MIT Researchers Unveil Climate Roulette Wheel

Tue, 2009-05-26 01:09Mitchell Anderson
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MIT Researchers Unveil Climate Roulette Wheel

Scientists from MIT revealed the most comprehensive study so far on climate change and, as usual, the latest news is not good.

Projected warming of the planet will be at least twice as bad as previously believed, and could kill billions this century unless there is “rapid and massive action” on reducing global carbon emissions.

So freaked out are the researchers by these results, they resorted to using a roulette wheel to illustrate just how dangerous the do-nothing option is.

The MIT scientists published the peer-reviewed results in the Journal of Climate showing a 90% probability of global temperature will rise as much as 7.4 degrees Celsius, more than twice the previous projection from 2003.

“There is significantly more risk than we previously estimated,” says study co-author Ronald Prinn of MIT. “There’s no way the world can or should take these risks.”

Some observers were even more frank. Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tom Picken said that if the new research by MIT is accurate, the results for the planet would be catastrophic.

“The consequences of such changes would be off the known scale. They are unthinkable,” he said. “A 7.4C rise would mean severe ecosystem collapse worldwide, with total economic collapse in many parts of the world. The planet would face resource wars between people, and you can safely say many, many hundred of millions of people would die.”

The authors described their study as “the most exhaustive end-to-end analysis of climate change impacts yet performed.”

Pulling from a variety of data sources back in 2007, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) projected temperature increases anywhere from 2 to 11 degrees by the end of the century. Now due to this new data, it looks like the higher range of that projection may be closer to the truth.

Their analysis used 400 applications of a computer model, which included looking at complicated factors such as atmospheric, oceanic and biological systems data, as well as global economic activity.

A similar 2003 study had predicted a two degree increase in global temperatures by 2100, but those models weren’t nearly as comprehensive, and they didn’t take into consideration economic factors.

Various studies have shown that even a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global temperatures would probably destroy 30 percent to 40 percent of all known species, generate bigger, fiercer and more frequent heat waves and droughts, more intense weather events like floods and cyclones, and would raise the sea level by at least a metre, displacing millions.

The other compelling factor with this latest study was the lengths researchers went to try and get their message across to decision-makers, many of who will be gathering in Copenhagen this year for a critical round of UN climate negotiations.

In a welcome departure from the usual communications strategy of releasing an eye-glazing technical report at 4:00 PM on a Friday, these scientists instead created a roulette wheel to illustrate their frightening findings of the known risks of continuing to ignore carbon emissions.

Given the stunning record of inaction to date of these UN climate gatherings, perhaps future researchers will have to resort to a vaudeville act or interpretive dance to get their message across.

Lets hope instead this improved messaging, as well as the new administration in Washington will finally make a difference



I love the post and the roulette wheel, but I’m having a hard time reading the one you posted here. Do you know if there’s a bigger version posted elsewhere?

Use the link “twice as bad as previously believed” in the text

Oh my God! A new study out of MIT predicts “a 90% probability that worldwide surface temperatures will rise at least 9 degrees by 2100 … and Global warming of 7C ‘could kill billions this century”


Oh puh-lease!


Let’s look at the facts;

1)      Since 1998, global temperatures have been dropping.

2)      Global sea ice is running about 500, 000 Km2 above average

3)      January, 2008 broke the record for the most snow covered area ever measured in the Northern Hemisphere

4)      at least six and a half billion people will die during the 21st Century;

5)      none of these “scientists” will be around in 2100 to see how their prediction materialized- or not as the case will be.


This study is emblematic of AGW.

AGW promoters recycle through the “It is much worse than predicted” closing line every few months.

It is as credible as a used car salesman talking about how if you do not buy *now* there will never be another car deal like this again.

I think that this tag line by MIT may well prove to be the one pressure tactic too many.

It is so outlandish and over the top in its assumptions. Its analysis is infantile. Its conclusion is silly. The reaction of a growing number of people will be, at the least, rolling of the eyes.

More and more will simply come to the proper conclusion that AGW is a scam.


Written with reference to “Watts up with that?”- the pre-eminent science blog

Let’s look at the lies;

1)      Since 1998, global temperatures have been dropping.

