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Stunning scientific illiteracy behind the Paris 2 °C target

The "final" COP21 Paris agreement has 31 pages and this delusional text will go down in history as a certificate of madness and hysteria. Representatives of 200 countries are ready to sign the document. Thankfully, in the first three years after ratifying it, everyone may leave the "legally binding" treaty one year after the country says "it's been enough" (Article 28). Countries with sensible leaders or populations will do so once they liberate themselves from the Paris group think.

The individual countries have "voluntarily" submitted their arbitrarily chosen emissions reductions plans before the conference (EU, U.S., others). Their signature under the Paris document – which will only "fully" supersede the Kyoto protocol in 2020 – means the promise to enforce the plan, to periodically defend its successes in achieving the 5-year plans in front of the central committee (I still remember 5-year plans!), and to believe that this plan that has virtually nothing with the temperature will keep the temperature well below the threshold 2 °C above the pre-industrial temperatures. And there's lots of bureaucracy and wealth redistribution etc. sketched in the treaty, issues that I will mostly avoid.

The ratification process will being symbolically on Vladimir Lenin's birthday, on April 22nd, 2016.

Fourteen months ago, Victor and Kennel published an article in Nature explaining some of the reasons why the "temperature targets" such as the 2 °C target should be ditched because this kind of targeting is ill-defined, meaningless, inconsequential, unreachable, ... and just plain idiotic. Victor's and Kennel's main complaint was that the global mean temperature wasn't in any useful sense correlated with the health of our planet.

By the way, if you want to know, the meme about the 2 °C target – so popular among some politicians in recent 10 years – wasn't invented by a natural scientist. It arose as a rehashed random sentence from a paper by economist William Nordhaus from the 1970s. He said that 2 °C might be bad, 3 °C would... and 5 °C would... and the activists picked the first one because it brings the fear – and their influence – closer. The meme began to spread and people forgot about the origin of this "lore". No scientific paper has ever derived any number of this kind. This meme was pretty much imposed on some would-be scientists by the politicians.

But the climate hysteria has lost all contacts with science. The hundreds of stupid mammals from all corners of the world who gathered in Paris don't read Nature. It's much worse than that, of course. They don't talk to anyone who has a clue about science, either (perhaps except for a bunch of scientist-imitating parrots, birds that they have bought for the taxpayer money). They've brainwashed themselves into believing that the global warming temperature must be a high-precision, well-defined number and, which is even worse, they may push it in any direction they want by meeting their fellow tetrapods and signing meaningless arrogant declarations.

Needless to say, sub-degree accurate comparative temperature targets can't be used as the basis of any human or corporate or national behavior or planning. This form of planning is nonsensical for at least 5 totally fundamental reasons.

First of all, there is no canonical – and no generally agreed upon – operational definition of the global mean temperature that could quantify the increase of the temperature between the "pre-industrial era" to "now" with this amazing sub-degree accuracy. On this graph

you may see that the wiggles of the global mean temperature in the lower troposphere as seen from the satellites (green) look very similar to the (red) surface+ocean temperature data. It is obvious that most of this history has a "universal basis". At the same moment, there are differences that are significant and can't be eliminated. The peak temperatures in 1997-1998 looked about 0.3 °C warmer to the satellites than to the weather stations. And while the red and green curves mostly overlapped throughout this history, you may see that the (green) satellites were about 0.2 °C cooler than the (red) weather station in recent years.

This 0.2 °C is a tiny temperature difference that humans can't really "feel". But if someone tries to plan some accumulated warming from the observed temperature trends, it corresponds to some 15 years of the underlying trend. So if you decide that you will change some laws about the fossil fuels once the temperature reaches a threshold, this transition may be done now or in 15 years, depending on the details how the temperature is quantified. If an international treaty tells you that you should stop driving your car when the global mean temperature reaches a certain point, but it may be now or in 15 years or in 30 years (depending on the exact methodology), it's a pretty vacuous treaty, isn't it?

Second, even if you ignore the disagreements between the different methodologies to quantify the global mean temperature and use one of them or the average, it is still full of huge wiggles. Just look at the graph above. The temperature anomaly dropped from the 1998 peak by 0.8 °C according to satellites or 0.5 °C according to the weather stations just in one year. The most important "meteorological phenomenon" that decides about these annual swings is the El Niño or La Niña phenomenon.

