Monday, May 16, 2011

"America's Climate Choices (2011)"

A New Report By the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences


The Center agrees with the findings of the report.

Key Findings

Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment. These risks indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts.

Decisions about the exact magnitude and speed of response efforts will depend on how much risk society deems acceptable. But in the Committee's judgment there are numerous motivations for action, including for instance:

The faster that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the lower the risks; and the less pressure there is to make steeper and potentially more expensive reductions later.

- Investments currently being made in energy-related infrastructure and equipment will lock in emissions commitments for decades to come. Enacting relevant policies now will provide crucial guidance for those investment decisions.

- The risks of continuing "business as usual" are greater than the risks associated with strong efforts to limit and adapt to climate change. Policy changes can potentially be reversed or scaled back if needed, whereas many adverse changes in the climate system would be difficult or impossible to "undo".

Uncertainties in projecting future greenhouse gas emissions and in estimating the sensitivity of the climate system to greenhouse gases make it difficult to project the exact severity, location and timing of climate change impacts. Uncertainty is not a reason for inaction, however; it is, in fact, a compelling reason for action, especially given the possibilities of abrupt, unanticipated, and severe impacts.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions would reduce the need for adaptation but not eliminate it. There is a need to begin mobilizing now to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts.

Emissions reductions and adaptation efforts should be guided by an iterative risk management approach, which emphasizes taking action to reduce risks while continuously incorporating new information and adjusting efforts accordingly.

Response efforts currently being advanced by state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector are significant, but not likely to yield progress comparable to what could be achieved with strong national policies and leadership.

A comprehensive U.S. response to climate change includes efforts to:

- Substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions (ideally, through a national carbon pricing system and strategic complementary policies)

- Begin mobilizing for adaptation at all levels

- Invest in research and development, both to advance basic understanding and to improve/expand response options

- Develop effective systems to inform and evaluate climate choices

- Link scientific analysis with public deliberation

- Actively engage in international response efforts

- Coordinate the many related components of the nation's response efforts


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