by Judith Curry
The American Physical Society has released its draft Statement on Climate Change to the APS membership.
A little over a year ago, I participated in a Workshop sponsored by the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), which was described at length on this blog post. I made this summary statement:
I have been harshly critical of the statements on climate change made by various professional societies, and the process by which those statements were crafted and approved (see my post (Ir)responsible advocacy). I give the APS an A+ for the process in preparing their statement. The thoroughness and transparency is unprecedented. And I like the idea of having relatively objective people write the statement, people without a dog in this particular fight.
That said, I have no idea what will actually transpire between now and when a new statement appears, and what the new statement will actually say. In any event, it was a real pleasure and privilege to participate in that Workshop. And I think the Workshop transcript is a superb resources for assessing the state of the debate on climate science.
Well, I now know what the statement actually says. Particularly given the extensive input provided to the POPA during the Workshop, the draft statement beggars belief.
POPA ready to hear from APS membership on climate change statement
The following message is posted at the APS web site (excerpts):
During the week of April 6, APS members were sent an email with a link to a member website with the draft Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate. The site enables every APS member to comment on the draft. APS members can also access the statement online by using their APS Web username and password. The statement is not published in this article because it is not a public position of APS, and comments are only being collected via the APS website.
The draft statement is the result of a deliberative review of the APS Climate Change Statement. The Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), which developed the draft statement, is eager to receive input from the Society’s membership.
“We have taken great care throughout this process, including focusing on consensus building that has resulted in a solid, science-based statement,” said William Barletta, POPA chair. “We now look forward to hearing from the Society’s membership.”
POPA began reviewing the APS Climate Change Statement and Climate Change Commentary in fall 2013, in accordance with APS policy that requires statements to be formally reviewed every five years. POPA then proposed a subcommittee to initiate the review, and the APS Board approved the charge to the Review Subcommittee.
As part of the process, the Review Subcommittee convened a workshop on Jan. 8, 2014, with six climate experts. “We used this meeting to delve deeply into aspects of the IPCC consensus view of the physical basis of climate science,” said Barletta. “The Review Subcommittee’s goal was to illuminate for itself, for the APS membership, and for the broader public both the certainties and boundaries of the current climate science understanding.”
The Review Subcommittee presented the results of the workshop during the Feb. 7, 2014 POPA meeting. At POPA’s meeting the following June 6, its Energy and Environment Subcommittee presented an initial draft of a new statement. POPA then began the process of finalizing a draft for consideration by the APS Board and Council. On Oct. 10, POPA reported out a draft of the statement.
The APS Council reviewed the statement in November. On Feb. 21, 2015, the Board voted unanimously to forward the statement to the APS membership. “APS members currently have the opportunity to ask questions about the process and submit comments about the statement. POPA will also update an online FAQ that members can access via the APS website,” said Barletta.
If you have questions about the process by which the statement was developed, you can submit them to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Although there will not be an opportunity to respond to every question individually, a list of Frequently Asked Questions will be updated on a regular basis along with additional resource material. The last opportunity to submit questions will be on April 29; the last update of the FAQ is scheduled for May 1.
The member comment period will close on May 6. Every APS member will have one opportunity to comment, and submissions are final. All the APS member comments will be reviewed by POPA, and the statement may be modified accordingly. The draft statement will then be presented to the Board and Council for discussion. If approved by the Council, the statement will become the official position of the APS.
Draft APS Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate
As an APS member who received a copy of the email requesting comments from the membership, my first reaction is that I shouldn’t publish the text of the draft statement. However, the statement has been posted online in public forums (e.g. Reddit), so I see no reason not to post it here. Here is the text:
On Climate Change:
Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue that poses the risk of significant disruption around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on the climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century. Although the magnitudes of future effects are uncertain, human influences on the climate are growing. The potential consequences of climate change are great and the policies of the next few decades will determine human influences on the climate for centuries.