I may actually imagine that some powerful technological system (device in the equatorial Pacific Ocean) could start or end El Niño and La Niña in the equatorial Pacific which could be beneficial for big regions of the world. But the treaty says nothing about such science-fiction plans. It talks about the ordinary technologies and production of energy. No changes in the production of electricity or fuels for cars will change anything about the fact that every other year, an El Niño episode or a La Niña episode takes place and those routinely change the global mean temperature by 0.5 °C or more just in one year.

Once the people agree that a jump or drop in the global mean temperature was due to such an episode, will the Paris treaty be annulled? Or do these primate wannabes really expect to do something with the industry that will also compensate the effect of the El Niño or La Niña episodes? It obviously makes no sense. The correct answer demonstrably is that these stupid mammals don't have the slightest clue what the El Niño or La Niña is (except for the chordates who crawled or came to Paris from the Spanish-speaking countries who think that it's a boy or a girl or the Baby Jesus) and how it affects the global mean temperature.

You might suggest that the "interpreters" of the treaty will try to "remove" the effect of the El Niño and La Niña episodes in order to get the more well-behaved "pure" global mean temperature. But believe me, there's no way to do it. I've tried to define a "better" global mean temperature – the usual ones corrected by some multiples of the ENSO index or its integral or something like that – and you basically don't reduce the oscillations too much. Similar swings that are often as high as 0.5 °C a year will be there regardless of the details how you define the "global mean temperature" as long as the definition is completely and objectively given in terms of the instantaneous meteorological data at one moment and as long as the values obtained from this definition at least remotely agree with what was understood to be the global mean temperature so far.

Alternatively, you may want to talk about the global mean temperature averaged over several years to reduce the effect of the interannual variability and the ENSO episodes. Indeed, if you average things over longer timeframes, the relative swings will get reduced. However, a complementary problem will arise: people and nations will be able to say "wait a little bit longer, the temporarily raised temperature will go down again" and they will be right.

The broader point is that if your global mean temperature \(T(t)\) defined in any way you want will surpass an arbitrary threshold, it doesn't mean that it will always be above this threshold in the future. Instead, it may and probably will drop beneath the threshold at some point again. If it doesn't take place thanks to the interannual or decadal or centennial or millenial variability, be sure that by the year 60 000 AD when we have a new ice age, the global mean temperature will drop by 5-10 °C relatively to the current ones again.

Moreover, if you choose the initial and final moment appropriately, the temperature has "already" increased by almost 2 °C – and surely higher than 1.5 °C, the "even better" climate goal that is vaguely suggested in the accord, too. Look at the HadCRUT4 dataset based on the weather stations and a method to measure the sea surface temperature. The temperature anomaly was –0.962 °C in January 1893. In January 2007, it was +0.832 °C. The increase in those 114 years was 1.794 °C. Relatively to the cold January 1893, we may easily get over 2 °C of warming as soon as in January 2016. 1893 was a randomly chosen year but one has to make some choices like that. There wasn't just "one pre-industrial temperature".

Temperature reconstructions included in the 2007 IPCC report, taken from an alarmist website. These alarmist reconstructions notoriously understate the natural variability (I could offer you some much wilder graphs from the literature but wanted to keep the IPCC to show that the political accords are crazy even from the viewpoint of the IPCC science) but you see that even these reconstructions agree that the temperature often changes by 0.5 °C a decade and these reconstructions often disagree with each other by 0.5 °C, too. If some plans depend on the notion of the "pre-industrial temperature", you simply can't expect any precision better than 0.5 °C or so. "The pre-industrial temperature" is a very vague, uncertain, loaded term.

20,000 years ago, it was also the pre-industrial era but we had an ice age. Even in recent centuries, the temperatures jumped or dropped by increments comparable to or just slightly lower than 1 °C each 100 years. Recall the Medieval Warm Period (Medieval Climatic Optimum), the Little Ice Age, the Roman Warm Period, the Holocene Climatic Optimum, and so on.

