What They Know about Climate Change

Caption Len Radin

\\\'Calfing Glacier - Global Warming?\\\'

"But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact," said President Barack Obama in his most recent State of the Union speech. "Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening," notes the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the science membership organization and publisher of the scientific journal Science.

AAAS's point is at the heart of their latest effort entitled 'What We Know.' The initiative is dedicated to what they refer to as the three "R's" of climate change: Reality, Risk and Response. To kick things off AAAS convened a panel of experts to produce a background document also entitled What We Know to provide information about the three R's to present key messages for every American about climate change. In a nutshell, these messages are:

  • Climate scientists agree: Climate change is happening here and now.
  • We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
  • The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

The risk section of the 'What We Know' report paints some frightening scenarios. For example, some high-end scenarios of climate modeling show 6-7 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100, which is concerning to the 7 to 8 million Americans living within 6 feet of the high tide line.

And climate change is not just being covered by AAAS. In a new briefing paper, Oxfam International is showing risks to the food system due to climate change. "Climate change is the biggest threat to our chances of winning the fight against hunger," says Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International's Executive Director. The briefing paper, Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger, reports that climate change could roll back efforts to prevent hunger resulting in 25 million more malnourished children than in a world without climate change.

In response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest report on global warming, Oxfam's Timothy Gore said that "the goal we have in Oxfam of ensuring that every person has enough food to eat could be lost forever" if there were not an effort to limit and adapt to climate change. The IPCC's report sounded warnings, similar to the AAAS's, that the earth is experiencing stressed water supplies, melting ice caps, more intense waves and heavy rain, dying coral reefs and the threat of extinction for many species of animals.

With the IPCC, Oxfam and the AAAS alerting everyone that climate change is here, it will be interesting to see how countries of the world respond. With all of the risks that we know, it is certainly advisable to try to limit global warming and prepare to adapt to changes in climate.