AAAS Board Statement: Climate change caused by human activities is a growing threat

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science Board of Directors released a strong, unequivocal statement on global climate change, its societal and environmental consequences, and the pressing need for mitigation and adaptation response strategies, on February 18 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The AAAS Board says that the conclusions in the statement “reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the joint National Academies statement.”

We believe that policymakers and other non-scientists should pay close attention to statements reflecting generally-shared thinking in leading science-community organizations.  An indicator of the accountability of public officials for how they use climate change research and assessments is how they incorporate, or fail to incorporate, such widely-supported statements from the science community into their own thinking, words, and actions. 

AAAS Board Releases New Statement on Climate Change

The following statement on global climate change was released on February 18 during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. The statement was approved by the AAAS Board on December 9, 2006.

The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a critical greenhouse gas, is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years. The average temperature of the Earth is heading for levels not experienced for millions of years. Scientific predictions of the impacts of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and deforestation match observed changes. As expected, intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies. These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible.

Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be.

History provides many examples of society confronting grave threats by mobilizing knowledge and promoting innovation. We need an aggressive research, development and deployment effort to transform the existing and future energy systems of the world away from technologies that emit greenhouse gases. Developing clean energy technologies will provide economic opportunities and ensure future energy supplies.

In addition to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we develop strategies to adapt to ongoing changes and make communities more resilient to future changes.

The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action. Stronger leadership at all levels is needed. The time is now. We must rise to the challenge. We owe this to future generations.

For more information, see the AAAS Global Climate Change Resources page.

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