TURN DOWN THE HEAT!
Sorry. We only have one Earth! We must not do the experiment!
Sorry. We only have one Earth! We must not do the experiment!
THIS IS A COURSE CRITIQUE MORPHING INTO A CLIMATE SCIENCE ESSAY FOR THE INTERESTED LAYMAN. IF YOU ARE CLIMATE SCIENCE LITERATE AND MOTIVATED TO UNDERSTAND CLIMATE SCIENCE, SKIP THIS ESSAY AND GO THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY TRANSCRIPT "CLIMATE CHANGE STATEMENT REVIEW WORKSHOP" (click any underlined words in this essay for link to more information)
FOR THEIR THOROUGH INVESTIGATION OF CLIMATE SCIENCE CLAIMS AND UNCERTAINTIES. LESS THAN SCIENCE LITERATE AND NUMERATE- STAY HERE!
First a word about climate science-
It's not rocket science! It's much more complex!
I'll try to make some of those complexities comprehensible.
And next- here's the problem-
First a word about climate science-
It's not rocket science! It's much more complex!
I'll try to make some of those complexities comprehensible.
And next- here's the problem-
We will examine the above discrepancy between the climate model projections of significant or catastrophic warming and the actual observations- the actual global warming observed.
The World Bank sponsored course Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree C Warmer World Must Be Avoided states, and everyone agrees, that we must not allow global temperatures to rise 4 degrees Celsius. We must not do that experiment. The risks are far too great. Most everyone also agrees that limiting global temperature rise to 2 C degrees is desirable, if possible, and if doing so doesn't create worse problems than the 2 degree rise. The World Bank sponsored course suggests that "Staying close to 2°C above pre-industrial levels is likely the best that can be done" or maybe is no longer possible." No! Staying below 2 degrees global warming is possible as we will see! Appreciating the difference between "climate models" and "climate data" and also understanding climate sensitivity are the keys to understanding why this is true.
NOTE! This blog began as the final assignment for a February, 2014, Coursera course sponsored by the World Bank, a United Nations financial institution, and called "TURN DOWN THE HEAT..." I adopted the style of that course presentation, and some of you have criticized me for that style, a valid criticism.
The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty. It has played an important part in addressing poverty in many parts of the world and promotes strategies that emphasize sustainability as well as economic goals. As a life long conservationist, I very much appreciate that. However, I was and remain critical of the course because it borders on propaganda by omitting the important concept climate sensitivity and by basing alarming predictions on old data and on poorly "tuned" climate models.
My thesis is this- To get past the cacophony of claims and counter claims about global warming and climate change, go to the data. Also, respect scientific method: hypothesis formation and data that supports or falsifies the hypothesis.
Related to and based on both first principles of scientific understanding and on data is the important term climate sensitivity. Without understanding climate sensitivity, you don't understand climate science nor the climate war mentality that dominates media reporting. Any reporting on global warming or climate change lacks discussion of climate sensitivity is superficial, probably misleading and, as my grandfather use to say, "Not worth a tinker's damn." The World Bank superficial Turn Down the Heat course neither discusses climate sensitivity nor reports the good news of recent climate data.To stay close to only 2 degrees warming, The World Bank course suggests something almost impossible- "In the next few decades, the world’s energy systems must be transformed so that global emissions drop 50 to 80 percent." That means CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. The World Bank course doesn't mention nuclear. It doesn't mention fracking. Both are controversial for sure, but is there any other way to maintain our global economies' energy needs and still reduce emissions even close to the 50%? That would require the world reducing CO2 emissions to the 1960's levels when population was much smaller and energy use much less per person. The economic consequences of reducing energy to the levels of fifty years ago would be economically ruinous and tragically make the World Bank's official policy- the reduction of poverty- virtually impossible. This essay does not examine energy problems and solutions. It does show that the World Bank has created an unrealistic horror story of future catastrophes that is not supported by climate science understanding and an equally unrealistic solution even if its horror story were true.
