The highlights so far
I can’t be in two places at the same time, but you can, courtesy of the blogosphere. So while I’m in Copenhagen, CP has Steve Easterbrook blogging on the important fall AGU meeting in San Francisco, where many of the top climate scientists in the world are presenting new findings, explaining old research, and talking about the purloined emails. Steve Easterbrook — not to be confused with one of the two worst science writers in the country (see “John Tierney IS the country’s worst science writer, not Gregg Easterbrook“) is a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto who blogs here. He is live blogging the AGU meeting, and I’ll repost/excerpt what I think will be of most interest to Climate Progress readers. Think of this as “fresh frozen” live blogging.
Given the terrible internet connection and complete lack of power outlets in most meeting rooms, I’ve been reduced to taking paper and pencil notes, so I’m way behind in the blogging. So I’ll console myself with a quick tour of everyone else’s blogs about this AGU meeting:
First, and foremost, the AGU press office is putting together its own blog, coordinated by Mohi Kumar. It does a much better job of capturing the highlights than I do, partly because the staff writers can sample across all the sessions, and partly because they’re good at summarizing (rather than my own overly-detailed blow-by-blow accounts of talks).
There’s lots of talk here about impacts, especially on water. Water, Water Everywhere-Except There, and There, and There is a nice summary of some of the hydrology sessions, with the new results from GRACE being an obvious highlight. And the session on Climate Change in the West covered some pretty serious impacts on California.
But the biggest buzz so far at the meeting seems to be science literacy and how to deal with the rising tide of anti-science. Capitol Hill Needs Earth Scientists, reports on a workshop on communicating with Congress, and Talking about Climate: A Monday Night Town Hall Meeting tackled how to talk to the press. Both of these pick up on the idea that the science just isn’t getting though to the people who need to know it, and we have to fix this urgently. I missed both of these, but managed to attend the presentations this morning on science literacy: Can Scientists Convince the Growing Number of Global Warming Skeptics?, which included a beautifully clear and concise summary of the Six Americas study. I’ll post my own detailed notes from this session soon. The shadow of the recently leaked CRU emails has come up a lot this week, in every case as an example of how little the broader world understands about how science is done. Oh, if only more people could come to the AGU meeting and hang out with climate scientists. Anyway, the events of the last few weeks lent a slight sense of desperation to all these sessions on communicating science.
And here’s something that could do with getting across to policymakers – a new study by Davis and Caldeira on consumption-based accounting – how much of the carbon emissions of the developing world are really just outsourced emissions from the developed world, as we look for cheaper ways to feed our consumption habits.
But there are good examples of how science communication should be done. For example, the Emiliani Lecture and the Tough Task of Paleoceanographers, is a great example of explaining the scientific process, in this case an attempt to unravel a mystery about changes in ocean currents around the Indonesian straits, due to varying El Nino cycles. The point of course, is that scientists are refreshingly open about it when they discover their initial ideas are wrong.
And last, but not least, everyone agrees that Richard Alley’s lecture on CO2 in the Earth’s History was the highlight of the meeting so far, even if it was scheduled to clash with the US Climate Change Research Program report on Impacts.
Some more highlights:
- What Does More Atmospheric Carbon Mean for Plants? For a summary of how plants have reacted to increased CO2 levels in recent decades, and whether nitrogen levels act as a limiting factor.
- Toss Out that Rusty Old Globe, about new cool visualizations of global processes.
- Brown Haze May Alter Rainy Days in Asia, on recent studies showing how pollution levels in the Indian subcontinent affect rainfall.
- Finally, Dukin’ out the Younger Dryas Boundary – a lovely account of the lively debate about whether it was an asteroid that done it.