Feb 082012
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One of the top 25 open questions as collected by Science magazine [1] and undoubtedly one of the most controversial today’s topics – global warming. It came to my mind especially now, when the central Europe faces historical frosts. Unfortunately, there is a lot of economics and politics in this field and it’s very difficult to find and follow reliable results and opinions. From the point of view of an external observer, the question of global warming is somehow mysterious and definitely full of open questions, such as: “How are the computational models of climate changes (such complex nonlinear dynamical processes) reliable?”, “Does the Earth really warms on a long-term basis and is it due to humans?”, or as the title states: “How Hot Will the Greenhouse World Be?”

[1] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/309/5731/100.full

Libor Veis

  7 Responses to “How Hot Will the Greenhouse World Be?”

  1. There are a lot of open questions in climate science. Answers can usually only be obtained within uncertainty. That is also true for the question, how much the globe may warm. However, the International Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Report updated the most likely answer in 2007 (IPCC, AR4, http://ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html) after the referenced article by Kerr (2005). The next update (the fifth assessment report) is scheduled for October 2014.

    The IPCC AR4 further gave a concise answer why the recent trend in global temperature is very likely to a large extent due to anthropogenic contributions. That is, the second question raised by Veis (2012) isn’t as open as the authors suggests.

    On the other hand, I find Veis’s first question unclearly formulated and irritating? Does he want to ask, whether climate simulators are reliable, or does he wonder, to what extent they are reliable, or is he saying (as it reads) “how on earth can anybody believe these ‘complex nonlinear dynamical processes’ could be simulated in any reliable way”?

    Veis notes, that the field of climate change science is highly politicised and results are interpreted based on biased economic values. This is true – to a certain extent. To imply, even the peer reviewed climate science would be politically and economically biased, is like saying all pharmatological and chemical science is influenced by “big money”. That is, an “external observer” from the larger scientific community should be able to obtain unbiased estimates to the question of climate simulator reliability and the anthropogenic contribution to recent global climate change.

  2. Dear OB,

    thanks for your comments, I like them. You probably comes from the climate research community, don’t you? As I don’t, I’m happy to hear some criticism from you.

    You are saying that my second question isn’t “as open” and you argue: “is very likely to a large extent due to…”. I’m sorry, but if it is not open, you should write: “is due to…”. I know that it’s about probability, so please instruct me and be more precise. If it’s higher than let’s say 90 % than I agree, it isn’t “as open”.

    To my first question. You are right, it’s probably not very well written. I wanted to point to the uncertainties of different models. Again, you can instruct me and tell me e.g. what are the uncertainties in average temperature predicted for the end of this century by the best nowadays models. It would be interesting to read.

    And finally to the economic point of view. I don’t agree with you. “Big money” in pharmaceutical (or other applied) research can lead to technological progress, but success of results is always measurable (if the drug works or not). Global warming is undoubtedly already a huge business, but it’s “only” about predictions (with uncertainties).


  3. One more link. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/02/2011-updates-to-model-data-comparisons/

    2011 Updates to model-data comparisons (again by Gavin Schmidt).

    PS: You may delete this postscript, if this comment is published after the one from yesterday evening. That is, there was another comment, which I don’t see up to now.

  4. The comment from yesterday evening was: Firstly: The following may sound evasive and is so, because I don’t think this
    is really the place to discuss this. Therefore – for referring to our
    best answer to the QOW and for stressing, that it isn’t that
    complicated to find reliable results – I linked to the IPCC AR4. The
    IPCC has been criticised and often rightly so, but the scientific core
    of the assessment is valid and resilient.

    With respect to: “to a large extent”. This was paraphrasing the IPCC and its statement, that very likely only a small part of the observed increase in global temperature is due to natural internal variability of the climate system. See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/01/the-ar4-attribution-statement/ for a take on that by Gavin Schmidt (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/gschmidt/).

  5. Secondly: My economic comparison was possibly phrased falsely or not. You say the success of a drug is measurable. I say, the public, the external observer cannot see the objective scientific “truth”. Maybe another analogy is clearer. GMOs are a highly discussed topic. The scientific discussion is possibly moving to a consensus that the benefits are huge and the risks are negligible. The public can’t see it, the interested scientific observer can rather easily obtain the information. Publicly propagated skepticism is probably unnecessarily exaggerated. The public debate is influenced by (moral) values, economics
    and politics but appears to be based on science. Skeptics on GMOs (or pharma for that) could easily say that the peer reviewed science on those topics are influenced by the big companies.

    Another take; I think I remember quite a blog-discussion with respect to omissions and biases and effects of only publishing positive results on the assessment whether a drug works (referring to studies on science conduct, sociology, history and philosophy of science).

  6. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1740-9713.2012.00537.x/abstract @edhawkins summarises the “situation” for Significance. The “Abstract” reads: “The climate change debate is obscured by much heat and fury. What consensus is there in the scientific community? Some years are cooler than those that went before. Is this evidence against global warming?”

  7. More links: one repetition: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/01/the-ar4-attribution-statement/ by Gavin Schmidt (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/gschmidt/).

    Visualizing data for the upcoming fifth assessment (http://climexp.knmi.nl/ ) indicates that the models are more or less projecting 1 degree increase relative to 1850 for 2020.

    German readers may be interested in the Zeit of this week (e.g. http://www.zeit.de/2012/07/index) which in the print edition quotes a rough estimate of 1.something to 6.something degrees warming til the end of the century.

    I find it rather vexing, that you call “Global Warming” a big business. I don’t want to read too much into it, so, could you please
    clarify that?

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