“But CAGW”

The central square in the ClimateBall bingo {1}.Often connected with #ButReligion, e.g. millenarism. It may not be compatible with all the other talking points, e.g. #ButWordChange.

If you want to do something about AGW and your whole point reduces to “let’s talk more about CAGW” when #ButCAGW is the central square of the bingo, then your armchair quarterbacking sucks.


Why You Can’t Trust The Insurance Industry’s Secret Science On Climate Catastrophes


Climate doomsayers keep putting sell-by dates on their credibility


Objections and Replies

Alarmism. To speak of catastrophe is alarmist
☞ How do you know? Let’s look at a specific claim and see how it fares. For now, we know that there are serious economic risks to consider {4}.

Authoritarians. It legitimates authoritarians to launch war and terrorism
☞ Anything does. That legitimacy can be exploited does not mean much. Thank you nevertheless for your concerns, and please see #ButPolitics.

CAGW. But all CAGW is
☞ “CAGW” is a contrarian strawman of the scientific established view.

Collapse. I don’t think that even 4C threatens extinction
☞ Many societies collapsed before, some under less abrupt climate events. Societal collapse may not imply the end of every future civilizations {3}.

Commonplace. I keep hearing the C word
☞ Mostly by contrarians. How would you describe a 4C world {2} by 2150?

Correct. There is a correct usage of the word “CAGW”
☞ Not really. First, it’s not exactly a word. Second, it begs the question. Third, it has become a contrarian meme. The latter point provides a knock-out.

Doom. We are all doomed to extinction
☞ We are rather doomed to tilting at windmills. The IPCC is far from predicting extinction. The risks are that AGW will cause immense suffering.

Exaggeration. Public exaggeration of AGW have made us skeptical
☞ There are alternative hypotheses: science denial, economic denial, humanitarian denial, political denial, and crisis denial.

Existential. AGW is not an existential threat
☞ That’s a low bar, and not exactly true: a 6 degrees world is still in the cards, and the last time this happened 97% of the species were wiped out {6}.

IPCC. I blame the IPCC for calling it such
☞ A quote might be nice, perferably in their deliverables.

Necessity. Delaying the next ice age is not necessarily a bad thing
☞ Is it contingently a good thing tho.

No strawman. It’s not a strawman, for here is
☞ The caricature lies in suggesting that the established view is CAGW {5}.

Too late. In our model the world is already past a point-of-no-return
☞ Your model might have major flaws.

Urgent. There’s no C in CAGW, that’s why it’s urgent
☞ So unless it’s catastrophic it’s not urgent? I hope you do not manage your email inbox like that!


{1} CAGW. The acronym stands for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. Contrarians bastardized “AGW” by adding a C to it.

{2} Cutoff. 4C is a good contrarian cutoff, i.e. they usually stop responding at that point. The world will continue to warm after 2100 unless we get to carbon zero.

{3} Definition. The notions of catastrophe, collapse, and existential threat are not well-defined. They’re judgment calls. The evidence remains what it is.

{4} Economic Risks. As KenF suggests, if we accept that economies are so fragile that going for carbon zero may lead to societal collapse, climate change that impacts food security directly should increase those risks.

{5} No Goldilocks. If you can’t imagine anything between “catastrophic” and “nothing to worry about” then you’re not thinking.

{6} Permian. The end of the Permian era has been tough for life on Earth.


Climate Feedback; a network of scientists reviewing media coverage.

Global Warming; the NASA provides a good introduction.

The Extinction Clock; chances are that not every species will make it.

2015-04; What would a four degree warmer world mean to us?

2010-11; What Do Scientists Believe; John Nielsen-Gammon wraps up things cleanly.

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Further Readings

2020-09; Thresholds for ecological responses to global change do not emerge from empirical data; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1256-9

2019-09; Existential Risks: A Philosophical Analysis; existential risk is far from being clear.

2018-12; Temperature-dependent hypoxia explains biogeography and severity of end-Permian marine mass extinction; DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1327

2018-10; Hyperthermal-driven mass extinctions: killing models during the Permian–Triassic mass extinction; DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2017.0076

2018-06; A solution to the misrepresentations of CO2-equivalent emissions of short-lived climate pollutants under ambitious mitigation; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-018-0026-8

2017-07; Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions; DOI: 10.5194/esd-8-577-2017

2014-01; Climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations; droughts suck.

2009-04; The Worse-Case Scenario; DOI: 10.1038/4581104a

2008-11; Carbon is Forever; DOI: 10.1038/climate.2008.122

2008-10; Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim?; arXiv:0804.1126v3

2008-02; Stabilizing climate requires near‐zero emissions; DOI: 10.1029/2007GL032388