I can’t help but feel like Senator Scott Brown’s visit to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) last week was a missed opportunity. President and Director Dr. Susan K. Avery and Director of Research Dr. Larry Madin showed Senator Brown around the research facilities in Woods Hole. According to a WHOI press release, Madin focused his presentations on three research initiatives that highlight “the importance of fundamental research to developing innovative solutions to complex societal problems.”
Interestingly, none of WHOI’s cutting edge climate science was on the docket. Instead, Madin focused on the impacts of noise on ocean life, harmful algal blooms (a.k.a. red tides), and efforts to pin down the ocean impacts of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Don’t get me wrong. These are, indeed, important areas of research that are informing and contributing to society. So is WHOI’s Gulf oil spill research, and any number of other efforts. After all, WHOI is easily one of the top two ocean research institutes in the country.
Choosing just three projects to highlight isn’t easy. I won’t pretend to be privy to that process, or presume to speculate what might have gone into the decision.
But some of Senator Brown’s recent comments about climate change – that it’s just natural variation, not caused by humans, and that studies about the causes and impacts of climate change may have been doctored – betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific consensus on climate change. This would seem to have been the perfect opportunity to put him face to face with some top climate scientists – Fiamma Straneo, Scott Doney, Ray Schmitt, Anne Cohen – and let him get some honest answers.