I agree with Steve Koonin’s core point in @wsj (deep uncertainty in global warming beyond basics). But here’s where I told him we differ: 
a) Your piece makes the important point that, on vital questions, there’s enduring deep uncertainty behind the “97 Percent of Climate Scientists Agree” headlines and IPCC report summary language. That was the point of my pieces on the many “shapes" of climate knowledge.
But I think your piece implies too much that further scientific inquiry can improve the picture. On regional forecasting, extremes (hurricanes), sensitivity to doubled CO2, and other key questions, further science - if anything - has clarified that some of these uncertainties aren’t going anywhere. 

b) You also imply that you can’t have “good” climate policy in the face of deep persistent uncertainty. In other endeavors, society has figured this out and some sustained inquiry is going into how to take a least-regrets policy on the greenhouse buildup. See the World Bank paper on “Investment Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty - Application to Climate Change.”

Koonin offered these replies:

a) Agree that regional and extremes are probably hopeless.  But I would suppose that ECS/TCR and even GMST on a decadal scale could be better nailed down by model pruning and better ocean data.  An interesting way to test that (which I don’t think has ever been done, but don’t know for sure) is to assume one of the models is the truth, downscale the sampling of the data to what we might reasonably observe in the real world, and see to what extent that can be used to recover the truth.  The results would give some indication of the extent to which more observations would help.

b) This is indeed implied by the tagline, which I didn’t write or even see until publication.  As I hoped to imply in the last few paragraphs of the article, we can get to good climate policies, but they will depend as much (or even more) upon “values” than upon science, given the latter’s uncertainties.

I agree with Steve Koonin’s core point in @wsj (deep uncertainty in global warming beyond basics). But here’s where I told him we differ: 

a) Your piece makes the important point that, on vital questions, there’s enduring deep uncertainty behind the “97 Percent of Climate Scientists Agree” headlines and IPCC report summary language. That was the point of my pieces on the many “shapes" of climate knowledge.

But I think your piece implies too much that further scientific inquiry can improve the picture. On regional forecasting, extremes (hurricanes), sensitivity to doubled CO2, and other key questions, further science - if anything - has clarified that some of these uncertainties aren’t going anywhere. 
b) You also imply that you can’t have “good” climate policy in the face of deep persistent uncertainty. In other endeavors, society has figured this out and some sustained inquiry is going into how to take a least-regrets policy on the greenhouse buildup. See the World Bank paper on “Investment Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty - Application to Climate Change.”
Koonin offered these replies:
a) Agree that regional and extremes are probably hopeless.  But I would suppose that ECS/TCR and even GMST on a decadal scale could be better nailed down by model pruning and better ocean data.  An interesting way to test that (which I don’t think has ever been done, but don’t know for sure) is to assume one of the models is the truth, downscale the sampling of the data to what we might reasonably observe in the real world, and see to what extent that can be used to recover the truth.  The results would give some indication of the extent to which more observations would help.
b) This is indeed implied by the tagline, which I didn’t write or even see until publication.  As I hoped to imply in the last few paragraphs of the article, we can get to good climate policies, but they will depend as much (or even more) upon “values” than upon science, given the latter’s uncertainties.

Human population, led by Africa (in part through paucity of family planning), likely to be on the up and up through 2100, new analysis finds (Science): 

Global Population Won’t Stabilize This Century
A new report suggests that contrary to past projections arguing that global population will peak around 2050, the world’s population is unlikely to stabilize this century. The results, based on a statistical analysis of the most recent population projections from the United Nations (UN), point to Sub-Saharan Africa as the primary engine driving this unexpected growth through 2100. Patrick Gerland and colleagues applied advanced techniques to the latest UN data to estimate future demographic trends — like fertility and life expectancy — with great accuracy. They estimate an 80% probability that the world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion by 2100. The main reason for this is an increase in the projected population of Africa, the researchers say; demographers had projected that fertility in Africa would decline, but Gerland et al.show that levels of fertility throughout the region are persistently high. Furthermore, many African women are still having larger families (median 4.6 children), in part due to lack of contraceptives. Mortality from HIV has been reduced in Africa, too, further contributing to population growth. The ratio of working age people to older people is almost certain to decline substantially as well. Because rapid population increase in high-fertility countries can create challenges ranging from depletion of natural resources to unemployment to social unrest, the results of this study have important policy implications. The projected population growth could be moderated, the researchers say, by more substantial investments in girls’ education and family planning programs that provide contraceptives; both factors influence fertility. The UN’s population reports, published every two years, feature “high” and “low” projections that have been criticized for lacking a probabilistic basis.

