Climate Science Watch Weekly Update, June 29


A brief update on events, hearings, and legislative developments that we’ll be tracking and writing about this week.

Do Scientists Understand the Public?

American Association for the Advancement of Science
Washington, DC
Tuesday, June 29, 3:30 PM
Registration required

Science and political writer Chris Mooney and Resources for the Future scholar Robert Fri will speak at the unveiling of a new American Academy of Arts and Sciences initiative on the relationship between scientists and public perception of science-based policy issues.  Chris Mooney will present his paper on the initiative, a synthesis of four interdisciplinary workshops, and had an op-ed in the Washington Post June 27 on the subject (“If scientists want to educate the public, they should start by listening”).

While considerable attention has been paid to strengthening public education in science and technology, less effort has gone into helping researchers understand what lies behind the public response to new advances and discoveries. Public concerns about scientific developments can come not only from ignorance, but also from legitimate worries. In 2008, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences launched a study on what the scientific community knows or should know about the public and its concerns. This project considers the role of the scientist and the public in deliberations about the tradeoffs inherent in scientific or technological developments.

The American Academy brought together leading scientists and technologists, ethicists, public policy experts, former public officials, science journalists, and others to discuss and improve awareness of the broader social and cultural context for scientific work. The project focused on four topics:  The Next Generation of the Internet;  Public Perceptions of Nuclear Waste Repositories; The Spread of Personal Genetic Information; and Risks and Benefits of Emerging Energy Technologies.

Hearing on the troubled satellite climate observing system

Setting New Courses for Polar Weather Satellites and Earth Observations
House Committee on Science and Technology
Tuesday, June 29, 10 AM
2318 Rayburn House

The House Committee on Science and Technology will follow up on the attempt to reorganize the troubled National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems (NPOESS) program, hearing from top officials from NOAA, NASA, and the Defense Department, Shere Abbott from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and a representative from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  The program has suffered years of delay and billions of dollars in cost overruns, threatening the continuity and future of essential global climate observations. The institution of a new management strategy via the fiscal year 2011 budget request puts DoD in charge of morning satellite orbits and NOAA at the helm for the afternoon orbits.

Shere Abbott, Associate Director of the Energy and Environment Division at OSTP
Mary Glackin, NOAA Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere
Christopher Scolese, NASA Associate Administrator
Gil Klinger, DoD Assistant Secretary of Acquisition
David Power, GAO Director of Information Technology Management Issues

See Committee website for 13-page Hearing Charter and webcast information.

Climate and Energy Legislation

The week begins with still more possibilities for the climate and energy bill on the table, but no actual legislation.  A meeting between President Obama and a group of Senators to discuss climate and energy legislation has been rescheduled for June 29, with hopes of long-awaited leadership from the President in the balance.  The meeting was postponed last week during the McChrystal flap, another frustration for supporters of a bill that is pushing up against a tight legislative calendar.

A June 28 ClimateWire article raised the possibility of a final energy and climate bill being assembled in a “lame duck” House-Senate conference committee session late in the year, after the immediate pressures of the November election have subsided.  This approach could allow Democrats to resurrect cap and trade if it fails to pass before the elections: “Democratic leaders could use a conference to ratchet up the climate regulations past what the Senate agreed to and beyond what Democratic House centrists want.”

Senate Democrats met last week to discuss legislative strategy, emerging with a rallying cry for “comprehensive” legislation, but no specific proposal.  According to Climatewire, the basic thrust of their strategy “appears to be a plan to anchor the climate and energy effort to widely popular legislation that would overhaul offshore drilling regulations in the wake of the Gulf spill, and then dare Republicans to vote against it.” (ClimateWire via New York Times)

A chorus of “moderate” Republicans once considered potential backers of legislation have confirmed their opposition to a cap and trade scheme in recent weeks, including Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Judd Gregg (NH), Dick Lugar (IN), and Scott Brown (MA), reports POLITICO.  Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe appear to be the only remaining possibilities for Democrats straining to reach 60 votes.

Follow-up to “Expert Credibility on Climate Change” study

Our June 21 post, “New study finds striking level of agreement among climate experts on anthropogenic climate change,” focused on a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that 97-98% of climate researchers examined who are most actively publishing in the field are convinced by the evidence for human-caused climate change, and that the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of researchers questioning the findings is significantly below that of convinced researchers. The study has received both praise and criticism. We plan to post a response by the authors to key points that have been raised by critics of the study.

See other recent CSW posts:
(June 25) IPCC, key target of war on climate science, announces 831 experts to author Fifth Assessment Report

(June 25) Ocean Acidification in litigation, legislation, and research – What’s the status?

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