Oct 182007
Authors: Erik Myers

David Randall, an atmospheric science professor at CSU, is tired, even though he has been spending most of his day sitting in discussion.

He is one scientist among thousands who, guided by the years of research and reports, are working together to complete the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Once the final version is published, it’ll fall under heavy criticism for a wide variety of reasons, but for helping push discussion of climate change, it’ll earn the Panel half of the Nobel Peace Prize.

But that’s still pretty far off from now; the massive group Randall is a part of merely consists of one of several sections of the final report.

In late January 2007, Randall was in Paris, seated at the front of a conference room, with his fellow colleagues. Before them, a mass of suited representatives from 113 governments confer; a table assigned to each nation, a translator for each language.

Above it all was the projection screen, displaying highlighted sentences of the 18 page general summary that Randall’s group, Working Group I, has put out for review. For hours on end, everyone rigorously discusses elements of the summary, literally visiting each and every sentence, one after another.

“Let’s say the government of China table wants to make a comment; they go like this,” Randall said, motioning his hand as if he was pulling up on an invisible flap. “That’s called raising a flag. Say the Chinese object to a sentence, then someone from the UK gets up, says they like the sentence just the way it is.

“There is discussion, and the chairperson in charge tries to get them to come to a consensus and play the ball. It was very, very demanding.” Randall said.

The review session of Work Group I’s summary finished in time and the report is published in March 2007.

It was one of many rounds of editing and discussion that Randall played a part in as a coordinating lead author of Chapter 8 of the report: “Climate Models and their Evaluation.”

Randall acted as a co-editor of sorts for the chapter, assigning sections of writing to the lead authors below him and making sure that the entire chapter was smooth, factual, and clean.

Looking back at the long hours of work put into the process, and contemplating the IPCC’s recent Peace Prize award, Randall said his involvement was, ultimately, a satisfying experience.

“I look back on it and I’m very glad I did it,” Randall said. “But staying up until 1:00 a.m. in the morning, arguing about words on a screen, is not exactly fun.”

Randall has taught at CSU since 1988, working with the atmospheric science graduate program. His realm of personal research centers on the construction of global atmospheric models. Randall bases much of his work on cloud processes, which are used for forecasting purposes.

As of late, Randall and his students have been working to perfect a model of their own, one that utilizes present-day computer speeds to combine two previous models into one. The result is more accurate forecasting, and a clearer vision of oncoming climate change.

“A global scale model is one model itself, but inside this model, there are about ten thousand of these smaller models running, calculating what’s going on in ten thousand different places around the world,” Randall said. “Computers available now create some simulations that are much more realistic than what people have done previously.”

Years of work have gone into the model’s development, and the project is currently being fine-tuned. Randall says he plans on continuing work on the project for as long as he can.

When speaking about his general opinions of climate change, Randall said he thought massive climate change was likely, yet not inevitable, People, Randall said, just don’t want to change their simple carbon dioxide-producing lifestyle.

“It’s me driving my car, me running my furnace in this building,” Randall said.

Randall said a single person can make a difference just by being informed of the situation. Randall added that alternative energy sources, such as those provided by nuclear, fusion, solar and wind technology, could improve a rather ominous future, and make certain individuals big bucks.

“Some people are going to get extremely rich,” Randall said. “If you can really find a solution to one of these enormous problems, that’s going to be an important part of the economy in the future.”

Staff writer Erik Meyers can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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