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AGU meeting: What the president’s science advisor says about climate change

American Geophysical Union meeting, San Francisco –

What a difference a year makes. Last AGU meeting, the evening keynote lecture was by Al Gore. This AGU, Gore was in Oslo, having picked up his Nobel Peace Prize for his climate activism, on the same day President Bush’s science advisor John Marburger was giving a lecture here on climate change.

Gore got a standing ovation from the AGU scientists. Marburger got a slew of hostile questions. He probably should have expected this, given the Bush administration’s policies on climate change. And lines like “scientists have lost credibility in this debate” didn’t help either.

Marburger spoke for about 45 minutes on US climate policy, reinforcing many of the same messages he’s put out there before. Bush recognizes the significance of climate change, Marburger argues, and has been saying as much since June 2001. The US is doing plenty to move towards taking action, including hosting a summit of major emitters in September and adopting ‘aspirational’ goals to improve energy consumption and develop new technologies to deal with it. Too much emphasis is being placed on mitigiation strategies for reducing carbon emissions, instead of adaptation strategies to get people to live differently in a greenhouse world.

Such messages did not go down well with the audience. Questioners pressed Marburger on mandatory emissions caps for US industries (ask Congress, says Marburger); alleged censorship of climate scientists (not a word of truth in it, he argues); and Bush’s refusal to move the Kyoto protocol forward (Congress would have stymied it anyway).

Marburger also included a plea for people to read the details of the IPCC technical reports issued this year, not just the policymakers’ summaries. Only in the technical reports, he argues, are the details and the complexity that everyone needs to understand in order to make informed decisions about what to do about climate change.

No one’s arguing with that. But surely he hadn’t forgotten that his very audience was made up of many of those who wrote the IPCC technical reports in the first place — and they still don’t agree with him.

Cross-posted from Alex Witze on In the Field


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