National Research Council: We Need to Act Now to Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change

glacial ice cap


The climate change debate is filled with questionable reports and studies from both sides. But now the National Research Council,  an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has come out with three comprehensive new reports claiming that the U.S. needs to take immediate action to mitigate the inevitable effects of climate change. All three reports were requested by Congress and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The first of the three reports, Advancing the Science of Climate Change, notes that there is “a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that Earth is warming,” and that this trend is caused by human actions. In order to deal with this potential threat, the NRC recommends that a federal entity or program be put in charge of coordinating a national climate change research effort.

Another new report, Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change, provides specific recommendations to slow down warming. A greenhouse gas “budget” set by the government could help, as could cap-and-trade or a system of taxing carbon emissions. The NRC explains:

The report does not recommend a specific target for a domestic emissions budget, but suggests a range of emissions from 170 to 200 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent for the period 2012 through 2050 as a reasonable goal, a goal that is roughly in line with the range of emission reduction targets proposed recently by the Obama administration and members of Congress. Even at the higher end of this range, meeting the target will require a major departure from “business-as-usual” emission trends. The report notes that with the exception of the recent economic downtown, domestic emissions have been rising for most of the past three decades.

The third and final report, Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, notes that we can already see many of the effects of warming around us through rising sea levels, disappearing sea ice, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The report explains that policymakers should act now as “an insurance policy against an uncertain future,” and that attempts to slow down climate change should work in tandem with attempts to adapt to it. We would, the report explains, be wise to prepare for all possible scenarios at every level of government and society.

Stay tuned for more reports from the NRC, including one called Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change and an as-yet-unnamed mega-report that will offer a scientific framework to shape the government’s climate policy choices.

[America’s Climate Choices]

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.