It’s in the papers and on TV. It spreads across the Internet (including this very post), and it is finding its way into the classroom. Global climate change is nothing new. And it certainly isn’t going away. Not yet, anyway.
A report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” was put out on June 16, 2009. The report compiles years of scientific research and takes into account new data not available during the preparation of previous assessments. It was produced by a consortium of experts from 13 U.S. government science agencies and from several major universities and research institutes.
And at 190 pages, this report is no small thing. Commissioned in 2007, the report spans both sides of the political spectrum, Republican and Democrat, to arrive at the valuable, objective scientific consensus that global temperature increases in recent decades have been primarily human-induced and offers thoughts on how that climate change is affecting—and may further affect—the United States. It is the first report to incorporate the latest information on rising temperatures and sea levels; increases in extreme weather events; and other climate-related phenomena in almost a decade and to break out those impacts by U.S. region and economic sector, and the first to do so in such great detail.
John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said that the report “tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable.”
Despite its lack of brevity, the report is generally accessible to anyone who desires to read it and written using plain language because “climate change has immediate and local impacts – it literally affects people in their backyards,” as Jane Lubchenco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
The report suggests that there are two responses to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation involves doing what we can now to reduce the amount of emissions of heat trapping pollutions and increasing the removal of such pollutants from the atmosphere. Adaptation is learning to cope with or avoid harmful impacts already present and take advantage of any beneficial impacts.
We can’t always erase what’s been done, but we can change what will happen. “It shows that the choices made now will have far-reaching consequences,” said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. and one of the co-chairs of the report. The report states that “Implementing sizable and sustained reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as soon as possible would significantly reduce the pace and the overall amount of climate change and would be more effective than reductions of the same size initiated later.”
Climate change is here. It is not simply a political tactic but a threat. The report explains in detail what we are up against, and what could potentially occur if we don’t change.