is this; what’s the worst that can happen if we continue with business as usual and what is the worst that can happen if we replace fossil fuels with renewable energy? It’s about risk management, on the balance of probabilities. Even if ‘we have been here before’ at 2 or 3C higher than humans are used to, is that a world we want our children and grandchildren to live in? With no wildlife; living indoors to get out of the heat; fighting our neighbours for the last loaf of bread and the last cup of water? Climate change deniers seem to want to take the risk; personally I don’t – I think it would be better to transition to a better future, with clean energy, clean air, clean water, predictable weather, sequestered CO2 back to 350ppm, and so on, and if we make the transition and the planet still gets too hot to be habitable, then remind me to congratulate you for being right.

        • The IPCC is a scam? Those are strong words. And the motivation is funding? That implies that someone spends a good part of their life studying something to earn a relatively low wage (as opposed what someone with those skills could earn doing, say, oil exploration) and, under pressure to get published and get first authorship, they publish false research so that they can get more funding? So that they can get more funding to publish more false research? I suppose that could be plausible on a small scale. Say at a few or several universities. But a decades long scam (as you call it) involving all the world’s science academies? That hardly makes sense. After all, if you were able to counter the scientific consensus in a way that withstood peer review, you’d be a hero to many and almost certainly earn many scientific accolades.

          It seems more likely that, like Cook et al. found, people skeptical about climate change, despite the consensus (900 CLINTEL scientists notwithstanding), are more worried about the cost of action and the implications of government intervention. You wouldn’t be the first scientist to doubt the consensus based . Fred Singer died just the other day and was famous (or notorious) for making the very claims you make. But as a scientist, it’s not the public or lay people like myself you have to convince. It’s your peers – or former peers. And there you have long hill to climb.

  • Anybody watched Attenborough’s “A life on our planet”? Our issue is us, too many of us. Humans plus the animals we farm to feed us make up 96% of the mass of mammals on the planet. So 4% for all of everything from shrew to blue whale. Not sure what the solution is, but basically we are clearly stupid enough to solve the problem of over-population by accident. At 5b fewer souls all of the other threats are history. For another 100 or so years

    • Dearie Dear Neil, As a deeply concerned environmentalist I have sympathy with your misgiving, many of which are either false or badly misrepresented. Lets’s start with the “acidification of the oceans. The pH has become slightly less alkaline in changing from 8.2 to 8.1 … a long way from becoming acid and related also to the recovery of the GBR which is now well understood. Your James Hansen in 1988 started the ball rolling with a prediction of 10 degrees warming meaning we should be more than that by now!!!! What happened? Your Michael Mann added to get the ball rolling in 1998 with his fraudulent hockey stick. (I can say fraudulent as he has recently lost a million dollars in a court case that he brought against Tim Ball in 2012. Sir Richard Attenborough has had to confess and apologise for his statements about both polar bears loss (was 6 000, now some 26 000, what happened?) as well as his walrus misinformation debacle on Netflix. The extent of Arctic Ice is the same currently as it was in 2007 (see official plot of Arctic Ice over the past 60 years (see PIOMAS) when Al Gore in his Nobel Prize speech announced the disappearance of ice at the pole within 7 years. 6 years ago. What happened? Californian wild fires were to be predicted following the 20 year ban by Greens on clearing of dead brushwood underneath the forest tops and bad forest management. (look at the records!).
      Droughts and floods consult the records over the past 60 years before making statements in error. (I refer to NOAA). What about New York being under water by now as warned as recently as 12 years ago by, was it not Michel Mann? But certainly by many. Current sea level rise is ~ 3 mm p.a. which means 3 cm per decade and 30 cm in a hundred years time. (If it continues rising that is and the component tectonic movement of plates is also taken into account. (e.g. New York Batten Island registers 6 m.m. rise per decade with 3 mm due to sea level rise and 3 mm due to land subsidence. Pacific Islands are rising out of the water! (see NASA). I am tired of your pontificating about random subjective emotional topics when I depend on facts. (have you read the International Report “World Climate Declaration” that I now prescribe as necessary homework for you to do as you have obviously ignored scientific texts recommended.)
      So lets get down to science and review the Climate Models used by you., the most recent being the CMIP-6 following on the CMIP-5 which over-predicted the warming by a factor of at least 3 (re your 4 degrees statement.) The latest has now conveniently become even worse when using the non-physical imposed conditions of RCP 8.5 in the 2014 IPCC (AR5) report. Why not use the RCP 2.5 which are closer to the truth as they predict totally different temperature rises? SO why not refer to the Russian Academy of Mathematical Sciences INM-CM-5 (following on release 4) predicting a global temperature rise of 1.2 degrees in a hundred years which is reasonable according to the predictions of the NIPCC. Talking of water vapour and CO2, what has happened to the tropical warming of the equatorial troposphere which in CMIP-5 is used to amplify the role of CO2 when this has been shown not to exist and be cool. Please discuss with me the application and role of the Claussius Clapyeron Equation (Radiation) in the troposphere in particular in this respect. Neil, lets get down to some hard factual scientific bargaining and not simple scare-mongering which is prevalent amongst the herd followers of Hansen, Mann, Gore, Greta, (poor young lass I feel most sad about as she has been abused as a mascot) and folk like Gavin Schmidt, (GISS of NASA) and Thomas Karl (NOAA) with their blatant modification of global temperatures clearly visible in their own publications to which I can refer you. Modifications of 1.5 degrees over past 100 years on globally wide original data sets. Please stop talking about trivialities, stand back, do your homework and recognise that this is heading to be a useless and most costly self serving scam. I am concerned scientifically more about your unsupported accumulated ramblings than I am about the planet which with its CO2 has shown a tremendous increase, yes increase, in global crops which feed the population and sustain life of the excessive homo sapien race. I will deal with energy issues separately. Stay well and please relax.

