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Robert P. Murphy, at Mises, Discusses Climate Change

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Ignore the Fear Mongering, Here’s What Climate Change Models Actually Say

  • GettyImages-938846392 (1).jpg

An Earth scientist’s recent article making the rounds on social media highlights a terrifying conversation he had with “a very senior member” of the IPCC, which is the UN’s body devoted to studying climate science. The upshot of their conversation was that millions of people will die from climate change, a conclusion that leads the author to lament that humans have created a consumption-driven civilization that is “hell bent on destroying itself.”

As with most such alarmist rhetoric, there is little to document these sweeping claims—even if we restrict ourselves to “official” sources of information, including the IPCC reports themselves. The historical record does not justify panic, but instead should lead us to expect continued progress for humanity, so long as the normal operation of voluntary market interactions continues without significant political interference to sabotage it.

The Conversation

Here is the opening hook from James Dyke’s article, in which he grabs the reader with an apocalyptic conversation:

It was the spring of 2011, and I had managed to corner a very senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during a coffee break at a workshop…

The IPCC reviews the vast amounts of science being generated around climate change and produces assessment reports every four years. Given the impact the IPPC’s findings can have on policy and industry, great care is made to carefully present and communicate its scientific findings. So I wasn’t expecting much when I straight out asked him how much warming he thought we were going to achieve before we manage to make the required cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Oh, I think we’re heading towards 3°C at least,” he said.

“But what about the many millions of people directly threatened,” I went on. “Those living in low-lying nations, the farmers affected by abrupt changes in weather, kids exposed to new diseases?”

He gave a sigh, paused for a few seconds, and a sad, resigned smile crept over his face. He then simply said: “They will die.”

Putting aside the creepiness of someone smiling as he predicts millions of deaths—sort of like a James Bond villain—we must inquire: How plausible are these warnings? Does the climate change literature actually support such bold projections?

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