Saturday, August 2, 2014

Climate Change Evidence & Causes

I recently read "Climate Change Evidence & Causes", a short (32 page) pamphlet produced by the National Academy of Sciences (US) and the Royal Society (UK) which I was sent with a suggestion that I review it. I couldn't find a copyright statement or date but it appears to be recent. As might be expected it is a summary of mainstream scientific thinking regarding anthropogenic CO2 (and other greenhouse gas) emissions into the atmosphere and their predicted effects on the earth's climate. I am familiar with the subject and didn't find anything particularly original or compelling about this write up although it comes of course with the imprint of whatever authority you are prepared to grant to the National Academy and the Royal Society.
The report is rather narrowly focused on climate science. The question of what if anything to do about the predicted warming involves many other issues which the report does not address. For example the most alarming projections are based on an emissions scenario called RCP8.5 in which CO2 levels peak at around 2000 ppmv.  This scenario (which isn't original to this report) is generally labeled "business-as-usual" however it has been criticized as being alarmist and essentially impossible as it assumes burning fossil fuel resources (especially coal) which are not currently (and may never be) economically feasible to extract.  See here and here.  I am not sure who is right but the dispute is important and it isn't addressed at all in this summary.  Another important issue is to what extent active mitigation measures are feasible which the report just mentions in passing " ... or they can seek as yet unproven 'geoengineering' solutions ...".  And of course any attempt to seriously limit emissions will involve a host of complicated political and economic questions.

So I am not sure what this report really contributes to the political debates about climate change.  Most people are aware of the conventional wisdom but don't perceive any imminent threat to themselves personally and so aren't willing  to make any great sacrifices to avert climate change.  So little is likely to get done.

So in summary I doubt this report will have much impact and I don't see any reason to make a special effort to read it.

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