Fifteen Years Too Early

February 27th, 2009

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

In 1994 I defended my dissertation, titled “Completing the Circle: Global Change Science and Usable Policy Information.” The dissertation was an evaluation of the ability of climate science research to deliver the useful information (as required by law) to decision makers. I argued that the way that the program was set up, it was likely to do very good science but fall well short of delivering much useful information for decision makers, for adaptation or mitigation.

Today ClimateWire reports that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has now come to the same conclusion in a new report, writing that the climate program:

has largely ignored how the shifting environment will affect society, creating an information vacuum at a time when cities, states and Congress are rushing to address global warming. . .

“What we need is a strong research program to support the sort of decisions we’re going to have to make in terms of society adapting to climate change,” said Christopher Justice, the University of Maryland geography professor who served as vice chairman of the committee that produced the new report.

Here are some references from back in the day:

Pielke Jr., R. A., 1994: Scientific Information and Global Change Policymaking. Climatic Change, 28, 315-319. (PDF)

Pielke Jr., R. A., 1995: Usable Information for Policy: An Appraisal of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Policy Sciences, 38, 39-77. (PDF)

and more recently:

Pielke, Jr., R. A. and D. Sarewitz, 2003. Wanted: Scientific Leadership on Climate, Issues in Science and Technology, Winter, pp. 27-30. (PDF)

One Response to “Fifteen Years Too Early”

  1. Maurice Garoutte Says:

    It’s ok that scientific research doesn’t provide information useful to policy makers. Those people think on very different levels of abstraction. For example the engineers designing direct injection motors for GM do not provide information useful to the Board of Directors.

    General Motors employs management people that are capable of communication with the technical staff, the marketing staff, and the Board of Directors. What the policy makers in the government need is staff that understands climate science and can place the technology in the context of political science.

    Roger, you probably know someone who could communicate in both fields.