The Year Ahead
- Jan 3, 2023 12:27 pm GMT
“Predictions are hard, especially about the future.”, Yogi Berra, American philosopher
Considering Yogi’s caution above, I will not make predictions regarding climate science or climate change policy in 2023. Rather, I will discuss what I believe should happen in 2023 to advance the state of climate science and climate change policy.
An important first step in advancing the state of climate science is improving the quality of the data being used to measure the impacts of climate change. This includes expanding the coverage of both near-surface land temperatures and sea surface temperatures, so that “infilling” of estimated temperatures is no longer necessary. It also includes improving the quality of the data, so that “adjustments” to the data are no longer necessary. The US Climate Reference Network and the Argo buoys provide suitable data quality, but they do not provide global coverage. Satellite temperature measurements provide near-global coverage in the troposphere but display differences with the near-surface land and sea surface temperatures which should be analyzed and resolved.
There is also a major data quality issue regarding the rate of sea level rise which should be addressed and resolved. The sea level rise measured by satellite is approximately twice the rate measured by tide gauges in geologically stable locations. The rate of sea level rise measured by the satellites has increased inexplicably with each new satellite placed into service, while the rate of rise measured by the tide gauges has not changed. The tide gauge record begins well before the presumed start of anthropogenic warming, so it records natural variation associated with the recovery from the Little Ice Age.
The projections of future anthropogenic warming rely on the outputs of numerous climate models, none of which have been verified and validated. All of the climate models over-project warming relative to both near-surface and satellite-based observations and their outputs diverge significantly into the future. The models have been “tuned” by hindcasting to the near-surface temperature anomaly records which have issues as described above. A single, validated and verified model would constitute a far more solid basis for climate policy formation than the current situation.
There remains major uncertainty regarding the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric CO2. IP AR6 identifies a range of 2.5 – 4 degrees C, with a likely value of 3 degrees C and a very low likelihood of a value lower than 1.5 degrees C. However, recent research not reflected in AR6 suggests that sensitivity might well be less than or equal to 1.5 degrees C. This uncertainty has a dramatic effect on the range of projected temperature futures and should be the focus of aggressive research to resolve it.
There also remains uncertainty regarding the magnitude of climate feedbacks and whether the feedbacks are net positive or negative. The assumption of positive net feedback increases the temperature increases projected by the climate models.
There also remains uncertainty regarding the Representative Concentration Pathway used to project future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. While it is not possible to predict the actual future pathway, there is growing agreement that RCP 8.5 is implausible and should not be assumed to represent a “business-as-usual” future scenario.
Each of the above issues is of far greater significance to the formation of rational climate policy than the production of “scary scenarios” based on RCP 8.5, which has been a persistent focus of recent climate research.
The UN and national governments should abandon the “climate crisis”, “existential threat”, “climate emergency” political narrative, which is not supported by the climate science, and refocus on getting the climate science right.
Politicians would do well to contemplate the following observation.
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