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October 1997

The road to Kyoto: NCAR scientists' involvement


CGD scientists prominent in climate-change analysis and active on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are being tapped for comment and perspective as the international climate summit in Kyoto, Japan, approaches. At the meeting, 1-10 December, the world's nations are to consider legally binding reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and, possibly, other greenhouse gases.

On 13 October, Tom Wigley presented "Scientific Aspects of Global Warming" at a global warming symposium in Tokyo hosted by the Japanese Member Committee of the World Energy Council. After his talk, a panel discussion considered options for the energy industries represented at the meeting. In November, Tom will speak on "The Carbon Cycle and Climate Implications of the Proposed Protocols for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions" at the Center for Environmental Information's thirteenth annual conference in Washington, D.C. This conference will include comparisons of the policy proposals to be considered at Kyoto and analyses of the differences between them.

Tom continues his longstanding work as lead author on IPCC technical reports; a new one is in press on the implications of proposed carbon dioxide emission limits. He is also joining lead investigator Steve Smith (NCAR/University of Colorado) in a study that investigates the accuracy of global warming potentials (GWPs). GWPs are the only index under consideration by IPCC for comparing the relative importance of different gases in contributing to the greenhouse effect.

Kevin Trenberth made several appearances in Washington in the past month, the first on 30 September, when he covered the science of global climate change as one of five plenary panelists at a Science Summit on Climate Change sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists. He also gave a NASA-wide colloquium presentation, "Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?," at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on 10 October. Ten days later, Kevin joined Warren Washington on the Hill for an afternoon of briefings organized by UCAR's Office of Development and Government Affairs and open to all congressional staff and the news media. The morning sessions were limited to staff from a select group of senators, including those assigned to follow the Kyoto proceedings as official observers. The afternoon briefings were open to all congressional staff. Warren is also going to the University of Texas at El Paso on 28 October at the university president's invitation to give several talks on climate change to faculty and the public.

Kevin was an invited guest on 6 October at the climate-change conference organized by the Clinton administration and held at Georgetown University. "The number of people from the Cabinet that were involved was amazing," he reports. "Madeleine Albright led one panel, Federico Peña led another, Al Gore was there all day, and Bill Clinton stayed for half a day." Hillary Clinton also gave a presentation, and CNN mogul Ted Turner was in attendance as well. "The level of commitment and the amount of discussion they've already had in the Cabinet was impressive," says Kevin, "but I have a sense that they're not quite sure what to do or how to do it. However, they think the science is solid enough that they need to do something." •BH


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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

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