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Global Climate Change Digest

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Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d97mar1

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Consensual Knowledge and Global Politics," S. Shackley (Ctr. for the Study of Environ. Change, Lancaster Univ., Lancaster LA1 4YN, UK), Global Environ. Change, 7(1), 77-79, Apr. 1997.

Discusses accomplishments and problems over the eight-year of history of the IPCC, during which the atmosphere of debate has become more intense as the group moved from studying the phenomenon of climate change to considering policy responses. The original structure of the working groups appeared to assert the primacy of the natural sciences over the social sciences, and while this situation has changed somewhat, vast areas of relevant scholarship and understanding are still excluded. For instance, economics is the only social science discipline currently employed to understand social behavior related to climate change. Issues critical to the IPCC's future are: flexibility; involvement of developing countries; definition of its continued role in the climate negotiation process; and maintenance of its authority as a trusted expert body. The group may still have an important role guiding the integration of climate change considerations into the much wider set of concerns of both policy actors and members of the lay public.

In an introduction to this article, T. O'Riordan and A. Jordan comment that the scientific consensus of the IPCC has been widely acclaimed but politically ignored. The IPCC should emphasize joint development strategies as much as it has emphasized greenhouse gas mitigation in the industrialized world. Vital opportunities that would link activities implemented jointly to improved trade, aid and debt relief currently remain unexplored.

Item #d97mar2

Comments on "Open Letter to Ben Santer," Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 78(1), 81-83, Jan. 1997.

The September 1996 issue of the Bulletin contained a letter authored by officials of the American Meteorological Society and others supporting Ben Santer, the lead author of a controversial chapter of the IPCC second assessment that discusses evidence for a human influence on climate change. (See Global Climate Change Digest, PROF. PUBS./OF GEN. INTEREST, Oct.-Nov. 1996.) The longest of the three comments appearing here is authored by 10 scientists including noted greenhouse skeptics S. Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, and Patrick Michaels. The major point they discuss is how climate science is being misused for political purposes, which they consider the real issue rather than the legalistic debate about IPCC procedure.

Item #d97mar3

"Twentieth-Century Sea Surface Temperature Trends," M.A. Cane (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observ., Rte. 9W, Palisades NY 10964), A.C. Clement et al., Science, 275(5302), 957-960, Feb. 14, 1997.

(See RESEARCH NEWS, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Mar. 1997.) This analysis of historical sea surface temperatures provides evidence for global warming since 1900, in line with land-based analyses of global temperature trends, and also shows that over the same period, the eastern equatorial Pacific cooled and the east-west gradient of sea surface temperature increased. Recent theoretical studies have predicted such a pattern as a response of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system to an imposed heating of the tropical atmosphere. However, this type of response is absent in current climate model simulations of increased greenhouse gases, probably because their spatial resolution is too coarse.

If the theoretical studies are correct, these results provide evidence that climatic feedbacks related to coupled ocean-atmosphere motions are delaying, and possibly regulating, global warming. But this moderation will not last forever, and associated sea surface temperature changes in the tropical Pacific would engender changes in regional climate and climate variability over much of the Earth that would likely have substantial social and economic consequences.

Item #d97mar4

"Climate Research: The Case for the Social Sciences," H. von Storch (Inst. Hydrophys., GKSS Res Ctr., Geesthacht, Ger.), N. Stehr, Ambio, 26(1), 66-71, Feb. 1997.

(This and the following paper are part of a special issue; see PROF. PUBS./A CENTURY OF CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Mar. 1997.) The history of climate impacts research has been dominated by the doctrine of "climate determinism," which holds that a region's climate influences human social conduct, attitudes and abilities. A more realistic form of impact research is needed as a basis for policy concerning anthropogenic climate change. Rejects the view that the problem should be handled with an "optimal control" approach that merely balances abatement costs against damage costs. Instead, impact research must recognize the interactions between society and climate by drawing extensively on social science expertise. Social scientists could help understand the process by which society constructs climate-related knowledge and beliefs, the dynamics of social preferences, and even the role of natural scientists (who are influenced by various subjective and social mechanisms).

Item #d97mar5

"From Arrhenius to Megascience: Interplay Between Science and Public Decisionmaking," A. Elzinga (Dept. Theory of Sci. & Res., Univ. G?teborg, S-412 98 G?teborg, Swed.), ibid., 72-80.

The majority of the paper focuses on Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius and the major themes in his ideal of science: what constitutes a good scientific explanation; how science ideally develops; and the relationship between research and decision-making in society. These views of 100 years ago are then used as background to examine the complex intertwining of research and politics that developed after World War I. Discusses how policy determination of scientific agendas introduces an organized social dimension, in which the drive for consensus may contradict the ideal of a "Darwinian struggle of hypotheses" advocated by Arrhenius. Offers a model of mutually-reinforcing credibility cycles, linking science and politics, for understanding the social dynamics of scientific climate change research.

Item #d97mar6

"Global Warming and Developing Countries-The Possibility of a Solution by Accelerating Development," Y. Murota (Shonan Econometrics Inc., 3-23-1 Kataseyama, Fujisawa, Kanagawa 251, Japan), K. Ito, Energy Policy, 24(12), 1061-1077, Dec. 1966.

Shows how, contrary to current opinion, rapid development of non-industrialized countries might bring about a long-term solution to the global warming problem. This conclusion is based on a model of development which calculates by region the world's economic growth, population growth, energy supply and demand, CO2 emissions and other factors, through the end of the next century. Steps necessary to realize this scenario include accelerating development in developing countries, expediting their shift to renewable energy through carbon taxes, and transferring energy saving technologies from developed to developing countries.

Item #d97mar7

"Critical Loads' Sensitivity to Climate Change," Environ. Conserv., 22(4), 363-365, Winter 1995.

A critical load is the highest quantity of a pollutant deposited from the air (such as acid precipitation) that will not lead to long-term, harmful consequences to ecosystems. This paper summarizes empirical evidence demonstrating the sensitivity of critical load calculations to assumed future hydrological regimes. Disregarding the possibility of climate change in critical-load estimates could mean that international pollution-control protocols that were established over the past decade may fail to yield the anticipated catchment recovery in the next century. This result could compromise the credibility of scientific advice and the results of mathematical models in political circles.

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