Sunday, July 29, 2012

Koch funded climate change study making news in a good way

Big climate change news that is making a splash, this New York Times op-ed by Richard Muller that gives an overview of a Berkeley study which he led: "The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic." It is garnering attention because the study was funded by the Koch brothers and, well, see the title of the op-ed. Joe Romm at Climate Progress has the details on that aspect of this study. The lead excerpt from the op-ed:
CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans.
That latter point is also of note, that the findings of this Berkeley study are even stronger in attributing warming to human activity than have been the findings of the IPCC. More:
How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does.
Still more, a troubling suggestion regarding China and its impact in coming years:
What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.
Muller's conclusion:
I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.
Speaking of the political, here in Canada the latest reporting indicates the feds are working on an update on Canada's progress toward meeting our 2020 emissions targets. They are set to report that we're almost 50% of the way toward them but the factors they are relying upon - and their own continued inaction - will raise questions. Our government seems preoccupied with gaming our stats when they should be more concerned with doing as much as possible, taking into account studies like the above.