Public Comment Open On The United State Global Change Research Program Strategic Plan 2012-2021

The United State Global Change Research Program Strategic Plan 2012-2021 has invited public comments on their Plan at

The Plan starts with an assumption that they already know the direction of climate change in the coming decades. It does not read as a balanced scinece plan. I encourage readers of my weblog to submit comments.

The text in the Executive Summary starts with the text [highlights added]

Earth’s environment is changing rapidly. Increases in world population and industrialization are altering the atmosphere, ocean, land use, ecosystems and the distribution of species over the planet. Scientific research, including monitoring and modeling of the multifaceted Earth system, provides information for governments, businesses, and communities to understand these changes and to respond to potential risks brought about by global change, such as more severe heat waves, storms, floods, fires, crop failures, and water shortages.

An example of their text includes

The goals acknowledge that global change research is not a purely academic endeavor. To be useful, scientists must understand the needs of decision makers at all levels in the public  and private sectors and clearly and effectively make research results relevant to those decision  makers. For example, farmers depend upon information to adjust and manage crops as planting  seasons, growing zones, and pest and weed ranges change. Health care providers must prepare  for more severe heat waves and outbreaks of diseases previously unknown in their regions. Insurers must account for shifting weather extremes in assessing future financial risk.  Inhabitants of coastal cities need to understand the implications of sea level rise, while many regions of the country address changes in the availability of freshwater and increasing energy demands.

The goals recognize that global change is an international concern affecting many aspects of societies, livelihoods, and the environment. Across the Nation and around the world, people are making decisions to effectively minimize (mitigate) and prepare for (adapt to) global change. The global nature of today’s economy, and the speed with which challenges faced in one part of the world can affect others, reinforces the need for a global response based upon the best  available science. Vital resources, such as water and food supplies, cross regional and national  boundaries, and the effects of global change can disrupt social, economic, and political systems.  Understanding global change and our options to minimize and manage the risks of such change  is important for U.S. national security and for maintaining regional and global stability, and for long-term economic vitality.

They are  ignoring research that shows we cannot yet skillfully predict how regional climate will change, as well as to consider a new bottom-up approach to societal and environmental vulnerability, rather than continue to focus on the top-down global climate model predictions. This new perspective is summarized in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

Judy Curry has an excellent summary of where we are in the USA with respect to federal support for climate research.

She writes (see)

“….Decision making associated with the issues of climate and global change can be characterized as decision making under deep uncertainty.  The deep uncertainty is associated with our reliance on projections from climate models, which are loaded with uncertainties and do not adequately treat natural climate variability.  Further substantial areas of ignorance remain in our basic understanding of some of the relevant phyiscal, chemical and dynamical processes.

If we as scientists are not humble about the uncertainties and areas of ignorance, we have an enormous capacity to mislead decision makers and point them in the direction of poor policies.  Uncertainty is essential information for decision makers.

Climate scientists have this very naive understanding of the policy process, which is aptly described by the A+B=C model in the context of the precautionary principle.  This naive understanding is reflected in the palpable frustration of many climate scientists at the failure of the “truth” as they “know” it to influence global and national energy and climate policy.  This frustration has degenerated into using to word “denier” to refer to anyone who disagrees with them on either the science or the policy solution.

The path that we seem to be on, whereby the science is settled and all we need is better communication and translation of the science to policy makers, not only has the potential to seriously mislead decision makers, but also to destroy atmospheric and climate science in the process.

Very well said Judy!

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