Yes, Deniers And Confusionists, The IEA And Others Warn Of Some 11°F Warming by 2100 If We Keep Listening To You

It always amazes me how many climate bloggers don’t know the scientific literature and don’t use Google to check key facts.

And so, in the annals of phony attacks on climate realists, such as International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol (and me), we now have the most inane. Our bunny friend Eli Rabbet has a brilliant post nibbling on the know-nothings who foisted this inanity on the blogosphere (click here, reposted below).

But the story is so entertainingly informative (informatively entertaining?) as to how the blogosphere fabricates attacks on people that I’ll run through the key elements. On Friday, May 24, I published a piece headlined “IEA: Global CO2 Emissions Hit New Record In 2011, Keeping World On Track For ‘Devastating’ 11°F Warming.”

I have written literally dozens and dozens of posts explaining that this is what the IEA (and others) now says is possible by 2100. Here, for instance, is an M.I.T. figure I use a lot:


Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.): Inaction (“No Policy”) eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic.  Aggressive emissions reductions dramatically improves humanity’s chances. Note that this is 2091-2100 surface warming compared to 1981-2000 — and the mean warming during that time is 5.17°C [See Table 4], which means from preindustrial times to 2100, the total warming would likely exceed 5.7°C.

I confess I thought this was so obvious that it slipped my mind to actually put in the phrase “by 2100.” But the original Reuters story (here) did have an obvious mistake:

“When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist told Reuters.

Again, I thought the mistake, “(by 2050),” was so obviously one the reporter foisted on Birol with the parenthetical comment that I simply omitted it in my post:

“When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”

I (too) cleverly took out the obviously incorrect parenthetical comment by the reporter and replaced it with  Fahrenheit conversion. I had intended when I was writing the article to mention that Reuters made a mistake but it slipped my mind by the time I finished.

Note to self: Always do things when you think of them and don’t expect to remember them at some later time!

When a commenter went to the original Reuters piece and pointed out that 2050 “makes no sense,” I noted in the comments “I meant to post that 2050 is obviously a mistake by the reporter.”

What I didn’t know — because I have stopped reading the blogs of the disinformers and confusionists since their traffic and their impact hit a brick wall a long while ago — is that some easily and/or willfully confused bloggers spun up a phony attack on Birol (and me) because they assumed, nonsensically:

  1. That Birol made the mistake, not the reporter.
  2. That I agreed with the mistake — even though I had never posted it and in fact had obviously omitted it from my post!

Now what makes this exemplary of the kind of nonsense the disinformers and confusionists push on a regular basis is that anybody who actually had a moment’s doubt about the timeframe over which IEA believes the warming will occur could  find out the answer in under 30 seconds on Google!

Just Google “IEA 6C Warming” and the second hit is this UK Guardian piece from April 24 of this year, “Governments failing to avert catastrophic climate change, IEA warns,” about IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven:

On current form, she warns, the world is on track for warming of 6C by the end of the century – a level that would create catastrophe, wiping out agriculture in many areas and rendering swathes of the globe uninhabitable, as well as raising sea levels and causing mass migration, according to scientists.

And just in case there was any confusion, the article quotes her directly two paragraphs later:

“Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs, and under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would be likely to send global temperatures at least 6C higher within this century.”

Talk about much ado about nothing. Or is that much ado from know nothings?

I should add that whether the 11F warming is from preindustrial levels or just the warming this century or it doesn’t happen until say 2125 is beyond irrelevant. The first 4C (7F) of warming is going to destroy a livable climate, possibly for centuries, and what comes after that is, well, beyond imagining. Still, the planet would almost certainly keep warming past 2100 if we were on the high emission scenario:

Steve Easterbrook’s post “A first glimpse at model results for the next IPCC assessment” shows that for the scenario where there is (5°C) 9°F warming by 2100 (from preindustrial levels), you get another 7°F warming by 2300.  Of course, folks that aren’t motivated to avoid the civilization-destroying 9°F by 2100 won’t be moved by whatever happens after that.

I’ll end my post with Birol’s great quote from late last year, World on Pace for 11°F Warming, “Even School Children Know This Will Have Catastrophic Implications for All of Us.” If only school children blogged more!

Finally, I’ll let our hopping mad friend Eli Rabett explain the full story.

What follows is a repost from Rabett Run. I’m not indenting it for reasons that should become clear. I do caution folks not to read any further without a very good head vise.

Axe Grinding

By Eli Rabett

A recent rather scary example of the speed of blogs and how even small mistakes can be amplified in service of serial axe grinding.  It is also a story of how news organizations and reporters can behave ethically in timely correction of mistakes.

