Donate to Science & Enterprise

S&E on Mastodon

S&E on LinkedIn

S&E on Flipboard

Please share Science & Enterprise

Report: Climate Consensus Solid, Sudden Damage Risk Real

Coal plant (


18 March 2014. A new report from American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) underscores the the near-unanimous consensus by scientists that human-caused climate change is happening, and the risks of abrupt and unpredictable damage are increasing. A panel of 10 climate scientists, with partners in the business community, issued the report yesterday.

The AAAS panel, chaired by Nobel laureate Mario Molina from University of California in San Diego, issued the report in response to recent public opinion surveys indicating the public believes there’s still significant disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of climate change. The potential for sudden and unforeseen changes in climate, say the panelists, are also not widely recognized.

The report and accompanying Web site ( point out that the nearly all — some 97 percent — of climate scientists conclude human-caused climate change is happening right now. This consensus, says the panel, is the result of two decades of research in a wide array of disciplines, backed by every membership organization of experts in the field.

The accumulated research shows average global temperatures increased 1.4 degrees F over the past 100 years, pushing sea levels higher, and instigating more frequent extreme events, including floods, heat waves, and heavy precipitation. The research also point to climate change for the increased intensity of many of these events.

The increase in global warming, says the report, is pushing the earth beyond the range of its experience for millions of years. This change is expanding the boundaries of uncertainty, and opening up the potential for risks to include massively disruptive consequences for the earth’s ecosystems. Those risks include abrupt and irreversible changes with destructive results.

Some of those irreversible risks include collapse of the Arctic ice sheet raising sea levels much more than expected, disruption of the Gulf Stream altering Europe’s climate, destruction of the Amazon rain forests, and death of coral reefs. “While some scenarios,” says the report, “based on the latest research are considered very unlikely, this does not mean their likelihood has gone to zero.”

Bob Litterman, former Goldman & Sachs Co. executive and senior partner at Kepos Capital, participated in discussions with the panel on how to accurately measure climate-related risks. Scientists, says Litterman in an AAAS statement, “recognize the considerable uncertainty about the long-run impacts, especially potential economic damages.” He urges scientists work with economists in “to create incentives to limit pollution production with maximum effect and minimum collateral damage.” Nonetheless, says Litterman, “crafting the appropriate response is a complex valuation process that requires quantifying those same uncertainties.”

The report concludes that there is little time left to begin addressing these risks. In the U.S., however, all stakeholders worked together in the past to address the environmental issues of acid rain and the ozone hole. “[S]uccessfully responding to climate change,” says the panel, “will test our resolve and ingenuity in ways unlike any other environmental challenge we have faced.”

The following video tells more about the initiative.

Consensus Sense from What We Know on Vimeo.
 Read more:

*     *     *

Comments are closed.