See how climate science becomes alarmist propaganda

by Fabius Maximus 

Summary: Our elites believe they can shape our minds through propaganda. This is most obvious in the barrage of exaggerations and misrepresentations of climate science, designed to panic us into approving the Green New Deal. Here is an example of how this happens, the news equivalent of turning gold into straw.

Earth melting - Dreamstime-33491903
ID 33491903 © Rolffimages | Dreamstime.

Large-scale propaganda works, unless fought. It can mold the opinions of a people – irrespective of its truth. The 20th Century provided enough evidence to put that up with F=MA on the list of proven theories. The current climate alarmist propaganda barrage is on a scale seldom seen in US history. Since there is no longer effective opposition, they can make even the wildest claims. Their preferred method is to take climate science papers, exaggerate their claims (in either scope or certainty). Then journalists use these to manufacture clickbait stories (the 21st C version of “if it bleeds, it leads”).

For example, see this from alarmist Eric Holthaus (a writer at Grist). It has 8k retweets and 16 likes, and was featured in Naked Capitalism’s daily links. Holthaus re-tweets climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf’s exaggeration of the study’s results, and further exaggerates them into fiction. The new study says none of the things Holthaus describes. Fifty years to melt Antarctica?


Unlike Holthaus, the mainstream media published stories that merely exaggerated the paper’s findings from science into revelation. “West Antarctica is melting and it’s our fault” by Alejandra Borunda at the once-great National Geographic – “The fingerprints of human-caused climate change have made it to Antarctica, a new study shows.” “New study definitively links western Antarctic ice melt to human-caused climate change” by Theresa Braine in the NY Daily News. “Human-induced global warming responsible for West Antarctic’s melting ice” by Brooks Hays at UPI.

Some publications produce clickbait headlines over more accurate stories, such as “The ReasonAntarctica Is Melting: Shifting Winds, Driven by Global Warming” by Annie Sneed at Scientific America – “A new study helps solve the puzzle of why the continent’s western glaciers are melting so fast” (bold emphasis added).

How did this happen? The origin of propaganda.

The paper is a model of careful science, with careful mention of the many assumptions and uncertainties in their analysis.

West Antarctic ice loss influenced by internal climate variability and anthropogenic forcing
By Paul R. Holland, Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Pierre Dutrieux, Adrian Jenkins & Eric J. Steig – in Nature Geoscience, in press.
Gated. Open access copy here.

“Recent ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been caused by ocean melting of ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea. Eastward wind anomalies at the shelf break enhance the import of warm Circumpolar Deep Water onto the Amundsen Sea continental shelf, which creates transient melting anomalies with an approximately decadal period. No anthropogenic influence on this process has been established.

“Here, we combine observations and climate model simulations to suggest that increased greenhouse gas forcing caused shelf-break winds to transition from mean easterlies in the 1920s to the near-zero mean zonal winds of the present day. Strong internal climate variability, primarily linked to the tropical Pacific, is superimposed on this forced trend. We infer that the Amundsen Sea experienced decadal ocean variability throughout the twentieth century, with warm anomalies gradually becoming more prevalent, offering a credible explanation for the ongoing ice loss.

“Existing climate model projections show that strong future greenhouse gas forcing creates persistent mean westerly shelf-break winds by 2100, suggesting a further enhancement of warm ocean anomalies. These wind changes are weaker under a scenario in which greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilized.”

The authors are to be commended for forthrightly stating in the paper their many assumptions – and the large uncertainties in their modeling. Co-author Eric Steig says this in the title of his RealScience article about this paper, and in the section at the end: “The Antarctic ice sheet is melting and, yeah, it’s probably our fault.

University press releases are often sensationalist, but not this by the University of Washington: “First evidence of human-caused climate change melting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” In the usual contradictory style (the best we can hope for today), it boldly states the conclusions of the paper along with cautionary statements that this is a subject still under investigation.

“A new study reveals the first evidence of a direct link between human-induced global warming and melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. …’The impact of human induced climate change on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is not simple,’ said lead author Paul Holland at the British Antarctic Survey. ‘This is the first evidence for a direct link between human activities and the loss of ice from West Antarctica. Our results imply that a combination of human activity and natural climate variations have caused ice loss in this region, accounting for around 4.5 centimeters [1.8 inches] of sea level rise per century.’”

About the future

The extreme scenario discussed in the paper is (quite rightly) RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. Properly, they also show that the RCP4.5 scenario produces minimal impact.

“Of course, twenty-first century radiative forcing is not decided. Under RCP4.5, CMIP5 simulations project PITT wind trends that are not significantly different from zero …because ozone recovery fully compensates the weaker greenhouse gas forcing …”

In his RealClimate article, Steig describes RCP8.5 as “business as usual.” Which it is not, since RCP8.5 assumes large changes in long-standing trends of rapid (by historical standards) technological process and falling fertility. There is no evidence for the former, especially since a new industrial revolution appears to have begun – including, among other things, radical changes in energy tech (perhaps even fusion). There is no evidence that global fertility is stabilizing, nor have I seen any plausible case for that happening in the next decade or so.


I’m told by scientists I trust that this is a well-constructed but speculative paper (I agree, FWIW as an amateur). It “shows” and “given evidence” about anthropogenic causes of West Antartic melting. It does not prove anything, and other papers disagree (as Steig explains). It is science, and eventually a consensus will develop – to be reported by the IPCC and major climate agencies. But all this has become a sideshow in the public policy debate about climate change.

The belief that RCP8.5 is a “business as usual” scenario was for a decade the critical link between conventional climate science and activists’ doomsters’ screeds. Now alarmists have abandoned even that as too conservative, saying that “business as usual” means either collapse of civilization or even extinction of humanity.

Now we receive a daily propaganda barrage by climate activists combining the occasional extreme doomsterism (The Extinction Rebellion’s hysteria vs. climate science) with a steady flow of exaggerations and misrepresentations of science. Climate scientists as a group are enablers for this propaganda, even complicit in it, by their silence. For more about this, see About the corruption of climate science. and the “noble cause” corruption of climate science.

We are a a nation lit only by propaganda. How dumb do they think we are? The obvious answer: very. The next few years will prove if they are correct. I do not know how this will play out in the next decade. My guess is “badly.” For US politics, for the US economy, and for the environment.