The following statement on global climate change was released today during the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The statement was approved by the board on 9 December 2006.
The retreating Qori Kalis glacier in the Andes of Peru in 2000 | Photograph courtesy of Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University
The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.
The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a critical greenhouse gas, is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years. The average temperature of the Earth is heading for levels not experienced for millions of years. Scientific predictions of the impacts of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and deforestation match observed changes. As expected, intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies. These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible.
Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be.
History provides many examples of society confronting grave threats by mobilizing knowledge and promoting innovation. We need an aggressive research, development and deployment effort to transform the existing and future energy systems of the world away from technologies that emit greenhouse gases. Developing clean energy technologies will provide economic opportunities and ensure future energy supplies.
In addition to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we develop strategies to adapt to ongoing changes and make communities more resilient to future changes.
The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action. Stronger leadership at all levels is needed. The time is now. We must rise to the challenge. We owe this to future generations.
For more information, see the AAAS Global Climate-Change Resources page.
Print and read the statement as an Acrobat PDF.