Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by Dr. Judith Curry, former chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the President of the Climate Forecast Applications Network. The gist of the article is simple: global warming predictions based on current models are predicting unrealistically high levels of climate change. The real levels–based on observational models–are much lower.
Continuing to rely on climate-model warming projections based on high, model-derived values of climate sensitivity skews the cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon. This can bias policy decisions. The implications of the lower values of climate sensitivity in our paper, as well as similar other recent studies, is that human-caused warming near the end of the 21st century should be less than the 2-degrees-Celsius “danger” level for all but the IPCC’s most extreme emission scenario.
This slower rate of warming—relative to climate model projections—means there is less urgency to phase out greenhouse gas emissions now, and more time to find ways to decarbonize the economy affordably. It also allows us the flexibility to revise our policies as further information becomes available.
To me, this represents a moderate and mature approach to climate change. Curry’s work neither denies global warming nor the human factor in causing global warming. It simply suggests that climate models are biased upwards, and that we might have more time. Time that could be used to develop more sophisticated solutions to a post-carbon economy. This is really important given news like (just as an example) the announcement from Lockheed Martin that they are just 5 years away from a prototype nuclear fusion reactor.
I just finished reading Tim Flannery’s Here on Earth, which was the most eloquent and serious defense of the Gaia Hypothesis I’ve ever read, so I really like the idea of greater human responsibility for our environment. I just think we’ll do a better job of living up to that responsibility if we have (1) a little less partisanship and (2) a deeper understanding of the relevant science. A little more time can help.