Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What future for climate science?

Tom Bogdan, the new President of the US University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) gave an interesting talk about the future of (US) climate science.

You can see the slides here. He asks if climate change is on its way to obscurity or will be able to show its relevance.
He starts with two hypotheses:

It is about the battle between inertia (skeptics, people who don't care, don't understand, or put a low priority on such issues) and the need for action, where ‘now or never’ pleas are being made and ignored because they sound too desperate.
On the other end, climate sciences may be on the way down because it has accomplished the mission that has stimulated its growth in the past 20 years; we have provided society an answer; but. . . unless we choose to work on impacts, we are not part of the solution.
He thinks that climate science can flourish: 'Rather than declining relevance, our time is now if we adapt to a changed environment and playing field'
– Recognize government funding will likely be flat to down for the foreseeable future under most scenarios
– We must augment our traditional sources of funding for our work from those who will be affected by the changes across sectors
– Spend less energy battling skeptics
– With the science established, we must move to more direct solutions in service to society, directly supporting those on the front lines who can make the most of our insights
– We are among the most successful predictors the world has ever seen
– We have to double-down on the life-saving and economy-enhancing work our community does at the heart of weather-climate nexus over longer


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Reiner Grundmann said...

another brave anonymous let off some steam without saying anything. I have deleted the 2 lines. If yo have to contribute something intelligible you can repost

eduardo said...

I cannot really recognize the scientist behind this text. For me, it rather reads as a call from a lobbyist to encourage his troops for forthcoming battle.

I can understand why nuclear physicists need to lobby politicians to fund the search for the Higgs boson, but if society were craving information about climate predictions, public funding would easily flow.

RainerS said...

I just did a "diagonal" read of the slides, but two (for now) items caught my eye:

- Slide 6: Bogdan is using "Desaster costs" to make his point - and is even using the headline "Climate Disasters". Is there a real trend in the signals for hurricanes/droughts/floods/tornadoes etc or not? If not. I might as well take Munich Re´s PR as the gold standard.

- Slide 7: "THE U.S. HAS BEEN FACING ITS WORST DROUGHT IN 50 YEARS" --- Weren´t the sixties a cool period?

AND IN 2010 –
PRICES RELATED TO SIMILAR CONDITIONS --- Did Bogdan take into account the effects of using arable land for biofuels production?

Maybe there´s more, no time to check on short notice. Look´s like cheap re-use of sub-prime factoids to me.

RE the face value questions: of course climate science is important, but "but if society were craving information about climate predictions, public funding would easily flow.". Eduardo was quicker here :-)

My unimportant personal opinion : if Climate Science - whoever or whatever this entails in detail - wants to have a productive and "sustainable" impact on policy, there are two main preconditions: assume a safe distance from

- organized environmentalism of the Greenpeace, FoE, WWF type. These organizations are standing in the way of putting every available option for mitigation and adaption on the table, be it nuclear, GM crops, hydroenergy or managed forestry. Not to mention deep-green Mathusian BS.

- the wealth redistribution crowd that uses climate change for their very own agenda of achieving some-kind-or-other of "justice", thus squandering billions to countries which have not and/or are not willing to do their homework.

As long as this isn´t achieved, there will remain a credibilty gap as well as the danger of being dependent on political tides.

All in all, it looks like everything has been said in the wake of Sandy, but not yet by everybody...

intrepid_wanders said...

Impressive 2-3 year promotion interval (even in college). This man must truly have insomnia.

1979 B.S. (Summa Cum Laude) State University of New York at Buffalo
1981 M.S. Physics, University of Chicago
1984 Ph.D. Physics, University of Chicago

1975 Bausch & Lomb Science Award
1975 New York State Regents Scholarship
1981 Gregor Wentzel Prize, University of Chicago
1981 Valentine Telegdi Prize, University of Chicago
1989 Visiting Gauss Professor, Göttingen University

1983 Postdoctoral Fellow, NCAR
1985 Scientist I, NCAR
1987 Scientist II, NCAR
1990 Scientist III, NCAR
1993 Senior Scientist, NCAR
1995 Section Head, NCAR
2001 Program Director, NSF
2003 Director (acting), Advanced Study Program, NCAR
2004 Associate NCAR Director (acting)
2006 Director, SWPC, NOAA

...well, exception of the NOAA Space Weather Directorship till now ;)

It is an exceptionally weak presentation without the data being properly normalize and the vague strength of the Climate Community's Predictions (I thought we settled on that being a no-no word).

I think he is unaware of the real problems in "The Last War" w.r.t. replication of results, ethics and the rush to get a press release. Not realizing the flaws that are plaguing other areas of science affect Climate Sciences as well.

Oh well, more of the same.

intrepid_wanders said...


"- Slide 7: "THE U.S. HAS BEEN FACING ITS WORST DROUGHT IN 50 YEARS" --- Weren´t the sixties a cool period?"

You might get a kick out of this...


Anonymous1 said...

You want details of how this evidences self delusion and a total lack of self awareness? Sure.

Slide 3: "public views are now
more accepting of the influence of climate". True, but have you seen how high it comes on their priority lists? Everyone now "believes" in climate science, but almost nobody actually cares: it's just something you say in public because it makes you seem nice.

Slide 5: "stop fighting the last war". Instead of trying to convince people let's unilaterally declare that we have won. Sure; that's going to work really well.

Slide 5: "We are among the most successful predictors the world has ever seen". Now that's a perfect example of hubris. At a time when temperatures are rising more slowly than the models predict and yet ice is melting more rapidly than the models predict, claiming accuracy in prediction is laughable. Pretending that "success" at weather forecasting (hardly a wide-spread public perception) implies success at climate prediction is intellectually bankrupt, but also lays him open to accusations of feeding the "weather=climate" meme. Very foolish, no matter how successful Nate Silver was in the recent election.

Slide 6: damage graph. see Pielke Jr passim.

Slide 7: worst drought in 50 years. How very convenient, but of course we all know what happened 51 years ago.

Slides 9 and 10: pure social science buzzwords, and free of any actual content.

If senior figures in the climate community have been reduced to this sort of nonsense the rot is even deeper than I thought. But those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.

Roddy said...

Every now and then it made terrific sense, but would relentlessly and inevitably and disappointingly slide back into utter repetitive disaster meme nonsense, making one seriously wonder whether the sense it made had come about randomly.