2)      Global sea ice is running about 500, 000 Km2 above average

3)      January, 2008 broke the record for the most snow covered area ever measured in the Northern Hemisphere

Let’s look at the truth:

1)   1998 was an abnormally warm year due to a very strong El Nino event.  The years that followed until 2007 were warming fairly consistently.  The reason for a cooling spell since 2007 was a fairly steady La Nina (which brings down global temperatures).

2)   If Antarctic and Arctic sea ice are at historic lows, then global sea ice cannot be above average.  It is impossible.

3)   The total Northern Hemisphere snow coverage is an aspect of weather, not climate.  Know the difference or forever go silent on this blog, as you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

The clue is in Phlogiston’s reference to Watt’s up with that? as the “pre-eminent” science blog.  This guy is irredeemable. Lately I almost wish that I could live in that delusional world of denial, looking ahead to a future without catastrophic climate change, where the cherry blossoms still bloom mid-May instead of late April.  After all, I’m 55.  I’ll be dead when all of this comes to pass.  But I can’t.  I can read the writing on the wall, and in the peer-reviewed journals.

I am reminded of a Don McKellar film called Last Night, in which the planet’s population prepare for a solar event that will destroy the planet within a few hours.  The difference, of course, is that we have a hope and a chance of making a difference in how severe the impact will be.  What goes on in Copenhagen will make it or break it, and I think it’s just about time we turned our attention and energies to that, rather than trading barbs with someone who clearly just doesn’t get it, and never will. 


global warming/climate change deniers do love that “global temperatures have been dropping since 1998” line, despite time after time it being shown to be a falsehood. But repeating a lie often enough that people begin to believe it is a proven tactic, and you have to admit it has worked yet again, at least for a portion of the population, as proven by the number of hits What the F*’s Up gets, making it the pre-eminent pseudo-science venue for the ignorant and delusional.

And they equally love using that “global sea ice is running above average” line, despite the fact that they are using a slight-of-hand by comparing maximum global winter sea ice extent, knowing full well, that it is minimum summer sea ice extent, and more important, ice thickness (age) that matters.

Never mind that the only room for growth in sea ice extent is outside the Arctic basin and at the outer fringe of Antarctic sea ice coverage, both of which are guaranteed to melt completely each respective summer, and never mind that ice thickness (age) of the remaining ice in the Arctic basin was at an all time observed minimum in 2008, or the steady progression of collapsing ice shelves down the Antarctic Peninsula.

But that’s exactly the point: to distract people with maximum winter ice extent so that they won’t look at minimum summer extent and thickness (age), and again, slight of hand and misdirection is a proven tactic that works.

“… it is minimum summer sea ice extent, and more important, ice thickness (age) that matters.”

Well, that’s new. Laughing Why then for decades have satellites and scientists been most concerned with ice extent?

Truth is, at present, ice extent is very close to normal. Faced with that, alarmists change the terms of the debate.

that you haven’t been paying attention, Paul. Sounds like you have a new homework assignment.

1)       Since 1998, global temperatures have been dropping.

Falsehood. You (or rather, Bob Carter) cherry-picked the highest temperature of the 20th century (1998) due to El Nino to assert that the planet is cooling.  This argument has been thoroughly discredited.

All you have to do is drop the anomalously warm year (1998) and begin at 1999 and the temperatures are rising again.  So it’s meaningless to even look for trends in such a short time series.  You’ll have to go back further (further back than one year, of course).

2)      Global sea ice is running about 500, 000 Km2 above average

That reminds me of a story of a planet of two-dimensional beings.  

I just made it up in my head.

These beings had absolutely no sensorium for three-dimensionality, i.e., depth-space. but they love to measure surface space for some odd reason. Polar ice caps to them were identical on both ends such that if Antarctica were to melt completely away, it wouldn’t make any difference because everything appeared in two-dimensionality for them.  At one point, the very thick, year-round Arctic sea ice melted completely away which left them quite baffled but the following winter, it miraculously reappeared in the form of thin, surface, seasonal ice.  The beings rejoiced in the newly-formed sea ice and extent of surface space.  

As a way to commemorate and document the Arctic’s full recovery, they set out to measure every square km of the seasonal ice but then it melted away before they had a chance to measure its full extent.  They were baffled by the disappearance but then rejoiced when it reformed again the next winter.   As a way to commemorate and document the Arctic’s full recovery, they set out to measure every square km of the seasonal ice but then it melted away before they had a chance to measure its full extent.  They were baffled by the disappearance becaue they could not connect ice thickness to sea ice melt because they were only into surfaces.  This happened over and over: every spring and every winter: and each time sea ice melted away before they had a chance to measure the extent of surface space.  

