Debate and Business Challenges

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Debate and Business Challenges
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A lot of the warming took place between
1970 and 1998
If warming continues at the average rate from
1910 to 2000, effects on civilization
will be severe
There are strong reasons to believe that at
least some of the warming after 1970 has
been
created by business activity
The recent climate record according to 3 “standard”
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Beyond these basic points, everything is
controversial
95%+ of professional climate scientists don’t
agree with my statement that things are
controversial, but …
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Most climate scientists believe what we are
doing to the planet (increasing emissions of carbon
dioxide, methane) is certain to cause catastrophe
But a few do not
◦ Richard Lenzen,
M.I.T.
◦ John Christy,
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Alfred Sloan Professor of Climate Science at
NOAA-funded researcher at U. of Alabama
Experts in seemingly related fields are
skeptical
◦ Forecasting, decision science
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The stakes are high
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contradictory claims;
threat that we may seriously damage
civilization.
A big question: Just what is our
responsibility?
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Much of human history took place during ice
ages
Emergence of agriculture and spurt in
population took place just after a moderate
warming
◦ After that climate was unusually stable
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Warming was noted in the 1930s, continued
to the 40s, but was reversed 1945-1971
◦ Maybe because this was the era of high particulateemitting cars and factories in America and Europe?
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Warming resumed after 1971
Today the earth is at least 1〫or so warmer
than in 1910
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Most are poorly understood
But clearly, some gases let more heat come in
than they allow to go out
◦ Business activity is increasing the amount of these
gases
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And some things humans do make things
cooler
◦ Soot in the atmosphere
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Mainstream climate scientists’ models
suggest current trends lead to 3〫more
warming by 2010
◦ and much more heating after that
◦ Carbon burned today stays in atmosphere a long
time
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Many climate scientists thing things will be
worse
◦ They’re asked to be ‘cautious’ in their projections
◦ Today’s models don’t include recent developing
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Heat waves
Stronger hurricanes
Change in locations where rain falls
Higher sea levels
Less food production in tropical countries
◦ But more food production further from the equator
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Not necessarily the end of civilization, but not
a world we’d like to see
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John Christy, a co-author of the original IPCC
reports, says:
◦ Standard estimates overstate warming because of
urbanization around the temperature measuring
sites
 Parking lots, new air conditioners, buildings radiating
heat have been created near some measuring
equipment
◦ Christy & Spenser measure temperature using NASA
satellite data, get much lower numbers
◦ “The real atmosphere has many ways to respond to
the changes that increased CO2 forces on it”
 Some data suggests as earth warms, cloud cover
increases, limiting warming
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In recent decades, researchers in forecasting
and decision sciences have tried to identify
when ‘expert opinion’ is reliable
Their rules say: Create a simple causal model
They say if the model is complex and
contains lots of uncertainty, it isn’t reliable
◦ So they’re skeptical about standard climate
scientists
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Armstrong (forecasting expert) says: do
nothing
Christy says: Build nuclear power
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Yes, often. Some non-successes
◦ Psychological testing programs
◦ Econometric forecasting
◦ Psychoanalysis
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But probably never with such high stakes
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At minimum, the global warming story is a
careful but potentially fallible weather
forecast
◦ It may be wrong
◦ But so might the forecasts today on weather.com
◦ The fact that forecasts might be wrong doesn’t
prevent us from refusing to go on picnics when
forecasts say it will rain
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Standard science argues it’s important to
keep global temperatures from rising more
than 2〫
Standard estimates suggest big declines in
greenhouse gas emissions are needed to
keep rise to that level
◦ Because carbon entering atmosphere today stays
for
200 years or so, gas produced post-WW II is just
beginning to affect the earth
◦ Demanded cut are unlike anything close to passing
Congress
 A WW II-level mobilization?
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Energy is by many measures the world’s
largest industry
If it’s changing rapidly, there will be lots of
opportunity
◦ (If China’s currency is undervalued, the opportunity
may go to China)
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Government will remake the energy world
◦ Silicon Valley business can prosper
◦ It won’t be surprising if others resent us
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While many businesspeople may prosper,
there will be need for many to sacrifice