William Collins, a climate modeler from the University of California Earth Sciences Division, spoke to forty distinguished scientists from America and Germany about climate change. He said there were many climate models but the one he talked about the most was the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He illustrated the relationships between and within the various agencies and explored the problems of how to encourage people with various committed professional backgrounds and needs to cooperate on this climate model mega-project. Ultimately it always came back to the same basic projections. It didn’t seem to matter very much who was doing the computer simulations or super-computer simulations or super-duper-computer simulations it always came back to the same thing. The Earth is getting warmer, and warmer and warmer. It won’t be too noticeable on a human time scale because the processes are slow but in the hundred year simulated projections things are going to get hot. If you are old now you probably won’t notice much before you die but if you are a sentient teenager and happen to live to your currently projected life expectancy of 80+ years you will experience big changes. In the past climate changes precipitated major social upheavals. Here is the IPCC projection 2001 which hasn’t changed much since that publication.
These are the standard climate projections for the overall temperature change for the planet Earth through the year 2100. Because an additional coal fired power plant is coming on line every 4 days the top curves are the more likely to prove the most prophetic.
I didn’t ask a question at the talk because this was a professional symposium. During the initial remarks by the chairperson it was mentioned that the public was welcome but so far as I could tell I was the only person there who wasn’t a professional climate modeler from a major institution. However, afterward I spoke briefly to Dr. Collins and asked, “Why are all of the modeling curves so very smooth? Why don’t you show some of the simulations that show discontinuities?” He said that that was a good observation and that sometimes the simulations do jump. Perhaps I should ask that question tomorrow to the general audience. I also asked, “What are the climate effects of a major atomic war?” He said that there had been a lot of simulations back in the 1980s about Nuclear Winter. He didn’t say so or even imply so but I got the impression that there hadn’t been any simulations since that time. Computers have gotten much better since the 1980s so perhaps it is time to run those simulations again. I mentioned how grim I was about the future and that I had prepared some scenarios called Lifehavens. He seemed interested but it was time for him to attend to his professional duties.