Ask us anything: climate change science

Two questions and answers from our recent “ask us anything“, both relating to climate change science. I left the answers to Brian since these questions are really in his wheelhouse.

Is there research in ecology focused on socio-environmental issues and solutions to climate change? (Pedro Reis)

Brian: Yes! This is a rapidly growing domain. As evidence, I would point you to three places. The coupled natural-human systems program at NSF. The SEES sustainability program at NSF. And SESYNC synthesis center. These are all predicated on the idea that social scientists have to work with biophysical scientists to get funded.

Is climate change getting unwarranted attention or funding relative to other drivers of ecosystem dynamics? (Jim Bouldin)

Brian: As per Peter Adler’s piece, I think an enormous amount of basic ecology is being justified as being relevant to climate change in ways that are invalid and distortionary (not all basic ecology should tie to climate change and certainly not all basic ecology currently really has strong links to climate change). On the other hand, if you look at the academic conservation literature I think you still see a very healthy mix of issues in the journals. And if you go to on the ground conservation I think I see about the right amount of attention being paid – something we need to plan for but not the forefront of many people’s jobs. Land use change remains the largest threat to most species. But climate change will be huge. Also, on the applied side, just like top predators, climate change is a charismatic reason to pursue agendas that are beneficial to more “mundane” conservation issues – namely ideas like megacorridors (which is to say I approve of climate change as a  cause celebre to push efforts needed for other reasons even if I’m not so enamored of this approach in basic ecology).

4 thoughts on “Ask us anything: climate change science

  1. I just started a blog,, that may shed some light on this issue, depending on how you define socio-environmental. It doesn’t deal specifically with the issue of climate-change, but it tries to get to the bottom of the issue of the impact humans are having on the environment by looking at the ecological nature of humans. For example, I try to answer the question What is the human ecological niche? I take the unconventional approach of assuming that humans are part of nature. In a way, I’m looking at the issue as if I were an ecologist from a different planet, so politics doesn’t get in the way.

  2. Thanks Brian. I think your first sentence is a very well phrased encapsulation of the quality-of-science issue, which is another very important question. The Adler piece and comments are excellent–I’m about 1/2 way through the latter.

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