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Global Climate Change Science and Solutions

It's time for pragmatic solutions that bring science into the real world of sea-level rise, upheaval in agriculture, changes in energy demand, water resource management and fundamental change in transportation and energy infrastructure.

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Global Climate Science: Where Next?

Scientists now see a need for a new storyline in the saga of global climate change. Climate science is settled, most experts say. The field must accept change as a given and focus instead on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Global Climate Change Solutions

The climate community, in other words, must emerge from field and lab to point the way out of this mess. SOLUTIONS!

The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which synthesized years of global climate scientific effort, offered one of a string of summaries dating to 1990. There will be another, perhaps in 2012.

"Physical science is still very important, but for many people — and for some physical scientists — we already know enough," said Linda Mearns, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Institute for the Study of Society and Environment.

Discovery-based Science and Policy-oriented Science

Success in both discovery-based science and a more policy-oriented science will be crucial if the IPCC – the world authority on climate change – hopes to fulfill its promise of translating scientific results into meaningful action, said Rajendra K Pachauri, the IPCC chairman.

Global Climate Change Solutions that Stimulate Action

"We need to inform, but we also need to stimulate the audience to think and act and emphasize existing solutions," he said. "We need to start looking at the social science aspects.... You really need to mobilize the community. I really don’t think we’ve done enough."

Climate scientists themselves must adapt if their work is to make a real-world difference. The climate change solution: COLLABORATION.

Global Climate Change Adaptation

According the the author of this broad overview of climate science and solutions, Todd Neff found that "Traditionally, basic science 'is not really connected to society. Scientists 'put it out there and hope it’s relevant. There’s some push out there to make science more useful, but I don’t think the bulk of climate science has gone that way yet,'" according to his research among scientists.

First, the science: Our understanding of the Earth and its responses to rising global temperatures is far from complete.

The next generation of climate change models should provide some answers: finer resolution, improved simulations of El Niños, carbon-cycle simulations, atmospheric chemistry components and, possibly, ways to predict ice-sheet behavior.

Prioritizing Climate Change Adaptation Solutions

But basic science fails to shed light – at least directly – on daunting challenges confronting society such as how best to adapt and what stock to place in various solutions. PRIORITIZING SOLUTIONS.

Global Climate Change Mitigation

Adapting will involve dealing with pragmatic problems such as
  • sea-level rise
  • upheaval in agriculture
  • stark changes in energy demand for heating and cooling
  • new water resource management regimes
  • and fundamental change in the world’s transportation and energy infrastructure.

Global climate change is a challenge of enormous scale, requiring that civilization overcome “technological, financial, cognitive and behavioral, and social and cultural constraints,” as the chapter on adaptation in the IPCC’s 2007 report put it.

Adapting to global climate change and stemming the greenhouse-gas tide will touch nearly every aspect of life, forcing climatologists, biologists and oceanographers to work with energy experts, social scientists and automotive engineers, even economists.

Together, these strange bedfellows must produce recommendations useful to political leaders from presidents to planning commissioners.

Those collaborations are not in place.

The private sector is picking up some of the slack.

Global Climate Change Investment

The Cleantech Group reported that venture capitalists in North America, Europe, China and India poured $8.4 billion into solar, wind, biofuels and other "green" investments in 2008, up 38% from 2007. That doesn’t include internal research and development at energy companies and car makers, or outlays such as BP’s 10-year, $500-million grant for biofuels research given to the University of California, Berkeley-led Energy Biosciences Institute.

The credit crunch is slowing such investment in 2009, but the billions in basic science and renewable-energy-related funding in the Obama Administration’s draft economic stimulus package could offset some of the declines.

Global Climate Change Impact

The next recommended step is for scientists to consider the political utility of their research agendas.

SOLUTION: Those working on local or regional climate forecasts, for example, might consult with water managers to understand what information might help them decide when to release water from a reservoir.

That work must accelerate, many researchers agree.

"The IPCC has, if you like, driven people to answer specific questions, and maybe inspired work that has appeared in the literature," Schmidt said. "It doesn’t force anybody to collaborate in the ways that they should."

Read more of Neff's excellent article that outlines the "solution-oriented" solution in the Daily Climate.

About the Original Author, Todd Neff

Todd Neff is a Denver-based freelance writer and author of the forthcoming book, From Jars to the Stars: How Ball Came to Build a Comet-Hunting Machine.

Todd Neff reports for the Daily Climate February 17, 2009. Read more at The Daily Climate, Climate Science

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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