This is the seventh in a series of guest posts by Joel Barkan, a previous contributor to “The Intersection” and a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The renowned Scripps marine biologist Jeremy Jackson is teaching his famed “Marine Science, Economics, and Policy” course for what may be the last time this year (along with Jennifer Jacquet), and Joel will be reporting each week on the contents of the course.
I don’t want to write a post all about climate change on Chris and Sheril’s blog because my fire-retardant suit is at the cleaners. So I won’t. But I will write about what marine scientists can learn from what climate scientists are doing (no “Oceangate” jokes, please).
Each week, I write in this space about a different threat that will inevitably doom our oceans if we fail to act. But which threat is the most critical? At least climate scientists have agreed on a general consensus: most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely due to increased greenhouse gas concentrations as a result of human activities. UC San Diego’s own Naomi Oreskes, in a 2004 Science essay, analyzed nearly a thousand abstracts published in the ISI database between 1993 and 2003 that contained the keywords “climate change.” Three-quarters of them accepted the consensus view and not a single one challenged it. This means climate scientists know the problem (greenhouse gas emissions) and how to address it (reduce emissions). Of course, it’s not that simple, but it’s a basic cause and effect that advocates can rally behind.
It’s not quite so straightforward for marine scientists. Read More
My latest blog post for Science Progress is up; it’s about the scientific black-eye known now as “GlacierGate,” in which the IPCC was found to have published plagiarized misinformation about the vulnerability of the Himalayan glaciers to climate change in its Fourth Assessment Report. The content was indefensible; a quick retraction should have occurred. But instead, there was wagon-circling and defensiveness and hence, we have yet another scandal on our hands.
Here’s a sampling of my take:
…without exonerating the IPCC in this instance—there is no defense for such shoddy work—let’s attempt to inject a little sanity here. The IPCC goofed, but we should keep matters in perspective. We’re talking about one tiny section of a 938-page report on how climate change will affect different parts of the world. It would be amazing if errors did not slip into such a vast document, whatever the professed peer review standards may be. And the mistake was originally caught not by skeptics, but by scientists, including an IPCC report co-author. In the broadest sense, the scientific process is actually working here, even if the IPCC stumbled in this case.
Moreover, Himalayan glaciers are retreating, even if they’re not doing so faster than glaciers in other parts of the world, and even if they won’t be gone by 2035. As a team of scientists who exposed the IPCC’s mistake in a letter to the journal Science judiciously put it:
This was a bad error. It was a really bad paragraph, and poses a legitimate question about how to improve IPCC’s review process. It was not a conspiracy. The error does not compromise the IPCC Fourth Assessment, which for the most part was well reviewed and is highly accurate.
That’s the true significance of “GlacierGate,” but sure enough, it is being vastly misused in yet another cynical attempt to undermine all of earthly climate science.
You can read the full blog post here.
In the last post, I asked whether we should go back to basics on climate science. I also wondered how to do so in a way that wouldn’t be a waste of time and energy, by requiring me to re-write things that have been written a hundred times.
But I may have found a solution: NOAA’s Climate Program Office has done a nice brochure about the basics of climate science literacy, which are enumerated as the following:
CLIMATE LITERACY: The Essential Principles of Climate Science
Anyone who wants can read the brochure for further explanation of each point. I actually am surprised that the greenhouse effect is not one of these 7 major points, but is subsumed under 1.
But anyway, it is interesting to contemplate whether climate “skeptics” take issue with any of these basics, or whether they are indeed “climate science literate” by this standard. For after all, the complicated data and “hockey stick” type issues that “skeptics” seem to seize upon don’t appear to have much to do with these basics; and yet these basics are all you need to know that global warming is a serious concern and that we stand to get fried.
So perhaps finding clarity about who accepts the basics can provide a firm foundation for further discussion. So let’s hear it, “skeptics”: Has NOAA gotten anything wrong in its attempt to spread climate science literacy on a pretty rudimentary level?