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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 10, NUMBER 1, JANUARY 1997

PROFESSIONAL PUBLICATIONS...
OF GENERAL INTEREST


Item #d97jan1

"Human Influence on the Atmospheric Vertical Temperature Structure: Detection and Observations," S.F.B. Tett (Hadley Ctr., U.K. Meteor. Off., London Rd., Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 2SY, UK; e-mail: sfbtett@meteo.gov.uk), J.F.B. Mitchell et al., Science, 274(5290), 1170-1173, Nov. 15, 1996.

In the July 4, 1996, issue of Nature, Santer et al. reported a climate model simulation of the combined effects of greenhouse gases and anthropogenic sulfate aerosols that suggested a "fingerprint" of anthropogenic influence on the atmosphere. (See Nicholls and Santer articles, Global Climate Change Digest, Prof. Pubs./Gen. Interest, Aug. 1996.) This study provides further evidence of human influence, but employs less restrictive modeling assumptions than used by Santer et al. and a longer data set for comparison (1961-1995), and also adds the effects of radiative forcing by changes in stratospheric ozone. Results support the hypothesis of an anthropogenic effect on atmospheric vertical temperature structure as a result of the changing concentrations of greenhouse gases, stratospheric ozone, and possibly sulfate aerosols. Discusses several limitations of the work; most critical is that the estimate of natural atmospheric variability is based on the model, and may be in error.


Item #d97jan2

"Comments on R.D. Brunner (Clim. Change, 32, 121-147) and P.N. Edwards (Clim. Change, 32, 149-161)," S. Shackley (Ctr. for Study of Environ. Change, Lancaster Univ., Lancaster LA1 4YN, UK), Clim. Change, 34(3-4), 547-550, Nov.-Dec. 1996. Replies follow by Brunner (pp. 551-553) and by Edwards (pp. 555-557).

In a previous issue of Climatic Change, Brunner argued that the mandate of the U.S. Global Change Research Program to "produce information readily usable by policymakers" is incompatible with the program's current emphasis on developing comprehensive predictive models of climate change and its impacts, and Edwards rebutted his argument. (See Global Climate Change Digest, Prof. Pubs./Of Gen. Interest, Mar. 1996.) In this paper, Shackley says the real issue is communicating to the public that any commitments made must necessarily be a blend of social, political and scientific choices, because our understanding of natural and social systems is incomplete. This would open the door to wider public involvement in developing commitments, although it is not clear whether our current political culture can embrace such openness and greater sharing of power and responsibility.

One point made by Brunner in his reply to Shackley is that the "policymakers" who need readily usable information include citizens around the world who are in a position to make discisions for their own households, businesses and non-governmental organizations, and to influence public policies at all levels of government—through passive resistance if nothing else.

The comment by Edwards emphasizes that both preceding essays have ignored the most important actor with respect to the public — the media. He proposes ways of building public trust in public science and policy bodies, and generating a sense of urgency in the public. One is for the media to give equal weight to consensus knowledge, and not focus exclusively on conflicts — whether of personalities, political views, or scientific work.

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