The state's official climatologist told Law Center students that by 2050 climate change could raise average Texas temperatures 3 to 5 degrees and precipitation could be even less than during current drought conditions.
Global warming is a certainty, Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon said during a presentation sponsored by the Energy and Environmental Law Society. "To believe that the Earth is not warming you have to believe that all the sets of scientific data are wrong."
The study of heat in the Earth's atmosphere is nothing new, he said. Scientist John Tyndall researched the "greenhouse effect" and the amount of radiation absorbed and emitted by various gases in the mid-19th century. But, Nielsen-Gammon said, "There are a lot of people who think all of science is wrong."
Nielsen-Gammon, professor in A&M's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, gave students a quick, light-hearted overview of how an idea such as global warming moves along the "Crackpot-Einstein" scale to verified science. "New ideas are generally on the crackpot end, and most of them are wrong," he said. The process moves from peer review in which "two or three scientists read a paper trying to find what's wrong with it; to "a few people saying, 'It looks OK';" to the media announcing "surprising results;" to validation when other scientists build upon it; to the point it becomes so non-controversial that it is included in textbooks; and finally when it is relied upon in modern technology. "Global warming is at this level of certainty," he said.
As to the state's current drought, Nielsen-Gammon said it started in October and he could not predict when conditions might change. Texas has been in a drought cycle since 1996, he said.
As Texas state climatologist since 2000, Nielsen-Gammon has supervised research on summertime drought, estimation of long-term trends from climatological data sets, the development of high-resolution drought information, and the climatology of regional air pollution.