Global Cooling Consistent With Global Warming

by Julie Walsh on May 1, 2008

From Prometheus

For a while now I've been asking climate scientists to tell me what could be observed in the real world that would be inconsistent with forecasts (predictions, projections, etc.) of climate models, such as those that are used by the IPCC. I've long suspected that the answer is "nothing" and the public silence from those in the outspoken climate science community would seem to back this up. Now a paper in Nature today (PDF) suggests that the world may cool over the next 20 years few decades, and this would not be inconsistent with predictions of longer-term global warming.

I am sure that this is an excellent paper by world class scientists. But when I look at the broader significance of the paper what I see is that there is in fact nothing that can be observed in the climate system that would be inconsistent with climate model predictions. If global cooling over the next few decades is consistent with model predictions, then so too is pretty much anything and everything under the sun.

This means that from a practical standpoint climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global climate policy. I am sure that some model somewhere has foretold how the next 20 years will evolve (and please ask me in 20 years which one!). And if none get it right, it won't mean that any were actually wrong. If there is no future over the next few decades that models rule out, then anything is possible. And of course, no one needed a model to know that.

Don't get me wrong, models are great tools for probing our understanding and exploring various assumptions about how nature works. But scientists think they know with certainty that carbon dioxide leads to bad outcomes for the planet, so future modeling will only refine that fact. I am focused on the predictive value of the models, which appears to be nil. So models have plenty of scientific value left in them, but tools to use in planning or policy? Forget about it.

Those who might object to my assertion that models are of no practical use beyond political promotion, can start by returning to my original question: What can be observed in the climate over the next few decade that would be inconsistent with climate model projections? If you have no answer for this question then I'll stick with my views.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: