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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 #d96oct1

"Open Letter to Ben Santer," Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77(9), 1961-1966, Sep. 1996.

The letter, authored by officials of the American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, is published in support of Santer and other scientists in the current controversy over the second scientific assessment of climate change. (See related News items in GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DIGEST, June and July 1996.) Much of the discussion relates to how inappropriate it is to carry out a scientific debate in the mass media. Included in support of this point, the Bulletin has reprinted an opinion piece from the June 12 Wall Street Journal, "A Major Deception on 'Global Warming,'" by Frederick Seitz, along with two related letters to the Journal editor in response to the Seitz commentary. The latter show additions and deletions made by the Journal prior to printing. These modifications, whether motivated by page space or other reasons, preclude a balanced scientific dialog.

Item #d96oct2

"Climate Science and National Interests," R.M. White (Univ. Corp. for Atmos. Res., POB 3000, Boulder CO 80307), Issues in Science & Technology, 12(1), 33-38, Fall 1996.

An essay on the constantly changing relationship between the science and the politics of climate change. The scientific case for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is perceived to be changing, but the political barriers remain daunting. It is surprising that missing from the negotiations is any concept of marshaling international action to develop technologies that will be needed for adaptation. Many promising energy options are sufficiently far from commercialization that international collaboration might advance their availability. But absent efficient new energy technologies, the negotiators simply will not have the tools necessary to achieve greenhouse emission goals.

Item #d96oct3

"Global Warming, Bad Weather, Insurance Losses and the Global Economy," N.C Low (UOB Life Assurance Ltd., 156 Cecil St., 10th Fl., Far Eastern Bank Bldg., Singapore 0106), S. Shen, World Resource Review, 8(3), 273-288, Sep. 1996.

Argues that the economic stability of civilization is highly sensitive to climatic stability, and that increasing greenhouse gases have already disrupted climatic stability. Gives evidence for this based on the "Extreme Events Index," which shows an upward trend over the past few decades, leading to a dramatic rise in insurance losses. The potential impact of global warming has risks but also offers tremendous opportunities for leaders of society. Discusses approaches for achieving a sustainable society and reversing the current trend of increased extreme events.

Item #d96oct4

"Climate and Species' Range, C. Parmesan (Natl. Ctr. for Ecol. Analysis & Synthesis, 735 State St., S. 300, Univ. California, Santa Barbara CA 93101; e-mail:, Nature, 382(6594), 765-766, Aug. 29, 1996.

Presents what the author describes as the first study to provide evidence of shifts in the range of a species consistent with those predicted for global warming, that are based on examination of the entire range of a species. A species of butterfly (Edith's checkerspot) was studied in the western U.S. Concludes that the evidence presented here provides the clearest indication to date that global warming is already influencing species' distributions. (See Res. News, this GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DIGEST issue--Oct.-Nov. 1996.)

Item #d96oct5

"Fingerprint of Ozone Depletion in the Spatial and Temporal Pattern of Recent Lower Stratospheric Cooling," V. Ramaswamy (GFDL, POB 308, Princeton NJ 08542), M.D. Schwarzkopf, W.J. Randel, ibid., 382(6592), 616-618, Aug. 15, 1996.

Incorporates observed decreases in stratospheric ozone concentrations over the period 1979-1990 into a general circulation model of the atmosphere. Results confirm the expectation, based on simpler model studies, that the observed ozone depletion exerts a spatially and seasonally varying fingerprint in the decadal cooling of the lower stratosphere. The effect of other greenhouse gases is relatively small. The study suggests a human influence on lower stratospheric temperature through the impact of ozone depleting chemicals.

Item #d96oct6

"Absorption of Solar Energy in the Atmosphere: Discrepancy Between Model and Observations," A. Arking (Dept. Earth & Planetary Sci., Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore MD 21218; e-mail:, Science, 273(5276), 779-782, Aug. 9, 1996.

Calculations made by an atmospheric general circulation model were compared with observations of the flux of solar radiant energy based on a combination of ground-based and satellite measurements. The model underestimated the amount of solar energy absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere by 25 to 30 watts per square meter. Contrary to some recent reports, clouds have little or no overall effect on atmospheric absorption; water vapor seems to have the dominant influence.

