"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reading List about Climate Change (not "global warming")

Another reason to use the expression "climate change" rather than "global warming" is it's a far more fruitful search term. Amazon's hits on "climate change" are dramatically more useful, though Singer and Michaels do turn up. I discovered this in responding to a query this morning from a nonspecialist about what to read after "Inconvenient Truth" to learn more.

Here's my first pass at a response. Suggestions anyone?
If you have the patience, there is no better source than the IPCC itself, especially working group 1. Start with the summary for policymakers.

Somewhat easier reading is Elizabeth Kolbert's book "Field Notes from a Catastrophe".

There are a couple of other excellent pop science books I know of that give a lot of context:

Snowball Earth by Gabrielle Walker

Update: Some good suggestions in the comments. Also here's a nice Amazon list.

Plows, Plagues and Petroleum by Warren Ruddiman

All of the blogs on my blogroll are well-informed, and they span a spectrum of opinion, so that's another place to start.


Anonymous said...

For an overview, I like Kerry Emanuel's essay in the Boston Review, "Phaeton's Reins". I think it's one of the best general introductions to climate change.

I also like David Archer's textbook Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast. (Oops, it's "global warming", not "climate change".) Though it is a textbook, it's written mostly at the college freshman level and I think is fairly readable to a layman, if they skip any unfamiliar math and skim the dense chapter on atmospheric adsorption physics.

There are also the links compiled in RealClimate's "Start here" post.

Anonymous said...

The Atlas of Climate Change is my favourite for visualising different aspects.

Anonymous said...

"there is no better source than the IPCC itself, especially working group 1"

Michael (if I may use the familiar), you will be pleased to know that 30 out of 51 climate experts, responding to a survey by Armstrong & Green (A&G), cited the IPCC - WG1 as being the "most credible" forecast on global climate. That's the good news.

The bad news is that A&G, two leading experts in the tricky business of forecasting, found that "the forecasts in the IPCC Report are not the outcome of scientific forecasting procedures – rather the Report presents ‘the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing’ [...]. Indeed, in their ‘forecasting audit’ of the IPPC Report, Armstrong and Green found that it violated 72 of the principles of forecasting." Oh dear!

The quote above is from a summary at 'Spiked', here:

A&G's paper can be found here:

It is worth emphasising that A&G have no preconceived views on global warming, they are merely concerned with the methodology, such as it is, of the forecasting techniques used by IPCC authors.

Your more naive readers should remember that forecasting has an almost entirely bad history as A&G remind us with this recitation of headlines from the New York Times over the last 80 years:
"On 18 September 1924: ‘MacMillan Reports Signs of New Ice Age.’ On 27 March 1933: ‘America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776.’ On 21 May 1974: ‘Scientists Ponder Why World’s Climate is Changing: A Major Cooling Widely Considered to be Inevitable.’ [...] ‘Those forecasts were made with a high degree of confidence, too’, he says. ‘Where are they now?"

Indeed, well might thay ask!

Michael Tobis said...

I'll look into your references, David, but your concluding remarks are obviously off base. Did you actually look at Oreskes' presentation?

There was never a 'global cooling' consensus, and climatology as a branch of physics is arguably younger than any of the non-consensus forecasts you cite.

Anonymous said...

No, Michael, I didn't read that particular paper, I was only quoting, via A&G, some NYT headlines.

Also, please, let us not get into a semantic argument over the definition of a "consensus"; nor a scientific one either, the list of stances taken by a 'scientific consensus' on this or that theory which was subsequently proven incorrect is too, too, embarrassing!

Michael Tobis said...

David, what do you mean "too embarassing"? Do you have any instance in a branch of physics?

I remember economists scratching their heads about "stagflation" in the Ford administration, but those aren't physical scientists at all, are they?

Anonymous said...