e360: You’ve written recently about uncertainty over the future impacts of climate change and how that plays a role in discouraging action in reducing greenhouse gases. How do you spur world action on this issue when there are still questions out there about future levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the range of future temperature increases?
Yohe: Uncertainly is ubiquitous. There are some fundamental conclusions that we now know: that the planet is warming; that humans are the cause of it. We’ve seen the climate signal and changes in global mean temperature … But there’s some uncertainty that simply will not be resolved in a timely fashion. Yet once you adopt a risk-management perspective, then uncertainty becomes a reason to do something rather than a reason not to do something. And people who argue against doing anything then have to guarantee that humans aren’t changing the climate. They can’t do that, so they can’t argue against enacting some climate policy. At the same time, though, uncertainty is something we need to recognize will be persistent. We have to learn how to make decisions under uncertainty.
Over on Rabett Run, Eli looks into Fred Singer’s finances. Turns out you get paid pretty well to be famous skeptic. I should note here that I don’t believe skeptics are doing it for the money. I am quite convinced that they would be saying exactly the same thing even if they were not getting paid for it. The huge amounts of money they get paid (according to Eli, Fred got $143,000 for his work on the NIPCC) is just a nice bonus. Hey Fred, can I get a job with SEPP?
ClimateAudit has a pretty good post on tropical temperatures:
For people that look at data, it is obvious that the data (in each incarnation) is highly autocorrelated; the degrees of freedom in autocorrelated data can be much lower than people think and, accordingly, the confidence intervals can be surprisingly wide (a point made in Santer et al 2008, though there are some defects in their analysis that we discussed before).
This explains why scientists are not terribly interested in the question of temperature trends “since 1998.” Given the large internal variability and autocorrelation in the data, you just can’t conclude anything about trends in such a short time period. What are the implications of this uncertainty? See the DotEarth link above …