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Faster pace of climate change is ‘scary’, former chief scientist says

September 18, 2019

By Paul Homewood

h/t Philip Bratby

Harrabin is getting ever more hysterical these days:


Extreme events linked to climate change, such as the heatwave in Europe this year, are occurring sooner than expected, an ex-chief scientist says.

Prof Sir David King says he’s been scared by the number of extreme events, and he called for the UK to advance its climate targets by 10 years.

But the UN’s weather chief said using words like “scared” could make young people depressed and anxious.

Campaigners argue that people won’t act unless they feel fearful.

Speaking to the BBC, Prof King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government, said: “It’s appropriate to be scared. We predicted temperatures would rise, but we didn’t foresee these sorts of extreme events we’re getting so soon.”

He said the world had changed faster than generally predicted in the fifth assessment report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014.

He referred especially to the loss of land ice and sea ice, and to the weather extremes in which he said warming probably played a role.

Several other scientists contacted by the BBC supported his emotive language.

The physicist Prof Jo Haigh from Imperial College London said: “David King is right to be scared – I’m scared too."

“We do the analysis, we think what’s going to happen, then publish in a very scientific way.

"Then we have a human response to that… and it is scary.”…

We tested Prof King’s views with the main authors of the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published in 2014.

The consensus among those who replied was that climate models had accurately forecast the rise in global mean temperature.

But the models hadn’t been sufficiently sophisticated to foresee events like this year’s extreme European heatwave or the slow-moving Hurricane Dorian – described by Nasa as “extraordinary” and “a nightmare scenario”.

Others mentioned severe ice melting at the poles; Tasmania suffering record droughts and floods in consecutive years; record wildfires in the Arctic and an unprecedented two large cyclones in Mozambique in one year.

Changes ‘anticipated for decades’

Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, told us he’d been anticipating changes like these for four decades, although he hadn’t been certain when they would arrive.

“I have a sense of the numbing inevitability of it all,” he said.

Few of the scientists we contacted had faith that governments would do what was needed to rescue the climate in time.

They’re alarmed that global warming of just over 1C so far has already created a new normal in which historic temperature records will inevitably be broken more often. This is the predictable side of climate change.

Prof King argues that some changes were not well forecast.

What is the science behind extreme weather events?

The loss of land ice in Antarctica, for instance, is at the upper range of predictions in the IPCC AR5. And there are record ice losses in Greenland

Then there’s this year’s French heatwave.

Dr Friederike Otto from Oxford University is an expert in the attribution of extreme events to climate change.

She told us that in a pre-climate change world, a heatwave like this might strike once in 1,000 years.

In a post-warming world, the heatwave was a one-in-a-100 year phenomenon.

In other words, natural variability is amplifying human-induced climate heating.

“With European heatwaves, we have realised that climate change is a total game-changer,” she said. "It has increased the likelihood (of events) by orders of magnitude."

Researchers had not yet had time to investigate the links between all of the major extreme weather events and climate change, she said.

With some phenomena such as droughts and floods there was no clear evidence yet of any involvement from climate change.

And it was impossible to be sure that the slow progress of Dorian was caused by climate change.

‘We can’t wait for scientific certainty’

Prof King said the world could not wait for scientific certainty on events like Hurricane Dorian. “Scientists like to be certain,” he said.

“But these events are all about probabilities. What is the likelihood that (Dorian) is a climate change event? I’m going to say ‘very high’.

“I can’t say that with 100% certainty, but what I can say is that the energy from the hurricane comes from the warm ocean and if that ocean gets warmer we must expect more energy in hurricanes.”

He continued: “If you got in a plane with a one in 100 chance of crashing you would be appropriately scared.

“But we are experimenting with the climate in a way that throws up probabilities of very severe consequences of much more than that.”

Should the UK bring climate targets earlier?

Pierre Friedlingstein from Exeter University said he’d been surprised by the onslaught of extreme weather. He said he expected extremes to happen as forecast by the IPCC – but had not expected them so quickly.

Prof King said the situation was so grave that the UK should bring forward its date for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases to almost zero from 2050 to 2040.

Some of the IPCC scientists we contacted didn’t share his urge to engage with the public on an emotional level.

Others agreed with him.

