Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Wall Street Journal Runs Op-Ed Advocating Against Action on Climate Change

Climate

Georgia Tech's Judith Curry has authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal claiming that "there is less urgency to phase out greenhouse gas emissions now" than in the past. This could not be further from the truth.

She ties her argument to a new study she has co-authored, as well as the global warming speed bump (or faux pause). Neither offers a compelling reason to avoid reducing emissions. Her study looks at recent temperatures and uses them to try and determine how much the atmosphere will warm from our CO2 emissions.

Regardless of whether Curry is right about the climate being slightly less sensitive to CO2 (something that hundreds of thousands of years of paleoclimate records suggest is false) the fact remains that the sooner we reduce emissions, the less damage we will endure.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The result is a figure low enough for contrarians to trumpet, but still not really that far from the official figures provided by the UN's IPCC, the gold standard of climate science. This is why the new study (and the others very similar to it) have elicited only a collective yawn from serious academia.

So the piece repeats the same tired claims about lowered sensitivity, using the "pause" meme and her own study as justification for delaying action. According to her (and of course the contrarians) a limited set of studies using a single incomplete methodology are reason enough to put off getting serious about climate change. One of us (Dr. Mann) addressed this misguided claim about climate sensitivity to CO2 earlier this year in a detailed piece in Scientific American.

To summarize the article, it turns out that even if one assumes these recent studies are correct, this buys us only a decade of extra time before crossing the internationally agreed-upon limit of 2°C of warming. This means that even if Curry's correct, it may just be the difference between bad and terrible consequences of our inability to get emissions under control.

This understanding is shared by all the mainstream climate scientists who have examined the breadth of the scientific literature. For example, Oxford University professor and IPCC author Dr. Myles Allen told Carbon Brief that a reduction in climate sensitivity as presented by Curry and others "is hardly a game-changer" because it "would mean the changes we expect between now and 2050 might take until the early 2060s instead."

In a response from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Peter Frumhoff describes it even more eloquently, saying that Curry's call for delay "is like refusing to treat a patient because you can't tell if their fever is 103 or 104 degrees."

Esoteric and academic arguments about the response of the atmosphere to a doubling of CO2 may be interesting for those steeped in the peer-reviewed literature, but for the public and policy makers the important and unfortunate fact is that climate change is continuing unabated. This was the hottest September on record, after the hottest August on record (yielding the hottest summer on record), and the oceans continue to warm rapidly. In fact, some parts of the ocean have been shown to be warming even more rapidly than we thought.

In the end, Curry's claims fly in the face of what we know. Quite literally, according to the largest scientific organization in the world and publisher of the journal Science. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released this year a report titled "What We Know" that shows that taking action now reduces both the cost and the risks associated with our warmed world.

Regardless of whether Curry is right about the climate being slightly less sensitive to CO2 (something that hundreds of thousands of years of paleoclimate records suggest is false) the fact remains that the sooner we reduce emissions, the less damage we will endure. And interestingly, Curry admits that the only substantial worry is from a high emissions scenario. But if we listen to her argument for inaction, that high emissions scenario is exactly what we'll get.

Ultimately, we all wish that Curry is right, and climate change won't be as costly as the mountain of evidence suggests. Unfortunately, the science so far shows that if anything, we've been underestimating the scale of the impacts. The Wall Street Journal does its audience a disservice by portraying a ten-year reprieve (at best) as though it was a full pardon.

Signed,

Professor John Abraham, University of St. Thomas

Dr. Peter Gleick, MacArthur Fellow, hydro climatologist

Professor Scott Mandia, Suffolk County Community College

Professor Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University

Professor Richard C.J. Somerville, University of California, San Diego

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Future Investments in Fossil Fuels Look Dim

Join Beyond Extreme Energy Actions in DC

MUST-SEE: Stephen Colbert and Neil Young Sing ‘Who’s Gonna Stand Up?’

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Humpback whale splashing in the North West Atlantic Ocean, Massachusetts. Tim Graham / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a healthy way to incorporate vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants into your diet.

Read More Show Less
These 19 organizations and individuals represent a small portion of the efforts underway to fight racism and inequality and to build stronger Black communities and food systems. rez-art / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg

Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.

Read More Show Less
Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less

Trending

National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less