New climate models now project even faster global warming than previous work. The models were developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Princeton, NJ), the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Atmospheric Research (Boulder, CO) and six other international computational centers. If correct, these new studies give world leaders far less of a “runway” to avoid even more serious climate degradation.
Older climate change models predicted that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would produce global temperature increases of between 2.5-5 degrees C. The new models suggest that previous estimates were too conservative, and that doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide will produce 5 degrees C. or more of global warming in the future.
Climate scientists are not sure why the new models project far higher temperatures. That question may be answered after researchers run the international, cooperative Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), which will go over the models with the proverbial fine tooth comb, run five simulations and possibly do 23 more models. Unfortunately, CMIP is running a year late.
These models will be key inputs for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report scheduled in 2021. Panelists are already asking questions of the modelers. If the more aggressive climate change models look convincing that will put additional pressure on the IPCC to say something more urgent. And that in turn will require at least the appearance of a timely reply or response on the part of politicians.
We can’t predict whether CMIP affirms the eight climate models or instead reveals a computer glitch that challenges the work of top climate researchers. Those results are not likely to be available for a year or more. Nor can we predict how much contradictory “research” will suddenly appear on the internet. We would focus instead on politics.
Even in advance of confirmation, though, these new climate projections are significant. One of the Democratic candidates for president, Jay Inslee, is making climate change the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. These models certainly bolster his case and ultimately will suggest the need for faster action. Environmental activists and movements throughout the world will also have more compelling evidence with which to press politicians for additional remedial action, too.
We believe the climate debate—and its attendant policy and business risks— will intensify if it appears that the global climate outlook is deteriorating at an accelerated rate. It is not unlikely even that more aggressive calls for remedial action will be incorporated into political campaigns here and abroad.
And perhaps needless to say, for climate change deniers it’s about to get even hotter.
By Leonard Hyman William Tilles for Oilprice.com