National Academies Alarmed About Climate Control: More Hot Gas

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The National Academies, which includes The National Academy of Science and the National Research Council among its members, has released its America’s Climate Choices study which is the final volume of a series.

“The goal of the America’s Climate Choices studies is to ensure that climate decisions are informed by the best possible scientific knowledge, analysis, and advice, both now and in the future,” said committee chair Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor, University of California, Los Angeles, in the introduction of the document.

The report’s single  recommendation is “It is our judgment that the most effective strategy is to begin ramping down emissions as soon as possible.” The document does not quantify exactly how fast this should happen or how the US should coordinate the action. Perhaps it should be done through legislation? Or, maybe American businesses and individuals will take on the burden of change themselves, which is highly unlikely because of costs, if they can figure those out. The America’s Climate Choices is not a road map towards a solution to man-made climate problems. It is certainly not a collection of recommendations.

“America’s response to climate change is ultimately about making choices in the face of risk,” noted committee vice chair William L. Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, N.C.  “Risk management strategies must be durable enough to promote sustained progress yet sufficiently flexible to take advantage of new knowledge and technologies.”

People who are not scientists expect experts to do more than frame a problem, if it is problem which is described as dangerous and pressing. This is particularly true for issues which will cost lots of money to solve. Global warming is no exception. Loose guidelines do not allow any progress to be accomplished because they do not set forth any goals at all.  “Substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions should be among the highest priorities in the national response,” the committee said.  “Although the exact magnitude and speed of reductions will depend on how much risk society deems acceptable, it would be imprudent to delay taking action.”

The “inconvenient truth” wing of the save-the-world-environment brigades may be completely correct that the ozone layer will disappear and humans will have to live underground permanently to avoid the harmful rays of the sun. They need to find a better set of allies than the America’s Climate Choices authors if they want to argue that the global environment problem is a cataclysm which has already started.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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