Reconciling anthropogenic climate change and variability on decadal  timescales: narratives and hypotheses

Jones, Roger ORCID: 0000-0001-6970-2797 (2015) Reconciling anthropogenic climate change and variability on decadal  timescales: narratives and hypotheses. Working Paper. VISES, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.


This paper is one of a series aiming to reconcile the scientific understanding of how external forcing and internal variability interact on decadal timescales. These papers examine the theoretical basis of, evidence for, and the history and philosophy of the scientific effort to understand how the climate changes under gradual radiative forcing. Does the change follow the gradual forcing pathway, or is does the climate system respond nonlinearly? This paper investigates the current narratives and hypotheses describing how the relationship between externally‐forced and internally‐generated climate variations are viewed. Two hypotheses describe how these processes combine: anthropogenic climate change is independent of natural climate variability (H1), or they interact (H2). In H1, anthropogenic climate change is gradual, its rate of change being mediated by climate variability. In H2, climate has a nonlinear response, arising from the interaction between the external and internal components of the climate system. Current methods to analyse and communicate climate change overwhelmingly self‐select H1. This has resulted in a scientific narrative of gradual change that dominates discourse within climate science. This imbalance is not supported by current theoretical understanding, which considers either H1 or H2 as being possible, and evidence of step‐like changes in climate, which supports H2.

Additional Information

Commissioned by: VISES, Victoria University.
Climate Change Working Paper No. 32

Item type Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL
ISBN 9781862727205
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences
Historical > FOR Classification > 1402 Applied Economics
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies (VISES)
Keywords decadal variability; climate change; regime change; nonlinear dynamics; hypothesis testing; scientific narrative
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