Many television meteorologists question manmade climate change, including ones certified by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The society’s statement on climate change is now more than five years old, overdue for a revision.
A few months ago, members of Forecast the Facts called on the AMS to pass a strong, science-based information statement on climate change. After months of delay, the AMS has finally completed a draft statement. The draft is only viewable by AMS members. Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has read the statement and offers his opinion below. — Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts.
From James Hansen:
As a climate scientist, I know that there’s a huge gap between what scientists understand about climate change and what the public knows. And when TV meteorologists get the science wrong, it just furthers public confusion.
The American Meteorological Society has an important role to play in clearing up the confusion by giving clear guidance to their members. I’m pleased to say that their new climate change statement is largely in line with current science, but there is an important caveat, as I will explain. Here’s what I saw when I read the statement:
— Overall, the statement is stronger than the AMS’ 2007 statement. The previous statement emphasized uncertainties and natural causes for climate change. By contrast, the new statement makes the unequivocal case for human-induced climate change.
— The draft statement defends the merits of climate models as a tool for understanding climate change. This is important, because TV meteorologists often call these models unreliable in order to create doubt about climate science.
— The draft statement acknowledges that severe weather events are expected to increase with global warming. The predictions include: More extreme precipitation events and more intense dry spells in between, more severe droughts, a higher proportion of strong hurricanes, and longer/more intense periods of extreme heat.
— The current statement does not adequately describe major climate threats that concern scientists. Their statement does not make clear that we will guarantee enormous undesirable consequences for young people if we continue with rapid fossil fuel emissions to the atmosphere. For example, they note that sea level will rise 20 cm by 2100 due to thermal expansion of ocean water, but that underplays the fact that continued rapid warming will cause much larger sea level rise via ice sheet disintegration. The difficulty in predicting exact timing of sea level rise and location of increasing extreme climate anomalies does not diminish the threats that they pose.
My principal concern with the statement is that it assumes emissions will continue to grow. We must never accept “business-as-usual” as inevitable. If the U.S. and the international community joined together to put an honest price on carbon emissions, the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels and coal could rapidly be phased out.
Overall, I’m pleased that the AMS is headed toward a strong, science-based statement, which will go a long way toward educating broadcast meteorologists who cover this important topic. I’ll be sending a note to the AMS thanking them for their progress so far, and encouraging them to continue improving upon this draft before the statement is finalized. Can you please join me by doing the same?
Dr. James Hansen
Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a member of the AMS, you may do so here. Members are allowed to log in and read draft statements, including the the latest statement on climate change.