"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, November 10, 2012

When will PNoy put the right people in charge?

by Flor Lacanilao


Scientists renew concern on climate adaptation

My post last week gave examples on improving the work of scientists and media in climate disasters. I mentioned, Our typical news report on climate-related issues often lacks evidence-based information (properly published experts or studies). For example, the news report “Reclaiming land seen as measure to deal with climate change” (Inquirer, 11/1/12) mentioned a department secretary, a bureau director, an architect, a government reclamation agency, and the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Science or NIGS  (see Key role of scientists & media in climate disasters, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 Nov 2012).

But no scientist or properly published study was cited. It failed to mention the well-published NIGS geologist Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay  
 
Here is another example of a news report in this week's issue of the journal Nature, showing how scientists and engineer scientists discuss plans on climate adaptation. 

Malcolm Bowman (who specializes in storm-surge modelling at Stony Brook University in New York) has "advocated a system of sea barriers or dykes," like those in London, the Netherlands, and Russia. The system pictured by Bowman and others consists of an 8-Km-wide barrier, 6 meter-high, that could be opened and closed at the entrance to the harbor, and other structures. The cost is about US$15 billion, Estimates of the damage caused by "Sandy" is between $30 billion and $50 billion.

On the other hand, some scientists worry that a single focus on sea barriers could be counterproductive -- like disrupting river outflow, increasing sedimentation, upsetting ecosystems, and  exacerbate flooding in areas that are not protected. Also, sea barriers do not protect against severe storms that produce inland flooding.

Cynthia Rosenzweig (co-chair of the NY climate panel and a senior scientist at NASA) says, “Sandy clearly shows that we have to do the barrier studies now. . . But I think we need to consider an integrated and holistic set of solutions, and not put all of our eggs in the barriers."  Scientists and government officials must ensure that any rebuilding is done with the long view of global warming in mind. She adds.

Full text in "Hurricane sweeps US into climate-adaptation debate" (Nature, 8 Nov 2012)
The way governance of science and education in the Philippines goes, I think the message to the Filipino academic scientist can be seen in the Science editorial last week, which says in part:

"Scientists insist on believable data both in work and in public life. Bright young scientists do not accept nonsense from those in power, and they will not be eternally patient with those responsible for it. The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual and practical: to recognize it, expose it, and try to fix it."  (The Scientist as World Citizen (2 Nov 2012).

Flor Lacanilao
Retired professor of marine science
University of the Philippines, Diliman

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