The world is getting warmer; we know this. But new claims suggesting that the temperature increase could be as high as 7 °C should be roundly ignored.
You may have already read about the study from which those numbers are drawn. Published in Nature, it suggests that the world is on course to experience warming in the next 1,000 years that’s beyond that of most conventional predictions. Keen to acknowledge the worst, some news outlets unquestioningly published the results, based solely upon Nature’s press release.
The research is impressive in some regards. It reconstructs the average surface temperature of Earth over the past two million years—far longer than the previous longest temperature record, which stretched back just 22,000 years (since about the end of the last Ice Age). That alone will be useful to climate scientists.
But the paper also uses its own data to estimate the sensitivity of Earth’s surface temperature to levels of carbon dioxide—and there it becomes unstuck. As Gizmodo points out, the research assumes that a historic correlation between global temperature and greenhouse-gas radiative forcing will hold in the future. The upshot is the suggestion that, based on today’s greenhouse-gas levels, a massive and unavoidable temperature rise of 3 to 7 °C will occur in the future.
But experts don’t think that’s valid. Speaking to Ars Technica, Richard Alley from Penn State said the predictions made by the researchers represented “an upper limit, because we know that some of the temperature change was not caused by greenhouse gases.” Speaking to Gizmodo, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was more blunt, saying: “This is simply wrong.”
The take-home message: the world is getting warmer—but not that much warmer. Chill out, people.
The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus
The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.
Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free
Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3
Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging
The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.
The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images
Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.