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« Paterson at the GWPF | Main | Carbon cycle: better than we thought »

The great cat catastrophe

It has been observed many times in the past that there are many aspects of the global warming debate that reasonable people should be able to agree on: carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the temperature has gone up a bit, that sort of thing.

I think we can now add to the list the idea that Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway are a few cherries short of the full Bakewell, right down there with Peter Wadhams as representatives of the full-on-bonkers wing of the green scientivist academy. I say this after reading a review of their latest opus by Martin Lewis, a confirmed global warming believer. Here's an excerpt:

As the book claims to outline the “not only predictable but predicted” (p. 1) consequences of a fossil-fuel-based energy system, I will begin by examining the author’s actual foretelling. As it turns out, most of it is hyperbolic, going far behind even the most extreme warnings provided by climatologists. Consider, for example, Oreskes and Conway’s most grimly amusing nightmare: the mass die-off of dogs and cats in the early 2020s. Lest one conclude that I am exaggerating here, a direct quotation should suffice:

 [B]ut in 2023, the infamous “year of perpetual summer,” lived up to its name, taking 500,000 lives worldwide and costing nearly $500 billion in losses due to fires, crop failures, and the deaths of livestock and companion animals. The loss of pet cats and dogs garnered particular attention among wealthy Westerners, but what was anomalous in 2023 soon became the new normal (p. 8-9).

Within a mere nine years, global warning could produce temperature spikes so elevated as to generate massive cat mortality? The idea is so ludicrous that I hardly know where to begin. Domestic cats, as anyone who has spent any time around them surely understands, are heat-seeking creatures; native to the Middle East and North Africa, they thrive in the world’s hottest environments. Yet Oreskes and Conway expect us to believe that within a few decades “normal” temperatures across much of “the West” will exceed the tolerance threshold of the house cat? ...

The great cat catastrophe of 2023 is by no means the only instance of risible fear-mongering found in the book. It would seem that there is no limit to the horrors that global warming will spawn, including a resurgence of bubonic plague (p. 30) and the creation of “viral and retroviral agents never before seen” (p. 25). Even typhus is predicted to make a major comeback owing to “explosive increases in insect populations”

The review is magnificent. Do read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (91)

Climate change will destroy your house and eat your dog:

Oct 14, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Oh dear.

Oct 14, 2014 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Every time you drive an SUV, you kill a kitten.

Oct 14, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Glorious piece.

Are the crowd beginning to whisper, "The Emperor has no clothes"?

Oct 14, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I object to the Bakewell reference.

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:13 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Mmmmm, Bakewell tart!

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddieo

It's great shame that so few ostensibly clever people, including Martin Lewis, bother to read anything that disturbs their preformed worldview. He read this book only because he was predisposed to climate alarmism. Alas though he gets his caricature of skeptics from the same eco-freak propaganda as Oreskes. One day maybe these intellectuals will bother to ask someone what this fabled pile of evidence for AGW really consists of and they might then use their undoubtedly capable brains to notice that it doesn't amount to the usual minimum standard we require of evidence.

I have far more time for people who already know the 'evidence' is almost entirely subjective and pessimistic but nevertheless think we should be prudent with emissions because we only have one Earth. To those I answer yes but we already carried out the experiment of increasing CO2 on planet Earth to hitherto assumed-to-be unreasonable levels and the temperature in reponse just stopped rising.

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

And to think, Oreskes has the ear of the POTUS. No wonder he's a complete greeniac.

@ Paul in Sweden. Please don't mention killing kittens. Bad for the heart, old chap.

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

I had to laugh as the one of the BBC nature programs waxed lyrically about the bumper hedgerow harvest this autumn due to the wet spring followed by warm summer and never asked why is getting warmer bad when you get more to eat for nothing ;)

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Personally I would be glad to see domesticated cats wiped out, forever chasing the nasty little bird killers out of my back garden!. Never understood the attraction of them myself. I can only hope that Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway are correct.

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Well, if they are right, I won't be shedding a tear. We've had a plague of feral cats on our land, who's main aim in life seems to be decapitating pheasants, rabbits, songbirds, shrews and voles and leaving their bodies strewn around the place. No joy with the RSPCA, CPL or council, so I've had to resort to paying a pest controller to shoot them.

