Monday, September 20, 2010

Climate change has become "disconnected from sound science;" to the major questions we can only say, "We don't know"

By Bill Frezza, aa partner at Adams Capital Management, an early-stage venture capital firm

I just got back from an extraordinary presentation aptly titled "A Change in Climate: A Fresh Approach to Climate Science." If you're one of those people appalled by the politicization of science by celebrities, congressmen, and the Nobel Committee, I highly recommend you take a look at the work of Professors Kerry Emanuel and Daniel Rothman at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT.

Kerry and Dan are neither climate change zealots nor global warming deniers. In fact, they are not even in the business of making climate predictions. In their view the wildly varying climate forecasts spit out by hugely complex black-box computer models have not only become disconnected from sound science but have drawn all the money and talent away from the critical challenge of trying to understand how basic climate mechanisms work.

Why does carbon dioxide and temperature covary as they do in glacial cycles? We don't know.

What causes the deep meridional overturning of the ocean, redistributing heat around the planet? We don't know.

What accounts for the apparent stability of biogeochemical cycles? We don't know.

Are two or more statistically stable climate states possible for the same climate forcing conditions, such as solar radiation and atmospheric composition? We don't know.

We may have a good idea why the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has been increasing over the past 100 years but why has it been generally declining over the last 50 million years? We don't know.

Kerry and Dan assert that the predictive power of climate models has plateaued and is not likely to improve until questions like these are answered. Worse, over-reliance on computer models to drive draconian energy policy that threatens to dislocate huge swaths of the global economy has helped contribute to a major loss of credibility for the entire field of climate science.

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