The National Research Council of the National Academies released a report on May 12 in another addition to the scientific consensus on the reality of climate change and the various hazards posed by the phenomenon. According to the report, the last in the “America’s Climate Choices” series of studies on climate change by the NRC, the significant risks that climate change poses to human society and the environment provide “a strong motivation to move ahead with substantial response efforts.”
“Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems," write the report’s authors. They add, "The environmental, economic and humanitarian risks posed by climate change indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts.”
The scientists and policy experts who prepared the study acknowledge that there is uncertainty about the scale and severity of future risk, but add, “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.”
The authors say, “The sooner that serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions proceed, the lower the risks posed by climate change and the less pressure there will be to make larger, more rapid and potentially more expensive reductions later. In addition, every day around the world, crucial investment decisions are made about equipment and infrastructure that can ‘lock in’ commitments to greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come.
"Most actions taken to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts are also common sense investments that will offer protection against natural climate variations and extreme events. Finally, while it may be possible to scale back or reverse many responses to climate change (if they somehow proved to be more stringent than actually needed), it is difficult or impossible to ‘undo’ climate change, once manifested.”
The report suggests that while current efforts of local, state, and private sector to respond too climate change are important, they will not be enough and urges “strong federal policies that establish coherent national goals and incentives and that promote strong U.S. engagement in international-level response efforts.”
Read the report here.