      • Hello Don, you are the professor, so imagine that I am the keen first year student in the front row of your lecture hall waiting to be informed. On Oct 13 I asked you “Perhaps you can let us know what the cummulative CO2 load is from all fossil fuel burning since the start of the industrial revolution and see if you can match it with the increase in ppm during that time?”. I have read and reread your many many words above and I don’t find the answer anywhere. So let’s go step by step please and see where we get. I’m just a Masters Biologist, so please keep it simple. Thanks.

        • Hi Neil. Excellent first year question which has held my attention and research for many years now so I have a surfeit of evidence of both fossil fuel CO2 emissions over the years. History firstly of the global CO2 levels in brief, firstly broad band moving in 1700 from 250 p.p.m. to 300 p.p.m. by 1900, to 330 p.p.m. by 1960 and on far more dramatically to 410 p.p.m. today. (Mauna Loa)This in no way explains the “Nonharmonised” temperature data rise from 1910 to 1930 which was as rapid as the rise from 1970 to 1998 while skipping out the cooling between 1940 and 1975 which had threats of an ensuing “ice age” in the media! (look at temperature data banks before massive modification of reference UNHCN of 1999 or earlier back to 1885. This was used as a baseline by NOAA from there on, but the earlier temperatures massively modified by up to a degree downwards.) I tried to send you the Cape Town data for local interest but was seemingly not allowed to include any URLs and was prevented. Major confrontation.
          Then move to the fossil fuel emission data from 1990 at 6.0 GtC/yr to 6.8 GtC/yr by 2001, through an obvious inflection point there to 2016 to 10 GtC/yr. at which date the Chinese and Indians in particular started their assault on energy creation. I have as part of my own research done a detailed cross correlation statistical study of Global Fossil Fuel tonnage and CO2 p.p.m. and can just see this impact (bad statistical sets) and derive optimal correlation if I set the anthropological input to be between 2 and 8 % of the temperature impact. This ties in when using the 8 different drivers of climate change to the agree with the approximate 20% role of CO2 (dominantly sea temperature dependent emissions from the 80% + holding.) For interest, the temperature rise precedes the CO2 increase! Causation is more important than correlation in bringing about warming over the past from other data and there are other drivers at play. (Again would send you scientific references.)
          Much, much more to come but a little inadequate start to the scientific methodology behind it all. Again thanks Neil for a good basic question which the IPCC and entourage cannot answer. What I cannot stand however is the blatant significant modifying of global temperature data of which there is a ton of evidence for both NASA and NOAA by studying their own reports from 2001, 2009 and 2015 in particular.
          Thank you and please know that I would far prefer chatting to you personally and be able to provide my wealth of hard evidence.