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Climate Change Science and Policy

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  • Posted April 30, 2012

    Not Recommended

    Climate change is the quintessential multi-disciplinary subject; not only from a scientific point of view in that it incorporates all of the sciences, but also because it inevitably requires that attention be paid to the social sciences and humanities. Can all of that breadth be covered well in one book? Apparently not.
    In his introduction to Climate Change Science and Policy, John Holdren, director of the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, assesses the need for such a book and concludes that such a text should have "...the amount of intellectual sustenance on climate change that is 'just right'."
    The late Stephen H. Schneider and co-editors have compiled 49 articles by 68 authors and assigned them to five broad categories - Impacts of Climate Change, Policy Analysis, International Considerations, United States and Mitigation Options to Reduce Carbon Emissions. Those section titles alone are a good indication of how poorly the book is organized. Despite the title, there are, in fact, only two chapters dealing with climate-change science and they are grouped in the section on Impacts of Climate Change. With notable exceptions, few of the articles achieve the level of quality of a good review paper in American Scientist or Scientific American. The section of an article on Detection and Attribution by Ben Santer and Tom Wigley does a fine job of laying out the controversy surrounding the satellite MSU data. And Christian Azar's chapter on the Cost of Reducing CO2 emissions concisely summarizes that most important component of the climate-change mitigation question. Many other articles could have potentially been the basis for definitive, useful summaries but were obviously constrained by the combined limitations of space, lack of color illustration and cursory editing.
    It is an unfortunate property of environmental literature that, in order to produce an effective text, one must set limits. The author(s) of environmental texts have to define their territory and address it consistently. Climate Change Science and Policy doesn't do that.
    Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University

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