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Global Warming Predictions May Now Be a Lot Less Uncertain (wired.com) 384

An anonymous reader shares a report: Humanity must not pass a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global temperature from pre-industrial levels, so says the Paris climate agreement. Cross that line and the global effects of climate change start looking less like a grave situation and more like a catastrophe. The frustrating bit about studying climate change is the inherent uncertainty of it all. Predicting where it's going is a matter of mashing up thousands of variables in massive, confounding systems. But today in the journal Nature, researchers claim they've reduced the uncertainty in a key metric of climate change by 60 percent, narrowing a range of potential warming from 3C to 1.2C. And that could have implications for how the international community arrives at climate goals like it did in Paris. The metric is called equilibrium climate sensitivity, but don't let the name scare you.
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Global Warming Predictions May Now Be a Lot Less Uncertain

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  • Safe Words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TimMD909 ( 260285 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:07PM (#55955149) Homepage
    The "...don't let the name scare you" part sounds kinky. Wonder if "denialism" is its safe word?
  • 3 in one dat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:07PM (#55955151)
    wow, new record? third global warming article today
    • ...is a religion, and msmash is auditioning to be a High Priestess.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How long before it is deemed a punishable crime to not participate in the movement to curb anthropomorphic global warming? As an idea, it is gaining traction.

        • Won't be too long. Eventually, yes. It will probably get down to that. Kind of like seat belts. The science and engineering eventually just became overwhelming in terms of how effective they were. Eventually, society decided to require them. A lot of libertarian types thought it was the end of the world. Life went on and seat belts were a benefit, and not an option. The science behind AGW will eventually build up to the point that so much of humanity recognizes the danger that society will move to require
      • "Climate scientists" (priesthood); if questioned they always cite their go to talking points (bible), many of which can be refuted; go against the alarmist orthodoxy and you'll lose colleagues and funding (excommunication); and al gore (he might as well be their high priest, even though he isn't a "climate scientist").
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For shame.

        One of mathematicians Computer Science can thank, Joseph Fourier, discovered the greenhouse effect... and now on this web site for computer geeks we have utter retards proclaiming the warming it can cause is all fake because they are too busy masturbating to Fox News and the like.

        I'm no liberal, actually I think all TV news outlets are full of shite and agenda driven, but that doesn't make one channel better than the other. Climatologists are in general agreement, so why the fuck should anyone li

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Climatologists are in general agreement, so why the fuck should anyone listen to your rantings?

          At one point, virtually all scientists believed you could create gold from iron, too. So, since almost all scientists believed such was the case, I guess it's true, isn't it? Get creating some gold, then. It's probably worth almost as much as bitcoin.....

          While we're at it, Earth is the center of the universe, your eyes emit the light that you see with, California is an island, and the nucleus of an atom is an inseparable mass.
          These are all ideas that were widely accepted by the majority of scientists at

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            While I can quibble how you present the history of all these so-called scientific "theories" or how many "scientists" believed it I'd rather just say science is not the bible, it doesn't claim to be infallible for all time forever, missteps to knowledge will be had.

            The earth is warming, we can see that in several ways from receding glaciers, sea level rise, decreased snow cover, among other things. The current theory is that the climate should be relative stable unless there is a "forcing" that makes it se

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              Since you sound almost rational, you do know that the sea level has been rising at a roughly constant rate since the end of the last Ice Age? So the anthropogenic signal is hard to discern in that. I agree the earth is warming, it has been warming since the last Ice Age. We don't really know if the rate of warming is unusual, but judging by HADCET, it would appear that the period since 1800 has seen temperature rises over decades that are not unusual. That is, there are several periods in that 400 year reco

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by thomst ( 1640045 )

            Some anonymous coward claimed:

            At one point, virtually all scientists believed you could create gold from iron, too.

            At NO point did ANY scientist believe you or anyone else could create gold from iron. Ever.

            You are conflating alchemy with science - just as you are conflating fossil fuel industry propaganda with scientific, evidence-based skepticism.

