Advocacy By Veerabhadran Ramanathan and Yangyang Xu In The PNAS In An Article In The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Science

Dick Lindzen has succinctly summarized how climate science has deteriorated into a tool for political action.  As I reported in my post

Comments On Numerical Modeling As The New Climate Science Paradigm

Dick has written

“In brief, we have the new paradigm where simulation and programs have replaced theory and observation, where government largely determines the nature of scientific activity, and where the primary role of professional societies is the lobbying of the government for special advantage.”

Today I present a clear example of the use of the National Academy of Sciences [as represented by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences- PNAS] to promote a particular set of policy actions, where climate science, as percieved by the authors of the PNAS, is used as the reasoning.

The article is

Ramanathan, Veerabhadran and Yangyang Xu, 2010: The Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming: Criteria, constraints, and available avenues. PNAS. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1002293107

The abstract reads

“At last, all the major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have agreed under the Copenhagen Accord that global average temperature increase should be kept below 2 °C. This study develops the criteria for limiting the warming below 2 °C, identifies the constraints imposed on policy makers, and explores available mitigation avenues. One important criterion is that the radiant energy added by human activities should not exceed 2.5 (range: 1.7–4) watts per square meter (Wm−2) of the Earth’s surface. The blanket of man-made GHGs has already added 3 (range: 2.6–3.5) Wm−2. Even if GHG emissions peak in 2015, the radiant energy barrier will be exceeded by 100%, requiring simultaneous pursuit of three avenues: (i) reduce the rate of thickening of the blanket by stabilizing CO2 concentration below 441 ppm during this century (a massive decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary to accomplish this Herculean task), (ii) ensure that air pollution laws that reduce the masking effect of cooling aerosols be made radiant energy-neutral by reductions in black carbon and ozone, and (iii) thin the blanket by reducing emissions of short-lived GHGs. Methane and hydrofluorocarbons emerge as the prime targets. These actions, even if we are restricted to available technologies for avenues ii and iii, can reduce the probability of exceeding the 2 °C barrier before 2050 to less than 10%, and before 2100 to less than 50%. With such actions, the four decades we have until 2050 should be exploited to develop and scale-up revolutionary technologies to restrict the warming to less than 1.5 °C.”

The text in the abstract highlights the advocacy nature of this article; i.e.

“This study……… identifies the constraints imposed on policy makers”

The authors present the problem with the climate system as a result of the human emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and then discusses the “Policy Makers’ Dilemma”.  

The next section in the paper, titled “Challenges for Policy Makers”,  further illustrates that the two authors recommend policy. This section reads in part

The planet is very likely to experience warming in excess of 2 °C if policy makers stringently enforce existing air pollution laws and remove reflecting aerosols without concomitant actions for thinning the GHG blanket…”

I have posted on this recommendation by Dr. Ramanthan in the past and conclude that ANY attempt not to enforce existing air pollution laws is a serious mistake with respect to human health; e.g.

Misconception And Oversimplification Of the Concept Of Global Warming By V. Ramanthan and Y. Feng

Health Benefits Of Air Quality Control Should Never Be Sacrificed By Delaying The Clean-Up Of Aerosol Emissions For Climate Reasons

However, regardless of the merits of the policy recommendations of Ramanathan and Xu, 2010, the National Academy of Sciences publication is being used to lobby for a particular set of policy actions, which they justify by their presentation of the climate science issue.  Since Dr. Ramanthan is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is able to straightforwardly publish in this journal.

Readers of my weblog can decide for themselves if this is the proper use of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  However, it is clear that advocacy is being framed using climate science, as the authors perceive it, as the justification for their policy prescriptions.

The confirmation of Dick Lindzen’s issues with respect to the lack of scientific objectivity also is evident in the news release on the Ramanathan and  Xu,2010 paper. The news release by Brian Moore of Scripps is titled

Scripps researchers outline strategy to limit global warming

and has the text

“The ‘low-hanging fruits’ approach to one of mankind’s great challenges is very appealing because it is a win-win approach,” said Jay Fein, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds much of Ramanathan’s research. “It cleans up the environment, protects human health and helps to sustain the 2-degree C threshold.”

Thus, as Dick Lindzen wrote

 “….we have the new paradigm where ….. government largely determines the nature of scientific activity.”

Clearly, NSF itself has become an advocate for particular policy actions. I will have more examples of how the NSF is limiting research in upcoming posts on my weblog.

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