A 1981 Temperature Projection Has Turned Out to Have Been A Good Prediction

One of climate skeptics’ favourite arguments is that climate models are unreliable and that you can’t really predict what’s going to happen. Two of RealClimate’s contributors have now dug up a projection by James Hansen et al. from 1981 and compared it to what actually happened. The result: the agreement is quite good, and it actually underestimated the actual warming.

To conclude, a projection from 1981 for rising temperatures in a major science journal, at a time that the temperature rise was not yet obvious in the observations, has been found to agree well with the observations since then, underestimating the observed trend by about 30%, and easily beating naive predictions of no-change or a linear continuation of trends. It is also a nice example of a statement based on theory that could be falsified and up to now has withstood the test. The “global warming hypothesis” has been developed according to the principles of sound science.

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