            Every climate scientist - with the exception of a tiny handful who are paid by the likes of the Koch brothers - agrees the evidence for AGW is overwhelming. That's a fact, and no amount of handwaving or false-equivalence mongering can wish it away

            • The plain, uncomfortable truth is that the Paris Accord goal is unreachable. [...] the average global temperature is going to rise by considerably more than 2 degrees C in the next century or so, regardless of how quickly electric vehicles replace internal combustion-based transportation.

              No matter whether the Paris Accord goal is reachable or not, it's still a lot better if we manage to limit the temperature rise by say, 3 degrees C, than do absolutely nothing and end-up with a rise of 4, 5, or even 6 C.

              • by thomst ( 1640045 )

                fred6666 objected:

                No matter whether the Paris Accord goal is reachable or not, it's still a lot better if we manage to limit the temperature rise by say, 3 degrees C, than do absolutely nothing and end-up with a rise of 4, 5, or even 6 C.

                During the 50-100 kiloyear period over which the Permain extinction occurred, the global temperature is estimated to have risen by 10 degrees Celsius. That's not even taking into account that the event started with a snap ice age - which I suspect may have substantially added to the methane emissions problem, once the minty, fresh permafrost melted.

                I've been convinced for some time now that both icecaps and runaway greenhouse events are examples of complex (what used to be known as "c

            • Your whole post is the alarmist's handbook to try and push your various agendas. You take some things we have likely shown to be true, and use them to justify all sorts of doomsday scenarios which have absolutely no degree of certainty behind them.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Climatologists are in general agreement

          Climatologists, when making claims in academic papers and press releases, repeatedly state that their models make predictions not hypothesis. They do not make scientifically provable or disprovable statements. Climatologists are not doing science when making predictive claims. Science also is not bound by or influenced by "general agreement". All scientific advancements are done by going against the status quo by refuting it or expanding upon it.

          So here it is: climatologists are not engaging in science and

  • The only way to tell if this is real is to wait, take the measurement, and compare it with prior prediction. That's science. Everything else is speculation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jareth-0205 ( 525594 )

      The only way to tell if this is real is to wait, take the measurement, and compare it with prior prediction. That's science. Everything else is speculation.

      Is short-term weather forecast not a science? Or does it only work when looking backwards? Prediction of climate is as much science as orbital mechanics predicting where the moon will be. Albeit more complex, and with more uncertainty.

      Sometimes you can't just wait. When the measurement can only be taken after catastrophic change has happened? What then?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Science is based on testable predictions. Until we find out that global warming predictions are correct it is not proven science.

        • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @05:04PM (#55956043)

          There was a time when that was a valid position - but the predictions made 30,50,80 years ago have been proven correct well within their error bars. So what now? At what point do we stop saying "okay, you've been right so far, but there's no evidence that you'll continue to be right"? There's no way to prove with 100% certainty that predictions made today will be accurate except to wait and see. But the science has made accurate predictions so far, and the opposition is just people saying "I don't believe it". All the "unsettled science " is in the area of hammering out the exact details - narrowing the error bars so we have a better idea of exactly what we'll be facing, beyond "major problem" - the dominant forces and trends are all behaving as predicted.

          The only area for doubt is whether some as-yet undiscovered side effect might re-stabilize things - but there's no evidence to suggest such a thing exists, so gambling the fate of our civilization on finding one would have to be done entirely on blind faith.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            "predictions made 30,50,80 years ago have been proven correct well within their error bars."

            Which predictions are those? That we'd see the end of winter in the UK? That the glaciers in the Alps would all melt? That we'd see more and more hurricanes? That whole islands would disappear? That New York City would be underwater? That people would be fleeing from climate catastrophes and out-stripping our ability to feed them?

            Tell us another one.

      • I do orbital mechanics for a living. Claims of exactness in predictions aren't all they're cracked up to be, especially if taken out of context.
      • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @04:44PM (#55955881)

        Is short-term weather forecast not a science?

        Yes, it is a science. It makes predictions, then we see if those predictions were accurate.

        Or does it only work when looking backwards?

        Well, that's the part where we see if the predictions were accurate. So yes, sort of?