It may come as a surprise to many bunnies, but Joe Romm is really despised by many out there in Blogland.  The obvious come to mind, Tony Watts, Hans v. Storch, Keith Kloor, Roger Jr, etc., but in this particular case, David Appell (herehere and now here), and also many of the Kool Kids (that’s you Weasel and James).  The latter class think that one should be, well, cerebral about the threats of major global warming, and well, Joe is hot.  Eli was holding off on this little tale to give it a chance to settle after the original  small burn, but it has gone thermonuclear and needs to be discussed immediately.

Recently an article appeared in Reuters which quoted the Chief Economist of the IEA, Fatih Birol, as saying

“When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,”

Joe Romm picked this up but omitted the (2050) which turns out to be correct.  David Appell on the other hand, went into full attack mode on Romm for predicting a 6C change by 2050.  As the subsequent comments show, Romm did no such thing.

In fact, after reading the Appell post, Eli asked a question at ThinkProgress

  1. In the Reuters piece it says 6 C by 2050 which makes no sense. What did Birol really say?? any idea

    • Martin Vermeer says:

      Good question Eli. I only find 2050 in the Reuters piece,
      “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist told Reuters.
      It’s not in Birol’s slides, and not in his transcript. And it doesn’t make sense.

      • Joe Romm says:

        I meant to post that 2050 is obviously a mistake by the reporter.

        • Steve Bloom says:

          If the 2050 figure did get mentioned, it could perhaps refer to a commitment to 6C by then given a continuation of current emissions trends.

Now one of the annoyances of blogs is that people would rather discuss endlessly what they thought somebunny said, rather than ask that bunny. Eli and others finally got Appell to write to Birol, but Birol is a big cheese, and no reply yet.  It occurred to the Rabett to write to the person whose byline appeared on the Reuters piece. So he did (much more background below in the letter)

Dear Sir

In a recent article published with your byline in Reuters

Fatih Birol is quoted as follows

“When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist told Reuters.

To be frank 6C by 2050 is risible, and there are good reasons to think that Birol simply said 6 degrees Celsius without a date including the IEA 2011 World Energy Report and a recent panel discussion in which he participated, where he said “the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”

This has been picked up in several places, particularly by David Appell

who explains why 2050 is not reasonable by going through some of the numbers. Joe Romm while using the 6 C figure did not quote the date and, indeed there is some published work out there that there really is a chance of 6 C by 2100, though they predict a median of 5.1 C (not much of a difference).

The question is what is the source for the 2050 date?

Thanks for your attention to what may on the surface appear to be a minor matter, but which, given the politicization of climate issues is likely to spread and to be used badly


and received this useful reply from the reporter, Michael Rose

Dear Eli,

Thank you for your email. As you said in your message, Birol did not specify a date for that 6°C increase, and that’s why “by 2050” was between brackets in the story, to show that this was added by Reuters for context. Considering the target for a 2°C trajectory is 2050 and this is the timeframe always referred to in climate change discussions, we thought Birol was comparing like for like, or else why give a number and no date. After reading what you sent me, I’ll certainly check that with him and issue a correction if need be.


It is so bad to be proven right.  Eli had hoped that with a quick resolution this would go away and was waiting for Reuters to catch up with Fatih Birol and get this straightened out, with perhaps a note on the original article, but alas, Hans von Storch put the boot in

A forth [sic] interesting issue is that climate science has become irrelevant; it shows up in passing, when “limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers” is mentioned, and the quote “the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050)” is made. This is a pretty bold prediction, given that we have so far less than 1 degree warming since pre-industrial times, so that the warming must be more than 5 degrees/38 years, i.e., about 0.7-0.8 deg/decade. I consider this pure alarmism, which is related to the timing, and a misuse of scientific analysis for creating some unsustainable short term drama for the Bonn-negotiations. I wonder if this 6-degrees claim is really from IEA, or just an addition by Fatih Birol, because is no not mentioned in the IEA’s announcement.

Eli got there a bit late in the comments:

This attack on Joe Romm and Fatih Birol is an argument in bad faith which originated in David Appell’s dislike of Joe Romm and which you are amplifying for similar reasons. The 2050 is an insertion by Reuters based on a misunderstanding.

On Appell’s blog, Eli pointed this out and suggested that Appell ask Birol. In the discussion there scientific sources were found by others for the 6C claim in 2100. Eli himself has asked Reuters and received a response

Tony Watts has now leveraged your bad faith posting into an attack on Joe Romm.