Item #d96oct7

"Mongolian Tree Rings and 20th Century Warming," G.C. Jacoby (Tree Ring Lab., Lamont-Doherty Earth Observ., Rte. 9W, Palisades NY 10964), R.D. D'Arrigo, T. Davaajamts, ibid., 771-773.

A 450-year tree-ring width chronology of Siberian pine shows wide annual growth rings for the recent century. Ecological site observations and comparisons with instrumental temperature records indicate that the ring widths of these trees are sensitive to temperature. This chronology shows that the recent warming indicated is unusual relative to temperatures of the past 450 years.

Item #d96oct8

"Post-Modernism and Global Environmental Change," P.M. Blaikie (Sch. Development Studies, Univ. E. Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK), Global Environ. Change, 6(2), 81-85, June 1996.

Post-modernist thinking has been invading and invigorating the social sciences over the past two decades, and now impinges on the foundations of the natural sciences, policy making and development studies—areas fundamental to the study of global environmental change. The role of science and alternative ways of understanding global environmental change are being increasingly questioned by a post-modern approach. For instance, scientific truth may be seen to be socially negotiated, rather than universal and invariably reproducible. This article discusses the challenges and opportunities posed by post-modernism.

Item #d96oct9

"Uncertainty in Perspective," M.B.A. van Asselt (Human Ecol. Group, EAWAG, Ueberlandstr. 133, CH-8600 Dubendorf, Switz.), J. Rotmans, ibid., 121-157.

Addresses the issues of uncertainty and subjectivity in modeling, in the context of integrated assessment. Relates bias to different perspectives by introducing a "multiple model route" approach, which reflects different perceptions of reality and policy preferences, and enables plurality to be accounted for in a consistent way. Describes case studies on climate change and population growth, and suggests that scientists should aim to manage uncertainty rather than completely resolve it.

Item #d96oct10

"Perceived Ecological Risks of Global Change: A Psychometric Comparison of Causes and Consequences," T. McDaniels (Inst. for Resour. & Environ., Univ. British Columbia, 6333 Memorial Rd., Vancouver BC V6T 1WS, Can.), L.J. Axelrod, P. Slovic, ibid., 159-171.

Discusses the public's perceptions of ecological risks associated with climate change, ozone depletion, and species loss, based on data collected from 68 subjects. The one consistent finding is that laypersons perceive technologies or actions that contribute to global change processes quite differently than they perceive the consequences of those processes. Several explanations are discussed, but whatever the cause, this failure to connect causes and consequences will likely limit meaningful collective responses, and may help explain current patterns of political response to global change processes. One possible way to overcome this obstacle is effective risk communication, through the media as well as through government sponsored communication efforts.

Item #d96oct11

"Ending Hunger: Current Status and Future Prospects," R.W. Kates (e-mail:, Consequences, 2(2), 2-12, 1996. Consequences is published by Saginaw Valley State Univ. under agreement with NOAA. Articles are made available on the Internet by the U.S. Global Change Office;

Chronic hunger affects about a sixth of the world's population. Worldwide, the percentage and number of hungry people has fallen in the last 20 years, but this is not the case in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and South Asia. Global food production has kept up with population growth but the prospects of significant climate or other environmental changes raise questions about how long the pace can be maintained. Hunger could be eliminated, were certain known requirements to be met; among these are an ability to cope with the unexpected, through resilience and flexibility.

Item #d96oct12

"Nongovernmental Organizations in World Environmental Politics," T. Princen (Sch. Natural Resour. & Environ., Univ. Michigan), M. Finger, J. Manno, Intl. Environ. Affairs, 7(1), 42-58, Winter 1995.

Reflects on the tremendous growth in the size and number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) dealing with international environmental affairs. Their role in the international arena is not strictly analogous to the role of similar groups in the domestic arena; rather it is shaped by the general characteristics of the ecological crisis. The NGO's vdistinctive contribution is to draw out the political implications of biophysical trends at local and global levels, and to challenge the limitations of the traditional state-centric system.

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