Will Congress Listen ?
WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY.
Daniel B. Botkin - John C. Pritzlaff Award holder
May 29, 2014
COMMENTS ON THE WHITE HOUSE CLIMATE CHANGE ASSESSMENT
The opening statement of the Assessment (p.1), reproduced, in part, here, is characteristic of the entire Assessment in that it violates one of the basic principles of good climatology --- never use short-term weather changes as proof of climate change. Climatologists I have worked with over the decades have said this repeatedly. In 1962, when I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin working under a science writing fellowship, I spoke with Reed Bryson, said to be the father of the International Geophysical Year and the person who persuaded Richard Keeling to begin measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration on Mauna Loa, Hawaii. At that time Earth had been undergoing a global cooling since about 1940. At first Professor Bryson said “if present trends continue, we are entering a new ice age.” But when I drafted a press release that quoted him so, he thought about it carefully and told me that we could not make that statement, because this was just a short-term weather event.
In the 1980s, I worked closely with climatologist Stephen Schneider and we often gave talks at the same events. Steve, one of the leaders of the modern concern about a possible human-induced global warming, also said that you should never use short-term weather events to infer climate change. I agreed with these experts, and therefore was taken aback by the overall tone of the new White House Climate Change Assessment, which begins: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska."
Based on what my climatologist colleagues had always told me, the Assessment should have begun instead by stating:
“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing weather-related changes” outside of their personal recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.”
STATEMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE .
David R. Legates, Ph.D., C.C.M.
University of Delaware
3 June, 2014
As Dirmeyer (2014) argues, “The problem is that coupled land - atmosphere models used for weather and climate forecasting and research have never been thoroughly validated in terms of their simulation of the coupled processes that provide predictability.” Even if the land surface model was perfect, it will provide bad simulations if forced by “an atmospheric model with serious systematic biases or inadequately represented physical processes” (see also Steinhaeuser and Tsonis 2014). Given the limitations of the models not only in predicting global air temperatures but also in estimating precipitation and soil moisture conditions, it seems that a more reasonable approach is not to rely on the model prognostications; but rather, to focus on policies that allow for adaptation to the observed variability in precipitation and soil moisture. Droughts that have happened in the past are likely to occur again, and with likely similar frequencies and intensities; thus, preparation for their return is a better strategy than trying to mitigate them through draconian CO2 emission control policies.