Tag Archives: climate sensitivity

Can we zero-in on Earth’s sensitivity to CO₂?

Enlarge (credit: Kristin Andrus)

If it were easy to pin down the exact value for our planet’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas emission, it would have been done a long time ago—and you wouldn’t be reading yet another news story about it. It’s not like we have no idea how sensitive the climate is. The range of possible values that scientists have been able to narrow it down to only spans from “climate change is very bad news” to “climate change is extremely bad news.”

But the difference between “very bad” and “extremely bad” is pretty important, so climate scientists aren’t throwing up their hands any time soon—as two new studies published this week show.

There are several basic strategies available for calculating the climate’s sensitivity.

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Once more with feeling: Climate models don’t exaggerate warming

Enlarge (credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio and NASA Center for Climate Simulation)

If you follow climate science news, you know that one of the hotter topics is “climate sensitivity”—the precise amount of warming you get for a given increase of greenhouse gases. A few years ago, a couple papers caused a stir by trying to estimate this sensitivity based on simple equations for the recent past, coming up with a lower warming sensitivity than numerous other studies based on climate models or paleoclimate records. The last IPCC report even widened its estimated range slightly to encompass these studies, which proved controversial.

Researchers have already found reasons to think those low sensitivity estimates were problematic, including the fact that the simplistic, global representations of warming and

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