Next big event: Denver forum, sessions

Climate Panel Stays the Course

When members of the AAPG Global Climate Change Solutions Committee accepted their appointments, they knew this “kitchen” would be hot. And so it is. In fact, the committee’s inception itself was prompted by sometimes-heated debate over the question of human impact on climate change.

Beginning as an ad hoc panel in 2006, the first charge was to study and revise the existing AAPG Climate Change Position Paper, which challenged anthropogenic causes for climate change. The position was controversial and unpopular with some, and was cited in national publications and widely discussed on the Internet.

After a year of discussion, the AAPG Executive Committee approved the rewording of the ad hoc committee’s policy statement, using the new process for approving AAPG Statements. In fall 2007, the ad hoc group was succeeded by a new standing committee, the Global Climate Change Solutions Committee, appointed by then-president Willard R. “Will” Green.

Once under way, the new committee asked the Executive Committee to drop the word “Solutions” from the title to broaden its scope, and the official name is now the AAPG Global Climate Change Committee (GCCC).

Its charge is “to promote and facilitate various fields of geologic study that relate to global climate change and potential solutions.”

The GCCC currently has 14 members, including three representatives recommended by the Executive Committee and three each from the AAPG divisions DEG, DPA and EMD. DEG member Priscilla Grew from the University of Nebraska agreed to be chair, recognizing “that this area of study and discussion is science in progress” and of great importance to AAPG, but unlikely to produce definitive universal consensus anytime soon.

The first projects undertaken by the GCCC were to host science forums on climate change before a standing-room-only crowd at the 2008 AAPG convention in San Antonio and at a special evening session at the 2008 international convention in Cape Town, South Africa.

The speakers for both forums were vetted and approved in advance by the full GCCC. The GCCC was able to engage highly qualified world-class scientists to speak on the key scientific issues: carbon dioxide and temperature, solar influences, glacial and geologic aspects of climate change.

(Videos and PowerPoint of all the San Antonio forum talks are available on Search and Discovery– AAPG’s online journal.)

Forum co-conveners John Armentrout and Jeff Levine note that the committee recognizes that climate change “is complicated, political and emotional – and that’s for openers.” The forums have led some AAPG members to question in the EXPLORER whether the selected speakers reflect a sufficient balance of opposing viewpoints – or lack thereof.

While one of the GCCC’s aims has been to bring to AAPG membership the highest level of vetted (“peer reviewed”) climate science that is being done today, some warn that application of the “peer reviewed” filter may not produce the balance of conflicting views that they would like to see aired in the forums.

“We recognize that temperature histories require great care in selection of representative data points,” GCCC co-chair Armentrout noted, “and we have worked with Dr. Tom Peterson of NOAA to better address that issue, including the questions recently raised in the EXPLORER Readers’ Forum. We acknowledge that the linkage of carbon dioxide to temperature history is debated, and that is why the upcoming Denver technical session on CO2 and temperature will include speakers with a broad spectrum of perspectives.”

Co-chair Priscilla Grew notes that “the committee’s intent is to present over time the scientific challenges and their implications as various experts see them.”

The next big event is in June at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Denver, where the Committee will present another forum, “Anticipating a Carbon Constrained Future: Implications For The Fossil Fuel Industry,” as well as the technical session on climate links between CO2and temperature, plus two poster sessions.

The GCCC session on geologic carbon sequestration already has ranked as one of the top draws for abstract submittals for the Denver meeting, and a number of abstracts had to be rejected due to space limitations.

No doubt, the “kitchen” still will be warm, since facts, opinions, emotions and politics don’t go away easily.

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