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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 #d97dec1

"Uncertainties in Projections of Human-Caused Climate Warming," J.D. Mahlman (NOAA/GFDL, POB 308, Princeton NJ 08542; e-mail:,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.

Item #d97dec2

"Can 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.

Item #d97dec3

"How the Public Views Climate Change," W. Kempton (College of Marine Studies, Univ. Delaware, Newark DE 19716; e-mail:, 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 effectively.

Item #d97dec4

"Climate, Ecology, and Human Health," P.R. Epstein (Harvard Medical Sch., Boston, Mass.; e-mail:, Consequences, 3(2), 3-19, 1997. (See

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 future.

Item #d97dec5

"Arctic Environmental Change of the Last Four Centuries," J. Overpeck (Paleoclim. Prog., NGDC/NOAA, 325 Broadway, Boulder CO 80303; e-mail:, 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.

Item #d97dec6

"Climate-Change 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 policy options.

Item #d97dec7

"Evaluating Climate Change 1995," Environment, 39(9), Nov. 1997. Three review-essays on the three components of the latest IPCC assessment:

The Science of Climate Change, reviewed by W.C. Clark (Kennedy Sch. Govt., Harvard Univ.) and J. J?ger, 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.

Item #d97dec8

"Global 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.

Item #d97dec9

"On Forging a Consensus," P.D. Jones (Clim. Res. Unit., Univ. E. Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK), Environment, 39(9), 42-43, Nov. 1997.

A critical comment on the views of Patrick Michaels and other greenhouse skeptics.

Item #d97dec10

Two 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.

Item #d97dec11

"Effects 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, Nov. 1997.

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.

Item #d97dec12

"Motorization 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:, 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.

Item #d97dec13

Comment 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.)

Item #d97dec14

"How 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 item.)

Item #d97dec15

"Climate 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. 1997.)

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.

Item #d97dec16

"Climate 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 ecosystems.

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