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Earth News Science

Climate May Be Less Sensitive To CO2 Than Previously Thought 413

a_hanso writes "A new study suggests that the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide on temperature may be less significant than previously thought. 'The new models predict that given a doubling in CO2 levels from pre-industrial levels, the Earth's surface temperatures will rise by 1.7 to 2.6 degrees C. That is a much tighter range than suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report, which suggested a rise of between 2 to 4.5 degrees C."
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Climate May Be Less Sensitive To CO2 Than Previously Thought

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  • by RJBeery ( 956252 ) <> on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:14PM (#38166010)
    ...let the rational, even-handed and emotionally detached debate begin!
    • by Xenolith ( 538304 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:19PM (#38166066) Homepage
      YOU'RE WRONG! ... about there being rational debate.
    • But having to change is scary! Can't you just tell me a nice, comforting story about how we can all keep burning oil, gas, and coal forever?
      • by Knave75 ( 894961 )

        But having to change is scary! Can't you just tell me a nice, comforting story about how we can all keep burning oil, gas, and coal forever?

        How about I tell you a nice comforting story about how wind and solar power will solve all our problems instead?

        • But having to change is scary! Can't you just tell me a nice, comforting story about how we can all keep burning oil, gas, and coal forever?

          How about I tell you a nice comforting story about how wind and solar power will solve all our problems instead?

          Sounds great, I'll light the candles.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

        comforting story about how we can all keep burning oil, gas, and coal forever?

        You mean it's never going to run out, ending all this debate once and for all? OMG I better get drilling, I need to tap into this infinite fossil fuel reserve that we're not halfway through.

        • Between horizontal drilling, tar sands, and all those crazy offshore deposits, there really is a stupid amount of oil left out there. There is also a fracking lot of natural gas.

          (Oblig. climate-discussion disclaimer: No representation is made as to whether this oil and gas ought to be drilled and burned, or as to the direct and indirect environmental consequences - oil spills, global warming, aquifer contamination, good old-fashioned soot, etc. Void where prohibited, and in the Volunteer State. Do not pas

          • Re:Excellent... (Score:4, Informative)

            by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:05PM (#38166574) Homepage

            Yep, there is a lot of oil left. Now, how do you get it out of the ground - that's the rub. Even in a totally depleted, water soaked oil field, there is a metric shitload of oil under the surface. Just no way to economically bring it to the surface.

            Same with Ultradeep oil in the Gulf of Mexico (and elsewhere). You stick a $2 billion dollar rig on surface, spend a long time drilling (and oopsie occasionally - dry holes and the unavoidable blowout) and you get a couple more million barrels for a few years (Deepwater plays tend to be smaller fields that go flat pretty fast because of the pressures and the geology). Keep doing that and you've driven the price of oil up to like $100 / barrel. Add increasing growth of Homo Industrialis and now oil is $150 / barrel. Fine, that gives the folks with the billion dollar oil rigs more economic room to drill in Godknowswhereistan (or Cleveland) but that brings home heating oil up to $5 / gallon. Fine, you say, just insulate. Oopsie, my income stream has been flat to going backwards over the past several years because the economy (which is only happy at constant to accelerating growth) isn't growing.

            Get's complicated. There will always be oil (which is good - petrochemicals are wonderfully useful) but cheap energy may be a thing of the past.

            And cheap energy is what has driven the Industrial Revolution so far.

            Now, back to the original subject - we might have a few more years of breathing room. Maybe.

    • How can there be a debate about scientific results? This always confuses me. One can have a debate about moral or ethical issues, but not about scientific results.
      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:35PM (#38166256) Homepage Journal

        This is the kind of thing [] that tends to get the skeptics -- and those the GW proponents call "deniers" -- going.

        Clearly, the process has problems; the data isn't as nailed down as many claim; the temperature rises not as predicted; the models flawed; the entire thing politicized to a notable degree. It certainly all seems worthy of paying attention to, when taken together.

