Sunday, February 21, 2010

Climate science alive and well, say experts

ABC News Online,  Sun Feb 21

Top scientists say climate science is alive and well despite the scandal of leaked emails in Britain and "glitches" in a report by the UN climate change panel.
"There's consensus that action is justified, indeed imperative, to reduce the problem of a really serious long-term global effect on the climate," said Lord Martin Rees, president of the British academy of science, the Royal Society.
"My personal take is the key bit of evidence is the rise in CO2 concentration plus simple physics. If we had no data other than that, that would be enough," Lord Rees said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Climate change sceptics seized on a leak of thousands of emails and other documents from researchers at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain, which appeared to show scientists saying global warming was not as serious as previously thought.
That scandal, dubbed Climategate, came just weeks before UN talks on climate change in Copenhagen in December.
Several weeks after the talks, another scandal rocked the world of climate science, when the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was accused of basing a report about ice disappearing from the world's mountain peaks on a student essay and an article in a mountaineering magazine.
But scientists were not out for the count - they just cannot ethically "go into the gutter" the way the media have in attacking the science world over the leaks, said Jerry North of Texas A&M University.
"It's easy to vilify scientists, but scientists cannot go into the gutter and turn the attacks the other way," he said.
"But the climate science paradigm is in fact quite healthy. We just have a lot of challenges about how we communicate."
Scientists may be good at crunching numbers and data, but they are bad at doing their own public relations, said Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences.
"There are a lot of smart people working on climate change right now, but we're not doing a good job of translating what we're learning to the public," said Cicerone.
"Instead when we have a major snowstorm on the east coast of the US, jokes are proliferating about how wrong all this global warming stuff was. And yet you turn on your television and look at the winter Olympics in Canada and you find no snow."

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