This year marks not only the release of a clarion IPCC report and the convening of an enormous UN climate conference, but also the 50th anniversary of the Keeling curve — the longest continuous recording of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, revealing a gradually rising carbon dioxide profile that helped trigger early concern about global warming. As part of this week’s Earth Observation special (subscription required), Nature has a commentary by Euan Nisbet, atmospheric scientist at Royal Holloway, on the Keeling curve — which “ranks very high indeed among the achievements of twentieth-century science”, he says — and similar studies in the field of Earth monitoring. Nisbet writes:
Monitoring is science’s Cinderella, unloved and poorly paid. Sustaining a long-term, ground-based programme that demands high analytical standards remains challenging. Funding agencies are seduced either by ‘pure’ notions of basic science as hypothesis-testing, or by the satanic mills of commercial reward. Neither motive fosters ‘dull’ monitoring because meeting severe analytical demands is not seen as a worthwhile investment. At one stage, Keeling was ordered to guarantee two discoveries per year and today, modern research has become a planned journey through set ‘milestones’ to deliverable destinations.
What do you think — how important is this ‘Cinderella science’ to ongoing climate research and policy, and how could we secure reliable long-term support?
Image credit: Global Warming Art