Is mainstream climate science the new denialism?

Is mainstream climate science the new denialism?

  • Posted by: Dr. Doug MacKie
  • Category: Uncategorised

A recent blog post by environmentalist Jonathan Porritt has accused the majority of climate scientists of being complicit in deliberately not articulating the reality of the speed and impact of climate change. You can read the blog here

There is a lot to discuss in this  blog post despite it being written in a polemical rather than scientific style.

Let’s take the propositions in turn;

  1. The speed of climate change is faster than almost all scientists predicted. There is certainly a trend for scientists to somewhat under-estimate climate change (Brysse,2012)  which the author attributed to the scientific norms of restraint, conservatism and dispassionate objectivity. However through a combination of backcasting and forecasting, estimates of global warming have proved surprisingly accurate ( See Hausfather 2017 for a summary at
  2. Most scientists do agree that 1.5C is unobtainable but the accusation that they don’t give voice to this is simple untrue. See for example Bustamante et al (2023)  for multiple insights into climate change including the near certainty  of overshooting 1.5C.  The IPCC AR6  found that “global warming was likely or very likely  to exceed 1.5C in the near term”, IPCC, 2022 Ch3, p329)
  3. The vast majority of people haven’t a clue what’s going on. Difficult to respond to this one as there is no data or references but my intuition here is that this is more about  the lack of consensus around the degree of existential crisis that climate change poses to humanity. This is a live debate in climate  change mitigation at the moment  with XR, JSO etc promoting the concept of imminent social collapse and more moderate voices like Michael Mann and Mike Hulme challenging both the immanence and the wisdom of the declaration of climate emergencies ( Hulme, 2019).
  4. The current backlash against existing climate measures is accelerating. This is a real concern with anti-ESG  movements in the US and UK government stalling on commitments to the energy transition. However the rise of right wing populism is complex and multi-faceted and cannot be reducted  to climate denialism.
  5. The science-based institutions on which we depend  to address this crisis have comprehensively failed us. Really? The IPPC is a first in human history. A collaborative organisation designed to sift the mass of climate data and with significant achievements including , for the first time, the majority of countries and corporations supporting systemic action to regulate for carbon neutrality by 2050. The IPCC is not perfect – a more erudite and detailed review of its strengths and frailties can be found in Hume (2023). The same charge could be made to XR and JSO who have clearly failed to galvanize the public, failed to influence policy and most critically  failed to articulate a compelling alternative vision of sustainable prosperity.
  6. By not calling out  these incontrovertible realities mainstream scientists are at risk of becoming the new climate deniers. The is the most egregious of the claims. Not only it is inaccurate – multiple papers are pointing out the devastating impact of climate change (eg Ripple et al 2020 where 11000 scientists declared a climate emergency and pointed out 15 planetary boundaries that had been breached.) Criticizing scientist  many of whom have spent their careers in the painstaking pursuit of the empirical evidence necessary for policy development, is is not the kind of cooperative and systemic leadership that will successfully  mitigate the global challenge of climate change . Perhaps the real incontrovertible truth hear is that terrorizing the public  with predictions of immanent social collapse  is not only inaccurate  but ignorant of  critical aspects of our evolved psychology including bias management, terror management theory and the role of affect in belief modification, ( Wolfe & Tubi, 2018).