Be proud

It had already bled over from the Pielkesphere into the Blogs of Denial and from there, but a short hop to the Capital, Wattsville

This is sad. Joe Romm promotes another overt fabrication, and some poor kid writes in despair, hoping all the “oil/coal people” here die “a horrible death, preferably caused by climate disasters”. If that were sent to somebody at ANU, it would by the Appell/Stokes rule, be declared a “death threat”. Since it’s on Romm’s site, the poster gets sympathy and counseling instead of admonishment. See below.

and they are off!!!  and how.  But Reuters has issued a correction

11:41 30May12 RTRS-CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Global CO2 emissions hit record in 2011 led by China-IEA

(Corrects MAY 24 story to fix timeframe reference in fourth paragraph)
* CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 pct last year
* China the biggest contributor to the global rise
* Trend could have “devastating consequences” -IEA’s Birol

By Michel Rose

PARIS, May 24 (Reuters) – China spurred a jump in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to their highest ever recorded level in 2011, offsetting falls in the United States and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 percent last year to 31.6 billion tonnes, preliminary estimates from the Paris-based IEA showed.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, made the largest contribution to the global rise, its emissions increasing by 9.3 percent, the body said, driven mainly by higher coal use.

“When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (towards the end of this century), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist told Reuters.

Scientists say ensuring global average temperatures this century do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is needed to limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers.

They believe that is only possible if emission levels are kept to around 44 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020….

There are several morals here, certainly Reuters and Michael Rose, the journalist, behaved responsibly when informed of the issue, investigating and then issuing the correction.  Similar action may limit the damage that Appell and v. Storch are doing to their reputation.  In Watts’ case the Bunnies strongly suspect what the answer will be.— By Eli Rabett

24 Responses to Yes, Deniers And Confusionists, The IEA And Others Warn Of Some 11°F Warming by 2100 If We Keep Listening To You

  1. D. R. Tucker says:

    Once again climate change is our focus but with new and compelling angles (never a shortage!).
    First up, Drew Grande returns to The Green Front to discuss a recent report from the NRDC about predicted U.S. deaths from climate-related heat waves. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign organizer offered some encouraging news; America is now getting about 38% of its energy from coal compared to around 50% only a few years ago. Next, psychotherapist and climate blogger Doug Craig opines on the current “Climate of Crazy” and we wrap up with Mike Mielke, environmental director for Silicon Valley Leadership Group, on how AB 32 is working well in California, despite the usual critics.

    Read more:
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

  2. bill says:

    Fulsome apologies forthcoming in… well, the sound you’re not hearing is me holding my breath.

    You’d almost think some people just hang around waiting to misundertand things…

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    One thing I like about you, Joe, is your willingness to go ahead and piss people off. Your style is more direct than combative, but throwing the truth in certain people’s faces makes them crazy.

    Eli shares this quality, but his style is wry, which also works.

    The problem we seem to have in our media, apart from corruption, is cowardice. Why are people afraid to upset people like Boyce, Koch, and Tillerson? Instead of smelling blood, they their style is to vacillate to power. Hello Pielke, Nordhaus, and Revkin.

    Keep it up, Joe and Eli. History will view you with kindness and gratitude, but accept a little thanks from those of us in the bleacher seats in the meantime.

  4. Paul Magnus says:

    “Here’s a recent short clip showing Birol speaking with characteristic forthrightness on the responsibility of the energy sector in fighting climate change.”

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Forthright, but still a bit subdue. He aught to take lessons from Lovelock.

  6. Michael Stefan says:

    Whenever somebody mentions the fact that U.S. coal consumption has declined, the first thing I point out is that natural gas isn’t as clean as many claim; Joe himself has posted numerous articles showing that it can even increase(!) warming. Furthermore, the reduction in aerosols, which mask half the expected warming so far, will cause faster short-term warming (and feedbacks to kick in earlier/stronger). In fact, one has to wonder if the latter has anything to do with all of the hot weather in the U.S. lately (which experienced much less warming, even cooling, in the previous century, but it has since reversed):

    The “Warming Hole” Over Eastern US – Due to Pollution

  7. Not Lovelock:

    James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too….
    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium….”

    James Lovelock Finally Walks Back His Absurd Doomism, But He Still Doesn’t Follow Climate Science
    By Joe Romm on Apr 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Well laid out article Joe and always keeping the truth in focus – thank you.

    That graphic at the top regarding we’ll have built all CO2 sources by 2017 allowed for a 450ppm limit on our current path is striking. We’re starting to roll through the ability to achieve the previously publicized 2C and 450ppm limits (however artificial they were) with nobody outside of the scientists taking much notice (for the most part)…melting away like the North Pole ice will in the years ahead.

  9. jyyh says:

    with “which EIA actually believes “, you probably mean IAE? (though in french i might even be correct?)

  10. EDpeak says:

    First, could someone, PLEASE create a Fahrenheit version of those pie charts…soon..we need ’em! To reach out to more in the general public, not just to preach to the choir, we need a F version, whihc I hope JR can include (instead of or, even alongside, the C version) in future posts..?

    Second, the reporter messed up (and to their credit corrected), but the reporter raises a good question: by when will we (with probability 50% or more) be committed to 6 C increase?

