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Copenhagen: the scientists’ view

Nature has a feature out today looking at the UN Climate Change Conference from the perspective of the scientists. Jeff Tollefson asked scientists what they hope to gain from attending the negotiations. Of the 34,000 registered delegates, many hundreds are scientists. Writes Tollefson:

The researchers will attend scheduled science sessions and gather for countless impromptu discussions in corridors and cafeterias. Many are presenting their latest work — on a vast array of topics including forest carbon, emissions scenarios and green technologies. Some hope to influence policy-makers and provide technical advice on issues that emerge during the negotiations. Others are coming to educate themselves about the treaty process and to network.

Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on Mitigation and deputy director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, is one of the scientists in attendance at this year’s summit. He’ll be presenting work from the IPCC’s 2007 assessment as well as briefing policymakers. He tells Tollefson that moving the negotiation process forward is up to policymakers though, and that can’t be changed substantially by scientists.

Beth Sawin, a biologist and programme director of the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vermont is at COP15 to provide user-friendly climate-modelling software that can be run on a laptop computer to help negotiators assess the ultimate impact of any given emissions scenario.

Climate modeller Lawrence Buja of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado is also in Copenhagen. His role will be to answer questions about how scientists model the climate system. Says Buja:

To a certain degree, the physical modellers have a much easier job than these politicians. Our molecules don’t think for themselves and start doing different things midstream.

The full news feature [subscription] is available here.


  1. Report this comment

    Luke Lea said:

    As someone wrote, "Perhaps the most damning email from the CRU circle is this July 2005 message from Phil Jones to climatologist John Christy of the University of Alabama: “As you know, I’m not political. If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish.”

    In other words, he — like a lot of other climate scientists around the world — has a vested interest in the issue. Combine that with peer pressure and . . . well, there could be a problem when big science collides with public policy on such a scale.

    What we need is a lot more sober, dispassionate analysis of the issues by qualified people with no vested interest in the outcome, especially statisticians and economists.

  2. Report this comment

    Ron Cram said:

    How many of these scientists will be discussing how their papers will need to be updated since the CRU scandal has broken?

    Willis Eschenbach wrote a guest post on that compared CRU adjusted data to the raw data and the results were amazing. See

    It will be interesting to see how Nature reports on the changing temperature record.

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