How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Philosophizing About Paleohydrology
Baker, V.R.  2000.  South American paleohydrology: Future prospects and global perspective.  Quaternary International 72: 3-5.

What was done
The author discusses his philosophy of paleohydrology, with special reference to South America, within the context of the current political climate of using still-evolving theoretical models to determine not only science policy but public policy.  In particular, he argues passionately, but astutely, against "the current fashion of global change science," which, he says, places "the cart before the horse" because it focuses "on verifying models rather than on understanding the complexity of nature."  In making his case, he draws heavily upon an earlier exposition of the subject produced by Klemes (1997).

What was learned
What was learned by this exercise, like beauty, is pretty much a function of the eye of the beholder, as no new data or facts are presented.  It does appear to be true, however, as the author claims, that "international global change science is caught up in its 'current obsession to assess the hydrological impact of climate change using scenarios of theoretical possibilities' (Klemes, 1997, p.48)," which may or may not be correct.

The author's fervor is apparent in his quoting Klemes as saying, "it is easier and more fun to play with a computer than to face the rigors of fieldwork, especially hydrologic fieldwork, which is usually most intensive during the most adverse conditions."  He also quotes Klemes as stating "it is faster to get a result by modeling than through acquisition and analysis of more data, which suits managers and politicians," and as saying it is "more glamorous to polish mathematical equations (even bad ones) in the office than muddied boots (even good ones) in the field."

Yes, there is no question that the author and his intellectual mentor are serious about their science and passionate abut how it is conducted.

What it means
The author claims that the current state of global change science, as practiced by what could be called the "establishment," is such that "the predictions of models are perceived as prophecy, to the detriment of both science and policy making."  With this assessment it would be hard to disagree; for the airwaves, paper and electronic media are awash with predictions of calamity to come by one person after another, each of whom is accorded his or her fifteen minutes of fame ? and continued funding.

What do you think?  Is the author correct?  Talk to us.  If we receive some good responses, both pro and con, we will discuss them in a future editorial.

Klemes, V.  1997.  Of carts and horses in hydrological modeling.  Journal of Hydrologic Engineering 1: 43-49.

Reviewed 18 October 2000