by Judith Curry
The Cato Institute has a new report entitled ADDENDUM: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, which is an addendum to the 2009 USGCRP Report with the same title.
Rationale for the Cato Report
From the Foreword by Ed Crane:
This effort grew out of the recognition that the original document was sorely lacking in relevant scientific detail. A Cato review of a draft noted that it was among the worst summary documents on climate change ever written, and that literally every paragraph was missing critical information from the refereed scientific literature. While that review was extensive, the restricted timeframe for commentary necessarily limited any effort. The following document completes that effort.
It is telling that this commentary document contains more footnotes and references than the original; indeed, one could conclude that the original Global Climate Change Impacts ignored or purposefully omitted more primary-source science than it included.
It is in that light that we present this document. May it serve as a primary reference and a guidepost for those who want to bring science back into environmental protection.
From About this Report:
What are its sources?
This Addendum is based upon the peer-reviewed scientific literature, peer-screened professional presentations, and publicly-available climate data. We include literature through the begining of 2012, which of course could not be in the 2009 report. But there are also a plethora of citations from 2008 or earlier that were not included in the USGCRP document. Why that is the case is for others to determine.
Does this report deal with options for responding to climate change?
Unlike the USGCRP report, which coupled global warming forecasts with emissions reduction scenarios, this Addendum is generally not prescriptive. Readers can determine for themselves whether or not a more complete scientific analysis warrants mitigation programs that may be very expensive (stringent cap-and-trade limitations) or inexpensive (substitution of natural gas for electrical generation and possibly vehicular propulsion).
How does this report address incomplete scientific understanding?
This report is candid about what is known and what is not. Unlike the USGCRP, it does not include the self-serving section, An Agenda for Climate Impacts Science. The Cato Institute traditionally has strong feelings against such rent-seeking behavior by others, including the public-choice-biased global warming science and technology community.
Key findings: Cato vs USGCRP Report
1. USGCRP: Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.
1. CATO: Climate change is unequivocal and human activity plays some part in it.
There are two periods of warming in the 20th century that are statistically indistinguishable in magnitude. The first had little if any relation to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the second has characteristics that are consistent in part with a changed greenhouse effect.
2. USGCRP: Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters. These include increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows. These changes are projected to grow.
2. CATO: Climate change has occurred and will occur in the United States.
US temperature and precipitation have changed significantly over some states since the modern record began in 1895. Some changes, such as the amelioration of severe winter cold in the northern Great Plains, are highly consistent with a changed greenhouse effect
3. USGCRP: Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
Climate changes are already affecting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. These impacts are different from region to region and will grow under projected climate change.
3. CATO: Impacts of observed climate change have little national significance.
There is no significant long-term change in US economic output that can be attributed to climate change. The slow nature of climate progression results in de facto adaptation as, as can be seen with sea level changes on the East Coast.
4. USGCRP: Climate change will stress water resources.
Water is an issue in every region, but the nature of the potential impacts varies. Drought, related to reduced precipitation, increased evaporation, and increased water loss from plants, is an important issue in many regions, especially in the West. Floods and water quality problems are likely to be amplified by climate change in most regions. Declines in mountain snowpack are important in the West and Alaska where snowpack provides vital natural water storage.
4. CATO: Climate change will affect water resources.
Long-term paleoclimatic studies show that severe and extensive droughts have occurred repeatedly throughout the Great Plains and the West. These will occur in the future, with or without human-induced climate change. Infrastructure planners would be well-advised to take them into account.
5. USGCRP: Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.
Many crops show positive responses to elevated responses to carbon dioxide. However, increased heat, pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production.
5. CATO: Crop and livestock production will adapt to climate change.
There is a large body of evidence that demonstrates substantial untapped adaptability of US agriculture to climate change, including crop-switching that can change the species used for livestock feed. In addition, carbon dioxide itself is likely increasing crop yields and will continue to do so in increasing increments in the future.
6. USGCRP: Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.
Sea-level rise and storm surge place many U.S. coastal areas at increasing risk of erosion and flooding, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands, and parts of Alaska. Energy and transportation infrastructure and other property in coastal areas are very likely to be adversely affected.
6. CATO: Sea level rises caused by global warming are easily adapted to.
Much of the densely populated East Coast has experienced sea level rises in the 20th century that are more than twice those caused by global warming, with obvious adaptation. The mean projections from the United Nations will likely be associated with similar adaptation.
7. USGCRP: Risks to human health will increase.
Health impacts of climate change are related to heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Robust public health infrastructure can reduce the potential for negative impacts.
7. CATO: Life expectancy and wealth are likely to continue to increase.
There is little relationship between life expectancy, wealth and climate. Even under the most dire scenarios, people will be much wealthier and healthier than they are today in the year 2100.
8. USGCRP: Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.
Climate change will combine with pollution, population growth, overuse of resources, urbanization, and other social, economic, and environmental stresses to create larger impacts than from any of these factors alone.
8. CATO: Climate change is a minor overlay on US society.
People voluntarily expose themselves to climate changes throughout their lives that are much larger and more sudden than those expected from greenhouse gases. The migration of US population from the cold North and East to the much warmer South and West is an example. Global markets exist to allocate resources that fluctuate with the weather and climate.
9. USGCRP: Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.
There are a variety of thresholds in the climate system and ecosystems. These thresholds determine, for example, the presence of sea ice and permafrost, and the survival of species, from fish to insect pests, with implications for society. With further climate change, the crossing of additional thresholds is expected.
9. CATO: Species and ecosystems will change with or without climate change.
There is little doubt that some ecosystems, such as the desert west, have been changing with climate, while others, such as cold marine fisheries, move with little obvious relationship to climate.
10. USGCRP: Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.
The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles. Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable.
10. CATO: Policies enacted by the developed world will have little effect on global temperature.
Even if every nation that has obligations under the Kyoto Protocol agreed to reduce emissions over 80 percent, there would be little or no detectable effect on climate on the policy-relevant timeframe, because emissions from these countries will be dwarfed in coming decades by the total emissions from China, India, and the developing world.
- It documents a broader range of perspectives from the published literature with substantially greater number of references
- It is more honest about uncertainties and disagreements
- It is not policy prescriptive