Promoting climate information and communication of climate change

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011: 2:00 PM
Promoting climate information and communication of climate change
609 (Washington State Convention Center)
Kevin E. Trenberth, NCAR, Boulder, CO
Manuscript (270.8 kB)

This talk is in honor of my friend and colleague Stephen Schneider, who was pre-eminent in communicating climate change to the public. I have given many public talks on climate change, and I have always tried to emphasize the observational facts and their interpretation, rather than the less certain projections into the future. I will illustrate how I have always tried to present the material in a fairly policy neutral way, and I have pointed out ways to encourage discussion about value systems and why these lead to potentially different actions about what one does about climate change. For many years now I have been an advocate of the need for a climate information system, of which a vital component is climate services, but it is essential to recognize that good climate services and information ride upon the basic observations and their analysis and interpretation. The WCRP Observations and Assimilation Panel, which I have chaired for 6 years, has advocated for the climate observing system and the development of useful products. Moving towards a form of operational real time attribution of climate and weather events is essential, but needs to recognize the shortcomings of models and understanding (or the uncertainties, as Steve would say). Given that global warming is unequivocal, the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of "of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming". That kind of comment is answering the wrong question.

Supplementary URL: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/trenbert.html