Scientific Consensus on Global Warming
What Should We Do?
1. Would slower climate change be better for humans than rapid change?
2. Must we act now to stop the warming, or will continued change be OK for a while?
3. Is there some threshold we must avoid that would result in vastly greater harm to society?
Adaptation. No matter what our response, the planet will warm. The most we can hope to achieve is to slow the rate of warming in the next century. Therefore, in the case of each threat to society listed above, all the threats not mentioned, and the threats that will appear in the future, that we are not smart enough to imagine now, we will have to adapt to minimize the negative impacts. This adaptation will require much better information and technological innovations. This represents a significant business opportunity in the United States to develop the necessary devices and products and to market them to the world.
Improved knowledge. We need better data, better models, better computers, and more trained scientists and engineers to address the problems presented by global warming. Investing in the nation's scientific research establishment is a very inexpensive, and very rewarding, allocation of the nation's resources. The current U.S. Global Change Research Program budget (Our Changing Planet, 1997) of $1.81 billion, consisting of $1.12 billion of hardware (satellites) and $688 million in research funding, is barely adequate to answer all the pressing questions. We have to know where and when temperature, precipitation, storm, and sea level changes will take place. We need to know the biological response of agricultural and natural ecosystems to the changed climate. Only then can we gauge the impacts of our actions, and help to adapt precisely to the changes. As quoted in Our Changing Planet (1997) from the original 1989 report,
Mitigation. If climate change is slowed down and more gradual, society will have more time to learn to live in this new world. This means stopping the global growth in the emission of carbon dioxide, and slowly reducing it. The only way to do this is to include burning less coal and oil in the response. Reforestation and reduction of other greenhouse gases will have some impact, but any meaningful combination of conservation, energy efficiency, energy tax, and public transportation enhancements will result in less gasoline being burned and less coal being burned.
Discussion and Conclusions
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