      • Re:Excellent... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drosboro ( 1046516 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:35PM (#38166260)

        How can there be a debate about scientific results? This always confuses me. One can have a debate about moral or ethical issues, but not about scientific results.

        Then I would say your understanding of how science works is somewhat limited. We could have a debate about: a) whether the assumptions made at the outset were good assumptions, b) whether the data was collected in a reasonable way, c) whether the statistics were chosen and applied correctly, d) whether you've done a good enough job controlling other variables and excluding competing hypotheses, e) the magnitude and directionality of various sources of error, and whether they could confound the data, etc.

        Not saying that these are problems with the study in question, but I've read studies in which each of the above (among other things) were certainly open for debate!

      • Methodology, interpretation, cause. Having scientific results that aren't open for debate would be astonishing, unless it's as simple as "dropping something out the window on Earth causes it to fall." Hell, I can already spot several things wrong with that statement (what about lighter than air objects?)

        All scientific results have uncertainties, in measurements and in conclusions. Causation is always extremely tricky, and requires you to interpret the results in light of a certain scientific (and philosop

      • by Surt ( 22457 )

        One can have a debate about either the accuracy of the results, or the interpretation of them.

      • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

        I guess the Sun revolving around the Earth shouldn't have been debated either. It's a scientific result, Aristoteles said so!

      • Really? That's sort of how science works. Experimentalists get raw data compare it with existing theories predictions, say that it either confirms or contradicts various theories. Theorists debate how to modify their models to conform to the new data and/or the set up of the experiment itself. There is a lot of debate in science and always has been.

  • Nuclear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:15PM (#38166022) Homepage Journal

    We should be switching to nuclear anyway, it's not about global warming, it's about the eventuality of the end of the age of oil. It will happen so it's better to be thinking about it now.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Anyone with a calculator that has a working divide button will realize that it's going to be over a lot sooner than most people think. Anyone who knows how to account for exponential growth in demand realizes that it's going to be even sooner than that. The first year that we are no longer able to meet our demand, we are going to feel it hard. And from that point, it's just going to get worse and worse every year thanks to diminishing returns.
    • There are energy sources besides nuclear.and fossil fuels. And there are huge market distortions, so it's not clear that the energy providers' prosperity is due to the merits of their company or product.

      For example, the barriers to entry in those techs are huge, such that small businesses are locked out. Also, uneven subsidies corrupt the pricing and warp the balancing effects a free market would naturally have.

      We should develop every technology we can, drop subsidies (or at least phase them out as their t

    • Re:Nuclear (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:48PM (#38166394)

      Actually, we should be working on energy efficiency.

      Nuclear may be relatively safe but, when things do go wrong, we have to live with the consequences for a wee bit longer.

      • We cannot ever be efficient enough to not need to find more energy. Energy is still consumed with increased efficiency, just at a lower rate. That means that we will still run out of oil. Running out of oil means a need for a replacement energy source. The only energy source that can currently compete will fossil based fuels right now is nuclear power. The "alternative" energy sources right now remain alternative because they cost many times more. If they could compete with nuclear and fossil energy t

  • by ElmoGonzo ( 627753 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:18PM (#38166052)
    Confirming that anthropogenic CO2 does affect climate and proposing that the multiplier is slightly less than what others have suggested. Yawn.
  • by Knave75 ( 894961 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:19PM (#38166072)
    Denier: Ah hah! Told you all! Told you all!

    Warmist: World is still getting warmer, which means we will all die

    Skeptic: These are all extrapolations which are barely worth the paper they are written on

    Denier: We need to stop with the environmental programs, they are killing the economy

    Warmist: We need to stop polluting, the world is in jeopardy

    Denier: It will cost trillion to "save" the world, and it might not even be saved. Anyone who wants to spend that kind of money on a crapshoot is an idiot

    Warmist: Can we afford to take a chance? Our choice is trillions now, or quadrillions later. If you don't agree with me, then you are an idiot.

