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Statement of Richard Lindzen, May 2, 2001
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years, and the very warm climates of the Miocene, Eocene, and Cretaceous. Neither do they do well at accounting for shorter period and less dramatic phenomena like El Ninos, quasi-biennial oscillations, or intraseasonal oscillations all of which are well documented in the data.
that major past climate changes were either uncorrelated with changes in CO2 or were characterized by temperature changes which preceded changes in CO2 by 100's to thousands of years.
that increases in temperature on the order of IF are not catastrophic and may be beneficial.
that Kyoto, fully implemented, will have little detectable impact on climate regardless of what one expects for warming. This is partly due to the fact that Kyoto will apply only to developed nations. Ilowever, if one expected large global warming, even the extension of Kyoto to developing nations would still leave one with large warming.
None of the above points to catastrophic consequences from increasing CO2. Most point towards, and all are consistent with minimal impacts. Moreover, the last item provides a definitive disconnect between Kyoto and science. Should a catastrophic scenario prove correct, Kyoto will not prevent it. If we view Kyoto as an insurance policy, it is a policy where the premium appears to exceed the potential damages, and where the coverage extends to only a small fraction of the potential damages. Does anyone really want this? I suspect not. Given the rejection of the extensive US concessions at the Hague, it would appear that the Europeans do not want the treaty, but would prefer that the US take the blame for ending the foolishness. As a practical matter, a large part of the response to any climate change, natural or anthropogenic, will be adaptation, and that adaptation is best served by wealth.
Our own research suggests the presence of a major negative feedback involving clouds and water vapor, where models have completely failed to simulate observations (to the point of getting the sign wrong for crucial dependences). If we are right, then models are greatly exaggerating sensitivity to increasing CO2. Even if we are not right (which is always possible in science; for example, IPCC estimates of warming trends for the past twenty years were almost immediately acknowledged to be wrong so too were claims for arctic ice thinning), the failure of models to simulate observations makes it even less likely that models are a reliable tool for predicting climate.
This brings one to what is probably the major point of disagreement:
Can one trust computer climate models to correctly predict the response to increasing CO2?
As the accompanying cartoon suggests, our experience with weather forecasts is not particularly encouraging though it may be argued that the prediction of gross climate changes is not as demanding as predicting the detailed weather. Even here, the situation is nuanced. From the perspective of the precautionary principle, it suffices to believe that the existence of a computer prediction of an adverse situation means that such an outcome is possible rather than correct in order to take 'action.' Th burden of proof has shifted to proving that the computer prediction is wrong. Such an approach effectively deprives society of science's capacity to solve problems and answer questions. Unfortunately, the incentive structure in today's scientific enterprise contributes to this impasse. Scientists associate public recognition of the relevance of their subject with support, and relevance has come to be identified with alarming the public. It is only human for scientists to wish for support and recognition, and the broad agreement among scientists that climate change is a serious issue must be viewed from this human perspective. Indeed, public perceptions have significantly influenced the science itself. Meteorologists, oceanographers, hydrologists and others at MIT have all been redesignated climate scientists indicating the degree to which scientists have hitched their futures to this issue.
That said, it has become common to deal with the science by referring to the IPCC 'scientific
Statement of Richard Lindzen, May 2, 2001
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understand the issue or to respond to scientific questions; it also effectively intimidates most citizens. However, the invocation of the IPCC is more a mantra than a proper reflection on that flawed document. The following points should be kept in mind. (Note that almost all reading and coverage of the IPCC is restricted to the highly publicized Summaries for Policymakers which are written by representatives from governments, NGO's and business; the full reports, written by participating scientists, are largely ignored.) In what follows, I will largely restrict myself to the report of Working Group I (on the science). Working Groups II and III dealt with impacts and responses.
The media reports rarely reflect what is actually in the Summary. The media generally replace the IPCC range of 'possible' temperature increases with 'as much as' the maximum despite the highly unlikely nature of the maximum. The range, itself, assumes, unjustifiably, that at least some of the computer models must be correct. However, there is evidence that even the bottom of the range is an overestimate. (A recent study at MIT found that the likelihood of actual change being smaller than the IPCC lower bound was 17 times more likely than that the upper range would even be reached, and even this study assumed natural variability to be what computer models predicted, thus exaggerating the role of anthropogenic forcing.) The media report storminess as a consequence despite the admission in the summary of no such observed relation. To be sure, the summary still claims that such a relation may emerge despite the fact that the underlying physics suggests the opposite. The media's emphasis on increased storminess, rising sea levels, etc. is based not on any science, but rather on the fact that such features have more graphic impact than the rather small increases in temperature. People who have experienced day and night and winter and summer have experienced far greater changes in temperature, and retirement to the sun belt rather than the Northwest Territory represents an overt preference for warmth.
