The vice chair of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, William Chameides, spoke recently about the credibility of climate science:

“Understanding climate change is really understanding the difference between a house of cards and a jigsaw puzzle.   Imagine a house of cards.  You look at the house of cards and you find one little card there and maybe it’s a statement about the Himalayan glaciers on the 900th page of a 1,000 page report.  You pull that card out and the whole house comes down.  And you say, aha.  Climate science is a bunch of bunk.”

“In fact, its really like a jigsaw puzzle.  Now imagine you’re putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  And imagine also that you’re really challenged because you don’t have the top [the picture of the assembled puzzle on the box the puzzle came in] to tell you what the puzzle is.  As you begin to put the pieces together the picture begins to come into play.  And after you have 20, 30, whatever percent of the puzzle pieces in place you suddenly know what the picture is....  

And that's where we are with climate science.  We've got a lot of those puzzle pieces in place.  Now as scientists, we're going to be arguing about those puzzle pieces for decades.  And every once in a while we're going to take one of those pieces away because we got it wrong.  But the basic picture is there.  We have enough of the picture to know.  The time has come to act.”

Chameides was speaking at an event held May 12 in Washington to announce the completion of the fifth and last volume of the “most comprehensive study of climate change to date”, done by the National Academy of Sciences - "America's Climate Choices".  Members of the committee that oversaw the creation of this series were present.  

Other remarks, and a quote from the report that caught my attention: 

The chair of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, Albert Carnesale, told a story about how he became involved .   “[It] started with a telephone call from  [the President of the National Academy] Ralph Cicerone”.   Carnesale says he told Cicerone he must have made a mistake:  “I work on issues that have a substantial technological dimension, but I haven’t worked on climate change”.

He says Cicerone replied:  “Exactly…  you come to this with a fresh perspective and no previous position.”

Carnesale is taking a position now:  “One of the main things I learned - the bottom line:  climate change is occurring, largely due to human action, its going to be bad for our society and for the environment, and there’s a pressing need for substantial action.  And if you read the report you’ll see there’s a whole host of things that we recommend be done.”

Carnesale served for about a decade as Chancellor of UCLA. carnesale He has written six books and 100 articles on national security strategy, arms control, nuclear proliferation, and technological change as it affects foreign and defense policy.  He is a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, the Mission Committees of the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs, etc. 

Its possible that by choosing Carnesale as chair, Cicerone was trying to get through to the hard heads in the nuclear industry that climate change is real.  (The US nuclear industry has a denier of climate science as one of its most prominent lobbyists).  


Committee member Thomas Dietz brought up a point that could have been addressed to some here who try to pretend that the IPCC must be taken to be the last word, as new studies make the overall picture more bleak and alarming.  “The science report has about 1100 references.  It closed looking at new data probably around February – March of last year”, i.e. early 2010.  The IPCC AR4 closing date was late 2005 to early 2006.   Dietz confirmed that sea level rise is now taken to be a far more serious and immediate threat than the IPCC was able to see, because of new data. 

 Chairman Carnesale brought up "climategate":

“I think it’s important to recognize that this report was being written when there was a great deal of controversy about climate change because of the intercepted emails – East Anglia and the IPCC report – so our science panel actually went back and looked at the original literature…  and we reaffirmed, not simply agreed with but reaffirmed, the conclusion that climate change is occurring, that it is largely due to human actions, and that it poses a significant risk to human society and to the natural environment” 

The US National Academy of Sciences is one of the most respected scientific organizations in the world.  Almost 10% of the members hold the Nobel.  Membership is granted because a scientist or engineer’s  peers recognize a persons "distinguished and continuing achievements in original research".  Quoting from the NAS website:  "Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer".

The NAS can examine any scientific issue with authority. 

The report commented on organized climate denial, as well as the tendency of mass media  to report as if there was a debate among the relevant scientists about the fundamentals of climate change when there simply is not:

 “Most people rely on secondary sources for information, especially the mass media;  and some of these sources are affected by concerted campaigns against policies to limit CO2 emissions, which promote beliefs about climate change that are not well supported by scientific evidence.  U.S. media coverage sometimes presents aspects of climate change that are uncontroversial among the research community as being matters of serious scientific debate.  Such factors likely play a role in the increasing polarization of public beliefs about climate change, along lines of political ideology, that has been observed in the United States."

The entire five publication study is available in pdf format for free download.  Links to each previously published section as well as the latest report are on this page….