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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d96dec1

"Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method," G.C. Hegerl, (Max Planck Inst. Meteor., Bundestr. 55, D-21046 Hamburg, Ger.), J. Clim., 9(10), 2281-2306, Oct. 1996.

This study attempts to detect anthropogenic climate change in the observational record of near-surface temperatures by trying to identify as a "fingerprint" the spatial and temporal changes in temperature that are expected to characterize anthropogenic change, should it be present. A coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation model is used, both to estimate the fingerprint and to estimate natural climatic variability. The estimate of natural variability is then used to statistically modify (optimize) the fingerprint to reduce the confounding influence of random fluctuations.

The null hypothesis, that the latest observed 20-year and 30-year trend of near-surface temperature (ending in 1994) is part of natural climate variability, is rejected with a risk of less than 2.5%-5%. However, to attribute the observed warming uniquely to anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing, more information is needed on the climate's response to other forcing mechanisms (e.g., changes in solar radiation, or volcanic or anthropogenic sulfate aerosols) and their interactions. Furthermore, the estimate of internal (natural) climate variability is still uncertain. With these caveats, the conclusion remains that a statistically significant, externally induced warming has been observed.

Item #d96dec2

Two related items in Science, 272(5264), May 17, 1996:

"Stratospheric Control of Climate," A. Robock (Dept. Meteor., Univ. Maryland, College Park MD 20742; e-mail:, 972-973. For many decades, statistical evidence has suggested a possible link between solar activity and weather and climate, but there has been no physical mechanism identified. The following paper identifies a possible mechanism, using a climate model with a sophisticated representation of stratospheric processes. Such new tools will lead to further progress understanding climatic variations.

"The Impact of Solar Variability on Climate," J.D. Haigh (Space & Atmos. Physics, Imperial College of Science, Technol. & Med., London SW7 2BZ, UK), 981-984. Used a global atmospheric model that simulates changes in solar irradiance and stratospheric ozone to investigate the response of the atmosphere to the 11-year solar activity cycle. At solar maximum, a warming of the summer stratosphere was found to strengthen easterly winds, leading to changes in tropospheric circulation similar to those observed in nature. Since the simulation of ozone changes was a key factor, these results imply that changes in stratospheric ozone brought about by any other means (such as destruction by CFCs) may also have an impact on tropospheric climate.

Item #d96dec3

"Comments on the Marketing of Science: Users Are a Key—An Example of the Value of Scientific Information," S.A. Chagnon (Illinois State Water Survey, 2204 Griffith Dr., Champaign IL 61820), Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77(11), 2729-2735, Nov. 1996.

Follows up on an article (Pielke & Glanz, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., pp. 2445-2458, 1995) which concluded that adequate and continuing evidence in support of major science programs is usually not presented. Chagnon states that a pivotal issue involves engaging the users (at state, federal and private levels) and the scientific participants well in advance, during, and after a program concludes. Some techniques the Illinois Water Survey has used include delivery of information and services the users deem valuable, building networks or partnerships with science leaders at all levels, and demonstrating, in a form meaningful to the user, the potential economic, policy or environmental benefits.

Uses the diversion of Great Lakes water at Chicago to the Mississippi River as an excellent post hoc illustration of the enormous problems created when inadequate data and scientific misunderstanding prevail. For the first quarter of this century, a definitive understanding of the relationship between meteorological and hydrological conditions was lacking. Defenders and opponents of the project blamed falling lake levels on either the weather or on the diversion itself. On four occasions this project was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Chagnon concludes that decision makers and scientists should realize that most of the value of science in this context depends on trust earned through effectively integrating user communities in the scientific process.

Item #d96dec4

"Rationalizing Environmental Responsibilities—A Comparison of Lay Publics in the UK and the Netherlands," C.M. Harrison (Dept. Geog., Univ. College, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP, UK), J. Burgess, P. Filius, Global Environ. Change, 6(3), 215-234, July 1996.

This cross-cultural study in both countries draws on household surveys and single-gender discussion groups. The Dutch sample shows a higher level of pro-environmental behavior on all indicators. The key constraints inhibiting fuller acceptance of personal responsibility in both countries are: (1) the extent to which individuals are able to judge the validity of environmental rhetoric and expert claims; (2) the increasingly confused nature of environmental "truths," which encourages cynicism and doubt; and (3) the extent of a trustful relationship between citizens and government, in which both parties acknowledge their rights and responsibilities.

Item #d96dec5

"TNCs [TransNational Corporations] and Global Environmental Change—A Review of the UN Benchmark Corporate Environmental Survey," P. Robbins (Dept. Sociol., London Sch. of Econ. & Political Sci., Houghton St., London WC2A 2AE, UK), ibid., 235-244.

Analyzes a U.N. survey of environment management practices of TNCs, to better understand the relationship between the global capitalist system and global environmental change. The analysis, based on previously proposed concepts on the sociology of the global system, suggests how different types of TNCs respond to global environmental change issues. Poses questions for further sociological analysis of TNCs in global environmental change.

Item #d96dec6

"Security Risks of Global Environmental Changes," R. Swart (Natl. Inst. Public Health & Environ. Protect.-RIVM, POB 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, Neth. (tel: 31 30 749111; fax: 31 30 742971), ibid., 187-192.

Recent analysis suggests that the environment is very important, in addition to political, social and economic factors, in bringing about civil strife. This article considers possible future developments of the environment as related to causes of social instability and conflict, by analyzing the conventional development scenario of the Stockholm Environmental Institute, which by 2050 leads to a doubling of world population and a quadrupling of GDP. Depending upon future events, this scenario can lead to increased or decreased environmental security risks.

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