For some time the scientific community has accepted that human activities are responsible for significantly altering our atmosphere, oceans, land, polar ice caps and ecosystems.
At present, 97% of all publishing climate scientists, view the climate evidence as showing that humans are primarily responsible for global warming. A national poll on global warming was released recently by the firm Public Policy Polling.
Among respondents who said they had voted for President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, 77% said they believe global warming is real. By contrast, only 24% of respondents who voted for former Gov. Mitt Romney said they believe global warming is real.
In light of this, it may be a surprise to some that the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This legislation was drafted to assist in the understanding, assessing, predicting and responding to human induced as well as natural processes of global change in climate, land productivity, oceans and water resources, atmospheric chemistry and ecological systems. Reports were to be produced every 10 years.
Reports tasked with tracking climate change
This year the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has overseen the development of the draft of the Third National Climate Assessment Report. This 60-person federal advisory committee was established under the Dept. of Commerce in 2010. Public comments on this new report written by some 240 authors were conducted from January to April of this year.
After an extensive review to be completed by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Climate Assessment Report will be submitted to the federal government. As many environmentalists already understand, it will most certainly present a sobering account of the new world that awaits us if we don’t act to change our situation.
The response to these findings will appear in The National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021. This plan will:
- encompass the advancement of the fundamental research needed to improve our understanding of the natural and human components of our climate;
- provide a scientific basis to inform and enable timely decisions on adaptation and mitigation to climate change;
- help build a sustainable assessment capacity to improve our ability to understand, anticipate and respond to global change impacts and vulnerabilities; and
- advance and broaden the public’s understanding of climate change as well as helping develop a scientific workforce of the future.
The report covers a number of subjects including the effects of climate change on water resources, energy supply and uses, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, human health,
land use as well as how the coming changes will effect different regions of our country.
Identifying practices that stress the environment
A more recent idea has been to move from a primary focus on climate science and include other scientific disciplines that look at other stressors on our environment. These include the impact of land clearing, urbanization, and unsustainable agricultural practices such as poor use of water resources and over-grazing that lead to ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss and the decline of water availability and quality.
Having access to scientific data about causes and effects of global changes can provide valuable information to help people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses and
communities. The USGCRP will establish an interagency Global Change Information System. This web-based system will deploy and manage global change information for use by
scientists, decision-makers and the general public. Progress on mitigating and reversing global climate change will be more rapid by promoting an international coordinated response to this crisis all which will be included in this information system.
Sadly getting international cooperation on this issue may be easier than convincing the conservatives in our own country that climate change is for real and needs immediate attention. More information may be found on this topic at www.globalchange.gov.
Graphic credit: ©Sharon Williams, courtesy Sierra Club Library