When discussing climate change I try to make complicated issues simple to understand for the layman. Before I get into this deeper article that covers a recently published book that outlines why the pace of climate change is being drastically underestimated let me give you a quick analogy. One of the main reasons that climate change is so difficult to estimate is because of the fact that “the more ice melts, the faster it melts.” It sounds simple, and in reality it is, if we can visualize a smaller example than the entire earth. Think of the melting ice at the poles in the same manner as ice melting in a cooler or your freezer. If you leave the lid or door open, then the temperature gets warmer and the ice starts melting. The less ice there is, the warmer it gets and the faster the ice melts. This is in a nutshell, is why it is so difficult to measure the speed at which the climate is changing. Now, let’s get into more scientific aspects of measuring climate change.
The Met Office is the United Kingdom’s national weather service. It is an executive agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy led by CEO, Penelope Endersby, who took on the role as Chief Executive in December 2018, the first woman to do so. The office recently stated that the historical analysis of sea surface temperature (SST), is off on its temperature measurements by .18 degrees Fahrenheit. The readings were off due to antiquated techniques of measuring that have been done for years using thermometers wrapped in lamb’s wool and canvas bags that were placed in open buckets! This method was used until the 1990s when a modern system of consistent buoys was developed and implemented by oceanographers.
Next, in order to make up for the mistakes in the previous measurements and bring them into alignment with the newer readings a new data set was created by the Hadley Centre. This data set, called the HadSST4 is a major improvement over the old one and its ability to account for the fact that oceans cover 3/5 of the planet show that previous warming estimates have been far too low. In fact, in one area where the warming has been measured accurately, the underwater warming that is causing ice sheets and glaciers to disintegrate is happening twice as fast as previous theories predicted.
Naomi Oreskes, Michael Oppenheimer, and Dale Jamieson agree that these recent adjustments show that the impacts are greater and happening faster than what was thought before. The findings by the Hadley Centre and other colleagues of the previously mentioned scientists show a consistent pattern that underestimates key climate factors that in turn underestimate how quickly the threat of climate disruption will be upon us. In short, the newer the data, the worse the news on sea ice, sea level rise and rising ocean temperatures. These new findings prove that the accusations of the climate change skeptics and deniers that scientists have been exaggerating climate change threats are false. The truth is that climate change scientists have been UNDERESTIMATING the effects of climate change due to improper measurement techniques.
The authors mentioned above write about how scientific assessments come into being and how the scientists working on the assessments come to the conclusions they do in their new book entitled, Discerning Experts. The book also examines how scientists deal with the pressure of knowing that the conclusions of their findings will be released publicly, far beyond the research community. In a perfect world scientific evidence that has been proven to be sound and of high quality should be guide the public policy of our leaders. Unfortunately, that is not what is occurring presently with many scientists resigning public posts due to prejudice or outright denial of their ability to post their findings publicly.
As the book shows, there was no evidence found of scientists committing any malfeasance, fraud or deliberate manipulation of data. There was also no indication that the assessments made by the scientists did not express the views of the expert communities accurately. What was shown is that if anything, scientists underestimate how severe the threats may be as well as how quickly they may occur.