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Ogmius Newsletter

Project News

State of the Carbon Cycle Report

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program recently published "The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle." Lisa Dilling served as co-lead of the author team.  The report analyzes the amounts of carbon emitted by industry sector, the amount absorbed naturally and how these amounts relate to the global carbon budget influenced by other regions of the globe, with particular attention given to characterizing the certainty and uncertainty with which these budget elements are known.

Lisa’s November 28 Prometheus blog describes the report in more detail:

“I didn't want the month to expire without mention this month of the release of "SAP 2.2", or The First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR): The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle, a report three years in the making issued by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Disclaimer, I was co-lead for the report, which was authored by over 90 scientists from a wide variety of disciplines. The bottom-line punchline is that sources (such as emissions from energy) outweigh sinks (such as forest and soil uptake) in North America by approximately 3:1. This strongly suggests that sinks by themselves are not going to be sufficient to deal with removing emissions in the future. Sinks are also likely to decline and become more uncertain in the future-- consider the scientific reports just this month on the volatility of sinks (a few weeks ago, we heard about emissions from forest fires, this week, it is about the reduced carbon uptake during the drought of 2002).

Being a bit of an insider on this report, I wanted to share my own personal opinion on what was distinct and unique about this effort for carbon cycle science and for the CCSP reports issued thus far.

As far at the treatment of carbon cycle science, it was the first attempt that we were aware of that examined the balance of carbon at the continental scale in North America with a common data framework from the ground up, meaning not from atmospheric data. We of course built off of many previous efforts at a national or regional scale. The second notable approach was the decision to place equal emphasis on the human activity components of the carbon cycle in North America and the land (and coastal) components. Carbon cycle science is often presented as a budget with much detail on the land, ocean and atmosphere side, with not much detail for the "source" terms, the energy side of the question. The document includes chapters on energy extraction and conversion, transportation, buildings, industry and so on. Also, we included from the start economic and policy analyses to provide a decision-relevant context to our information. Finally, we tried our best to include stakeholders and potential users of the information from the start of the process, at the outline stage, all the way to the finished draft. We held three separate workshops, provided numerous opportunities for comment, and changed the structure and questions answered in response to our participants. The process took more time, resources and effort, but was essential in the team's mind to fulfilling our mandate to be policy-relevant. Only time will tell if we succeeded. Some of the news coverage can be found here:

Please check out the report, feedback welcome!

Policy, Politics, and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisers

Although the Center’s lecture series “Policy, Politics, and Science in the White House:  Conversations with Presidential Science Advisers”  wrapped up in 2006, the Center continues to explore the impact of the presidential science adviser on policy and politics.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the appointment of Dr. James Killian, the first presidential science adviser, Roger Pielke, Jr., has a commentary in the November 15 issue of Nature titled “Who Has the Ear of the President”.  He writes:

On 15 November 1957, as part of his response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik, President Dwight Eisenhower swore in James Killian, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, to the newly created position of special assistant to the president for science and technology.  Since then, 14 men — almost all physicists — have served 10 presidents as ‘science adviser’, as the position is more commonly known.

A recent article in Physics Today looked back wistfully on the position’s early years: “Never before or since have scientists had a firmer influence on the reins of power that direct national policies.” Recommendations that accompany such nostalgia, perhaps most evident during the term of the current and longest-serving science adviser John Marburger, draw more from legend than from history, with far more attention paid to how science advice is given rather than to how it is used…” read more.

Roger appeared on National Public Radio’s Science Friday to discuss the Nature article and the past 50 years of science advice.

Roger and Center Managing Director Bobbie Klein are editing a volume that includes chapters authored by the science advisers along with perspectives on presidential science advice by noted science policy experts.  Publication is anticipated in 2008.

Science Policy Assessment and Research on Climate (SPARC)

SPARC researchers are preparing a handbook that will provide science policy decision makers with a coherent, practical, easy-to-implement approach and set of questions to design research agendas that are responsive to societal problems or identified needs. Its audience includes all those responsible for the US federal budget: e.g. OMB examiners, agency program managers, OSTP or congressional committee staffers.

Kevin Vranes, a CIRES Visiting Fellow, in collaboration with Neil Pederson of Eastern Kentucky University and Ed Cook of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, are conducting an in-depth examination of the water management policies of New York City.  They are attempting to understand why New York City has declared drought eight times over the past 20 years despite having above average rainfall over the same period and showing a clear and steady decrease in both absolute and per capita water consumption.

Kevin is also constructing an earthquake damages dataset for comparison to similar datasets already constructed for hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. His ultimate goal is comparison of natural hazards outcomes and policies across the spectrum of hazards. This research has a relationship to climate because it uses earthquakes as a "control group" in seeing whether damages from climate-related hazards are changing.

Three graduate students working at the Center are in the final stages of SPARC-related dissertations: 

SPARC-Related Publications:

Equity in forecasting climate: Can science save the poor?, co-authored by Lisa Dilling.

Toward carbon governance: Challenges across scales in the United States, by Lisa Dilling

Confronting Disaster Losses, co-authored by Roger Pielke, Jr.

The Case for a Sustainable Climate Policy: Why Costs and Benefits Must Be Temporally Balanced, by Roger Pielke, Jr.


Averill, M.  “The Ethics of Uncertainty in Climate Change.”  Paper presentation for panel on “Climate Modeling and Uncertainty: Epistemology and the Construction of Climate Facts,” Society for the Social Studies of Science, Oct. 12, 2007, Montreal, Canada.

Averill, M.  “Managing Climate Uncertainties.” Paper presentation, American Meteorological Society, Jan. 20-24, 2008, New Orleans, LA.

McNie, E. October, 2007.  Exploring the Agora: producing useful science for climate policy.  Paper presentation at the Society for the Social Studies of Science Annual Conference in Montreal, Canada,.

McNie E. and N. Sakuntaladewi, August 8, 2007.  Linking Knowledge with Action for Sustainable Development in Agroforestry.  Invited talk at the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry Research and Development Agency, Bogor, Indonesia.

McNie, E., October 2007  Boundary Work and Negotiation Support to Link Knowledge with Action in Indonesian Agroforestry Research. Paper presentation at the Sustainability Science Program Seminar Series, Center for International Development, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.