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A Trench View of Climate Change

By Keith Kloor
May 27, 2010 12:27 AMNov 20, 2019 12:51 AM


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On Sunday, this blog received an instructive (and anonymous) comment that accidentally landed in the spam folder. It's from someone who works in U.S. state government on water-related issues (likely in the West). The comment is part of this thread, which was lively until all the typical jousting and preening by combatants overwhelmed it. I'm featuring the comment as a stand-alone post because it offers an unvarnished perspective of someone on the ground level of government, who is positioned at the intersection of science and policy.

I work in state government on water resources management. I interact a fair amount with federal and other state officials regarding climate change mitigation and adaption policies. Executive government, in this country and elsewhere, is focused, nearly exclusively, on issues of AGW adaptation and mitigation. Much of the debate I observe on this and kindred blogs is no longer that relevant to this work. Michael Tobis's posts here have it about right in terms of how the policy community has ample evidence to be obliged to move forward on mitigation and adaptation (Especially as the suite of 'solutions' are easily justified for other reasons and are not as deleterious economically or socially as some would claim.) [[

KK: I believe the writer is referring to this comment.

]] This is not to say that transforming global energy production and consumption isn't a massive set of challenges. But no one could dispute that the pace of technological and scientific evolution has been extraordinary since WWII (if not since the late 19th century.). Why would one assume that pace is going to slow now? It will continue to be rapid, perhaps even more so. From the perspective of government in general, the risks of inaction on CC are huge and must be addressed now as best as possible. The science issues that inspire so much angst among the skeptics, eg Mann et al.'s composite proxies work, or analysis of met station data globally , simply don't have much play in our current concerns and calculations. I don't agree with Dr. Curry's theses, but, given her sincerity she provides a useful triangulation point for policy folks seeking to assess the impact of scientific uncertainties on current and future policy, management, planning decisions, including how ideologues of all stripes respond to and manipulate those uncertainties. With all due respect (it's not easy!) such triangulations could be done better, and are being done better by others.

[[KK: I'm very keen for the writer to suggest who some of these "others" are. Perhaps readers can offer names? Additionally, I'm not sure which "theses" the writer is referring to, but this, this, this, and this are among the comments Judith Curry contributed to that thread.]]

Those others just don't spend a lot of time playing in the blogosphere. Despite all your energy and interest, much of the blogosphere discussion on climate science is a little limited with regard to how science/policy interfaces work and continue to evolve. Many of you must realize that those who write incessantly about climate change on blogs don't number more than a couple of hundred. Those observing are larger in number and many, I hope, are those who actually will have to make the legislative and executive decisions that over time will determine our collective future. It would be good to keep in mind that such readers are pretty skilled and experienced at separating the wheat from the chaff, and in assessing risks to public health, safety, and welfare from a systemic perspective. Fundamentally, the use of science to advance particular political positions is hardly unique to climate policy. It occurs continually in every public policy domain. Having said that, here's my truncated take on the sciences relevant to CC: In my experience, with regard to AGW the policy consequences of our current state of scientific knowledge and data, the risk spectrum, are unusually clear. The debates y'all are engaged in are particularly heated because the outputs of contemporary climate and geosciences are extraordinarily consequential for human civilization, not because the science itself is imbued with unusually significant uncertainties (and certainly not fraud).

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