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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 05/21/2009

MIT Climate Study Garners More Attention

By Andrew Freedman

* Forecast: Warm Sunshine | NatCast | CWG Summer Outlook *

A study in the latest edition of the peer reviewed scientific publication the Journal of Climate shows that, absent effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions, climate change is likely to be much more significant than some previous studies had indicated. As we were the first to report in February, MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change sharply increased its estimates of potential climate change scenarios during the 21st century. The now-published study indicates a median probability of surface warming of 5.2°C (9.2°F) by 2100, with a range of 3.5° to 7.4°C. In a 2003 version of the study by the same group, the median projected increase was just 2.4°C (4.3°F).

An MIT press release stated that the difference between the two studies is due to a combination of factors, including improved economic modeling and newer economic data showing less chance of low emissions than had been projected in the earlier scenarios. The study also accounts for new information on the warming influence of soot, and new information on how the deep oceans are heating up.

Keep reading for more on this study...

The publication in the scientific journal has finally alerted major media outlets to the study, with a Reuters wire story appearing on May 19. Joe Romm at Climate Progress, who blogged about this alongside CWG in February, also posted about the study yesterday as did Andy Revkin at the NY Times. Romm focused on the journal article's finding that median Arctic warming could approach 20°F compared to 1981-2000 average temperatures. That is an astonishing projection of climate change that, if realized, could decimate polar sea and land ice cover.

Warming possibilities for "no policy" and policy scenarios between 1990 and 2100. Size of pie slice indicates the likelihood of a given amount of warming under the different scenarios. Graphics courtesy MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

As CWG cautioned in February, MIT's modeling experiments are not meant to provide precise forecasts of future temperature changes, but rather to serve as what one related MIT study calls "thought experiments" to help policymakers and the public understand how decisions regarding emissions reductions may affect the magnitude of climate change. They show how human activities are loading the dice in favor of a warming climate, and cast doubt on the feasibility of limiting temperature increases to the lower range of what the influential U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected in its most recent assessment report in 2007.

For example, the new study shows that, without emissions reduction policies, there is now a nine percent chance (about one in 11 odds) that the global average surface temperature would increase by more than 7°C (12.6°F) by the end of this century, compared with only a less than one percent chance (one in 100 odds) that warming would be limited to below 3°C (5.4°F).

By Andrew Freedman  | May 21, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, News & Notes  
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Next: PM Update: Clear Skies and Warmth Persist


Mr. Freedman wrote, "In a 2003 version of the study by the same group, the median projected increase was just 2.4°C (4.3°F)"

Did the 2003 "study" (which is a computer model) predict the current global cooling that we are experiencing?

If not, why should we believe that this time the model is correct?

Do you know what the acronym GIGO stands for?

What policies do you propose the United States adopt to reduce CO2 output?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Can you ask MIT to make their complete model and all associated work and documentation available for public download? I would like to take a look at it.

If they don't want to make it publicly available for scrutiny, why should we trust them/it?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Statistically speaking, many of you reading this do not believe in the hypothesis of AGW, man made global warming. I am puzzled why so many of you remain silent. Are you aware of how much this will cost the average American family? $1,500 a year! Are you aware how many jobs will be lost because of this scam? If the current legislation passes, it will destroy 1,105,000 jobs on average, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by over 2,479,000 jobs!

Can you really and truly sit in silence while this happens to your fellow Americans? Can you look yourself in the mirror each day knowing that you did nothing to stop it?

--begin quote--
The economic impact of the new draft varies from that of the original draft in several major ways:

* Compared to no cap and trade, real GDP losses increase an additional $2 trillion, from $7.4 trillion under the original draft to $9.6 trillion under the new draft;
* Compared to no cap and trade, average unemployment increases an additional 261,000 jobs, from 844,000 lost jobs under the original draft to 1,105,000 lost jobs under the new draft; and
* Peak-year unemployment losses rise by 500,000 jobs, from 2 million under the original draft to 2.5 million under the new draft.

Though the proposed legislation would have little impact on world temperatures, it is a massive energy tax in disguise that promises job losses, income cuts, and a sharp left turn toward big government.

Ultimately, this bill would result in government-set caps on energy use that damage the economy and hobble growth--the very growth that supports investment and innovation. Analysis of the economic impact of Waxman-Markey projects that by 2035 the bill would:

* Reduce aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) by $9.6 trillion;
* Destroy 1,105,000 jobs on average, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by over 2,479,000 jobs;
* Raise electricity rates 90 percent after adjusting for inflation;
* Raise inflation-adjusted gasoline prices by 74 percent;
* Raise residential natural gas prices by 55 percent;
* Raise an average family's annual energy bill by $1,500; and
* Increase inflation-adjusted federal debt by 26 percent, or $29,150 additional federal debt per person, again after adjusting for inflation.
--end quote--


Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"As we were the first to report in February"?

