Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A paper published in Nature claims an estimated 7 – 13c / doubling of CO2 – an estimate so wild it has drawn criticism from NASA GISS chairman Gavin Schmidt.
Evolution of global temperature over the past two million years
Reconstructions of Earth’s past climate strongly influence our understanding of the dynamics and sensitivity of the climate system. Yet global temperature has been reconstructed for only a few isolated windows of time1, 2, and continuous reconstructions across glacial cycles remain elusive. Here I present a spatially weighted proxy reconstruction of global temperature over the past 2 million years estimated from a multi-proxy database of over 20,000 sea surface temperature point reconstructions. Global temperature gradually cooled until roughly 1.2 million years ago and cooling then stalled until the present. The cooling trend probably stalled before the beginning of the mid-Pleistocene transition3, and pre-dated the increase in the maximum size of ice sheets around 0.9 million years ago. Thus, global cooling may have been a pre-condition for, but probably is not the sole causal mechanism of, the shift to quasi-100,000-year glacial cycles at the mid-Pleistocene transition. Over the past 800,000 years, polar amplification (the amplification of temperature change at the poles relative to global temperature change) has been stable over time, and global temperature and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have been closely coupled across glacial cycles. A comparison of the new temperature reconstruction with radiative forcing from greenhouse gases estimates an Earth system sensitivity of 9 degrees Celsius (range 7 to 13 degrees Celsius, 95 per cent credible interval) change in global average surface temperature per doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide over millennium timescales. This result suggests that stabilization at today’s greenhouse gas levels may already commit Earth to an eventual total warming of 5 degrees Celsius (range 3 to 7 degrees Celsius, 95 per cent credible interval) over the next few millennia as ice sheets, vegetation and atmospheric dust continue to respond to global warming.
Gavin Schmidt’s response;
Climate change study accused of erring on rising temperature predictions
He (Gavin) said he did not think the conclusion was correct.
“In fact, I’m pretty certain that is an incorrect calculation,” he said.
“The ratio that gave that, which was the very high sensitivity that she calculates, comes from a correlation between temperature and the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the ice cores, but as we all know, correlation does not equal causation.
“And in this case, the causation is the orbital wobbles of the Earth’s climate that are controlling both the temperature and the carbon dioxide at the same time and so that’s giving you an exaggerated view of how carbon dioxide affects temperature directly.”
However, Dr Schmidt welcomed the temperature history provided by the study, which analysed about 60 different sediment cores.
It is nice to know there are climate sensitivity estimates which even NASA thinks are implausibly high.