Those bunnies interested in
sausage making would be advised to read the extended discussions between the referees and the authors of the Hansen, et al paper on potentially catastrophic anthropic climate change, at the bottom of the
ACP discussion page. Eli will lead off with the discussion of the title of the paper. As to why read this stuff, well Stoat has put it clearly, who will read the paper and tell us what it is about. The answer is the editor and referees, and if you read the discussion, much of the work has been done for you. That and the video on the previous post.
Frank Raes (R2) starts this off by commenting
The authors ostensibly cross boarders when it comes to describing the possible consequences of the papers results. In the discussion, many have argued that the use of words like “highly dangerous” in the title, and the adding of a (shallow) discussion regarding ethics, justice and prescribing policy action might be out of the scope for a disciplinary natural sciences journal like ACP.
I want to be clear from the beginning. I strongly believe that a collective issue such as climate change can no longer be discussed in scientific terms only, but that the scientific discourse must inform, or even go along ethical and political discourses. There is indeed a role for scientists to engage in the latter discourses, based on the former. However, my point is that there are many other ways to engage in these discourses and to have the voice of science heard. (The first author has made use of these other means frequently and successfully in the past). Putting the full scientific, ethical, juridical, and policy prescriptive discussion in an ACP paper is, in my opinion, not only totally ineffective, but it may put also a good disciplinary journal into problems. It is something for the ACP editors to consider, but gain, there are other means. I will make a suggestion later for ACP for how deal with this with respect to the current paper.
3. My comments and suggestions to ACP are as follows.
The title presently use by the authors is rather journalistic. That would be OK if the paper would also be written in a journalistic (but correct) way. It isn’t. It is a complex 50 pages long technical paper that even scientists are struggling with. It is too much to hope for that journalists would read it, including all the caveats it contains.
If the ACP editors would like to keep the title to the standards of a disciplinary paper, and stick to what the paper is really about, the title should, in my opinion, be more like:
Non-linear Ice Melt, Multi-meter Sea Level Rise and Superstorms at 2°C Global Warming: clues from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations.
That is already a strong enough title, covering the content of a strong piece of science.
However, in the climate change debate, the term “dangerous” has been given a rather precise definition in Art 2 of he UNFCCC, namely a change that doesn’t allow ecosystems to adapt, that threatens food production and that prevents economic development in a sustainable manner. It is obvious that a multi-meter sea-level rise within a century would be “dangerous” in that sense, at least in low-lying islands and coastal areas.
I could therefore also live with a title that reads.
Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming is “Dangerous”.
Where the quotes indicate that a special meaning is given to “Dangerous”. A reference could be made to UNFCCC in the abstract, and a fuller explanation in the body of the text.
Given the many uncertainties and need for further analyses mentioned by the authors themselves and by reviewers in the Discussion, one should however argue for the following title:
Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming could be “Dangerous”.Peter Thorne, (D2?, no R3) who was the least happy with the polemical components of the original paper, was still not thrilled as reflected by his comments on the title:
The title needs changing to reflect that the outcome is inherently uncertain if I am to be able to recommend acceptance. The easiest solution would be to insert Potentially before Highly Dangerous that would provide some sense of the uncertainty in the underlying analysis. More substantial changes would be along the lines of ‘Exploring potential impacts of a 2C world using insights from paleo climate records, modern observations and climate modelling’ or ‘Exploring the potential for tipping points in the climate system before 2C’. Basically, I think the title needs to reflect that the outcome is not deterministic and not guaranteed , even if we are foolish enough to stay on a carbon intensive pathway.
Both the abstract and the conclusions need to make clear that the evidence cannot rule out large - scale changes but that, equally, it is not a given that such changes shall occur. They need to better reflect that there remain substantial uncertainties and areas where further research is required to make definitive conclusions. Such revisions would be consistent with the underlying text and reflect the true state of scientific knowledge in the area.The editor in charge of the paper relays this information to Hansen and the reply of the authors extends this
You mention that referees R3 and R4 question the title of the paper. The issues raised about the title concern the word “Dangerous” in the title, and they are important because they get at the very heart of our paper and the overall topic of human - made climate change. I think that the discussions raised are pertinent and I am glad that you give us the chance to propose a title and show that it is well motivated. I believe that you may have misread the relevant comment of R4. R4 notes that a major goal of our paper is to define “dangerous anthropogenic interference”, and he then quotes the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as follows
“...to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
R4 then says that our paper: “...significantly advances this quest for a more quantified definition of such human impact. Very few serious efforts have been made to arrive at a useful definition of ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’. Previous efforts focused on sea level rise have been less rigorous, I believe, with less analysis of the coupling of ice meltwater with oceanic dynamics.”
R4 does not mention the paper’s title or criticize it, but explicitly recommends publication of the paper. R3, on the other hand, does criticize the title and does so by referring to the UNFCCC, but his reference is not correct. The word “dangerous” appears once and only once in the UNFCCC, namely in the most fundamental phrase of the Convention, which is given in the inset phrase above. R3 says that “...in the climate change debate, the term ‘dangerous’ has been given a rather precise definition in Art 2 of the UNFCCC, namely a change that doesn’t allow ecosystems to adapt, that threatens the food production and that prevents economic development in a sustainable manner”. This is a rephrasing of Article 2 that seems to slightly change its meaning. Let us look at Article 2 in its entirety:and, of course, the editor, Frank Dementer, has the final word
The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystem s to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
Article 2 thus uses the word “dangerous” with regard to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The ecosystems/food/economics sentence refers to timeframe in which that level should be obtained. The word “dangerous” is not further defined, perhaps because it is assumed to be well understood.
R2 suggested “potentially dangerous” (probably you meant to refer to R2, rather than R4), but that is too weak. That conclusion already could have been reached without any of the research in our paper.
There is an important issue at play here: overall, it seems to me that the relevant scientific commun ity has been exercising self - censorship in its warning to the public about the danger of human - made climate change. It would be difficult to overstate the threat of increasing human - made climate change, which we suggest threatens to bring about some of th e greatest injustices in the history of the planet: of current adult generations to young people and future generations, and of people of the industrialized North to people of the South, as climate change is due mainly to emissions from nations at middle and high latitudes.
My preference would be to just remove the word “highly” from the title, i.e., replace “highly dangerous” with “dangerous ”, thus making the title slightly shorter and less “journalistic’, which was a concern of at least one referee. However, I understand that some scientists consider that title to be too definitive, so in hopes of avoiding delay in publication we have chosen “ Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations Implies that 2°C Global Warming Above the Preindustrial Level Would Be Dangerous ”, which has been suggested as a possible compromise. I hope that you agree that our proposed alternative phrasing for the title is well motivated.
following a discussion with the ACP editorial board, I will request one change in the title. In order to bring out even more clearly the element of uncertainty associated with the work to change the word would into could.
The title would thus become:
"Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations Implies that 2°C Global Warming Above the Preindustrial Level Could Be Dangerous"