by Judith Curry
Here are a few things that caught my eye this past week.
An eclectic mix this week.
Legal defense fund for climate scientists
Andy Revkin reports on A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists:
A Climate Science Legal Defense Fund set up last fall has taken on a formal affiliation withPublic Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an established nonprofit group offering aid and advice to government whistleblowers and scientists working on environmental issues.
JC memo to scientists who need legal defense: read my previous post on integrity and responsibility.
Huffington Post on Climate Uncertainty
An interesting (and surprising!) article in the Huffington Post entitled “Climate Science Uncertainty Impacts Discourse“
What do we actually know for sure about climate change?
We only know that the world is getting warmer; carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere are rising; and that the CO2 build-up is the fault of humankind, as a result of emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
Such human emissions are “very likely” (U.N. language) to be contributing to a strong global average warming trend since the late 1970s at nearly 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade (after removing the effects of natural variation).
Scientists argue risk is greater on the upside: the lower bound of warming has barely changed at an expected further 2 degrees Celsius warming this century, but the upper bound has if anything risen with scientific understanding, and is more open at 4 degrees or more.
But there’s the problem: it’s impossible to forecast just how much warming there will be because of complex, so-called feedback effects.
For example, climate change may itself alter cloud formation in a way which adds yet more warming, or less, scientists aren’t quite sure. And there are other feedback and non-linear effects (“tipping points”) which are poorly understood.
Even bigger uncertainties lurk behind the impact of warming: the question of when and where climate change will become dangerous, and to whom.
Estimating global impacts such as sea level rise adds a tangled planetary response on top of the estimated warming.
Narrowing further to regional impacts, such as expected temperature and rainfall changes in a particular region or country, and the scientific mist thickens in the most pressing and least understood research area.
Sounds about right to me. Can someone remind me why we need the IPCC AR5?
Open access journals
John Carlos Baez takes on the issue open access for journals in this [post], with some excellent and practical recommendations. Must read for those of you interested in the open knowledge movement.
Recommendations from the Defense Science Board
The Center for Climate and Security has a post Defense Science Board Report on Climate Security: List of Recommendations. This is a very comprehensive set of recommendations. Full report can be downloaded [here].
Science and distortion – Stephen Schneider
There is an interesting 12 minute youtube video on Steve Schneider
A year in the making, this video pays tribute to a critical scientific and academic figure in postmodern history: Climatologist and Stanford Professor Stephen Schneider. Schneider explains the problems facing the public’s understanding of climate change and consequently the lack of action in Washington legislatively.
Teaching critical thinking
Stanford University is remaking their undergraduate curriculum to focus on critical thinking versus disciplinary content, says an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I look forward to seeing what they come up with; I view this as a very good development in higher education.
Stanford University is unveiling on Thursday a set of 55 recommendations to place a priority on teaching undergraduates a set of skills in addition to requiring them to take courses in specific disciplines. The changes, which were drafted by a 17-member committee (chiefly from the faculty), are in a report that is being presented to the Faculty Senate for review. It is the first top-to-bottom revision to Stanford’s undergraduate curriculum since the 1993-94 academic year. The focus on core skills in addition to disciplinary content reflects the idea that Stanford should develop students’ abilities to continue learning throughout their lives and adapt to a changing world after their formal education has ended.