Does it mean that we should start to panic if and when January 2016 or another month is 2 °C warmer than some month in recent centuries? Clearly, whether we start to panic has nothing to do with the temperatures and with its totally arbitrary values that some apparatchiks have chosen to be important, without a trace of a scientific or rational justification. Instead, whether we start to panic depends on our basic knowledge, intelligence, and sanity. Sane people won't panic because they see that the temperature is totally OK in the world around us. The lunatics will always be hysterical and it doesn't matter what numbers or definitions they choose as their preferred benchmarks. Their universal constant is the complete denial of the reality – of the obvious fact that the temperature and the average climate on Earth have no well-defined "defect". They are just perfectly fine. The increase of the temperature in the recent 100 years was perfectly OK, too. And because there seems to be no empirical or theoretical reason to expect any notable acceleration, the change of the temperature in the next 100 years will almost certainly be perfectly fine, too. Only a mentally challenged person may be unable to reproduce or verify this simple argumentation.

So the "global mean temperature" can't possibly be the basis of any particular remotely sensible decision of any human, corporation, or a nation. It is ill-defined, heavily dependent on the tiniest details in the technical definition, and dominated by the ENSO and similar natural variability – at least at the interannual scale (it is also dominated by natural effects – the Earth's spin – at the scale of one day; by a natural effect – seasons – during one year; by natural astronomical effects identified by Milutin Milankovič at the timescale of the glaciation cycles 20,000-100,000 years, and so on).

The very idea that the warming by 2 °C above the pre-industrial level is "dangerous for us" may only be believed by the most gullible ones. The best estimate for the global mean temperature today is 14 °C or so. The pre-industrial was therefore about 13 °C. Do you really believe that once the global temperature exceeds 13+2 = 15 °C, dangerous things start to take place all over the globe because this temperature is still too hot? It's still damn cold for your bedroom. And the temperature is really a global average of temperatures between –20 and +40 °C that exist right now in different climatic zones. How could possibly minor shifts by two degrees qualitatively matter?

But another, perhaps even greater layer of lunacy is the implicit assumption in the document that to control the greenhouse gas emissions is the "same thing" as to control the global mean temperature.

You must be completely and hopelessly ignorant about the very basics of climatology if you're ready to buy this assumption. The assumption is completely wrong because

  1. most of the variability, at least at the interannual, decadal, and other timescales that we observe, is due to natural effects ("meteorology") and greenhouse gas emissions won't beat it
  2. the strength of the effect of the greenhouse gas emissions is only known as an order-of-magnitude estimate
People considering themselves skeptics or lukewarmers end up with the climate sensitivity between 0 and 1.5 °C of warming per doubling of the CO2 concentration. The latest, fifth IPCC report has the 80% confidence interval for the climate sensitivity between 1.5 °C and 4.5 °C. The unusual 80% confidence band is verbally described by the word "likely". If you wanted a higher certainty, like 90%, you would have to extend the interval to one between 1 °C and 5 °C, or something like that.

Most skeptics consider any value above 2 °C very unlikely. On the other hand, values above and ideally well above 2 °C are a necessary condition for worries about the effect of CO2 to have any basis at all. At any rate, the value of the sensitivity is not known accurately – not even "remotely accurately".

Do I have to explain to you what it means for the IPCC interval to be 1.5 °C to 4.5 °C? The upper bound is thrice the lower bound. If you use the upper estimate, it may mean that you need to reduce the emissions by a factor of three to fulfill a climate plan. But if the lower bound is valid, you don't need to reduce the emissions at all! The CO2 molecules are just "by a factor of three less potent than we thought". And this makes a big difference, especially because the actual national reductions of emissions that are achieved in the real world are not three-fold but at most by one or two percent a year and no one is certain about the actual reason why the emissions went down at some moment or in some country.

(We know very well why the Czechoslovak emissions dropped by 30% after the fall of communism. We got rid of the inefficient and useless overly heavy sectors of the economy overbuilt by the "planners" when we realized that the Soviets wouldn't pay to us anymore. Czechs and Slovaks suddenly realized that we didn't need that much coal and steel to keep and improve our prosperity. It was hard and the producers had to redirect their exports from the USSR to the much more competitive Western and other markets but it basically worked. It was the elimination of planning that makes Czechs and Slovaks look "pretty well" on the carbon footprint today – because the comparison is often made with 1990 when the redundant communist industry still existed.)

