I have posted on the failure of this week’s House of Representatives Subcommittee to properly assess the state of climate science; see
In this post I want to present recommendations for two future Panels, whether led by Democrats or Republicans. Neither party has properly vetted the issues outlined below.
Panel 1 Recommendation
As we presented in our paper
Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union
there are three hypotheses that should be discussed at such a Panel.
Hypothesis 1: Human influence on climate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influence will continue to be minimal.
Hypothesis 2a: 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.
Hypothesis 2b: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary
The House Hearing
did not ask the presenters which two of these three hypotheses should be rejected. If Hypotheses 1 and 2b are rejected, as we have concluded in our EOS paper, then as we write
“…the cost- benefit analyses regarding the mitigation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases need to be considered along with the other human climate forcings in a broader environmental context, as well as with respect to their role in the climate system. Because hypothesis 2a is the one best supported by the evidence,
policies focused on controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases must necessarily be supported by complementary policies focused on other first- order climate forcings. The issues that society faces related to these other forcings include the increasing demands of the human population, urbanization, changes in the natural landscape and land management, long- term weather variability and change, animal and insect dynamics, industrial and vehicular emissions, and so forth. All of these issues interact with and feed back upon each other.”
“The evidence predominantly suggests that humans are significantly altering the global environment, and thus climate, in a variety of diverse ways beyond the effects of human emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2. Unfortunately, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment did not sufficiently acknowledge the importance of these other human climate forcings in altering regional and global climate and their effects on predictability at the regional scale.”
Further discussion of these three hypotheses, which could be used to fine tune them, are reported in the post
Panel 2 Recommendation
My second Panel recommendation is with respect to the “Response” to our current understanding of climate risks as contrasted with other environmental and social risks. I posted on this in
where I wrote
“There are 5 broad areas that we can use to define the need for vulnerability assessments : water, food, energy, [human] health and ecosystem function. Each area has societally critical resources. The vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to these resources from climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risk from natural- and human-caused climate change (estimated from the GCM projections, but also the historical, paleo-record and worst case sequences of events) can be compared with other risks in order to adopt the optimal mitigation/adaptation strategy.”
and suggested the following questions be asked
1. Why is this resource important? How is it used? To what stakeholders is it valuable?
2. What are the key environmental and social variables that influence this resource?
3. What is the sensitivity of this resource to changes in each of these key variables? (this includes, but is not limited to, the sensitivity of the resource to climate variations and change on short (e.g. days); medium (e.g. seasons) and long (e.g. multi-decadal) time scales.
4. What changes (thresholds) in these key variables would have to occur to result in a negative (or positive) response to this resource?
5. What are the best estimates of the probabilities for these changes to occur? What tools are available to quantify the effect of these changes. Can these estimates be skillfully predicted?
6. What actions (adaptation/mitigation) can be undertaken in order to minimize or eliminate the negative consequences of these changes (or to optimize a positive response)?
7. What are specific recommendations for policymakers and other stakeholders?
These two Panels, in my view, provides a way to move beyond rehashing the same perspectives as presented in this week’s House Hearing.