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Martin Lewis quotes from Oreskes and Conway:

Although many of the key scientific questions of the day do indeed demand, as Oreskes and Conway write, an “understanding of the crucial interactions between physical, biological, and social realms,” it is equally imperative to recognize that most do not. Most of the issues addressed by chemists, physicists, and geologists have nothing to do with the social realm, and must be examined through a “reductionistic” lens if they are to be approached scientifically. To insist instead that they must be framed in a socio-biological context is to reject the methods of science at a fundamental level. Such a tactic risks reviving the intellectual atmosphere that led the Soviet Union to the disaster of ideologically contaminated research known as Lysenkoism.

Ironically, it does not appear to have dawned upon Martin Lewis that huge swathes of the science associated with AGW is already "idealogically contaminated research".

Oct 14, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist


The CATastrohy is only going to afffect domesticated cats. Therefore feral cats will continue to kill your back yard birds. Ithas to be true because I saw it in a climate model


Oct 14, 2014 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commentermailman

Meanwhile, back in the real world, nature continues to dissapoint the terminally pessimistic.

Oct 14, 2014 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

When taking naomi on a picnic do not forget
To ask her to count the sandwiches twice

Oct 14, 2014 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterPtw

Now it is:

Global Warming will eat your dogs ...

When the time comes, however they'll claim:

I can't hand it in, the dog ate my global warming ...

Oct 14, 2014 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonas N

It's an excellent article, though it's a pity Lewis seems to feel he's obliged to preface it with an attack on extremists on both sides. This is how sane people are going to wriggle out of their support for the insanity they've imposed on our societies:
“Of course, I never believed in all that nonsense spouted by Oreskes, Mann, Gore … (add your own names) but I was blinded by the attacks of extremists on the other side.”
Comments are open over there.

Oct 14, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

When you used to preaching to sheep , sometimes you become lazy and forget that 'none-sheep ' may also be listening how are a lot less inclined to just 'follow the leader'
In the case of these authors then both become use to harden 'fan-club ' for their past work , which has in reality shared similar issues . So being both lazy and dogmatic they simply carried on has before and have got caught out .

Oct 14, 2014 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

It's a very good review, almost all of it quotable/tweetable:
"The most troubling aspect of Oreskes and Conway’s book, however, is not its scare-tactics, its sloppy depictions of climatic patterns, or its attack on scientific standards. What is truly frightening is its embrace of authoritarian politics, coupled with its denigration of liberty and democracy."
It's interesting to see the penny slowly dropping within the ranks of the faithful. We can't expect these people to change their minds overnight, but it's encouraging to see Mr Lewis starting to doubt the Merchants of Doubt fairy story as well:
"Of particular significance are the writings of green extremists such as Oreskes and Conway themselves. By putting forth grotesque exaggerations, by engaging in misleading reportage, and by embracing authoritarian if not totalitarian politics, they discredit their own cause."
I wonder whether this will have any impact within the ivory towers, or whether the likes of Robert Brulle will continue to cite Oreskes and Conway as authoritative sources.

Oct 14, 2014 at 5:59 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It's all coming true:

there shall, in that time, be *rumours* of things going astray, errrm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things wi - with the sort of raffia work base that has an attachment. At this time, a friend shall lose his friend's hammer and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight o'clock. Yea, it is written in the book of Cyril that...

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean OConnor

I have not read the book, nor do I intend to do so. I'll wait for a movie. Hollywood will undoubtedly take notice.This will be a bigger hit than The Lord of the Rings.

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

Sadly, we have an entire generation reared and schooled in Marxist-Leninist ideology for whom all this clap-trap is the word of the prophet himself. It will take us 20 years to beat down the eco-freaks.

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Poirier

Greenies are bonkers.

Like my eco-friend Megan who wanted to leave a better world for her children by not having children.

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

The collapse of western civilisation (coincidentally) is what they long for.

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Spence

Personally I would be glad to see domesticated cats wiped out, forever chasing the nasty little bird killers out of my back garden!. Never understood the attraction of them myself. I can only hope that Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway are correct.
Oct 14, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Jack Cowper

Cats have brought immense benefit to the human race over the past 10,000 years or so, ever since grain became a staple food.