Many fellow students in this course expressed pessimism over the predicament we seem to find ourselves in. Who wouldn't be discouraged, given the catastrophes presented, and the slim chance of quickly reducing emissions, and the probable economic consequences if we did?
I want to provide some good news, some encouraging updates on global warming science that the course inexplicably omits. I am involved in teaching courses in global warming/climate change and have studied the IPCC Assessments including recent 2013 IPCC Fifth Assessment (AR5) (here's a comparison) and even more recent data. They contradict the thesis of the World Bank course. This essay, originally intended to complete the course requirements, has been expanded. I hope others, including my Global Warming/Climate Change students at my Furman University OLLI class use it as an example of responsible journalism or scientific writing- one based on empirical data with links to supporting evidence, something the World Bank pretty much omitted.
Why does the World Bank omit IPCC (2013) data that contradicts their gloomy scenario? We'll look at that.
Please, whatever your politics, learn more about climate science so that climate science understanding and policy is not based on the prevailing group think notions of catastrophe or hoax.
Learning climate history and studying theory and data are crucial to climate science understanding. The greenhouse effect is real and warms the planet. Our planet would be uninhabitable without the greenhouse gases. It's the amount of additional global warming from our anthropogenic CO2 emissions that is disputed by climate scientists- and where the World Bank course fails to inform.
Climate science is very complex and requires extensive study, both climate history and climate science. This essay gives some links to those studies, but omits most background information because the alternative would be a textbook or the course I teach.
I urge you to study climate science history now or after reading this essay. My class uses The Discovery of Global Warming online text. I really believe what I tell my students day one, "By the end of class you will understand climate science better than 99% of the journalists and talking heads who dominate the media reporting."
One needs historical knowledge for perspective, but even without it you can inspect the following data and compare it to the climate model projections and predictions which also follow. Global temperature reconstructions show two similar periods of warming in the 20th century and very little or none so far this century-
Can you look at the above NOAA global temperature graph (it graphs the anomaly- the departure from average over the base period of 1940- 1980) and answer the following questions?
1) What is the long term 1880-2014 trend, warming or cooling?
2) How much have global temperatures changed since 1880?
3) How much did temperatures increase both in the 32 year period 1910- 1942 and the 38 year period 1975- 2014?
4) How much warming has there been this century?
Answers: warming, about +0.7, about +0.4, almost +0.6, none.
Science is based on observation- data. Data supports or falsifies hypotheses; hypotheses attempt to explain and predict. The above graph is important data.
ABOUT THE TERM GLOBAL TEMPERATUREThe globe, of course, doesn't have a single temperature. In science, some data are constructs. Climate sensitivity is also probably a construct, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. NOAA, NASA and the many nations' MET OFFICES (meteorological institutions) produce almost identical reconstructions of global temperature using similar, but slightly different grid systems. Satellites launched in 1978 also record global temperatures. Both the land-based grid constructions of global temperature and the satellite data show similar amounts of global warming. Except for some small, controversial adjustments to past temperatures, a topic not considered here, there is no controversy about the instrumental temperature records and trends shown in the above graph.
Look at the global temperature chart again and you'll understand why the IPCC scientists who wrote the 2000+ page "Working Group" assessments, AR5 Assessment (2013), no longer highlight and promote catastrophic global warming this century. The "Working Papers" are the science assessment. Previous IPCC Assessments in 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007 did predict catastrophic warming, sea level rise, increase in storms, heat waves and droughts. None of this has happened, as we'll see. Let's look at some data and trends here, first the sea level rise the IPCC has previously predicted would be several feet or more this century-
1) Is the sea level trend accelerating, de-accelerating , or remaining about the same?
2) How much has sea level risen since 1992?
3) The trend is labeled as 3.2 mm a year. Convert that to inches over a 100 year period.
Answers: remaining same, about 68 mm, 12.6 inches.
Here is the graph for violent United States tornadoes-
Do you notice a trend?
and for the EPA Heat Wave Index-
What is the trend here?
