Science

Climate change from CO2 may not be as bad as predicted

Climate change from CO2 may no...
A recent study suggests that global climate may be far less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than previously predicted (Image Credit: Jon Sullivan via Flickr)
A recent study suggests that global climate may be far less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than previously predicted (Image Credit: Jon Sullivan via Flickr)
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A recent study suggests that global climate may be far less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than previously predicted (Image Credit: Jon Sullivan via Flickr)
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A recent study suggests that global climate may be far less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than previously predicted (Image Credit: Jon Sullivan via Flickr)

According to a recent study funded by the National Science Foundation's Paleoclimate Program, climate change may be far less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than previously predicted.

The most notable predictions of CO2-based climate change came from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2007. The report suggested that should the CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere double from pre-Industrial standards (pre-1850), it could result in a global 2 to 4.5 degree Celsius (3.6 - 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase worldwide. The mean level in this finding was 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). This, of course, would be catastrophic, leading to the melting of polar ice, as well as significant sea temperature increases and global flooding due to rising ocean levels.

It appears that that these dire numbers might not be accurate according to a the lead author of the new report, Oregon State University researcher Andreas Schmittner.

"Many previous climate sensitivity studies have looked at the past only from 1850 through today, and not fully integrated paleoclimate date, especially on a global scale," said Schmittner. "When you reconstruct sea and land surface temperatures from the peak of the last Ice Age 21,000 years ago - which is referred to as the Last Glacial Maximum - and compare it with climate model simulations of that period, you get a much different picture.

"If these paleoclimatic constraints apply to the future, as predicted by our model, the results imply less probability of extreme climatic change than previously thought," Schmittner added.

"In fact, a climate sensitivity of more than 6 [degrees] would completely freeze over the planet," Schmittner pointed out. This didn't happen. The ice sheets and glaciation only reached so far toward the equator and then stopped.

Some independent studies have suggested that the CO2 sensitivity might be 10 degrees Celsius or higher, although these studies are deemed "of low probability" by those within the climate change community.

"The best-fitting models had a climate sensitivity of about 2.3 - 2.4 degrees. So that is slightly less than the IPCC best estimate of 3."

Schmittner is also quick to note, however, that his model is far from perfect. For instance, it was unable to take into account changes in clouds once they absorbed sunlight. He expects the study would be much more accurate if cloud changes could somehow be figured in.

The study was published online in the journal Science.

Source: Oregon State University

40 comments
Todd Dunning
Well at least it\'s nice to see a formal admission. Anticipate at least 20 hippie suicides in the next 24 hours because Rapture has passed them by.
We skeptics never doubted that a phenomenon was ocurring; just the wild exagerration for political and financial gain - with provable, observable evidence to that effect. A lot of money was made by duping you that the end of the world was coming. You should demand it back.
This was really a debate between generations. Those of us in our forties have seen this kind of thing over and over again. You believe what your own experience in life tells you to believe, and global warming believers can\'t be blamed for being taken hook, line and sinker. It was well played.
Still, expect no slowing in trendy, feelgood alternative power projects. It was never about science anyway. It was about marketing eco-this and green-that to those who would buy.
BigGoofyGuy
There are so many variables that predicting the weather becomes more difficult the farther into the future one is trying to predict.
Joe Blake
\"Schmittner is also quick to note, however, that his model is far from perfect\"
So equally, it may be worse than predicted.
The predictions made in the \'60s have in large part already come to fruition, so I\'ll stick with the \"doomsayers\" thanks. At least that way I\'ll continue getting my electricity, water, housing and transport free, while others whinge about the high cost of living.
kevin d1
THAT\'S what gizmag (a science and technology website!) takes from that study?
(from the news release announcing the study: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2011/nov/new-study-climate-sensitivity-co2-more-limited-extreme-projections )
Schmittner (lead author): \" "It shows that even very small changes in the ocean's surface temperature can have an enormous impact elsewhere, particularly over land areas at mid- to high-latitudes," he added.
Schmittner said continued unabated fossil fuel use could lead to similar warming of the sea surface as reconstruction shows happened between the Last Glacial Maximum and today.
"Hence, drastic changes over land can be expected," he said. "However, our study implies that we still have time to prevent that from happening, if we make a concerted effort to change course soon." \"
Jeffery Green
http://climate.nasa.gov/news/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=649
Hansen has shown that paleoclimatic data is showing 20 meters (3feet 3 inches/meter) per degree centigrade (slightly less than 2 deg fahrenheit) sea level rise.
Bart Viaene
Glaciation will stop at the... Equator ?!
That means the entire planet is frozen solid....
Kumi Alexander
Title is misleading. Even the author admits that his model is terribly flawed because it doesn\'t even account for cloud cover which is absolutely vital in calculations. There are other variables as well that this model doesn\'t cover such as threshhold events like the sudden acceleration in the release of trapped methane.
Kimo
Ask a geologist.. thats their job. Read proffessor Ian Plimer.
Edgar Castelo
Some comment that that\'s not SCIENCE, otheres comment that the Report PROVES Warmists Religion, let\'s face it, it\'s all about Big Climate\'s Megabucks!
\"Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales... save those snails!\" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw&feature=player_embedded
Shyam
Model predictions undoubtedly are indicative. However, the changes that have taken place in the recent past cannot be untrue. Let us weigh the rising temperatures (immaterial of numbers) in its true merit of the events over the recent past so that we do not pass on the most feared challenge to the younger generation.