Is investing billions in monitoring climate change campaigns still a reasonable choice?

No doubt, climate change is a hot topic. The climate IS changing and we do not deny that. Monitoring the climate’s features/properties is also a necessary action that humans need since studying the climate lets us understand and predict how humanity’s geo-socio-economical structure will be affected on the medium-long run.

However, what about the money that is invested in these monitoring policies?

I was reading an interesting article from Forbes, titled “the alarming cost of climate change hysteria”. Independently from the opinions of the editors, the article got me thinking about how climate change truly pushed governments to invest billions among the past decades. The climate change studies truly revealed important insights for humanity, but is still worth all this money NOW?

So, is it still worthy?..

…and when I ask “is it worthy?” I again specify I do not mean whether we should study the climate, but whether the action of studying it is worth all this money today. Of course here I’m talking about climate change studies, not weather studies. Here I am talking about monitoring parameters that show fluctuations over years or decades, not the alarming news that we receive when a hurricane approaches us.

I am aware that monitoring and studying climate change can provide interesting insights in what our earth will look like in 20-30 years from now, but still these are predictions, and the action of monitoring the climate hasn’t really provided any new real new solution in the past years. For example, it’s been many years that we know the impact of carbon dioxide, methane and other GHGs on climate, but recently the resolution is still based on the improvement of existing technologies rather than being based on insights provided by climate change studies.

As a short criticism, honestly I find it laughable that people who get funds for new climate change projects say “we are going to change the world!”, because nothing is gonna change anymore, except for the climate itself…It’s like believing that if I spend a lot of money for a new sophisticated indoor thermometer it will make a difference in my actions to regulate the temperature with a thermostat, because although I have a more accurate measure(plus other thermostat’s features like humidity etc), the solution’s effort to regulate the temperature remains the same.

I also think it’s probably hard to quantify how much money is too much, or too little, but I think that the order of magnitude of “billions” of dollars is quite significant.

Feel free to share your thoughts :slight_smile:

The Earth is facing several environmental challenges on a global scale, called “Grand Challenges”. The growing and moving population needs more fresh water and air, good food and energy. Actually all these needs will affect our climate and air quality, and cause ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, serious chemicalisation, increased number of global and regional epidemic diseases, and shortages of fresh water and food supplies. The Grand Challenges are the main factors controlling human well-being and security as well as the stability of future societies. Since the Grand Challenges are highly connected and interlinked, they cannot be solved separately. Therefore, we need to develop a supradisciplinary (i.e. simultaneous multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary) scientific framework, which is strongly connected to fast-tracked policy making. The potential solutions are typically tightly coupled with each other. In order to find practical solutions, a deep understanding based on new scientific knowledge is needed.

In practice, we need to employ a multiscale, multidimensional, multidisciplinary approach to answer Grand Challenges utilizing clear and ambitious vision jointly with observational and experimental (in the laboratory, on the field, through instrument development) as well as theoretical (basic theories, simulations, model development) work. The vision is to find practical solutions on those grand challenges (particularly on climate change, air quality and water cycling) using the continuously developed deep understanding. We use multidisciplinary (physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, etc) approach and have international partnership, since there is not one discipline, research group or country who could alone solve the Grand Challenges. Also a continuum from research to innovations (including new SMEs) is needed to find solutions to the grand challenges. In order to obtain the needed new knowledge, we perform i) continuous and comprehensive in situ (= on the place, on the field) observations in different types of environments or ecosystems and platforms, together with targeted gap-filling laboratory experiments, , ii) ground- and satellite-based remote sensing, and iii) multi-scale modelling.

Globally the missing component is comprehensive continuous in situ observations. Although using satellite observations and satellite data, we are able to get global coverage on columns of some compounds, but we are not able to get processes or fluxes neither concentrations of several hunderts of compounds present in the atmosphere. The knowledge of various chemical compounds is needed to understand the dynamics of greenhouse gases (sources and sinks) as well as atmospheric chemistry, which affects both the climate and air quality. For example, reducing air pollution in China most effectively needs understanding on how different pollutants (e.g. ozone, volatile organic compounds and aerosol particles) interact with each other.

Therefore the actual main need right now is to establish the global network for comprehensive continuous ground based observations, since without these it is in practice impossible to get enough information what is going on on the Earth system. Currently the measurement network is very sparse for example in Siberia as well as in Asia and Africa, which makes modeling of air chemistry and actually of the whole atmosphere prone to errors in these regions. Also, if methane starts to release from Siberian permafrost, in situ measurements for following it are crucial. To demonstrate the situation it is similar than to make reliable weather predictions without meteorological observations or they would be performed only in campaignwise around midsummer. On the other hand the models are needed for future predictions and to help decision making.

Reliable and dense measurement networks for greenhouse gases will also be needed in the future to control that the countries fulfill the promised emission reductions they have agreed in the international climate agreements.

Actually, so far the humankind have not invest billions of Euros (or USD) for monitoring climate change. However, to understand what is going on, humankind should make this investment for new observations, a) to find out new feedbacks, interactions, processes, b) to mitigate and adapt effectively, c) to make sustainable decisions, etc.

Actually without comprehensive observations we cannot predict future (with models) and cannot make sustainable decisions.

Markku Kulmala
Professor and Director, INAR (Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research), University of Helsinki

More info on Finnish research and measurement infrastructures:

INAR Institute:

Global SMEAR:

ICOS infrastructure for greenhouse gas measurements: