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Environmental Science & Technology · 1995

Subjective Judgments By Climate Experts

M. Granger Morgan and David W. Keith

Structured interviews using “expert elicitation” methods drawn from decision analysis were conducted with 16 leading U.S. climate scientists. We obtained quantitative, probabilistic judgments about a number of key climate variables and about the nature of the climate system. We also obtained judgments about the relative contributions of various factors to the uncertainty in climate sensitivity. We found strong support for the importance of convection/ water vapor feedback and of cloud optical properties. A variety of questions were posed to elicit judgments about future research needs and the possible sources and magnitude of future surprises. The results reveal a rich diversity of expert opinion and, aside from climate sensitivity, a greater degree of disagreement than is often conveyed in scientific consensus documents. Research can make valuable contributions, but we interpret our results to mean that overall uncertainty about the geophysics of climate change is not likely to be reduced dramatically in the next few decades.

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