What do you notice? Click the link to any other graphs and look at the trends-
NOAA Climate Extremes Index, Drought Data, NOAA hurricane index. Hurricane losses, U of Colorado Polar Sea Ice
The reason the 2013 IPCC science (AR5) assessment no longer highlights and no longer promotes the catastrophic climate change you still keep reading about in the press, and which the World Bank course highlights, is because the evidence is vanishingly small that global temperatures, sea level, storms, droughts, etc. are accelerating. You just saw in the temperature and other graphs above that those predictions of accelerating temperatures, sea level rise, hurricanes and other events have have not taken place so far this century. The World Bank Turn Down the Heat course, like most of what you read in the media, references data and model projections from years ago, 1988- 2007 when most climate scientists did think catastrophic anthropogenic global warming would occur and would bring alarming climate change this century. Some still do, but the data suggests otherwise. That's unassailable good news, isn't it?
The World Bank course references to the 2007 and earlier IPCC Assessments are outdated as are almost all the references in the popular media. Please NOTE, the IPCC Fifth Assessment (AR5) 2013 found here is both science and global politics. The science is those 2000+ pages of the scientific "Working Groups" that almost no one reads. The global politics is the much quoted, 29 page, "Summary for Policy Makers" which required approval by bureaucrats representing each and every UN country. That "Summary for Policy Makers" does not even mention the 15 year global warming "hiatus" described by the IPCC science working groups. It does not even mention the term climate sensitivity, which is the key to understanding how much and how fast temperature and sea level may rise.
Unfortunately, we have a schizoid IPCC, with the 2000 pages of science reporting both fairly benign present and future climates, but the "Summary for Policymakers" reporting the catastrophic scenarios from the 2007 and earlier IPCC Assessments. Likewise, the more recent IPCC Synthesis Report (2014) and the recent EPA Climate Change Indicators in the United States (2014) copycat the old and obsolete predictions of the IPCC "Summary for Policymakers," information promoting fear of accelerated global warming, sea level rise, and extreme weather- which you know from the data is not happening.
One thing is definitely accelerating- CO2 emissions and levels-
We'll see below why this does not necessarily mean significant global warming, with the caution that the range of future model projections in cludes that possibility.
Why is the IPCC 29 page "Summary for Policymakers" and the working group 2000+ page assessment of climate science so very different? An answer-
You will have to make up your own mind as to whether the climate data and the poorly performing climate models, discussed below, justify the the criticism of the World Bank and the its claims.
Another objection to the thesis I present here is the fact that virtually all of the world's science academies have supported the IPPC Assessment findings. That support has given support to the "settled science" and "the model projections are the science" approach to ignoring data that suggests otherwise. This support is finally changing as you can see by going to the American Physical Society link (at the top of the page).
The World Bank exhorts us to "Act Now." And year after year, high level climate conferences meet and dither because there is far too much distrust and division and economic consequence to act. In most countries, the climate wars mentality has made and makes governmental agreements impossible. It also creates distrust in politics and even in science. Who is to blame? Everyone who overstates and exaggerates their case- almost everyone- including the World Bank!
It's Not Rocket ScienceYes, that's part of the problem. Climate science is not rocket science. It's much more complex! Climate scientists don't understand or agree on the causes of ice ages and inter-glacial warm periods, the more recent "Medieval Warm Period" and "Little Ice Age," or even the significant warming in the 1930's when CO2 didn't increase or the slight cooling from 1945 to 1978 despite increasing CO2 emissions and levels. With such poor understanding of past climate, is it any wonder that there are now different predictions about the future? Remember the Yogi Berra quote-
“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”The fact is, there is a range of possible future scenarios, and we can not rule out the catastrophic scenarios the World Bank course highlights. Most climate scientists, however, have moved to a much less catastrophic view, which is the subject of the remainder of this essay.
This new appraisal is based on the absence of significant global warming so far this century, despite accelerating CO2 emissions and levels, what the IPCC AR5 (2013) scientists call "the hiatus." This pause in warming is good news and gives us more time to create political consensus, more time to help the undeveloped world escape poverty and become more resilient to any climate change, and more time for climate science itself to mature and become a better tool for shaping policy.
