Wednesday 11 February 2009

A response to UK Met office fears that 'distorted' climate change claims undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions

'Apocalyptic climate predictions' mislead the public, say experts
Met Office scientists fear distorted climate change claims could
undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions


I have the highest regard for the Met Office; this article is a useful
reminder to be careful about making predictions based on immediate
events, and a very useful reminder to remain sober in our deliberations.

The danger, of course, to much sobriety has an enervating rather than
directive influence on political decision-makers.

Vicky Pope doesn't deny the possibility of an ice-free Arctic by 2013
(as suggested by a number of researchers - see, and
Jim Hansen's writings).

Her argument is about people suggesting calamity when there is still
much doubt.

However, for those of us trying to weigh up risks, the question is more
how likely is the fast melt scenario and what does it mean. There is no
doubt that there is a consistent decrease in summer ice cover in the
Arctic (The US National Snow and Ice Data Center, for example, reports a
consistent 3.1% p.a. decrease in Arctic ice cover over the last 30 years).

There is also no doubt that there has been a serious increase in the
rate of summer melting in recent years that, if it kept up, would result
in disappearing summer ice cover in a few short years. There also seems
little doubt that if summer ice disappears entirely we lose an important
climate stabilising factor (the ice's albedo effect) and the risks of
more rapid climate change then increase exponentially.

The debate is about the likelihood of that recent increased rate of
melting being a blip or a trend. From a political decision-makers point
of view, there are enough scientists arguing that it's highly likely (if
only because of the range of ancillary climate indicators that alert us
to more rapid climate changes than expected) that we should treat this
as a significant probability.

If we were flying a passenger aeroplane that would be enough risk for us
to take emergency evasive action. That's what we need to do.

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