There is reason to attribute the black death (to which ~50% of the European population succumbed) to the Catholic Church's persecution of domestic and other cats.

A few fewer little flying dinosaurs - who cares? (apart from J Cowper)

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:41 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Olympics clean-up Chinese style: Inside Beijings shocking death camp for cats
Last updated at 17:15 12 March 2008

Thousands of pet cats in Beijing are being abandoned by their owners and sent to die in secretive government pounds as China mounts an aggressive drive to clean up the capital in preparation for the Olympic Games.

Hundreds of cats a day are being rounded and crammed into cages so small they cannot even turn around.
Then they are trucked to what animal welfare groups describe as death camps on the edges of the city.

The cull comes in the wake of a government campaign warning of the diseases cats carry and ordering residents to help clear the streets of them.

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Surely Oreskes and Conway can't really believe this tosh. It's just for we stupid proles.

As I've taken to saying recently: If they think we're all stupid, then it's not us.

Oct 14, 2014 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Anyone perusing this sludge would be better off watching "Zombie Apocalypse IV" on daytime television during working hours.

Oct 14, 2014 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd Martin Hendaye

"Consider, for example, Oreskes and Conway’s most grimly amusing nightmare: the mass die-off of dogs and cats in the early 2020s."

Most peculiar. Less than a year ago, when it rained cats and dogs in parts of South West England, this also was blamed on global warming. I do wish they could make their minds up, or least get the models to do it for them.

Oct 14, 2014 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Martin A
"Cats have brought immense benefit to the human race over the past 10,000 years or so, ever since grain became a staple food. There is reason to attribute the black death (to which ~50% of the European population succumbed) to the Catholic Church's persecution of domestic and other cats."

Sorry, but that is Bullsh! Cats do not predate rats unless they have to, in fact they avoid them as much as they can, they prefer smaller mammals, songbirds and gamebirds.

Oct 14, 2014 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commentersalopian

Your Grace,

That made my day.

Oct 14, 2014 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

"Greenies are bonkers. Like my eco-friend Megan who wanted to leave a better world for her children by not having children." --Jack Hughes

Well, she left our children a better world, then.

Oct 14, 2014 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

An entertaining review, with the caveats already sited above.

What worries me is that we produce arrogant, deluded and irrational people like Oreskes and Conway. There are plenty of them around, mostly digging protective burrows on a university campus somewhere.

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Pornographic castastrophism. You can almost hear Oreskes breathing hard.

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterPotter Eaton

Curious George (Oct 14, 2014 at 6:14 PM)

This will be a bigger hit than The Lord of the Rings.

Possibly, but do you remember the reviews of that masterpiece when it came out in 1954? (I quote from memory):

The author believes he is doing a service by playing up the dangers of a victory of the Orcs, but between the clamouring extremists like Professor Tolkien who think we are doomed to become slaves of Sauron, and the so-called sceptics, or MiddleEarth denialists - as they are aptly called, the reasonable person can only put his trust in Prime Minister Churchill and his special envoy to Mordor, Lord Gollum, to find the One True TreeRing..
.. and sixty years on, there is still a sizeable minority of the public who don't believe in Gandalf..

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:21 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

And a nice acknowledgement at the end to the current German idiocy: (sorry, can't do the html thing)

"*** Germany has probably gone farther than any other country in pushing renewable energy, but its success has been limited. Owning to its dismantling of nuclear reactors, it has been forced to increase its coal and biomass combustion, despite its surging solar and wind energy production. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions have increased, deforestation has accelerated, and energy prices have risen, placing a heavy burden on the poor.

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterstun

Daily Mail says must be -

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

And the other bit - whilst cats will (so obviously) be slaughtered by a little extra warmth, other life forms will delight in it, thereby providing nourishment for:

“explosive increases in insect populations”

This is, of course, already happening entirely without thermal assistance, merely the mindless banning of plant protection products - our food supplies, together with the archetypal Green cause célèbre of honey bees, are being threatened by Green idealogues - see Matt Ridley's excellent blog article here:

Lying Green idiots wreck the environment yet again...

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:32 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Martin A

"flying dinosaurs"

You're not wrong. We have chickens, and while we are fond of them (they do provide eggs, after all) they barely tolerate each other and are merciless if one sheds a little blood. Pick them up and look them in the eye, and you can see that reptilian brain sizing you up. The cat, very sensibly, wouldn't go near them.

