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Science Challenges of a Changing Climate
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010 Time: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Location: Caltech's Hameetman Auditorium (Cahill Building) Speaker: Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist
Climate change is rightly recognized as a very real and urgent global issue. Its consequences are already being experienced and are likely to get worse. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists all agree on the fundamentals of climate change — that climate change is happening and increased greenhouse gases from human activities are causing it. Despite this overwhelming consensus, the last 12 months have been some of the most challenging for the climate change science community. From stolen e-mails, the perceived lack of a deal at Copenhagen, to the uncovering of errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, these events have all taken their toll on the credibility of our science. However, despite the furor created by these events, the body of scientific evidence showing how our climate is changing continues to grow.
Researchers at the Met Office have been studying climate variability and change for more than 30 years. The Met Office is recognized as one of the world leaders in climate change science, providing advice to governments, businesses and the public on a daily basis. The Met Office occupies a unique position in being able to advise government and business on the risks associated with hazardous weather in the short term — and the threats, and indeed opportunities — over the coming decades as our climate changes. Our scientists play leading roles in the provision of expert evidence on past and future climate change to bodies such as the IPCC.
This talk will address some of the fundamental science challenges which we face in meeting the need to provide the scientific understanding and advice required to enable society to make informed decisions.
• How confident are we that our climate is changing?
• What is causing our climate to change?
• Why are projections of future climate change uncertain?
• What are the climate science challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change?
All too often uncertainty in science offers a convenient excuse for delaying important decisions. In examining the uncertainties we must take care to not throw away what we do know. Science has established that climate is changing and that the world will need to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades if the worst impacts of dangerous climate change are to be avoided.
Slingo became Met Office chief scientist in February 2009. Before joining the Met Office she was the director of climate research in the Natural Environment Research Council's National Centre for Atmospheric Science, at the University of Reading, where she is still a professor of meteorology. In 2006 she founded the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at Reading, aimed at addressing the cross-disciplinary challenges of climate change and its impacts. As chief scientist Slingo is responsible for providing scientific and technical strategy; ensuring the organization adheres to good scientific and technical standards; and directing and managing research and development with the Met Office. She also represents the office, on science and technology, across government.