IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Probabilistic reasoning about measurements of equilibrium climate sensitivity: combining disparate lines of evidence


  • Roger M Cooke

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • Bruce Wielicki

    (NASA Langley Research Center, Science Directorate)


Where policy and science intersect, there are always issues of ambiguous and conflicting lines of evidence. Combining disparate information sources is mathematically complex; common heuristics based on simple statistical models easily lead us astray. Here, we use Bayesian Nets (BNs) to illustrate the complexity in reasoning under uncertainty. Data from joint research at Resources for the Future and NASA Langley are used to populate a BN for predicting equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). The information sources consist of measuring the rate of decadal temperature rise (DTR) and measuring the rate of percentage change in cloud radiative forcing (CRF), with both the existing configuration of satellites and with a proposed enhanced measuring system. The goal of all measurements is to reduce uncertainty in equilibrium climate sensitivity. Subtle aspects of probabilistic reasoning with concordant and discordant measurements are illustrated. Relative to the current prior distribution on ECS, we show that after 30 years of observing with the current systems, the 2σ uncertainty band for ECS would be shrunk on average to 73% of its current value. With the enhanced systems over the same time, it would be shrunk to 32% of its current value. The actual shrinkage depends on the values actually observed. These results are based on models recommended by the Social Cost of Carbon methodology and assume a Business as Usual emissions path.

Suggested Citation

  • Roger M Cooke & Bruce Wielicki, 2018. "Probabilistic reasoning about measurements of equilibrium climate sensitivity: combining disparate lines of evidence," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 151(3), pages 541-554, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:151:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10584-018-2315-y
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-018-2315-y

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. M. Hanea & G. F. Nane & B. A. Wielicki & R. M. Cooke, 2018. "Bayesian networks for identifying incorrect probabilistic intuitions in a climate trend uncertainty quantification context," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(9), pages 1146-1161, September.
    2. Cooke, Roger M. & Golub, Alexander & Wielicki, Bruce A. & Mlynczak, Martin G. & Young, David F. & Baize, Rosemary R., 2016. "Real Option Value for New Measurements of Cloud Radiative Forcing," Discussion Papers dp-16-19, Resources For the Future.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Masako Ikefuji & Jan R. Magnus, 2020. "The perception of climate sensitivity: Revealing priors from posteriors," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-046/III, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Masako Ikefuji & Jan R. Magnus, 2020. "The perception of climate sensitivity: Revealing priors from posteriors," ISER Discussion Paper 1111, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:151:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10584-018-2315-y. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.