Posted by Olive Heffernan on behalf of Alex Witze
This week’s issue of Nature has several news stories related to climate change.
First up, we’ve got a look at the bill introduced recently in the US Congress by Senators Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico) and Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania). It’s the latest in a rush of climate bills that have been coming before Congress in recent months, spurred by the Democratic takeover in January. The Bingaman/Specter plan isn’t as stringent as other bills that would slash emissions more drastically, but has the backing – at least so far – of groups that don’t typically support emissions cuts, like utility companies and labor unions. So some observers think this new bill could form the backbone of an eventual compromise for US climate-change legislation.
It’s hard to keep track of all the bills that are out there these days. Some handy places to check for comparisons are a Senate website and the World Resources Institute chart. We might have put the latter chart into the news story this week, but it used old numbers for a draft version of the Bingaman/Specter bill, and is being updated now with the final version.
Another chart didn’t make the news section this week – that’s a figure appearing in the July 13 issue of Science, in a Perspectives piece by Peter Cox and David Stephenson of the University of Exeter. It’s a simple chart showing how uncertainties in model predictions change over time, with the total uncertainty being the least 30 to 50 years in the future. The Cox/Stephenson paper basically argues that climate model projections need to become more useful and relevant on this time scale; any changes for the next 30 years are essentially already ‘in the system’, and changes after about five decades out are too uncertain to say anything really meaningful about. Focus on that sweet spot, they say, and climate modelers are serving society’s needs better.
The original Science piece is here; our news piece, which also wraps in a tiny bit of the newly-released US Climate Change Science Program report on climate scenarios, is here.
Senior News and Features Editor