Back in 2007, the IPCC AR4 SPM stated that:
“Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
This is a clear statement that I think is very well supported and correctly reflects the opinion of most climate scientists on the subject (and was re-affirmed in two recent papers (Jones and Stott, 2011;, Huber and Knutti, 2011)). It isn’t an isolated conclusion from a single study, but comes from an assessment of the changing patterns of surface and tropospheric warming, stratospheric cooling, ocean heat content changes, land-ocean contrasts, etc. that collectively demonstrate that there are detectable changes occurring which we can attempt to attribute to one or more physical causes.
Yet, in a paper just out in BAMS (Curry and Webster, 2011) this statement is apparently evidence that IPCC is unable to deal with uncertainty. Furthermore, Judith Curry has reiterated on her blog that the term ‘most’ is imprecise and undefined. For instance:
Apart from the undefined meaning of “most” in AR4 (which was subsequently clarified by the IPCC), the range 50.1-95% is rather imprecise in the context of attribution.
However, Curry’s argument is far from convincing, nor is it well formed (why is there a cap at 95%?). Nor was it convincing when I discussed the issue with her in the comments at Collide-a-Scape last year where she made similar points. Since the C&W paper basically repeats that argument (as has also been noticed by Gabi Hegerl et al who have a comment on the paper (Hegerl et al.)), it is perhaps worth addressing these specific issues again.
- G.S. Jones, and P.A. Stott, "Sensitivity of the attribution of near surface temperature warming to the choice of observational dataset", Geophys. Res. Lett., vol. 38, pp. n/a-n/a, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011GL049324
- M. Huber, and R. Knutti, "Anthropogenic and natural warming inferred from changes in Earth’s energy balance", Nature Geoscience, vol. 5, pp. 31-36, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1327
- J.A. Curry, and P.J. Webster, "Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster", Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., vol. 92, pp. 1667-1682, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2011BAMS3139.1
- G. Hegerl, P. Stott, S. Solomon, and F. Zwiers, "Comment on “Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster” J. A. Curry and P. J. Webster", Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., vol. 92, pp. 1683-1685, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00191.1