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Climatic Change Effects on Earth's Biosphere
Volume 13, Number 38: 22 November 2010

In commemorating the publication of the 100th volume of the journal Climatic Change, Norman Rosenberg -- who says he "takes pleasure in being able to claim guest editorship or co-editorship of fully 5% of these 100 volumes" -- was asked to contribute an overview paper to a celebratory issue dealing with the progress that had occurred since the journal's inception in the interrelated areas of climate change, agriculture and water resources, which -- at the valedictory age of eighty -- Rosenberg does quite admirably.

He begins by noting that the "overarching concern" of the volumes he edited was "to gain understanding of how climatic change affects agricultural production, unmanaged ecosystems and water resources; how farmers, foresters and water managers can strengthen these sectors against the negative impacts of climatic change and capitalize on positive impacts if any; how they can adapt to impacts that cannot be so modified or ameliorated and how they can contribute directly or indirectly to mitigation of anthropogenic climatic change -- as, for example, through soil carbon sequestration and the production of biomass to substitute in part for the fossil fuels that are adding CO2 to the atmosphere."

When he gets to the end of his essay, and it is time to make a summary statement, Rosenberg writes in his closing paragraph that "it seems difficult to say with assurance that the 'state-of-the-art' in projecting climatic change impacts on agriculture and water resources and unmanaged ecosystems is, today, that much better than it was 30 years ago," noting that "the uncertainty and lack of agreement in GCMs is still too great." He reports that "much can and has been learned about possible outcomes," but he goes on to say that "for actual planning and policy purposes we are still unable to assure those who need to know that we can forecast where, when and how much agriculture (as well as unmanaged ecosystems and water resources) will be affected by climatic change."

In expressing these sentiments, Rosenberg exemplifies the humility of the true scientist, who -- attempting to comprehend the complexity of the world of nature and its innermost workings -- is well aware of his own limitations and those of all seekers of such truths. Although much has been learned, as he outlines in the body of his remarks, that which is known pales in comparison to that which is needed to be known "for actual planning and policy purposes," as he describes it. And thereby Rosenberg highlights, by unavoidable juxtaposition on our part, what we all must recognize to be the audacity of those who claim that "the science is settled," and that we must act now to do what they prescribe to "save the planet." Such is definitely not the case.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Rosenberg, N.J. 2010. Climate change, agriculture, water resources: what do we tell those that need to know? Climatic Change 100: 113-117.