Moral of the story:

“ ‘Surfaces, surfaces, surfaces’ was all that they saw.”   

The end.

3)      January, 2008 broke the record for the most snow covered area ever measured in the Northern Hemisphere

People who cite single isolated events such as record-breaking snow in Wagga Wagga on such-and-such date are referring to single data points or weather events: not to climate.  Climate is not a single isolated event but an average of both record-breaking and non–recordbreaking and plotting these averages chronologically over longer spans of time.  

4)      at least six and a half billion people will die during the 21st Century;

Let’s not hope all at once in some abrupt climate change and massive dying-off of most of the species as proposed for corals due to acidified ocean for the sake of rapid evolution (ocean is acidifying…not bicarbonated…there’s no such thing as a bicarbonated ocean, btw)..  Abrupt climate change is never a good thing.  Otherwise, I guess I do not get your point.

5)      none of these “scientists” will be around in 2100 to see how their prediction materialized- or not as the case will be.

Does it matter?  What are you trying to say?


Eminent British scientist James Lovelock was on CBC’s The Hour last night and said pretty much the same thing, that we have at most about 100 years left, and that it’s going to be worse than previously thought. He compared it to the PETM period 55 million years ago when there were alligators living in the arctic. Once Gaia flips into a new steady state of a hot climate, it will last hundreds of thousands of years.

James Lovelock? He’s the ultimate eco-doomster; hardly representative of mainstream scientific thought.

Then why are Lovelock and mainstream scientific thought (like this latest MIT report) saying basically the same thing?

MIT’s report is brand new. It’s projections lie far outside of the existing concensus. Same for Lovelock.

Newness has nothing to do with what you said about Lovelock not representing maninstream scientific thought (Lovelock, who once contracted for NASA, is an independent scientist, but his theories are based on mainstream scienctific data). The existing concensus is that Global Warming is real, human caused (in whole or part) and that its consequences are negative if not dire. The MIT report and Lovelock fit within the spectrum of this consensus. Period. End of story.

The “spectrum of this consensus”? No, Lovelock is an outlier. Same as the MIT study. Neither are part of the “consensus”.

Most recent scientific data has predicted less severe effects from AGW. That is where the true consensus is evolving.


A cooling trend is occuring, many scientists attribute la nina and el nino phenoma to the amount of heat the oceans absorb from the sun. The sun is at its lowest activity since the space age began. A religous like belief in the projections of computer models seems to be driving what can best be described as an unproven theory related to CO2 & climate.

How much temp drop will it take before the population at large takes notice, wait & see I guess.

Sorry to let reality come barging into your dreamworld, but your quote “If Antarctic and Arctic sea ice are at historic lows, then global sea ice cannot be above average.  It is impossible.” Only if you will not bring yourself to see the truth. Global sea ice is not at a record low, as you like to think. If you don’t believe me look at the actual data:


Also “1998 was an abnormally warm year due to a very strong El Nino event.” That’s funny, I remember when not so long ago the 1998 event was a real indicator of things to come- welcome to the “permanent” El Nino World.  So it was a one off- when you want it to be. Davido knows the truth.


Finally “The total Northern Hemisphere snow coverage is an aspect of weather, not climate”, Yes it was and don’t you Alarmists like to have it both ways? If it supports the “Religion” it is “Climate Change”, if it doesn’t it’s “weather”. But don’t take my word for it- listen to the Prophet linking hurricane Katrina to “Climate Change”



It’s useless, as FEMACK has said, to respond to your ignorant and asinine comments, Phlogiston, as you add nothing useful to the discussion and continue to blather lies that PR hacks and the FOX News spinmaster have done.  I am no longer going to waste my time responding to you.

It’s interesting, though, to analyze the changing stance of the denial camp.  Phlogiston is no longer denying that a concensus exists, but he/she is arguing that it just isn’t as dire as the MIT study suggests.  Alas, he/she overlooks the fact that much of the dissatisfaction with the IPCC reports stems from concerns among the contributors that the report is far too conservative.  Warnings about feedbacks from methane in the permafrost, for example,  have been getting louder every day.  A substantial number of scientists have actually said they think we’ve passed a tipping point (choose your favourite). 