This whole paradigm of temperature planning – as well as pretty much every detail and "overlooked" technicality – is completely irrational and shows that the participants of the Paris summit were children who were left behind. Retarded vertebrates who aren't capable of understanding the total basics of the scientific method. The planned goals are a pure wishful thinking that has nothing to do with the reality because those signatories don't have any tools whatsoever to fulfill such plans. They are not even able to fulfill their plan to sign a meaningless document by Friday night – let alone prevent Nature from warming or cooling by half a degree (which Nature has liked to do for billions of years every year).

And if some harsh restrictions could have been invented, the treaty fortunately hasn't specified any details about them. So every nation may pay lip service to the nonsensical "temperature plan" and everyone may say that what they're doing – whatever it is – is a path to fulfill plan. Except that whether the plan will be fulfilled will have nothing to do with the people's expectations and with the nations' acts. Most likely, the plan will be violated at some point. But it won't matter because to fulfill the plan isn't useful for anyone or anything, anyway.

The Paris document is an absolutely insulting text to read for dozens of other reasons. At the beginning, we read (I shortened this totally worthless verbosity significantly)
Proposal by the president

The conference of parties is
  • recalling previous meetings and the nice champagne in Bali (but we will demand the CO2 bubbles to be removed next time; NH3 and H2S may be tried as a replacement),
  • recognizing that all of us must be hysterical about the climate,
  • also recognizing that we have to get rid of carbon in our industries and our bodies,
  • acknowledging, proselytizing, intimidating, lying, spinning, framing, firing, bribing, installing a solar panel on the roof, flying to holidays with a private jet, pretending ...
And so on. These guys haven't said one damn thing after the first page and a half. The remaining 30 pages are no better.

On the second page, they "decide" to adopt this treaty – a self-referring nonsensical proclamation (they are probably trying to recover Russell's paradox) which still says absolutely nothing. They say a couple of things about hundreds of new worthless offices and thousands of new bureaucratic parasites to be created. But there's still no content of the treaty or no proposed work for the new parasites. Every paragraph starts by a verb,
The conference of parties
decides, requests, also decides, notes, decides, also decides, ...
And so on. What does it mean for an international treaty to "decide"? It's ultimately the kings, dictators, national parliaments, and similar institutions that are actually making decisions on this planet. And the most important ones, like the U.S. Congress, will hopefully throw this piece of dirty paper to the trash bin quickly.

An international treaty could say that some national politicians etc. are promising to do this or that etc., promote laws that will do this or that, or impose a fee on producers of this or that. The Paris "treaty" isn't formulated as a treaty at all. Some of the "verbs" done by the conference of parties are truly stunning. For example,
21. Invites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide a special report in
2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways;
What does it legally mean for a bunch of stupid politicians to "invite" the IPCC to create a special report on the impacts of 1.5 °C of warming? And what do you think that will be written in the report?

With tears in their eyes, the participants have applauded themselves how wonderfully they have saved the world. The video above is a 1971 edition; for the 2015 remake, click here.

If you read the reports so far, then you will see that the 1.5 °C of warming since the industrial era is treated as business-as-usual close to the current reality. Every sane person knows that 1.5 °C above the preindustrial levels means nothing special – it's pretty much the world we love and inhabit.

But by this paragraph, the politicians are openly telling the IPCC to rewrite the reports and write a new one in which even 1.5 °C will already be a problem. And be sure about it: the IPCC "scientists" will obediently change the "science" according to this political order. This verse of the Paris draft and nothing else is completely sufficient for a rigorous proof that the IPCC is a 100% corrupt organization controlled by special political and similar interests, an organization whose behavior is in no way correlated with the scientific evidence. The IPCC stands for "Incompetence, Politicization, Corruption, and Cherry-picking", not to mention conspiracy theories.

The IPCC, schoolkids, managers, athletes, and narrators will be under no pressure, of course.