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"increases in insect populations"

A statistic that has stuck in my head (and which I would be quite pleased to hear countered!) is that insects not only far outnumber us, but outweigh all mammalian life by a factor of 4.

Ant farts may well contribute to AGW, if you believe the CO2 hypothesis...

Oct 14, 2014 at 8:57 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

... cats are able to tolerate quite high temperatures: Humans generally start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature passes about 38°C (100°F), but cats show no discomfort until their skin reaches around 52°C (126°F),[54]:46 and can tolerate temperatures of up to 56°C (133°F) if they have access to water.

Attributed to: Subcommittee on Dog and Cat Nutrition (2006). Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 292. ISBN 0-309-08628-0.

Oct 14, 2014 at 9:02 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Isn't Oreskes the one that first manufactured the "consensus"?

Oct 14, 2014 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

What a hoot. These clowns make Waldham look like a serious scholar.Yet the EM's of the world lap up this sort of mindless drool as if it were some sort of divinely inspired inerrant prophecy. where to start? The incoherent non-rational thinking. The poor writing. The lack of fact-supported claims. The derivative ideas. The cheap two dimensional magical plot devices. Their spew might be OK science fiction. But as a serious discussion of climate, environment and the things people should do to live? They present worthless idiocratic posing.

Oct 14, 2014 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Martin A
From personal observations in my back garden in Derby I reckon cats are fairly low down the bird killing league table. Grey Squirrels, Magpies taking eggs and fledglings; windows being the prime nemesis for pigeons, blackbirds and starlings. Sparrowhawks taking smaller birds at odd times. I don't recall seeing a cat take a single bird, although all the other events I have witnessed more than once.

Oct 14, 2014 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

As the ancient Egyptians found at the dawn of agriculture, a cat doesn’t need to kill rats and mice to protect a granary, it just has to be there. The rats have sense to go elsewhere. This is also how Dick Whittington made his fortune, by introducing cats in his grain warehouses in Wapping. Sensible rats moved onto his rival's property.

My cat is currently asleep on top of the radiator, preparing itself no doubt for the global warming apocalypse to come, and I assure you, there are no mice up there.

Oct 14, 2014 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeB

Martin who?

Oct 14, 2014 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

That's nothing! Did you ever read the start of the book 'Dead Heat', written in 1990 by Michael Oppenheimer and Robert Boyle. Oppenheimer was an IPCC lead author for AR4 and coordinating lead author for AR5. Also worked for the Envionmental Defence Fund and co-founded the Climate Action Network.

It starts thus...

Imagine... The year is 2050. Global Warming has remade the face of the Earth, but no continent has been ravaged more than North America. Even before the greenhouse age, its landmass experienced climate's greatest excesses. The Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the cold waters of the Arctic to the north, and the warm waters of the tropics to the south provided sharp temperature contrasts and ample moisture, while the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians drove air currents upward and gravity pulled them down. As a result, hurricanes, blizzards, thunderstorms, bitter cold spells, tornadoes (almost unique to the continent), drenching rains, and blistering heat waves had always played out a life-and-death drama across the land. These extremes slowly and at first imperceptibly melded with the changing climate. The year 1988-1989 saw drought in the Midwest followed by erratic shifts in the jet stream that brought record low temperatures to Alaska and snow to Los Angeles. What were once anomalies have become a matter of course.

All debate about global warming ended in 1998 after a four-year drought desolated the heartlands of North America and Eurasia. In 1995, food riots in Kiev, Cherkassy, and Odessa sparked a new resurgence of Ukranian nationalism, prompting the neo-Stalinists, who had overthrown Mikhail Gorbachev, to start a brutal repression that made even the Chinese call for UN sanctions. In the plains states, from Iowa to eastern Colorado, south to Texas and north to South Dakota, the age of the family farm finally came to an end, and the sturdy freeholders, long seen as the anchor of US democracy, dispersed. Some signed on with the agribusiness conglomerates that bought up land and lobbied Congress for pipelines to the Great Lakes before the water levels there fell, too, while others sought to start over in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. But most of them joined in the next two decades by a swelling trek of tens of thousands of others from bankrupt farm and ranch communities, looked for jobs in the cities of the upper Midwest and Canada. Duluth now bulges with 1.3 million people; Edmonton 6 million; Toronto 11 million. Forty years have passed since farmers in John Deere hats gathered for morning coffee at the Rocket Inn in Rolan, Iowa, to chew the fat about the weather, the cost of machinery, and how the Cubs were doing, and thirty years have gone by since the high school band last played in Valentine, Nebraska, before the Badgers' big game against Ainsworth. They were among the first communities to empty, the precursors of thousands of ghost towns that stipple the plains from Colorado to Indiana.

