climate_change_2008_final - U N D E R S T A N D I N G A N D...

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Unformatted text preview: U N D E R S T A N D I N G A N D R E S P O N D I N G T O CLIMATE CHANGE Highlights of National Academies Reports National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council 2008 EDITION U N D E R S T A N D I N G A N D R E S P O N D I N G T O CLIMATE CHANGE 2008 EDITION 2 UNDERSTANDING AND RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE T here is a growing concern about global warming and the impact it will have on people and the ecosystems on which they depend. Temperatures have already risen 1.4°F since the start of the 20th century—with much of this warming occurring in just the last 30 years—and temperatures will likely rise at least another 2°F, and possibly more than 11°F, over the next 100 years. This warming will cause significant changes in sea level, ecosystems, and ice cover, among other impacts. In the Arctic, where temperatures have increased almost twice as much as the global average, the landscape and ecosystems are already changing rapidly. Most scientists agree that the warming in recent decades has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (see Figure 1). Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, industrial processes, and transportation. Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in at least 650,000 years and continue to rise. There is no doubt that climate will continue to change throughout the 21st century and beyond, but there are still important questions regarding how large and how fast these changes will be, and what effects they will have in different regions. In some parts of the world, global warming could bring positive effects such as longer growing seasons and milder winters. Unfortunately, it is likely to bring harmful effects to a much higher percentage of the world’s people. For example, people in coastal communities will likely experience increased flooding due to rising sea levels. The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to begin taking steps to prepare for climate change and to slow it. Human actions over the next few decades will have a major influence on the magnitude and rate of future warming. Large, disruptive changes are much more likely if greenhouse gases are allowed to continue building up in the atmosphere at their present rate. However, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require strong national and international commitments, technological innovation, and human willpower. GLOBAL WARMING OR CLIMATE CHANGE? The phrase “climate change” is growing in preferred use to “global warming” because it helps convey that there are changes in addition to rising temperatures. This brochure highlights findings and recommendations from National Academies’ reports on climate change. These reports are the products of the National Academies’ consensus study process, which brings change....
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climate_change_2008_final - U N D E R S T A N D I N G A N D...

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