Climate departure and Daily Mail hyperbole

There was an article in the Daily Mail last week predicting a global warming apocalypse.  Here’s the headline:

Apocalypse Now: Unstoppable man-made climate change will become reality by the end of the decade and could make New York, London and Paris uninhabitable within 45 years, claims new study
Read more: Daily Mail

The Daily Mail has quite an extraordinary record of climate science reporting.  A month ago the headline was And now it’s global COOLING!. Then a week later we got Global warming is just QUARTER what we thought. Now it’s a global warming apocalypse. So which is it?

The most recent article is about a study just published in the journal Nature which pegs the date of climate departure for various locations around the world. Climate departure refers to the time at which the coldest average temperatures will be warmer than anything we’ve observed over the last 150 years. So a cold year will still be warmer than even the hottest years from the past 150.

The blogger, Martin Lack at Lack of Environment, has a good summary of the findings of this paper at A summary of the ‘Climate Depature’ research of Mora et al. There is also a good map at the Washington Post where you can see the time of climate departure for various locations around the world. See Hot spots: Global temperature rise. 

The climate departure findings are very alarming. In fact, I found them so alarming that I was initially a little dubious but I am yet to find any credible reason for being so. Even Judith Curry, a renowned climate science critic, has accepted their findings.

The idea of climate departure is, to my mind, excellent communication of the climate science problem. The general public does not understand what 2°C hotter means. If they did, we’d be well on our way to solving the problem by now. But by describing the problem with a time frame for when the coldest temperatures will be hotter than anything we’ve previously known, it has hopefully become easier to understand.

The author of this paper and his team have a press release on their website. Here’s what they have to say about it:

The seesaw variability of global temperatures often engenders debate over how seriously we should take climate change. But within 35 years, even the lowest monthly dips in temperatures will be hotter than we’ve experienced in the past 150 years, according to a new and massive analysis of all climate models. The tropics will be the first to exceed the limits of historical extremes and experience an unabated heat wave that threatens biodiversity and heavily populated countries with the fewest resources to adapt.

Climate departure will arrive first in the tropics to predominantly poor, developing countries where billions of people live. Extreme climates will put pressure on food supplies and increase the risk of conflict which will create human migration of epic proportions. The Economist wrote about this recently in a piece titled Cloudy with a chance of war.

And it’s not just humans who have something to worry about. Animals are especially vulnerable. The decline of north American moose populations is a present day example of the pressure a changing climate has on these animals.  Moose like the cold and suffer from heat stress and exhaustion. They are also afflicted by ticks and parasites which are thriving in warmer, moister environments.

I do however think the Daily Mail article is hyperbole. I don’t think anyone expects New York, London and Paris to be uninhabitable in 45 years although I am happy to be corrected if there’s some basis for this. But the paper on climate departure is still very scary and my hope is that by presenting the problem in a different way, we might have a better chance of convincing our politicians to do something about it. Is it really so hard to turn on the lights using something other than coal, oil and gas?

29 thoughts on “Climate departure and Daily Mail hyperbole

    1. I’m not really sure what you’re saying? Can you elaborate? As far as I am aware the next ice age is not for another 16,000 or so years and global warming seems to have changed that now anyway.

      1. The next glacial ice age isn’t due for a while yet, maybe your 16,000 years is correct. But we suffer mini-ice ages at a more frequent rate, the last major mini was in the middle ages (1300-1400, I forget), and a lesser mini just 200 years ago. The middle age one froze the River Thames in England, so they are serious things. Each of these minis have been preceded by global warming. I don’t have the references, as I do a lot of reading, and often just retain the info in my head. But I remember that it was warned that we are overdue for major climate change as part of the natural cycle, whether the warming is man-made or not. But I do agree with the idea of Apocalypse now, and that it is unstoppable.

        AV

      1. >Martin, the Venus scenario is some time off yet, but as the Sun cools and enlarges, yes you are right. As for our tenure here, I am sure that we are on the brink (timewise) of our own extinction, so you may well be right as to a glacial ice-age, but the mini ones that occur in between are a real possibility and life inhibiting. I certainly won’t see one, but my grandchildren could well do.

