Informative News Article In EOS By Randy Showstack On A Climate Change Debate At The May 2010 EGU General Assembly

There is an informative news article by Randy Showstack in the June 8 2010 issue of EOS. It is titled

Great Debate on Climate Change Featured at EGU Meeting [subscription required]

The article includes the interesting two contradictory sentences

Panelists largely agreed with climate change findings incorporated in the recent Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, some also emphasized large areas of uncertainty related to understanding the Earth system and sociological factors, the quality of models, and regional and local climate impacts.

Text in the article that clearly conflicts with the IPCC view include

Günter Blöschl, head of the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources Management at the Institute for Hydraulic and Water Resources Engineering of the Vienna University of Technology, Austria, noted “huge differences” in the ability to predict climate changes depending on what variables are used. As an example, he showed that flood patterns on the Danube River could be interpreted differently depending on the time frame. “The IPCC report is overly optimistic in terms of the ability to predict changes in extremes and overly pessimistic as to adverse outcomes of such changes,” Blöschl said…..Blöschl added that too much focus is on carbon dioxide (CO2) alone, and that many other changes are occurring along with or independent of CO2.

He said significant impacts to hydrology include increased water withdrawals, pollution, and human migration. “Whether the climate signal is the most important one” related to hydrology, he said, “I would challenge.”

There is also an insightful communication regarding the limits to skillfull prediction.

An additional factor related to poor communication of climate science is the inability to provide detailed, reliable, and specific information that can be used to determine risks, Berkhout [Frans Berkhout, director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands,] asserted. He wondered whether science ever would be able to offer specific predictions regarding precipitation and other changes on which decision makers could rely. “It may be better to say that we will never, or not in the coming decades, be able to do that, and the way to manage is to accept uncertainty and try to respond adaptively,” he said.

These two colleagues are reinforcing the views that we present in our EOS paper

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.

I am pleased that the wider view that we present is finally becoming better recognized as a more scientifically robust approach as well as being more societally useful than the unnecessarily narrow IPCC and CCSP perspectives.

There is also an interesting comment on the connection between science and policy.

Legras [Bernard Legras, director of research at the Laboratoire de Météorologie
Dynamique, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France,] said that what he reads on the blogosphere makes him concerned about a growth of science illiteracy. “Science is used for a pretext for issues that are mostly ideological and political. It is very easy to use climate science as a punching ball, because it is a complex problem,” he said. However, he added it is a good thing for science to get mixed in with politics. “The social contract with science has changed” and scientists are not sitting in ivory towers, he noted. “It’s wonderful to take part in a social debate which matters to people. Science should be mixed with politics and society. We need to be careful about our procedures, but that mixing in is inevitable”

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