11 - Across the great divide: supporting scientists as effective messengers in the public sphere  pp. 180-199

By Nancy Cole and Susan Watrous

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Is it enough for a scientist simply to publish a paper? Isn't it a responsibility of scientists, if you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn't it your responsibility to actually do something about it, enough so that action actually takes place?

Mario Molina (2000)

Most breaking science stories have a news lifespan of a few days before they retire, relegated to the pages of arcane journals. But there was one science story in 2004 with a far longer – and wider – news cycle than many. In the world of climate science, this story broke ground in several areas: it delivered a range of the latest climate model simulations, compared higher- and lower-emissions scenarios, and calculated the resulting impacts for a specific region.

On August 16, 2004, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a report on the possible future of California's climate (Hayhoe et al., 2004). Authored by a team of 19 scientists, the report highlighted two sets of scenarios representing higher and lower pathways for future emissions. The study's authors found that, under the higher-emissions scenario, California's average summer temperatures could warm by between 9 and 18 °F – twice as much as in the lower scenario – by the end of the twenty-first century. In this higher-emissions scenario, Californians could expect up to eight times as many heatwave days, with heat-related mortality rising significantly.

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