Prof John Church from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia told us: "Some things appear to be happening faster than projected. This may be partially related to the interaction of climate change and natural variability as well as the uncertainty in our understanding and projections.

“In my own area of sea level change, things are happening near the upper end of the projections.

“What is scary is our lack of appropriate response. Our continued lack of action is committing the world to major and essentially irreversible change.”

This piece is strangely garbled, and it is not clear who is claiming what. But let’s look at some of the more outlandish claims:

1) The heatwave in Europe.

Heatwaves have always occurred. They may be slightly hotter now than in the past, just as bitterly cold winters might be slightly less cold. This does not mean extreme weather events are on the rise.

This year’s events quoted were actually no more than a few days’ worth of hot weather, and so cannot be due to “climate change”.

If we look at the UK, for instance, which boasted its “hottest day evah”, we find that the summer as a whole was pretty average. Comparison with 1976 shows how intense the heat was for long periods in that year:


To present a day’s weather this as somehow “scary” or proof that “the world is changing faster than predicted” is the sort of absurd nonsense we have been used to hearing from King.


2) Land and sea ice

King also refers to to the loss of land ice and sea ice.

Even though the Arctic sea ice minimum is relatively low this year, it is plain that it has been stable since 2007.

Meanwhile in the Antarctic, the long term trend is slightly upwards:

As for land ice, the ice sheet in Greenland grew at above average levels in 2017 and 2018. more than offsetting this summer.


And according to NASA, the ice sheet on Antarctica has been growing since 1992.

3) King claims that climate models had accurately forecast the rise in global mean temperature.

But that was not what the IPCC declared in 2013:


 4) King then attempts to link Hurricane Dorian to climate change, particularly the fact it was slow moving.

I have seen no evidence whatsoever that any scientist forecast such a thing, prior to Harvey in 2017, which was blocked due to perfectly normal meteorological conditions. King, of course, can find no evidence anyway that hurricanes have become more slow moving, and simply splutters that the world could not wait for scientific certainty on events like Hurricane Dorian.

He then goes on to claim that warmer oceans must lead to more powerful hurricanes.

Yet the IPCC’s AR5 categorically stated there was no evidence of any long term increase in tropical cyclone activity.

And the actual data confirms this:


5) Record wildfires in the Arctic

Evidently neither King or Harrabin have read the BBC’s own report on wildfires two weeks ago, “Are forest fires as bad as they seem?”

Most of the Arctic fires referred to have been in Siberia, but using NASA data the BBC themselves showed that there was nothing unusual about this year’s fires there.



6) Sea level is “happening near the upper end of the projections.”


In the first IPCC report in 1992, they predicted a rise of 200mm by 2030, that is 5mm a year:




And the actual rate of rise? Just 2.9mm a year:





Sea levels were rising at a similar rate in the early 20thC, so there is no evidence of acceleration, as the IPCC admitted in AR5:





The simple reality is that the world’s climate is not becoming more extreme, nor is it changing faster than expected. And it certainly is not “scary”.

Of course, King gives the game away, when he concludes:

“The UK should bring forward its date for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases to almost zero from 2050 to 2040”

Cutting UK emissions will not make the blindest bit of difference, as he well knows. It is a political statement, pure and simple, which has nothing to do with science.

  1. cajwbroomhill permalink
    September 18, 2019 7:39 pm

    King sounds authoritiatively convincing, hectoring and confidnt: no wondrr he conned T Blair and other gullible politicos, but it’s all fake, because he is so self-uncritical, a deadly defect in a man of science

  2. C MATCHETTE-DOWNES permalink
    September 18, 2019 7:46 pm


  3. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 18, 2019 7:54 pm

    CH4 news just had an article telling Trump to come speak to the residents of Rhode Island if he doesn’t ‘believe’. Sandy seafront (holiday mostly) homes are at risk. As usual when these claims are made, this has nothing significant to do with any man-made climate change/sea-level rise, just the relentless natural established rise (tiny 8″ century), land settlement, and normal natural processes of erosion. WUWT covered it a while back which CH4 news could have easily found.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 19, 2019 12:55 am

      i read that as methane news…

  4. Pancho Plail permalink
    September 18, 2019 7:58 pm

    This is not science, it is hard-sell marketing. King is the equivalent of a fairground barker.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 18, 2019 8:51 pm

      No, he’s just barking.

