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Most worryingly, the climate models that we depend on as a species to predict our future have largely failed to predict our sultry ancient past. And though the gulf is narrowing, and models are catching up, even those that come close to reproducing the hothouse of the early Eocene require injecting 16 times the modern level of CO2 into the air to achieve it--far beyond the rather meager doubling or tripling of CO2 indicated by the rock record.
While it's true the gap has been narrowing - something is still very wrong, it's just not clear what is. One option is that modern CO2 sensitivity estimates are far too low, which would be horribly bad news, or alternatively, proxies used to reveal paleaoclimate conditions render unreliable results - which would be horribly inconvenient for the hundreds of studies that already have been done. Or, as the article mentions, there's a factor in play not fully realised, such as the role of methane. Which makes the message of the PNAS article the more relevant.
Full disclosure time: I provide PR for a climate change research collaboration that pursues, amongst others, the development of climate proxies that provide greater accuracy of CO2 in the geologic past. Also, the first author of the research publication reported on by The Atlantic was a fellow student when we were still playing in the sandbox at university (though he might only remember me with some effort).
Currently there are a finite number of instruments placed on land and in particular seas to measure their heat, volume of specified gases, and their rates of change in a specified period. Satellites launched by government and commercial enterprises, too, periodical transmit images to document latent topographical changes in a specified period.
This latent data is generally understood to convey predictive knowledge of climatology, while life on earth stews in filth.
Factor analysis is not well understood.
Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
The models may not be perfect, but continuing to pump CO2 into the atmosphere is still fucking suicidal. In policy terms, uncertainty about the exact point when suicide becomes inevitable is a side issue.
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