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Climate Researchers Urged To Use ‘Plain Language’

May 5, 2011

Climate scientists gathering at a conference on Arctic warming were asked Wednesday to explain the dramatic melting in the region in layman’s terms, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

An authoritative report released at the meeting in Copenhagen showed melting ice in the Arctic could result in global sea levels rising 5 feet within this century, much higher than previous forecasts.

James White of the University of Colorado at Boulder told fellow researchers to use plain language when describing their research to a general audience. Focusing on the reports technical details could obscure the basic science. To put it bluntly, “if you put more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it will get warmer,” he said.

US climate scientist Robert Corell said it was pertinent to try to reach out to all members of society to spread awareness of Arctic melt and the impact it has on the whole world.

“Stop speaking in code. Rather than ‘anthropogenic,’ you could say ‘human caused,” Corell said at the conference of nearly 400 scientists.

The Arctic has been warming at twice the global average in recent decades, and the latest five-year period is the warmest since measurements began more than 100 years ago, according to the report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.

The report highlighted “the need for greater urgency” in reversing global warming. But standstills between nations on how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have lingered for the past two decades.

Andrew Steer, envoy on climate change for the World Bank, said the new findings “are a case for great concern.” Rising sea levels will affect millions of people in both wealthy and poor countries, but would especially affect the poor, because “they tend to live in the lowest lying land and have the fewest resources to adapt,” he said.

Studies on the topic showed that the costs of major flooding events on infrastructure and the economy could easily soar into billions of dollars, Steer said.

“It is clear that we are not on track in the battle against climate change,” he said.

Ocean currents expert, Bogi Hansen, said one problem is that scientists can come off as unsure about conclusions because they hesitate to report on anything with 100 percent certainty.

White agreed. At a news conference later Wednesday, he told AP’s Karl Ritter that those opposed to reducing the use of fossil fuels “sow the seeds of doubt that give the people the impression that … unless every single one of us lines up behind an idea, that decisions can’t be taken.”

The AMAP report will be delivered to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Canada, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia, at an Arctic Council meeting in Greenland next week.

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