Pethokoukis, Economics, Regulation

Climate may be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought. So now what?

Credit; The Economist

Credit; The Economist

The world has pumped roughly 100 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere over the past decade. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at global temperatures. The Economist, in a piece titled “Apocalypse Perhaps a Little Later,” quotes NASA’s James Hansen thusly: “The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.” What’s more, surface temperatures since 2005 are at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models, notes Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading. If temperatures remain flat for much longer, they’ll drop out of the models’ range entirely. The Economist:

The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now. It does not mean global warming is a delusion. Flat though they are, temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century remain almost 1°C above their level in the first decade of the 20th. But the puzzle does need explaining.

The mismatch might mean that—for some unexplained reason—there has been a temporary lag between more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures in 2000-10. Or it might be that the 1990s, when temperatures were rising fast, was the anomalous period. Or, as an increasing body of research is suggesting, it may be that the climate is responding to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in ways that had not been properly understood before. This possibility, if true, could have profound significance both for climate science and for environmental and social policy.

As it is, the worst-case climate change scenarios look less likely, which weakens the case for radical emissions reductions. But does this argue for doing nothing more than watchful waiting and adapting to the impacts that do occur? Maybe. Or should government ramp up spending on energy research and consider instituting a slow-ratcheting carbon tax that would a) replace energy regulation and subsidies and b) offset harmful labor and capital taxes. The magazine’s conclusion: “If the world has a bit more breathing space to deal with global warming, that will be good. But breathing space helps only if you actually do something with it.”

11 thoughts on “Climate may be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought. So now what?

  1. I’ve quit reading the Economist. It seems like their solution to all problems (booth real and imagined) require more power from the state.

    Notice they mention that the temperature is different now than it was in 1913. Just like 1913 was different than 1613. The only reason they’re alarmed is because the models (that aren’t working) told us the temperature would increase dramatically.

  2. everyone looking at the sky when they should have been out to sea…more than 80% of the CO2 is going into the ocean and forming carbonic acid, and the reefs & shellfish are dying off..

  3. These same idiots want to reorganize the world economy based on crap science.

    Before proposing a civilization-wide multi-trillion dollar reorg, you need to first justify the cost.

  4. As it is, the worst-case climate change scenarios look less likely. But does this argue for doing nothing more than watchful waiting and adapting to the impacts that do occur?

    Yes Jimmy. Global warming is not a threat. And if you have paid attention you would have noted the deemphasis of the warming rhetoric in favour of climate change quite some time ago. Like all government sponsored projects and views the AGW story is a scam in search of taxpayers and consumers to be fleeced. The trends are not driven by human emissions of CO2 but by changes in solar activity that drives natural cycles. The current data is indicating that we are going to go through a period of cooling, not warming. Expect more old people to die in places like England and Germany as they are unable to find or pay for the fuel that is needed to heat their homes. And expect the eventual backlash from voters against idiot politicians and charlatans pretending to be objective scientists.

  5. The Economist used to be a relatively free-market oriented newspaper. Since it has endorsed Obama twice, it seems to have changed its philosophy. It still has good international news.

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