As someone who spends a lot of his blog time criticizing others, I would like to highlight some excellent writing and good ideas.
Over at the UK’s Telegraph, Professor Eric Wolff makes a reasoned, thorough and sober case for the consensus view on climate change. It’s one of the best articles I’ve read this year.
One passage struck me (But click the link and read the whole thing): “A planet designer with a blank sheet might decide that the best possible climate was a little warmer or colder than ours. But change is what is difficult. In the past, when climate changed, species died out, evolved, or migrated to maintain a similar habitat or lifestyle, as did human populations. Now we are expecting a rather fast change, and there is no empty space for anything or anyone to migrate into.
In any case, science gives a range of possible outcomes for a given emission of carbon. This range has a specific meaning: our best estimate is somewhere in the middle of the range, and the top end and the bottom end of the range are as likely as each other.”
Meanwhile, over at Judith Curry’s blog, Nic Lewis is equally as cogent as a member of the ‘loyal opposition’, writing about climate sensitivity. He thinks it’s lower than most members of the consensus and offers calculations to support his point of view.
But almost in passing, he makes a point that I’ve been struggling to articulate for some time now, writing “Unfortunately, the response of biogeochemical systems to projected changes in atmospheric CO2 and climate is currently poorly understood. Inadequate scientific understanding of land and ocean carbon cycles is reflected in CMIP5 ESMs exhibiting great variation in carbon uptake in response to projected changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration and GMST, and hence substantial uncertainty in atmospheric CO2 concentration towards the end of the 21st century.”
The discussion about human contributions to climate change has centered on physics and I think relies too much on it, to the exclusion of biological, chemical and geological responses and interactions. Physicists parameterize these responses and interactions, but it often seems like they tuck them into a neat little box with unseemly haste and don’t think overly much about them afterwards.
I think this leads to surprising results, and these surprises don’t seem to be welcome at the physicists’ table. I think recognizing the difficulty physics has in dealing with bio/geo/chemical responses is something Freeman Dyson has identified without naming, contenting himself to just say models don’t capture it very well.
At any rate, one conversation I would love to see is between Wolff and Lewis. Two scientists who can use the same data and honestly come to different points of view without being hostile–who’da thunk it?