The real debate on climate change

by Richard on December 7, 2012

As the UN climate talks in Doha stutter, there’s real science being done in San Francisco. 20 000 scientists have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Stephan Lewandowsky reports

The program for a single day of this meeting consists of a 50-page broadsheet that lists literally thousands of events: you can follow along online here. Talks, workshops, scientific posters, keynote addresses, all running in multiple parallel sessions in three buildings. Even with the help of the daily program booklet and the AGU iPad app it takes an hour every morning simply to navigate the smorgasbord of science and to select interesting sessions to attend.

There was the session on The Climate of the Common Era, or the presentations of the New Atmospheric Sciences Fellows. Then there was the particularly interesting session on Construing Uncertainty in Climate Science (maybe that one was particularly interesting because I chaired it).

There was the keynote address by Sir Robert Watson, who explored the implications of our current emissions path, and the fact that we are likely heading for a world that is 4 or 5 degrees warmer by 2100 than it was before industrialisation, with consequences that are alarming rather than alarmist.

There are thousands and thousands of talks, posters, discussions, and workshops.

Science is debate, and the AGU meeting is the biggest annual debate of climate scientists in the world. It is a debate that extends over five days, each filled with 12 hours or more of non-stop science.

There is, however, one issue that is not being debated: Nowhere is there a debate about the fundamental facts that the globe is rapidly warming and that human greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for that warming.

That scientific debate ceased decades ago.

It is only in the fantasy world of climate denial that ignorant chatter about those physical fundamentals continues, to the detriment of the public which would be better served without such distracting noise.

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Mark Byron 12.07.12 at 10:35 pm

That panel on uncertainty would be a fun one to sit in on. Models have a range of forecasts, from small amounts of change to large amounts; it’s the large amounts that get trumpeted by the media.

I take the science seriously; however, if we’re more on the small end of change, it might be more prudent to manage the effects of change than to try and slam the breaks on CO2 emissions and further depress the economies of the developed world; that lost wealth could be used to help fight poverty and other issues in the global south rather than slow a temperature rise that is already slowing.

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