Monthly Newsletter – October 2015

Monthly Newsletter of WHRC

Dr. Philip Duffy“Free-enterprise solutions to climate change”

Dr. Philip Duffy, President & Executive Director

Bob Inglis, a former six-term member of Congress from South Carolina, will speak on this subject at the WHRC board meeting next month, as we celebrate our 30th anniversary. While in Congress, Inglis earned a 100% approval rating from the Christian Coalition, 100% from National Right to Life, an “A” with the NRA, zero with Americans for Democratic Action (a liberal group), and 23 with the AFL-CIO (“by some mistake” as Inglis said. “I demand a recount.”) You get the idea: Bob occupies a different part of the political spectrum from many of us who support the WHRC. That’s a big part of why I am excited to have him join us, and I hope you’ll join me in giving him a warm welcome.

hillandsnow_webWhat are “free-enterprise solutions to climate change?” I don’t know exactly, and I am not sure I am going to like them, either, but that’s not important. What is important is that we’re finally having the conversation we should have been having all along: what to do about climate change, rather than rehashing for the millionth time, “Is it real?” The resistance to accept the science of climate change has always been proxy for resistance to accept the solutions (really, the imagined solutions) to climate change, and that’s why the science has become so politicized. That’s a shame and it’s dangerous, because when science gets distorted by politics it isn’t as effective at solving problems for us. So let’s let the science speak and move the public discourse away from “Is it real?” to “What should we do about it?” That conversation, of course, should be politicized, as we all bring our different perspectives and priorities to the problem.

Like any major societal challenge, climate change won’t be solved unless folks from across the political spectrum work together to do it. It’s encouraging to see what I hope is the beginning of the end of the monolithic denial of climate change on the part of conservatives—who after all should be concerned about conserving the natural resources that sustain life and prosperity.

Thanks as always for your interest and support.

Scott Goetz accepts the ICCG Award

ICCG_award_webOn October 5, Deputy Director Scott Goetz flew to Milan, Italy, to accept the International Center on Climate Governance (ICCG) 2014 Climate Think Tank Ranking Award. This is the second year in a row that WHRC has received the top prize.

After the ceremony, Dr. Goetz presented a lecture focusing on WHRC arctic research entitled, “Changes in the Arctic and their Climate Feedback Implications.”

More extreme weather projected in the Amazon could have global climate consequences

© Chris Linder

© Chris Linder

The role of tropical forests in regulating global climate has been well documented, and as the largest tropical forest on the Earth, the Amazon can positively or negatively affect the climate of other parts of the world. Climate change is already occurring in Amazonia, and because the frequency and severity of these changes will have global consequences, the climate projections there require the greatest amount of certainty. A new paper co-authored by Drs. Philip Duffy and Paulo Brando evaluates the accuracy of current Amazonian climate models, using them to project future drought and flood periods. They conclude that the whole of the Amazon will confront more hydrological extremes.

For Dr. Duffy, “Historically, the main source of CO2 emissions from Amazon forests has been direct human action, especially deforestation. However, in the future, climate change may cause large emissions that result from changes in the large-scale environment rather than from direct human action, and as such these emissions will be much more difficult to control. The study, based on 35 climate models, suggests that future climate change will increase the frequency and geographic extent of meteorological drought in most of the Amazon. This may contribute to forest degradation and increased emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere, thus amplifying global warming.”

The team of scientists led by Dr. Duffy analyzed the properties of recent and future meteorological droughts in climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and found they accurately reproduce mechanisms that have caused historical droughts. The models predict different outcomes in the eastern and western Amazon; more frequent droughts are expected in the east, while less frequent droughts are expected in a small part of the region located in the west. Collectively, the area of the Amazon affected by mild and severe drought is expected to double and triple by 2100, and increased moisture is expected after 2040.

Although there are uncertainties associated with model simulations far into the future, the team concludes that current greenhouse gas emissions will increase the likelihood of extreme weather that will negatively impact Amazonian forests.

WHRC in the News, Publications, and Events

WHRC in the News

Deputy Director Scott Goetz flew to Milan, Italy, to accept the Best Climate Change Think Tank award from the International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG) on behalf of WHRC.

A new paper on extreme weather in the Amazon and global climate co-authored by WHRC President Philip Duffy and Assistant Scientist Paulo Brando was featured in The Washington Post.

Scott Goetz discussed the climate risks associated with the increased frequency of fire in the Arctic with Steve Curwood of Public Radio International’s Living on Earth.

Dr. Max Holmes describes global threats posed by permafrost thaw in The Guardian.

In Brazil, Senior Scientist Foster Brown convened a meeting on disaster risk management at the Federal University of Acre with a research group, which included officials from the Acre State Fire Department and civil defense coordinators from the states of Acre and Rio Branco.


A new paper co-authored by Drs. Philip Duffy and Paulo Brando evaluates the accuracy of current climate models and uses them to project future drought and wet periods in the Amazon. Their findings conclude that the whole of the Amazon will confront more hydrological extremes and that most of the region will experience much more extensive drought. These changes will have profound implications for forest structure, composition, biomass, and carbon emissions.

Dr. Susan Natali co-authored a new paper examining the relationship between soil temperatures and carbon emissions due to permafrost thaw. The team of scientists reported that carbon emissions from warming permafrost soils are substantial enough to exacerbate effects of warming due to fossil fuel release.

Dr. Brendan Rogers contributed chapters to two books published this fall. The chapters, entitled respectively, “Drivers of Future Ecosystem Change in the US Pacific Northwest: The Role of Climate, Fire, and Nitrogen,” and “Challenges and Limitations of Using a DGVM for Local to Regional Applications,” were published as part of Global Vegetation Dynamics: Concepts and Applications in the MC1 Model.


WHRC will screen the award-winning documentary film “Merchants of Doubt” at The Unitarian Church in Barnstable on Friday, October 30. Light refreshments will be provided at 6:30 p.m. and the film will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m. A brief Q & A will follow with WHRC President Philip Duffy, who has first-hand experience with climate change deniers from his years serving at the White House. For more information, please call 508-420-4438.

Mekong River Science Expedition
Scientists of the Global Rivers Observatory invite all to join them on their river expedition to “the mother of all waters,” the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. This unique trip will allow guests a first-hand experience of this extraordinary ecosystem. Participants will see how scientists study the ecology and chemistry of the Mekong River and contribute to discussions about maximizing the societal impacts of the Global Rivers Observatory. For more information, please contact Beth Bagley, 508-444-1517 or

WHRCtreeWoods Hole Research Center is an independent research institution where scientists investigate the causes and effects of climate change to identify and implement opportunities for conservation, restoration, and economic development around the globe.