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2000-9 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2000

Tackling Tough Environmental Issues: Three talks by NCAR Scientists at the AAAS

Contact:
David Hosansky
UCAR Communications
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
Telephone: (303) 497-8611
Fax: (303) 497-8610
E-mail: hosansky@ucar.edu

BOULDER -- As our knowledge of the earth's ecology becomes more sophisticated, the challenges of societal response become more complex. What questions need answering to ensure a healthy, viable economy and environment worldwide in the next 50 years? Can people who use and manage water resources resolve differences and discover tools to work with the uncertainties of nature? What would a "flood heretic" from 1975 have to say about the success of U.S. flood policy today? These questions are tackled by three scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in talks at this week's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.

Interdisciplinary Environmental Research--How Do We Get There from Here?

Warren Washington, Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
Session on New Strategies for Understanding Ecosystems

What kinds of questions need answers to assure a healthy ecological and economic environment in the first half of the new century? Where will those answers come from? Two recent reports call for major U.S. investment in environmental research. Warren Washington will extract the key messages from these calls to action. The report from the National Science Board instructs the National Science Foundation to give more attention--and greatly increased funding--to environmental research, education, and assessment. To tackle the complexity of environmental problems, researchers need to design projects that draw on multiple areas of expertise, cutting across the traditional boundaries of academic disciplines. The report also highlights the feedback between basic and applied research.

The Board on Sustainability report evaluates the current and future ability of the United States and the world to adopt fair, ecologically and economically sound policies and practices. This report, too, calls for more research funding. It also suggests ways to assure that new knowledge is translated into useful applications. The Board on Sustainability was convened by the National Academies of Science and Engineering, the National Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

Washington is on the Executive Committee of the National Science Board and heads the Climate Change Research Section at NCAR.

Human Water and Land Uses: Vulnerabilities, Values, and Management Options

Kathleen Miller, Saturday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Session on Hydrometeorological Frontiers: Meeting the Nation's Needs

Increased concern for the preservation and restoration of water- dependent ecosystems is changing the policy environment. When it comes to managing the effects of floods and droughts in the United States, competing social interests and the uncertainties of nature make for complex decision-making. What types of information do communities of water users, managers, and related interests need to address these concerns? To illustrate the role uncertainties play in restoration efforts, Miller will explore attempts to settle a major dispute over water and land use in California's San Joaquin Basin. She will suggest types of forecasts that could be useful to balance competing interests in the basin.

Confessions of a Flood Heretic

Roger A. Pielke, Jr., Saturday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Session on Hydrometeorological Frontiers: Meeting the Nation's Needs

Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. flood policy is failing. Pielke will take the perspective of a "flood heretic" visiting the present from previous decades, beginning with 1975. The heretic argues that actual flood losses have been smaller than policy makers from his time would have expected.

Using loss information as the measure of success, the heretic argues that the United States has been successful in its response to floods. But perhaps simple loss data are the wrong measure for success or failure of national flood policy. Pielke will discuss the weaknesses in this heretical line of thinking and suggest that the flood research community has yet to fully grapple with the challenges posed by the flood heretic.

NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences.

-The End-

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