“The Global Warming Statistical Meltdown” – Wall Street Journal, 9 October 2014

For months, climate reports have been warning us that we must prevent the world from warming by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change. However, what policy makers and world leaders have failed to mention is that the world is less delicate than we think: CO2 emissions might not be so damaging to our climate.

As stated in the international treaty, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the earth’s surface temperatures have increased by almost 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1850-1900, which means we only have a margin of 1.2 degrees Celsius before we reach the 2 degree cap.

Estimations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)‘s latest 2013 report were calculated using positive and negative models. If there is a massive drop in emissions, then the Earth might not reach the 2 degree mark; however, if coal-use and population growth both skyrocket, then we might meet the mark by 2040.

However, these estimates aren’t based on real-world models, and don’t take into account the sensitivity of our climate. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Climate sensitivity is defined as the global surface warming that occurs when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles.” If the climate is overly sensitive, then rising emissions will indeed push the world to the UN’s “dangerous” warming levels; if the climate isn’t overly sensitive, then emissions won’t have such a devastating impact on our environment, and it will take us longer to reach those ‘dangerous’ levels.

Climate reports using an observation-based energy-balance approach and global climate models have had different findings — even the IPCC’s report admitted the distinctions in the two models. With observation-based models, climate sensitivity projections are substantially less than global climate models’ projections. Observation-based energy balance models also take climate change’s 1998 hiatus into account, where we didn’t see a drastic rise in the Earth’s temperature.

The warming hiatus wasn’t considered in the IPCC’s 2007 report, which predicated that the world would warm by 0.2 degrees Celsius every 10 years in the beginning of the 21st century. With that in mind, can we trust climate reports that employ global climate models, rather than observation-based models? Why, then, are we on the fast track to implement policy that slashes emissions when we have room to explore economical ways to gradually lower our emissions? What’s the rush?

Climate sensitivity is something the public doesn’t often hear about, but is a fundamental aspect of the climate policy debate. Reports that take an observation-based approach show that human’s impact on our climate won’t cause the Earth to warm by 2 degrees, even by the end of the 21st century. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our climate policies.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 15, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2014. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

2 thoughts on ““The Global Warming Statistical Meltdown” – Wall Street Journal, 9 October 2014

  1. Hello Subodh,

    Thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking piece. Indeed, it is somewhat of a mystery why land surface temperatures have not risen more quickly in the past fifteen years, given the planetary heat imbalance.

    But evidence for that heat imbalance remains extremely strong. Over 90% of the increased heat reports to the oceans, ocean average temperature is monotonically related to total ocean volume, and we can measure that volume by average sea level. As measurements have become more refined, the global warming signal has become clearer. See for example http://sealevel.colorado.edu/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_sea_level_rise .

    There are other contributions to sea level rise, namely glacial melting and land-ocean transfers, both of which are also mostly related to climate change, but these are less significant than thermal expansion (though glacial melting is accelerating rapidly). There is some contribution from human agricultural and other diversions of water, for example the Colorado river no longer flows into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caspian and Aral Seas are disappearing, but this accounts for well below 10% of the observed sea level rise. And there are seasonal fluctuations, and changes due to ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), but these do not change the overall trend.

    In short, the global models are working, the planet is heating as they predict. The one mystery is: why have we not seen more ocean-land heat transfer in the past ten years? But if we let the low ocean-land heat transfer let us become complacent, we risk further damage as the planet continues to warm, and catastrophe when the next El Niño arrives.

  2. Pingback: “4 Ways Election Results Could Intensify U.S. Energy Battles” – National Geographic, 5 November 2014 | Phinix, LLC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>