Oxford scientists have challenged the value of studies that try to calculate the effects of increased levels of carbon dioxide on the climate.
In this week’s ‘Science’ magazine, Dr Myles Allen and Dr Dave Frame argue that placing an upper limit on climate sensitivity is difficult and less relevant to environmental policy-making than is often assumed.
“No one denies that quantifying climate system feedbacks is a crucial part of our attempts to understand the climate change problem,” said Dr Myles Allen of Oxford University's Department of Physics, “but putting an upper bound on climate sensitivity has become something of a Holy Grail for climate researchers. What we are suggesting is that this may not be possible or very helpful.”
Drs Allen and Frame suggest that the biggest mistake would be to place a fixed limit on carbon dioxide levels too early on, without leaving room for adapting to new research. Dr Allen said, “Providing our descendants have the good sense to adapt their policies to the emerging climate change signal they probably won't care about how sensitive our climate is because they will have been smart enough to limit the damage.”