Comment On The 2012 Draft AMS Statement On “Climate Change”

The American Meteorological Society is in the process of finalizing an updated statement on Climate Change. The ability to read the statement is limited to AMS members:

Draft Statement Open for Member Comment: Climate Change

The stated goal of the Statement is

The following is an AMS Information Statement intended to provide a trustworthy, objective, and scientifically up-to-date explanation of scientific issues of concern to the public at large.

The process of providing input on the draft, the lack of identifying who drafted the statement, and an ability to see what comments others have provided and the drafters’ response clearly show the very top-down control of this professional society. It is unfortunate, as the AMS could be a neutral open forum for debate among the members as to what to include in the Statement. However, as currently constituted, it is just a presentation by a small group of individuals, whose only hurdle are members of the AMS Council, who themselves are selected by a small committee. The AMS members only get to vote for the selected slate of candidates.

This is hardly a process to advance the public’s knowledge about the diversity of perspectives on climate change by the AMS membership.

The last paragraph of the Statement shows the intent of the Statement’s authors

Technological, economic, and policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of future impacts of climate change. Policy decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. The policy debate should include consideration of the best ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. Mitigation will reduce the amount of future climate change and the risk of impacts that are potentially large and dangerous. At the same time, some continued climate change is inevitable, and policy responses should include adaptation to climate change. Prudence dictates extreme care in managing our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.

The following is what I submitted as a Comment. I will have more to say on this Statement after it is officially accepted by the AMS.

The process of providing input on the draft, the lack of identifying who drafted the statement, and an ability to see what comments others have provided and the drafters’ response clearly show the very top-down control of our professional society. It is unfortunate, as the AMS could be a neutral open forum for debate among the members as to what to include in the Statement. However, as currently constituted, the Statements are just presentations of a viewpoint by a small group of individuals, whose only hurdle are members of the AMS Council, who themselves are selected by a small committee. As AMS members we only get to vote for the selected slate of candidates.

This is hardly a process to advance the public’s knowledge about the diversity of perspectives on climate change by the AMS membership.

With specific respect to the draft statement, there are a number of inaccuracies.

One of the most blatant is the statement that

 “it is widely accepted that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide”.

It is actually quite straightforward to refute this claim as we summarized in the article

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

“In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, other first-order human climate forcings are important to understanding the future behavior of Earth’s climate. These forcings are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation [e.g., Rosenfeld et al., 2008], the influence of aerosol deposition (e.g., black carbon (soot) [Flanner et al. 2007] and reactive nitrogen [Galloway et al., 2004]), and the role of changes in land use/land cover [e.g., Takata et al., 2009]. Among their effects is their role in altering atmospheric and ocean circulation features away from what they would be in the natural climate system [NRC, 2005]. As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.”

and

“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”.

The failure to recognize that there is a disagreement among members of our professional society on this issue (of the dominance of the radiative forcing of CO2) should be reported in the Statement.

There are also issues with the summary of observations. As one example, the absence of warming in the upper oceans and lower troposphere for the last 10 years is not mentioned. Nor is the absence of increases in atmospheric water vapor over the same time period.

The claims as to what models are capable of in terms of projections, is also misleading. The Statement should report that no regional skill of predicting changes in climate statistics on multi-decadal time scales has been shown. We report on this in

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

and

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum, 93, No. 5, 52-53, doi:10.1029/2012EO050008.

Either refute our findings or report on them.

This Statement needs much more vetting if it is going to be read as

 “….a trustworthy, objective, and scientifically up-to-date explanation of scientific issues of concern to the public at large.”

As currently written, it perpetuates the myth that there is a broad peer-reviewed literature agreement with all of the claims of findings that are in the report. This is not the case. If the Statement is accepted as written, it will not only be easy to refute significant parts of it, but it will present the American Meteorological Society as an advocacy group rather than an objective professional organization.

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