To hear the average activist tell it, climate change is going to fry us all up, if it doesn’t drown us with rising oceans and increasingly catastrophic storms first. A trio of new studies, however, suggest that the effects of climate change are going to be a lot more varied, and in some cases a lot more surprising. Deutsche Welle reports:
[I]n recent decades, global warming could have been responsible for a cooling of the sea along Europe’s northern coastline. A team of researchers around Stefan Rahmstorf comes to that conclusion in a study published in “Nature Climate-Change” on March 23. […]Another group of scientists used data from satellites and weather stations to conclude that air currents are also likely to slow down. The team around geophysicist Dim Coumou published a study in “Science” on March 12, arguing that the number of storms over the northern hemisphere is likely to decline during the summer months. […]This seems to clash with a study that suggests considerably more precipitation as a result of global warming. A working group around the mathematician Katja Frieler discovered a double paradox. On 16 March, she published a study in “Nature Climate Change” arguing that there is likely to be more snowfall in Antarctica as a result of global warming.
The more we research climate change and its effects, the greater the uncertainty we discover about what global warming will actually do: will future climate be dryer? Wetter? Colder? Hotter? Will it have more ice? Less ice? It seems it depends on who you ask, and which part of the globe you’re talking about.We know that our climate is changing and that humans bear responsibility for that because the greenhouse-gas effect is relatively easy to understand. But beyond that we know frighteningly little, as the litany of failed predictions produced by our best climate models demonstrate. Our planet’s climate is immensely complex, and it’s proving nearly impossible to anticipate what might happen when a few factors—like greenhouse gas concentrations—are adjusted. There are so many variables in the system, and so many relationships between those variables (many of which we aren’t yet aware of), that it’s no wonder we can’t correctly model the future.That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned by climate change, but it does suggest that greens ought to use more caution when predicting humanity’s imminent doom, if only for the sake of the environmental movement’s own credibility.