I realize that some of you are very suspicious of anyone who disputes the catastrophic scenarios. Others are suspicious of those who acknowledge the threat of global warming! The data referenced above should overcome those suspicions. So I ask you to be patient, open-minded, and carefully examine the data. So many who took the World Bank course, like so many everywhere, are scared and frustrated. As a life long conservationist with strong social justice commitments, I share many of those fears and frustrations. However, any scientific work requires a healthy skepticism about all claims as a prerequisite for employing scientific method. Understanding problems and crafting solutions is much harder in climate science than most fields because the laboratory is the earth, and there is just one, and hypothesis testing takes decades, so there are no quick answers.
The pessimism, frustration, and cynicism most of us feel is real, but it is mostly based on simplistic and often misleading information about the problem. If we want politicians and governments to take the problems seriously and act responsibly, we need a scientific method and data-centric approach acknowledging the best and most recent information which is, unfortunately, not what the World Bank course provides.
To summarize- based on both the IPCC 5th Assessment and recent peer reviewed climate science publications, there is good news! Not great news because catastrophic scenarios can not be ruled out and could eventually occur, but not in the short time frame that the World Bank course suggests.
The most important concept you never read about- climate sensitivity
As you might suspect or already know, there is, among climate scientists, a diversity of opinion and expectation about the future. Almost none think we can continue "business as normal" and live happily ever after! Many, probably most, however, now believe that the troubling warming expected by 2050 and dangerous warming by 2100 (that the World Bank course promotes) will be delayed enough that we can get our act together. And that's because new understanding about climate sensitivity has changed scientists' expectations.
So what is climate sensitivity? Let's go back in time. Svante Arrhenius in 1896 showed that CO2 was a greenhouse gas, and he wrote about the greenhouse gas effect. His work, replicated by many since, shows that doubling the level of CO2 in an atmosphere, say from the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million (ppm) to 560 ppm, will raise atmospheric temperatures about 1 degree Celsius. This is not controversial. Virtually all climate scientists agree with this figure and also agree that we will reach a double of 560 ppm by the end of this century, quicker with a "business as normal" scenario. Notice, however, that a 1 degree rise in temperature is not the catastrophic projection the World Bank course promoted. Why is that?
There are important reasons. They are called feedbacks. The warming atmosphere from the the green house gas (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2) creates feedbacks. Let's go slow.....
A warmer atmosphere holds more H2O water vapor, and water vapor is another GHG. So follow this-
1) the warming from CO2 first raises the atmospheric temperature, and then
2) the increased H2O water vapor raises it even more, and
3) that higher atmospheric temperature holds even more water vapor,
4) raising temperature even more-
an example of the positive feedback assumed by the World Bank course and those scientists who have promoted the cause of catastrophic global warming.
Many well known climate scientists including James Hansen, Michael Mann, and others including the Pottsdam Institute scientists who dominate the World Bank course instruction, believe these positive feed backs from H2O water vapor will increase that one degree C warming for a doubling of CO2 to much more- 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 degrees of warming because of the positive feedbacks- the kinds of catastrophic scenarios presented by our course and the popular media. Is there another view? YES MANY! Study the graph below-
Climate scientists have written over a dozen papers about climate sensitivity just in the 18 months since the above chart was compiled with most of them even lower than the average estimate above. Even the IPCC AR5 revised its climate sensivity range estimate to 0.5 C lower (now 1.5- 4.5 C) than their 2007 4th Assessment.Yes, most scientists today think there will be much less positive feedback than that described by the World Bank course because there will also be important negative feedbacks from that same H2O water vapor. Why? Because-
1) water vapor condenses into clouds, and because
2) clouds block sun light, and because
3) less sunlight cools the atmosphere and earth.
Water vapor H2O has both positive and negative feedbacks!
The IPCC in every one of its five Assessments of the science states that the H20 feedbacks are not well understood, and the relative magnitude of the positive and negative feed backs can not be determined. Nevertheless, the climate models the IPCC has relied on assume high positive feedback which is why earlier IPCC Assessment's "best estimate" of climate sensitivity was always 3 C degrees, not the 1 C degree for a doubling of CO2 without feed backs.
