Draft reports highlight latest climate science research

Source: Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Scientists have reviewed draft climate science reports detailing how climate change is affecting the U.S. — from drought in Texas to rainstorms in the Northeast — and suggesting actions that can be taken to address the problems.

The latest drafts of two major climate science reports were reviewed by teams of scientists from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. They found that the fourth National Climate Assessment, along with the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report, “accurately describes the science of climate change and impacts occurring and likely to occur this century across the nation.”

The team of researchers recommended changes — from data alignment to rewriting sections to broaden their audience — before the reports are finalized.

“The scale of this collaboration is rare and impressive and the rich array of perspectives introduced through this process provides an opportunity to develop a foundational climate change report that informs and highlights adaptation and mitigation efforts and serves as a valuable resource for broad audiences,” researchers wrote.

The reports draw on studies conducted around the world to show that humans are warming the planet at an unprecedented pace through the burning of fossil fuels.

The National Climate Assessment, coordinated by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is congressionally mandated every four years. The carbon cycle report is used by the program as part of its assessment of climate change.

The reports include regional sections that show how climate change affects drought in Texas or extreme rains in the Northeast. The latest draft shows species of fish moving north as oceans warm and certain fish that are popular with anglers in the Gulf of Mexico disappearing.

“What’s beautiful about this report is that it really highlights the climate impacts down into where you and I live,” said Robin Bell, the committee review chairwoman and a professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “You can also read this report and see what the responses to climate impacts are, how people are adapting and how people are mitigating.”

Reviews said the general public may not be aware that climate scientists continue to find growing research that climate change is real and recommended the report highlight the latest findings.

“This is how science works, you put it out for peer review, get together 16 experts who comb through it, and now we are offering them suggestions on how to revise it, to make it clearer,” she said.

Reviewers of the carbon cycle report suggested it should emphasize areas for further study, where specific scientific advances could be made in the future with sufficient research investments. The reviewers also emphasized the need for better writing.

“The draft report Summary should be more concise and more accessible to a general audience,” researchers wrote. “Many instances of technical jargon and confusing wording could be improved with the services of a good science writer.”