Two New Climate Science Outreach Efforts On Tap

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

Two separate outreach efforts by climate scientists are in the works: one organized by John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and another by the American Geophysical Union. The Los Angeles Times on Abraham's effort:

John Abraham … who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a "climate rapid response team," which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

"We have assembled a group of world-class climate scientists who are able to field questions on virtually any topic of climate change. Our goal is not to be a partisan group, our goal is to focus on communicating the science," wrote Abraham in an e-mail to ScienceInsider. "Some people have wondered if this effort is in response to the elections. The answer is, categorically, no."

The American Geophysical Union today plans to announce a new set of outreach activities. Hundreds of scientists have signed up for the Climate Q and A service to answer questions from the media—not the general public.

The service will limit its answers to questions that can be answered using existing data and will not wade into policy debates:

Non-science questions such as those relating to policy, ethics, or economics will be returned to sender for refinement. Here are examples of the types of questions that are out of our scope, along with explanations and suggested refinements:

How much will it cost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Why not answered:
The cost of greenhouse gas emission reductions is a complex and open question dependent on technology, policy, and economics.
Related (acceptable) question: What are the sources of greenhouse gas emissions?

Sample: What are the best ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions?
Why not answered: Any ranking of abatement options depends on a number of judgments that include economics, ethics, and politics (The word "best" is what makes this question inappropriate)
Refinement: By how much might some proposed activity reduce carbon dioxide emissions?

Sample: Is current U.S. infrastructure adequate for sea level rise?
Why not answered: Judgments of adequacy involve tradeoffs in risk and in policy.
Refinement: What amount of sea level rise might occur this century?

Sample: Is there too much uncertainty in climate models to use them for planning purposes?
Why not answered : We will not evaluate uncertainty or policy processes. We can, however, describe the level of uncertainty and explain its sources. The words "too much" and "for planning purposes" make this question inappropriate.
Refinement: What are the main sources of uncertainty in climate models?

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