Image of Cirrus cloudscape.

A Cirrus cloudscape.

Refuting claims that climate forecasts are all up in the air

Dr Andrew Ash, Acting Director of the Climate Adaption Flagship, responds to an article titled 'Forecasts all up in the Air' by Professor Bob Carter, of James Cook University, that appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail 30 June 2007.

  • 10 July 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011


The following is a response to the article titled Forecasts all up in the air by Professor Bob Carter, of James Cook University, in the Brisbane Courier Mail 30 June 2007.

'Recently in these pages Professor Bob Carter has questioned the reality of climate change (18 June) and the value of climate models (28 June). All scientists welcome honest criticism since it helps sharpen our analyses and improve our understanding, but scepticism based on half-truths and misrepresentation of the facts is not helpful.'

'In fact, there is now almost no doubt that human-induced climate change is happening.'

'Our planet’s climate is complex so it is not surprising that there are still uncertainties, but that should not be an excuse for denying the impacts that humans and our greenhouse gas emissions are having on the earth’s climate and environment.'

'Professor Bob Carter claims that 'no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998'. This is an unethical misrepresentation of the facts. 1998 was the warmest year on record in the last 150 years. Although the eight years since then have not been warmer than 1998, they do include the globe’s second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh warmest years on record.  The planet is not cooling.' 

Global air temperature graph indicating the 2006 anomaly +0.42 C (6th warmest on record).


'Professor Carter also asserts that 'lower atmosphere satellite-based measurements …show little if any global warming since 1979'. This is simply incorrect.'

'A few years ago it was thought that the warming detected at the earth’s surface was not matched by warming in the lower atmosphere. However, it has recently become clear that this was a result of data and analysis errors, which have now been corrected.'

'Professor Bob Carter apparently missed the high profile US Climate Change Science Program report, published in 2006, which contained these new findings. Importantly, one of the contributing authors to this newer report was also the lead author of the original paper on which Professor Bob Carter seems to base his out-dated argument.'

'Thirdly, many climate change sceptics assert that solar activity has played a greater role in explaining temperature increase over the last 100 years than greenhouse gases.'

“Our planet’s climate is complex so it is not surprising that there are still uncertainties, but that should not be an excuse for denying the impacts that humans and our greenhouse gas emissions are having on the earth’s climate and environment.”
Dr Andrew Ash, Acting Director of the Climate Adaption Flagship

'Although natural variations in the sun’s activity have affected some of the warming we’ve observed in the last 100 years, and this is included in climate models, human-induced greenhouse gas emissions have had a much greater influence.'

'Professor Bob Carter quotes US Climate Scientist Kevin Trenberth in support of an argument that CSIRO’s 'climate models are worthless predictive tools'. Trenberth does not question the reality of anthropogenic global warming, or the threat of future warming as predicted by global and regional climate models. All he argues is that the climate models cannot predict exactly how some aspects of regional climate will evolve in the years ahead.' 

'Climate scientists are acutely aware of this and as a result they do not try to forecast the actual climate for a particular day or month or year decades into the future. They do not produce 'useless regional climate forecasts' (as Professor Carter alleges) but rather valuable projections of how the climate is likely to trend, as well as assessing uncertainties.'

'It’s these projections that equip us to prepare for the changes ahead. They give us the opportunity to pre-empt and minimise some of the potential negative impacts of climate change on human communities and the environment, if we act promptly.'

'CSIRO is at the forefront of producing useful climate projections. We are in the business of informing government, industries and communities about the threat of climate change and its impacts. We are also developing practical and effective adaptation options so that society can better cope with the inevitability of climate change.'

'There is overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming, that it is very likely that most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is due to human induced increases in greenhouse gases (IPCC). What’s more, we can say with confidence that this warming will accelerate if emissions are allowed to continue unabated.'

'In the face of such clear and present danger, more than ever we need good scientific practice whereby well-founded criticism and new, more robust analysis is used to revise or reject previous positions.  However, misinformed and misleading debate risks deflecting the community from the vital challenge ahead, which is to mitigate and adapt to climate change.'

Read the original article Forecasts all up in the air (Brisbane Courier Mail) [external link].