The summary does not reflect the full document (which still has not been released although it was basically completed last August). For example, I worked on Chapter 7, Physical Processes. This chapter dealt with the nature of the basic processes which determine the response of climate, and found numerous problems with model treatments especially with clouds and water vapor. The chapter was summarized with the following sentence: "Understanding of climate processes and their incorporation in climate models have improved, including water vapour, sea-ice dynamics, and ocean heat transport."
The vast majority of participants played no role in preparing the summary, and were not asked for agreement.
The draft of the Policymakers Summary was significantly modified at Shanghai. The IPCC, in response to the fact that the Policymakers Summary was not prepared by participating scientists, claimed that the draft of the Summary was prepared by a (selected) subset of the 14 coordinating lead authors. However, the final version of the summary differed significantly from the draft. For example the draft concluded the following concerning attribution:
From the body of evidence since IPCC (1996), we conclude that there has been a discernible human influence on global climate. Studies are beginning to separate the contributions to observed climate change attributable to individual external influences, both anthropogenic and natural. This work suggests that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are a substantial contributor to the observed warming, especially over the past 30 years. However, the accuracy of these estimates continues to be limited by uncertainties in estimates of internal variability, natural and anthropogenic forcing, and the climate response to external forcing.
The version that emerged from Shanghai concludes instead:
In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of
Statement of Richard Lindzen, May 2, 2001
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In point of fact, there may not have been any significant warming in the last 60 years. Moreover, such warming as may have occurred was associated with jumps that are inconsistent with greenhouse warming.
The preparation of the report, itself, was subject to pressure. There were usually several people working on every few pages. Naturally there were disagreements, but these were usually hammered out in a civilized manner. However, throughout the drafting sessions, IPCC 'coordinators' would go around insisting that criticism of models be toned down, and that 'motherhood' statements be inserted to the effect that models might still be correct despite the cited faults. Refusals were occasionally met with ad hominem attacks. I personally witnessed coauthors forced to assert their 'green' credentials in defense of their statements.
None of the above should be surprising. The IPCC was created to support the negotiations concerning CO2 emission reductions. Although the press frequently refers to the hundreds and even thousands of participants as the world's leading climate scientists, such a claim is misleading on several grounds. First, climate science, itself, has traditionally been a scientific backwater. There is little question that the best science students traditionally went into physics, math and, more recently, computer science. Thus, speaking of "thousands" of the world's leading climate scientists is not especially meaningful. Even within climate science, most of the top researchers (at least in the US) avoid the IPCC because it is extremely time consuming and non-productive. Somewhat ashamedly I must admit to being the only active participant in my department. None of this matters a great deal to the IPCC. As a UN activity, it is far more important to have participants from a hundred countries many of which have almost no active efforts in climate research. For most of these participants, involvement with the IPCC gains them prestige beyond what would normally be available, and these, not surprisingly, are likely to be particularly supportive of the IPCC. Finally, judging from the Citation Index, the leaders of the IPCC process like Sir John Houghton, Dr. Robert Watson, and Prof. Bert Bolin have never been major contributors to basic climate research. They are, however, enthusiasts for the negotiating process without which there would be no IPCC, which is to say that the IPCC represents an interest in its own right. Of course, this hardly distinguishes the IPCC from other organizations.
The question of where do we go from here is an obvious and important one. From my provincial perspective, an important priority should be given to figuring out how to support and encourage science (and basic science underlying climate in particular) while removing incentives to promote alarmism. The benefits of leaving future generations a better understanding of nature would far outweigh the benefits (if any) of ill thought out attempts to regulate nature in the absence of such understanding. With respect to any policy, the advice given in the 1992 report of the NRC, Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming, remains relevant: carry out only those actions which can be justified independently of any putative anthropogenic global warming. Here, I would urge that even such actions not be identified with climate unless they can be shown to significantly impact the radiative forcing of climate. On neither ground independent justification or climatic relevance is Kyoto appropriate.
SOME COMMENTS ON S.1008:
AMENDMENTS TO THE ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 1992 TO DEVELOP
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD BY
RECORD FOR THE JULY 18, 2001 HEARING ON S.1008
Submitted July 25, 2001
My name is John P. Holdren and I am a professor at Harvard in both the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Since 1996 I have directed the Kennedy School's Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy, and for 23 years before that I co-led the interdisciplinary graduate program in Energy and Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. Also germane to the topic of the July 18 hearing, I was a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and served as chairman of the 1995 PCAST study of "The U.S. Program of Fusion Energy Research and Development", the 1997 PCAST study of “Federal Energy Research and Development for the Challenges of the 21st Century", and the 1999 PCAST study of “Powerful Partnerships: The Federal Role in International Cooperation on Energy Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment". A more complete biographical sketch is appended to this statement.