The recent IPCC 5th Assessment (2013) not only reduced the low end of its climate sensitivity from 2.0 to 1.5, perhaps still too high, but no longer gives a "best estimate" of 3.0 C, reflecting the lowering of sensitivity estimates by climate scientists as the chart above shows. Of course, the important new information and estimate did not make it into the Summary for Policymakers.
Just as there are still some climate scientists who think the feed backs will be strongly positive, there are many others who think the feedbacks will be weakly positive or even negative. The majority of climate scientists have been moving in the direction of a lower climate sensitivity as described in this New York Times article, Feb, 2013, "A Closer Look at Moderating Views of Climate Sensitivity."
Additional articles show those same reductions in climate sensitivity estimates-
Climate Sensitivity and more climate sensitivity
The World Bank course, inexplicably, does not even describe climate sensitivity, but there are many hints that it uses a sensitivity of 3 or more which was the old IPCC 4th Assessment (2007) and earlier "best estimate." The final graphic provided by the World Bank course suggests an even higher climate sensitivity, claiming that "If present emission trends continue, the world is on a path to 4 degrees C warming by 2100."
see----> World Bank
Look at this chart carefully. It predicts 3.2 degrees C global temp rise the next 85 years compared to 0 degrees global temperature rise so far this century. This World Bank prediction requires a climate sensitivity far higher than any IPCC Assessment, in the range of 4- 6 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 ppm. You'll understand how I obtain that 4-6 C degrees as you read further. Shame on the World Bank for this unjustified fear mongering. Now, I think, you know why the World Bank course doesn't mention climate sensitivity!
This needs to be repeated. Any scientific or media discussion of global warming that omits discussion of climate sensitivity is superficial and probably misleading. The World Bank course is superficial and misleading! There is no scientific justification for the World Bank's use of older data, for omitting the concept climate sensitivity, and for using a climate sensitivity of 4-6 degrees C when recent climate scientists best estimates are far lower than that. Only by using older data and older, inflated estimates of climate sensitivity can the World Bank emphasis its catastrophic scenarios, a counter productive and non-scientific approach that evokes similar exaggerated retorts on the other side and fuels the polarization and politicalization of science.
I already mentioned that the IPCC 5th Assessment (2013) lowered climate sensitivity estimates see ---> Scientific American
and that those lowered estimates are good news, very good news!
WARNING- MATH AHEAD! The doubling of CO2 by the end of this century will give us about 0.8 degrees addition warming if climate sensitivity is 1.5 degrees C and 1.2 degrees C warming if climate sensitivity turns out to be 2 degrees C. Remember, climate sensitivity refers to the increase in temperature from a doubling of CO2 in parts per million (ppm) including assumed positive and negative feedbacks. It's those assumptions, of course, that are responsible for the differing estimates of climate sensitivity.
These recent 1.0- 2.0 C climate sensitivity estimates suggest only weak net positive feedback and no catastrophic warming this century. And a few of the most recent peer reviewed published articles by climate scientists estimate climate sensitivity in the 0.6- 1.0 range.
Therefore, we can keep the global temperatures below 2 degrees C this century by continuing to use hydrocarbons at present rates (which adds about 2 ppm CO2 per year), but not at much higher rates unless climate sensitivity is indeed in that much lower 1C range as a few climate scientists now estimate. This is good news and gives our world the opportunity to create economic growth, robust infrastructure improvements, and increasing resilience to any and all natural disasters. As many liberals, libertarians, and conservatives agree, the continuing use of hydrocarbons, the least expensive form of abundant energy, allows the third world an opportunity to create infrastructure including electricity, education, and health. I was very pleased that the World Bank course did acknowledge the importance of the third world "catching up" by using fossil fuels.
Lets be realistic. The IPCC also reports that higher climate sensitivities up to at least 4.5 can not be ruled out because of the (this is a technical statistical term) "long tail distribution." So what does that tell us? It tells us that, because those high climate sensitivities are considered much less likely, but can not be completely ruled out, the catastrophic scenarios described by our course are possible, but highly unlikely.
