Apr
08
2011

In the public media, the impacts of global warming have been less important than questioning its causes. And at any rate, reports on the impacts have alternately a catastrophic immediacy or an ambiguous, amorphous quality--the latter likely born out of caution due to the former's inaccuracy and tendency to undermine action. But there's room for a third approach--one of reasonability and inquiry.

And in fact, scientists' explorations go beyond the intangible models of earth covered in gradations of 5 colors, which represent average temperature change over the last century. Their work tests changes in the real world with real organisms. This field work generates data that can be used to test and improve the accuracy of the earth systems models we use to predict future change.
Wheat: I do what I want.
Wheat: I do what I want.Courtesy 3268zauber

One such project is literally heating up wheat fields and spraying CO2 over them. The researchers want to find out how global warming and increasing concentrations of CO2 will impact crops. It turns out that plants will react to these changes differently in different latitudes and climes.

For example, plants in warmer climates might grow better earlier in the year only to take a dive once summer temperatures pass a certain range. Plants in cooler climates might thrive with warmer temperatures and increased CO2, whereas tropical plants might suffer from too much heat.

"There is a narrow latitudinal band that could make rising heat beneficial to growers, Kimball concluded. But farther south, especially in Mexico, the implications of the warming mean serious reductions in crop yields."

Climate model: I get better when you validate me.
Climate model: I get better when you validate me.Courtesy Robert A. Rohde

The information gleaned in these plant studies is helping validate and improve existing models of vegetation so that the tools we need to make decisions about climate change are more accurate. One of the researchers in the article implies that we need a lot more of this validation than we do predictions right now. Even so, changes in reporting on climate change's impacts are often due less to increased uncertainty and more to increased information.

So it seems that rather than the impacts of climate change being universally good or bad, they're a little of both in different parts of the world. What can we do to improve communication in the media on this front?

And to take this a step further, given the varying environmental responses to global warming, it is ethical for one country to make decisions about climate change without consulting other countries?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

iloverocknroll's picture
iloverocknroll says:

it pretty sad how or enviroment is getting throw like means nothing. Global warming is a big deal and i thing more people should consider taking it more seriouly.

posted on Sun, 04/10/2011 - 6:23pm

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