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From Kansas State University's:

Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases (CASMGS)



Charles W. Rice, K-State Department of Agronomy, National CASMGS Director

(785) 532-7217 cwrice@ksu.edu

Scott Staggenborg, K-State Department of Agronomy (785) 532-7214 sstaggen@ksu.edu

Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications (785) 532-7105 swatson@ksu.edu



May 25, 2010

No. 77


Strong Evidence on Climate Change:

National Research Council Reports


The National Research Council has recently issued three reports on climate change, and what actions the U.S. should consider in light of these findings. The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. The reports basically reinforce that the state of climate change science is strong. The reports further emphasize that more research is needed to understand exactly why climate change is occurring, when and where the most severe impacts will occur, and what the best response would be to climate change.


Report 1: Advancing the Science of Climate Change


There is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing, and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities. While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations.


This report reviews the current scientific evidence regarding climate change and examines the status of the nation’s scientific research efforts. It also describes the critical role that climate change science, broadly defined, can play in developing knowledge and tools to assist decision makers as they act to respond to climate change. The report recommends a number of actions to advance the science of climate change — a science that includes and increasingly integrates across the physical, biological, social, health, and engineering sciences.


Overall, this report concludes that:

(1) Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems; and

(2) The nation needs a comprehensive and integrated climate change science enterprise, one that not only contributes to our fundamental understanding of climate change but also informs and expands America’s climate choices.


The report recommends that a single federal entity or program be given the authority and resources to coordinate a national, multidisciplinary research effort aimed at improving both understanding and responses to climate change. In addition, the U.S. should deploy a comprehensive climate observing system.



Report 2: Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change


Vulnerabilities to climate change impacts exist all across America and differ by region, sector, scale, and segment of our society. Consider, for example, the likelihood of reduced surface water supply in America’s West because of reduced snowfall and snowpack in the western mountains and, at least in the Southwest, prospects for reduced total rainfall. Options for adapting to the prospect of more severe water shortage in the West and Southwest include improving efficiencies in water use, reducing the need for water for competing purposes (e.g., power plant cooling), finding ways to reduce evaporation from reservoirs, learning more about potentials and limits of groundwater withdrawal, increasing mechanisms for inter-basin water transfers, revisiting approaches to water rights, and developing technology for affordable desalination of sea water.


While it is difficult to know precisely the impacts that will occur in the future, adaptation offers a way to prepare and minimize the risks to social, economic, and natural systems associated with these impacts.


Given the diversity of climate impacts, vulnerabilities, and available adaptation options across the United States, the report concludes that adaptation planning and action will be required across all levels of government as well as within the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community organizations. Accordingly, this report outlines a framework which engages decision makers across all levels of governance and across public and private entities through the development of a national adaptation strategy. Within this national strategy, the federal government plays a unique and critical role in providing technical and scientific resources that are lacking at the local or regional scale, reexamining policies that may inhibit adaptation, and supporting scientific research to expand our knowledge of impacts and adaptation.








Report 3: Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change


The reports states that the U.S. should set a limit on total domestic emissions and provides a clear goal. The report suggests a range of emissions from 170 to 200 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent for the period 2012 through 2050 as a reasonable goal. This corresponds roughly to a reduction of emissions from 1990 levels by 80 to 50 percent, respectively. Meeting an emissions budget in this range will require a major departure from business-as-usual emission trends (in which U.S. emissions have been rising at a rate of about one percent per year for the past three decades). Without prompt action, the current rate of GHG emissions from the

energy sector would consume the domestic emissions budget well before 2050.


The report states that a carbon-pricing system is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions -- either cap-and-trade, carbon taxes on emissions, or a combination. There must also be an emphasis on increasing energy efficiency; accelerating the development of renewable energy sources; advancing full-scale development of new-generation nuclear power and carbon capture and storage systems; and retrofitting, retiring, or replacing existing emissions-intensive energy infrastructure.


About These Reports


This project was requested by Congress and is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For more information, visit http://americasclimatechoices.org. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter. Committee and panel members, who serve pro bono, are chosen by for each study based on their expertise and experience and must satisfy the Research Council's conflict-of-interest standards. The resulting consensus reports undergo external peer review before completion. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org/studycommitteprocess.pdf.


The reports can be found at:


Report 1: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12782.html

Report 2: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12783.html

Report 3: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12785.html



-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications






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