Article #21: “World population stabilization unlikely this century,” by P. Gerland; N. Li; D. Gu; T. Spoorenberg; J. Wilmoth at United Nations in New York, NY; A.E. Raftery; H. Ševčíková; N. Lalic at University of Washington in Seattle WA; L. Alkema at National University of Singapore in Singapore; B.K. Fosdick at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO; J. Chunn at James Cook University Singapore in Singapore; G. Bay at Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Center (CELADE), Population Division of the United Nations ECLAC in Santiago, Chile; T. Buettner; G.K. Heilig, independent consultant. 

Valuable vintage papers on merits of “mundane science” in pursuing sustainable development

Two priceless papers on undervalued “applied” science, co-authored by Dan Kammen in the ’90s, still resonate today: “Science and Engineering Research That Values the Planet" (with Arne Jacobson) and "The Virtues of Mundane Science" (with Michael Dove). Here’s the conclusion of the "mundane" paper:

"There are a number of ways to give such initiatives a larger role in research and policy decisions. These include giving much more support to academic-industry and academic-practitioner partnerships; extending academic boundaries to encompass the entire range of human-environment interactions; breaking down the often antagonistic division between development professionals and academia; instituting a more open review process for development publications, projects, and institutions; removing the barrier between development planners and the intended beneficiaries or local populations; and addressing the frequently counterproductive tension between pure and applied research. The primary obstacles to implementing these proposals are cultural and institutional, not scientific. Expanding our commitment to mundane science requires that we overcome a Catch-22, however: Mundane issues generate little interest until a crisis emerges, at which point a solution is expected at once because the problem appears to be so simple. Unless we overcome the bias against mundane science, we will be wedded to shortsighted, partial solutions to emerging issues in development and the environment. Serious research requires a commitment to sustained periods of training, preparation, and support, which mundane science rarely receives. A valuable principle to use in the design and evaluation of sustainable development initiatives is that of use-inspired basic research, which – however basic the science involved – has a clear focus on applications…."

@DRgrist, after a year offline, talks with #PaceBlog students about lessons learned and what led him back to blogging. For more, read of his epic struggles and joys in Outside Magazine and here’s a @dotearth post on his return.

Birdwatching: Increasingly a moving target via global warming. Animated range map part of @AudubonSocity Birds & Climate Report.

Birdwatching: Increasingly a moving target via global warming. Animated range map part of @AudubonSocity Birds & Climate Report.

A Closer Look at the Ebola Epidemic in the Context of Ecological Health.
#PaceUniversity Academy for Applied Enviro. Studies campus campaign is on smart energy choices this year. 

#PaceUniversity Academy for Applied Enviro. Studies campus campaign is on smart energy choices this year. 

The cigarettes change, but the litter’s the same. Fresh-dropped in Hudson Highlands State Park.

The cigarettes change, but the litter’s the same. Fresh-dropped in Hudson Highlands State Park.

@NOAA tightens bluefin tuna management plan. (via @pewtrusts)

Via @theWCS: 17 Rare Siamese Crocodiles Released in Lao PDR by WCS and Partners / Fewer than 1,000 critically endangered Siamese crocodiles remain in the wild.
 
NEW YORK (August 28, 2014) – The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today the successful release of 17 juvenile critically endangered Siamese crocodiles into a protected wetland in Lao PDR.
 
The one-to-two-year-old crocodiles, which range between 50-100 cm (20-39 inches) in length, were raised in facilities managed by local communities working with WCS to protect the endangered reptiles and their habitat.

The juvenile crocodiles were released this week into the Xe Champhone wetland, Than Soum village, Savannakhet Province.  This is one of two RAMSAR wetland sites in the country. Lao PDR became a signatory to the RAMSAR convention in 2010.

A ceremony observing cultural traditions was held prior to the release and involved participants from local communities, government and WCS staff.  Local communities have traditional beliefs about Siamese crocodiles, and events on the day included welcoming the crocodiles to the village area and wishing both them and community residents good luck in the future.

Following the completion of the release ceremony, the crocodiles were transported by boat into the heart of the wetland complex that is managed by local communities to provide habitat and protect the species.

