Climate Change Alarm Sounded Again

climate changeA report issued today by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) carries a stark warning about the threat from rising global temperatures. The Association’s report again sounds an alarm about the dire consequences that can be expected to follow from climate change, a phenomenon being fueled by human activity.

This report is the latest in a number of climate change reports issued by various scientific bodies. The AAAS report called What We Know contains no new data, but the 18-pages are more concise and to-the-point than earlier scientific reports.

The report states that evidence for rising greenhouse gas levels is “overwhelming” and will lead to a number of environmental problems. Heat waves, more droughts and stronger storms will result. The ocean is acidifying as well.

What We Know communicates three main points. We can feel the effects of climate change now, the consequences of climate change will be dire and the window of opportunity to take decisive action is closing.

The AAAS is the largest scientific organization in the world, with over 120,000 members counting both scientists and science supporters. Molina headed the group responsible for producing What We Know. The Association plans to issue more simple explanations of the effects of climate change.

The report and the planned follow-up efforts are part of an AAAS campaign to persuade Americans to take climate change seriously.

The report cites an overwhelming consensus that climate change is occurring. According to “97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

This certainty does not mean there is no room for debate. Some questions about climate change remain and continue to be studied.

The report lays out some of the potential consequences of climate change. The consequences of a warming planet are presented as possibilities, not certainties, as material to fuel discussion not as predictions. Food shortages, droughts, rising sea levels, extreme heat waves and mass extinctions of plants and animals were in the worst-case forecasts the report described.

Molina noted that the predictions convey a “very significant risk.” He further noted that “You don’t need 100 percent certainty for society to act.”  The AAAS report is not the only recent work that again sounds an alarm on climate change.

The AAAS report comes out at the same time a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) leaked ahead of its planned release later this month. The report states that hundreds of millions of people could be displaced by rising sea levels. Crop yields could decline as population grows.

Some scientists on Molina’s committee talk about dealing with climate change in terms of risk management. People buy homeowner’s insurance and may pay extra for a safe car, to cite two examples. Spending money to head off some of the worst effects of climate change would be like buying another form of insurance.

How much money should be spent on what is, in effect, climate change insurance? That is not a scientific question, and the report avoids making any specific recommendations. However, the report states that lowering emissions is the only way to reduce the risk.

A recent Gallup Poll suggests that Americans are getting the message about climate change. In a report published today, 57 percent of respondents said that global warming is due to human activity over the past 100 years. The same poll indicated that 84 percent of Americans feel they understand climate change “very well” or “fairly well.”

However, an earlier Gallup Poll on climate change, published on March 12, showed that global warming ranked next to last in a list of subjects Americans worry about.

Mario j. Molina won the 19995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in discovering the impact of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) on the ozone layer.

Climate change remains a subject that sounds an alarm for scientist, and should do so for the general public, based on information shared by the AAAS, Gallup and the IPCC.

By Chester Davis

Gallup

Gallup

New York Times

Sydney Morning Herald