We Can't Identify The Climate Uncertainty Monster Much Less Kill It - And That Should Worry You
    By News Staff | April 5th 2014 08:22 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Scientific uncertainly prevents definitive solutions (beyond putting a stop to the world and leaving poor people to a future with no food, water or air conditioning) but the stance that the issue is settled, even when solutions may not be effective, also leads to public mistrust and name-calling.

    But that uncertainty should actually make us more rather than less concerned about climate change, according to two papers in Climatic Change which investigated the mathematics of uncertainty in the climate system and showed that increased scientific uncertainty necessitates even greater action to mitigate climate change. 

    The scientists used an ordinal approach – a range of mathematical methods that address the question: 'What would the consequences be if uncertainty is even greater than we think it is?'

    They show that as uncertainty in the temperature increase expected with a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels rises, so do the economic damages of increased climate change. Greater uncertainty also increases the likelihood of exceeding 'safe' temperature limits and the probability of failing to reach mitigation targets. The authors highlight this with the case of future sea level, as larger uncertainty in sea level rise requires greater precautionary action to manage flood risk.

    Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair in Cognitive Psychology and member of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol, said, "We can understand the implications of uncertainty, and in the case of the climate system, it is very clear that greater uncertainty will make things even worse. This means that we can never say that there is too much uncertainty for us to act. If you appeal to uncertainty to make a policy decision the legitimate conclusion is to increase the urgency of mitigation." 

    Co-author, Dr James Risbey of Australia's CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, said: "Some point to uncertainty as a way to minimize the climate change problem, when in fact it means that the problem is more likely to be worse than expected in the absence of that uncertainty. This result is robust to a range of assumptions and shows that uncertainty does not excuse inaction."

    These new findings challenge the frequent public misinterpretation of uncertainty as a reason to delay action. Arguing against mitigation by appealing to uncertainty is therefore misplaced: any appeal to uncertainty should provoke a greater, rather than weaker, concern about climate change than in the absence of uncertainty.


    Past IPCC press comments from Rajendra Pachauri focused on assuring the public that certainty in climate science was growing. The IPCC mood after 2007 AR5 was that science owed it to the public to better identify causality and certainty. This belief started to erode when satellite data started to diverge from IPCC models and a pause in warming led key climate scientists like Kevin Trenberth to say, "The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty." It worsened further when the 2013 AR5 IPCC report reversed 2007 findings and lowered their consensus confidence in claims of human attribution for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts.

    Climate is chaotic to start with and climate science is struggling with feedback estimates, climate response estimates and future damage estimates. This has led to a shift in thinking that money spent on reducing CO2 may not be as effective in dealing with the problem as spending money on adaptive measures given that there is such great uncertainty that lowering CO2 will prevent future climate extremes. As an example of why adapting may be smarter is that paleoclimate records clearly illustrate past California drought on a 200 year scale when CO2 was 280PPM. roughly 1,000 years ago so lowering CO2 gives no protection against future 200 year droughts. Hopefully the USA does an independent non-partisan review and analysis of identifying the most economically feasible strategies in dealing with climate change.

    "A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy." ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    "As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    Join the revolution with a 21-Day Vegan Kickstart

    "A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy." ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy
    That number is completely made up. I'd debunk it again but you clearly intend to use the cause to line your pockets and spam us with your link - which is very Republican capitalist carnivore of you.