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Apocalypse Not Quite Yet

The world is going to end in 2050

If you were preparing for the apocalypse twelve years from now, I have good news for you. The world is actually going to end in 31 years.

This good news comes from a report by Vice.

The analysis, published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, a think-tank in Melbourne, Australia, describes climate change as “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization” and sets out a plausible scenario of where business-as-usual could lead over the next 30 years.

The paper argues that the potentially “extremely serious outcomes” of climate-related security threats are often far more probable than conventionally assumed, but almost impossible to quantify because they “fall outside the human experience of the last thousand years.”

Newsflash: Climate change think-tank says climate change is a problem. Who would have guessed? Next up, Moms Demand Action says guns are a problem.

The Vice article says,

While the Breakthrough scenario sets out some of the more ‘high end’ risk possibilities, it is often not possible to meaningfully quantify their probabilities. As a result, the authors emphasize that conventional risk approaches tend to downplay worst-case scenarios despite their plausibility.

It’s this last segment that sheds the most light on their methodology. This discussion of probability and plausibility convinced me to look into the actual policy paper instead of relying on Vice’s summary.

I half expected to find a 400 page study hidden behind a paywall. Instead, I found an eleven page PDF that was extremely unconvincing. In terms of intellectual heft, it’s difficult to make a clear argument for something as complicated as climate change predictions in eleven pages. But it gets better. The first three pages are the cover, table of contents, and the forward. Then the last page is blank. Suddenly, an eleven page “analysis” is now a seven page report.

It’s easy for Vice to say that global warming is going to result in devastating circumstances for billions of people when they defer to the study produced by a climate change think-tank. Despite relying on other works, this study is woefully lacking in substance.

Reliance on existing climate data and the “scientific consensus” only gets you so far, especially when you are not satisfied with the “conservative estimates” of the climate science community. This analysis thinks that the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough. The burden then is on these researchers to explain why, but they admit that they are simply interested in what might be possible.

I understand that there is little need to rehash all the data when everyone is assumed to agree with what has been established by the “scientific consensus,” but their analysis specifically states that they are going beyond what is to be anticipated, which leaves the reader wanting to understand how we get from data accepted by the scientific community to all hell is going to break loose by 2050.

When the conclusion is the exhortation to begin massive scale policy regimes designed to bring us to a “zero-emission industrial system,” I think it is wise to ask for something more than seven pages of appeals to authority and theorizing about possibilities.

Vice does a disservice by not discussing the analysis as a whole. Vice reports that the world might end by 2050. The analysis they cite shows that this is likely a fringe opinion that goes further than other climate alarmist assessments.

Still, it’s better than getting only twelve years out of the future.

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