Volume 7 SPRING/SUMMER 2000 Numbers 1/2
CLIMATE CHANGE: SCIENTIFIC AND SOCIAL IMPACTS
About the Contributors
to the Reality of Global Climate Change
Can and Cannot Tell Us About Greenhouse Warming
the Art of Retentiveness: A Primer on the Remedial Efficacy Rooted in
Remembrance and Retrospection upon History
Climate Change: Scientific and Social Impacts, A Personal View
of the Science of Global Warming
of Being Deluded
Lifestyles in Climate Change Modeling
SELECTED BOOK REVIEWS
Frankel, The Damascus Affair: "Ritual Murder," Politics, and
the Jews in 1840
L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
Gardner, The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand
Juarrero, Dynamics in Action
Millgram, Practical Induction
Pennock, Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism
Sassower, Technoscientific Angst: Ethics + Responsibility
Lusignan Schultz, ed., Fear Itself: Enemies Real and Imagined in American
BOOKS OF NOTE
The slow but inexorable buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities is widely viewed as constituting an increasingly serious threat to the global environment and to human welfare over the course of the next few centuries. It is proving extremely difficult to achieve a consensus as to what needs to be done to avert this threat because of the long time scale over which the buildup is occurring, the wide range of uncertainty inherent in the predictions of its impact upon the climate and the environment, and the widely differing societal perceptions concerning the potential seriousness of 'greenhouse warming' and related environmental changes. In the years ahead, scientific understanding can play a valuable role in shaping public opinion and guiding national and international policy on greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that (1) the research community is able to demonstrate continuing progress in narrowing the range of uncertainty inherent in the predictions of global climate change, (2) the vast majority of individual scientists are able to maintain their independence from the various political constituencies with interests in this issue, and (3) the public retains its confidence in the integrity of the scientific enterprise.
Some of the most perplexing problems faced by humanity have been resolved through the use of existing technology. Too often people harbor a bias in favor of new and innovative solutions as the remedy for modern-day dilemmas. The history of technology offers numerous examples of problems being addressed through reliance upon existing technology.
As the world is confronted with the threat of climate change, important lessons from the past teach us to exercise prudence in seeking answers and to consult the realm of established knowledge before advocating bold and dramatic proposals that may result in chaos. Indeed, combating climate change through available means should be fully explored. For example, one of the most effective means of reducing greenhouse gases is energy-efficient buildings and industrial facilities. The significant reduction of greenhouse gases achieved through the use of insulation-an existing technology-is explored.
With history's account of how our ancestors faced the fatal foes of disease, flooding, disposal of deadly waste, and deficient medical care serving as a backdrop, the wisdom of applying useful technology already in existence for probable solutions to today's challenges is discussed. Similarly, a tendency to gravitate towards the novel and experimental approach for fighting an unknown opponent manifests itself again and again throughout the annals of time, but, fortunately, many figures in history have also displayed an ability to advance civilization by a creative application of existing technology.
The Earth's climate is a complex system that undergoes continuous change. The natural variability of this system is significant and human understanding of its processes is wanting. Because of the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing which potentially may influence the ongoing natural climate variations. Determining the precise, future impact of the human component on an already naturally changing climate is extraordinarily difficult, especially for specific regions. Research is only beginning to develop some understanding of these processes. Adopting centrally planned measures intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions should be attempted with extreme caution because the future courses of the physical climate system and that of the human economic system are largely unknown and unpredictable. Often missing in such measures is consideration of their impact on the poorest among us. It is suggested that adaptation to that which is known is often preferable to precautionary measures designed to mitigate that which is unknown.
The human-caused global warming problem is now the focus of intense international attention in many sectors of society. As we learn more about the science of the problem, the sense of controversy about the state of the science has actually increased, sharply so over the past decade. This essay highlights the fundamental aspects of the science underlying global warming. The vital roles of climate models and of climate data in sharpening scientific understanding are featured. Finally, the roles of controversy in the science and the sociology of this problem are addressed, and new insights are offered on the inevitability of future major conflicts and controversies as society begins to deal with the need to either reduce the use of fossil fuels considerably or adapt to substantial changes in Earth's climate.
It is often assumed that there is one "right"- or at least one "better"-way of tackling a scientific problem. There are different ways of being a climate modeler in terms of what are the main objectives and methods employed, and hence what is the right thing to be doing. Employing methods from sociology and anthropology, climate modelers at work both in the U.S. and UK were studied with the goal of understanding what they deemed to be an important question to answer and why, and to better appreciate how they thought about, and used, climate models. Two distinct "epistemic lifestyles" of climate modeling were identified: one is driven by the objective of improving predictive understanding of the climate system-especially as it is influenced by humankind. The climate models used by these "climate seers" tend to be adapted to the purpose of long-term predictions and avoid complexity that is not regarded as strictly necessary with respect to human impacts. Another group of climate scientists is much more driven by a desire to develop and improve climate models for their own sake. Their models tend to be more complex and more multi-purpose. Ideally, they can be used to address a suite of questions concerning climate and its interactions with the environment. For climate seers, the model is a means to an end, while for the "climate model developers," the model is an end in itself. The existence of these different epistemic lifestyles is related to organizations and their internal and external networks, to policy and political agendas, and to disciplinary backgrounds. The political ramifications of the existence of these different versions of what is "good science" in climate change modeling is discussed.
|Publish With Us|
|Books Received for Review|
|Publicity for Journal|
|Links to Affiliates|
|Book on Genocide from UPA|