Most of the articles are filled with insanely arrogant and vacuous Orwellian jargon but sometimes they go so much over the edge that you are likely to explode in laughter, for example:
Article 27

No reservations may be made to this Agreement.
Except for several billions of people in the world (including most U.S. lawmakers) who haven't lost their mind completely and who will have "reservations" about every part of this 31-page-long psychopathological text. The people who sign something like that should be stored in psychiatric asylums. Like Muslims with explosives around their waists, they are existentially dangerous for their fellow citizens.

And that's the memo.

P.S.: I am unsurprisingly against any fight against "climate change". But if the goal to reduce CO2 emissions were really agreed upon or useful, I would agree with James Hansen's proposals. Just make the fossil fuels more expensive by adding a fee! This can be done easily. Every producer of oil – which is cheap now – must pay extra $20 for every barrel it sells (and the fee may be chosen higher later, if people find out that it's fine). The producer will obviously transfer the fee to the buyers immediately – the price will grow from $40 to $60 a barrel. Analogous but different fees would apply to natural gas, coal, and other things – perhaps even beef. The money may be distributed to "everyone", not to go to the government's budgets, as Hansen sensibly proposes to make such plans more "edible" for right-wingers.

Alternatively, I would propose, the collected money could be used to reduce the price of those "final products" that may be produced from fossil fuels or something else. A part of the collected money could be used to reduce the increase of the price of electricity. You would get some money from the fund for each kilowatthour you bought. The combination of the fee and subsidy would encourage companies to produce the electricity in other ways etc.

In this way, people won't know what the temperature in the future will be – but they can never know it, anyway. But they would actually do something well-defined to reduce the behavior that they (someone) consider a "problem". (The difference between temperature planning and a carbon tax is similar to the difference between the microcanonical ensemble and the canonical one. Most physicists will agree that the latter is more "mature".)

Well, maybe Hansen's proposal is more dangerous because it could actually be done – although, right now, a $20 fee to a barrel of oil would probably not be viewed as a problem (it would also fail to reduce the consumption). The status quo, meaningless wishful thinking about people's suddenly reducing the temperature increases etc., is perhaps "innocent" because it won't lead to any real economy-damaging action. But this meaningless "dreaming" about the temperature plans is adding thousands of new bureaucrats (who have special interests) and totally irrational expenses and it is increasing many people's fanaticism and ambition of their plans and if these people get to power in the future, they could do something much more harmful than the introduction of Hansen's carbon tax.

Bonus: Czechs react, some fun

Under the story about the accord on the top Czech center-right news server, the most upvoted (plus/minus) comments were rather... disrespectful:

Michal Snopek, 62/1

Africa will receive billions for their corrupt officials to steal the money. The EU won't be able to see it and if it will see anything, it won't do anything about it.

Radek Urban, 70/2

It would be better to invest the money into research and development, e.g. the fusion reactors or hydrogen engines.

Andrej Král, 50/1

Give me the same money and I promise that the temperatures will drop by one degree!

Pavel Starý, 53/2

Those apparatchiks have agreed that the planet will warm up at most 1.5 °C. The only remaining concern now is whether the planet will respect the decision.

Denis Huml, 53/2

Sure, the world population keeps on growing, the consumption in the developing countries is increasing even more quickly, but politicians drinking their espressos are deciding about things that have no impact. Why didn't they decide about the reduction of the crime rate by 50 percent or the increase of the number of happy children by 200 percent?

Jaromír Hlubek, 57/4

It's the last opportunity to get rid of the red socialists across the North Atlantic world. No one knows whether it's getting warmer or cooler and no one has the slightest clue whether the change is man-made. But they agree about one thing: it's maximally important to destroy the competitiveness of the developed countries, rob the citizens, and maximally redistribute the money among themselves. The socialist will never get used to the success of another man, let alone someone else's wealth. The greatest discoveries of science haven't been created in governments' research institutions subsidized by the taxpayers but in private labs and garages where creative people invested their last money to the research and sometimes died broke and only appreciated after their death. That was slightly off-topic but it is an issue inseparable from the socialism. Everything must be regulated, taxed, citizens will get poorer, and the climate won't give a damn about their climate accords and will keep on evolving.

Jozef Černý, 29/0

We have voted about the right weather. Now we should agree about the quotas on the earthquakes.

