To little to late.

20th February, 2011 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Is the UK Government doing too little too late?


Should we train lawyers to be climate advisers?

Last week reported the speech of Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist from the Met Office to a seminar at the Royal Geographic Society, “Food, water and energy security to 2030…a ‘perfect storm’ ahead?”:

2010 was the second warmest year on record, with the long-term trend showing temperatures rising. Pakistan has the worst floods since 1929, with 1781 people dying as a result.

In Russia there were heat waves and wildfires and the worst drought since records began 130 years ago.

While some of these extreme weather conditions are the result of natural variability, she said, there is no doubt that climate change intensifies these occurrences.

While reducing CO2 emissions was one way of reducing the impact, other science needs to be developed to mitigate climate change, she said.

“Other science needs to be developed to mitigate climate change” may indicate the beginnings of an important switch in Government thinking away from an overarching emphasis on reducing CO2 emissions and will recognise the need to cut other climate forcing agents such as methane and black carbon and embrace geoengineering. See “Plan A might fail … so we need Plan B

The science may be somewhat more developed than Julia Slingo is wont to admit because targeting climate forcing agents such as methane, nitrous oxide and black carbon can raise difficult political issues, which may highlight the need to change the lifestyles. But is it a good excuse to wait for the science to be perfect?

Here is part of an interesting post by Lynn Vincentnatnathan on

a good point that really has to do with the limits of the current state science & tech to do science, and the need for scientists to avoid the FALSE POSITIVE of making untrue claims. They cannot afford to be the boy who called wolf when there wasn’t any wolf (even though they know there are wolves out there in the forest); they need to protect their reputation & even the reputation of science itself (as has become so clear in recent years). Hansen has referred to this as “scientific reticence.”

A communication from John Mitchell in April 2007 (then Chief Scientist from the Met Office) contains

The CH4 (and CO2) permafrost feedback isn’t included in current EarthSystemModels and it is potentially large but no-one really knows. I think the community has been a bit slow to take up on this feedback because of the lack of data. I presume this would move the ctemperature curves to the right,

It seem the science needed to be developed in 2007 and it still needs developing. Are we waiting for measures that will be too late? (See Climate change underestimated? ). Will it be too little? (See e.g. Warm front – not fit for purpose. )

The Government’s track record suggests both so it’s “Too little too late”.

We need people that can throw off their “scientific reticence” and evaluate what evidence we have now. Perhaps we need lawyers that have learnt the essentials of climate science.

Lynn Vincentnatnathan is Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice and Psychology & Anthropology University of Texas. Should we ask her?

Posted on: February 20, 2011

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