  5. Paul M permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:14 pm

    Ye gods and little fishes, this means we’re down to one year! Does anyone actually believe this crud?

  6. Phillip Beckley permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:23 pm

    The underlying assumption of the warmists that CO2 increases are causing the global warming since the mid 20th century is simply untrue. The former Greenpeace leader Patrick Moore has recently demonstrated that throughout Earth’s history CO2 levels and temperature changes have not been correlated at all. Further, present levels of 415 ppm are low compared to levels of 1000 to 2000 ppm which were common in the past. The Irish scientists Michael and Ronan Connolly have recently demonstrated that there was a significant drop in global temperatures from the 1940s to the 1970s, with temperatures in the late nineteenth century through to the 1930s at least as high as they are now. Tony Heller of demonstrates that temperatures in the US from the 1900s to the 1930s were significantly higher than they are now. We are talking global warming after all. Going back to Michael and Ronan Connolly, they link temperature changes to solar sunspot cycle. This is backed up by Professor Valentina Zharkova, whose research indicates we are about to enter a period of low solar activity: this is to do with magnetic fields, not just radiative activity (which would not affect climate that much, apparently.) Her research indicates that the Earth could be entering another Maunder minimum period for about 30 to 35 years.

  7. cajwbroomhill permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:24 pm

    I remember King telling damsels to avoid boyfriends with fast sportscars because of the extra CO2 output. He sounded serious!

  8. tomo permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:27 pm

    oh gawd … King again

  9. David P permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:44 pm

    “Dr Friederike Otto from Oxford University is an expert in the attribution of extreme events to climate change.
    She told us that in a pre-climate change world, a heatwave like this might strike once in 1,000 years.”

    A pre-climate change world? When was the world not subject to climate change? Is Dr Otto a climate change denier?

    • Mack permalink
      September 18, 2019 10:42 pm

      Just as well no-one told Dr Otto about the 70 day heatwave in France in the ‘pre-climate change’ world of 1911, a tad less than 1,000 years ago, when 41,000 died. And that was just in France during a Europe wide event. There are many more deadly examples of extreme heatwave effects throughout the last millennium in Europe alone. Best pop back to the library Dr Otto and do some proper research mate. As for Dr King, his consistency in being wrong on just about everything he says on the subject of ‘climate change’ and the esteem in which he is held by fellow doomsters and politicos is testament to the fact that the entire field is broken and utterly corrupt.

    • dennisambler permalink
      September 18, 2019 10:54 pm

      Friederike is a Potsdam product and is currently at the “prestigious” Oxford Environmental Change Institute. Her PhD was on the Philosophy of Climate Modelling.

      • bobn permalink
        September 19, 2019 12:42 am

        Or in other words, she’s an uneducated ignorant propagandist.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      September 19, 2019 8:18 am

      Its absolute nonsense. You cannot sensibly compute such numbers. And once in a thousand years doesn’t mean anything. When does the thousand years start and finish? Have one in year 1000 and another in year 1001 and then none for 999 years? And how accurate is “one” and “1,000”? Pure guesses.

      This really is utter junk.

  10. john cooknell permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:46 pm

    Prof King says “What is the likelihood that (Dorian) is a climate change event? I’m going to say ‘very high’.”

    I thank him for signalling his confirmation bias, I will view the rest of his expert opinions taking this into account.

    He appears to have a bit of a mix of beliefs, he supported a study that shows organic farming produces more CO2 emissions than conventional farming, he supports nuclear electric generation, not quite sure of what to make of him.

    I did hear him speak in person a few years ago, but there was so much jargon, I got bullsh*t bingo several times, and all awkward questions were hand waved away.

  11. Gerry, England permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:48 pm

    I thought the climate crooks should rot in gaol once the scam is ended and they are brought to book for their actions but King looks to be more at home in an asylum.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      September 18, 2019 10:59 pm

      I lost any respect for the man when he said (some years ago) that it was “warmer than it had ever been in the last 500,000 years”. Later I think he increased the time to the last 5 million years.
      In either case a minimal amount of checking would have shown them as false, so he is either a quite incompetent scientist or he is a liar.

