01 July 2010

Nature on climate change

Today’s edition of the prestigious weekly scientific journal Nature has an editorial on the subject of climate change.

It addresses a number of issues: the public impact of the scandals associated with the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia in the UK; the need to continue to engage the public in clear and direct language; and the need for transparency and the avoidance of hype.

On the University of East Anglia issue, the so-called “Climategate” which has brought denialists such comfort, the editorial says:

Despite the scandals over leaked e-mails at the University of East Anglia, UK, and flawed data in the most recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific evidence for global warming remains strong. The question, then, is to what extent have the controversies eroded the public's trust in climate science or, worse, in the scientists themselves?

There has undoubtedly been some slippage. But a closer look at the data across multiple polls shows that, broadly speaking, the public trusts scientists, believes in global warming and wants governments to do something about it. The public seems to have done what the mainstream media could not: it has kept the scandals in perspective. The scathing verbal attacks on climate science and scientists are actually coming from a relative handful of critics, and they do not reflect a broader resurgence of scepticism.

On where we go from here, the editorial concludes:

The science isn't complete and never will be, but it is sufficiently robust that broad conclusions cannot be undermined by questions about any given datum point. From this perspective, the fact that climate scientists can't predict exactly how bad the impacts might be could well be the best argument for action.

Read the complete editorial, A question of trust, here.

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