WUWT readers may remember ultra climate activist David Roberts, a self described “climate hawk” who wrote regularly for Grist, and became so burned out he had to take a year off from the “climate wars” to recharge. It seems that hiatus may have done him some good. In case you’ve never heard of it, the web magazine “Grist” is sort of like a Pravda version of the Whole Earth Catalog. They have a staff, a budget, and a swanky downtown office. Unlike climate skeptics, it’s a well funded organization.
Roberts as you may recall, once called for Nuremberg style trials for climate skeptics. Here’s what he wrote in 2006:
When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these [climate skeptic] bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.
Over on Vox.com a few days ago, David Roberts wrote an essay about climate modeling uncertainty loops. In his Vox essay, Roberts noted that climate modeling didn’t really have any skill out to the year 2100::
Basically, it’s difficult to predict anything, especially regarding sprawling systems like the global economy and atmosphere, because everything depends on everything else. There’s no fixed point of reference.
Grappling with this kind of uncertainty turns out to be absolutely core to climate policymaking. Climate nerds have attempted to create models that include, at least in rudimentary form, all of these interacting economic and atmospheric systems. They call these integrated assessment models, or IAMs, and they are the primary tool used by governments and international bodies to gauge the threat of climate change. IAMs are how policies are compared and costs are estimated.
So it’s worth asking: Do IAMs adequately account for uncertainty? Do they clearly communicate uncertainty to policymakers?
The answer to those questions is almost certainly “no.” But exactly why IAMs fail at this, and what should be done about it, is the subject of much debate.
One of the other things he notes is that climate model uncertainty is probably underestimated. Bold mine.
Or to put it another way: Think about how insane it is to try to predict what’s going to happen in 2100.
There is a school of thought that says the whole exercise of IAMs, at least as an attempt to model how things will develop in the far future, is futile. There are so many assumptions, and the outcomes are so sensitive to those assumptions, that what they produce is little better than wild-ass guesses. And the faux-precision of the exercise, all those clean, clear lines on graphs, only serves to mislead policymakers into thinking we have a grasp on it. It makes them think we know exactly how much slack we have, how much we can push before bad things happen, when in fact we have almost no idea.
In the view of these researchers, the quest to predict what climate change (or climate change mitigation) will cost through 2100 ought to be abandoned. It is impossible, computationally intractable, and the IAMs that pretend to do it only serve to distract and confuse.
Yep, but as we head into Paris and COP21, will anybody be able to stop the freight train built on this uncertainty? Perhaps, there are signs it may already be coming off the rails. Climategate 4 anyone?
Note: within about 10 minutes of publication, the first paragraph was updated to include a link to the “climate hawk” label mentioned in the title.