        AV

      2. I know that James Hansen has admitted that he may have ‘gone a bit too far’ by suggesting the Earth could boil dry in 500 years. However, continuing research repeatedly validates the existence of positive feedback loops and tipping points. Therefore, we should be concerned that warming may soon accelerate beyond our ability to control – or adapt to – it.

        Even if me manage to avoid the above, for as long as we retain the capability to artificially release CO2 into the atmosphere, we will have the ability to force the climate to warm up ten times faster than the Earth is capable of cooling it down. Therefore, no Ice Age (mini or otherwise) until we lose that capability (or go extinct).

  1. One of the interesting things that comes out of this is the headline – London, New York, Paris uninhabitable. Put this against your prediction of climate departure hitting the poor first… In reality London, New York, Paris probably have enough resources to work out their own solution. Other countries don’t. But unless the headline writers threaten us, in our relatively safe environments, people won’t want to read it 😦

      1. Climate change used to be such an issue in the nineties. But it seems that since then, we became even more obsessed with lifestyles and self-fulfilment and it sort of went out of the window. 😦

  2. “Is it really so hard to turn on the lights using something other than coal,oil and gas?”
    According to the Report by energy consultants,Wood Mackenzie to the World Energy Congress last week, the answer appears to be “Yes”.
    See “The Return of King Coal as the World’s dominant fuel” by Helen Collis ,14 October, in The Daily Mail.
    “Coal will become more in demand than oil by 2020 driven by growth in China and India,despite campaigns to reduce emissions across the globe,a new report reveals.”
    Mr. William Durbin ,president of Global Markets at Woodmac,is reported as saying China’s demand for coal will singlehandedly propel the use of coal as the dominant global fuel.”Renewables cannot provide base load power.This leaves coal as the primary energy source,” he said.

    1. What about nuclear power? It’s looking likely that a Chinese company might help to build a new nuclear power plant in the UK (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/12/us-britain-china-nuclear-idUSBRE99B02M20131012) I’m not sure how I feel about this. I think we need nuclear power but I can’t get past the idea of a nuclear power plant which is “made in China”. There’s something almost comical about it but I’m probably just being racist.

      1. >Rachel, you’re not being racist, but a realist. The Chinese can’t even make a battery recharger that works well; the last four I bought failed quickly, two of them without even recharging the first batteries. I gave up and bought a digital camera with a battery on board and it works like a charm. So, are the Chinese nuke plants like their battery rechargers?

        AV

    2. Dr.Judith Curry now has a post at Climate etc.on the Wood Mackenzie Report to the World Energy Congress via a Reuters article.The post is “Big(ger) Coal.”
      This report raises economic and social issues separate from scientific ones.

  3. Thanks for the link to my blog and welcome to the UK. You chose well, York is a lovely place to live. However, as it is prone to flooding regularly, I hope you are not too close the the river.

    1. Thank you, Martin. We are actually very close to the river but having lived in places with earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes, I am not very worried about floods. We are also outside the floodplain as far as I’m aware.

      1. It’s kind of hard to tell from that map but we’re pretty close to the boundary for extreme flooding. We’re just renting though, so I’m not worried. Floods, unlike earthquakes, usually come with prior warnings and the main worry is that your house loses value.

        There are no squirrels of any colour in NZ. Shortly after we arrived here I saw a program on the BBC about the plight of the red squirrel and it was then that I decided to change my avatar. I am yet to see a red squirrel for real. There are plenty of grey squirrels here in York but no red ones.

  4. Seems like the Daily Mail can’t make up it’s mind. Another great informative post Rachel about climate change, thank you. Also found all the other comments here fascinating reading.

      1. Thanks for the link Rachel. I do think your post is informative because you get me thinking every time with what information you do provide and also the excellent points you raise 🙂

  5. So, too, the whole southern part of the U.S., drawing a line from the North Carolina/South Carolina split straight west to California. And all of these people are going to want to move North, where it will still be tolerable for a while yet.

    I firmly believe that global warming will be a significant back story to many of our coming political upheavals, specifically concerning the coming diaspora of climate refugees who will be relentlessly making their ways to those parts of the world that are still cool enough to survive.

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