        Prediction of climate is as much science as orbital mechanics predicting where the moon will be.

        Right. Orbital mechanics was accepted when the observations ended up matching the predictions.

        Sometimes you can't just wait. When the measurement can only be taken after catastrophic change has happened? What then?

        Hopefully we decided to play the odds and prepare for the outcome that was 98% likely.

        Remember, science doesn't prove anything. Proofs are for mathematicians. Climate Change is "less proven" than gravity because we've conducted thousands of controlled experiments confirming the details of gravity. We don't have a bunch of extra Earths lying around, so it's much more difficult to conduct controlled experiments that would confirm details and help improve the precision of the models and predictions.

        Of course, you still have to be either a complete idiot or a selfish asshole to think that Climate Change is a hoax and bet your grandkid's existence on that 2% chance.

  • Scaring (Score:2, Insightful)

    I thought the entire point of Anthropomorphic Global Climate Change was to scare us? And that any attempt to minimize the fear was being a denier of settled science?

    • Re:Scaring (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:37PM (#55955409) Homepage
      There's really a massive amount of scientific literature trying to understand how much warming will happen and how bad it will be. Papers suggesting that one aspect will not be bad or might be overestimated are not at all uncommon. But that's very different than thinking that global warming itself isn't a serious problem. Unfortunately, people who have made not believing in global warming an article of faith and tribal loyalty will always respond in one of two ways: something about the danger of global warming is obvious alarmist nonsense, and anything that actual scientists do that suggests an upper bound on how bad some aspect is must in fact mean that global warming is no problem at all.
    • Nope, that's not the point. AGW doesn't care if you're scared of it or not. It's the description of a hypothesis that has validated fairly well up to this point. I mean, you don't throw out the entire GUT because a new particle doesn't quite match the expected eV values, you look at what you're missing and you tweak the model to fit the new information. I suppose you could claim, 'OMG GUT is wrong, we need to ignore the entire theory.' Never mind that it's actually pretty good overall.

      Same concept applies t

    • I thought the entire point of Anthropomorphic Global Climate Change was to scare us? And that any attempt to minimize the fear was being a denier of settled science?

      The point is to have a reason to take away everyones rights and to exterminate all the poor people

      • I thought the entire point of Anthropomorphic Global Climate Change was to scare us? And that any attempt to minimize the fear was being a denier of settled science?

        The point is to have a reason to take away everyones rights and to exterminate all the poor people

        If it were about CO2/warming/climate change, we'd be allowed to build nuclear power plants, and the BANANAS* wouldn't be shutting down the existing ones. That's proof that they don''t believe in CO2/whatever. Not really. If they did, their priorities would be ... somewhat different.

        * Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      I thought the entire point of Anthropomorphic Global Climate Change was to scare us?

      Surely the entire point of Anthropomorphic Global Climate Change is to scare us (away from dealing with climate change), if only because you made the term up.

      The point of Anthropogenic Global Climate Change is to measure and describe that portion of observe change that might attributed to manmade greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2 from burning fuels and methane from agricultural practices.

      Whether you find that scary or not

    • You thought wrong?
    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      Unless you are talking about cute anime girls, you probably mean "anthropogenic".
      Bus now, I wonder what Japan came up with to represent global warming. They tend to turn everything into cute anime girls.

  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology climate scientist Reto Knutti [responded], “What's the chance of something fundamentally being wrong in our models?” he asks. “Is that really less than 1 percent? I would argue there's more than a one in a hundred chance that something has been forgotten in all of the models, just because our understanding is incomplete.”

    Of course, he's Swiss, so he's biased.....the weather's so cold up there he wants global warming!

  • This is only the third story on climate change today. C'mon editors, pace yourself.
  • "If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it."

    Pierre Gallois
    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:46PM (#55955465)

      Last time I heard a model talking about climate change, it was Kylie Jenner - and she's mainly concerned at what global warming might do to her hair and skin.

      • by mea2214 ( 935585 )
        That people now make reference to Kylie Jenner instead of Kim Kardashian is also proof of climate change.
    • Garbage in, garbage out.

