Thursday, May 20, 2010

National Research Council urges action on climate

May 19, 2010 America's Climate Choices: Strong Evidence on Climate Change Underscores Need For Actions to Reduce Emissions and Begin Adapting to Impacts (Set). William Kearney, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Media Relations begins the press briefing. Robert W. Fri, Pamela A. Matson, and Thomas J. Wilbanks are seated at the panelists' table. National Academy of Sciences' photostream

Published: May 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — In its most comprehensive study so far, the nation’s leading scientific body declared on Wednesday that climate change is a reality and is driven mostly by human activity, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

The group, the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued three reports describing the case for a harmful human influence on the global climate as overwhelming and arguing for strong immediate action to limit emissions of climate-altering gases in the United States and around the world — including the creation of a carbon pricing system.

Congress requested the reports in 2008. This is the first time the academy has issued specific recommendations on how to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

One of the reports, “Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change,” urges the United States to set a greenhouse gas emissions “budget” that restricts overall emissions and provides a measurable goal for policy makers and for industry. It does not recommend a specific target but says the range put forward by the Obama administration and Congress is a “reasonable goal.”

Legislation pending in Congress calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The report says the most efficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to set a predictable and rising price. It does not explicitly recommend a cap-and-trade system, but says that such a system of tradable emissions permits would give industry more flexibility in meeting an emissions target or budget.

Another report, “Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change,” suggests that the United States and other nations begin planning for effects like rising sea levels and more severe storms and droughts. Increasing preparedness can be viewed as “an insurance policy against an uncertain future,” the report said, while inaction could impose large costs on future generations.

“These reports show that the state of climate-change science is strong,” Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a statement accompanying the reports. “But the nation also needs the scientific community to expand upon its understanding of why climate change is happening and focus also on when and where the most severe impacts will occur and what we can do to respond.” …

U.S. Science Body Urges Action on Climate

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