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Climate change may be more severe than previously expected

Dan Farber, professor of law | November 9, 2012

The Washington Post reports on a new study with grim implications about climate change.  The study suggests that temperature increases by the end of the century will be at the upper end of predictions — 8°F.  (Keep in mind that this is the global average — the change will be lower over the oceans but higher on land, and lower in the tropics than in temperate and polar regions.) The result would be “drastically higher seas, disappearing coastlines and more severe droughts, floods and other destructive weather.”

The study showed that climate models with the higher-end predictions were also those that more accurately predicted changes in tropical humidity.  That’s a key factor in tropical cloud formation, which in turn is a key factor in modeling future temperatures.

Those of us who are not climate scientists are not in a good position to directly evaluate the study.  It will be appearing in Science, which means that it has been rigorously peer-reviewed. That suggests it should be taken seriously.

Any one study is only part of the on-going process of scientific research, so it would be a mistake to embrace it as gospel.  This study should, however, lead us to add more weight to the likelihood of severe rather than moderate climate change by 2100.

Isn’t it time to get serious about limiting carbon emissions?

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.