So the roulette wheel should surprise anyone.  What was it Mulroney said about the  Meech Lake AccordÉ  He `rolled the dice.  Phlogiston is gambling on a very dodgy possibility. 


“A substantial number of scientists have actually said they think we’ve passed a tipping point (choose your favourite).”

First of all, “tipping point” is not a scientific concept, it is a political lever to pressure governments to act. Second, what is this “substantial” number of scientists who say this? 3? 5? 10? At best, their overheated rhetoric represents a tiny fraction of climate scientists.

A “must read” by Dr. Roy Spencer. One of those “Deniers” with more experience of the Climate than the whole of MIT.


Climate science took another step backward last week as a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was announced which claims global warming by 2100 will probably be twice as bad as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted. Since that average rate of warming (about 0.5 deg. C per decade) is at least 2 times the observed rate of global-average surface temperature rise over the last 30 years. Of course the MIT results are totally dependent upon the climate sensitivity that was assumed in the climate model runs that formed the basis for their calculations. Since climate modelers can get just about any level of warming they want by simply making a small change in the processes controlling climate sensitivity - especially cloud feedbacks - in those models. So, since the sensitivity of the climate system is uncertain, these researchers followed the IPCC’s lead of using ‘statistical probability’ as a way of treating that uncertainty.

The use of statistical probabilities by the IPCC and the MIT group does two misleading things: (1) it implies scientific precision where none exists, and (2) it implies the climate system’s response to any change is a “roll of the dice”. We know what the probability of rolling a pair of sixes with dice is, since it is a random event which, when repeated a sufficient number of times, will reveal that probability (1 in 36). But in contrast to this simple example, there is instead a particular climate sensitivity that exists out there in the real climate system. The endless fascination with playing computer games to figure out that climate sensitivity, in my opinion, ends up wasting a lot of time and money.

True, there are many scientists who really do think our tinkering with the climate system through our greenhouse gas emissions is like playing Russian roulette. But the climate system tinkers with itself all the time, and the climate has managed to remain stable. There are indeed internal, chaotic fluctuations in the climate system that might appear to be random, but their effect on the whole climate system are constrained to operate within a certain range. If the climate system really was that sensitive, it would have forced itself into oblivion long ago.


Full article at



I was surprised to see the M.I.T. study cited as “new” because I had blogged about it back in March 2009.  I then noticed that the pie-charts on my blog differed from the article’s above, so I wanted to post a copy of my blog for comparison and contrast.  Also, I thought I would share my post while I am at it, which attempts to evaluate the various recommendations made by Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus 2008” economists who make varous economic recommendations based on certain highly questionable future emissions scenarios for 2100.  Note: Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus 2008” is not to be confused with the upcoming “Copenhagen Conference” in October 2009, but is a “study” (non peer-reviewed) put out by economists who were hand-picked by Bjorn Lomborg on the basis of their anti-Kyoto stance to write an alternative economic strategy to the Stern Review’s economic recommendations for resolving climate change and emissions scenario for 2100 based on Cap and Trade. 

My overall disclaimer Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus 2008”:

From my observation and experience, those who have a problem with the science of climate change and concern themselves with its so-called controversies (controversies, incidentally–being kept alive almost exclusively by non-scientists) tend to be more concerned about the politics and economic uncertainty of dealing with climate change than with scientific uncertainty or science. 

The science itself is far more settled, certain, and straightforward than the economic debates between economists (many who couldn’t even predict the economic meltdown, for instance).  Yet Bjorn Lomborg’s Environmental Skepticism presents his economic strategy as if it were a certainty beyond dispute while focusing his work almost entirely on the uncertainties of the science of climate change.  This book in turn was roundly criticized by mainstream scientists for misrepresenting the facts and was reported for scientific fraud, which was then determined by a court to be a case of mere scientific negligence or ignorance, but not a case of premeditated or willful scientific fraud.

Nearly everyone I have seen who has taken this strategy of “scientific uncertainty” (with the exception of Freeman Dyson–who appears to be sincere about his contrarian views but is just not up to speed with the current state of climate science)–appears to be an ideologue.  As such they are part of the problem: not a part of the solution.  

Here’s an article on the M.I.T. study and my analysis of Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus” is below the horizontal bar.


