News / Science & Technology

    Lessons from History Inform Climate Change Future

    (L-R) Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, Thomas Stocker and Dahe Qin of the IPCC working group, Sept. 23, 2013, in Stockholm. The UN's Nobel-winning climate change panel kicked off a meeting to release new projections of global warming.
    (L-R) Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, Thomas Stocker and Dahe Qin of the IPCC working group, Sept. 23, 2013, in Stockholm. The UN's Nobel-winning climate change panel kicked off a meeting to release new projections of global warming.
    Rosanne Skirble
    Scientists are more certain than ever that human activity is to blame for a warming climate and those findings are expected to be included in a report released this week  from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world authority on the issue.

    Climate experts and government officials are meeting in Stockholm this week to finalize the report.

    What the IPCC report illustrates is the important role science plays in decision-making, says K. John Holmes, an energy analyst with the National Research Council, who believes history holds scientific lessons for policy makers.

    Writing in Nature, the energy analyst with the National Research Council singles out legendary 19th century geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell, who is celebrated for promoting sustainable development across desert lands in the American West.

    “He really introduced this idea of integrated assessment of large-scale environmental issues,” Holmes said.

    Powell’s plan called for detailed scientific surveys. It outlined initiatives to develop water, land and mineral resources. Holmes says as settlers moved west, those ideas were met with intense political debate over access to natural resources and adaptation to climate.
    Geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell introduced the importance of science in decision-making with his surveys and analysis of the unmapped regions of the United States in the late 1800s. Shown here in the Utah territory. (Smithsonian Institution)Geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell introduced the importance of science in decision-making with his surveys and analysis of the unmapped regions of the United States in the late 1800s. Shown here in the Utah territory. (Smithsonian Institution)
    “Powell, even though his plan was never implemented, his assessment provided what the USGS [United States Geological Survey] called ‘definitive information upon which the committees of Congress and individuals interested could base their statements or conclusions.’”  

    But the data did not end the debate. Laws to allocate resources took decades to enact. Holmes says Powell’s legacy reminds us of the central role science plays in decision-making, reflected today in reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    “It brings that fundamental set of facts and common knowledge that can be used by global governments everywhere to bring the science to the debate,” Holmes said.

    Those views are shared by Elliot Diringer, with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a bipartisan research group. 

    “I think the IPCC assessments are a critical opportunity to focus global attention of the reality of the problem and the urgency of addressing it,” he said.

    Diringer says addressing climate change has played out on the world stage under the global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol.  When it expired in 2012, negotiators agreed to replace it with a new treaty by 2015. Diringer says what is emerging is a more workable, inclusive approach.

    “This is something perhaps not as rigorous as the Kyoto Protocol, but more rigorous than what may have appeared to be the alternative, which is a strictly voluntary bottom up approach," Diringer said. "In Kyoto, you had binding targets for developed countries only. No new commitments for developing countries. That is not going to fly this time. All the major economies are going to be expected to step up and prepare to take action.”

    Diringer says countries would design their own commitments apart from negotiations, while at the same time commit to monitoring, periodic reporting and international scrutiny on those self-imposed commitments. 

    “Basically what you need is institutionalized peer pressure.”

    As climate negotiations continue, side accords are being worked out. Ninety nations stepped forward in 2009 with voluntary pledges to reduce emissions, including for the first time all the world’s major economies. While the countries represent 80 percent of global warming emissions, their actual pledges fall short of the level needed to limit global warming.

    What they do provide, Diringer says, is a fresh start on a comprehensive treaty. 

    “Hopefully, what we will have created is a more durable framework that can help to elevate the level of ambition over time,” Diringer said.

    Writing in the journal Nature, Diringer says a new agreement forged from this patchwork of national efforts “can strengthen countries’ confidence in one another, in the process and in our collective ability to overcome the climate challenge.”

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora