Negotiating and Communicating Evidence: Lessons from the Anthropocene Debate

Skepticism and debate are always welcome and are critically important to the advancement of science. . . . Skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.

The executive director of the American Meteorological Society, Keith Seitter, made this distinction about skepticism in his letter to the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, Rick Perry, on June 21, 2017.[1] In that letter, he bemoaned the secretary’s rejection of empirically based knowledge about climate change. At the same time, he underlined the importance of related research and of taking the resulting evidence seriously. Continue reading “Negotiating and Communicating Evidence: Lessons from the Anthropocene Debate”

Hurricanes, Climate Change, and Adaptation: The Roles of Knowledge and Memory in Past and Present

This year is not the first time in the United States that climate change became a politically charged, hotly debated topic during a very active hurricane season. A comparable situation occurred in the 2005 season, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Similar to current federal policy, the Bush administration prevented the EPA from informing the public about climate change by actively changing the agency’s reports and suppressing the use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” Nevertheless, nongovernmental climate scientists engaged in heated debate in scientific journals and conferences about whether anthropogenic climate change was making hurricanes more destructive, increasingly frequent, or both.[1] While this remains a crucial question (particularly in the U.S. context of widespread climate change denialism), the connected and equally central point is whether and how societies can adapt to a potentially unprecedented situation with regard to the frequency and severity of extreme events. Continue reading “Hurricanes, Climate Change, and Adaptation: The Roles of Knowledge and Memory in Past and Present”