2010-10-26 12:07:56Climate Change Scientist Skeptical of Projections


As a passionate observer it appears to me that the IPCC and the scientific community have taken a particularly cautious approach with respect to delivering information regarding the risks to humanity associated with climate change responses. I think I understand why this is the case (wanting to be taken seriously, wanting to be heard and fearing resistance), however, this seems to have resulted in the debate over the "controversy" being framed somewhere between "bad things might happen" and "it's not happening and, if it is, it's natural".

I believe that there are many members of the scientific community who are concerned that many of the Climate Change projections are understated or conservative and that, in fact, the risks are potentially more severe than reported or generally understood by the public. 

My suggestion is this: If some informed members of the scientific community ("skeptical", ironically, that the risks being reported may be or are understated) began to speak out more vocally about some of said risks it might shift the framing of the issue towards taking climate change more seriously. I think most people are naturally risk averse by nature (most of us have fire insurance although the risk of our house burning down is very low, for example).

This effort could be independent of the IPCC and other such authorities. Not that anything needs to be sensationalized, but the media would most likely be willing to take up such reporting as is its nature.

In summary, perhaps the discourse needs to be dialed up a notch in order to get people's attention and that a more offensive posture should be gradually assumed? After all, nobody really knows for sure how bad things could get. If a report or press release was titled something along the lines of "Climate Change Scientist Skeptical of Projections" it would certainly attract a lot of attention. [winking emoticon here]

I think it's worth considering and I think you have the know how to execute such a strategy.

Thanks to everyone involved in Skeptical Science - I sincerely believe your work has been very important and effective.

Warmest Regards,

John Irving

2010-10-26 12:54:01One possible approach in this direction
John Cook


I've been doing blog posts on two themes, "Human fingerprints" and "Climate Cherry Pickers", planning to return to both themes on a regular basis in order to reinforce the themes (well, I've only done a few posts on each theme but plan to continue it into the future as time permits).

What about if we consciously aim to have another blog post series, where each blog post looks at an example of the IPCC or consensus view underestimating the climate response. Something like "Underestimating the climate response" so we could have blog posts like:

  • Underestimating the climate response: Arctic sea ice melt
  • Underestimating the climate response: Greenland ice loss
  • Underestimating the climate response: Fossil fuel emissions
  • Underestimating the climate response: sea level rise (observed and predictions)

I'm sure someone can come up with a better title. A good first topic could be this latest news:

Konrad Steffen – Accelerating Greenland Ice Loss

Some excerpts:

According to Konrad Steffen, one of the world’s most respected experts on the topic, this has already become the warmest year on record in Greenland, where temperature instrumental records date back to 1750. Steffen notes that, while recent statistical modeling has projected maximum sea level rise due to ice cap melt might be 1 or 2 meters this century, those models have not yet been able to reproduce the glacial movement that is already being observed on places like Jacobshavn glacier, Greenland’s largest.
The Danish research scientist Sebastian Mernild of Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US told national daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten that his calculations show that 540 cubic kilometres of inland ice, weighing approx. 500 gigatons, have melted this summer, which is 25-50% more than in a typical year
As the data is tallied up for the current year, according to Ohio State Glaciologist Jason Box, “sea level projections will need to be revised upward.” 

I'd love to blog about this news but am flat out this week working on a general version of the 'Scientific Guide to the Skeptics Handbook' which is my main priority right now.

2010-10-26 13:27:13Comment
Robert Way

What temperature station goes back to 1750? And where are you getting this 500 GT total? That's a god-awful amount of ice for one summer. Where is all this ice going? That's the often used skeptic argument now, if we're losing all this ice, where is it going cause sea level rise isn't accelerating?