    Skeptic: Anybody who wants to take drastic action on the currently available data is an idiot.
    • I don't see any "warmists" saying we're all going to die. Things will be unpleasant, and in fact millions may die, but there are always unpleasant things in life and millions die every year anyway. The world will go on even if we keep burning more fossil fuel every year until prices become unaffordable to the masses. It's just that according to the latest and best information we currently have, we can make life better by reducing energy use and ramping up production from energy sources that can last for man
    • by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:30PM (#38166192) Homepage

      Pollution is what's saving the planet from global warming.
      See the Global Dimming [] article on Wikipedia. There was also a NOVA episode [] on the subject.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by haruchai ( 17472 )
        Thank you for that - I've tried raising the issue on several "skeptic" sites and am either ignored, or more frequently, deleted. I don't think people realize just what a predicament the burning of carbon-rich fuels presents, especially when they produced very fine soot. Both black carbon and CO2 are a problem that we must solve but the 1st slightly mitigates the 2nd, leading the uninformed and the "skeptics" to think there's no real problem.
        • Aerosols fall out of the atmosphere in a couple/three years. United States and other western nations cleaned up in the 70s into the 80s, so aerosols aren't as much of a problem any more. It is becoming a problem in China and other booming industrial nations with no environmental constraints. Eventually they will get a clue, and clean up their act as well... or their boom will end.
          • by haruchai ( 17472 )
            The documentary on global dimming blamed it as one of the most likely causes of the Ethiopian famine of the mid-80s. I'll have to try to find info on how and where the cloud formations have to be to affect the monsoon rainfall patterns. I'm assuming that China and India weren't contributing as much then as they are today and they've probably grown to the point where they've offset the progress of the West in air quality. If this causes a dramatic shift in their own rainfall patterns, it's not just their boo
    • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:34PM (#38166246) Homepage

      There are climate deniers, who think nothing should be done, and then there are economy deniers, who don't actually believe that their policies have economic cost (and may in fact praise them for "creating jobs").

      If you're not one of the irrational extremists, you have to deal with them both (and will probably be called one when dealing with the other). It kinda sucks.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Funny. Remember the talking heads saying that the science is settled? Yet here comes along yet another study saying that the science is indeed not settled. To a point what I think bothers most opponents of the AGW theory is the belief that "we know all" rather than "we don't know enough." Global warming as it is, is akin to bridge building. You know the science about why something will or won't collapse, you don't take a guess on a wood bridge and watch as the first car going across plummets 150m into

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:06PM (#38166580) Homepage

        economy deniers, who don't actually believe that their policies have economic cost (and may in fact praise them for "creating jobs").

        Fair enough, but the "economy deniers" I hear are usually on the other side of the debate though.

        The Republicans in particular spout this meme that environmental policy is bad for the economy. It is a frustrating one because it is only true in the short term. In the long run, such R&D is usually good. Ask Toyota if making the Prius was a mistake. They developed it back when Ford, GM, and Chrysler were complaining to the Bush administration that raising the fuel efficiency standards would cost a million jobs. That was only true because they hadn't invested in the technology.

        Keeping clean air and waterways helps the fishing and tourism industries. It reduces health care costs. It raises worker productivity.

        (and may in fact praise them for "creating jobs").

        True that they don't directly "create jobs." But companies not investing in tech means they fall behind and lose those jobs eventually.

    • What is the label for the person that points that the estimated values are actualy the same? None of your personas (and the article writter) understand what an error bar is?

    • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:51PM (#38166996)

      Scientist: Here are the assumptions in the models we used, and here are the sensitivities of the outputs to these assumptions and the statistical variations depending on the numerical seeds.

      At this point, about 1% of the way through the paper, the Denier, Skeptic and Warmist all stop listening and want to know which cities will be flooded, and get unhappy if the answer doesn't match what they were given by the last scientist they talked to.

      The climate is a fantastically complex system.There has been a lot of progress in climate modeling, but it isn't like predicting where a cannon ball will land if you know the starting trajectory.

  • Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by liquiddark ( 719647 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:29PM (#38166174)
    It's also a 66% confidence projection using a new climate model that has undergone peer review but probably not much other discussion in the community. It's interesting, but hardly definitive.
  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:35PM (#38166248)

    There are hundreds of things changing the temperature contantly and it's very hard to isolate the changes CO2 caused.

  • A few points... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2011 @12:37PM (#38166280)

    It's an interesting piece of work. There are two issues to bear in mind:
      - They are calculating climate sensitivity at the last glacial maximum. Climate sensitivity varies with temperature, so the sensitivity now may not be the same as the sensitivity at the LGM. It is entirely possible that both this study, and all the studies which put a higher value on current sensitivity, are both correct.
      - Even their most likely value of 2.3C only gives us about 15 years extra breathing space to sort out our emissions.
      - The UVic model they use is rather simplistic, and I'm not sure it reproduces 20thC climate that well. It would be interesting to see this work repeated with a model ensemble.

  • ...Warmists actually publicly acknowledge the existence of hard ice core and geological data which shows a steady level of atmospheric CO2 over the last 15 million years which kinda trumps their six-month data spans - the data also shows midtide sea levels back then over a hundred feet higher than they are now [].

    ...Shills who paid attention in chemistry 102 manage to shout loud enough over the doomsayers and Greenparty nutjobs that the biggest carbon sink on the planet isn't quite at saturation yet [] and won't

  • Here's The Thing. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by smpoole7 ( 1467717 )

    Hey, AGW people? Here's the bottom line. Read this carefully. Let it nourish your thought processes. You want to know why the general public hasn't panicked and fallen behind you in your crusade? Here it is.

    Lets say we have many, many skilled scientists working on not one, but DOZENS of models that are constantly being refined and tinkered with. This has been going on for DECADES. They feed these models with thousands and thousands of hard, verifiable data points -- measurements from buoys, satellites, even

    • by Shatrat ( 855151 )
      I think you're hurricanes vs global warming prediction isn't a very good example.
      As a motorsports analogy, I can't predicted who is going to win the first MotoGP race of 2012, but I can confidently say that the lap times will be faster than 2011.
      Specific outcomes are always harder to predict than trends and averages.
    • by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @02:11PM (#38167186)

      So we're back to the argument, "Nobody can reliably predict the outcome of a single spin of a roulette wheel, so it is crazy to think that anybody can predict the average of thousands of spins!"

      And meanwhile, the casinos continue to make money.

      Strong candidate for the single dumbest argument against global warming.

      • Actually, your example is quite poor: A casino can predict the long term trends of a roulette wheel with better than 2% accuracy. Climatologists wish they could say the same about the climate - but even this report has a variance of 1.35 to 4.65 C - a range of 340%.

        The single biggest problem (aside from the politics of creating winners and losers in the climate game) with getting people onboard is that an honest skeptic would have very serious misgivings about basing public policy on a discipline with s

    • And you want us to believe that you can predict, WITH GREAT CONFIDENCE, that the Earth will be 10 degrees warming in so many years because of what mankind is doing?

      "Oh, well, that's different," screams the AGW crowd.

      You don't know the difference between weather and climate.

      You also apparently don't know that increased temperatures due to greenhouse gases are a (nearly 100 year old, before the advent of computers) prediction of physics . The models simply try to guess how much.

      It's hard not to treat you in

  • by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:44PM (#38166928)

    The manuscript is freely available here [].

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @08:25PM (#38171166)

    We are just doomed a little later.

    If this research is more accurate than previous studies then the climate change is progressing slower as expected. That is great news, as we wasted so much time. If the previous estimates are correct we are in big trouble. According to the new study we will be in big trouble a little later or if we act fast we still could make it and only face medium trouble.

    I honestly do not understand why anti climate change honchos gloat over that news. It is like visiting the doctor and he tell you that his last diagnosis was a little too drastic and he has good news: You will not die next week, but in two weeks. So celebrate!

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra