Recently there was an event in London, a joint Research and Policy in Development (RAPID)/Climate Change, Environment and Forests (CCEF)  occasion they called ‘Knowledge Café’. Discussed wasClimate policyClimate change policy and legislation drives the transition to a low carbon economy, creating opportunities and risks to which businesses must respond to succeed. and climate science: an oxymoron?’.

It seems sensible that policy should be decided based on facts, and that climate science is the base of climate policy. The problem is that relations between the two camps are sometimes described as a ‘chaotic conversation’ and that science doesn’t always find its way into political reality.

Head of the IPCC Rajendra Pachauri has made an important point by stating that scientific presentations should precede the negotiations in UNFCCCThe United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty that resulted from the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Their aim is to limit GHG emissions to levels that will not threaten the environment and livleyhoods. meetings; the draft paper for Rio+20 highlights the role of science in climate compatible developmentClimate compatible development is development that minimises the harm caused by climate impacts, while maximising the many human development opportunities presented by transitions to a low emissions, resilient future. Charting a path towards climate compatible development will be a major ....

One of the problems is  that it’s deemed unprofessional for scientists to get involved in social problems by some of their peers.  Situations such as “Climategateleave many scientists rather diagnosing the illness, but uneasy about prescribing a remedy. They’d rather leave that to the policy-makers.co2.gif

Another problem is that it isn’t easy for policy-makers to get widespread backing for the necessary policies for climate change mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) and adaptationAdjustments in human and natural systems, in response to actual or expected climate stimuli or their effects, that moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. (IPPC).

Climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... is considered by all stakeholdersThe stakeholder is a person, group, or entity who has a direct or indirect role and interest in the goals or objectives and implementation of a program/intervention and/or its evaluation. (Glossary Monitoring and Evaluation Terms; MERG Monitoring & Evaluation Reference Group and UNAIDS) as a ‘wicked problem’:

  • its effects are not easy to define, and it affects stakeholders differently
  • it has many and varied causes
  • its evidence basis is continually evolving
  • there is no single, clear solution
  • many different arms of government are involved in tackling the problem;
  • Action on climate change has been linked historically with failure.

It’s understandable that policy-makers don’t see tackling the issue as a crowd-pleaser. But a responsible government must take action now, and that action needs to be backed up by climate science.

Events that bring these two groups together, plus possibly other stakeholders like the media and concerned public, can only be welcomed and could help to improve communication and development of appropriate strategies.

The original article by Tristan Stubbs (ODI) includes more details as well as some interesting comments from readers.

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