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llustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Models that climate scientists used in recent decades to project temperature changes have generally been very accurate, a new peer-reviewed study concludes.

Why it matters: It serves to rebut conservative opponents of proposals aimed at cutting emissions, who have long argued that models haven't gotten it right as part of broader attacks on climate science.

What they found: The study in Geophysical Research Letters reviewed the performance of 17 models published between 1970 and 2007.

  • "We find no evidence that the climate models evaluated in this paper have systematically overestimated or underestimated warming over their projection period," the paper states.
  • "In general, past climate model projections evaluated in this analysis were skillful in predicting subsequent [global mean surface temperature] warming in the years after publication."
  • Some, however, showed too much and others too little.

The big picture: Climate models look at the physical relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and temperature, as well as other factors including human-influenced emissions variables like economic growth and technology change.

  • As Vox puts it, it's about "predicting physics vs. predicting humans."
  • If you simply look at how well the models predicted temperature changes that later occurred, 10 of 17 were essentially spot-on — "virtually indistinguishable from observations," as this Washington Post story notes.
  • But if you look at how well models did at assessing the relationship between changing greenhouse concentrations and temperature, they did even better.
  • 14 of the 17 were "consistent with observations," the paper notes, and "statistically indistinguishable from what actually occurred," co-author Gavin Schmidt writes in a blog post.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

White House stands by imperiled Tanden nomination after Senate panel postpones hearing

Neera Tanden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate Homeland Security Committee is postponing a confirmation hearing scheduled Wednesday for Neera Tanden, Axios has learned, a potential death knell for President Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

The latest: Asked Wednesday afternoon whether Tanden has offered to withdraw her nomination, Psaki told reporters, "That’s not the stage we’re in." She noted that it's a "numbers game" and a "matter of getting one Republican" to support the nomination.

Acting Capitol Police chief: Officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared remarks for a House hearing on Thursday that officers in her department were "unsure of when to use lethal force" during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Capitol Police did deploy lethal force on Jan. 6 — shooting and killing 35-year-old Ashli Babbit — but have faced questions over why officers appeared to be less forceful against pro-Trump rioters than participants in previous demonstrations, including those over Black Lives Matter and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

United CEO is confident people will feel safe traveling again by 2022

Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

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