Blog | November 18, 2013, 13:45 PST

Climate negotiations under way

The value of science in policymaking

The latest round of climate negotiations are under way at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland.

The latest round of climate negotiations are under way at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland.

Carmen Boening is a scientist in the Climate Physics Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She is reporting from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland.

It was a bit of a shock to the system leaving behind the warmth of Pasadena in California, where it was 81F (27C) when I left, and arriving in Warsaw, Poland, where it is 40F (22C) cooler. I’ve come to Warsaw to be part of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP19), and it’s been incredibly exciting to take in the large range of topics under discussion. I’m based at the U.S. Center at the conference, where delegates from around the U.S. are giving presentations on a variety of topics about climate science and applications of the science.

People from all over the world have trickled into the U.S. Center, interested in learning about our work and how it could be used by policymakers.

As a scientist, it’s fascinating to get an insight into the climate policy efforts that are happening on the international scale. The goal is challenging: to reach a consensus between countries with sometimes very diverse interests.

COP19 logo

One of the plenary sessions involved representatives presenting the “climate action wish list” of their particular country. Many of the speakers quoted results from the latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report, which came out just a couple of months ago. This emphasized the extent to which political decisions are indeed influenced by the results we scientists are producing. In turn, that underscored for me our responsibility as scientists to not only ensure that we come up with high-quality science results, but also that we clearly “translate” our findings for the public and policymakers. We have a duty to reach out to provide as much information as possible.

Overall, COP19 is a great chance to see how the science we are producing matters and informs bigger decisions. It’s fun to leave the world of pure science for a while and dive into a very different territory, that of politics.

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