Dr. Judith Curry writes about the UCAR meeting she attended:
Some insight into the dynamics that resulted in a substantial change in emphasis in climate research is provided by a meeting that I attended earlier this week in Boulder: the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Annual Members Meeting. An overview of UCAR is provided at Wikipedia
The nutshell of Crow’s presentation is this:
A + B = C
- A: scientific and disciplinary knowledge
- B: impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers
- C: policy
Crow argued that the emphasis needs to be on B, which requires an entirely new structure for universities.
Whereas I had suffered silently through all this, after the panel discussion, I had to make a statement. Here is my general recollection of what I said:
A plus B most emphatically does NOT equal C. A+B=C represents the linear, “truth to power” model of decision making that has been known for decades NOT to work for complex environmental problems.
Decision making associated with the issues of climate and global change can be characterized as decision making under deep uncertainty. The deep uncertainty is associated with our reliance on projections from climate models, which are loaded with uncertainties and do not adequately treat natural climate variability. Further substantial areas of ignorance remain in our basic understanding of some of the relevant phyiscal, chemical and dynamical processes.
If we as scientists are not humble about the uncertainties and areas of ignorance, we have an enormous capacity to mislead decision makers and point them in the direction of poor policies. Uncertainty is essential information for decision makers.
Climate scientists have this very naive understanding of the policy process, which is aptly described by the A+B=C model in the context of the precautionary principle. This naive understanding is reflected in the palpable frustration of many climate scientists at the failure of the “truth” as they “know” it to influence global and national energy and climate policy. This frustration has degenerated into using to word “denier” to refer to anyone who disagrees with them on either the science or the policy solution.
The path that we seem to be on, whereby the science is settled and all we need is better communication and translation of the science to policy makers, not only has the potential to seriously mislead decision makers, but also to destroy atmospheric and climate science in the process.
There was applause. Not a standing ovation, but applause from a substantial segment of the 200+ audience.
There were several other interesting comments in the discussion. One person brought up the point that the U.S. land grant universities had a long tradition of working with decision makers in the context of agricultural extension, etc. Another person put up a new equation, something like this:
C = A + B + X(AB)**n + f(C)
which, to the extent an equation like this is useful, much better reflects the actual decision making process than A+B=C.
At the break, close to 20 people came up to me to thank me for what I said, “somebody had to say it,” and few others who liked what I said but seemed to be hearing this kind of an idea for the first time (I of course steered them to judithcurry.com)
More here h/t to Dr. Roger Pielke Sr.