Saturday, October 31, 2009

Interesting perspective on climate models

Over the last 100 years global temperatures have definitely been on the rise. So have greenhouse gas emissions. Theories have been developed linking the two. With greenhouse gas emissions on a steady upward trajectory as a larger part of the world joins the industrial age, soundfront lots on the coast might one day be oceanfront.

But climate models come in all kinds of different flavors and WSJ gave an interesting peak into their inner workings yesterday. The warming trend has flattened over the last 10 years, but the consensus among most climate scientists is that this is a mere blip before warming resumes. The models disagree on the role of such factors as changing ocean currents and cloud cover.

Why am I blogging about a discipline where I admittedly have zero technical expertise? One reason -- the parallel to economic models. Most macro models of the US economy use data that goes back 50-60 years; models for other countries go back much less because of data limitations. Models estimated over sustained periods of rising housing prices have difficulty predicting drops in those prices. Faulty models of housing were fed into models for financial markets and you know the rest of that story. It would be helpful to have a more open discussion about the uncertainty about climate forecasts in the coming months.

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