Summary Of Climate Science Issues

Today I want to summarize several major conclusions with respect to climate science.  I have provided examples of peer reviewed papers and reports that bolster these conclusions. Recently, I was asked by a senior program manager at the National Science Foundation to comment on the need for a broader assessment of the climate issue by the National Academy of Sciences. While I am not optimistic that the Academy will do this (or even if the program manager will pursue further), it does provide a glimmer of hope. With the release of report “Climate Change Assessments, Review of the Processes & Procedures of the IPCC“ (see), there is finally a basis to provide more inclusive climate assessments.

Regardless, I have listed below in bullet form, a number of conclusions on climate science. They can be considered as hypotheses and interested credentialed climate science readers of my weblog are invited to present evidence which refutes these hypotheses.

  • Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades [e.g. see Pielke et al 2009].
  • The role of humans within the climate system involves much more than global warming [NRC, 2005; Kabat et al 2004]
  • The IPCC global climate model multi-decadal simulations are inaccurately called “projections” or “predictions”. They are truthfully “sensitivity experiments”. [e.g. see Pielke 2002].
  • The IPCC global climate model multi-decadal simulations are considered by that community to be boundary-value problems (i. e. a deviation from current climate is primarily due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide). The real climate system, however, is an initial value problem as the values of climate variables at any given time (in the ocean, land, continental ice and atmosphere) matter in terms of how the climate system evolves over the coming decades. [e.g. see Pielke 1998].
  • The dynamic downscaling of IPCC global climate model multi-decadal simulations to regional scales has not so far provided added skill above what is possible using statistical downscaling from the global climate models models [e.g. see Castro 2005]
  • The global average surface temperature trend is a grossly inadequate metric to assess global warming and cooling. The monitoring of upper ocean heat content is the much more appropriate method to make this assessment and the data, since about 2003, are excellent for this purpose [.e.g. see Pielke 2003 and Pielke 2008].

There are several policy implications from these conclusions:

  1. The presentation (and funding of model simulations) of regional climate impacts decades into the future is flawed science. It represents a waste of money as there is no demonstrated predictive skill on this time and space scale, or, in fact, any opportunity to validate these predictions until these decades have passed.
  2. A focus on CO2 as the dominate human climate forcing is also a flawed, incomplete scientific perspective. It can easily lead to policy decisions that are costly yet accomplish little if anything in terms of actual mitigation of the role of humans in the climate system.  Policies focused on controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases must necessarily be supported by complementary policies focused on other first-order climate forcings.
  3. Climate policy is not synonymous with energy policy. While there are indeed overlaps,  much of these two topics are separate from each other.
  4. Integrated assessments within the framework of vulnerability, with an emphasis on risk assessment and disaster prevention, offer an underutilized approach to climate issues (e.g. for water resources see].

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