Friday, September 14, 2007

Bush's Climate Change Science Program

I'm not saying that this is analogous to Bush's Clear Skies Act of 2003 or the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, but Bush's Climate Change Science Program has recently been criticized in a review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for:

"lack[ing] a focus of impacts of changing conditions and informing those who would be most affected ... [and for being] hampered by governmental policies that have grounded earth-observing satellites and dismantled programs to monitor environmental conditions on earth. ... Of the $1.7 billion spent by the program on climate research this year [2007], only about $25 million to $30 million has gone to studies of how climate change will affect human affairs, for better or worse..." (from NYTimes)

One of the greatest problem with the science side of the program is the impending (possibly inevitable) possibility of government priorities shifting away from satellite observations. If this were to happen, it would mean that a long-term scientific data record will be cut. Why would this happen? Is it internal politics within the Climate Change Science Program? Is it an appropriations issue in Congress? Is it a back door run by the Executive Branch to halt observational data gathering of earth's atmospheric changes? I don't know, but it makes my paranoia whiskers twitch.

The NYTimes story goes on to say that basic research on climate change is continuing apace, but very little of it is directed to how changes will affect local officials, farmers, water managers, etc. Dr. Ramanathan cites a lack of communication between government officials and communities that would be affected as the main reason for this shortfall.

I've taken courses on this very subject (science-society interface/communication), and I'm surprised that the federal science projects would fall for this problem yet again. The number of papers discussing the benefits of transdisciplinary research have only been increasing over the last decade, and even when I was in undergraduate education (waaaay back in the mid-1990s), the benefits of transdisciplinary research were being drilled into our young environmental biology brains. However, the program seems (if you discount a large conspiracy) to be falling down on this front, and doing the stereotypical scientist/engineer thing by being unable to tell regular people (i.e., society) why their findings are significant, and how their research will affect your average Joe. I suppose that when the government gives funding to a bunch of climate modelers who don't have a history of talking to Joe Average (or even knowing what Joe might want), and not giving any money to people/society-oriented sciences, this major science-society disconnect is what happens.

This sort of thing gets me micro-peeved in so many ways that it adds itself up to being a peeved Umludish person.

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