AAAS is announcing the launch of a new initiative to expand the dialogue on the risks of climate change. At the heart of the initiative is the AAAS's " What We Know" report, an assessment of current climate science and impacts that emphasizes the need to understand and recognize possible high-risk scenarios.
"We're the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one," said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. "As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue."
Nobel laureate Dr. Mario Molina, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography and co-chairs, Dr. Diana Wall, distinguished professor of biology and director at Colorado State University's School of Global Environmental Sustainability and Dr. James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard, chaired the climate science panel that generated the report.
They, along with the 10 panelists spanning climate science specialties, will engage in the initiative in various ways, from speaking engagements to testimonials on a forthcoming interactive web site to knowledge sharing with other professionals. The initiative encourages Americans to think of climate change as a risk management issue; the panel aims to clarify and contextualize the science so the public and decision-makers can be more adequately informed about those risks and possible ways to manage them.
The report provides three key messages for every American about climate change:
- Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
- We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
- The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.
"This new effort is intended to state very clearly the exceptionally strong evidence that Earth's climate is changing, and that future climate change can seriously impact natural and societal systems," Dr. McCarthy said. "Even among members of the broader public who already know about the evidence for climate change and what is causing it, some do not know the degree to which many climate scientist are concerned about the risks of possibly rapid and abrupt climate change — that's something we are dedicated to discussing with multiple audiences, from business leaders and financial experts to decision makers in all walks of life."
Bob Litterman, former Goldman & Sachs Co. executive and senior partner at Kepos Capital, has participated in discussions with the panel on how to accurately measure climate-related risks and the need for a language to talk about climate change through the lens of risk management.
"Scientists have developed a solid understanding of how the climate is responding to the build-up of greenhouse gases, but they recognize the considerable uncertainty about the long-run impacts — especially potential economic damages. Economists understand how to create incentives to limit pollution production with maximum effect and minimum collateral damage, but crafting the appropriate response is a complex valuation process that requires quantifying those same uncertainties," Litterman said. "To do so requires scientists and economists to work together, ask tough questions, and break the boundaries of their professional silos. That's what's this initiative aims to do."
[Adapted from a Climate Nexus news release]