Newspapers, magazines, and websites frequently publish articles about the level of global warming that is predicted for the remainder of this century. Most of these articles, however, do not explain how scientists actually generate these predictions.
In a recent talk at one of the Friday morning World Affairs meetings at Carolina Meadows, I used my background as a physicist to try to explain this predictive process, and its uncertainties. I tried to accurately explain the scientific process in a way that would be understandable to a nonscientist.
I described the computational gridding method used to generate predictions, the need for supplementary equations, the inherent weaknesses in these supplementary equations, and the suspicion by many leading global warming researchers that one of the major current weakness in their models is the treatment of cloud formation.
I avoided the various public policy options for dealing with the risks of global warming, and focused instead on scientific efforts to improve the supplementary equations. There were numerous quotations from the latest United Nations report, and from recent scientific papers by the directors of several climate research laboratories.
Since my talk, I have been asked to comment on published reports that the Earth’s average temperature reached a new record in 2014. The rate of increase so far this century is still slower than what has been predicted. If the current rate of global temperature increase continues, then the average temperature of the Earth will increase by only 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the entire 21st century.
My personal views? I am making no predictions on what the rate of temperature increase will be for the rest of this century.