Tuesday, May 08, 2007

but what about the science?

I wound up responding to a comment on another blog that asked about the science behind global warming. It's true: there's a lot of hype out there, making it hard to find the solid information. So, partly as a public service, partly so I can find these links more easily in the future, and maybe a teensy bit because finals are making me a touch grouchy, here are some useful starting points for solid information.
  • "I am totally convinced that there is something unusual happening with Global Climate. . . . What I am not convinced about is the science behind the 'causality'."
The IPCC's Working Group 1 reported on this issue. Their Summary for Policymakers (pdf) targets policymakers (as you might expect) rather than scientists. As a result, it has some technical jargon but not too much and is pretty clearly written.

If you want more details and really want to get in to the nitty-gritty, Working Group 1 has now released most of its full report. The summaries come out first, then the report rolls out, with revisions as they go. The report's pretty large, but it includes citations to the scientific literature. That means if you want the details, you can go through the report, find the citation, then go to the nearest university library and track down the papers in their journals and continue your research from there. In some cases, you can find the papers through Google Scholar, but getting the full text tends to be hit-or-miss. On the other hand, Google Scholar does a pretty good job of showing you which other papers cite the paper you're searching for, so you can see how others have commented on the paper.
  • What is that I can do personally that will at least stop the situation from becoming worse if not reverse it?
The IPCC's Working Group 3 is reporting on mitigating greenhouse gas effects. They have released a preliminary version of their Summary for Policymakers (pdf), but neither the final version nor the full report is out, yet. Keep an eye on the IPCC's main web page or the WG3's page to see the updates come out. Eventually, the full report will probably be available at the IPCC's publications page, where you can currently find the 2001 assessment. (Note to self: it might be very interesting to compare the 2001 assessment against the statements in the reports out of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.)

The second half of this question comes in two parts. First, the IPCC report shows most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector, which suggests energy conservation is something someone can do personally. Transportation is another area to consider (in other words, think twice before buying the gas guzzler.) Second, the U.S. is entering a presidential election cycle, which means We the People might have a shot at steering the debate or changing policy.
  • What do scientists think the impact of global warming will be? What does it mean to me?
The IPCC's Working Group 2 is tackling this question. You can find their Summary for Policymakers here (pdf--everything's pdf, I guess because of the pretty color graphs). This one is probably also still early and will see some revisions. Watch the IPCC front page for the rest of their report to come out.

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