[Coral-List] Rau, McLeod and Hoegh-Guldberg and ensuing discussion

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Tue Sep 4 10:29:58 EDT 2012

I just finished reading Denny Hubbard's reflections on how he, as a reef 
scientist, is dealing with the likely CC and OA impacts on reefs 
worldwide.  I had got to Coral-List right after reading Rau, McLeod and 
Hoegh-Guldberg, and an editorial, "Clarion Call", in the same issue of 
Nature Climate Change that suggested it might now be time for the science 
community to become less reticent about articulating the risks of not 
making intelligent decisions re Climate Change.  In fact, the editorial 
stated, quite clearly, that the science community should advocate for 
radical action on climate change.  Rau et al, in a 'perspective' article, 
do take a clear position on the need to investigate novel ways of dealing 
with the effects of climate change on marine systems.

I've done this reading in the middle of a discussion with several 
co-authors on the degree to which we should advocate in the paper we are 
now writing on the general issue of global change impacts on tropical 
marine ecosystems and their provision of goods and services to coastal 
human communities.  The opinions within our group range from 'science must 
be dispassionate and objectively report the data' to 'it is way past time 
to tell it like it is'.

My gut tells me the latter view is correct, but I also worry that we not 
reduce expert science evidence to the level of 'just another opinion'.  (I 
also want to see our manuscript published!) More generally, I think the 
big question for the coral reef science community has to be, "How do we 
report our science objectively and dispassionately while still being able 
to express our considered opinions carefully yet explicitly?"  This is a 
large part of the issue that Denny Hubbard is struggling with, and its one 
many of us struggle with.  My own belief is that it should be possible to 
structure manuscripts, presentations and formal testimony with clearly 
separated sections: 1) Here is the science, and my objective evaluation of 
the data, including conclusions logically drawn, 2) Here is my informed 
opinion/recommendation based on my analysis, and my broader knowledge of 
the topic.  So long as these two sections are kept separate, we should be 
able to maintain our integrity as scientists, while still conveying our 
opinions/recommendations to policy-makers and the public.

I'd be interested in what others think.  Given the increasingly dim 
prospects for coral reefs surviving the Anthropocene, those of us who are 
not automatons (nearly all, I hope) have a pressing need to help find an 
effective way forward.

Peter Sale

Peter F. Sale
Assistant Director
United Nations University
Institute for Water, Environment and Health

www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com
UNU-INWEH  The United Nations Think Tank on Water

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