Dessler (2012, 2015) An Introduction to Modern Climate Change: memo

[As of 2020-05-13, this page is translations of my memoranda which were written in Japanese and [posted on 2011-12-11 (about the 1st edition)] and [posted on 2020-02-21 (about the 2nd edition)]. It may grow differently from now.]

[Detailed table of contents]

[Memo about the 1st edition, 2011-12-11]

This is a university textbook about (anthropogenic) climate change (in other words, global warming) mainly for students who do not specialize in natural sciences. The author is a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A & M University of the U.S.A. His specialized subject is the cycles of water and energy in the atmosphere. He studied the trend in water vapor content represented by so-called "reanalysis" data sets which are produced by incorporating observations into forecast models. (I mentioned it in a [Blog post on 2010-10-30 in Japanese].) His recent focus of research seems to be estimation of the sensitivity of the climate system by combining data sets of earth radiation budget, clouds, sea surface temperature etc. (e.g. Dessler, 2010). He once worked at the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the U. S. Goverment, and he is well aware of the political significance of the issue of climate change. He has published another textbook The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change together with Edward Parson (1st edition 2006, 2nd edition 2010, 3rd edition 2019). I have not examined that book yet.

I think that this book, An Introduction to Modern Climate Change, is good for introductory course that I want to teach. This book was also recommended by Professor Gerald North of the same university as the author and a senior scientist I am acquainted. However, the price (4250 yen as I bought a paperback by electronic order from Japan) seems to be too expensive for every students who take a one-semester (15 lecture) course. Also, though I understand the intention of the author to limit usage of mathematical formulas at minimum, I prefer such textbook that show important formulas explicitly.

Chapter 1 is the introduction. First, it is explained what climate is, in contrast to weather. Then it is mentioned that climate is changeable. Next, the concept of latitude and longitude, which is used to represent positions on the earth, is introduced.

Then, a 5-page discussion follows, where the author stresses that the description of this book is based on assessment reports of IPCC (Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change), which is reliable. Probably this notice is necessary in Texas, the author's workplace, where the petroleum industry is strong and the people near the students are often skeptic of global warming. The author uses such argument that we should trust specialists in such issues of which we cannot be ourselves specialists. I do not think this argument is persuasive enough. But, it seems to be appropriate as an introduction of a textbook, rather than an article of debate. In Chapters 11, 12 and 14, however, the author mentions something, such as "+2 degree target", that are not always the position of IPCC, and I am afraid that the reader may understand as if IPCC says so.

Chapter 2 reviews the facts of climate change which has already occurred. Looking at the changes in the recent several decades of surface temperature, upper air temperature (in the troposhere), glaciers, sea ice, the Greenland ice sheets, sea water temperature, and sea level, it is shown that there is a consistent trend of global warming. In addition, paleoclimates (climate change in the earth's history) is introduced briefly.

Chapter 3 presents the relationship between temperature and energy, the concept of radiation (transfer of electromagnetic waves), and the framework of the energy balance of the earth as a whole.

Chapter 4 has a very basic explanation of the greenhouse effect. It approximates the atmosphere by a sheet or several sheets which is transparent to visible light but is opaque to infra-red radiation.

Chapter 5 introduces the carbon cycle. First, the exchanges between the atmosphere, terrestrial bioshere, and ocean are described. Then, exchanges with the solid earth which is effective in a much longer time scale are added. The main target is how the content of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is governed, but methane is also mentioned.

Chapter 6 presents processes which can change climate. As forcing, such processes are listed that change the radiative balance of the earth: gaseous components of the atmosphere, aerosols, land use change, and variable output of the sun. Then, feedbacks are listed. And then, sensitivity of the climate system is discussed.

Chapter 7 discusses the causes of climate changes that has already occurred. Mentions are made of changes of the configuration of the continents and the oceans, and variability of the sun. The largest cause of the changes in the several recent decades is certainly changes in concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Chapter 8 discusses the outlook of climate change in the coming century. First, the scenarios of greenhouse gas emission from human activities are explained. In the background of those scenarios, there is a notion that the emission consists of three factors: population, affluence per capita, and technological efficiency to achieve affluence. Based on the scenarios of emission, scenarios of concentration are obtained and fed into climate models, which in turn produce "prediction" of climate elemens such as air temperature (as of this chapter, just the global mean surface temperature is shown). This book uses the term "prediction" rather than "projection", but it recognizes limitation of predicatbility.

Chapter 9 discusses the outlook in more details. Spatial distributions of air temperature and precipitation are shown. Mentions are also made to sea level rise and ocean acidification. Impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human societies aer discussed. Possibility of abrupt climate changes is mentioned briefly.

Chapter 10 temporarily leave the discourse of climate and introduces a mathematical concept of "exponential growth". (Exponential decay has appeared in Chapter 6 in the context of feedbacks, but it was not fully explained yet.) There are two purposes to introduce this concept. One is to recognize "limits to growth". Another is to understand "discount rates", a concept in economics, which is often used in evaluation of climate change policies.

Chapter 11 has a broad review of countermeasures to anthropogenic climate change. They are sorted into "adaptation", "mitigation", and "geoengineering" (or "climate engineerning").

Chapter 12 discusses how we can reduce emission of carbon dioxide, which is the main part of "mitigation". There are such policy options as regulation, carbon tax, and cap-and-trade.

Chapter 13 is a brief history of the development of science and policy with respect to climate change (not restricted to anthropogenic one). Scientific matters start with the recognition of greenhouse effect (in modern term) by Fourier as well as the recognition of ice ages by Agassiz. Recognition of environmental issues is represented by that of smogs. Recognition of global environmental issues occurred in 1970s to 1980s, and the author mentioned supersonic airplanes, acid rain, and ozone depletion as triggers. The author considers that the year 1988 was an epoch that changed the world view. (My understanding is a little different. As for activities of scientists, the year 1986 was more important.) The rest of this chapter is a summary of activities related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Chapter 14 is a summary of the author's view about the policy in the near future. He considers that "+2 degree target" is agreed upon in the COP (Conference of Parties) of UNFCCC in Copenhagen in 2009, and discusses what we should do to achieve it.

[Memo about the 2nd edition, 2020-02-21]

I have compared the table of contents with that of the first edition.

The changes which are apparent in the table of contents are few. The part near the end of Chapter 13, which describes recent history of international politics related to climate change, is rewritten to reflect evolution of the real world. At the beginning of Chapter 14 which discusses policies, a new section "What makes climate change such a difficult problem?" is added.

Although not evident in the table of contents, various materials are replaced, following the publication of the 5th Assessment Reports of IPCC in 2013-2014.

Also, the total number of pages has increased. Though I have not examined what kind of materials are added, it is probable that the author found gaps in the first edition during lectures, and filled them.



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