National Academies Kick Off Climate Study with Summit

by Bill Chameides | March 30th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 2 comments

Climate change will profoundly alter our way of living. America’s Climate Choices is designed to help policy makers figure out solutions.

Scientists, policy makers, and corporate execs are descending on Washington, D.C., to discuss America’s long-term response to climate change. What to expect from the Summit on America’s Climate Choices?


Understandably, much of the discussion in the United States about climate change these days has focused on the prospects of developing a comprehensive climate policy. Will Congress establish an economy-wide cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax? Will the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency beat Congress to the punch and develop regulations to control CO2 emissions?

Real Work to Begin After We Get Framework for Cutting Emissions

Despite all the anticipation about a new law or set of EPA regulations, the reality is that the real work addressing climate change will have only just begun once we pass that hurdle.

Energy will be a major challenge. We must transition from our fossil-fuel dependent infrastructure to one that relies on renewables and low-carbon energy sources.

Another challenge relates to adaptation. Regardless of how fast we decrease greenhouse gas pollution, the warming of the globe will continue for decades as the climate equilibrates. We will need to adapt to the resulting climate disruptions. This will require understanding not only the effects of climate change but also how social institutions and communities respond to change.

Studying All Aspects of Climate Change Is Critical

Through it all research will be key; helping policy makers figure out mid-course corrections to emission targets or tax rates and working with the public and private sectors to develop and assess the impacts of new technologies and helping to design new markets. It is going to be a long haul. Bringing down greenhouse gas emissions to safe amounts will take decades — a little bit each year (say one or maybe two or three percent) for, in all likelihood, the rest of the century.

Is anyone worrying about this part, trying to figure how we should respond to climate change over many decades?

America’s Climate Choices to Lay Out Options and Stakes

Last year Congress commissioned the National Academies of Science to undertake a study for devising a road map for America’s response to climate change over the 21st century. Called America’s Climate Choices, the study will produce four panel reports on the country’s options for:

  • limiting climate change,
  • adapting to climate change,
  • communicating on climate research, and
  • furthering our understanding on climate change.

We will also write an overarching report synthesizing these four reports. It’s a huge undertaking. The reports are slated for release in 2009 and 2010.

Today we kick off the study with a Climate Summit held March 30-March 31 at the National Academies building in Washington DC. More than 90 climate experts from all sectors of the economy and scientific community will discuss their views of America’s Climate Choices. You can watch and participate via the Internet, where the proceedings will be streamed: You can also submit questions or feedback by sending an email to americasclimatechoices [at] nas [dot] edu. I’ll see you there.

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  1. Daniel Wedgewood
    Mar 30, 2009

    Dr. Chameides – Will more reports discussing climate change really help us fix the current suite of problems? Isn’t it true that unless we engage in dramatic actions right now, the environment will soon start employing its own dramatic actions against us? Are there really any significant mysteries left – or even any that will help convince us to do something that can fix the huge problems? Dan

    • Bill Chameides
      Apr 15, 2009

      Daniel: America’s Climate Choices is supposed to set a course for actions (over the next 4-5 decades) in terms of mitigation and adaptation. In that regard I would not characterize it as another “report discussing climate change.”

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