Climate change is happening and the U.S. government should take action to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and begin adaptation. These are the central messages of a new report by the National Research Council that aims to clearly articulate to policymakers options for responding to the risks posed by climate change.

The report urges Congress and the federal government to not delay taking action to “substantially” reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. The committee also countered an argument used by some climate change skeptics: that we don’t know enough about global warming to act. “Given the inherent complexities of the climate system, and the many social, economic, technological, and other factors that affect the climate system, we can expect always to be learning more and to be facing uncertainties regarding future risks,” the report stated. “This is not, however, a reason for inaction.”

The committee also found that actions by states, local governments, and private sectors will not be enough to mitigate global warming — coordinated action by the federal government is necessary. Although there are several options for mitigating climate change, “Most economists and policy analysts have concluded, however, that putting a price on CO2 emissions (that is, implementing a “carbon price”) that rises over time is the least costly path to significantly reduce emissions,” the committee wrote.

In addition to reducing emissions, the committee recommended that the federal government coordinate adaptation strategies. Science, technology, and information systems will play an important role in informing such decisions. Therefore, the report recommends that the federal government maintain and expand its research programs that aim to increase knowledge of the causes of climate change and that inform our ability to limit and adapt to its impacts.

The report is the final volume of “America’s Climate Choices,” a series of reports ordered by Congress. For more information, visit http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12781.

 


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