NAS and Royal Society move climate talk from debate to mitigation

NAS & Royal Society Move Climate Talk From Debate To Mitigation

Climate Change: Evidence & Causes

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society of London debut Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, a new publication produced jointly by the two world-leading scientific institutions, live on the internet on Thursday, February 27, 2014, from 10:00-11:30 EST.

The new publication bills itself as “a brief, readable reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information on the some of the questions that continue to be asked” about climate change. A UK-US team of leading climate scientists wrote the document, and climate scientists and others reviewed it.

Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, and Professor Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, will introduce a webcast about the summary today. Miles O’Brien, host of the PBS Newshour, will guide the discussion with authors Dr. Eric Wolff of the University of Cambridge (UK lead), Dr. Inez Fung of the University of California, Berkeley (US lead), Sir Brian Hoskins of Imperial College London and the University of Reading, and Dr. Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Several of the above are joining the group via videoconference.

The publication is available now at both NAS and Royal Society websites. It comes in three forms: entire text, Q&A, and Climate Basics section. Both sites will webcast the discussion live. Audience participation is encouraged. You can send questions to to climatechange@nas.edu and follow along/comment on twitter at #NASRSclimate. An archive of the webcast will be available for viewing soon after the event.

The organizations seek to move climate change discussions from the theoretical (“is climate change real?”) to the practical (“how can we limit destructive changes?”).
NBC News quotes Berkeley atmospheric scientist Inez Fung, a coauthor, as saying “Climate change is happening. We see it in temperature, we see it in the melting ice, and we see it in sea-level rise.”

“The evidence is clear,” the new report states. “However, due to the nature of science, not every single detail is ever totally settled or completely certain. Nor has every pertinent question yet been answered.” Uncertainties remain in details like estimates of how much warming can be expected; the cause of the past few years’ apparent slowdown in warming (“the hiatus”); and connections between climate change and extreme weather events (hurricanes and other storms, droughts, floods).

On the plus side, the organizations reliably tell us this about their booklet:

“The publication makes clear what is well-established and where understanding is still developing. It echoes and builds upon the long history of climate-related work from both national academies, as well as on the newest climate-change assessment from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It touches on current areas of active debate and ongoing research, such as the link between ocean heat content and the rate of warming.”

John Roach, a seasoned contributor to NBC News, provided a useful summary of the publication last night, but he may have overstated its usefulness. The authors aimed for something that would guide “decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information.” Roach views the piece as “written in simple language and filled with pictures and graphs to illustrate why scientists are certain human activity is causing the climate to change.”

However, the text prefers the English version of the language over streamlined Americanese. Seven readability indices measure its style as difficult to read, probably because of sentence length and complex vocabulary. Most characterize it as 12th grade or college-level reading. As such, it likely overreaches the comprehension of some “other individuals seeking authoritative information,” as well as challenging American readers. However, Roach is right about the design of the book—a clear, modern infographic style.

As to content, the science seems to reflect current mainstream judgment fairly well. Roger Pielke, Jr., a climate policy analyst and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder (The Climate Fix), told NBC that he found it “ho-hum.” To an expert, sure; but this comment reflects naivete about the level of climate change literacy. We are talking about a readership in which the the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that only about a third of respondents are aware that most scientists think global warming is happening.

Penn State’s Michael Mann (The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars) warns that the pamphlet does not caution nonscientist readers about the tendency of models to underestimate impacts. He also repeats his frequent refrain about the opacity of the issue to decision makers and policy makers: “Sadly, in today’s political environment, where climate change denial is pervasive at our highest levels of government, it seems that the message is not being heard.”

Regardless of critical opinion, it’s undeniable that the core of Climate Change: Evidence & Causes reflects 97% or more of current expert thinking. If nothing else, for distilling very difficult and complex issues in an eventempered way, NAS and the Royal Society deserve an “A.”


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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm, writes two top-level blogs on Examiner.com, ranked #2 on ONPP's 2011 Top 50 blogs on Women's Health, and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."
  • I will give an “A” to scientists once they have considered Pluvinergy. This is a concept which can fix climate change, by eliminating CO2 Pollution, and by taking heat directly from the atmosphere to power civilization. It is a hypothesis at this point, but it is so simple that there is no excuse for science not to be able to address its potential.
    Scientifically oriented people should be confident enough in their own ability and reason to evaluate the potential solution offered, without waiting for everyone to be on board before considering it.

    • zlop

      Yes, Second law violator Power generators
      are the future.

      • It seems you are hinting at Lord Kelvin’s “second law of thermodynamics.” A lot of people are not familiar with this concept, even those who think they are, so here are his words:
        “No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of
        heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work.”
        If you read Pluvinergy, you will find that we work with about 1TW of energy flux, to economically generate 20gw of potential energy. That is, at 2% efficiency it is far, far, cheaper than coal. It can conceivably work at 5% efficiency, which completely replaces all other energy regimes; all. Where is the second law violated?
        To solve the problem(S!) civilization faces today, we have to approach the problem(S!) with an open mind.

        • zlop

          “”No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work.”?

          Lapse exploitation can extract energy from the atmosphere and convert it to power.

          • Those were the original words from which we have developed all subsequent theory on the second law, but I am not familiar with the term “Laps Exploitation.”
            Pluvinergy is just an architecture of established techniques to take heat energy, in and out of humidity, and then to concentrate sufficient energy for the necessary scale. Perhaps it’s the same concept. Most of the principles are old and well understood. The point is a) the energy source is practically limitless, and b) it is benign to the environment. Since it can repair CO2 and other damage, it is better than benign.

  • I will give an “A” to scientists once they have considered Pluvinergy. This is a concept which can fix climate change, by eliminating CO2 Pollution, and by taking heat directly from the atmosphere to power civilization. It is a hypothesis at this point, but it is so simple that there is no excuse for science not to be able to address its potential.
    Scientifically oriented people should be confident enough in their own ability and reason to evaluate the potential solution offered, without waiting for everyone to be on board before considering it.

    • zlop

      Yes, Second law violator Power generators
      are the future.

      • It seems you are hinting at Lord Kelvin’s “second law of thermodynamics.” A lot of people are not familiar with this concept, even those who think they are, so here are his words:
        “No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of
        heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work.”
        If you read Pluvinergy, you will find that we work with about 1TW of energy flux, to economically generate 20gw of potential energy. That is, at 2% efficiency it is far, far, cheaper than coal. It can conceivably work at 5% efficiency, which completely replaces all other energy regimes; all. Where is the second law violated?
        To solve the problem(S!) civilization faces today, we have to approach the problem(S!) with an open mind.

        • zlop

          “”No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work.”?

          Lapse exploitation can extract energy from the atmosphere and convert it to power.

          • Those were the original words from which we have developed all subsequent theory on the second law, but I am not familiar with the term “Laps Exploitation.”
            Pluvinergy is just an architecture of established techniques to take heat energy, in and out of humidity, and then to concentrate sufficient energy for the necessary scale. Perhaps it’s the same concept. Most of the principles are old and well understood. The point is a) the energy source is practically limitless, and b) it is benign to the environment. Since it can repair CO2 and other damage, it is better than benign.

  • Rao Muhammad Yunus

    Excellent.When we talk to each other we resolve differences.

  • Rao Muhammad Yunus

    Excellent.When we talk to each other we resolve differences.