  12. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 18, 2019 8:55 pm

    Prof King said the world could not wait for scientific certainty – yet he is happy to claim that the models are accurately predicting temps – but they’re not – and that the ‘science’ is accurate enough to be specific about a French (!) heatwave. Does he also believe that CO² is so precise in its effect – and where it is effective. The man’s been bought and paid for.

  13. September 18, 2019 9:06 pm

    Who pays King’s salary ? Hope it is not me.

  14. john cooknell permalink
    September 18, 2019 9:11 pm

    On the BBC News website Matt Mcgrath has now joined in with flooding alarmist stuff. The study he quotes states the ble*ding obvious that if its high tide and it rains a lot you might get a few problems, no sh*t sherlock!

    However its a magnificent picture of the Dawlish railway scene at high tide, just underlines why Brunel didn’t want to build the railway on the beach.

    I love this view, I go there every year, a monument to mans success in his fight against the elements. So far Brunel-1 Sea-0, but there have been quite a few near misses in the 140 years of the railway.

  15. Broadlands permalink
    September 18, 2019 10:09 pm

    In general it appears that the climate is moving faster and sooner than expected? That should indicate that the models are not very good but it doesn’t seem to do that. Back in the real world it should be realized that lowering emissions faster (or slower) does not lower the CO2 already out there. Even if reducing emissions were done by 2040 there would be no viable energy alternatives in place to replace carbon. While they are lowering emissions, more carbon will have to be emitted each year until Net-zero is reached. By that time, the total in the atmosphere could be about 500 ppm. This is all amazingly stupid for adults to be so scared that the children are frightened too.

  16. saparonia permalink
    September 18, 2019 10:54 pm

    The world economy is failing and they are going down, this is only their death throes.

  17. GeoffB permalink
    September 18, 2019 11:04 pm

    He is a professor and a sir, so must be right….why do we poor uneducated souls not agree with his point of view?
    Because his salary depends on promulgating this rubbish.

  18. dennisambler permalink
    September 18, 2019 11:08 pm

    “A political hurricane blew through an international scientific meeting on climate change held in Moscow last week, sparking a major row between top advisers to the British and Russian governments. U.K. scientists complained that the meeting had been “hijacked” by opponents of the Kyoto Protocol, while Russian officials accused the British delegation, led by Chief Scientific Adviser David King, of trying to suppress dissenting views.

    Russia holds the key to the Kyoto climate treaty, which enters into force only if adopted by countries that together are responsible for at least 55% of the world’s carbon dioxide output. In May, President Vladimir Putin hinted that he might ratify the treaty in exchange for the European Union’s support of Russian membership in the World Trade Organization. That came shortly after the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) produced a report criticizing the protocol, saying it lacks scientific validity and would not be effective.”

    Russia got the EU support, Kyoto was ratified.

    A University of Cambridge professor has proposed a radical new centre for climate repair to reverse the damage humans are doing to the environment.


    “Antarctica is likely to be the world’s only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the Government’s chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last week.

    He said the Earth was entering the “first hot period” for 60 million years, when there was no ice on the planet and “the rest of the globe could not sustain human life”. The warning – one of the starkest delivered by a top scientist – comes as ministers decide next week whether to weaken measures to cut the pollution that causes climate change, even though Tony Blair last week described the situation as “very, very critical indeed”.

  19. dennisambler permalink
    September 18, 2019 11:18 pm

    “What is the likelihood that (Dorian) is a climate change event? I’m going to say ‘very high’.

    What was it in 1780?
    The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Huracán San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Between 22,000 and 27,501 people died throughout the Lesser Antilles when the storm passed through them from October 10–16. Specifics on the hurricane’s track and strength are unknown because the official Atlantic hurricane database goes back only to 1851.
    There were three major storms in a month with 27,000 dead.

  20. Phillip Beckley permalink
    September 19, 2019 6:05 am

    Before one million years ago (a blink of an eye in geological terms) the Earth had,for long periods, CO2 levels of between 1000ppm to 2000ppm, sometimes higher. Plants grow better at these levels. In other words,this is a low CO2 period. More recently, research has shown that the stats, showing continual warming in the 20th century, have been distorted by including the heat island effect of the growth of cities in the stats: rural areas show the warm period pre the 1940s, and a cool period between the 1940s and the 1970s. Finally the Sun now has no sunspots and is entering a period of low activity. There is a forecast that the planet is about to enter a Maunder minimum.