    The reporter thought the answer to this (or a the answer to a similar) question is “by 2050” it’s not..

    The MIT graphic shows that without action we have >50% change of being above 5C which caption notes is 5.7°C increase relative pre-industrial…rounding that to 6C, we DO have >50% chance without action to warm 6C or more..

    If that happens, and MIT says without action it probably will, then “without action,” will we probably ( >50% chance) be “committed” to that 6C by the year 2099? Of course!

    So the question is, if not by 2050, and if clearly before 2099, then by when (assuming MIt’s “no action” scenario) will we be
    (with >50% probability)committed to 6C higher than preindustrial? (skip puns about psychological illness of deniers..)

    The (probabilistically and otherwise qualified) answer is probably depressing. Then again as JR points out, “depressing” and worse than depressing applies to 4 C so we’re talking about questions regarding something even-more-catastrophic when we ask about 6 C….(but still an interesting question)

  11. _Flin_ says:

    As a european, i can not let this pass without having some fun:

    Nevertheless, you are right about the F versions. :-)

  12. _Flin_ says:

    It is painful to see that there is no benefit of doubt in some areas of the discourse. And that is why I have long ago lost faith in “honest brokers”.

  13. Peter M says:

    So right now we have 435PPM ‘locked’ in with the current infrastructure? If we cut our emissions now by 5% a year- would we really avoid 450ppm? And 2 degrees C? not probable. We are basically sunk.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘Climate of Crazy’ on the Right is nothing new. Ever since we came down out of the trees there have been human individuals whose greed, fear and hatred of others and gigantic egotism have made them a menace to their fellow creatures and all that is living. The only difference today is that we now have the technological and scientific ability to destroy the planet’s habitability, and the destroyers have come to totally dominate mankind, by exterminating or enslaving the other types of humanity. This hideous apotheosis was always inevitable, and now it is here.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Given the levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere, the accelerating rate at which they are being emitted, the fanatic determination of the Right to see that fossil fuels are burned,and renewables delayed or derailed and the kicking in of positive forcings like the Arctic albedo flip, increased emissions from melting permafrost and clathrates, dying forests worldwide and megafires, I’m convinced that six degrees increase is absolutely certain already.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    We have been sitting on the bottom of the sea, slowly rusting away, for decades-it’s just that people cannot take bitter truths.

  17. Paul Magnus says:

    We are definately going to get over 3C. And global civilization will not survive 2C.

  18. Raul M. says:

    huffington Post has an article today about the entire Arctic having passed 400ppm. They didn’t give reason for the higher average there than worldwide average. there is that extra methane changing out to co2 over time. Don’t know why there would be a higher concentration in the Arctic area of nearly 3 or so ppm.
    Thanks Joe for keeping the info more easily available.

  19. Dick Smith says:

    Despite Bill McKibben’s, we have just given up on 350 ppm CO2 as a meaningful threshold for dangerous warming. But, James Hansen and 17 other scientists have filed a disturbing scientific brief in support of a lawsuit in the D.C. federal courts by 4 Virginia and California teenagers against many Obama administration officials based on that 350 ppm. The writing is clear.

    The arguments are as chilling as they are compelling. It’s a good reminder of how much we’re already rolling the dice for generations to come.

  20. Barry Saxifrage says:

    Just because we build the infrastructure doesn’t mean we will use to cook ourselves. Generation Hot might decide to walk away from it, just like so many people have walked away from excess real estate recently … or excess dot com shares in the past.

    We need the message to switch to “if you build it, you will lose money.”

  21. Barry Saxifrage says:

    Hansen disagrees. He says we can still stay below 1C but requires action now.

    We aren’t “locked in” to using all the infrastructure we are building. It could just be yet another bubble caused by “irrational exuberance”.

    I’m frustrated by the “locked in” language as it gives all the power to the fossil fuel corporations. It says that their capital trumps climate. There are always two sides to the coin.

    The other side was described clearly by Nobel Prize Laureate and SFU professor Dr. Mark Jaccard when he was arrested recently for blocking a BC coal train: “We are heading for a real crisis in which we’ll have to start ripping infrastructure apart.”

    The alternative to “locked in” is “If you build dirty infrastructure, you will lose money.”

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You are correct. Global ‘civilization’ as it is currently constituted ie a neo-feudal kakistocracy overseen by a homicidal and insatiably greedy parasitic elite, cannot sustain itself with a six or even two degree Celsius rise in average temperatures. However, in all truth, this global pathocracy cannot maintain itself with zero degree change, because its innately necrophilous destructiveness will destroy humanity by one or more of numerous mechanisms, economic, social, geo-political or from the surfeit of other ecological collapses.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Boy oh, boy, how i wish that you were right. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I am convinced otherwise. Let’s all pray that it is you who is correct.