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The Climate Choices Are on the Table


by Bill Chameides | May 19th, 2010
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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The National Academy’s Committee on America’s Climate Choices releases three reports today.

Kahlil Gibran said: “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” It’s an apt statement for what we face in climate change.

There is great inertia in the climate systems: some of the carbon dioxide (CO2) we emit today will be in the atmosphere a century from now; and the full climate effects of the CO2 we emit today won’t completely manifest themselves for two or three decades.

The choices we make today about climate change — trying to limit the possible effects of global warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions or doing nothing and hoping the effects will be small and manageable — will determine our climate joys and sorrows 30 years from now.

To help the nation make its climate choices, the U.S. Congress commissioned the National Academy of
Sciences
to:

“establish the Climate Change Study Committee to investigate and study the serious and sweeping issues relating to global climate change and make recommendations regarding what steps must be taken and what strategies must be adopted in response to global climate change, including the science and technology challenges thereof.”

In response to this mandate, the study on America’s Climate Choices was established. (Full disclosure: I serve as the study’s vice chair.)

Today three panel reports produced by the study are being released:

A fourth panel report will be released shortly on Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change; following that will be a final report that integrates them all.

A Quick Take on the Panel’s Reports

If you missed this morning’s public briefing on the reports, check it out online. There were introductions by each of the report’s lead authors, followed by a good question-and-answer session.

Now that the reports have been released, here’s my take on the main message for each:

  • Science: Despite all the brouhaha over leaked e-mails and mistakes by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the science of human-induced climate change is compelling and underpinned by basic scientific principles and observations.
  • Limiting: The longer we wait to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the harder it will be to catch up later.
  • Adapting: Adaptation is now and is needed at all levels of government; a national adaptation strategy is a must.

For more info, watch this video for additional background on the group, its mission, and actions. Or check out the report summaries, which are available for free online (follow the links above).

 

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