  21. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    September 19, 2019 7:44 am

    King. Never right about anything. Anyone with a diseasal caused disease should sue.

  22. Court de Lion permalink
    September 19, 2019 7:48 am

    I had an exchange with Prof Lord Rees ex Astronomer Royal as a result of a letter he wrote to The Times accusing the GWPF of ‘bias’. He’s another highly placed academic warmist. He asserts the precautionary principle. I don’t think he’s financially profiting but like many he ‘s hooked on reputation- if the CO2 scam falls apart he’s dead in the water.

  23. Phoenix44 permalink
    September 19, 2019 8:15 am

    I get bored of saying this, but if the predictions made by your theory are wrong, your theory is wrong. It doesn’t matter if they occur “sooner” (which is purely an assumption) they are still wrong. So your theory is wrong, your models are wrong.

    The fact that stuff happens now that was “supposed” to happen in fifty years is not proof of anything except we don’t understand the climate well enough to make predictions. It is absolutely not proof of things being worse than we thought.

    If Halleys comment reappeared fifty years earlier than predicted we would not be saying Halley was “more right” but that he was wrong. Forget the data debunking, we have to make people understand that these claims are unscientific and logically false.

  24. europeanonion permalink
    September 19, 2019 9:35 am

    Tomorrow is coming sooner? At least calendars will be smaller.. The human race needs these stories apparently, needs the preoccupation. So many Hollywood movies (dramas) with pictorial representations of catastrophe are far more compelling than diagrams and refutations. I look back on mutually assured destruction (MAD), in the nuclear holocaust period, with some nostalgia. At least then it was self-evident what could happen, it was self-evidently a bad thing. Now, in a period of prosperity and the selfie, manic keep fit and more pay for less work, there is time to agonise and the financial support to not be doing your day job and,,instead, taking to the streets or taking a boat to the U.N. The scenario is as old as the hills. We remember that in living memory an actor, Orson Wells, was able to spook virtually the entire population of the US with talk of Martians landing on Earth with evil intent. Today, with so much more media, so much more ability to attenuate the news, transpose and edit, the greater needs of the imagination can be fed. Someone, probably the UN is pushing for world government and using climate as a pretext.

  25. Adrian, East Anglia permalink
    September 19, 2019 10:17 am

    By no means the first time that King has driven a coach and horses through science for political ends. Back in 2001, he and an entourage of self-styled ‘experts’ interfered in the control of the UK Foot-and-mouth disease epizootic. Employing ad hoc models which were fundamentally flawed (- they modelled something, but it certainly wasn’t the disease!-), they inflicted extremely serious damage on the UK livestock industry and added about £1.5 billion in unnecessary costs to the bill for the UK taxpayer. But, hey ho, Mr Blair won his election. Needless to say, I am no great fan of Professor Sir David King.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      September 20, 2019 8:30 am

      My father contributed to the 1967 foot and mouth report. He always wondered why they ignored it in 2001 when they begged him to come out of retirement and help.

  26. September 19, 2019 11:38 am

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  27. September 19, 2019 12:10 pm

    With apologies to Admiral David Farragut USN, “Damn the FACTS, full speed ahead”

  28. September 19, 2019 1:35 pm

    The reason why certain hurricanes were *slow moving* is that they ran into other existing stationary weather systems and so had nowhere to go until they could change direction.

    Nothing to do with man-made trace gases.

  29. Bill in France permalink
    September 19, 2019 4:33 pm

    To quote Withnail and I. “His mechanisms gone”.

  30. edwardrodolph1891 permalink
    September 19, 2019 4:41 pm

    The ‘pic’ shows a perfectly ordinary summer ‘melt’, -it’ll be freezing hard again in winter.

  31. Nigel Corrigan permalink
    September 22, 2019 6:55 pm

    Paul, I did try to find your mail address, unsuccessfully — so here’s the intended message.

    2 days old. This is a must watch. Don’t miss it. 12 minutes.

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