    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @04:46PM (#55955905)

      "If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it."

      Pierre Gallois

      "I don't understand X, and it's really inconveniently for me to believe X, therefore I believe it's impossible for anyone to understand X."

      -pipingguy (paraphrasing)

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      And of course the way you know tomfoolery went into the the computer in this case is that you don't like the answer that came out.

    • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @06:22PM (#55956523) Journal

      Computer modeling has achieved many things for humanity. It has helped us to build bridges that can survive earthquakes, planes that don't fall out of the sky, space probes that can travel to distant planets with less fuel, sports arenas that can be evacuated quickly in an emergency, and so on. All of these efforts allowed the behavior of an object or system to be predicted in advance.

      Other kinds of modeling are more difficult, but no less useful or important. Climate modeling is one such endeavor. And no good scientist uses a model to predict the future unless s/he has some confidence that it makes predictions with reasonable accuracy. Often that confidence is acquired by seeing whether the model can predict the past by using the more distant past.

      It is foolish to dismiss a computer model just because it is a computer model.

  • by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:30PM (#55955343)
    “Paris is more feasible than I thought before I started out on this,” Cox says. “It's feasible now to avoid 2 degrees, whereas I would have said before that it was pretty much unlikely that you were going to do that.”

    Except the Paris accords do nothing to avoid the 2 degrees change. All agreed emissions reductions will still exceed 2 degrees. It did not nothing accept allow a great photo-op for politicians who can pretend they did something.
  • It's right there in the name.

    It's called "global warming", not "global sometimes-hot-sometimes-not".

  • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:57PM (#55955543)
    Let see we have the really simple model. Add energy to a system at a constant rate, slow the rate at which energy leaves the system, the system heats up. Now smart people will make the system a lot more complicated and then add positive feed backs that slow the rate at which energy leaves the system and they will add estimates to when those positive feed backs occur. Everyone agrees with the simple model, adding CO2 to the atmosphere slows the rate at which infra red light radiates back into space. Almost every climate scientist agrees there are positive feed backs that will be triggered as the temperature rises. The only question is at what temperature do those feed backs exceed what human action is doing and when that temperature is reached. If we don't do something we know it will happen we just don't know when.

    Bad things will happen at just a couple of degrees warmer. Rain patterns will change, pests like mosquitoes will move, coastal cities will flood. No one talks about the bad things at 6C because they don't want to sound like crazy alarmists.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The vast majority of anonymous cowards flooding in throves every thread about climate change are not concerned citizens with opposing views and/or healthy skepticism.

      They are part of a concerted, deliberate, organized campain to destroy the public's confidence in science, to paint scientists as an evil community with ulterior motives, to destroy the reputation of all climate scientists.

      All for one purpose, and one purpose only: To destroy, or at least delay significantly, all efforts to effect political, so

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Wouldn't this be an opportunity for the admins of slashot to keep track of the IP's of these posters and do some basic investigations into who is posting this crap?

        Wouldn't exposing an astro-turfing industry both catapult them into fame as well as clean up and improve the quality of their main product? They're pretty easy to identify, any coward downvoted into oblivion in a climate change article. You'd expect the pros to run through a variety of VPN services. And while the slashdot admins don't have war

  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @04:04PM (#55955601) Homepage

    "The metric is called equilibrium climate sensitivity, but don't let the name scare you."

    Why would say that, unless something scary is going on? What if the name of the site was "Slashdot, news for nerds, but don't let that scare you"? What if you went to a restaurant, and after running down the specials, the waiter said, "but don't let the name scare you"? Is there any chance you'd order that dish?