It is estimated that there may be fewer than 1000 Siamese crocodiles remaining in the wild, with a significant proportion of this population located in Lao PDR.

The release of these crocodiles is the culmination of several years of conservation action implemented by WCS, local communities, and the Government of Lao PDR, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Forest Resources and Environment.

Alex McWilliam of the WCS’s Lao PDR Program said: “We are extremely pleased with the success of this collaborative program and believe it is an important step in contributing to the conservation of the species by involving local communities in long term wetland and species management.”

Classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, the Siamese crocodile grows up to 10 feet in length. The species has been eliminated from much of its former range through Southeast Asia and parts of Indonesia by overhunting and habitat degradation and loss.

WCS’s Lao PDR Program designed and implemented the Community-based Crocodile Recovery and Livelihood Improvement Project, whose goal is the recovery of the local Siamese crocodile population and restoration of associated wetlands, linked by socio-economic incentives that improve local livelihoods. 

The program has three key objectives: contributing to local livelihoods by improving coordination of water resource use and zoning of lands used in local agriculture; conserving and restoring crocodile wetland habitat important for local livelihoods, crocodiles, and other species; and replenishing the crocodile population in the wetland complex and surveying and monitoring the current population.

The program has worked with nine villages – each village has a “Village Crocodile Conservation Group” (VCCG) to coordinate implementation of program activities in the Xe Champone wetland complex and surrounding areas.

The program has received extensive financial support from MMG Lane Xang Minerals Limited Sepon. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and IUCN support ongoing components of the program. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Francaise de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.  A fundamental goal is to ensure society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. 
 

Via @theWCS: 17 Rare Siamese Crocodiles Released in Lao PDR by WCS and Partners / Fewer than 1,000 critically endangered Siamese crocodiles remain in the wild.

 

NEW YORK (August 28, 2014) – The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today the successful release of 17 juvenile critically endangered Siamese crocodiles into a protected wetland in Lao PDR.

 

The one-to-two-year-old crocodiles, which range between 50-100 cm (20-39 inches) in length, were raised in facilities managed by local communities working with WCS to protect the endangered reptiles and their habitat.

The juvenile crocodiles were released this week into the Xe Champhone wetland, Than Soum village, Savannakhet Province.  This is one of two RAMSAR wetland sites in the country. Lao PDR became a signatory to the RAMSAR convention in 2010.

A ceremony observing cultural traditions was held prior to the release and involved participants from local communities, government and WCS staff.  Local communities have traditional beliefs about Siamese crocodiles, and events on the day included welcoming the crocodiles to the village area and wishing both them and community residents good luck in the future.

Following the completion of the release ceremony, the crocodiles were transported by boat into the heart of the wetland complex that is managed by local communities to provide habitat and protect the species.

It is estimated that there may be fewer than 1000 Siamese crocodiles remaining in the wild, with a significant proportion of this population located in Lao PDR.

The release of these crocodiles is the culmination of several years of conservation action implemented by WCS, local communities, and the Government of Lao PDR, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Forest Resources and Environment.

Alex McWilliam of the WCS’s Lao PDR Program said: “We are extremely pleased with the success of this collaborative program and believe it is an important step in contributing to the conservation of the species by involving local communities in long term wetland and species management.”

Classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, the Siamese crocodile grows up to 10 feet in length. The species has been eliminated from much of its former range through Southeast Asia and parts of Indonesia by overhunting and habitat degradation and loss.

WCS’s Lao PDR Program designed and implemented the Community-based Crocodile Recovery and Livelihood Improvement Project, whose goal is the recovery of the local Siamese crocodile population and restoration of associated wetlands, linked by socio-economic incentives that improve local livelihoods. 

The program has three key objectives: contributing to local livelihoods by improving coordination of water resource use and zoning of lands used in local agriculture; conserving and restoring crocodile wetland habitat important for local livelihoods, crocodiles, and other species; and replenishing the crocodile population in the wetland complex and surveying and monitoring the current population.

The program has worked with nine villages – each village has a “Village Crocodile Conservation Group” (VCCG) to coordinate implementation of program activities in the Xe Champone wetland complex and surrounding areas.

The program has received extensive financial support from MMG Lane Xang Minerals Limited Sepon. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and IUCN support ongoing components of the program. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Francaise de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.  A fundamental goal is to ensure society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.