On Climate Science:
As summarized in the 2013 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there continues to be significant progress in climate science. In particular, the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more certain than ever. Nevertheless, as recognized by Working Group 1 of the IPCC, scientific challenges remain to our abilities to observe, interpret, and project climate changes. To better inform societal choices, the APS urges sustained research in climate science.
On Climate Action:
The APS reiterates its 2007 call to support actions that will reduce the emissions, and ultimately the concentration, of greenhouse gases, as well as increase the resilience of society to a changing climate. Because physics and its techniques are fundamental elements of climate science, the APS further urges physicists to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines in climate research and to contribute to the public dialogue.
From the FAQ
Here is a link to the APS FAQ, excerpts:
Q: Who wrote the statement?
A: The entire APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) membership was engaged in drafting the statement. The panel’s membership as well as the Charge to POPA and resource documents can be found on the APS Climate Change Statement review website. [link] to POPA membership
Q: How does this draft statement compare to the 2007 statement and 2010 commentary?
A: In this draft statement on Earth’s Changing Climate, APS “reiterates” its 2007 statement in stating that: the climate is changing, humans are contributing to climate change, and rising concentrations of greenhouse gases pose the risk of significant disruption around the globe. While there remain scientific challenges to our ability to observe, interpret and project climate change, APS continues to support actions – as it did in the 2007 statement – that reduce greenhouse gases and increase the resilience of society to climate change. A primary change is that the draft is succinct and does not require an associated commentary.
Q: What will APS do with the statement?
A: If the statement is approved, then the APS Council and Board will make a decision on whether to pursue any policy or outreach activities related to climate change. Those activities would be carried out by the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) and the APS Physics Policy Committee (PPC).
Q: Why is APS qualified to comment on the science of climate change?
A: A number of issues associated with climate change are fundamental physics topics, including the connection between greenhouse gas increases and warming, radiative transfer, spectroscopy, thermodynamics, and energy balance. In addition, climate change is an area of interest for many APS members, including the more than 500 APS members who participate in the APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate.
Rabett on POPA
Eli has an interesting post POPA throws a curve ball. It discusses the sausage making that went into this (as elicited from the POPA minutes), including link to a report by Philip Taylor, representative of the Forum on Physics and Society (the extreme “left wing” as it were of the APS).
Well, their paragraph on Climate Science is a rather astonishing take on the APS Workshop. Their paragraph on Climate Change seems to come from the Guardian. Their statement on Climate Action reiterates their rather crazy statement in 2007
Apart from the issue that no one on the POPA seems to understand any of these issues beyond a superficial level (after Koonin and Rosner departed from the POPA), and that their statements are naive and unprofessional, here is my real problem with this. This is an egregious misuse of the expertise of the APS. Their alleged understanding of issues like spectroscopy and fluid dynamics are not of any direct relevance to the issues they write about in this statement. The statement is an embarrassment to the APS.
Note: Steve Koonin was the Chair of the Subcommittee and organized the Workshop. Steve is quite knowledgeable about climate physics and the debate about climate change, as evidenced by his WSJ editorial Climate Science is Not Settled.
Some additional minor insights on the process. The APS has a Topical Group on the Physics of Climate, of which I am a Member and have been elected to the Executive Committee. The Topical Group was not invited to participate in this in any way, other than to suggest individuals to participate in the Workshop. So the population of APS physicists who actually know something about the physics of climate were not invited to participate in this process (other than myself and maybe one or two other Workshop participants who were actually APS members). Another note: of the 6 experts invited to the APS Workshop, I think only 2 of us are APS members; i.e. apparently there is not sufficient expertise within the APS to summon 6 APS member experts.
Well, it will be interesting to see how the APS membership responds. Lets see how this plays out, I will decide whether I renew my APS membership. The Topical Group on the Physics of Climate is developing into something worthwhile, but the POPA obviously doesn’t want any ‘interference’ with its policy agenda.
JC message to APS POPA: no one cares about your political preferences in the climate change debate. You have demonstrated that you bring nothing intellectually to the table (once Koonin and Rosner left). You simply have no business issuing a policy statement on climate change. You have embarrassed the APS membership.