  • by matthollingsworth ( 2670069 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @04:17PM (#55955685)
    this study, possibly intentionally, understates the risks. What it did is look at existing modeling to narrow the range of predicted warming. That completely misses the fact that scientists are *conservative* when they build models. When there are factors they can't reliably model, they often just exclude them. This is why their models consistently *under predict* the amount of warming we see. For example, a recent Scientific American article pointed out that scientists weren't including feedback effects like the warming of the permafrost because the couldn't model it. This means the math trick used in this article excludes all these other effects that can (and almost surely will) have *huge* accelerative effects on the modeled warming rates. Far from scare mongering, the conservativism of scientists means they nearly always under predict warming. So what can we expect? Well, the last time Earth had the levels of CO2 we now have in the atmosphere, sea level was up to 100 feet higher than today and ferns grew in the Arctic. This was before man even existed on the planet. And the rates of warming and CO2 rise, far from slowing, are increasing at an *accelerating* rate. So I call bullshit on this article.
  • by werepants ( 1912634 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @05:17PM (#55956157)

    Imagine that it's your job to tell the future. An amazing amount of money, and possibly lives depend on your forecast. Your tools are math and temperature measurements.

    That's the situation that climate scientists find themselves in. I used to do some comparatively very simple modeling of satellite electronics to show that system data integrity and uptime would be satisfactory in the midst of cosmic radiation - and in the whole field of reliability and radiation effects, there's an absurd amount of handwaving and slop. I was regularly dealing with uncertainty on the order of 10x-100x in the error rates of some components. Thankfully, in most cases you can afford to apply tons of margin to your estimate to cover all of those unknowns.

    Climate scientists have it much harder. The analysis is far more complex and much more sensitive - there's almost no room for error. The measurements are imperfect, the models are incomplete, and uncertainty abounds. However, the trend is there. What are we going to do, bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best?

    Instead, it seems like we should listen to the smartest people in the world on this topic, who have devoted their lives to it. We should applaud the advances like this, which make incremental progress towards a better understanding. That same process of incremental advancement of human knowledge has given us the most advanced civilization in human history.

    Most importantly, we should especially celebrate this kind of advance, which reduces uncertainty in the forecast, because that's the real key to reducing the political hysteria, and to bringing sanity into the discussion.

    Climate scientists are just normal people. They aren't infallible. They also aren't corrupt psychopaths. They have an impossible job in front of them. And in the absence of a crystal ball, they are the very best resource we have available for figuring out what the hell we should do about all this.

    We would all do better to listen to what they are actually saying, and stop reflexively misrepresenting them to suit our preconceptions.

    • by Whibla ( 210729 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @07:00PM (#55956787)

      Climate scientists are just normal people. They aren't infallible. They also aren't corrupt psychopaths. They have an impossible job in front of them. And in the absence of a crystal ball, they are the very best resource we have available for figuring out what the hell we should do about all this.

      Wise words, and I almost totally agree, except for the bit I highlighted.

      They may be the best people to tell us what is happening, and what is likely to happen given future emission scenarios, but I'm not so sure they're any more capable of figuring out what the hell we should do than any of the rest of us. They're experts on climate, and all that entails, not politics, psychology, sociology, or various engineering disciplines.

      The problem is global and extremely complex (barring 'simple' solutions that would harm society nearly as much as some of the worst case predictions would) and hence requires a global, as in requires 'buy-in' from most people, and multi-part solution. It's made more complex still because of the fact that while doing nothing will result in unpleasant consequences for most of us doing 'something' will also result in unpleasant consequences for some of us. The climate guys can only really tell us some of those consequences - the others are dependent on political, social and financial factors.

      That small 'correction' aside, great post!

      • The climate guys can only really tell us some of those consequences - the others are dependent on political, social and financial factors.

        That small 'correction' aside, great post!

        Fair enough, and I agree with you on that point. It's not the job of the climate scientists to fix things, just to tell us honestly how bad things seem to be, while providing all the caveats about uncertainty and probabilities and ways to be wrong. Overall, I think they are doing pretty damned well there and it's a shame that there is so much shooting of the messengers on this topic.

  • Tell it to the people who live in the midwest up to the northen parts of the country in a "deep freeze". Now tell me how Global warming is such a dire catasraphe? PLUEASEEEE!
    Here is the solution to it. If we took ALL the global warming alarmists and killed them all - all the CO2 they had been releasing would take care of global warming once and for all.

  • The summary can be translated as: "Oops, there's no global warming. Sorry about that. As you were."

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