Sir John Beddington has published a new report that addresses "International Dimensions of Climate Change". The lead author team includes BH regular Richard Betts.
The headlines are going to be grabbed by the reports call for climate disasters overseas to be used as a lever for introduction of unpopular policy measures in the UK:
The onset of more severe climate impacts overseas may also open up temporary opportunities, or ‘policy windows’. These would allow legislators the licence to take specific bold actions which they ordinarily believe would not otherwise be possible or politically acceptable...
Given that individual weather events cannot be linked to climate change, this does make the report look (a) very political and (b) highly unscientific, but there is in fact much more in the report with which to take issue. For example, this is paragraph 2 of the Executive Summary:
Climate change is expected to act as a ‘risk multiplier’, interacting with other trends. It is likely to make it even more difficult to address poverty, disease, and food and water insecurity. In particular, rising temperatures and changing patterns of precipitation may affect the availability of food (including crops and livestock) and water, leading to more hunger and increased volatility in food prices, and heightened regional tensions, affecting international stability and security. An increased frequency of extreme weather events may adversely affect human health, disrupt the flow of natural resources and commodities, and threaten global infrastructure for transport and energy. Moreover, the inherent uncertainty of these various impacts is likely to increase risks significantly in the business and financial sectors.
I find this hard to equate with my knowledge of climate projections. If the world is going to get (a) warmer and (b) wetter then the impacts are most likely to be rather benign. In what way can there therefore be an expectation that things will get worse? And where are the expressions of uncertainty?
But again, it's the invoking of extreme weather that catches the eye. Here's what the IPCC had to say on the subject:
A synthesis of the model results to date indicates that, for a future warmer climate, coarse-resolution models show few consistent changes in tropical cyclones, with results dependent on the model, although those models do show a consistent increase in precipitation intensity in future storms. Higher-resolution models that more credibly simulate tropical cyclones project some consistent increase in peak wind intensities, but a more consistent projected increase in mean and peak precipitation intensities in future tropical cyclones. There is also a less certain possibility of a decrease in the number of relatively weak tropical cyclones, increased numbers of intense tropical cyclones and a global decrease in total numbers of tropical cyclones.
When we read the IPCC's words, the use of extreme weather as a bogeyman by Sir John and his team looks highly incongruous. There is certainly no sense of the uncertainties being portrayed to the reader, which is odd given that Sir John Beddington was one of those who criticised "some scientists" for exaggerating the effects of global warming.
The report is clearly going to provide a great deal of entertainment. Please, however, resist the temptation to rant or make rash accusations.