Opinions and Anecdotal Evidence

January 28th, 2009 <-- by Richard Rood -->

Opinions and Anecdotal Evidence:

Here at the beginning of the Obama administration there is a shift in mindset unlike any I have ever seen. During my years in the U.S. government, the science agencies didn’t get significant attention until a year or more into the new administration. This year we see science getting attention from the beginning, and, for example, there was a nominee for NOAA administrator announced prior to the inauguration. (Jane Lubchenco from Wikipedia, Professor Jane Lubchenco, More on Obama science appointees). Along with this new emphasis on science there are people and groups trying to position themselves. This includes those who fight against the government taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. (more …)

An Insightful and Provocative Keynote

September 4th, 2008 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Herman Daly delivered a fantastic keynote address to AMS’s workshop on Federal Climate Policy. The text is reproduced here in full.

Climate Policy: from “know how” to “do now”

Herman E. Daly

The recent increase in attention to global warming is very welcome. Most of the attention seems to be given to complex climate models and their predictions. That too is welcome. However, it is useful to back up a bit and remember an observation by physicist John Wheeler, “We make the world by the questions we ask”. What are the questions asked by the climate models, and what kind of world are they making, and what other questions might we ask that would make other worlds? Could we ask other questions that would make a more tractable world for policy? (more …)

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part II: Evidence

August 20th, 2008 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

In my first post on this topic, I explored how optimism and pessimism can influence policy preferences for dealing with climate change. I mentioned two key issues relating to policy choices: 1) society’s sensitivity to earth system disturbance, and 2) our potential to mitigate. Each can be viewed with optimism or pessimism, which leads to four possible perspectives: the true optimists, true pessimists, earth system optimists (who are mitigation pessimists), and mitigation optimists (who are earth system pessimists).

Today I’ll focus on the evidence that can support or diminish the standing of each of the four perspectives. (more …)

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part I

August 12th, 2008 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist probably influences your views on how society should deal with climate change. Today I hope to open a running discussion that explores how our outlook affects our climate policy preferences.

I see two key areas where our views on climate policy may be influenced by whether we’re optimists or pessimists. (more …)

Science in the policy process: rational decision-making or Faustian bargain?

August 4th, 2008 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

As a scientist who works on policy, my mantra is, “public policy advances the interests of society most effectively when it is grounded in the best available knowledge.” It is, in my view, a logical philosophy for someone trained in science and committed to the advancement of science in society. Science provides us with an understanding of the universe and can thereby underpin rational and informed decision-making. Without a rational basis, our choices are left to rely on superstition, guesses, or narrow interests—key ingredients to outcomes that are sub-optimal.

Yet colleagues from both the science and policy communities often seem to challenge this view, at least implicitly, when confronted with the most contentious and challenging issues facing society. Most recently, several have questioned my efforts to develop a workshop series on Federal climate policy—and thereby contribute to a more fully informed policy discussion—because the series will include some contentious topics (e.g., carbon fees and geo-engineering) that, if implemented rashly, could pose dangers to society. (more …)

An Essay Following Many Blogs

July 30th, 2008 <-- by Richard Rood -->

This blog is an essay / analysis that follows from comments on both this blog and my blog on Wunderground.com .


The predictions of climate change provide us knowledge of the future. These predictions are not like those from a crystal ball; they are not magic. Neither are the predictions speculation nor are they opinion. The predictions are based on scientific investigation of the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice. The predictions include the role of chemistry and biology. There are uncertainties in the predictions, but the core of the predictions, that the Earth will warm, that sea level will rise, and that the weather will change is of little doubt.

The predictions are grounded, ultimately, in observations. The quest to explain the behavior of the observations and their relation to each other leads to the development of scientific hypotheses that are formed into theory. These hypotheses and theories are testable; they change with time; they are not speculation nor are they opinion. The theory can be expressed as mathematical expressions, and the mathematical expressions are solved to provide predictions. The collection of mathematical expressions which represent the theory are called models. (more …)

Problem Solving: Breaking it down

June 7th, 2008 <-- by Richard Rood -->

On my (more dynamic) Wunderground.com blog I have been writing a series about how we make the attribution of climate change to humans. Recently, the comments on that blog have moved to the discussion of the Copenhagen Consensus and how the climate change problem stacks up against other great problems we face. Here is the TimesOnline on the Copenhagen Consensus. Here is the primary link to the Copenhagen Consensus. There is an interesting list of priorities developed by the Copenhagen Business School. The Consensus Project is headed by Bjorn Lomborg, who has become a controversial figure in the community. The project aims to look at the great problems of the world taken together and in the face of both monetary resources and capabilities. Then it is determined which are the most urgent to address. In general, full-on attack of the climate change problem does not come out on the top of the list. (It seems that some of the readers of my Wunderground.com blog use this to dismiss the importance or correctness of climate change science.) (more …)

Where do Modeling Requirements Come From?

February 19th, 2008 <-- by Richard Rood -->

Requirements vs Requirements of scientists

I sit in my share of meetings on models and modeling. I listen to plans about model development and impassioned statements of the importance of “the science.” There are struggles on how to make the interface to other communities, the proverbial policymaker. In a room full of scientists they always come around to the need to follow “the science.”

What does it mean to follow “the science?” Science is a process of investigation – a method. It is one of several ways that we generate and accumulate knowledge. (more …)

Waiting Until We Are Sure:

January 9th, 2008 <-- by Richard Rood -->

Waiting Until We Are Sure:

I also write a blog at Wunderground.com. Since November the number of comments on that blog has exploded. Thousands and thousands of words are being written. Some things in the comments are crude, there is some good argument, and complaints about what might be called the climate change machine. Most of the people who write comments at Wunderground.com are people with more than a casual interest in the weather and the environment. They put up maps and figures. It will be interesting to look back on these comments some years from now.

I tried to extract and summarize some of the concepts that were appearing in the comments to the blog. (Here they are.) This blog will address one of the ideas that keeps coming up – uncertainty. There were a number of comments about uncertainty and the fact that our knowledge about climate change is based on model predictions. Several times and in several ways people have said “shouldn’t we wait until we are sure?” (more …)

Designing Post-2012 International Climate Change Policy

December 7th, 2007 <-- by Joseph Aldy -->

The 2007 UN-sponsored climate change negotiations opened in Bali, Indonesia this week. By the end of the conference on December 14, the world community may agree to a two-year “roadmap,” as called for by the UN Secretary-General, for negotiating an agreement to guide climate change mitigation efforts after the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s 2008-2012 commitment period. A number of academics, analysts, nongovernmental organizations and related processes have proposed various ways of moving forward with international climate change policy, including the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s Dialogue at Pocantico, the UN Foundation and the Club of Madrid’s Global Leadership for Climate Action, and the Centre for Global Studies’ L20 concept of engaging the most important developed and developing countries on this issue, which is similar to the Bush Administration’s Big Economies process. (more …)