“Changing The Climate Change Debate” – A Message From A News Article From 2001 That Is Just As Needed in 2012

On February 19 2001, the Fort Collins Coloradoan posted the following article

“Changing the climate change debate”

by Kevin Darst. The article had the subtitle

“CSU researchers want to look at factors other than greenhouse gases”

In over 10 years, unfortunately, the “leadership” that is completing climate assessments, such as for the IPCC reports, has learned little about the behavior of the real climate system.

I have reproduced the entire article below except for the picture of me with the caption

“Taking a different view: Colorado State University atmospheric science professor Roger Pielke wants to see additional factors such as land use included with greenhouse gas emissions in climate change research.

Tom Stohlgren’s quote

“It’s difficult to describe a complex system, and there’s no more complex system than the earth”.

is highlighted in a box.

The article itself reads

If forecasters can’t predict the weather more than five days out, how can scientists predict it a century from now.

That’s what Roger Pielke wants to know.

“The bottom line is that climate is an integrated earth system problem,” said Pielke, the state climatologist and a Colorado State University professor. “You can’t predict it past next season.”

Pielke, who was in San francisco Sunday for the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, is concerned too much stock is put in long-term predictions based solely on increased carbon dioxide levels.  Those assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Convention and the United States National Assessment, predict sharp rises in temperature by 2100.

But land-use trends should also be figured in the model, Pielke said. A U.S. Geological Survey study Pielke contributed to suggested irrigation along the Front Range prompted cooler, wetter summers for Rocky Mountain National Park by putting  more water vapor in the air.

“You can’t explain weather or climate by one factor,” Pielke said. Weather prediction is very difficult. Seasonal predictions are more difficult. It should be no surprise that predicting 50 years from now is hard.”

Still, people eat up such predictions without examining the shortfalls, said Tom Stohlgren, an ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and a CSU professor.

“All the caveats get left out”,  Stohlgren said. “as a public, we’re satisfied with a quick and easy answer.

“It’s difficult to describe a complex system, and there’s no more complex system than the earth.”

Climate predictions, however, shouldn’t be considered as absolute truth, said Dennis Ojima, the senior scientist at CSU’s Natural Ecology Laboratory.

“They’re looking more or less at the physical interactions of the climate system and the various scenarios….involved with greenhouse gas warming,” said Ojima who also serves as the Great Plains coordinator for the National Climate Change Assessment.  “It’s part of the tool kit.”

Instead of focusing on predictions, scientists should focus on a region’s vulnerabilities, Stohlgren and Pielke said.  For Colorado, that means the chance of epic droughts. It can also mean positives such a longer growing seasons for farmers and less crop damage from frost.

Ojima agreed.

Doing a little bit of both is prudent,” he said of predictions and vulnerability studies.

In the meantime, the uncertainty of man’s impact on the earth worries Stohlgren.

“We’re putting a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” Stohlgren said. “We’re not sure what the long term effects are.”

But as technology advances, all three are confident those advances could help scientists better understand the intricate relationships between climate factors.

This article could be just rereported in 2012.

Comments Off on “Changing The Climate Change Debate” – A Message From A News Article From 2001 That Is Just As Needed in 2012

Filed under Climate Science Reporting

Comments are closed.