Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Old Failed Prediction of Global Warming

In 1976 Stephen Schneider published a book called The Genesis Strategy. It is about how near term cooling of the earth's climate would cause famines around the world. Schneider, at that time the Deputy Head of the Climate Project ant NCAR, proposed storing food to avoid mass starvation.

Climate skeptics have taken some of the passages in this book to indicate that climatologists were predicting a coming ice age. That is not entirely true. Global warming advocates chose passages that show that he was aware that CO2 could warm the planet and claim that skeptics are simply wrong.

This is not the post to get into that but I was interested in one of the predictions this guy made

Schneider wrote:

"There are various estimates of the response of globally averaged surface temperatures to a doubling of CO2 from a out 300 ppm to six hundred ppm by volume - a value projected to occur by about the years 2025 to 2040. State-of-the-art climate models unequivocally predict that such a doubling of CO2 would raise the surface temperature of the earth. Although these predictions vary considerably, probably the best order of magnitude estimate that can be made today is for a surface warming by some 1.5 to 3oK globally and that the temperature increase in the polar regions might well be amplified severalfold. But there is far less agreement over the magnitude and location of tghe warming than over the fact that CO2 will warm. Projection of the CO2 increase, granted the continuation of present trends to the year 2000, suggests, as said earlier, an increase in CO2 concentrations of about 20 to 25 percent, a change corresponding to an approximately 1 deg K global surface temperature rise (plus the assumed amplification at the poles." Stephen Schneider, The Genesis Strategy, (New York: Plenum Press, 1976), p. 180
Now, we have continued to put out CO2 as he was worried about, but his prediction of an additional 1 deg C change by 2000. This has not happened. The trend has gone up about a third of what he predicted and even the most beneficial interpretation says that he was wrong by half.

His book was also about the famine from droughts that would happen in the next 2 decades from when he wrote:

"Although it is possible that technology could provide for basic human needs for all humanity in fifty or one hundred years, the immediate fear is that serious threats to major portions of the human species will occur in the present decade or the next one; the threats will come if the production of essential goods and services continues to be so closely balanced with absolute need that only the slightest imbalance--whether produced inadvertently by the collapse of an overtaxed ecosystem, or deliberately by political removal of a technological prop--could mean death or extreme deprivation for millions." Stephen Schneider, The Genesis Strategy, (New York: Plenum Press, 1976), p. 17-18

The famines never arrived. How sad for Schneider but good for the world.

And of course, he played God pondering whether or not it was good to let people starve in the 1970s so that people in the 1990s could live. But the famine he predicted, didn't come to pass. Strike two

" An evaluation of whether it is "better" to let people starve now, even though food may be available, to prevent possible greater suffering later presents a moral problem of immense dimensions. I return to this issue shortly." Stephen Schneider, The Genesis Strategy, (New York: Plenum Press, 1976), p. 33

Who put him in charge?

He did say in a 1971 Science article that man would put so many aerosols into the air that we would trigger an ice age.

However, it is projected that man's potential to pollute will increase six- to eightfold in the next 50 years. If this increased rate of injection of particulate matter in the atmosphere should raise the present global background opacity by a factor of 4, our calculations suggest a decrease in global temperature by as much as 3.5°K. Such a large decrease in the average surface temperature of
Earth, sustained over a period of few years, is believed to be sufficient
to trigger an ice age.
S. I. Rasool and S. H. Schneider, "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate," Science 173(1971), p. 141

Even with China pouring billions of tons of aerosols into the atmosphere, we have yet to trigger the ice age.

False prophets of doom should not be allowed to remain prophets of doom with records like this.


  1. But of course since Schneider's opus was published we have developed robust GCMs which allow us to predict with confidence the temperatures that the adjusted surface records ambiguously suggest may be occurring so that billions of dollars worth of carbon credits can be traded.

    So you see, there has been a lot of progress. Really.

  2. Yeah, lots of progress. Those GCMs have all failed to predict the current cooling trends.

    "Bizzarely, even though the models have totally failed to predict even short/medium term variations they are still being used to justify the need for massive economic intervention to prevent catastrophe many decades into the future."

    Just like Scheider's claim

    "I have cited many examples of recent climatic variability and repeated the warnings of several well-known climatologists that a cooling trend has set in--perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age--and that climatic variability, which is the bane of reliable food production, can be expected to increase along with the cooling." Stephen Schneider, The Genesis Strategy, New York:Plenum, 1976), p. 90

    Such progress in weather forecasting!

    And yes, we all want the UN IPCC chief to make his hundreds of millions on his investment bet that carbon credits would be traded.

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