Global Boiling Roulette: The Margin For Error Is Gone

In 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change designed the “Greenhouse Gamble” roulette wheels to depict the “probability of potential global warming over the next hundred years,” based on the latest scientific research. They compared the gamble of warming with and without an international agreement to reduce emissions through programs like the cap and trade system proposed by President Obama. Today, they released updated roulette wheels, reflecting how much worse the gamble has gotten:


The ‘No Policy’ Gamble (2002 v. 2009)20022009

No Policy - 2002 No Policy - 2009
These wheels assume a scenario in which “no policy” action is taken to try to curb the global emissions of greenhouse gases. In the previous wheel the likelihood of exceeding 5°C was about 4%, but in the new wheels that likelihood is 57%.
MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, 2009.



The ‘Policy Action’ Gamble (2002 v. 2009)20022009

Policy - 2002 Policy - 2009
If greenhouse gas emissions are controlled to relatively low levels then the Earth systems feedbacks are much lower, but there is no longer any possibility of less than 1°C warming. 
MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, 2009.


The “policy” scenario reflects the establishment of mandatory policies to reduce emissions, such as building standards and cap and trade systems, that limit total carbon dioxide concentrations to 550 parts per million. However, as climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf recently explained, even limiting warming to two degrees Centigradecannot be considered safe, which is why there is a growing demand for policies that limit CO2 concentrations to350 ppm.

The new roulette wheels were initially released in February 2009, with a reset color scale that made a direct comparison between the old and new scenarios difficult. The Wonk Room thanks the Global Change Program for taking our suggestion to update the wheels.

Note: At the time of post, my understanding of “tipping point” for catastrophic climate change” was a 2.5° C temperature rise.  I have since adopted the 2.0° limit on “tipping point” to be more in more agreement with the growing consensus.

Now, we have a better way of making sense of Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus 2008” and putting it in its proper perspective.

According to the executive summary of the Copenhagen Consensus in 2008, the projected rise in average global temperature is 3.5° C by 2100 with no mitigation efforts, which is used as a “baseline.”

With a combination of mitigation, adaptation, and R&D, economists of Copenhagen Consensus 2008 estimate that the projected rise in average global temperature is 3.0° C by 2100, meaning only a -0.5° C reduction after trillions of dollars spent.

Indeed, based on the pessimistic outlook of the Copenhagen Consensus’ analysis, “no policy action” is little different from “trillions of dollars wasted” on mitigation efforts.

I decided to fact-check the various solutions proposed by Bjorn Lomborg’s economists with a recent study conducted by scientists at M.I.T., since they both studied various emissions scenarios and offered recommendations.  My interpretation of the scientific opinion from M.I.T was drawn from the pie-charts that they published which I compared with Bjorn Lomborg’s.

Based on the the pie charts created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change in 2009 (see charts above), the number of scientists agreeing with the Copenhagen Consensus of a 3.5° C rise by 2100 with a “no policy action” is about 10% (an eyeball estimation), whereas 90% of these scientists disagree with Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus,” indicating that a “no policy action” plan will result in a 4-7° C temperature rise by 2100.  Well beyond the tipping point of 2.5° C.

Accordingly, 10% of the M.I.T. scientists agree with the Bjorn Lomborg’s economists at the Copenhagen Consensus that a combination of mitigation, adaptation, and R&D will result in a temperature rise of 3.0° C.  Well over 90% of these scientists believe that a “policy action,” such as cap and trade, will result in a temperature rise of only 1-3° C.  Of the 90%, approximately 75% of these believe that a “policy action gamble” will result in only a 1-2.5° C temperature rise: thus, indicating that 70% of these scientists believe that a cap and trade agreement may prevent a “tipping point” and a sudden and catastrophic climate change.

What the economists at Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus did, in effect, was choose the “best case scenario” for “no policy action” and a “worst case scenario” for “policy action” (which perhaps conforms with their anti-regulation ideology).  This to me is scientific dishonesty.  In addition, they claim to base their assessment on the IPCC Fourth Annual Assessment in 2007, when in fact the 550 ppm ceiling that they use was from the dated Kyoto Protocol from several years ago.    

In closing, I would not put any faith in the Copenhagen Consensus.  It is obviously skewed toward “business as usual” and deregulation policies for the benefit of industries.


I can’t read any article because I have the video over the article. My version is Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; es-ES; rv: Gecko/20070730 SUSE/ Firefox/ I can’t see in Opera too.

I hope this information help us.

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