The good news is that most climate scientists have moved towards what is often described as the "lukewarmer" position- that climate sensitivity is 2.0- 1.5 or lower, and that significant, but not catastrophic warming, will result from a double in CO2 ppm by the end of this century. Robust infrastructure improvements from the continued use of fossil fuels can be part of a growing world economy, but are unaffordable under the World Bank prescription of reducing carbon emission by 50- 80%, which is very likely to cause world wide recession or worse.
Climate Models Are a Type of Hypothesis
The reason why most climate scientists (with some high profile holdouts) have moved to or toward the "lukewarmer" position is interesting. James Hansen in 1988 and the IPCC in 1990 (and subsequently) have published climate model temperature projections. Let's look t the chart again-
Climate model projections are not "the science" as you might think by studying the World Bank course or reading popular media reports. Climate models are a type of hypothesis, a computer simulation with many assumptions about poorly understood mechanisms such as the positive and negative feedbacks discussed above. Those 1988 Hansen and earlier IPCC models project very significant warming that has not happened. The models are "biased high," based mainly on the assumptions of strong H20 positive feedbacks.
There are many other computer models from that period which our course doesn't mention, models with climate sensitivities from below 1 degree C, such as MIT's Richard Lindzen's at the low end (refer back to the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity graph, above) all the way to Hansen's at the high end.
Scientific MethodWhat climate science needs is a return to science!
In scientific method, you make observations, construct falsifiable hypotheses (to explain your observations), and, based on your hypothesis, project or predict future events. You then evaluate the skill of your model (the hypothesis predictions) by how skillful your model and its predictions are confirmed or falsified by nature (temperature data in this case). Look again at the comparison of model projections and temperature data, above.
The high sensitivity models are being falsified by the actual temperature data of the past 20- 25 years, and are thus being rejected. The lower sensitivity models are supported by the data. This is how science works and why climate scientists are moving towards lower sensitivity estimates as described in the articles linked above.
There is also good news about corals. Lower climate sensitivities don't have any application to ocean acidity, but here is this recent article from NOAA, see----> NOAA
There is conflicting evidence about the misnomer of increasing ocean acidity, misnomer because the ocean is not and has never been acidic. From the beginning of the industrial revolution until now as temperatures increased about 0.8C degrees, surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.25 to 8.13, no where close to being acidic. However, this trend deserves study and close scrutiny.
The Math of Optimism
The IPCC AR5 (2013) gives this range for climate sensitivity-
"Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to
4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C
(high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C
(medium confidence)-still much higher and alarming than recent
climate sensitivity estimates suggest, but a lowering of previous
climate sensitivity estimates suggest, but a lowering of previous
A Closer Look
If the climate sensitivity is only 1.5, then the 2 degree warming by 2050 would only be 1 degree, one-half of 2.0, and the 4 degree warming by 2100 would only be 2 degrees at most! If climate sensitivity is lower than 1.5 as some climates scientists now estimate, there would be even less warming.
MORE MATH, but anyone who tries should be able to follow- The above analysis is easy to confirm and is based on the fact that we are already, right now, half way to a CO2 double from the pre-industrial 280 ppm of CO2.
Our present 400 ppm CO2 is just over 40% higher than 280 ppm (280 x 1.4 = 396)
And 40% higher than 400 is (400 + 160= 560 ppm), a double of the pre-industrial 280 ppm and therefore a 1.5 to 2 degree global temperature increase from pre-industrial times based on a climate sensitivity of 1.5 to 2.0.
Our present, half-way-to-a- doubling-of-CO2 has resulted in 0.8 degrees C global warming as you can see from that first graph, above. Our globe has warmed 0.8 C degrees since the begiining of the industrial revolution. Therefore, we can probably expect an additional 0.8 degrees warming when CO2 concentration doubles to become 560 ppm late this century. If you just inferred an implied climate sensitivity of 1.6 based on the empirical data- good! If not, please read this paragraph again. If climate sensitivity turns out to be 2 degrees C, then we might expect an addition 1.2 degrees warming when we reach a CO2 double late this century giving 2 degrees warming since pre-industrial times.
