All Things Sustainable

ecology, economy, community

Climate change: models and fingerprints

This week the University of Exeter Future-Learn getting-bigger-all-the-time MOOC took a long hard look at models (no NOT Naomi Campbell) I am talking about massive super computer analysis of weather and climate and all that stuff. When the models are first constructed they are run using known historical data going back about 150 years and the climate outcomes they produce can then be verified against the historical records. This gives a level of confidence in projections plotted for future outcomes. This is also how the fingerprint of anthropogenic warming was identified because the models run from 1970 onwards will not match the climate records for that period if the CO2 that results from burning fossil fuels is excluded from the data set.

Modelling a future outcome
Of course we don’t know the future levels of CO2 or population or uptake of renewable energy so things like this become the variables and the model then indicates the likely result for any one particular set of circumstances. What can (or should) be articulated clearly is that the outcome for the future is firmly our hands and that increasing CO2 emissions must be curbed. It seems that we have already pumped enough CO2 into the atmosphere to make sure that sooner or later the temperature rise will equal or exceed 2degC and dangerous climate change will catch up with us.

The next thing under discussion was the vexed subject of geoengineering and rather than try to précis such a complex issue I am including a youtube link – it lasts about 25mins and does cover a few other things as well. Things like clouds, did you know that those light whispy cirrus clouds that once were seen as heralding a fine day are villains in the climate scenario and likely to increase warming while threatening low clouds have a cooling influence? In someways it seems a bit back to front.
Carbon Capture and Storage, that old furphy is still being rolled out but high cost and the doubtful prospect of finding enough suitable storage seems likely to keep it as a pipe dream. Most of the “reflect the sunlight” schemes proposed would seem to have serious problems and while vegetation and trees are briefly mentioned there was no discussion about the storage potential of forests in general or old growth forests in particular. There was mention of increasing ocean storage potential but there are difficulties in making it effective. Check out the video below for more details.

Next week we will be looking at climate change impacts on the ice and the oceans. As previously there will be visiting specialists on hand to make everything clear. We certainly are getting the info straight from the horses mouth (for want of a better analogy)


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