A different approach to climate change research

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has become too politicised, according to a panel of scientists and public policy experts chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Defence and Energy James Schlesinger. And U.S. climate change research efforts are fragmented and lack specific goals.

The scientific and policy conclusions in the IPCC's periodic reports – particularly its summaries, which downplay uncertainties and conclude observable global warming is caused by human activity – are not supported by the underlying science or existing climate models, says the panel.

Thus it is important that the U.S. develop an alternative approach to climate change. The U.S. Global Change Research Programme is the umbrella for federally funded research on climate change.

  • But the effort is not really a "programme," since according to the National Research Council it lacks a comprehensive strategy, a mechanism for prioritising research and adequate funding.

  • Nor does the U.S. have a credible, ongoing assessment process to turn scientific information into useful input for public policy decisions.

    The panel of experts says a more cost-effective approach "requires focused research programmes with tangible deliverables that address significant, policy-relevant scientific uncertainties."

    Building better models also requires a better understanding of climate processes that, in turn, requires a long-term commitment to climate observations and data collection.

  • For instance, some of the data required to build better models of climate processes (such as weather information) are collected and analysed by a specific agency.

  • However, other data (such as solar variability) are collected and analysed as part of research projects with other objectives.

  • Instead, collecting and analysing all critical data needs to be an operational responsibility for the appropriate agency, not a research effort subject to short-term changes in direction and priorities.

    Source: Climate Science and Policy: Making the Connection, December 2001, George C. Marshall Institute, 1730 K St. NW Suite 905 Washington, D.C. 20006, (202) 296-9655.

    For text http://www.marshall.org/ClimateSciencePolicy.pdf
    For more on the Scientific Debate on Global Warming

    FMF 02/01/02
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