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Climate change: Science meeting new demands Guest blogger, Research

Last time Matthew Stepp, guest blogger and RIT graduate student in public policy, discussed the growing scientific push for real solutions to the global warming issue. Today, Stepp outlines a number of projects that are attempting to address this increasingly essential environmental and social challenge.

Even as science and politics feud with each other, the future of our society lies in a holistic research approach within science and the timely policymaking of our government. Often, climate research is conducted within the context of one field of knowledge, such economics or atmospheric modeling. While these bodies of knowledge are important, the research community must take its work to the next step to create real, feasible climate-change solutions.

Within this context, the science community is now refining its research to give better forecasts of what’s to come and what we should do about it. At RIT, the Materials Use: Science, Engineering, and Society project—also known as MUSES—is seeking to model how the automobile industry and consumers will respond to different climate change mitigation policies. Also, the Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation project, known as GIFT, is creating a Geographic Information System network analysis model to simulate the environmental and health impacts of emissions due to freight transportation.

Projects like these are bridging the gap between the issues surrounding climate change and other fields that have a different perspective. The hope is that as science gains a more robust and comprehensive understanding, so too will the policymakers, leading to better decisions. So, the sooner research institutions reframe their work, the sooner society can begin to effectively deal with climate change. RIT, in this sense, is one of the institutions leading the charge.

Unfortunately, as science continues to bridge the gap between research and public policy, there will be consequences, as noted in my previous post Climate Change: When science meets politics. The science community must realize that once politics enters the debate, the rules change. The research will be scrutinized more closely, predictions will be used as pure fact, and every error or mistake will be used to show how weak a scientific argument is—all in the name of politics.

With confidence, though, I believe not only will science win in the end, but ultimately, through work like MUSES and GIFT, society will reap the benefits of the hard-fought battle between science and politics.


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