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AAAS Advocacy: Climate-Change Impacts Accelerating, CEO Emphasizes

AAAS CEO Rush Holt at The Hartmann Report. | The Big Picture RT

The impacts of human-caused climate change are happening faster than scientists previously assumed, the AAAS CEO said on 6 July, during an appearance on The Hartmann Report, a radio and television talk show.

“There is a stronger and stronger consensus that what was thought to be happening is indeed happening, and the troubling aspect is that it’s accelerating,” said Rush Holt, who also serves as executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “Glaciers are melting, but they’re melting faster than people thought. Ocean currents are changing. Fisheries are disrupted, but it’s happening faster than scientists thought. So, scientists are not only more sure that human activities are affecting our planet, they are more concerned.”

In fact, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory last year confirmed that “changes are happening faster than historical levels and are starting to speed up.” NASA’s Global Climate Change Program has reported that “the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998,” and the year 2015 ranks as the warmest on record.

Holt and talk-show host Thom Hartmann discussed a non-partisan 28 June letter sent to policymakers by 31 leading scientific societies, including AAAS, which warned of negative climate-change impacts to the global economy, natural resources, national security and human health. The correspondence reaffirmed a 2009 letter signed by 18 scientific organizations.

In announcing the most recent consensus letter on climate change, Holt said: “Climate change is real and happening now, and the United States urgently needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We must not delay, ignore the evidence, or be fearful of the challenge. America has provided global leadership to successfully confront many environmental problems, from acid rain to the ozone hole, and we can do it again. We owe no less to future generations.”

On 6 July with Hartmann, Holt pointed out that climate-change impacts encompass more than increasing global temperatures and rising sea level. “When the climate changes faster than biological systems can respond, entire forests are wiped out,” Holt said. “Entire species are wiped out. Crops fail. The changes occur in devastating ways, with more severe storms, [and] ocean currents that wipe out fishing grounds, and those things are happening.”

News of the science consortium’s 28 June letter to policymakers was picked up by dozens of media outlets, including the Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, Scientific American, The Independent, and many others.

Outreach to policymakers and journalists is part of the association’s ongoing Transformation Initiative, which calls on AAAS to ramp up advocacy around science-society issues, while also becoming more member-facing and focused on digital-first technologies, as well as innovation. Hartmann commended AAAS, in his conversation with Holt: “For anybody who has any interest at all into a deep dive into the entire spectrum of any scientific disciplines, your organization is the place to go, and Science magazine is the thing to be reading,” said Hartmann, a long-time member. “It’s an amazing organization.” 


Ginger Pinholster

Former Director, Office of Public Programs