Ms Marie Ohlídalová, 34/1

A comedy: the directors of the universe have agreed. The most important thing is not to overshoot the temperature to 1.6 °C – what would happen then?

Radoval Vedral, 34/1

It's a green terror. They know a fart [nothing] about the climate but they're eager to regulate the temperature on Earth. Absolute idiocy. We must be more careful whom we vote for.

Tomáš Krmíček, 28/0

It reminds me of the conventions of the communist party in the Prague's Palace of the Culture. The rhetoric is the same, the faces are very similar, and when they're standing while applauding, it means that they have done everything perfectly and we should be grateful for the care they are paying to us.

Vladimír Veteška, 26/0

From a recent dialogue with an Austrian manager of a ski tow in the Alps. He said: Well, we have to adapt. We have moved the ski tows higher and we have brought thousands of new snow cannons. When we were building a cable car at 3500 meters above the sea levels, the workers who were digging smelled a strange smell – there was a thick layer of old sheep manure. Sometime in the past, sheep were living at this altitude of 3500 meters above the sea level, so the temperature had to be warmer than today. And they survived, too. It's simply necessary to adapt.

Thank God they weren't trying to command the rain and wind. For our money.

Marek Sofr, 26/0

To subsidize planting of the trees in Africa? Tropical rainforests are being destroyed. Oh my God.

Bronislav Šimoník, 23/0

Haven't we already seen the same thing before? We would command the wind and rain... [a communist slogan from the 1950s]

We will command the wind, the rain, and the climate. With the communist builder music of the 1950s

Martin Kodat, 23/0

Lots of talk but the result will only be: lots of redistributed money, even more of corruption, and Nature will keep on doing what it wants.

Daniel Miller, 22/0

Well, I don't know. When I see the notorious faces on the photographs, I am afraid that the results will be bad.

Jan Klima, 20/0

A theater for simpletons.

Bronislav Šimoník, 24/1

151 representatives of 151 countries came to the conference with 151 aircraft.

Ms Pavla Kubištová, 27/2

An absolute tunnel [robbery] for the money. In the U.S., except for the top of the government and those connected to this business, everyone is against. Even I was surprised how negatively this thing is being looked at in America.

František Michalica, 19/0

During the last 100 years, the global mean temperature went up by about 1.0 °C and the humans had a small contribution to that change. Nowadays, a bunch of (forgive me) morons decide that they will command the wind and rain and they will only allow Mother Nature to warm by some 1.5 °C? The only goal is to obtain some extra financial resources to certain wallets. Nothing else matters.

Marek Netolický, 28/3

I find it really cute how a group of nicely paid chaps makes a guess and decides how much the temperature will increase. :) :) One volcano eruption and everything is different. And anything may happen – it's a terrible way to rob the people.

Petr Skála, 17/0

Much of the 150 billions for the poor countries will be stolen away and the trees that will be planted will be cut by the local population while Nature will continue to do what it likes.

Petr Zdeněk, 17/0

Billions of investments that will be paid by the taxpayers will be used to lubricate someone's pocket or wallet and the Sirs will slap each other on their back. It's a theater that has almost no competition. Nature is coughing at (ignoring) these freaks and it will live according to its own desires.

Martin Valina, 17/1

So the EU folks are worse than the commies who only wanted to command the wind and rain. The EU plans to command the wind, rain, and the Sun.

Jiří Rohan, 19/2

Wasted billions for things that not only no one wants, but at the end, they will harm the environment. I guess that in less than 20 years, an even more expensive global campaign will be announced whose goal will be to eliminate the consequences of the climate accord they signed today.

Pavel Grasgruber, 13/0

I would kindly ask the day in the winter to be prolonged by 4 hours, 6 minutes, and 17 seconds. Once everyone agrees, may my wish come true?


The reactions at, a top left-wing server (also with readers inherited from an official communist daily), are almost identical even though there are often disagreements with the mainstream about many political issues (e.g. Russia). Surprisingly, the same comment pretty much applies to as well, the daily closest to the Prague café [intellectuals]. The readers in these three groups and others seem to stress the similarity between this accord and the arrogant yet unrealistic planning we knew in communism.

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