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A Scientist... among Other Scientists

Written by Jennifer on .

The main reason why many of us are participating in the COP is because we are interested in bridging the gap between science and policy. As a natural scientist, I often think that if I make a logical argument it will convince people they should care about climate change impacts in the ocean. From personal experience, it seems to be a lot harder than that.

When the science argument fails to persuade people, I usually turn to economics. Money is a universal language; people understand money. There are costs and benefits to any action we decide to take as individuals and as a society. But even then, contrary to my science colleagues’ beliefs, I have often had economists complain to me that policymakers never listen. And at the COP yesterday, I gained a little insight as to why it takes more than just logic.

I, along with Natalya and our other colleagues, attended the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Structured Expert Dialogue. First, the experts who headed the IPCC report presented a synthesis of their findings in the Assessment Report 5 that was released earlier in November. Party delegates were then able to ask questions relevant to both global and individual country’s interests.

The small island nations were concerned about the 2⁰C standard and its potentially catastrophic consequences for nations like Trinidad and Jamaica. The U.S. questioned how to address the large amount of uncertainty that still exists within climate predictions. There were also questions about the role of indigenous knowledge, how agriculture fits into the picture, difficulties in regards to reducing poverty, and many others from just as many nations. With so many concerns and conflicting interests, it makes it easier to understand why it is so difficult to come to a decision about global climate change.

It was an amazing experience to witness these party delegates try to shape actual policy. Scientists do not usually get to see what happens after the research is done, in other words, how scientific research translates into policy. This amazing opportunity made one thing clear: global climate change needs to be addressed ecologically, economically, socially, and politically. All of these factors are intimately conncted, and to make matters more complicated, all of these components are different for each individual country. As a result, not only do we need physical and natural scientists, but we also need economists, social scientists, and politicians to work together.

The COP definitely embodies this collaborative effort, bringing together passionate people of diverse backgrounds to address global climate change. To me, this experience really solidified the importance of understanding and appreciating different disciplines. It is a valuable lesson to bring home, bringing new challenges for me to face with a broadened perspective, much like the party delegates who are actively negotiating the future of our planet.

Contact Information

Ocean Scientists for Informed Policy
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92083-0202