WHAT IS CATASTROPHIC?
Few would argue that an additional 0.8 to 1.2 C warming (by the time we reach that 560 ppm double) is catastrophic. Most everyone would agree we want to avoid a second double to 1120 ppm and 3.2 to 4 degrees C global warming! Therefore, we don't have to "act now" to reduce CO2 emissions, but we better act sooner than later! And, to be fair, the World Bank course gives much good information about sustainability, resiliency, and land use, farming, fishing, tropical forest preservation, water security, and conservation that virtually everyone agrees are wise and desirable goals that would partially hold the line on CO2 emissions while continuing present hydrocarbon use until energy (and battery) technology allow a economically healthy transition.
Based on the above lowered estimates of climate sensitivity we have time, well past 2050, to do the types of mitigation and adaptation strategies that the World Bank course (and IPCC Summary for Policy Makers) wrongly tells us we must do immediately in order to hold global temperatures to 2 C degrees warming by 2050 and 4 C degrees by 2100.
I have pointed out above that the World Bank and IPCC Summary for Policy Makers (add to that the recent EPA Summary Report and the IPCC Synthesis Report) are all based on those earlier assumptions of climate sensitivities of 3 C degrees or higher and don't reference the recent good news about lowered climate sensitivity. Some like the World Bank even exaggerate earlier IPCC best estimates of 3 C degrees in an effort to scare us all into "action now," a tactic that obviously hasn't worked and has proved counter-productive.
A lower climate sensitivity also means that any secondary climate effects (flood, drought, storm, catastrophic sea level rise) will also not occur until much later in the century and/or be much less catastrophic. Secondary effects are what we call anthropogenic (human caused) climate change. Such effects, more than the warming itself, represent the alleged global warming catastrophe, but you have seen from the earlier graphs that there is vanishingly little evidence of catastrophic climate change. As the IPCC and most climate scientists acknowledge, we have not yet begun to see the increased hurricane or tornado activity, increased flooding, droughts, accelerated sea level rise, polar ice melt (the Arctic polar melt is more than compensated for by Antarctic ice increase). Click those earlier climate links again to see and confirm that there is no upward trend in any of these events. Extreme events, of course, have always occurred and will continue to. Knowing the trend shows you how the hyping of every extreme event by the media is just that- hype.
When you read the hype about present climate change and catastrophe, remember we have only had 0.8 degrees C warming in the last 150 years and none this century. How much climate change results from that small amount of warming? The IPCC AR5 "Working Papers"- the science- like the graphs you looked at earlier suggests little or none.
HOW ABOUT NATURAL VARIABILITY?
The IPCC is confident that at least half the recent warming, the almost 0.5 C since 1950 when CO2 emissions began increasing dramatically, is anthropogenic. Anthropogenic includes many things beside green house gas emissions, things like land use albedo (reflectivity of solar light/heat). Albedo changes from land use change (agriculture and ranching) or from black carbon (soot) emissions which cover ice and snow in the northern hemisphere and cause melting and a positive feed back of more melting from the exposed darker water.
This essay assumes, correctly or incorrectly, what the IPCC and most climate scientists assume- recent warming is mainly from GHG (mainly CO2) increases. However, there is no way to know or confirm that. There are many global warming forcings (ie., causes). These forcings include GHG, albedo changes, changes in total solar irradiation and wavelength, changes in cloud cover, changes in short and longer term ocean oscillations- El Nino/La Nina, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation- and Milankovitch changes in the Earth's ellipse (to just name a few which I'll discuss in a future article for interested layman)
Unfortunately, there is no way to isolate any of those variables, and to know what warming or cooling the earth would have experienced without the anthropogenic changes! There has been about 2 degrees global warming since the Little Ice Age 300 years. This suggests that climate sensitivity is probably less than 1.5 because the warming that occurred the first half that 300 years was without an increase in CO2 levels and therefore "natural variability" not from GHG. There was no increase in GHG.
