What We Know

what we knowI think it’s, to be honest, more-than-a-little absurd that scientists and policy makers feel the need, at this late date, to further underscore the immediacy, the clarity and the solid basis of the climate science that has been showing us, for decades, that we are in a crisis – and that catastrophe is looming.

This is from my book:  “We enjoy a vast architecture of science — peer-reviewed journals, conferences, research institutions, and graduate schools, plus government, foundation, and corporate funding to support it all. We have come to rely on science to inform us about dangers to public health and the health of our ecosystems, to provide cures for many of our ills, including fixes for the ills we have brought on ourselves through industrial pollution. Further, we rely on science to inform public policy so that we will better know where to devote the finite resources at our disposal for maximum benefit to ourselves and to posterity. Responsible policy makers have long since become confident in the knowledge that they can depend on expert scientific testimony to help guide them.”

Unfortunately, though – and primarily in the United States – the campaigns of disinformation waged by special interests have so jaundiced a large part of the public (but still only a plurality) that the scientific community and responsible policy makers are working hard to overcome the fear and loathing engendered by these campaigns.  So, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has launched a new program to further educate the public:  What We Know.

They aim to make sure that “three R’s” are clearly communicated:

  • The first is Reality — 97% of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.
  • The second is Risk — that the reality of climate change means that there are climate change impacts we can expect, but we also must consider what might happen, especially the small, but real, chance that we may face abrupt changes with massively disruptive impacts.
  • The third R is Response — that there is much we can do and that the sooner we respond, the better off we will be.

This is all right on the money.  It is not new, however, as national science academies from all over the world have been calling for action for years.  It does, however, add to the sense of urgency.

On a similar note, the White House, represented by John Podesta, a top counselor to the President, and John Holdren, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, yesterday announced the launch of the Climate Data Initiative.  Holdren is a climate hawk of long standing and Podesta founded the Center for American Progress and led it through its first ten years.  They describe the initiative this way :  “…an ambitious new effort bringing together extensive open government data and design competitions with commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. This effort will help give communities across America the information and tools they need to plan for current and future climate impacts.”  For more, see the LA Times here.

There are any number of excellent sources available for climate data, not the least of which can be found here from the World Bank.  I also highlighted a superb tool from the World Resources Institute here last summer.  NASA has a highly useful compendium of sources here.

We will have a great deal more science available next week when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its newest report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here’s a video from the What We Know initiative on just how definitive and universally accepted the climate science is – at least by scientists.


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