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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d95dec1

"Climate Models: How Reliable Are Their Predictions?", E.J. Barron (Earth Systems Sci. Ctr., Deike Bldg., Pennsylvania State Univ., Univ. Pk. PA 16802), Consequences, 1(3), 16-27, Autumn 1995.

Computer-based general circulation models are modified versions of the mathematical simulations that have been used for decades to forecast weather. Many now in use around the world have been independently derived and are continually compared and evaluated for their ability to reproduce documented climate features of the past. However, because they are based on our present, evolving knowledge of how the climate system operates and have coarse spatial resolution, their projections of future climate are cast in terms of a range of uncertainty. Nevertheless, they are our best and only hope of anticipating future changes in climate, and we only lose if we dismiss their findings, outright, as too equivocal or theoretical or incomplete. Choices of whether or how to act on what is predicted are best made with a knowledge of both the strengths of these tools and their weaknesses. We can count on continued improvements in model reliability.

Item #d95dec2

"The Environment Since 1970," J.H. Ausubel (Prog. Human Environ., Rockefeller Univ., Box 234, 1230 York Ave., New York NY 10021), D.G. Victor, I.K. Wernick, ibid., 2-15.

A broad review of developments in the 25 years since the beginning of the modern era of wide environmental awareness. Considers environmental awareness in three ways: assesses underlying forces of economic and population growth; looks at indicators of the environment itself; and examines changes in management and institutions.

A percapita rise in energy consumption in the less developed countries has been roughly balanced by reductions elsewhere, and though developed nations still consume a disproportionate share, there is a trend toward energy efficiency and reduced release of carbon to the atmosphere per unit of usable energy. During this time, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere rose 10 percent, and production of ozone-depleting chemicals grew steadily, then leveled off in response to unprecedented collective actions. International attention to global problems increased immensely. What has been learned, good or bad, in the more developed nations can help guide the less developed countries.

Item #d95dec3

"START—The Road from Bellagio," R.J. Fuchs (Intl. START Secretariat, 2000 Florida Ave. NW, S. 200, Washington DC 20009), Global Environ. Change, 5(5), 397-404, Dec. 1995.

Development of the START initiative (a Global Change SysTem for Research, Analysis and Training) is sponsored by the three major international global change science programs: the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), and the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Program (HDP). The primary objective is development of regional frameworks to support regional research related to global change, and synthesis scientific assessments related to policy development. Six of these networks are being developed in Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, East Asia, South Asia, the Mediterranean, and Southern Africa. Current concerns include the need for a more elaborate HDP, and multi-donor, multi-year financial support. The latter goal will be easier to achieve if scientists make the potential relevance of their work more explicit to policymakers.

Item #d95dec4

A recent collection of papers on "Climate Change and World Food Supply," is reviewed extensively by A.M. Pittock (CSIRO Div. Atmos. Res., PB 1, Mordialloc, Victoria 3195, Australia), in Environment, 37(9), 25-30, Nov. 1995.

The papers were published as specials issues of Global Environ. Change and Food Policy. (See Prof. Pubs. sections on Climate Change and Food in GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DIGEST, April & May, 1994.) Reviews the assumptions, biases and internal contradictions of the papers, and finds that, given the weaknesses of the integrated assessments presented, the main value of the papers lies more in the questions they raise than in the answers they provide. Some of the authors appear to believe that all will be well if only we undertake a bit of institutional change, an optimism that is difficult to share. Achieving food security in the 21st century constitutes an immense technological, institutional and societal challenge, difficult to meet in the face of the present inequities, continuing conflicts, compassion fatigue, and the politics of greed.

Item #d95dec5

"New Directions in Environmental Protection," Environ. Sci. & Technol., 29(11), 515A-521A, Nov. 1995.

A panel of ten experts debates the changing landscape of U.S. environmental regulations on the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency. Discusses the future of command-and-control regulations, science and policy, what the U.S. can learn from other countries, and the influence of environmental groups.

Item #d95dec6

"Beyond Global Warming: Ecology and Global Change," P.M. Vitousek (Dept. Biol. Sci., Stanford Univ., Stanford CA 94305), Ecology, 75(7), 1861-1876, Oct. 1994.

Although ecologists involved in management or policy are often advised to learn to deal with uncertainty, there are a number of anthropogenic components of global environmental change of which we are certain, including rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, alterations in the biogeochemistry of the global nitrogen cycle, and land use/land cover change. In this essay, presented upon the acceptance of the MacArthur Award of the Ecological Society of America, the author argues that ecologists must learn how to deal more effectively with certainty. Much of the public believes the causes or even existence of global change to be uncertain and contentious topics; by speaking out effectively, ecologists can help shift the focus of public discussion towards what can and should be done.

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