An International Institute Will Help Us Manage Climate Change?

PXL_20211205_095610540 Or so assert Sabine Hossenfelder and Tim Palmer. TP at least has some form in this stuff; SH rather less so; perhaps she is going for Publik Interlectewal status a-la ATTP? This is her second climate-y thing in SA with TP; the first was on a similar topic. Of course she has an entree there as a sane physicist and has on-topic articles back to 2015.

Anyway, what do she and TP want? They advocate 

the establishment of a federated international institute for climate prediction, much like CERN, the multinational collaborative particle physics laboratory. The institute would comprise several hubs in different countries, each with dedicated exaflop (one billion billion calculations per second) supercomputing facilities. The centerpiece of the institute would be the creation of a small number of ultrahigh-resolution climate models...

and so on. Does this make sense? Probably not. But the current situation of everybody having their own pet model no matter how rubbish also doesn't really make sense... at least, not in scientific terms. In politics-of-science terms it of course makes perfect sense. And indeed we do want a reasonable number of genuinely mostly independent models. And (they mention ECMWF, so they know this) ECMWF hasn't killed off national weather forecasts from anyone who has their own, though it may have stopped some people bothering to create them. To front-run some of the inevitable pork-barrelling, they suggest six hubs around the world for this "institute", which everyone could have fun fighting for.

Their main complaint and hence presumably the main purpose of all this is rez; A model with a resolution on the kilometer scale, as could be developed at an international institute, would not entirely eliminate this problem of structural error, but it would significantly alleviate it... but are then forced to confess The Destination Earth project, funded by the E.U. Green Deal, will shortly be undertaking important work in developing a prototype kilometer-scale climate model. Other projects to develop kilometer-scale models are beginning around the world. So if all this would do would be to speed things up by a few years, is it worth the money and effort?

The main argument is very much WG1 stuff: better (physical) models. When I read just the title, I thought they were, somewhat more sensibly, arguing for more cross-disciplinary stuff; but no. FWIW, I'm in the "we already know the WG1 well enough, compared to uncertainties elsewhere, but shouldn't stop doing WG1 stuff" camp. "shouldn't stop doing" doesn't imply simply drudging along familiar pathways and doing nothing new; but I'm pretty sure their proposed $1-2B/yr could be better spent.

Finally, although I disagree with the main argument it is mostly sane, unlike their None of the extreme events of 2021 can be simulated in current climate models, because the events were simply too extreme for the models which I think makes no sense. Those events are indeed puzzling; and AFAIK don't replicate in current models; but again AFAIK no-one has suggested model rez as the reason. They also ask How can a country prioritize its spending without knowing which is the more pressing threat: increased flooding and storms, or increased heat waves and drought? but don't extend the question to all the other things a country might wish to spend money on. And I doubt people are going to get good answers to those questions in the near future anyway.


Tom said...

I'm not sure if this is the best place to park a billion of our euros/pounds/dollars, but the size of the sum doesn't really scare me off.

Anything that moves us off the 'ensemble of models' disaster is almost by definition a step forward.

Phil said...

What disaster does an ensemble of models create?

I've never seen one, do explain.

William M. Connolley said...

Disaster is perhaps too strong but I assumed that Tom was talking about, e.g., https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2021/12/making-predictions-with-the-cmip6-ensemble/. See-also my https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2007GL031648

Phil said...

I suspect any disaster will be from the things we can't model as well as global climate.

MICI for one.