February 28, 2007
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Global Climate Change Digest
A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999
FROM VOLUME 10, NUMBER 12, DECEMBER 1997
GENERAL INTEREST AND COMMENTARY
"Uncertainties in Projections of Human-Caused Climate Warming,"
J.D. Mahlman (NOAA/GFDL, POB 308, Princeton NJ 08542; e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org),Science, 278(5342), 1416-1417, Nov. 21, 1997.
The author, a respected climate modeler, presents a "policy-independent"
evaluation of the current levels of scientific confidence in predictions
of climate models. Some of his conclusions differ in detail from those of
the latest IPCC scientific assessment, mostly because of research
developments since 1994. After summarizing virtual certainties (which do
not depend on climate models), Mahlman lists model projections classified
by decreasing levels of certainty. Finally, he lists several incorrect
projections, prevalent in some informal writings, that are not supported
by high-quality climate models. These include assertions that the
frequency of tropical storms will increase, and that winds in large-scale
mid-latitude storms will intensify. Such distortions of the state of
climate change science grossly exaggerate the public's sense of
controversy about the value of scientific knowledge as guidance for
policy. The recognized scientific uncertainties, which will require at
least a decade to resolve, do not make the problem of human-caused
greenhouse warming go away.
Increasing Carbon Dioxide Cause Climate Change?" R.S. Lindzen (Bldg.
54, Rm. 1720, Mass. Inst. Technol., Cambridge MA 02139), Proc. Natl.
Acad. Sci., 94(16), 8335-8342, Aug. 1997. (Available at
Reviews the physical functioning of the greenhouse effect, including the
role of dynamic transport of water vapor. Shows that reliable model
evaluations of climate sensitivities are impossible because model errors
and uncertainties are large compared to forcing due to doubled CO2.
Describes direct and indirect approaches to measuring climate sensitivity.
the Public Views Climate Change," W. Kempton (College of Marine
Studies, Univ. Delaware, Newark DE 19716; e-mail: email@example.com), Environment,
39(9), 12-22, Nov. 1997. (A special issue on climate change.)
Human beings fit new information into preexisting cultural models. This
process works fairly well in the case of relatively simple environmental
problems, but when it comes to new and complex problems such as climate
change, people often apply inappropriate models and draw invalid
conclusions. This article outlines approaches for improving the public
debate on climate change by targeting particular messages more
Ecology, and Human Health," P.R. Epstein (Harvard Medical Sch.,
Boston, Mass.; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), Consequences, 3(2),
3-19, 1997. (See http://www.gcrio.org/CONSEQUENCES/introCON.html.)
This broad review aimed at a wide range of readers examines the
interacting effects of environmental and social conditions on the spread
of infectious diseases, particularly the role of global warming. Topics
include illnesses borne by rodents and mosquitos and other insects;
effects of water temperature on cholera and shellfish poisoning;
pandemics; and recent trends. Concludes that the resurgence of infectious
disease in the last quarter century may indicate that we are vastly
underestimating the costs of "business as usual." Curbing our
unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels may bring a healthy and productive
Environmental Change of the Last Four Centuries," J. Overpeck
(Paleoclim. Prog., NGDC/NOAA, 325 Broadway, Boulder CO 80303; e-mail:
email@example.com), K. Hughen et al., Science, 278(5341),
1251-1256, Nov. 14, 1997.
A compilation of paleoclimatic records from lake sediments, trees,
glaciers, and marine sediments shows that from 1840 to the mid-20th
century, the Arctic warmed to the highest temperatures in four centuries.
This warming ended the Little Ice Age in the Arctic, and has caused
retreats of glaciers, melting of permafrost and sea ice, and alteration of
terrestrial and lake ecosystems. Although the warming, particularly after
1920, was likely caused by increased atmospheric trace gases, the
initiation of warming in the mid-19th century suggests that increased
solar radiance, decreased volcanic activity, and feedbacks internal to the
climate system also played roles.
Research After Kyoto," K. Hasselmann (Max Planck Inst. Meteor.,
Bundesstr. 55, D-20146 Hamburg, Ger.), Nature, 390(6657),
225-226, Nov. 20, 1997.
Comments on the need first to improve climate models, and second to
further develop integrated assessment models, which link pure research and
Climate Change 1995," Environment, 39(9),
Nov. 1997. Three review-essays on the three components of the latest IPCC
The Science of Climate Change, reviewed by W.C. Clark (Kennedy
Sch. Govt., Harvard Univ.) and J. Jäger, 23-28. The report should be
seen as a chronicle of our evolutionary process of understanding how human
activities affect climate. To the credit of those involved, most of what
the scientists judge to be their most important findings are reliably
mirrored in both the technical and policy summaries.
Impacts, Adaptations, and Mitigation, reviewed by R.W. Kates (an
executive editor of Environment), 29-33. Until the third
assessment is completed in 2000, this stands as the primary reference on
its topics. But the relatively scant emphasis on adaptation, and on the
belief systems that influence mitigation strategies, highlights the need
for more work in those areas.