I think the MIT researchers were probably the first to report, and you weren't the first blog (11-14-2007), either.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | May 21, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse


The (rather unimportant) discussion regarding the 11-14-2007 blog post you link to is contained within the comments section of our February post. I won't waste folks' time by rehashing it here.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | May 21, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Much better to waste folks' time with an entire post whose only "news" is the fact that a previously reported (18 months ago) result has now been formally published in order to break one's arm patting self on back while never acknowledging any other sources.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | May 21, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q -

i wouldn't trust the Heritage Foundation to put out any independent stats, studies or information.

most especially when it comes to something as complex and scientific as climate change.....and economics for that matter.

if you REALLY want to find out more on the study, look up the information for yourself and request it from MIT -

Posted by: tracy5 | May 21, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse


I trust the Heritage data completely. If you don't, so be it.

I *HAVE* downloaded all available data from MIT. It is incomplete. I debated asking MIT for the info the last time Mr. Freedman posted this column. I decided against it.

Why do the people trying to convince us that AGW is real ***NEVER*** make their data available without a fight??? The skeptics don't do that. They show all of their data without even being asked. And yet the true believers still believe. Apparently there is no amount of behavior or evidence that will convince the believers that AGW is not real.

If MIT's want people to believe their results, they should make available all of their data, all working papers, all documentation, and all code!!! We shouldn't have to beg for it.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I agree with the post that we need more information about the hundreds of underlying assumptions in the computer model. Crystal balls do not exist. When meteorologists can predict weather only 4-5 days in advance, why should we believe climate scientists can predict many years into the future?

I am a Democrat. For the past 20 years I believed global warming was caused by CO2. Now I'm not so sure, after taking an objective look at the wellspring of man-made global warming theory, the United Nations' Climate Change 2007 report. Whereas the report should have considered all possible global warming culprits then narrow the field, it instead removed from consideration the possibility that natural forces might drive global warming. It is little wonder that the report pinned the blame on CO2 when in their own words (p. 95), "The topics have been chosen for...assessing...risks of human-induced climate change." The fix was in. It was politics not science. The mission statement should have read, "Topics have been chosen for assessing risks of human-induced and NATURE-INDUCED climate change." Remember, the UN developed in Kyoto Protocol. They have a vested in demonizing CO2. For further discussion of the report see

Posted by: Rmoen | May 21, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I would like to apologize for the horrible grammar in my previous post. :(

My emotions were high, my fingers were flying and I didn't proofread. Sorry.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"I trust the Heritage data completely."

And there's your problem.

Posted by: JTF- | May 21, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse


Please show a different independent study that lays out the impact of Waxman-Markey. Detail how it differs from the Heritage study.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

"When meteorologists can [sic] predict weather only 4-5 days in advance, why should we believe climate scientists can predict many years into the future?"

Good grief - 15 years into the public debate (the scientific one being long over) on this subject, and we still see this tired red herring floated out there, I guess like a fishing worm hoping to catch a convert who's similarly unsophisticated.

Rmoen, on the off chance that you were sincere in your misleading post, PLEASE acquaint yourself with the difference between weather and climate. Weather is a short term, VERY NOISY signal. It is natural that the weatherman cannot get it right all the time (though they do much better than you've likely convinced yourself - as you forget the 9 times that they are right and remember the one when they were wrong).

Have you ever asked a weatherman to predict whether August will be warmer, on average, than May (in DC)? You wouldn't bother, because the problem is ridiculously simple. There are long range, dominant forces at work in that question - specifically, a known model of the earth's tilt and revolution about the sun.

Climate change projection lies somewhere between the two scenarios above in difficulty. Noise is not such a problem, since larger forces are at work. The reason it's not completely cut-and-dried is that quantification of those underlying forces is not perfect yet. But they know a lot, and all the models are pointing in the same direction.

Confusing long-range climate forecasting with a weekly weather forecast does NOT help inform people, and only brands you as either ignorant or (much worse) deliberately spreading misinformation. And I don't give a hoot if you're a Democrat or simply a run of the mill UN-hating Republican. Your comparison still is an ignorant/misleading one.

Try not to commit any more ignorant or evil acts for the rest of the day, eh?

Posted by: B2O2 | May 21, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

The man made global warming crowd makes you fight to see their data and methodology. But that doesn't alarm the true believers.

An atmospheric chemistry doctoral candidate at the prestigious Harvard University publicly admits that climate scientists should exaggerate (which some call lying) to "assure any political action and thus more federal financing". And the true believers turn a blind eye and cover their ears.

A prominent AGW scientist gets caught committing climate science fraud and the media pushing the AGW hypothesis doesn't say a word. Not a peep. They just quietly ignore it.

And the whole catastrophic whole man made global warming crowd goes right on goose stepping down the AGW yellow brick road.

It would be funny if it didn't directly affect me, my family, and the Country I love.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 21, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I am a bit concerned about the recent MIT study and the significant change in what they found in the earlier report. I wrote on my blog in March
"Finally, a note on the results from an MIT study in Part 5 of my Global Warming/Change series: The MIT Joint Program on Science and Policy of Global Change shows a 50 percent probability of a global temperature rise of about 10 degree with "no policy change" by 2100, which was quite a bit higher than their previous study and quite a bit higher than most other studies and projections. Since this is so much higher than other estimates, I looked at the global climate model used as part of the study and found that the very important climate element of cloud was according to the MIT group atmospheric dynamics component

“The atmospheric model's climate sensitivity can be changed by varying the cloud feedback.”

Clouds and aerosols/haze/pollution are still a bit of a “wild card” in the model simulations. How and which (high, middle, low) clouds will change and increase or decrease in a warming climate is an area of research by many scientists. Varying the cloud feedback of atmospheric models will certainly change model projection results so it would be very helpful for further discussion from the MIT group of how much they feel their results and projections are due to increasing CO2, and how much due to varying the cloud feedback."

Without knowing in detail how they treat the cloud feedback issue and how they treat the inherent uncertainty of the cloud-aerosol issue I guess I would reserve judgement and acceptance of the results showing a 50% chance of global warming of +5 C. In any event changes in precipitation, ice and snow patterns may be more important than a focus on just global temperature. It's really about global change not just "warming" or "climate" alone.

Bob Ryan

Posted by: bobryan1 | May 21, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Bob, thanks for commenting upon this. I had precisely the same concerns of the MIT model and results. Maybe more important here is the nature of the perturbations the MIT group used to generate the 200 different runs (ensemble) which are the source of the probabilities. I'm looking further into this.

For the record, Bob and I are scientists questioning other scientists, which is the way science works. Contrast this with the knee jerk presumption of absolutists on either side of the AGW question that presume their holy than thou righteousness is THE truth.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | May 21, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Bob Ryan: The distribution of climate sensitivity resulting from varying the cloud feedback parameter is explored in Forest et al. ( The aerosol forcing parameter and ocean heat uptake parameters are also varied in a manner that attempts to be consistent with 20th century historical data (eg, if the climate sensitivity is on the high end, it would be expected that either or both of ocean heat uptake and aerosol forcing are high as well, otherwise there would have been more temperature change than has been observed).

Obviously, there are several ways in which the above procedure might not be perfect: no single model can capture structural uncertainty perfectly (though the MIT model has had success at reproducing results from several of the AOGCMs), or the historical data used for the parameter estimation could be inaccurate beyond the known uncertainties. Additionally, future emissions projections have significant uncertainty as well.

However, these uncertain elements that may not be captured in this study can cut both ways: perhaps methane permafrost or Arctic sea ice melt feedbacks are stronger than the model predicts, perhaps BAU emissions will be higher, perhaps the corrections to the Levitus ocean heat data set would result in historical parameter matching that would lead to even warmer future scenarios.

I do agree that changes in precipitation patterns and other climatic characteristics may be even more important to human welfare than raw temperature changes: however, those climate system changes are likely to be in some way proportional to the raw temperature changes, and until we can predict precipitation and other variables with confidence at high resolutions, we have to make decisions based on large scale temperature changes, which, while still quite uncertain, are better understood.

Posted by: marcusmarcus | May 21, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse


Many thanks for the reference which I'll sure look at. Not sure I agree that the precipitation pattern changes will be proportional to the raw temperature changes. The high arctic is probably still going to be a climatalogical precipitation "desert" even with a significant rise in average temperatures.

Bob Ryan

Posted by: bobryan1 | May 21, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Studies published by the Heritage Foundation generally carry a right-wing bias and may be expected to favor those who don't believe in "global warming" to begin with. This is also known as the "anti-Gore" position.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | May 21, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman,

Did you ask MIT to make -
* all documentation
* all working notes
* and all source code available?

How is that going?

If they won't make their underlying research publicly available, why should anyone trust them and their results?

Mr. Q.

PS. I was impressed with the way so many of you are able to completely ignore the intentional lying and scientific fraud of your colleagues. Well done. And I am also impressed at the way you ignore the fact that so many AGW believers/scientists refuse to release their data and methodology/code. Nothing to see here. ;)

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 22, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Hi Bob Ryan:

Sorry, I was using imprecise language: by "proportional" I meant that any given change is likely to be larger if the underlying global mean temperature change is larger. Eg, in areas where AGW will lead to increased precip, more warming should lead to more precip. In areas where AGW will lead to less precip, more warming should lead to even less precip. In areas where AGW lead to changes in distribution of precip over time (eg, more intense events followed by longer dry periods) those pattern changes should become more pronounced.

I'm sure there are exceptions to the above rule, but for the most part it should be a good rule of thumb.


Posted by: marcusmarcus | May 22, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

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