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Monday, March 2, 2009

Burning Embers Strike Again

A new study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has produced an update of the famous "burning embers" diagram of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Third Assessment Report (TAR). The update is generating much chatter suggesting this provides evidence of that climate change and its consequences are more severe than was presented in either the TAR or the Fourth Assessment Report.
Such a determination would appear to be based more upon the subjective valuation of the literature rather than the literature itself. For example, the authors of the study state,

"This [updated diagram] is based on our expert judgment about new findings in the growing literature since the publication of the TAR in 2001, including literature that was assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), as well as additional research published since AR4. Compared with results reported in the TAR, smaller increases in GMT are now estimated to lead to significant or substantial consequences in the framework of the 5 ‘‘reasons for concern.’’

So while the scientific communities concern regarding the potential implications of climate change has increased, it's not entirely clear whether this is a function of changing values, a growing willingness among researchers to pursue advocacy, or a greater certainty regarding how climate will affect the Earth system.

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