Economic and Social Dimensions, reviewed by T. O'Riordan (Sch.
Environ. Studies, Univ. East Anglia), 34-39. The volume shows the great
progress the IPCC has made in the seven years since the last assessment,
but also illustrates some failures as well as some triumphs in the use of
social science analysis in the policy process. Discusses how far a
scientific analysis should go in influencing a policy outcome, and goals
for reorganizing the working group for this topic.
Warming Policy: Population Left Out in the Cold," J. Bongaarts
(Population Council, New York, N.Y.), B.C. O'Neill, S.R. Gaffin, Environment,
39(9), 40-41, Nov. 1997.
Discusses three common misperceptions that help explain why human
population has received such limited attention in the policy debate.
Forging a Consensus," P.D. Jones (Clim. Res. Unit., Univ. E. Anglia,
Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK), Environment, 39(9), 42-43, Nov.
A critical comment on the views of Patrick Michaels and other greenhouse
related items in Clim. Change, 37(3), Nov. 1997:
"The CO2 Lifetime Concept Should Be Banished,"
P.P. Tans (CMDL/NOAA (R/E/CG1), 325 Broadway, Boulder CO 80303), 487-490.
Written in response to the following article, this argues that CO2
is not amenable to the notion of a characteristic timescale that describes
how long it remains in the atmosphere. Clinging to this notion gives
misleading information to policymakers.
"Measuring Time in the Greenhouse," B.C. O'Neill (Environ.
Defense Fund, 275 Park Ave. S, New York NY 10010), M. Oppenheimer, S.R.
Gaffen, 491-503. Nothing beats a timescale, when properly used, for
communicating the notion of persistence of greenhouse gases on a
quantitative basis. Although some scientists advocate abandoning the
timescale approach for CO2, this paper presents recent
advances in developing such useful measures of persistence. However, these
advances have yet to be absorbed in the broader scientific community or
among policymakers, where confusion about timescales still reigns.
of Land Use on the Climate of the United States," G.B. Bonan (NCAR,
POB 3000, Boulder CO 80307), Clim. Change, 37(3), 449-486,
Simulations with a land surface process model coupled to an atmosphere
general circulation model show that the climate of the U.S. with modern
vegetation is significantly different from that with natural vegetation.
Important climate signals include a 1° C cooling over the east and a
1° C warming over the west in spring; summer cooling of 2° C in
the central region, and near-surface moistening in spring and summer. The
climate change caused by land use practices is comparable to other
anthropogenic climate forcings.
of China Implies Changes in Pacific Air Chemistry and Primary Production,"
S. Elliott (Earth & Environ. Sci., Los Alamos Natl. Lab., Los Alamos
NM 87545; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), D.R. Blake et al., Geophys.
Res. Lett., 24(21), 2671-2674, Nov. 1, 1997.
Estimates the fundamental changes to the chemistry of the Pacific
ocean/atmosphere system through simple budgeting procedures. For instance,
regional increases in tropospheric ozone could reach tens of parts per
billion; altered plankton ecodynamics will affect climate through
sea-to-air flux of reduced sulfur gases, and through the drawdown of CO2.
and Reply on "Climate Control Requires a Dam at the Strait of
Gibraltar," Eos, Trans. Amer. Geophys Union, 78(45),
507, Nov. 11, 1997. (See Global Climate Change Digest, Prof.
Pubs./Gen. Interest & Policy, Aug. 1997.)
Accurate Are Satellite 'Thermometers?'" Nature, 389(6649),
342-343, Sep. 25, 1997.
In this correspondence, Christy et al. formally dispute claims by
Hurrell and Trenberth that the satellite record of temperature trend does
not show any warming because of problems calibrating instruments. (See
Global Climate Change Digest, Prof. Pubs./Gen. Interest &
Policy, Apr. 1997, for paper by Hurrell and Trenberth, and related News
Science and Climate Policy: Improving the Science/Policy Interface,"
J.H.G. Klabbers (Klabbers Mgmt. & Policy Consultancy-KMPC,
Netherlands), R.J. Swart et al., Mitigation & Adaptation
Strategies for Global Change, 1(1), 73-93, 1996. (See Prof.
Pubs./New Journal, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Dec.
Because the perspectives of scientists and policymakers differ,
communication is often troublesome. The rational development of climate
change policy under these conditions can only be effective if all parties
involved engage in a continuous dialogue about causes, effects, impacts
and responses. This paper describes a project in the Netherlands to
articulate a variety of perceptions and positions related to climate
change. Participants produced five policy options, and formulated research
questions concerning the risks of climate change and feasible social,
economic, cultural and technological responses to it.
Modelling, Uncertainty and Responses to Predictions of Change," A.
Henderson-Sellers, Mitigation & Adaptation Strategies for Global
Change, 1(1), 1-21, 1996.
Development of strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change
is hindered by the mismatch between the predictions of climate change on a
global scale, and the need for information on local-to-regional scales,
which climate models currently cannot deliver. This paper explores the
topic with reference to prediction of land-surface climate, particularly
changes in soil moisture that influence agriculture and natural
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