Climate models keep getting it wrong: the earth’s temperature isn’t rising as quickly as the climate scientists’ best models predicted it would. Many policymakers (ahem…many European policymakers) have set carbon emission targets with the ambition of avoiding a specific temperature increase as determined by these models. But the technocracy isn’t infallible, as Reuters reports:
Often focused on century-long trends, most climate models failed to predict that the temperature rise would slow, starting around 2000. Scientists are now intent on figuring out the causes and determining whether the respite will be brief or a more lasting phenomenon. […]Theories for the pause include that deep oceans have taken up more heat with the result that the surface is cooler than expected, that industrial pollution in Asia or clouds are blocking the sun, or that greenhouse gases trap less heat than previously believed. […]Getting this right is essential for the short and long-term planning of governments and businesses ranging from energy to construction, from agriculture to insurance.
We have come a long way in our ability to scientifically explain the workings of the natural world. News like this shows how far we still have to go. Our planet’s climate is one of the most complex systems we have to study. It’s not surprising that some of our first predictions for its future might go awry. The models have to not only get their inputs right; they also have to correctly identify the relationships between a dizzying array of natural systems.So what should we take away from this collective admission that the science is not settled, but stumped? Certainly not that we can once again burn carbon into the atmosphere with reckless abandon. Climate change is a long-term trend, and some positive correlation between greenhouse gas levels and temperature is well established at this point. But the problem is that policymakers need specific targets, and science can’t give us those when it comes to climate change.Hope for the best, plan for the worst is generally good advice. That is by no means an invitation for greens to take the reins; the “official” greens have proven their policy incompetence again and again. Instead, we should be looking for low-hanging fruit: ways to improve the quality of life for this generation without endangering the quality of life for future generations.Telework is an excellent example of such low-hanging fruit. Working remotely is better for our health, better for our relationships, and better for the environment. Sustainable. Growth.[Earth image courtesy of Wikimedia.]