[T]he really important question is to know how much warmer it will be and how fast this is likely to happen as this determines a realistic and sensible cause of action. In spite of all research and modelling experimentation we are actually less sure what will happen than what might appear from all reassuring reports that dominates the media. – Lennart Bengtsson
Die Klimazwiebel has published an essay on climate change entitled Lennart Bengtsson: Global Climate Change and its Relevance for Climate Policy. This is a very good essay, but the greatest significance of the essay is the reputation of its author – Lennart Bengtsson. From the Wikipedia:
He was Head of Research at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts from 1975 to 1981 and then Director until 1990; then director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. He is now a Senior Research Fellow at the Environmental Systems Science Centre in the University of Reading.
In 2005 he was awarded the René Descartes Prize for Collaborative Research together with Prof. Ola M. Johannessen and Dr. Leonid Bobylev from the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre in Norway and Russia for the Climate and Environmental Change in the Arctic project. In 2006 he was awarded the 51st IMO prize of the World Meteorological Organization for pioneering research in numerical weather prediction.
Excerpts from the article published at Die Klimazwiebel:
Over the last two decades climate change has evolved into a key worldwide issue with major involvement of media,the political community at different levels and the public at large not the least on Internet. The views vary widely but the dominant opinion is that climate change is genuine and a potential challenge to the world community at least in the longer perspective. This is also an opinion shared by a majority of leading scientists in the field. At the same time there is an increasing tendency towards a polarization in the opinion on climate change with on one hand a preference for dramatic and extreme consequences such as so called tipping points and on the other hand a tendency to even question basic aspects of the physics of climate change.
However, because of the strong public interest we are now facing a dilemma as the public and the political community have become too much involved in the climate change debate influencing the actual science and this not necessarily in a positive way as it implies an arbitrary selection of priorities and preferential issues.
Natural processes drive climate and practically all kinds of extreme weather have always been part of the climate and are practically unrelated to the modest warming we so far have had. The effect of increasing greenhouse gases is a slow but relentless process that will have to be dealt with but will require more time and better insight in key processes.Some events are seen as very dramatic as the reduced Arctic summer ice, others, even more puzzling, such as the surprising lack of warming in the tropical troposphere is hardly discussed.
The global temperature has not increased steadily but in irregular intervals. Typical features are a distinct warming trend 1910-1940, a slight cooling trend 1945-1970 followed by the sharp warming trend until the end of the 20th century and finally the last 15 years without any clear warming trend. The lack of any significant warming in the tropical troposphere since the beginning of space observations in 1979 is particularly intriguing in particular as present models show a warming trend over the same time of 0.3-0.4°C in the average, figure 2. Such results, scientifically very puzzling as they are, have hardly received any media attention but instead the public has been overwhelmed in recent years by excessive reports of a rapid and threatening global warming very soon running out of control, unless the most drastic steps are taken to stop it. If there are no obvious global signals available, suitable arguments are created from an endless number of extreme weather events. The fact that similar extreme weather has been found to be a property of the present or undisturbed climate is not recognized. The global warming has been taken out of the hands of the meteorologists and traditional climatologists and is now run by professional media experts and different well-recognized members (political or otherwise) of the general public that have found the present climate hype to be a suitable way to remain or be obtain a place in the media limelight.
In the very emotional climate debate today is it hardly possible to have a sensible and balanced exchange of views. If you do not support climate catastrophes as the one recently from the World bank, you are placed into a deniers box and accused to support the interest of the oil industry or alternatively that you are a man in a senior age and therefore unable to understand the concerns of the younger generations. Some of our colleagues are exposed to a powerful group pressure or that of a politically correct boss. The real genuine interest in climate and climate processes is fading away as the interest is confined to the concept of climate typical of the general public or rather I shall say the predominant or politically correct concept of climate.
However, the observational records are clear and the global warming is proceeding much slower than generally is anticipated.
Instead of being grateful for this comforting result the reaction is rather the opposite. In the almost hysterical climate hype of today a less dramatic warming is not very well received as all political correct members of the public would prefer to hide this uncomfortable fact by following the popular maxim of letting the ends justify the means. From the standpoint of the green movement all political efforts, even extreme ones, are required as they wish to abandon fossil energy as well as nuclear energy and this at a time when the world population is increasing and where the lack of suitable energy is a primary obstacle towards a better life.
We do not yet know how to best solve the Earth’s energy problems but many thing may happen in the next 100 years. A modest climate sensitivity that is supported by observations combined with a transition from coal to natural gas will provide the world with a waiting time of half a century or so but not very much longer. This will make it possible to avoid unnecessary and highly expensive panic-type subsidized investments driven by political whims and the expectations of quickly earned money and instead invest available means in a well thought through long- term energy research programs.
JC comments: The entire essay is worth reading. The one statement that really struck me as exceptionally well said is this:
The real genuine interest in climate and climate processes is fading away as the interest is confined to the concept of climate typical of the general public or rather I shall say the predominant or politically correct concept of climate.
I am immensely concerned by the overemphasis on climate model taxonomy, whereby scientists write papers analyzing the output of the IPCC climate model simulations, and infer future catastrophic impacts, and it seems far too easy for this kind of research to get published in Nature and Science. In the meantime, the really hard research problems are all but ignored, such as fundamental research into ocean heat transfer, multi-phase atmospheric thermodynamics, synchronized chaos in the coupled atmosphere/ocean system, etc. Not to mention the more manageable problems such as careful consideration of the attribution of climate variability during the period 1850-1970. Hopefully the ‘pause’ will stimulate research into natural internal variability of climate; here