My work at Harvard on energy R&D policy and climate policy over the past five years has been funded, in various combinations, by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Energy Foundation, the Heinz Family Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Packard Foundation, and the Winslow Foundation. The opinions I will offer here are my own and not necessarily those of these funders or of the other organizations with which I am or have been associated. This written statement draws on and supplements testimonies on energy policy that I presented to other Congressional hearings earlier this year and last year (1-3), as well as an article I wrote on energy strategy in the Spring issue of Issues in Science and Technology (4) and a review of the PCAST energy studies and their impact that I wrote with a colleague for publication in Annual Review of Energy and the Environment this fall (5). I regret that a conflict with my previously scheduled testimony at another Senate hearing (6) prevented my testifying in person at the hearing on S.1008 on July 18. I am grateful for the opportunity to submit this statement for the record.
Climate Change Risks
I find S. 1008 to be a well conceived, well drafted, timely, and important piece of legislation. Many of the thrusts of the bill -- particularly (a) recognition of the key role of technological innovation in energy in ameliorating greenhouse-gas-related risks to the stability of global climate, (b) commitment to a substantial increase in Federal funding of energy R&D, (c) increased focusing of the Federal R&D effort on possibilities for breakthrough technologies, (d) creation of mechanisms for greater coordination of energy-related research and development across agencies and sectors, and (e) commitment to an enhanced degree of international cooperation and coordination with respect to energy-technology innovation that can abate climate-change risks -- parallel some of the main findings and recommendations of the three energy R&D studies I chaired for PCAST in the late 1990s (7-9). I hope that something very much like this bill will be enacted into law.
Holdren Statement for the Record on S.1008. 25 July 2001 • page 2
The bill's language is correct in saying that continuation of the current trajectory of greenhouse-gas emissions would be inconsistent with the goal of "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” -a goal embodied in international law in a treaty (the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change) to which the United States is a full party. The language is also correct in saying that achieving this goal will require transformative changes in the U.S. and world energy systems...changes that can only be achieved in a timely way and at tolerable cost through a substantial acceleration of the pace of energy-technology innovation. These propositions are underpinned by the 2001 climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (10), the U.S. Global Change Research Program report late last year on climatechange impacts on the United States (11), the recent National Academy of Sciences review of key questions in climate science (12), and the PCAST reports mentioned above (7-9), among many others.
While there is as yet no formal or informal agreement on the appropriate target level for stabilization of greenhouse-gas concentrations, I believe that the growing evidence of harmful impacts already being experienced, plus increasingly persuasive simulations of impacts to be expected under higher concentrations, suggest that a target equivalent to a doubling of the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide, or less, will ultimately be agreed. If one assumes for the sake of a simple thought experiment that the net cooling effect of anthropogenic particulate matter in the atmosphere just offsets the warming effects of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and that the target is specified, accordingly, as not exceeding a doubling of the preindustrial concentration of CO2 itself, then it is easy to show that a "business as usual” trajectory for the 21st century in respect to growth of the world population (reaching 11.1 billion in 2100), growth of per capita economic activity (averaging 1.8% per year in real terms), and reduction in energy intensity of economic activity (declining at 1% per year throughout the century) would require that non-CO2-emitting forms of energy supply would need to grow fifteen-fold between 2000 and 2100 in order to meet the target. If the rate of improvement of energy efficiency (rate of decline of energy intensity) is twice the business as usual figure -- that is, if it averages 2% per year over the whole century -- a three-fold growth in non-CO2-emitting energy supply would still be required during the 21st century (from 100 exajoules of nuclear energy and renewables in 2000 to 300 exajoules of these sources -- plus CO2-sequestering fossil-fuel technologies -- in 2100).
These figures underline the size of the challenge for advanced energy technologies - those that can increase the rate of improvement of energy efficiency and those that can expand the carbon-free energy supply. This challenge is immense, and far beyond what is likely to achieved at anything like current rates of private and public investment in research, development, demonstration, and deployment of such technologies.
Energy R&D Investments
In FY1997 -- the base year for the 1997 PCAST study of "Federal Energy R&D for the Challenges of the 21st Century" (8) -- Federal budget authority for applied energy-technology R&D ( that is, R&D focused specifically on developing or improving technologies for harnessing fossil fuels, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, renewable energy sources, and increased efficiency of energy end use) totaled about $1.3 billion. Correcting for inflation, this was precisely what the country had been spending for applied energy
* The "energy R&D" line in DOE's budget contains a number of other categories that bring the FY1997 total to almost $2.9 billion. These include Basic Energy Sciences (which includes research in materials science, chemistry, applied mathematics, biosciences, geosciences, and engineering that is not directed at developing any particular class of energy sources), biomedical and environmental research, radioisotope power sources for spacecraft, and some energy management and conservation programs that are not actually R&D at all. The PCAST97 focus was primarily on the applied energy-technology R&D component, although one recommendation did