To many Americans and Canadians, the greenhouse signal literally became visible during the last two weeks of October of 1996, when winds that seemed to roar without respite gathered a "black blizzard" of prairie topsoil that darkened the skies of sixteen states and the Canadian Maritimes. The dust penetrated the lungs of cattle, stopped traffic on interstates, stripped pain from houses, and shut down computers. People put on goggles and covered their noses and mouths with wet handkerchiefs. They stapled plastic sheets over windows and doors but still the dust seeped through. Analysis disclosed that soil from Dalhart in the Texas Panhandle landed as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia. In place of the soil, the winds left only the heavy sands that now bury parts of the western plains under drifting dunes.

As the sands advanced, the Platte River in Nebraska dried up, and the wetlands of the Cheyeene Bottoms in Kansas withered away completely. The several million waterfowl and wading birds - geese, ducks, swans, shorebirds, and cranes - that stopped there in the spring on their way north from South and Central America were devastated. The first to expire were the shorebirds, gone by the turn of the century. They could not find food to add enough fat to fuel a flight of even 200 miles, let alone the 1,500 miles they needed to reach their Arctic nesting grounds.

Before the detection of the greenhouse signal, some agronomists optimistically contended that crops would thrive if planted further north. They had in mind the so-called carbon-3 plants. In theory, the C3 plants would benefit from the extra carbon dioxide in the air. But then, so did many weed species. Even in areas where weed control worked and soils proved suitable, some C3 plants utilized the carbon dioxide to add leaf growth rather than food and fibre, and populations of cutworms, sunflower moths, and a hitherto rare species of leafhoppers exploded. American grain reserves hit zero with the 1990s drought, but shortages were staved off by increased herbicide and pesticide use, and by purchases from Canada, which accelerated forest cutting to produce more crop land. Still, reserves stayed low, and when the Indian monsoon failed in 2005, no one could help avoid the famine. The improving yields in northern Russia had to be used to offset losses in the Ukraine instead.

Political action in Washington was stymied until the first decade of this century because California and some other populous states had been spared. Then the patterns began to change. For a time, the West Coast received as much winter precipitation as before, but it came as rain, not snow. In California, what little snow fell on the Sierra Nevada soon melted. Reservoirs lacked the capacity to store the sudden runoff that scoured the slopes.

And so on. Doom. Doom. Doom.

Doom Diddy Doom Diddy Doom Doom Doom.

After that cheerful and optimistic beginning, it starts to get quite depressing after a while.

Did I mention that professor Oppenheimer also won the Heinz-Kerry Award, the same one as won by Paul Ehrlich? The one who said "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." Not a wise gambler, that man.

But notice the dates. Every prophet should know not to hang around for the day the world is supposed to end. Although the true believers will still believe even after you move them, their faith unshaken, there are those others who keep looking meaningfully at their watches and wondering aloud about what might be holding up the apocalypse. "And will there be a mighty wind?" they wonder. "And will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth?"

But the doubters shall all be eaten by the coming invasion of vampire moths, and Lo it shall be a Sign unto you of the End Times. And all the crops shall die in the greenhouse-like conditions, and those yet living will all be cannibals, and the living shall envy the dead.

Oct 14, 2014 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba


if lefties gamble it is with other people's money
An 80% reduction of the state is in order. Lefties cannot run things, only bloat things up with their own gas.

Oct 14, 2014 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw


Hear, hear! Our favourite cat, here, was the scourge of local rabbits, rats and mice, but very rarely caught a bird. Small birds have all sorts of other enemies, including humans when they put down slug pellets and unintentionally poison some of their food...

Oct 14, 2014 at 11:18 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

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