U.S. Climate Change Impacts Assessment: The Collision of Science and Politics

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Climate change assessment reports are an essential intellectual tool for synthesizing the state of scientific knowledge in terms of its implications for policymaking and society.  But we have learned that these periodic communications from the science community are delivered, not into a neutral, pragmatic, problem-solving arena, but rather into a hotbed of conflicting political agendas and values that may be antithetical to science. The collision of science and politics can be seen clearly in the fate under the Bush Administration of the first U.S. National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts, a major report completed in 2000 under the sponsorship of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).


This presentation will discuss several interrelated issues, including: (1) “science for society” in the evolution of the USGCRP and the National Assessment process; (2) the global warming “denial machine”; (3) modalities of official censorship, denial, and misrepresentation of climate change communication; (4) Clinton to Bush to Obama: the impact of changing administrations; (5) the proper roles of the science community, elected officials, the media, and advocacy groups; and (5) climate change preparedness: links from research to assessment to operational decisionmaking.