Climate scientists: Previous warming estimates were 'on the hot side'

They’re not canceling the apocalypse but a group of mainstream climate scientists published a study Monday stating that the earth’s climate situation may not be quite as desperate as they previously thought. From the London Times:


The world has warmed more slowly than had been forecast by computer models, which were “on the hot side” and overstated the impact of emissions, a new study has found. Its projections suggest that the world has a better chance than previously claimed of meeting the goal set by the Paris agreement on climate change to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, makes clear that rapid reductions in emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has more time to make the changes.

In fact, the new study suggests we may have 20 more years worth of carbon emissions (at present levels) to meet a warming target (1.5C) that many climate scientists already consider a fait accompli. But the real surprise of the story isn’t just the details of the findings it’s also the tone of the climate scientists who were part of the study. From the Independent:

Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford and one of the study’s authors told The Times: “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven’t seen that in the observations.”…

According to The Times, another of the paper’s authors, Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate change at University College London, admitted his earlier forecasting models had overplayed how temperatures would rise…speaking to The Times he said: “When the facts change, I change my mind, as [John Maynard] Keynes said.

The Washington Post points out this study, if upheld, would complicate the narrative a bit:

Pierre Friedlingstein, another author of the study and a professor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, added at the news briefing that “the models end up with a warming which is larger than the observed warming for the current emissions. … So, therefore, they derive a budget which is much lower.”

The new research, thus, seems to potentially empower a critique of climate science that has often been leveled by skeptics, doubters and “lukewarmers” who argue that warming is shaping up to be less than climate models have predicted…

Overall, the dispute raises questions about how widely the carbon-budget concept has proliferated — and just how much we actually understand it.

“It goes to show, this carbon-budget approach is still much more, let’s say, immature scientifically than what we often assume,” [Center for International Climate Research’s Glen] Peters said.

The entire Post story is worth a read. There’s no doubt that this new study (which is here) is a very dramatic revision to current estimates. There are already scientists suggesting the authors have made mistakes and, no doubt, there will be many more critiques by tomorrow as this story gains international attention.


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