NOTE, if our Earth has recently entered a natural cooling phase, then climate sensitivity might be higher than 2.0, and the GHG warming is countering the natural global cooling. If, on the other hand, our Earth is continuing the natural warming trend of that period between the Little Ice Age and Indusrrial Revolution, then climate sensitivity is very low, probably 1.0 or less. We have no way of knowing! To repeat from earlier. This isn't rocket science. It's much more complex!
WARMING MAY BE BENEFICIAL AND DETRIMENTAL
At what point global warming becomes a problem is itself disputed. No doubt, some areas of Earth will benefit and some will suffer from any global warming. There are a few climate scientists who believe that 2 degrees C warming may be mostly beneficial, just as everyone agrees the previous 2 degrees C warming we've already had since the Little Ice Age is beneficial. See Spencer. Most others disagree.
Our Response to a problem-Much of the media and even a few climate scientists have been hyping every weather event as climate change The links provided above show there have been no worrisome changes in the trend of natural disasters. The important takeaway, whatever the relation of climate change to warming, is this. With less warming than the World Bank course and predicts, climate change effects are postponed until later. Postponed, probably not cancelled!
I'm certainly not suggesting we procrastinate. Almost all the strategies the World Bank course describes are very good ones, climate-smart agriculture, water security strategies, reducing carbon emissions with greener alternatives, curtailing the destruction of our forests (which are carbon sinks), reducing black carbon (soot) emissions which also cause terrible health problems- all are required if we want to be responsible for our global future. Part of the problem with the World Bank's and popular media exaggerations of global warming and climate change is that most of those very good strategies are neglected when carbon emissions get all the press.
We don't need to rush into the regrettable, bad decision-making that brought us corn ethanol (using food for fuel raised food prices worldwide causing untold starvation and suffering) or clear cutting tropical forests for palm oil plantations. By being informed, we can act smartly and not just quickly!
We have time to act smartly and humanely-We also are not forced to choose between two unconscionable choices: catastrophic warming or the social injustice of preventing the underdeveloped world from developing in the way the developed world has, with cheap and abundant energy. Industrialization creates wealth and infrastructure, health and education (especially for women) and a standard of living that allows those one billion plus who are now malnourished, and have little infrastructure, to become part of the caring and sharing human community that values its environment. I was so pleased to see that the World Bank rejects that unconscionable choice.
Climate science data encourages optimism!I surely hope you feel a little more optimistic after reading this, and realize that our sustainability goals require policies informed by science. If carbon emissions need to be reduced substantially this century, I hope we of the developed nations (where I live) are responsible enough to change our eating habits and our lifestyles. China and India certainly have to do their part. We must not return to that earlier rushed and regrettable decision making. We have a little more time for climate science to learn more and better inform us, more time for new energy technologies to develop, a more time for teaching environmental values and sharing our love of the planet and its critters with those who are not yet so moved.
Turn Down Another Type of Heat!We also need to turn down another type of heat. Climate science has become climate science war. I bet you've heard the saying, "the first casualty of war - is truth." The loudest voices are coming from the extremes, the "warming is a hoax" on one side and "you are a denier" as in holocaust denier if you don't subscribe to the most catastrophic scenario. Climate science is suffering from this war- too much heat and two little light. We must turn down that heat!
The World Bank course challenges us to discover and implement low regrets or no regrets policies. It won't be easy, will it? Can we all find the intelligence (and probably sacrifice for many of us in the developed world), good will, and yes, optimism to meet the challenges?
If we let this climate science war continue, everyone will be the loser. The exaggeration, stalemate and deadlock will continue and whatever extra years we have, years for mitigation and adaptation, will amount to nothing more than a footnote- "they had the ability to create a sustainable and healthy planet for the earth and her creatures, but instead followed the path of accusation and war, creating the hell many of their religions described."
Comments welcome! See some of my environmental and scientific work pictures. In addition to teaching, I just finished an online fieldgude, am also involved in field work in Mexico and will be doing research in western Cuba later this year.
I love introducing others, especially children, to the mysteries and marvels of nature and our fellow creatures- more pictures here, go to sets---> lots of photographs