Ben Santer may be one of the most important scientists that you’ve never heard of. Dr. Santer authored three papers that cleared up the discrepancies between different types of satellite data, which resolved one of the major remaining inconsistencies between climate models and measurement. Dr. Santer also co-authored last year’s definitive report, commissioned by the White House, that marked the unambiguous arrival of a broad scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. The journal Environmental Science & Technology recently sat Dr. Santer down for an interview that should be required reading for those keeping up with the field. Even more so if you have not heard of Dr. Santer’s work and want to catch up.
The  CCSP report contained this statement: “The evidence continues to support a substantial human impact on global temperature increases. This should constitute a valuable source of information to policymakers.” Why was there a need to make this statement when scientists had consensus back in 1995?
I think it’s fair to say that here in the U.S., a number of our elected leaders continue to express skepticism about our understanding of the nature and causes of climate change. Our charge in the report was to advise members of Congress with “science-based knowledge to manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate.” We fulfilled this charge to the best of our ability.
Clearly, there was a need to reiterate the finding of many previous national and international scientific assessments—human activities have affected historical climate, are now influencing current climate, and will shape the future climate.
Do you think this report will change policy?
Yes, I do. A recent press release by Sen. Lugar actually mentions our report, and recognizes “the April 2006 findings of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program that there is no longer a discrepancy between the rates of global average temperature increase at the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere, thereby strengthening the scientific evidence that human activity contributes significantly to global temperature increases.”
So people are listening.
Give it a read, think about our president looking to Michael Crichton for climate advice, and have a silent cry for humanity.